sabato 19 luglio 2014

Milan Expo 2015 starts looking to post-fair future

Arexpo chair hopes AC Milan still interested in new stadium

(ANSA) - Milan, July 18 - A tender will be approved Friday to find a developer for the Milan Expo 2015 site after the close of the food-themed world fair, which runs May 1 - October 31 2015. Milan Expo 2015 is focused on food security, sustainable practices, nutrition - and dishing out the best of global culinary cultures.
Organizers hope to attract 20 million visitors, so the 100-hectare site is being endowed with infrastructure to accommodate large flows of people. Local government is keen on a sports-oriented redevelopment of the site after Expo's conclusion. The company controlled by local government that owns the site, Arexpo, welcomed Serie A soccer team AC Milan's expression of interest in March to build a new stadium there.
Milan currently pay the local council to use the San Siro Stadium, which they share with city rivals Inter, on match days. Lombardy Governor Roberto Maroni said in March he was also in talks with the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) to propose a special sports enclave for the site. Publication of the call for bids is expected by the end of July or the beginning of August. The maximum bid expected for the site near Milan's massive Rho Pero exhibition centre is 330 million euros. ''Beyond this figure would have been unthinkable for the market,'' said Luciano Pilotti, chairman of Arexpo. Areaxpo is jointly controlled by the city of Milan, the region of Lombardy, with a 34.67% share each, and by the Fondazione Fiera di Milano - owner of Milan's exhibition centre - which has a 27.66% stake. The province of Milan owns 2%, and the city of Rho holds 1%.
Pilotti said the necessary documents for the tender are ready and just awaiting a decision on the minimum bid. ''It shouldn't be very far off from the one indicated on our feasibility study,'' said Pilotti - or 313 million euros. ''(Bids) could go up to 320-330 million euros, but not over that because it would become unthinkable for the market''.
Pilotti called the proposal to build a new soccer stadium for the Milan's Serie A team AC Milan ''an interesting and important hypothesis for the development of the area''. AC Milan was the only entity to meet the Arexpo's requirements in an expression of interest for a March 2014 deadline. ''AC Milan S.p.A. has expressed an interest in the construction of a European model football stadium, with a capacity for 60,000 spectators,'' said Arexpo Managing Director Cecilia Felicetti at the time. ''We hope that the company confirms its interest,'' said Pilotti. The governor of Lombardy in March asked CONI President Giovanni Malago' to come up with a proposal for a 'sports citadel' after the world fair is dismantled. ''Today marks the first step for the post-Expo future,'' said Maroni at a conference on sports initiatives to support Milan Expo 2015 in March. Work on the future development must begin by June 30, 2016. 

130,000 sign up for Youth Guarantee job program

14% of applicants have already been called up for jobs

(ANSA) - Rome, July 18 - Some 130,000 Italian youths have signed up for the EU Youth Guarantee program since its Italian launch in May, Italy's labour ministry reported on Friday. Nearly 14% of the under 30-year-olds registered in the Youth Guarantee program have already been called up for jobs, according to the ministry. The Youth Guarantee is seen as much-needed assistance in Italy, where unemployment for under-25s is more than 40%. The program targets unemployed people under the age of 30 in its objective of quality job placement, further education, or work-focused training. The ministry reported that while more than half of jobs are in Italy's north, the majority of the applicants come from Italy's southern regions, Campania and Sicily, in particular, with most looking for fixed-term contracts instead of the hard-to-come by open-ended contract.
According to the ministry, 56% of applicants had a high school diploma, though nearly a quarter of the applicants did not have secondary education, while only 20% had higher degrees. Half of all applicants were between 19 and 24 years while 44% were in the 25 to 29 year old age bracket and 6% under 19. Youth Guarantee has a two-year budget of 1.513 billion euros, with 1.134 billion euros in EU funding and the rest financed by Rome. Resources are allocated to Italy's regions, with 100 million euros to be withheld by the labor ministry for educational orientation and intervention in cases where regions can't place applicants. 

Italy's Mare Nostrum saves 3,510 lives in past 48 hrs

Refugees and asylum seekers from Eritrea, Syria, and others

(ANSAmed) - Rome, July 18 - Italy's Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) migrant search and rescue operation has saved 3,510 lives in the past two days, officials said Friday. The Etna navy supply ship is carrying a total of 2,128 refugees rescued off various boats in distress, including 574 people rescued Thursday night when their vessel began taking on water. A coast guard vessel on Friday brought 251 Nigerian and Syrian refugees to the resort town of Pozzallo, which is located on the south-eastern tip of Sicily, facing northern Africa. The 224 men, 25 women, three of them pregnant, and two minors were rescued off an 18-meter wooden boat 40 miles off the Libyan city of Tripoli.
As well, two Italian navy vessels are currently taking to Sicily a total of 1,194 people that were rescued in the past 36 hours, with additional help from two civilian vessels. Another 1,278 migrants from Eritrea, Somalia, Syria and Pakistan have arrived on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, which is the first landfall for boats sailing from north Africa. Among them are at least 176 women and 30 children, said Save the Children child welfare NGO. A total of 1,171 asylum seekers, half of them Eritrean, reached the city of Trapani on Thursday, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The rest are from Gambia, Ivory Coast, Mali, Nigeria, Palestine, Senegal, Syria, Togo. "A total of 67,000 migrants and asylum seekers have reached Italy since the beginning of the year, including over 6,500 unaccompanied children," said IOM mission chief José Angel Oropeza. "They include many victims of human trafficking," Oropeza went on. The IOM has set up anti-trafficking teams in Puglia and Sicily to help identify and protect victims of exploitation, he said. 

Free opera at Caracalla theater due to strike

After talks broke down between unions and management

(ANSA) - Rome, July 18 - Rome's Opera Theater said that Friday's performance of the Boheme at the Caracalla open-air theater will be piano-only and free of charge, because theater staff have gone on strike. "Showtime is at 9pm and entrance will be free of charge until all 4,000 seats are taken, while tickets will be fully reimbursed," theater management said.
Talks between unions and management broke down earlier on Friday because "the Opera Theater is unwilling to sign an inclusive agreement, even though we represent half of the Opera Theater staff," FIALS-CISAL union said. The theater condemned the strike as "a choice made by a minority group, which however manages to affect the entire show". 

