FOR THE RENAISSANCE IN US
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The Divine Comedy

Dante Divine Comedy

Around the World
half along our life’s path. Lost in a dark wood. Unable to find the right way…

Paradiso

Dear Beatrice…

 

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CANTO I

New hope in the cure for cancer. The Nobel Prize-winning scientist James Watson, Ph.D., published a study today in Open Biology, the magazine of the Royal Society. Although mortality from many cancers, particularly those of the blood (i.e., leukaemias), has been steadily falling, epithelial cancers (carcinomas) and effectively all mesenchymal cancers (sarcomas) remain largely incurable. Watson presents a novel hypothesis regarding the role of oxidants and antioxidants in cancers that are currently incurable, notably in late-stage metastatic cancers. Watson claims that antioxidants in late-stage cancers can promote cancer progression, a theory he counts “among my most important work since the double helix.” At the heart of his thesis is the group of molecules that scientists call reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS play a role in apoptosis, which allows dysfunctional cells that pose a threat to the survival or organisms to kill themselves. Watson calls ROS “a positive force for life.” However, ROS are also able to irreversibly damage key proteins and nucleic acid molecules [e.g., DNA and RNA]. Thus under normal circumstances, when they are not needed to curb dysfunctional cells, ROS are constantly being neutralised by anti-oxidative proteins. In order to aid this neutralisation, we are often urged to eat foods rich in antioxidants such as blueberries. Watson claims that in late-stage cancer, as ROS are needed for apoptosis, suppressing them may promote the progression of threatening cells and hence cancer. He writes “blueberries best be eaten because they taste good, not because their consumption will lead to less cancer.”
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CANTO II

Wine retailer Majestic Wine in the UK said that Italian Prosecco was the sparkling wine last Christmas. Chief Executive Steve Lewis said sales of Prosecco have surged 20 percent, accounting for 45 percent of its total sparkling wine revenues. “Prosecco is the real story with sparkling wines,” he said. Lewis added that while sales of Cava were up, sales of Champagne were flat.
Gabriele Cescon, Director of the Cantine Maschio, part of the largest group of Italian wines Cantine Riunite, said that while it is true Prosecco is an unstoppable phenomenon on the British market, even more surprising is the perception that British consumers have of the added value of the Prosecco wine DOCG Valdobbiadene and Conegliano. “A higher price is offset by the superior quality. And our sales of Christmas 2012 in the modern distribution have rocketed. . ..” I guess this can only be good news for the ailing Italian economy.[/three_column]

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CANTO III

Rita Levi Montalcini was the Italian neurologist that, together with her colleague Stanley Cohen, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1987 for the discovery of the nerve growth factor NGF, a small protein that prevents neuronal degeneration in animals and led to several clinical trial in humans. Levi Montalcini started her experiments from a home laboratory, studying the growth of nerve fibres in chicken embryos. This laid the groundwork for her later results. In 1968, she became the tenth woman elected to the US Academy of Science. In 2001, Italian president Carlo Azelio Ciampi named her Senator for Life for her outstanding merit in the field of science. Amongst her many achievements she had been the oldest living Nobel Prize laureate and the first ever to have reached her 100th birthday. She served in the Italian Senate from 2001 till December 30, 2012, when she passed away at the age of 103.

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Purgatorio

Virgil what can be said of …


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CANTO I

…the Marie Antoinettes heading Italian politics who are taking the country to the polls on February 24 and 25. With really nothing new on the table, disenchanted Italians will still not be able to vote for the candidate of their choice due to a voting system where only the secretary of the party can choose the candidate. So the same faces that have almost bankrupted the country are all there. The average age of the prominent contenders is above 67. So much for claiming renewal of the political arena and leaving space for the younger generation! The most credible man, who has gained international praise for rescuing the country in the last twelve months, has stepped into a coalition with two of the biggest losers of the political scene. They hope to rise to the opportunity to rescue their ailing poll numbers under a flag of reforming Italy. And they hope to gain momentum with the undisputable reputation of Mr. Monti. Unfortunately their political acumen will not work well, as their thirty-plus years of “consistency” in politics has worn out Italians. But there might be light at the end of the tunnel. A spontaneous movement led by a stand-up comedian Beppe Grillo – so ostracised by the press – has already won the majority vote in local elections in Sicily and has appointed his first mayor in Parma. The Five Star Movement is tipped to become the biggest winner in this upcoming poll. Let’s face it – politics has become comedy all over the world. So considering that the major international achievements for Italians in the last ten years or so have been won by comedians – Benigni won the Oscar for Best Actor and Dario Fo the Nobel Prize for Literature – Italy ‘s only chance of rising up from the ashes to chop the head off this farcical political status quo must come from the more “ironic” spectrum of society. Those normal citizens who have made the country great with their work and talent feel totally misrepresented by the current political cast who have been playing comedy for too long. Curtain down, please! [/three_column]

