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Eternally stinky city? Rome garbage crisis sparks health fears

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Landfills in flames and rats feasting on waste in the streets have sparked health fears in Rome, as doctors warn families to steer clear of disease-ridden curbside garbage and locals launch a disgusting dumpster contest online.

Crowds of summer tourists are forced to navigate overflowing bins in the stifling heat, as the pungent perfume of neglected garbage draws scavenging animals and the threat of disease to the Eternal City and locals fume over the city’s refuse management.

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Rome’s chief physician Antonio Magi has issued a “hygiene alert”, telling AFP this could be upgraded to a health warning, with disease spread through the faeces of insects and animals banqueting on rotting waste.

His warning prompted local prosecutors to open an investigation this week into the city’s refuse collection.

In the meantime, furious Rome residents have launched a contest on Twitter to find the most fetid dustbins.

Discarded pizza boxes or the remains of spaghetti lunches and fruit rinds draw opportunistic seagulls, rats and even wild boars to the streets of Rome, with wolves also spotted closer to the city’s outskirts than ever before.

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AFP / Tiziana FABI The city lacks infrastructure: of its three main landfills, one has closed and the others were ravaged by fire

Adding to the indignation of Rome residents is the steep price they are paying for their garbage to rot in the streets.

The city spent more than 597 euros ($670) per inhabitant on household waste treatment in 2017 — by far the highest in the country, ahead of Venice (353 euros) and Florence (266 euros), according to a report by the Openpolis Foundation.

But the city lacks infrastructure: of its three main landfills, one has closed and the others were ravaged by fire in recent months.

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And two biological treatment sites have reduced their activities for maintenance work.

– ‘Degradation and abandonment’ –

Some residents make matters worse by simply dumping their old mattresses, fridges and sofas next to garbage bins.

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But local Salvatore Orlando, 50, told AFP the council was entirely to blame.

“Of course it’s the mayor’s fault. You certainly can’t blame the citizens,” he said.

AFP / Tiziana FABI The Italian capital struggles with a renewed garbage emergency aggravated by the summer heat

“They produce waste, they have to throw it away, and the public services have to collect it. It’s simple. We pay taxes for it”.

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Rome’s mayor and the president of the Lazio region both assured Italy’s environment minister Tuesday that the crisis would be resolved “within 15 days”.

But to do so, more of the city’s 5,000 tons of daily waste will have to be sent for incineration elsewhere.

“Everyone complains about waste but no one wants an incinerator. Instead, we take the waste abroad, to Austria, to Germany!”, another aggrieved resident said, declining to give his name.

Even Pope Francis has commented on the decline, lamenting in June Rome’s “degradation and abandonment”.

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AFP / Tiziana FABI Even Pope Francis has commented on the decline, lamenting in June Rome’s “degradation and abandonment”

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right League, has jumped on the chance to use the crisis as a political weapon against mayor Virginia Raggi, who hails from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).

The stench and sticky pavements have given him ammunition ahead of the next municipal elections, scheduled for 2021.

But in a city where key sectors are riddled with inefficiency and corruption, residents will wonder whether Salvini has a magic recipe for resolving a situation that has stumped parties over the years across the political spectrum.

In the meantime, rubbish is just one more daily challenge in a city with countless potholes, trees that topple at the first gust of wind and buses that catch fire — if their engines start at all.

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The DOJ is suing Omarosa over the same law Brett Kavanaugh is accused of violating: Ex-White House ethics chief

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On Monday, former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub noted a massive double standard at the Justice Department, pointing out that government attorneys are suing Omarosa Manigault Newman for financial disclosure violations — while giving a free pass to Brett Kavanaugh, who is accused of even more serious financial disclosure violations.

In fact, noted Shaub, not only is the DOJ not pursuing that allegation, Attorney General Bill Barr is giving the DOJ employees who helped fast-track Kavanaugh through Supreme Court confirmation hearings a prestigious award, usually reserved for prosecutors who take down terrorists and mob bosses:

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Here’s what George Carlin taught us about media propaganda by omission

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In the old George Carlin joke, the TV sportscaster announces: “Here’s a partial score from the West Coast – Los Angeles 6.”

For a brilliant comedian like Carlin—who skewered corporate powerclass structure and political/media propaganda—that’s one of his more innocuous jokes. But it’s sharply relevant today as corporate TV news outlets serve up a series of partial scores. Call it “propaganda by omission.”

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Scientists uncover alarming levels of dangerous plastics in children’s bodies

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Plastic by-products were found in an alarming 97-100% of blood and urine samples from 2,500 children tested between 2014 and 2017, according to a new study by the German Environment Ministry and the Robert Koch Institute.

Der Spiegel, the German weekly magazine, published the findings Saturday, which were part of a federal study focused on "human biomonitoring" of 3 to 17-year-olds. Traces from 11 out of 15 plastic ingredients were found in the test samples.

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