tv NBC Nightly News NBC August 10, 2010 4:30pm-5:00pm PST
on the broadcast tonight, deadly crash in alaska. a former u.s. senator is one of the victims in a small plane crash. what happened? the runaway toyotas, remember them? the latest tonight about a problem that badly tarnished one of the biggest names on the road. unlocking the mystery of alzheimer's. what a new test can tell us and what it can't. > last straw, the flight attendant who had a meltdown and became an overnight hero. but that's not the end of the story. and the rat pack like you've never seen them before. "nightly news" starts now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television
good evening, i'm ann curry in for brian williams. information is still coming in tonight about who was lost in last night's plane crash in alaska. today it was confirmed that former u.s. senator ted stevens was killed along with four others. but that former nasa administrator sean o'keefe and his son survived, though they are badly injured. the struggle for accurate information about this crash lasted throughout much of this day because it happened in such a remote area, more than 300 miles from anchorage, near a tiny town of dillingham. we have three reports, including one near the scene. but first, tom costello on what happened. tom? >> reporter: ann, good evening. this was a passing plane that spotted the wreckage and guided first responders to this remote scene. it took more than 12 hours for national guard and coast guard rescuers to get to the wreckage and medivac out the victims. among those five fatalities on board, senator stevens. the plane went down in a remote region, 320 miles southwest of
anchorage. among the five who died, former u.s. senator ted stevens, the longest serving republican in the senate. also on board, former nasa administrator and navy secretary sean o'keefe, who survived along with his son, kevin. others on board include friends and their children. >> we are experiencing a tragedy. and as citizens of alaska, we have a long road of grief to walk. >> reporter: it was yesterday at 2:00 p.m. local when the plane departed from a fishing lodge near lake nerka, alaska, bound for another lodge some 300 miles away. but just 20 miles northeast of dillingham, the plane went down. the wreckage not spotted until 7:30 local time. >> weather at the time, fog, low clouds and some rainshowers. the cloud ceilings were about 1,200 feet, but the mountains go up to about 2,500 feet. >> reporter: the plane that crashed is a workhorse in the alaskan wilderness. a dhc-3 turboprop otter, capable of landing on the water.
a former crash investigator says the weather could figure into the cause of the accident. >> if there was rain or fog and it obscured a mountain, he could have flown himself into a level of high terrain which he couldn't avoid because he couldn't see it. >> reporter: alaska is heavily dependent on small aircraft and has seen its share of crashes. 958 accidents since 2000, with at least 159 deaths. a veteran alaska back country pilot says weather is a constant threat, and reliable information hard to come by. we talked to him via skype. >> if the weather gets bad and you have to turn around, it may have closed in behind you, you can't get back any longer. >> reporter: in 1978 stevens survived a crash in alaska. and in 1972, louisiana congressman hale boggs died in a crash, along with congressman nick begich. in a strange twist, begich, the father of mark begich, the man who defeated stevens in 2008.
a lot of ironies here, the plane was owned by the gci corporation, a telekom and cable tv company flying the passengers between fishing lodges. ann? >> tom costello tonight. tom, thanks. now to the scene of the crash which took first responders 12 hours to reach. jason lamb, of our anchorage affiliate ktuu, has made his way near there. jason, what can you tell us? >> reporter: good evening, ann. just to get you situated, dillingham is 17 miles south of the crash site in southwest alaska. right now we are at the dillingham airport which has been the scene of a lot of activity today. we tried to get close to the scene of the plane crash, possibly getting into a picture, but that's been difficult, there's a five-mile
no-fly zone that's been instituted. the survivors are at anchorage hospitals this evening. and the five who have died, including senator stevens have been flown out of dillingham and are in anchorage at this hour. any pilot will tell you weather out here can be very unpredictable. we talked to one pilot who said yesterday it was not safe to be flying out here, given just how dangerous the conditions were. ann? >> all right. jason lamb of ktuu, thank you very much for your report tonight. former senator ted stevens had a long and significant impact on american politics, but not without controversy. he even spoke about the risks of air travel in parts of alaska. nbc's andrea mitchell has more on his career. >> reporter: ted stevens was an institution in washington and alaska for four decades.
the longest serving republican senator. >> my motto has been here, to hell with politics, just do what's right for alaska. >> reporter: a decorated world war ii pilot first elected in 1968, stevens was ultimately loved and feared for his power as appropriations chairman. >> sometimes he would raise his voice against you. but he was a gentle person. a very soft-minded one. >> reporter: it was a time when senators worked across party lines, as recalled today by a fellow world war ii veteran, hawaii democrat daniel inouye. >> we got to a point where he would come to hawaii to campaign for me and i would do the same in alaska. >> reporter: in a terrible twist of fate, stevens survived another plane crash in 1978 that tragically killed his first wife, ann, as reported by david brinkley on "nightly news." >> senator ted stevens, republican of alaska, was injured in another plane crash in anchorage that killed his wife and four others.
