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Will Greece start the Euro collapse

May 17 2012 12:07 PM | Guest in Miscellaneous

With efforts to patch together a Greek government looking doomed, EU policymakers warned the country it could not remain in the euro zone if it ripped up its bailout programme, and financial markets ratcheted up the pressure on the bloc.

Eight days after inconclusive elections, Greece’s political parties have failed to form a coalition and opinion polls show that anti-bailout parties would perform most strongly in a fresh vote which is likely next month.

Last ditch talks led by President Karolos Papoulias today looked unlikely to make headway after the leader of the radical leftist SYRIZA party said he would not attend and another left-wing leader refused to take part in any coalition without him.

Finland’s European affairs minister said Greece could not remain in the euro zone if it tears up its bailout deal with the EU and IMF — the central demand of SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, 37. “I think that is an impossible equation and I think in that sense it is an irresponsible statement,” Alexander Stubb said.

With Greece set to run out of money as early as next month and no new government in place to negotiate the next aid instalment, investors have begun betting that a chaotic Greek default and euro exit will happen sooner rather than later.

Talk of any member exiting the euro zone used to be a taboo for policymakers. Not any more.

Over the weekend, European Central Bank policymakers Luc Coene and Patrick Honohan both openly voiced the possibility of Greece leaving the currency bloc and concluded that it would not be fatal for the euro zone.

But there are powerful incentives for keeping Greece afloat, not least that the ECB and euro zone governments are major holders of Greek government debt.

A hard default could leave them with heavy losses and if the ECB needed recapitalising as a result, that bill would also fall on its members’ governments, with Germany first in line.

“We wish Greece will remain in the euro ... but it must respect its commitments,” European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen told a regular news briefing.

Euro zone finance ministers meeting later are expected to discuss the possibility of granting heavily indebted Spain more time to reach its budget targets, as well as Greece’s situation.

If Madrid could be cut more slack, Greek politicians will ask why not Athens too?

The biggest fear for the euro zone is that chaos in Greece could drag the much larger economies of Spain and Italy down and threaten the entire currency area’s existence, a risk markets are beginning to price in.

“If Greece moves towards exiting the euro ... the EU would then need to enlarge its bailout funds and prepare other emergency measures,” said Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform think-tank in London.

The cost of insuring Spanish government debt against default hit an all-time high today and the premium investors demand to hold Spain’s debt rather than Germany’s reached its highest point in the currency bloc’s history.

That stress did not, however, weigh too heavily on debt sales by Italy and Spain.

Italy’s borrowing costs rose at an auction but it paid less to borrow over three years than trading prices had suggested beforehand and it sold the maximum planned amount of €5.25 billion.

Spain, beset by concerns about its banking system despite moves last week to shore it up, raised €2.9 billion in 12- and 18-month Treasury bills, with yields on the shorter paper up by around a seventh from the last such sale in April.

“There’s a real risk for the market that at some point Greece will have to leave the euro if they don’t find political cohesion ... This will add to the contagion in the market and the countries that will suffer more are Spain and Italy,” ING strategist Alessandro Giansanti said.

Greek polls offer a glimmer of hope, showing a public overwhelmingly against more austerity but up to 80 per cent in favour of remaining in the euro zone.

If the mainstream parties, New Democracy and PASOK, could turn a fresh election into a referendum on euro membership and convince the public that SYRIZA would provoke Greece’s ejection, they could fare better than on May 6, when their combined vote was more than halved.

“This time, whether we like or not, they will be more like a referendum. We will have set ourselves the question whether we prefer the euro or the drachma,” centre-left daily Ethnos wrote in an editorial.

PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, who as finance minister negotiated Greece’s second, €130 billion bailout, has pressed for its lenders to give it three years instead of two to make the necessary spending cuts to bring debt down.

Search for growth

As always, decision-making will rest first and foremost with Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has insisted that tough debt-cutting programmes are the primary route back to health for the euro zone.

Merkel conservatives suffered a crushing defeat yesterday in an election in Germany’s most populous state, a result which could embolden the left opposition to step up attacks on her European austerity policies.

New French President Francois Hollande will visit Merkel in Berlin tomorrow after he is inaugurated to press for a European growth strategy. Germany has not opposed the idea but insists it cannot be funded by extra government spending that would drive debt back up.

“They should tell the Greeks that if they wish to stay in the euro they cannot avoid austerity and structural reform,” Grant said. “But to raise the Greeks’ morale the EU will have to relax Greece’s deficit reduction targets, write off much more Greek debt and think more imaginatively about how to encourage external investment in Greece. Merkel will find such policies harder to embrace than Hollande.”

