tv NBC Nightly News NBC December 25, 2011 3:30pm-4:00pm PST
holiday cheer. across america and around the world, we're on the ground with the troops overseas and across the pond for kate's first christmas as a royal. failed system. team gingrich compared the campaign setback to the attack on pearl harbor as republicans prepare for the final push in iowa making a difference. putting pedal to the metal and bringing smiles to a lot of kids this christmas and what's wrong with this picture? tonight why one of the most iconic portraits in american tonight why one of the most iconic portraits in american history is getting a makeover. captions paid for by nbc-universal television
good evening, everyone. as christmas day fades into christmas night, cleanup continues from all the discarded wrapping paper kids are likely exhausted from all the stimulation, and shoppers are preparing to rally at least for one more visit to the mall. this time in search of post-christmas bargains. or in some case toss take back what didn't work, what didn't fit, or what they simply wouldn't be caught dead wearing. nbc's ron mott is a few floors down from me on rockefeller plaza to start our coverage off tonight. good evening, ron, and merry christmas. >> reporter: merry christmas, lester. millions of people surrounded christmas trees today and an of lot of them are out here surrounding this tree after a day filled with downright fun and reflection. around the country, around the world, christians celebrated the
birth of jesus. midnight mass at st. patrick's cathedral in new york, songs of praise in tampa. an appeal for peace at the vatican. for many, this christmas day was a day of giving, a day of meeting needs. in orlando, hundreds of volunteers delivered food to 1,000 needy families. >> well, i could be sitting in church. but i figure i can do a lot more by going out and helping people that's less fortunate than i am. >> reporter: elsewhere, it was winter coats. hot meals, haircuts, clothing and more for 22,000 in atlanta. but the day was also about santa whose trek across the globe overnight was tracked by record numbers of kids, more than 100,000 calls fielded by norad, nearly 1 million likes recorded on facebook. in hawaii, first lady michelle obama chatted with about a dozen lucky children on christmas eve. these missouri stockings were stuffed with utmost care.
most everywhere, wide-eyed smiles became the day's universal language. >> i like getting the presents. i like giving. i like giving. >> yeah, giving. >> reporter: there were fewer smiles perhaps in colorado. 50,000ed u.p.s. packages snowed in, delivery uncertain. >> where is the truck? i in timbuktu? >> reporter: leading anxious customers wonder if they'd get there on time. >> package is in the truck. i am out of here. >> reporter: and shoppers, gifts and gift cards in hand, are expected to be back out in stores monday morning, buying and returning. the national retail federation projected eight in ten shoppers would buy gift cards this holiday season. for every dollar retailers ring up, they'll give back nearly a dime in returns. a few cents higher than in in a better economy. still retail rrs hoping for a strong finish. >> on average, the week after
christmas accounts for up to 10% of holiday season sales. so it's a very important week to close out the season. >> reporter: some stores are reopening their doors as early as 5:00 in the morning so americans can get started on spending an estimated $28 billion worth of gift cards and continue that all-important bargain hunting. >> ron, thanks. as millions of american families gather for christmas dinner, les we forget tonight there are tens of thousands of american troops in afghanistan and around the world serving far from home and certainly far from their loved ones. on this christmas day, nbc's kiko inisaka spent time with some of them. >> reporter: she starts off christmas as she does every day, reaching to her family back home in virginia. a mother and a wife, she knows the pain of being far away, especially this time of year. it's her job to make things better for some 1600 u.s. troops at camp baker. as a morale officer, her battle is to help them fight depression
and alleviate stress. >> we are here to do a job. but in order to do it effectively and productively, you have to have a peace of mind. >> reporter: she reminds troops that folks back home care, handing out goodies sent by grateful americans. >> good morning, everybody. >> reporter: she sets up special events like this jingle bell day, making spirits bright. >> merry christmas! but no fun and games at the post office. they're busy sorting and handing out christmas cheer and the 290,000 pounds of holiday mail that arrived this month alone. >> the packages we get from our family members and everythimean much. >> reporter: he shares his care packages with his band of brothers, following that time-honored tradition, the gift of giving. there are some festive moments, but all over afghanistan troops are carrying on as usual today, serving their country and fighting a war.
