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tv   NBC Nightly News  NBC  August 5, 2010 4:30pm-5:00pm PST

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on the broadcast tonight, making history. she's the fourth woman ever. tonight elena kagan has been confirmed to the united states supreme court. how safe the well in the gulf has been killed. and tonight, attention turns to the seafood that could soon be on your dinner table. school bus nightmare. disaster on the way to a day at six flags. why so many kids may have survived this harrowing accident. supermodel on the stand. what naomi campbell told the world today about two mysterious men, a strange gift and blood diamonds. and a special family making a difference for kids who really need it. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television
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good evening. brian is on assignment tonight. i'm lester holt. history was made in this country today when the senate confirmed elena kagan to the u.s. supreme court. once she's sworn in this weekend, she'll become the current court's third woman member and the fourth ever named. tonight president obama calls kagan's confirmation an affirmation of her character and her temperament. still, today's confirmation vote fell largely along party lines, seen by many as another symbol of washington's ever-deepening partisan divide. nbc's kelly o'donnell is on capitol hill with more. kelly, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, lester. when you look at today's vote, you can see history. justice kagan will give women a greater voice, making up one-third of the court and you can see politics. five republicans crossed over to support kagan while one democrat was among the no votes. >> the tally is 63-37.
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the nomination is confirmed. >> reporter: elena kagan did get five fewer votes than sonia sotomayor last summer, but the number that really excited democrats is three. ginsburg, sotomayor and kagan. >> three women will serve together on the united states supreme court for the first time in our nation's history. >> reporter: at 50, kagan becomes the youngest justice, succeeding the oldest, 90-year-old john paul stevens. congratulations from president obama late today. >> she knows that the supreme court's decisions shape not just the character of our democracy, but the circumstances of our daily lives. >> reporter: kagan's unexpected sense of humor charmed senators of both parties at her confirmation hearings. >> it means i'd have to get my hair done more often, senator specter. >> reporter: new york born, first woman dean of harvard law. her policy to limit military recruiters access there gave republicans their strongest criticism.
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>> dean kagan, i believe, showed a willingness to bend the law in fact to advance her own political goals of protesting the don't ask, don't tell policy. >> reporter: kagan worked for presidents obama and clinton. she will be the only justice on the current court who has never been a judge. >> she earned her place at the top of the legal profession. no one gave it to her. she earned it. >> reporter: and it's been 40 years since the newest member of the supreme court has had no previous experience as a judge. and the plan for elena kagan is that she will be sworn in this saturday afternoon by her new colleague, chief justice john roberts. lester? >> kelly, thank you. that ruling in california yesterday overturning a ban on same-sex marriage is almost certainly going to wind up at the supreme court, but the political reaction already has been strong and swift. with us tonight from washington, the moderator of "meet the press" david gregory. david, what might the repercussions of this decision be as we head into the fall political season?
