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Paolo Valenti

See more by Paolo Valenti

Photo of a child walking past a carcass of an animal
Green

How Climate Change And Ukraine War Have Put Somalia On The Brink Of Famine

In Somalia, four rainy seasons have failed to arrive, leaving the land desiccated and people starving. But drought alone is not enough to cause these numbers. A perfect storm of factors is setting the stage for a monumental human tragedy that most of the world is ignoring.

BAIDOA — When Oray Adan arrived in Baidoa six months ago, she was pregnant, exhausted and undernourished to the point of not even having the strength to eat. Drought had dried out the land in the village of Bakal Yere, in Somalia, where she and her husband had been farmers. But the drought had condemned their livestock to death and driven the family to starvation. In the month before she fled, three of their four children had died from hunger and diseases that, if they had lived practically anywhere else, would have been easily treated with simple antibiotics.

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To save her surviving two-year-old son and the one she was carrying, Oray Adan walked two weeks and reached the nearest urban center in desperate need of care, water and food. She arrived in Baidoa, a city in south-central Somalia, and was referred to a medical center for malnourished children. She was skeletal, as was the child she held by the hand—a thinness that lingers even now, stretching to her now four-month old newborn, Shukri Mohamed, who should weigh eight pounds, but weighs only two.

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Photo of writer Roberto Saviano leaving a court hearing
Migrant Lives

Saviano v. Meloni: My Right To Curse Italy's Leaders For Letting Migrants Die

Acclaimed Italian writer Roberto Saviano is in court this month facing defamation charges from Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. With this essay, Saviano stands by his words, and his right to use them.

Italian writer Roberto Saviano is facing defamation charges from Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Two years ago, before she was elected, Saviano called Meloni and her right-wing ally Matteo Salvini "bastards" for demanding that Italy refuse to help save would-be migrants stranded at sea.

-Essay-

ROMEI stand in this courtroom today indicted for my harsh criticism of Giorgia Meloni and Matteo Salvini, whom I hold responsible for pushing their political propaganda upon the most desperate and vulnerable and least able to defend themselves: refugees.

It is a propaganda that not only attacks people seeking safety far from their countries battered by war, poverty and environmental destruction, but also violently lashes out against the NGOs attempting to rescue them in the Mediterranean before — or sometimes, tragically, after — the sea turns into their grave.

I find it odd that a writer is put on trial for the words he or she shares, however harsh they may be, while helpless people continue to suffer atrocious violence and relentless lies.

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Photo of a man walking on a plank off a ship
Migrant Lives

Italian Shame: Meloni's Migrant Policy Is Probably Illegal And Certainly Immoral

Vladimiro Zagrebelsky, an Italian jurist and former judge on the European Court of Human Rights, says Italy's new government's blocking rescued migrants from coming ashore is a likely violation of international law, and indication of what it thinks of basic human rights.

-Analysis-

ROME — Italy's first major showdown over immigration since the election of new right-wing Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has passed. But this is just the beginning.

Late Tuesday, Italian health officials allowed more than 250 people on NGO rescue boats to disembark on the island of Sicily, and another vessel carrying 234 people was headed to the French island of Corsica. This followed a weeklong standoff in which the Italian government would only care for those it considered “vulnerable” passengers.

Still, Meloni criticized the decision of health officials, which means we can expect the blocking of rescued migrants from disembarking appears bound to happen again.

The latest news came after the Italian government denied port access to three NGO ships that had rescued about 1,000 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea in late October.

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Photo of remains of a Russian camp in Izium
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

"Save Us From Nazis," Indoctrination Stamped On Student Letters To Russian Troops

In the Ukrainian city of Izium, Russian troops left behind more than destruction, mass graves and testimony of torture. After their hasty withdrawal in early September, Ukrainians found traces of the regime's propaganda indoctrinating school children.

IZIUM — We've spent the last few days in this strategically important city northeastern Ukraine, visiting some of the buildings used by the Russians as prisons and places of torture. One particular building in Izium had served as an administration center, which became a jail during the occupation. Today, it's been partly reduced to rubble.

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The presence of Russian troops is still visible on the military vehicles marked with “Z”, symbol of the “special military operation.” There are also the remains of soldiers' food rations, boots, uniforms, all abandoned before the Ukrainian counteroffensive liberated almost the entire Kharkiv region in just a few days.

