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LA REPUBBLICA
La Repubblica is a daily newspaper published in Rome, Italy, and is positioned on the center-left. Founded in 1976, it is owned by Gruppo Editoriale L'Espresso.
Photo of sign with a hammer and sickle in Transnistria
Geopolitics
Emma Albright, Shaun Lavelle and Cameron Manley

Fears Of Putin’s War Spreading Amid Rumblings In Transnistria

More of the latest: European economy under threat by gas cuts, Mariupol soldier holed up in steel plant, Finland poll on joining, Russia pulls out mercenary troops from Libya, U.S. considers labeling Russia sponsors of terrorism, and more...

The recent series of explosions occurring in part of Transnistria, a breakaway territory within Moldova that has housed Russian troops for decades, have sparked fears that this region may be where Vladimir Putin will take his expansionist war next.

The inhabitants of Transnistria, considered to be pro-Russian, insist they want to be left out of the conflict, reports Tonia Mastrobuoni reports for Italian daily La Repubblica. “We want peace and want to be left in peace,” one of several residents interviewed who refused to give their name.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu insisted that the situation in Transnistria is "more or less calm," though in the past 36 hours there have been a series of explosions that no one has taken responsibility for — and which Ukraine says could be used by Moscow as a pretext to move into Moldova.

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Photo of a toilet bowl
Weird

Italy's High Court: Loud Toilet Flush Is Violation Of Human Rights

A not-so-neighborly Italian saga that extends from the porcelain depths of our most basic needs to the altar of European justice.

An Italian couple has won a two-decade-long court battle that invoked an international treaty signed after World War II in order to prove the acceptable volume of a toilet flush.

The ordeal started as a typical neighborhood quarrel, yet spanned nearly two decades and eventually made its way up to Italy's Highest Court this week, Rome daily La Repubblica reports.

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photo of costa concordia capsized
Italy
Anne-Sophie Goninet

The Costa Concordia Disaster, 10 Years Later — This Happened, January 13

The images of the Italian cruise ship, which had run aground just a few hundred meters from the Tuscany coast, captured the world's attention for a chilly winter week in 2012.

Thursday marks 10 years since the Costa Concordia luxury cruise ship deviated from its planned itinerary to get closer to the island Isola del Giglio, before hitting rocks on the seafloor in shallow water and starting to sink. Over the course of six excruciating hours, a rescue effort team worked to evacuate the 4,252 people on board. Sadly, in the end, 33 people died.

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Photo of a sunset over Chicago's O'Hare airport with backlit plane tails
Future
Carl-Johan Karlsson

7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.

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Sicilian Mafioso Teaches 9 Year-Old Granddaughter To Count Dirty Money
LA STAMPA
Clémence Guimier

Sicilian Mafioso Teaches 9 Year-Old Granddaughter To Count Dirty Money

Grandpa, pass the unmarked 20s....

There are countless ways to teach a kid mathematics: fingers, peas in bowls, catchy songs — or, like this Italian grandpa from Partinico, Sicily, by counting dirty money.

As Italian daily La Stampa reports, after taking his nine-year-old granddaughter to school or to the swimming pool, the suspected mobster would sell cocaine. Later, after the deal was done, he would turn to the girl to help tally up his daily gains, using her as his personal cashier-in-training as he taught her to count bills.

The elementary school student also worked part-time as a "mule," carrying the drug money in her pockets, to hide his activities from the authorities as well as from their own family.

The Sicilian police eventually caught wind of the operation and put a tap on the drug-smuggling grandpa. This, as Partinico commissioner Leopoldo Laricchia told reporters, led to the recording of surreal exchanges between the granddaughter and her grandfather.

Having figured out there was something shady behind "grandpa's funny game," the little girl reportedly told him one day as they were watching TV together: "Look Grandpa, they're selling drugs to people, just like we do!"

The man was arrested earlier this week, along with 29 other people as part of a large-scale anti-drug operation in the Palermo region. According to daily La Repubblica, the girl's mother "severely scolded" the grandfather after learning about his special math lessons.

With the investigation still ongoing, there's no word yet on a fine or prison sentence for the Nonno — but that's something he'll have to count on his own.

LGBTQ protest in Milan, Italy, October 2020.
LGBTQ Plus
Clémence Guimier

Why Italy Is So Slow In Protecting LGBTQ From Violence

Proposed Italian legislation to punish public acts of homophobia continues to be blocked by both the Catholic Church and right-wing politicians. But the country's most popular rapper has entered the debate.

-Analysis-

Whether it's newlywed visitors to the canals of Venice, lovers under Romeo's and Juliet's balcony in Verona or bronze-skinned couples on the beaches of Sicily, public displays of affection have long been part of the everyday scenery in Italy. But if you're gay, it could put your life at risk.

