Coronavirus

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.

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Post-Merkel, Macron And Draghi Will Try To Ease Europe's Debt Rules

Coalition negotiations in Berlin will make for a period of political uncertainty that French President Emmanuel Macron is keen to exploit. He already has a new Italian partner, with whom he wants to steer the EU in a new direction.

-Analysis-

BERLIN — In the coming weeks — perhaps even months — a power vacuum will reign in Berlin. But just like their colleagues in the world of science, political observers know that nature abhors a vacuum. It's just a matter of time, in other words, until the void is filled.

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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:

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On The Border Of Bosnia: Voices Of Afghan Migrants

As the Taliban closed in on Afghanistan, the European Union co-signed a joint statement with dozens of nations agreeing that "the Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity" and that the international community was "ready to assist them".

As someone who has been researching the refugee crisis on Europe's borders for years, I found the statement surprising. Before it was making bold statements about events in Kabul, the EU had spent years failing to help thousands of Afghans seeking help at its borders.

Since 2015, more than 570,000 Afghan citizens have sought protection in the EU. Thousands of them remain stuck in Bosnia and Herzegovina, after having been pushed back by the Croatian police catching them on the EU border.

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Society
FLAVIA AMABILE

Pope Francis, Don't Call Me A Murderer

Alice, 28 years old, from Genoa, terminated her pregnancy one year ago. "It is neither a transgression nor disgrace, I only exercised my right to do so."

GENOA — Alice Merlo terminated her pregnancy with a pill on September 21, 2020. Last week, returning from a four-day visit to Hungary and Slovakia, Pope Francis condemned women who, like Merlo, choose to end their pregnancies. And yet, Italy's 194 law that authorized the right to abortion in 1978, despite myriad shortcomings, is fundamentally working.

The number of abortions in Italy has been declining for years. This is confirmed by the latest data from the annual report of the Ministry of Health : last year, there were 67,638 abortions, a 7.6% drop that continues a downward trend since 1983. The conscientious objection to abortion applied among gynecologists opposed to the practice is also decreasing, from 68.4% in 2019 to 67% in last year.

Women no longer die from illegal abortions, and yet the Catholic world won't forgive them. The Pope defined pregnancy interruptions as a "homicide." He repeated that "whoever gets an abortion commits a murder, to say it clearly" and that you can see in "any embryology book for Medicine students" that at "the third week after conception, all the organs are already there, even the DNA" and that it is therefore a human life! And this human life must be respected." Francis concluded with a question: "Is it right to kill a human life to solve a problem?"

This was a true attack. Not new but particularly brutal. Alice Merlo refuses to accept the condamnation. "After exactly one year, I don't see myself at all as a murderer. I have not committed a homicide. Getting an abortion is neither a transgression nor a disgrace. I only exercised my right, and rights should not require paying some kind of 'pain fine.'"

Speaking about abortion without shame or anonymity

Merlo is 28 years old, lives in Genoa, works in the communication field and is one of the few women who has accepted to talk about her termination of pregnancy without hiding behind anonymity. On the contrary, she decided to show her face right after the intervention with a Facebook post, and then became a testimonial for a campaign organized by the Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics in favor of pharmacological abortion.

Not only has she decided to talk about her decision, but to do so without having to pay what she calls a "pain fine" to society.

I knew one second after discovering I was pregnant that I didn't want to carry this pregnancy to term.

"It wasn't hard for me to decide, "she says. "I knew one second after discovering I was pregnant that I didn't want to carry this pregnancy to term. I was lucky to avoid facing the world of the conscientious objection to abortion, the gynecologist who followed me medically me was not an objector so she accompanied me in the treatment of Ru486, here in Genoa."

A poster in Milan against the RU486 abortion pill

A billboard against the Ru 486 pill in Milan, Italy, 2020. — Photo: Alberico Massimo/Abaca/ZUMA

Last word goes to who has to carry pregnancy forward

Merlo says she suffered no physical or psychological malady — and that this reality is not accepted by society. "When we talk about abortion we say that there is the 194 law, but that it's always a tragedy, a pain, a scar. Instead it is not always like that, and we shouldn't impose a sense of guilt in the people who do talk about it. There are different ways of telling stories."

When people ask why she didn't carry through with her pregnancy, Merlo responds simply: "I didn't feel like it, it wasn't the right time and I didn't want this embryo to become a baby boy or girl. I did it during the seventh week and I never felt guilt or tormented myself. I made my own choice."

