sabato 14 giugno 2014

Dalai Lama blesses Tuscan land for new complex

Tibetan spiritual leader teaching in Tuscany

(ANSA) - Pisa, June 13 - Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama urged his followers to cover their heads to beat the heat of the Tuscan sun as he blessed the site of a new Buddhist monastic complex Friday.

"I remember one time in Mumbai when it was so hot that I took a towel, wet with cold water, to put on my head and that's what I do even now," said the Dalai Lama as he tried to cool off with a damp white cloth on his head. "Today is really hot but I think that mentally, we are all happy to be here," he added. The Dalai Lama is visiting a Tibetan Buddhist centre in Pomaia in northern Tuscany near the historic city of Pisa, meeting with visitors from around Italy including Franciscan monks as well as Buddhists.

On Saturday and Sunday, the Dalai Lama will take part in teaching events in Livorno on the sea coast. Before the ceremony blessing the site of the new monastery, the Dalai Lama admired the seeds of plants placed in a large pot by children. These will become the shoots of brotherhood and peace," he said. 

Fiat confirms revenue targets of 93 bn euros

CEO says EC anti-trust probe 'not a problem for us'

(ANSA) - Venice, June 13 - Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, on Friday confirmed the group's financial targets for 2014 including revenues of about 93 billion euros. Net income will reach between 0.6 billion euros and 0.8 billion euros, he said.

Marchionne also said that a European Commission anti-trust probe involving Fiat and two other multinational companies "is not a problem for us". peaking on the sidelines of a conference in Venice, he said the investigation opened in Brussels will find nothing against Fiat. Elier this week, the EC announced the probe into whether tax arrangements granted by three EU countries amounted to illegal State aid.

The EU's antitrust regulator is examining whether tax deals granted by Luxembourg, Ireland and the Netherlands respectively, to Fiat Finance and Trade, Apple and Starbucks were in contravention of European competition rules. "In the current context of tight public budgets, it is particularly important that large multinationals pay their fair share of taxes," said EU antitrust chief Joaqun Almunia. Ad hoc tax agreements are not illegal per se under European law, but "they could contain illegal State aid if they involve specific and selective advantages to some companies or groups of companies," the EU regulator said.

Marchionne added that expectations for 2014 Maserati orders will "maybe" reach the 40,000 target and the luxury line "may" end the year with more losses than gains. Taking a longer view, production appears to be "on pace" for a 2018 target of 75,000 Maseratis. 

ISSpresso coffee to launch at space station

May comfort on future 'interplanetary exploration missions'

(ANSA) - Rome, June 13 - The chief of the Italian Space Agency (ISA) on Friday said a groundbreaking new system for making espresso coffee in space, ISSpresso, may improve life for astronauts on interplanetary exploration missions. ISA President Roberto Battison said the space agency is bringing the Italian hot beverage system to the International Space Station (ISS) thanks to cooperation agreements with NASA and the space agencies' shared objective of "improving the quality of life of ISS astronauts, as well as the astronauts who will take part in future long interplanetary exploration missions".

Italian coffee maker Lavazza and aerospace food engineering firm Argotec are launching a coffee-making system that for the very first time will make authentic Italian espresso in space, the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and Argotec said Friday. "Today we are in a position to overcome the limits of weightlessness and enjoy a good espresso," said Giuseppe Lavazza, vice president of Lavazza. Dubbed ISSpresso after to the name of the International Space Station (ISS), the system is set to be deployed on the Futura Mission - Italy's second long term mission to the ISS - at the end of 2014. The Futura Mission will also feature the first Italian woman to go into space, Samantha Cristoforetti, who could become the first astronaut in history to drink an real espresso coffee in orbit.

The ISSpresso is the first capsule-based espresso system able to work in the extreme, microgravity conditions of space, where principles regulating fluid dynamics and liquid mixtures are very different than on earth, complicating the handling of liquids at high temperature and high pressure. For example, the plastic tube carrying water inside normal espresso machines has been replaced with a special steel tube that can withstand pressure of more than 400 bar, or 400 times atmospheric pressure at sea level. The machine weighs 20 kg due to heavy-duty safety and backup systems required by the ASI. The machine will not not only prepare a regular espresso, but also other hot beverages, such as caffe' lungo, tea, infusions and broth, so that food can also be rehydrated.

"Food provides an important psychological support and being able to enjoy a good Italian espresso may be just the right way to finish off the menu designed especially for each astronaut, helping him or her to feel closer to home," said David Avino, Argotec's managing director. A prototype of the space coffee machine is currently being tested and undergoing safety checks at Argotec's laboratories. Avino explained that the Argotec had worked on development for about a year before readying a functional project in June 2013. Avino said solutions and innovations found for the "ultra high-tech project" has are "applicable with immediate returns on Earth as well".

The new powers come after recent allegations of graft and tender-rigging in Milan Expo 2015 and a major dike project in Venice. Expo Commissioner Giuseppe Sala said Friday that he had seen a draft of the bill and was "very satisfied" with the new anti-corruption measures that he said are in best interests of the World Fair. Renzi had vowed to pass legislation to combat graft after the case, including the move to give greater powers to Cantone, and has called for life bans for politicians involved in corruption, saying this is a form of "high treason". 

Decree streamlines public service, fight corruption

Workers could face transfers as far as 50 km under draft

(ANSA) - Rome, June 13 - A major government decree designed to cut costs and streamline Italy's public service while boosting the powers of its anti-corruption czar was on the agenda for a cabinet meeting Friday, sources said. The decree includes a retirement directive stating that most civil servants can remain only two years beyond normal retirement age - excluding magistrates, who can remain on the job until age 75 "in order to safeguard the functionality of the courts".

Physicians and professors in the public service may be encouraged to take early retirement - even if they are not yet retirement age - when 2014 service levels reach 42.5 years for men and 41.6 years for women, sources said. It also aims to trim spending on research and consultants by 50% compared with 2013 spending levels and bans "economic" transactions involving international firms that have their headquarters in "so-called tax havens". As well, the draft says public employees may be transferred without their consent to work in the same jurisdiction but as far as 50 kilometers away from their base location. Sources said cabinet was also reviewing a draft decree on tax simplification as well as plans for a 12% rise in the road tax. On Thursday, Civil Service Minister Marianna Madia presented a series of measures in the draft document to unions representing public employees that also included plans for more flexible work hours, babysitter vouchers and more working from home.

