tv NBC Nightly News NBC December 23, 2014 6:30pm-7:01pm EST
gusts over 40 miles an hour. >> from all of us here, the news continues with nbc "nightly news" with brian williams. on our broadcast tonight, outbreak. violent storms making news on this eve of christmas eve. confirmed tornadoes on the ground, damaging homes, knocking out power. tonight, widespread delays for air travelers already. the reversal. sony changes its mind. they will release the movie tonight. where it will play and how many will be able to see it. guns on planes. airport workers caught on camera smuggling weapons on to commercial flights inside the passenger cabin. tonight the loophole that allows them to bypass security. record surge. a big breakthrough for the american economy now growing faster than we've seen in over a decade. and making a difference. on board what they call the snowball express for an unforgettable christmas vacation. "nightly news" begins now.
>> announcer: from nbc news world headquarters in new york, this is "nbc nightly news" with brian williams. good evening. and on this eve of christmas eve, the weather is making news with so many americans on the move. because of this, the mass of weather east of the rockies to the eastern seaboard, it's going to be a mess for so many. and as of tonight it's turned violent. we've had twisters on the ground with watches and warnings in place through 11:00 p.m. tonight. there's a lot to this system, and it's going to affect well over half the nation's population before it's out of here after christmas. it's already impacted air travel. there are reports of fatalities as a result of these tornadoes. we begin tonight with nbc's tom costello. >> reporter: it was a rare december tornado touching down in southern mississippi, moving right through the town of columbia, knocking out power to thousands, flipping over vehicles and damaging dozens of
homes and businesses. >> we had reports of debris falling out of the sky. >> reporter: this weather chaser is there. >> the trees were all completely snapped. buildings completely destroyed. ambulances flipped on top of another car. >> reporter: tonight the marion county general hospital is without power and transferring patients to other hospitals. all part of a massive weather system that brought tornadoes to louisiana and torrential rains to tallahassee. the delays have been building all day. the flight aware misery map showing the eastern and southern cities with the most red. the same airports expected to get even worse as a bigger storm moves in tomorrow. >> our dallas flight's delayed, so i think we might be in danger of missing our connection to palm springs. >> reporter: at new york's laguardia airport, an aircraft fender bender only complicated a foggy wet day. the wing tip of a southwest 737 torn off after hitting the tail of an american 737. no injuries. while in chicago, a winter storm
watch starts tomorrow. >> you just get on the plane and you just hope that you land where you're supposed to be going. >> reporter: it was only a few weeks ago when a tsa staffing foul-up led to impossibly long security lines at midway airport. today the tsa chief promised he's fixed that problem. >> it was a mistake that was made. i have high confidence that that will not be repeated anyplace across the 450 airports where tsa provides security. >> reporter: but this week it's the weather that seems determined to slow down travelers. already today we've had more than 4700 delays, but tomorrow's going to be the big problem day. every major hub in the east and the south likely to be affected. christmas eve travel could be really difficult. >> tom costello at dca, washington national airport, a busy place tonight. tom, thanks. there's a lot to this weather system. and for the damage it's already done it has a lot of ground to cover as christmas day neers. dylan dreyer is out on rockefeller plaza tonight.
