Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi breaks auction records, as it fetches a massive $450m

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Salvator Mundi, the last painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, has broken all records after the piece of art fetched an incredible $450m at auction, well above the expected $100m.

The painting, which once sold for just $60 at a 1958 auction at Christie’s, has changed hands multiple times during its long and fascinating history, with most owners unaware that it was a da Vinci original.

Painted circa 1515, Salvator Mundi ( Latin for ‘World’s Savior’) features an image of Jesus Christ dressed in Renaissance attire. Art historians were aware of the painting’s existence, but most outside art circles would not have known the treasure they had in their hands. Experts believe that fewer than 20 da Vinci paintings remain in the world today.

After being certified as a da Vinci original, the piece of art was painstakingly restored, a process that took years.

The successful bidder at Christie’s remains anonymous for now. Post-sale, the painting will be exhibited at different museums and art galleries across the world.

IVF turns 40 today, and after six million babies conceived, the revolutionary procedure is still going strong

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In-vitro fertislisation (IVF) was, very appropriately, born 40 years ago today.

Lesley Brown, an Englishwoman, secured her place in medical history as the first female to become pregnant through IVF. Ms. Brown and her husband had been trying for a baby for nine years, to no avail.

Then, on November 10, 1977 -exactly 40 years ago today-, the miracle happened at Oldham General Hospital. Lesley was successfully implanted with a viable embryo. Louise Joy Brown was the first human to be born thanks to IVF, weighing 5 pounds, 12 ounces at birth in July 1978. Robert Edwards, one of the developers of the IVF procedure, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2010. His colleague, Steptoe, was not eligible because the prize is not awarded posthumously.

In-vitro fertilization would go on to become a lifeline for those women unable to conceive naturally. Over six million babies have been born thanks to IVF worldwide.

 

 

Mankind’s days are numbered, and AI is the reason, according to Stephen Hawking

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The days of mankind’s dominance on planet Earth are numbered, according to eminent physicist Stephen Hawking.

The 75-year-old genius has warned, and not for the first time, that AI’s evolution has passed the ‘point of no return’, and that it’s only a matter of time before someone invents an AI entity with self-replication ability.

When such time comes, our very survival will be in serious jeopardy.

In a recent interview for Wired, Hawking said “I fear that A.I. may replace humans altogether,”

“If people design computer viruses, someone will design A.I. that improves and replicates itself. This will be a new form of life that outperforms humans.”

If we are to avoid such grim fate, we should look towards space, Hawking added. The terraforming and colonization of other planets may be our only chance to prevail.

Hawking is not the only one to issue stark warnings about the rise of AI. SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk recently said that it (AI) ‘poses a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.’

A visitor from outer space: Astrophysicists struggle to determine the origin of fast-moving object zipping across the Solar System

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A/2017 U1 is the codename given to a fast-moving object that’s currently doing the rounds across the Solar System.

The object is about a quarter of a mile in size, moving at about 15.8 miles per second on a strong hyperbolic orbit (that is, it is moving fast enough to escape the gravitational pull of the sun). The only problem is, astronomers don’t know exactly what A/2017 U1 actually is.

The object was first spotted by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakala, Hawaii on October 19. STARSS 1 has been tracking the unidentified object since.

Early observations have determined that A/2017 U1’s composition is similar to that from celestial bodies found in the Kuiper Belt, a region beyond Neptune that contains remnants from the formation of the Solar System.

The trajectory of A/2017 U1 seems to suggest that it entered the Solar System from above. Researchers have postulated that the object may have originated from elsewhere in the galaxy, which would make A/2017 U1 the very first known visitor from outer space.

Astronomers will keep tracking this peculiar phenomenon to ascertain whether or not the object is extraneous to the Solar System.

 

Cinema Beverley: Two lovers, one city, and a damn fine night of sex and discovery

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Paris is the City of Love, they say, an urban hub of romance where La vie est une fleur dont l’amour est le miel, as Victor Hugo once proclaimed.