Gere coming to Giffoni's kids film fest

Children from 50 countries to judge contenders

(ANSA) - Giffoni Valle Piana, July 18 - The red carpet of the Giffoni Children's Film Festival has hosted plenty of A-list celebrities. These include the likes Robert De Niro, Oliver Stone, Meryl Streep, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons, John Travolta, Wim Wenders, Meg Ryan, Kathy Bates, Krzystof Kieslowsky, Roman Polanski, Emir Kusturica, Jon Voight, Susan Sarandon, Edward Norton, Nicolas Cage, Mira Sorvino, Naomi Watts, Winona Ryder, Danny de Vito, Sergio Leone, Sacha Baron Cohen, Giancarlo Giannini, and Ugo Tognazzi, just to name a few.
Starting on Friday and running through July 27, the Giffoni Film Festival brings children's films to the centre stage. The small town of Giffoni Valle Piana, 40 kilometers from Salerno, whose name is now synonymous with filmmaking, will host the festival's 44th edition, and this year another great Hollywood star, Richard Gere, will be making an appearance as a guest. Over the years, the number of children serving as jurors has grown to reach 3,500; other guests were announced on social media. The "meet & greet" tickets, where the public meets the stars, sold out in record time of under eight minutes. Many of the guests were invited based on recommendations that came from among the film festival's 33,700 Twitter followers and 103,000 Facebook fans, making the film festival's page the most interactive in the world.
The most eagerly awaited guests are Alan Rickman, who plays Headmaster of Hogwarts Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series; Lea Michele who plays the talented Rachel Berry in the popular TV series Glee; Matt Bomer, star of White Collar; Dylan O'Brien, star of TV series Teen Wolf and film The Maze Runner; Ryan Guzman, star of Step Up All In, which will have its Italian premier at the festival; and Micaela Riera, taking the reigns from Violetta on the Disney Channel in Cata e i misteri della sfera, an Italian-dubbed version of the Spanish-language Argentinian series Senales del fin del mundo. The turning point for the children's film festival came when Francois Truffaut, who visited this small town in Campania in 1982, wrote in an open letter: "Of all the film festivals, Giffoni is the most necessary." Children from 50 different countries across all seven continents turn the Giffoni Film Festival into an extraordinary life experience and friendship-building experience for the young jurors. 

Merkel says Renzi coop 'excellent', no comment on Mogherini

Rome faces barriers in bid to see foreign minister take EU post

(ANSA) - Berlin, July 18 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that she had good relations with Premier Matteo Renzi but refused to comment on Rome's bid to have Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini nominated as the EU's new high representative for foreign affairs. "We cooperate with Matteo Renzi in an excellent way," Merkel told a press conference when asked about Mogherini, while stressing that she did not want to comment on the names of possible candidates for the foreign-policy job.
European Union leaders are set to meet for a new summit to seek to find an agreement on top EU positions on August 30, after this week's meeting in Brussels ended in stalemate. The foreign-policy post is set to go to a representative from Europe's Socialist bloc, which Renzi's Democratic Party (PD) belongs to, as part of the deal that saw Jean Claude Juncker - the candidate of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) - nominated as president of the European Commission.
Renzi has been pushing for Mogherini and has won the support of the Socialist bloc. But 10-11 countries are reportedly against Mogherini, above all Poland and other Eastern European countries, on the grounds that she is too inexperienced and may be soft on Russia. Mogherini, 41, became foreign minister in February after Renzi unseated his PD colleague Enrico Letta to take the helm of government. 

Berlusconi supporters hail Ruby sex case acquittal

'Will smooth the path of reform' says Interior Minister Alfano

(ANSA) - Rome, July 18 - Supporters of former premier Silvio Berlusconi on Friday hailed his acquittal on appeal in the so-called Ruby sex case after a Milan court overturned a seven-year prison term he was handed for paying for sex with an underage prostitute named Ruby and abusing his power to try to cover up the affair.
"The sentence is just, fair, and objective," said Mariastella Gelmini, the deputy whip for Berlusconi's center-right Forza Italia (FI) party in the Lower House. "The judges didn't give in to propaganda and intense pressure on every level". Berlusconi and his supporters have repeatedly said that two decades of legal battles that started after he embarked on a political career are part of a plot by left-wing elements in the judiciary to eliminate him from Italy's public life. "Berlusconi acquitted. Finally. One more reason to ask for justice system reform and civil responsibility for judges," tweeted Daniele Capezzone (FI), who chairs the House finance committee. "I'm happy for Berlusconi because he's a friend...even though I criticized him at the time for making the phone call in person," said Lombardy Governor Roberto Maroni, whose anti-immigrant, separatist Northern League party is an erstwhile government ally of the former premier. Judges in the first-instance trial had found Berlusconi guilty of personally calling a police official and pressuring him to spring Ruby, who was 17 at the time, from jail.

Berlusconi's acquittal "is a boost to institutional and electoral reforms," Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, who is from the New Center Right (NCD) party, said in a note. The NCD was formed when pro-government doves left Berlusconi's ranks. Current efforts by center-left Premier Matteo Renzi to reform Italy's ineffective electoral law are the result of an agreement between his Democratic Party (PD) and Berlusconi's FI.

giovedì 17 luglio 2014

Farmers endure Mafia threats over seized land - Europe - Al Jazeera English

Farmers endure Mafia threats over seized land - Europe - Al Jazeera English

Who is responsible for protecting migrants? - Inside Story - Al Jazeera English

Who is responsible for protecting migrants? - Inside Story - Al Jazeera English

Milan to host new Fashion Film Festival - Design - Fashion-news

Milan to host new Fashion Film Festival - Design - Fashion-news

Trial requested for Vannoni over Stamina therapy

Treatment discredited by experts, may have adverse effects

(ANSA) - Turin, July 17 - Turin prosecutors on Wednesday requested that Davide Vannoni be indicted along with 12 others over his controversial Stamina therapy, which has been discredited after supporters said it offered hope for sufferers of some rare degenerative diseases. The charges against Vannoni include the extremely serious offence of criminal association.

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 reported that as many as one-quarter of all patients treated have experienced "adverse effects". In April, after study results became known, hospitals in Italy announced they had suspended the stem-cell treatment program. However, some local judges have ruled in favor of its application, despite the bans, amid heavy pressure from advocates and the families of patients.

The Stamina treatment involves extracting bone-marrow stem cells from a patient, supposedly turning them into neurons by exposing them to retinoic acid for two hours, and injecting them back into the patient. Supporters of the therapy thought it could be a cure for fatal degenerative nerve diseases such as spinal muscular atrophy.

A panel of experts appointed by Italy's health ministry said in January it found the therapy seriously lacking in both premise and practice. Their report cited "serious imperfections and omissions in the Stamina protocol, including conceptual errors and an apparent ignorance of stem-cell biology". A preliminary hearings judge will start deliberations on whether to indict Vannoni and the other suspects on November 4. 

