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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May 2004
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"Water Held Hostage and Inexpensive School Grades"  


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"Ciao a tutti!" Welcome to the only newsletter that is convinced the "Bocca della Verità" (Mouth of Truth) was first meant as a practical joke, "Only In Italy!"

Ciao Pasquale,

I know there must be a barrel full of superstitions. Here are a couple I remember from my Sicilian 'nonna' and my Sicilian 'suocera' (mother-in-law).

-Never place any type of meat (cold cuts etc.) on the bed,
-Never place a loaf of bread upside down,

'Chi sa' what they mean, but they are cute memories. Saluti! Geraldo

Thanks for the letter, Geraldo!

The Roman Catholic Church has always denied the validity of superstitions even though most psychotic Sicilian grandmothers would state otherwise. However, this doesn't mean you cannot have fun with the their interpretations.

We assume that the forbiddance of meat on the bed originates from a frustrated Sicilian wife who cursed her super obese husband for always shoving food into his mouth...even while in bed and asleep.

We also assume the loaf of bread should never be upside down because otherwise you can't get a better grip on it when you have to whack your kid over the head for his lack of respect at the dinner table.

Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!

Tanti Saluti,              
"Only In Italy" Staff       


Water Held Hostage By the Mafia

Milan - June 3, 2004 - In Sicily the people are thirsty, but not because they lack water. The Italian island receives 7,000 cubic meters of rain annually, nearly triple what is needed to meet demand. But water trickles away, disappearing into the cracks created by poor management, corruption and the Mafia.

Italy, home to 236 rivers and 53 lakes, and is the biggest per capita consumer of water in Europe, and third in the world, after the United States and Canada. But one-third of Italians do not have access to potable water, especially in the southern regions.

In Calabria and Sicily, lack of freshwater affects 53 percent of the population. In both Basilicata and Puglia, 64 percent face shortages.

In the past 20 years, more than 1.4 billion dollars have ended up in the hands of the Mafia members involved in the water business in Sicily. Much of that money has been in the form of bribes, funding for dams that were never built or money spent on the continuous repairs of the water distribution system.

Even back in 1874, the so-called 'guardiani' and 'fontaneri' associated with the mafia charged consumers for water, a vital public resource.

In 1968, most of the 13 water wells registered on the island were managed by Mafia families like the Buffa, Motisi, Marceno and Teresi.

Emerging in the 19th century in southern Italy, the Mafia is led by some 1,500 bosses or 'padrini' who control smuggling rings, prostitution, illegal immigration and trafficking of drugs, human organs, animals, toxic waste and weapons.

"In Sicily, the Mafia traditionally has played an important role in the waterworks concessions and in the construction of new dams and reservoirs. They are not interested in repairing damaged systems because that would be a losing business," Roberto della Sora, director of the environmental group Legambiente, told officials.

Palermo, capital of Sicily, has springs, wells and rivers to supply its water, but 40 percent of that is wasted in its leaky distribution network. A 6,000-litre tank last year cost 72 to 84 dollars.

The situation grew so extreme that the slogan of the Refounded Communist Party in the last regional elections was "Water in every house and in the countryside, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No to the Mafia, waste and privatizations."

Today, say the authorities, the 800,000 inhabitants of Palermo are less thirsty, with a yearly per capita consumption of 210 liters and water wastage reaching 27 percent.

"We haven't ruled out Mafia participation, because it is a phenomenon that is always present and cannot be completely eliminated. They are interested in water, but there is little evidence. The state manages water, although there are 1,200 wells in private hands," Dario Allegra, president of the municipal water company, told officials.

In Agrigento, another city on the island, with 55,000 inhabitants, the population collects rainwater in basins set under the eaves of their homes. In 1986, water service was available just three hours every 18 days, and in 2002, three hours every 15 days.

Agrigento has 14 water reservoirs that are not interconnected, and they feed different parts of the city's distribution network.

Sicily has 30 dams, but not all of them work. Some have been under construction for the past 20 years, and others lose up to 50 percent of the water they are intended to hold.

The Ancipa dam, undergoing repair since 1987, has a potential to hold 34 million cubic meters of water, but today holds just four million cubic meters.

The Rosamarina dam, built in the 1990s, is located in Mafia-controlled territory. It has a capacity of 80 million cubic meters, but is used only to irrigate crops. It was intended to provide water for Palermo as well, but the 200 meters of pipeline needed to do so has never been put in place.

For the past 10 years, the scarcity of funds and an administrative dispute involving different municipalities have paralyzed the project.

"The Mafia is in all business, from cement to water distribution, including garbage collection," Siena University engineering professor Giuliano Canatta, president of the Institute of Environment and Resources, said in a conversation with officials.

