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tv   NBC Nightly News  NBC  December 17, 2013 5:30pm-6:01pm PST

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as one of you folks win. >> i still have to go out and get tickets. >> we'll see you in 30 minutes. tonight, six american soldiers have been killed in afghanistan. a lot of questions about what happened. our pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski is there tonight. living in fear inside syria. families left terrorized by a new kind of attack. we'll get a report tonight from our team on the ground. the home front. the wives of nfl players have been stricken by head injuries over the years in the trenches. tonight their fight to hold their families together after learning the big nfl settlement may not cover the costs. and against all odds. there's so much money on the line in tonight's lottery drawing. we'll take you where the line stretches from one state into another. "nightly news" begins now.
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good evening. tonight six american families are in the process of receiving the worst possible news. eight days before christmas they are learning they have lost a loved one overseas. it was a blackhawk helicopter carrying u.s. soldiers. it went down in afghanistan. a fight ensued. tonight six americans are dead. there was one survivor. the pentagon has yet to fill in some of the blanks beyond the shock of the initial news. our pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski is in afghanistan for us tonight. jim, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. this was the single deadliest incident for american forces in afghanistan in more than a year, but there's a lot of confusion here tonight. first military reports claim that the americans came under heavy enemy fire, but later reports indicated there may have been no enemy contact. whatever the circumstances today, six americans were killed.
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there were two u.s. army blackhawk helicopters flying in tandem over southern afghanistan today when without warning one of the blackhawks suddenly dropped from the sky. u.s. military officials say first reports stated that the helicopter that crashed and its seven-man crew came under heavy enemy fire. the u.s. military launched a rescue team, but it was too late. six of the blackhawk crew had been killed. only one survived with serious injuries. the military is still investigating to determine whether the chopper was brought down by mechanical failure or enemy fire. the incident occurred in the zabul province in southern afghanistan where taliban fighters remain a serious threat. today's fatalities bring the total number of americans killed in the 12-year war to 2,160 and expected to rise. >> the main thing this says to us is any time we have forces operating overseas, whether they are being shot at or not,
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there's a certain danger. >> reporter: there are currently some 43,000 american forces in harm's way in afghanistan. under a pending security agreement with the afghan government, that number could drop to 7,000 to 10,000 by the end of 2014, but would commit u.s. forces to another ten years in afghanistan to train afghan military forces and keep al qaeda in check. >> al qaeda would still love nothing more than to be able to say after 12 years of combat that they have outlasted us. >> reporter: as the u.s. war in afghanistan begins to draw down, the military here worries that many americans think that the war is already over, but today's incident is a tragic reminder that in this, america's longest running war, american lives are very much at risk. brian? >> jim miklaszewski starting us off from jalalabad tonight. jim, thanks. and inside syria this
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evening, hospitals in the city of aleppo are said to be overwhelmed with victims of the assad regime's assault from the air on its own citizens. violence committed by both sides in this war has terrorized all those caught in the middle. we have a report tonight on some of the families and children at risk from nbc's keir simmons who is on the ground in damascus. >> reporter: this is the face of the war in syria, and this is the awful reality. children are increasingly its victims. killed and injured on both sides. in this case in aleppo, struck again today by barrel bombs, a .
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it's the fear of when the conflict will come to them. it's the fear of what will happen to their family, their children, their women. >> reporter: millions of syrians have been driven from their homes. damascus is packed with those who have fled. smiles for the camera, but privately people share blood-curdling stories and rumors of extremists opposed to the government carrying out executions of entire families. war is now part of life here. as we're filming there's a power cutoff. nothing unusual. they've seen far worse. just a few weeks ago, people were going about their ordinary business shopping in this ancient market when a mortar bomb fell in this very street.
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that bomb injured one man. mortars don't compare to the destruction of barrel bombs, but the fear they sow is just as real. syria is a broken country, and across the divide are civilians on both sides, terrified. keir simmons, nbc news, damascus. in this country, one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in california is burning. a wildfire broke out yesterday in big sur, california. and among the many buildings destroyed, the home of the woman in charge of saving other people's property. nbc's katy tur is there for us tonight. katy, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. we're here in big sur on the famous highway 1 where ash has been raining down all day long. the ocean is just three miles that way, and up here on the ridge is where the fire is. you can see the heavy smoke. you can even see pockets of flames between the trees, only a few feet from us. 30 to 40 homes are being threatened right now.
