Only in Italy is a daily news column that reports funny and weird news on Italy, the mafia, Italian culture and Italian travel.

Only in Italy is a daily news column that reports funny and weird news on Italy, the mafia, Italian culture and Italian travel.

Only In Italy is a daily news column that translates & reports on funny but true news items from legitimate Italian news sources in Italy.
Only in Italy is a daily news column that reports funny and weird news on Italy, the mafia, Italian culture and Italian travel.Only in Italy is a daily news column that reports funny and weird news on Italy, the mafia, Italian culture and Italian travel.
 
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January 2007
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"How to Become a Tombarolo"

(01/18/07)

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"Eh, buon giorno a tutti!" Welcome to the only newsletter that promotes the "Italian Tourism" government site ($58 million price tag), "Only In Italy!"

From the stats in your "Italian Mafia Murders" article, I can extrapolate the following that if you are non-OC in Italy, assuming that OC types only kill other OC types, your chances or being murdered are 1 out of 132,867."

In the U.S., if you are a non-OC in the US, making the same assumption as in #1, your chances of being murdered are 1 out 18,242. Using simple arithmetic, the murder rate in the U.S. is 14.5 times greater, NOT 5 times greater.

If you care to examine data other than murder, the chances of being knifed, beaten with a bat, shot with a gun, rammed by a car, or severely injured in some other manner are probably 20+ times greater in the U.S. than Italy.

And those acts of aggression in the U.S. are committed by "private" citizens. The Italian citizen has practically no risk of having their your skull fractured by a lead jacketed steel flashlight, of having their lungs paralyzed by chemicals, of having their eyes burned by mace, of having their underarm flesh torn by steel pincers, of being electrocuted, or of having their internal organs punctured by ram club, BECAUSE Italian cops don't carry all of those medieval instruments of "torture" around with them. U.S. cops do!

So, Italy isn't so bad, is it? Giovanni

Thanks for your letter, Giovanni. We must write you have made some very good points in your argument.

If we may be serious for a moment, the criminal situation in Italy particularly in all of southern Italy (Campania, Basilicata, Calabria, Puglia and Sicilia regions) is very dramatic. Although, there is an evident decrease in the number of mafia related murders, the criminal organizations of these five vast regions are unbelievably powerful and have choked off the economies and well-being of its citizens.

Although, the Italian police forces rarely commit acts of torture on its citizens, it does not mean there are no acts of aggression. The Italians of these five regions suffer acts of aggression, intimidation, receive death threats and compromise themselves and their businesses at the hands of the Mafia on a daily basis and there is nothing the Italian government can do. The people do not and cannot talk and nor does the government. It is like a slow death for millions of Italians.

And you will never find these statistics in any official Italian document or press release because it is a reality that Italy tries very hard every day to pretend it does not exist; a reality that has existed since the end of WWII. The only way to escape this reality is to... pack your bags and move to the industrial north or leave the country altogether like so many have done.

Therefore; Giovanni, if these five vast regions could choose between living with the Mafia or having a crime rate the size of the USA's. What would you think we would choose?

Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!

Tanti Saluti,             
"Only In Italy" Staff      


The Secrets to Art Looting in Italy

Rome - January 18, 2007 - A man convicted of looting Italy's archaeological treasures allowed a rare glimpse into the world of art smuggling when he testified Wednesday in the trial of a former J. Paul Getty Museum curator.

Pietro Casasanta recalled a half century of plundering archaeological treasures, benefiting from what he said was a free-for-all environment that allowed smugglers and merchants to make a fortune by selling antiquities in Italy and abroad.

Italian authorities say top European and U.S. museums took advantage of that atmosphere to acquire looted Roman, Greek and Etruscan artifacts.

As part of their efforts to recover the lost treasures, they have placed former Getty curator Marion True and American art dealer Robert Hecht on trial in Rome, accused of knowingly trafficking in stolen artifacts.

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and Boston's Museum of Fine Arts have agreed to return antiquities, but negotiations with Los Angeles' Getty museum over 47 contested artifacts have been stalled for months.

Casasanta said he had never met or made business with the defendants, but was testifying for the prosecution to present a broad look on how the illegal antiquities market functioned in Italy. Most of his discoveries were sold to local antique dealers in Rome although he said he could not rule out that some had been later passed on to international merchants.

Casasanta, 68, has served time in jail for art trafficking and is still on trial over some of the thousands of artifacts he uncovered during illegal digs. The raider defended his actions, saying that the underground antiquities trade was tolerated for decades until authorities started the recent crackdown. He also said he had saved art that would have been otherwise destroyed in development projects.

