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Mafia Sinks Ships Containing Toxic Waste 401

Posted by Soulskill
from the beware-mutant-fish dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "For years there have been rumors that the mafia was sinking ships with nuclear and other waste on board as part of a money-making racket. Now, BBC reports on a sunken vessel that has been found 30km off the coast of Italy. Murky pictures taken by a robot camera show the vessel intact, and alongside it are a number of yellow barrels with labels indicating the contents are toxic. The ship's location was revealed by Francesco Fonti, an ex-member of Calabria's feared 'Ndrangheta crime group, who confessed to using explosives to sink this vessel and two others as part of an illegal operation to bypass rules on the disposal of toxic waste. Experts are now examining samples taken from the wreck, and an official says that if the samples prove to be radioactive then a search for up to 30 other sunken vessels believed scuttled by the mafia would begin immediately. 'The Mediterranean is 0.7 percent of the world's seas. If in this tiny portion there are more than 30 (toxic waste) shipwrecks, imagine what there could be elsewhere,' says Silvestro Greco, head of Calabria's environment agency."
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Mafia Sinks Ships Containing Toxic Waste

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  • Attsa (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:12AM (#29440517)

    spicy meatball!

  • No moral fibre (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrahamCox (741991) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:12AM (#29440525) Homepage
    Fuck. Me. I sometimes wonder what it must be like to be a person with no moral fibre at all. I can't imagine it, must be weird.
    • Re:No moral fibre (Score:5, Insightful)

      by demonlapin (527802) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:19AM (#29440647) Homepage Journal
      It's highly profitable, that's for sure.
    • Re:No moral fibre (Score:5, Insightful)

      by oldspewey (1303305) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:23AM (#29440695)

      It's not that hard to imagine. Surely there is some part of you - some element(s) of your behaviour - that are driven by profit rather than regard for your fellow humans. It doesn't have to be big, consequential stuff; just think about those times when you're likely to act in your own self interest rather than the greater social good.

      Now, imagine that those motivations make up 90% of your consciousness rather than the (hopefully smaller) percentage they currently do. It's an exercise in relativism, in thinking in degrees rather than absolutes.

      Now spend some time exploring hypothetical situations and imagining how you would react. There's no need to change the basic elements of your personality, just tweak the motivational balance. Are you there? Can you imagine it?

      Congratulations! You're a sociopath!

    • Re:No moral fibre (Score:5, Informative)

      by TechForensics (944258) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:26AM (#29440747) Homepage Journal

      Fuck. Me. I sometimes wonder what it must be like to be a person with no moral fibre at all. I can't imagine it, must be weird.

      My wife's a psychologist and we have discussed such people. The answer to what it's like to be one is depressingly simple. They have no morals to trouble them at all; no conscience, no guilt. They're happy as if they had ethics and compassion.

      There are people who are simply not like us; just not the same.

      • Re:No moral fibre (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Swizec (978239) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:42AM (#29440979) Homepage

        Fuck. Me. I sometimes wonder what it must be like to be a person with no moral fibre at all. I can't imagine it, must be weird.

        My wife's a psychologist and we have discussed such people. The answer to what it's like to be one is depressingly simple. They have no morals to trouble them at all; no conscience, no guilt. They're happy as if they had ethics and compassion.

        There are people who are simply not like us; just not the same.

        Well to be honest, morals and ethics are just trivial rules communally agrees upon by a society. We find it unethical, perhaps even immoral, to have sex with a 14 year old. But even our own society less than 200 years ago saw nothing unusual in 40 year old men marrying 14 year old girls.

        • Re:No moral fibre (Score:5, Insightful)

          by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:47AM (#29441045) Journal
          The particulars are, to a significant degree, matters of convention; but there is a big difference between people who convention has an inner hold on, and people who observe convention only under external compulsion, if at all.
        • Well to be honest, morals and ethics are just trivial rules communally agrees upon by a society. We find it unethical, perhaps even immoral, to have sex with a 14 year old. But even our own society less than 200 years ago saw nothing unusual in 40 year old men marrying 14 year old girls.

