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tv   NBC Nightly News  NBC  December 29, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PST

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on the broadcast tonight, countdown to the first big contest of 2012. who's got the momentum to win? tonight, what iowa voters are saying. hold the phone. paying an extra fee just to pay your bill? outrage over what the largest wireless company in america is about to hit you with. filled to capacity. despite a sluggish economy americans can't wait to play at some of their favorite amusement parks. from the heart. the inspirational last message from a texas teen that has people around the world listening. and to the moon. tonight, inside the mission being called the biggest since we landed there. being called the biggest since we landed there. "nightly news" begins now.
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captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. i'm harry smith, in for brian tonight. five days to go and iowans can't blink without seeing or hearing or bumping into a republican presidential candidate. the candidates are making final arguments before tuesday's caucus claiming they have the record, the values and the right stuff to win the nomination and win next november. chuck todd and peter alexander are in iowa tonight. we begin with peter in mason city. peter, good evening. >> reporter: harry, good evening to you. one sign that mitt romney's campaign is gaining confidence and looking forward to the opportunity to win here in iowa next week is the fact that today they announced they will host a party after next tuesday night's caucuses and then stay overnight to do tv interviews before heading to new hampshire where
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romney is heavily favored. before a large crowd in this iowa city that inspired the broadway play "the music man" -- >> i feel like breaking into "76 trombones" but i will not do that right now. >> reporter: -- frontrunner mitt romney focused his closing argument on patriotic values. >> o beautiful for patriot dream, that sees beyond the years. >> reporter: but while many iowa republicans are still searching -- >> it's nice to see how they interact with the crowd. are they presidential? >> reporter: caroline erickson said she's leaning toward romney because he can win even though her political heart lies elsewhere. >> even though i love michele bachmann and would like to see her maybe be vice president or whatever, i just don't think that she has a chance. >> reporter: and while voters like erickson are fuelling romney's campaign at the last minute, others like retired schoolteacher margie schmidt are frustrated by the choices. >> i think out of all the people in the whole wide world and the
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republicans can't find one good person to put up? >> reporter: the latest republican to emerge from the conservative field, rick santorum, who's spent more time in iowa than anyone else, believes his success here can make up for his lack of resources. >> iowa provides the spark. there is plenty of tinder on the ground that will start burning in these other states. >> reporter: but analysts question whether santorum has the political organization for the long haul. trying to stop santorum's momentum, well financed texas governor rick perry, today launching a new radio attack. >> i'm your host wink taxandspend. first question, which republican running for president vod for the bridge to nowhere earmark? [ buzzer ] >> yes, susie from des moines. >> rick santorum? >> correct. >> reporter: meanwhile michele bachmann accuses the ron paul campaign of buying off her former iowa state chairman who defected to paul tuesday.
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>> he told me specifically he was offered money, a great deal of money from the ron paul campaign. >> reporter: tonight the ron paul campaign denies that it paid anyone to defect from michele bachmann. tonight, the former campaign manager for herman cain who at one point was the frontrunner here in iowa said mr. cain has no plans at this time to endorse any republican candidate. >> peter alexander in mason city tonight. thank you. while the romney campaign likes its chances in iowa, the wild card continues to be ron paul. he's got momentum, organization and a fiercely loyal base of supporters. our chief white house correspondent and political director chuck todd is traveling with the paul campaign today. he joins us now from atlantic iowa. chuck? >> reporter: good evening, harry. when it comes to ron paul there are two key questions. one, can he widen his appeal among mainstream republicans and not just the closet libertarians inside the party? and two, does he have the infrastructure or is this a howard dean ruse from 2004 to win these caucuses and catapult him to new hampshire?
