Sunday, January 20, 2013

Beast of the Month: January 2013

Benjamin Netanyahu

Okay, The Konformist concedes the complexitites of Middle East politics can't be fairly reduced to a snarky paragraph placing all the blame on one bad "Beast" character.  Still, Bibi, the current Israeli Prime Minister and head of the Likud Party, is the ideological equivalent of the Neocons that drove the US to Iraq War disaster.  All his recent movements - the bombings of the Gaza Strip, the failed attempt to block Palestine observer state status in the UN, and the spiteful response with plans to build 3,000 new settlements in the occupied West Bank territories, betray a bellicosity that took us dangerously close to World War III.  Meanwhile, it's time to acknowledge that when comparing the treatment of the Palestinians to apartheid-era abuses, Israel could be fairly described as little more than South Africa with bagels.

Anne: the world's richest woman

Anne Getrude Wilson, the great great grandaughter, of the late President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, is the "unknown" richest woman in the world. She was born in the United States in the year 1965. But since 1974, Anne has lived in Malaysia; she did came back to her original country, the United States of America, in the years 1986-1987, as well as 1994....but since then she has never travelled back to the USA.

The "secret" of Anne's wealth is related to the "secret" will of the richest man of the 19th. Century, Andrew Carnegie. This will of Andrew Carnegie is rather obscure, and known only to its "keepers". I myself first knew of this will of Andrew Carnegie after meeting Anne' s parents, who are named as "Papa Hasan" and "Mama Mary (Wilson)" in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, sometime in 1974.

Mama Mary is a former "academician", and has a PhD in Arab political history from Oxford University. She told me that the will of Andrew Carnegie could be found in the "archives" of Princeton University, New Jersey. Prof. Mary Wilson had formerly taught "Middle Eastern Studies: studies and methods" at New York University, New York City, USA, when I had studied there in 1986-1987, as a post-graduate student at the Hagop Kevorkian Center of Middle Eastern Studies, at NYU.

"Papa Hasan" is a rather "mysterious" dad of Anne Wilson. He told me back in 1987 at NYU, that he was an "American expatriate" working and living in Malaysia....he was unsure whether to live in America or Malaysia, but I got him convinced to "emigrate" to Malaysia.

I only had "more in depth" knowledge regarding the "secret will of Andrew Carnegie" during Anne's meeting with the famous "richest man in the world" , that is "Bill Gates" of Microsoft in the year 1994, at a bulilding in Virginia, USA. Anne had met Bill Gates in 1987 at NYU, and again in 1994 at Virginia, USA. I learnt from both Bill Gates and Anne, that Andrew Carnegie had an "adopted daughter", but this "daughter" of his died before he did. Anne told me that Andrew Carnegie was an "impotent" and that he had no children of his own, except that "adopted daughter" of his.Because of this he had a "secret will" written regarding his inherited wealth. He willed that the man to whom his inheritance will be inherited must be a person who fully understood the "Laws of Success' written by his (now) famous student and writer of "motivational books" by the name of Napoleon Hill. Napoleon Hill had interviewed Andrew Carnegie, as well as other materially sucessful people in the USA during his time, and figured out his now famous "laws of success"....Now, Andrew Carnegie made this full understanding of Napoleon Hill's writings as a pre-condition for the one person to whom his inheritance will be inherited...such as the principles of the "master-mind" as well as the rather "mysterious" concept of "telepathy".

But there was also another "very important " condition outlined by Andrew Carnegie's will....that the future inheritor of his inheritance upon his death must be a "Muslim man married to his Christian spouse" this leaves us a question, was Andrew Carnegie a Muslim upon his death....nothing is known regarding this matter, and all biographical sketches of him as can found in the "internet" showed that he had lived as a Christian, and most probably died also as a Christian....but it is interesting that he made the above as a precondition for the couple who would inherit his wealth, upon his if he knew the Quranic teaching allowing a "Muslim man" to marry a "Christian girl"....

The conditions prescribed by Andrew Carnegie was not fulfilled by anyone until sometime in the 1970s. All this while, his wealth was managed by a group of people closely related to the ideas of Napoleon Hill.....Bill Gates told me that one of those person responsible of taking charge "of the secret wealth" of the inheritance of Andrew Carnegie, was his own mother.....but the matter is now closed, and it is now just a matter of "business history" only, because the couple fitting in the description "conditioned" by Andrew Carnegie's will, had already been found, and thus the "will of Andrew Carnegie" had been fulfiulled.....the Christian lady mentioned in Andrew Carnegie's will is "Anne Getrude Wilson" who got married to me in an Islamic marriage in the village of Tal Tujuh, in the state of Kelantan in the then "developing" nation of Malaysia in 1979.

So since the middle 1970s, Anne has been the "unknown" keeper of the wealth of the inheritance of Andrew Carnegie, and had lived most of her life in Malaysia. Anne continued to be its keeper, as agreed in the meeting of this "unknown business empire" at NYU, New York City in 1987....

So it was Anne and her father Papa Hasan who was responsible for the magnificient leaps of "economic development" that Malaysia had experianced espescially since 1977 till now. Anne too is the "unknown" majority share-holder of the Coca-cola stocks which she had bought through an Islamic mutual fund called the Amana Trust Fund, in the year 1987, when the "Black Monday" of October 1987, struck the NYSE to its greatest fall, since the Great Depression happened in the United States in the early 1930s.

Anne also has personal business contacts with Bill Gates's "Microsoft" agreeing to invest in that company, in their meeting in 1994, in Virginia, somewhere in a building related to "Napoleon Hill" and Coca-Cola. Since 1994, Bill Gates became a house-hold name all over the world, as the "richest man in the world"; but not much is known that it was Anne who had agreed to Bill Gates being the entrepreneur, by which the "money and stocks" she is entrusted with, will be invested in Bill Gates's "Microsoft". But since Anne as well as her parents now live in Malaysia, the person taking care of those investments of hers in the United States of America, is her also "unknown brother" named Peter......

Dr. Azlan Khalili Shamsuddin

Cheaper iPhone could cost as little as $99

Lance Whitney
January 9, 2013$99-bloomberg-says

That much-rumored "cheap" Apple iPhone could hit the market at a lowball price of $99, according to a story published today by Bloomberg.

Citing an unnamed source familiar with Apple's plans, Bloomberg said the phone would sell at a price range of $99 to $149 and would pop up late this year at the earliest.

Apple has already been chatting with at least one of the top U.S. wireless carriers about selling the phone, according to the source. The company has reportedly been working on a low-cost iPhone since February 2011 in a bid to grab more customers in developing countries, a tidbit also mentioned by a separate Bloomberg source.

This latest scuttlebutt follows a report from yesterday's Wall Street Journal claiming that Apple is prepping a low-cost iPhone for debut later this year. The Journal's story followed a rumor from DigiTimes pointing to a cheaper iPhone on the way this year geared for emerging markets.

The rumor is hardly new. Back in February 2011, the Journal reported that Apple had already started working on a new line of cheaper iPhones. The phones would be smaller than the iPhone 4 and available to carriers at half the full retail price Apple normally charges them.

More recently, Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston chimed in, saying he believes Apple will launch an "iPhone Mini" in the next few years, possibly as soon as next year, to better compete with Samsung. Jeffries analyst Peter Misek also forecasts a low-cost iPhone but thinks it may launch as early as this summer with a price tag of $200 to $250.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster sees a 60 percent to 70 percent chance that Apple will unveil a lower-priced iPhone this year. In an investors' note out today, Munster reiterated that he feels Apple needs a cheaper iPhone to recapture market share lost to Android phone makers.

In contrast with Bloomberg, the analyst thinks a price range of $149 to $199 is more likely, with the cost trending toward the higher end. Such a range could be justified given Apple's history of charging a premium price tag. Munster also believes the main competition at that level would be Android phones selling for $99 to $199.

"We note that the cheapest iPhone, the iPhone 4, currently costs $450 off contract and more in many countries where additional taxes are levied," the analyst said. "We note that an off contract iPhone 4 is ~$490 in China and $750 in Brazil, thus the sub-$199 price would be a significant discount. Historically, we believe lower-priced products have had a measurable positive impact on overall revenue (iPad Mini, iPod Nano, iPad)."

As with most rumors, some of the "facts" and forecasts from the different sources don't quite match up.

The Journal's sources said the cheaper device would be smaller than the current iPhone models, a belief echoed by Strategy Analytics' Mawston. But DigiTimes' sources say the phone would sport a screen larger than the iPhone 5's 4-inch display. That claim seems dubious given that the phone would be cheaper than the current model.

Most of these reports say the phone will debut before the end of the year. But Mawston feels Apple has little incentive to launch a cheaper iPhone this year in light of the strong sales of the iPhone 5. Instead, Apple is more apt to wait until the iPhone's share of the global smartphone market reaches a higher saturation point.

It's a safe bet Apple has grown weary of being trumped by Android in general and Samsung in particular. The iPhone 5 has seen huge demand, but the company has lost significant sales and market share to its Android rivals over the past couple of years.

Of course, many people would argue that Apple already offers a low-cost iPhone, namely the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 4. With the standard two-year contract, the 4S can be had for just $99, while the iPhone 4 is available for free. But as Munster pointed out, those models sport higher price tags when purchased off contract, especially in other countries.

Apple could conceivably see a cheaper version of the newest iPhone as a more effective way to grab back some of the global sales and market share lost to the likes of Samsung.

