tv ABC World News With Diane Sawyer ABC October 6, 2010 4:30pm-5:00pm PST
time to give our schools a break, not the big corporations. tonight on "world news," arguing for hatred. those gay-bashing protesters who disrupt military funerals argue their rights at the supreme court. and we have a private look at who they are and what they teach their children. racing from the sludge. the people who barely escaped that river of chemicals. drinking while pregnant. we know about those judgmental looks. well, tonight, a new study with some surprises. and, earning while learning. two women, one state, and a big idea really helping people get jobs. good evening. someone wrote that this is the question tonight. even if what you say is hateful, vile, is it a right under the
american belief in free speech, no matter where you say it? today, the supreme court heard one of the most problematic and important cases about free speech in years. on one side, a rabidly fundamentalist group that uses the funerals of fallen troops to denounce tolerance for homosexuality. arguing against them, a grieving father whose son died in battle. terry moran takes us inside this extraordinary debate today. terry? good evening. >> reporter: good evening, diane. for the vast majority of americans, these protests are just shocking. they seem to violate a shared sense of basic human decency. but as you point out, that is what makes this case such a significant test of our first amendment freedoms. in march 2006 -- ♪ god showed his wrath to thee >> reporter: members of the tiny westboro baptist church of topeka, kansas, picketed the funeral of marine lance corporal matthew snyder, who was killed
in iraq. he was 20 years old. >> i'm sorry that they raised their son for the devil in hell. >> reporter: fred phelps founded the church, it's got about 60 members, most of them related to him. and he and they preach and proclaim a dark message -- god is killing american troops because the country tolerates homosexuality, abortion and many other matters. matthew synder wasn't gay and it was all too much for his father, albert synder. >> all we wanted to do was bury matt with dignity and respect. >> reporter: so he sued the church. today, the supreme court wrestled with whether to carve out a kind of funeral exception for the first amendment. justice sonia sotomayor challenged the synder family argument that funerals are private, and they aren't public figures so the war protesters that disrupted their funeral can be sued. so public speech, she said, speech on a public matter, if directed to a private person, should be treated differently under the law. under what theory of the first amendment would we do that? on the other hand, justice ruth bader ginsburg pointedly asked the lawyer for
the church, fred phelps' daughter, margie phelps -- why should the first amendment tolerate exploiting this marines family when you have so many other forums for getting across your message? margie phelps summed up her family's message this way -- nation, hear this little church. if you want to stop dying, stop sinning. on a trip to arlington national cemetery for yet another protest this week, church members tried a different tact -- is there no other way? no other place? a funeral when they're mourning their babies? ♪ crying about your feelings for your sin no shame ♪ ♪ you're going straight to hell on your crazy train ♪ >> reporter: well, the members of this church are very much aware of the pain they're causing. and it such an emotional case, diane. one of the briefs in this case noted that this is the first time in american history that anyone, anywhere, has ever protested at a funeral. >> such a case this is. thank you, terry.
and, of course, we have a lot more questions about who are these people who stalk the grieving at funerals? and, a little bit later tonight, we're going to take you inside a documentary which shows us how they live and what they teach their children. a criminal investigation was opened today in that unfolding environmental nightmare, that wave of red, toxic sludge we told you about last night. the torrent of chemicals from an aluminum plant. abc's alex marquardt in the disaster zone. >> reporter: today, a new picture of a small town. everything covered in thick, red sludge. people's yards, the winding streets, the fields. when the surge overtook this town, this woman was waiting for the bus, when all of a sudden, "drivers were shouting, honking their horns," she said. she turned and saw waves of sludge getting bigger and bigger -- and getting closer. she grabbed her daughter and
baby granddaughter and climbed to higher ground. the flood of sludge moving so fast, they were just able to outrun it. today, a sea of red surrounded their house. their precious cows, chickens, their livelihood, killed. "i don't know," she says. "i don't know what's next." this is kolontar, the first village hit by this wave of red sludge. it came barreling down from the reservoir up there, shooting straight into town. and you can tell from the mud that's still on these trees that it was well over six feet high. it's believed that recent rainstorms they have weakened the earth and rock walls that held back the waste waters of a local metals factory. today's crews were working nonstop to clear the streets. the sludge is full of toxins, dangerous to the touch. and has sent more than 100 people to the hospital. >> if it gets on your skin, it's causing a burning. if it gets to your eyes, you get blinded. if you swallow it, you die. >> reporter: tonight, they are racing to stop the sludge from seeping into rivers like the