In April, Premier Matteo Renzi announced the reform plans which he said would not only reduce costs and streamline services, but clear the way for as many as 10,000 jobs for young workers. He also said that no layoffs were being considered. The draft decree comes the same day as a report from the small-business group CGIA Mestre which said that businesses find Italy's public administration the worst in Europe to deal with.

The report, released by CGIA Mestre's Giuseppe Bortolussi, said that the "malfunctioning" Italian public service costs companies an average of 7,000 euros per year in paperwork and fees. That is crippling for small business, the report said. The draft decree is also set to give anti-corruption czar Raffaele Cantone "extraordinary authority" to supervise public contracts and impose penalties. It also ensures that work can continue on projects that are subject to corruption investigation.

Venice mayor quits in anger amid bribery probe

Govt prepares corruption crackdown, new powers for graft czar

(ANSA) - Venice, June 13 - Giorgio Orsoni quit as Venice mayor Friday in the MOSE flood-barriers graft scandal under pressure from the ruling Democratic Party (PD) that backed him, just as the government prepared to unveil tough measures to crack down on corruption. Orsoni, who was being probed for illegal financing of political parties over his 2010 city election campaign, was released from house arrest Thursday after reaching a plea bargain with prosecutors, accepting a four-month suspended jail term, which judges must approve.

As he tendered his resignation Friday, Orsoni revoked the powers of his city council. "It's nothing against any individual official," he said in a written address, while still calling out "opportunist and hypocritical reactions" to his arrest, "even from some members of city council".

Just a day earlier, Orsoni said nothing would force him to step down, because there was "no objective reason". "I have nothing to reproach myself for," added Orsoni at a news conference. "I couldn't have known that an illegal system was used (for the 2010 campaign)," he said, adding that he has assigned fund-raising to third parties. "I have made many enemies and maybe this is the price I'm paying".

Orsoni was among 35 people arrested earlier this month over the MOSE probe, in a group of 100 suspects under investigation. These include former Veneto governor and ex-minister Giancarlo Galan, currently a Senator for ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia (FI) party, and Altero Matteoli, a former centre-right environment and transport minister. Prosecutors are looking at allegations a corruption scam saw 25 million euros in taxpayer money funnelled to political campaigns and away from MOSE, a 5.5-billion-euro system of retractable dikes set to be operable in 2016 after decades of delays. The MOSE scandal broke last week, less than a month after other high-profile arrests over alleged corruption on contracts for Milan Expo 2015. Premier Matteo Renzi, whose center-left PD had pressured Orsoni to step down, has vowed to pass legislation to combat graft after the case, including a move to give greater powers to national anti-corruption chief Raffaele Cantone.

venerdì 13 giugno 2014

Florence to open modern-art museum

De Chirico, Morandi, Depero, Nannucci at S.M. Novella square

(ANSA) - Florence, June 12 - Florence is to open its first public modern-art museum on June 24. Entry to the 20th Century Museum will be free to all Florentines from 12 to 22 on the first day, unveiled by Mayor Dario Nardella.

The 300 works, divided into 15 sections, will be housed in the Leopoldine complex in Piazza Santa Maria Novella. Among the paintings, sculptures, videos and installations are works by Maurizio Nannucci (Everything Might Be Different), Giorgio de Chirico (Les bains mystérieux), Fortunato Depero (Nitrito in velocità), Alberto Moretti (Malcolm X ed altri) and Giorgio Morandi (Natura morta). 

giovedì 12 giugno 2014

Padoan says banks must make most of ECB measures

Italy, Europe can 'scrape along' or boost economic growth

(ANSA) - Milan, June 12 - Italian banks must take advantage of reduced market stress and new measures introduced by the European Central Bank to "give new impetus" to growth, Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said Thursday.

Speaking to a conference on pensions, Padoan said that the banking system demonstrated "enormous capacity for strength" in the face of the global financial crisis and Italy's economic downturn. Now, it must do more to encourage economic growth, taking advantage of measures announced last Thursday by the ECB to boost lending to business, said Padoan.

He added that the government is working on some "measures to change the incentive system" within the economy that he said he hoped would be passed "in the coming days". Concluded Padoan: "The Italian and European economies are faced with two options for the next five to 10 years: scrape along or jump on a path of growth and accelerate the expansion and creation of new jobs".

martedì 10 giugno 2014

Eight Italian soldiers test positive for TB after rescues

Navy chief says infected military members not sick with disease

(ANSA) - Rome, June 10 - Eight members of the Italian Navy involved in migrant rescue operations have tested positive for tuberculosis, but not are ill, the Navy Chief of Staff Giuseppe De Giorgi said Tuesday.

The eight have been involved in the Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) rescue operations that began last October after about 400 migrants were killed trying to make the perilous sea journey from North Africa and the Middle East to Europe via Italy. Italy is having trouble managing after a massive increase this year in the already large flow of migrants who attempt the crossing, often at the hands of human smugglers.

At the end of last month, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said almost 40,000 migrants landed on Italy's shores in the first five months of this year - almost as many as the total for all of last year. The government has come under fire over the Mare Nostrum Operation, which some opposition parties say is encouraging human traffickers who know that migrants will be rescued by Italian forces. 

Milan, Rome among 10 worst European cities for traffic

Italian families spend about 13% of income on private auto costs

(ANSA) - Rome, June 10 - Milan and Rome are two of the 10 worst European cities for traffic congestion while Florence is included among Italian communities with the highest percentage of auto ownership, according to a survey released Tuesday by researchers Eurispes.

While the Italian average is more than 600 cars for 1,000 people, those levels peak in Rome and Florence, which recorded more than 700 vehicles per 1,000 inhabitants, said the survey on mobility and transportation. Private cars are still "the most widely used means of transportation" which slow traffic and hurt productivity, said the survey. That means each Milan resident spends an average of about 70 hours per year in traffic, while the average Roman sits in traffic for 45 hours per year.

