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tv   NBC Nightly News  NBC  February 23, 2015 5:30pm-6:01pm PST

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ee you at 6:00. on the broadcast tonight, high alert. terrorists call for attacks on american malls as a big fight erupts over money for homeland security set to run out this week. nbc news exclusive, the american woman killed while being held by isis. kayla mueller's parents open up abouchilling messages from her captors and why they say the u.s. is putting policy ahead of saving lives. shock to the system. all the way south to texas, but is there finally some relief in sight? and a 911 emergency. a stunning investigation why cell phone calls for help are ending in tragedy. what's preventing first responders from getting to the right place? "nightly news" begins now. from nbc news world headquarters in new york, this
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is "nbc nightly news." reporting tonight, lester holt. good evening. it has happened before. a deadly terror attack on a crowded modern shopping mall. and so it might be hard to dismiss entirely out of hand a new threat issued by the terror group al shabaab that identifies major malls by name inside and outside this country as targets. as it often does in these cases, the u.s. government's walking a careful line here insisting tonight that there's no specific credible threat while at the same time urging the public to exercise heightened awareness. it's a threat especially hitting home in minnesota. nbc's kristen welker is outside the famous mall of america, one of the threatened targets, with more for us. kristen. >> reporter: lester, good evening. shopping traffic has been steady here at the nation's largest mall despite that video calling for an attack here. the white house today insisted that there is no plot that they are aware of. still this latest threat has sent shock waves through this community and the rest of the
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country. inside the mall of america this afternoon heightened security, increased patrols, bomb sniffing dogs and a team monitoring social media. is the mall of america safe? >> yes. >> reporter: you have no reservations about people coming to shop here? >> i believe it's a safe place to be. >> reporter: federal officials issued a bulletin today to local law enforcement calling for increased vigilance at malls across the country in response to somali based terror group al shabaab's threat against western malls, specifically the mall of america. canada's west edmonton mall and london's oxford street. homeland security secretary jeh johnson. >> i'm not telling people to not go to the mall. i think that there needs to be an awareness. there needs to be vigilance. and, you know, be careful. >> reporter: today, the white house called the video pure propaganda. terrorism experts say the main concern now? >> the primary fear is that a lone wolf inspired by this announcement would go ahead and
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pick up a weapon and take it in a mall and start shooting it up. >> reporter: al shabaab carried out the attack against the westgate mall in nairobi, kenya in 2013, a massacre that claimed nearly 70 lives. law enforcement officials say al shabaab has long-targeted minnesota, home to roughly 39,000 somalis for recruitment. today, community leaders denounce the threat and said they're reaching out to young people. >> this is not islam. this is not american. this is not somali-american value. >> reporter: meanwhile some shoppers were concerned. >> i'm very uneasy about the threats. >> reporter: federal law enforcement officials say the old rules still apply. if you see something, say something. and their investigation continues tonight. lester. >> all right, kristen, thanks. and as malls step up security based on these new threats, believe it or not at the very same time there's a big fight erupting in washington over the money to fund homeland security. and while democrats and republicans argue and blame each
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other, that money is set to run out this week. our senior white house correspondent chris jansing is digging into the details. >> reporter: for 200,000 essential employees, an excruciating wait to see if congress will fund the department of homeland security. tsa officers at airports, border patrol and customs agents, coast guard, fema workers and secret service agents. overall 80% of workers would still have to show up if congress doesn't fund dhs, but they won't get paid. today, president obama made an appeal to the nation's governors. >> it will have a direct impact on your economy. and it will have a direct impact on america's national security. >> reporter: 30,000 more workers, mostly office staff, will stay home. fema, for example, would stop sending checks to rebuild from natural disasters. >> those funds that are for those disasters will still be there, but the people required to actually make those payments to oversee that will not be there. >> reporter: with the clock ticking, late today another
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senate debate. but no resolution. now, critics charge the white house is overstating the threat to national security just to put pressure on congress, a charge the white house denies. we have just learned senate republican leaders are working to find a solution to end this standoff. lester, stay tuned. >> chris jansing, thank you. meantime, much of the country continues to be caught in the grip of this relentless brutal deep freeze. now all the way south to texas where much of dallas is like a ghost town paralyzed by icy roads. nbc's ron allen is there. >> reporter: a massive 25-vehicle pileup blocked this texas interstate highway as an entire season's worth of sleet and freezing rain, up to two inches, fell in a single day, wreaking havoc. dozens of accidents reported. one motorist killed. the icy bone-chilling wintry mix shut down just about everything. this is the heart of the city, it's the middle of the day. everywhere you look things are pretty empty. and everywhere things are