danube, which could carry it elsewhere in europe, poisoning the water and its wildlife. >> this is the most important thing, if it goes directly to the danube, it could really a huge ecological catastrophe. >> reporter: for now, it's a disaster for those whose homes and lives are submerged in red. alex marquardt, abc news, kolontar, hungary. >> and, of course, there are hundreds of sludge reservoirs around this country. to see if one is in your neighborhood, head to abcnews.com/worldnews. and, next, to politics, as we count down to the elections. 27 days away. a 15-minute buzz today. a report speculated that secretary of state hillary clinton would become the vice presidential candidate with president obama in 2012. vice president biden would take secretary of state. but clinton rushed to tamp down that story. >> i have absolutely no interest and no reason for doing anything other than just dismissing these
stories and moving on, because there's just no -- we have no time. we have so much to do. and i think both of us are very happy doing what we're doing. >> the whose white house denied any such talk is on the table. and we saw a staggering number today about spending on tv ad campaigns. it's about to set a record, $3 billion by november. and, something else new, the secrecy made possible by that supreme court ruling, giving corporations the green light to spend whatever they want. jake tapper tried to find some answers. >> reporter: imagine being democratic congressman john spratt. faced with a barrage of political ads attacking him in south carolina. >> trying to trick you. >> budget committee chairman, spratt approved billions in deficit spending without missing a beat. >> reporter: and spratt doesn't even know who is doing the attacking. >> money that's coming in from unidentified, non-disclosed groups is -- dwarfs anything
that i've ever seen before. >> reporter: that's because the rules have changed for these groups. >> posing as nonprofit groups with names like americans for prosperity. or americans for apple pie. i mean -- i made that last one up, but -- >> reporter: and while democratic groups have also benefited from these rule changes, in recent months, republican-leaning outside groups have outspent democratic-leaning groups by 5 to 1. >> the rulebook has changed. it's almost like comparing baseball pre and post-steroid era. >> reporter: so, who are these groups? we went to try to find out. one, the american future fund, attacked spratt for being a big spender. >> spratt-pelosi budget spent trillions and created crushing debt. >> reporter: not mentioned in the ad? the president of the fund have a grain and livestock farm. and while her group is attacking big spending, her family has received almost $1 million in federal farm subsidies. here's another.
citizens for a working america started airing this ad last week. >> ouch! that's how john spratt's votes in congress feel. they hurt. >> reporter: we got a consultant to the group on the phone. republican operative norm cummings. who is funding these ads against him? >> i'm a consultant. i don't control the funding. my job is to spend it, not to raise it. >> reporter: nationally, the biggest of these groups is american crossroads, which has famous names like karl rove attached to it. this week, the group announced a new $4.2 million ad buy in eight states. on top of $14 million already spent. and they would not tell us who is ponying up all this cash. >> the law says if you are primarily involved in issues debate and you do some politics but your primary focus is in issues, you don't disclose your donors. and we take that law very seriously. we comply with it and think it's a good law. >> reporter: why aren't the democratic party groups as competitive? well, election experts tell us that's because the enthusiasm gap we've talked about so much,
having to do with voters and activists, that also applies to fund-raising. diane? >> the secrecy still amazing, jake. i want to ask you to stay with me for a second, though, because late this afternoon, as you know, there was a draft report that was issued, and it was pretty scathing about the obama administration and the gulf oil spill and the commission was appointed by the president. it finds that for the first ten days, the administration acted from, quote, a sense of over-optimism that may have delayed the amount of help. and another criticism? the administration said on "good morning america" last summer that 75% of the oil was, quote, gone. the study says, no, it wasn't. so, jake, how is the white house reacting to this tonight? >> reporter: well, on that latter point about the claim that 75% of the oil was gone, they concede that carol browner, the white house climate change czar who said that, she was mistaken and a different statement put out by a different administration official that same day was correct. as for the other issue that you
talked about, about whether or not they were overly optimistic, the administration says they were operating on the best information they had at the time and nothing in these draft reports, which are by staff and not signed off by the commission officially, nothing in these draft reports, they say, indicating that anything, any part of their response was affected or delayed in any way. diane? >> all right, we'll see what the final report says. thank you, jake tapper at the white house tonight. and, an unusual sight in northern arizona today. an outbreak of tornadoes. at least three twisters touched down around flagstaff as powerful thunderstorms tore through the area, damaging dozens of homes. there are no reports of any serious injuries. and, we want to tell you about an american hero, who died in the afghanistan war and was honored today. president obama awarded the medal of honor to 24-year-old staff sergeant robert miller, an army green beret killed in a harrowing nighttime battle in 2008. >> rob made a decision.
