tv NBC Nightly News NBC January 8, 2014 5:30pm-6:01pm PST
on our broadcast tonight, in a jam, a big problem for a man with big ambitions. tonight, how a traffic nightmare on the world's busiest bridge has gone into a full blown scandal with the power to damage chris christie's political future. polar opposite. deep freeze continuing to bite hard across the country, other parts of the world are seeing record heat. so where does the discussion about global warming stand right now. back lash, after dennis rodman goes off the rail and singing happy birthday to the dictator of north korea. and ann curry, in what is one of the most dangerous places on earth. "nightly news" begins now. from nbc news headquarters this is "nightly news" with.
good evening, on another cold night in the northeast, and we'll get to that cold in just a moment. we begin tonight with a story of what some are calling an abuse of power and an act of political retribution by those close to one of the most prominent politicians in our country. the story begins on one of the busiest bridges in the world, you are looking live at the entrance of the george washington bridge linking new york and new jersey, part of a massive artery up and down the east coast. because of an enormous backup this past september, a scandal has erupted around chris christie. lot of republicans regard as the consensus candidate for the nomination in 2016. e-mails have been released showing the traffic backup was the work apparently of members of chris christie's staff, among others, and that it was intentional and political meant to make life difficult for a new jersey mayor on that side of the bridge. it is where we begin tonight with nbc's stephanie gosk.
>> reporter: even by new york city standards, the traffic that clogged the entrance to the george washington bridge last september was maddening. for four days, two traffic lanes in fort lee, new jersey, were shut down, bringing the city to a stand still. among those caught in the jam for hours, police officers searching for a missing 4-year-old girl. e-mails and text messages released today by new jersey officials suggest the traffic nightmare was deliberately triggered by one of the top aides to new jersey governor chris christie. >> the documents that have been published are both shocking and outrageous. they show government at its worst. among other things, they call into serious question the honesty of this governor and his staff. >> reporter: in a strongly worded denial tonight, governor christie says what i have seen today for the first time is unacceptable. not only was i misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge.
two weeks before the monster traffic jam, chris christie's deputy chief of staff e-mailed a local transportation official, david wildstein. time for some traffic problems in fort lee. wildstein, a high school friend, replied, got it. after two days of disruption and chaos, one unidentified person sent this text to wildstein, is it wrong that i am smiling? democratic leaders accuse the governor of punishing fort lee's mayor. for refusing the endorse christie in his reelection campaign. >> who deserves the apology? my family, the families who live here in fort lee, who were hours late for the opening day of school, they deserve an apology. >> reporter: before today, governor christie denied his office had anything to do with the shut down and sarcasticly
denied being personally involved. >> i was actually the guy out there in overalls and hat, working the cones. >> reporter: governor christie is considered a gop frontrunner for 2016, a no-nonsense politician with bipartisan appeal. >> if this scandal continues it could be a drag in terms of whether or not he is successful in that effort. >> reporter: in a statement tonight, the governor distances himself from an unnamed person in his staff and says that people will be held responsible for their actions. brian, it looks as if the story will make news in the coming days. >> if you didn't say that i would, stephanie gosk, thank you. starting us off tonight. and let's start off with the politics with political editor chuck todd on the north lawn of the white house. chuck, so far tonight i heard james carville say that the governor should go to fort lee tomorrow morning and own this situation. i heard a congressman say that it looks like the governor put his constituents under a bus, only happening at a dicey time for him because he is about to take a post giving him more visibility.
>> he is basically beginning the early stages of his presidential campaign, in days, brian as he takes over the head of the republican governor's association. but look at what has not happened tonight, is we have not heard from chris christie beyond a statement, this is not like him. this entire episode is doing two things for him, causing him major problems right now if he doesn't get out in front of this in a hurry. number one, it underlines a compelling part of his message that he is a bipartisan guy working across the aisle. well, that is not the act that happened here. they punished somebody across the aisle. secondly it enforces a negative stereotype that you and i both know what has been out there for years, that he is a bully at heart every once in a while and kind of mean. well, this looks like a mean situation. >> all right, chuck todd from the white house, as stephanie gosk said, we'll hear more about this.
and now as promised an update on the polar vortex, the fancy meteorologistical name for the on the cold, from the arctic well in the deep south in our country. a large and growing death toll is now associated with this unusual and record-setting weather event, which thankfully is moderating some. we get our report on it tonight from nbc's kevin tibbles in chicago. >> reporter: a city tug chops its way along the chicago river keeping this water way open. while in new york's hudson river, a tug had to carve out a path to guide a stranded ferry through the ice. temperatures are dangerously cold throughout the midwest and northeast, 21 people have died as a result. but today, good news. >> the polar air in place all week is finally starting to go back into canada. believe it or not by the weekend temperatures will be above freezing. >> reporter: for thousands of chicago kids, the gradual warming meant an end to their unscheduled ice break.