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15 already destroyed, including the fire chief's. in a state famous for its wildfires, big sur is infamous. where the ocean meets the sea, it's some of california's most rugged and difficult-to-protect terrain, and when offshore winds drove the blaze to the doorstep of fire chief martha carston's home, she knew it was too late. >> when i walked out the front door, the embers and ashes were actually pretty much coming by my front door. >> it was just too much fire too fast, and we couldn't save the house. we tried. everybody tried really hard. >> reporter: now, this is all that's left. >> i guess i'm mentally prepared to deal with what i have left which is pretty much nothing. >> reporter: her home was the first to go on pfeiffer ridge road where 15 of her neighbors also lost their homes. >> his property. >> reporter: carston worked through the night coordinating the fire fighting by radio and ordering evacuations. >> to stand there and watch your home burn, it's not what you want to do. >> reporter: she captured the chaos on her cell phone. today more than 600 fire
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fighters are battling the blaze against steep odds. dry bush, thick smoke and bad air are problems for miles. fabian perez's family also lost his home. >> it was horrible. it looked like daytime. looked like a volcano just exploded, raining, just raining fire. everywhere you looked fire was landing. >> reporter: 2013 is now california's driest season on record. >> everyone was pretty much chaos because no one expecting a fire in december, and no one was ready for it. >> reporter: fire chief carston didn't expect to be consoling her neighbors. >> we want to protect what we have here. they just do the best we can, and when something like that happens, we're all devastated. >> reporter: the leader of the volunteer department continues to fight the fire just as her personal loss begins to sink in. brian, as you know, it is not fire season. it's just been so warm and so dry out here. in fact, if you drive up and down the coast, you notice that all of the hillsides, all of the brush is brown. that's because it hasn't rained here, and that's why this is
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just so dangerous. >> katy tur, big sur, california tonight. katy, thanks. tonight, nasa says two astronauts will perform a series of three separate spacewalks to repair that broken cooling pump on the international space station. that will take place saturday, monday and again on christmas day. the iss is currently operating using a backup. some of the biggest names in the american tech industry came to the white house today for a meeting with the president. marisa mayer was there from yahoo! and so was apple's tim cook and sheryl sanberg from facebook. while the white house characterized the meeting as being primarily about the health care website, and it started out that way, much of the two-hour discussion then centered on data mining, electronic surveillance. just yesterday a federal judge called the nsa's phone surveillance program unconstitutional, and today the company has asked for new limits on what they have to turn over. perhaps you are in an office pool. perhaps you're not seeing this
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at all because you're in line to buy a lottery ticket. like this line near nipton, california, just over the border from nevada, which is one of seven states where they don't play mega millions. the lottery line is so long it stretches back into nevada because tonight's jackpot is $636 million, the second largest lottery in u.s. history. as you can imagine, the odds of winning are astronomical, but that doesn't stop anybody from lining up. our report tonight from nbc's tom costello. >> reporter: not to put a damper on the country's mega millions fever, but there are some cold hard facts to consider. with 259 million possible number combinations at play, the odds of winning are 1 in 259 million, but that hasn't stopped hundreds, even thousands of people, from standing in line on the nevada/california border. >> take care of my family and have more fun. >> reporter: it turns out there's a psychology to buying lottery tickets. the more others buy them, the more we think we've got to buy them. >> as long as it's still
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possible, it sort of gets people thinking about what it would be like to win, and when we imagine events, they seem even more likely. >> reporter: only 15 states have sold winning tickets for jackpots greater than $100 million. eight of those have sold multiple winning tickets. the luckiest states, california has sold ten tickets worth more than 100 million. new york has sold nine, followed by ohio, new jersey and georgia. assuming just one person wins, the pre-tax cash payout would be $341 million. what if that person took 80% for themselves and then in the season of giving spread the other 20% among five different charities? we asked three charities how they would use the money, the salvation army. >> that would give us the opportunity to help 180,000 families with rent or food or utility assistance during the winter season. >> reporter: habitat for humanity. >> with that type of money, we could build, rehab and repair more than 2,500 homes all across the country. >> reporter: and the food bank of the rockies in denver.
