Talks under way on jobless benefit deal, senator says

March 2, 2010

Embattled Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky, said Tuesday that he is involved in discussions to help end a stalemate over the extension of unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans.

Asked whether senators are close to finalizing a deal, Bunning said, “We’re trying.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also said top Democrats and Republicans were trying to find a resolution to the impasse. “We are in the process of working this out, and hopefully it will be resolved in the near future,” he said.

The Senate adjourned last week without approving extensions of cash and health insurance benefits for the unemployed after Bunning blocked the measure by insisting that Congress first pay for the $10 billion package.

The extension needed unanimous consent to pass because Democrats have labeled it an emergency spending measure. Bunning rejected a motion for unanimous consent again Tuesday morning.

Bunning, who is retiring at the end of this year, has said he doesn’t oppose extending the programs; he just doesn’t want to add to the deficit. Democrats argue that, because it is an emergency measure, the bill should not be subject to new rules requiring that legislation not expand the deficit.

As a result of the Senate’s inaction, many jobless people were no longer able to apply for federal unemployment benefits or the COBRA health insurance subsidy as of Monday.

Bunning’s action have created a political firestorm. On Tuesday morning, the Kentucky Republican pushed on the Senate floor for a measure that would pay the $10 billion tab out of the Democrats’ previously passed $862 billion stimulus bill. He also dared Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, to hold a vote to cut off debate on the measure.

Video: Senators debate Bunning block

Video: Protesting Bunning’s block

Video: Bunning remains defiant

Video: XYZ: Jim Bunning

Reid rejected Bunning’s motions.

“You have made your point … [but] the majority of the Senate disagrees with you,” Reid said to Bunning. The need to extend unemployment benefits is “an emergency. … Our economy is suffering. [There are] long lines of people out of work.”

Reid called Bunning’s legislative maneuvering “terribly inappropriate” and “very out of line.”

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs chimed in as well.

“This is an emergency situation,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands have been left in the lurch. … I don’t know how you negotiate the irrational.”

Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins quickly moved to separate herself from Bunning and side with the Democratic leader, noting that the issue is “so important to senators on both sides of the aisle.”

She later said Bunning’s views “do not represent the majority of the Republican caucus.”

“Ideally, we would offset this” spending bill, she said. “But I would support it either way because the programs are emergency programs. It’s a very short-term [one month] extension.”

One GOP senator who declined to be identified said Republicans are “furious” with Bunning. “This plays right into the Democratic narrative that we’re obstructionist,” the senator said. “We look insensitive.”

“To say Bunning is not beloved is an understatement,” the senator added.

Bunning in turn called Senate Democrats “hypocritical” for recently passing rules requiring that new legislation not expand the deficit, only to turn around and push both the emergency unemployment extension and a $15 billion jobs bill that, according to Bunning, is not fully paid for.

He read a letter from a constituent in Louisville, Kentucky, praising him for deciding to “stand up to those in Congress who want to do nothing more than to spend the taxpayers’ money.”

“This country is sooner or later going to implode because of the massive amount of debt run up over the past 40 or 50 years,” the letter said, according to Bunning. It is “sheer lunacy” to be “selling our nation’s soul” to creditors such as China.

“Your stance in holding [politicians] to their words … is a refreshing concept in an otherwise corrupt” capital.

Bunning identified the constituent only by the first name of Robert, citing security concerns.

CNN’s Dana Bash noted Tuesday that Democrats could effectively work around Bunning and pass an extension of unemployment benefits. However, she said, the Democrats “know that they have a good political issue right now [and therefore] have no plans to do that in the immediate future.”

Bash also noted that the GOP leadership has a poor relationship with Bunning and is therefore unable to pressure him to back down.

Federal unemployment benefits kick in after the basic state-funded 26 weeks of coverage expire. During the downturn, Congress has approved up to an additional 73 weeks, which it funds.

These federal benefit weeks are divided into tiers, and the jobless must apply each time they move into a new tier.

Because the Senate has not acted, the jobless will now stop getting checks once they run out of their state benefits or current tier of federal benefits.

iReporter: Shame on you, Sen. Bunning

That could be devastating to the unemployed who were counting on that income. In total, more than a million people could stop getting checks next month, with nearly 5 million running out of benefits by June, according to the National Unemployment Law Project.

Lawmakers have repeatedly tried to approve a 30-day extension, but each time Bunning has prevented the measure from passing.

