Poorest countries face 56 per cent rise in cereal bills

Food and Agriculture OrganizationRome - The world's poorest countries are set to face a 56 per cent rise in the price of cereal imports owing to strong demand and depleted world reserves, according to a study published on Friday by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The price increase for the 2007-08 period follows an increase of 37 per cent over the previous two years.

Low-income countries in Africa, which rely on imported cereals for their food needs, face an even higher price rise of 74 per cent, according to FAO's latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation report.

Walter Veltroni - Italy's Barack Obama

Walter Veltroni &  Barack ObamaRome - Walter Veltroni has the cheek, his more lenient critics would say, of portraying himself as a fresh-faced politician poised to lead Italy into a new, prosperous era, when in fact he was first elected to public office more than 30 years ago.

The 52-year-old former Rome mayor has remained undaunted by this or much harsher accusations related to his Communist past.

Echoing US presidential hopeful Barack Obama - for whose book The Audacity of Hope he also wrote a preface to the Italian edition - Veltroni has made breaking with recent history the thrust of his campaign to become prime minister.

Italy's convoluted electoral law

Rome - It has drawn condemnation from the country's Catholic bishops, and even the parliamentarian who penned Italy's electoral law has described it as a "porcata" - a term which can be politely translated as "a load of rubbish."

Although widely seen as a source of government instability because of the influence it grants smaller political parties, the electoral law has remained in place for the country's April 13-14 elections.

The law allocates seats on a proportional basis, taking into account national results in the Chamber of Deputies lower house of parliament and regional results in the upper house Senate.

A new Berlusconi?

Silvio BerlusconiRome - By the standards of Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire who brought show-business to Italian politics, the April 13-14 elections campaign got off to a subdued start.

In a Rome square, Berlusconi presided over what his People of Freedom party billed as the launch of the "Voyage of Freedom": 200 vans criss-crossing Italy to promote the movement.

However, the hundred or so people who attended were a far cry from the thousands who normally turn out for Berlusconi rallies. Only two vans were actually in sight.

New-kid-on-the-block Veltroni challenges Berlusconi

Rome - Italy seems to need a serious image overhaul ahead of its polls. Pictures of rotting rubbish piles in Naples and football hooligans rampaging in Rome have appeared on TV screens around the world as have reports of tainted Italian mozzarella and wine.

Silvio Berlusconi and Walter Veltroni, the main contenders in the April 13-14 elections, have both pledged to redeem the country's reputation.

However, they have shied away from suggesting solutions to Italy's deeper problems - public debt, people's diminishing buying power and the economy's decade-long near-zero growth rate and faltering competitiveness.

Tainted wine for sale in Italy

Rome - Authorities in Italy suspect some 70 million litres of cheap wine on sale in local shops and supermarkets could contain illegal, harmful substances, a weekly magazine reported Friday.

And in a separate report that threatens to harm the image of one of Italy's most prized vintages, L'Espresso magazine also said a probe is underway on an alleged scam to mislead consumers by falsely labelling bottles.

But Agriculture Minister Paolo De Castro played down the reports saying that the investigations showed Italy has "serious controls in place and we can demonstrate this with the facts."

Music scholar rediscovers lost 16th century Catholic Mass

Rome, Dec 1: A music scholar has rediscovered a 16 th century choral work of Italian composer Alessandro Striggio in the Bibliothèque Nationale, the national library of France.

The man who found this music piece is Davitt Moroney, a music professor from Berkley.

Known as the "Missa sopra Ecco sì beato giorno", this gigantic choral setting of music for the Catholic mass was composed in Florence for the Medici family, whom Striggio served as a highly paid court musician. It was sent as a gift to the Holy Roman Emperor in 1567 as one element in a campaign by the Medici to obtain a much-sought-after archducal title.

Curse of Iceman is just a superstition, say scientists

Rome, Nov 8 (A: Archaeologists have dismissed the so called 'curse of the Iceman' as superstitious nonsense.

Found in 1991 in the Schnalstal glacier in the Ötztal Alps, near Hauslabjoch on the border between Austria and Italy, the 'Iceman' is a well-preserved natural mummy of a man from about 3300 BC (5300 years ago).

According to the curse, whoever has come into contact with the mummy of the 'Iceman' has died under mysterious circumstances.

This curse became more popular after Australian scientist Tom Loy died two years ago of an inherited disorder, aged 63.  As director of the University of Queensland's Archeological Science Laboratories, Loy had identified residues of human blood on Otzi's fur cape, and animal blood on his arrows.

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