tv NBC Nightly News NBC May 16, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT
on the broadcast tonight, no easy choices for families about to be flooded out by order of the government. and for those returning to homes already ruined. big trouble, one of the most powerful bankers in the world accused of a brazen attack on a hotel maid. the final mission for the shuttle "endeavour" and its commander as his wounded wife looks on. mean season. millions of americans will tell you this is the worst allergy season ever. tonight, we'll tell you why they may be right. and harrowing moments for a plane load of passengers. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television
good evening. floodgates were opened this weekend that will intentionally flood thousands of homes for the sake of saving bigger places like baton rouge and new orleans. it was an awful kind of choice for the government to make. then again, this is a record amount of water we're talking about here. epping flooding along the most vital river in the country. by tonight, 11 separate flood gates on the big morganza spillway will be open and flowing. it spreads out from there downstream in louisiana where 25,000 people live in its potential path. over 3 million acres of land, 13,000 structures. in all, the homeowners must now evacuate and wait. the government saved some big cities from catastrophe while launching thousands of personal tragedies across the state. we have two reports on this tonight beginning with anne thompson in melville, louisiana anne, good evening.
>> reporter: good evening, brian. people here in melville are bracing for this manmade flood. the result of a choice to sacrifice this part of louisiana to spare its biggest cities. that choice in turn has people in these rural communities facing some very difficult options. here in st. landry parish, the atchafalaya river swamped the neighborhood even before the morganza spillway opened. now the mississippi river gushes through to save new orleans and baton rouge from flooding. while in the tiny town of port springs 15 miles away, residents have few easy choices. >> gives us trouble every now and then, but you deal with it and keep going. >> reporter: cal evans and his wife karen are staying put at his mom's house despite an evacuation order. >> we don't really have anywhere else to go. >> reporter: they already left their own house five miles south of here. with daughter samantha, a brain cancer survivor, and four dogs,
they can't go to a shelter and can't afford a hotel. >> this is the cheapest thing for us to do, stay here until we have to leave, and then spend money. money you know you can't afford to spend. >> reporter: the emotional cost overwhelmed michelle burrdoff. >> i don't know what i'm going to do. >> reporter: this house is everything she owns, and she locked the door and left it. unsure of her future and holding on to her faith. >> take it day by day. give it to god. >> reporter: if there is any good news here, it's that the water in the spillway is not rising as fast as expected, giving crews throughout the flood zone more time to shore up defenses, including 1,100 members of the louisiana national guard, some enlisted to finish this new levee in props springs. residents also get an extra day to leave. >> we want to make sure everybody is out by 5:00. >> reporter: a choice the national guard hopes people make
for their own sake and the guard. >> they put soldiers at risk, sheriffs as risk, local fire and rescue. it makes the job way harder. >> reporter: tough choices as time runs short. anne thompson, nbc news, melville, louisiana. >> reporter: this is thanh troung in vicksburg, mississippi, where 1,400 homes and businesses are expected to be flooded as the mississippi river surpasses levels set back in 1927. >> this home is elevated, so you can tell the difference between the ones on either side of it. >> reporter: for families in low-lying neighborhoods, disaster is already at their doorstep and well beyond. >> you have to think of the human element as you come through here, you know, that each of these homes you're passing by, there's a family that has been forever changed because of this. >> reporter: along the state's flood zone, more than 3,000 people have evacuated. on saturday, debra emery built this dirt levee around her house, hoping to block the rising water. >> we decided it was up to us.
