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The New Tallest Building In The Southern Hemisphere Will Rise In Melbourne

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V04_SkyLobby_External_FKA_JG

Melbourne will soon be home to the new tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere  Australia 108, a 388-meter, $622 million skyscraper that was green-lighted for construction last week by Victoria's minister of planning, according to CNN.

Construction on the futuristic-looking, 108-story tower is slated to begin in 2014.

It was designed by architects at Fender Katsalidis, and the look was inspired by the star on Australia's flag, according to the building's website.

The top of the building will be home to a six-star, 288-room hotel, with a lobby, restaurants, bars, and lounges on the 84th floor.

The rest of Australia 108 will contain apartments and luxury facilities, including a theater, pool, and gym.

Melbourne's city council originally opposed the project amid fears that it would cast a shadow on a nearby war memorial, according to design blog Dezeen. But it later received the endorsement of the memorial's trustees, Dezeen noted.

The building faces some competition: A tower slated to open in South Africa the same year should clock in at 447 meters, according to The Guardian.

Check out some glossy renderings of the project, via Australia 108:

V03_Star_FKA

 

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SEE ALSO: Why Melbourne, Australia Is The World's Best Place To Live

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There's A Huge Online 'Black Market' For Beauty Sample Castoffs

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birchbox mom

A new black market for beauty products has emerged online. 

Women who don't like their Glossybox or Birchbox samples are flocking to online forums and Facebook groups to swap with others, reports Kathleen Hou at Fashionista

The top Facebook group, Beauty Box Swaps, has more than 2,000 fans. And users on the forum MakeUpTalk have whole inventory lists devoted to what they have and what they want. 

"Trading has completely transformed how I’ve thought about these monthly boxes,” enthusiast Meagan Senesac told Hou. “I have hated certain items in boxes and had no idea what to do with them. Now, I really don’t care what I get in a box because I know I can probably trade it with someone.” 

But while the experience is fun for consumers, it also highlights a problem in the beauty samples market. 

"“The waste element in the discovery platform [beauty subscription boxes] is too big,” Hou writes, suggesting that beauty box companies should find a way to incorporate trading and personalization into their business models. 

This isn't the first time consumers have taken grievances with a business into their own hands. 

Shoppers responded to Lululemon's harsh return policy by creating a huge black market on eBay

SEE ALSO: Stunning Photos Of Martha Stewart As A Young Model >

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Amsterdam Is On Another Quest To Tame Legalized Prostitution

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hooker, prostitute, Amsterdam red light district

Has Amsterdam had enough of its breezy reputation? It may be famous for its in-your-face window prostitution, but the city has just voted to place tighter controls on its brothels.

From this summer onwards, Amsterdam’s legal age for prostitution will rise from 18 to 21, and brothels will be forced to remain closed between four and nine in the morning. Prostitutes will have to pass language tests and have shorter shifts, while brothel keepers will be obliged to produce business plans demonstrating how they will protect their workers’ health and safety.

Seen from a country where prostitution is largely banned, these changes might seem laughably modest. They’re carefully targeted nonetheless. Younger women are most likely to fall victim to human traffickers, while those that don’t speak any Dutch or English find it much harder to contact police or social workers in cases of abuse. Meanwhile, early morning closure is planned because the time of day is seen as a problem period, with nobody else about in the streets to monitor or rein in bad behavior. Amsterdam’s city council considers the moves so vital that the city is going it alone, introducing laws that (while currently being debated) haven’t yet passed through the Dutch Parliament. 

Amsterdam’s haste is understandable. It may be well policed and eye-poppingly unusual, but the city’s central red light district still feels like a place where women’s hopes go to die. Around 75 percent of the 5,000 to 8,000 prostitutes working in the city are from abroad, and many are believed to have been trafficked. Holland legalized prostitution in 2000 as a way of stopping exploitation, but evidence suggests that more women than ever are being forced into brothels against their will. A study from the London School of Economics published this winter found that in countries where selling sex was decriminalized, human trafficking has increased. While the number of women entering prostitution voluntarily grows under legalization, demand grows yet further, creating a shortfall filled by women trafficked and run by pimps.

Marijke Shahsavari-Jansen, section leader for the right-of-center Christian Democrat Party on Amsterdam’s city council, notes that people in Holland are well aware of these failures.

