Freeda raises $10 million for its new media brand for women

Italian startup Freeda Media is creating a $10 million Series A round led by Alven Capital. U-Start and business angels are also participating in the round.

Freeda Media operates the popular Freeda Facebook page. With virtually 1.4 million likes, the page has an impressive reach. 24 million unique users watch Freeda content every month in Italy, including 100 percent of millennial women who live in Italy. The company is also quite active on Instagram.

In other words, Freeda Media is a new media company that runs mostly on social media platforms. Many of the Facebook posts are short videos, social cuts with subtitles and quick interviews. Some posts link to Freeda’s own website for more traditional articles with text and photos. But there’s no front page per se .

With today’s funding round, the company plans to expand to other markets, beginning with the Spain. More interestingly, Freeda is still quite young as it took them 15 months to reach this level.

The company compares itself with other media brands for women, such as Elle, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan or Man Repeller. According to CrowdTangle, Freeda has a much higher engagement rate compared to its direct competitors.

Freeda Media’s business model is branded content and native advertising. But the startup is looking at other potential revenue streams. There’s clearly a danger of branded content overload for social-first media organizations. When you build a Facebook audience based on trust, your reputation can also quickly deteriorate and the algorithm can turn on you. So far, it doesn’t seem to be an issue.

Internationalization is going to be key to foster Freeda’s growth. If Freeda can replicate the same impressive numbers in multiple countries, the startup could end up persuading bigger advertisers and distributing more or less the same content in multiple countries.

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Italys M5S and League parties poised to name a prime minister

Leaders will present policy programme to president in which they are likely to take tougher stance on EU

Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement( M5S) and its far-right partner, the League, are preparing to present their government programme to President Sergio Mattarella on Monday and name a prime minister.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League, and M5S equivalent Luigi Di Maio, worked over the weekend in Milan on a policy document in which they are expected to take a tougher approach towards illegal immigration and the EU.

In line with their campaign pledges, the parties, which between them won more than 50% of the vote in the 4 March elections, have also reportedly reached agreement on introducing a flat taxation as low as 15%, a universal basic income and dismantling a change to pensions in 2011 that increased the retirement age. They have also pledged to attempt to renegotiate European treaties.

” If the rules, parameters and constraints imposed by Europe do not change, Italy suffocates. This seems to be a common commitment ,” Salvini said.

Italian media reported that Di Maio had told the president’s office on Sunday night they would be ready to submit their plan to Mattarella and name a prime minister on Monday. Earlier in the working day, the 31 -year-old said the pair were” writing history” and needed day, but that talks had been positive.

If Mattarella endorses the candidate, programme and cabinet lineup then he could nominate a prime minister on Monday, paving the route for a government to be sworn in this week before facing a vote of confidence in both houses of parliament. However, Mattarella advised over the weekend that he would not has become a “pushover”.

Di Maio and Salvini will fulfill in Rome on Monday before updating the president. It is still unclear who Italy’s next prime minister could be, although Di Maio said it would be” a legislator and not a technician “.

The person is expected to be from neither from the League nor M5S and will also probably be someone who will heed Mattarella’s warnings against nationalism.

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Italy given late VAR penalty after Jamie Vardy scores for quick-witted England

Jamie Vardy devoted England a first-half result from a smart Lingard assist merely for Italy to earned a 1-1 draw through an 88 th-minute VAR decision

Just as it was going so well for Gareth Southgate and his players England had their first experience of VAR and a referee using his thumbs to make the’ television’ sign that used to be set aside for games of charades rather than football. James Tarkowski was denied a happy objective to his England debut and, if nothing else, at the least it did not take an absolute age for a decision to be made on the penalty that changed the complexion of the evening. For a few moments it had seemed as if the official in charge of the monitor could not even elevate it to a position where it was visible.

It was a strange ending and, when Lorenzo Insigne tucked the 88 th-minute penalty past Jack Butland, that was the first goal England had conceded in six matches. Southgate can be pretty satisfied with that record bearing mind the shutouts include games against Germany and Brazil but the England players were apparently aggrieved after being so close to another encouraging outcome. The protestations felt solely pointless, unless the players hoped Deniz Aytekin, the German referee, might run back for a second look and change his intellect. Unlikely, and Insigne’s penalty cancelled out Jamie Vardy’s first-half goal. Vardy 1, VAR 1.

