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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  December 30, 2017 5:30pm-6:01pm PST

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>> rob, thank you and thank you nightly new a nationwide display of dissent in a country that has little tolerance for that. president trump declares oppressive regimes cannot endure forever. an early and troubling start to the flu season. it's now widespread in dozens of states with far more cases than at this time last year. the growing health crisis in puerto rico. with many doctors now gone, the challenge of finding care, especially for pregnant women and young children. training police to be more aware when they're interacting with people who have autism. and, they've been best friends for almost all their lives. tonight, the remarkable new twist that brings them even closer.
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>> announcer: this is "nbc nightly news" with kate snow. >> good evening. for the third day in a row, anti-government protesters took to the streets in iran in what appear to be the most widespread demonstrations since the government crushed a big reform movement in 2009. there was also a large pro-government rally in tehran today, and from florida, president trump weighed in, saying "the world is watching." nbc's kelly o'donnell is there with more. >> reporter: on the streets of iran's capital, days of public protest reached a boiling point, not seen for nearly a decade. the kindling to this show of anger and desperation is a poor economy, with few jobs and rising prices. brewing unrest that drew the attention of president trump's twitter feed. "iranian government should respect their people's rights, including right to express themselves. the world is watching." echoing the president's message delivered at the united nations.
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>> the longest suffering victims of iran's leaders are, in fact, its own people. >> reporter: the volatile conditions today moved many young people to demonstrate against the government spontaneously, as word spread through social media posts. by contrast, a more organized and scheduled wave of pro-government support turned out to praise the supreme leader ayatollah khamenei as thousands backed the regime. the u.s. designates iran a state sponsor of terror. president trump has refused to certify the obama-era agreement to blunt iran's nuclear program. this weekend's protest response is coordinated. from the state department, "the united states strongly condemns the arrest of peaceful protesters." the white house press secretary, "iranian citizens fed up with the regime's corruption and its squandering of the nation's wealth to fund terrorism abroad." and the president tweeted
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excerpts of his united nations address to amplify pressure, and encourage other nations to aid protesters. >> that iran's people are what their leaders fear the most. >> reporter: and demonstrations spread across iran. there are reports tonight of bloody violence towards some of those protesters, but those are unconfirmed reports. the iranian government also responded to president trump saying his words were deceitful and opportunist. kate? >> kelly, also tonight, there is a new report from the "new york times" today on the russia investigation specifically about why federal authorities decided to investigate in the first place. what can you tell us about that? >> reporter: is it a mystery solved, kate? it appears the "new york times" has a clue about what got this started in the beginning, and they point to the young former foreign policy advisor george papadopoulos who has pleaded
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guilty for lying in the investigation. they say that back in may of 2016 he was in london and spoke to an australian diplomat, telling him that the russians had unflattering emails of hillary clinton. when those emails later became public, the diplomat went to the fbi, who asked for permission to investigate under the foreign intelligence surveillance act. so maybe that is what started it all. now today, the white house responded saying that out of respect for the special counsel, it would not comment, hoping that the inquiry would be completed expeditiously. kate? >> kelly o'donnell with the president in florida, kelly, thank you. a growing health concern tonight. the cdc says this flu season is already shaping up to be a lot worse than last year's, with widespread flu activity now being reported in dozens of states. gabe gutierrez has that story. >> this is our family's first time getting the flu this flu season. >> reporter: for the nicholson family of brighton, colorado, the last few days of 2017 have been miserable. >> we all have been experiencing the body aches and the chills and the fever.
