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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  January 21, 2016 5:30pm-6:01pm PST

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>> when you say tiffany and a blue box i get excited. >> thanks for joining us here at 5:00. lester holt is next with "nightly news." >> bye, folks. states of emergency tonight. a blockbuster blizzard set to unleash its fury on 88 million people. feet of snow and a wild mix of ice and tornados, a winter weather nightmare is here. on the attack. 11 days to iowa. hillary clinton unloads on bernie sanders. a moment of panic for the gop establishment facing the proposition of trump or cruz, which one they're getting behind. sounding the alarm. an embattled governor asked to appear before congress as e-mails reveal a trail of dis missed warnings to stop the water crisis that poisoned an american city. a new twist in a deadly spy thriller. a former russian agent killed by polonium in his tea. allegations point the
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finger at putin. "nightly news" begins right now. tens of millions are bracing for what forecasters fear will be a historic snowstorm that could paralyze the eastern third of the country. winter weather advisories and warnings are posted from arkansas to the northeast for a storm that by tomorrow at this time will bring brutal winds, whiteout conditions and two feet of snow along parts of the east coast. air travel disruptions could ripple across the entire country. expected to get the worst of it, washington, d.c., where tonight folks have fresh reason to question whether the city is ready. al roker has the latest tracking and snow predictions. first nbc's miguel almaguer in the bull's-eye. >> reporter: tonight after snow and sleet move through tennessee, preparations for the northeast for a monster storm set to blast 80 million. >> i think it's going to be bad.
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i think it's going to be a big storm. >> reporter: 36 hours of blinding snow, ice, flooding and power outages. >> hunker down. we are not going anywhere. >> reporter: the bullseye friday, washington, d.c. just last night it turned ugly here, a dusting brought the nation's capital to its knees. >> if this is what a single inch does, how can we handle a blizzard? >> reporter: 20-minute commutes took up to five hours. some abandoned their cars. the president's motorcade slipping and sliding. d.c.'s mayor under fire for being underprepared. >> we are very sorry for inadequate response. we believe that we did not provide adequate resources. >> reporter: now they're expecting two feet of snow. >> how bad do you think it's going to be? >> for this area? we shut down for half an inch of snow so it's going to be bad. >> reporter: with five states, d.c. and several counties in
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georgia under a state of emergency, more than 1,000 flights are already canceled. in washington, rail and bus service suspended this weekend. worries gas will run short, food is flying off the shelves. shovels and snow salt hard to come by. >> i've never seen the line this long. >> reporter: maryland's governor issued a warning, stock pile food. >> not just to last for the weekend, but enough to last up to an entire week. >> reporter: from north carolina to the jersey shore, high tides and strong winds, dangerous combination for an area hit hard by superstorm sandy. >> we are planning for the worst, hoping for the best. >> reporter: tonight, a scramble to prepare, a race against time. tonight it is cold but dry outside of washington, d.c. i want to show you a live picture from our helicopter outside along the beltway. there is a lot of traffic. it's a nightmare again. hopefully in 24 hours it will be a different scene and there will
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be less vehicles, but plenty of snow on the ground. meantime, we are at a salt barn, the largest one east of the mississippi. they have already taken tons of salt outside this facility. over the next 48 hours, they are going to need every inch of it. >> miguel, thank you. al roker is here tracking the storm. >> reporter: a swath of snow that will stretch 1,200 miles from northern arkansas and louisiana all the way into new england. let's show you where we expect to see the snow. the big bull's-eye around the washington, d.c. area. we are talking about 18-24 inches. western parts of the region could see three feet. blizzard watches, the snow begins around rush hour. we look at philadelphia. we are going to see anywhere from 12-18 inches, 10-16 inches of snow, heavy wet snow and gusty winds. new york city, we lowered the amounts looking for about 5-8 inches of snow. the other big problem is going to be icing. we are talking about anywhere from 0.1 inch to 1/2 inch. power outages likely from washington to
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charlotte. there is a severe side, tornado watches and warnings in effect. that will move east into florida by tomorrow. a wide-ranging storm. >> al, thank you. this monster storm comes in the middle of the most powerful el nino on record. that is no coincidence. the weather phenomenon is fueling this wild and unpredictable season including this system, blizzard conditions, ice and tornado warnings from the same storm deep into the south. nbc's gabe gutierrez has that part of the story. >> reporter: tonight already on the move, a caravan of power crews headed to north carolina. >> the biggest impact here in charlotte with power outages with 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of ice. >> reporter: where they are bracing not just for snow and sleet but crippling ice. >> our goal with this potential winter storm coming to north carolina is to be overprepared and hopefully
