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Sinkholes in Latin America: The day that the ground opened up in Mexico’s Puebla State: ‘We looked outside and saw the earth moving’ | USA

Voice Of EU



Sitting on a mound a few meters away from a sinkhole that since last Saturday has been causing consternation among the population of Santa María Zacatepec, in Mexico’s Puebla State, Magdalena Xalamihua looks on with sadness as she witnesses several years’ work on the verge of being swallowed up by the earth. Xalamihua, her husband and their two children had only just moved into the house they had put their bodies and souls into building when they were forced to abandon it. At 6.30pm on May 29, a strange hole started to form to the side of the house, as if a monster from a science fiction movie was sucking the ground down from the Earth’s corre. Initially it measured eight meters but it continued to expand quickly until, just hours later, it had become a massive cavity from which sprung water like a Biblical miracle. “We heard something like a rumbling,” says Xalamihua. “We thought it was fireworks, but we looked outside and saw the earth moving and water coming up, like waves. We ran.” Xalamihua still remembers what happened that afternoon with horror. She looks bitterly toward her house, a brick construction that is teetering on the edge of an abyss. “Where are we going to live now?” she asks. Over her head, a huge dark cloud threatens a storm, adding another layer to the chilling scene in Zacatepec.

Local and federal authorities have been curious onlookers at the site of the phenomenon, where the National Guard have cordoned off a wide area around the sinkhole and are patrolling the perimeter to ensure nobody approaches the chasm. Dozens of people have made their way to Zacatepec, drawn in by the media interest in the event, with the press as eager as the scientific community to give answers as to just what happened in this small farming community. Until May 29, life here passed with little more on people’s minds than the coming of the rain and the sun to nurture the fields of corn and legumes.

People have come from the surrounding area to view the phenomenon.
People have come from the surrounding area to view the phenomenon.Teresa de Miguel

Xalamihua explains that on May 15 the family had been living in their house for a year and on May 16 her daughter, María Lisbeth, turned 13. The family decided to hold a double celebration with lunch and a cake. Their home was the fruit of more than a decade of hard work. Heriberto Sánchez had worked as a bricklayer’s assistant and his wife in a nearby restaurant to buy the land and build their long-awaited family home. A migrant from an indigenous region of Veracruz, Xalamihua had been excited to start a new life, in a promised land rich in fertile volcanic soil and free from the violence afflicting her native state. “Together we earned up to 3,000 pesos a month to finish the payments on the land,” says Heriberto. There were many hardships, because almost all of the money was set aside to achieve their dream. But now it has turned into a nightmare and the distressed family are now hoping the state authorities will help them in their hour of need.

At time of writing, Puebla State Governor Miguel Barbosa had not visited Zacatepec but he had admitted that the situation is a “matter of enormous risk.” Barbosa has told his constituents that he will “remain vigilant” to prevent a human tragedy from unfolding. “It’s a geological fault that must be treated with the utmost caution, technically and with all preventive measures in place,” the governor said. A team of geologists from the Meritorious Autonomous University of Puebla are working on a report as to what occurred in Zacatepec, using their years of experience studying the sulfuric eruptions of the Popocatépetl volcano that dominates these vast plains. The authorities have said that a technical report could be ready by the end of June. But the university team are not the only experts who have cast their gaze over the Zacatepec sinkhole.

Delfino Hernández is a geological engineer at the Geological Hazards Laboratory of Mexico City’s Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM). Hernández and his team were due to arrive in Zacatepec at the weekend to look into the sinkhole after following developments closely in the media. Before examining the situation on the ground, Hernández said that the most likely explanation was a natural phenomenon, an active fault line that was waiting for a push from nature to display its power. “These faults are already present within the soil. They may have existed for 5,000 to 10,000 years before being reactivated. It just needs nature to provide the impact so that they appear on the surface. This phenomenon, as far as I can see, was going to happen sooner or later,” Hernández says. These phenomena occur, adds the geologist, because in certain areas the ground has “weaknesses,” places where the soil is in constant movement. It is not something that occurs without “warning,” he noted: geologists can keep watch on small fractures and fissures that can later lead to incidents like the Zacatepec sinkhole. “A fault is a zone of fractures along which there has been a displacement of blocks of rock in the crust. It is a discontinuity that forms due to the breaking up of large rocks in the earth. If this fault is said to be 20 meters deep, which is how it appears, it is likely that is far deeper underneath.”

What could have triggered the sinkhole in Zacatepec? “Puebla State commonly has earthquakes that occur before they reach Mexico City. We don’t know with certainty if there were after-effects from the 2017 earthquake, but taking into account the size of the fracture it could be that the soils have been weakened and it would only require humidity for them to become detached,” says Hernández, adding that the sinkhole has filled with water due to subterranean filtration. Hernández points out that in Puebla there have been no geotechnical studies or mapping of geological risks carried out, which is why the Zacatepec incident came as such a surprise. “What needs to be done is to stop looking at the sinkhole and start looking in the area surrounding it, to see if there are other fractures of a similar size or smaller ones. A study needs to be carried out immediately, cartographical mapping with aerial photographs and continuous monitoring to see if they are moving on a daily basis,” the geologist states.

Magdalena Xalamihua’s house, on the edge of the sinkhole.
Magdalena Xalamihua’s house, on the edge of the sinkhole.Teresa de Miguel

While scientific experts continue to investigate, Santa María Zacatepec has become an attraction for residents of Puebla. Local police have been forced to close the dusty side street that leads to the sinkhole to prevent a traffic jam on ground that has already proven itself to be fragile. Whole families descend on the site to witness the phenomenon first hand. Many are disappointed on arrival, because the area has been sealed off and from a distance all it is possible to make out is a large splash of black.

