tv NBC Nightly News NBC December 16, 2013 5:30pm-6:01pm PST
on our broadcast tonight, privacy violation. can a surprise ruling about the government spying on the phone calls made by americans. the question tonight, what will this change and when? safety questions about the kinds of anti-bacterial soaps used in millions of american households. what the fda is now saying about how safe a effective they really are. the diagnosis. the first of its kind in a major league baseball player who took his own life. tonight the concussion crisis in sports that now goes far beyond football. and making a difference for military families this christmas season. something amazing sprouting up across this country. "nightly news" begins now.
good evening. the fourth amendment to the u.s. constitution prohibits unreasonable search and seizure. some of the original wording came from john adams himself in response to the british searching homes and businesses back in colonial times. well, fast forward to modern day and our lead story tonight, a federal judge has ruled the nsa is violating our fourth amendment rights when it collects data on phone calls into and from the united states. in the name of keeping us safe, americans have sacrificed a number of freedoms since 9/11 including the privacy of communications. this judge's decision goes right to the heart of that. it's where we begin tonight with our justice correspondent pete williams in our d.c. newsroom. pete, good evening. >> reporter: brian, good evening. and this is the first ruling by a federal judge to suggest that collecting all this data about every phone call in the u.s.
violates the constitution. and the judge says that a supreme court ruling relied on by the government to defend the program is out of date. it's a serious legal blow to one of the most controversial practices of the nsa. a once-secret program disclosed six months ago by a former nsa insider, edward snowden. the nsa gathered metadata and logs every phone number dialed by u.s. phone customers, and dumps it into an enormous database. so much data the nsa is building a huge new facility to store it all. >> the purpose of these programs and the reason we use secrecy is not to hide it from the american people. not to hide it from you, but to hide it from those who walk among you who are trying to kill you. >> reporter: the nsa says it checks the database only when it has a terrorism lead tied to a specific phone number. but federal judge richard leon today called all that metadata
gathering indiscriminate and arbitrary invasion of privacy. i am not convinced, he said, the nsa database has ever truly served the purpose of rapidly identifying terrorists. he questioned the relevance of a 1979 supreme court ruling relied on by the government that said phone customers have no privacy interest in their calling records. the judge said that's been eclipsed by technology in what he called a cell phone-centric lifestyle. >> it's ultimately going to be a decision for the court of appeals or supreme court to decide anyway. what this one judge decides today is just a conversation starter, not a conversation stopper. >> reporter: but it's a victory for a washington, d.c., lawyer who wants to stop the government from collecting information about his calls. >> metadata allows the government to be able to tell who you are associating with, whether it's your doctor, your lawyer, your accountant, whoever. it is extremely intimidating. >> reporter: for edward snowden the obama administration rejected any idea what he be given amnesty in return for ending the leaks. >> he should be returned to the
united states as soon as possible where he will be afforded full due process and protection in our system. >> reporter: the judge today put a hold on his ruling to give the government time to appeal. so the nsa can gathering data for now. in a statement about the ruling snowden said a secret program when exposed to the light of day was found to violate americans' rights. brian? >> pete williams from our d.c. newsroom starting us off tonight. pete, thanks. there is news tonight regarding a hugely popular line of consumer products used daily in millions of our homes. they claim to be better than soap and water. but now the feds are telling the companies that make these anti-bacterial soaps to prove they are not only better but also that they're safe. we're talking about here some 2,000 different products. nbc's tom costello is with us from a decidedly domestic-looking setting inside our washington bureau tonight. tom, good evening.