Amid all the debates about whether it was the correct decision- strictly speaking, treading on a player’s foot constitutes a foul, accidental or not- presumably Southgate will also note the way Federico Chiesa, one of the Italian substitutes, ran past Tarkowski to make the danger in the first place. It was not the first time the Burnley defender appeared uneasy, which was probably to be expected on his first appearance, but at this level these are the kind of moments that can count against a player. England have just been two more warm-up matches before the Football world cup, against Nigeria and Costa Rica, and Tarkowski’s audition was not seamless.

Jamie Vardy is chased by Italy’s midfielder Jorginho. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

The late drama spared the Azzurri the ordeal of going four successive games without scoring for the first time in their history and England, in turn, were denied a second successive 1-0 victory against one of the teams they always measure themselves against. Overall, however, it was still a reasonably encouraging night from Southgate’s players. Vardy’s goal was a reminder that Harry Kane’s absence need not be a grievous setback. Raheem Sterling had one of his better England performances and Jesse Lingard justified his selection on a night when Dele Alli was left out of the starting line-up for a second straight game. The one quality England did not lack was pace going forward and that, perhaps, has been the most encouraging part of the last two friendlies without Kane.

Italy certainly provided a sterner exam than the Netherlands had in Amsterdam on Friday but, when England took a 27 th-minute lead, it was freshening to see the quick thinking of Southgate’s players, in particular the alertness from Lingard to win the ball from Marco Parolo in midfield and then sense what was possible when the same player clipped Sterling’s ankles for a free-kick. As the two Italians in closest proximity to the ball turned their backs, Lingard took the free-kick quickly out to his right to send Vardy running into the penalty area. The Leicester striker took a touch to steady himself and his shooting was still rising as it flew inside the top corner.

Defensively, it was not quite so impressive from England and the home side were lucky, including with regard to, that Ciro Immobile could not apply a decisive finish from any of three chances inside the opening 16 minutes. Ashley Young might not be treated so leniently in the World Cup should he recur his first-half challenge on Davide Zappacosta- a tackle that could easily have warranted a red card- and John Stones cannot expect to get away with his first-half mistakes.

Stones’ propensity to determine problems that does not necessarily exist is nothing new but it was still startling to find the route, twice in the opening three minutes, his carelessness left Immobile in a dangerous area. The second occasion was particularly alarming as Stones dithered, got his feet tangled up and dedicated the ball to his opponent, as the last human. Stones is coming up for 24 and, by now, should have grown out of these lapsings of concentration.

He subsequently had to go off, having taken a ball to the face, and in fairness to the Manchester City player it was once he had been removed that the team started to look vulnerable again. Southgate also devoted Lewis Cook his debut as a substitute but the night will be remembered, ultimately, because of the late controversy and perhaps it was a useful lesson for England when the same technology will be in use at the World Cup.

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PSG hold talks with Antonio Contes representatives over summer move

Paris Saint-Germain are willing to offer Antonio Conte 10 m a season to persuade him to leave Chelsea this summer

Paris Saint-Germain have opened talks with Antonio Conte’s representatives in an attempt to convince the Italian to leave Chelsea this summer.

The French club are certain to part company with Unai Emery at the end of the season when his contract expires, and Conte is one of four administrators the PSG president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, is considering as a replacement. Jose Mourinho, Diego Simeone and Massimiliano Allegri are the other three.

Mourinho is unlikely to leave Manchester United despite their exit from the Champions League at the hands of Sevilla and a somewhat strained relationship with the club’s fans. Simeone and Allegri will also be difficult to prise away from their respective clubs. Mauricio Pochettino has also been linked with the post but there has been no linked with the Tottenham manager yet.

So PSG have approached Conte first, knowing he is frustrated at Chelsea and maybe looking for a new challenge. The Italy job would be another option for the 48 -year-old, should he part company with the London club in the summer, but it is thought that he would prefer to remain in club football. The Chelsea committee is set to discuss Conte’s future next month.

PSG would be able to offer Conte a small increase in salary and the initial talks were positive. PSG have not made a formal approach and are still considering their options. Conte earns PS9. 5m a season at Chelsea with PSG willing to offer their new manager PS10m a year.

