Leah R. Clark: “Merchant-Banker, Diplomat, Courtier, or Agent?…”


– And welcome back to the second portion of our afternoon’s activities. I’d Like now to introduce Leah R. Clark, a senior lecturer in Art History at the Open University in the UK. She holds a B.A. from the
University of British Columbia, a Masters from The
Courtauld Institute of Art, and a PhD from McGill University. Her research explores
the roles objects play in creating networks in the 15th Century through their exchange,
collection, and replication. She is author of Collecting Art in the Italian Renaissance
Court: Objects & Exchanges, Co-Editor, with Nancy
Um, of a special issue, The Art of Embassy: Objects and Images of Early Modern Diplomacy, of The Journal of Early Modern History, and a Co-Editor, with Kathleen Christian, of a textbook on the global Renaissance, European Art and the Wider
World 1350-1550, from 2017. Her research has appeared
in a number of publications from book chapters and edited volumes to articles in a range of journals, including The Journal of
the History of Collections. Just last month, she
gave a wonderful paper that I had the opportunity
to attend at RSA in Toronto on the exchange of art in Naples. And she has received
awards and fellowships from a variety institutions,
including the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Italian government,
The Arts and Humanities Research Council of the UK,
and the British Academy. Please join me in giving
her a warm welcome. (clapping) – Thank you very much and
thanks for inviting me and for a wonderful keynote, I think we started off
the day in a great way. On the 19th of November 1495, the famous Florentine
merchant banking family, the Medici, were expelled from Florence, as their attempts to take over and rule Republican Florence didn’t
go according to plan. Many of their possessions, including the Tazza Farnese seen here, were handed over to
their business associate, Lorenzo (mumbles) in Rome, as were many of the family’s highly
prized collectables. Earlier, the goldsmiths and gem engravers, Michelangelo di Viviano,
(mumbles), and Giovanni (mumbles) had been given the task of
appraising these hard stones and gems, sequestered from
the famous Medici collections, including this Tazza. The evaluation of the precious hard stone was specifically sought by experts well-trained in the material
value and authenticity of gems and jewels, but they
were also probably chosen because of Medici partisanship. Despite Lorenzo de’ Medici’s well-known and highly prized skills
in diplomacy and politics, the Medici Family’s rise
to power was unstable, and they were expelled from the city that they had hoped to rule. The Tazza Farnese reflects the instability of the political and economic
power of those who owned it, and encapsulates many of the concerns that my talk today will address. The Tazza was and is a complex object, in ancient hard stone from Egypt, which was carefully crafted to manipulate the best qualities of its materials. Its cultural, aesthetic, and
monetary value was embedded in its uniqueness, its
age, its craftsmanship, its survival, and its connection
to illustrious individuals. Its fairly large size and
the fact that it was carved on both sides meant that
it posed challenges, as well as possibilities for
display as well as engagement. Worth a large sum of money, it could be used as liquid capital, but once in an owner’s possession, it was shown off to visitors
as a highly prized collectible, connected to knowledge,
rather than economics. The dispersal of the
Medici collections in 1495 points to the very paradox
of these collectibles and the tensions inherent
in the relationship between people’s possessions
and their identities. Indeed, it demonstrates the
decades spent acquiring, choosing, negotiating,
and maneuvering objects to be housed in the Medici collections could all be lost with a
single blow of expulsion. The Tazza has an interesting biography, in 1253 the Tazza belonged
to Frederick II of Naples, but by the early 15th Century,
it had ended up in Persia, where it was drawn by Mohammed al-Khayyam, either in Samarqand or Herat. It has been suggested then,
that the Aq Qoyunlu ruler, Uzun Hasan in Tabriz, either owned it or at least one of his
immediate predecessors did. In the mid 15th Century,
Alfonso I d’Aragoha, King of Naples, is recorded
purchasing the Tazza from either a Genoese
or Venetian merchant. How it ended back in Italy is unknown, it may have been through
the Venetian route, or through direct exchanges
with the Ottoman Empire. The object was then recorded
in 1465, in Ludovico Trevisan’s inventory, the Chamberlain of
the apostolic camera in Rome. Pope Paul II acquired it from
Trevisan, and then in 1471, Lorenzo de Medici
obtained the precious item when he oversaw Paul the II’s estate. Lorenzo’s acquisition
underlines how it’s through such objects that a
merchant banking family sought to buy their power and prestige. The varying evaluation
of the Tazza Farnese certainly provides an indication
of the constantly shifting value of things, but also the pitfalls
of historical records. Frederick II is recorded
paying 1,230 in Neapolitan gold currency for it,
while Alfonso I d’Aragoha is said to have paid a
thousand or two thousand. In a letter from 1480,
when owned by Lorenzo, it was valued at 4,000, but in his 1492 inventory
it was appraised at 10,000. However, it was given a low value when it was evaluated
by the aforementioned goldsmiths and gem dealers when taken from the Medici in 1495. Finally, in the 1537 inventory
of Duke Alessandro de Medici, it was noted that Alfonso
had paid 12,000 for it, Lorenzo had bought it for 3,000
and it was valued at 2,000. The variations in price reflect
variations in the market, but also political and social motivations. The evaluators of the
Medici goods when the family was exiled, were likely
providing a low appraisal so that the Medici could later reclaim
their items at a lower cost. Other times, the prices
of works were inflated to demonstrate the power
and prestige of the owner, or as attempts to outbid or
scare off potential buyers. This relates to what I
call “object knowledge”, it’s about an individual’s
ability to appraise not only the object, but also the
information he or she was receiving, knowledge of the
stories around such objects, knowledge of other types of
objects in the same category, and knowledge about who
might want to purchase such an object, or would
be willing to enter into competition with others to buy it. A traditional approach to Court culture has been to examine one particular Court and to understand the artistic
products of that Court as reflection of the
Prince in his Court milieu. My work challenges that
method by revealing the multifaceted ways
that objects and people circulated between Courts,
underlining the important role that objects played in the
creation and dissolution of Courtly networks within
the Italian Peninsula. The focus of my paper
today will be concentrated on the practices of
exchange, the intermediaries who bought, sold, pawned,
and loaned these objects. The exchange of objects was
often about taking risks, and perhaps the most
exciting, if dangerous element of the exchange was the
unknown consequences. Would the acquisition of a new gem put one into too much debt
and lead to notoriety, or would its acquisition
and consequent display build up one’s reputation? Would one’s careful selection
of objects for collection end up being dispersed at one’s death and result in the loss of
not only the collection, but also one’s identity? Would the loaning of a
significant amount of money to an important ruler prove useful in a merchant banker’s
future rise to power, or come in handy when he
was in trouble with the law? Or would the sum never be repaid and result in his financial ruin? I think we’ve heard some stories
today, already, about this. Would an art object given
as a diplomatic gift achieve the necessary political
results one was looking for? The answers were not
usually straightforward, but often had ripple effects
that became embroiled according to the layers
of exchange over time. While Lorenzo de Medici is
probably the most famous example, my research has shown that other
Florentine merchant bankers such as Filippo Strozzi, who I’ll turn to towards the end of this paper, also served the same multifaceted roles
of diplomatic collector and prominent head of a bank. But Lorenzo acts as a
useful starting point to elucidate some of the
issues I want to get at today. Lorenzo wrote in his Ricordi,
in September of 1471, I was elected ambassador to Rome for the coronation of Pope
Sixtus IV, where I was very honored and from there I carried away two ancient marble heads with the images of Augustus and Agrippa, which the said Pope gave me. And, in addition, I took away
our dish of carved chalcedony, the Tazza Farnese, along with
many other cameos are coins which were then bought,
among them the chalcedony, the Diomedes and the Palladium. Lorenzo de Medici’s procurement of the Diomedes and the Palladium in 1471 was not his first interaction
with the antiquity. Indeed, images crafted on
such gems, cameos, jewels, and antique hard stones, were also copied in a variety of media, from
manuscript illumination to architectural decorations. Lorenzo de Medici would
have viewed a version of the Diomedes and the Palladium daily, growing up in his family