She never told the man with whom she had sex. "We didn't have a stable relationship," she explains. "There was no need to burden him with my choice. In any case, even in a stable relationship the last word goes to who has to carry the pregnancy forward."

Despite her determination, and the availability of the gynecologist, abortion is still presented as an obstacle course, semi-clandestine and guilt-ridden, Merlo says. "You can only go in the morning and without having booked a specific appointment. You are treated like a person performing an act they should be ashamed; of and no medical authority indicates where the abortions are performed. There is a climate of omertà and shadows." And yet the law is simply being respected.

Coronavirus
Massimo Giannini*

Bravo Italy For World’s Strictest Vaccine Mandate - But Where’s Mario?

Italy's new "Super Green Pass" is great, but where's "Super Mario"? Such a sweeping measure, which requires workers to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, risks encroaching on the fundamental right to work. It's necessary right now, but also needs Prime Minister Mario Draghi to explain why.

-OpEd-

ROME — There is not a single good reason to criticize Italy's new "Super Green Pass", the new decree announced on Thursday that will mandate more than 20 million of the country's workers to prove they've tested negative to COVID-19 or that they've been vaccinated to work, beginning Oct 15.

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Feed The Future

Climate Change & The Food Factor: The Planet Needs A New Kind Of Agriculture

Let's not underestimate the impact on the planet of industrial, intensive agriculture, focused on exploiting machines, pesticides and fertilizers across wide tracts of land.



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Green Or Gone
Niccolò Zancan

Record Drought & Heartbreak: Italy's Farmers Reap The Damages Of Climate Change

CERVERE — It hasn't rained in two months. The corn has not grown. Six out of ten hectares of this plain field are completely parched. "It's late now," says Giovanni Bedino, running his dark fingers through the dry leaves of the corn. The farmer, now 59, has been working the land since he was 15.

"Since the day my father passed away, I have done nothing else," he says. "I love this job, but a year like this takes away your love and leaves you sad. The corn died, it was born small and it remained small, stuck, without water and not even a bit of humidity. We couldn't water the fields and nothing came down from the sky. I remember, the summer of 2003 was a very difficult one — but it wasn't even close to this year. I have never seen such a drought."

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Green Or Gone
Alessio Perrone

A Picturesque, Damning View Of Our Wildfire Planet

Salento, the very southeastern tip of Italy, is a flat and shrubby land of farmers, stunning beaches and simple rural villages built around Baroque churches. Thousands of Italians and foreigners flock to this part of the Puglia region on the heel of the Italian boot every summer, lured by its promise of a rustic, idyllic break.

My family is there now, like every summer, because that's where they (we!) come from: my grandfather was one of the farmers that looked after the centuries-old olive trees, vineyards and orchards that grow in the parched, deep red earth under the scorching summer sun.

But it has more recently also become a land of wildfires. Dozens of hectares of farmland have gone up in smoke during a series of testing heatwaves — the harshest of which is predicted to hit later this week. The flames have sieged the highways, scared tourists off the camping sites, then danced towards the beaches, in scenes I have not seen there since I was born. It is just one flare up in a rash of fires that have consumed some 103,000 hectares across Italy so far this year.

Of course, it's part of a continental, if not global, inferno. The world has watched in awe as wildfires ravaged places as far away as Siberia and Turkey, California and Canada. Earlier this week, tourists and thousands of residents were forced to flee the Greek island of Evia after it experienced the worst heatwave in decades, propelling temperatures well above 40℃ and creating ideal conditions for fires to rage. On the other side of the Mediterranean, Tunisia's fires have suddenly turned deadly. After Greece, Italy has recorded the second-highest number of wildfires in Europe so far, with southern regions like Sicily, Sardinia and Puglia burning at unprecedented speeds.

Watching from a distance, I couldn't help but see the events as predictable — most of my generation has known the dangers of climate change for years. When a major UN climate report this week described climate change as an inevitable, unprecedented emergency that is happening sooner and faster than expected, that too was no surprise.

We've been warned plenty of times before. We knew there would be consequences, damages, casualties. We have, indeed, seen the fires spreading.

And yet it's a different feeling not only to know about the threat of wildfires but to see it on your doorstep, closing in on your family, devouring the increasingly arid land your grandfather used to look after. Even if I've always been conscious of climate change and have tried to act accordingly, I never thought it would touch someone I know so soon. It's frightening, mesmerizing, hypnotic — like watching a fire burn — to think that even myself and my generation have been staring at reality, and yet never truly realizing that it's already happening. That it's coming for us.

