tv NBC Nightly News NBC December 30, 2011 6:30pm-7:00pm EST
on the broadcast tonight, backing down. an about-face over the new fee from the largest cell phone company in america. tonight, verizon bows to a customer backlash. pole position. the latest numbers from the new nbc news poll, plus an unusual moment for newt gingrich. remembering mom. wiping away tears. and tonight, one on one with the surging rick santorum. l.a. on alert and people on edge. investigators scramble to solve a mystery. and what lies beneath? as the earth heats up an incredible phenomenon. you won't believe what we're
going to show you. you won't believe what we're going to show you. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. i'm harry smith filling in for brian. power to the people is a phrase from the '60s u.s. corporations have begun to feel in a big way this year. whenever companies propose new policies or changes consumers don't agree with, the response is instantaneous and unequivocal. as we reported last night, the latest case comes from phone giant verizon. as pete williams reports, verizon is listening. pete, good evening. >> reporter: harry, barely 24 hours after saying it would charge a fee for paying bills online, verizon wireless abruptly took it back. the company said it was acting in response to what it politely called customer feedback. cell phone and internet users have been complaining loudly since word of the new fee first
leaked out, flooding twitter with critical comments and launching petition drives. >> i think it's a little bit unfair. i mean, it's going to affect probably verizon. >> reporter: all in response to the company's plan to charge $2 when customers pay their bills once a month by phone or going to the company website. it offered ways to avoid the fee such assigning up for automatic billing. then an official of the federal communications commission said, on behalf of american consumers, we are concerned about verizon's actions and are looking into the matter. the company's about-face came late today. in a written statement the ceo of verizon wireless, dan mead said, we take great care to listen to your customers, adding that the decision was based on their input. customers declared victory on twitter. oh, yeah. verizon can hear you now. power of the masses equals amazing, said another. a third said, we did it. industry experts said they
thought the e fee would push more customers into using automatic billing which speeds up payments. it's ee's the latest in a serie corpora corporate. video company netflix backed off a plan to divorce its internet and mail services. >> companies are learning that the price sensitivity is there. customers online in particular can respond quickly and they are going to have to think of other ways to get customers to do what they want rather than charging a fee. >> reporter: tonight verizon says it will continue to encourage customers to pay their bills without having to go to the company's website every month. the key term here being encourage and not charge a fee. harry? >> pete williams in washington tonight. thanks. two presidential politics now. just four days until the iowa caucuses. tonight, our new nbc news marist poll showing mitt romney and ron
paul are running neck and neck. romney drawing support from 23% of likely caucus goers. paul just a few points behind at 21%. rick santorum is third at 15%. newt gingrich was moved to tears at one event today, has fallen to fifth place. peter alexander is in des moines with more. peter, good evening. >> reporter: harry, good evening. as you noted the frontrunners mitt romney and ron paul are so confident tonight ron paul said he plans to take weekend off. mitt romney is already campaigning in new hampshire tonight, the next state to vote, trying to shore up his support there. mitt romney continued trying to position himself as the presumptive republican nominee, directing much of his fire at the president. >> do you want more of barack obama? >> no! >> reporter: today turning to popular new jersey governor chris christie to help seal votes who offered a playful jab. >> you don't know what you're supposed to do on tuesday for
mitt romney, i will be back jersey-style, people. i will be back. >> reporter: romney deflected a question from nbc's andrea mitchell over whether or not he would release his tax returns. >> when i become president i will consider that. it's premature to talk about it at this stage. >> is there a secret? people know you're wealthy. >> i understand. >> there's nothing to hide. >> i agree. >> reporter: newt gingrich is viewed by more than a third of iowa caucus goers as an unacceptable nominee. he got emotional at a forum for mothers while recalling his mom's mental health problems later in life. >> my expertise in brain science comes from dealing with -- got me emotional -- from dealing with the real problems with real people in my family. >> reporter: meanwhile rick perry intensified his criticism of rick perry over earmarks in congress.
