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Italian mafia employs new strategies during COVID-19 lockdown: report

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View of the Pantheon in Piazza della Rotonda, empty, with no tourists and closed shops and restaurants , on January 27, 2021.

Italy’s mafia reportedly provided stimulus for some struggling small businesses in the country and there is concern that these establishments will become beholden to these mobsters going forward.

The Financial Times, citing a study by Rome’s interior ministry on organized crime, reported that small or mid-sized businesses in the country were given the funds, but the mafia then reverted to the “traditional intimidatory conduct aimed at acquiring control of their economic activities.”

There is fear that these businesses could become “an instrument for money laundering and recycling illicit capital.”

It has been widely reported that Italy’s economy has suffered a dramatic blow from the coronavirus outbreak. The country is pinning its recovery hope on Mario Draghi, its new prime minister who has been credited with saving the euro. He has been tasked with figuring out how to best employ the $240 billion in relief funds from Europe the country will receive to combat the virus and bring back the economy.

Reuters reported that the Italian economy shrank by 2.0% in Q4 2020, and 8.8% over the whole year. The report called it the “steepest annual GDP drop for Italy since WW2.

The FT reported that there has been a drop in some crimes normally associated with organized crime like counterfeiting and robberies, but possible arsons—that could be tied to racketeering—were comparable to 2019.

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‘Fairy doors’ open hearts in California neighborhood

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'Fairy doors' open hearts in California neighborhood

A California community has bonded over a profusion of tiny, colorful wooden doors that are popping up all over.

The so-called “fairy doors” in Alameda, an island community adjacent to Oakland, have been around for years but they’ve grown in number since the pandemic.

So many of the brightly colored, diminutive portals have turned up at the bottom of trees, fences and benches that an army of volunteers has created a Facebook group to celebrate and map the phenomenon — helping fairies and human fans alike find them during self-guided walking tours.

Fred Hogenboom and his daughter are credited with launching the fairy door movement in Alameda about seven years ago, only to watch it grow.

“It’s a great phenomenon that was embraced by the whole community,” Hogenboom told SFGate.com.

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Author reveals how his brother killed his mother in new memoir

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Author reveals how his brother killed his mother in new memoir

Most memoirs are a recounting of the author’s own life and experiences. “Everything is Fine” by Vince Granata (Atria Books), out April 27, is a memoir of an entire family — and a tragedy that forever changed its members. 

Granata was an only child for the first 4 ½ years of his life. On the day his mother and father returned home from the hospital, he remembers writing “welcome home mommy” in sidewalk chalk outside their Connecticut home. His parents had arrived home with not one but three siblings in tow — triplets Christopher, Timothy and Elizabeth. It was a joyful event. But the birth of his siblings put in motion a tragedy that would take years to unfold. 

On July 24, 2014, his brother Tim, 24, attacked and killed their mother in the family home. Claudia Dinan Granata was 58. Tim suffered from schizophrenia. “I won’t take the medication, the medication destroys me, takes my mind, takes me away from God,” he ranted to his mother on the morning of the attack. He had frequently threatened suicide. 

“Tim’s demons, electric in his ill mind, convinced him that the woman who had made him peanut butter sandwiches when he was a grass-stained child was the source of his constant pain,” Granata writes. “…After he killed her, he dialed 911, sitting on our front steps, clutching a white Bible.” 

This is a memoir about a horrifying crime, but it is also a book about mental illness, and the family’s ongoing attempts to get help for Tim in a system that is hopelessly flawed. Tim was hospitalized at the Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital in February 2014. In the weeks leading up to the murder, there were numerous signs that he needed to return, but he refused to go back. 

“Eventually, I had no choice but to look at loss and pain, at all the pieces of my family’s story that I didn’t think I could ever understand,” Vince writes. “It was this process, recognizing the pieces, struggling to put them in order, that almost destroyed me. It’s also what allowed me to live again.” 

Tim was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

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These colleges require students to get vaccinated if they want to live on campus

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These colleges require students to get vaccinated if they want to live on campus

As academic institutions look toward the post-COVID-19 future of education, some are implementing strict vaccine requirements ahead of the upcoming semester as others incentivize or urge students to pick up the inoculations.

Many colleges already require students to provide proof of certain vaccines, but those have been in use for years. The three FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines are all less than a year old.

But now that vaccines are open in many places to people age 16 and up, colleges are beginning to look into how that can benefit their reopening plans.

Colleges that will require proof of vaccination for students who want to live on campus include Oakland University in Michigan, Cornell University in upstate New York, Rutgers University in New Jersey, and Brown University in Rhode Island.

“Students have an option to come to Oakland University and not stay in residence halls,” Oakland President Dr. Ora Pescovitz told Fox 2 Detroit this week. “Only 20% of our students live on campus. The other 80% are commuter students.”

The school is offering religious and medical exemptions to students who provide proof to the dean of students.

But she said more than 1,000 people signed up for vaccines within the first six hours after the school announced the new requirement.

Northeastern University in Boston is going a step further and requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all students before the fall 2021 semester as part of its plan to return to full-time, in-person learning.

Nova Southeastern University announced last week it would require vaccinations by Aug. 1 – then backtracked after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a statewide ban on “vaccine passports,” citing concerns about individual liberty and patient privacy.

“We will continue to follow all state and federal laws as they evolve,” Nova President George L. Hanbury II said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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