The French club hired Emery in 2016 after he had won an unprecedented third Europa League in a row with Sevilla. PSG had hoped that the Spaniard’s European nous would help them ultimately lift the Champions League. However, in Emery’s first year in charge they went out to Barcelona in the last 16 despite having won the home leg 4-0. This season they were again eliminated in the first knockout round, this time Real Madrid progressing 5-2 on aggregate.

On course to win this season’s Ligue 1 title, PSG are 17 points ahead of Monaco with seven matches remaining( Monaco have eight ), but there has not been enough progression for the purposes of the Spaniard on the European stage for the club to retain their religion in him.

PSG signed Neymar and Kylian Mbappe last summer( the latter on a loan bargain that will become permanent this summer) but both European campaigns under Emery have been undermined by the manager’s decision-making and squad selection, especially surrounding the team captain Thiago Silva.

Conte, meanwhile, has showed at Chelsea that he is capable of creating a team that they are able overcome the odds and win titles. Chelsea won the league in his first season at Stamford Bridge and although his second campaign has not been as successful there is recognition in Paris that he was not backed in the summer transfer window and that the squad has lacked the required depth and quality to compete in Europe and domestically.

The Italian’s relationship with the board has deteriorated this season with Conte complaining that he has not been able to sign the players he wanted. Chelsea are currently fifth, five points behind Tottenham, who they play next in the league.

The lack of investment in the Chelsea squad has never been far from Conte’s thoughts and before the recent game against Manchester City he told:” When you have a good manager and a lot of money to spend, likely you can have a successful season.

” I have great aspiration but I don’t have money for Chelsea. The club knows very well what is my idea, what is my aspiration. That is very clear. When you decide to work with this type of coach, you must understand that you take a coach with great aspiration. Not a loser but a winner. And that ambition must always be shared .”

Chelsea have actually spent more fund than PSG on players over the past two seasons- PS351m to PS316m- but when it is necessary to net expend the Parisians are leading the style, PS178m to Chelsea’s PS1 11 m. Conte has sold players such as Diego Costa, Oscar and Nemanja Matic to fund player purchases but was still unable to sign the striker he wanted, Romelu Lukaku, last summertime, having to settle for Alvaro Morata instead.

PSG would face competition from Italy to sign Conte this summer with the Italian FA’s vice-commissioner, Alessandro Costacurta, saying last month that the Chelsea manager is Italy’s top option as national coach.” I haven’t choice yet but I believe Conte is the one who could do the best ,” he said.” I’ll definitely talk with him in a couple of months .”

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A perfect economic storm made Italy ripe for a protest vote

Stagnant wages, slow growth and high unemployment delivered the elections populist uprising

Too little and far too late. Six words that sum up the performance of the Italian economy in the decade since the financial crisis, and that run a long way towards explaining the support for populist parties in the election.

Indeed, if ever there was a country that was ripe for a protest against the political mainstream it was Italy, where four years of modest growth have not been nearly enough to mend the damage caused by a deep slump in 2008 -0 9 and a second two-year recession in 2012 -1 3.
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Only two countries that belong to the west’s club of rich nations, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, have yet to see economic activity surpass pre-financial-crisis levels. Greece is one. Italy is the other.

In some respects, Italy’s record since the turn of the century is even worse than that of Greece, because at least Greece had a boom before the bad times arrived. Italy’s living criteria are only slightly higher than they were when the country became a founder member of the single currency in 1999.

Membership of the euro has clearly been a factor in explaining the rise of populism in Italy, because it has attained it impossible for governments in Rome to restore competitiveness by devaluing the currency- something they did on a regular basis in the days before monetary union. The disciplines of euro membership have all contributed to slower growth, stagnant wages, high unemployment and austerity – perfect conditions for Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement to exploit.

Mainstream politicians such as Italy’s outgoing “ministers “, Paolo Gentiloni, can point to some small successes. A million jobs have been created in the past four years, although 60% of them are part-time. Youth unemployment has come down, but a third of all people under the age of 25 are still without work- doubled the average for the EU. Unable to find jobs at home, young Italian graduates have left the country to find opportunities elsewhere.

Speaking in Davos less than two months ago, Gentiloni aptly summed up their own problems he faced at the election.” There are still unacceptably large parts of our populations who feel unsatisfied with their conditions and worried about the future.

