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tv   NBC Nightly News  NBC  June 29, 2012 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT

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on our broadcast tonight the disaster zone in colorado. tonight the u.s. military is upping its response as the president gets a first-hand look at the devastation. also tonight something every american should know about thousands of firefighters who are currently there and on the job. feeling the heat. one-third of our country under a heat advisory. the question is, how long will it last? fast and furious. the atf agent who started the gun operation that went so wrong defends himself tonight in an nbc news exclusive interview. student loans. big news for millions of college kids struggling to pay tuition. and making a difference. the pride of the yankees, love them or hate them, matt lauer tonight shows us the difference a hometown team can make. tonight shows us the difference a hometown team can make. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television
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good evening. the president today called it heart breaking. he was able to see it up close. the rest of us can only imagine how bad it is in colorado where relentless wildfires keep on marching across the country side consuming thousands of acres and hundreds of homes along the way. while firefighters have tried to make a valiant stand against them. while the big fires still aren't close to being under control, this was demoralizing. 32 new fires started up just today. it's where we begin again tonight. nbc's miguel almaguer is in colorado springs. miguel, good evening. >> reporter: brian, good evening. a day of good weather helped crews on the ground, but this blaze is still active, still on the move. tonight we know at least two people are dead and others are missing. the rubble stretches block after block. 346 homes destroyed, the damage
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and destruction widespread but for every family so personal. >> we have a lot of loss. >> reporter: susan's daughter and son-in-law died last year. tuesday she lost the home she was raising her four grandchildren in. >> it's hard. it's really hard. i mean, there are years of memories, but we have them in our hearts. >> reporter: today the president declared the neighborhood she lived in a federal disaster area. he praised the firefighters battling the most destructive wildfire in colorado history. >> they're putting their lives at risk to save us and to help us. we've got to make sure that we remember that 365 days a year. >> going to be hitting that north side you're just coming over. >> reporter: air force c-130s swept across the blaze. >> don't get much better than that. >> reporter: dropping retardant on hot spots. on the ground, a hundred infantry soldiers dug 12 miles
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of fire break. >> all one team, one fight when it comes down to it, so it doesn't matter what branch of service. we take care of it. we execute. we're professionals. we do it together. then we go back to our normal daily lives. >> reporter: the army joined 1100 firefighters on the front lines. >> it's your neighbor's house. you know, it's where kids play. so it's difficult. >> reporter: the firefight comes going into the 4th of july holiday when many come to colorado to enjoy clean air and whitewater rivers. >> we're known for our outdoor recreation and a lot of that at the present time is closed. >> try to reschedule or just get a full refund. >> this rafting company is barely afloat. >> this is the longest we've ever been out of business. >> reporter: but in the midst of the loss and the destruction, tonight there are still some signs of hope. newlyweds jim and lynn becca learned their first home together is still standing.
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this fire has spread to more than 18,000 acres, but there is good news. it is now 25% contained and some evacuation orders have been lifted. >> miguel almaguer still on the scene for us, colorado springs again tonight. thanks. as we mentioned at the top of the broadcast, there is something everybody should know about many of the firefighters currently on the job in colorado. as we said, putting their lives on the line to protect lives and property. they serve in grueling conditions without complaint and many of them serve without health insurance. nbc's kristen dahlgren is just back from the fire lines in south dakota. >> reporter: on the fire lines, the work is hot. >> feels like you open an oven. >> reporter: dangerous and dirty. and in the summer fire season, it just doesn't stop. >> we worked 54 of the last 58 days for 16 hours a day. >> reporter: there is not much time at home and for many there is no health insurance. >> even with this fire contained
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here the work can be dangerous. they worry about falling limbs and flareups and many say they're just as worried about what happens once they leave here. some 8,000 firefighters work six months a year for the forest service. they're considered seasonal employees, temporary, not eligible for federal insurance. an injury on the job would be covered under worker's comp, but anything else for the seasonals or their families isn't. >> is austin feeling better? >> reporter: eric has two young sons. >> they're the light of my life, you know? >> reporter: his baby jack was born in april with complications. medical bills were $38,000. how much do you make? >> about that in a year. >> reporter: john lauer gathered more than 100,000 signatures for a petition arguing that with all the overtime they do the equivalent of a full year's work in just six months. >> we're not looking for a handout here.
