tv ABC World News With Diane Sawyer ABC December 27, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
>> still nice. >> from all of us here, thanks for watching. this is "world news." tonight, tragic lessons for every american in every house. we learn the stunning details of what turned this giant home into a deadly inferno. >> there's a huge fire at the house next door to us. the whole house is on fire. >> how the grandparents heroically tried to save the children. and what about smoke detectors? the millionaires club? startling new numbers tonight on how much money your congressman has been making while average american incomes take a big hit. attention shoppers. big news and big trouble from the american giant sears and kmart. healthy living. the giant epidemic of acid reflux. heartburn. a new study showing why it's hitting boomer women the hardest of all. and sounding off. we talk to the very little girl with the very big opinion that
have millions of adults joining in this debate. >> why do all the girls have to buy princesses? good evening. we begin tonight with a story that affects every person in this country and could save lives. this is the danger zone for deadly home fires. and most of them take place in homes that have no smoke alarms or alarms that are not working. which is the reason firefighters issued a national wakeup call today, based on what happened at one big house. one that erupted into an inferno at warp speed on christmas day. a mother and grandparents trying to save three little girls. abc's linsey davis has the story and those lessons for every american. >> reporter: investigators say it was the embers of the christmas eve yule log that started what firefighters here are calling the most horrific
fire in recent memory. it's left an entire town in mourning for three little girls and their grandparents. >> after 37 1/2 years, 38 years on the job, you're never prepared for anything like this. >> reporter: the only two survivors, madonna badger, a former ad executive, and her friend, michael borcina. badger says they were wrapping gifts by the fireplace until sometime after 3:00 in the morning when borcina collected the embers, put them in a bag and then in an outside trash enclosure. a spark apparently reached the home, which fire officials say didn't seem to have working smoke detectors, like one-third of american homes. they say the fire may have been burning more than an hour before anyone was made aware. the first frantic 911 calls came in just before 5:00 a.m. >> there's a huge fire at the house next door to us. the whole house is on fire. >> reporter: when firefighters arrived, they had to restrain badger, who was frantically
trying to get back in the burning house. firefighters climbed into the daughters' third floor bedrooms, but they weren't there. the girls, 10 years old and 7-year-old twins, had tried to escape through the intense heat. one girl found just inches from her dead grandfather, apparently trying to reach her. >> that's when he succumbed and she died just inside the window. >> reporter: dozens of firefighters are now getting grief counseling. >> at the end of the day -- there was nothing they could do and i think that -- that weighs heavily on them. >> reporter: and you? >> and me. yep. on me, too. >> reporter: fire officials say that deaths like these can often be prevented with a few simple precautions. ashes should always be disposed of in metal containers and soaked in water. it's critical to have an escape plan, so, practice that plan and be sure to check on those smoke detectors, diane. they could save thousands of lives.