Congestion means traffic speeds average "well below 10 kilometre per hour...similar to the time of early industrialization," said the report. The survey also calculated that the Italian family spends about 13% of total income on private transportation. 

Civil protection authorities issue heat warning in Emilia

Dalai Lama jokes about 'Indian' temperatures in Italy

(ANSA) - Bologna, June 10 - Civil protection authorities in the northern region of Emilia Romagna on Tuesday warned against high temperatures later this week as Italy suffered the first intense heat wave of the summer.

The department issued a special attention warning for low-lying areas around Bologna, Modena, Reggio Emilia, Parma and Piacenza from early Wednesday to early Friday, when temperatures could reach a maximum of 35 degrees before dipping slightly ahead of the weekend. Elsewhere the environmental watchdog Legambiente issued an ozone warning for the northern Lombardy region and advised residents to remain at home. Levels of ozone, the main and most dangerous component of photochemical smog, typically increase in hot, sunny weather. Even the Dalai Lama joked about the 'Indian' temperatures in Italy during a visit to the Buddhist Lama Tzong Khapa studies institute in Pomaia near Pisa on Tuesday. The hot temperatures, which began over the weekend, are expected to last through Friday, with "a peak scheduled between Wednesday and Thursday, when maximum temperatures will be almost anywhere between 30 and 35 degrees", Epson Meteo Center meteorologist Andrea Giuliacci said.

Temperatures are expected to lower over the June 14-15 weekend when Atlantic currents bring in more moderate, cooling breezes. 

Italian fashion gets World Cup fever

Brand show special capsule collections and accessories

(ANSA) - Rome, June 10 - The World Cup kicks off Thursday in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and soccer fans aren't the only ones shining with passion for the sport. igh-end Italian fashion brands have also been infected by the World Cup frenzy and are launching a range of capsule collections and special accessories to celebrate Italy's national team as well as the colors and tropical atmosphere of host country Brazil.

Luxury shoemakers Loriblu designed a pair of high-heeled sandals glittering with national pride and Swarovski crystals in the colours of the Italian flag - green, white and red. Santoni vied for a sportier inspiration with lined, vintage-looking sneakers in a range of colors inspired by the flags of national teams competing in the World Cup. Donatella Versace, better known for her sultry gowns and unique take on sexiness, embraced the World Cup fever with a special T-shirt in a baroque print celebrating Brazil's carnival, with soccer balls and flowers.

The Versace touch was showcased in other motifs including leopard prints and the fashion house's iconic Medusa at the center of T-shirts. Verona-based brand Franklin & Marshall designed a range of silk T-shirts for women and cotton jerseys for men dedicated to the flags of national teams including Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the United States and Sweden.

The label is a sponsor of the Hellas Verona football club. Police, a top label of the De Rigo group, launched a special edition of eyeglasses inspired by its new face, Brazilian soccer star Neymar Jr. Laura Biagiotti also designed eyeglasses - the Bio and Carioca models in the shades of Brazil and the tropical world - to celebrate the World Cup.

The funky glasses shaped like a butterfly in the palette of the Brazilian flag have been made in an innovative bioplastic material produced by Mazzucchelli which used acetate cellulose extracted from cotton fibers and wood. World Cup fans hitting the beach will be able to don one of Flavia Padovan's bikinis encrusted in white, red and green pearls and apply Jenipapo sunscreen or the Au Bresil line produced by L'Occitane, an homage to Brazilian nature and culture by the house's founder Olivier Baussan. Tradition mixed with innovation is what sets Zagliani bags apart. And this summer, the brand's unconventional take on exotic-skin bags has been inspired by Brazil's bold colors with Zagliani designs in orange, green and turquoise making a case for high-end classics with a sporty twist. 

Economic data show tentative signs of recovery

OECD says Italy seeing 'positive' momentum

(ANSA) - Rome, June 10 - Italy and other eurozone countries saw "positive" economic momentum during the spring while at the same time, growth weakened in several emerging economies, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said Tuesday. Its findings came the same day as healthy gains were reported in Italy's industrial output as well as a rise in consumer spending - rare good news for the struggling Italian economy.

National statistical agency Istat said that industrial output showed an increase of 0.7% in April compared with one month earlier - a jump of 1.6% measured on an annual basis. The increase, when compared with April 2013, was the largest year-on-year rise since 2011. Meanwhile, Istat said that consumer spending increased 0.1% in the first quarter of 2014 compared with the last three months of 2013 - the first rise since the last quarter of 2010, the agency said. But on a quarterly basis, household spending slipped by 0.6% in the January-through-March period compared to the same quarter in 2013. Consumer spending has been hit hard by the economic crisis and low household demand has contributed to the difficulty Italy is having in pulling out of its longest recession since the Second World War.

Many had hoped that Italy was beginning to find its economic footing earlier this year, after the economy had posted positive growth for the first time in over two years at the end of 2013 - albeit growth of just 0.1% in the final three months of last year. However, those hopes were hit hard when Istat reported in mid-May that gross domestic product dropped 0.1% in the first quarter of this year compared with the final three months of 2013.

On Tuesday, Istat confirmed those preliminary estimates and added that Italy's GDP fell by 0.5% in the first quarter when compared to the same period in 2013 - the 10th consecutive year-on-year drop. But the latest figures coupled with the OECD's report suggested some brightness ahead. Composite leading indicators in Italy in April showed "a positive change in (economic) momentum," said the monthly OECD report which looks at composite leading indicators.

In Italy, those indicators include measures of consumer confidence, production, manufacturing orders, inflation and imports. The eurozone as a whole also shared in this "positive change in momentum" while other major economies, including the United States, Canada, France, Germany and Britain were assessed as showing "stable growth momentum". 

Renzi starts Chinese trade mission

Premier tells Italian entrepreneurs 'be brave like Marco Polo'

(ANSA) - Rome, June 10 - Italian Premier Matteo Renzi began the Chinese leg of his Asian tour Tuesday by urging Italian entrepreneurs in China to be "more courageous" like the Venetian explorer Marco Polo.

