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tv   NBC Nightly News  NBC  September 9, 2013 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT

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the smoke and air quality is dangerous in the surrounding communities in the east bay. we'll continue our coverage at 6:00. critical push. tonight our interview with the president on syria and what he might do if congress says no. late developments tonight that may have opened the door to averting a military strike. fighting breast cancer. controversial new recommendations about when women should start getting mammograms. dr. nancy snyderman joins us with some answers. our nbc news investigation into a secret underworld involving what happens to some adopted children when things don't work out at home. and old school. what did it take to get into high school a century ago, and what it might tell us about how we have all changed. "nightly news" begins now.
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good evening. the president has told nbc news he hasn't decided what action to take in syria if congress votes no to a military strike. even though the campaign to get a yes vote continues, all day today there was a steady stream of lawmakers in and out of the white house. late today it was a steady stream of journalists as the president granted interviews to six networks including this one. it was something secretary of state john kerry said today almost offhandedly that received a lot of attention. the idea that syria might agree to hand over control of its chemical weapons to other nations. the reaction to that and the president's own words late today leaves the impression that suddenly a military strike is now less certain. savannah guthrie has emerged from her conversation with the president in the white house and starts us off from there tonight. savannah, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. the president was remarkably candid with me saying he's sure
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he has the votes in congress to approve the military strikes. he was open yet cautious about the idea, the latest overture from russia that perhaps the chemical arsenal could be controlled by international inspectors. are you skeptical? does it seem like a stalling tactic? >> i think a famous american president once said, "trust but verify." you have to take it with a grain of salt initially. but between the statements that we saw from the russians, the statement today from the syrians, this represents a potentially positive development. my preference consistently has been a diplomatic resolution to this problem. >> reporter: would you act without congress? the answer could be yes, no, or i haven't decided. >> i think it's fair to say that i haven't decided. i am taking this vote in congress and what the american
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people are saying very seriously. because if you ask somebody, you know, i read polls like everybody else. if you ask somebody, if you ask michelle, "do we want to be involved in another war," the answer is no. so i recognize how important that debate is. it is my belief that for me, the president, to act without consensus in a situation where there is not a direct imminent threat to the homeland or interests around the world that that's not the kind of precedent that i want to set. we are going to spend this week talking to members of congress, answering their questions. i'm going to speak to the american people tomorrow night directly. i will evaluate after that whether or not we feel strongly enough about this that we are willing to move forward. >> reporter: are you confident you're going to get the votes? >> i wouldn't say i'm confident. i'm confident that the members of congress are taking this issue very seriously, and they
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are doing their homework. i appreciate that. >> reporter: you have said these strikes, if they take place, will be limited. my question to you is how could you possibly know that? if we strike and assad retaliates or iran does or hezbollah, they strike u.s. interests or even strike u.s. citizens at home, what then? you may want limited action, but can you really promise it? >> well, look. nothing is 100% guaranteed in life. but i think it's fair to say that our military is outstanding. our intelligence is outstanding. we have shown ourselves capable of taking precision strikes on military installations in ways that would degrade assad's capabilities to deliver chemical weapons but that would not lead to escalation. >> reporter: assad today when asked if he would retaliate had a message.
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he said, expect everything. members of congress are saying they are skeptical because they don't think there is a strategy for day two, day three, day four. >> that's not the case. first of all, syria doesn't have significant capabilities to retaliate against us. iran does, but iran is not going to risk a war with the united states over this. particularly given that our goal is to make sure that chemical weapons aren't used on children. and so it is very unlikely that we would see the kinds of retaliation that would have a significant impact on u.s. interests in the region. >> reporter: today secretary of state kerry said the strikes would be unbelievably small. what does that mean? are we talking a pinprick, a knockout blow, a punch in the gut? >> no. the u.s. does not do pinpricks. our military is the greatest the world has ever known. when we take limited strikes it has an impact on a country like syria that does not have a tremendous military capability. they have a tremendous military
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capability relative to civilians. they have a significant military capability relative to children that are being gassed. they don't have a military that matches up with ours in any kind of way. >> reporter: a senior official told me late today it was vladimir putin who first raised this idea of international inspectors perhaps controlling syria's chemical arsenal. that's an idea that if it ultimately doesn't go anywhere, at least, brian, it's vigorously being pursued tonight. >> savannah guthrie starting us off after her conversation with the president tonight. savannah, thanks for that. let's take a closer look now at the remark by secretary of state kerry that got the immediate attention of russia, syria and the rest of the world and could become part of a solution to avoid this military strike against syria. our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell back in the d.c. newsroom after having returned from an overseas trip with secretary kerry. good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian.
