tv NBC Nightly News NBC June 12, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT
every single graduating senior at cal prep has been accepted to a four-year college. all 17 of them. many are the first in their families to go to university. charter school is co-founded by uc berkeley aspire pub cool s cools and enrolls low income students. see you back here at 6:00. calls ongres anthony weiner to resign as new photos emerge, taken by weiner himself in the house gym. the recovery. our first up-close look at congresswoman gabby giffords since that awful day in tucson five months ago. mob violence. why scenes like this have one of america's biggest cities on edge tonight. and stealing the show. on a weekend rich in royal pageantry, the future queen becomes the main attraction. captions paid for by nbc-universal television from nbc news world headquarters in new york, this is "nbc nightly news" with lester holt.
>> good evening. some new compromising photos of congressman anthony weiner, this time pictures reportedly taken at the capitol, are tonight making it a lot more difficult for weiner and democratic leaders to make this embarrassing scandal go away. the latest pictures have surfaced a day after weiner announced he was taking a leave of absence to seek treatment. and at a time the calls from within his own party for weiner to resign were already becoming more urgent. our capitol hill team is following these new developments beginning with luke russert in our washington newsroom. luke, good evening. >> good evening, lester. tomorrow as congress returns from recess, one member will be noticeably absent. new york congressman anthony weiner who will take a leave of absence from the house. but even after party leaders urged him to do so, will not resign. >> reporter: shocking new photographs of anthony weiner published by tmz.com. the congressman allegedly e-mailed these shirtless pictures of himself taken at the members gym on capitol hill to
an unlived woman. other photos are too graphic for television. weiner's office had no comment on the latest photographs. still, the congressman says he will not resign. instead he's seeking, quote, professional treatment and asking for a paid leave of absence from the house. >> look, i've made some serious mistakes here. i have to redeem myself. i'm going to try to get back to work. these were personal failings. i'm trying not to let them get in the way of my professional work. >> reporter: facing an escalating scandal this weekend democratic leaders called on weiner to step down. democratic national committee chairwoman debbie wasserman schultz yesterday. >> weiner's continued service in congress is untenable. this sordid affair has become an up acceptable detractiistractior congressman weiner, his family, his constituents and the house. >> reporter: again today on "meet the press." >> once he crossed that threshold, acknowledged that he'd been lying, had engaged in conduct that is completely unacceptable and indefensible, that's where i felt the line was
crossed. >> reporter: house minority leader nancy pelosi also pressed weiner saying, quote, i urge congressman weiner to seek help without the pressures of being a member of congress. >> anthony weiner should resign. >> reporter: polls show the majority of his queens district supports him. but this afternoon a rally outside his new york office demonstrates opinions are clearly divided. >> how do i know how many other things he's lied about? >> i don't agree. >> reporter: sources tell nbc news before weiner makes a decision on his political future, he wants the counsel of his pregnant wife huma abedin, who is traveling with her boss, secretary of state hillary clinton. >> this is one of these situations where everybody can say, you should leave, you should leave. but only the member can make at decision. >> lester, late friday night weiner admitted to directly messaging a 17-year-old female high school student over twitter, something that raised a lot of eyebrows around capitol hill. today delaware police have cleared weiner of any, quote, inappropriate conduct, in that incident. lester? >> luke russert in washington, thank you. our capitol hill correspondent kelly o'donnell joins us now. kelly, we heard some
high-ranking democrats call for his resignation. what are their options if weiner continues to resist? >> reporter: well, lester, they can't force him out quickly. and speed is important to democrats because they want to get back to their political message. so they say they are not satisfied with a leave of absence and professional help. so you saw that nancy pelosi and other top democrats tried to get anthony weiner to step down on his own. when that failed they coordinated the public statement we saw this weekend. and next, i'm told, with all the house democrats back here this week, they could meet as a group and try to send yet another message that he should resign and that they believe he cannot serve his constituents effectively. that is a rare move and they hope that will finally do it. >> if these newest photos were in fact taken on capitol hill at a congressional gym for members of congress, does that make it harder for him to defend any ethics charges? >> reporter: not only does it look bad, but it could be a substantive problem, too. the reason for that is that investigators for the ethics committee, they would look at a
question like, did anthony weiner use any government resources from computers, phones, office equipment, anything paid for by taxpayers in an inappropriate way. they might look at this and say that because the photos happened in the gym, depict the gym in an unflattering light, that that could fall under that. that does make things more difficult. he has said he only used personal computers and phones to send the messages. now we see that at least some of the photos were set on house grounds. >> i think a lot of us have noted republicans have been rather muted on all of this. what's the thinking behind that? >> reporter: they don't really need to pile on right now because anthony weiner is in enough trouble on his own. they have also tried to send the message that they've learned from some of their own scandals when their members were in trouble. and they hope voters see a difference. that the most recent couple of cases, their members resigned quickly within hours or days. they're hoping that that will set a tone and, of course, it is different for senate republicans who have been in some trouble. they've been able to hang on longer at times. that's in part because they have a six-year term.