Investors are already looking to the ECB to return to the fray. It created more than €1 trillion of three-year money in December and February and signalled afterwards that it had done all it could.

“We expect the ECB to ease policy, maybe through unconventional policies in coming months to support the situation in the (euro zone’s) periphery,” said Raghav Subbarao, currency strategist at Barclays.

Just as the ECB revived its bond-buying programme last year to prop up Italy when it was drawn into the crisis, so Italy is likely to mark the threshold for any fresh intervention.

Europe’s beefed-up bailout fund may have the resources to protect Spain if needed but Italy is bigger and most analysts believe it would need ECB help if sucked into the storm again.

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Italian university will switch to English

May 16 2012 09:02 AM | Guest in Miscellaneous

One of Italy's top universities has sent shockwaves through the country's higher education system by announcing that from 2014 its courses will be taught exclusively in English.

The radical move by Milan's Politecnico university will, according to its rector, Giovanni Azzone, "contribute to the growth of the country". He said the strategy would attract brain power and yield the high-quality personnel that would "respond to the needs of businesses".

But the announcement has sparked a furious debate among academics and public officials. The higher education minister, Francesco Profumo, told La Stampa newspaper that he hoped other leading institutions would follow suit.

Others expressed alarm at the move. Luca Serianni, an eminent linguist at Rome's La Sapienza university, said the move was "excessive and not only in the ideological sense".

Despite having some of the oldest universities in the world in cities such as Bologna, not one Italian college appears among the world's top 200. Nepotism and closed-shop recruitment of staff have largely been blamed.

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Was Shakespeare Italian.......

May 14 2012 08:57 AM | Guest in Miscellaneous

Was Shakespeare Italian? Was he born in Sicily?

This thought has perplexed many people, especially in England. It’s generated the same indignation that it would cause us to hear an allegation that Pirandello was a foreigner who had moved to Agrigento.

Over the centuries, scholars have been puzzled by Shakespeare’s profound knowledge of Italian. Shakespeare possessed an impressive familiarity with stories written by Italian authors such as Giovanni Boccaccio, Matteo Bandello, and Masuccio Salernitano. His plays contain too many accurate details about esoteric affairs in distant places, at courts, to have been written by someone “of low social standing such as Shakespeare”.

Fifteen out of thirty seven Shakespearean plays are set in Italy, which is quite amazing if one thinks that Shakespeare never set foot abroad. He never mentions Stratford in his plays, for instance, while his knowledge of Italian toponomy, art, ways of living, laws, history and traditions are things that everyone can verify by reading his plays.

In an attempt to solve the mystery of Shakespeare’s Italian leanings, one former teacher of literature has published a new hypothesis especially for people eager to hear something new about the bard.

First of all, we all agree with Prof. Juvara when he says that it is the substance of Shakespeare’s plays and its heritage that really counts and it belongs to humanity in the first place. After all, nationalities are social conventions.

In his book “Shakespeare era italiano” (2002), retired Sicilian professor Martino Iuvara claims that Shakespeare was, in fact, not English at all, but Sicilian. His conclusion is drawn from research carried out from 1925 to 1950 by two professors at Palermo University. Iuvara posits that Shakespeare was born not in Stratford in April 1564, as is commonly believed, but in Messina as Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza.
His parents were not John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, but were Dr. Giovanni Florio, and Guglielma Crollalanza, a Sicilian noblewoman.

Crollalanza, literally Crolla (Shake) lancia (Speare) according to Iuvara studied abroad and was educated by Franciscan monks who taught him Latin, Greek, and history.

Because of their Calvinist beliefs, Michelangelo Florio’s family was persecuted by the Inquisition (Messina was then under the Spanish yoke) for alleged Calvinist propaganda. It seems that Giovanni Florio had published some sort of invective against Rome and the Church. The family supposedly departed Italy during the Holy Inquisition and moved to London. It was in London that Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza decided to change his name to its English equivalent.

Luvara’s evidence includes a play written by Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza in Sicilian dialect. The play’s name is “Tanto traffico per Niente”, which can be translated into Much traffic for Nothing or Much Ado About Nothing. He also mentions a book of sayings written by a writer, one Michelangelo Crollalanza, in the sixteenth century Calvinist Northern Italy. Some of the sayings correspond to lines in Hamlet. Michelangelo’s father, Giovanni Florio, once owned a home called “Casa Otello”, built by a retired Venetian known as Otello who, in a jealous rage, murdered his wife.

