Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

The Regeni Case: Expect No Progress

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Giulio Regeni: A name you should know. He was an Italian graduate student at Cambridge University who in January was conducting research in Cairo towards his PhD on Egyptian labor unions when, on the 25th of January, he disappeared and was not seen again until his body was found nine days later in a ditch along the highway between Cairo and Alexandria. It was clear from his corpse’s condition that he had been brutally tortured before he was killed. As it turned out, Italy’s development minister, Federica Guidi, was in Cairo with an entourage of Italian business leaders the day his body was found; they all immediately left the country.

In contrast, the Egyptian authorities were rather less punctual in investigating what had happened: it took them another five days for them to search his Cairo apartment. Nor were they very fast in finally delivering his body for shipment back to Italy so he could be buried at his hometown of Fiumicello, in the North. But obviously: whereas in a Cairo morgue only a handfull of officials such as the Italian ambassador to Egypt could have access to it, once back in Italy a much wider circle could see first-hand how brutally and cruelly he had been abused.

His death fits precisely within the recurrent pattern under the dictatorship of General Al-Sisi of those native Egyptians who somehow incite the ire of the authorities also suddenly disappearing, either for good or – if they’re lucky – emerging from local police stations having suffered brutal torture. Indeed, it is a fair complaint that the world only now has jumped up to denounce this inhuman behavior once it was finally a Westerner who was its victim. Still, how could it be otherwise that it was those authorities – with authorization coming from whatever level, high or low – who did this to Giulio Regeni? The EU Parliament, at least, is satisfied that the Egyptian government in fact was responsible, as it showed in its action today:

EUParlRegeni
The Italian government itself, though, has so far been more careful than that, as it does truly want to find out what happened here. This recent piece in the Corriere della Sera gives some idea of its progress:

Regeni
Headline: “The Regeni Case: Close-Circuit Camera Images Erased.” Lede: “Our investigators also did not succeed in obtaining the telephone traffic around the house.”

What? “Images erased”? We’re talking here of the closed-circuit surveillance camera images from the Cairo subway, which Regeni is known to have used that fateful evening of January 25th to get to wherever he was trying to go. Why were they erased?

Italian investigators requested acquisition of these recordings starting on 5 February, after the discovery of Regeni’s body, as decisive testimony for reconstructing the boy’s agenda and movements. The Egyptian authorities, however, took them [the recordings] only quite later, only on 13 February was it discovered that the images did not exist anymore, they were recorded over by more-recent ones.

That’s apparently what happens with those recordings, as a cost-cutting measure: after a certain period of time, they are recorded over. Too late.

And what about the mobile phone traffic, both around where Regeni resided in Cairo and the metro station. It’s no good.

The documentation submitted by the Egyptian authorities is inadequate. All that the [Italian] prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco has on his desk is a list of Regeni’s outgoing calls on the day of the 25th. The entire period before that is missing.

The bottom-line here is obvious: Egyptian officials are not interested in aiding the Italian investigation simply because they are the guilty ones. People around the world – academic researchers, potential tourist and the like – should realize very well from this incident that the only foreigners who are safe now within Egypt – presumably! – are those with diplomatic accreditation, but no others.

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Mohammed El Bada-Bing

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

It’s Revolution 3.0 in Egypt now – things are hot, and extremely uncertain! Dead and wounded are falling everywhere, much of the Sinai is in open revolt against the new (temporary?) military regime, and in general no one has much of a certain idea about what is to happen next.

At least there has been some slight technical progress, reported by the Italian Huffington Post.

HuffPoIT_Tahrir

“Twitter returns to Tahrir Piazza” – sorry, “Square.” But it’s a truism that social media has long been a key driving force behind the Arab Spring generally, certainly behind the revolution in Egypt whose first notable accomplishment was the toppling of the long-entrenched Mubarak regime back in February of 2011.

The problem for outside observers, of course, has been language. These folks prefer to address each other in Arabic, including via social networks. Those who are non-conversant have been limited to whatever the main social network protagonists have been willing to post in English, which too often has been merely by way of after-thought.

The point of this piece is that that has now changed. Oh, they’ll still write mostly in Arabic, but most tweets (at least) will now have an English translation provided by Microsoft’s Bing Translator. According to the HuffPoIT reporter Francesco Bisozzi, this initiative has been provided by Twitter itself, in effect using accounts affiliated with the Egyptian Revolution as a trial for this technology. OK, it’s Bing and not Google Translate – clearly, monetary and power-play considerations played a role in the choice here – and often you get the sort of funny-sounding text that such machine-translation is still known for, but it’s clearly a big step forward nonetheless.

So check out some of these Twitter-feeds that Bisozzi mentions. Warning: some are from the “bad guys” (e.g. ex-President Mohammed Morsi’s cabinet – boo!). Just be sure to click “Expand” and you’ll get Bing’s translation.