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frozen. sam and janet dixon only stepped out to walk their dogs. >> they're not liking it too much. >> reporter: winter storm warnings and watches stretched some 2,000 miles across the u.s. from california to the carolinas. snow on the ground in every state except florida and hawaii. record lows in cities like cleveland, 5 below zero, erie minus 7, and marquette, michigan 28 below zero. some schools closed in 21 states. in tennessee the storm has been deadly. at least 22 people have lost their lives. thousands still without power. in new hampshire dozens of residents forced to evacuate after the roof of this apartment complex collapsed. ironically in alaska where the weather's been too warm, a 2,000-mile sled race splashed through the slush where there wasn't enough snow. >> you need to get me to the hospital right now. >> reporter: in the midst of all this treacherous weather, near denver the guzman family welcomed a new baby boy in the back seat of their car after the
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hospital said it wasn't time yet and they got stuck in the snowstorm. >> just screaming. and i reached over real quick and he just came right out. and i caught him in my hands. >> reporter: back here in dallas they call this massive interchange the high 5. it's usually bumper-to-bumper, one of the busiest roadways in the state, but not tonight because the roadways are still so icy and treacherous. we're also hearing that more than a hundred schools will be shut here again tomorrow as the weather nightmare in dallas endures. lester. >> ron allen, thank you. want to bring in our friend meteorologist janice huff now. janice, it is unending. it's winter, we know that. but this is getting almost ridiculous. is there any letup? any relief in the forecast? >> there's a little bit of letup for the southern states but not for the next few days. the next system that comes through this area will be all rain. but for now this system has moved out of texas and ice is going to be collecting on power lines, roads and trees across parts of louisiana, mississippi and arkansas. even parts of alabama and georgia as well. by tomorrow morning we're expecting some snow in and
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around the atlanta area as well as some ice that will move into the mountains of north georgia, north carolina, south carolina and tennessee. and then it continues east later on tuesday morning for places like columbia, charleston, maybe even wilmington north carolina and the outer banks of north carolina may see some snow as well. in the northern states it's the brutal windchills. it continues wave after wave after wave of cold as minus 30 over the next several days, into thursday. it just won't let up, lester, back to you. >> janice, thank you. new hope tonight for families worried about peanut allergies. two new reports indicate potential breakthroughs going against conventional wisdom by carefully exposing kids to peanut proteins. in one report researchers gave small amounts of proteins over time to babies deemed at risk. those who already have eczema or egg allergies. five years later the risk was significantly lower for 80% of them. in the other report kids with peanut allergies were able to tolerate small amounts of
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the proteins after using a new type of skin patch. now to an nbc news exclusive. the family of kayla mueller, the young american woman killed while isis held her hostage, sitting down with "today's" savannah guthrie. they're opening up about her life, the devastation brought by her death and their agony over the belief that the u.s. may have missed its chance to get her back alive. >> i hope i never forget that everything happens for a reason. >> reporter: 26-year-old aid worker kayla mueller was passionate and fearless. >> i don't know where she got the courage to do those things that she did, but that's who she was. >> reporter: in spring of 2013 kayla traveled to turkey's border with syria to work with refugees. what would she tell you about what she was doing and what it meant to her? >> kayla did not give us a lot of detail. >> reporter: she was protecting you? >> yes. >> very much so. >> reporter: she knew the risks. >> yeah, she definitely knew the risks. she wasn't -- she didn't go in blind.
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>> reporter: but that summer unbeknownst to her family kayla went inside syria with her syrian boyfriend who was called to help at an aid hospital. days later her parents got the call they dreaded most. >> it was at 5:00 a.m. on august 5th. and they said that she had been detained. >> reporter: they learned kayla was in the custody of isis. >> i really feel that we had a chance to get kayla out. because we were in communications with them, unlike the other families. but how do you raise $6.2 million? and you know it pretty much made it impossible but we feel they really did want to release kayla. >> reporter: the muellers understood u.s. policy not to pay ransom and say kayla never would have wanted isis to profit. do you feel like our government did enough to help you, help her? >> i think they wanted to.
