tv NBC Nightly News NBC June 28, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT
cancer approval, doctors can burn notice. the raging wildfire in new mexico inching closer to a critical nuclear weapons' lab and there's new concerns about what could happen if a fire really hit. best medicine -- the life-and-death fight over a controversial drug for breast cancer. many terminally ill women say it's their only hope so why doesn't the government want them to have it? the latest tsa outrage. you may have heard it. a 95-year-old woman, cancer patient in a wheelchair and what she went through. tonight we'll debate the topic. why can't common sense and security co-exist? and making a difference for girls by helping them to take the right steps to a better
future. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. the men and women fighting the fire that's been approach los alamos say this is the make-or-break day in fighting to protect this nuclear facility. up to 93 square miles of fire. 12,000 people on the run because of it. it's now surrounding the nuclear lab. it's about four miles away from the place where the first atom bomb was born and where 10,000 people work every day. it's one big fire that, along with floodwaters elsewhere in the country, is focusing new attention on the u.s. nuclear program. it's where we begin tonight, once again, with janet shamlian. good evening. >> reporter: brian, good evening.
this fire is spreading and it's now all around the los alamos national lab despite assurance that radioactive materials are protected. there's growing concern about what's happening behind all the smoke and flame. on fire, the darkness of early morning revealing the flames of depth of the overnight move. four miles from the center of the city and dangerously close to the los alamos national lab where radioactive material is stockpiled and where officials insist those materials are guarded and secure. >> our facilities and nuclear materials are protected and safe. >> reporter: they offered no details on how the sprawling nuclear lab is being protected. they did admit there's fire all around it. the sound of the crackling wildfire is the city's warning siren but few are left to hear it. the choking smoke that blankets every inch of los alamos sends thousands from their home before the evacuation became mandatory. >> we live on the ridge so as
the smoke was coming in it became too much. we were having trouble breathing. >> reporter: this shelter inside a casino is full of people and anxiety. >> the actual stress of getting out of there -- >> reporter: and many sleeping here know this could be home for a while. >> i learned that last time. you don't get your hopes up too high. >> reporter: every tool has been brought to front lines of a battle that could triple in size. having already scorched the fringe of los alamos officials say winds could carry it in any direction at any time. >> we're still on fire. we've not lost any structures at the laboratory or in the town site and we don't plan on losing any structures. >> reporter: the team from the nuclear safety administration arrived today and they're charged with handling any release that happens from fire reaching the lab, but brian, officials insist that that will
not happen. >> janet, what an eerie color in the sky behind you because of all the smoke. janet shamlian, thanks. while officials at the nuclear facility as you heard, continue to insist they're prepared and all the radioactive materials are safe, it's probably worth asking the "what if" question given its size. what they do there and the encroaching fire. that story tonight from our senior investigative correspondent, lisa myers. >> reporter: today they were nagging worry among nuclear safety experts about what could happen if the fire engulfed the lab. the facility remains shrouded in secrecy and contains some of the most dangerous materials on earth. tons of plutonium and uranium as well as radioactive nuclear waste. >> it could be enormously serious. >> reporter: pete stockton, a former energy department official said the public should be concerned but not alarmed.
one potential problem, an area known as pf 4, where six metric tons of plutonium are stored in a hardened concrete building. would it withstand a ferocious fire? >> if it burned and sent the radiation off site it could be very damaging to the people in the surrounding areas. >> reporter: an even bigger worry, area g, where 10,000 drums of radioactive waste are stored above ground, under a plastic dome. the worst case scenario, according to some activists -- >> my fear is that these drums of plutonium-contaminated waste could be breached in the event of a fire and release airborne plutonium. >> reporter: last summer a government watchdog criticized the lab for long-running problems in implementing critical safety management measures saying it had not tested safety systems, including fire suppression systems in high-risk areas.
today a lab official said fire systems have been upgraded since then and the risk here is exceptionally low. >> i just don't see any scenario where the public will have an impact from this fire. >> when they assure you that there's nothing to worry about, i think i'd be somewhat worried. >> reporter: today the fire chief said the lab is not out of danger. that he'll worry until the fire is under control. lisa myers, nbc news, washington. and then there are those two other nuclear facilities in nebraska, which when we left you last night, were being threatened by rising water, floodwaters that broke through a barrier at the fort calhoun plant near omaha and we're also jeopardizing the cooper station plant about 80 miles down river. tonight, water levels are down slightly from high water marks reached over the weekend and officials say all safety systems are working properly as of now at both plants. we head overseas now.
