TIME Italy

Amanda Knox Conviction Overturned by Italy’s Top Court

File photo of Knox, the U.S. student convicted of murdering her British flatmate in Italy in November 2007, arriving at the court during her appeal trial session in Perugia
Alessandro Bianchi—Reuters Amanda Knox, the U.S. student convicted of murdering her British flatmate Meredith Kercher in Italy in November 2007, arrives at the court during her appeal trial session in Perugia in this September 30, 2011 file photo.

American finally acquitted of the murder of Meredith Kercher

The Italian Supreme Court overturned Amanda Knox’s conviction Friday for the 2007 murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher.

Knox and her then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were convicted as co-conspirators in Kercher’s murder in the apartment they shared as exchange students in Perugia in 2009. But that conviction was overturned in 2011 and in 2014, after prosecutors argued that evidence had been omitted in the appeal, the original guilty verdict was reinstated. Knox was re-convicted in abstentia.

But Italy’s Supreme Court ruled Friday afternoon to finally acquit the 27-year old American of the long-hanging charges over her. She had faced extradition to Italy if the conviction had been upheld.

Knox released a statement saying she was “tremendously relieved and grateful” for the decision.

“The knowledge of my innocence has given me strength in the darkest times of this ordeal,” Knox says in the statement. “And throughout this ordeal, I have received invaluable support from family, friends, and strangers. To them, I say: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your kindness has sustained me. I only wish that I could thank each and every one of you in person.”

A man named Rudy Guede, whose fingerprints and DNA were found at the scene, has already been convicted for the murder and is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence, but prosecutors had argued that Knox and Sollecito were Guede’s accomplices.

This means the only standing conviction against Amanda Knox is a slander conviction for 2007 statements she made blaming bar owner Patrick Lumumba for Kercher’s murder. Lumumba was eventually cleared and sued Knox for slander. She was convicted and eventually received a 3-year prison sentence, which will now be counted as time served, since she has already spent almost four years in prison.

Since she moved back to the US after her 2011 acquittal, Knox has been leading a quiet life. She finished her degree at the University of Washington and got work as a freelance journalist for the West Seattle Herald. She was reportedly paid $4 million for her memoir about her experiences in Italy. And she’s engaged to a musician, Colin Sutherland.

Read next: A Look At The Amanda Knox-Inspired Movie The Face of an Angel

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Crime

Italy’s Highest Court to Rule on Amanda Knox Conviction

Amanda Knox reacts while being interviewed on the set of ABC's "Good Morning America" in New York in this January 31, 2014 file photo.
Andrew Kelly—Reuters/Corbis Amanda Knox reacts while being interviewed on the set of ABC's "Good Morning America" in New York in this January 31, 2014 file photo.

Legal battle over extradition could follow if murder conviction let stand

Italy’s highest court will decide Wednesday whether to uphold the 2007 murder conviction of Amanda Knox, a ruling that could set up a legal battle over the American’s extradition.

The country’s Supreme Court must decide whether to let stand an appeals court ruling upholding the convictions of Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, in the murder of Meredith Kercher, who was found stabbed to death in the home in Italy she shared with Knox.

Knox and Sollecito have already been found guilty twice by Italian courts and served four years in jail. Knox has been in Seattle, Wa. since 2011, when she was freed on appeal. That acquittal was later overturned.

Read more at Reuters.

TIME Italy

Italian Politician Looks to Highlight Gay Rights by Getting Married in Canada

Nicola Vendola attends the 'Che Tempo Che Fa' Italian TV Show on March 18, 2013, in Milan, Italy.
Stefania D'Alessandro—Getty Images Nicola Vendola attends the Che Tempo Che Fa Italian TV Show on March 18, 2013, in Milan

“From their elevated social rung they don’t really understand what it means to live in a country where homophobia kills"

Nicola Vendola, one of the first openly gay politicians in Italy, has announced his plan to marry his Canadian partner in Canada, as Italy has no current plan to legalize gay marriage.

