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 Emily Senger - Monday, March 25, 2013 at 9:24 AM - 0 Comments
Ford India is making apologies for three advertisements that never ran, one of which…
Ford India is making apologies for three advertisements that never ran, one of which showed former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in the front seat of a Ford Figo with three bound women in the trunk.
While the ads weren’t actually used, they were displayed over the weekend on a website meant to showcase creative advertising, The Associated Press reported Monday.
The timing for the ads to surface online was particularly bad in India, where the country has been dealing with a high-profile gang rape and murder case. In addition, India just passed a law meant to prevent violence against women.
“We take this very seriously and are reviewing approval and oversight processes, and taking necessary steps to ensure nothing like this ever happens again,” Ford spokeswoman Sethi Deepti told The Associated Press in an email. Continue…
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 Aaron Wherry - Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 7:00 AM - 0 Comments
Dennis Rodman takes North Korea, Berlusconi rises again, and a dictator’s daughter takes over in Seoul
Bagman on the stand
Nicolo Milioto, construction magnate and alleged bagman for Montreal’s infamous Rizzuto Mafia clan, took the stand at an inquiry into Quebec’s construction industry last week. Milioto, known as “Mr. Sidewalk” for his uncanny ability to nab municipal construction jobs, stated his name and occupation—and very little else. According to one newspaper’s tally, the bullet-headed Milioto said, “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” 522 times during his testimony. He said he was insulted to be associated with the Mafia, saying he was but a friend of since-assassinated don Nick Rizzuto. It’s a surprise he remembered that much.
Former NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman is trying his hand at “basketball diplomacy” in North Korea. News that “the Worm,” as he was once known, had made it into the Hermit Kingdom to film a documentary arrived via Twitter: “It’s true, I’m in North Korea. Looking forward to sitting down with Kim Jong Un,” he said. The sentiment may be shared: growing up, Kim Jong Un, the country’s young dictator, was a huge fan of Rodman’s ’90s-era Chicago Bulls.
Enter Mr. Fixit
SNC-Lavalin Group hired a new chief compliance officer last week to help clean up the embattled engineering giant in the wake of a bribery scandal. (Two former SNC executives—former CEO Pierre Duhaime and Riadh Ben Aissa—face fraud charges relating to the firm’s contract to design, build and maintain the McGill University Health Centre’s new $1.3-billion hospital.) SNC’s incoming CCO, German executive Andreas Pohlmann, has acted as a go-to for scandal-plagued companies: he was brought in to fix Siemens after a $2-billion bribery scandal in 2006. Next, he headed up the compliance unit at German engineering firm Ferrostaal in 2010, after a bribery scandal there.
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 macleans.ca - Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 5:30 AM - 0 Comments
‘Fat girls,’ ice dancers and a sweet simian with a sense of fashion
Making their mark
A week after soccer’s brain trust, FIFA, snubbed Canada’s Christine Sinclair, fans of the game had plenty to celebrate. First, the Argentine superstar Lionel Messi scored his 86th goal of 2012, surpassing a 40-year-old record and affirming the Barcelona striker as the greatest scorer the game has seen. Then, Sinclair was announced as winner of the Lou Marsh Award, given to Canada’s top athlete of the year. The honour comes after FIFA left Sinclair off its shortlist for female player of 2012—a cold shoulder some chalked up to Sinclair’s intemperate remarks about the officiating after Canada’s hard-fought semi-final loss to the U.S. at the London Olympics. To John Herdman, Sinclair’s national team coach, her body of work speaks for itself: “I’d put her up there with the biggest and best athletes in the world.”
Back to bunga?
Silvio Berlusconi could provide survival tips to vampires. No sooner had his foes left him for dead, politically speaking, than the scandal-ridden former Italian prime minister rose anew, forcing current PM Mario Monti out of power this week, and declaring his candidacy for the national leadership. Berlusconi’s resurrection marks a new low for Italian politics, critics say: at 76, he is still appealing convictions for tax fraud, while fighting charges of having sex with an underage prostitute—this, at time when Italy is drifting toward a full-blown debt crisis. Yet the media tycoon hasn’t lost an ounce of audacity. On his Facebook page, he claimed that he tried to find a worthy successor, but added: “There isn’t one.”
By Jaime Weinman, Anne Kingston, Aaron Wherry, and Martin Patriquin - Friday, October 12, 2012 at 10:49 AM - 0 Comments
Oct. 5-11, 2012: The war on Big Bird, Silvio Berlusconi discovers a woman can lie, and a female perspective on the oilsands
Feast your eyes
The Prime Minister didn’t sexually harass you just because he was naked in the library. That’s what the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario seems to be saying with its dismissal of a complaint lodged earlier this year after a very cheeky painting of Stephen Harper appeared in a Kingston public library. Entitled Emperor Haute Couture, the painting by Kingston artist Margaret Sutherland portrays Harper in nude repose on a white chaise longue, a pooch at his feet and one of many anonymous minders behind handing him a large Tim Hortons coffee. The sight was too much for Albertan Curtis Stewart. “This is a complete disrespect to our country, our government and to our Prime Minister,” Stewart wrote in his HRTO complaint last spring, adding that the image was “a complete form of sexual harassment to me, my family and to all Canadians.” The HRTO dismissed the complaint, saying it fell beyond its jurisdiction.
