tv NBC Nightly News NBC December 14, 2010 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
trapped, the drama playing out on the snowy stretch of highway where lives are at stake on a brutally cold day from north to south. pork barrel politics. is this what you voted for? the big fight in congress over a bill that's stuffed with pet projects, paid for with your tax dollars. stormy seas. american travelers on a luxury cruise, and then a crisis. tonight, they're telling stories of a near mutiny on board. listen up. remembering where we first met the folks applying the sounds of this season. also tonight, it's actually happened. a top pro athlete has left money on the table. "nightly news" begins now.
good evening. tonight millions of americans are in the grip of some downright dangerous weather, and not all of it makes sense. for example, for a good part of this day, it was colder in northern maine than it was in southern florida. this cold weather stretch is way down to the south, and way out to the east. records were set today for cold temperatures in the eastern half of the country. tomorrow, it could get worse in some areas, especially in the deep south. tonight we're concentrating on a genuine drama with families in the middle of it. traffic headed into the united states from canada, caught and cut off by a snowstorm. and now rescues are under way. nbc's john yang leads off our coverage tonight in michigan city, indiana. john, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. here in northwestern indiana along lake michigan, it snowed for the third straight day.
folks here are digging out from under 2 feet of snow, and drifts as high as 4 feet. but as you say, the most dramatic conditions were to the east of here. overnight, high winds and blowing snow created whiteout conditions, shutting down a major trucking route into michigan from canada. officials said about 360 cars and trucks were stuck on the highway, leaving hundreds of people trapped in their vehicles. >> how long have you been here? >> going on 24 hours now. >> reporter: winds hit 65 miles per hour, and snowplows were ordered off the roads. police snowmobiles and military helicopters were used to rescue stranded motorists. >> for somebody that's not dressed warm, it's very dangerous, because you could get cold and run out of gas. >> reporter: area hotel rooms filled up, and people found shelter in warming centers and places like this church in canada. >> we made it here, thankfully. i don't know what i would do if
i got stuck. >> reporter: the northeast united states got its first real taste of winter. buffalo residents struggled to stay ahead of the drifting snow. near pittsburgh, icy conditions sent four cars spinning out of control. >> i felt like i was flying for a while. >> reporter: in chicago, the cold seems to have settled in for a long winter stay, as holiday shoppers made their rounds. here in northwestern indiana, they used dump trucks to clear the more than 2 feet of snow that mother nature dumped on them. it was whipped by fierce arctic winds coming off the great lakes. these are literally the frozen shores of lake michigan. this is what happens when wet sand freezes. rick fruit has been clearing parking lots with his snowplow for nearly 30 hours, with only one hour of sleep. >> sunday all day, monday all day. i don't even -- what day is it? sorry. >> reporter: to the delight of many school children, it was a snow day for schools and colleges across the country.
>> i like to make snow angels and snowmans. >> reporter: meteorologists say this weather pattern is likely to stick around for a while, so the midwest and northeast can expect for the rest of the week temperatures 30% below normal. brian? >> unbelievable. as we said last night, these are parts of the country that don't scare easily in winter. john yang, thanks. would you blame people for thinking about florida, especially for those who have money enough to pack up the kids and say head to disney world for the christmas season? our own kerry sanders that that story tonight from chilly orlando. good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. the snow back there, here at the wizarding world of harry potter, that's artificial. but what is real are the cold temperatures. and for tourists who thought they would escape the cold and
come to florida, mother nature has been a big disappointment. at orlando's sea world, sparse crowds. and those who did come were bundled. typically in december it's 73 degrees in orlando. today there was a record low of 28. the larson family from denmark left 27 degrees at home, only to endure this. >> it's too cold. >> reporter: at disney world, the characters were blue, while those thought leaving their hats and rooms in the hotel rooms discovered even here it can dip below freezing. the orlando convention and visitors' bureau says on average a family of three spends about $1,500 while on a vacation in central florida, not including airfare. >> i just didn't plan on walking around here, spending a whole lot of money with my family just to be out bundled up cold. >> reporter: at universal orlando resort, owned by nbc parent general electric, the shadack family took a practical tip on how to stay warm from the youngest in the family. >> i go like this. >> reporter: quicha bridges here from new jersey. >> very cold.