          Your example doesn't prove your point. The age limit varies, but all cultures would say an adult shouldn't have sex with a baby. And if we heard it was "normal" to do so in Country X, we would all say "that society has agree

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by popeye44 (929152)

          My grandmother, My wifes grandmother and my aunt were all married at 13.."my mother at 16" so it wasn't 200 years ago. It's less than 60 years ago.

        • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @12:45PM (#29442041) Journal

          Actually, I think the emphasis was a bit wrong on "ethics" and "morals". A more correct definition is that some people lack "empathy". See, psychopathy [wikipedia.org].

          Morals and ethics can be see as an agreed upon code, but empathy is something built in and arguably hard-wired. See, mirror neurons [wikipedia.org].

          In effect, most of those morals and ethics -- and the real reason why most people go along with them -- are based on that empathy. We're hard-wired to be nice to our fellow humans. Well, about 97% of us, anyway. We don't kill basically because at a hard-wired level something says "well, _I_ wouldn't like to be killed." We don't steal for the same reason. Etc.

          To address your objection: We agree to not have sex with a 14 year old, basically because nowadays we understand that it would cause some psychological harm and that it would make her parents very unhappy. And we're nicer than that.

          But it's a bit deeper, actually. It's not just about direct harm, it's that we tend to understand that others have the same needs on Maslow's pyramid, so to speak. Even without knowing what those are. We tend to realize that others need to feel safe too, for example. Or that they need their private space too. Etc.

          Basically while the actual social contract may vary and is subjective, it's based upon something which doesn't. Sure, we may find different solutions to the same problem, but that problem is real and pretty objective. (You can actually see it on an MRI scan, if you want something which isn't dependent of subjective interpretations.)

          A second factor is that, essentially, we're social animals and want to belong in a group of our peers. (See Maslow's pyramid again.) We want to be accepted, maybe even appreciated, etc. We're prepared to work out a compromise to that end, so the group can function or even exist.

          There are rules and morals and ethics which, basically, solve _that_ problem. They're how the group organizes itself, so it can exist as a group. I won't stress you, if you won't stress me, and all that, in a nutshell.

          That's something that all the moral relativists seem to miss. They dig up some seemingly arbitrary rule, like "don't have sex with too young people", and wave it as a banner for the idea that all rules are just arbitrary conventions. But they miss the foundation for that body of rules, and the purpose they serve. But I digress.

          Sociopaths are amoral basically because they lack that foundation which makes the other people be moral and ethical. The difference is basically at a different level than the morals and ethics themselves.

      • Re:No moral fibre (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mdmkolbe (944892) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @12:04PM (#29441329)

        There are people who are simply not like us; just not the same.

        They may not be like us, but we are a lot more like "them" then we'd like to admit. Human decency and morality are slender threads keeping us from falling into the abyss. With the right motives and situation, they are easily severed (e.g. the Milgram experiment).

    • Re:No moral fibre (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cthulu_mt (1124113) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:39AM (#29440917)
      We sleep easier at night. Having a clean conscience and no conscience are effectively the same.
    • by copponex (13876) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:51AM (#29441097) Homepage

      This is something I think about all the time.

      It could be argued that we are all immoral, because we are not interested in the consequences of our actions. The mafia crook dynamiting the ship with toxic waste isn't much different from an "waste resources" executive who bargains to send toxic waste to countries who need the money. One is exalted, one reviled, yet they both basically do the same thing. The executive simply pretends that the waste is properly disposed of in another country. The mafia crook doesn't kid himself. He knows the truth, and accepts it.

      Which person is more immoral? Where does accountability figure into the equation? And where in a capitalist equation do you enter the morality quotient? Who enforces it?

      These questions are simply not asked, because no one really wants the answer. For me, voluntary ignorance is immoral, and represents one of the great evils in the world today.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      You wonder what it would be like to be a sociopath? [wikipedia.org] I don't.

  • Tonight... (Score:5, Funny)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:12AM (#29440529) Journal
    Toxic waste sleeps with the fishes...
  • Tony Soprano was a waste management consultant.

  • Any justice though? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alcimedes (398213) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:15AM (#29440567)

    So then what? Nothing happens to these people? If they are connected to this mess and convicted they should press them into service as part of the clean up process of all this crap. Make them work cleaning up the lethal crap they felt no qualms about exposing everyone else to.

