Thursday, August 11, 2005

Please go, Mr Fazio

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From The Economist


Antonio Fazio, the governor of Italy's central bank, should resign or be sacked

CENTRAL bankers have a difficult job. Their effectiveness depends on integrity and discretion, notably on monetary policy but also on issues of banking supervision. Most are sober and careful. The few that have cast doubt on their integrity by stumbling have resigned quickly. What to do, then, when a central banker behaves with such wilful disregard for ethical standards that he ought to resign, but shows no sign of doing so, or even of feeling a smidgen of embarrassment?

That is the dilemma facing Italy. The Bank of Italy, its central bank, has enjoyed some respect at home and abroad until recently. Along with the Treasury, it oversaw Italy's entry into the euro. Several banking messes were effectively dealt with, so that Italy can now point to some well-capitalised and well-run banks that are beginning to modernise the country's old-fashioned financial industry. For that, Antonio Fazio, the central bank's governor, deserves credit. Appointed for life on a fat salary in 1993, he showed a streak of independence that largely freed his bank from suspicions that it could be influenced by politicians. That made it something of a rarity among Italian public institutions.

Lately, however, Mr Fazio has undone his good work. First there was his disappointing response to the Parmalat scandal, in which domestic and international banks were directly implicated. After the dairy firm collapsed in late 2003 in Europe's biggest case of corporate fraud, sensible regulatory reforms were suggested by Italy's finance minister. But some of these involved narrowing the Bank of Italy's broad powers. So Mr Fazio used all his influence to brush these useful reforms away or to water them down. This was an ominous sign.

Much worse was to come. When two foreign banks, one Dutch, the other Spanish, launched contested takeover bids this year for a couple of Italy's smaller banks, Mr Fazio pretended that normal scruples would govern the outcome. He publicly denied the accusation that he had a fortress Italy mentality. Behind the scenes, however, he intervened blatantly again and again to favour rival Italian bids.

This was especially the case in the battle between the poorly capitalised Banca Popolare Italiana (BPI) and ABN Amro to win control of Banca Antonveneta, Italy's ninth-biggest bank. And it is his conduct in this deal that makes him unfit to remain in his job. Despite serious doubts among his own officials, Mr Fazio seems to have been determined to engineer a reverse takeover of Antonveneta by BPI and to thwart the Dutch bid. But this was possible only by ignoring allegedly illegal and underhand manoeuvres by BPI that led recently to the suspension of its boss, Gianpiero Fiorani, and of the bid. Mr Fiorani is a close friend of Mr Fazio's so close, in fact, that the central banker personally telephoned Mr Fiorani late at night last month to tell him that he had approved BPI's bid. That phone call, along with many others, was tapped by magistrates who suspected that BPI was systematically breaking the rules and had placed Mr Fiorani under surveillance.

Details of how BPI twisted and inveigled its way to control of Antonveneta make disturbing reading (see article). So does evidence that a group of businessmen linked to BPI might be trying to wrest control of politically sensitive assets that include Corriere della Sera, one of Italy's most respected newspapers. But perhaps most disturbing is that Mr Fazio seems to believe that he has done nothing wrong. The Bank of Italy has issued a statement claiming that its managers have acted properly and legally.

Ciampi's task

It is not yet clear whether or not Mr Fazio has broken the law in his position the rules allow him a great deal of latitude. But it is already clear that he has not acted prudently or ethically and has, in fact, damaged the Bank of Italy badly. Despite this, Silvio Berlusconi's government has done nothing, and is apparently willing to see the Bank's authority wither. This is a grievous lapse that is not in the country's interest. There is one hope. Carlo Ciampi, Italy's president, was himself once governor of the Bank of Italy and understands the institution's importance. He has the moral and political authority to force Mr Fazio out. He should use it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Bush&Bolton

George Bush has bypassed Congress to appoint John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, to the annoyance of his political opponents and the dismay[1] of many at the UN. But conservatives are delighted that the tough-talking Mr Bolton is being sent to an institution they feel needs reform, fast. Can he deliver?
from The Economist

TRANSLATION'S NOTES
[1] dismay=costernazione

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Terror Next Door

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by J.F.O. McALLISTER
(Time Europe)
They looked pathetic without backpacks filled with explosives. Naked except for their underwear, vomiting and spitting to clear out the tear gas police fired into their west London hideout, two forlorn men wanted for attempting to bomb London's transport system on July 21 surrendered to police after a three-hour siege. "Mohammed, Mohammed, come out, we won't hurt you!" the police kept shouting. But when no one came out, officers fixed a strip of plastic explosive and blew off the front door of the fourth-floor apartment where the men had taken refuge. The tear gas was next. Unlike the Madrid train bombers — who blew themselves up in April of last year rather than be captured — Ibrahim Muktar Said, suspected of trying to bomb a No. 26 bus, and Ramzi Mohammed, thought to have tried to bomb a train at Oval station, showed no inclination for suicide. "I've got rights!" one of them shouted to police, before finally giving himself up.

