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Lincoln Bicentennial: President Obama and the Country Celebrate Lincoln’s 200th Birthday

Posted by Audiegrl (a proud Illini)

“I can say that I feel a special gratitude to this singular figure who, in so many ways, made my own story possible — and who, in so many ways, made America’s story possible”~~President Barack Obama

obama_lincoln_090213_sshWhiteHouse.gov—Thursday night, at a dinner celebrating the Lincoln bicentennial in Springfield, Ill., President Obama delivered remarks standing before a portrait of the 16th President.

The Great Emancipator would have been 200 years old today, and President Obama is marking the occasion in several ways. This morning he spoke at the Lincoln bicentennial celebration on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and tonight he’ll address the 102nd Abraham Lincoln Association Annual Banquet Dinner.

Last night he appeared at the Re-Opening of Ford’s Theatre, the site of the April 14, 1865, assassination of President Lincoln. Big names like Katie Couric, James Earl Jones, and Jeffrey Wright, appeared, and there performances by the President’s Own Marine Band, violinist Joshua Bell, and Audra McDonald, among others.

As part of the festivities in Springfield, Ill., a man portraying Abraham Lincoln prepares to lead a candlelight parade from Lincoln's home and to the Old State Capitol.

As part of the festivities in Springfield, Ill., a man portraying Abraham Lincoln prepares to lead a candlelight parade from Lincoln's home and to the Old State Capitol.

The 44th President commended the 16th’s many accomplishments, but made particular note of his commitment to the future, even amid the upheaval of the Civil War.

When President Lincoln was finally told of all the metal being used at the Capitol, his response was short and clear: That is as it should be,” President Obama said in his remarks. “The American people needed to be reminded, he believed, that even in a time of war, the work would go on; that even when the nation itself was in doubt, the future was being secured; and that on that distant day when the guns fell silent, a national capitol would stand, with a statue of freedom at its peak, as a symbol of unity in the land still mending its divisions.

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Haunted Salem! Your Guide to the Witch City

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Salem, Massachusetts is home to a world of haunting enchantments. Walk the narrow streets of our “Witch City” and you will pass unusual shops, strange museums, and travel through time as you read the epitaphs of history on one of our many colonial graves. Meet real Salem Witches who are waiting to guide you through our city’s mysteries. Shop mystical emporiums that will entice you with treasures found nowhere else. Scare yourself with one of our several family oriented haunted attractions. Take a tour of the Witch City’s streets with a guide who can introduce you to real local haunts.

The infamous Witch Trials of 1692 gave birth to a heritage that Salem cannot deny. Today, we in Salem embrace our past and strive to present it to our guests in a way that gives respect to those who lost their lives to intolerance. Listen closely to the whispers on the winds and you will hear the cry of these innocent victims of the Witchcraft hysteria. Experience the Witch trials firsthand by visiting one of our many museums that are dedication to them.

The Curse of Giles Corey

One of Salem’s most famous Witch Trial victims of 1692 was Giles Corey, who, along with his wife Martha, died during the hysteria that swept our city over three hundred years ago.

The Accusation of Giles Corey. From Another Drawing of the Salem Witchcraft Trials

The Accusation of Giles Corey. From Another Drawing of the Salem Witchcraft Trials

Giles initially supported the claims against his wife (was it her cooking?), offering “evidence” that his wife had been “muttering” through her chores. He soon recanted, however, when he became aware of the severity of the prosecution and what lay in store for those accused.

According to the laws of the time—which were the source of much confusion, given that Salem had been operating without a charter for many months—the wealth and property of the accused could be confiscated if he were found guilty of the crime of Witchcraft. This would leave the heirs of those accused without inheritance. However, a person could not be found guilty or innocent if he refused to enter a plea, thereby protecting his possessions for his family.

Such a tactic, though, came with a terrible price. In order to extract a plea, authorities would place boards across the silent “criminal,” piling the boards with heavy stones until the accused made a plea of guilty or innocent.

It was this very tactic that Giles Corey used. Knowing that he would be found guilty no matter what his plea, Giles made the difficult choice to endure this Puritan form of torture that his children would inherit the fruits of his hard labor.

Sheriff George Corwin, much reviled son of Witch Trials magistrate Jonathan Corwin, profited greatly from the trials, confiscating property and dividing the spoils. It was he who presided over the crushing of Giles Corey, which took place at a field that is now Howard Cemetery, overlooked by the old Salem Jail.

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Old Drawing of the Death of Giles Corey by Being Pressed With Heavy Stones After Conviction as a Witch During the Salem Witchcraft Delusion

It was later said that, as stones continued to be places atop the wooden door covering Giles Corey, that all he would say is “more weight.” While this is more likely the results of folklore, what is reputed by witnesses of the time to have been said is far more damning in retrospect. With his dying breath, Giles Corey addressed Sheriff Corwin “Damn you Sheriff I curse you and Salem!”