Steve Jobs Was Right

John Paczkowski
JANUARY 9, 2013

Apple CEO Steve Jobs often compared the transition from desktop/laptop PCs to tablets with the transition from trucks to cars. Just as trucks waned in popularity with the urbanization of America, Jobs theorized, so, too, would desktops and laptops with the advent of the tablet.

“When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks, because that’s what you needed on the farm,” Jobs said at our D8 conference in 2010. “But as vehicles started to be used in the urban centers, cars got more popular. Innovations like automatic transmission and power steering and things that you didn’t care about in a truck as much started to become paramount in cars. … PCs are going to be like trucks. They’re still going to be around, they’re still going to have a lot of value, but they’re going to be used by one out of X people.”

At the time that remark was a bit contentious, but like many Jobs predictions, it would prove prescient a few years later. To wit, the latest PC shipment forecast from NPD DisplaySearch, which predicts that tablets will outship notebooks this year.

The research outfit reckons 207 million notebooks to be shipped in 2013. And it expects tablet shipments to rise 64 percent year over year to top out at 240 million.

And that’s just the beginning of a trend that will slowly see the notebook PC supplanted by the tablet. By 2017, NPD figures, tablets will have captured nearly 75 percent of the combined global tablet-laptop market, spurred on by new screen sizes that are fueling consumer interest in the device.

Indeed, according to NPD the seven-inch to eight-inch screen — like the ones in Google Nexus 7 and Apple’s new iPad mini, for example — is already so popular that it’s become the preferred tablet display size. In 2013, the research firm expects it to account for 45 percent of the market, surpassing the 9.7-inch size pioneered by the original iPad, which will account for about 17 percent.

“The 7.9 size is expected to be the screen size leader in share starting in 2013 because it appeals to supply and demand factors,” NPD DisplaySearch’s Richard Shim told AllThingsD. “From a supply perspective, it will be readily available meaning it shouldn’t face any technical issues to limit its production. And from a demand perspective, since it is used in the lower priced end of the iPad portfolio it will appeals to a wider segment of the mainstream market than the more expensive larger sized iPads.”

But the broader market numbers are what’s of real interest here. The consumer tablet market isn’t even three years old yet, but it’s already poised to surpass the market for laptops. And by such a significant amount — nearly 16 percent. Jobs said the day would come when only one out of every few people would need a traditional computer. Hard to believe it’s arriving so quickly.

Thought Samsung’s 85-inch Ultra HDTV was huge?

Chris Davies
Jan 8th 2013

Samsung’s Ultra HD TV reveal at CES yesterday was certainly impressive, but the company only brought out its “smallest” set to show on stage – there’s a 110-inch behemoth waiting in the wings. Having joked that the larger model – which sits at the top of a three set line-up, with a 95-incher in-between – wouldn’t fit through the doors of the conference hall where it held its opening presentation, Samsung saved the largest Ultra HD for an eye-searing display on its stand.

The set has the same specifications as the 85-inch model we got up close with yesterday, namely 4k resolution and an array of speakers embedded in the easel-style stand. It’s far more dominating, however, somehow making the smaller version look almost practical.

That “practicality” is an illusion, of course; Samsung isn’t talking specific pricing at this stage, but it has conceded that mainstream Ultra HD is probably five years out right now. Since it will take roughly the same sort of time for 4k content to proliferate, that’s plenty of time for people to save up.

CES is definitely shaping up to be the show with Ultra HD as its theme, and Samsung has some competition for the 4k crown. Keep up with all the show news at our CES 2013 Hub.

Samsung and its rivals show off the future of TVs

Edward C. Baig
January 7, 2013

Tech titans Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook rarely come out of hiding at the annual International CES. And after years on center stage, Microsoft has pretty much applied for the CES equivalent of the witness protection program.

So with apologies to a formidable list of consumer electronics show stalwarts that includes LG, Panasonic, Sharp, Sony and Toshiba, Samsung is arguably the biggest of the Big Cheese consumer electronics mainstays left exhibiting at these proceedings.

Above all else, CES is still about televisions. Samsung, as much as any of its rivals, serves as a proxy for where the industry hopes to take you. The path leads to Ultra High-Definition models that boast four times the pixel count of today's 1080p HDTVs. Gee, it was only a few years ago that you cozied up to the thin — and yes, affordable — HDTV that now graces your living room.

Make no mistake, Samsung's upcoming 85-inch flagship UN85S9 UHD TV takes your breath away. It's just that you may have to take out a small mortgage to own this stunning TV, not that you can even buy it yet. Samsung isn't saying what it will cost or when precisely it will go on sale, but says the model will ship this year. I should also point out that there's precious little content out there to take advantage of all those extra pixels — a familiar chicken and egg scenario that slowed the launch of early HDTVs.

The splashy cutting-edge sets are expected to fetch in the $20,000 range, says tech and media analyst Gary Arlen, president of Arlen Communications. Still, if UHDs go the way of HDTVs — and myriad other consumer electronics categories before them — prices might drop sooner than may now seem likely, though I wouldn't bet a lot on the prospect. (I am in Vegas, after all.)

Samsung executive Joe Stinziano calls the TV a "statement piece" -- to my mind, code-language for, "if you have to ask what it costs, you can't afford it". He says the pixel density of the panels in the set is very expensive to manufacture.

Fortunately, the new TV flaunts other features that will be available on less-expensive 2013 models, notably a newly designed Smart Hub interface. Through the early years of Smart TVs, the various TV makers have done a generally mediocre job when it comes to screen interfaces, perhaps one reason behind all the talk of an eventual Apple-branded television.

My initial impression of Samsung's new Smart Hub is positive, though, as always, you can't really judge these things until you use it outside the boundaries of a trade show.

Samsung's Smart Hub consists of five panels: The "On TV" panel shows the channel you're watching now in a window that's adjacent to a half-dozen smaller windows representing other shows airing at the same time. Below are thumbnails revealing shows that are coming up. The visible content is based on Samsung recommendations generated from your viewing habits.

A "Movie & TV" panel, also based on your viewing history, reveals on-demand flicks, movies available to you as a subscriber to certain services, and material you may have purchased.

Other panels cover your personal "Photos, Videos and Movies," "Apps" (where you'll find Netflix, Hulu Plus, Spotify, Pandora, etc.) and "Social" (feeds and videos from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so on).

You can manipulate the Smart Hub with a new remote that has a touch panel, as well as left-right, up-down slide bar controls.

Samsung also says the voice interaction in its latest TVs — advancing the state of the art from last year — has improved to the point where the TV understands complete sentences. You'll be able to say "I want to watch CSI" and the TV will serve up all the likely matches. Or you might say, "go to South Park," or, "go to ESPN," since the TV can distinguish the name of a show from a channel.

Inside the UHD TV (and other new models) is a quad-core processor that Samsung claims is 3.6 times faster than last year's dual-core models. No you won't change the channels any faster. But you can speed up the time when you stop watching a stream from one content provider and start searching on

It's fair to say that all the consumer electronics companies with a diverse portfolio of products at this show want you to keep it in the family. So it goes with Samsung. If you have Samsung phones, tablets or home appliances, for example, you can take advantage of "AllShare" features that tie the TV to compatible devices. Via an onscreen TV app, you might be able to monitor the wash cycle of your Samsung washer-dryer or change the temperature of the air conditioner without having to pause the TV content. Samsung will let you stream from the TV to one of its mobile phones.

Moreover, Samsung will soon start selling the Smart Evolution kits it announced at last year's CES, which will enable folks to upgrade certain 2012 (but not older) models to the quadcore generation. You get the new remote control as part of the kit, and can add the latest Smart Hub interface. The kit is likely to cost between $200 and $500, Samsung says.

Not that there's anything wrong with your current HDTV, which you'll be able to safely enjoy watching for quite some time. Samsung expects it to take several years before UHDs begin to overtake today's popular HDTVs. But UHD does reveal a lot about where Samsung, and its industry counterparts who are pushing the same or similar technologies, are directing the near and longer-term future of television.

2012 hottest year on record in the US

2012 hottest year on record in the US by large margin
Seth Borenstein
January 8, 2013

A brutal combination of a widespread drought and a mostly absent winter pushed the average annual U.S. temperature last year up to 55.32 degrees Fahrenheit (13 Celsius), the government announced Tuesday. That's a full degree Fahrenheit (0.6 degrees Celsius) warmer than the old record set in 1998.

Breaking temperature records by an entire degree is unprecedented, scientists say. Normally, records are broken by a tenth of a degree or so.

The National Climatic Data Center's figures for the entire world won't come out until next week, but through the first 11 months of 2012, the world was on pace to have its eighth warmest year on record.

Scientists say the U.S. heat is part global warming in action and natural weather variations. The drought that struck almost two-thirds of the nation and a La Nina weather event helped push temperatures higher, along with climate change from man-made greenhouse gas emissions, said Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. She said temperature increases are happening faster than scientists predicted.

"These records do not occur like this in an unchanging climate," said Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. "And they are costing many billions of dollars."

Last year was 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the average for the entire 20th century. Last July was the also the hottest month on record.

Nineteen states set yearly heat records in 2012. Alaska, however, was cooler than average.