if we didn't save our house, nobody else would. it was our house. >> reporter: today, she discovered her makeshift levee broke. >> a devastating loss. something my husband and i worked for all our lives. now we have to start over. >> it's a heart-wrenching situation and a true disaster, and my heart goes out to everyone who is directly affected. >> reporter: the safety of the entire delta region is riding on multiple levee systems including this backwater levee. experts estimate 850,000 acres of land could be under water if the levee fails. last week, there was no sign of water near it. this is what it looks like today. >> i'm confident the levees are operating as designed. we'll continue to see sand boils and seepage behind the levees, but that's the way they operate. the levees won't overtop as they give the projections for the crests right now. >> reporter: promises the residents hope will hold water. the mississippi river here in vicksburg is expected to crest on thursday at a record-setting
57.5 feet. that's at least another foot of water on top of what we're seeing, but for the families already flooded, brian, those numbers are just academics. >> thanh truong and anne thompson before that, part of the team covering the flooding in the south. thanks to you both. now to a stunning arrest in new york city over the weekend. one of the most powerful bankers in the world, the head of the international monetary fund, which gives help to countries in financial crisis, is in jail here in new york tonight, charged with violent sex crimes at a manhattan hotel. he was a favorite in the french presidential elections where this news has gone off like a bomb. our report tonight from nbc's jeff rossen. >> dominique strauss kahn. step up. >> reporter: there he was, one of the world's most powerful men, disheveled, unshaven, and facing felonies. dominique strauss kahn, head of the international monetary fund, the imf, and french politician,
now charged with violent sex crimes against a maid inside this luxury manhattan hotel. >> restrained a hotel employee inside his room. he sexually assaulted her and attempted to forcibly rape her. >> reporter: prosecutors argued with his wealth and influence, he's an extreme flight risk. the judge agreed, no bail. strauss kahn will sit in jail awaiting trial. as leader of the imf, he controls a trillion dollars. he was even about to run for president of france, but this weekend inside his expensive suite at manhattan's sofitel, police say he went on the attack. sexually assaulting the maid on the bed, dragging her to the bathroom, and sexually assaulting her again. with the international press in a feeding frenzy, strauss kahn's defense team spoke outside of court. >> we'll prove in our judgment that mr. strauss kahn is innocent of these charges.
>> reporter: guilty or not, many say this will end his career and any hopes of winning the presidency. in the french media, already talk of conspiracy theories. that the current french president, nicolas sarkozy, may have set him up to shut his campaign down. >> politics is a dirty game in france, especially as they think the way sarkozy plays it. that's why they would suspect it, but there's no proof of this. this is all suspicion and conjecture. >> reporter: but prosecutors say they have solid forensic evidence in this case, including dna they found inside the hotel suite where he was staying this weekend. they also have strauss kahn's own past. in 2002, a young woman in her 20s accused him of sexually attacking her. in 2008, strauss kahn admitted to an affair with a lower-level employee at the imf. tonight, he finds himself alone in a jail cell in protective custody in rijker's island. >> not far from us in manhattan tonight. thanks. we now turn to politics and
big questions this late in the game about the shrinking field of possibilities for the republicans to run against president obama. two men in the last three days have announced they are not running. one of them happened to have a show on this network, our chief white house correspondent and political director chuck todd with us. and chuck, of course, we're talking about donald trump. actually at an nbc event to kick off the tv season today, said he's out after he got pretty well trashed on the birther thing. >> a busy 72 hours. trump had a deadline with nbc entertainment executives about whether his show was going to get renewed with him in place or not, so he used this as his own deadline, and he put away this deadline, and he put away this idea. he kept insisting this was not a publicity stunt, that he was serious about running for president, yet he ends it in the most public and publicity seeking way you could, which is
on the renewal of his show, "celebrity apprentice." mike huckabee, the former arkansas governor who was a surprise strong republican in 2008, he decided to stick with the money-making part of his life these days, including a television show on fox. both candidates leave an opening for the economic populous, a sort of confrontational fire breather, if you will, in the republican party, that's missing. >> who do we have and who now emerges because of the two call them vacancies? >> we have two questions marks. on the establishment side of the aisle, the mitch daniels question. the governor of indiana, a lot of former bush xliii officials are pushing him to run. he hasn't made a decision. it's a family decision. if he doesn't run, you'll see a lot of pressure put on chris christie. in this economic populous wing of the party, the blue-collar wing of the party, michele bachmann, the minnesota congresswoman, she's now leaning more closely toward running. of course, we haven't heard from sarah palin. at some point, she's going to announce she's not going to run, or maybe she decides to do this, but there is a vast opening now
for the social conservative, sort of the -- what pat buchanan was in 1992, this fire-breathing, puch-fork carrying i'm mad as heck and not going to take it anymore republican. >> all right, chuck todd. we'll keep track of it as we get closer to iowa. can you believe we're talking about it? at florida's kennedy space center, after a two-week delay, the space shuttle "endeavour" lifted off for the last time with mark kelly, the husband of congresswoman gabby giffords in the commander's seat, and his wounded wife watching on the ground. nbc's tom costello is at the kennedy space center tonight. tom, good evening. >> reporter: a windy one at that. good evening, brian. gabby giffords' staff said she's still not fully aware of everything that happened in tucson back in january, but she's very aware of her husband's mission and she was determined to be here for it. >> three, two, one. zero, and liftoff for the final launch of "endeavour."
