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19 Feb 10:52

Porn’s Latest Trend Is Scrawny Young Men Who Look Like Pre-Teens

by Mark Hay

Last October, porn studio Reality Kings released a scene with the nondescript title "Rock Hard," in which Phoenix Marie—a ten-year industry veteran in her mid-30s—decompresses after a workout only to be distracted by her "stepson" loudly jamming on his guitar in the garage. She stomps off to chew him out—a seemingly by-the-numbers MILF porn premise.

There we find Conor Coxxx (link NSFW)—a shaggy-haired, extremely pale, rail-thin 20-something—standing about a head shorter than the five-foot-nine-inch Phoenix. After berating the compliant Coxxx, Phoenix realizes he's turned on by her verbal abuse and strips him down, manhandling him and whipping his body around like a rag doll while—in an inspired, athletic bout of role reversal—holding him upside down in a standing 69 position. It's an attention grabber.

Coxxx doesn't look like the typical male porn star, something he readily admits: "I knew I didn't have the height or the looks that other guys had, and I've always looked several years younger than my actual age," he says.

Indeed, his tiny body implicitly breaks age-old porn tropes: He doesn't tower over his co-star, he doesn't exude normative masculinity, and he's dominated because he's a tiny man in the arms of a woman of average stature. He's not alone, either:male porn stars with similar frames have grown increasingly popular in the industry of late—there's Jordi "El Nino" Polla, Sam Bourne, Buddy Hollywood, and a fair number of lesser known actors who spring up often on BBM and MILF specialty sites. This is thanks in part to the changing economics of porn production, which as of late favors featuring more diverse body types.

There's never been absolute homogeneity in male body types in porn—but an archetypal image of the male porn star still exists in American culture, enough so that academics have cited it as a cause of poor self-image amongst men. Logan Pierce, a fairly popular contemporary male porn star, acknowledges that because mainstream porn caters to mainstream male fantasies, "Male performers are usually there to embody the male projection of 'masculinity.'" He tells me that the ideal has shifted over the years from 'roid-raging muscle men to slimmer but still well-defined and conventionally handsome men like himself.

Conor Coxxx with Charlee Chase. Photo from Conor Coxxx

Coxxx first considered entering the porn industry after six years playing guitar in a band called the Last Relapse. Facing yet another impending rent check, he decided to give porn a shot. He went in knowing full well the ideal he was up against, but says that "I was hoping that my endowment could draw enough interest to get steady work." His Hail Mary pass at solvency turned into a career—partially because he started in Atlanta, Georgia, where male talent is relatively scarce. But even in talent-saturated Los Angeles, where he's now based, Coxxx and those with his body type have been able to find a ton of work in recent years.

Stella Cox—one of the biggest female performers of the moment—has performed with a few of these smaller male porn stars;she says the emerging trend comes down to producers searching for new, shocking scenarios. As the ability to profit off of traditional porn plummets in a rapidly changing x-economy, the industry is especially open to twisting norms or shocking sensibilities.

MILF porn, especially, has created an entrenched and reliable market for skinny, non-traditionally masculine men like Coxxx. He's heard from many male fans who tell him they find scenes featuring a non-idealized body type like his more relatable and engaging. Cox adds that she's personally not a huge fan of traditional ideal masculine types, and is confident diversifying bodies and the scenarios ushering them in will engage more women too.

Dr. Roberto Olivardia, a Harvard psychologist who studies male body image in relation to cultural norms, agrees the average male consumer finds porn featuring non-ideal bodies like Coxxx's more appealing—as it's easier to project themselves into. "It benefits the porn industry to feature a diversity of men," he says. "You want as many men to project themselves into the fantasy and see themselves as more similar to them" as you possibly can.

Even if traditional male body types continue to dominate mainstream porn, or at least it's major scenes, performers like Coxxx and Polla and the like have let the genie out of the bottle. Scrawny dudes are now just as sexualizable as the ideal masculine form in the pornographic world. The fact that they can exist alongside the traditional masculine ideal as a regular facet of mainstream studio productions bodes well for a more diverse and interesting porn world.

"I am pretty sure this is only the tip of the iceberg," adds Cox of this shift and the diverse porn future to come.

Follow Mark Hay on Twitter.

18 Feb 12:46

The Long, Slightly Strange History Behind Fingernail Clipping

by Johnny Wallflower
Fingernails have a functional purpose—they're shells for our fingertips—but they sure come with an annoying side effect. That effect? The fact that, every couple of weeks, you have to cut them. No matter who you are, you have to go through this process where small pieces of your keratin fly everywhere because you're shoving them in a nail clipper. But the modern nail clipper is a fairly recent phenomenon, roughly as old as the Swiss Army Knife. Which means that for most of human history, clipping one's nails was a little harder than digging your rusty clipper out of the medicine cabinet.

Bonus: celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann tells you how to clip your nails like a pro.
18 Feb 01:10

Facebook lanza 'Facebook Stories': historias que desaparecen en 24 horas

by Emilio Sánchez Hidalgo, Anabel Bueno Ballesteros

A los usuarios de Facebook en España les comienza a aparecer la nueva herramienta de historias efímeras, Facebook Stories. Se trata de fotos y vídeos de hasta 20 segundos que sólo se verán en dispositivo móvil, no desde ordenador, y que imitan la duración de la publicación y formato de Snapchat que ya copió con éxito Instagram -propiedad de Facebook- en agosto de 2016. También añaden la posibilidad de aplicar filtros o máscaras similares a los que Snapchat incluyó en su app en septiembre de 2015 y por los que se hizo más popular, y a los que Facebook intentó sumarse con la compra y lanzamiento de MSQRD en marzo de 2016. Lo que se comparta con esta nueva función es visible durante 24 horas -luego desaparece- y en caso de mandarlo como privado tus contactos lo pueden ver un máximo de dos veces.

Hemos echado mano de nuestros caretos y de las caretas que tenemos en Verne de personajes de Disney -protagonistas de la colección de pelis míticas que EL PAÍS lanza este domingo en DVD y cuento, empezando por Blancanieves- para probar esta funcionalidad.

Sabrás si puedes usar Facebook Stories si te encuentras esta burbuja con el texto "tu historia" al acceder a la aplicación móvil. Puedes pinchar en "tu historia" o deslizar la pantalla hacia la izquierda.

Entonces accederás a la nueva herramienta.

Para entrar en las máscaras, el recurso más popular de esta función en Snapchat, puedes pinchar en la estrella que aparece en la esquina inferior izquierda o deslizar hacia abajo.

De momento, hay diez máscaras disponibles, con las que ponerse estrellas o planetas en la cabeza, besos por la cara, maquillaje estrafalario, apariencia de lobo o gato, un perezoso en la cabeza, porciones de pizza voladoras y gafas de sol con una corona de palmeras o con bigote.

Se trata de mover el móvil como si fueras a hacerte un selfi o una foto a otra persona [sólo reconoce una cara, así que no sirve para fotos en grupo]: en algunos de los filtros sólo reconoce la cara poniendo el teléfono muy cerca. Por ejemplo, puedes colocar trozos de pizza que van directos a tu boca. Además, esta herramienta da la opción de voltear la imagen de forma horizontal.