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>> his fever had spiked to 103.3. >> reporter: in syracuse, new york, christie freitas has been worried sick about her son, jackson, who has had flu-like systems since wednesday even though he's been vaccinated. >> i set up alarms throughout the middle of the night to get up and give him more medicine or check his temperature, and make sure he was doing all right. after a couple of days now, he's doing better, but we're still dealing with him being sick. >> reporter: the cdc reports the flu is now widespread in 36 states. there are almost three times as many cases this flu season compared to last year's. >> the reason it started earlier could be because of the cold weather, could be because of the virus the way it mutates every year. this year is one especially attractive to people. >> reporter: the results have already been deadly. in kentucky eight deaths so far, in south carolina seven and in north carolina 12 people have died, including a child. adding to the concerns an initial report citing data from australia this year's vaccine was only 10%
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effective, though experts say the actual figure is much higher. this pediatrician is on the front lines making sure his patients get a flu shot. the priorities are children ages 6 months to 4 years, pregnant women and adults older than 50. >> it's absolutely imperative. it definitely helps you. there's no real downside as opposed to the positives. i think the rewards far outweigh the risk when it comes to the flu vaccine. >> reporter: and it's not too late, doctors say. the peak of flu season runs through february. gabe gutierrez, nbc news, atlanta. much of the eastern half of the country dealing with more extreme cold and snow tonight, as we look ahead to new year's. meteorologist dylan dreyer has the chilly forecast. dylan? >> good evening, kate. boy, is it cold out there. and the coldest is still yet to come. by tomorrow morning, we are looking at windchills of 34 below in bismarck, north dakota. green bay 14 below. indianapolis it will feel like 18 below. in hartford that windchill will make it feel like 1. on monday morning we kick off
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the new year with even colder temperatures. paducah, kentucky, it will feel like 10 degrees below zero. the windchill in atlanta, 13 degrees. it's cold everywhere, but before we get to monday morning, we've got midnight on new year's eve, and brutally cold temperatures gripping most of the country. the only warm spot in the southwest. a little bit of lake-effect snow and in new york city, 11 degrees, that would make it a tie for the second coldest new year's eve on record so it is going to be very chilly for those folks outside. >> chilly is an understatement. dylan, thank you. two men are under arrest tonight and charged with murder in the brutal killings of a couple and two children at their home in upstate new york. the motive still unclear. anne thompson has the latest. >> reporter: in troy, new york, a nerve-racking week of fear comes to an end. >> reporter: why'd you do it? anything you want to say? what do you want to say to the victims family? >> reporter: 38-year-old james white and 24-year-old justin mann arraigned today for the gruesome murders of shanta
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myers her children 11-year-old j.j. and shanise, and partner brandi mells. >> i feel so much weight was lifted. >> shakera symes is her sister. the family was in court today. >> it was difficult to look at the individuals and not react in rage. >> reporter: next to her, isaiah, the surviving son, who was away when the crime happened. >> it gave me hope that i can finally get justice for my family. >> reporter: the victims were found the day after christmas in their apartment, by the property manager, but officials say they were killed on the evening of december 21st. the local paper reports law enforcement officials say the victims were bound and their throats slashed. >> the savagery, as you put it, and the barbarism of what happened to these people, our hearts and our prayers go out to the victims and their families. >> reporter: police say one of
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the defendants knew one of the victims and both suspects have criminal records. mann is on parole. both suspects pleaded not guilty. officials say there is still no known motive. >> we didn't understand it. we still don't understand it. >> reporter: tonight, the family and the community turn to prayer and each other, seeking comfort for questions still unanswered. now police say they used technology to connect the suspects to the crime, and they say they do not expect any additional arrests in this case, because they believe, in fact, they are very confident, kate, that they have the two men who are responsible for this. >> still so many unanswered questions. anne, thank you. overseas, there was heavy bombing in syria today. the government launching a new assault on a besieged rebel-held area not far from damascus where the human toll has been enormous. nbc's matt bradley reports tonight on some of those caught
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in the middle. >> reporter: he is too young to speak. but 2-month-old karim abdul rahman has become the voice of suffering in eastern ghouta near syria's capital damascus. since 2013 the region's 400,000 people have lived under siege and bombing. today was among the worst. residents reported some 20 regime air strikes with more than 100 bombs. the sort of attacks that maimed baby karim and also killed his mother. >> there is no, no medicine for him now, no treatment for him. he want to evacuate from eastern ghouta. >> reporter: this month a syrian photographer turned karim's plight into a social media movement. activists, journalists and politicians covered an eye, begging the world to open theirs. it may have helped. after two months of negotiations among human rights worker, rebels and the assad regime, 29 critically ill patients, mostly children, have been evacuated to
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damascus. baby karim was not among them, nor are the nearly 500 seriously sick and injured civilians in desperate need of care. but the war's wounded aren't its only casualties. >> patients suffering from cancer or even chronic diseases like diabetes or kidney failure, we know also there are some children who are suffering from malnutrition. >> reporter: two weeks ago a 6-month-old died before she could be evacuated. with isis all but defeated and syrian president bashar al assad nearing a brutal victory, many hope deals like this will expand. eastern ghouta is one of the last major rebel holdouts in syria. >> after five years of war, over half a million dead and the country razeed to the ground, we're hoping this might be a ray of sunshine. >> reporter: the war may finally be coming to an end, but for children like karim, a lifetime of suffering is only beginning. matt bradley, nbc news.