The Bird speaks for all of us
Big Bird is the 99 per cent. After Mitt Romney said he would cut funding to PBS, then added “I love Big Bird,” the yellow Sesame Street star has become an instant meme in the U.S. presidential campaign. A Romney rally was protested by a man in a Big Bird costume carrying a sign that said “crack down on Wall Street, not Sesame Street.” Twitter was flooded with slogans like “I stand with Big Bird” and fake accounts from an out-of-work feathered muppet. Barack Obama’s campaign even released an ad portraying Romney as anti-Big Bird, but it didn’t sit well with the Sesame Street’s producers, who called for Obama to take down the ad because “Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization.”
Another reason to love Toronto
Vito Rizzuto, a former Montreal crime boss known as the “Teflon Don,” flew home to Canada last week. Rizzuto was released last Friday from a U.S. prison, where he was serving a sentence in connection with a 1981 killing, and seasoned Mob-watchers have been buzzing about what his next move will be upon returning to Canada. With his power base decimated in Montreal and his home up for sale, speculation is afoot that he may stay in Ontario: “Toronto is where he can find strength and calm,” a Quebec police officer told the Toronto Star. Toronto: where gangsters can make a fresh start.
Who’s the sexist-est of them all?
The Speaker in Australia’s House of Representatives eventually resigned after the emergence of sexist and profane text messages—the c-word was involved. But first, the House was witness to a remarkable display from PM Julia Gillard. After Tony Abbott, the opposition leader, declared that Gillard had failed by selecting Peter Slipper as Speaker, the ﬁrst female prime minister in Australian history stood in the House and launched a blistering 15-minute attack on Abbott, accusing him and his side of sexism and misogyny. She recounted how he had, among other things, suggested she make “an honest woman of herself” (Gillard is unmarried). If Abbott “wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia,” she said, “he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives—he needs a mirror.” Too bad for Abbott: just last week, his wife, Margie, tried to burnish her husband’s image in a series of media interviews. “Tony Abbott gets women,” she ventured, “and … the women in Tony Abbott’s life certainly get him.”
Tell us more
Who wouldn’t want life advice from a 26-year-old able to net $3.7 million for her first book? That’s what Random House execs were betting as they won a bidding war for Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned. It’s the latest triumph for the indie “It Girl,” known for strip-mining her life in her film Tiny Furniture, her HBO series Girls and her New Yorker essays. The publisher expressed high hopes for the self-help tome inspired by Helen Gurley Brown’s 1962 classic Sex and the Single Girl: in a statement, it placed Dunham in the tradition of Gurley Brown, David Sedaris and Nora Ephron and promised “frank and funny advice on everything from sex to eating to travelling to work.”
She also said he was the wisest, most handsome man she’d met
More cringe-worthy news regarding Silvio Berlusconi, currently on trial on charges that he hired an underage prostitute for one of his allegedly sex-drenched “bunga bunga” parties. The prosecution introduced evidence suggesting that Berlusconi thought Karima El Mahroug—known as Ruby the Heart Stealer—was the granddaughter of former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. That Mahroug, who was 17 when she met Berlusconi, was a prostitute apparently didn’t deter Berlusconi’s conviction in her story. The former PM even asked Mubarak about the young woman during the latter’s visit to Rome; predictably, Mubarak didn’t have a clue what Berlusconi was talking about. “She told me a load of balls,” a miffed Burlusconi told an adviser, after figuring out Ruby’s subterfuge. The 76-year-old lothario faces a maximum of three years in jail.
Women’s week in Fort McMurray
The woman who won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for banning land mines trod onto more explosive territory this week: she kicked off her one-week tour of the proposed Northern Gateway route in Fort McMurray, Alta., U.S. activist Jody Williams is leading an all-female delegation that includes singer Sarah Harmer and climate scientist Marianne Douglas to solicit women’s opinions about pipeline development. In a video released by the tour’s sponsor, Ottawa-based Nobel Women’s Initiative, Williams explains: “In too many situations of crisis around the world, the women and their children are the ones who suffer the most when their environment is destroyed.” But she’ll get some other points of view along the way: one of her meetings was with Melissa Blake, the pro-development mayor of Wood Buffalo, of which Fort McMurray is part.
He’s here, he’s queer—and careful, he can throw a punch
The world of professional sports is not thought of as very gay-friendly, but Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz may change that. The 31-year-old featherweight, ranked fourth in his weight class, announced that he is “a proud gay man,” adding that he went public “knowing that it would have pros and cons, highs and lows in this sport that is so macho.” Cruz is the first pro boxer to come out as during his career, and it puts the sport ahead of a number of other pro sports, such as baseball and football, that have no openly gay athletes.
