PBS NewsHour

U.S. warns summer’s Europe-bound Americans about terror risks

Airplanes line up at Los Angeles International Airport on June 20, 2001 in California. File photo by David McNew/via
         Getty Images

Airplanes line up at Los Angeles International Airport on June 20, 2001 in California. File photo by David McNew/via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The State Department is warning Americans visiting Europe this summer about the potential for terrorist attacks.

Tuesday’s travel alert says major sporting events, tourist sites, restaurants and shopping centers are possible targets.

France is hosting soccer’s European Championship and cycling’s Tour de France, while under an extended state of emergency. Two-and-a-half million visitors are expected in Krakow, Poland, for the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day in late July.

The department tells U.S. citizens to be vigilant in public places or when using mass transportation. They also should be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions.

The warning expires Aug. 31.

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The importance of wresting Fallujah back from the Islamic State

A member from the Iraqi anti-terrorism forces gestures as they
         advance towards Falluja, Iraq, May 28, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani - RTX2EM7V

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JOHN YANG: The Iraqi government, with United States support, stepped up the pace to retake the city of Fallujah. Iraqi military forces stormed the southern edge of the city, which has been controlled by ISIS since January 2014.

Iraqi tanks rolled down a main road leading into Fallujah, spearheading the all-out push to recapture the city. The offensive to rout ISIS militants began last week, with government forces advancing slowly to try to minimize civilian casualties. Government officials and aid groups estimate at least 50,000 people are trapped in the besieged city.

HADI AL-AMIRI, Commander, Popular Mobilization Forces (through interpreter): Our advice to our troops is to treat families gently and kindly, and to respect them. Our advice to fighters is to protect and guard public and private properties.

JOHN YANG: Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad, is one of the Islamic State’s last major strongholds in the region. ISIS has controlled it since 2014. Ramadi, farther to the west, was liberated at the end of last year. It was a major victory for Iraqi forces, but at a great cost. Much of Ramadi was leveled in the process.

Fallujah may now face a similar fate. It’s being bombarded by Iraqi forces on the ground and the U.S.-led coalition from the air. The city is no stranger to destruction. It was largely ruined back in 2004, after the U.S. invasion and subsequent battles with insurgents.

Maher Chmaytelli is the Reuters bureau chief in Baghdad.

MAHER CHMAYTELLI, Reuters: The population of Fallujah is — is a conservative population, It’s like an Islamic Sunni, conservative, has a Sunni conservative background.

Historically, let’s say, since 2003, since Saddam was toppled, Fallujah was very much like a bastion of the insurgency against first the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and later off against the Shiite-led governments that were put in place after the removal of Saddam.

JOHN YANG: Thousands have been displaced by the years of fighting, and some have been living in camps for two years. They say conditions in the city are desperate.

BAAHJET IBRAHIM, Imam from Fallujah (through interpreter): Those who are inside cannot leave and those who are outside cannot help them. I mean, there is no food at all. A sack of flour costs more than $800. And you can’t even get it. Now my relatives who are still there have paid 683 U.S. dollars for 44 pounds of rice and flour.

JOHN YANG: There have been calls for the government to open a safe corridor for the injured, elderly and children to leave.

As Islamic State forces are pressed in Fallujah, they are striking back in Baghdad. Mangled wreckage was all that was left of a suicide bomber’s car that detonated near a commercial area today, killing eight civilians and three soldiers.

MAN (through interpreter): By launching such attacks, the militants aimed to thwart our determination and resolution to go forward with our victories in Fallujah and Garma. Despite the casualties that we have suffered, we are ready to proceed with our battles and our military gains.

JOHN YANG: The targets in the Iraqi capital have been largely Shiites, and the Shiite-dominated government is feeling the heat.

MAHER CHMAYTELLI: Shia politicians have been pressuring the government to take action against Fallujah after the series of bombings that we have seen, especially over the pats two weeks. As soon as he announced the offensive on Fallujah, we have seen more or less the Shiite community rallying around him, participating in the battles.

JOHN YANG: Iraqi officials say they have to take Fallujah before moving on to Mosul, the country’s second largest city.

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Using poetry to shed light on the worst of memories, including genocide

Demonstrators attend a torch-bearing march marking the centenary
         of the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in Yerevan, Armenia April 24, 2015. Armenia marked the centenary on Friday
         of a mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks with a simple flower-laying ceremony attended by foreign leaders as Germany
         became the latest country to respond to its calls for recognition that it was genocide. Turkey denies the killing of up to
         1.5 million Armenians in what is now Turkey in 1915, at the height of World War One, constitutes genocide and relations with
         Armenia are still blighted by the dispute. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX1A6G8

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JOHN YANG: Now: how a writer is coming to terms with his family’s own traumatic past, and how his use of poetry’s distinct style helps him grapple with history.

Jeffrey Brown has our profile.

And we should warn you, viewers may find some of the images disturbing.

JEFFREY BROWN: Peter Balakian grew up amid the security and postwar economic boom of New Jersey’s suburban American life. He played football and worked as a stock boy in Manhattan. He also early on became a reader and writer of poetry.

