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Granada University: Study of Christopher Columbus’ DNA set to reveal his true origins | Culture

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Thanks to the most advanced genetic technology available, one of the greatest historical enigmas of all time may be solved next October: where Christopher Columbus, the explorer credited with the discovery of America, was born. An investigation undertaken by Granada University, requiring the collaboration of laboratories in Granada, Florence, Rome, Texas and Mexico, will determine his place of birth based on a genetic analysis of the navigator’s bones and a comparison with those thought to belong to his family members. What the history books have long held to be true may soon have to be revised. “We are at the most decisive stage, after a long wait for the advanced genetic analysis technology that would guarantee the best chances of success,” say the researchers behind the project, which is called Columbus DNA: His True Identity.

Columbus died on May 20, 1506, in Valladolid, with his place of birth still not irrefutably established. José Antonio Lorente, professor of Legal and Forensic Medicine at the University of Granada, together with anthropologist Juan Carlos Álvarez Merino and historian Marcial Castro exhumed the remains of Columbus and his son Hernando in 2003 from a tomb in the Seville Cathedral. Given the tomb is on Spain’s cultural heritage list (BIC), it was a complex process. When finally some of the bones were exhumed, they were transferred to Granada University, together with those of Diego Columbus, the explorer’s brother, buried in La Cartuja-Pickman factory in Seville. Once at the university, they were kept in a fortified room. During that stage of the investigation, the family tie between the three sets of skeletal remains – the two brothers, Christopher and Diego, and Columbus’ son, Hernando – was confirmed.

Anthropologist José Antonio Lorente at a press conference.
Anthropologist José Antonio Lorente at a press conference.MIGUELANGELMOLINA / EFE

The Dominican Republic, however, maintains that the navigator rests in the cathedral in Santo Domingo, in a coffin found in 1877 with the inscription “Christopher Columbus.” This claim is made due to the fact that the bodies of the explorer and his son were transferred from the Iberian peninsula in 1523 to Hispaniola – a territory that is today divided between the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic and the French-speaking Haiti – where Christopher Columbus wished to be buried. The bodies remained in the cathedral in Santo Domingo until 1793, when Spain ceded the Caribbean island to France. The coffins were then transported to the cathedral in Havana, Cuba, where they remained until Cuba gained independence in 1898. From there, they were sent back to Spain and placed in the Seville Cathedral, where the bodies have rested ever since in an impressive tomb crafted by Spanish artist Arturo Mélida. The researchers are now trying to get the government of the Dominican Republic to hand over the rest of the remains of what they presume to be Christopher Columbus for analysis.

The remains have been sent for analysis to be carried out by the university itself and different European and US laboratories. To avoid any suspicion of foul play should it be proved that the explorer was not from the Italian city of Genoa, as has generally been believed until now, Italy is also involved. The results will be made public in October in a documentary directed by Regis Francisco López, produced by Spain’s public broadcaster, RTVE, and Story Productions, the same producers who made last year’s documentary on the European-Berber origins of the Guanches, the indigenous people of Tenerife.

There are theories that Columbus was a converted Jew and falsified his ancestry.
There are theories that Columbus was a converted Jew and falsified his ancestry.

The theory most widely accepted by historians states that Columbus was born in Genoa in northern Italy in 1451 to Giovanni Colombus and Giovanna Fontanarrosa, a family of weavers. Various historical documents, such as his son Hernando Columbus’ will, confirm this. Doubts persist, however, since Columbus himself never wrote a word in Italian, using instead Valencian, Mallorcan, Galician and Portuguese. In fact, there are numerous theories that maintain that the explorer hid or falsified his origins either because he was a converted Jew or because of legal complications regarding his inheritance. Reputed historians have stated that he came from countries as diverse as Spain, Portugal, Croatia and Poland.

According to a statement from the researchers at Granada University, “this is the most ambitious scientific research yet on Columbus’ origins and compiles the work developed by the different theses that have emerged so far and that have possible genetic information to contrast. Valencia, Portugal, Galicia, Navarre and Mallorca will be some of the possibilities analyzed.”

Meeting of experts at the faculty of medicine at Granada University during the DNA analysis of the skeletal remains attributed to Christopher Columbus.
Meeting of experts at the faculty of medicine at Granada University during the DNA analysis of the skeletal remains attributed to Christopher Columbus.Fermín Rodríguez

International congress

Last week, international authors arrived in Granada to discuss their theories about Columbus’ origins and deliver the material they have collected so far, including documentary sources, historical records and even genetic remains to Professor Lorente. Francesc Albardaner i Llorens, member of the Catalan Society of Historical Studies, believes Columbus was born in Valencia into a family of converted Jews. According to this historian, Columbus’ father was an emigrant who arrived in Valencia from Liguria in Italy and married a woman from Valencia. “Due to being the son of a mixed marriage, he could present himself as Genoese, as well as a naturalized subject of the Crown of Aragon,” says Albardaner i Llorens.

