Horses and cardinals: Bloggers dodge Italy poll ban

Updated 25 February 2013
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Horses and cardinals: Bloggers dodge Italy poll ban

ROME: Italian bloggers have found imaginative ways to dodge a ban on publishing opinion polls ahead of elections — from referring to candidates as cardinals to commenting the vote like a horse race. Under Italian law, opinion polls can be carried out but their results cannot be released in the 15 days before elections which got under way yesterday.
One site — www.notapolitica.it — has been publishing the results of the polls as “illegal horse races” and refers to the different polling companies as “hippodromes” using disguised names. The authors use French words for the main movements competing in the elections, like the center-left Common Good coalition referred to as “Bien Comun.”
Berlusconi’s coalition is referred to as the “Burlesque” team — a reference to allegedly raunchy parties hosted by the billionaire tycoon — who is said to be a few “seconds” behind the winner. Beppe Grillo, leader of the anti-austerity Five Star Movement, is “the five-starred” dark horse. Outgoing prime minister Mario Monti is referred to as “Ipson de la Boccon” — an allusion to his academic career as economics professor and dean at the prestigious Bocconi University in Milan.


Rickshaw pullers fade from India’s streets

Updated 58 min 5 sec ago
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Rickshaw pullers fade from India’s streets

KOLKATA: Mohammad Maqbool Ansari puffs and sweats as he pulls his rickshaw through Kolkata’s teeming streets, a veteran of a gruelling trade long outlawed in most parts of the world and slowly fading from India too.
Kolkata is one of the last places on earth where pulled rickshaws still feature in daily life, but Ansari is among a dying breed still eking a living from this back-breaking labor.
The 62-year-old has been pulling rickshaws for nearly four decades, hauling cargo and passengers by hand in drenching monsoon rains and stifling heat that envelops India’s heaving eastern metropolis.
Their numbers are declining as pulled rickshaws are relegated to history, usurped by tuk tuks, Kolkata’s signature yellow taxis and modern conveniences like Uber.
Ansari cannot imagine life for Kolkata’s thousands of rickshaw-wallahs if the job ceased to exist.
“If we don’t do it, how will we survive? We can’t read or write. We can’t do any other work. Once you start, that’s it. This is our life,” he tells AFP.
Sweating profusely on a searing hot day, his singlet soaked and face dripping, Ansari skilfully weaves his rickshaw through crowded markets and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Wearing simple shoes and a chequered sarong, the only real giveaway of his age is his long beard, snow white and frizzy, and a face weathered from a lifetime plying this disappearing trade.
Twenty minutes later, he stops, wiping his face on a rag. The passenger offers him a glass of water — a rare blessing — and hands a note over.
“When it’s hot, for a trip that costs 50 rupees ($0.75) I’ll ask for an extra 10 rupees. Some will give, some don’t,” he said.
“But I’m happy with being a rickshaw puller. I’m able to feed myself and my family.”