tv NBC Nightly News NBC July 19, 2013 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT
on our broadcast, getting personal. an unusual moment at the white house. the president walks into the briefing room without notice before reporters were even seated because he had something very personal to say about trayvon martin and race in america. bankrupt. the startling decline of a once-prosperous american city. tonight what it's like to watch a place hit rock-bottom. record heat. llions deal with it for another hot day. while out west, it's beating a huge wildfire that is keeping thousands from going home. and great expectations. if london is this crazy now, what will it be like once the royal baby arrives? "nightly news" begins now. >> announcer: from nbc news world headquarters in new york, this is "nbc nightly news," with brian williams.
good evening. surprises are rare in a modern choreographed white house. and today was a surprise when the president walked into the briefing room, reporters weren't in their seats. no one was expecting him or what he had to say. he wanted to talk about trayvon martin and the larger issue of race. the president only briefly mentioned the trial, saying the jury had spoken and the judge had conducted herself well. today, though, he talked about the backdrop, the lessons to be learned from it. and he had a specific message for young black men in this country. he's the only president in our history who could speak personally on this subject, and today once again, he did, including experiences from his own life. we begin tonight with part of what he had to say. >> when trayvon martin was first shot, i said that this could have been my son. another way of saying that is, that trayvon martin could have been me 35 years ago.
there are very few african-american men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. that includes me. there are very few african-american men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. that happens to me, at least before i was a senator. there are very few african-americans who haven't had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. that happens often. i just ask people to consider, if trayvon martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? and do we actually think that he would have been justified in
shooting mr. zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened? and if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws. and let me just leave you with -- with a final thought. that as difficult and as challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, i don't want us to lose sight that things are getting better. each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. it doesn't mean we're in a post-racial society. it doesn't mean that racism is eliminated. but, you know, when i talk to malia and sasha, and i listen to their friends and i see them
interact, they're better than we are. they're better than we were on these issues. and that's true in every community that i visited all across the country. >> so let's talk about what we witnessed today. starting with our white house correspondent, kristen welker, who was at the white house this afternoon. and kristen, we can't emphasize enough what a shock this was. he was not expected. it was the regular daily briefing, and the first couple of rows as we showed were vacant. >> right, it was a huge shock, brian. i've covered the white house for more than two years now and this is the first time that president obama has come out unannounced. usually we get some type of a warning. one white house official telling me they didn't want reporters sitting around speculating what the president was going to talk about. they wanted this speech to be straight up. that's what it was. it was extemporaneous. you saw him there talking, no teleprompter. this was unique because it was so deeply personal. some of his most personal
comments about race to date. he spoke about race in 2008 when he was a candidate. this was a second-term president speaking. he was a little freer to talk about some of his own experiences, as we just heard. his experiences being racially profiled, brian. and just a little bit of background. white house officials say president obama has been watching reaction to the zimmerman verdict since it was handed down within the african-american community. and all across the country, he spoke to his family about it. spoke with advisers. he decided to speak about it on thursday, effectively changing the conversation. >> kristen welker on the white house north lawn tonight. thanks. also, joy reed is here with us tonight in the studio. she's a lot of things. an msnbc contributor, managing editor of our african-american-centric website, the grio, and a columnist for the "miami herald" and a mother of three children. joy, what happened today? what did we witness there? >> you know, it was extraordinary. because as kristen said, it was not expected. we understood that the president felt deeply and personally about
