The Most Expensive Woman of Algiers

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Picasso's Woman of Algiers

The Women of Algiers, a vibrant, multi-hued painting from Pablo Picasso became moments ago  the world’s most expensive artwork, selling for $179,365,000,  in a Christie’s auction.

The price for the Picasso surpasses the $142.4 million paid two years ago for Francis Bacon’s triptych, “Three Studies of Lucian Freud,” as well as earlier record of $120 million for Edvard Munch’s tortured “Scream.”

The price discovery, according to the WSJ, was described as a “dogged contest at Christie’s New York salesroom, with the bidding starting at $100 million and shot up quickly, with four telephone bidders competing for the jewel-tone scene of Cubist-style women lounging at odd angles in a room festooned with lush, striped décor.”

But as the price topped $145 million, the bidding war winnowed to a pair of telephone bidders and the room watched, hushed, a few pulling out their cellphones to capture the moment. After 11 minutes, the gavel fell and Brett Gorvy, global head of postwar art, fielded the anonymous winning bid. The real buyer is unknown.

The WSJ describes the painting as “a riot of colors and focuses mainly on a scantily dressed woman whose face evokes Picasso’s former lover, Françoise Gilot. She is joined by a disconnected tumble of other, smaller nudes who each seem to conjure other modern masterworks. The obvious muse is Eugène Delacroix’s 1834 scene of Algerian women in a fantasy interior. But Picasso also painted the work as a homage to his artistic hero and sometime rival Henri Matisse, who had died the year before.”

Why the high price?

The Picasso was considered a trophy as much for its ownership pedigree as its artistic merits. The work last changed hands 18 years ago when the estate of U.S. collectors Victor and Sally Ganz sold it through the auction house to a London dealer for $31.9 million. Its seller on Monday remains anonymous.
However, considering that the estimate price for the painting was nearly $40 million lower than the gavel price, one also has to thank the record $150 billion in global QE injecting stock market liquidity (and removing bond market liquidity) courtesy of the ECB and BOJ each and every month.

Picasso’s record price on Monday reflects the trophy-hunting atmosphere dominating the global art marketplace now, as billionaires compete for the handful of masterpieces that come up for sale in any given season. Bragging rights are part of the works’ allure, but the collective bidding is also ratcheting price levels for dozens of the world’s top artists.

This is not the end of it.

The Lost Generation: Youth Unemployment in Greece and Spain Still Over 50%

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Greek and Spanish under 30 years old are doomed to be a lost generation.

It is a generation that, in general statistical terms, is left with the only prospect of living off their parents until they can live off their children.

A stark economic divide has opened in Europe. The core of Europe is enjoying record low unemployment, while peripheral Mediterranean countries suffer from some of the highest unemployment rates in recorded history.

European unemployment broken down by country:

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But the scariest data, once again, is revealed in the table of European youth unemployment. Here we see that both Spain and Greece now share the same youth unemployment figure above 50 %, while Italy has recently reversed its improving trend, and is now at 40 % and rising.

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For anyone asking why Europe’s politicians are terrified at the anti “austerity” wave that is just over the horizon, the table above should have all the answers.

Why Europe Lets Thousands of People Drown

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That Europe let almost 1000 people die in the Mediterranean in one night shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, at least not to those who are still occasionally awake.

The Club Med migrant crisis has been going on for a long time, and the EU’s only reaction to it has been to slash its budget and operations in the area, not to expand them.

So when the New York Times opens with “European leaders were confronted on Monday with a humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean..”, they’re a mile and a half less than honest. Brussels has known what was going on for years, and decided to do less than nothing.

The onus was put on Italy, Malta, Greece and a handful of private compassionate activists to handle the situation, as if it was some sort of local, or even tourist, issue, while Europe’s finest went back to festive gala openings of their €1 billion+ new head quarter of the Eueopean Central Bank, from where they can efficiently keep forcing more austerity on member nations. Somebody has to pay for those buildings.

The EU took over rescue operations from Italy late last year and promptly cut the budget by two-thirds. Saving migrant lives was deemed just too expensive.

To its south, the EU faces perhaps its most shameful -or should that be ‘shameless’? – problem, because it doesn’t do anything about it: the thousands of migrants who try to cross the Mediterranean to get to Europe but far too often perish in the process. The Italians spend themselves poor, trying to save as many migrants as they can (170,000 last year!), and there are private citizens – Americans even – pouring in millions of dollars, but the EU itself has zero comprehensive policy as people keep dying on its doorstep all the time.