"When the law changed to decriminalize brothels there really was widespread support. Many people naively believed that legalization and regulation would turn prostitution into a supposedly 'normal' kind of business. In the past five years, however, there’s been a shift back towards a broader consensus in the other direction, as we realize that things have gotten worse, that there are victims of trafficking still. It’s as if abuse is now carrying on with a legalized varnish."

Amsterdam isn’t planning to criminalize prostitution, of course. There is nonetheless a general move towards tighter state control of the seamier side of Dutch life. The left-of-center Dutch Labor Party has been considering criminalizing visits to prostitutes, while the 1012 Project launched last year has started thinning out brothel windows and "coffee shops" that sell pot from central Amsterdam. Many residents are tired of watching leery, beery tourists flocking to the red light district, one of Amsterdam’s oldest neighborhoods, and some are embarrassed by the city’s reputation. Support for the clean-out is hardly unanimous though, as some locals fear it will simply drive the sex industry underground without taming it. 

It still seems unlikely that this is the end for anything-goes Amsterdam. As other European cities look for ways to relax their drug laws, there’s little support for further extending controls on coffee shops, for example. But women are still being forced into prostitution, and the argument that keeping the sex industry in the open will curb its excesses is increasingly losing currency.

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E-Cigarettes Have A Coolness Problem (MO, RAI, LO)

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stephen dorffLess regulated and possibly healthier than traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes could be a huge growth market for big tobacco. Already e-cigarette use in the US doubled from 2010 to 2011, according to the Center for Disease Control.

But the industry faces big risks too.

States are starting to regulate them, and it may be only a matter of time until the Food and Drug Administration comes out against them. E-cigarettes still don't taste as good as cigarettes and some of them don't work very well.

Finally, there's the question of whether e-cigarettes will ever be cool. This is a big deal for an industry that has long relied on perceived coolness (with lots of help from Hollywood) to attract new smokers.

Some e-cigs are designed to look like cigarettes, right down to the glowing red tip, though they don't burn down when smoked. Others come in sleek black with glowing blue tips. Either way, it's hard to feel like James Dean while sucking a plastic glow stick.

E-cigarette-makers are tackling the image problem head-on, with press releases talking about how Robert Pattinson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl and Uma Thurman and other celebrities are turning to e-cigs. Then there are paid celebrity endorsements, like this video of actor Stephen Dorff talking looking handsome while smoking a Blu cigarette on the beach.

Still, many aren't convinced.

Last month, Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher mocked the drummer from Muse after he caught him smoking an electronic cigarette. Said Gallagher: "I had to say to him: 'Really? Really? Is that where you are at? Do me a favor, mate, either have a proper one outside, or don't have one.' It lit up green when he had a drag of it. Nonsense."

E-cigs are inspiring "contempt" from many traditional smokers, according to The Guardian's Lionel Shriver.

Gawker's Hamilton Nolan likewise said that electronic cigarettes will never be cool. He attributes this to a lack of danger: "Cigarettes were never cool just because of their phallic connotations, and the fact that they gave you something to do with your hands. They were cool because they are dangerous."

What do other people think? Among the many commenters on Nolan's article, the consensus seems to be that e-cigarettes are not cool but that that's not why people smoke them.

RealAmurrican writes: "They sure do take all the coolness and romance out of smoking, but I was gifted one about a week ago, and let me say that they are PHENOMENAL for helping you quit."

MrSnaps writes: "I have been using an electronic cig for over a year, mostly because I feel better in the mornings than when I did smoking traditional cigarettes. That said, no, E-cigs are not cool."

Onceler writes: "heh, well, people may start smoking because it 'looks cool' and 'represents danger' or whatever, but they keep smoking because they are addicted to the chemical cocktail that's unleashed when you inhale the smoke. and it's very difficult to quit once you're addicted. only in America would an invention like this come along that could save millions of lives (literally) and the cultural elite or what have you decide to mock it because it's not 'cool enough' or 'dangerous enough' for them."

There will be a demand for e-cigarettes regardless of the cool factor. Purported lameness will, however, prevent some smokers from switching and limit the number of new smokers.

That's why more and more of the $10 billion spent on tobacco advertising in 2008 will be redirected to e-cigarettes. Luckily for the industry, it can advertise for e-cigarettes in many places where tobacco ads are banned. And don't underestimate what the ad industry can accomplish.

