Fearless Putin, Algeria Votes, Fake World Cups

Rescue teams are still searching for some 300 people one day after a boat carrying 475 passengers capsized off the S. Korean coast
Rescue teams are still searching for some 300 people one day after a boat carrying 475 passengers capsized off the S. Korean coast

The four-way talks between Ukraine, Russia, the U.S. and the EU began this morning in Geneva, after deadly clashes in the southeastern city of Mariupol as pro-Russian protesters tried to seize a military base. Three people were killed and another 13 injured, while 63 were detained, Russia’s Ria Novosti news agency reports, quoting a statement from Kiev’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. According to The Washington Post, U.S. expectations from today’s meeting are low, and officials are already planning new sanctions against Moscow.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is holding his annual Q&A session with the public, with many questions being asked about the situation in Ukraine. Putin again dismissed as “nonsense” Western claims that Russian forces were in Eastern Ukraine and slammed Kiev’s decision to send troops against armed protesters in these regions. “They are deploying tanks, armored vehicles and weaponry! Against whom?! Are they nuts?!" RT quotes Putin as saying.

  • Putin also explained that the upper house of the Russian Parliament had approved sending troops to Ukraine but said "I very much hope that I will not have to use this right,” adding that he wished to see the situation be solved “with political-diplomatic means.” Read more from The Moscow Times. According to Ria Novosti, he brushed off the threat of NATO expansion, following yesterday’s pledge from the organization’s Secretary to build up its presence in the area. “We will choke them all. What are you afraid of?” Putin was quoted as saying.

  • Here’s how Putin v. Europe looks to Daniel Brossler of German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Rescue teams in South Korea are still searching for some 300 people, a day after the capsizing of a boat carrying 475 passengers, most of whom are children. Authorities have confirmed that at least nine people have been found dead. The search is being severely hampered by the weather conditions. It is still unclear what caused the accident, although newspaper Chosunilbo reports rescue officials as saying that the captain could have altered the ship’s course to make for lost time and ended up hitting a rock. According to Yonhap news agency, the boat’s captain, who is said to have been amongst the first to leave the boat, was questioned by the coast guard.
Meanwhile, South Korean media released some of the heartbreaking text messages sent by the children aboard the boat to their parents: "Sending this in case..."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Israeli members of Parliament that he would agree to a nine-month extension of the peace talks on condition that the first three months be dedicated to drawing the borders of a future Palestinian state, and that all settlement activities be halted, Israeli dailyHaaretzreports. This comes as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are due to meet with a U.S. envoy today in the hope of salvaging the talks and extend them beyond the April 27 deadline.

Soldiers from the Nigerian army have freed most of the 128 school girls that were abducted by gunmen on Monday evening, but 8 of them are still missing, Vanguard reports, citing military sources. But according to AP, the school’s principal denied the military report and told the news agency that only 14 girls had returned to the town.

Some 23 million Algerians are called to the polls to elect a new president for the next five years, Algérie Focus reports. Despite intense criticism and protests against current President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the 77-year-old is described as the favorite to win a fourth term in office.
For more on the Algerian election, we offer this Le Monde/Worldcrunch piece: Algeria's Presidential Campaign Heats Up Online.


A 19 year-old university student in Canada has been charged with using the encryption bug Heartbleed to exploit taxpayer data from the Canada Revenue Agency website, The Toronto Sun reports. The young man, described by his lawyer as a “very gifted” student, is accused of stealing the Social Insurance Numbers of about 900 taxpayers last week, causing the website to shutdown.

Britons and Americans used to depict Germans as obsessed with Nazi uniforms, now the supposed obsession is nudism, writes Die Welt’s Brenda Strohmaier: “Our agenda is written on our breasts in invisible ink. And if you knew how to read it you’d find out about things like the new dress standards for all EU holiday areas..”
Read the full article:
The Beautiful German Evolution: From Nazis To Nudists.

And in the World Cup of counterfeiting, China is always amongst the favorites.

The Water Bureau in Portland, Oregon is to dump 38 million gallons of drinking water after a teenager urinated in one of the city’s water reservoir, The Oregonian reported. Wanting to reassure the public about the Water Bureau’s commitment to “serve water that’s clean, cold and constant,” administrator David Shaff had those somewhat unfortunate words: “That doesn’t include pee. Not from people, at least.”

Legendary director Jean-Luc Godard, 83, was among those selected to compete in this year’s edition of the Cannes Film Festival. Here’s the full list from Le Monde.

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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


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


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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