Geopolitics

New Ukraine Protests, Mickey Rooney Dies, History's Largest Election

India holds largest democratic election ever
India holds largest democratic election ever
Worldcrunch

PRO-RUSSIAN PROTESTERS SEIZE BUILDINGS IN EASTERN UKRAINE
Pro-Russian protesters seized government buildings last night in the East Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk, following rallies to demand independence referendums there, Reuters reports.

  • Regional authorities in Donetsk proclaimed the Dombass region’s independence and announced the “Donetsk People’s Republic” would hold a referendum on whether to join Russia on May 11, a move reminiscent of the events last month in Crimea, Itar-Tass reports. The legislators also called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to send a “temporary peacekeeping contingent.”

  • Ukraine’s Interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk accused Moscow of being behind the building seizures, describing it as a first step towards invasion, adding that Russian troops were stationed within 30 kilometers of the border. “The plan is for foreign troops to cross the border and seize the country's territory,” AP reports him as saying.

  • Ukraine officials also announced that a Russian soldier had killed an “unarmed” Navy officer in Crimea over the weekend, while Russian news agencies say the shooting came after an argument between drunk Ukrainian soldiers and Russian troops, The Independent explains.

  • Acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said this morning that the buildings in Kharkiv had been “completely freed of separatists.” Meanwhile, RT reports that about 100 members of ultranationalist group Right Sector are surrounding Kiev’s Supreme Court in an attempt to storm the building.

FRANCE AND RWANDA ARGUE GENOCIDE

Rwanda is launching commemorations today in Kigali to mark the 20th anniversary of genocide there, which lasted 100 days and claimed at least 800,000 lives. This afternoon’s ceremony will be overshadowed by a dispute between Rwanda President Paul Kagamé and the French government, after the former accused France of an active role in the 1994 mass killings.

- “Twenty years later, the only fault France will admit is not having done enough to save lives during the genocide. It’s a fact, but it obscures what is most important: the direct role Belgium and France played in the political preparation of the genocide and the involvement of the latter in its actual execution,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame said in an interview with the French weekly Jeune Afrique Sunday.

- France announced after the allegation was published that it would not attend the ceremony, and Al Jazeera reports that Rwandan officials barred France representatives from the ceremonies in any case. Meanwhile, Alain Juppé, who was France’s foreign minister at the time of the massacres, dismissed the accusation as a “falsification of history,” Le Figaro reports.

DOZENS DEAD IN NIGERIAN HERDSMEN ATTACKS
At least 79 people were killed in an attack by Fulani herdsmen on a village in northern Nigeria, local newspaper PM News quotes a government official as saying. Earlier reports said 30 people had died in the gunfire, but villagers told AFP that as many as 120 people might have been killed. A government spokesman said this was “the worst attack we have seen so far” in the decades-long conflict between Fulani herdsmen and local farmers.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
Die Welt’s Konstantin Richter has followed the musical pursuits of violinist Ashot Tigranyan, an Armenian-born American who travels the world and pays to play to anemic audiences at some of the most stories concert halls. Of this rich character who is slightly out of touch with reality, Richter writes, “Tigranyan is not world-renowned — as a matter of fact, nobody in the music world has ever heard of him. Nor is he a great violinist. In Four Seasons, he plays a brief trio with his two female concert masters, and it’s clear that Tigranyan’s level is well below that of his musicians. True, his instrument — “a 1731 Guarneri,” he says — has a rich, warm sound to it. But Tigranyan doesn’t play cleanly, and in fast passages can’t keep up and has to be rescued by the orchestra.” Read the full article, Can A Delusional Millionaire Buy His Way To Maestro Status?

HUNGARY’S PM WINS ELECTION, FAR-RIGHT RISES
Hungarian voters handed their populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban an overwhelming majority in yesterday’s parliamentary election, with his center-right party Fidesz expected to win 135 of 199 seats, according to the BBC. The ballot also confirmed the rise of the far-right party Jobbik, accused by some of anti-Semitism, which is thought to have secured 23 seats in the country’s Parliament.

AUSTRALIA DETECTS POSSIBLE BLACK BOX SIGNAL
An Australian vessel searching for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in the South Indian Ocean has detected signals that are consistent with those emitted by black boxes, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, who is leading the search, said this was “a most promising lead” and described the signals as the best information we have had in the search so far.” But he warned that “it could take some days” to confirm the signals are indeed from the missing aircraft.

WORLD BANK CUTS EAST ASIA GROWTH OUTLOOK
The World Bank announced this morning it was revising down the growth outlook for East Asian countries, following what it sees as a “a bumpy start to 2014, notably in China and the United States.” According to its predictions, the Chinese economy will expand by 7.6%, down from 7.7%, while the outlook for Thailand, engulfed in a grave political crisis, was cut from 4.5% to 3%. Read more from Bloomberg.

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD

814,500,000
The largest democratic election in history begins today, as more than 814 million Indian voters are expected to cast ballots in the country’s general elections over the next five weeks.

FAREWELL
Mickey Rooney, whose acting career began when he was just a toddler and endured on and off into old age with recent work on Night at the Museum 3, has died in Los Angeles at age 93.

A CRASH OF KINGS
Game of Thrones returned to screens yesterday with the first episode of the show’s fourth season. And the latest in the series’ long list of victims was none other than HBO GO, as the streaming platform crashed during the broadcast.

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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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