One of the greatest feats in PR history was when Edward Bernays made smoking cool for women by getting debutantes at a 1929 parade to light up in unison, an event branded as Torches Of Freedom. Cigarette ads from back in the day were legendarily effective too — and you may remember that the first episode of "Mad Men" is all about branding for Lucky Strike.

 NJOY currently controls 40 percent of the U.S. electronic cigarette marketBig tobacco companies are getting into the business too, with Lorillard buying blu ecigs earlier this year, and Reynolds developing its own technology. An analyst from investment bank Jefferies said he had "high hopes for Next Generation Products" from Philip Morris too.

DON'T MISS: The Staggering Conspiracy Behind The Birth Of Consumer Culture

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Harvard Quiz Bowler Defends Himself After Being Stripped Of Titles For Cheating

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On the same day that Harvard won its first everNCAA tournament game, something else un-Harvard happened: the prestigious school was stripped of four National Academic Quiz Tournament (NAQT) titles after being accused of illicitly viewing game questions in advance of multiple matches.

Now the former student at the center of the quiz scandal, Andrew M. Watkins, tells The Harvard Crimson that he didn't cheat.

From The Crimson:

“I had no intention to—and functionally speaking did not—benefit from the content of the questions in any way,” Watkins said. “A website containing question content was loaded. At no point did I read the questions therein.”

He declined to elaborate on his motivations for accessing the page, and would not say why he opened it repeatedly before important games.

NAQT asserts that Watkins exploited a security loophole to view game questions online in the time immediately prior to tournaments.

“It was clearly marked, and anyone who plays Quiz Bowl would know, 'Oh, I’m going to play on those questions, I need to stop looking immediately,’' NAQT President Robert Hentzel said.

Watkins also provided a statement to NAQT:

"I regret my breaches of question security. I am gratified that NAQT acknowledges that there is neither direct nor statistical evidence that I took advantage of my access; though I know everyone will make their own judgments, I did compete in good faith. ...

My immaturity damaged my much-prized relationship with NAQT and cast undue doubt on three remarkable accomplishments by three Harvard teams. ... I apologize to my teammates, to NAQT, and to the community for how my actions sullied three amazing years of competition.

Suspicious about Watkins' otherworldly play raised questions in the minds of fellow players even before the titles were stripped.

“He just did so astoundingly well against some of the greatest science players of all time, beating them in their specialty categories over and over again,” Andrew Hart, a law school student who played on the University of Minnesota team that Harvard beat in the 2011 championship game, told the Crimson. “I think people were suspicious.”

The Crimson notes that Watkins ultimately understands the stripping of the titles.

“There’s no question that it was not a wise decision,” said Watkins, who now studies chemistry at New York University. “With better foresight, hindsight, what have you, I wouldn’t have done it.”

SEE ALSO: Harvard University Secretly Searched Deans' Emails During Cheating Scandal

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This Men's T-Shirt Made Out Of Crocodile Costs $91,500

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Luxury fashion often borders on the absurd. 

The Olsen twins recently released this $55,000 backpack. This $290 paper bag by Jil Sander sold out. 

And now, Hermes is selling a shirt for $91,500. 

The Awl's Choire Sichasnapped a picture of the price tag on the garment. 

But the price is justified by the material, he said.

"This t-shirt, to be fair, is made out of crocodile, hence its price," Sicha writes. "Literally, the entire shirt is just luxurious, beautifully sewn swaths of crocodile."

Here's the shirt in question: 

hermes shirt $91,500

SEE ALSO: Reasons Gap's Athleta Will Overtake Lululemon >

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Guantanamo Detainees Made These Unforgettable Works Of Art

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guantanamoMost of the 166 detainees at Guantanamo Bay may never see a day in court. They may never be released from the detention center in Cuba.

Among the only ways they will ever get to express themselves is through art.

Compliant detainees at Guantanamo are allowed to take art classes, among other privileges.  These classes are the only place where detainees feel free to be themselves without pressure from others, according to the cultural advisor on base, a fifty-something Iraqi named Zak.

Some of the work, which hangs in the detainee library at Camp Four, is hauntingly beautiful.

The Guantanamo detainee library is behind the fence here at Camp Delta, not far from where sharpshooters were stationed in the darker early days.



Camp Delta has no detainees today — they've been moved to newer facilities — but their presence remains.



