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Violent protests follow Silvio Berlusconi’s razor-thin confidence vote victory. Postal bombs put Rome on high alert. Italian communications authority casts the future of YouTube in doubt. The Vatican squares off with the Chinese.
Top News: Angry protests broke out in Rome after Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi narrowly survived a Dec. 14 confidence vote that could have toppled his government. The three-vote majority in the 630-member lower house of parliament left Berlusconi’s coalition wounded, sparking speculation that he might not be able to hold power much longer. Berlusconi blamed “professionals of violence” for the riots that erupted after his parliamentary victory.
The prime minister has been surrounded by scandals in recent months, and the latest charges are that he “bought” parliamentary votes in order to secure his razor-thin advantage. Berlusconi denied any wrongdoing. New elections in the first months of 2011 remain a possibility, though the prime minister said that voting in a new parliament is unnecessary.
Rome was also rocked by a series of postal bombs connected to Italian anarchist groups that left the Italian capital on high alert. Bombs exploded at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome, each seriously injuring the clerk opening the packages. Soon after, a third bomb was identified and diffused at the Greek embassy. Switzerland, Chile and Greece were thought to be targeted because they have taken steps to jail domestic anarchists in their countries.
The appeal of Amanda Knox, the American woman found guilty in the connection of the brutal murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher in the Umbrian city of Perugia, began with a ruling that DNA evidence would be allowed. Knox’s lawyers believe such evidence is essential to her defense. Meanwhile, Rudy Guede, the first person found guilty in connection with the murder of Kercher, had his appeal turned down in a decision that could have implications on the appeals for Knox and her former boyfriend Rafael Solicito.
The Italian media reports that Knox, who has become a minor celebrity in Italy, spent the holidays eating turkey and playing the guitar. In an interview with the British press, Knox said the amount of attention she attracts is “ridiculous.”
Money: The Italian communications authority ruled that online video sites like YouTube should be treated like television stations and are legally responsible for the content they host. The fallout from that decision for any sites earning more than 100,000 euro per year and showing more than 24 hours of content per week could be significant: the sites could be liable to pay additional taxes, take down offensive videos within 48 hours, and block videos “unsuitable for children” from being accessible during daylight hours.
Experts speculated that the decision would likely be challenged in the Italian courts, while some said YouTube parent company Google might be wise to simply leave Italy.
The decision is the latest in a long line of problems for Google in Italy. In 2008, Italian broadcaster Mediaset sued Google for hosting its content on YouTube and in 2010 the company faced privacy abuses after a video showing a group of boys bullying a classmate with down syndrome remained on the Google video site for a month.
Elsewhere: Pope Benedict XVI blasted China in his “Urbi Et Orbis” blessing on Christmas, calling for the 8 to 12 million Chinese Catholics to resist persecution and state-mandated limits to their faith, immediately sparking angry reactions from Beijing.
“We hope the Vatican can face the facts of China’s religious freedom and the development of Catholicism in China and take concrete actions to promote positive conditions for China-Vatican relations,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a news conference. Relations between China and the Vatican have been tense since the Holy See supported the decision to award the Nobel Prize for peace to Chinese poet and dissident Liu Xiaobo.
The Christmas mass in the Vatican, which followed soon after the postal bombs in Rome, took place amid the tightest security ever for such an event. But there were no reports of attempted attacks on the pontiff or the congregation.