>> reporter: in typically spectacular fashion, the shuttle roared off the pad just before 9:00 this morning, breaking through low cloud cover and racing for a wednesday rendezvous with the orbiting space station. these dramatic photos taken by a passenger on a commercial plane at the same time. watching the launch from a private viewing area at the cape, shuttle commander mark kelly's wife gabby giffords still recovering from a head wound suffering in january's shooting rampage in tucson. her chief of staff was with her. >> she did turn to me and say good stuff, and i said, yeah, this is good stuff. it's like, finally, we have arrived at his launch date. >> reporter: moments before liftoff, he spoke to the millions cheering on his crew. >> including our spouses, children, family and friends, we thank you for your support. >> reporter: once the shuttle was in orbit, mark kelly brother scott delivered tulips to giffords on behalf of mark
and roses to his two daughters. meanwhile, giffords sent a handwritten note to be read by kelly when he was in space. charles bolden is a friend of giffords'. >> the fact that gabby was able to come down here speaks to the triumph of good over evil. and just her resilience and her dedication and motivation is an example that the country ought to try to follow. >> reporter: "endeavour's" 25th mission will deliver spare parts to the space station along with a $2 billion physics experiment. on the nearby roads and beaches, half a million spectators gathered to witness "endeavour's" last mission and a very personal story of love, dedication, and triumph. and every one of the crew members on board "endeavour" is wearing one of these, a bracelet that says "peace, love, and gabby." and mark kelly has taken into space gabby's wedding ring, and she is wearing his wedding ring, or has it, anyway, here on earth.
and finally tonight, brian, an update from gabby giffords' staff. her next major medical hurdle will be to replace a portion of her skull that was taken off in january during that tragedy. back to you. >> tom costello, beautiful evening back at the cape. tom, thanks for that. when we come back, it's not you. turns out everybody may be right. this might in fact be the worst year ever for allergies. and later, advice for high school graduates whose hard work earned them a visit from let's just say a better-than-average graduation speaker.
we're back now with the acute seasonal suffering of millions of americans this allergy season. believe it or not, it goes back to the snow we had this past record winter in many places. those who said it has been the worst year ever may have a good point. our report from our chief medical editor, dr. nancy snyder. >> it's a sneezy, wheezy, itchy, downright miserable allergy season.
>> eyes watering, burning, throat. >> coughing a lot more, sneezing a lot more. >> sinus pressure, headaches. >> itchy eyes, especially. >> sneezing literally back-to-back for 20 minutes. >> i have it all right here. >> reporter: and allergy doctors have never been busier. >> it's one of the highest pollen count seasons in recent memory, probably in ten years. but i think it's the worst allergy season i have ever seen an as allergist. >> reporter: tree and grass pollens are the worst offenders and allergy sufferers are feeling it. at a time where the pollen counts should go down, this season, they're staying unusually high. >> if i sleep with the window open, i'm congested in the morning. and that's where the trouble starts. >> reporter: and experts say you can blame the increase in itchy eyes, scratchy throats, even some cases of asthma on all that rain. >> it was a record setting april for rainfall all across the ohio valley and the southern lakes and now there's been an explosion of plant life as a result.
