Farmhouse narrowly avoids boulder-flattening

A farm in Ronchi di Termeno, Italy, was nearly squashed by titanic boulders that rumbled off nearby mountains in a landslide. One of them destroyed the barn, while another stopped a whisker shy of the farmhouse itself. The furrows the boulders cut through the fields are straight out of a golden age DC comic.

Boulder smashes through Italian farm [BBC]

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

(Images: downsized, cropped thumbnails of photos from the Associated Press) Read the rest

Skeletal tile-mosaic in the chapel floor

The Cornaro Chapel at the Santa Maria della Vittoria church in Rome sports many beautiful works of art, but I'm especially taken by the skeletal figure set into the floor tiles, whose upraised arms seem ready to snatch sinners into the underworld. The photo above was taken by Chris and memorialized in a fabulous post on Roman Patina, which also includes photos of many of the other works in the chapel.

Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria (via Kadrey) Read the rest

Improvised tools made from flotsam, sticks and stones

When the artists at Studio Fludd were sent to a peaceful Italian island with a group of other artists, they decided to improvise a set of living tools out of random flotsam and other found objects. They took their inspiration from John Cage's aphorism that "Poor tools require better skills." The resulting tools are beautiful in a Gilligan's Island/Apollo 13 improvisation aesthetic sort of way. Read the rest

Revamped Goggle Jacket recreates Italian endurance-race fashion

CP Company worked with the Royal College of Art to recreate and update Massimo Osti's "Goggle Jacket" -- a jacket designed for Italy's Mille Miglia open-road endurance race that ran between WWI and WWII. They modernized the materials, rethought some of the fit issues -- a clever flourish reduces bunching while sitting; another moves the watch-window so you can check the time without moving your hands from the steering wheel -- but still managed to produce something that looks simultaneously futuristic and retro. It's a gorgeous piece of clothing, though £879 is too rich for my blood. Read the rest

Italy passes Internet censorship laws: regulator can censor sites on 12 days' notice without judicial review

Italy has passed an Internet censorship bill that allows for a regulator to order the national blocking of websites without judicial review. If the website's operator wants to come to Italy to object, they have as little as 12 days to do so. ISPs that fail to comply with the censorship orders face fines of €250,000 per day. Read the rest

Berlusconi kicked out of Italian senate

Silvio Berlusconi's scandal-haunted political career has suffered a potentially killing blow: following his conviction for tax fraud, the upper house of the Italian parliament has tossed him out, stripping him of his seat. Berlusconi insists that he will be exonerated by new evidence, and has called upon the president of Italy to pardon him (though he will not formally petition for a pardon, insisting that it should be forthcoming as a matter of course). Assuming the pardon is not forthcoming, he will go to prison in 2014.

See also: Berlusconi's "decadenza" Read the rest

Marvelous grotesques from Domenico Gnoli's Modern Bestiary

These illustrations are from Domenico Gnoli's 1968 title Bestiario Moderno (Modern Bestiary), an "incredible collection of pen and ink illustrations that are intricately detailed and nothing short of amazing." The book appears to be out-of-print, which is a damned shame. Read the rest

Berlusconi sentenced to 7 years in prison

Silvio Berlusconi, the disgraced former prime minister of Italy and billionaire media baron, has been sentenced to seven years in jail for having sex with an underaged prostitute. The woman, Karima 'Ruby' el-Mahroug, was paid to have sex at Berlusconi's infamous "Bunga Bunga" parties, and at one point, he lied to Italian police about her to keep her from going to jail for theft -- Berlusconi told the cops she was Hosni Mubarak's niece and that arresting her would cause an international diplomatic incident. Berlusconi sounds like he plans on appealing:

After the verdict, Berlusconi said in a message posted on Facebook that he believed he would be acquitted "because in the facts there is really no possibility to convict me."

He called the sentence "incredible, of a violence never seen or heard before, to try to eliminate me from the political life of this country." He pledged to "resist this persecution, because I am absolutely innocent, and I don't want in any way to abandon my battle to make Italy a truly free and just country."

Elected officials from Beppo Grillo's Five Star movement are insisting that the Italian state must do everything in its power to put Berlusconi behind bars.

'Bunga bunga' busted: Berlusconi convicted of hiring underage girl for sex [Colleen Barry/Associated Press]

(Image: Berlusconi, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from spiritolibero85's photostream) Read the rest

Amazons with a Cause

Why are women first to pay for every crisis? In every society, capitalist, socialist, or transition? It's because the bodies of women are expendable.

I always noticed how women over eighty in Turin looked incredibly well, beautiful and loved and taken care of: desirable, because old and valuable. I connected this to Italy's long-established and sophisticated health care system. Italian hospitals were famous for methods which preserved the dignity of the patients, in tumor cures, especially breast cancer: the "invisible mastectomy" was invented in Milan. Rather than simply intervening in crisis, they were good at illness prevention and attentive follow-ups.

