PBS NewsHour for January 6, 2016 - Part 1

NEWSHOUR-00

00

Schmertz, Judy Woodruff, Gwen Ifill>

Hecker>

the White House and world leaders condemn the attempt. South Dakotans are

fighting back against payday loans with sky-high interest rates that leave

many in a cycle of debt. An inventor designs and builds furniture for

those with disabilities. Why are Americans buying more and bigger cars?

What is life like in Mexico after deportation?>

Weapons; World Affairs; South Dakota; Economy; Disabilities; Science>

GWEN IFILL: Good evening. I`m Gwen Ifill.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And I`m Judy Woodruff.

GWEN IFILL: On the "NewsHour" tonight: North Korea claims it has successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, as the White House and world leaders condemn the attempt.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Also ahead this Wednesday: how South Dakotans are fighting back against payday loans with sky-high interest rates that leave many in a cycle of debt.

STEVE HILDEBRAND, South Dakotans for Responsible Lending: I have had employee after employee after employee over the last three years in the coffee shop, going through horrible, horrible financial experiences, taking out these emergency loans.

GWEN IFILL: And a MacArthur grant winner who designs and builds furniture for those with disabilities.

ALEX TRUESDELL, Founder, Adaptive Design Association: It makes the child, one, believe in their own capacity, and then everyone who knows and loves the child believe in what they`re able to do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight`s "PBS NewsHour."

(BREAK)

GWEN IFILL: The earth rumbled today in North Korea with a big bang that shook capitals around the world. The communist regime declared it had carried out a thermonuclear explosion, which, if it turns out to be true, would represent a quantum leap beyond anything it`s managed before.

The nuclear news was trumpeted on North Korean state television.

WOMAN (through translator): The first hydrogen bomb test was successfully conducted at 10:00 on January 6, 2016.

GWEN IFILL: State TV also showed photos of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, signing orders for what it called a hydrogen bomb test. But the announcement broadcast on big screens in the capital, Pyongyang, was quickly condemned around the world, especially in China, the North`s last major ally.

HUA CHUNYING, Spokeswoman, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (through translator): Today, North Korea carried out a nuclear bomb test once again, despite the international community`s objections. The Chinese government firmly opposes this. To fulfill denuclearization, nuclear nonproliferation, peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula is China`s firm stance.

GWEN IFILL: Whether it was really a hydrogen bomb was also widely questioned, especially in neighboring South Korea.

LEE CHEOL-WOO, South Korean National Assembly (through translator): Judging from the measurements, it probably falls short of being a hydrogen bomb, although North Korea claims it is a hydrogen bomb.

GWEN IFILL: In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. is skeptical too.

JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: The initial analysis that`s been conducted of the events that were reported overnight is not consistent with North Korean claims of hydrogen bomb test. There`s nothing that`s occurred in the last 24 hours that`s caused the United States government to change our assessment of North Korea`s technical and military capabilities.

GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, Japan`s government immediately sent an aircraft out to collect air particles for radiation analysis.

A working hydrogen bomb would be hundreds of times more powerful than what North Korea detonated in three earlier underground tests. And, if miniaturized, it might fit on a missile, as the communist regime claims.

Pyongyang has long sought to develop missiles that could reach the Western United States. The U.N. Security Council branded the test a clear threat to international peace and security and it pledged to pursue additional sanctions.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon:

BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General: This act is profoundly destabilizing for regional security and seriously undermines international nonproliferation efforts. I condemn it unequivocally.

GWEN IFILL: And U.S. presidential candidates weighed in, with Democrat Hillary Clinton calling for new sanctions as well, and Republican Ted Cruz saying the test showed the folly of failed Democratic policies.

A number of sanctions are already in place against North Korea, an isolated nation with more than 12 million people living in extreme poverty.

We will examine North Korea`s claims about today`s test, and what it all means, after the news summary.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And in the day`s other news, the chief justice of Alabama`s highest court urged local officials to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That`s despite the U.S. Supreme Court`s decision in June to legalize gay marriage nationwide.

State Chief Justice Roy Moore said the Supreme Court decision is at odds with his court`s earlier rulings and is causing -- quote -- "confusion and uncertainty." Moore stopped short of directly ordering Alabama officials not to issue licenses.

