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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  March 18, 2018 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT

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"nightly news" is next. we'll see you back here at 6:00. tonight, the president's plan to combat the nation's devastating opioid crisis. what will be done to provide greater access to treatment, to get doctors to stop overprescribing, and what about new penalties for drug offenders, including the death penalty. for the first time, the president attacks special counsel robert mueller by name. and, our new poll on his approval rating and the prospects for republicans and democrats in the midterm elections. the tragic accident this weekend at cirque du soleil as a veteran aerial performer plunges and later dies. will there be wedding vows for catholic priests? the vatican studies the issue as a priest shortage grows worse. a modern day treasure hunt for tens of millions in gold lost in a field during the civil war.
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and the thrilling finish on the ice for american para olympians. >> announcer: from nbc news world headquarters in new york. this is nbc nightly news with kate snow. >> good evening, we begin with a staggering statistic, 115 people day every day in this country from an opioid overdose, 115. that is more than die in car crashes. during the campaign, then candidate trump promised voters in new hampshire he'd stop drugs from pouring in and help people who are addicted get treatment. acommission he appointed made recommendation in november. tomorrow the white house is finally unveiling what it calls a comprehensive plan to deal with a problem that is out of control. the need for help is urgent in places like dayton, ohio. >> we need more boots on the ground for law enforcement. >> in this county they lost more than 500 people last year. it's not just here.
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a report out last week found over three decades drug related deaths went up in every single county across the entire country. in one county in west virginia jumping 8,000%. at a fundraiser this morning for the group's family of addicts. >> this week given 26 rnl. >> what they need most are treatment options. >> we're reasoning short on therapist and doctors that can help or want to help with this. >> senior administration says the white house plans include db proposals to reduce the overprescription of painkillers by one-third within three years and cutting off the supply of illegal drugs including internet sales. >> they catch a drug dealer they don't even put them in jail. >> the plan from the white house, stricter punishment. many who work in the
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substance abuse field strongly oppose that. >> it worries me. we can't arrest our way out of this problem. >> but there is some support for stricter punishment. >> i'm not advocating the death penalty for every dealer. but there's got to be a certain level. if you're bringing in f fentanyl into our community, you need to be held accountable. >> laurie's son chase died after a friend injected him with heroin and left him in a car. >> i don't know if the death penalty is the answer. something has to give. >> dr. andrew who attended a recent white house summit worries the plan is more talk without enough action. >> if we want to see overdosing start to come down we feel to build better treatment center that doesn't exist yet. that will require a massive federal investment. >> the white house insists it is taking action. already working with states to go after doctors who
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overprescribe opioid drugs. on friday, federal prosecutors charged five doctors here in new york in a scheme involving alleged bribes and kick backs from a drug company in return for prescribing large volumes of fentanyl with itself highly addictive and dangerous effects. katie beck has that part of the story. >> reporter: 32-year-old sarah fuller was planning her wedding when a fentanyl overdose took her life two years ago. >> it's a hole that's never going to be filled. >> reporter: fuller had back pain and was prescribed the fentanyl drug subsys, indicated for cancer patients. >> we were never told how lethal this drug could be. >> reporter: the family is taking legal action against the drug's maker, insys, and they're not the only ones. unsealed friday, a federal indictment charging that the drug maker bribed doctors with perks and payments to prescribe more subsys. a series of doctors were convinced to push aside their ethical
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obligations and prescribe a drug for profit to patients who turn to them for help. five manhattan doctors are now facing up to 25 years behind bars. prosecutors say they were paid more than $800,000 combined from insys. they were also treated to lavish dinners and expensive strip club visits. court documents show two insys executives secretly pled guilty for their involvement last summer. there's been a massive spike in fentanyl use, the highly addictive painkiller, 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. even handling the drug requires special training. this doctor studies drug marketing and has been asked to testify against opioid manufacturers. >> if we're really going to be serious about ending this opioid epidemic, we need to put fewer pills into the pipeline. >> reporter: an epidemic the fullers vow to fight. >> i just don't get it. i don't get how you can make money.
