tv ABC World News With Diane Sawyer ABC December 20, 2010 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
tonight on "world news" -- drenched -- in california, cars ricochet on slick roads. mudslides roll through the streets. as more storms are coming and heading east. desperate -- at heathrow, the world's busiest international airport, frozen by snow, there's a five-hour line just to board a train. jittery -- a lot of anxiety producing false alarms about terrorism here in the u.s. as a plot is thwarted in england. and generosity -- america's first full face transplant recipient finally learns about the woman whose face gave her life. what did the donor family say when they saw her?
and good evening to you. they are calling it the system storm of the decade. this weather system drenching the west coast, a foot of rain in southern california, nine feet of snow and counting in the mountains. the mudslides are beginning. evacuations are under way. and it turns out there's now a conveyer belt of new storms marching in. mike von fremd is in la canada, california. >> reporter: good evening, diane. the hills in back of me are saturated and may give way. california's been battered by a storm system that is predicted to last all week. homeowners here have been warned to be ready to evacuate. and all across california, people are scrambling to take cover. calls to more than 2,000 residents of kern county went out to evacuate immediately. an estimated 500 homes are in danger in the central valley. in sacramento, high winds toppled a wall at a shopping mall, panicking those inside.
>> i was just screaming, everybody was kind of running. >> reporter: there's already been more than 6 inches of rain in beverly hills since friday. 8 inches in san lewis obisido. mammoth mountain could receive more than 20 feet of snow through wednesday. in northern california, more than 280,000 customers are without power. and in spokane, washington, the treacherous ice caused a chain reaction pileup that never seemed to end. meteorologists say these huge rain totals are because of a weather system just south of hawaii. >> the pineapple express is something that takes warm subtropical moisture and it really streams it into the area, sometimes lasting for days. this is very similar. >> reporter: engineers are fighting mother nature by building large storm basins to funnel the floodwater. this is one of many enlarged debris basins. and this is really the front line of defense. excavation crews are trying to remove as much mud as possible, but there's a chance they could
be overwhelmed. la canada streets are protected by concrete barriers if the mud starts flowing again like it did in february, when it washed away homes and cars. >> anyone's going to want to stay and protect their homes and their neighborhood. and that's just what people do. it's your home. >> reporter: torrential rains are predicted all week for what is supposed to be sunny california. the system is so powerful, it may reach all the way to the east coast, bringing a white christmas. diane? >> okay, mike, thank you. and it's not just here in the united states. across the atlantic, thousands of travelers, including americans, are in a race against the clock to get home for the holidays. only to be told, get ready to camp out, a long wait. nick watt reports from london tonight. >> reporter: the busiest international airport on earth. the busiest travel week of the year. but thousands of passengers are now trapped at what they're calling hotel heathrow.
they won't make it home for the holidays. >> i'd decided to come home as a present to my parents, and i was going to surprise them a little bit. >> reporter: this is london's worst snow in 25 years. the coldest december in 100 years. heathrow is just not equipped to deal with it. >> i am truly sorry for every spoiled christmas holiday, every disrupted travel plan. >> reporter: in germany today, 1,000 flights were cancelled. in paris, a third of all flights grounded. >> our flight coming in was air france. >> reporter: the guy on the left is the french transport minister. >> our flight was cancelled, we weren't told our flight was cancelled. >> reporter: at brussels, they just ran out of de-icer. >> they are closing the airport now, right? >> reporter: right. closed until wednesday at the earliest. many roads across europe are also a mess. and the railways? well, that is a five-hour line snaking around london's international train station. some passengers are angry -- >> stop! >> reporter: -- but most are sanguine. >> after standing in the cold
for three hours, you have no blood left to actually get excited. so you just sit there and wait. >> if i have to take a boat, i will! >> reporter: good, determination. good luck, i hope you make it. >> thank you. >> reporter: but sadly, the news isn't great. tonight, the temperatures are going to plummet again and a lot more snow is forecast. nick watt, abc news, london. and we turn now to travel and terrorism. here at home, it was a day of frayed nerves and false alarms. bomb scares at three locations in new york and new jersey. one suspicious sighting turned out to be just christmas packages. another, a car filled with ordinary luggage. but back over in london, the terrorism news was real, as investigators short-circuited a terror plot, 12 arrests in 4 cities, a series of synchronized predawn raids. the combination of weeks of top secret surveillance. and jim sciutto tells us about that from london. >> reporter: the raids came
before 5:00 a.m. police counterterror units swarming on addresses in four cities across the uk. the most significant counterterror operation here in nearly two years. >> i just heard a bit of commotion at about quarter to five. just been i went out to work. then when i came out, there's police cars everywhere. >> reporter: police believe this was an al qaeda-inspired plot to bomb multiple targets in britain. so far unidentified. they say it was necessary to act right away. an indication this plot was in its final stages. >> with the current threat level in the uk severe, and with the information we had, i believe today's arrests were absolutely necessary in order to keep the public safe. >> reporter: the 12 men were muslims of bangladeshi and pakistani origin, ranging in age from just 17 to 28. they had been under surveillance for weeks. authorities in the united states and europe are on high alert for attacks tied to this holiday season. arrests follow a suicide bombing in sweden earlier this month and
warnings in germany about a mumbai-style armed assault. today's raids involved cooperation from several countries' intelligence services. at any one time, british authorities are tracking some 200 known terror cells. dozens of plots. but they learned something about this one that led them to act immediately, possibly a communications intercept. and diane, the authorities here, like in the u.s. are exercising maximum caution. >> well, jim, i'm here in washington, d.c. to talk with american national security officials about the holidays ahead. any concerns they have on homeland security. and i'll bring you the full conversation tomorrow. i sat down with department of homeland security secretary janet napolitano, the director of national intelligence, james clapper and his president's chief counterterrorism adviser john brennan. but on this day fraught with so many terror warnings, i started by asking them about london. and here's a bit of that. >> as far as i know, we have not yet found any connection between
those arrests and any threat to the homeland or to the united states. >> any sense of how many attacks they're planning? >> i will leave it to the british to talk about the activities that these individuals were engaged in. >> but, again, when we look around today, with newark airport and the false alarm there but new york city we had several of them. what do you say to the american people right now about the degree of anxiety that's just realistic right now as we head into the holidays? >> what i say to the american people is that we are and thousands of people are working 24/7, 364 days a year to keep the american people safe. >> as we know, michael leiter, who is at the national counterterrorism agency, has said, we will not stop all the attacks. and it may well be tragic. innocent lives will be lost. do you agree? >> i think mike leiter was correct.
