Starbucks vs. Ethiopia

This article on a trademark battle between Starbucks and the government of Ethiopia appeared in Fortune Magazine and is archived below.

February 26, 2007
Starbucks vs. Ethiopia
The country that gave the world the coffee bean and the company that invented the $4 latte are fighting over a trademark, says Fortune’s Stephan Faris.

By Stephan Faris

To produce a pound of organic sun-dried coffee, farmers in the southern Ethiopian village of Fero spread six pounds of ripe, red coffee cherries onto pallets near their fields. They sun the fruit for 15 days, stirring every few minutes to ensure uniform dryness, then shuck the shells.

Last season, that pound of coffee fetched farmers an average price of $1.45. Figuring in the cost of generator fuel, bank interest, labor and transport across Ethiopia’s dusty roads, it netted them less than $1. In the U.S., however, that same pound of coffee commands a much higher price: $26 for a bag of Starbucks’ roasted Shirkina Sun-Dried Sidamo.

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Ferragamo’s Step

This article on the handover of a family-run fashion business appeared in Fortune and is archived below.

January 22, 2007
Ferragamo’s Step
The family-owned Italian shoe business, now in its third generation, tries on its first outside CEO.

By Stephan Faris

Last summer Wanda Ferragamo ordered a special gift for her 22 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren. The fashion-family matriarch took a plastic Weeble, the egg-shaped doll that wobbles but doesn’t fall down, and had it recast as foot-tall artisinal silver statues. Hand-soldered lace curled around 45 bellies. “My Dears,” read the inscribed dedication, “regain your balance and continue straight on the path of principles and moral rectitude shown to you.”

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Containment Strategy

This article, on the Pentagon’s fight against AIDS in Africa, appeared in the December issue of the Atlantic Monthly and is also archived below.

December, 2006
Containment Strategy
Iran. North Korea. Uganda? Why the Pentagon ranks Africa’s AIDS crisis as a leading security threat.

By Stephan Faris

In a dark-green shipping container outside a Ugandan military hospital, a visiting Tanzanian general and four of his colonels encircle a desk. On the desk sits a green plastic paper tray. And from the tray rises a polished wooden dildo. “This weapon,” a Ugandan warrant officer tells them, “I’m sorry for exposing it to you. This is one of the weapons we have used in fighting HIV and AIDS.”

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Forgotten Kingdom

This story on the Chinese village of Lijiang ran in Budget Travel and is archived below.

October 2006
Forgotten Kingdom
In China, preservation often comes as an afterthought, if at all. For a glimpse of what life was like long before Shanghai built the world’s most futuristic skyline, Stephan Faris heads to where the Chinese go to see old China, a city called Lijiang.

By Stephan Faris

When the Communists took power in China, Beijing’s once-famous city walls were knocked down for construction material. In their place now runs a traffic-clogged road. In the center of the magnificent Forbidden City, just beyond the last colossal door before the emperor’s private quarters, a Starbucks has opened. At a Buddhist temple outside of town, a roller coaster runs in between mountaintop pagodas.

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Calling All Healers

This article ran on the use of traditional healers in the fight against AIDS was published in Time Magazine and is archived below.

July 16, 2006
Calling All Healers
African nations with few M.D.s ask traditional medicine men to pitch in on the fight against AIDS.

By Stephan Faris

Alenga – When Americans think about the problem of getting modern medical care to the people in Africa who need it most, Anthony Okello is not the solution that comes immediately to mind. He’s a medicine man, apprenticed as a teenager to the wandering witch doctor who treated him for a fever that other doctors couldn’t cure. When a patient goes to Okello complaining of rashes and diarrhea, as Lucy Ajam did recently, he recognizes the typical symptoms of AIDS for what they are. He immediately sent Ajam to the nearest hospital to start her on antiretroviral drugs (ARVs)–an approach even a traditionalist like Ajam heartily endorses. “For minor cases, I still use local herbs,” says Ajam, 51, a roadside bread vendor in Alenga, Uganda, a sprawling settlement overlooking the Nile River. “But it’s the ARVs that are keeping me alive.”

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Sarmi’s Army

This article on Italy’s innovative postal system ran in Fortune. It’s archived below.

June 21, 2006
Sarmi’s Army
Poste Italiane’s CEO and his 150,000 foot soldiers are making money on everything but delivering the mail.

By Stephan Faris

The town of Percile, northeast of Rome, has two groceries, a snack bar, and a tourist booth. Medieval houses climb a hill of overlapping archways and cobblestone footpaths. With only 260 residents, most of them retirees, the town hasn’t attracted a newsstand, much less a supermarket or a bank. But it does have a post office.

For Poste Italiane, outposts like the one in Percile are at once its greatest liability and its greatest asset. Postal companies are by nature spread thin, and the Italian state monopoly is no exception. With 150,000 employees and 14,000 offices, the company says its mail operations lose hundreds of millions of euros a year. But those same offices provide the backbone of a company that offers everything from investment plans to vacuum cleaners.
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The Case For Globalized Labor

This article making the case for the globalization of labor appeared in Salon and is archived below.

May 1, 2006
The Case For Globalized Labor
It is economically and morally wrong for the world’s poor immigrants to be locked out of work in the richest countries.

By Stephan Faris

My house in Nairobi had four large bedrooms and big windows that overlooked the cascading terraces of my garden. I had a nanny for my son, and a maid who cleaned the floors daily. She washed my laundry in a plastic tub. A watchman patrolled the grounds from sunset until dawn, and a daytime gardener tended to a vegetable patch and rows of tropical flowers. I afforded all this on a freelance journalist’s budget, paying each one of my four workers about $110 a month. When I went out for dinner, I often spent more on my main course than on my staff’s combined daily pay.

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Emperor of TV

This story on what the left might do to Silvio Berlusconi’s companies ran in Fortune. It’s archived below.

April 7, 2006
Emperor of TV
Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi is fighting for his political life — and the fate of his media empire may hang in the balance.

By Stephan Faris

One evening this winter the Italian talk-show host Enrico Mentana played a clip for his guest, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, in which Oscar-winning actor Roberto Benigni mocked Berlusconi’s five-year reign.

The Prime Minister was clearly irritated by the attacks. But as the show’s director prepared to broadcast Berlusconi’s fidgets and frowns, his media handler intervened. Without asking permission, he climbed onto the set to warn his boss that the cameras would soon be rolling. When they did, Berlusconi was all smiles.

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“Freedom”: No documents found

This story on China’s efforts to censor the Internet ran in Salon and is archived below.

Dec. 16, 2005
“Freedom”: No documents found
America’s most popular Internet companies are helping China crack down on free speech.

By Stephan Faris

About once a month executives from China’s Internet news sites gather in a small meeting room on the first floor of Beijing’s Information Office, where a government official tells them what not to report. China’s Internet giants all send representatives, as does the China branch of one of America’s best-known icons: Yahoo. The visitors take notes and ask few questions.
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Meet the New Disney

This article on the Chinese video game giant Shanda ran in Fortune and is archived below.

Oct. 6, 2005
Meet the New Disney
Shanda, China’s hottest online-game company, is betting that it can become an entertainment giant.

By Stephan Faris

It was the first crime of its kind in China: Last year a 40-year-old man used a real knife to stab to death a younger man who had borrowed his virtual sword from an online videogame and sold it for $870. There are no laws in China protecting virtual property, so Qiu Chengwei, the man whose sword had been stolen, got no help from the police.Instead he tracked Zhu Caoyuan to his one-room apartment in Shanghai and, in the presence of Zhu’s girlfriend, plunged a knife into his heart.

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