Good thing he’s not Canadian
Mark Morris started as a dancer in Seattle and is now one of America’s most famous ballet choreographers. But back in his hometown for a show with frequent collaborator Mikhail Baryshnikov, Morris didn’t seem too nostalgic about the place where he grew up, or too sorry to be leaving for New York City. He told the local paper The Stranger that Seattle is a “small pond” where “people resent excellence,” and he scoffed at the city’s overblown pride in its provincial achievements. “Everyone knows that people in Seattle are very proud of Seattle—and that’s not a compliment.”
Some students are more equal
A lawsuit launched by a white high school student against the University of Texas at Austin claiming racial discrimination could upend affirmative-action policies at U.S. universities when it’s heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this week. Abigail Fisher sued in 2008 after she was denied admission, claiming that her academic credentials exceeded those of the admitted minority candidates. Fisher, who since graduated from Louisiana State University, told the New York Times: “I’m hoping that they’ll completely take race out of the issue in terms of admissions and that everyone will be able to get into any school that they want . . . solely based on their merit.” And their ability to afford the sky-high tuition.
Vile—it’s right there in the name
While continuing to maintain his innocence, former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison this week after being convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse. In an audio statement released to a Penn State radio station, Sandusky said, “In my heart, I know I did not do these alleged disgusting acts,” and blamed a “well-orchestrated effort of the media, investigators, the system, Penn State, psychologists, civil attorneys and other accusers” for his conviction. Meanwhile, in England, Scotland Yard is investigating the possibility that Sir Jimmy Savile, a BBC presenter and DJ (Top of the Pops), may have abused as many as 25 young girls over 50 years. Eight criminal allegations have been filed in regards to girls aged 13 to 16. Savile died last year, so he cannot serve time, but British PM David Cameron raised the possibility this week of stripping him of his knighthood.
Olympic rowers salute their lakeside leader
It was part tribute, part protest as an Olympic armada massed at Elk Lake near Victoria for a last row with their coach Mike Spracklen, 75. His uncompromising methods produced results, but Rowing Canada ended his contract, angering those who thrived under his leadership. After the outing, Silken Laumann said if rowers had brought their medals, the dock would have sunk.
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 Anne Kingston - Friday, November 18, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 6 Comments
Silvio Berlusconi was dogged by scandals. But it took an economic crisis to bring him down.
It wasn’t the notorious “Bunga, Bunga” hooker orgies that did him in. Nor was it any of the 19 criminal and civil charges over 17 years, including allegations of bribing judges, tax fraud and embezzlement. Nor was he felled from within, like Caesar, or rejected by the vox populi. It took a deus ex machina—global financial markets freaked out over the eurozone debt crisis—to unseat Italy’s scandal-saturated prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Concerns over Italy’s high bond rates, not some kinky bondage escapade, forced the 75-year-old billionaire to resign last week, with less than two years left in his term. As with the mobster Al Capone, who was imprisoned for tax evasion, the train Berlusconi couldn’t hear coming was the one that hit him.
Not that Italians hadn’t grown weary of the Silvio Berlusconi reality show, a grotesque burlesque that dominated—and distracted—national life for decades. His public approval rating, down to 30 per cent, had been in decline since 2009, the year the perma-tanned, pomaded, seal-like “playboy” permanently shifted from satyr to satire. His second wife, Veronica Lari, publicly announced she’d filed for divorce, fed up with her husband “consorting with minors,” and a parade of prostitutes boasted they’d shared paid intimacy with him. The final straw came last February, when Berlusconi was ordered to stand trial for paying for sex with an underage erotic dancer, Karima El Mahroug, who goes by the stage name of “Ruby Heart Stealer.” He was also charged with abusing his office by interfering in a 2010 police investigation when El Mahroug was being held for theft, accused of calling a police station and claiming she was the niece of then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Discontent with the man once dubbed “Il Cavaliere”—the Knight—was evident last month as women took to the streets calling for Berlusconi’s resignation with signs proclaiming “Italy is not a brothel!” Local elections in June saw a leftist mayor voted into power in Milan, Berlusconi’s birthplace and former stronghold. Some 40,000 residents swarmed the Piazza del Duomo chanting “Berlusconi go home” and “Berlusconi, you are finished.” Frustration with Berlusconi’s reign was also on full display after his resignation in Rome last Saturday with the kind of dancing-in-the-streets jubilation seen after the fall of dictators Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi. The analogy is apt: the media tycoon became the world’s ﬁrst democratic despot by shrewdly exploiting the resources he controlled. Long before he was elected, he’d amassed wealth and cultural power; later, he built on it by nimbly navigating a media-saturated world. The self-styled political saviour was the “first postmodern” politician, says Alexander Stille, author of the 2007 book The Sack of Rome: Media + Money + Celebrity = Power = Silvio Berlusconi. “He’s about selling an image, personalizing politics; he’s not about ideas or policy or winning legislative battles,” Stille told Maclean’s.
