tv Rock Center With Brian Williams NBC July 12, 2012 10:00pm-11:00pm EDT
tonight on "rock center" -- breaking away. katie holmes may have managed a swift exit from the orbit of scientology, but former insiders tell kate snow that when some members try to leave the church can play rough. >> we had a whole drill that involved up to two dozen people to hunt down and find the person, confront them, and persuade them to return. >> reporter: he's a former senior scientologist who claims the church uses extreme measures against people like him. >> come on, marty. do you have anything to say? >> this sounds like movie stuff. i'm sorry, marty, this sounds too complicated to believe. >> i mean, i don't know what to tell you. can you handle the truth? also tonight, richard engel
with a view we have never seen before of the uprising inside syria. he made the trip with a rebel commander fighting to liberate his hometown. >> it's 4:00 a.m. and ali baklan is saying good-bye to his parents, possibly for the last time. he's on the front line of a surprising new syria few outsiders have glimpsed. he says, "the regime controls only where it keeps its tanks. that's it." and the "costa concordia" is still submerged after six months. and some passengers who had to fight for their lives that night say now they're forced to fight for their rights. harry smith has a story everyone who's ever considered a cruise needs to see. >> it's a totally different world out there as far as your rights are concerned. >> some survivors say the cruise line's first priority was its half-billion-dollar ship, not them. >> are the laws on the side of the cruise industry? >> absolutely. and that's one of the things that made this case such a
challenge to pursue. >> all that and much more as "rock center" gets under way. and good evening on this thursday night in july. the sweet spot for vacation time for millions of american families, which brings us to our first story here tonight. it's about a cruise ship, the "costa concordia," that remains on those rocks off the coast of italy for six months now. it's about what we now know happened that night. but it's also about all cruise ships and anyone who's ever considered a trip on one. harry smith, who covered the initial disaster, is back tonight to show us in the murky world of fine print for travelers that ship isn't the only thing that remains submerged. >> you can see the stone, there's a big rock lodged in the hull. >> reporter: look at the size of that. >> reporter: six months ago we were at the scene of the "costa concordia" wreck.
captain jim fee, an american who has sailed these waters, told us what had to happen. >> how bad was the judgment of the captain of the ship who sailed so close by this island? >> completely irresponsible. it's something he has to be severely punished and condemned for. >> reporter: the ship still lies there as if the tragedy happened yesterday. for many who were on board memories of that night of chaos are just as immediate. >> we heard a big boom, and a violent shifting to port of the ship. >> and we looked at each other and simultaneously said, "that's not normal." >> reporter: the aho family. >> the lights went out a couple times, and people just screamed and screamed. >> i realized, you know, we needed to get out of here quickly. >> reporter: at first the passengers were told the ship had an electrical problem. an hour of confusion passed before the abandon ship alarm was finally sounded. [ screaming ]
>> they started lowering the lifeboat, and it got hung up on the ship. >> everybody was thrown to the other side. we went crashing against the ship. >> reporter: nancy and mario lofaro. >> the lifeboat released and it went into a freefall. >> during that freefall and during that time that we were being thrown around, that's the time that i actually felt that we could die. >> reporter: 32 people did die. the captain himself made it ashore, while hundreds of passengers were still stranded on board. in an interview with italy's channel 5 this week captain francesco schettino apologized for what happened but insisted he committed no crime. yet schettino is still under investigation and could face manslaughter charges. but that's not enough for a number of americans who survived the ordeal and are angry. they blame the parent company, carnival corporation of miami, for caring, they say, more for its half-billion-dollar ship than for its passengers. they are convinced that the
world's biggest cruiseline would like nothing better than to blame their italian subsidiary and one badly behaved captain. >> i think the captain is a coward. i think the captain is a liar. but i also don't feel that the captain operated exclusively in a vacuum. >> reporter: nancy and mario lofaro have been on a number of cruises. >> they really were negligent in handling this. from initially when the accident happened up to now. >> everything made us angry, and everything was outrageous. everything was absolutely surprisingly ridiculous. >> that makes me so angry and so sad. >> reporter: brian aho and his wife, joan fleser, have taken about a dozen cruises and began taking their daughter alana along when she was just a baby. >> how can you take the responsibilities of people's lives and not have your crew be