Just a few hours later in Rome, Italian police caught Hussain Osman, alleged to have tried to blow up a train at Shepherd's Bush, among the umbrella pines and oleander of the Tor Pignattara neighborhood on the city's southeastern rim. According to an Italian Interior Ministry official, British authorities provided their Italian counterparts with the number of a cell phone registered to Osman's brother-in-law, which they believed Osman was using as he tried to evade the massive British manhunt.

"In the course of two days, he went from London to Paris to Milan and finally Rome," the official says. Once there, he holed up in his brother's apartment, which police surrounded with 60 special agents. After they burst in, he quickly surrendered.

The fourth suspected bomber was already in custody. He had been grabbed at 4:30 a.m. last Wednesday on a quiet, leafy street 4 km outside Birmingham city center. Police swarmed down the slim garden path of a nondescript brick house and surrounded the back door, leading into a tiny bedsit apartment. "Hassan! Hassan!" they shouted. Neighbors saw blue and yellow flashes and heard explosions. Inside, antiterror officers found their bleary-eyed quarry, Yasin Hassan Omar, suspected of trying to bomb an underground train at Warren Street station, who scuffled with them and was immobilized with a 50,000-volt blast from a Taser gun. [Continued in Time Europe]

What does it mean to be a successful woman?

From Spotlight:
What does it mean to be a successful woman? Half a century ago, most people would have given you a simple answer: get married — at the age of 20, for an American — and have three or four children. Most women in 1950 stayed at home and raised their children, depending on their husbands to support the family. Higher education was a man’s domain, with three times as many men as women studying at universities.
These days, with better access to education and greater financial independence, women have far more options. They can get married — as six out of ten still choose to do — live with a partner, or remain single. If they do get married, they do so typically at the age of 26, and they have an average of 1.8 children.
Professionally, women are now told that they can do and be anything they want. Once restricted to such professions as secretaries, nurses or teachers, women in Western countries earn 57 per cent of all university degrees and go on to become lawyers, astronauts and entrepreneurs.
The idea of a successful woman has been changing with the times. The women’s suffrage movement began in the 19th century, but most Western women were granted the right to vote only in the 20th century. Many women started entering the workforce in the 1940s and 50s, and in the 60s and 70s, they fought for equal rights. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, it is common to see women working in top jobs that were formerly only for men. There are also women who are still perfectly content to be stay-at-home mothers and forgo a career.
With few clear rules for what women should be, and with an endless number of personal and career choices, each woman today has to find her own definition of success — and it’s not always easy. Spotlight spoke to three generations of women from around the English-speaking world to see what success means to them, their personal goals and their search for happiness and success. Despite their different backgrounds, these women told Spotlight that they are happy and feel successful.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Language Translation Technologies

To use on line translators is like to ask a monkey to speak.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sudoku'd

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I'm mathematically challenged, allergic to numbers. I'm so terrified of anything vaguely quantitave that I often dream of being told that the Math Board exams & finance courses in my MBA (that I barely managed to sqeeze through) have all been re-checked and I have to go back to class 6 and start all over again! As a result I'm usually the first to shy away from anything with numbers on/in/near it.

I haven't been succesful at all (even my job has always had me doing budgets and yucky number based things!). Hard as I tried to ignore all the press and public buzz about Sudoku, I've finally given in and checked it out. Everywhere I look someone seems to be talking about it or walking around with puzzle books.

Yesterday I found an online site with a new sudoku grid on it each day. I studied the rules, told myself to be fair and give it a go (knowing full well that I would not succeed and would need to be highly motivated to go back for a second go). As part of my turning wiser as I grow older (groan...in 3 weeks I'll be thirty), I decided that I would not falter but persevere, challenge the challenged, go for the game with a mind wide open etc.....Yesterday I gave up after 22 minutes. Kept to my plan though and today I stuck with it and I've completed my first ever grid in 67min 19sec. YAY!!!! Not so challenged after all!!!!

It's was pleasant (read 'frowning brow') jog for the brain and required no maths at all (double YAY) - just a smattering of common sense and logic (I am blessed with plenty, or so I like to think!).

So Sudoku or Su Doku: This translates from Japanese as meaning single numbers or numbers by themselves. The traditional Su Doku puzzle grid is made up of nine cells (or boxes), each cell containing nine squares. Players are challenged to complete the grid so that every cell, row, and column displays the digits 1 to 9, in whatever necessary order. To begin with a number of squares are filled in by the puzzle's setter. The rest is up to the players sharp eyes and logic!

Warning: It's addictive.

So I've been sudoku'd - have you?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Two or three things

I have studied to school English for many years. I have not never had the opportunity to go to the foreign country. The result is that in order to try to write something in English I must resort to a translator. With the risk of an involuntary comic effect!

Why I have opened this blog?

Because it appeals to the idea to me of being able to be read from a potentially larger public regarding that Italian. Obviously they will read only to mine two or three usual italian web's friends even in vacation to the foreign country...

A your comment would be appreciate, thanks!

I'm Peter Busalacchi!

Hy, I'm Peter Busalacchi an Italian man.

I do not know to speak in English I hope to succeed to write in English.

This is my first post in this blog!