Globetrotting: news from around the world — June/July 2015

A "second rate" Van Gogh painting fetches a remarkable US$66.3 million at a Sotheby auction. Plus, Ford Europe presents a new technology that will make cars automatically respect speed limits.


"Second rate" is not what it used to be

In 2003, Van Gogh’s painting L’allée des Alyscamps sold for US$11.8 million. On May 5, 2015, it was purchased for US$66.3 million at a Sotheby auction, reports the Financial Times.

Although the Van Gogh painting fetched a remarkable price, art dealer Christian Ogier of Galerie Sepia in Paris was underwhelmed. "It’s a B painting," he told ArtNet News. A Japanese dealer quipped, "Second rate."

Such disparaging comments could stem from the fact that art sales have been reaching stratospheric levels in recent years. In early 2015, according to online art magazine, Paul Gauguin’s Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) sold privately for US$300 million and Paul Cézanne’s Card Players for US$250 million.


"Intelligent" backseat driver


Speed buffs will want to steer clear of the Intelligent Speed Limiter, a new technology that Ford Europe presented this spring. Cars equipped with the technology will automatically respect speed limits, reports

The new system, which will be first installed on S-MAX models, "reads" road signs thanks to a camera inserted in the front windshield. It slows the car down to the speed limit via an electronic signal that limits the quantity of fuel delivered to the engine.

This is not like the Google self-drive cars. Here, the system can be shut off by flipping a switch or slamming the pedal to the floor. So those speed enthusiasts might want to reconsider, after all.


Investor, go north

North Korea square

It might be counterintuitive for some, but North Korea is an ideal place to put money in right now, says legendary investor Jim Rogers in a CNN interview.

"I’m very excited about North Korea," says Rogers. "If I could put all of my money [in that country], I would. Massive changes are taking place there. I would not have invested in Kim Jong-un’s father or grandfather... but that’s like saying that in 1980 you shouldn’t invest in China because of Mao Zedong. The kid is making astonishing changes."

Rogers’ aim is to get in early before North and South Korea unite. When that happens, the cheap, disciplined labour force and natural resources of the north will be combined with a big capital pool and management capability in the south. "It will be a powerhouse," Rogers says.


Better — and pricier — treatments

Global spending on cancer drugs rose by 10% last year, bringing the total to an all-time high of US$100 billion, reports the Financial Times.

The new high can be largely attributed to rising drug prices and a higher incidence of cancer. But it might be rapidly surpassed with the arrival of a new generation of even more expensive treatments called cancer immunotherapies. These help to fight cancer tumours by harnessing the body’s immune system.

Early versions of these treatments have already come out in the US for approximately US$150,000 a year. But the high price tag has some people wondering about their affordability.