PBS NewsHour for January 4, 2017 - Part 2





and vice president-elect Pence head to the hill to make their case to

lawmakers. CIA Director John Brennan discusses the Trump administration`s

relationship with Russia and U.S. intelligence. As the battle for Mosul

continues, residents flee to camps where security concerns are ripping

families apart. Some boys are being taken from ISIS-held areas, never to

be heard from again. Protests continue against Senator Jeff Sessions,

Donald Trump`s pick for attorney general. What is the potential for

nuclear technology to lower carbon emissions?>

Trump; Iraq; Policies; Health and Medicine; Barack Obama; Democratic Party;

Mike Pence; John Brennan; Russia; War; Government; Elections>

WOMAN (through translator): Oh, my son. I feel safe here, but I feel sad because he`s not here. The tent is empty. It`s been 20 days since they took him. I`m cold and empty without him.

MARCIA BIGGS: This man wouldn`t let us show his face, but says his cousin was arrested, based on what he says was the word of an informer in the camp.

BELKIS WILLE, Human Rights Watch: In Mosul, we have got thousands of individuals being screened, subsequently being detained, and disappearing.

MARCIA BIGGS: Belkis Wille is with Human Rights Watch, based in Iraq.

BELKIS WILLE: Now, all of them might be in official detention facilities, and maybe the moment the operation is done, we will see a lot of these people released. But, for the moment, we don`t know that, and all their families know is that they have gone missing.

MARCIA BIGGS: General Najim al-Jabouri is one of Iraq`s top commanders in the battle for Mosul, and his men are the first line of screening for civilians coming out of ISIS control. They detain anyone who appears on the list, even though he knows some may not be hard-line is members.

GEN. NAJIM AL-JABOURI, Iraq: I hope the prime minister give amnesty to the majority of the people, join ISIS, but they not kill, they not involved in very bad thing. They just to took some salary to keep them and families from revenge of ISIS. You know, ISIS don`t have any mercy.

MARCIA BIGGS: They`re just trying to stay alive and feed their families.


MARCIA BIGGS: Is there ever anyone that`s on that list that you say he`s just someone who`s trying to get by, let`s let him go?

GEN. NAJIM AL-JABOURI: Yes, sure. Yes, sure. But the judge will decide that, not me. I fight in the field. Anyone stand in front of me and fight me, I kill him. But after the field, this the mission of the judge.

MARCIA BIGGS: We traveled south of Mosul to Qayyarah, where, under the black cloud of oil fires set by ISIS, we found one of those judges, whose job is to investigate the cases of ISIS suspects and prepare them for trial.

How many people are on the list? We heard 40,000?

AMER ABDULLAH KHODIR, Judge (through translator): No, there are more than 40,000 who are not arrested yet.

MARCIA BIGGS: How do you differentiate between someone who is just trying to make ends meet in occupied Mosul, and someone who is an ISIS terrorist?

AMER ABDULLAH KHODIR (through translator): We have people who are helping us identify the individuals who were just doing their job, without being members of ISIS.

BELKIS WILLE: The real question for us is, how do you get onto that list? It`s allegations that you are affiliated with ISIS, but they could be made by your neighbor, your neighbor who envies your land or your neighbor who had a feud with you for many years.

MARCIA BIGGS: The judge denies that charges can be based solely on witness testimony, but admits that the system is bogged down.

AMER ABDULLAH KHODIR (through translator): It will take a long time to complete these cases. In most of the cases, the victims` bodies are missing. They were kidnapped by ISIS terrorists, killed and disappeared. We have to find the bodies, but this will prolong the investigations.

MARCIA BIGGS: For the families of those that languish in detention, it`s a reminder of abuses against Sunnis that took place last spring, when Iraqi forces retook Fallujah from ISIS, but then allowed Shia militias to control those villages.

BELKIS WILLE: We know the history of previous operations, and we know that hundreds of people have gone missing. We`re not saying let everybody go. What we`re saying is, there are simple things you can do to try and decrease the chance of abuse afterwards.

One of those things is informing family members of where their loved ones are. The other is putting out public numbers. Why have we not seen the authorities put out a single public number on how many people are being detained in this operation?

MARCIA BIGGS: This is your husband, Zaojek?

Back in the camp, 27-year-old Miad shows me the only picture she has of her husband, Ramy. She says they had been here for 10 days when he went to camp security to get permission for her to see a doctor. He never came back.