In Milan, according to documents found by prof. Iuvara, Michelangelo falls in love with a 16-year-old countess belonging to the Milanese aristocracy, Giulietta. The girl’s family opposed their love, so the girl is sent to Verona (…) under the protection of the city governor. When Michelangelo reaches her there, he learns that the girl has committed suicide because of the sexual harassment of the governor, a fervent anticalvinist, who accuses Michelangelo of having murdered the girl.

After Giulietta’s death, Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza decided to flee Italy because the inquisitors had already murdered his father.

We must admit that the similarities between Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza and Shakespeare are intriguing…

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Rastas can use cannabis

May 07 2012 11:50 AM | Guest in Miscellaneous

Rastafarians have always regarded Ethiopia as the promised land, but Italy could rank a close second after its Supreme Court ruled that smoking or possessing cannabis is not a criminal offence but a religious act when the person doing it is a Rastafarian.

In 2007, the same court declared that cultivating even a single cannabis plant was a punishable offence. But now Italy's Court of Cassation has said Rastafarians use marijuana "not only as a medical but also as a meditative herb. And, as such [it is] a possible bearer of the psychophysical state to contemplation and prayer".

The case was brought by a man in his forties from Perugia who was sentenced to 16 months in jail plus a €4,000 fine in 2004 for possession of 97g of marijuana. The Supreme Court said the court of first appeal had failed to consider that the man, a Rastafarian, smoked marijuana according to the precepts of his religion, which, the judges said, permits the smoking of 10g per day. Rastafarians smoke the drug, said the court, "with the memory and in the belief that the sacred plant grew on the tomb of King Solomon".

The government was livid. The judgment "shatters the laws which forbid and proscribe penal sanctions for" the use of illegal drugs, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.

Right-wing politicians were scathing. Senator Maurizio Gasparri said: "Today we learn a Rasta is free to go around with drugs. If somebody belonged to a religion which permitted them to eat their children, would they give them the go-ahead, too?"

But the verdict was received with joy at Rototom Sunsplash, Europe's biggest festival of reggae music, near Udine, in north-east Italy. "Finally the principle of religious pluralism is beginning to make headway," Filippo Giunta, president of the festival, said. "This judgment ... underlines again the difference between this substance and so-called 'hard' drugs, alcohol included."

Rastafarians are unlikely to refer to the substance as marijuana; they usually describe it as the wisdom weed or the holy herb.

The latter name is used because Rastafarians believe that marijuana use is sacred, following biblical texts justifying its use:

He causeth the grass for the cattle, and herb for the services of man.Psalm 104:14

…thou shalt eat the herb of the field.Genesis 3.18

…eat every herb of the land.Exodus 10:12

Better is a dinner of herb where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.Proverbs 15:17

Cannabis is illegal in Italy. Current legislation establishes quantitative limits of active ingredient: within those limits it is considered an administrative offense, over them it is regarded as dealing; whoever is considered to produce, sell, give or traffic every kind of substance is punished with 6–20 years of imprisonment. The years are reduced to 1-3 if the cultivation is for personal use only. However, jurisprudence is contradictory concerning growing for personal use. Medical use of substances prepared with marijuana are legal, if provided by medical prescription.

Hopefully somebody somewhere will see some sort of sense and make it one law for all....NO exceptions.

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Duchess of York tried in absentia in Turkey

May 05 2012 10:36 AM | Guest in Miscellaneous

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish court has begun a trial against Britain's Duchess of York for allegedly taking part in the secret filming of two orphanages in Turkey, the state-run news agency said.

Sarah Ferguson faces charges of going "against the law in acquiring footage and violating privacy" of five children at one of the orphanages, the Anadolu Agency said. If convicted, she could receive a maximum sentence of 22 1/2 years in prison.

The trial began Friday, and Ferguson did not attend the opening session, the agency said.

Ferguson, the former wife of Britain's Prince Andrew, allegedly made an undercover trip to Turkey in 2008 during which she secretly visited the two state-run orphanages along with two British TV journalists.

The footage of the five children was filmed at the Saray Rehabilitation and Care Center orphanage near Ankara and shown on the British ITV program "Duchess and Daughters: Their Secret Mission." The secretly filmed images appeared to show the children tied to their beds or left in cribs.

The government has accused the duchess of smearing Turkey's image.

The news agency quoted her lawyer, Cansu Sahin, as saying the duchess is seeking an out-of-court settlement.