” Economic growth is not reducing inequalities, but in many countries including Italy they are still widening, even if economic growth is there. They are reaching even more intolerable levels .”

There are certain features that appear to build populist insurgencies more likely. A country needs to have been through a prolonged economic trauma, just as Italy has. It needs to be geographically split between a fast-growing region and a struggling region, as Italy is with the marked divide between the industrial north and the agrarian south. It requires policymakers to respond to the budget deficits that result from high unemployment and slow growth by enforcing welfare cuts, which Italian governments have been obliged to do as a result of the EU’s fiscal regulations. And it needs economic and social tensions to be inflamed by mass immigration, as has been the case in Italy, the main gateway to Europe for those travelling from Libya.

Like Britain, Italy has a productivity problem, merely worse. Like France, it has an unemployment problem, merely worse. Like Spain, it has had banking problems, merely worse. And as in Germany, a sudden upsurge in migration has created a twin problem for the mainstream parties. It has constructed them appear to be completely out of touch with ordinary voters, and to be like rabbits in the headlights.

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Emma Bonino: Italy’s pro-Europe, pro-immigrant conscience

The former foreign minister, activist and politician has revolutionary notions for todays Italy

Forty years ago, Emma Bonino fought to secure abortion rights in Italy in the shadow of the Vatican. Her campaign involved hunger strikes and a three-week stint in jail.

These days, the former foreign minister, activist and nominee for parliament, is waging an equally challenging battle in support of migrants and in defence of Europe, two ideas that seem radical in today’s bitter political environment.

There is, Bonino says, an invisible thread that connects the causes of her life.

” You can look at the fights I have waged with this point of view: I support a democratic liberal order and believe in the centrality of the individual, his rights but also its own responsibility ,” she says.

Those notions, she adds, are under threat.

Bonino is an icon in Italy. Her advocates might call her the conscience of the country.

While she is not realistically hoping to win next Sunday’s national election, if Bonino and her party- More Europe- do well, she will win 3% of the highly fractured Italian referendum, a outcome that would dedicate her control of her own parliamentary group. It would also award her a fair sum of influence in the event that the election ends, as many expect, with the creation of a grand coalition government between the centre right and centre left parties headed by two former prime ministers, Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Renzi.

The 69 -year-old has gained momentum over recent weeks, despite the fact that her notions- including awarding citizenship to immigrants- operate contrary to the prevailing winds in Italy, where migrants are increasingly the target of political vitriol, and where Brussels has been blamed for the country’s economic woes.

In an interview in her small rooftop apartment, which has a terrace overlooking St Peter’s Basilica, Bonino- a lung cancer survivor- admits she is frailer than she once was, but is driven by passion for her politics and concerns for the country.

” If I look back 50 years ago, if you look at women’s rights, I cannot even recognise my country, the change has been enormous ,” she says.” That doesn’t mean it is all done. On the contrary, rights are a process, and if you don’t care for them, you can lose them from morning to night .”

She has been thinking about the” banality of evil”, the word coined by Hannah Arendt, the political theoretician who examined the rise of Nazism, after she saw a viral video of an elderly Italian woman harassing a black human on a bus while other passengers appeared on.

” Arendt explains how one small sign happens after the other that no one cares about, and then you abruptly find yourself in hell ,” she says.

The signs that are worrying Bonino are escalating incidents of political intolerance on the left and the right, racist assaults that are not adequately challenged, the absence of resilience in institutions, and the mediocrity of leaders.

She was disturbed by two recent incidents of violence against girls, and how differently the murders were treated in the press based on the race of the suspected perpetrators: one, a migrant from Nigeria, and the other, a white Italian.

” There is no excuse for this kind of thing ,” she says.” There are many things you can do to counter this phenomenon: public speeches, videos, talking in schools, exactly like the entrepreneurs of anxiety employ. It is not true that we don’t have tools to react, we are simply not using them in an assertive route .”

One of her top political priorities is giving legal status to hundreds of thousands of migrants who are in Italy illegally, much as Berlusconi did in 2000.

She is convinced that Europe’s demographic challenges and low birthrates will, eventually, give European capitals a wake-up call about their need to welcome immigrants.

” Sooner or afterwards, we will recognise that we need them ,” she says.” For the moment the political mood is so bad, so unhealthy, that there is no way to talk rationally .”

