sabato 26 luglio 2014

Padoan China mission nets 2-bln euro-investment in CDP

Deal latest in rash of 'Marco Polo effect' Chinese acquisitions

(ANSA) - Beijing, July 24 - An agreement Thursday for sale of a 35% share in Cdp-Reti to State Grid Corporation of China reflects an increasing trend for Chinese investment in Italy in what some experts have dubbed the "Marco Polo effect". The agreement between Sgcc and the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (Cdp) worth some 2 billion euros is the main result of an Italian trade visit under way in China led by Treasury Minister Pier Carlo Padoan accompanied by Cdp President Franco Bassanini, diplomatic sources say.

Padoan underlined that while hunting for investors Italy is determined to meet a commitment to the EU to privatise State-run industries worth some 0.7% of GDP. "We are working on several different chapters," he said. The minister insisted on the need for long-term investment in both directions as a major plank of Italy's rotating chairmanship of the European Union. During the trip the CDP also signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Development Bank for promotion of Chinese investment in Italy.

Bassanini said managers of the China Investment Corporation (CIC) invited him to open a permanent CDP office in Beijing. One early harbinger of the "Maco Polo" trend - coined by authors of a study for the Chatham House think tank in London -- was the Huawei telecommunications concern, which opened a Milan office in 2004 and today has cooperation accords with all the main Italian operators in the sector. In 2012 Shandong Heavy Industries Group-Weichai acquired a controlling interest in the Ferretti luxury yacht producer with a 374-million-euro investment.

The People's Bank of China, the central bank, has bought stakes of 2% each in the Italian energy giants ENI and ENEL. Some 79 Chinese companies are believed to be doing business in Italy including more than 52 from Hong Kong with an overall turnover of 2.665 million euros, providing work for some 5,534 people, according to T-Mag magazine. is one of the giants of the Chinese "new economy," SGCC was founded in 2002 with capital of 200 billion yuan (some 24 billion euros) to manage domestic energy distribution and invest in the sector abroad.

The agreement will be signed in Rome by the end of July, marking "an important result" for the Italian trade mission under way in China aiming "to reinforce trade and investment relations between China and Italy, which are already good and offer many other prospects," Padoan said. On Friday the trade mission's final leg will be a stop in Hong Kong to woo possible investors from the former British-run territory. 

Venice Film festival presents lineup

Mexican director's 'Birdman' to open 71st edition

(ANSA) - Rome, July 24 - The 71st Venice Film Festival will open next month with a wide range of international offerings, including a biopic on iconic Italian writer and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini starring brooding American actor Willem Dafoe. Organizers of the world's oldest film festival unveiled the event's lineup Thursday by announcing that the program will be opened on August 27 with the premier of Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's latest work, the black comedy 'Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance'.

Starring American actors Michael Keaton and Edward Norton, Birdman tells the tale of a down-and-out actor who recalls happier days when he played a superhero. Birdman also stars British actresses Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough. Hong Kong director Ann Hui's 'The Golden Era', a story of a radical writer living in a period of Japanese imperialism in China, will close the Lido-based festival on September 6. Many of the films in this year's lineup deal with the dark subjects of economic recession, hardship, and war, said festival director Alberto Barbera said as the lineup was unveiled in Rome. Still, selecting just 55 films from 1,500 contenders was "painful", he said.

The subject matter, like the national origins of the films, ranges widely and includes Abel Ferrara's anticipated 'Pasolini' with Dafoe portraying the respected writer, poet and film director Pasolini, who was murdered in 1975; and 'The Cut' by Turkish director Fatih Akin, which tells the tale of a mute father searching for his daughters. French film composer Alexandre Desplat will head the main jury panel that includes British actor Tim Roth, Palestinian director Elia Suleiman, Italian actor-director Carlo Verdone, and Chinese actress and director Joan Chen. The international lineup also includes Swedish director Roy Andersson's 'A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence' while David Oelhoffen's 'Loin des Hommes' stars Viggo Mortensen as a teacher who becomes friendly with a dissident during Frances war with Algeria.

Three Italian films are in the running for the festival's top prize - the coveted Golden Lion - including 'Il Giovane Favoloso' by Mario Martone, mafia saga 'Anime Nere' by Francesco Munzi and 'Hungry Hearts' by Saverio Costanzo. Several films will also be shown, apart from the competitors, including 'The Sound and The Fury' by Hollywood actor-director James Franco, an adaptation of the novel by American writer William Faulkner; 'She's Funny That Way' from Peter Bogdanovich; and The Humbling from Barry Levinson.

Danish director Lars Von Trier will present an extended director's cut of his 'Nymphomaniac Volume II', which follows up on the original presented last year at the Berlin Film Festival. Meanwhile, a separate Venice Classics series will offer a number of restored classic films as well as industry-related documentaries such as Marco Spagnoli's homage to Sophia Loren 'Women of Myth' accompanied by a showing of Ettore Scola's restored 1977 film 'Una Giornata Particolare' (A Special Day) starring Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. 

BSkyB buys Sky Italia for three billion euros

British group also takes Sky Deutschland to create Euro giant

(ANSA) - Rome, July 25 - Britain's BSkyB said Friday that it has struck a deal to buy 100% of Sky Italia and 57% of Sky Deutschland to create new European pay-TV giant with around 20 million customers. BSkyB has agreed to pay Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox £2.45 billion - around three million euros - for Sky Italia and £2.9 billion for the controlling stake in the German group. Murdoch's 21st Century Fox owns 39% of BSkyB, so the Australian-American tycoon will keep a big interest in Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland.

Murdoch reportedly organised the sales to free up cash for 21st Century Fox's bid to buy Time Warner, the company that owns Game of Thrones maker HBO and news business channel CNN. 

Milan Expo time travels through Arts and Foods Pavilion

Pavilion to explore food in art from 1851 to modern-day life

(ANSA) - Milan, July 25 - Visitors to the Arts & Foods Pavilion at Milan Expo 2015 will have the chance to travel through time to discover some of the ways in which food and the aesthetics of art and design have intersected.