Canan Yildiz, a lawyer representing the five children and Turkey's Family and Social Policies Ministry, said her clients have been "harmed" and would like to join the public prosecution against Ferguson and the two British journalists who have been also indicted in the case and could be tried separately.

The court agreed to hear testimony from the five children who were filmed, but Yildiz said some of them are mentally retarded and others are handicapped, and that it would have been better if their testimony was taken at the orphanage.

Anadolu did not say when the next hearing at the Ferguson trial will be held, and the lawyers in the case could not be reached for comment on Saturday.

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Apr 30 2012 01:42 PM | Guest in Miscellaneous

Have you ever wondered how the levy of taxes came about? In every Country in the world there is a tax - implemented in various ways but with one thing in common ..........everyone who draws breath has to pay them and in a lot of cases even those don't........Here is an outline how the Italian Tax system came about........

In the early days of the Roman Republic, public taxes consisted of modest assessments on owned wealth and property. The tax rate under normal circumstances was 1% and sometimes would climb as high as 3% in situations such as war. These modest taxes were levied against land, homes and other real estate, slaves, animals, personal items and monetary wealth. Taxes were collected from individuals and, at times, payments could be refunded by the treasury for excess collections. With limited census accuracy, tax collection on individuals was a difficult task at best.
By 167 B.C. the Republic had enriched itself greatly through a series of conquests. Gains such as the silver and gold mines in Spain created an excellent source of revenue for the state, and a much larger tax base through its provincial residents. By this time, Rome no longer needed to levy a tax against its citizens in Italy and looked only to the provinces for collections.

With expansion, Roman censors found that accurate census taking in the provinces was a difficult task at best. To ease the strain, taxes were assessed as a tithe on entire communities rather than on individuals. Tax assessments in these communities fell under the jurisdiction of Provincial governors and various local magistrates, using rules similar to the old system.

Tax farmers (Publicani) were used to collect these taxes from the provincials. Rome, in eliminating its own burden for this process, would put the collection of taxes up for auction every few years. The Publicani would bid for the right to collect in particular regions, and pay the state in advance of this collection. These payments were, in effect, loans to the state and Rome was required to pay interest back to the Publicani. As an offset, the Publicani had the individual responsibility of converting properties and goods collected into coinage, alleviating this hardship from the treasury. In the end, the collectors would keep anything in excess of what they bid plus the interest due from the treasury; with the risk being that they might not collect as much as they originally bid.

Tax farming proved to be an incredibly profitable enterprise and served to increase the treasury, as well as line the pockets of the Publicani. However, the process was ripe with corruption and scheming. For example, with the profits collected, tax farmers could collude with local magistrates or farmers to buy large quantities of grain at low rates and hold it in reserve until times of shortage. These Publicani were also money lenders, or the bankers of the ancient world, and would lend cash to hard-pressed provincials at the exorbitant rates of 4% per month or more.

In the late 1st century BC, and after considerably more Roman expansion, Augustus essentially put an end to tax farming. Complaints from provincials for excessive assessments and large, un-payable debts ushered in the final days of this lucrative business. The Publicani continued to exist as money lenders and entrepreneurs, but easy access to wealth through taxes was gone. Tax farming was replaced by direct taxation early in the Empire and each province was required to pay a wealth tax of about 1% and a flat poll tax on each adult. This new procedure, of course, required regular census taking to evaluate the taxable number of people and their income/wealth status. Taxation in this environment switched mainly from one of owned property and wealth to that of an income tax. As a result, the taxable yield varied greatly based on economic conditions, but theoretically, the process was fairer and less open to corruption.

In contrast, the Publicani had to focus their efforts on collecting revenues where it was most easily available due to limited time and capacity. Their efforts were mainly directed at the cash wealthy because converting properties into cash could be a difficult process. Additionally, growth of a provincial tax base went straight to the coffers of the Publicani. They had the luxury of bidding against previous tax collections and the Treasury's knowledge of increased wealth would take several collections before auction prices were raised. In this way, the Publicani increased their own wealth, but eventually the state would reap the benefit of increased collections down the line.

The imperial system of flat levies instituted by Augustus shifted the system into being far less progressive, however. Growth in the provincial taxable basis under the Publicani led to higher collections in time, while under Augustus, fixed payments reduced this potential. Tax paying citizens were aware of the exact amounts they needed to pay and any excess income remained with the communities. While there could obviously be reassessments that would adjust the taxable base it was a slow process that left a lot of room for the earning of untaxed incomes. While seemingly less effective to the state than that of the Publicani system, the new practice allowed for considerable economic growth and expansion.

