tv NBC Nightly News NBC February 22, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
and receive $25 off your registration fee. because everyone deserves a lifetime. on the broadcast here tonight, furious fight for control of libya. and gadhafi says he's not leaving. tonight, our own richard engel has made it inside libya. tonight, we'll look at the question a lot of americans are asking, what's all this going to do to gas prices? earthquake, devastation this evening in new zealand. this is being called its darkest day. cellhone risks. the debate over phones and brain tumors. what researchers found when they measured actual changes in the brain. and new signs of trouble in the gulf. what is killing so many baby dolphins? also here tonight, the uproar happening in wisconsin isn't staying in wisconsin. "nightly news" begins now.
captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening, with fighting in the streets and his entire nation in play, moammar gadhafi made it clear, if he's going to be toppled after over 40 years in charge, he intends to go down fighting and die like a martyr. right now, tonight it looks like the fight for libya is devolving into a civil war. gadhafi went on libyan television today to deliver a speech that sounded as bizarre as it looked. he stood in front of the preserved wreckage of his home, blown up by a u.s. air strike back in the '80s, which he has had preserved as a kind of museum of defiance. but tonight, control of his country may not be up to him, and it appears to be steadily, violently slipping away from him.
our own chief foreign correspondent richard engel, after a harrowing journey over the egyptian border, has been able to make it into libya. he's with us tonight from tobruk in libya. richard, how would you describe control of libya as of now? >> reporter: i would call gadhafi's control over libya right now tenuous, brian. frankly, we didn't know what we were going to expect when we crossed in from egypt. we had been told that eastern libya, where we are right now, was in the hands of the rebels, but what exactly did that mean? did that mean there would be all rebel control? would there be some libyan army units still wandering the territory? as we came in here, it was quickly obvious that moammar gadhafi has lost control of large portions of his country. and that was immediately obvious, as soon as we got to the border. at the border crossing itself, there is no one on the libyan side, no one to check us in. we just drove into libyan once
we got through the egyptian customs procedures. once we were inside libya, we were quickly surrounded by demonstrators. the demonstrators have set up checkpoints on almost every intersection. they are armed. they are denouncing gadhafi. this is no longer just an egyptian style movement, a people's revolution. this is an armed rebellion. we drove for about 100 miles in eastern libya, we didn't see a single gadhafi loyalist. instead we saw military barracks that have been abandoned or burned down or other military barracks that are still occupied by libyan troops, but libyan troops who are now fighting with the rebels, fighting with the demonstrators. we went to one of those barracks, and we spoke to the officers. they simply refuse to fire on the libyan people. they won't fire on their brothers and sisters. they say in order to do that, gadhafi has brought in foreign mercenaries from africa. and they accuse those mercenaries of carrying out atrocities, firing on unarmed civilians in villages.
and they also accuse them of mass rape. we didn't see any evidence to prove that. this is clearly an ongoing conflict. but the military is taking a side, at least in eastern libya. at that military barracks we didn't just see soldiers sitting out this conflict, we went downstairs and saw the troops handing out heavy weapons. the military bases have been completely emptied, they're now taking all of the weapons, including heavy machine guns, rocket launchers. and they say now that the people and the military are together. most of the fighting right now seems to be centered in tripoli, and it is fair to say, at least from what we could say today, that eastern libya is no longer under gadhafi's control. rebel leaders tell us they believe they control about 30% of all of libya right now, brian. >> richard engel starting us off from libya tonight. richard, we trust, as always, you'll travel safely. libya is obviously a big nation and a big prize in this wave of
uprising in the region. and it's the bloodiest we've seen so far sweeping through the arab world. we just heard richard report, this is more than a protest movement or a rebellion, it's a civil war, they say, and the streets are a war zone. nbc's stephanie gosk is just east of the border with libya in the egyptian village of saloum tonight. stephanie, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. well, it's the third night of violence in the capital city of tripoli. and protesters say they are closing in on their goal of regime change. but if moammar gadhafi is concerned about that, he certainly isn't showing it, at least not publicly. at night, tripoli's streets burn and gun battles rage. what began as a movement for more democracy, has turned into a bloody civil war. >> we just hear shooting. we hear helicopter in the air.
