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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  December 19, 2018 5:30pm-6:00pm PST

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lester holt joins us with "nightly news." >> we'll see you at 6:00. bye. tonight, a massive storm before christmas set to snarl travel for millions of families on the move. airports bracing for delays from north to south. al roker is here with the latest forecast. a bombshell from president trump suddenly declaring victory over isis and ordering u.s. troops to withdraw from syria. the decision causing confusion at the pengon, and a major backlash in congress. the cliff-hanger over a government shu 48 hours until the deadline, and still no deal. we'll look at where both sides stand. the growing firestorm over a report that facebook gave companies access to read your private messages. users angry, #deletefacebook trending. our nbc news investigation into popular robotics surgery. more people are choosing it for
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quicker recovery and no big incisions, but many are not aware of the risks. >> reporter: so somewhere in the course of the surgery, you were burned. >> uh-huh. >> tonight, what every patient should know. the mad dash at the mall, the hottest gifts for those who haven't bought yet, and a surprise why this year most returns are happening before christmas. and home for the holidays, moms and dads who serve making surprise returns, the best gift of all. >> announcer: this is "nbc nightly news" with lester holt. good evening, everyone. a lot of developing stories we're watching tonight, including holiday travel headaches. with christmas less than a week away, millions of americans travel plans are hanging in the balance as a massive storm takes aim at the east coast. airports and airlines bracing for nightmare delays tomorrow and possibly friday as the severe storm works its way
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across the southeast this evening strengthening as it moves north. we'll get to al roker and the forecast in just a moment. but first, the mad rush underway from nbc's gabe gutierrez. >> reporter: wicked weather is on the move. near san antonio, thick fog is being blamed for this massive pile-up today. from texas through florida, rain is slogging across the south as the storm system strengthens in the gulf of mexico. >> already watching some heavy rainfall move in. >> reporter: this after high winds hit the west coast this week, stirring up powerful surf, and even a rare devastating tornado outside seattle yesterday. >> and i saw the tornado like spinning, and i >> reporter: it's bad news for anyone trying to get away this holiday. on the roads, rails and in the air, aaa expects a record breaking 112.5 million travelers this holiday season. what's the best game plan? >> okay. if you have not booked your ticket yet and you still want to make it home for the
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holidays, fly out on christmas day. why? because nobody wants to fly on christmas day. so that's when you're going to get the cheapest ticket. >> reporter: the worst day is predicted to be tomorrow. the oliver family in atlanta chose to fly today to florida to beat the rush. >> we really felt like if we waited until the 21st or 22nd to travel, it would be chaos. >> reporter: the lines here in atlanta are running smoothly right now, but that will likely change tomorrow. on the roads the national weather service estimates about 67 million americans will be at risk for flooding over the next few days. lester? >> all right, gabe gutierrez tonight. thanks very much. let's get right to al roker. folks with boarding passes trying to time this. what's the latest forecast? >> reporter: if they can get out early, lester, they better do it. the storm system is making its way up the coast. motomorrow afternoon. a strong storm risk for tornadoes in florida tomorrow. heavy rain moves into the northeast with strong gusty winds causing problems. so here are the impacts. we have the chance for enhanced
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severe weather including tornadoes along the east coast of florida. we are looking for heavy rain. heaviest rain from florida to maine, saturated soil will increase the flood threat. and wind gusts, anywhere from 30 to 55 miles per hour from the mid-atlantic all the way to the northeast. and that will last into saturday, lester, causing more airport delays right into the middle of the weekend. >> all right, al roker and friends. thank you. now to the big u.s. foreign policy shift announced by tweet today, and taking a lot of folks by surprise. the white house ordering a u.s. withdrawal of troops from syria, as president trump declares victory over isis in that country. our chief foreign correspondent richard engel has spent time with u.s. troops in syria. he has the latest for us tonight. >> reporter: it's one of the most secretive and most successful military campaigns in modern history. the u.s.-led fight against isis in syria. and tonight the white house says, it's over, mission accomplished. president trump releasing this white house produced video on twitter.
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>> we have won against isis. so, our boys, our young women, our men, they're all coming back, and they're coming back now. we won, and that's the way we want it and that's the way they want it. >> reporter: u.s. forces have beaten isis far back. u.s. officials say the group has lost 99% of its territory, with more than 60,000 fighters killed. so when are the roughly 2,000 u.s. forces in syria coming home? it's unclear. the pentagon today issued a statement saying, the campaign against isis is not over, but is transitioning to a new phase, but gave no specifics. syria last spring thu.s. and kurdish troohe asis capital, raqqa. this is the main square in the center of raqqa today. isis used this place for public beheadings, even crucifixions.
