tv NBC Nightly News NBC February 24, 2010 7:00pm-7:30pm EST
that's our broadcast for now. "nightly news" up next. on the broadcast tonight, feeling e heat. the head of toyota gets grilled, apologizes, takes responsibility, but is that enough? littleton again. a school shooting three miles from columbine rocks a community that's been there before. this time the story has a hero. flunking out. a high school tired of poor performance fires the entire staff. tonight, the firestorm offer what they've done. and from the heart, everyone watching last night was asking the same thing, how how did she possibly find the strength for such a spectacular performance? also tonight, a sudden tragedy at a popular tourist stop as parents and children
look on. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. this was the day the man with the toyota family name, the grandson of the founder of the car company, was to come before congress and face the heat and answer questions, and he did. what he did not do is end this crisis for the automaker. it rolls on without him and still affects millions of people, some of whom may never think the same way again about that once-great brand name. nbc's kelly o'donnell was on the hill for the hearing, starts off our coverage here tonight. kelly, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. this is so far from resolved. while the committee repeatedly thanked the ceo for coming here voluntarily, promising to find and fix those problems, his answers were not satisfactory. one congresswoman even angry
said that the toyota ceo did not show remorse for lives lost. a spectacle in two countries. japanese media call akio toyoda the crowns prince, star of his very prominent family. here the star witness. global leader of a car company under fire. >> my name is on every car. >> reporter: speaking in english only during this prepared statement. >> i, myself, as well as toyota am not perfect. >> reporter: mr. toyoda apologized for incidents of sudden, unintended acceleration linked to 34 deaths and a massive recall. >> i am deeply sorry for any accident that toyota drivers have experienced. >> reporter: what went wrong? mr. toyoda claims the company's rapid growth led to lapses in safety quality control. the questioning began in a polite tone. >> welcome to the united states. >> reporter: then a more hostile
approach aimed at toyoda and the north american executive. >> this discredits everyone. how woulyou respond, sir? >> reporter: the committee seized on an internal memo made public this week which toyota bragged it saved $100 million on a recall three years ago by getting u.s. regulators to accept a limited fix. >> i must say to you it is so inconsistent with the guiding principle of toyota and my feelings. and therefore -- >> to me it's unbelievable. >> yes. i feel the same. >> reporter: the committee scolded toyota for not acting quickly to protect drivers. they admitted they knew about the problems happening in europe but did not alert its u.s. division for one year. >> we did not hide it, but it was not properly shared. >> reporter: today's hearing put on display differences in language and culture which some say led to confusion and poor oversight.
earlier ray lahood was asked if toyota has a culture of secrecy. >> have you had difficulty penetrating the toyota culture, which teaches that these are things that should not be aired in public? how are you penetrating that? >> well, we had some issues. >> reporter: lahood promised a full investigation of the acceleration issue. >> we will get in the weeds on this. we will do everything we can to find out if electronics are a part of the problem. >> reporter: and strongly denied suggestions that federal regulators are not tough enough. >> do you believe there is too zy of a relationship between ntsa and the industry? >> no. >> and the second part of that question -- >> no. absolutely not. >> reporter: another question came up about conflict of interest with the toyota brand so battered, members of the panel asked if they are being treated differently because u.s. taxpayers now own gm and chrysler. secretary lahood said absolutely not.
brian? >> kelly o'donnell in washington. thanks. one more word from the automotive world here tonight. the vehicle that came to fame after the fick iraq war the hummer is headed for the scrap heap of history tonight after gm's sale of the brand to a inese company fell through. just a couple of years ago hummer was one of gm's most profitable lines, but chinese regulators nixed the plan for the $150 million acquisition. toyota executives weren't the only ones under fire on the hill today. the health insurance company wellpoint was in the hot seat over its recent decision to hike premiums for some policy holders by a lot. our story tonight from nbc's lisa myers. >> reporter: three californians, all relatively healthy, recently were notified their health insurance premiums are going up as much as 39% this year.
>> there's reasonable and then there's outrageous. >> reporter: for jeremy arnold it's the second huge increase. >> my premiums are poised to rise to a level a whopping 74% higher than barely over a year ago. >> reporter: today congress demanded an explanation from the insurance giant wellpoint, whose subsidiary levied the big increase on hundreds of thousands of individual policy holders in california, and is reported to have proposed double-digit rate hikes in 11 states. >> a 39% rate increase at a time when people, americans, are losing their jobs is so incredibly audacious. >> reporter: wellpoint's ceo angela brailey. >> we are fighting every day to make sure we can make their health benefits more affordable. >> reporter: she blamed the increases on soaring medical costs and too many healthy young people dropping their coverage. >> we don't like raising our
rates that much. we know it's a hardship on these people. >> reporter: democrats criticized the company spending millions on lavish retreats at ritzy resorts and cited internal company e-mails that tied the premium increase to company profits. brailey argued their profits are ed modest compared to other sectors of the economy. >> i don't mind you making a profit but at the end of the year 2009, you still made $2 billion something and that's not enough? >> reporter: today the secretary of health and human services summoned ceos of five major insurance companies to meet next week to explain why premiums are going up even faster than medical costs. lisa myers, nbc news, washington. >> all of this sets the scene for tomorrow's summit on health care, with president obama, congressional democrats and republicans all together, one room, six hours at blair house across from the white house, with only a break for lunch. it starts tomorrow morning at 10:00 eastern.