Local Salem historian and former High Sheriff of Essex County Robert Ellis Cahill discovered some years ago that the curse of Giles Corey may have come to bear. He notes that each and every Sheriff down from George Corwin to himself, each headquartered at the Salem Jail overlooking the the place where Corey was killed, had died while in office or had been forced out of his post as the result of a heart or blood ailment. Corwin himself died in 1696, not long after the trials, of a heart attack. Thankfully, Cahill’s heart attack and subsequent blood ailment forced him into retirement and not into an early grave, for he later went on to chronicle many strange stories of New England’s past.

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Tombstone of Giles Corey

The Curse of Giles Corey was not just leveled at the Sheriff but at “all of Salem.” It is said that each time Salem has undergone a major tragedy (such as the great fire that nearly destroyed the town), it was not long after a claimed sighting of the ghost of Giles Corey. Coincidence? Perhaps. Still, could the words spoken by this tragic victim of hysteria have left an imprint that is still at work in Salem today?

Sources: HauntedSalem.com, Haunted Happenings by Robert Ellis Cahill, A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials by Frances Hill

Museums and Historic Sites

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Quicktime VR Panorama of the Old Burying Point
Salem’s Old Burying Point is where 1692 Witch Trials Judge John Hathorne, ancestor of famed Salem author Nathaniel Hawthorne, is buried. It is also one of New England’s oldest graveyards!

The Salem Witch Museum
The Salem Witch Museum brings you back to Salem 1692, a time of hysteria and fear that ended with the deaths of twenty innocent people. Using life size figures, stage sets, a sound track narration and lighting, the museum recreates the accusers and accused, the court proceedings and finally the execution of the victims of this terrifying wave of persecution. The thought-provoking narration invites visitors to ponder questions of human rights and tolerance that affect contemporary life and determine for themselves how a witch hunt can occur.

The Witch Dungeon Museum
An award-winning live reenactment of a witch trial from the original transcript of 1692 followed by a guided tour through the dungeon.

Witch History Museum
Experience the characters and untold stories of the 1692 witch hysteria. Learn the fate of the victims as a guide brings you back in time in Old Salem Village where you will view 15 life-size scenes.

The Burying Point
The Burying Point is the oldest cemetery in Salem. If you love roaming through old graveyards, make sure you stop here. Among the buried is Judge John Hawthorne, the most malevolent of the Witch Trial judges. Also located within the Burying Point is the Witch Trials Memorial, erected in 1992.

Gallows Hill Park
In 1692, at what is now a baseball field and children’s park, twenty innocent people were condemned to die. Nineteen were hanged while one was crushed under heavy stones. Each year at Halloween, Salem Witches hold a public circle to commemorate those who died as part of the hysteria. They also honor all those who died for freedom, including great leaders of recent past. Following the ritual, the Witches hold a candlelight procession to the center of town.

The Witch House
This historic house, built in 1642, earned its name because it was once the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, who helped preside over the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The accused were often brought here to be examined for supposed “Witches’ marks“.

Hex: Old World Witchery
Cast your own spell at Salem’s newest Witch shop. Located across from the Samantha statue, Hex honors the old ways of Witchcraft and Hoodoo with ritual tools, jewelry, incense, candles, oils, statues, charms, roots, and herbs! Also get readings from Salem Witches (and proprietors) Christian Day and Leanne Marrama.

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Book Review: Lustrum by Robert Harris

Posted by Audiegrl

Best-Selling Author Robert Harris

Best-Selling Author Robert Harris

Times Online–In recent years, ancient Rome has provided the setting for dozens of historical crime novels. In their pages, whole posses of classical private eyes prowl the city’s mean streets. Robert Harris’s Lustrum, the second, enthralling volume in what he promises will be a trilogy set in the last decades of the Roman republic, opens with a scene that suggests this might be just another one to add to the genre. A young slave has been found murdered and eviscerated, his body dumped in the Tiber. Consul-elect Marcus Tullius Cicero is called to the scene. When he learns that the boy has been killed as a human sacrifice, it seems that Cicero might be taking on the role of a toga-clad Philip Marlowe in tracking down the murderers.

Yet it soon becomes clear that Harris has no interest in that kind of story at all. His focus instead is firmly upon the dangers and temptations of politics. Over the course of the next 400 pages, the gritty and tortuous realities of power take precedence over the contrived puzzles of crime fiction.

lustrombookcoverIt is not difficult to see why Harris was so drawn to the years between 63BC and 58BC when the novel is set (Lustrum means “five-year period” in Latin). The stakes then, in a period when the Roman republic was perpetually at risk of disintegration, were so much higher than they are now. Plunge to catastrophic defeat in modern British politics and the worst that awaits you is an early elevation to the House of Lords; failure in Roman politics could result in exile, assassination or an inescapable invitation to open your veins in a warm bath.