Una vez elegida la máscara, puedes incluir otros elementos, que aparecen tocando en las opciones de la zona inferior. puedes colocar un salero, un gato, un bocadillo de cómic... En nuestro caso, hemos probado también la ubicación -con la geolocalización activada, nos ha salido Madrid-, que aparece en la zona superior con letras enormes. Y, para terminar, puedes añadir líneas de colores o textos con emojis. Vamos, lo que ya se hacía primero en Snapchat y luego en Instagram Stories.

Una vez creada la imagen, puedes compartirla como una historia efímera. En ese caso, todos tus contactos lo podrán ver durante 24 horas y después desaparecerá. También puedes compartirla por chat privado. Quienes la reciban podrán verla hasta dos veces. Otras opciones son guardar la imagen o el vídeo en el móvil para después compartirla en tu muro o en cualquier otra red social o directamente compartir como una publicación de Facebook normal sin un tiempo de visualización limitado.

Como con cualquier post, tus amigos pueden dar un me gusta o cualquiera de las otras reacciones y podrás ver en qué momento de tu historia lo hicieron porque aparecerá su foto en una burbuja que recuerda a las reacciones en los Facebook Live. Al igual que en Instagram Stories y Snapchat, Facebook te notifica qué amigos han visto tu historia. Asimismo, tus amigos de Facebook pueden responder con comentarios de texto a tu historia, pero los comentarios te llegan como un mensaje privado: sólo los podrás ver tú y te dirá cuándo la respuesta ha sido leída. Pero, a diferencia de Snapchat o Instagram Stories, hay opción de contestar desde el chat privado con otra foto: para eso hay que hacer todos los pasos anteriores. Tampoco notifica si se ha hecho una captura de pantalla de tu publicación ni se puede acceder al chat privado para retomar una conversación después de haberla visto.

18 Feb 00:48

White Wolf Unleashes Two New Interactive Fiction Games Based on 'Vampire: The Masquerade' and 'Mage: The Ascension'

by Carter Dotson

White Wolf, the publisher behind the famed series Vampire: The Masquerade, has entered the genre of interactive fiction, releasing two new titles at once. The first is Vampire The Masquerade: We Eat Blood [$4.99]. With a story written and illustrated by Sarah Horrocks and Zak Sabbath (not to be confused with Zakk Sabbath, the Black Sabbath tribute band fronted by Zakk Wylde), this game takes the Vampire world and brings modern aspects of smartphones into the world. You've just been turned into a vampire, and while you contend with this strange new hunger, you have to deal with forces coming after you.

The other game is Mage the Ascension: Refuge [$4.99] which has you exploring a world of magick that takes place in modern-day Sweden, dealing with modern-day social and policital issues, also as you take sides in a secret war being fought in the shadows. Sounds intriguing! Swedish author Karin Tidbeck provided the story for Refuge, to provide an authentic Swedish touch. Both of these interactive fiction adventures are available now on several platforms.

16 Feb 12:08

Alton Brown's 7 All-Time Best Kitchen Hacks

by concierge@tastingtable.com (Tasting Table)
These DIY tips and tools will change your cooking game forever

When he wasn't teaching us how to make the ultimate eggs Benedict, Good Eats host Alton Brown was coming up with genius DIY kitchen gadgets. Here are his seven best.


Keep reading on TastingTable.com
 
 
16 Feb 02:35

Who Is Guy Fieri?

by Helen Hollyman

A mob of white middle-aged fans swells behind a black rope divider outside the kitchen. It's a little after 1 PM in the weeds of the lunchtime rush. Despite the scene, line cooks crank through service like it's any other day.

"Have you ever had trashcan nachos?"

Guy Fieri is standing at the pass inside the kitchen at his Las Vegas restaurant, Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen & Bar, a restaurant that in its prime can average 1,800 covers a day. His bleached blond frosted tips are glistening; his garish gold metal jewelry twinkles beneath the fluorescent lights. His wraparound shades, however, are nowhere to be found. He's holding a hollowed-out metal pitcher to one eye. "Like from a trash can?" I ask. Fieri lets out a guttural chuckle, shaking his head. "Sister… you have no idea," he says smiling as he's handed his distressed denim chef's coat, adorned with a leather collar and silver star buttons that look like they might belong to Ozzy Osbourne. I'm struggling to keep up with his fierce energy as I tuck my long hair inside a red and black Guy Fieri baseball cap, which also exhibits an intentional scuffed-up brim.

"You're in Vegas, the land of indulgence. People wear feathers on their heads and dance around on stage here, and people pay to see it… so this is far better than that," he says with a raised eyebrow. "You ready?" He quickly motions me over to the flat top grill while I tie the strings of my black apron—embroidered with a heart ensconced in flames—and put on latex gloves fit for a man. I didn't come here to learn how to make Fieri's Original Ringer Burger or the recipe for his  Showgirls rendition of nachos, but it seems he has his own agenda. I've come to Sin City to spend some time with the Food Network star, hoping to meet the person who lives underneath the persona of the cartoonish hair, the flaming bowling shirts, the red '68 Camaro, and the sleeve tattoos and learn why this character as President of Flavortown has become an American icon.

Read more on MUNCHIES

16 Feb 01:26

Un usuario de Facebook se enfrenta a una multa de hasta 30.000 euros por colgar un vídeo de un policía

by Gloria Rodríguez-Pina

El pasado noviembre, un usuario de Facebook colgó el vídeo de una escena grabada desde el interior de un coche en Santiago de Compostela, en la que supuestamente se escucha a una persona burlándose de un policía que intentaba perseguir a un hombre, al cual no consiguía atrapar. Esa publicación en Facebook tuvo bastante éxito, según La Voz de Galicia: se compartió más de 300 veces y superó las 17.000 reproducciones. La Policía ha presentado una propuesta de sanción para quien difundió el vídeo, cuya identidad no ha trascendido, al amparo de la Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana, conocida también como Ley Mordaza. Las multas a las que se enfrenta pueden llegar hasta los 30.000 euros.

Algunas informaciones -entre ellas el citado artículo- apuntaron a que se pretendía multar a todo aquel que pulsó me gusta en el vídeo. Un portavoz de la Policía Nacional en Santiago de Compostela asegura a Verne que esto es "rotundamente falso". "El funcionario que realiza esa propuesta de sanción lo hace a la persona que en primera instancia difunde ese vídeo, no a los que luego supuestamente hacen me gusta o reenvían o lo que sea. A esa persona se les considera, por así decirlo, la génesis de ese vídeo", insiste el portavoz.

El acta hace referencia a dos artículos, explica la Policía. El primero de ellos tiene que ver con las "mofas, burlas y menosprecio al agente, que representa a una institución, el cuerpo de Policía Nacional", según su versión. Según el artículo 37.4 de la Ley, se consideran infracciones leves -penadas con entre 100 y 600 euros- "las faltas de respeto y consideración cuyo destinatario sea un miembro de las Fuerzas y Cuerpos de Seguridad en el ejercicio de sus funciones de protección de la seguridad".

En el vídeo, según La Voz de Galicia y al que Verne no ha tenido acceso, se cuestionaba su forma física para el ejercicio de sus funciones. La Policía explica que a quien se perseguía era a una persona huída de un centro hospitalario, con un trastorno mental. "Se intentaba cogerle, pero hay veces en que puedes provocar un mal mayor si la persecución termina con un accidente de tráfico", dicen, justificando que no le atrapara.