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three months after hurricane maria tore through puerto rico, officials say power has now been restored to 55% of the homes on the island, but that means 1.5 million people remain in the dark, and puerto rico is facing an unprecedented health care crisis with pregnant women, mothers and their babies perhaps most at risk. tammy leitener reports. >> reporter: baby orion was born at home. he's never been checked by a doctor or even examined at a hospital. midwife michelle perez chiquez is under pressure. there's no room more mistakes working with no electricity, no clean water and no doctors. on this day, baby and mom are given a clean bill of health. it's a bleak situation for pregnant women here. the island already had the fifth highest premie rate in the u.s., and since hurricane maria, public health experts say the
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island is facing a growing crisis. most families have no power. doctors have fled the island. it's so bad, no one knows how many doctors remain. >> we have had families that haven't reached their doctors in a month. >> reporter: with nowhere to turn, word of mouth leads expectant mothers to one of the few still open clinics, this one run by midwives. >> i think the most concern issues are the water and electricity. how are we going to do this? >> reporter: mothers say it's difficult to find the basics. fema initially sent diapers, formula and bottles, but now many families rely on donations from churches and charities. this new mom, thankful for whatever she gets. >> it's hard, but like i think you learn a lot, because then you have people around you that can help you, and you depend on the people helping you. >> reporter: strangers coming together during desperate times, bringing new life into the world. tammy leitener, nbc
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news, san juan, puerto rico. she was propeled onto the public stage after the death of her father put in a chokehold by a new york city police officer. erica garner became an advocate for police reform and the black lives matter activist. today the tragic news erica garner herself died after suffering a heart attack last week. >> get back! >> fight back! >> reporter: erica garner turned personal tragedy into a public mission. she became a national advocate following the death of her father, eric garner, at the hands of a new york city police officer in 2014. >> i can't breathe! >> reporter: his last words "i can't breathe," a rallying cry for those pushing to reform policing in the u.s. >> with cameras or without cameras, with your support or without your support. >> that's right! >> i'm gonna be out here, representing for my father. >> reporter: her family tweeted, "she cared when most people wouldn't have.
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she was good. she only pursued right, no matter what. no one gave her justice." >> so we need to vote. >> reporter: during the 2016 presidential election, garner used her platform to campaign for senator bernie sanders. >> she used her grief and her pain to fight back, and to say that we will have real police department reform in new york, and around this country. >> reporter: today sanders said, "she was a fighter for justice and will not be forgotten." >> love you. >> reporter: a young mother of two, inspired to fight, by the death of her father. >> he raised me to be the fine young lady that i am right now. i know -- >> that's right. >> -- that my father is very proud of me. >> erica garner was just 27 years old. still ahead tonight, training the police to deal with people who have autism. we'll take a look at a unique program.
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as we've seen too often in recent years, communication is all important in any confrontation with the police, but what if someone has inherent trouble communicating, for example, people who have autism? that's where an unusual program to train law enforcement comes in. blake mccoy takes a look. >> reporter: at home in rural arkansas, 8-year-old connor is content playing with his trains. >> there you go. >> reporter: it's outside the comfort of home that his mom, roxanne daly, worries. connor is non-verbal. he has autism.
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>> we have to stay on alert all the time with him. >> reporter: so today she's taking connor to meet with local law enforcement, an opportunity for him to get comfortable with police, firefighters and medical personnel, and for them to learn from him. >> can you try there? >> reporter: for officers used to protocol, autism and its spectrum of behavior presents a unique challenge. >> some of them will let you touch them. some of them won't. some of them will talk, some of them won't. >> reporter: the training is part of the non-profit alert, run by stephanie cooper. she travels the country to educate law enforcement, enlisting the help of autistic kids in each place she visits. why is the hands-on training so important? >> autism video trainings are great to have. they're a great resource, but doesn't cover what live hands-on interactive training covers. so there's no look to autism. >> reporter: for cooper the mission is deeply personal. she's a former police officer herself and the mother of a severely autistic 9-year-old son.