>> why did you ask the taxpayers of iowa to support a teapot museum in north carolina? >> reporter: michele bachmann lost her political director thursday and was greeted by under well. ing crowds at events today. >> i guess we were just dropping in. >> reporter: ron paul stayed on task with his solid base of supporters. >> when government gets too big, that's when we have to worry about our dangers. >> reporter: mitt romney's son said he would release his tax returns as soon as barack obama released his birth certificate. he was accused of pandering to the extremists who still question whether the president was born. romney's son later apologized on twitter. >> peter alexander in des moines tonight. thank you. now to the contender. enjoying a a well-timed surge in the polls, rick santorum. chuck todd went one on one with rick santorum today.
chuck joins us now from ames. chuck, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, harry. you know, every long shot presidential candidate comes to iowa hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. most of them fail, but rick santorum may yujust buck the od. rick santorum doing what he's been doing for the better part of a year. today it's ames for an iowa state bowl game party. we caught with him at his iowa headquarters. not the picture of a campaign polls indite is surging. what took so long? >> i said from the beginning it would be hard work and a message and messenger and experience. >> reporter: he admits it was frustrating at times and he regrets letter that show. >> i felt like i needed to buy a ticket to be at the debates sometimes. that probably didn't serve me well to have that kind of feeling. >> reporter: santorum struggled for months to get traction here.
>> can we win? how many times i got that and all the volunteers. we love you, but nobody in the media talks about you. >> reporter: now he's testing arguments against mitt romney if he becomes the conservative alternative. >> i don't think a liberal massachusetts governor is going to come and be able to go and relate to folks a as well as the guy who grew up as the grandson of a coal miner. >> reporter: he takes issue that romney is more electable. >> he has no track record of attracting reagan democrats. that's how you win the industrial mid western states that are necessary. reagan democrats, that's my bread and butter. >> reporter: santorum pushed back on accusations that he was a pork barrel senator. >> i don't think anyone can look at my record in congress and say i was a go along, get along guy. >> reporter: he tried to draw a line between personal beliefs and governing. >> just because something i believe is immoral doesn't mean it should be made a criminal
defense. >> reporter: he said his belief in marriage isn't something he should set aside. >> marriage i think has to be one thing for everybody. you can't have 50 different marriage laws in this country. you have to have one marriage law. >> reporter: our new nbc marist poll is the second one this week to show santorum moving closer to the top. santorum may not be done surging. while romney leads the entire field, the three candidates that have more committed supporters who say they are not going to waive on caucus night are all above romney. romney's support may be soft. gingrich slipped to fifth place. he's now only second to ron paul among iowa republicans who say he would be an unacceptable republican nominee. >> still plenty undecided out there. in ames tonight, thank you very much, chuck todd. rick santorum will be david
gregory's exclusive guest sunday morning on "meet the press." overseas now to syria which today saw one of the largest demonstrations there in months. it's been a year of uprisings and violent crack downs but the crisis continues without let-up. today, dozens more were killed. amin mojadin has our report. >> reporter: nine months into the syrian uprising, hundreds of thousands took to the streets today. protesting the regime that shows no signs of backing down. in this year of the arab spring a wave of change that toppled hosni mubarak of egypt and moammar gadhafi of libya. syria has managed to hold onto power. the cost, more than 5,000 lives since march with more killed each day, even as many soldiers defect and the uprising lurches toward civil war. nothing has slowed down the carnage. not even the presence of arab
league observers. their job, to ensure the regime's compliance is an agreement aimed at ending the crack down. while the syrian government allowed the arab league in it has banned foreign media from reporting firsthand from inside the country. the opposition is using home video to get the message out and hoping the observers present will help them be heard. in this amateur footage not independently verified residents placed the body of a dead child on the hood of the observer's car. but the arab league has been of little help so far. opposition groups say more than 130 syrians have been killed this week. president asad claims he's waging war against terrorist gangs and foreign elements trying to divide the country. few believe that, but so far the world seems helpless to stop him and so do the syrians in the streets. nbc news. >> in southern california