Speaking to 400 members of the Italian business community in the former Italian Pavilion of Shanghai's Expo 2010 trade fair, Renzi recalled when he visited the Chinese business capital as mayor of Florence. "There were thousands of people and a statue of Pinocchio that I can't see now," he said, referring to the traditional Italian marionette of children's fiction known for telling fibs. "We all have something of Pinocchio in us. If each of us does his duty, if he tries to play the game and change, then Italy really blossoms," added Renzi. "We will do our part, we are revolutionising the system," said the premier. "We are not afraid and I ask those of you who fly the Italian flag abroad to be even more courageous".

The premier said that Italian businesses must do more to improve the terms of trade between Italy and China. China buys 10 billion euros worth of products from Italy compared to as much as 23 billion of Chinese products bought by Italians. "The country has to do more to export, improving also direct investments," said Renzi. "When we say in Italy that we want to carry out reforms we want to create work, to create conditions for change".

Later Tuesday Renzi flew to Beijing where on Wednesday and Thursday he will have a series of meetings with Chinese leaders and the business community. On Wednesday he meets Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang. Renzi began his trade mission on Monday in Vietnam.

lunedì 9 giugno 2014

Tomb of emperor's son reopens in Rome after 20 years

'Romulus' mausoleum part of Maxentius' 4th-century complex

(ANSA) - Rome, June 9 - The mausoleum of 'Romulus' on Rome's ancient Appian Way reopened to visitors Monday after 20 years.

The restored tomb stands within a grand sporting arena known as the Circus of Maxentius, itself part of a broader imperial complex built by the emperor Maxentius in the early fourth century AD. It is thought to have been the burial place of Maxentius' son Valerio Romulus, who died prematurely in 309. "I am proud to be able to restore an absolute jewel of our archaeological heritage to Romans and to the millions of tourists who visit Rome each year," mayor Ignazio Marino said. "The reopening of the mausoleum of Romulus can certainly be considered another step towards realising our most ambitious aim: creating the world's biggest archaeological park, stretching from the slopes of the Capitoline hill in central Rome all the way here to the Appia," he continued. The restoration of the tomb was part of a broader facelift at the site costing a total of 873,000 euros. 

Renzi first Italian premier to officially visit Vietnam

Part of trade and political mission including Beijing, Shanghai

(ANSA) - Rome, June 9 - Matteo Renzi became the first Italian premier to make an official visit to Vietnam when he began a trade mission there Monday, aimed at drumming up five billion euros in new business. "Italy can and should do more in Vietnam," Renzi said following a meeting at the presidential palace in Hanoi with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who described their session as "friendly". Renzi said that Italy at present ranks ninth among Europe nations to invest in Vietnam but he wants trade and investment links between the two countries to improve.

A new Italian consulate in Ho Chi Minh City should help, added Renzi, who will also meet with Italian business leaders in Hanoi during his two-day visit marking 40 years since Italy established diplomatic ties in March 1973 with Vietnam. "This marks a new phase of the development of cooperation, especially now that we celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations," Renzi added. According to Vietnamese radio, last year two-way trade totaled $3.5 billion, up from $2.8 billion in 2012.

Italy ranked 29th among the 100 countries and territories investing in Vietnam with 53 projects worth $295 million focusing on processing, manufacturing, garments, textiles, and construction. Vietnam's participation in Milan Expo 2015 will help cement relations, said Renzi, who will also visit China on his Far East trip.

Renzi will hold meetings in Shanghai and Beijing in an effort to improve economic, financial and political relations with Chinese leaders while promoting Milan Expo. He is also scheduled to meet with representatives from 50 Italian companies as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Li Keqiang, and the governor of the Central Bank of China.

Italy reported an enormous trade deficit of 15.6 billion euros with China in 2012, according to official figures from the Italian Trade Agency. That was an improvement of about four billion euros over 2011 trade statistics, but shows that Italians continue to buy much more from China than they sell there. On Wednesday, Renzi will join in the first meeting of the China-Italy Business Forum, along with the chief executive officers of several large Italian companies including Finmeccanica's Mauro Moretti, Francesco Starace of Enel, and the CEO of Unicredit, Federico Ghizzoni. 

Venice Biennale focuses on 'modernizing history'

'Fundamentals' architecture exhibit continues for six months

(ANSA) - Venice, June 9 - The 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale will be open for six months rather than the usual three and is one of the most highly anticipated editions of the architecture event since it began in 1980. Dutch curator Rem Koolhaas, 69, who was one of the young exhibitors at the first edition organized by Paolo Portoghesi, told a press conference recently that this year's biannual extravaganza sought to "modernize the history of architecture" by focusing on "the effect of modernization on countries and architecture". "Fundamentals", which was organized over a period of two years, opened last weekend and continues through November 23 at the Gardens of the Biennale and the Venetian Arsenal.

The exhibit seeks to describe the evolution of architecture through its essential parts - from floors and doors to windows and walls - departing from the usual insight into the contemporary architectural scenario and focusing instead on an historical approach. This new perspective vies for the exhibit to be a vehicle for research which will be "interesting not only for those working in architecture" as "architecture survives only if it is an inspiration for us all", said Biennale President Paolo Baratta.

National pavilions in the Gardens will be curated for the first time under one theme: "Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014", focusing on the forces of modernism over the last century, across different countries, to highlight diverse national approaches while creating a "uniform narrative", the curator said. The Arsenale will host "Monditalia", a portrait of Italy outlined through the arts. "I chose Italy because I believe it is a crucial country, the most emblematic in the world, with its extraordinary richness, though it was not always able to use all this potential", Koolhaas said. "Essential Elements of Architecture" will be showcased at the central pavilion of the Gardens and will offer a thorough insight into parts of buildings and what they represent, including windows, stairs, fireplaces and toilets.

These basic architectural elements seen through their evolution in time will vie to provide a powerful sense of the relevance of architecture in its historical context. Koolhaas, who numbers among his students "starchitects" including Zaha Hadid, in particular stressed that this edition of the Biennale was all about architecture, straying away from the usual format focusing on the most up-to-date projects by contemporary celebrity architects.