palace on the Via Larga in Florence, where it was depicted in one of the portrait medallions. Such replications ask us to
consider the different ways these gems circulated, and
also prompt us to investigate why the objects were
copied in the first place, and why they circulated so frequently. Lorenzo acquired the
Diomedes and other gems, not only in his role as ambassador, but as a member of the Medici Bank. Lorenzo, like other merchant bankers, often obtained these types of antiquities, sometimes only temporarily,
from court rulers as collateral against large loans, underlining how pawn
brokers and gem dealers had, at times, the financial
power equivalent to, if not surpassing, a city-state. In this paper I want to
examine how the practices of merchant banking, such as pawning, facilitated the circulation
of luxury goods, causing those objects to change hands and to come into contact with
a wide range of individuals. Gems, jewelry, and antique
hard stones were sought after, not only for their material
or artistic qualities, but also for their
history, their provenances, and their previous illustrious owners. This process of acquiring
histories can be linked to what anthropologists have referred to as “the social lives of objects”. Traditional approaches to
collecting tend to concentrate on the collector’s taste
through an analysis of an inventory, as a list
of static and stable objects, or by examining the iconographic symbolism of cameos and gems. An anthropological approach, however, allows us to examine the
dynamics of power at play, the numerous individuals
involved in the acquisition, and most importantly, it allows
us to contemplate the object as an active agent within these
processes and negotiations. Used as collateral, many
objects could be pawned or given as credit, but unlike money, they were and are absorbent
of meaning and memories, thus not only forming bonds between those who come in contact with them, but also bringing about hostilities
and even political ruin. Aside from their physical circulation, these collectables were
disseminated through replications, which stresses the
importance of intermediality, that is, how these representations created a field of visual citations
and associations across media. This process of translation
not only circulated their fame, but such representations also
served as a means to stabilize the circulatory nature of
the objects themselves, allowing individuals to own copies of these transient possessions. The literature on Early
Modern merchant bankers has generally followed two trajectories. One side of the scholarship has been largely focused on economics, providing a quantitative analysis of
items, prices, supply and demand. The other trajectory has often focused on the cultural pursuits
of merchant families, such as the famous Florentine
merchant banking houses of Medici or Strozzi,
examining artistic patronage and its cultural products in terms of family chapels and palaces. Little attention has been paid to the heterogeneous
identities of merchant bankers, not only as intermediaries
in the circulation of goods, but as collectors, ambassadors, negotiators, and pawn brokers. Working across Italy and
further afield in Europe, actually, across the Mediterranean, merchants navigated diverse
forms of government, resulting in a paradoxical status, often performing the
role of courtiers abroad, and Republican citizens at home. Most importantly, what
has been largely neglected is how their negotiation of these roles, their function as double agents, was intrinsically connected
to the movement of objects, which created a web of connections, obligations, and associations. As I want to argue in this paper, starting with the objects
and the practices of exchange reveals interconnections across boundaries and geographic spaces, an approach that moves away from the
traditional focus of select sites, such as Republican Florence
or a specific courtly setting. The term merchant banker is
usually to refer to individuals who were involved in trade, but also transactions dealing with
large quantities of money. In the period itself,
mercante was often applied to those who were involved in transactions that we would associate
today with banking. Scholars have distinguished three types of individuals dealing with
money, international bankers, pawnbrokers, and local deposit bankers. However, these can be interchangeable, and in the case of Florentine bankers who worked with the Neapolitan Court, where I’ve done most of my research, this diversification
was certainly the case. Furthermore, many firms acted
in the capacity as merchants and sometimes this was
their primary business, whereby credit, pawning,
and loans were secondary and often linked to their
business transactions and goods. Merchant bankers could often
serve in diplomatic roles, too. Indeed, their multiple
roles point to the fluidity of such categories at a
time when some argued that the new diplomacy had begun
to stabilize those very roles, as evidenced in the position of the resident ambassador, for example. Bank and trading in the 15th Century relied on a credit system involving pawning, pledging, and gifting, and many transactions were conducted with a promise to pay or with a credit secured with one’s belongings. Acquiring goods, then, often involved the exchanging of one item for another, and introduced different objects to different individuals
on a regular basis. The close association
between identity and credit is evident in 16th Century
legal proceedings in England, for example, where the
credibility of witnesses in giving evidence in court was linked
to their economic credibility. Indeed, the words credit and credence in a variety of European
languages have semantic links to the concepts of belief,
faith, and authority, and were closely tied to reputation. These close associations were
still evident in the 1680s, when Antoine Furetiere’s dictionary provided three definitions of credit. The first related to
reputation and character, the second to political
and financial power, and the third to loans between merchants. The activities involved
in credit and pawning thus went beyond there mere economic act, and carried the onerous
weight of reputation. Furetiere’s elaboration of his
second and third definitions have a particular baring on the relationships between
merchants and Princes. In his second category, credit could mean one’s influence over
the mind of the Prince, and the third, the
financial ruin of merchants when they lent too much
money to Signoria Lords who could never afford to pay. 15th Century merchant bankers often lent large sums of money to court rulers, and this was not usually
only for financial gain, and sometimes not at all, but for the possible
privileges it could provide. There was, however,
always an element of risk in these ventures, both for
the lender and the borrower. Recent studies on consumption
practices in the Early Modern economy have proliferated in recent years, no doubt influenced by our contemporary economic predicament and globalization. Work by Lisa Jardine and
Evelyn Welsh, for example, have broadened our understanding
of the social components of consumerism, looking
at went it meant to shop and purchase objects in
the Early Modern period. Similar studies have pinpointed the culmination of goods in the
Renaissance at the beginning of the history of
consumerism and materialism, and have gone so far as
celebrating this period as the birth of modern Capitalism. More recent interest in gifting practices provided an alternstive
approach, underlining the role of the gift as a binding force, in contrast to an individualistic economy. But late 15th Century
consumption practices have to be studied on their own terms, functioning within a dual
economy of gifts and commerce. In the 15th Century, these
two systems work together, sometimes came up against
each other in conflict, but undoubtedly influenced each other. Possessions were often transient,
and status and reputation depended on one’s ability
to negotiate the circulation of one’s goods through
the careful balancing of pawning, credit, and gifting. Records of pawned jewels and
gems reveal their mobility and underline it was common
practice amongst the elite, I think that’s something that
people often don’t realize. In September 1487, pawned
jewels from Aragonese at the Neapolitan Court were sent from Florence with Francesco Valori, ambassador of Florence to
Naples for the Strozzi Bank. The list of jewels included a large ruby, an emerald, a brooch, among others. In the same delivery, it
is recorded that a separate small wooden box containing il David, a famous jewel belonging
to King Ferrante of Naples, described as a pendant Velasio set in gold with pearls and placed on a gold chain, was consigned back to the
Court in December 1487. Il David, and I should just mention that it was common for
jewels to have names, and in the exhibition just next door, there’s a beautiful
jeweled cross, that I think brings to life these jewels, that they were actually
individualized objects. So, Il David had actually
been in Filippo Strozzi’s possession as a pawned
object for three years, and one wonders who may have seen or had access to the jewel
while it was in Florence. Lorenzo de Medici, for
example, smuggled out of Rome a strongbox of gems that had
belonged to Francesco Gonzaga. These gems were being
held by creditors there after Francesco’s death,
