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David Hockney blockbuster exhibition thrills London

English painter draws massive crowds to Royal Academy of Arts
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The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 by David Hockney. Painted in oil on 32 canvases (each 91.4 x 121.9 cm) It is the culmination of 52 pictures created on the 75 year old artist's iPad. (Jonathan Wilkinson/GlobalPost)

A Bigger Picture is the name of the David Hockney exhibition - and it really is filled with big pictures, all of them landscapes.   A good thing too, because the Royal Academy's intimate galleries are crammed with sell-out crowds.  So, unlike other blockbuster exhibitions, you can actually see the work.

But even if the pictures were smaller you would see them and feel them. This side of Van Gogh you won't see brighter colored landscapes.  But where Vincent's works take color to the brink of madness, Hockney takes color to the level of celebration and joy.  In doing so he makes the green and pleasant English countryside into something epic.

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Rupert Murdoch empire's roller coaster ride goes through whiplash turn

New revelations of phone-hacking and corruption ruin British debut of the mogul's new Sunday paper
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Rupert Murdoch: then and now. Holding the first edition of The Sun published after he bought it in 1969 and holding the first edition of The Sun on Sunday published yesterday. The positive buzz about the 80 year old's indefatigability was undone today by new revelations of alleged illegal payments made by Sun journalists to public officials. (Handout/AFP/Getty Images)

Yesterday, Rupert Murdoch launched a new Sunday newspaper to replace the defunct News of the World.The NoW was closed suddenly last July when the phone hacking scandal exploded around it.

The new newspaper was called the Sun on Sunday. The Sun is Murdoch's daily tabloid, his most successful and notorious newspaper here. Today the Sun became embroiled in revelations that are arguably more dangerous to the Murdoch empire than the phone hacking at the NoW.

At the Leveson Enquiry, set up in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, the Metropolitan Police's Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, in charge of the investigation into illegal activities at News International, publisher of Murdoch's newspapers here, gave an interim report.

She painted a picture of systematic corruption of public officials by The Sun. One public official received £80,000 ($126,500) over a period of years to provide confidential information about individuals to the paper.

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Spain's Rajoy confronts reality

The Spanish Prime Minister is backing a few steps away from his deficit reduction plan
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A massive demonstration last week in Valencia Spain. It was in response to police violence against an earlier demonstration by students protesting austerity cuts to education, and youth unemployment. (JOSE JORDAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Mariano Rajoy was sworn in as Spanish Prime Minister just before Christmas and pledged to meet EU imposed budget targets for 2012/13 of reducing his country's deficit to 4.4 percent of GDP this year from an estimated 6 percent in 2011/12

Then he saw the books.

Then the EU's economists forecast a recession throughout the euro zone including a prediction that Spain's economy would shrink by more than 1 percent in 2012.

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Battersea Power Station up for sale again

Iconic building's dereliction is a symbol of the limits of free market capitalism
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If you've got a couple of hundred million bucks and access to mortgage finance Battersea Power Station in London could be yours. (MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

London - Got a spare billion or two and want to buy into the London property market? Then you might want to consider bidding for Battersea Power Station situated on Thames, a mile and half west of Parliament due south of Chelsea.

It's current owners, Irish property company Treasury Holdings are in receivership and being forced to sell the property on the open market.

Let's let real estate agent, Stephan Miles-Brown, Head of Residential Development, Knight Frank, put what you'd be buying into hyperbolic perspective: “Battersea Power Station is as iconic as the Chrysler Building in New York or the Eiffel Tower and familiar to people who may have never even been to London."

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Euro zone crisis: a pause for reflection

A Greek bail-out was agreed this week. Now what?
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The euro zone crisis at half-time, what's going to happen next? (Sean Gallup/AFP/Getty Images)

It's half-time in the euro zone crisis. So gather round and take a knee, and let's figure out what we've learned from the first half.

1. The bond markets work one way and the EU works another. Their methods are wholly incompatible. That's what caused the crisis to explode in the way it did. But a synthesis was reached between the two, because the EU's leaders ultimately showed the big institutional players in the bond market they were serious about tackling not just Greece's problems, but government deficits throughout the euro zone.

Government leaders who did not get with the program were removed. Once governance issues were resolved, the bond markets began to calm down.

This is a key lesson for American economic commentators to remember. Bond markets don't entirely rely on spread-sheet data. They care about unquantifiable things like good governance. Italy under Berlusconi was a joke, under Mario Monti it is a country whose governance gives hope of being as effective as its luxury goods businesses, which dominate their sector of world trade.

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Sean Penn wades into Falkland Islands ruckus

Actor calls British deployment of Prince William to disputed islands "archaic colonialism."
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Sean Penn on a recent tour of South America (PABLO PORCIUNCULA/AFP/Getty Images)

It is Sean Penn's curse to be a man of multiple extraordinary talents. He is arguably the greatest actor of his golden generation (This includes: George Clooney, Johnny Depp, and Brad Pitt - all of them born within three years of each other). The films he directs show a deep understanding of the parts of American society that tend to be examined only in the songs of Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle.

Yet somewhere inside Sean Penn there is an op-ed columnist or Pacifica radio talk-show host yearning to break free.

Penn's vociferous activism for left wing causes frequently takes the shape of advocacy journalism. This explains his recent interest in the revived British-Argentine dispute over the Falkland Islands, or Las Malvinas, as Argentina calls them, which broke out recently while the actor was in Buenos Aires. Penn made some comments about Prince William's current deployment to the Falklands as an example of "archaic colonialism."

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Greek debt crisis: insult upon insult

Greek and German media folk trade unpleasantries

My thanks to Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) of Britain's Channel 4 news for pointing me toward this story in the Athens News.

Yiorgos Trangas, a radio host for Real FM, called German Chancellor Angela Merkel a "dirty Berlin slut" live on the air recently. Now, the station has been fined 25,000 euros ($33,260) by the National Council of Radio and Television for the outburst. He was judged to have "abused the Greek language" and used an obscene word to describe Merkel.

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Why you should care about foreign news

The deaths of reporters Shadid and Colvin bring home the terrible cost of reporting important stories.
WARSAW — Shadid and Colvin are irreplaceable because of their skill, experience and humanity. But the terrible truth is they are not likely to be replaced, because the people who manage the news business do not begin to match their courage.
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Charlie Chaplin, the red menace?

MI5 investigated the film comedian at request of FBI
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Charlie Chaplin: funny man? or dangerous communist? MI5 thought it was the former. (AFP/Getty Images)

The FBI in the 1940's and 50's was always on the look-out for Commies and Charlie Chaplin was in their sights but today, for the first time, it has been revealed that the Feds asked Britain's domestic security agency MI5 to look into his activities.  MI5 was not worried by Chaplin's politics following the investigation but was rather dismissive of the FBI's motives.

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Anthony Shadid, the best of his generation, has died

Anthony Shadid was one of the finest reporters in the Middle East.
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A group of journalists, including Tyler Hicks (2nd from right) who was on assignment with Anthony Shadid when he died in Syria Thursday and carried his body out of the country, are pictured March 11, 2011 in Ras Lanuf, Libya, during a pause in the fighting. (John Moore/AFP/Getty Images)
New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid has died — apparently of an asthma attack — while on assignment in Syria. Whether you knew his byline or not, the loss is incalculable.
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