tv NBC Nightly News NBC May 12, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT
on the broadcast tonight, tough choices along the mississippi. who decides what to save and what to flood with all that water galloping south and river levels rising? bin ladin's journal. tonight, what more we've learned about those handwritten entries, and what he was planning in his war against the u.s. firing line. oil company executives facing tough questions today. what will it mean, if anything, for us at the pump? and "making a difference" for a little girl we first met years ago in iraq, and what her life is like now thanks to a team of dedicated folks here in the u.s. if you're headed to d.c. this summer, what you won't see when you get there. "nightly news" begins now.
captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. we've been covering these floodwaters rampaging down the mississippi river for days now. it's already caused so much damage and destroyed so many homes and businesses. for many, the next big focus becomes new orleans. but saving some places means flooding others, in those places where they can manage the flow of the river. today the new orleans mayor took a stand, said that city won't flood. the question is, who will? for now tonight, 14 counties in mississippi are disaster areas. we could be looking at 5,000 homeless americans very soon. we start off again with nbc's anne thompson in morgan city, louisiana, where there are fears locally this water is coming right for them. anne, good evening? >> reporter: brian, take a look at this. the atchafalaya river is already covering the morgan city wharf.
and this water could go another six feet higher if officials open that spillway and send the mississippi river down here. morgan city has this seawall to protect it. but tonight in louisiana and mississippi, people are wondering if the protections they have are enough. >> the water's going up to a new record here. >> reporter: as the mississippi rises, neighborhoods disappear. >> this is the most water that these houses have ever gotten into them. >> reporter: these are the heart wrenching scenes from greenville, mississippi. where farms -- >> here we have a hog that's trying to make it to dry ground. >> reporter: -- and commerce are hit hard. >> this is just sickening. >> reporter: down river near vicksburg, william jefferson can only row home. >> it's almost like being shot in the arm. >> reporter: his neighborhood under water, and the mississippi won't crest here until next week. further south, the bulging river threatens louisiana's most populated corridor. from baton rouge to new orleans
there are a million people. and 200 miles of unfinished levees. to protect this area, officials may open the morganza spillway, diverting much of the water south and west, toward tim alvarado's stevensville neighborhood. >> this is the price you pay for living in paradise. >> reporter: around the house where he lives with his wife and two children, tim builds a wall of sandbags with determination -- >> i'm hoping i'm overprepared but you never know. >> reporter: -- and dread. >> i raised my family here. >> reporter: the national guard is helping to defend morgan city by shoring up levees, protect it in from a rear assault by river water backed by bayous that they hope never make it to the gulf of mexico. because the levees are in complete, this mayor says his city is at risk. >> we understand we live on a floodway, but you have to finish the job.
and to finish the job, you have to deliver that water all the way to the gulf of mexico. >> reporter: while in new orleans today, the mayor reassured its citizens. >> the orleans parish reports they do not expect we will have any impacts from flooding. >> reporter: that is good news for the city of new orleans. for communities up and down the flood zone like morgan city, they are doing everything they can to protect themselves. with time running out, they can only hope it is enough. brian? >> anne thompson starting us off in morgan city, louisiana, tonight. thanks. this flooding is a disaster. some of it historic, epic proportions, but something else is also true. it was predicted. we knew it was coming. we want to show you why, these numbers just came out today. this is snowfall this past winter. that number there on the left hand column is percentage above normal and the number on the right is actual inches of snow. columbia, missouri over 346% more than they usually get. here in new york city, about 5 feet of snow, philly 44 inches,
and so on. that was the setup for what we're seeing right now in the south. and what about the future? weather channel meteorologist chris warren in their headquarters with us tonight. hello, chris. >> brian, we're taking a look at the effects of opening the morganza spillway. first i want to show you a look at where we have new orleans and look upstreamthat's where the morganza spillway is located. if they open that this weekend, this is what is expected to happen. the areas shaded in green that's where we could see flood depths of up to 10 feet. in yellow, 10 to 20 feet. for morgan city, this is what we're looking at. the flood stage, keep in mind is 4 feet. with that spillway open, 12 to 13 feet of water could be heading that way. so, brian, it does look like new orleans may end up being spared. but other locations like morgan city may not be so lucky. >> all right, chris, we're going to count on you to be part of our team keeping an eye on the water in the days ahead.