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the most important thing when you're killing people. >> reporter: katie beck, nbc news, new york. the president said it again today. no collusion. as he intensified his attacks on the russia investigation to a level not seen before. kelly o'donnell has more on that from the white house. >> reporter: this weekend, the president let loose a new approach to tweet slamming the russia investigation. he personalized it, using the special counsel's name for the first time. the mueller probe, the mueller team, and described investigators as 13 hardened democrats, some big crooked hillary supporters, and zero republicans. campaign donations and voter registration histories show most of the legal team has democratic ties, but mueller and his supervisor, rod rosenstein, are republicans. >> it is odd the number of democrats that he's put on board his team. that does raise some flags in some sense there. >> reporter: the president has previously called mueller honorable and fair.
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publicly insisting he would not remove the special counsel. >> are you considering firing robert mueller? >> no, not at all. no, i'm not dismissing anybody. >> reporter: saturday, trump lawyer john dowd called for an end to the investigation, but many republicans say the special counsel team should be allowed to finish its work and that firing mueller would cross a dangerous line. >> if he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency because we're rule of law nation. >> reporter: and the president's new tone is seen as a warning sign by democrats. >> you have the president through his lawyer trying to shut down the mueller investigation and speaking out against special counsel. members need to speak out now. don't wait for the crisis. >> reporter: concerned magnified by the president's treatment of fired fbi official andrew mccabe. sources close to mccabe told nbc news he gave the special counsel his notes on his meetings with the president. today mr. trump tried to undercut that. he never took notes when he was with me. i don't believe he made memos, except to help his own agenda.
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the president's made-to-ord made-to-order frustrations may cause more trouble, according to republican congressman trey gowdy. >> when you are innocent, if the allegatio allegation is collusion with the russians and you're innocent of that, act like it. >> reporter: new polling gives the president mixed feedback. president trump's approval rating is up four points since january, according to a just released nbc news/"wall street journal" poll. that puts his approval rating at 43%. but democrats can find encouragement. when asked which party should control congress, 50% of those polled picked democrats, and that's a ten-point advantage over republicans, who are in charge now. kate? >> kelly o'donnell at the white house tonight. kelly, thank you. now to russia, where there were eight candidates on the ballot today in that country's presidential election, but only one of them really stood a chance. vladimir putin declared victory tonight as he cruised to a fourth term with about three-quarters of the vote. chief foreign correspondent richard
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engel has the latest from moscow. >> reporter: even before the polls opened this morning, it was already clear president vladimir putin would win six more years. voters were greeted at the polls by costumed characters, dancing, and cookies. tiny enticements to lure the crowds. >> russia is very important country in the world, and it's because of our president. >> reporter: the atmosphere here is utterly relaxed. it feels more like a holiday than an election. there is zero expectation of political change. the only question is how many people will bother to show up. turnout is a matter of pride for putin to show that russians would still come out for a shoo-in. it's also a focus of putin's rivals. an opposition leader wasn't allowed to run, so he told his supporters to head to the polls not to vote but to observe, looking for
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irregularities. in these videos verified by the a.p., voters seem to insert multiple ballots. one election official appears to stroll over to a box, stuff it, while no one in the room seems to mind. but these would only be vanity votes. putin doesn't need fraud to win. he has deep support. and as the ballots were still being counted, putin tonight came out by red square for a brief acceptance speech, looking en energetic, he thanked voters for their trust, promised hard work and unity, ending with a cheer. russia, russia, russia. he's already made clear his priority for his next term, confront the west while the united states is in political turmoil. the question is, was it putin's plan all along? early results show that president putin won more than 75% of the vote, over a 60%
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turnout. it makes him the most popularly elected president in russia's modern history. kate? >> richard, thank you. in this country now, a tragedy at a circus show in tampa, florida. an aerial performer for cirque du soleil fell to the ground and died a short time later. maya rodriguez has more. >> reporter: shocking moments after a performer fell 20 feet during the cirque du soleil show. >> i saw the performer visibly straining to hold on to the rope. >> reporter: the long-time aerialist died from his injuries. witnesses say the big top tent in tampa was packed. a reporter for nbc's tampa affiliate shot this video of the aftermath. >> out of the corner of my eye, i could see something happening, and i didn't pay attention until i heard a thud. he didn't move anymore. >> reporter: in a statement, cirque du soleil said he had been with us for over 15 years and was loved by all who had the chance to know him. just before the show, he wrote on instagram,
