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tv   NBC Nightly News  NBC  December 8, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PST

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on the broadcast tonight, national disgrace. they volunteered for duty. they made the ultimate sacrifice, only to be dishonored and abandoned at home. tonight this scandal is worse than we first knew. it happened again. a deadly shooting at virginia tech and a frightened campus on lockdown today. weighing the risk of some popular birth control pills used by millions of women. tonight, new questions about what may be dangerous side effects. and up in the air. a celebrity is in the news for getting kicked off a plane for failing to turn off his electronic device, but how many of us really do and what does it really do to the plane? of us really do and what does it really do to the plane? "nightly news" begins now.
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captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. imagine your husband or son or brother or your mother, sister or daughter served this country in uniform overseas in wartime and god forbid imagine they made the ultimate sacrifice and paid with their life. we have all been assured if that happens their remains are treated with great care and the utmost respect every step of the way. sadly we are learning that's just not true in all cases. a scandal is unraveling in washington and elsewhere about how some of our service members' remains have been treated. we start off tonight with our pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski. >> reporter: d er air force base is the first stop for all of america's war dead on their final trip back home. behind the dignified ceremony
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there is a growing scandal over the fact that many partial remains of u.s. service members were unceremoniously dumped in this virginia landfill, and it is a far greater number than previously disclosed. over four years, the air force dropped over 2,700 partial remains in the landfill. nearly 1,000 have been identified through dna, belonging to 274 u.s. military killed in the wars. yet the air force never informed service members' families of the practice. sergeant first class scott smith was killed in iraq in 2006. his widow gerilyn was shocked to learn only recently that some of her husband's remains are buried in that landfill. >> absolutely mortified. i was so angry and i felt betrayed by my -- you know, by these people down at dover. >> reporter: air force officials struggled today to explain how human remains could be cremated, then dumped right along with medical waste. >> how you dispose of medical waste --
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>> they just don't get it. >> reporter: congressman rush holt said he's been trying to get to the bottom of the issue for months and suggests the air force tried to cover it up. >> it is such an obvious, flagrant desecration that if they didn't know it, they didn't want to know it. >> reporter: it's not the only problem at dover. partial remains of some service members have been lost. in one case, the mutilated arm was sawed off a deceased marine so his uniform would fit for burial. this follows the startling revelations that army personnel at arlington cemetery had buried some veterans in the wrong graves or lost their remains all together. there are two ongoing investigations into dover. air force officials said they will apologize to those 274
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families involved in the landfill controversy. but only if they call. brian? >> unbelievable story. jim miklaszewski with the news out of the pentagon tonight. jim, thanks. a lot of parents may have heard today a major college campus in this country was on lockdown for much of the day. the campus was virginia tech and the reason was all too familiar. there had been a fatal shooting there. for a time it appeared the gunman was on the loose. it all started with what police describe as a routine traffic stop. our justice correspondent pete williams picks up the story. >> reporter: it was just after noon, the university says, when a virginia tech policeman pulled over the driver of a car in a campus parking lot. police say another man walked up and shot and killed the policeman, then ran off toward a nearby rec center building. officers hurrying to the scene found a second body. >> in light of the turmoil and
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the trauma and the tragedy suffered by this campus by guns, i can only say that words don't describe our feelings and they are most elusive at this point in time. our hearts are broken again for the family of our police officer. >> reporter: the university immediately sent out a community-wide alert. stay inside, it said, secure doors. call 911 for help. students stayed put as tactical teams swarmed through campus buildings. >> they came through, a whole team of s.w.a.t. team guys with like their guns drawn and everything, clearing out the entire building. >> reporter: late today, law enforcement officials said they believe the second victim was actually the man who shot the policeman. the campus-wide alert was cancelled and the search for the gunman was called off. >> we have released the campus community to go about their normal activities. >> reporter: students were not attending classes. getting ready for final exams today that were to start tomorrow though they have been postponed.
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word of the deaths alarmed the campus achingly familiar with violence. in 2007, a student killed 32 people and then himself. during the attack the university was criticized for waiting more than two hours to alert the campus. this time the alert went out within minutes. university officials were actually here in washington today appealing the fine imposed by the federal government over the delayed alert four years ago. tonight virginia police say they don't know what the motive was for today's shooting, brian. >> what an awful trauma for that campus to go through all over again. pete williams in washington, pete, thanks. former penn state assistant football coach jerry sandusky is back home tonight after spending a night in jail on new child sex abuse charges. this morning posting $250,000 bail. tonight his wife is coming to his defense. quote, as the mother of six children, i have been devastated by these accusations. she says in a written statement, no child who ever visited our home was ever forced to stay in our basement and fed there, she says about one allegation. our children and extended family
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and friends know how much jerry and i love kids and have always tried to help and care for them. we would never do anything to hurt them. end of quote. on capitol hill today a reversal of fortune for a man who was once a governor, a u.s. senator and until recently the ceo of a company that collapsed in a stunning bankruptcy. today john corzine was the star witness brought by subpoena to testify before congress on the collapse of mf global and the missing billion dollars in client money. nbc's kelly o'donnell reports on today's hearing. >> reporter: a fallen wall street ceo, personally rich and politically well connected. new jersey's former democratic governor and u.s. senator john corzine under oath. >> i simply do not know where the money is or why the accounts have not been reconciled to date. >> reporter: and under fire.
