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tv   NBC Nightly News  NBC  December 13, 2010 5:30pm-6:00pm PST

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good evening from new york. before we get to the day's news tonight, instead we're going to begin with a breaking news story. we go to our nbc news los anges bureau and start off with the latest details. the state department is confirming that richard holbrooke has died at the edge of 69. he underwent heart surgery on saturday. andrea mitchell reports on his life and legacy. >> thanks, p.j. >> reporter: widely considered one of the most gifted diplomats
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of his generation, richard holbrooke began his career as a foreign service officer in vietnam in 1963. a war that was a crucible, forcing relationships that would shape his career for decades. he rose to the white house under johnson, where he drafted a key war memo and wrote a chapter of the pentagon papers. often at the side of great figures like kissinger and presidential counselor clark clifford, he aspired to be a great man himself. his signature achievement, negotiating an end to the war in bosnia in 1995. that ended a religious and ethnic war that had raged, tearing europe apart, leading to ethnic cleansing against minority muslims, rapes and genocide. until he negotiated a peace treaty, signed in paris at the end of 1995. >> this is the best alternative
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to continued war. >> reporter: he served as ambassador to germany and to the united nations under bill clinton. a close adviser to john kerry, he aspired to become secretary of state had kerry become elected. instead, the next democrat to occupy the white house was barack obama. clinton carved out a special envoy role for holbrooke, awarding him the toughest assignment of all, pakistan and afghanistan. his difficult relationship with hamid karzai became an obstacle, and he never forged a close partnership with president obama. married to author and journalist connie martin, holbrooke at the end was on hillary clinton's side on duty at the state department, a larger than life presence who helped reshape foreign policy. andrea mitchell, nbc news, washington. >> now back to brian williams in new york with the rest of today's news. >> tonight, there is snow, over
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39% of the land mass of the continental united states. in some places, the snow dips way down to the south. it snowed briefly in atlanta today where it never got above freezing. 10 degrees in detroit. 7 in chicago. minus 14 in minneapolis, where the temperature is the least of their worries. they don't scare easily in winter in minnesota, in part because they get to watch their vikings indoors. that is until yesterday. this was downright scary. 17 inches of snowfall, just too much for the inflatable roof at the metrodome. the roof gave way. snow on the field. the game was moved to detroit tonight, and that's just part of the story in this blast of weather that has crushed some records going back 100 years. our own kevin tibbles starts us off tonight at the former dome in minneapolis. kevin, good evening. >> reporter: brian, this darkened hulk of a building behind me here was supposed to be teaming with football fans tonight.
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instead, weather woes even in minnesota. the big digout after the big whiteout. >> we were kind of stuck inside yesterday. and we refused to be stuck inside today. >> reporter: 17 inches of snow in minneapolis, the city scrambled to find places to put it. motorists struggled to pry their cars out of it. >> just digging people out, get home, watch football. >> reporter: that football game between the vikings and the new york giants was supposed to be played here in minneapolis. that is, until the metrodome's inflatable roof failed under the weight of the snow, tearing three massive holes in the teflon coated cover and collapsing it like a souffle. >> we use our normal procedures to melt snow, including hot air, and ultimately putting people on the roof with fire hoses and hot water to wash it off. the conditions got too bad and we weren't making any headway. >> reporter: in detroit where the game was shifted, fans are being offered free tickets.
