tv NBC Nightly News NBC January 2, 2010 6:30pm-7:00pm EST
. terror ties. president obama links the suspect in the christmas day air scare to al qaeda. and tonight the administration warns there's still a threat. up in the air. new stress and uncertainty for holiday travelers, returning tonight to a new normal at the airport. deep freeze, record low as cross the country as a new winter storm pounds the northeast. and island time. the first family's first christmas vacation far from washington.
captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. according to president obama, there is no longer any doubt about who is calling the shots in the christmas day terror scare aboard that detroit-bound airliner. today the president laid out the government's account of the bomb plot. in this coming week, he will sit down with his national intelligence and security chiefs to try to figure out how that plot got buy them in the first place. in the meantime with the post-holiday air travel rush kicking into high gear this weekend, passengers are trying to understand how all this changes the rules of the flying game. we're covering all of it tonight. we begin with nbc's mike viqueira at the white house. mike? >> good evening, lester. the president shared some new intelligence information with the nation today, and now he and others want to know why america's intelligence agencies failed to share that information with each other.
today president obama revealed for the first time what many had suspected since the attempted bombing on christmas day, al qaeda was behind it. >> it appears that he joined an affiliate of al qaeda and that this group, al qaeda in the arabian peninsula, trained him, equipped him with those explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for america. >> reporter: the president says that the suspect, umar abdulmutallab, made his al qaeda contacts and received his training in yemen, a country wracked by poverty and an ongoing civil war. now fertile ground for extremists driven from strongholds in afghanistan and elsewhere. >> there's really basically a de facto safe haven for islamic terrorists and the yemeni government is almost powerless to stop them from operating. >> reporter: after getting initial reports earlier this week, mr. obama has called a face-to-face meeting with top officials set for tuesday at the white house. among the attendees, director of national intelligence, dennis
blair, homeland security secretary janet napolitano, as well as leaders of the tsa and the national counterterrorism center, all formed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and all created to avoid just the kind of human and systemic failures that almost led to a christmas catastrophe in the skies over detroit. >> they should all be in the hot seat. this is ludicrous. i think there should be some action taken to correct this. there was a lack of accountability in the system. >> reporter: and late this afternoon, a warning from a top counterterrorism official -- al qaeda continue to redefine their methods to test our defenses and pursue an attack on the homeland. on the case of republican charges that mr. obama has deemphasized fighting terror, today the president hit back. >> of all of the partners we disrupted terrorist financing, cut off recruiting chains and lifted major losses on al qaeda leadership, thwarted plots here in the united states and saved countless american lives. >> reporter: and, lester, we're told that today the government
of yemen is stepping up efforts to combat the insurgency within its borders. and to that end, america's top general was this weekend in the region in yemen, as a matter of fact, consulting with top officials there about the fight against al qaeda. lester? >> mike viqueira, thanks. chuck todd is our chief white house correspondent and political director. he joins us from honolulu, where the president is about to wrap up a much-interrupted holiday vacation. chuck, when the president gets back to d.c., what does he want to hear from these intelligence and homeland security staff members of that tuesday meeting? >> well, since he's been here and ordered those immediate reviews about what happened and how is it that these dots weren't connected, he's going to have questions about those initial reviews that he received. and so when he has that meeting on tuesday morning of all of those folks that mike mentioned in his piece, he's going to be pushing back and wondering why weren't -- for instance, we know all of this information about him and we knew it before he got on that plane, why weren't the dots connected?
