tv ABC World News With Diane Sawyer ABC February 17, 2012 6:30pm-7:00pm EST
tonight on "world news," terror sting. the fbi arrests a man accused of plotting to set off a suicide vest inside the u.s. capitol. tipping point. signs of life for the american economy and jobs. tonight, we call in the truth squad. is it finally time to exhale? diet drug. the new pill that will help you lose weight. going from this to this. but are the side effects, memory loss, suicidal thoughts, worth it? and fourth grade fighters. how dr. seuss gave these fourth graders the courage to take on hollywood and win.
good evening. there was an arrest near the u.s. capitol today. a man wearing who he believed was a suicide vest. he was on a mission to kill americans. and he thought his contacts were al qaeda. but in fact, they were fbi agents tracking him. tonight, he is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. so, who is he? and who is working with him? abc's senior justice correspondent, pierre thomas, has been on this story all day for us. >> reporter: it was a plot with deadly intentions. a suicide bombing, targeting the u.s. capitol, where congress does its work, and thousands visit every day. according to the fbi, 29-year-old amine el khalifi, a moroccan national, wants to kill as many tourists and government employees as he could. the suspect was arrested here, only two blocks from the u.s. capitol. he parked his van.
undercover agents posing as a allocaai al qaeda terrorists, gave him an automatic weapon. then, they pounced. this afternoon, they searched a home in suburban virginia, where el khalifi had met with undercover agents. >> it's scary. it makes you not want to trust people. >> reporter: the government's charges says el khalifi was angry because the u.s.'s war on terrorism was really a war on muslims. he also proposed targeting restaurants, and a synagogue. today, he settled on the bombing attack on the u.s. capitol. but it was all a sting. the fbi had been tipped off by an associate. agents supplied el khalifi with a vest of inert materials. the gun was rigged not to work. sources tell abc news, it's a sobering reminder there's a pool of disaffected people right here in the u.s., with little prompting, are willing to kill.
so-called lone wolves, often radicalized on the internet. >> there's still a group of people in the united states who spontaneously can become terrorists, without any real communications connection to al qaeda. >> reporter: the fbi has arrested more than 50 suspected radicals in the u.s. in the last 3 years. how serious was the plot? diane, the fbi said the suspect went to a west virginia quarry and blew up a real bomb to get an idea how destructive his suicide vest would be. after it detonated, he allegedly wanted a bigger explosion. >> pierre, i keep wondering how many more of these can they continue to catch? are they sure he didn't have other allies here? other ties? >> reporter: there's other people they looked at. right now, they believe this was contained to him. but again, his entire background is being looked at. >> okay. pierre thomas. we'll stay on this case. tonight, the stock market continued to make its way toward
the 13,000 mark. it hasn't been this high in nearly four years. add to that the rally from general motors, and the plunging jobless numbers, all signals that the economy seems to be rumbling back to life. abc's bianna golodryga gathered together a braintrust of recession experts to ask, is this the exhale? is this the comeback everyone has been waiting for? >> reporter: what you're hearing is the sound of a comeback. relief on the faces of wall street traders, as stocks, today, hit their highest point since before the start of the great recession. >> it is getting exciting. psychologically, it's going to be important for lots of people. >> reporter: the good news isn't just on wall street. all week long, real signs the economy may finally be turning around. jobless claims, down. the number of americans filing for unemployment benefits, now at a four-year low. car sales, up 28% at just this one dealership. >> i'd say six months to a year, it's a much better feeling. >> reporter: people like the
ludlows are spending money again. >> we're very excited. we have the dvd player. and we're excited to get the new van. >> reporter: and that's affected manufacturing. posting new gains in a week that saw general motors roaring back from the dead, announcing record profits, and handing out $7,000 bonus chucks to union workers, who told abc's david muir, they couldn't be happier. >> if i could jump and touch the sky, i would. >> reporter: i think people forgot what it's like to feel good about the economy. should they be starting to feel good right now? or is it a bit too early? >> i think people should feel better. the trend lines are all moving in the right direction. >> reporter: he's not the only one who thinks so. we asked our "world news" recovery panel, ten of the nation's top economists. is this the light at the end of the tunnel? is this a real recovery? seven out of ten said yes. saying the economy is building good, broad-based momentum. still, we've seen glimpses of recovery before.