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u.s. commanders told us repeatedly unless isis is completely defeated, and that it is not yet, the group could return. it's something the president's allies are also warning about tonight. >> if trump withdraws from syria and they do come back, like i think they will, he'll be one of the reasons they came back. >> reporter: and then what happens to our partners, the kurds? on our trip, their commander told us an american abandonment would be a betrayal. >> a u.s. official told nbc news this decision came quickly, in the last 24 hours, quote, right from the top. and tonight the u.s. military is scrambling to figure out how to implement it with grave concerns about isis and our allies. lester? >> richard engel tonight, thanks. now to a story that has held us in suspense all week. we are approaching 48 hours until a possible government shutdown. despite movement in congress to kick the can down the road essentially, there is still no
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spending deal in place. our hallie jackson has late details. >> reporter: a christmas crisis pushed off to just before valentine's day, it seems. now that congress hammered out a short-term compromise. >> republicans will continue to fulfill our duty to govern. >> reporter: democrats on board, but will the president sign it? republican senator john cornyn says he's pretty confident. >> my understanding is he has accepted the reality of that. >> reporter: the white house is signalling president trump would back the temporary fix. that's a reversal from the president's previous position. $5 billion or bust for his border wall. now that wall stall is not sitting well with some conservatives who think the president is blowing his last-best chance before republicans lose control of the house. >> it is becoming clearer and clearer that all we're getting is words, words, words. >> people who voted seems to be softening his stance this morning. >> the president is not softening stance. >> reporter: but how he talks about the wall has changed. >> who is going to pay for the wall?
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>> all: mexico. >> mexico will pay for the wall. i promise. in the end, mexico is paying for the wall. >> reporter: based on the president's tweets now, it's more like who is going to pay for the artistically designed steel slats at the border? mexico, indirectly. the senate hopes to pass this temporary funding fix as early as tonight, but even assuming the house and president sign off this week, everybody could be right back here before the next deadline, february 8th. lester? >> hallie jackson, thanks. another big slide on wall street today. the dow finishing down about 352 points to a new low for the year, after the fed usbrnghi aside objections from president trump, raised interest rates for the fourth time this year. tom costello now on why and what higher rates mean for you. >> reporter: amid compelling evidence of a strong today ignored president trump's criticisms and raised interest rates again, the 9th rate hike since 2015. chairman jerome powell insisting the fed is independent and
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dedicated today preserving a strong economy. >> political considerations have -- play no role whatsoever in our discussions. >> reporter: in recent weeks mr. trump has accused the fed of hurting the economy and stock market by raising rates. >> i think the rate's too high. i think we have much more of a fed problem than we have a problem with anyone else. >> reporter: today's decision and talk of more rate hikes next year sent stocks into a nose dive. the dow up 300 points before the announcement, did a wn 3urn . down 5.5% for the year. in new jersey, investment advisor michael gibney is telling clients not to panic. >> we build client's portfolios to weather storms like this. so this is something that's not unexpected. >> reporter: today's rate hike means higher interest rates for student loans, new mortgages, car loans, and credit cards. those higher rates will show up on your credit card statements early next year, just as the holiday gift bills come due. lester? >> tom costello, thanks. another privacy scandal for facebook.