where was the holdup? right now a lot of fingers are pointing at the national counterterrorism center, which is why we heard from michael lighter, the head of that for the very first time today, as well as the director of national intelligence, dennis blair, yesterday. >> you mentioned lighter. he said in no uncertain terms today al qaeda is refining its methods in pursuing an attack on the homeland. that's the kind of language we often heard from the previous administration. is the obama white house now seeing is thresee seeing this athlete throughthrew set of lenses? >> when you like at general petraeus, just getting back from yemen. he went over there the past couple of days and just briefed john brennan, the chief anti-terror adviser, and relayed what brennan found out to him, all of the information when it comes to al qaeda has certainly gotten to more and more in front
of the president anti-terrorism strategy. so it is striking some that, frankly, make sure, i know a lot of people are pointing fingers at me. this is now what we know. we know that al qaeda is once again trying to come at us. we know dennis blair, he did a director to national intelligence employees that was a little bit defensive as well. so you're almost seeing a prebuttal, because you know, lester, all of these folks are going to get called before congress in the next couple of weeks. never mind the presidential meeting on tuesday. those congressional hearings are going to get quite heated as well, lester. >> chuck todd with the president in honolulu, thank you. much more on all of this tomorrow morning on "meet the press." among david gregory's defend, deputy national security adviser john brennan as well as former hs security director michael chertoff and foreer cia director michael hayden. now where does all of this leave air travelers as the post holiday rush home begins. one, two or no carry-on bags? can you still use the lavatory
before landing? pat-downs or body scans? here's nbc's jeff rossen. >> reporter: uncertainty in the air and now on the ground, too. from secondary screenings of carry-ons to additional pat-downs, holiday travelers who flew out before christmas are facing a whole new set of challenges today. >> there's longer lines, there's more security, there's a requirement to put your baggage through the x-ray machine sometimes twice. >> reporter: the christmas day terror plot aboard a northwest jet approaching detroit exposed, safety officials say, a hole in airport security. how did umar farouk abdulmutallab sneak explosives inside his underwear? >> we have known for some time the capability to detect explosives at the checkpoint is a vulnerability. that's what got exploited and that's what we've got to use technology to improve upon. >> reporter: abdulmutallab smuggled the explosives through checkpoints at amsterdam and nigeria, raising new questions
about international security. on monday homeland security officialless travel to major airports around the world to review screening procedures on flights bound for the u.s. the solution, some say, may be these high-tech full-body scanners, security screeners can literally see everything. right now there are 40 full-body scanners in use at 19 u.s. airports, including albuquerque, las vegas, miami, san francisco, tulsa and salt lake city. add now the tsa has ordered 150 more to be deployed this year. while the exact locations are a well-guarded secret, officials say boston logan and newark liberty are likely candidates. >> it's a necessary evil, i guess, for me. >> for the security of hundreds of people i think that it should be acceptable to be able to view a body like that just to make sure that we're all safe. >> reporter: the rules change from flight to flight. some airlines have disabled the in-flight entertainment. others haven't. some won't allow you to use the
bathroom within an hour of landing. others will. >> expect the unexpected. a lot of these security regulations are in the hands of pilots and in-flight crews. >> reporter: getting up to speed on the new normal. >> people are well aware that, you know, this is coming. >> reporter: just in time for the holiday trip home. jeff rossen, nbc news, new york. the northeast and midwest are feeling the bitter bite of winter tonight with the record-breaking temperatures, some as low as 36 below. parts of new england could get as much as a foot or more of snow, made even worse by high winds. a brutal combination for anyone trying to get around outside. let's get details now from the weather channel's chris warren. hey, chris. >> hey, lester. you said it, this is going to end up being a nasty storm. now, we do have this area of low pressure that is offshore just south of nova scotia. the satellite radar combination showing that we are already seeing some moderate-to-heavy snowfall over parts of maine and into new england. what's interesting about this,
instead of moving out, it's actually backing back into the region. meanwhile, we're starting to see some heavy snow over the great lakes with the lake-effect snow machine kicking in. this all after a record-breaking day for low temperatures. look at these numbers, minus 36 degrees below zero at international falls. so some of these records had been around since the '70s, the records that fell. this is some very cold air. snowfall totals will be impressive, both with the lake-effect snow, we could see more than a foot of snow in erie, pennsylvania. as we look into new england and maine, also some areas seeing more than a foot of snow like bangor. this is going to be going, including today and tomorrow, some heavy snow. the other issue that will be causing some travel concerns will be the blowing snow because, lester, we can see some gusts with this storm topping 50 miles an hour. >> chris warren tonight. thank you very much. hopes are fading tonight that any survivors will be found after a series of deadly mudslides in southeastern