Economy
Alessio Perrone

Confessions Of A Recovering Meme Stock Trader

MILAN — There were a few moments of silence when I told my girlfriend what I'd done. I'd kept the information from her for a few days, fearing her reaction and forced to explain: I had chucked a few hundred dollars at shares of the so-called "meme stock" extraordinaire GameStop on the New York Stock Exchange. Then, still dissatisfied, I'd come to own shares of AMC, BlackBerry, Plug Power. I'd never even heard of these companies until I saw them, well, trending on the internet. And in just a few clicks, the same internet made it easy to invest my hard-earned money in these stocks.


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Geopolitics
Mattia Feltri

Coming Back Around, One Year Later: What COVID Took Away

ROME — The 70-something barista who served me an iced tea last July was proud of his historic cafe next to one of the city's best-known theaters. It was soon after the end of Italy's first lockdown, and the theater was still closed due to the pandemic. At the end of our short conversation, the aging barman bid me farewell with a shout of: "Long live freedom."

It's almost exactly a year later, as I return, and the weather is hot again. I order an iced tea, and take off my mask to drink it. The lady at the counter asks me if I'm vaccinated, if I'm going to the theater; she says that unfortunately, she's been too busy to see the show. She got the first dose of the vaccine and is looking forward to the second, and also to the third and fourth and fifth if they are needed. My guess, from her manner and appearance, is that she's the barista's wife.

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Geopolitics
Annalisa Camilli

Invisible Horrors Of Italy's Migrant Detention Centers

A young detainee's suicide is drawing attention to the otherwise invisible plight of people locked up in decrepit, pre-deportation facilities known as CPRs.

Accused of stealing a smartphone, Moussa Balde was savagely beaten in Ventimiglia, near the French border, by three Italians with plastic pipes and bars. But after just a brief hospital visit, the 23-year-old man from Guinea was transferred to what is known in Italy as a CPR, a detention center for people awaiting deportation. Now he's dead.

Balde's death is the sixth in a CPR since 2019, and it is is raising serious questions about conditions in the facilities, especially given the circumstances that led up to his detention. The attack that preceded it took place outside a supermarket, and was recorded by a passerby who can be heard in the video shouting: "They're killing him, they're killing him."

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Geopolitics
Mattia Feltri

Italy And Fascism, A Lingering Question Of National Character

Giorgia Meloni, rising star of Italy’s far-right, was a member of neofascist organizations in her youth. She insists that she's changed her way, and that fascism is not an Italian peculiarity. Not all agree.

-Essay-

ROME — A couple of weeks ago, under our apartment window, my kids and I heard a neatly lined-up demonstration passing by, chanting a single uninterrupted chorus: "Where are the anti-fascists?" It wasn't a huge crowd, and maybe that's why my kids heard the slogan differently: "Where are the other fascists?"

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Geopolitics
Genevieve Mansfield

Florence Storefront Photographs: Sign Of Our COVID Times

Italian photographer Simone Donati captured his hometown of Florence soon after it went into lockdown last spring. As Italy opens up, it was time for him to return.

FLORENCE — In March 2020, Italy became the first country in the West to be hit by the coronavirus. During the worst month, the mortality rate in Italy doubled, and today the country still mourns the more than 126,000 people killed by the pandemic, the sixth highest death count in the world.

Beyond the immediate health impact, Italy was also the first country in Europe to impose a strict nationwide lockdown to counter the spread of the virus. The quarantine forced schools, businesses and shops to close their doors.

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Geopolitics
Dacia Maraini

Looking Europe's Migrant Crisis In The Eye

As tempting as it may be to just turn away, we lose a piece of our humanity every time we do.

-Essay-

Looking at these photographs means becoming witnesses. The eye sees, preserves and remembers. The eye feeds on presence, and presence is history. These photographs tell us that we are all witnesses and our conscience is implicated; it cannot call itself unaware of events.

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Geopolitics
Alessio Perrone

Post-Lockdown Milan: All Booked And On The Verge Of Bankruptcy

Bars and restaurants are finally able to receive customers, at least for outdoor service. It's a welcome shift for a weary population that is still, nevertheless, wary about the lingering pandemic.

MILAN — Hanging from the wall opposite the main entrance of Red Red Wine, a blackboard reads: "Tasting of indigenous grapes of Southern Italy. Reservation required."

The words are scribbled in colored chalk and advertise an event that took place more than a year ago — on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. The board is a time capsule, in that sense, like a broken clock that stopped ticking, from one day to the next, right around the moment when everything in Italy came to a halt, when time suddenly stood still.

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