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kerry and the russian foreign minister, i i'm told, have discussed the idea of putting syria's chemical weapons under international control in the past. but officials say kerry's comment today was not an official formal proposal. but the russians, perhaps seeking a way out of the crisis, jumped on it. it started with the answer by john kerry in london when asked if there were anything assad could do to prevent a u.s. strike. >> sure. he could turn over every bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. turn it over. all of it. without delay. >> reporter: russia, perhaps seeking a way out, chose to take him seriously. only three hours later in moscow, foreign minister sergey lavrov said if the establishment of international control over chemical weapons makes it possible to avoid strikes then we will immediately get to work with damascus. syria's foreign minister in moscow said his government welcomes the russian initiative. flying home from london, kerry got on the phone with the russian minister saying it was an offhand, rhetorical remark,
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not an official proposal and said the u.s. is skeptical it could work. syria's chemical weapons are hidden all over the country and how would inspectors get into a war zone to even verify they were contained. kerry told lavrov the u.s. wouldn't play games and won't delay seeking a vote in congress but would talk if russia and syria are serious. the white house chimed in. >> it's important to note that it's clear this proposal comes in the context of the threat of u.s. action and the pressure that the president is exerting. >> reporter: kerry also said it is assad, his brother a top commander and one general who control all of the chemical weapons. in an interview with charlie rose airing today, assad was in complete denial that the chemical attack even happened. >> how can you talk about what happened if you don't have evidence? >> the attacks against american bases in the middle east if there is an air strike? >> you should expect everything. you should expect everything. >> reporter: escalating his unprecedented campaign with
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congress, the president deployed an army of advocates. >> only the syrian regime has the capacity to deliver chemical weapons on a scale to cause the devastation we saw in damascus. >> reporter: even enlisting hillary clinton who met with the president on syria today. >> now, if the regime immediately surrendered its stock piles to international control, as was suggested by secretary kerry and the russians that would be an important step. >> reporter: tonight the president spent an hour trying to persuade members of the congressional black caucus, out spoken opponents of air strikes. now kelly o'donnell reports senator harry reid has postponed thursday's senate vote because of the russian proposal, brian. >> andrea mitchell back in washington tonight. andrea, thanks. before we move on, a reminder. nbc news will have live coverage of the president's address to the nation tomorrow night right
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here at 9:00 eastern, 6:00 p.m. pacific. today's other news includes a development concerning breast cancer. you may recall a few years back a government task force recommended women wait until they are 50 before receiving regular mammograms. but in a study out today, researchers found the majority of the women who died of breast cancer had not been screened and half of those women were under 50. so what does this now do to the advice women are supposed to get from their doctors? our chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman is with us tonight on assignment at the mayo clinic in minnesota with guidance on all of this. good evening. >> reporter: today's report on how early and how often to get screened. it could be great to think the more often women get screened, the more we're going to cure cancer. but that's not the facts. not all breast cancers are the same. some cancers in younger women are more aggressive. some cancers will just go away on their own.
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and there's a downside about screening everybody. it means more radiation is at risk. it means more false positives and biopsies. there's an economic downside too. right now the recommendations to screen at 50, those stay. brian? >> dr. nancy sneiderman tonight. thanks. tonight in california when they were happy with the progress they made near yosemite, two new fires have started. they are now burning out of control. evacuations have been ordered in communities outside san francisco where a huge plume of smoke can be seen from the heart of the city and to the south, not far from palm springs a fire has burned several homes, injured at least three people including two firefighters. we are keeping an eye on the eastern atlantic tonight. tropical storm humberto moving west cowl become a hurricane by tomorrow. the first of the season.