U.S. temperature records go back to 1895 and the yearly average is based on reports from more than 1,200 weather stations across the Lower 48 states.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. last year also had the second most weather extremes on record, behind 1998. There were 11 different disasters that caused more than $1 billion in damage, including Superstorm Sandy and the drought, NOAA said.

The drought was the worst since the 1950s and slightly behind the dust bowl of the 1930s, meteorologists said. During a drought, the ground is so dry that there's not enough moisture in the soil to evaporate into the atmosphere to cause rainfall. And that means hotter, drier air.

The last time the country had a record cold month was December 1983.

"A picture is emerging of a world with more extreme heat," said Andrew Dessler, a Texas A&M University climate scientist. "Not every year will be hot, but when heat waves do occur, the heat will be more extreme. People need to begin to prepare for that future."

Science gets colder than absolute zero

Charles Choi
January 04, 2013

Absolute zero is often thought to be the coldest temperature possible. But now researchers show they can achieve even lower temperatures for a strange realm of "negative temperatures."

Oddly, another way to look at these negative temperatures is to consider them hotter than infinity, researchers added.

This unusual advance could lead to new engines that could technically be more than 100 percent efficient, and shed light on mysteries such as dark energy, the mysterious substance that is apparently pulling our universe apart.

An object's temperature is a measure of how much its atoms move — the colder an object is, the slower the atoms are. At the physically impossible-to-reach temperature of zero kelvin, or minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 273.15 degrees Celsius), atoms would stop moving. As such, nothing can be colder than absolute zero on the Kelvin scale.

Bizarro negative temperatures

To comprehend the negative temperatures scientists have now devised, one might think of temperature as existing on a scale that is actually a loop, not linear. Positive temperatures make up one part of the loop, while negative temperatures make up the other part. When temperatures go either below zero or above infinity on the positive region of this scale, they end up in negative territory.

With positive temperatures, atoms more likely occupy low-energy states than high-energy states, a pattern known as Boltzmann distribution in physics. When an object is heated, its atoms can reach higher energy levels.

At absolute zero, atoms would occupy the lowest energy state. At an infinite temperature, atoms would occupy all energy states. Negative temperatures then are the opposite of positive temperatures — atoms more likely occupy high-energy states than low-energy states.

"The inverted Boltzmann distribution is the hallmark of negative absolute temperature, and this is what we have achieved," said researcher Ulrich Schneider, a physicist at the University of Munich in Germany. "Yet the gas is not colder than zero kelvin, but hotter. It is even hotter than at any positive temperature — the temperature scale simply does not end at infinity, but jumps to negative values instead."

As one might expect, objects with negative temperatures behave in very odd ways. For instance, energy typically flows from objects with a higher positive temperature to ones with a lower positive temperature — that is, hotter objects heat up cooler objects, and colder objects cool down hotter ones, until they reach a common temperature. However, energy will always flow from objects with negative temperature to ones with positive temperatures. In this sense, objects with negative temperatures are always hotter than ones with positive temperatures.

Another odd consequence of negative temperatures has to do with entropy, which is a measure of how disorderly a system is. When objects with positive temperature release energy, they increase the entropy of things around them, making them behave more chaotically. However, when objects with negative temperatures release energy, they can actually absorb entropy.

Negative temperatures would be thought impossible, since there is typically no upper bound for how much energy atoms can have, as far as theory currently suggests. (There is a limit to what speed they can travel — according to Einstein's theory of relativity, nothing can accelerate to speeds faster than light.)

Wacky physics experiment

To generate negative temperatures, scientists created a system where atoms do have a limit to how much energy they can possess. They first cooled about 100,000 atoms to a positive temperature of a few nanokelvin, or billionth of a kelvin. They cooled the atoms within a vacuum chamber, which  isolated them from any environmental influence that could potentially heat them up accidentally. They also used a web of laser beams and magnetic fields to very precisely control how these atoms behaved, helping to push them into a new temperature realm.

"The temperatures we achieved are negative nanokelvin," Schneider told LiveScience.

Temperature depends on how much atoms move — how much kinetic energy they have. The web of laser beams created a perfectly ordered array of millions of bright spots of light, and in this "optical lattice," atoms could still move, but their kinetic energy was limited.

Temperature also depends on how much potential energy atoms have, and how much energy lies in the interactions between the atoms. The researchers used the optical lattice to limit how much potential energy the atoms had, and they used magnetic fields to very finely control the interactions between atoms, making them either attractive or repulsive.

Temperature is linked with pressure — the hotter something is, the more it expands outward, and the colder something is, the more it contracts inward. To make sure this gas had a negative temperature, the researchers had to give it a negative pressure as well, tinkering with the interactions between atoms until they attracted each other more than they repelled each other.

"We have created the first negative absolute temperature state for moving particles," said researcher Simon Braun at the University of Munich in Germany.

New kinds of engines

Negative temperatures could be used to create heat engines — engines that convert heat energy to mechanical work, such as combustion engines — that are more than 100-percent efficient, something seemingly impossible. Such engines would essentially not only absorb energy from hotter substances, but also colder ones. As such, the work the engine performed could be larger than the energy taken from the hotter substance alone.

Negative temperatures might also help shed light on one of the greatest mysteries in science. Scientists had expected the gravitational pull of matter to slow down the universe's expansion after the Big Bang, eventually bringing it to a dead stop or even reversing it for a "Big Crunch." However, the universe's expansion is apparently speeding up, accelerated growth that cosmologists suggest may be due to dark energy, an as-yet-unknown substance that could make up more than 70 percent of the cosmos.

In much the same way, the negative pressure of the cold gas the researchers created should make it collapse. However, its negative temperature keeps it from doing so. As such, negative temperatures might have interesting parallels with dark energy that may help scientists understand this enigma.

Negative temperatures could also shed light on exotic states of matter, generating systems that normally might not be stable without them. "A better understanding of temperature could lead to new things we haven't even thought of yet," Schneider said. "When you study the basics very thoroughly, you never know where it may end."

The scientists detailed their findings in the Jan. 4 issue of the journal Science.

Stoner Cooking 1-20-13
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Don't Waste That Christmas Tree: Turn It Into Spruce Beer
January 04, 2013

The holidays are finally wrapping up. So after you repack the twinkly lights, and the tinsel goes into the trash, what should you do with that once beautiful spruce standing in your living room? Why not drink it?

Well, not exactly as is. The needles, shoots, light-green tips and inner bark of the popular conifer have been used for centuries to brew forest-scented tea, soft drinks and beer. And it seems that fresh evergreen flavor may be making a comeback.

"Ancient Scandinavians and their Viking descendants brewed beer from young shoots of Norway spruce, drinking the beer for strength in battle, for fertility and to prevent scurvy on long sea voyages," according to the second edition of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America.

Indeed, the British Navy practically required spruce beer as a scurvy treatment, particularly after 18th century experimental nutritionist James Lind published his observations of sailors' recoveries. Spruce beer became a part of daily life for sailors, as Capt. James Cook's 1784 Voyage to the Pacific Ocean describes:

"Two of our men were employed in brewing spruce beer; while others filled the water-casks, collected grass for the cattle and cut wood. ... Besides fish, we had other refreshments in abundance. Scurvy-grass, celery and portable soup were boiled every day with the wheat and pease; and we had spruce beer for our drink. Such a regimen soon removed all seeds of the scurvy from our people, if any of them had contracted it. But indeed, on our arrival here, we only had two invalids in both ships."

While it's true spruce contains vitamin C, recent scholars have cast doubt on just how much of the nutrient would have remained in the brewed version to counteract the disease.

"Vitamin C concentrations in foods are now known to be dramatically altered by, for instance, boiling and drying. Specifically, when made by fermentation, spruce beer contains no vitamin C," according to John K. Crellin's book, A Social History of Medicines in the Twentieth Century: To Be Taken Three Times a Day.

Even so, for centuries beer drinking of all kinds was considered a better alternative than water, which tended to be contaminated.

This recipe for spruce beer appeared in the first American cookbook published, American Cookery: Or the Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, by Amelia Simmons, published in 1796:

"For brewing Spruce Beer. Take four ounces of hops, let them boil half an hour, in one gallon of water, strain the hop water, then add 16 gallons of warm water, two gallons of molasses, eight ounces of essence of spruce, dissolved in one quart of water, put it in a clean cask, then shake it well together, add half a pint of emptins [baker's yeast], then let it stand and work one week, if very warm weather less time will do, when it is drawn off to bottle, add one spoonful of molasses to every bottle."

Spruce tips as food and medicine were also widely known to Native Americans and the American colonists. Before Colgate toothpaste, there was spruce resin to chew for dental hygiene. And Alaskan natives still sell spruce-tip jelly and syrup to travelers looking for something beyond blueberry.

Alas, the beer tradition pretty much died out as commercial breweries rose to prominence in the U.S.

But as more proof that everything old is new again, a handful of craft breweries are now developing their own versions of spruce beer, blending it with ingredients like molasses to mellow the flavor and create that "Christmas tree in a glass" sensation. You don't even need to gather your own spruce these days if you want to brew at home. Spruce On Tap will mail you some freshly frozen samples from trees native to Colorado.

And there's Rogue Spruce Gin from Oregon, infused with spruce, cucumber, angelica root, orange peel, coriander, lemon peel, ginger and more. Why spruce? Brett Joyce of Rogue Ales & Spirits tells The Atlantic: "It was obvious for us, in the sense that we're surrounded by spruce trees."