much more time to recover. so for house members like anthony weiner, the time is so short to try to fix things. and when people are calling on you to resign, that just amps up the pressure. >> kelly o'donnell, thank you. we turn to a far different kind of struggle now for another member of congress. just over five months after the shooting of congresswoman gabby giffords in tucson, two photographs of giffords were released today and her chief of staff said giffords could be released from a rehabilitation hospital by the end of the month. nbc's jeff rossen has more on the photos and giffords' progress. >> reporter: in the new photos released today, congresswoman gabrielle giffords looks remarkably good. her hair, shorter, but her smile, unmistakable. the photos were posted on giffords' facebook page. in one image she's alone. in the second picture, she's with her mother and appears happy. but while these new pictures look promising, aides say she's still struggling. >> it's a very slow process.
i mean, you know, she suffered an injury that unfortunately leaves 95% of those inflicted with it dead. the fact that she's still recovering at the pace she is is a really, really hopeful sign. >> reporter: this is our first real look at giffords' face since the mass shooting back in january. a gunman opened fire during a public appearance in an arizona parking lot. six people were killed, 13 others injured, including giffords, shot in the head. aides say giffords still has a hard time speaking and communicating. just days ago her chief of staff told "the arizona republic" she's still using facial expressions as a way to express. pointing. gesturing. but will she ever fully recover, return to normal? can she run for re-election? aides say they just don't know yet, and neither do doctors. >> i think that she is making a great recovery. at least externally. this is a hidden injury which really takes months to years to
fully heal and to improve. so we really just don't know where she'll plateau at this point in time. >> reporter: last we saw giffords, she was boarding a plane to florida, heading to see her husband, mark kelly's, shuttle launch back in april. friends say even since then she's made progress. >> we're so proud of her. she's working so hard. she's got a long way to go. but you can just see how beautiful she is. >> reporter: the hard charging democrat -- >> this is absolutely critical. >> reporter: -- who fought on the floor, now fighting for her old way of life. jeff rossen, nbc news, new york. in arizona, still a long way to go before that huge wildfire is brought under control. while some progress is being made, the fire has spread to neighboring new mexico and is also causing anxiety there. the scope of this fire is seen in this satellite image. nbc's tom llamas has more tonight from springerville, arizona. tom, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, lester. earlier this week this was a ghost town. the entire town was evacuated.