That presence is felt most potently here in the library where detainee artwork goes up one hallway wall ...



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Steve Cohen Bought The Picasso Steve Wynn Famously Put His Elbow Through For $155 Million

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Steve Cohen

Billionaire hedge fund manager has bought the Picasso painting billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn famously put his elbow through, Page Six reports. 

Cohen, who runs S.A.C. Capital, secretly bought "Le Reve," a portrait of Picasso's mistress Marie-Therese Walter for $155 million, the report said.

A rep for Cohen declined to comment on the Post's report.  

This painting has a fascinating story behind it.

Wynn purchased the Picasso for $48 million back in 1997.  In 2006, he agreed to sell it to Cohen, who has an extensive art collection. 

However, at a get together with some friends, Wynn accidentally put his elbow through the painting when he was showing it off. Oof! 

Wynn's vision problems were blamed for the incident. 

Anyway, it resulted in about $45 million in damage and it didn't sell to Cohen at the time. 

It worked out in the end, though. The painting has a memorable story behind it and it sold for $16 million more than it would have in 2006. 

Here's what the painting looks like: 

le reve wynn

SEE ALSO: The Fabulous Life Of Hedge Fund Legend Steve Cohen

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The 10 Best Hotels In Australia, New Zealand, And The South Pacific

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Southern Ocean Lodge Australia Hotel

From the Great Barrier Reef to the limestone cliffs of Australia, the Southern Hemisphere has some of the world's most beautiful attractions.

Turns out it has some pretty spectacular hotels, too.

Travel + Leisure asked their readers to rate the World's Best Hotels, and properties in Australia, New Zealand, and the French Polynesia all received top-ranking scores.

And just looking at what the top 10 have to offer guests, it's easy to see why they made the cut.

#10 - The 5-star Park Hyatt Sydney hotel has views of the Opera House, and serves traditional Aussie treats like passion fruit marshmallows for turn down service.

Source: Travel + Leisure



#9 - Views of the Sydney Harbour don't get better than at the Shangri-La Hotel, whether you're at the bar, restaurant, or in your hotel room.

Source: Shangri-La Hotel Sydney



#8 - Australia's Hayman has a salt water pool the size of seven Olympic-sized pools that surrounds a smaller, fresh water pool with swim up bar.

Source: Hayman Great Barrier Reef



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'Friday Night Lights' Author Buzz Bissinger Spent $638,412 On Clothing In 3 Years

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"Friday Night Lights" author Buzz Bissinger reveals his insane shopping addiction in the latest issue of GQ. 

He's spent $638,412 since 2010 on designer labels including Gucci, Versace, and Tom Ford.

Bissinger has spent so much at Gucci that the fashion house sent him on an all-expenses-paid trip to Milan Fashion Week. He even got to sit in the front row at the runway show.

The article features many staggering details about his spending habit. 

"I own eighty-one leather jackets, seventy-five pairs of boots, forty-one pairs of leather pants, thirty-two pairs of haute couture jeans, ten evening jackets, and 115 pairs of leather gloves," Bissinger writes.

Before his Gucci addiction, Bissinger dressed himself in "khakis from J.Crew and blazers and shirts from Brooks Brothers and Hickey Freeman and Jos. A. Bank."

According to Bissinger, he and his wife had stopped having sex and he began to use shopping to fill the void. He also struggled when she took an overseas job and his children went to college. 

"The clothes became icons of aphrodisiac, a way of substituting for the continued fear of being someone and something different from whom I was supposed to be," Bissinger writes. "The eternally preppy boy in the button-down shirt."

Bissinger says he's in therapy for his compulsion, and he hopes his story will help others with a similar problem.

Read his whole story here

In the past, Bissinger made headlines for his insane Twitter rants.

SEE ALSO: Why Gap's Athleta Will Overtake Lululemon >

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Here's Everything You Need To Know About The New York Auto Show

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2013 new york auto show poster

The New York International Auto Show opens to the public on Friday, and will run until April 7.

We'll be on the scene for the press preview days Wednesday and Thursday, checking out all the new rides and reporting the best back to you.

There's a lot to see this year, from new luxury offerings (like the Audi A3 and Range Rover Sport) to fire-breathing muscle cars (including a 1,200 horsepower Shelby), to the new Corvette convertible, just in time for the warm weather.

