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International Briefs

International Briefs
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Power Shift

It’s a unique, even historic moment in global politics and for women and the proverbial glass ceiling. Finland last week elected Sanna Marin, 34, as prime minister, making her the youngest head of state in the world. New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern is 39, while Ukrainian premier Oleksiy Honcharuk is 35. More remarkably, Ms Marin heads a left-wing coalition whose five parties are all led by women, three of whom are under 35. Her cabinet will contain 12 women and seven men—at 63 percent, the female component is the highest in the European Union.

Thanks to the historic vote, Finns are literally lapping up the global attention as the world’s media hails this incredible empowering moment.

No less inspiring is the uncovering of Marin’s backstory. She was raised in what is called a “rainbow family”, living in a rented apartment with her mother and her mother’s female partner. She told a local website that as a child she felt “invisible” because she was unable to talk openly about her family. She was the first person in her family to go to a university and also the first to get into politics.

She joined the Social Democrats, becoming an MP in 2015 when she was just 30. Last June, she joined the cabinet under her predecessor, as transport and communications minister. Marin has a 22-month-old daughter and is now the proud symbol of gender equality in politics.

Going Bananas

It seems an absurd example of art. Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan taped a banana to a wall, titled it “Comedian” and priced it at $120,000. It was an ordinary banana, not sculpted, but it resurrected an age-old question: What constitutes art? Cattelan is known for stretching the definition. In 2016, he created a functioning, 18-karat gold toilet, an expensive counterpoint to Marcel Duchamp’s store-bought urinal which he put on a pedestal.

Yoko Ono, better known as John Lennon’s widow, put an apple in a glass case and exhibited it at a price of $200. More controversial was Tracey Emin’s “My Bed” which consisted of her unmade bed strewn with body fluids and surrounded with condoms and unwashed underwear. “My Bed” went under the hammer for $4.3 million at Christie’s in 2014.

When it comes to art, there’s no accounting for tastes. Or taste, as was the case with Cattelan’s banana.

Best Technology of 2019

This is the time when tech magazines and dedicated websites bring out their annual list of the best tech products of the year. Based on their evaluation, the mobile phones that earned the most marks was the Motorola Moto G7 in the budget category and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 in the high-end one while Apple’s iPhone 11 got great marks for its upgrades and price drop. Others that made the cut were OnePlus 7 Pro, Samsung Galaxy A50 and Google Pixel 3A. Other tech products that experts were raving about were Apple watch series 5, Fitbit Versa 2, Apple AirPods Pro, and Jabra Elite 75t earbuds, while in the laptop category, the HP Spectre x 360 13 and the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 were the top two models for 2019.

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