'Just realized that it's been almost two months since the last FSHSGRAM...got a couple of emails from Wildcats during the weekend, asking if I were "still around." Not quite sure what that meant.
Yep...just very busy at Gryphon Technologies –– among other projects, my group supports two annual publications for the Chief of Naval Operations and Commandant USMC that come due in February/March –– and I had deadlines for several "outside" publications and lectures at the Bettis Atomic Power Lab...the days just got away from me.
And, then there were the Great Snows of February Ought-10: record-setting 45 inches of snow in two back-to-back storms that pummeled the Annapolis area and closed down federal, state and local governments...
But, I appreciate the concern: Yep, "still around!" Andiamo!
My FSHSWACD co-editor, Pat Carter Bryant FSHS68, and I will send out an updated FSHSWACD next month. So, if you're in the database but your record needs revising, please send changes to me. If you're not in the FSHSWACD but want to be included, please complete as much or as little information as you want...
Name: (First, Middle, Last or Last/Maiden and Last/Married, or Last/Divorced, "Nickname")
Title: (JD, PhD, Miss, MD, II, Jr., etc...FSHS Teacher/Administrator/Parent...)
Napoli: (the actual years you lived in Napoli)
Where in Napoli: (where you lived...Via Manzoni, Via Petrarca, Parco Azurro, Arco Felice...)
FSHS Class: (graduation year, whether you graduated from FSHS or not)
High School Graduated: (FSHS or other HS)
Email Address 1:
Email Address 2:
Snailmail Street/POB Address:
Snailmail Street/POB Address:
Phone(s): (Home / Work / Cell)
Comments: (brief mention of anything particularly important to you about your Napoli/FSHS experience...)
...and return to me. I'll get all the changes and new information into the Word file, and Pat will update the Excel file. I'll send out both to all on distro (1,250 email addresses!!) in mid-April.
Reunions and Such
A few of us -- Vonna Brode Thomas FSHS67, Debbie King Dunn FSHS68, Staff Dunn FSHS68 and I (accompanied by spouses Mark Thomas and Annmarie Truver) -- spent a long weekend 12-17 February eating and drinking our way through central/Gulf Coast Florida –– a mini-reunion of sorts. (Yes, Steve Rann FSHS67 and Fred Cannon FSHS68, we did talk about you....) Had a great time!
I recall seeing some info on an of an upcoming Overseas Brats reunion in Reston, VA, 5-8 August. Theresa Dickie Branscome FSHS78 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is interested in pulling together a Napoli cohort for the festivities. The URL for the event is:
That's about it for today. Napoli News attached below. Don't forget to send your FSHSWACD info for the April 2010 update. Grazie! Saluti!
Scott T FSHS68
Napoli News Italy private schools pound DODDS teams Stars and Stripes
European edition, Sunday, March 21, 2010 The Italian private schools boys' teams that usually dominate Region IV got right to the point Saturday by pinning an aggregate 19-3 defeat on their three DODDS-Europe opponents on opening day of the high school soccer season.
Marymount International School of Rome blanked Aviano 8-0, the American Overseas School of Rome thumped visiting 2009 European small-schools runner-up Sigonella 7-2, and Milan turned back visiting Naples 4-1 as a handful of teams got the 2010 season under way. Just 12 games, six each for boys and girls, were on the schedule, with eight of those scheduled for Italy. Marymount boys 8, Aviano 0: At Aviano, Alessandro Ramacciato scored two of his three goals to go with a fourth-minute strike by Alessio Cangi and a 12th-minute tally by Paolo Muir to gave the Royals a 4-0 halftime lead. The onslaught came, according to coach Mark Fix, despite heroic efforts by Aviano keeper Sean Wilson, who left the game with an injury just after intermission. The scoring avalanche continued in the second half with goals by Ramacciato, Mario Checi Gori, Nirosa Liayantha and Nicolo Manci. Milan boys 4, Naples 1: At Milan, Alessandro Guarnieri scored twice to pace the Panthers. Justin Biery's first-half strike was the only scoring Naples could manage.
Naples girls 1, Milan 0: At Milan, the Wildcats' defense made All-European Hayley Witz's first-half goal stand up. [Bravo Zulu Hayley!] AOSR boys 7, Sigonella 2: At Rome, Giacomo Castelli and Pietro Dinmor each put two shots past All-Europe goalkeeper Conor Quinn. Castelli and Dinmor also each added an assist for AOSR. Tyler Reed scored Sigonella's goals, both in the second half. Reed's first goal, two minutes after intermission, was unassisted; his second, in the 79th minute, came off a feed from his brother, Patrick. Quinn stopped 11 of AOSR's 18 shots on goal. Marymount girls 2, Aviano 1: At Aviano, All-European Elena Carrarini had a hand in Marymount's two second-half goals, setting up Caroline Wiley for a 52nd-minute strike that tied the game 1-1, then scoring unassisted 17 minutes later for the decisive goal.