MIAD, Lives in Camp (through translator): The night that they arrested him, I waited up until midnight, but he didn`t come. I went to the camp manager. He said it`s a normal investigation, and he will be back soon, it will only take a couple of days. That was 17 days ago.

I remember they put his name in the database two times, and they didn`t find anything on him. He was cleared. He doesn`t have anything to do with ISIS.

MARCIA BIGGS: She`s here alone with her two children and her 80-year-old grandmother. Diagnosed with uterine cancer, she has special permission to go to her chemotherapy appointments, but like everyone else, is otherwise forbidden to leave the camp.

MIAD (through translator): I went to the camp security and he didn`t give me any information. They just told me, if he is innocent, we will bring him back to you. If he`s guilty, don`t ask about him.

MARCIA BIGGS: Halkwat Rafaat is in charge of security at the camps in this area, in total hosting almost 60,000 people.

Why they are not allowed to leave the camp?

HALKWAT RAFAAT, Iraq (through translator): Because they have been under is control for more than two years.

MARCIA BIGGS: And you are worried that maybe there may be ISIS fighters hiding in plaint sight?

HALKWAT RAFAAT (through translator): Of course they are.

MARCIA BIGGS: What do you say to the officials that say, we have got a real security problem; we can`t let people leave?

BELKIS WILLE: If the screening processes are not working, then improve the screening processes. But once someone`s been cleared through that process, it is unacceptable to be holding them in a camp that is essentially being used as a prison.

MARCIA BIGGS: Miad says she now wishes she had never left Mosul.

MIAD (through translator): I need my husband by my side. When I am sick, he takes care of the kids, and makes sure we have food. But now I have no one, only God and my two kids. My life here is very hard. If I had known they would arrest my husband, I never would have left my village.

MARCIA BIGGS: Some residents held out. Iraqi armed forces had cleared this village in North Mosul 20 days ago when we arrived, and the civilians here chose not to go to the camps. But now that the Iraqi army controls this area, checkpoints are everywhere, and no one goes in or out without special permission.

They say they`re grateful to be rid of ISIS, but say there is no clean water, no electricity, not enough food.

MAN (through translator): We have received food only two times in the last two weeks. We need gas for the generators. We don`t want to go to the camps. We want to stay here to keep what is ours.

MARCIA BIGGS: Half-an-hour later, we were at a former ISIS bomb factory looking at some vehicles that ISIS left behind. We were hustled to a nearby home to wait out the shelling.

So we just received a mortar from around five to six kilometers away. The general believes that perhaps one of the civilians that saw us talking to all of the neighbors may have given information to ISIS that we were here, which is why we have received this mortar.

There is no way to know for sure if someone informed on us, but it is a reminder that, even in so-called liberated areas, there is still a very real war being fought. Those who choose to stay may keep their homes and their dignity, but they now live in a state of limbo between ISIS and the Iraqi army, and with that comes suspicion and danger.

Eight more rounds hit areas around us that afternoon. This local villager emerged from his home carrying a white flag and begging the army to let him take his family to the next village. He was told to stay in his home.

Back in the camp, Miad may be out of the line of fire, but she faces every day alone, no information, no answers.

MIAD (through translator): God willing, he will come back to us. I am not the only one. Too many others have been taken who have nothing to do with ISIS.

MARCIA BIGGS: For now, all she can do is wait.

For the "PBS NewsHour," I`m Marcia Biggs, outside Mosul, Northern Iraq.

ALISON STEWART: The confirmation hearings for president-elect Trump`s controversial pick for U.S. attorney general, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, are next week, but already his detractors are making themselves heard.

The NAACP mounted protests across Alabama on Tuesday against the Sessions nomination. In Mobile, the group`s national president, Cornell Brooks, and five others staged a sit-in at the senator`s local office. They were finally arrested for trespassing, when they refused to leave as the office closed last night.

Meanwhile, more than 1,100 law professors wrote to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and said, in part -- quote -- "Nothing in Senator Sessions` public life since 1986 has convinced us that he is a different man than the 39-year-old attorney who was deemed too racially insensitive to be a federal judge."

Sessions` own Senate career began 20 years ago, but that failed confirmation battle still echoes in this new fight. The NAACP and others cite at least three reasons to disqualify him as attorney general, on voting rights, his support for stricter I.D. laws and criticism of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, on civil rights, claims Sessions has repeatedly supported attempts to overturn desegregation.

On criminal justice reform, the NAACP Highlights his opposition to consent decrees to reform police departments. All of this comes to a head next week, at Sessions` confirmation hearings.