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at the core of ron paul's strength here in iowa, devoted followers like these who came from all over the country to help out in perry, iowa. joe stone made some 200 calls last night for the campaign and drove more than four hours from his minneapolis home today to catch a glimpse of his political hero. >> i want to see ron paul. i have never seen him and he's one of the only people i want to meet before i die. >> reporter: nick hofstetter of austin, texas, turns 18 next year, just in time to cast his first vote. he's volunteering now while visiting relatives in iowa. >> me and my friends do sign-making parties at my house a lot. >> the next president of the united states, ron paul! [ cheers and applause ] >> reporter: with five days to go, the paul campaign is now measuring success by the sheer number of attacks from other candidates. >> ron paul would be dangerous as president of the united states. >> one of the people running for president thinks it is okay for iran to have a nuclear weapon. i don't. i don't trust the ayotollahs. >> reporter: today paul continued to push back aggressively. >> some people throw up their
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hands and say, oh, you mean isolationism, we don't want to deal with the world? no. it's exactly the opposite. >> reporter: it's exactly that foreign policy position that resonates with his most ardent supporters here. >> i think we are in too many wars and it is time to change that and start bringing our military home to protect this country. [ applause ] >> i don't really see what we've got when you're borrowing money from china to lend to pakistan and what do you have as your final valuable product other than more chaos and debt? >> reporter: attempts by republican regulars to pigeonhole paul and his supporters as outside the mainstream offends stacy hartman of minburn, iowa. >> there's lots of references to paul supporters being fringe, lunatics, extremists. i don't think it's true. >> reporter: but what does make republican insiders nervous about paul is the idea that so many of his supporters wouldn't mind if he bolted the party and ran as an independent. >> reporter: you know, it's interesting harry, they are really worried -- the paul
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campaign -- about this idea that they are getting pigeonholed like that. so they are trying to be more iowan. so they had little cookbooks on the chairs at all of the events both here in atlantic, iowa, and also in perry, iowa today. if you remember the old clean for gene campaign for eugene mccarthy in '68. think about that when it comes to ron paul. >> as long as there is a recipe for pork tenderloin. that's what iowans really care about. all right. >> there is. >> chuck todd in atlantic. thank you very much. first it was banks and credit card companies that triggered outrage over new customer fees. now the nation's largest wireless phone and internet provider says it will start charging a fee to millions of customers who pay their bills online. you heard that right. they want you to pay for the privilege of paying your bill. it's got more than a few people more than a little steamed. pete williams is in washington with the details. pete, good evening. >> reporter: verizon is calling this a convenience fee. it means customers who pay their
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wireless phone or internet bills directly to verizon online on the company's website will be charged $2 each time for the privilege of paying their own bills. the new fee goes into effect in mid january and applies to subscribers of verizon wireless. the nation's largest wireless service provider. as word of it spreads it's coming as an unwelcome surprise. >> $2 is a lot when it sums up through the years. >> if there is extra money charged on your bill you're going to get people on your bad side. >> it feels like a penalty to me. >> very shocking. >> reporter: starting january 15, customers will be charged a $2 fee each month if they pay their verizon wireless bill by going directly to the company website. the same fee applies to paying every month by phone. that's $2 each time the bill is paid. but the company said it will not charge for customers who pay the old fashioned way by mailing in a check or by enrolling in
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automatic billing from a credit, debit, atm or checking account giving verizon direct access to your account. no extra fee either for customers who go to the verizon wireless store or kiosk to pay in person, log on to their bank to pay the bill, use company gift or rebate cards or electronic checking. the response has been instantaneous. says one customer on the twitter page, wow, that is dumb. there is no fee if you walk into a store and take an employee's time to pay, yet it costs $2 to do it online? another tweets, verizon wants to charge you for the privilege of paying them. tonight verizon wireless says the new fee is intended to offset what the company must pay to banking and credit card services when subscribe rs pay directly online once a month. the company said most of the customers already use one of the alternatives that will not incur the new fee, harry. >> amazing. pete williams, thank you so much. tensions over iran's nuclear
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program triggered a war of words over one of the world's most important waterways. one-sixth of the world's oil is shipped from the persian gulf through the straits of hormuz. iran is threatening to close the strait if the u.s. imposes tough new sanctions on iran. that could send oil prices sky high and the u.s. is warning against such a move. today, iran said the u.s. had no business telling iran what to do. there is news tonight about the largest offshore oil spill in u.s. history. the wall street journal reports that prosecutors are preparing what would be the first criminal charges related to the "deepwater horizon" explosion which killed 11 people and caused seemingly endless misery for much of the gulf coast last year. according to the journal the investigation is zeroing in on several bp employees for allegedly providing false information to regulators. now to what may be a sign of the times and america's pent-up desire for some fun.