Paris is the European capital of secret love affairs too, the charismatic metropolitan center where sex-positive lovers escape to find their way into each other’s body.
Cliched as all these monikers may be, the city built on the shores of the Seine possesses an undeniable allure, if only because of its sheer urban panache. No matter where you look, Paris delivers an overdose of vibrancy, the quintessential joie de vivre that locals and visitors alike feel and breathe while meandering through the Parisian avenues and boulevards.

Still, the French capital can keep its secrets, and even if hidden in plain sight, the city conceals some relics from a bygone era, where eroticism became de rigeur, and people from all walks of life flocked to certain establishments to watch the latest porno flic.

1970s: A decade of decadence

Porn cinema in the 1970s was as ubiquitous as bell-bottomed trousers among the younger generation and sequined jackets on the stage. During the so-called ‘Golden Age of Porn’, sex was everywhere you looked, and even where you didn’t look, or want to look. It was in this decade that the ‘porn star’ figure was born.

Small, dingy halls showing a bit of smut proliferated during the 70s as the people of Europe longed for a glimpse of technicolor flesh. France in fact became an extremely prolific producer of such material, ranking shoulder to shoulder with Germany and Sweden.

The thrill of the sexualite on a big screen, shown on a 35mm reel (albeit with dodgy colours, and even worse dubbing) attracted a regular clientele who attended screenings with quasi-religious zeal.

Porn cinema on a big screen fell foul of the advent of the VHS tape in the 80s, however. Why pay for a cinema ticket when one could just pop down to the local video store and rent the latest releases for a fraction of the price (and enjoy a more private screening in one’s home, too). One after the other, porn cinemas all across Paris and elsewhere in Europe began shutting for the last time, and the dank and dingy halls of big-projector smutty enjoyment became extinct. Well, almost.

Cinema Beverley: From Paris avec l’amour

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Tucked away inside an alleyway that runs perpendicular to boulevard Bonne Nouvelle, one of Paris’ bustling thoroughfares in the 2nd arrondissement, Cinema Beverley is an anomaly, a tribute to a past that once entertained male and female alike. The locale is a piece of living, breathing neon history, tucked away mere yards from a trendy restaurant, yet it might as well be another world.

Cinema Beverley is the gateway to another time, to another era, yet its purpose is as contemporary now as the very first day it opened its doors to the public. For you see, Cinema Beverley is the last surviving cinema screen in Paris dedicated to showing hardcore movies.

A personal journey: A visit to Cinema Beverley, avec trés plaisir

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Paris is a huge metropolis. There is a plethora of cafes, restaurants, tea rooms, shopping arcades, and tourist landmarks to get lost in any day of the week.

The city caters for all tastes, from the most chic and expensive stores that line the Champs Elysees to the more modest (and affordable) shops of the outer arrondissements.

All that is well and good, as the city plays host to people from all walks of life, and with the most eclectic intentions. But there are other tastes that lust to be catered for also, and Paris sure never disappoints.

I last visited Paris with my partner, who had shrewdly made me aware of the existence of Cinema Beverly earlier on that day. She had planned it all along, you see, as a surprise for me. With a glint of her trademark wickedness in her eyes, she revealed to me where we were going to spend our private Saturday night in Paris. Intrigued by the idea, I wholeheartedly agreed.

Two lovers’ journey across the Parisian night

We took a cab ride over to our destination. Driving around in Paris is an unforgettable experience, for all the wrong reasons. Basic traffic rules and etiquette seem to be non-existent, nor do drivers appear to care that much about the moving chaos around them.
Nevertheless, the taxi driver managed to get us to our destination without any damage to our personal integrity. He even wished us bon appetit, wrongly believing that we were heading for the trendy restaurant located just round the corner from our true destination. We were hungry alright, but our taste buds were wet for more sophisticated pleasures.

Couples’ Night, here we, ahem, come

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Saturday night means Couple’s Night at chez Beverley. The cinema screen is devoted to tandems of lovers streaming in from all sides of the Parisian nightlife, searching for a safe haven to unleash their passion.