this quick response team is heading out on a mission responding to enemy activity. it's business as usual for colonel mark mcinigle who oversees training for afghan police. 27 years in the army and it's still hard to be away. >> i've got a couple of meetings to go through. and then phone call from my wife. >> reporter: a christmas service soldiers take time to reflect. their thoughts and prayers are with family, frontline troops and fellow comrades. the words of this carol have a special meaning here as they ask for peace on earth and mercy mild. kiko itasaka, nbc news a terrible story this christmas. a decorated soldier on home leave has been paralyzed after a shooting in a party in california. family members say christopher sullivan was shot late friday night when he tried to break up a fight between his brother and another man. sullivan had been recovering from injuries he suffered in a
suicide bomb attack in afghanistan. and a tragic scene early this morning in stamford, connecticut, about 35 miles north of new york city where a fire killed five members of one family, including three children. two people were able to make it out of the burning victorian home, screaming for help, according to neighbors. it took dozens of firefighters to get the fire under control. tonight they continue to investigate the cause. tonight the white house is condemning a string of terrorist attacks in nigeria. suicide bombings across that country targets including catholic churches during christmas mass. the attacks highlight the growing threat for the muslim extremist group bogaharom on a violent campaign to implement strict islamic law across nigeria. more from our africa-based correspondent. >> reporter: the church on the outskirts where people have come for prayer and in peace. where at least 27 people lay
dead today. yet this was the first attack of many, a wave of massacres across nigeria this terrifying christmas day. car bombs, suicide attacks. one by one, four cities, five churches and their congregations were struck. >> so many families gone. whole households gone. >> reporter: the same group which blew up part of the u.n.'s nigeria headquarters in august is set on a bloody struggle with the authorities to bring about islamic law. it's an emerging name in global terror, growing ambition, and tonight a growing toll, too. nbc news tonight president obama and his family are enjoying a hawaiian christmas holiday.
they're far from the campaign trail and far from the republican candidates gearing up for the iowa caucuses now just nine days away. nbc's kristen welker is traveling with the president in honolulu. kristen? >> reporter: good evening to you, lester. the first family woke up early this morning, opened presents, sang some christmas carols and headed off to church. in the meantime the race to unseat the president will really heat up this week. a quiet christmas for the first family as they marked the holiday together at a church near their vacation home in hawaii. on christmas eve, the president called ten service members thanking them for their sacrifice. mr. obama is ending the year on a positive note with the economy showing signs of life and the payroll tax holiday extended. political gains that could be short-lived, says former republican congressman tom davis. >> it scored him some points going into the new year. putting him on top is an argument. but there's a long way to go as the campaign develops.
>> reporter: the republican presidential candidates laid low this holiday. this week they will blanket iowa, seeking last-minute support in the caucuses just nine days away. but in new hampshire, the first primary state, a new "boston globe" poll of likely new hampshire voters shows 39% support mitt romney. gingrich and paul are tied for second place with 17% each. paul has gained the most ground in new hampshire, up five points since last month. gingrich's support has slowed. he's only up two points. >> the new hampshire numbers continue to be good for mitt romney. he's ahead and he's far ahead. and ron paul continues to get a chunk of the vote. that simply makes it harder for the other candidates to break out of the pack. >> reporter: and there are more troubling signs for the former house speaker. this weekend, gingrich along with rick perry, failed to qualify for the virginia primary. neither candidate had the required 10,000 signatures, a blow to gingrich in his home state. defiant, the gingrich campaign
accused virginia of having a failed system and compared the setback to the attack at pearl harbor. his campaign manager released this statement on gingrich's facebook page, "newt and i agree that the analogy is december 1941. we have experienced an unexpected setback, but we will regroup and refocus with increased determination". >> it reflects a fundamental lack of organization. >> reporter: and analysts say that can only help mitt romney in what has been a volatile republican race. now, the gingrich campaign says he is looking into the possibility of running as a write-in candidate in virginia. the problem, that state's election laws don't allow write-in candidacy during a primary. as for iowa, analysts say you might see some of the candidates start to drop out after 9 caucuses there. >> kristen welker in honolulu. with the presidential primary season about to kick off let's bring in cnbc chief washington correspondent john
harwood for some analysis of where things stand. john, does his campaign comparing newt gingrich's exclusion from the virginia ballot as a pearl harbor-like attack only serve to highlight his organizational troubles? >> merry christmas, lester. absolutely it highlights those troubles. this is a self-inflicted wound by newt gingrich. he's never going to make up the ground he lost in organization when his campaign imploded earlier in the year. we saw that in virginia. the question in iowa which is a state that values organization is whether he can restart enough momentum politically to overcome that absence. he's going to try to do that by portraying himself as more authentically conservative than mitt romney on the economy. >> ron paul has slowly built up some momentum in iowa, pulling even with gingrich. when asked he has not ruled out the idea of running as an independent. how would that change the landscape if that were to happen? >> in a major way. ron paul may pose a greater threat to mitt romney in the general election than newt gingrich does in the primaries.
