tv NBC Nightly News NBC July 6, 2011 6:30pm-7:00pm EDT
on the broadcast tonight, the next threat -- could it be possible, u.s. officials warn terrorists may try a whole new way to hide explosive ps . the dust storm that swallowed up an american city. tonight, the incredible images and what it was like to be in the middle of it. cheating scandal in a major u.s. school system, perhaps the biggest ever. tonight we learn who's being accused of cheating and why. and the end of an era as america's space shuttle program prepares to come to an end. the first american to orbit the earth says we're making a big mistake.
"nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening, our lead story tonight is in the what will they think of next category, on it's deadly serious because it has to do with the latest ways terrorists are figuring out to bring down an aircraft. we talk a lot about airline security, what get s threw, wha doesn't. and this scenario, a warning by the feds may be a nightmare scenario. explosives inside a passenger, surgically placed within the body of a living human being who is willing to give their life to the cause. it's a grisly business, but just the threat of it could disrupt air ravel. pete williams is at national airport in d.c. pete, good evening. >> brian, officials stress tonight there's no indication of
any plot under way to actually do this, but they say al qaeda operatives have talked about trying to find doctors to help them do it, and the u.s. is taking that talk seriously. it's renewed interest in an idea for evading airport security. american officials say recently intercepted intelligence indicates al qaeda terrorists in yemen may attempt to surgically implant explosives, or explosive components in passengers to carry out suicide attacks. >> we see this as the evolution of how they can try to defeat us, to get around those layers of security that we have now. >> reporter: under one scenario, the terrorists onboard a plane would inject a chemical detonator into the part of the body where the device was planted. or it could be a radio controlled detonator, set off by a sell phone. intelligence suggests it would be tried on a flight to the u.s. from overseas.
more physical patdowns have been suggested, more questioning of passengers about their reasons for travel, and more use of the full body scanners in airports that have them. a former homeland security official says while there's no single piece of technology that could reliably detect something hidden in the body, such a plan would be hard to carry out. >> you don't know how the explosive would react in the body, how the impact would be affected because of the body, and you don't know what affect it would have on the individual of it being in the body, so there's not a whole lot of testing that you can do in advance. >> reporter: but it's more proof, terrorism experts say, that al qaeda remains focused on planes. >> it demonstrates the consistent creativity by al qaeda in yemen to circumvent our security. we've seen the underwear bomber, the cargo plane plot. they're trying to figure out another way to attack us. >> reporter: tsa tonight says all travelers to the u.s. may experience this stepped up security, and that includes
americans who are returning home. >> unbelievable thought. pete williams starting us off from national and d.c. thanks. new audio recordings are out tonight from a near disaster you may recall from the news just this past spring. happened just over three months ago on a southwest airlines 737 took off from phoenix bound for sacramento. suddenly at 34,000 feet, it found itself in an emergency situation. a small crack in the fuselage had grown large enough to blow a hole in the roof of the aircraft, which we later saw in photos from passengers. the pilot wanted to turn back to phoenix, but then realized he wouldn't make it. well, today the faa released the tapes of conversations between air traffic control and the crew. it's clear they knew they were in trouble. >> requesting emergency descent. we' starting down. >> we need the nearest airport. >> you want to land to blithe or do you want to go to palm
springs? >> let's make a turn and go -- how far away is yuma from us right now? >> yuma is at your 3:00 position and 50 miles. >> we'll take yuma. >> we'll take yuma. the plane descended 20,000 feet in less than five minutes. it was that incident, by the way, that triggered inspections of 737s across the country. also from phoenix tonight, when the following pictures were beamed around the world late last night, it looked like post production in a feature film. a massive violent fast-moving cloud, part of a dust storm overtook the city of phoenix, arizona in just a few minutes' time. it shut down the airport and most transportation and it wiped out the late-day sun and the sky. meteorologist rob was in the
middle of it. >> these stop signs are just about to snap over. you can see how much they're shaking around in this violent win. but like i just showed you, that blue sky is just right beyond all of this dust. just an incredible sight here. >> and proving that he cleans up real well, rob has been kind enough to join us from kpnx tonight. rob, how often does the city of phoenix get these? and what actually happens? the mechanics of this kind of a storm? >> well, brian, we have something here in the summer called the monsoon. in the first half of the monsoon, it's the dry monsoon. we get huge thunderstorms and these big wind storms that kick out of these thunderstorms. so we get these sort of the dust storms maybe three to four times a year. but it's been an extremely long time since anybody has seen anything this big and this long lasting. just an incredibly event yesterday. >> and rob, i've been in sand storms in iraq and elsewhere in the persian gulf that look