Beverley’s threshold is a quaint throwback to the 1970s. A single, tiny ticket office, the kind which the oldest generations would have been used to, before the advent of the multiplex monster. It is quaint and poignant, and it inspires a vague feeling of je ne sais quoi.

The ticket office is manned with singular aplomb by Maurice, a jovial, mild-mannered man with an honest smile. My partner had made a reservation, and a brief conversation in broken, staccato French ensued. Maurice’s bonhomie eventually led him to point to the hand-written note stuck to the ticket office window: Couples Night-44e.

So all it’s clear then. It may sound like a lot of money for a cinema ticket, but you get a lot more than just that: You gain entry to another world.

And just like that, we are in. Cinema Beverley is just as quaint and classic in the inside as it is in the outside. Several rows of seats line up the dimly lit interior, hemmed in by a brick wall on the right. All told, there’s room for about 100 people, though it rarely -if ever- does Beverley welcome so many pleasure seekers in one single session.
And just beyond the last row of black leather seats, there waits a proper cinema screen that will soon fill the attendees’ senses with the desire and the lust they came looking for here.

So we head to our seats, tucked in at the far end of the third row from the back. Some other pairs occupy a few of the seats behind us, enjoying a panoramic view of the room from that position. Indeed, the last rows (or first, depending how you look at it) are Beverley real estate. And just before the lights dim and the show begins, Maurice himself puts an appearance. He addresses the audience in French, of course, and always smiling, as a man talking to old friends. While I could not tell what he was saying, the gist of it was clear: Have fun.

Then the lights go off and the projector whirs into life. The big silver screen fills with moving pictures, almost poignant in their weathered nature. The films shown that night were Extase (circa 1976), featuring the infamous John Holmes, and Vierges folichonnes (circa 1970), if you’re interested. The movies were dated, sure. The dubbing, atrocious (not that they were great in storyline anyway). But hence lies Beverley’s quaint charm. The films, far from coming across as anachronistic, become the perfect conduit to convey the right mood onto the audience.

And by all accounts, the attendees that night were in a true horny state. The Beverly night tribe performed the whole gamut of sexual liaisons. We did also, of course. We weren’t there just to admire the art, after all. We became part of the Beverley entity through sex and vintage porn, through bad dubbing and dubious acting, and the energy of males and females doing and enjoying what they like the most filled Beverley.

Soon, it was time to go back to our hotel. We left Beverley’s magic behind and stepped out into the Parisian night again, and it felt like stepping from one world to another. This other world was loud and bright and full of life, and though midnight had long come and gone, the boulevards still teemed with the tireless energy of the City of Love.

Cinema Beverley stands and exists as a threshold to the past, of that I have no doubt. It is a relic from an era that I remember, but never got to experience.

Then we were back at our hotel, ready to reminisce and replay our own movies.
But that, mes amies, is a story for another time.

 

One fine day in Texas: The truth behind Kennedy’s assassination may be revealed later today

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The assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy became one of the watershed moments of the 20th century.

Just after noon on November 22, 1963, the 35th President of the United States was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, an ex-marine.

Oswald fired three shots from a sixth floor window on the Texas School Depository. The first shot entered JFK’s body from the back of the neck and exited through his throat. The slug changed trajectory on exit and wounded Governor Connally, who was sitting on the front seat of the open limousine. The second, fatal shot, struck the President in the head, shattering his skull. A third shot was also fired, but missed.

In the aftermath of the event, one man, Lee Harvey Oswald, an ex-marine with an affinity of all things Soviet, was apprehended in connection with the killing of a police officer 45 minutes after Kennedy was shot dead. Oswald flatly denied killing the President, claiming instead that he was a ‘patsy’ (scapegoat).

Oswald himself was killed while being transferred from the city to the county jail two days later. A nightclub owner, Jack Ruby, shot him in front of multiple witnesses. Ruby claimed he acted alone, and his alleged motive for killing Oswald was his own distraught state at the killing of a ‘great man’ (Kennedy). Ruby died of lung cancer three years later. To the very end, he maintained he always ‘acted alone.’

