Boing Boing 

Titanic Tales: The Costa Concordia

Photo: An oil removal ship is seen next to the Costa Concordia cruise ship as it ran aground off the west coast of Italy at Giglio island, January 16, 2012. Over-reliance on electronic navigation systems and a failure of judgement by the captain are seen as possible reasons for one of the worst cruise liner disasters of all time, maritime specialists say. (REUTERS/ Max Rossi)

When I read hastily the headlines on Jan 14—a shipwreck in Italy, seventy missing, three known dead—I immediately thought: it must be the Africans again. The refugees, the clandestine, the invisible, the nameless, the unwanted… Those "less-than-human" people coming from all over the world to the Italian coast, looking for a safe haven from dictatorships, from hunger.

My Somali Italian friend Suad, who works with her community In Italy now, urges her people in Somalia NOT to take that dangerous ride: even if you survive the trip, what waits for you in Italy can be fatal. Italy is in deep economic crisis today, on the verge of bankruptcy and social disorder. The new government struggling to remain a G8 power while the euro and United Europe are at stake. Italy also struggles to overcome a big moral value crisis after twenty years of Berlusconi's reign of sexism, racism, indolence and corruption.

But I was wrong about the Africans. It was a fancy cruise ship full of wealthy foreigners that wrecked unexpectedly near the island of Giglio.

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Berlusconi to neo-fascists: "I'll be back."

Berlusconi is ready to return to politics, having been absent from office for (almost) a whole day. In a message to a neo-fascist gathering, Il Mafioso wrote, "I share your spirit and I hope to resume with you the path of government."

Bye-bye, Bunga-bunga: "Addio Berlusconi"

"I haven't been so inspired since 1994," an Italian friend of mine posted on her Facebook page.

Well, I too can remember the year 1994, when I was in Milan, giving a public speech among some so-called intellectuals, soon after Berlusconi was elected. I had come there directly from Serbia, struggling in the thick of the Milosevic reign of terror.

I remember warning my Italian friends, feeling frightened, extremely emotional. I described a 'soft dictatorship,' how a small caste of oppressors gets into power legally, because WE vote them in, and then they steal and fake everything that WE, the people, never delegated them to do. And how, finally after waging wars against all the OTHERS in our own name, they finally turn on their ultimate victims and wage their war against US.

How they destroy every aspect of reality that stands in the way of a total exploitation: meaning the destruction, the ruin, of the people, ideas, customs, habits, prosperity, morality, of a nation and its history, of a time and a space. Afterwards, after the dreadful crash, who feels empty and responsible? We, the citizens who voted, we whose states were surrendered to the exploiters and profiteers, we, the participants, we are the ones humiliated in front of our children and the whole world.

Tonight, while Italians danced in front of the parliament, impatiently waiting for Berlusconi to officially resign, I remembered, once again among many times, how Milosevic was finally toppled after his miserable endless reign. Milosevic stumbled in the elections. He took Serbian support for granted, since he controlled all the Serbian mass media, and all the local means of patronage and favors.

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Berlusconi Bye Bye?

Is this really the final end of the Berlusconi era, or just another pause for the Cavaliere to catch his breath?

Will he return on a fresh horse as the savior of an ever-crumbling Italy, as he has done repeatedly for the past 20 years? Will my Italian friends finally be able to travel abroad without a miasma of shame, and not be forced to explain to all what a bunga bunga orgy means? Will the numerous foreigners living and working in Italy, legal, clandestine, and semiclandestine, be able to face their children and say: we did the right thing to come here? Will they say: a new day dawns on the peninsula, the specter of crisis, gloom and crime has finally lifted! Work hard for your future!

These are open questions, and frightening questions today in Italy after yesterday's dramatic countdown, and Berlusconi's declaration that he will step down only after passing an emergency law on the Italian economic crisis. United Europe and its presses have closely followed the saga of the decadent emperor. They know that it was global economics and not his domestic scandals that pried the scepter from his hands.

Italians are wondering : whatever next? How badly off is the Italian political culture, which after all is to be blamed for many times that Berlusconi has managed to take and hold power? Where was the legitimate opposition, why were the counter-forces so weak? After the fall of Milosevic in Serbia, the deeply corrupted and dysfunctional state system was hard put to maintain any pretense of a normal government. Can Italy recover, and behave like a major G-7 power again? How is that possible?

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Rome Burns

Photo: La Repubblica, Italy

That is the graffiti in one of the destroyed streets in this Saturday’s “indignati” demonstration. It ended in violence against the police, city security, and last but not least the pacifist organizers of the manifestation, in tune with the world wide movements OCCUPY.

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Wine carafe shaped like human heart


Paola C's Cuore is "two glass carafes shaping a human heart when joined together" -- made from blown Pyrex.

Cuore : LIVIANA OSTI

(via Neatorama)

Italy's insane Internet law prompts removal of Italian Wikipedia

Prompted by Italy's punitive (batshit) wiretapping law proposal, Wikipedia has removed its Italian version and now directs anyone trying to find Italian Wikipedia to a page explaining that Italy's Internet law will make it impossible to have an Italian Wikipedia:

This proposal, which the Italian Parliament is currently debating, provides, among other things, a requirement to all websites to publish, within 48 hours of the request and without any comment, a correction of any content that the applicant deems detrimental to his/her image.

