By Emily Senger - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
Former Italian PM has one more chance in higher court
An appeal court has upheld former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s tax fraud conviction, which carries a sentence of four years in jail, reports The Associated press.
Berlusconi still has another chance to avoid jail time, however. He could appeal to a higher court, the Court of Cassation.
Just days earlier, Berlusconi had tried to get his fraud conviction appeal moved out the Milan court where it was scheduled, saying that he would not get a fair trial in the city. Judges refused his request.
Earlier this year, Berlusconi was found guilty in an unrelated wiretapping trial, which concerned his family’s media business. He was sentenced to once year in jail, which is time he likely won’t serve. Italian courts allow him to remain out of prison during the appeal process and there is a stipulation that says any citizen over the age of 75 who is sentenced to two years or less in jail doesn’t have to serve their time. Berlusconi is 76.
By The Associated Press - Friday, March 15, 2013 at 5:41 AM - 0 Comments
ROME – Italy’s newly elected Parliament was heading toward political gridlock as it meets…
ROME – Italy’s newly elected Parliament was heading toward political gridlock as it meets for the first time after inconclusive elections gave no party a clear victory.
Investors will keep a close eye on the inaugural session Friday when both chambers will vote for leaders. Only then can Italy’s president open talks on forming a government, expected next week.
Even before Parliament opened, the parties were locked in a stalemate.
Centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, whose coalition came first in Feb.24-25 elections, said his lawmakers will cast blank ballots after failing to persuade comic-turned-political leader Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement, which finished third, to co-operate on a leadership strategy. The anti-establishment movement will only vote for its own candidates — which cannot guarantee a winner.
Voting was expected to continue Saturday.
By The Associated Press - Friday, March 8, 2013 at 7:02 PM - 0 Comments
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – A fugitive German hedge fund manager was arrested Friday at…
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – A fugitive German hedge fund manager was arrested Friday at an Italian art gallery on charges filed in Los Angeles that accuse him of orchestrating a stock manipulation scheme that led to at least $200 million in losses to investors across the world.
Florian Wilhelm Jurgen Homm, 53, was captured at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence after being on the lam for five years. Homm has been charged with four counts, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud. If convicted, Homm faces up to 75 years in prison.
Homm founded Absolute Capital Management Holdings Limited that managed nine hedge funds between 2004 and 2007. Using a Los Angeles brokerage company he co-owned, Homm directed the hedge funds to buy billions of shares of U.S. penny stocks, according to a criminal complaint.
By Emily Senger - Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 10:19 AM - 0 Comments
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to one year in jail…
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to one year in jail for a wiretap trail connected to his family’s newspaper business.
But the 76-year-old billionaire likely won’t serve time, as Italian courts allow him to remain out of jail during the entire appeals process, reports Reuters.
Italian law also states that anyone who is over the age of 75 and is sentenced to less than two years doesn’t have to serve time in jail, says The Telegraph.
By The Associated Press - Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 4:42 AM - 0 Comments
ROME – A centre-left group of parties appears to have the best shot at…
ROME – A centre-left group of parties appears to have the best shot at forming a coalition government in Italy after an inconclusive national election, but the challenge is steep and comes amid public anger over austerity measures.
If Italian parties fail to form a governing coalition, new elections would be required, causing more uncertainty and a leadership vacuum, and that possibility rattled financial markets across Europe on Tuesday. In early Wednesday trading in Milan, the FTSE MIB rebounded 0.8 per cent. However, the index has a long way to go to recoup the previous day’s 4.9 per cent fall.
Pier Luigi Bersani and his centre-left allies appeared on Tuesday to have won a narrow victory in the lower house of parliament, while the Senate looks split with no party in control. Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian premier whose centre-right coalition did better than expected, is a key player since his coalition is now the second-biggest bloc in the upper chamber.
By The Associated Press - Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 4:46 AM - 0 Comments
ROME – Italy’s post-election political paralysis is spooking financial markets. But former Premier Silvio…
ROME – Italy’s post-election political paralysis is spooking financial markets. But former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, whose strong showing defied pro-Europe pundits who thought he was politically finished, insists a government can be formed.