awfully similar to this. and just striking how insidious it is. it gets inside homes, every surface, electronics, inside cars. was it that bad? are people throughout metropolitan phoenix dealing with the after effects of this today? >> yeah, absolutely. i wish i owned stock in a car wash business because everybody was affected by this storm. millions and millions of people. one of my favorite photos was somebody who had their car in the garage, completely coated in dust. they weren't in the dust storm. this was after the fact. it just got anywhere and everywhere. everybody's pool has a nice coating of brown in it right now. >> well, mother nature proving once again to us all who's boss these days. rob carl mark, nice enough to join us. pleasure to have you, thanks. in mexico, rescue teams are still trying to find seven americans missing after their fishing boat capsized sunday. but time may be running out in
this situation. they have been lost at sea now for four days, and the mexican navy says it will stop rescue efforts on friday. this as we're learning more about how 35 men narrowly escaped the waters alive. nbc's miguel aguiler with more. >> reporter: a brief moment of relief after a fight for their lives. >> a shark circled us twice. i was bleeding. i thought i'm done. >> michael lang calls his rescue a miracle and believes the seven missing americans, fathers, husbands, brothers, will be found alive. >> i'm still very hopeful. i was in the water for 16 hours and i was okay.
>> reporter: the survivors have been living together at a hotel here ever since their rescue. they remain focused on finding the missing and helping the families of the missing hundreds of miles away. sharon clings to hope that her husband albert is still alive. >> he fought in the vietnam war. he was over there for three years. that's the only thing that gives me hope, he's a survivor. >> reporter: the mexican army will end its rescue on friday. they brought glenn to safety but couldn't find his brother brian. >> was there a part of you thinking about your brother? >> the whole time, the whole time. >> each day that goes by that we don't have confirmation, it becomes even more and more discouraging. >> reporter: for survivors and families of the missing, hoping for a miracle as time runs out.
explosive allegations that great britain's leading sunday tabloid hacked into the voice mails of british citizens, even families of murder victim, all just to scoop the competition. it's gotten so serious that parliament called an emergency session today to address this scandal nbc's michelle kosinski with more. >> reporter: people are furious. advertisers are pulling out and the prime minister under pressure is calling for an investigation. >> i feel so appalled by what's happened. murder victims, terrorist victims with their phones hacked, it's quite disgraceful.
>> reporter: now owner rupert murdoch calls these new allegations deplorable, unacceptable and says news corporation will once again cooperate with police. thousands of citizens may have been victimized, and the paper is accused of paying for information. but triggering the most outraged, allegations it hacked into the voice mail of 13-year-old millie dowler, abducted and murdered in 2002 while she was missing. and deleted messages as her voice mail filled up, which gave her family false hope she was alive. now a day before the six-year anniversary of the london terrorist bombings, families of those victims are hearing they, too, may have been hacked. >> i thought wurp ine were in a place and i didn't think we could get darker. >> interestingly enough, in america, we don't have this kind of journalism yet, and hopefully the american taste level is still such that it agrees this is just a bridge too far.
>> reporter: at a time when news outlets face fierce competition, a tabloid that sells 35 million copies a year is finding the most shocking scandal of all right now comes from its own news room. michelle kosinski, nbc news, london. and up next here tonight as "nightly news" continues on a wednesday evening, a school cheating scandal that some says reveals the risk of high stakes testing, but this time it's not the students who are accused of cheating. and later, two legends of this nation's space program talk about the era that's about to end with the next launch in florida. imagine a day free of worry, a day when we can eat what we want, drink what we want, and sleep soundly through the night. finally that day has arrived with prevacid®24hr. just one pill helps keep you heartburn-free for a full 24 hours. prevent the acid that causes frequent heartburn
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there is disturbing news out of atlanta, georgia, tonight about a major academic cheating scandal in the city's public school system and the alleged cheaters here are not students. there are nearly 200 administrator, principals and teachers who are accused of doctoring the results of standardized tests. now their jobs are on the line, and what's been discovered in atlanta may be just the tip of the iceberg. our education nation report tonight from nbc's ron mott in atlanta. >> reporter: a report says it's not students but the adults hired to teach them who are guilty. >> that, i think, is the most sinful thing, that we can do.