The big question is, what kind of attorney general could Sessions be?

For an idea, let`s take closer look at his record in the Senate, as well as his career as a prosecutor in Alabama.

We are joined by John Sharp, a reporter for the Alabama Media Group, and Sari Horwitz. She covers the Department of Justice for The Washington Post.

John, I want to start with you.

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has never lost an election. So over the course of his career as a prosecutor, as Alabama`s attorney general, and as a senator, what contributes to his popularity back at home in Alabama?

JOHN SHARP, Alabama Media Group: Well, he stayed true to his roots over the years. He`s an ultraconservative politician, and he`s never really wavered from that.

And Alabama is one of the reddest of the red states. It has supported a GOP presidential candidate since 1980. It`s only getting redder. Donald Trump`s returns on November 8 were the most that a presidential candidate`s had in Alabama since Richard Nixon in 1972.

So Senator Sessions has -- you know, he`s been a darling for the conservative movement in Alabama. And he has a spotless election record. His conservative viewpoints on anything from gun control to immigration reform to religious liberty has really sold well with the conservative voters here in this state who turn out and dominate on Election Days.

ALISON STEWART: What`s an example of a way he stayed true to his roots on the local level?

JOHN SHARP: Back in the early 2000s, he -- The Mobile Press-Register at the time ran a series of stories about dental services in underserved areas, in small rural counties.

And Senator Sessions, he saw those stories. He was interested in them. And he traveled around to various county where`s these clinics were located and people weren`t receiving dental services. And, you know, he made quite a high-profile splash at the time, at least on a local level, about wanting to get federal money set aside for some of these clinics to help support them and provide services for folks at the time that were not receiving them.

ALISON STEWART: Sari, when Sessions was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, he was described by one paper as an in-the-trenches prosecutor. On the national level, how does he work as a senator?

SARI HORWITZ, The Washington Post: Well, he`s very respected by his colleagues. He`s courteous and friendly. And he works well in the Senate. He`s been there for 20 years.

But he`s really known for some very extreme views on immigration, hard-line views on immigration. And, in some cases, he`s actually struck out in opposition to his Republican colleagues and spoken out against legislation, especially on immigration, that was supported by his Republican colleagues.

ALISON STEWART: John, when Sessions was up for a federal judgeship in the 1980s, he had some very tough hearings. There was testimony that he called another attorney, a black attorney boy, that he joked about the KKK, that he had disparaging words about the NAACP and the ACLU. He obviously didn`t get that post.

How did that play pack home?

JOHN SHARP: Well, that was an initial setback for Senator Sessions, but it played -- it played really well back at home.

At the time, the people that were opposing Senator Sessions were some of the big names of the Democratic Party back then, Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, Senator Paul Simon from Illinois.

And folks back home in Alabama saw that and looked upon the whole situation as, well, it`s us vs. them.

ALISON STEWART: Jeff Sessions was one of the first senators, if not the first senator, to support candidate Trump. And it`s such an interesting mix. You have this millionaire from New York and this down-to-his-roots son of the South. Where do they meet?

SARI HORWITZ: You`re right. He was actually the first senator in February to endorse Donald Trump.

They met several years ago. Donald Trump came to testify on Capitol Hill, and they really hit it off. They`re both -- they both have deeply conservative views. They see the world the same way. They see the world as sort of divided between working class and the elites.

Senator Sessions refers to the elites as masters of the universe. I think both Donald Trump and Senator Sessions see themselves, they position themselves as champions of the working class.

ALISON STEWART: Sari, almost two years ago, Jeff Sessions was on the Hill, and he was addressing attorney general candidate Loretta Lynch, and he said this:

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), Alabama: You will have to tell the president yes or no on something that he may want to do. Are you able and willing to tell the president of the United States no if he asks to -- permission or a legal opinion that supports an action you believe is wrong?

ALISON STEWART: Sari, has Jeff Sessions ever been in that position, when he`s had to go against the grain, when he`s had to say no or yes to something like that?

SARI HORWITZ: I remember that moment when he said that to Loretta Lynch, and he actually ended up voting against Loretta Lynch, partially because of her answer, which was that she supported President Obama`s executive actions on immigration.

Jeff Sessions himself has gone against the grain, but it`s really been in the Senate, again, against his own party, when he took on views on immigration that were opposed by other Republicans. As I said, the Republicans backed and Democrats in 2013 backed an immigration bill, and he spoke out strongly against it.

So he has gone against the grain when he really, deeply believes in something, as he does on immigration.

