tv NBC Nightly News NBC September 29, 2009 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT
each of them as well above 50 carats. for comparison's sake in terms of size, the hope diamond at the smithsonian is 45.5 carats, teeny little thing. the cullenen mine has produced over famous diamonds. bass in 1905, in the rough more than 3,000 carats. on our broadcast tonight, earthquake, a major quake beneath the pacific northeastern samoa. tsunami warnings, deaths and damage reported. saying no to a public insurance plan. the public option for now in today's major vote in health care reform. a death in texas focuses the worst fears of parents about swine flu and the vaccine to prevent it. >> and road hazard. are the feds fixing to crack
down on distracted drivers? "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. a big and powerful earthquake hit the south pacific, it touched off warnings and anxiety over a huge area of our planet. an underwater event this large touches off an awful kind of waiting period where mankind is powerless over the forces of nature. in this case is a tsunami on the way or not? here is where it hit. south of america samoa, a vulnerable bit of land about the size of washington, d.c. the shock waves spreading out over a vast area. our own george lewis starts us off with the latest on what we know. george, good evening. >> reporter: good evening,
brian. they are still counting the dead and injured. there are unofficial reports of 40 dead. that number is expected to go much higher as rescuers reach areas that were inundated with water sweeping peopl and vehicles out to sea. the islands of samoa and america samoa are home to about 300,000 people. immediately the alert went out to get out of the way and flee to higher ground. a businessman talked of losing one of his employees. >> a night watchman in one of my stores apparently has died. he got caught in the water. >> reporter: from washington, america samoa's representative in the u.s. congress said he'd been in touch with constituents at home. >> wdo have fatalities and severe damages to the main town. >> reporter: for a time places as far away as the hawaiian islands were put under a tsunami
watch. >> we are warning anyone around the beaches at 1:00 hawaii time to get out of the water and stay away from the coast. >> reporter: officials feared a repeat of the 2004 indian ocean tsunami that killed over 230,000 people in 11 countries. that tsunami was from a magnitude nine earthquake. today's resulted in a magnitude eighth range. a big difference according to scientist. >> it produces 32 times energy as a magnitude eight. >> reporter: the quake went on for three to five minutes followed by a sequence of five big ocean waves. brian. >> george lewis inur l.a. bureau starting us off. dr. steve lyons is the tropical weather expert at the weather channel. that is his title. he is generally our go-to guy on natural disasters. steve, how long is the lapsed time between the event and the formatioof a tsunami or the all clear?
>> it's almost instantaneous. the tsunami forms as soon as the earthquake occurs and the wave starts propagating out like a pebble in a pond, brian. it continues to spread out. the good news is it spreads farther away from the epicenter of the earthquake the wave gets lower in height. if it is bigger to start with, it can be devastating far, far away. >> we arrived in indonesia not long after the disaster hit there. e whole world swore up and down they would have better notification systems after that. are we better off in terms of triggering, knowing if one is coming than we were then? >> we are in the pacific ocean. we have a lot of buoys out there. hawaii knows they are not going get a major tsunami there. they have a tsunami advisory which means there could be some small rises and falls in the tides that could provide dangerous currents. that advisory is all the way to
the west coast including california and oregon. all sides of the hawaiian islands can be affected an portions of the west coast up to oregon. people should stay out of the water, too, tomorrow. >> we will keep watching it and you as the evening goes on. steve lyons at the weather channel. thanks, as always. we shift our focus to washington. on capitol hill tonight, a significant test for a big piece of president obama's health care reform plan. it is known as the public option, a government-run insurance plan that would operate alongside private insurance. nbc's kelly o'donnell has been watching this all day. kelly what is the status tonight? >> reporter: brian, had you noticed the public option had fallen off the radar a bit? today it was front and center and back. we know most democrats in congress say they want some kind of government-backed insurance plan. today a handful of democrats who blocked it. with the fate of a government-run health insurance plan on the line --
>> we need a public option to create competition and to bring costs down. >> reporter: today the democrats' more liberal members fiercely argued the government should provide health insurance with affordable premiums as an alternative to private insurance. >> i feel so strongly because it makes so much sense. the team that i represent need this. >> reporter: no surprise. republicans completely oppose a public option. >> a government-run plan will ultimately force private insurers out of business. >> reporter: the pivotal opposition came from fellow democrats on the senate finance committee. >> i favor an alternative that i would call the public interest option, but not one that irun by a government agency. >> reporter: two public option proposals fail and key democrats argued practical politics that the full senate simply will not
ss health care reform that includes government-backed insurance. >> i can count. no one can show me how to count up to 60 votes with a public option in the bill. >> reporter: republicans seized on the democrats' internal conflict. >> if it was so popular, why are there so many democrats that have a problem with it? why is it causing your side so much consternation? i think the reason is it is not popular. >> reporter: the public option is not officially dead, today's vote is telling. now it goes to the full senate to weigh in and more pressure on the president to say whether he will sign a health care bill that doesn't have a public option. brian. >> now it gets interesting. kelly o'donnell with another chapter on the hill. kelly, thanks. now we shift our focus to the latest on the swine flu and the death of a young teenager who had no underlying health problems in texas. it has rattled some parents from coast-to-coast. here is our chief science correspondent robert bazell.