Fernando Branco, a professor at Lisbon University, believes that the explorer was Portuguese. According to Branco, an honorary member of the Academy of Portuguese History, Columbus’s real name was Pedro Ataíde and he was a corsair or privateer who fled to Castile in 1485. Meanwhile, historians José and Antonio Mattos e Silva maintain that he was the bastard son of the Portuguese princess, Leonor de Aviz. A third theory involving Portugal is proposed by the researcher Carlos Evaristo, who insists that, in reality, Columbus was the son of Ferdinand, the duke of Visue and Beja, and Isabel Gonçalves, a woman of Jewish descent. According to this version, Columbus would have been called Salvador Fernandes Zarco, and been born in the town of Cuba, in Portugal’s Alentejo region. As an adult, he became a captain and spied on Castile on behalf of King John II of Portugal. The author describes Columbus as a kind of “007 agent” for Spain’s neighbor.

On the other hand, the doctor José Mari Ercilla claims that the explorer was born in the Spanish region of Navarre, in the town of Ainza, and that he carried the HLA-B27 antigen, characteristic of the Cagots, a marginalized minority living between Spain and France. He says that only in Navarre and America are there towns called Ainza. “This name has not existed in any other part of the world except in America after it was discovered by Columbus. It’s a place name that only someone born there could know because the Columbus family, according to the Navarre royal censuses, inhabited this village of only five houses.”

The painting ‘First landing of Christopher Columbus in America‘ (1862), by Dióscoro Teófilo Puebla y Tolín, from Prado Museum collection.
The painting ‘First landing of Christopher Columbus in America‘ (1862), by Dióscoro Teófilo Puebla y Tolín, from Prado Museum collection.

Meanwhile, Gabriel Verd Martorell, president of the Christopher Columbus Cultural Association, maintains that Columbus was the son of Charles, prince of Viana, who was the brother of Ferdinand II of Aragón, and of Margalida Colom from Mallorca. According to this historian, Columbus was born in Felanitx in Mallorca, in 1460, and named an island he discovered in 1498 off the Venezuelan coast Margarita as a tribute to his mother.

However, Eduardo Esteban Meruéndano, president of the Galician Christopher Columbus Association, Celso García de la Riega, believes Columbus hailed from Galicia. But Alfonso C. Sanz Núñez, associate professor in the Department of Regional Geographic Analysis at Madrid’s Complutense University, claims that the explorer was born in Espinosa de Henares in Guadalajara on June 18, 1435, and is buried in Cogulludo in Guadalajara. He says Columbus was the grandson of Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, an admiral of Castile and senior officer of the king in the navy, and the son of Aldonza de Mendoza, duchess of Arjona. According to Sanz Núñez, when his mother died, she left him 13,000 maravedies – old Spanish currency, one of which would be equivalent to around €16 today – but this inheritance was stolen by his uncle, the marquis of Santillana. Given his lineage, the Catholic Monarchs, Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand I named Columbus “Admiral of the Ocean Sea.”

Clearly, there are still many doubts about Columbus’s true origins.

English version by Heather Galloway.

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The Rise and Fall of Victoria’s Secret: A dictatorship of perfection and misogyny: a look into Victoria’s Secret’s angels and demons | Society

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For the lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret, once the head of an empire, the past decade has been turbulent. Gone are the golden days when the world stood still to watch the brand’s annual show. Its carefully chosen models, the so-called angels, represented a beauty standard unattainable to most women, and they paraded the runway in glittering wings and minuscule diamond-cut lingerie.

The shows, which lasted for 23 years, were considered the Super Bowl of fashion. They featured performances by pop singers including Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, The Weeknd, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé. Until its last edition, held in Paris in 2018, the event represented the fantasy that Victoria’s Secret marketed. It launched the careers of models Gisele Bündchen, Adriana Lima, Heidi Klum and Alessandra Ambrossio, among others.

The women showed off almost superhuman physiques, sculpted through rigorous training and starved in the days leading up to the parade. But the brand’s image no longer has a place in a #MeToo-era society, now more willing to champion body positive, diversity and inclusivity and to denounce sexual harassment and the hypersexualization of women’s bodies.