we have been in our house for over three, four -- almost four days. if you go outside, you're going to get shot at. >> reporter: reports from eyewitnesss describe bodies littering the streets, people too afraid to leave their homes and collect the dead. with few journalists in the country, the numbers are difficult to verify. human rights groups say hundreds have been killed, gunned down by libya's military and gang of well-armed mercenaries. leading the violent charge, a defiant moammar gadhafi, who today addressed his nation on state tv and refused to step down. >> translator: i am a fighter, a revolutionary. i will die as a martyr at the end. >> reporter: the hour long speech was delivered from gadhafi's former residence, damaged by u.s. air strikes in 1986, preserved as a shrine ever since. rambling and bombastic, gadhafi described the protesters as a bunch of drunk-fuelled vermin, manipulated by outside forces.
he called on his supporters to take to the streets and fight. >> vintage gadhafi, totally removed from reality. he's just completely unpredictable. >> reporter: people are fleeing libya, terrified by the violence. at the border crossing into egypt, this group of men told us they were held captive for days by mercenaries. others said they were attacked by fighter jets. most of these guys are egyptian workers fleeing the violence. we have yet to meet a single libyan. on a normal day, 500 people will pass through this crossing, today 10,000. there are fears egypt could soon see a flood of libyan refugees. the egyptian military already has its hands full running a country with no president. and now has to stand guard at an uncertain border. there are further signs that gadhafi's support might actually be eroding, the interior minister resigned today, in protest over the violence. at libyan embassies around the
world, there are a number of ambassadors that have resigned. and they're flying a different flag, the pre-gadhafi flag, that they say is a symbol of this new revolution. brian? >> with the second of our two reports, stephanie gosk, just over the egyptian border. stephanie, thanks. you know doubt have heard a powerful and deadly earthquake has hit new zealand. much of the city of christchurch is in ruins. scores are dead there. officials are warning the numbers are likely to rise, because of the aftershocks that have been rattling the city all day long. it makes rescues near impossible. the prime minister is calling this new zealand's darkest day. our colleague sarah james has our report tonight from christchurch. >> reporter: the 6.3 earthquake rocked the historic town of christchurch, a city of 350,000. this was ground zero. it was a busy time of day here, lunchtime, when the powerful
quake hit. entire neighborhoods flooded. fires broke out from ruptured gas lines. communications were cut. water and medical equipment in short supply. in seconds, new zealand's second largest city was destroyed. >> this building comes down, you got no chance. >> reporter: for many, no time to run. it was too late. dozens are confirmed dead, and the death toll rising. >> there's just no words. it's absolutely awful. >> reporter: buildings pancaked. pools of liquefied earth swirled in the streets disfigured by huge cracks. at least 100 people are reported missing. >> there was this guy on the second floor that was covered to his waist in concrete and stuff. oh god, i've just never seen anything like it in my life. >> reporter: the spire on the city's famous cathedral came tumbling down. >> we have some folks up there we want to try to get out. but, of course, emergency are all over the place dealing with gas leaks and god knows what else.