"From one day to the next we went from art experts to criminals," he said. "I saved thousands of artifacts that would have been ground into cement. It's a shame that they don't make me a senator for life."

Although security may have been more lax in previous decades, prosecutor Paolo Ferri noted that rules against art trafficking were well in place, including a 1939 law making all antiquities found in the country state property.

Casasanta told the court he would poke around construction sites and find treasures in piles of earth that had been dug up. But he also organized his own vast excavations - largely the ruins of ancient Roman countryside villas - working in daylight with two or three people using bulldozers over thousands of square yards.

He also explained how he and other looters would give their finds a clean record by selling them to themselves at international auction houses through dummy companies or straw men.

"This allowed me to legalize the piece and put a price on it," he told the judges.

The art squad of Italy's Carabinieri paramilitary police has recovered some of Casasanta's greatest discoveries, including a statue depicting three Roman gods and a fourth century B.C. ivory mask representing the Greek god Apollo.

"Ma per favore!" Italy, itself the largest and greatest open-air museum in the world, is one of the most historically rich homes to 100,000 churches, 3,500 museums and 6,000 registered archaeological sites. Therefore; there is not one Italian who has not fallen ass-backwards into a tomb, burial chamber, ditch, pothole, or crack in the sidewalk that contained antiquities.

Italian looting is an ancient and prosperous activity:
- The Romans raided Etruscan tombs for bronze and gold.
- Eighteenth and 19th-century gentlemen considered tomb-raiding a polite activity.
- But the early 21st century is boom-time.

Tombarolo 101
with your Viterbo native professor "Antonio":

Antonio the tombarolo (tomb raider) has read up on the Etruscans. He's equally passionate about the tricks for pillaging their tombs. Antonio has, he estimates, ransacked 2,200 tombs in his career. "Mostly Etruscan, they're shallower - the Romans I'm leaving to future tombaroli".

Lesson #1: "You make a metal rod. You can't buy them." He made two from rusting agricultural implements, heating and bending the metal into shape to get a meter-long rod. "You cut a slice into it, like a corkscrew, which gathers the earth, so you can tell if it's tomb earth or not. Then you take your rod, and you go for a walk."

Lesson #2: "To those who can read the land, tomb sites are visible enough: the grass might be drier, because of the empty space underneath. In winter, the snow might look different. Once you've located a potential site, probe the ground with the metal rod until you find nothingness. This may mark the entrance, or dromos, to an Etruscan underground tomb." "You find it by daylight," continues Antonio, "then you come back at night." "You don't use torches, in case the Carabinieri (cops) are around, and it's best to bring at least five men, because the work is hard."

Lesson #3: He is insulting about the skills of the newer generation of tomb raiders. "They have no patience, no finesse, these jackasses destroy half the stuff when they open a tomb. Mine is a dying art. The worst tombaroli then just smash through the ceiling of the tomb. They go straight in and 2,500 years go poof because the objects inside disintegrate on exposure to air. The more sensible tombaroli make a hole and leave it for 24 hours for the atmosphere to adjust. Then it's dig and grab."

Lesson #4: "Once the loot is stolen, it's sold on to a middleman, probably someone local, but more sophisticated, who can restore the object if necessary." Cleaned and spruced up, the object heads north, usually to Switzerland, the black hole of illegal antiquities, thanks to a "good-faith acquisition" law that legalized any object present on Swiss soil for five years. It's now been upped to 30 years, but not before "'property of a Swiss gentleman' became a euphemism for 'illicit material'". From Switzerland, the loot heads west; the United Kingdom

Lesson #5: On paper, the trade and market in antiquities is regulated by some of the strictest laws in the world. "The Archaeological Superintendency of Italy is notoriously short of resources. There are digital video films of Carabinieri doing patrols in boats, planes and on horseback are impressive, but largely window-dressing." The patrols are during the day but the tombaroli come at night. "As things stand, it's better to be an art thief than to steal cars: Italy's art squad has about 150 officers, but Scotland Yard has only three."

Lesson #6: There are thousands of tombaroli still active, and they hardly ever catch any, usually only when one tombarolo informs on another, for business or grudge reasons. Over the last 20 years at least somewhere between 65 per cent and 90 per cent of the antiquities offered for sale on the London auction market have no published provenance. European museums, including the British Museum and the Berlin State Museum, now have strict policies that refuse items with dubious provenance, but American museums usually don't.

 

Lawyer for Tariq Aziz Asks Italy, Vatican to help Aziz Vacation in Italy While Awaiting Trial

Rome - January 16, 2007 - Iraqís former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has asked the Italian government and the Vatican to act as guarantors on his behalf so that he can live in Italy while he awaits trial in Iraq, his Italian lawyer, Giovanni Di Stefano, said Tuesday.

