Rome is always a spectacular theater for political drama, but watching US President Barack Obama’s presidential motorcade roaring up to the Quirinale Thursday really did make me feel like a reporter extra on the set of a Hollywood thriller: Snipers patrolled the rooftops of the colorful palazzi as we waited, and shadowy figures peered out from behind the curtains of apartments overlooking the square. Dogs sniffed the planters of palms. A helicopter hovered overhead. Less than a minute later dozens of Italian and U.S. police escorts and armored SUVs sped by, and as they passed, one could see that the trunk hatches were up and the backs of the vehicles were packed with men in black sternly cradling their automatic weapons, riding backwards, ready to jump out at a moment’s notice. This is how the U.S. president does lunch.
NEWLY RELEASED EMBASSY CABLES SHED LIGHT ON STATE DEPT HANDLING OF AMANDA KNOX CASE
By Andrea Vogt
FEBRUARY 13 1 p.m. GMT
Newly released state department documents show the U.S. Embassy in Rome declared the Amanda Knox matter “Case Closed” in a cable to Washington just days after the American’s clamorous 2011 acquittal. The memo reveals wishful thinking on the part of some U.S. diplomats, who were only too eager to see the thorny case come to a clean close.
Embassy cables and government documents are not nearly as sexy as the glamorous clickbait of fiancès and fashion, but it is easy to forget this an ongoing international murder case still moving through the courts . . . and leaving a hefty paper trail behind in the U.S. and Italy as it slogs along.
This week, instead of biting into that juicy, tabloid peach and writing about Amanda Knox’s Valentine’s Day engagement plans, I’m instead publishing a new batch of public documents on the case, the fruit of tedious filings of Freedom of Information Act Requests over the course of several years. Read more…
New guidelines have been issued in Italy in an attempt to protect up to 4 million religious artefacts from theft and international trafficking.
Forty per cent of stolen goods trafficked out of Italy are pieces of religious art, according to the country’s special Carabinieri art crime unit.
The new measures, issued jointly by Italy’s cultural ministry, the Italian Bishops’ Conference and the Carabinieri, call for wide-ranging security measures to be implemented in churches, chapels, convents and libraries, including more video surveillance, reduced opening hours, replacing original art works with copies and regular inspections of special sites.
“We have a duty to a precious artistic heritage that is centuries old and absolutely priceless,” said General Mariano Mossa, commander of the Carabinieri unit tasked with tracking down stolen treasures.
The guidelines have been published in the wake of the theft of a Renaissance masterpiece in Modena, in northern Italy, in August. Madonna with St John the Evangelist by Guercino – estimated to be worth £5 million – was spirited away in the middle of the night after alarms failed to go off in the church of San Vincenzo.
Pope Francis’s drive to make the Roman Catholic Church more welcoming to gay people will not be halted by a backlash from conservative bishops, Britain’s most senior Catholic cleric has insisted.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols said that he believed a declaration by a global gathering of bishops to discuss family issues, which was rejected by many traditionalist bishops, did not, in his view, go “far enough”.
Far from considering the text too liberal, he said he was disappointed that it had not used much stronger language about the need to “respect, welcome and value” people in same-sex relationships.
The final wording of the declaration from the extraordinary synod on the family, which spent two weeks meeting in Rome, was significantly watered down in comparison with an earlier draft which spoke of welcoming gay people and valuing gay their “gifts and qualities” in the Church.
Despite the more cautious tone of the revised text, which followed an outcry by conservatives, it failed to secure a two-thirds majority in a vote on Saturday.
A new “third generation biorefinery” starts production in Sardinia this week which will convert vegetable oils from thistle weeds into the base for a variety of future plastic household products.
Officials on Monday inaugurated the first of the Matrìca green chemistry plants, a 50/50 joint venture between Versalis (Eni) and Novamont, a leading EU manufacturer of fully biodegradable bioplastics. The plan was born in 2011, when one of the region’s most polluting petrochemical plants was shut down and the decision was made to transform it into one of the most innovative green chemistry complexes in the world. Production begins this week, using raw materials from vegetable renewable sources, specifically in a plant that will convert vegetable oils (from two types of thistles) into monomers and intermediates, the base products that will eventually be transformed into oils for the tire industry, as well as lubricants and plasticizers for polymers and cosmetic products.
According to Italy’s Environmental Minister Gian Luca Galletti, who cut the ribbon at the new plant alongside Daniele Ferrari, Chairman, and Catia Bastioli, CEO of Novamont and Matrìca, the three plants planned for the site represent a global investment of 180 million Euro, and will produce 70,000 tons of bio products a year, putting Italy “firmly in the forefront in Europe’s biochemistry sector.” Read more…