Several other programs aside from unemployment and health benefits are also affected by the legislative spat, including federal flood insurance, satellite TV licensing, and small business loans.

The stalled bill also would provide a short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund, which is a federal fund set up to pay for transportation projects nationwide.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Monday that up to 2,000 employees at the Transportation Department will be sent home without pay as a result of Bunning’s decision to hold up the bill.

“As American families are struggling in tough economic times, I am keenly disappointed that political games are putting a stop to important construction projects around the country,” LaHood said in a news release. “This means that construction workers will be sent home from job sites because federal inspectors must be furloughed.”

According to two Democratic aides on the Senate floor Thursday night, Bunning muttered “tough s—” as Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, criticized Bunning’s stance on the package.

Obama explores Republican ideas for revised health care bill

March 2, 2010

President Obama says he is exploring four Republican proposals to add to his updated health care plan, according to a letter he sent today to congressional leaders.

The GOP ideas — discussed at last week’s bipartisan health care summit — include expanding the use of fraud investigators disguised as patients to uncover waste and abuse in federal programs such as Medicaid, a proposal made by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. Obama also says he’s open to bigger pilot programs on possible changes to the rules governing medical malpractice lawsuits, a longtime GOP issue.

Obama also wrote that he is open to the idea of higher Medicaid reimbursements for doctors, as proposed by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. And the president pledged to look at expanded use of health savings accounts, as discussed last week by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. Barrasso and Coburn were among the medical doctor-lawmakers who participated in the summit.

These ideas will be added to the $950 billion plan that Obama proposed last week. Obama will discuss an updated plan Wednesday at the White House.

“After decades of trying, we’re closer than we’ve ever been to making health insurance reform a reality,” Obama wrote in his letter. “I look forward to working with you to complete what would be a truly historic achievement.”

The president said he would not include other Republican proposals, include their suggestion that health care legislation be approached in a step-by-step fashion.

“I also believe that piecemeal reform is not the best way to effectively reduce premiums, end the exclusion of people with pre-existing conditions or offer Americans the security of knowing that they will never lose coverage, even if they lose or change jobs,” he wrote.

Obama noted that his plan deletes proposals that Republicans have attacked in recent weeks. They include exempting the state of Nebraska from Medicaid costs, and maintaining Medicare Advantage benefits from residents of Florida

Two more Britons caught up in Dubai Hamas hit

February 22, 2010

Officials are investigating claims that two further British passports may have been linked to the killing of a high-ranking Hamas official, a Foreign Office minister said today.

Responding to an urgent question in Parliament Chris Bryant said the authorities in the United Arab Emirates had sent details of “at least” two passports which may be linked to the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai last month. The assassination has been widely linked to the Israeli spy service Mossad and has cast a chill over relations with Israel.

Earlier today, Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary confirmed in a written statement to Parliament that the Serious Organised Crime Agency was investigating the “apparent use” of six counterfeit British passports by the hit squad.

Mr Bryant told MPs that details of the further passports had been passed on to the Foreign Office by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates. A Foreign Office spokesman said that no further details were immediately available.

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The minister angrily denied press reports that British authorities had any prior knowledge or warning of the attack in a Dubai hotel.

Mr Bryant told the Commons “new facts continue to emerge” about the killing. He was speaking after David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, held talks with his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, about the alleged Mossad assassination.

The Foreign Office minister said the Emirati authorities told British officials on January 31 that European passports had been used by the killers. On February 12 officials were told that UK passports “might” have been involved and this was confirmed three days later in relation to the six passports currently under investigation.

Yesterday, Sheikh Abdullah told the Foreign Secretary about the further passports which may have been linked to the killing. Mr Bryant said he confirmed “they would be sending us details of at least a further two British passports that may have been involved. That information was received by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office today”.

Mr Bryant said that it was important to be “crystal clear” that “no part of the British Government, either minister or official, had any foreknowledge of Mr al-Mabhouh’s killing or the use of British passports in it or of any clandestine operation being planned. “To suggest otherwise is to make an irresponsible allegation without any basis in fact,” he said.

NYC Terrorism Suspect Plans Plea Deal

February 22, 2010

 

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The key suspect in an alleged plot to attack New York City with homemade bombs has begun cooperating with investigators and is preparing for a possible plea deal, two law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation said Monday.

