Bloomberg Businessweek has just published my piece an attempt to introduce a minimum basic income in Switzerland.

Marilola Wili braces her foot against the wall to pull open a vault door inside a former bank building in downtown Basel. In the darkness inside, 15 tons of coins glint like dragon treasure. “It’s something everybody’s dreamed about, swimming in money,” says Wili, a waitress and musician as well as a member of Generation Basic Income. That’s an activist group trying to persuade voters to amend Switzerland’s constitution to guarantee every citizen a yearly income of 30,000 Swiss francs ($33,000)—whether they work or not.

The vault is part publicity stunt, part fundraising effort. Switzerland’s system of direct democracy offers anybody who can gather at least 100,000 signatures the chance to put a ballot initiative before the country’s voters. Wili and her comrades celebrated reaching that milestone in October by dumping 8 million coins, one for every Swiss resident, in front of the Parliament building in Bern. Wili’s chief occupation these days is to find a buyer for the five-centime coins along with the vault in which they’re displayed, as a sort of art installation. Proceeds will fund a campaign to persuade voters to approve their initiative in a referendum that will be held in two or three years.

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My story on Poland’s unlikely economic success has just been published in Bloomberg Businessweek.

The oldest coffee shop in Warsaw has been in operation nearly without interruption since the end of the 18th century. In the upstairs room, a young Frédéric Chopin played one of his last concerts before emigrating to Paris. During the Nazi occupation from 1939 to 1945, the cafe was strictly for Germans. When the city rose up at the end of the war, the building, like much of the old city around it, was completely destroyed—then reconstructed from photographs in the years following. The cafe was state-owned under communism and privatized in 1989 after the fall of the Iron Curtain, sold to a journalist and a jazz musician. “And now,” says Polish businessman Adam Ringer, sitting in the cafe in early October, “it’s been bought by an international company.”

Ringer, 64, reopened the cafe earlier this year under the name Green Caffè Nero, a coffee chain co-owned by Ringer, another Polish partner, and the U.K.-based chain Caffe Nero. “Here you have the whole history of Poland,” he says. “Look at that wall. Each brick is different. They were gathered from the ruins of prewar Warsaw.” Although they’re always aware of the past, Ringer and his countrymen are charging ahead. Revenue at most of his chain’s locations is up 10 percent from the year before, and the company is in the midst of a rapid expansion. “People are much richer than they were, and you can easily feel it,” he says.

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Bloomberg Businessweek has just published my story on Silvio Berlusconi’s expulsion from the Italian senate.

It wasn’t the first time that journalists sat down to write Silvio Berlusconi’s political obituary, and Italy’s former prime minister was making it clear he’d do his best to ensure it wouldn’t be the last. Even as the Italian senate prepared to expel him, the media mogul was promising a crowd of supporters in front of his house in central Rome that he was far from through with politics. “We’re here on a bitter day, a day of mourning for democracy,” he said. “Now, none of us can be sure of our rights, of our liberty, and so we mustn’t give up the fight.”

Things have never looked so grim for Berlusconi. Sentenced in August to a year of community service for tax fraud, he also faces a 6-year ban from public office. His party suffered a schism last month when his onetime lieutenant refused to join his attempt to bring down the government. Other charges, including a conviction under appeal for paying for sex with a minor and abusing his office to cover it up, are looming ever closer. The loss of his senate seat strips Berlusconi of his parliamentary immunity, opening the possibility that a judge could put him under precautionary arrest.

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Foreign Policy has just published my article on the serious choice facing Reykjavik’s funny mayor.

Jon Gnarr has to make a decision. The former punk rocker, former stand-up comedian, former joke protest candidate, and current mayor of Reykjavik is approaching the end of his first term in office. Recent polls put his party, the ironically named Best Party, at 37 percent, making him the likely winner. In August, he posted a question on his Facebook page, “Elections next spring. What do you think?” and linked to a video of The Clash classic “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

On Thursday, Oct. 31, he will announce whether he’ll stand again. “I have been thinking about how I would run again,” he says. “Would I promise two polar bears? And Legoland? And free everything for everybody? Because that’s what we ran on, just promise: Tell us what you want and we’ll promise.”

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Bloomberg Businessweek has just published my story on an effort by the Maasai to grab control of their intellectual property.

Sometimes, to get your point across to the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania, you have to talk in cows. Lawrence ole Mbelati, a tribesman, stands in front of a group of about 70 Maasai leaders and elders from a district in northern Tanzania, holding a picture of a red-and-brown fountain pen. Introduced in 2003 by Italian pen maker Delta, it was part of the company’s “Indigenous People” luxury line. Called Maasai, it retailed for upwards of $600. “That’s like three or four good cows,” ole Mbelati, 35, tells the group.