and were not yet for sale, which points to the multiple ways, at times ruthless and
illegal, that collectors, as well as others, interacted
with these possessions. Loans and pawning were also clearly linked to trade relations, and
merchants would often receive concessions on
customs duties as payment. In 1475, the Strozzi
Company sold a Velasio which was set with three large pearls, two diamonds, and an emerald to the King for 700 ducats, in exchange for extracting an equivalent sum of salt out of Puglia. Similarly in 1477 Ferrante
offered to waive the customs dues on the exportation of food
stuffs for his Kingdom, in order to meet the 964 ducats he owed to the Medici Bank in Naples. The Floerntine merchant
banking company of the Strozzi provides and illuminating case of overlapping social,
political, and economic ties. The economic dependencies
of these banks’ clients were often intricately bound
up with political motivations. Within these relations,
objects could often cause or become the sight
of tension and conflict, while they were also the location of contacts within these larger networks. Filippo Strozzi became one
of the main bankers serving the Neapolitan Crown in the
second half of the 15th Century. The Strozzi Family had
been exiled from Florence in the 1430s due to
anti-Medician sentiment stemming from one branch of the family. In 1447, Filippo Strozzi moved
down to Naples from Spain, where he had been working. Filippo’s relations with the
Aragonese served him well, not only did Filippo’s business in Naples, the establishment of a bank and (mumbles) earned great revenues, he was granted the title
of Councilor Estate, and it was Ferrante who negotiated Filippo’s repatriation to Florence. In September 1466, Ferrante
wrote to Lorenzo de Medici urging him to allow Filippo
to return to Florence. Ferrante also arranged for his son, Don Frederico to negotiate with the Medici on the part of the Strozzi, when Frederico was
passing through Florence for the wedding celebrations
of Duchess Ippolita Sforza and Duke Alfonso de Aragona. In September 1466, the exile
ban on the Strozzi was lifted, and in November Filippo
returned to Florence. Although Filippo was
now based in Florence, he still carried out commissions and loans for the Neapolitan Crown and
remained heavily involved with the Aragonese,
traveling down to Naples throughout the 1470s. Ironically, Filippo, once
an exiled Florentine, was given the role of intermediary between Florence and Naples, following
the Pazzi conspiracy, and he was asked to accompany Lorenzo de Medici to Naples in 1478, underlining his dual
political and economic roles. As a banker, Filippo Strozzi
provided quick capital for the Crown, furnished
loans, and supplied credit for pawns and bills
exchanged for larger payments. In his capacity as a merchant, Filippo purchased various
luxury objects in Florence and shipped them to the Neapolitan Court, and he also arranged
for Florentine artists to travel to Naples and work there. For example, throughout his life, Filippo was an important contact for books shipped from Florence to Naples. While Naples had a set of
resident Court humanists, scribes and illuminators, and
there are frequent payments to these individuals in the accounts, the Neapolitan Court still sought to purchase and commission
books outside of Naples, notably from Florence. Merchant bankers were not
merely pawns or disinterested intermediaries for the
flow of material goods, they also contributed to
the taste for these items, as they actively purchased
many for themselves, such as this illuminated
manuscript which articulates through its illumination, Strozzi’s close relationship
with King Farrante. So here are portraits
of Strozzi and his son and King Farrante, and
also note the replication of one of the Medicis’ famous gems. Thus while living between
Florence and Naples, within a span of 20 years, Filippo went from Florentine exile to
political representative, and performed the numerous
roles of banker, lender, councilor, courtier, taste
maker, and ambassador. In 1473, Filippo recorded
sending numerous gifts to friends in Naples, (foreign language), including a large lettuccio, or daybed, made by Benedeto de Maiano,
given to King Farrante. The list of gifts appear
in one of Filippo Strozzi’s account books, which
records credits and debits, as well as more personal
notes and details, similar to the personal observations found in Florentine (foreign language). Particularly striking is
the way he characterizes the gift recipients as “amichi di casa”, articulating these are
friends of the Strozzi family, rather than business relations. Filippo might have been
deliberately referencing Cicero’s discussion of liberality, where the great orator mentions the role of “Amici e Nostras”, clients,
as recipients of gifts, noting how their sons and grandsons would keep alive the memory of the gift. (Foreign language), while taking the form of a personal diary, were
of course more public in their style of rhetoric, written with the assumption that they would be passed on and
read by future generations. Calling the King of Naples a friend, certainly speaks to social aspirations, but such a speech act also
points to the multifaceted roles Fillipo performed, and
suggests a dual identity, a sense of belonging as a
member of the Neapolitan Court, and one might even say a form of courtier, even though he had returned to Florence and was now a citizen of that Republic. The act of giving, however,
is never disinterested and Filippo’s attention
to the gifts among friends underlines an inherent
contradiction in gift giving, gifts that’s freely given
with lack of self-interest is a sign of friendship,
and gifts as deeply imbued with agendas of hierarchy and reciprocity. Filippo Strozzi’s involvement in numerous political negotiations
between Florence and Naples certainly indicates a
political and diplomatic framework for the gifts. The list reveals an incredibly
wide range of individuals, the King and his children as well as humanist advisors,
secretaries, and merchants. The gifts were well chosen,
too, for the recipients, such as the antique marble
busts and a painting by Rogier van der Weyden, for
the councilor of the King, diomendes Carraffa, who was a well known collector of antiquities. Farrante’s daughter Eleonora de Aragona, soon to be the duchess of Ferrara, received a mirror with a reflecting plate made of steel in a wooden
frame with her arms. The gift of the mirror
would have given Eleonora to take something with her to Ferrara, and may have been strategic
on Filippo’s part, as a way to encourage future transactions with the Court of Ferrara. Indeed, two years later,
in February 1475, Eleanora, now in Ferrara, writes to Filippo in Florence, requesting
information on the maestro of the mirror he had given her, so that she could
commission a similar one. The variety of individuals bestowed with offering suggests that such a list does not solely speak to diplomacy, but rather to the overlapping spheres of economics, politics,
and social prestige. Objects collected at Court
included more traditional art historical media colossal
sculpture and painting, as well as material culture, gems, jewels, books, and furniture. Distinctions between
these types of objects belong to modern categorizations, those who attended
Court in the Renaissance would likely have prized a
small gem over a painting, for instance, pointing to
the risk of anachronisms when applying our modern categories and object hierarchies
on things of the past. The modern distinction
between commodity and gift needs to be evaluated within
the context of transactions. To elucidate how value
creation was a process, and that the labels commodity and gift are less about what a
thing is, and more about how it is exchanged or its
potential for exchange. Identities of objects and
those who exchange them are never fixed, but are
often contested constructions and part of what Annette Weiner has coined a reproductive system,
involving a much larger network. The obligation of the gift is
part of a series of exchanges where gifts and counter-gifts
are both material and immaterial and in
some instances the rewards are undetermined, stored up as favors that might be tapped into when necessary in navigating the stormy waters
of 15th Century diplomacy. The same applies for
what is often understood as more neutral commercial transactions such as pawns or loans. A merchant banker, such
as Lorenzo de Medici provided bills of exchange, pawns, loans, and commodities to the Princely elite, but he was also heavily involved in political negotiations
and gift exchanges. Objects were used to solidify
alliances, pay for wars, create ties of indebtedness and obligation and operate as signs of
virtue or magnificence, but they were also the
sites of political tension, instigators of financial ruin,
and indicators of betrayal. As this paper has demonstrated,
many merchant bankers could be considered double
agents, a term coined by (mumbles) referring to the multiple roles that Early Modern agents could perform, such as merchants, diplomats,
and other sorts of categories. The term (foreign language), often used in diplomatic correspondence, conveys the multiple duties
such double agents took on, which range from acquiring
goods, commissioning artists, and purchasing works of art or books, to negotiating secret
political agreements, signing trade deals, and
issuing military commands. Thank you. (clapping)