    • I'd be somewhat surprised. The Italian state isn't a big fan of the mafia; but their effective hold can be pretty weak in some areas(good old WP reports that this particular mafia group turns over something like 3.5% of the GDP, so they obviously aren't hurting too badly). Worse, given that the mafia almost certainly didn't generate the waste in question, it is the sort of case that could probably lead back to a "legitimate" business, in Italy or abroad, that was all too willing to overlook a little fishine
    • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:27AM (#29440759)

      If they are connected to this mess and convicted

      Good luck with that, as they say. If it's anything like NYC, Justice will pretty much need two separate news crews, six NYPD detectives, nineteen passersby, and a televangelist to witness one of the "made men" machinegun down a busload of out-of-town nuns at high noon in Times Square on the day before Election Day to be served.

      Then the appeals process begins...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Zantac69 (1331461)
      Reminds me of a great line from The Way of the Gun - "Karma is only justice without the satisfaction, and I dont believe in justice."

      I would agree that we fit the mafiosos with cement boots so they can assist in the cleanup, but its pretty simple really. They load up the ships with the toxic stuff under the guise of taking it to be "legally disposed" of...the ship "sinks" enroute..."Awww...but it sank! We cant do anything about it now!" Not exactly the oldest trick in the book...but its pretty old!
      • by Bruiser80 (1179083) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:45AM (#29441019)
        So did the state governments for those countries not know that toxic waste was on those ships when they were sank? If a shipping vessel is leaving a dock, doesn't it have to post a manifest?

        Maybe the manifests were doctored so that the government thought the toxic waste made it safely to its destination on a different boat, and the sunk boat was carrying a bunch of olive oil. I guess that makes sense.

        Man, I think I missed this episode of Captain Planet. Would the bad guy be the Pig-faced guy, the toxic waste girl, or the well-tailored poacher?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by twostix (1277166)

          Let me tell you a little ugly truth about about docks, dock workers unions and the mafia...

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:15AM (#29440571) Journal

    "If it makes me $1000, I'll do it. That it will harm 10.000.000 people, it doesn't matter".

    That said, nuclear waste is not necessarily the most dangerous imaginable. Believe it or not, the humble dioxines can be more dangerous. If for no other reason, because they accumulate in the body without ever leaving it (except for liposuction).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      That's not psychopathic, that's opportunistic. Or more simply, that's human nature.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PhilHibbs (4537)

        Behaviours that were prevalent a few hundred years ago are now classified as sociopathic. That's the very definition of the word - a behaviour that is harmful to society. So plenty of normal human behaviours (violence, theft, rape, etc.) are classified as sociopathic, and I think that's a good thing.

  • by NoYob (1630681) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:18AM (#29440613)
    The Mafia vs. GreenPeace and ELF! And since they're harming animals, PETA should hop on board.

    Just imagine those waify PETA chicks getting all mad and kicking the big bruiser mafia guys asses!

  • by pavon (30274) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:23AM (#29440693)

    I don't have a hard time imagining crooked corporations paying to have their chemical waste disposed under the table like this, but who has nuclear waste that would do this? At least here in the US I can't see a power plant getting away with this - they have to keep close account of their material and it is audited pretty closely as well. That would leave mostly medical and scientific sources. I suppose they don't dispose of that directly so the company they paid to take care of it must be crooked.

    The people that made this decision deserve to fry. Too bad it is impossible to create a justice system that I would actually trust to make those sort of decisions.

    • they have to keep close account of their material and it is audited pretty closely as well.

      I think this will prove to be the key issue.

      I doubt if anyone's got a receipt from the Mafia. I doubt if there's a signed contract to dispose of ## barrels of toxic waste illegally.

      Either there's no paper trail at all, or there's been enough bribery and forgery to make that paper trail borderline useless.

    • I don't have a hard time imagining crooked corporations paying to have their chemical waste disposed under the table like this, but who has nuclear waste that would do this?

      I'm not sure they meant "nuclear waste" as in "nuclear reactor waste", or "nuclear waste" as in "radioactive waste". Medical waste can be radioactive... Some of the clinical diagnostic equipment produces radioactive waste.

