Velasquez, Ukraine, Trauma Cleaning, Espionage, Yiwu Market

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

The First Million-Pound Painting

Richard Cork | Spectator | 22nd November 2014

Remembering the first painting to sell at auction for more than a million pounds. Velasquez's Portrait of Juan de Pareja sold at Christie’s for £2,300,000 in 1970, far above the previous record of £821,482 paid in 1961. "Even the most hardened dealers sitting in the audience breathed gasps of disbelief. Then there was a spontaneous burst of applause. The auctioneer left his rostrum and sheer pandemonium broke out" (720 words)

How The EU Lost Russia Over Ukraine

Christiane Hoffmann et al | Der Spiegel | 24th November 2014

Gripping diary of the diplomatic struggle between Russia and Europe for the loyalties of Ukraine. Russia won. Europe lost. But Ukraine lost most of all when President Viktor Yanukovich's surrender to Moscow brought rebellion in Kiev, provoking Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Nobody emerges with much credit from the sorry story splendidly told here, but Yanukovich's incompetence beggars the imagination (6,900 words)

Secret Life Of A Crime Scene Cleaner

Sarah Krasnostein | Narratively | 24th November 2014

Sara Pankhurst cleans up after murders and suicides. Which is by no means the most striking part of her curriculum vitae. By her own account she was a steelworker, a sex worker and a funeral director before moving into the "trauma cleaning" business in Melbourne. "Twenty years later, here I am. Still psychotic” Her life partners have included a murdered fiancé, a wife, and a husband whom she met when she was burying his wife (5,600 words)

How Many Snowdens Are There?

John Schindler | The XX Committee | 24th November 2014

Lots, probably, in the shadows. Edward Snowden was unusual in self-reporting his large-scale theft of classified data. Background checks for most American intelligence jobs are perfunctory, outsourced, and easily faked. "I was involved in several espionage investigations, and the one constant was that co-workers never reported their concerns, which turned out to be considerable, to the proper authorities" (1,790 words)

Christmas In Yiwu

Dan W | 19th November 2014

Notes from Yiwu Market near Shanghai, a "vast permanent trade fair" of fancy goods for dollar stores, market stalls, souvenir shops. Twenty miles of Union Jack mugs, fridge magnets, passport covers, vuvuzelas, folding scooters, and seemingly half the world's Christmas decorations. "It felt like Yiwu contained every possible product, a physical analog to Alibaba. As if someone had inflated the Argos catalog to the scale of a city" (2,850 words)

Video of the day: The Harm Principle

What to expect: Animated explainer of John Stuart Mill's argument for individual freedom (2')

Thought for the day

Strategy is the art of creating power
Lawrence Freedman (

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