Nicasio Torres, 62, has lived in Zacatepec all his life. He says he has never seen anything like this before and shares the fears of his neighbors. “We worry that it will continue to get bigger,” he says after arriving at the sinkhole on an old bicycle. “What is going to happen to us? Are they going to evacuate us? We don’t have anywhere to go!” he stresses, while nearby a woman with her children offers candy to curious day-trippers. Standing next to Torres is Jorge, a portly resident of the area. He adds there is a general preoccupation among neighboring communities over the sinkhole. “Where I live people are asking what is happening over here. They’re worried. We don’t know what to do. We can only wait an see what the authorities’ report says.” The day-trippers have similar questions for the journalists covering the incident, eager to satisfy their own curiosity. What do you know? Has there been a study? Have you spoken to the experts? Are the authorities doing anything? A reporter flies a drone over the area and men, women, children and senior citizens gather around, desperate to see images of the huge sinkhole.

A local takes a selfie with the sinkhole in the background.
A local takes a selfie with the sinkhole in the background.Teresa de Miguel

Xalamihua finds so much rubber-necking distasteful. She asks that people think about her situation because she is fed up with being asked so many questions as she and her family have been the most-affected by the geological fault. She knows she has lost her house, her children’s inheritance, for good and her concern now is where they are going to live. She asks that the local mayor, the state governor and the president of Mexico do something to help. “It’s tough to take and it’s sad. Our whole life was there,” she says through red eyes. The dark cloud over her head begins to spit out fat drops of rain that form small puddles on this treacherous soil while, in the distance, the wind whips furiously across the surface water of the new lake of Zacatepec.

English version by Rob Train.

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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

Voice Of EU



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

Voice Of EU



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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Art fakes: Disputed ‘Basquiats’ seized by FBI shake the US art world | Culture

Voice Of EU



While New York surrenders once again to the genius of Jean-Michel Basquiat with an exhibition of unpublished work curated by his family, in Orlando (Florida), there is considerably more controversy over the work of the artist who died at the age of 27. An exhibition at the Orlando Museum of Art dedicated to the former close friend of Andy Warhol, entitled Heroes & Monsters, has cost the head of that gallery his job, while the FBI investigates the authenticity of 25 of the works, not to mention the threats made by the director against an expert who had been commissioned to evaluate the authorship.

Although the scandal began to take shape in February, when the exhibition opened, the FBI raid took place last Friday with the seizure of the paintings with a contested attribution to Basquiat. Aaron De Groft, director and chief executive of the museum, has relentlessly defended that these are genuine works, while emphasizing that it is not a museum’s role to certify the authenticity of the works it exhibits. “[The paintings] came to us authenticated by the best Basquiat specialists,” he told the local NBC television station in February.

De Groft had for months championed the importance of the paintings, asserting that they are worth millions of dollars, until an expert showed up who’d been hired by the owners of the paintings and she began to question his version of events. The director was fired on Tuesday, just two business days after agents seized the 25 suspicious works. The museum’s board of trustees met for hours that day, but not before warning employees that anyone who dared to discuss the matter with journalists would suffer the same fate as De Groft. Hence, it is impossible to know the version not only of the former director, but of any worker at the center. Nor can any information be gleaned at the New York exhibition, a mixture of unpublished work and memorabilia, where organizers are fearful of the devaluation caused by the Orlando scandal.

FBI agents during the seizure of the dubious Basquiat paintings at the Orlando Museum of Art on June 24.
FBI agents during the seizure of the dubious Basquiat paintings at the Orlando Museum of Art on June 24.Willie J. Allen Jr. (AP)

“It is important to note that there is still nothing that makes us think that the museum has been or is the subject of an investigation,” Emilia Bourmas-Free told the local chain on behalf of the art gallery. Cynthia Brumback, chairwoman of the museum’s board of trustees, expressed itself in similar terms in a statement, saying that the board of trustees is “extremely concerned about several issues related to the exhibition Heroes & Monsters,” including “the recent revelation of an inappropriate e-mail correspondence sent to academia concerning the authentication of some of the artwork in the exhibition,” as reported by The New York Times.

The statement refers to a disparaging message sent by De Groft to the specialist hired for the expert opinion, cited in the FBI investigation as “Expert 2″ but who the New York Times has confirmed is Jordana Moore Saggese, an associate professor of art at the University of Maryland. This expert, who received $60,000 for a written report, asked the museum not to have her name associated with the exhibition, according to the FBI affidavit. Angry, De Groft threatened to reveal the amount of the payment and share the details with her employer, the university.

“You want us to put out there you got $60,000 to write this?” wrote De Groft, according to the affidavit. “Ok then. Shut up. You took the money. Stop being holier than thou. Do your academic thing and stay in your limited lane.” The board said it has launched an official process to address the matter. The scandal was precipitated a few hours after the closing of the exhibition, which had originally been meant to travel to Italy.

Facade of the Orlando Museum of Art, with the promotional poster of the exhibition dedicated to Basquiat, on June 2.
Facade of the Orlando Museum of Art, with the promotional poster of the exhibition dedicated to Basquiat, on June 2.John Raoux (AP)

The mystery of the cardboard box

But how did the paintings get to the Orlando Museum? The museum and its owners maintain that the paintings were found in a Los Angeles storage unit in 2012. The New York Times reported that questions arose over one of the paintings, made on the back of a cardboard shipping box with FedEx lettering in a typeface that was not used until 1994, six years after Basquiat’s death, according to a designer who worked for the company.

Both De Groft and the owners of the paintings maintain that they were made in 1982 and that Basquiat sold them for $5,000 to a famous television screenwriter, now deceased, who deposited them in a storage unit and forgot about them.

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