giovedì 22 maggio 2014

Italian police seize 121 sticks of TNT from WWII shipwreck

Explosives were being tapped by 'Ndrangheta mafia

(ANSA) - Reggio Calabria, May 21 - Italian police on Wednesday seized 121 sticks of TNT recovered by navy divers from the hold of a freighter that was sunken in World War II. Anti-mafia police in the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria believe the stash of TNT sticks of 200 grams each was tapped and used in the past by members of the Reggine clans of the Calabrian Ndrangheta mafia.

Divers from the Comsubin unit of the Italian navy, which is based in the Tuscan city of La Spezia, removed the dynamite from the freighter Laura C, wrecked in July 1943 off the coast of the toe of Italy's boot in the Ionian sea.

The operation, coordinated by Reggio Calabria's DDA anti-mafia police, took several days. At the centre of the stash was a hole for installing an eventual trigger. Investigators said mafia clan members used the hole to collect the dynamite. 

Almost 7,000 complaints of prison overcrowding in Italy

European Court of Human Rights deadline approaches

(ANSA) - Strasbourg, May 21 - The European Court of Human Rights has received 6,829 complaints against inhumane conditions caused by prison overcrowding in Italy, the court told ANSA on Wednesday. The complaints are similar to those cited in a January 2013 sentence in which the Strasbourg court ordered Italy to address the "degrading and inhumane conditions" in its prisons.

The Strasbourg court gave Italy until May 27, 2014 to correct overcrowding, which is a contributing factor in the high incidence of self-injury and suicide among the country's inmates. Justice Minister Andrea Orlando on March 25 said Italy's prison population still exceeded legal capacity by around 10,000 inmates. At the time of the sentence, Italy's jail population stood at just over 65,700 compared to around 47,500 available places.

The figure had fallen to around 60,800 in March, and Orlando said he hoped to see the gap narrow further. In December the government of ex-premier Enrico Letta passed a controversial decree aimed at reducing overcrowding by releasing some inmates early. Since then the succeeding government of Matteo Renzi has softened sentences for light-drug offenders. 

Italian 'Madoff' arrested over '600-mn-euro fraud'

JP Morgan, SNAM among victims, say prosecutors

(ANSA) - Milan, May 21 - Alberto Micalizzi, an academic who has been dubbed the 'Madoff' of Milan's Bocconi University, was arrested on Thursday over allegations he orchestrated a series of fraudulent financial operations damaging big companies.

The fraud's total value is estimated at over 600 million euros, judicial sources said. The companies affected include JP Morgan, Pirelli, natural-gas infrastucture company SNAM, banks UBS and UBI Banca and financial-services firm Simgest.

On Wednesday police put a total of eight people under arrest and issued restrictive measures against seven others, while around 50 people are being probed, the sources said. Micalizzi is accused of being the ringleader of two criminal organisations, including one featuring Turkish and Russian accomplices, that pulled off a series of frauds via false bank guarantees.

Micalizzi suspended himself from his position of researcher at Milan's Bocconi University after being at the centre of another investigation in 2011 over an alleged fraud of around $500 million by a company he founded called Dynamic Decisions. He also spent a number of months under house arrest last year following a separate probe in Turin after allegedly conning investors with promises on interest of their capital of up to 6% a day. 

American Academy in Rome fetes centenary with exhibit

Illustrious residents include Aaron Copeland, Elliott Carter

(ANSA) - Rome, May 21 - The American Academy in Rome celebrated the 100th anniversary of its famous headquarters on Wednesday with the unveiling of an exhibition devoted to its building's designers. Building an Idea: McKim, Mead & White and the American Academy in Rome, 1914-2014 looks at the residential palazzo's design, construction and early critical reception, as well as the legendary architectural firm behind it, through drawings, plans, photographs and other archival material. Founded in 1894, the American Academy rented space for years in other villas before moving into its current space on the Gianicolo, Rome's highest hill overlooking the city center and the Vatican. In its illustrious history, the Academy has hosted resident US scholars and artists who have won the Rome Prize, including composers Aaron Copland and Elliott Carter. 

Probe into Biagi's death opened

Documents seized from Scajola contribute to move - sources

(ANSA) - Bologna, May 21 - Bologna prosecutors have opened a probe into suspicions officials may have failed to take action to prevent the murder of labour ministry aide Marco Biagi by Red Brigades terrorists in March 2002, ANSA sources said Wednesday. The prosecutors are trying to establish whether anyone is guilty of the crime of homicide by culpable omission. The investigation has been opened with the help of interior ministry documents seized from former minister Claudio Scajola in an operation related to a separate probe into allegations he helped a Mafia-linked fugitive former MP, the sources said.

That probe led to the arrest this month of Scajola, a member of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party who remains in a Rome jail. Scajola was interior minister at the time of Biagi's murder. Biagi was killed after his security escort had been removed.

There have been reports Scajola may have received a letter from an MP warning that the aide was in danger. Scajola was forced to resign as interior minister in July 2002 after sparking controversy by saying Biagi had been a "pain in the a**e" and that if he had been given an escort "three people would have been killed instead of one". Scajola also served as government-program minister from 2003 to 2005 and industry minister from 2008 to 2010 under two separate Berlusconi governments.

Scajola was forced to resign as industry minister in 2010 as a result of a scandal about a shady real-estate deal involving an expensive home with a view on Rome's iconic Colosseum. In January a judge acquitted Scajola in that case, saying his assertion that businessman Diego Anemone had paid for most of the flat for him without his knowledge was credible. Prosecutors are appealing against the acquittal. 