PETER BALAKIAN, Winner, 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry: “The day comes in strips of yellow glass over trees. When I tell you the day is a poem, I’m only talking to you and only the sky is listening.”

JEFFREY BROWN: It would lead to encounters with the likes of Allen Ginsberg and over the years seven collections. The latest, “Ozone Journal,” just won the Pulitzer Prize.

But from his grandmother beginning at an early age, Balakian heard occasional hints of a darker family history set in Armenia. And he began to explore a past that remains fought over to this day, the expulsion and killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks. Many members of Balakian’s family died. Others, like his grandmother and aunts, survived after a horrific flight on foot.

Balakian would write about these events in history titled “The Burning Tigris” and in a family memoir, “Black Dog of Fate.”

PETER BALAKIAN: One of the reasons for my writing “Black Dog of Fate” was to try to make sense of growing up in a family in which a traumatic history was really repressed. It wasn’t spoken about. It was silenced.

And yet the leakages that I experienced as a kid growing up in affluent suburbia were beguiling and weird and strange, and they stayed with me.

JEFFREY BROWN: Leakages as in like little hints or stories, things you would over hear?

PETER BALAKIAN: Sure, things I would overhear, even my grandmother’s kind of weird dreams and folk tales which would drift on to me.

You pick up things and you didn’t know where to put them. They were almost deracinated. So, in adult life I came to look back at those — at those fragments and encoded messages of a traumatic history. And it really drove me, in part at least, to work on what became a memoir, a coming of age story.

JEFFREY BROWN: And how did it work with poetry? Were you discovering poetry at the same time you were sort of discovering this history?

PETER BALAKIAN: Poetry came first.

It was an immersion for me as a college student in the early 1970s. I began writing poems with a kind of passion, and I never stopped. I was working my way as a young guy in his 20s writing lyric poems. And around the mid to late 1970s, for various reasons, the news of history started percolating in me.

And I started understanding more of the big picture of my own family’s historical experience as genocide survivors. The poem in its unique form, its form of compressed language and particular kinds of probe images, I like to call them, or incisive, compressed image language, is capable of going to history and its aftermath in ways that no other literary form can.

“Who drowned waiting in the reeds of the Ararat plain? There, the sky is cochineal. There, the chapel windows open to raw umber and twisted goats. There, the obsidian glistens and the hawks eat out your eyes.”

JEFFREY BROWN: Many Armenians, including Balakian’s grandmother, fled into what is today Syria. Most were killed or starved to death along the way.

PETER BALAKIAN: As many as 450,000 Armenians died here.

JEFFREY BROWN: In 2009, just before the civil war began, Balakian joined a “60 Minutes” crew in Syria for a report on their fate.

PETER BALAKIAN: Evidence comes in many forms. It comes in photographs, it comes in texts and telegrams. And it also comes in bone.

It was extraordinary then to be there. Looking back at it now, I feel like it’s a dream. But for me, it was also exciting to be there, because there’s a very rich Armenian culture and community in Aleppo and a gorgeous church. And so all that was a kind of connecting with a diasporan culture.

And then when the war started, when the war began to just destroy all of this, I would look on, on the screens and on the TV images and the computer images with pain and disbelief that, just in the little case of Armenian cultural life there, churches that were hundreds of years old were gone. Whole communities were disbanded.

And if that was true just for the smaller Armenian population of Syria, we all knew what was happening to the broad Syrian population.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Peter Balakian, congratulations. Thank you.


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U.S. welcomes conviction of Chad’s ex-dictator

Former Chad President Hissene Habre makes declarations to media as he leaves a court in Dakar, Senegal on Nov. 25, 2005.
         Photo by Aliou Mbaye/Reuters

Former Chad President Hissene Habre makes declarations to media as he leaves a court in Dakar, Senegal on Nov. 25, 2005. Photo by Aliou Mbaye/Reuters

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has welcomed the conviction of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Kerry says Habre’s conviction is “a landmark in the global fight against impunity for atrocities.”

Habre was sentenced to life imprisonment for being responsible for thousands of deaths and tortures in prisons during his rule from 1982 to 1990. A 1992 Chadian truth commission accused Habre’s government of systematic torture, saying 40,000 people died during his rule.

Kerry says the case provides an opportunity for the United States to reflect on and learn from its connection with past events in Chad.

He says that without the persistence of Habre’s accusers and their demand for justice, the former dictator might never have faced a court of law.

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BBC News

US warns of Europe terror threat

The US warns that the Euro 2016 football championship being held in France next month could be a target of militant attacks.

Migrant 'document forgers' arrested

Police in Greece and the Czech Republic arrest more than 20 people suspected of producing forged passports and visas for migrants trying to enter Europe.

Mother harassed over gorilla death

The mother of a child who fell into a gorilla enclosure in a US zoo is trolled on social media.

IS hits back as army moves into Falluja

Militants from the so-called Islamic State launch a dawn counter-attack as Iraqi government troops push into the city of Falluja.