Entre 601 y 30.000 euros por grabar a un agente en funciones

El otro punto en que se basa la propuesta de sanción es el 36.23, según el cual está prohibido "el uso no autorizado de imágenes o datos personales o profesionales de autoridades o miembros de las Fuerzas y Cuerpos de Seguridad que pueda poner en peligro la seguridad personal o familiar de los agentes". Esto está considerado falta grave y puede estar sancionado con entre 601 y 30.000 euros. "La graduación de la sanción no es competencia del cuerpo de Policía", dicen las mismas fuentes policiales.

El portavoz policial insiste en que por ahora no hay sanción, sino una propuesta sobre la que deberá decidir la Subdelegación del Gobierno en Coruña. Esta institución, consultada por Verne, indica que aún no ha recibido copia del acta policial. "Cuando se reciba se estudiará para ver si va para adelante y se abre expediente o si queda archivada", indica una portavoz de la Subdelegación, que confirma que no tienen precendentes de ningún caso similar.

Juan Moreno, abogado especializado en libertad de expresión, advierte en declaraciones a Verne sobre el hecho de  que este tipo de sanciones parta de la Administración. "Hay que tomarlas con mucha prevención, porque tienen tendencia a apoyar el texto legal que ellos propusieron", indica.

Hasta ahora solo ha dado su opinión el vicepresidente de la Xunta, Alfonso Rueda (PP), que ha declarado que "lo que se está haciendo es aplicar una ley". Con la información inicial, que apuntaba a una denuncia masiva, reconoció que "puede haber opiniones para todos los gustos" cuando le preguntaron si no suponía un gasto excesivo de fondos públicos, como recoge Galicia Express.

Moreno recuerda que el denunciado puede hacer alegaciones, presentar pruebas y, en caso de sanción, puede elevar el caso a los juzgados de lo contencioso administrativo. "Son los tribunales los que lo valorarán y su decisión también podría ser recurrida de amparo al tribunal Constitucional", explica.

14 Feb 23:51

El Gran Oriente Medio en 2017: vuelta a la casilla de salida

by Fernando Arancón

A pesar de estar ya en 2017, la región de Oriente Próximo y el norte de África parece que sigue anclada en 2011. El malestar social, los conflictos armados y los pulsos entre potencias regionales serán una constante durante este año, desde Marruecos a Irán.

La zona este de la ciudad de Alepo es hoy por hoy la representación de cómo está la región en la que se circunscribe: agujereada, machacada hasta los cimientos por combates sin límite, la guerra total sin apenas recursos, calle por calle y casa por casa. Ese lento avance a base de tropiezos y golpes parece la constante histórica de este Oriente Próximo y el norte de África. 2017 no será excepción: prácticamente los mismos actores que hace un sexenio protagonizaron aquella oleada revolucionaria que derivó en un incendio descontrolado serán los que marquen el año actual. Pocos avances desde entonces y muchas las sensaciones —y señales— de estar volviendo al punto de partida.

Desde las protestas en el Rif a la Intifada de los Cuchillos, pasando por votaciones clave en Turquía e Irak, así quedará el mapa de riesgos para este 2017.

Siria e Irak: el principio del fin de la guerra

Ese Alepo arrasado poco se parece ya a la imagen que tenía cuando era la capital económica de Siria. Sin embargo, la captura de esta ciudad por las tropas gubernamentales ha fijado un antes y un después en el esfuerzo de guerra de Al Asad. Su objetivo principal durante los últimos tiempos no fue el Dáesh, un enemigo útil cuya presencia podía ser vendida al exterior como antítesis de los valores laicos y moderados de Damasco, sino esa facción etiquetada como rebeldes que en la práctica supone una amalgama de milicias y grupos, en su mayoría yihadistas, más cercanos ideológicamente al Estado Islámico que al hace años protagonista y hoy desaparecido Ejército Libre Sirio.

Sin embargo, la guerra en Siria no acabará este año, a pesar de que la victoria gubernamental se da por segura, especialmente gracias al apoyo ruso y a las milicias chiíes bajo el amparo de Irán y Hezbolá. El primer paso en el corto plazo es asegurar la zona oeste del país, económica y poblacionalmente mucho más densa que la desértica región oriental, y para ello Al Asad tendrá que acabar con las bolsas de rebeldes existentes en las cercanías de Damasco, Homs y la gran tarea pendiente: la toma de Idlib, el último gran bastión de esta facción en Siria. Terminada —o al menos solventada— esta fase, girará hacia Al Raqa, un trofeo que también ansían las milicias kurdas desde el norte y que hoy por hoy solo se ha visto frenado por una intervención turca que busca un imposible: perjudicar a Al Asad y a la vez a los kurdos.

Al otro lado del desierto, en el Mosul iraquí, la salida del Dáesh se va a producir antes o después. No obstante, en esta lucha parece que se le está dejando una puerta abierta a que los yihadistas abandonen la ciudad en dirección oeste. Más vale una victoria en Mosul hoy y tener que luchar en otro lugar mañana que emprender una batalla casa por casa en la inmensidad de la ciudad. No obstante, perdiendo su último gran bastión en Irak, los sueños de califato de este grupo están contados.

Con todo, el vacío que deje el Estado Islámico es casi tan peligroso como su propia existencia. La cantidad de facciones y grupos involucrados en la guerra contra los yihadistas es tan amplia que hace extremadamente inestable una posible carrera para repartirse el pastel. De ahí que las conversaciones de paz de cara al posconflicto ya hayan empezado. A día de hoy, Siria e Irak son un rompecabezas cuyas identidades y núcleos de poder —prestando especial atención a los kurdos— poco se parecen a los existentes antes de que todo saltase por los aires. Así, el debate del rediseño de ambos países comenzará a estar sobre la mesa, esbozándose una nueva fase en la que los Estados árabes y otras potencias más emparentadas con la región —caso de Turquía, Irán o Rusia— tengan un papel predominante.

Para ampliar: “Los caprichos fronterizos de Oriente Próximo”, Fernando Arancón en El Orden Mundial, 2015

Un punto central de este debate será la cuestión kurda, un asunto de largo recorrido que siempre ha sido aparcado en un rincón en favor de Estados multiétnicos y multiconfesionales. Sin embargo, a diferencia de otras épocas, los kurdos están hoy armados y poseen un dominio efectivo sobre el terreno; el caso del Kurdistán iraquí puede ser considerado prácticamente como un Estado de facto. Solo queda saber qué posición tomarán los kurdos sirios, bastante más afines a los kurdos turcos del PKK que a los iraquíes de Barzani. Desde autonomías respectivas en Siria e Irak —la opción con más peso en la actualidad— a sendas independencias, el catálogo de opciones para la cuestión kurda será crucial en el rediseño de esta zona.

Las demandas de un Estado independiente para el Kurdistán se remontan a cerca de un siglo y las pretendidas fronteras de este Estado no han dejado de aumentar desde entonces.

En el Magreb no existe la primavera

Nuevas caras, muchos conflictos y pocos cambios: así se podrían resumir las consecuencias de la oleada de revueltas que en 2011 sacudieron el norte de África. Un sexenio después, los factores que motivaron aquellos días permanecen tan inalterados como entonces —salvo Libia, aún inmersa en una guerra civil—. Incluso la ONU ha advertido de que, al no haber cambiado prácticamente nada en la situación política, económica y social de los países árabes, la bomba de relojería sigue activa.