Najibullah Zazi, a Colorado airport shuttle driver, has begun talking to authorities and plans a guilty plea that could come as early as Monday, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation into the terrorism plot is ongoing.

As important as a plea would be, Zazi may be far more valuable to investigators as a source for information about co-conspirators in the United States and Pakistan.

Three people with inside knowledge of the investigation confirmed that the jailed Zazi volunteered information during a recent sit-down with his attorney and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn. The sit-down, known as a proffer session, typically signals that a defendant has begun cooperating in a bid for a plea deal.

Zazi’s attorney, William Stampur, didn’t immediately return a telephone message Monday.

Zazi — accused of receiving explosives training in an al-Qaida terrorism camp in Pakistan — told prosecutors that he was armed with bomb-making components while en route to New York City last year, but got rid of them along the way, the people said.

Zazi’s account, if true, could explain what happened to explosive materials authorities suspect were meant for a possible attack on the New York City transit system.

The government alleges the airport driver and others bought beauty supplies in Colorado to make peroxide-based bombs before he tried to mix the explosives in a hotel room there and then set out cross-country by car in September. Searches of his car after he arrived turned up bomb-making plans on a laptop computer, but no actual devices or materials.

The cooperation by Zazi suggests prosecutors hope to expand the case and bring charges against other suspects in his case and possibly other terrorism probes. At the time of Zazi’s arrest, Attorney General Eric Holder called the case the most serious terrorism threat since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Amid the debate over whether alleged al-Qaida and other terrorism suspects should be tried in civilian courts, federal prosecutors have sought to demonstrate that they can persuade suspects like Zazi to cooperate and provide more reliable information without coercion.

One of the people familiar with the Zazi case told the AP that Zazi decided to offer the information after being warned that his mother could face criminal immigration charges.

Zazi’s father was charged earlier this month with trying to get rid of chemicals and other evidence. But it appears he was cut a break: After initially demanding that he be jailed in Brooklyn without bail, prosecutors agreed to a deal on Feb. 17 releasing him on $50,000 bond and allowing him to return to his home in suburban Denver.

By contrast, bond for a Queens imam charged with lying to the FBI about phone contact with Zazi when Zazi was in New York was set at $1.5 million. A friend of Zazi, New York cab driver Zarein Ahemdzay, was jailed without bail on a similar lying charge.

Another one of the people said that Zazi told prosecutors that he made roughly two pounds of a powerful and highly unstable explosive called triacetone triperoxide, or TATP.

Court documents indicate that Zazi and others bought acetone — nail polish remover — and other ingredients that can be used to make TATP. The same explosive was used by would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid in 2001 and the terrorists who carried out the London bombings in 2005 that killed 52 people.

In those instances, TATP was not the main charge; it was the detonator. The 1.5 grams in Reid’s show was supposed to help detonate the plastic explosives aboard a jetliner, and it was used to set off a mixture of black pepper and hydrogen peroxide in London.

Experts has said the TATP in the Zazi case was most likely going to be just the detonator.

But in each of those earlier instances, TATP was not the main charge — it was the detonator. It was supposed to help detonate the plastic explosives in Reid’s shoe aboard a jetliner, and it was used to set off a mixture of black pepper and hydrogen peroxide in London.

The FBI’s New York office and the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn declined comment on Monday.

Authorities say Ahmedzay and another New Yorker charged in the case, Adis Medunjanin, traveled to Pakistan with Zazi in 2008. Medunjanin has pleaded not guilty to charges he conspired to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and remains jailed.

The three men, former high school classmates in Queens, are scheduled to appear in federal court in Brooklyn on Feb. 25.

Officials earlier confirmed reports week that Zazi’s uncle had been arraigned on a felony count in secret — a sign that he also could be cooperating.

Loss of ‘great American’ Alexander Haig mourned

February 20, 2010

The former US Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, exemplified America’s “finest warrior-diplomat tradition of those who dedicate their lives to public service,” according to President Barack Obama.

The accolade set the tone for the plaudits that have come in for the man who was a four-star general before he turned to politics and served three presidents.

The current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said she was “deeply saddened” to learn of Mr Haig’s death at the age of 85.

“He served his country in many capacities for many years, earning honour on the battlefield, the confidence of presidents and prime ministers, and the thanks of a grateful nation,” she said.