It is against this background of the ever­present potential for violence and death that Harris’s gripping narrative unfolds. Within a few chapters, readers learn who killed the slave and why. He was the victim of Catilina, one of Cicero’s beaten rivals for the consulship, who offered the boy up as the sacrificial seal on an oath taken by a group of decadent aristocrats to murder Cicero and take control of the state.

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Other Best-sellers by Robert Harris

pompeiicoverPompeii: A Novel by Robert Harris

Harris’s historical novel begins in August, 79 B.C., two days before the eruption of Vesuvius. The hero is Marcus Attilius Primus, an aqueduct engineer who is investigating a mysterious blockage, apparently related to recent tremors, in the aqueduct that runs from Misenum to Pompeii. In addition

Ancient wall painting in Pompeii (Photo by Audiegrl)

Ancient wall painting in Pompeii (Photo by Audiegrl)

to landing this prestigious job—it’s the Empire’s longest aqueduct—he has met a young woman who has the “same darkness of hair” and the “same voluptuousness of figure” as his dear departed first wife. The only problem is her father, a corrupt and powerful millionaire who is stealing from the water supply. Although the plot seems to owe more to “Chinatown” than to Pliny, Harris garnishes the action with seductive period detail, and the novel comes alive in the main event, a cataclysmic explosion with a thermal energy equal to a hundred thousand Hiroshimas.~~The New Yorker

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imperiumbookcoverImperium : A Novel of Ancient Rome by Robert Harris

Bestselling British author Harris (Pompeii; Enigma) returns to ancient Rome for this entertaining and enlightening novel of Marcus Cicero’s rise to power. Narrated by a household slave named Tiro, who actually served as Cicero’s “confidential secretary” for 36 years, this fictional biography
Rome Coliseum            (Photo by Audiegrl)

Roman Coliseum (Photo by Audiegrl)

follows the statesman and orator from his early career as an outsider a “new man” from the provinces to his election to the consulship, Rome’s highest office, in 64 B.C. Loathed by the aristocrats, Cicero lived by his wits in a tireless quest for imperium the ultimate power of life and death and achieves “his life’s ambition” after uncovering a plot by Marcus Crassus and Julius Caesar to rig the elections and seize control of the government. Harris’s description of Rome’s labyrinthine, and sometimes deadly, political scene is fascinating and instructive. The action is relentless, and readers will be disappointed when Harris leaves Cicero at the moment of his greatest triumph. Given Cicero’s stormy consulship, his continuing opposition to Julius Caesar and his own assassination, readers can only hope a sequel is in the works. Until then, this serves as a superb first act.
~~Publishers Weekly

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How They Pick Nobel Laureates

Posted by Audiegrl

Chairman of Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjoern Jagland

Chairman of Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjoern Jagland

TPM/Rachel Slajda—Much has been made today of the fact that the nomination deadline for the Nobel Peace Prize is Feb. 1 — just 12 days after President Obama took office.

But the winner isn’t selected until much later, usually around mid-September. The Norwegian Nobel Committee, made up of five members appointed by the Norwegian Parliament, makes the decision. Here’s the process, according to the committee’s web site:

Nominators — including members of governments, university professors, past Nobel laureates and members of the International Court of Justice — must make their picks to the committee by Feb. 1. The committee usually receives between 150 and 200 nominations for the Peace Prize, but this year they received a record 205 nominations.

noble_medalsThe committee then holds its first meeting,when members can add their own nominees to the list. They then narrow the list down to between five and 20 candidates.

Those candidates are then reviewed by the Nobel Institute’s director, research director and a team of advisers, usually university professors. Those advisers draw up reports on each candidate, a process that takes a few months, and present those reports to the committee.

And then the committee “embarks on a thorough-going discussion of the most likely candidates.” They sometimes request more information, especially when, like Obama, candidates are involved in current affairs. The committee usually makes its decision by mid-September, but has been known to take until the final meeting in early October.

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Nobel Peace Prize Statistics

Geographical distribution of Peace Prize laureates 1901-2000

Geographical distribution of Peace Prize laureates 1901-2000

nobelchart2During the first century of the Nobel Peace Prize, there were 107 laureates from different parts of the world. Alfred Nobel’s intention was to create an international prize, a wish that was upheld by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. However, it took the committee a long time before it started to look beyond the western world for suitable candidates. Globalisation of the prize was a very slow process. From 1901 to 1975 only four laureates did not come from Western Europe or North America.

To find more interesting historical facts, please visit nobelprizelogo

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