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Beach reading: Berlusconi and Amanda Knox

Two great dead-wood articles probe Italy's seedy underbelly.
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Amanda Knox arrives in court before her appeal trial March 12, 2011. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison for the 2007 killing of Leeds University student Kercher, 21, with whom she shared a house. (Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images)

Italy. Steeped in history. Great food. Fine fashion. Cool cars. World-class cities. A carpe-diem culture and the world's eleventh biggest economy.

What could possibly be wrong with Italy?

Two fantastic features, in July issues of Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone, take stock Italy's biggest international media stories of the moment. Both are can't-put-it-down page turners.

If you're interested in Italy, or if your just looking for a good yarn, read them. You may even miss classic old-fashion, dead-wood, long-form journalism — reporting that really matters.

Rolling Stone tackles the Amanda Knox saga, in nail-biting detail. Writer Nathaniel Rich deftly unpacks the story, arguing that there's essentially no evidence that Knox killed her roomate, the "beautiful, bubbly" British exchange student Meredith Kercher.

Rather than a participant in a "satanic ritual orgy" as the prosecutor hypothesized and journalists dutifully repeated, Rich contends that Knox was just a doe-eyed ingenue, a privileged kid from Seattle Prep who even under interrogation, couldn't admit that her Italian wasn't all that fluent. She stumbled into the claws of clueless and despicable law enforcement officials who desperately needed to solve the November 2007 murder that had become tabloid fodder. Rich points out that this is hardly the first time that this particular prosecutor has played the satan card. The piece will make you cringe for the ordeal Knox and her family have endured during her incarceration. And it dutifully eviscerates the Italian justice system.

Meanwhile, in "La Dolce Viagra", Vanity Fair takes on Silvio Berlusconi's latest trip to court, on charges that he paid a under-aged girl for sex. The lead sets the tone brilliantly:

"The emperor Caligula is said to have made his horse a senator. Pope Alexander VI made his illegitimate teenage son an archbishop. In Italy today, Silvio Berlusconi has given the post of a regional deputy for Lombardy (Italy’s wealthiest and most populous region) to Nicole Minetti, a 26-year-old super-babe currently charged with procuring prostitutes for the prime minister."

And Minetti is hardly alone. Berlusconi has famously made a habit of converting pin-up girls and sex symbols into politicians: "I'm like Prince Charming," Berlusconi said, according to the article. "They were pumpkins and I turned them into parliamentarians."

Writer Evgenia Peretz unveils how Berlusconi has managed to dupe Italian voters, re-write laws, buy off power-breakers and use his media empire to destroy those who dare cross him. "This is a man who didn't get into politics because he loved Italy," she writes. "He got into politics to keep himself out of jail and his business empire intact." In his third term, which began in 2008, having grown his fortune to $9.4 billion, "It seemed there was nothing left to do except...well...binge on girls."

If you've ever wondered how a chump like Berlusconi could reign for so long, or what exactly goes down during a bunga-bunga party, read this article. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/macro/Amanda-Knox-Innocent-Silvio-Berlusconi-Italy

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