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we just want to have the ability, the opportunity to buy insurance like other federal employees. >> reporter: in a statement the u.s. forest service told nbc news benefit eligibility is set by law. we are happy to work with congress should they decide to address this issue. but on the front lines? >> all right, babe. love you. >> reporter: firemen and family men hope they can soon protect their loved ones. >> it's only fair. >> reporter: the same way they protect others. kristen dahlgren, nbc news, rapid city, south dakota. >> and making their jobs a whole lot more difficult as you saw there, the extreme heat. the heat wave that's baked the rockies and the great plains now spreading east. there are 113 million americans now in the excessive heat advisory zone. that's more than one-third of the entire u.s. population. nbc's john yang with us tonight from indianapolis. john, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. the high today here in indianapolis? a sizzling 103 degrees.
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that broke a 78-year-old record. just five days into an already stifling summer, millions of americans are feeling the effects of dangerous and deadly temperatures. >> it is unusual to hit a hundred this early in the year. >> reporter: a 3-year-old boy in tennessee died of heat exhaustion after playing outside. his 5-year-old brother is in critical condition. nashville broke its all-time record, hitting 109 degrees. authorities urged people to stay indoors and canceled outdoor events this weekend. in atlanta -- >> smoking out here. >> reporter: to chicago. >> i'm going to bring a towel soaked in ice and a bucket with ice and try to keep cool today. >> reporter: people and animals alike were struggling to keep cool as if triple digit temperatures weren't enough the humidity brought many heat indexes, which is how hot it feels, to 115 degrees or higher. a quarter of indiana is suffering from extreme drought,
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leading many counties to ban back yard fireworks. even the indianapolis symphony orchestra is canceling its 4th of july fireworks for the first time in 30 years. the dry conditions could be devastating for farmers like kendall culp. >> obviously the corn is not growing and maturing. >> reporter: in arkansas lack of rain means lack of hay for ranchers who are selling off their cattle at double the usual rate. >> you're seeing lots of people that have been in the cow business for 30, 40, 50 years that are selling out. >> reporter: orion samuelsson hosts the u.s. farm report and says many farmers are starting to compare this to the drought of 1988 that wiped out one-third of corn and soybean crops. >> we need soaking rains not a popup thunderstorm that drops half an inch in this county and nothing in the next county. >> reporter: there were some thunderstorms here this afternoon, but not nearly enough to help those farmers. brian? >> reporter: thanks. for more on what we can expect heading into the holiday, the
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july 4th holiday, weather channel meteorologist chris warren is with us tonight. well, chris, walk us through it. >> reporter: you know, brian, today 50 to 60 million people had to deal with 100 degrees or warmer. those triple digits continue into this weekend. saturday and sunday from kansas to virginia. and we're going to see temperatures that will break all-time recorded highs throughout many cities. because of that, what makes that so significant is the fact that this is june. usually we hit those high temperatures in july and in august, but it's happening in june. so triple digits this weekend and then next week things will cool down just a little bit but, brian, we're trading in the triple digits for the 90s by the 4th of july for many locations. >> all right. chris warren, olympic park in atlanta where a few people have the right idea. chris, thanks. in other news tonight, in washington congress gave final
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approval to two big items that will end up impacting a lot of americans beginning with college students who will not see interest rates on loans go up after all. nbc's kelly o'donnell was there for the vote. with us tonight with details. good evening. >> reporter: hi there, brian. we've talked so often about congress being mired in gridlock, but tonight real progress. the parties worked together to get things done on issues that matter in people's every day lives. as you mentioned, let's begin with college students. nearly 7.5 million under grads will save on average about a thousand dollars on their federally backed student loans. the interest rate was supposed to double this weekend but it will now stay at 3.4% for another year. the president had been touring campuses. he was calling out congress and the disagreement here had been about how to pay for it. it will cost $6 billion. there is another big accomplishment tonight and that is about roads, bridges, and highway projects. congress ok'd $100 billion and
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included in that jobs for about 3 million workers. this really is a big package and also talks about new safety standards for children's car seats. you know, they've been negotiating these issues for months, brian, but tonight begins the week-long july 4th recess and somehow that helped get things done. >> nothing like a holiday on the way to cause a little action to take place. kelly o'donnell on the hill this friday night, thanks. in tahrir square egypt's new president mohamed morsi got a huge turnout from supporters. he's officially sworn in tomorrow. tonight a promise he made to win over the people in the crowd could complicate relations with the u.s. he says he'll work for the release of that flying sheik in prison for plotting to blow up new york city landmarks and also suspected of having a role in the truck bombing of the old world trade center. on wall street today a wild rally as europe's leaders made some progress toward helping their troubled banks. the dow soared nearly 278 points. nasdaq was up more than 85.