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underwhelmed. >> reporter: the savage storm comes from what some are calling a godzilla el nino. the weather phenomenon brought on by warm pacific waters could be fueled by a strong dip in the jet stream funneling low pressure systems across the gulf. it's been one extreme after another. in south carolina, historic flooding in october. >> it doesn't feel like the holidays without being cold. >> reporter: new york, record high temperatures in december. around christmas, tornados in texas. then florida. and colossal rains in california that could help pull the state out of a devastating drought. >> what el nino does is disrupts in a major way the normal weather patterns around the earth. >> reporter: tonight, cities like charlotte are preparing for the worst. >> we are taking every precaution to make sure our roads are ready for the storm itself and crews are ready to respond
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afterwards. >> reporter: amid the strongest el nino in memory. the big concern is icing on these roads here in charlotte. the freezing rain is set to begin in just a few hours, lester. >> gabe, thank you. let's turn to the battle for the white house. hillary clinton firing off her most direct attacks yet at bernie sanders as their race grows increasingly tight. on the gop side, donald trump remains the front-runner with fellow outsider ted cruz now being targeted by many within his own party. we are covering both races beginning with nbc's andrea mitchell in des moines. >> reporter: good evening, lester. with that race getting tighter on the democratic side. hillary clinton went after bernie sanders with her toughest attacks yet. a small private college in iowa, clinton hammered bernie sanders, claiming he can't deliver on his promises. >> i'll tell you, i'm not interested in ideas that sound good on paper but will never make it in the real world. >> reporter: sanders responded to nbc's kasie hunt. >> virtually every plan we have brought forth is supported by the american people.
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>> reporter: clinton delivering sharp jabs from a teleprompter, unusual for the informal setting, also betrayed sanders as naive on foreign policy, especially iran. >> he suggested we invite iranian troops into syria. that is like asking the arsonist to be the firefighter. >> reporter: touting her own experience after 9/11 and as secretary of state in a new tv ad. >> the one candidate who has everything it takes. >> reporter: the ad iowa is buzzing about is from sanders, using powerful images set to simon and garfunkel's anthem "america." aimed at inspiring the students who have been flocking to sanders' rallies. this sophomore attended events for both candidates several times. >> my vision for the future of america is what bernie sanders wants to have happen here. but i believe that there are things leading up to that vision that need to take place and hillary can help construct that vision.
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>> reporter: it's your head versus your heart? >> it is. >> reporter: here democratic caucus goers are liberal. 43% describing themselves as socialists. last time clinton finished third in iowa. she is fighting to avoid another upset to a candidate iowans may find more inspirational. andrea mitchell, des moines. >> donald trump or ted cruz? for some it's a killer choice. >> you get the same outcome. whether it's death by being shot or poison, does it really matter? >> reporter: senator lindsey graham one of cruz' congressional colleagues rooting against them. cruz seems to love the hate. >> if you think what we need is more republicans in washington to cut a deal with harry reid and nancy pelosi and chuck schumer, then i guess donald trump's your guy. >> reporter: cruz
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taking aim at trump though firing on the front-runner hasn't worked for others so far. >> his new line of attack is i've become establishment. give me a break. >> reporter: trump arguing he has the washington support cruz doesn't. >> they like me those guys. there is nothing wrong with that. we've got to make deals. we don't want to sign executive orders. we want to make deals. >> reporter: the washington establishment would rather have a wild card that wants to get something done than someone they know and don't like. >> reporter: while bob dole is calling a cruz victory cataclysmic for the party, cruz's campaign said it raised $700,000 this week after iowa's governor gave an anti-endorsement. >> i believe it would be a big mistake for iowa to support him. >> reporter: compared to trump, cruz has a stronger overall favorability rating, performing better with african-americans, latinos and women. >> if it's between trump and cruz, what does the establishment do? >> they are going to
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have to go with cruz. >> reporter: why? >> probably the lesser of two evils. >> reporter: hallie jackson, nbc news. manchester, new hampshire. there's breaking news on t toxic water crisis in flint, michigan. the epa for the region resigned and the agency issued an emergency order requiring the state to take immediate action to protect the public health. democrats in congress want the republican governor to appear on capitol hill. nbc's stephanie gosk has late details. >> reporter: the children come into this ymca like every kid in flint who drank the water will have to be monitored their entire childhood for possible lead exposure. >> some of the long-term effects it's going to have is ridiculous. >> reporter: their parents reacted to 274 pages of documents about the crisis, voluntarily released by michigan governor rick snyder. the documents lay out