En líneas generales, el desempleo en los países norteafricanos continúa elevado, especialmente el juvenil, con cifras alarmantes. Esto, además del evidente malestar que ocasiona, es un abono enormemente fértil para la radicalización o los suicidios, que en estos países son a menudo realizados de manera pública. Económicamente, sería atrevido decir que la situación ha mejorado. En Túnez, Egipto o Marruecos, las poblaciones se rebelaron por un alza inasumible de los productos básicos, un factor que hoy por hoy se ha agravado por el brusco descenso en el turismo que han sufrido los dos primeros países como consecuencia del terrorismo y la inestabilidad política.

Es precisamente este último aspecto uno de los más preocupantes. Ni Mubarak, Ben Alí o Gadafi están ya en el poder, pero visto el camino recorrido ya hay quien se arrepiente de haberlos sacado de sus respectivas presidencias. Con todo, la corrupción sigue desatada en el norte de África. Las policías y servicios secretos siguen siendo acusados de cometer torturas y los líderes parecen estar más deslegitimados que sus defenestrados antecesores. Con este escenario, solo Túnez parece mantenerse estable en su débil proyecto democrático. Por ello, Marruecos y especialmente Egipto son los dos puntos claves por los que el norte de África podría volver a saltar por los aires.

El desempleo juvenil es una variable clave en el malestar de los países árabes y una fuente habitual de descontento social. La práctica totalidad de los países de la región MENA tienen unas tasas muy elevadas. Fuente: The Economist

En el caso marroquí, las protestas ocurridas en octubre de 2016 por la muerte de un pescador de Alhucemas hicieron brotar dos problemas subyacentes. El primero de ellos fue que, efectivamente, los condicionantes que motivaron las manifestaciones del año 2011 siguen vivos, y, si bien la ciudadanía no ha encontrado canales mediante los que expresar su desencanto, este magma social fluye por buena parte del país. La segunda cuestión, que en absoluto es desdeñable y puede marcar una tendencia política en el país, es la proliferación de banderas bereberes durante las protestas. Partiendo de la base de que la identidad o cultura bereber es mucho más amplia que la circunscrita a Marruecos, el surgimiento de símbolos políticos bereberes en el norte del país puede motivar presiones autonomistas y reivindicaciones políticas alejadas del nacionalismo marroquí. La convergencia de estas dos reclamaciones —la política general con la identitaria— puede suponer durante 2017 un reto importante para el país, más aún si ocurren fenómenos que puedan volver a espolear el descontento social.

En Egipto, la situación es sin duda peor. Al Sisi está gobernando el país en una travesía sin rumbo claro y cada vez más debilitado. Desde que dejó flotar la libra egipcia, además de asistir a su hundimiento, se ha visto obligado a acogerse a un cuantioso préstamo del Fondo Monetario Internacional para contrarrestar el cierre del grifo saudí, incondicional apoyo del presidente egipcio desde que llegó al poder. En la actualidad, el país tiene importantes carencias en cuanto al abastecimiento de alimentos básicos y medicamentos, lo que ha llevado a brotes de descontento social que solo ha podido contrarrestar con unos niveles de represión inéditos hasta con Mubarak. De igual manera, los Hermanos Musulmanes han seguido acosando al Gobierno desde la sombra —un lugar en el que se mueven con gran facilidad— no ya con presión política, sino con grupos terroristas afines, como Hasm, orientados a socavar el poder estatal. Tal fue el grado de confrontación entre el Estado y la Hermandad que durante los últimos compases de 2016 se corrió el riesgo de abocar al país a un conflicto abierto. Conscientes del escenario, ambas partes decidieron tácitamente ceder a una distensión —y se especula con una tregua oficiosa—, algo que sin embargo no ha eliminado el peligro para 2017.

De igual manera, los reordenamientos geopolíticos del mandatario egipcio serán vitales para el equilibrio regional y también para el país. Arabia Saudí, fiel aliado de Sisi, retiró el apoyo económico a este cuando la devolución de unas islas en el estrecho de Tirán fue paralizada en Egipto. No es un asunto menor, ya que el presidente tiene que decidir entre enfadar a un aliado útil y necesario o exponerse a la ira popular por devolver un territorio que muchos egipcios consideran propio.

Para  ampliar“A cinco años de la revolución egipcia: las aguas del Nilo vuelven a su cauce”, podcast de El Orden Mundial en el Siglo XXI

Incendio en Tierra Santa

Si en 2016 se cumplieron los cien años del tratado Sykes-Picot, 2017 traerá una efeméride de similar importancia: el centenario de la Declaración Balfour. Aunque los deseos contenidos en esta carta ya fueron satisfechos en 1948, este año podría otorgar un deseado regalo para el Estado judío como es un avance en el reconocimiento de Jerusalén como su capital. A pesar de que Israel ha autoproclamado esta ciudad como núcleo de su Estado, ni la ONU ni la práctica totalidad de los países que reconocen a Israel consideran dicha urbe su capital en favor de Tel Aviv, donde se encuentran las embajadas. Sin embargo, la presidencia de Donald Trump podría suponer un punto de inflexión en esta cuestión que aniquilaría totalmente el ya de por sí delicado estado en el que se encuentra el proceso de paz en Oriente Próximo.

Parece que esta cuestión es uno de los puntos centrales en la política exterior del nuevo presidente para con la región. No obstante, no ha adoptado una posición nueva: desde hace años, el Congreso estadounidense mantiene viva la petición de que el Ejecutivo haga real el movimiento diplomático. A pesar de esta iniciativa, ningún presidente se ha atrevido a materializarla, conscientes de la repercusión que tendría en el mundo árabe y de las nefastas consecuencias en sus relaciones con muchos de estos Estados.

Para ampliar: “El nuevo Israel: Viraje al conservadurismo y nueva diplomacia”,  Daniel Rosselló y Esther Miranda en El Orden Mundial, 2017

Sin embargo, casi se podría decir que este será uno de los problemas menores entre Israel y Palestina durante 2017. La llamada Intifada de los Cuchillos continúa desarrollándose, siempre con el miedo presente de que derive en una radicalización islamista patrocinada por el Dáesh o que Hamas opte por una nueva salida armada. A pesar de todo, esta consecución de situaciones no presenta una lógica lineal, sino cíclica. Las desastrosas condiciones de vida existentes en Palestina tienen mucho que ver con las políticas de colonización israelíes y las restricciones de recursos y movilidad a las que han sido sometidos. Parte de la culpa también recae sobre los hombros de las autoridades palestinas, sumidas en la corrupción y más centradas en las luchas internas que en llevar las riendas del país. Un ente tan débil tiene prácticamente imposible hacer frente a la capacidad israelí.

Precisamente por este motivo se han acelerado los planes colonizadores israelíes. La complicada situación política del primer ministro Netanyahu, que gobierna en minoría y con escándalos de corrupción sobre su cabeza, hace que necesite huir de la mano de Hogar Judío, partido ultranacionalista y sionista que aboga no ya por la política de asentamientos, sino abiertamente por la anexión de Cisjordania, que de facto es Palestina entera. Esta escalada, que a día de hoy parece no tener freno, hace cada día más probable que los peores episodios del conflicto palestino-israelí puedan volver a producirse y generen otro foco desestabilizador en una región que ya se ha asentado en el caos.