The official line out of Brussels is that the EU polices only the European coastline, but the drownings mostly take place off the Lybian coast. At least Italy and others do sail there to alleviate the human misery.

Via The Automatic Earth blog

What Every European Country Needs to Improve

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The European Union has 28 member countries and they make for a pretty great place to live.

But that doesn’t mean each country is without its flaws.

Here’s some statistics about what every European country is the worst at.

Austria: Most youth smokers
Every day, 29.4% of Austrians age 15-24 inhale cigarette smoke. And smoking is rising alarmingly in Austria: the Eurobarometer found an increase of smoking prevalence in Austria from 31% (2006) to 33% (2012).

Belgium: Worst traffic congestion
In the time it takes to drive through a Belgian city, you could probably eat a dozen waffles. According to the INRIX Traffic Scorecard, the two most traffic-congested cities in the world, Brussels and Antwerp, are both in Belgium.

Bulgaria: Least freedom of the press
According to Reporters without Borders, and although closely challenged by Greece, Bulgaria has the least freedom of the press in the European Union, and it ranked 87th on a list of 179 countries in the world. The country with the most freedom of the press in the world? Finland.

Finland: Highest depression rate
Finland is really good at a lot of things–like freedom of the press and education. But depression is pretty prevalent. According to the EU Mental Health Report, it is the highest in Europe. Fortunately, Finland’s suicide rate is no where near Lithuania’s.

France: Lowest English proficiency
According to the EF English Language Proficiency Index, French people rank as the lowest in Europe for their English language skills. The countries where English is moat wiedly and proficiently spoken are Denmark and the Netherlands. Somewhere, a guy eating soft cheese and a baguette is saying, “I don’t care” in French.

Italy: Most tax evasion
Death may be certain in Italy, but taxes are another matter: the official Italian Government tax collector, Agenzia delle Entrate, estimated €285 billion remained unpaid last year, about 18% of GDP. Italy has the highest percentage of unreported economic activity of any European Union country.

Latvia: Highest percentage of prisoners
Eurostat Crime Statistics tracks the number of homicides and inprisoned population throughout the European Union. Latvia has the highest percentage of its population in prison, with 305 per 100,000 inhabitants locked up. And yet, despite that mind-boggling figure, it’s only half of the rate in the United States, which sits at 716 per 100,000.

Lithuania: Highest suicide rate
According to data from the World Health Organization, in which a country’s rank is determined by its total rate deaths officially recorded as suicides in the most recent available year, 65 of every 100 thousands Lithuanians commit sucide every year. Lithuania’s suicide rate is so high, it’s nearly ten times higher than Greece’s.

Luxembourg: Lowest education spending
In 2007 Luxembourg spent only 3.15% of its GDP to fund public education.

Malta: Hardest country to open a business
On a list of 189 countries compiled by the World Bank, Malta improves but remains the most difficult place to start a business in the EU. It ranked no. 161. It even outranked other countries notorious for disorganization like China, the West Bank, and Spain.

Netherlands: Highest percentage of cyclists killed in road accidents
It’s really hard to find anything wrong with the Netherlands.  Despite the stereotypes, though, the Dutch are far from the highest consumers of marijuana (that would be Denmark). But on the off chance you get into a car accident in any EU country, the odds of killing a cyclist are highest in the Netherlands.

Portugal: Lowest crude birth rate
Portugal has just 7.9 births per 1,000 inhabitants. That’s almost half of Ireland’s 15.0 births per 1,000 inhabitants. So basically, 21st century Europe is going to be populated by a lot of Irish people and not very many Portuguese people.

Romania: Fewest cinemas per capita
Romania has only 3.8 cinemas per million inhabitants. On the other end of the spectrum, the Czech Republic has the most cinemas per capita, with 49.2 cinemas per million inhabitants.

Slovakia: Lowest voter turnout
Who votes in Slovakia? Almost nobody. Actually, it’s 13.05% of the population, but that’s a very low turnout. Voter turnout was the highest in Belgium, with 89.64% of the population showing up to vote.

Slovenia: Most alcoholism deaths
It is definitely is a sad record.

Spain: Highest school dropout rate
For any Spaniard reading this, a dropout rate is the percentage of students who do not complete schooling. In Spain’s case, 23.5% of students in the country do not complete mandatory education.

Sweden: Fewest hospital beds per capita
Maybe Sweden has fewer sick people than other countries. Or maybe Swedish hospitals prefer patients bring their own sleeping bags.