The conservative leader said Tuesday that Italians should ignore the “crazy” markets. His centre-left rivals won Parliament’s lower house after votes were counted Monday. But they failed to win an absolute majority in the upper house.
Pro-Europe leaders, who were hoping Italy would stay the course of tough economic reforms, are rattled by the prospects of legislative gridlock. Berlusconi says having another election soon won’t solve problems, and called on fellow leaders to “make some sacrifices,” an apparent call for a coalition government.
By The Associated Press - Monday, February 25, 2013 at 1:16 PM - 0 Comments
ROME – Italy’s crucial elections appeared to be heading toward gridlock Monday, initial results…
ROME – Italy’s crucial elections appeared to be heading toward gridlock Monday, initial results showed, with the centre-left forces of Pier Luigi Bersani moving toward victory in the lower house of Parliament and the camp of former premier Silvio Berlusconi gaining the upper hand in the equally powerful Senate.
The upstart protest campaign of comic-turned-political agitator Beppe Grillo was also showing a stunningly strong result in both houses of the legislature, confirming its surprise role as a force in Italian politics.
The unfolding murky result bode badly for the Italians’ willingness to endure more tough reforms the country needs to snuff out its economic crisis and tame nervous markets. After rising in the wake of initial exit polls, Milan’s main stock index turned southward with the first official projections.
By Valentina Vezzani and Erica Alini - Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 7:00 AM - 0 Comments
Update: Sadly, the Italian election unfolded as our graphic novel (see below) predicted. Italians, tried by the recession and wary of more austerity, delivered a “protest vote” that produced no clear winners.
The country is simply “ungovernable,” as Italian business columnist Stefano Folli put it. According to the exit polls published by his Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper, Italy’s centre-left coalition, lead by Pierluigi Bersani, and the centre-right alliance headed by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi are neck-and-neck, having seized about 30 per cent of the vote each. A razor-thin advantage on Berlusconi means the centre-left will be able to at least control the lower chamber, where Italy’s electoral law awards 55 per cent of seats to the party that wins a relative majority. There are utterly no winners in the senate, though, where seats are awarded strictly on a proportional basis.
Voters who shunned Italy’s two long-standing political coalitions, didn’t turn to reformist Prime Minister Mario Monti, the former European commissioner who’s been leading the country since November 2011. His newborn party — the darling of international financial elites, eurocrats and Germany’s Angela Merkel — seized only about 10 per cent of the ballots. Instead, most of those who voted against the ancient regime of Italian politics put their faith in the hands of Italian comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo, whose anti-establishment party conquered a startling 25 per cent of the vote in the lower house.
Uncertainty about Italy’s political outlook sent the S&P on the biggest one-day dive since November. The yield (interest rate) on Italian bonds rose to 4.48 per cent from an earlier low of 4.17 per cent, a sign that holders of Italy’s debt are once again getting nervous. The Euro fell 1.1 per cent against the greenback. Italy desperately needs political stability to enact productivity-boosting reforms that will restore to growth and ensure it can continue to pay for its massive public debt.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano will have to consult political leaders to see whether a governing coalition can be formed. If that can’t be done, Italians might have to head right back to the polls.
If all this sounds familiar, it’s because it would be exactly what happened in Greece less then ten months ago.
*Illustrations: Valentina Vezzani. Idea and texts: Erica Alini.
By Katie Engelhart - Monday, February 4, 2013 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
A softer brand of fascism makes a comeback in Italy
Last week, sombre crowds gathered in capital cities across Europe to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day. In Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel firmly atoned, in a podcast, for her country’s wartime past.
At a memorial in Milan, Silvio Berlusconi appeared far less contrite. Rather, the former Italian prime minister used the occasion to celebrate Benito Mussolini’s wartime alliance with Adolf Hitler. Berlusconi cheered the Fascist dictator for his muscular leadership—and dismissed his pact with Hitler as a half-hearted political manoeuvre. “The racial laws were the worst fault of Mussolini,” Berlusconi granted. But “in so many other ways” Mussolini “did well.”
