Intl. Notebook Feb 2 2016
BOATING WITH BENITO
Mussolini’s watergoing love nest pops up in criminal proceeding.


You’ve won a colonial war of choice by shattering a non-violent Ethiopia as world powers such as Britain and France stood by and watched. You’ve rammed through privatizations, laws favoring the wealthy, and made unions virtually illegal. And you’ve got an ultra-nationalist, militarized police force to help you crush social unrest. What does a satisfied dictator do to unwind? Clearly, he takes his yacht out for a spin on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Italian strongman Benito Mussolini used that yacht—the Fiamma Nera or “Black Fire”—for aquatic romps with his hot mistress Clara Petacci, but scuttled the boat in 1943 after Italy’s World War II fortunes turned for the worse. The boat was raised and had several owners over the decades, but is in the news today because it was part of 28 million worth of assets seized from alleged organized crime figure Salvatore Squillante. 

Squillante was thought to be just another high flying one-percenter until his dealings with a Rome-based mafia network run by neo-fascists emerged as part of a legal investigation. He already had been convicted of filing a fraudulent bankruptcy in 1993, and the new information suggests he may be tied to systematic corruption in Rome involving politicians and businessmen who teamed with mobsters to scrape profits off the top of public contracts. Squillante is also connected via property dealings to convicted murderer Salvatore Buzzi, who as part of the aforementioned investigation was caught on tape telling criminal associates that schemes taking advantage of desperate Middle Eastern and African migrants were more profitable than the drug trade. The implications of that statement are truly frightening considering the drug trade is so profitable that some of the biggest banks in the world are connected to it.
 
But as interesting as Squillante and Buzzi are (who, by the way, have a long way to go before they hold a candle to slippery Silvio Berlusconi, whose antics we detailed here, here, and here), it’s the bit about Mussolini’s love boat that’s most fascinating. We suspect it was totemic for its various owners, who all certainly knew Il Duce was a sex maniac who trysted with hundreds or thousands of women—at sea and land—during his time in power. Fiamma Nera is destined to increase even more in value now that people outside Italy are aware of its existence. Will we be subjected to the spectacle of some hedge fund manager buying it for a fortune? Some software princeling or fat oligarch? After all, it's been bought numerous times before. But by virtue of its seizure it's now owned by the state for perhaps the first time, which means there's an alternativeto selling it—make it a floating monument dedicated to the crimes and hubris of Il Duce and the evil of fascism. Or destroy the thing completely and eternally.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 25
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
May 24
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
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