United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists

United States of Jihad jacketIn his latest book, United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists (Crown 2016; $28), CNN’s national security analyst Peter Bergen discusses the factors leading to the radicalization of U.S. citizens, how social media plays a big part in recruitment and the increase in the number of women joining terrorist groups. His book, made into documentary, aired on HBO a few weeks ago.

Compiling a database of people in the U.S. who were either born or grew up here to help determine how they became radicalized, Bergen describes them as being, for the most part, seemingly ordinary. Of the 330 people charged with jihadi terrorism in this country since 9/11, 80% were American citizens or permanent residents. The majority were also well educated and about one-third were married; their average age 29. Almost 20% are women.

So what happens? Many radical Islamists become militant not only for religious or political reasons says Bergen, but also for the sense of belonging which comes from being part of a group and the need to be seen as “somebody.”

Bergen notes interesting parallels in such cases as that of Major Nidal Hasan, an army psychiatrist who opened fire at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 of his peers and injuring 30 more.  Educated and successful in the military, it’s hard to decipher what led him to become a terrorist while his first cousin, Nader Hasan, who was raised in the same neighborhood, is a well-established attorney in Northern Virginia.

The ease of recruitment using modern technology helps recruit from a younger group of people and crosses gender lines.

“Those drawn to ISIS skew younger,” he says adding that more females than in previous generations are becoming militant. Indeed, one in five is a teenage with the youngest being a 15-year-old girl.

But despite the alarm that acts of terrorism on American soil bring about, Bergen says that statistically they’re not necessarily a significant threat.

Peter Bergen - Photo © CNN-Jeremy Freeman“In any given year, you’re somewhere between 3,000 or 5,000 times more likely to be killed by a fellow American with a gun than you are to be killed in the United States by a jihadi terrorist inspired by the ideology of Osama bin Laden,” he says.


What: Peter Bergen talk and book signing

When: 5:30–7:15 pm, Wednesday, March, 16

Where: Union League Club, 65 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL

Cost: Members $10; Nonmembers $20

FYI: 773-2 93-2665; bookcellarinc.com








Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the US Film Industry

When California was still all about oranges, Chicago ruled when it came to movies—a brief but glorious decade where local girl Gloria Swanson earned money as an extra to pay for pickles (of all things) before moving on to stardom, becoming Joe Kennedy’s mistress and then later the fading actress in the classic Sunset Boulevard. Charlie Chaplin came to town to film aFlickering Empire - Cover.indds did child star Jackie Coogan and heart throb Francis X. Bushman who lost his adoring fan base when it turned out not only was he married with five children but he was also having an affair with his co-star in the The Plum Tree which was filmed, in part on Miller Beach.

It was during these early years of the 19th century when two Chicago power house studios, Essanay and Selig Polyscope, churned out thousands of serials and silent movies.

“Almost 99% of those movies are gone now,” says Adam Selzer, who with Michael Glover Smith, wrote Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the US Film Industry (Wallflower 2015; $25). “But between 1907 and 1917, Chicago was the place to make movies.”

Not all is lost. Remnants of that time remain including the studios themselves. Essanay is part of the St. Augustine College campus and the Selig Polyscope Company, its S encased in a diamond still above the entranceway, is now condominiums.

And every once in a while, a gem reappears including the 1916 film Sherlock Holmes produced by Essanay Studios which had disappeared for decades only to be found a year or so ago in a French film archive.

“We’re gong to be hosting a screening of the film a century after it was first made at the old Essanay Studio,” says Selzer. For more about the event which is the same date as their book signing at the Chicago Public Library, visit Selzer’s Website, mysteriouschicago.com. Tickets can be purchased through eventbrite.com and be sure to dress in your best Sherlockian attire.

There are of course anecdotes as well.

“When you drive through the entrance to St. Augustine,” says Selzer, “you can see a cemetery across the way. One day George Spoor, the owner of Essanay, saw actor Ben Turpin walking over to the cemetery carrying flowers. Spoor said Ben, I think that’s a great thing to do, we should always take the flowers we used in the movies to the cemetery. And Ben said ‘sure boss, that’s where I get them.’”

