sabato 22 marzo 2014

Bulgaria signs the contract for participation in Expo Milano 2015

Bulgaria is the 98th country to sign a participation contract for Expo Milano 2015.

The document was signed today by Dimitar Grekov, Minister of Agriculture and Commissioner General of the Bulgaria Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015, and by Giuseppe Sala, Commissioner of the Italian Government for Expo Milano 2015.

The Bulgaria Pavilion, covering an area of 584 square metres, will enjoy a particularly strategic position because it will be located between two countries that will be involved in major world events in coming years: the United Arab Emirates (organizers of the next Universal Exposition – Dubai 2020) and Kazakhstan (Organizer of the upcoming International Exposition – Astana 2017).

With today’s signature,” commented Giuseppe Sala, “Bulgaria confirms the trust it has placed in the Milan Universal Exposition and adds another major tessera to the mosaic of countries that will bring the uniqueness of Expo Milano 2015 to life. In recent years, Bulgaria has made notable progress in science and agriculture and I am confident that, through its presence and its interpretation of the Theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, it will provide an invaluable contribution to the discussions we hope to foster regarding the food challenges of the millennium.

Lupi Slams Fake Speed Detectors

Illegal” says transport minister in letter warning local authorities not to use “dangerous” devices

Those decoy Autovelox pillars don’t detect anything but there are so many of them that they must be doing something right. Yet the transport minister rejects them out of hand. Local authorities have lined Italy’s roads with the large orange cylinders that we have all seen at least once when we were out driving. They bear the legend “Controllo Velocità” [Speed Control] and are known to traffic professionals as “Velo Ok” or “Speed Check”.

But the bright orange detectors often have nothing inside, serving only as dissuaders to slow motorists down. Here’s how they work. Only about one pillar in five contains a working speed detection device but motorists don’t know whether the one up ahead does, and slow down just in case. Transport minister Maurizio Lupi thinks they are illegal and in a blog post goes so far as to claim that they “could constitute a hazard”. Mr Lupi wrote to Piero Fassino, the chair of the local authorities association, ANCI, to confirm his “negative opinion”. It’s not the first time that Mr Lupi has made his voice heard on the matter. A few months ago, he issued a negative technical opinion of the pillars because they “do not come under any of the categories of device or signal authorised by the highway code currently in force”. In other words, it’s a bureaucratic dog’s dinner. The problem is that the orange pillars must contain “approved speed measuring devices” to comply with regulations. They must be working and must issue real fines. Autovelox pillars cannot be mere dissuaders. Others say that the decoy devices are also too expensive - one report on the “Le Iene” TV show mentioned a price tag of €3,000 per pillar - and to round things off, the transport ministry refers to the devices as a potential “hazard”. The concrete bases constitute an obstacle if sited too close to the carriageway. 

Italy’s Happiest Cities

Genoa and Cagliari top the rankings but what if Milan were on the coast?

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. The words immortalised in the United States Declaration of Independence remind us that the desire to be happy is a fundamental part of everyone’s life. Along with GDP, wealth and political freedoms, the degree of happiness that people enjoy is also worth taking into account in any measure of democracy’s health and efficiency. It was in this spirit that the UN declared the 20 March International Day of Happiness, which today [yesterday] celebrates its second anniversary. What then are the happiest places to live in Italy? And what are the factors that most influence Italian smiles? One way to answer these questions is to study what Italians write on social media. After all, 140 keystrokes are often more than enough to express joy or despondency and the iHappy index, which we have already mentioned in these pages on several occasions, was set up with precisely that aim in mind.
Analysis of more than 40 million tweets collected daily from Italy’s 110 provinces reveals that in 2013, Italy’s happiness capital was Genoa. The Ligurian capital’s province topped the rankings with 75.5% of its tweets classified as happy. Hard on Genoa’s heels was Cagliari with 75.1% while other top ten towns included Parma (fourth with 72.9%), Bari (seventh on 71.7%) and Bologna (71.4%), which came second in 2012 but last year slid down to ninth place.
However almost all of Italy’s larger cities have low happiness rankings, with only Florence emerging in 65th position on 58.2%. Rome was 21 places behind the Tuscan capital with 54% and we have to go down to the bottom of the table to find Turin (91st), Milan (93rd) and Naples (96th). In a nutshell, it would seem that metropolitan living in times of endless crisis is not a great recipe for cheerfulness, what with the stress from overwork - for those in work - traffic, high prices and air pollution. But Italy’s saddest province in 2013 was Aosta (44%) with Nuoro (45.8%) second-last for the second year running and Padua on 45.9%. Also in the doldrums were Venice (48%) and Olbia-Tempio (49.5%), which like neighbouring Nuoro was hard-hit by Cyclone Cleopatra. If we move on to regions, Puglia and Emilia-Romagna top the iHappy rankings with scores of about 66% whereas Lombardy and Veneto bring up the rear on 53%.
But what is it that makes Italians happy, or indeed sad? Weather more than anything else affects mood in Italy. Last winter, the country was sad on average (50.2%) during the cold months of January and February but when spring arrived in March 2013, the happiness rating soared to 67.4%. So the date chosen by the UN to celebrate its Day of Happiness looks spot on. The saddest day of the week is Monday (59.2%) while cup match days (Tuesdays and Wednesdays) and Saturdays, are the most cheerful. Happiness goes up perceptibly on holidays (+1.8%) but only if the holiday is not at the weekend. Otherwise it’s not a real holiday and just becomes a missed opportunity for a long weekend.
The happiest of public holidays is Christmas (iHappy +14%) but in Italy Mother’s Day also cheers people up (+11.1%), as does the day before pay day, a temporary boost that vanishes in 24 hours. Working out how much money is left after the bills have been paid probably isn’t that much fun. Putting the clock forward is depressing and generates anxiety, sending the happiness index plummeting by more than five points. And latitude is another factor that plays a part. As you move up the peninsula from south to north, happiness shrinks, except in coastal provinces. If Milan were at the seaside, its happiness rating would go up by 1.3 points.