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 9:20 AM - 4 Comments
New revelations about Berlusconi further erode his image, but no one seems ready to bring him down
On Sept. 19, Italy had its debt rating slashed by Standard & Poor’s. Three days earlier, the world had learned the country’s leader privately calls himself a “spare-time” prime minister.
The remark, along with several snippets of phone conversations that were never meant to leave Silvio Berlusconi’s inner circle, found its way into national and international headlines when wiretap transcripts tied to an ongoing investigation became public. The controversial excerpts featured the prime minister insulting Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, and boasting about sleeping with eight women in a single night. Most importantly, the tapes revealed that he may have been the object of blackmail by some close associates who used to supply him with prostitutes and aspiring starlets for his parties. The wiretaps also uncovered high-level corruption at Finmeccanica, a state-controlled defence and industry group. Though the inquiry has not lead to charges being laid against Berlusconi so far, it represents the fifth judicial proceeding the prime minister is embroiled in, on top of four court cases where he is defending himself against accusations including corruption, tax fraud and paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl.
The new scandals have come at a time when Berlusconi’s approval ratings were already plumbing unprecedented lows—at around 24 per cent, according to one newspaper poll—and no other political personality or party seems ready to supplant him at the helm. The Italian leadership is coming to resemble a headless chicken, just when the country must pull together to implement a $73-billion austerity package meant to reassure rattled investors that it won’t become insolvent on $2.6 trillion in public debt.
By Anne Kingston - Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 6:30 AM - 7 Comments
If women exploited their sex appeal when climbing the corporate ladder, they would be way ahead of men
The British sociologist Catherine Hakim is no academic wallflower. More than a decade ago, her “preference” theory positing that personal choices, not gender discrimination, governed women’s involvement and advancement in the labour market, won praise, sneers and influenced social policy. Now she’s back tweaking nipples with her new book, Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital, which argues that “erotic capital” can be as professionally useful as a university degree, that women have been conditioned not to exploit their attractiveness for economic beneﬁt and that prostitution is a rational, lucrative female career choice.
Predictably, a book published in 2011 by a respected scholar (a senior lecturer at the London School of Economics no less!) that contains such sentences as “Becoming an ‘idle’ full-time housewife is a modern utopian dream for most women” and bills itself “a truly feminist manifesto” has hit a cultural nerve: debated on the BBC, discussed in the Wall Street Journal, and pilloried by female columnists with attractive head shots.
Hakim is brashly wading into contentious terrain on several fronts: the ongoing intellectual war questioning the sexual revolution’s benefit to women; the continuing puzzling out of workplace gender inequity; and the new academic focus on the “beauty premium,” as explored by economist Daniel Hamermesh in Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful, which reveals tall men are paid the most, fat women the least.
By Erica Alini - Friday, September 16, 2011 at 2:30 PM - 13 Comments
Berlusconi is exactly what I was fleeing when I left Italy for good
I usually avoid writing editorials about Silvio Berlusconi. I also avoid reading them. I get tired of the usual arsenal of witty turns of phrase about “Italy’s gaffe-prone prime minister,” “the flamboyant media tycoon,” “the scandal-hit Casanova”…he’s just too easy a target.
And yet, the latest, spectacular verbal slip of the septuagenarian, who heads the country I was born and grew up in made me want to type away. He allegedly called Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel a culona inchiavabile, which roughly translates to—pardon my French—“unf–kable big-ass.”
The comment brought back memories of growing up in Italy. Continue…
By Emma Teitel - Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 9:55 AM - 1 Comment
Cittadella’s mayor has a beef with Turkish kebabs
The walls surrounding Cittadella were erected to protect the northern Italian city amid violent, 13th-century wars. The fighting has long since ended, but another, more bizarre war is under way: Mayor Massimo Botocci has taken aim at the kebab, a Turkish meat sold at streetside stands. “They aren’t part of our tradition,” the mayor explained, adding that “the smell it gives off” doesn’t fit with the city’s rich, Italian heritage. “If someone wants to eat a kebab, he can do it at home or outside of the historic centre,” he said, citing health and sanitation regulations.
Botocci, a deputy with the populist, anti-immigrant Northern League, part of Silvio Berlusconi’s ruling, centre-right coalition, is not alone in taking umbrage with the kebab: in 2010, the mayors of Lucca in Tuscany and Milan imposed similar bans, which were widely interpreted as an attack aimed at the country’s Middle Eastern and Indian immigrants. But Botocci is facing a tough fight in Cittadella: Italy’s north boasts the country’s best kebab. He may find that the city’s medieval walls are better at keeping out foreign invaders than foreign foods.
By Jason Kirby and Michael Petrou - Friday, August 19, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 16 Comments
Europe’s grand experiment seems to be failing
Until recently, the tiny German town of Guben was best known—to those who knew it at all—for two things. With only the narrow Neisse river separating it from the Polish town of Gubin, it is one of few place where Germans and Poles live so close together. That, and Guben is also where the controversial anatomist Gunther von Hagens, famous for his museum displays of skinless human cadavers seated at poker tables, set up a factory six years ago to treat and preserve corpses.