ALISON STEWART: Sari, Senator Sessions has described the attorney general`s position as, he or she set the tone for law enforcement in America.

Do we have any idea what his tone might be based on his actions as senator?

SARI HORWITZ: You know, it`s hard to say how he will be as attorney general, but civil rights groups are very concerned.

And this is what we have seen in the last couple of days, the NAACP Staging a sit-in in Mobile, Alabama, six people arrested, the ACLU today coming out with a big report critical of Jeff Sessions. They don`t take a position a candidate, for or against, but very critical, because they`re worried about what he will be like as attorney general, especially in the area of civil rights.

They`re worried about the Civil Rights Division that under Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch enforced strongly the Voting Rights Act and oversight of police departments. The Justice Department in the last couple years has sued many police departments across America and forced reforms in civil liberties for police departments.

And they have sued two states, specifically North Carolina and Texas, on the Voting Rights Act.

ALISON STEWART: Sari Horwitz of The Washington Post, and John Sharp from the Alabama Media Group, thank you so much.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: why some engineers and investors are making big bets to develop a new generation of nuclear reactors.

Miles O`Brien has the story. It was a co-production with our friends at PBS "NOVA" tied to the January 11 documentary "The Nuclear Option."

His story is part of our weekly series the Leading Edge.

MILES O`BRIEN: This is where nuclear power began. Welcome to the Idaho National Laboratory. It covers a vast swathe of high desert nearly the size of Rhode Island.

It is dotted with experimental nuclear reactors that wrote the textbooks on how to generate power by splitting atoms. And now a new chapter is being written here.

MARK PETERS, Director, Idaho National Laboratory: If we`re going to mitigate climate change, we have to think about how to develop new nuclear.

MILES O`BRIEN: Laboratory director Mark Peters says concerns about climate change have brought his industry out of a long nuclear winter.

MARK PETERS: We`re restarting and testing infrastructure to start to develop the next generation of nuclear power. So I`m just incredibly excited about the fact that we`re finally starting to get a public dialogue going now that it`s important to build the next generation.

MILES O`BRIEN: The Bush and Obama administrations and Congress have concurred on that point. Together, they authorized tens of billions in loan guarantees for nuclear plant construction, and tens of millions in funding to develop what`s known as Generation IV technology.

MARK PETERS: Generation IV are future reactors that are based on different concepts, different core designs, different coolants.

MILES O`BRIEN: And perhaps his most promising client is an innovator from another industry. Microsoft founder Bill Gates is among a handful of entrepreneurs with seemingly bottomless pockets making big bets on nuclear power.

In a 2010 TED Talk, he announced he had co-founded a company called TerraPower. His partner is his former chief technology officer at Microsoft, Nathan Myhrvold.

NATHAN MYHRVOLD, TerraPower: We need to have base load carbon-free power, and nuclear is a great example of something that is base load carbon-free power. Base load means seven by 24, day and night, whenever, it`s going to be there.

MILES O`BRIEN: TerraPower`s reactor uses a design that dates back to the first ever nuclear power plant, built here in Idaho. It illuminated its first lightbulbs in 1951.

It`s an entirely different design than the vast majority of nuclear reactors currently operating. The fuel wasn`t cooled with water, but, rather, liquid metal, sodium mixed with potassium, which has a lower melting point, absorbs more heat, and has a much higher boiling point than water. It had some inherent safety advantages over water-cooled reactors, which cannot safely shut down without electricity from the grid to keep cooling pumps running.

This is what happened at Fukushima in 2011. An earthquake and tsunami caused a station blackout that also destroyed backup generators and batteries. The reactors overheated and three melted down.

MAN: It`s now about five minutes until test time.

MILES O`BRIEN: Twenty-five years earlier in Idaho, engineers staged a prescient demonstration of the Fukushima scenario in a sodium reactor. They deliberately shut off the coolant flow. In a water-cooled reactor, like Fukushima, this would have caused an explosion, but this reactor safely shut itself down.

MARK PETERS: It reaches a certain temperature, and the reaction automatically shuts down, and the reactor cools down by itself.

MILES O`BRIEN: Sodium reactors do not need the equivalent of premium gas, refined or enriched uranium. In fact, TerraPower says it can run its reactors on the leftovers from enrichment, depleted uranium.

The biggest stockpile in the U.S. is here in Paducah, Kentucky, at a uranium enrichment plant.

NATHAN MYHRVOLD: With our reactors, Paducah, Kentucky becomes the energy capital of the United States, because Paducah alone has enough of this low- level nuclear waste, the depleted uranium, that we could run all of America`s electricity needs for 750 years.