the trayvon martin case last year when he said that trayvon could have been his son. i think it was actually a bigger deal for him to say that trayvon could have been him. the experience that so many african-americans have, whether it's african-american men or their mothers or their wives, is this notion that you can do all the right things, you can be smart, you can be capable, you can speak well, you can do everything right, and everything from not being able to catch a cab, to being second-guessed when you walk through a store and followed around, that these experiences are shared experiences for african-americans, up to and including the president of the united states. i think that's huge. you can't underestimate how big that is. >> kristen mentioned the second-term presidency. everything about the presidency race has been a subtext to all of it. from the tea party which saw differently the obama bailout of the auto industry of george w. bush, to him being called a liar
to having to show his birth certificate. there's been a subtext of race around this president that's made it difficult for him to dire directly address race issues. when he's even tip toed toward him, as the case when henry lewis gates was arrested for trying to get into his own home, the blow-back has been intense. i think the president was brave to step out and the fact that it was extemporaneous and deeply personal, it was an important moment for him and the whole country. now we turn to detroit, the day after that city filed for bankruptcy, the biggest american city ever to do so. the bankruptcy is already facing a legal challenge and as the world begins to take note of detroit's drastic action, the questions begin here and elsewhere about what kind of future detroit is facing. nbc's gabe gutierrez reports from there tonight. >> reporter: after decades of decline in one of america's most iconic cities, michigan's governor says now is the time for tough decisions. >> we have to stop kicking the can down the road. >> reporter: the bold bankruptcy
filing yesterday coming months after the appointment of a controversial manager to deal with detroit's staggering $18 billion of debt. >> does anybody think it's okay to have 40-year-old trees growing through roofs of dilapidated houses? does anybody think they should call the police and not be able to come out on time because they're already out on calls? no. >> reporter: detroit's desperation, a city once the symbol of american industrial might made international headlines. >> the city of detroit, once a symbol of america's supremacy, is filing for bankruptcy. >> reporter: 40% of streetlights don't work. pensions for public retirees are underfunded by $640 million. and now there are questions about whether assets, like works at the detroit institute of art might be sold to pay off more than 100,000 creditors. >> everybody is living in fear right now of what's going to happen. fear of the uncertainty. >> reporter: that will be up to a federal bankruptcy judge in an unprecedented case that will be watched by cities across the country dealing with their own
pension problems. detroit is just the 62nd chapter 9 filing since 1954. experts warn many more could be on the way. >> this is one of the major economic crises that we'll be facing over the next decade. >> reporter: but in detroit, some view this as a fresh start. they point out that the unemployment rate has dropped substantially from its peak of 27.8% four years ago to 16.3% today. >> detroit will pull this off. i have no doubt in my mind we'll pull this off. >> reporter: for retired ambulance driver glen hendricks, optimism comes with caution. at 62 years old, his pension is in limbo. >> i don't know what my future will be now. but just got to get ready for the new detroit. >> reporter: he hopes the largest bankruptcy becomes the biggest comeback of all. gabe gutierrez, nbc news, detroit. we mentioned at the top of the broadcast, the heat continues to make news across about half of this country. where in some spots, it got worse today. the heat index map tonight shows
what it felt like at the height of it today with a lot of population centers reporting triple digits. nbc's stephanie gosk is back out in it. out at jones beach on long island. stephanie, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. there's a really nice breeze coming off the water here tonight. it's kind of like nature's air conditioning. you know, when this week began, very few americans knew what a heat dome was. they know now. >> it's excruciating out here. >> reporter: the oppressive heat dome steadily pushed temperatures up and up, dlding to today the hottest of them all. >> hotter than a fox in a forest fire. >> reporter: forecasters called the weather pattern unique because it moved backwards. >> just about all weather systems in the u.s. move from west to east. our heat waves generally begin in the plains. this one developed on the east coast. the heat bubble shifted west during the week. >> reporter: a week-long heat