Azerbaijan to help fund Rome Imperial Forum project

'Seeking more donors' for four-mln-euro project says Rome mayor

(ANSA) - Rome, July 17 - The Republic of Azerbaijan has announced it will donate one million euros to fund the initial phase of the excavation of Rome's Imperial Forum. Mayor Ignazio Marino is hoping to raise additional funds from Italian and international donors to complete the ambitious two-year project, which has a total budget of four million euros. If successful, it will redraw the map of the Eternal City by ripping up a busy road routed through a vast archaeological site by the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Marino's idea is to reunite the excavated Roman Forum and the imperial forums of Trajan, Augustus, Caesar and Nerva into one great archaeological park. The archeology-loving mayor last year amid much controversy strictly limited traffic on the Via dei Fori Imperiali, which runs along the Forum to the Colosseum, making it pedestrian-only from June 28 to August 31 this year.

The first phase of the project will dig under the Via Alessandrina, a pedestrian road that runs from Trajan's column to Via Cavour in the valley between the Capitoline and Quirinale hills. "The area below the road surface will be fully excavated to reunite it with Trajan's Forum for the first time. We believe we'll find sculptures and key architectural fragments," said city archeology superintendent, Claudio Parisi Presicce. In ancient Rome, the forums were commercial, legal, social and religious centers. Each was built as an extension of the original Roman Forum, constructed at the end of the first century BC by Julius Caesar. Emperors Augustus, Vespasian, Nerva and Trajan built successive forums, through 113 AD.

The Azerbaijani donation means Rome can put out a tender for bids within six months, the mayor said. "We hope to raise additional funding in the coming months," Marino said. "We are in the final stages of talks with both Italian and foreign philanthropists. This is not the first time Azerbaijan has pitched in to help take care of Rome's cultural heritage: in October, the Hall of the Philosophers at Rome's Capitoline Museum reopened after a six-month, 100,000-euro renovation courtesy of the country on the Caspian Sea. 

Weidmann wishes Italy success on reform program

'I wasn't meddling, but speaking from a European standpoint'

(ANSA) - Berlin, July 17 - German central bank president Jens Weidmann on Wednesday wished the Italian government well in its planned structural reforms. Weidmann's comments came just weeks after he called for "fewer words and more deeds" from Italy, sparking remarks from Italian Premier Matteo Renzi that the Bundesbank shouldn't meddle with Italian politics. "I commented on the obvious: the significance of solid finances and binding budget rules for a stable euro," Weidmann told Die Welt daily. "As a member of the European Central Bank it's my job to take a stand from a European perspective. That's not unjustified meddling in a purely national matter," he said.

The German central banker went on to say that necessary reforms tends to get delayed whenever a politician or a party falls out of popular favor in the short term. "As a central bank, we have a vested interest in maintaining the rules of stability," Weidmann explained. "The crisis is proof of where we end up when countries don't respect treaties and lose faith".

Monetary policy has bought time for governments to enact structural reforms and balance their budgets. If lawmakers waste this time, the debt crisis could well make a comeback, he warned. "Calling for the rules to be respected is not the same as knocking the bottom out," Weidmann said. 

'Unconventional' Barber of Seville to debut in Rome

Rossini's beloved opera gets early Hollywood interpretation

(ANSA) - Rome, July 17 - An "unconventional" Barber of Seville will debut at Rome's Baths of Caracalla on July 23, officials said Wednesday. American director Lorenzo Mariani, in collaboration with Rome's Teatro dell'Opera, will present an innovative interpretation of Rossini's comedic opera, setting it in early 20th-century Hollywood instead of 17th-century Spain. "The world of musicals and silent film has a lot in common with Rossini in the perfection and in the beauty of its form. Although we are not conventional, we will not betray the essence of his work," Mariani promised.

Rome's recent inclement weather and orchestra strike did not deter Mariani, who had high praise for the production company. "I know that times are hard, but I found nothing but collaboration and professionalism, and I worked in the best of conditions". Italian choreographer Luciano Cannito was chosen to interpret the work of Rossini, whom Mariani called "a true revolutionary of his time".

The cast includes mezzo-soprano Annalisa Stroppa, tenor Renè Barbera and baritone Vito Priante, with Maestro Stefano Montanari leading the orchestra and chorus. The Barber of Seville closes August 8. 

US pavilion, Food 2.0, breaks ground at Expo 2015 site

World Fair will strengthen US-Italy trade ties, Kerry says

(ANSA) - Milan, July 17 - "Buongiorno tutti". With these words US Secretary of State John Kerry, in a live video connection from Washington, D.C., on Wednesday kicked off the official ground-breaking ceremony for the building of the US Pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015 site. After briefly joking that attendees of the ceremony in Italy were "enjoying an aperitivo" while those at the State Department in Washington were not, Kerry immediately got down to business pointing out that Expo 2015 is a key occasion for US firms to showcase their food technology and the country's food culture. He then pointed out how the Expo theme of "feeding the planet" is especially dear to the Barack Obama administration, which sees in "food security" one of its key foreign policy objectives. Milan Expo 2015 "is not just a fair celebrating food," Kerry said, "it's much more visionary".

Every previous Universal Fair has been about innovation, with the introduction of products ranging from dishwashers to wall sockets and even to ice cream cones, he explained. "In Milan innovation will come to the fore," Kerry said, adding that Expo had set itself the ambitious goal of tackling the issue of how to feed a vastly expanded global population in a sustainable way. By 2050 the global population will reach some nine billion, Kerry said, pointing out that climate change is "making agriculture harder and scientists are saying we need to boost food production 60% with sustainable means… We need to get there, but we can't without sharing best practices". Expo is a key way to "share what we know," the Secretary of State said. Not only is Expo a key innovation sharing opportunity; it is also an excellent business platform. Kerry said the fair was "a way of dramatically expanding US business opportunities overseas and Italian business opportunities in the US" as well as being a driver of employment opportunities. "The greatest trade relationship in the world - between the US and Europe - will be expanded," Kerry said. "Milan is a hub for business and culture, a perfect place for this Expo to take place," he added, concluding with an Italian expression: "Batti il ferro mentre è caldo (strike while the iron is hot). My friends, the iron is hot." Other speakers - both American and Italian - took the stage at the developing fairgrounds to talk about US participation in Expo 2015 and Food 2.0, the official name of the US Pavilion.

