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Terror In Brussels, “New Day” For Cuba, No-Frills Smokes

Terror In Brussels, “New Day” For Cuba, No-Frills Smokes

TERROR BLASTS HIT BRUSSELS AIRPORT, METRO

Photo: Ye Pingfan/Xinhua/ZUMA

Several blasts hit the Brussels airport and a Metro station this morning in what are being investigated as terror attacks that claimed at least 28 lives (13 at the Zaventem airport and 15 at the Maelbeek Metro station). The death toll is likely to rise, and many more people were injured, newspaper Le Soir reports. “What we feared has happened,” Prime Minister Charles Michel told reporters. He spoke of “violent and coward attacks” and described it as a “dark day for Belgium.” He urged citizens to stay “calm” and “united.”

  • The first two blasts occurred at the airport’s departure area at around 8 a.m. local time. At least one of the explosions came at the hands of a suicide bomber, Politico quotes Belgian authorities as saying. RTBF quoted witnesses as saying that they heard gunfire and someone shouting in Arabic just before the explosions occurred, reportedly at the American Airlines check-in desk. Video footage taken afterward shows the devastation inside the airport. A third bomb was reportedly found on the airport’s runway.
  • Just over an hour later, at least one explosion targeted the Metro station of Maelbeek, near European Union buildings in central Brussels.
  • Belgian authorities have raised the threat level to its maximum of 4. The airport has been evacuated, and all flights have been cancelled, as have all international trains to Brussels. The city’s Metro, tram and bus networks have also been shut down.
  • Neighboring countries, including France, have reestablished controls at their borders with Belgium. “We are at war,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. President François Hollande said that “through Brussels, it’s Europe as a whole that was hit.”
  • According to BFMTV, Belgian authorities were told yesterday that an attack was imminent.
  • The attacks come four days after the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, one of the terrorists behind the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris. It’s unclear whether today’s carnage is linked to Abdeslam, though reports published yesterday and today said that he was planning attacks in Brussels and Germany.
  • An article published two days ago in The New York Times, which was based on a 55-page French police report compiled after the November attacks, reported that authorities were concerned that more terrorists may have been involved in the organization of the Paris attacks or planning future ones. It quotes a friend of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the dead mastermind behind the Nov. 13 killings, as saying that he had crossed into Europe amid the flow of migrants with 90 other “kamikazes-in-waiting.”
  • In Le Monde, French cartoonist Plantu pays homage to the victims.

EU MISSION ATTACKED IN MALI

Gunmen attacked a hotel in Bamako, Mali, last night that was being used as headquarters for an EU military mission to train Malian troops in their fight against al-Qaeda-linked jihadists, Le Monde reports. There were no casualties among the mission’s personnel, but at least one attacker was killed.


VERBATIM

“What we did for 50 years did not serve our interests or the interest of the Cuban people,” U.S. President Barack Obama said yesterday during a historic news conference with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro. “The embargo’s going to end,” Obama added. “When, I can’t be entirely sure. But I believe it will end, and the path that we’re on will continue beyond my administration,” The Washington Post quotes him as saying, calling his visit to Cuba “a new day. Un nuevo dia.” But the two leaders sparred on human rights and Guantanamo.


ARIZONA, UTAH AND IDAHO VOTE TODAY

Republican front-runner Donald Trump is looking to expand his lead with a crucial winner-take-all vote in Arizona today, but The Hill notes that Marco Rubio’s withdrawal last week could help challenger Ted Cruz. The Texas senator is also “tantalizingly close to the 50% support mark that would turn Utah from a proportional contest into winner-take-all,” the newspaper writes. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders hopes to regain some momentum against Hillary Clinton.

  • Today’s primaries come after both Clinton and Trump addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. According to Israeli media i24news, Clinton took a swipe at Trump by suggesting he lacked “steady hands.” “My friends, Israel's security is non-negotiable,” she said. Trump pledged to move the U.S. embassy “to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.”

ON THIS DAY


It seems fitting that the laser was patented the same day Captain Kirk was born. Beam us up to On This Day, Scotty.


AUNG SAN SUU KYI GETS MYANMAR CABINET POST

Aung San Suu Kyi, the former political prisoner whose National League for Democracy party won a historic election in November, will be part of an 18-member cabinet and is expected to lead the Foreign Ministry, the Myanmar Times reports.


2.7 MILLION HOURS

Germany’s 40,000 federal police officers have worked 2.7 million extra hours since the beginning of the migrant crisis, Der Spiegel reports. Security sources say that most of the extra work came after Germany reestablished border checks in mid-September.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Prince Charles believes brutalist buildings are like “monstrous carbuncles,” but as German daily Die Welt reports, there is a frenzied architectural movement afoot to save these concrete blocks. “The attacks on brutalism are nearly always unfair,” Peter Praschi writes. “It may not be obvious to everyone at first glance, but these buildings were designed to benefit people. They were designed to celebrate democracy. Government buildings, libraries and cultural centers built in the brutalist style were supposed to stand out rather than fade into the background. Their aesthetics, which often ignored the boundary between architecture and sculpture, were a conscious gesture of presumptuousness. Brutalists rejected the idea that public buildings should be modest in their use of materials. Their buildings were meant to last for eternity, and they thought that the enemies of progress would quiet down at some point.”

Read the full article, Viva Brutalism! Architectural Preservation For 20th-Century Slabs.


MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD



NO-FRILLS SMOKES

Plain cigarette packaging will become compulsory in France starting in January, and companies will have to stop producing current designs by May 20, Le Monde reports. On future packaging, 65% of the surface will be dedicated to health warnings, and all logos, colors and distinctive designs will disappear, leaving just a small space at the top for the brand name. France, where 78,000 smoking-related deaths occur each year, will become the second country to adopt plain packaging, after Australia.

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The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

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

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire


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.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA

Unsplash/@nemo23


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

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council


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

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire


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

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Unsplash/@hkblind


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

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke


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

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press


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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