Hitler wine leaves nasty aftertaste for human rights group


The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre has called for a global boycott of an Italian company that sells wines featuring images of Adolf Hitler and Nazi slogans on its labels.

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“The Wiesenthal Centre denounces the marketing of these products and urges wine distributors in Italy and around the world to send the only message the owner of this firm might understand that they choose not to do any business with someone using the Nazi mass murderer as a blatant marketing tool,” said Rabbis Marvin Hier, dean and founder, and Abraham Cooper, associate dean, in a statement.

The statement from the Los Angeles-based human rights group was released after a Norwegian couple visiting the coastal town of Rimini this week said they were shocked to discover controversial wines produced by Vina Lunardelli in the country’s north-east.

Last year an American couple complained when they found that a supermarket near their hotel in the northern city of Garda was stocking wine bottles with Hitler in various poses. They are still widely available despite the integration minister at the time promising an investigation.

The labels are part of a series including Mussolini, Churchill and Stalin. Alessandro Lunardelli, who heads the company, defended the labels, saying they were a “joke” and not meant to offend anyone.

The labels had also become a cult among collectors and had been a great commercial success, he said.

Josephine McKenna

India to downgrade ties with Italy, won’t send ambassador


The orders of the Supreme Court will be complied with by all government agencies

Against the backdrop of airports across India being put on alert to prevent Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving the country, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Friday said the orders of the Supreme Court will be complied with by all government agencies.

Besides downgrading its diplomatic ties with Italy, the government has also asked its ambassador-designate to that country Basant Kumar Gupta, who was scheduled to leave for Rome on Friday, not to proceed. The government, which is reviewing the entire gamut of bilateral ties, has decided to withhold the posting of Gupta, who was expected to take charge by end of next week. The downgrading of ties could affect bilateral economic and social relations between the two nations.

‘The Supreme Court order will be complied with by all government agencies,’ Khurshid told reporters outside Parliament House on Friday in response to questions on the issue. He said the matter will come up before the apex court again on Monday and ‘we will know then exactly what is the next step that should be taken.

Meanwhile, the decision to alert the airports was taken by the Union Home Ministry a day after the apex court restrained the Italian Ambassador from leaving India without its permission.

The court had taken exception to Italian government’s refusal to send back two marines charged with the killing of two Indian fishermen. The two marines were allowed by the court to go to Italy to cast their votes in the elections there after the Italian Ambassador had given an assurance to send them back.

#Italian #chopper deal: #CBI engages a lawyer in Italy


The CBI has engaged a lawyer in Italy to represent India‘s case with the Italian government and the local courts to find out the role of Indians in the alleged kickbacks in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP helicopter deal.

Official sources said today that the assistance of a lawyer was taken to help understand the Italian law and expedite getting documents from the helicopter company.

The lawyer, if necessary, would be approaching the court in Italy for procurement of documents, they said.

A team of CBI and Defence Ministry officials is leaving for Italy tomorrow to verify allegations of kickbacks in the supply of 12 AgustaWestland helicopters.

The team comprise a CBI DIG, a law officer of the agency, a Joint Secretary-level officer of Defence Ministry and an official of the External Affairs Ministry.

The team’s departure was delayed by a day due to some last-minute formalities which required to be fulfilled before travelling abroad for the purpose of investigation, they said, adding the team would try to meet Italian prosecutors to ascertain the details of the case.

The CBI’s decision came after it virtually drew a blank from the Defence Ministry in getting some official inputs regarding alleged kickbacks of Rs 362 crore in the case.

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The CBI was handed over a letter from the Defence Ministry seeking a probe by it in the case which has triggered a storm in the country. Attached with the letter were some Indian and Italian press clippings, which the CBI said, could not form the basis for registering a case.

CBI had sought help of Indian Mission in Rome which too has not been able to provide any authenticated court documents to the agency, the sources said.

This was followed by CBI seeking help of Interpol which also expressed inability to provide any help in the absence of any regular case not having been registered by the agency, they said.

The Defence Ministry had yesterday sent a team led by Joint Secretary and an Air Commodore of Indian Air Force, who gave a presentation to the CBI about the tendering procedures and various stages while finalising the helicopter deal with AgustaWestland.

However, when pressed by the CBI officials about the kickback allegations, the team could not provide any answers to the sleuths, the sources said.

PTI

Can’t do business without paying bribe: #Berlusconi


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Defending Finmeccanica SpA’s jailed ex-chief executive officer Giuseppe Orsi, Italy’s three-time former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday said bribes are a necessary part of doing business globally.

 “Bribes are a phenomenon that exists and it’s useless to deny the existence of these necessary situations,” Berlusconi said in a televised interview.

 “These are not crimes. We’re talking about paying a commission to someone in that country. Why, because those are the rules in that country,” the former premier was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.