GWEN IFILL: For the 62nd time, the Republican-led House has voted to repeal President Obama`s health care law. But this time, it`s going all the way to his desk. House Speaker Paul Ryan conceded Congress won`t be able to override a promised veto, but he said it`s worth the effort anyway.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), Speaker of the House: We are confronting the president with the hard, honest truth: Obamacare doesn`t work. Higher premiums and fewer choices and restricted access, these are not signs of success. Obamacare is not successful. They are signs of failure, and the American people deserve better.

GWEN IFILL: The Senate already passed the repeal measure, which also cuts funding for Planned Parenthood. But Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern and other Democrats said it`s wrong-headed and a waste of time.

REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D), Massachusetts: I can`t understand how you can get up every morning and go to work and that`s your mission, to make it more difficult for people in this country, to throw 22 million people off the health insurance rolls, to make it more difficult for vulnerable women to get preventative care at Planned Parenthood. That`s the mission. That`s how we`re beginning this new year.

GWEN IFILL: The bill would eliminate the requirement that most people obtain health coverage, and it would curb the expansion of Medicaid, as well as the taxes imposed to pay for the law.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The man who bought the rifles used in the San Bernardino shootings pleaded not guilty today in a federal court in California. Enrique Marquez is accused of conspiring to aid terrorists, among other charges. His friend Syed Farook and Farook`s wife, Tashfeen Malik, shot 14 people to death at a holiday party in December. Marquez goes on trial next month.

GWEN IFILL: There`s evidence today that years of drug violence in Mexico has actually cut life expectancy in the last decade. Research in the journal "Health Affairs" finds the projected life span of Mexican men fell by more than seven months between 2005 and 2010; 50,000 people died during that period in Mexico`s war with drug cartels.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Iraq is offering to mediate the diplomatic dispute between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Saudis` Sunni regime cut off relations with Shiite Iran last weekend, after attacks on Saudi diplomatic sites in Tehran and elsewhere. That followed Riyadh`s execution of a top Shiite cleric.

In Tehran today, Iraq`s foreign minister, Ibrahim Al-Jaafari, met with his Iranian counterpart and talked of finding a way to restore calm.

IBRAHIM AL-JAAFARI, Iraqi Foreign Minister (through translator): Iraq is at the heart of the region, and we have sought to use our broad relations with Arab countries and other countries so that Iraq can play its role and alleviate tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. We have been active from the early moments to prevent a disaster from happening that could affect the entire region.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Iraq`s Shiite-led government has relied on Iran for help fighting Islamic State forces. Separately today, the White House said President Obama spoke by phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on their -- quote -- "mutual concern" about the situation.

GWEN IFILL: Germany now says a record 1.1 million people sought asylum there last year. About two-thirds of the migrants came from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

As the numbers came out, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters -- quote -- "It is very important that we achieve both a noticeable reduction in the flow of refugees and maintain open borders inside Europe."

JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz dismissed questions from rival Donald Trump about his being born in Canada. The Texas senator said it`s settled law that having at least one American parent makes you a U.S. citizen, even if you are born abroad. Cruz`s mother is American, his father Cuban.

GWEN IFILL: A Texas grand jury has indicted a state trooper in the Sandra Bland case, the woman who died in jail after a traffic stop in July. Brian Encinia will face misdemeanor county of perjury for allegedly lying about how he removed Bland from her car. The grand jury declined to charge anyone with Bland`s death.

A major federal assessment finds a leading class of insecticides can be harmful to honeybees in some crops. The Environmental Protection Agency says neonicotinoids pose a significant risk to honeybees on cotton and citrus crops, but not on corn and berries. Today`s report is the first of four planned by the EPA as it decides whether to ban the insecticide.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And the bears were back in charge today on Wall Street after oil prices plunged again and worries built about China`s slowdown, as well as North Korea`s weapons test. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 252 points to close at 16906. The Nasdaq fell 55, and the S&P 500 dropped 26.

Still to come on the "NewsHour": a deeper look at North Korea`s power play; why Americans are buying more and bigger cars; efforts to cap sky- interest rates on payday loans; and much more.

GWEN IFILL: We return now to North Korea`s bombshell claims today.

Siegfried Hecker is former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, and he now teaches at Stanford University. He has visited North Korea and its nuclear facilities seven times. And Wendy Sherman was undersecretary of state for political affairs during the Obama administration. During the Clinton administration, she was a State Department official focused on North Korea. And she now advises the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Wendy Sherman, how much of a threat is this latest test?

WENDY SHERMAN, Former U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs: Well, I think the fact that North Korea has now conducted a fourth nuclear test is of concern.