Thousands join Libera's anti-mafia event in Latina

(AGI) Latina, March 22 - About 100,000 people gathered in Latina on Saturday at an event organised by anti-mafia association Libera to commemorate the victims of mafia violence. The participants walked in a long march through the town and a number of presentations were delivered from an outdoor stage. "The real way to commemorate the victims of mafia violence is to work for them 365 days a year," said Father Luigi Ciotti, founder of Libera 

Italy's local taxes high due to federalism, says Sangalli

(AGI) Cernobbio, March 22 - Partial and disorganised federalism in Italy has led to an excessive increase in local taxes in recent years, and needs to be thoroughly reviewed. This was the view expressed on Saturday at a business forum in Cernobbio by Carlo Sangalli, chairman of the trade association Confcommercio. According to Mr Sangalli, local taxation had been overwhelming, growing by 7.8 percent in 2012 from 2011 and 650 percent from 1990. Local taxes increased by 5.6 percent from 2008 to 2012, and national taxes by 3.8 percent 

Union leader argues Italy should believe in own potential

(AGI) Cernobbio, March 22 - CISL union leader Raffaele Bonanni argued on Saturday that Italian companies should believe in their own potential in their own country. "Enough of populism, now we need to revive the alliance between workers and businesses", Mr Bonanni said, responding to Confindustria president Giorgio Squinzi, who suggested on Friday that Mapei, of which he is CEO, might move its headquarters to Switzerland.
"We need to stay here and harness our own potential, with the belief that we can make it. Enough complaining and enough unloading our problems on Germany and Europe."

India minister against UN solution to Italian marines case

(AGI) New Delhi, March 21 - Kerala's chief minister, Oommen Chandy, urged India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not to release Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, accused of killing two Indian fishermen in February 2012, even if the UN intervenes. "If the marines are released under pressure from the UN or any foreign country, that would give rise to prejudices and belittle our judicial system", Chandy wrote in a letter to Singh.

European markets rise on positive consumer confidence data

Milan bucks the general trend and drops 0.6% to 20,972 points

(ANSA) - Milan, March 21 - Many markets across Europe rose on Friday, excluding Milan's FTSE MIB index, as stocks cheered positive March consumer confidence data for the member nations sharing the single euro currency. Consumer confidence data for the euro zone released by the European Commission showed a marked improvement in March to -9.3 from a lower -12.7 in February. Italy's Ftse Mib index bucked the general trend, dropping 0.6% to 20,972 points. The yield spread between 10-year Italian bonds and the German benchmark equivalent, a barometer of Italy's borrowing costs in the eurozone, closed at 178 points with 10-year yields at 3.4%.

The Frankfurt Dax bourse gained 0.5% during the day's trading to 9,342 points, while the Paris Cac 40 Index advanced 0.2% to 4,335 points. Madrid's Ibex index fell 0.3% to 10,053 points. London's Ftse-100 stock market advanced 0.2% to 6,557 points.

Milan Expo site to become sports center after 2015

Italian Olympic committee chief asked to make post-fair proposal

(ANSA) - Milan, March 21 - The governor of Lombardy this week asked the head of the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) to propose a special sports enclave for the site of Milan Expo 2015, to be built after the conclusion of the food-themed world fair next year.

"Today marks the first step for the post-Expo future," said Lombardy Governor Roberto Maroni. The theme of Milan Expo 2015 is "Feeding the planet - Energy for life". It tackles issues such as food security, hunger, and promotes environmentally, socially, economically sustainable global food production practices.

A total of 145 countries and organizations are participating in the Universal Exposition, which takes place next year from May 31 to October 31 in an area of more than 100 hectares near Milan's massive Rho Pero trade fair exhibition centre.

Maroni asked CONI President Giovanni Malagò to come up with a proposal for a "sports citadel" after the world fair is dismantled, speaking at the Ex(s)port 2015 conference in Milan on sports initiatives to support Milan Expo 2015. "I asked Malagò for a hand. He should tell us what facilities CONI would like to have, and we will then find the resources. For this good project, we will find them," Maroni said. "I would like for the sports citadel to become not only an Italian point of excellence, but also a European one," Maroni added.