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>> well, in any off-year election, we know that enthusiasm, certainly on the right among conservatives has to do with activist judges, so-called in the view of a lot of conservatives, and the role of government. that could certainly be an issue here. but the conservatives are pretty well enthused already and are expected to turn out in pretty big numbers. from the democratic point of view, you have a president who is opposed to gay marriage, but who also opposed proposition 8, doesn't want to see any discrimination, believes in equal rights. so this is a murkier territory for the president but it's not something that policy is going to really move on. we're a ways away from where we were in 2004 when president bush tried to advance a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. things have changed. but it could certainly be an animating force in the midterm race in terms of activist judges, lester. >> david gregly, thanks, david. president obama spent his day in his hometown of chicago. a mix of policy and politics
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with fund-raising and a visit to a ford assembly plant. in an interview with phil lebeau the president talked about jobs and cars, including his own. >> reporter: since you've taken office, 95,000 jobs have been lost in the auto industry. should we expect that the auto industry is never going to return to where it was before? >> well, what you see in the auto industry is what you see in american manufacturing generally. american manufacturing has gotten leaner, it's gotten more efficient. it takes fewer workers to make the same number of cars than it used to. it means that we've got to create new industries, which is why clean energy is so important, for example. >> reporter: are you worried that americans cannot kick this habit for large, less fuel-efficient vehicles? >> americans like big cars. and the first new car i ever bought was a jeep grand cherokee. and i remember the first time i was sitting up there and had my cupholders and i was all set up and i thought, this is a nice ride, but what i think we're
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going to have to recognize is that we've got to be strong in the car market and in the truck market, and in the suv market, and all of those markets are going to be more fuel efficient in the future than they were in the past. >> reporter: when was the last time that you went out and drove a car by yourself? >> the secret service doesn't allow it. i miss nothing more than driving right along lakeshore drive. i would love to hop in a convertible right now on a nice day like today and drive all the way up along the lake. >> you can see all of phil lebeau's interview with the president on our website, i want to turn now to the gulf of mexico, and the news everyone has been waiting for since april 20th, when the deepwat deepwater horizon drilling rig exploded. the well has been sealed shut with cement. nbc's anne thompson has been covering this oil disaster since the beginning. she joins us now from venice, louisiana. anne, i thought we'd never hear those words. >> reporter: boy, i certainly didn't. there was a time i doubted it,
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lester, but we do have very good news tonight, and that is that this well is cemented shut from the top. it took five hours to do that. and for the first time in 108 days, officials say the people of the gulf of mexico can be assured that virtually no oil from the mccondo well will leak into their waters. however, that's not the end of the story. national incident commander thad allen has ordered bp to cement the well from the bottom as well, and bp says it will do that through the relief well process, which could start as early as next week. lester? >> anne, what about the oil collection process, given there's still a lot of oil in the gulf, does this now add more resources as they wind down at the well site itself? >> reporter: they get to shift the resources. instead of having all those large skimmers that they've had out at the leak site as a precautionary measure since july 15th when they temporarily capped the well, they'll now start to bring those inshore and they can now start to focus on the inshore efforts more heavily
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than they have before, lester. >> anne thompson, thank you. with some questions on this oil well now answered, there are new ones, including a lot of uncertainty about the after effects of all that oil and the chemicals that were poured into the gulf. one of the most pressing, is gulf seafood safe to eat? nbc's ron mott joins us from drago's restaurant in metairie, louisiana. ron? >> reporter: hey, lester, good evening to you. drago's hopes to sell a lot of gulf seafood including their very popular char-grilled oysters, seafood that continues to be the focus of intense inspection. in pascagoula, mississippi, the catch of the day netted a lot of attention as government inspectors literally put seafood to the smell test, sniffing, cutting and processing tissue sampz, and officials say the fish, shrimp and oysters pulled from the gulf are safe to eat, showing no signs of oil contamination so far. >> noaa is working hard, a lot of people are working hard to get the word out that the
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seafood is safe. >> shrimp out of the gulf? >> reporter: today at a supermarket near new orleans, fresh local seafood was a steady seller. >> thank you so much. you have a nice day, sir. >> reporter: the manager michael foto says some customers aren't yet ready. >> i haven't had too much resistance overall, but you do have a handful of customers that are quite apprehensive about any seafood products in louisiana. >> reporter: customers like gail merricks, who says she has stayed away from the seafood counter ever since the oil disaster began. >> i'm skeptical about it, and i have been. i used to do po' boys and gumbo and i don't do it. >> reporter: such resistance is causing concern. louisiana governor bobby jindal wants bp on the financial hook for long-term testing and marketing of gulf seafood. >> table 85. >> reporter: meantime, seafood platters were on the move during the lunch rush at drago's. >> our seafood is the most scrutinized, the most checked, the safest seafood around. >> reporter: but for at least one seafood lover, only the test of time will get her biting again.