I agree with the White House`s assessment, at least so far -- and I will be glad to hear what Mr. Hecker has to say -- that this isn`t a hydrogen test, but, nonetheless, four nuclear tests is a concern to us.

GWEN IFILL: So, the fact of the test is more concerning to you than the type of test?

WENDY SHERMAN: Well, no. Had it been a hydrogen bomb -- and, of course, it will still be several days before we know that for sure -- that is much, much, much more powerful.

And, of course, we`re also concerned about miniaturization of the weapon, so that it might be carried on a weapon to South Korea, or Japan or even to the United States. So, I this is an acceleration and escalation by North Korea. And I think that the United States and the world community need to act with resolve.

GWEN IFILL: Siegfried Hecker, tell us, what exactly is possible for North Korea to have pulled off in this case?

SIEGFRIED HECKER, Former Director, Los Alamos National Laboratory: Well, it`s not clear exactly what they did.

As Ms. Sherman pointed out, they did another nuclear test. And, actually, my greatest concern is that they did the fourth nuclear test. With that nuclear test, they clearly achieved greater sophistication, in most likelihood meaning being able to make the bomb smaller, lighter, and, therefore, have greater reach, if they`re able to get them on a missile.

Whether it was a hydrogen test or not, we don`t know. My sense is, we will probably never really know. So far, from what is the information that`s there, it appears the size of the blast, in other words, the power from the seismic signal that can be measured, it`s about the same level as the third nuclear test in 2013, which we put at the level of approximately a Hiroshima bomb. That`s saying 10 to 15 kilotons.

Now, whether it actually achieved the sophistication of going to a fusion bomb -- that is, the normal bombs are fission or atomic bombs -- the fusion or hydrogen bomb, that is a very big step technologically. And it`s not clear that that was done, but we also can`t rule out that the North Koreans have made a significant advancement.

GWEN IFILL: Wendy Sherman, we talked about the U.S. reaction. Let`s walk through some of the other intersectional reaction, especially China.

In the past, they have been as protective of North Korea as any nation. Not so today.

WENDY SHERMAN: Right.

Well, today, they said they are resolutely opposed to what North Korea has done. Now we need some resolute action from China as well. It is significant and useful that the U.N. Security Council held an emergency session. The reports out of that session are that nobody objected to further sanctions. And Ambassador Power, the U.S. ambassador, called for more sanctions.

And many candidates today who are running for president have called for greater action. And Secretary Clinton, who certainly understands what`s happening in Asia, has called for greater sanctions and to ensure, as I think we all feel, that we not allow North Korea to blackmail the international community, but that we take resolute action to tell them, this is not acceptable.

GWEN IFILL: Siegfried Hecker, let`s talk about resolute action for a moment. A year ago, the president signed an executive order to freeze assets in North Korea.

Everyone, as Wendy Sherman pointed out, is calling for resolute action, universal condemnation. What difference does that make for a rogue state like North Korea?

SIEGFRIED HECKER: Quite frankly, I think none, because we have been through this at least since 2003 or so, when North Korea pulled out of a nonproliferation treaty.

And the attempts, not only by the United States, but by the international community, has been, in essence, to threaten North Korea, to sanction North Korea, to isolate North Korea. And it simply hasn`t worked. I think we failed to engage North Korea appropriately when we had opportunities in these last 12 or 13 years.

Whatever engagement was there didn`t work. The bottom line is, over this time, from 2003, when they most likely built their first primitive device which they tested in 2006, until today, they have gone from building a device, 2003, testing one that didn`t work so well in 2006, to just now where they had the fourth test, the successful test.

And, in the meantime, at the same time, they have scaled up their ability to make more bombs. And so where we used to have a problem of having this country that could perhaps build a simple nuclear device, today, they appear to have a nuclear arsenal. That`s of great concern.

And, to me, that means we have to do something different than what`s been done over the last 12 years.

GWEN IFILL: Wendy Sherman, we know that Kim Jong-un is a tough read. Not many people have gotten inside and figured out what he`s really up to. But if from -- based on what we know, if what he was trying to do today was provoke, what was that provocation intended to do?

WENDY SHERMAN: Well, I think he`s -- it`s several things.

First of all, it`s really to bring together his own country to believe that he is strong and powerful. He is still a young leader. He`s trying to consolidate his power. He`s done that through a tyrannical set of actions, including killing off some of his closest advisers, when he thought they were getting out of control and he wasn`t being seen as primary.