and after the rollercoaster we've been on these past few years, caution is the word of the day. >> no one's going to feel great until we're out of this hole. >> again, bianna, hello. you were saying to me, that gas prices are the thing to watch right now. >> reporter: our panel of experts said if there's one thing that could be a recovery killer, it's gas prices. i want to show you, see that $3.99, approaching $4 a gallon. affecting consumer behavior. and that's not what you want to see when consumers are just starting to spend more money? >> is that just once? or sustained. >> reporter: some are projecting we could see $5 by the summer. that is a big problem. we need to look out for that. right now, it's not really affecting consumer behavior. of course, that could change any day. >> thank you, bianna. now, to politics and a rare show of agreement in washington today. democrats and a lot of republicans put aside their
differences to vote for tax cuts for 160 million americans. considered by many, a triumph for president obama. how much additional cash for working americans? abc's jake tapper explains tonight. jake? >> reporter: good evening, diane. well, the president's advisers say not only will this be good for the economy, it's a political win for president obama. congress, today, passed a bill to extend the payroll tax cut. >> the yays, are 293. the nays, are 142. >> reporter: 160 million americans will receive an average $1,000 of tax cuts over the rest of the year. and unemployment insurance will be extended. >> i am going to sign this bill right away when i get back home. >> reporter: visiting a boeing plant in washington state this afternoon, the president took something of a victory lap. >> this middle class tax cut is something i proposed in my jobs bill back in september. and because you kept the pressure on congress, because you reminded people what it
means to have 40 bucks taken out of your paycheck every week, it got done. this is a big deal. >> reporter: not quite a big deal? the president's poll numbers. but they have improved a bit from two months ago when republican pundits were predicting his political demise. >> he would love the election by a significant margin if the battleground states were to vote today. >> reporter: with signs of life in the economy, 50% of the public say he deserves re-election. that's better than bill clinton at the start of his re-election year, and george w. bush, a month before he won a second term in 2004. diane, this afternoon, the white house upped the political ante, saying there will be 2 million new jobs created this year, if president obama's policies are adopted. those policies include tax increases on wealthier americans, which republicans on capitol hill call job killers. diane? >> jake, thanks. on the topic of this bill,
an update tonight. abc's chris cuomo got action. you remember last november, he told us about an outrage, lavish pensions for members of congress. in some cases, more than $50,000 a year for life. while so many others, including military families, get so much less. you may remember chris -- blocking reform, including a committee chairman. listen. >> you are the guy who can get this ball rolling. it's in your committee. you've got to do it. >> we will do it. >> but it hadn't happened. >> it has not been the number one priority right now. >> and today, it happened, tucked inside the payroll tax extension jake just told us about. legislation that reins in pensions for new congressmen. their pensions will now be on par with what other federal workers receive. the governor from
new jersey, chris christie, finding himself in the spotlight of one of the most highly-charged social issues of the day, gay marriage. tonight, a bill legalizing same-sex marriage voted for by the new jersey legislature, was vetoed by christie. he will play this chess game to the finish. abc's dan harris explains. >> reporter: he's one of america's most popular political figures. wrestling with one of america's most contentious political issues. >> you've got to be able to call b.s. >> reporter: in his own style. >> you have numb nuts like -- >> reporter: tonight, after the new jersey legislature just voted to legalize gay marriage, governor chris christie has single-handedly blocked it. >> i believe that the institution of marriage, as it's traditionally known, is between one man and one woman. and it should stay that way in new jersey. >> reporter: but he has offered an alternative. to put the issue on the ballot. >> whether or not to redefine hundreds of years of societal
and religious traditions should not be decided by 121 people in the statehouse in trenton. >> reporter: many called that a brilliant political play. christie would not completely stand in the way of gay marriage. but he would also avoid alienating conservative voters in the rest of america, whose support he may need if he runs for president someday. or as many have predicted, for vice president this fall. but critics say, in america, we don't put minority rights up to majority vote. >> it's un-american. and i think it's arrogant. he may not mean to be arrogant about it. but in an effort to preserve his political options, he's coming off as very arrogant. >> reporter: gay marriage has made some headway recently. now, legal in seven states and washington, d.c., passing in new york last year and in washington state just last week. >> reporter: it's the tiny pill but tonight, in new jersey, it has run into a one-man roadblock. >> so, what happens now?
and what about the other referendums in other states? >> reporter: there have been two dozen or more referenda across the country. and almost every time, gay marriage loses. what's really interesting is there's a divide in this country. younger americans, much more likely to support gay marriage. it's for that reason that often some christian conservative leaders have even told me they think eventually gay marriage will be nationalized in this country. >> so, younger tend to vote in favor of it? and then, there's a divide with older? >> reporter: exactly right. >> okay. thank you, dan. still ahead here on "world news," the diet drug that helped this man lose 165 pounds. is this the magic bullet for curing obesity? and the fourth graders who took on hollywood and hollywood buckled. our "persons of the week." i'm carol. and this is my cvs pharmacist. i found out i had cancer. diabetes. i had a heart attack.
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we want to tell you about a drug recall involving all infant tylenol. more than 500,000 bottles. the problem is not with the tylenol medicine but the newly designed bottles. they were supposed to make it easier to measure the correct dose, allowing parents to draw the exact dose into the syringe like that. but if parents push the syringe too hard, they push the syringe into the bottle's cover. and big news tonight for a weight loss pill with a lot of promise. it's called qnexa. but it has side effects. so, next week, the government experts will have to recommend whether it should be approved for release or not. abc's cecilia vega tells us about the risks and rewards. >> reporter: it's the tiny pill that promises to be a silver bullet that melts the pounds away. 20-year-old frazier harzell took the drug. and went from this to this. losing 165 pounds in just 1 year.