Junior Cheryl Craver gave Aviano a 1-0 lead with a 12th-minute tally. AFNORTH girls 3, Lakenheath 1: At Lakenheath, Kaylee Harless, Stephanie Seitz and all-European Kaylee Wilstead provided the goals for the Lady Lions in the day's lone Region I game. Lakenheath boys 3, AFNORTH 0: Host Lakenheath pinned a shutout on its two-time defending European champion guests. No details were available at press time Saturday.
Alberto Gilardino scores twice as
Fiorentina rallies to beat Napoli 3-1THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (CP) - Mar 13, 2010 NAPLES, Italy - Alberto Gilardino's two goals gave Fiorentina a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Napoli in Saturday's only Serie A game.
Fiorentina was eliminated from the Champions League despite beating Bayern Munich on Tuesday and hadn't won an away game in more than two months.
Ezequiel Lavezzi gave Napoli the lead in the 48th minute and Gilardino hit back in the 60th and 87th. Stevan Jovetic added a third score for Fiorentina into an empty net when Napoli goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis rushed forward in a last-ditch attempt to equalize in added time.
Napoli remained seventh with 41 points and Fiorentina is 10th with 38 points.
Napoli threatened more in the first half but Fiorentina goalkeeper Sebastien Frey stretched out to save a header from German Denis in the 32nd.
Lavezzi found the target with a header from the edge of the area following a cross from Cristian Maggio and the hosts had two more chances in the next 10 minutes before Gilardino headed in the equalizer from a Jovetic cross.
The Italy centre forward scored again three minutes from time following a corner, redirecting Jovetic's header slightly with his own head, as Napoli appealed for an offside call that never came.
Back in business:
Pompeii snack bar re-opens... nearly 2000 years after
it was destroyed by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius By Rhianna King
Last updatedfs at 4:42 PM on 20th March 2010 In AD79 it was Pompeii's most popular hang out, where locals would stop off to meet friends and partake in a snack of baked cheese smothered in honey.
Now, nearly 2000 years after the Italian city was buried under ash and rubble by the devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius, its favourite snack bar has re-opened.
For the first time the thermopolium, as it is called in Italy, will be open to tourists after having undergone and excavation and restoration process over the past few months.
Tomorrow 300 VIPs selected at random will attend an advance opening of the snack bar where they will enjoy a taste of Roman cafe society, including the sweet, calorific treats enjoyed by the all sections of Pompeii society before the city was destroyed.
Pompeii, which is near Naples in the Italian region of Campania, was destroyed, and completely buried, during a catastrophic two-day eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius on August 24, 79AD.
The volcano collapsed higher roof-lines and buried Pompeii under many meters of ash and pumice, and it was lost for nearly 1700 years before its accidental rediscovery in 1748.
Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into life during the Roman Empire.
Visitors to the thermopolium will be taken on a guided tour of Vetutius Placidus's snack bar which features an L-shaped counter and a painting on its back wall depicting Mercury, the god of commerce and Bacchus, the god of wine.
The thermopolium features a cellar, garden and dining area - or triclinium, which was decorated with a painting showing the rape of Europa with Jupiter disgused as a bull.
Excavations suggest the internal garden once featured a pergola, herb garden and grapevines.
The snack bar has been closed for years in order to protect if from further damage. But soon all visitors will be able to venture inside to get a taste of an ancient Roman cafe.
The bar used to face onto a main street, the Via dell'Abbondanza, and all sections of society would call in for a Mediterranean lunch or the famous snack of ricotta cheese and sticky honey.
Archaeologists working at the site also found a jar full of coins, amounting to about two days' income. They believe the owner may have left them as he fled the doomed city.
Finding the best pizza in NaplesBy Marie Maguire
Contra Costa Times Forget the pepperoni and mushrooms. And don't even think about sausage. In Naples, you start with the basics.
If the sauce isn't rich and gooey, if the cheese isn't oozing and if the crust isn't paper thin and smelling like it just came out of a wood-fire oven, then you are not eating a genuine Neapolitan pizza. And heaven help the person who made it for you.