The events that unfolded on that fateful Texas afternoon, and the sensational circumstances surrounding the killing of Oswald, sparked countless conspiracy that have persisted to this very day.

The question who really killed Kennedy has been asked over and over, and over time, the whole event has taken quasi-legendary connotations.

The full truth may soon be revealed, however, as President Trump has authorised the released of a tranche of documentation that was withheld in the immediate aftermath of the assassination, and during the investigation that ensued.

Nurse-assistant droids brought online to help nurses in Chinese hospital

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A small army of nurse-assistant droids are now online and working to assist nurses in their day-to-day duties inside a Chinese hospital.

The droids, dubbed the Noah-series, run errands for the nurses, carrying documents, medicines, and other equipment between the pharmacy and the nurses’ station.

Noah bots utilize GPS technology to negotiate the hospital’s corridors and have been programmed to issue voice statements to alert people of their presence.

The droid squad is being trialled at Guangzhou Women and Children Medical Center, and if successful, further Noahs may be deployed across other medical facilities.

The implementation of the droids, which can carry about 10 times more weight than a human operator and maintain a perfectly sterile transport environment for pharmacological compounds, has re-ignited the debate about technology eliminating much-needed jobs.

One single Noah can do the work of about four people, so the presence of the droids may reduce the need for human intervention in the hospital wards.

Ian Brady’s body must be disposed of ‘without ceremony’, UK judge rules

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The body of the Moors Murderer, Ian Brady, must be disposed of ‘without any ceremony’, a UK High Court Judge has ruled today.

The infamous serial killer died at Broadmoor Hospital on May 15 last, aged 79, but his body has not yet been disposed of.

Legal wranglings have so far prevented Brady’s remains to be cremated, and his solicitor has not yet made any arrangements to that effect. It is understood that any further decisions regarding the disposal of Brady’s remains will be taken by the High Court, rather than his legal representative.

Ian Brady, together with his lover Myra Hindley, tortured and killed five children in the 1960s

The victims were: Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey, Edward Evans, John Kilbride, and Pauline Reade. All the bodies, except for Bennett’s, were found buried in shallow graves in the Saddleworth Moors near Manchester.

Some arguments centered around a request to play the fifth movement (“Songe d’une nuit du sabbat“, Dream of the Night of the Sabbath) of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique during Brady’s cremation.

A High Court Judge has now ruled that Brady’s remains must be disposed as soon as possible ‘with no ceremony’.

Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi expected to fetch up to $100m at auction

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Salvator Mundi, the last painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, is expected to fetch up to $100m when it goes under the hammer later this month.

The painting, which once sold for $60 at Christie’s, has changed hands multiple times during its long and fascinating history, with most owners unaware that it was a da Vinci original.

Painted circa 1515, Salvator Mundi (Latin for ‘World’s Savior’) features an image of Jesus Christ. Art historians were aware of the painting’s existence, but most outside art circles would not have known the treasure they had in their hands. Experts believe that fewer than 20 da Vinci paintings remain in the world today.

After being certified as a da Vinci original, the piece of art was painstakingly restored, a process that took years.

Salvator Mundi will go under the hammer at New York’s auction house Christie’s later this month, with a starting price close to $100m.

Post-sale, the painting will be exhibited at different museums and art galleries across the world.

Donald Malarkey, one of the last surviving heroes from Easy Company, passes away aged 96

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Second World War hero Donald Malarkey, who fought with Easy Company of the 101st Airborne Division across several European battlefields, has sadly passed away aged 96.

The war veteran parachuted with his unit into France in the early hours of D-Day, tasked with destroying a German FLAK battery of 88s zeroed in on the Normandy beaches, an action dramatized in the Band of Brothers episode ‘Day of Days’.

Malarkey saw action in France and the Netherlands, notably in the defence of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.

He remained in contact with other Easy Company veterans after the war, and attended the unit’s last reunion in August of this year.

Malarkey was portrayed by actor Scott Grimes in the award-winning HBO production Band of Brothers.

The war hero passed away from natural causes at the age of 96.