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a timeline of warnings that were dismissed. the state agency that ensures clean drinking water spent months denying the lead contamination until october. in an e-mail, the director wrote, i believe now we made a mistake. corrosion control should have been required from the beginning. corrosion control treats the water, preventing lead from leeching into the system. six months before on april 25th, epa manager wrote, "flint has essentially not been using any corrosion control treatment." june 24th, sounds the alarm again. "recent drinking water sample results indicate the presence of high lead." no action was taken as state water officials continued to insist the water was safe. even after multiple independent studies proved otherwise. in december, a letter from the task force set up by the governor described the response as aggressive dismissal, belittlement and
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attempts to discredit these efforts with a persistent tone of scorn and derision. the head of that agency and his spokesperson resigned. the document released and governor's apologies are not enough for many who line up every day for handouts like this one. stephanie gosk, nbc news. to a controversy we've been following in hollywood. don't count on seeing superstar will smith at the oscars next month. the actor is joining his wife jada pinkett smith boycotting the show, criticizing the lack of diversity among this year's nominees. the backlash has the academy considering a major rewrite to its rules. >> if you continue to deny my work. >> reporter: will smith co-starring in his wife jada's call to boycott the oscars. >> at this current time, we're uncomfortable to stand there and say that this is okay. >> reporter: former academy president says the academy gets a bad
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rap. >> as president, i worked very hard to bring more diversity into the academy. i'm very proud of the fact we did. >> reporter: but the backlash may prove too loud to ignore. we need to do more and better and more quickly, says the first black president. >> they have to do something dramatic. this is not a time for cautious baby steps. >> tim gray, awards editor for "variety" magazine, says the academy will increase best picture nominations to a mandatory ten. if that were the case this year, many believe "straight out of compton" would have been included. the academy is also considering expanding the acting category to more than five nominations and creating new membership rules. currently, academy membership is for life. >> it is not really a democracy, it is more like an elite organization. >> reporter: the nominees in hollywood aren't diverse because the academy itself isn't diverse. a 2013 study found 93%
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of voters are white, 76% are male with an average age of 63. some blame the studios. >> the studios are overwhelmingly caucasian and male. they're the ones that green light movies. >> reporter: perhaps the spotlight is misdirected. morgan radford, nbc news, los angeles. there's a lot more to tell you about tonight. who killed a former russian spy? a poison plot that sounds right out of a cold war thriller. now a new investigation concludes the approval to kill likely came from vladimir putin himself. also the astonishing viral video of a snowboarder trapped in an avalanche who lived to tell the tale. he may have other troubles. to dig himself out from. to dig himself out from.
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there is a new twist in a real-life spy mystery that has remained unresolved for nearly a decade. a former russian spy who fled his country only to be fatally poisoned years later. as bill neely tells us, a new investigation concludes what many suspected, that the deadly plot likely went all the way to the top of the kremlin. >> reporter: on his deathbed, alexander litvinenko, a former russian spy blamed vladimir putin for his murder. today a british judge said putin probably approved the hit, naming two russians as the killers. andre lugovi sent to london with polonium, a radioactive liquid
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from a nuclear health care -- reactor, and dmitri koutun who went with him. he defected to british intelligence and made enemies. russian special forces used his image as target practice. the london assassins poisoned him by pouring polonium into his green tea. >> the conclusion that the russian state was probably involved in the murder of mr. litvinenko is deeply disturbing. >> reporter: russia trashed the report as a political smear. >> it's unacceptable that the report concludes that the russian state was in any way involved in the death of mr. litvinenko. >> reporter: lugovi denied murder today as he did last year. what happened in this hotel may have been state-sponsored murder, but this is a case that almost certainly ends here with no one ever likely to be brought to trial for litvinenko's slow death. his widow said putin
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is guilty of nuclear terrorism. it's quite a spy story, murder with a nuclear weapon that's gone unpunished. bill neely, nbc news, london. we are back in a moment with why pro football's newest coach is making nfl history.
