tv NBC Nightly News NBC December 18, 2010 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
of dry weather at times on thursday and friday. overall, this activity continues all the way through the holiday weekend. >> a chance of showers, the best can you do. nbc nightly news is next. don't ask, don't tell is history tonight. a landmark vote on gays in the military. stranded. a white-out across europe. travel paralyzed at the start of a busy holiday rush. who are they? the desperate effort to identify nearly 200 women police fear could be victims of a serial killer. > and amelia earhart, new clues that might finally solve one of the most enduring mysteries of our time. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening.
a landmark vote on capitol hill today appears to signal a new era in gay rights in this country while abolishing long-held military tradition and policy. the senate late today voted to re peel the "don't ask, don't tell" policy against gays serving openly in the military. meaning for the first time, gays would be able to acknowledge their orientation without fear of being kicked out of the service. the bill now goes to the desk of president obama, who earlier today expressed his eagerness to fulfill a campaign pledge to overturn the 17-year-old ban. we have correspondents covering the vote and reaction and we start on capitol hill with nbc's kelly o'donnell. kelly? >> reporter: good evening, lester. this repeal was presumed dead so many times, even last week it seemed undoable. but today, everything changed. there was drama, surprise, and a sense of history on all sides. a day of change that began with deep convictions. >> if you care about national security, if you care about our military readiness, then you
will repeal this corrosive policy. >> does anybody look at those graves and say move this one, because we just found out that soldier who died in battle was gay. >> reporter: and strong feelings among republicans. >> the army, the air force, particularly the marine corps have cautioned us not to do this now this way. >> reporter: john mccain led opposition to ending the ban, saying that it would be a dangerous distraction during two wars. >> and there will be high fives all over the liberal bastions of america. we'll see the talk shows tomorrow, bunch of people talking about how great it is. most of them never have served in the military. >> reporter: the 17-year-old policy known as don't ask don't tell forbids gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. about 14,000 men and women have been expelled. >> no one should be turned away because of who they are. >> reporter: with momentum to change the law, fueled by public
opinion and support from top military brass, the political will shifted. after many past failed votes, today, one final shot. >> the yeas are 65. the nays, 31. >> reporter: for supporters, relief, victory and a surprise. eight republicans, more than expected, joined democrats to end "don't ask, don't tell." main republican susan collins led the fight for repeal and won more gop support. >> 17 years ago, it was a democratic president who signed into law "don't ask, don't tell." so i think our society is changing. >> reporter: a thrilled senator joe lieberman called it the best day in his senate career. >> we're still able to come together in a bipartisan way to right a wrong and do something that's in the best interest of our country. >> reporter: there is still one more step that could take several months for this to really be done.
this law today says that the president, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs must certify that the military has taken all the steps internally to be ready to implement this change. lester? >> kelly o'donnell, thanks. tonight, defense secretary robert gates is applauding today's vote and in a statement said as soon as the president signs the bill, the pentagon will begin planning for the change. meantime, those who have served under the existing ban are reflecting on what those changes mean for them. nbc's kevin tibbles reports. >> reporter: retired u.s. navy captain joan dara and her partner lynn kennedy were married last night. as they prepare to celebrate at a party this evening, they took time out to watch the senate vote. >> there will always be this little fear in the back of my mind that somehow i had been outed and i was being called in to be told that my career was over. >> reporter: dara, a former naval intelligence officer, says for nearly 20 years she could never share her relationship with military colleagues and ultimately "don't ask, don't