Defence minister says marines can't be judged in India

Roberta Pinotti warns recourse to arbitration if govt talks fail

(ANSA) - Brindisi, May 21 - The Italian defence minister on Wednesday said two Italian marines held in India in the deaths of two fishermen two years ago should not be judged in that country. “This government says emphatically that our two marines can not be judged in India, because they are soldiers who were on a mission on behalf of our country," Roberta Pinotti said near the southern Italian coastal city of Brindisi, where she is visiting the San Marco navy brigade headquarters.

"We will continue to look for mediation with the new Indian government, and we will not even wait for one day to pass to go to arbitration," added Pinotti. "We forcefully call for the internationalization of the affair which means the involvement of our allies, because anti-pirate missions also regard other countries," Pinotti said. "I never forget on any day that there are two San Marco riflemen who in this moment are not with their companions in arms, but in India, imprisoned for two years without charges," she said.

Pinotti’s statements come the day after she said Italy was in talks with India’s new centre-right government led by Narendra Modi which emerged victorious from India’s marathon elections that ended in mid-May. Pinotti said Tuesday that if the Indian government does not take a favorable stance toward Italy’s position, Italy will proceed immediately to arbitration.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone have been held in India under mobility restrictions for over two years pending trial after allegedly shooting dead fishermen Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki aboard their trawler during an anti-piracy mission in February 2012. Last month, the Italian government announced it was opening a "new phase" in the saga, replacing its special envoy on the case and sending its ambassador back to New Delhi to help steer the case towards arbitration by an international organisation such as the UN. 

Jeep has potential to be marquee brand says Marchionne

'Incredibly proud' of Fiat-Chrysler merger says CEO

(ANSA) - New York, May 21 - With production volume predicted to triple by 2018, Jeep has the potential to be the most global brand in the arsenal of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), CEO Sergio Marchionne said Wednesday. The Canadian-Italian was speaking to TV financial news broadcaster CNBC, weeks after his newly merged FCA announced in its five-year plan that Chrysler's Jeep division was aiming to hit a target of selling one million vehicles in 2014, and nearly double that by 2018. Last year the SUV-maker sold 732,000 units. Manufacturing of Jeeps is to expand to 10 plants in six countries, far beyond its production plants now in the United States, according to the plan.

That will include new plants in China and Brazil, which officials said are expected to represent more than 30% of the global SUV market. Marchionne hatched the audacious idea to take over Chrysler after Fiat rescued the bankrupt Detroit automaker amid the US economic crisis in 2009.

Five years later, Fiat finally gained full control in a $4.35-billion US deal with a United Auto Workers union healthcare trust approved in January. It has also become more global, with FCA's new headquarters in the Netherlands, its tax base in the UK, and will be listed on the New York and Milan stock markets. "I'm incredibly proud of what we've done," Marchionne told CNBC.

The CNBC interview at following link:

Italy's leading financial index gains in Wednesday trading

Spread between Italian,German bonds closes at 177.7 basis points

(ANSA) - Milan, May 21 - Italy's main financial market, like most other European exchanges, rose on Wednesday, shaking off concerns about the upcoming European Parliament elections. The FTSE Mib rose by 1.06% to close at 20,597 points while on the Italian bond market, the spread between Italy's benchmark 10-year bond and its ultra-safe German counterpart closed at 177.7 basis points. The yield on Italy's 10-year paper ended trading at 3.198%.

The spread between lending rates in the two countries is an important indication of investor confidence in the Italian economy. It had widened to the range of 200 basis points during trading Wednesday after inching up in recent days over concerns about the outcome of the European Parliament elections. Voting is scheduled for Sunday in Italy and financial markets are concerned that the vote across Europe could yield strong results for parties that oppose austerity measures.

Investors have also been downcast over weak economic numbers in many parts of the eurozone, including Italy. On other European markets, Spain's IBEX 35 rose by 0.68%, and Frankfurt's DAX rose by 0.51%. In Paris, the CAC 40 rose by 0.31%, while in London, the FTSE index of leading British shares rose by 0.10%. 

martedì 20 maggio 2014

Learning while teaching - the Confucius Institute win-win

(People's Daily Online,

(People's Daily Online) - Beijing, May 20 - Twenty eighth-grade students in Goodrich Middle School bound into the classroom to study Chinese. The classroom in Lincoln, Nebraska is packed full of Chinese elements, with a piece of Chinese calligraphy hanging on the wall, reading "Small streams converge into a river".

The topic of the lesson is "What color do you like". Students quickly learn to use the word "like" in Chinese and can learn by analogy. A girl whose Chinese name is Ge Tianya explains to a journalist from People's Daily: "I like to learn Chinese, because I want to give myself more opportunities in the future." "I like to learn Chinese, because it is very challenging, " says Avery, 13, with a look of determination on his face, "My parents are proud that I study Chinese." Goodrich Middle School is a teaching center of Lincoln University Confucius Institute in Nebraska. "It's incredible - in the early years we had only 300 students when the Confucius Institutes was established in 2007," said John Kiel, Secretary of Nebraska State, in his interview with People's Daily. "But now we have ten thousand!" Keil explains that the establishment of the Confucius Institute has been of profound significance to Sino-US links, and over time the positive impact on friendship between Chinese and American people will be increasingly apparent and the ties will grow more solid. "Mutual understanding helps us enhance cooperation and aim for a win-win situation. The world will be more peaceful and the dreams of ordinary people will come true. The seeds sown by the Confucius Institute will offer a rich harvest." Dave Heineman, governor of Nebraska believes that the Confucius Institute acts as a valuable resource in improving communication and creating positive international relations, and brings far-reaching benefits to both sides. In 2004, the United States established the first Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland. To date, the United States has the largest numbers of CIs in the world-- 100 Confucius Institutes and 356 Confucius Classrooms, according to the official Hanban website.

