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SRSLY: Whatever the Opposite of Art for Art’s Sake Is

Your three-minute read on the best reporting you probably missed.


The best reporting you probably missed

David Epstein

Welcome to SRSLY, an (experimental) newsletter highlighting under-exposed accountability journalism. We'll distill the important information from investigative reporting you probably missed, and deliver it to you in three-minutes-or-less worth of reading. Sign up to have it delivered to your inbox. (You can, of course, unsubscribe at the first whiff of a bad joke.)

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Switzerland is a hub of innovation. How else could the Swiss have invented cheese with holes in it, Ricola ads, or knives that can do 97 different things terribly? But the Swiss are particularly innovative when it comes to storing money and assets. Did you know that there’s an offshore Swiss bank in the water by Coney Island, and if you ship your money there in a hotdog bun you don’t have to pay taxes?? … Okay, that may not be entirely true. But it would fit just fine with some Swiss tax shenanigans. Like, as the New York Times reported, allowing bajillionaires to stick artistic masterpieces in storage containers at a “free port” to … for f**** sake, I give up … avoid sales tax after purchase. Sales tax. This week’s W’s, which I’m too depressed to count:


The Times said that “more than a million” artistic masterworks created so that we could gaze at them and perhaps for just one moment transcend our base materialism (as one NYT commenter put it) are sitting in drab gray shipping containers in the free port zone near Geneva. That includes about 1,000 works by Picasso, the Times reported, which means about 2 percent of Pablo’s oeuvre is there. The Times also said that the port has … I give up again … “treasures from the glory days of ancient Rome.”


It’s not just Switzerland (though it leads the pack). The Times reported that Singapore, Monaco and Luxembourg have all recently opened free ports for the storage of art, wine and jewelry. Also, in 2015, Newark, Delaware(?) opened a free port. I guess I owe Switzerland an apology. Or I owe Newark — the one in Delaware, which is the Switzerland of America — a kick in the face with a golf shoe.

They Said It

I’m just going to let you ponder this one on your own:

“But the free ports are drawing more criticism and concern, namely: Are they bad for art?” — The NYT article


If the term “therapeutic orphans” makes you think of puppy adoption, think again. According to a ProPublica article, it should make you think of pregnant women. Researchers use that term to refer to people reliant on drugs that haven’t been safety tested in a relevant population. So, while the CDC says that up to 90 percent of pregnant women use drugs to treat everything from morning sickness to high blood pressure to depression, we know almost nothing about possible dangers of those drugs for pregnant women. This stems in part from the well-meaning desire not to test potentially dangerous drugs on pregnant women, except it actually means we just test the drugs on pregnant women in a less controlled setting. As one expert put it: “We learn on the backs of [pregnant] women while pretending we don’t experiment on pregnant women.”

#facepalm of the Week

It sounds like a [bad] film treatment: A banker needs his bathroom redone; a plumber needs to know which companies are about to be acquired. Barter system ensues. Can they do it all — and get the girl — before time runs out?? … Well, no, no they can’t. The SEC alleges that plumber Gary Pusey (who pleaded guilty last Friday) did free bathroom remodeling for banker Steven McClatchey in return for insider tips on mergers and acquisitions. Unfortunately for both men, Pusey seems to have so exquisitely timed his investments in 10 companies just before their acquisitions were announced that the SEC raised both eyebrows. Now both men face criminal charges. McClatchey’s lawyer declined to comment to media outlets. Starring Channing Tatum.

(h/t @eisingerj)

Tweet of The Week

There’s a jumping the shark joke in here somewhere.

Additional research by Kate Brown.

Tips are appreciated. The paper kind, or the green paper kind.

ProPublica does not vouch for the accuracy of stories appearing on SRSLY. We select, review and summarize key points from accountability stories that may not have gotten wide exposure. But we are not able to independently vet or vouch for the accuracy of stories produced by others. We will inform readers if we learn that stories have been challenged publicly or corrected.

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