>> reporter: hi, brian. good evening. we're talking about anti-be anti-bacterial soaps and body washes, not hand sanitizers with alcohol or the stuff in the hospital. the concern is a specific chemical found in 75% of the products on the market. mid--afternoon in their household with three boys. there are lots of ways to pick up dirt and germs. >> if they use the bathroom, go to school, play sports, there is a lot of opportunity for them to be touching, you know, dirty areas. >> reporter: like a lot of parents, lisa relies on anti-bacterial soap assuming it's better than regular soap and water. but now the fda says that may not be true. it wants the makers of anti-bacterial soaps and body washes to prove their products are safe and more effective than soap and water. >> we have no evidence that presence of these anti-bacterial ingredients in these soaps and body washes actually prevent the spread of infection. >> reporter: the concern?
that liquid soaps which contain triclosan or triclocarban may spur drug-resistant bacteria and potentially interfere with normal hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and thyroid functions which could affect childhood development and puberty. >> it is an artificial chemical which doesn't exist in nature. we are putting a lot of it in the environment for no obvious benefit that's been well demonstrated. >> reporter: but the american cleaning institute insists that chemical has been heavily researched and their products are safe. >> anti-bacterial soaps are effective. they do what they say they do. they kill germs on the skin that can make us sick. >> reporter: but the fda proposed rule requires the industry to prove that. otherwise the products may have to be reformulated, relabeled, or removed from the market. in the meantime, for moms like lisa the fda concerns amount to a flashing yellow light. >> every day i'm always thinking what is in our environment that could be possible trigger for my
child or any other child. anti-bacterial soaps have crossed my mind multiple times. >> reporter: whether a product americans use every day is truly safe and effective. the fda says if this new regulatory framework goes into effect, the companies would have until september 2016 to prove it. we reached out to dial, one of the biggest makers of anti-bacterial soaps. it says it is committed to ensuring all of its products and ingredients meet the top regulatory standards and their own safety standards as well. by the way, if you want to check and see if your product has this, literally it's one of the first active ingredients right there. you can see it listed right underneath the drug facts. brian, back to you. >> tom costello in washington for us tonight. tom, thanks. there is more new evidence tonight that multivitamins don't work as well as a lot of americans had hoped they would. two new major studies have found multi vitamins do not protect the brains of aging men or help the survivors of heart attacks, as many previously believed.
in fact, the government does not recommend taking multivitamins as a way to prevent chronic diseases. an update on friday's high school shooting outside denver. a 17-year-old girl, claire davis, is in a coma fighting for her life. she was the student shot by one of her classmates at arapahoe high school. late today, the parents of the 18-year-old who shot her, karl pierson, came forward saying their thoughts are with the davis family and they are devastated by what their son has done. friends describe him as a high performing friendly student who was angry over his dismissal from the school debate team. now we head overseas to syria where winter is setting in. the freezing weather is only adding to the suffering from the nearly 3-year-old civil war there. a conflict so far without end that has driven millions of syrians from their homes. today an unprecedented appeal from the u.n. for six and a half billion dollars to help with
this refugee crisis that grows worse and worse with every new attack. nbc's keir simmons is inside damascus tonight. >> reporter: good evening, brian. tonight in damascus you can hear the sound of explosions. fighting continues around this city and across this country in a war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives according to the u.n. and just this weekend, a devastating attack in the northern city of aleppo. carnage in syria's largest city. amid smoke and burning cars, desperate attempts to rescue those buried by a massive barrel bomb like this one, dropped from the sky. children cling to parents, a badly injured man is carried away, a boy trembles in shock. opposition groups say 26 children were among the dozens killed. the attacks continued today. barrels packed with nails and explosives dropped from government helicopters as seen
in this cell phone video of an earlier attack. the death toll climbs on both sides of this war. just last week more than a hundred were killed when opposition fighters reportedly used civilians as human shields. we arrived in damascus at dusk. our journey from lebanon just over 50 miles took seven hours through snowy mountains and checkpoints. an estimated million terrified syrians have made this journey in the other direction, fleeing the country that has been tearing itself apart for almost three years. in all, almost 9 million people, more than a third of syria's entire population have fled their homes. those who get to camps like this one in lebanon now face a freezing winter in just tents. [ speaking in foreign language ] my husband is sick and the cold weather is hurting us, this woman says. we're becoming sick from the smell of the stove. in a u.n. center, mothers crowd around me. help me get to the west, one
begs, holding her 9-month-old child. but others who look to the west for help, syria's more moderate opposition fighters are losing ground. battling not just president assad's forces, but extremist rebels with some link to al qaeda. america has withdrawn some aid fearing it will fall into the wrong hands. syrians are fighting over a country in ruins. as the world watches, so far helpless to stop it and families are caught in the middle with nowhere to go. tonight one u.n. official said even if the violence were to end tomorrow, we would still have a major humanitarian crisis. and the violence is not going to end tomorrow. brian? >> keir simmons in damascus for us tonight. keir, thanks. a new honor for the departed nelson mandela today. a 30-foot statue of him was unveiled at the capitol in pretoria at buildings once the seat of the apartheid government.
