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February 25 2014

December 10 2013

Italian Newspapers Mistakenly Call Nelson Mandela ‘Father of Apartheid’

Mandela, called the

A screenshot of Italian newspaper Il Gionale's headline calling Nelson Mandela “the father of apartheid”.

As the news of beloved former South African President Nelson Mandela's death reached the far corners of the web on December 5, 2013, online publications of all kinds rushed to update their headlines, publish obituaries, and share images, stories and tributes to a man who indeed left the world a better place.

Some did better than others. In Italy, where newsrooms are facing cuts and the quality of journalism is often criticized, several national newspapers published on their websites headlines calling Mandela “the father of apartheid”. Mandela was, in fact, instrumental in the dismantling of apartheid, South Africa's system of racial discrimination.

The headlines appeared on the country's main right-wing newspaper Il Giornale as well as newspapers il Mattino and Il Messaggero, generating a wave of criticism online.

Italian newspaper Il Messaggero's headline calling Nelson Mandela

A screenshot of Italian newspaper Il Messaggero's headline calling Nelson Mandela “the father of apartheid”.

A screenshot of Italian newspaper Il Mattino's headline calling Nelson Mandela

A screenshot of Italian newspaper Il Mattino's headline calling Nelson Mandela “the father of apartheid”

Although the mistake was corrected shortly after its appearance, the headline was copied in a number of publications, such as news portal Il Post.

On Twitter, representatives of Il Giornale, including Andrea Cortellari, who wrote the headline, apologized profusely:

An unforgivable mistake. The intention, as you may imagine, was “the father of the fight against…” I can't apologize enough.”

Many attacked him and the newspaper—which is often criticized for its biased support of ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Italy's left. Twitter user iceheartp, for example, replied to the apology:

@ACortellari No worries, there are more humiliating things in life. Like writing for Il Giornale.

Others appreciated the apology, deeming it an unusual gesture amongst Italian journalists. Meanwhile, referencing the paper's editor Alessandro Sallusti, prominent journalist Gad Lerner asked:

Sallusti's Il Giornale calls Mandela “the father of apartheid”, then apologizes. But is the ignorance of the well-off forgivable?

The accident also generated a broader conversation about the difficulty of maintaining the quality in journalism amidst a lack of resources—budget cuts and shrinking editorial staff make it harder to maintain high standards while publishing in real-time, some argued.

Italian journalist Gianni Riotta pointed to the headline error as evidence of the poor state of affairs for the Italian press:

Newspapers celebrating Nelson Mandela as “the father of apartheid” are the tragic proof of how bad things are going for the profession

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November 20 2013

Catalan Independence Debate Explained in 16 Languages

The debut video of The Catalan Project (@Catalan_Project) features Fernando de Castro, “a Catalan from Galicia and Spanish”, presenting the project and explaining why some Catalans want independence from Spain using the 16 languages he is able to speak. Subtitles are available in English, French, German, Spanish and Catalan.

The Catalan Project, an independent and non-profit association, provides an open online platform where “all citizens that work and/or live in Catalonia and that have ideas on how to create a better country” can discuss how a hypothetical independent Catalonia should be. Because “independence is not a goal, it is a starting point”. The project is collecting funds on the crowdfunding site Verkami.

Unemployment, Poverty and Brain Drain: Italy's Crisis Only Getting Worse

Italians’ ever-emptier shopping basket
Picture: Shutterstock

While repeated tragedies [en] in the so-called “Mare mortum” (literally “Dead sea”) off the coast of Lampedusa occupy the headlines of traditional media and social networks, Italians are still in the midst of an economic crisis that offers no sign of ending: the poverty rate continues to increase and so does the number of highly educated people leaving the country.

In the second half of October, a dossier entitled “New Poverty in Italy. Italians that Help“, presented by Coldiretti at the International Agriculture and Food Forum in Cernobbio, captured a worrying situation of hunger in Italy.

On the blog articolotre, Gea Ceccarelli revealed:

Secondo quanto rivelato dall'associazione, gli italiani indigenti che hanno ricevuto attraverso canali no-profit pacchi alimentari o pasti gratuiti sono stati quasi 4,1 mlioni. Circa 303.485 di questi nuovi poveri hanno potuto beneficiare dei servizi mensa, mentre 3.764.765 sono stati coloro che, vergognandosi, hanno preferito richiedere pacchi a casa.

As revealed by the association, there are more than 4.1 million poverty-stricken Italians that have received food through non-profit food parcels or free meals. Approximately 303,485 of these new poor people have benefited from canteen services, while 3,764,765, too ashamed, chose to take home food packs.

For its part, the website provided details of the most affected social class:

Insieme a 579mila anziani con oltre 65 anni di età (+14% rispetto al 2012), in Italia ci sono ben 428.587 bambini con meno di 5 anni di età che nel 2013 hanno avuto bisogno di aiuto per poter semplicemente bere il latte o mangiare, con un aumento record del 13 per cento rispetto allo scorso anno; ma ad aumentare con un tasso superiore alla media è stato anche il numero di anziani, ben 578.583 over 65 anni di età (+14% rispetto al 2012), che sono dovuti ricorrere ad aiuti alimentari.

Together with 579,000 over 65 year olds (+14 percent compared to 2012), in Italy there were 428,587 children under the age of 5 who in 2013 needed help just to be able to drink milk or eat; however, what increased at an above average rate was the number of elderly people, 578,583 over 65 year olds (+14 percent compared to 2012), who have had to resort to food aid.

Hit hard by the crisis, Italian families save on everything, or have to forgo the purchase of essential goods. The website reported:

Sei italiani su dieci, hanno tagliato le spese per l’alimentazione, che ha raggiunto il livello più basso degli ultimi venti anni. Nel 2013 il crollo è proseguito con le famiglie italiane che hanno tagliato gli acquisti per l’alimentazione, dall’olio di oliva extravergine (-9%) al pesce (-13%), dalla pasta (-9%) al latte (-8%), dall’ortofrutta (-3%) alla carne, sulla base delle elaborazioni su dati Ismea-Gfk Eurisko relativi ai primi otto mesi dell’anno che fanno registrare complessivamente un taglio del 4% nella spesa alimentare delle famiglie italiane. 

Six out of ten Italians have cut their food expenditure, which has now reached the lowest level of the last 20 years. In 2013 the collapse continued with Italian families cutting food purchases, from extra virgin olive oil (-9 percent) to fish (-13 percent), pasta (-9 percent), milk (-8 percent), fruit and vegetables (-3 percent) and meat, based on the Ismea-Gfk Eurisko data from the first eight months of the year which show an overall cut of 4 percent in the food expenditure of Italian households. 

Despite the fact some politicians continue to say that the end of the crisis is near, for the moment all there is to see is the deterioration of the situation. The website quoted alarming figures that illustrate the severity of the work situation: 

Gli occupati sono 22.349.000 circa, con una contrazione di 80.000 rispetto il mese precedente e di 490.000 in confronto l’anno passato, facendo così passare il tasso di occupazione al 55,4%. Gli obiettivi europei per il 2020 ci imporrebbero, invece, un tasso di occupazione pari al 67%. I disoccupati, sottolinea l’Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca sono arrivati a quota 3.194.00 circa. Di conseguenza il tasso di inattività (cioè coloro che rientrano nella fascia di attività 15-64) si posiziona al 36,4%, in aumento sia rispetto il mese che l’anno precedente.

There are approximately 22,349,000 employed people, a decrease of 80,000 compared to the previous month and of 490,000 compared to last year, thus causing the employment rate to fall to 55.4 percent. The European targets for 2020 would, however, require an employment rate of 67 percent. The unemployed, stresses the National Research Institute, have reached approximately 3,194,00. Consequently, the rate of inactivity (i.e. those who fall into the 15-64 age range) is 36.4 percent, increased compared to both last month and last year.

The website Consumerismo, an online newspaper similar to Codacons, or the Coordination of Associations for the Defense of the Environment and the Rights of Users and Consumers, wrote:

Il tasso di disoccupazione si attesta al 12,5%, in aumento di 0,1 punti percentuali rispetto al mese precedente e di 1,6 punti nei dodici mesi.

slogan di Codacons, tratto da

slogan di Codacons, tratto da

I disoccupati tra 15 e 24 anni sono 654 mila. L’incidenza dei disoccupati di 15-24 anni sulla popolazione in questa fascia di età è pari al 10,9%, in calo di 0,2 punti percentuali rispetto ad agosto ma in crescita di 0,6 punti su base annua. Il tasso di disoccupazione dei 15-24enni, ovvero la quota dei disoccupati sul totale di quelli occupati o in cerca,

è pari al 40,4%, in aumento di 0,2 punti percentuali rispetto al mese precedente e di 4,4 punti nel confronto tendenziale.

Il numero di individui inattivi tra 15 e 64 anni aumenta dello 0,5% rispetto al mese precedente (+71 mila unità) ma rimane sostanzialmente invariato rispetto a dodici mesi prima. Il tasso di inattività si attesta al 36,4%, in aumento di 0,2 punti percentuali in termini congiunturali e di 0,1 punti su base annua.

The unemployment rate stands at 12.5 percent, up 0.1 percent on the previous month and 1.6 percent on the previous 12 months.

Codacons' slogan, from

Codacons’ slogan “Don't swallow the toad!”, from

There are 654,000 unemployed people between the ages of 15 and 24. The percentage of unemployed 15-24 year olds in this age group is 10.9 percent, down 0.2 percent from August but up 0.6 percent from last year. The number of 15-24-year-old unemployed people, that is the percentage share of total of those employed or seeking employment,

is 40.4 percent, up 0.2 percent on last month and 4.4 percent in the trend comparison.

The number of inactive individuals between 15 and 64 years old increased by 0.5 percent compared to the previous month (+71,000 units) but remains essentially unchanged compared to 12 months earlier. The inactivity rate stands at 36.4 percent, up 0.2 percent in economic terms and 0.1 percent over the year. 

The gender differences are also remarkable, with women being disadvantaged. The website noted:

Se si considera la differenza di genere, il tasso di occupazione maschile, pari al 64,4%, diminuisce di 0,1 punti percentuali rispetto al mese precedente e di 1,7 punti su base annua. Quello femminile, pari al 46,5%, diminuisce di 0,3 punti in termini congiunturali e di 0,7 punti percentuali rispetto a dodici mesi prima. Il tasso di disoccupazione maschile, invece, rimane invariato al 12% rispetto al mese precedente e aumenta di 1,8 punti nei dodici mesi; quello femminile, al 13,2%, aumenta di 0,3 punti rispetto al mese precedente e di 1,3 punti su base annua.

Let's consider the gender difference.  The male employment rate, 64.4 percent, is down 0.1 percent on last month and 1.7 percent on last year. The female employment rate, 46.5 percent, is down 0.3 percent over the short term and down 0.7 percent compared to last year. However, the male unemployment rate remains unchanged at 12 percent compared to last month, an increase of 1.8 percent over last year. The female unemployment rate, at 13.2 percent, is up 0.3 percent compared to last month and 1.3 percent since last year.

“This crisis will last years. Finally a bit of stability.” Satirical cartoon by the artist Altan [en]

By analyzing the Istat data released at the beginning of October, it can be seen that in the first six months of 2013, the purchasing power of households decreased by 1.7 percent compared to the same period in 2012. Based on this, the website concluded

Tradotto in cifre – calcola il Codacons – è come se una famiglia di 3 persone, in appena sei mesi, avesse avuto una perdita equivalente a 594 euro (489 una famiglia di 2 componenti, 654 una di 4), una stangata tanto invisibile quanto disastrosa.

Se si aggiunge il dato reso noto pochi giorni fa dall’Istat, relativo al 2012, con una perdita del potere d’acquisto del 4,7%, la stangata diventa impietosa e assume contorni drammatici. In un anno e mezzo è come se una famiglia di 3 persone avesse avuto una tassa invisibile pari a 2.236 euro!!!!

Expressed as figures – calculated the Codacons – it's as if a family of 3 people in just six months has lost the equivalent of 594 euros [about 800 US dollars] (489 for a family of two, 654 for one of 4), an invisible but disastrous blow.

If you add to this the data for 2012 released just a few days ago by Istat, with a loss of purchasing power of 4.7 percent, the blow becomes merciless and takes on dramatic profile. In a year and a half it's as if a family of 3 has been subjected to an invisible tax that amounts to 2,236 euros [about 3,020 US dollars]!!!!

With the increase of poverty, the number of solidarity initiatives also has increased. In fact, the website reported that:

…Si contano nel 2013 ben 15.067 strutture periferiche (mense e centri di distribuzione) promosse da 242 enti caritativi che fanno riferimento a 7 organizzazioni (Croce Rossa Italiana, Caritas Italiana, Fondazione Banco Alimentare, Banco delle Opere di Carità, Associazione “Sempre insieme per la Pace”, Comunità di Sant’Egidio, Associazione Banco Alimentare Roma) ufficialmente riconosciute dall'Agenzia per le Erogazioni in Agricoltura (Agea) che si occupa della distribuzione degli aiuti. Per quanto riguarda la tipologia di aiuto alimentare offerto – conclude la Coldiretti – i formaggi rappresentano circa il 28 per cento in valore, seguiti da pasta e pastina per bimbi e anziani, che assorbono il 18 per cento del costo, dal latte con il 14 per cento, dai biscotti (12 per cento), dal riso (8 per cento), dall’olio di girasole (6 per cento), dalla polpa di pomodoro (4 per cento) e, a seguire, legumi, confetture e farina.