>> reporter: 14-year-old chloe lindsay of ft. worth got swine flu wednesday. following cdc guidelines her doctor gave her no anti-viral drugs because she had been healthy. over the nexfew days she had increasing difficulty breathing. >> she said mom it hurts. >> reporter: sunday her mom rushed to her to the hospital but doctors couldn't save her. >> she had the flu and now she's gone. i can't fathom this could happen to me. >> reporter: such cases are extremely rare but they are why officials worry so much about swine flu. testimony on capitol hill today, the cdc director repeated that most cases are moderate or mild. >> this is uncharted territory for influenza season. we've had already many millions of cases and we will have many millions of cases more. >> reporter: the severe cases are why officials are so eager
to get the vaccine out. the big part of the debate concerns health care workers. new york state requires them to get vaccinated and today on the steps of the state capitol, a group rallied against the law. >> enforced medical treatment is an assault and violation of the 14th amendment. >> reporter: some health experts say whether the law requires it or not, health care workers should be among the first to get the seasonal flu vaccine and swine flu vaccine when it is available. >> so speaking to my colleagues i want to say one important message. i'm sorry, but it's not about you. it is about the patients that you are privileged to care for and it is about protecting them. >> reporter: beginning tonight we'll be asking your help in telling us what is going on with this new flu strain. things like how much flu is in your area? w e schools and hospitals coping? and what is the availability of vaccine? you can post on nightly.msnbc.com and we will follow up.
you can tell from this tragic case it is a rapidly changing situation. >> it has people's attention. bob bazell, as always, thanks. president obama goes into crucial meetgs on afghanistan strategy and policy with an endorsement today from the new chief of nato. at the white house nato secretary general rasmussen said the president was right to hold off on additional troop deployment until strategy revisions are determined. the president will meet with senior military and diplomatic advisers tomorrow. he is considering shifting course in the now eight-year-old afghan war. suspected terrorist najibullah zazi appeared in new york court for the first time today. the man alleged to be at the center of this al qaeda plot to set off bombs in the u.s. entered a plea of not guilty to terrorism conspiracy charges. authorities claim he received training in pakistan and was acquiring materials to make
explosive devices. if the feds wanted to do something about distracting driving other than climbing in the car with us, what could they do? questions about where the stimulus money went. what some are calling a net gain. you've wantedo quit smoking so many times, but those days came and went, and the cigarettes remained. but today's a new day. and a few simple steps can make a real difference in your next quit... things like starting with a plan to quit smoking... getting support... and talking to your doctor about how prescription treatments can help you.
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that could cause the accelerator to stick. the national highway traffic safety administration advises taking out removable floor mats on the driver's side for now as a safety measure. to find out if your car is involved log on to nightly.msnbc.com. in washington, hundreds of experts and witnesses are gathering for a summit to talk about what the transportation secretary calls an epidemic of distracted driving. this use of cell phones, blackberries, ipods, gps units contributing to distracted driving now thought to be responsible for a quarter of all vehicle accidents every year. nbc's tom costello has our report tonight from salt lake city. >> reporter: it was the tragedy that convinced utah to adopt some of the toughest distracted driver laws in the country. 17-year-old lauren was as funny
and sweet as she was beautiful. her picture wasn't supposed to end up on a bumper sticker. >> i'll never have anyone call me mom again. she was my only child. that is a hard thing to think about. i miss that. >> reporter: on this street in salt lake city lauren's life came to a horrific end. lauren was traveling through a green light when a teenager looking up an address on a cell phone ran his red light. the impact flipped lauren's suv. she died in the intersection. 19-year-old theodore jorgensen pleaded guilty to negligent homicide. at the university of utah researchers have spent years studying cell phone use and texting while driving. they determined the crash risk can be double that of driving with a .08 alcohol level, the legal definition of drunk driving. you call this an impairment? >> oh, absolutely. you are impaired when you are talking on the phone or text messaging.