So this was a way to bring his country together, which we find completely reprehensible, but, nonetheless, he`s taken that action. Second, he`s sending a message to the region and to the United States that he will do whatever he thinks he needs to do to protect his country. He will not go down, as other leaders have gone down around the world.

I take Sieg`s statements, and I understand them, the frustration here to get North Korea to do something, but to get action takes a couple of things. It takes a leader who is willing to engage. And North Korea has not been willing to engage, though the United States and others have made many entreaties to them to do so.

And, secondly, I think we have to get China, who has really one of the only relationships left with North Korea, along perhaps a little bit with Russia, to not only engage, but also to take tougher action to take away some of the goodies that they still provide to North Korea.

GWEN IFILL: And, finally, Siegfried Hecker, your take on Kim Jong-un and whether he is a real threat in this situation.

SIEGFRIED HECKER: So, I like to be able to say that I am just a scientist, and so these diplomatic matters are certainly beyond my own personal reach.

But the thing that seems clear, just in terms of the nuclear weapons piece of this, is that North Korea looks at these nuclear weapons as a deterrent. During all of my visits and the discussions with their Foreign Ministry and the diplomats, rather than the technical people, they talked about their deterrent.

So the emphasis was always deterrent, meaning deterring the United States from essentially, you know, going into North Korea, or, as they like to say, you know, our hostile policies.

So, I think we need to understand exactly what is the North Korean security concern, because without getting over that concern, in North Korea, to come to resolution, it seems to me -- and, again, not being a diplomat -- that the issue is much bigger than just the nuclear issue. And so focusing on the nuclear issue by itself is not going to be able to get us there.

GWEN IFILL: Siegfried Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos Laboratory, and Wendy Sherman, many former titles, but you were former undersecretary, most recently, of political affairs at the Department of State.

(LAUGHTER)

GWEN IFILL: Thank you both very much.

WENDY SHERMAN: Thank you.

SIEGFRIED HECKER: Thank you very much. It`s my pleasure.

JUDY WOODRUFF: 2015 turned out to be a boom year for the auto industry, despite some of the worst news about its practices in recent years.

Americans spent roughly $570 billion on 17.5 million cars and trucks last year, an almost 6 percent increase over the prior year, and breaking a record set 15 years earlier.

But, in the same 12 months, GM faced public congressional hearings and paid a $900 million settlement over its handling of a defective ignition switch. U.S. regulators recalled more than 19 million vehicles over faulty air bags, and Volkswagen admitted to rigging diesel cars to pass emissions tests.

Some insight into this from David Shepardson of Reuters news service. He covers the automotive industry, as well as other regulatory matters.

And welcome back to the program.

DAVID SHEPARDSON, Reuters: Thanks, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Dave, should we be surprise at this jump in auto sales last year?

DAVID SHEPARDSON: No, I think it`s continuing a record-setting six- year trend, really the longest increase in auto sales since the 1920s.

But it says Americans, our cars in the garages are still pretty old, a record 11.5 years on average. And there`s been a lot of pent-up demand. Plus, you have got low gas prices, low interest rates, and a lot of good deals on -- in showrooms. And Americans are feeling more confident. Unemployment has declined. So, really, all the economic indicators that would help boost sales have been in the auto companies` favor.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And I want to ask you about some of those factors.

But this happened, as we just reported, despite all this bad news about the industry. What does that say about consumers?

DAVID SHEPARDSON: It`s pretty remarkable that consumers have shrugged off all the bad news. And, really, it`s hard to keep it straight, from the air bags, to the fines to companies for not disclosing defects and handling recalls properly, not to mention Volkswagen, Takata and General Motors.

So, consumers have been able to separate some of those issues, especially because they`re older vehicles not in the showrooms, in part they need cars and trucks, and they`re not going to sort of wait for the industry to get all its practices back in a row.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But what does it say, though, I`m just curious, in terms of the auto industry`s advertising and reaching out? They were clearly trying to put out the good story, while some of these other bad stories were out there.

DAVID SHEPARDSON: Right.

I think -- and also, with recalls, remember, we had a record 60 million vehicles recalled in 2014. Last year, 2015, was the second highest. I think there`s a little recall fatigue. Americans can`t keep tracks of all the recalls. There is an onslaught. So I think people have sort of said, yes, there are recalls, yes, there are issues, but I still need a car and I`m still confident in my brand or the vehicle I choose to buy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What`s interesting, too, is not just that people are buying more cars, but the kind of cars they`re buying, I mean, bigger cars, SUVs. How do you explain that?

DAVID SHEPARDSON: Right, and not cars at all.