From Washington, David Thorne, US ambassador to Italy from 2009-2013 and currently Kerry's Senior Advisor, pointed out that the US presence was a public-private partnership, with corporate sponsors paying for the building and running of the pavilion. Thorne thanked private sponsors on both sides of the Atlantic for their participation, pointing out that the US government doesn't grant public funds to events like Expo. The groundbreaking event - especially in D.C. - was also meant as a way to encourage more private sector sponsors to participate. John Phillips, the current US ambassador to Italy, then took the podium at the Expo site, under a huge American flag and with ceremonial shovel in hand, and proclaimed: "Let the building begin. It starts now, today".

Speaking about the contents of Food 2.0 Phillips said the pavilion will showcase the ability of US firms and agricultural technology to drive Expo's mission. "We hope its impact will last beyond the six months" of the fair. Phillips pointed out that the US is in an excellent position to help the world, for US farmers produce about 25% of global food supplies. "Our theme aims to foster awareness about US food in all its respects," said Phillips, including its entrepreneurial aspects. "Food 2.0 is about food that is good for you, nutritious, delicious," the ambassador said. Phillips added his voice to Kerry's in pointing out that "US pavilion is also about dramatically expanding trade opportunities, especially with Europe" and that it would serve as a showcase for US firms. Giuseppe Sala, the Italian government's Commissioner for Expo 2015 and the CEO of Expo 2015, said "I learned a lot listening to Mr Kerry's speech... I am excited to see that today the Expo site is dressed in the Stars and Stripes." Sala said that "today, with the US, 19 countries are ready to start building." Among other guests, Lombardy Governor Roberto Maroni pointed out: "Over the years, the US has pushed itself with battles against obesity and waste and promoted sustainability," while Milan Mayor Giuliano Pisapia said "today is a day of joy".

Expo 2015 "talks to the world," Pisapia said, "and for this occasion the US couldn't be missing." Jerry Giaquinta, senior advisor and member of the board of directors of Friends of the USA Pavilion Milano 2015 - the organization raising funds for the US participation - said that Expo will serve as "a place for discussion". He added: "during the six months of Expo 2015, Food 2.0 will foster common ground across the food spectrum. America has much to offer, technologically and culturally". Giaquinta also released the names of some of the leading corporate sponsors for the US pavilion: GE, Uvet, Dupont, 3M, McKinsey and Illy. "We still have much to do," said Giaquinta, who declined to comment on the budget for the project but said "it's a number we feel we can reach... it's a good investment".

In a profile released by the Expo press office of Simone Crolla, the managing director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy, the overall investment for "the realization of the project" is put at US$ 50 million. In a short interview on site with ANSA, the CEO of GE's Italian unit, Sandro De Poli, said that GE was investing some US$ 5.0 million in the construction of the pavilion. De Poli said GE's involvement wasn't only financial, stressing that the company was seeking to find "ways to make a concrete contribution." He pointed out that GE is already involved in food-related projects, including energy intensive greenhouse cultivation in the Netherlands and in developing water treatment technologies - "all technologies which are present in the company". De Poli reiterated the challenge of boosting food production to feed 50% more people on the planet by 2050 while arable land supply won't increase by much. "Yields have to increase. The model has to be rethought," he said. 

Pompeii' 105-mn-euro revamp 'ready by 2015' say ministers

Italy accepts EU criticism on spending delays on historic site

(ANSA) - Pompeii, July 17 - Cultural Minister Dario Franceschini pledged the Italian government will catch up on delays in restoring and revamping the Pompeii archaeological site and treat completing the ambitious 105-million-euro Great Pompeii Project as a "national challenge". "The challenge of Pompeii is a challenge for the nation," Franceschini said. Cabinet Undersecretary Graziano Delrio for his part said, "We accept the challenge to make good the delays. There have been delays and we don't deny it." Franceschini and Delrio made their remarks as they signed an agreement with European Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn for a joint action plan between the Commission and the Rome government to accelerate work on the Great Pompeii Project safeguarding the unique site created when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, preserving the entire city in ash.

Hahn for his part insisted that the restoration work must be completed by the end of next year, underlining that so far only 25% of the 105 million euros in funds earmarked for the ruins have been used by the Italian government and only 1.5 million euros actually spent. Delrio said that government projects involving spending of over 50 million euros often take as long as nine years to complete in Italy but stressed that in the case of Pompeii the timetable will be respected.

Giovanni Nistri, director of the Great Project, said that his team are considering instituting work during vacations and shifts from dawn to dusk and even working at night to meet the deadlines demanded by Brussels. Official sources said the lengthy tendering procedure used for work on the archaeological site in the past will be streamlined, meaning that companies will be assigned integrated contracts rather than separate tendering being practised for every phase of an individual project.

The Great Project was suspended at one stage after an appeal against the company that won the main tender. In April heavy rains led to several reports of collapsed walls, soon after UNESCO warnings that the miraculously preserved ancient city could "completely fall apart" and lose its world heritage status unless urgent action was taken. That triggered government pledges to speed up tendering for work on other new surveillance and protection measures for the site. There has been a long and worrying catalogue of bits of Pompeii falling off. For example, in November 2010 the House of the Gladiators came down, prompting Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to say: "This is a disgrace for the whole of Italy". 

Renzi meets with M5S, says not far from election deal

'Our positions not so far apart after all' the premier says

(ANSA) - Rome, July 17 - Premier Matteo Renzi and representatives of his Democratic Party (PD) met with members of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) for a second time on Thursday to discuss electoral reform in what both sides said was a fruitful encounter. "The meeting went well, we found possible openings on many points," Renzi said. The meeting was scheduled after the M5S complained that Renzi had not gotten back to them after an encounter last month over the bill, which is the result of an agreement between Renzi's PD and Silvio Berlusconi's opposition centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party.

Renzi is hoping to see the new election law passed by the end of this year and is seeking the broadest possible consensus on the "rules of the game". The bill, which sets out to replace the dysfunctional system that contributed to the inconclusive outcome to last year's general election and was declared unconstitutional, sets bars for small parties to force them into alliances and limit their veto power, and provides a 15% winner's bonus for a coalition that gets 37% to ensure it has a working majority in parliament.

It also contemplates a run-off vote for the bonus seats if no coalition reaches the 37% threshold. The M5S has presented an alternative bill. The two sides disagree on whether voters get to choose candidates as well as parties: the M5S does, but the PD took that off the table on request of Berlusconi. "We're interested in stability," M5S MP Luigi di Maio said. "We believe parties not coalitions should get a run-off vote for bonus seats, because coalitions are unstable," added his colleague Danilo Toninelli. "I believe our positions are not so far apart after all," Renzi told M5S representatives. "I love Toninelli's idea, but other parties may not".