>> hope everyone will check tonight. thank you so much, linsey davis. and we shift gears now, a powerful study today from "the new york times." confirming something so many people have suspected. members of congress are not only a lot richer than average americans, they got richer still during the recession. as ordinary americans saw their net worth go down 8%, members of congress saw theirs go up 15%. and why was that? we asked abc's anchor dan harris to track down the answers. >> reporter: democratic house leader nancy pelosi, a millionaire, reportedly spent christmas in a $10,000 a night hotel suite in hawaii. democratic senator john kerry, worth $231 million, provoked an uproar when he docked his $7 million yacht in a neighboring state to avoid taxes. republican congressman darrel issa, the richest member of congress, is worth nearly half a billion dollars. and then there's republican congressman james sensenbrenner, who was already a multimillion
aire when he hit the lottery three times. congress is pretty much evenly divided between red and blue. but there is one color that's very much bipartisan, and that is green. take the united states senate, for example, where there are 67 millionaires, including 37 democrats and 30 republicans. the estimated median net worth of a u.s. senator is $2.63 million. for a member of the house, it's more than $750,000. for the average american family, $96,000. >> i think that some people wonder if the average member of congress can relate to the plight of the average american. and to how much it costs to go out and buy groceries or the rent or pay the light bill. >> reporter: so, how and why are these politicians getting so fabulously rich? after all, their base pay is a relatively modest $174,000 a year. there are a couple of theories. one is that since running a campaign has become so expensive, it's become harder
for average people to win. another theory is that members of congress are profiting from the insider information they learn every day. >> the problem is that we have so much access to so much information that is not public that the temptation to abuse it, to make a lot of money, is there anyway. add to that it's almost impossible to trace and further, it's not illegal. >> reporter: you heard him correctly. it is not illegal for members of congress to engage in this sort of insider trading. after a recent spate of bad publicity, however, more than 200 lawmakers are stepped up to support a long-languishing bill that would make it illegal. that bill is supposed to come up for a vote next year. we'll see if that actually happens. >> okay, dan harris reporting in tonight. thank you, dan. and with christmas in the rearview mirror, seven days until the first votes are cast, the republican contenders came out swinging today. it's your voice, your vote. and abc's jon karl reports on the candidates and their shadow forces, spending millions on scathing attacks.
>> reporter: the christmas truce is over. new hampshire today, mitt romney said newt gingrich needs to get his act together, even comparing him to lucille ball, of all people, because he couldn't get enough signatures to get his name on the ballot in virginia. >> i think you compare that to, what, it's pearl harbor? i think it's more like lucille ball at the chocolate factory. so, i mean -- you have to get it organized. >> reporter: gingrich fired up his campaign bus in iowa today while an outside group supporting his campaign, one of those so-called super pacs, unveiled a new ad hitting his opponent as liberal. >> don't let the liberal republican establishment pick our candidate. >> reporter: on the airwaves, we're seeing a dr. jekyll and mr. hyde campaign. dr. jekyll romney, for example, playing nice in ads paid for by his own campaign. >> i'm mitt romney, and i approve this message. >> reporter: while mr. hyde romney savages newt gingrich by
with ads paid for by the supposedly independent romney super pac. >> gingrich was fined $300,000 for ethics violations. >> reporter: any candidate worth his or her salt these days have a split personality. the ads run by the candidates themselves and the almost always nastier ads run by outside groups. >> gingrich and perry. too liberal on immigration. too much baggage on ethics. >> reporter: the outside groups are flush with cash because unlike the campaign, there are no limits on how much money people can give them. the pro romney super pac has spent almost twice as much on television ads as the romney campaign. the groups sure don't look independent. romney's super pac is run by his former top lawyer. much of the money coming from his colleagues at bane capital. rick perry's super pac is run by his former chief of staff. just a short while ago, gingrich lashed out at romney for those ads being run by the pro romney
super pac, saying, it's fine if he wants to run a negative campaign, but quote, at least be man enough to own it. that's your staff, your organization and your millionaire friends paying for it. diane, that's coming from the candidate in the race who has promised to run a positive campaign. >> okay, thanks, jon. and one week from tonight, we'll have the first results from iowa. thank you. and now the economy. last night, we told you about the high octane holiday shopping season that may help jolt the economy back to health. but one iconic american brand missed out on the surge of holiday spirit, sears, announcing today, it will close more than 100 stores. so, what went wrong with the brand that used to stretch across america? here's abc's chris bury. >> reporter: sears, once the top name in american retailing, now is struggling to survive after shoppers shunned it this holiday season. is sears not the cool place to shop anymore? >> it's definitely not as cool as it used to be and it's definitively looking a little more drab than it used to look.
>> reporter: sears just didn't keep up appearances, analysts say. its stores too often dingy, as competitors such as target and walmart spiffed up their looks and dropped their prices. >> i don't think the quality is what it should be. >> reporter: shuttering stores will add up to $170 million in cash to the bottom line. hiring the kardashians could crank up the cool factor. but is it too late? ♪ there's more for your life at sears ♪ >> reporter: for decades, sears was the place america shopped. but its iconic big book catalog killed off by the internet. now, its core customers are the cash-strapped middle class. >> i think the recession has definitively hit all low-end retailers harder than the high-end. >> reporter: illinois officials say they are outraged and betrayed by the decision to close so many stores. two weeks ago, they gave sears a $150 million tax break to keep its headquarters here.