That's probably why the Vikings came up with drinking their spruce, too.


La Roca’s Spicy Shrimp Salad

Serves: 8

Spicy Lemon Vinaigrette:
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tsp Dijon mustard
8 tsp rice vinegar
4 tablespoons Best Foods mayonnaise
8 tsp fresh lemon juice without seeds
4 tsp lemon zest
8 tsp fresh orange juice, make sure the juice is sweet
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
4 tablespoons sliced Kalamata olives
1 tablespoons of capers
1 large Jalapeno, roasted, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Wisk all the ingredients in a small bowl, season with salt & pepper and set aside

40 cold large shrimp poached in white wine
20 sweet mini peppers de-stemmed, sliced in half lengthwise, and seeded (if needed)
2 ½ cups of feta cheese loosely packed / about 1/3 of a cup per person
Romaine lettuce
Garnish with avocado & tomato slices
A Day Ahead

Leaving the shrimp with the shell on but removing the vein, marinate the shrimp in white wine making sure there is enough wine to cover the shrimp well. To the wine add about 1/3 cup of whole peppercorns and 6 bay leaves. It is best to marinate the day ahead but if you are short on time marinate for a minimum of 4 hrs.

Cook shrimp in the wine with the peppercorns, & bay leaves. Once shrimp begins to turn pink remove from wine mixture and set aside to cool. Once shrimp is cool remove the shell and butterfly the shrimp. Toss shrimp and sweet mini peppers with spicy vinaigrette and feta cheese and serve over a bed of lettuce.

Mama Bon says: Garnish salad with avocado & tomato slices! Buen Apetito


Senator Inouye's Sweet Sour Spare Ribs

This recipe was given to me by former state senator John Ushijima in 1950 when we were both in Law school at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Prep Time: 30 | Cook Time: 45 | Ready In: 75

3 pounds Pork spare ribs
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic
1 inch ginger root
dash of five spices (chinese five spice)

Cut spare ribs into 2" x 2" pieces.  Marinate in flour and soy sauce for 30 minutes.  Brown in cooking oil.  Add the rest of ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes or until tender.  May be served with chunks of fresh or canned pineapple.


Spam Musubi

Of all the foods people associate with Hawaii, Spam Musibi seems to be the most popular, with echoes of lau lau, tuna poke, and kalua pig trailing just behind. The terms Spam sushi and Spam sandwiches have been used but, no, get it right: It's Spam musubi!! The Hawaiians know the good stuff - trust me. Spam eaten this way is awesome. Give it a will agree!

5 cups cooked short or medium-grain sushi rice
5 sheets of sushi nori seaweed
1 (12-ounce) can Spam luncheon meat
¼ cup Aloha Shoyu
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup Kikkoman Aji-Mirin

Cut Spam into 8 slices. Fry (with no oil!) until your desired level of crispiness is reached. Remove and drain on plate lined with paper towels. In another pan, combine soy sauce, mirin and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to low. Add Spam slices, coating them in the mixture. When mixture has thickened, remove Spam from pan.

Now, work quickly and have everything else laid out for assembly, otherwise the Spam will no longer be hot and crispy by the time the musubi’s are assembled.

Cut the nori strips in half lengthwise, and lay the musubi-maker on the middle of the nori. Use a  rice paddle or spoon to scoop a generous mound of rice into the mold. Use the musubi-maker handle to press down on the rice. Press hard. The last thing you want is floppy, unpressed rice.

Lay a slice of Spam on top. Add one more layer of rice, and one final press.

Press with all your might! You want this packed tight. The musubi is intended to be a portable treat. Hawaiians stuff it in their backpacks for lunch on the beach, take it on a hike or on a bike ride around the island. It is durable.

Once you've given it a firm press, hold the handle down with one hand, and use the other to pull the mold upward, thus unleashing the musubi.

Quickly wrap the nori around the rice (use a few grains of rice to stick the nori together at ends if necessary).

There probably won’t be leftovers, but if so, wrap each musubi individually in plastic wrap, so you may pop them in the microwave whenever you desire. Or if you have extra time on your hands, I sometimes put the entire musubi in a pan, over low heat, and fry on all sides, crisping up the nori. There is no wrong way to eat Spam musubi.


Herb Rubbed Sirloin with Lemon Butter and Guinness Battered Onion Rings

2 pound top sirloin steak
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons of finely minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Lemon Butter:
8 ounces of unsalted butter
juice of 1 lemon
zest of lemon
2 tablespoons of finely minced fresh chived
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Onion Rings:
1 sweet onion cut into 1/2? thick slices
1 cup of Guinness Beer
1 cup of milk
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 egg
1 1/2 to 2 cups of canola oil
Koser salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Serves 3 to 4

Steak: Place all ingredients in a ziploc bag and let sit in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes.
After the steak is done marinating, season both sides with salt and pepper and cook on the grill on high heat. Note: it will take 10-14 minutes on each side to achieve medium-rare in temperature.

Butter: Place the butter in a mixer and whip until it becomes whit and fluffy and then add in all other ingredients and set to the side.
Onion Rings: In a large bowl mix together flour, milk, egg, beer, salt and pepper.

Dip the individual onion rings in the batter and then fry them in the oil on medium-high heat until they are golden brown.  Once brown, remove from the oil and rest on a paper towel.

To Plate: Place the onion rings next to the steak and place 1 tablespoon of lemon butter on top of the steak.


Olive and Herb Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Dijon Dipping Sauce

Beef Tenderloin makes an impressive centerpiece dish for a special occasion. Kalamata olives and fresh herbs create an earthy flavored crust to this tender melt in your mouth beef, the subtly pungent Dijon Dipping sauce adds a little zing!

1 3lb trimmed beef tenderloin, tied (even thickness)
4 large garlic cloves
¼ cup chopped fresh oregano (packed)
¼ cup chopped fresh rosemary (packed)
1 ½ cups Kalamata pitted olives, drained
½ cup extra virgin olive oil+ additional
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Fresh ground black pepper

Dijon Dipping Sauce

1 cup sour cream
4 teaspoons Whole Grain Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a food processor, pulse garlic, add chopped herbs and pulse, add kalamata olives and pulse until all ingredients are finely minced. Slowly pour olive oil from the top while food processor is on. Add Worcestershire sauce, scrape down sides and blend until mixture is combined. Pour into a small bowl and set aside.

Prepare Dijon Dipping Sauce: Mix sour cream, Whole Grain Dijon and Dijon mustards until thoroughly combined. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees with rack in the center.

Pat beef dry and season very generously on all sides with fresh ground black pepper.  Place a heavy roasting pan on two burners on high heat. (You may also use a large skillet) Lightly coat pan with olive oil (about 4 to 5 tablespoons). When oil begins to simmer, place beef in pan and quickly brown on all sides, about 4-5 minutes total.

Transfer tenderloin to a clean work surface and generously coat with olive mixture on all sides. Transfer back to same oiled roasting pan and place in the oven. Roast beef until a thermometer inserted 2 inches into thickest part of meat reaches 125 degrees for medium rare, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let it stand for 10 minutes loosely covered in foil.

Slice beef into ½ inch thick slices. Serve with dijon dipping sauce.

Serves 6

*Olive Mixture (stir and bring to room temperature) and Dijon Dipping Sauce may be prepared one day ahead.


Linguine with Portabella Mushrooms (Gluten Free)

Among the things that are so spectacular about portabella mushrooms are their size. Simply roasting them and arranging them on a platter with fresh soft herbs and a drizzle of olive oil can make an impressive presentation. With such a beautiful vegetable, it might seem a shame to chop them up, but with flavor to rival their good looks, its worth it. There are smaller varieties of portabella mushrooms available; baby bellas and even cremini mushrooms. Sadly, along with being smaller, I think that they lack the complexity of flavor.

This pasta combines my love for portabella mushrooms with a kiss of white truffles. It is far from easy to procure fresh white truffles, but pastes, purees, and oils are not difficult to find and work quite well in making this an extraordinary sauce. It is a simple dish to prepare and can be an elegant first course made with fresh pasta if you are entertaining.

Mushrooms, particularly the asian varieties, provide the richest vegetable source of selenium. Selenium is a trace mineral that incorporates into proteins to create antioxidant enzymes that are essential to our health.  The high selenium content is what has made mushrooms a super food for a cancer-fighting diet, and has proved to be a key component in the decreased risk and recurrence of prostate cancer. They are also a good source of riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid and an under recognized source of potassium.

Serves 4 as a main course and 6 as a first course

For all of the ingredients, please use only those that are organic or pesticide free.

2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 portabella mushrooms,  cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
1 tablespoon white truffle puree, if available (I used Urbani White Truffles Puree)
2 tablespoons white truffle oil, or more if desired
2 teaspoons chives, snipped with a scissor
16-18 ounces Bionaturae Gluten Free Linguine or favorite pasta of your choice
fleur de sel, maldon, or other finishing salt
freshly ground black pepper
parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over a medium flame. Add the shallots and a sprinkling of salt, cook for a few minutes, and reduce the heat to low. Cook the shallots until they begin to caramelize.  It will take another 5-10 minutes.

Add the mushrooms to the shallots.  Turn the heat up to medium high and use a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients together.  Cook for about 5 minutes until the size of the mushrooms decrease to half their size and begin to brown.  Turn the heat up and add the fresh thyme and wine.  Leave the heat high long enough for the wine to fully evaporate, about 1 minute. Reduce to a simmer or turn off.

