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News Wrap: Texas Plane Crash Being Investigated

February 18, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: A small plane crashed into a building in Austin, Texas, today, and federal officials said it appeared to be a suicide attack. Fire and heavy smoke engulfed the seven-story building that housed offices of the Internal Revenue Service. Investigators said the pilot denounced the agency in a suicide note he posted online. The man was identified as Joseph Andrew Stack.

The local police chief said there was no sign of any larger plot.

ART ACEVEDO, Austin, Tex. police chief: I know the number-one fear that’s coming to everybody’s mind is, there is an act of terrorism, and is the country, the city, the region in danger? And I can tell you, categorically, that there is no cause for concern from a law enforcement or a terrorism perspective.

HARI SREENIVASAN: At least two people were injured in the crash. One person in the building was listed as missing.

Fighting has intensified today in a Taliban haven in Southern Afghanistan. Four more NATO troops were killed today, raising the total to nine since the offensive began last week. U.S. Marines and Afghan forces controlled main roads and government centers in Marjah, but they also said there were stiff pockets of resistance, as well as snipers.

The British commander of NATO forces in the region said it could take a month to secure the entire area and even longer to measure success.

MAJ. GEN. NICK CARTER, British Army: Looking downstream, in three months’ time or thereabouts, we should have a pretty fair idea about whether we have been successful.

But I would be very cautious about any triumphalism just yet. It’s going well, and there are a lot of brave people doing a lot of brave things. And I would be reasonably confident that, in due course, we will be able to announce a successful operation.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Senior U.S. Marine officers said more than 120 insurgents have been killed in the operation so far.

A bomb tore through a mosque in Pakistan today, killing at least 29 people and wounding 50 others. It happened in the Khyber tribal region. Police said some of the dead belonged to Lashkar-e-Islam, an insurgent group. The bombing came as the U.S. special envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke, was visiting Pakistan. He met with government leaders in Islamabad.

And, in Iraq, at least 13 people died in a suicide car bombing in the west. The blast exploded in downtown Ramadi, where attacks have escalated in recent months. The bomb targeted the governor’s office, police headquarters, and courts.

A major new case of computer hacking has been uncovered. The security firm NetWitness reported, more than 2,500 corporations worldwide had their computer systems compromised starting in 2008. A virus known as botnet invaded the computers and used them to steal data from commercial and government systems. Among other things, the hackers have gained access to e-mail systems and online banking.

The Obama administration warned today of double-digit increases in health insurance premiums. The Department of Health and Human services cited proposed hikes ranging from 23 percent in Maine to nearly 40 percent in California. Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said it highlights the urgent need for health care reform.

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, U.S. health and human services secretary: We’re seeing this at the same time where, not only is there an economic downturn around the country, but we know that insurance companies are not suffering that same kind of downturn. The five largest insurers in America have declared more than $12 billion worth of profits in 2009.

HARI SREENIVASAN: For their part, insurers said they need higher premiums to cover rising medical costs. They also said many healthy people are dropping coverage, leaving a shrinking pool of older, sicker customers.

The Federal Reserve has announced the first step toward unwinding its financial rescue programs. It raised the interest rate today on emergency loans to banks. The move has no effect on consumer borrowing.

And Wall Street rang up gains for a third straight day. The Dow Jones industrial average added more than 83 points to close near 10393. The Nasdaq rose 15 points to close at 2241.

Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik now faces four years in federal prison. He was sentenced today after pleading guilty to lying about taxes and other financial dealings. The charges stemmed from statements to White House investigators in 2004, when Kerik was nominated to be head of Homeland Security. He ultimately withdrew from consideration.

At the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, American athletes went looking for more wins after taking six medals on Wednesday, the best day ever for the U.S. at any Winter Games. Today, in the women’s super-combined ski race, the gold went to Maria Riesch of Germany. She beat out American Julia Mancuso, who took silver. Tonight’s highlight is the men’s figure skating final.

Those are some of the day’s main stories. I will be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you will find tonight on the NewsHour’s website — but, for now, back to Jim.