 In February 2010, India had inked the deal to acquire the 12 three-engine AW-101 helicopters from AgustaWestland for IAF‘s elite Communication Squadron, which ferries the President, PM and other VVIPs.

 The deal came under the scanner of Italian agencies after allegations of kickback given in India surfaced.

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The agencies arrested Orsi on Tuesday as part of their probe related to international corruption.

It is alleged that Orsi, who was heading the helicopter unit, when the deal was struck, was involved in the bribery.
Around 50 million euros (Rs 362 crore approximately), about 10 per cent of the deal, were alleged to have been given as bribes to ensure that the company won the contract.

Italian news agency ANSA quoted Berlusconi as saying that probes by Italian prosecutors into contracts Italian firms sign abroad were a form of “economic suicide”.

“Everyone knows that as well as the tenders, agreements between governments are also involved,” Berlusconi said.
He added: “The fact that there is the risk of magistrates intervening I consider to be economic suicide”.

Rs217cr paid as bribe for Rs3,600cr VVIP #Chopper deal?


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Italy’s state-controlled AgustaWestland had allegedly kept aside Rs 217 crore as part of “corrupt activity” to bag India‘s Rs 3,600 crore deal and its choppers became eligible only after certain required parameters were altered in the tender document.

According to the report filed by Italian investigators in an Italian court, the middlemen had agreed for a 7.5 per cent commission in the Rs 3600 crore for 12 VVIP helicopters.

Finally, the kickbacks were to the tune of about Rs 362 crore.

The payment of bribes through contracts between firms registered in Tunisia and India, was “still underway” when the scam was unearthed.

The report said CEO of Finmeccanica Giuseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini had paid 30 million Euros (Rs 217 crore) to one of the main middlemen Christian Michel.

“Orsi and Spagnolin, moreover, paid Micheal Christian a total amount of about Euros 30 million, partly destined to support the corruptive activity meant to bag the order and partly to implement the contract,” the document said.

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The arrested CEOs of the two companies had also “paid Guido Ralph Hashcke and Carlo Gerosa (two other alleged middlemen), through a consultancy contract between AW spa and Gordian Services Sarl an amount of 400,000 Euros (about Rs 2.8 crore), of which 100,000 Euros (Rs 72 lakh) were paid cash to the Tyagi brothers (Julie, Docsa and Sandeep.”

The report suggests that the middlemen had close contacts with the family of former IAF Chief Air Chief marshal S P Tyagi, particularly his three cousins.
One middlemen named ‘ADR’ has claimed in his interrogation that the first meeting of one of the middlemen Zappa with Tyagi happened at the time when the tender was in the Request for Information (RFI) phase.

“Already in the Zappa-ACM Tyagi meeting, one of the topics was the one of the 18,000 feet altitude, which was practically excluding all the competitors, except for the French ones, Eurocopter which anyway did not have a VIP model,” ADR said as per the report.

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“When the tender was issued, I informed Orsi or Lunardi that the 18,000 feet limit had been lowered. The operational ceiling had been set at 15,000 feet. This had reopened the race for Agusta along with the Russians and the Americans,” he added.

The middleman reportedly claimed he had paid around Rs 72 lakhs to the three cousins of ACM Tyagi.
“I remitted the total amount of 100,000 Euros (Rs 72 lakhs). There was a previous agreement between us and the Indians to share the compensations for the consultancies at 50 per cent.

“In reality, we shared only the first two portions. The other 200.000 euros were kept by me and GEROSA also on the basis of the real expenses we faced for our travels to India,” he said.

The middleman alleged that Tyagi used to brief them about the developments in the tender during their meetings, according to the report of the Italian investigators.

agusta

The report said “Haschke and Gerosa, through the Tyagi brothers, in turn through their cousin ACM S P Tyagi, managed first to change the tender details, in a way to favour, modifying the ‘operational ceiling’ from 18,000 to 15,000 feet of altitude, thus allowing AgustaWestland spa (which otherwise could not have even submitted an offer) to take part in the tender.”

“They managed to introduce a comparative flight trial with non-functional engine, thus facilitating AgustaWestland helicopters, the only ones which had three engines. In this way they managed to get the contract to AgustaWestland,” it alleged.

After the arrest of Orsi and Spagnolini in Italy, India has put on hold the delivery of three AW-101 choppers to be delivered in March along with the remaining six.

The payments for the choppers have also been stopped and defence ministry has stated that because of the integrity pact, it can get back all the money paid by it for the deal.

Chopper scam: CBI team to visit Italy to probe charges


As it braces for an opposition onslaught in Parliament next week, the government today cracked the whip by moving to scrap the 12 helicopter deal with AgustaWestland and decided to send a CBI team to Italy to probe the charges that kickbacks to the tune of Rs 362 crore were paid to bag it.