Los asentamientos y el número de colonos israelíes en Cisjordania no han parado de crecer y para 2017 se han aprobado grandes proyectos de viviendas.

Para  ampliar: “Israel en el nuevo Oriente Medio: los enemigos están dentro”, podcast de El Orden Mundial en el Siglo XXI

Árabes, persas y turcos: las tres esquinas de Oriente Próximo

Los pulsos geopolíticos volverán a estar a la orden del día durante 2017. Si el año pasado se preveía más intenso en el pulso entre Arabia Saudí e Irán, con una Turquía en segundo plano, a medida que avanzó el año se fue revelando un mayor intervencionismo turco, especialmente a raíz del golpe de Estado del mes de julio y la amplia purga que vino después. Turquía ya no parece ocultar sus ganas de influir en la zona, un neootomanismo poco disimulado que entra de lleno en la complicada ecuación regional. En este sentido, los intereses inmediatos turcos parecen perseguir un objetivo claro: una reconfiguración del panorama regional a través de nuevos alineamientos en torno a Ankara.

Para ampliar: “Turquía en transición: el regreso del otomanismo y el giro hacia Oriente Próximo”, podcast de El Orden Mundial en el Siglo XXI

Turquía será así el canal de influencia rusa en la región. Siria, aunque aliado de Moscú, es una pieza cada vez más débil. A Turquía le interesa estar respaldada, o alineada, con un país de la primera división geopolítica mundial para conseguir que prevalezcan sus intereses, algo que ni Irán —que también podría coquetear con Rusia si Estados Unidos relanza su presión sobre el acuerdo nuclear— ni Arabia Saudí disponen en la actualidad. De igual manera, Erdoğan se ha preocupado de atraer una serie de piezas secundarias con las que complementar su creciente papel en la región. La de los kurdos iraquíes es fundamental tanto de cara a un debilitamiento de Bagdad como de las otras facciones kurdas, con especial atención al Partido de los Trabajadores de Kurdistán (PKK) turco y las Unidades de Protección Popular (YPG) sirias. De ahí la operación Escudo del Éufrates, una incursión en territorio sirio bajo la excusa de expulsar al Dáesh de la zona norte del país que en verdad buscaba bloquear el avance de las milicias kurdas sirias hacia el oeste, algo que habría supuesto un considerable aumento de influencia de esta facción en el conflicto.

En la actualidad, tres potencias se disputan distintas áreas de influencia en Oriente Próximo: Arabia Saudí e Irán como hegemones y Turquía en un giro neootomanista.

Más allá de los juegos geopolíticos de Turquía, habrá otro momento crucial para el país este año: el paso de un sistema parlamentario a otro presidencialista. A pesar de ser un movimiento que Erdoğan llevaba tiempo meditando, el intento de golpe de Estado —con todos sus quiénes y porqués con algo de cierto y de falso— ha legitimado esta transición en un intento por fortalecer el país, que ya ha entrado en una deriva autoritaria nacionalista y muy alejada de los valores que hasta hace poco trataba de asentar. Así, el referéndum sobre los cambios constitucionales probablemente encuentre un respaldo más que mayoritario entre los turcos en las urnas.

En la potencia árabe, las cosas podrían empezar a remontar a medida que suba el precio del petróleo. Su táctica del crudo barato ha sido poco efectiva y sus rivales han conseguido esquivar el torpedo hacia los hidrocarburos mientras Riad se enfrascaba en una guerra en Yemen que está lejos de ganar y en incendiar media región a golpe de talonario. Empieza a entreverse que Arabia Saudí no sabe utilizar más herramientas que los cheques y los barriles de petróleo. Su plan de transición económica hacia 2030, a pesar de no ser excesivamente ambicioso, cada día parece más lejano de cumplirse por la incapacidad del reino de acometer el más mínimo proyecto de modernización. A pesar de sus más que holgados recursos económicos, a medio plazo lleva las de perder en las disputas geopolíticas por su escasa capacidad de adaptación y la nula variedad de herramientas en su acción exterior.

Ese guante bien podría recogerlo Irán, que en 2017 se encontrará ante una bifurcación entre el continuismo o el enroque. El acuerdo nuclear ha conseguido sacarle de un ostracismo internacional al que el nuevo presidente de Estados Unidos parece querer devolverle. La presencia del país ha crecido en los últimos años gracias a una política exterior discreta, pero firme, a lo que ha ayudado el levantamiento de las sanciones. Sin embargo, este periodo de normalidad para la potencia persa ha sido breve. Con la llegada de Trump a la Casa Blanca, el acuerdo con Irán ha sido puesto en entredicho de inmediato, resucitando un problema que ya estaba resuelto. Si bien esto no debería alterar los equilibrios en Oriente Próximo, sí puede suponer un varapalo para el presidente Rouhaní, de la corriente moderada y aperturista. Con esta amenaza en el horizonte, las elecciones presidenciales iraníes de este año estarán ineludiblemente marcadas por si la facción más conservadora aprovecha la oportunidad y aplica una retórica antimperialista para hacerse con el poder, denunciando la complacencia y el excesivo aperturismo del actual presidente.

Una cosa parece clara: la región es cada vez más dueña de sí misma, con sus ventajas y contrapartidas. Huelga decir que desde el fin de la Segunda Guerra Mundial ha sido con diferencia la zona más convulsa y conflictiva del mundo. Tanto las dinámicas internas en lo político, económico, social y cultural como su papel de bisagra en las dinámicas mundiales han motivado esta inestabilidad. Al contrario que un interruptor, el mundo no tiene dos posiciones, y los cambios no tienen por qué ser rápidos ni sencillos. El próximo paso, en 2018.

14 Feb 23:15

How to irritate Europeans with one sentence?

by Alex E
14 Feb 23:14

770 thousands genomes reveals post-colonial population structure of North America

by Alex E
In the study, the researchers identified "genetic communities" throughout North America using data from more than 774,516 people born or currently living in the United States. The map below shows the distribution of ancestral birth locations associated with these "communities".


The distribution of ancestral birth locations
Clustering of 770,000 genomes reveals post-colonial population structure of North America.
Points show pedigree birth locations that are disproportionately assigned to each cluster. Only birth locations with OR>x within indicated generations y–z are plotted, in which parameters x, y, z are chosen separately per cluster to better visualize the cluster's historical geographic concentration. For each cluster, points are independently scaled by the number of pedigree annotations /Nature/. 


Via nature.com
14 Feb 23:12

How Straight Men Who Have Sex With Men Explain Their Encounters

by Jesse Singal

The subject of straight-identifying men who have sex with other men is a fascinating one, in that it shines a light on some extremely potent, personal concepts pertaining to identity and sexuality and one’s place in society. That’s why some sociologists and other researchers have been very eager to seek...More »

14 Feb 23:09

The Science of Why You Can't Carry a Tune

by Tim Falconer

From an early age, talking comes pretty naturally to most of us. We open our mouths and out come words. Sure, we still have to build our vocabulary and our grammar, and maybe ease up on the ten-year-old boy's fascination with all things scatological, but talking is easy enough. Singing seems like it should be just as easy, and for some people, it is. But there's actually a lot going on in our bodies when we sing. 