….In 2013 there are 15,067 peripheral structures (canteens and distribution centres) maintained by 242 charitable organisations which refer to seven organisations (Italian Red Cross, Caritas Italia, Food Bank Foundation, Charitable Works Bank, “Together for peace” Association, the Sant'Egidio Community, Rome Food Bank Association) officially recognised by the Agency for Agricultural Payments (Agea) that deals with the distribution of aid. With regards to the type of food aid offered – concludes Coldiretti – the cheeses account for about 28 percent of the total value, followed by pasta and pastina for children and adults, who account for 18 percent of the costs, milk at 14 percent, biscuits (12 percent), rice (8 percent), sunflower oil (6 percent), tomato pulp (4 percent) and, finally, vegetables, jams and flour.

Commenting on the latest Istat figures on the employment situation, the website said:

Meno di due giovani su dieci lavorano, anche se bisogna contemplare all’interno di questo dato la presenza dei minorenni e quindi degli studenti. Di fatto il dato più preoccupante è la disoccupazione giovanile, ovvero la quota dei disoccupati sul totale di quelli occupati o in cerca, che a settembre è arrivata al 40,4%, in aumento dello 0,2% rispetto ad agosto e di 4,4% nel confronto annuo.

Less than two out of ten young people work, although we have to consider also minors and students. In fact, the most worrying figure is youth unemployment, more specifically the number of young unemployed people compared to the total of those employed or seeking employment, which in September came to 40.4 percent, an increase of 0.2 percent compared to August and 4.4 percent over the last year.

On Twitter, the problem was also deeply felt:

Six million without #work, half of them do not even seek it any more. And above all it is the #young who are disheartened. #crisis #unemployment

Young people have to hope for the future, but the strength to carry on, the 40/60 age group is paying for the crisis. #suicides #crisis

The immediate consequence of this dramatic situation, in addition to youth unemployment (which has arrived at the levels of 1977, over 40 percent) is the increase in emigration to other countries.

Cartoon strip: brains leaving Italy – Source Il nazionale

More than 400,000 Italian graduates and doctoral students have fled from Italy, and 59 percent of young people left behind would like to leave the country due to lack of employment prospects in Italy. 

Another complication in the future will be the Italian population: in 2030, or 16 years time, there will be more over 65-year-olds than active citizens. Not even the influx of foreign immigrants can compensate for the brain drain: the many recent arrivals are due to the situations in Africa and in the Arab countries, but the phenomenon was previously already decreasing; economically more dynamic countries are the new objective, not the Italy of unemployment and economic crisis.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

November 17 2013

Does Tennis Pro Viktor Troicki's Doping Ban Go Too Far?

Viktor Troicki signing autographs at PTT Thailand Open 2009; photo courtesy of Government of Thailand, used under Creative Commons 2.0 License.

Viktor Toricki signing autographs at PTT Thailand Open 2009; photo courtesy of Government of Thailand, used under Creative Commons 2.0 License.

A Serbian world-class tennis player who was suspended by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for missing a standard doping test earlier in 2013 was banned from entering a Belgrade arena to cheer on his teammates in the Davis Cup finals, a move that has caused fans to question the fairness of the sport's anti-doping system. 

Viktor Troicki first received an 18-month suspension from competing in any events for his missed doping test, but fought the charges, citing that he had already given a urine sample that tested negative for banned substances. He succeeded in having the penalty reduced to 12 months in early November, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport stated that there was no indication that Troicki “intended to evade the detection of a banned substance in his system.” 

The young tennis pro was also banned from attending matches, including the Davis Cup semi-finals that the Serbian national team played in September, while his appeal was still under investigation.

A New York Times special report [en] summarized the events and added some interesting insight:

Initially suspended for 18 months by the International Tennis Federation, Troicki had his penalty reduced on appeal to one year by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week. But that qualified victory still feels like defeat to him, and his case has generated a range of strong opinions at the top of the game, with Andy Murray and Roger Federer expressing support for the antidoping system in tennis and Troicki’s close friend and teammate Novak Djokovic bitterly ripping into it.

However, even after the suspension was reduced and the investigation against him officially closed, Troicki was again banned from attending the Davis Cup finals [sr], which took place in Kombank Arena in Troicki's hometown of Belgrade on November 15, 2013. The Serbian Tennis Federation (TSS) decided to support the ITF's decision fully by banning Troicki from entering the arena even as a spectator with a paid ticket, which Troicki was planning to do in support of his teammates who were playing in the finals that evening. Some media sources even claim that the TSS distributed photos of Troicki to Kombank Arena security and at the doors to make sure the tennis player was recognized and not allowed to enter with or without a ticket.

Regardless of the suspension and doping charges, or the personal opinions of Troicki's colleagues, fans are now questioning whether both the International and the Serbian Tennis Federation have the legal right to limit one's physical movement in this manner. Many on social networks, discussion boards and in comments on online articles regarding this matter are accusing the ITF and TSS of having broken basic civil rights laws when they banned Troicki from attending the match as a spectator from the bleachers along with other fans.

Dejan Nikolić, a journalist and founder of the popular Serbian satirical news site, posted a public comment on the matter on his Facebook profile:

Fascinantna mi je ova situacija, ako je tacno, gde Troickom biva ograniceno kretanje kao gradjaninu zato sto ga je neka sportska organizacija suspendovala. Mislim da je to pitanje za ustavni sud, Strazbur i jos pokoju instituciju za ljudska i gradjanska prava.

Jedna je stvar ne dozvoliti da ucestvuje na turnirima, sasvim druga ogranicavati slobodu kretanja.

I find this situation fascinating, if true, in which Troicki's movement as a citizen is being limited because he was suspended by a sports organization. I think this is a matter for the Constitutional Court, Strasbourgh and a few other institutions for human and civil rights.

It's one thing to not allow him to participate in tournaments, entirely another to limit his freedom of movement.

Among the 52 comments on Nikolić's post, there were those who cited that ITF rules state that players who are penalized by the organization are also banned from any related tournaments and sporting events. Most commenters, however, questioned how the ITF or any other sports organization could have the authority to ban anyone, including sanctioned players, from purchasing a ticket and attending such events as a citizen.

Similar comments can be found on online articles in several other languages, and it isn't just Serbian tennis fans who are complaining and noting the same thing. In response to a short article on Italian tennis portal with the news that Troicki was not allowed to enter Belgrade's Kombank Arena as a spectator, reader Francis said:

allora ne dico un’altra di scemenza ribattendoti che quanto dici mi pare molto strano… nel senso che l’atp o l’itf o la federazione serba possono non considerare valido il pass da addetto ai lavori e vietare l’accesso ai settori a loro destinati; vietare l’ingresso con regolare biglietto pagato vorrebbe dire una palese limitazione della libertà individuale.

Now they say more complete nonsense that when said seems very strange to me – in the sense that the ATP or ITF or Federation of Serbia could consider a pass not valid and prohibit access to areas they are intended for, prohibit entry with a regular paid ticket would mean blatant limitation of individual freedom.

Another reader on the same article, Andy86, added:

Francamente mi pare una cosa veramente che non sta ne in cielo ne in terra… lui è squalificato piu o meno giustamente (non sta a me dirlo) per quello che riguarda la sua attività agonistica, ma che ora non lo facciano entrare allo stadio, mi pare veramente fuori dal mondo..

Frankly one thing strikes me that truly isn't in the heavens nor the earth – he was disqualified more or less justly (it's not up to me to say) for things regarding his sports activities, but now to not allow him to enter the stadium, it strikes me as truly out of this world..

Neither the ITF nor the Serbian Federation have responded to the questions raised by the public, nor have they made any statements as to what might give them the authority to ban any player from purchasing a ticket for a tennis event and not be able to use it as a spectator.

November 05 2013

‘Women Should Be Submissive', and Other Google Autocomplete Suggestions

A series of ads by UN Women, revealed in late October, used the Google Autocomplete feature to uncover widespread negative attitudes toward women. Global Voices followed reactions to the UN Women campaign and conducted its own experiment in different languages. The results of searches conducted both within the UN Women campaign and Global Voices revealed popular attitudes not only about women’s social and professional roles, but also about their sexuality, appearance and relationships with men.

UN Women ad featuring Google autocomplete suggestions for the phrase

UN Women ad featuring Google autocomplete suggestions for the phrase “women shouldn't”

The creators of the UN Women ads used search phrases like “women cannot”, “women shouldn’t”, “women should” and “women need to” completed by genuine Google search terms to highlight overwhelmingly negative stereotypes, sexist and highly discriminatory views held about women by society globally. The ads quickly went viral and sparked a heated discussion online. Last week, creators have announced that they are planning to expand the campaign in response to the mass online reaction.

The auto-complete function for searches, according to Google, predicts users’ queries based on the search activity of all users of the web as well as the content of indexed pages. The predictions may also be influenced by past searches of the particular user if they are signed into their Google account.

Global Voices asked its contributors from around the world to carry out Google searches using the same or similar phrases as those used in the UN Women campaign, in their own languages. The searches done between October 19 and October 25, 2013, revealed attitudes about the roles women are expected to take in society, often demonstrating the same global prejudices, but sometimes showing contradictions in different countries. Below are searches in 12 languages from different countries and continents:



“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Silvia Viñas. October 21, 2013.

Women should not…
Women should not preach
Women should not work
Women should not talk in the congregation
Women should not drive


“Women cannot…” A screenshot by Juan Arellano. October 21, 2013.

Women cannot…
Women cannot preach
Women cannot be pastors
Women cannot donate blood
Women cannot live without man

Puerto Rico

“Women should…”. A screenshot by Firuzeh Shokooh Valle. October 21, 2013.

Women should…
Women should be submissive
Women should use the veil
Women should preach
Women should work



“Women should…”. A screenshot by Suzanne Lehn. October 21, 2013.

Women should…
women should stay at home
women should work
should women preach
women should wear skirts
women should be submissive
women should know
women should vote
women should stay at home
should women work
women should do the cooking

“Women don't know…”. A screen shot by Rayna St. October 21, 2013.

Women don’t know…
women don't know how to drive
women don't know what they want
women don't know how to be in love
women don't know how to read cards


Egypt (similar results in Jordan)

“Woman cannot…”. A screenshot by Tarek Amr. October 21, 2013.

Woman cannot…
Woman cannot live without marriage
Woman cannot live without a man
Woman cannot keep a secret
Woman cannot interpret man's silence


“Women cannot…”. A screenshot by Gloria Wang. October 21, 2013.

Women cannot…
Women cannot be too smart
Women can't drive
Women cannot give birth
10 topics women cannot discuss with their husbands


“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Diana Lungu. October 21, 2013.

women should not…
women should be loved not understood
women should not be understood
women should not wear pants
what women should not do in bed



“Women should…”. A screenshot by Gaia Resta. October 22, 2013.

Women should…
Women should stay at home
should play hard to get
should stay in the kitchen
should be subdued

“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Gaia Resta. October 22, 2013.

Women should not…
Women should not be understood
should not work
should not be understood but loved
should not read



“Woman should not…”. A screenshot by Katrin Zinoun. October 21, 2013.

Woman should not…
Woman should not teach
My wife should not work

“Woman can…”. A screenshot by Katrin Zinoun. October 21, 2013.

Woman can….
Woman cannot come
Woman cannot get pregnant
Woman cannot cook
Woman cannot get a baby


“Women don't…”. A screenshot by
Gilad Lotan. October 21, 2013.

Women don't…
Women don't work
Women are not modest
Women don't know how to drive
Women don't want to have kids


“A woman should be…”. A screenshot by Marietta Le.
October 21, 2013.

A woman should be…
a woman should be a chef in the kitchen
a woman should be pretty and ruthless


“Women cannot…”. A screenshot by Solana Larsen. October 20, 2013.

Women cannot…
Women cannot drive
Women cannot control vagina
Women cannot be color blind
Women cannot barbecue

In Danish, the searches for “women cannot” and “women can” yielded the same results.


“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Veronica Khokhlova. October 19, 2013.

Women should not…
Women should not be believed
Women should not lift heavy things
Women should not drink
Women should not be trusted


The UK

“Women should…”. A screenshot by Annie Zaman. October 25, 2013.

Women should…
Women should be seen and not heard
Women should stay at home
Women should know their place

 Not all searches carried out by members of Global Voices community turned up negative terms. Nevertheless, the results of the experiment largely confirm UN Women’s worrying conclusion that a great deal of work still remains to be done in order to advance women’s rights and empowerment around the world.

November 04 2013

Italians Called to Film Their ‘Life in a Day’

Renowned Italian director Gabriele Salvatores is inviting Italians (and people living in Italy) to produce short videos about their daily life that will be edited together into a feature length film called “Italy in a Day” [it] to be released at the end of 2014. Videos can be submitted until November 17.

Salvatores is following the example of a similar, successful project from 2010 called “Life in a Day” produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Kevin Macdonald.

Here is the official trailer for Italy in a Day:

October 29 2013

TribeWanted: Sustainable Eco-Tourism Communities

A new model of self-sustainable eco-tourism is enjoying great success thanks to online supporters from around the world. From Sierra Leone to the heart of Italy, these are locally managed communities that welcome motivated visitors to take part in both the fun and the work at incredibly beautiful sites.

Tribewanted @ Monestevole, Italy

Welcome @ Monestevole

It all began in 2006 with an online community or “tribe” called TribeWanted started by social entrepreneurs Ben Keene and Filippo Bozotti. Their mission was to build a sustainable tourism community on the Fijian island, Vorovoro, in partnership with villagers.

The campaign caught fire and within a few weeks 1000 people from 21 countries had supported the project with an average of $250 each. Over the next four years, a rotating group of 15 tribe-members, built the cross-cultural island community together with the landowners and 25 Fijian employees.