The Defence Ministry also threatened to take other actions as per terms of the contract, an apparent reference to invoking a clause in the contract for recovery of money already paid in the Rs 3,600 crore deal. India has paid more than 30 per cent of the sum.

“The Defence Ministry issued a formal show cause notice to AgustaWestland seeking cancellation of the contract and taking other actions as per terms of the contract,” Ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said.

Reuters

The company was asked to explain the bribery allegations within seven days and reply why the contract of 2010 should not be cancelled.

The action came after the ministry received “some report” from Italy, sources said.

The External Affairs Ministry has also written to the Italian government, seeking information on the issue. A CBI team is also being sent to Italy where the CEOs of AgustaWestland and its parent company Finmeccanica have been arrested on charges of bribery.

The Defence Ministry’s notice comes a day after the ministry warned of legal action, including invoking integrity pact which provides for cancellation of the contract if bribes are paid and recovery of the money already paid.

After the arrest of Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi in Milan on Tuesday, India had put on hold the receipt of the remaining helicopters as well as rest of the payment. India has already received three and three more were to be delivered next month.

The government action came as it prepares for an onslaught in Parliament beginning on 21 February, with parties like BJP and Samajwadi Party saying they would raise the issue and seek answers on the alleged scam.

The government yesterday asked Finmeccanica to state whether any money was illegally paid to any Indian entity or individual “which would be violative of the Integrity Pact or any other terms and conditions of the contract”.

The Defence Ministry had said yesterday that the government is determined to take all possible legal and
administrative action against the guilty parties and accordingly has ordered a thorough probe by CBI.

It noted that the contract with AgustaWestland carried an integrity pact that bars paying of bribes or involvement of middlemen, the Ministry warned of “strict action including cancellation of contract, recovery of payment, blacklisting and penal action can be taken against the vendors.”

The Ministry said the contract signed with AgustaWestland includes “specific contractual provisions against bribery and the use of undue influence. Article 22 of the contract deals with penalty for use of undue influence. This clause entitles the ‘Buyer’ to cancel the contract with the ‘Seller’ and recover from him the amount of any loss arising from such cancellation.”

“Article 23 of the contract entitles the ‘Buyer’ to consider cancellation of the contract without any entitlement or compensation to the ‘Seller’ who shall be liable to refund all payments made by the ‘Buyer’ in terms of the contract along with interest,” it said.

PTI

Italian police arrest Finmeccanica CEO in corruption probe


Italian police arrested the chief executive of Italy’s largest defense and aerospace group on Tuesday as part of an investigation into alleged international corruption.

Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi is under investigation in a case involving the payment of €500 million ($670 million) in bribes for the sale of 12 helicopters to the government of India. Prosecutors in Busto Arsizio, north of Milan, ordered a search of Orsi’s home, as well as the headquarters of Finmeccanica’s AgustaWestland helicopter division.

Authorities also ordered the house arrest of AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini.

Finmeccanica, which is 30-percent government owned and was once considered a jewel among Italian companies, said in a statement that it will continue operating as usual and expressed support for the executives. The statement called the measures against Orsi and Spagnolini “precautionary.”

Orsi has repeatedly denied paying any bribes.

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Finmeccanica shares dropped 8.4 percent to €4.36 in Milan trading despite an order by the market watchdog banning short-selling of the company’s stock. Short-selling is when traders sell stock they do not actually own, hoping to buy it back at a lower price.

Finmeccanica and its executives have been the target of a wide-ranging, years-long investigation into alleged corruption in the awarding of international contracts. In 2011, Orsi took over at the helm of Finmeccanica when the previous chairman and CEO, Pier Francesco Guarguaglini, was also implicated in the bribery investigation.

Guarguaglini and his wife, who ran a subsidiary, are accused of setting up slush funds to funnel money to political parties.

Premier Mario Monti, whose technical government has wrestled with the Finmeccanica case, said the governance issues at the aerospace company would be dealt with “as soon as possible.” Monti said that anti-corruption measures need to be reinforced on a national level.

“It is important not only morally and civilly, but also economically because it facilitates economic investment in our country,” Monti said on state radio.

AP

Supreme court of India allows Italian marines to go home for Christmas


 

Italian sailors Massimiliano Latorre (L) and Salvatore Girone wait to board an elevator to reach the police commissioner's office in the southern Indian city of Kochi December 18, 2012. REUTERS/Sivaram V

Two Italian marines charged with killing two fishermen off the coast of India are likely to spend Christmas in Italy, after an Indian court on Thursday accepted a plea by the sailors to be allowed to join their families for the holiday season.

The two sailors, members of a military security team protecting the cargo ship Enrica Lexie from pirate attacks, shot the fishermen they say they mistook for pirates off the southern state of Kerala in February, sparking a diplomatic row between New Delhi and Rome.