When we want to produce a note, we need to coordinate our lungs, our diaphragm, our throat, our mouth, our tongue, and our lips. And so much—from a change in lung pressure to the wrong shape of our mouth—can go wrong. We need to make all those elements work together when we talk as well, but speaking English and many other languages requires producing specific sounds, not specific pitches. So while we may tease someone who uses a funny pronunciation of a word, most of us are tolerant of people with accents. And we don't call people with deep, sexy voices bad talkers because they don't hit the high notes. 

Sean Hutchins, a neuroscientist and director of research at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto compares singing to tossing a baseball. We require complicated muscle coordination and timing to throw a ball with the right trajectory. Screw up any step in the process and the ball won't go anywhere near your friend's mitt. "The same type of thing is going on when you're singing," he said, "except it's all inside of you." That makes it much harder. 

While we can watch someone throw a baseball to learn how to do it better—just as we can watch people play piano or guitar and see what they do with their fingers and hands—the steps necessary to sing a note are invisible. Watch singers and you will see their lips move. And perhaps you can see their bodies move as they take in air and let it out again. But you can't see what their diaphragms are doing or what their lungs are doing or even what their tongues are doing. Everything is hidden. Even if you used a laryngoscope to see these muscles and organs, you probably couldn't make much sense out of what you saw. According to Peter Pfordresher, director of the auditory perception and action lab at the University of Buffalo, "It's a pretty strange-looking image." 

Growing up in Connecticut, Hutchins took music and voice lessons throughout high school. He kept at it during his undergrad and graduate years with some a capella, some barbershop, and some light opera. He even met his wife while doing Gilbert and Sullivan. Meanwhile, as a psychology student, he was intrigued by the relationship between perception and production: how we coordinate what we see and perceive in the world with what we do in the world. As it turned out, singing was ideal for studying that interaction because in order to sing together, singers must coordinate what they're producing with what they're hearing. 

If you can't hit the right notes, you are, by definition, a bad singer. So the starting point for all good singing is the ability to perceive pitch, but it's more complicated than that. After a music teacher said, "I think everybody is deeply musical," the phrase stuck with Pfordresher and it's something he's wanted to explore through his research ever since. Believing it's a shame that so many people are unhappy with their singing, he wanted to understand the problems they have with it and to see if there was a way to help them. He thinks singing is as fascinating as it is difficult. Academic literature is full of studies, including his, about why some people can't imitate pitch correctly. "An almost more perplexing question is, 'Why is it that anybody can do it?'" he said. "The fact that as many of us can do that as are able to do that is, to me, a kind of wondrous thing, a kind of mystifying thing."  He believes that when people say, "Oh, that guy can't sing," they usually think they're assessing pitch. But they may be reacting to something completely different. When he talks to people about his job, they inevitably bring up American Idol and all the hopeless performers on the show. Many of them are, he'd agree, poor-pitch singers, but he figured there was something more going on so he decided to evaluate the program's most notorious contestant: William Hung. 

After winning a talent contest at his Berkeley dorm, the civil engineering student auditioned for the third season of American Idol. Despite his obvious (and nerdily charming) enthusiasm, it did not go well. While Randy Jackson, one of the judges, chortled away, Simon Cowell, the famously nasty judge, stopped Hung's a cappella rendition of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs" early on and said, "You can't sing, you can't dance, so what do you want me to say?" After his performance ran in January 2004, it became a viral sensation and Hung became a celebrity—and even landed a record deal. 

Curious about why everyone thought it was so terrible, Pfordresher compared Hung's rendition to the original. "Sure enough," he said, "William Hung's pitches were pretty much identical to Ricky Martin's pitches." He was singing the right notes, and he was doing it in one take without accompaniment and without digital editing, in a stressful situation. Not many people could do that. And still they laughed him off the stage. 

Turns out, there's more to a good voice than pitch control. Timing, for one thing. Volume, for another: Some songs call for soft, gentle vocals while some music demands it be sung loud. In addition, every singer has his or her own distinct sound, and some sounds work better for certain songs than for others. Luciano Pavarotti's rich tenor was no more likely to work well for an album of country and western covers than Johnny Cash's deep growl would have been appropriate for an opera. 

Hung's problems started before he even hit the stage. "She Bangs" wasn't a wise choice—not because it's a silly song (though that's true, for sure), but because it's not well suited to an a cappella rendition. And, sad to say, Hung's accent didn't help. From many of the original British Invasion bands to more recent examples such as First Aid Kit—two Swedish sisters who come across like they grew up in the American Midwest—we're so used to artists from all over the world sounding as if they're from the United States that anything else seems off. Then there's Hung's timing, which isn't great, and the thinness of his voice. 

In some genres, not being a virtuosic singer doesn't preclude great success. In 1985, Canadian musicians gathered in a Toronto studio to record a benefit song called "Tears Are Not Enough." It joined the British "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and the American "We Are the World" as supergroup singles that raised money for Ethiopian famine relief. The song is hardly an enduring classic, but the list of musicians who recorded it remains impressive: Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray, Liona Boyd, Oscar Peterson, and many others. After Young sang his line in the studio, producer David Foster told him, "Little flat on 'innocence,' but other than that, it was great. We'll go again." Young waited a beat or two and then deadpanned, "That's my sound, man." 

That sound has certainly served him well for nearly six decades. Perhaps that's no surprise in rock music, but opera singers can sometimes be as far out of tune as shower singers. Divas have a certain sound that comes from the way they support their voices and the way they hold their facial muscles. "And then there's that little trump card in classical singing, the vibrato, which, frankly, makes the pitch that someone's singing somewhat ambiguous," said Pfordresher. So they can be slightly off and few of us will notice. 

Even for good singers, getting really good takes work, as I learned from Kellie Walsh, who comes from what she calls a "traditional Newfoundland family." Her dad was the son of a fisherman who had a family of eighteen and, when she was growing up, Sunday dinners were at her grandparents', where there was always music: People played accordion, spoons, and guitar, and they sang and danced. As the artistic director of the Lady Cove Women's Choir and Shallaway: Newfoundland and Labrador Youth in Chorus as well as the founder and conductor emeritus of the Newman Sound Men's Choir, she's taken part in competitions around the world. The trick to singing well, she says, is to treat the body as an instrument rather than just thinking, "If I open my mouth, sound will come out." Young singers often don't realize that a good voice comes from their diaphragm, not their throat. Once they start using more of their bodies, they produce a more pleasing sound. 

The goal with a choir is to make the sound as "blended and beautiful and in tune as possible," but trying to instruct and correct up to sixty singers at once is, of course, more challenging than working with one person. And because singing takes place inside the body, which she can't show, Walsh uses metaphor and mental images. One of her techniques is to tell singers to think of the inside of the mouth as a clock. Sending the sound to twelve o'clock means direct- ing their voices up to the centre of the roof of their mouth, or to three o'clock where the teeth are. "I'll say put that vowel right at twelve o'clock. Or if I want it to sound darker, I'll say put that vowel back at nine o'clock, to the back." 

While Barnes spends a lot of time working on technique with his clients, he also says that the hardest part of singing for most of them is trusting their instrument, which requires trusting themselves. "Singing is easy," he told me. "It's just hard to let it be simple." Our need to be good, our worrying about being good, and our eagerness to criticize complicates the act for us. We end up afraid to do it. "If you're full of doubt and judgment, then singing is indeed quite hard. To be worrying about your singing while you're singing means you're doing it wrong." 