By Jessica Allen - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 5:51 PM - 0 Comments
You can’t find a bottle of wine for under $5 in most Canadian liquor stores, despite the fact that low-cost vino makes up 70 per cent of wine consumption globally. The irony was not lost on the crowd at the Jan. 22 Vinexpo news conference that detailed the results of a global study on current wine and spirit trends. They even giggled after seeing a chart breaking down world wine consumption by price in 2007 to 2011 with a forecast to 2016. In 2011, almost 70 per cent of wine sales were for bottles under $5 USD. Twenty-one per cent were for bottles priced between $5 and $10, and the remaining nine percent were for wines costing more than $10. The next chart broke down Canada’s consumption in the same way, only there wasn’t even an under $5 category (see the first two slides below).
But Vinexpo chairman Xavier de Eizaguirre–and Baron Philippe de Rothschild’s managing director–looked on the bright side of Canadians having practically no access to wines $5 and under. They tend to be of poorer quality, he said. Think of it as training our palates to not accept cheap plonk.
By The Associated Press - Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 5:14 AM - 0 Comments
MILAN – Premier Mario Monti says a second term would demonstrate to Italians that…
MILAN – Premier Mario Monti says a second term would demonstrate to Italians that he is not a wicked taxman.
Monti told RAI public television Thursday that he believes his technical government “did good things for Italy.”
Monti, a trained economist, is heading a caretaker government in the run-up to February elections, where he is harnessing a coalition of centrist parties.
His 13-month technical government passed tax increases and spending cuts to shield Italy from the sovereign debt crisis. Monti said it also took measures to help families and the economically lagging south.
Three-time former Premier Silvio Berlusconi has harshly criticized Monti’s decision to enter the race, saying Monti lacks credibility.
Monti shot back that this “is the judgment of a person who has demonstrated a certain volatility in judgment.”
By The Associated Press - Saturday, December 22, 2012 at 7:28 AM - 0 Comments
ROME – Italy’s president is meeting with political leaders to set the stage for…
ROME – Italy’s president is meeting with political leaders to set the stage for general elections early next year as Premier Mario Monti weighs whether to run for office after having handed in his resignation.
Monti, appointed 13 months ago to steer Italy away from a Greek-style debt crisis, stepped down Friday after ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s party yanked its support for his technical government.
His resignation sets the stage for President Giorgio Napolitano to dissolve parliament and set a date for elections, expected in February, after consulting Saturday with leaders of Italy’s political parties. More eagerly anticipated though is Monti’s decision, expected Sunday, as to whether he will run.
Small centrist parties have been courting Monti, but Italian newspapers said Saturday he was inclined to refuse. The centre-left Democratic Party is expected to win.
By Emily Senger - Monday, December 17, 2012 at 9:47 AM - 0 Comments
‘Finally I feel less lonely,’ says former Italian PM, of life with his 27-year-old lover
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, 76, has announced his engagement to Francesca Pascale, his 27-year-old girlfriend.
Berlusconi made the announcement during an interview on the Italian TV program Domenica Live, reports The Telegraph.
Berlusconi, who is also a billionaire, has a small problem to deal with before he can wed Pascale, however. He is still married to his second wife, actress Veronica Lario, and The Telegraph reports that the pair has yet to reach an agreement in its divorce proceedings. Berlusconi already has five children from his two previous marriages.
In other legal troubles, Berlusconi is currently on trial, defending himself against allegations that he paid for sex with an underage 17-year-old prostitute during one of his lavish “Bunga Bunga” parties at his residences. On Monday, a judge announced that the final hearing in that case would be February 4, meaning a verdict could come before the end of February.
Berlusconi says that he wants to run for a fifth term as prime minister, but he would be barred from doing so if he is found guilty.
He is eager to wed his new fiancée, Berlusconi told the television network.
“Finally I feel less lonely,” Berlusconi said. “I am engaged to a Neapolitan, it’s official.
“She is 27 years old, with very solid values, beautiful on the outside and even more beautiful on the inside.”
A report in the Daily Mail says Pascale is a former shop assistant and that she was a member of Berlusconi’s political party before she stepped down over the summer.