Malagò already has in mind a new generation, Olympic-sized swimming pool and an indoor sports arena. "You don't need a rocket scientist to understand that Milan needs a new generation Olympic swimming pool, which it doesn't have today," Malagò said at the margins of the conference.

"And then a sports palace is also needed," Malagò continued, adding that the arena would help reinforce sports traditions in Milan like ice-skating, and could support efforts like "Armani's adventure in basketball".

Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani has owned and helmed Milan's Olimpia pro-basketball team since he took control of it in the 2008-2009 period. Malagò floated the idea of building a multi-sport arena that could host professional soccer matches as well, given interest expressed by one of Milan's two professional football teams, A.C. Milan. Malagò said such a move could also benefit other sports like volleyball and hockey.

"We all have put our faces forward, and if Expo doesn't go well, Italy can not vie for the Olympics," as that would raise questions of credibility, Malagò said. Malagò also called Expo 2015 commissioner Giuseppe Sala "a serious person who is doing everything possible for a race against time" to the Expo. "I am rooting for teamwork to make a contribution to sports and society on the site once Expo has terminated," Malagò said.

Malagò underlined his desire to help city government and the region "to be able to give life to a structure that allows activities that until now have not been possible to carry out".

Turin to Host Tate's Pre-Raphaelites blockbuster

Last stop for paintings after world tour

(ANSA) - Turin, March 21 - The Tate Britain's touring exhibition "Pre-Raphaelites" will make its final stop in Turin in April before returning home. Since its London 2012 debut, the blockbuster show has crossed oceans, making stops at Washington's National Gallery and Moscow's State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. Turin's newly renovated Palazzo Chiablese will host a scaled-down version of the original show, showcasing 70 pieces by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of British painters, poets and critics from the mid-1800s who promoted a return to early Renaissance painting styles. The exhibition line up includes John Everett Millais' iconic Ophelia, Dante Gabriel Rossetti's beautiful The Beloved (The Bride) and Lord Ford Madox Brown's enigmatic Take Your Son, Sir, along with artwork previously never exhibited in Turin and Italy.

Turin Mayor Piero Fassino called the exhibition "a great event that we are able to offer" and added "Turin has made culture one of the profiles of its identity".

Economy to pick up but spending flat says report

'Growth shy but in place' says Renzi

(ANSA) - Rome, March 21 - The Italian economy is slowly pulling out of its longest postwar dip and will post better-than-expected growth this year but consumer demand will stay flat as the recovery fails to boost spending by recession-weary Italians, according to a new report.

Amid continued light and shade cast on the eurozone's third-largest economy, industrial turnover and orders posted higher-than-expected gains in January. In the latest of a series of conflicting reports from domestic and international bodies, retailers' association Confcommercio revised its 2014 GDP growth forecast for Italy up from 0.3% to 0.5% on Friday. It cited the potential for further growth that could bump up GDP by 0.8% on the year if Premier Matteo Renzi follows through on cutting taxes for households and businesses.

Confcommercio said that if the government fulfills plans to cut income taxes by 10 billion euros and business taxes by 2.4 billion euros, gross domestic product could grow by another 0.3%, bringing its estimate for the year to 0.8%. Consumption for 2014 is forecast to remain stagnant, up from a drop of 0.2%.

But Renzi's cuts could raise them too, up to 1%, according to a Confcommercio study. Otherwise consumption won't increase until 2015 by 0.7%, it said. The retailers' group forecast next year's GDP growth at 0.9%.

In other news, national statistics agency Istat said industrial turnover in Italy was up 3% in January, marking the strongest growth since December 2011.

Driving the growth were sales abroad, Istat added. Turnover was also positive in December, up 1.2%. Italian industrial orders also shot up in January, by 2.6% on the year, Istat said. Compared to December, orders were up 4.8%, marking the sharpest increase since December 2010. Once again, foreign markets drove the spike, Istat said.

Speaking after a European Union summit in Brussels, Renzi said Italy's economic growth "is modest, shy, but it is in place". Strong exports have been important to the recovery but confidence is also a condition for economic development, he added.

venerdì 21 marzo 2014

Pope to the mafia, 'Please, repent!'

During prayer vigil for victims, Francis urges criminals to stop

(ANSA) - Rome, March 21 - Pope Francis urged mafia members to repent during a prayer vigil for families of victims of organized crime Friday. "Please, change your lives," urged the pope, addressing his comments to men and women in the mafia. "Repent, stop doing evil". The Friday vigil comes before a national memorial day commemorating mafia victims.

It also comes after a recent spate of violence that included the murder of a three-year-old boy in an indiscriminate revenge hit by a mafia clan on a Puglia motorway Monday night.

Before the Puglia hit, the most recent and most shocking child murder was committed in January by Calabria's 'Ndrangheta, now considered the most powerful and brutal mafia.

The charred remains of tiny toddler Nicola Campolongo, nicknamed Coco, were discovered in a burned-out car in the Calabrian town of Cassano allo Ionio on January 19.