that's because he would provide an outlet other than the republican ticket for anti-obama sentiment and almost certainly most of the votes he would draw would be from anti-government voters who would otherwise be more likely to vote republican. >> skipping ahead to new hampshire, mitt romney a new poll shows he's doing very well particularly among those who identify themselves as republicans. what's the fight for independents look like in new hampshire? >> that's a terrific poll for mitt romney. his problem has always been with the base, not with moderate and independent-minded republicans, especially since he's a former governor of new hampshire -- excuse me of make massachusetts. what he's got to watch is the progress that ron paul is making and also john huntsman who is now consistently in double digits and making his stand there. but so far jon huntsman or ron paul not getting enough to threaten mitt romney's lead. >> john, thanks very much. smooth sailing for nearly 92 million holiday travellers. not many horror stories of major delays on the way out of town thanks to mild weather across most of the country. for a look at what we can expect
on this busy week of returns we're joined by meteorologist adam berg at weather channel headquarters. adam, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, lester. you're right. it has been extremely calm ac ss much of the east. green christmas actually this year for a lot of us. same deal in the south. let's talk about the systems that we can see over the next couple of days. some of these will be impacting us. one area of low pressure across the southeast. one year ago it was snow across the south. systems roll into the northwest. this low pressure system brought ten inches of snow to parts of northwestern texas. about four inches of snow to places like amarillo. that system will eventually move on out to the east. also noticing things getting much busier across the northwest. this will cause showers and thunderstorms across much of the mississippi valley. we track that eastbound. now it starts push into the rest of the southeast. and tuesday night into wednesday right across the northeast. then we get those winds shifting
back to the west. not much rainfall for us on wednesday across the northeast but it will be that tuesday through wednesday time frame much that we're most concerned about. a lot of slowdowns. we want folks to keep it locked into the weather channel. >> adam, thank you. up next as nightly news continues on this sunday, a royal christmas and a first for the newest member of the royal family. also our education nation report. how one school system really turned things around. and later making a difference one bicycle at a time. the true spirit of giving in the season of giving. [ female announcer ] you spend weeks planning it.
you spend all day cooking it. so why spend even a moment considering any broth but swanson? the broth cooks trust most to make the meal folks spend all year waiting for. in stuffing and more, the secret is swanson. tonight britain's royal family is celebrating christmas without the queen's husband prince philip.
the duke of ed iinburough remai hospitalized after a heart scare. >> reporter: the queen's christmases are all about tradition. but this time it was different. absent, prince philip, the man who's been a few steps behind her for the last 64 years. the queen's grandchildren made sure she wasn't alone as her husband stayed in hospital recovering from minor heart surgery. the 90-year-old rushed there friday night after suffering chest pains. >> prince charles was asked how his father was doing. he said he was doing really well. >> reporter: the queen's annual christmas day message was recorded before the prince took ill, but touchingly she spoke about courage and the relationships that matter when times get tough. >> the importance of family has of course come home to prince philip and me personally this year with the marriages of two of our grandchildren. each in their own way a
celebration of the god-given love that binds a family togethe together. >> reporter: one yet to gain the star of the show, the crowds big this christmas as kate celebrates her first as a duchess. she is looking increasingly relaxed in her royal role. >> i brought my daughter. we came all the way from liverpool this morning. >> what did she say? >> she said she liked your cape, didn't she? >> reporter: prince william had to work harder than his wife to win the crowd. but despite the celebrations, the kindest wishes were kept for the prince who couldn't be here. >> it's a sad day for us, really. i mean, poor old boy's getting on but we miss him. >> he's 90. i hope he does well and recovers pretty soon. >> reporter: and that is undoubtedly the message his grandchildren delivered when they visited the prince in the
hospital this evening. nbc news, london. speaking of surprises for the british, one of the most famous began 235 years ago today. december 25th, 1776. you have probably seen it before in school textbooks. general george washington launching an attack by crossing the delaware, dedpicted in this masterpiece which has in the metropolitan museum of art in new york. turns out it contains quite a few errors. looking to right those wrong, mort kunsler painted a new version which goes on display tomorrow at the new york historical society. the weather shown in the original is sunny. it was stormy that night. that row boat which would have capsized was actually a flat-bottom ferry. and the stars and stripes in the original. it wasn't yet adopted when washington crossed the delaware. it's not there in the new version.
