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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  September 21, 2015 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT

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and it's still uncomfortably hot. >> think there's a pool in the house? >> jeff can be the inspections. >> lester holt joins us next. tonight, breaking news. scott walker suddenly dropping out of the race as outsiders like ben carson surge in the polls. so carson faces controversy tonight, doubling down on his comment about muslims. >> and protecting the pope and millions of americans who flock to see him, and unprecedented security prep on the eve of his historic visit. s.w.a.t. teams and snipers by the ready land, sea and air. homes in ashes. crews go all out to attack a new fire in california after battling one of the most destructive in state history. nearly 1800 buildings up in flames. and deadly gamble. an alarming rise in crashes from drivers trying to beat trains at crossings. you won't believe how many people our cameras caught tempting fate. "nightly news" begins right now.
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good evening. we begin with a story that broke late today in the race for president as the crowded republican field suddenly just got smaller. this afternoon wisconsin governor scott walker announced he is throwing in the towel and dropping out of the race. the early exit by a man once seen as a formidable contender for the nomination, underscores once again how much of the course of this race has defied the pundits at every turn. peter alexander has late details. >> i will suspend my campaign immediately. >> this evening's announcement punctuated a dramatic and humiliated fall for scott walker who hoped his departure would stop donald trump. >> i encourage other presidential candidates to consider doing the same. >> but popular wisconsin governor concluding he no longer has a path to the republican nomination. as recently as mid-july, he led
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the polls in iowa. last week pinning his hopes on the neighboring state. >> we're putting all of our eggs in a basket for iowa. we're committed to iowa. >> but he dropped to is% in t% >> but he dropped to is% in t%1 recent national poll. the harley-riding 47-year-old has been touted as a strong republican leader made for the national stage. with a personal biography and conservator and evangelical roots to make him a contender. but his campaign was hampered by repeated missteps. early on comparing his battle to islamic militants. >> if i can take on protesters, i can do the same with the rest of the world. >> suggesting openness for a wall near the canadian border. and flip flopping on birthright citizenship. >> people are very, very impressed. >> scott walker is the first victim of donald trump. >> and while walker didn't
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endorse anyone there are indications who might benefit. marco rubio's campaign announced one of his top staffers in new hampshire joined their team. the other potential beneficiary, another conservative, ted cruz. >> and well so-called establishment candidates have watched the poll numbers slide, outsiders like donald trump and carly fiorina continues to surge ahead. for carson, much of the scrutiny focused on something he said about muslims yesterday on "meet the press." controversial remarks he is standing by today. nbc's hallie jackson has that for us. >> tonight ben carson insists he will not apologize. >> i don't care what a person's religious background is, if, in fact, they believe in our constitution and our american values, i would support them. >> top muslim american advocates now calling on carson to drop out of the republican race after this response on "meet the press" about whether a president's faith should matter to voters.
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>> if it fits within the realm of america and consistent with the constitution, i have no problem. >> so do you believe that islam is consistent with the constitution? >> no, i do not. i would not advocate that we put a muslim in charge of this nation. i absolutely would not agree with that. >> i wouldn't advocate for -- i hate to say this -- i wouldn't advocate for hillary clinton to be president. does that make me anti-women? >> what he said, it was not right. it was wrong. and hurtful. and america is better than that. >> not long ago, some people thought that a catholic cannot be a president. and an african-american cannot be a president. they were wrong then and they are wrong now. >> reporter: the year before john f. kennedy was elected one in four americans said they wouldn't vote for a catholic to be president. nearly half said they wouldn't support a black candidate.
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50 years later the catholic pope set to meet with the first african-american president in the white house. today four in ten americans wouldn't support a muslim in the office. >> some people have said it already happened, frankly. but of course you wouldn't agree with that. >> reporter: the conversation about faith sparked by donald trump after he refused to denounce a man who called muslims a problem. >> i assumed he was talking about radical islam. it's an amazing problem, it is a big problem. >> they have denounced terror attacks carried out in the name of islam but they have not been able to shake the perception that has lingered since 9/11. >> the face of terror is not the true faith of islam. that's not what islam is all about. islam is peace. >> reporter: together trump and carson make up 30% to 40% of republican support. but carly fiorina is surging to second place since the last debate, appearing tonight on jimmy fallon.