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the social network admitting that it allowed other tech giants to see users' private messages. it says it only did so with users' permission. but do you remember giving it? here's nbc's ann thompson. >> reporter: tonight, more and more people deciding facebook is not their friend. #deletefacebook trending on twitter. people fed up after "the new york times" reported facebook allowed 150 companies, including microsoft, amazon and netflix, access to users' personal data. some partnerships gave companies the users' knowledge or consent. >> what's the driving force behind these partnerships? >> driving force is growth at all costs, growth at all costs, and selling your privacy to make money. >> reporter: today facebook admitted it gave partners like spotify access to users' private messages if they signed onto the sites using their facebook accounts. but denied they did it without user consent. spotify says it never accessed
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private messages. facebook, under fire over privacy and access to users' data for years. founder mark zuckerberg apologizing in "the new yorker" in 2009 for college text messages, calling people dumb, who trusted him with their information. just this year, mea copas to congress for allowing a political consulting firm to get users' data without their permission. >> that was a big mistake, and it was my mistake. and i'm sorry. >> reporter: this time "sorry" may not be enough. ann thompson, nbc news, new york. there is breaking news tonight from illinois. a scathing report from the state's attorney general accusing the catholic church of withholding the names of at least 500 priests and clergy members credibly accused of sexual abuse. the report says the state's six diocese have done a terribly inadequate job of investigating
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allegations and notifying state welfare workers. tonight an nbc investigation into a surgical robot called the da vinci, the only one of its kind. last year doctors in every state used the da vinci in more than 700,000 surgeries for everything from heart valve replacements to hysterectomies. but are they safe? and are doctors properly trained to use them? our senior investigative correspondent cynthia mcfadden has that story for us. >> reporter: there's no question that the da vinci surgical robot seen here in a marketing video suturing a grape with precision and ease, can do extraordinary things. the only surgical robot of its kind. many doctors, like heart surgeon dr. robert poston seen here using the da vinci, are believers. >> patients recover quicker, less blood loss. there's less complications. >> reporter: that's because there's no big incision. it's laparoscopic surgery on steroids. the robot controls the instruments guided by the doctor at a console. >> my ability to be precise is better, even than my
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own hands. >> reporter: but the da vinci is not without problems. in the last ten years there were 22,000 adverse events filed in an fda database setting a range of issues associated with the da vinci, from the most minor malfunctions to 274 deaths. lori featherstone who lives with her daughter in altuna, iowa, wishes she'd asked more questions before having robotic surgery. >> as you sit here now, are you in pain? >> yes. >> all day every day? >> sorry. >> reporter: three old her she needed a hysterectomy. >> she told me that i needed to choose whether to have a robot or a surgeon, and if she were me, she would elect to have the robot, less down time, less scarring. >> reporter: but lori had serious complications. >> basically, my kidneys were drowning. they had found that my ureter had some type of thermal injury.
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>> so somewhere in the course of the surgery, you were burned. >> uh-huh. >> reporter: her doctor's postoperative report confirms that, also noting her colon was damaged. she's now facing a permanent colostomy. all this two years after da vinci's manufacturer, intuitive surgical, had been put on notice in a strongly worded letter from the fda that, among other things, burning was a problem. sadly, lori is not alone. nbws a dozen patients, many of whom are suing, who say they were burned or otherwise injured during surgery with the da vinci. something we saw reported over and over again in fda documents. surgeon observed a flame. burn injury to small bowel. a burn injury to the liver. and while dr. poston has now performed 1,200 surgeries using the da vinci, he tells us, before doing his first, he had only two hours of practice on the device. and is extremely worried about the lack of doctor
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training. >> if you want to fly a commercial airplane, it takes you 1,500 hours. but you can fly a robot after training, which isn't really that rigorous. >> reporter: in fact, there are no national requirements regulating how much training a surgeon must have to operate using the da vinci. the fda says it doesn't have jurisdiction. and while intuitive surgical offers a four-level training program, it cannot require surgeons to complete it. >> the root cause here is the training, the willingness to sell robots to people and promote them doing surgeries when they weren't adequately trained. the willingness of hospital credentialing committees to sign of tit. >> reporter: dr. poston hopes every surgeon will search his or her own conscience. >> we should live in a world where we practice brutal transparency with our patients. so if we lived in that world, we would tell the patient, i'd like to operate on you, but i didn't
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have the time or money to have all the training that i really think that we ought to have had. is that okay? is that okay? would you be okay with that? >> the robot's manufacturer tells nbc news that they, quote, offer a comprehensive intensive training program that depends on the surgeon's capabilities, and that they also strongly recommend that surgeons continue training throughout their careers. now, lori featherstone filed suit against inivsaysask questions. >> all right. cynthia, thank you. we are also covering tonight the mad rush, the hottest holiday gifts and how long you have left to order them. plus, is this the future of travel? the big debut for billionaire elon musk. but does it deliver?
