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New Client For Obama Guru Axelrod: Italian PM Mario Monti, In Showdown With Berlusconi

From "street fighter" to gladiator?
From "street fighter" to gladiator?
Maurizio Molinari

Barack Obama's longtime campaign guru David Axelrod has a new client: Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.

Axelrod slipped into Rome to meet privately with Monti, 69, a political centrist and longtime university professor and European Union Commissioner, who served one year as caretaker Prime Minister. Monti is now in his first campaign for higher office, facing both former three-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on the right and center-left favorite Pierluigi Bersani in next month's national elections.

Axelrod confirmed in an email to La Stampa that he took a trip to the Italian capital 10 days ago to meet with Monti. “I was in Rome for a day at the request of my former consulting firm ... to offer my opinions and observations” to Monti “and, I did.”

The mustachioed Axelrod is perhaps Obama"s closest political advisor, having helped lead him to victory in his races for the U.S. Senate, and both campaigns for the White House.

Born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and a young fan of Robert Kennedy, Axelrod has a friendly air, but is considered a “street fighter,” having sharpened his craft in the tough world of Chicago politics. In the 2012 re-election campaign, he helped lead the attack against Mitt Romney's privileged background and past in private equity.

On a closer inspection, some signs of the "Axe" touch are already visible in Monti's approach. Monti has begun to stress his ideas for political reform, something of the Italian version of Obama's message of change. The normally mild-mannered Monti has also stepped up his verbal attacks on Berlusconi, against whom he is battling for center-right voters.

Although the relationship between Axelrod and Monti is a private consultancy, it is difficult to imagine that Obama would not know about the job. The two share a close bond, which continues to include a regular exchange of opinions, whether on foreign or domestic policy and anything of relevance to the administration.

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Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

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