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La Stampa ("The Press") is a top Italian daily founded in 1867 under the name Gazzetta Piemontese. Based in Turin, La Stampa is owned by the Fiat Group and distributed in many other European countries.
A view of stripped parasols from above of at Paraggi beach.
food / travel
Niccolò Zancan

La Dolce Vita Has Gotten A Lot More Expensive

On the Italian coast, you'll be asked €200 per day for a beach umbrella and sunbed at the cheapest bathing establishments. Nowhere else makes clear the huge post-pandemic gap between the haves and have-nots.

PARAGGI, SANTA MARGARITA — Paraggi is a coastal town, neighboring Portofino, where the only two-star hotel in the area sells a "standard room" with a view of the back and a shared bathroom for €190. This alone would be enough to astonish us Italians, even though the manager of Hotel Argentina was almost taken aback by our surprise.

"Certainly, the shared bathroom is unique. We had some restrictions during the renovation. But these are the prices. Look around. Have you seen where we are? Do you know how much the five-star hotels in Paraggi cost?"

One of them is called "Eight Boutique." It's a hotel with private access to an exclusive beach, where only customers can lie down. "A standard room without a sea view would still be available, it costs €1045 per night," says the friendly girl at the reception, whose monthly salary amounts to the price of a night in July in the ugliest room of the hotel where she herself works.

"As for the suites at €3166 per night, we're sorry. Unfortunately, they are all booked today." Please excuse us if we dared to ask. Because inquiring about prices in Paraggi is considered impolite. The shop windows have no price tags. Only their designer bags, oysters, red prawn and large lobster claw designs.

Paraggi serves as Portofino's beach. While Portofino boasts a small harbor and a charming little square, there's no place to lie down and bask in the sun. Paraggi sits in the shadow of the mountain, tucked away behind three bends. The bay is small, lush green, and turquoise. If it weren't for all those mega-yachts moored there, obstructing the horizon, it would be a tiny paradise. There's a strict ban on docking boats, and signs on the walls read: "Please dress appropriately." But we know that "appropriately" is not about merely avoiding showing up at the table in swimwear.

This paradise isn't for everyone, that much is clear.

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Amongst the Pride crowd, an older person in large sunglasses wears the updated progress pride flag over their shoulders
Laura Berlinghieri

Italy's Crackdown On Same-Sex Parents Could Retroactively Dissolve Families

A new measure from the right-wing government could force same-sex parents of children already in elementary school to suddenly lose their parental rights and status.

PADUA — High on the list of priorities for the far-right government of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has been targeting the rights of same-sex couples with children.

In March, Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala was ordered to stop independently registering same-sex couples as parents of newborns, in accordance with an Italian high court ruling that only the court can rubber-stamp legal recognition of a same-sex parent. This new enforcement involves halting the legal registration of children of same-sex parents, compromising the children’s ability to access education and medical care.

✉️ You can receive our LGBTQ+ International roundup every week directly in your inbox. Subscribe here.

This week, the crackdown has gone one step further in the northern city of Padua, where 33 families with same-sex mothers now risk losing basic recognition of parental status for their children.

The documents that the families have received in recent days contain the request of the Public Prosecutor's Office for the alteration of their children’s birth certificates years after their children have been born, with some of them already in primary school.. The administration's policy seeks to make only the biological parent the legal caretaker, leaving the other parent with no rights over their own children.

This is being enforced retroactively by Meloni's government, as the birth certificates of children who are already enrolled in primary school may need to be changed.

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video image montage (Seaan)
Massimo Gramellini

Memories Of ‘B’: A Personal And National Obsession Named Silvio Berlusconi

On Monday, news came that Silvio Berlusconi has died at the age of 86. Much has been written about Berlusconi, having been the center of Italian political life for so long, including this particular piece by a veteran Italian columnist back in 2011 after the prime minister had resigned.

We are updating this article — originally published in 2011 after Silvio Berlusconi had resigned as prime minister — following the news Monday that Berlusconi has died at the age of 86.


ROME — Only now that he seems to finally be fading…ever so slowly…into the picture album of Italian history, did I find myself shuddering at the realization that I've spent half of my life following B"s every move. The same can be said about many of you, I'm sure.

