WHYS goes to Italy

Silvio BerlusconiItaly is never short of a good story, which is why on Wednesday and Thursday WHYS is decamping to the northern Italian city of Milan, where there are three hot talking points at the moment all jostling to make into into two programmes. Tell us which you’d like to talk about.

1) Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is back in the news as an Italian newspaper has released tapes which allegedly record Mr Berlusconi’s conversation with an escort before spending the night together.

A spokesman for the 72-year-old’s political grouping, People of Freedom, said L’Espresso was merely trying to revive an “already dead” scandal. But is the scandal really dead?

Mr Berlusconi has been accused of having escorts and young girls at parties at his various homes and his wife left him after accusing him of ‘consorting with minors’. Add to that the consistent corruption allegations and his hold over the Italian media. Is he fit to be leading Italy?

2) Away from the sheen of gossip magazines, Italy’s attitude to immigrants is hardening. Earlier this month Italy’s parliament has given final approval to a law which imposes hefty fines on people who house illegal immigrants, and most controversially, allows unarmed civilian gangs to patrol on the streets.

We’ve already made contact with some immigrants, both legal and illegal, as well as the groups that oppose them. If you’d like to hear more from them, let us know.

3) And a truly shocking story that’s emerged over the weekend – the Milanese authorities say that 34 percent of 11 year olds have a problem with alcohol. It’s led them to impose for the first time a ban on selling alcohol to under-sixteens – an extreme measure in a country which has no minimum drinking age.

If you tell us you want to hear more about why Milan’s youth apparently have such a problem with alcohol, tell us, and we’ll try to get some on to the programme to talk to you on Thursday. (It’s a slightly tall order to find English-speaking 11 year olds who drink too much, but rest assured we’ll do our best.)

Updates to follow. Arrivederci!

17 Responses to “WHYS goes to Italy”

  1. 1 Ramesh, India
    July 20, 2009 at 23:33

    How about comparing Berlusconi and Sarkhoji?

  2. 2 Tom D Ford
    July 21, 2009 at 01:52

    1), 2), 3), why, Italy today reminds me of Rome in the time of the Caesars.

    But I would bet that most Italians are decent people and deserve better leaders than they have now.

  3. 3 Julia in Portland
    July 21, 2009 at 02:19

    Oh – this should be good!!! Lots of fodder for discussion there.

    Have a great trip all WHYS’ers…..post pics!!

  4. 4 T
    July 21, 2009 at 04:47

    I’d say talk about all 3.

    If it’s true, Berlusconi will get away with anything because nobody cares.
    Imagine if the same immigration law was passed in the U.K. or the States.
    In Japan, beer machines are everywhere. A 10-yr. old could go and get a beer for their father. Does Italy have the same thing?

    • 5 Tom K in Mpls
      July 21, 2009 at 19:48

      “A 10-yr. old could go and get a beer for their father.” and from what I know of Japan, alcohol abuse is not a major issue at any age. So what can be done to stop the problem. Here in the US, we try to limit the symptom by using a ‘minimum age’. Italy wants to try the same thing. Pretty stupid if you ask me.

  5. 6 Henry Nyakoojo, Kampala
    July 21, 2009 at 09:02

    Italian leaders are for the Italians. They say that in a democracy voters get the leaders they deserve. So I don’t see why the rest of the world should debate what Berlusconi does with young girls, old women or even boys and men in the privacy of his many villas.

    The immigration issue has a certain international dimension, but both legal and illegal migrants especially from my continent of Africa should know by now that Europe is not usually too welcoming to people of a darker hue. So if they get mistreated or when tough laws are enacted against them, there should be little surprise, whether that be in Italy, Britain, France or Spain. Europe is not a bed of roses if you are not of a pink or olive complection. In any case I do believe issues of immigration have been debated sufficiently on the BBC, at least on the African service.

    The issue of young children and alcohol is perhaps the more serious one, no doubt a symptom of the permissiveness of European society. However, I see that the Milan authorities are already taking measures to restrict minors’ access to the stuff. But then again, isn’t the matter largely one of interest to the Italians rather than the rest of the world? All the same, the Italians and the rest of Europe could learn a thing or two from other parts of the world on how to bring up their children. In traditional Africa, a child belongs to the society in which it lives and everyone is responsible for their proper upbringing and conduct especially in public. It would be unthinkable to find an eleven year old drunk. So my vote goes to this topic, if only for the lessons Italians could learn from less permissive (if in their eyes “primitive” societies).

  6. 7 Henry Nyakoojo, Kampala
    July 21, 2009 at 10:18

    That should have been complexion – soorry.

  7. 8 Jim Newman
    July 21, 2009 at 10:43

    Hello again
    Berlusconi seems to have the capacity to enjoy himself, which is a good thing but I’m afraid that his statement on being elected the first time, that he would be the best friend of president Bush put him very close to the bottom of my list of valued human beings.
    The second part is very serious. Punishment for aiding immigrants and the creation of vigilante gangs for use against immigrants is a cry back to fascist times. I only hope that the innate humanity and compassion of most Italians will thwart these new laws, as they did in the previous fascist period.
    The abuse of alcohol is degrading and large scale abuse indicates a degraded society. A survey of alcohol abuse in Milan would be very interresting.
    Honestly! For an illustrious international group like WHYS not to be able to find someone who speaks Italian. I simply don’t believe it.
    Oh! I almost forgot to answer the question. No, I don’t think that Berlusconi is fit to be a leader of anything. Perhaps under manager in a brothel or something along those lines.

  8. 9 patti in cape coral
    July 21, 2009 at 13:38

    Honestly, I wasn’t crazy about the man, but when he called Eluana Englaro’s father a murderer, I couldn’t stand him. But who cares what I think? The Italians seem to like him for some unfathomable reason. Italian leaders for the Italians, as Henry in Kampala said.

