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LA STAMPA

Don’t Let The Mafia Disturb Your Perfect Italian Beach Vacation

Authorities say one stretch of the picturesque region of Puglia is infested with local mob bosses who extort money from beach resort owners and use the coastline for drug trafficking. Locals are scared silent.

A beach near Vieste, Italy
A beach near Vieste, Italy
Niccolo’ Zancan

VIESTE - Along the Gargano peninsula, no one seems to want to say the word ‘mafia" aloud. This popular tourist destination in the Italian southern region of Puglia is jammed right now with summer sun seekers. But, yes, the mobsters are here too.

In the last 10 years, 141 people have been killed in this area, with 77 of the cases still unsolved. "Are you still here, journalist?" quips Maria Piscopo, sister of the most recent mafia victims. "You should leave. It's better that you don't write anything. I've warned you."

Her brothers, Martino and Giovanni Piscopo, were the owners of the resort Sfinalicchio, which is near the village of Peschici. The resort includes a restaurant, beach chairs and umbrellas around a small swimming pool, and direct access to the sea. It looks like many other tourist facilities in the area.

It was also the last place the Piscopo brothers were seen alive. The morning of Nov. 18, 2010, they left the resort and went to harvest olives. They never returned. After 10 days, their burned bodies were found in an old car; the corpses full of fractured bones. Authorities say the brothers had been tortured, killed and left few hundred meters from their resort, as a warning to everyone who might consider challenging the local mob.

I met Maria Piscopo at her restaurant. She does not like to speak about this story. She is trying to protect her nephews. "We haven't told them the truth. They think that it was a car accident," she said.

She is critical of the magistrate's investigation. "They have compared us to families that we don't know. We're just workers. It must be a case of mistaken identity. Here there are so many cars which look exactly the same as the one my brothers used to drive," she said.

So two people were murdered – maybe by mistake – and the tourists are still swimming in the blue sea as if nothing had happened. Everyone chooses to ignore the Piscopo brothers' case, and the other 139 murders of the last decade.

Arson and a horse's head

There have also been regular car chases, rounds of machine-gun fire, and 90 arson cases since 2009. The Gargano mobsters used to be known as the shepherd's mafia. They have evolved. Currently, the mobsters work mainly in tourism, just like many of the honest workers in the area. There are extortions and usury. The mobsters need direct access to the sea for their trafficking of drugs and weapons with Albania and Montenegro, just across the Adriatic Sea.

Four years ago, the head of a horse was hung in the main square of Peschici, just like in the movie The Godfather. Recently, arson destroyed the gate of the home of Giuseppe Mascia, president of a local anti-mob association. Now, he is as scared as the majority of the other locals. "We have already exposed ourselves to danger too much. We cannot tilt at windmills like Don Quixote. Some of the people involved are already at home arrest. This is not a good sign," Mascia said.

Each summer, more than 500,000 tourists arrive on the Gargano peninsula. Just in the village of Vieste there are more than 200 tourist facilities. "We are holding on," said the son of Pino Vescera, owner of the resort Lido Oasi, where arson recently destroyed the discotheque on the beach. The work to rebuild it is almost over, though."

Giuseppe Mascia explains that 33 tourism operators in Vieste had banded together to resist. "We had tried to send a signal. But using certain words can end up frightening people," he said.

Still, someone is brave enough to say those words. "The mafia is among us," father Giuseppe Trotta, rector of the church Santa Maia di Merino, declared after the murder of the Piscopo brothers.

"The mafia of Gargano is one of the most violent and most underestimated in Italy," said the district attorney of Bari, Antonio Laudati.

The investigators are trying to predict the next chapter of this war between the different mobster families: the Libergolis, the Romitos, the Notarangelos.

These mobsters of the Gargano peninsula, like the honest people too, have one particular advantage. The surroundings are beautiful. The landscape is not degraded like the outskirts of Naples, or poor and abandoned like much of the southern Italian countryside. Here, business does not center around public contracts. Instead, there are families on vacation, beautiful vistas, and elegant waiters who serve delicious fish in restaurants with a seafront view. The tourist facilities are affordable. The weather is perfect. It seems like another beautiful summer...except for a certain chilling silence.

Read the original article in Italian

Photo - mcastellani

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Society

Star Trek And The Journey From Science Fiction To Pseudoscience

Fans of Star Trek live in a Golden Age where old and new series are readily available. As one hardcore Trekkie points out, the franchise is a reminder of the similarities and differences between pseudoscience and science fiction.

Image of holographic bodies standing next to each other in an office

Holographic figures of the same person standing beside each other.

Carlos Orsi

-Essay-

For my Trekkie part, I'm still a fan of the old ones: I still remember the disappointment when a Brazilian TV channel stopped airing the original series, and then there was a wait (sometimes years) until someone else decided to show it.

Living deep in São Paulo, Brazil in the 1990s, it was also torturous for me when “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” premiered on a station whose signal was very bad in my city.

I don't remember when I saw the original cast for the first time, but I remember that when Star Trek made the transition to the cinema in 1979, in Robert Wise's film, the protagonists James Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Montgomery Scott (James Doohan) and the Starship Enterprise were already old acquaintances.

And I was only eight years old. Nowadays, given the scarcity of time and attention that are the hallmarks of the contemporary world, I limit myself to following spinoffs Picard and Strange New Worlds and reviewing films made for cinema, from time to time.

So, when a cinema close to my house decided to show the 40th anniversary of The Wrath of Khan (originally released in 1982), I rushed to secure a ticket. And there in the middle of the film, I had a small epiphany: the Star Trek Universe is pseudoscientific!

This realization does not necessarily represent a problem: contrary to what many imagine, science fiction exists to make you think and have fun, not to prepare for a national test).

Yet in a franchise that has always made a lot of effort to maintain an aura of scientific bona fides (Isaac Asimov was a consultant on the first film, and the book The Physics of Star Trek has a preface by Stephen Hawking!), the finding was a bit of a shock.

And what made me jump out of the chair?

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