but as you can see behind me, traffic has returned and that evacuation order has been lifted. but as one arizona community returns, others are still in limbo while residents in new mexico watch that wildfire move dangerously close. dealing with nearly half a million blackened acres across arizona, firefighters are now battling a monster fire in two states. the wallow wildfire jumped the border this weekend, now burning parts of new mexico. with a fire this size, a dc-10 comes in handy. the massive aircraft can drop a fire retardant 100 feet wide, a mile long. the help from above is appreciated by the boots on the ground. >> it is very, very physical work. and absolutely these folks are tired. >> reporter: the hard work has paid off. incident commanders feel controlled burns in the north and east have given them the upper hand. >> we've turned a corner. we feel a lot more confident than we did two days ago. >> the evacuation has been lifted. >> reporter: thousands of residents from three arizona towns were allowed to return
home sunday after being forced to evacuate. >> we had to make a choice. either make a stand here or in town. >> reporter: rancher jerry deverse left, but his animals stayed. with friends dropping off their animals, he says his ranch turned into a zoo. but the flames never got close. >> we're just so thankful that they were able to get in there and do what they did and save everything. >> reporter: the evacuation ban may be lifted for some, but emergency management officials recommend residents stay away because of health hazards caused by the smoke. >> i don't want to come back here until the smoke's cleared out of here. >> reporter: in new mexico, some residents near the border have evacuated out of caution. one of the big concerns in that state, two power lines not far from the fire. customers have been warned of rolling blackouts, but fire officials are hopeful. >> right now we've mitigated those. at this point i don't see any threat. >> reporter: tonight, fire officials tell me if the winds don't suddenly shift and come up from the south, they could have more than 6% of this fire contained by tomorrow. getting closer to a point where
they can steer this fire away from homes and not have the fire steer them. lester? >> tom llamas, thank you. overseas today, syria sent elite troops, helicopters and tanks to take back a town where police and soldiers had joined anti-government protesters. in doing so, the government of president bashar al assad showed it was prepared for an all-out battle to stay in power after three months of protests. that town is not far from the border with turkey where thousands of syrians have been taking refuge in recent weeks. nbc's john ray who made his way across the border into syria today reports on the battle and those trying to get out. >> reporter: this is the same treacherous terrain thousands of syrians have crossed for safety. but we're heading in the opposite direction. into a country in turmoil. to discover hundreds of desperate people clinging to the remnants of their lives. and almost everyone here has a tale of tragedy or terror to
tell. this man shows us how the army attacked with machine guns and helicopters. another takes off a bandage to reveal a bullet wound. he says he was hit by a sniper. there are women and children here and few of the essentials of life. food and water is smuggled into them from turkey. we're about half a mile inside the syrian border. and although conditions of this makeshift camp are basic, it is far, far better than the terror these people have left behind. the syrian army, on the move. an iron fist to crush an uprising. tanks and troops with a mission to destroy any opposition in their path. tonight, state tv boasted they have retaken the region's largest town, extracted revenge on the rebels.
but now fields burned, and by many accounts, much of the town of jisr al shughur has been destroyed. and abandoned by most of its townspeople, who have fled, some into turkey, but others are marooned on the syrian side of the border unwilling or unable to leave. these people are exhausted, terrorized by their own government, abandoned by the world. john ray, nbc news, syria. when "nbc nightly news" continues on this sunday evening, confronting a new menace in american cities. a new kind of mob violence. later, stealing the show. the uncommon charm of royal kate. a
there is increasing concern in this country about a violent new trend. so-called flash mobs of teenagers who come together via social media and then go on violent rampages. chicago is among the cities dealing with the problem. and from there, zoraida sambolin of our station wmaq has more tonight. >> reporter: we've seen it before. assaults in philadelphia last year, and in april, this mass robbery in washington, d.c. now chicago. where police are on high alert after a series of similar incidents. chris wolkowski says he was attacked by as many as 20 teenagers near chicago's ritzy magnificent mile. >> they were pulling me. they were pushing me. they were punching me. >> reporter: that same night, 12
other attacks, many on tourists, by large groups of young people. some have called these attackers flash mobs. a violent variation of those peaceful gatherings fueled by social media that seem to appear out of nowhere. regardless of what they're called, these large group attacks have caught the attention of law enforcement officials across the country. last month los angeles police beefed up patrols of venice beach after hundreds of people on twitter wrote they'd be meeting there the next day. alexandria thompson who monitors the social networking site for her crime blog first noticed the activity. >> it was massive. it was constant. there were hundreds of these tweets going out. it was just really unusual. >> reporter: hundreds did show up and one person was critically shot before the area could be cleared. back in chicago, police are cracking down. 33 people, mostly minors, have been arrested in connection with those attacks. >> the fact is we have a plan. we are arresting people.