By Erica Alini - Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 2:57 PM - 0 Commentsof Photos
By Jamie Dettmer - Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
Ancient architectural ruins are crumbling faster than ever due to austerity measures
“What’s going to be left of Italy?” Priti Suri pondered as she joined a throng of tourists crowding one of Rome’s iconic monuments, the Colosseum, where stone fell from a wall in just the latest of many such incidents in recent years. Dodging re-enactors dressed as ancient Roman centurions and flitting past families haggling with street vendors over the price of plastic gladiator helmets and “I Love Rome” T-shirts, the Indian lawyer peered up at scaffolding erected around a chunk of this imposing amphitheatre in preparation for urgent repair work. “I love history, and walking around Rome. I’m glad they’ve started to save the Colosseum—but what will happen to other monuments?” she asks.
As Italy retrenches in the face of the euro crisis, state authorities have economized on the budget devoted to preserving the nation’s heritage. The culture budget has been halved in the past six years; cracks are now literally showing in monuments across the country. Venice has long been sinking, of course, but now sites such as Pompeii and the Colosseum and buildings such as Florence’s Duomo are in troubling disrepair, with masonry regularly crashing down. The latest alarm came earlier this month when two massive chunks of marble fell from the facade of the Royal Palace of Caserta, near Naples. A testimony to Bourbon extravagance, the 1,200-room palace has long been a favourite location for Hollywood producers, standing in for the Vatican in the thriller Angels and Demons and appearing in Mission Impossible III and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Last week, the tumbling masonry narrowly missed a family of day trippers. Alarmed curators say they need at least $9 million just to repair the iron clamps holding the eye-catching marble in front of the enormous building. “We are worried because the pieces that broke off come from areas restored just 30 years ago,” says curator Paola Raffaella David.
She isn’t the only curator concerned about what permanent damage will be wrought once the country has finished with public spending cuts and austerity—whenever that may be. In June, authorities had to rope off Rome’s baroque masterpiece, the Trevi Fountain, a backdrop movie buffs will recall from Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, after chunks of stone and stucco fell from ornate reliefs. Workmen had to remove other fragile parts of the cornice from the monument commissioned by Pope Clement XII in 1732 depicting Neptune in a chariot being pulled by two horses. “I suppose if you don’t have the money, there’s nothing much you can do,” sighed retired salesman George Baker as he threw a coin into the fountain. “I don’t want to sound hard-hearted but maybe they should have been a bit more careful with their money,” says the silver-haired native of Charlotte, N.C. “It is all a matter of priorities, isn’t it?”
As far as Italy’s Green Party is concerned, the Trevi Fountain is a priority. It has launched a campaign against “dangerous cuts” to the preservation funding of Rome’s monuments, with party president Angelo Bonelli asking Romans to “tip us off to sites that are not being taken care of.” Highlighting the neglect of the city’s architectural treasures, he listed other endangered Roman sites—such as the Domus Aurea from Nero’s palace, which has been closed to visitors since a roof collapsed. This summer, restoration work started on the Colosseum, thanks only to the intervention of the millionaire owner of the Italian shoemaker Tod’s.
Italy boasts more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country, in a time of austerity that’s a financial burden almost too great to bear. Pompeii has lost both a gladiators’ barracks and the House of Chaste Lovers, which was only excavated 25 years ago. Both collapsed from modern neglect after having survived the Vesuvius explosion of 79 A.D.
Cultural advocates say that Italy’s preservation budget should be protected from cuts, arguing that culture is a core business for a country that sees about eight per cent of its GDP generated from tourism. While monuments in Rome may yet be saved, those in more rural sites are unlikely to be so fortunate. In March, the poor state of an open-air, Etruscan-era theatre in northern Lazio was highlighted by an investigative television show, Striscia la Notizia. One of the presenters remarked as the camera panned over a riot of weeds: “The ancient Romans would have put on plays here: comedies, tragedies. The tragedy today is the state of this archaeological site.”
By Erica Alini - Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 9:54 AM - 0 Comments
Hint: It’s not about reality TV. It’s about Italy
I am a little puzzled by the North American reviews of Matteo Garrone‘s Reality. The Italian director’s latest movie, a comedy/drama about Luciano (Aniello Arena), a Neapolitan fishmonger who becomes obsessed with the local version of Big Brother, has been called everything from “disappointingly obvious” and “unfunny” to a sappy version of the Truman Show.