Likening their research to a treasure hunt, albeit a time consuming one, the two not only compiled a trove of information on those early days by reading microfilm editions of now defunct Chicago newspapers at the Harold Washington Library and locating relatives of the Selig family many of whom live in and around Chicago and were willing to share their extensive scrapbook collections. The two also perused the Website, mediahistoryproject.org, a digitized collections of classic media periodicals.

“I like to say that I’m a Chicago historian who knows a bit about films,” says Selzer who also operates ghost tours in the city and has written other books about Chicago. “While Mike is a film historian who knows a bit about Chicago.”

What made the Windy City so attractive?

According to Selzer, it was far enough west to stay under Thomas Edison’s radar.

“Edison had—or claimed he had—patents on the equipment and if film makers didn’t pay royalties, he’d send his goon squad to wreck the equipment,” says Selzer. “The studios didn’t stay here for long, a lot of people say it was because of the cold weather but they may have moved further west to get even further from Edison. But I think the the movies got to so big they needed their own town.”


What: Book signing and chat with Adam Selzer and Michael Glover Smith

When: 3:30pm, Saturday, March 12

Where: Bezanian Branch Chicago Public Library, 1226 W. Ainslie Street, Chicago IL

Cost: Free

FYI: 312-747-4300; chipublib.org

Martha Stewart Weddings: Ideas and Inspirations

When it comes to all things nuptials, it’s hard to imagine anyone who knows more than Darcy Miller Nussbaum, Editorial Director of Martha Stewart Weddings, a quarterly magazine which reaches more than a million readers and, as anyone who has ever picked on up knows—could substitute for weights at the gym. Immersed in weddings since first taking a jobWD110610_EG5U5233-2823854778-O 2 as editorial assistant at the magazine in 1992 after just graduating college, Nussbaum has also written “New York Times” syndicated column “Weddings” and even her own wedding, in 2001, to attorney Jacob Andrew Nussbaum who grew up in the Chicago area, was written up in the Times, a feat some compare as akin to scoring in the 99th percentile on the SAT.  In case you want to know, it was a formal New York City wedding and Nussbaum helped design the hand-sewn gown by Vera Wang.

So those considering tying the knot might consider attending “Martha Stewart’s Wedding Party,” a luxury bridal event at the Ritz Carlton in Chicago tied to the release of Martha Stewart Weddings: Ideas and Inspirations by Martha Stewart Living Magazine, Editors of Martha Stewart Weddings (Clarkson Potter 20165; $60). Lushly illustrated with 300 full color photographs, Martha Stewart Weddings contains advice and ideas not only from Nussbaum but also other experts like event designer David Stark, pastry chef Wendy Kromer and caterer Peter Callahan. This team of experts has helped in producing a comprehensive guide for creating individualized one-of-a-kind weddings. It also takes readers into the world of a Martha Stewart wedding, which covers every detail from developing a unified theme and color palette, choosing a dress and suit, registering for gifts, hiring vendors, selecting the menu, choosing the flowers and cake and even arranging a sweet send-off for the evening.

“I will bColor Palette: Winter 2016e discussing ideas and advice for planning your wedding with Jenny Bernheim, Margo and Me blogger and Alaina Kaczmarski, co-founder of The Everygirl,” says Nussbaum. “We’ll be talking about new tips, tricks and methods for planning, for example: using social media to find local florists, venues and inspiration.”

Nussbaum, who’ll be at the event all day, says they look forward to taking questions during the designated question and answer time during the talk and she’ll also be at the event for the day.

With so many options, Nussbaum says it’s important that every bride knows their own vision.

“The best weddings are the ones that reflect a couple’s personal taste. I always suggest starting with answering my 20 questions, which are featured in our newest book, Martha Stewart Weddings: Ideas and Inspiration,” says Nussbaum noting they’re also available at marthastewartweddings.com/326264/20-questions-help-design-your-big-day

Nussbaum describes the event which includes appetizers by several of the city’s premiere restaurants such as Wildfire and the Girl and the Goat and over 100 vendors, as inspirational.