There’s Wael Ghonim, whom many considered as the catalyst of the Egyptian Revolution with his “We Are All Khaled Saeed” Facebook page: @Ghonim

Prof. Pakinam El Sharkawy, Assistant to the [former] Egyptian President for political affairs (a lady, but this gal still didn’t do such a good job, eh?): @Dr_pakinam

Ahmed Shafik, former fighter pilot, former Egyptian Prime Minister (under Mubarak), and Mohamed Morsi’s head-to-head opponent in the second round of the presidential elections in June last year: @AhmedShafikEG

And finally the star of our show, Nobel Prize winner and former International Atomic Energy Agency head Dr. Mohammed El Baradei: @ElBaradei

It’s true, Dr. El Baradei hasn’t tweeted much lately – not since 28 June, at this writing – but he’s a busy man these days. Plus, he might be headed for something even bigger:

Stratfor_Tahrir

Bonus benefit from this HuffPoIT piece: It appears that “to tweet” in Italian is twittare! Io twitto, tu twitti, eccetera . . .

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We Are ALL Berlusconis!

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Bad news from today’s L’Huffington Post (i.e. the Italian one).

You’re a puttana. Sorry.

I’m a puttana, too. (A rooty-toot-toot, rooty-toot tattoo, too!)

But that’s ‘cuz we’re all puttane!

HuffPoIT_puttane

Not that up with your Italian? Well, you probably would rather not know what this is, I mean, that we all are. (Click if you dare . . .)

More to the issue: Who is saying such nasty things? It’s a certain Giuliano Ferrara, who these days heads the minor Italian daily Il Foglio Quotidiano which he founded himself back in 1996.

But the point is: He has long been a supporter of Silvio Berlusconi, since the 1990s at the latest, and in fact served as MEP and government minister under him. And he was outragedOUTraged!! – by Monday’s court verdict that found his mentor (known popularly in Italy as Il Cavaliere, i.e. “the knight,” or even just Il Cav) guilty of paying for sex with the under-aged Karima El Mahroug (“Ruby the Heart Stealer”), and which sentenced him to seven years in prison. (Whether he will actually serve any time is quite another matter.)

So what Ferrara did yesterday was arrange a rally in support of Il Cavaliere, in Rome’s Piazza Farnese. Accompanied by a sound-system blaring the Rolling Stones’ Ruby Tuesday – classy, eh? – he harrangued the assembled crowd about Il Cav’s present plight, with his (own) wife at his side.* And the express name he gave the demonstration was in fact Siamo tutti puttane by which he meant, I suppose, that if Ruby was one – when, according to Ferrara, she merely enjoyed Il Cavaliere’s charm and conversation, and vice-versa – then we all are.

So that’s a relief, then. It’s not that ALL of us are puttane, just more-or-less those who agreed to turn up yesterday at Giuliano Ferrara’s Rome rally. If you want to click through, there’s even a photo-series on the page to help you identify just who these might be.

But maybe even not some of them: Also present there, according to the report, was Berlusconi’s own current main squeeze, 27-year-old Francesca Pascale, who afterwards took pains to declare Non sono una puttana! to surrounding journalists.

* Together with cardboard cut-outs of both Berlusconi and Hosni Mubarak (!) also on-stage, according to HuffPoIT journalist Andrea Punzo. Bizarre.

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Beppe the Greek (Professor)

Monday, May 20th, 2013

In this space we recently covered a new political party in Germany dedicated to discarding the euro. But what happens when the same thing happens from the other end of the EU’s economic spectrum?

#Grecia: nasce Drachma Movimento Democratico Cinque Stelle, il Beppe Grillo greco: “Basta austerità” #m5s http://t.co/fQaN9kp0XO

@HuffPostItalia

L’HuffPost


loghiYes, you see “Beppe Grillo” there in that tweet, which is written in Italian, and it’s certainly true that Grillo’s “Five Star Movement” is anti-euro. But I’m talking here about a new Greek party, one that was registered by the Athens authorities only last May 2, namely the “Drachma Five Stars Democratic Movement” which in its very name pays homage to Grillo’s Cinque Stelle (= “Five Stars”) movement.

What does this new party want? Mainly a referendum in Greece over whether to stay in the Eurozone. But it does have a formal five-point program:

  1. Renunciation of the Memorandum signed with the “troika” (EU, European Central Bank, IMF) which has imposed the current austerity policy in return for financial help;
  2. A return to the drachma;
  3. “Self-development” (meaning unclear);
  4. Social justice; and
  5. National dignity.

