The New York Times has just translated wiretapped conversations currently gripping Italy. The tapes feature a range of call girls, reality-TV personalities, and other associates tied to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, but the star is 18-year-old Karima el-Mahroug. Prosecutors are currently investigating Berlusconi, 74, for paying to have sex with Karima (aka "Ruby") when she was a minor. In the recordings, Ruby says she asked the Italian leader for $6.7 million to keep her story to herself, and she says he told her: "Ruby, I'll give you as much money as you want, I'll pay you, I'll cover you in gold, but the important thing is that you hide everything; don't tell anyone anything." Apparently he didn't give her enough.
If Silvio "I'm No Saint" Berlusconi were an American politician, his ongoing sex scandals would have brought him down years ago. There's a chance that these wiretaps, filled with stories of orgies, blackmail, and a minor, will finally lead to his ousting, though he maintains he's not going anywhere. So his ego, and not his power, is probably most under immediate threat. In the recordings being read all over Italy, another prostitute offers her frank assessment: "He's more dead than alive. He's even become ugly. He should just give up. I hope he's more generous."