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s&p gained 33 points. the biggest one-day gain of the year. one perhaps not so welcomed development, oil prices, which have been suppressed lately, surged along with stocks, up a mind boggling 9.5% today alone. still ahead for us tonight, fast and furious. you've heard the charges. the u.s. intentionally letting mexican drug lords get their hands on guns. well, tonight the agent in charge defends himself in an clusive interview. and later. a big split in hollywood after just five years of marriage.
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u.s. attorney general eric holder became the first sitting
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cabinet official ever to be held in contempt of congress last night. tonight we'll take you inside the antigun running operation known as fast and furious that caused all the uproar to begin with. with the first television interview with the veteran atf agent who ran it, william newell, trying to penetrate a violent mexican drug cartel by tracking gun purchases, but the operation went wrong when a border patrol agent was killed and two guns from the operation were found at the scene. our national investigative correspondent michael isakoff has our exclusive report tonight. >> to my knowledge not one fire arm was walked to a criminal intentionally. >> reporter: in his first tv interview the agent in charge of operation fast and furious, an attempt to stem the tide of illegal guns to mexico, speaks out to clear the air about what he says really happened. >> the notion that we somehow intentionally let guns walk is insane. never happened. >> reporter: between mid 2009 and january, 2011, atf agents
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watched as nearly 2,000 weapons were bought in arizona stores by suspected straw buyers, middle men believed to be purchasing the guns for someone else. newell was hoping to track the weapons to mexico's most powerful drug organization. >> to have the greatest impact in stopping what they were doing you have to cut off the head of the snake. >> reporter: but the task of following the weapons proved daunting and went horribly wrong in december, 2010, when u.s. border patrol agent brian terry was murdered in the arizona desert. two weapons found at the scene were guns that newell's agents were tracking. >> there was evidence that they knew that in fact weapons had already ended up in mexico. that's before brian terry was killed. >> reporter: newell was at home when he got the call about terry. >> it hit me very hard. it hit a lot of us in phoenix very, very hard. >> reporter: newell believes he did everything he could, presenting evidence to federal prosecutors of hundreds of illegal purchases of guns, but
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was told he needed more evidence of the buyer's intent to charge them with a crime. >> i think it is unconscionable the delay that occurred between august to january to bring charges against these individuals. >> reporter: and that was the fault of? >> the u.s. attorney's office. >> reporter: house republicans lay blame across the board. >> one of the things that's so offensive about this case is that our federal government, knowingly, willfully, purposely gave the drug cartels nearly 2,000 weapons, mostly ak-47s, and allowed them to walk. >> reporter: today newell says his career has been shattered and that field agents have been deterred from taking risks to stop gun trafficking for fear of being second guessed by congress. >> not only mexico, the united states, the criminals have won. the people that are laughing all the way to and from the gun stores and to and from mexico are the criminals. >> reporter: the justice department today declined comment but said in a letter to house speaker john boehner it will not prosecute the attorney general. michael isakoff, nbc news, washington. mexico, itself, is in the news.
