Has Berlusconi ever been camping?

In the aftermath of the earthquake that's killed at least 250 people and displaced a total of 28,000 from their homes (17,000 of whom are taking refuge in tents and group camps, some even sleeping in their cars). And in an attempt to offer...comfort, Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has gone and stuck a big old boot in his mouth, again.  

While touring makeshift shelters in L'Aquila, the city most devastated by the quake and its aftershocks, Berlusconi remarked: 

Of course, their current lodgings are a bit temporary. But they should see it like a weekend of camping."

Yes, there's merit in the sunnier outlook of "when you have lemons make lemonade," but Berlusconi's comment -- made as rescuers continued their desperate search for survivors -- was grossly off color. 

Though the prime minister did change his position on accepting foreign aid, saying that other countries would be welcome to help rebuild cultural sites.  

Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images


Japan puts pacifism on hold to fight pirates

We speculated back in January that pirate-fighting could herald the beginning of the end of Japanese pacifism. Today, it's looking more and more to be the case. On Tuesday, that country's government authorized the use of force by its "Maritime Self-Defense Force" (MSDF) if any -- even non-Japanese -- elements came under attack:

MSDF Chief of Staff Keiji Akahoshi admitted during a press conference on Tuesday that the MSDF will be allowed to use force for justifiable defense or to avert imminent danger if its vessels were attacked while responding to rescue requests from foreign vessels that have no Japanese connection.

...'If the MSDF vessels come under fire while closing in on a ship that is asking for help, it will fall within the scope of justifiable defense or averting imminent danger," Akahoshi said, suggesting that the MSDF troops will be entitled to respond with arms under certain conditions.'"

Bring it on!