Italy to sell off the world’s most haunted island

The island of Poveglia, in the Venetian Lagoon, was used to house black plague victims in the 14th century.






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UN envoy slams Israel’s ‘unacceptable’ police handling of ‘Holy Fire’ ritual in Jerusalem

Ethiopian Orthodox worshippers hold candles during the Holy Fire ceremony at the Ethiopian section of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, April 19, 2014.(Reuters / Nir Elias)

Robert Serry, the UN special envoy for Middle East peace, said he and Palestinian Christians were making their way to attend the ‘Holy Fire’ ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried before rising from the dead.

Despite earlier promises of unrestricted access to the church, Israeli police refused to let the group of worshipers pass, saying they had orders to that effect.

Serry said he, along with Italian, Norwegian and Dutch diplomats, was forced to wait for up to 30 minutes, crushed by the excited crowd against a barricade, while Israeli officers ignored his request to speak with a superior, according to Reuters.

“A precarious standoff ensued ending in an angry crowd pushing their way through,” Serry said, lashing out at "unacceptable behavior from the Israeli security authorities."

"It became really dangerous because there was a big crowd and I was pushed against a metal fence the police put up there, the crowd tried to push really hard," the diplomat said, adding they might have been trampled had police not finally let them pass.

Serry in a statement called on “all parties to respect the right of religious freedom, granting access to holy sites for worshipers of all faiths and refraining from provocations, not least during religious holidays.”

The incident comes as the Holy City, which is of religious importance to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, prepares Pope Francis's Holy Land visit next month.

Israel dismissed the UN diplomat’s complaint, calling it an attempt to exaggerate a "micro-incident" while crediting police with maintaining order as crowds of worshipers descended on the city.

Later on Saturday, Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry dismissed Serry’s account as “an odd communique on a non-event.”

“Christian dignitaries of the highest level have this evening thanked the Jerusalem Police Department for its efficient service, which has enabled the Holy Day’s celebrations to take place without any hindrance,” the ministry said.

"Had any harm come to the pilgrims due to uncontrolled crowd movements, Mr. Serry would have been prompt to cast responsibility on the same police which he now condemns for doing its job properly," the Israeli statement added.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Jerusalem in May, an event that may be overshadowed by a breakdown in US-brokered peace talks between Israeli and Palestinians, who face an April-29 deadline to resolve their differences.

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Americans optimistic about flying cars, not so much about robot caregivers

A Pew survey of 1,000 Americans asked to predict the future showed a lot of optimism but also considerable skepticism about where technology may be leading us.

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Boston Marathon looks to shake shadow of 2013 bombing

BOSTON (Reuters) - Runners, from the world's elite racers to first-timers, will step to the Boston Marathon starting line on Monday for the first running of the world-renowned race since last year's deadly bombing attack.

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Syria’s Assad pays Easter visit to recaptured Christian town

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday visited the ancient Christian town of Maaloula recaptured from rebels last week, state media said, a rare appearance outside central Damascus.






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Eyewitness: Ahmedabad, India

Photographs from the Guardian Eyewitness series Continue reading...






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On Easter, Pope calls for end to war, condemns waste exacerbating hunger

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis, in his Easter address before a huge crowd, on Sunday denounced the "immense wastefulness" in the world while many go hungry and called for an end to conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Africa.

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At least two reportedly killed in attack on pro-Russian checkpoint in eastern Ukraine

Three of the dead were pro-Russian militiamen at a checkpoint, two were attackers, Russian state TV says.






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Jackson Hole landslide slowly swallows Wyoming town

Jackson Hole landslide: The ground beneath a 100-foot hillside has slowly been giving way for almost two weeks. The landslide is damaging homes and businesses in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and causing 42 evacuations.

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Former Olympian puts Palestinian women through their paces

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who won gold in 1988 and 1992, spent a week in the West Bank as part of a U.S. 'sports envoy' program.






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