>> reporter: good evening, brian. it is going to be a very busy night down south with several tornadoes that have already been reported. the tornado watch is in effect until 11:00 tonight. tomorrow we're going to see the severe threat of storms spread from florida up into south carolina where we could again see isolated tornadoes and damaging wind gusts. all up and down i-95 tomorrow we are going to see off and on heavy rain from the south extending all the way up into new england and on the backside of this storm we're expecting about 3 to 6 inches of snow in chicago. so who gets the white christmas? definitely in and around the great lakes because of this storm, we have white on the ground already because of an earlier storm this week back in the rockies, and across northern new england on the backside of this storm as it pulls away late in the day on christmas, there could be just enough flakes for folks to peek out the window and say, hey, look, it's snowing on christmas. >> dylan dreyer with some of her closest friends on the plaza. sony pictures has changed
its mind. it will release the film that has caused so much trouble. it will be shown on screens where theater operators are willing and able to show it. while sony remains under this electronic attack believed to be commissioned by north korea. we get our report tonight from hallie jackson in los angeles. >> reporter: it's a twist that has hollywood applauding. "the interview" back on theater marquees. some screenings sold out in an hour. >> i was looking for a blu-ray copy. >> i was going to stand up for free speech as well as for creativity. >> hello north korea! >> reporter: sony announced it will release "the interview" on christmas day to small independent theaters like the historic plaza in atlanta. >> i don't thing anybody in this country wants to be told what we can see and what we can't see. >> reporter: it's a dramatic about-face for sony. last week the studio pulled the controversial comedy which features a fake plot to kill the north korean leader after larger chains refused to screen it. sony's decision appeared to end
the cyber attack against it, a hack the u.s. government pinned on north korea which denies the accusation. sony ceo says we are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free peach. a rebuttal to the critics who implied sony caved to north korea. >> yes, i think they made a mistake. >> reporter: now, the white house says the president is pleased with the release of "the interview" because it allows people to make their own choices about the film. the movie's co-stars are celebrating that choice. james franco posting, victory. the people and the president have spoken. seth rogen tweeting, freedom has prevailed. sony didn't give up. >> it has become such a lightning rod and a free speech issue that there was a whole class of people that wanted to be able to pay to see this movie. >> reporter: sony may still stream the film on video on demand even though a message threatened to retaliate if that happens. a town that thrives on drama now
bracing for more. while many critics who have seen the movie mostly panned it, insiders expect theaters to be packed inside with people watching this film out of principle. it's estimated 300 cinemas could screen it on thursday. one theater owner called it the best christmas gift anyone could give. >> hallie jackson at the foot of the hollywood sign for us live tonight. thanks. with so many people in the air right now and about to flight, we are learning tonight about a stunning breach in security at the airport. a baggage handler for delta airlines has been arrested and charged with helping to smuggle guns including an ak-47, into the passenger cabins of commercial flights. prosecutors are calling this truly frightening and, quote, a wake-up call for our nation. a report tonight from our justice correspondent pete williams. >> reporter: police in new york say surveillance video shows this man walking off a flight at jfk airport two weeks ago with 16 handguns in his backpack.
guns he carried on board a delta airlines flight in his carry-on. and they say he's been doing it undetected for five years, smuggling guns into new york city where they're hard to buy. >> i hope that this is a wake-up call for the nation because we avoided a potential disaster here. >> reporter: police say the gun runner, mark henry, bought guns online in atlanta and gave them to eugene harvey, a delta airlines baggage handler in atlanta. investigators say harvey took the guns to work, getting into the delta employee parking area with his airport security badge. on december 10th, henry was seen going through tsa screening in atlanta with a mostly empty backpack. police say the two later met in this airport restroom where harvey handed over the guns he sneaked in and henry boarded a flight with the guns in his backpack. most u.s. airports have the same security arrangement atlanta does. airport employees undergo a background check to get a security badge but are not screened when they enter the terminal.
security experts say imposing such a requirement is not realistic. >> you'll have to hire tens of thousands more tsa personnel and you'll have to buy tons of equipment. you're going to have to redesign the flow of an airport just for that to happen. >> reporter: tonight a homeland security official says procedures are being reviewed to see if changes are in order. pete williams, nbc news, washington. we received word late tonight vice president joe biden will indeed attend the funeral this weekend for one of the two new york city police officers murdered on saturday. this evening, landmarks all along the skyline of new york, including rockefeller center, the christmas tree, will dim their lights for a few minutes in memory of the officers. while tension persists in the streets below. we get our report tonight from nbc's stephanie gosk. >> they believed in making this city better. >> reporter: today new york city stopped at 2:47 to mark the moment officers wenjian liu and rafael ramos were gunned down.
>> we're torn right now, broken and we don't know. >> reporter: officer's liu's tearful widow thanked supporters. >> this is a difficult time for both of our families. >> reporter: mayor bill de blasio calls for an end to protests over police tactics until after the funerals are held. law enforcement officials link those protests to saturday's rampage. detectives say 28-year-old suspect ismaaiyl brinsley had video on his cell phone of this december 1st demonstration against police. new york's police commissioner with matt lauer. >> quite obvious that he was targeting these two police officers was a direct spin-off of this issue of these demonstrations. >> reporter: but brinsley also had a long criminal record and a history of mental illness. before he killed the officers and himself, he first shot his ex-girlfriend. protest organizers say they are not to blame and tonight they're back on the streets.