trained to, you know, protect your customers? >> people died because of this for no reason. i mean, that's the tragic thing about this. and he was allowed to do this by the cruise line. by the corporation. >> either they allowed him to divert from his course or they didn't know where their billion-dollar ship was. >> reporter: shortly after the grounding, the costa cruise line made an offer to its inconvenienced passengers. >> so costa contacts you and says, we're prepared to offer you a check for $14,000. what was your reaction when you heard that offer? >> well, my first reaction was that i thought it was grossly insulting. but what upset us most is that it almost seemed like they wanted to do this very quickly and get it done so that it could all go away. and that's the part that we have a problem with. it would be very easy for us to just sign. they promised payment within two weeks. we would have had $29,000
between us in two weeks. great. that's not what it's about. this particular incident should not be forgotten. and good should come from it somehow. >> reporter: neither family had a clue that when they bought their tickets they were agreeing the cruise line would have very limited legal liability. >> all right. so now we've gone to the costa website. >> reporter: marc bern is an attorney for a number of "costa concordia" passengers, and he showed us that getting access to the terms of agreement for a cruise ship ticket is its own adventure. >> and go down to the general conditions. >> right. >> even though it says general conditions, it's not anywhere. you go down, you go down, and it says, "additional limitations of liability. the passage ticket contract contains further limitations of liability." >> right. >> but it doesn't tell you what those are. >> huh. >> but it does tell you that guests may request a copy of the passage ticket contract by
calling 1-800-go-costa. and just out of curiosity we did that. and they tell you that we'll send it to you after you've booked and after you've paid. >> so let me get this straight. so in order to find out what the actual terms and conditions are i have to accept, not only buy my ticket but accept the terms of agreement in order to find out what the terms of agreement actually are. >> correct. >> so if you want to fight it you've got to take your claim to italian court? >> yeah. you have to pay an italian lawyer. it's going to be eight to ten years before you get a verdict. >> reporter: john arthur eaves jr. represents more than 100 "costa concordia" clients, including the aho family. >> if one of my loved ones gets killed in an airplane crash on a commercial airliner in the united states, typically what's the settlement from the airline company? >> well, usually from 2 to 5 million dollars. >> 2 to 5 million. >> yes. >> "costa concordia," according
to the fine print on that ticket, what are the lives of the people who died, what are they worth? >> only $75,000. >> reporter: cruise ships are registered in foreign countries, which provide enormous tax advantages to the owners. that also puts the ships outside u.s. jurisdiction once they're a few miles offshore. >> once you step on board that, you have entered a new nation. i call it the nation of carnival. and the only people that are responsible then for you is carnival. >> we have learned it's a totally different world out there as far as your rights are concerned. >> the cruise industry is a large industry, employs a lot of people, and they have a lot of sway in washington. >> are the laws on the side of the cruise industry? >> absolutely. and that's one of the things that's made this case such a challenge to pursue. it's because the law is against us. but i think that we have a window of opportunity when people are focused on what
happened, what went wrong on the "costa concordia." >> reporter: eaves is anything but an orthodox trial lawyer. he comes from a seventh-generation mississippi family and bills himself as a crusadier for justice. his office is adorned with armor, knights on horseback, and the bible. >> that you're supposed to take care of those people who have been done grave injustice, take up for the poor. >> reporter: a former democratic candidate for governor, eaves has battled in congress and the italian courts. three months ago eaves got the federal court in texas to send u.s. marshals to seize the carnival "triumph" which was about to sail from the port of galveston. he brought along a camera crew to document the event. >> we're here to execute a court order. >> reporter: the court accepted his suit on behalf of the family of a woman killed on the "costa concordia," thus compelling carnival to post a $10 million bond before the "triumph" could sail. >> this is done very often with merchant ships and other types of ships. but to my knowledge this is the