For the first time since M5S leader Beppe Grillo dropped his hardline stance maintaining that his party would never bargain with established parties, the M5S offered Renzi an alliance on the floor to push reforms through. "With our votes and yours, we could make ballot preferences (for single candidates) and the removal of parliamentary immunity into law," Di Maio suggested. 

'Ndrangheta crime boss Palamara arrested on motorway

Underworld kingpin long-sought for international drug trade

(ANSA) Reggio Calabria, July 17 - Police arrested Thursday long-sought 'Ndrangheta crime family boss Bruno Palamara on charges of operating a vast drug smuggling ring supplying Belgium, Holland and Germany from his base in Calabria, police said.

Palamara, 51, tried to escape detection by showing a counterfeit document in a false name when stopped by flying squad and undercover officers while he was being driven by an accomplice in a car on the A3 Salerno to Calabria motorway, officers said. Palamara is considered the head of the clan of the same name operating in the towns of Africo, Bianco and Brancaleone in the province of Reggio Calabria, police sources said. 

Alitalia and unions in tough talks on labor costs

CGIL,CISL sign contract to facilitate Etihad deal but not UIL

(ANSA) - Rome, July 17 - The CGIl and CISL trade union federations signed Thursday a new collective contract and job cut scheme as part of a plan for Etihad to buy a 49% stake in Alitalia, but the UIL federation declined to sign the deal.

The smaller UGL union also declined to sign the accord. The complex agreement climaxing months of tough negotiations involves reducing labour costs worth 31 million euros over the last five months of 2014 by laying off more than 1,000 workers. UIL Secretary General Claudio Tarlazzi said "there are serious problems of legitimacy on what they are signing. We propose a referendum" of Alitalia employees.

Earlier the left-wing CGIL refused to sign a separate preliminary agreement to lay off 1,635 workers some of whom would be moved to other aviation companies. Despite that CGIL reluctance Labour Minister Giuliano Poletti claimed union resistance was crumbling. "I believe all the conditions are in place for wrapping up the deal," Poletti said. "The problem with CGIL mainly concerns the agreement on how to manage the layoffs," he added.

Originally the Abu Dhabi airline Etihad demanded 2,251 employees be laid off. "With the agreement of all the other organisations and the partial agreement of CGIL, I think the conditions are in place (to close the 560-million-euro deal)," Poletti claimed. Alitalia CEO Gabriele del Torchio cautioned that "Alitalia is dying. I believe that this evening we will find an agreement". The Italian government sees the deal as Alitalia's last chance to survive following a 500-million-euro bailout package last autumn. However, it comes with stiff conditions, including the job cuts and restructuring of the airline's debt, estimated by some at 800 million euros.

The unions have been locked in difficult negotiations with the government and the airline over proposed job cuts, contract agreements and reductions to labour costs. Over the weekend unions reached an agreement to lay off 1,635 workers - compared to the 2,251 job cuts that were initially touted - in a preliminary deal that would see some staff being moved to other aviation companies. CGIL subsequently said it would not give its backing to the deal.

martedì 15 luglio 2014

Juncker promises package for jobs, growth

Former Luxembourg premier set to be voted in as EC President

(ANSA) - Rome, July 15 - Former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean Claude Juncker has promised to present an "ambitious programme for jobs, growth and investment" if the European Parliament ratifies his nomination as the new president of the European Commission later on Tuesday. Juncker said the package would "mobilise up to 300 billion euros in three years" in a speech he will give in the parliament's Strasbourg assembly ahead of a vote to ratify his nomination made by a summit of EU leaders last month.

He added that the top priorities of his new commission would be to "reinforce competitiveness and stimulate investments". The speech seems to move in the direction demanded by Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, who at the summit said his backing of Juncker was conditional on him putting greater stress on growth and combatting unemployment after years of painful austerity. Juncker also moved to meet Italian demands by pledging to nominate a commissioner for immigration.

Italy has complained the EU is not doing enough to help it cope with its migrant crisis and a series of boat disasters after over 60,000 people from North Africa arrived on its shores this year. "The problems of immigration belong to all of Europe, not just the countries of the south (of the EU)," the speech reads, saying there is a need for a "new EU policy for legal immigration". He added that the EU will not admit any new members for five years and called on member states to to "renounce nationalism.. because in the EU we all win or lose together". 

'Italy will only buy F35s if they're safe' says Pinotti

Italy defense minister says 'problems must be resolved'

(ANSA) - Farnborough, July 15 - Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said Tuesday Italy will only go through with a deal to acquire latest-generation F35s fighter planes from aerospace manufacturer Lockheed Martin if they're safe. "We won't buy anything that isn't ultra safe for the pilots. If there are problems, they need to be resolved," the minister said at the ongoing Farnborough Air Show. The Pentagon has authorized its F35s to take to the skies once more for test flights after grounding them early in July after a June 23 runway fire forced a pilot to abort takeoff at a Florida air base.

Italy in 2012 announced plans to cut its order to 90 from the 131 jets originally agreed to in 2002, saving the country some five billion euros. But there have been calls from some, including the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), for Italy to scrap the order completely. Italy's Lower House defence committee in May okayed petition calling on the government to cut its budget for the F-35s by 50%.

Lockheed Martin said in a statement that it estimates the cost of the aircraft at about $108 million each, engine included. Allies including the United States have urged Italy to maintain its plans to buy 90 of the aircraft, as Renzi's government looks for ways to reallocate its spending from lower-priority to higher-priority items.

Earlier this week, John R. Phillips, the United States ambassador to Rome, said that because Italy has a strategic role in regional defence, it must go ahead with its F-35 fighter-jet purchase plan. "I have recently been to the United States," Pinotti eplained. "We talked about everything, and there was a consensus that Italy is a key ally and has always made important choices to sustain this alliance," she concluded. 

Police uncover abuse at centre for autistic youth

Secret recordings show beatings, confinement at day centre

(ANSA) - Rome, July 15 - Five educators working at a centre for children and young people suffering from autism were arrested Tuesday for allegedly abusing the youngsters in their care. The centre's coordinator Roberto Colucci, 47, and staffers Rossana Raponi, 53, Maria Romana Bastiani, 46, Susan Ciaccioni, 43, and Luciana D'Amario, 53, now face possible mistreatment and abduction charges in connection with the alleged abuse at the Casa di Alice, a rehabilitation centre for autistic youngsters aged between 8 and 20 in the seaside town of Grottammare in the central Marche region. The arrests were ordered on the basis of video recordings made using hidden cameras that showed the educators manhandling the youngsters and shutting them up in a confined space.

