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 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.

Hugo Chavez during his recovery from surgery in Cuba in February 2013
BBC

When World Leaders Get Sick: Health, Lies And Videotape

The uncertainty around President Trump's condition since contracting COVID-19 is part of a pattern when powerful politicians fall ill.

The 72 hours since U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted out his COVID-19 diagnosis have been filled with a shocking yet unsurprising flood of information, misinformation, facts, rumors, off-kilter video messages and one very ill-advised ride in his motorcade. Even with the whole world watching and asking, nobody has the answer to the question "How sick is he?" The week begins with Washington watching to see whether Trump, as leaked by presidential confidantes, will leave Walter Reed military hospital far earlier than most doctors believe is wise.


What's different: There is much that is unprecedented about Trump's first-hand personal (and presidential) battle with COVID-19. The political context is particularly charged, after the president had spent months downplaying the pandemic — and the timing couldn't be more momentous, one month before his reelection bid. Add to that, of course, is Trump himself who mixes patriotic appeals with an instinct for showmanship and notably casual relationship with the truth. Still, unlike other challenges he's faced over the past four years, the coronavirus itself is a nemesis that is harder to predict than Trump himself.


Despots and democrats: The criticism that Trump and his entourage are facing for the lack of transparency around his health is hardly new in the world of politics. Both the private nature of personal health, and the potentially high stakes of a head of state being incapacitated or worse, has prompted democratically elected leaders and dictators alike to go through great pains to obscure the truth.


Several U.S. presidents have hid chronic illnesses, while others have covered up the grave state of their health, right up until their death in office.

  • Just months after taking office for his second term in 1893, Grover Cleveland was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on the roof of his mouth. While surgeons removed the tumor — along with several of the president's teeth and a large part of his upper left jawbone — the White House announced that Cleveland was on a fishing trip. But the real cover-up came thanks to the president's trademark mustache, which covered his scars.

A portrait of U.S. President Grover Cleveland — Photo: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing

French secrets: Just months after François Mitterrand was elected President of France for the first time in 1981, he was diagnosed with cancer.

  • As Paris-based daily Libération reports, he wound up concealing the illness for 11 of his 14 years in office, finally going public in September 1992 following an operation. He died from prostate cancer a year after leaving office in 1995, at the age of 79.
  • A subsequent book, called Le Grand Secret, recounts the lengths Mitterrand went to hide his illness, even publishing false health reports. During his campaign for the presidency, Mitterrand had promised to be transparent about his health, after one of his predecessors, President Georges Pompidou, had died in office in 1974 from cancer that too was long kept secret.


From Russia with secrecy

  • Though Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's health had been deteriorating since the end of World War II — he suffered from atherosclerosis as a result of heavy smoking and had two strokes in 1945 — the official newspaper of the Soviet Union's Communist Party Pravda first reported about Stalin's disease three days after he suffered a massive stroke and one day before his death in 1953. The leader was already unconscious, receiving no medical attention as Soviet leaders competed for his succession (a well-documented episode that even led to a 2017 dark comedy).

  • As the BBC Russian Service once investigated, mum's the word when it comes to Moscow's authorities and their health, with Vladimir Lenin being the only leader whose medical bulletins were published regularly. In subsequent decades, Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev and Boris Yeltsin all had significant health problems that were shrouded in mystery.

François Mitterrand and Ronald Reagan in 1981 — Photo: Wikipedia

​Chavez's cancer: As early as summer 2010, rumors that Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez had cancer started, with Chavez readily denying them.

  • In June of the next year, new rumors started to spread when the president went to Cuba to undergo surgery and didn't appear on media for two weeks, following a knee injury, El Periodico reported at the time.

  • The next month, Chavez finally revealed during a television address that he was being treated for cancer and that the surgery in Cuba was conducted to remove a tumor. He added however that the illness would not prevent him from staying in command of the country.

  • Despite the revelation, details about his illness were kept as vague (and positive) as possible and the state of his condition remained a mystery until his death in March 2013.

In India, the health of home affairs minister Amit Shah, who was hospitalized three times in less than two months due to coronavirus, has sparked a debate over the need for transparency concerning the medical condition of the country's political leaders.