The pavilion will be hosted at the Triennale Design Museum and promises a journey starting in 1851, the date of the first Expo world's fair. "Arts & Foods will involve all forms of media and all languages, from sculpture to painting, from video to advertising, from design to architecture," said Germano Celant, an Italian art historian, critic and curator of the pavilion. Arts & Foods will include contributions from artists, writers, directors, graphic designers, musicians, photographers, interior designers, and architects, all concerning the development of artistic expressions of how people view and consume food.

Celant said the pavilion will showcase "shared public and private places and spaces where furnishings, objects, appliances, and works of art create a narrative with a strong visual impact and sensory impression". The pavilion aims to document, through various art forms, the many ways in which people relate to and interact with food, from simple cooking utensils, to table settings and picnics, as well as food in public spaces like coffee bars and restaurants, and the changes that have come about through road, air, and space travel.

The Arts & Foods Pavilion will open its doors on April 10, 2015 and run through November 1. The theme of Milan Expo 2015 is "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life", with the world's fair focussed on food security, sustainable practices, nutrition, and the best of global culinary cultures. Celant is best known for coining the term "arte povera" (literally "poor art"), a modern art movement, in 1968, and is a leading authority on the subject. 

Police seize home-made explosive at TAV construction site

Protesters throw firecrackers, cops respond with tear gas

(ANSA) - Turin, July 25 - Police on Friday seized a homemade explosive, the remains of several rockets with a range of up to 150 meters, fireworks, and stones from a construction site at Chiomonte in the northern Susa Valley, where protests against construction of a TAV high-speed rail line linking Italy to France turned violent overnight.

The homemade explosive was made up of a small bottle of alcohol whose trigger was attached to a firecracker, ANSA sources said. Some of the firecrackers had been mounted onto homemade mortars to increase their range, police said. The seizure came after protesters threw firecrackers and police tried to disperse them with tear gas. One police officer sustained burns to his ankle, police said. Some 30 protesters against the Turin-Lyon rail link also temporarily blocked off a motorway that leads to France, setting tires alight. Work at the site was suspended during the protest, but resumed immediately after. More protests are planned for Saturday, organizers said.

Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi said Friday that the protests were being used to "attack the State". "What we have here is a criminal attack perpetrated by those who would use the project to attack the State," Lupi said. "They will not be allowed any space". No-TAV protests, which have sometimes turned violent, have built up steam in recent years and been taken up by leftist and anti-capitalist groups despite government efforts to persuade opponents that it is an essential piece of infrastructure, especially when Italy's economy has been suffering its longest postwar recession. The Italian and French governments have insisted that the link will not only speed passenger and freight traffic but also boost both countries' economies. 

Cycling: Nibali has Tour de France at his feet

Sicilian 'shark' set to complete sweep of grand tours

(ANSA) - Rome, July 25 - Italy's Vincenzo Nibali looks set to claim victory in the 2014 Tour de France this weekend and join an elite club of riders to have won all three of cycling's grand tours. The 29-year-old Sicilian, who is nicknamed the "shark", is expected to conserve his massive lead of over seven minutes over his nearest rival, Frence's Thibaut Pinot, in the flat 19th stage from Maubourguet Pays du Val d'Adour to Bergerac on Friday.

So the only thing that can stop him from adding to his 2010 Vuelta en Espana and 2013 Giro d'Italia titles looks to be a crash in Saturday's time trial. But looking fresh despite three weeks of gruelling competition, Nibali may well increase his lead on Saturday to set up a victory parade along Paris' Champs-Élysées in Sunday's finale. The Astana rider has worn the yellow leader jersey for all but two stages of this year's race, four of which he has won.

He had a dose of luck after crashes forced last year's champion Chris Froome and double Tour winner Alberto Contador out of the race. But he took full advantage, always finishing ahead of his rivals in the mountains, and will be a worthy winner. Victory will make Nibali the sixth rider to win all three grand tours after Contador, Frenchmen Bernard Hinault and Jacques Anquetil, fellow Italian Felice Gimondi and Belgian Eddy Merckx.

The last Italian to win the Tour was Marco 'the pirate' Pantani in 1998, when he also won the Giro. Pantani, whose career was hit by doping scandals, died aged 34 of a drugs overdose 10 years ago. 

Scientists call on UNIMORE to stop monkey experiments

'Invasive, painful procedures that always end in death'

(ANSA) - Bologna, July 25 - A group of 73 doctors, biologists and other scientists has called on the dean of Modena and Reggio Emilia University (UNIMORE) to stop raising and experimenting on monkeys, the Italian Anti-Vivisection League made known Friday.

"The experiments involve invasive procedures such as inserting screws into their eye sockets and steel wires into their neck muscles, and implanting recording devices in their brains," LAV officials said. "These kinds of experiments take years, and always end in death." The UNIMORE biology department has been raising and experimenting on the monkeys for decades, according to LAV. "Publications resulting from these invasive investigations have yet to provide answers applicable to human beings," said LAV biologist Michela Kuan. "These studies don't heal the sick".

The university earlier this month issued a statement saying that its research "provides answers to the manifold needs of Italian society". These include mandatory testing of new pharmaceutical products, the university said. Some 900,000 animals are used and killed in labs in Italy every year, according to LAV. 

Alitalia presses unions to back Etihad deal

Up to 250 million euros to be raised to help struggling airline

(ANSA) - Rome, July 25 - It is "essential" that all of its unions agree to the labour conditions required for Etihad's investment in Alitalia, the Italian airline said Friday. "The cohesion and sharing of decisions by all the unions is essential to the successful of completion of arrangements with Etihad," Alitalia said. Its statement came the same day that shareholders in the troubled carrier approved a capital increase of up to 250-million euros to keep Alitalia operating as its completes a deal with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways. The deal itself was not discussed at the meeting, sources said, but Alitalia's 2013 budget was approved. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad has been negotiating to invest about 560-million euros in exchange for a 49% stake in the struggling Italian carrier. But talks have snagged on conditions set by Etihad including restructuring of debt that some estimate to be as high as 800-million euros and labour cuts.