As reported in Corriere della Sera, Christopher Jean Pierre Moreno, a 24-year-old from Nicaragua, was assaulted on a Rome metro platform in February after he'd exchanged a kiss with his boyfriend, Alfredo Zenobio, 28. Before them, a young man had to go under reconstructive surgery after a group of seven people beat him up. His crime? Holding hands with his partner in the central Italian city of Pescara.

These and other stories (with video evidence) have been widely shared by LGBTQ activists who continue to call for a better legal protection of gay people. Some 8,000 people turned out last Saturday for a demonstration urging senators to pass long-awaited anti-homophobia legislation, La Repubblica reported.

Italy remains one of the few European countries deprived of a law specifically punishing homophobic discrimination and violence — the Netherlands passed its Equal Treatment Act as early as 1994, while Britain and France respectively passed similar discrimination protections in 2003 and 2004.

Too many in Italy still see gay people as a threat to the traditional idea of a family.

Over the course of the last 25 years, many attempts have been made by legislators to include LGBTQ rights in Italian law with the most recent being "Ddl Zan", a bill drafted last November by Parliament Member Alessandro Zan. If approved by the Parliament, this new law would punish violence and hate speech with additional fines of up to $7,200 and four years in prison.

With the historical influence of the Catholic Church, too many in Italy still see gay people as a threat to the traditional idea of a family. Despite recognizing same-sex unions five years ago, Italy has the highest rate of social, political and institutional homophobia in Europe, according to the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).

Catholic organisations such as Courage continue to categorize homosexuality as a disease, reports Italian news website Linkiesta, proposing to cure it through so-called "conversion therapy," a practice still legal in Italy.

Though Pope Francis has gone further than any of his predecessors in defending the rights of LGBTQ, the Italian Bishops Conference and rightwing politicians continue to block progress. "There is no need for a new law," the Bishops said in a statement. "(It) would risk opening up to controls on freedom; whereby, rather than sanctioning discrimination, the expression of a legitimate opinion would be targeted." Right-wing League party leader Matteo Salvini recently declared that his duty was to "defend the right of a child to have a mother and a father."

Salvini_Italy_protest

Matteo Salvini joins a demonstration against a proposed trans-homophobia law, in Rome, in June 2020. — Photo: Tenagli Piero/Abaca/ZUMA

Ever since November, the hate-crime legislation has been blocked in the Senate by Salvini's party allies, recently citing the priorities of the pandemic as a reason to stonewall.

One potential breakthrough came at a widely viewed televised concert on May 1 when popular Italian rapper Fedez took to the stage to accuse the League of homophobia. The 31-year-old rapper, very publicly married to fashion icon Chiara Ferragni, made his declaration in Rome, just a mile or so from the metro station where Christopher Jean Pierre Moreno was punched for simply kissing the man he loves.

The Art Of Theft: Italian Man Chainsaws Drawing Off Museum Wall
WHAT THE WORLD
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

The Art Of Theft: Italian Man Chainsaws Drawing Off Museum Wall

Bansky would be proud ...

BOLOGNA — The bearded young visitor to Bologna's Modern Art Museum was not framed for the crime. Instead, the would-be chainsaw art collector was simply following the directions of Aldo Giannotti, the Italian-Austrian artist whose work he carved out of the museum's wall with the help of the electric lumberjack tool.

Underneath the drawing on the wall of a chainsaw, Giannotti's text was clear: "This drawing can be taken for free by a collector who shows up with a chainsaw and cuts out a piece of wall." Like Banksy's self-triggered shredded painting, it was the kind of art stunts that plays with questions of control, place and authorship.

The exhibit entitled "Safe & Sound" at the Museo d'Arte Moderna was built around the theme of exploring "actions that are not allowed in everyday life," reported La Repubblica. Other directives in the exhibit include: "Lie down in the middle of the museum space and contemplate the ceiling."

In a video of the incident, the "collector" can be seen cutting a neat rectangle around the drawing of a chainsaw as onlookers filmed with their phones. Giannotti shared the scene on Instagram, writing, "In Bologna they used to cut murals from city walls to bring them inside museums. Yesterday we cut them out of museums to bring them out."

One question that neither artist or museum has answered is about security: who checked the anonymous collector — both when he entered and exited?

Author Of Italian Thrillers Arrested For Staging Parents’ Murder-Suicide
IL RESTO DEL CARLINO

Author Of Italian Thrillers Arrested For Staging Parents’ Murder-Suicide

Police say the published novelist killed his father with a hammer and slit his mother’s wrists to make it look like the wife killed her husband and then herself. The mother is clinging to life.