Unfortunately, the law does not require an evaluation of the claim by an impartial third judge - the opinion of the person allegedly injured is all that is required, in order to impose such correction to any website.

Hence, anyone who feels offended by any content published on a blog, an online newspaper and, most likely, even on Wikipedia can directly request to publish a "corrected" version, aimed to contradict and disprove the allegedly harmful contents, regardless of the truthfulness of the information deemed as offensive, and its sources...

The obligation to publish on our site the correction as is, provided by the named paragraph 29, without even the right to discuss and verify the claim, is an unacceptable restriction of the freedom and independence of Wikipedia, to the point of distorting the principles on which the Free Encyclopedia is based and this would bring to a paralysis of the "horizontal" method of access and editing, putting - in fact - an end to its existence as we have known until today.

Skeletal whole-hand bracelet

Delfina Delettrez, a designer in Rome, made this beautiful, polished skeletal bracelet (though I couldn't locate it at her site, which autoplays music) (be warned).

Delfina Delettrez

Italian MPs propose Internet disconnection law: one copyright accusation from anyone and you lose your Internet connection

Italian MPs from Berlusconi's party have proposed legislation that will require ISPs to disconnect any customer on receipt of a single unsubstantiated copyright complaint, from anyone -- even someone who's not connected with the alleged rightsholder in any way.
1) citizens, outside of any judicial proceeding and without the right to appeal to the judicial authority, may be banned to access the Internet if ANYONE (a rightholder or an ordinary citizen) notifies a provider about alleged infringement of copyright or trademark or patent ("one strike" disconnections);

2) Internet service providers must comply to the blacklisting of citizens who are *suspected* of copyright or trademark or patent infringements ("proscription lists" to ban citizens from any access to the Net);

3) an Internet service provider must use preventive filters against services that infringe copyright, trademark or patents;

4) an Internet service provider must not promote or advertise, and must use preventive filters against, services that do not directly violate copyright, trademark or patents, but that *may* lead citizens to *think* that infringing services exist;

5) a provider or a hosting provider which does not use effective filters will be charged with civil liability.

A short analysis of Internet killer Centemero draft law by Paolo Brini for AirVPN. Creative Commons 3.0 BY-SA (attribution, share-alike) (via Reddit)

Silvio Berlusconi prostitution-ring wiretaps: sex with eight women in one night, "I'm only prime minister in my spare time"

Italian magistrates investigating a prostitution ring have been wiretapping prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, and have recorded the oligarch boasting about ordering eleven women for a single night (he was only able to have sex with eight of them), complaining that meeting with David Cameron and the Pope interferes with his womanizing, and stating that he is only prime minister in his spare time.
Berlusconi, who boasted to one TV showgirl that he was only "prime minister in my spare time", told Tarantini in September 2008 that he needed to reduce the flow of women since he had a "terrible week" ahead seeing Pope Benedict, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown. Berlusconi has long insisted that his private parties are informal but elegant affairs, that extend only as far as joke telling and songs, but is revealed on the tapes as putting pressure on Tarantini and his associates to conjure up beautiful female guests...

In a letter published in the newspaper Il Foglio, Berlusconi hit back at the latest wiretaps, claiming: "My private life is not a crime, my lifestyle may or may not please, it is personal, reserved and irreproachable."

Silvio Berlusconi wiretaps reveal boast of spending night with eight women

Transparent soft furniture


For Milan design week, furniture company Poltrona Frau exhibited some of its designs covered in transparent PVC without any fill, so that the structural elements were visible. I like the look of this, though it does remind me of the transparent toilets and TVs sold for use in prisons.

Transparent Furniture by Poltrona Frau (via Crib Candy)

Homeopathy multinational sues blogger over statements that its mythological curative had "no active ingredient"

Samuele Riva, an Italian blogger, is being sued by Boiron, a France-based homeopathic "remedy" multinational. Riva dared to mock the company's claim that its Ooscillococcinum has no "active ingredient." The company claims that the product has been made by diluting "oscillococcinum" (a mythological substance said to be present in duck liver, though no evidence supports this claim) at 1:100 dilution 200 times, which "is the equivalent of diluting 1ml of original ingredient into a volume of water that is the size of the known universe."

Writing at ScienceBasedMedicine.org, Steven Novella calls this "a pseudoscience trifecta": Boiron claims that its imaginary element is present in its solution which has been diluted at farcical levels, and that the imaginary ingredient in question is effective at treating flu symptoms. "Essentially Boiron takes fairy dust and then dilutes it out of (non)existence."

I hope Boiron does draw a line in the sand over their oscillococcinum product, and that it becomes the center piece of a broader public discussion about homeopathy. Most of the public does not understand what homeopathy actually is. They think it means “natural” or “herbal” medicine. They have no idea that homeopathy is about taking fanciful ingredients with a dubious connection to the symptoms in the first place, and then diluting them into oblivion, then placing a drop of the pure water that remains and placing it on a sugar pill. The resultant pill is then supposed to contain the magic vibrations of the original substance.

This rank pseudoscience, which has no place in 21st century medicine, is the business of Boiron. Let’s see them try to defend themselves and their products. Let’s see them harass bloggers and those who are just trying to expose the public to the truth. Let’s see them argue in public how air bubbles in duck liver fantastically diluted can treat the flu.

Boiron vs Blogzero (BlogZero.it)

Homeopathic Thuggery (Science Based Medicine)

(Thanks, Russell!)