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but i think, again, the policy and i don't think anyone had any idea this group would be as powerful as they were. >> reporter: last summer u.s. special forces attempted a daring secret rescue of kayla and other western hostages, but by the time they arrived the hostages were gone. there was a rescue attempt. and there's been some reporting that some people involved in it felt like they were too slow to approve it. that washington kind of dragged its heels a little bit. >> yeah. i mean, they're so cautious about getting actionable intel. you don't want to put soldiers in harm's way without knowing exactly the circumstances. but, yeah, i think they waited too long. there were people who had gotten released. we had an idea where they were. and it was 30 days, i think, before they took action. >> reporter: the rescue effort unsuccessful, kayla's family could only watch as one by one
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the other hostages were brutally executed. there were also reports kayla may have been forced to marry an isis fighter. do you think that's true? >> i have no idea. i don't know. but i just know that she was doing the best she could to stay alive. that i do know. because she wanted to come home desperately. >> reporter: but it wasn't to be. earlier this month isis confirmed kayla's death. >> i became an only child that day. and that's hard. it's really hard. the kayla i remember is just a little sister playing in the backyard. that's what i miss. >> i'll always love you. >> she changed our lives' direction. i think that's what i'll remember about kayla other than my little girl. >> savannah, strong people. hard to imagine what they've been through. let me ask you about this rescue attempt. what does the government say
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about the timing and the speed? >> well, they have heard this criticism that perhaps washington, the administration, was slow to approve this rescue mission. what they say is by the time it got to the president's desk it was approved with warp speed, to use their words. but it was very quickly looked through, especially for such a dangerous and complex operation. and to be clear, the family has its criticisms, but they understand what a difficult situation this was for everybody involved. and they're now focused on something they call kayla's hands. it's a new foundation and they hope to be able to raise money and continue the work she cared so passionately about. >> savannah, thanks for sharing their story. appreciate it. there are warnings tonight about what may be a toxic batch of the party drug known as molly after a dozen people were hospitalized in connecticut over the weekend, most of them students at wesleyan university. at least two were said to be in critical condition. campus officials are looking for the source of the drug reportedly distributed to students on saturday.
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a lot more to tell you about. emergency calls ending in tragedy. when every second counts to save lives, the stunning reason 911 operators are having trouble getting help there in time. also, the big winners who bypass the usual thank yous instead delivering powerful messages, and it touched some nerves.
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welcome back. if emergency strikes and you must call 911 from a cell phone, you might expect dispatchers to be able to trace your call and find you, but an nbc news investigation in partnership with ganet has found something
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alarming. 60% of wireless 911 calls can't be properly located, and it's because the technology they use to do it is so often out of date. here's national investigative correspondent jeff rossen. >> 911, what is the address of the emergency? >> i'm in a car in a lake. >> reporter: you're listening to a panicked woman trapped inside her sinking suv. >> where? where are you? >> the fairway. >> reporter: shanell anderson delivering newspapers in the dark in suburban atlanta when she careened into this pond. she knew right where she was. >> the fairway. and batesville. >> batesville and what? >> reporter: but 911 dispatchers can't find her on their map. >> i'm losing air very quickly. >> give me the address one more time. it's not working. >> the fairway. f-a-i-r-w-a-y. >> reporter: it took first
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responders nearly 20 minutes to get to her. shanell didn't make it. >> you're telling me 911 doesn't have the capability to locate someone? that is absolutely absurd. >> reporter: turns out many 911 centers use old technology, relying on nearby cell towers to locate you. often inaccurate. watch what happens when we do our own test inside this 911 center. >> 911. what's the emergency? >> reporter: hi, this is jeff rossen with nbc news. i just want to know if you can tell me where our location is on your computer. >> showing 4641 west ox road. >> that's about a quarter mile away. >> reporter: and we're standing in the actual 911 center. that's it right down there. >> that's correct. >> reporter: and they still can't find us? >> that's correct. >> reporter: experts say 911 centers should be using satellite technology instead with precise gps, already standard on most smartphones today. >> things must get better. >> reporter: the fcc oversees
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the 911 system. now creating new rules to fix it. the new rules the fcc has adopted demand 40% accuracy within the next two years. how bad is it right now if in two years the goal is 40%, which i think we can agree is not a great number? >> we have to push to make sure that both the wireless carriers and the local 911 folks are prepared to be able to exceed that and to give the kind of expectation that you and i have a right to have when we call 911. >> reporter: the fcc says it's also developing a 911 app for your phone using gps technology, hoping to avoid more tragedies like this. jeff rossen, nbc news, milton, georgia. when we come back, imagine what it would be like to hit one of the biggest jackpots in history. meet the single mother of four who just became rich well beyond her wildest dreams.
