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Berlusconi government edging closer to collapse

Silvio Berlusconi’s government edges closer to collapse ahead of a Dec. 14 confidence vote. Economy continues to sputter. European economists begin to worry about the country’s impact on the euro currency. Italy says goodbye to two film industry giants. The walls of Pompeii, much like Berlusconi’s government, suffer from instability.

Top News: Silvio Berlusconi is in the middle of the most intense and drawn out crisis of his political career. Slow economic growth, an inability to address the protracted garbage crisis in Naples, continuing sex scandals and influence peddling, embarrassing revelations about how he is seen in Washington from WikiLeaks, and the defection of key allies have all shaken the 74-year-old leaders grip on power.

The government will face a confidence vote on Dec. 14, and if Berlusconi loses he will be forced to step down. And as the government fights for its survival, it is letting its attention slip in other areas.

Berlusconi, who is also a billionaire media tycoon, has been down before but has managed to survive. But media are predicting his days could be numbered, though it is still far from clear what he would do if his government collapses and he cannot hang onto power.

Money: Italy’s mild mid-year economic recovery evaporated in the third quarter, with the economy growing just 0.2 percent compared to the previous year and year-end growth projections reduced to 1 percent, all but assuring the Italian growth will trail the European Union average for the fifth consecutive year.

The slow growth has left the government’s future in doubt, forced cutbacks in many areas including cultural spending and has had a fallout in the Italian banking sector, where refinancing costs have skyrocketed because of doubts about the country’s fiscal health. Even Italian accountants have gotten in on the act, calling for a complete overhaul of the country’s tax system in order to create incentives for people to work.

But European economists are starting to worry if Italy’s woes could have an impact beyond its borders, with the kind of implosion that forced bailouts in Greece and Ireland but on a much larger scale. Along with Portugal and Spain, Italy is starting to feel pressure for a possible crisis that could require European intervention.

Elsewhere: Italy mourned the death of Mario Monicelli, the Oscar-nominated writer and director behind many of Italy’s best-known comedies in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, who leaped to his death from his hospital window at the age of 95. Monicelli had been undergoing treatment for prostate cancer in Rome and had recently learned it was terminal.

It was the second blow to the old guard of Italy’s film industry in less than three weeks, following the death of prolific film producer Dino De Laurentiis in Los Angeles at the age of 91. Monicelli and De Laurentiis worked together to make the 1963 classic “The Organizer,” which earned Monicelli the first of two Oscar nominations.

Nearly two thousand years after the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius destroyed the ancient city of Pompeii, the site is really starting to crumble. In early November, the House of Gladiators on Pompeii’s main street collapsed, sparking concern that cuts in cultural spending left many Italian archeological sites in danger. A month later, two more walls in the city collapsed over a two-day span, prompting a visit from a UNESCO delegation to inspect the site to determine the risks of future collapses.

Everyone in Pompeii was killed during the eruption in 79 A.D. but the city remained remarkably intact. The collapse of three walls in less than a month sparked concerns that maintaining the thousands of cultural sites in Italy was too much for any one country. 

As news of Pompeii’s problems circulated in Italian newspapers, the city of Rome announced that it had failed to find enough public financing to renovate the Coliseum in the Italian capital.

But an unexpected savior arrived: Diego Della Valle, the founder of the Tod’s show company and one of the richest people in Italy, announced he would foot the entire 25 million euros($32.5 million) bill for the project. City leaders said Tod’s would not be allowed to cover the 1,930-year-old building in advertising. Asked why he decided to foot the bill, Della Valle said he didn’t want the Coliseum to become “another Pompeii.”