first time in u.s. law that a cruise ship has been seized. >> reporter: call it a long shot or a stunt, but eaves is bent on forcing his cases into u.s. courts and into the lap of the carnival corporation, which had more than $15 billion in revenue last year. >> we wanted to do this because we wanted the american public to be aware that the same inadequate standards that were on the "costa concordia," the same training, the same captain discipline on the "costa concordia" is the same lack of standards on every carnival cruise ship that floats. >> reporter: citing pending litigation, carnival declined our request for an interview, but maritime lawyers agree that carnival is complying with existing laws. >> some people just don't want to have anything more to do with it. and i completely understand that. all the trauma. you just want to get past it and continue on. and you know, we on the other
hand think that it's important to try to change something. >> there's a lack of oversight. and i think through legislation is the only way that's going to be addressed. >> just if you don't mind, what are you thinking about right now? i mean, the tears are flowing. what are your feelings? >> i was thinking about the people that died. and we seriously want to help change things so, you know, something this senseless won't happen again. >> harry smith is here. let's talk about $14,000. it's supposed to cover your possessions. it will in no way make up for the pain and suffering of a very long, cold night where you probably thought you were going to die. >> it's supposed to compensate for -- pay for the ticket that you spent money on, your airfare back and forth. but you may have lost jewelry, camera, laptop, clothing, all kinds of stuff.
14 grand, once you add it all up, maybe not so much money. >> it does kind of add up when you itemize it like that. and let's talk about this captain. he has been talking, and also the italian papers have been reporting on this. >> he gave this interview to an italian television station this week. some of the things in the interview were contradictory. he said he was distracted because he was on the phone. remember, they brought that ship close to the island to pay tribute to a retired captain. they were going to toot toot as they went by. but the prosecution in the case has been leaking transcripts from the black box. and in it it says the guy was at the helm six minutes before the crash. he says, "what did we hit?" one of the crewmen says, "we hit a reef." ten minutes later he's on the phone with costa authorities and he says i blanked up. >> he does not say blank, does he? >> he does not say blanked. >> harry smith with the report from italy and beyond. thank you. a pleasure to have you as always. we'll take a break. up next, richard engel is just back from a trip inside syria.
and what he found really changes everything we know so far about the uprising there. and later tonight, the new focus on scientology prompted by the tom cruise-katie holmes divorce. former insiders in scientology tell kate snow of the harassment they say they faced when they left the church and became critics. >> they were there to drive me out of town, drive me out of business, and to prompt me to hit somebody so that they could get me arrested and discredit me. >> so that what? so they can shut you up? >> yeah. i mean, in their mind. building pass, corporate card, verizon 4g lte phone. the global ready one ? yeah, but you won't need... ♪ hajimemashite. hajimemashite. hajimemashite. you guys like football ? thank you so much. i'm stoked. you stoked ? totally. ... and he says, "under the mattress." souse le matelas. ( laughter ) why's the new guy sending me emails from paris ?
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journalists are seldom officially allowed. richard came back with some new reporting that the world has not yet seen or comprehended. it has to do with a big change in the uprising. >> reporter: it's 4:00 a.m. in southern turkey, and ali bakran is preparing to liberate his hometown. his parents are refugees, and he's saying good-bye to them, possibly for the last time. ali is leaving them to go back to syria, back to the front lines. >> go. go. >> reporter: at daybreak ali and a few of his men quietly cross the barbed wire fence and leave turkey for syria. he kisses the ground, thankful he's back in the fight. once in syria, a driver offers the men a lift. an early sign of the rebels' growing popular support. >> translator: we finally made
it back to syria, and god willing, we will not abandon the cause. >> reporter: 32 years old, ali was an air-conditioner repairman. but this is now his life. ali is a commander of a citizens militia he founded. to fight against president bashar al assad's brutal dictatorship. >> translator: they insulted our honor. it was time to take up arms. >> reporter: but taking up arms has a price. after ali joined the revolution, the syrian government burned down the homes of his parents, his grandparents, and his uncles. >> translator: every time they kill one person, the rebels grow in number. every time they burn a house, the demonstrations multiply. >> reporter: in a year ali's force has grown from 15 to 635 fighters.