“Stay organized through the whole process, make and keep to your timeline, and always remember to keep it all in perspective,” says Nussbaum about the process.Mbridal-bouquet-nosegay-flowers-03-d111996

Nussbaum’s ability to create the perfect wedding has made her a celebrity as well—just Google her name and you find a plethora of articles about her personal life (love the Upper East side apartment, Darcy). She says she loves sharing her tips and tricks with audiences nationwide, through appearances on The Martha Stewart Show, NBC’s TODAY, other news programs and cable appearances on the Style Network and E! weddings specials. Besides that, Nussbaum is a dedicated scrap booker and wrote and illustrated the book Our Wedding Scrapbook.  Her own wedding scrapbook weighed 50 pounds.

“I’ve thought a lot about how to make your big day,” Nussbaum writes. “My mantra is make it personal.”

To Nussbaum, making it personal drills down to such small but telling personal touches as displaying a favorite candy in the theme color.

“DIY weddings are trending,” says Nussbaum. “Tech Trends include 3D sugar wedding cake decorating, light projections on cakes, people are putting GoPro’s in their bouquets to capture every moment and periscope weddings live so everyone can watch. General trends are blush, creams and neutrals. Metallics are trending are desserts other than wedding cakes.”


What: Darcy Miller Nussbaum presents “Martha Stewart’s Wedding Party”

When: Sunday, March 6, 2016 – 11:00am to 3:00pm

Where: The Ritz-Carlton, 160 E Pearson, Chicago, IL

Cost: $40 and up

FYI: The Book Stall; (773) 293-2665; bookcellarinc.com; facebook.com/weddingpartychicago/




Laura Kastner: Getting to Calm: Cool-Headed Strategies for Parenting Tweens + Teens

Been there, done that and hate it.

A serious conversation with our child suddenly devolves into a fight worthy of an elementary school yard. Instead of being able to settle the issue, we instead find ourselves upset and angry and our children feeling the same.

That’s not the way to work things out. But how do we get back on track?

Laura Kastner, PhD, author of GKastner picture (1)etting To Calm and Wise Minded Parenting: 7 Essentials for Raising Successful Tweens + Teens, suggests that first we need to get control of our own feelings.

“In my first book, Getting to Calm, I talk about emotional regulation,” says Kastner, a clinical psychologist and clinical professor in both the psychology department and the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington. “When our kids push our buttons, we end up with what’s called emotional flooding. It’s where we have neurons fire in the emotional part of our brains. Our heart rate jumps, our thinking ability gets distorte
d and often we’re only thinking in very simple black and white terms—like I’m good; you’re bad. Unfortunately, our kids are probably at the same point and nothing is going to get resolved while you’re both in that state.”

What to do?WMP_cover_013113_REVISED2

It’s all about gaining emotional regulation. First calm yourself down–unless your heart beat slows you can’t get into your thinking brain to evaluate how to handle the situation—take deep breaths, step out of the room for a moment or focus on serene thoughts. In other words do whatever it takes to get your feelings under control and return to a rational state of mind.

“Once you get to calm, then you can decide how to handle the problem whether it’s having just discovered marijuana in your kid’s sock or they’ve been drinking and can’t understand why you’re so upset,” says Kastner, noting that one of her favorite mantras for getting control is repeating “the only person you can control is yourself. You want to connect before you correct, if it’s not going well, back off.”

But getting to calm doesn’t make the original issue go away. Now a parent has to use their cognitive skills to be wise minded, to know their values and what they believe is right.

Just as importantly, no matter the behavior, Kastner says we need to listen with empathy and create a connection by understanding your child’s emotions.

“Maybe they want to go to an overnight party but you’ve just learned no adults will be there,” she says.  “Say something like I know you really want to go to that party, but no you can’t. Another of my mantras is you might be right but is that effective? If you are sympathetic and kind, there’s a higher likelihood that it will work than if you become a tyrant and just say no. Teenagers have their own moral reasoning and can really believe that it’s okay for them to do things they shouldn’t.”

When a teenager or a child is flooding to the point where they’re having a melt down, it’s not a good time to talk, says Kastner who compares that situation to trying to reason with a drunk.

