Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Future of al-Qaida without bin Laden

By James J.F. Forest

The world is without doubt a safer place now that Osama bin Laden is dead. He personified terrorism; he promoted an ideology that called for killing and massive destruction in order to achieve political change through radicalized Islam. He is responsible for the murder of thousands of people around the world. His death is a major symbolic, tactical and emotional victory for the civilized world. Perhaps the largest impact right now is a sense of closure for the thousands of families who lost loved ones in those attacks on 9/11, as well as the families of victims of the USS Cole bombing, the 1998 Embassy bombings, and other attacks that bin Laden is responsible for.

But at the same time, amid the feelings of relief (and the demand from some that the administration release grisly photos of bin Laden’s corpse), I think it is also safe to say that many Americans, along with many Pakistanis and Europeans, are right now holding their breath, waiting to see what happens next. We are all anxious about where and when any possible retaliation attacks might take place. With that in mind, it is important to take a hard look at what will likely be the short-term future of al-Qaida.

Yes, unfortunately, al-Qaida does have a future despite the elimination of a central figure like bin Laden. After all, al-Qaida is not really a group; it’s more of a movement with a central base of inspiration and support, but with affiliate groups in various parts of the world, and individuals who are inspired to carry out violent acts based on al-Qaida’s ideology. They have embraced what scholars call a “leaderless resistance” model of terrorism, in which local affiliates and individuals are encouraged and guided to raise their own funds, acquire their own weapons, choose targets and carry out their own attacks in support of al Qaida’s ideology and strategic objectives.

Al-Qaida’s ideology is their center of gravity, a collection of beliefs and strategic guidance that can be summarized in just four words: think globally, act locally. Myriad propaganda videos describe the world in a dark “us versus them” narrative in which the Muslim world is being systematically attacked by the international community. Building on this narrative, al-Qaida’s central message encourages individuals to “Think about how much better your lives would be if a global Islamic caliphate ruled mankind; now, do something to help bring this utopian vision closer to reality.” The overall goal is to inspire individuals, and in some cases locally established terrorist or insurgent groups, to consider themselves part of a global movement, and then carry out attacks locally in the name of that movement. So from this perspective, al-Qaida is still a very significant threat despite the death of bin Laden. As long as the ideology resonates among some communities, and is able to influence and inspire violent acts on behalf of that ideology, al-Qaida will live on.

James J.F. Forest, Ph.D. is an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and contemporary security studies. He is also a senior fellow with the Joint Special Operations University, where he holds a TS/SCI security clearance with the U.S. Department of Defense and conducts research (both classified and unclassified) on insurgencies, emerging terrorist threats for the U.S. Special Forces community.

Dr. Forest is the former Director of Terrorism Studies at the United States Military Academy. During his tenure at West Point (2001-2010) he taught courses on international relations, terrorism, counterterrorism, information warfare, comparative politics and sub-Saharan Africa. He also directed a series of research initiatives and education programs for the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, covering topics such as terrorist recruitment, training, and organizational knowledge transfer. Dr. Forest was selected by the Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy as one of “America’s most esteemed terrorism and national security experts” and participated in their annual Terrorism Index studies 2006 thru 2010. He is the author of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Targets and The Making of a Terrorist: Recruitment, Training, and Root Causes (Praeger).

Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is observed in the United States on the last Monday in May to honor the nation’s war dead. The holiday emerged in the wake of the Civil War as “Decoration Day,” a name that endured well into the twentieth century and that described the most common commemorative rite, a sorrowful strewing of freshly-cut flowers on the graves of soldiers who had fallen in the Civil War. The history of Memorial Day is as complicated, surprising, and paradoxical as the story of any public holiday on the American calendar. Its origins are ambiguous and its transformation dramatic, as it developed from a somber and melancholy fĂȘte into a light day of leisure and pleasure, the unofficial openingday of summer. Memorial Day, focused largely on the mortal, patriotic service of men, has been a holiday in which women played a central role, and yet it was hardly feminist and remained profoundly conservative. Although a day originally designed to heighten memory, it has become for most Americans an occasion of blissful, escapist amusement or material consumption. Few Americans today know the origins or original purpose of Memorial Day.

