Found: An unnamed female cobra who went missing last week at the Bronx Zoo was discovered in good condition on Thursday morning.
I don't know if we're going to have the time or inclination to tell our viewers across the nation: 1) They captured the snake that was on the loose after escaping from the Bronx Zoo 2) Prince William will not wear a wedding band as a married man (though when you think about it, it’s not like he can slink around the bar at the Airport Sheraton pretending to be single) 3) Oprah's offer to give Donald Trump a makeover is truly intriguing. If they could do something about the hair, she could cap off a brilliant career with the thanks of a grateful nation. 4) The Yankees won and looked good doing it. 5) We hosted a dozen West Point Cadets today. All sparkling young people, all incredibly impressive, all of them will graduate this coming fall. We host a group of Cadets every year, and it’s always a good day when they visit. It makes me feel great about our country's future, and of course we'll be thinking of them and praying for them as they get their assignments and deployments in the U.S. Army as newly minted Second Lieutenants.
For all the news we plan on broadcasting to a national audience tonight: You'll just have to join us.
(Editor's Note: OK, so maybe we couldn't help ourselves with the snake. Or with Prince Williams' ban on the wedding band. In the end those stories were too good to leave out...)
For all those who are following the current conflict in Libya and U.S. policy on arming the rebels (including President Obama's answer to my question yesterday), I recommend you watch our reporting tonight from Richard Engel, who rode along with the rebels today. It has not been a good 24 hours for their cause. They are heavily under fire and retreating to the East. Whoever the journalist was over the weekend who dubbed the United States the "air wing" of the rebel army—that air wing is not providing the cover (or flat-out destruction) required for the rebel component to advance. At least not as presently constituted.
I've just returned to the newsroom from interviewing President Obama. I'm not quite certain how many times I've interviewed him, going back to his days as a Senator...but it’s a lot. Today might have been the tightest time limit ever. During his visit to New York today, the White House offered interviews to the three network evening news anchors, and we were under a strict 10-minute time restriction. Suffice to say, there's a lot going on. Americans in uniform are now engaged on a third front. We covered as much ground as we could, asked as many questions as time would allow. We will have it for you tonight, along with the reporting of our correspondents around the world and across the country. We hope you can join us.
Tonight a relatively new genre in the "Presidential Address" continues—as the President shuns the traditional Oval Office backdrop normally associated with "an address to the nation" for a live, remote location—in this case, nearby Ft. McNair, one of our oldest military facilities. While it’s been done before—President Bush on the carrier deck, President Obama at West Point—more often than not it’s been backdrops designed to hammer home a military theme, and it’s still a relatively new dynamic. Some of the analysts are saying the White House is keen to avoid the Oval Office setting tonight because it would feel too much like we're involved in a "war" in Libya, which is a valid question for the President to address: What is this, exactly? Especially when you consider the men and women with U.S. forces in the region who are keeping up these air missions at a vigorous tempo, many of them in the midst of multiple deployments, encompassing what the military calls our two other A.O.'s (Areas of Operations), Iraq and Afghanistan. The President will have his chance to explain U.S. and coalition actions in Libya with tonight's speech, and tomorrow afternoon in New York I'll sit down with him to ask a few other questions. We hope you can join us for all of it.
Want to read a great piece of writing? Timothy Noah has written (as he so often does) a fine piece for Slate about the Pentagon term "kinetic." Full disclosure: I've spent so much time in the last 10 years around the armed forces, I now find myself using the term to describe an armed conflict. Noah quotes the great Frank Mankiewicz in order to make his point -- and if you love words, especially euphemisms, you'll love his column.
I never met Ben Sklaver. The first time I heard his name is when I was asked to go to his funeral with a camera crew.
He was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan on October 2, 2009. He was 32 years old. But he had already started ClearWater Initiative, a volunteer project that brings clean water to the poorest regions of Uganda. A project that we profiled as part of our Making a Difference series.
And new faces - like Ojara "Sunday" Emmanuel. Born just a few years after Ben, he's now the director of ClearWater in Uganda. Sunday says he's always had a desire to help people. When he told his mom about his newest job - he says she was very proud.
And so was Ben's mom, Laura Sklaver. Now working with another young man, to keep her son's dream alive. She wishes Ben could have met Sunday - she knows the two of them would be great friends. You can watch their update here.
If you would like to donate to ClearWater Initiative, you can visit the website.
And for more information on the organization, Ben's best friend, Jake Herrle, shot a short film about the organization. You can view that film here.