The 56-year-old LGBT activist, who is also the left-wing representative for the traditionally conservative southern region of Puglia, is giving serious thoughts on starting a family and having children, Agence France-Presse reports.

“Everything is going to change, I’m going to marry Ed,” Vendola said about his partner Eddy Testa.

Although Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has announced plans to allow same-sex civil partnerships, the influential Catholic Church vehemently opposes extending this to nuptials.

Vendola also clashed with Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, Italy’s influential gay fashion-designer duo, who recently drew the wrath of pop legend Elton John by describing children born to gay parents via IVF as “synthetic babies.”

“From their elevated social rung they don’t really understand what it means to live in a country where homophobia kills and the lack of basic rights weighs heavily on many people’s lives,” said Vendola.

[AFP]

TIME celebrities

Dolce & Gabbana Try to Clarify IVF Remarks That Had Elton John Fuming

Celebrities urged a boycott of Dolce & Gabbana products in response to their comments about "synthetic children"

Italian fashion moguls Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have used an interview with CNN to backtrack slightly on their controversial remarks about in vitro fertilization (IVF) that sparked a public backlash, saying that they don’t judge the lifestyles of others but were simply expressing a private opinion.

“I respect you because you choose what you want. I respect me because I choose what I want … This just my point of private view,” Dolce said in the interview.

The two appeared to disagree over IVF with Gabbana seeming more open to the idea while Dolce explained that his Sicilian background engrained in him a belief in the strong, traditional family.

The original comments, in which Dolce called IVF babes “wombs for rent” and “sperm selected from a catalog,” caused pop icon Elton John to urge a boycott of Dolce & Gabbana products that gained support from many celebrities and the wider public.

Read next: This Is Why Shailene Woodley Eats Clay

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MONEY Millennials

This One Question Can Show if You’re Smarter than Most U.S. Millennials

Millennial office
Leonardo Patrizi—Getty Images

Young people in the United States ranked nearly last in a new international test of skills. See how you compare by answering this one question.

Let’s say you see an advertisement that reads:

Apply for a loan
Up to $70,000
Terms of the loan
Pay only $103 per month for each $1,000 borrowed
Payable in 12 equal monthly payments

What’s the annual simple interest rate on the loan?

If you answer correctly—you’ll have to read on to find out—you’re ahead of the curve when it comes to marketable job skills.

According to a new report from Educational Testing Service (ETS), which designs the GRE and other exams, American millennials lag far behind young people in other countries when it comes to all the top skills that employers seek.

Those include literacy, ability to follow basic written instructions, problem-solving while using technology—and math.

To arrive at these findings, ETS administered a new test called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies to thousands of people across 22 developed countries.

Out of all millennials, Americans ranked last for numeracy, tied with Italians and Spaniards. Gen Y-ers stateside also got lower reading comprehension scores than peers in 15 of the 22 countries. (Japan ranked number one across all categories.)

That sample question you saw above was described by ETS as 5/5 on the difficulty scale for numeric literacy. The answer, by the way, is around 24%.

You can see a longer list of sample questions here and read the full report on the ETS website.

More from Money.com:

Most Americans Fail This 3-Question Financial Quiz. Can You Pass It?

Europe Just Got Even Cheaper for U.S. Travelers

This Is How You Write a Perfect Interview Thank You Note

TIME Italy

A Village in Italy Just Got 8 Feet of Snow in 1 Day

Elisabetta Carugno (@elisabetta_carugno) via Instagram Instagram user Elisabetta Carugno posted this photo with the caption, "I'm too much small for this too much snow!! #snow #winter #weatherchannel #WinterGoHome #capracotta #molise #neve #me"

And you thought Boston was bad

The front doors in the village of Capracotta, Italy, are snow-where to be found.

In just 18 hours on Thursday, the village received 100.8 inches (8′ 4″) of snow,CNN reports, likely setting the all-time mark for most snow in 24 hours (though it’s not official yet).