The Dutch curator, one of the most influential architects of his generation who has shaken up established conventions, started out by writing about the impact on architecture of inventions like the elevator and false ceiling in his famous 1978 book Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan which examined the history of the skyscraper through these innovations.

He has written half a dozen works on the evolution of contemporary cities and designed worldwide projects for sites ranging from the Libyan desert to suburban Paris. His firm, the Office for Metropolitan Architects (OMA), has offices in Rotterdam, New York, Beijing, Hong Kong and Doha. "Along with being able to organize a Biennale which did not only focus on contemporary architectural production but also looked at the past and future, my demand to (Biennale President) Baratta, in order to accept his invitation to direct, was to have two years rather than one to organize the exhibit", said Koolhaas.

The extra time was necessary in particular "to invest on diverse ambitions, creating a uniform narrative on a specific theme across various national pavilions". Sixty-five countries will be represented at the exhibit which will be inaugurated at 11 am Saturday with a ceremony to award the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement to Canadian philanthropist Phyllis Lambert. 

Napolitano receives medal of honor, thanks Israeli people

Commitment to fighting anti-semitism is 'integral'

(ANSA) - Rome, June 9 - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano thanked Israel and affirmed his commitment to fighting anti-semitism upon receiving Israel's medal of honor on Monday in Rome. "My continued relationship with Israel and the Jewish people, my determination to combat anti-Semitism and attacks against Israel are an integral part of my anti-fascist commitment", Napolitano said in a statement released by the office of Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Napolitano received the Presidential Medal of Distinction, Israel's highest civilian honor, in a Monday meeting with Peres at Italy's presidential palace. 

Pucci dresses Florence Baptistery

More than 20,000 scarves to cover iconic building

(ANSA) - Florence, June 9 - The city of Florence's iconic Baptistery will be draped in Pucci scarves for its mega fashion event "Florence Hometown of Fashion" in mid-June. The early medieval baptistery, inspiration for generations of architects, will have its eight sides 'dressed' by Florentine native Emilio Pucci for an art installation specifically created for the four-day fashion event.

A monumental Pucci scarf printed in the designer's signature bright colors and geometrical patterns will hang on each side of the octagonal Baptistery, including Pucci's 1957 Baptistery foulard. The more than 21,500 square foot installation is part of Pitti Uomo's annual menswear event from June 16 to 20, which also will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Florence's Center for Italian Fashion. The epynomous fashion house collaborated with the City of Florence, Italian Trade Agency and Economic Development ministry for this project. 

Alitalia set for painful restructuring

Jobs cuts necessary for investment, says Del Torchio

(ANSA) - Rome, June 9 - Italian carrier Alitalia is in for some "painful and arduous" restructuring but should see a deal with Etihad Airways in a matter of weeks, the airline's chief executive officer said Monday.

Gabriele Del Torchio said that changes were necessary to attract essential investment from Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, which he said is prepared to invest 560 million euros in the cash-strapped Alitalia. Del Torchio acknowledged that 2,200 Alitalia employees from a staff of about 14,000 will be laid off as part of the changes demanded by Etihad before it finalizes its investment, likely by July. "There is an absolute need for go through a complex, painful and arduous process of restructuring," he said.

The job cuts are non-negotiable for Etihad, he added. Last week, Italian Labor Minister Giuliano Poletti said that the deal could require the Italian carrier to cut as many as 2,500 jobs and restructure as much as 800 million euros in debt. Poletti will meet on Tuesday with unions to talk about job losses related to the deal, Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi said. Del Torchio said that a tentative pact could be ready to go before the Alitalia board by the end of this week. The negotiations, which have been going on for six months, would see Etihad take a share as large as 49% in Alitalia.

That had triggered concerns with the European Commission, which warned Italian authorities to ensure the United Arab Emirates carrier does not gain a majority holding. EC rules require that majority ownership of European airlines remains in European hands, and last week the Italian government reassured the EC that those rules were being obeyed. Speaking at an aviation conference, Del Torchio said the deal would keep a majority of ownership "in Italy, or rather Europe, since Air France is a partner". "We're not selling the airline to these potential partners in Abu Dhabi, but we want to ally with them," he added. To survive, said Del Torchio, Alitalia must also become more operationally efficient and strengthen its "intercontinental presence" as a carrier known for serving more than Italian and European markets.

Unions have been generally supportive of the investment by Etihad, which will keep the Italian carrier a viable employer, and had said little about the job cuts when these were still rumours. The tie-up would allow Etihad to expand its roots in the lucrative European market while giving new life to Alitalia, which was subject to a government-led bailout last fall - only the latest in a series of restructuring attempts by the carrier as it struggles to remain competitive. Last October, the Italian government engineered a 500-million-euro Alitalia restructuring plan that included a 300-million-euro capital increase and 200 million euros in new lines of credit.

However, major investor Air France-KLM at the time rejected the restructuring plan, saying it did not go far enough to reduce Alitalia's debt - which is also a sticking point for Etihad. According to recent media reports, Etihad has been negotiating with banks that are the major creditors in Alitalia, including Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit, in an effort to see the banks write down a sizeable amount of the Italian airline's debt. Those talks are at an advanced stage, said Del Torchio.

The proposed investment also triggered protests from rival European airlines, which were also upset about last fall's bailout plan that saw Poste Italiane agree to underwrite the October capital increase to the tune of 75 million euros. That triggered complaints from rival European carriers of State aid, an accusation that the Italian government has denied. In February, German airline giant Lufthansa went further calling on the European Commission to halt Etihad's proposed investment in Alitalia, alleging the use of State aid in disguise to break competition rules. 

UN says Italy must not be left alone on migrants

Spokesman calls for 'international response'

(ANSA) - New York, June 9 - A United Nations spokesperson said Monday that Italy must be given more help to cope with the huge of waves of migrants arriving on its shores from North Africa. "The question of migrants in the Mediterranean is not a problem that Italy can face on its own," the spokesperson said. "Italy is supporting a very heavy weight, but it's only an entry point. "There cannot just be a national response, an international response is needed". Italy is having trouble managing after a massive increase this year in the already big flow of migrants who attempt the hazardous crossing from North Africa to Italy.