Generously salt the boiling water to the point that it tastes like sea water. Add the pasta and set a timer for 90 seconds less than the recommended cooking time on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, add the truffle puree to the cooked mushrooms.

When the timer has indicated that the set amount of time has passed, the pasta will still seem to be undercooked. Add a ladle full of the pasta water to the mushrooms and drain the pasta into a colander.  Immediately add the pasta to the saute pan with the mushrooms.  Turn up the heat to medium low and toss the pasta into the sauce.

Add the freshly snipped chives (not used in the photographed recipe) and the white truffle oil.  Continue to toss ingredients together in pan over heat for 30-60 seconds.

Season with fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper and serve immediatlely with parmesan cheese for those who might want it.


By Annie

A few months ago I was brainstorming ideas of holiday cookie recipes. One of the first cookies that comes to mind when I think of holiday cookies is the classic thumbprint cookie. They are typically filled with some type of fruit jam or preserves, but I thought it would be fun to cross them with another classic holiday dessert, pecan pie. Once they were baked, I added a caramel drizzle. When the glaze had set and I finally tasted one, I was in cookie heaven.

These are easily one of the best cookies I’ve made, and I’ve made a lot of cookies. The cookie itself is so tender and almost flaky thanks to the combination of butter and cream cheese. The pecans in the dough and in the topping add a warm, nutty note and the caramel is the perfect finishing touch. These would be an ideal addition to any holiday cookie platter or in holiday goodie packages…that is, if you can bear to part with them.

Makes 2 dozen cookies

For dough:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup pecans, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
2½ cups all-purpose flour

For filling:
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or bourbon)
Pinch of coarse salt
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

For caramel drizzle:
4 ounces caramel candies, unwrapped
2 tablespoons heavy cream, plus more as needed


To make dough, combine butter and cream cheese in bowl of electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Mix in sugars and beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes more. Blend in vanilla extract. With mixer on low speed, mix in pecans, salt and flour just until fully incorporated. Cover bowl and transfer to refrigerator. Chill dough for about 30-60 minutes.

While dough is chilling, make filling. In medium bowl, combine melted butter, sugar, corn syrup, egg yolk, vanilla and salt. Whisk just until blended. Stir in pecans.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Scooping about 2 tablespoons of dough at a time, roll dough into balls. Place dough balls on baking sheets 2-3 inches apart. Use your thumb (or wine cork) to make a small round indentation in the center of each dough ball, about 1 inch in diameter. Fill each indentation with some of pecan filling mixture.

Bake cookies, rotating pans halfway through, until light golden and set, about 16-18 minutes total. Cool briefly on baking sheets, then transfer to wire rack set over wax paper or foil. Let cool completely.

To make caramel drizzle, combine the caramels and heavy cream in small microwave safe bowl. Heat in 20 second intervals, stirring in between, until caramels are fully melted and mixture is smooth. If needed, add more cream, 1 teaspoon at a time, mixture reaches drizzling consistency. Drizzle caramel over cooled cookies on wire rack. If caramel begins to harden, microwave for 10 more seconds and stir to rewarm.


Hot Chocolate Cookies
by ANGIE on DECEMBER 18, 2012

It’s about that time to start thinking about the cookies you’ll be making for Santa. This year, I thought I should make some cookies that would go good with Santa’s hot cocoa, something we also make every year for the jolly old guy. So I got to work in the kitchen, experimenting with chocolate and marshmallows. I wanted to make the richest, most chocolaty cookie that had a gooey, chewy consistency. Then top it with a big marshmallow and even more chocolate.

These cookies turned out just as I wanted – rich, gooey, ooey, chocoalty goodness. After they baked, I halved a large marshmallow, placed it on the warm cookie. Then I put the cookies under the hot broiler, just until the marshmallow had lightly toasted. At first, I had wanted to finish these cookies with a little chocolate syrup, but to make them not so messy, I opted for grated chocolate.

I also used my favorite flour, Gold Medal, in this recipe, because of it’s lightness and quality.

For the Cookies:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter, softened
2 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 packets hot cocoa mix
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

For Garnish:
12 large marshmallows, cut in half
1 square semi-sweet baking chocolate, for grating

Heat oven to 350°. Cream butter and sugar together until light in color in stand mixer. Add eggs and mix well. Add cocoa powder, cocoa mix and vanilla. Mix well. Add flour baking soda and salt. Mix just until dough comes together. Refrigerate dough until chilled, about 1 hour.

Drop cookie dough by the tablespoon on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, or just until cookie is set. Remove cookies from oven and place marshmallows on top. Turn oven broiler on high and place cookies directly under broiler to lightly toast marshmallows. Remove when done and transfer to a cooling rack. Garnish with grated chocolate before serving.

Significa 1-20-13

Judge Orders Sean David Morton to Appear
Sean David Morton, Melissa Ann Morton Ordered to Appear for Hearing in Alleged Securities Fraud Case
24 DECEMBER 2012

The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do grind fine and this is what many investors who were allegedly hustled by self proclaimed psychic Sean David Morton are hoping for.

On December 20th, 2012, United States District Judge Katherine B. Forrest ordered both Sean David Morton and his wife, Melissa Ann Morton, to stand ready for what appears to be a possible trial. Someone named John Woodie who is listed as an agent of the Mortons is also commanded to appear.  The mandatory appearance is set to take place on February 11, 2013 at 1PM.

The order, which can be read right here, clearly states that if The Mortons do not appear that a summary judgement will be entered against them and the4 Securities & Exchange Commission will likely be granted several items they've asked for, including that The Morton disgorge all of their ill-gotten gains from the alleged scam.

Through his newsletter, radio interviews, and workshops, Sean David Morton boasted of using his alleged psychic abilities to predict the stock market and make millions.  After forming an investment portfolio of nearly $6,000,000.00, The SEC began investigating what they allege were staggering losses of funds, misappropriation of funds, falsified investment data, and the failing of Sean David Morton to ever accurately predict the stock market as he claimed.

The case has dragged on since March 2010 after The Mortons filed a barrage of rambling and disjointed legal filings claiming that they were sovereign citizens of the "California Bear Flag Republic" and therefor were not subject to the federal court.

In addition the the charges of fraud, The Mortons have also been accused of judicial abuse, failing to appear at depositions, and dodging being served legal papers.

The SEC's original press release can be found here along with a copy of the complaint filed against The Mortons and other parties.

To see Rob Sterling's interview about Morton (as well as James "The Amazingly Randy" Randi:

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

Part IV:

Part V:

Part VI:


The Assassination of Hugo Chavez

Download Palast's film for FREE or a DONATION

As a purgative for the crappola fed to Americans about Hugo Chavez, my foundation is offering the film, The Assassination of Hugo Chavez, as a free download: taken from my several meetings with Chavez and his would-be assassins, based on my reports for BBC Television and Harpers Magazine.

We are counting on you to voluntarily make a tax-deductible donation and keep our investigations alive.

Or, if you want, you can donate for a signed copy of the DVD.


Behind the Candelabra

Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his live-in lover Scott Thorson in the HBO movie Behind the Candlebra, by Steven Soderbergh.

"We take the relationship seriously," Soderbergh says. "My feeling based on some of the research we did indicated that it was a real relationship and it was, at that point, the longest relationship Liberace had had. I was very anxious that we not make a caricature of either of the characters or the relationship. There’s no question that it’s unfortunate to see the movie through a contemporary lens and know that they weren’t able to be as open back then as people are today."

Full Article:


NHL lockout reaches tentative agreement
After 113 days, the NHL and players' association have agreed on "the basic details" of a deal
SUNDAY, JAN 6, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — Hockey is back, and it took nearly four months and one long night to get the game back on the ice.

With the season on the line, the NHL and the players’ association agreed on a tentative pact to end a 113-day lockout and save what was left of a fractured schedule.

Commissioner Gary Bettman and union executive director Donald Fehr ceased being adversaries and announced the deal while standing side by side near a wall toward the back of the negotiating room and showing a tinge of weariness.

“I want to thank Don Fehr,” Bettman said. “We went through a tough period, but it’s good to be at this point.”

A marathon negotiating session that lasted more than 16 hours, stretching from Saturday afternoon until just before dawn Sunday, produced a 10-year deal.

“We’ve got to dot a lot of Is and cross a lot of Ts,” Bettman said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the basic details of the agreement have been agreed upon.”

Even players who turned into negotiators showed the strain of the long, difficult process.

“It was a battle,” said Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey, a key member of the union’s bargaining team. “Gary said a month ago it was a tough negotiation. That’s what it was.

“Players obviously would rather not have been here, but our focus now is to give the fans whatever it is – 48 games, 50 games – the most exciting season we can. The mood has been nervous for a while. You want to be playing. You want to be done with this.”

The collective bargaining agreement must be ratified by a majority of the league’s 30 owners and the union’s membership of approximately 740 players.

“Hopefully within a very few days the fans can get back to watching people who are skating, not the two of us,” Fehr said.

All schedule issues, including the length of the season, still need to be worked out. The NHL has models for 50- and 48-game seasons.

The original estimate was regular-season games could begin about eight days after a deal was reached. It is believed that all games will be played within the two respective conferences, but that also hasn’t been decided.

The players have been locked out since Sept. 16, the day after the previous agreement expired. That deal came after an extended lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.