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>> we've got to find that money. >> governor, senator, i don't know what to call you exactly. >> a lot of people have bad names. >> john maybe. i don't know. >> reporter: confronted today over catastrophic damage done in main street america. an estimated $1.2 billion of investors' money went missing. many of the investors are farmers. >> they won't be able to buy feed. they won't be able to buy equipment. they won't be able to invest. >> reporter: corzine was ceo at mf global before it went bankrupt. mf global is under investigation to determine if it illegally raided clients' accounts to cover its losses on high risk investments that went bad. >> did you authorize a transfer of customer funds? >> i never intended to break any rules whether it dealt with the segregation rules or any other rules that are applicable. >> reporter: corzine repeatedly apologized to investors. >> i could not be more regretful. >> reporter: corzine has a risk-taker's reputation.
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nearly killed as governor when he was not wearing a seat belt riding in his official car. today he took a different risk by answering the committee's questions. corzine could have taken the 5th to avoid self-incrimination. he's the first former senator subpoenaed to testify in more than 100 years. the biggest question is still unanswered. where is the investors' money? kelly o'donnell, nbc news, the capitol. now to the campaign trail where newt gingrich's opponents in the race for the gop nomination have had enough of his surge in the polls apparently and are bringing out the heavy guns on the subject of family values. our report tonight from nbc's chuck todd. >> reporter: frontrunner newt gingrich under fire from several republicans. rick perry took a direct shot at gingrich over his two divorces and three marriages. >> i made an oath to god when i married my wife. yeah, i think it is an important
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issue. but the american people will figure out these issues. >> reporter: mitt romney was less direct in this new tv ad. >> i have been married to the same woman for 25 -- excuse me, i get in trouble. for 42 years. >> reporter: romney supporter new jersey governor chris christie went to the character question in iowa last night. >> when you look at the candidates say, is this the kind of person that's going to make me proud in the oval office? i never have to worry they will embarrass america? >> reporter: gingrich shrugged off the attack. >> do you think he was attacking you on a personal level? >> no. >> reporter: that's beyond the pale? >> no, no. he's fine. >> reporter: the romney campaign's more direct attack today. criticism of paul ryan's medicare plan. >> i don't think right wing social engineering is any more desirable than left wing social engineering. >> reporter: former governor john sununu led the charge. >> i don't think newt gingrich cares about conservative principles. newt gingrich cares about newt gingrich. >> reporter: gingrich again avoided going tit for tat. he cares about newt gingrich. >> i'm going to stay positive.
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i'm going to talk about how he solve the country's problems and i have one opponent -- barack obama. >> reporter: while in iowa for romney, christie turned an occupy wall street into his own attack on the president. >> you know what? we are used to dealing with jokers like this in new jersey all the time. their anger is rooted in the fact that they believe in this hope and change garbage. >> reporter: others had a common theme to attack the president's mideast policies. >> internationally, president obama adopted an appeasement strategy. >> consistently engaged in appeasement. >> appeasement. >> appeasement. >> reporter: the president had a ready response today. >> ask osama bin laden and the 22 out of 30 top al qaeda leaders who have been taken off the field whether i engage in appeasement. >> reporter: chuck todd, nbc news, washington. there is new video tonight of what iran says is the u.s. drone that crashed last week. the video aired on iranian state tv. it showed iranian military officials examining the alleged drone. as we have reported, u.s. officials have told nbc news the cia had used a stealth drone in
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the past to spy on iran's nuclear facilities and hezbollah training camps inside iran. up next as our broadcast continues, a big decision today on whether to keep two popular birth control pills on the market and a lot of women are thinking about the brand they might use. and later, he defied the flight attendant's order to turn off his phone. how many of us have done the same thing and is it really dangerous? r:
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medical experts have been taking a close look at the new generation of birth control pills, including the one called yaz, because of studies that show they may be more likely to cause dangerous blood clots than
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older versions of the pill. today they decided the benefits outweigh the risk. we get the story from our chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman. >> reporter: two of the most popular birth control pills in use -- yaz and yasmin -- were the focus of fda hearings today about their safety. several large studies suggest the rate of blood clots with the hormone cocktail in these pills is higher than those from older contraceptive pills. in premarket testing behr pharmaceuticals found no increased risk of blood clots. >> do you all think this is some kind of academic debate? >> reporter: joan cummins's daughter michelle, an 18-year-old college student taking yaz, died from a clot in her lungs last year. >> i need my daughter back and you can't give her back, but you can -- you absolutely can prevent other mothers from have coming here with broken hearts. >> reporter: it's estimated more
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than 12 million women in the united states have taken yaz or yasmin. more than 100 million worldwide generating $1.5 billion in sales. the pills are particularly popular among young women. critics say a change in labeling is not enough. >> i'm very concerned if they don't take this drug off the market there will be even more girls and women harmed in the future. >> reporter: not all of today's testimony was critical of these popular medications. >> if you think of the millions of women in the u.s. using oral contraceptives, the effective benefit of yaz translates into considerable number of women. >> reporter: the majority of the expert panel this evening voted that the label both for yaz and yasmin should have tighter revisions, but not clear yet what those revisions will be. we asked behr pharmaceuticals for a document or comment and there is no response yet. brian, all i can say for you tonight is these are likely to stay on the market. there will be some changes. what the changes will be or how we prescribe or how they are marketed, those are things we'll
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keep our eye on. >> a lot of patients and customers watching closely. nancy, thanks, as always. one of the subjects that came up in president obama's news conference today was the subject of our lead story here last night. the obama administration's move to block an over-the-counter version of another birth control method. the so-called plan b pill. the president said he didn't intervene in the decision of his own health and human services secretary but he does agree with it. >> i will say this as the father of two daughters. i think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine. >> plan b pill will still be available by prescription. the president was responding to charges that the decision to overrule the fda and keep it
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over-the-counter market was political. up next here tonight how those cutbacks at the post office are threatening a holiday tradition.