  • The "medical status of public figures is taboo," writes Imran Ahmed Siddiqui in the Telegraph India, as health is seen as a private and personal matter that should not be discussed publicly. Shah, considered India's second most powerful person after his close ally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

  • But Bharat Bhushan, writing for Indian magazine The Caravan argues that as tensions are still vivid with China on the Ladakh border, the need for the home affairs minister "to function efficiently ought to be a matter of public concern". "Revealing the health condition of a leader requires a tough balancing act between transparency and individual privacy. While transparency contributes to public accountability, its absence can endanger the nation, the government and impact public interest", writes Bharat Bhushan.

Silvio's nip and tuck: Leave it to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to make a high-stakes health drama out of a face-lift operation.

  • Around Christmas 2003, the billionaire leader had disappeared for more than a month and reemerged with a notably tighter face.

  • Though Berlusconi never officially confirmed the intervention, La Repubblica reported on anger among Italian plastic surgeons that the operation took place at a Swiss clinic.

  • Six months later, there was speculation that Berlusconi had resorted to hair replacement procedure after he appeared alongside British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a bandana at a Sardinian resort.

Stepping out (for good)?
WORLDCRUNCH
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: Why Our Work Days Will Never Be The Same Again

The world found out quickly that COVID-19 would be a major interruption to the way we worked. By now, there is little doubt that the health pandemic — and resulting lockdown measures and travel bans — will leave permanent traces in company policies, employee behavior and our relationship with work spaces and technology.

Yet it goes even further: Since work is so central to people's lives, we are beginning to see how these changes could reshape the broader organization of our economies and societies.

Still, the changes will reveal themselves over time — and as this new edition Work → In Progress shows, the devil will be in the details. What both employees and employers must do right now is begin to think hard about the trade-offs implicit in such potentially big changes to our working habits and policies. Teleworking, for example, has ushered in a new era of flexibility but also raises questions about the potential loss of in-person mentorship; in Ivory Coast, mobility restrictions and closed schools have exacerbated alarming labor issues; while in South Africa, medicine delivery service is helping pharmacy employees handle a growing workload.

TAKE OUT Thanks to COVID-19, the delivery sector has expanded way past pizza and Amazon orders. South Africa, battling both coronavirus and an HIV epidemic, has instituted a medicine delivery service with 240,000 chronic medication packages reported as delivered in mid-June. Although pharmacy employees are struggling to adjust to the unprecedented workload, this new mode of distribution looks like a promising tool for both governments and companies fighting the economic impact of coronavirus. If this trend continues, delivery driver may be the next hottest job on the market.

ETHICS MATTER There's lots of talk about how quarantine has accelerated new work trends, but it has also exacerbated alarming labor issues. According to the International Cocoa Initiative, lockdown in the Ivory Coast has led to a rise in child labor. The combination of closed schools with a lack of adult workers due to mobility restrictions has caused the number of children performing dangerous tasks such as heavy lifting or working with chemicals to increase from 16% to 19%. It's an urgent example of how labor legislation should not take a backseat during the pandemic. On the contrary, it should be front and center, an integral part of every country's fight against the growing economic depression.

STAT DU JOUR

LOST MENTORS "I can only sustainably work from home because I have 40 years of office experience behind me," wrote Richard Harris, a Hong-Kong based CEO and investment manager in the South China Morning Post. In an age of coronavirus and Zoom meetings, he wonders how younger employees will be able to grow professionally without hands-on help from a mentor. HR departments should think carefully about how educational relationships between colleagues can be fostered digitally, or the results may be dire for the future workforce.

HOT TOPIC As the climate continues to change, so do our work habits. Vietnamese rice farmers had their work hours turned upside down by a recent heat wave, forcing them to pick the paddies at 2 a.m. instead of during the day. Temperatures of 40 °C have made outdoor labor impossible after 8 a.m., and the only source of light during night shifts are small head and pocket lamps. Because of this, workers are half as productive and their family lives are heavily affected. It's another item on the long list of reasons why fighting global warming is our most pressing issue.