“Any process like this is difficult. It can be long,” Fehr said.

Time was clearly a factor, with the sides facing a deadline of Thursday or Friday to reach a deal that would allow for a 48-game season to start a week later. Bettman had said the league could not allow a season of fewer than 48 games per team.

All games through Jan. 14, along with the All-Star game and the New Year’s Day Winter Classic had already been canceled, claiming more than 50 percent of the original schedule.

Without an agreement, the NHL faced the embarrassment of losing two seasons due to a labor dispute, something that has never happened in another North American sports league. The 2004-05 season was lost while the sides negotiated hockey’s first salary cap.

Under the new CBA, free-agent contracts will have a maximum length of seven years, but clubs can go to eight years to re-sign their own players. Each side can opt out of the deal after eight years.

The pension plan was “the centerpiece of the deal for the players,” Hainsey said.

The actual language of the pension plan still has to be written, but Hainsey added there is nothing substantial that needs to be fixed.

The players’ share of hockey-related income, a total that reached a record $3.3 billion last season, will drop from 57 percent to a 50-50 split. The salary cap for the upcoming season will be $70.2 million and will then go down to $64.3 million in the 2013-14 season.

All clubs must have a minimum payroll of $44 million.

The league had wanted next season’s cap to fall to $60 million, but agreed to an upper limit of $64.3 – the same amount as last season.

Inside individual player contracts, the salary can’t vary more than 35 percent year to year, and the final year can’t be more than 50 percent of the highest year.

A decision on whether NHL players will participate in the 2014 Olympics will be made apart from the CBA. While it is expected that players will take part, the IOC and the International Ice Hockey Federation will have discussions with the league and the union before the matter is settled.

After the sides stayed mostly apart for two days, following late-night talks that turned sour, federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh worked virtually around the clock to get everyone back to the bargaining table.

This time it worked – early on the 113th day of the work stoppage.

George Cohen, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service director, called the deal “the successful culmination of a long and difficult road.”

“Of course, the agreement will pave the way for the professional players to return to the ice and for the owners to resume their business operations,” he said in a statement. “But the good news extends beyond the parties directly involved; fans throughout North America will have the opportunity to return to a favorite pastime and thousands of working men and women and small businesses will no longer be deprived of their livelihoods.”

Before the sides ever came to an understanding regarding a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues, the NHL first tried to cut the players’ share from 57 percent to 46 percent.

A series of talks in the first couple of weeks of September don’t bring the sides any closer, and the board of governors gave Bettman the authority to lock out the players at midnight on Sept. 15.

There was optimism about an end for the lockout when the sides held talks in New York on Dec. 5-6. The roller coaster took the participants and the fans on an up-and-down thrill ride that ended in major disappointment.

Fehr painted a picture that the sides were close to a deal, and Bettman chastised him for getting people’s hopes up. Negotiations broke off, and the NHL announced it was pulling all offers off the table.

It wasn’t until Beckenbaugh’s determined effort in the final two days of the prolonged negotiations that the sides finally found common ground.

“We were making progress continually and to make a deal you have to continue to make progress until it’s over,” Hainsey said. “That finally happened today.”


Comparing Da Vinci and Batman
David Konow
January 6, 2013

Screenwriter David Goyer has quite a career. He first broke through with his scripts for Dark City and the big screen adaptation of Blade.

Then he helped resurrect the Dark Knight with Batman Begins. (He also has story credit on The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.) Recently, Goyer penned the script for Call of Duty: Black Ops II, as well as the upcoming Superman reboot, Man of Steel. (Goyer also did some script work on the Godzilla reboot as well, which is due in 2014).

In addition to all this action, Goyer has a new show on Starz, Da Vinci’s Demons, which debuts on April 12. As Goyer points out, there’s definite similarities between the great artist and Batman. He told the L.A. Times that Demons has "a graphic novel approach. It’s photographically very different than any other historical show."

As for the Batman comparisons, Goyer told The Wrap, "There are some parallels to Batman. He had big father issues – missing parent. Both had these kind of formative, horrific incidents where they were trapped in caves…" An even more interesting parallel: Bob Kane apparently based Batman’s cape on Da Vinci’s glider. "So the two figures have always been kind of inextricably linked."

Goyer also said that Demons is the "Batman Begins of historical drama," as well as "one-third Indiana Jones, one-third Sherlock, one-third Tony Stark. There’s a lot of Lost in there, it’s got a heavy mythology….He’s kind of superhero-y. People have said that aside from Christ he’s the most recognized historical figure in the world. So in that regard my approach was not dissimilar to adapting Batman or Superman."

Sounds good Goyer, we’re sold. If this is how he pitched Da Vinci’s demons to the Starz network, it’s a very interesting way to re-approach history. And if the show’s ultra modern approach can turn young, impressionable people on to Da Vinci’s genius, even better.

Abraham Lincoln: A life in the closet?

Mark Segal
National Gay History Project
October 25, 2011

Abraham Lincoln (1809-65) may likely be the most studied and researched of the United States presidents. The first reference to him possibly being “homosexual” came from notable Lincoln expert Carl Sandburg in his 1926 biography, “Abraham Lincoln: The War Years.” In describing the early relationship between Lincoln and his close friend, Joshua Fry Speed, Sandburg wrote “a streak of lavender, and spots soft as May violets.” This line got historians talking about an issue from which many had previously shied away. Still, the biography was written in the early 20th century, a time when such topics were only discussed in whispers. But by including the line, Sandburg felt the relationship deserved acknowledgement. It wasn’t until 2005 when the first book was published on Lincoln’s relationships with men, C.A. Tripp’s “The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln.”

Detractors of Lincoln’s possible homosexuality, such as historian David Herbert Donald, often say there is no new evidence on Lincoln. Yet historians continue to draw fresh conclusions from Lincoln’s letters. Those who attempt to refute Lincoln’s possible “homosexuality” usually focus on one particular incident — of the many — that supports the theory: his relationship with Speed.

Yet history, like everything else, is open to interpretation and influenced by new findings. Bias also motivated the retelling of historical events. The best example of bias in American history is the story of Thomas Jefferson and his slave/concubine Sally Hemings, which was not accepted as a truthful account until 1998 — and only after DNA proof. African-American citizens — not historians — led the effort to give Hemings her rightful place in history. Likewise with Lincoln, most historians have referred to isolated facts rather than the pattern of events in his life to tell his personal story. Will history once again prove historians wrong?

The Poem

I will tell you a Joke about Jewel and Mary
It is neither a Joke nor a Story
For Rubin and Charles has married two girls
But Billy has married a boy
The girlies he had tried on every Side
But none could he get to agree
All was in vain he went home again
And since that is married to Natty
So Billy and Natty agreed very well
And mama’s well pleased at the match
The egg it is laid but Natty’s afraid
The Shell is So Soft that it never will hatch
But Betsy she said you Cursed bald head
My Suitor you never Can be
Beside your low crotch proclaims you a botch
And that never Can answer for me

This poem, about a boy marrying a boy, is thought to be the first reference to gay marriage in U.S. history. A 20-year-old man in rural Indiana wrote it 182 years ago. That young man was Abraham Lincoln. Most historians agree Lincoln wrote the poem as a joke or rebuttal to the lack of an invitation to a friend’s wedding, but how a backwoodsman conceives a boy-marries-boy poem in 1829 remains a question.

The poem was included in the first major biography of Lincoln, written by his law partner, William Herndon. Revisionists omitted it in subsequent editions. It didn’t reappear in Herndon’s edition until the 1940s.

Billy Greene

In 1830, when Lincoln’s family moved to Coles County, Ill., he headed out on his own. At age 22, he settled in New Salem, Ill., where he met Billy Greene — and, as Greene told Herndon, the two “shared a narrow bed. When one turned over the other had to do likewise.” Greene was so close to Lincoln at that time that he could describe Lincoln’s physique. However, Lincoln was poor at the time and it was not unusual for men in poverty to share a bed.

Joshua Fry Speed

In 1837, Lincoln moved to Springfield, Ill., to practice law and enter politics. That’s where he met the two men who would be his greatest friends throughout his life. One, Joshua Fry Speed, became his bed partner for a while; the other was law partner Herndon. Beyond the revelation that Lincoln and Speed had an intimate friendship, little has been written about how diligently Speed worked for Lincoln’s legal and political career. Speed’s name popped up in many of Lincoln’s legal filings and on the Illinois Whig Party’s central committee. The two were almost inseparable. Most Lincoln historians agree this relationship was the strongest and most intimate of the president’s life. What they don’t agree on is why they slept in the same bed together for four years when they had the space and means to sleep separately, as was expected of men their age. They were no longer young and poor. And this was a house with ample room, unlike the hotels that accommodated Lincoln and his team on the road; then, it was common to sleep two or more in a bed.

By 1840, both Lincoln and Speed — now 31 and 26— were considered well past the marrying age. Both bachelors reportedly were hesitant to tie the knot, but it was a de-facto requirement to have a wife if you wanted to move in political circles — or at least create the perception of interest in marriage. Both Speed and Lincoln dreaded this “requirement,” as evidenced by Lincoln’s letters. Speed takes the marriage plunge first and moves back to Kentucky, leaving Lincoln. At this precise time, Lincoln suffered a mental breakdown. Historians have been all over the map as to what caused the breakdown, but it was so intense that friends, including Herndon, worried he would take his own life. Lincoln only recovered after Speed invited him to visit him and his new wife in Kentucky.