While Bonino is not worried that Italy might leave the EU, she believes that the constant aimed at providing Brussels as the source of the country’s problems will have a long-term negative impact.

” It’s very simple. On one side you have Putin and on the other side you have Trump. You have China and south of the Mediterranean is on fire. If this is the new landscape, if we go on as 27 small states, each on his own, where do we go ?” she says.

” If we continue with blaming Europe, we will never make it better. It will stay as it is, like a barge taking water. So in the end, the boat will sink out of inertia ,” she adds.

Bonino has her share of gripes with the EU, particularly in its handled in the Libya crisis. She denounces, as a stark violation of” every sort of international convention “, the manner in which Italy has sought to keep migrants from entering the continent.

” We know that the ones who are saved[ by the Libyan coastguard ], that they are lost forever, and that no one knows what their life is likely to be ,” she says.” We know we are sending them back to hell, we know the conditions of the detention centres they maintain. I don’t call that a success, I cannot call that a success .”

In contrast to her fight with the Catholic church 40 years ago, Bonino can, these days, count on at least one ally: Pope Francis.

The two, she says with a grin, are in touch.” We have some connects, so we pass messages quite often, through friends .”

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Johansson sinks Italy to earn Sweden first-leg World Cup qualifier victory

A deflected Jakob Johansson strike was enough to give Sweden a 1-0 victory over Italy in Stockholm in the first leg of the teams World Cup qualifier

A deflected Jakob Johansson strike was enough to earn Sweden a first-leg advantage and leave Italy on the verge of missing out on a first World Cup since 1958. Giampiero Ventura’s side were listless throughout and, unless they overturn the deficit at San Siro on Monday, they will not reach next year’s finals in Russia.

The closest Italy came to a objective was through Matteo Darmian, the Manchester United defender, who rattled the post from long range in front of his watching club director, Jose Mourinho, as Italy searched for an equaliser. In truth, the visitors absence invention and failed to break down a stubborn Sweden backline in Stockholm, where the country’s record goalscorer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was also in attendance.

” We need to overturn it all in Milan ,” Ventura, the Italy manager, said.” We must put in a great performance for the crowd. Holding what happened on the pitching, the result was harsh .”

Ventura is coming under increasing pressure to step aside and should Italy fail to qualify it is likely the 69 -year-old will move on.

While he is in place, though, his players are focusing on what they can do better in the second leg. The Milan defender Leonardo Bonucci said:” In the reverse fixture we’ll have to fight harder .”

Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen had threatened for Sweden, with the latter superbly denied by the evergreen Gianluigi Buffon in the Italy goal, before Johansson, a second-half replace at the Friends Arena, scored a decisive win after 61 minutes.

When Toivonen flicked on a long throw into the path of Johansson, the ball bounced before the midfielder struck his powerful endeavour goalwards. The ball cannoned off the torso of Daniele de Rossi and that deflection was enough to wrong-foot Gianluigi Buffon, with the ball rolling inside his near post.

Italy never truly rallied, aside from Darmian’s rasping endeavour with 20 minutes to play. Sweden, though, will take plenty of encouragement from a resolute performance into the second leg. On Monday, Italy will be without Marco Verratti through suspension, after he was booked. Janne Andersson’s side, meanwhile, are halfway to Russia. A clean sheet in Milan would ensure Sweden progress to their first World Cup since 2006.

Senegal qualify for World Cup after winning replayed game

A first-half goal from West Ham’s Diafra Sakho and an own aim from Thamsanqa Mkhize procured Senegal’s place in Russia as they overcame South Africa 2-0 in Polokwane.

South Africa had originally won the match 2-1 on November 12 last year, but it was agreed that the game would be replayed after referee Joseph Lamptey’s lifetime forbid was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Lamptey has been expelled by FIFA over match-fixing allegations.

Senegal knew victory would be enough to send them to Russia, while South Africa needed to win here and in their final game in Senegal. Liverpool forward Sadio Mane set up Sakho for the opening goal in the 12 th minute and the latter kept his calmnes to slide the ball home and stillnes a partisan crowd.

The hosts predominated the first half and went close to equalising when Lebogang Manyama’s shot reached the crossbar, but Stuart Baxter’s side ran further behind before the violate. Mane’s effort was brilliantly saved by Itumeleng Khune, merely for Mkhize to haplessly head the rebound into his own net.

