tv NBC Nightly News NBC February 23, 2015 7:00pm-7:31pm EST
on the broadcast tonight, high alert. terrorists call for attacks on american malls as a big fight erupts over money for homeland security set to run out this week. nbc news exclusive, the american woman killed while being held by isis, kayla mueller's parents open up about chilling messages from her captors and why they say the u.s. is putting policy ahead of saving lives. shock to the system, all the way south to texas. but is there finally some relief in sight? and 911 emergency, a stunning investigation why cell phone calls for help are ending in tragedy. what's preventing first responders from getting to the right place? "nightly news" begins now. from nbc news world headquarters in new york, this
is "nbc nightly news." reporting tonight, lester holt. good evening. it has happened before, a deadly terror attack on a crowded modern shopping mall. and so it might be hard to dismiss entirely out of hand a new threat issued by the terror group al shabaab that identifies major malls by name inside and outside this country as targets. as it often does in these cases, the u.s. government's walking a careful line here insisting tonight that there's no specific credible threat while at the same time urging the public to exercise heightened awareness. it's a threat especially hitting home in minnesota. nbc's kristen welker is outside the famous mall of america, one of the threatened targets, with more for us. kristen. >> reporter: lester, good evening. shopping traffic has been steady here at the nation's largest mall despite that video calling for an attack here. the white house today insisted that there is no plot that they are aware of. still this latest threat has sent shock waves through this community and the rest of the country.
inside the mall of america this afternoon heightened security, increased patrols, bomb sniffing dogs and a team monitoring social media. is the mall of america safe? >> yes. >> reporter: you have no reservations about people coming to shop here? >> i believe it's a safe place to be. >> reporter: federal officials issued a bulletin today to local law enforcement calling for increased vigilance at malls across t shabaab's threat against western malls, specifically the mall of america. canada's west edmonton mall and oxford street. homeland security secret johnson. >> i'm not telling people to not go to the mall. i think that there needs to be an awareness. there needs to be vigilance. and, you know, be careful. >> reporter: today, the white house called the video pure propaganda. terrorism experts say the main concern now. >> the primary fear is that a lone wolf inspired by this
announcement would go ahead and pick up a weapon and take it in a mall and start shooting it up. >> reporter: al shabaab carried out the attack against the westgate mall in nairobi, kenya in 2013, a massacre that claimed nearly 70 lives. law enforcement officials say al shabaab has long-targeted minnesota, home to roughly 39,000 somalis for recruitment. today, community leaders denounce the threat and said they're reaching out to young people. >> this is not islam. this is not american. this is not somali-american value. >> reporter: meanwhile some shoppers were concerned. >> i'm very uneasy about the threats. >> reporter: federal law enforcement officials say the old rules still apply. if you see something, say something. and their investigation continues tonight. lester. >> all right, kristen, thanks. and as malls step up security based on these new threats, believe it or not at the very same time there's a big fight erupting in washington over the money to fund homeland security.
and while democrats and republicans argue and blame each other, that money is set to run out this week. our senior white house correspondent chris jansing is digging into the details. >> reporter: for 200,000 essential employees, an excruciating wait to see if congress will fund the department of homeland security. tsa officers at airports, border patrol and customs agents, coast guard, fema workers and secret service agents. overall 80% of workers would still have to show up if congress doesn't fund dhs, but they won't get paid. today, president obama made an appeal to the nation's governors. >> it will have a direct impact on your economy. and it will have a direct impact on america's national security. >> reporter: 30,000 more workers, mostly office staff, will stay home. fema, for example, would stop sending checks to rebuild from natural disasters. >> those funds that are for those disasters will still be there, but the people required to actually make those payments
to oversee that will not be there. >> reporter: with the clock ticking, late today another senate debate. but no resolution. now, critics charge the white house is overstating the threat to national security just to put pressure on congress, a charge the white house denies. we have just learned senate republican leaders are working to find a solution to end this standoff. lester, stay tuned. >> chris jansing, thank you. meantime, much of the country continues to be caught in the grip of this relentless brutal deep freeze. now all the way south to texas where much of dallas is like a ghost town paralyzed by icy roads. nbc's ron allen is there. >> reporter: a massive 25-vehicle pileup blocked this texas interstate highway as an entire season's worth of sleet and freezing rain, up to two inches, fell in a single day. wreaking havoc. dozens of accidents reported, one motorist killed. the icy bone-chilling wintry mix shut down just about everything. this is the heart of the city, it's the middle of the day. everywhere you look things are pretty empty. and everywhere things are