In the beginning I was a young sports reporter, and he was a successful businessman, best known as the new owner of the AC Milan soccer club.

My first clear memory dates back to 1988. We were in an imposing hall inside the Vatican palaces waiting for Pope John Paul II, who would be arriving to meet the staff and players of AC Milan, recent winners of the Italian league championship.

A bishop approached B. "As we agreed, His Holiness will speak after you," the prelate said.

B had no idea what he was talking about, but smiled politely nonetheless. He then turned to his aides and gave them a quick and memorable tongue-lashing for not having informed him of the protocol. He had just ten minutes to put together a speech. I silently followed him walking along the corridors, curious to see how an important man like this would react in an emergency. I watched him pacing nevously, contorting his mouth and moving his hands. He was getting ready.

When the moment arrived to finally meet the Polish pontiff, B flashed his movie-star smile and began his speech. It would become part of the legend. "Holy Father, at the end of the day, you are like my Milan," he said, pausing, as some of the cardinals present fidgeted nervously. "Like us, you often must play away matches, to bring to the world a winning ideal: the ideal of God."

B had brought with him an enormous entourage, beyond the team: business associates, journalists, hangers-on: the Gruppo, he called it. And he presented each person, one-by-one, to John Paul. "This is Ruud Gullit, Your Holiness. Twelve goals this year, three in the Champions Cup."

He prompted a reaction from the pope when he introduced the editor of one of his magazines, boasting how it outsold the better-known "Panorama" weekly. "Panorama! I always read Panorama!" John Paul exclaimed. That may have been when B decided to buy Panorama's publishing house, Mondadori.

In any case, the papal audience was a tremendous success. I was 26 and already B entertained and frightened me all at once. He was the classic Milanese figure we call a "cumenda," a brash and successful man surrounded by servile aides. He used to arrive by helicopter to A.C. Milan practices. He would take off his coat and toss it behind him: there was always someone ready to catch it.

Berlusconi & Berlusconi

From the beginning there were two B"s: a sunny one, who was always smiling in public; and a mysterious one, who before turning 30 had somehow obtained multi-million dollar loans.

At the time, I was working for the Milan-based newspaper Il Giorno. When I moved to Rome to cover politics for La Stampa, I figured I would never again cross paths with B. Until one November evening, in 1993, when I was sent to the Parliament to get reactions to the rumor that he was considering entering politics. I met Massimo D'Alema, at the time secretary of the Social Democrat Party. "Stop spreading this nonsense. B will never enter politics. He has too many debts." Exactly, I said. D'Alema fired back a scathing glare. "So, I have to repeat myself: he will never enter politics!" I was beginning to understand that his arrival on the political scene was indeed unavoidable.

In the following months, Italy learned every detail about the man who would lead the country, on and off, for nearly 20 years. Italy discovered his ticks, and his titanic ego. In the videos, he spoke with a fake bookshelf in the backdrop, and with a nylon stocking over the lens of the camera to hide his wrinkles. He spread the legend of a paralyzed AC Milan fan who had walked again after hearing his voice. Everybody learned his party's jingle Forza Italia (Go Italy). His quotes were memorable. "Poor people don't exist," he said. "There are just those untrained in living well."

Readers told me to write about something else. But he was everywhere: in politics, soccer, television, advertising, movies, culture (more or less), money. Always him, him, him. One day, I bought a botanical magazine. There was a picture of B cropping the roses in the garden of his villa in Arcore, outside Milan.

Avoiding a B obsession was impossible. A friend and colleague reached his peak during a vacation in 1996. The center-left coalition led by Romano Prodi had just won the elections. We were taking in the evening along the seaside. There were girls, a sparkling moon, slow waves. I was soaking it all in until my friend approached me with a scowl. "You know, I was thinking that if Prodi doesn't make a law (to crack down) on conflict of interest within one week..." he started. "Please! Not now, not here!" I yelled back. But my friend was right. The new cabinet did not make that law. Maybe the ministers were on vacation too. B was going to keep being B.

I started to become personally involved. I wanted to persuade everyone else that B was not a supporter of the free market, but a monopolist who cared only about his business, not about Italy.