He was arrested after Saddam Husseinís regime was toppled in 2003 and is being held by U.S. forces under agreement with the Iraqi government.

"I've asked the Italian government and the Vatican to guarantee for him to live in Italy in peace," Di Stefano told reporters in Rome, showing two letters he said were signed by Aziz. "He will not be sentenced to death, but he will die in prison if heís not released."

Azizís family also appealed with the Vatican in the past, asking Pope Benedict XVI to intervene with U.S. authorities for his release to allow him to receive medical care abroad claiming his health had deteriorated drastically. Aziz, a Chaldean Catholic, had a heart attack before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Aziz met with the late Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in February 2003, on the eve of the Iraq war, in a bid to head off the conflict.

Aziz is accused of being involved in several party purges in the 1970s and 1980s during which an unspecified number of people died. He has denied the allegations, saying his role was confined to foreign affairs and dealing with the media.

"Oh no, porca di quella troja!" It's the return of the "Achille Lauro Syndrome" that Italy occasionally suffers from every time an internationally recognized criminal asks to spend some "time" in Italy while awaiting a death trial.

Italy is perhaps best remembered for an incident in October 1985, when Bettino Craxi, at that time, Italy's brilliant prime minister, refused the request by Ronald Reagan to extradite the hijackers of the cruise ship, Achille Lauro.

The hijackers, after protracted negotiations, were given safe passage to Egypt by plane. Three US Navy F-14's forced the plane down to the United States Naval Air Facility (NAF) of Sigonella (Sicily). Though the Americans demanded that the Italian authorities extradite Abu Abbas of the PLO, Craxi stood firm on the grounds that the Italian Government had jurisdiction over its own territory, even though it was a joint Italian-NATO base.

He ordered Italian troops to surround the US Forces protecting the plane.

Italian officials took the hijackers into custody. But Abbas possessed the ultimate get-out-of-jail card: An Iraqi diplomatic passport. As Craxi explained: "Abu Abbas was the holder of an Iraqi diplomatic passport. The plane was on an official mission, considered covered by diplomatic immunity and extra-territorial status in the air and on the ground."

Seeing that this terrorist traveled as a credentialed Iraqi diplomat, Craxi rejected the US extradition order and the Italian authorities let Abbas flee to Yugoslavia.

The hijackers were later found guilty, and sentenced to relatively light prison terms, for hijacking and murder of an American citizen and Achille Lauro passenger, Leon Klinghoffer.

Craxi first gave the United States Forces permission to detain the terrorists, but he later reneged on the deal, and took the US Special Forces team into custody; they later escaped from Italy.

Molqi, jailed for 30 years in 1985 for the murder of Klinghoffer, was released in 1996 by Italian magistrates on 12 days parole 'for good behavior'. The Italian authorities are still awaiting his return.

Another Achille Lauro hijacker had already vanished in the same way in 1991. However; Italian authorities have given up on hopes of his return.

In conclusion, we must give Aziz the benefit of the doubt. He might just be innocent of his crimes.
And the Calabrese might be level-headed people.

 

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Italians Discover the Brain Metronome

Rome - January 16, 2007 - Italian researchers say they have found brain 'metronomes' that help musicians to play concerts and dancers to strut their stuff.

A team led by Carlo Caltagirone of Rome's Santa Lucia Foundation located two time-keeping areas in the brain.

A site in the cerebellum apparently regulates extremely short tempos, in the order of milliseconds - while its sister in the frontal cortex drums out longer intervals, lasting seconds.

The group's research has been published in the latest edition of the prestigious international scientific journal Experimental Brain Research.

"Oh! La mia povera testa!" It's obvious these researchers have not clicked on the TV lately. You have to see these Italian variety programs. The music and dancing borders on criminal.

Prime time Italian TV is strictly for brains without metronomes or any other type of cerebral activity.

There is a simple production formula for any popular Italian TV show:
1. Get a large studio,
2. Fill it with chairs,
3. Invite a studio audience from the public to put their backsides in those chairs,
4. Schedule two or three minor celebrities,
5. Hire a compere (master of ceremonies) and a troop of dancing girls in bikinis,
6. Let the celebs sing while the girls dance and between numbers let the audience ask as many questions as they like to the celebs through the compere.

The Italian researchers should elaborate more on their magnificent findings, for example, why bad performances from untalented celebs could be the result of brain 'metronomes' banging up against their skulls.

 

Julian - Julius Caesar's cousin
 
 
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