and we're going to make this trend stop. >> reporter: chicago's new mayor says he wants all the offenders brought to justice. >> it's part of our reputation but it's also part of our public safety. the number one goal is deal with the youths who committed the crimes over the weekend and apprehend them. we're on our way to doing that. >> reporter: police have added 150 officers to city neighborhoods and undercover officers are patrolling downtown. all in the hopes of breaking up these flash mobs even before they appear. zoraida sambolin, nbc news, chicago. up next here tonight, a spectacular crash at le mans and the remarkable outcome.
wreckage proving that the safety cages that protect the drivers really do the job. it was three months ago today that the world began to realize a terrible situation was unfolding at a japanese nuclear power plant called fukushima. one day after the country was struck by a devastating earthquake and tsunami. nbc's chief science correspondent robert bazell recently returned to japan for an update on how some are dealing with the radiation threat. >> reporter: on an organic farm in fukushima prefecture, 35 miles west of the damaged reactors, morai toshiyuki grows onions, potatoes, green beans and rice. he worries when harvest time comes his produce will have a danger greater than a pesticides he carefully avoids. radiation from the power plant. he says he is very fearful about his workers' safety now and his customers if he is allowed to sell the produce. something he says the government won't tell him. every day one of the workers carefully measures radiation levels with a counter provided
by a volunteer organization. it registers 50 times the normal background. below the level where the government would evacuate an area, but enough to concern this farmer. after he planted some crops, he was able to send topsoil for an analysis. that, too, revealed relatively high levels of radiation. at the accident site, workers still struggle to bring the reactors under control three months into the accident. officials now acknowledge three reactor cores melted. >> in the first three or four days of the crisis, you know, all of the analysts were warning about the possibility of a large-scale fuel meltdown. it turned out that that had happened within 16 hours. >> reporter: fire cannons spray a blue resin to try to contain radiation. some still leaks. but experts say it is nowhere near the amounts from the first days of the accident. the analysis of this soil shows that the radiation is a combination of cesium 134 which has a half-life of two years and cesium 137 which has a half-life of 30 years.
it was quite a weekend for the former kate middleton, now, of course, the duchess of cambridge. she has brought a new energy and charm to the house of windsor and people seem to be loving it in britain and beyond. nbc's chapman bell has been watching a royal star. >> reporter: princess catherine is settling into her new royal lifestyle.
and the world is watching. yesterday's trooping the color, the annual parade marking the monarch's official birthday, this year her 85th. pomp and pageantry at its best. prince william barely recognizable in his bearskin hat, riding for his first time in the yearly event. alongside his father, prince charles, and the queen's carriage. but all eyes were on the newest addition to the royal family. crowds gathering for a glimpse of their future queen. later at a surprise appearance at her friend's wedding with her sister, pippa, she recycled the hat she wore for her royal duties earlier in the day and a dress last seen on commoner kate in 2007. >> let's face it. we're all in very difficult times. she realizes this. and let's not forget, she's not the only royal doing this. the queen recycles a lot of her old clothes. >> reporter: thursday evening the prince and princess arrived at a high stakes charity event in london. celebrity guests paid up to $15,000 to dine in their company.
again, all eyes and lenses trying to focus on the new duchess and that dress. at the couple's first official public engagement since their marriage in april. >> she looked as good as she did on the day back in april when she wowed the world as a young bride. >> reporter: today the royal family attended a thanksgiving service in windsor to honor the duke of edinburgh's 90th birthday. another brief sighting of the duchess of cambridge at that event quickly turned to headlines. her fashion closely scrutinized. >> there really is only one person that stole the show. that would have to be, of course, the duchess of cambridge, kate. for the simple fact she's the star in the crown jewel. everyone wants to know what she's wearing, what she's thinking, what she's looking like. >> reporter: in a weekend filled with royal milestones, princess catherine, to her admirers, was catherine the great. chapman bell, nbc news, london. that's "nbc nightly news" for this sunday. brian williams will be here tomorrow. i'm lester holt reporting from new york. for all of us here at nbc news, goodnight.