tell" influenced her retirement. >> it's not right to make people hide part of their lives. >> reporter: most recent poll numbers show that 70% of america's troops feel the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" will have mixed, positive or no effect. but among combat troops, numbers changed dramatically. 48% of army and 58% of combat marines strongly oppose serving with gays. >> the law has changed, successfully implementing repeal and assimilating openly homosexual marines into the tightly woven fabric of our combat units has strong potential for disruption at the small unit level. >> reporter: at this coffee shop outside joint base louis mcchord near seattle, opinions are mixed. sergeant marcus mcgivney recently served in afghanistan. >> if you have homosexuals in combat arms, it would be the same as men and women working together. >> reporter: but a retired soldier says it's time for change. >> [ inaudible ]. >> there are gay people serving right now in every rank and
every specialty and i don't think it will be a big deal at all. >> good-bye "don't ask, don't tell." >> reporter: for joan, serving her country in the navy was her life but not all of her life. kevin tibbles, nbc news, chicago. >> as we mentioned at the top of the broadcast, president obama has long supported repealing "don't ask, don't tell." and while it's taken longer for him to get it done than many of his supporters had hoped, the timing may give him a political boost. nbc's mike viqueira is at the white house tonight with more. mike? >> reporter: it's less than two months from that shef-described electoral shellacking. but in recent days, the president has had some unexpected success with help from some unlikely political allies. after he campaigned on a pledge to do away with "don't ask, don't tell," supporters of repeal, many of them core democratic voters, had grown
frustrated with the president, accusing him of dragging his feet. today in a statement, mr. obama welcomed the breakthrough, saying it's time to close this chapter in our history. >> here we go. >> reporter: passage comes a day after another obama victory, the signing of a tax package negotiated with republicans. and mr. obama's winning streak might not be over. in his weekly address, the president pushed for one more big vote before the holidays, ratifying the s.t.a.r.t. arms reduction treaty with russia. >> it's time to show the same spirit of common purpose on our security that we showed this week on our economy. >> reporter: many republicans are opposed. >> the united states should not be placing any constraints, any constraints, on our ability to defend ourselves. >> i fully support this treaty. >> reporter: but the president has the backing of other prominent gop voices and the treaty could be ratified by midweek. it all adds up to an unexpected political rally for mr. obama. >> he is in a better position politically than he's been in i think in more than 20 months. you see him and his team
recalibrating and trying to make sure that they're tailoring a message that is no longer partisan, that is about governing and getting results. >> reporter: with republicans taking over the house in three weeks and with greater gop numbers in the senate, there are bound to be battles next year. but some believe two-party rule could mean a little less political gridlock. >> so you could see a mutually beneficial situation between the president and congressional republicans both showing that they can compromise, they can get things done. >> reporter: lester, there was one defeat for the president and democrats today. the dream act has all but died in the senate. now, the bill would have offered a path to citizenship to children who were brought to this country illegally through no fault of their own. today, democrats unable to overcome a republican filibuster. lester? >> mike viqueira at the white house, thank you. much more on all this tomorrow on "meet the press." vice president joe biden will be david gregory's exclusive guest. now to travel and weather here at home. so far, so good for domestic travel as a busy week gets under
way, but for those heading overseas, not a good mix. a lot of holiday plans are in chaos as flights bound to and across europe have been disrupted by a severe winter storm. we have more from london. >> reporter: covered in a blanket of snow, this is a picture postcard image of buckingham palace most tourists never see. but anyone hoping to hop across the pond may want to think again. all flights into and out of the uk's busiest airport are grounded tonight. this flight from miami did manage to land in arctic conditions only to be frozen out on the runway for more than five hours. >> migraine passed away. i won't be getting back to the states for her funeral at this rate. >> reporter: roads have been paralyzed by blizzards while many motorists were trapped in their vehicles overnight, hundreds of cars were abandoned in germany and italy. in britain, despite heavy duty equipment, rescue services are struggling with thousands of breakdowns each hour.
