tv NBC Nightly News NBC December 31, 2011 6:30pm-7:00pm EST
and for a limited time, get twice the data for the same low price. verizon. on this new year's eve, a hollywood mystery. who is behind dozens of fires that tonight have a city on edge? final push in iowa as mitt romney tries to make his lead insurmountable and the others try to stay in the game. tax hike. why people in one state are saying bring it on. tonight why they're willing to pay more. and happy new year. the world celebrates 2012. plus the song that's so familiar but what on earth does plus the song that's so familiar but what on earth does it really mean? captions paid for by nbc-universal television
good evening on this new year's eve. fireworks have already gone off on the opposite side of the globe. anand times square is packed w what could be a record-breaking crowd on a baumy evening in new york city. but in los angeles tonight an undercurrent of anxiety. someone has been setting fires, dozens of them over the past two nights with no suspect or suspects identified. tonight officials are worried it could strike again. nbc's mike tiabbe is live in north hollywood with more details. good evening, mike. >> reporter: good evening, kate. so far this one has investigators stumped. they say unequivocally this is arson. but there's no evidence and no negative information from any witness that points to a specific suspect. scott froshour of north hollywood said it was his wife who woke him to say a neighbor's car was on fire. logic and fear drove him to take
action until the real feerts arrived. >> we just ran over, i got a jose and started putting it out. she called the police. luckily it was just a car. >> reporter: there's been luck so far in what fire official say is clearly an arson rampage. none of the fires have started in the house there were sleeping occupants. instead just about every one began with a vehicle in flames. >> we lost actually four cars that could easily have been some loss of life. thank god that didn't happen. but just so close to that. >> reporter: if it's all a play for attention, it's working. local fire and police teams have now been joined by federal firearms investigators in a search for evidence and suspects. so far none of the latter. >> we're pulling all our resources to ensure we track and find and detain and arrest that suspect. >> reporter: suspect or suspects. maybe even a copycat or two. that's because one of the worst arson rampages has occurred in
short bursts of time over two square miles. 21 overnight fires set through friday morning. at least 13 more by daybreak saturday. ten of those in north hollywood. investigators are studying some inconclusive home video they've obtained but they need more help. >> if you do see anything, hear anything, please report it immediately. >> reporter: the big concern, it is new year's eve. that means crowds of thousands requiring police resources and attention while an arsonist is still at large. and maybe more than one. with we want to get these sobs before they hurt somebody. we are very fortunate that the response of the fire departments that we had last night resulted in minimal property damage. >> agencies have now put together a reward offer that stand at $60,000 for information lead together arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for this rampage. and so far again this is just plain good luck. there's been only one reported injury. that to a firefighter who took a fall while battling one of the
blazes. kate? >> good news. mike taibbi in north hollywood this evening. the hour big news this weekend of course the final push in iowa. just three days now before the caucuses that officially kick off the republican presidential race. and for most of the candidates there was no time to rest this holiday weekend. nbc's peter alexander is in iowa again tonight. peter, good evening. >> reporter: kate, good evening to you. the republican candidates are ringing out the old year the same way they will ring in the new year, stumping for every last vote ahead of tuesday's caucuses. most of the republican candidates wooed voters in iowa today. while jon huntsman continued to focus exclusively on new hampshire. >> so i'm asking for your vote. >> reporter: but frontrunner mitt romney campaigned in both states, looking to earn potentially insurmountable back-to-back wins. >> we're going to win iowa in the general election. thanks, you guys. >> reporter: meanwhile, ron paul went home to texas for the holiday weekend. his supporters looking to