How The Secret Mafia Government Operates


In 2018 you might have seen a photo in the
news of a grey haired, bespectacled man being escorted some place by the Italian police,
aka the carabinieri. The 80-year old guy, named Settimo Mineo,
would look to most people like someone’s loving grandpa. You might also say that he has the distinguished
look of the CEO of a company, and in some respects that is quite true. Police said that Mineo was the burgeoning
boss of something called the “Sicilian mafia commission”, a quasi-government that makes
decisions regarding what mafia outfits can do – including who gets “whacked.” It’s thought Mineo had taken over from a
person nicknamed “The Beast”, due to the hundreds of people whose assassinations he
ordered. Let’s now see just how serious these guys
are. When Mineo was taken away by police one of
the prosecutors said this: “We needed to stop them before it was too late.’’ Those are ominous words, but what’ll you
see today is that the Sicilian mafia commission is no joke. This well-structured organization has given
the green light to more assassinations than you would have thought possible. A lot of deaths were not just of other criminals,
but high-ranking officials; anyone who might have gotten in the way of business or even
passed down a rather harsh prison sentence. In short, the commission is made up of the
top bosses of the Sicilian mafia, aka the Cosa Nostra. The commission itself is sometimes called
“Cupola.” It has a long bloody history, and we’ll
try and condense that for you now. Later we’ll discuss just how much power
it currently has. One of the major events that shined a light
on the commission was something called, “The First Mafia War.” In short, this was a rather serious disagreement
between mafia families in Sicily concerning who would take control of the heroin trade
– a very profitable enterprise in North America. Members of certain mafia families took out
members of other families and it’s thought in all 68 people were killed. It wouldn’t be the last time blood would
be spilled in the fight to get drugs to Americans. This argument culminated in something called
the “Ciaculli massacre”. This was when a car bomb intended to kill
a mafia boss went off and ended up killing several police and military officers. The man who was supposed to die that day was
one Salvatore ‘Ciaschiteddu’ Greco, and it came to light that this guy was the head
of something called the Sicilian Mafia Commission. It’s said occasionally Italian-American
mobsters would meet with this man in Italy. The infamous Lucky Luciano made the trip to
Palermo to meet with Greco, and it is Luciano who is said to be the man who created the
first Commission in the United States. After the first Mafia war there was a crackdown
on mafia families and over 1,000 mobsters were arrested. It was during this time that reports suggested
there was such a thing as a commission and it consisted of leading members of families
that met together to discuss business. A well-known judge at the time read the reports
but he didn’t think the mafia was that organized. In the 1970s an Italian mobster turned informant
told authorities about this underground governing body, but they didn’t believe him. They said he was insane. He was telling the truth. But it wouldn’t be until something called
the Maxi trial that authorities would first admit that there was indeed a commission and
it was serious. The trial included 452 mafiosi accused of
all manner of crimes. With so many dangerous men on trial they actually
held it in a specially-designed bunker/courthouse under a prison. Not many criminals get that kind of treatment,
but hey, if that trial happened above ground would you have bet against some folks getting
blown-up? We wouldn’t. 19 bosses got life sentences and the others
found guilty were sentenced to a total of 2,665 years. They were convicted of 120 murders, and other
convictions included extortion and drug-trafficking. Some say this was the biggest trial in history,
and it was certainly the biggest trial against the Italian mafia. This is what the New York Times wrote in its
opening paragraph after the trial commenced: “The largest Mafia trial in history ended
today with guilty verdicts against 338 of 452 defendants accused of running a vast criminal
empire financed largely with heroin trafficking to the United States.” But what’s equally as important is the fact
the trial stopped people downplaying the existence of those powerful mob families. For a long time it just wasn’t known how
big this organization was, partly because there was a strict code of silence within
the various families, and partly because they paid off law enforcement and anyone not yet
on their side. They also had a tendency to take out judges,
politicians, witnesses and lawyers. So, while many people should have been prosecuted
before the Maxi trial, and the Costa Nostra exposed as dangerous and formidable as it
was, it just didn’t happen. The New York Times article from back then
cited a man who said the mafia was a “hierarchical organization with a precise decision-making
process.” That same guy also said behind it all was
a commission and that commission consisted of 12 men, all leaders of various families. So, while the commission had been existence
much longer, now the world really knew about it. The boogeyman was real. The Costra Nostra was organized…and dangerous. We should tell you that the main judge behind
the Maxi trial, one Rocco Chinnici, said to have been instrumental in bringing down the
bad guys, was himself ultimately killed by the bad guys. He was taken out by a car bomb, as were three
others that were unfortunate enough to be near him. It’s said the mafia was furious about the
harsh sentences and so went into revenge mode. They assassinated other judges involved with
the trial. Even a journalist was taken out. There has been a lot of speculation and division
concerning how the commission actually works. Is it really as organized as a government
body. Can it be compared to a board of directors
of a company? One criminologist wrote this about cupola,
“Contrary to the wide-spread image presented by the media, these superordinate bodies of
coordination cannot be compared with the executive boards of major legal firms. Their power is intentionally limited and it
would be entirely wrong to see in the Cosa Nostra a centrally managed, internationally
active Mafia holding company.” So rather than an organization that links
everyone together and basically controls the machinery of the mafia, the commission might
just get together to make some big decisions from time to time. Perhaps if the mafia was a franchise, like
McDonalds, the leading franchise owners would get together now and again to talk about killing
cows or how they might make milkshakes more addictive. It has evolved throughout its history but
it’s thought that the commission would usually consist of the heads of families with the
biggest clans. They were the strongest families. There would be one head, or secretary, who
was that man named Greco we discussed when the commission first got off the ground. All he really did was call people to the meetings. There were lots of different members of the
commission over the years, and at times the various families got on ok. After that first mafia war they had agreed
to try and get along, an agreement called the “pax mafiosa.” Pax can mean peace, or truce. But peace wasn’t always on the cards. Coalitions were at times formed and those
groups wanted others out of the way. Mobsters on the commission sometimes were
assassinated, and sometimes the rules were changed in the commission. For instance, after one coalition attained
more power after getting rid of their rivals, they created a rule which meant the commission
could suspend a leader of a family and install a temporary boss. You then had to play by their rules. They had rigged the game by changing the constitution. This was all actually going on before the
Maxi trial. The reason for that Maxi trial in the first
place was because so much blood was being spilled. Not only were the mafia intimidating politicians
and judges and law enforcement, but they were killing each other in what was called the
second mafia war. Around 200 mafia members were killed or went
missing. It was that guy nicknamed “The Beast”
who was behind a lot of the assassinations. His name was Salvatore “Totò” Riina,
and he was known not only for his ruthlessness regarding murder, but also for the fact he
was quite the authoritarian boss. He became the last boss of the commission
and held that position for a long time. We know we told you at the start that the
guy who looked like someone’s grandpa was the new boss, but The Beast was the last official
boss. The grandpa, Settimo Mineo, was said to have
just started a new commission but was stopped in his tracks. The Beast was sometimes called the boss of
bosses and he came with the tagline, “’He killed all his rivals.” He died in prison in 2017 aged 87 after being
sentenced to serve his time in what Amnesty International calls, “cruel, inhumane or
degrading treatment.” The courts were never going to go easy on
a man who had ordered the killings of so many officials. This man was accused of ordering the murder
of 150 people, but some say it was much higher than that. This is what The Guardian wrote after The
Beast died, “The crime syndicate still exists, and still shapes people’s social and economic
lives in parts of Sicily, but it is a shadow of what it once was, undermined by the relentless
scrutiny of Italian police and prosecutors and unable to regain its dominance of the
illegal drug trade.” It was the end of an era. When The Beast was the boss the commission
didn’t really even attempt to maintain any level of peace. One Mafia expert said this about him to the
Guardian, “He assassinated his rivals. He killed all of them, hundreds of them, he
literally ethnically cleansed them out of Palermo.” So, is that the end of the commission or is
something bad brewing somewhere in the cellars of Sicily? Well, since The Beast was arrested another
4,000 members of the mafia were also arrested. Millions of dollars were seized and it seems
mafia power is certainly not what it used to be. Saying that, one former magistrate who’d
worked on an anti-mafia taskforce said those guys will never give up. They might be weakened, but they’ll try
to come back. The Guardian said this about that guy, “He
is one of the few anti-mafia magistrates from those years who is still alive.” With new technologies the commission might
not have a chance. Police are too good at watching over people,
but that’s why Grandpa Mineo, the man who wanted to make the commission what it once
was, did not even use a mobile phone. It’s reported he even walked everywhere
because he thought the cops would have his car bugged. Reports tell us that some mobsters liked his
methods, and the fact he reminded them of the old school Costa Nostra. But the old ways meant old-fashioned tactics. He might have been chosen to head a new commission,
but he did things the old way. The chief of the anti-mafia national prosecution
office said this about Mineo becoming the new head, “And by choosing him, they also
chose the old methods of intimidations, like sending severed lamb’s heads to the businessmen
who refused to pay the protection money.’’ He looks like such a nice man, too. We guess you really can’t go on appearances. Reports in 2019 tell us that the Cosa Nostra
empire has been declared a thing of the past by officials in Sicily. Mineo was the last great hope, and now that
he’s gone those officials are confident the mafia has all but been wiped out. We say all but, because people accept remnants
of it exist, but it’s not capable of doing things like taking out judges and controlling
a vast opiates empire in the USA. One lawyer working in Sicily said there are
younger members of the mafia but they don’t get the respect the older guys got and so
there is no leadership and no framework. She said it’s hardly very organized crime
at all. She said that the mafia is in disarray, adding
that while some guys will get out of prison and try to act like leaders, they are not
leaders at all. She said, “They are men who, once they’ve
served their prison time and are back on the streets, put on airs as godfathers. They think they’re bosses. The truth is that this is no longer Cosa Nostra.” There is no super-boss and many people claiming
to be mafiosa are accused of being nothing but petty crooks. One person critical of what’s left of the
mafia even said the new guys were merely “chicken thieves.” The mafia might be done, and perhaps proof
of this is that if you walk down a street in Palermo these days you’ll see stalls
selling mafia-themed t-shirts. Still, there are some people that say the
costa nostra isn’t dead yet and it might be arrogant to think it won’t rise from
the grave. As one person put it, “The battle isn’t
over yet.” In fact, we found a recent article about a
Sicilian mafia family who’d been in the United States for years and had returned to
Sicily to start their criminal activity there. This family was very close to the Italian-American
mafia, but had decided to go back home. An Italian newspaper wrote the headline, “The
Godfather returns”. How do you think the Sicilian mafia could
become powerful again? What would you do if you were the big boss? Tell us in the comments. Then go watch “Crazy Italian Mafia Crimes”
Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time.

