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The Latest: Olympics Kick Off, Xi’s Tibet Trip, Spanish Beef

Volunteers separate items at the Nurburgring donation center after Germany's devastating flooding
Volunteers separate items at the Nurburgring donation center after Germany's devastating flooding

Welcome to Friday, where the 2020 Olympic Games finally kick off, Xi Jinping makes a historic trip to Tibet, and there's some beef (or rather, chuletón) between Spain and the EU. We also take an exclusive look at how the so-called "salvage grocery stores' popping up around the world are finding commercially viable ways to combat food waste.

• COVID-delayed Olympics start today: The Tokyo Summer Olympics begin today, kicking off with an opening ceremony — but no spectators in attendance.

• U.S. sanctions Cuba: In the wake of large-scale anti-government protests in Cuba, the Biden Administration has announced it would sanction individuals "responsible for the oppression of the Cuban people." The sanctions targeted key government official Alvaro Lopez Miera and the Cuban special forces unit, the Boinas Negras, over claims of human rights abuses.

• COVID update: Indonesia has surpassed India and Brazil as the country with the highest count of new daily infections, with 49,500 new cases reported on Thursday. Meanwhile, New Zealand has suspended travel from Australia as the country grapples with the Delta variant despite lockdowns.

• 22 dead, several injured in Ecuador prison riots: Ecuador is declaring a state of emergency in its penitentiary system in light of the deadly riots that have left 22 dead and 57 wounded in two prisons. The riots, reportedly sparked by clashes between rival gangs, were also fuelled by severe prison overcrowding.

• Xi Jinping visits Tibet: For the first time in his presidency, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Tibet Autonomous region, once home to the now-exiled Dalai Lama. Though Xi has been to the region twice before, it is his first time as Chinese leader. Some have called the trip an effort from Xi to reinforce Chinese sovereignty over the area, as well as the disputed border with India.

• Macron switches phones: Emmanuel Macron has reportedly changed his phone and number after investigations showed the French president was among the many heads of state targeted by the Pegasus spyware.

• Google Doodle Olympic game: Today's Google "Doodle" celebrates the start of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics with a full 8-bit game. Sayōnara, productivity.


British magazine The Economist reports on extreme floods and fires that have shaken Europe, Canada and China these past weeks, arguing that today there is "no safe place" from which to observe these scenes of destruction

Salvage grocery stores look to fight food waste, at a profit

Industrialized countries produce about $680 billion in food waste annually, and it's also becoming a significant problem in developing economies. But around the world, so-called salvage grocery stores are popping up to not only decrease the foodstuff we throw out but provide affordable products and other community support through social programs.

While many of these are individual local initiatives, Nous, an anti-waste company in France, is spreading its mission throughout the country. With 17 stores, Nous aims to address this issue at the source, given that 55% of food waste in France comes from producers (the rest is in stores and homes). Since opening its first shop in 2018 in Brittany, France's largest food-producing region, Nous has grown to 150 employees working with upwards of 700 suppliers.

As Le Monde reports, Nous buys goods at close-to-production cost and sells to consumers at a discounted rate: about 20-25% less than at a traditional store. But given the unpredictable nature of what food waste companies produce, it's often a gamble of what will line the shelves. Still, Nous boasts that every month in each store, 35 tons of products are saved from the trash. And it's a profitable enterprise, with two million euros in sales per month.

Other companies and projects around the world are finding commercially viable ways to reduce food waste. In Germany, SirPlus is Berlins' first salvage grocery store, selling products in person and online through subscription boxes. Since 2017, SurPlus, which works with 700 partners, has saved over 2,500 tons of food through its Tafel-First (Table-First) principle. SurPlus also has a social initiative, donating 20% of its products to nonprofit organizations.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


Chuletón

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recently proposed radical measures to make Europe a climate protection pioneer. Among the steps announced was a plan to diminish livestock farming — and therefore meat consumption — to reduce CO2 emissions. This is stirring up a heated debate in Spain, where more meat is eaten than in any other EU country. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez stated his opinion clearly: "For me, the perfect chuletón is unbeatable," Sanchez said, referring to the Spanish equivalent of a T-bone steak that typically comes from cattle in northern Spain


$3.69 million

An Australian clothing company has been fined 5 million Australian dollars ($3.69 million) for marketing their activewear as "groundbreaking technology" that stops the spread of COVID-19 and all other pathogens. A federal court found the company had misled the public through "false and misleading representations."


Calls for people not to get vaccinated is a call for people to die.

— Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told reporters after the government announced that a "Green Pass," given to people who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine jab, will be required to eat in indoor restaurants and access an array of services and leisure activities in Italy after Aug. 6. The certificate was introduced last month in the country but was only needed to travel within the EU and to visit care homes.

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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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