this man helped organize the demonstration. >> to stop now would only feed into their narrative that these protests have contributed to some sort of climate of violence or chaos, which we believe is untrue. >> reporter: what is undeniably try is that two officers died senselessly. and the city is left wondering how to keep it from happening again. stephanie gosk, nbc news, new york. this was a big day for the american economy. the dow went above 18000 for the first time ever and finishing there on strong economic news. the government reported the fastest third quarter growth in more than a decade. and it has risen largely on the shoulders of more confident american consumers. our report on this development tonight from nbc's john yang. >> reporter: at the crowded christmas market in downtown chicago, the miring family is an engine of economic growth. they're spending. >> usually i get my shopping
done, then i'm kind of done. i think i've been spending more the last few days because i keep buying. >> reporter: strong consumer spending is a big reason why the gdp report grew a robust 5% in the third quarter. also today the consumer confidence index hit an eight-year high. what's behind it? for one, the longest consecutive declining gas prices on record. it means an extra $1100 in the pocketbook of an average family of four. plus job growth. more than 2.6 million new jobs so far this year. on pace to be the best in 15 years. that's driving big ticket purchases like new cars. this year the best sales in eight years. on wall street today the dow powered to record heights. >> it really doesn't say anything about what the future could be. >> reporter: the gdp report could signal more lasting change. >> this number really demonstrates the economy is back on its feet and should be
running literally for the next year or two. >> reporter: it's all put shoppers in a holiday mood. >> i feel a little bit more in the spirit to go out and hit some sales. >> reporter: for the economy, that's the gift that keeps on giving. john yang, nbc news, chicago. still ahead on this tuesday evening, the power of prayer. our report about the physical benefits got a lot of viewers talking last night. tonight, the changes doctors say are actual visible in the brain during prayer. also, our "making a difference" report, an extraordinary christmas gathering and the army of volunteers who make it happen. at panera bread, our hearty all-natural turkey chili is back in season. slow-cooked with turkey raised without antibiotics, tart tomatillos, chilies, carrots, edamame and more. the savory spice of the chili pairs perfectly with the black bean hummus and the fresh crunch of napa cabbage blend in our southwestern chicken flatbread.
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as we mentioned before the break, there's been a lot of interest expressed in the report we aired here last night about the growing medical evidence behind the power of prayer. inspiring to so many especially give this time of year. tonight the skeptics get their say in the conclusion of our two-part series on this topic from nbc's cynthia mcfadden. >> reporter: does prayer heal? dr. andrew newberg says he's got proof it does. witness the brain on prayer. >> you can see it's almost all red here when the person is just at rest, but you see it turns into these yellow colors when she's actually doing prayer. >> reporter: dr. newberg injects a radioactive dye in his subjects to see what happens when they pray. he says each time something
fascinating takes place. so would you go so far as to say prayer can heal? >> absolutely it can heal. there are changes in different neurotransmitters, the chemicals in our brain, that help to release serotonin and dopamine in the brain which can help reduce pain. >> reporter: the book is part of the hundreds of studies in the past decades as the medical establishment takes a new look at religion's role in modern medicine. but not everyone is sold. >> the brain changes when you eat chocolate. >> reporter: critics like dr. richard sloan says while the brain does change during prayer, there is no proof that those changes create healing. >> the brain changes when anything happens. your brain is changing right now as you listen to me and my brain is changing as you ask me questions. there's nothing special about showing brain changes when people pray. >> reporter: dr. sloan is the author of "blind faith, the unholy alliance of religion and medicine." >> there's no doubt in anybody's mind that religious practices bring comfort to a great many
people. but they shouldn't practice religion because it's like some sort of a cosmic vending machine in which you deposit a coin and get a health benefit. they should practice religion because it resonates with them. >> as far as we know, it is not a cure for cancer, it is not going to cure somebody of heart disease. we can't tell people to pray in order to get better. that doesn't make sense. the reason it works is because it's part of the person's belief system. >> reporter: dr. newberg does hope his research will foster understanding about the mysteries of belief. cynthia mcfadden, nbc news, philadelphia. we're back in a moment with a big change at coca-cola. something a lot of people have been saying for years. dad,thank you mom for said this oftprotecting my future.you. thank you for being my hero and my dad. military families are uniquely thankful for many things, the legacy of usaa auto insurance could be one of them. if you're a current or former military member or their family, get an auto insurance quote
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ask your doctor about tamiflu and attack the flu virus at its source. after an exciting harrowing college football game last night, the miami beach bowl became one of the ugliest chapters in college football easily this season. brigham young and memphis got into a huge brawl after memphis won the game. some downright barbaric behavior
on both teams, swinging helmets, players got stomped, blindsided but a full arm sucker punch got the most attention. the incident prompted a lot of talk, especially in utah about byu's standards of faith and the sometimes violent world of ncaa division i football. one columnist headline today read, after brawl, byu football hardly a light to the world. both teams have apologized. this was bound to happen, but it's a big deal nonetheless. florida has surpassed new york as the third most populous state, leaving california and texas in the one and two positions. by the way, we're now a nation of 319 million people, give or take, and the u.s. population has doubled in just the past 60 years. speaking of calling your mother. this item reminded so many people of what so many kids tell their parents. coca-cola is telling its customers and employees, don't leave us a voice mail. send us a text instead.