Minister Angelino Alfano said almost 40,000 migrants landed on Italy's shores in the first five months of this year - almost as many as the total for all of last year. Many thousands more have arrived so far in June after being rescued by Italian authorities as part of the Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) Operation launched after around 400 people were killed on two migrant-boat disasters in October.

Premier Matteo Renzi accused the European Union of looking the other way and not doing enough to help Italy after dozens of people were killed in two new migrant disasters in May. "Europe explains everything about how to catch swordfish, but it turns its head when we go to rescue people in trouble," he said. The government has come under fire over the Mare Nostrum Operation, which some opposition parties say is encouraging people traffickers to increase illegal crossings. 

Soccer: Italy have 'fuel to go all the way' at World Cup

Coach says team now working on speed

(ANSA) - Rio de Janeiro, June 9 - Coach Cesare Prandelli said Monday that Italy's preparatory fitness work means that his team have "the fuel to go all the way" at the World Cup in Brazil.

"Now we'll do speed work and you'll see (the results)," Prandelli told a press conference, a day after his side beat Fluminense 5-3 in their last warm-up match. The star of that encounter was striker Ciro Immobile, who netted a hat-trick. That display led to speculation Immobile, who has moved from Torino to Borussia Dortmund after being Serie A's top scorer last season with 22 goals, could get a starting place up front alongside Mario Balotelli in Italy's opening match against England on Saturday.

Without ruling out that possibility, Prandelli suggested he was unlikely to use two centre-forwards like Immobile and Balotelli together as he needs at least one striker who is able run back and help with defending. "Everything is possible, but with a midfield like ours, I think that it would be complicated from a tactical point of view," the coach said. He added that it would "harakiri" if any of the players who are left on the bench took umbrage and upset team harmony in Brazil. "Everyone knows their role and everyone knows that at the World Cup you can be a star even just for five minutes," Prandelli said. 

Computer fools judges for first time in Turing test

'Eugene Goostman' program played 13-year-old boy

(ANSA) - Rome, June 9 - A computer program has simulated a 13-year-old boy and fooled judges at the Turing test for the first time in history. The program, named Eugene Goostman, was so convincing in its simulation of a Ukrainian tween, that judges believed it was a human boy after a five-minute chat during tests at the Royal Society of London on the weekend. "We are proud to declare that Alan Turing's test was passed for the first time", by a computer, University of Reading professor and event organizer Kevin Warwick said in a press announcement. The test was named for Second World War code-breaker Alan Turing, who designed it in 1950 during his work in early computer programming.

The British scientist invented a question-and-answer test to investigate whether or not humans could detect if they were talking to machines or fellow humans. A successful outcome would be achieved if the computer could trick at least 30% of the human judges during the five-minute keyboard conversation.

The weekend test also marked the 60th anniversary of Turing's death by suicide. Turing, considered one of the fathers of modern computing, killed himself in 1954 following prosecution and chemical treatment for homosexuality. In 2013, the British government granted him a posthumous pardon. The program from "Eugene Goostman" was created by software development engineer Vladimir Veselov and software engineer Eugene Demchenko in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Cibus looks to Expo and beyond after hit food fair

Italian products promoted overseas in World's Fair run-up

(ANSA) - Parma, June 6 - Cibus, Italy's international food trade fair, is ready to wow the world in a series of ongoing and upcoming international events leading up to Milan Expo 2015, organizers announced Friday.

In early May, Cibus held a successful four-day event showcasing mainstream and niche Italian food products and companies to an astounding 67,000 people, including 10,000 foreign buyers form 115 countries. Now, Cibus is building on that success over the next year in a dynamic itinerary of international and local trade fairs, offering a slice of culinary Italy leading up to the World's Fair. In mid-May, Cibus, along with 49 Italian companies, participated at Bangkok's Thaifex food fair, considered a gateway event for its exposure to Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Vietnam.

At the end of October, Cibus returns to Parma for Cibus Tec, an event that focuses on agriculture and technological innovation in the food industry. The October-28-to-31 event will show off food processing as well as packaging. In late November, Beijing's World of Food trade fair will be co-organized by Cibus and food-and-beverage juggernaut Anuga. The November-26-28 event focuses on giving food producers access to the North Chinese market.

Meanwhile at home, preparations have already begun for Federalimentare4Expo, a large pavilion at the upcoming Milan Expo organised by Federalimentare, the association of food enterprises operating under the umbrella of Italy's powerful industrial employers' association Confindustria, in conjunction with Fiere di Parma, which organizes the annual Cibus event. It will host some 500 companies, consortia and institutional organisations representing the best of 'Made in Italy' in the food sector, allowing visitors to discover Italy's agricultural industries and their main players and products, its brands and the entrepreneurs who have created and developed them.

The project contemplates two adjoining three-storey structures extending over a total of 7,000 sqm of exhibition space, located strategically near one of the main entrances to the fair for visitors and sector professionals alike. The interior and exterior decor will tie in with that of the Italy Pavilion, for which the food enterprises pavilion will provide an industrial 'mirror'.

There will be nine theme routes involving 3D-image projections, scenery and other interactive elements dedicated to key sectors in the food industry - milk, cheese and derivative products; vegetable preserves; dressings; flour, pasta and pizza; meat; fish; beverages; sweets; herbs and spices - enabling visitors to discover the historical and cultural patrimony of the products and producers involved. The pavilion will also provide a focus for food-sector relations and events, with its two terraces and a multipurpose room seating 1,500 slated to host around 200 meetings, conventions and other initiatives over the course of the six-month World's Fair. 

