tv NBC Nightly News NBC April 1, 2015 6:30pm-7:01pm EDT
monday looks basically fordry for the phillies. >> thunderstorms friday almost like summer weather. >> thanks for watching. i'm renee chenault-fattah. st on this wednesday night, cheating scandal. one of the biggest in american history. teachers and administrators found guilty of secretly changing test scores for thousands of students raising questions about the pressure not just on students but on teachers to measure up. running out of water, the worst drought in a thousand years. tonight, an unprecedented crackdown. millions of homeowners and businesses ordered to cut back in a big way. is it for real? the alleged video recording of the final seconds onboard that plane as the airline's boss refuses to answer our questions. and severe outbreak. massive hailstorms hail the size of baseballs. tonight, how they formed so big as a big part of the country faces a dangerous night ahead. "nightly news" begins
now. from nbc news world headquarters in new york this is "nbc nightly news." reporting tonight lester holt. good evening. it's bad enough when kids cheat in school to get ahead but the teachers themselves? today in atlanta nearly a dozen former educators were convicted on racketeering and other charges for their part in one of the nation's biggest cheating scandals. prosecutors say it was a massive conspiracy to make sure students passed standardized tests even if it meant giving kids the correct answers. the scandal dates back a decade. it involved dozens of schools. and a lot of grown-ups apparently failed one of the lessons we were all taught. nbc's chief education correspondent rehema ellis is on the story for us tonight. >> reporter: it was a stunning verdict. >> we the jury find the defendant guilty. >> reporter: former educators found guilty of racketeering in an unprecedented case of teachers and
administrators charged with fixing test scores and changing answers on standardized tests. >> we've been fighting for the children in our community, particularly those children who are deprived by this cheating scandal. >> reporter: a major victory for the prosecution. 11 of the 12 defendants convicted on charges typically reserved for mobsters and organized crime. >> this is the most appalling decisions i've ever seen. i don't see how you send educators to prison. >> reporter: the verdict came after months of testimony from more than 150 witnesses, students teachers and parents about widespread manipulation of test scores while some teachers received bonuses to improve test results throughout the district. the 16-year-old not shown because she's a minor, testified that a teacher instructed her to change her answers. >> they would tell us to erase it and put their answer. >> reporter: one former teacher describes a so-called cheating party at her home. >> we were changing
answers answers. and is that what ea of your was doing? >> yes. >> rep the alleged ring leader former superintendent beverly hall was never tried. she died of breast cancer last month and always maintained her innocence. >> i'd like to leave it at that. >> reporter: sentencing is scheduled within the next two weeks. the convicted face up to 20 years in prison. >> i made myself clear from early on. >> reporter: late this afternoon judge jerry baxter denied the request for bail. >> i have sat here for six months and listened to this whole thing. they have made their bed. and they're going to have to lie in it. it starts today. >> reporter: teachers and administrators at 44 of 56 of atlanta's schools were involved in the scandal. many say the victims here are the thousands of mostly black low-income students who are denied opportunity for remedial help because false test scores indicated they didn't need it. >> the whole thing is stunning isn't it? >> absolutely. >> rehema thank you. the state of california's resorting to drastic measures
tonight to combat its severe drought. the governor ordering the strictest crackdown on water use in the state's history. that means big sacrifices for tens of millions of people. our national correspondent miguel almaguer is outside los angele for us in a place that really puts things in perspective. miguel good evening. >> reporter: lester good evening. as we enter our fourth year of drought here in california these conditions are symbolic all across the west. we're technically in the middle of our rainy season. mountains should be lush with green, instead they're bone dry. tonight, we are coming to you from lake pairu. we're alt the bottom of a reservoir. we should be 30 feet under water here instead these are the conditions. this is why california is in a state of emergency. in the snow-starved sierra mountains where this snow pack measuring station should be buried under five feet of snow today governor jerry brown made history.
>> we're in an historic drought. and that demands unprecedented action. for that reason i'm issuing an executive order mandating substantial water reduction across our state. >> reporter: the governor says water use must be slashed by 25%. because reservoirs across the region are running on empty, as seen in this drone video documenting bone-dry record breaking conditions. nasa says this epic drought now affects 64 million americans across the west. scientists call what's happening here unprecedented. >> very likely the single worst drought of the last 150 years and possibly approaching the worst drought of the last 500 to 1,000 years. >> reporter: the governor says californians need to change the way they live. but in a state with 1.5 million swimming pools and sprawling growth that won't be easy. cities like long beach have fined businesses like this mcdonald's
for wasting water. now they're installing new water meters so-called electronic ankle bracelets, to monitor consumption. >> in most cases absolutely it changes their behavior quickly. they know we're watching and you can't hide. >> reporter: fallout from this crippling crisis will soon tarnish some of california's most spectacular sights. the ribbons of white at yosemite national park will turn to a trickle by june. some state rivers will soon become creeks. even trees are dying. >> this is the new normal. and we'll learn how to cope with it. >> reporter: while the governor is tonight optimistically hoping that californians will reduce their water use by 25%, nothing is going to help these reservoirs except for rainfall and snowfall. that simply isn't going to happen. tonight, many are also wishing the governor did more ordering mandatory water rationing. that also isn't going to happen. the governor is saying he's doing all he can for right now.