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this week at some of america's most popular theme parks, including those owned by our parent company, nbc universal, the crowds were so huge, many people were initially turned away. apparently it's an escape that's worth the wait. nbc's kerry sanders reports. >> reporter: packed in like times square on new year's eve, but this is orlando. for the second day in a row the big two -- disneyworld's magic kingdom and universal orlando resort -- had to limit access to their parks, telling people to come back later. yesterday, even the just opened legoland in orlando was at capacity. some economists say the huge crowds may be americans are tired of doing without. theme parks are proof, at least this week, vacation spending is back. the bellinger family who last took a vacation ten years ago said it's much needed therapy, even if finding a way to finance it took creativity. >> we did dig deep.
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very deep. deep, deep. >> reporter: how deep? the average cost for a family of four with children to enjoy central florida attractions for five days costs $460 for hotel, $698 for food. other expenses like transportation and tickets to the theme parks, $2,281. for a grand total of $3,439. the spinotle family from connecticut said it took the entire family's efforts one nickel at a time to fund their holiday escape to disneyworld. >> i work at a university. some of the students there give us their cans and bottles which in connecticut they're worth five cents. we cashed them in and we were able to afford the trip. >> reporter: when they got there the waits for rides in some cases were up to 90 minutes long. >> we have plenty of opportunities if the wait is longer than they prefer. we'll direct them to areas to enjoy the rest of their experience and perhaps they can come back later in the day.
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>> reporter: orlando, the top tourist destination in winter had 51 million visitors last year. this year they project 53 million will come. >> i think what's happening is consumers are releasing some of the pent-up demand from a long and harrowing recession. >> reporter: another reason so many folks are in town? football bowl games. now, parks say no one is completely turned away from the day. just their entrances are delayed. they stagger folks coming in as people leave and the parks are staying open later tonight so that everybody can be accommodated. harry? >> kerry sanders in orlando tonight, thank you. on wall street today, some promising news about the job market and home sales sent stocks higher. the dow finished up 136 points. the nasdaq and s&p finished up as well. when "nightly news" continues, a teenager's message about life and death that's got people around the world talking today. and later, what may be the biggest mission to the moon
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since man first landed there more than 40 years ago. stop .
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back now with the remarkable story of a young man from austin, texas, who lived his life to the fullest while suffering from a dangerous heart condition that few have ever heard of. he shared his hopes and fears with friends and fans online, including a final inspiring message that has touched a lot of people. it was one of the most popular videos online today. the world listening to words from the heart. >> hey, guys. thanks for watching breedlove tv on casual wednesday. >> reporter: from his austin, texas, home, teenager ben breedlove built a loyal following on youtube. >> i'm here to give you the information back. >> reporter: offering video advice on everything from school work to dating. >> the main thing i want to go over for you girls is building up your confidence. >> reporter: he also told the world about his life threatening heart condition. >> it's called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
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and i have a pacemaker. >> reporter: the disease is a thickening of the heart muscle that can eventually lead to heart failure. >> i'm not limited on anything, but i may have -- like i have to go in for check-ups and stuff. other than that it's not a big problem. >> reporter: but it was a big problem. ben died on christmas day after opening presents. but just before christmas, unbeknownest to anyone, ben sat down and quietly made a video with flashcards. his handwritten words shared his hopes and fears about his life long struggle with his failing heart. in his video, ben described how he had cheated death three times, beginning at age 4 and again this month when he collapsed at school. he wrote about a white light he had seen each time and the peace that he felt. >> it was pretty overwhelming. because not only did we not know he had made it, but we could
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tell he was really speaking from his heart. we really appreciated the message he wanted to share with people. >> reporter: on youtube, the world is responding. more than a million people have viewed the video. thousands have written comments and condolences, even creating their own flashcard videos. a phenomenon that didn't go unnoticed at ben's funeral today, streamed online. >> it seems like more than mere coincidence, the timing of everything and how ben's message is now going literally to millions of people. >> reporter: the unspoken words ben's sister says, make the message more powerful. >> i was noticing how perfect it was that he told his story through silence and these cards instead of speaking his story because he was at peace when he was telling his story. >> reporter: a teenager who gave advice, saving the best for last. ben breedlove was 18.