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>> with that kind of a donation, we could provide over 54 million meals to our neighbors in need. >> reporter: mega millions can go a long way. tom costello, nbc news, bethesda, maryland. still ahead for us tonight, the concussion crisis in football. tonight the wives of veteran nfl players who are caring for their husbands and a big nfl settlement that might not help them enough. and later, one man making a difference for a lot of kids and how decades of hard work has paid off in a big way.
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we're back with more tonight on this increased awareness of the concussion crisis in organized sports. last night we reported on the first major league baseball player found to have this same degenerative brain disease that's been discovered in the brains of several former nfl players. now the nfl and the nih have announced plans to work together to learn more about all of this, and in the meantime it's the families, most often the wives of veteran nfl players, who are
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left to carry the ball and keep life going. our report again tonight from nbc's stephanie gosk. >> reporter: they played for the teams fans know and love, but these names may not sound familiar. >> my husband is henry bradley, number 91, for the cleveland browns. >> nick bell, played for the los angeles raiders. >> fred mcneill, the minnesota vikings. >> reporter: wives of nfl players who retired in the late '80s and '90s. the stories they share sound very similar. memory loss. >> people that were in our wedding, people that -- >> reporter: people that were in your wedding. >> right. >> reporter: and he doesn't remember them? >> no. >> reporter: quick tempers. >> the mood changes scared me. >> reporter: and depression. >> i can't leave him at all because i'm so afraid that he's going to hurt himself. >> reporter: at age 60 henry bradley struggles just to get down the stairs. he wears the scars of five years as a professional defensive tackle. the knees hurt when you get up and down? >> oh, yes. >> reporter: what else hurts?
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>> shoulder, back. >> reporter: the brain injury is less visible. in the 2010 report bradley's doctor diagnosed post-traumatic head syndrome and blamed it on cumulative trauma while playing professional football. >> when the brain is not working, you're done, and that is the most scary part for me. >> reporter: each of their husbands is part of a lawsuit that the nfl settled for $765 million last august. the league was accused of hiding the health risks of repeated concussions, which it denies. lawyers on both sides are finalizing details of the settlement which compensates players and funds medical research. even with the settlement, these wives still worry. these players never made the big bucks. >> i'm worried about the long term. we can't afford the medical bills right now. >> reporter: this pittsburgh lawyer filed the original lawsuit. >> the saddest calls for me are every time a wife calls, because i know that there's nothing that i can offer them.
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>> reporter: espn reports some retired players may be cut out, and a law firm wrote this letter to its clients, suggesting there may be less money for players diagnosed after age 45 or for those who played five years or less. the nfl would not comment on the ongoing negotiations, but the commissioner has said this is the best deal for both sides. the wives believe the lawsuit is about much more than just money. >> we're here to help our husbands and families, but i have hopes that this can also help other -- >> the players that retire after this, you know. hopefully they will have an easier time of it. >> reporter: the future of their families and possibly the league itself depends on it. stephanie gosk, nbc news, los angeles. >> and we will stay on this story on behalf of these players and their families. first up, we'll take a break. we're back in a moment with what stood out around the world during the month of november.
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♪ glory days the e street band will be awarded for musical excellence at the rock 'n' roll hall of fame induction ceremony here in new york in april. turns out all those years of backing up the boss paid off handsomely. also among this year's inductees, kiss, nirvana, hall and oates, peter gabriel, linda ronstadt and cat stevens. ray price has died. he was born noble ray price in perryville, texas, and after a stint in the marine corps he slowly took off as a country star. among his hits, "make the world go away." his song "crazy arms" was number one on the country charts for 20 weeks. he once hired a young musician named willie nelson to play in his band. the great ray price was 87 years old. make of this what you will, but last month was the hottest november on earth since 1880. temperatures on land and at sea were an average of 1.4 degrees hotter.