As a published author of futuristic thrillers, Marco Eletti has a knack for intrigue and unlikely plot twists. But police say his latest storyline doesn't add up, and have arrested the 33-year-old from the northern province of Reggio Emilia on suspicion of the brutal murder of his father and attempted murder of his mother, La Repubblica reports.

Eletti said he arrived at his parents' house Saturday in the hamlet of San Martino in Rio to find his 58-year-old father beaten to death with a hammer, and his 54-year-old mother near death with knife wounds to her wrists and arm.

Eletti from his publisher's official author page.

But the Italian Carabinieri are questioning his version of events, accusing the novelist of drugging his parents before the deadly assault, with the idea to construct the scene to look like there had been a violent exchange between the spouses, with the wife killing herself after she'd realized her husband was dead. The mother is in a coma, but is expected to survive, reports regional daily Il Resto del Carlino.

Eletti, whose books include La regola del numero sette (Rule Number Seven) Punto d'impatto (Point of Impact), denies any involvement. Police say they've found multiple clues and pieces of evidence including gloves and rope that point to the son, who they say plotted to kill his parents over a dispute about the family inheritance.

Italians waiting for their vaccine
Geopolitics
Alessio Perrone

Whatever It Takes? Mario Draghi, Vaccine Wars, Europe’s Burden

It was nearly nine years ago that Mario Draghi first burst onto the world stage. The Italian-born Draghi, who had recently taken over as the President of the European Central Bank, declared that he would do "whatever it takes' to save the Euro from speculative attacks. "And believe me," he added, "It will be enough."

That statement, on July 26 2012, and the policies to back it up, were aimed at helping multiple European countries — Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Spain and Greece — survive a severe debt crisis that followed the 2008 global financial crisis. Many came to see Draghi's bold action as an essential turning point in the Eurozone — and the stuff to earn the dapper economist a place in the history books.

His skills in crisis management for the European economy also explains why Draghi, 73, was hand-picked last month by a wide range of Italian political leaders to step in to rescue his native country as a caretaker Prime Minister in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic crisis.

Yesterday, Draghi's first major decision as Italy's leader had a different flavor than his famous "whatever it takes' line: blocking the shipment to Australia of 250,000 Italian-made doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The same day, large swathes of Italy were put under new coronavirus restrictions and experts said the new variants risked again overwhelming the country, exactly one year after it became the first Western epicenter of the pandemic.

The Italian government said the shipment was blocked because Australia was doing relatively well to contain the spread of the virus, and because of AstraZeneca's long-running delays to deliver vaccine doses to EU countries.

The decision comes as most European countries have stumbled in their vaccine rollouts, particularly compared to other Western nations such as the U.S., Israel and notably the UK following Brexit. Draghi is the first leader of an EU country to apply new rules to give member states teeth to fight back against unfulfilled orders by the manufacturers of the different vaccines.

"Something has changed" headlined La Repubblica, while conservative-leaning daily Il Foglio had a blunter take: "Welcome to the global vaccine war."

Today's health crisis is of course very different from the debt crisis of nine years ago — it's far too early to tell whether Draghi's vaccine strategy will also be vindicated by history. But for Europe, there's a certain déjà-vu in seeing its own particular vulnerability to the latest illness spreading around the world. "Whatever it takes…" and whatever that means for a continent still trying to figure out how to be stronger than the sum of its parts.

Top Italian Education Official Mistakes Dante For Mickey Mouse
WHAT THE WORLD
Alessio Perrone

Top Italian Education Official Mistakes Dante For Mickey Mouse

Shortly before being appointed Undersecretary for Education, Rossano Sasso dashed off for Rome, amid around-the-clock negotiations in the capital to form Italy's new government. And Sasso made sure to share the moment with his Facebook followers.

"He who stops is lost, a thousand years for every minute," the 45-year-old politician from the southern Puglia region posted, together with a selfie taken in a car. (Here's the Italian original: "Chi si ferma è perduto, mille anni ogni minuto".)

Sasso, a teacher-turned-politician for the far-right Lega party, proudly declared in the post that he was quoting the father of the Italian language, unparalleled national icon and most revered of poets: Dante Alighieri.

The only problem: that quote doesn't come from Dante's Divine Comedy epic, but from a Mickey Mouse comic book.

In 1949 and 1950, Disney published a series of comic books that simplified and summarized Dante — Mickey Mouse's Inferno. In the books, Mickey plays Dante as he visits hell and sees the sentence Sasso cited on a sign, Rome daily La Repubblica explained.

Rossano, who was appointed undersecretary for Education on Wednesday night, did not explain how he confused Mickey Mouse and Dante. Speaking to La Repubblica, said he didn't want to comment on "frivolous things' and that he was now focused on improving Italian schools. The Facebook post has since been deleted.

Dante is a sizable component of the national curriculum in Italy, where high school students spend three years studying the Divine Comedy, which helped fuel the irony and rage against Rossano.