Naples jealously guards its reputation as the city that invented pizza, and its pizza police are sticklers about the rules. Tomatoes must be grown in the rich, volcanic soil surrounding the city. Mozzarella must come from buffalo milk. And then there are the baking instructions -- the pizza must have an irregular shape to prove it's been made by hand and it can only spend a short time in that wood-burning oven.
On our first night, we went for a classic. The most authentic, by pizza police standards, are the margherita -- with tomato, mozzarella and basil -- and the marinara -- with tomato, oregano and garlic.
Because authenticity was our goal, we decided to try Da Michele. Although not the oldest pizzeria in Italy, Da Michele has been in business since the 1870s and is known for its adherence to tradition. It is a no-nonsense restaurant that serves only the marinara and the margherita.
Our pizza was an example of simplicity at its finest. The thin crust sizzled, and the tomato sauce and mozzarella blended beautifully. It was so delicate, we couldn't eat it with our hands. We had to use a knife and fork.
On our second night, we tried one of Da Michele's competitors, Trianon, just across the street. Trianon started in the 1930s and has been popular with the young crowd for several years. Its menu has wider selection than Da Michele, but those selections are still based on the important margherita pizza, just with the addition of one or two toppings. We ordered ours with prosciutto and mushrooms. The Italian ham mixed well with the mozzarella, and we left well satisfied.
On the third evening, our hotel clerk asked, ``Do you want to taste the best pizza in Naples?'' Of course, we did. So, he directed us to Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente.
In 1997, while in town for the G7 summit, President Bill Clinton stopped at Di Matteo, owned by pizza maker Ernesto Cacialli's brother. Accounts of what happened next vary. Some say Clinton had a slice of Cacialli's pizza while he stood in the street and chatted with passersby. Others say he ate two pizzas by himself.
No matter what version you believe, Cacialli started his own restaurant shortly after Clinton's visit and secured his reputation in pizza lore.
On this, our final night, we reverted to American tastes. We ordered a pizza with the works -- ham, artichoke hearts, eggplant and mushrooms on the traditional margherita. It was outstanding, but again tradition prevailed. The pizza, called the quattro, was divided into sections. No section had more than two toppings.
Red-Coral Rescue Plans Endanger Italy's Coastal Jewelry MakersMarch 10, 2010, 7:22 PM EST
Flavia Krause-Jackson and Alex Morales
With assistance from Flavia Rotondi in Rome. Editors: Jennifer Freedman, Andrew Davis March 11 (Bloomberg) -- The people of Torre del Greco, 10 miles south of Naples, have lived off the red corals found in the Mediterranean Sea for more than two millennia. A proposal to list the species as endangered may push the seaside town's $217 million-a-year coral industry into extinction.
The U.S., the largest consumer of corals for use in decoration and jewelry, is proposing that all 31 species of red and pink coral be added to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, treaty at a meeting in Doha, Qatar, starting March 13. The European Union, of which Italy is a member, backed the plan yesterday while asking for an 18-month delay in implementation.
“We've survived world wars, economic crises and anything God and Mount Vesuvius have thrown at us, but this will kill us,” said Antonino de Simone, whose family has been fashioning brooches, rings and necklaces out of coral since 1830. He fears he'll have to let go of his 25 employees and close shop.
The added paperwork and damage to Torre del Greco's image resulting from a CITES listing will cost $135 million in three years, says industry group Assocoral.
Former high-end clients such as Tiffany & Co. and Bulgari SpA no longer want the town's coral jewelry, and a campaign to end the use of the sea animal in fashion goods led by the environmental group Seaweb has gained support of designers Paloma Picasso and Kimberly McDonald.
Torre del Greco was once a favored beach destination of Italian movie stars. Now tourists gravitate further down the Amalfi coast, leaving coral as the mainstay of the economy. The industry employs 5,000 people in a region suffering from chronic unemployment.
Risk of Collapse
The U.S. proposal would allow trade in the corals only if nations issue an export certificate showing they were sustainably harvested, said Andy Bruckner, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ecologist who drafted the plan.
“If we let them keep going the way that they are, the industry is going to collapse,” Bruckner said. “If we can come up with a sustainable way to harvest it, we can have this industry continue into the future forever. That's what the whole goal is. It's really not to shut them down.”
Producers in Torre del Greco pride themselves on protecting their local reefs, though about two-thirds of the coral used to make their jewelry is imported from Pacific stocks. A destructive form of trawling that involves dragging weighted nets along the seabed is still in use there even though it's been banned in the Mediterranean since 1994.