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problem is, there's record snowfall there, too. in indiana, whiteouts left 70 people stranded in vehicles overnight. >> looks like it's all clear and then you try to step on the brakes and you're all over the road. >> here in cleveland, heavy lake-effect snow combined with 40-mile-an-hour wind gusts have led to virtual whiteouts in some spots. the storm is moving out but the deep freeze is moving east. >> reporter: chicago's o'hare airport struggled to recover from more than 1,000 canceled flights on sunday. as high winds whipped the windy city from lake michigan, and the mercury plummeted. outside kansas, a broken water main led to an instant ice palace. >> i get a lot of questions like what hand, what's going on, how did you do that? i'm like, it wasn't me. >> reporter: as old man trudges east, he's leaving his mark. minneapolis expects to lose some $9 million because yesterday's game had to be moved. and speaking of moving, the snow
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has moved east and the deep freeze has moved in. brian? >> good night for you to get inside and watch some football. kevin tibbles in minneapolis, the twin cities for us tonight. kevin, thanks. in the pacific northwest tonight, the problem is rain. there was mudslides, houses swamped, raging rivers there. all the flooding has led to several rescues around the region, including this one. a woman backed her pond into a swollen pond. rescuers had to smash the windows to get her out in the end. thankfully, she was unhurt. now to politics. a pointed remind they are the battle over health care is far from over. the sweeping reform act that some have called obama care hit a serious legal roadblock today. almost nine months after it was signed into law by the president. a federal court declared a key part of it unconstitutional. we get more tonight on what all of this means from our justice correspondent pete williams with
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us tonight from our washington newsroom. pete, good evening. >> reporter: brian, this is the first time that any federal judge has found the health care law unconstitutional. while this doesn't stop the law for now, it does tee up a mammoth legal battle to come. today's ruling endorsed the claim made by conservatives and tea party groups nationwide, that congress did not have the power to pass the obama health care law. it's a victory for the state of virginia, which argued that the heart of the law requiring everyone to buy insurance was unconstitutional. >> the rule of law means something. even the president and congress must act within the boundaries set by the constitution. >> reporter: federal judge henry hudson says while the constitution gives congress broad power to regulate economic activity, it has no power to regulate inactivity, such as declining to buy insurance. that means, he said, that congress had no authority to compel anyone to enter the
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stream of commerce and buy something. the judge rejected the obama administration's argument that no one entirely stays out of the health care economy. eventually getting care from somewhere like an emergency room. while conservatives celebrated, the president took the ruling in stride, telling nbc affiliate wfla it's a bump on a long road through the course. >> that's the nature of these things. when social security was passed, there were all kinds of lawsuits. when civil rights act was passed when the voting rights act was passed, there were all kinds of lawsuits. >> reporter: in fact, about two dozen lawsuits over the health care law. two other federal judges have upheld it. and legal scholars say when it gets to the supreme court, today's ruling will not be as important. >> because it's just one judge and on an issue of this importance, the supreme court justices, this is a great constitutional issue, will approach it from their own standpoint and make their own decision. >> reporter: the judge today declined to stop the mandatory insurance requirement from taking effect. he said it doesn't kick in for a few more years and that gives
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the courts time to sort it out. >> pete williams in our d.c. bureau tonight. pete, thanks. the other big agenda item in washington today, that tax cut deal the president cut with republicans. he's been trying to bring his own party members along ever since. today, that effort passed its first major test. the story from our own kelly o'donnell who is covering the hill tonight. kelly, good evening. >> reporter: hi there, brian. this was overwhelming. more than 80 senators voted to take this critical procedural step that would prevent everyone's taxes from going up next month and keep unemployment checks coming. it is truly rare to see the white house, republicans and democrats in the senate, all together on this issue. even though there are some parts of it that each doesn't like. the president stopped by the briefing room late today to say this is proof that two parties can work together and urged the house to move quickly, too. that's a tougher sell, because this package adds to the deficit and many liberal members thinks it gives away too much to the wealthy.