I would eventually give up this crusade after a chat with a worker of a moving company. "You know about politics, don't you?," he said to me. "Is it true that B is planning to sell his TV channels?"

"I don't think so, but I hope so," I answered. "We would finally become a normal country, don't you think?"

"Well, if he sells, I won't vote for him anymore," the man said. "If he has his TV, he is rich and doesn't steal…as long as he does his own business, he is forced to do a bit of mine. If he sells his TV, he will become a politician like all the others."

Man-on-street and your mother-in-law

The center-left was always wrong saying that the man of the street was a victim of B. No, he was a wannabe B, just a poorer version.

B"s name was the most cited, the most hated and loved. Think about how many times, my fellow Italians, you have thought about him in the last few years. Surely more than you have thought about your mother-in-law. No one else has divided Italy and Italians the way he has. Once, a guy wrote to the letters box of my column that he had broken up with his girlfriend because she had voted for B. Italy has become a country split in two, a democracy transformed into a neverending referendum on a single person, considered vulgar by one side, vital by the other.

We have grown old together. I went bald, he went and got hair transplants. In 25 years, I changed my mind about almost everything, except B. He still entertains and frightens me, though recently, I've been more frightened for sure.

He has never tried to convert me, though. He thinks I'm an unrecoverable. Once, he heard through a colleague that I was a believer in the free market. "But if he is not a Communist, why is he not with me?"

He sees only black or white. The current world is too complex for him. This is why he is fading away. Without him, I'm sure I will get bored sometimes. I will also have to work more. I will have to go back to covering so many different people: a politician, a businessman, the president of a soccer team, a carnival salesman, a comedian, a playboy. Before, I had all of them in just one person.

Read the original article in Italian

photo - Seaan

photo of protesters lying down on the street in Rome
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Federico Capurso

Russian "Hybrid War"? Italy Says Wagner Group Is Using Migrant Trafficking To Divide The West

The Italian Defense minister has blamed an uptick in illegal immigrant arrivals in Italy on the Russian mercenary group, which has a strong presence in Africa, with the risk that it could divide the Western alliance. Wagner chief Prigozhin is having none of it.

ROME — The political debate over immigration in Italy was reignited a few weeks ago after a shipwreck 200 meters off the Calabrian coast that killed 80 people, including 33 children. Since the beginning of 2023, more than 20,000 people have arrived in Italy by sea, a figure three times higher than for the same period last year.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's right-wing government has put forward multiple explanations for the increase in human trafficking, which now includes the possibility that the Russian mercenary outfit, the Wagner Group, is responsible.

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Photo of a graduation ceremony showing the students' hats.
Ginevra Falciani

Reports Of A Quiet Rise In University Student Suicides In Multiple Countries

On top of the traditional troubles some young people face on their own for the first time are the added factors of social media pressure and the effects of the pandemic. The crisis appears to have hit hard in Italy, with other countries, from India to France to the UK, reporting a similar situation.

TW: Contains references to suicide and suicidal thoughts.

On the first day of February, a 19-year-old took her own life in the bathroom of Milan’s IULM university. As reported in Italian daily La Stampa, a note left in the victim's purse said she considered her life and studies a failure.

Three months earlier, in the northeastern city of Bologna, a 23-year-old law student jumped off a bridge after telling his parents he was getting ready for graduation at the end of the week. He had not taken a single exam in months. The year before, in the same city, a student who had dropped out of university invited his parents to his would-be graduation, then took his life.

The Italian government halted the gathering of data on self-inflicted deaths in 2019, but there are growing number of reports in recent months in Italy's news media that suicides among university students are on the rise.

Although the causes of youth suicide are varied and complex, there is a longstanding connection for some to the university sphere, as students often describe feeling academic pressure and the weight of unmet familial expectations. Experts warn this is being exacerbated by the isolation coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the way that social media can feed feelings of inadequacy.

"Sleeping is a waste of time"

In Italy, experts and student associations say the country's university system deserves some of the blame. Excellence is necessary to succeed, but at the same time, the system allows students to fall behind easily — they can decide when to take a final exam, delaying it as much as a year after finishing a course.

Young Italians leaving university face one of the worst rates of youth unemployment in Europe. Even those with excellent grades have a hard time finding a job — a discouraging situation that’s especially hard on those already going through difficult times.