But perhaps most interestingly, we found boxes full of the letters that Russian students of all grades had sent to their soldiers to keep their morale high.

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Photo of new Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Rome on Oct. 23
Italy

Giorgia Meloni Tries To Break Italian Tradition — And Forget Liz Truss

Meloni serving her full five-year term will be a minor miracle in the famously fickle world of Italian politics, whose political instability the UK now appears ready to outdo.

-Analysis-

TURIN — The timing caught Europe’s attention: Exactly one day after Liz Truss resigned to become the shortest-serving British prime minister in history, another conservative leader, Giorgia Meloni, announced the formation of her government to become Italy’s first-ever woman prime minister.

The comparison is notable less for their shared gender or ideology than for the very question of political staying power. With Truss’ successor set to be the UK’s fifth prime minister in six years, British weekly The Economist’s cover quipped: “Welcome to Britaly.”

Yes, for decades, the European model of political instability has been Italy.

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photo of students at desks outside in bergamo italy
Ideas

Education As Pluralism: A Humble Manifesto Against Totalitarianism

Authoritarianism and conflict are on the rise around the world. Yet democracy will not be saved on the battlefield but in the classroom. Schools, and more importantly, how teachers teach is crucial in showing the next generations that there is no single defining point of view.

-Essay-

ROME — In this time of crisis and war, any true supporter of democracy must be reminded of the importance of school for a fundamental reason: to ensure a multiplicity of points of view. No, we must remind ourselves, there is no definitive last word on good and evil, life and death, justice or injustice. Freedom of speech must always be safeguarded: diverse, secular and democratic.

Diversity of points of view implies a bond that connects one person’s view point with another. For, as the COVID pandemic has shown, there is no such thing as one life separate from other lives. There is no such thing as a self-sufficient life, no autonomous life, no life that does not depend on the lives of others.

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The great task of school, in a traumatized time like ours, is to actively practice an ethic of plurality and inclusion. The question that starts with is: Does that happen by educating or by instructing?

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photo of a boy from behind looking at a pond
Coronavirus

Italy's Orphans Of COVID: Children Who Lost Parents Are Also Left Alone By The State

In one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, thousands of Italian minors lost a parent or caregiver to COVID. However, unlike other places, Italy has yet to set out a clear plan to support them, leaving them more vulnerable to mental health issues, and even abuse.

ROME — Julia was 13 years old when her father was hospitalized for COVID. It was March 2020 and very little was known about the virus. When they loaded him into the ambulance, the girl had no idea that she would never see him again.

The following days at home were rough: her mother was very agitated because she could not get any information, while her little sister did not understand what was going on. And then came the news: Julia’s father had died, but no one knew if and when it would be possible to see him and conduct his funeral. Julia did not allow herself to cry. Instead, she told the psychologist who was seeing her: "Now I have to be strong, dad would have wanted it that way."

Her mother fell into depression, she had no job, and the entire family was left without financial support. "Can I get a job to help mom?," Julia asked the psychologist. For a moment she even thought of quitting school, but then changed her mind and got a part-time job as a babysitter.

After a few weeks, however, she broke down: she no longer felt like leaving her room, quit volleyball, and no longer wanted to go to school.

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Giorgia Meloni
Geopolitics

It's Not About Mussolini, Searching For The Real Giorgia Meloni

As the right-wing coalition tops Italian elections, far-right leader of the Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, is set to become Italy's next prime minister. Both her autobiography and the just concluded campaign help fill in the holes in someone whose roots are in Italy's post-fascist political parties.

-Analysis-

ROME — After Sunday’s national election results, Italy is set to have its first ever woman prime minister. But Giorgia Meloni has been drawing extra attention both inside and outside of the country because of her ideology, not her gender.

Her far-right pedigree in a country that invented fascism a century ago has had commentators rummaging through the past of Meloni and her colleagues in the Brothers of Italy party in search of references to Benito Mussolini.

But even as her victory speech spoke of uniting the country, it is far more useful to listen to what she herself has said since entering politics to understand the vision the 45-year-old lifelong politician has for Italy’s future.

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