thanks. now we turn overseas. the latest news resulting from the death of osama bin ladin. we seem to be learning more about him in the 11 days since his death at the hands of u.s. navy s.e.a.l.s than we've been able to learn in the past ten years, thanks to all that stuff the s.e.a.l.s were able to grab from his house on their way out, including a handwritten notebook. nbc's peter alexander in islamabad again for us again tonight. peter, good evening. >> reporter: brian, good evening to you. nbc news has learned in that handwritten notebook, osama bin ladin was focused on what one u.s. official calls spectacular attacks. we are told he specifically mentioned four major u.s. cities as potential al qaeda targets. new york, washington, chicago and los angeles. senior u.s. military and intelligence officials tell nbc news, from inside his hideout, bin ladin was fully engaged to carry out other 9/11 style attacks. describing him as a micro
manager and meticulous note taker, officials say he used his compound as a command and control center for al okayed saturday. compiling his thoughts and plans for new attacks in multiple documents, including a handwritten 10-page notebook. >> he mentions the big cities, he mentions certain important dates, for example, the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, which is coming up. he mentions transportation, aviation and rail. >> reporter: this wave of intelligence is emerging through a government campaign of briefings and orchestrated leaks. "the washington post" reports, bin lading was preoccupied with attacking the united states over all other targets. a fixation that led to friction with followers. nbc news has learned the president and top u.s. military officials were listed as potential targets. but the vice president was said to be less of a target. why the information onslaught? >> they're sending a message to members of al qaeda that the americans may have information about you, they may have information about your
whereabouts, about your plans, about your intentions. and it causes them to question what they're going to do. >> reporter: also seized in the raid, personal correspondence between bin ladin and senior al qaeda leaders. with bin laden discussing the places he wanted to attack, the best times to attack. even which followers would be right for specific jobs. the navy s.e.a.l.s focused primarily on bin ladin's office and left behind detailed logs of his and al qaeda's activities and movements. logs now in the possession of pakistani authorities who have not yet agreed to share them. and tonight the associated press is reporting that bin ladin was actually a prolific e-mail writer, even though his compound had no internet access. through a complex system of thumb drives and couriers, brian, he was able to get his message out for years, while avoiding detection. >> peter alexander on the case in islamabad again tonight. peter, thanks. since the death of bin ladin, it's become fashionable
among some to say, in washington and elsewhere, that so-called enhanced interrogation, what some define as torture, worked in this case. that it helped contribute to the death of bin ladin. today john mccain headed to the floor of the senate to refute that. of the 100 members of the u.s. senate, mccain was the only one who was tortured as a p.o.w. in vietnam. today he repeated his longstanding belief that torture is wrong. >> in my personal experience, the abuse of prisoners, sometimes produces good intelligence, but often produces bad intelligence. because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear whether it is true or false, if he believes it will relieve his suffering. i opposed waterboarding and similar, so-called enhanced interrogation techniques before osama bin ladin was brought to
justice, and i oppose them now. the trail to bin ladin did not begin with a disclosure from khalid sheikh mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. the best intelligence gained from a cia detainee was obtained through standard non-coercive means, not through any enhanced interrogation technique. this is not about the terrorists, it's about us. but i dispute that it was right to use these methods, which i do not believe were in the best interest of justice or our security or the ideals that define us, and which we have sacrificed much to defend. >> arizona republican senator, vietnam veteran john mccain in his own words on the floor of the senate today. now we turn to presidential politics and republican contender mitt romney. he would like to be president. and today he tried to pull off a
tough trick. defending the health care plan he passed when he was governor of massachusetts, that many regard as the model for the obama health care plan. we get the story from our chief white house correspondent chuck todd. >> reporter: mitt romney had hoped to put his health care policy problems behind him today. but the conservative "wall street journal" editorial page would have none of it. linking romney's ideas to president obama's. inciting serious flaws in the republican's candidacy. >> i, in fact, did what was right for the people of my state. >> reporter: by the time he got to a classroom at the university of michigan this afternoon, he was on the defensive. >> a lot of pundits are saying i should stand up and say this was a mistake. but there's only one problem with that, it wouldn't be honest. >> reporter: as governor in 2006, romney signed a law that required everyone in massachusetts to have health insurance. a model for obama's 2010 health care reform. >> one similarity that i know
bothers people a lot, is the fact that there's a mandate in the massachusetts plan that i put into place. >> reporter: romney's defense, which he hopes will resonate with skeptical conservatives, it's a state's right. >> our plan was a state solution to a state problem. and his is a power grab by the federal government. >> reporter: but romney didn't embrace the mandate with the same gusto he has in the past. >> if a state chose a mandate, it wouldn't bother you? >> i think it's a terrific idea. >> reporter: romney has a long record of tackling health care reform in his state. >> i want universal coverage. i want everyone in massachusetts and this country to have insurance. >> reporter: the president has enthusiastically seized on romney's record. >> in fact, i agree with mitt romney, who recently said he's proud of what he accomplished on health care in massachusetts. >> reporter: romney said he would welcome a debate with the president over his plan to replace obama's. >> many people say the mitt romney reforms is a lot better
