As you may or may not know, Southern Italy is riddled with corruption, primarily due to the Italian mafia, which runs rampant throughout the different regions. The mafia has its claws dug deep into nearly every economic sector and has been faulted for increased poverty in Southern Italy.
Often times it appears that the mafia is winning in the war on crime, but on January 30, 2016 the Italian police delivered a huge blow to the ‘Ndrangheta criminal organization. The Italian police captured mobsters Giuseppe Ferraro, 47, and Giuseppe Crea, 37, in Calabria region (The Calabria region is the southernmost region of Italy, forming the toe of the infamous Italian boot) Friday, according to Italian news agency Ansa. These two men had been on the run for some time now. Ferraro was found guilty of murder and Mafia association decades ago, and had been a fugitive since 1998 and Crea was convicted of Mafia association and had been on the run for nine years. The Interior Minister Angelino Alfano gave a statement saying, “Today is another great day for everyone and for the country because justice has won,”.
The ‘Ndrangheta criminal organization is linked to drug trafficking in South and Central America, Canada and the United States. The ‘Ndrangheta was formed in the 1860s, and is involved in kidnappings, corruption, drug trafficking, gambling and murders, according to the FBI. Notably, the group has between 100-200 members in the United States, mostly in New York and Florida.
Riddled with crime and poverty, the city of Naples may have just received a god-send in the form of Apple. 600 jobs will be created when Apple opens its iOS App Development Center (ADC) in the city. Its first in Europe, Apple CEO Tim Cook is in Rome today (1/22) to present the plans for the center to the people. Italian Premier Matteo Renzi mentioned, “It’s an important experiment…[that] will help the next generation of Italian entrepreneurs acquire the competencies needed for success.”
The center, in addition to its role as a place to develop App Store ideas, will serve as a training center for Italians interested in becoming developers for Apple’s mobile app ecosystem. Cook’s announcement comes right on the heels of Apple’s pledge to pay some €318 million in taxes owed to Italy’s inland revenue. Apple’s Italian subsidiary was accused of transferring Italian profits during the 2008-2013 tax years to a subsidiary based in the Irish city of Cork, in order to benefit from Ireland’s lower corporate tax rate.
With Southern Italy’s status as a region that is focused on familial ties, and one that is rebounding from decades of under-development (especially in cities like Naples), the tax recovery will do very good things, if funds are utilized correctly. This could create a new “family” business pool in Naples, with families now being committed to application development, as opposed to the more antiquated trades most currently practice. Only time will tell, but it is positive to see Southern Italy on-board with development in the tech sector.
If rats make you squeamish, you may want to brace yourself for some unwelcome company in Rome. Rome has a well-documented rat problem. In 2013, the city spent 400,000 euros battling the rat problem. In 2014, hearings were halted at Rome’s court of appeals due to an infestation. In July 2015, a group of 10-20 rats were sighted at the Trevi Fountain (which was undergoing restoration) each night.
In the past week, the problem appears to have grown. Rats sightings were typically only a night-time occurrence, but suddenly rats are being sighted in broad daylight. The increase in rat sightings is creating local concern over health implications as well as the potential for lost tourism revenue. One restaurant owner was recently forced to close their doors at 8pm after their street became overrun with rats. Instead serving dinner, the restaurant kept the doors closed to keep the rats from taking over the restaurant.
Local authorities are attempting to address the problem, but it is impossible to know exactly how many rats call Rome home. Research has shown that the rat population may have reached 6 million – twice the number of residents in Rome. The rats have flocked to Rome in search of shelter as the temperature has dropped. The rats feast on municipal waste, which commonly can be found in uncovered trash bins on city streets. Additionally, some historical rat removal processes are being abandoned due to environmental concerns (such as rat poison).
Today, technology is beginning to catch up with the rats. Interactive solar powered traps can alert residents to catches in real time with a text message or email. Residents hope the problem will subside with continued advances in technology as well as with increased involvement from local authorities.
A study published in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders in December 2015 shows that less than half of Italians follow the traditional Mediterranean diet tailored around seasonal fresh fruit, olive oil, and seafood. The decline in popularity is stemming primarily from the younger generation, which prefers a “Western” diet consisting of high amounts of red meat.
This shift in eating styles is of concern for the health of Italians. A Mediterranean diet has been linked to a lower incidence of heart disease and strokes. As Italians have shifted to a Western diet, the obesity rate is on the rise and the number of unexplained Italian deaths has increased. (The Local – Italy, 1).
The Italian government is planning on selling the Ilva steel plant in Taranto, Italy between January 10th and February 10th. Currently, this plant is the largest production center for steel and iron in Europe (European Commission, 1). This fact has not stopped government officials from seeking out potential buyers. There are multiple groups in the bidding process coming from Italy and Switzerland. The Italian-based companies are Marcegaglia and the Arvedi Group, while the Swiss-based companies are Duferco and ArcelorMittal (The Local – Italy, 1).
Federica Guidi, the Economic Development Minister of Italy, stated that any sales agreement would require the new owner to: respect environmental regulations, protect the jobs of the plant’s Italian workforce, and continue steel production. Also, the Italian government will loan the new owner three hundred million euros to help out in the transitional phase. This goes to show that the plant has been vital to Italy’s economy. In the past, Ilva has been able to produce up to nine million tons of steel a year. Analysts computed this to be approximately one-third of Italy’s total steel production. (The Local – Italy, 1). Despite all of this optimistic news, some groups feel that the sale may never go through. Market analysts believe that a surplus of steel in the global market may drive away potential buyers. Furthermore, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica believes that the steel plant is not worth investing in. According to their research, the Ilva plant is currently losing sixteen million euros every month and recently had one of its furnaces impounded for violations (The Local – Italy, 1). This truth is just the tip of the iceberg for the problems Ilva has had in the past and present.
The European Union has criticized the plant in the past for outdated permits, poor waste management, and failing to fulfill industrial emissions standards set by EU legislation. As a result, heavy pollution had been found around the Ilva steel plant and in the city of Taranto (European Commission, 1). Also, in October of 2015, a large and public trial took place over pollution that was reported to have caused the untimely deaths of about four hundred people. Politicians, officials, and industrialists were blamed for overlooking the problems at Ilva. Despite this, many Italians in nearby cities do not want the plant to close because it provides jobs for about fourteen thousand local residents (The Local – Italy, 1). Team Mint Condition will keep our readers updated on any news regarding sales agreements being made.
“European Commission: Press Release – Environment: European Commission Urges Italy to Address Severe Pollution Issues at Europe’s Biggest Steel Plant.” European Commission. 16 Oct. 2014.
“Italy Opens Bidding for Polluting Steel Giant Ilva.” The Local (Italy). 05 Jan. 2016.