Michele Palomba, a coral fisherman for 30 years like his father before him, is today one of the 100 licensed locals who between May and September dive 80 meters (262 feet) with scuba gear to collect the coral. At such depths, one can stay under for no more than four minutes.
“It's crazy to me how they can say we have decimated our supplies, it's simply not true,” Palomba said. “No one knows and loves and respects our sea more than us. This is our livelihood; why would we destroy it?”
Unlike the Pacific variety, the coral in the Mediterranean is small and doesn't grow in shallow waters, Palomba says. He and his colleagues handpick branches from healthy colonies, he said.
Not everyone agrees the methods are sustainable.
Waters shallower than 90 meters in the Mediterranean used to contain older corals that stood 50 centimeters (20 inches) tall, said Georgios Tsounis, a marine biologist at the Institute of Marine Sciences in Barcelona, whose research is cited by Seaweb.
Now “they've basically gone” and those found in unprotected waters average about 4 centimeters and rarely exceed 10 centimeters, he said.
“Once the fishery grew to industrial levels, it transformed virtually all known coral communities from a forest- like structure into a grassland-type structure,” Tsounis said. “Although harvesting does not seem to threaten the corals with extinction, it does impact their ecological function of serving as fish nurseries and helping preserve biodiversity.”
It's a fight the locals feel they cannot win.
“We are up against the might of the U.S., misinformed environmentalists and big companies: We are doomed,” said Mauro Ascione, 45, one of eight siblings running the oldest coral- jewelry maker in Torre del Greco. “Our father wanted a big family to grow our business. Instead, we'll attend its funeral.”
EU rules against Italy over Naples waste
The EU's top court says Italy breached an EU directive
on waste disposal by allowing piles of rubbish to litter the
streets of Naples in 2007-2008.BBC News, 4 Mar 2010 The directive became law in Italy in 2006, but the European Court of Justice says the waste disposal sites in the Naples area were inadequate.
The European Commission brought the case against Italy, which must now comply with the court's judgment.
The court says the piles of rubbish endangered health and the environment.
Failure to comply with the judgment could lead to a hefty fine for Italy.
The Italian authorities and Naples residents have long accused the local version of the Mafia, the Camorra, of dumping huge amounts of industrial waste from the north not only in the Campania region's landfill sites but also in the countryside.
The Camorra is accused of infiltrating the waste disposal business and profiteering from it.
To deal with the Naples crisis the Italian government opened up several new waste incinerators in Campania.
Troops were also brought in to help clear the rubbish and there were sporadic clashes with locals enraged at the mess plaguing their streets for months.
But the court ruling on Thursday says Italy has failed to set up an adequate network of waste disposal installations as close as possible to the areas where waste is produced.
"By failing to adopt all the measures necessary to prevent danger to human health and damage to the environment in the region of Campania, Italy has failed to fulfil its obligations under the Waste Directive," the judges said.
Naples, Sigonella bases to cut 150 jobs By Sandra Jontz, Stars and Stripes
Online Edition, Friday, February 26, 2010 NAPLES, Italy - Roughly 150 civilian jobs - a majority of them held by Italians - will be eliminated this year at two U.S. Navy bases in Italy, the Navy announced Thursday.
The job cuts will affect employees at the Navy bases in Naples and Sigonella, mostly in Public Works departments and Fleet and Family Support, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs, said Cmdr. Chris Harris, director of Manpower for Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia.
The number of employees is greater than the needs of the Navy, and a reduction of the civilian force had not kept pace with the scaling back of military operations over the past several years, according to Rear Adm. David Mercer, commander of U.S. Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia.
“Over the past five years, our organization has become smaller and more efficient but our personnel structure has not,” Mercer said in a statement announcing the cuts. “These difficult actions must occur to meet the long-term needs of the U.S. Navy in Italy.”
For Italians, the issue of layoffs is a volatile and explosive one. They already wrestle with a limited job market, where, typically, older employees face increased difficulty in finding employment because of their age.
As the Navy met with labor union representatives in Rome on Thursday, officials in Naples activated the emergency operations command in the event of “labor unrest,” said Navy spokesman Lt. Brian Badura, a measure illustrative of the unpredictable and sometimes fiery reaction that news of layoffs can spark.
All was calm late Thursday and into Friday. However, local labor union representatives spent Friday in meetings with local employees who found out about the pending cuts through local newspaper reports, said Gennaro Di Micco, head of the local chapter of the employee union CISL.