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it includes most regions of the planet. this is the picture on facebook that announced the big news out of boston. the hand belongs to krista d'agostino, a nurse at spaulding rehab, who worked with the boston marathon bombing victims. now she's engaged to one. james costello met krista when she cared for him, and now they care a lot for each other. they were engaged on a cruise for survivors of the boston bombing. and we don't know what this says about our era, but the folks at google are out with the top searches from this year. the most often searched question of 2013. what is twerking? that means, by the way, we will be judged on this by anthropologists 100 years from now. the most searched for how-to question, how to tie a tie. and the top trending search in all of 2013 thus far, nelson mandela. and we have an answer tonight to the frequently asked question who is a good dog? the answer is orlando. an 11-year-old black lab guide dog.
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orlando's companion cecil williams is blind. cecil fainted and fell on to the new york city subway tracks. orlando is trained to keep him away from the edge and barked and tried to hold him up before jumping down with cecil cowering between the tracks as a train rolled over both of them. they're both okay. cecil credits orlando with saving his life, but says his insurance money for a guide dog is about to run out, and orlando will be forced to retire in january. when we come back, making a difference thanks to decades of dedicated service.
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finally tonight, the story of a man who has been an inspiration to so many people while quietly spending his life giving away a jackpot of his own. in other words, "making a difference" quietly when no one was watching. we get his story tonight from nbc's ron mott in pittsburgh. >> reporter: before dawn albert lexy finishes an hour-long bus commute, grabs a quick bite, gets ready for another day at work. >> here you go. >> reporter: a labor of love and
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sacrifice for this 71-year-old volunteer at children's hospital of pittsburgh. for people who like their shoes perfectly polished, what's the key? what's the secret? >> the secret is just keep your shoes nice and clean, that's all. >> reporter: since 1981 albert has polished thousands of pairs. what does it cost for a shoeshine? >> $5. >> reporter: five bucks. >> yeah. anything goes over $5 goes to the children's hospital. >> reporter: giving all his tips to the free care fund so families with sick kids and low incomes can get treated here. >> 20 bucks. >> having somebody like albert out there that you know is working tirelessly for those same kids, it really -- it elevates you. >> i want to give you this for your last time here. >> reporter: and after 32 years working two days a week the shoes and the tips have piled up. in 1982 albert donated $750. last year alone more than $11,000 and in all $202,075.56.
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>> pay me. >> there you go. thank you, albert. >> thank you. >> reporter: he's become a fixture of philanthropy in these halls. >> what someone like albert has done with what he has, and you just have to ask yourself, you know, why can't i do more? >> reporter: a shining example, say customers, of true service. >> he represents what we should be like. we often say he puts us to shame when it comes to giving and caring. >> reporter: today his last. eyes were moist. shoes glistening as usual, a fitting farewell polishing off a humble career that's paid off richly in many ways. ron mott, nbc news, pittsburgh. >> great story to end on for 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. good night.
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right now at 6:00, some pictures from our nbc chopper. you can see the layer of smoke and smog blanketing the south bay and beyond. thanks for joining us here at 6:00. i'm raj mathai. >> i'm jess a aguirre. a day of air alerts, advisories and warnings. you can see from as far north as oakland, to south as san jose, the bay area buried under bad air. >> there are two primary reasons for all of this. a fire at a redwood city recycling plant and the fire that's burning south of us in
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big sur. that's not all. this is our tenth spare the air day in a row. >> we have live team coverage for you of the perfect storm creating this poor air quality. we begin, though, with chief meteorologist jeff ranieri. >> that's right. we'll take a look right now at the visibility. it's the worst here down toward san jose. that's where it's at 5 miles and/or less. the reason why, not only do we have bad air quality today, but for the past ten days, it's been all about high pressure sitting across a lot of the west. with that, you get calmer winds and primarily get dry sinking air. it helps to push the particles to the surface. we've had a slight north wind at times and helps to funnel it throughout the valley. surrounded by mountains on three sides. that's why this air is hard to push on out. no rain over the past week and also relatively light winds. we are looking at improvement in that forecast. it's not going to come for tomorrow. another spare the air alert in wofect for wednesday.

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