troubling news from kabul, the 6 capital of afghanistan, where a group of suicide bombers tried to attack a major hotel. that triggered a gunfight as security forces moved in. our veteran nbc news producer schwel uddin is on the scene and joins us by phone tonight and so schel, those that travelled there this is a familiar land mark. many of us have stayed there. what can you tell us about the situation right now? >> yes, brian. two black hawk helicopters, apparently, fired on three of the suicide bombers. as you know, three have already detonated their vests. the hotel is on fire and we can see that it's on fire. three other suicide bombers exploded their vests earlier
causing carnage and mayhem in the hotel. and we know that the hotel was full of provincial governors who are here for a meeting in kabul, which is due to take place tomorrow, so far, with reports of ten people who have died and further reports that we're still waiting for. that's it from here, brian. >> schel, thanks. we should no more by day break. schel uddin on the scene there and we'll talk later. news tonight about breast cancer on two fronts. first, the fight over what is become the number one selling cancer drug, it's called avastin. it's in a tug-of-war the federal government saying it needs to come off the market as a treatment for breast cancer. and thousands of gravely ill women who say it's the last best hope they now have. our report from our chief science correspondent, robert bazell. >> reporter: avastin was approved to treat several other
cancer when in 2008 the fda approved it for the treatment of breast cancer. but the approval had a condition. the manufacturer, genentech, was ordered to do more studies on the drug to make sure it was safe and effective. but those studies showed cause for serious concern. the benefits did not outweigh potentially dangerous risks including death. and the agency proposed last december to withdraw its approval for breast cancer. >> there is no evidence that avastin saves or extends lives. >> it's perplexing to think you might let women die -- >> reporter: at an emotional hearing today, demonstrators outside, and avastin and doctors and activists debated whether the drug should remain available for breast cancer. >> i owe the last seven and a half years to avastin. >> it gives us hope. we're counting on the fda to make the right decision.
>> genentech is appealing the decision to pull the drug asking pore more time to study its effects. no question it will remain on the market to treat other cancers. although the fda and its advisory panels are not supposed to consider cost, it is the elephant in the room. a course of avastin sells for about $88,000 a year. if the fda withdraws the breast cancer approval, doctors can still prescribe it for breast cancer, but most insurance won't pay. christine brunswick, a breast cancer survivor and activist testified today the fda should ignore public pressure and follow the science rigorously. >> it needs to be guided by the evidence and it can't be guided by the emotions of the story, as compelling as those are. >> reporter: the panel issues recommendations tomorrow and the fda commissioner will make the final decision probably within a few months. >> bob, we mentioned two stories. the other was a story about mammograms. a lot of us woke up to that this morning gain in the news. >> this is a very important study.
swedish women, 130,000 of them over 29 years, 30% less breast cancer deaths among women that got mammograms. that is very strong benefits of the benefits of screening. >> a lot of common sense there. thanks. violent demonstrations in greece today where the parliament there was debating austerity measures it needs to pass before foreign lenders will give greece more money, more money they need to avoid bankruptcy and protect, among others, american investors from potentially devastating losses. michelle caruso-cabrera is in athens. we watched your coverage all day. what an incredible day where you are. >> reporter: yeah, absolutely, brian. the air remains thick with teargas. the demonstrators are still on the square behind me. as the legislators prepare to vote on a series of drastic measures all aimed at securing a $17 billion bailout out of the european union. anger erupting on the streets of
athens today. protesters tossed flaming debris and hurled rocks. some ripped off buildings and the police responded with teargas. the clashes mark the start of a 48-hour strike by greeks furious at the latest round of austerity measures being considered in parliament. >> i'm here because we have a right to protest and the situation in greece is very difficult. >> reporter: and it will certainly get worse if the parliament passes legislation over the next two days will mean fewer government jobs, lower wages and higher taxes. >> we're faced with a minimum wage of 500 euros and they want to cut from this. so there's nothing left for us, nothing to break the change and protest and report. >> reporter: the prime minister is confident he has the 151 votes he needs. a spokesman for the eu today made it clear there is no plan b if the measures do not pass. >> europe can only help greece
if greece helps itself. >> reporter: if europe does not give greece the money it runs out of money within weeks and can't pay its bills. european financial leaders believe it could cause devastation among the european banking system and could spill over to the united states, a country which, as we all know, undoubtedly already suffering with a weak economy. >> michelle, thanks. we should point out your camera crew kept you in the dark because the television lights are attracting the protesters. it's still that fraught this in athens tonight. michelle caruso-cabrera from cnbc. up next, it happened again. outrage over airport security. new calls for injecting common sense for the common good. so we'll debate the topic in our next segment. and later, a running club that's so much more. how it's "making a difference" in a lot of girls' lives.
break, you, perhaps, have heard the latest airline security story. a lot of people were outraged to hear of the 95-year-old woman, cancer patient, in a wheelchair, who had to undergo an intimate security check at the airport in destin, florida. the tsa needed to check everything, that included the contents of her adult diaper and while the facts of the case get more graphic from there, it's now just one story in our larger national debate in the ten years or so since 9/11, we've seen it all at the airport. all of us. we've seen the passengers who, to us, seem like unlikely terrorists. seniors, young children, some of them end up on youtube. many of them have helped change the actual policy, which in some cases, amounts to legalized groping. what to do about it. tonight we hear the topic debated by two experts. earl southers, former nominee to head the tsa and isaac yeffet, the former head of security for israel, state-run airline, el-al.