The rapid development of the Confucius Institute in the United States demonstrates the urgent desire of young American people to have an objective knowledge and understanding of China. According to John Kiel, the United States is a young country while China has a long history. In the current international situation, Americans need to learn more about Chinese history and culture. And the Confucius Institute provides an ideal channel to meet this demand.

Through nearly 10 years of development, the positive significance of the Confucius Institute has won increasing recognition from the American people. That first Confucius Institute in the USA at the University of Maryland (CIM) was founded on November 17, 2004. Rebecca McGinnis has witnessed the establishment and the development of the Confucius Institute in the University of Maryland. "I have personally watched the first Confucius Institute in the United States develop from blueprint to reality, from classroom to institute." McGinnis believes that the activities of the Confucius Institute help to improve the development of Sino-US mutual understanding as well as contributing to a more peaceful world. 

Air France-KLM hopes for 'friendly' revived Alitalia

Warns relationship could end if 'hostility' from Italian carrier

(ANSA) - Paris, May 20 - If Abu Dhabi-based carrier Etihad invests in Alitalia and the result is not "friendly", then Air France-KLM would be forced to reconsider its connection with the Italian airline, the chief executive of Air France said Tuesday.

But Alexandre de Juniac added that if Etihad's investment in Alitalia goes ahead and leads to a "friendly" operation, then Air France-KLM can continue its own relationship with the Rome-based airline. "If the Etihad operation will not be friendly and there will be hostility, we will consider whether to withdraw in a significant way" from the Paris-based carrier's stake in Alitalia, de Juniac said in response to a question at a shareholder's meeting. But, he said, if the relationship is cordial, then "a very positive partnership" can follow, he said. Etihad, flag-carrier of the United Arab Emirates, and Alitalia are reportedly coming close to a deal that would see Etihad invest as much as 500 million euros into cash-starved Alitalia. But Etihad has reportedly made strict demands on reducing Alitalia's debt and workforce, which has slowed final negotiations.

Struggling Alitalia put forward a restructuring plan last fall that included measures to boost competitiveness but also required an increased investment by stakeholders. However, at that time, Air France-KLM decided that it would not invest beyond its existing stake of about 25%, but said it remained committed to its eight-year partnership with Alitalia signed in 2009.

The conditions reportedly set by Etihad now are "similar, in fact probably more stringent" than those put forward last fall by Air France-KLM in exchange for a greater investment in the Italian carrier, said de Juniac. Last fall's government-engineered 500-million euro Alitalia restructuring plan included a 300-million-euro capital increase and 200 million euros in new lines of credit. The French-Dutch carrier voted against the restructuring plan, saying it did not go far enough to reduce Alitalia's debt.

Under the plan, Poste Italiane agreed to underwrite the capital increase to the tune of 75 million euros, while Italian banks Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit said they would put in up to a maximum of 100 million euros. That triggered complaints from rival European carriers that have complained that amounts to State aid, an accusation that the Italian government has denied. As a result of the restructuring plan, Air France-KLM's stake in Alitalia has slipped from its original 25% investment to something closer to about 18% at present. 

Sophia Loren remembers Marcello Mastroianni at Cannes

'I want to do a lot more,' screen diva says

(ANSA) - Cannes, May 20 - Film legend Sophia Loren took center stage Monday evening at a Cannes Film Festival dinner honoring the film icon and her nearly seven-decade career. Loren was awarded the 2014 Guest of Honor for Cannes Classics, a festival selection dedicated to the heritage of film.

While at the dinner, Loren shared memories and nostalgia, including some involving celluloid counterpart Marcello Mastroianni. "He was an amazing man with a great sense of humor and when we got tired, he would begin to tell jokes. It was 20 years of work and fun", said Loren. Mastroianni, whose face is appearing everywhere in the monumental official festival poster, was Loren's on-screen partner for more than 20 years. The duo starred in 12 films together. "Of all my films with Marcello and Vittorio (De Sica), I remember the smallest detail, everything", said Loren, adding "when filming certain scenes you already know that you are never going to forget them".

Director Edoardo Ponti, Loren's son, accompanied her to the dinner, and has a film in the Classics upcoming line-up. Ponti's La Voce Umana (The Human Voice), will be presented on Tuesday and stars Loren in the short-film adaptation of the Jean Cocteau play. The actress described how she had long desired to interpret the role, taking it up as a personal "challenge" after having seen Anna Magnani perform in Roberto Rossellini's 1948 production. "At the beginning of my career, it (the role) was a dream. I said to myself I would do it. And now I've done it", said Loren. Ponti described his mother as an "instinctive actress", while she described Ponti as "an attentive, wonderful director who points out difficult stories".