“We found that to be very disappointing,” he said. “Yes, they told official representatives in Rome, but they (Navy leaders) did not tell us locally before sending out press releases.”
That said, local union representatives are not calling for strikes, he said. “We need solutions, not strikes.” [Now, that's amazing!]
Italian town commemorates World War II tragedyBy Victor L. Simpson
The Associated Press, Washington Post
Friday, March 19, 2010; 2:44 PM CISTERNA di LATINA, Italy -- For American forces fighting their way north to Rome, it was the site of a heroic but hopeless stand, where only eight men out of two Ranger battalions escaped German troops.
For the Italians caught in the fighting, it was the place where they lived underground for months before being sent on a forced march north by the Germans.
On Friday, the anniversary of the roundup in 1944, this town between Anzio and Rome held its annual commemoration of the bloody events of World War II with ceremonies held beside a monument to victims of all wars and school children visiting the grottoes where their grandparents took shelter from the bombing.
This town of 32,000 people, once a manufacturing center but now the heart of kiwi production in Italy, has not forgotten the elite U.S. Army Rangers, who fought to liberate them from the Nazi occupiers. There is a Via dei Rangers, a school named after the Rangers' commander William O. Darby and signs noting Cisterna is twinned with Darby's hometown, Fort Smith, Arkansas.
The site of the Cisterna battle, alongside a canal on the road to Nettuno, is recorded by a plaque in English, German and Italy recalling those who "fought and died."
"It is an ugly memory but we can't forget it because it is part of the history of our country," Mayor Antonello Merolla said at the ceremony
By all accounts, the Cisterna battle was a disaster for the Americans.
The Rangers were used as a spearhead after the landing at Anzio, but because of poor intelligence met unexpected, fierce resistance at Cisterna and by authoritative accounts did not have the support weapons to overcome it as they battled through mud and drainage ditches.
Rick Atkinson, in the book "Day of Battle" said 250-300 Rangers died and eight escaped, leaving hundreds of others captured.
According to Marsha Henry Goff, an unofficial historian for the Rangers whose father served in the elite corps, "Col. Darby, who had protested the use of his Rangers as conventional troops - contending they were trained for a different type of fighting - had gone into a room alone and sobbed" after learning of the casualties.
She said the first word of the disaster came in an Associated Press war dispatch from Naples on March 8 - five weeks after the battle.
"A grim secret kept locked in the hearts of allied troops in Italy for over a month now has been placed in the record of heroic but hopeless `last stands,'" it began.
The breakout from the beaches of Anzio had been stalled and the liberation of Rome, the first Axis capital to fall, would have to wait until June.
This was also grim news for Italian civilians.
"We lived for months underground," Bruno Fieramonte, 75, a retired school teacher, told school children taken down to the dark and dank grottoes of a 16th-century palace on the main square, recalling the fighting and bombing that destroyed 90 percent of the town's buildings - with only few scarred and blackened homes from that era still standing.
Then, on March 19, the Germans, increasingly worried about resistance, rounded up the entire town and marched them north. Many ended in labor camps and farms as far north as Tuscany.
Felice Paliani, who was 13 at the time, said he was taken in as a mascot by the Americans when Cisterna was finally liberated. "We survived because we were united," he said.
Surviving Rangers, mostly in their 80s, generally visit around American Memorial Day, combining it with a stop at the military cemetery in Anzio-Nettuno.
The mayor was asked by this reporter whether German survivors were ever invited. "Actually no," he replied. "But you've given me an idea for next year.”
Italy, U.S. Make 26 Mafia ArrestWall Street Journal, Mar 10, 2010 ROME-Police in Italy and the U.S. arrested 26 people Wednesday in a sweeping series of raids that dismantled an international Mafia drug network, according to Italian police.
Twenty people were arrested in Palermo for alleged drug-trafficking, extortion and usury, according to a statement by Italian police on Wednesday. Three members of the Gambino crime family were arrested in New York and North Carolina and charged with extortion, obstruction of justice and concealment of assets in bankruptcy, according to a separate statement by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Three more people were arrested in Miami on charges of money laundering and obstruction of justice, said Special Agent Judy Orihuela, an FBI spokeswoman in Miami.
Prosecutors say the link between U.S. and Italian groups was Italian national Roberto Settineri, who they allege acted as an intermediary between a Palermo-based clan and the New York-based Gambino and Colombo families. Mr. Settineri was arrested hours before he was scheduled to fly from Miami to Italy and charged with money laundering and obstruction of justice, the U.S. district attorney's statement said.