Rome art exhibit celebrates female seduction

Gallery shows 130 works on sexual allure from Modigliani to Miro

(ANSA) - Rome, June 6 - The Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna in Rome has opened a new exhibition on the seduction of the female body as portrayed by 20th century masters. Open until October 5, "The form of seduction - The female body in art of the 1900s" shows Man Ray's extraordinary and sensual shots, iconic nudes by Amedeo Modigliani, the sinuous and overflowing lines of Leoncillo Leonardi's glazed ceramics, and the unsettling collages of Enrico Baj among the 130 or so works from the museum's collection. In an effective and compelling rearrangement, the show spotlights not only known masterpieces but also beautiful, little-known testaments to the expressive wealth of Italian art.

Museum superintendent Maria Vittoria Maraini Clarelli on Wednesday presented the show, which opens the gallery's new exhibition season. It is flanked by other important initiatives, such as the Garden of the Soul, an installation by Maria Dompe', painter Flavio de Marco's Stella, and the two versions of Roman Sleep by the Fabrizio Clerici.

The rearrangement of the museum collection starts from an idea of museum official Barbara Tomassi, who focused on a theme - seduction - frequently treated in the museum collection, and yet is always a harbinger of discoveries and interesting reinterpretations The concept, Clarelli explained, allows the display of precious graphic art works, fragile and delicate in themselves, and thus seldom placed on display. The path has been subdivided in five sections dedicated to the different aspects of seduction exerted by the female body, as many artists interpreted the theme. The works converge, however, toward a deforming perspective that expresses its overwhelming, and in some ways subversive, power. 

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Controversial stem-cell treatment gets OK for toddler

'We'll administer Stamina tomorrow'

(ANSA) - Milan, June 6 - A controversial stem-cell treatment will once again be administered in an Italian hospital after being widely discredited, a pediatrician said Friday. "We've gotten the go-ahead from the (Brescia) hospital.

Tomorrow at 10:00 we'll administer Stamina treatment" to a toddler suffering from a brain disease, said Dr. Marino Andolina, the vice president of the Stamina Foundation. The doctor, who will personally apply the treatment, said he received confirmation after a meeting with the head of Brescia's civic hospitals Ezio Belleri. Stamina's credibility has long been suspect, and last fall the health ministry ruled that the Stamina Foundation would no longer be allowed to test the treatment on humans. The foundation was also stripped of its non-profit status after a study found its treatment was "ignorant of stem-cell biology".

Recent investigations have shown risks of the treatment range from nausea to cancer, and as many as one quarter of all patients treated have experienced "adverse effects". The head of the foundation, Davide Vannoni, may face indictment. But support from some patients who have used or requested the treatment remains strong, and a few days ago, a court in the central Marche region ruled that toddler Federico Mezzina could receive Stamina treatment for Krabbe disease. 

Singing nun to return to prayer after winning The Voice

Sister Cristina not considering giving up vows

(ANSA) - Rome, June 6 - A young singing nun, Sister Cristina Scuccia, has vowed to return to her life of prayer, school-teaching and preaching after winning Italy's version of the popular TV talent show The Voice.

The 25-year-old nun thanked God after prevailing in the final of the show on State broadcaster Rai, which ended early on Friday. "My presence here is not down to me, it's thanks to the man upstairs," said the Sicilian nun, known as Suor Cristina after becoming a household name in Italy. "My aim was to say that I have met Jesus. I have a gift and God gave me that gift and I have used it to say that God has taken nothing away from me. "Now I want to return to my priorities, which are prayer, getting up early and teaching at my school. I will never give up on my vows and the greatest love of my life for a singing career".

Scuccia became an Internet sensation after winning over the judges at a blind audition in March with her version of Alicia Keys' No One - the clip of which has received more than 50 million hits on YouTube. After crushing her nearest rival by claiming 62% of the popular vote in the final, she led the audience in reciting the Lord's Prayer.

Her victory gives her a recording contract with Universal. “I'll discuss everything with my superiors," Scuccia said. "Nothing is ruled out in evangelization and we'll take our message out on the streets if necessary. "When I make a disc of my songs, they will be about love and real situations, with language that communicates to everyone". 

Italian television and web productions to get tax credit

Culture minister aims to 'jump start' the industry

(ANSA) - New York, June 6 - Television fiction series, documentaries, animated series and web productions are now included in the Italian culture ministry's tax credit with the goal of "jump starting" the industry, Culture Minister Dario Franceschini announced on Friday. "Extending tax advantages to fiction series will strengthen independent productions and will be further incentive for investments by television stations," Franceschini said following a meeting with Marco Follini, newly elected president of the Television Producers Association APT. "An intervention will serve to jump start the industry, attract foreign investment and facilitate the process of production internationalization and innovation", the minister added.

According to Eleonora Andreatta, director of Italian television station Rai Fiction, the credit will encourage quality productions, artistic talent and even tourism, while making the flailing Italian television industry more internationally competitive. "It may also make the our country competitive again at the European level, attracting foreign productions, with positive effects not only for industry employment, but also for the image of the territory, lifestyle, artistic assets, and therefore general tourism and exports", Andreatta said. The television and web inclusion comes on the heels of the ministry's May announcement that it was doubling a tax credit for foreign filmmakers producing in Italy. 

Alitalia board tells CEO to continue talks on Etihad deal

Airline hook-up could mean job cuts, debt restructuring

(ANSA) - Rome, June 6 - Alitalia's board of directors ended its meeting Friday on a proposed investment by Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad, saying it delegated authority for further talks to the airline's CEO Gabriele Del Torchio. Etihad could invest up to 550 million euros in the cash-strapped Italian carrier.

Reports have suggested the deal would require the Italian carrier to cut as many as 2,500 jobs and restructure as much as 800 million euros in debt. The negotiations, which have been going on for about six months, would see Etihad take a share as large as 49% in Alitalia. That has triggered concerns with the European Commission which warned Italian authorities to ensure the United Arab Emirates carrier does not gain a majority holding.

EC rules required that majority ownership of European airlines remain in European hands and earlier this week, the Italian government reassured the EC that those rules were obeyed. Alitalia's board had originally scheduled Friday's session for a budget review, but it was expected the Etihad bid would take priority. Italian Labour Minister Giuliano Poletti on Tuesday said that between 2,400 and 2,500 layoffs were expected at Alitalia. Poletti was not clear on what jobs would be cut from the airline that employs about 14,000 people.