Senegal held on to reach the World Cup finals for only the second time. In 2002, they memorably defeated France on their debut, eventually losing to Turkey in the quarter-finals. They are the third African team to reach next year’s tournament, alongside Egypt and Nigeria. Tunisia can seal their place against Libya on Saturday, while Ivory Coast host Morocco in a battle for the other qualifying place. PA

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‘Terrible conditions’: police uncover abuse and exploitation on farms in Sicily

Action follows Observer investigation into claims of forced labour and sexual exploitation among Romanian migrant females applied as agricultural workers

Eight arrests have been made and legal proceedings launched against 33 farming companies across Sicily, after a series of raids determined 227 migrant workers trapped in forced labour conditions.

Police carried out raids on 40 farms between April and August in response to an Observer investigation that exposed the widespread forced labour and sexual exploitation of Romanianwomen utilized as seasonal agricultural workers in Ragusa, one of Italy’s largest vegetable producing regions. Merely two of the farms were found to be operating properly, according to Antonino Ciavola, head of the police unit. He said he was shocked by the conditions in which people- including a number of Romanian girls- were being forced to live and work.

” Of 40 farms we raided, only two were in order. In the other 38, we procured employees living and working in terrible conditions in shanties with no heating or water. Some of the farm owners we apprehended did not even think they were committing crimes. They watched themselves as philanthropists, providing people with work and a roof to sleep under regardless of whether they were then subjecting those workers to exploitation .”

The raids also uncovered a network of recruitment from Romania into the greenhouses of Sicily, with Romanian females enlisting people in their home communities to sign up as labourers for Ragusa farms.

” If this is proved at trial then what we are looking at is an inter-EU trafficking phenomenon ,” said prosecutor Valentina Botti, who is pursuing multiple charges of sexual assault and labour exploitation against farmers on behalf of Romanian women.

In March the Observer revealed that up to 5,000 Romanian women working on farms in Ragusa were facing conditions of forced labour and severe labour exploitation. Interviews with women detailed routine sexual assault, being forced to work 12 -hour days in extreme hot with no water , non-payment of wages and having to live in degrading and unsanitary living conditions in isolated outbuildings.

The Italian authorities say they have taken a series of measures to stem the abuse faced by Romanian workers. In 2014, the Italian Senate human rights committee launched an investigation, and a delegation of ministers responsible for met Romanian legislators dispatched to Ragusa by “ministers ” Sorin Grindeanu.

However, Italian prosecutors and civil rights activists caution that these measures have been insufficient and that thousands of Romanian women and children remain at risk across the region.

” We know from social workers and groups working directly with these women that the abuse and exploitation is ongoing, yet we have not created the conditions in which females feel confident to come forward and denounce their exploiters ,” said Botti.

” Most now accept the abuse as the personal sacrifice they must make if they want to keep their jobs and the implication for many of losing their jobs is devastating. The fear of this and the implications for their families is keeping them trapped .”

One Romanian worker who agreed to be interviewed anonymously said she was living with her young daughter in an outhouse on an isolated farm.

” Nothing has changed ,” she said.” We continue to live in five-square-metre cabins with our children. The children stay in the greenhouses the working day. We are not treated like humans inside these places, we are treated like animals .”

Trade unions point out that Ragusa currently hires simply three labour inspectors for a province containing more than 5,000 farms.

” Three people cannot be expected to inspect thousands of farms by themselves ,” said Giuseppe Scifo, provincial secretary for CGIL, Italy’s largest trade union.

According to the INPS, a government body that oversees social security welfare, only 32 of Ragusa’s agricultural farms are in compliance with national labour standards.

” The truth is that today a good part of the agricultural economy in Ragusa is based on the exploitation of labour. If the authorities were to check and fine all the companies in breach of labour laws then the economic system of the region would collapse ,” said Scifo.” People are looking the other way .”

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The terrible truth about your tin of Italian tomatoes

Court documents reveal that fruit from two food giants on UK supermarket shelves was picked by employees in southern Italy under conditions of absolute exploitation

Two of Italy’s biggest food companies have been implicated in labour abuses of migrant workers picking tomatoes bought by thousands of British and European customers every week, according to court documents.

Italian prosecutor Paola Guglielmi has named food giants Mutti and Conserve Italia as obtained from “conditions of absolute exploitation” in the country’s hugely lucrative tomato industry, as part of an investigation into the death of a seasonal labourer.