The Kerala high court said its decision to allow the men back home for two weeks was contingent on the Indian government‘s approval.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone are out on bail in the Indian state but not allowed to leave the country. They will be required to hand over 60 million rupees ($1.1 million) as a bank guarantee to the court before leaving.

The sailors, awaiting trial in New Delhi’s Supreme Court in connection with the shooting deaths, have to report back to India on January 10.

The Kerala state government opposed the sailors’ request, suspecting Italy of trying to smuggle the men out of India and feared that the sailors may not return.

“We’re very happy with the judgement. The Kerala government’s apprehensions have been quashed,” said Vijaya Bhanu, the counsel for the sailors.

Last week, Italian authorities summoned India’s ambassador in Rome and expressed “strong disappointment” that the Supreme Court had delayed a decision on where the men would face trial.

Italy wants the Supreme Court to rule that the shooting took place in international waters, outside India’s jurisdiction, allowing the marines to be tried in Rome.

Indian authorities accuse the sailors of killing unarmed fishermen in a “contiguous zone” where Indian law applies.

While visiting the marines in Kerala last week, Italy’s Defense Minister, Giampaolo Di Paolo, pinned his hopes on India allowing the men home for Christmas, saying “nobody more than India knows the values of festivities”.

REUTERS

World’s smallest artificial heart saves a baby


An Italian heart surgeon holds a tiny titanium pump, the world's smallest artificial heart, which was implanted in a baby, at the Bambino Gesu' Hospital in Rome May 24, 2012 (Reuters / Alessandro Bianchi)
An Italian heart surgeon holds a tiny titanium pump, the world's smallest artificial heart, 
which was implanted in a baby, at the Bambino Gesu' Hospital in Rome May 24, 2012 
(Reuters / Alessandro Bianchi)

The smallest artificial heart in the world, weighing only 11 grams, was enough to save life of an infant boy suffering a deadly disease. Italian doctors who completed the surgery say it kept the baby alive till a donor was found.

­This is the first time that such a small heart has been implanted to human. The boy suffered from dilated myocardiopathy, a disease which eventually would atrophy the heart muscle and stop its ability to pump blood.

The operation was carried out at the end of March, but only now, when doctors may say with confidence that it was a success, was it made public.

The baby, whose identity has not been disclosed, was able to survive for 13 days with the artificial heart before receiving an actual heart transplant.

“At present, at more than one month from the surgery, the infant is in good health,” surgeon Antonio Amodeo from Rome’s Bambino Gesu hospital said.

Italian heart surgeon Antonio Amodeo holds a tiny titanium pump at the Bambino Gesu′ Hospital in Rome May 24, 2012 (Reuters / Alessandro Bianchi)
Italian heart surgeon Antonio Amodeo holds a tiny titanium pump at the Bambino Gesu’ Hospital in Rome May 24, 2012 (Reuters / Alessandro Bianchi)

­The little patient has been fighting for his life since the first month. Before the implant, the child had a mechanical pump and was suffering from a
infection around the device.

“From a surgical point of view, this was not really difficult. The only difficulty that we met is that the child was operated on several times before,” Amodeo said.

Doctors said the device, invented by American Doctor Robert Jarvik, had been previously tested only on animals.

The hospital needed special permission from Jarvik and the Italian health ministry before conducting the surgery.
“Every day, every hour, for more than one year he was with us. So when we had a problem we couldn’t do anything more than our best,” he said.

Doctors are convinced that the success of the operation could lead to the artificial heart becoming a permanent transplant option in the future.

“This is a milestone because it can be possible now to have permanent implantable devices,” Amodeo said.

The World’s Oldest Dental Filling Was Made of Beeswax


The discovery of a 6,500-year-old piece of beeswax provides insight into the origins of dentistry.

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Beeswax placed on top of this cracked tooth may be the earliest example of therapeutic dentistry. (PLoS One)

In a paper published this week in PLoS One, a multidisciplinary group at Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy reports that an analysis of a human jaw found over a century ago in Slovenia shows evidence for what may be the earliest case of a therapeutic filling in human history.

The jawbone belongs to what would have been a man in his late twenties who lived during the Neolithic period. A vertical crack on his left canine had exposed some of the inner enamel and tissues within the tooth called dentin. To patch the problem, somebody — it’s not clear whether the procedure was done before or after the man died — stuffed the hole with beeswax. Given the degree of dental damage, researchers who examined the jaw believe it would’ve been pretty painful, and that the beeswax was used to reduce discomfort in the tooth.

The remains were unearthed over 100 years ago, but the filling managed to escape notice until now — possible nobody knew to look for it. Examples of ancient dentistry are extremely rare. In any case, after discovering the filling, scientists used carbon dating to find out how old the beeswax was, and even created a digital 3D model of the original tooth.

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All images courtesy PLoS One

Brain Fung

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