This success story soon led to the creation of new eco-villages in John Obey Beach, Sierra Leone in 2010 (check their beautiful videos here) and Monestevole, Italy in 2013.

These communities are funded by worldwide members, starting at £10 ($12) per tribe member per month. Members can then vote on new locations and money surplus distribution, visit sustainability experts and content, top up their credit and stay at any location for less.

Dinner at TribeWanted in Monestevole, Italy (photo by Ariel Parrella, CC BY)

Dinner at TribeWanted in Monestevole, Italy (photo by Ariel Parrella, CC BY)

In the ‘Green Heart’ of Italy

Over a few, rainy days in early October I traveled with my daughter and a group of 15 other people (mostly Germans) to the new “eco-tribe” in Italy to experience this communal living experiment.

We helped with farming activities and hearty meal preparation, played music together and spent time wandering and marveling over the beautiful scenery.

It's a collaborative, social experiment based on a simple truth: another world is possible, here and now. When you build a sustainable business model around conviviality and sharing, people can actually put into practice a new lifestyle around this belief.

Here is a video introducing the TribeWanted Monestevole community, near Umbertide (Umbria, Italy). To learn more check their Facebook page.

“Where We Feel at Home”

Co-founder Ben Keene explains in his personal blog earlier this year how the overall structure of the community influences the experience of visitors:

Each project has had its successes and challenges. But what has connected them all is a sense that, together with our local partners and supportive members we’ve created places where we all feel at home. Like a part of us has always belonged there – even though the language, diet and culture may seem very different to the place we might normally call home. And because we feel ‘at home’ we’re open to engage with different ideas, foods, experiences, and people as well as rejuvenate and play. With the leadership of our local teams and communities we’ve been able to reinforce the importance of protecting cultural heritage as well as the natural environment and resources.

To underline their commitment to improving local quality of life in “tribe” locations, 30% of all membership fees go towards community projects for health, education, conservation, enterprise and clean energy. Members and visitors are also encourage to engage in these issues during their stay and when they return home.

The next step is to expand TribeWanted with 10 new locations, through partnerships with other eco-tourism projects and by scaling the innovative membership model.

A crowdfunding campaign for equity in Tribewanted Ltd is currently underway on a new platform, Crowdcube, and there is already planning underway for new communities in Mozambique, Laos, Nicaragua, the United Kingdom and Bali.

If successful, this crowd funding effort will help push forward a broader approach to eco-tourism and toward a more participatory culture across the globe, as Filippo Borzotti says in an update on the crowd-funding campaign:

We also think this goes beyond tourism, we are investing in a lifestyle. We like to think we are ahead of the curve: living sustainably and promoting green energy and green architecture, local food, public water, minimizing waste and minimizing our carbon footprint; we want to be an example for how hopefully we will all live in the next 50 years.

October 04 2013

One-Third of the World's Babies Don't Have Birth Certificates

Photo via BRAVO!

Photo via BRAVO!

Out of the 150 million children born each year, 51 million – more than one-third – are not registered at birth. In developing countries, one in four has a birth registration rate of less than 50 percent. Without a birth certificate, children are often prevented from attending school or receiving adequate healthcare and are more vulnerable to becoming child soldiers or working as exploited labourers.

But the Community of Saint Giles (Comunità di Sant'Egidio in Italian), a Catholic association of lay people that serves the poor, is trying to change that. The Community has developed the BRAVO! programme, which stands for Birth Registration for All Versus Oblivion, to push for higher rates of birth registration in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. It's one of many initiatives, including the DREAM programme to combat AIDS featured on Global Voices in August 2013, that the Community has undertaken. 

Global Voices recently spoke with Evelina Martelli, project manager for BRAVO!, about the programme, where it is operating, and why birth registration matters so much.

Global Voices (GV): What is the BRAVO programme and how did it come about?

Evelina Martelli (EM): Il Programma BRAVO! è nato dall'esperienza della Comunità di Sant'Egidio per proteggere la vita dei bambini e garantire i loro diritti. In molti paesi africani e asiatici i membri della Comunità si sono accorti che i bambini che aiutano spesso non hanno nemmeno il certificato di nascita, e subiscono per questo pesanti conseguenze, tra cui quelle di non potersi iscrivere a scuola e di non ricevere cure mediche adeguate. In situazioni di conflitto, abbiamo visto che proprio i bambini senza certificato di nascita erano più esposti a essere arruolati come bambini soldato;  spesso questi bambini sono utilizzati per i lavori in miniera e nelle piantagioni perché i datori di lavoro non possono essere condannati per sfruttamento del lavoro minorile in quanto non è possibile dimostrare l'età dei bambini.

BRAVO!, acronimo di Birth Registration For All Versus Oblivion, è il programma a cui la Comunità di Sant'Egidio ha dato vita per garantire la registrazione allo stato civile di tutti i bambini. BRAVO! promuove e incoraggia la registrazione dei bambini al momento della nascita e risolve la mancata registrazione attraverso procedure di iscrizione tardiva. Sensibilizza genitori e figli sull'importanza del certificato di nascita e spiega le procedure necessarie a registrare gratuitamente le nascite. Promuove il miglioramento del servizio di registrazione formando gli ufficiali di stato civile, migliorando le loro condizioni di lavoro, creando nuovi uffici più vicini ai luoghi in cui le persone vivono. Contribuisce a rimuovere una causa importante del traffico umano, della schiavitù e dello sfruttamento minorile.

Evelina Martelli (EM): The BRAVO! programme was inspired by what the Community of Sant'Egidio experienced when protecting the lives of children and guaranteeing them their rights. In many African and Asian countries, members of the Community noticed that the children they were helping often did not even have a birth certificate, and because of this they suffered serious consequences such as not being able to enroll in school and not receiving adequate medical care. In conflict situations, we noticed that the children without birth certificates were more likely to be recruited as child soldiers. Often these children are used to work in mines and plantations because the employers cannot be convicted of exploiting child labour as it is not possible to prove the age of the child.

BRAVO!, which stands for Birth Registration For All Versus Oblivionis the programme that the Community of Sant'Egidio has created to ensure that all children are registered. BRAVO! promotes and encourages the registration of children at the moment of birth and resolves the problem of non-registered children through late registration procedures. They make the parents and the children aware of the importance of birth certificates and explain the procedure to follow to register births for free. They also promote the improvement of the registration services by training the registry office officials, improving their working conditions and creating offices closer to where the people live. It contributes to eliminating a major cause of human trafficking, slavery and child labour.

GV: Why is the registration of children so important for their future?

La registrazione delle nascite è il riconoscimento ufficiale dell'esistenza di una persona. È un diritto umano fondamentale ai sensi dell’art. 7 della Convenzione dell’ONU sui diritti dell’infanzia.

I bambini non registrati allo stato civile non possono usufruire della protezione giuridica, sociale ed economica di uno Stato né accedere ai suoi servizi. Non possono, ad esempio, usufruire di prestazioni sanitarie, né frequentare la scuola, né conseguire un titolo di studio.

Privi di un'identità legale sono più facilmente esposti agli abusi o allo sfruttamento, alla schiavitù, al traffico di esseri umani, alla prostituzione, al lavoro forzato o all’arruolamento come bambini soldato. Se hanno commesso un reato, vengono trattati come adulti e non godono delle protezioni assicurate ai minori, come quella di stare in celle separate dai maggiorenni.

Grazie al certificato di nascita, da grandi potranno partecipare alla vita democratica del loro paese, eleggere ed essere eletti, potranno godere dei diritti di nazionalità, potranno viaggiare, essere assunti con un regolare contratto di lavoro, ereditare o avere titoli di proprietà ed essere parte attiva della società civile del proprio paese, contribuendo al suo sviluppo.

La registrazione allo stato civile riveste un’importanza fondamentale anche per gli Stati. Essa è infatti la principale fonte per l’elaborazione delle statistiche demografiche, che forniscono i dati necessari alle valutazioni sanitarie e di sviluppo umano, tra cui molti degli indicatori degli Obiettivi del Millennio (MDG).

EM: Birth registration is the official recognition of the existence of a person. It is a fundamental human right under Article 7 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Children who are not registered are not eligible for legal, social and economic protection from the state nor do they have access to its services. They cannot, for example, make use of health services, or attend school, or get a qualification.

Without a legal identity, they are more likely to be exposed to abuse through exploitation, slavery, human trafficking, prostitution, forced labour or conscription as child soldiers. If they commit a crime, they are treated as adults and are not offered the same treatment as other children, such as being in separate cells from the adults.

Thanks to a birth certificate, as adults they will be able to participate in the democratic life of their country, vote and stand for election. They will have all the rights of a regular citizen, be able to travel, be employed with a regular contract, inherit, own property and be an active part of civil society in their country, contributing to its development.

Registering births is of fundamental importance also to the country. It is in fact the main source for producing population statistics, which provide the data necessary for health assessments and human development, including many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

GV: In which countries is the programme running and why?

EM: Il programma è attivo in tutti i paesi in cui sono presenti volontari della Comunità di Sant'Egidio: circa 40 paesi tra Africa subsahariana, Asia e America Latina. I membri della Comunità spiegano alle famiglie che aiutano con i diversi servizi (scuole della pace, programma DREAM per la cura dell'AIDS, mense per bambini malnutriti, sostegno e aiuto alimentare per i bambini di strada, aiuto ai lebbrosi e alle loro famiglie) l'importanza della registrazione delle nascite e spesso le assistono nelle procedure per la registrazione. Organizzano feste nei quartieri poveri e nei villaggi per spiegare a genitori e figli l'importanza della registrazione e le procedure per effettuarla. Promuovono campagne di sensibilizzazione in collaborazione con le scuole primarie, con gli ospedali e le materni

In alcuni paesi africani, il Programma BRAVO! collabora con le autorità dello Stato per promuovere la registrazione dell'intera popolazione. Di concerto con le autorità competenti, elabora la strategia per  garantire la registrazione di tutta la popolazione che ancora non possiede il certificato di nascita e contestualmente migliorare le infrastrutture dello stato civile per garantire che in futuro tutti i nuovi nati vengano registrati immediatamente dopo la nascita.

In Burkina Faso, la campagna promossa dal programma BRAVO! ha permesso la registrazione di 3,5 milioni di persone (quasi un quarto della popolazione) e oggi BRAVO! è impegnato nella stabilizzazione del sistema, attraverso la formazione di personale, il sostegno agli uffici comunali di registrazione, le campagne di sensibilizzazione in tutto il paese.

In Mozambico, BAVO! sta promuovendo la registrazione della popolazione della provincia di Nampula che, con i suoi 4,2 milioni di abitanti, è la più popolosa del paese e sta formando il personale dell'intera provincia. Due nuovi centri di registrazione sono già stati costruiti in aree rurali e altri centri saranno presto inaugurati. Sarà così più facile registrare le nascite dei bambini alla nascita, usufruendo della gratuità.

EM: The programme is running in all the countries where there are volunteers from the Community of Sant'Egidio: about 40 countries across sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America. Members of the Community explain the importance of birth registration to the families that they help through the various services offered (peace schools, the DREAM programme for the treatment of AIDS, canteens for malnourished children, food aid and support for street children, help for lepers and their families) and often help them with the registration process. They organise parties in the slums and villages to explain to parents and children the importance of registering and the necessary procedures. They promote awareness through campaigns in primary schools, hospitals and maternity wards.

In some African countries, the BRAVO! programme collaborates with the local authorities to promote the registration of the entire population. Together with the relevant authorities, they develop a strategy to ensure the registration of everyone who does not yet have a birth certificate and to improve the registry services so that in the future all newborns will be registered immediately after birth.

In Burkina Faso, the campaign promoted by the BRAVO! programme has brought about the registration of 3.5 million people (almost a quarter of the population), and today BRAVO! is involved in establishing a system, by training the staff, supporting the local registration offices and spreading awareness campaigns throughout the country.

In Mozambique, BRAVO! is promoting the registration of the population in the province of Nampula, which, with its 4.2 million inhabitants, is the most populated in the country, and is training staff in the district. Two new registration centres have already been built in rural areas and other centres will be opened soon. In this way it will be easier to register children at birth, taking advantage of the fact that it is free.

Photo via BRAVO!

Photo via BRAVO!

EM: Le difficoltà sono soprattutto legate all'enorme diffusione del fenomeno della mancata registrazione. Su 150 milioni di bambini che nascono ogni anno, 51 milioni, più di un terzo del totale, non vengono registrati alla nascita. Fra i paesi in via di sviluppo, uno su quattro presenta un tasso di registrazione delle nascite inferiore al 50 per cento.

In Africa subsahariana si segnalano i tassi di registrazione delle nascite più bassi del mondo che vanno dal 55% al 67% di non registrati. In pratica si stima che due bambini su tre non siano registrati alla nascita.

È necessario che gli Stati investano risorse per garantire a tutti i cittadini la fruibilità dei sistemi di stato civile, ma è ancora più essenziale far comprendere l'importanza della registrazione per garantire i diritti umani, per promuovere il senso di cittadinanza e di partecipazione, perché gli individui si riconoscano non solo nell'identità familiare o clanica, ma anche nella più vasta comunità nazionale e si sentano cittadini partecipi di un destino comune.

EM: The difficulties are mainly linked to the fact that the non-registration phenomenon is widespread. Out of the 150 million children born each year, 51 million, more than a third, are not registered at birth. In developing countries, one in four has a birth registration rate of less than 50 percent.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the rates of birth registration are the lowest in the world, ranging from 55 percent to 67 percent of the total births not being registered. Basically, an estimated two out of three children are not registered at birth.