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>> donald trump recently said that vladimir putin said he wants to meet with trump when he comes here. >> the two of them have a lot in common, actually. >> as for carson, he tells me he would be happy to meet with the group calling on him to step down. a representative from the organization said carson is simply wrong, that islam is inconsistent with the constitution. >> hallie jackson, thank you. another major story tonight, in washington, d.c., new york and philadelphia, are bracing for what is being called an unprecedented security event as pope francis arrives in the u.s. tomorrow. he is currently taking part in a historic visit to cuba. our team is there and we'll show you that in a moment. but first nbc's stephanie gosk on the massive undertaking here in america to protect the pope. >> reporter: on the east river in new york city, the nypd shows off the newest boat. >> the cabin itself is bullet resistant. >> reporter: just a small part
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of the unprecedented security operation for the pope's five-day visit to the united states. three cities, washington, d.c., new york and philadelphia. 16 events and multiple processions open to the public. crowds at times over a million. >> the numbers coming to philadelphia could far exceed anything else that we've had in the city in modern times. >> reporter: each city will have thousands of law enforcement, snipers, s.w.a.t. teams and police helicopters. >> the entire fleet will be in the air and the ground goes into lockdown. the streets, the rivers and of course the air space as well. along with the pope, new york city is also hosting the u.n. general assembly. 170 world leaders. >> and on top of it all, by the way, the president is coming. >> the pope's visit is so large and complicated, the secret service is in charge. among the challenges his desire to meet the faithful. >> people get excited and they
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want to touch the pope and be around the pope but we have to be concerned that we can get out of me environmenta environmenty >> reporter: in cuba, authorities arrested three political dissidents who tried to approach the pope. in the u.s., the big concern is small scale attacks inspired by isis. a pennsylvania police bulletin issued last week warned that terrorists may try to impersonate first responders but there is no specific mention of the papal visit. >> as we stand here on the bridge of the ship right now, there is no credible specific threat. >> reporter: officials say the key to success is the right balance between security and access. a familiar high wire act, but this time on a historic scale. stephanie gosk, nbc news, new york. >> as we noted, the pope will arrive tomorrow. and on the heels of the huge reception in cuba, nbc's anne thompson has that story from santiago decuba. >> reporter: under an unforgiving sun, a hero's welcome for pope francis in his limousine. this is the cuba agricultural
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heart and today it is the spiritual center. >> i'm in love. i'm in love with this person. >> reporter: for many cubans, pope francis is a not just improving their soul but their very lives. this woman came to thank the pope for his role in bringing cuba and the u.s. closer together. >> papal francisco is a great man. >> reporter: at mass, with cuba's president raul castro sitting nearby, the pope acknowledged the church's struggles here. less than 20 years ago, repressed by the government, catholic soup kitchens ran in secret. today they operate freely as change slowly comes to this island nation. though the vatican is often perceived as the institution of no. this pope says yes. emphasizing the positive, embracing people and eager to be among his flock. but some wonder if his criticism of capitalism means that message could change on u.s. soil.