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we're back now with a mad rush. less than a week until christmas and a lot of people still looking for those last minute
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gifts. here's kerry sanders. >> what is it that you want for christmas? >> reporter: six days until christmas. like a hollywood movie, the race is on for this year's top toy. >> i got the last one. >> some of the hottest toys this holiday season include baby shark plush from huawei, the ryan's world mystery egg from bonkers toys, and fortnight figures and play sets. >> reporter: today is the last for getting amazon orders there by christmas if you ship standard. folks who waited too long now hitting stores. >> easier than trying to shop online right now for shipping. >> reporter: analysts crunching shipping numbers 1.5 million people return gifts via ups today. why? more americans buying gifts early for themselves. shopping online to save money? we put that to the test. >> if i wanted to buy an item like this online, would you match the price? >> of course, we would. >> reporter: i've already looked online. it's $22.99. >> wow, that's pretty impressive, because here we
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actually sell it for $7.99. >> reporter: and if you haven't started shopping, retailers have named a day just for you, "panic saturday." >> ho-ho-ho. >> reporter: kerry sanders, nbc news, aventura, florida. >> panic saturday. i like that. coming up, elon musk's solution to traffic nightmares.
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billionaire elon musk has unveiled what he hopes will be the future of travel. our morgan chesky was among the journalists who took the first ride. >> reporter: zipping 40 feet beneath los angeles, elon musk's sci-fi vision closer to reality. >> traffic has gone from like, just seventh level of hell to eighth level >> reporter: now the scientist turned showman unveiling his answer to gridlock. a mile-long tunnel designed to transform commutes. initial plans tees cars speeding up to 150 miles per hour. but after months of test runs, safe speeds barely broke 45.
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musk admitting the dream isn't there yet, promising a smoother, faster trip. >> it's going to be a slightly bumpy ride, a little rough around the edges. >> reporter: it's hard to believe when you see the size of the tunnel, but digging it was the easy part. what elon musk wants is an entire grid stretching city wide. his next dream, carrying 4,000 cars an hour. >> if you can tunnel here, you can tunnel anywhere. >> reporter: for now he's settling for one mile closer to the future. morgan chesky, nbc news, los angeles. up next, heartwarming holiday home coming surprises for those who serve. -- the mays
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responding. mayor breed -- trying to get her brother out of prison -- is defending her plea to the governor. and look at all the red spots, a new map shows if your living in a high-risk fire zone. next. right now at 6: for many of those who serve, there's one gift they want more than anything, being home for the holidays. our catie beck has some heartwarming surprises. >> reporter: at a school in ohio, hiding in this
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school mascot costume is an army soldier who hasn't seen his little brother in eight months. christmas came early. and in texas, 8-year-old merriam lopez writes santa her wish list. "if i could see my mom, it would be an awesome christmas." mom, irene, an army sergeant nine months deployed in afghanistan, answers her request. this gift, almost too big to guess, until the paper came off and a military uncle popped out to see his nephew. >> oh, my god! >> and at the christmas choir performance, a mom deployed in africa for a year ends things on a high note. for those who serve, and for those who await their return, often holidays are about memorable moments and the gifts you wrap your arms around. catie beck, nbc news. >> all right. save a tissue for me. we love those happy reunions. we thank them all for their service and wish them the
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happiest of holidays. that's "nightly news" for this wednesday. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, thank what )s that in the sky? we have calls into norad -- trying to get some answers -- right now at 6:00, are you seeing this? up in the sky. we have calls in to norad right now trying to get some answers about this mysterious streak that has everyone stumped. plus, 1 in 10. that's how many californians live in a wildfire danger zone. the new map that pinpoints the trouble spots. but first -- >> it's not necessarily about being a sister first. it's about what's true to my heart. >> san francisco mayor london breed is standing her ground. she's responding to our exclusive report that reveals she's asking the governor to let r brother out of prison. the news at 6:00 starts right no. good evening and thanks for being with us. i'm raj mathai. >> and i'm jessica aguirre. last night we broke this story. tonight mayor london breed is
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responding, urging the governor to free her brother, a convicted killer serving a four-decade term in prison. >> mayor breed is standing her ground despite harsh criticism from the victim's family, who says her intervention is an abuse of power. here's investigative reporter jackson van derbeken. >> it's sadly been twisted in an unfortunate way. >> reporter: mayor london breed spoke for the first time today about the fallout from nbc bay area's investigative unit revelation that she wrote this letter to the governor, asking him to release her brother from prison some 15 years before he's fparo. napoleon brown is serving more than 40 years for push iing lenties white out of a car into golden gate bridge traffic while fleeing a robbery back in 20

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