frozen. sam and janet dixon only stepped out to walk their dogs. >> they're not liking it too much. >> reporter: winter storm warnings and watches stretched some 2,000 miles across the u.s. from california to the carolinas. snow on the ground in every state except florida and hawaii. record lows in cities like cleveland, 5 below zero, erie minus 7, and marquette, michigan 28 below zero. some schools closed in 21 states. in tennessee the storm has been deadly. at least 22 people have lost their lives. thousands still without power. in new hampshire dozens of residents forced to evacuate after the roof of this apartment complex collapsed. ironically in alaska where the weather's been too warm, a 2,000-mile sled race splashed through the slush where there wasn't enough snow. >> you need to get me to the hospital right now. >> reporter: in the midst of all this treacherous weather, near denver this family welcomed a new baby boy in the backseat of their car after the hospital said it wasn't time yet and they
got stuck in the snowstorm. >> just screaming. and i reached over real quick and he just came right out. and i caught him in my hands. >> reporter: back here in dallas they call this massive interchange the high 5. it's usually bumper-to-bumper one of the busiest roadway the state, but not tonight because the roadways are still so icy and treacherous. we're hearing more than 100 schools will be shut here again tomorrow as the weather nightmare in dallas endures. lester. >> ron allen, thank you. want to bring in meteorologist janice huff now. it's unending. it's winter, we know that. but this is getting almost ridiculous. is there any letup? any relief in the forecast? >> there's a little bit of letup for the southern states but not for the next few days. the next system that comes through this area will be all rain. but for now this system has moved out of texas and ice is going to be collecting on power lines, roads and trees across parts of louisiana, mississippi and arkansas. even parts of alabama and georgia as well. by tomorrow morning we're expecting some snow in and
around the atlanta area as well as some ice that will move into the mountains of north georgia, north carolina, south carolina and tennessee. and then it continues east later on tuesday morning for places like columbia, charleston, maybe wilmington, north carolina and the outer banks of north carolina may see some snow as well. in the northern states it's the brutal windchills. it continues wave after wave after wave of cold as minus 30 over the next several days, into thursday. it just won't let up, lester, back to you. >> janice, thank you. hope tonight for families worried about peanut allergies. two reports indicate new breakthroughs going against conventional wisdom by carefully exposing kids to peanut proteins. in one report researchers gave small amounts of proteins over time to babies deemed at risk. those who already have eczema or egg allergies. five years later the risk was significantly lower for 80% of them. in the other report kids with peanut allergies were able to tolerate small amounts of proteins after using a new type
of skin patch. now to an nbc news exclusive. the family of kayla mueller, the young american woman killed while isis held her hostage, sitting down with "today" savannah guthrie. they're opening up about her life, the devastation brought by her death and their agony over the belief that the u.s. may have missed its chance to get her back alive. >> i hope i never forget that everything happens for a reason. >> reporter: 26-year-old aid worker kayla mueller was passionate and fearless. >> i don't know where she got the courage to do the things that she did, but that's who she was. >> reporter: in spring of 2013 kayla traveled to turkey's border with syria to work with refugees. what would she tell you about what she was doing and what it meant to her? >> kayla did not give us a lot of detail. >> reporter: she was protecting you? >> yes. >> very much so. >> reporter: she knew the risks. >> yeah, she definitely knew the risks. she wasn't -- she didn't go in blind. >> reporter: but that summer unbeknownst to her family kayla
went inside syria with her syrian boyfriend, who was called to help at an aid hospital. days later her parents got call they dreaded most. >> it was at 5:00 a.m. on august 5th. and they said that she had been detained. >> reporter: they learned kayla was in the custody of isis. >> i really feel that we had a chance to get kayla out. because we were in communications with them, unlike the other families. but how do you raise $6.2 million? and, you know, pretty much made it impossible. but we feel they really did want to release kayla. >> reporter: the muellers understood u.s. policy not to pay ransom and say kayla never would have wanted isis to profit. do you feel our govern enough to help you help her? >> i think they wanted to. but i think, again, the policy
and i don't think anyone had any idea this group would be as powerful as they were. >> reporter: last summer u.s. special forces attempted a daring secret rescue of kayla and other western hostages, but by the time they arrived the hostages were gone. there was a rescue attempt. and there's been some reporting that some people involved in it felt like they were too slow to approve it. that washington kind of its heels a little >> yeah. i mean, they're so cautious about getting actionable intel. you don't want to put soldiers in harm's way without knowing exactly the circumstances. but, yeah, i think they waited too long. we had an idea where they were. and it was 30 days, i think, before they took action. >> reporter: the rescue effort could only watch as one by one the other hostages were brutally executed.
there were also reports kayla may have been forced to marry an isis fighter. do you think that's true? >> i have no idea. i don't know. but i just know that she was doing the best she could to stay alive. that i do know. because she wanted to come home desperately. >> reporter: but it wasn't to be. earlier this month isis confirmed kayla's death. >> i became an only child that day. and that's hard. it's really hard. the kayla i remember is just a little sister playing in the backyard. that's what i miss. >> i'll always love you. >> she changed our lives' direction. i think that's what i'll remember about kayla other than my little girl. >> savannah, strong people. hard to imagine what they've been through. let me ask you about this rescue attempt.