As time passed each successive emperor was challenged with meeting the soaring costs of administration and financing the legions, both for national defense and to maintain loyalty. New schemes to revise the tax structure came and went throughout the Empire's history. Large inflation rates and debased coinage values, by the reign of Diocletion, led to one of the more drastic changes in the system. In the late 3rd century AD, he imposed a universal price freeze, capping maximum prices, while at the same time he reinstated the land tax on Italian landowners. Special tolls on money traders and companies were also imposed to help increase the tax collections.

Diocletion's program, in theory, should have helped ease the burden on various classes of taxpayers, but it didn't work that way in practice. As an example, additional taxes were levied on land owners after the land tax had been paid because this was now a separate tax, instead of taking into account that taxes had already been collected. The burden of paying the expected amounts was shifted from communities and individuals within them, to the local senatorial class. The Senators who would then be subject to complete ruin in the case of economic shortfall in a particular region. Following Diocletion, Constantine compounded these burdens by making the senatorial class hereditary. By so doing, all debts and economic ramifications were passed from one senatorial generation to the next, ruining entire families and never allowing for a recovery that could benefit an entire community.

Taxes in the Roman Empire, in comparison with modern times, were certainly no more excessive. In many cases they are far less per capita than anything we can compare to today. However, the strain of tax revenues was heavily placed on those who could most influence the economy and it would have dire consequences. The economic struggles that plagued the late Imperial system coupled with the tax laws certainly played a part in the demise of the world greatest empire.

In modern day Italy things don't seem to different regarding taxation - there doesn't seem like there is one Country in the world that has their taxation system right....grab as much as you can from as many people as you can....in most cases its Mr & Mrs Average that are the easy targets.....the "fat cats" know so many ways on how to avoid something that, if everyone were made to pay a reasonable amount most Governments would be rolling in it......

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The Italian Police

Apr 29 2012 08:37 AM | Guest in Miscellaneous

There are at least four different varieties of police that you’re likely to meet on an Italian road. There’s the POLIZIA which is the true State Police, then there are the CARABINIERI, which is a military Police force that performs civil Police duties. Then there is the GUARDIA DI FINANZA, the fiscal Police, but endowed with full Police powers.

Within the city limits you can meet the POLIZIA MUNICIPALE the local Constable Police.

Each Police force has different uniforms and their vehicles are painted in different colours, but all can be a blessing if you find yourself in trouble, or a curse, if you are the one who is in trouble.

Why so many Police forces?

When Italy was a young Nation, a National Police force did not exist yet. But the State had to cope with a troubled Country, full of brigands and where everyone had to learn to respect a local code of “law” rather than the National law. So a special military corps, the Carabinieri was appointed to keep order and enforce the law in this awful mess. The Carabinieri are considered part of the armed services. They have served in various conflicts including Bosnia and Afghanistan.

The Carabinieri wear a black uniform with a red stripe on the side of the trousers and a white bandolier across the chest. Their vehicles are dark blue with a red “lightning” stripe on the sides.

When a National Police force was created, the Polizia di Stato, it did not replace the Carabinieri, but worked alongside them. Usually, the Polizia is present on motorways, major roads and around major towns, while the Carabinieri are more spread out in the territory.

The Polizia wears a blue uniform with grey trousers and their vehicles are light blue with white markings.

The Guardia di Finanza, which belongs to the Ministry of Finance, was initially supposed to deal with financial felonies such as tax evasion and bribery. But its enlarged scope includes investigating drug trafficking, smuggling of art and archaeology, illegal immigration and weapons traffic.

The Guardia di Finanza wears a grey uniform. Their vehicles are grey with green and yellow stripes.

The Polizia Municipale, is the local Police, and takes orders directly from the local town authority. You will meet the Polizia Municipale on urban roads but not on inter-city roads.

Their uniforms vary from town to town but are usually white, blue or black. Colours of vehicles vary accordingly.

You may stumble into other different Police forces: the Guardia Forestale, which patrols wild areas, the Polizia di Frontiera, which guards the boundaries, the Capitaneria di Porto if you wander on the sea and around ports, the Guardia Carceraria.

Most of their roles overlap and you will often see Carabinieri with Guardia di Finanza this combination is very intimidating if you get flagged down...... even if you know that you haven't done anything wrong.

There is still a deep respect for the Police here and they know that if they are stopped then they will have at least a 15 minute delay in their journey so its quite common to see Italians take detours as soon as they find out that cars are being stopped on a particular stretch of road.