Police said three-year-old Coco was shot in the head along with his grandfather, Giuseppe Iannicelli, and his grandfather's 27-year-old companion, in an apparent Mob hit over a drug debt.

Renzi says Italy reforms will point way for EU

Move from austerity to growth necessary, says Italian premier

(ANSA) - Rome, March 21 - As Italy continues getting its own fiscal house in order, it will be able to help lead the rest of Europe away from an obsession with austerity towards policies designed to boost growth, Premier Matteo Renzi said Friday.

As he left his maiden appearance at a European Union summit, Renzi - leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) who became premier last month - sounded confident that he had won support from other EU leaders for his domestic reforms.

Those, he suggested, may also prove to be something of a model for the rest of Europe, particularly as Italy prepares for its duty presidency of the 28-member EU in the second half of this year. Indeed, "the most important topic discussed" at the EU summit in Brussels that closed Friday concerned "reforms and time lines for reforms," said Renzi. "Italy can get there with a lot to do and say, only if first we're able to put in place this gigantic work on reforms".

Last week, the fledgling premier unveiled a broad reform plan that includes cuts to income taxes for low-income Italians by 10 billion euros, slicing 2.4 billion euros from business levies, investing 1.74 billion euros in social housing programs, spending 3.5 billion euros on schools, and repayment of 68 billion euros in outstanding bills for government services by July. At the same time Renzi, 39, has maintained that he will keep the books within the EU-mandated limit of a 3% deficit-to-GDP level by financing his plans through cuts to existing spending plans rather than running up bills.

Still, he has suggested that such limits are outdated, courting concerns from some senior EU officials who worried that Renzi was considering breaching those limits. Renzi also warned that while Italy's deficit for 2014 will remain under the 3% limit, it would not likely drop as low as the 2.6% that was previously forecast. That initially triggered concerns for European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, who sounded less worried after meeting Renzi on Thursday.

"The Italian premier has committed himself to a very ambitious programme of reforms while at the same time saying he would respect the commitments made at the European level," said Barroso. "I think this is fundamental for confidence in Italy and the whole EU".

Italy has been under considerable pressure from the European Commission, which has complained that Italy's 2014 budget was insufficient to correct the country's "excessive macroeconomic imbalances", including high debt and low competitiveness.

The EC has warned that it would be monitoring Italy's macroeconomic imbalances and efforts by the eurozone's third-largest economy to reform these, as it keeps a watchful eye on Italy's huge debt to GDP ratio of about 133%. Meanwhile, Renzi has said that significant labour market reforms in Italy are in the works and are essential to cope with a jobless rate of almost 13% in Italy, including about 42.4% youth unemployment.

These reforms are not an option, "this is not a debate over whether we can deal with it or not," added Renzi, who has suggested it is time to shift focus away from concerns about reducing debt to instead consider policies aimed at encouraging growth and recovery. At the same time, Spending Review Commissioner Carlo Cottarelli, a former International Monetary Fund (IMF) official, has been devising a list of potential spending programs where as much as five billion euros could be in the last eight months of 2014 for lower-priority areas, to free money for higher priorities, Renzi has said.

Renzi admitted that will demand hard choices in terms to where to cut, for which he will take responsibility. But like a family budget, "if there is not enough money, it's Mom and Dad who decide what to cut and what is not (cut)," he said.

Before the EU summit, Renzi also took the time to run his plans by the German government, often seen as one of the strictest EU members in terms of enforcing debt and deficit limits. On Monday, he won a powerful vote of confidence from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who praised Renzi's "courage" in making significant structural changes in Italy's economy.

During the first bilateral meeting between the two Merkel, the head of Europe's largest economy, said she looked at "all aspects" of Italy's reforms, adding she was impressed and wished Renzi "a lot of luck". "It is clear to me that Italy is paying attention to (fiscal) stability as well as to growth and employment," she added.

Public-sector manager pay to be cut says Renzi

Move will drive top civil servants out claims rail chief

(ANSA) - Rome, March 21 - Italian Premier Matteo Renzi on Friday confirmed plans to cap salaries of public-sector managers at or below the quarter of a million euros Italian President Giorgio Napolitano gets.

Some of the fattest cats in Italy's bloated public sector earn three or four times what the head of State is paid. Giovanni Giorgio Tempini, CEO of government saving and loan trust Cassa Depositi e Prestiti takes home 1.035 million euros every year, compared to Napolitano's annual stipend of 248,000 euros. Italian railways chief Mauro Moretti gets 873,666 euros a year. "I confirm the spending review on public-sector managers," Renzi said at an EU summit.

Moretti said lower pay for the highest-flying civil servants would force them into the private sector, prompting critics of his stewardship of Italy's railway system to say "good riddance, let's see what he gets".

But the Ferrovie dello Stato CEO added that he was counting on Renzi's promise to carry out the pay review "reasonably".

Stefanel board appoints Achille Mucci as managing director

(AGI) Venice, March 21 - Stefanel's board of directors co-opted Achille Mucci, former head of Antonveneta and Interbanca, and appointed him managing director. Mucci, aged 50, was already collaborating with the fashion group and will be on the executive board. 

