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News Briefs

More Than 100 Rebels Die In Philippine Hostage Situation

THE WASHINGTON POST -- MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Philippine officials said Monday that government soldiers have killed more than 100 Muslim guerrillas in their 10-day assault on the remote southern island of Jolo, and are steadily closing on rebel leaders holding American Jeffery Schilling.

But as it drags into its second week -- lapsing beyond the government’s initial one-week timetable -- Manila’s high-profile siege on the tiny jungle island can boast few other tangible accomplishments.

The campaign has resulted in the death of one government soldier, dislocated nearly 40,000 civilians and may be costing Manila’s already debt-ridden treasury as much as $1 million a day.

Government troops are said to have seriously wounded a top rebel leader in a firefight last week. But all five main leaders of Abu Sayyaf, the Muslim guerrilla group targeted by the operation, remain at large. And since the escape last week of two French hostages, who dashed to freedom themselves as the rebels fled through the jungle, Manila’s high-profile military blitz has failed to secure the release any of the rebels’ remaining 17 hostages.

Many analysts warn the campaign also is rekindling centuries’ old religious and ethnic antagonisms between the Philippines’ Roman Catholic majority and the estimated 7 million Muslims concentrated on the archipelago’s southern islands.

Cost of Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance to Increase

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

Many workers and retirees who depend on employer-sponsored health insurance are likely to face significant premium increases in the near future, and some small employers might stop offering coverage, according to a report by a national health care foundation and interviews with company managers across the country.

The anticipated premium hikes come in addition to an average increase of 8.3 percent this year, and both are driven largely by higher costs for prescription drugs, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, the latest analysis to document rising health-care costs.

The report, based on a survey of 3,402 employers nationwide, predicted premiums will continue to go up and “employers may respond to the rising cost of health insurance (by passing) some portion of the increased cost on to employees.”

In interviews, managers in companies large and small -- as well as health insurance analysts -- said many workers can expect to pay even bigger percentages in the future, especially if the economy weakens.

For some people this means that making ends meet in coming years is likely to get tougher.