This piece by Gabriele Vallin in the Huffington Post’s Italian edition does not indicate how much popular support this “Drachma 5-Star” party has attracted, but again, it’s brand-new. It does feature an interview with the party’s founder, Theodore Katsanevas, Professor of Labour Economics at the University of Piraeus. (more…)

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Check Out the Cloning Rumors in Italy

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

Book of Joe has an interesting spotting from the Italian newsweekly Oggi of a human reproduction researcher there, Dr. Severino Antinori, who claims in an interview to have cloned three children ten years ago for an Eastern European family.

I contributed with a translation of what was to be found behind the “editorial” link on the original post from yesterday, which turned out instead to be a rather concerned letter to Oggi from a leading Italian figure in the realm of bioethics. So €S fans can delight in not only a link to this weblog which Dr. Stirt was kind enough to place within the later entry, but even our snazzy EuroSavant logo!

And a hearty welcome to all the visitors from Book of Joe who have headed over here to check us out!

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“Better Prison Than House-Arrest With My Wife!”

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Ah, don’t we just know the feeling . . .

I picked up this story originally from the Dutch paper De Volkskrant (Rather in the cell than at home with spouse), but just a little work with Google News Italia brought me to an authentic Italian report of this case, with a bit more detail, in Il Messaggero (Better jail than wife. And he renounces house-arrest).

This 56-year-old guy in Viterbo, Italy, see, got himself arrested for standing on the railroad tracks at the station in the town of Orte. (This is in the Lazio region just north of Rome.) He was drunk at the time – and so compounded his original offence of interrupting a public service with resisting arrest and threatening a public official – and was sentenced by the judge to five months’ house-arrest. But he pleaded with the judge for mercy: “For me it would be impossible to spend such a long period with my wife. We constantly argue and I would not be able to leave the house to not have to hear her insults. I don’t know how I could make it to the end.”

The judge made a game attempt to convince the defendant of the merits of house-arrest, but quickly just gave in and let him serve his five months at the local prison. By the way, that facility is in Viterbo and is known as the Mammagialla prison. Mamma-GIAL-la!! – doesn’t that sound like it should be the name of a spaghetti or something?

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A New Meaning for “Football Strip”

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Followers of European football’s Champions League will be aware of the hard assignment awaiting the Italian club A.S. Roma next Wednesday. Having lost to English Premier League leaders Manchester United 2-0 at home last Tuesday, Roma – because of the away-goals rule – need to go to Manchester and score at least three goals with no reply (or four goals if Man. United score one, etc.) to go on to the Champions League semi-finals.

It’s going to be tough, but the club at least has gotten a helping hand from one of its more rabid fans, the Italian actress Sabrina Ferilli. As the Czech News Agency ČTK reports in the daily Lidové noviny (For Progressing the A.S. Roma Footballers Are Promised a Strip-Tease), Ferilli has promised to take her clothes off for the delectation of Roma’s players – and their other fans – if the team beats Man. United sufficiently to make it through to the next round. And while the article notes towards its very beginning that Ferilli is now 43 years of age, the embedded video profile (apparently a report from an Italian news channel) also shows very clearly that she still has quite a lot to offer any viewers. (Don’t worry, though, the video would rate no more than “PG” under the American movie rating system, if even that.) (more…)

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Dutch Support Iraq Deployment

Friday, August 8th, 2003

Now that we’ve been on the subject in recent days of the support in various countries for the deployment of their troops on occupation duty in Iraq (Hungary and Poland already discussed), this article from the Reformatorisch Dagblad is timely. “Most of the Dutch are for military support in Iraq,” it proclaims in its headline. The particulars (from a survey of one thousand respondents undertaken by the Amsterdam-based TNS NIPO research organization): 60% of those polled supported the Dutch cabinet’s decision to send troops to Iraq, while “almost one-third” want no Dutch military presence in Iraq. Such support comes mainly from the right-wing of the Dutch political spectrum (from CDA and VVD members – and those are the two main parties making up the present governing coalition). Tellingly, 48% of those surveyed considered the actual danger that there will be Dutch killed or wounded to be small; 45% thought that the risk was substantial. Unfortunately, there’s no indication in the article of any attempt to get closer to the “cut-and-run” question that has been the central theme of recent €S coverage: i.e. what degree of Dutch casualties would cause you to start to advocate the unilateral withdrawal from Iraq of the Dutch troops there?

“There are Dutch troops in Iraq?” you may ask. Yes indeed: currently around 1,100 of them deployed in the south, under British command. But it seems that they are slated to pass under Polish command once the Poles and their allies deploy and take over their assigned sector at the beginning of next month. This article here (in English, but from the on-line Agenzia Giornalistica Italia) speaks of both Italy and the Netherlands balking at having to place their troops under Polish command. I don’t find anything yet from the Dutch press to substantiate this unseemly allied squabble, but I will keep on the look-out and let you know of anything that comes up.

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