Now Guben’s mayor, Klaus-Dieter Hübner, has set off alarm bells in Europe by calling for border controls to be put in place to stop Polish “criminals” from looting German businesses. Since 2007, when Poland joined the Schengen zone, a border-free travel area consisting of 25 European countries, Germans and Poles have freely criss-crossed into each other’s countries to shop, dine and work. With his call for security checks at the border, Hübner has challenged one of the pillars of modern Europe: the free movement of people and goods between nations.
Taken on its own, the border squabble in Guben is a seemingly minor concern, but it comes as the twin forces of economic stagnation and surging nationalism threaten to tear Europe apart. Even as European leaders struggle to halt the spread of the debt crisis—a task that they increasingly appear unable to handle—a wider backlash against European integration poses an existential crisis for the continent. Europe is failing, both economically and politically, leading to the question: can it be saved, or is Europe destined for the embalming slab in Guben?
By Richard Warnica, Alex Ballingall, Emma Teitel, and Cigdem Iltan - Monday, July 18, 2011 at 9:55 AM - 0 Comments
Anthony Galea pleads guilty, Bieber fever starts to wane, and a lost dog finally makes it home
The incredible journey
One lucky Montreal family finally got their dog back last week after an amazing, year-long adventure that took the pup 4,500 km across the country. Pollux, a black Lab cross who escaped from her east-end Montreal home last June, turned up in Kamloops, B.C., where, last week, the SPCA found a microchip implant registered to her vet. No one is sure how exactly Pollux travelled so far, but her owner, Isabelle Robitaille, thinks she might have jumped on a train to avoid the rain, since she’s scared of water. Robitaille let her kids, who cried themselves to sleep when she disappeared, stay up way past bedtime to welcome their beloved pooch home at the airport, where she was greeted with squeals. “For them, it’s a second Christmas,” Robitaille told the Montreal Gazette. “My son spent 45 minutes just petting her. He was so happy.”
A long road to another struggle
Just two nights after tossing the ball that led to the accidental death of ﬁreﬁghter Shannon Stone, Texas Rangers left-fielder Josh Hamilton hit a game-winning, two-run homer against the Oakland A’s. Hamilton, who was said to be “very distraught” after the tragedy, rounded the bases with his head down only to be mobbed by his teammates at home plate as the home crowd hollered in support. After the game, Hamilton told reporters that his thoughts were with Stone’s family. The 39-year-old firefighter was at a Rangers game with his six-year-old son when Hamilton threw him a foul ball. The toss was short, and Stone fell to his death after leaning over the railing to catch it. This isn’t the first time Hamilton has faced adversity. Struggles with heroin and alcohol almost cost the all-star his career. What helps him get through it all? He’s a born-again Christian, and after Stone’s death, Hamilton stayed up all night talking with his wife, Katie.
By Erica Alini - Friday, June 3, 2011 at 11:07 PM - 2 Comments
Italians seem to be getting over the “Berlusconi effect”
What followed the announcement that the Italian city of Milan had elected a leftist mayor last week looked like nothing short of a colour revolution. Reminiscent of pro-West protesters in Ukraine, some 40,000 Milanese swarmed to Piazza del Duomo, the city’s main square, sporting orange T-shirts and balloons, the campaign colour of local lawyer Giuliano Pisapia, who’d just won at the polls. “Berlusconi go home,” the orange wave was chanting, and “Berlusconi, you are finished.”
Many analysts agree. The latest round of local elections, which saw some 1,300 towns, cities and provinces vote across Italy, has been a bitter awakening for Italy’s conservative prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. In Naples, where his centre-right coalition was expected to prevail, a rival candidate swept to victory with a 30 percentage point margin. Right-wing mayors in Cagliari, Sardinia’s main city, and Trieste, an important port city in the country’s north-east, were unceremoniously unseated, and even in the small town of Arcore—which houses the villa that is the PM’s primary residence—a novice opposition candidate comfortably beat the centre-right incumbent. The deadliest blow, though, was in Milan, where the left won with a convincing 55 per cent.
“It’s a sensational event,” says Stefano Folli, a columnist for the business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore. Milan, the prime minister’s hometown and the base from which he launched his business and political careers, “is the very symbol of Berlusconi’s political season,” he adds. The voters’ final verdict, delivered in run-off elections held on May 29 and 30, came on the heels of a campaign that was vicious even by the standards of Italy’s notoriously brutal politics. The PM and his allies warned that a left-wing mayor would turn the city into anything from a haven for nomads and Islamists to a prime destination for gay tourism. Milan, one of the world’s fashion centres and Italy’s business and financial hub, would become a “gypsyopolis” and “Europe’s last communist capital,” they said.
And, remarkably, the electoral show was dominated by the PM himself, rather than Milan’s conservative incumbent mayor Letizia Moratti, a darling of the centre-right who also served as education minister. Sensing that the Milanese were less than happy with Moratti’s record in office, Berlusconi turned the mayoral election into a referendum on himself, says Marco Cacciotto, a Milan-based political marketing consultant. “He completely eclipsed her,” he says of the PM, who even entered his own name on the ballot. Berlusconi was following a well-known script, says Cacciotto, a strategy that always worked: Mobilizing voters through hyperbolic rhetoric and his personal charisma.