Italian prosecutors haven't yet charged those arrested in Italy. They say they haven't requested the extradition of Mr. Settineri. Efforts to reach a lawyer representing Mr. Settineri were unsuccessful.
The arrests mark the latest chapter in a joint campaign by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and Italian authorities to crack down on one of Italy's most powerful organized crime syndicates. Since the 2005 launch of the joint investigation, known as Project Pantheon, Italian and U.S. investigators have made deep inroads into the Sicilian Mafia, disrupting the mob's command structure with arrests of top bosses.
Although the Mafia remains a powerful force in Italy, the Sicilian mob has lately been overshadowed by syndicates with less-centralized command structures, such as the Camorra, a Naples-based syndicate, and the 'Ndrangheta, which is based in the toe of the Italian peninsula.
Wednesday's arrests in Palermo targeted members of the Santa Maria di Gesu, a Palermo-based crime family that has allegedly filled the Mafia's power vacuum, according to police. Anti-mafia prosecutors in Palermo allege that members of Santa Maria di Gesu operate citywide extortion network, requiring shopkeepers to pay protection money or face violent reprisals.
Shopkeepers who have refused to pay have seen their stores burned down or sealed shut with super glue, Italian police said. One shopkeeper who refused to protection money was shot five times in August 2009 and survived the attack, Italian police said in their Wednesday statement.
Mr. Settineri regularly traveled between the U.S. and Palermo to meet with top members of the Santa Maria di Gesu family, Italian police alleged. As part of the investigation, police also seized "significant quantities" of cocaine and hashish in the Southern Italian region Calabria, according to the statement.
Neapolitan crime-busterBy Alvise Armellini
18.03.2010 / 05:10 CET Luigi die Magistri's Mafia-hunting takes him to Brussels.
Luigi de Magistris is a popular man. He takes pride in the fact that more people voted for him - more than 415,000 - than for any other member of the European Parliament. Only Silvio Berlusconi won more votes (2.7 million), as head of the list of his Freedom People party (PDL) - but the Italian prime minister never intended to give up his job to take a seat in Brussels or Strasbourg.
A 42-year-old native of Naples, de Magistris cuts a dashing figure and, though married with two children, was not afraid to tell a gossip magazine last year that he is “quite successful with women”. But he owes his popularity to the fame he attracted as a crusading prosecutor in Italy's crime-infested south, keeping up a family tradition that saw three previous generations of de Magistris serve as magistrates.
His grandfather was twice the target of assassination attempts, while his father tried a corrupt former health minister, Francesco De Lorenzo. De Magistris himself, working in Catanzaro and in Naples for more than a decade, focused on how the Mafia, with the complicity of local leaders, siphoned off millions of euros of EU funds meant for regional development. Over the years, he levelled accusations against centre-right and centre-left politicians, including Agazio Loiero, the head of Calabria's regional government (who is running for re-election in two weeks' time), and Mario Pirillo, his former deputy, who is a member of the European Parliament's Socialists and Democrats group.
But de Magistris became a national figure only in late 2007, when it was disclosed that Romano Prodi, then Italy's prime minister and formerly president of the European Commission, and Clemente Mastella, Prodi's justice minister, were implicated in his 'Why Not' enquiry. The probe - named after a company owned by the person who tipped de Magistris off - focused on an alleged semi-Masonic pact to share out public contracts and EU funds between Calabrian politicians and entrepreneurs with ties to the Catholic Church.
In the resulting furore, de Magistris was portrayed as a publicity-seeker who had bent the rules in pursuing his investigations, while he defended himself saying his Catanzaro colleagues had deliberately obstructed his work. But his superiors were not convinced, deciding to strip him of the 'Why Not' dossier and move him to Naples. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing.
That humiliation convinced de Magistris to shed his magistrate's robes and, in March 2009, enter politics under the banner of the Italy of Values (Italia dei Valori, IdV) party, the brainchild of another high-profile former prosecutor, Antonio Di Pietro, who made his name as a leader of the 'Clean Hands' (Mani Pulite) investigations of the early 1990s, which saw much of Italy's old ruling class collapse under charges of corruption.
In June, he was swept to Brussels on the crest of a wave, after a successful web campaign waged on his behalf by a comedian turned politician-basher, Beppe Grillo, a man sometimes described as Italy's Michael Moore. “I didn't need to put up a single election poster,” de Magistris chuckles.