Alitalia, which is not publicly traded, did not release its 2013 financial results but reports have suggested it lost as much as 569-million euros. Earlier in the day, a majority of unions approved the labour conditions demanded by the deal, but at least one holdout called for re-negotiation of those conditions. "Now, we need to go back to the table," said Marco Veneziani, deputy secretary-general of Uilt. "We have to make a new agreement". But other Alitalia unions and the company itself said that the current deal remains valid. "About 30% of voters in 25 hours with over 80% in favour," said FIT CISL chief Giovanni Luciano via Twitter. "Quorum not reached, agreement valid," he added. While Etihad's investment will keep Alitalia alive, the United Arab Emirates carrier will increase its access to lucrative European markets.

In addition to labour concerns, other problems still to be resolved relate to concerns raised by investor Poste Italiane, which is seeking assurances it will not be stuck with Alitalia's current debt obligation if it increases its stake. Last year, the Italian postal service invested 75 million euros in Alitalia as part of a government engineered 500-million-euro bailout of the country's flag-carrier. 

Renzi hits back at Grillo's 'coup' claim

Premier says ex comedian 'suffering sunstroke'

(ANSA) - Rome, July 25 - Premier Matteo Renzi used a play on words to suggest anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) leader Beppe Grillo was suffering sunstroke when he claimed the government was staging a coup by using debate-limiting measures to combat obstructionism against its Senate reform bill. "Grillo says ours is a coup," Renzi said via his Twitter account, @matteorenzi. "Yours is sunstroke". The Italian for coup is "colpo di stato" while the term for sunstroke is "colpo di sole". "It's called a coup. Mussolini had more scruples. He didn't call it reform," Grillo had written on in his popular blog, which gave life to the Internet-based M5S in 2009.

The firebrand comedian-turned-politician proceeded to call for the president of Italy to step down. "The director of this disaster is (President Giorgio) Napolitano, who should...resign immediately. The M5S will not have any contact from now on with a man who has abdicated from his role as guarantor of the Constitution". Napolitano spoke out in favour of the reform package earlier this week. Grillo's vitriol follows on the walk-out Thursday of some 100 M5S and opposition Left Ecology Freedom (SEL) lawmakers from parliament. They marched to Napolitano's office and staged a protest outside the presidential palace after government parties said that the controversial debate-cutting 'bear trap' to limit the duration of speeches in parliament would be used on opponents who are filibustering.

Opponents to the plan to turn the Senate into a leaner assembly of local-government representatives have tabled around 7,800 amendments to the bill in a time-wasting tactic that meant that only a handful have been voted on since the package reached the floor of the Upper House this week. The government wants to see the bill, which aims to make passing legislation easier while saving public money, complete its first reading in the Senate before parliament's summer recess next month.

The bill has the backing of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, the leader of the opposition centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party, but is encountering staunch resistance from M5S, SEL, the Northern League, and from within FI and the ruling Democratic Party of Premier Matteo Renzi. "They're saying sunstroke, we say P2," Grillo retorted on Twitter in a reference to the P2 covert Masonic lodge scandal that rocked Italy in the early 1980's. Also on Friday, Renzi confirmed that his government will hold a public referendum on its Senate revamp. "After 4 votes in parliament, we'll hold a referendum," Renzi tweeted. "Why are the opposition shouting? What are they afraid of? Of the votes of the Italians?".

giovedì 24 luglio 2014

Poste Italiane interested in Alitalia - but with conditions

Will invest only if airline's past liabilities are excluded

(ANSA) - Rome, July 23 - State-owned Poste Italiane remains interested in making a further investment in troubled Italian airline Alitalia, but only if the conditions are right, the chief executive of the post office said Wednesday. That includes guarantees the post office will not be required to take on any of Alitalia's past liabilities, said Francesco Caio. He spoke as the Italian flag carrier moves closer towards a deal with Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad.

The post office, which last December injected 75 million euros into Alitalia as part of a government-engineered 500-million-euro rescue package, has analyzed the deal with Etihad and concluded that it is "well structured in terms of industrial (viability) and return for our company," said Caio. But the post office must be assured it won't be on the hook for Alitalia debts and other constraints and instead will only invest in a "newco free from the burdens of the past," Caio exlained.

As a public company, he added, Poste Italiane is under "the lens of Europe" and regulators are watching Alitalia's affairs to ensure that State aid is not provided, which would be seen by other airlines as providing an unfair competitive advantage.

Fashion: Menswear spices up womenswear this summer

Manly staples, from classic shirts to sweats, crossing over

(ANSA) - Rome, July 23 - Gender roles are getting mixed up in fashion this summer. Menswear for womenswear has been elevated from passing trend to de facto must and this summer is no exception. The androgynous style has become a hot commodity and key men's items are now wardrobe staples for women, even as temperatures soar and more skin is bared. The classic menswear shirt, for one, is catching the spotlight. Whether feminized as a shirtdress with soft materials and elongated silhouettes, or remaining boyish, this summer is all about reworking the menswear shirt. Fendi gave its colorful shirtdresses minimalistic elegance while Trussardi vied for a streamlined, boho vibe.

Liu Jo took this menswear staple and gave it a strong feminine spin. Stella Jean stayed true to the classic, striped Oxford shirt, mixing it with wax prints in her trademark recipe of European and West African silhouettes and graphic designs. Indeed, prints played a role in bringing masculine spice to this summer's feminine outfits, with houndstooth and plaids adding graphic interest at a number of labels, including Aspesi, not to mention French best-selling brands such as Isabel Marant. Not even the jacket and short combo was reserved for men. The king of Italian fashion, Giorgio Armani, designed gusty city suits with shorts. Fabrics that started off sheer, steadily wrapped the body in enveloping volumes.