So if you're in the area or headed to the Big Apple for the show, here's what you don't want to miss:

15 New Cars We Can't Wait To See At The New York Auto Show

The Latest Shelby Muscle Car Is More Powerful Than Any Ferrari

Buick's New Performance Sedan May Actually Appeal To Young People

Here's The High-Performance Version Of Mercedes-Benz's Sleek New Sedan

The New Dodge Viper Is Built To Be A Beast On The Track

Here's A First Look At The All-New Range Rover Sport

Elon Musk Will Make A Big Tesla Announcement, Put His Money Where His Mouth Is

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See Why Cartagena Is The Hottest New Getaway In South America

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Couple sitting with cannon in Cartagena

No longer associated with Pablo Escobar and the bloody drug wars of the 1980s, Colombia has recently become one of the hottest destinations in South America.

Click here to jump straight to pictures of Cartagena >

About 1.8 million visitors went to Colombia in 2011, the last year for which tourism info is available — about 7.3 percent more than the previous year. And about 11 percent of those tourists visit Cartagena, a charming city on the northern coast of Colombia.

The historic Spanish colonial city on the Caribbean coast is a UNESCO World Heritage site. With its pastel-colored buildings covered in bougainvillea flowers, cobblestone streets, and bustling open squares, Cartagena is the type of place that's so perfectly preserved it almost feels fake in a Disney-esque type of way. There's also fresh seafood, succulent fruits, and tropical cocktails, which you can enjoy in the open-air cafes and bars, some of which overlook the ocean.

It's a colorful city that has become the hottest new getaway in South America — especially since JetBlue started offering direct flights from New York City last November.

Relax, soak up the culture, and enjoy Cartagena de Indias like a Cartagenero.

Enter the old city through the Clock Tower Gate (Puerta del Reloj).



Once you pass under the clock tower, you enter the Plaza de los Coches, the main square. It was once used as a slave market.



There's a statue of Pedro de Heredia, a Spanish conquistador who founded Cartagena, in the center of the square.



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Lawsuit Accuses NYC's Met Museum Of Duping Visitors On Admission Fees

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Metropolitan_museum_of_art_2 1NEW YORK (AP) — Before visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art can stroll past the Picassos, Renoirs, Rembrandts and other priceless works, they must first deal with the ticket line, the posted $25 adult admission and the meaning of the word in smaller type just beneath it: "recommended."

Many people, especially foreign tourists, don't see it, don't understand it or don't question it. If they ask, they are told the fee is merely a suggested donation: You can pay what you wish, but you must pay something.

Confusion over what's required to enter one of the world's great museums, which draws more than 6 million visitors a year, is at the heart of a class-action lawsuit this month accusing the Met of scheming to defraud the public into believing the fees are required.

The suit seeks compensation for museum members and visitors who paid by credit card over the past few years, though some who choose to pay less than the full price pull out a $10 or $5 bill. Some fork over a buck or loose change. Those who balk at paying anything at all are told they won't be allowed in unless they pay something, even a penny.

"I just asked for one adult general admissions and he just said, '$25,'" says Richard Johns, a high school math teacher from Little Rock, Ark., who paid the full price at the museum this past week. "It should be made clear that it is a donation you are required to make. Especially for foreign tourists who don't understand. Most people don't know it."

Met spokesman Harold Holzer denied any deception and said a policy of requiring visitors to pay at least something has been in place for more than four decades. "We are confident that the courts will see through this insupportable nuisance lawsuit," he said.

"The museum was designed to be open to everyone, without regard to their financial circumstances," said Arnold Weiss, one of two attorneys who filed the lawsuit on behalf of three museum-goers, a New Yorker and two tourists from the Czech Republic. "But instead, the museum has been converted into an elite tourist attraction."

Among the allegations are that third-party websites do not mention the recommended fee, and that the museum sells memberships that carry the benefit of free admission, even though the public is already entitled to free admission.

Lined up to testify is a former museum supervisor who oversaw and trained the Met's admissions cashiers from 2007 to 2011, said Michael Hiller, the other attorney representing the plaintiffs.

The supervisor is expected to testify that the term on the sign was changed in recent years from "suggested" to "recommended" because administrators believed it was a stronger word that would encourage people to pay more, Hiller said.

The Met's Holzer denied the former employee's allegations. He also said the basis for the lawsuit — that admission is intended to be free — is wrong because the state law the plaintiffs cited has been superseded many times and the city approved pay-what-you-wish admissions in 1970.