This time, though, there was no “Berlusconi effect.” During the first round of ballots, the centre-right lost 80,000 votes compared to the previous elections of 2006, while the left-wing opposition scored roughly as it did five years earlier. Many conservative voters, in other words, vowed to stay at home or cast their ballot for third candidates who had no chance of winning, inflicting a “hemorrhage of votes” to the centre-right and sending a clear message about the power of the PM’s charms.
Some have already written off the result as the beginning of the end for Berlusconism, the personality cult of Italy’s flamboyant leader that has dominated the country’s politics for the last 17 years. According to Piero Ignazi, a professor of political science at the university of Bologna, the electoral defeat is a sign that Berlusconi has lost the key support of the Milanese bourgeoisie, the country’s business elite. The city’s industrialists had hoped that Berlusconi, Italy’s most famous entrepreneur, would fix the economy, and govern with an eye to their needs, says Ignazi. But Italy’s GDP has virtually flatlined since the early 2000s, and the government’s reform agenda bogged down by Berlusconi’s recurrent troubles with the judiciary (he is currently defending himself from accusations of corruption, tax fraud, and paying for sex with an underage prostitute in three different trials in Milan). “The bourgeoisie had been expecting that Berlusconi would embody a moderate, liberal right-wing force,” says Ignazi, “but things have gone in the opposite direction, towards a populist party strongly centred on the leader.”
In fact, Berlusconi casts such a long shadow on his People of Freedom party (PdL) that many predict that the group will simply dissolve if its leader truly proves to be politically defunct. “The PdL is a [political] organism that’s used to relying on its supreme commander,” Folli wrote in an editorial for Il Sole 24 Ore, adding in an interview with Maclean’s that he finds it hard to imagine the party without Berlusconi. The recent abysmal electoral showing is also likely to widen existing cracks between the PdL and its coalition partner, the Northern League, a smaller party that rallies around regionalism and anti-immigration themes. To be sure, in the immediate aftermath of defeat, the movement’s leader has pledged unwavering loyalty to Berlusconi. But the party’s lower ranks are clamoring for the party to ditch Berlusconi, after the League’s support in its key constituency of Northern Italy dropped by over 20 per cent in the latest local ballots compared to the previous election.
No major political earthquake, though, is likely to happen in the short term, says Folli. Italians are loathe to sacrifice even a few days of their summer to pick a new government, and even fall or winter snap elections are unheard of. But if the billionaire prime minister continues to look like a political dead man, spring could bring about a radical reshaping of Italian politics. The demise of Berlusconi could be the end of an entire party system, says Ignazi, not unlike what happened in the early 1990s, when a slew of corruption scandals and trials known as Mani Pulite (clean hands) wiped out the entire political class that had ruled Italy since the end of World War II.
Still, some are warning it might be too soon to pen Berlusconi’s political post mortem. It’s hard to keep track of how many times his adversaries at home and abroad have predicted his inexorable downfall only to watch him climb back up opinion polls and electoral ballots, says Cacciotto. “Berlusconi is incredibly resilient,” he adds. Not to mention the utter lack of alternatives to his leadership. The left has been in disarray for years, struggling to come up with a coalition arrangement that will bring together centrist currents with the more radical fringes. Significantly, winning left-wing candidates in both Milan and Naples belonged to minor parties, and not Italy’s major centre-left force, the Democratic Party. Voters may be reluctant to give Berlusconi the boot if they are uncertain about who is going to replace him, says Cacciotto. A new centrist grouping called the Third Pole, supported by business magnates such as Luca di Montezemolo, head of Ferrari, runs into the same problem—with Italians leery of untested political novelties, they’re more likely to opt for the devil they know.
Whether Berlusconi is truly finished or just weakened, then, Italy seems to be in for a period of political paralysis that could further damage its economy. But if the current turmoil serves to sweep to power a new, bold, reformist government when spring comes, many Italians will think it will have been well worth it.
By Nancy Macdonald - Friday, June 3, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Lady Gaga makes an entrance, Mark Zuckerberg learns a new skill and Saudi women are driven to rebel
Laying it down with Beantown
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Twitter plea for help in coming up with a friendly wager with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino prompted some great ideas. “There’s a good one: sushi versus clam chowder, and swapping our best beers from two great beer-drinking cities,” Robertson told reporters in Stanley Park, a few steps from the iron statue of Lord Stanley—which currently sports a Canucks jersey. “One that I really like, that I’m going to campaign for with the mayor of Boston, is that the loser buys season’s tickets for a couple of inner-city kids in the winning city,” he said. Another favourite, he joked, would see the loser “swimming with an Orca” or “wrestling a bear.”
Ending the IMF boys’ club?