and they don't work alone. ali and his men leapfrog from one rebel unit to the next. surprisingly, they operate openly, carrying weapons, using the main roads. at rebel checkpoints ali's fighters are given safe passage. the rebels move so confidently because syrian troops have mostly withdrawn from the countryside and pulled back to their fortified positions. this is new. the rebels finally have a safe haven. >> translator: bashar and his supporters are cowards. the tyrant regime controls only where it keeps the tanks. that's it. >> reporter: eventually, we reach ali's unit. these are his men. his brothers in arms. four of them are actually his own brothers. but he's about to put their
lives on the line. ali sensds his brother ahmed, his top lieutenant, to lead a dangerous scouting mission into their hometown called marayan to assess the strength of assad's military positions there. so we're now in between two syrian army posts. there's one down that street and another in that direction. >> reporter: ahmed takes us to a house to show us the government outpost. >> translator: there are seven tactical vehicles and three houses. and god willing, we'll be attacking this checkpoint. >> reporter: this specific one, i ask. >> translator: yes. this specific unit did a lot of killing. >> reporter: this is what turned ahmed against the government. a peaceful protest last may. ahmed was in it when government soldiers opened fire, gunning them down. [ gunfire ]
ahmed and other sources say up to 40 people were killed as army troops continued to fire into the scattering crowds of protesters. >> translator: we were stunned. some people stood still. some people fell dead. we expected something like tear gas, but we never expected this kind of killing. >> reporter: ali and ahmed want to make sure that never happens again. >> translator: once the weapons are in the hands of the people, assad's army will disintegrate. >> reporter: but those weapons are in short supply. ali's unit only has about 150 guns, a few rocket-propelled grenades, and a handful of homemade bombs. ali's brother ahmed managed a restaurant before the war. now he's cooking up fertilizer and sugar into explosives for the planned assault on government forces occupying marayan. but it's a recipe he still hasn't quite figured out. the pot gets too hot, and the
mix goes up in flames. it's a mistake they can't afford to make. it's time now for ali and his war council to decide if they can attack government forces in marayan. but in the end ali decides he can't do it, not yet. he doesn't have enough guns. his explosives are ruined. the postponement is heartbreaking, but his determination to keep on fighting is clear. >> translator: marayan is the home of my ancestors. my motherland. my memories. my children's memories. they have burned all of our
memori memories. only the soil is left. but we want it back. i want the soil of my home. >> so every time richard engel returns from one of these trips his co-workers like me come up to him and say, so what's the deal? let's have that conversation on the air. it looks like when secretary of state hillary clinton said oh, the assad regime is going to fall, there's no question about it, it looks like she was right. just the optics of this. you're driving around with them this time. last time you had to hide. >> last time we were there it was a completely different situation. we were hiding like fugitives and going from house to house, afraid even to step outside the door. when we crossed the border this time, there were rebel flags. it felt like we were going into another country, driving around on the backs of motorcycles, stopping in these little towns to talk to people in the open, having lunch with them. we were in a rebel-held area, a safe haven, which they did not have before. >> where are they getting the guns they do have?
