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From the New York Times. "The story of La Befana has been told in Italy since around the time Leonardo da Vinci painted the “Mona Lisa.” Origins of the legend, some say, are far older and rooted in a pagan goddess. (...) La Befana is a character in Italian folklore, sometimes referred to as the Italian Christmas witch. A soot-covered old woman, she is said to fly on a broom to the homes of sleeping children, entering through the chimney and bearing gifts." (Read the article by James Angelos)

Related articles from i-Italy:

'La Befana' Arrives on Her Broomstick
Thousands of Italian children hunted out stockings on Saturday ahead of Epiphany celebrations that half of Italians still see as an important part of their heritage

Watch Out: the Befana is Coming to Town!
More than 2000 years ago the Three Wise Men visited Jesus after his birth and gave him three symbolic gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. From that time on, the Befana comes every year, on January 6, to fill Italian kids’ stockings with all sorts of goodies!

From The New York Times. In an editorial that appeared on January 10, entitled "Not a Company Man," the daily notes that "Mr. Panetta may not be an intelligence professional, but he is honest and sensible and not easily cowed. Those sound like good credentials for a very hard job."

"We’ve seen what some top company men have been willing to go along with during the Bush-Cheney years: secret prisons beyond the reach of American law and all conscience; torture, abuse and degradation of prisoners; renditions for torture on an outsource basis; made-for-the-Sunday-news-shows intelligence reports. Mr. Obama has pledged to end all of that. (...) For any intelligence professional committed to his craft, and the nation’s security, that should be a relief" (Read the New York Times editorial).

Ps: The editorial made no mention of Panetta's Italian roots from the region of Calabria. It also failed to mention that "Calabria is home to the 'Ndrangheta, a Mafia network said to be even more powerful and wealthy than Cosa Nostra in Sicily". A few days ago these inopportune remarks were made, just out of the blue, by the British daily Time, eliciting critical comments from exponents of the Italian American community (See Laura Ruberto's op-ed in i-Italy).

From IFC.com.  "One of the most prominent Italian-American actors working today, Palminteri currently stars as the titular Vegas shark in 'Yonkers Joe,' an entertaining drama about a con man whose seedy world of palming dice, cheating casinos, and conning any poor sucker is uprooted when he's forced to look after his adult son with Down's syndrome." In this interview to the Independent Film Channel, Palminteri talks about his last movie, his father, and his Italian-American heritage.

 An excerpt from the interview:

You've taken a lot of roles that reflect your Italian-American background. Are you offered a ton of projects that play into cultural stereotypes, like gangster movies?

Yeah, and I usually don't do them. [laughs] That's why I do movies like "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints," "Yonkers Joe," or "Once More with Feeling," that I have at Sundance. I don't want to play a goombah character if he's just one note. I'm very proud of being Italian-American, but people don't realize that the mafia is just this aberration. The real community is built on the working man, the guy who's the cop, the fireman, the truck driver, the bus driver. This is my father. These mafia guys get all the press because they're fun to write about, they're fun to watch. That's why I wrote "A Bronx Tale." The working guy's the tough guy: "It doesn't take much strength to pull the trigger, son." He says that in the movie, that's why it was important for me.

 (Read the interview by Aaron Hillis)

From The New York Times. The College Board will drop its Advanced Placement Italian exam at the end of this academic year, just four years after it began offering it. The A.P. Italian is not attracting enough students; last May, 1,930 took the Italian test. There are no plans to eliminate any other A.P. programs, even though the Japanese exam also has few takers — 1,538. But A.P. Japanese, like several other exams, was devised to be much less costly as it is given via computer, unlike the paper-and-pencil Italian exam. (Read the article by Tamar Lewin)

From the New York Times. "Like many of the Italians who frequently visit the Amico senior center in Borough Park, Brooklyn, Salvatore Amato, 78, who arrived here from Sicily in 1958, speaks little English. Some, like Luigi Buonincondro, 91, a former Italian soldier who came to New York from Naples in 1961, understand English, but have a hard time reading or writing it."  (Read the article by Fernanda Santos...)

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