msnbc will carry it live. you can watch it stream live on our website nightly.msnbc.com. now we go to florida where a winter vacation outing to seaworld turned into an awful scene today as one of the star attractions turned on its trainer. our own kerry sanders with us from there tonight. good evening. >> reporter: good evening. the killer whale that attacked and killed the 40-year-old female trainer in orlando today has a history of aggressive behavior. the name of this killer whale is tillikum. tillikum has been involved in human deaths, another one in 1999. tillikum is the largest orca in captivity weighing over 1,000 pounds. the trainer had the whale on its back. this is the trainer identified as dawn brancheau and described
as highly experienced. she was apparently petting the whale on its stomach and then tillikum was called to go out into the main show area. instead, witnesses say, it turned back around at a high rate of speed and slashed in the water and grabbed dawn, the trainer right there, and began throwing her around. witnesses started screaming, running in different directions. tonight the orange county sheriff's office as well as usda are trying to determine what went wrong. >> kerry sanders in florida for us tonight. thanks. orleans tonight, a retired police lieutenant has broken the wall of silence over one of the most troubling incidents during hurricane katrina. michael lohman pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice over the police shootings that killed two unarmed people on the danziger bridge. lohman admitted to helping orchestrate a cover-up.
the victims were trying to get to a grocery store over the bridge from the eastern part of new orleans. former vice president dick cheney has been released from the hospital after his fifth heart attack with an apparently clean bill of health. this latest heart attack was mild, he remains under diet and exercise restrictions. for the faculty and students of deer creek middle school, colorado, yesterday, must have emed like a replay of a nightmare. the school is in littleton, three miles from columbine high school, scene of one of the worse mass shootings ever in this country. tonight residents are thanking a teacher for saving lives when another shooter opened fire on a school full of kids. our story from nbc's miguel almaguer. >> reporter: an erie calm amidst the tangle of yellow police tape and backpacks dumped in a hurry.
a lone gunman pulled a high-powered rifle and suddenly opened fire. >> i was scared because i knew i could die at this moment. >> reporter: a horrific scene, the images all too similar to what happened three miles away at columbine high school in 1999, when 12 were kled. at deer creek, two students were shot in seconds, but quick action by a team of faculty members avoided tragedy. math teacher david benke was the first to tackle the suspect. others grabbed the rifle and tied the gunman's legs down until deputies arrived. >> the next thing i know, i'm on the ground, i've got my legs wrapped around his legs, ie got my arms wrapped around him. >> reporter: the eighth graders who were shot are recovering. matt teo is still hospitalized, but megan weber was treated for arm injuries and released. the suspect is being held on a $1 million bond while police continue their investigation. >> it's a junior high and a grown man. it doesn't make sense. why? >> reporter: investigators still don't have a motive but say the
suspect attended this school years ago. on tuesday, shortly before the shooting, he was seen here on campus. he could face two counts of attempted murder. as for the man who stopped the gun fire -- >> we did what we were supposed to do, which was basically to try to protect them. >> reporter: he says he's just a teacher, but tonight an entire community is calling him a hero. miguel almaguer, littleton, colorado. when we continue here on a wednesday night, as the world celebrates the olympic games here in canada, the sacrifice canadians are making on a battlefield far from home. >> later from grief to glory, if if you were watching last night you know a moving moment. p on t ? yeah. strip? ok. absolutely! where's the music? ♪ i have a lot of uffiness at night. allergies. i was just diagnosed with a deviated septum. here's how it works... [ female announcer nasal congestion limits air flow but breathe right's patented reflex action gently lifts open nasal passages to help you get more air.