>> they're -- some are smuggled in. some are bought from the syrian army. people who want to defect and are selling their weapons, hopefully getting a little cash so that they themselves one day can escape. >> welcome back from yet another trip. >> thank you very much. >> richard engel, our chief foreign correspondent. we put more of our reporting on the web tonight including a package of material from richard and his team documenting daily life during wartime in syria. and up next for here tonight, the church of scientology is back in the spotlight because of the split of katie holmes and tom cruise. and now a former insider claims to have unsettling information about the church's role in the break-up of tom cruise's last marriage, to nicole kidman. [ birds chirping ] [ engine revving ] ♪ hey, hey, hey ♪ [ tires screech ] [ male announcer ] with fuel economy that's best in class and better acceleration than camry and accord,
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welcome back. we have not chronicled a single celebrity divorce on this broadcast. but katie holmes' widely publicized split from tom cruise has a unique component as part of the story, and that is the church of scientology. tom cruise is publicly identified as its most celebrated believer, and many people wonder whether katie holmes is trying to get herself and her daughter away from scientology as much as she's
trying to get out of her marriage. in a moment we are going to examine the history and practices of the church, but first kate snow reports on former scientologists who paint a disturbing picture of what can happen to members breaking away. >> reporter: katie holmes is out of her marriage and out of the orbit of the church of scientology. but for many who've tried to leave the church, marty rathbun says it's not that simple. >> in your position did you ever order surveillance? did you ever order private investigators? >> absolutely. >> to check up on people who had left the church? >> yes. >> reporter: rathbun worked in the church of scientology for 27 years before leaving in 2004. during his last few years in the church he says he was tom cruise's personal counselor. >> that was my majority of my time, and it was my number one priority between january 2001 and february 2004, when i left. >> reporter: rathbun says he
reported straight to the church's leader, david meskavidge. >> i would be the person meskavidge would come to every morning and say have there been any blows, which is an unauthorized -- >> what's a blow? >> a blow is an unauthorized departure. somebody escapes. >> they're gone. >> they're blown. we call it blown. >> reporter: it was part of his job, says rathbun, to deal with scientology insiders, those who had dedicated their lives to the religion, lived and worked on church property, who suddenly fled. >> we had a whole drill that involved up to two dozen people to hunt down and find the person, confront them and persuade them to return. >> reporter: he said they used family inside the church to try to lure those runaway members back while at the same time a team of scientology employees tried to track them down. >> then they would use private investigators who could get you bank records. there were certain p.i.s who had lines of communication where
people were bribed in the credit card companies where they could -- >> they could get your records. >> i mean, up to the minute. >> you could find out where -- he just went to the restaurant -- >> he just went to the denny's in san bernardino. right? and i'm telling you, six cars would take off to san bernardino and scour the place -- >> this sounds like movie stuff. i'm sorry. this sounds too complicated to believe. >> yeah, i know. well, that's the way it is. i mean, i don't know what to tell you. you know, can you handle the truth? >> reporter: the church of scientology says none of what marty rathbun says is the truth. but he says he experienced the church's tactics firsthand when he spoke out against it in 2009. suddenly the roles were reversed and the hunter became the hunted. >> come on, marty. got anything to say? you can't even defend yourself on this, can you? >> what's your name? >> i gave you my name, marty. >> what's your name? >> marty, i gave you my name.
let's go take a look at a folder. >> what's your name? >> why don't you answer his question? >> reporter: from his front porch rathbun filmed a video of what he says was a team of people organized by the church called squirrel busters. in scientology jargon a squirrel is someone who leaves the church but continues to try to practice scientology, which rathbun does. >> what are you hiding? >> reporter: he says it went on for 199 days. the squirrel busters knocking on his door, camping outside his home, and filming his every move. >> this group of clowns showed up to my house with the uniforms on and the shirts with my face emblazoned on them with the strikeout symbol on them, these squirrel busters. >> reporter: he says they wouldn't leave him alone no matter what he did. >> what's your name? >> i don't have a name. >> reporter: the church of scientology denies organizing the harassment. but we spoke with one of the photographers hired to film rathbun. burt lehey says he was hired by a man linked to the church. >> he said he was not a scientology but he was hired by
the church of scientology to do a documentary of a ex-member named marty rathbun. >> reporter: lehey says he quit after two days because of the bullying. >> they would say to me and to everybody don't push marty but get into his way so he can push and you then we can press charges and, you know, get him in all kinds of trouble. >> they were there to drive me out of town, drive me out of business, and to prompt me to hit somebody so they could get me arrested and discredit me. >> so that what, so they can shut you up? >> yeah, i mean, in their minds. >> reporter: rathbun says one thing the church does not want him to talk about is what he did with scientology's most famous member, tom cruise. cruise is seen in this video espousing the glories of the church. >> i think it's a privilege to call yourself a scientologist and it's something you have to earn.