>> reporter: two years later, stevens married his second wife, katherine. >> he was jovial, he loved life, he was full of vigor and life. kathy enlightened his life. the tragedy, of course, was that his first wife was killed in an airplane crash. >> reporter: then political scandal, ethics charges for allegedly failing to report gifts and home renovations from contractors, leading to a conviction that cost him his final election. a conviction overturned a year later on grounds of the prosecutors' misconduct. >> then to lose the election and then be completely exonerated, i didn't sense a bit of bitterness in him. that was amazing. >> god bless the senate and every member of this body. i yield the floor for the last time. >> reporter: after a former colleague, paul wellstone, died in a plane crash, ted stevens said, every time you go up, there is a chance you won't come down. tonight president and mrs. obama
issued a statement of condolence, praising stevens for his service to the people of alaska and to our men and women in uniform. ann? >> andrea mitchell tonight. andrea, thank you. there's also news tonight about a story we covered on this broadcast for many weeks, the massive recall of toyotas. once considered one of the safest names on the american road, then forced to explain thousands of cases of sudden acceleration. cnbc's phil lebeau, who has been covering this story from the start, joins us this evening with more. phil, good evening. >> good evening, ann. this is huge, and here's why -- remember earlier this year when toyota recalled more than seven million vehicles because of the possibility of sudden acceleration? the company blamed it on two things, sticky gas pedals and the possibility that floor mats could trap the gas pedals. well, critics all along said it could be the electronics. today federal investigators -- a preliminary investigation came out and said, listen, the problem does not go beyond the gas problems. in other words, electronics are
not the issue. >> what does this do to all those lawsuits that were filed by people who charged or were talking about sudden acceleration? >> those continue. and that's still a huge problem for toyota. the issue with those lawsuits, what did toyota know? why didn't they tell people sooner? it doesn't have to do with the actual kuz, but more, when were people informed? >> all right. phil lebeau, thank you. turning now to politics, it's primary night in four states, georgia, minnesota, connecticut and colorado. and there are a lot of interesting cross currents at work in both parties. nbc's kelly o'donnell is in denver tonight with a look at a couple high-profile races. kelly, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, ann. just take a look at colorado, and both parties desperately want the senate seat here, you have two presidents and the tea party each backing different candidates. those different candidates have something in common, they all want to be seen as the outsider. democrat michael bennett never expected to be colorado's senator. but he's scrambling to keep the
job now. >> we have worked as a team from day one. >> reporter: bennett actually had zero political experience until he was appointed to fill a vacancy last year. president obama has gone all out, appearing in person and in tv ads. >> michael is a different kind of leader. >> it's a tough year to be an incumbent. it's a great year to be someone who's never had their name on a ballot. and i have never had my name on a ballot until right now. >> reporter: but another democrat backed by president bill clinton defies the obama white house and refused to stay out of the race. >> we need a senator for the rest of us. >> reporter: of the state house, slammed bennett's investment background with a barrage of tough tv commercials. >> he's had almost no money. he had to sell his house to buy his final ad. that's a hungry candidate. >> reporter: and hungry describes republicans. this is a seat they can win. former lieutenant governor jane
norton is up against the tea party choice, ken buck. >> i don't have experience in the legislative branch. i don't have experience compromising. i'm a prosecutor. >> reporter: you once worked for dick cheney. doesn't that make you connected to washington in some way? >> it did in 1986, it doesn't today. >> reporter: that outsider title plays big all across the country. in connecticut, linda mcmahon, the wrestling entertainment exec, has spent $22 million from her own fortune against former congressman rob simmons. the connecticut republican will face democrat richard blumenthal in the fall. ann, here in colorado, the way they're voting is different. this is the first ever mail-in ballot primary. just about all across the state there was no waiting in line at the polling places. they simply sent it in by mail. ann? >> kelly o'donnell tonight. kelly, thanks. now to the hundreds of wildfires, many burning out of control in russia. fuelling a dangerous thick smog in moscow during a relentless
heat wave. tonight, the u.s. government is evacuating much of its embassy staff and urging americans to postpone travel to russia. and as nbc's jim maceda now reports, the kremlin is not only trying to battle the fires, but also the perception that it's not doing enough to put them out. >> reporter: it was a photo op he couldn't resist. russian prime minister vladimir putin being criticized for being too slow to respond to the disaster below, was seen on national tv today co-piloting a firefighting plane, scooping up and dumping 24 tons of water on his target. did we hit it, he asks? yes, a precise hit, the reply. but despite putin's and thousands of firefighters' efforts, the wildfires rage on. already causing some $15 billion in damage, according to one russian daily. and only now after weeks of devastation is the human toll beginning to emerge. in moscow alone, shrouded in
smog and smoke, deaths, according to a top health official here, have doubled compared to last year, up to about 700 a day. moscow's morgues are reportedly filled with bodies, and ambulances are making thousands more trips to the hospital. strokes and asthma attacks are up by 50%. heart attacks have increased by 30%, said this doctor. the government blames mother nature and the hottest summer ever recorded for what could be thousands of deaths. this is no secret. look, it's 100 degrees in the street, he says. these people, who have come to catch their breath in one of only dozens of specially air conditioned centers in a city of 11 billion blame the kremlin. we're shocked at the deaths and we're angry, but we can't really do anything about it, says this russian. with virtually no opposition, the kremlin doesn't seem too concerned about the political fallout from the wildfires as long as putin, the action man, is seen by the nation as hands on and in charge. jim maceda, nbc news, moscow.