Add to that the way social media pushes a whole special set of "influencers" who have it all, including perfect grades. Italian media fuels the intense competition. “At 23, she is a doctor, model and influencer: ‘For me, sleeping is a waste of time’,” reads the headline of one of the many articles about Carlotta Rossignoli, the young prodigy who graduated from medical school a year early and attributed her success to little sleep and a “strong willpower.”

Normalizing “prodigy graduates” can turn an educational opportunity into a source of anxiety.

Italian newspapers reported glowingly last year on a young woman who did her thesis defense while in labor, continuing to answer questions between contractions.

Normalizing these so-called “prodigy graduates” pushes students to turn an educational opportunity into a source of anxiety, multiplying the burden of family expectations.

For many, going to university is their first time living away from their parents. Not wanting to disappoint can turn into a desperate battle not to fail, no matter the psychological cost.

And as always, on social media, the achievements of friends and acquaintances are only a swipe away — a perpetual reminder that somewhere, someone else is doing better.

Photo of a girl wearing the traditional laurel wreath worn by students in Italy on their graduation day. \u200b

Traditional laurel wreath worn by students in Italy on their graduation day.

Elisaveta Bunduche via Unsplash

Ask me how I am

The social media obsession dovetailed with the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of young people. The first wave hit Italy early and hard, and many university students, especially those working part-time to pay rent, were forced to move back in with their parents — sometimes re-entering dynamics from which they had voluntarily distanced themselves.

Cases of anxiety and depression have increased, driven by the loss of independence and physical contact, and disruption of daily routines.

Those who stayed in their university’s city have not fared much better.

At the University of Milan, in Lombardy, the region where the first cases of COVID-19 in Europe were detected in March 2020, requests for mental health support increased by 75%. Feelings of loneliness and bewilderment created symptoms of anxiety and depression among students stranded in the city.

This figure reflects a widespread problem. The 2022 “Ask Me How I Am” survey, which included 30,000 students nationwide, found cases of anxiety, fear, stress, worry about the future, eating disorders and self-harm in nine out of 10 students.

At the same time, endless budget cuts to education (the most recent: €3.86 billion in 2022) have reduced the availability of scholarships, and the housing crisis in several college towns has made it impossible for many to find their own apartments again, even with the end of the pandemic emergency.

Photo of Cambridge University.

Cambridge University

Jean-Luc Benazet via Unsplash

Not an exception

This phenomenon is hardly limited to Italy: suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24 in Europe.

In the same week of the suicide in Bologna, a 21-year-old student at the University of Exeter, UK, took his own life after failing his final-year exams. It was the 11th suicide in six years at this university. At the University of Cambridge, five students died by suicide between March and June 2022, which led the institution to launch an inquiry to determine whether their studies had affected the students’ mental health, the Times of Londonreported.

The suicide of a Dalit student in Bombay sparked a debate about caste discrimination in higher education.

In France, a 2020 survey found that students were twice as likely to have symptoms of anxiety and depression than people working. The University of Bordeaux study, which surveyed 4,000 people aged 18-40, also found low self-esteem was the main risk factor among young men.

Other cultural factors can also compound the problem. In mid-February, in India, the suicide of a Dalit student at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay sparked a debate about caste discrimination in higher education.

“Even before the student could introduce himself or make friends, he is asked for his JEE scores (a national standardized exam),” a Ph.D. scholar told The Wire. “The score gives away too much information – the student’s academic standing, caste location and their social vulnerabilities.” You become “a quota student, undeserving of the space,” another student pursuing her MTech degree said.

Investing in mental health

At many universities, in Italy and abroad, poor mental health support and a lack of subsidized psychologists makes this problem worse.

The Italian government created a €10 million fund in 2022 to help people pay for therapy. In just the first few days, 300,000 people applied — 60% of them under 35 years old. The fund was increased to €25 million in 2023 in response to the huge demand.

Government support is crucial, especially for students: the average price of a therapy session in Italy is €80, and few can afford to go regularly, if at all.

In response to the 19-year-old student's suicide at IULM university in February, the Italian government was reportedly working on a proposal to hire at least one mental health counselor in every university.