Shorts also played a lead role at Emilio Pucci, teamed with an oversized jacket over a sheer top or with a graphically designed oversized top. And co-ed sportswear, which has long graced street-styles, also became a major hit at high-end brands this season. One of the lead stories for summer, the athletic trend, was brimming at Gucci as Frida Giannini took the label's collection in a sporty new direction with T-shirts, basketball shorts and track pants.

Gucci elevated athletic clothes to new deluxe levels, much like Marni, which complemented the look with clever accessorizing, including sophisticated elastic belts. A blazer worn over boxing shorts, a rugby-striped belt cinching a jumpsuit, and a statement dress combined with sporty leg warmers - seen at Prada - added new flavor to the sporty look. The unisex, athletic storyline was complemented with accessories like chunky skater shoes and high-top sneakers, seen at hot Milan label MSGM, as well as Panama hats from cult brands including Borsalino. And the ultimate guide to cutting the gender boundary for seasons to come came from Miuccia Prada, who served a high fashion version of the "his-and-hers" trend last month at Milan's men's fashion week with 1950s denim cuts and sports jackets donned by male and female models.

Prada, one of fashion's most forward-thinking designers, said cutting through the gender line gives her a sense of what is meaningful and real. Her spring-summer collection for him and her next year was like "taking stock of what counts with items that are so classic they look incredibly new". 

Justice minister won't interfere with Stamina court decision

'Ministry can't interfere with judges' Orlando tells Senate

(ANSA) - Rome, July 23 - Justice Minister Andrea Orlando told the Senate health committee Wednesday that the ministry can't interfere with a court ruling that forced a hospital to administer the controversial Stamina stem-cell treatment to an ailing boy. His statement came after a court ordered the treatment administered to a child suffering from muscular dystrophy at a hospital in northern Italy on Tuesday, despite the fact that it has been discredited by many in the scientific community.

The Stamina treatment was administered on the orders of a Sicilian court after the hospital in Brescia decided to suspend the procedure because it had been called into doubt. The justice ministry "cannot interfere with the court's decisions. The judge has freedom of interpretation," Orlando told Mps. "However, no amount of court rulings can fill what is a legislative void on this issue," he added.

The credibility of the Stamina treatment - which 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 - has long been suspect, and last autumn 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 the treatment was "ignorant of stem-cell biology". However some local judges have ruled in favor of its application amid heavy pressure from advocates and the families of patients.

So far only courts in Genoa and Turin have denied access to the treatment, the justice minister pointed out. Also on Wednesday, privacy watchdog agency director Antonello Soro testified at the same committee hearing that sensationalized media reports featuring prominently displayed images of terminally ill children have clouded the issue of whether or not the treatment is scientifically valid. "Media have too often given in to the temptation of...exploiting the image of sick children," Soro said. "The right of ill minors not to have their disease put on display has been violated...especially by online media," he added. 

Concordia has travelled 48.5 miles, weather 'excellent'

Genoa mayor praises civil protection for 'professionalism'

(ANSA) - Rome, July 24 - The wreck of the Costa Concordia was making good progress on its last voyage from the Tuscan island of to Genoa on Thursday amid "excellent" weather conditions and praise for the way the transfer was being overseen.

By 11:00 local time the Concordia was said to have travelled 48.5 of the 180 miles that separate Giglio from the Liguria port of Genoa where it will be turned into scrap, and to be navigating at an average speed of two knots. In a statement, Costa Crociere, which owns the ship that partially sank off Giglio after hitting rocks in January 2012, killing 32, said the sea was calm and that there was a slight northwesterly wind. Earlier, the Italian coast guard authorities exchanged information with a French ship that followed the Concordia shortly after its passed the Tuscan island of Pianosa.

The wreck set off from Giglio on Wednesday and is being pulled by four tugs accompanied by a convoy of other vessels. If all goes to plan, it is expected to arrive in Genoa between Saturday and Sunday. Meanwhile astronomers based in the Tuscan port of Piombino said they managed to photograph the Concordia wreck using a telescope as it travelled in waters off the town during and just after sunset Wednesday. Also on Thursday the mayor of Genoa, Marco Doria, congratulated the head of Italy's civil protection authority, Franco Gabrielli, for the "great professionalism and precision" with which the department was following the removal operation.

Jellyfish proliferate as a polluted Mediterranean heats up

MEDSEA report released in Barcelona

(ANSA) - Madrid, July 24 - The sharp increase in jellyfish over the past 30 years in the Mediterranean Sea poses a risk not only to its ecosystem but also to tourism, one of the pillars of the area's economy, a report by Barcelona's Aquarium as part of the European project MEDSEA warned on Thursday.

Rising temperatures and increasingly acidic waters caused by CO2 emissions cause jellyfish to proliferate: a half-degree rise in temperature and a 10% in the acidity of the Mediterranean  over the past 30 years have led to a ''serious dysfunction'' of marine ecosystems, endangering certain species and leading to an alarming increase in others (such as jellyfish) as the latter's predators die out.
Experts warn that air contamination is having worrisome effects on water since the ocean absorbs a significant portion of CO2, which is at the origin of the dangerous acidification, and acidification is ''happening 10 times more rapidly than that which preceded the extinction of many marine species 55 million years ago''. Contrary to what is generally believed, jellyfish are delicate animals, as water molecules account for 95% of their bodies. Transparency enables them to camouflage themselves in the open sea and drift on marine currents. They do not attack people, although the friction against the skin of swimmers causes painful rashes. Experts recommend that those suffering from the rashes avoid scratching the area, clean it well with sea water, and apply ice packs for 15 minutes.

Art squad seizes Leopardi manuscript of poem The Infinite

Two under investigation after manuscript pulled from auction

(ANSA) - Ancona, July 24 - The Carabinieri art squad on Thursday seized a manuscript of Giacomo Leopardi's famous poem The Infinite and two people were placed under investigation, police sources said. The manuscript was pulled from auction in Rome in June, possibly for questions of authenticity. The early-19th-century poem of the Romantic's yearning to travel was put on the block with a starting bid of 150,000 euros by Minerva Auctions.