distance him from decades-old racist news letters published under his name released this new video, touting dr. paul's care for a biracial couple in the 1970s. >> when ron paul came to my rescue, he just stepped in and went to work with my wife. >> reporter: also saturday, newt gingrich the target of an aggressive advertising blitz that's caused his poll numbers to plummet e-mailed supporters attacking the media and asking for money. still to be determined, whether gingrich's show of emotion friday speaking about his late mother's illness will help the former house speak connect with undecided voters. >> um she was dealing with the real problems of real people in my family. >> reporter: michele bachmann is struggling to regain the momentum that won her the ames straw poll last summer. >> we did this together! rick santorum is enjoying the attention that's come with his recent surge among
conservatives. on friday looking to win fans wearing gear from iowa's rival universities at consecutive events. and rick perry fighting to overcome divisions within his campaign continues to hammer away at santorum's record on earmarks in congress. >> the pork barrel spending where senators, they scratch one another's backs, is not federalism. that's about fleecing the american public. >> reporter: finally, the latest bus tour here in iowa belongs to the occupy movement's protesters. today some of whom were arrested demonstrate straig dem onni demonstrating. >> reporter: in the virginia primary where they vote on supertuesday in march today alerted officials in that state they're joining forces with rick perry filing suit to have their names added to that state's ballot. kate? >> peter alexander in iowa tonight. thanks, peter. if you've been following the polls in iowa for awhile now
you've seen a lot of front runners come and go. candidates are up one week, down the next. iowa voters it seems can't seem to coalesce behind one candidate. with just three days to go kelly o'donnell spent some time today with iowans still making up their mind. >> reporter: in this political season, the heart of iowa has not been so easy to win over. >> who wants to try the fudge? >> reporter: shop owner and republican voter kelly sharp is still undecided and underwhelmed. >> you know, you get a little wore out. you get wore out from the negative campaign. you get wore out from this person saying something about that person. >> reporter: in living rooms across iowa, an onslaught of political ads. more than $16 million spent by campaigns. >> you can always tell caucus is close. santorum never had any ads. >> reporter: since mid august iowa voters have had more than 500 chances to see a republican contender in person.
>> i've been pretty much all over the place. i've gone from candidate to candidate. >> reporter: an active republican chris bor reroey hasn them all but not made his choice. >> are you surprised you're undecided? >> very surprised. i've got a santorum bumper sticker on the side of my refrigerator in the garage, a ron paul yard sign in the back of my truck. but nothing out there. because i cannot come to terms with one candidate. >> reporter: wife jodi is a democrat. chris is a fiscal conservative who says he's most concerned about the country's debt. he looked hard at bachmann and then gingrich but -- >> i started to worry that he wouldn't be electable. >> reporter: back in 2008, chris supported romney. >> i'm afraid romney's the ultimate politician, the ultimate candidate, but he may not be -- i'm not convinced he's the ultimate president. >> reporter: chris says he's most disappointed because he'd expected to be volunteering for
his top candidate by now. instead at tuesday's caucus he hopes other voters will help him finally decide. >> maybe there's some magic in something that somebody points out that maybe i hadn't considered. and so i'll be doing a lot of listening. >> reporter: having so many undecided voters going into tuesday night makes the way of caucus actually worse. even more important, voters will try to influence each other. they'll be debating the merits of candidates. inside those caucus rooms some minds will be changed or finally made up. kate? >> down to the wire. kelly o'donnell in iowa. thanks so much. for more perspective on all this we turn to david gregory, the moderator of nbc's "meet the press" whose program will be coming from iowa tomorrow morning. good evening, david. >> hi, kate. >> so no candidate as kelly just said seems to have this nailed down. why not? >> well, i think that some of the voters that she spoke to actually addressed this.