Today we had a board meeting of the Medal of Honor Foundation at a Midtown Manhattan hotel. There we were, the civilians and Recipients who make up the board. The meetings start on time--military precision--and the first order of business is the remembrance of the Recipients who have passed since our last meeting. Their three names were read, along with branch of the service and hometown. Then, our executive director asked for a moment of silence. Oddly and amazingly, it was as if the City of New York heard him. From our perch along a row of windows four stories above bustling 6th Avenue, the cacophony of horns, squealing brakes--all of it--the din of the city seemed to stop to allow us a moment of peace for men who showed great honor and valor in war.
Now I'm back in the newsroom, sitting down to compile Elizabeth Taylor's obituary and get up to speed on our coverage from Japan and Libya.
Brian Williams welcomes Medal of Honor recipients to NBC Nightly News.
We were visited today by a number of Recipients of the Medal of Honor. They are in town for their annual visit to New York. We have a board meeting tomorrow of the Foundation that supports them, and two dinners this week. Believe it or not, these great men showed up here today (veterans of WWII, Korea and Vietnam) to thank us for our coverage of the Medal and its Recipients. It left all of us overwhelmed. We, of course, thanked them for their service. I want to thank them publicly for making the trip. It meant the world to us.
Tonight we're airing an item about the South Florida Water Management District. They aren't in the news because of anything they've done wrong—rather, because of something they do very well: measuring the slightest change in the water levels in the aquifer beneath their territory.
You've no doubt heard by now that the Japan quake moved the entire nation slightly to the East and lowered the terrain in some places (which actually made for some localized flooding this weekend in concert with the so-called "Supermoon"). But you may not know that 34-minutes after the quake, underground water measurement devices started going wild in Florida. It took that long for the shaking to go all the way around the world—but they detected it, and it kept shaking for more than two hours.
A number of you have emailed us expressing your best wishes for the safety of our folks abroad and in harm's way. Please rest assured: as someone who often travels with them, they are pros in every way, and they will do their level best to stay safe. There's no such thing as being "assigned" to serve in a war zone in our company or any other. You must volunteer for duty. We are blessed with talented, experienced and brave foreign correspondents—and you'll see a few of them tonight.
We hope you can join us for our Monday night broadcast.
Update: The Nightly News app with fixes is now available in the iTunes store.
If you've upgraded your iPhone or iPad to iOS 4.3 you may be noticing some issues with the app not showing thumbnails of our video content. We are aware of the situation and a fix is on the way. Otherwise the app remains fully functional - so you can still watch all of our videos and full broadcasts on your device.
New York changed today. You never know the date beforehand, but it happens on one specific day every year: The air changed. It was as if summer arrived. I forced myself to leave the building (actually, I briefly broke free of my schedule reins, after a speech at a hotel across the street, and bolted down 6th Avenue for several blocks before the office found me), and I almost didn't come back. People were out, basking in the sun, having lunch outside, but generally streaming out of office buildings because they'd heard about the change in the air. Some wore jackets and scarves out of sheer muscle memory before they realized what was happening. Others embraced it full-on. At times, the sidewalks on 6th Avenue were so packed I had to walk in the street. Some people appeared slightly dazed. They might just have been hungover from St. Patty's Day.
Right now the sun is catching a reflection off a windowpane through a tiny, narrow gap in the buildings in our 30 Rock complex and bathing just my newsroom chair in piercing light–the kind of solar bank shot that happens during just this exact moment every year. I understand it’s possible that I don't get out enough—I enjoy my work and its awfully important stuff these days—but I hope wherever you are, you were able to assign "spectacular" status to at least one moment in your day.
When word came out about the Chernobyl nuclear accident, there was only reference point for most viewers: The Three Mile Island accident seven years earlier. But it quickly became apparent that there was a significant difference--many significant differences, in fact.
The Chernobyl disaster had only been publicized because the Soviet Union couldn't hide it. If the USSR had its way, Chernobyl would have been tucked in that file of previously unreported Soviet disasters, like failed moon launches, humanitarian disasters, even another nuclear accident 29 years earlier. It was only when radiation readings rose throughout Scandinavia and meteorologists tracked back wind patterns did suspicion fall on the four reactor power plant 80 miles north of Kiev, a city the size of Chicago.
Initially, reporting on Chernobyl was a challenge for NBC News. There was no video available; the only image was a black and white photograph, published in the now-defunct Soviet Life magazine. (Soviet Life had featured Chernobyl, ironically enough, in an article on the Soviet Union's great nuclear safety record!) Satellite photos, still in their infancy as news tools, showed little other than the layout of the reactor--and the quality was hurt because the work had been rushed. Then, a freelance "journalist" with exclusive video of the reactor on fire approached three of the four networks' bureaus in Rome. Indeed, the video showed a large building in a set of four on fire. It had been shot from a distance, suggesting it had been shot surreptitiously. Eager for images, we eagerly used it on Nightly News. Problem: It wasn't Chernobyl, but a cement factory in Trieste. Apologies abounded.