wave put serious pressure on the power grid. today, new york city utility company con edison hit a record for daily demand. >> to go through a week like this without really any major event is quite an accomplishment. >> reporter: crews rushed to quickly repair problems, even if it meant working in the searing sun. firefighters continued to take a beating as well. and in bensalem, pennsylvania, the nifty 50s diner burnt down, heat exhaustion was part of the job. >> rotate water, got to keep them hydrated. >> reporter: the places people normally go to beat the heat were teeming. at jones beach, new york, lifeguards were extra vigilant. >> there's a lot of people in the water. >> you have to look at the hotspots, the multicolored water. you look at their stroke. >> reporter: and there were other hazards as well. sand baking in the sun all day can make the walk back to the car a little tricky. >> i stopped halfway under somebody else's umbrella and my friend ran back to get my sandals. >> because your feet were burning? >> so hot. >> reporter: even with the
sizzling sand there was still a consensus here. a day at the beach is definitely better than sweating it out at home. at one point, the sand here was hotter than 110 degrees. it started to cool down. there still aren't a lot of people leaving. tonight is going to be the last really hot night. brian? >> stephanie gosk, jones beach, long island new york in the heat wave, thanks. in southern california, fire continues to burn, despite over 3,000 firefighters now on the job fighting it. it's closer now to palm springs, california. thousands of people have been evacuated. and miguel almaguer is covering for us again tonight, good evening. >> reporter: brian, good evening. flames came within sight here in palm springs, and although the city is not in immediate danger, firefighters are certainly out in force. take a look at this blaze still burning tonight. the conditions are extreme. this fire has burned through thick brush that hasn't burned in some 35 years. the so-called mountain fire broke out monday at 24,000
acres. some 35,000, excuse me, some 35 square miles of land has been charred. today, nbc news was aboard a water-dropping helicopter based in gardner ranch. it's a critical asset in this firefight. the air attack is now at 24-hour operation. under threat, the mountain town of idyllwild is safe tonight, while some have been allowed to return, thousands remain evacuated. the fire is roughly 15% contained. it has cost $9 million to fight it. >> miguel almaguer, southern california, where it could be a long weekend, thanks. still ahead for us on a friday night, news about crash of flight 214 in san francisco. the story of the woman who leads the agency in charge of the investigation. and later, the latest about william and kate getting closer to the news a whole bunch of people are waiting for.
investigation, a lot of our viewers have gotten their first good glimpse of the current chair of the national transportation safety board. she is the daughter of an air force general, and she now leads an agency that travels the world investigating such accidents. and in her job, when something happens, you go and you must leave your life on hold. nbc's tom costello caught up with her this week in washington. >> reporter: she is the public face of an agency often associated with tragedy. >> our team has walked the full wreckage path. >> reporter: within hours of asiana 214's crash landing, ntsb investigators were on the runway in san francisco. the evidence, said chairman deborah hersman, suggested that the pilots had come in too low and too slow. >> i will tell you the speed was significantly below 137 knots. >> reporter: he first met hersman in 2005, just appointed to the ntsb by president bush, passionate about children's car seats. >> seat belts are not made for
children. >> reporter: soon she'd earned a reputation as a quick study who asks tough questions. on display into the hearings of a regional crash in buffalo. >> i think this crew went from complacency to catastrophe in 30 seconds. >> asiana i think is closing it down today. >> reporter: chairman since 2009, hersman leads some of the best people in the world at investigating everything from plane crashes to battery fires to train derailments. at ntsb headquarters she took us behind the scenes into the investigators' labs. >> this is real forensics here. >> it really is. these guys are the csis of transportation. >> reporter: but at home in suburban washington, chairman hersman becomes debby to husband neal and mom to three boys who say the nation's chief safety officer makes them live what she preaches. >> like all my friends were like out of booster seats and stuff. and i was still 12, and i was in a booster seat. >> i know she's doing it for me
because she loves me. she's my mom. >> reporter: being a mom was never far from her mind as she met with the parents of the chinese teenagers who died at asiana flight 214. >> i can hear the word "mama." and as i reach out to shake their hand and tell them that i'm sorry, i say to them, i'm mama, too. >> reporter: a dedication to both families and safety. tom costello, nbc news, washington. back in a moment with a genuine piece of world history up for auction now on ebay.
our chief foreign correspondent richard engel was one of four journalists invited to address the u.n. security council this week. 600 journalists have been killed in the last decade covering conflicts. 41 in syria alone just last year. and while richard was there to press for protections for those trying to tell the story of the conflicts around the world, he conceded it's sometimes tough to define a journalist because of the explosion in media and outlets and voices.