The news of its withdrawal was announced by the culture assessor of the central Marche region, where Leopardi was from. It was unclear if the manuscript simply found no bidders or if concerns were raised about whether it came from Leopardi's hand. "It earned us time to deeply analyze the manuscript," said Marche Councilor Pietro Marcolini.

Two other confirmed manuscripts of the poem are known to exist in Naples and Visso, in Marche. The manuscript up for auction was discovered by the culture director in the town of Cingoli, Marche among the papers of a private collection. 

Transport minister presents national urban planning bill

'We aim for urban renewal, improving quality of life' says Lupi

(ANSA) - Rome, July 24 - Transport and Infrastructure Minister Maurizio Lupi on Thursday presented an urban planning bill that would replace the current one, which dates back to 1942. "Our objective is urban renewal and improving the quality of life in our cities," the minister explained. The bill contains a new set of building regulations that municipalities can adapt according to their needs. "Italy has 8,000 different municipal building regulations," Lupi pointed out. "It's difficult to imagine running an administration under these conditions".

Lupi's bill would eliminate taxes on historic homes and on those "subject to public-interest restrictions of any kind". It would also reduce real estate taxes in high-density urban areas, make housing tax deductible from IRAP regional business taxes and IRES corporate taxes, and exempt real estate that is on sale by real estate agencies.

Under the bill, the State would stimulate council housing construction through subsidizing rents, involving public and private entities, and providing tax incentives, including exemptions. As well, the State will seek to promote the environmental clean-up and renovation of suburban areas, of disused industrial sites, and of generally neglected urban and suburban areas. Municipalities will be expected to indicate priority areas for such clean-up and renovation in their urban planning programs, the minister said. 

Nibali wins 18th tour de France leg, ensuring overall win

Sicilian rider seeking to complete grand tour titles set

(ANSA) - Rome, July 24 - Sicilian cyclist Vincenzo Nibali easily won the 18th stage of the Tour de France on Thursday, a 145.5-km stretch from Pau to Hautacam.

His fourth-stage victory confirmed his domination of the Tour and evidently ensured that he will be the overall winner with three more days of racing to go. Nibali, 29, broke out from the leading pack of riders some 8 kms before the finish line to streak through the final gruelling uphill stretch at the Grande Boucle.

Frenchman Thibaut Pinot came in second at 1 minute and 15 seconds behind the Italian, while Polish rider Rafal Majka finished third. Nibali is seeking to complete his set of grand tour titles after winning the Vuelta a Espana in 2010 and the Giro di Italia last year. 

Across Italy, new shows from early Renaissance to 1960s

And 'Sardinian Postcards', by photographer Alessandro Toscano

(ANSA) - Rome, July 24 - A number of major exhibits are opening across Italy over the weekend. The art showcased ranges from 13th and 14th century painting in the Marche town of Fabriano to Italian interior design in the 1930s-1960s in the hip beach resort of Forte dei Marmi to photo portraits of Sardinia by Alessandro Toscano in Cagliari. Over 100 masterworks from the 13th and 14th centuries from the central Italian regions of Marche and Umbria will be on show at Fabriano's Pinacoteca Civica Bruno Molajoli as well as in the churches of Sant'Agostino and San Domenico and in the Cathedral of San Venanzio from July 26 through November 30.

Rare paintings, frescoes, sculptures, miniatures, manuscripts, gold jewellery and altarpieces on loan from major Italian museums will be on display. The show 'From Giotto to Gentile, painting and sculpture in Fabriano during the 1200s and 1300s', curated by art critic Vittorio Sgarbi, provides a unique insight into little-known Medieval masterpieces.

The interesting selection is showcased across town, which is surrounded by ancient monasteries and abbeys spread across the surrounding valleys - a breath-taking location that inspired many of the anonymous painters on display. These masters have painted many of the beautiful frescoes in the little churches spread over the mountains near Fabriano. Among the artists on show is local 14th century painter Allegretto Nuzi, who travelled to Tuscany in 1348 during a plague pandemic and painted the Madonna dell'Umiltà - also portrayed by his pupil in Fabriano, Francescuccio di Cecco Ghissi, in the sumptuous style that made him appreciated by local patrons.

In Forte dei Marmi, the exhibit 'An artist's' room. Italian design in 1930-1960' opening Thursday until September 14 at Villa Bertelli showcases Italian design and interior decoration from that period. Each room in the building is inspired by a specific time frame and decorated with pieces designed by famous architects. The selection includes a hotel room designed by Gio Ponti in 1964, a dining room decorated by Ico Parisi in 1952 and a bedroom from a 1939 project by Maurizio Tempestini. The objective of the exhibit is to highlight key changes in interior decoration as conceived by leading Italian designers and architects from the 1930s until the economic boom after World War II in Italy. A number of important private collections are showcased with unique pieces including armchairs, tables, closets, barstools and vanity tables to re-create a room's interiors as they were originally planned.

The show provides an insight into the history of the Italian designs that have made the country famous worldwide. A solo exhibit by photographer Alessandro Toscano called 'Sardinian Postcards' will be hosted at the Cagliari cultural centre from July 25 to September 21. Toscano has been documenting his native island since 2011, providing an insight into Sardinia that goes beyond its lush beaches, traditional festivals and local folklore to reveal an ancient land silently and mysteriously changing.

martedì 22 luglio 2014

Controversial Stamina treatment carried out on sick boy

Brescia hospital ordered to let discredited therapy resume

(ANSA) - Brescia, July 22 - A controversial stem-cell treatment was administered to a child suffering from muscular dystrophy at a hospital in northern Italy on Tuesday despite having been discredited. The Stamina treatment was administered on the orders of a Sicilian court after the hospital in Brescia decided to suspend the procedure on the boy suffering from Duchenne muscula dystrophy because it had been called into doubt. The child "will remain in observation for a few hours and we will carry out a few tests," said Giuseppe Morfino, the court-appointed doctor leading the external team that performed the treatment. Morfino added that the atmosphere at the hospital had been cooperative.