last night we told you about a spinal fluid test, and new research suggesting it could be highly accurate in identifying patients with memory loss, who go on to develop alzheimer's disease. the research has generated so much interest that tonight we've asked our chief science correspondent, robert bazell, to dig a little deeper and tell us exactly what this test can really do and what it can't. >> reporter: the new test will help doctors know better which patients with serious memory problems have alzheimer's disease, and which might have other diseases that might be treated.
but despite some reports, the test results will not help doctors predict which healthy patients will get alzheimer's in the future. >> i think we owe it to our patients not to jump the gun and to propose that we now have a diagnostic test. >> reporter: the test uses a spinal tap, to remove a portion of the cerebral spinal fluid that circulates to the brain. doctors measured proteins, including one called amyloid, known to be associated with alzheimer's. in the latest study, people with alzheimer's had a 90% positive rate, it was 72% in those with a pre-alzheimer's condition, and positive in 36% of older people with no memory problems. the big question is whether those who have normal memories and a positive test will go on to develop alzheimer's disease? scientists say the only way to know is to follow those people for up to ten years. >> we don't know what that
predictive value is for people who are healthy. we know for people who have alzheimer's disease and now we know for people who have minor cognitive impairment. we don't know how to predict the future for people with normal cognitive function. >> reporter: many people would like to predict that future, and many more want drugs to prevent alzheimer's. but experts say those goals are still many years away. robert bazell, nbc news, seattle. when we come back, never before seen photos that may make you want to say ring-a-ding-ding. ♪
today president obama signed a bill that will send $26 billion federal to strapped state governments to help them pay the salaries of teachers, firefighters and police, who might otherwise have been laid off. nancy pelosi called the house back from summer recess to pass the bill, which the members did in a party line vote. republicans criticize the vote calling a handout to teachers' unions. today the federal reserve lowered its expectations, kept the main interest rate near zero. it will pump more money into the economy by buying more u.s. treasuries. that's aimed at keeping interest rates low for businesses and consumers who want to borrow. the move reflects the central bank's concern about whether this economic recovery is sustainable. the former white house social secretary who left washington soon after that state dinner crasher scandal has a new
job. desiree rogers has been named ceo of chicago-based johnson's publishing company, which puts out ebony and jet magazines. and is the premiere black publisher in the nation. today life.com released remarkable photos that never have been made public to mark the 50th anniversary of the original "ocean's 11." that movie made famous what became known as "the rat pack." the photos show frank sinatra, dean martin and sammy davis, jr., behind the scenes, sometimes in intimate moments, a counterbalance of the hard living, skirt chasing characters they worked so hard to create. one photo shows us old blue eyes -- yes, that is frank sinatra, about to give himself a shave in a hotel steam room. coming up next, the flight attendant who blew his top after a passenger drove him nuts. it seems just about everyone in america is on his side.
now on steven slater, under arrest tonight. but also a hero to the fedup masses. >> reporter: even as he was being led off in handcuffs, steven slater seemed to be smiling. overnight he had gone from being an obscure flight attendant to an american folk hero. >> i think this is a dream. anybody who's had a bad day has wanted to do something like this. >> reporter: the saga started monday aboard a jet blue flight. according to passenger accounts, at some point slater was hit in the head with a piece of luggage a passenger was trying to retrieve. instead of apologizing, the passenger cursed him. the two argued, then slater left loose with a profanity laced rant over the intercom, pulled open the emergency evacuation shoot, grabbed a beer, and slid off the plane, headed for his car and unemployment. >> he was smiling. he was happy that he was done with his job at jet blue. >> reporter: it's a far cry from the glamour days of air travel. >> we wore white gloves, we wore
hats, and certainly we would never talk back to a passenger. >> all that now just a distant memory for today's frequent flyers who see slater as a new-aged howard biehl. >> i'm as mad as hell, and i'm not going to take this any more. >> reporter: this story is taking on a life of its own, making headlines in newspapers across the country, and setting social networking sites on fire. countless slater supporters tweeting not just that he's a hero, but one promising to craft an american flag using slater's face in place of every star, still, he's in a lot of trouble. officially charged with felonies. depraved indifference to human life. recklessly engaging in conduct which created a grave risk of death to another person. jet blue says no one was ever in danger, and slater pleaded not guilty. he has been removed from duty pending an investigation. until his next court date, slater's slash on his forehead is a modern day badge of honor to beleaguered flyers
everywhere. chris jansing, nbc news, new york. that is our broadcast for this tuesday night. in for brian williams, i'm ann curry. for all of us here at nbc news, thank you and good night. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com >> it is a very difficult time to come to an agreement. >> difficult, but is a budget deal closer tonight? good evening, everyone, i'm tom sinkovitz. >> and i'm lisa kim. bold prediction by the governor during a stop in san jose. he expects a budget deal in place in weeks to erase a $19.1 billion deficit. california has been operating