>> not negative a thousand. >> reporter: but many businesses froze in this big chill, too, and it is projected to cost the u.s. economy up to $5 billion, with 11,000 flights cancelled this week, the airline industry could take a $1.4 billion hit as travel plans were left in ruins and passengers frustrated. and for all the truckers stranded in snow bound indiana, lost time is lost revenue. small businesses like this hot dog stand left out in the cold, too. >> we're only doing about 20% of what we normally do in sales. >> reporter: the demand for heating fuel in the northeast hit a new high. >> as you have to spend more to heat your home those are less dollars to take and spend on places like restaurants and movie theaters. >> reporter: and taxis in some big cities are doing a booming business. >> i did 40% better than normal. >> reporter: when pipes froze in atlanta, this plumber's phone rang nonstop.
>> from 6:30 in the morning until 8:00 in the evening we had 350 calls. >> reporter: and calls increase, because when burst pipes thaw, basements flood. and brian, as this cold front finally appears to be snapping, amtrak says their trains should be running on time tomorrow. brian, does this really mean it might be over soon? >> well, what a mess it has left behind. kevin tibbles from our report from chicago, thank you. in north korea today we watched the latest bizarre chapter play out in the life of dennis rodman, the former nba star turned one man would be of good will ambassador to of all places, north korea. he made news there both for his actions today and his comments about an american who continues to be held by north korea. our report tonight from our chief foreign affairs correspondent, andrea mitchell.
>> reporter: how do you celebrate the 31st birthday of a north korean dictator who just executed his own uncle? >> happy birthday to you ♪ some would say very carefully, dennis rodman's bizarre throaty performance was capped by a slight bow to kim jong-un, who was there even though photographers weren't permitted to take pictures of him. the main event was a basketball tournament between the korean players and the americans, but the americans lost, probably a good thing. but rodman's diplomatic adventure is not funny for an american prisoner, 45-year-old kenneth bae, from los angeles. -- from the seattle suburbs. he was already held for 14 months, criticized by rodman this week in a cable tv rant. >> kenneth bae, did one thing -- if you understand what kenneth bae did. >> reporter: that only increased the worry for bae's family back home. >> this is not a game, dennis rodman can play a basketball game and media game all he wants
with his own life, but this is a man's life. and that is on the line here. >> reporter: the family says bae, once healthy, is now ill. and the state department says it doesn't severe -- have a sports diplomacy program with north korea and dennis rodman doesn't represent the united states. >> he may have given the north koreans cover for keeping kenneth bae longer, by implying he were guilty, which he was not. andrea mitchell, nbc news, washington. and after word that four americans were killed in the helicopter crash in england, there was another fatal crash today in this country, happening off norfolk, virginia, when a chopper went down in a training exercise, among the crew of five service members, one dead, one missing, three were rescued. we have a report tonight from the latest and most urgent
crisis unfolding in our world, happening in the heart of africa, where growing violence between christians and muslims have raised fears there of genocide. we're talking about an african republic about the size of texas, where almost half the population is now in need of direct humanitarian assistance, nbc's ann curry is one of the few western reporters to make her way there. >> reporter: the violence has forced nearly a million people from their homes across the central african republic. the vast majority of them children. including this child in a camp full of displaced people. her mother, father, brother, sister and her grandparents all killed. are you the only survivor of your family? she tells us she watched as her mother was shot. i raised my hands to god like this, but they didn't listen to me, she says, finally, they killed my mother.
she thinks of her family always, telling us last night i dreamed my mother was cooking rice with meat for me, she couldn't stop crying, she says, after she woke up today. in a program run by save the children, she draws a picture of the life she lost, her home, the fish and the river behind it, the flowers near the front door. today she lives in this camp on the grounds of a monastery, with one of the only relatives she has left, her great aunt. she says she has no words for the men who killed her family. instead, she put her hands together, offering a prayer. forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. and she added, bless me, and keep me safe. >> ann curry reporting for us tonight from the capital city of
bangui where she is telling us there are reports that the muslim president of the central african republic could step down tomorrow, sparking fears of a power vacuum which could make the already dangerous situation even worse. we'll take a break here and still ahead tonight amid the cold, heat is back, just where do things stand about global warming? and later, the courageous dive today by a woman who continues to inspire.