That’s more snow than Boston got in January and February combined, but just short of the 107.9 inches that have inundated Beantown so far this year.

Capracotta is a town of 1,000 residents sitting at an altitude of 4,662 feet. The city is in the mountains a three-hour drive east of Rome and roughly halfway down the Italian Peninsula, and vulnerable to weather coming from the northeast.

The World Meteorological Organization will confirm whether the snowfall at Capracotte exceeded the 24-hour record of 75.8 inches in Silver Lake, Colorado, in 1921.

[CNN]

TIME Italy

Americans Who Carved Initials Into Rome’s Colosseum May Face Penalties

Colosseum in Rome, Italy
Guy Vanderelst—Getty Images

They took a selfie with their handiwork before being caught

Two American twenty-somethings may face a judge in Italy for apparently carving their initials into Rome’s Colosseum, according to a report Sunday.

The tourists from California, aged 25 and 21, snuck away from their tour group Saturday and used a coin to carve their initials into the amphitheater, the Guardian reports, despite signs in English and Italian that say defacing the ancient structure is forbidden. They carved a “J” and an “N” into one of the walls restored from the 1800s and took a selfie before being caught.

The women may be put before a judge, the report adds, and potentially face steep penalties. A Russian tourist caught carving a letter at the site just over three months ago was given a four-month suspended prison sentence and fined about $20,000.

[Guardian]

TIME Italy

Migrants Risk Death to Escape War and Get to Europe

Migrants protect themselves from the rain as they wait to disembark from a ship on Feb. 17, 2015 in Porto Empedocle, south Sicily, following a rescue operation of migrants as part of the International Frontex plan.
Marcello Paternos—AFP/Getty Images Migrants protect themselves from the rain as they wait to disembark from a ship on Feb. 17, 2015 in Porto Empedocle, south Sicily, following a rescue operation of migrants as part of the International Frontex plan.

Driven out of his home by poison gas, Mohammed will take any risk to start a new life

When sea water started seeping onto the deck of an old fishing boat as it listed under the weight of hundreds of people in the middle of the Mediterranean, Mohammed decided not to tell the other passengers. He knew that panic could be as lethal as a holed hull or heavy winter seas.

The migrants set sail from Libya in darkness hours earlier. Mohammed, 33, a Syrian salesman who was made homeless by a chemical weapons attack, says he tried not to think about the danger of drowning as smugglers crammed him and hundreds of others onto a large boat in the early hours of Feb.18.

He was following an itinerary shared by hundreds of thousands. Since 2013, civil wars and oppressive regimes in the Middle East and Africa have forced ever-increasing numbers of people on the dangerous journey to Europe. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), arrivals so far this year are up 45% on 2014 and more than 330 migrants have died, compared to 36 in January and February last year.

After a few miles at sea, they were forced onto smaller vessels. Mohammed, who did not want his surname published as his family are still in Damascus, found himself at the front of the 11-metre long vessel as it motored towards Italy. “The sea was cold and I was worried about the condition of the boat,” he says. His photographs from the voyage show people covering every inch of the boat. They huddle in thick jackets and hats and some stand to create more room. Mohammed estimates that there were around 400 people on the boat, including 12 women and 20 children. “The children seemed afraid,” says Mohammed. “The boat was tilting. We were sitting at the front and at a certain point water started to come in the boat, but we didn’t tell anyone because we didn’t want to scare everyone.”

Mohammed had already traveled through five countries and been arrested, assaulted and forced to beg on the streets. With his pregnant wife and 20-month-old daughter still living in Syria and waiting for him to get them to Europe, he was determined not to be beaten by the sea when he was so close to his goal.

There are no legal ways for people fleeing Syria’s civil war or other situations in Somalia, Palestine, Mali or Eritrea to apply for asylum and resettlement in the European Union (E.U.). Instead they have to find a way to plant a foot on European soil and then request refugee status in that nation.