From left to right, in the front row, Victoria's Secret models Izabel Goulart, Selita Ebanks, Karolina Kurkova, Gisele Bündchen, Alessandra Ambrosio and Adriana Lima.
From left to right, in the front row, Victoria’s Secret models Izabel Goulart, Selita Ebanks, Karolina Kurkova, Gisele Bündchen, Alessandra Ambrosio and Adriana Lima.Jon Kopaloff (Getty)

The new three-part documentary series The Rise and Fall of Victoria’s Secret explores the brand’s shadows. The production, which premiered on June 18 at the Tribeca Film Festival, combines first-hand accounts with deep investigation to reveal the brand’s inner workings. “Truth is not what it seems, as the underworld of fashion, the billionaire class, and Jeffrey Epstein are revealed to all be inextricably intertwined with the fall of this legendary brand,” reads the summary of the miniseries, directed by Peter Berg and Matt Tyrnauer. It will be available to stream on Hulu starting July 14.

A culture of misogyny and the descent to hell

The film promises to uncover the lingerie empire’s links with sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein. A 2019 New York Times investigation revealed that in the 1990s, a financial adviser close to Leslie H. Wexner, executive director of the company L Brands—Victoria’s Secret parent company—worked as a model recruiter for the brand in exchange for sexual favors. This adviser would later be found to be Epstein, a millionaire accused of sex trafficking who later commited suicide in jail while awaiting trial. Subsequently, Wexner has repeatedly claimed to feel “ashamed” by his friendly relationship with the pedophile.

But Victoria’s Secret’s fall in popularity came before this scandal. In 2018, the company lost almost 50% of its value. That same year, which marked the last parade, the show reached the lowest audience in its history since its start in 1995: 3.3 million viewers compared to the usual 10 million.

That year, the company’s marketing director, Ed Razek, made clear his opposition to gender diversity in an interview with Vogue. “Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is. It is the only one of its kind in the world,” said the 71-year-old manager, who resigned from his position in 2019.

The rampant misogyny and harassment from company higher-ups was the final straw for the brand. In 2021, the New York Times published an extensive investigation entitled “‘Angels’ in Hell: The Culture of Misogyny Inside Victoria’s Secret,” in which more than 30 executives, employees, contractors and models denounced the company’s practices.

Rebel Angels and a change of direction

The Victoria’s Secret bubble ended up bursting with the resignation of several of its most iconic figures: Adriana Lima hung up her wings in 2018, claiming to be fed up with the dictatorship of perfection and the pressures on her physique. “I will not take of [sic] my clothes again for an empty cause,” she wrote in an Instagram post.

Gisele Bündchen, who signed her contract with the brand at the age of 19, confessed in her autobiography that after years parading in her underwear, she began to feel uncomfortable. She wrote that she felt “less and less relaxed” when photographed on the catwalk in just a bikini or a thong. In the same book, she wrote of suffering from panic attacks and suicidal thoughts during one of the most successful periods of her career.

Victoria’s Secret changed directions in 2020, when L Brands sold the company to the Sycamore Partners fund for just over $1 billion (€953 million), in a last-ditch effort to save the brand.

After Raezk resigned, in a last attempt to save its reputation, the company hired the transgender model Valentina Sampaio. It also included Winnie Harlow, a Canadian model with vitiligo, as an angel, and Lorena Durán became the brand’s first plus-size model.

Seeking to adapt to changing social norms, in 2021, the company announced partnerships with influential figures in culture and sports: American soccer player Megan Rapinoe, Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, Chinese skier Eileen Gu and plus-size model Paloma Elsesser. It also announced that it would no longer refer to its models as “angels.” With that once-unthinkable gesture, Victoria’s Secret finally returned to earth.

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Sex education: The creator of CLIMAX: ‘Good sex is like cooking, but there aren’t recipes for female pleasure on the internet’ | Society

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Our ways of watching television have changed. No longer do we sit down to see what’s on TV, instead subscribing to platforms where we can watch our favorite content. But can that formula translate to content beside series, documentaries and movies? Can it be used to change the way we experience sex education? CLIMAX, a platform of sex education videos, is trying it out.

The platform started as an explicit educational series dedicated to female pleasure. Far from pornography, it was particularly directed towards women and sought to give advice and ideas for greater self-knowledge and sexual enjoyment. But that was just the beginning. As Camille Mariau, CLIMAX’s director of projects, explains, they are currently working on “a monthly membership platform dedicated to sexual wellbeing. The users will ahve access to periodic new content, ordered by topic (pleasrue for people with vulvas, for those with penises, tantric sex, oral sex, post-partum sex, etc.). We really want to create the perfect guide to help our users deconstruct their ideas about sexuality.” Currently, the platform has partnerships with educational and healthcare institutions, in order to bring education about female sexuality to all parts of society.