The credibility of the Stamina treatment, which 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, has long been suspect, and last autumn 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. 

House votes to approve Galan's arrest

MP suspected of corruption in MOSE flood-barrier probe

(ANSA) - Rome, July 22 - Italy's Lower House on Tuesday voted to allow the arrest of Forza Italia (FI) MP and former Veneto governor Giancarlo Galan in relation to a probe into alleged corruption in the multi-billion-euro MOSE flood-prevention system in Venice.

Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's opposition centre-right FI party had unsuccessfully requested a postponement on grounds that hospitalisation due to complications arising from a plastered leg prevented Galan from being present to defend his position. The vote on lifting the parliamentary immunity from arrest of the two-time minister had been postponed several times previously
The House approved the arrest with 395 votes in favour, 138 against and two abstentions. Galan denies wrongdoing. He was Veneto governor from 1995 to 2010 before becoming agriculture minister for Berlusconi in 2010 and culture minister the year after. After the vote, Galan's defence lawyers said they would file a request for him to be put under house arrest.

Sources said doctors at a hospital in the Veneto town of Este have signed a letter for his discharge. "He may go to a prison clinic in Parma, Opera or Bologna, he may remain here (in Este) or his may go to a prison infirmary. I don't think he'll go into a cell," said Antonio Franchini, one of Galan's lawyers. "They'll arrest him within an hour so he can't do anything of his own free will". 

Burri 100th anniversary celebrations span continents

Events in NYC and in many parts of Italy

(ANSA) - Rome, July 22 - As part of celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth, works by Italian modern-art great Alberto Burri' will return to the United States after a 38-year absence, while in Italy they will rub shoulders with those of the most famous 15th-century artists during Milan Expo 2015. The celebrations in his honor will last over a year, announced Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri president Bruno Corà, who on Friday illustrated the events planned alongside Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini.

Alberto Burri, born in Città di Castello on March 12, 1915 (died in Nice, February 13, 1995), was one of the most eclectic geniuses of the 20th century and a master of Italian informalism. The fact that the anniversary celebrations were ''unanimously approved by Parliament ...strengthens the importance of the centenary even more," said Franceschini. "Anyone who has visited the most important museums in the world has seen what extraordinary international prestige this artist enjoys,'' he said.

Corà said that the calendar of events aims to ''raise awareness about Burri's works and the cultural context in which he conceived them, influencing not only 20th-century art but also successive generations''. The homage to Burri will begin on September 19 in San Sepolcro with the exhibition:'Rivisitazione: Burri incontra Piero della Francesca' ('Revisitation: Burri alongside Piero della Francesca'), the first exhibition ever in which his works will be placed next to those of 'maestri' from the upper Tiber Valley, where he was born. This will then be followed in March in the town of Morra with a seminar on the work of Luca Signorelli (who he was keenly interested in).

The Milan Expo 2015 will include the reconstruction of Teatro Continuo, a scenic platform Burri built in Parco Sempione in 1973 but which was demolished in 1989. The 'Grand Cretto' of the Sicilian town of Gibellina built on the ruins of the 1968 earthquake will be revived using the original design - the island's local government will complete the remaining 20,000 square meters. The highlight of the centenary will be the return of Burri's works to New York, guest of the Guggenheim Museum in a collection curated by Emily Braun. With over 100 works from both institutions and private individuals in the US and Europe, it will be the largest and most exhaustive exhibition of his works ever in a US contemporary art museum. After New York, the exhibition will move to Germany and then - in 2016 - to Città di Castello. An international conference with over 50 artists will also be held in the city to discuss the state of contemporary art. On the exact anniversary, on March 15, 2015, the Fondazione Burri will present its new general catalog of the artist's works. A new documentary film will tell of Burri as both an artist and a man starting from 1943, when during his detention in Hereford he left the medical profession to devote himself to painting. Corà said that more events would be added at the local level, ''with an event every day. We have asked the ministry to help us promote it at foreign cultural institutes''. 

Alfano rebuffs Berlusconi's attempts to woo him back

Interior minister says media mogul must enable electoral reform

(ANSA) Rome, July 22 - Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said Tuesday he won't consider mending fences with former premier Silvio Berlusconi so long as the media mogul is bent on sabotaging the government's electoral reform bill.

"Forza Italia speaks beautiful words but what we need are facts," said Alfano, whose conservative New Center Right (NCD) party splintered from Forza Italia (FI) when he fell out with Berlusconi over his former political godfather's refusal to relinquish the leadership of Italy's centre right. Berlusconi is trying to re-assert his leadership of conservative forces in Italy after burnishing his sleazy image by winning an appeal case last week that quashed his conviction for having sex with an under-age Moroccan prostitute nicknamed "Ruby the Heartbreaker".

"There is an electoral law under immediate discussion and we will see if Forza Italia will vote (against) a law to kill the allies," Alfano added. "No meeting between me and Silvio Berlusconi is planned -- let's see first how Berlusconi votes on the electoral law," Alfano told reporters on the fringes of a Parliamentary conference. Alfano also lambasted Berlusconi's allies in the separatist Northern League, saying "we are not going to sit down at the negotiating table with a racist, xenophobic and anti-European right-wing party". "Our ideas are very clear," Alfano added, "we have chosen to separate our destiny from that of Forza Italia not just for judicial reasons, and an acquittal is not enough to unite us".

lunedì 21 luglio 2014

Police detain 17 Naples Camorra suspects

Joint operation against Moccia clan of Neapolitan mafia

(ANSA) - Naples, July 21 - Police detained 17 suspects on Monday, held on charges of unlawful arms possession and extortion in organized crime, in a operation coordinated by the Naples anti-mafia division Monday.

The suspects, alleged members of the Moccia clan of the Camorra, the Napolitan mafia, are being held following an investigation into an internal division and feud that brought murders and an expansion of the clan from the Salicelle quarter of the Naples province town of Afragola into bordering towns. The detained suspects include a mother, Patrizia Bizzarro, and her three sons, Mariano, Aniello, and Carlo Barbato, who allegedly commanded the new division of the clan that had expanded into areas near Afragola, specifically Casoria, Caivano, Crispano and Cardito.

