Syrian refugees bring new life to Italian village


Mohamed al-Okla and his wife Amal fled Syria’s civil war with their five children in order to resettle in Italy…Hoping for a fresh start away from the horrors of war, the family has found a place they can call home.

In stark contrast to the transitory way of life in migration centres, the small village of Camini in southern Italy has helped bring a sense of normality to the Syrian family.

“The children are happy here, and so am I,” Mohamed told Al Jazeera. “Here, it’s calm, tranquil, it’s good. We’re now living in a democratic country and, most importantly, there is peace.”

While the continuous influx of refugees is seen as a concern for most European nations, the Camini community has welcomed their arrival as it has helped bring new life to the village.

Half a century ago, hundreds of locals were driven away by poverty and lack of opportunities.

But with homes being refurbished and children filling up classrooms, the town in the region of Calabria is undergoing a revival…

Rosaria Zulzolo, who leads the cooperative, appreciates the increased business the inflow of refugees and migrants has brought.

“We never thought it would be like a resource for us,” said Zulzolo. “We just wanted to receive people who were running away from war and offer them hospitality.

“And in this hospitality, we saw that shopkeepers were selling more goods, more work was being created.”

Around 105,000 refugees and migrants have reached Italy by boat so far this year, according to data from the International Organization for Migration.

A brief description of life springing into fruition in a couple of ways. Syrian refugees finding a new life in freedom. A village returning to full life as a community with children, new ways, new crafts and trade from the spirit of fresh citizens.

Half my antecedents came from just such a village. From an Italy worn and beaten down by war over a century ago. This was an important part of the story of how America grew. Isolated from European wars. Room to grow.

Yes, it is a curious thing how different people find opportunity in the same places other have left behind.

Italy updates laws to encourage food donations

In Italy, 181 senators voted to pass a bill that seeks to cut 20 percent of the food Italy wastes per year — approximately one million tons. This recovered food will go to the needy, with Italy’s Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina deeming the bill “one of the most beautiful and practical legacies” of the Expo Milano 2015 international exhibition, which…focused on tackling hunger and food waste around the globe.

At present, ministers say that food waste in Italy costs the country approximately $13.4 billion each year — around one percent of the country’s GDP. At least some of this waste stems from complex health and safety regulations which have effectively discouraged businesses and farmers from donating extra food or marginally past-date food to charities or directly to the needy.

And when coupled with the fact that millions of Italians live in poverty, unemployment hovers at approximately 20 percent, and the country’s public debt has increased by 20 percent since 2003, this level of food waste is unacceptable.

…By simplifying the regulatory codes, lifting sanctions to businesses that give away food past its sell-by date, creating tax incentives to donate food, and permitting famers to give away unsold produce without incurring costs, lawmakers hope to change cultural attitudes toward food and its consumption…

Perhaps the most interesting and potentially transformative component of the law is its $1.1 million campaign to promote the use of the “family bag,” or taking home the remainder of one’s meal from a restaurant.

While a relatively common practice in the United States, the notion of taking home extra food from a restaurant — and moreover, the “doggy bag” — is quite rare in Italy. Indeed, some have called the measure the biggest cultural change the bill proposes.

Who knew?

Wasps build rainbow nests when given colored paper

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It’s unnerving to discover a wasp’s nest dangling outside your house, but perhaps it would be a tad less so with the help of biology student Mattia Menchetti who cleverly realized he could give colored construction paper to a colony of European paper wasps. By gradually providing different paper shades, the wasps turned their homes into a functional rainbow of different colors.

This isn’t the first time scientists have encountered insects producing colorful materials with the aid of artificial coloring. In 2012, residue from an M&M plant caused local bees to make blue and green honey…You can see more of Menchetti’s experiment on his website.

Way cool. I happen to love wasps, anyway.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

France, Germany and Italy add to UK joining AIIB – refusing Obama’s demands

“If they don’t pay attention, we break both legs next time”

A senior US diplomat said it was up to individual countries to decide on joining a new China-led lending body, as media reports said France, Germany and Italy have agreed to follow Britain’s lead and join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Accommodation seems to be all that’s left to Obama since threats didn’t work.

A growing number of close allies were ignoring Washington’s pressure to stay out of the institution, the Financial Times reported, in a setback for US foreign policy.

In China the state-owned Xinhua news agency said South Korea, Switzerland and Luxembourg were also considering joining.

The Financial Times, quoting European officials, said the decision by the four countries to become members of the AIIB was a blow for Washington…

The bank is also seen as contributing to the spread of China’s “soft power” in the region, possibly at the expense of the United States.

The AIIB was launched by Beijing in 2014 to spur investment in Asia in transportation, energy, telecommunications and other infrastructure. It is touted as a potential rival to the western-dominated World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

China said earlier in 2015 that a total of 26 countries had been included as founder members, mostly from Asia and the Middle East. It plans to finalise the articles of agreement by the end of the year…

Obama, the State Department, Congressional clown show members who fancy their foreign policy cred – all joined in to try to prevent this new international funding source from acceptance by our allies. At least those who acquired the title by generally obeying White House orders.

Didn’t work. Didn’t happen.

The bank will be welcome throughout the developing world, throughout the 3rd World. Like Chinese foreign policy it doesn’t come with social strings. The intent is to aid in the building of infrastructure – which means we probably should apply from poor states like New Mexico as a matter of need. We ain’t getting anything from Congress. That’s for sure.

The rap on both the World Bank and the IMF is that they have to answer to conservative voices in the United States and the European Union. Conservative voices not so focussed on the funds as social welfare – which they consider to be at least a mortal sin. Money is doled out through an eyedropper. Proof of reduction in socially productive programs required on a daily basis.

The chuckle is – for a lot of reason including holding a place in line for future exchanges dealing RMB, the Chinese currency, EU nations often the most conservative when criticizing other nation’s social practices – still want to be seen as caring and participating and maybe even profiting from a more open and less-political form of moneylending.

The United States OTOH is “above all that”. So to speak.

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.

Monday morning reminiscence of Italy over breakfast

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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?