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a new record involving air travel and it involves a lot of americans packing. the tsa says it sees more guns last year than ever before. over 2,600 of them, an average of seven guns per day found in carry-ons. the most guns were found in airports in dallas, atlanta, houston, denver and phoenix. the buffalo bills just brought on the first full-time female coach in nfl history. kathryn smith will serve as the special teams quality control coach. prior to this, she worked at administrative assistant to rex ryan who said today he is excited and proud for her. a jaw-dropping piece of video making the rounds captured terrifying moments for a snowboarder caught
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in an avalanche. the falling wall of snow sweeps him down the mountain partially burying him. luckily he was able to find his way to the surface. the resort is seeking criminal charges saying he triggered the avalanche himself in an area closed to the public. when we come back, they met as strangers. then a life-saving gift made them much more. a
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a. skyrocketing hotel prices for
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the super bowl. =jess/vo= how the huge bill for out-of- towners is a big win for the south bay. =raj/vo= plus, the man accused of attacking an uber driver -- says
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he -- not the driver -- deserves money -- from a lawsuit. =next close= next. finally tonight, an incredible story about someone who gave the gift of life to a total stranger through an organ donation. that's not where this story ends. in fact, as joe fryar tells us, with these two, it was just the beginning. >> reporter: heather's glowing smile did a good job masking the pain caused by her failing liver. >> basically, time was my enemy. >> reporter: desperate for a living donor, heather's family spread the word. a medical hail mary that landed in the break room of her cousin's work place where chris dempsey overheard a conversation and decided he could help. >> it's a scary thing to go through, but it's one of the greatest feelings in the world to help somebody like that. >> i couldn't believe.
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i just said, thank you. what do you say to someone that just is saving your life? >> reporter: the transplant took place march 16, 2015. chris gave heather 55% of his liver. shortly after that, all of his heart. >> after we got out of the hospital, we made it official that she was going to be my girlfriend. >> reporter: turns out some time between the first time they met and the surgery, chris and heather discovered they were a match in more ways than one. >> everything was about me and he was so concerned about me. wow, i just met him. just how sweet he was. i was thinking, this could work. >> reporter: last month, chris had one more thing to give heather, an engagement ring. needless to say his future in-laws were already impressed. >> you will not get a better man out there. >> reporter: today heather is healthy and chris' liver totally regenerated as they share their story about organ donation, a gift of life, and for heather, someone to spend that life
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with. joe fryar, nbc news. quite a love story. that's going to do it for us on a thursday night. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, thank you for watching and good night. expecting chaos and not anywhere as quickly." outcue: as quickly trt:05 ==jess /vo== a madhouse about to unfold -- as the super bowl moves into the bay area. we're breaking down the potential headache spots -- so you know how to navigate around town . plus -- the exorbitant amount of money some are willing to pay, just to join the party. ====short open=== ===jess/2-shot=== thanks for joining us. i'm jessica aguirre. . plus the exorbitant amount of money some of willing to play just to join that party. >> we're going to get to that story in just a moment. first we want to start with breaking news pap tour bus
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driver now charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter after the deadly crash over the weekend. investigators say the law prohibits tour bus drivers to also act as a narrator of that tour. zw >> the driver was behind the wheel of a bus that hit and killed a man. the driver did cooperate in the investigation, which closed down the intersection for hours. >> also getting red ady for the super bowl. three things woo no for sure, a lot of hype, sky high traffic. we start with chuck with some. traffic headaches. >> a lot of people told. he they're going to call in and work fro home during the super bowl week. it may be


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