One of the ongoing debates is which one of these Police forces are the scariest.....so far, from the people I have spoken to, the force that they least want anywhere near them is definitely the Guardia di Finanza........

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Pulcinella - that's the way to do it........

Apr 22 2012 12:57 PM | Guest in Miscellaneous

On a wall in the Cave of Les Trois Ariège in France there is a stone-age drawing of a sorcerer wearing a mask. From his time to ours, from him to our own children modestly disguised for Halloween, or revelers made up for a carnival, there is an unbroken chain of masks. Made of every and anything from mud to gold, they have served to frighten, delight, beg, accompany the dead, cast out demons, and conceal lovers and executioners. From Greek drama to Balinese trance-dancers to modern psychodrama in which actors wear masks of their own faces, in every culture and in all of history, there have been masks.

The mask took on new meaning at the end of the 16th century in Italy, when there arose a form of theatre known as the Commedia dell'Arte. The actors were skilled in the representation of well-defined characters, characters who appeared and reappeared, bearing the same name, wearing the same mask and costume, speaking the same language and, thus, establishing themselves as distinct character types, stereotypes of various regions throughout Italy. For example, the stereotypical mask of Bologna is the pseudo-intellectual windbag, Dr. Balanzone, and Venice gives us the greedy and conniving underling, Arlecchino.

One of the best-known Italian masks is the one that represents Naples, Pulcinella. He is generally presented as a hunchback (male hunchbacks are considered lucky in Naples); he is dressed in a large, white smock and soft white hat, and wears a black half-mask characterized by a hook-nose. His character type is that of the jolly bungler, always poor and hungry, yet always able to get by, singing songs and playing the mandolin. In his stereotypical ineptness, however, there always remains the touch of the true court jester, the "fool," who delights in snubbing his nose at the powers that be, without them ever really catching on to how much wisdom is hidden behind the mask.

It is that anti–establishment part of Pulcinella's personality, the total disrespect of authority that seems to be not so hidden in much modern-day Neapolitan behavior. That's the reason—say some—that Neapolitans drive they way they do. The state put that traffic light on the corner, telling you when to go and when to stop. A free citizen is almost honour–bound to ignore it.

Origins & History:-

The character of Pulcinella may, indeed, go back to the Atellan Fables and their pre-Roman Oscan stock characters, one of whom was Macchus, a hunch-backed "wise" fool with a big nose, similar to the traditional Pulcinella. Some sources [Piero Toschi: Le Origini del Teatro Italiano. 1955.] claim that the name itself, Pulcinella, goes back to the 1300s and meant "clown." There is also a drawing by Ludovico Carracci from the late 1500s. The sketch is of a rough-hewn, almost bruised, face with dark features and a large nose. There is no traditional half-mask, but the figure is wearing the well-known floppy hat. The sketch is titled "Paoluccio della Cerra, commonly known as Pulcinella." Although that does not settle the question of the origin of the name, the figure in the sketch, if you add a mask, does fit Pulcinella as he has traditionally appeared on Neapolitan stages since the Commedia dell'Arte.


Pulcinella first appears as a scripted character in 1609 in La Lucilla costante con le ridicole disfide e prodezze di Policinella [Faithful Lucilla and Pulcinella's Ridiculous, Daring Feats]. The actor who played Pulcinella was Silvio Fiorillo, the first in a long string of well-known Pulcinellas in Naples. Others have included Vincenzo Cammarano (nicknamed "Giancola") the best-known Pulcinella of the 1700s and a member of the famous theatrical family in Naples that eventually included the librettist of Lucia di Lamermoor and il Trovatore, Salvatore Cammarano. Vincenzo's other claim to fame is that he is apparently the one who hung the term of endearing insult "Re Nasone" (King Big Nose) on King Ferdinand. The king liked it!

Vincenzo passed the Pulcinella mask to his son Filippo. After that, Antonio Petito (the best remembered of the 19th-century Pulcinellas) and then his son, Salvatore, both served to make the character a mainstay of the repertoire of the most important dialect theater in Naples, the San Carlino. The last great "historical" Pulcinella was Salvatore De Muto (1876-1970). He played the character for the last time in 1954 at the opening of the San Ferdinando Theater, coming out of retirement to do so, at the insistence of Eduardo De Filippo.

