food / travel

Ferrari Railroad? Italians Unveil Europe's First Private High-Speed Train Line

Dubbed 'Italo,' the new train is not only fast and red, it's being launched by Ferrari chief Luca Cordero di Montezemolo. Europe’s first privately operated high-speed train service will begin rolling in March. And yes, the train

NTV's Italo, Italy’s first private high-speed train (NTV)
NTV's Italo, Italy’s first private high-speed train (NTV)

This shiny new set of Italian wheels is red, super-fast and luxurious. No wonder some have come to calling Italo the Ferrari of high-speed trains. Indeed, it has been launched by Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the longtime chairman of Ferrari, who now doubles as president of Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (NTV), Europe's first privately operated high-speed train line.

Italo is due to be in service in March 2012 and will travel at a top speed of 360 kilometers-per-hour (224 m.p.h). It could turn out to be a serious competitor for Trenitalia, Italy's state-owned train operator. "There was a lot of resistance, and various problems, but we believe in this project," says Montezemolo. "We see this as the start of a period where citizens will have choice, competition, and the will to succeed."

"Finally we will travel well by train," said another shareholder of NTV, Diego Della Valle, owner of the luxury goods company Tod's.

In the most luxurious "Club" class, which has only 19 seats, there will be two private lounges, individual television screens, and meals served by the up-market Italian food company Eataly. Just behind is "First" class, where the seats are large and arranged three across. Personalized menus are available. In a "Relax" carriage, cell phones are banned. The second class has been renamed "Smart" class, for travellers who prefer to spend a bit less. They will have access to a small cinema.

Its founders also point to the new train line's environmental cred: including relatively low carbon emissions and noise levels, and use of recyclable materials. Ticket prices have not been announced, and will depend on the time and day of the week.

"Italy is the first country in Europe with a totally private operator of high speed train," Montezemolo declared. "Everyone says that it's time to believe in Italy. We are showing that we believe in the country in a very concrete way."

Read more from La Stampa

Photo - NTV

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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