brazil. the mudslides killed 64 people. 26 at this resort area. the lodge and several homes were pushed into the sea shortly after guests had finished new year's celebrations. authorities say dozens of people are still missing. in denmark, a muslim extremist with suspected al qaeda links has been charged with attempted murder after he broke into the home of an artist whose cartoon of the prophet muhammad provoked demonstrations throughout the muslim world after it was published in 2005. the artist, who has been under around-the-clock police protection since 2008 hid from the ax and knife carrying attacker in a fortified safe room in his house. villagers in pakistan are digging through rubble today after a huge truck bomb killed almost 100 people watching a volleyball tournament. the bomb collapsed dozens of mudbrick homes. 36 survivors are being treated at hospitals. the attack has been seen as retribution after villages formed a militia to fight the
taliban. the taliban are resurgent across the border in afghanistan, where they have been increasingly aggressive against u.s. forces. but in one afghan town in the most violent part of the country, u.s. and british forces have made it possible to return to a more normal way of life. nbc's jim maceda reports from garmsir during a ferocious battle he first visited almost two years ago. >> reporter: a foot patrol around garsmir central market or a bazaar in hel mupd province is more of a stroll for major mat sincerolli. >> i love this stuff. it reminds me of pizza back home. >> reporter: a native of brooklyn, new york, he's amazed to see so much life returning to a bazaar that only months ago was empty of all but taliban fighters and drug smugglers. this was garmsir when u.s. marines we were embedded with tried to take the town in the spring of 2008. the marines say they have spotted the source of fire, now
about 800 yards away and there are many have it with machine fire and hellfire missiles. heavily armed and dug into tunnels, the taliban resisted fiercely. we advanced no more than 100 or 150 yards over a four-day period. today the marines are in a much more mundane mission. they're here to check up on the progress of this irrigation canal. because garmsir has since become for many u.s. commanders a model of counterinsurgency success. what's worked? first, withering attacks by u.s. and british forces eventually drove out the taliban, creating a security bubble of some 50 square miles. >> that fighting is very important to establish what we have here today. if that hadn't happened, there's no way we would have the bazaars as busy as it is now. >> reporter: soon, local farmers were growing subsidized wheat and corn and not poppy. while in the city, jobs returned with increased security. ali john, a taxi driver from
garmsir, couldn't find a customer for over a year. now he says he has plenty of work. but the marines have no illusion about the relative peace here. less than five miles to the south, the taliban continue to plant lethal roadside bombs. >> the only way to do it is to stick around and get it finished 346 they s . >> reporter: they say they're looking forward to some 10,000 fresh marines, a large part of the surge coming here to help. >> what are you putting in, what kind of shop? >> reporter: so that the new life in what was a taliban haven might even spread across afghanistan's most violent province. jim maceda, nbc news, garmsir. when "nightly news" continues this saturday, changing the way high school students attend class. a big change from the classroom you remember. and cashing in at the box office. how to top a monster year in hollywood. ...kept coming back... ...or that i could help prevent them in the first place. the problem was that my controller medicine... ...was treating only 1 main cause of asthma symptoms. but there are 2.
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now this long distance learning is spreading to high schools, giving students access to more advanced courses than most school districts can offer. nbc's ron allen has our story tonight. >> e-s, hey, hey, what do you say! >> reporter: revere high in massachusetts has just about everything for its students. >> good afternoon, everybody. tomorrow is spirit day. wear your school colors. >> hi. >> reporter: however, senior lucy salez, who's determined to be a chemical engineer, wanted something more. >> there weren't really electives here that i wanted take that were specific for what i want to do later in life. >> reporter: so each day for one period, lucy leaves revere high's traditional classrooms to take a course called chemicals of civilization. the teacher is in vermont. students log in from several states. the class is completely online. >> i get to do it when i want and where i want. >> reporter: cyberschool, or virtual learning, is one of the hottest trends in education.
more than 2 million pre-k to 12th graders are involved and that number is expected to grow to more than 10 million within the next 4 years. >> we're looking forward to the day when we don't talk about online classes versus face-to-face classes, when we just think of them as courses students get to select from. >> reporter: here at revere high, online courses are limited and used only to supplement the curriculum. in fact, school administrators describe the program as something of an experiment that certainly seems to help some students, but there also may be a potential downside as well. >> 100% online learning would be difficult at an adolescent age. >> i went to high school. >> reporter: there's something more to the academic day than just the books. learning how to talk, communicate, socialize. >> reporter: do you think if you do all of your schooling online? >> i like having the balance because, yes, i do want the independent study, doing things when i want. but you need that rigor in the classroom. >> reporter: lucy just learned she won a four-year scholarship to bucknell university, a top engineering school.