The bid by France’s Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to become the first female head of the International Monetary Fund was pushed forward at the G8 meet-up in Deauville. She once famously complained there is “too much testosterone” in high-powered circles, a comment that now looks prescient. French President Nicolas Sarkozy talked her up to Barack Obama; Hillary Clinton hailed her candidacy. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev called her the near-consensus choice, though China and India want a non-European from a developing country.
By Leah McLaren - Monday, April 18, 2011 at 2:20 PM - 0 Comments
As the Italian PM’s sex trial begins, the masses are sharply split
On a balmy spring morning in a Fascist-era courthouse last week, Silvio Berlusconi’s hotly anticipated sex trial opened in Milan. But unlike the late night “bunga bunga” sessions in which the 74-year-old Italian prime minister is accused of participating, the proceedings showed little staying power. After less than 10 minutes, Giulia Turri—the presiding justice in what local media have dubbed “the broad squad” of female judges—adjourned the trial until May 31, the next date the Italian prime minister has said he is available to show up in person to defend himself.
As the gavel dropped, the stuffy courtroom packed with European press erupted in laughter and a mixture of Italian, French and English chatter. “It’s bizarre, yes, but we are used to bizarre states of affairs in Italy,” quipped Beppe Severgnini, an influential columnist for the newspaper Corriere della Sera. He arched an eyebrow under a pair of spectacles and brushed a piece of lint off his grey summer suit. “This trial is like High Noon—a shootout between the judiciary and Berlusconi. Who knows what will happen, but someone’s going to get hurt.”
By macleans.ca - Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 6:00 PM - 0 Comments
Barack Obama and Stephen Harper agree to discuss border security, while Silvio Berlusconi’s political career hangs by a thread
A report prepared for Washington lawmakers reached a familiar conclusion: a “truly shocking” lack of security along the Canada-U.S. border. Of the 6,400 km that separate the two countries, only 51—less than one per cent—is under “acceptable control,” the report says. Which is why this week’s announcement of a White House sit-down between Barack Obama and Stephen Harper is welcome news. After months of speculation, the time has come for both leaders to hammer out the final details of a North American security perimeter that will not only boost security, but improve the flow of trade.
By a margin of three to one, Canadians support changes to the monarchy that would rid the system of its males-first succession rules—an issue that was recently raised in the British Parliament. Maybe that explains the report in a London tabloid that William and Kate have chosen Canada as the site of their first overseas tour after the April wedding. Clearly, the United States wasn’t even an option. A new survey found that only nine per cent of Americans are interested in whether the royal marriage even lasts.
In the safe lane
According to new figures released by Transport Canada, death by car is on the decline. In 2008 (the latest stats available), 2,419 people were killed behind the wheel, a 12 per cent drop from the previous year—and the lowest number of fatalities in nearly six decades. The dip is a direct result of tougher seat-belt and drunk-driving laws, not to mention airbags and impact beams. But gas prices deserve some “credit” too; Statistics Canada says the cost of a fill-up jumped 13 per cent over the past year.
Lots of people are lucky to be alive this week. In New Zealand, a hydro worker injured only his thumb and elbow after getting zapped with 19,000 volts of electricity (“I should be in a pine box,” he joked). In Utah, an accused robber is recovering after hurling himself out of the window of a moving police car—while wearing handcuffs. And in Scotland, a mountain climber somehow survived a 300-m fall off the side of an icy cliff. Rescuers found him standing up and looking at his map.
Cruel and unusual
The reported slaughter of around 100 sled dogs in Whistler, B.C. has sparked outrage. The horrifying details of how the dogs were killed emerged in the workers’ compensation documents of a B.C. man claiming post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident. The man’s lawyer says his client shot the dogs after being told by the tour operator he sub-contracted for to make the business more “cost effective.” The tour operator insists it didn’t order the cull, but if dogs were euthanized it would be done in a “humane manner.” The B.C. SPCA and the RCMP are investigating.
Silvio “the Situation”
If the allegations are true, Silvio Berlusconi won’t be in office much longer. He’ll be in jail. The Italian prime minister—already famous for hosting “bunga bunga” sex parties at his home—is now accused of hiring two underage prostitutes. When one was later arrested for theft, Berlusconi reportedly pressured police to release her. Can you blame Jersey Shore producers for deciding to film Season 4 back in the old country?
Big, fat problem
As it does every five years, the U.S. government released new dietary guidelines this week. The mere fact Americans need to be reminded every five years to eat more greens and cut back on the salt is scary enough. But then again, Canadians may benefit from a similar scolding. According to a new report from the Heart and Stroke Foundation, nearly 90 per cent of Canadians consider themselves healthy, despite plenty of evidence that we don’t eat nearly enough fruits and veggies, and many of us are packing more pounds than we should.
A new study says creative people are more likely to cheat because they can find “original ways to bypass moral rules.” Although being clever, resourceful and imaginative looks great on a resumé, researchers also found that creativity “allows people to come up with a lot of excuses and justifications for why their behaviour isn’t bad.” Exhibit A: Lise Thibault. The former Quebec lieutenant-governor made her first court appearance this week, accused of creatively spending $700,000 in taxpayer money.