But there still seems to be a long way to go.

Photo of a 16th century monastery, now \u200bthe courtyard of one of Bologna University's buildings.

16th century monastery, now the courtyard of one of Bologna University's buildings.

Carlo Pelagalli

Waiting lists

Where this service does already exist, it is underfunded and has months-long waiting lists, leaving counselors unable to keep up with the increasing numbers of young people seeking help.

The University of Milan had only one psychologist before the pandemic. With more students needing mental health help, the school hired three more — still just one psychologist for every 3,000 students.

At the University of Bologna, where the two young men who had lied about their graduation were enrolled, each student is entitled to three preliminary evaluation sessions, after which they must wait for the university to schedule actual therapy.

We are tired of mourning our peers.

For one Bologna student, it took a month and a half for the university to start his three evaluation sessions, which he finished on Dec. 15. Now, more than two months later, he is still waiting for the university to schedule his follow-up therapy appointments.

“I don’t even blame them,” he says. “The counseling service is carried out entirely by volunteers. They do their best, but it’s ridiculous.”

In her keynote address at the opening of the academic year, Emma Ruzzon, student council president at the University of Padua, expressed the need for universities to address an often toxic culture of competition.

"University should represent a path to liberation through knowledge, not a performance," she said. “We are tired of mourning our peers, and we want politics to make itself available to understand with us how to take action against this emergency, but we also need the courage to question the entire merit-centric and competitive system.”

What Måneskin's Runaway Success Says About Retrograde Politics In Italy
Maria Corbi

What Måneskin's Runaway Success Says About Retrograde Politics In Italy

Since winning this year's Eurovision contest, Italy's rock band Måneskin has been taking its message of breaking down stereotypes around the world, while its native country's politicians are stuck in last century's prejudices.


ROME"We're out of our minds, but different from them..." Måneskin, the Italian band that won this year's Eurovision contest, sang those lyrics recently in New York in front of a delirious audience. Few in the American crowd can imagine how significant those words are in Italy right now that the Senate has rejected the Zan bill, which would have instituted new measures to fight homophobia.

Perhaps Italy's politicians should go for a stroll below that stage, be among those young people, in the real world where rights — and the freedom to be as one is, and not as one should be — are recognized. It's not even an issue for them. It's just part of life.

Sterile and stale discussions about gender wander like ghosts around the corridors of political power in Rome. They should instead belong to a chapter of a history book, turned into a distant memory.

Maneskin won the Eurovision song contest in May 2021


Damiano's message

How great it is to see Damiano singing with a collar that says "sex" and a thong with the Rolling Stones' tongue on it worn over his pants. How sad it is to see Simone Pillon, a senator with the far-right League party and one of the staunchest voices against LGBTQI+ rights, congratulating another senator, Gaetano Quagliarello: "You've given us a dream."

What's for sure is that Pillon and his gang took the dream away from the invisible, from the discriminated, from the targets of hateful behavior who hoped to be protected by a nation's law and its politics.

Fluidity is simply a non-issue among the young.

From the Bowery Ballroom in New York, Måneskin showed the world how much distance there is between reality and politics. So much positive energy in their songs, in their colorful clothes, in their freedom from stereotypes, classifications, cages. So much negative energy among those who continue to play with words and minimize a huge problem. Italy ranks low in Europe when it comes to LGBTQI+ rights and very high for the number of victims of transphobia: 36 killings from 2008 to 2016, considering only the cases reported by newspapers.

Gender and fluidity are simply a non-issue among the younger generations. It would be enough for the politicians to check out a Måneskin concert on YouTube to understand what kind of world they live in. Maybe it would be enough for them to talk to their own children to get a sense of what's happening — to understand, for example, why so many young people don't vote anymore.

To understand that the Måneskin's refrain — "we're out of our minds, but different from them" — reflects all their failure.

A photomontage of a bust of Greek philosopher Epicurus with a COVID-19 facemask
Mario Baudino

A Dose Of Epicurus: Ancient Philosopher Cures Italy's COVID Souls

In Italy, Epicurus's "Letter on Happiness" is being sold at pharmacies to help people face down the stress and anxiety of COVID times.

