Monday 29 April 2013

Waiting To Be Heard

While imprisoned in Italy for four years over the murder of her roommate, Amanda Knox fended off sexual harassment from guards and an overture from a cellmate. On the night of the killing, she was smoking marijuana and watching a movie with her Italian boyfriend. And those infamous cartwheels that Ms. Knox reportedly performed in the police station never happened.  
Amanda Knox, an American, was convicted and then acquitted of murder in Italy.
Those assertions are among the many in “Waiting to Be Heard,” the long-awaited memoir that is Ms. Knox’s most extensive public testimony since she was convicted, and then acquitted, of killing her 21-year-old British roommate, Meredith Kercher.
An appeals court acquitted Ms. Knox and Mr. Sollecito two years after their original conviction and they were released. But in March, Italy’s highest court overturned that decision ordering a new trial sometime in the next year.
Ms. Knox’s book is scheduled for release on April 30. Harper Collins are convinced that the intense publicity the case received, with its lurid details and the courtroom spectacle of two Italian trials, would make the book a big seller and reportedly paid a $4 million dollar advance.
While saying she was the victim of bias and mistreatment by Italian authorities, Ms. Knox also writes that her own mistakes contributed to her conviction. She admits to being naïve, sometimes inappropriate and odd, too proud to admit when her halting knowledge of Italian failed her. During the investigation, she followed the directions of the Italian police “like a lost, pathetic child,” she recalled.  In 463 pages, Ms. Knox recounts her darkest moments in prison — at one point, she writes, she imagined committing suicide. 

Ms. Knox exhaustively lays out her defense, describing her whereabouts on the night that her roommate was killed. She says that she and Mr. Sollecito were smoking marijuana, reading a Harry Potter book aloud in German and watching the film “Amélie” at his apartment. She pointed to the Italian prosecutors who she said willfully ignored and manipulated evidence while they clung to the theory that she and Mr. Sollecito were responsible for Ms. Kercher’s death.  
According to Ms. Knox’s account, the police interrogated her for hours and sporadically slapped her on the back of her head. Eventually they goaded her into signing a statement that implicated her and an innocent man, Patrick Lumumba, her boss at a bar where she worked. At the police station, while Ms. Kercher’s British friends huddled together in grief, Ms. Knox wrote that she paced the hallways, dry-eyed, slamming the heel of her palm against her forehead in anger. “First I showed not enough emotion; then I showed too much,” she wrote.
Since her return from Italy, Ms. Knox has been living in Seattle. Executives from major publishing houses who met with Ms. Knox last year said they were dazzled by her charm, intelligence and forthright demeanor. HarperCollins, a News Corporation subsidiary, eventually secured the rights in a deal brokered by the Washington lawyer Robert B. Barnett. Whether Ms. Knox can win over the book-buying public is another matter.
Will she come across as an innocent abroad, a naïve college student ensnared by a medieval Italian legal system? Or, as she has been portrayed in the Italian and British press, a cunning seductress who engineered the brutal killing of her roommate?

Friday 26 April 2013

Youngest Italian PM in 25 years

Enrico Letta, a 46-year-old career politician, whose uncle was Silvio Berlusconi's longtime chief of staff is due to become youngest Italian prime minister in a generation.  Mr Letta, the former second-in-command in the centre-left Democratic Party, was summoned by President Giorgio Napolitano and given the tough task of giving Italy stable government two months after inconclusive elections produced a political stalemate. Mr Letta said after he was handed the task that he faced an enormous responsibility, adding that Italy’s politicians had lost all credibility.
But he said Italy “needed answers”, as it slides deeper into its worst recession since the Second World War. If he became premier, Letta said he would strongly commit to a change of course for European policies too focused on austerity which is no longer enough".
He will now seek to appoint a cabinet representing both the Centre-left and Mr Berlusconi’s Freedom People party before he faces a confidence vote in parliament.
Both Mr Berlusconi and the Democratic Party have previously pledged to respect Mr Napolitano’s pick after they failed to forge a coalition government.
The appointment of Mr Letta breaks with the pattern of ageing leaders running Italy. He would become the youngest prime minister since Giovanni Goria in 1987. In 1998, Mr Letta became the youngest ever minister in a government, aged 32. 

