Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pope Snubs Condi?

The American Papist points to this AFP report:
Pope Benedict XVI refused to meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in August, saying he was on holiday, an Italian newspaper reported Wednesday.
Rice "made it known to the Vatican that she absolutely had to meet the pope" to boost her diplomatic "credit" ahead of a trip to the Middle East, the Corriere della Sera daily reported without citing its sources.
She was hoping to meet the pontiff at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo at the beginning of August, it said.
"'The pope is on holiday' was the official response," the paper said.
It said the reply "illustrated the divergence of view" between the Vatican and the White House about the "initiatives of the Bush administration in the Middle East."
The newspaper said the pope had rejected all meetings with political representatives during August.
The Vatican press office refused to confirm the report.

There's a certain amount of 'spin' in the AFP report, and it might be worthwhile recalling this story I blogged last year:
The Vatican has sharply cut back the number of political audiences to prevent the Pope being exploited by visiting politicians looking for headlines.
From now on, only heads of government and heads of state will be granted an audience with the pontiff.
A set of tough new rules has been drafted to protect 79-year-old Pope Benedict XVI from the flood of requests that arrive daily.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Venetian Pigeon Story

In the Times:
Throwing rice at newlyweds and feeding the pigeons of St Mark’s Square with bird seed will become illegal under new laws designed to rid Venice of its “unbearable” flocks.
Massimo Cacciari, the mayor, said that while throwing rice at weddings was a longstanding Italian tradition to wish newly married couples fertility and happiness, it also had the unfortunate side-effect of feeding pigeons. These pests were a threat to human health and were destroying the city’s Renaissance and Baroque architecture, he said.
The mayor was supported by Marco Agostini, the chief of police, who said: “Throwing rice at the bride and groom brings hordes of pigeons who then wait around until the next ceremony. The situation has become unbearable.”
An estimated 120,000 pigeons nest in colonies in Venice’s palazzos and churches, twice the resident human population. Feeding pigeons on St Mark’s Square has long been a tourist attraction. However, Venice officials say that the pigeons are damaging buildings with their corrosive droppings and are attacking the marble and stucco façades with their beaks, including the ornate St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace.
A recent city council report said pigeons were attacking the façades “like kamikaze pilots” in scenes resembling Alfred Hitchcock’s horror film The Birds.
I'm sure it made some Italian bureaucrat's day to come up with the kamikaze line.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Pasta strike...

A sign of the forthcoming eschaton, no doubt...
On the 13 September, there will be no spaghetti, fettucine, farfalle or rigatoni in Italy, as the country goes on its first-ever pasta strike.
Angry Italians are downing their forks in response to a 30 per cent price rise in the nation's favourite food, along with steep rises in the price of coffee, mozzarella, bread, biscuits and schoolbooks.
A second strike over the increase in the price of a cup of coffee in a cafe, from 70 euro cents (50p) to one euro, has also been threatened.
According to Italy's four largest consumer groups, the average household in the Bel Paese will be stung for an extra £700 this year on their shopping.
"Giving up pasta for the day will be a symbolic gesture," said a spokesman for the consumer groups. "Italians should not buy any pasta that day, and try their best not to eat it at home."
Most Italians eat pasta at least once a day, and consume around 54 kilograms over the course of the year.
According to a recent study, many of them prefer pasta to all other pleasures. A survey by SWG, a polling company, found that nearly half of all Italian men and women would never give it up and would rather have a plate of spaghetti than sex.
Consequently, the strike-organisers are prepared for serious withdrawal symptoms. Emergency stands offering free bread and milk will be set up in all major Italian cities for those in need of carbohydrates.