Laurène Dorléac is an expert in the technology market and co-creator of CLIMAX. “Not only is female pleasure little understood, but I also realized that taboos around the subject are still very present.” That’s why, despite her lack of experience in the area, she decided to venture into the topic. “Good sex is like cooking: it’s a creative process that requires practice, experimentation and care to have a good flavor. There are plenty of recipes and cooking classes, but we can’t find anything satisfactory about female pleasure on the Internet! That’s what led me to create the platform, so that we can all have access to better sexual education.”

The project brought together international studies, advice from psychologists and sexologists and over 100,000 testimonies. “Pleasure is a very serious thing, and it deserves a very rigorous approach,” she says.

CLIMAX comes to Spain

While the project was founded in France, currently, 40 percent of its subscribers are outside of the country, largely in the United States and United Kingdom. The team is optimistic about the Spanish market. “The market seems to be ready for a project like this. More than talking about pleasure, we really want people to have easy access to safe information about sexual education,” says Camille Mariau. Since the project launched in Spain just a few months ago, most of its users are between 28 and 45 years old, and, surprisingly, they are divided 50/50 between men and women.

To spread the news about the project, they have the help of Teresa Riott, known for her role as Nerea in the Netflix series Valeria, who narrates the videos. “It seems to me like a new idea in education, and it’s very necessary in order to better understand all the possibilities of our pleasure. CLIMAX has also had success in other countries. I’ve learned a lot about female sexuality in the process,” the actress explains.

She emphasizes that “they are videos that you can watch alone, in private, and you can experiment,” which “gives people confidence to explore their bodies without concerns.”

The platform’s content is explicit, but tasteful; obvious, but well-presented. It repeats explanations we have read in plenty of books, but which acquire a new dimension when we can see them on a screen: without drawings, diagrams or taboos, simply showing how to stimulate a vulva. The videos are meant to educate, not to excite, and they have no resemblance to porn. The images are accompanied by Riott’s voice, which explains each step in a clear and simple way, adding touches of scientific information. It explains not only how to stimulate the vulva, but also how and why the stimulation works.

We’ve learned that it’s much easier to exercise at home, or even to do home improvement projects, with the help of a Youtube tutorial video that shows us each step. So it makes all the sense in the world that we can use tutorials to learn how to excite our bodies, moving step-by-step over each part of our anatomy.

The platform is also notable for its diversity, not only in the appearances of the vulvas on screen, but also in the techniques proposed. It includes videos of 19 different masturbation techniques. In Spain, female masturbation has experienced a revolution in recent years. The brand Lelo, specialized in clitoral suction toys, increased its sales by 440% in 2019. The Satisfyer toy was even more popular: it registered an increase in sales of 1,300% in 2020, to the point that it had to resort to European countries to restock the toys during one of the busiest months of the year. Those toys finally normalized female masturbation. Vibrators themselves have also experienced their own revolution. Their technology and shapes have become more sophisticated, and they have become more effective and discreet. And Gwyneth Paltrow’s website Goop now features Viva la Vulva, an “extra-silent” vibrator model that can be used at any time without making any noise. Such devices are proof that manufacturers have taken pains to innovate their products for female pleasure, until recently a forgotten sector. Gone are the old dildos and penis replicas.

Beyond masturbation, with or without the help of toys, the content of CLIMAX “is like an encyclopedia of ideas that you can choose and use to enrich your sexual life. It can help you be more creative, learn moves that women with vulvas might like, etc. It can also be used as a basis to start a conversation with your partner about what you like, what you want to try or not. We want to give people the opportunity to get to know their own body or the body of their partner better,” explains Mariau.

To that end, the first two seasons are entirely scientifically based. To develop the content, 74 international scientific studies, widely referenced and accepted by the scientific community, were consulted. “There is one study that I find special: Shere Hite’s ‘The New Hite Report,’ a bestseller that has sold tens of millions of copies, which describes how women feel during different sexual activities and when they orgasm with greater frequency,” Mariau says.

In addition to a surge in vibrator sales, women have been consuming more porn than ever in recent years. According to a study by Pornhub on porn consumption in the pandemic, women increased the amount of porn they consumed by 17.5%. Audio porn, one of the latest developments in the industry, is particularly popular among women. And websites for pornographic content aimed at women, taking into account the tastes and aesthetics that female arousal requires, have proliferated in recent years.