there is a lack of intensity for any particular candidate in iowa that we've seen in all the polling over the past many weeks. there's certainly intensity in the republican party to beat president obama, and i think it's interesting. one of the candidates who's doing pretty well right now, rick santorum in the final stretch, pennsylvania senator, former senator, is actually on the air with an advertisement saying, hey, i can beat barack obama. i think as governor romney does better, even in this state, it's because folks are looking at him and saying, can he beat barack obama? he may not be the conservative we necessarily like or that we can get excited about, but he may have the best shot to win. i still think that that's animating a lot of voters. even more conservative voters who want the true conservative in the race. >> ron paul took the weekend off. but he has a lot of support in that state. could he come? could he win it? >> well, he certainly could win it or he could come in very strong second. he's got a lot of money. he's been doing a lot of advertising on the air. he's got great organization. we've seen that even when i was
here over the summer during the straw poll. that organization turns out. there's a lot of big republican donors who i've talked to who are very upset with paul's surge here in the state and beyond. they think it reflects a new isolationist, libertarian strain in the republican party and they don't believe he can be president but he could do well here. >> david gregory and a program note rick santorum will be david's guest tomorrow morning on "meet the press" from iowa. now back to the biggest event playing out around the world tonight, the start of the new year. nbc's dede roy is with a whole lot of friends waiting for the ball to drop in times square. >> reporter: good evening to you. it is absolutely electrifying being out here in times square surrounded by a sea of people from all corners of the world. i can tell you they went wild just moments ago when lady gaga took to the stage at the main stage right behind me and did a rehearsal. in the meantime, up to 1.5 billion people worldwide are expected to be watching tonight,
many of them already having ushered in 2012. sydney, australia set the bar high. wowing 1.5 million spectators with pyrotechnics, high octane e em blaze onning the sky. in hong kong 400,000 revellers delighted in fireworks painted the canvas above victoria harbor. and celebration in japan where observers released balloons bearing messages for those lost or feared dead in the tsunami and earthquake that hit the country in march. it was a different beat in taiwan where the crowd pulse ated to dance club rhythms while decadence from dubai's over the top bash in front of the tallest building in the world. soul full bells beck on the the new year in south korea. a crowd of 100,000 gathered to hear the first sounds of the year in seoul.
just a few minutes ago, the celebrations reached germany. and at the crossroads of the world, up to 1 million people are expected from all corners. >> kenya. >> alabama. >> mexico. >> reporter: saying good by to 2011. >> looking for a better 2012, definitely. >> reporter: thousands of nypd officers are blanketing times square. barricades squeezing crowds elbow to elbow, body heat not providing enough warmth for some despite this year's milder than usual temperatures. >> i'm like freezing. i didn't think it was going to be this cold. >> reporter: people arrived early to get a prized spot. >> we got here at 10:00 last night. >> reporter: and if they want to see the glittering ball drop, there's no leaving once they're in. >> my fingers are frozen. my toes are frozen but we're going to bear it and hopefully enjoy the night. >> reporter: to help pass the time there are plenty of distractions down to the very last second. >> gaga. >> justin bieber!
>> reporter: and both will be here later on tonight. justin bieber and lady gaga the headliners for the performers later on tonight. in meantime, after that lady gaga will join mayor michael bloomberg and flip the switch to 2012. back it you. >> dede, thanks so much. when nightly news continues on this saturday evening, why some people are saying go ahead, raise my taxes. and the story behind the song that's synonymous to new year's eve. do you know the words? do you know what they mean? . detto 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
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>> reporter: a lot of glit hter has gone out of the golden state. a tough economy and high unemployment have left the public coffers empty and the governor announcing $1 billion in painful cuts. >> it's not the way we'd like to run california. but we have to live within our means. >> reporter: everything from welfare programs to libraries to education, one of the areas hardest hit. with widespread protests over tuition hikes at state universities, and elementary schools cutting the number of teaching days. >> these are the kids that are going to be running our country zachlt are they really going to be ready? >> reporter: now californians are contemplating something that would have been unthinkable previously. in a poll conducted by the los angeles times and the university of southern california, 64% of californians said they would pay more taxes if the money went to public schools. to help the schools and other vital services, californians will get to vote on at least one initiative next year to raise state taxes. governor brown has filed an
initiative that would increase sales taxes.5 cent. >> folks are willing to pay for the bills as long as they know their money is not being wasted. >> reporter: but this was a state where a guy named howard jarvis led a taxpayer revolt in 1978 passing an initiative called proposition 13, dramatically slashing property taxes. his legacy lives on with organized opposition to any new proposed tax hikes. >> i think the public reaction would be very negative. california voters have rejected the last seven proposed state-wide tax increases. >> reporter: california has been hit harder by budget cuts than most other states. and the looming battle will test whether the people here have had a change of heart about taxes and the value of government services. george lewis, nbc news, los angeles. >> and when we come back, good news for anyone who flies.