it's all part of the explosion of smartphones, portable phone numbers and the slow painful death of land lines. voice mail has been summarily shut down at coke. it's intended, they say, to simplify work flow and increase productive. keurig is recalling 7 million of its counter-top coffee brewing machines. this one is the k-10 model called the mini plus. some people have been burned by hot liquid spraying out of this during brewing. these are in a lot of households. information on this model being recalled, we've had it posted on our website tonight, nbcnews.com. when we come back after a break, the profound connection a group of kids share as they come together to celebrate the holidays. you know, if you play football for a long time like i did, you're gonna learn to deal with alot of pain. but it is nothing like the pain that shingles causes. man when i got shingles it was something awful. it was like being blindsided by some linebacker.
you don't see it coming. boom! it was this painful rash of little blisters. red, ugly stuff. lots of 'em. not a good deal. if you've had chicken pox, uh-huh, we all remember chicken pox. well that shingles virus is already inside of you. it ain't pretty when it comes out. now i'm not telling you this so that you'll feel sorry for me. i'm just here to tell you that one out of three people are gonna end up getting shingles. i was one of 'em. take it from a guy who's had his fair share of pain. you don't want to be tackled by shingles. so please go talk to your doctor or pharmacist. talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your risk. it's more than the car.er. for lotus f1 team, the competitive edge is the cloud. powered by microsoft dynamics, azure, and office 365, the team can gain real time insights and instantly share information around the globe.
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or any allergic reactions like rash, hives, swelling of the lips, tongue or throat, or difficulty breathing or swallowing, stop taking cialis and get medical help right away. ask your doctor about cialis for daily use and a free 30-tablet trial. this can be the most wonderful time of the year, as andy williams famously called it, but when you're missing someone in your life, the holidays can turn into a tough time. that's where there is a place to go for the families of fallen members of our u.s. military, thanks to a group that's making a difference. we get their story tonight from nbc's janet shamlian in ft. worth, texas. >> merry christmas.
lookie here. >> reporter: you can't buy a ticket for this flight. or a dozen others like it. this is the snowball express. and it's just touched down in texas. >> we love the welcome every year. it's so much fun. >> reporter: every december, hundreds of children and mostly moms are invited for four days of holiday fun. they're the sons, daughters and spouses of fallen military heroes. >> it's bittersweet because you know why you're here. >> reporter: for jennifer stratton, it's been five years since she lost her husband mark in afghanistan. she comes here every year from virginia with her children who are now 7, 10 and 12. >> i get to know more and more of the widows. so you feel like you're coming home every time for christmas, which is very nice. >> reporter: as for volunteers, there's a cast of thousands. >> would you like a pork chop or hot dog? >> reporter: the most significant expression of support comes from the people of
ft. worth. >> merry christmas! >> reporter: moms and dads who load up their own children and wait by the side of the road to cheer on 50 bus loads of military families as they drive by. >> i'm here to tell them that we love them and we support them. >> reporter: it's a massive undertaking. the flight, the hotel rooms, the activities and the food is all donated. no one pays a dime. >> we're here for the kids. we want to remember what they sacrificed for us. >> reporter: for the parents, it's a shoulder to lean on. >> it's been 15 months, a long 15 months, but we're grateful to be here. >> reporter: but it's mostly all about fun. new memories in the making. >> one, two, three. >> reporter: janet shamlian, nbc news, ft. worth. that is our broadcast on this tuesday night. thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams. we, of course, hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening.
reese' new divorce confession. >> i was just floundering careerwise. >> "extra" tracking all the couples just before christmas. and courtney cox on racing jen aniston to the alter. breakingreaking jennifer lo vegas news. >> it would be beautiful. old hollywood meets funk latina. and look who just made santa's naughty list. kendall jenner dancing around in lingerie with her mom, kris. >> i'm really proud. she worked so freaking hard. >> how the kardashians do christmas, down to kris' holiday decorating team. plus -- hese are my old pan. >> people half their size diet champs. how they did it. >> well, they didn't do it paula deen cooking. >> hello, mario. i wish you were here, dimples. >> now on "extra" from universal studios hollywood, the entertainment capital of l.a. [ cheers and applause ] >>he