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Italy: credit dries up so the Mafia steps in

Report claims organized crime has become the main lender to Italy's small and medium sized businesses.
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Naples crime boss Michele Zagaria following his arrest last month. That's not likely to put a crimp in Italian organized crime's profitable loan sharking activities as desperate small businesses turn to the mob as Italian banks have switched off the credit pump. (ROBERTO SALOMONE/AFP/Getty Images)

As many as 200,000 businesses may have taken loans from the Mafia to stay in business, according to a report issued by the Italian business organization, Confesercenti, working with the Sicily-based anti-Mafia group SOS Impresa. It claimed that the Mafia had now become Italy's main source of loans to small and medium-sized businesses.

According to the report, organized crime has an annual turnover of 140 billion euros ($178.9 billion) of which 100 billion euros is profit. The liquidity of various criminal groups is now financing Italy's small businesses as banks have stopped lending to them.

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Italy: the tax man cometh

Raid on luxury ski resort Cortina d'Ampezzo leads to astonishing haul
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The moon shines on the Italian Dolomites above Cortina d'Ampezzo, ski resort of the Italian rich and scene of an astonishing raid by tax authorities (Alain Grosclaude/Agence Zoom/AFP/Getty Images)

Tax evasion has long been a national sport in Italy but with the country facing major debt problems - 1.9 trillion euros ($2.4 trillion) and counting - the government of recently appointed prime minister, Mario Monti, is letting Italians know everyone has to pay their taxes. He is doing it in dramatic style.

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Mixed messages from today's European bond auctions

Italian 10 year bond rates are finally back under 7 percent ... but only just. Meanwhile Hungary looks like the next target of bond markets.
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Mario Monti today at a press conference following an auction of 10-year Italian bonds that saw yield prices come down below the danger level of 7 percent (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Italian 10 year bond rates are finally back under 7 percent ... but only just. Meanwhile Hungary looks like the next target of bond markets.
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Euro crisis: news and questions to start the week

Italian government embarks on new austerity push ... but does cutting spending, raising the retirement age as well as all kinds of taxes address the fundamental problems of any advanced economy?
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If you knew what he knew you would look serious too. Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti shortly before his government announced new austerity measures for Italy, including raising the retirement age and a wide range of taxes. (ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
News from Italy and links to some the sharpest analysis around
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Europe: Thanksgiving? por nada

Euro zone crisis enters new phase as bond markets turn on Germany.
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Chancellor Merkel is constantly under the spotlight but now the glare is growing brighter as the bond markets are beginning to attack Germany. Will this force the Chancellor and her colleagues to change their policy on allowing the European Central Bank to be more proactive in solving the euro zone debt crisis? (HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/AFP/Getty Images)
Thanksgiving in Europe has a hollow ring as the economic crisis inside and outside the euro zone bites
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Europe: the crisis continues

New technocrat Italian and Greek Prime Ministers find being put in charge is easier than actually governing
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Italian politician Umberto Bossi (pictured last week in the Italian parliament) has a bunt message to new Prime Minister Mario Monti is, Call me if you want to talk ... but I make no promises. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water:

The technocrats put in charge of Italy and Greece last week are discovering that their presence hasn't calmed either the markets or the politicians whom they are supposed to mold into national unity governments.

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Europe and the markets say TGIF!!

Greeks have a new government, Berlusconi is expected to go this weekend ... but the euro zone crisis is far from over
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Mario Monti, probable replacement for Silvio Berlusconi as Italian Prime Minister, arrives for Friday's vote in the italian Senate on an austerity package. (ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

At the end of the worst week for Europe politically and economically since the fall of the Berlin Wall here's where we are:

Greece's new Prime Minister Loukas Papademos was sworn in and the new PM pledged Greece would do everything required to stay within the euro

Italy's Senate voted through a package of austerity measures the first step in paving the way for Silvio Berlusconi to resign.

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Europe: can anyone save it from itself?

As Italian bond yields reach unsustainable highs and world markets begin to fall, Europe faces the worst crisis of leadership since August 1914. And we all know how that turned out.
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A statue to one of the fallen of World War I. Are today's European leaders as inept in guiding the continent through troubled times as those in charge in August 1914? (Peter Macdiarmid/AFP/Getty Images)


A snapshot of a moment in history:

November 10, 2011.  Global stock markets are falling. The yield on Italian bonds continues to rise.

A German newspaper reports that Chancellor Angela Merkel is going to float the idea of re-writing the rules governing the euro zone at her Christian Democratic Union party meeting next week. At present there is no mechanism for countries inside the euro to leave.

Merkel reportedly wants a new treaty provision that defines the ways in which a nation can leave - or be asked to leave - if it doesn't meet the basic conditions of euro zone membership. You want to know the basic conditions?: an annual budget deficit no higher than 3 percent of GDP and a national debt lower than 60 percent of GDP.  Italy's debt is currently 120% of GDP. Got the picture?

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Italy comes under bond market pressure as Berlusconi clings to power

Interest rates on Italian bonds keep climbing towards the red zone.
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Silvio Berlusconi shows the pressure at yesterday's Euro Summit in Brussels. There is no relief in sight for Italy's Prime Minister as his colleagues pile pressure on him to take the necessary steps to stave off a possible sovereign debt crisis in Italy. (Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images)
Italian bond yields soar into the danger zone as Silvio Berlusconi clings to power
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G-20 summit: who's in charge?

Who's in charge of world economy? Anyone?
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy talk as they arrive for a press conference after a meeting with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and EU and IMF representatives over Eurozone bailout plan ahead of the G20 summit on November 2, 2011 in Cannes, France. (David Ramos/AFP/Getty Images)
Elected leaders of 20 largest economies meet in Cannes and are confronted by a simple reality: there is very little they can do to sort Europe's mess while Greece is in political meltdown.
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