As a performer, Barnes knows that when he's relaxed, he sounds better and puts on a better show. He believes singing is emotional, spiritual, and physical—and you can't separate this trinity. He's met and worked with a lot of great singers and they tend to be really soulful people. "Gladys Knight is a great singer, and she was exactly like her voice: warm, relaxed, intimate, easygoing. Chaka Khan is a brilliant singer, and she was exactly like her voice: intense, radical, crazy. k.d. lang is a very relaxed person, a very self-assured person, a very in-touch-with-her-spiritual-self person. Really surrendered in a Buddhist sense." Still, he admitted, truly good singing is hard. "It takes an unusual amount of trust and faith to really fill the world with your sound." 

This post is excerpted from Bad Singer: The Surprising Science of Tone Deafness and How We Hear Musicwhich is out today.

14 Feb 23:08

6 Things People Still Get Wrong About Sex

by Debby Herbenick

For more than 15 years, I've taught human sexuality classes to thousands of college students. I've also answered sex questions for magazines, newspapers, and websites. In other words, I've seen and heard it all. And thanks to the barely-there state of sexual education in the US, there are a number of myths that just won't go away. (As of 2014, most schools still preach abstinence as the best way to avoid pregnancy and STD transmission. And only 35 percent of classes teach students how to correctly use a condom, according to the Guttmacher Institute.) These are the six misconceptions I find myself correcting most often—while wishing I didn't need to. 

You Can't Have Sex During the Placebo Week of Birth Control
I regularly hear from teens and young adults who are worried they might be pregnant after having sex without a condom during the so-called "placebo week" of their birth control pill pack. What this tells me is that many women and men don't know how birth control pills work. They wrongly assume that the pill only "works" to prevent pregnancy on days when active hormonal pills are swallowed, as if every pill provides just 24 hours of protection. Nope!

In fact, most birth control pills work by preventing ovulation, stopping the ovary from releasing an egg. Most women take combination estrogen/progestin pills, which suppress ovulation. Some take progestin-only pills, which less consistently suppress ovulation but are still highly effective at preventing pregnancy through other mechanisms. (Combination packs may have no-hormone weeks but progestin-only pills do not.) As a result, women who take the pill as prescribed are highly protected against pregnancy throughout the month—and even during the week when they are expecting to have their period.

There are different kinds of combination birth control pill packs. Some are 21-day pill packs, and then you go without a pill for 7 days before starting a new one. (Protection continues during that week, but you need to start the next pack on time.) Other packs—like 28-day, 90-day, and 365-day—often include 7-day stretches of pills that may be non-hormonal, what some people call "placebo pills," estrogen-only pills, or pills that contain supplements such as iron. Again, pregnancy prevention continues even during these "non-active" period weeks.

All that said, if you or your partner is anxious about pregnancy risk, why not double up on protection? Some couples use condoms and birth control together—which also helps protect you against STIs. Birth control pills plus withdrawal ("pulling out") is another option that will give you greater peace of mind.

The Average Penis is Bigger Than 6 Inches
Pop-up ads for penis enlargement pills—well, that and porn—have done a number on the average guy's perception of his penis size. When asked to guess, most guys will say they think an average erect penis is about 6 or 7 inches long. I've had countless men write to me, worried that their perfectly normal-sized equipment is inadequate. Yet nearly every study—and there have been many over the years—finds that an average erect penis size is somewhere around 5.4 to 5.6 inches long. In a study of 1,661 men that my Indiana University team conducted, we found an average erect length of 5.57 inches, with nearly 1 in 4 men measuring 4.7 inches or smaller. Research also generally finds that the best predictors of sexual satisfaction are things like how often a couple kisses, cuddles, and the extent to which they feel emotionally intimate or psychologically connected. It has almost nothing to do with the size of either partner's genitals. Most of us would do well to put away the measuring tape already. 

Most People Have Tried Anal Sex
Although the number of Americans who have tried anal sex at least once has increased substantially over the past three decades, very few Americans enter the back door with any regularity. According to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, about one third of Americans have had anal sex at least once. However, only about 12 percent of Americans report anal sex in any given year—and not surprisingly, it's more frequently reported by gay men, bisexual men, and bisexual women. Yet many of my college students think that anal sex is "the norm"—and describe feeling pressured to try it. Considering anal sex is reported as painful by most women, this is a particularly difficult behavior to feel pressured into. That said, if you and your partner are into anal sex, that's great—I simply recommend using lots of lube, communicating frequently and openly with each other, and taking it very slow at first. And if they're not into it? There are dozens of other ways to keep things interesting in and out of bed. Whatever you do, don't pretend to have the "wrong hole" just to get your way—some research has found that up to 10 percent of college-aged guys say they've used that strategy. That's not being smooth; that's rape. 

There's Something Wrong if a Woman Doesn't Orgasm
Although most people feel like orgasm is an important part of sexual satisfaction, not everyone orgasms every time. And decades of sex research is clear that it tends to take many women longer to learn to experience orgasm than it takes for men, probably in part because women tend to start masturbating at a later age. Since masturbation helps us learn what feels good and how to reach orgasm, it's no wonder that this knowledge takes longer, on average, for many women to acquire. Messed-up gender norms also mean that women don't often feel as empowered to insist on orgasm even when they know what gets them there. No matter your gender, if you're going to have sex with someone, you should always be a decent, giving, and curious partner. Find out what they like. Ask for feedback on your touching, licking, thrusting, or whatever else. Try to improve your skills using apps like OMG Yes. But if a woman hasn't had an orgasm by early adulthood, it does not mean her body is broken or her clitoris is numb. So many women think their bodies are to blame when, in reality, most people are fully capable of experiencing orgasm. Often, it just takes a combination of time, practice, patience, communication, and pleasure-focused play.

Committed Couples Can Stop Worrying About STIs
The US has ludicrously high rates of STIs compared to countries like the Netherland, France, Sweden, and Germany—a fact often attributed to differences in sex education, affordable health care, and the level of sex positivity that exists in the culture. Even more challenging is that fewer Americans seem to be using condoms these days. As I mentioned before, many teenagers never get much education about condoms in schools, and when they do, it's limited to information they receive in ninth or tenth grade—well before many people are even sexually active. Here's what you need to know: Condoms are literally the only device we have to protect against STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV. People often stop using them just a few weeks into seeing someone, often before they even decide if they're exclusive. Get tested, get treated, and use condoms for at least a month longer than you think you need to.

The "G Spot" is the Key to Endless Orgasms
I'm not sure if it's because the idea of a "spot" conjures up an image of a magical button that produces infinite waves of pleasure, or if there are just some seriously tall tales being shared among men, but quite a few guys have told me that they were pleasantly surprised to learn the truth about the G-spot. They were also a little disappointed to find out that it wasn't a secret spot inside a woman's body that, if touched just once, would lead to orgasm after orgasm after orgasm. The so-called "G-spot" is actually an area felt through the front wall of the vagina that, if stimulated—usually with firm pressure—may or may not feel good. In other words, sometimes G-spot stimulation leads to orgasm, and sometimes it doesn't. If it's not your partner's thing, don't sweat it—you've still got a whole body, and brain, left to work with. 

Debby Herbenick is an associate professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health, research fellow at The Kinsey Institute, and author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.