The economic crisis and financial harassment of Italy has reached this safe haven of health and dignity. In Turin, one of the best clinics for cure and prevention of breast cancer is about to be closed. The patients are on the streets, their appointments cannot be scheduled, they are paying for their urgent operations because their doctors cannot help them. The doctors are on the streets too. Read the rest

Student Riots in Italy: a dispatch from Jasmina Tesanovic

When I myself was a protesting student, I remember vividly remembered the cold warning in the text by Pier Paolo Pasolini. He reminded us youngsters that the police we faced in the streets were also someone's children, that not all young people were fortunate enough to be in colleges rather than wearing uniforms, and that we should join all together against the general oppressor, the system, capitalism, the corporations, name it…

That was then, and this is now, and while the students and policemen still have the same interests, they are still on the opposite sides of the barricade. Austerity has driven Italy to its knees. Day by day the future of Italy's young people is vaporizing, and now the streets are flooded by torrential rains, to boot. Italian cities rocked by earthquakes might as well settle for witchcraft, rather than find responsible and competent government officials who can rescue the nation's casualties. Read the rest

Collective Intelligence: Science on Trial, Berlusconi sentenced. Dispatch from Italy, by Jasmina Tesanovic

The Italian scientific community was stunned when Italian scientists, seismologists, were recently sentenced to years of prison for manslaughter, for failing to predict the lethal earthquake in Aquila in 2009. Other scientists have resigned to their jobs in protest, and even some relatives of the victims condemned the sentence as ridiculous.

Berlusconi sentenced

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is off to the clink for four years for tax evasion—pending appeals and whatnot, of course. [RT] Read the rest

Seismologists guilty in Italy: More on the L'Aquila verdict, and what it means for the future of science

In a guest piece at Scientific American, David Ropeik argues that an Italian court's decision to charge scientists and a government official with manslaughter isn't about quake prediction per se, but a failure to communicate science effectively. Snip:

But, contrary to the majority of the news coverage this decision is getting and the gnashing of teeth in the scientific community, the trial was not about science, not about seismology, not about the ability or inability of scientists to predict earthquakes. These convictions were about poor risk communication, and more broadly, about the responsibility scientists have as citizens to share their expertise in order to help people make informed and healthy choices.

An editorial from Nature, a publication that covered the case extensively in 2011, echoes this sentiment. "It is important to note that the seven were not on trial for failing to predict the earthquake," but...

The verdict is perverse and the sentence ludicrous. Already some scientists have responded with warnings about the chilling effect on their ability to serve in public risk assessments.

 Italian scientists guilty of manslaughter after failing to predict quake Humans can cause earthquakes Read the rest

Berlusconite politician caught slashing disabled man's tires

Antonio Piazza, a Milanese government official from Italy's People of Freedom party (that's Silvio Berlusconi's party), has made headlines after he was caught on CCTV slashing the tires of a disabled person's car. Piazza had been in the habit of parking his car in a disabled spot near his office. When a police officer fined him and made him move his car so that a disabled person could use the spot, he returned a few hours later and slashed the guy's tires. He forgot that there were CCTVs on the scene. Here's The Guardian's Tom Kington:

Piazza at first tried to appeal against his parking fine, claiming he had given a lift to a disabled person, but has now grudgingly resigned from his job running a regional housing agency under pressure from his party, claiming: "I made a mistake, but there are people who behave even worse."

As Italy's fiscal police inspect local government accounts up and down the country in the wake of the Lazio scandal, a new report has revealed tax evasion is still endemic among Italy's professions – finding that psychologists fail to declare 40% of their earnings, rising to 42.7% for lawyers. Italians who do pay taxes were shocked to learn of the arrest of the head of a tax-collecting agency on suspicion of embezzling €100m, some of which he spent on lavish parties in Portofino.

Italian politician slashes disabled driver's tyres in parking dispute Read the rest

The butler did it! Pope's butler is the leak behind Vatileaks

VatiLeaks is pretty much what it sounds like: leaks from the Vatican, which culminated in, "Your Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI," a blockbusting book from journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, who cites a Vatican source called "Maria" for leaking sensitive letters address to Benedict XVI. Now police have arrested a man whom the press identifies as the Pope's butler, who is accused of being VatiLeaks's Maria. From the NYT:

An on-again-off-again scandal that the Italian press has called VatiLeaks burst into the open on Friday with the arrest by Vatican gendarmes of a man, identified in news reports as Paolo Gabriele, the pope’s butler, who the Vatican said was in possession of confidential documents and was suspected of leaking private letters, some of which were addressed to Pope Benedict XVI.

In Vatican Whodunit, a Punch Line of a Suspect (via Making Light) Read the rest

Earthquake and bombs in Italy: An eyewitness report from Jasmina Tesanovic

[Video Link.]

A weekend of fear and mourning in Italy.

Early this Sunday morning, an earthquake struck near Bologna: at least six killed (ceramic workers, and a hundred year old person), and big material damage in the region. The US Geological Survey heard the tremor: a magnitude-6.0 quake struck at 4:04 a.m. Sunday between Modena and Mantova, about 35 kilometers north-northwest of Bologna. Civil defence says that the quake was the strongest in the region since the 1300s. And the damaged building are valuable historical sites. In Italy such loss goes without saying.

We felt the earthquake in Torino, 260 kilometers from Modena at dawn. The apartment building shook and the late-night party people yelped with alarm in the streets. As I write this we hear the building crack and we tremble: I am checking on twitter. Yes, it' s an aftershock at 15.19.

Not unusual for Italy to deal with deadly earthquakes, but what comes afterward can be nearly as troublesome: state neglect and real estate speculation. Those who are not under earth may have the skies as a roof forever! The last big earthquake in Aquila in 2009 speaks about that.

Read the rest

HOWTO decorate like a Mafia boss

Nicola Schiavone is the recently jailed Camorra mafioso. His Naples home was photographed by the Italian tax police who raided it. It's quite an eyefull of Mafia-chic strangeness. The Guardian has the story.

Criminal? Italian mafia interior tastes exposed - in pictures Read the rest

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