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tennison's poem "charge of the light brigade." he was kept from combat when authorities discovered he was underage. he moved to spokane, washington, served in the u.s. army and became a dual citizen in u.s. and canada. his death marks the end of an era here in canada. john henry foster babcock was 109 years old. canada and the u.s. have a long history of shared service and sacrifice together. part of what binds the two countries together, the fact that our men have fought and died in far away places like normandy and continues today in afghanistan. >> reporter: andrew nuttall was 30. his friends called him "nut man." >> he had such a great smile. he was always happy. he always found the positive sides of things. >> reporter: he joined the canadian forces hoping to make a better world for the afghan
people. he was killed by a roadside bomb two days before christmas. canada has lost 140 soldiers fighting in the volatile kandahar region of afghanistan, a sacrifice many outside of canada may not know. >> we had the highest rate of casualties of any country in afghanistan. >> reporter: each loss is heartfelt right across this nation of 34 million. when a fallen soldier returns, ordinary canadians spontaneously line the roadway to honor them. they call it the highway of heroes. >> it is a very strong feeling of collective loss. >> they want to make a contribution in the world. there is a do-good dimension to canada and the world. >> reporter: for this group of afghan war veterans, doing good is seen as their duty. >> is it too high a price to pay? >> no, because it's the canadian thing to do. we are taking a little bit of canada and trying to help others in the world to try to have a better place to live, as well. >> every loss is hard, not just
a canadian loss but the other nations, as well. >> you ask yourself is my fear or apprehension enough that i want to put this on someone else's shoulders? that is a hard question to have to ask yourself every morning in the mirror. >> reporter: how would you answer it? >> i think as a nation we've proven how we answer that. >> reporter: scott cressman walks the vancouver beaches without the company of his best friend andrew. >> drew was one of really great people who have gone over there and lost their lives trying to make a difference. >> reporter: in a nation that takes military commitment so seriously, service and sacrifice are not forgotten. kevin tibbles, nbc news, vancouver. on that note, let me take a second to correct a mistake i made last night. wasn't theirst time and won't be the last. it was an item about the u.s. navy allowing female submarines,
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how many times have you heard somebody say, usually in anger, they should just go in there and fire everybody? well, that's exactly what they did in rhode island in a chronically underperrming high school where everyone just got a lesson in being held accountable. the story from there tonight from nbc's mike taibbi. >> reporter: it was a roll call unlike any other. the names of more than 80 teachers plus the administrative staff of central falls high school learning their fate in this highly-charged setting. >> excuse me, this is a business meeting. >> reporter: all of them to be fired when the school year ends this spring because of failed negotiations on new work rules aimed at improving a school with an abysmal academic record. half the students unable to
read, only 7% confident in math, failure the norm. >> i think what's detrimental is to have a graduation rate that is lower than 50% for year after year after year. >> this was a decision based on report cards, based on the entire manner in which we run our schools. >> reporter: the school board says the firings were a last resort only chosen because the teachers demanded more pay for changes like additional training and a length in school day. education secretary arne duncan backed the board's decision, saying students only have one chance for an education. but at several rallies, the fired teachers got plenty of support from their students. >> it's really hard to see them hurt like this because we are really a family. >> reporter: several teachers were plainly shocked at the board's decision. >> i tried to be a very dedicated teacher, you know, and i just never thought this would be the way it would end. >> reporter: the vote by the board was one vote board of unanimous, that the best strategy for the state's worst performing school is not to try
to improve it, but to essentially start again. mike taibbi, nbc news, new york. we'll keep an eye on it. on wall street today, the dow regained most of what it lost yesterday. up just under 92 points. we are back in a moment. . sure, but do we speak brid yes, we do. and we can say 700 miles on a single tank and epa-estimated 41 mpg city and all the words stick because they're true. we speak the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan in america. yes, we speak car, and apparently quite well. fusion is now motor trend's 2010 car of the year. get in...and drive one. ♪ i thought i was invincible. i'm on an aspiriregimen now because i never want to feel that helplessness again. [ male announcer ] be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin an aspirin regimen. ta to your doctor, and take care of what you have to take care of.
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if you were watching the olympics last night then you saw an incredibly emotional human drama play out. in form, sources tell us there were so many pple in tears in our own nbc sports control room in vancouver last night, during that particular moment in women's figure skating, they could hardly pay attention to calling the right shots for the broadcast. that moment came when canada's joanie rochette took to the ice. we all knew her mother had died of a heart attack upon arriving here in vancouver to see her daughter skate this weekend. nbc's donna friesen picks it up from there. >> representing canada, joanie rochette. >> reporter: her teammates say they knew she was courageous. tuesday night joanie rochette
proved it to the world. with the crowd and the entire country on her side, she delivered a stunning performance. friends, family and teammates were there, but the one person who really mattered was missing, her mother. therese rochette died suddenly saturday night in vancouver of a suspected heart attack. joanie, an only child, was extremely close to her mother. both parpts had just flown to vancouver to see their daughter compete. her dream to be an olympian was her mother's dream, too, which is why she's refused to give up. >> what impressed me about her is not the fact that she's strong, it's the fact that she handles everything with such grace and dignity and even every now and then a smile on her face. >> reporter: somehow she mustered the strength doing what those know her say her mother would have wanted, doing her very best. dazzling the crowd, holding on until the end.
when finally, the tears came. the crowd showering her with applause. >> there is no bigger stage than the olympic games, but the skate and the moment is much more than the competition. >> reporter: her score, a new season's best puts rochette into third place going into the free skate for a medal. in the tiny quebec town where she grew up they watched and wept. former olympian peggy fleming was awe-struck, too. >> i think her mom was out there with her, i think gave her the strength to get through one of the toughest moments of her life. >> reporter: in fact, at the end, rochette says in her native french, "mama, this is for you. i did my best." donna friesen, nbc news, vancouver. >> incredible night last night. don't forget nbc olympic coverage tonight in primetime starting at 8:00, 7:00 central. for us, for now, that's our broadcast for this wednesday night. thank you for being with us. as always, i'm brian williams reporting tonight from