The Globe and Mail reads:
The unsubtle theme about the quasi-religious nature of celebrity worship lacks any real satirical bite, spinning its wheels with too many scenes of the deluded Luciano and his sprawling family.
It’s been quite a different reception from the one the film received in Europe, where it won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, just like Garrone’s much better received Gomorrah from 2008.
I’ll have to side with Europe on this one. I thought Reality was wonderful. And I thought it was about Italy, not reality TV. I entirely agree that any new film trying to make the point that shows like Big Brother have become the hollow religion of modernity has missed the bus. What a supremely unoriginal and boring theme. But I never would have guessed people would see that in Garrone’s Reality (thankfully I hadn’t read the reviews before I saw the movie).
When he stepped onto the stage to take questions from the audience at Wednesday’s TIFF screening, Garrone graciously declined to feed us his own interpretation, so I have no way of claiming that my own is better than anyone else’s. Still, for what it’s worth, here’s what an Italian émigré with a political science degree and an embarrassingly short memory for film titles saw in Reality.
By The Associated Press - Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 8:05 PM - 0 Comments
MILAN – French fashion designer Pierre Cardin has designed a gift meant as an…
MILAN – French fashion designer Pierre Cardin has designed a gift meant as an economic catalyst for Venice and the region: a 250-metre glass skyscraper housing a fashion university, luxury hotel suites and shops.
But the proposed €2.4 billion ($3 billion) project faces criticism for the size and appearance of the skyscraper.
The “Palace of Light” has been described alternatively as a spaceship that crashed into the lagoon, a shiny fishing lure, or an illuminated mushroom.
To help win over Venetians, Cardin opens an exhibit on the project Monday on the sidelines of the Venice Biennale of architecture.
Cardin, who turned 90 in July, intends the project to be a gift to his native Veneto, the Italian region he left at age 2 to move to France.
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, August 7, 2012 at 6:30 AM - 0 Comments
The septuagenarian tycoon appears set to run for prime minister, for a sixth time
When Silvio Berlusconi was forced from office last fall, the world was quick to write off Italy’s scandal-prone prime minister as a welcome casualty of the eurozone crisis. That post-mortem, though, may have been premature. The septuagenarian tycoon appears set to run for prime minister, for a sixth time, in elections scheduled for next spring. For weeks, he has fed rumours, then dismissed speculation outright—to some, a brilliant communications strategy to get the country talking about him again. In a return to a theme from his first campaign, in 1994, he’s back to championing small government and low taxes.
It is doubtful this will be enough to fuel such a bid. Many Italians, particularly the business elite, have grown disillusioned with his nine-year record of dismal economic growth. In Rome last week, demonstrators protested his rumoured return. Even within his People of Liberty party, some would like him to remain in retirement.
Berlusconi may not have exited the political scene yet, but he may find the door to the prime minister’s office is shut for good.
By Jamie Dettmer - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 7:00 PM - 0 Comments
Italy’s economic travails have old and young struggling to cope
Far from tourist crowds savouring Italy’s fabled dolce vita, sipping cappuccinos and chilled Prosecco in big-city piazzas, the walled towns and hilltop villages of Tuscia, in central Italy, are seeing the sweet life disappear.
Tuscia, north of Rome and bordered by Tuscany and Umbria, is picture-postcard Italy, with pastures of sunflowers and poppies, abundant vines and rows of ancient olive trees. Despite the natural beauty, life here, based mainly on farming, has never been easy, but in recent years villages like Celleno, 80 km north of the Italian capital, prospered thanks to the advent of tourism and affluent northern Europeans and Romans buying cheap second homes.
That has all changed with the eurozone crisis. Austerity measures imposed by Prime Minister Mario Monti, who heads an administration of technocrats struggling to find ways to reduce Italy’s sky-high public debt, are now biting. Public services have been cut just as economic opportunities dwindle. Old and young are struggling to cope with pension cuts, tax hikes and the disappearance of jobs. The 1,000 or so inhabitants of Celleno are no different.