lester. >> that image from above says it all. miguel almaguer thank you. the ripples will be felt nationwide because most of california's water by far is used up by just one sector that affects practically all of us. nbc's jacob rascon is 50 miles northwest of l.a. in ventura county. jacob, this is a major problem. >> reporter: lester many california farmers are in crisis mode. they grow about half of the produce we eat in the united states including almost all of our lettuce as you see here tomatoes grapes and broccoli. it can take 11 gallons of water to grow one pound of broccoli. about 300 gallons of water to grow one pound of rice. and about 2,000 gallons of water to grow one pound of almonds. with less water available to them california farmers are losing billions of dollars every year that we have this drought. many of them are surviving thanks to groundwater, but they're pumping so
much of it so fast that the ground in some areas is literally sinking. many farmers will tell you that's what it takes to feed the country. but, lester farmland and farm jobs are drying up like never before. >> jacob rascon tonight, thank you. following the backlash in indiana, the battle between religious beliefs and gay rights exploded today in arkansas the latest state to pass its own religious freedom law. but the governor there making a surprise decision after the nation's largest retailer weighed in. nbc's gabe gutierrez has that for us. >> we are arkansas! >> reporter: facing mounting pressure today arkansas governor hutchison changed course. >> we want to be known as a state that does not discriminate but understands tolerance. >> reporter: previously he'd said he would sign a col religious freedom bill similar to indiana's. but the world's largest retailer arkansas-based walmart, asked for a veto. and so did someone
closer to home. >> my son, seth signed the petition asking me dad the governor to veto this bill. >> reporter: now he's sending the bill back to lawmakers asking them to align it more closely with existing federal law. >> this is a bill that in ordinary times would not be controversial. e a not ordinary times. >> rep here in indiana legislators are now scrambling to clarify the language of this state's law. >> we're talking to a lot of different people. and very hopeful to still meet our goal of announceing a solution tomorrow. >> reporter: governor mike pence says it protecting religious freedom and is not a license to discriminate against same-sex couples as critics argue. ahead of this weekend's final four, coaches of those teams joined the ncaa in concerns of the impact. this as a small pizza parlor said they were in favor of a law and refuse to cater a same-sex wedding. they drew so much
criticism online they are now temporarily closed. >> if they want to come in and they don't -- and the business owner doesn't want to serve them. that's their right. >> reporter: a question now being debated in multiple states. how to balance religious freedom and gay rights. gabe gutierrez, nbc news indianapolis. now to the scene of that germanwings plane crash in the french alps where the airline's top executives today offered an apology. but when we asked what they knew and when they knew it about the co-pilot who intentionally brought that plane down they were far less forthcoming. nbc's bill neely has that report for us. >> reporter: they've recovered all the bodies now they're clearing the crash site of wreckage. clearing up why this happened will take much longer. the airline's boss came to lay flowers at the memorial today, to thank the searchers and to apologize. >> there's a very, very sorry that such a terrible accident could have happened in lufthansa. >> reporter: he didn't
mention his employee andreas lubitz or the e-mail lubitz wrote lufthansa admitting serious past depression. and he didn't answer questions. so when did you find the 2009 e-mail from lubitz? when did you find it? sir, your employee crashed a plane, why won't you take questions? among the questions how closely did they monitor lubitz after he admitted past depression? lufthansa's insurers have set aside $300 million to cover the cost of what happened here. but if it's shown in court to have been negligent in letting lubitz fly the plane he crashed, it would face unlimited damages. meanwhile, a cell phone video allegedly taken by a passenger found at the site and it's claimed by journalists showing the last seconds of the flight has been called a fake by police. the journalists who say they've seen it are adamant. >> there's no doubt that what we saw are
the final seconds. >> reporter: prosecutors say they haven't analyzed any video, but they don't deny one could exist. the disputes over the crash, its cause and who -- won't be resolved easily. bill euneely, nbc news seynes-les-alps, france. still no deal in the high stakes negotiations with iran over the nuclear program which have now been extended a second day beyond the deadline. ann curry is at the talks in switzerland for us where it's now after midnight. ann, what's holding things up there? >> reporter: well that's a good question, lester. good evening. the final roadblocks now are few but very tough to get around. how much enriched uranium can iran keep? how much research and development will iran be able to do? and how much relief should iran get from u.n. sanctions? last night secretary of state kerry briefed president obama and his national security team by teleconference. and today kerry met we petedly with iran's foreign minister zarif.