It was a week before Mikhail Gorbachev went on Soviet television to detail, somewhat, the devastation and consequences. It was no surprise that Gorbachev, in office only a year, added criticism of the United States and Western media for exaggerating the threat. This was during the Cold War, after all. Ultimately, the Soviets opened up. There were reports on Soviet television and in Soviet newspapers and scientific journals. They by no means provided the complete story, but for the Soviet Union, it was an extraordinary degree of openness.
Two years later, in the first week of May 1988, NBC's science correspondent Robert Bazell and I--accompanied by an NBC camera crew from Munich-- flew to Kiev and then were driven north to Chernobyl. We were among the first American television teams to visit the site. After the four of us went through multiple checkpoints, there loomed the damaged reactor, encased in a dark, leaden sarcophogus and the iconic smokestack that marked the complex.
For most of the day, we went from location to location inside and outside the "exclusion zone," accompanied by a small group of Soviet scientists and minders. We toured a collective farm, where families who had lived near the reactor were now housed; visited the reactor control room, where we were assured by the new plant manager that it could never happen again; walked down a hall to within 150 yards of the reactor, the linoleum still torn up from the hectic days after the explosion. We met with residents of Opachichi, the only village in the "exclusion zone" where people--all of them elderly--actually lived, actually spent the night
The eeriest part of the trip, no doubt, was watching the clean-up at Pripyat, the mini-city of 55,000 that surrounded the nuclear power plant. By Soviet standards, it was paradise. High rise towers with roomy apartments surrounded by parks, including an amusement park and a sports park that had been ceremoniously opened the morning of the accident but never used. Two years after the accident, an army of clean-up workers were still carting away things like school desks from the local school, preparing to dismantle the steel cars from the ferris wheel at that park, all of it accompanied by classic music pumped out over an area-wide p.a. system...to help the workers avoid going crazy from the deathly silence of a city abandoned on a spring day two years earlier. The workers were from all over the Soviet Union, drawn by the double salary, the double pensions, good housing. They talked of drinking vast volumes of red wine, ostensibly as an antidote for radiation, but no doubt for more banal medicinal purposes.
We've come a long way from those days in television news production. We access vast amounts of data on our Blackberries or iPhones. But shock is shock, and horror is still horror.
It’s just after 4pm, and in the distance from a nearby window I can hear the drums. The St. Patrick's Day Parade is still spooling its way up 5th Avenue, having started at 11am this morning. As I try to every year, I went down to the nearest intersection and worked my way through the teeming hunk of humanity to get as good a view as I could. Through a break in the crowd, I was able to see the Mayor and Police Commissioner as they walked past near the head of the parade, preceded by a few bands, active duty and military veterans and bagpipers.
The weather today in New York is stunning, the mood outside was great. When, hours later, I ventured out for a few minutes, the celebration had taken its toll on a few revelers (including the unresponsive man who appeared to be napping on 51st Street while the NYPD wrote out a summons for him), there was still a great spirit to the gathering. It made it even better that a couple next to me in the crowd were sporting a genuine, thick and terrific brogue. I wondered what they made of New York's celebration of their homeland.
It might well be that I was propelled outside for escape from the topics we're dealing with in the newsroom: they couldn't be darker, couldn't be more grim. We'll update you tonight on the desperate effort to put down a nuclear disaster, and the effort underway to squelch America's nuclear fears.
We hosted Itzhak Perlman in our studio this afternoon. It was the first quality time I've ever spent with him, and I'm happy to report he's a lovely man. In addition to being perhaps the most celebrated and gifted violinist on the planet, he is a polio survivor. He walks with the help of braces and crutches and gets around on a scooter. After a life of giving a lot to a lot of causes (and mentoring countless young musicians), he has decided to give some more. Our interview, which will air in coming days, is about his role in the campaign to eradicate polio. Four remaining nations on earth need to be convinced to organize vaccinations -- and without their help and cooperation, Dr. Salk's dream and invention will be continually diminished. Itzhak Perlman is working in conjunction with Rotary International to raise money and awareness, and we're hoping our air time will help in that cause.
Finally: The item of the day, thanks to our friends at Gawker. If you know a hipster in New York, please warn them of the danger. If they encounter these traps, its best to walk away and report them to the proper authorities. Again: we're just doing a service here.