you can not hermetically seal the united states. >> we're not going to bat a thousand necessarily, we can't guarantee that. but we're certainly doing everything we can to ensure that we do thwart any kind of attack. >> and we'll have a chance to tell you more about what they say they are doing, what their concerns are, tomorrow night. as all of us head out for the holidays. that conversation tomorrow. last night, by the way, the world was riveted by north and south korea. the south was conducting military exercises near an island claimed by the north. and the south as well. the north threatened, quote, a massive retaliation. and residents on the island rushed to shelters. but outgoing new mexico governor bill richardson, currently in north korea, managed to broker a deal. and as of tonight, negotiations are under way. and the standoff apparently has been avoided. if you've heard that roaring sound from washington this week,
it's taken a lot of americans by surprise. suddenly, a torrent of votes on big issues in congress. like eliminating, don't ask, don't tell. why is congress fired up just before the new term? john karl tells us. >> reporter: don't call it a lame duck. this congress has accomplished more in the last six days than in the previous six months -- the repeal of don't ask, don't tell which passed over the weekend, the first step in lifting the ban on gays serving in the military. >> a thrilling day. >> this is indeed an historic day. >> reporter: late last night, it was food safety -- the senate passed sweeping new regulations designed to prevent outbreaks of tainted foods. and all this after the tax cut bill -- extending the bush era income tax cuts for everyone, adding even more tax cuts and extending unemployment insurance. and there may be more to come -- the new s.t.a.r.t. treaty -- which would reduce the number of deployed nuclear warheads in russia and the u.s. by 30%. it's hotly opposed by many republicans, who feel the treaty
favors russia. >> we got snookered. we got snookered on missile defense. >> reporter: and democrats now say they have the votes to pass the 9/11 health bill to establish a $6 billion fund to provide health care for rescue workers of 9/11. but don't pop the champagne corks. senator tom coburn today released a report on the top 100 examples of wasteful government spending in 2010. it's quite a list. $28 million spent to print the congressional record. the record of everything said in congress that's already available online. about the only thing the congressional record is used for these days is filling up recycling bins on capitol hill. also, $1.8 million for a museum about neon signs in las vegas and $436,000 spent by the census bureau on a totem pole in alaska to encourage alaskans to take part in the census. we could have a final vote on the s.t.a.r.t. treaty as early
as tomorrow. this is the top remaining priority for the white house. and despite the fact the republican leadership is against this, democrats are increasingly confident, diane, that they will get the 67 votes they need to ratify the treaty. >> why that increased confidence, john? >> reporter: well, it's one vote at a time, diane. in fact, we just heard a little while ago, scott brown told us that he will vote yes. that's another republican yes vote. even with just the declared votes, they're almost there. >> so scott brown has come on board. thank you, john karl reporting on capitol hill. still ahead on "world news" -- americans look back. with a flood of emotions. 150 years ago, so much history, as brother prepared to fight brother. and the greatest gift. a family meets the face transplant recipient. do they see another face in hers? splant recipient. do they see another face in hers?