i am dedicated to that. i'm going to absolutely uncompromisingly dedicated to that. >> reporter: when cruise divorced nicole kidman in 2001, rathbun says he led cruise through confessional counseling sessions the church calls auditing. >> he would come to the celebrity center virtually every day during late 2001 for auditing with me. and his kids were then overseen and nannied and tutored by church of scientology staff at the celebrity center. when he had them. >> reporter: he says church officials suggested to cruise and kidman's children that kidman was what they called a suppressive person, someone bent on destroying others. >> i mean, he and i were intensively at it, you know, auditing several hours a day over several months. so the kids were in the hands of church of scientology staff, and they were being indoctrinated. and they were reporting to tom on how that was going in my presence. >> what were they telling -- what would the staff be telling those kids?
>> the initial indoctrination of conor and bella. conor was 6 years old. bella was 9. was teaching them that certain people are anti-social personalities, they're suppressive people. and they started teaching them the characteristics of the anti-social personality -- >> like their own mother? >> like their own mother. >> reporter: the church of scientology says no such conversations ever occurred and that rathbun's assertion that he ministered anyone from 2001 to 2004 is a lie. an attorney for tom cruise also challenges rathbun's credibility and says, "it is absolutely false that mr. cruise or anyone else to his knowledge did or said anything to lessen connor and bella's communication or relationship with their mother. on the contrary, mr. cruise did all he could to encourage that relationship." for years the church has denied using any strongarm tactics. >> you know, there isn't and hasn't been any effort which has
been taken to, quote, silence critics. >> reporter: in fact, in 1998 the church had its spokesperson, mike rinder, defend scientology in an interview with "dateline." >> that sounds more like harassment to me. >> it sounds more like an investigation to me. >> reporter: this is rinder today, watching that old interview with us. >> i think i looked like a sleazeball. >> you said there isn't and hasn't been any effort which has been taken to, quote, silence critics. were you lying? >> yeah. that's not true. >> reporter: rinder says he too has been harassed since leaving the church, charges the church denies. rinder says when he first left in 2007 he called his wife and two children and asked them to leave too. >> the first thing that i did was i contacted them and said, okay, i'm done, i'm gone, i'm in virginia, please come and join me. and the answer was f you. literally. >> how long had you been married? >> 31 years. so i leave. i refuse to go back.
i then become a suppressive person. >> in the eyes of your whole family. >> in the eyes of the church and then so therefore my wife, my son, my daughter, my mother, my brother, my sister, my sister-in-law, my brother-in-law. all of my nephews. all of my nieces, who are all members of the church. disconnect from me. and they will not communicate with me. >> the church of scientology says rinder abandoned his wife of more than 30 years and their two children and had a violent confrontation with his ex, charges rinder denies. rinder now has a new family and is starting fresh. >> how often do you guys see each other now? >> not often. not often enough. >> reporter: this past weekend he and marty rathbun gathered in minnesota with about 60 other former members of the church to share their stories. most here still believe in the religion's philosophy, just not the way the church is being run today. rathbun even conducts audit
sessions with former members. and that is something that's drawn ire from the church. in a letter to nbc news a lawyer for the church of scientology says both rathbun and rinder are "excommunicated self-promoters" who are profiting from their "anti-scientology agendas" and are "untrustworthy, unreliable, and biassed." the church has posted hundreds of pages of allegations against the two, including charges of physical violence against other church members. both rinder and rathbun say they were violent at times but say it was encouraged by church officials, a charge the church denies. >> here's what someone might ask. if you lied before how do we know you're telling the truth now? >> you don't. you've just got to look at me and decide. >> the church says they demoted you and then they had to clean up your mess and that you were exhibiting psychotic behavior. >> then why was i assigned by the chairman of the board to