It is necessary that the governments invest in this area in order to guarantee the use of the registry systems to all citizens, but it is also essential that the citizens understand the the importance of registration to ensure human rights, to promote a sense of citizenship and participation, so that the individual will not only feel a sense of belonging to a family or a clan, but also to the wider national community and gain a sense of being citizens who share a common destiny.

GV: In what way is the crisis in many Western countries affecting the programme?

EM: La crisi economica incide molto pesantemente sugli aiuti internazionali e trovare fonti di finanziamento è sempre più complicato. Un punto di forza del programma è il fatto che la sostenibilità è assicurata poiché, dopo la fase iniziale di adeguamento del sistema alle esigenze della popolazione, sono gli Stati a sostenere gli oneri di spesa del sistema di registrazione. Inoltre, negli ultimi anni, nella comunità internazionale è cresciuta la consapevolezza dell'importanza dello stato civile come base della democrazia e come strumento per la pianificazione e la misurazione dei progressi in campo sanitario, sociale ed economico. Il Programma BRAVO! ha potuto beneficiare del sostegno della Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri in Italia e del Ministero degli Affari Esteri della Germania. I finanziamenti più significativi sono giunti però da sostenitori privati in Europa, da alcuni comuni italiani e da Kindermissionswerk, opera per l'infanzia della Chiesa Cattolica tedesca.

EM: The economic crisis has huge effects on international aid, and securing funding is becoming even more complicated. One of the strengths of the programme is that it is sustainable because, after the initial phase of the adapting system to the needs of the population, the government bears the burden of the expenses of the registration system.

Furthermore, in recent years, the international community has become ever more aware of the need for registration as the basis of democracy and as a tool for planning and measuring health, social and economic progress. The BRAVO! Programme has benefited from the support of the Italian prime minister and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Germany. The most significant funding, however, came from private supporters in Europe, some Italian municipalities and Kindermissionswerk, the German Catholic Church's children's charity.

GV: Is there anything else you would like to add for our readers?

EM: In questi anni, grazie a BRAVO!, abbiamo visto molti bambini ricominciare a studiare e molte famiglie sperimentare nuove opportunità. Madri che grazie al certificato di nascita hanno ottenuto la licenza di commercio, padri che hanno preso la patente. È molto bello vedere i primi frutti di questo lavoro e sapere che abbiamo contribuito a proteggere la vita di tanti bambini, molti dei quali forse non conosceremo mai di persona. È una protezione che li accompagnerà per tutta la vita.

EM: In recent years, thanks to BRAVO!, we have seen many children go back to studying and many families discover new opportunities. Mothers who, thanks to their birth certificate, have obtained a license to trade, fathers who have got their driving license. It is great to see the first fruits of this work and know that we helped to protect the life of so many children, many of whom we will never know in person. It is a form of protection that will accompany them throughout their lives.

September 18 2013

Italy: Seeking Press Officer. 300 Euros Per Month.

[All links lead to Italian-language webpages unless otherwise noted.]

The district of Arconate in Italy's province of Milan published a job advertisement online for a press officer on August 12, 2013 expiring on September 2 (and now deleted from the district's site). By all accounts, the job appeared to be standard, requiring that applicants (via Ilcomizietto):

  • have at least two years of professional experience in journalism and/or communication
  • be a member of at least two years of the national order of professional or freelance journalists
  • not have ongoing working relationships and assignments with any publications
  • and not own any websites or blogs of a journalistic nature.

But for the position, which required the future employee to be “available via phone and willing to participate in events and activities in the evenings and during national holidays”, the district only offered a gross salary of 300 euros per month.

On DIS.AMB.IGUANDO, a popular blog on communication written by Giovanna Cosenza, professor of Semiotics in the Department of Philosophy and Communications of the University of Bologna, the peculiar job offer has provoked many comments. On the blog, readers agree with the professor when she says:

So bene che la pubblica amministrazione ha pochi soldi. Ma così si straccia e svende – ancor più di quanto non sia già stracciata e svenduta – la professione giornalistica. Povera Italia.

I know that the local government bodies haven't got much money. But this undervalues and undersells the journalistic profession – even more than it had already been undervalued and undersold. Poor Italy.

Among the comments is that of Amalia Temperini, from the blog Bricolage, who argues by accepting such low pay, journalists themselves support exploitation:

Di più me la prendo con quelle persone che accettano svilendo il loro percorso professionale. In molti, difatti, con la scusa della passione, accettano tali compromessi, non rendendosi conto che stanno recando un danno altissimo a tutti coloro che, giorno per giorno, sudano per migliorare il proprio status lavorativo, e rendere la propria vita (e quella degli altri) più civile.

More than anything, I blame those who accept these offers, debasing their careers. In fact, many people, with the excuse of passion for their work, accept these compromises without realising that they are damaging everyone who struggles on a daily basis to improve their employment status and make their lives (and that of others) more civilized.

There are some who point out that in Italy the situation is similar in other sectors, and others claim that the district's job offer is worth it in the long run compared to the insecurity of working as a freelance journalist, often for free or for very little. And others still, such as the user Pier Dario Forni, express irony:

[...] se nell’edificio del comune c’é un balcone, per comunicare con i pochi cittadini del paese sarebbe sufficiente affacciarsi e parlare con un megafono.

[...] if there is a balcony in the building, all they need to do to communicate with the few citizens that live there is lean over and talk to them with a megaphone.

The news, which fits in perfectly with current debates about youth unemployment or underemployment, was also mentioned in the national newspapers. Twitter user @mauretta replied to a tweet by newspaper La Repubblica, with a link to the news, underlining the fact that newspapers were jointly responsible for the exploitation of young journalists:

A press officer to earn €300 gross per month indignant, but no article on your interns who earn €0?

- maura de gaetano (@ Mauretta) August 29, 2013

On the other hand, in response to the article that appeared in newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, user roby64 suggested that the job offer may be fake:

Un bando del genere serve solo come “copertura” per dare una mancia a qualche parente. Si tratta, molto probabilmente, di poche ore settimanali, quindi 300 euro sono giustificati.

Such job offers are simply a front to give some relative extra cash. Most likely they will only work a few hours a week in which case the €300 are justified.

The district, who originally tried to justify the content of the job offer, eventually defended itself by saying that there had been a mistake in the description of the position, reiterating that it does not have funds available to raise the pay. Someone has, however, pointed out that the Mayor of Arconate, Mario Mantovani, holds several public offices (Mayor of Arconate, Councillor for Health, Deputy Governor of the Lombardy Region and Senator) receiving proportionately lavish salaries. A reader, who calls himself Il Conte, in a letter sent to the Legnano 24 newsroom entitled “Mantovani's sense of the ridiculous”, wrote:

Lo avevamo lasciato alle prese con due poltrone. Gestire il gigante multimiliardario della sanità lombarda, restando saldamente ancorato alla cadrega del feudo, è un esercizio di valore non trascurabile. Aggiungerci uno sberleffo alla categoria dei giornalisti, per mezzo di un bando per addetto stampa, è un virtuosismo degno di un circo.

We left him to struggle with two roles. Managing the multi-billion euro giant of the Lombardy health sector while remaining firmly anchored to the feudal throne, is a mighty feat. To add a sneer at the professional journalists, by means of a job offer for a press officer, is a virtuosity worthy of a circus.

Consequently, the contrast between the mayor of this small town and the offer that is being made to the potential press officer cannot help but raise the issue of the costs of Italian politics and the so-called “caste” [en] (a term commonly used in Italy in reference to politicians and their unjustified privileges).

This theme, that of the gap between the caste and the real world, unites in discontent both the young, who have ever less job security, and the old, who have difficulty getting back into the job market. While on one hand the dejection is caused by job offers such as the one published by the district of Arconate that, given that it was offered by a governmental body, should have been more respectable, on the other hand there are groups of citizens who refuse to give up.

Among these initiatives is “Voglio Restare” (I Want To Stay) which, by opposing the growing problem of the “brain drain” from Italy, has given itself the objective of “changing the country, so as to not have to change country”. An appeal from the group:

Politici, editorialisti, imprenditori ci dicono che precarietà e disoccupazione giovanile sono un dramma, quasi non fossero le conseguenze di scelte politiche condivise [...] abbiamo bisogno di un cambiamento qui e ora, che ci permetta di restare: non vogliamo il posto di qualcun altro, vogliamo costruire il nostro. Non chiediamo privilegi, ma semplicemente le condizioni di dignità e agibilità necessarie a prendere in mano il nostro futuro e quello dell’Italia [...]

Politicians, editors and business men tell us that youth unemployment and instability are a tragedy, almost as if they were not the consequences of political choices [...] we need a change here and now, that will allow us to stay: we do not want someone else's job, we want to create our own. We do not ask for privileges, but simply the necessary conditions to be able to take hold of our future and that of Italy with dignity and equal rights [...]

Post written in collaboration with Gaia Resta.

September 02 2013

When Reality TV Meets Humanitarian Action in Italy

RAI 1, the flagship television channel of the national public service broadcaster and the most watched channel in Italy, is developing a humanitarian aid show in reality form. The first episode is planned to be broadcast next 4 December 2013.

“The Mission”, which is presented as a social experience, will show eight celebrities over two weeks working for the Italian NGO Intersos in refugee camps in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali. All of this will take place under the supervision of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

On the blog African Voices, Carlo Catteneo explained more about the premise of the show in a post entitled  “Mission” by RAI 1. A time bomb?:

The goal of RAI would be to propose, through this social experiment, as a means of advertising the cause of the most excluded and the engagement of humanitarian workers in order to create greater awareness in the audience. From the rumors collected production will not be focused on the suffering and desperation of refugees but rather on the positive and concrete commitment of humanitarian workers on the stories of refugees and the reasons for fleeing from their native countries. Each episode of The Mission will be introduced by an accurate explanation of the social, historical, political and cultural development of each country visited in order to offer the public with adequate information and to avoid the spectacularization of refugees. Laura Lucci, head of UNHCR Italy ensures that they are focusing on a program of information. The presence of UNHCR will ensure that they are only collected the stories of refugees volunteers standing up supervisor of the right of privacy and personal freedom of each individual. The increase of awareness and private story telling by refugees will help, according intentions of the promoters, to make public opinion more open and sensible on issues such as illegal immigration and the reasons that lead to the desperate search of a better life through the Mediterranean.

Cattaneo also published a copy of the official authorisation to shoot the programme from the DRC



Many Italians – whether humanitarian or not – have already begun to criticise the programme several months before it is to be broadcast. There is intense debate on the Internet. An online petition [it] asking for the programme not be be broadcast has already been signed by more than 91,000 people. They agree that the show plays with the lives of the refugees, and downplays the consequences of conflicts.

The site Afriqinfos [fr] argued that the world of reality TV is about to cross another line by going to refugee camps in Africa [fr]: et ont lancé chacun une pétition visant à annuler la mise en place de The Mission : « ça vous dirait de voir votre mère, qui a survécu à des violences inimaginables, être tournée en ridicule comme comparse d’un reality show ? » argumente la première organisation. and have each launched a petition to cancel the broadcasting of The Mission: “How would you like to see your mother, who has survived unimaginable violence, becoming an object of ridicule as an extra on a reality TV show?” argues the first of these organisations.

In addition to the recurrent criticisms, notably relating to the celebrities’ wages for the show [it], another argument against this show is that the celebrities chosen are second-class, B-listers [it] or attempting a comeback.

As zaccunu09 writes in the article Sfiga Africa: ci mancava Albano [it] (Poor Africa: Albano on top of everything else) of l'Espresso magazine [editor's note: Albano is an Italian singer who was popular in the 1970s and 80s]:

Che bella idea questa di Leone,figlio dell'ex Presidente della Repubblica,ed è superfluo dire perché oggi si trova a quel posto !, forte di un'autorità che non sappiamo bene da dove venga ,ha organizzato questa ridicola messinscena con personaggi che hanno un seguito da ridere se non fosse per la Rai che continua a farli apparire sulla scena televisiva,il più delle volte a sproposito. Albano, ci basta la presunzione e l'atteggiamento malandrino;il rampollo ruspante di casa Savoia,che non si sa a che titolo calca la scena Rai e con quali meriti se non una eredità che più scalcinata ed inquietante non poteva essere; Barale, ma esiste veramente? ,Cocuzza per più cocuzza non poteva essere,forse ho dimenticato qualcuno ma sicuramente sarà all'altezza degli altri. VIVA LA RAI ………

What a great idea from Leone – son of the ex-President of the Republic [Giovanni Leone] – and we don't need to ask how he's got that job today [director of RAI 1][it]! Relying on his authority from no one knows where, he has organised this farce with personalities who would no longer exist in the public sphere if RAI didn't take care of their media appearances by exhibiting them inappropriately as often as possible. We've had enough of Al Bano‘s complacency and mischief, and as for the direct descendant of the House of Savoy, we don't know how or why he is shown on RAI if not solely because of a legacy which could not be more pathetic and disturbing. Barale, does she even really exist? Cocuzza [the name of a RAI personality which also means thoughtless], you can't get any more thoughtless, I might have forgotten someone [it], but no doubt they will be at the same level as the others. LONG LIVE RAI……..

At, Albano addressed some of these criticisms:

Io difendo questo programma, e non capisco davvero cosa ci vediate di male: ce l'avete con me? Non capisco perché si parli di reality quando si tratta di realtà. Non sarebbe stato uno spettacolo, ma un'indagine, un'occasione per accendere i riflettori sulla gente che soffre. A me piaceva proprio l'idea di andare in un luogo in cui le persone sono abbandonate. Io voglio accendere qual faro, far vedere cosa succede. Continuano a morire dappertutto, ma se non proviamo ad accendere le luci che succederà?