Both Mutti and the Conserve Italia brand Cirio render major UK supermarkets with premium tinned tomatoes and passata, and are named in court documents signed by Guglielmi.

The case began with the death of Abdullah Muhammed, a 47 -year-old legal Sudanese immigrant and father of two, who suffered a heart attack while working in the fields of Nardo, which sits on the heel of southern Italy, in July 2015. The allegation against his employer was that Muhammed’s life could have been saved if he had been allowed to go to hospital.

The Italian examiner utilized her powers to track the render chain up to the very top of the country’s EUR3. 2bn( PS2. 85 bn) processed tomato industry. While the companies are not liable for the death, their link is significant.

Like thousands of other workers, Muhammed’s day would start at 4am and he would work until 5pm handpicking tomatoes in the fierce heat of the southern Italian summer. Labour abuses listed in the court documents include working for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, without breaks, with minimal pay and no access to medical personnel.

Italian attorney Paola Guglielmi. Photograph: Politenes of Corriere Salentino

” The person responsible for the crime by statute was just the gangmaster ,” Guglielmi told the Guardian.

” But in this case there was also manslaughter. That guy would not have died if there had been a doctor’s visit. The violation of the safety provisions on the job was flagrant .”

Through a far-reaching investigation, Guglielmi checked telephone records, tapped phone calls and conducted aerial surveillance to painstakingly connect the exploitation of seasonal migrant workers to industrial giants.

While employees make an average of EUR3 0 a day in the Puglia region, they can expect to lose up to half of that just to pay for food, transport, water and a cut to their gangmaster.

The gangmaster or “caporalato” system is rife across the Italian agricultural sector where migrants- legal and illegal- are organised into informal labour groups that are hired by Italian landowners to harvest their crops.

The file accuses Italian company owner Giuseppe Mariano and Sudanese gangmaster Mohammed Elsalih of manslaughter. The preliminary investigation has now concluded, and a magistrate will decide whether the case should go to trial.

The companies named in the file are not liable and stress the extent to which they promote their suppliers to treat their workers ethically.

A spokesman for Conserve Italia, which produces the Cirio brand of tinned tomatoes that is sold by Tesco, said it requires all its suppliers agree to “respect” their workers and the company’s ethical code, and that the company cut ties with the supplier involved when he was made aware of Muhammed’s death.

” We know in the south of Italy there are some situations that are not in line but we can’t do the run – it’s not our responsibility to confirm what happens in the region but we do ask our suppliers to respect human rights ,” he said.” We don’t pay less than the normal price .”

Conserve Italia has since said in a statement that it plans to sue the suppliers for injuries” to protect its reputation as the most ethical company in this business “.

Mutti also issued a statement.” Mutti has always been committed to fight any exploitation of workers’ systems by all means … ,” it said.” Mutti selects its farmers and agricultural partners with special care and preserves a constant dialogue with them along the entire supply chain. As far as the protection and security of employees is concerned, each contract involves specific requirements on work conditions( salary regularity as well as security in the workplace ). Mutti will continue to foster its commitment to work in cooperation with its competitors, farmers associations and the Italian institutions to avoid accidents in fields .”

A member of Medecins Sans Frontieres talks to an African worker in a makeshift camp in the countryside near the village of Rignano Garganico, southern Italy. Photo: Tony Gentile/ Reuters

Activists claim that the low production costs drive interests not to tackle the exploitation problem properly. Yvan Sagnet, 32, from Cameroon ran simply five days in the fields near to where Mohammed died before resulting a mass ten-strike of the workers in 2012. Now he campaigns to aim what he brands “slavery”.

” When I arrived in Puglia I detected the gangmaster system- conditions were inhuman- they were ghettos that were like concentration camp ,” he said.

” One day a guy got sick[ in the fields ], he couldn’t handle it and in those places there is no way to get first assist- “were not receiving” address. “Were not receiving” cellphone signal. The employees don’t speak Italian so the gangmasters take advantage … The gangmaster insisted,’ If you don’t pay me the 20 euros I will not take you. If you do you can go to the hospital tonight .'”

After years of campaigning and organising a mass strike against the gangmasters, a strengthened law prohibiting the caporalato system came into consequence last year.