>> every year, i'd gain more and more. and i always tried to go on diets. >> reporter: for candice prince, it meant losing 50 pounds. from this to this also in about a year. both were taking a version of the diet drug called qnexa. a drug once rejected by the fda for safety concerns. but is now being considered for approval for everyone. >> it deaf definitely changed my life. >> reporter: the makers of qnexa know that after dieting, a crushing 80% of us end up putting the pounds right back on. the drugmaker says that their pill will help people lose 5% of their body weight. but some say they put the weight back after going off the pill. the fda says the pill also lowers blood pressure, as well as cutting down the risk for diabetes, improving disruptive sleep apnea. >> if approved, qnexa would be the most potent drug on the
market to treat obesity. currently available drugs are not very effective. >> reporter: the list of possible side effects is long. memory lapses, confusion, increased heart rate, and birth defects. the track record of diet drugs is strewn with deaths and lawsuits. in 1997, it was the widely popular fen-phen. pulled off the market because it caused heart damage. the scandal and the $13 billion settlement left the drug industry gunshy about developing new drugs to help shed pounds. skeptics are leery. >> i think diet drugs really fall squarely in the category of it's too good to be true. >> reporter: but frazier said he didn't have serious side effects. for him, it just worked. >> it can do great things for you. >> reporter: next week the government's top experts will make up their mind if qnexa should be available for you. cecilia vega, abc news, los angeles. >> and we will have their recommendation next week. still ahead -- powerful
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but our order has cooled wildly for china, who had the biggest drop, fouling six points to 41%. egypt and cuba gained some ground. they gained the most approval. and the least-favorite country, no surprise there, iran. and we have a new champion tonight. it is official, crowned the hottest pepper in the world. it is the trinidad maruga scorpion. new mexico state university tested the pepper. it has 1.2 million heat units. that makes it 240-times hotter than a jalapeno. where there's a dare, there's a daredevil, eager to try it. >> oh, man. here. it's burning. ♪ the top of my tongue is just frying. >> we're told, by the way, the scorpion is so hot, it actually burned through the latex gloves
of the testers. and those pictures we're used to seeing from fearless storm chasers here on earth. but these caught on tape by nasa. these are twisters, dancing on the surface of the sun. winds up the 300,000 miles per hour. each funnel cloud is the size of the earth itself. it looks like the tornadoes we know. but inside, they're a fierce caldron of churning magnetic fields. and you're really not in kansas anymore there. coming up, those fourth graders who inspired change in the world because of dr. seuss. how they took on hollywood and won. our "person of the week." i stepped on the machine, and it showed me the pressure points on
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low magnesium levels have been seen with nexium. possible side effects include headache, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. other serious stomach conditions may still exist. talk to your doctor about nexium. and finally, our "persons of the week." we all know about the power of a book to fire up a young mind with possibility. well, now, the story of fourth graders in brookline, massachusetts, who were inspired by a popular children's book to take on hollywood. and they won. here's abc's abbie boudreau. >> reporter: when you've loved a book, really loved it, like 9-year-olds and 10-year-olds, in mr. wells' class, what do you do
when grown-ups are getting it all wrong? the book? "the lorax," the ultimate dr. seuss environmental hero. the only voice who "speaks for the trees," as a greedy factory owner chops down every truffala tree in the forest. >> l-o-r-a-x. >> reporter: when the kids found out the book was going to be a movie, they then checked out the movie's website. and the kids didn't see the lorax speaking for anything but tickets and online games, not one mention of the environment. no one speaking for those trees. and since they didn't know it was impossible, they decided to try change the marketing message. >> we are the changers, the changers that said we speak for the trees. >> reporter: the internet can be a wonderful thing. >> the petition is going crazy. >> reporter: the kids put a petition on change.org. the same site that helped molly katchpole bring an end to those new bank fees at bank of america, and helped draw hillary clinton's attention to the plight of women drivers in saudi arabia. how amazing is that for you? >> it's remarkable.
>> reporter: change.org's ceo, 21-year-old ben rattray, says regular people rallying against the people in charge is what it's all about. even if the people are fourth graders. >> we have hundreds of petitions every day that are launched. >> reporter: hundreds? >> what's exciting for us right now is taking people in everyday communities, to change the things they didn't think possible. >> reporter: and it seems adults remember the lorax, too. tens of thousands signed the kids' petition. >> go, lorax, on three. >> lorax. >> reporter: and the impossible? not so impossible. alongside the movie clips on their website, universal studios now has tips for what children can do to help save the planet. we're not just kids. we can be really powerful in many different ways. >> reporter: but look out. now that they know the power of their own voices, they may not stop. >> i'd like us to help save the stray dogs.
>> they should stop making phone books, if you don't want them. >> reporter: setting out to change the world, one petition at a time. abbie boudreau, abc news, los angeles. >> it has begun. and so, we choose mr. wells' fourth grade class. and by the way, the hollywood giant, universal studios, as invited them and other fourth graders at the school, to a screening of "the lorax," next week. we thank you for watching. we're always on at abcnews.com. and later, a special two-hour "20/20," "one moment in time: the life of whitney houston." it begins at 9:00 p.m. eastern. and david muir will be back here tomorrow. hope you have a great weekend. we'll see you again next week.