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>> by doing this type of training and knowing there are safe places for him to go if he is scared and confused, it just makes me feel better about the future for him. >> reporter: for the officers -- >> hey connor. >> reporter: -- and parents, the training has been revealing. >> he avoided every attempt they made. it was a huge eye opener for me and it was a shock. >> reporter: connor avoided eye contact and most interactions. something roxanne hopes to change. >> i need to make an attempt, myself and my husband, to introduce him to more emergency personnel, so that he can feel comfortable that he can talk to them. good job. >> reporter: today's introduction a first step towards understanding. blake mccoy, nbc news, batesville, arkansas. >> so important. we're back in a moment with the four-legged intruder looking for food, and what happened when the police came to the house.
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so it began with a call to the police, a squirrel had gotten into a house in upstate new york, and was eating the cookies. when the police arrived, they got more than they bargained for. the squirrel apparently did not want to be disturbed, and as you see, he jumps at one of the officers. the whole thing recorded on his body camera. the squirrel was eventually caught and released, and everybody was laughing. when we come back, the bond between two best friends and the amazing discovery that made it so much stronger.
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finally tonight, a story that gives new meaning to the expression "friends and family." it begins long ago when two boys first met and started a friendship that continues to this day. but then, as steve patterson reports, there was a discovery that no one could have imagined. >> reporter: it's the kind of hawaiian day, perfect for a beachside walk. >> we're so lucky, aren't we? >> reporter: with your best friend. >> oh, my. >> reporter: walter
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macfarland and alan robinson have shared a bond more for more than 60 years. >> oh my god. >> we were just great friends. >> reporter: both adopted as children, they met in the sixth grade. teammates on the state champion football squad in high school. >> look how small that guy is compared to you. >> reporter: two lifetimes of friendship, loving marriages, successful careers. >> come on, let's not take all day. >> reporter: even retirement. >> you stacked that deck, walter. >> reporter: but something was missing in both of their lives. who were their biological parents? they searched for answers. both tried dna matching sites to trace their ancestry and just before christmas, an announcement that stunned friends and family. >> my brother! >> reporter: these men, inseparable for six decades, discovering they were brothers all along. >> he was crying. he couldn't even make it all the way up before he started crying, you know. it was so touching. >> i couldn't contain myself for the longest time.
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i'm still not the same and i don't know if i ever will be. ♪ >> reporter: since then, their newfound relatives have been inseparable. >> i like my new family. they party all the time, they love music, they dance, they drink. it's good fun, you know? as soon as we wrap this up there will be another party. >> reporter: the ties of friendship, now family. what's all this like now that you guys know you're brothers, you're out on a beautiful day like this. i mean -- >> well there's going to be more days like this, that's for damned sure. >> yeah. >> reporter: the kind of hawaiian days you'd want to share with your brother. steve patterson, nbc news, honolulu. >> just beautiful. that is "nbc nightly news" for saturday night. tomorrow we'll look at a state where a growing number of school districts are in session just four days a week. i'm kate snow. for all of us here at nbc news, have a great night. we continue to follow breaking
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news. a deadly police shooting outside a bank on the peninsula. right now at six wi kowe continue to follow breaking news. a deadly shooting. >> the news at six starts now. good evening. thank you for joining us. a dramatic and dangerous scene in redwood city. one man is dead after a police
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shooting and witnesses describe a chaotic scene of events. we have been on the scene. what more can you tell us about the man shot by police? >> police say the suspect was a 30 year-old hispanic man that they had constant contact with him for many years. police say the man had a gun. and when he opened fire to officers they had no choice but to fire back. and tonight district attorney office investigators are processing this crime scene to see what led up to this fatal shooting. >> reporter: police say a woman reported a man with a gun pacing in front of the atm at the wells far go bank. she called police. several officers showed up and police say they tried to convince the man to surrender. >> at some point he took a


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