- Excerpt from Encyclopedia of American Holidays and National Days by Len Travers

Additional Resources

A Political, Social, and Military History, Second Edition
By Spencer C. Tucker, Editor

Medal of Honor Recipients from the Civil War to Afghanistan
By James H. Willbanks, Editor

A Chronology, 1775 to the Present
By John C. Fredriksen


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Egyptian Pyramids Discovered with Infra-red Satellites

Infra-red satellites have spotted 17 lost Egyptian pyramids and more than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements. To read the full BBC article, click here. The find is credited to US Egyptologist Dr. Sarah Parcak from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Read below for an excerpt from Dr. Parcak's contributing piece on Satellite Archaeology on the World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras database.

Satellite Archaeology

Satellite archaeology is an exciting new field in which archaeologists are using cutting edge spatial technologies to detect many new archaeological features across the globe. Although the term "remote sensing" can mean anything that allows one to see things remotely (such as a camera), in archaeology, it refers to how archaeologists use satellites and aerial photographs to view ancient features otherwise invisible to the naked eye. Remote sensing in general is used in most of the sciences, including geology, physics, environmental studies/biology, and polar studies, to view long and short-term landscape changes. The same science can be applied to not only detect archaeological features of interest, but can examine modern issues such as population expansion and urbanization, both of which affect archaeological site preservation.

Archaeologists have utilized remote sensing since the early 1900s, when they viewed ancient features such as Stonehenge from balloons. Early World War I aerial photography allowed amateur archaeologists to record archaeological sites in the Middle East, which continued in World War II in Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Far East. The 1970s saw the first uses of satellite remote sensing for archaeology with the launch of the Landsat satellite by NASA. Archaeologists quickly grasped the potential of this technology for detecting long-lost sites in the Americas, and use of satellites only increased in the 1980s and 1990s on every continent with known archaeological material. With the launch of Google Earth, nearly every archaeological project in the world now utilizes some form of remote sensing for project planning, mapping, and survey.


Many archaeological projects have made use of remote sensing technology to not only detect sites, but to reconstruct past landscapes, and to answer questions about past social, political, economic, and environmental changes. One archaeological project by the author has detected hundreds of previously unknown ancient sites across Egypt. This project used a combination of high resolution and NASA satellite imagery in places that archaeologists had not surveyed in nearly 200 years. On ground survey allowed the detection of 132 "new" ancient sites, including a major complex dating to the time of the pyramids and a large desert trading post. Based on this research, there are likely thousands of ancient sites left to find in Egypt. Another project has used NASA satellite data in Guatemala and Belize to detect long-lost Maya settlements. The satellite data allowed the scientists to see color changes in rainforest trees too subtle to be seen by the human eye alone, which indicated long-covered over limestone monuments. On Easter Island, very high-resolution satellite data has allowed archaeologists to detect the roads used to transport the ancient Moai, the traditional name for the large ceremonial stone heads. [...] Many additional projects exist that use satellite technology, and many more will be developed as the technology improves.

Google Earth allows anyone to use remote sensing for archaeological site detection. For the first time, archaeologists are working together with the general public to investigate features found using satellite data. For example, archaeological features found in fields in France by members of the public turned out to be Roman-period villas. Unlike most satellite imagery, Google Earth is free, although it does not permit advanced remote sensing analysis. Satellite remote sensing analysis can take years of training to become proficient, and requires access to memory-intensive computers. It is a combination of both approaches that can be most useful in the detection of archaeological sites. One of the key issues archaeologists face in the 21st century is how to use advanced technology to protect and preserve the past for future generations, especially in the face of archaeological site looting. With ongoing conflicts in some of the richest archaeological landscapes in the world, it may be many years before excavations can resume in places like Iraq or Afghanistan. Archaeologists can use high-resolution imagery to detect previously unknown ancient sites, as well as protect known sites by monitoring them regularly for site looting. As a whole, satellite remote sensing has much to contribute to the field of archaeology. It is not a tool to be used on its own, but combined with ground survey and excavation, will significantly advance the field of archaeology over the next 25 years.