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for people who fly, consider this tonight. the last ten years have been the safest decade ever for travel on u.s. airliners. the associated press analyzed government data and found there were 153 aviation fatalities in the last decade, including acts of terrorism. that's two deaths for every 100 million passengers on commercial flights. another piece of positive news to report tonight, some jobs that were lost overseas came home this year with thousands more on the way. the twist? call centers owned by indian companies are opening offices here and hiring americans. nbc's lisa myers has the story. >> reporter: a bustling call center owned by an indian company. it handles 100,000 calls a day. >> seven to ten business days. >> reporter: this facility is not in mumbai or bangalore. it's here in dallas, texas.
more than 90% of the workers are americans. in the last few years the indian global outsourcing giant aegis has expanded its operations in the u.s. five fold. it now has nine call centers and more than 5,000 workers. these are the newest trainees in dallas. >> how many of you were unemployed when you got this job? most of you. >> reporter: so kathy gray who had exhausted all her savings, this job was a life saver. >> i felt kind of desperate, was i going to be able to find work that was going to pay me enough to keep my head above water. >> reporter: company officials say what's happening here is important. after more than a decade of american jobs being outsourced overseas, at least a few of those jobs are coming home, returning to the united states. why? high unemployment has kept down wages in the u.s. while labor costs in india and
elsewhere have risen. >> the difference in costs between the united states and between the emerging markets have gone down. >> reporter: once more, some american companies have gotten pushed back from customers, tired of their calls going to india. and now are willing to pay a bit more for the security and cultural familiarity of having calls handled here. >> is this an aberration or is it a trend? >> i'm seeing a kind of a trend. >> reporter: experts caution that so far the number of returning jobs is small. >> what's coming back to the united states is just a trickle. most of the jobs seem to be in low-wage call centers. >> reporter: still, the workers here love being part of something good. not just for them but for the country. >> makes me very proud. >> reporter: lisa myers, nbc news, dallas. up next this new year's eve, three simple words.
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we sing it every new year's eve. "auld lang syne." it's a catchy tune but what does it mean and what are the words? one poll found that 75% of people will be making up the lyrics later tonight. a museum in new york city has a whole exhibit dedicated to that one famous song. >> reporter: millions of us sing it every new year's eve. well, fake it, anyway. it's been called the most famous song that we don't note lyrics to. >> "auld lang syne." >> be forgot keep your eye on -- >> reporter: billy crystal even ranted about it in "when harry met sally." >> what does this song mean? my whole life i don't know what this song means. should old acquaintance be
forgotten? does that mean we should forget old acquaintance? if we don't remember them we should remember them because we already forgot them. >> reporter: within the stacks of this museum a new exhibit has the answers starting with the origins of the song. >> the tune has been knock about for the best part of the 18th century in various incarnations. >> reporter: back in the late 1700s, the celebrated scottish poet robert burns penned the words claiming he heard it from an old man singing. >> shoulder old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? should old acquaintance be forgot and days "auld lang syne." >> it literally means "old long since." this of it as "for old time's sake". it was written during a time people were pining for the old days. >> that was very much the way scottish people were feeling at end of the 18th century. they were going to be annexed to great britain.
there's a tone of something lost there. >> reporter: after burns died the lyrics were set to a wedding song and combined into its final form in 1799. but it wasn't until big band leader guy lombardo played "auld lang syne" at a new york city new year's eve party that it was born. that first line is rhetorical. "no, we shouldn't forget our old friend" just like george bailey learned in "it's a wonderful life." it's nostalgic. emotional, even. >> you kind of tear up when you sing it. because it makes you think about people you miss. >> we'll take a cup of kindness yet for old time's sake. that is "nbc nightly news" for this new year's eve. a reminder you can ring in the new year with carson daly right here later on tonight on nbc. i'm kate snow reporting from new york for lester holt and everyone here at nbc news, have a happy new year. everyone here at nbc news, have a happy new year. good night.