Haig never wanted anything for himself. He would deal with difficult situations not only with courage but with good humour. He did not think of himself, he thought of America
Henry Kissinger
Former US Secretary of State

Although he is perhaps best known for his gaffe saying he was “in control” of the White House following the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981, it was his role in the Nixon administration during the Watergate scandal that is being seen as his biggest achievement.

“With Nixon embroiled in his Watergate defence, Haig took on an expanded role, handling many of the president’s governing chores, and earning the sobriquet, ‘the thirty-seventh-and-a-half president’,” said Politico.com.

Commentators on cable news channels praised the way Mr Haig helped persuade Nixon to resign the presidency, allowing for a peaceful transfer of power.

Speaking on Fox News, Henry Kissinger, who served with him during Nixon’s administration, described him as “a great American”, and said his countrymen could learn from his former colleague.

“They can learn that the greatest honour is service to one’s country and for the defence of freedom,” he said.

“Haig never wanted anything for himself. He would deal with difficult situations not only with courage but with good humour. He did not think of himself, he thought of America,” he added.

Mr Haig stepped out of the public eye in 1988 after a failed bid for the Republican Party presidential nomination.

But despite not having a public role for two decades, his death immediately became a top trending topic on Twitter.

“A life-long patriot and servant to the cause of democracy is gone. He will be missed,” tweeted MarcusBowen.

Although his time in power was frequently controversial, Dan Kennedy commented in his Media Nation blog: “My strong suspicion is that his contributions to the nation were never fully understood or appreciated.”

Republicans Can Show Off Ideas at White House Summit, but Will They?

February 20, 2010

Next week’s televised political showdown in Washington over health care reform will give a resurgent GOP perhaps its most prominent opportunity yet to counter Democrats’ repeated claim that it is the “party of no.”

Republicans have argued that they have better ideas on how to provide improved health care to more people without breaking the bank, and they see the wind at their backs in the health care debate, with polls showing the public increasingly skeptical of the Democrats’ plan.

Whether they can capitalize on a bipartisan meeting that many in their own party fear is a partisan “trap” remains to be seen.

GOP leaders in the House and Senate have said they cannot accept the Democratic bills that were passed last year, and they want to start over to shape narrower legislation that cuts costs for small businesses and uses federal dollars to set up special insurance pools for people with medical problems. Critics say those measures won’t come close to providing health coverage to the millions of uninsured Americans.

Republicans also want to place limits on medical malpractice judgments, an approach the Congressional Budget Office says would save money by reducing defensive medicine. Obama has toyed with the idea, saying he agrees that something should be done, but thinks limits on jury awards go too far.

And in a congressional election year, a groundbreaking bipartisan agreement is increasingly seen as unlikely. While Obama says he is open to Republican ideas for changing the health care system, many Democrats seriously doubt GOP leaders will support compromises that could draw enough lawmakers from both parties to create a bipartisan majority.

Some Republican leaders have questioned whether there’s any reason to go to Thursday’s summit, but they also fear a boycott would play into Obama’s hands. To complicate matters, Democratic liberals have begun an effort to get a government insurance plan back in the bill, a nonstarter for Republicans.

“If the president’s intention for the health care summit is to finally show that he is ready to listen and work in a bipartisan way to produce incremental reforms that the American people support, he is off to a rocky start,” said Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the No. 2 Republican in the House. Republicans are not going to embrace a Democratic bill that’s tanking in the polls, he said.

Obama’s summit represents a gamble that he can save his embattled health care overhaul by the power of persuasion — that the Democrats’ health care plan is reasonable, that much of its complexity reflects the sprawling nature of the insurance system and that lockstep Republican opposition is not reasonable and could spoil a historic opportunity on a problem that concerns all Americans.

“I don’t want to see this meeting turn into political theater, with each side simply reciting talking points and trying to score political points,” the president said Saturday in his radio and Internet address. “What’s being tested here is not just our ability to solve this one problem, but our ability to solve any problem.”

Obama’s main audience will be Democrats, who must overcome their divisions — and ease their qualms — to get a final bill. He will also tune his pitch to independents, who soured on the Democratic bills after initially being open to health care changes.

Thursday’s meeting at Blair House — the presidential guest quarters across from the White House — comes nearly a year after Obama launched his drive to remake health care at an earlier summit he infused with a bipartisan spirit.

