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News Briefs

Ten Palestinians Killed In Army Raids

THE WASHINGTON POST -- JERUSALEM

Israeli tanks, armored vehicles, and attack helicopters searching for Palestinian fighters invaded two communities in the Gaza Strip Monday and encountered stiff resistance, leading to fierce gun battles that killed 10 Palestinians, including a 4-year-old girl and two teen-age boys, Palestinian security sources and Israeli military officials said.

The bloodshed, on top of weeks of intensified fighting in the Gaza Strip, renewed concern that the 30-month-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict could remain volatile during any war between the United States and Iraq. In the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Israeli leaders bowed to U.S. requests not to inflame anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli sentiment. It remains unclear whether Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s hard-line government will adhere to such requests this time.

The Palestinian legislature met, meanwhile, in Ramallah, 12 miles north of Jerusalem on the West Bank, to consider the appointment of the Palestinians’ first prime minister. Sharon and President Bush have said naming a prime minister with real power is a prerequisite to renewing ceasefire and peace talks. Last week Bush promised to release a U.S.-sponsored peace plan, called the “road map,” as soon as the Palestinians appoint a “credible” prime minister, which Israeli and U.S. officials see as a way of sidelining the long-time Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, with whom they refuse to talk.

Higher Unemployment, Health Costs Threaten Medicare Fund

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

The long-term financial outlook for Social Security is somewhat brighter than a year ago, but increased unemployment and rising health-care costs have taken a toll on the Medicare program, government trustees reported Monday.

With many baby boomers set to begin retiring in eight years, the trustees predicted that the Medicare trust fund would run dry in 2026, four years earlier than last year’s projection. They said the Social Security trust funds would not be exhausted until 2042, one year later than the previous prognosis.

Bush administration officials used the new reports to renew their calls for the introduction of private investment accounts to Social Security and managed-care plans to Medicare.

“As we continue to work together to keep Social Security strong and reliable, we must offer younger workers a chance to invest in retirement accounts that they will control and they will own,” President Bush said in a statement.

Bill Seeks to Expand Pool For National Security Jobs

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

A recent survey found that only 24 percent of job seekers believe the best opportunities for an engineering career are in the government. The departments of State and Defense struggle to hire and keep science and technology experts. Numerous agencies are short of translators and interpreters. Six large agencies that were moved into the Department of Homeland Security could lose roughly a quarter to half of their employees to retirement during the next five years.

In an effort to strengthen the government’s recruitment and retention in the areas of science, math and foreign languages, a bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation to expand the existing student loan repayment program for national security agencies and to create a job rotation program for mid-level employees holding national security jobs.