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 4:45 PM - 0 Comments
It may be time for Greece to leave the eurozone. Analysts have been saying since late last year that a Greek exit, now known as “Grexit” among economics dorks, was a likely scenario. Last weekend’s messy elections and this morning’s bombshell statements by the country’s left-wing Syriza bloc make it all the more likely. So what would a Grexit actually look like, and would it be good or bad for Canada and the rest of the world economy?
The short answer is that letting Greece slip out of the eurozone is a good idea in theory, but a hard one to pull off without disastrous consequences in practice. David Smith, economics editor of The Sunday Times, summed it up nicely in a post he wrote before the election results came out:
“A Greek exit, should it occur, would eventually be good for Greece and remaining eurozone members. Getting there, however, without triggering a domino effect, and without a hugely damaging impact of the banking system, is the difficult part.“
By Michelle Tarnopolsky - Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 10:04 AM - 0 Comments
Where the closets are crowded with a lot more than Prada and Gucci
After being punched in the nose and called a “f—ing faggot” outside a bar in Reggio Calabria, Italy on April 13, Claudio Toscano must have assumed his ordeal was over once he got to the hospital. But as he told Il Quotidiano della Calabria newspaper, that’s when the psychological attacks began: “Are you gay?” asked a paramedic in the emergency room. “I can recommend a psychologist. Hormonal treatments can heal you.”
Welcome to the world of LGBT in Italy, where the legal and cultural progress felt elsewhere in the Western world is all but absent. In February, the popular satirical TV news program Le Iene (“The Hyenas”) helped bring to justice Sicilian “magician” Alfio Sciacca, who claimed to heal people from the “sickness” of homosexuality. Le Iene learned of Sciacca after receiving complaints from a number of his fraud victims.
“It’s a great shame, but from this point of view, our country is still in the Middle Ages,” says lesbian activist and parliamentarian Anna Paola Concia. In April 2011 she and her partner were walking hand-in-hand down a crowded street in Rome when a man shouted, “F—ing lesbians. They should have sent you to the ovens!” No one came to their defense; some even reproached Concia for responding angrily. And they were lucky to be downtown—such encounters usually escalate to physical violence on the outskirts of Rome.
By Erica Alini - Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 2:15 AM - 0 Comments
Try as he might to stay under the radar, the scandals just keep piling on
For Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s disgraced former prime minister, staying under the radar is proving a challenge. The humbling experience of having to relinquish power—amid boos—as his country teetered on the brink of financial disaster may have rendered him unusually media shy, but Berlusconi has by no means disappeared. Whenever a new detail or allegation of wrongdoing emerges, the combative septuagenarian is back to defend his honour. According to one recent revelation, he reportedly hired strippers dressed as nuns and soccer stars for his so-called “bunga bunga” sex parties. He has admitted to having wired, last June, roughly $130,000 to three women who participated in the parties; the trio is currently testifying in a trial in which he stands accused of paying for sex with an underage prostitute, and of abuse of power.
The media mogul had a quick response. Of course, the money transfer wasn’t an attempt to corrupt witnesses, he raged in an interview with Il Giornale, a newspaper owned by his brother Paolo. Rather, it was an act of “generosity.” In fact, he’d used a bank transfer, he added, “because the money is transparent, totally traceable.”
To those who have been following him since he first launched his political career in the early 1990s, it is increasingly clear Berlusconi hasn’t been defeated yet. “The man has been up to something ever since he was fired,” quips Italian columnist Beppe Severgnini, author of Mamma Mia! Berlusconi’s Italy Explained For Posterity and Friends Abroad. Although it is unlikely Berlusconi will ever be prime minister again, says Severgnini, he continues to lead his People of Liberty party; the party’s support in parliament is essential for the unelected government of current PM Mario Monti. “The moment the government mentioned two things Berlusconi didn’t quite like”—a plan to sell digital television frequencies and an anti-graft law—“his party was up in arms,” says Severgnini. Both measures could pose a threat to Berlusconi, who owns the country’s three biggest private TV stations and has faced a string of legal cases involving accusations of corruption, embezzlement and bribery.