Run by a social cooperative on behalf of the local municipal authorities, the centre was held up as the flagship of an experimental project aiming to "improve the relationship of autistic youngsters with external reality through behavioral-educational interventions". Undercover investigators focused on use of the so-called 'containment room', an unfurnished space measuring 7-8 square meters with a small closed window in which the youngsters were allegedly locked up systematically for no apparent reason, and where they were also left to urinate.

In one piece of footage a boy could be seen lying on the floor bare-chested, while another wearing a sweatshirt was dragged inside by an educator and locked in; he tried desperately to get someone to open the door, but no-one came. The young victims "showed a total absence of violent behaviour or actions that might justify their 'containment', sometimes for several hours at a time, inside that room, where they were sometimes stripped naked by the educators and forced to wet themselves," investigators said. Meanwhile the 'containment room' has been sealed by police. 

Sollecito analyzes Kercher murder case in university thesis

Young murder convict obtains second degree before appeal

(ANSA) - Perugia, July 15 - Raffaele Sollecito, who was convicted along with former girlfriend Amanda Knox of killing Meredith Kercher, graduated Tuesday from Verona University with a degree in computer engineering. In his thesis, which he wrote in English and defended in Italian, he analyzed social networks, including the numbers of those who favored or opposed his conviction.

This is the second degree for Sollecito, who graduated from Perugia University while in custody during his first murder trial, in 2008. Knox and Sollecito were initially convicted of the murder at the original trial in Perugia in 2009 and served a total of four years in prison including pre-trial custody. That conviction was overturned on appeal two years later, but in 2013 Italy's supreme court ordered a repeat of the appeals trial, saying evidence linking Knox and Sollecito to the murder scene had not been properly considered. In January, the Florence court sentenced Knox to 28 and a half years in prison and Sollecito to 25 years.

A third person convicted of the killing in a separate fast-track proceeding, Rudy Guede, a drifter from the Ivory Coast, is serving 16 years in prison. Knox and Sollecito, both of whom have steadfastly proclaimed their innocence, are appealing to Italy's highest court. Sollecito is free pending the result of that appeal. Knox was convicted the second time in absentia, and is living in the United States. 

Piccione wins Vogue fashion talent-scouting competition

Quaranta, Persechino among designers showing collections

(ANSA) - Rome, July 15 - Sicilian designer Salvatore Piccione has won the tenth edition of fashion talent-scouting competition Who Is On Next?, co-sponsored by Vogue Italia and the organizers of Rome's bi-annual haute couture shows AltaRoma. The designer behind edgy brand Piccione.Piccione has previously worked with Mary Katrantzou for Swarovski, Topshop, and Longchamp, and has freelanced for leading French brand Céline.

The designer, who describes his style as "dynamic, colorful and feminine", currently works for London-based brand Hobbs as well as for the label he created in Milan in 2012. He won the sought-after prize awarded annually to up-and-coming international talents with a capsule collection of clothes intricately embroidered with flowers in a colorful palette. "It was a difficult decision, as the quality of competitors has increased," Vogue Italia Editor-in-Chief Franca Sozzani said Monday.

The jury who picked the winner included former International Herald Tribune fashion journalist Suzy Menkes, who now works as an international fashion editor for Condé Nast, Daniela Agnelli, fashion director of the Telegraph magazine, and Beppe Angiolini, president of the Italian chamber of fashion buyers. Israeli designer Daizy Shely won a special jury mention. The nine finalists included Marianna Cimini and jewelry designer Caterina Zangradi. The competition has launched a number of Italian talents.

Among them are Stella Jean, who has caught the attention of the international fashion crowd with her unique mix of African wax prints and Western staples like natty Oxford shirts, and Marco De Vincenzo who has been showing his ready-to-wear label in Milan since 2009. French luxury group LVMH announced earlier this year it was buying a minority stake in his fashion brand. Previous winners also include Fabio Quaranta, who debuted a unisex spring-summer 2015 collection during the AltaRoma event, which wraps up on Wednesday. The Roman designer drew inspiration from a number of top players in art, music and literature over the past five decades - including George Harrison - to design classic clothes with a quirky work-wear twist, like the oversized jackets and shirts inspired by factory workers' uniforms in the 1940s.

The classic jacket-with-shirt combo was often mixed with funky waistcoats with big pockets designed for both men and women. Another rising star in Rome who showcased her fall 2014 collection Monday was Sabrina Persechino, an architect-turned-fashion designer, whose sculpted clothes were inspired by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Persechino dipped into the creative process behind Frank Lloyd Wright's projects to create feminine silhouettes replicating the museum's inverted-ziggurat design as well as the precious Nautilus seashell. Simplicity and complexity played one another in stunning silhouettes enveloping the body, enhanced by precious duchesse, mikado, shantung, cady and chiffon silks, as well as laser-cut leather, in the seashell's natural colors - dark red, light pink, black and white. 

'We'll see you Thursday' M5S tells PD on Grillo's blog

'We expect clear answers' on reforms

(ANSA) - Rome, July 15 - Anti-establishment 5-Star Movement MPs on Tuesday replied to an invitation from the center-left Democratic Party (PD) of Premier Matteo Renzi to a meeting to discuss Senate and electoral reforms next Thursday. "We'll see you Thursday at 2pm, our meeting will be streamed live over the Internet," they wrote on movement founder Beppe Grillo's blog. "We expect clear answers". "We must find a solution we can all agree on in order to strike a balance between representation and governability, guaranteeing the selection of a parliament that is capable of being competent and honest". The premier is currently trying to push through a bill turning the Upper house into a slimmer assembly with minimal lawmaking powers and another introducing a new electoral law to replace a dysfunctional system that was declared unconstitutional last year, and that contributed to the inconclusive outcome of the February 2013 national vote.

The reform bill was the result of an agreement Renzi reached in January with former premier Silvio Berlusconi a month before he unseated his predecessor, Enrico Letta, to become Italy's youngest premier at 39.

The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement has recently come to the reform table. "We hope we can speedily reach a positive conclusion, because the country has even more pressing problems" than reforming the Senate and the electoral law, the M5S wrote. These are restarting the economy and creating jobs in the face of rising poverty and unemployment, the movement said.

Feature: Entrepreneurs mull founding int'l Chinese school in Italy's Milan

MILAN, Italy, July 14 - Within two or three years, Italy's Milan could be equipped with aninternational Chinese school, if the important project created by a group of Chinese and Italian entrepreneurs will become true. The school has been conceived on an optioned area of around 10,000 square meters in Milan's eastern hinterland, just 20 minutes away from the city center by car. The area isright next to a large sports complex that could be easily used by the expected at least 600 students enrolled in the school. Angelo Ou, a Milan-based entrepreneur in the logistics sector, is among the four promotersof the project, along with Luigi Sun, like Ou also of Chinese origin, and two Italians.