The plan Obama will put before lawmakers has virtually no Republican support. Like the congressional bills, it’s expected to require most Americans to carry coverage, while providing federal subsidies to help many afford the premiums. It would bar insurance companies from denying coverage to people with medical problems or charging them more. Federal and state regulators would create a competitive insurance marketplace for small businesses and people buying their own coverage. Much of the cost would be covered with Medicare cuts.

Democrats were within reach of passing a health care remake their party pursued for more than a half-century. But last month, Republican Scott Brown pulled off a Senate upset in Massachusetts to claim the seat long held by Ted Kennedy.

Democrats no longer have the 60 votes needed to overcome Republican delaying tactics in the Senate, but they still control both chambers. Yet passing anything but a very modest bill would likely mean using special budget rules that let Democrats override Republicans in the Senate with a simple majority. Using the budget route — called reconciliation — to resolve differences between the House and Senate bills probably would enrage Republicans.

That means Democrats will have to stick their necks out, and some may lose their seats this fall if they support an all-or-nothing push on health care.

Democrats are looking to Obama to give them the confidence they need to get back on track. He did it once before, with his address to Congress last September, after a summer of town hall meetings at which angry grass-roots activists attacked the Democrats on health care.

Democrats “tried to climb a taller mountain than they thought existed,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, architect of the 1994 Republican election victory that followed the collapse of the Clinton health care plan. “They went on a bigger trip than they prepared for.”

Now it seems they’ll be asked to give it one more try.

Terror Memos Didn’t Violate Legal Ethics, Report Finds

February 19, 2010

Bush administration lawyers did not violate legal ethics rules when they wrote memos authorizing harsh interrogations for terrorism detainees, the Justice Department said Friday, releasing the long-awaited results of its investigation into the memos.

The report focuses on three men who worked at Justice under President Bush: John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury. All three worked in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, crafting the standards for interrogating high-value terrorism detainees.

According to the cover letter accompanying the report, the investigation originally found professional misconduct by Yoo and Bybee. But the career official in charge of overseeing the office of professional responsibility overruled that finding.

Now the report says the men “exercised poor judgment.” That means the men will not face disbarment or criminal punishment.

The final report is hundreds of pages long and includes extensive e-mails between the Justice Department, the White House and the CIA.

As one congressional staffer said, “If the torture memos were the movie, this report is the making of.”

IRS: a frequent target of antigovernment violence

February 19, 2010

Thursday’s attack on an Internal Revenue Service offices in Austin, Texas, is one incident in a string of violent threats and assaults directed toward the agency in recent years.

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The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), which oversees the IRS, handles an average of 918 threats made against IRS employees every year, according to the agency. Between 2001 and 2008, court cases resulting from those threats have resulted in 195 convictions, according to TIGTA.

“This is not something new,” says J. Russell George, director of TIGTA. “The use of the airplane was unanticipated, but this is not something new, not at all.”

Authorities say Joseph Stack, a software engineer, intentionally targeted IRS employees when he flew a small, single-engine plane into a seven-story building in Austin, Texas, containing IRS offices. Mr. Stack had a long-standing grudge against the IRS, which he outlined in a rambling online letter released before he crashed his plane.

The increased level of attacks likely come as a result of the depressed economy and the IRS’s stepped up enforcement efforts, says Mr. George.

“It’s a confluence of events,” he says. “You have difficult economic times, you have an IRS commissioner who rightfully is stepping up efforts to enforce the tax code, and you literally have an environment in which people have elected to display their unhappiness in ways that are counterproductive.”

The agency increased its tax collection enforcement efforts in 2008, when Commissioner Douglas Shulman took over, further riling antitax groups.

Stepped-up enforcement or not, the IRS is often the target for frustrated taxpayers, says Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 85,000 IRS workers across the US.

“Sadly, certain groups of federal employees, such as IRS employees and federal law-enforcement officers, are more likely to become targets of irate citizens,” said Ms. Kelley in a statement. “It can be dangerous for federal workers to try to carry out their missions.”

Last March, a Florida man was sentenced to 30 years in prison after hiring a hit man to kill an IRS worker who was auditing his tax return, and to burn down IRS offices in Lakeland, Fla. The hit man turned out to be an undercover FBI agent who helped arrest Randy Nowak.

In 2008, Earnest Milton Barnett was sentenced to 20 years in prison after ramming his Jeep Cherokee into the IRS’s Birmingham, Ala., offices.

