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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"How to Avoid Organized Crime."

(05/24/04)

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"Ciao!" Welcome to the only newsletter published from the outskirts of Prizzi and Corleone, "Only In Italy!"

What the hell is a "Raccomandazione"?

La Raccomandazione (The Recommendation): "Scusa, ma chi è Lei?" Who do you think you are? A prospective employer could be holding a detailed résumé in his hands and still ask such a question. This is the other pervasive aspect of Sicilian professional life - the culture of the recommendation. Simply expressed, this means that one must be "recommended" or personally known, to establish a business relationship, obtain employment or do just about anything professionally in Sicily.

The idea of professional references exists everywhere (and certainly in other parts of Italy), but in Sicilian cities it exists apart from professional qualifications and fosters all kinds of corruption. Even if you're only marginally competent, a good recommendation can get you a job as a policeman, civil service bureaucrat or manager. A competent person without the necessary recommendation will not advance in his or her career. Such a mentality lends itself to professional mediocrity, political corruption and even organized crime, but it is an essentially medieval practice that persists in Sicilian cities. Unfortunately, it has seriously retarded Sicily's economic development.

Without the right recommendations, a gifted person like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs could never have established a multinational computer empire using a place like Sicily as a starting point. Not surprisingly, many talented young Sicilians choose to leave Sicily rather than spend a lifetime facing unfavorable odds.

Perhaps the most appalling aspect of this phenomenon is the presence of "recommendations" in Sicilian universities. Not only are professors hired and tenured based almost entirely on recommendations, but there are occasional cases of merely average students obtaining high grades because of factors other than academic achievement. We don't wish to imply that such things as The Recommendation always occur, but they represent a distinct pattern. Think of it as "Extreme Networking." (Special thanks to Best of Sicily.com for their knowledge.)

Enjoy the issue, keep writing and Grazie!

Tanti Saluti,              
"Only In Italy" Staff       

 

Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones Mingle with Mafia on Italy Set

Rome - July 14, 2004 - Hollywood stars Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones unknowingly mingled with Mafiosi while filming in Sicily, police said Wednesday.

Police swooped on 23 suspected Mafia members near the Sicilian city of Trapani Tuesday, close to where Pitt and Zeta-Jones have been working on "Ocean's Twelve", a sequel to the 2001 crime caper "Ocean's Eleven."

Among those seized were members of a well-known mob clan dominant on the idyllic stretch of Sicilian coast where filming took place, who used their contacts to try infiltrate the set.

"Three members of the Castellammare del Golfo Mafia family made rounds of the set all day and night, keeping close to the set and the actors in the hotel where they slept," Giuseppe Linares, a police chief in Trapani, told reporters.

No one was immediately available to comment from the film's production company.

Judicial sources said the Mafiosi were suspected of seeking protection money from the film's producers.

Julia Roberts, George Clooney and Matt Damon also star in "Ocean's Twelve," which is directed by Steven Soderbergh, but they were not involved in the Sicily shoot.

Linares said neither the actors nor the crew were in any danger during their stay on the Mediterranean island.

"The three Mafiosi were monitored by police via global positioning satellite systems and by plainclothes officers who were ready to swoop if there was any meddling or particularly suspicious activity," Linares said.

The Mafia roundup is one of the few nuggets of news to escape the tightly closed set of "Ocean's Twelve" that has moved between Sicily and Rome. Filming in Italy has now finished.

How to Mingle with the Mafia:

All of us at one time or another experience the fear or desire of meeting the Mafia in Italy. We don't know what to say or how to approach a presumed criminal of organized crime and get a conversation going. Listed below are a few do’s and don'ts, plus some simple ways to start a weak and uninteresting conversation with someone you don't know. Try some of these techniques on your next visit. You will be pleased with the results. The more you practice the better you'll become, the less fearful you will feel and the longer you will live.

If you are at a party, wedding or social gathering, introduce yourself with a weak handshake and very little eye contact. A good thing to ask the person you just met is "How do you know the host?" or "How do you know the bride/groom?" and then shut-up.

Before you attend any social event you might want to skim the headlines of the local newspapers for city and state contracts. You can bring up the headlines and ask people what they think or know about the topic and then avoid them for at least 1 hour.

Pick safe general topics to discuss and try to avoid topics like money laundering and the poor economic conditions of the south. These topics can bring out a lot of emotion for some people and that might be too much for a first meeting.

Humor is great but never tell off color jokes or jokes that poke fun at Southern Italy. Make sure to make fun and laugh at yourself. One of your own pathetic life or work experiences may be entertaining for them if done without foul language or insults to others.

Most of us have trouble remembering names of people we have just met or don't know very well and that can be very positive and safe during times like these. Hesitate to repeat your name to everyone you meet even if you've met him or her before. This may prompt them to say their own name and if it doesn't don't dare ask them again for their name.

If you're befuddled enough to accept an invitation to a party it is a good idea to bring a beautiful gift to the hostess or host of the function. You can be confident knowing that you have done something special. A gift like stock options, jewelry or something antique makes a wonderful hostess gift. The gift should be very expensive and should not require any action or work on part of the hostess.