back now as promised here tonight with a closer look at this record cold weather across our country and some other records that are falling in other parts of the world, going the opposite way. all of it has some people wonder ing what this says about global warming. a topic that is still hot and politically polarizing. our report tonight from our chief environmental affairs
correspondent, ann thompson. >> reporter: as the freeze thaws, some are arguing about global warming. >> absolutely do not believe in global warming. >> reporter: while in some parts of the country the mercury feels like it has been on a bungee jump. take new york, 55 degrees on monday, down to a record low of four degrees tuesday, back to 55 this saturday. what does that tell us about global warming? scientists say nothing. >> you can't look at a single event to prove or disprove global warming. you have to look at a period of 30 years to see what the climate is is doing. >> reporter: global warming or climate change happens in decades, not days, and the average temperature trend is up. plus, it is a global phenomenon. so this week, while much of the u.s. shiver, other parts of the world swelter. in brazil, as temperatures are 120 degrees, the animals eat popsicles to keep cool, at the zoo. elsewhere, temperatures are 125 in the west, the hottest year on
record, down under. in the north, moscow, anchorage, alaska, are all above average, and california is unusually dry. >> 94% of the state is in quite strong drought. this ultimately will increase the risk of wildfires when they get the right kind of conditions. >> reporter: yet some are skeptical, angering america's favorite news man. >> apparently decades of scientific study, can be, like a ficus plant, destroyed in one cold weekend. >> reporter: the last time we saw such temperatures was nearly two decades ago, but this is not a historic deep freeze. >> before the mid-90s, we saw this cold snap every five or ten years. >> reporter: this is one we won't soon forget. anne thompson, nbc news, new york. and we are back in a moment with the newest members added to the list of the greatest members of all time.
gabrielle giffords jumped out of a perfectly good airplane today, taking the leap sky diving in part to celebrate the landmark recovery from her gunshot wound. after years of intense physical therapy, she has regained some of the movement in her right arm. you may have noticed savannah guthrie there for a ride along the plane. her report on all of it will air tomorrow morning on today. and it was 50 years ago that president lyndon johnson in his first state of the union address declared a national war on poverty. well, today, the white house released a progress report of sorts showing the national poverty rate dropped from 26% in the mid-60s to 16% in 2012. and although we've come a long way as a nation since the debate over how to help families in poverty continues, in washington, while so many are on food stamps, despite having a job and with this current discussion under way over the minimum wage.
two veteran democratic lawmakers today became the latest members of the house of representatives to announce they are leaving and not coming back. mike mcentire, and mccarthy, elected back in 1996, mccarthy won after her husband was an killed and son wounded by a gunman in 1993. she is part of a smaller number of moderates in congress who announced their plans to leave, some of them who are not likely to be replaced by similar candidates, which means that there are fears the next congress could be more partisan. and greg maddux and tom glavine to be elected to the baseball hall of fame together since the duo of the new york yankees of old. both former braves pitchers will be joined by slugger frank thomas to make up the class of 2014. baseball writers who make up the vote continue to show disdain
for a number of players who played during baseball's steroid era. and a couple of items from space caught our attention here on earth today. the obama administration extending the life of the international space station by four years until 2024, to a cost of about $3 billion a year and the meter is running. nasa says the extension gives them more time to plan for the future of exploration. and this just in from the hubble. incredible never before seen galaxies, 13.2 billion years ago, a universe still young, just 500 million years after the big bang, and we don't know how they know all that. after a break, when we come back, how some were able to weather the cold with a little kindness from strangers.
finally here tonight, as you know we have been talking about it for days now. this brutal cold weather pushing down and into much of our country. tens of millions of americans have suffered through it, especially in places not used to the cold. but a lot of people have stepped up and offered to provide comfort and warmth to those in the cold. their story tonight from nbc's
katy tur. >> reporter: as the winter weather turned from bad to worse, her fingers went into over drive. >> if i knit steady, i can do one in about three hours. >> reporter: she has been knitting since the age of five, donating what she makes to less fortunate neighbors. this week her hats went to local school kids. a bitter freeze in parts of all 50 states and in many of them folks came together. in buffalo, a man taking his son to dialysis got stuck in deep snow, until a tow truck drove by, here, it was a good tug that did the trick. >> a lasso. i'm just kind of good at improvising. >> reporter: and with the mercury dropping and the snow falling it was all about digging out. >> everybody helps everybody, it gets done quicker. >> reporter: and pitching in. that's what happened in indiana. a restaurant owner decided to
open shop, dishing out his german specialties to the homeless and veterans. but if you live next to lake ontario or in this case, on lake ontario this kind of weather, although extreme, is not entirely unusual. so when life gives you ice, go ice fishing. while many are glad the worst of this cold snap is finally ending, not so for this 81-year-old. for 25 years he has been recording the temperature for the national weather service and in minnesota, and every day he opens this door and hopes this will be the day that his thermometer will be the one to make history. don't worry, mr. fowler, the way it is going this just may be your year. katy tur, new york. and that is our broadcast for this wednesday night, thank you for joining us, i'm brian williams, we of course hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night.
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