than obamacare. >> reporter: but before that debate, he has to convince conservatives in his own party that his plan is different. chuck todd, nbc news, washington. big news to report tonight in the fight against aids. researchers have found beyond question, they say, that treating aids patients with anti-hiv drugs early not only helps the patient but also dramatically lowers the chances of spreading the virus to a partner. one of the nation's leading aids experts today told nbc news these findings are a game changer. >> i think this takes us a bit closer to getting a better control over the spread of this hiv pandemic. because the pandemic continues to amplify because we're not doing a very good job in preventing new infections. this is a very important step toward improving our prevention of new hiv infections. >> dr. anthony fauci says because of the results of this
study, health authorities around the world may change their guidance and urge doctors to offer medication to aids patients sooner rather than later, before they get too sick. when we come back here tonight, anger at the high price of gas across this country. interesting time for oil executives to arrive and face questions on capitol hill. and later, she almost lost her life in a war zone. now, her miraculous second chance thanks to some doctors making a difference. w
big drop in oil prices over the past week, has translated into some relief at the gas pump. $3.98 today's national average. gas is still real expensive, and americans' frustration over that spilled out on capitol hill today, just as some oil executives defended their tax breaks for their industry. nbc's kelly o'donnell covering today in washington. kelly, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. well, democrats led the charge
here. they want to end some tax deductions and use that money -- about $21 billion -- to pay down the national debt. republicans say it's wrong to single out just a few corporations with higher taxes. so here are some of the highlights with those ceo's on the hot seat. >> the five largest oil companies who are here today collectively earned more than $35 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2011 alone. at this pace, 2011 will be their most profitable year. >> you would have an easier time convincing the american people that a unicorn just flew into this hearing room, than that these big oil companies need taxpayer subsidies. >> don't punish our industry for doing its job well. >> how in the world can you possibly need incentives when oil is at $100 a barrel. >> the easy to find oil has already been found. our costs go up, taxes have gone up. oil is more difficult to find, more challenging. >> will raising taxes on oil and gas production lower the price
of gas at the pump? >> raising our taxes will not reduce the price of gasoline. >> i just want that on the record. i think you're really out of touch. >> i want to assure you, i'm not out of touch at all. and we do understand the big picture and we understand the enormous challenges confronting the american people. >> reporter: both parties say they don't think this would have any impact on the price we pay at the pump. there will be a vote next week. democrats say big oil should make a small sacrifice. brian? >> and so it goes on capitol hill. kelly o'donnell in d.c. tonight. kelly, thanks. we want to set the record straight here tonight. last night we said that the head of philip morris was quoted as saying cigarettes are not that hard to quit, while he conceded they are harmful and addictive. all of that is correct, he said that. the comment was made by the ceo of philip morris international, not the american philip morris. the problem is, we inadvertently showed the logo of the company philip morris, u.s.a. which we
a londoner named chris dawson shot these pictures. he saw clouds gathering. the jet is that new jumbo double decker, 500 people on board all fine. jets are built to get hit by lightning. their metal skin makes them flying conductors. several are hit each year without being damaged. when they talk about americans always wanting to fly higher and explore the heavens and our world, this is what they mean. 5th graders in illinois launched a weather balloon they bought on ebay. they launched it to the edge of space. 76,500 feet up. they tricked this thing out with a styrofoam cooler, gps, hd camera and a cell phone, tracked its progress all the way. at this rate by sixth grade they'll be standing on mars. attention all those with plans to visit washington, d.c., with the kids or grandkids this summer. you will find the reflecting pool in front of the lincoln memorial looks more like a dry creek bed. it's been drained for months and won't be fully ready to show off for tourists until next spring.
the problem is, the cement pond has been leaking. and we can't have that kind of thing at one of the most beautiful places in that beautiful city. one of the very best in the business ever, is leaving his chair. jim lehrer is leaving "the news hour" on pbs after 36 years in that shop. it seemed to us like he was just getting started over there. he's been a journalist for 52 years. and despite that, it's really tough to find anybody who doesn't like jim lehrer. jim's the longest serving anchor in broadcast television today. he'll still join their friday broadcast, and keep a hand in the operation, but most of him is going to try enjoying life. and we wish him the very best. when we come back here tonight "making a difference" for a little girl too young to understand the war outside her door, but badly wounded by it just the same.
bazell. >> reporter: children of recent immigrants play in suburban sacramento. we've known one of these kids a long time. are you shams? >> yes. >> reporter: oh, can i say hello to you? in 2007 during the worst times in baghdad, we witnessed u.s. soldiers rush shams into the emergency room of a combat hospital. >> we have a 5-year-old female with gsw to the abdomen, evisceration, partial amps times two. this little girl needs to go to the o.r. rather quick. >> reporter: with part of her leg and arm blown off, she was near death. the army medical team saved her. >> this is the one she goes in, right? >> reporter: dan mcferrin paid for her transportation to the u.s., but a hospital had to take her. and the shriners of northern california in sacramento volunteered. >> now let me see you bend your elbow up like this. >> reporter: a long road of additional surgeries and months
of rehabilitation. >> she's had ups and downs but she's a remarkable person. >> reporter: such a response from the shriners is hardly unusual. for almost 90 years, this hospital and 21 others in north america have treated almost a million children with severe problems, always free of charge. >> reporter: just after shams and her mom arrived in sacramento, the rest of the family was forced to flee from iraq to damascus. but now, partly with the help of the shriners, the family is reunited. >> how does your knee feel? >> good. >> reporter: at 9 years old, shams is shy, self-conscious of her artificial leg. >> she's getting to the age where kids focus on that. and i think it's going to be difficult for her. but i think having a supportive family will be a help for her. >> reporter: shams is so grateful, she wants to be a doctor. >> because i like to help people. >> reporter: making a difference one child at a time. robert bazell, nbc news,