it's just huge. it's huge. >> reporter: office workers pulled the injured from the rubble. emergency workers are rushing in from around the world. medical teams created triage centers in open areas. one woman said, it was our 9/11. sarah james, nbc news, christchurch, new zealand. >> just an unbelievable situation there. and now around the other side of the world, there's been a tragic end to a very tense situation for four americans on board a small yacht that was hijacked by pirates in very dangerous waters. waters the americans knew were dangerous, just off the coast of somalia. as the u.s. was negotiating their release, the ordeal took a sudden ugly turn. our report tonight from our pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski. >> reporter: the four americans were on a dream voyage around the world, when pirates hijacked their yacht four days ago. this morning, off the coast of somalia, fbi negotiators aboard a u.s. destroyer, were still
talking to the pirates holding the americans hostage, when suddenly it all went terribly wrong. military officials say, without warning, one of the pirates aboard the yacht, fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the destroyer. almost immediately, americans aboard the warship heard gunshots from below deck on the yacht. navy seals raced toward the boat in small inflatable boats. most of the pirates surrendered as the seals boarded the yacht. but once below deck, they made a grim discovery. >> all for hostages had been shot by their captors. despite immediate steps to provide life-saving care, all four of the american hostages died of their wounds. >> reporter: in a search of the yacht, the seals were forced to kill two pirates, one in a knife fight, and found two others apparently shot dead by fellow pirates. the americans killed were scott and jean adam of california, and
seattle couple, phyllis mackay and bob riggle. in seattle, riggle's friends took the news hard. >> it was a shock. we just truly thought they would make it back. he was doing what he loved. he was just absolutely passionate about it. and was good at it. >> reporter: investigators are now grilling the 15 pirates in custody, to figure out just what went wrong among the pirates on board, and what triggered the shooting that killed the four americans. it's almost certain, however, that all 15 will be brought back here to the united states to face trial. brian? >> jim miklaszewski at the pentagon tonight. jim, thanks. and now we turn to wisconsin, where the state legislature took up a bill that would strip some state worker's labor unions of their collective bargaining rights and then some. but the stand-off on this issue is far from over. nbc's mike taibbi reports tonight from madison. >> a special session -- the senate will come to order. >> reporter: the state senate called its session to order for the first time in a week. with senate democrats hiding out of state and only participating
by conference call, governor scott walker's bill to roll back union benefits and rights would not get a vote. >> they're trying to shut down government. i mean, that's literally what they're trying to do. >> reporter: but the protester's still ringing the capital building and jamming its corridors say it's the governor who's trying to shut down organized labor. >> i think he's trying to break the unions, he's taking rights away from other people, and he's hurting the middle class. >> reporter: walker's answer on msnbc's morning joe, he had no choice. >> just like nearly every state across the country, we are broke. i cannot negotiate for something where i don't have anything to give. >> reporter: in fact, the tactics used by both sides in madison are being copied elsewhere. today there were prounion protests in ohio, michigan and massachusetts. and in indiana, democratic legislators left the state to avoid voting just like their wisconsin counterparts. it's logical to assume a trend has emerged. until now, 45 states, all but
five southern states, allow or require collective bargaining for teacher unions. but today nine states are considering limiting or eliminating that right all together, wisconsin showing the way. >> it's come to a head, where we're not going to see benefits any more for public employees, at least not in wisconsin. >> reporter: governor walker says if his budget relief bill isn't voted on and passed by this friday, layoff notices for as many as 1,500 state workers could be sent out as early as next week. brian? >> a hot time continues in the cold of madison, wisconsin. mike taibbi on it for us tonight. mike, thanks. and when we come back this evening, can't you just see how the rest of this plays out? the violence we've been covering in the middle east and northern africa right to your gas pump here in the united states. and later, is there a link between cell phones and brain cancer? tonight there is new research.
