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News Wrap: Congress chastises Volkswagen for emissions cheating

In our news wrap Thursday, Congress went after automaker Volkswagen over the way it rigged diesel models to cheat on emissions tests. Also, Russia fired more cruise missiles into Syria, while denying several U.S. reports that several missiles crashed in Iran.

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    On another front, members of Congress went after Volkswagen today over the way it rigged diesel models to cheat on emissions tests. Statements at a House hearing ranged from fury to apology.

    William Brangham has the story.


    The opening statements were full of indignation from both sides of the aisle.

    REP. FRED UPTON (R), Michigan: V.W. has betrayed a nation, a nation of regulators, loyalists, suppliers and innocent customers.

    REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), Illinois: The American people, the EPA and their counterparts around the world have been defrauded by Volkswagen.


    Michael Horn, the automaker's top U.S. executive, answered with a corporate meas culpa.

    MICHAEL HORN, CEO, Volkswagen Group of America: On behalf of our company, my colleagues in Germany and me personally, I would like to offer a sincere apology for Volkswagen's use of a software program that served to defeat the regular emissions testing regime.


    Horn also said he believes there was never a corporate decision to cheat.


    To my best knowledge today, the corporation in no board meeting or no supervisory board meeting has authorized this, that this was a couple of software engineers who put this in for whatever reasons.


    But Republican Chris Collins of New York was having none of that.

    REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), New York: V.W.'s trying to get the United States of America to believe these are a couple of rogue engineers? I categorically reject that. Either your entire organization is incompetent when it comes to trying to come up with intellectual property — and I don't believe that for a second — or they are complicit at the highest levels in a massive cover-up that continues today.


    Horn was also challenged over V.W.'s plans to fix the estimated 500,000 affected vehicles in the U.S. He suggested it could take one to two years, and said the fixes might affect engine performance, but not fuel efficiency.

    New York Democrat Paul Tonko complained, that's cold comfort to V.W. owners.

    REP. PAUL TONKO (D), New York: Consumers, including people in my district, purchased a car believing it would be a clean, environmentally friendly choice. Worse still, the resale value on these vehicles, which I'm sure was a selling point, has certainly been destroyed.


    For now, Volkswagen has stopped selling the affected models and has withdrawn applications to certify that the company's 2016 versions meet U.S. standards.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm William Brangham.


    The Volkswagen CEO also said the automaker will compensate U.S. dealers for any losses they incur.

    Russia fired more cruise missiles into Syria today, and said they hit Islamic State targets. The Russian military released new video of the strikes, and it denied U.S. reports that several missiles crashed in Iran.

    Meanwhile, in Brussels, at a NATO meeting, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter complained Moscow is acting recklessly, in a variety of ways.

  • ASHTON CARTER, U.S. Defense Secretary:

    They have shot cruise missiles from a ship in the Caspian Sea without warning. They have come within just a few miles of one of our unmanned aerial vehicles. They have initiated a joint ground offensive with the Syrian regime, shattering the facade that they are there to fight ISIL.


    At the NATO meeting, Turkey called Russia's buildup in Syria unacceptable, and NATO agreed to send troops to defend Turkey if asked.

    The European Union moved today toward a tougher approach to its migrant crisis. E.U. interior ministers agreed on stepped-up deportations of those who don't quality for asylum. They also discussed creating a new force to police Europe's external borders. We will hear how Sweden is coping with the influx later in the program.

    The American commander in Afghanistan has told Congress that most Taliban militants are open to making peace with the Afghan government.

    Army General John Campbell offered that assessment today at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. Current plans call for withdrawing all but about 1,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by year's end. Campbell warned that that would limit any capability to train Afghan forces, but he declined to say that he — what he's recommending to the president.

    The stampede at last month's Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca may have killed far more people than Saudi Arabia has acknowledged. The Associated Press reported today that data from 18 countries shows more than 1,360 dead. The Saudis have maintained the official toll is 769.

    The head of soccer's international governing body will face a 90-day suspension. FIFA imposed that penalty today on longtime president Sepp Blatter. He is at the center of a corruption probe and had already planned to step down next February. Michel Platini, who is the head of European soccer's governing group, was also suspended.

    An investigative journalist and author from Belarus has won this year's Nobel Prize for Literature. Svetlana Alexievich was honored for her portrayal of life in the former Soviet Union, including World War II, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Alexievich learned of her selection today in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

    SVETLANA ALEXIEVICH, Winner, Nobel Prize in Literature (through interpreter): This is not only a prize for me, but a prize I think as a whole for our culture, for our small country, which, all the time, throughout its history and now as well has been between some millstones. It always has been pressed from all sides.


    Alexievich is only the 14th woman to win the literature award since 1901.

    Wall Street kept up its weeklong advance today, as oil prices rose again. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 138 points to close at 17050. The Nasdaq rose 19 points, and the S&P 500 added 17.

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