In fact, as car sales declined, and SUVs and pickups and crossovers have spiked dramatically. Take GM. GM sold -- just 30 percent of all vehicles in the U.S. last year were cars. And 70 percent were trucks, SUVs and crossovers.

Because these crossovers are car-based SUVs, get pretty good gas mileage, but they have the utility for people to haul more stuff around, get more kids in the back or dogs, or what have you, people have just shifted away from cars. And, as a result, the -- it`s a big concern. Will people be able to -- will the auto companies be able to meet these fuel- efficiency standards?

Remember, the administration has proposed doubling them to 55 miles per gallon by 2025.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Because we know the price of gas is down, but these are vehicles that gobble up more fuel.

DAVID SHEPARDSON: Exactly.

They are more fuel-efficient than predecessors, but they still do use more fuel than cars.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Dave, what about the industry, the health of the industry overall? Does this say that this is an industry that`s out of its slump and is going to stay strong for some time, or is this a temporary thing? What`s your reading on that?

DAVID SHEPARDSON: It is a strong industry. And all the analysts think sales in 2016 are going to go back up, although there are some warning signs. Interest rates are going to start to rise again.

There are a lot of used cars, cars coming off leases that will go back on the market, which is a concern. Will used car prices go down, make people less likely to buy new cars? But the bigger threat is the massive disruption from Silicon Valley coming to the auto industry through Google and autonomous cars, Tesla, Apple potentially?

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean the self-driving cars, cars with batteries, still a small part of the market, but...

DAVID SHEPARDSON: Yes, right, but down the road, fully electric cars with batteries with longer ranges. People will feel more confident in buying those cars. And, presumably, gas prices will go back up.

But the big question is, will people ultimately completely revisit how they use cars for personal mobility? Will they share cars, not just in big cities? Will they not want to own a car? Cars sit in driveways and garages and are not used 90 percent of the time. Should people -- are people willing to share cars and not perhaps actually take it home from the dealership?

And so the industry is preparing for a major disruption in the current way we buy and sell cars.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Presumably spending a lot of time trying to figure out the answers to all those questions.

DAVID SHEPARDSON: And stay in business and do it profitably.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David Shepardson with Reuters, thank you.

DAVID SHEPARDSON: Thanks, Judy.

GWEN IFILL: Stay with us.

Coming up on the "NewsHour": life in Mexico after deportation; and using cardboard to help children with disabilities.

But, first, payday lending is a $46 billion industry in the U.S. About 12 million Americans borrow more than $7 billion annually from over 22,000 storefronts.

But the industry`s practices have long been under scrutiny.

Special correspondent Andrew Schmertz has the story from South Dakota, part of our ongoing reporting initiative Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America.

ANDREW SCHMERTZ: Living paycheck to paycheck isn`t easy. Sometimes, you have to come up with creative ways to relieve the stress.

KRISTI MCLAUGHLIN, South Dakota: A good way to just live in denial is just throw away your bills. I know I can`t pay them anyway, so...

ANDREW SCHMERTZ: Kristi McLaughlin and her husband, T.J., were getting by on T.J.`s salary as a manufacturing plant manager here in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, that was, until T.J. got sick.

T.J. MCLAUGHLIN, South Dakota: I was working the night shift, and I was on my feet a lot. And I had a couple of wounds start developing on my leg. And they were pretty small at first, and then they got infected and just started growing.

ANDREW SCHMERTZ: When T.J. went to get treatment, the doctor said it would only take a day, but, in fact, he ended up missing a whole week of work.

T.J. MCLAUGHLIN: They ended up docking my pay. We ended up being short on bills. I panicked, so...

ANDREW SCHMERTZ: So McLaughlin came here, a title loan place just a few miles from his home. He says the process was simple and quick. They inspected his car and then handed him $1,200 in cash. He agreed to pay $322 a month for a year.

T.J. MCLAUGHLIN: I was making good money. I didn`t really foresee a problem paying it back at that time.

ANDREW SCHMERTZ: But then his leg got worse, and he had to go back to the hospital for another week.

KRISTI MCLAUGHLIN: And on Wednesday of the following week, the H.R. person called from his job and fired him, and, on that day, we pretty much lost everything.

ANDREW SCHMERTZ: But not the loan. After nine months, the total amount they owed grew from $1,200 to over $3,000. That`s an annual interest rate of more than 300 percent.

Title loans and payday loans are supposed to be short-term quick fixes for people who can`t get traditional credit.

More in Home