WHILE YOU SLEPT

Transatlantic Terror Lessons

New York is again testing the limits of its status as "the city that never sleeps." A week after marking the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks at Ground Zero, an explosion a bit farther uptown Saturday injured 29 people. And now, even as the investigation continues into that attack in the Chelsea neighborhood, New Yorkers must brace for the arrival of world leaders for the United Nations General Assembly. It is an enormous municipal security challenge even in the best of times.


The main focus this year at the UN gathering will be the causes and effects of the ongoing crisis of refugees and migrants. Leaders from Europe have been faced with these issues ever more clearly in recent months, and the connections â€" real and perceived â€" to the ongoing wave of terror attacks cannot be ignored.


But after a wave of attacks in France, Belgium and Germany over the past year, the past two days have reminded us that the U.S. is also a potential target. Early on Monday, officials named a suspect for the Saturday night attack in New York as 28-year-old Ahmad Khan Rahami. Meanwhile, the Islamic terror group ISIS claimed responsibility for a stabbing attack in Minnesota that left eight injured at a mall on Saturday night as well. Police meanwhile found and disabled several explosive devices in a backpack at a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey, early Monday morning.


Were these attacks coordinated like that deadly night of Nov. 13 in Paris or the morning of March 22 in Brussels? Or are they disconnected like a spree of violence this summer in Germany? Last Sunday, during the 9/11 commemoration, President Obama explained what connects that singular day in September to the array of threats today: “Terrorists often attempt attacks on a smaller, but still deadly, scale.” One week later, the only good news about the President’s prescience is that this latest rash of terrorism on U.S. soil hasn’t yet killed anyone.



WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY



FARC CONFERENCE AHEAD OF PEACE DEAL VOTE

Colombia’s FARC rebels gathered on Saturday for a week-long conference, where activists are largely expected to express support for a peace agreement reached last month with the government. Iván Márquez, the group’s chief negotiator, told El Espectador that there was a “strong support for all the work we’ve done in Havana.” The final agreement is expected to be signed by both parties on Sept. 26 and it will be put to a referendum on Oct. 2.


SYRIAN TRUCE IN DOUBT

Rebel-held parts of Aleppo were hit by four air strikes, a first in the city since a fragile nationwide ceasefire started a week ago. The origin of the air strikes, reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, is unknown. But the temporary truce is in doubt, especially after warplanes from the U.S.-led coalition hit Syrian forces, killing 62 soldiers, apparently unintentionally. Read more from the BBC.


â€" ON THIS DAY

From Ötzi the Iceman to Jimmy Fallon, here’s your 57-second shot of history.


28%

More than one out of four Muslims in France consider sharia as more important than French secular law and, as a result, support the full veil and polygamy, a study published yesterday by the think-tank Institut Montaigne reveals. It also shows that a “silent majority” (46%) are either fully secularised or on the path to full integration.


PUTIN-BACKED PARTY WINS RUSSIA ELECTIONS

United Russia, the country’s ruling party, won an outright majority in yesterday’s parliamentary elections with more than 54% of ballots and 90% of the votes counted. The turnout was low, however, with just 47%.


â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

For many Germans, Murat Kurnaz is just a bearded Guantanamo inmate they may have seen on television. But for the country’s refugees, as Oliver Das Gupta writes for German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, he is an important part of Germany â€" now serving as an official cultural and linguistic mediator: “The students learn of his story: how he went to Pakistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in order to attend a madrasa for Islamic religious studies, but was sold to the U.S. for a bounty. The Americans held him captive, first in Afghanistan, then for five years in Guantanamo. Kurnaz was tortured. ... Due to his imprisonment, he feels particularly well-equipped to help refugees with their integration. Although he has no expert knowledge, his story lends him credibility.”

Read the full article, A Former Guantanamo Prisoner Helps Refugees In Germany.


BERLIN VOTE BRINGS MORE BAD NEWS FOR MERKEL

Another election, another humbling defeat for Angela Merkel. In Berlin, the German Chancellor's CDU party registered its lowest score ever with 17.6% as the newcomers from the anti-immigration party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) garnered 14.2%. But for Berlin’s newspaper Die Tageszeitung, the far-right’s rise could, ironically and indirectly, lead to “a real alternative for Germany” by making a grand coalition of the left possible. Read more from our Extra feature here.


â€" MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

Fountain Of Youth â€" L’Aquila, 1978


VERBATIM

“The Brazil we love so much has shown the world what it can do,” Carlos Nuzman, the president of Rio's organizing committee, said as the Rio Paralympic Games concluded at the Maracana stadium yesterday evening. Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee, also paid tribute to Bahman Golbarnezhad, an Iranian cyclist, who died on Saturday after a road race crash. His passing, he said “has affected us all and left the whole Paralympic movement united in grief.”


MORE STORIES, BROUGHT TO YOU BY WORLDCRUNCH

GOT ON TOP AT EMMY AWARDS

It was a big night for Game of Thrones â€" which became the most decorated show ever â€" Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and O. J. Simpson.


â€" Crunched by Margot Nicodème & Marc Alves

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food / travel

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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