the same place mandela was sworn in 19 years ago as south africa's first democratically elected president. just yesterday when the sun was at its height in the sky and keeping with local tradition, nelson mandela was buried in qunu, his ancestral home. back here at home, it's not even winter yet and again much of the northeast getting ready for another snowstorm overnight. dylan dryer is watching from east rutherford, new jersey, tonight. kind of the calm before the storm. dylan, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. it certainly is. it's the timing of the storm that's going to affect so many people across the northeast on tuesday. now, right now it doesn't look like all that much. we have snow coming down through wisconsin into illinois. the whole great lakes region will see about one to five inches of snow. in the northeast we should see a widespread two to four inches. about five or six to the north and west of new york city. even as much as 6 to 12 inches through central and northern new england. by 5:00 tomorrow morning we
should see the snow in the tri-state area. it will continually get heavier through mid-morning. and then it moves up into new england. it will be heiest around mid-afternoon really affecting the evening commute up that way. so, again, it's not a block buster storm. we'll see enough snow to make the roads pretty awful for commuters on tuesday. brian? >> dylan dreyer from the east rutherford, new jersey, meadowlands tonight. thanks. still ahead for us, this concussion crisis in american sports. the new diagnosis tonight. the first of its kind in a pro baseball player that will have a lot of families and athletes taking notice. and later, making a difference. the mission to help military families this christmas. a big headline tonight out
the degenerative brain disease cte, which has been found in the brains of numerous deceased nfl players. and tonight there is new evidence that this concussion crisis may go well beyond football. we get our report tonight from nbc's stephanie gosk. >> reporter: ryan freel played baseball fearlessly. tough sometimes for his mom to watch. >> he said mom -- his exact words. mom, i don't know how to play any other way. if i don't play this way, no one will come to see me. >> reporter: being at the plate, collisions in the outfield. in this game freel gets nailed in the head during a pickoff play at second. researchers at boston university who studied his brain now say the late cincinnati reds outfielder suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or cte. the first baseball player ever to be diagnosed with the disease. researchers say brain injury throughout his life contributed
to the condition. >> it just requires a whole lot of repetitive trauma for some people -- not everyone -- to turn on this progressive change to the brain that eventually leads to worse and worse functioning. >> reporter: after freel retired his life entered a downward spiral leading to deep depression. last december the 36-year-old father of three committed suicide. his family donated his brain to the cte center at boston university suspecting he may have had the disease which can only be diagnosed after death. researchers have focused their studies on hockey and football players. like junior seau who killed himself at the age of 43. baseball isn't always lumped with those harder hitting sports but head injuries are still a serious risk. the league proposed a new rule banning collisions at home plate. in the last season 18 players were put on the disabled list
for concussions. ten of them catchers. but researchers caution no one should make hasty conclusions from their findings. >> unfortunately there is no way to draw a straight line between the cte found in his brain and his behaviors and changes in mood and ultimately his death. >> reporter: for the freel family, the news still brings some relief. >> i can't say i feel better. i feel kind of relieved, but i do feel better for my granddaughters. >> reporter: in a statement, major league baseball said they recently met with freel's mother and promised to be proactive when it comes to concussions and head injuries. just the latest professional sports league to change rules to protect player brains. >> this is emerging as a big story in all of sports. stephanie gosk, thank you. up next here after the break, remembering two icons of old hollywood.