"The idea that the museum is free to everyone who doesn't wish to pay has not been in force for nearly 40 years," Holzer said, adding, "Yes, you do have to pay something."

As to the wording change on the sign, he said the museum "actually thought at the time, and still thinks, that 'recommended' is softer than 'suggested,' so the former employee is quite wrong here."

New York City's Department of Cultural Affairs agreed to the museum's request in 1970 for a general admission as long as the amount was left up to individuals and that the signage reflected that. Similar arrangements are in place for other cultural institutions that operate on city-owned land and property and receive support from the city, such as the American Museum of Natural History and the Brooklyn Museum. It's also a model that's been replicated in other cities.

The Metropolitan Museum is one of the world's richest cultural institutions, with a $2.58 billion investment portfolio, and isn't reliant on admissions fees to pay the majority of its bills. Sixteen percent of its $239 million budget in fiscal 2012 came from admissions. That same year, the city paid 11 percent of its operating budget. As a nonprofit organization, the museum pays no income taxes.

Holzer also noted that in the past fiscal year, 41 percent of visitors to the Met paid the full recommended admission price — $25 for adults, $17 for seniors and $12 for students.

A random sampling of visitors leaving the museum found that there was a general awareness that "recommended" implied you could pay less than the posted price.

But Dan Larson and his son Jake, visiting the museum last week from Duluth, Minn., were unaware there was any room to negotiate the admission price. They paid the full $25 each for adult tickets, with a credit card.

"My understanding was you pay the recommended price," said Larson, 50. "That's clearly not displayed."

Alexander Kulessa, a 23-year-old university student from Germany, said friends who had previously visited New York tipped him off about the admission fee.

"They said, 'Don't pay $25,'" said Kulessa. "They said it will be written everywhere to pay $25 but you don't have to pay that. You don't even have to pay the student price."

For Colette Leger, a tourist from Toronto who visited the museum with her teenage daughter, paying the full $25 was worth every penny.

"It's a beautiful museum, and I was happy to pay," she said.

___

Associated Press writer Jake Pearson contributed to this report.

SEE ALSO: 15 New Works That Have The Art World Buzzing

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A Chinese Family Bought A $6.5 Million NYC Apartment For Their 2-Year-Old

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china chinese baby

Nevermind a silver spoon, one Chinese mother has bought a $6.5 million (£4.3 million) flat in Manhattan for her toddler.

Kevin Brown, a senior vice president at Sotheby's International who specialises in selling New York's most prestigious property, said the unnamed woman had snapped up the flat in preparation for when her child eventually becomes a student.

"We were running around the city looking at things and I finally said: 'Well why are you buying?'" Mr Brown said to CCTV, the Chinese state broadcaster.

"And she said, well, her daughter was going to go to Columbia, or NYU or maybe Harvard and so she needed to be in the centre of the city and that was why she was picking this one particular apartment. So I said: 'Oh, how old is your daughter?' and she said: 'Well she's two'. And I was just shocked."

The apartment is in the One57 tower, a 90-floor glass skyscraper on 57th street between Sixth and Seventh avenues and overlooking Central Park.

The building, which is still unfinished, was designed by a Pritzker prize-winning architect and boasts a library with a pool table and 24ft aquarium, a private concert hall, and a "pet wash room". It will be managed by the Park Hyatt hotel brand.

At least one other Chinese billionaire, Silas KF Chou of Hong Kong, has also bought a $50 million apartment in the block, according to the New York Times and the two penthouses in the block have both been sold for $90 million, making them the most expensive single properties in Manhattan.

Mr Brown said Chinese buyers now make up a quarter of his business, in dollar terms.

"What is more interesting is that two years ago, it was only 15 per cent. And before that it was five per cent," he said. "Most Chinese want to be by Central Park, but they are not interested in the park view. They want a southern exposure."

While foreigners only account for two to three per cent of the houses sold in New York, around 11 per cent of that market is now made up by Chinese, who spent $9 billion on property in the United States last year.

The news of the purchase inevitably raised eyebrows in China, with most on the internet curious about where the money had come from. Several comments left on Weibo, China's version of Twitter, suggested that the woman must have been related to a corrupt government official.