Lincoln’s most emotional and intimate writings were contained in his letters to Speed. From the time they lived together until shortly after Speed married and moved to Kentucky, Lincoln always signed his letters “forever yours” or “yours forever.”

Lincoln wrote to Speed shortly before the latter’s Feb. 15, 1842 wedding: “When this shall reach you, you will have been Fanny’s husband several days. You know my desire to befriend you is everlasting — that I will never cease, while I know how to do any thing.

“But you will always hereafter, be on ground that I have never occupied, and consequently, if advice were needed, I might advise wrong.

“ … I am now fully convinced, that you love her as ardently as you are capable of loving … If you went through the ceremony calmly, or even with sufficient composure not to excite alarm in any present, you are safe, beyond question, and in two or three months, to say the most, will be the happiest of men.

“I hope with tolerable confidence, that this letter is a plaster for a place that is no longer sore. God grant it may be so.

“I would desire you to give my particular respects to Fanny, but perhaps you will not wish her to know you have received this, lest she should desire to see it. Make her write me an answer to my last letter to her at any rate. I would set great value upon another letter from her.

“P.S. I have been quite a man ever since you left.”

The two exchanged letters regularly and, in October 1842, Lincoln observed the newlywed Speed was “happier now than you were the day you married her.” He continued: “Are you now, in feeling as well as judgment, glad you are married as you are? From any body but me, this would be an impudent question not to be tolerated; but I know you will pardon it in me. Please answer it quickly as I feel impatient to know.”

The urgency in his letter is palpable: Lincoln married Mary Todd on Nov. 4, 1842, despite that he broke off their engagement two years earlier.

Even after the Civil War broke out and Speed lived in Kentucky — a border state, Lincoln and Speed continued to write. On numerous occasions, Speed visited Lincoln at the White House; he even spent a night with Lincoln in the president’s cottage at the Soldier’s Home, 3 miles northwest of the White House.

Throughout Lincoln’s political career, he urged Speed to accept a political appointment that would bring him to live in Washington, D.C. When that failed, he appointed Speed’s brother, James, U.S. attorney general in 1864.

Elmer Ellsworth

After Speed and Lincoln’s marriages, there were no traces of other men in Lincoln’s life until Elmer Ellsworth in 1860. According to “The Abraham Lincoln Blog,” in 1859, Ellsworth formed the Chicago Zouaves, a precision military drill team based on the famous Zouave soldiers of the French Army based in northern Africa.

The Chicago Zouaves, led by Ellsworth, toured the northern states in the months before the Civil War, with the so-called regiment performing acrobatic moves, marching and weapons displays. The regiment impressed the crowds — despite the fact that they’d never seen military action.

Lincoln met Ellsworth through these displays and the two became friends. Lincoln invited Ellsworth, who had been a law clerk in Chicago, to move to Springfield to study law. Ellsworth became devoted to Lincoln and adored by the entire Lincoln family. One author wrote that it seemed Lincoln had a “schoolboy crush” on the much-younger Ellsworth. He first worked in Lincoln’s law practice, then moved on to his political career and eventual campaign for president. Once elected, Lincoln asked Ellsworth to accompany his family to Washington.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Ellsworth asked Lincoln to assist in obtaining a position for him in the Union Army. In a letter dated April 15, 1861, Lincoln wrote: “I have been, and still am anxious for you to have the best position in the military which can be given you.”

When a call for soldiers went out, Ellsworth headed to New York and rallied 1,000 men, then returned to Washington, D.C. When Virginia voted to secede on May 23, 1861, a hotel owner in Alexandria, Va., across the Potomac River, raised a Confederate flag — visible from Lincoln’s office. Early the next morning, Ellsworth and his men crossed the river and occupied the telegraph office to cut off communications. Seeing that the hotel was next door, Ellsworth entered it and took down the flag, then was fatally shot by the hotel’s proprietor. Ellsworth would be the first Union soldier killed in the war.

After hearing of the tragedy, Lincoln wept openly and went with Mrs. Lincoln to view the soldier’s body. Lincoln arranged for Ellsworth to lay in state in the White House, followed by a funeral. The president was inconsolable for days.

Lincoln wrote condolences to Ellsworth’s parents: “My acquaintance with him began less than two years ago; yet through the latter half of the intervening period, it was as intimate as the disparity of our ages, and my engrossing engagements, would permit … What was conclusive of his good heart, he never forgot his parents.”

As with Speed and his family, Lincoln appointed Ellsworth family members to positions in the government.

David Derickson

In 1862, Lincoln met Capt. David Derickson, who served as his bodyguard, providing protection for the president when he commuted from the White House to his cottage at the Soldier’s Home. Lincoln spent about a quarter of his presidency at the cottage, which allowed him some escape from D.C.’s summers and from public interruptions at the White House.

Lincoln and his bodyguard became close, and historians Tripp and David Herbert Donald noted two recorded mentions that Lincoln and Derickson slept in the same bed: Derickson’s superior, Lt. Col. Thomas Chamberlain, and Tish Fox, the wife of Assistant Navy Secretary Gustavus Fox, both wrote about it. Tish wrote in her diary that Derickson was devoted to Lincoln and “when Mrs. Lincoln was away, they slept together.”

But there were more than just two eyewitnesses to this relationship. After the war, Chamberlain published an account of the regiment called “History of the 150th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, Second Regiment, Bucktail Brigade.” Before it was published, many members of the company reviewed the manuscript and no one objected to the following:

“The president was also not an infrequent visitor in the late afternoon hours, and endeared himself to his guards by his genial, kind ways. He was not long in placing the officers in his two companies at their ease in his presence, and Capts. Derickson and Crozier were shortly on a footing of such marked friendship with him that they were often summoned to dinner or breakfast at the presidential board. Capt. Derickson, in particular, advanced so far in the president’s confidence and esteem that in Mrs. Lincoln’s absence he frequently spent the night at his cottage, sleeping in the same bed with him, and — it is said — making use of his excellency’s nightshirt! Thus began an intimacy which continued unbroken until the following spring, when Capt. Derickson was appointed provost marshall of the 19th Pennsylvania District, with headquarters in Meadville.”

The Bucktails witnessed the relationship between the president and his bodyguard, which was public enough that they knew Derickson kept him company when Mrs. Lincoln traveled, and wore his nightshirt. Historical interpretations aside, why would the president, then in his 50s, sleep with his bodyguard?

Lincoln and women

Lincoln’s lack of interest in women was frequently documented as awkward. Most historians agree there are only three women with whom Lincoln was close: his stepmother, Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln, who raised him with affection; Ann Rutledge, who he was romantically linked to but not engaged; and Todd. He also courted Mary Owens for a time in 1836, but the relationship ended on mutual agreement. If Lincoln was a closeted gay man, he still could have loved and adored Todd, for the same reasons many closeted men love their wives: She brought him a sense of being loved and the family he craved. While Todd was always described as high-strung, she reportedly took a turn for the worse — many historians have labeled her as insane — during their marriage. The Lincolns endured many tragedies — three of their four children did not survive to adulthood — which could have caused her decline, but it’s also possible that she stumbled upon her husband’s same-sex affections.


The most outspoken and respected of detractors is historian and Lincoln biographer David Herbert Donald, arguably the most notable Lincoln observer since Sandburg. In his attempts to refute Lincoln’s possible homosexuality, Donald claims in his book “Lincoln’s Men” (2004) that while Speed and Lincoln slept together for four years in the same bed, they both were romancing women during two of those years. But the fact that he courted women doesn’t rule out the possibility that Lincoln may have preferred men. Donald also noted that no contemporaries of the two, including Herndon, claimed to have witnessed Speed and Lincoln having intimate relations. But Donald ignored eyewitness accounts and misinterpreted other witnesses who hinted at it, such as the president’s own secretaries. The historian also brushed aside the emotion contained in the letters between Lincoln and Speed, in their own handwriting. Donald pointed out it was common for 19th-century young men to have emotional relationships and share a bed. But Speed and Lincoln weren’t considered “young” when they met.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, in an interview on C-SPAN about her 2006 Lincoln biography “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” said, “Homosexuals didn’t exist before the word was coined in 1868...” She most likely meant the term didn’t exist, but this clearly demonstrates a lack of sensitivity by non-gay historians. Goodwin has to be familiar with Lincoln contemporary Walt Whitman. While the words “homosexual” and “gay” were not coined at that point, Whitman now is considered to have been gay.

Younger historians and Lincoln scholars seem to be more sensitive to the subject than Donald or Kerns were. For example, Jean H. Baker, a former student of Donald, conceded in her acclaimed 1987 book, “Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography,” that Lincoln’s distraction from his wife was likely due to more than just his all-consuming work. Baker said, in a New York Times interview, “I previously thought [Lincoln] was detached because he was thinking great things about court cases … now I see there is another explanation.”


Taken individually, accounts of Lincoln with other men may not offer enough proof that he was gay. But the pattern reveals a man who, in his sexual prime, slept exclusively with another man for four years — two of those years (according to Donald) without romancing someone of the opposite sex; who wrote a poem about a boy marrying a boy; and who, as president, slept with his bodyguard.

