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Black Bloc: Italy's serial protest hijackers

Today I got the chance to speak with the very sharp and funny Italian columnist Beppe Severgnini to get his take on Silvio Berlusconi's continued survival. It didn't really fit into the interview, but I also asked him if he was surprised by yesterday's violent clashes in Rome, perpetrated by the Black Bloc anarchist group, which was the only major reported violent incident out of the "Occupy" protests held in over 900 cities this weekend. Here's what he had to say:

I was not surprised. This time they were marching aginst high finance, like Occupy Wall Street. A few weeks ago it was against a new high-speed train and there were violent clashes for weeks. Before that it was schools. Before that it was the G8.  

Obviously, there are a group of very nasty people who want to create havoc and they just enter into whatever peaceful demonstration they can. We're talking about hundreds of people. They move around Italy, with their friends from abroad, and they create havoc. It's time to stop giving them these opportunities.  

Italy's defense minister blamed the leftist protesters for creating the conditions for violence with rhetoric implying that "everything is justifiable as long as we get rid of Berlusconi, the 'evil of Italy.'" One "occupy" marcher objected to the charge, telling Reuters, "We are the real indignant ones," one said. "They stole our day."

FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

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Decline Watch: No more fluoridation in Florida

In the 1964 dark comedy Dr. Strangelove, Gen. Jack D. Ripper describes water fluoridation as "the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist we have ever had to face." Almost five decades later, Ripper's wish to rid the country of this scourge may be coming true, though he probably wouldn't like the reason:

MIAMI — A growing number of communities are choosing to stop adding fluoride to their water systems, even though the federal government and federal health officials maintain their full support for a measure they say provides a 25 percent reduction in tooth decay nationwide.

Last week, Pinellas County, on Florida’s west coast, voted to stop adding fluoride to its public water supply after starting the program seven years ago. The county joins about 200 jurisdictions from Georgia to Alaska that have chosen to end the practice in the last four years, motivated both by tight budgets and by skepticism about its benefits.

It also appears that Gen. Ripper's arguments are alive and well: 

For decades, the issue of fluoridated water remained on the fringes. The John Birch Society took up the cause, seeing fluoride as a communist plot to poison the nation. References to Nazis using fluoride to pacify prisoners in concentration camps — a claim that was never proved — circulate even today. At least one person at the Pinellas County meeting made reference to both the Soviets and the Nazis.

Decline-o-meter: I'm not going to get into the debate about the benefits and drawbacks of fluoridation but feel free to fight it out in the comments. From the article, there seems to be a consensus that it's beneficial in small amounts. It also seems from this story like towns are making policy based budget constraints and paranoia against the advice of doctors and dentists.