In the Parliament, where the IdV has joined the the liberal ALDE group, he was awkwardly reunited with Mastella and Pirillo, and met with some suspicion from other Italian MEPs. Nevertheless, de Magistris has eagerly taken up the chairmanship of the budgetary control committee, a position from which he says he can continue his battle against Mafia-infiltration of EU funding. He says that, in his pursuit, he has already established a good working relationship with another anti-corruption crusader in his committee, Monica Macovei, Romania's former justice minister.
“With his experience, he is the right man in the right place,” says a Parliamentary official who has seen him at work. But de Magistris's credentials as a crime-buster are not exempt from criticism. Many point out that his landmark investigations often do not withstand scrutiny in the court room, as in the 'Why Not' case. Prodi and Mastella were cleared even before investigations were concluded, and 34 of the 42 indictees who appeared before a court in early March were acquitted, Loiero included. The remaining eight escaped with much lighter sentences than the prosecution had asked for.
“It was all a whitewash,” de Magistris retorts, claiming that the prosecutors who took on his case faced political pressure to quash the scandal. He also says that he feels vindicated by fresh investigations launched by magistrates in Florence, who suspect foul play in the way reconstruction money is being spent in quake-stricken Abruzzo. “Some of the entrepreneurs involved are the same I investigated in Calabria,” he says.
Others question his commitment to his new job, and the Italian media regularly speculate that he intends to challenge Di Pietro for the leadership of the IdV. But he recently declined the opportunity of standing for governor of Campania, a position some said he should have run for, because the IdV chose to back a controversial candidate from the mainstream opposition Democratic Party. “I am not afraid to admit that I have a national profile to defend. Mine is the second voice that counts in the IdV party after Di Pietro's. But I don't see myself as in exile here. I want to stay in Brussels and make a difference,” he says.
Still, a quick search on Italian news agency ANSA's archive reveals where his attention has been so far: over the past month he has been quoted 51 times, only twice in connection to EU affairs. But the committee official who has seen him at work advises against assuming he will not have an impact in Brussels: he has yet to learn the ropes of his new job, he says. Watch this space for more headlines.
Silvio Berlusconi to push for change to
Italian constitution for greater powersRichard Owen, Rome
The Times March 22, 2010 The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is proposing to change the constitution by referendum to give him greater powers as a “directly elected president”.
Addressing supporters of his People of Liberty (PdL) party at a rally in Rome, Mr Berlusconi said that he planned a “great, great, great reform” in the remaining three years of his term.
This would include changes to the judiciary, which he claims is biased against him, a cut in the number of MPs and senators and direct elections for a head of state with expanded powers.
The president is currently elected by Parliament, and has limited powers. Mr Berlusconi did not say whether he would be a candidate but the Italian press said that the announcement was consistent with his populist belief that “the people” supported him despite the “lies” spread by “magistrates and the press”.
PdL officials said that more than a million people attended the rally in Rome, staged under the slogan “Love always wins over envy and hatred” to the soundtrack from Star Wars.
However, police put the turnout at 150,000 - fewer than the crowds that attended a centre-left, anti-Berlusconi rally a week previously.
New opinion polls show that Mr Berlusconi's approval rating has slipped to 44 per cent from 62 per cent when he was elected to his third term a year and a half ago.
Last week the Prime Minister addressed a half-empty hall at an election rally in Naples.
Mr Berlusconi's standing could suffer another blow if centre-right voters abstain in elections in 13 regions next weekend after the PdL bungled the registration of its candidates in Lazio, the region around Rome. It missed the deadline because a party official went out for a sandwich.
Questions were also raised over the validity of signatures accompanying the PdL list in Mr Berlusconi's native Lombardy region.
At first the Prime Minister turned on “idiots” in his party but later blamed the Left for “dirty tricks”.
Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of the opposition Democratic Party, said that Mr Berlusconi was increasingly “nervous” because “he knows the tide is turning against him”.
Renato Mannheimer, Italy's top pollster, said: “The centre-right electorate is disoriented and has lost confidence in its leaders, whom they see as disorganised.”
Magistrates are investigating Mr Berlusconi for abuse of office after tapped phone conversations indicated that he had interfered to try to block his critics from appearing on talk shows and news bulletins not only on his Mediaset television network but also on programmes of RAI, the public broadcaster.
At the Rome rally, outside the Basilica of St John Lateran, Mr Berlusconi said that “leftist” judges and politicians had concocted “a laughable investigation based on the tapping of my calls.
“Do you want phone taps on everyone and everything? Do you want to be spied on in your own homes?” he asked the crowd - which roared back, “No”.