When attending one of these peculiar functions where you don't know anyone don't ask the host or hostess to introduce you to anyone. After that, it is up to you to introduce yourself to others. If you are introverted or feeling shy this can be very positive and safe.

Ask questions that show very little interest in others. Remember these people enjoy talking about themselves to a certain limit and don't like it when someone shows interest in who they are and what they think and feel. Feel free to make the mistake of just talking about you. Also, don't act like a know-it-all. Even if you know a lot about a subject it is best to talk very little about it otherwise you will be asked for "special" favors.

Before leaving a party always make a point to find the host/hostess and thank them for inviting you. You don't have to say goodbye to anyone else or announce your departure.

 

Italy Arrests 23 in 'Ocean's Twelve' Mafia Case

Palermo - July 14, 2004 - Italian police arrested 23 people for extorting protection money from the production crew of the film "Ocean's Twelve," starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt, local newspapers reported, citing police and court documents.

Filming on the west coast of Sicily ended last week, the newspapers said. Those arrested include two men who extracted payments on the set and the wives of two Mafia bosses who brought messages from their jailed spouses.

Clooney, Pitt and actress Catherine Zeta Jones were in Sicily filming the sequel to the 2001 hit "Ocean's Eleven," newspapers reported. Both films were directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Police had been investigating the payment of protection money to the Mafia in the area for two years, the newspaper said. The group succeeded in extracting payments from everyone from local business leaders to those renting out paddle boats.

"Incredibile!" Why didn't the director turn the cameras around and film a documentary?

This explains why it costs 10 Euros an hour to rent out a paddle boat and an additional 40 Euros for the mandatory insurance policy. No matter how much you insist that you don't need one to protect yourself against fire, theft, collision, icebergs, pirates, sharks and jellyfish you're obliged to take one out!

 

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'Ocean's 12' Producer: No Mafia Extortion

Los Angeles - July 16, 2004 - "Ocean's 12" producer Jerry Weintraub wants to set the record straight: Mobsters didn't try to extort anyone connected with the production during shooting in Italy.

"We were never approached by any Mafia for extortion money," Weintraub told reporters on Thursday after reading news dispatches that Mafia-busting Italian undercover officers secretly monitored the star-studded "Ocean's 12" production in Sicily.

As part of a Mafia investigation, officers noticed that suspected mobsters were hanging around the "Ocean's 12" set in the seaside town of Scopello, western Sicily, police official Giuseppe Linares said earlier this week.

The mobsters may have been looking to extort the production or could have been worried that a secret alcove used to hide arms in the area could be discovered during the production, Linares said.

"It's ridiculous. It's total fabrication," Weintraub said. "They said I was worried about my stars. That was nonsense. No one ever threatened any of us. If anybody was going to get extorted it was me.

"All of Italy was great. We had nothing but a wonderful time. I hate for them to get a bum rap like this."

The "Ocean's 12" stars, including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Weintraub are back in southern California to complete shooting of the sequel, which will be released December 10.

Linares said the film's crew and cast were unaware of the investigation and of the local Mafia activity. News of the unusual movie-monitoring emerged when police in Trapani announced Tuesday that they had arrested 19 alleged mobsters after a two-year investigation.

The gang's alleged crimes revolved largely around the extortion of local businesses around the town of Castellammare del Golfo, near Trapani.

"Certamente no!" Of course not!

The wonderful world of Italian bribery: Italians know bribery the way Canadians know bacon. Italians have four words that mean 'bribe': pizzo, bustarella, mazzetta and tangente.

1.) Pizzo - it's the beak of a bird that when seeing a roll of money, waddles over and picks it up.

2.) Mazzetta - it's a famous Roman card game. The stack of cards is a metaphor for a stack of bills, and the bribe constitutes a percentage of the winnings.

3.) Bustarella - it's a little envelope that sometimes keeps the bribe safe from falling into plain view on its way from hand to hand.

FYI: Pizzo, mazzetta and bustarella originate from southern Italy where the Mafia lives a healthy life. Tangente is a relatively new word that arose with bribes originating in the more industrial North of Italy.

4.) Tangente - tangent lines are intersecting lines, and metaphorically speaking, the intersection is where two people or groups of people meet to devour the bribe. Some Italians call Milan the Tangentopoli - the city of tangents. Italians began to use tangente to describe northern bribes after a judge in Milan uncovered a cess pool of corruption in the Socialist party there.

The judge was representing a woman in a divorce case, and the woman wanted billions of Italian lire even though her husband's records showed a modest income.

When the judge explained that she could never get such money from her husband because his net worth did not approach the amount she demanded, the woman told the judge to go look at her husband's bank accounts in Switzerland.

It turned out that her husband's funeral business, was a front for the Italian Socialist party, where they laundered billions of lire. This discovery led to the "Mani Pulite" movement or "Operation Clean Hands" led by the famous magistrate, Antonio DiPietro.

"Mani Pulite" was an investigation that went to the top of the Italian government and led to more than 60 indictments for Bettino Craxi, who was the Italian prime minister for a short time.

 

Julian - Julius Caesar's cousin
 
 
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