northern ireland has seen its heaviest snowfall in 25 years. in scotland, temperatures plummeted to minus 15. though the snowfall has now eased off in central london, many of these minor roads are virtually impassable. that's simply because no effort has been made to salt or grit them. >> we do come under fire for salting and gritting. they don't understand why residential roads aren't done but there's only so much we can do. >> reporter: the last weekend before christmas is usually the busiest of the year for travelers heading home for the holidays, but those still stranded are getting a rare glimpse of britain's most famous landmarks covered in snow. nbc news, london. >> as we noted back in this country, the holiday rush is already on. as for weather, it could cause chaos in the west tomorrow. heavy rain and mountain snow, up to 15 feet in some areas, is forecast from california to western wyoming and the colorado rockies. today, there was a lot of
activity at major airports, including chicago's o'hare. not surprisingly, according to aaa, which says both airports and roads will be busier this year than last. but for many families, the trip will be a bit of a stretch. here's nbc's ron mott. >> reporter: more and more families are passing on a holiday stay-cation this year, instead splurging on an old fashioned vacation, despite higher travel costs such as gas and hotels. >> organizing to go. >> reporter: this weekend, kamal, lisa and 6-year-old sedera are off on their first cruise to the caribbean, a trip that's been in the budget a long time. >> we started paying for it in march. so it's been on the plan, on the financial plan, for the whole year. >> reporter: aaa expects 92.3 million americans to trek at least 50 miles from home during the christmas and new year's holidays, up more than 3% from a year ago. most of them on the road. >> the year-end holiday travel period is following a trend that
we've seen throughout 2010. we've projected increases for all five of the major travel holidays, and i think that is a sign of some good news for the travel industry. >> reporter: but it's not all good news for travelers. >> about $100 to fill up an individual van. >> reporter: the price at the pump is up roughly 40 cents nationwide on average from '09. and some analysts say we could see the price to fill up continuing to climb well past the holidays, possibly peaking around or even above the $4 a gallon mark come spring. up in the air, crowded planes are expected as airlines celebrate a banner year, raking in more than $4 billion in add-on fees through the first nine months of the year, for things like checked bags and newer surcharges for longer flights. still, passengers keep flying. >> people want to keep traveling. they prove time and time again that the desire to travel is more powerful than the inconveniences. >> reporter: for the bobbs -- >> it's really important for us that she travels, sees the world.
>> reporter: -- the desire is more than a matter of dollars and cents. ron mott, nbc news, atlanta. still ahead as "nbc nightly news" continues this saturday, a surprise victory for amanda knox, the american behind bars in italy in a high profile murder case. could this ruling change everything? and later, comeback kid. the man behind the stunning transformation of one american neighborhood.
woman tried, convicted and imprisoned along with her ex-boyfriend for sexually assaulting and killing her british roommate. today, an italian court said it would allow a new review of the dna evidence in her case. knox's mother says her daughter is elated. >> she gave us a big smile. i haven't had a chance to talk to her. but at least there's now hope. it's no longer just total despair. there's some hope that they want to find the truth and really look at things carefully. >> among the pieces of evidence that an outside expert will now reexamine, a knife and a bra clasp, both considered crucial to knox's conviction. the los angeles police department is being inundated tonight with phone calls, e-mails and other tips after the department released nearly 200 photos of unidentified women found in the home of a suspected serial killer. nbc's miguel almaguer has the latest on a man being called the grim sleeper.
>> reporter: lonnie franklin jr. is charged with murdering ten women but now his attorney says the accused serial killer can't get a fair trial. this week, police released 180 photos of unidentified women, pictures discovered in franklin's home. detectives believe some could be victims of the man dubbed the grim sleeper. not the case, says franklin's lawyer. >> at least 18 of those photographs contain family and friends' photographs. they've tainted the jury pool, and my client's right to a fair trial. >> reporter: police say they offered to show the photos to franklin's family, who declined. after asking for the public's help, hundreds of tips poured in to lapd. investigators have identified five women. >> that's my sister. >> reporter: latonya clark says her sister rowena is number 118. >> i kept thinking i hope nothing has happened to her. i hope she's not dead. >> reporter: arrested in july, police say franklin began his murder spree back in 1985, but after a 14-year break in the
homicides, they say franklin struck again, earning the nickname the grim sleeper. investigators link the auto mechanic to the murders with dna evidence. he's pled not guilty. >> it's a jury that will convict, not the police, and they love dna technology. and this dna technology is probably what's going to get him convicted in the end. >> reporter: but the police investigation isn't over. this weekend, after the release of these photos, tips are coming in. a suspect behind bars, a case that's still open. miguel almaguer, nbc news, los angeles. still ahead tonight, has the mystery of amelia earhart's disappearance been solved? the evidence that may finally reveal what happened.