>> reporter: protecting journalists these days is hard. perhaps harder than ever because you have to tackle the basic question of who is a journalist and who is an activist in a way that has never existed before. >> you may recall richard and his team were captured by pro-assad forces in syria back in december and held five days before their release. what is said to be an original copy of "schindler's list" is going up for auction on ebay. the starting bid -- $3 million. it's believed to be one of four copies ever drawn up. 14 pages long, 801 names of the 801 jews that german businessman oscar schindler is credited for saving from the nazis. the story immortalized by steven spielberg. the document was typed up six days after the death of fdr toward the end of the war in 1945. well, here's something we don't see every day. how we look from the territory
way out past saturn. the remarkable and durable nasa spacecraft "cassini" just swung its cameras around to get a glimpse of home, a tiny dot, 900 million miles away. in a microburst of space humor, nasa has been urging people on earth to wave for the picture and post pictures of them waving on their website. when we come back, the latest from london on william and kate and the wait for the new arrival.
finally tonight, in the next few hours or days, a child will be born in the united kingdom who will be third in line to the throne. and he or she will not come along a moment too soon. in terms of the anticipatory fever, the rumored speculation, the fits and false starts just today, say nothing of the child's parents and family who are probably ready right about now for this to all happen. kate snow remains standing by in london for us tonight. kate, good evening. >> reporter: brian, good evening to you. the palace will officially not say anything until kate middleton is safely in the hospital, and that lack of any real information led to a very long week, a very crazy day. someone says or sees or hears something, and we all jump.
bucklebury, kate's hometown, where she started her day. then came word she might be on the move. not that anyone actually saw her. could it be? finally time for all those photographers waiting outside the hospital in london to jump on their ladders? >> well i've had my spot marked up since the first of july. it's incredible. >> reporter: taxi drivers have given the road a new name. >> crazy street. >> we're sort of chasing each other to see if anybody knows more than the last person. >> reporter: the slightest hint of news is enough to set hearts racing. so when these two walked up this afternoon, they were seasoned jourmists who tweeted things like kate's just gone in. no, they were just look-alikes sent over as a gag by the "sun" newspaper. the shame of falling for it for nanosecond, wrote cnn contributor. when the baby does come, prime minister david cameron will be among the first to know.
when an aide came in to a cabinet meeting and handed him a scrap of paper, he told bbc radio today. >> everyone of course thought it was the announcement about the royal baby and there was great intake of breath. >> reporter: as the hours tick by, it's not just the queen who wants this baby to arrive soon. >> kate the great is three days late. i can't wait for her to dilate. >> reporter: but some brits aren't quite so excited. >> are your friends obsessed with this? do they care? >> not really. not so much. >> reporter: maybe once there's a newborn, the cynics will come around. >> we're not a particularly patriotic nation day to day, but when events such as this happen, you know, good or bad, we line up behind our royal family in a way that is really refreshing. >> reporter: the queen heads off on vacation next week, but i think she spoke for many people here when she said the other day about the baby, i wish it would hurry up. this is one case where a queen's wish is hardly a command. brian? >> kate snow in london, thank you. i'm told that piece of paper by the way was the cricket score the prime minister had requested.
that's our broadcast for this friday night and for this week. thank you for being with us. i'm brian williams. harry smith will be with you tomorrow night while lester holt enjoys a rare saturday night off. we hope to see you back here on monday night. good night. have a nbc bay area news starts now. good evening, and thanks for joining us on this friday, i'm raj mathai. >> developing news on the asiana flight. the coroner confirm thad a fire truck ran over and killed one of the young victims at the crash. this happened in the first moments when the fire crew was rushing onto the runway. we're live with how the family is doling with, and firefighters as well. >> reporter: that's right. a lot of people having to deal with this tragedy. there are about 100 firefighters
stationed here at sfo who are specially trained to deal with incidents on the tarmac. they are combing through everything that happened that saturday. >> there was a lot of debris. >> reporter: by the sometime san francisco fair fighters arrived and people were desperately trying to evacuate the boeing triple 7 that had caught fire. >> it was a very dangerous, volatile situation. >> reporter: more than 250 firefight earns responded running into the plane to try to save people, while others fought the flames, many of them using this specialized rig used to spray form. today we learned it was this kind of vehicle that ran over one. victims. >> everything is under review. >> reporter: san francisco police say the girl was found in the tracks of the vehicle after it moved in an area covered with foam