Parcak, Sarah. "Satellite Archaeology: Satellite Archaeology." World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras. ABC-CLIO, 2011. Web. 25 May 2011. 


World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras
This database covers early human history around the globe—from prehistoric times to the beginnings of the Renaissance. Click here for a free trial.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Today in History: The First Academy Awards Debut

And the Oscar goes to . . . The Academy Awards, which is universally nicknamed the Oscars, began its tradition of showcasing the best of the best in the film industry in 1928. On the night of May 16, 1929, hosted by Douglas Fairbanks (president of the Academy) in the Blossom Room at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, roughly 270 guests sat down to dine at a lush banquet with fellow film industry moguls. Dancing and conversation ensued, but soon the orchestra was silenced as MGM Chief Louis B. Mayer decided it was time to get down to business. The Academy Awards did not start out with the glitz and glamour to which we have grown accustomed. The brainchild of Mayer, the banquet, the awards ceremony, and the Academy were meant to be more bottom line than a glamorous event. Mayer had hoped to unite the power players of the film industry by pushing out the labor unions. When that idea failed, it was decided that the Academy would serve as its own censor, as it was the fourth-largest industry in America. As movies became more risque´, the industry realized it needed a touch of class and a better relationship with the public. A night of glamour with a golden statue given to the best was just what the industry needed.

The awards were first printed on a paper scroll and then cast in gold. The statuette universally known as Oscar was designed by MGM’s art director Cedric Gibbons and created by sculptor George Stanley. At first the award was sketched as a knight holding a double-edged sword standing on a reel of film with five holes in the base. These five roles represented the industry’s original branches: producers, writers, directors, actors, and technicians. The statuette and the base have since been streamlined, but as cast the statue remains 92.5 percent tin and 7.5 percent copper with a gold-plated exterior. The Oscar statuette is thirteen-and-a-half inches tall and weighs about eight-and-a-half pounds. Although it is unclear how Oscar got his name, the award has come to be called the Nobel Prize of motion pictures.

The awards themselves were originally presented in 12 categories, but have continually grown to encompass the new and innovative ideas and inventions of the film industry. At the first ceremony there was little suspense because the award winners knew they had won three months before the banquet convened. During the second year, however, all of that changed when the results were kept a secret, adding to the allure and mystery surrounding the ceremony.

In subsequent years, the winner’s list was handed out to the media so it could be in print the next morning, until a newspaper published the names of the winners in the evening post before the awards ceremony was actually broadcast. This led the Academy to adopt the sealed-envelope system in 1941; the system is still used today.

By the time the second awards dinner was held in 1930, enthusiasm for the star-studded event was so great that a Los Angeles radio station produced an hourlong live broadcast of the evening. The ceremony has been broadcast ever since, via radio between 1930 and 1952, and then via television from 1953 forward. Broadcast in color since 1966 and internationally since 1969, the Academy Awards ceremony is now beamed to over 200 countries, dazzling hundreds of millions of movie fan across the globe. For many film enthusiasts, the Academy Awards ceremony is the highlight of their cinematic year. Although the broadcast itself often drags, the opportunity to view the parade of stars moving across the red carpet in their designer outfits and “crown jewels” and to exult and bemoan the Academy’s choices for the best of the best has made the Awards into a cultural phenomenon.


The above excerpt is a sneak peek from the forthcoming
Movies in American History: An Encyclopedia
Philip C. DiMare, Editor
Available June 2011

This provocative three-volume encyclopedia is a valuable resource for readers seeking an understanding of how movies have both reflected and helped engender America's political, economic, and social history.


