Mafia plot: Tower of Pisa: The Mafia planned to blow up the world-famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, according to a former member of the Italian criminal organisation who is on trial in Sicily. Back in the early 1990s the gangsters carried out a series of deadly bombings in a war with the authorities, who were trying to break their power.
24 January 2014
This trial is attempting to get to the bottom of the scheming of the Mafia more than twenty years ago. And it’s just heard from someone who may know a great deal.
He’s Gioacchino La Barbera, a Mafia man involved in the killing of a prominent magistrate. But he switched sides. And he’s a witness now for the prosecution.
He said that after murdering the magistrate, the Mafia looked for more targets. And it plotted to blow up the magnificent, ancient tower in Pisa. The Mafiosi were aiming to strike a major psychological blow at the height of their war with the state.
La Barbera said the plot only failed because the authorities found a cache of explosives that was earmarked for the job. Of course, the credibility of this kind of witness has to be questioned. He’s a man whose life has been steeped in organised crime.
On the other hand, at about the same time as the alleged plot in Pisa, the Mafia did bomb the famous Uffizi art gallery in Florence. It was clearly in the mood to strike at the kind of historic monuments that are the pride of Italy.
Grand Canyon ‘formed recently’: The world-famous Grand Canyon in the American state of Arizona may be a lot younger than we thought. New research suggests it might be only five to six million years old. Earlier studies had claimed the canyon was perhaps 70 million years old.
27 January 2014
Millions of tourists are drawn each year to the Grand Canyon to see its impressive rocks, which record nearly two billion years of Earth history. Running for almost 450km and to a depth of 1,800m, it is almost too vast to take in.
Its huge scale has also been problematic for scientists who’ve spent years gathering data from different locations through the canyon to try to work out its true age.
Some of the most recent investigations had indicated an ancient origin, while others thought it was much younger.
Now a new study in the Nature Geoscience journal pulls it all together. It finds, yes, the Grand Canyon has very old segments, but the full system was only cut into the form we know today by the Colorado River just over five million years ago.
Vodka link to Russian early death: The high number of early deaths in Russia is mainly due to people drinking too much alcohol, particularly vodka, according to new research. The study in The Lancet, thought to be the largest of its kind in the country, says a quarter of Russian men die before they are 55, and most of the deaths are caused by drinking too much. The figure in the UK is 7%.
31 January 2014
The study tracked the drinking habits of more than 150,000 adults in three Russian cities for up to a decade. It also drew on previous research looking at how much people had drunk before they died. It found death rates fluctuated in line with political events and changes in alcohol policy.
In 1985, under President Gorbachev, alcohol consumption was severely restricted and Russia’s overall death rates fell. Then with the fall of communism and the instability that followed, people started drinking more, and death rates rose.
Researchers say it’s the way Russians drink, binging on mostly vodka, that contributes to the high mortality rates.
Taxes and restrictions brought in in 2006 have helped reduce alcohol consumption, but the authors say drinking heavily is part of the Russian lifestyle, and that’s what needs to change.
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