But campaigners say very little has changed in isolated farms where authorities do not do enough to proactively crack down on the practice.

” The interests of these fields are linked with the interests of the politicians and people who own the most important companies in Italy ,” said Valeria Sallustio, former president of Finis Terrae, an Italian NGO that worked closely with the workers in Nardo.

Zoe Maddison, spokesperson for the British Retail Consortium( BRC ), which represents Tesco and Sainsbury’s among other major UK supermarkets, said:” This is a tragic instance and we expect the Italian authorities to carry out a full investigation.

” The welfare of all people who work in our supplying chains is of key importance to us, and BRC members will investigate any allegations of malpractice .”

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‘Sweating’ blood: mysterious case leaves Canadian experts searching for answers

The condition reported by an Italian female prompted experts to investigate, leading them to about two dozen similar lawsuits worldwide in the past 15 years

The case left doctors baffled: a 21 -year-old Italian girl with no gashes or skin lesions arrived at a medical ward, where she described years of sweating blood from her face and the palms of her hands.

The bleeding would often start while she was sleeping or during physical activity and could last anywhere from one to five minutes. While the intensity of the bleed seemed to increase with stress, she couldn’t single out any obvious trigger.

Her condition has been documented by two physicians from the University of Florence in Italy in the latest issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The condition- which had begun about three years before she tried medical help- had taken a toll on her mental health, wrote physicians Roberto Maglie and Marzia Caproni.” Our patient had become socially isolated owing to shame over the bleed and she reported symptoms consistent with major depressive disorder and panic disorder .”

They prescribed her anti-anxiety drugs, but the bleeding continued. After a round of tests and observations ruled out the possibility that she was faking the condition, she was diagnosed with hematohidrosis, a rarely reported condition in which patients spontaneously sweat blood through unbroken skin.

Doctors treated her with propranolol, a heart and blood pressure drug, which reduced the bleed but failed to eliminate it altogether.

Jacalyn Duffin, the Canadian medical historian and haematologist who wrote a commentary that accompanies the report, said she was initially sceptical.” My first thought was, is this real? Could it be fake ?” The mystery deepened after she canvassed her senior haematology colleagues and found that not one of them had ever come across such a case.

Duffin then delved into the medical literature, managing to turn up more than two dozen similar lawsuits reported around the world in the past 15 years or so.

In many of these, researchers had carefully documented the tests they had carried out to eliminate the possibility of other bleeding ailments and the evidence they had found to suggest the presence of blood in the sweat ducts.” I came to the conclusion that it’s plausible and that it’s possible ,” said Duffin.

The majority of these cases involved young women or children. Many of research reports documented that the bleeding was preceded by emotional trauma, such as witnessing violence at home or at school. In all of the patients, the condition was transient, lasting anywhere from a month to four years.

Little else- from its causes to how to halt the hemorrhaging- is known, said Duffin. Some have hypothesised the condition could be caused by blood coagulation disorders or a rupture of the smaller blood vessels within tissues.

‘ I began to wonder if one of the reasons journals don’t publish it, or are a little bit leery of it, is because it has kind of been owned by religious sources ,’ Duffin said. Photo: CMAJ

While Duffin received references of the condition stretching back to the writings of Aristotle, the condition- described in one report as a” kind of modern-day stigmata “~ ATAGEND- is often referenced alongside Christianity and the crucifixion, an association that may make it more difficult to accept, she noted.

” Blood is so permeating- in not only religious myth, but all mythology- that it makes people kind of think twice ,” she said.” I began to wonder if one of the reasons journals don’t publish it, or are a little bit leery of it, is why it has kind of been owned by religion sources .”

This could be slowly changing. Of the 42 reports Duffin came across, nearly half had appeared in the last five years, raising questions as to whether the incidence of the condition is increasing or whether it’s simply becoming more are recognizing doctors.

This latest report might also help to shine a spotlight the condition , noted Duffin. She said she had already heard from one human who believed his relative- a returning war veteran with PTSD- might also be afflicted.

” The reason that I think it’s possible that there might be more out there than we know is that it seems that, although it’s spectacular, it’s benign ,” she said.” In all of these cases I excavate out- the 42 lawsuit reports- the patients all survived. They’re scared because it’s really frightening to have this happen, but it seems to be quite innocuous as a symptom .”

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