Also on Monday, just 28 kilometers away in Caserta, police arrested nine suspects in an operation to seize businesses and properties totalling a value of many tens of millions of euros, linked to the Belforte di Marcianise clan. 

Army of lifeguard dogs patrols Italian beaches

Volunteer service provides life-saving dog units each summer

(ANSA) - Rome, July 21 - More than 350 lifeguard dogs are patrolling Italian beaches this summer, the national civil protection service said Monday. Trained by volunteers from the Italian School for Rescue Dogs (SICS), the heroic pooches have been working Italian beaches for twenty years and saved hundred of lives, many of them children. This year the dog units are watching over 18 different seaside and lakeside resorts from north to south.

The certification provided by SICS after the dogs complete their training is officially recognized by the coast guard, and allows the dogs to work the beaches under the authority of the national civil protection service. Two of the most famous lifeguard dogs, labradors Ariel and Flipper, were bequeathed by A.S. Roma football star Francesco Totti, who received them as a gift from a team sponsor upon the birth of his first son and decided to have them trained as water rescue dogs. 

'Amazing' early Christian tombs found at Ostia Antica

'Possibly a person of great importance' says dig director

(ANSA) - Ostia Antica, July 21 - A team of Italian and American archaeologists has uncovered the remains of important antique tombs in an ongoing dig near Ostia Antica. "We've had amazing finds over the past two years at Parco dei Ravennati. This year, we've uncovered more than a dozen early Christian-era tombs arranged close to a central tomb. Our working hypothesis is that the set up of the surrounding tombs suggests the person buried here was of great importance, such as Saint Monica or Saint Aurea, whose church is nearby," Darius Arya, director of the American Institute for Roman Culture, the non-profit organization leading the dig, told ANSA.

Parco dei Ravennati is part of the extensive suburban area surrounding the ancient port city of Ostia Antica. The tombs' discovery could potentially lead to crucial information regarding the Ostia area. "Santa Monica was an early 4th century saint and mother of St. Augustine. Third century Saint Aurea was the patron saint of Ostia,", Arya said. Additionally, several tombs had funerary inscriptions and archaeologists found a possible tabella defixionum, a lead curse tablet intended to protect the dead and bring anathema to tomb desecrators.

Studies remain ongoing, according to Michele Raddi, excavation co-director, who said "we found a number of fragmentary inscriptions in the tombs as well as a possible tabella defixionum, but we need to evaluate its context and see if it has an inscription". The excavation site of Parco dei Ravennati covers a 15,000 square meter area where a team of 29 international students, led by Arya and Raddi, work in three locations. In 2013, the team uncover an intact opus sectile (inlaid and colored marble pavement), with this year's excavation revealing more detail including "central geometric motif which is extremely refined", according to Germoni. 

Fashion - Orange is the new black this summer

Vibrant hue takes over clothes and accessories

(ANSA) - Rome, July 21 - The creators of new cult Netflix series Orange is the New Black might not have realized they were predicting a major fashion moment this summer when they conceived the show's title. Yet as the tale of Piper Chapman - created by Jenij Kohan of Weeds fame - is taking over audiences, and fans are eagerly anticipating the 2015 release date of Season 3, this fiery hue is everywhere. Just like sure-fire black, orange is this season's it-colour for the daring fashionista - peppering a wide number of designer outfits, from cocktail dresses and suits to accessories.

A first hint that orange could likely become fashion's new black this summer came from across the Atlantic Ocean, as New York designers debuting their spring-summer 2014 women's wear collections ahead of European fashion weeks proved this shade can make a statement to suit any occasion - much like black. Proponents included Costello Tagliapietra, Christian Siriano, Rebecca Minkoff, Jenny Packham and Zac Posen. And as the tale of Chapman - a New Yorker sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for carrying a suitcase of money to her drug smuggler ex-girlfriend - was unfolding for American audiences, Europeans gave their own take on the trend to prove a fail-safe colour can also be daring.

Italy's answer to the orange fever has been varied - including vibrant shades that scream for attention and peachy pastels that vie for subtlety. Valentino used dabs of orange for its prints as well as for cult accessories, like its glam lock-studded leather bags as well as purses and shoes from its iconic Rockstud collection. Versace's summer collection was in full tough-girl mode with notes of orange in trademark ensembles like a sexy interpretation of the two-piece suit with a slit running high up the skirt. On a more classic note, Max Mara took a bold step for a total look in orange with top, jacket and skirt in this hue, along with sandals and purse. Paola Frani used the color for Audrey Hepburn-style cocktail dresses while Alberta Ferretti embraced the trend with a romantic evening gown with a plunging neckline and rouches. Tod's Alessandra Facchinetti gave a bright note to her capes in orange and Miu Miu used dabs of the shade for its little patterned dresses with matching orange stockings.

Orange also took on notes of pastel - yet with a touch of edge into the sugary mix of classic hues. Indeed, while pastels are traditionally associated with fluffy fabrics shaping evening clothes, the orange approach was quite the opposite. With up-and-coming Milan label MSGM, orange took a fresh, sporty note. The brand, which has acquired cult status over the past few years with its funky print mixes and sleek silhouettes, used orange for its streamlined sleeveless dresses.

Gucci embraced the sexy side of orange with black-trimmed silk pleated dresses while Fendi's take on orange vied for urban coolness. And as Dolce & Gabbana and Florence's Gherardini were among brands launching beautiful bags in this shade, women will have to re-examine one of their ultimate fashion certainties - the black bag - much as the TV series' heroine Piper will have to re-examine her relationship with ex-girlfriend Alex and fellow inmates after a life among New York's upper middle classes. 

Roberto Bolle gala at Verona Arena, with 'Passage' and more

Showcasing international dance stars and multifaceted repertoire

(ANSA) - Verona, July 21 - Ballet star Roberto Bolle performs at the Verona Arena on Tuesday with dancers from leading European and American dance companies in his Roberto Bolle and Friends gala, which features a repertoire ranging from the 18th century to contemporary compositions.