A committed Europhile and former student member of the Italian Christian Democrats, Mr Letta has served in four centre-left governments, and was appointed deputy leader of the Democratic Party in 2009. He effectively became the most senior member of the party after leader Pier Luigi Bersani announced his resignation at the weekend when the party split over choosing a new Italian president.
Mr Letta has been criticised as “anodyne”, but regards himself as “post-ideological”, telling an interviewer in 2007,"My generation did not live through certain illusions and has therefore avoided the period of disillusionment".
A fan of Dire Straits and a keen Subbuteo player, Mr Letta has said he grew up admiring Italian comic hero "Dylan Dog" – a detective who specialises in the paranormal.
Born in Pisa, Mr Letta’s uncle is Gianni Letta, Silvio Berlusconi’s right hand man, who is known for his keen political cunning and has worked as a behind the scenes negotiator for the former prime minister, keeping back channels open with the Vatican when Berlusconi was under fire from the Church for his Bunga Bunga parties.
Enrico Letta has openly opposed Mr Berlusconi’s governments, but his family ties with the Freedom People Party may be seen as an advantage as he bids to forge a coalition government, which he said was not guaranteed after his meeting with Mr Napolitano.
Mr Napolitano picked Mr Letta over rival candidate Giuliano Amato, a former prime minister, effectively pulling Mr Letta from the wreckage of the Democratic Party, which split into rival factions over the election of a replacement for Mr Napolitano, pushing the 87 year old president accepting a second term on Saturday.

Friday 5 April 2013

Fee to visit Italian village

Civita di Bagnoregio perches precariously on an outcrop of rock surrounded by deep ravines in Lazio, the region that encompasses Rome.
Frequent rock falls have earned it the name "the dying town" and most of its inhabitants fled long ago, to be replaced by a small colony of artists, expatriates and boutique owners.
The village, 100 miles north of Rome, now intends to charge a three euro entrance fee on visitors in an attempt to build up a fund to pay for vital engineering work and structural repairs.
It is thought to be the first town or village in Italy to start charging an entrance fee – Venice has considered the idea in the past as a way of controlling the crush of tourists that invade the lagoon city every day, but the idea has proved too controversial to implement.
The tourist tax will be easy to enforce in Civita di Bagnoregio – the only way to access the tiny village is via a long pedestrian bridge that spans a deep ravine.
The decision to introduce the charge was taken in the light of recent geological reports which painted an alarming picture of the precarious state of the village, which is built on crumbly tufa rock, a type of limestone.
"The money will be used for urgent structural maintenance," said Francesco Bigiotti, the mayor of the village along with its sister settlement Bagnoregio, where many of its former residents had to move to.
Cuts to government funding, implemented by the technocrat government of Mario Monti, the prime minister, also drove the decision to start charging for entrance.
"It is clear that we must find new funds that will enable us to act quickly and independently," the mayor told the Ansa news agency.
"We need to intervene and deal with the situation resolutely." He said new fractures had appeared in the foundations of the village which needed to be attended to "before they get any wider".
The ticket scheme is expected to be up and running later this month.
Civita di Bagnoregio was founded by the Etruscans around 2,500 years ago but the tufa plateau on which it sits has been eroding for centuries.
The town went into serious decline from about the 16th century, with many houses simply sliding off the edge of the cliffs into the gorge below.
Earthquakes accelerated the damage. Italians know it as "il paese che muore" – the dying town.
But the history of abandonment has preserved the village virtually as it was in the Middle Ages, making it a popular tourist attraction.
Its year-round population is about 15 but that swells to about 100 during the summer, when cafes, restaurants and boutiques open up for the tourist trade.