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>> i've got a po' boy just last week. i'm still standing, i'm still living, but -- >> reporter: now, the vast majority of people we met today at the supermarket say they are confident in gulf seafood and many say it is their duty to continue to support this multi billion dollar industry so vital. lester? >> ron mott, thanks. there is a new weather threat we need to tell you about about tonight in the atlantic. tropical storm colin has come roaring back. forecasters say colin, which had been dying down, has formed again. and tonight it is approaching bermuda. we'll keep an eye on it. overseas tonight, u.s. army helicopters are now flying relief missions in pakistan's flooded northwest region, airlifting hundreds of stranded survivors to safety and giving out emergency rations. 1,500 people have died in pakistan's worst monsoon rains in decades. and in russia, wildfires continue to burn with no end in sight. tonight several territories are under states of emergency with fires breaking out by the
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dozens. more than 70 new ones overnight alone. nbc's jim maceda is in ryazan, on the front lines of the fires tonight. >> reporter: hundreds of wildfires now rage across seven of russia's regions, many out of control. 50 people have died and more than 2,000 families have fled their burning homes, all triggered by a wave of temperatures over 100 degrees, unheard of in russia. fires have partially destroyed a strategic naval base and even threatened a secret nuclear facility. now the kremlin is responding to criticism it was slow to act. russian president in the dmitry medvedev cut his vacation short and fired his top military advisers, calling them criminally negligent. and with few trained forest service workers or volunteers to turn to, he's had to call up battalions of russian soldiers to help his poorly equipped firefighters. "we are trying to cut off this fire so it doesn't spread to the
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next forest," she says. but even as officials claim they have saved hundreds of villages, the number of fires keeps going up, and here's the problem. temperatures have been so hot for so long that these forests are like tinder. they can put out one fire in one place but then out of nowhere, a dozen others will pop up somewhere else. like cartenosova, 100 miles east of moscow, a tightly knit village of some 40 houses. that changed when within minutes 30 of those houses burned to the ground. "the fire just jumped from my bathroom to my neighbor's house and back to my barn," she says. the extreme heat has turned millions of acres of wheat into dust. today prime minister vladimir putin announced a ban on green exports, while in moscow a mix of smoke and carbon monoxide has raised pollution levels ten times above normal, the equivalent of two packs of cigarettes every few hours, causing a spike in respiratory illnesses.
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>> it may start becoming dizzy, shortness of breath, and sometimes with the feeling of palpitation in the chest. >> reporter: and for now there's no relief in sight from the heat, the drought or more wildfires. jim maceda, nbc news, ryazan, russia. there is more on this thursday night when "nightly news" continues. in a moment, a tragic ending for two school buses filled with kids on a summer trip to an amusement park. and later, making a difference for kids who desperately need a place where they feel they belong.
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what began as a day of summertime fun for a group of eighth grade band students in missouri became a harrowing day on an interstate highway. nbc's rehema ellis reports on today's deadly school bus crash, but also some facts on school bus safety that may surprise you. >> reporter: two school buses filled with kids were headed to six flags amusement park near st. louis. a semi trailer cab stopped for construction on interstate 44, the beginning of a deadly chain reaction. >> the front of the bus struck the rear of the gmc pickup. almost simultaneously, the second bus driver -- the first -- the second bus struck the first bus and that's where we are at now. >> reporter: two were killed, a female student and the driver of the pickup truck, crushed between the cab and the bus. >> it's been a horrible, horrible day in our community and it will be felt forever. >> reporter: despite the horrific scene, authorities say
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the other 53 children on board the busses survived with injuries described as not serious. every school day about 24 million children ride school buses. studies show on average there are about seven fatalities a year. and experts say most of those accidents occur when students are getting on or getting off the bus, not while in transit. >> school buses are significantly safer than riding in any of the passenger vehicles or other types of vehicles that we see on our nation's highways today. that's because they're built to high standards, and they have a compartmentalizations in their seating area which keep the young people very safe. >> reporter: it's not clear if these school buses were equipped with seat belts or if any of the students were wearing them. ntsb is sending a team to the accident site to investigate. rehema ellis, nbc news. on wall street today stocks lost a bit of ground. the dow was down 5.5 points. when we come back here tonight, what's a world famous supermodel doing testifying at a
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war crimes trial?