With her 80th birthday approaching this September, Loren said that she is doing well: "I feel full of energy and the desire to 'do', as always". Additionally, the actress intimated that she has a secret project lined up, "I have a dream locked away - one thing I would like to do and have never done, and I can't tell you any more". Included in Tuesday's Cannes Classics screenings is Loren and Mastroianni's Marriage Italian Style (1964), immediately following The Human Voice. On Wednesday, Loren will lead the sold-out Actress Masterclass, where she will recount her cinematic experiences and memories.

photos: Marriage Italian Style 

Italy going to World Cup to have fun

Last chance for Cassano, says Prandelli

(ANSA) - Florence, May 20 - Italy are going to the World Cup to have fun but mean to go all the way, Azzurro coach Cesare Prandelli said Tuesday. "Let's remember that we're going to the World Cup to play football, to enjoy ourselves," Prandelli told a press conference marking the start of World Cup training at Coverciano near Florence. "(But) we want to go all the way," the Tuscan coach stressed. "This team is organised to get to the final".

Veteran former bad boy Antonio Cassano can play a big part in the World Cup if he tames his ego and takes his "last chance" on the global stage, Prandelli added. "Cassano knows it's his last chance. He cleared the board, started from scratch, he realised this is his great opportunity," the Azzurri boss said of the 31-year-old Parma striker, who came back into the national squad at the last minute. "We have to focus on the we, not the I, the ego," Prandelli said of the sometimes wayward former Roma, Real Madrid and AC Milan forward, whose quality as one of the greatest talents of his generation has so far not shone fully on the international scene.

Cassano, like the other Azzurri, "must understand that they can make a difference for five, 10 or 80 minutes," Prandelli told a press conference at the start of their World Cup training camp at Coverciano near Florence. Prandelli is expected to use Cassano, who had heart surgery three years ago, as an impact substitute in the Brazilian heat. Cassano was a last-minute call-up to the squad along with Fiorentina's Giuseppe Rossi, recently recovered from his umpteenth injury setback.

Rossi and Cassano were among the 30 players Prandelli named in his preliminary squad, which will be trimmed down to 23 men by June 2. Prandelli said he wanted to focus on younger players after Cassano helped Italy finish runners-up at Euro 2012. But Cassano's form for Parma, who just squeaked in to qualify for next season's Europa League, has been too good to ignore. Italy are in a tough group at the World Cup that includes England, Costa Rica and Uruguay.

The Azzurri will start their campaign against England on June 14 in Manaus, a city in the middle of the Amazon rain forest, before travelling around 1,450 km to the Atlantic coast for their other two group games, against Costa Rica and Uruguay, in Recife and Natal respectively. Prandelli's men have two friendlies scheduled in the run-up to the World Cup, against Ireland in London on May 31 and against Luxembourg in Verona on June 4.


Cassano had been banging on the door of the Azzurri dressing room all season, and Prandelli gave his first big hint he would open it for the reformed rebel two months ago. The coach said that, while he had never closed the doors to the national team on Antonio Cassano, they were "not too open either". But the Parma forward, who will turn 32 just before the World Cup ends, kept up his rich vein of form and forced his way into Prandelli's reckonings. He took his goal tally for the season up to 11 when he scored a double to help Parma beat his former side AC Milan 4-2 at the San Siro in mid-March.

He went on to end the campaign on 12 strikes including one penalty, 10 behind this year's revelation, Ciro Immobile of Torino. The talented and famously temperamental striker also delivered seven assists this term, helping Parma notch up a 16-match undefeated run to climb to sixth place and qualify for Europe's second-string competition. Cassano's form was not the only factor behind his return to the Azzurri fold. With Rossi's fitness in doubt, Prandelli was also casting about for an alternative second striker to partner Milan's Mario Balotelli in attack.

Cassano said just before he got the call-up he wanted to "cause Prandelli trouble" over his selections by keeping up the good work. "I've lost 10 kilos to go to Brazil. I'm on a diet and I've stopped eating focaccine (pizza), except for once a week," he said after the Milan win. "I have never played at a World Cup and it's something I'd love to do. I would be the happiest man in the world if it happened". Some pundits had suggested Prandelli might be concerned about whether Cassano would be fit enough to cope with the intense heat, although this might be less of a problem if the coach intended to use him as an impact substitute rather than a starter.

Another factor, however, is Cassano's volatile personality which, even if he seems to have got it under control recently, could upset the balance of Prandelli's squad. One of the most gifted players of his generation, his career has been dogged by disciplinary problems and rows with coaches and he has won relatively few trophies for a footballer of his potential. Cassano's temper tantrums have been so numerous that the Italian press has dubbed them 'Cassanate' - a play on the widely used swear word 'cazzata', meaning f**k-up. After exhausting the patience of his coaches at AS Roma and Real Madrid, he looked to have become a reformed character after joining Sampdoria in 2008.

He once famously gave a referee who had sent him off the 'horns' gesture, which is an Italian way of telling someone they are a cuckold, and went on to throw his shirt at him and threaten to wait for him for a fight after the game. But otherwise he was mostly on good behaviour while playing for the Genoa side before he lost his temper with late club chairman Riccardo Garrone, calling him an "old sh*t", among other things. That spat lead to a dispute that ended with Cassano joining AC Milan in 2011.

Cassano spent much of his time at Milan recovering from an operation to fix a heart defect that caused him to have a minor stroke in 2011, so it was a relatively uneventful stint in terms of 'Cassanate'. He moved to Inter in 2012 but did not stay longer than one season following a big training ground bust-up with former coach Andrea Stramaccioni.