The Russian October Revolution 1917 I THE GREAT WAR Week 172


Each episode of this show begins with a hook;
something that hasn’t happened so far in the war, but not today. This week’s episode begins with a hook that
has happened before, in fact, it happened only eight months ago – revolution in Russia. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week, the Central Powers breakthrough
on the Italian front – the Battle of Caporetto – continued, with the Italians retreating
all week and the Germans and Austrians taking prisoners in the hundreds of thousands. ANZAC mounted infantry performed brilliantly
as the Ottomans were defeated at Beersheba, the Canadians advanced slightly at Passchendaele,
taking heavy casualties; the British government announced its support for a National Home
for Jews in Palestine, and there was ominous unrest in Petrograd. And as this week unfolded, that unrest grew
and exploded. On the 3rd, German and Russian soldiers fraternize
on northern front. On the 5th, Prime Minister and Minister of
War Alexander Kerensky ordered troops outside the city that he believed were loyal to him
to enter the city to quell revolutionary activity, but on the 6th they declined to do so. That evening, the Bolsheviks occupied the
railway stations, the bridges over the Neva River, the state bank, and the telephone exchange. On the 7th, more than 18,000 Bolsheviks surrounded
the Provisional Government Ministers who had holed up in the Winter Palace, and who were
defended by fewer than 1,000 people. More than 13,000 sailors from Kronstadt had
arrived in the city, dedicated to revolution. That evening the cruiser Aurora, anchored
in the Neva, announced that it would fire on the Winter Palace and fired blank charges
to show it was serious. By 0100, the Bolsheviks had overrun the palace
and scattered the defenders. On the 8th, Lenin proclaimed a new government
– the Council of People’s Commissars. Lenin was elected the Chairman of the Council,
and was now nominally ruler of the capital city. Leon Trotsky became Commissar for Foreign
Affairs. This was the October Revolution – we’re
still in October by the Russian calendar then in use. The first government decree that day was the
decree of peace, which Lenin read out in the evening to an ecstatic crowd. On the 9th, Trotsky asked his ministry to
translate it into foreign languages for immediate distribution abroad, but 100 officials loyal
to either the Tsar or the Provisional Government, walked out. On the 10th, 4 million copies will be sent
to the front, calling for an end to the fighting. One thing here, this new “government”
did not have support of the moderate Socialist Revolutionaries nor the Mensheviks in the
Petrograd Soviet, and it had not been ratified by any Constituent Assembly. Until that could happen, it would be run by
a series of ad hoc committees with no political legitimacy. As the week ended, it was still great turmoil
in Petrograd and Moscow, since nobody had any idea how this was going to play out. There were a couple of things, though, that
were playing out this week in Italy – Caporetto and Cadorna. Italian army Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna
had played very little part in the battle. He hadn’t actually thought there would even
be one once the snow had arrived in the Julian Alps at the beginning of October so he’d
taken a two-week vacation to Torino. Even when he returned he still didn’t listen
to the rumors about an impending offensive, and that offensive had turned into a rout. And the fighting was still going on. On the 5th, the Germans crossed the Tagliamento
and the Italians were again on the retreat. On the 8th, the Germans were pushing the Italians
toward the Piave River and that day outflanked 17,000 Italians, who surrendered. The same day, Austrian troops coming down
from the Dolomites and Julian Alps occupied Vittorio Veneto, just 55km from Venice. In ten days, the Italian retreat from Caporetto
had been 100km, but at the end of the week, the Italians were established behind the Piave. King Vittorio Emanuele, who was technically
in charge of the army called a meeting of the leaders of the Western Allies for November
5th at Rapallo to try to deal with Italy’s precarious situation. Cadorna didn’t bother attending, and sent
General Carlo Porro instead. At the conference, Porro claimed the Germans
had attacked with 35 divisions, not the seven they actually had attacked with. The Italians asked French and British Prime
Ministers Paul Painlevé and David Lloyd George for 15 British and French divisions to be
sent at once. The British sent in 5 artillery and infantry
divisions and the French 6 (Caporetto). The King was now furious with Cadorna and
called for another meeting the 8th. In English he told those assembled that the
responsibility for the Caporetto disaster lay with the Italian generals, and he called
for the resignation of Cadorna and Luigi Capello. Now Cadorna grew furious and blamed everyone
but himself. He refused to resign. The king fired him. The general consensus was that the Duke of
Aosta, who was still undefeated, should replace Cadorna, but the king didn’t want to appoint
a cousin, so he appointed General Armando Diaz as new Chief of Staff. Diaz was a lot different from Cadorna. He was from the south – from Naples – and
was of Spanish descent. He had originally been an artillery officer,
though he’d spent the bulk of two decades in Rome as a staff officer. As a younger man, he had seen action in Libya,
where he’d been wounded and decorated, and in the World War he’d risen quickly through
the ranks, commanding infantry regiments on the Carso. He became a Corps commander in April this
year and his Corps was the only one to gain ground in the 10th and 11th battles of the
Isonzo River. Unlike Cadorna, Diaz cared deeply for the
welfare of his men and was concerned with keeping casualties as low as possible. His jobs now were to rebuild the Italian army
and hold the Piave line. Also at the conference, the Allies decided
on the creation of a Supreme Allied War Council for the western front. This was to be a body charged with constantly
surveying the field of operations as a whole, and from the information gathered, coordinating
the plans of the different general staffs. There was a breakthrough on another front
that also continued this week – the Palestine Front. Following the capture of Beersheba, Gaza now
fell after a massive bombardment from ten British and French naval vessels off the coast. A German sub managed to sink two of them. A combined infantry and mounted assault then
hit the city, and in minutes overwhelmed the defenses that Kress von Kressenstein had spent
the year building. This whole campaign featured more and more
cavalry and mounted infantry charges, used for their shock value, then culminating in
hand to hand combat. On the 8th, for example, the Warwickshire
and Worcestershire Yeomanry charged Turkish positions at Huj that were supported by machine
guns and artillery. “A whole heap of men and horses went down
20 or 30 yards from the muzzles of the guns. The squadron broke into a few scattered horsemen
at the guns and then seemed to melt away completely… I had the impression I was the only man alive. I was amazed to discover we were the victors.” – Lieutenant Wilfred Mercer. They then turned the captured machine guns
on the fleeing enemy. Any way you slice it, cavalry overrunning
machine guns is a serious achievement, but cavalry’s main advantage was that it could
provoke total panic on breaking through. However, in spite of British General Edmund
Allenby’s success, the Ottomans repeatedly escaped encirclement and withdrew to fight
again. And the Canadians were fighting again as well,
on the Western Front at Passchendaele. The assault November 6th was, in fact, to
be an all-Canadian one. In all the other sectors only artillery would
engage. Two Canadian Divisions attacked at 0600 – General
Arthur Currie was going for speed and surprise, and after just two minutes of shelling, the
creeping barrage began. The infantry had already crawled into no-mans
land in the dark and thus avoided the German artillery that now fell on their trenches. By 0745, two battalions of the 1st Division
were already 1km from their assault trenches. The 2nd division had taken Passchendaele itself
by 0740, “a pile of bricks with the ruin of a church, a mass of slaughtered masonry
and nothing else left on this shell-swept height.” The men could see in the distance across the
far end of the remains of the village, a land of tall trees and green fields, with undamaged
houses and unmarked fields, an incredible contrast to the battlefield. Canadian troops drove the Germans off enough
of Passchendaele Ridge for British Army Commander Sir Douglas Haig to claim victory. The price of this little victory was almost
exactly what Currie had predicted a couple weeks ago for it – 16,000 men. And the week ends, with a new Italian Commander
trying to stem the tide, British success in Palestine, Canadian success at a heavy cost
at Passchendaele, a Supreme war Council formed, oh! And Austrian General Svetozar Borojevic von
Bojna is promoted to Field Marshal. And there was another revolution in Russia. But you know what? This Bolshevik coup, for that’s what it
is at the moment, was not the heroic rise of the workers you find in Russian histories,
it was “…the exhausted capitulation of Kerensky’s moribund and virtually defenseless
government.” Seriously. The under-1,000-people I mentioned that were
guarding his government at the winter palace? It was made up of teenaged cadets, a bicycle
squad, two companies of Cossacks, and 135 wom n from a Women’s Death battalion who
expected to fight Germans at the front and had no desire to defend Kerensky’s government. That was it. Against tens of thousands of Bolshevik Red
Guards and revolutionary sailors. At least, though, there wasn’t a great deal
of blood. For now. If you want to learn more about Russia before
the revolution, you can click right here to watch our special episode about that. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Ninip
Lazar – thank you for your ongoing support on Patreon which makes this show what it is
today. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next
time.