>> reporter: in listing the annual spring allergy capitals, the asthma and allergy foundation named in third place sha sha sharllet, north carolina. second was louisville, kentucky, and just like last year, knoxville, tennessee, is first. based on high pollen counts and the number of allergy prescriptions. >> we have seen record numbers of allergy suffers coming into the office for the first time. they can't believe they're coming in for symptoms they have never suffered before. >> reporter: and the sufferer is not just for human kind. even jake the dog is ready for this season to be over. >> we had to give jake quite a bit of benadryl to keep him from scratching his hide off. >> reporter: the good news is a lot of the allergy medications that used to require a prescription you can now get over the counter. that's a good step, especially for those of you who have never suffered before. but if you continue to have problems, see your allergist, and for those of you who do have cats or dogs who have allergies,
a reminder, brian, this is one of the times to turn to the other doctor in your life, your veterinarian, before you decide to doze your favorite animal. >> i'm sitting here thinking about jake. thanks as always. up next here, a close call on a commercial flight, and we'll hear from a very grateful pilot.
frightening moments for a planeload of passengers on a cafe pacific jet forced to make an emergency landing in singapore after one of the engines caught fire. the aircraft, a twin-engine airbus 330, 136 people aboard, had just taken off from singapore, bound for jakarta when passengers heard two loud bangs, smelled something burning. moments later, the aircraft started the shake. the lights went out, the plane made its way back to singapore. everybody got off okay, and the pilot thanked them for staying calm in a terrifying situation.
>> the best we could ask for passengers to do is stay cool, stay calm, listen to the directions of the cabin crew, which you all did, and for that, we thank you. >> once again, we have learned when equipment goes bad, the best thing to do is call the skilled human being. the airline along with the engine manufacturer, rolls royce, are boast investigating what happened here. the era is coming to an end in las vegas as an icon of the strip is closing its doors after 59 years because after all, time marches on. elvis, the beatles, john wayne stayed there, and the rat pack hung out there. the sahara hotel and casino, featured in the first "ocean's 11." first guy to play the ballroom back in the day was ray bulger, the scarecrow. rickles and carson and dozens of others followed. as one guest put it, it's kind of like visiting the past. of course, that was the problem. so the sahara, a faded star, goes the way of the stardust. and speaking of vegas regulars, jerry lewis announced
today that after 46 years, this year will be his last labor day telethon to raise money for muscular dystrophy. it's been a television staple for decades. he'll continue as the chairman saying today he'll never desert his kids. up next, advice for some of this year's graduates from a big-draw commencement speaker today.
high school graduation is big. today at booker t. washington high school in memphis, it was really big. first of all, they worked hard for today. they took a failing school in an impoverished neighborhood and turned it around, and they were richly rewarded with a visit from the president himself. so we'll close here tonight with his message to them. >> congratulations to the class of 2011. we're here today because every single one of you stood tall. and said yes, we can. yes, we can learn. yes, we can succeed. i'm standing here as president because of the education i received. i was raised by a single mom.
and sometimes she struggled to provide for me and my sister. but my mother, my grandparents, they pushed me to excel. i'm so blessed that they kept pushing. i'm so lucky that my teachers kept pushing. because education made all the difference in my life. and it's going to make an even greater difference in your lives. not just for your own success but for the success of the united states of america. some people say that schools like btw just aren't supposed to succeed in america. so that's why i came here today. because if success can happen here at booker t. washington, it can happen anywhere in memphis. and if it can happen in memphis, it can happen anywhere in tennessee. and if it can happen anywhere in tennessee, it can happen all across america.
>> by the way, there is more of the president's message for the class of 2011 on our website. nightly.msnbc.com. that is our broadcast for this monday night. thank you for being here with us as we start off a new week. i'm brian williams and as always, we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night. right now at 6:00, rain, wind and snow in may? the winter blast is here. when exactly is it heading out? >> coming up we go inside the bay area hospital where brian stowe will receive his care. also a break from taxes. not so fast. what the new budget plan means for your bottom line.