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brian? kelly o'donnell in washington tonight with the latest on that front. now we turn to our ongoing coverage of what we've been calling "the war next door." the deadly war being waged by mexican drug cartels, south of the u.s. border. it's no secret that cartel's biggest drug market is here in the u.s. but it turns out most of the thousands of weapons used to fight the war, a huge arsenal, are also made on this side of the border in the u.s. nbc's mark potter has been investigating this part of the story. >> reporter: at a military base in mexico city, soldiers use torches and hammers to destroy some of the 90,000 weapons the mexican government has seized in the last four years. most from the vicious war with the drug cartels. in that war, mexican authorities are often outgunned by drug
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traffickers armed with high powered weapons. american firearms agents estimate about 80% of those weapons are purchased in the u.s. and smuggled across the border into mexico where gun laws there make it much harder to buy weapons. to obtain weapons in the united states, the mexican cartels hire americans with clean records to buy the guns for them. they're called straw buyers. agents say most of the guns are bought over the counter in thousands of american gun shops or gun shows along the border and around the country. under u.s. law, it is legal to sell these high-powered weapons but illegal to buy them for someone else. in oklahoma city, former state narcotics agent francisco reyes pleaded guilty to trafficking guns to mexico. prosecutors say one of his straw buyers was the late kyle wooten, a father of four in need of money who was paid to buy assault rifles. >> why would anyone need that
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many? and give you cash? >> reporter: authorities say straw buyers come from all walks of life and paid up to $200 per weapon. >> they are being taken advantage of by these cartels and really providing something that's going to be used to kill someone in mexico. >> reporter: u.s. firearms agents say guns bought in a houston case were found at several mexican crime scenes, including this one in which four police officers and three secretaries were murdered. they also say this surveillance video shows weapons being hidden in a warehouse near ft. worth, texas. >> they're unloading long boxes. >> reporter: weapons bound for mexico to arm a murderous drug cartel. to sneak them across the border, guns are usually hidden in cars and trucks. >> they'll hide them in secret compartments, whether it's a spare tire, gas tank. camper shells. they even build secret compartments. >> reporter: officials say they
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have seized more than 10,000 weapons headed for mexico and they're improving cooperation with mexican firearms agents in tracing weapons there. but mexican officials still urge the u.s. to do much more to slow the weapons flow. now known as the iron river. mark potter, nbc news, mexico city. with're back with more right after this.
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all those extra fees the airlines have been charging for things that used to be free, for just about everything, turns out they've been pure profit for a lot of the airlines. the government said today major airlines have raked in $2.5 billion on baggage fees alone. $2.5 billion. that's just flu the end of the month of september. it's up 22.5% over last year. for example, when us airways added up all the fees it collects from baggage to ticket charges and stuff they sell on
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board the aircraft, they netted $500 million, which is almost exactly what they're expected profit will be for the year. this is the time of year when you often hear people say, i just had a few beers or a few glasses of wine at the party and that was a while ago. and i'm okay to drive. and yet because 11,000 people died in alcohol-related accidents last year, the feds have a new plan to curtail drinking and driving and they say they're serious about it. our own tom costello has details from washington tonight. tom, good evening. >> reporter: the trouble is for police that one in four drunk driving suspects refuses to take a breathalyzer test, hoping to avoid a dui conviction. in some states it's even higher, 81% in new hampshire. so the government is urging states to adopt a no-refusal policy. that means if a driver refuses a breathalyzer test, police notify an on-call judge who issues an immediate search warrant for
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a nurse to take a blood sample at a checkpoint or police station. if the blood sample shows the blood-alcohol level above 0.08, the driver is arrested for dui. arizona, florida, idaho, illinois, kansas, louisiana, missouri, texas and utah all have that policy. 21 other states have the authority to institute the policy, but they haven't. the federal government would like to see all states adopt the no refusal approach. prosecutors in states that have it report more guilty pleas, more convictions and the number of alcohol related car crashes drops as drunk drivers lose their license. brian? >> getting tougher on the roads. tom costello with the story out of our washington bureau. tom, thanks. one of this nation's oldest grocery store chains, the a&p, has filed for bankruptcy protection. the company runs stores under a&p, path mark, super fresh names. heavy debt and competition from lower priced rivals stretched them to the breaking point. a&p was founded as the great atlantic and pacific tea company
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back in 1859. when we come back here tonight, the most unlikely man who says he's found his thrill.
