Geopolitics

Landmark Venezuela Talks, Hollande's Freefall, Live Robbing

French President François Hollande’s approval rating has hit a new low
French President François Hollande’s approval rating has hit a new low
Worldcrunch

UKRAINE’S PM TO PUSH FOR MORE REGIONAL POWER
Ukraine’s Interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk pledged to grant regions with more powers, adding that the Parliament should adopt a law allowing local referendums, AP reports. This came as he travelled to the eastern city of Donetsk as an ultimatum for pro-Russian protesters to leave occupied government buildings in three cities expired. Meanwhile, NATO stood by previous allegations based on satellite imagery that 40,000 Russian troops are amassing in a previously unoccupied area near the Ukraine border. A senior Russian Army official had dismissed the NATO claims, saying that although the pictures were accurate, they were taken eight months ago.

  • U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki condemned “Russia’s efforts to use energy as a tool of coercion,” after Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote to 18 European leaders to warn them that Ukraine’s $2.2 billion gas debt to Moscow had created a “critical situation.” Read more from The Independent.

  • Crimean lawmakers approved their new constitution and have asked Putin to support an initiative to set a September parliamentary election in the region.

LANDMARK TALKS IN VENEZUELA
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro met with opposition party representatives, including his rival Henrique Capriles Radonski, yesterday in a bid to end two months of deadly protests, state-backed newspaper Correo Del Orinoco reports. But Maduro said the government was not looking for negotiations or pacts because he did not want to become a “traitor to Chavismo.” “All we’re looking for is a model of peaceful coexistence, of mutual tolerance,” he said.
His opponent insisted he did not want a coup against the government, but argued the country had changed during last year’s presidential campaign, following the death of Hugo Chávez. According to France 24’s correspondent, the presence of Vatican and South American envoys to monitor the talks is pressuring the parties to find a peaceful solution.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As Die Welt’s Torsten Krauel reports, North Korean leader Kim Jung-un flaunts UN trade embargos, managing to amass luxury items whose imports into North Korea are forbidden. “Pyongyang’s streets are full of Audis, BMWs and Hummers,” the journalist writes. “The gym at the new luxury development on the Taedong River boasts exercise machines made by an American company. Kim Jong-un's wife Ri Sol-ju wears Western designer clothing, while the North Korean leader uses the webcam on his Apple computer to liaise with his military commanders. How do all these goods get past the trade embargo? The same way as the 8-axle transporters used for the KN-08 intercontinental missile: through false documents and underhanded deals.”
Read the full article: How Kim Jong-un Gets His Hands On Western Luxury Goods.

ISRAEL SANCTIONS PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
Israel has decided “to freeze the transfer to the Palestinian Authority of the taxes collected by Israel on its behalf,” AFP quotes an unnamed official as saying. The decision comes as a retaliation for the Palestinian leadership’s move to join 15 international organizations, itself triggered by Israel’s refusal to free Palestinian prisoners. The official added that Israel will also impose a limit on Palestinian bank deposits in the country and suspend its participation in developing a gas field in the sea off the coast of Gaza. This comes amid reports that Israel’s Economy Minister and leader of ultranationalist party Jewish Home Naftali Bennett threatened to leave the coalition government over the negotiations to salvage the peace talks with the Palestinians.

13%
French President François Hollande’s approval rating has hit a new low of just 13%.

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD

DOZENS IN CHINA DEAD FROM FROM BIRD FLU
Officials figures from the Chinese government show that 96 people have died from the H7N9 bird flu since the beginning of 2014, AFP reports. Both the number of victims and of new infections declined in March, with a total of 250 cases reported. China and the World Trade Organization have said there is no evidence that the virus mutated to become transmissible between people. Earlier this week, North Korea announced it was also facing an outbreak of the disease.

VERBATIM
“CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America,” conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh said Thursday, lashing out at the network’s decision to replace retiring David Letterman with Stephen Colbert as host of The Late Show.

STOCKS FALL WORLDWIDE AFTER NASDAQ DROP
Asian and European markets suffered a setback after a sell-off in technology shares onWall Street spread yesterday, Bloomberg reports. According to the BBC, a 2.4% slump took Japan’s Nikkei 225 index to its lowest close in six months. Yesterday, the Nasdaq suffered its worst day since 2011, losing 3%. This comes as some experts see the high technology valuations as among the signs of a coming stock market crash.

FAREWELL
English novelist Writer Sue Townsend, best known for her Adrian Mole series, has died at age 68.

LIVE ROBBING
As a woman was being interviewed in Rio de Janeiro about the Brazilian city’s crime problem, a young man — yes — tried to steal her necklace. Watch the video here.

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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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