Additional Resources

Pop Culture Universe: Icons Idols Ideas (PCU) is an irresistible and authoritative digital database on popular culture in America and the world, both past and present—in a package as dynamic as the topic it covers.

Mark Browning

This is the first full-length study devoted to the films of Wes Anderson, one of the most distinctive filmmakers working today.


Cooking with the Movies: Meals on Reels
Anthony F. Chiffolo and Rayner W. Hesse, Jr.

Cooking with the Movies enables readers to recreate the fabulous meals depicted in 14 all-time favorite "food" films.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Storytelling with Dianne de Las Casas

Why Storytelling Is a Vital Art Form

Storytelling engages the listener in whole brain activity. Both the logical and creative sides of the mind are utilized when listening to a story. In addition, storytelling does the following:

• Encourages appreciation of language and literature
• Demonstrates values
• Promotes literacy
• Teaches communication and social skills
• Celebrates cultural diversity
• Preserves history
• Inspires creativity
• Engages the imagination

Through the oral tradition, we preserve the past and help shape the future.

How to Shape Stories

Shaping stories for telling and retelling follow three basic principles:
  1. Build the story around a good plot.
  2. Create characters that audiences will care about.
  3. Good dialogue moves the story along.
Crafting the tellable story is an art. Written stories often need to be recrafted because the language is not suited to the oral tradition. What looks good on paper does not necessarily sound good to the listening audience. When telling a story orally, many dialogue introductions, such as “He said” and “She said” may be dropped because the teller is conveying that through body language and vocal characterization. 

Storytelling is often less formal than written language, even conversational in style. There are, of course, times when a more formal presentation of a story is appropriate, such as with literary stories or period pieces. Individual stories will differ. A “Brer Rabbit” tale will engage audiences with the loose, conversational style of the South, while the tale of “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allen Poe will need to retain its archaic language and structure.

Learning Stories

To learn a story, you must first live with the story. If you are learning a story from a printed version, read and reread the story several times. If you are crafting an original tale or a story from an oral source, it helps to write down the outline of the story line.

The story should become a part of you so that when you open your mouth to tell the story, the words magically fall from your lips. Kendall Haven, a renowned storyteller and author, says, “There are two parts to the word storytelling: ‘story’ and ‘telling.’ Beginning tellers often focus just on the telling part and forget to spend enough time understanding and learning the story so well that they could tell it naturally as if it had
really happened to them.”

Many beginning tellers make the mistake of trying to memorize a story word for word. This creates a problem when you are in the middle of telling the story and you struggle to remember the exact words. When this happens, you end up losing your place entirely, forgetting the story. There are several ways to learn a story without memorizing it. Storytellers of national reputation build repertoires of hundreds of stories by
practicing one or more of the following techniques.

Memorize Your Opening Line
Without memorizing the entire story, make the opening line significant and remember it.
Outline the Story
Write down the bare bones of the story from beginning to end.
Create a Storyboard
If you are a visual learner, draw your stories out, scene by scene, like a cartoon. A great example of a storyboard can be found at the Eduplace.com website.
Visualize the Story
Like a director directing a play, you are the director of the theater of your mind. Visualize how the story takes place in your imagination. Use words that describe what you are seeing.
Type the Story
If you are a visual/tactile learner, you may enjoy learning stories by absorbing them and then retyping them.
Listen to the Story
If you are an aural learner, record the story onto a voice recorder and listen to it. Many of today’s cell phones are even equipped with voice recorders that can then be synced to your computer! Take advantage of technology.
Fill in the Details
After you have learned the bones of your story, fill in the details using the visual pictures that you have created in your mind.
Memorize Repeating Refrains
With audience participation, there is often a repeating refrain. These lines should be memorized so that you can deliver them consistently, fulfilling the audience’s expectations.
Memorize Your Last Line
To give dramatic punch to your story, create a significant ending line that ties the pieces of your story together.
Keep Good Source Notes
It is always a good idea to keep track of the sources from where your stories originated. Sometimes, a storyteller needs to access their research to fill in story details or add participation elements to the tale.