The player, who comes from a deprived area of the southern Italian city of Bari, is cheerful and entertaining in his infrequent press interviews, although his controversial opinions have got him into trouble. He was fined after causing an outcry during Euro 2012 by saying he hoped there were no gay players in the Italy team and using a derogatory term, 'froci', to describe homosexuals.

Pompeii forum hears preservation efforts are succeeding

Communication to help unite cities of the Mediterranean

(ANSA) - Rome, May 20 - The superintendent of the archaeological site of Pompeii said Tuesday that he is "confident" that efforts to preserve the UNESCO World Heritage Site are succeeding.

Massimo Osanna was speaking at the opening of an international conference promoting the cultural heritage of the Mediterranean being held in the ancient site that has been under enormous stress despite international efforts to preserve it. "I am very confident that we'll make it," said Ossana in a speech to the conference titled Memory of the Future and organized by sponsors including the ANSA news agency. Ossana said that it is important to remember Pompeii is an enormous "city of ruins" that requires great efforts of support, but he said staff are committed to keeping it intact. Over the years, parts of the ancient city have collapsed under adverse weather conditions, including heavy rainfall, and at times suffered serious neglect.

In March, a series of wall collapses followed UNESCO warnings the ancient city could "completely fall apart" and lose its World Heritage status unless urgent action is taken. The European Commission has pledged 105 million euros for repairs and restoration under the ambitious Great Pompeii Project for the world-famous site, created when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, preserving the entire city in ash. Security has also been sub-standard, critics said after reports of thefts of valuable frescoes and artifacts. Pompeii has also been plagued for decades by accusations of mismanagement, neglect and even infiltration by the local Camorra mafia.

Still, Pompeii has become such an important symbol of Italy and attracted so much interest from the world that it "can never go back" to a time when decay could be ignored, said Francesca Barracciu, undersecretary for cultural heritage and tourism. "Pompeii is a site to preserve and bring to life, and it can be the heart of a tourist and cultural revival - not only the Campania region but the entire country," said Barracciu. "The difficulties we have had up to now are being overcome...I think there is such a level of awareness that you cannot really go back," she said. The international conference focuses on the value of communication in the cultural dialogue of Mediterranean cities with an emphasis on themes including economics, identity, and the importance of communication in conveying cultural values. The Mediterranean basin is seen as a place of cultural exchange, particularly through such events as cinema, music and theatre festivals as well as exhibitions.

A number of high-profile guests are expected in the digs of Pompeii, one of the most visited archeological sites in the world whose only rival in the Mediterranean basin are the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. Media debate will be fuelled by ANSA Editor-in-Chief Luigi Contu, whose ANSAMed desk is covering the two-day event, as well as by Il Mattino Editor Alessandro Barbano and foreign guests including Laure Sleiman Saab, director of Lebanon's news agency NNA; Mohamed Sabreen, editor of Egyptian daily Al-Ahram; and Riyadh El-Hassan, president of the Alliance of Mediterranean News Agencies.

Meanwhile Tuesday, plans were unveiled for the rejuvenation of a 2,000-year-old theatre at the archaeological site. Theatrical productions inside the second-century BC amphitheatre, the Grand Theatre of Pompeii, will commence in July with a performance of the classic tragedy Agamemnon by Greek playwright Aeschylus, said Campania Culture Assessor Caterina Miraglia. Built according to traditional Greek style, the Grand Theatre of Pompeii had a capacity of about 5,000 spectators, with tiered seating that makes use of a natural slope and an orchestra arranged in the form of a horseshoe.

domenica 18 maggio 2014

Armani Junior Basketball Invasion bounces through Milan

La Scala boss sacked before debut

Intresting article by the Belfast Telegraph.

Cannes celebrates Italian cinema

Italian films vie for Palme d'Or and other awards

The 2014 Cannes film festival opened Wednesday with Italy in competition and Marcello Mastroianni on its official poster. Italy films are vying for glory in every section including Palme d'Or and Critic's Week, while the festival will also be celebrating silver-screen legend Sophia Loren. Competing for the Palme d'Or is Alice Rohrwacher's The Wonders, the only Italian film in consideration for the prestigious award. "I was told there was a 'good possibility' that I would be chosen for a section but I was thinking 'A Certain Regard' or the Director's Fortnight, not the main competition," Rohrwacher told ANSA in an interview prior to the festival.
The Wonders is Rohrwacher's second film and stars Monica Bellucci, with an international cast. Set in the 1990s, The Wonders is the tale of a father's desire to protect his children from a apocalypse by creating a secluded environment around them. His wonderland lasts until they face intrusions from a teenage boy and a television production led by Bellucci. "This film is a fable," said Rohrwacher, "but there is no trace of magic. The protagonists are average people." Screening at Critic's Week (a section that feature new talents) is Sebastiano Riso's debut film Darker than Midnight. Darker than Midnight covers the much-debated subject of childhood gender expression through the life of an androgynous 14-year-old in Catania searching for identification. The film is based on the life of Fuxia, born Davide Cordova, one of Italy's most prominent drag queens. "I am telling things that people don't want to see, that they leave to the margins," Riso told ANSA.