i had to buy a hat, gloves and a scarf. i wasn't prepared for this weather. >> reporter: state tourism officials say it's not the best picture for a place called the sunshine state, but it won't be long-lasting. >> we live in paradise, and everybody wants a piece of our paradise and want to share it with us. >> reporter: in miami beach today, tourists traded bathing suits for sweaters and scarves. >> it's my bikini. >> reporter: forecasters say it will warm up here in florida, but not until friday. brian? >> kerry sanders down in orlando tonight. kerry, thanks. it's also strange in the pacific northwest, a very rare tornado slammed into the small town of ohmsville, oregon today near salem. a three-block area damaged, roofs torn off, trees uprooted, a brick church demolished. luckily, no one injured in the storm. on capitol hill tonight in washington, a sudden storm over an old issue. earmarks. the pet projects that lawmakers
hang on to must-pass bills, pieces of legislation, like ornaments on a christmas tree. our own kelly o'donnell is with us tonight from the capitol. kelly, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. we're still waiting for a vote on the tax compromise to keep everybody's rates the same. and then this unfolded. a drama over government spending across all the agencies. as you said, many lawmakers have pushed for these special projects. now say they won't do it anymore. and it turns out there appears to be one last giant effort to get thousands of these projects through. with time running out, republicans are complaining loudly that a massive spending bill just hit their desks late today. >> in this case, almost 2,000-page bill that no one has seen. at least on my side of the aisle. >> reporter: the measure would spend $1.1 trillion of your money. and it's packed with those special earmarked projects lawmakers of both parties added on. the kind of spending many
promise to stop. senator john mccain says congress failed to get the message. >> which is a direct -- a direct betrayal of the majority of the voters on november 2nd who said stop the earmarking, stop the spending, stop the outrageous pork barrel projects. >> reporter: senator mccain's staff pointed to a few examples they called unnecessary spending. $208,000 for beaver management in north carolina. $235,000 for noxious weed management in nevada. $413,000 for peanut research in alabama. and $247,000 for virus-free wine grapes in washington state. taxpayer advocates say many see this as a last chance before earmarks are banned. >> a lot of it comes down to the same way that washington works. pay to play. people make campaign contributions to a variety of lawmakers who then advocate on their behalf, and essentially then are able to get their
provisions taken care of. >> reporter: democratic majority leader harry reid defended the bill and will fight to pass it. >> i think that the people on the appropriations committee work very, very hard. i think they have a very good piece of legislation. and i think we're going to move forward with that. >> reporter: the estimated total for these earmarks is $8 billion, less than 1% of the whole total. and it actually is a smaller number than years past. now, republicans like mcconnell say they've got some of these in here too. but they will fight to stop this bill. brian? >> kelly o'donnell on the hill for us tonight. kelly, thanks for that. overseas, there has been a victory for the wikileaks founder, julian assange, in his fight to get out of prison. but tonight there has also been a catch. our own peter alexander remains outside the prison in southwest london tonight. peter, good evening. >> reporter: brian, good evening to you. he will remain here in the
prison for at least one more night. returning to court by thursday after swedish authorities appeal the judge's decision, ordering his release on a bail. assange is wanted on allegations of sexual misconduct, allegations he vehemently denied. his lawyer called the appeal vindictive. photographers today captured these photos of him through tinted windows on his way into the courthouse at the hearing that the man who has made freedom of information his life's work, at the price of his own freedom. $315,000 cash bail with restrictions. assange would have to reside at the friend's estate outside london, a man who is part of the exclusive club for journalists. assange would also have to be under curfew with electronic monitoring. but again, brian, tonight he remains here behind bars in solitary confinement. >> peter alexander in london. thanks. 15 years ago today, the peace treaty was signed, ending the war in bosnia.
it was negotiated by ambassador richard holbrooke who died just last night in washington. the president of the united states called him a giant. general david petraeus called him a titan, larger than life. it is true that the death of richard holbrooke leaves no one even remotely like him in the business of diplomacy. it was by far his greatest success, ending the war in bosnia, a gruesome conflict that introduced the phrase "ethnic cleansing" to the world looking on. it took american bombing to bring all sides to the table, but then it was widely agreed, richard holbrooke simply wore them down. >> and i combatted it by nature. well, i've read that, but it's really in my view, inherent in the job. this is a job that involves combat. >> he was new york city born, ivy educated, lived in manhattan and washington and on airplanes. he flew into hot spots often and without fear and was shot at
more than once. while he also navigated the much cooler world of new york and d.c. society. a friend of kissinger, kerry, and both clintons, he served under every democratic president since jfk. his most recent assignment, as president obama's special representative to afghanistan and pakistan. and in that job, he was constantly reminded of his first job as a young man in vietnam. >> the american public needs to be clear on why we're in afghanistan. this is not vietnam. this is not the balkans. it's not iraq. this is quite different. it relates directly to our safety at home. >> reporter: at different times, he was a journalist, a banker, an ambassador to germany and the u.n. mentioned for the nobel peace prize, mentioned as secretary. mentioned often in the media, thanks to his vast contacts. he strongly believed in america as a force to lead the world.