I defend this programme, and I don't really understand what you see as negative: do you have a problem with me? I don't understand why we are talking about reality TV when this is about reality. It won't be a spectacle, but an investigation, an opportunity to highlight the issue of these people who are suffering. Personally, I really liked the idea of going to a place where people have been abandoned. I want to shine a light on the problem, to see what is happening. People are continuing to die everywhere, but if we don't highlight the problems, what will happen?

While with Invisible Children's Stop Kony 2012 campaign, a great majority of African comments were negative, this time they seem to give a more nuanced view, particularly on Facebook [fr]:

Aragone Diger : Sortir les réfugiés de l'ombre, c'est aussi montrer les tares de la guerre et ainsi conscientiser les populations de pays impliqués dans les guerres surtout en Afrique.

Aragone Diger: Bringing refugees out of the shadows also means showing the destruction of war, and making people living in the countries affected, especially in Africa, more aware.

Renaud-Désiré Essoh Lath: Moi j'aime ça montre que dans la vie y'a pas que Kardashians et y'a des problèmes plus sérieux !!

Renaud-Désiré Essoh Lath: Personally, I like that it shows that there is more to life than the Kardashians and that there are more serious issues!!

Following rumours that the show would be cancelled, RAI published an official denial. Thanks to the debate it has started, “The Mission” has benefited from publicity that just can't be bought.

Abdoulaye Bah and Antonella Sinopoli contributed to this article

August 17 2013

Romania to Open Communist Leader Ceausescu's Execution Site to Tourists

According to reports in the Romanian press, Romania is about to turn the former military base Targoviste, the site where former Romanian communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu was executed, into a tourist attraction.

The execution site of Ceausescu, deemed by many to have been a notorious Romanian dictator, will be open to the public next month.

Italian journalist Giampaolo Poniciappi was among those who announced the unusual news on Twitter:

#Romania, the barracks where the #Ceausescu‘s were shot turns into a museum open to tourists

— Giampaolo Poniciappi (@Infoconte) August 10, 2013

Ceausescu became general secretary of the Romanian Communist Party in 1965 and served as Romania’s President from 1967 to 1989, during which time he suppressed any and all opposition using brutal force.

photo used under Creative Commons license.

Archive photo of Ceausescu during is days as President of Romania; photo used under Creative Commons license.

Ceausescu and his wife Elena fled Bucharest in a helicopter after angry crowds gathered in front of the Communist Party headquarters in the final days of the Romanian Revolution on December 22, 1989. The army soon intercepted them and ordered a three-day trial by a special military tribunal. The main charge was genocide, and Ceausescu was blamed for the deaths of some 60,000 people — though historians have disputed that figure. The court sentenced the pair to death by firing squad on Christmas Day in 1989.

A soldier standing guard in the proceedings was ordered to take the Ceaușescus out back one by one and shoot them, but the Ceaușescus demanded to die together. The soldiers agreed to this and began to tie their hands behind their backs, which the Ceaușescus protested against, but were powerless to prevent. A TV crew who were to film the execution only managed to catch the end of the terrible event, as the Ceaușescus lay on the ground shrouded by dust that was kicked up by the bullets striking the wall and ground.

Before his sentence was carried out, Nicolae Ceaușescu sang “The Internationale” while being led to stand against the wall before the firing squad. After the shooting, the bodies were covered with canvases.

The Ceaușescus were the last people to be executed in Romania before the abolition of capital punishment on 7 January 1990. Their graves are located in Ghencea Cemetery in Bucharest. They are buried on opposite sides of a path. The graves themselves are unassuming, but they tend to be covered in flowers and symbols of the regime. More than 20 years after their death, the Ceausescu couple has not ceased to attract the attention of the public.

Elena Ceausescu was the object of a personality cult as intense as that of her husband, which exalted her as the “Mother of the Nation.” By all accounts, her vanity and desire for honors exceeded that of her husband. As with her husband, Romanian Television was under strict orders to take great care portraying her on screen. For instance, she was never supposed to be shown in profile because of her homely appearance (though it's been said she had been very attractive in her youth) and large nose. Publicly, Ceaușescu said that it was an honor to be referred to as “comrade”, but Romanian expatriates in the United States frequently referred to her as “Madame Ceaușescu” with great disdain.

The huge interest in this bizarre tourist destination is shown in the reactions of netizens, who conveyed this on social networks. However, there aren't either positive or negative reactions concerning this unusual decision by the Romanian government yet. Interest among netizens is certainly large, but most seem to be simply surprised and waiting to see what will happen in September when it opens.

Laura Desere, a journalist covering international affairs, tweeted the news:

An Egyptian Twitter user, Essam Man, said:

@AlMasryAlYoum: #Romania #Ceausescu The opening of the place where the execution of Ceausescu and his wife took place, venue open in Sept

— daydreamer … (@EssamMan) August 11, 2013

Teacher and translator Paul-Sorin Tita from Romania added:

Twitter user Antonio Silva:

Italian jornalist Matteo Pazzaglia has a rarely seen opinion:

In good and bad, Nicolae #Ceausescu was the onl president to secure a strong identity for #Romania.

— Matteo Pazzaglia (@cimbolano) July 24, 2013

In the meantime, in Romania, workers have completely restored the unlikely attraction near the central Romanian town of Targoviste to its original state so it will look just as it did when Ceausescu and his wife Elena met their end at the hands of a firing squad and, reportedly, some 120 bullets.

“Visitors will be able to see the wall where the Ceausescus were shot,” Ovidiu Carstina, the director of the museum site, told Bucharest-based Mediafax news agency. “The inside of the building has been repainted in the same colors as in 1989, and the furniture will be the same. We are recreating both the room where the improvised trail took place and the bedroom where they spent their last night.”

The site will also feature an exhibition detailing the structure’s earlier history as a cavalry school from 1893 to 1914. Officials said they decided to open it to the public this September after growing demand from foreign tourists. Tickets will go for just seven Romanian leu (two US dollars).

June 16 2013

Paying Tribute to Captain Mbaye Diagne, The Senegalese Hero of Rwanda

At the time of writing, June 2013, official commemoration of victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide is continuing around the world. But few people still remember Captain Mbaye Diagne. However, this young officer from the Senegalese army showed bravery at a time when the rest of the world was demonstrating cowardice. Enrico Muratore has been fighting for years to ensure that the name of this hero is not forgotten.

Capitaine Mbaye

Photo of Captain Mbaye Diange from the Facebook page of the association bearing his name, used with their permission.

Global Voices posed several questions to Enrico Muratore on the objective of his action via the Association of Captain Mbaye Diagne – Nekkinu Jàmm:

Enrico, could you introduce yourself in a few words?

Hello, I am an ex-United Nations Human Rights Officer who served during, among others, the peace-keeping missions and also worked in Rwanda, a country which I have been really interested in since the 1994 genocide. I am Italian, but I have lived in Africa for 15 years, and in Senegal for 4 years.

On May 31, you organised a ceremony to commemorate a Senegalese soldier who died during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Could you explain to us the reasons for this ceremony?

We were celebrating the memory of Captain Mbaye Diagne, who was a military observer for UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda). When the genocide started on April 7, 1994, individual unarmed rescue missions immediately started saving all those who could be saved. They started with the children of the Rwandan Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingyimana – who had just been killed, after the massacre of his escort of ten Belgian paras. When the United Nations decided to withdraw nine tenths of their military presence who were already on site (and who could have opposed the genocide), 270 soldiers remained, among them the Captain, who undertook his perilous missions to save the others, until he was killed on May 31, 1994, after having saved, they say, nearly 600 people. So we celebrate the memory of this just and altruistic man who gave his life to save that of others at this time.

What are the initial objectives of the Association? Who are the members? Is it open to other members?

The Association aims to promote the memory of Captain Mbaye Diagne and to support his family’s development, because it is not fair to abandon the families of those who gave themselves for others. Of course, their sacrifice doesn’t mean to say that they didn't love their own families! Therefore, we must do something for them. The President of the Association is Mrs Yacine Diagne, the Captain’s widow; the Vice-President is Colonel Faye who was friend of the Captain and was in the UNAMIR in Rwanda with him; I personally am the General Secretary (GS) and the Captain’s children, Coumba and Cheick are the GS assistants; next, as Treasurer, we have Ras Makha Diop, philosopher, gardener and Senegalese artist, instead of the late lamented good and just Doctor Adotevi. Next, we have founding members such as Pierantonio Costa, ex-Honorary Consul of Rwanda who saved 2000 people from death during the genocide, Mark Doyle who is a principal correspondent for the BBC and previously friend of the Captain, senior civil servant Bacre Ndiaye of the United Nations High Commissioner’s Office of Human Rights, and author of a prescient report on Rwanda when he was the special reporter covering extra-judiciary executions in 1993. We also have other Senegelese and foreigners, including some who participated in one or both United Nations missions in Rwanda, people that had known him or simply appreciated his sacrifice to save the innocents. We are still accepting new members, as long as we are assured that they sincerely admire the Captain, and intend to support our Association’s goals.

He really was a hero! What did people know about him before?

There is a lot of material available on the internet, but it is true to say that the general public around the world does not know of the Captain. Yet his sacrifice has been officially recognised by the Rwandan government, by the then American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and by the Giardino dei Giusti del Mondo [it], an association to honor those who oppose genocide in Italy, among others.

What has been achieved so far?

Creating the Association in itself an achievement because that was not simple. We have a Facebook page named Association of Captain Mbaye Diagne – Nekkinu Jàmm and we are currently setting up a multilingual website; we are organising activities with the press. For example, for example, in this interview [fr] from May 31, his wife described how she was informed of his death and recalls her memories.. The Fatto Quotidiano [it] in Italy, and the past with Radio West Africa for Democracy or the Senegalese media; activities such as the Junior Football Tournament organised with the Senegalese Football Federation; May 31, the prayer vigil in the Captain's family home.

Was he married and did he have children? What became of them?

The family have quite simply been forgotten all this time, now we hope that the association with us has helped them to make themselves be better understood and to find their place while promoting the memory of their husband and father, because this could be very useful in educating youth and people in general, about these troubled and violent times.

Captain Mbaye fell on duty, didn’t he? What have the national authorities and the UN done?

We must ask his wife and Association President Mrs Yacine Diagne, but as far as I know, the United Nations have done nothing apart from pay the life insurance that the Captain had signed up for while at their service, and which paid his family a premium 19 years ago, but nothing more since. The family home is collapsing, they had to look for support from a sister of Yacine; the children have lost years of schooling, the eldest, Coumba, had many health problems, the Captain’s mother is old and sick. Only close family, and several friends, notably from the Army, have done anything; now the Association will do what it can.

As for the dead, only God can look after them. With respect to help for the family, we contacted the Association for the Office of the United Nations for West Africa, a little while ago, but they have not yet responded. We hope they will do so.

May 31 2013

Guinea: Special Guest at the 2013 Turin International Book Fair

The 26th International Book Fair took place in Turin, capital of the Italian Piedmont region, between May 16 and May 20, 2013. The Francophone West African country of Guinea was the sole representative of the African continent to be invited as a special guest country. This news did not pass unnoticed in Conakry and on the Guinean blogosphere – both at home and abroad.

Maria from Babia gave her opinion of the Guinea exhibition stand on blog [fr]:

Pour marquer sa participation à ce Salon International du Livre de Turin, les Guinéens ont tablé sur l’organisation de conférences-débats avec les auteurs invités, l’exposition-ventes d’objets d’art  et les rencontres informelles avec les enfants, les jeunes et les personnes âgées. Par exemple, le caricaturiste Oscar Ben Barry  a pu croquer quelques invités en compagnie de petits italiens ; tandis que Tierno Monemebo et Salif Keïta, Justin Morel Junior et Cheick Oumar Kanté débattaient de l’avenir de la littérature guinéenne.

To mark its participation in the Turin International Book Fair, Guineans took part in the organisation of debates and conferences with guest authors, an art exhibition and sale, as well as informal meet-ups with children, young people and the eldery. For example, cartoonist Oscar Ben Barry sketched several guests together with Italian youngsters while Tierno Monemebo, Salif Keita, Justin Morel Junior and Cheick Oumar Kanté were debating the future of Guinean literature.

Amadou Tham Camara wrote on website [fr]:

Le stand exotique guinéen, très achalandé, a suscité beaucoup de curiosités. En marge des visites du stand, les auteurs Thierno Monenembo, Cheick Oumar Kanté et le sénégalais Pap Khouma ont animé dans l’après-midi une conférence sur la problématique de la culture orale et de la culture écrite en Afrique occidentale….

A la faveur de la crise économique et de son corollaire de délocalisation, la ville de Turin est en train de remplacer son industrie automobile par une industrie culturelle. A la Guinée, unique pays africain présent à ce salon du livre, de s’en inspirer pour mettre son industrie culturelle à la place de… rien.

The exotic Guinean exhibition stand was very busy and generated a lot of interest. As well as visiting the stand, Guinean authors Thierno Monenembo, Cheick Oumar Kanté and Pap Khouma from Senegal participated in an afternoon conference on the problems with oral and written culture in Western Africa [...]Due to the economic crisis and associated delocalisation, the city of Turin is in the process of replacing its car industry with cultural industries. Guinea, sole African nation present at this book fair, has been inspired by this to use its cultural industry to replace … nothing.