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why and who will attend? here's linsey davis. >> reporter: it was 1860 and decades of tensions between north and south were boiling over. the election of abraham lincoln as president, an anti-slavery republican, was the last straw. 150 years ago today, lawmakers gathered in south carolina to secede from the united states of america. the union now subsisting between south carolina and other states, they wrote, is herby dissolved. less than four months later, the first shots were fired in charleston harbor. 11 states in all would join the rebellion. still the bloodiest in u.s. history. 620,000 people died. the equivalent for today's population would be 6 million dead. at issue -- slavery, america's most toxic institution that the farms of the south became so dependent upon. south carolina's declaration of the reasons for seceding mentions slavery 18 times.
a century and a half later, the war between blue and gray still casts a shadow in black and white. two sides still see this historic issue differently. >> how dare we continue to have to deal with these type of issues, the lack of respect. but, had it not happened, i may still be a slave. >> reporter: several commemorations and protests are planned. >> what occurred here 150 years ago today was one of the most significant events in american history for it impelled the process that led to the civil war. >> reporter: to celebrate the civil war, is that not to celebrate slavery? >> i think celebrating a war is an unusual thing to do. i think people should be fully aware of their own heritage. however, what made the south distinct was slavery at that time. that is the southern heritage up to the civil war. >> reporter: while this war
ended the tradition of slavery, 150 years later, some remain prisoners of the past, wrestling with the darkest chapter in our nation's history. linsey davis, abc news, new york. and coming up -- we're going to tell you how all of us together, all of you, changed a lot of lives last week. [ sneezes ] you're up next. yeah. aww...that oj needs alka-seltzer plus. fast powder packs are a taste-free fizz-free way to transform your drink
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sensational show in the sky tonight. the only total lunar eclipse this year. so, if it's clear where you are, you'll see the moon turn orangey red and then the earth's shadow will begin to block it out. it's the first time a total lunar eclipse has coincided with the deepest day of winter, the solstice, in 456 years. and if a fancy mug is on your christmas wish list, here's just the thing. four months before prince william marries kate middleton, the first official royal wedd g wedding memorabilia went on sale today. the souvenir china features william and kate's intertwined initials and the big day april 29th, 2011. total cost, about $155. and we want to tell you about some extraordinary evidence of the american heart in action. after our story and special friday night featuring simple, powerful, life-saving ideas, so many of you responded, as of
late today, more than $322,000 has poured in to be the change save a life. more than 6,600 donors, including a lot of children out there. some of the results, well, we can get water pumps for five villages for kids who had no fresh water. you're sending nutrient packed paste to fight child malnutrition in guatemala. and there are those snugly ingenious warmers that will save the lives of babies in india. and coming up next, she got a new face and new life. now gets the chance to say thank you to the family of the donor. if you live for performance, upgrade to castrol edge advanced synthetic oil.
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man: hey you dang woodchucks, quitchucking my wood! vo: geico. fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance. finally tonight, in this season of giving, a gift unlike any other. connie culp is a radiant spirit and an unforgettable woman we've come to know well. as you'll see in some of these graphic images, a face transplant simply gave her a life.
and now for the first time, she's had a chance to say thank you to the donor family. you may remember connie culp. for whom life was barely life. after she had been shot in the face by her husband. doctors at the cleveland clinic performed the nation's first full face transplant. over the years, we have been so moved and inspired by her joy. >> what a great day it is. yeehaw! >> reporter: do you know anything more about the donor? >> they've never contacted me. >> reporter: that was last august. just this past weekend, she's still wondering. >> is there a resemblance? that's what i'm curious about. >> reporter: and we were there when she did. >> she's my wife. she's my friend. i miss her. >> reporter: the woman who gave connie her future was about the same age. her name was anna. ronald kasper was married to her for 22 years.
her daughter said she was incredibly generous. >> she taught me to be a very forgiving and generous person. just as she was. >> reporter: it turned out, two weeks before christmas, anna had suffered a fatal heart attack. a day later, the devastating news. her body was stable but she was brain dead. >> grieving is hard. you really can find so much comfort in knowing they're helping someone else. that it helps a lot. it really does. >> reporter: she wanted to be an organ donor and altogether her body helped 50 strangers. and then, someone who needed something else. >> it was a rather extraordinary request. it was a thing that anna would have wanted to do. she would have wanted to help connie. >> reporter: we were there when connie and the kasper family met and spoke for the first time. >> what do you say? i mean, "thank you's" not strong enough, you know?
i don't know them but i feel like i love them so much, to do something so wonderful for somebody. i thought i was going to walk around like that forever. >> reporter: from anna's daughter, one hope. >> i just really want to hug her. >> reporter: after all these years, two families meet. and in connie's face, she saw her mother's perfect nose and perfect grace. >> i'm so glad you did this for me. >> she said a gift like no from the banks of the rain-swollen russian river tonight, the search ends for a woman missing since a night out with friends. a police chase through an oakland neighborhood. we're live tonight with a car crash and shooting death of the dryer driver. >> and new cause for ampk rit he -- anxiety for the san
bruno disaster. >> and high wire act today triggered by the weekend storm. >> breaking news in the north bay tonight. crews are pulling a punny -- minivan from the russian river now. >> a woman disappeared during the storm. >> abc 7's wayne freedman is live at the scene for use emergency lights and highway 1 are especial fully these parts never a good sign thachl is the case tonight. as you said a little while ago, police and sheriff deputies did pull a van out of the waters. a white 2010 chrysler minivan. they've not yet confirmed a body inside but it will be presumely that of a 63-year-old who disappeared after dinner saturday night this, is the resolution after a long, and painstaking day.