hollywood stars beginning with peter o'toole. best known of course for "lawrence of arabia." a product of ireland. an eight-time academy award nominee. peter o'toole was 81. and joan fontaine died as well. she's remembered as much for her acting as she was a decades-long feud with her older sister olivia dehaviland. both sisters won oscars. fontaine won first for hitchcock film "suspicion" in 1942. joan fontaine was 96. secretary of state john kerry has returned to the place where he earned three purple hearts, a silver star, and a bronze star as a young man in the u.s. navy during the vietnam war. the secretary went back to vietnam for a boat trip designed to highlight the effects of climate change. while there kerry told the vietnamese prime minister it was a good thing they didn't meet 45 years ago when they were fighting on opposing sides in the military. china has launched a roving vehicle on the moon.
china's space program has randly accelerated in recent years. there is intense interest in the mission to conduct lunar experiments. while they are behind the u.s. in terms of technology after all the first americans walked on the moon back in 1969, one space expert today said if china decides to make space exploration a national priority, the way president kennedy did in the u.s. over 50 years ago, if china becomes the first nation to for example land on an asteroid, it could serve to motivate the u.s. to get back in the game in a big way. another break. when we come back, making a difference for american military families at just this time of year.
our "making a difference" report tonight is about an effort to bring a little extra brightness to military families this christmas. it's a mission that begins at christmas tree farms across this country. it ends in the living room of a lot of deserving families. we get the story tonight from nbc's kevin tibbles reporting this evening from fort leonard wood, missouri.
>> reporter: this christmas, sergeant first class ryan moreno has been deployed to the living room to share in something his young family has never had before. >> this is our first real tree. >> reporter: a tree that started its journey 1,000 miles away in rochester, new york. one of 17,000 donated to trees for troops by 450 farms around the country. for soldiers here at home and around the globe, lighting up the season for eight years. >> i think it's something special and just gives them hopefully a little joy and remembrance of times at home. we can't wait for them to come back. >> reporter: local school kids adorn each tree with a heartfelt message. then they're loaded with military precision onto fedex trucks by veterans and whisked to destinations as far away as the middle east and guam. here at fort leonard wood in missouri, families line up in the december cold to choose that
special one. >> it's a blessing that they come all this way with all the trees just for the military. i mean, it just blows my mind every year they do this. >> putting trees in every soldier's house and helping out soldiers. it's a good thing. >> reporter: single soldiers like private first class gayle brickley doesn't get trees, but she's here helping wives whose husbands may be away. >> make christmas feel like christmas. >> reporter: oh, and something else. it makes christmas smell like christmas too. >> fresh. really fresh. >> reporter: the moreno family found the perfect one. >> we're good to go. >> reporter: back home 9-year-old brianna has her favorite decoration. yon your dad was in afghanistan? >> yep. >> reporter: a tradition complete. a family together around the tree for christmas. >> this is a beautiful tree. don't you think? >> reporter: kevin tibbles, nbc news, fort leonard wood, missouri. >> how about that for a good idea? that's our broadcast on a monday night as we start off a
new week. thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams. we, of course, hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night. right now at 6:00, we're following a developing story in big sur. more than 100 firefighters are battling a wildfire that has forced people to flee their homes and the smoke could be headed here to the bay area. thanks for joining us. i'm raj mathai. jessica aguirre is off. we'll get to the big sur fire in a moment. first, a new twist in another story we've been following. an east bay family has just told us about their anger and grief. they're asking how their daughter could die after a routine surgery. the 13-year-old girl went into get her tonsils removed and
ended up brain dead. nbc bay area's cheryl hurd is in oakland at children's hospital, with what the family just said minutes ago. >> reporter: a hard lesson for this family tonight. in fact, jahi's grandmother and uncle are still talking to reporters tonight. they are saying that they just can't believe that they have no rights. they say they want to keep jahi on life support. they're even willing to take her to another hospital or maybe even to a nursing home, but the hospital is saying, no. they say that that's the law. and they say that the decision that the hospital is taking jahi off of life support is something that they just can't deal with. >> she always smiled. she always called me on the weekend. she always wanted to come swimming. all she did was smile and laugh.