  9. 10 Linda from Italy
    July 21, 2009 at 16:39

    Where do I start? Maybe first to say that Milan is not Italy, not could any particular part of the country be described as in any way homogenous with the rest. I’ve lived in the rural South, about 100k south of Naples, for nearly 12 years and I can definitely say that the baby-boozer syndrome does not exist here, our local kids are more hung up on being fashion victims and falling in lurv than getting legless.
    Re the immigrant question: all this vile legislation is coming out of the deeply racist Northern League where until recently Italian economic migrants from the South were looked upon and treated as fifth class citizens, now they have moved a couple of notches up the food chain, ahead of people from Eastern Europe and, very much at the bottom, people from Africa. Apart from in Naples, where there has been some horrible violence, people here still have many family members, especially new graduates, who have to escape the unemployment and zero job prospects, the result of shocking corruption and nepotism, if they want any kind of future, so the empathy does exist. For those of you who speak Italian check out this link: http://it.reuters.com/article/entertainmentNews/idITMIE53K03520090421 (I’d be happy to translate it for you).
    Re Berlusconi’s antics: I know I have to be very careful what I say for legal reasons, but can I just point out that scandals of many different varieties have dogged him since he first became PM in 1994, but to date he has been the ultimate Teflon man, largely because of his interesting contacts and media control. Italians have absolutely no faith in their politcos, even more cynical than the Brits, but maybe the “dirty old man” image may just bring him down if the Vatican gets involved, as it usually does in Italian politics, given his target audience of the conservative middle class electorate.
    As a member of (Southern) Italian society, I’d love to have my say, but have been warned by Mark about writing essays!

  10. 11 Bert
    July 21, 2009 at 17:49

    1) On the one hand, how many guys would not want to still be appealing to the young ladies at age 72? Berlusconi has a way of not taking himself too seriously in these matters. And I suppose that like President Clinton, these foibles do not necessarily bring down politicans.

    2) I think that immigration issues are in large measure what got Berlusconi reelected. A significant percentage of Italians saw matters getting out of control, e.g. with respect to the uncontrolled influx of Romanian “gypsies,” and Berlusconi promised action. I don’t understand why this should be surprising to anyone living in the West, as virtually the same issues have politicians all tied up in knots in many other countries. To name a few that have made the news, France, the UK, the US, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands. Berslusconi is hardly the only politician taking measures along these lines.

    3) This one is a real surprise. The reason Italy never had a drinking age is that alcohol consumption in Italy has never been an issue. Getting inebriated was never something kids wore as a badge of honor. Public drunkenness, in general, is not an Italian phenomenon. So why this has changed is a mystery to me.

    Finally, I would be amazed if WHYS cannot find Italians, even very young ones, who can’t speak English well enough for the show.

  11. 12 Bert
    July 21, 2009 at 22:03

    BTW, I agree with some of what Linda has to say, but not on the immigration issues. To me, there is nothing unique about Berlusconi’s handling of the problem, nor is it something emanating exclusively from the Northern League..In fact, if you look at the measures taken by Nicolas Sarkozy and the measures taken in the US, often by individual counties, they are essentially the same. Which is to say, either fine employers or repatriate.

    Did Malta not recently refuse to rescue a boat load of illegal immigrants from Africa? Claiming all of their refugee facilties had reached capacity?

    I agree with her assessment of the relative roles played by southern Italian immigrants to the northern regions in years past, and the current immigration of East European and African immigrants. But again, this is not anything unique to Italy. I would suggest that the US has an analogous “demographic state of flux,” with respect to African American and now Hispanic populations, and that much of Western Europe similarly is seeing, and reacting to, such changes in their own demographics. (Did I mention China’s Xinjiang region?)

    I keep wondering what the Etruscans were saying to one another, as”those Romans” kept encroaching on their territory. None of this stuff is new.

  12. 13 deryck/trinidad
    July 22, 2009 at 04:19

    Please discuss
    2.Teenage drinkers

  13. 14 Joseph A. Migliore
    July 22, 2009 at 07:54

    Buon Giorno WHYS Team,

    Benvenuti in Italia e Milano! Berlusconi supports the Nothern Italian League, and formed an alliance with them during his re-election campaign during the spring in 2008.

    Italy, has adopted a very conservative policy on un-documented and on immigration in general.

  14. 15 Roberto
    July 22, 2009 at 14:33

    RE “” Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is back in the news “”

    —————— A shame the Italians have to be known for this charlton, but such are the results of modern democracy in this region.

    Tour de France roared through nearby St Bernard passes as Lance pulled off the most dramatic moment of this year’s dreary Tour by staging a huge one man comeback to maintain his 2nd place position after being dropped earlier. The ancient mountains, chateaus, and and castles were stunning.

    It would be a crying shame for Italy to falter after such a rich cultural history and such beautiful intelligent people who have contributed so much to the world. Perhaps PM Berlusconi can be shamed with his own hubris into a patriotic change of course instead of dragging Italy down the low road.

  15. July 25, 2009 at 11:55

    Is Pavia still seeking its “independence”?

  16. 17 alfred decker
    July 28, 2009 at 17:52

    Hello guys,
    i want to first of all wish you all a save trip to italy,the land of plenty and the unforseen.silvio berlusconi is indeed a man of his own.corruption they say starts from defending mistakes and am not quite surprised that this hit man is also involved in the game.it didn’t just start today,many has played that same role of stealing and cheating on the country side of italy,all in the name of politics and others.i hope italians will open their eyes to reality because what is happenning in iatly,is no difference from the corruption that is taking place in africa.
    from alfred decker(NIGERIA)

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