Meanwhile Asia Argento is looking for recognition for her third film Incomprensa in Un Certain Regard, the section dedicated to young talent and innovative and daring works. Incomprensa (Misunderstood) is inspired by Argento's own childhood as the daughter of horror king Dario Argento and actress Daria Nicolodi. Actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, most recently a Lars Von Trier muse, plays the lead role. Sophia Loren will be honored in Cannes Classics, which celebrates old-established features and masterpieces from the history of film in restored prints. Loren will present a restored 1964 classic Marriage Italian Style, as well as her son Edoardo Ponti's 2013 film adaptation of Jean Cocteau's play "The Human Voice", which she stars in as well. Also to be presented are Roberto Rossellini's La Paura and Sergio Leone's classic A Fist Full of Dollars. Italian filmmakers have strong showing in Shorts with Fulvio Risuleo's Lievito Madre and L'Avamposto by Leonardo Di Costanzo .

Loren's celluloid counterpart Marcello Mastroianni is literally the face of the 2014 festival. A classic portrait of the actor from a still from the film 8 1/2 is Cannes' official 2014 poster. The Cannes Festival is an annual film festival which previews all genres of films, including documentaries and shorts, from around the world and aims to encourage the art of filmmaking in all formats. Founded in 1946, the invite-only festival is considered the most prestigious film festivals in the world. The 2014 Cannes Film Festival takes place between May 14 and May 25.

Chinese real estate giant Vanke unveils Expo pavilion

First in world fair history by a China company

(ANSA) - Milan, May 16 - China's largest real estate developer Vanke this week presented plans in Milan for its Expo 2015 pavilion, designed by star architect Daniel Libeskind. Vanke's participation in the food-themed world fair marks the first time in the 163 years of Universal Exposition history that a Chinese company has put on a pavilion of its own. For the structure of the pavilion, Libeskind was inspired by currents of thought ranging from Confucius to Lao Tzu, from the Italian Renaissance to contemporary art.

Sinuous geometry and a sense of continuity flow between the interior and the exterior accompany visitors on a voyage across space, time, tradition, values and human relations. A sketch shows a structure resembling a traditional Chinese drawing of a nature scene, with dynamic rock-like and organic looking formations. The Polish-American architect, known for high profile projects including the master plan for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center in New York City, has been called "deconstructivist" by critics, a movement characterized by the manipulation of a structure's surface, non-rectilinear shapes, and the apparent distortion or dislocation of architectural elements. The inside of Vanke's pavilion will be sinuous, turn upon itself and give life to an exhibit of a "virtual forest" of 300 screens unevenly suspended projecting short films that capture the role of Shitang, or dining halls, in the daily life of communities throughout China. "The participation of Vanke China at Milan Expo 2015 is particularly significant for the theme of its fascinating pavilion - the importance of food as a socialization factor in accordance with the traditions and culture of each country for the development of urban realities that are increasingly international, sustainable and human scale," said Milan Mayor Giuliano Pisapia. The exhibition itself is created by the world's largest museum exhibition design firm, Ralph Appelbaum Associates.

It focuses on how China's rapid, daily urbanization tends to make people feel increasingly alone and isolated, and on Vanke's commitment to promote a traditional place dedicated to communication, interaction and fun. The pavilion will also contain elements representative of Chinese food culture like a popular cookbook, tea cups, plates and chopsticks. Chinese designer Han Jiaying has applied the gestural graphic art of Chinese calligraphy - black ink on white background - to the designs to give them a contemporary identity and look. The 1000 sq m pavilion will be located in the northern part of Expo's main axis, called Decumano, near Lake Arena and Piazza Italia on the 100-hectare Expo site near the massive Rho Pero fairgrounds.

Theme of Milan Expo 2015, which takes place from May 1 to October 31 next year, is "Feeding the planet. Energy for life", tackling issues such as food security, hunger, and promoting environmentally, socially, economically sustainable global food production practices. . So far 144 countries - representing 94% of the world's population - and three international organizations are set to put their best on show. Vanke is listed on the Shenzen bourse and had a turnover in March 2014 of 2.3 billion dollars. Vanke provides more than a half million homes and supplies management services to 1.5 million Chinese people. 

Delrio says Mare Nostrum rescue program to continue

Govt overrides opposition to migrants assistance

(ANSA) - Rome, May 16 - Italy will continue its Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) rescue operation of migrants for humanitarian reasons, despite opposition, cabinet Undersecretary Graziano Delrio said Friday. "The government intends to continue...given the results from the humanitarian point of view," Delrio told the Lower House. He added that as many as 30,000 people have been rescued "that would probably have become victims of the sea".

At the same time, Delrio said, the Italian government is stressing the importance of increasing cooperation with Middle Eastern and North African countries including Libya, from which many Europe-bound migrants come, to try to improve border controls. "This is not the problem of a single state, but a phenomenon that extends beyond the organizational skills and policies of a single nation," he said. As he spoke, opposition members of the Northern League held up signs proclaiming "Clandestine (migration) is a crime" and two League MPs were ejected from the Lower House for refusing to come to order. They loudly oppose the humanitarian Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue border operation which Italy began last October, after roughly 400 migrants drowned in two wrecks off the coast of Sicily. It involves 782 Italian Navy personnel aboard a flotilla of vessels supported by Carabinieri, Coast Guard, police and Air Force units.

Already this year it has been involved in rescuing thousands of migrants, many fleeing war and poverty on rickety boats and rafts as more than 25,000 people arrived on Italian shores in the first four months of this year. Centre-right Forza Italia Senator Maurizio Gasparri called Mare Nostrum "disastrous" because he said it only helps criminal human smugglers who are taking advantage of the rescue opportunity.