tonight a growing mystery has police on alert and firefighters scrambling to solve a hollywood whodunnit. a serial arsonist is torching l.a. nbc's george lewis reports. >> reporter: los angeles firefighters had their hands full as they responded to call after call. autos parked in carports burning, the flames spreading to surrounding buildings in many cases. mike robins went door to door to warn his neighbors. >> within a couple minute that is carport was pretty well envelopeded. >> reporter: investigators said the fires had been deliberately set. one firefighter was injured when he fell. >> very dangerous fires. these can certainly lead to loss of life, injury. we're very concerned about it. >> reporter: there were a total of 19 fires in hollywood and the neighboring city of west hollywood. some of them near famous landmarks. one of the incidents was at the
former home of the late rock star jim morrison. the fire reported at about 1:20 this morning. ironically morrison who performed with the doors in the 1960s was the guy who famously sang "come on, baby, light my fire." now arson investigators are coming through to see if they can find out who lit these fires. police arrested two men were arson on thursday. they were in jail during friday's incident. >> when it's something manmade and someone is trying to do harm and trying to cause damage, yeah, it does hit home with us. >> reporter: law enforcement and fire officials say it's a tense situation tonight as they wait to see if there will be another arson epidemic. george lewis, nbc news, hollywood. it was a mixed day on wall street, this last trading day of 2011. the dow finished down 69 points but gained 5.5% for the year. the nasdaq closed down 9 and the s&p closed up 5, ending the year
right about where it began. when "nightly news" continues, a remarkable phenomenon in a place very few people have ever seen. you've got to see it to believe it. later, good-bye and good riddance. why so many people are ready to say adios to 2011. but we were determined to see it through. today, while our work continues, i want to update you on the progress: bp has set aside 20 billion dollars to fund economic and environmental recovery. we're paying for all spill- related clean-up costs. and we've established a 500 million dollar fund so independent scientists can study the gulf's wildlife and environment for ten years. thousands of environmental samples from across the gulf have been analyzed by independent labs under the direction of the us coast guard. i'm glad to report all beaches and waters are open for everyone to enjoy. and the economy is showing progress
with many areas on the gulf coast having their best tourism seasons in years. i was born here, i'm still here and so is bp. we're committed to the gulf for everyone who loves it, and everyone who calls it home. but to be honest, i find the omega choices overwhelming. which one is right for me? then i found new pronutrients omega-3. it's from centrum. a name i trust. it goes beyond my heart to support my brain and eyes too. and these ultra concentrated minigels are much smaller than many others. it's part of a whole new line of supplements. there's probiotic and fruit & veggie too. new pronutrients from centrum. look for your five dollar coupon in this sunday's paper. the unusually warm weather this winter has people talking. but what if warmer weather itself could set off a catastrophic chain reaction
releasing a massive cloud of dangerous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere? those gases have been frozen in the arctic for thousands of years, locked just underground in places like siberia. nbc's jim maceda traveled to one of the most remote spots on earth to find out more. >> reporter: there is a ticking bomb in this vast remote land and sergei zimoff might be the man to disarm it. the russian geophysicist came tracking the call of the wild but after a while realized he was standing on a powder keg with vast amounts of highly flammable methane seeping from the earth below. more gas made since the industrial revolution. some a 500 billion tons. where is it all coming from? permafrost. for thousands of years it's trapped the carbon rich soil, a
compost of ice age plant and animal remains. but global warming is melting the permafrost and exposing the soil. one result, bones of woolly mammoths and other animals once buried deep now cover this like a giant graveyard. >> there are hundreds more like them all over the shore here. >> reporter: as it melts the permafrost leaves behind scenes of utter destruction. >> it's a huge bomb. it's a catastrophe for climate, for global agriculture. >> reporter: u.s. scientists are taking notice. adam wolf, a princeton biologist who's worked in siberia said it could threaten the planet. >> where the warming is so extreme that it's hard for us to really fathom. >> reporter: unless this works. zimoff calls it his ploois seen
park which sounds absurd. why not go back in time and recreate the very conditions that existed on the woolly mammoth. zimoff bought this land, shift herds of animals, bison and reindeer. with a four ton truck like a mammoth he knocked down trees and grasslands reappeared. the herds ate the grass and trampled the cold snow into the ground. temperatures fell and at least in this park the permafrost is now stable. science 101. >> some say why not? it's the best idea. >> can the experiment be scaled up to stop the bomb?