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notably if it doesn't become a hurricane by wednesday, we would set a new record for the latest point in hurricane season without a storm reaching full hurricane status. still ahead for us on this monday night, our nbc news investigation. shocking look at an underground network passing off adopted children when they are no longer wanted at home. a brave young woman coming forward to expose it. later, if you think school is tough now, wait until you see what it took to make it the year the "titanic" went down.
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we are back tonight with a special investigation. it's about adoption, specifically children adopted from overseas. americans have adopted nearly a quarter million children from other countries since the late 1990s, the clear majority adopted into loving homes.
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you are about to hear the disturbing story of what can happen when things go wrong. in partnership with reuters, our national correspondent kate snow discovered a troubling underground world in which children are passed off with no one watching. >> reporter: 26-year-old nora gately had polio as a child. she was living in a chinese orphanage. at 13 an american couple adopted her. >> i was the luckiest girl in the world. that's what i felt like. >> reporter: she moved to a nice home in the florida keys. within a year, nora says, things fell apart. one day her mother told her she was going on a road trip with her father. >> i just thought we were going out, just doing a daddy-daughter thing. >> reporter: he drove her to tennessee, to the home of the schmitz family. >> he said we'll come back in a couple of years and pick you up. i believed him. >> reporter: did you ever see him again? >> no, never. not after two years. >> reporter: not to this day? >> not to this day.
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>> reporter: she lived with 17 other children, many of whom arrived the same way nora did. their parents had gone on the internet looking to get rid of kids they adopted from overseas. it is called rehoming. >> this rehoming world is ripe for exploitation. >> reporter: over 18 months reuters reporter megan tuey examined an underground universe of chat rooms where desperate adoptive parents post notes about children they cannot care for. >> she is scared and needs help with the worries that make it hard for her to fall asleep at night. >> reporter: on one yahoo site alone, over 1,000 messages. some reference a child's sexuality or say the child was previously abused. >> the orphanage had a lack of oh supervision. that allowed sexual behaviors with other children. >> reporter: who's going to want a young person that has that background? >> sex offender experts say these advertisements are a predator's dream come true. >> reporter: this underground
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network exists with no oversight. laws regarding adoption and guardianship vary from state to state. >> lots of times the child is transferred to the new family with nothing more than a power of attorney that basically says -- signed by both parties and notarized. there is no government official involved, no child welfare officials involved. >> reporter: the family nora was sent to was abusive. nora says debra schmitz would take away her leg brace as punishment and more than once told her to dig her own grave. >> get out and dig your grave. i don't care if you die. nobody cares. nobody will find you. >> reporter: when a visiting nurse got suspicious, she gave nora a tape recorder to document what was happening. that led to criminal charges and jail time for schmitz. almost a decade later, nora is speaking out to draw attention to the secret world of rehoming. she's found a new life and loving support from people like sherry dvorak. >> i have people that loves me,
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cares about me, tell me they love me all the time. >> reporter: there is another side to this story for families who find themselves overwhelmed and unprepared for the challenges of international adoption. brian, tomorrow we'll hear from them on "today". >> glad we are calling attention to it. kate snow, thanks as always. we'll take a break here. we are back in a moment with a man who might be america's most unlikely ambassador to one of the most secretive places on earth.