he called for his team to fall back. and then he did something extraordinary. rob moved in the other direction, toward the enemy, drawing their guns away from his team and bringing the fire of all those insurgents down upon himself. then, over the radio, they heard his voice. he had been hit. but still, he kept calling out enemy positions, still he kept firing, still he kept throwing his grenades. then they heard it, rob's weapon fell silent. >> his family, his parents and all seven brothers and sisters were at the ceremony today. and still ahead on "world news," who is this group behind the hate-filled protests at military funerals? and what are they saying to their children tonight? and, how do you feel about the picture, a pregnant woman drinking?
a new study, new findings on what alcohol can do. and, the state that may have cracked the code, putting americans back to work. [ woman ] alright, so this tylenol 8 hour lasts 8 hours. but aleve can last 12 hours. and aleve was proven to work better on pain than tylenol 8 hour. so why am i still thinking about this? how are you? good, how are you? [ male announcer ] aleve. proven better on pain.
but we wondered, could we learn more about the pastor and his group behind the protests? ron claiborne has a look inside pastor fred phelps, his words, his family and what they say to their children. >> they got a gay pride week at k.u. for god's sake. it's hard to imagine anything worse. >> reporter: in the 2007 documentary, "fall from grace," reverend fred phelps unabashedly spouts an anti-gay and anti-american ideology. >> they're lawless and they're filthy. >> reporter: now 80, he began his career as a law in 1979, he was disbarred for verbally abusing a witness on the stand. so he turned to the ministry. his group first gained national attention in 1998, protesting at the funeral of matthew shepard, the 20-year-old gay man murdered in wyoming. two of his 13 children broke with him, and in the film, they describe their father as a man with a volcanic temper. >> his violence was extreme. he had a barber's strap when i
was younger and a moderate beating would be seven to ten lashes. >> basically, addicted to anger, a rage-oholic. >> that group is a cult. >> reporter: almost all of the congregants at the tiny church are members of phelps' own family. >> they're self-funded operation, and they have good jobs, a lot of them are lawyers. >> reporter: and even the youngest are inculcated with the vilest rhetoric. >> disgusting freaks. >> evil. they're evil. ♪ god showed his wrath to thee ♪ >> reporter: the picketing at military funerals is meant to decry what phelps considers the country's moral decline. >> no surprise to me that god is picking off these miserable brats. >> reporter: to phelps and his followers, they are sinners paying for america's sins. ron claiborne, abc news, new york. >> and you can hear a lot more from that documentarian about what it was like, documenting
the westboro baptist church for more than a year, in today's conversation at abcnews.com/worldnews. and, coming up, how in pregnant women secretly drink? and, what does it do? a new study sends out some surprises. lurking, waiting to strike. a heart attack that's caused by a clot, one that could be fatal. but plavix helps save lives. plavix, taken with other heart medicines, goes beyond what other heart medicines do alone, to provide greater protection against heart attack or stroke and even death by helping to keep blood platelets from sticking together and forming dangerous clots. ask your doctor if plavix is right for you. protection that helps save lives. [ female announcer ] certain genetic factors and some medicines, such as prilosec, reduce the effect of plavix leaving you at greater risk for heart attack and stroke. your doctor may use genetic tests to determine treatment. don't stop taking plavix without talking to your doctor as your risk of heart attack or stroke may increase.
