MALAYSIA AND INDONESIA TO RESCUE MIGRANTS
Malaysia and Indonesia have pledged to provide temporary shelter to the estimated 7,000 migrants believed to be stranded at sea, a move that AP characterizes as “a potential breakthrough in the humanitarian crisis confronting Southeast Asia.” Most of the migrants are members of the long-persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar. Hours before the announcement, some 400 migrants were rescued by Indonesian fishermen after their boat was reportedly turned away by Thai and Malaysian authorities.
IRAQ READYING FOR RAMADI BATTLE
The Iraqi government has issued a statement calling for volunteers to join the fighting squads as it prepares for what promises to be a long battle to retake the city of Ramadi from ISIS’ grip. While analysts are criticizing Baghdad’s failed strategy and its shortcomings, Barack Obama is said to be eyeing faster training and more arms supplies for Iraqi tribes. Read more from Al Jazeera.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s new Twitter account @POTUS broke a new record as it reached 1 million followers in under 5 hours. Oh, and just so you know, the White House actually archives every “mention” and “direct message.” So think before you tweet.
ON THIS DAY
Happy birthday, Cher! See that and three other notable events from this day in your 57-second shot of history here.
FRANCE’S ALTICE BUYS SUDDENLINK
Telecommunications group Altice, of French-Israeli businessman Patrick Drahi, is entering the U.S. cable sector with the acquisition of 70% of Suddenlink for a reported price of $9.1 billion, according to Les Échos. And this could be just the beginning for Altice with Bloomberg reporting that the group has made a takeover bid for Time Warner Cable. Altice has made a number of important acquisitions under the leadership of Drahi, who also owns French publications Libération and L’Express, as well as Israel’s i24news.
The USA is celebrating the end of the David Letterman era. We’ve put together our own international ode to the legendary American talk-show host, a video of those around the world who have taken a page from Dave. Watch it here.
POROSHENKO DOESN’T TRUST PUTIN
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told the BBC he doesn’t trust his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin but had “no other option” than negotiating with him. In the interview, Poroshenko, who was elected a year ago, also commented on the arrest last weekend of two Russian servicemen in eastern Ukraine. “Can I be absolutely clear with you, this is not a fight with Russian-backed separatists, this is a real war with Russia,” he said. Moscow denied the accusation and said the two servicemen were no longer employed by the state when they were caught.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
“Lock them in, do not let them go out, then they will not post anything,” is how Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov wants husbands to deal with wives who took to Whatsapp to criticize a controversial marriage. Last weekend, Kadyrov approved the apparently forced marriage of a 17-year-old to an already married police chief aged 47, in violation of Russia’s anti-polygamy law.
ISRAEL IMPLEMENTS SEGREGATED BUSES, THEN CANCELS MOVE
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon have suspended a project to implement segregated buses, hours after it was introduced. Under what a Defense Ministry official had told AFP was a “three-month pilot project,” Palestinians who commute to Israel to work would have been banned from using the same buses as Israeli citizens. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog had characterized the policy as “an unnecessary humiliation” while the leader of the left-wing Meretz party, Zahava Gal-On, commented “This is how apartheid looks.”
The road to recovery will be long and steep for Nepal, writes Roger-Pol Droit in Les Échos. But there may be something about the Nepalese psyche that allows the country to survive catastrophes differently: “Nepal, where 80% of the population is Hindu, is a conservatory of Indian thought traditions. Coexisting without any real conflicts are many schools and branches of Hindu, not to mention Buddhists, which represent about 10% of the population. All are living in what is believed to be Buddha's birthplace. The Nepalese are therefore permeated with a metaphysical, cultural and spiritual background different from that of Westerners.”
Read the full article, Nepal, The Spiritual Roots To Guide Earthquake Recovery.
U.S. CHARGES CHINESE NATIONALS WITH ESPIONAGE
The U.S. Justice Department has charged six Chinese nationals, including three professors who attended the University of Southern California, with economic espionage on behalf of Beijing. Read more from The Wall Street Journal.
OIL SPILL IN CALIFORNIA
Photo: Troy Harvey/ZUMA
An estimated 21,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the ocean yesterday after a pipeline ruptured near Santa Barbara, California, creating a four-mile long slick, the Los Angeles Times reports. It’s still unclear what caused the rupture.
BAD TOILET HABITS
We’ve apparently been pooping all wrong for decades. This is how we should do it.
With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.
When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.
And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.
Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan
The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan
According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.
In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.
The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.
Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.
View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA
Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!
The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.
Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.
Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain
Old Belchite, Spain
Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…
That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.
Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.
If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.
Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan
Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.
The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.
Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."
Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.
Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden
The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden
After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).
Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.
Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia
Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia
During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.
Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.
Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy
Poveglia Island, Italy
Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).
During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.
In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.
Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.
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