what does the government say about the timing and the speed? >> well, they have heard this criticism that perhaps washington, the administration, was slow to approve this rescue mission. what they say is by the time it got to the president's desk it was approved with warp speed, to use their words. but it was very quickly looked through, especially for such a dangerous and complex operation. and to be clear the family has its criticisms, but they understand what a difficult situation this was for everybody involved. and they're not focused on something they call kayla's hands. it's a new foundation and they hope to be able to raise money and continue the work she cared so passionately about. >> savannah, thanks for sharing their story. appreciate it. warnings about what may be a toxic batch of a party drug known as molly after a dozen people were hospitalized in connecticut over the weekend, most of them students at wesleyan university. two said to be in critical condition. officials are looking for the source of the drug reportedly distributed to students on campus saturday. a lot more to tell you about. emergency calls ending in tragedy. when every second counts to save
lives, the stunning reason 911 operators are having trouble getting help in time. also the big winners who bypass the usual thank yous instead delivering powerful messages, and it touched some nerves. meet the world's newest energy superpower. surprised? in fact, america is now the world's number one natural gas producer... and we could soon become number one in oil. because hydraulic fracturing technology is safely recovering lots more oil and natural gas. supporting millions of new jobs.
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alarming. 60% of 911 calls can't be properly located. it's because the technology they use to do it is so often out of date. here's national investigative correspondent jeff rossen. >> 911, what is the address of the emergency? >> i'm in a car in a lake. >> reporter: you're listening to a panicked woman trapped inside her sinking suv. >> where? where are you? >> the fairway. >> reporter: shanell anderson delivering newspapers in the dark in suburban atlanta when she careened into this pond. she knew right where she was. >> the fairway. and batesville. >> reporter: but 911 dispatchers can't find her on their map. >> i'm losing air very quickly. >> give me the address one more time. it's not working. >> the fairway. f-a-i-r-w-a-y. >> reporter: it took first responders nearly 20 minutes to get to her.
shanell didn't make it. >> you're telling me 911 doesn't have the capability to locate someone? that is absolutely absurd. >> reporter: turns out many 911 centers use old technology, relying on nearby cell towers to locate you. often inaccurate. watch what happens when we do our own test inside this 911 center. >> 911. what's the emergency? >> reporter: hi, this is jeff rossen with nbc news. i just want to know if you can tell me where our location is on your computer. >> 4641 west ox road. >> that's about a quarter mile away. >> reporter: and we're standing in the actual 911 center. that's it right down there. >> that's correct. >> reporter: and they still can't find us? >> that's correct. >> reporter: experts say 911 centers should be using satellite technology instead with precise gps, already standard on most smartphones
today. >> things must get b >> reporter: the fcc the 911 system. now creating new rules to fix it. >> the new rules the fcc adopted demand 40% accuracy within the next two years. how bad is it right two years the goal is 40%, which i think we can agree is not a great number. >> we have to push to make sure that both the wireless carriers and the local 911 folks are prepared to be able to exceed that and to give the kind of expectation that you and i have a right to have when we call 911. >> reporter: the fcc says it's also developing a 911 app for your phone using gps technology, hoping to avoid more tragedies like this. jeff rossen, nbc news, milton, georgia. when we come back, imagine what it would be like to hit one of the biggest jackpots in history. meet the single mother of four who just became rich well beyond her wildest dreams. t became rich well beyond her wildest dreams. many people clean their dentures with toothpaste or plain water. and even though their dentures look clean, in reality they're not. if a denture were to be put
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and this year was no exception. nbc's joe fryer has more from los angeles. >> reporter: this year the academy awards stage became more of a soap box. >> and people with alzheimer's deserve to be seen -- >> reporter: a megaphone for issues important to the winners. >> and equal rights for women in the united states of america! >> reporter: the viral #stayweird was inspired not by an actor but screen writer graham moore who opened up about trying to kill himself when he was 16. >> that kid out there who feels like she's weird or she's different or she doesn't anywhere, yes, you do. i promise you do. you do. stay weird. stay different. >> graham's story was not only beautiful to hear, but actually could have a life saving impact. >> reporter: the oscars have been criticized for a lack of diverse nominees. >> tonight, we honor hollywood's best and whitest, sorry, brightest. >> reporter: yet female filmmakers won the two
documentary categories. >> "birdman". >> reporter: "birdman" director alejandro inarritu took home three major trophies and discussed the contentious issue for immigration for mexicans in the u.s. >> treated with th and resp before and build this incredible nation. >> reporter: best song went to glory, a powerful anthem from "selma" that brought stars to their feet and tears to their eyes. >> when people are marching with our song, we want to tell you we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on. god bless you. >> reporter: night remembered not just for social media but for social messages. joe fryer, nbc news, los angeles. that's going to do it for us on this monday night. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, thank you for watching and good night.
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