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there was an extraordinary witness this morning in the hague at the war crimes trial of charles taylor, the former president of liberia. naomi campbell, the world famous supermodel, was called to testify about a gift, a bag of rough diamonds she received after a dinner more than ten years ago. nbc's martin fletcher picks up the story. >> where is she? >> reporter: fashionably as usual, minutes late -- >> i solemnly swear on the bible -- >> reporter: naomi campbell wasn't happy to be subpoenaed to the war crimes tribunal at the
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hague today. >> i was made to be here so obviously i'm just wanting to get this over with and get on with my life. this is a big inconvenience for me. >> reporter: it's all about the model and the dictator. charles taylor, former president of liberia. >> i never heard of him before. never heard of the country liberia before. i never heard of the term blood diamonds before. >> reporter: he's facing 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. and trading in blood diamonds, used to finance wars which he denies. that's where campbell comes in. she met taylor at a charity dinner hosted by nelson mandela in south africa 13 years ago. and today denied another witness's claim that she flirted with taylor. >> the witness heard mr. taylor tell miss campbell that he was going to send her a diamond. >> that's not true at all. >> reporter: the same night campbell testified two men knocked on her door and gave her a pouch with what she called some dirty-looking pebbles. >> i'm used to seeing diamonds
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shiny and in a box, you know. >> reporter: she testified she didn't know who gave them until she spoke to actress mia farrow and her agent the next day. one said it must have been charles taylor, potentially critical evidence against taylor, who denied ever dealing in diamonds. blood diamonds, a trade that despite every precaution continues today. as for that gift of stones or diamonds, a mystery, where are they now. campbell says she gave them immediately to jeremy ratcliff, then the head of nelson mandela's children's fund. he couldn't be found today, while the fund said today it never received them. stay tuned, martin fletcher, nbc news, london. up next, we'll tell you about a place where making a difference for young men and women is a team sport.
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in our "making a difference" report tonight, how a game is changing lives for young people who thought they'd never amount to much, but a special organization and teamwork is helping them move from the street to the field and achieve new goals. nbc's norah o'donnell in washington tonight shows us how that winning combination is making a difference. >> reporter: soccer is known the
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world over as a uniting force, but some also see it as a force for social change. ♪ ole, ole, ole, ole >> reporter: on this day in the nation's capital, players from around the country gathered for two reasons. they love soccer and they have also been homeless. jasmine morris left home when she was just 13 years old. >> i stayed in like weird places before, so it gets tough. it's not okay for a teenager to go through that in their life. >> reporter: but now jasmine belongs to one of the largest communities in the world. she's a soccer player, and it's because an organization that helps homeless teens helped connect her with a coach from street soccer usa. >> it makes me feel good. it's like a secret little family. >> reporter: street soccer usa not only establishes a sense of community for the homeless, but it also encourages them to set goals. >> it's really a curriculum. and it's very logical. you come, you join our team, you meet new friends, you set goals. everyone has to set three, six
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and 12-month goals. you learn some basic financial literacy, so you go through this process. >> reporter: a process that includes helping them get back on their feet and find employment. >> i got so much support now and it was just -- they got me going. >> reporter: t.k. was born in kentucky but spent most of his life in nigeria. he risked it all to get back to america, a gamble that didn't pay off. >> i trafficked drugs and, you know, just to make it over here. >> reporter: that decision landed him in jail and later left him homeless. but at a shelter, he found a soccer team and that made all the difference. he now has a job as a waiter. >> i guess without the game, i would have dropped out of school a long time ago. that's what keeps me going. you know, it just keeps me going. >> reporter: for t.k. and jasmine, what it took was a community built by a game and a place to call home. norah o'donnell, nbc news, washington. that's our broadcast for this thursday night. thank you, everyone, for being with us. i'm lester holt in for brian williams. we hope to see you back here tomorrow evening.
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good night. -- captions by vitac -- a stunning defeat on wednesday. a new battle plan on thursday. prop 8 supporters move full speed ahead in their fight against same sex marriage. i'm tom sinkovits. >> judge walker could decide as early as tomorrow whether same sex couples can get married while the prop 8 case is on appeal. either way though the frustration and the anxiety continue for people on both sides of the issue. as expected pro


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