Geopolitics

72-Hour Gaza Truce, Anti-Ebola Efforts, Headline Of The Year

The first of 888,246 ceramic poppies in London to commemorate UK's involvment in WWI.
The first of 888,246 ceramic poppies in London to commemorate UK's involvment in WWI.
Worldcrunch

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

ISRAELI TROOPS LEAVE GAZA AS 72-HOUR CEASEFIRE BEGINS
Israel announced the withdrawal of its ground troops from Gaza this morning after Egyptian mediators brokered a 72-hour truce with Hamas late Monday.

An Israeli military spokesman said the army’s main goal of destroying Hamas’ cross-border tunnels had been completed, adding that the troops would be redeployed in “defensive positions outside the Gaza Strip” and “maintain those defensive positions.” In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces announced they had killed around 900 “terrorists,” and destroyed 32 tunnels and 3,000 missiles.

Minutes before the ceasefire began, Hamas launched a salvo of rockets at southern and central Israel and the occupied West Bank, Reuters reports. Israeli authorities said the country’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system shot down a rocket over Jerusalem as another hit a house in a town near Bethlehem. It caused no casualties. According to the BBC, Israeli forces also staged raids in Gaza shortly before the ceasefire began.

An Israeli delegation is set to leave for Cairo in the next few days to negotiate — with the help of Egyptian mediation — a more permanent agreement with Hamas, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports. A Palestinian delegation, including members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, is already on site.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian foreign minister argued to International Criminal Court prosecutors today that Israel has committed war crimes in Gaza, where authorities say 1,869 people have been killed and 9,800 wounded.

WORLD BANK TO FUND ANTI-EBOLA EFFORTS
The World Bank announced today it would allocate $200 million in emergency assistance for the governments of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO), to help battle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. This comes as African leaders are in Washington discussing the crisis as part of the 2014 African Summit. According to the WHO, 1,323 confirmed and suspected cases have been reported, and at least 729 people have been killed since March 2014 in what is an unprecedented outbreak of the deadly virus.

Meanwhile, the conditions of two American missionary workers who became infected with Ebola in West Africa improved significantly after they received a highly experimental drug called ZMapp, CNN reports. Both patients had been informed that the medication had never been tried on humans before but that it had shown promise in experiments with monkeys.

SNAPSHOT
One of the Tower of London's Yeomen Warders planted the first of 888,246 ceramic poppies (one for each soldier who died fighting for Britain and its colonies) as the country marked on Monday the centenary of its involvement in World War I.

100 STILL MISSING IN BANGLADESH FERRY ACCIDENT
At least 100 people are still missing a day after a ferry capsized 30 kilometers from the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on Monday. Authorities said rescuers still had not found the boat but were using sonar to locate it. Authorities have rescued 100 people, Reuters reports.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As Hurriyet’s Verda Ozer writes, the jihadist movement is not only reshaping the situation in Syria, but may also completely shift alliances across the region. Will Assad ally with Turkey, Iraq and even the West against ISIS? “Expert opinions regarding ISIS have repeatedly proved to be wrong,” the journalist writes. “First, the group was said to be focused on fighting against Assad. Only much later, people realized that the movement was acting largely in step with the Syrian regime, with their goals on the field matching up perfectly. The Turkish government was the first to voice that view, which was later embraced by both UN and U.S. officials.”
Read the full article, How ISIS Could Turn Assad Into A Western Ally.

NIGERIA ARMY WAR CRIMES
In a report published today, Amnesty International claims that the Nigerian army has committed atrocities in its fight against Islamist militants belonging to Boko Haram. The organization says gruesome footage obtained from multiple sources on a trip to the northeastern Borno state included “horrific images of detainees having their throats slit one by one and dumped in mass graves.” Nigerian authorities announced they would investigate.

$225 MILLION
U.S. President Barack Obama has signed a bill providing an additional $225 million in emergency aid to Israel for its Iron Dome missile defense system.

CHINA INVESTIGATES CANADIAN COUPLE
Chinese authorities are investigating a Canadian couple suspected of stealing national defense and military secrets, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced today. The couple, identified by Xinhua as Kevin and Julia Dawn Garratt, ran a coffee shop on the Chinese border with North Korea.

VERBATIM
“Highlighting a woman as a target like this may one day make her the victim of a murder,” says the chief of an organization that has filed a criminal complaint against the high-ranking Turkish official who said last week that women shouldn’t laugh in public.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD


FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS
This is definitely a strong contender for headline of the year. Shake those feathers, Les, because YOLO.

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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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