A census of leading Italian politicians' Twitter followings finds a horde of zombies and bots

As Italy heads into a national election in which mass inequality and food poverty have disrupted Italy's always-shaky political equilibrium, La Republica publishes its analysis (Google Translate) of the Twitter followers associated with each of Italy's political superstars and finds some pretty intense inflation in the numbers. Read the rest

This video on how to cut a Parmigiano Reggiano cheese wheel is very satisfying

Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is a highly valued and tightly controlled commodity. This instructional video shows how to use specialized Parmesan cheese knives to cut the cheese by hand. Read the rest

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is empty inside

Except for some interior stairs and some retrofitted safety and stabilizing additions, the inside of the Leaning Tower of Pisa is smooth marble. This lovely tour goes all the way up to the bells at the top, offering a great view. Read the rest

Convicted criminal Silvio Berlusconi returns to Italian politics as a kingmaker

Silvio Berlusconi, a misogynist, racist creep-authoritarian who was caught paying a teenager for sex and then lied to cops to get them to stop investigating the case, is banned from holding public office in Italy thanks to a criminal conviction for fraud; but that hasn't kept Italy's media (a large slice of which he controls) from elevating him to the role of political kingmaker in the country's upcoming elections. Read the rest

A newly discovered strain of Android malware contains never-seen surveillance features

A new research report from Kaspersky Labs details their analysis of Skygofree, a newly discovered strain of malware that offers some of the most comprehensive and invasive surveillance tools ever seen for Android.

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Talking Casa Jasmina, a house of the future designed for people, not corporations, with Jasmina Tesanovic and Bruce Sterling

The Casa Jasmina project (previously) is an automated smart house designed to be made of open source hardware, with the needs of the people who live there -- not the corporations who extract rent from them -- in mind. Read the rest

Apple brought back Braun design, but Google is bringing back Olivetti

1960s/70s Italian industrial design was led by Olivetti, featuring products with "touches of joy that enliven everyday tasks" featuring bright color and playful forms, very different from the Braun look of minimalist, "Snow White" gadgets that are the precursor to Apple's design language. Read the rest

The story of Casa Jasmina: the first automated home built to improve its residents' lives

Casa Jasmina (previously) is a groundbreaking experiment in human-centered, open source home automation, the birthplace of the Internet of Women's Things -- built in Torino, Italy by Boing Boing pals Jasmina Tesanovic and Bruce Sterling with the help of the Arduino organization, Casa Jasmina pushed the boundaries of what a home-automation system would be like if it were designed to make peoples' lives better without extracting revenue from them. Read the rest

In austerity-pounded Italy, 11 alternative currencies smooth out a surging barter economy

In the years since the 2008 financial crisis, Italy had seen European central bankers effect a regime-change in its national government in order to enforce a brutal austerity in the name of paying back its creditors, resulting in a 5% contraction in its national economy and unemployment soaring to 11.1%. Read the rest

Fascist beach closed

Italian police shut down a club that established a "fascist beach" near Venice sporting various totalitarian-themed elements, such as portraits of Mussolini, "anti-democracy" slogans, and a charmingly humorous warning not to go in the gas chambers. Conservatives, outraged at the lack of free speech, have called for the beach to be reopened and for democracy to be destroyed.

The Mussolini theme was clear from the entrance to the privately run Punta Canna resort, where the sign read "Rules: Order, cleanliness and discipline."

As well as fascist slogans, the beach at Chioggia, a short distance south of Venice, broadcast regular messages over speakers from its manager, Gianni Scarpa, a 64 year-old clad in a black bandana.

Before police raided the beach he told La Repubblica newspaper (in Italian) that he was "delighted to have an exemplary clientele", and that he hated filthy people and democracy.

I'm certain "fascist beach" was the setting of at least a dozen Benny Hill skits. Read the rest

No, Italy isn't banning the iPhone

On June 23rd, 2017, a lot of noise was made by an Italian newspaper that said that our new Senate Act 2484 had the potential to "ban the iPhone in Italy" (here's an English article). That's just wrong. This is a "device neutrality" bill, protecting a principle every bit as important as net neutrality, and it won't ban the iPhone, but it will protect and benefit Italians.

The Malta Files: a European version of the Panama Papers, revealing a global web of corruption

On Friday, a variety of news outlets around the world published the Malta Files, a cache of 150,000 documents leaked "from a Malta-based provider of legal, financial and corporate services," revealing, among other things, that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was secretly given a $25M oil tanker (!) by Azeri billionaire Mübariz Mansimov, a "friend" of Trump's who was present at the inauguration. Read the rest

Charles Babbage wrote a "cardboard vaporware" app in 1840 and left it in Turin

Bruce Sterling's been playing with a stack of hand-punched cardboard cards created in 1840 by Charles Babbage as a kind of vaporware app for his never-built Analytical Engine; they were intended to placed in a revolving "six-sided prism." Read the rest

Mafia used the text-message ticker at the bottom of a sports broadcast to get messages to mob bosses

Quelli che il Calcio (That which is Football) is one of Italy's top sports broadcasts and it is played in the country's prisons; it has a ticker that you can send SMSes to that then show up on screen. Read the rest

Cyber-arms dealers offer to sell surveillance weapons to undercover Al Jazeera reporters posing as reps of South Sudan and Iran

Companies in the EU and China have been caught offering to commit fraud to launder sales of mass surveillance weapons to Al Jazeera reporters posing as representatives of autocratic regimes under sanction for gross human rights abuses; these weapons would allow their users to target and round up political dissidents for arbitrary detention, torture and murder. Read the rest

On "Eastern European Women"

“A Serb makes a good wife: she can pull the cart out of mud.”

That old Serbian proverb, its genius author has no name. It’s like the earthy quip from a hospital that I once heard in real life; after her severe car crash, the emergency doctor told her worried husband: Don’t you worry man, those Herzegovinian vipers are hard to kill!

I’m personally half Serb and half Herzegovinian, so I take these attitudes to my heart, half proud and half offended. But my American friend said: what about the Serbian and Herzegovinian husbands? Are they pleased about their mud-carting vipers? Is that the kind of proper home-girl that a local guy just has to have?

Good questions! If enough years go by, a man gets used to the woman of the house, muddy viper or not. But what about the opinions of the rest of the world?

Our world is a big place, so maybe a Serbian Herzegovinian woman is considered just one regional sub-class of East European womanhood. I might be called Balkan, from that mountain region of many fractured grooves, or a historical, fossilized ex-Yugoslav. I was never “Warsaw Pact,” although that arrangement meant “Eastern Europe” in the eyes of the Cold War West. I’m from a shatter-belt, a corner cushion among conflicting empires, a little regional federation that has vanished like the Austro-Hungarians and often resembled the modern European Union. It broke up in blood, but that’s been the fate of most European alliances, eastern or western, northern or southern. Read the rest

Video: Mount Etna erupts as BBC journalists run for their lives

A group of BBC News journalists had to run for their lives when a volcanic eruption took place while they were filming on Mount Etna.

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