The Voice IT | Serie 2 | Blind 2 | Suor Cristina Scuccia - #TEAMJ-AX


Fantastic mather Cristina

Marco Bellocchio: A Retrospective at MoMa

A retrospective of Italian artist Marco Bellocchio by April 16 to May 7, 2014

The remarkable career of Marco Bellocchio, director of an impressive number of features, documentaries, and shorts for both television and cinema, has encompassed a wide range of genres and subjects. Yet his work remains distinctive and personal, reflecting his uncompromising views and artistic ambition. During his 50-year career Bellocchio has questioned prevailing ideologies, confronted the church and the radical left in equal measure, and challenged notions of morality and family in a manner that has established him as one of Italy’s most important filmmakers and, along with Bernardo Bertolucci and Pier Paolo Pasolini, a leading cultural figure for successive generations of Italians.
His directorial debut, Fists in the Pocket (1965)—a major shock to both Italian cinema and society, and a prophetic precursor to the student revolutions of the late 1960s—contains many of the themes Bellocchio would explore throughout his career, and established his reputation as a controversial director, one who consistently confronts the sociopolitical issues that define a particular moment. The director has challenged the powers that be, the censors, and sometimes even audiences by confronting psychoanalysis, patriarchy, sexuality, women’s roles, the family, the church, politics, the press, the right to die, anarchy, and terrorism, among other themes—lending to each his intelligence and distinct interpretation. Clearly enamored by the possibilities of visual expression and mastering his craft, he has continued to forcefully push the boundaries of cinematic expression throughout his career.
In collaboration with Luce Cinecittà, MoMA presents new and restored 35mm prints of most of Marco Bellocchio’s cinematic productions, from his earliest films to his latest, revealing a particularly rich oeuvre in contemporary Italian filmmaking.

U.S. fund Blackrock owns 5.748% of Monte dei Paschi di Siena

Holdings boosted when MPS foundation sold 12% of bank

(ANSA) - Milan, March 21 - United States fund Blackrock has a 5.748% stake in Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world's oldest bank operating bank, stock market watchdog Consob said Friday.

The fund raised its holdings last Tuesday in the troubled Tuscan lender to more than 5%, the threshold over which Consob makes investments public. That same day, the Siena-based banking foundation that is Monte dei Paschi's largest shareholder sold a 12% stake in the troubled bank. 

Berlusconi two-year ban undermining FI, says fiance

Ex-premier's daughter may provide hope

(ANSA) - Rome, March 21 - Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's two-year ban from public office may be weakening the Forza Italia party he founded, his fiance said Friday.

"A forced absence from the ballot boxes, from the electoral platforms, of a leader with Berlusconi's capacity does not pass by unnoticed," Francesca Pascale said in an interview with Italian newspaper la Repubblica. Following a definitive tax fraud conviction last year, Berlusoni was banned from office for two years, a decision recently upheld by the country's supreme court. Future leadership may come from Berlusconi's daughter Marina, said Pascale.

Bologna to revoke Mussolini's 1943 honorary citizenship

Ravenna allows former dictator to retain award

(ANSA) - Bologna, March 21 - The central Italian city of Bologna has issued an order to revoke the honorary citizenship awarded in 1943 to dictator Benito Mussolini. Mussolini founded the Fascist political movement and led Italy from 1922 to 1943, allying Italy with Nazi Germany and Japan in the Second World War.

The Bologna chapter of the Partito Democratico (PD) political party has requested the citizenship of Mussolini be revoked, with mayor Virginio Merola supporting the proposal. The city of Ravenna, which also awarded Mussolini an honorary citizenship in 1943, has recently decided to allow the political figure to retain the award.

Indian official says marines must stay in India

'Do not release even if the UN intervenes' writes Chandy

(ANSA) - New Delhi, March 21 - A senior official in the Indian state of Kerala urged the Indian government to not release two Italian anti-piracy marines in a 2012 case involving the killing of two Indian fishermen. According to local media reports Friday, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking him to not release the marines "even if the United Nations intervenes". Kerala is the southern Indian costal state where the killings occured.

UN General Assembly President John Ashe was set to meet with Singh on Friday, and some observers suggested they would discuss a possible release after an appeal earlier this week from Italy's Minister of Interior Angelino Alfano. Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone are accused of allegedly killing fishermen Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki after reputedly opening fire on their fishing trawler while guarding the privately owned Italian-flagged oil-tanker MT Enrica Lexie off the coast of Kerala in February 2012.

The two marines have been living and working at the Italian embassy in India pending charges in the case.

In the letter, Chandy asked Singh to "not give into the pressure of Italy", warning that the release of Latorre and Girone "could weaken the credibility of the judicial system of the country". 

Armed gang robs security van in Sardinia

Man hunt launched

(ANSA) - Cagliari, March 21 - An armed gang robbed a security van on a State highway in Sardinia Friday. A man hunt was launched for the four men, who made off with a haul that has yet to be quantified. 