But the blunders surrounding Italy's new government, headed by the respected new Prime Minister Mario Draghi, do not stop with Rossano. On Thursday, Italian social media users resurfaced a 2018 interview given by Lucia Borgonzoni, another Lega politician. In the interview, Borgonzoni said she hadn't read a book in three years.

Her post in the newly formed government? Undersecretary for Culture.

Top Milan Welfare Official: 'No Rush' To Vaccinate Those Over 80
WHAT THE WORLD
Cassidy Slockett

Top Milan Welfare Official: 'No Rush' To Vaccinate Those Over 80

For Leitizia Moratti, head of welfare policy in the Lombardy region and former Milan Mayor, it wasn't the first outrageous statement on Covid-19.

In the Italian region of Lombardy, hit particularly hard by the pandemic, Leitizia Moratti serves as chief of welfare policy. She's also fast becoming queen of the COVID gaffe.


Moratti, 71, who had a successful business career and married an oil baron before entering politics, made headlines last month when she said that Italy's criteria for vaccine distribution should include which regions have higher GDPs. In other words, rich regions (like Lombardy, where Milan is capital) should get vaccines sooner because they would be better able to help the economy overall. Huh? The statement made in a private meeting of her party allies was vilified in her own region and around Italy, with one prominent economist saying the idea was a form of eugenics. Moratti, a former mayor of Milan, says her comment was taken out of context — though Il Fatto daily has a tape recording.

Moratti serves as chief of welfare policy —​ Photo: Bruno Cordioli

Now, according to La Repubblica, Moratti has suggested another unlikely approach to vaccine distribution. As the Lombardy region was launching its campaign to get vaccination appointments for the 80 and older population, Moratti responded to concerns about the efficiency of the system. "People need to stay calm," she said. "All those over 80 will be vaccinated. There's no need to rush." Huh? again...


Twitter, well, didn't have to wait. One resident suggested that the head of welfare should say the exact opposite: "we need to rush." Another tweet read: "This morning I booked the vaccine for my 86 year-old mother-in-law, Now Moratti says there's no rush! What have I done wrong?" Yes, calling for calm can set off a riot — and rushing to judgment is sometimes the most rational response.

Draghi arrives to meet Italy's Head of State
LA STAMPA
Alessio Perrone

Mario Draghi As Savior: Broken Democracy, Italian-Style

Of Italy's 58 prime ministers since World War II, you probably don't remember the name Lamberto Dini. He took office on Jan. 13, 1995, several months after uncertain general election results, as the country grappled with an ongoing corruption scandal and billionaire businessman Silvio Berlusconi"s recent entry into politics. The Italian establishment had turned to Dini, a sullen-faced economist and former Bank of Italy official, to lead a new government — and essentially save Italy from itself.

This week, it was the turn of another so-called "Super Mario."

Mario Monti filled that role 16 years later. A financial storm had battered Italy when the economics professor and former European Commission dashed to Rome in November 2011 to be appointed senator for life, then prime minister. This week, it was the turn of another so-called "Super Mario": former head of the Central European Bank Mario Draghi. Credited around the world of global finance with having saved the euro single currency in 2011, Draghi has been asked to take over from Giuseppe Conte — another technocrat who's formed two governments since the last election, in 2018.

Lamberto Dini in 1999 — Photo: Cezary P.

Reactions to the news that Draghi could soon be approved for the role by parliament ranged from delight to frantic excitement. La Stampa warned it was the "last call" for Italy. La Repubblica had all the hottest gossip about the totoministri. The right-leaning Il Foglio speculated about the "dietrologia," the backroom political machinations needed for Draghi to form a government.

For me, having been born in Italy but lived most of my adult life abroad, I've spent the last year getting reacquainted with Italian politics — and figuring out how to explain to foreign friends and foreign readers. I had forgotten the peculiar ways in which it is narrated back here at home. Every action seems decisive, every discussion heated, every moment pivotal. Will Draghi be able to form a government? Who will support him? Will Italy be rescued?

Don't get me wrong: This is a critical time for Italy. But focusing on these machinations distracts the deep-rooted sickness in Italian democracy, in which populist parties routinely leave the dirty work to technicians who fade away with the next election. Ours is a country where crisis is perpetual, and in constant need of being "saved" — so it changes government every other year.

Will Draghi be able to form a government? Who will support him? Will Italy be rescued?

Indeed, though we have accumulated more new leaders and reshuffled government coalitions than any of our neighbors, prime ministers who were actually elected by the people are increasingly rare. If he is confirmed by parliament, Draghi would be the sixth straight prime minister not to be chosen by Italian voters. And who was the last prime minister elected? It was Silvio Berlusconi — in 2008.