he could be abrupt, abrasive, and charming at the same time. holbrook often let with a combination of brains and heart until the latter gave out. a torn aorta, 20-plus hours of surgery, 40-plus units of blood. a three-day struggle to survive until his death last night at the age of 69. and he spoke until the end about what motivated him. >> we have american men and women putting their lives at risk every day. giving their lives, being wounded. and we who are working on this issue owe it to them to do the best we can. and time is precious here. i don't want to see it slip away. >> richard holbrooke leaves behind his wife, the author and journalist cotty martin, two children and two stepchildren. when our broadcast continues in just a moment, another cruise ship hits rough seas, and the angry passengers have the home
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begin to relive what some passengers call hell on the high seas. >> waking up in the middle of the night with everything being tossed around the room was scary. >> we thought we were done for. >> video shows an on-board screen warning of hurricane force winds ahead. >> oh, god. >> reporter: terrifying moments, tossed from their beds as the decks heaved. >> the whole place was shaking. the christmas tree fell over. >> reporter: the captain says weather forecasts underplayed the storm's strength. are you confident that everything was well played. >> this was bad weather and when we have bad weather, it's on the -- we are affected by it. >> reporter: the damage is superficial, but two days, yet to be cleaned up. there is still evidence of the storm. as for repairing any damage to the cruise company's reputation, they have offered a refund, but only after the passengers' revolt. how bad does it have to be for
1,000 passengers to gather in the center of the boat and shout "liar, liar, liar," at one of your senior officers? >> i think it has to get pretty bad and it was bad. it was a traumatic event. >> reporter: this was not the first time "brilliance of the seas" has set out on an ill-fated voyage. in 2005, newly wed george allen smith went missing, presumed lost overboard. this cruise some passengers have only praise for the crew. others vow never to sail again. for an unforgettable holiday, they got one to remember for all the wrong reasons. john ray, nbc news, malta. up next, the nominations are in. what the golden globes might mean for the oscars. oscars. gecko: good news sir, i just got an email from the office and word is people really love our claims service. gecko: 'specially the auto repair xpress. repairs are fast and they're guaranteed for as long as you own your car. boss: hey, that's great! is this your phone?
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other best drama nominees, the "black swan," "the fighter", "inception" "social network". on the television side, "glee", "30 rock" also and "nurse jackie" also nominated. the full list on our website, nightly.msnbc.com. stop the presses. we have found a professional athlete at the top of his game, willing to leave money on the table. and play for a team for reasons other than the offer of top dollar. here's a hint. the yankees lost a big one today, when texas rangers' pitcher cliff lee chose to return to the phillies, rounding out what is now the best pitching staff in baseball. the yankees were offering a rumored $30 million more than the rumored $120 million final figure. what a show in the sky last
night, except, of course, for those of us living under cloud cover. last night here on the broadcast, we asked you to send us photos. this was our favorite from photographer david harvey in tucson. last night was the peak of the meteor shower, and several sky-watchers reported five to seven meteors per minute, sometimes at the rate of two at a time. up next after a break, it's who singing the christmas hits this year that's getting a lot of attention. if you live for performance, upgrade to castrol edge advanced synthetic oil. with eight times better wear protection than mobil 1. castrol edge. it's more than just oil. it's liquid engineering.
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finally here tonight, those christmas songs that we hear just about everywhere around this time of year. the words are familiar, but this year, there may be a new marketing lesson in who is singing them. some are well-known runners up. let's just call them recent stars. others are just beloved unknowns. our report tonight from nbc's lee cowen. ♪ >> reporter: you never know where greatness may start. ♪ christmas >> reporter: for customers at this san diego grocery store, it just happens to strike in the produce aisle. ♪ had a very shiny nose >> they always know when i'm around. >> reporter: alexder is just an ordinary person with a passion for songs.
sound familiar? ♪ >> reporter: that was the secret to susan boyle's success. she is perhaps the most famous nobody ever. she didn't win "britain's got talent," but can you name who did? probably not. ♪ >> reporter: pittsburgh's jackie ivanko wasn't a winner either, despite the 10-year-old's adult voice, she only came in second on america's got talent. taken together both were sort of the poster child for the runner up, and yet coming in second actually can offer some pretty sweet revenge. >> you actually curry more favor from the public, because they feel bad you didn't win. >> reporter: with susan boyle's christmas release, she has had the number one album in the u.s. and u.k. twice in 12 months. ivenko's christmas album sold nearly 200,000 copies in its first week alone.
the bright spots for the music industry, which has seen tv sales plummet in recent years, while album sales for talent show contestants are almost a christmas miracle. >> the fact that there is this tv to music synergy is really helping the music biz at a time when it needs it badly. >> reporter: make it's proof that winning isn't everything. ♪ silent night >> reporter: it certainly makes the chances of a singing grocer being discovered not so terribly unrealistic. ♪ >> reporter: so happy holidays to the underdog. ♪ lee cowen, nbc news, los angeles. that's our broadcast for this tuesday night. thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams. we hope to see you right back i'm brian williams. we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night.-- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com
in the end, you know, we will get the answer. it's not a process, though, that is swift. >> the explosion, burned down a san bruno neighborhood in a matter of hours. but the search for answers is dragging on for months. good evening, everyone. thank you for joining us. i'm tom sinkovitz. federal investigators say they are still months away fro