In Rome …
Berlusconi looks to return
The Italian presidential-election season opens a little more than a week from now, and even though it’s likely to go on for some time—several rounds of secret ballots are usually needed, and the wheeling and dealing among the M.P.’s, senators, and regional representatives who vote can rival the scene at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar—the excitement is already building. Unlike the role of the prime minister, the president’s job is largely ceremonial; nevertheless, the president has certain powers. Such as appointing the prime minister. (Did we mention this was Italy?)
The current P.M., Mario Draghi, is in the running to succeed Sergio Mattarella as president, though some would like to see Draghi stay put. “[He] is considered a safe pair of hands,” reported The Guardian, “but a move to the presidential palace would bring his government to an early end, undermining efforts to enact the reforms needed to secure instalments from the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund, of which Italy is the biggest beneficiary.”
One of the other names in serious contention is the former three-time P.M./bunga-bunga buff Silvio Berlusconi. Now 85, he’s keen for a fourth term. It’s been a while. Since Berlusconi’s first term, Italy has had nine prime ministers—maybe you were one of them?—two of whom, Romano Prodi and Paolo Gentiloni, have also been mentioned as potential candidates. But according to The Times of London, Berlusconi is thinking of pulling his support from Draghi’s coalition, forcing the current P.M. to remain where he is instead of risking snap elections, and in the process clearing a path for you-know-who to bunga-bunga right into the presidency. Well, anything is possible, and in Italy always has been. As The Guardian noted, “Names that have cropped up in previous elections have included footballer Francesco Totti, actor Sophia Loren, and even porn star Rocco Siffredi.”
In academia …
A child shall lead them
The first annual Boss Baby symposium was held online recently, an afternoon’s worth of eggheady presentations devoted to the 2017 animated film starring Alec Baldwin as an infant with an adult mind. “Eight academics delivered presentations centred around three themes: Situating the Boss Baby in Myth and Media; Personal and Professional Growth: Work and Play in The Boss Baby; and ‘Not enough love for the two of us’: Birth, Motherhood, and the Lack Thereof,” reported The Guardian’s Toby Fehily, who by the end of the day had “learned about everything from intertextual references in DreamWorks movies and US attitudes towards sexuality to Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development.”
While The Boss Baby was a hit, spawning a sequel and a Netflix series, Fehily wonders: Why The Boss Baby? “According to one of the symposium’s presenters, it’s just the continuation of a long historical lineage of boss babies,” he discovered, child leaders “stretching from Astyanax from The Iliad, Hikaru Genji from The Tale of Genji, King Edward V of England and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York.” Well, there’s your Boss Baby 3 plot right there.
In Beijing …
From Boss Baby to … Loss Baby?
China’s one-child initiative to contain overpopulation ended just seven years ago, but to the country’s policymakers its 35-year run must be starting to feel like the good old days. With birth rates dropping to a six-decade low, China’s emphasis might now be on trying to entice couples to have that first child. “There is such a misunderstanding about the fertility support policies in various regions, with too much focus on having a second and third child,” Li Wei, the director of the Population, Resources and Environment Committee, told the South China Morning Post. “But our most pressing problem now is that there are so few first children.”
The newspaper reported that in Henan, one of the country’s most populous provinces, the number of newborns last year showed a 23.3 percent decline from 2019. That still meant 920,000 babies, but then again, this is the world’s most populated nation. “Experts have warned that a demographic turning point may be just around the corner,” said the South China Morning Post, “and some say it threatens to erode the foundation of China’s booming economic growth.”
In other breaking news …
A Color shift
It turns out there’s a new color suffusing the fashion world. “The green that is everywhere right now is a flat, saturated, straightforward green. It is not the colour of moss or of olives or of sea foam,” wrote Jess Cartner-Morley in The Guardian. Hmm. We knew it wasn’t easy being green, but it seems it’s even harder being the green. As it turns out, the green du jour is “the colour of green-screen technology,” and it has a name: “Bottega [Veneta] green—some call it Zoomer green to reference the generation who wear it.” In case you can’t stop wondering: What ever happened to blush pink?
In Warsaw …
Freedom to be an idiot
Who was that unmasked man? A convicted murderer, 20 years on the lam, was arrested in Poland as a result of not wearing a face mask inside a shop, in defiance of current anti-coronavirus restrictions. “Police said they had detained the 45-year-old fugitive at a shop northeast of the capital,” reported Euronews. “The man has now been transported to a prison where he is due to serve a 25-year sentence.” For murder. Not for the other thing.
In Oslo …
Maybe they should go commando?
Supply-chain issues continue to wreak havoc around the world, and the Norwegian military is the latest to feel the shock. The Guardian reported that “factory shutdowns and transport problems” have forced the military “to ask conscripts to hand over underwear, including bras and socks” when they leave the service. The newspaper added, “Though originally voluntary, it has now been made mandatory.” A military spokesman assured that the recycled undergarments “are washed, cleaned and checked. What we distribute is in good condition.”
George Kalogerakis was one of the original editor-writers at Spy and later worked for Vanity Fair, Vogue, New York, Travel + Leisure, and The New York Times, where he was deputy op-ed editor for 13 years. A co-author of Spy: The Funny Years and co-editor of two books on the Times’s Civil War series, Disunion, he is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL