Top News: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he would call for new elections after a new set of scandals surfaced, including fresh allegations that the 73-year-old leader employed prostitutes. According to the reports, a businessman paid for Berlusconi to have a foursome in order to gain favor for his business.
The news comes at an unfortunate time for Berlusconi, who is suffering from a schism in his coalition sparked by Gianfranco Fini, the deputy prime minister and the leader of the second biggest party in the coalition, when he announced he would form a “party within a party” that could oppose Berlusconi on most issues. Without Fini’s support, Berlusconi and his allies would be short of a majority in both houses of parliament. Berlusconi says he has the support of the majority of Italians, as he extended rebels within his coalition an olive branch in what is seen as a last-ditch chance to save his government.
Amid falling levels of support, the sex scandals and political problems, the Italian parliament passed a law that could allow police to fine bloggers up to €25,000 ($32,500) for publishing what the law called “incorrect facts.” The move is widely seen as an effort to insulate Berlusconi from criticism in online circles.
The Italian weekly news magazine Panorama claims it has a list of the names of openly gay priests and that it intends to publish them. The news story has sent ripples through Italy, where news reports have been filled with tidbits from the reports of an undercover reporter who filmed openly gay clergy in risqué situations.
The Vicariate of Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, said the gay men should have never become priests, while other sources wondered whether the scandals would have an impact on the majority of good priests in the world.
Money: The latest reports are that the Italian economy has started to grow, registering 0.4 percent growth in the latest quarter – a small amount, but still the first time it registered growth in back-to-back quarters in almost three years. But the overall picture is still far from solid: reports are that growth is still hindered by too much bureaucracy, though some think the economy’s weak points could be the silver lining to Europe’s overall economic problems because the country is too cash-strapped to take on more debt, something which has taken place elsewhere on the continent.
Italy’s tourism industry says it is preparing for an influx of new visitors in the wake of the Julia Roberts film “Eat Pray Love,” which has already opened in the U.S. and Canada and will open across Europe in September and October. Critics have been unkind to the film, but most prognosticators still predict it will inspire masses of people to make a similar trip to that of author Elizabeth Gilbert’s sojourn through Italy, India, and Indonesia. Italy is the “eat” in the film’s title.
Elsewhere: A mother said her 12- and 14-year-old sons were “troubled” by the sight of a 26-year-old topless sunbather rubbing sun tan lotion on what the police report said were her “ample” breasts. A spokesman for the police in the city of Anzio, south of Rome, where the incident took place is quoted as saying “We have opened a file on committing an obscene act. From what I heard she was very attractive.”
The angry mother reportedly called the police to demand they force the woman to cover up. She refused, claiming she was doing no harm.
According to commentary from Jenny McCartney in the London-based Telegraph, the issue highlights a clash between two key Italian stereotypes: the doting and protective mamma and the voluptuous and beautiful woman basking in men’s attention. McCartney suggests that Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister dogged by persistent sex scandals, might decide to investigate the issue personally.
The Venice Film Festival will soon get underway with its 67th edition. The festival, which vies with Cannes to be the most visible film festival on the European calendar, will feature a record 79 world premieres this year, including the entire lineup of 23 films (following the addition of a provocative Polish thriller to the program) competing for the festival’s main prize. According to festival officials, the average age of the directors in the main competition lineup is younger than in any previous edition of the festival at just 47.