By Patricia Treble - Friday, March 23, 2012 at 1:57 AM - 0 Comments
The massive bell, made of brass or bronze, mysteriously disappeared from the sunken ship
Of all the images that emerged after the Costa Concordia ran aground and partially sank off the coast of Italy on Jan. 13, the photo of rescue divers swimming past the ship’s bell has come to symbolize the lengthy search for those who died on the cruise liner. At least 25 people were killed, with another seven still unaccounted for. Now that bell has vanished, though the ship was under 24-hour surveillance by authorities and was being monitored by a web of lasers measuring every movement of the 290-m vessel, lying on an underwater shelf.
Bells, made largely of brass or bronze, have been on ships for nearly 600 years, used to signal each half-hour to the ship’s company. They still occupy pride of place on many vessels, though digital clocks have taken over their once essential work. Because of the heft of the Costa Concordia’s bell, police suspect a team of thieves, likely divers authorized to work on the liner. Whether or not authorities recover the stolen bell, it appears that the ship itself is beyond hope, deemed a “total loss” by owner Carnival Corp. Since the cost of refloating the liner is in excess of $150 million, it could be cut up for scrap.
By Erica Alini - Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
Italy’s new PM is a stark contrast to his predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi. So far, voters seem to like that.
If one were to pick a movie title to describe Mario Monti, it would surely be A Serious Man. Italy’s current prime minister couldn’t cut a more starkly different ﬁgure from his bigmouth, scandal-prone predecessor. An economics professor and the head of one of Italy’s most prestigious universities before he was tapped to lead the country in November of last year, Monti earned the nickname “Super Mario” for taking on Germany’s powerful regional banks and then Microsoft during his tenure as European Union commissioner for competition in the early 2000s. His time in Brussels proved he was everything that Silvio Berlusconi was not: a man of measured words and bold action.
And he did not disappoint. Less than a month since taking over at Palazzo Chigi, the government headquarters in Rome, Monti had rushed through parliament a draconian, $40-billion austerity plan aimed at eliminating Italy’s public deﬁcit by 2013. He pleased Germany, calmed the markets, and still had well over 50 per cent popular support. Italians saw the pain coming, but simply gritted their teeth.
In Brussels, he received a warm welcome from both Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy—European newspapers were quickly abuzz with rumours that the Franco-German power duo had become a trio. And in some business circles, where France’s president is privately called “Merkel’s fool” for his seeming lack of backbone vis-a-vis the chancellor, people saw in Monti a man who would speak the truth to Europe’s most powerful country. In a September op-ed piece, the professor had pointedly reminded Berlin that it was “none less than Germany and France” that broke the EU’s deﬁcit rules in 2003, “thus sending a ‘don’t worry about ﬁscal discipline’ [message] to Greece and all the others.”
By Paul Wells - Friday, November 18, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 12 Comments
WELLS: Rather than point fingers, European leaders should fix the pathologies that have crept into the system
The good news is that when the cover of Canadian Business magazine says “Europe’s Still Doomed,” they don’t actually mean tens of millions of Europeans are about to die a horrible death. For centuries that was the standard for measuring a bad day in Europe.
France lost more of her citizens in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, about 139,000, than Canada lost in the First and Second World Wars combined, and it was barely getting warmed up. Next came 1.7 million French deaths in the First World War, then another half-million in the Second World War. Maybe seven million Germans died in the latter war, and nearly six million Poles. Belarus, at the time a Soviet republic, lost a quarter of its population. It’s easy for us to be glib about these things. They remain present and felt in Europe.
Canadians who chuckle at Eurocrats and Brussels bean-counters don’t pay enough attention to what those tweedy legions of paper-pushers have replaced. They’ve replaced hell. That doesn’t mean they’ve brought heaven, far from it, but the distance travelled is worth remembering. Germany and France work far more closely together than Canada and the U.S. do. Europe’s attractive power has pulled a dozen countries away from Russia’s grasp and closer to prosperity. The European Union’s eastern border, even with quasi-failed states like Belarus, is at least peaceful.