The Downfall of Rome: Can a New Mayor Stop the City’s Decline? – part 1

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Walter Mayr in Rome, April 25, 2014 (Photo Gallery).

Pilgrims from around the world are expected in Rome this weekend for the canonization of two former popes. They will find an Italian capital that is increasingly squalid and close to bankruptcy. The city’s new mayor is hoping he can turn it around … //

… An European City for a Day:

  • For at a short time at least, Romans will be “able to dream of living in a truly European city,” because the metro, for once, will finally operate at night to help accommodate the expected 3 million visitors, the local citizen’s advocacy group Residents of the Historical Center notes caustically. The old Roman establishment feel they are being ignored by politicians and that they have been forced to look on powerlessly as one fast food restaurant or bed and breakfast after the other has replaced the last remaining artisan shops in the heart of the city.
  • More than 12 million tourists visited Rome last year, and this despite the fact that the city once known as Caput mundi, or the capital of the ancient world, has since lost much of its splendor. That, at least, is what many residents say.
  • Novelist Mauro Evangelisti warns visitors, like the pilgrims who are about to descend upon his city, that they must brace themselves for “an old airport, crooked cab drivers, swindlers, pickpockets” and streets full of potholes like in Havana. In an open letter published prior to the last municipal election, 21 Roman intellectuals lamented what they saw as signs of the city’s downfall and “cultural gloom”.
  • Meanwhile, Carlo Verdone, one of the leading actors in the movie that took this year’s honor for Best Foreign Picture at the Oscars, “The Great Beauty,” even goes so far as to describe his city as a true to scale likeness of a “totally failed country.”

Rome, Kaput Mundi?

  • Matteo Renzi, Italy’s new prime minister, is now calling for radical reforms. Since it narrowly averted insolvency at the end of February, the capital city has, to a certain extent, been under the yoke of the national government and the mayor has been ordered to undertake draconian austerity measures. This is the last remaining opportunity for turning the city around, Renzi’s state secretary for the economy recently said. Rome, he said, should become a shining example for the rest of Italy to follow.
  • But where to begin? Upon their arrival, the first thing some pilgrims to Rome will see is a five-and-a-half-meter (18 foot) tall bronze statue of Pope John Paul II. In what appears to have been wise foresight, the former leader of the Catholic Church has his back turned to the station forecourt, which is littered with drug addicts’ syringes and grocery store shopping carts that homeless people have filled to the brim.
  • A wiry, bald-headed man walks right through the turmoil on a recent morning and says, “The first thing that needs to be done is for the city to reconquer its public spaces. There is not a single street left in the entire city where you have the feeling you’re in Europe — I mean, where everything works as it should.”
  • Few have the kind of insights about the underbelly of Rome as does Massimiliano Tonelli. The 35-year-old journalist is one of the most widely read bloggers in the city, but he is also one of the most contentious. His habitat is the streets, squares and riverside walks of Rome, and his natural enemies are those who make money by inflicting damage on the Eternal City’s beauty.
  • Tonelli has held lectures at universities and was bestowed with the title “Roman of the Year” in 2010 — because he doesn’t pull any punches when fighting on behalf of his city. The names of his blogs attest to this, with titles like Rome Sucks (Roma Fa Schifo) or Cartellopoli.

Mumbai-Like Squalor: … //

… (full long text).

Part 2: A Dramatic Situation or Comic Opera?

Links:

Dancing at the Abyss: What Beirut’s Debutante Ball Says about Lebanon, on Spiegel Online International, by Christoph Reuter, April 25, 2014 (Photo Gallery): Car bombs are a fact of life and the civil war in neighboring Syria continues to flood Lebanon with refugees. Nevertheless, the Debutante Ball in Beirut takes place every year. Wealthy Lebanese families from across the globe send their daughters to waltz on the brink …;

Europe’s African Refugee Crisis: Is the Boat Really Full? on Spiegel Online International, by Spiegel staff, April 15, 2014 (Photo Gallery): Since Italy began rescuing Africans from the Mediterranean after the last major tragedy in October, the number of refugees coming to Europe has risen dramatically. Fears of economic immigrants could become a top issue in Europe’s spring election …;

A Partner for Russia’: Europe’s Far Right Flirts with Moscow, on Spiegel Online International, by Charles Hawley in Brussels, April 14, 2014: Right-wing populists stand to gain seats in the approaching European Parliament elections — which is good news for Moscow. Russia and the European right have been courting each other recently as mainstream Brussels has kept Moscow at arm’s length …;

India: Mizo women’s big push for legal reforms, on OneWorld.net, by Ninglun Hanghal, 30 September 2013;

Wahrheiten von Volker Pispers, 12.13 min, von Gero Meyer am 7. August 2013 hochgeladen;

The World We Created, 2.12 min, uploaded on YouTube by Catalina Sierra Pineda, Oct. 28, 2009: see it also on the website of the very pissed of combat veterans;

Freedom of Information Act 2000, on Legislation.gov.uk;

Website: Voices for creative non-violence;

Videos with KYRGYZ DANCES:

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