Most European governments seem determined to keep migrants out as they face political pressure from anti-immigration parties. New external border fences are going up and existing barriers reinforced but the desperation to escape remains strong. There are 3.7 million Syrian refugees living in camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and the total number of refugees worldwide has exceeded 50 million for the first time since the Second World War. In 2013, 60,0000 people tried to reach Europe over the Mediterranean, with 600 dying, UN High Commission for Refugees figures show. Last year, that figure surged to 218,000 attempting the journey, with more than 3,500 deaths.

Libya has always been an attractive departure point for economic migrants from Africa and the Middle East. When Muammar Gaddafi was in power, the E.U. paid him to stop migrants setting sail to Europe but since his death, the flow of migrants has increased.

Political division and civil war have created a vacuum where smuggling gangs operate unimpeded and often in cohorts with militias. There are huge sums to be made, with each migrant paying up to $1,500 for the sea crossing. But the danger in Libya has also increased, so rather than wait for calmer seas, this year migrants are willing to risk hypothermia or drowning to escape the chaos, says Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesman for the IOM. “Many migrants told us that, even if they knew that the journey is dangerous and that they could die in the desert or at sea, they did not expect all this violence in Libya,” he says.

Mohammed’s journey began on Aug. 21, 2013, when Ghouta, a Damascus suburb where he lived, was hit with rockets carrying the nerve agent sarin. At least 350 people were killed, but Mohammed and his wife were in central Damascus that day. They could not return to their contaminated home and stayed in the capital to continue with their life, but found it difficult. “Many times when I was traveling for work I found myself in the middle of the fighting, and I had to hide underneath the van,” Mohammed says.

He was struggling to make enough money to provide for his family, and when he heard that he was due to be conscripted, he decided to escape to Europe. At the beginning of November last year, he said goodbye to his wife and daughter and boarded a plane to Algeria.

Mohammed, his 14-year old nephew and three other men planned to travel overland through Algeria and Tunisia and into Libya, where they planned to make the boat trip to Italy. But the Tunisian police caught them and forced them to return to Turkey, where Mohammed had to re-plan the entire journey.

For two months he stayed with friends in Istanbul, making contacts with smugglers and trying to raise more funds. Eventually a smuggling gang agreed to get them Libyan visas under the premise that they were businessmen flying to Libya for work. On Jan. 15, they boarded a plane to Tripoli — only to find more hardship awaiting them. “The airport we flew into was controlled by rebel forces,” says Mohammed. “They took everything from us and locked us away for a week.”

As Mohammed had only agreed to pay the smugglers in Turkey their $2,500 fee once they were safely en route to Europe, they intervened — although Mohammed wonders if it was all a set up from the start. “It seemed like [the smugglers] had an agreement with the rebels because in the end they said each of us had to give them $300 and we’ll let you go,” he says.

They were freed but the rebels kept their belongings and for 10 days the men were forced to beg on the streets. Eventually their personal items were returned, and the smugglers took them on the final overland leg of the journey to the coastal town of Zuara. “We were beaten during the trip to the boats,” Mohammed says. “They punched me in the face and beat me on my feet.”

On the boat, Mohammed worried that they were not heading in the right direction. “When we got into this little boat we didn’t know where we were going — we were almost freezing and without hope,” he says.

Water was pooling at his feet and there was nothing he could do but stay still. He didn’t want to cause a panic. In one of the worst migrant boat disasters, a vessel carrying 515 sank within sight of the Italian island of Lampedusa in October 2013. A fire on board caused a panic, and as people rushed to the sides to fling themselves into the sea, the vessel capsized. At least 300 people were killed.

It was around midday when the passengers spotted an oil rig. An hour later an Italian navy ship arrived and rescued the migrants.

A week earlier, around 300 migrants had not been so lucky. Armed smugglers on the Libyan coast had forced hundreds of people into four inflatable dinghies, despite unusually rough seas. Only one dinghy made it to Italy with a handful of survivors on board. The rest were lost. The incident happened days after 29 migrants died of hypothermia while they were being towed to safety by an Italian coastguard vessel.