German chancellor talks gas supply at EU summit

There is some uncertainty due to Ukraine conflict, says Merkel

(ANSA) - Brussels, March 21 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Friday that there is "some uncertainty" about European gas supplies as tensions grow over the crisis in Ukraine.

"So far, we have not had a negative experience," Merkel said at the end of a European Union summit where sanctions against Russia were on the agenda.

"(However) if I look at some of my colleague's discussions, there is a certain degree of uncertainty (among them)," about future natural gas supplies, she said.

During the two-day summit, the chancellor warned Russia about the possibility of escalating sanctions should there be no resolution to the Crimean situation and asked for a "determined response of Europe and its partners". European Union leaders have said they intend to reduce reliance on Russian energy supplies after Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly signed a document ratifying a treaty making Crimea a part of Russia.

Renzi affirms commitments to EU at summit, plugs reforms

Vows crackdown on tax dodgers, not to cut pensions broadly

(ANSA) - Rome, March 21 - Premier Matteo Renzi said at his first EU summit Friday that Italy's stance regarding commitments to Europe "has not changed," vowing to implement economic reforms without exceeding EU budget rules. Speaking after his first summit in Brussels, Renzi is hoping to shore up support for his government's plans to cut over 12 billion euros in income and business taxes without exceeding EU budget limits.

Sworn in as premier last month, Renzi said that Italy will continue to honor the fiscal compact, an EU treaty that imposes budget discipline on EU members if their deficits become too high. It will respect the pact "just like all (EU) rules," Renzi added. He then pointed out that Italy's economy is recovering, albeit "modestly". Strong exports have been important to the recovery but confidence is also a condition for economic development, he added.

Renzi believes a key to boosting recovery further is a series of economic reforms he aims to pass through parliament. That topic, as well as time lines for their implementation, "were the most important ones discussed" at the summit, he said, as Italy's six-month EU duty presidency approaches in July. "Italy can get there with a lot to do and say, only if first we're able to put in place this gigantic work on reforms".

Unemployment, climate change and enhancing innovation will all be important issues on Italy's plate when it assumes the duty presidency, Renzi said. He added that it would be wrong to think the EU deals only with abstract issues.

He also stressed the importance of taking care of other domestic issues before the rotating presidency is upon Italy. For instance, in addition to cutting taxes, he aims to rein in "those who have never paid" in a plan to crack down on tax dodgers using "digital innovations" to monitor financial data. The effort, he said, aims "to pay back citizens who have paid for the crisis due to nearsighted politicians who are far from the needs of the people". He also promised not to cut pension spending across the board, despite recommendations by the spending review commissioner. Carlo Cottarelli's work is "a good starting point on some things" but suggestions of broad pension reductions are not acceptable, said Renzi.

He went on to comment on Italy's relationship with Europe, which he said "does not seem to bear any conflict," and stressed that Italy has no reason to go to Europe with "cap in hand". "We have great faith in European institutions and a great desire to invest in Europe, which represents not our past but our future," he said. He added that EU-imposed austerity measures since the start of the economic crisis and other penalties did not mean Italy should feel ashamed. "We are Italy. I have never and never will have this downtrodden and subordinate attitude of coming to Europe with cap in hand," he said. 

Northern League seeks to prevent Pavia arrival of refugees

Activists block entry into hotel awaiting immigrants

(ANSA) - Pavia, March 21 - Northern League activists demonstrated on Friday to protest the arrival of a group of North African refugees, due to be sheltered in a local hotel in the town of San Genesio in the Pavia area south of Milan.

The regionalist Northern League demonstrators protested the arrivals and sought to prevent the group of about 30 migrants from entering the hotel.

'Very positive' meeting between Renzi, Van Rompuy

Labour market reforms in Italy key topic

(ANSA) - Rome, March 21 - Premier Matteo Renzi had a "very positive" meeting Friday with the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy where the pair discussed reforms to the country's labour market, Italian sources said.

Van Rompuy showed strong interest in reform plans that Renzi has outlined, including 10 billion euros in tax breaks for low-income Italians, sources said. The pair also discussed Italy's plans when it assumes the rotating presidency of the European Union in July for a six-month stint, the sources said.

Further meetings are planned between Renzi and Van Rompuy before then.

Thieves steal holy relics in Taranto

Patron saint's skull robbed from church

(ANSA) - Taranto, March 21 - Thieves have made off with holy relics from a church in the southern port city of Taranto, police said Friday. The crime took place during the night, the culprits smashed a glass case housed in St. Pasquale Church and removed a bronze container that held fragments of the skull of St Egidio Maria of Saint Joseph. St. Egidio, along with St. Cataldo, is Taranto's patron saint.

The theft was discovered Friday by a church priest who immediately alerted police. 

'Avengers' sequel gets bomb scare in Italy location

Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson filming in Aosta

(ANSA) - Aosta, March 21 - Cast and crew of the new Avengers movie were given a scare Friday as police were called to investigate a possible bomb on the set in northern Italy. The area was blocked off as the bomb squad removed what was described as a half-meter-long "grenade-like object" buried in a grassy area in Piazza Plouves in the French border city of Aosta. The square was being prepped for filming in the coming days of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, a sequel to the 2012 blockbuster original based on the Marvel Comics superhero team the Avengers.