Here is a video showing Guinean Culture on display in Turin

Website covered [it] the presence of Guinea at the book fair and the hope that it would encourage the country to become next year’s ‘guest of honour.’:

La Guinea è ospite speciale del Salone 2013 e presenta la propria candidatura quale Ospite d’onore per il 2014.
Il progetto OnGuinea è curato dall’Associazione italo-guineana [Nakiri] in collaborazione con il Ministero della cultura e del patrimonio storico della Guinea, il Ministero degli affari esteri e dei Guineani all’estero e il Ministero del Turismo della Guinea.
Numerosi gli incontri con personalità guineane fra cui l’ex ministro dell’informazione e comunicazione Justin Morel Junior, scrittori, giornalisti, antropologi.
Fra i temi affrontati: la cultura orale, le guerre, la cultura come motore di sviluppo per l’Africa.
Letture, poesia e musica e sabato 18 alle 21, per il Salone Off, al Jazz Club di via Giolitti 30 concerto dei Ba Cissoko, uno dei gruppi musicali guineani più famosi nel mondo.

Guinea is the special guest of the 2013 Book Fair, and is applying to be 2014’s guest of honour.
The project On Guinea was started by the Italian-Guinean association together with the Ministry of Culture and Historical Patrimony of Guinea, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Guineans Overseas and the Guinean Tourism Ministry.
There were many meetings with Guineans including the ex-Minster of Information and Communication, Justin Morel Junior, writers, journalists and anthropologists.
Among the topics covered: Oral culture, wars, culture as a driver of development for Africa.
There were lectures, poetry and music from Saturday 18th until the 21st, by Salone Off at the Jazz Club at Via Giolitti 30, a concert by group Ba Cissoko, one of the most famous Guinean groups in the world.

zeinabKoumanthio Zeinab Diallo Kazédi, Guinean post, photo used with her permission

Among people who came from Guinea to take part in the Book Fair were poet Koumanthio Zeinab Diallo Kazédi who website introduced as follows [fr]:

Elle est l'héritière d'une tradition poétique peulhe extrêmement riche. Son premier ouvrage est dédié à ses enfants, Dalanda (Lynda), Ousmane (Mawdo), Mamadou (Vieux) et Tiguidanké (Nene). Koumanthio Zeinab Diallo est fondatrice de la section guinéenne du PEN Club International, membre du Comité International des Femmes Ecrivains et de plusieurs autres associations littéraires. Elle a obtenu un premier prix de poésie pular en 1990 et Les rires du silence a reçu le prix du président de la République de Guinée au concours littéraire organisé par la Pan Africaine des Ecrivains en 2005.

She follows an extremely rich poetic tradition. Her first work was dedicated to her children, Dalanda (Lynda), Ousmane (Mawdo), Mamadou (Vieux) and Tiguidanké (Nene). Koumanthio Zeinab Diallo founded the Guinean branch of the International PEN Club, is a member of the International Committee of Women Writers and of several other literary associations. She won her first poetry prize in 1990 and Les rires du silence (The Laughs of Silence) received the Guinean President’s Prize at a literary competition organised by the Pan African Writers’ Assocation in 2005.

Tierno Monénembo, author of around ten novels, also took part. Website introduced him [fr]:

Guinea's Exhibition Stand at the Turin Book Fair. Photo from Facebook page On Guinea

Guinea's Exhibition Stand at the Turin Book Fair. Photo from Facebook page On Guinea with their permission

Après l’étape de Casablanca, Monénembo est attendu successivement à Paris et à Genève pour la réception de différents prix remportés par son tout dernier roman « Le terroriste noir ».
Le 15 mai prochain, il est attendu à Turin en Italie, pour animer des conférences, tout en prenant part au Salon International du livre de Turin où seront notamment exposées ses œuvres traduites en Italien.

Monénembo a écrit les Crapauds-brousse (1979), Les Ecailles du Ciel (1986), Un rêve utile (1991), Un attiéké pour Elgass (1993), Pelourinho (1995), Cinéma (1997), L’Ainé des orphelins (2000), Peuls (2004), la Tribu des gonzesses (2006), le Roi de Kahel (2008) et le Terroriste noir (2012).

After the Casablanca stage, Monénembo went to Paris then Geneva to collect an assortment of prizes won for his latest novel, ‘The Black Terrorist.’
He was expected at Turin in Italy from May 15 to participate in conferences while taking part in the International Book Fair where his books were to be displayed translated into Italian.
Monénembo wrote ‘les Crapauds-brousse’ (1979), Scales of the Sky (1986), A Useful Dream (1991), Un attiéké pour Elgass (1993), Pelourinho (1995), Cinema (1997), The Eldest of the Orphans (2000), Peuls (2004), la Tribu des gonzesses (2006), The King of Kahel (2008) and The Black Terrorist (2012).

Guinea’s preparations for participation in the fair started several months ago. In January 2013 Mame Diallo wrote on website [fr]:

Parlant de la participation de la Guinée au Salon du Livre à Turin (ex-capitale italienne), M. Adramet Barry, président de l’Association Nakiri dira que « la Guinée après sa phase d’essai va bénéficier cette fois-ci en tant qu’invitée spéciale d’un espace plus large de 90 mètres carré ». Pour ce dernier, cet espace qui aura l’occasion d’être visité du 16 au 21 mai 2013 par une moyenne de 360 000 personnes permettra à la Guinée de mettre en valeur son patrimoine culturel.

Dans l’espoir d’être les invités d’honneur en 2014 avec un stand de 300 mètres carré, les représentants guinéens entendent gagner le pari cette année et sollicitent pour ce faire, l’appui financier, technique et moral du gouvernement guinéen et de tout le peuple de Guinée.

While talking about Guinea’s participation in the Book Fair of Turin (once capital of Italy), Mr Adramet Barry, president of the Nakiri Association said that ‘Guinea after its trial phase will benefit this time as a special guest with a space of more than 90 square metres.’
For Guinea, this platform which will be visited by an average of 360,000 people from the 16th to the 21st of May will allow the country to highlight its cultural heritage.
Hoping to be the 2014 guests of honour with an exhibition stand of 300 square metres, the Guinean representatives intend to win their gamble this year and to do this are requesting financial, technical and moral support from the government and the people of Guinea.

Naby Soumah recalled [fr] on website that the invitation had been confirmed in Conakry during the celebration ‘des 72 heures du livre’ organised each year to commemorate World Book and Copyright Day [fr]:

L’information a été donnée ce matin au cours d’une conférence à la maison de la presse par le Président de l’association ‘’Nakiri’’, Adramet Barry en provenance de l’Italie. Pour cette association composée de guinéens vivant à l’étranger, la Guinée est invitée spéciale cette année en Italie au salon de livre de Turin.

Ainsi, la Guinée va être représentée par le comité des 72 heures libres, qui aura à présenter les œuvres guinéennes sur cette place. Pour l’association, à l’Edition prochaine, la Guinée aura le titre d’invité d’honneur à cette grande Edition. Ensuite, elle pourra être présente au salon international du livre qui se tiendra en Italie en 2014. Une véritable aubaine pour la promotion de la culture guinéenne. 

This news was given this morning during a press conference by the President of the Nakiri Assocation, Adramet Barry, who is Italian. For this association of Guineans who live abroad, Guinea was definitely the special guest this year at the Turin Book Fair.
Therefore, Guinea will be represented by the 72 heures libres committee, who will have to present Guinean works. According to the association, Guinea will be the Guest of Honour at the next event. After which, the country could be present at the next International Book Fair which will take place in Italy in 2014. A real dawn for the promotion of Guinean culture.

The capacity of the Italian-Guinean Nakiri Association [fr] to organize this participation is proof that when Guineans forget political tension they can give the country a more positive image.


May 27 2013

From Guinea to Italy to France and Back: An Interview with Blogger Abdoulaye Bah

Global Voices author and translator Abdoulaye Bah, originally from Guinea, is a retired Italian citizen who has worked for the United Nations. He splits his time between Rome and Nice and has collaborated [fr] with GV since December 2008, having contributed to thousands of written posts and translation in French as well as a considerable number of posts [it] for the Italian group and some more in English.

Bah also runs his own blog, the Konakry Express, where he writes about Italian and African politics. His latest post unfortunately details [fr] his recent encounter with racism in an Italian restaurant in Nice in which a man roughly shoved him out the door of a restaurant, an incident he is speaking to anti-racist NGO SOS Racisme for help.

Before that terrible incident, we had the opportunity to speak with Bah about his life, from his experience hiding in a bathroom to enter Italy without the proper papers, to his marriage in the Vatican, from his foray into cinema to his multi-belief family.

Global Voices (GV): You are originally from Guinea Conakry. When did you arrive in Italy? How would you describe your experience of arriving clandestinely in the country?

Abdoulaye Bah (AB): Precisely last April it was 50 years since I first arrived in Italy, in Florence, to study. However, it wasn't then that I arrived clandestinely in the country. Nevertheless, shortly after my arrival, my documents expired and I was faced with the experience of being “sans-papier”. The life of a student without a scholarship is difficult, however the Italian police didn't employ all the xenophobic measures that they use today.

Despite the help I received from many friends, I experienced hunger to the point where I sat my first university exam in a state of dizziness. Luckily, the Archbishop of Florence, H.E. Ermenegildo Florit, under the recommendation of Mayor Giorgio La Pira, offered me the possibility to eat at the charity Caritas’ canteen and sleep at the homeless shelter [it].

GV: So when did you illegally enter Italy?

AB: It happened after the end of my studies in Florence, in 1967, just after obtaining my diploma in statistics. I continued with a specialisation course, then I went to Paris where I wanted to work and save up to buy a ticket to return to my country. When my father found out, he came to find me and advise me against returning to Guinea because the dictatorship had become more merciless, with tens of thousands of arrests and massacres of innocent people, particularly among the academics of our ethnicity.

Not having any documents, it was not easy to obtain a visa to return to Italy. I took the train from Paris to Rome the day after Che Guevara's death, 9 October, 1967. Arriving on the border at Ventimiglia, I instantly felt the police controls, I went into the bathroom leaving the door open and clung to the partition above the toilet cubicle. When the police agents entered they looked around without noticing me and closed the door. And that's how I managed to re-enter Italy.

A priest who had just founded UCSEI [it, Ufficio centrale studenti esteri Central Office for Foreign Students] took me on as a writer for 20,000 lire a month, with which I could pay the rent. I also managed to find extra activities to earn a little more. I summarised and translated scientists’ biographies, in particular for the Pontificia Accademia delle Scienze [Papal Academy of Science], and later I worked for the IRI [Institute for Industrial Reconstruction] as a public relations consultant in their office for international co-operation.

I clandestini di oggi,

Today's clandestines, “I'm in Italy, I'll become rich!!”, by Gianluca Costantini (2005) under licence CC 3.0

GV: Your nation is, from a religious point of view, predominately Muslim. What can you tell us about marrying in the Vatican and can you explain how it came about?

ABIn Guinea, religion is practised in a tolerant manner. From a young age I experienced a lot through contact with my grandfather, who was an important religious leader and died at Mecca. I followed many of his sermons, full of compassion. After secondary school my father paid for my studies at a school run by priests, the best in Guinea. Given the environment in which my personality developed, different religions have never been a problem for me.

In 1969, when I met my soulmate and we decided to marry, I couldn't obtain any documentation from my country. I was living illegally in Italy. I couldn't supply complete documentation to ask for a civil marriage. Father Remigio Musaragno [it], the director of UCSEI, made the proposal of marrying in the Vatican. The instruction on mixed marriages issued on the 18th March 1966 [it] solicited a few guarantees from me – relevant also in my country -, the respect of my wife's religion, the commitment to not obstruct the religious education of our children, and the understanding of the indissoluble nature of marriage contracted in church.

By and large I've kept to my commitments, we are still married and I have not obstructed the Catholic education of our children. Our eldest has even become a Franciscan Tertiary, on this past 7 April, while our second-born is agnostic. I've become a member of the Radical Party.

GV: Would you like to tell us something about your son's experience who became a Franciscan Tertiary?

AB: In all the countries I have visited, my wife and my three children have always practised the Catholic religion. Furthermore, in our house we have always received priests as much as in Addis Abeba, my first place of work for the United Nations, and in Vienna, where we lived for a longer time.

In Vienna we tried to teach our children about the Muslim religion as well, in order to allow them to choose between Islam and Catholicism. However, teaching Islam is difficult in a European environment because one should learn to read and write Arabic. So we asked some North African students who studied in Vienna to explain the foundations to them.

When our children decided to be baptised, Ahmed, the eldest, didn't want to do it and leave me being the only Muslim follower in the family. We had already explained to him that it wasn't the case because I didn't practise any religion. Only then did he too get baptised. Returning to Rome, to carry out work, he started to attend a Franciscan community and work voluntarily for Caritas, discovering his vocation.

GV: Your relationship with the Catholic Church also includes a small role in Nanni Moretti's film “Habemus Papam“: How did that come about and what role did you have?

AB: That participation was pure coincidence. When the director set about making the film, he needed immigrants of a certain age from all over the world. Unfortunately when filming started I was ill and I only took part in a few scenes. I was close to Michel Piccoli, to his left. I was the Cardinal of Zambia. I've never dreamed of working in film even though I had the fortune of participating in films by famous directors such as Federico Fellini and Gillo Pontecorvo in the 1960′s in the Cinecittà and De Laurentiis studios.

Abdoulaye Bah

Abdoulaye Bah

GV: How did you get involved with Global Voices? And the blog Konakry Express [fr]?

AB: One evening in December 2008, by then I had retired, to avoid arguing with my wife about what to watch on TV, I started to search on the Internet for a voluntary activity I could undertake. Among the sites I came across was Global Voices. I read a few posts and liked them. Immediately, I contacted Claire Ulrich, the person in charge of the French group and I started to partake.