If you are telling a traditional folktale, you may want to incorporate a traditional folktale beginning and ending. A great list of folktale openings and closings can be found in Tim and Leanne Jennings’s “Folktale Openings and Closings” at http://www.folktale.net.


Excerpted from "Chapter 1: How to Tell A Story" from 
By award-winning storyteller Dianne de Las Casas

This book makes the perfect addition to teachers' and librarians' story time selections, containing 25 educational and entertaining tales from around the world as well as proven storytelling techniques.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Our National Civics Report Card

Results are in from the Department of Education, and the news isn't quite as rosy as we'd all like. Data collected from the 2010 NAEP civics assessment suggest a significant decline in civics achievement among the high school seniors who represent our country's newest voters. Between 2006 and 2010, those demonstrating proficiency in civics dropped by three percentage points to 24%. Results suggest that six in ten of our new voters won't know what rights they're invoking when they "plead the Fifth," while seven can't name two functions political parties play in our democracy. And at a time where the United States is deeply involved on three fronts—in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya—seven in ten high school seniors can't name two pieces of information they'd need to take under consideration when making a decision on whether to take military action in a foreign country!

Rather than wallow in our defeat and nervously watch as each new crop of underprepared voters heads to the ballot box, these results should serve as a catalyst for all of us committed to civic education to redouble our efforts and reverse a troubling trend. Like good teachers, as editors, we see the key to success as demonstrating each lesson's relevance, as doing more than just presenting facts to be memorized by rote. We strive to engage students' interest by contextualizing the basic facts in pressing contemporary debates and by using current events as a springboard to understanding the fundamental principles of government. (Honestly, who wouldn't yawn at the mention of the Commerce Clause, that is, until you look at it through the lens of the national debate over health care reform?)

-David Paige, Managing Editor, American Government and Issues


Additional Resources

ABC-CLIO's American Government is the winner of the 2011 Best Educational Software Award in the Social Studies. This database explains the foundations of our government, connects these concepts to the issues of the day, and examines the strengths and weaknesses of the political and economic systems of the United States by comparing them to those of other countries.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

News Flash: The Death of Bin Laden. A Landmark Victory in the War on Terror

On May 1, 2011, U.S. president Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden, the leader of the international terrorist organization Al Qaeda, had been killed in Pakistan during a U.S. special forces operation. In his speech announcing the operation, Obama reiterated that the United States is at war with terrorism, not Islam; the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) responded to the announcement of bin Laden's death with support. But what's next for The Global War on Terror and for the U.S. military presence in the Middle East? Read on for more resources to help shed light on these important issues.

Read the new feature story: "U.S. Special Forces Kill Osama bin Laden" on ABC-CLIO's World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society; American History; and World History: Modern online databases. If you are not a current subscriber, sign up here for your free 60-day trial.

A new commentary from American Forces Press Service on bin Laden's death has been added to this comprehensive database covering terrorism, homeland security, and strategy. If you are not a current subscriber, sign up here for your free 60-day trial.

Edward F. Mickolus and Susan L. Simmons

This five-volume set provides an encyclopedic compilation of terrorist biographies that focus on specific criminal events and their outcomes, and includes detailed information regarding each individual's terrorist activities.

Thomas R. Mockaitis
This concise biography of the world's most notorious terrorist tells the fascinating story of the evolution of a wealthy businessman's son to the 9/11 mastermind who declared war on America.

Spencer C. Tucker, Editor

This 5-volume study of U.S. involvement in the modern Middle East carefully weighs the interplay of cultural, religious, diplomatic, international, and military events in one of the world's most troubled regions.


The 9/11 Encyclopedia: Second Edition
ABC-CLIO, 2011
Stephen E. Atkins, Editor

9-11 and the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: A Chronology and Reference Guide
ABC-CLIO, 2011
Tom Lansford