now to our education nation report, and a remarkable transformation for the state of louisiana which struggled for years to graduate kids from its public schools. this fall the state announced nearly 71% of its students successfully completed high school just shy of the national average. so how did they turn things around? we get the story from our education correspondent raheem, alice. >> reporter: it's the start of a new day for about 1200 students at this high school. >> the day is gone when you just teach one way. expect every students to learn. >> reporter: here and across louisiana, a state where about a third of students are not performing at the basic level, officials knew they needed to make changes. they did with positive results. state-wide, louisiana raised its graduation rate by nearly 4% last year. central high did better than that. it boosted its rate by almost
12%. historic improvements, officials say, achieved by focusing the most attention on students with the greatest risk of dropping out. >> we have about a dozen different types of students. that's why we have about a dozen different things going on. we want to put them where they can get the most help. >> reporter: among the most successful programs, credit recovery. it allows students who fail a subject to retake it after school. attendance recovery puts students in saturday classes to make up for days missed. >> get kids to think about what they're doing. >> reporter: teachers collaborate weekly on lesson plans and meet twice a month with master teachers for professional development. >> leroy had an a. >> reporter: cheryl armstrong says one of the most helpful programs for her as a parent is the online grade book. it allows her to check on her son leroy every day. >> it specifies where there's a quiz or homework. so i'm able to know exactly what
he's doing or not doing. >> i know my mom is always checking online. it makes me mad. >> reporter: with his sights on a football scholarship, leroy says the new programs are helping to keep him and others on track to graduation day. rahema, ellis, nbc news, louisiana. a teenager from southern california has become the youngest person to successfully climb to the summit of the tallest mountains on east of the planet's seven continents. 15-year-old jordan romero who you can see here after he conquered mt. everest last year just crossed the last peak off his list by climbing to the top of mount vincent in antarctica. our congratulations to him. . back then, he had something more important to do. he wasn't focused on his future but fortunately, somebody else was.
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finally tonight, something every kid should get to enjoy, a bicycle. the reality is, bikes are an expense some families just can't afford. and in one town that's when they turn to the bicycle man. nb nbc's thanh trun has the story. >> reporter: in fayetteville, north carolina, tucked away in an old warehouse, is perhaps the next best thing to santa's workshop. armed with tools, holiday spirit and a heart of gold is the bicycle man. >> my real name is moses. but they don't know that. >> reporter: moses is a retired navy mechanic who earned his nickname more than two decades ago for the work he does hand crafting bicycles for less fortunate children. >> we have so many young kids out there that will wake up christmas morning and won't have nothing under the tree. i try to fill in that gap.
>> reporter: year-round, the bicycle man and his helpers repair, refurbish and revise secondhand bikes. all of that hard work all year long comes down to just one day. just in time for christmas the bicycle man will give away 1100 bikes to kids in need. 6-year-old adriana is wishing for a bike this christmas. a gr a grinch stole hers. >> reporter: on the day of the giveaway the kids line up early. first come, first serve. each child is escorted to pick out his or her new bike. next up, adriana. after some searching she finds it. pink with white wheels. >> perfect. >> reporter: a bicycle to replace the stolen one. in a matter of hours the bikes disappear. ♪ we wish you a merry christmas
and a happy new year ♪ >> and the man responsible for all the giving is receiving as wel well. >> it's helping them out a lot. i don't have the money to get them bicycles. >> thanks so much. you're a blessing. >> it gets me right here. it makes me feel good. this is why we do it all year long. >> reporter: they may not know his real name, but they know his generosity. the bicycle man once again making sure hundreds of kids ride into the new year with smiles. i'm thanh truong coming up next, "football night in america" followed by "sunday night football" bears vers versus the parks. i'm lester holt, from all of us here at "nbc nightly news," night.