An international consulting institute and some banking firms are also expected to back theproject, which being in the initial phase is open to other investors, Ou told Xinhua.
"We have presented the project to the Chinese consulate in Milan and are aiming atwinning the support of the Italian education ministry as well as of the Chinesegovernment," he said. "Many Chinese living in Milan choose to send their newborn babies back to China for a fewyears to give them the possibility to learn Mandarin. But when these children are broughtback to Italy, they have to face significant integration difficulties," he pointed out whenexplaining how the idea of creating such a school came into being. Aroused from the need to allow Chinese children born in Italy to learn their language oforigin, the project was then extended to envisage a real international school, like the othersalready present in the American, the Japanese or the German areas.

The Milano International Chinese School is planned to cover the study period from thekindergarten to high school, and will be recognized as equivalent to Italian schools, Ouexplained to Xinhua. "Our objective is to build an institute which will be attended by both Chinese and Italianchildren, "who will be provided with effective skills to successfully enroll university ordirectly access the labor market, Ou went on saying.

Like in the other international schools, English will be the base language spoken in thecourses, followed by Chinese, which will be obviously taught by mother tongue teachers, and ast but not least Italian. Ou added that promoters would also like to develop a system of scholarships, both publicand private, to help those meritorious students who lack financial means.

Teaching of Chinese culture in the Milano International Chinese School is hopefully to playits role in forming generations of citizens able to act as a bridge between the two countries,an enormous advantage in today's globalized economy and a big step towards deeperintegration, he highlighted.

lunedì 14 luglio 2014

Italian poverty doubles

Up to almost five million says Caritas

(ANSA) - Rome, July 11 - Italy's poor have doubled to at least 4.8 million since the last year of GDP growth in 2007, Catholic charity Caritas said Friday. The poor were 2.4 million, or 4.1% of the population, when Italy's longest postwar recession started, it said.

In 2012, the last year for which figures are availanble, the number of "absolute poor" had risen to 4.8 million, or 8% of the population, Caritas said in a report entitled The Bottom Line of the Crisis. Lack of appropriate government intervention and the absence of a national plan to fight poverty were cited as main contributors to the "scourge" of poverty . The report, from the Italian Episcopal Conference's organization aimed at assisting the poor, criticized the "limited effort" of the Berlusconi and Monti administrations that governed during the years of the economic crisis from 2007 to 2013.

The "only response" to poverty during those years, according to the report, was the Social Card initiative: a Ministry of Economy and Finance program providing a 40 euro-per-month spending supplement to needy individuals who qualify, to offset the costs of food, health care, and utility spending. The Letta government, in place from 2013 to 2014, was seen as having neither improved nor worsened the situation. Premier Matteo Renzi's 80 euro monthly pay increase for low-income workers has had a limited effect on decreasing poverty, according to the report. Caritas appealed to Premier Matteo Renzi and Labor Minister Giuliano Poletti to implement the "Social Inclusion Income" initiative, designed to bridge the gap for families living in extreme poverty, bringing their below-poverty income up to the poverty level. “The Social Inclusion Income initiative will become reality if Renzi and Poletti make poverty a political priority and decide to tackle this scourge by rethinking the current methods of intervention," the report said.

Poverty now touches segments of society previously seen as not particularly vulnerable to the economic crisis, such as those living in the Centre-North, families with two children, families with a head of family younger than 35 years old, and employed families. Social services have been further weakened, said the report, citing a decrease of 6% in funding at the city level from 2010 to 2012; cuts which, Caritas pointed out, "hit a segment that's already under-funded". 

Ex statesman Carlo Azeglio Ciampi rushed to hospital

93-year-old ex premier taken ill while in Alpine resort

(ANSA) - Bolzano, July 11 - Former premier and ex president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi was rushed to hospital Friday after he was taken ill, officials said. The 93-year-old was rushed out of the Alpine resort of Siusi, where he was vacationing, on a civil protection agency helicopter.

Sources said he was placed in intensive care after suffering a pulmonary embolism, or blockage of the main artery bringing blood to the lungs. He is being held under observation, hospital sources said. 

Street artist DAIN debuts in Rome during couture week

New York-based artist portrays Hollywood and fashion icons

(ANSA) - Rome, July 14 - Running through Wednesday, Rome haute couture week is showcasing New York-based street artist DAIN, for the first time in Italy with a solo exhibit titled Tribute to Rome. Curated by Valentina Ciarallo, the show is set in the Santo Spirito in Sassia museum complex where Italian couture deacons including Raffaella Curiel are debuting fall 2014 collections alongside up-and-coming designers from the Who Is On Next talent-scouting competition organized by Vogue Italia with Rome's couture show organizers AltaRoma.

One of the most influential artists on the New York street art scene, Brooklyn-based DAIN is known for combining the language of graffiti with collaged portraits of Hollywood icons. Crossing genres and often crafting pieces between the street and his studio, DAIN - who refuses to reveal his real name and identity - combines wheat-pasting, silk-screening, spray paint, collage and acrylic to merge the rebellious gestures of graffiti with the femininity of his Hollywood subjects.

The special project which has now led him to the Italian capital saw him craft ten new works representing film muses including Sophia Loren and Liz Taylor alongside fashion stars like Twiggy within the museum complex, which was built in 727 AD as a refuge for pilgrims and was turned into a hospital in the 12th century. Ancient masterworks at the Santo Spirito in Sassia complex, which still houses one of Rome's main hospitals, include the Portale del Paradiso (Heaven's Door) attributed to Andrea Bregno (1416-1501). "I already tagged a few streets in Rome," DAIN said on the sidelines of the show, referring to a graffiti artist's signature. "I like antiquities and would love to do something on an old Roman door".

The artist, who said his grandparents migrated to the US from Calabria, starts his creative process with black-and-white photos, which he layers with old advertisements, printed fragments, logos from old magazines and smaller images to create powerful urban portraits. His trademark signature is a "circle and drip" around the eye of the women he portrays, ranging from Hollywood icons like Audrey Hepburn and Lauren Bacall to contemporary A-listers Angelina Jolie and Kate Moss. His work captures the nostalgia for a timeless past through images that draw life and pizzazz from layers of fluorescent colour, with the unmistakable circle around the eye as his tag.