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when we come back, an update to one of our making a difference reports that touched a lot of folks.
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this was another day of spectacle in north korea. thousands crowded into the main square of the capitol and across the country three minutes of silence, all a highly orchestrated display of mourning for the late kim jong-il. and a coming out party of sorts for his youngest son and successor kim jong-un anointed today as north korea's supreme leader. the country has no love for the united states but a lot of people noticed kim's funeral prominently featured three vintage mid 1970s american-made lincoln continentals, and at least one young mourner was spotted wearing a new york yankees cap. take a look at this. all hell breaking loose in one of christianity's holiest places. the church of the nativity in bethlehem. greek and armenian monks
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fighting each other with broomsticks during the church's annual cleaning, each side accusing the other of encroaching on parts of the church they claim as their own. security forces had to break up the melee. now an update on one of our making a difference reports. detroit dog rescue cares for abused and stray dogs and keeps them from being euthanized. since we profiled the organization on the "nightly news" earlier this year, the folks there say they have received an overwhelming response from donors. and this week, the biggest donation yet. a $1.5 million gift from one dog-loving woman who wishes to remain anonymous. up here next, nasa's high hopes for new year's eve.
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finally tonight here on earth this weekend is all about new year's eve. but for a team of nasa scientists, the focus will be a
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quarter of a million miles away. they will be monitoring a pair of spacecraft orbiting the moon, hoping to answer some age-old questions in what's being described as the biggest moon mission since man first landed there more than 40 years ago. here's nbc's george lewis. >> reporter: millions of years ago, earth may have had not one, but two moons. then, according to theory they collided -- an event known as the big splat. that would explain the irregularities on the surface of the present day moon. all the valleys on the side we see. all the mountains on the other side. >> scientists have not had a good way to track that down yet. this is the beginning of solving that mystery. >> zero, and liftoff of the delta ii with grail, journey to the center of the moon. >> reporter: in september, nasa launched two lunar probes aboard the same rocket. they'll chase each other in orbit around the moon to study
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it from surface to center. the mission will be run from this control room at the jet propulsion laboratory at pasadena, california. a critical point comes this weekend when the two spacecraft fire their maneuvering rockets to get into orbit around the moon. >> this is the big crunch time. this weekend is going to be the time when it comes together or falls apart. >> that's one small step for man -- >> reporter: for nasa it will be the most intense focus on the moon since the days of the apollo program. >> it's very challenging but we have done a lot of practicing and we're ready to do that. >> reporter: former astronaut sally ride will organize thousands of middle school students to tell nasa what pictures the spacecraft should take with their on-board cameras. >> hopefully it will encourage kids to get more involved in science and engineering. >> reporter: so this weekend while millions are watching the new year's ball drop in times square, nasa scientists will be watching the other illuminated ball that holds so many mysteries.
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george lewis, nbc news, pasadena, california. and that's our broadcast for thursday night. thank you for being with us. i'm harry smith in for brian. we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night. -- captions by vitac -- right now at 6:00, bay area teenagers head out on a ski trip and run straight into trouble. thank you very much for joining us. i'm garvin thomas. >> a ski trip to utah nearly went up in smoke when police


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