Tagged: Italy

Compare Brazil’s dietary guidelines to the USDA’s

As anyone who has read Marion Nestle’s Food Politics or Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food knows, the US Department of Agriculture’s attempts to issue dietary advice have always been haunted by industry influence and a reductionist vision of nutrition science. The department finally ditched its silly pyramids a few years ago, but its guidelines remain vague and arbitrary (for example, how does dairy merit inclusion as one of five food groups?).

In Brazil, a hotbed of sound progressive nutritional thinking, the Ministry of Health has proven that governmental dietary advice need not be delivered in timid, industry-palatable bureaucratese. Check out its plain-spoken, unimpeachable, and down-right industry-hostile new guidelines (hat tip Marion Nestle):

1. Make natural or minimally processed foods the basis of your diet

2. Use oils, fats, salt, and sugar in small amounts when seasoning and cooking natural or minimally processed foods and to create culinary preparations

3. Limit consumption of processed foods

4. Avoid consumption of ultra-processed products

5. Eat regularly and carefully in appropriate environments and, whenever possible, in company

6. Shop in places that offer a variety of natural or minimally processed foods

7. Develop, exercise and share culinary skills

8. Plan your time to make food and eating important in your life

9. Out of home, prefer places that serve freshly made meals

10. Be wary of food advertising and marketing

I’ve survived several generations of the USDA Food Pyramid-scheme mostly by ignoring it. Fortunately, half my cultural heritage is Italian and what folks call the Mediterranean Diet, nowadays is what I was brought up with. Only we called it cooking like Grandma.

Whether it’s Mario Batali or Lidia Bastianich, examples of the real deal are available from these and many other exponents of Mediterranean food. Try it. And as ever – in moderation.

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Monday morning reminiscence of Italy over breakfast


Click to enlarge source

A gentle rain, this morning. One of the delights of monsoon season, sometimes, in high desert country. Sunrise shining through the rain. Felt and smelled like nothing but my Italian grandparents’ farm in New York state – or Tuscany, which never got so cold in the winter.

My notes about a morning in Bivigliano are over at my friend Om Malik’s personal blog. The link is behind the photo above, taken in his vacation, the R&R he’s still immersed in – in Tuscany.

And Monday breakfast often depends on leftovers. I ate just a tad extra of my wife’s pork stew, yesterday; so no meat in the most important meal of the day – yet. Only my second cup of coffee with a touch of cinnamon in the brew, dark roast and strong as usual.

I’d baked a couple of long slender loaves of Italian bread, last week, instead of the usual boule. A quarter whole wheat, three-quarters unbleached white flour per usual. I turned one into broccoli bread the way the maestro did it at the Grand Bakery in my old Fairhaven neighborhood. I stuffed the loaf with steamed broccoli, minced garlic lightly sauteed in e.v. olive oil, dried red chile fragments.

The two heels of that loaf remained from the weekend. So, I split them, leaving a little broccoli in each piece. Toasted them till the sharp edges of the bread were just turning brown. Rubbed the stiff crust with a clove of garlic and brushed each surface with more of my favorite Sicilian extra virgin olive oil, and just a few grains of Malden sea salt.

Sat down with my coffee and Paul Desmond on Pandora streaming. “So long, Frank Lloyd Wright”.

The rain should stop, soon. Sheila’s a true New Mexico dog and won’t come outside for a walk with me until it does.

Prostitution and drugs to be included in Italy’s GDP data

Italy’s gross domestic product is poised to rise with the addition of estimates for its narcotics, prostitution and contraband trades in its calculations.

Estimates of black market revenue will be included to comply with new European Union rules, Italy’s statistics agency Istat announced Thursday. Hidden economic activity, including prostitution, the drug trade, contraband tobacco products and illegally manufactured alcohol will be included, an Istat report said.

The information will be blended into gross domestic product (GDP) data beginning in 2015.

The new list of illegal revenue producers will be included so the European Union gets a better picture of member states’ true economies. An accurate depiction of a country’s economic status is useful in ascertaining if certain target ratios, such as debt-to-GDP, are being met.

Har. Imagine some of the other places we could use this kind of interpolation?

Congress? Non-profit charities with CEOs receiving 7-figure salaries? Twelve-step religion-du-jour?

First bacteria to make the transition from humans to plants — and it’s named for Frank Zappa

zappa christianity

What would you do if you discovered an odd strain of bacteria that exhibited unconventional behavior? Why, name it after Frank Zappa of course!…This is exactly what a team of Italian and Austrian researchers did when they found a bacterium that had apparently transitioned from causing acne in human skin to infecting the bark of grape vines.

“This is the first time it’s been found that a microorganism can switch from a human to a plant,” study author and self-professed Zappa fan Andrea Campisano, a microbiologist at the Edmund Mach Foundation in Italy, told the Los Angeles Times.

In addition to being a tribute to the late musician, the naming of P. acnes zappae is also a hat-tip to the Italian word for “hoe,” which is “zappa.”

Campisano is such a big fan of the experimental musician – he said he even has a quote from him prominently displayed on his lab computer screen: “If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television … then you deserve it.”

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Nun names her surprise child after the pope!

A 31 year-old nun at the Little Disciples of Jesus convent in Rieti, Italy discovered she was pregnant and about to give birth when stomach pains sent her to the hospital on Wednesday.

Hours after arriving at the S. Camillo De Lellis hospital, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Media reported that the nun, originally from El Salvador, has named her son Francesco, the same name as Pope Francis.

Her community was “surprised” by the birth. A local pastor, Don Fabrizio Borrello, spoke to the media about the pregnancy, telling reporters “I guess she’s telling the truth when she says she arrived at the hospital unaware of the pregnancy.”

The nun plans to keep the baby. The hospital is accepting clothing and donations for the new mother and child.