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>> for most of the country's history, u.s. catholics were chasing the american dream to try to be successful. so they hear the message differently when they have reached the top of the economic ladder. >> reporter: tomorrow the pope heads north where everyone is excited to see the man who simply by being himself has changed the image of the catholic church. anne thompson, nbc news, cuba. back in this country, wildfires burning in california have reached historic proportions as crews this evening are battling several blazes across the state with more homes going up in flames. total damage among the most devastating california has ever seen. nbc news national correspondent miguel almaguer has the report. >> reporter: within hours of the first flames, ten homes were gone. the latest wildfire to explode in northern california, quickly forced thousands to evacuate just outside of monterey. >> it is kind of just leave. i mean, you are not prepared for
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that. >> reporter: in napa county, few were prepared for this. >> i wish it was a dream. i really do. i don't want it to be like this. >> reporter: today, the count nearly 1800 structures in middletown, more than a thousand homes are gone. the third most destructive wildfire in california history. entire neighborhoods were incinerated here. fierce flames jumping from ridge to ridge. when the fire crowns in these trees, the immediate concern isn't necessarily the blaze, it is the embers. they can float in the air for miles. and they aren't just taking homes. now the death toll is on the rise. >> our biggest concern is because of the far -- the fire behavior is so erratic, just making sure everybody is safe. >> reporter: in the last two weeks, at least six have been killed. unable to get out. tonight historic losses being measured in more ways than one, with this dire forecast. the worst may still be to come.
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miguel almaguer, nbc news, los angeles. now to judgment day for the man at the center of a deadly outbreak that triggered the -- one of the largest food recalls in american history. nine people were killed and hundreds more sickened by tainted peanut butter and today a judge threw the book at a former peanut butter executive. our justice correspondent pete williams reports. >> reporter: the man behind one of the worst cases of food contamination ever told victims in a georgia courtroom that he is truly sorry for the 2009 outbreak of food poisoning that sickened more than 700 people and was blamed for nine deaths. this family said their son chris was hospitalized. >> it was agonizing. it was scary. >> stewart parnell, former owner of the peanut corporation of america was convicted a year ago in the first criminal trial in a food poisoning case from
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southwest georgia plant that they knew was contaminated. faking lab tests failed to test for salmonella. and safety inspectors found a leaky roof and insects and rodents at the plant. today parnell told victims gathered for his sentencing, i think about you guys every day. jeff came from minnesota to describe how his 72-year-old mother, a cancer survivor, died after eating contaminated peanut butter. you took my mom, he told parnell. you kicked her right off the cliff. 10-year-old jacob hurley was violently sick at age three from the tainted food. >> i think it is okay for him to spend of the rest of his life in prison. later today he was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison, the harshest penalty ever in the case of food contamination. pete williams, nbc news, washington. still ahead, tonight on a collision course, drivers pressing their luck at railroad crossings trying to beat trains bearing down on them.
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our cameras capturing so many gambling with their lives. >> and the father and son subjected to an act of cruelty seen around the world. and how their lives have changed dramatically since.
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we're back now with a striking look at something that has become a big problem across the country. drivers and pedestrians betting they can beat an oncoming train with tragic results. the number of train-vehicle accidents is on the rise with 269 motorists killed in 2014.
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and over 900 pedestrians killed or injured. a staggering statistic and nbc's tom costello went to see the problem first-hand. >> reporter: it happens once every three hours. >> there is an amtrak train that just went by us that we think has hit a car. >> reporter: last month, a 44-year-old florida man was killed when police say he drove around the crossing gates and into the path of an amtrak train. among the highest accident rates in the country, san diego. how often do you see somebody cutting right in front of you? >> it happens daily. >> daily? >> multiple times, every day. >> so we rode along with bnsf crews. >> he's going through -- one, two. >> as police went after drivers who ran the lights and went under the crossing arms and watch as we approach the intersection. 12 seconds before we cross, one car and then another cuts in
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front of the train. a few minutes later it happens again. down on the street, four more dodge the gates with police following close behind. >> license and registration. >> super dangerous, these trains can't stop. >> not quickly, a freight train traveling at 55 miles per hour can take the length of 18 football fields to stop. amazingly 25% of accidents occur when a vehicle hits the side of the train and very often the crew doesn't even feel it. >> engineer jeff plumly vividly remembers the first time his train hit a car full of people. >> someone decided to go around a gate one night, and drive head-on into my train. and i never will forget it. >> people died? >> yeah. >> on this day, officers wrote 172 tickets in just five hours. >> people are in such a hurry. >> reporter: pedestrians ticketed for ignoring the gates. the fine up to $450. but tomorrow in america the odds are someone else will die trying to beat the train.