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a big celebration today in north carolina where a single mother of four came forward to claim her share of one of the biggest lottery prizes in history. marie holmes bought one of three winning tickets for that $564 million powerball jackpot. she said today she'll take the $127 million lump sum payment before taxes. another winner in puerto rico has chosen to remain anonymous while the third in texas has yet to come forward. it's one of the most unforgettable images of all time. the american flag being raised on iwo jima in world war ii. it happened 70 years ago t the moment also captured on film was immortalized by a.p. photographer joe rosenthal. four of the men who raised the flag were later killed on iwo jima. all six are gone now. but the image endures. and the flag itself is on permanent display at the marine corps museum in quantico, virginia. the same flag that gave hope to a war-weary nation 70 years ago.
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when we come back, from the awesome to the awkward. the moments everyone's talking about at the oscars.
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a lot of people watch the oscars last night, more than 36 million. just not as many as last year.
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total viewership was down 16% from last year's affair. but hollywood's biggest night always has those moments that get people talking. and this year was no exception. nbc's joe fryer has more from los angeles. >> reporter: this year the academy awards stage became more of a soap box. >> and people with alzheimer's deserve to be seen. >> reporter: a megaphone for issues important to the winners. >> and equal rights for women in the united states of america! >> reporter: the viral #stayweird was inspired not by an actor but screen writer graham moore who opened up about trying to kill himself when he was 16. >> that kid out there who feels like she's weird or she's different or she doesn't fit in anywhere, yes, you do. i promise you do. you do. stay weird. stay different. >> graham's story was not only beautiful to hear, but actually could have a life-saving impact. >> reporter: the oscars have
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been criticized for a lack of diverse nominees. >> tonight, we honor hollywood's best and whitest, sorry, brightest. >> reporter: yet female filmmakers won the two documentary categories. >> "birdman." >> reporter: "birdman" director alejandro inarritu took home three major trophies and discussed the contentious issue of immigration for mexicans living in the u.s. >> i pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones who came before and build this incredible immigrant nation. thank you very much. ♪ glory ♪ >> reporter: best song went to "glory," the powerful anthem from "selma" that brought stars to their feet and tears to their eyes. >> when people are marching with our song, we want to tell you we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on. god bless you. >> reporter: a night remembered not just for social media, but for social messages. joe fryer, nbc news, los angeles. that's going to do it for us on this monday night. i'm lester holt.
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for all of us at nbc news, thank you for watching and good night. nbc bay area news begins with breaking news. >> that breaking news on the peninsula during this evening commute, a caltrain slam flooz a car. you see the car right there. it's a mangled mess. the driver a woman, rushed to the hospital. the train also significantly damaged. good evening, thanks for being with us. i'm raj and alma street. that tow truck is picking up what's left of the wreckage of the car. it's almost impossible to what
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kind of car it even is. witnesses say the driver stopped directly on the tracks and the woman appeared to be looking down at something in her car. that's when the train struck the car. the woman was rushed to the hospital. now, a baby seat has been found in the car. at this point it's unclear if there was a baby in the car. it doesn't appear though firefighters say they've been combing through the wreckage for signs of a baby but nothing has been found. the woman rushed to the hospital they say when she arrived at the hospital she did have a pulse. caltrains has been stopped since about 4:45 in both directions. as soon as the wreckage of this car is moved away they will attempt then to open one of the lanes potentially the eastbound lane. at this point it's still unclear. bay area's michelle roberts is headed to the scene right there. she'll be there in a few minutes. you can see the firefighters still loading the pieces of the car there. as soon as she arrives, we will bring you the very latest information. >> another crash

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