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:50AM (#29441087)

      Doesn't even have to be crooked ones. You put up a legit-looking front and you can get even the good guys' waste floating in the sea. It's got to be a nightmare PR scenario for any company that might have toxic waste to dispose.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mikael (484)

      Anything that is used to handle radioactive materials will be assumed to be radioactive as well. Our local chemistry department actually has a dustbin with a radioactive sign on it. Anything used to handle something with a radioactive sign on it is automatically to have become radioactive as well - technicians gloves, wipes, syringes, tubing, sample containers and dissolved solutions. Other things might include the cobalt in medical scanners and industrial quality control equipment.

  • What I could never understand is why italy isn't able to clean out the mob more efficiently. Stories like this one though explains a lot...
    • Re:The mob in italy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @12:03PM (#29441301) Journal
      Because, in Southern Italy, the mafia has taken over a lot of the roles more commonly associated with a government (given that they are not a government, this presumably makes Southern Italy a Libertarian Utopia). Removing them is not easy when they are entrenched into every layer of society. In some places they actually receive higher approval ratings than the government; they don't interfere too much with the general populous and the protection money that they pay actually does buy them protection (what the Mafia will do to you if you rob a shop that is under their protection is a lot more of a deterrent to petty thieves than what the police will do to you, and the Mafia are a lot more likely to catch you because they also control the fences you would use to shift the stolen goods).
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by chrb (1083577)

        The book McMafia has some interesting views on the protection rackets that appeared in the former Soviet Union countries in the 1990s. One common theme is that the protection money charged by these organisations was actually quite reasonable - around 7.5% - lower than corporate taxation in the West (there was no corporation tax, or functioning government in the Western sense, in these countries). The protection rackets would also negotiate and arbitrate on your behalf with other businesses, and produce an a

    • by pmontra (738736) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @12:16PM (#29441519) Homepage
      I'm sure Italy would be delighted if you could provide them an example of any country that has been able to clean out its own local mob so they could copy their methods. Do you know one?
  • by drewzhrodague (606182) <(drew) (at) (zhrodague.net)> on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:29AM (#29440779) Homepage Journal
    Is it possible that these mafia people are stupid? Imagine we can reprocess nuclear waste, in many of the ways that slashdotters will include below. Now this nuclear waste conveniently stored underwater, is fuel that we can use to power our toys with. This is assuming that there wasn't any damage to the containers, and a big cleanup isn't required. Hopefully, when the world comes to its senses, and makes better use of its resources, we won't have these kinds of problems. (It always drives me crazy that there are organizations that will burn or throw away or sequester potentially useful materials. Sure mercury is poisonous. Extract it from your waste, and sell it to someone that needs it. The same with CO2, and even radon. I wonder about gold production from mining landfills.)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, it all depends on money. If it costs me $10 per pound to extract the mercury, and I can sell it for $20 per pound, you can bet your ass I'd do it. But if I can only get $2 per pound selling it, I'd rather spend $1 per pound dumping it.

  • by DriedClexler (814907) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:30AM (#29440781)

    This has long been suspected, and there's a connection to Somali piracy. The mysterious blogger "TokyoTom" has an excellent summary [mises.org] of the research indicating that European companies were using the lack of a government in Somali to dump toxic waste illegally near the coast of Somali, which really wreaked havoc after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, which washed a lot of the crap onshore and caused mass illness.

    There were always suspicious that this illegal dumping was a money source for the Mafia, although even legit businesses seem to have no problem with it. I don't defend Somali pirates, but people forget that it originated from fishers trying to get illegal dumpers to leave the area, then to try to get compensation for what the dumpers did. This doesn't justify piracy, but it does give lie to the notion that they lack a legitimate grievance and are simply out for money, and it helps to explain why they enjoy such support from Somalians.

    I'm surprised the Mafia didn't screw up so bad sooner.

    • I'm surprised the Mafia didn't screw up so bad sooner.

      I think they didn't screw up so bad, I mean nothing will happen anyway out of it, italia will stay corrupt as ever. I can't imagine how that would weaken the mafias position at all...