Starring Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, and Samuel L. Jackson, the film is scheduled for release in May 2015.

Bocelli to wed on daughter's second birthday

Blind crossover tenor ties knot with manager in second marriage

(ANSA) - Livorno, March 21 - Italy's blind crossover tenor Andrea Bocelli is to wed for the second time on the birthday of his two-year-old daughter Virginia Friday, Tuscan daily Il Tirreno reported.

Bocelli, Italy's most successful international recording artist, will marry his companion and business manager Veronica Berti at a Roman Catholic shrine near the Tuscan coastal city of Livorno, it said. A small group of friends and family will move on to a banquet at the tenor's stunning villa at the chic resort of Forte dei Marmi - next door to the luxury home of his ex-wife Enrica and their two sons, where Bocelli used to live. Bocelli, 55, met Veronica, who at 31 is young enough to be his daughter, at a party 12 years ago, shortly after his separation from Enrica, with whom he has sons Amos, 19, and Matteo, 15. Bocelli met Enrica Cenzatti while singing at piano bars early in his career. They were married on 27 June 1992 and separated in 2002 after he started going out with Veronica. Meanwhile Bocelli's signing career goes from strength to strength.

His last album, Passion, featuring duets with Jennifer Lopez and Nelly Furtado was released a year ago to critical and public acclaim, The 18-track album also included an unusual virtual duet with late French chanteuse Edith Piaf. Bocelli and friends sing in at least five different languages on the album - Italian, English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese - as well as the Neapolitan dialect. Music critics said the track with Piaf was the highlight of the album, as Bocelli sings with the Little Sparrow, who died in 1963, in her signature La Vie en Rose.

The Italian tenor is the most successful classical solo artist ever and one of the best-selling artists in music history with more than 80 million albums sold worldwide. He is also credited with enabling the core classical repertoire to cross over and find a home atop the international pop charts, creating a new genre of music along the way. He has performed for four US presidents, two popes, and the British royal family, as well as at ceremonies for the Olympic Games and the World Cup.

Bocelli has been praised by such luminaries as the late supertenor Luciano Pavarotti, fellow member of the Three Tenors Jose Carreras, Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, Renee Fleming and Celine Dion - as well as his own first teacher and guide, Franco Corelli.

Soccer: Juve get Olympique Lyonnais in Europa League

First leg in Lyon

(ANSA) - Rome, March 21 - Serie A champions Juventus were drawn against French giants Olympique Lyonnais in the Europa League quarter-finals Friday.
Juve, heading for their third straight Serie A title, will play the first leg in Lyon on Thursday April 3 and the second leg on April 10, UEFA said.

Alfano in Taranto after child slain in Mob hit

'The State is here' tweets interior minister

(ANSA) - Taranto, March 21 - Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano arrived in Taranto Friday to chair a national committee on law and order, days after a Mob shooting in the area that killed a toddler in the crossfire. "The State is here," he tweeted upon on arrival in the southern city. "We are giving the public prosecutor two teams to further investigate". The country was in shock this week after three-year-old Domenico Petruzzelli lost his life in an indiscriminate revenge hit by the Puglia-based Sacra Corono Unita on a motorway Monday night.

He was one of three people including his mother and a convicted murderer shot to death by killers in a passing car in what police believe was part of a mafia vendetta. The target was believed to be Cosimo Orlando, 43, who was shot behind the wheel beside his partner Carla Maria Fornari, 30, who was holding the three-year-old. Two more children in the backseat, a six- and seven-year-old, were unharmed. Police have released security-camera footage that captured the shooting.

Alfano deployed 60 police officers on Tuesday to the province of Taranto to join civilian and military forces already present and vowed that the government would give a "swift response". 

Sickness and death not taboos says pope

Face them with Jesus, Francis tweets

(ANSA) - Vatican City, March 21 - Sickness and death are not taboos and should be faced with the help of Jesus, Pope Francis tweeted Friday.

"Sickness and death are not taboos. They are realities we must face in the presence of Jesus," Francis tweeted on his nine-language Twitter account, which has more than eleven million followers.

Confcommercio revises 2014 growth forecast up to 0.5%

'Could be higher if Renzi follows through on tax cuts'

(ANSA) - Cernobbio, March 21 - Retailers' association Confcommercio revised its 2014 GDP growth forecast for Italy up from 0.3% to 0.5% on Friday, citing the possibility for further growth that could bump up GDP by 0.8% on the year if Premier Matteo Renzi follows through on cutting taxes for households and businesses.

Confcommercio said that if the government fulfills plans to cut income taxes by 10 billion euros and business taxes by 2.4 billion euros, gross domestic product could grow by another 0.3%, bringing its estimate for the year to 0.8%. Consumption for 2014 is forecast to remain stagnant, up from a drop of 0.2%.

But Renzi's cuts could raise them too, up to 1%, according to a Confcommercio study. Otherwise consumption won't increase until 2015 by 0.7%, it said. Meanwhile the retailers' group forecast next year's GDP growth at 0.9%. 