Italy Attacks – The Battle of Vittorio Veneto I THE GREAT WAR Week 222


The Italian Front has been quiet since a summer
offensive by the Austrians, and the Italians have been on defense for a year. Exactly a year, as it happens, for this week
on the anniversary of Caporetto, the Italian army attacks! I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week there was chaos in the German Army
High Command, as they tried to decide whether to withdraw in the west, even as the Allies
spent the week there advancing along basically the whole front. Austro-Hungarian Emperor Karl announced that
the Austrian half on his empire would become a confederation of autonomous sub nations,
and an American steamer was torpedoed by the Germans, which inflamed anti-German fervor
even as armistice discussions proceeded across the Atlantic. American President Woodrow Wilson has said
that armistice terms will be written by the commanders in the field and not him, but he
still has things to say in general. First off, autonomy is no longer sufficient
for the Austro-Hungarian peoples. He says the US now has obligations to Czechoslovakia
and the South Slav people that go way beyond autonomy within the empire. He also says this week that the only armistice
possible with Germany is one that renders a renewal of hostilities by Germany impossible. Wilson has a pretty strong position now, for
the American army by has the Germans alarmed. On the 24th (Gilbert) The pro-socialist newspaper
Arbeiter Zeitung points out that 10,000 fresh American troops come to Europe per day, 300,000
per month, and asks if people really want to continue the war, to deprive the nation
of the young men of its future. Three months ago this would’ve been treason,
now it was common sense. At the end of the week, those Allied commanders
in the field Wilson referred to- Ferdinand Foch, Sir Douglas Haig, Philippe Petain, and
John Pershing- do meet to discuss armistice conditions. Their main issue is the same as Wilson’s;
making it impossible for Germany to renew the fight at a later date, like in the spring. So they are going to insist on Germany surrendering
all artillery and all railway rolling stock, but they’re not all sure Germany will agree
to this. Haig thinks that though the Germans have been
badly hurt, they aren’t yet beaten and can still fall back and create an effective line. He also feels the Allied armies are pretty
well exhausted by now, and that the Americans are not yet organized and in the next battle,
the American army “cannot be counted upon for much”. The American Pershing basically ignores this
and suggests that, since the American supply lines are nearly 5,000 km going all the way
across the Atlantic, the Germans will have to surrender all of their submarines too. The others agree. Foch disagrees with Haig though about the
Germans and says that they are not just an army that has been beaten every day for three
months, they are an army that is physically, morally, and thoroughly beaten. German High Command- mainly Erich Ludendorff
and Paul von Hindenburg- actually agrees with this assessment, but Ludendorff, with Hindenburg’s
approval, still sends out a letter to all army group commanders which says armistice
conditions are unacceptable and even unworthy of Germany, so they must fight to the finish. Okay, this was withdrawn after the first protest,
but not before a telegraph operator sends its text to the Reichstag members of his party-
the Independent Socialist Party. On the 25th, the German newspapers publish
the telegram. German Chancellor Prince Max von Baden is
outraged and goes to the Kaiser demanding Ludendorff’s resignation, or his government
would resign. Ludendorff meets the Kaiser and says if the
people at home support us, we can fight for months. The Kaiser, though, is royally outraged that
Ludendorff telegraphed the troops directly and without consulting him, and Ludendorff,
now realizing that even if the war continues he won’t be allowed to run it anymore, resigns. That happens tomorrow, actually, one day in
the future. Hindenburg, Army Chief of Staff, also offers
his resignation, but the Kaiser refuses. For the remainder of his life, Ludendorff
will see Hindenburg’s obedience that day as a terrible betrayal. Ludendorff’s resignation is announced in
Berlin movie houses and audiences cheer. In fact, Germany is now too dangerous for
him. He will slip away in disguise and head for
Sweden. He is succeeded as Quartermaster General by
General Wilhelm Groener. The Kaiser has a lot on his plate, to say
the least. Earlier this week on the 22nd, to help quiet
political unrest, which is starting to get seriously out of hand, he agreed to a general
amnesty of political prisoners. Karl Liebknecht, a leader of the revolutionary
communist organization the Spartacists, is released. 20,000 people go to the station to greet him. In Russia, Lenin declares, “Three months
ago people used to laugh when we said there might be a revolution in Germany.” And as for action on the war’s battlefields
this week… In the west on the 19th, the Belgians occupy
Zeebrugge and storm Bruges, by the next day the entire Belgian coast is in Allied hands. There is a British-American advance between
Oise and Le Cateau, the French and Czechoslovak Legion push enemy back on River Serre, and
the 25th marks the end of the Battle of the Selle. That battle may have ended, but a new one
was just beginning, on the Italian front. At 0715 on the 24th, what would become known
as the Battle of Vittorio-Veneto begins with 1,400-gun bombardment of the Austro-Hungarian
positions on Monte Grappa in the mist and rain, followed by an assault by the Italian
4th Army. The Austrians have 9 divisions of defense
against 7 attacking, and ferocious fighting continues to the end of week with nearly no
gains for the Italians. On the Piave River, the British fight for
Papadopoli Island. They take it, but rains and flooding prevent
any further advance for the time being. Martin Gilbert quotes a chaplain talking about
the British troops here who are used to the Western Front, “…the novelty of the enterprise
helped considerably to relieve the tension. There was something hideous and inhuman about
a trench attack in France. The mud, the duckboards, the dead horses one
passed on the way up, the sickening bark and roar of the guns… On this occasion, however, the situation was
quite different… The guns were all silent, the avenues of trees
were all decked in the glories of their autumn foliage. Above all, the element of adventure which
was involved in the passage of the river… combined to free the men from the load of
oppression which even the stoutest heart had felt a year ago on Passchendaele Ridge.” But the enemy’s morale and will to fight
was wavering. In fact, on the 24th, the Hungarian government
calls on Hungarian units to go home (Stevenson) and they refuse to go into battle on the Asiago. They are allowed to go home and they do so
within a day, and this news spread like wildfire to the rest of the Austrian army. In Hungary on the 25th, Count Michael Karolyi,
Hungarian Nationalist leader, sets up a Hungarian National Council in Budapest. This is a prelude to a formal separation of
Austria and Hungary. And here are some rather long notes to end
the week. This week on the 19th all German subs are
ordered to return to their home bases and on the 22nd, the German government agrees
to renounce unrestricted submarine warfare. But once the German U-Boats are recalled,
and since the German navy has no need of an armistice since it’s under no threat at
all, German Naval Chief of Staff Reinhard Scheer orders Franz von Hipper, Commander
of the High Seas Fleet, to prepare for an all-out attack on the British Grand Fleet,
using the battle fleet and all the now available U-Boats. So Hipper puts the order together on the 24th,
but it has not yet been approved as the week ends. We’ve seen tank on tank battles, but the
first recorded battle- the first that I’m aware of- between armored cars happens this
week on the Palestine Front on the 22nd north of Hama. One German armored car and a bunch of trucks
armed with machine guns encounter the First Australian Light Car Patrol. That patrol is 12 armored Rolls Royces with
Vickers guns and 12 Model T’s with Lewis Guns. The Germans are outnumbered and try to flee,
but they are run down and captured. The occupants of the German armored car are
killed as they flee their vehicle during the chase- turns out that their armor was not
stopping bullets and is something of a death trap. The Spanish Flu has been raging for months,
but the second wave- far more deadly- had arrived and was in full force in October 1918
among the armies. David Stevenson gives October case numbers
as 39,000 for the Americans, 14,000 for the British, as many as 75,000 for the French…
and no numbers for the Germans. This speaks volumes about the state of the
German army that there are no statistics. Death from the flu came in days, in some cases
just hours. For the war as a whole, 43,000 American servicemen
will die of the flu, that’s not a whole lot less than the number that die in actual
combat. There are theories that claim the flu hit
first and hit harder among the Central Powers armies, and this contributed to their breakdown
this fall. Neither I nor anyone can confirm or deny that
at this point, but that brings us to the end of the week. A new Italian offensive, a continuing general
one in the west, Hungarian soldiers leaving the fight, Lenin hoping for German revolution,
the Kaiser trying to quell it before it starts, and firing his military leader. Outrage in the German government, demands
from the American one, and Allied High Command trying to agree on armistice terms. Because the writing is on the wall, right? And everyone kinda knows it; Foch and company,
Ludendorff, the Kaiser, the German army, even the German navy knows it. That includes Scheer and Von Hipper, who are
still just about to order that navy into a fight to the finish with the British navy. And why? Well, even if you lose you gotta make a statement,
right? And if everybody dies? Well, at least it was courageous, and after
all, it’s only men. If you want to learn more about the Battle
of Vittorio Veneto, we went to a local museum there that is also dedicated to the Central
Powers occupation beforehand. You can click right here to watch our special
episode about that. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Alexandru
Popescu. Thank you for supporting our show and thank
you for making it possible over all these years. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next
time.

