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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Bloomberg Businessweek has just published my interview with Beppe Grillo.

You started as a comic.
I am still a comic, a fantastic one.

Were you always political?
No, I went through stages. First, a comic of jokes. Then I discovered jokes about politics. Then I discovered that politics passed through the products we have in our fridge, the yogurt that does 3,600 kilometers in a truck. Behind the everyday there was global politics. People came out of my shows saying, “He made us laugh, but also think. What should we do?” I tried to translate it into a political movement, the Meetups, which I took from Howard Dean. And we went ahead until the national elections, where we took 25 percent.

So it’s been an evolution, from jokester to political leader.
Exactly. But I’m always the same. My shows, now they call them speeches.

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Bloomberg Businessweek has just published my interview with Taxibeat’s Nikos Drandakis.

What exactly does Taxibeat do?
Taxibeat is a mobile application that helps a consumer easily locate nearby taxis and choose the best available taxi based on the feedback that previous passengers have given. We introduce a reputation mechanism in the taxi industry, which is something that didn’t exist.

How did the drivers react to being rated?
When we launched, the crisis had already started in Athens. And most of the taxi drivers here had lost about 50 or 60 percent of their jobs. So they adopted us, because they hoped for new customers.

Taxibeat is cited as a rare Greek success story. Are you an outlier?
I tend to think of ourselves as starters of something new—not only us, but a small community of people in an ecosystem that is forming right now.

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My piece on Silvio Berlusconi’s first definitive conviction has just been published by Time.

For the first time, after more than two decades of high-profile judicial battles, Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been definitively convicted of a crime. After seven hours of deliberation Thursday, the judges in Italy’s highest court emerged from their chamber to reject his final appeal on charges of tax fraud — and therefore confirming a one-year prison sentence, while sending back for a review a five-year ban from public office. He was originally sentenced last October.

Berlusconi was accused, along with three others, of using offshore companies to purchase the rights to American movies, reselling them to his media empire at markup in order to pay lower taxes. The sentence is a blow for the 76-year-old billionaire, but Berlusconi has made a career of proving the writers of his political obituaries wrong. Because of his age and the nature of his crime, Berlusconi is unlikely to see the inside of a prison cell. He will serve his sentence — originally for four years but commuted to one — either under house arrest or performing community service. While the ban on public office is under review, a process that could take months, the conservative politico will be able to keep his position as Senator and de facto head of his political party. “Politically, he’s still very much alive,” says Franco Pavoncello, a political scientist at Rome’s John Cabot University. “This will weaken him, but he can continue to be a leader, a symbol for the right.”

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My piece on the Pope and homosexuals has just been published by Time.

At first glance, Pope Francis’ statement on homosexuality, delivered today in an impromptu press conference aboard the papal plane, seemed to indicate a remarkable break with church tradition. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis told journalists, as he flew from Rio de Janeiro to Rome. “The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem … They’re our brothers.”

The Pope’s words were warmly received by gay activists in Italy and elsewhere. “From now on, when I hear a bishop or a priest say something against me, I’m going to say, ‘Who are you to judge,’” says Franco Grillini, president of Gaynet Italia, the association of gay journalists in Italy.

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Bloom

berg Businessweek has just published my cover story on the Greek youth unemployment crisis.

Outside an unmarked green metal door in the hallway of a suburban Athens high school, Tina Stratigaki waits for a job interview. It’s a Tuesday in mid-July. Stratigaki, 29, applied for the job as a social worker weeks ago and had taken an hour-long test the Friday before. Based on the list of applicants posted on the wall outside the exam, she estimates there were some 2,000 candidates for 21 open positions. This is the last interview she’s likely to get before Greece shuts down for the summer holidays. Her unemployment benefits—about €360 ($475) a month from her previous job working with disadvantaged women and children—have just run out. “I’m a little bit stressed,” she says.

Jobs of any kind are scarce in today’s Greece. Nearly six years of deep recession have swept away a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product, the kind of devastation usually seen only in times of war. In a country of 11 million people, the economy lost more than a million jobs as businesses shut their doors or shed staff. Unemployment has reached 27 percent—higher than the U.S. jobless rate during the Great Depression—and is expected to rise to 28 percent next year. Among the young, the figure is twice as high. Meanwhile, cuts to Greece’s bloated public sector are dumping ever more people onto the job market. In July, 25,000 public workers, including teachers, janitors, ministry employees, and municipal police, found out they would face large-scale reshuffling and possible dismissal. An additional 15,000 public workers are slated to lose their jobs by the end of 2014.

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My piece on Rome’s street art renaissance has just been published by Time.

Say the words “Roman art,” and your average listener will likely think of classical statues, ornate churches and the masterworks of Michelangelo, Caravaggio and their contemporaries. But to a select, but growing, few, that phrase summons something more contemporary: a growing body of street and graffiti art that has recently blossomed across the Eternal City.

The explosion has been sudden and noticeable, especially in the Ostiense neighborhood just outside the Aurelian Walls, where local support has transformed the former industrial area into a haven for muralists and poster artists. “When we were putting up the first works, they were looking at us like we were crazy,” says Francesco Dobrovich, project manger at NUfactory, a creative agency that has served as a broker between artists, local authorities and building owners. The boom has been fueled, at least in part, by the yearly Outdoor Festival, organized by NUfactory. Dedicated to street art, it attracts artists from across the continent. On the neighborhood’s major arterial the young Spanish artist Borondo has covered a gay cultural center with figures that seem to rise out of the neighborhood’s characteristic grime. On a side street, the windows of an apartment building have been painted into eerily empty eyes by the Bolognese artist Blu. On a wall outside a disco, the two-man RO.BO.COOP has pasted a remix of Sandro Bottocelli’s “Allegory of Spring,” in which all the figures in the Renaissance masterpiece are wearing surgical masks.

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