UK: Highest cocaine usage
Here are three other drugs the United Kingdom uses more of than any other country in the EU: amphetamines, ecstasy, and LSD.

Continue reading about:

Croatia – Least Erasmus participation
Cyprus – Fewer 18 year old in School
Denmark – Fewest Zaras per capita
Germany – Lowest homeownership rate
Greece – Highest foreign debt
Hungary: Highest VAT (value added tax)
Ireland – Highest rate of cystic fibrosis
Poland -Fewest doctors per capita

On Thrillist.com

The Middle Eastern Quagmire

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Nowadays, the Middle East is, with great difference, the most troublesome region and the source of the most significant geopolitical risk for the entire world.

With overlapping civil wars in Syria and Iraq, a new flare-up of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, the Islamic State expanding and tense nuclear talks with Iran, Middle Eastern politics are more volatile than ever and longtime alliances are shifting.

The next diagram,  just published by The Economist, tries to sort friends and foes in this chaotic and increasingly beligerant region.

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The truth of the matter is that, given the high level of complexity,  the chart at the top of this post (in which Israel and Palestine were discounted for the sake of simplicity) is probably a more faithful representation of reality: beligerant chaos.

The relationship mosaic rises to insane levels of complexity if we move beyond sovreign states and include in the chart political groups and militant organizations in the Middle East. The rise of Islamic State has upended geopolitics in the Middle East and has drawn America’s military back to the region. Though ISIS is popular among militants, the group has no allies on the political stage, making it even more isolated than the official al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra.

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It provides a quick glimpse of who is friends with whom (albeit a simplified depiction of relationships; the “neutral” category, for instance, embraces a large number of possibilities). The Syrian government is disliked by many countries but supported by Iran and Russia. The Iraqi Kurds count numerous friends and no sworn enemies among the entities listed.

And the chart shows the degree to which America and Europe need to play a delicate diplomatic game in holding together allies that may not always be friends with each other, groups and militant organizations in the Middle East.

The People’s Front of Judea hates the Judean People’s Front

To end on a happy note, you can watch this hilarious clip from Mounty Python’s movie Life of Bryan.

Brian: Excuse me. Are you the Judean People’s Front?
Reg: Bug off! ‘Judean People’s Front’. We’re the People’s Front of Judea! ‘Judean People’s Front’.
Francis: Splitters! The only people we hate more than the Romans are the Judean People’s Front and the Popular Front of Judea.

These Countries Block Social Media

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In 2014, Reporters Without Borders designated 19 countries as “enemies of the internet” for actions ranging from Britain’s distributed denial of service attack against Anonymous to North Korea having building its own internal internet and walling its citizens off from the global web.

However, despite the “enemies of the internet” moniker, only six countries actively block social media networks around the world, as shown by the graphic.

Of the six countries, Turkey is the largest exception. Opposed to the other five countries, Turkey is both a NATO member and a hopeful applicant to the European Union. Turkey is also a functioning democracy, a fact which makes its total blockage of social media all the more concerning.

However, also unlike the other countries, Turkey’s banning of social media is not a constantly enforced law. Instead, Turkey selectively enforces bans of social media based upon the current environment. The latest social media ban, which is starting to be lifted, was put in place after a Marxist terrorist organization that held hostage a state prosecutor started to distribute images of the crisis online.

The hostage situation ended with the death of the prosecutor. Turkey‘s government said that the republishing of the image was akin to supporting terrorism and that, as social media did not limit the distribution of the image, the sites had to be shuttered.

In March 2014, Turkey previously banned Twitter in the face of government corruption scandals. Ankara had also blocked YouTube for 30 months after a video insulting the founder of modern Turkey was uploaded to the site.

However, despite the bans, North Korea is the only country listed that is entirely closed off from social media. Although the other countries have bans in place, users can use VPNs to reroute their internet traffic and access websites that have been blocked.

North Korea, however, has effectively created their own internal internet that does that not connect to the wider worldwide web.

Via Business Insider

US Police Kill More Civilians In March Than UK Police Killed In 100 Years

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A new report by ThinkProgress.com unearthed disturbing figures when it came to the number of police-related deaths that occurred in America in the month of March alone.

Just last month, in the 31 days of March, police in the United States killed more people than the UK did in the entire 20th century. In fact, it was twice as many; police in the UK only killed 52 people during that 100 year period.