it is one of the most enduring mysteries of our time. more than 70 years old and the source of endless speculation. what really happened to amelia earhart? the pioneering pilot who disappeared while trying to circle the globe. tonight, there may be an intriguing new clue. here's nbc's janet shamlian. >> reporter: her name is almost synonymous with aviation. amelia earhart, famous for being the first woman to fly solo across the atlantic but also for her disappearance, seemingly without a trace as she was attempting to circle the globe in 1937. it is one of the greatest mysteries of our time. her body has never been found. >> we cannot hear you on 500. >> reporter: but her legend lives on in books, television
and in movies, including this one in which earhart is portrayed by actress hillary swank. >> we are running north and south. >> reporter: it's long been believed her plane ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean. but scientists now have new evidence as documented in a discovery channel special that may help prove earhart landed the plane and survived as a castaway on an uninhabited island in the south pacific. >> if we're right about this, amelia earhart did not crash and die at sea as the government decided she probably had, nor was she captured by the japanese as others have claimed. >> reporter: gillespie's group found a tiny fragment of bone currently at the university of oklahoma for testing. several other items found on the remote island provide strong circumstantial evidence of a castaway. pieces of a pocket knife, travel-size bottles made in new jersey, and the broken mirror from a woman's compact. >> my confidence level that the
artifacts we're finding were left there by amelia earhart is about as high as it could be. if they are human bones, that's a question for the scientists. >> reporter: a shred of evidence may at last help solve an enduring mystery. janet shamlian, nbc news, houston. we are getting a glimpse tonight of kate middleton's new life as a royal in training. she stepped out for a charity event tonight with prince william. the first time they have been out publicly together since announcing their engagement. middleton wore a black and white dress with a fancy neckline, a black jacket, black pumps and a black clutch and of course, her engagement ring. earlier this week, off camera, the bride-to-be joined the prince for the queen's annual pre-christmas lunch which also included many other members of the royal family. when we come back here tonight, where many see just rundown neighborhoods, this visionary sees something beautiful. he's placing a bet and making a difference.
finally tonight, a man who has been making a difference for a long time in several american communities by seeing gold where others see only rust. these days, he's setting his sights on a neighborhood in florida where they're rebuilding and rediscovering. and as kerry sanders reports, he's leading an unlikely alliance of hard hats and paint palettes. >> reporter: just beyond overbuilt downtown miami where the real estate market imploded in spectacular fashion, a
downtrodden district called wynnewood is in the midst of a curious transformation. like new york's soho, artists here are turning ugly into trendy. and the man in that hat is a big reason why. >> artists being artists, being artists. adding value to our neighborhood. >> reporter: in a recession economy, tony goldman's investment is gaining traction. >> that's what vision is. seeing what no one else sees. >> reporter: the hip art world is beginning to lure crowds to an area of town that two decades ago was better known for its riots. >> you don't have to build buildings to be able to regenerate a neighborhood. it's not about building. it's about using what we already have. >> reporter: goldman's invested more than $20 million in what's now called wynnewood walls. >> at night we turn on the blacklight and this whole thing glows.
>> reporter: it's gamble that's paid off before. tony goldman put his wealth into soho in 1975 and again on to south beach in 1985. now what's taking hold here is being planned for warehouse districts in kansas city, buffalo and des moines. >> the trends of the united states is that the jobs are going elsewhere, so these buildings are becoming obsolete in a lot of ways. they are, though, great boxes for restaurants, for galleries, for creative spaces. >> reporter: alan shulman is a professor of architecture at the university of miami. >> i think that what's really unique about wynnewood is that it's building its renaissance on a base of artists and galleries. >> reporter: an artist once said to live a creative life, you have to lose your fear of being wrong. here in wynnewood, that's now a mantra. kerry sanders, nbc news, miami. that's "nbc nightly news" for this saturday.