His portraits decorate doors, walls and signs across New York as well as in cities ranging from Chicago, Miami, Portland and Montreal to Paris and London. Recent solo exhibits include Folioleaf, this year in New York, and Transformation at Miami's Avant Gallery last year. DAIN described his Roman debut as a "mixture of images" combining the features of American actresses with "Italian eyes".

The women portrayed are "new iconographies to be discovered," he explained. The street artist started doing graffiti at the tender age of seven. "As an adolescent, I loved black-and-white movies," he noted. DAIN said his interest for "old movies from the 1940s and 1950s, actresses from that era, like Bette Davis, their faces, old photos in black and white" stems from a passion for "simple beauty" where everything is left to the imagination. 

Colosseum restoration given final go-ahead

Council of State rejects legal challenge

(ANSA) - Rome, July 14 - Italy's highest administrative court, the Council of State, on Monday ruled that the Gherardi construction group can move forward on restoration work of the Colosseum, after a legal battle brought by rival contractor Lucci.

The court upheld a previous decision by the Regional Administrative Court (TAR), which found that the Lucci company had not produced adequate documentation to demonstrate the technical planning capabilities necessary to undertake the project. In their ruling, judges reaffirmed the importance of these requirements, citing that the tender in question regards "a one-of-a-kind historical monument dating to the first century A.D.".

The Colosseum restoration is a 25-million-euro project privately financed by Diego Della Valle, owner of upscale shoe manufacturer Tod's, and has been plagued by legal battles and controversy since it was first announced in 2013. This ruling is the second of two appeals to the project. The first, brought by consumer group Codacons on the grounds that the project lacked transparency and gave too many concessions to Della Valle, was settled by the Council of State in July 2013, when the court rejected the group's final appeal. 

Soccer: Rizzoli salvages Italian pride at World Cup

Referee officiates well in Germany's final win over Argentina

(ANSA) - Rome, July 14 - Referee Nicola Rizzoli salvaged some pride for Italian soccer when he officiated Germany's 1-0 win over Argentina with personality and skill on Sunday. The performance of Rizzoli and his assistants, Renato Faverani and Andrea Stefani, gave Italy a scrap of consolation after the national team's disappointing group stage exit, which prompted coach Cesare Prandelli to quit along with the head of the Italian Soccer Federation (FIGC), Giancarlo Abete. Two other sides led by Italian coaches, Fabio Capello's Russia and Alberto Zaccheroni's Japan, also failed to progress from their groups. So it is a little ironic that one of Italy's referees, who are frequently lambasted by the media and fans at home, turned out to the nation's World Cup hero.

The front page of Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport on Monday said Rizzoli had done a "perfect" job. That is not quite true, as the 42-year-old did make some mistakes. These included his decision not to give Sergio Aguero a yellow card for hitting Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger in the face and for not booking another Argentine, Rodrigo Palacio, for another challenge in injury time.

He also came under fire from the Argentines for not awarding a penalty against German keeper Manuel Neuer for handling outside the box when racing against Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain to get the ball. Rizzoli was probably right in evaluating that Neuer punched the ball away just inside his area. But he was wrong to award a free kick to Germany, as Higuain did not foul the keeper. Otherwise though, things went smoothly. Rizzoli's assistants got all the main offside calls right, including the key one that led him to disallow a Higuain goal on the half-hour mark.

The Italian referee also keep a good grip on the game, which at times risked boiling over when the will to win led to some dangerous challenges. "It was a great emotion and I feel great satisfaction, a reason for Italy and Italian soccer to be proud," said Rizzoli. "It was a difficult match, but I was helped a great deal by the players and, above all, by my assistants". 

Concordia floats again

Tuscan Governor warns operation still threatens environment

(ANSA) - Rome, July 14 - The Costa Concordia cruise liner was re-floated Monday in the first phase of an unprecedented salvage operation. "Ladies and gentlemen, she's refloating," announced a beaming Nick Sloane, the senior salvage master who oversaw the successful parbuckling operation to upright the partially sunken vessel last autumn. Operations began early Monday to refloat the wreckage of the vessel that careened into rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio in January 2012, killing 32 people.

The first phase entailed lifting the wreck by 2 metres and moving it 30 metres to the east. The Costa wreck is expected to be towed to Genoa port Monday July 22, Civil Protection head Franco Gabrielli said. Once the wreck is towed away, the priority will be to clean up the site where it has lain for the past two and a half years, environmental officials said.

Despite the razzmatazz surrounding the re-float Tuscany Governor Enrico Rossi cautioned that the region still is seeking damages against Costa "which is not at all the heroic company it is made out to be because it caused a disaster in which 32 persons lost their lives. Rossi underlined that the decision to take the wreck as far as Genoa rather than break it up on the nearby island of Elba at the port of Piombino is fraught with risk to the environment. "Let's wish them 'good sailing' seeing how they made a choice that presents much higher environmental risks than the Piombino option," said the Tuscan Governor. 

Judges revoke ex gangster Vallanzasca's day release regime

Former Milanese underworld kingpin faces shoplifting charge

(ANSA) Milan, July 14 - A local court revoked Monday the open prison regime enjoyed by former Milanese underworld boss Renato Vallanzasca after he was arrested for allegedly shop-lifting in a supermarket. One of Italy's most notorious gangsters, Vallanzasca was allowed to leave prison on day release last year to work in a leather workshop despite serving four life prison terms consecutively for racketeering and murder.

On June 13 Vallanzasca was arrested on charges of stealing two pairs of boxer undershorts and other items from a supermarket. Vallanzasca said he was "stitched up" by authorities because he soon would have become eligible for release for good behaviour. A lawyer for the former bandit, Debora Piazza, criticised the decision by Milan's panel of surveillance court judges to take away his privileges, saying "this decision doesn't fit well with the presumption of innocence".

The 63-year-old Vallanzasca, once romanticised for his prison breaks and life on the run and nicknamed 'Il Bel Rene' (Handsome Rene'), became a rebel figure for some in the politically turbulent 1970s.

A film accused of glamorising him sparked debate at the 2010 Venice Film Festival, with director Michele Placido criticised for a sympathetic portrait of a ruthless criminal who committed seven murders, three kidnappings and scores of armed robberies. Placido was slammed for, among other things, casting heartthrob actor Kim Rossi Stuart in the lead role, making Vallanzasca seem a charming, seductive figure and failing to consult victims' families during production.

The row escalated when Placido replied that Vallanzasca had an "ethic to his evil", that if he appeared seductive in the film it was because the work was true to life and that "there are people in parliament who have done worse". Vallanzasca was first sent to jail in 1972 but he escaped several times and spent long spells out as a fugitive. He orchestrated many prison riots during his time inside but most recently appeared to have mellowed.