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]
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
Read the rest
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
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.
The world press was reporting on the dark ages of inquisition in Italian courts and labs. But then, journalistic investigations discovered political scandals that implied a plot to downplay earthquake dangers in Aquila, involving Berlusconi and his cabinet. Silvio Berlusconi can't control earthquakes any more than seismologists can, but he's always been keen on controlling media. Read the rest
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Phillip Pullella writes: "Roman centurions, complete with red skirts, tunics, armor, swords and feathered helmets, fought in front of the Colosseum. But this time it was with a modern enemy - Rome's city police. The police arrived at the ancient amphitheatre to enforce an eviction notice for the men, who ask for money to have their picture taken by tourists." [Photo: Tony Gentile / Reuters]
The Man Who Prints Houses is a documentary about Enrico Dini, an Italian roboticist who switched tracks to design and build enormous 3D printers capable of outputting houses:
Having built his printer – the world’s largest – from scratch, there’s no shortage of work offers for this highly-skilled and imaginative engineer. Throughout the course of the film, we see Enrico embark on an array of innovative projects: constructing the tallest printed sculpture in existence, working with Foster + Partners and the European Space Agency on a programme to colonise the moon, solidifying a sand dune in the desert, and printing the closest thing to an actual house: a small Italian dwelling known as a trullo.
The long-term nature of these projects and the current financial climate take their toll on Enrico and his team of workers, as contracts fail to be honoured and the infant technology stutters. Travel back to 2008 and it’s a different story, as Enrico describes how he was staring a €50m investment in the face. Just as he’s about to sell up and move to London, the stock market crashes… he must rebuild his business all over again.
The Man Who Prints Houses (Thanks, gaiapunk!)
Italian Etsy seller ConceptualDevices made this $450 elephant beanbag chair, "a place where to read (and write) fairy tales."
Its external lining is made of a soft fabric used for outdoor upholstery produced by Sunbrella which is easily washable, waterproof, oil proof and sunlight resistant. The internal lining is 100% cotton and contains the expanded polystyrene padding.
TANTO is manufactured in Italy. Elephant is the first character of a wide collection of pachyderms that we intend to make.
Chrisperfer sez, "I randomly came upon this Isaac Asimov graffiti when attending a birthday party in Rome for my 4 year old daughter's friend."
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.