>> is it possible with proper investment? absolutely. >> reporter: zimoff admits he's a wilderness nut who never set out to save civilization but it might work out that way. jim maceda, siberia. >> when we come back it's lights-out this weekend for a household staple. my insides? pure platinum. [ female announcer ] a healthy outside starts inside. new iams simple & natural has chicken as its number one ingredient and zero fillers. it works inside for health you can see on the outside. [ dog ] i can't be a rockstar on the outside if i'm not one on the inside. [ female announcer ] new iams naturals. you'll like what's in them and love what's not. [ dog ] i am an iams dog. [ girls ] he's so cute! [ dog ] groupies! that make kids happy. and even fewer that make moms happy too. with wholesome noodles and bite sized chicken, nothing brings you together like chicken noodle soup from campbell's.
it's amazing what soup can do. like chicken noodle soup from campbell's. do you have an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation, or afib, that's not caused by a heart valve problem? are you taking warfarin to reduce your risk of stroke caused by a clot? you should know about pradaxa. an important study showed that pradaxa 150mg reduced stroke risk 35% more than warfarin. and with pradaxa, there's no need for those regular blood tests. pradaxa is progress. pradaxa can cause serious, sometimes fatal, bleeding. don't take pradaxa if you have abnormal bleeding, and seek immediate medical care for unexpected signs of bleeding like unusual bruising. pradaxa may increase your bleeding risk if you're 75 or older, have kidney problems or a bleeding condition, like stomach ulcers. or if you take aspirin products, nsaids, or blood thinners. tell your doctor about all medicines you take, any planned medical or dental procedures, and don't stop taking pradaxa without your doctors approval, as stopping may increase your stroke risk. other side effects include indigestion,stomach pain,
upset, or burning. if you have afib not caused by a heart valve problem, ask your doctor if pradaxa can reduce your risk of a stroke. for more information or help paying for pradaxa, visit pradaxa.com. we learned today that a recipient of this nation's highest military honor has died. mike colaulillo was one of 85
living recipients of the medal of honor for actions in germany during world war ii. on april 7, 1945, he risked his own life, leading his company into enemy fire to save a wounded fellow soldier. he passed away this morning in his hometown of duluth, minnesota. he was 86 years old. it's the end of an era for two fixtures of american life. on sunday it's lights out for the world changing invention, the incandescent lightbulb. despite a last ditch effort to save it manufacturers will stop making them to comply with a federal law requiring lightbulbs to be 25% more energy e efficient. you will still be able to find them on store shelves for a few months until retailers run out of stock. and starting monday you will no longer be able to buy paper u.s. savings bonds at your neighborhood bank. a tradition that dates back to the days when fdr was president.
instead you have to buy bonds online. the government said the decision to go paperless will save the treasury more than $100 million. and the good folks at michigan's lake superior state university are out with their analyst nual list of words and s they say we should rest for a while. baby bump, ginormous, man cave, shared sacrifice and the new normal. and making the list, the word occupy. which you may have heard once or twice on this broadcast. up next here tonight, a lot of folks looking forward to turning the page on 2011. this is an rc robotic claw. my high school science teacher made me what i am today. our science teacher helped us build it. ♪ now i'm a geologist at chevron, and i get to help science teachers. it has four servo motors and a wireless microcontroller.
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kiss 2011 good-bye. nbc's mike taibbi tonight on why so many are saying good riddance and hoping for the best for 2012. >> reporter: let's face it. even if 2011 wasn't an actual bummer for most people it sure felt like it. from new york's times square. >> it's scary. it really is scary. >> reporter: to pasadena on the left coast. >> feels like a lot of humanity has been lost. >> reporter: granted there was a lot to worry about. pro football, pro basketball and even the u.s. congress were on the brink of shutting down. they didn't. and though california spent months over a transportation mess they dubbed carmegeddon it was just a news story about a highway shut down for a while. then there was oakland preacher harold camping who predicted the world would end may 21. >> it will begin with a huge earthquake. >> reporter: when it didn't he changed it to july 4, then october 21 and then stopped
talking. still, recent polls show americans by huge margins, 2 to 1 and 3 to 1, think we are on the wrong track as all the occupy protests demonstrated it's worries about money. >> i lost a couple jobs because of the economy and things. everybody's going through that. >> maybe congress will get it back together and do what it needs to do and go forward. >> reporter: but 2012 is at hand and hope springs eternal. you may have heard we have an election coming up. so around half the country will find its hopes rewarded. the other half might find entertainment if not solace on events already on the calendar. the london olympics, the jubilee celebration for the queen's 60th year of rule, a tour and album by the beach boys. of course the movie "2012" does have the mayan calendar predicting the world's destruction next december. >> california is going down. >> reporter: but that's just