TURIN — Go into an Italian pharmacy and you might just see ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus being hawked as a cure to the mental health toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, his "Letter on Happiness" does not replace the vaccine — the only lasting solution! — but even after your second dose, the words of Epicurus can still help with the lingering trauma of the global pandemic. For yes, there are afflictions that medicine cannot solve — the seemingly invisible maladies of the mind and soul, for example.

The idea started with a pharmacist from Viareggio in northern Italy: He placed an edition of the famous "Letter on Happiness" on his counter, at the modest price of one euro; and for the entire summer it sold like hot cakes, so much so that the enterprising pharmacist has announced he's ordering a second shipping.

The wisdom of serenity

In fact, millions of copies of The "Letter on Happiness" have been sold and it even ended up at the top of the paperback bestseller list. It's only a few pages long, but the words are simple, reasonable, a veritable treasure trove of wisdom — even if the author has long been misunderstood, often reduced to the rank of libertine.

But Epicurus is not an unrestrained libertine, as in the famous invective of Shakespeare's comedy "Falstaff," where the jealous Mr. Ford denounces Sir John, his presumed rival, as "damned Epicurean!" alluding to his sexual lust (but mainly, it seems, for rhyming needs).

In truth, Epicurus is the philosopher who teaches us serenity. Or, as Ilaria Gaspari wrote in her book Lessons of Happiness: "I understand that being a good Epicurean doesn't mean being dissolute or monkish in the severity toward myself, but letting myself live with subtle fatalism, without falling prey to anxiety."

A photograph of an old book open on a table

Not out of place next to pills?

Armando Arauz

The mortality of life

In the "Letter on Happiness" Epicurus makes many interesting points, for example about superstition and gods: "Someone who rejects the popular religion is not irreligious, but someone who attributes the judgments of people to divinity is."

He also had advice for grappling with death that rings especially true during a time of mass mourning: "Then, get used to thinking that death means nothing to us, since enjoyment and suffering are both feelings, and death is nothing but the absence of feelings. The exact consciousness that death means nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, without the deception of infinite time that is induced by the desire for immortality." Because death, in fact, "does not exist for us. When we live, death is not there, and when death is there we are not there. Death is nothing for either the living or the dead. Because for the living it is not there, while the dead are no more."

It's an ancient teaching, repeated countless times and difficult to absorb; but who ever said that wisdom was a simple and easy matter? In pharmacies, next to pills of all kinds, it doesn't feel completely out of place — and maybe it really does have its own effect — placebo though it may be.

Epicurus' success in these COVID times proves that philosophy is anything but useless. And the dosage is obvious: Take it in the evening, maybe even more than once, possibly after being vaccinated.

photo of a woman with a covid mask on her forehead clapping at an anti-vaccination protest in Ankara, Turkey
Carl Karlsson and Clémence Guimier

How Far The No-Vaxxers Will Go To Dodge Vaccine Mandates

Countries are rolling out increasingly aggressive campaigns in an international effort to vaccinate the world out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two weeks ago, Italy became the first European country to make COVID-19 health passes mandatory for all workers, while others, including the U.S, France and Hungary, have mandated vaccination for federal workers or healthcare staff. Meanwhile, rules and laws are multiplying that require full vaccination to travel or enter movie theaters, restaurants and other indoor activities .

But with the increased pressure comes increased resistance: From anti-vaxxer dating to fake vaccine passports, skeptics are finding new — and sometimes creative — ways to dodge mandates and organize against their governments. Here's how people around the world are getting around vaccination rules:

Diversion and delay

In Italy, where the government recently approved a new measure to make digital vaccine certificates compulsory for all employees, strategies to circumvent the signing of a consent form are multiplying. According to Italian daily La Stampa, skeptics are bringing lawyers to vaccination appointments, demanding the doctor to sign off on guarantees that the vaccine is safe, or demanding that the meeting be videotaped.

Meanwhile, others are claiming to be allergic to vaccines, undergoing immunosuppressive therapies or suggesting they've had previous vaccine reactions like anaphylactic shock. Many are also using delay tactics: calling in sick for vaccination meetings, not responding to appointment requests or claiming to not have received notification.