“Touch them gently, shoot some hoops, look at animal videos but don’t try to talk about the issue,” she says. “Don’t leave the room without saying you’ll be right back because that feels like abandonment. And if you’ve gotten too upset, use I statements—say I was so angry, I really regret what I said, I wish I hadn’t. Tell them you’re going to hate my jurisdiction; I get it but I’m saying no. Validation is not giving in. It just lets them know we understand.”

Sidebar: Wise-Minded Mantras

In Wise-Minded Parenting, Laura Kastner suggests repeating these mantras to yourself the next time you’re losing emotional control.

  • My teen is doing the best she can, given her age and stage.
  • Good character does not guarantee good behavior full-time.
  • My love messages really matter, even if my teen can’t resist expressing disgust or irritation.
  • My goal is to demonstrate emotional intelligence, not to control my teen’s reactions.
  • I will not cave when faced with high emotions


About Jane Simon Ammeson

Jane Simon Ammeson is a freelance writer who specializes in travel, food and personalities. She writes frequently for Northwest Indiana Times, Shore Magazine, Chicago Life Magazine, Grand Rapids Press, AAA Home & Away, Northern Indiana Lakes Magazine, Experience Curacao, Experience Rivera May, Long Weekends, and Cleveland Magazinphotoe. She also writes a weekly food column and the weekly book review column Shelf Life for the Northwest Indiana Times, has authored seven books and writes the Bindu Apps on Michigan, Indiana, Curacao and Indianapolis.

She is a member of the Indiana Foodways Alliance, a restaurant reviewer for Gayot.com and is also a James Beard Foundation judge. A member of Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), Association of Food Journalists and Midwest Travel Writers Association, Jane’s base camp is Stevensville, Michigan on the shores of Lake Michigan. She blogs for Shore magazine –www.nwitimes.com/niche/shore/blogs/will-travel-for-food and Tweets for the Herald Palladium food section @HPAmmeson . Professional profile on LinkedIn and Facebook. Follow Jane @janesimonammeson.


Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism–From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond

“The history of contemporary American conservatism is a story of disappointment and betrayal,” writes E. J. Dionne in his latest book Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism–From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond (Simon & Schuster 2016; $30).Why the Right Went Wrong Jacket Art

In a recent phone interview, Dionne, a senior fellow, Brookings Institution; columnist for The Washington Post, described how Republican presidents such as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. and George W. Bush have had to make promises they couldn’t keep, perpetuating a cycle of disillusionment that has pushed the GOP steadily rightward.

“If you want to understand where Trump came from it’s from the anger and the resentment of white blue collar workers,” says Dionne. “There is a nostalgia for the 1950s where the structure of the economy and the family was stable. But all those were underwritten by an economic value forged by the unions that allowed working class people to support their families. If you care about the family, you have to care about the underpinnings of the family. Part of my book is a plea and argument to those who are less progressive that there are economic reasons for the breakdown.”

Dionne, who describes himself as a strong supporter of unions and the way they created a thriving middle class, says that conservative leaders have made promises that simply can’t be kept.
“They promise to reduce the size of government but no Republican has been able to reduce the size of government—it was the same size at the end of Ronald Reagan’s two terms as at the beginning. They talk about deregulation but most Republicans want safe water, less air pollution and regulations that ensure safety.”

In writing his book, Dionne draws upon his more than three decades of writing political commentary as well as intensive research. As tEJ Dionne_credit Paul Morigihis election year advances, he sees many of his ideas reflected in what the candidates are espousing as they try to out-do each other on conservative views including immigration (“you’re not going to be able deport 11 million people,” he says about their promise). He also counters the right’s anti-government rhetoric.

“Medicare may be a government entitlement program but we earned it,” he says. “I think that is a proper form of conservatism—societies hold themselves together by changing when they need to, Medicare made it so that people have health care.”


What:  Author E. J. Dionne discusses “Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism–From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond”

When: Thursday, February 25, 6– 7:15 p.m.

Where: Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, lower level, Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State Street, Chicago IL

Cost: Free

FYI: (312) 747-4300




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