by Anna Erelle, Erin Potter
On Facebook, "Mélodie"…more
On Facebook, "Mélodie"—a twenty-year-old convert to Islam living with her mother and sister in Toulouse—meets Bilel, a French-born, high-ranking militant for the Islamic State in Syria. Within days, Bilel falls in love with Mélodie, and Skypes her repeatedly, urging her to come to Syria, marry him, and do jihad.
But "Mélodie" is actually Anna Erelle, a Paris-based journalist investigating the recruitment channels of the Islamic State, whose digital propaganda constitutes one of its most formidable and frightening weapons, successfully mobilizing increasing numbers of young Europeans. In this mesmerizing true story, Erelle chronicles her intense monthlong relationship with Bilel—who turns out to be none other than the right-hand man of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of ISIS. Impatient for Mélodie to join him, Bilel tells her that, according to an imam he has consulted, they are already all but married, and will be officially when she arrives in Syria. As she embarks on the final, most perilous stage of her investigation, Mélodie leaves for Amsterdam to begin her journey to the Middle East. But things go terribly wrong.
A gripping and often harrowing inquiry into the factors that motivate young people to join extremist causes, In the Skin of a Jihadist is a page-turner that helps us better understand the appeal of extremism. [close]
by Martha Elliott
Michael Ross was a serial killer who raped and murdered…more
Michael Ross was a serial killer who raped and murdered eight young women between 1981 and 1984, and several years ago the state of Connecticut put him to death. His crimes were horrific, and he paid the ultimate price for them.
When journalist Martha Elliott first heard of Ross, she learned what the world knew of him— that he had been a master at hiding in plain sight. Elliott, a staunch critic of the death penalty, was drawn to the case when the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned Ross’s six death sentences. Rather than fight for his life, Ross requested that he be executed because he didn’t want the families of his victims to suffer through a new trial. Elliott was intrigued and sought an interview. The two began a weekly conversation—that developed into an odd form of friendship—that lasted over a decade, until Ross’s last moments on earth.
Over the course of his twenty years in prison, Ross had come to embrace faith for the first time in his life. He had also undergone extensive medical treatment. The Michael Ross whom Elliott knew seemed to be a different man from the monster who was capable of such heinous crimes. This Michael Ross made it his mission to share his story with Elliott in the hopes that it would save lives. He was her partner in unlocking the mystery of his own evil.
In The Man in the Monster, Martha Elliott gives us a groundbreaking look into the life and motivation of a serial killer. Drawing on a decade of conversations and letters between Ross and the author, readers are given an in-depth view of a killer’s innermost thoughts and secrets, revealing the human face of a monster—without ignoring the horrors of his crimes. Elliott takes us deep into a world of court hearings, tomblike prisons, lawyers hell-bent to kill or to save—and families ravaged by love and hate. This is the personal story of a journalist who came to know herself in ways she could never have imagined when she opened the notebook for that first interview. [close]
by Ted Koppel
Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before.
It isn’t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure—and in the age of cyberwarfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Several nations hostile to the United States could launch such an assault at any time. In fact, as a former chief scientist of the NSA reveals, China and Russia have already penetrated the grid. And a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama believes that independent actors—from “hacktivists” to terrorists—have the capability as well. “It’s not a question of if,” says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, “it’s a question of when.”
And yet, as Koppel makes clear, the federal government, while well prepared for natural disasters, has no plan for the aftermath of an attack on the power grid. The current Secretary of Homeland Security suggests keeping a battery-powered radio.
In the absence of a government plan, some individuals and communities have taken matters into their own hands. Among the nation’s estimated three million “preppers,” we meet one whose doomsday retreat includes a newly excavated three-acre lake, stocked with fish, and a Wyoming homesteader so self-sufficient that he crafted the thousands of adobe bricks in his house by hand. We also see the unrivaled disaster preparedness of the Mormon church, with its enormous storehouses, high-tech dairies, orchards, and proprietary trucking company – the fruits of a long tradition of anticipating the worst. But how, Koppel asks, will ordinary civilians survive?
With urgency and authority, one of our most renowned journalists examines a threat unique to our time and evaluates potential ways to prepare for a catastrophe that is all but inevitable. [close]
― Christopher Essex, Taken by Storm: The Troubled Science, Policy, and Politics of Global Warming
― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72
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