How are you running the app from the Flash IDE? Are you pressing CTRL/CMD+ENTER or are you launching the debugger CTRL/CMD+SHIFT+ENTER?
For variables you typically need a watch expression on the variable for it to populate automatically, or for your code to error/breakpoint after it has been assigned.
I'm unfamiliar with the phrase "watch expression on the variable". I'm running the debugger from debugger menu.
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A breakpoint should do it, below the assignment of a variable you wish to inspect. However I have found limited circumstances where the variable panel is unpopulated, even with a breakpoint enabled. I found it to be a bug myself. At the moment I can't reproduce it but perhaps you can help track it down. What is on the breakpoint line or perhaps more importantly what is assigned previous to it that you wish to examine?