Delrio said that is not the government's intention, but it cannot turn its back on drowning migrants. "The government does not favor the smugglers, but preventing death is a duty not only of Italy, but throughout Europe," he said. "We cannot turn the other way while tragedies happen in our sea," said Delrio. The Italian government has been pressing the European Union to provide more support for rescuing, processing and housing the tens of thousands of migrants that arrive by sea in Italy, the closest point of land for most. "Europe explains everything about how to catch swordfish, but it turns its head when we go to rescue people in trouble", Premier Matteo Renzi said this week, after recent migrant boat disasters that cost at least 60 lives. Also this week, EU border-management agency Frontex said its budget has been cut this year, even as arrivals in Italy in the first four months of 2014 rose by a dizzying 823% over the same period in 2013. 

Cocaine, marijuana favourites for teen drug-users

2013 study finds more than 600,000 youngster used cocaine, pot

(ANSA) - Rome, May 16 - Cocaine and cannabis were the illegal drugs of choice last year for Italian teenagers, with more than 600,000 admitting to using the substances in 2013, according to a survey released Friday
The study by the National Research Council (CNR) in Pisa found that heroin was also becoming more popular while an increasing number of teens were mixing illegal substances to experiment with different effects, which posed serious health risks. The results are part of the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) conducted by the CNR which interviewed 45,000 students in 516 high schools all over Italy.

It earlier reported that the average teenager heroin smoker in Italy starts at 14. It also found overall cannabis use picked up in 2013, with 25% of respondents saying they smoked it in the past year, 16% saying they did so in the previous 30 days, and one in five, or 75,000 teens, saying they smoke it more than 20 times a month. Three in 10 said they tried it at least once, 61% said they used it not more than 10 times a year, and another 27% said they smoked marijuana 20 or more times a year. Among legal substances, alcohol use was also on the rise in Italy last year, although there was less abuse reported when compared with other European teenagers.

Italians were less likely to binge on alcohol or drink between meals, and less likely to become drunk, the study said. Still, 35%, or 850,000 Italian students, reported binge drinking at least once in the prior month, with 14% of these saying they indulged to excess six or more times in the same period. The survey also found that a trend towards increased gambling stopped in 2008 and since then, interest has declined. 

Extradition 'unopposed' Dell'Utri to be 'sent back to Italy'

Lebanese justice official says former Senator returns next week

(ANSA) - Rome, May 16 - Lebanon's justice ministry isn't opposed to extraditing former Italian Senator Marcello Dell'Utri, who is expected to return to Italy next week to face a seven-year jail term for Mafia association, ANSA sources said Friday. The long-time associate of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi is accused of fleeing Italian justice before the supreme court made his seven-year sentence definitive.

The Lebanese prime minister and president must sign the extradition decree before it is finalized, official said. But Dell'Utri "will be in Italy next week," Lebanese justice ministry spokesman Ahmad al Ayubi told ANSA.

Dell'Utri, who denies wrongdoing, claims he was in the Lebanese capital for health treatment, and shortly after his arrest on an Interpol warrant he was hospitalized under police guard. Dell'Utri's original conviction came when a Palermo court found that he sealed "a pact of protection" with Cosa Nostra for Berlusconi at a meeting in May 1974 - a meeting that the court said "formed the genesis of the relationship that linked the businessman (Berlusconi) and the Mafia with Dell'Utri's mediation".

Berlusconi employed a Mafia boss and killer recommended by Dell'Utri, the late Vittorio Mangano, as an alleged stable manager in the mid 1970s - but allegedly to protect his children from kidnappings that were then rampant in Italy. Dell'Utri is also the former head of the media magnate's advertising arm and is credited with creating the three-time premier's centre-right party, Forza Italia, in 1993, six months before it swept to victory in general elections. 

Cassation blasts Constitutional Court over rendition

Supreme court says secrecy provisions create 'black curtain'

(ANSA) - Rome, May 16 - Italy's supreme Court of Cassation on Friday blasted the Constitutional Court's decision to extend official-secrets provisions to two Italian intelligence agents implicated in the extraordinary rendition of a Muslim cleric in Milan. The Cassation described the Constitutional Court's decision as "devastating" and "lacerating" in its explanation of its February decision to overturn convictions against secret-service agents Nicolò Pollari and Marco Mancini due to State secrecy.

Friday's explanation makes it clear that the Cassation judges were unhappy about effectively being forced to drop the case concerning the CIA's extraordinary rendition of Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Omar Nasr from Milan in 2003. They added that the Constitutional Court's decision had hung a "black curtain" over the case.

Pollari and Mancini were appealing against 10-year and nine-year sentences respectively at a lower court for allowing the CIA to commit "a grave violation of national sovereignty" when they snatched Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, an Islamist suspected of recruiting jihadi fighters. Nasr, whose case led to the world's first judicial examination of the controversial practice in the so-called war on terror, got a jail term of six years for international terrorism in December.

In September 2012, the supreme court upheld the convictions of 22 CIA agents and a former US air force officer, Joseph L. Romano, for the abduction. The Court of Cassation confirmed the seven-year sentences for 22 of them and a nine-year term for former Milan station chief Robert Seldon Lady. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano later pardoned Romano.

The CIA officers were formally facing extradition and Lady was arrested in Panama in July but freed a day later when the US government stepped in. He asked Italy for a pardon in September. None of the CIA operatives has appeared in court. Nasr was snatched by a team of CIA operatives with the help of SISMI - later renamed as AISE - and taken to a NATO base in Ramstein, Germany, en route to Cairo. He emerged from an Egyptian prison four years later claiming he had been tortured.