The Italian government will be involved in any talks related to labour because it will have a role to play through its various lay-off programs that may be required to help blunt the impact of job losses, added Poletti. The tie-up would allow Etihad to expand its roots in the lucrative European market while giving new life to Alitalia, which was subject to a government-led bailout last fall - the latest step in the carrier's attempts to restructure itself over the last several years as it struggles to remain competitive.

In October, the Italian government engineered a 500-million-euro Alitalia restructuring plan that included a 300-million-euro capital increase and 200 million euros in new lines of credit. However, major investor Air France-KLM at the time rejected the restructuring plan, saying it did not go far enough to reduce Alitalia's debt which is also a sticking point for Etihad. According to recent media reports, Etihad has been negotiating with banks that are the major creditors in Alitalia, including Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit, in an effort to see them write down a sizeable amount of the Italian airline's debt.

The proposed investment also triggered protests from rival European airlines, which were also upset about last fall's bailout plan that saw Poste Italiane agree to underwrite the October capital increase to the tune of 75 million euros. That triggered complaints from rival European carriers of State aid, an accusation that the Italian government has denied. In February, German airline giant Lufthansa went further calling on the European Commission to halt Etihad's proposed investment in Alitalia, alleging the use of State aid in disguise to break competition rules. 

Some 2.5 tons of pharmaceuticals dumped in River Po annually

Study says no imminent danger to drinking water supplies

(ANSA) - Milan, June 6 - As many as 2.5 tonnes of pharmaceutical drugs are dumped in the River Po each year, raising the prospect of a potential threat to drinking water supplies in northern Italy, according to the results of a study unveiled Friday. Authorities "must not lower their guard" against the potential impact of the drug dumping since there are no rules or norms preventing the practise, said the experts of the Mario Negri Institute who carried out the study for a project co-financed by the Cariplo Foundation in collaboration with the Milanese Metropolitan company, which is responsible for water services in the northern city.

Among rivers feeding the Po the polluted river Lambro is particularly full of pharmaceutical drugs as well as disinfectants, cosmetics, caffeine and nicotine, the study found. "Our results exclude any risk for the quality and security of the drinking water according to the parameters fixed by law," said Ettore Zuccato, head of the Nutrition Toxicology Laboratory at the Mario Negri Institute.

"One begins however to see links, probably due to man's different interventions in the subsoil, that favour the passage of emerging contaminants, which are increasing significantly. "Putting together protection strategies now would prevent the problems in advance rather than having to face up later to eventual widespread contamination". 

Rare photo suggests Nazis used Italians in Normandy defenses

Italians surrendering to Americans after D-Day puzzle historians

(ANSA) - Rome, June 6 - A rare photograph of Italian troops evidently surrendering to American soldiers on a Normandy battlefield has fuelled speculation about possible Italian military involvement against Allied forces after D-Day. Also surrendering with the Italians in the picture are German soldiers. The Italians in the photo wore military uniforms but some of them wore typical Sicilian "coppola" flat caps favoured by shepherds.

The Italian soldiers were not wearing the insignia of the Republic of Salò, the Nazi puppet government set up in northern Italy under figurehead leadership of Benito Mussolini. One theory is that the Italians were forced labourers known as "Interned Italian Workers". 

Prosecutors ask seven years for former MPS chairman Mussari

Former GM, finance chief face six in alleged bank fraud

(ANSA) - Siena, June 6 - Prosecutors on Friday asked judges to convict and sentence Giuseppe Mussari, the former chairman at troubled Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS), to seven years in prison for fraud. They then asked for six years in prison for former general manager Antonio Vigni and former chief of finance Gianluca Baldassarri. MPS has also been at the center of a judicial investigation into its acquisition of smaller rival Antonveneta in 2008 as well as the derivatives trades the bank allegedly used to conceal losses.

The three are accused of market manipulation, false statements to the market and regulatory obstruction in relation to the Antonveneta deal and the derivatives trades. MPS recapitalized in 2012 and again in January 2013 when news circulated that top management had entered into secret derivatives contracts with Deutsche Bank and Nomura in order to hide estimated losses of between 500 million euros and 750 million euros in two of its divisions. 

Fugitive politician's wife pleads for 'missing' teenage son

Chiara Rizzo says has no idea who is looking after 15-year-old

(ANSA) - Reggio Calabria, June 6 - Chiara Rizzo, the jailed wife of fugitive politician Amedeo Matacena, issued a dramatic appeal for news of her 15-year-old son Friday. "Since I have been detained I have no news of my son, I need help," she told Italian Senator Lucio Barani, who visited her in the Reggio Calabria prison.

Rizzo was extradited from Montecarlo and jailed to stop her helping her husband stay on the run in Dubai. Matacena, a former deputy of the Forza Italia party, was sentenced to five and half years in prison for external aiding and abetting of a Mafia crime gang and is at large in the Middle East. "I don't know if he is with his sister, I don't know who is taking care of him," Rizzo said of her son. Former interior minister Claudio Scajola, 66, is under investigation for helping Matacena evade arrest but the former close associate of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi denies wrongdoing.

Scajola was arrested on May 10 on suspicion that he helped Matacena flee Italian justice after a definitive conviction for links to Calabria's 'Ndrangheta mafia. Matacena said he would return to Italy only if his case is put before Europe's Court of Human Rights as well as Italy's high Cassation Court. 

Soccer: Prandelli says team will give country 'sign of hope'

'National inspiration for change' says Italy coach

(ANSA) - Mangaratiba, June 6 - Italian national soccer team coach Cesare Prandelli said Friday he has "great optimism" about his players' performance in the World Cup championship. “I think of the work we have done and what we have to do," he told his first news conference after arriving in Brazil, "my state of mind becomes enchanted by very great optimism". "We have to become a team and be daring on the pitch," he added.

"Right now many people compare the national side to those who have to give a sign of change," Prandelli said in an apparent reference to the government of Premier Matteo Renzi. "We have a further responsibility - to show how when Italians are in difficulty they know how to make a team and see hope. And also - why not? - to be better than the others," said Prandelli.