The mandatory requirement stipulates that any worker failing to present their health vaccine certificate will be suspended without pay for up to five days but will not be fired. The move came shortly after the country reported more than 4.6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 130,000 deaths in mid-September.

Protesters for and against COVID-19 mandatory vaccines in Canada— Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto/ZUMA Press

Faux vaccine passports

A recent study by Check Point Research shows that fake COVID-19 vaccination certificates as well as test results of 29 different countries are being sold on Telegram. In India, the largest market for the popular messaging app, a fake vaccination certificate sells for $75, with prices having dropped by half since March 2021, India Times reports.

According to the study, counterfeit certificates were at the beginning of the year mainly advertised on the dark web but have since shifted to social media with its much broader consumer base. Since March, Check Point Research has spotted over 5,000 Telegram groups selling fake documents.

In the US too, customs agents in Memphis have seized multiple shipments of low-quality counterfeit vaccination cards sent from Shenzhen, China, to Tennessee. At first glance, the cards looked authentic, but a closer look revealed typos and incorrect translations from Spanish. While Memphis isn't the only place these counterfeits have been intercepted, officers in the city have seized more than 100 similar shipments this year, totaling more than 3,000 fake vaccination cards.

In France, some anti-vaxxers having a change of heart are finding themselves in a pickle. Having bribed health officials an average of $290 to receive a fake certificate, getting an actual jab is impossible as the fake passport is already on file in the person's real name, Liberation reports. As such, the only way to immunity is to confess the crime and risk up to three years behind bars.

Social media warfare in Asia

In Indonesia, one of the first countries to instate a blanket mandate for vaccination, anti-vaxxers are taking to social media to undermine government authority. According to Nikkei Asia, Indonesian authorities have removed 2,000 vaccine-related hoaxes from social media platforms. For example, a TV report with manipulated captions had a scientist saying "our people will be killed by Chinese vaccines" and that jabs "make the virus more savage" — receiving 182,000 shares before Facebook took it down.

In Japan, where a July government report found that only 45% of people in their 20s and 30s were favorable to vaccines, social media has also been riddled with misleading social media posts. Since the beginning of the 2021, 110,000 Twitter posts that were retweeted at least once suggested that getting vaccinated leads to infertility.

Some are claiming to be allergic to vaccines to avoid the jab — Photo: Maxppp via ZUMA Press

Religious exemption

Following U.S. President Joe Biden's sweeping new vaccine mandates covering more than 100 million Americans, Religious objections are becoming a widely used loophole against the COVID-19 shot.

Roughly 2,600 employees at the Los Angeles Police Department have already claimed religious objections to the department's COVID-19 vaccination requirement, while in Washington state, some 3,800 workers have requested religious exemptions to the mandate that workers be fully vaccinated by October 18 or lose their job.

The right to religious exemption is landing many employers in a legal gray area. As workers don't have to be part of an organized religion mandate to be considered a valid candidate, employers are rather forced to make individual assessments of the level of religious sincerity.

Of course, faith-based clashes with authorities mandating vaccination isn't a province of the U.S. alone. In Greece, a major source of opposition to vaccination are influential clerics and the power they wield from the pulpit. While the church leadership officially supports vaccination, several influential archbishops and clerics have repeatedly told their flocks not to get vaccinated, while some refuse to let people into church if they are wearing a mask or have had the jab. Last week, Greek daily Alfa Vita reported on a particularly outspoken priest calling the vaccine "the joy of Lucifer."

Unvaccinated dating 

As restrictions for travel, social life and work become increasingly stringent for the unvaccinated, some are trying to create a parallel culture with safe spaces for those who refuse the jab. Mainly proliferating on social media, people around the world are organizing dating and house shares for fellow skeptics. The messaging app Telegram has become a go-to place for anti-vaxxing activists, with the platform working as a cross-pollination vehicle for anti-vaxx, COVID denialism and broader conspiracy theories.

But there are also attempts at creating more particular spaces for anti-vaxx socializing. The dating-and-community app for unvaccinated people, Unjected, was launched in May before being removed by Apple last month in a move the app's owner labeled as censorship. In an attempt to get Unjected back on the App Store, the owner posted on its now-deleted Instagram account that certain features had been removed, including social feed and a blood bank for the unvaccinated.