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that country is counting down to its presidential election. this sunday the race is being closely watched on both sides of the border for what it could mean for the war on drugs, a fight the next president could fight very differently. our team in mexico will be covering the story throughout the weekend. up next this evening we are learning the price that will be paid by those middle school bullies on the bus.
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middle school students caught on video taunting their bus monitor have been suspended from school for one year. the woman's name is karen klein. she is a grandmother of eight. when the video went viral complete strangers donated a total of almost $700,000. nbc news announced today savannah guthrie will take her place alongside matt lauer every morning on "today." savannah is a former white house correspondent. she is currently and will remain our chief legal correspondent. in fact, she is the first lawyer ever to cohost america's
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favorite morning program. she calls tucson, arizona her home and, thankfully, likes mornings. she will start a week from monday. we want to wish our friend savannah nothing but the best. big news out of hollywood tonight. celebrity couple tom cruise and katie holmes are splitting up. holmes filed for divorce thursday in a move that friends said came as a surprise to her husband. she cited irreconcilable differences seeking sole custody of the couple's 6-year-old daughter suri. cruise and holmes had an elaborate wedding ceremony in an italian castle back in 2006. big celebration in china. just look at how happy they are in mission control. their space capsule completed its mission carrying china's first ever female astronaut. remember americans were the only astronauts to splash down back when we sent people into space. other countries land on land and in this case in the desert of mongolia.
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it's a hard landing, but they emerged okay, and, as a result, everybody got a lawn chair when the mission was over. up next matt lauer and the pride of the yankees making a difference.
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finally tonight our making a difference report. most professional sports teams are deeply involved in their host cities and the same is true here in new york. as we said earlier, love them or hate them, the new york yankees are one of the great names in sports and they get to play in a great place. one week a year, they salute some great people. matt lauer has our making a difference report here tonight. >> the 3-2. >> reporter: heroes don't get any bigger than this. >> 3,000! >> reporter: but even heroes need some inspiration. this week the new york yankees found some in their back yard. >> reach for the sky! >> reporter: this may just look like horsing around, but for 9-year-old owen atkins, it's a chance to be like everyone else. flying manes provides riding therapy to children with special needs like owen who has cerebral
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palsy. >> an opportunity to help him get through the hard times. >> reporter: and mark teixeira is trading his gold glove for a day in the saddle, stealing home and hearts. seniors at east haven nursing home were stunned. these long-time fans treated to makeovers and manicures. folks like 100-year-old selma filed, buffed, and polished by none other than right fielder nick swisher. >> just to be able to spend time with somebody like that and hear some of the stories they have to tell. that's what it's all about. >> reporter: finally, my special hope week buddy 5-year-old andy fess who has a condition which usually keeps him out of the sun and has left him legally blind. but like any little boy, he dreams about playing baseball. and now that dream has taken him all the way to yankee stadium. throwing the first pitch, high fiving the team after the victory. >> the easy way is to give money
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but people that give their time i think is cherished more. >> reporter: even when it's giving a 5-year-old something as simple as some water. >> all right, buddy. >> reporter: in ten years or so he'll look at the video and say i asked derek jeter to get me an ice-cold water. the thing is derek jeter got it for him. >> reporter: that's the beauty of hope week. >> without a doubt. >> reporter: matt lauer, nbc news, new york. >> great story to end on and end our broadcast this friday night. thank you for being with us. i'm brian williams. have a good weekend. i'm brian williams. have a good weekend. good night. -- captions by vitac --
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to me will is a hero and we should be applauding his willingness to stand up. >> high praise for william lynch and his emotional testimony over his beating of a south bay priest. supporters say the wrong man is on trial. good evening, everyone. >> tears and stronger motions in a san jose courtroom today. william lynch described how he and his brother


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