THE ODD JOB

GOOD INVESTMENTS Social and political issues can spill into workplaces of every sector, and industries around the world felt the effects of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and protests against the murder of George Floyd. Big corporations are seeing pressure to make real change, as some investors are turning away companies that aren't committed to diversity. One resulting example is BlackRock announcing a plan to increase their number of Black employees to 30% in the next four years. According to the Financial Times, however, "shaping investment portfolios to achieve racial justice is incredibly difficult, primarily because of the lack of data." It looks like companies will need to combine technological savvy with CSR in order to attract tomorrow's investors.

ARTIFICIAL ACTING "LOL," as the kids say: The most beautiful robot in the world is unemployed (until movies can start filming again)! When we hear about robots stealing our jobs, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not the movie industry. Yet, the android Erica will be the lead lady in Life Productions' $70 million sci-fi picture, "b," which tells the tale of a scientist tasked with creating perfect human DNA. Created by Hiroshi Ishiguro, a roboticist at Osaka University in Japan, Erica's features were modeled after Miss Universe pageant finalists to make her the most beautiful robot in the world. As an aspiring actress, Erica is great at remembering lines but struggles with adapting her tone of voice to a given context. As she keeps practicing lines with human actors, the developers hope she will be ready to perform when production resumes.

Lawyers in Italy
Geopolitics
Alessio Perrone

COVID-19 Culprits? Seeking Justice For Pandemic's Toll

Here in the Italian region of Lombardy, which has been one of the pandemic's deadliest epicenters, months of grief have now turned to anger.


It began as relatives of COVID-19 victims formed a Facebook group Noi Denunceremo ("We will sue"), where 55,000 members are demanding the truth about Italy's fumbled coronavirus response, La Repubblica reported. Last month, after dozens poured into a local court to file reports, the prosecutor who took on their case grilled Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and regional leaders in Lombardy. We don't know if they will get the answers they seek, but the moment for hard questions has clearly arrived.


Similar lawsuits and legislative actions are spreading in other countries too, fueled not only by bereaved families but also by citizens and opposition politicians. More than 3,000 lawsuits have already been filed in the US. The UK's health secretary faces legal action. Meanwhile in France, the Parliament opened two enquiry commissions into the country's almost 29,000 deaths. "I hope for full transparency about what happened during the crisis, without neither attacks nor concessions," Eric Ciotti, an opposition leader in Parliament spearheading the probe, told Le Monde.


On a personal level for survivors, there is no doubt something comforting in the knowledge that investigations are opening: a moment of reckoning, righting wrongs and setting the record straight.


I live in Milan, the capital of Lombardy, and thankfully haven't lost anyone due to COVID-19. But my neighbors have — and witnessing those in my city and region taking action leaves little doubt for me: those responsible for what has clearly been grave mismanagement, including transferring patients to nursing homes and failing to test adequately, should be held accountable for their mistakes.

Lawsuits and legislative actions are spreading in other countries too — Photo: Marco Piraccini/Mondadori Portfolio/ZUMA


Looking for culprits in the aftermath of a tragedy is nothing new. Most major catastrophes are followed by a deluge of litigation: After the Great Recession, financial institutions faced lawsuits for misleading investors and regulation. After 9/11, a victim compensation fund paid $7 billion to victims and families if they agreed not to sue airlines.


But it is not always clear who (if anyone) is responsible for a death when a novel pandemic strikes every country in the world. Is it the government that created faulty pandemic plans? Or those who starved the hospital's budgets for years before? Or wait, is it — as an Associated Press investigation suggested — China's fault for allegedly withholding information early on?


The different strands of questions are visible everywhere, including here in Lombardy. The chain of events that led to thousands of deaths includes unreliable information coming from China; superficial World Health Organization scrutiny of that country; the authorities' refusal to set up localised lockdowns; widespread shortages of facemasks; the lack of chemical reagents and swabs; an order that doctors do not visit patients at home ...


The quest for truth and justice will no doubt teach us something about what happened, and hopefully lead to better policies in the future. But the question of justice — "who is the culprit?" — is less clear. The scale and suddenness of the pandemic raises a more philosophical question: When so many actors are involved, so many mistakes are made, millions of people suffer, whom do you punish? Or, what is the price if we don't punish anyone?