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we lost almost 33,000 americans in motor vehicle accidents last year. and while we mourn for all of them and their families, it is the lowest number since harry truman was president in 1949. researchers say it's because cars are safer. our kids are being taught to be better drivers, and alcohol-related deaths are way down. and all of this happened even though we are driving more miles as a nation. and more tonight about those post office cutbacks. three post offices in places
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with christmas-themed names are targeted for closing. in the past, as you may know people have sent holiday mail to be postmarked in places like bethlehem, indiana, chestnut, illinois and antler, north dakota. all three post offices could be shutting down. they are on the list of 3,700 post offices slated to close. jerry robinson has died. he gave us the characters of robin, the joker and alfred in the early days of batman comics where his characters became icons and downright scary when caesar romero portrayed the joker in the tv series. jerry robinson was 89. you know how contagious yawning can be? a new italian study has found we catch it most from members of our own family, and not because we find them boring. the research shows there is a longer yawn delay if you don't know the yawner. they say the reason might be empathy -- how you feel toward your own kin -- that causes the urge to yawn when a family member does it.
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well, nobody at blackburn elementary school in florida ever admitted to pulling the fire alarm, but as teachers are fond of saying it didn't just pull itself. the alarm went off and firefighters arrived but found no fire and none of the students or staff members ever fessed up to it. then they reviewed the security camera tapes. we have our perpetrator. a common gray squirrel. it was found to be living in the school kitchen. the good news, pest control has been notified. the bad news, those weren't raisins on the rice pudding. up next here tonight, a serious question after a celebrity dust-up. what if we do secretly leave our electronics on during takeoff?
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so alec baldwin is in the news and on a lot of front pages and a lot of newspapers and websites for his fracas for failing to turn off his phone when ordered to. he was thrown off an l.a. to new york flight for it. however people feel about alec baldwin, it's clear a whole lot of people who fly in this country have a hard time believing that anything they do with their electronics is going to affect that big giant aircraft they are flying in.
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it is a top of mind topic now and nbc's tom costello has our report. >> mr. baldwin -- >> reporter: on his return to new york alec baldwin was again met by cameras, all for being thrown off a plane when he refused to turn off his iphone and the game he was playing. among air travellers today, not a lot of sympathy. >> he's a star. he loves to do that. >> i think he needs to abide by the same rules everyone else does. >> reporter: but also a question. >> i wondered, why can't i read my ipad while i'm sitting here? >> reporter: the f.a.a. rules are clear. >> ladies and gentlemen, at this time please turn off all cell phones and other electronic devices. >> reporter: everything must be in the off position before the plane pushes back and when it is preparing to land. do they really pose a danger? boeing engineers in seattle showed us the signals that come from the video screens on portable devices. >> there is a potential for these signals to cause
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interference to the radio. >> reporter: pilots have complained of interference with their flight computers and radios, but there is no hard proof of it ever causing an in-flight problem or a crash. part of the problem, say the experts, is that mobile device technology is changing so quickly. there is no way of knowing whether the next device that comes along might pose a threat. >> are they okay or are they not? until they are tested the f.a.a. has no way to determine it. >> reporter: despite the rules some press and sports team charter flights ignore them. even those on air force one don't seem worried. while the air force has similar restrictions, all kinds of electronics are used in flight. alec baldwin apologized in a statement for delaying his fellow passengers saying it was never my intention to inconvenience anyone. but he also blamed the flight attendant. now nbc news has learned the flight attendant union will ask that baldwin be banned from future american airlines flights along with his tv show "30 rock."
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tom costello, nbc news, washington. that's our broadcast on a thursday night. thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams. of course we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. right back here tomorrow evening. good night. -- captions by vitac -- test: good evening, everyone. i'm jessica aguirre. >> we all make mistakes at a hospital mistakes can beep deadly. that is our issue tonight. >> bay area hospitals penlializ for sloppy work. one hospital performing the wrong surgery on a patient. marianne. >> reporter: the stateec


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