audit tom cruise during the last four years of my involvement at the church of scientology? that's my answer. my answer's a question. >> and when we come back, what is scientology? what do they believe in? how does it work? kate snow will join us in just a moment. ♪ how are things on the west coast? ♪
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welcome back. in our last segment we met some scientologists who chose to leave the church and heard the allegations of harassment from those who say they suffered because they spoke out against the church. it is important to emphasize again that even as those critics do battle with church leaders many of them still believe in the teachings of sicientology. so what is scientology, where did it come from, and why all the mystery? kate snow continues her reporting. >> reporter: this is the birthplace of scientology. an old house on the jersey shore. in 1950 l. ron hubbard, a former navy officer and science fiction
author, wrote a self-help book here called "dianetics." it became a best-seller and the foundation for the teachings of scientology. >> take an individual and put them in a position where they can confront their own problems and solve their own problems and sobering themselves up by their own bootstraps. >> reporter: scientologists believe man to be basically good and that his spiritual salvation depends upon himself. the path to enlightenment begins at scientology centers all over the world. members go into a small room for a kind of spiritual counseling called auditing. >> that is where you actually get rid of the unwanted emotions and unwanted habits, psychosomatic illness -- >> reporter: this video from scientology's website explains the tool used for auditing, a machine with handles which when grips are said to measure a person's emotions. >> an e-meter, which really helps a person to locate areas of pain and trauma that you may not be totally aware of.
>> reporter: the first goal in scientology is going clear, or clearing the mind to be ready for what's next. once clear, scientologists believe a person can then ascend to higher and higher spiritual levels. they call it becoming an operating thetan. >> if you want to go up the bridge and up these ranks of operating thetan 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. >> reporter: kim masters is an editor for the "hollywood reporter" who's written extensively about the church. >> you believe you are freeing the world of negative influences that are hugely destructive. so you're saving people's lives and literally saving the planet. >> reporter: scientology teaches human souls don't just exist in this lifetime but that they've been through past lives and live on for eternity. the church provided nbc news with this footage showing the humanitarian work scientologists perform around the world. on its website the church has posted testimonials from everyday people. >> my name is alex, and i'm a
baseball player, and i'm a scientologist. >> reporter: but it's a religion best known for its celebrities. >> i found scientology, and that gave me a kind of sanity. >> reporter: in 2007 a bbc reporter challenged some of those celebrities on whether scientology is a cult. >> it's a sinister, brainwashing cult. >> would you ever sit with a jew and tell them that their religion was a cult? >> who brainwashed you? how dare you? >> reporter: it is not a church in the classical sense with traditional worship or communion or prayer. they do believe in a godlike force, though not a defined deity. they don't read the bible, but scientologists consider l. ron hubbard's writings their scripture. their turn his books and cds out by the millions. and back at the jersey shore that house, the church website says, is fully restored and now open for tours. >> kate snow, so many
counterindications to me. the celebrity aspect of the religion. the secrecy. all those windows covered with reflective foil. >> right. >> and yet now also the transparency on the web sxels wher. >> you go to their website, there's frequently asked questions. there's all kinds of information and videos. they sent us this book, brian, this morning. it's a photo album of all kinds of openings of new scientology centers. they're very proud that they're a growing church. so they're open in some sense, but they made it very difficult, on the other hand, for to us do this story tonight. >> yeah, i was going to ask you. they were not thrilled to know this was coming. >> that's an understatement. in the past 24 hours we have received letter after letter from attorneys for the church-a toernz for tom cruise, family members. within the past hour i got two more letters from family members of mike rinder saying that he's a liar and that what he said to us was false. and they asked us not to run this story tonight. >> of course because of this divorce case they are squarely in the spotlight. kate snow, thank you very much for your reporting on this tonight. >> thank you.