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after so much work and training and staging, our straps duo act is finally in the show tonight. this is not the first time a cirque du soleil performer has died during a show. in 2013, this woman died when she fell 94 feel during a performance in las vegas. at the time, it was the first death for cirque du soleil in its 30-year history. now tampa police investigating this latest loss for the acrobatic troupe. maya rodriguez, nbc news. we're keeping an eye tonight on yet more severe weather sweeping across the eastern half of the country. high winds in kansas knocked over a tractor trailer near dodge city today. this same system will move through the south tonight and tomorrow, putting 19 million people at risk for tornadoes, damaging winds, and hail, especially in tennessee and northern alabama. and on this sunday night, we want to look at a problem the catholic church is confronting, a severe and growing shortage of priests.
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a sharp decline in the number of men entering the priesthood has led some catholics and even the vatican to consider whether priests should be allowed to get married. matt bradley has been looking into this complicated issue. >> reporter: father tyler tripp has a confession to make. sometimes he celebrates as many as four masses a day. >> four in a day? >> we're not supposed to do that. >> reporter: his sin will likely be forgiven. there aren't enough priests to serve the growing die y growi growi growi growing die yo sis of san bernardino. >> is it ideal? no, but we do the best we can. >> reporter: it's a global problem. in 1980, a ratio of
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nearly 2,000 catholics to each priest. here in san bernardino, it's 7,000 pa rishers to each priest. some say the shortage is caused by the church's celibacy requirement. it may seem like sell brat priests have been around as long as the catholic church itself, but the rule is only 900 years old, which goes to show rules can change. frank rocca says the church is considering ordaining married men, even though they rarely discuss it publicly. >> the pope has been cautious, but he said earlier that the door is always open to married priests, which was pretty encouraging to people who are in favor of that. >> reporter: father tyler, celibacy isn't the problem. >> i say that it's a gift because it allows me to be devoted to the people i serve in a way that i just couldn't even imagine doing if i also had the responsibility of being a father and a husband. >> reporter: a message he offers young men like david who are considering the priesthood. >> this is what god has in store for me as a vocation, to give everything.
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>> it's not something oppressive. it's the opposite. it's liberating. >> reporter: but the rule may still leave too few shepherds for a growing flock. matt bradley, nbc news, san bernardino, california. still ahead tonight, treasure worth tens of millions lost during the civil war. is it buried in a remote field? treasure hunters and the fbi have dekrended on the site. also, going for gold at the paralympic games. today's thrilling finish for team usa.
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we're back with an intriguing new look at a legend that goes back 155 years, back to the civil war and the loss of two tons of gold being transported in pennsylvania during the battle of gettysburg. all of a sudden, there's renewed interest in a remote site where some believe the gold might be buried. morgan r morgan radford has that story. >> reporter: the legend going back to the civil war has echoed to this day. somewhere in pennsylvania, a union shipment of gold heading from west virginia to harrisburg went missing. the wagons and dead soldiers found at the time, but 52 bars of gold, today worth $55 million, vanished. it was long dismissed as a myth, but this past week a team of fbi agents showed up in a state forest at dents run, just two hours north of pittsburgh, and started digging. professional treasure hunters like eric schmidt were surprised. >> i'm very, very, very certain that the fbi has never gone out
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looking for treasure before. >> reporter: the government's search in pennsylvania comes after a group called finders keepers says it actually found the location of the gold using a hie-powered metal detector back in 2004. they wanted to dig, but the state department of conservation and natural resources wouldn't let them. tonight, a law enforcement official tells nbc news they went to dents run after a tip that there was federal gold at the site, but upon digging, they found nothing. >> just because they went there and didn't find anything doesn't necessarily mean that it's not there. >> reporter: the legendary treasure still unfound, inspiring the hunt for history's fortune. morgan radford, nbc news, new york. when we come back, who has the one winning ticket? tonight it is the $457 million question.