According to the report by ThinkProgess, in March alone, 111 people died during police encounters — 36 more than the previous month.

This high number in March increased the average for police killings from every 8.5 hours, to nearly 1 police killing every 6.5 hours in the US.

China, whose population is 4 and 1/2 times the size of the United States, recorded 12 killings by law enforcement officers in 2014.

On average, US police kill people at a rate 70 times higher than any of the other first world countries as they “protect and serve” the American citizens.

This is not what freedom looks like.

At Least 5600 Deaths since 2000

For those of you who are interested in more specific information, Vox’s Blog has created an interactive map with data from Fatal Encounters, a nonprofit trying to build a national database of police killings. It shows some of the deaths by law enforcement since 2000:

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A huge majority of the more than 5,600 deaths on the map are from gunshots, which is hardly surprising given that guns are so deadly compared to other tools used by police. There are also a lot of noticeable fatalities from vehicle crashes, stun guns, and asphyxiations. In some cases, people died from stab wounds, medical emergencies, and what’s called “suicide by cop,” when someone commits suicide by baiting a police officer into using deadly force.

The data is far from perfect. Some of it is incomplete, with details about a victim’s race, age, and other factors sometimes missing. D. Brian Burghart, head of Fatal Encounters, estimates that his organization’s collection of reports from the public, media, and FBI only captures about 35 percent of total police killings.

Unarmed and Shot 8 Times in the Back

And here you can find the shocking recent video that went viral where you can appreciate a policemen shooting 8 times in the back an unarmed civilian trying to escape. The event that originated this deadly incident was a search resulting fron a car traffic violation.

The Sky is the Limit

image Behold the proposed new Kingdom Tower for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia — at one full kilometer in height, about twice the size of New York’s new Freedom Tower. The  Kingdom Tower comprises 252 floors of mixed market apartments, hotel rooms, and offices. It has been common throughout history that imperial societies build their greatest monuments just before they collapse, so we may consider this a portent for the oil empire of Saudi Arabia. In order to have terms of reference, the next picture compares the highest man-made buildings on the planet.

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A Skyscraping Boom

We are clearly in the middle of a building frenzy. Historically, the construction of  “highest in the world” iconic towers has been associated with the bursting of economic and finacial bubbles and the onset of deep recessions or depressions. In the next picture, you can appreciate the link between these two phenomena since 1885.

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And, in the following video, you can see experience the thrill of climbing the Burj Khalifa tower in the U.A.E., the highest building on planet Earth.

Spain Leads the World in Organ Donations and Transplants

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At any one time, hundreds of thousands of people around the world are waiting for an organ transplant.

Several things conspire to make supply of organs fall far short of demand. Organs deteriorate rapidly after death; transplants generally require the consent of the individuals involved (or that of their families); and in almost every country organs cannot be legally bought or sold.

In China, where each year around 300,000 people are put on a transplant waiting-list, one way of relieving this pressure has been to “harvest” organs from executed prisoners. Once the main source of transplanted organs, the share from prisoners is reported by the government to have halved in recent years (mirroring what is believed to be a large decline in executions). From January 1st, the government is expected to put an end to such organ harvesting altogether, and all transplanted organs will need to come from volunteered sources. The new system would still be vunerable to abuse: prisoners could be pressured into donation, for example. But if forced harvesting stops, the public’s willingness to donate must increase from relatively low levels to make up the difference.

China is not alone in having low transplant rates in Asia—even richer countries such as Japan and Singapore fall far short of Western countries. Most transplants in these countries (China is an exception in this regard) also tend to come from live donors, compared with under a third in the West. That suggests there is a lot of room to increase the deceased-donor supply, whether through public-information campaigns or “opt-out” donor-consent regimes (which presume everyone’s consent unless they express otherwise). China is considering a legal standard for brain death, enabling exploitation of intact organs while a patient’s heart is still functioning but recovery is deemed impossible.

Such efforts run into local obstacles, however. Religious and cultural beliefs about the ‘integrity’ of the body are often blamed for low organ-donation rates in China. Another problem is more down-to-earth: although four-fifths of respondents to a 2012 poll in Guangzhou thought donating organs was “noble”, a slightly higher number feared their body parts would end up for sale. After years of taking prisoners’ organs without permission, the  government must now convince the public that their donated organs will be used in accordance with their wishes. government must now convince the public that their donated organs will be used in accordance with their wishes.

Spain leads the world with 80 organ donations and transplant per million people.

Via The Economist

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