Geopolitics

No End In Sight In Gaza, Maliki V. Kurds, Pope World Cup

An American summer
An American summer
Worldcrunch

Thursday, July 10, 2014

77 PALESTINIANS DEAD IN GAZA
A Gaza health ministry spokesman said that at least 77 Palestinians had been killed and more than 500 injured in the past three days, as Israel intensified strikes on targets in Gaza, The Guardian reports. Israel military said it had hit 322 targets last night, taking the total number to 750 since the beginning of the operation that Israel has called “Protective Edge.” In an attack on two houses in the district of Khan Younis, eight members of the same family were killed, including five children. Egyptian authorities meanwhile said they would open the border crossing of Rafah, the only one that bypasses Israel, to receive injured Palestinians.

Ahead of an emergency UN Security Council meeting, Ban Ki-moon urged both sides to show restraint. "Gaza is on a knife edge," he told reporters.

Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said “Hamas will continue to suffer harsh blows in coming days, with the power and extent necessary, until calm returns to the southern communities.” This echoes a previous statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the operation "will expand and continue until the fire on our communities is over and the quiet is back.”

For more updates, follow the live blog on Haaretz.

UKRAINE SOLDIERS KILLED IN FRESH CLASHES
Three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 27 injured in separate fights with armed rebels near the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk, Reuters reports. According to AFP, three civilians were also killed in Luhansk yesterday. In a telephone conversation, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s François Hollande that he would "exercise necessary restraint... to spare civilians" as the army prepares for its offensive on Donetsk.

SNAPSHOT
It's summertime in North Carolina — time to build a lemonade stand!

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
Laurent Zecchini, Le Monde’s correspondent in Jerusalem, warns that we may be witnessing the birth of the “Third Intifada,” even as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu makes his own calculations: “He took advantage of the situation by launching a vast crackdown on the West Bank. The question now is whether this political offensive will be followed by an all-out military intervention and ground war. Israel wants to reestablish the deterrence power of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) against Gaza, but its main goal is political. It is to undermine the grounds of the Palestinian reconciliation by insisting that one of its members, Hamas, remains a terrorist organization.
Read the full article: The Post-Oslo Generation, Poised For Third Intifada?

IRAQ PM v. KURDS, WAR OF WORDS
A spokesman for the President of Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan said that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “has become hysterical and has lost his balance,” renewing calls for him to step down, according to AFP. This came in reaction to al-Maliki’s accusations yesterday that the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil was a haven for ISIS and had “exploited the circumstances” of the ongoing battle with the jihadist group to push for its own independence. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government informed the United Nations that ISIS had seized nuclear materials used for scientific research, and expressed fears these might be used to manufacture weapons.

CHINESE HACKERS TARGETED U.S. GOV’T OFFICIALS
Chinese hackers managed to penetrate the data bases of the U.S. federal government’s personnel office, where information about all federal employees is stored. The hackers were seeking to obtain data on “tens of thousands” of employees who had applied for top-secret security clearances, The New York Times reports. Quoting senior U.S. officials, the newspaper says the cyber attack took place in March but it’s unclear whether the hackers were affiliated with the Chinese government. A Homeland Security department official said there was no “loss of personally identifiable information.”

GERMANY DISCOVERS SECOND U.S. SPY SUSPECT
German authorities are investigating a second case of suspected spying, this time against a Defense Ministry employee who is thought to have ties to U.S. foreign intelligence, Deutsche Welle reports. Last week, a low-level official from Germany’s foreign intelligence agency BND was arrested over allegations that he has passed over 200 documents to the CIA for $34,000, a revelation that caused the German government to scrap its no-spy agreement with the U.S. and Britain. According to inside sources, investigators believe the second case is “more serious.”

HIT IT!
Nashville is grand, New York is cool and London keeps calling. But music is happening everywhere in the world, and we'll discover it together here, on Hit It! our new music blog.

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD


CALLS FOR CALM IN INDONESIA
After both he and his opponent claimed victory, presidential candidate Joko Widodo said Thursday that now is not the time for parades, in attempt to avoid unrest ahead of next week’s final vote tally.

BY THE NUMBERS
Online betting totals are expected to be huge by the time the competition concludes Sunday with the Germany-Argentina final.

BATTLE OF THE POPES
With the Argentina v. Germany showdown set for Sunday’s World Cup final in Rio, we will also have an unprecedented soccer showdown between 2 Popes. Our take on it is 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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