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tom costello, nbc news, san diego. we're back in a moment with the explosion that leveled one home and damaged several others without warning.
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neighbors say it sounded like a bomb. this is the aftermath following the explosion in waxahatchee, texas, that blew the roof off of a home. at least five people were injured, two people were injured with burns. nine other surrounding properties were damaged. it happened at 8:00 this morning and investigators are still working to determine the cause. residents reported problems with gas lines. they have changed the way we use phones nd take photos and , listen to music and could apple change the way we drive. the company has its sights set on rolling out a electric car by 2019 with a project with the code name titan. almost 12 million people
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watched the emmy's last night but it is the smallest audience. game of thrones walked away with a record 12 wins, including best drama series and heap grabbev p best comedy. and viola davis was the first african-american to win best actress in a drama. >> the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. [ applause ] you cannot win an emmy for roles that are simply not there. >> also jon hamm finally won best actor for his role in mad men. and tracy morgan made his emotional first appearance on stage since suffering a traumatic brain injury in a crash last year. when we come back, a little boy who captured the hearts around the world, kicking off a fresh start in life with the help of a soccer superstar. a school employee accused of
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attacking an 8- year-old student. ===take vo=== in just the past hour, he spoke only to us about the accusations against him. ===jess/take vo=== plus: what these thieves did to stolen turtles - that some people are calling vicious. ===next close=== next. finally tonight, the whole world saw the disturbing pictures earlier this month of a syrian refugee running from hungarian police with his young son in his arms, falling to the
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ground after being deliberately tripped by a camera woman. but amid the outrage, a ray of hope. promise of a fresh start and a new life for the man and his son and their entire family. from spain, we get the story from nbc's jacob rascon. >> they were welcomed like celebrities. >> i love you. i love my dream. i love it here. >> for this man and his 7-year-old son, no longer refugees. among the millions of syrians who fled the war, making a long and difficult journey to hungary and then this -- the indignity seen around the world. >> how did you feel once she did that. >> i was very, very angry, because my child is crying, crying. >> zaid tells me with a smile, if i ever see that woman again, i want to fight her. miguel, director of madrid soccer academy had a different idea. >> in syria, osama was a professional coach.
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so the soccer academy in spain offered him a job, no resume and no interview. the only thing he has to do is learn spanish. >> how is your spanish? >> spanish is -- >> lessons start this week. but when it comes to soccer, zaid is already fluent. he was even invited on to the field with worldwide soccer superstar cristiano ronaldo. the academy also gave the man an apartment and we were there when he learned the entire family, including his wife and children still in turkey, can apply for asylum in spain. >> thank you. very, very nice people here. very nice. i cannot -- that is proof. >> the father and son who became symbols of the humanitarian crisis promised a new life. jacob rascon, nbc news, madrid.
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>> a great outcome to what was a horrible story. that will do it for us on this monday night. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, thank you for watching and good night. molesting an 8 year gi right now at 6:00, an assistant at a south bay charter school accused of molesting an 8-year-old girl within the past hour. an exclusive jailhouse interview with the suspect. good evening and thanks for being with us on this monday. i'm raj maathai. >> and i'm jessica aguirre. it's a story you'll see only here on bay area. a candid interview from inside the santa clara county jay. 18-year-old van than chiao was taken into custody six days ago and tonight what he says he wants the public to know about those accusations.
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rob honda is live at the jail in san jose and, robert, what else did he have to say? >> reporter: well, we are here at elmwood and met a very subdued and very polite young man here at the minimum secure facility. jonathan chiao made it clear he did not want to interfere with his court case so as we started talking by phone and through the glass he declined to comment on any specific alleged actions but did talk about not wanting people to rush to judgment and says he has tried to communicate with the alleged victim. >> i want people not to make judgments before the trial. >> you want to say something or anything to the 8-year-old that has been linked in this case to you? >> everything needs to be said is already said. >> reporter: can you without giving too many details away, can you tell us what the message was or what the essence of the message was to her? >> i think she deserves a break from the media right now because it is


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