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CANTO II

Drinking fizzy drink is linked to depression. A recent study made by U.S. National Institutes of Health has found that drinking up to four cans of sparkling drinks a day can raise the risk of mental illness by 30 percent, while the same amount of squash increased the risk by 38 percent. The danger is even higher if one drinks diet products. The study was done in the US with a sample of 263,925 people, consumers of soft drinks, tea and coffee, between 1995 and 1996. Ten years on, 11,311 of the participants, aged between 50-70 at the start of the study, have been diagnosed with depression. Lead researcher Dr Honglei Chen, of the National Institute of Health of North Carolina, said in a statement: “Our research suggests that cutting down on sweetened diet drinks or unsweetened drinks or unsweetened coffee may naturally lower your depression risk.” Of course we should always take this kind of result with a pinch of salt as there are many factors that can lead to depression and it is difficult to address them all. But diet plays an important factor in mood and anything consumed to excess can have an impact on a person’s health. So research or not… watch out!
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CANTO III

French actor Gerard Depardieu, after going around the world in a road show spreading his disappointment at the 75 percent tax rate for the super-rich (proposed by Socialist President Francois Hollande but rejected by France’s Constitutional Council), failed to appear at a court in Paris on drink-and-drive charges. His excuse: he had meetings with film producers. It is reported the Obelix star is due to feature in a new movie playing disgraced IMF banker Dominique Strauss-Khan in New York.

Mr Depardieu is not known as a method actor, so it is worrying that he is taking the role of a crook a bit too seriously. But this is what happens when you obtain Russian citizenship from the hand of Vladimir Putin himself and move your residency to Belgium to keep your wealth away from the French tax authority. We liked him better in the romantic role of Cyrano when he lies for fear of being rejected by the woman he loves because of his big nose. Hmm . . . hold on; are we sure that wasn’t Pinocchio? Anyway, here is a suggestion for the French president. Dear Francois, what about starting a campaign policy in the wake of what the now-Russian-Belgian actor has started? The EU countries should have an equal tax policy all over the EU, so that ungrateful people and companies who want to trade in the EU cannot shop around for the most advantageous deal. Of course that should include Switzerland, even if it is not considered part of the EU. You will restore your credibility in the wake of his smear campaign and you can kill two birds with one stone – because if all the tax dodgers move to the Cayman Islands and weigh as much as Russian-Belgian Depardieu, the islands might sink.

Dear Beatrice, we want to salute this amazing, elegant woman, not only for her brain, but for her dignity and strength, with one of her quotes. “Above all, don’t fear difficult moments. The best comes from them.” And that should be her best legacy to all of us.

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Inferno


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CANTO I

94,388 people shot in the USA in 2012
39 people killed by firearms in England and Wales in 2008-2009
11 is the minimum age to obtain a firearms certificate in the US state of Minnesota.
300,000,000 is the number of privately owned firearms in the USA.
50% of guns worldwide are in USA which has only 5% of global population.
95 shots used by German police in 2011, including 49 warning shots
90 shots used by Los Angeles police to kill a 19 year-old man after a high-speed car chase.
40% of gun purchases in the USA do not require background checks.
42 of the 50 states do not ban or regulate assault rifles.
1 is the number of mass murders that have been carried out by women.

Considering California has just passed a law requiring the porn film industry to make the wearing of condoms compulsory, how about a law that limits the amount of gratuitous violence on-screen? And what about tougher laws regulating the sale of guns? Right! That will only prevent innocent people getting murdered by crazies. Not sure we need a lobby for that.
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CANTO II

Samsung sold five hundred handsets a minute in the run-up to Christmas. The South Korean tech giant says it made about $5.1 billion in the last quarter of 2012 – up almost 90 percent on the same period in 2011. That put the company well ahead of Apple and Nokia for sales of smart phones. It was hugely helped by the launch of Galaxy Note II, the smart phone with a 14cm (5.1 inch) screen and digital pen. Samsung retained market dominance despite the release of iPhone 5. An estimated seven million Galaxy Note II units were shipped during the quarter along with 15 million of the Galaxy SII android device. Considering the deluge of phones on the market, I cannot help getting more and more irritated seeing people communicating via phone even when they are sitting in good company at a restaurant. Checking images and text has become an obsession and is creating totally demented behaviour. And if you consider experts have forecast that 300 million smartphones will be sold in 2013, who cares about the lead over Apple. Let’s get worried about the lack of interpersonal communication; because this flood of devices is turning people into a bunch of lunatics talking on the street alone or glued to a tiny screen. We do not want to hear somebody else’s conversation on the train nor to know how many times your friends have been to the loo on FB. Too much information![/three_column]

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CANTO III

What would you think if I tell you that half of the food produced in the world goes to waste? I am not crazy, I’m afraid. These are the shocking findings of the Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not report. Dr Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London UK, which produced the report, said that between 30 and 50 percent of all food goes to waste. In Britain, seven millions tonnes of food valued at 10 billion pounds are thrown away in homes every year. Almost a third of vegetable crops are not harvested because they are misshapen and shops refused to sell them. Farmers fearful of not having enough to supply supermarkets grow too much food as a preventative measure against bad weather. In India 21 million tonnes of wheat is wasted annually because of harvesting done by hand, leaky and unsanitary warehouses and an outdated distribution system. In some Southeast Asian countries, losses of rice are as high as 80 percent. Up to 550 billion cubic metres of water are wasted in the process of growing produce that never reaches our shopping baskets. In the light of warnings by the UN that there could be an extra 3 billion mouths to feed by 2100, maybe we should start changing our habits or face ending up eating rats, mice, pigeons and other birds, or insects, as they seem to take the most advantage from our waste everywhere in the world. Yuck!

To what other terraces of doom and pain, dear Virgil, will you accompany me… next time…

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