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president, even in hawaii, never really gets a day off. nbc's lee cowan tonight with the first family's islands time. >> reporter: the mere mention of hawaii for those not here brings jealousy, especially during the winter months when most of the nation is hunkered down in layers. >> i'm from pennsylvania, and i usually surf in new jersey. and right now it's about 25 degrees there, so this is -- it's beautiful here. >> reporter: the president is no different. there are plenty who argue this was no time to be on a beach, even though a good portion of his time was spent working. but unlike most of us, for him, hawaii isn't just a getaway, it's a coming home. and the residents here know a local when they see one. >> a lot of people want to be outside in their yards and welcome the president when he comes by and some people are going to be holding aloha signs, and, you know, sitting out in their yards with some snacks and drinks. >> reporter: the peculiars of the hawaiian islands are here.
shaved ice, for example, isn't just some tourist novelty. he grew up on the stuff. although now his favorite combination of flavors has a nickname -- a snow-bama. >> i got the snow-bama. >> reporter: he's become of a bit of a knicknack, too. bobbleheads featuring the chaka version of the president is very popular. >> it's very popular. people say obama, let's buy this. >> reporter: politics comes second to ohana here, hawaiian for family. there are now host efforts under way to honor their favorite son here from renaming his favorite childhood landmarks to renaming schools after him. but a lot of it makes coming home different, almost awkward. a foursome on the golf course is about as public as he's been. these days the famed honolulu lights are often a glaring series of flashbulbs instead of sparkling reflections of the surf. his time is mostly spent sa cluded with family, whisked in and out of the island's treasures often before they're
open to the public. and unlike the time when he was just candidate obama, there's been no body surfing this time, at least not for the cameras. hawaii may be home but his address is still 1600 pennsylvania avenue, a residence with a driveway that spans the oceans, whose occupant, even here in paradise, can rarely truly escape. lee cowan, nbc news, honolulu. up next -- hollywood just wrapped a banner year. will 2010 be a successful sequel? consider this: these batteries are going... to the mattel children's hospital, u.c.l.a . because here they use the most... technologically advanced equipment for the healing... and the play. and to power all those toys the people at duracell... packed up a truckload of batteries. because nothing's better than powering a smile. duracell. trusted everywhere. that's when i'd had it with heartburn. the guy was hilarious. but i was in pain, so i stepped out.
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2009, as you know, was a difficult year for the economy but not for the movie industry. hollywood wracked up more than $10 billion at the box office. so how did the movie moguls top that? one way was by going back to the future. here's nbc's george lewis. >> reporter: you might say it's been a transformative year for hollywood. when a movie like "transformers: revenge of the fallen" took in $402 million at the domestic box office -- >> fell in love. >> reporter: -- and the current hit "avatar" is headed for the $300 million mark domestically, after a little more than two weeks in theaters. >> one for "avatar." >> it's been an incredible year in the box office in 2009. >> enjoy. >> we're going to wind up with about $10.6 billion in revenue and the highest attendance in five years. >> reporter: so what about 2010? people in the movie game are
trying to figure out how to top 2009's box office numbers, a hard act to follow. >> we got to hope. we're out there every week just hoping we hit it out of the park. >> reporter: and the formula for hitting it out of the park is sequels. to this 2010 will bring the second "iron man" movie. >> sometimes you just have to get away with the girls. >> reporter: carrie and her friends are back for another installment of "sex and the city." and the "harry potter" franchise will take moviegoers to hogwarts for the seventh time. the secret is sequels sell. >> audiences love the familiar and they love to go back to the movies over and over again. >> and that's it. >> reporter: so don't be surprised if director james cameron and his studio, fox, announce in 2010 that an "avatar 2" is in the works. >> you're not in kansas anymore. you're on pandora.
>> reporter: and at a time when the recession has people cutting back on things like expensive vacations and fancy meals -- >> i am in so much pain right now. >> reporter: -- going to the movies remains a relatively inexpensive alternative. george lewis, nbc news, hollywood. that's "nbc nightly news" for this saturday. i'm lester holt reporting from new york. i'll see you tomorrow morning on "today," and then right back here tomorrow evening. good night. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com it's so hard to choose one. you know, during the sign then drive event, you can get a cc, tiguan or fuel efficient jetta for practically just your signature. you can get scheduled maintenance at no cost. there's got to be more to it than that...