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george zimmerman is back in the news tonight. his estranged wife shellie who filed for divorce days ago called 911 today saying zimmerman threatened her with a gun and struck her father. no one was taken into custody. police say both sides are blaming the other for starting the altercation and shellie zimmerman declined to press charges. dennis rodman is once again in the unlikely position of relaying information about the head of north korea to the rest of the free world. he's just back from his second trip to visit kim jong-un and
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says he's going back again to coach their olympic basketball team. it is through rodman that the world found out yesterday kim jong-un is the father of an infant daughter. to hear rodman tell it, the north korean president yearns for contact with the american president. rodman says he's trying to facilitate a dialogue here. >> it's about doing my thing, trying to open obama's and everyone's mind. guess what, you don't have to talk about politics. talk about anything in the world. meet him in switzerland. meet him in london. meet him in ireland. meet him or even give him a call. that's all he wants. >> dennis rodman today said kim jong-un is a man who has a job to do but he called him, quote, a good guy. well, the world is now getting its first glimpse of a long-missing painting by vincent van gogh, completed in 1888, two years before the artist's suicide. it has been in an attic in
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norway assumed to be the work of another painter. it is the first full-sized van gogh discovered since 1928. 50 years ago this very evening "nbc nightly news" became what it is today, a half hour-long newscast. to highlight the big roll out chet huntly and david brinkley interviewed president john f. kennedy. prior to that it was a 15-minute newscast. that was the industry's standard a half century ago. cbs was the first to go to a half hour. not to be outdone, nbc news followed a week later. when we come back here tonight, what a recently discovered document can tell us about how much we've changed at school.
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finally tonight this next story is for all those parents who proudly display bumper stickers saying their child is an honor student. in kentucky they have unearthed a century-old high school entrance exam that would make a lot of folks proud just to say their child got into high school. the story tonight from kevin tibbles. >> reporter: life was likely simpler in rural kentucky a century ago, but don't assume for a second it was a cinch for the kids in the old one-room schoolhouse.
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>> i probably could not pass it. >> reporter: the history museum unearthed this high school entrance exam from 1912 to prove it. do you think bill gates could pass this test? [ laughter ] >> i can't pass this test probably and i wrote the answers. >> reporter: before the first world war when wilson was president and the "titanic" met the iceberg, kids in 8th grade were asked, at $1.62 1/2 a cord what would be the price of wood 24 feet long, four feet wide and 6'3" high? yikes! or who invented the cotton gin, sewing machine, telephone, phonograph. head scratchers even in 2013. >> we cheated, too. we did google searches and things to get it done which they would not have had back then. >> reporter: back a hundred years ago before they took the test kids walked for miles to reach the schoolhouse hoping to get there before the teacher rang the bell.
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of course kids these days cram just as hard, but some of these old-fashioned questions confound newfangled minds. do you think you would be able to pass this test? >> no. >> probably not. >> reporter: describe the battle of quebec. >> quebec -- i'm not familiar with that one. >> reporter: if you had a difficult math problem today, how would you solve the problem? >> you could use a calculator. >> reporter: oh, how times have changed. one thing has remained constant. no matter what the questions, kids still stress over exams, proving the more things change, the more they do stay the same. kevin tibbles, nbc news, shepherdsville, kentucky. back to present day, that's our broadcast on a monday night as we start off a new week. thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams. we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night.
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right now at 6:00, a live look above that fire making a steady march through extremely p of the east bay. good evening, thanks for joining us. >> the mt. diablo fire is burning in contra costa county. people across the bay area are feeling the impact. live look now from our nbc chopper. the wildfire has more than doubled in size since it broke out yesterday, growing to more than 4,000 acres. there are quality, air quality concerns now in this area, stretching from the tri valley down south to santa clara
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county. nbc has a look at the health impact. chief meteorologist jeff ranieri is watching the winds. we begin with jodi hernandez. >> reporter: raj, this fire has more than tripled in size and it just keeps growing. as you mentioned, you can see the smoky hillside behind me. we've actually been watching lottelot e helicopters and planes dropping water on this today. you see patches of bright orange. no those are flames. tonight the fire is just 20% contained. >> biggest challenge is access, trying to get the resources to where the fire is is actually burning and doing it in a safe manner. >> reporter: firefighters are facing huge challenges as they work to get a handle on the biggest fire mt. diablo's seen in years. more than 3,700 acreses have burned since the fire broke out yesterday afternoon. hot weather, steep terrain, and dry vegetation are making it tough to