The final piece of the evening will be a pas de deux with Russian dancer Polina Semionova, currently a principal with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), called Passage. It was inspired by a short film of the same name, directed by Fabrizio Ferri, starring Bolle and Semionova and presented at the 2013 Venice Film Festival. "With Marco Pelle's choreography, Passage is so beautiful and has such a strong impact, that we absolutely wanted to bring it to the larger public; so, we started thinking of a way to make a live version for the theatre," said Bolle.

"Essentially, it's the story of a man in search of himself, until the moment that darkness enters. The true passage starts there. At that moment, dance becomes an essential instrument for bringing man from the dark to the light, from slavery to freedom," Bolle explained. Also performing in the gala will be South Korean Hee Seo, American Cory Stearns, Russian Daniil Simkin, and American Julie Kent, all principal dancers with ABT; Albanian Eris Nezha, a principal at the Boston Ballet; Spaniard Alicia Amatriain and Canadian Jason Reilly, both principal dancers at the Stuttgart Ballet; and Skylar Brandt, a member of the Corps de Ballet at ABT. 

Mogherini promises 'united' EU response to Russia over MH17

European expected to announce new round of sanctions

(ANSA) - Rome, July 21 - The European Union will give a "united" response to the crisis in Ukraine, which has deteriorated after a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down in territory held by pro-Russia rebels last week killing 298 people, Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said Monday. Mogherini is set to chair her first meeting of EU foreign ministers on Tuesday, after Italy took over the duty presidency of the union this month, with response to the disaster at the top of the agenda. "I think that the response will be coordinated, united and strong," Mogherini said.

Britain, Germany and France agreed on Sunday that a fresh round of sanctions should be imposed on Russia, with the US and other allies suspecting Moscow supplied the rebels with the weapons used to shoot down flight MH17 on Thursday. Russia has denied involvement.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday ordered a unilateral cease-fire in a 40-km radius around the crash site so that international investigators could get to work, Russian news Interfax reported. At the same time, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told his country's Lower House that Russia must also guarantee access to the site. "If in the coming days access to the disaster area remains inadequate, then all political, economic and financial options are on the table against those who are directly or indirectly responsible for that," he said. Meanwhile, world leaders condemned the pro-Russia separatists' handling of the site and the victims' bodies, with German foreign ministry spokesperson Martin Schaefer calling it "intolerable" and "beyond description" and United States Secretary of State John Kerry calling it "grotesque".

The bodies were left to decompose amidst the wreckage, then piled onto trucks by allegedly drunken separatists, who also allegedly let dozens of journalists troop through the crash site, trampling potential evidence. Also on Monday, US President Barack Obama told Russia to compel the separatists to cooperate with the investigation and threatened Moscow with steeper sanctions if it does not. "The burden now is on Russia to insist that the separatists stop tampering with the evidence, grant investigators who are already on the ground immediate, full and unimpeded access to the crash site," Obama said. "If Russia continues to violate Ukraine's sovereignty and to back these separatists, and these separatists become more and more dangerous and now are risks not simply to the people inside of Ukraine, but the broader international community, then Russia will only further isolate itself from the international community and the costs for Russia's behavior will only continue to increase."

Senate examines its revamp, wading through 7800 amendments

Renzi bill would cut Senators from 315 to 100

(ANSA) - Rome, July 21 - A Senate vote on a bill presented by Premier Matteo Renzi's government to turn it into a leaner assembly of local-government representatives with minimal law-making powers is unlikely to take place Monday as expected. "I doubt we'll manage to vote on it today," said the bill's rapporteur Anna Finocchiaro, who is from the ruling Democratic Party (PD).

The bill is the result of a deal Renzi struck with three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi, the leader of the opposition centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party, to overhaul Italy's costly, slow-moving political machinery. But the package faces staunch resistance from other opposition parties, above all the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), and from minorities within FI and within Renzi's centre-left Democratic Party (PD). A reflection of the degree of dissent is the fact that 7,800 amendments have been presented to the package. These amendments are what the Senate will start voting on Monday. Renzi, who has embarked on an ambitious reform programme since unseating his PD colleague Enrico Letta to become premier in February, has staked his credibility on revamping the Senate and said he will quit politics completely if he fails.

He is aiming to have the bill to change the Constitution to make the revamp possible finish its first reading in the Upper House before the Italian parliament's summer recess starts on August 10. "This obstructionism may mean we have to work a week more and sacrifice some of our holidays, but we'll keep our promise to (deliver) change," Reform Minister Maria Elena Boschi told the Senate before it starts voting on the package. If approved, the overhaul of the Senate will see it reduced from 315 lawmakers plus life Senators to just 100 members, mostly regional councillors and mayors who would not get an extra salary for working in the Upper House. The logic is that this would save money and make passing legislation easier.

Boschi added that the M5S was "hallucinating" with its claim that the government is taking an authoritarian approach with the reform. "I've heard some people talk about an authoritarian change. This is a hallucination and, as with all hallucinations, it cannot be denied with the power of reason," said Boschi, prompting howls of disapproval from M5S lawmakers. "There is nothing authoritarian. Talk of illiberal change is a lie and lies are good for nothing in politics". The tension is high even though Renzi has opened talks with the M5S on his plan for a new election law - a bill that is also the result of a deal with Berlusconi - after its leader, comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo, dropped his refusal to deal with the traditional parties.

It looked like the dialogue had broken down after the second of two meetings between Renzi and the M5S last week, when Grillo said the "time was up" for new talks. But on Sunday Grillo said on his popular blog, which gave life to the Internet-based M5S in 2009, that the movement would go back to the negotiating table when Renzi provided answers on six issues it has raised. Renzi has said he is willing to extend the talks to his Constitutional reforms and has suggested there could be a compromise over the M5S's demand that the members of a revamped Senate do not to have parliamentary immunity from arrest.