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♪ i found my thrill on blueberry hill ♪ sad to say, it will not be on i-tunes, but that really is russian prime minister, former spy master vladamir putin singing "blueberry hill." all part of a star-studded benefit for children with cancer held in st. petersburg, russia, including quite a number of recognizable american celebrities. reportedly, mr. putin memorized the lyrics as part of his english language study program. it was not a profile in sportsmanship or a proud moment for the new york jets last night. far from it, in fact.
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they were on their way to losing to the dolphins when one of the jets' coaches tripped a member of the dolphins. sal alosi, who happens to be the jets strength and conditioning coach, responsible for keeping his players healthy, put his knee out, tripped cornerback nolan carol during a punt return. carol was down for several minutes. he has apologized at a news conference. he's awaiting his punishment from the league, and the team, which he says he'll accept. on the subject of football, brett favre's streak is over. it will have to stand at 297 games as a starting quarterback. favre not in the lineup for tonight's snow forced giants-vikings game in detroit. his streak stands as an nfl record dating back to 1992. this is favre's 20th and toughest season in the nfl. nancy reagan on hand today at the unveiling of the stamp that will mark the centennial anniversary of her husband's birth. the ronald reagan stamp goes on sale february 10th, just days after what would have been the
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former president's 100th birthday. attention all insomniacs, shift workers, night owls, and early risers living in areas with no cloud cover. there's going to be a good predawn show in the skies tonight into tomorrow morning. that's when astronomers are expecting the peak of the meteor shower, the premiere winter event in the skies. at the height of the shower, they are expecting over 100 meteors an hour, most of them high in the sky they say, varying in actual size from a grain of sand to basketball size meteors. if you capture any of it, take good pictures and share them with us at we'll take a break. when we come back, the army calling in heavy artillery for a growing problem, let's say, in its own ranks.
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you may remember the old quote, "we've met the enemy and he is us." that's more or less the conclusion the u.s. army has come to in this nation's ongoing fight against obesity and it's decided to do something about it. as nbc's janet shamlian reports from ft. leonarwood, missouri. change is on the menu.
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>> reporter: it's 0600 at the mess call in the army's basic training post in the ozarks. >> eggs, ham and rice. >> reporter: new recruits, new rules. and a new enemy. fat. at the morning meal, the bacon is baked, french toast is whole wheat, and donuts banished forever. >> that's the problem i have, donuts. that's personally one of my favorite things to eat. >> reporter: and that is the problem, according to the army. >> the type of soldier, the trainee we're getting in from society nowadays are not coming in as good a shape as they should be. >> reporter: gone are fried chicken, french fries, fried everything. soda machines spill out gatorade. dessert is fruit instead of cake. ft. leonardwood is the first of five basic training camps overhauling not just food, but fitness. as the army takes aim at better fitness and nutrition, this is
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the first substantial change to its training regimen in decades. the morning workout has a decidedly yoga feel, more core exercises, fewer pushups. training soldiers like elite athletes. only they're getting ready for war. it's called the soldier fueling initiative, and targets army recruits but it's being looked at by the air force, navy and marines. >> hopefully it will change the culture that they've brought into the service, the fast food, the o-good group, as i call it, the nachos, doritos, tacos and oreos. >> chocolate. i crave chocolate the most. >> reporter: any chocolate around here? >> no, no chocolate. >> reporter: napoleon once said an army marches on its stomach. in today's army, the newest worry is the size of those stomachs. janet shamlian, nbc news, ft. leonardwood, missouri. and that's our broadcast for this monday night. thank you for being here with us as we start off a new week together. i'm brian williams. we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening.
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good night. -- captions by vitac -- a border war is brewing over some of the most congested commutes in the bay area and you may be the one picking up the tab. good evening, everyone. welcome. i'm tom sinkovitz. there is a fight brewing on the peninsula and everybody who drives a car is going to get hit. san mateo county says if san francisco starts charging a toll to enter the city during peak hours, then san mateo county is going to do the same


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