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The Times. The drive to make Italians eat Italian  began in the town of Lucca this week, where the centre Right council banned any new ethnic food outlets from opening within the ancient city walls. Yesterday it spread to Lombardy and its regional capital, Milan, which is also run by the centre Right. The antiimmigrant Northern League party brought in the restrictions “to protect local specialities from the growing popularity of ethnic cuisines”.

Luca Zaia, the Minister of Agriculture and a member of the Northern League from the Veneto region, said: "We stand for tradition and the safeguarding of our culture. (...) I never ate Kebab.  I prefer the dishes of my native Veneto. I even refuse to eat pineapple." Massimo di Grazia, the city of Lucca spokeman, echoed him: "The ban intends to improve the image of the city and to protect Tuscan products. It targets McDonald’s as much as kebab restaurants". La Stampa, an Italian daily newspaper, defined the measure "a new Lombard Crusade against Saracens". Now imagine if the American government decided to "protect" US products and cuisine. Imagine NYC without "ethnic" Italian restaurants. (Read the article by Richard Owen)

Securitymanagement.com. The global recession may have hit Europe hard, but there's still one business that's thriving in these lean economic times: Italy's organized crime syndicates.

The Italian mafia's revenue for 2008 jumped 40 percent, reports Bloomberg.com. Sales increased to 130 billion euros ($167 billion), up from 90 billion euros in 2007, according to figures supplied by Eurispes and SOS Impresa, an association of businessmen to protest against extortion. (Read the article by Matthew Harwood)

Reuters. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (a film by David Fincher film featuring Brad Pitt iand nominated for 13 Oscars) got a little stranger Friday after an attorney representing Adriana Pichini, an Italian office worker, filed legal papers alleging that the screenplay was based on a story she wrote in 1994. Pichini said the film seems to be based on a story she wrote 15 years ago called "Il ritorno di Arthur all'innocenza" (Arthur's Return to Innocence). ... The story was officially registered with the proper Italian copyright authorities in 1994 and even sent to publishers in the U.S., but was never published.

(Read the Article by Eric J. Lyman)

ANSA. Venice. A new 'restaurant for pilgrims' is driving Venice prices down by offering cheap, quality lunches to visitors to St Mark's Basilica. The eatery, which advertises three-course lunches for a tidy 13 euros ($17), has yet to open but has already caused a flutter around the famously pricey square. (Read the article)

ANSA. Sanremo. Reclusive Italian singing legend Mina is to open this year's Sanremo Song Festival with a video tribute to Italian music. ''It won't be a commercial release but a huge tribute to the history of Italian music,'' festival artistic producer and presenter Paolo Bonolis said Monday at a press conference on the February 17-21 event. (Read article)

In "The Journey of the Italians in America," a thick, coffee-table book, Vincenza Scarpaci documents vibrant immigrant communities that flourished in the early 20th century. (Read the Article by Katie Schneider)

ANSA.The Vatican has shelved plans to put up a statue to Galileo Galilei, the Italian astronomer famously forced to recant his discovery that the earth moves around the sun. (Read the article )

Joseph Nicolas Robert-Fleury "Galileo Galilei in front of the Inquisition in the Vatican 1632"

THE SPECTATOR. The number of American visitors to Italy has fallen about 20 percent in the past year, according to tourism agencies. That is a painful slide for a country that saw American tourism shrivel after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and never fully rebound.
(Read the article )

ANSA. A charity founded by the U2 vocalist Bono is set to inject a dose of Hollywood glamour into the Sanremo Festival (Read the article )

From Boston.com. The state's first Italian-American speaker, who will be replaced by fellow-ethnic Robert A. DeLeo, has a long record of legislative achievements. According to The Boston Globe DeMasi "was instrumental in crafting Massachusetts's healthcare reform legislation, which advocates have hailed as a national model. He also helped kill a 2007 referendum to defeat gay marriage and orchestrated the failure of Governor Deval Patrick’s plan to license three resort casinos." However, the paper continues, DiMasi's long political career

"may ultimately be marred by the ethical questions that triggered multiple investigations and may have prompted his resignation. His friend and former accountant, Richard Vitale, was accused last month by Attorney General Martha Coakley of using his influence with DiMasi to push for a bill that would benefit his client, the Massachusetts Association of Ticket Brokers."

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