More recently, Eduardo De Filippo (1900-1984), himself, played Pulcinella on various occasions, including in the remarkable 1959 film, Ferdinando I, Re di Napoli, playing on the relationship between the real-life Pulcinella, Salvatore Cammarano (mentioned above) and the King (played in the film by Eduardo's brother, Peppino De Filippo). Other modern show business personalities from Naples have also appeared in film or on stage as Pulcinella. These include Massimo Ranieri and Massimo Troisi.

In the UK we probably remember this character as Mr Punch....

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Centurions protest in Rome

Apr 22 2012 10:45 AM | Guest in Miscellaneous

Dozens of Roman centurion impersonators protested in front of the Colosseum on Thursday dressed in plumed helmets and clutching plastic swords in a protest against a ban on their work.

A clash between the “centurions” and police broke out after officers forced down a group of the men who had climbed onto an upper stand of the famous Roman amphitheatre, as bemused tourists cheered on the impersonators.

A spokesman for the protesters, David Sonnino, said they would stay until they had been given “a written assurance” that they would receive permits and the unusual protest continued inside the tourist-hub monument itself.

The re-enactors usually crowd the area outside the 2,000-year-old Colosseum, posing with tourists for pictures for a fee but are working illegally.

They have been officially banned from April 4 under a frequently flouted law that prevents any commercial activity in front of historical monuments.

“Rome city hall has agreed to give a work permit to historical impersonators like centurions. But these are just promises. The last negotiation was yesterday. We still haven’t received anything concrete,”Sonnino said.

“We want rules, we want to pay taxes!” he added.

Several “centurions” were arrested in an undercover sting by police last year after tourists complained about being harassed by the men and they were also accused of using violence to keep away competition.

One alleged ruse was to offer to take a photo with the tourist’s camera and then refusing to return it until money had been handed over. A centurion was arrested in 2007 for attacking a couple of tourists.

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Ancient Iceman murder victim was lactose-intole...

Apr 22 2012 08:55 AM | Guest in Miscellaneous

Scientists sequencing the genome of the 5,000-year-old "Iceman" corpse found 20 years ago in the Tyrolean Alps, have discovered that he had brown eyes, was lactose-intolerant, prone to heart disease and had Lyme disease. The boffins also found that he may be related to some modern-day Northern Mediterraneans.

The results of their tests are published in the journal Nature Communications and unveil some of the characteristics of the ancient mountain roamer, the world's oldest glacier mummy.

Oetzi, who died of a flint arrow to the left shoulder and a blow to the head, also suffered from the tick-borne nervous system disorder Lyme disease, the scientists discovered after they found traces of an infection by the bacteria. It is the oldest documented case of Lyme disease in the world.

Despite a diet that was likely to be low in pork scratchings, the Iceman was also predisposed to coronary heart disease, the scientists found – confirming earlier findings that his arteries were found to be calcified. It's a discovery that shows it's not just modern lifestyles that are giving people heart attacks:

“The evidence that such a genetic predisposition already existed in Ötzi’s lifetime is of huge interest to us. It indicates that cardiovascular disease is by no means an illness chiefly associated with modern lifestyles. We are now eager to use these data to help us explore further how these diseases developed,” says anthropologist Albert Zink of Bolzano’s EURAC Institute for Mummies and the Iceman.

Oetzi may also have had trouble digesting milk products, as certain genes suggest he was lactose-intolerant – though that may have been the least of his troubles.

Oetzi's murder is described as the world's oldest murder case, it's likely the Iceman was killed in a mountain-top skirmish between tribes as blood from other people was found on his clothes. He was found with a flint-bladed knife, a copper axe, some berries and mushrooms (believed to be for medicinal use) on a string.

The gene-crunching also revealed some nuggets about Oetzi's ethnicity. One gene in particular suggested that Oetzi's ancestors migrated from the Middle East. The gene is uncommon in Europe but found in some modern day inhabitants of the Northern Mediterranean, including Italians but particularly the geographically isolated populations of Sardinia and Corsica

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Dying is against the law in Italian town

Apr 22 2012 08:30 AM | Guest in Miscellaneous

Residents of the town of Falciano del Massico in Italy have reason to look after their health and safety now more than ever because if they should be so careless as to die, they will be breaking the law.

In a local edict issued by the mayor Giulio Cesare Fava on 2 March, it is "forbidden for residents ... to go beyond the boundaries of earthly life, to go into the afterlife".

The law has confused some locals who have asked: "The mayor said that we must not die, but how do we obey?"

However, the law is really a protest about the fact that Falciano del Massico has no cemetery. The town has been involved in a dispute with its neighbouring town, which does have a cemetery. The two towns failed to come to an agreement on expansion plans for the cemetery.