>> i never said that we'd say that passengers because they are in a wheelchair we should not search them. but when i see a woman, 95 years old, sitting on wheelchair, because alarm went off, i have to be so stupid to search her from a to z, including forcing her to pull out her diaper? this is not security. this is a joke! it should not be the first thing. this should be the last. >> we have seen threats where young children have been used to transport improvised explosive devices. we've seen ieds placed on gurneys concealed in wheelchairs so we've seen methodologies to deliver ieds in a whole host of items and people to get to the target. so it's not unusual to have a
threat in some countries, where young children and elderly people might be cause for concern. we're dealing with a very intelligent and adaptive adversary. an adversary when we have a plot it's a lesson learned. so the tsa has adopted a model that's trying to stay one step ahead of the threats and one step ahead of these attack paths that might be implemented. >> i don't see any kind of better security that we had before 9/11. and we have to start relying on god and luck. build a security system. use the profiling system. don't be afraid. be afraid that innocent people will be killed because of us. enough is enough! and if the alarm goes off let me search you. if not, go. this is what i'm calling illusion. and not real security. >> what i can say in defense of the tsa is that these people are
very hard-working dedicated individuals. they are trained well and when people engage them in an aggressive and combative way, there are others that might be going through the process, not getting the attention they deserve, that really need to be going to secondary screening. so i would say patience on both sides of the equation. understand that these people want the same thing that you do. to get to your destination, have a good weekend and a good time and get there safely. and respect has to be given on both sides. >> that's just part of the debate over the limits of tolerance at airport security. we want to thank both gentlemen earl southers and isaac yeffet, appearing in their own words here tonight. up next as we continue the identity of the latest user to join twitter and it's a big name!
how many vatican officials does it take for the pope to issue his first official tweet? this was the scene as the holy father pope benedict used an ipad to personally and officially join twitter. what must it be like to be the vatican's i.t. guy? the text of his first-ever tweet read in part -- dear friends, i just launched news dot va. praise be the lord with my prayers and blessings. that means i'll have to find something else for my first tweet. by the way, there an estimated 200 million twitter users worldwide. a lot of talk here in new york among the yankees' fans. what to do when it's time for mo to go? when mariano rivera retires? consensus hall of famer and
greatest closer of all time. the rumor on the sports wire says the yankees are talking to this guy. this was before a padres game. they asked members of the cirque du soleil troupe from vegas to show off their stuff on the mound. scouting report on this guy is better than average delivery, needs to work on his cutter. a little bit of legitimate news value but not much. we wanted to show you the pictures of the new baby koala boonda, born at the park. a second generation urban koala, the first baby born to a mother koala born in captivity. population of koalas living in the wild is now down to 43,000 of them across the vast stretches of australia. up next here tonight, today running. tomorrow, perhaps, running the world? our "making a difference" report is next.
the story comes to us tonight all the way from brooklyn, new york. here's our story from new york, with mara schiavocampo. >> reporter: though these steps are the beginning of a race, for this group of girls they also mark the end of a journey. for 12 weeks they've been training with "girls on the run." a national after-school running program for preteen girls like this 9-year-old girl. like so many her age she's still learning to feel good about herself. >> she would tell me, mommy, i'm not beautiful. >> reporter: twice a week she joins 15 classmates from her brooklyn elementary school with practice once and drills. practice runs and drills. but this program isn't just about physical fitness. it also offers lessons for running the race of life. at every practice, the coaches, young professional volunteers, lead discussions about things like bullying and confidence.
>> it's very hands-on in life skills building. >> i want to show you something. >> reporter: with some unconventional lessons. >> i want you to try to put the toothpaste back in the tube. >> teaching that girls that gossip can be a lot like toothpaste. >> if we say something hurtful about another person we can't take it back. >> reporter: the goal is to help the girls grow stronger physically and emotionally. larissa is finally feeling better about herself. >> now i feel more confident about myself. >> reporter: and they become a team. >> girls on the run is so much fun! >> reporter: supporting one another all along the way. >> whenever, like, you're feeling sad, they cheer you up. >> reporter: all preparation for the tend-of-season 5k race, one that's not about speed, but about setting a goal and meeting it. >> when you look at your medal and award how do you feel? >> i feel proud. >> reporter: crossing this finish line and starting a new path in life. mara schiavocampo, nbc news, new york.