Ole Mbelati, who works for a Kenyan nongovernmental organization, has driven down from Nairobi. He’s speaking in Maa, the Maasai language, but wears jeans and a polo shirt. Most of the elders have come in the clothes they wear every day: bright red shukas, wrapped around them like togas. Some have sneakers on, but many wear homemade sandals crafted from tire treads. The women, as well as some men, wear intricately beaded earrings, necklaces, and armbands. They sit in a concrete building usually used for classes in veterinary medicine. Many have placed black wooden rods, the mark of a chief, on the table. A few hold up mobile phones, recording ole Mbelati as he explains the ways in which others are profiting at the tribe’s expense. “Whose name is being used?” he asks. “It’s the Maasai name. Who is becoming strong economically? The people who are using the Maasai name.”

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My piece on why it’s too early to count out Silvio Berlusconi has just been published by Time.

The Sunday after Prime Minister Enrico Letta survived an Oct. 2 attempt by Silvio Berlusconi to bring down his government, Letta went on television to declare victory. “I think a political season has been closed,” he said, referring to the country’s nearly 20 years of political domination by the sex-scandal-plagued former Prime Minister. “The page has been securely turned.”

Letta is not the first leader to prematurely declare mission accomplished. The Prime Minister has fractured Berlusconi’s political party, forced him into humiliating surrender on national television, and all but ensured that later this month he will be booted from the Senate, a punishment for the one-year sentence for tax fraud Berlusconi received in August. But it’s far too early to declare him politically dead and gone. Whatever his faults, Berlusconi’s recurring political success reflects an enduring failure of Italian politics: its inability to deliver durable results. And on that front, there’s little reason to believe anything has changed.

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My piece on Berlusconi’s defeat in the Italian senate has just been published by Time.

On the surface, Italy‘s day ended as it began—with the country’s Prime Minister Enrico Letta in an uneasy, unstable alliance with the media mogul Silvio Berlusconi. In a last minute speech in the Italian senate on Oct. 2, Berlusconi, the sex scandal-plagued former prime minister, declared he would support the government in a vote of confidence, bringing to an end a political crisis he had been instrumental in creating. “We have decided, not without inner turmoil, to vote in confidence of the government,” said Berlusconi. The final vote in the senate was 235 to 70 in favor of the government.

But the hours leading up to the vote had revealed deep fissures in Berlusconi’s once dominant People of Liberty party. On Oct. 1, several of his supporters—including his political heir Angelo Alfano—had openly broken with Berlusconi, declaring they would go against his wishes and vote in favor of the government. Last week, nearly all the senators in his party had threatened to resign if the senate stripped Berlusconi of his seat, a requirement following the one-year sentence for tax fraud handed out to Berlusconi in August. On the morning of the vote, 25 members of his party declared they would defect, forming an independent parliamentary group, and support Letta, almost certainly providing the current prime minister with the votes he need to survive.

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My piece on the Italian government crisis has just been published by Time.

The news broke as Italians were sitting down for their Saturday dinner: Silvio Berlusconi, the scandal-plagued media mogul, had ordered the ministers from his party to withdraw from Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s government, effectively causing it collapse after five months of shaky coalition rule.

The news didn’t come as a complete surprise. The government — born from compromise after a hung parliament exhausted all other possibilities — has been unstable and ineffective since its formation. It came under further stress in August, when Italy’s supreme court confirmed a lower court’s decision to slap Berlusconi with a one-year sentence for tax fraud and a ban on holding political office for a yet-to-be determined period.

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Bloomberg Businessweek has just published my story on the Icelandic prosecutor that’s going after the country’s bankers.

Ólafur Hauksson didn’t even apply for his job the first time it was offered. It was late 2008, and Iceland was in the early throes of financial meltdown. The island nation’s three largest banks had gone under, pulling in their wake an economy that had floated high on the back of a swollen financial sector. The króna was spiraling downward, kept from plummeting to the bottom only by emergency capital controls. Unemployment was surging. The population was riotous, pelting the parliament building in downtown Reykjavik with eggs, tomatoes, and yogurt.

The country’s panicked politicians responded by promising investigations. In December 2008, two months into the meltdown, Parliament appointed a three-member committee to study the cause of the crash and created a new legal body to look into suspicions of criminal activity related to the banks’ collapse. When a call for applications came for a leader of the new body, the Office of the Special Prosecutor, the government didn’t receive a single résumé.

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Bloomberg Businessweek has just published the epilogue to my story on Greek unemployment.

In July, for a cover story in Bloomberg Businessweek, I followed a 29-year-old Greek woman named Tina Stratigaki for a week as she searched for a job. Mostly, there was little to do. She showed me how she searched the job listings and how she applied for openings, but I also was able to join her for one of the nine interviews she’s managed to get since the contract for her previous posting expired at the beginning of the year. Some 2,000 applicants had turned out for 21 positions, sitting for an hour-long test and returning for an interview. For Stratigaki, the position was as ideal as they come in today’s Greece, a two-year contract as a social worker in a local government office. At the end of the interview, she was told that she would have an answer by the end of the month.

The end of July came and went without news.

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