June 09, 2015
BERLIN â€" SoÂ Sepp Blatter finally folded last week in the faceÂ ofÂ the U.S. corruption investigations into the dealings of FIFA, the international soccer organization he ran for nearly 18 years. But those who believe that a time of transparency now lies ahead will be bitterly disappointed.
Yes, this is about more than anyÂ one man.Â It's about an entire system that has harmed more than just international football. It's a problem that lies at the heart of manyÂ international organizations, andÂ the United Nations itself may be the best example of bad practice.
The UNÂ isÂ just as morally corrupt as FIFA. Just consider the dysfunctionÂ of the UN General Assembly or the composition of its offshoots such as the Human Rights Council. There you will find such champions of human rights as Algeria, China, Cuba, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan,Â Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
Originally, the committee was meant to hold undemocratic and despotic regimes responsible for their actions. But nowadays, they are all just there to provide clean slates for one another, andÂ spend their time indulgingÂ in their favorite pastime: criticizing the state of Israel, which happens to be a democracy run byÂ the rule of law.
That same distortedÂ guiding principle of FIFA that counts "one country, one vote"Â applies to the UN as well. No matter how large the country is, how many inhabitants it has, how much it contributes to the UN budget or how many active footballers it has.
It is the curse of large numbers. Once Western nations have become a minority,Â it's not possible for them to impose their standards as the general guideline. Especially in Europe, where a stubborn sentimentalism seems to stick. We dream of the day when the entirety of mankind will be united under one UN world government.
UN General Assembly hall â€" Photo:Â Patrick Gruban
Such wishful thinking, however, encourages us to lose sight of life's sad but true realities. Once upon a time, the West had the idea of spreading freedom, democratic values, good governance and human rights across the globe. But the reality of international organizations is that autocratic sates and corrupt democraciesÂ seek to destroy the noble goals from within, and they actually form the majority.
Scoundrels are in charge in too many organizations, ready to organize an international majority favorably disposed towards them.Â They master the rules of the global organization and abuse the legitimizationÂ it affords them.
At the UN, it isÂ a perversion of the organization's founding principlesÂ when countries like China or Cuba are voted onto the Human Rights Council or when a misogynistic country like Iran is voted onto the Women's Rights Council.
And the same way the UN also has helped legitimize badÂ regimes, we now see howÂ FIFA has done the same, granting the World Cup and its inherent prestigeÂ to autocracies like Russia or Qatar.
Reform or revolution?
The West has let this happen for far too long. A romantic notion of international organizations as well as postcolonial feelings of guilt are largely responsible. In the 1990s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was wave of enthusiasm for the UN in Germany. This enthusiasm has now given way to disillusionment and disinterest. But in many cases the West doesn't even try to fight the blatant violations of human rights committed by members of the UN. And talk of reforming itÂ has long faded.
But now is the time to ask the question: Who should wield power? BecauseÂ the West is still more powerful than the meagerÂ voting shares in the UN and FIFA would suggest. The developed industrial nations of the West are still the ones who provide most of the UN budget. And it is the top clubs and national teams of Europe that enable FIFA to land billions worth of TV deals.
It would not only be a crushing blow if the West were to withdraw from both organizations and foundÂ new ones. The UN and FIFAÂ would swiftly lose much of its soft power, legitimization and prestige. In short, they would lose everything that makes them attractive to autocrats to "launder"Â their images.
More than a decade ago, Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay, US foreign affairs experts, had encouraged the formation of a "League of Democracies"Â that would function as a competitor to the UN. Only approximately 60% of current UN member states would be accepted into such a club of liberal, steadfast democratic states, whichÂ would ensure that the new organization would not be manipulated by autocratic regimes and that legitimization would only be given to those who truly deserve it.
This could also be applied to football,Â if Europe, where the sport was invented, would dare to establish a new organization together with other like-minded nations. After all, people donâ€™t pay to see the national teams of Monserrat or the Cook Islands play. They pay because they want to experience a match like Germany vs. Spain or to watch a Champions League final.
So it is actually quite possible to change the sad reality of global governance in many areas, though it requiresÂ the courage of revolution. Can the Western nations marshal that?Â Or will they simply submit to becoming a negligible quantity?
Die Welt ("The World") is a German daily founded in Hamburg in 1946, and currently owned by the Axel Springer AG company, Europe's largest publishing house. Now based in Berlin, Die Welt is sold in more than 130 countries. A Sunday edition called Welt am Sonntag has been published since 1948.
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food / travel
With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.
Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson
October 26, 2021
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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