Italian courts have awarded him one million euros in damages. The case caused friction between Italy and the United States. Extraordinary rendition was first authorised by former American president Bill Clinton in the 1990s and stepped up when his successor George W. Bush declared war on terror after the September 11, 2001 attacks by Al-Qaeda.

Successive Italian governments denied all knowledge of the case and consistently ruled out the possibility of extradition. The trial of Nasr claimed headlines worldwide and stoked discussion of rendition, which was extended by President Barack Obama in 2008 under the proviso that detainees' rights should be respected. 

Renzi rules out corrective budget after growth setback

Renzi says his labour reforms important to boosting economy

(ANSA) - Rome, May 16 - Premier Matteo Renzi on Friday ruled out new budget measures in reaction to shocking economic figures one day earlier that showed the Italian economy was weaker than previously expected. "I exclude a corrective maneuver," said Renzi, adding that measures including tax cuts contained in his recent economic blueprint will provide the necessary boost to help stimulate growth in the struggling Italian economy. Many were surprised by Thursday's news that the Italian economy contracted unexpectedly in the first three months of the year, rather than showing the small measure of growth in its gross domestic product (GDP) that had been expected.

GDP dropped 0.1% between January and March, compared with the last three months of 2013, national statistical agency Istat reported in a new preliminary estimate. The figures were a major blow to Italy's hopes of seeing an economic recovery after it was previously thought to have emerged from its longest postwar recession. In a radio interview, Renzi said that further new corrective actions were not necessary and that he could see signs of an economic recovery on the horizon. "I remain optimistic - and this is not stupid optimism but optimism that takes reality into account - that we cannot say that the crisis is not over yet, but there are important signs of recovery".

Renzi's government also took further steps on Friday to shore up financial balance sheets by approving the terms for selling significant but still-minority stakes in the national postal service, PosteItalia, and Enav, the Italian air traffic control company, cabinet sources said. The sale of shares in the two agencies has been estimated to net as much as nine billion euros that could help pay government debt.

Meanwhile, investors on Friday began to recover from their shock and returned to the Milan stock exchange, where the FTSE Mib index ended 1.12% higher, erasing some of the previous day's losses when the market plunged by 3.61%, cutting away as much as 3.17 billion euros in value on the day. Bond yields also softened Friday and the spread between Italian bonds and their ultra-safe German counterparts, which widened dramatically to 184 points on Thursday, narrowed again to end the week at 173 points. That is still well above Wednesday's close of 154 points, which came before the shocking GDP news. 

Milan bourse regains ground

Milan's FTSE-100 outperforms Europe, closing +1.12%

(ANSA) - Milan, May 16 - Most of Europe's benchmark indexes recovered Friday after Thursday's sell-off, which was triggered in Italy by a surprise contraction of first-quarter GDP. In Milan, the FTSE-100 index outperformed other European listings, advancing by 1.12% to close at 20,648 points as investors snapped up banking shares that were driven down in yesterday's pullback as well as shares in Italian down jacket maker Moncler (+6.17%) after the company declared first-quarter revenue rose 16%.

The Milan bourse plunged by 3.61% on Thursday, cutting away as much as 3.17 billion euros in value on the day. Bond yields also softened Friday and the spread between Italian bonds and their ultra-safe German counterparts, which widened dramatically to 184 points on Thursday, narrowed again to end the week at 173 points.

Shares also advanced in Madrid, where the IBEX index closed up 1.1% at 10,478.70 points, and in Paris, where the CAC-40 index gained 0.26% to close at 4,456.28 points. London's FTSE-100 index rose by 0.22% to end the trading day at 6,855.81 points. Friday's losers were the German DAX index, which slipped by 0.28% to close at 9,629.10 points, and the Greek ATHEX index, which plunged 3.15% to end at 1,088.25 points. 

Berlusconi wants to made amends with Alfano

Ex-premier split with heir apparent over bid to sink Letta

(ANSA) - Rome, May 16 - Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi said Friday that he wants a rapprochement with his former heir apparent, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano. Alfano split with Berlusconi and formed a splinter party, the New Centre Right (NCD), after disagreeing with Berlusconi's attempt to bring down the coalition government of ex-premier Enrico Letta last year. The executive survived after Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party pulled its support thanks to the backing of the NCD, although in February Letta was unseated Premier Matteo Renzi, his colleague in the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

Since splitting up, Alfano and Berlusconi have directed bitter criticism of each other. But Berlusconi said Friday that they should patch things up to form an alliance at future elections. "The centre right, the moderates, form the majority when the support for all the parties is added up," Berlusconi told State broadcaster Rai. "The moderates are debating about some differences but not about values and we'll be forced to come together on some proposals. "I don't think there's any other possibility but to come back together with Alfano". FI has slipped to third in the polls ahead of this month's European elections, with under 20% of voters supporting it, according to many polls, compared to around 33% for the PD and 23% for the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.

Alfano, whose NCD is polling at around 5%, was receptive to Berlusconi's overture. "A united centre right is the natural landing place for the NCD project," he said. "We'll use our votes to rebuild a united centre right that is capable of challenging the left. "Our collaboration with Renzi is temporary and based on the need for reforms and the need to address the economic crisis and all this country's emergencies".