>> my question is, if they were going to do these closings, they should have told us ahead of time. >> reporter: but today, sears was not explaining its decision, or even saying how many jobs it would cut. a retail giant, shrinking to survive. chris bury, abc news, chicago. heading overseas now, to north korea, where today, visitors took a last opportunity to view the body of kim jong-il, including the deceased leader's son, kim jong-un, who wiped away tears, a rare display of public emotion. the funeral begins wednesday in pyongyang. and another violent crackdown in the tinder box nation of syria. in the last 24 hours, more than 40 people killed, most in the city of homs, which has been called the capital of the revolution. today, the streets were filled with tens of thousands of protesters, calling for the execution of president bashar al assad. as outside observers from other arab countries are now in the streets, monitoring the
situation, activists, armed with video cameras, are trying to send their first-hand messages out to the world. and here's abc's kelly cobiella. >> reporter: the videos, taken by ordinary citizens at great risk, show government tanks, blood on the streets, syrians mourning their dead. activists say they're proof the syrian government is killing its own people, inspite of its denies. when protesters flooded the rebel town of homs today, a camera captured it. another caught this. locals begging for help from arab league monitors as gunfire broke out. there are thousands of clips on youtube, and entire channels devoted to the syrian uprising. and all they're using is this. the simple act of holding up a cell phone and taking video in syria is quite risky. >> it's like committing suicide. you know, you are committing suicide by doing that. >> reporter: but they are getting smarter, using fake names and smuggled phones that can't be traced.
and they are holding up signs with a date and place so news sites can verify the video and make sure the rest of the world knows what's happening in their country. kelly cobiella, abc news, london. and still ahead right here on "world news," the american epidemic of acid reflux, heartburn. and the new study saying boomer women are at the greatest risk. the 20 safest cars under $20,000. we have the new list. and the 4-year-old fire brand who wants you to think about girls surrounded by all that pink. she came to see us today. what's going on? we ordered a gift online and we really need to do something with it... i'm just not sure what... what is it? oh just return it. returning gifts is easier than ever with priority mail flat rate boxes from the postal service. if it fits, it ships anywhere in the country for a low flat rate.
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leaks back into the esophagus, your food pipe. as many as 60 million americans experience acid reflux at least once a month. new research out of europe shows 50% more people suffer from heartburn now than a decade ago. an increase that worries experts. >> it can cause scarring in the esophagus. it can also -- has been linked to causing esophageal cancer. >> reporter: esophageal cancer is rare, but particularly deadly, killing 83% of those diagnosed after five years. so, why the upswing in heartburn? partly obesity. also, lifestyle. and as one doctor put it, we've become a coffee generation. all of those lattes, along with tea, alcohol and sodas can really increase that acid feeling. so can smoking, fatty foods and meals right before bed. medications can help, but in older women especially, long-term use may weaken bones. fisher, after decades of
suffering, tried a new procedure. incisionless surgery, to create a new valve between the stomach and esophagus. it worked. >> i wake refreshed. i'm energized. i feel like getting out and doing things. >> reporter: fisher says she still has to be careful, but she feels like she has a new lease on life. lisa stark, abc news, washington. and coming up, the new list of the safest small cars on the road. and more. if you replace 3 tablespoons of sugar a day with splenda®, you'll save 100 calories a day. that could help you lose up to 10 pounds in a year. road. with a small boost of fiber,s or antioxidants, or b vitamins in every packet. just another reason why you get more... when you sweeten with splenda®. ♪
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britain's prince philip is back at the royal country estate today, after four nights in the hospital, recovering from a stent in a blocked coronary artery. it's not clear yet if the queen's 90-year-old husband will scale back on his official duties next year. it is the queen's diamond jubilee. she's already sending her children and grandchildren to be her emissaries overseas while she and prince philip make less demanding trips in the united kingdom. and the race to make affordable small cars safer continues. while suvs and sedans still rank at the top of the car safety list, a new 2012 list from "forbes" names the 20 safest small cars under $20,000. at the top of that list, the chevrolet cruze. priced at just under $17,000, it has ten standard air bags and computerized stability control. and the all-new chevrolet sonic comes in at number two, thanks
