Escape from Tripoli: Surviving Libya’s ‘Tsunami’

Time has just published my story on the evacuees from Libya.

Standing inside Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport on Tuesday, Cyrus Sany, 41, was waiting to make a connection to Washington, D.C. Dressed in an untucked white-and-blue dress shirt and pale jeans, the American systems engineer had a few days’ growth of beard on his face. He flipped through the pages of his passport, which was filled with Libyan visas. He had been in Libya for his 28th time when the call came to evacuate. He was there to modernize three of the country’s ports, but his company, Delex Systems, a Virginia-based contractor, said, “Put your pencil down. Get to the airport.”

“In three days, a beautiful country with great opportunities was thrown into chaos,” Sany said. The uprising came without warning, turning the country upside down. “It was like a tsunami,” he said. “It happened in a couple of minutes. This city [the Libyan capital of Tripoli] that was alive like New York is now dead.” Shops closed up. The streets emptied. A crowded hookah bar, which Sany had patronized, was devoid of customers. “The businesses vanished,” he said. “It was like a bunch of plastic chairs and that’s it.”

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Italy’s Bad Romance: How Berlusconi Went Gaga for Gaddafi

Time has just published my story on Italy’s tight ties to Libya.

The longest underwater pipeline in the Mediterranean runs from the coast of Libya to the Italian island of Sicily. Inaugurated in 2004 by Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the 323 miles (520 km) pipeline and its northward flow of gas might as well be a symbol of the relationship between the two countries.

Of all the mutual back-scratching among Europe’s rich democracies and North Africa’s strongmen, Italy’s dependency on Gaddafi stands apart. Libya is Italy’s largest supplier of oil, providing for roughly a third of the country’s energy consumption. The dictator’s government owns a substantial share of the Milan stock market, including 7.5% of Unicredit, Italy’s largest bank; 2% of the Italian oil company ENI; 2% of the country’s second largest industrial group, Finmeccanica; and 7% of the Turin-based Juventus soccer club. Libya also provides a critical market for its northern neighbor’s struggling construction firms. And, since 2008, when Italy agreed to invest $5 billion in Libya, Gaddafi has kept a tight grip on the attempts by his citizens and other African migrants to take ships northward on the Mediterranean.

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Berlusconi Faces Trial and the Wrath of Italy’s Women

Time has just published my story on Berlusconi’s women troubles.

Silvio Berlusconi has never had this much trouble with women. After a weekend in which hundreds of thousands of women turned out to demonstrate against him, the Italian Prime Minister was officially indicted on Tuesday on charges of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and abusing the power of his office to cover it up. In her ruling, judge Cristina Di Censo accepted the argument put forth by prosecutors that the strength of the evidence against Berlusconi was “obvious” enough to warrant an accelerated trial. The proceedings, set to begin on April 6, will take place before three other female judges.

The ruling has energized Italy’s fractured opposition and given strength to those who argue that Italian culture — fueled in no small part by Berlusconi’s media empire — has a long way to go when it comes to women’s rights. “Leaving aside for a moment the Prime Minister’s behavior, which I find incredibly deviant, this is a problem that regards all parts of life and the economy in our country,” Alessia Mosca, a parliamentarian with Italy’s Democratic Party, tells TIME. Italian women have one of the lowest employment rates in Europe, shoulder a disproportionate share of the country’s housework, and suffer from badly managed and inadequate services, such as daycare. “Sure, the first thing is that Berlusconi should resign and submit himself to the court’s judgment, but we also have a responsibility to intervene on a problem that touches all sorts of sectors,” says Mosca.

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After Revolution, Italy Faces Flood of Tunisian Migrants

Time has just published my story on Italy’s migration crisis.

It’s no coincidence that the first boats full of migrants arrived at the tiny southern Italian island of Lampedusa just two days after a revolution overthrew Tunisia’s strongman Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. That’s about how long it takes for a rickety, overloaded ship to cross that stretch of the Mediterranean Sea.

The arrivals were few at first — small boats of a dozen or so people. But in recent days, as clenched-fist stability in Tunisia gave way to democracy and then near anarchy, the ships became larger, more crowded and more numerous. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), some 5,700 Tunisians have landed in Lampedusa since Jan. 16 — 5,000 of them in the past five days — leaving Italian authorities scrambling to accommodate what they describe as an exodus of “biblical proportions.”

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Meet the Man Tweeting Egypt’s Voices to the World

Time has just published my story on the graduate student who has been tweeting Egypt’s voices to the world.

When the Egyptian government blocked the Internet last week in response to demonstrators’ use of social media like Twitter and Facebook to organize mass rallies, it not only cut off communication among ordinary Egyptians but also muted their dialogue with the rest of the world.

For John Scott-Railton, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, that silence was a personal blow. He had been visiting Egypt since 2006 to see a close friend, and as the country accelerated toward revolt, he was following the news on the Internet. Suddenly his connection was gone.

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