Any claims of virgin birth?

Priest says woman hypnotized him and stole church donations


He said she hypnotized him?!

A woman stole a Padua, Italy, church’s Christmas offerings after hypnotizing a 71-year-old priest, police said.

The woman, described as a Roma, or gypsy, about 35, made off with 1,800 euros collected by Padua’s Santa Giustina abbey during the Christmas period…adding she entered the cloister area of the church where the presence of women is forbidden.

The priest learned of the theft and alerted police after he came out of the hypnosis-induced trance

Uh-huh.

Anyone else think there may be a chance the “trance” was induced by something other than hypnosis?

Italian Senate strips Berlusconi of his seat

berlusconi crocodile tears

The Italian Senate voted Wednesday to strip ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of his seat because of a tax fraud conviction he insists will be reversed.

Berlusconi maintains the tax fraud conviction, which Italy’s supreme court upheld during the summer, is politically motivated by blah, blah, blah!

Berlusconi was convicted Aug. 1 with several other defendants of using offshore companies in tax-haven countries to buy movie rights for his TV networks and grossly inflating the payment amounts to avoid $502 million in taxes…

Prime Minister Letta’s Democratic Party and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement backed the decision to eject Berlusconi…

His center-right Forza Italia party withdrew its support for Letta’s left-right coalition government and joined the opposition Tuesday…

He was sentenced to four years imprisonment, but three years were automatically pardoned, along with a public office ban for two years. Because he is older than 70, he was exempted from imprisonment and instead must do community service.

If he actually ever performs any community service, I hope his first attempt at real labor in a life of fraud and crime is dedicated to the senior citizens of Italy. They are dishonored by counting him among their peers.

Berlusconi barred from office for two years over fraud conviction


You actually had the balls to say – Mission Accomplished!

A court in Milan has banned Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s former prime minister, from holding public office for two years, following his conviction for tax fraud…However, the ban must be approved by parliament before taking effect.

Earlier this month, a cross-party panel of the Italian Senate recommended his expulsion from the chamber.

If he is expelled from parliament, Berlusconi will lose his immunity from prosecution in a string of criminal cases.

Berlusconi had threatened to topple the coalition government over the issue but backed down during a confidence vote…

He will also spend a year under house arrest, or doing community service – his preferred option, according to a request he formally submitted last week.

The votes on his expulsion and ban on holding office are expected to take place within the next few weeks.

He was sentenced to four years in prison, automatically reduced to one under a 2006 pardon act. He was also banned from holding public office for five years.

That sentence was upheld in August.

As erratic as the course of justice may be in Italian politics, by comparison, this case is one more example of the ineffectual and cowardly attitude towards politicians in the United States. Liars and frauds like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney committed inexcusable crimes against humanity – and left taxpayers with a bill for trillions of dollars.

The financial cost is conveniently forgotten by Republicans. The ethical failure is ignored by both of the TweedleDeeDum parties we are allowed. Add to this Obama’s legalization of government snooping into the lives of ordinary citizens and you need no explanation as to why America’s international reputation for corruption continues to grow.

Priest from Vatican Bank busted in plot to smuggle €40 million into Italy from Swiss bank accounts

A senior Catholic cleric with connections to the Vatican bank was arrested on Friday for plotting to help rich friends smuggle tens of millions of euros in cash into Italy from Switzerland, in the latest blow to the Vatican’s image.

Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, 61, who worked as a senior accountant in the Vatican’s financial administration, was arrested along with an Italian secret service agent and a financial intermediary in a tale that reads like a spy novel.

It involves police wiretaps, a private plane rented to collect the cash from Locarno, burned cell phones and an allegedly corrupt secret services agent who promised to get the money past customs.

Details of the case against Scarano will come as an acute embarrassment to Pope Francis, who, since his election in March, has pointedly eschewed many of the trappings of office and sought to stress the importance of a simple life of devotion…

Scarano, who was arrested in a Rome parish and taken to Rome’s Queen of Heaven jail, had hatched a plot to bring up to €40 million into Italy for a family of shipbuilders in his hometown of Salerno in southern Italy, magistrate Nello Rossi told reporters.

Rossi is already investigating the Vatican bank for money laundering, and the latest arrests stemmed from that…

According to Rossi, in July last year Scarano engaged Giovanni Zito, a paramilitary Carabiniere policeman on loan to the secret services, to help him get the money, which was in a Swiss bank, into Italy without tax and customs controls.

The third person arrested was Giovanni Carenzio, a financial broker with offices in Switzerland and the Canary Islands and who was acting as the fiduciary for the owners of the money…

It was not clear how or when the money got to Switzerland in the first place.

Rossi said his office would seek permission from the Vatican, which is a sovereign state, to question officials. “This is just a piece in a much larger mosaic,” he said.

Scarano, who Rossi said had worked for a German bank before he became a priest, was for years a senior accountant for a Vatican department known as APSA, whose official title is the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See…

Seriously, does any of this surprise anyone? Aren’t we beyond the era of naïveté about the Roman Catholic church and corrupt wealth?

RTFA for lots of details. A farce worthy of being made into a comic Italian movie.

Best news, this morning: Berlusconi guilty In underage sex trial

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has been found guilty of paying for sex with an underage prostitute.

The 76-year-old was sentenced to seven years in prison and banned from holding public office by a judge in Milan.

He had denied having sex with Karima El Mahroug, also known as Ruby the Heart Stealer, after what prosecutors claimed were erotic parties at his Milan mansion in 2010.

Berlusconi was also accused of calling a police station to pressure for Miss El Mahroug’s release from custody when she was arrested for theft.

The state prosecutor asked for a six-year sentence because of the severity of corruption in Italian political life that Berlusconi represented. The judge gave him seven years!

Overdue.