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questions about how much is a risk. and juju chang has that story. >> reporter: we all know the dirty looks pregnant women get for drinking alcohol. why did you avoid doing it in public? >> because you don't want to be accosted or, even get the, like, evil eye. >> reporter: british researchers looked at more than 11,0005-year-olds. kids whose moms reported no drinking, light drinking, one or two a week, all the way to heavy drinking, up to seven drinks at a time. surprisingly, children of light drinkers, showed no increase in behavioral issues and curiously, had slightly higher cognitive test scores versus those whose mothers abstained. the data says that children of heavy drinkers are likely to have lower test scores. here's the science. when a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her child, passing through the placenta, via the umbilical cord. but the fetus's liver is unable to process the alcohol like an adult, so it attacks the developing central nervous system.
but the new study sends a mixed message. the british researchers say they are not advocating a policy change. and that they'll follow up as the children age. but american public health officials remain cautious. all drawing a hard line for pregnant women to avoid alcohol altogether. despite all the warnings, medical surveys suggest roughly 15% of american women drink while pregnant. >> love that sound. >> reporter: but most fear doing it publicly. in the era of "mad men," no one gave you that look for drinking while pregnant. >> this is delicious. >> reporter: not today. most doctors see it as just nine months of sobriety versus a lifetime of potential harm. juju chang, abc news, new york. and that giant leap for mankind, as we've never seen it before. neil armstrong's moon walk into that moon dust in 1969. footage of armstrong and buzz aldrin, a bit startled, first of all, about how big that first step down was.
>> it's about a three-footer. >> reporter: yeah, they were a little startled when they saw it. and a clearer picture of the magical moon walk exists because it was digitally remastered in australia. and, by the way, when they jumped around, we think we can hear them say now, "i'm jumping around like a kangaroo." coming up, one state's innovative solution to the jobs crisis. empowering citizens to create their own jobs. mes with my gran. great news! for people with copd, including chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or both, advair helps significantly improve lung function. while nothing can reverse copd, advair is different from most other copd medications because it contains both an anti-inflammatory and a long-acting bronchodilator, working together to help you breathe better. advair won't replace fast-acting inhalers for sudden symptoms and should not be used more than twice a day.
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as we know, to be unemployed in america can feel as if your life is lived in gridlock. you're paralyzed to change and move forward. but one state is taking a very different approach, and gambling on a radical idea. here's steve osunsami. >> reporter: it's a deal that state of georgia has offered to renee turner and every one of the half-million unemployed workers here. after four long months of searching, she started work today at a job she created. >> hello, renee. >> reporter: her employer who agreed to this, pays nothing for a six-week period. the state agrees to cover all costs. >> i know in the end i'm going to win. i am going to leave this program with full-time permanent employment.
>> reporter: over the next six weeks, she gets to reinvent herself and still collect unemployment. her employer gets free labor and hopefully someone they will hire. it's called georgia works, and it's certainly working. already thousands have signed up. and 36% were hired permanently within that first six weeks. 63% found jobs within the next 90 days. the state says, if a million americans across the country joined in, we would create another 630,000 jobs. georgia officials said they had to do something out of the box, because the same unemployment system that we're all familiar with hasn't changed in decades. >> our motto is take control of your own economic destiny. stimulate your own economy. and create a job for yourself. >> reporter: rhonda smith signed up after she lost her job in the business office at this arts and cultural center. she approached a hotel, talked them into running their spa and in six weeks she was hired.
today, she has completely switched gears, grown the business and hired more than a dozen people herself. >> as horrible as getting laid off was and how devastating it was, there is definitely a bright light at the end of the tunnel. >> reporter: renee turner says she can now see that light. her boss told us today they will be hiring someone, and that could very well be renee. steve osunsami, abc news, macon, georgia. >> 63% hired in 90 days. good for georgia. hope you have a great night and that we see you right back here tomorrow. we'll be here. good night. tonight, winners and losers in state's new budget agreement. filled with rosie projections but will it pass? >> your tax dollars at work. tonight why police have been escorting the 49ers at public expense when traveling. >> a good samaritan meets the
mother of a 8-year-old he rescued. >> and a slogan that democrats hope will keep them in power next year in washington. >> good evening, no new taxes or fees but there are deep cuts in the budget plan. >> the longest budget impass could be ending with a combination of spending cuts and creative accounting. abc 7's nannette miranda is live where the budget is now set for a vote tomorrow. >> reporter: that is right. it's not easy to zero out a $19 billion deficit. details emerged today. and it's heavy on cuts, funny math and a prayer that more money cups in. nearly 100 days into the miss cal year wout a budget. finally air, vote is