and talks continue tonight. all negotiators are tired and frustrated. this is like groundhog day, lester. but both sides are feeling the pressure of threatened congressional action including new sanctions that could kill any deal. so nobody is going home yet, lester. >> ann curry tonight for us. ann, thanks very much. tonight, one of the most influential democrats in washington senator robert menendez of new jersey has been indicted facing federal corruption charges. he's accused of doing political favors in exchange for contributions and other gifts. our justice correspondent pete williams has late details. >> reporter: prosecutors accuse robert menendez of using his u.s. senate office to help a florida eye doctor and big political donor salomon melgen over investigation of his medicare billing he was also charged today. the indictment says urged the government to adopt reimbursement policys that would benefit
melg melgen. and to get visas from melgen's girlfriends. in return dr. melgen gave thousands in campaign contributions to menendez and treated the senator to luxury dominican trips. he's a friend and not just a donor, but a federal prosecutor says that's not a good thing. >> a friend may be a friend but that's going to be a challenge for govern here. because this relationsh as it goes back a long way. >> reporter: melgen has denied wrongdoing. menendez is the first senator charged with bribery in 35 years. pete williams nbc news washington. a massive fire erupted in the middle of the gulf of mexico aboard an oil platform owned by pen ex. 16 were injured when it ripped through a pumping area on the rig. about 300 workers had to evacuate. the company claims there was no leak or
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expected to move into the mississippi valley tomorrow bringing high winds, possible isolated tornadoes and maybe even more hail which pummelled a number of states overnight. our janet shamlian has more on that weather threat. >> reporter: it looks like misshapen ice cubes and sounds like popcorn, a lot of it. from the deep south, mississippi and alabama, to oklahoma and arkansas hail is pounding the country yesterday, lighting up social media today. and the inevitable comparison as big as a quarter, golf ball size. oklahoma lay claim to as big as a baseball. some the size of apples. others ap apple products. across eight states there are more than 130 reports of hail ranging from at least one inch to three inches in diameter. leaving a major headache for some windows shattered and lanterns broken. so what the hail is hail? >> initially the hailstones begin as tiny water droplets. the air rises, cools
into tiny droplets and then gets to an altitude in the mid-levels of the storm where it's below freezing. at that point you have a little ice ball that then becomes the nucleus for growing formations. >> reporter: unlike hail doesn't claim to any particular season. these russian beach goers suffered last july when they went running for cover. experts say it doesn't usually last long but it can be dangerous when the weather goes to hail. janet shamlian nbc news houston. wow. we're back in just a moment with the latest on the condition of an american music legend joni mitchell, found people with type 2 diabetes come from all walks of life. if you have high blood sugar ask your doctor about farxiga. it's a different kind of medicine that works by removing some sugar from your body. along with diet and exercise farxiga helps lower blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes.
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a private prison for our men and women returning from the battlefield. it can be so hard to express what they're going through, even to those closest to them. but one veteran found a way to bridge the gap ptsd created between him and his children. and as nbc's hallie jackson reports, it could make a difference for so many families. >> reporter: it's not every night the offer of your bedtime story reads it to you. >> mom, why is dad so mad all the time? >> reporter: but this book was written by reagan's dad after he came back from iraq and afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder. >> dad was different when we came home from overseas. it's like dad always has a fire in his chest. >> reporter: did you understand what the book was about? >> when daddy had a fire in his heart. >> reporter: what do you think about that? >> i don't like how it changes him. >> you don't get to be who you used to be. >> reporter: retired army first sergeant seth cassel is one of the 10% to 20% of recent veterans suffering with ptsd
and struggles to explain it to his girls. >> i want them to know they aren't responsible for that. >> reporter: do you think they feel responsible? i donknow. i hope not. i look for something to have this conversation with my kids and it wasn't there. >> reporter: that's the reason he wrote why is dad so mad? raising thousands of dollars online in just one day. donations double what he needed to hire an illustrator to bring the book to life for kids like reagan. what do you think it's going to mean to other kids whose dads have a fire in their heart? >> that they know it's not their fault now. it's the fire's fault. no matter what i know there's love. i can tell by his voice. did i get you, daddy? >> yes, you did. >> reporter: here at bedtime. >> sometimes life isn't perfect, but we are family and we will stick together and love each other forever. >> a storybook ending. what would you want to say to your dad about th book? >> i like this book. i'm really proud you
did it. >> reporter: hallie jackson, nbc news kansas. and that will do it for us on this wednesday night. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news thank you for watching and good . pop star avril lavigne's mystery illness finally revealed. >> the real reason she vanished from the spotlight, now on "extra." unable to breathe, unable to speak.
bedridden for five months. avril lavigne opens up about her top secret battle with lyme disease. >> why doctors told her she was crazy trying to figure out her medical mystery. the first photoof jersey housewife theresa jid shay in prison her husband joe breaking his silence only on "extra." >> she is definitely missed. >> from working out to the hair and make up regimen. what it's really like for theresa in lock up. guiliana rancic taking on the firestorm over her weight. >> what she is saying to the critic calling her too skinny. then why furious 7's tyrese is b sweat sitting down with tracey. >> i don't know how i'm going to get through this interview. >> plus ryan reynolds hooks mario for the ultimate april fools' prank. >> list, ryan. >> >> this is "extra" at universal studios hollywood, the entertainment capital of l.a. >> hey, everyone. welcome to "extra."