"It's a provocative ordinance, but I had to issue it in order to raise awareness amongst the authorities in charge. Since Falciano del Massico gained its autonomy in 1964, we haven't managed to build a cemetary," explained the town's mayor Giulio Cesare Fava.

Until a new cemetery can be built, residents of Falciano del Massico must keep on living.

"The ordinance has brought happiness," said Mayor Fava. "Unfortunately, two elderly citizens disobeyed."

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The intelligent pool pump that changed all the...

Apr 16 2012 01:53 PM | Guest in Miscellaneous

Anybody thinking about replacing or buying a new pump for their swimming pool should take a look at this.

A monumental breakthrough in energy efficiency, extended service life and silent operation.

Traditional pool pumps are high energy consumers. Fortunately, there is IntelliFlo™ VS-3050, a breakthrough innovation that’s brimming with new technology to drastically reduce energy costs and provide many other benefits as well.

Two key technology innovations drive sensational energy savings:-

First, IntelliFlo™ VS-3050 uses an exclusive permanent magnet motor (used in hybrid cars) that is fundamentally more energy efficient and typically accounts for “base energy savings” of 30%. Next, the IntelliFlo™ VS-3050 is a unique variable speed pump with four selectable pre-set speeds in the control panel. This allows customized programming of optimum pump speeds for specific tasks – filtering, heating, cleaning, spa jets, waterfalls, etc. Using slower speeds = additional savings!

Other advantages add even more value:-
  • The quietest pump on the planet: thanks to its permanent magnet motor and the fact that it is a totally enclosed fan cooled (TEFC) design, IntelliFlo™ VS-3050 is also the quietest pump ever built.
  • Longer life further increases return on your investment: IntelliFlo™ VS-3050’s permanent magnet motor produces far less heat and vibration than traditional induction motors. This not only results in less stress and wear on pump components, but also on other equipment. Furthermore, built-in diagnostics protect IntelliFlo™ VS-3050 from the most common causes of premature pump failure – overheating, freezing, and voltage irregularities.
  • As your poolscape changes, so will IntelliFlo™ VS-3050: with IntelliFlo™ VS-3050 you can add equipment and features, without changing the pump. Just push a button to set the new, optimum speed to operate at the lowest energy use.
  • Unique ability to manage water features: finally, consider IntelliFlo™ VS-3050’s unique ability to alter the performance of your water features. Just increase or decrease pump speed with the touch of a button to adjust on demand.
  • Adjusts to various pool sizes: one pump covers a range from 1/2 HP to 3 HP.
  • Prevents thermal overload + detects and prevents damage from under and over voltage conditions.
  • Protects against freezing.
  • Easy to use operator control panel with buttons for speed control.
  • Built-in strainer pot and volute.
  • Ultra energy-efficient TEFC Square Flange Motor.
  • Compatibility with most cleaning systems, filters, and jet action spas.
  • Driver assembly features permanent magnet synchronous motor.
  • Heavy-duty, durable construction designed for long life.
  • Ability to operate with automation systems using IntelliComm™.

Programming IntelliFlo™ VS-3050 is as easy as setting the stations on your car radio
- Four function buttons to set speeds for filtration cycles, spas, water features, and more.
- Speed adjustments buttons – you or your pool professional dial in the most efficient speed for each application.
- Alarm status light – a sequence of blinks alerts you of conditions that may need attention.

Whats more its available from a distributor in Italy

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What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.

Apr 11 2012 01:01 PM | Guest in Miscellaneous

We’ve all heard that laughter is good medicine and those of us that laugh loudly and deeply know that’s true. If you’re skeptical, an international research team, led by The University of Oxford, has just released the results of a 10 year study which concludes that laughing properly out loud can help increase your pain threshold by as much as 10%. A polite giggle or titter doesn’t get it.

A good old belly laugh causes exhaustion and triggers protective endorphins to counter act that feeling. According to an article published about the study on The University of Oxford’s website “These endorphins, one of the complex neuropeptide chemicals produced in the brain, manage pain and promote feelings of well being.”

The study consisted of different types of experiments involving groups of participants. For instance, after watching a comedy sketch, participants’ pain tolerance was higher when compared to levels after watching an informational program about golf.

Another factor that increased the sense of well-being was the group effect. Laughing with others is more beneficial than laughing alone. But laughing alone is more beneficial than watching a program about golf. In my humble opinion which is not based on any scientific evidence, watching just about anything other than golf will give you a better sense of well-being. (No offence to golfers) :) .

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