Mission: equality in pleasure

The work of Shere Hite is one of the great sources of inspiration for CLIMAX. The late writer and sexologist was especially interested in the female orgasm. She interviewed some 3,500 American women, from prostitutes to former nuns, to create ‘The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality’ in 1976. Among her conclusions stood out two ideas: first, that few women reached orgasm through intercourse (only 30%), although they did through masturbation. Secondly, the clitoris was the key to climax.

CLIMAX is organized into several themes, which are available in different subscription packs: external pleasure (10 episodes), internal pleasure (11 episodes) and tantra exercises (7 episodes).

“Our mission is to equalize pleasure in a world where women report being less satisfied than men in their sexual activities, feeling less pleasure and having fewer orgasms. Education will make it possible,” the expert concludes.



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Sonny Barger, founder of Hells Angels, dies at 83 | USA

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Hells Angels founding member Sonny Barger in 1979.
Hells Angels founding member Sonny Barger in 1979.Janet Fries (Getty Images)

Sonny Barger, the founding member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, died on Thursday in California at the age of 83. Barger was the face of the biker gang that became one of the main counterculture movements in the United States in the 1960s. Barger’s family confirmed his death in a message on Facebook. “Please know that I passed peacefully after a brief battle with cancer,” the message stated.

Sonny Barger – whose real name was Ralph Hubert Barger – was born in northern California, and taught himself to ride a motorcycle when he was 11 years old. It was an American-made Cushman scooter. From that moment on, he tried to only assemble motorbikes with parts made in the US, a task that became increasingly difficult as the world became more open to international trade.

In 1957, he founded the Hells Angels chapter in Oakland, California. This chapter was founded nine years after the first one opened in Fontana, in the same state. Barger was the national president of the Hells Angels, a group that became notorious for its links to violent and organized crime. Barger was arrested more than 20 times and spent 13 years of his life in prison for different crimes. In November 1992, for example, he was released from federal prison after spending four years behind bars for organizing to kill members of the rival Outlaws Motorcycle Club. When his parole came to an end in 1994, 700 bikers came out to celebrate the news.

Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger at the Altamont Free Concert in 1969.
Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger at the Altamont Free Concert in 1969.

But the darkest chapter of the Hells Angels took place on December 6, 1969. That night, the biker members were hired as security guards at the Altamont Free Concert in California, where the Rolling Stones performed. Representatives of the band reportedly offered the Hells Angels $500 worth of beer in exchange for providing security. Members of the biker gang had worked without incident as security at concerts for bands such as The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. But at the Altamont Free Concert, which brought together 300,000 people, the situation became violent. During the Rolling Stones’ performance, fights broke out in the audience. Meredith Hunter, an 18-year-old concertgoer, was stabbed to death by a member of the Hells Angels after approaching the stage. The incident was caught on camera and became a central scene in the Maysles Brothers documentary Gimme Shelter, in which Barger admitted the bikers did not have the training to do security work. A few days after the concert, in a call to a local radio station, he said: “I ain’t no cop. I ain’t never gonna police nothin.’”

The incident stained the image of the Hells Angels and Barger – who had the name Hell’s Angels Oakland tattooed on his right shoulder – struggled for several years to change the gang’s violent reputation. “Catholics probably commit more crimes than we ever thought of,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1994 after being released from prison on parole. “Probably politicians commit more crimes.”

Writer Hunter S. Thompson compared the biker gang to the student protesters of the 1960s, who paved the way for civil rights in America. “The difference between the student radicals and the Hells Angels is that the students are rebelling against the past, while the Angels are fighting the future. Their only common ground is their disdain for the present, or the status quo,” he wrote in his book Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.

The Hells Angels were one of America’s most striking subcultures, and their influence can be seen in many areas of society. In one of his books, Barger claims that Harley-Davidson – the motorcycle brand favored by the group – adopted the gang’s ideas into its models. Barger played himself in the 1967 film Hells Angels on Wheels, where he appeared alongside Jack Nicholson. He also had a small role in the TV show Sons of Anarchy.

Barger was a difficult character to define. He got up at 4.30am to feed his dogs and horses, then worked out for three hours, doing weights and going jogging. By 8am, he was on his motorcycle and driving down an off-beaten track. Unlike the stereotypical biker, he wore a helmet that covered his entire face. This was due to the fact that he had his vocal cords removed in 1982 after suffering from throat cancer.

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