I didn't have any blogging experience beforehand. I didn't even know what Facebook, Twitter, netizen, citizen media, blogs or posts were. My only previous activity had been the creation of a forum for the victims of the dictatorship in my country. I became a blogger thanks to the patience of Claire Ulrich, who helped me create Konakry Express [fr], a blog designed to broadcast information of the grave violations of human rights that occurred in Guinea on the 28th September 2009.

GV: What relationship is there between your activity as a blogger and your involvement in politics with the Radical Party?

AB: I experienced the 1968 protests in Italy, I followed or took part in many of the youth protests for the decolonisation in Africa, the fight against Apartheid, condemnation of the Vietnam War, the fight against segregation in the USA. The topics which were at the forefront for the Radical Party in Italy could not but engage me: the fight for the rights for abortion and divorce and against world hunger. It is also thanks to the radical initiatives which arose in the 1990′s with the creation of the International Criminal Court, with the discussions about suspension of capitol punishment worldwide or the successes against female genital mutilation.

My sensitivity towards human rights is the fruit of the experience faced in my country and during the peace missions in which I participated, in places where these rights were being violated, such as Cambodia, Haiti and Rwanda. In my blogs, I try to write or translate posts on these topics which are in my heart.

GV: Speaking of which, what is your opinion of the situation in Guinea Conakry today?

AB: In 2010, Alpha Condé, a former academic professor of rights at Sorbona, was elected as president. Many citizens expected improvements but, unfortunately, he is the worst president the country could have had so far due to the rifts his politics are creating among ethnic groups. In his government, there are people accused of crimes against humanity, not only by international NGO's or the UN, but also by Guinean justice, and yet they maintain the same positions of responsibility which they occupied when they committed these acts or they have even been promoted. They should have been able to have elections a few months after the presidential elections but there is no common ground of understanding between the government and the opposition. The future doesn't look promising. [Read this previous interview [it] with Abdoulaye for more on this topic.]


May 17 2013

Catalonia: Caution about Spain's Hostile Ways

A civic statement on Col·lectiu Emma (@CollectiuEmma)'s blog criticizes the way the Spanish government is dealing with the political situation in the region of Catalonia, where 55 % of the population favors independence [ca] from Spain, according to an official poll. The statement explains the “strategy of fear” and other “hostile” arguments, and claims for “a friendly separation, preferably under international supervision and with external support for both parties.” The post is available in English, Spanish, German, French, Arabic, Russian, PortugueseItalian and Dutch.

May 07 2013

Congolese-Italian Woman Joins Italy's Cabinet

[All quotations are translated from the original French articles, except the Twitter quotes, which were originally Italian]

Two months after the February 2013 Italian general election, Prime Minister Enrico Letta, selected by the President Giorgio Napolitano to create a consensus government, revealed the members of his team. Among the surprises was the nomination of Doctor Cecile Kyenge, specialist in Opthamology, as Minister of Integration. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), she is the first immigrant ever to accede to a ministerial position in Italy.

News website described her [fr] as follows:

Cecile Kyenge, member of the Democratic Party, was born on August 28, 1964 in Kambove in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
She arrived in Italy in 1983 and is now an Italian citizen. She obtained her degree in medicine and surgery at the Catholic University of Rome, before specialising in opthamology at the University of Modena.

Cecile Kyenge, photo from her Facebook page

Dr Cecile Kyenge, photo from her Facebook page

Although elected into the left wing Democratic Party during the recent elections, in the region of Emilia-Romagna, she had already become the first woman of African origin to win a seat in parliament, when she was elected provincial councillor in Modena for the Democratic Party. In an article published on [fr], Rene Kouame wrote:

The honorable Cecile Kyenge is not taking her first steps in the political life of Italy. She has been a councillor since the last legislature of the Emilia Romagna regional council. At the heart of the Italian Democratic Party she occupied the role of responsibility for the immigration forum for several years. As a human rights supporter, Cecile Kyenge has fought for several years to gain respect for the rights of immigrants in Italy. She is spokesperson of the national movement March First (a national organisation fighting against any kind of discrimination and for respect for the rights of immigrants).

The following video [it] shows Cecile Kyenge swearing in before President G. Napolitano at the Quirinal Palace in Rome:

She has fought for many years for better immigration laws, notably for repeal of the crime of illegal immigration which has filled Italian prisons with people whose only crime, for the most part, is to not have identity papers. News website covered her journey [fr]:

Minister of the Democratic Party, the first woman of African origin to win a seat in parliament was in the middle of preparing a file on ‘institutional racism’ in Italy. She was also fighting for repealing the crime of illegal immigration and wants to make the job market more accessible to foreigners.
According to Cecile Kyenge, it is also necessary to ‘fight against violence of a sexist, racist, homophobic, or any other, nature.’ Mr Letta, who also belongs to the Democratic Party, exulted in this choice which ‘clearly demonstrates belief in a more integrated, truly multicultural Italy.’

Blog said this [fr] about her:

She owes her position as a M.P. to her engagement at the heart of the Democratic Party in the Emilia-Romagna region. In particular, she looked after immigration questions – the portfolio that she will be in charge of at the heart of the new government.
At the heart of her political, associative and militant combat lies the free circulation of people and the desire for a new citizenship law. What is more, in September 2010, she became national spokesperson for the March First movement where she promoted human rights, including those for migrants.

Before the elections Cecile Kyenge defined her combat objectives [fr] in an article published on blog

My candidacy represents and gives a voice to the ‘New Italians’ (term designating foreigners who become Italian), these foreigners who only ask to become a citizen. As a minister of the republic, my voice must also defend the community of Italian citizens, because I believe intermixing can and must be an added value in our culture and not an obstacle like some would have us believe for so long.

Of course, as soon as the composition of the government was published, right wing extremists and xenophobes unleashed themselves to denounce her presence among the other ministers. @adilmauro cited Roberto Maroni, ex-Minister of the Interior and leader of the Northern League, on Twitter:

@adilmauro: Cecile Kyenge is not Italian, say those who want to make Italy change. Here we have the League who ‘march on racism’ (said Maroni)

Journalist Enrico Grazioli (@engraz), also on Twitter, commented on the racist reactions :

@engraz: Cecile #kyenge has ‘already been welcomed by the worst of Italy as we should have expected. But she will not be afraid #governoletta

April 02 2013

‘Tribewanted’ Creates, Connects Eco-Villages

Renewable energy, permaculture and green building, along with local traditions and eco-tourism: welcome to Tribewanted – an online community launched in 2006 based on the idea of “global citizenship” and harnessing the energy of social media to meaningfully connect and practice positive behavior change. Thanks to crowdfunding strategies, the project plans to build 10 eco-villages around the world: after Vorovoro (Fiji Islands) and John Obey (Sierra Leone), a new village just launched in Monestevole [it], in Umbria, the heart of Italy. Connect with Tribewanted people via web, Facebook or Vimeo.

March 20 2013

Italy: Grillo's Party Takes the Lead in Political Stalemate

[All links point to Italian reources unless otherwise indicated]

At the general elections on 24-25 February, the MoVimento 5 Stelle (M5S), founded by the comedian Beppe Grillo in 2009 in Florence, won 109 seats out of 630 in the Parliament in their first electoral campaign, making them the party with the most seats. In addition they won 54 seats out of 315 in the Senate. It was a surprise as, barely a month earlier, polls were predicting that M5S would win 18% of parliament seats and 12.1% of the seats in the Senate. As has by now been noted, social media has played an influential role in the success of M5S, leading to the election of many young parliamentarians, making for one of the youngest parliaments in Europe.

Beppe Grillo, the comedian who's blocking Italian politics. Photo on Flickr by Jagen, via

Beppe Grillo, the comedian who's causing a stalemate in Italian politics. Photo from Flickr  by Jaqen, via

Who voted M5S?

Drawing on a recently published collection of perspectives (Il Partito di Grillo, Il Mulino), Gabriele Ainis explained on his blog:

 ….M5S nasce come espressione di una sinistra ecologista e libertaria, che si aggregano movimenti vari e variegati – prima di tutto nell’area dell’ambientalismo, ma anche legati a istanze puramente locali, sussecutivamente [successivamente?] integrate e ampliate dal gruppo. Finché diventa un attrattore valido anche per la destra una volta che venga cavalcata l’istanza “antisistema” (se ci si intende sul termine, naturalmente, tanto per esser chiari il “mandiamoli tutti a casa”.

…M5S was the fruit of an environmentalist and libertarian left-wing movement, which then combined with various and varied movements – mainly concentrated on environmental cause but also those linked to very local causes – and which were successively integrated into, and expanded upon by, the group.  It became attractive to those on the right as well once it came out of its “anti-system” phase (just so we're all in agreement on the terms, naturally this refers to “mandiamoli tutti a casa”)[Transl. note: mandiamoli tutti a casa [send them all home] was M5S electoral slogan].

Who did they vote for before?



According to several sources, the former political allegiances of those who voted for the “grillini” seem to be fairly varied. Commenting on a post by Elisa Gianni suggesting a shift from the Partito Democratico (PD) [en, Lega Nord [en] and the IDV (Italia Dei Valori) [en], reader Gianni Armani, writes that:

Il boom della lista ispirata da Beppe Grillo è stato alimentato per il 30% da elettori che alle europee del 2009 avevano scelto il centrosinistra (Pd, Idv e altri) e per il 27% da elettori che avevano scelto il centrodestra (Pdl, Lega e altri). Per Grillo il bacino più grande resta comunque quello dell’astensione, pari al 37% dei suoi consensi, cioè un esercito di oltre tre milioni di persone. Gli altri partiti al di fuori delle coalizioni principali contano soltanto per il 6%. In dettaglio, il Movimento 5 Stelle ha preso l’11% dal Pd, il 12% dall’Idv, 7% da altri. Dal blocco di centrodestra, il 18% dei consensi grillini è arrivato dal Pdl, l’8% dalla Lega, l’1% da altri.”
A chi credere?

Of the voters who fueled the election success inspired by Beppe Grillo, 30% voted for centre-left candidates (PD, IDV and others) and 27% voted centre-right (PDL, Lega Nord and others) at the 2009 European elections. For Grillo it was non-voters who made the greatest difference, making up 37% of his supporters, an army more than 3 million strong. The other parties outside of the main blocks only accounted for 6%. To break it down, the Movimento 5 Stelle, took 11% of their votes from the PD, 12% from the IDV, 12% from other [left-wing] parties. From the centre-right block, 18% of support for Grillo came from PDL voters, 8% from Lega [Nord], 1% from others. Who to believe?

Where did M5S have the greatest success?

The party's success was spread evenly throughout Italy, with a peak of 53.17% of the votes cast in the district of Exilles in Alta Val di Susa, where “No TAV” protests rumble on. On a regional level, M5S registered percentages close to or exceeding 33% in Liguria (32.1%), in Sardinia (33.7%), in Marche (32.1%) and in Sicily (32.7%).

Why did people vote for M5S?

The reasons behind the surge of support for M5S seem to be similar to those behind the support of thousands of young people for the Occupy movement – with the addition, of course, of a little something typically Italian. A few examples follow.

Lack of faith in institutions

On the blog the damning judgement is that:

Nessuno si salva: le istituzioni italiane non convincono più; neanche il Quirinale che da sempre ha rappresentato assieme al suo esponente Giorgio Napolitano, un modello esemplare di costante garanzia per gli italiani. Nelle anticipazioni del “Rapporto Italia” che l’Eurispes presenterà il prossimo 31 di gennaio, il dato che emerge è chiaro: rispetto alle percentuali registrate lo scorso anno, il calo è brusco sia per il Capo dello stato che per il Vaticano.

Nobody is immune: Italian institutions are not fooling anyone any more; not even the Quirinale [Presidential Palace] which, along with the current occupant, Giorgio Napolitano, has always represented a model example of constant reassurance for Italians. The data which emerges ahead of the “Rapporto Italia” [Italy Report] that [the political institute] Eurispes will release on the 31st of January next year, is clear: with respect to the percentages registered last year, the fall from grace has been as severe for the Head of State as for the Vatican.

Parachuting in candidates.

In the comments on the site, Luciano writes:

Giusto l’analisi fatta , e come accennai ad un Amico del PD di Settimo ante votazione; la perdita era prevista in quanto il Bersani ha paracadutato gente che non ha niente a che fare con la realta’ locale ed ha immesso in lista presone come la Bindi con gia’ troppi mandati alle spalle ! Per cui la colpa non puo’ e non deve andare alle sezioni LOCALI !

The analysis that has been made is correct, and, as a friend of the PD from Settimo alluded to before the election took place, the loss could have be predicted in light of the fact that Bersani parachuted in people who have nothing to do with the local reality and included people like Bindi [Rosy Bindi [en], first elected in 1989] in the list, who already have way too many election campaigns behind them! For which the LOCAL branches of the parties cannot and should not be blamed!

An establishment which is eating itself.

In October 2012, on the blog, Marianna De Palma calls to mind the sad Italian reality that:

A deliberare sulla legge anticorruzione – pare in arrivo – anche 100 parlamentari imputati, condannati o prescritti. E’ normale per gli Italiani avere parlamentari del genere?

Among those debating the anti-corruption law – which appears to be on its way in – are 100 parliamentarians who have been indicted, convicted or have been acquitted due to the statute of limitations running out on their cases. Is it normal for Italians to have this kind of parliamentarians?

As Carmine Gazzanni notes on the blog

Figli, mogli, mariti, nipoti. Scorrendo i nomi dei candidati (alcuni ufficiali, altri ufficiosi) per le politiche, si rimane increduli vista la mole di parenti di ex deputati presenti. Spesso c’è proprio una sostituzione: esce padre, entra figlio.

Children, wives, husbands, grandchildren. Looking through the names of the candidates (some official, some off-the-record) for the elections, the number of relatives of ex-deputies included is unbelievable. Often it's a direct substitution: the father leaves and the son enters.