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we are back with our once-a-week attempt to corral some of the news that's been flying around this past week. there's so much on a daily basis that doesn't make the cut. for example, we found material in north korea. we found material at mcdonald's. and as always, a rich trove of material on the web. we begin with the cute dog taking in the world from the car window as they like to. and just like a dog, always hopeful.
he thinks he can bite passing traffic. the wonder of dogs was underscored this week by research from europe that said children with pets in the house are healthier, especially with dogs around the house, because of what they bring in from the outside, which somehow translates into immunities for healthier children. and in a craven effort to compete with all of this, a minneapolis art center has announced plans for the first ever film festival featuring only viral cat videos. a killer piece of work by a video artist named kevin porter is making the rounds on the web. it's a mashup of sorkinisms, coinciding with the new aaron sorkin hbo show "the newsroom" featuring that familiar and brilliant rapid-fire dialogue and those perfectly turned phrases. we learn that sorkin is such a fan of his own work he's used some of those phrases in many projects over and over again. >> you know it. >> and you know it. >> and you know it. >> and you know it. >> you know it. >> and you know it. >> and you know it. >> and you know it.
>> and you know it. >> and you know it. >> and you know it. >> and you know it. >> and you know it. >> and you know it. >> jimmy kimmel! >> reporter: jimmy kimmel this week asked academy award nominee gary oldman to give us a dramatic reading of r. kelly's new memoir, "soula coaster: the diary of me." >> what up, baby? yes. just wanted to holler at you, i said. >> reporter: it takes a good actor to make the writing of even an r. kelly sound ridiculous. big doings in north korea. a big celebration featuring ripped-off, non-copyrighted clunky err s.a.t.s versions of disney characters. but most important, the unemotional mystery woman widely rumored to be the girlfriend of kim jong un. she's identified as the married lead singer of a tightly controlled north korean rock band. but of course in north korean society not even rumors are allowed.
so all the talk could be un-true. trouble on fox & friends. it started when the morning show crew mocked the new ralph lauren outfits for the u.s. olympic team in london. >> is this a new american trend now? >> wearing a beret? >> berets? and you have to pronounce it that way too because that's the french way. >> reporter: the jingoism continued. another host wondered why they couldn't wear something more american like baseball caps or cowboy hats. until the viewer e-mails started pouring in reminding them some real americans, u.s. soldiers, are issued berets. pronounced the french way. the uniforms came under more fire today when senate majority leader harry reid was asked about the fact that they are made in china. >> i think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile, and burn them and start all over again. >> reporter: and about the olympics, we learned mcdonald's has signed a sweet promotional deal that says only they can sell french fries at the olympics. unless they are purchased with fish, which over in london would
make them chips, but nothing like our chips over here. mcdonald's was also in the news this week because of this. their executive chef. who knew? showing the world what goes into the secret sauce in a big mac. apparently, secret no more. but here's a hint. it contains paprika. he goes on to make a big mac at home and by hand, just like the kind you buy at mcdonald's except for the way it looks and tastes. long-time fan of mcdonald's. we'll put all the videos we used, by the way, on our website tonight. and for us that is our broadcast for this week. next thursday night at this very same time five young men whose father is looking to win it all and put various members of the family into the white house. the romney sons sit down with nbc's peter alexander and talk about life and a lot of things, including their father. >> he's a little goofy, and that's just -- you know, that's part of -- part of his charm, i
think. we were with him recently. he said, "i was guffawing when i looked at this old picture." >> i lost it. i was completely guffawing. >> we're used to. it's part of his personality. it's the same corny jokes we grew up with. >> it's an interesting wide-ranging conversation with correspondent peter alexander, who covers the romney campaign for us. and we will have it for you next week. a small part of next week's broadcast. in the meantime, for all of us here in new york and elsewhere, thank you for being with us this week. i'm brian williams. good night from new york. your late local news begins now. [ obama ] i'm barack obama, and i approve this message. [ female announcer ] every woman who believes decisions about our bodies and our health care should be our own is troubled mitt romney supports overturning roe versus wade. romney backed a law that outlaws all abortion -- even in cases of rape and incest. and that's not all. i'll cut off funding to planned parenthood.