    • There's some truth to that. Here's another source [spiegel.de]. A lot of the pirates were originally fishermen. Somalia had one of the most diverse and productive waters prior to the dumping and overfishing by foreigners.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chris Burke (6130)

      This doesn't justify piracy, but it does give lie to the notion that they lack a legitimate grievance and are simply out for money, and it helps to explain why they enjoy such support from Somalians.

      Well, it means they had a grievance that lead them away from fishing. But once the crazy piracy $$ started rolling in (many times more than they ever made in the best of times fishing), it became all about the money.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DriedClexler (814907)

        But once the crazy piracy $$ started rolling in (many times more than they ever made in the best of times fishing),

        Really? Is that money more than the cost of all the illnesses and deaths [1] wrought by the toxic dumping, plus the present-discounted value of future fish and sea resources? If not, they haven't been made whole after what's been done to them.

        Again, I want to make absolutely clear that I don't think piracy is the right response. They should have sent clan representatives to international bodies (UN, Arab League, EU, international sea organizations, etc.) to ask for respect for their coastal right before

  • Step 1: To the coast of Somalia and let the pirates seize the ship.
    Step 2: ???
    Step 3: Profit!!!

    Problem solved

    • Step 2a: Somali Pirates get radiation poisoning
      Step 2b: Repeat until no more pirates.
      Step 2c: Ship without fear of pirates
  • ignorant bastards! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FudRucker (866063) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:36AM (#29440873)
    i hope they soon realize the next time they order fish in a restaurant that the fish comes from the same ocean that they sunk those ships, all that water circulates so pollution one part of the ocean gets around to the rest...
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by elrous0 (869638) *
      After years of living in New Jersey, most of these greaseballs are probably immune to pollution.
  • by photonic (584757) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:37AM (#29440889)
    To get a good impression of 'Ndrangheta's involvement with toxic waste, go see Gomorra [imdb.com]. Excellent movie, even though it is somewhat depressing to realize that is based on reality.
  • Mafia Ship (to the gambling/whorehouse ship in International Waters): We didn't see nothin' if you didn't see nothin'
  • by kevinNCSU (1531307) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:40AM (#29440935)

    The Mediterranean is 0.7 percent of the world's seas. If in this tiny portion there are more than 30 (toxic waste) shipwrecks, imagine what there could be elsewhere,' says Silvestro Greco, head of Calabria's environment agency.

    Isn't that like saying "OMG, this chainsaw massacre crime scene is just .00000000000000000001% of the earth's surface, so if there's 5 dismembered bodies here just imagine how many more there could be elsewhere?! You should totally give my Agency more money."

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      No, because the Mediterranean is actually 0.7% of the world's seas, whereas 0.00000000000000000001% of the Earth's surface is 0.05 square millimeters, which is an unbelievably small crime scene.

  • Destination Unknown, indeed.
  • 'The Mediterranean is 0.7 percent of the world's seas. If in this tiny portion there are more than 30 (toxic waste) shipwrecks, imagine what there could be elsewhere,' says Silvestro Greco,

    Hmm, 30 is 0.7% of 4290 so if 30 is the average number of toxic vessels in the ocean were screwed. I think we need a bigger sample size, and perhaps a less bias sample size.

    Just imagine that it could be anywhere from 0 to something less than infinite. We should give this guy money to find out.

  • Donations to the "Francesco Fonti And His Family And Their Pets Memorial Fund" can be sent to their former neighbours in Calabria.
  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @12:05PM (#29441343)

    So if you go to the middle east there are regularly news reports about how the west (possibly with some specifics), are dumping toxic/radioactive waste off the coast of Somalia/Egypt/Iraq/Pakistan/other muslim country with a coast. And we - in the west- tend to regard these as nonsense. But now we're finding out that we are getting toxic waste dumped off the coast of western countries - that seems like it might be tip of the iceberg. Somalia isn't nearly as likely as italy to catch these things (albeit rather slowly), who knows what we could find in the deep waters off countries that don't have the ability to patrol their own coasts.

  • by bigblackcar (1072018) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @12:43PM (#29441989) Homepage
    I'm so proud that once in a while Italy makes the Slashdot headlines.

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