Italy’s government targets town known for taking in migrants


>>Sreenivasan: FOR THE LAST 20 YEARS, THE TINY ITALIAN TOWN OF RIACE HAS BECOME A SYMBOL OF HOW EUROPEANS WELCOME AND INTEGRATE MIGRANTS. IT ALSO GAINED INTERNATIONAL ATTENTION FOR ITS MAYOR, DOMENICO LUCANO, WHO WON PLAUDITS FROM THE POPE AND WAS NAMED BY “FORTUNE” MAGAZINE AS ONE OF THE WORLD’S GREATEST LEADERS. BUT ITALY’S NEW, POPULIST GOVERNMENT HAS A DIFFERENT VIEW OF LUCIANO, AND MANY OF RIACE’S NEW RESIDENTS NOW FACE AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE. NEWSHOUR WEEKEND SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY REPORTS FROM ROME.>>Reporter: WHEN WE FIRST VISITED RIACE, A SMALL HILLTOP TOWN IN ITALY’S SOUTHERN REGION OF CALABRIA, BACK IN 2016, MAYOR DOMENICO LUCANO WAS PROUD TO SHOW US HOW MANY MIGRANTS WERE LIVING AND WORKING THERE.>>HEY, BON GIORNO.>>Reporter: INCLUDING PEOPLE LIKE DANIEL YABOAH, ORIGINALLY FROM GHANA. A FAMILIAR FACE HERE IN RIACE, YABOAH WENT HOUSE TO HOUSE COLLECTING TRASH AND RECYCLABLES ALONG WITH HIS “TRUSTY” DONKEY. HE’D FLED DEATH THREATS IN GHANA, HE SAYS, AFTER HIS WIFE CONVERTED FOR HIM FROM ISLAM TO CHRISTIANITY, AND HAD BEEN LIVING IN RIACE FOR 7.5 YEARS. YOU HAVE A LIFE HERE?>>YES, OF COURSE. WE HAVE A LIFE HERE, AND THE PEOPLE HERE GIVE US A CHANCE TO FEEL LIKE HOME, YOU KNOW. THEY ARE FRIENDLY, USED TO FOREIGNERS. THEY ARE USED TO WELCOME EVERYBODY HERE. SO I’M VERY HAPPY I’M HERE NOW.>>Reporter: RIACE WAS NOT ONLY GOOD TO REFUGEES, THE REFUGEES HAD PROVED GOOD FOR RIACE. WHAT WOULD THE TOWN BE LIKE WITHOUT REFUGEES RIGHT NOW?>>(translated):SIMPLY PUT, RIACE WOULD NO LONGER EXIST.>>Reporter: THAT’S BECAUSE, BY THE 1990s, RIACE WAS SUFFERING THE FATE OF SO MANY SMALL VILLAGES IN EUROPE. ITS POPULATION HAD DROPPED ALMOST IN HALF AS YOUNG PEOPLE MOVED AWAY TO FIND JOBS IN CITIES AND LEFT BEHIND EMPTY HOUSES AND SHUTTERED BUSINESSES. THEN IN 1998, A BOAT CAME ASHORE WITH 200 KURDISH REFUGEES. RATHER THAN SEEING THEM AS A THREAT, MAYOR LUCANO SAW THEM AS THE TOWN’S FUTURE. HE FOUND HOMES AND JOBS FOR MANY OF THEM. IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF A WELCOME POLICY THAT LASTED EVEN THROUGH THE RECENT REFUGEE CRISIS. BY 2016, ABOUT 400 OF THE TOWN’S 1,800 RESIDENTS WERE NON-ITALIANS FROM MORE THAN 20 DIFFERENT COUNTRIES. MAYOR LUCANO DEVELOPED A PROGRAM THAT COLLECTED THE $30 A DAY EACH REFUGEE RECEIVES FROM THE GOVERNMENT AND POOLED INTO A FUND TO RENOVATE FORMERLY ABANDONED HOMES FOR REFUGEES TO LIVE IN.>>(translated):EVEN IF YOU’RE HERE BY YOURSELF, YOU GET YOUR OWN HOUSE, BECAUSE THIS IS THE STRATEGY THAT WE LAUNCHED FROM THE BEGINNING. THE WHOLE TOWN IS A MIGRANT CENTER.>>Reporter: THE FUND ALSO HELPED MIGRANTS START NEW BUSINESSES AND PAID THEM A MONTHLY STIPEND. RIACE WAS GROWING AGAIN… EVEN BECOMING SOMETHING OF A TOURIST ATTRACTION. BUT AFTER OUR FIRST REPORT, IT EMERGED THAT THE MAYOR WAS UNDER POLICE INVESTIGATION, AND TODAY, THE RIACE EXPERIMENT FACES EXTINCTION. AND, AT LEAST FOR NOW, DOMENICO LUCANO IS NO LONGER MAYOR OF RIACE. LUCANO WAS BRIEFLY PUT UNDER HOUSE ARREST IN OCTOBER. WHEN RELEASED, HE WAS ORDERED TO KEEP OUT OF RIACE. BANISHMENT IS AN UNUSUALLY HARSH TACTIC FOR SOMEONE LIKE LUCANO. IT’S COMMONLY USED BY ITALIAN COURTS AGAINST THE MAFIA.>>(translated):I’VE BEEN SUSPENDED FROM MY ROLE AS MAYOR, AND FORBIDDEN TO ENTER RIACE, UNTIL THESE LEGAL QUESTIONS ARE CLEARED UP.>>Reporter: THE INVESTIGATION IS ONGOING, BUT THERE ARE ALREADY A NUMBER OF CHARGES, ACCORDING TO STEFANO CANDIANI, AN UNDERSECRETARY OF THE ITALIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY.>>(translated):THE CHARGES AGAINST THE MAYOR OF RIACE ARE CHARGES FROM THE JUDICIARY FOLLOWING A LENGTHY INVESTIGATION IN WHICH THEY ESSENTIALLY UNCOVERED WIDESPREAD GOVERNMENT MISMANAGEMENT, IMPROPER MANAGEMENT OF PUBLIC FUNDS. THE CHARGES INCLUDE FAKE MARRIAGES, MARRIAGES MEANT TO FACILITATE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN IN ITALY.>>Reporter: HE’S ACCUSED OF FACILITATING SHAM MARRIAGES. IS THERE PROOF AGAINST THAT?>>(translated):LOOK, YOU CAN’T ASK ME FOR PROOF. THERE’S A JUDICIAL PROCESS AT WORK.>>(translated):FACILITATING ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION, SOUNDS TO ME LIKE, I DON’T KNOW WHAT. OBVIOUSLY, I’VE BEEN THROUGH SOME HARD TIMES AND BITTERNESS. THEY’RE ACCUSING ME OF FELONIES.>>Reporter: DID YOU BREAK THE LAW?>>(translated):I’D LIKE TO RESPOND BY ASKING A QUESTION: WEREN’T THERE LAWS IN NAZI GERMANY, DURING THE THIRD REICH? THEY PRODUCED A HUMANITARIAN NIGHTMARE. PEOPLE WHO ARE FLEEING WAR. FROM TRAUMA, MISERY, POVERTY. I TRIED SIMPLY TO OFFER SOME SENSITIVITY. AND THAT TURNED INTO AN EXTRAORDINARY OPPORTUNITY FOR A TOWN LIKE RIACE.>>Reporter: THERE IS A DIVIDE IN ITALY OVER THE ISSUE OF IMMIGRATION. THE COUNTRY’S POPULIST GOVERNMENT, WHICH TOOK POWER LAST YEAR, RECENTLY PASSED SWEEPING LEGISLATION MAKING IT MUCH HARDER FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS TO GET RESIDENCY. THE LEFT-WING OPPOSITION, MEANWHILE, SAYS THE LAWS EFFECTIVELY CRIMINALIZE A WHOLE GROUP OF MIGRANTS BY DENYING THEM A PLACE TO LIVE AND WORK. IN THIS POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT, LUCANO HAS BECOME A HERO OF THE LEFT, THE STAR SPEAKER AT THIS RALLY IN ROME.>>(translated):IT’S RIGHT THAT TODAY I’M HERE AMONG YOU. KEEP ON DREAMING ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF A DIFFERENT DIMENSION FOR HUMANITY.>>Reporter: LUCANO’S SUPPORTERS HAVE CALLED THE ACTIONS TAKEN AGAINST HIM POLITICALLY MOTIVATED. ITALY’S ANTI-MIGRANT INTERIOR MINISTER MATTEO SALVINI HAS MADE NO SECRET OF HIS DISDAIN FOR THE MAYOR OF RIACE. IN FACT, IF YOU WANT AN IDEA, JUST GO TO TWITTER AND SEE WHAT HE’S POSTING. HERE HE IS GLOATING OVER THE ARREST OF MAYOR LUCANO. HE SAYS, “OH MY, I CAN’T WAIT TO HEAR WHAT THE DO-GOODERS WILL HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THIS, THE ONES WHO WANT TO FILL ITALY WITH MIGRANTS.” IS THE GOVERNMENT OF MATTEO SALVINI TRYING TO MAKE AN EXAMPLE OUT OF THE MAYOR OF RIACE?>>(translated):THAT’S VERY CURIOUS. BECAUSE THE INVESTIGATIONS SURROUNDING RIACE WERE LAUNCHED LONG BEFORE THIS ADMINISTRATION TOOK OFFICE. THE INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE MANAGEMENT OF PUBLIC FUNDS WERE LAUNCHED IN 2016. THE CONCLUSIONS ARE COMING IN NOW.>>Reporter: WHILE LUCANO AWAITS TRIAL, RIACE IS ALREADY PAYING THE PRICE. THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT HAS CUT OFF FUNDING FOR THE TOWN’S REFUGEE PROGRAM, LEAVING HUNDREDS WITH NO MONEY FOR FOOD AND RENT. COULD WE EXPECT TO SEE MIGRANTS FORCIBLY REMOVED FROM RIACE?>>(translated):IF YOU’RE HERE WITH PROPER PAPERS, YOU CAN STAY. WHEN THEY EXPIRE, EITHER YOU LEAVE, OR YOU GET KICKED OUT OF THE COUNTRY. THESE ARE THE RULES OF COEXISTENCE. WE CAN’T HOST ALL THE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO COME HERE SIMPLY BECAUSE IT’S EASY, LOOKS NICE, AND PLEASANT. IT COMES WITH COSTS, AT THE EXPENSE OF ITALIANS.>>Reporter: WHAT IS NEXT FOR THE CITY OF RIACE?>>(translated):THE ARRIVAL OF REFUGEES HELPED BRING RIACE BACK TO LIFE. THAT’S ALL I KNOW. FOR 20 YEARS, SINCE THAT BOAT WASHED UP IN RIACE, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER WE CHANGED THE FATE OF THIS LITTLE TOWN. I HOPE THAT RIACE MANAGES TO BECOME A LAND OF WELCOME ONCE AGAIN.