>> reporter: 56 miles an hour on the highway. professor strayer put he in the simulator. hands free conversations cause drivers to lose focus and texting, the crash risk jumps 23 times. >> there's no way to be safe while you're texting. none. it's too big a distraction. >> reporter: now in washington an urgent summit to adess all forms of distracted driving. while 18 states and d.c. ban texting while driving, congress is now considering a federal ban. >> it is not worth risking somebody's life. nothing is that important. >> reporter: lauren's mom asked a judge to sentence theodore joergen sen to community service not prison. it made no sense to losewo lives. we have your first look at your new supreme court. new because one of the nine
justices is new. justice sotomayor. the justices will tell you with so tight a group just one makes for, in effect, a new court. and so the justices gather for a fresh photo each time there is a new member. when "nightly news" continues in just a moment, checking in with a chicago man we met a year ago who is trying to stop the exact kind of violence that has shocked everybody this week. ♪ mmm, minty. mindy? wow. fresh. sorry. beautiful, isn't it. breathtaking. fresh. [ women sighing ] [ female announcer ] for a fresh breath feeling that lasts up to 5 times longer, there's new scope outlast. seacrest? yeah. i know.
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four chicago teenagers are being held without bail in connection with the stomach-turning beating death of a 16-year-old honor student in an out-of-control street fight caught on videotape. nbc's kevin tibbles reports on a man who was the subject of one of our make a difference report a year ago. then and now he is trying to help put a stop to this violence. >> reporter: they come to the makeshift memorial to the southside chicago spot where 16-year-old derrion albert was beaten to death, caught on video, he was punch, kicked and pummelled. >> they had railroad ties and
two by fours. but just think if they had had guns. >> reporter: harold davis is a local contractor we met a year ago at the same hi school. running a program that pays students to restore and repair school buildings. >> a weapon of mass destruction is an 18-year-old child with no education with a gun. >> reporter: today davis is back counseling young people shaken by this latest murder. >> there is something mad going on in our community. >> reporter: he isn't into excuses. >> why is it we are allowing our children to be out here in this madness as parents and don't know where your child is? >> reporter: davis says a mix of anger, gangs and a lack of opportunity is boiling over in a city that has already seen 13 children shot since the start of the school year. >> you see gobs of them, mobs of them walking and hanging in the streets. not going home after school. >> reporter: why? >> because they he nowhere to
go. why go home? there is nothing at home. >> reporter: four teens have been charged with derrion's murder, one a juvenile. a vigil ended with tempers flaring. >> we are marching against ourselves. we are marching to tell young people to stop killing each other. that is against everything martin king fought for. you become immune and numb and and the order of the day is a funeral and not a future. >> reporter: just another boy? >> just another boy. that is the order of the day. >> reporter: and for harold davis another funeral too soon. kevin tibbles, nbc news, chicago. when we come back tonight, we take you to a place where that federal stimulus money we heard so much about is at work. it also happens to be underwater. work. it also happens to be underwater. ( coughs ) ♪
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might not have expected including the bottom of puget sound near seattle. the story tonight from nbc's lee cowan. >> reporter: puget sound is a surprising place for the government to sink money. >> the stimulus money is being used every place. >> reporter: beneath these frigid waves lies a project so enticing noaa granted almost $5 million in stimulus funds to put it in high gear. the money goes to the northwest straits foundation that hires local fisherman like doug monk and divers like kenny woodside to retrieve abandoned fishing nets. >> the quicker we can get it out the better. >> reporter: it is dangerous work but important. lost fishing gear are an environmental disaster. >> they smother habitats more importantly they catch indiscriminately all kinds of species. >> reporter: it is called ghost
fishing. >> only a few dirs ever see it. it is hard to convince people there really is a problem. >> reporter: so we decided to join those divers. 60 feet down in 45-degree water. on this net the si of football field kenny shows me hundreds of trapped animals. he carefullyuts the plastic netting and sends it to the surface, one piece at a time. >> it is going to take a long time to get that out. it is a lot of work. a lot of work. >> reporter: on deck the nets are bagged and survivors are freed like this puget sound king crab, a protected species. >> this is the reason we are out here, to save little guys like this. >> reporter: the cleanup might have taken 15 years but with the
stimulus money 90% of the nets will be removed in 18 months employeeing nearly 40 fishermen. an economic and environmentally friendly solution to a problem as old as the sea. lee cowan, nbc news, along the bottom of the puget sound. without showing team favoritism during what i know is a sensitive time of year for all baseball fans, there was a great moment during last night's yankee game that perhaps everyone can enjoy. it needs to be said for the record yankees having won the al east benched $644 million worth of talent last night to give players a rest, guys like jeter and a-rod sat it out which allowed a new guy, ramiro pena to play. he promptly hits his first big league home run. well, if you know baseball you know the fix was in. watch him return to the dugout.
stone silence at a-rod's urging. not a glimmer of celebration or recognition from his teammates. wait for it. then they pounced on him. all is forgiven. welcome to the big show. a baseball rookie home run hazing tradition continues. that is our big show for this tuesday night. thank you for being with us. i'm brian williams. we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com