MAN: This is a model of the Navy`s first nuclear-powered submarine, the Nautilus.

MILES O`BRIEN: The seeds of the decline for liquid metal reactors were planted by Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of the nuclear Navy.

MAN: This is the reactor or the atomic pile. There is uranium in here.

MILES O`BRIEN: He selected nuclear reactors cooled with water to propel the Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine. For utilities, adapting the nuclear Navy technology for use on land offered the fastest path to market.

Water-cooled nuclear reactors quickly became the norm all over the world.

EDWIN LYMAN, Union of Concerned Scientists: I think that there was a victory on the merits here, and the other reactor designs did have the opportunity to prove themselves, and they fell short.

MILES O`BRIEN: Physicist Edwin Lyman is with the Union of Concerned Scientists. He says the promise of this new generation of nukes should be tempered by the uncertainties.

EDWIN LYMAN: Some non-water-cooled systems have a lower risk of certain types of accident, but they have greater risks of other kinds of accidents, or they introduce other security or safety issues, so there`s really no free lunch here.

MILES O`BRIEN: But the private sector is apparently not dissuaded. A D.C.-based think tank, Third Way, found more than 40 startups across the U.S. developing advanced nuclear power designs.

These atomic business plans have lured more than a billion dollars in investment.

LESLIE DEWAN, Transatomic Power: I think a lot of it might just be the changing demographics of nuclear engineers, that now there are a large number of young nuclear engineers who think, I have a really good idea. I`m going to raise some funding. I`m going to see if I can do this on my own.

How much do you have to worry about free fluorine?

MILES O`BRIEN: Leslie Dewan is one of the young entrepreneurs leading this revolution. She became enamored with some nuclear technology first developed 50 years ago at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It`s called a molten salt reactor, not table salt, liquid fluoride salts.

LESLIE DEWAN: A molten salt reactor uses liquid fuel, rather than solid fuel.

MILES O`BRIEN: Having uranium dissolved in liquid offers some safety advantages. If the fuel gets too hot, the liquid expands, and the uranium atoms become too dispersed to maintain a nuclear chain reaction. It shuts itself down.

And in the case of a station blackout, like Fukushima, the liquid fuel drains into a larger tank, where it cools down passively, no electricity needed. At Oak Ridge, they successfully ran and tested a molten salt reactor for four years, and it worked.

But building a reactor that can withstand something as corrosive as a very hot bath of salt is a huge engineering challenge. At Oak Ridge, the funding ended before they could work on that. So, the corrosion problem is the focus of early testing for Leslie Dewan`s startup company, Transatomic.

LESLIE DEWAN: We can make something that works for five years, that works for 10 years. Like, that, we certainly know. What we are trying to figure out now is whether we can use newer materials or new methods of corrosion control to extend the lifetime of the facility, because, ultimately, we care about making this low-cost.

If you have to replace your key components every 10 years, it`s not going to be cheaper than coal. And if it`s not cheaper than coal, then it`s not worth doing.

MILES O`BRIEN: Without a tax, or a cap, on carbon emissions, matching the cost of fossil fuels will likely be an impossible order for these new nuclear designs.

EDWIN LYMAN: We don`t put a lot of stock in seeing an alternative to a water-cooled reactor being developed anytime soon, certainly not quickly enough to make a dent in the greenhouse gas problem.

MILES O`BRIEN: But, in Idaho, they are pressing forward with urgency. In the U.S., there are currently about 100 nuclear reactors in operation. The majority of them are slated for retirement in the 2030s. What will replace them? Wind and solar? Not without a breakthrough in battery technology to store power on the grid.

NATHAN MYHRVOLD: The fate of the whole planet depends on us renewing our energy system with renewables and with nuclear. And if we step back from that, we are going to create a tremendous problem for future generations.

MILES O`BRIEN: Worries about waste, weapons proliferation and safety nearly derailed nuclear energy in the past. But the quest to meet rising demand for energy, without wrecking the planet, has put new nuclear technology back on the agenda.

Miles O`Brien, the "PBS NewsHour," at the Idaho National Laboratory.

ALISON STEWART: And that`s the "NewsHour" for tonight.


ALISON STEWART: I`m Alison Stewart.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Sorry. I stepped on you.

And I`m Judy Woodruff.

Join us online and again right here tomorrow evening, when I sit down at the White house with Vice President Biden.

For all of us at the "NewsHour," thank you, and good night.