>> reporter: wrong achbss were changed to right ones. the results found tainted tests in 44 of 60 schools probed. >> and educators have failed to uphold the public trust and students are harmed in the process, there will be consequence kwengss. >> reporter: for year, atlanta school district officials denied cheating allegations, but a former teacher who sounded an alarm said it was met with silence and cost him his job. >> at that point, it became my problem, my fault. there was nothing that was going to be pursued by the school district. >> reporter: testing scandals are nothing new, of course. though they seem to be growing in number and significance around the country including one in the nation's capital recently that generated national attention. at least ten states use test scores as the primary evaluator of teachers with large bonusen s on the line for top performers whose students score well. >> when test scores are the only things that matter in education, teachers feel that they have to
boost those scores by hook or by crook. >> reporter: no child left behind, the 2002 law tying academic performance to federal funding has been blamed for an overemphasis on test scores. today, education secretary arnie duncan says high standards aren't to blame. >> what you want to do is make sure you're evaluating students each year, but the way to get good results is through good teaching. the vast that jmajority of folk around the country do it the right way. >> reporter: ron mott, atlanta. the 2018 winter olympic games have been awarded to pyeongchang in south korea. it was their third bid for the games. persistence paid off here, they beat out france and germany. when we come back, a man, a guitar and the thrill of a lifetime. [ male announcer ] it's simple physics... a body at rest tends to stay at rest... while a body in motion tends to stay in motion.
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finally tonight, while the weather forecast right now looks a little sketchy, the final space shuttle launch is scheduled for this coming friday. for now, though, the news is this -- in terms of the ability of the u.s. to send americans into space, this is the end of the space program. a lot of people are trying to put the best face on it. many are not. and john glenn is among them. his name belongs on any list of genuine american heroes of the modern era. combat pilot, world war ii and korea, former u.s. senator. he was the first american to orbit the earth and later flew on shuttle discovery. and it galls john glenn that for american astronauts, the russian space program is now their ride into space. we met up with john glenn at the air and space museum branch outside washington near dulles airport where they keep the big ticket items like the space shuttle. we talked with him about the end of the program. we also talked to our own jay
barbree. this final launch will be the 166th space mission he has covered. so tonight, two veterans of the space program in their own words. >> you have feelings of nostalgia, but on a bigger picture, im'm sad we're not maximizing the return of the international space program. the international space station is the most unique laboratory made by human beings. without a space shuttle, we have no way of getting into space ourselves. so we're accepteding or astronauts over to russia to have them put our people in the soyuz, which for the world's greatest space faring nation as we say, that's just not the answer to me. >> after 53 years with nbc news and covering all space flights, it is the end of an era. it's the end of the space
shuttle that we've all grown used to. but it's time for another space race. it's time now to move into commercial space flight and it's time to move into deep space. i think about everyone in the space family wants to see that. they want to see astronauts beyond low earth orbit. >> would it be okay to you to retire the shuttle if the next vehicle was ready? just as mercury ran its course and was replaced by gemini was replaced by apollo, was replaced by the shuttle. if there was something next on the pipeline, would it be better -- >> absolutely, you put your finger on it. i would feel better if the next vehicle was ready to go when we took the shuttle out of commission. now there's a gap. if we tailored them in so the one program dove tailed and replaced the other one, i think that's fine. >> 18 seconds and counting. >> godspeed, john glenn.
>> john glenn is the right stuff. he was one of the mercury astronauts, the first american in orbit and he flew at a time that rockets were blowing up more often than they were flying. this last launch is just part of the overall picture. and that's 50 years in space by the american people. >> what about the american spirit? say nothing of research, say nothing of explore nation, both of which i think are hard wired into our character. what about what this did to rally our people? >> i think back before the early space flights, which i was fortunate enough to be on one of them. and i think some of those early space flights are what brought the american psyche back into battery again maybe and said hey, we can do this thing. we had some successes. and we were moving and yes, we'll outdo them and we did. it was a restoration of the american sake key back in those days and i think we played a role in it.