to ultra strong steel. we posted the entire list for you at abc.com. and we want to bring you up to date now on the enormous response you gave to our story last night about masha, the little girl with down syndrome who was rescued by an american family before she would have been shipped to an adult mental institution in the ukraine. so many of you wanted to know about the other children who needed families, like little masha there. a nonprofit which helps american families who want to adopt eastern european orphans was so overwhelmed by you, the website crashed. they're getting it back up. and we will keep you posted on all of the families reaching out to help these children. and coming up, a tiny little norma ray, challenging adults to think about girls in a whole new way. but his nose was raw and sore. achoo! [ male announcer ] and common tissue
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we're committed to the gulf for everyone who loves it, and everyone who calls it home. can be even more powerful, with precise pain relieving heat patch. it blocks pain signals for deep relief precisely where you need it most. precise. only from the makers of tylenol. finally tonight, we know kids say the darnedest things. it's especially true of 4-year-old riley maida of upstate new york. a video of little riley ranting against marketing by toy companies is sweeping the nation, with everyone taking sides. about girls and boys, in particular, girls bombarded by
princesses in pink. her parents acknowledge they talk about these issues around the dinner table. and today, the source of this little controversy dropped by my office to talk. so, here's the debate. do toy manufacturers manipulate little girls into wanting to be pretty princesses, while boys get to be super heroes, action figures? enter 4-year-old riley maida, who says princesses are fine, but she wants to be an action figure, too. >> girls buy princesses. >> reporter: and as she climbed on her soap box, right there in the store, her father started rolling. >> the companies who make these try to trick the girls into buying the pink stuff and instead of stuff that boys want to buy, right? >> right, but -- but you can buy either, right? and boys can buy either. if boys want to buy pink, they can buy pink, right? >> yeah, so then why do all the girls have to buy princesses? some girls like super heroes.
some girls like princesses. some boys like super heroes. some boys like princesses. >> reporter: and now, more than a million people have watched her tiny tirade. some of them cheering for the pint-sized norma ray. >> girls want super heroes and the boys want super heroes. >> reporter: and late this afternoon, the new little internet sensation dropped by to say hello. who is your favorite super hero? >> ah, batman, robin and batgirl. >> reporter: super hero philosopher. and every inch, well -- i think you are going to skip that princess thing and go straight to queen. that's what i think. >> why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff and all the boys have to buy different colored stuff? >> let us know what you think. thank you for watching. we are always on at abcnews.com. and don't forget, "nightline" later. and we'll see you right back here again tomorrow night. have a great night.
30,000 troops on their way home from iraq. what is being done to make sure there is enough help to handle the sudden surge in services? >> governor brown in a frank, end of the year conversation. and what he wishes he'd accomplished. >> a procedure changing lives of young patients who suffer from a debilitating deform tie
are paper receipts pass yeah? pros and cons of getting a receipt by e mail. >> good evening, i'm dan ashley. >> i'm cheryl jennings. now that the u.s. presence in iraq ended, tens of thousands of troops are heading home, many of them to california. >> the question is, will they are able to find jobs when they get here in this weak economy? last week the poverty rate reached 12.5%, more than double the rate 10 years ago. local groups are concerned about the mental health of the veterans. thomas? >> many of the battle scars troops have are invisible. the problems they'll have in society are evident in those who return from iraq years ago. one young man we spoke with is just starting to get the help he now realizes he needs. joshua came back