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Probe Widens Over Hotshot NYC Real Estate Broker Accused Of Being A 'Dual Agent'

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erickson pic final

Kathryn Korte, the president and CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty, and Ellie Johnson, the manager of the firm’s Upper East Side office, may also face disciplinary action as the result of a state probe into allegations that top-producing broker Roger Erickson acted as an undisclosed dual agent, The Real Deal has learned.

The New York State Department of State opened the investigation last year, after the seller of an apartment at 812 Fifth Avenue lodged a complaint. He alleged that Erickson had breached their exclusive sale contract by clandestinely working with a prospective purchaser, effectively lowering the sale value of the home.

While brokers are permitted to represent both parties in a condominium or co-op sale, they must disclose their work as a “dual agent” and sign disclosure forms to that effect.

Last week, state officials wrapped up the investigation into Erickson and referred the materials to the DOS’ litigation unit, which will determine if the broker will face a penalty or not. (It is not clear when the DOS will issue a decision.)

At the same time, the DOS revealed that it had widened the inquiry, naming Johnson — Erickson’s manager at the time of the sale — as well as Korte, who oversees the New York City franchise, as subjects of the probe. Both brokers could face disciplinary action, though it was not clear what specific allegations they are facing.

Indeed, naming Korte, the firm’s broker of record, and Johnson, Erickson’s manager, may not be an indication of their direct culpability so much as an assumption that the duo was responsible for supervising Erickson, an industry source noted.

“A broker of record is responsible for the behavior of agents whose license they hold,” said the source, who does not work at Sotheby’s and requested anonymity in commenting on the case. “There’s the presumption of supervision and that they’ve given the broker sufficient training that they’re not going to do anything that [constitutes misconduct].”

Erickson, Korte, Johnson and Sotheby’s declined to comment on the case via a spokesperson for the firm. In a statement released after the DOS opened the investigation, Erickson and Sotheby’s asserted that the allegations had no merit. A spokesperson for the DOS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In this case, a man named Harvey Schuyler retained Erickson in December 2008 to sell his Fifth Avenue co-op, originally listed for $3.65 million. Several months later, Erickson allegedly recommended Schuyler accept a $3 million offer from another one of his clients, Turkish businesswoman Demet Sabanci Cetindogan, whom he represented in contract negotiations. However, he allegedly did not reveal that she was his client, nor obtain Schuyler’s consent to act as a dual agent.

The two-bedroom apartment ultimately sold to another buyer for $3 million in 2010.

Separately, Schuyler sued Erickson early last year, claiming that he used “aggressive tactics, deception and sheer dishonesty” to convince him to accept Cetindogan’s offer, which allegedly caused him to take a hit on the eventual sale of the apartment.

“Having set the apartment’s purchase price below the fair market value, created a false market,” the complaint said. “[Schuyler] thereafter was unable to realize a higher market value for the apartment as the false market price was widely known.”

A New York State Supreme Court judge has not yet ruled on the allegations.

In a statement to The Real Deal, Schuyler’s attorney Evan Schieber, a partner at the law firm of Rivkin Radler, called the DOS investigation “a positive step towards curbing abuses by real estate brokers.”

Erickson, who reportedly drives a platinum Ferrari F430, is noted for his flashy lifestyle and has worked with celebrity clients such as Steve Jobs, Bono and Madonna. He was named the No. 1 broker at Sotheby’s in 2010 and has closed sales in excess of $1 billion during his 20-year real estate career, according to his agent’s page.

Erickson spent the early part of his career working as a music executive at CBS records and reportedly left his music publicist ex-wife Susan Blond after 13 years of marriage for Russian tango instructor, Irina Shpeckt.

Erickson recently listed a full-floor apartment at the Rosario Candela-designed 778 Park Avenue for $22.5 million. The apartment belongs to the estate of noted philanthropist Celeste Bartos, who passed away in January, The Real Deal previously reported.

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Billionaire William Koch Is Suing Over $300,000 In 'Fake' Wine He Bought That Tastes Like Vinegar

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bill william koch

Billionaire energy magnate William Koch has filed a federal lawsuit against Internet entrepreneur Eric Greenberg for allegedly selling a set of fake wines that taste like vinegar, the New York Daily News reports.

Koch, who has an estimated net-worth of $4 billion, purchased a set of wines from Greenberg, who owns Imperial Cellar, for $300,000 through Zachys Wine Auctions in 2004 and 2005, according to the NYDN.