The tragedies provoked scorn at the E.U.’s response to the growing crisis at sea. An Italian naval operation saved 150,000 lives between October 2013 and October 2014 but was replaced by a more limited E.U. mission called Triton operating with fewer staff, a smaller budget and a limited range.

The mayor of Lampedusa, Giusi Nicolini, said that the 29 migrants would never have frozen to death if Italy’s Mare Nostrum operation was still running. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, called Triton “woefully inadequate”. The E.U. responded by extending Triton to the end of the year, but its scope remains unchanged.

Italy meanwhile is preparing for unprecedented numbers of migrants arriving. Already the shelters on Lampedusa are full and hundreds of migrants arrive at Milan Central Station every week. Mohammed is currently staying at a shelter in Milan for 50 people that houses 100.

The E.U. has offered another €13.7m to help Italy look after the new arrivals, but Gabriella Polifroni, spokeswoman for Milan’s director of social affairs says they also need an overhaul in E.U. policy and a fairer distribution of the refugees. “There is a whole continent, so why can’t we organize them better?” she asks.

Mohammed certainly doesn’t want to stay in Italy, where it can take up to a year for an asylum application to be processed. He has already spent $9,000 in getting to Europe and he won’t stop until he gets to Germany. “My main focus now is to go to a country in Europe where I can reunite with my family,” he says, before he returns to his room to plot the final stretch of his journey.

TIME Internet

New Google Doodle Honors Alessandro Volta, Forefather of the Modern Battery

Undated picture of Italian physicist and inventor Alexander Volta (1745 - 1827)
AP Photo—AP Undated picture of Italian physicist and inventor Alexander Volta (1745 - 1827)

*Throws metal strips in saltwater, changes world forever*

A new Google Doodle is celebrating what would have been the 270th birthday of the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta, who in the year 1800 published a theory that led to the modern battery.

As TIME wrote back in 2007, Volta “realized metals could produce a current and developed the first battery, or ‘voltaic pile,’ a series of copper and zinc strips in salt water that gave off an electric current instead of static electricity.”

Born Feb. 18, 1745, in Como, Italy, Volta’s invention was the result of a professional competition with Luigi Galvani, who discovered that dissected frogs’ legs would twitch when probed with a wire.

Galvani believed the frogs’ muscles generated the electricity, while Volta thought the animal tissue was only a conductor.

The debate galvanized Volta to experiment with conductivity (often on his own tongue). Eventually, Volta put together a stack of metal disks, and when metal wires were connected to both ends of the stack, an electric current flowed through the pile, proving that animal tissue was not necessary to generate an electric current.

The Google Doodle honors Volta’s discovery with an animated battery that is reminiscent of both a voltaic pile and a battery-life reminder on a modern-day smartphone.

TIME Italy

More Than 2,000 Migrants From Libya Have Been Rescued by the Italian Coast Guard

Italy Migrants
Francesco Malavolta—AP Migrants wait to disembark from a tugboat after being rescued in the Pozzallo harbor in Sicily, Italy, on Feb. 15, 2015

They were attempting a perilous journey in just 12 small boats

The Italian coast guard rescued more than 2,000 migrants who got into difficulty between the Libyan coast and the Italian island of Lampedusa on Sunday.

The rescue teams were also threatened by four men armed with Kalashnikov rifles who approached them by speedboat from Libya, reports the BBC.

The gunmen forced the rescuers to return one of the boats after the migrants had been taken off it to safety, said Italy’s Transport Ministry.

Local media reported that all 2,164 migrants aboard 12 boats had been saved and taken to Italy.

The stretch of Mediterranean between Northern Africa and Italy is a perilous crossing for those in unseaworthy vessels. The U.N. said almost 3,500 people died attempting the voyage in 2014.

Last week, at least 300 migrants perished in the Mediterranean as their overcrowded boats sank in stormy weather.

On Friday, another 600 migrants, on board just six dinghies, were rescued by the Italian coast guard after their rubber craft got into trouble.

[BBC]

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