How to find a stolen Van Gogh

As I posted last week, thieves smashed a glass door at the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam and stole Vincent van Gogh's oil painting “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884." The museum has been closed due to COVID-19.

“I am shocked and unbelievably pissed off,” said Singer Laren’s director, Jan Rudolph de Lorn. “Art is there to be seen and shared by all, for society as a whole, to bring enjoyment, to bring inspiration, and also to bring comfort. Especially in this difficult time.”

Esquire's Daniel Dumas interviewed Art Recovery International CEO Christopher Marinello and Jordan Arnold, art risk advisor of security firm K2 Intelligence, about who might buy such a thing and the chances of finding it. From Esquire:

If smugglers do manage to sneak the painting out of the Netherlands, it could literally end up anywhere on the planet. But there are a few areas in the world that, according to Marinello, “are friendlier to acquiring stolen objects.” Switzerland, France, Belgium, and Quebec all have laws that favor those in possession of property even if the path of ownership is murky.

Some wealthy collectors exist in China and the Middle East who are ethically challenged when it comes to getting a good deal,” Marinello says. Then there’s Russia where many oligarchs have adopted a “come and take it” attitude if accused of possessing stolen property. “I have a number of cases pending with high value works looted by the Nazis being held in Russia,” Marinello says.

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Venezuelans with transplanted organs are dying due to a lack of drugs

Venezuela is in crisis. The South American country has been a sore festered with political turmoil and socioeconomic woes for years now. Unemployment is a pandemic in the country and, thanks to the devaluation of their currency, what little food can be had there, is largely unaffordable by the nation's people. As a result of these conditions, crime has become rampant, countless businesses in the country have shuttered and shortages of the staples we take for granted have become commonplace. Reuters reports that the shortages have begun to effect an unexpected, exclusive group of Venezuelans: organ transplant recipients.

According to Reuters, there are around 3,500 organ transplant recipients living in Venezuela today. Thanks to modern medicine, theses recipients have been able to lead largely normal lives. But as the country's ability to afford medicines made in other countries, make their own drugs or pay medical personnel diminishes, the lives of its organ transplant recipients are being put at risk. The drugs needed to keep their new organs from being rejected by their bodies have run out. So far, at least seven of the country's citizens have died as a result, with 35 additional transplant recipients reporting that their new organs are now being rejected by their bodies.

The suck doesn't stop there: thanks to the fact that only around half of Venezuela's dialysis machines are operating, tens of thousands of people waiting for lifesaving surgeries are at risk of dying as their blood can't be cleaned of toxins. The doctors who are still working to keep people alive in the country are exhausted and frustrated by the conditions they're now forced to work in:

"It's incredibly stressful.

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Here's the one story to read to learn about Silk Road

Joshuah Bearman wrote an epic story about the rise and fall of the black market commerce site Silk Road. He dug deep to produce a fantastic, enthralling story. Here's what he told me about it:

This was a challenging story to write, because it was an ongoing federal investigation, with a pending trial, but I (rather luckily) managed to get inside both the Silk Road, the various law enforcement agencies trying to bring it down, and people close to Ross, to understand him more. It was always a good story, but as it unfurled just got more layered and exciting. The piece is 20,000 words! Longest thing Wired has ever published. And in two-parts, which they've never done. I wrote this thing like a non-fiction novella, and people seem to be responding to it well, even the cliffhanger and waiting for Part 2.

The Rise and Fall of Silk Road, Part 1

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Atlantis - "the world's best anonymous online drug marketplace"

[Video Link] HighExistence reports on Atlantis, a "new and improved virtual black market" that offers "cheaper rates, advanced features, ease-of-use, Litecoin and Bitcoin support, and encrypted chat."

A turf war is on. Silk Road has enjoyed a near monopoly on the digital drug business since its inception in 2011, but its tenure is over. The new competition is great for consumers–various black markets will vie for market share by offering more features and a better user experience. In an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, the CEO explains that compared to Silk Road, Atlantis takes lower commissions, has less downtime, has a more “modern” interface, has a feedback system for rating buyers as well as sellers, and supports built-in message encryption.

Also, Andy Greenberg of Forbes bought weed from the top three online black markets (Silk Road, Black Market Reloaded, and Atlantis) and found Atlantis offered the best consumer experience. (Here's a video interview with Greenberg about online black markets.)

Atlantis, the new virtual drug marketplace Read the rest

Two Americans arrested in international narwhal smuggling ring

Okay, which of you all just got busted for smuggling narwhal tusks? Fess up. It was either one of you, somebody from Reddit, or both, right?

Image: N is for narwhal - finished, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from notahipster's photostream Read the rest