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the scene in san francisco last night, a huge fire sweeping through a three-story building, shooting flames into the night sky. several apartments and stores were affected. at the height of the fire, 130 firefighters, 45 vehicles were on the scene. one firefighter was injured. there were no civilian injuries, thankfully. the cause is being investigated. and tonight, someone is very lucky. that's because there was a single winning ticket in last night's powerball drawing. the ticket was purchased in pennsylvania, location not yet disclosed. the winning ticket is worth almost $457
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million. the eighth largest jackpot in powerball history. when we come back, from para olympians to those just starting out, an organization that helps young athletes chase their dreams.
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a blaze of fireworks tonight in pyeongchang, south korea, as the 2018 paralympic winter games came to an end. over ten days, lots of records were broke within more athletes from more countries competing and ticket sales setting a record as well. more than half the 49 delegations won at least one medal with a record 20 of them taking the gold. and for the united states, it was gold at the very finish. a thrilling end in the
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sled hockey final with just a minute to go and canada holding a 1-0 lead. team usa tied it up, sending the game into overtime. then it was farmer who scored again, winning it for the americans and giving team usa its third straight paralympic gold. as you can see here, the united states led the way, winning a total of 36 met ddals, 13 of them gold. for many athletes, competing in the paralympics wouldn't be possible at all if it weren't for an organization that helps them buy equipment that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. it's called the challenged athletes foundation. it provides grants for prosthetics, coaching, and travel. as steve patterson reports, it's also helping the next generation of athletes get in the game. >> reporter: for 6-year-old david, these are the first steps toward a new life. without legs or a right hand, some might dwell on what's missing. but the challenge athletes foundation focuses on what's not,
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the dream to compete. >> check it out. pretty light, huh? >> reporter: for david, it's the chance to run, fast. >> how fast? >> faster than a cheetah. >> faster than a cheetah? >> all he's wanted to do is run. and now he has the tools to run, and i don't think he knows where it's going to take him. and it's going to take him everywhere. >> reporter: the foundation has given out more than $90 million in grants since 1994. they funded more than half the u.s. athletes at this year's paralympics. >> you're giving someone a piece of equipment, and that equipment is going to change their lives, their family's lives, and really their destination. >> reporter: david is a real ironman. he lost his right leg to a land mine. >> i realize i was going to have a battle. it wasn't a quick fix. it wasn't a quick replacement. >> reporter: c.a.f. helped him back on his feet. he returned to iraq to command his troops, then on to competition. >> when i did ironman in 2006, won my division, i knew that
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there were thousands if not millions of people that were watching me and saying, now, that's a role model for my recovery. >> reporter: inspiring others, now part of the routine, with the idea that heroes come in all shapes and sizes when big dreams are given new legs. >> what do you want to do with those? >> race every single person in the world. >> reporter: now that race can finally begin. steve patterson, nbc news, san diego. >> just amazing athletes. that is nbc nightly news for this sunday. lester holt will be in tomorrow. i'm kate snow. for all of us here at nbc news, have a great night. the smoke has cleared af
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massive build right now at 6. the smoke has cheer cleared after a massive building fire this san francisco. we're learning about the toll it's taking on businesses. >> good evening, thanks for joining us. >> emotions run high at the scene of the massive four alarm fire in north beach. we continue the coverage. >> right now a clean up is under way. to help some of the businesses dry out. where water may have gotten in during the fire fite. you can see the activity there. the damage to this building is really up above. in fact you can see daylight through that window. this has been an emotional

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