North Korean diplomat has not requested asylum from Italy: Italy’s Foreign Ministry


now The Strange Case of a North Korean
diplomat and his whereabouts has taken another twist as an Italian official has
denied that he’s actually under the protection of Italian authorities as had
been reported by South Korean media on Thursday they said that this diplomat in
question who was formally in charge of Pyongyang’s embassy in Italy was seeking
asylum in the European country eg one with more the Italian government has
confirmed that the missing North Korean diplomat has not requested asylum as of
now an official in Italy’s foreign affairs ministry said this to The
Associated Press on Thursday adding that to some youth they shouted affair of the
North Embassy in Rome no longer held diplomatic status in Italy
presumably since his assignment had ended in late November this comes after
South Korean newspaper in Chula mobile reported Thursday citing diplomatic
sources that Cho had applied for personal security protection from the
Italian government in early December and that he and his family are currently
under the protection of Italian authorities personal security protection
is a diplomatic procedure aimed to prevent people from being repatriated
while seeking asylum according to the paper two went into hiding with his wife
in early November in an attempt to seek asylum to a third country his current
whereabouts is still unknown though the Italian official said it’s foreign
ministry hadn’t received any requests for asylum
the Italian daily la república said that it’s possible that the north korean
might have turned to other offices such as Italian intelligence agencies for
assistance the South Korean government on Thursday
said they have no information regarding the report but according to lawmakers
were briefed by Seoul’s Intelligence Agency that is not yet clear whether to
is hoping to defect to South Korea and there has been no attempt by tool to
contact the government Choi was dispatched to Italy in May 2015 and
started to run the North Korean mission there in October 2017 as the Italian
government Feldon horas ambassador boon gyeongnam
after Pyongyang six nuclear tests it’s believed that who decided to seek asylum
after he was ordered to return home a major reason is deemed to be the
education of his children this is believed to be a third case
where a senior North Korean diplomat initially requested a solemn to a
country other than South Korea the last one being tailed a former minister at
the North’s Embassy in London who defected to the South in 2016 he won
Arirang news

Indonesia-Italy Diplomatic Relations (70 Years) ǀ Hubungan Diplomatik Indonesia-Italia [SUB INA&ENG]


Hello everyone My name is Lucky and welcome to my channel Today’s topic is about the bilateral relations between Indonesia and Italy This topic is very vast So in this video I will concentrate more on the diplomatic relations between the two countries I don’t want to make this video too long and boring Ok? 2019 This year is very important for the relations between Indonesia and Italy But why? Because in 2019, the two countries celebrate their 70 years of diplomatic relations Italy and Indonesia have had diplomatic relations since (*dal not nell) 1949 Remember! 1949! Ok? Four years before that On 17 August 1945 Indonesia proclaimed its independence In 1951, Italy opened its diplomatic representative office in Jakarta But, it did not yet have the status of an embassy And then In 1952, Indonesia opened its diplomatic representative office in Rome But, it did not yet have the status of an embassy And then… In 1953, both countries agreed to upgrade the status of their representative offices into embassies The relations between Indonesia and Italy continue to grow in many fields Politically, the two countries share the same democratic values Economically, both countries are members of the G20 Bilateral trade reached more than 3 billion USD The two countries promote interfaith dialogues and address climate change 70 years of diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Italy What is the main theme, the main focus? The two countries agreed to enhance cooperation in creative economy and in micro, small, and medium enterprises Boosting economic relations is at the center Including investment and cooperation in the fields of culinary fashion and furniture Ok, like I said in the beginning of this video, I focus on the diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Italy But this video only touches the tip the of iceberg about diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Italy I hope that you liked this video I will make other videos about Indonesia and Italy with a different theme for every video Thank you very much, and until next time

Italy’s ‘Beckham Law’ Tax Explained


On June 27th, 2019, a bill known as the Decreto
Crescita, or the Growth Decree in English, passed through Italy’s Senate. The purpose
of the legislation is to boost the stuttering Italian economy, but it could also have a
major impact on football and on the ability of Serie A clubs to attract the world’s
best players and coaches because of a new tax break. The legislation is being compared to the ‘Beckham
Law’, a tax decree that was signed into Spanish law in 2005 and that provided tax
breaks for rich foreign workers such as footballers. Given that David Beckham was one of the first
players to benefit from the law during his time at Real Madrid, his name became forever
associated with the measure. From 2005 until an amendment in 2010, this
tax break helped LaLiga clubs to afford some of the most lucrative contracts in football.
Now, Serie A clubs should similarly benefit thanks to Article 5 of the Decreto Crescita.
The aim of this section of the bill is the “rientro dei cervelli”, meaning “the
return of the brains”, as the Italian government is trying to stop the brain
drain that has hurt the country’s economy by bringing skilled workers back to Italy. In order to do this, a five-year tax discount
is being offered to anyone who has been resident outside of Italy for the previous two years
and who moves to Italy for a minimum of two years to work. It doesn’t matter whether
this person is Italian or non-Italian. It applies to all. It would apply, therefore,
to someone like new Roma coach Paulo Fonseca, who has been resident in Ukraine for the past
two years. It would not, though, apply to someone like new Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri,
who only spent one year outside of Italy in England as coach of Chelsea. The new law comes into force at the beginning
of 2020, which means that it isn’t in effect for the first half of the
2019/20 season. From 2020 onwards, though, players and coaches can benefit from the tax
break as long as they commit to staying for two years minimum. Anyone
who benefits from the tax discount, but then leaves Italy before staying for the two years
would have to pay back the deducted amount. For the general population, those who are
eligible for the tax break do not have to pay any income tax on the first 70% of their
income or on the first 90% of their income for those moving to regions in the south.
However, it’s slightly different when it comes to footballers. The Italian government amended the first draft
of the law to limit the value for footballers to 50% and to remove the southern regions’
extra benefit. It doesn’t matter if a player moves to a northern club like Juventus or
to a southern club like Napoli. Their percentage of tax-free income is 50%. This, though, is
still a significant discount for the clubs. Imagine Roma want to offer a player an after-tax
salary of 10 million euros. Previously, the club would have had to pay 17.5 million euros
because the entire 17.5 million euros would have been taxed at the highest Italian income
tax rate of 43%, leaving 10 million euros after 7.5 million euros was paid to the taxman. Under the new situation, it would only cost
Roma 12.7 million euros because only 50% of this would be taxed, working out at a payment
of 2.7 million euros to the taxman. This is a saving of 4.8 million euros. Multiply that
across several years and several players and the benefit is evident A further 0.5% tax will also have to be paid
to a central fund by footballers benefitting from this tax break, with this money going
to help youth development. Plus, there are some other minor taxes such as regional taxes
that may have to be paid. Overall, though, this is a great advantage for Italian football,
as Serie A clubs can either pay the same salaries at a lower cost or they can now afford salaries
and attract players or coaches who would have otherwise been unattainable. So just how significant can this ‘Beckham
Law’ be for Italy? “The rule can significantly help the growth of our football, both in terms
of value and competitiveness,” sports lawyer Carlo Rombolà told Calcio e Fianza. “This
could potentially start a good cycle to bring championship-calibre players to Serie A,”
stated an editorial in La Gazzetta dello Sport. There could, however, be some negative side
effects of Italy’s ‘Beckham Law’. The fact that it only applies to players who have
been resident outside of Italy for the previous two years means that Serie A clubs might target
an increasing number of foreign players. The discount applies to Italians moving home as
well, but logically there are far fewer Italians abroad than foreign players abroad and this
could damage the prospects of young Italians coming through.
There is also concern that this decree might actually lead to a reduction in tax revenues.
The Italian government has insisted that this will not be the case, but there are others
who believe the government is handing out tax reductions to many people who would have
come to Italy anyway. Finally, there is some anger at the fact that
rich players and coaches and football clubs are the ones who stand to benefit. Even though
the Italian government reduced the percentage discount for football professionals, the fact
they didn’t completely remove this tax break for footballers suggests that they are comfortable
with the football industry benefitting from it. It remains to be seen if Serie A really will
be able to propel itself into a new golden era thanks to this ‘Beckham Law’. The
very best in the world used to call Italy home, from Van Basten to Ronaldo to Shevchenko
to Kaka. Perhaps Serie A will have the cream of the crop once again.