Now, Koch, who claims the wines are fakes and taste like vinegar, wants his money back. 

Greenberg says he bought the wines "as is" under the terms of the auction and that he didn't knowingly sell Koch fakes, the report said.  

Koch alleges that 24 bottles of wine he purchased from Greenberg are fakes. 

(@KatyaWachtel via GrubStreet)

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The Generational Debt Gap Has Never Been More Clear Than It Is Now

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Much of the attention surrounding Americans' growing debt load has been reserved primarily for two storylines: Millennials getting crushed by student loan debt, and baby boomers who fear they'll never see their nest eggs rebound from the Great Recession.

But never before has the generational debt gap been more apparent than in the pockets of Generation X.

Consumers in their mid-30s and early forties are deeper in debt than another other age group, burdened by underwater home mortgages, residual student debt, and a weakened job market. And for members of the so-called sandwich generation who are also caring for their aging parents, the burden is two-fold.

census report released in June found Gen X saw a 59 percent decline in median household net worth between 2005 to 2010 –– the largest of any age group. 

In an exclusive infographic compiled by consumer credit and loan tool Credit Sesame, here is a closer look at how all three generations are faring.

debt gap

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Stunning Photos Of Holi, The Hindu Festival Of Colors

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People celebrating Holi in India

The Hindu festival of Holi, also referred to as the festival of colors, celebrates the arrival of spring and is associated with the legend of Holika.

In India, Holi is marked by a national holiday, and rightly so. Anyone who ventures out of their home can expect to be smeared in colored powder, sprayed with colored water from pichkaris (water guns), and pelted with water balloons and even eggs.

The Holi festival officially starts tomorrow, but people tend to celebrate all over India — and the world — throughout the week.

Holi has over time arguably become one of the most permissive Hindu festivals, with revelers openly consuming bhang (a beverage concocted from milk and cannabis leaves).

We put together some images of the colorful festival being celebrated in India and around the world.

Colored powders natural and synthetic are sold in markets ahead of Holi.



A worker dries coloured powder for Holi in Gurgaon, India.



Lathimar Holi takes place days before the actual Holi celebration at Barsana, Uttar Pradesh, India. The festivity enacts Hindu Lord Krishna's visit to Radha's village.



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Restaurant Uses Twitter To Call Out Customers Who Missed Their Reservations

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Trendy Los Angeles restaurant Red Medicine recently stirred up controversy for calling out no-shows on Twitter.

Restaurant manager Noah Ellis has taken responsibility for the rant.

Here are some of his tweets. Names of the customers have been blurred to protect their privacy:

red medicine tweets 

Ellis talked to LA Eater about his rant. 

"It's always been a problem here (at the restaurant and in LA as a whole), but it's tricky -- those restaurants that overbook to protect themselves punish the guests who show up on time for their reservations, but not the people who no-show," Ellis told the blog. "I was frustrated, so I blew them up."

Some customers complained on Yelp that the rant was unprofessional. 

But Ellis hasn't backed down, instead continuing to defend himself against his critics on Twitter. 

SEE ALSO: The Future Of Retail [SLIDE DECK]

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Wealthy Russians Are Hiring Ambulances To Beat Moscow Traffic

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ambulance in russia

Wealthy Moscow residents are reportedly hiring "ambulance-taxis" to beat the city's terrible traffic jams, The National Post reports.

The vehicles, which can cost more than $200 an hour and have been advertised on the internet, supposedly use their sirens to glide through standstill traffic.

Now police are on the lookout for such vehicles, according to the National Post.

The paper reports:

A law enforcement source told Izvestiya newspaper that one such vehicle had already been identified. “During a patrol, a medical car was stopped because it was breaking traffic rules,” said the source.

“The driver appeared strange, and did not resemble an ambulance driver at all.

“Police officers opened the automobile to check it and saw that the interior was fitted out like a high-class limousine with comfortable seats for transporting VIP passengers.”

The traffic in Moscow is notoriously bad. In 2011, officials attempted to double the size of the city to deal with traffic snarls and overcrowding. And this winter, hundreds of cars were stuck in a 120-mile-long jam, some for as long as three days, after heavy snow hit the city.

SEE ALSO: Incredible Aerial Photos Show Moscow's Snowiest Winter In 100 Years

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