Gaza War Crimes, Mourning Dutch, Newspaper Vs. Mosquitoes

At least 132 children have been killed in Gaza since July 8.
At least 132 children have been killed in Gaza since July 8.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

An emergency UN Human Rights Council is being held in Geneva as Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” enters its 16th day, with the death toll in Gaza now standing at least 647, after new attacks this morning. UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay opened the meeting saying that Israel may be committing war crimes in Gaza, where its punitive house demolitions and killing of children raise the "strong possibility" that it is violating international law, according to AFP. She also condemned Hamas for its “indiscriminate attacks.”

Israeli and Palestinian leaders exchanged war crime accusations. The Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki accused Israel of committing “a crime against humanity” for which he said “Israel must be held accountable.” Israel’s ambassador to the UN argued that it was Hamas that was guilty of war crimes and that Israel was acting according to international law.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meanwhile defied a ban to fly to Israel’s main airport in Tel Aviv, after a rocket fell nearby yesterday. At a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Kerry said that "some steps forward" towards a ceasefire had been made but added that more work needed to be done. According to Reuters, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas agreed to back Hamas demands for a ceasefire. These include the end of “ the aggression and lifting the blockade in all its forms.”

A human rights organization in Gaza has identified all 132 children killed in Gaza, and the Telegraph has mapped the tragic human toll into a chart.

A national day of mourning has been declared in the Netherlands, as the plane carrying a first set of bodies of the victims from Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is due to arrive in Eindhoven this afternoon. Meanwhile, the aircraft’s two black boxes have arrived in Britain, where they will be examined by air accident investigators.

The European Union yesterday failed to agree on new sanctions against Russia but a new meeting is expected on Thursday. Differences appeared between countries on the possibility of an arms embargo, with France reluctant to cancel a 1.2 billion euro contract to sell Mistral-class helicopter assault ships to Russia. Meanwhile, The Guardian reported that Britain still has 200 licences to sell weapons to Russia, despite PM David Cameron previous claims that he had imposed an embargo.

This came as U.S. intelligence officials said yesterday that they had no evidence that Russia was directly involved in the shooting down of the plane, although they added that Moscow had “created the conditions” that led to it. The officials say the most likely explanation is that the plane was shot down by the pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine “by mistake.”

Jihadist organization Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack that killed at least 33 people in Baghdad this morning, Reuters reports. This is the latest in a string of attacks from the radical group, including several on Saturday that left 27 people dead.
In another report, the news agency explains that the group is now selling crude oil and gasoline from small oil fields it seized during last month’s offensive to finance their proclaimed caliphate. According to a local gas station owner in Mosul, they are now being charged $1.0 or $1.50 a liter, depending on quality, triple the price they used to pay.

A deal between Argentina and its debt holders before the July 30 deadline is “not possible, even with round-the-clock talks,” Argentine lawyers said at a hearing in New York, meaning that the country is likely to default on its debt for the eighth time, the Financial Times reports.

The wreck of the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia is being towed away from the island of Giglio where it capsized more than two-and-a-half years ago. The ship’s last journey, to a scrapyard in the port of Genoa, is expected to last four days and will take it through a whale and dolphin reserve. The voyage is raising wider concerns for the environment with some calling the ship, which carries as many as 12 tons of toxic products and polluted sea water, a “maritime Chernobyl.” Read more from The Independent.

French daily newspaper Le Monde reports on a surprising project that could not only save lives but also the newspaper industry in Sri Lanka—citronella oil. Citronella-scented newspapers can protect readers from mosquito-borne diseases like the dengue fever. It has also started to help increase the papers’ sales and circulation. “The time of day when newspapers are typically read — in the morning and evening — coincides with when mosquitoes are the most threatening,” writes Julien Bouissou. “In the first days of this trial, newsstands around the country sold out a special printing of 200,000 copies, 30% more than ordinary days.”
Read the full article, A Surprisingly Fragrant Way To Save The Newspaper Business.

A new wave of French singers are embracing their love for whining and cursing, in music. Merde alors!

Pronounced the winner of this month’s presidential elections in Indonesia, Joko Widodo is a novelty in the world’s third-largest democracy.


Queen Elizabeth II is expected in Glasgow later today for the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Check out this BBC quiz to see what sport you should compete in.

To celebrate the Oct. 28 release of the video game Assassin's Creed Unity, set in 18th c. Paris, the French video game company Ubisoft has hired a team of “parkour” enthusiasts for a breathtaking expand=1] video.

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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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