By Erica Alini - Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 2:41 PM - 0 Comments
How Berlusconi’s hand-picked women have become political powers
Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may have survived another no-confidence vote on Dec. 14, but he did so with a razor-thin majority. And with many Italians openly contemptuous of their PM, the country looks ready to draw the curtain on the septuagenarian media mogul sooner rather than later. But as an era appears to be drawing to an end, at least one of the former showgirls the PM installed as eye-candy in public office seems set to survive him on the political stage.
Of the five female members of Berlusconi’s 23-strong cabinet, two are former beauty queens who largely owe their political ascent to a favourable nod by the Casanova-in-chief. Over the past years, the prime minister’s penchant for appointing busty twentysomethings as political candidates also landed Nicole Minetti, a 25-year-old dental hygienist and former TV performer, in a key regional council, and a Miss Italia contestant, Barbara Matera, 29, in the European Parliament. The practice, as well as his cavorting with young women, allegedly cost the prime minister his marriage, after his now ex-wife Veronica Lario, 54, herself a former actress who once appeared topless on stage, lashed out at the “shameless rubbish, all in the name of power.”
But to the surprise of many, one of the women has morphed into a political figure with a future. Ridiculed as a bimbo when she was appointed equal opportunities minister, Mara Carfagna, 35, a former TV topless model, has managed to carve out a niche for herself. She is now one of the most popular politicians in her native Campania, and is rumoured to be a credible candidate as the next mayor of Naples. “She’s unlikely to fade away should Berlusconi’s patronage come to an end,” said Marco Tarchi, a professor of political science at the University of Florence. Continue…
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 4:00 PM - 0 Comments
Hollywood is refusing to forgive Mel Gibson, Woods blamed golf for his problems
He spared nothing in a series of secretly recorded aural assaults aimed at his girlfriend. Women and
African-Americans bore the brunt of his bug-eyed rage. So far, Hollywood is refusing to forgive. Even his cameo in “The Hangover” remake—however pathetic a shot at redemption—was axed after a revolt by the film’s cast.
Goldman Sachs’s paltry $550-million fine to settle civil fraud charges was widely trumpeted as a victory for CEO Blankfein, unapologetic defender of Wall Street’s most repellent practices. His firm has also been accused of betting against clients, and of hiding Athens’s debt problems—“God’s work,” as Blankfein unforgettably once labelled it.
By macleans.ca - Friday, November 12, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Emma Watson’s really big moment, the Dog Whisperer’s disappointing day, Pamela Anderson’s good deed’s too dirty
Cesar Millan, TV’s “Dog Whisperer,” was a hit with the crowd at sold-out Scotiabank Place in Ottawa last week, even though Ontario law deprived him of a key cast mate—Junior, the two-year-old American pit bull that recently took over from the dearly departed Daddy as Millan’s “right-hand man.” Millan, halfway through a tour of Canada, demonstrated training techniques on local dogs and expounded on his philosophy of calm assertiveness, but took time to criticize Ontario’s 2005 ban on pit bulls. “In the ’70s, the breed that people were afraid of was the Doberman,” he told the audience. “In the 2000s, it’s the pit bull. It’s not the breed, it’s the human behind the dog.”
Absolute powers of persuasion
Chinese authorities may not have much success persuading European governments to boycott the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony honouring jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo, but they’re having better luck at home. Author Yu Jie, a friend of Liu’s, said he and his wife have been stopped from leaving their Beijing home by security officers, for fear they plan to go to Oslo. Meanwhile, Guo Xianliang, an engineer from Yunnan province, disappeared while on a business trip in Guangzhou. He’d been detained for distributing flyers about Liu, according to fellow activist Ye Du. Police have also reportedly detained a young woman, Mou Yanxi, who tweeted her support for Liu. “If such behaviour goes on,” her friend Zhang Shijie tweeted last week, “it will eventually happen to all of us.”
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 2:22 PM - 4 Comments
Interesting observation from the Prime Minister near the conclusion of this news conference today.
“I’ve never been at a summit where leaders seemed to more deeply feel the necessity of common action and common purpose. Why is that? Some of it may be some of the personalities around the table and the generational change that’s taken place in the G8 over the past few years.”
There is perhaps something to this.
Mr. Harper succeeded Paul Martin in 2006. Since then, in roughly this order, Nicolas Sarkozy has replaced Jacques Chirac, Dmitry Medvedev has filled the spot of Vladimir Putin, Silvio Berlusconi has returned to power in Italy, Barack Obama has succeeded George W. Bush, David Cameron has succeeded Gordon Brown and Naoto Kan has replaced Yukio Hatoyama. Of the eight leaders who attended the Prime Minister’s first G8, at St. Petersburg in 2006, only Mr. Harper and Germany’s Angela Merkel remain. And of the new arrivals, five—Harper, Obama, Cameron, Sarkozy and Medvedev—are 55 years old or younger.