we have more on the chaos in libya, specifically, how it hits home. and threatens to have a direct effect on americans at the gas pump. drivers in california, alaska, hawaii are already paying more than $3.50 a gallon for regular unleaded. some other places too. and the danger is, the rest of the country could start seeing those prices steadily. that could have a big nasty ripple effect on the economy as a whole. our report from nbc's tom costello. >> reporter: with 44 billion barrels of oil underground, libya has the largest oil reserves in africa. but it accounts for less than 2% of global oil exports, mostly to europe. still, with some of libya's oil production shot down, oil and gas prices have shot up, mostly on fear the unrest will spread. a barrel of oil for april delivery today surged more than $5 to $95 a barrel. the highest levels since 2008. at the pump, regular unleaded is now averaging $3.17 a gallon up
5 cents in a week. at $3.56 a gallon, diesel is up 14 cents in just a month. at this truck stop in arizona, we found daniel bailey hauling fruit and vegetables. >> we're spending more on fuel than what we're making to live on. >> reporter: and higher gas prices translate into higher prices for everything else, food, clothing, you name it. now the predictions are for $3.30 to $4 a gallon by the summer. and if the unrest in the middle east continues, hold on to your gas cap. >> if the turmoil were to spread to saudi arabia, which supplies the world with 10% of its supply, we could see gasoline prices rise to $4 to $5 a gallon. >> reporter: that could cause serious damage to the economy. >> it hits lower income people, it hits businesses like airlines. and in general, it takes spending out of the economy, at a time when we need more spending in our economy. >> reporter: real americans paying the price for revolution. tom costello for nbc news,
on shore. now, a bit of a warning here, for those of you watching with little ones, these pictures are sad and may be too much. while on the other hand, american adults should see what's happening there. while no one yet is saying definitively what it is, our chief environmental affairs correspondent anne thompson has the latest on this mystery in already troubled waters. >> reporter: this is the heartbreaking scene repeated along a 100 mile stretch of the northern gulf of mexico. dead baby dolphins washing ashore, 19 since january, discovered in ten different locations in mississippi and alabama. trying to unravel the mystery behind the deaths, scientists from the institute of marine mammal studies. >> normally we see one or two calves that are found dead during january and february. this is almost a ten-fold increase, which is a considerable spike and is of significance. >> reporter: some dolphins are
stillborn, others have lived just a few days. though the cause has yet to be determined, a prime suspect is the bp oil spill. these calves would have been conceived just before the deepwater horizon rig blew up. their mothers may have passed through waters and eaten fish exposed to the oil and dispersants. >> the oil spill is a major event that happened, and we have to look to what may have happened to the food chain. it may be just a coincidence, but it is a very significant coincidence. >> reporter: he cautions rushing to a conclusion, there could be other factors as well, such as temperature change in the gulf waters. with no visible signs of oiling on the baby dolphins, scientists are testing tissue samples looking for oil, chemicals or anything else that may have caused these deaths. they hope to get the results in two or three weeks and solve this latest mystery of the deep.
we have a lot of news tonight. this one's been talked about and whispered about. it's always been the fear about cell phones. when held up to the ear, do they cause brain cancer? although the science isn't clear, a lot of people long ago made the switch to hands free devices. and tonight, while not definitive, there is some intriguing new research about what happens in the human brain when using a cell phone. here with the story, our chief science correspondent, robert bazell. >> it's the first time scientists have measured changes in the brain caused by radiation from cell phones. >> this area that you have here. >> the director of the study, from the national institutes of health, says there's no evidence of health effects, but she still plans to change how she uses her cell phone. >> i can use my cell phone with a wired ear piece or i can text. >> reporter: the researchers placed cell phones on mute, but
still transmitting signals next to the heads of volunteers for 50 minutes. then using a brain pet scanner, they saw the brain cells near the cell phone antenna increased temporary activity. the brain cells light up the same way when someone has a thought, moves a toe, sees a light or carries out any function controlled by the brain. so other brain scan experts are not so concerned. >> there's nothing in this paper that suggests that cell phones have any adverse effect or any harmful effect on the brain. >> reporter: most physicists, who study radiation, have always said that cell phones could not cause brain tumors or other health problems. >> the cell phone doesn't emit enough power to be damaging to the human body. >> reporter: the cell phone industry also says there's no evidence of danger, many people remain concerned. cell phone use in this country alone has grown from 4 million in 1990, to almost 300 million last year. the latest finding calls for
more research. feeding a concern that shows no sign of letting up in our ever more wireless society. robert bazell, nbc news, new york. and that's our broadcast on this busy tuesday night. thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams, and as always, we sure hope you can join us right back here tomorrow evening. good night.