In 1997, two men set fire to IRS offices in Colorado Springs, destroying the building and taxpayer files. In 2003, the men – Jack Dowell of Pensacola, Fla., and James Floyd Cleaver of Colorado Springs – were sentenced to at least 30 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $2.2 million in fines.

The latest attack may be the first instance of a plane used as a weapon, leading some to question whether the incident was an act of terrorism.

“This incident is of deep concern to me,” said Mr. Shulman, the IRS commissioner, in a statement. “We are working with law-enforcement agencies to fully investigate the events that led up to this plane crash.”

George says TIGTA is also responding to the string of attacks. “This is something I’m extremely concerned about … especially in the wake of what happened in Austin.”

Both agencies said it cannot discuss Thursday’s attack, as it is under investigation, but may increase the use of armed escorts on tax-collection visits.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D) of New York introduced legislation renewing a provision that allowed the IRS to provide armed escorts to employees visiting taxpayers designated as potentially dangerous. The legislation recently passed, and the IRS is taking full advantage of it, says George.

“We’ve had dozens of armed escorts in the last few months,” he says.

As for other precautionary measures, George says, “We’ll have to try to stay one step of ahead of these people in the future.”

Tiger Woods’ public apology likely part of therapy

February 19, 2010

Tiger Woods‘ public apology today appears to be part of his treatment, says a family therapist who uses a 12-step program similar to that used in therapy for alcohol and drug dependency.Bonnie Eaker Weil of New York City watched the televised statement and says she’s 100% convinced the program is behind Woods’ re-emergence. Woods referred several times to his “therapy,” but gave no details about it.

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“What he did today, where you actually publicly apologize, is the first step in any addiction program: You must show remorse,” Eaker Weil says. It requires “taking your inventory about what you’ve done and who you have hurt.”

This type of treatment includes eight to 12 hours a day in group therapy, with the sizes of the groups ranging from as few as six to as many as 30, she says.

During Woods’ 15 minutes in front of the cameras, he blamed himself for “irresponsible and selfish behavior” and the pain he’s caused his family, fans and business associates.

“He kept saying ‘I felt entitled.’ ” Eaker Weil says. Often those who go into this kind of therapy are narcissists, and they “go in there thinking they’re above the law and rules don’t apply to them. It’s a rude awakening when they have to take their own inventory.

“The hardest thing for them is to apologize and take responsibility for who they hurt. For the first time they’re experiencing consequences. Before, it was all about them and pleasure.”

Eaker Weil, author of the newly revised Make Up, Don’t Break Up, out next month, says the groups allow participants to improve relational skills, something she says it’s clear Woods really needs.

“Tiger is a private person. He’s not in touch with his feelings. They act out instead of talking it out,” she says.

Woods said his apology to his wife Elin will be not in words but in his behavior. But whether the marriage will survive Woods’ multiple infidelities is an open question. There is little research on marriages that weather cheating, although a new study planned by David Atkins, a research associate professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, and Beth Allen, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Colorado in Denver, may provide some answers.

Citing a 2004 study by researchers at Pennsylvania State University and published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, and a preliminary look at data from the General Social Survey, a nationally representative survey of about 20,000 individuals, Atkins says, “It seems that infidelity raises the likelihood of divorce two or three times, though there are still many folks who have affairs and stay together.”

Eaker Weil predicts the Woods marriage will endure.

“They are under a microscope and are under more stress, and more pressure is on them,” she says. “They’re in the public eye and don’t want to ruin his public image. He’s going to work harder and she’s going to work harder since she comes from a divorced family.

“Their marriage has a better chance because there is more incentive than most people.”

Texas Plane Crash: Did Suicidal Pilot Joe Stack Have Explosives on Board?

February 19, 2010

The sheer volume of flames and smoke pouring from the Austin office building where a suicidal pilot slammed his plane at full speed has prompted authorities to investigate whether he had some kind of explosive on board.

Joe Stack flew his plane into three floors of IRS building after a tax dispute.

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Joe Stack, 53, topped off his single engine Piper Cherokee with fuel before crashing into the IRS offices in a kamikaze mission designed to punish the government he believed wronged him.

The full tank of fuel is believed to have contributed to the force of the explosion and subsequent fire, which investigators believe was probably a deliberate tactic by Stack. Investigators are also trying to determine whether Stack had explosives on board with him, sources told ABC News.

Firefighters spent most of the day Thursday trying to extinguish the flames that prevented investigators from recovering Stack’s body and searching for anyone else who may have been injured or killed.