On the island of Sicily there are 450 water-related institutions (public and private), mixed partnerships and even consortiums. But none has been able to quench the population's thirst.

The current authorities named a commissioner to organize the system, and they want to privatize water services, though critics argue that water is a common good, not a product to be bought and sold.

"The Mafia has been able to penetrate municipal councils and even the regional parliament. There is a network of complicity and the privatization processes could fall into their hands," Agrigento provincial secretary Alfonso Frenda, of the Refounded Communist Party, told officials.

"Non si può vincere!"

Yes, Italy has the Mafia.
You know how Canada has Canadian bacon? We have Mafia.

Now you understand why our cars are so filthy. We're flirting with death every time we hose them down. You need to take out a second mortgage on your house just to fill up the swimming pool.

So, the next time you open your faucet for a glass of water or a daily shower, think about the special "insurance premiums" we Italians have to pay every time we get thirsty.

Italian Police Unsurprisingly Smash School Exam Scam

Rome - May 21, 2004 - A decent collection of A-levels or a baccalaureate can cost, if not blood, then certainly sweat and tears. But in Italy an equivalent qualification can be bought for between 2,000 and 7,500 Euros (£1,350-£5,000).

Twenty-three people accused of selling or buying school-leaving certificates, were yesterday under arrest after coordinated raids from Turin in the north to Trapani on Sicily. The Verona-based prosecutors leading the inquiry said a nine-month investigation had shown the existence of a national traffic in exam passes.

Those facing charges included head teachers, teachers and pupils. More arrests are expected.

The prosecutors said they already had proof that some 40 schools and 1,000 students were involved in the scams, and would scour the records of previous years as well.

All the schools so far incriminated are privately run. One existed solely for the purpose of issuing unearned passes.

Before the arrival of the school inspectors, its owners would rent premises and pay teachers and pupils to attend for as long as the inspection took. Once it was completed, the "school", staff and students vanished into thin air.

The law faculty of Rome's Sapienza University was last year revealed to host a flourishing traffic in exam passes.

"Sta minchia!"

No wonder Italian kids are stupid! They're too busy dealing crack, pot and school grades on the streets. And here are teachers, who were once professional artichoke pickers and peelers, insisting they're role models for Italian society.

Look... We're the furthest things from Oxford professors, but watching a typical Italian kid do a simple math problem makes you want to pour their breakfast over their head.

This goes to show that our grandfather, Toto, was always right: "Kids are stupid today because they don’t go to school! They’re always on a plane! They're at Monte Carlo! They go to Paris! When do they go to school? These little bastards!"

(The kids are going to Monte Carlo instead of school?)

We once asked our grandfather if he went to school: "I went to school until I was 10 years old. After that, my father said it was over. You are not too bright; you have to go to work because you are not going to be a genius. Go to work and produce something. And he was right!"

You know, if you read between the lunacy, our grandfather made a lot of good sense.


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295,000 Shopkeepers and Counting Victims of Rackets and Money Lending

Rome - May 26, 2004 - A little under 300 thousand Italian shopkeepers are victims of extortion or money lending: 160 thousand (100 pct in Gela, in Locride, 80 pct in Catania and Palermo, 50 pct in Naples) pay 'protection' 'pizzo', 135 thousand are in the hands of loan sharks.

The alarm has been raised by the seventh report on crime by Sos Impresa, released this morning in Rome at the Confesercenti office.

Every year - according to the report - criminality takes 24 billion Euro out of the trading system, over 40 pct of which goes to the Italian Mafia. In practice, every hour 2,600,000 Euro goes from honest businessmen to organized crime. Not only: 90 thousand shopkeepers are victims of thefts and hold-ups, half-a-million objects being taken, 15 thousand exposed to contraband. After a fall in 2002 the number of reported extortions rose to 3700 in 2003, but the hidden number remains very high where 'omerta' is strongest.

In any case, 77.5 pct of crimes of this type are discovered by the forces of law and order rather than being reported by the victims. Also 51.1 pct of reports of money lending are made in the four regions with the highest Mafia presence, with 500 thousand people being at risk of money lending, to which can be added 6000 immigrants constrained to enter into money lending agreements."

"Porca puttana!"

And, of course, the entire country continues with the charades that the Mafia doesn't exist.

It's sort of like a powerful zit the size of an orange that every Italian has on their back:

- It's there growing bolder every day but we won't acknowledge it,
- no cream can help get rid of it,
- and we don't dare pop it!

Italy has proven Darwin’s theory wrong: "Evolution started just fine but it betrayed the Godfather and paid the consequences!"


Julian - Julius Caesar's cousin
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