An armchair gerontocracy.

In September 2012, luna_rossa commented on the site

Nel Parlamento ad esempio l'età media dei deputati è 54 anni e quella dei senatori e 57, e anche nelle università, dove si suppone dovrebbero avere più spazio i giovani, l'età media dei professori viaggia intorno ai 63 anni.

The average age of deputies in the Parliament, for example, is 54 and that of senators is 57, and, even in universities, where you would imagine there would be more space for young people, the average age of professors is around 63.

An analysis by the IDV Senator, Stefano Pedica, only serves to reinforce this:

Ci sono persone – fa notare Pedica – che siedono in Parlamento da decenni. Un lungo elenco di persone che vantano da un minimo di 16 anni a un massimo di quasi 40 anni di presenze alla Camera e al Senato.

There are those, as Pedica points out, who have been sitting in Parliament for decades. A long list of individuals who boast from a minimum of 16 years up to a maximum of almost forty years’ presence in the Parliament and Senate.

Logo del Movimento 5 Stelle

Logo del Movimento 5 Stelle

It is, however, true that Grillo's troops have brought a massive infusion of youthful blood to the Parliament, as is stressed on their Facebook page:

 Lo Tsunami che ha travolto la politica italiana ha spazzato via uno tra i Parlamenti più vecchi d'Europa (55 anni di media) restituendo i parlimentari più giovani di tutto il mondo occidentale e dell'intera storia della Repubblica. L'età media, tra Camera e Senato, è di 48 anni, più bassa rispetto non solo a quella dei paesi dell'UE, ma anche a quella degli Stati Uniti, tutti con un'età media di oltre 50 anni. …Quello del MoVimento 5 Stelle è anche il gruppo con la maggiore percentuale di laureati: l'88%, in coda alla classifica il pd con il 67% e la lega con il 40%.

The tsunami which has swept over Italian politics has swept away one of the oldest Parliaments in Europe (average age 55) and resulted in the youngest parliament in the Western world, and in all of Italian history. The combined average age of Parliament and Senate is 48, not only lower than that of [other] European Union countries, but also lower than that of the US, all of whom have an average age is over 50… The deputies from the MoVimento 5 Stelle are also the group with the highest percentage of graduates, 88% compared to the PDs with 67% and Lega (Nord) with 40%.

The political ethics of M5S and the institutional stalemate

The elected representatives of M5S must, however, conform to the Code of Conduct they each signed up to with Grillo, which sets out, among other things:

La costituzione di due “gruppi di comunicazione”, uno per la Camera e uno per il Senato, sarà definita da Beppe Grillo in termini di organizzazione, strumenti e di scelta dei membri, al duplice fine di garantire una gestione professionale e coordinata di detta attività di comunicazione, nonchè di evitare una dispersione delle risorse per ciò disponibili. Ogni gruppo avrà un coordinatore con il compito di relazionarsi con il sito nazionale del M5S e con il blog di Beppe Grillo.

The constitution of two “communication groups”, one for Parliament and one for the Senate, to be defined by Beppe Grillo in terms of organisation, tools and choice of members, in order to guarantee professional and coordinated management of the said communication activity, and to avoid thining out the resources available for this end. Each group will have a coordinator whose job will be to keep M5S's national site and Beppe Grillo's blog up to date.

M5S deputies must also obey external orders: Beppe Grillo was not formally present on any ballot paper and, therefore, finds himself outside of the institutional structures. Even worse, he refuses to respond to the questions that so many Italians (and foreign observers) are asking, refuses any collaboration with the other political powers and insists on the fact that thoughts of the elections “should not leave anyone indifferent”. In fact, the candidate declared in ’an interview with Lucio Cristino on YouTube that:

Puntiamo al 100 per cento – dice – poi sciogliamo il movimento. E si autoaccusa: “terrorista, populista” per dire che noi “non siamo come loro, noi non facciamo politica”…

We're aiming at 100% – he says – then we will dissolve the movement. And he accuses himself of being: a “terrorist, populist” for saying that “we are not like them, we don't do politics”…

This explains why Grillo wants to abolish Article 167 of the Constitution which declares that every member of the Parliament represents the Nation and exercises the two functions without being bound by any mandate. Justifiably, many people are asking what role Gianroberto Casaleggio, the “guru” who seems to be behind the entire MoVimento, has played. In a video investigation on Youtube, Antonio Amorosi notes that:

Potere, soldi e tecniche di manipolazione aziendale dentro il MoVimento 5 Stelle

. E’ Casaleggio che comanda, sostengono tutti gli attivisti espulsi. Ma del passato del “guru” di Grillo si sa ben poco.

Power, money and business manipulation techniques in the MoVimento 5 Stelle. Casaleggio is the one in charge, say all the expelled activists. But very little is known about the past of Grillo's “guru”…

Given the current political and institutional stalemate, in addition to the “”usual” social and economic chaos, we finally have to ask ourselves: just when will Italians (and outside observers) get clear answers to the many questions that the successes of Grillo & Co. raise?

March 13 2013

Italy: Naples Burns as Fire Destroys Interactive Museum ‘Città della Scienza’

[All links point to resources in Italian, unless otherwise noted]

On the evening of 4 March 2013 a large fire destroyed the “Città della Scienza” [en], a pioneering science museum in Bagnoli, Naples.

The  public centre was built between 1989 and 1992 in the former industrial area of Bagnoli, in the ex-headquarters of ILVA-Italsider, closed down due to the crisis in the steelworks sector and the pollution it was creating. This state-of-the-art centre was based on the Cité des sciences et de l'industrie in Paris, a project by Vittorio Silvestrini, president of the IDIS-Città della Scienza Foundation. In the last 10 years the structure had approximately 350 thousand visitors per year. Its attractions included an interactive museum, a planetarium, a conference space, a training centre and an art exhibition area.

The shocking news particularly surprised the locals who immediately started discussing it various social networks (in particular Twitter). Some of them did not hide the fact that they believed it to be an act of arson by the Camorra [en]:

@sechi1964: sono stato a Cittá della Scienza pochi mesi fa. Un luogo che, da solo, sapeva rappresentare il riscatto di Napoli. Quel rogo brucia tutti noi.

@sechi1964: I visited the Città della Scienza just a few months ago. It was a place that, on its own, was able to represent Naples’ redemption. That fire burns us all.

@itsmeperp: La camorra brucia la città della scienza e poi aspetta il fiume di soldi della ricostruzione. E noi.. paghiamo.

@itsmeperp:The Camorra burns the Città della Scienza and then waits on the floods of money for the reconstruction. And we…pay.

@MiguelCavalle: Brucia la Città della Scienza a #Napoli e la #RegioneCampania corre a ricostruire… E perché non arrivare ai problemi prima che brucino…?

@MiguelCavalle: The Città della Scienza in #Naples is burning and the #CampaniaRegion rushes to rebuild… Why not solve problems before they burn…?

Marcello Signore writes on his blog:

Da ragazzino andavo sempre alla “Città della Scienza”: ci ho visto i dinosauri, le mostre interattive, ci ho ascoltato conferenze. Ci ho ricevuto anche un premio, il mio primo premio, il “premio poesia”, non lo dimenticherò mai. la “Città della Scienza” era a 500 metri da casa mia, ma a me sembrava un posto molto più lontano. Rappresentava il cambiamento, il miglioramento, l'evoluzione.

When I was a child we used to go to the “Città della Scienza”: I saw dinosaurs, interactive displays, listened to conferences. I even won a prize, my first prize, the “poetry prize”. I’ll never forget it. The “Città della Scienza” was 500 metres from my house, but it seemed much further to me. It represented change, improvement, evolution.

On Naples’ newspaper website,, many locals reflect on the event:

Natalia 13ful: siete il cancro della nostra terra. solo a pensare alle 170 persone rimaste disoccupate, e alle loro famiglie, per i vostri sporchi interessi.

Natalia 13ful: You are the cancer of our land. Just think of the 170 people that have been left without jobs, and their families, for your dishonest profits.

Pietro Treccagnoli: Si capiranno, forse, le origini e gli obiettivi del dolo. Ma qualcosa resterà sempre inspiegabile, soprattutto ai napoletani: come si può vivere in una città dove la scienza non produce coscienza.

Pietro Treccagnoli: We might understand, perhaps, the origins and the reasons for the arson. But something will always remain unexplainable, especially for the Neapolitans: how can we live in a city where science doesn’t produce conscience.

Francesco Grillo: Purtroppo dall'incendio viene fuori il messaggio che Napoli non si può ancora consentire il lusso di essere normale: dovranno essere spesi tanti soldi – tre miliardi di euro circa – in ricerca nei prossimi sette anni a Napoli per volontà della Commissione Europea: ma con il disastro di ieri sera si assottigliano le speranze di prendere anche quest'ultimo treno.

Francesco Grillo: Unfortunately out of the ashes comes the message that Naples cannot yet allow itself the luxury of being normal: lots of money will need to be spent – about three billion euros – on research in the next seven years in Naples with the European Commission’s support: but after yesterday’s disaster there is little hope even of getting this last train.

The well-known writer Roberto Saviano, author of the book on which the film Gomorra was based, comments:

@robertosaviano: Dolo o incidente? Da sempre i clan vorrebbero edificare a Bagnoli: le fiamme a Città della scienza sono il fallimento di una Napoli diversa.

@robertosaviano: Arson or accident? The mafia clans have always wanted to build in Bagnoli: the flames at the Città della Scienza are the failure of a different Naples.

The Fiasco Job Blog reports:

Napoli oggi è di cenere – ha scritto Roberto Saviano – 160 dipendenti non sanno più’ nemmeno se e quando ricominceranno a lavorare…uno scheletro sul mare. Completamente distrutto lo science center, il planetario, sei capannoni per dodicimila metri quadri e danni per oltre venti milioni di euro. Resta il teatro, da lì bisognerà ripartire.

Today Naples is in ashes – wrote Roberto Saviano – 160 workers do not know if or when thy can return to their jobs… a skeleton by the sea. The science centre, the planetarium and six warehouses of twelve thousand square metres have been completely destroyed and the damages are for over twenty thousand euros. All that remains is the theatre, from there the reconstruction must begin.

veduta aerea della Città della Scienza dopo l'incendio

Città della Scienza, aerial view after the fire. Photo taken by

The flames were brought under control after 13 hours and investigations suggest that the arsonists were experts, setting alight the building just after closing time so as to not have any witnesses. It is suspected that the fire had 12 different points of origin which suggests that the people responsible wanted to destroy the entire structure — as confirmed by the initial investigation outcome. One day perhaps the courts and the investigations will reveal the true causes (political, economic or the Camorra) of this destruction.

As far as reconstruction is concerned, the Minister for Territorial Cohesion, Fabrizio Barca, quickly announced that 5 million euros had already been made available and that the total would reach 20 million including funds for the redevelopment of industrial areas. Another ambitious promise was made by Franceso Profumo, Minister for Education, Universities and Reseach: the Città della Scienza would be rebuilt in about 18 months. An important clarification was made by the Governor of the Campania region, Stefano Caldoro, confirming the construction site: “No one wants to move the science centre away from Bagnoli to another part of the city. I can assure you of this”.

In the meantime local authorities and well-known faces alongside simple citizens have started various initiatives to contribute to the reconstruction. On Facebook, the Ricostruiamo Città della Scienza group has been created, while the first (crowdfunding) fundraising campaign on the DeRev website has already raised more than 51,000 euros on March 12. The MADRE (Donna Regina Modern Art Museum) in Naples has announced that it wants to donate 10% of next months intake to the cause. Carlo Rubbia, winner of a Nobel prize for physics, suggests creating an ad hoc committee for the reconstruction.

International media have also covered somewhat the event — such as the French website CetteSemaine [fr]:

“Un des cent pôles d’excellence italiens”, “un des meilleurs incubateurs de nouvelles entreprises”, ex-”meilleur musée des sciences en Europe”, à la fois “centre de congrès, centre de formation et pépinière d’entreprises”, etc. voilà ce qu’était la Cité des Sciences de Naples. En respirant un peu plus la cendre, la suie et la lance à incendie, elle pue désormais un peu moins l’ode à la recherche technologique qui sème partout la mort…

“One of the hundred poles of excellence in Italy”, “one of the best incubators for new businesses”, the ex-“best science museum in Europe”, “a conference centre, training centre and an entrepreneurial hothouse” all at the same time”, etc. This is what the Città della Scienza was. Now there is only ash, soot and fire hoses. It now smells a little less of eau de technological research, spreading death everywhere…

While the English website Ecsite, the European Network of Science Centres and Museums, offers details about the donation drive:

Yesterday evening a large fire has totally destroyed our Science Centre in Naples. Our dreams, 20 years of work, everything we put in this project caught fire in few hours during the night. We need the support of everybody, wherever you are, to believe in a new start.” Any contribution to the reconstruction of Città della Scienza can be done through the Bank Account: IBAN IT41X0101003497100000003256 BIC IBSPTINA. Ecsite, the European network of science centres and museums, extends a resolve to support Città della Scienza in this difficult time. The centre is a founding member of Ecsite and has been an active and instrumental member in the organization, hosting an Ecsite Conference and taking its Presidency from 2007 to 2009.

Finally, local students have made their voices heard through various public demonstrations, including a protest march downtown Naples on 8 March. This was followed by another protest the next day and a well-attended flashmob, held on the morning of 10 March in front of the fire site — at which the following photo was taken:

Città della Sceinza, napoli, foto di Ornella Sarrocco--

Città della Scienza, Naples, 10/03/2013. Photo by Ornella Sarrocco, from Facebook.

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