'We kill God's word without humility, prayer' says pope

'Two simple things,' pontiff tells Mass

(ANSA) - Vatican City, March 21 - We kill God's Word if we are not humble and don't pray, Pope Francis said Friday. "What can we do in order not to kill God's Word, not trap the Holy Spirit?" Francis asked a Mass at St Martha's House in the Vatican. "Two simple things," he answered.

"This is the attitude of those who want to listen to the Word of God: first, be humble, second, prayer". 

Wasteful regional spending 82.3 bn say retailers

Sicily top, then Lazio and Campania

(ANSA) - Cernobbio, March 21 - Retailers' association Confcommercio on Friday said Italy's regions were wasting 82.3 billion euros of taxpayers' money each year. Sicily was top with 13.8 billion followed by Lazio with 11.1 billion and Campania with 10.7 billion.

The regions that wasted the least were Lombardy, which reportedly spent all its funds well, and Val D'Aosta, which wasted just 0.7 billion.

Regional spending is one of the many targets for spending cuts being lined up by Matteo Renzi's government.

The government's spending czar, Carlo Cottarelli, has identified five billion euros he says can be cut from the public sector in the next eight months including thousands of jobs.

But Renzi has said that is not the final figure, and the government will pick and choose from Cottarelli's list that includes savings on top pensions, bloat in the healthcare sector, unnecessary military outlays and red tape in general.

Grillo confident M5S will win European elections

Euroskeptic, anti-austerity parties expected to do well

(ANSA) - Rome, March 21 - While Premier Matteo Renzi was at a European Summit on Friday, Beppe Grillo said his anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) will win more votes than Italy's ruling Democratic Party (PD) at upcoming European Parliament elections. "And then the PD will have to face the consequences. In Italy, there's no Renzi government, just Renzi," said Grillo in interviews with several Italian dailies. Already Italy's second-biggest party, the M5S is among a number of Euroskeptic parties across Europe expected to do well at EP elections in May. Grillo's admittedly populist appeal helped launch the party to national prominence in last year's general election on an anti-austerity ticket. "When you start touching people's pensions, people don't vote for you anymore," said Grillo, commenting on Renzi's plan to cut top-bracket social-security payments. The comedian-turned-politician said the M5S platform was to "say no" to the fiscal compact, an EU treaty that imposes budget discipline on EU members if their deficits become too high.

"We'll propose eurobonds," he added, referring to bonds issued at an EU level. "And we'll win if we seat just one MEP more than the PD". 

Local elections May 25, same day as European Parliament vote

'To save money, drive turnout' says Italian cabinet

(ANSA) - Rome, March 21 - Local administrative elections are to be held in Italy on May 25, the same day as European Parliament elections, the government decided in a cabinet meeting Friday. In the event of a runoff, the polls will open again on June 8. Holding both elections on the same day is meant to drive voter turnout and save public funds.

Italian industrial turnover, orders shoot up in January

'Foreign markets driving growth' says Istat

(ANSA) - Rome, March 21 - Industrial turnover in Italy was up 3% in January, marking the strongest growth since December 2011, the national statistics agency said Friday.

Driving the growth were sales abroad, Istat added. Turnover was also positive in December, up 1.2%. Italian industrial orders also shot up in January, by 2.6% on the year, Istat said. Compared to December, orders were up 4.8%, marking the sharpest increase since December 2010. Once again, foreign markets drove the spike, Istat said.

Barroso confident in Renzi reforms as EU summit reconvenes

'Italy will respect budget rules,' Renzi assures EC president

(ANSA) - Brussels, March 21 - European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that Italian Premier Matteo Renzi assured him at an ongoing EU summit that Italy will "fully respect" EU budget rules as it implements a series of economic reforms, which Barroso "supports very much".

The comments came before the second day of the summit in Brussels on Friday. Renzi's first day on Thursday seemed to produce positive results, with Barroso voicing support for Renzi's reforms, despite expressing some skepticism regarding Italy staying within its EU budget requirements. Aiming to jolt the stagnant economy out of a slow recovery from Italy's worst recession since World War II, Renzi plans to cut income taxes by 10 billion euros, invest 1.74 billion euros in social housing programs, spend 3.5 billion euros on schools and repay 68 billion euros in outstanding bills, among other things. Renzi, who was sworn in as premier last month, aims to implement them without breaching the EU deficit-to-GDP limit of 3%, even though he considers the threshold "out of date". Renzi has also said that Italy's deficit for 2014 may be higher than the 2.6% forecast for this year, while remaining within the 3% limit. Before the open of sessions in Brussels Friday, Barroso once again backed Renzi's "very good" reforms, "that go in the right direction".

New labour law decree increases job security funds

(AGI) Rome, Mar 20 - The new Italian law decree on labour included funds for defensive job-security agreement. The decree law has been ratified by President Napolitano and will be published on Friday by the Gazzetta Ufficiale. The decree includes two parts and five articles, plus a sixth indicating the date of entry into force. The act includes provisions on relief contracts (art. 5), increasing the resources needed for this type of social cushion.