From historical records, one can conclude that Lincoln enjoyed sleeping with men. He did so when it was acceptable in youth and poverty, and also when he was older and successful. While it is documented that Lincoln slept with several men, there is only one confirmed woman who shared his bed — Todd. (Most Lincoln historians dispute an account that he was involved with a female prostitute.) Of the men, we don’t know how many reciprocated with emotion. To find one same-sex soul mate in the culture of the 1800s seems a miracle; Lincoln may have sought others when Speed went on to have the life that was expected of men of the time. In that period, only one man in 300 did not marry. And Speed was apparently the love of his life. Lincoln resisted marriage as long as he could, only marrying after Speed was well-entrenched in his own marriage — a phase that coincided with Lincoln’s “mental distress.”

Mark Segal is founder and publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, the country’s oldest LGBT newsweekly. Sometimes called the Dean of the Gay Press, Segal is an award-winning columnist and is fascinated by history.

What 'Lincoln' misses and another film gets right

What 'Lincoln' misses and another Civil War film gets right
John Blake
Tue January 8, 2013

(CNN) -- He used the N-word and told racist jokes. He once said African-Americans were inferior to whites. He proposed ending slavery by shipping willing slaves back to Africa.

Meet Abraham Lincoln, "The Great Emancipator" who "freed" the slaves.

That's not the version of Lincoln we get from Steven Spielberg's movie "Lincoln." But there's another film that fills in the historical gaps left by Spielberg and challenges conventional wisdom about Lincoln and the Civil War.

"The Abolitionists" is a PBS American Experience film premièring Tuesday that focuses on the intertwined lives of five abolitionist leaders. These men and women arguably did as much -- maybe even more -- than Lincoln to end slavery, yet few contemporary Americans recognize their names.

The three-part documentary's airing comes as the nation commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 1863 decree signed by Lincoln that set in motion the freeing of slaves. Lincoln is a Mount Rushmore figure today, but the abolitionists also did something remarkable. They took on the colossal wealth and political power of the slave trade, and won. (Imagine activists today persuading the country to shut down Apple and Google because they deem their business practices immoral.)

The abolitionists "forced the issue of slavery on to the national agenda," says Sharon Grimberg, executive producer for the PBS documentary. "They made it unavoidable."

"The Abolitionists" offers four surprising revelations about how the abolitionists triumphed, and how they pioneered many of the same tactics protest movements use today.

No. 1: The Great Persuader was not Lincoln

Near the end of "Lincoln," Spielberg shows the president delivering his second inaugural address, a majestic speech marked by harsh biblical language. Lincoln is often considered to be the nation's greatest president in part because of such speeches. He was an extraordinary writer.

But the most well-known condemnation of slavery during that era didn't come from the pen of Lincoln. It came from the pen of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister who joined the abolitionist movement, the PBS film says.

Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" awakened the nation to the horrors of slavery more than any other speech or book of that era, some historians say. It hit the American public like a meteor when it was published in 1852. Some historians say it started the Civil War.

The novel revolved around a slave called Tom, who attempted to preserve his faith and family amid the brutality of slavery. The book became a massive best-seller and was turned into a popular play. Even people who cared nothing about slavery became furious when they read or saw "Uncle Tom's Cabin"' performed on stage, the documentary reveals.

The lesson: Appeal to people's emotion, not their rationale, when trying to rally public opinion.

Abolitionists had tried to rouse the conscience of Americans for years by appealing to their Christian and Democratic sensibilities. They largely failed. But Stowe's novel did something all those speeches didn't do. It told a story. She transformed slaves into sympathetic human beings who were pious, courageous and loved their children and spouses.

"When abolitionists were talking about the Constitution and big ideas about freedom and liberty, that's abstract," says R. Blakeslee Gilpin, a University of South Carolina history professor featured in "The Abolitionists."

"But Stowe begins with the human dimension. She shows the human victims from the institution of slavery."

150 years later, myths persist about the Emancipation Proclamation

No. 2: It's the economy, stupid

Want to know why slavery lasted so long? The simplistic answer: racism. Another huge factor: greed, according to "The Abolitionists."

Many abolitionists didn't realize this when they launched the anti-slavery movement, the documentary shows. They were motivated by Christian idealism, but it was no match for the power of money.

Christianity and slavery were two of the big growth industries in early America. The country underwent two "Great Awakenings" in the early 19th century -- while slavery continued to spread.

But the spread of Christianity did little to stop the spread of slavery because too many Americans made money off slavery, the documentary shows. The wealth produced by slavery transformed the United States from an economic backwater into an economic and military dynamo, says Gilpin, also author of "John Brown Still Lives!: America's Long Reckoning With Violence, Equality, and Change."

"All the combined economic value of industry, land and banking did not equal the value of humans held as property in the South," Gilpin says.

Many Americans hated abolitionists because they saw them as a threat to prosperity, says David Blight, a Yale University historian featured in "The Abolitionists."

"They wondered if you really did destroy slavery, where would all of these black people go, and whose jobs would they take," says Blight.

The South wasn't the only region that profited off the slave trade. Abolitionists faced some of their most vicious opposition in the North. New York City, for example, was a pro-slavery town because it was filled with bankers and cotton merchants who benefited from slavery, Blight says.

"Jim Crow laws did not originate in the South; they originated in the North," Blight says.

The lesson: Don't reduce the issue of slavery to racism. Follow the money.

No. 3: Flawed reformers

The historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. once said that black abolitionists used to say that the only thing white abolitionists hated more than slavery was the slave.

"The Abolitionists" reveals that some of the most courageous anti-slavery activists were infected with the same white supremacist attitudes they crusaded against. White supremacy was so ingrained in early America that very few escaped its taint, even the most noble.

The documentary shows how racial tensions destroyed the friendship between two of the most famous abolitionists: Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison was the editor of an abolitionist newspaper who convinced Douglass that he could be a leading spokesman against the institution that once held him captive.

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, a history professor featured in the film, says some abolitionists were uncomfortable with interracial relationships. They wouldn't walk with black acquaintances in public during the day, and refused to sit with them in church.

Lesson: Racism was so embedded in 19th century America that even those who fought against racism were unaware that it still had a hold on them.

"The majority of aboloitionists did not believe in civic equality for blacks," Dunbar says. "They believed the institution of slavery was immoral, but questions about whether blacks were equal, let alone deserved the right to vote, were an entirely different subject."

No. 4: Lincoln the "recovering racist"

Tell some historians that "Lincoln freed the slaves" and one can virtually see the smoke come out of their ears.

"Please don't get me started," Dunbar says after hearing that phrase.

"There's this perception that good old Lincoln and a few others gave freedom to black people. The real story is that black people and people like Douglass wrestled their freedom away," Dunbar says.

Historians still argue over Lincoln's racial attitudes. The historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. once called him a "recovering racist" who used the N-word and liked black minstrel shows.

Others point to the public comments Lincoln made during one of his famed senatorial debates with Stephen Douglas in 1858 when he said, "There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.

"There must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race," Lincoln said in the speech.

Spielberg's film depicts Lincoln as a resolute opponent of slavery, willing to deploy all the powers of his office to destroy it.

Yet "The Abolitionists" paints another portrait of Lincoln. It recounts how he supported colonization plans to ship willing slaves back to Africa. It says that Lincoln once floated a peace treaty offer to the Confederates that would allow them to keep slaves until 1900 if they surrendered. At one White House meeting with black ministers, Lincoln virtually blamed slaves for starting the war, the film's narrator says.

Blight, the Yale University historian, says Lincoln always personally hated slavery. He publicly spoke out against it as early as the 1840s, and spoke often about stopping the expansion of slavery.

Lincoln hoped to slowly end slavery without tearing the nation apart, Blight says.

"He was a gradualist," Blight says. "He was trying to prevent a bloody revolution over it. He couldn't."

He couldn't because of the pressure exerted by the abolitionists and the slaves themselves, other historians say. Blacks did not wait for white people to free them, they say. At least 180,000 blacks fought in the Civil War. And Douglass was one of Lincoln's harshest critics. He constantly pushed Lincoln to move aggressively against slavery.

The historian William Jelani Cobb wrote in a recent New Yorker essay on slavery:

"On the hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, it's worth recalling that slavery was made unsustainable largely through the efforts of those who were enslaved. The record is replete with enslaved blacks—even so-called house slaves—who poisoned slaveholders, destroyed crops, 'accidentally' burned down buildings."

As for Lincoln's true feelings about blacks, that matter may always be subject to debate.

"No historian would doubt that Lincoln was a man of his times," says Dunbar, author of "A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City." "He was a racist, and never truly believed that blacks could live in America after emancipation."

Other historians say Lincoln was evolving into the leader that Spielberg depicts.

The historian Gates once wrote that Lincoln initially opposed slavery because it was an economic institution that discriminated against white men who couldn't afford slaves. Two things changed him: The courage black troops displayed in the Civil War and his friendship with Douglass the abolitionist.

"Lincoln met with Douglass at the White House three times. He was the first black person Lincoln treated as an intellectual equal, and he grew to admire him and value his opinion," Gates wrote.

Gilpin says Lincoln was great not only for what he got right, but because he could admit what he got wrong.

"You dream of a president like that," Gilpin says. "Not only was he a brilliant manipulator and reader of public opinion, but he had the capacity for growth. He came into office because he was a moderate but he turns out to be the Great Emancipator."

Lesson: Lincoln led an epic battle against slavery, but the abolitionists lit the fuse.