“We don't often take to the streets but it was absolutely necessary to defend ourselves from the attacks of the Left and its magistrates,” Mr Berlusconi told his supporters.
“We are here to have our right to vote guaranteed. With you, love and freedom will win.”
Ministers and PdL regional candidates attended the Rome rally. However, Gianfranco Fini, the Speaker of the Lower House and co-founder of the party - who has distanced himself from the Prime Minister and is seen as his most likely challenger - did not take part, saying that his institutional position prevented him from doing so. He is to launch a new movement in May called Generation Italy.
Italy's African HeroesBy Roberto Saviano
New York Times, January 24, 2010Naples, Italy
WHEN I was a teenager here, kids used to shoot dogs in the head. It was a way of gaining confidence with a gun, of venting your rage on another living creature. Now it seems human beings are used for target practice.
This month, rioting by African immigrants broke out in Rosarno, in southern Italy, after at least one immigrant was shot with an air rifle. The riots were widely portrayed as clashes between immigrants and native Italians, but they were really a revolt against the 'Ndrangheta, the powerful Calabrian mafia. Anyone who seeks to negate or to minimize this motive is not familiar with these places where everything - jobs, wages, housing - is controlled by criminal organizations.
The episode in Rosarno was the second such uprising against organized crime in Italy in the last few years. The first took place in 2008 in Castel Volturno, a town near Naples, where hit men from the local mob, the Camorra, killed six Africans. The massacre was intended to intimidate, but it set off the immigrants' anger instead.
In Castel Volturno, the immigrants work in construction. In Rosarno, they pick oranges. But in both places the mafias control all economic activity. And the only ones who've had the courage to rebel against them are the Africans.
An immigrant who lands in France or Britain knows he'll have to abide by the law, but he also knows he'll have real and tangible rights. That's not how it is in Italy, where bureaucracy and corruption make it seem as if the only guarantees are prohibitions and mafia rule, under which rights are nonexistent. The mafias let the African immigrants live and work in their territories because they make a profit off them. The mafias exploit them, but also grant them living space in abandoned areas outside of town, and they keep the police from running too many checks or repatriating them.
The immigrants are temporarily willing to accept peanut wages, slave hours and poor living conditions. They've already handed over all they owned, risked all they had, just to get to Italy. But they came to make a better life for themselves - and they're not about to let anyone take the possibility of that life away.
There are native Italians who reject mafia rule as well, but they have the means and the freedom to leave places like Rosarno, becoming migrants themselves. The Africans can't. They have to stand up to the clans. They know they have to act collectively, for it's their only way of protecting themselves. Otherwise they end up getting killed, which happens sometimes even to the European immigrant workers.
It's a mistake to view the Rosarno rioters as criminals. The Rosarno riots were not about attacking the law, but about gaining access to the law.
There are African criminals of course, African mafiosi, who do business with the Italian mafias. An increasing amount of the cocaine that arrives here from South America comes via West Africa. African criminal organizations are amassing enormous power, but the poor African workers in Italy are not their men.
The Italian state should condemn the violence of the riots, but if it treats the immigrants as criminals, it will drive them to the mafias. After the Rosarno riots, the government moved more than a thousand immigrants to detention centers, allegedly for their own safety, and destroyed the rudimentary camp where many of them had lived. This is the kind of reaction that will encourage those immigrants to see the African criminal organizations as necessary protection.
For now, the majority resist; they came to Italy to better themselves, not to be mobsters. But if the Africans in Rosarno had been organized at a criminal level, they would have had a way to negotiate with the Calabrian Mafia. They would have been able to obtain better working and living conditions. They wouldn't have had to riot.
Italy is a country that's forgotten how its emigrants were treated in the United States, how the discrimination they suffered was precisely what allowed the Mafia to take root there. It was extremely difficult for many Italian immigrants, who did not feel protected or represented by anyone else, to avoid the clutches of the mob. It's enough to remember Joe Petrosino, the Italian-born New York City police officer who was murdered in 1909 for taking on the Mafia, to recognize the price honest Italians paid.
Immigrants come to Italy to do jobs Italians don't want to do, but they have also begun defending the rights that Italians are too afraid, indifferent or jaded to defend. To those African immigrants I say: don't go - don't leave us alone with the mafias. Roberto Saviano is the author of “Gomorrah: A Personal Journey Into the Violent International Empire of Naples' Organized Crime System.” This essay was translated by Virginia Jewiss from the Italian.