14 Feb 23:08

The Little Yellow Box That Makes Surgery Safer

by Jane Feinmann

Gundegmaa Tumurbaatar glimpsed her son only for an instant as he was carried into the aging Soviet-built hospital where she works. It was one of the first fine days after the grueling Mongolian winter, and she had left Gunbileg, aged three, and his older brother playing outside, telling them to be careful. Now he was moaning in pain and covered from head to toe in filth and blood. A passer-by had brought Gunbileg to the hospital after seeing the two boys trying to jump over an open manhole above a sewer—watching in horror as the younger boy had fallen into the jagged pit on his abdomen. By the time Gundegmaa saw him, he was in shock, his belly frighteningly distended, an internal hemorrhage putting him at imminent risk of cardiac arrest.

She learned the details of his injuries later: His spleen, the delicate fist-sized organ that sits just below the ribs and which acts as a blood filter as part of the immune system, was ruptured. "His tummy must have caught on something sharp inside the hole in the ground," she says. But she didn't need to be told how serious this was. As soon as she saw him, Gundegmaa, a midwife at the hospital, knew that this was a potentially fatal internal injury. Suddenly, the life she and her husband, Batsaikhan Batzorig, had created with such effort looked about to turn to dust.

Gundegmaa and Batsaikhan were both born in the small town of Ondorkhaan in Khentii Province—one of the coldest spots on the Mongolian Steppe and roughly 200 miles of often deeply pitted road from the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. They had married soon after leaving school, and their first child was born 12 years ago.

Back then it was a grim time in Mongolia, which was still in the grip of the desperate poverty that hit when 70 years of Soviet influence ended in the early 1990s. Russian forces had withdrawn from the country, taking with them the loans that had kept Mongolia afloat. It was fortunate that there were, and still are, hundreds of thousands of nomads in the country, around a quarter of the population. With their livestock—25 million cows, horses, sheep, and goats—at least people didn't go hungry.

But the couple worked hard to build a life together. First, Gundegmaa enrolled at the nursing school in Ulaanbaatar that had been established under the Soviet 'Semashko' healthcare system. Her husband remained at home with their baby—and then three years later they swapped roles, so that by 2010 both had jobs with the local hospital. He was a senior nurse; she was a midwife.

Their hometown was also on a roll, it being the capital of the province where the 12th-century Mongol warrior Chinggis (or Genghis) Khan is thought to have been born. During the Soviet era, Mongolians were forbidden even to utter the name of the man they now regard as their national hero. But in 2013, the town known as Ondorkhaan was grandly renamed Chinggis City by an act of parliament. Gundegmaa and her family could visit a new museum featuring a replica of the great leader's ger, the traditional tent, made of white felt, of this nomadic people. The town's playgrounds, as throughout Mongolia, have figures of children (of both sexes) engaged in the 'three manly sports'—horse riding, wrestling, and archery—that Chinggis Khan considered essential daily activities for his warriors.

Just two weeks before Gunbileg's accident, the family had moved into their first proper home, a flat in one of the new high-rise blocks.

On duty the day of the accident was Dr. Mendbayar Lkhamsuren, an experienced surgeon with more than 4,200 operations under his belt since he started working at the hospital in 2000—including, crucially, four previous cases involving a ruptured spleen. Through his training in safe surgery, Mendbayar has a genuine humility about the work he undertakes. "When I wake up in the morning, I reflect on the fact that I'm only human and that I'm just as capable of making mistakes as anyone else," he tells me.

Mendbayar and his surgical team worked fast to remove the spleen and stem the bleeding, and Gunbileg survived. Now aged four, he needs to have all his jabs: without his spleen, he's at increased risk of infectious diseases such as pneumonia and flu. But he is brimming with health and optimism, and has a passionate attachment to "my doctor Mende." When I meet him in the antenatal department of the hospital, keeping close to his mother, he lifts up his long white jacket, just like his hero's, which covers a prominent scar on his tummy.

A major contributory factor to his survival is a very bright idea that is changing emergency healthcare for people living in low- and middle-income countries.

As Gunbileg was carried into the emergency room in May last year, a nurse placed on his finger a small peg-like device attached by a wire to a battered-looking yellow monitor the size of a mobile phone. "Don't be taken in by appearances," the hospital's anesthetist says as she sees me squinting to inspect it during my visit last October. "That device has been used every single day for the past four years. It's saved hundreds of lives. And it's still going strong."

The device is a pulse oximeter. Invented by Japanese scientists in the early 1970s, this non-invasive device, which attaches via a clip to the top of the patient's finger, accurately measures blood oxygen saturation—the percentage of hemoglobin in the blood that is oxygenated—and displays the figure on the monitor along with the patient's pulse rate. The device's audible beep reassures the team that all is well, with the pitch dropping if there's a problem, allowing the anesthetist to 'hear' any changes in oxygen saturation levels.

In high-income countries today, pulse oximeters are part of the furniture in recovery rooms, ambulances, accident and emergency departments, and many hospital wards—wherever patients' symptoms are serious and unpredictable. Its most important role, however, remains where it first began: in the operating room. "Oximetry is a key component in the revolution in anesthesia care that has brought down the death rate from anesthesia by over 95 percent in a generation," says Atul Gawande, the Boston surgeon, bestselling author, and New Yorker magazine writer. In the early 1970s, one in 10,000 people per anesthetic administered died while under the gas in the US; thousands of people were dying every year. By the 1990s, when pulse oximetry was routinely used, that was closer to the current figure of less than one in 100,000.   

Yet the benefits of pulse oximetry have failed to spread throughout the world. More than 77,000 operating rooms in low- and middle-income countries were carrying out surgery without a pulse oximeter according to a survey carried out in 2010, two decades after pulse oximetry became routine in affluent countries.

Meanwhile, the rate of surgery in these countries has been increasing. The annual number of operations globally increased from 234 million in 2004 to an estimated 359 million in 2012 according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which reported that the 38 percent increase in 'surgical volume' is occurring almost exclusively in low- and very-low-resource countries. And rightly so, says Gawande. "Of course this rate of surgery is needed," he says. "More people die every year from conditions that can be effectively treated with surgery than from HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. And surgery is essential for reducing maternal mortality and deaths from road traffic accidents."

The problem is that while the rate of surgery is increasing, so is the rate of those damaged by surgery. Research published in the Lancet in 2009 shows that more than 7 million people are left dead or disabled from complications due to unsafe surgery every year—with the risk of complications and deaths from essential operations up to 1,000 times higher in low-resource settings.  

All but the newest recruits to the Mongolian anesthesia community understand the background to these statistics. Unurzaya Lkhagvajav, a former president of the Mongolian Society of Anesthesiologists, qualified as an anesthetist in 1980 and reckons she has provided anesthesia for 30,000 operations. The equipment she had available to keep a patient safe during most of these operations was a stethoscope, a watch with a second hand, and a pencil. "The only way to know if a patient's blood was oxygenated was to take the patient's pulse throughout the operation and check the color of the fingernails: If they were pink, the patient was in good health," she recalls. "It was exhausting work. And once the operation was over, the need to monitor blood oxygen levels is just as important. The only way to check for post-surgical complications was to sit with the patient all night. And of course that wasn't always possible, not when you had a long shift the next day."

In 2008 Gawande, at the request of the WHO, led a group of expert nurses, anesthetists, and surgeons to create the Surgical Safety Checklist. Essentially, it is a communications framework designed to eliminate human error in the operating room in the same way as the aviation industry has made flying safe for passengers. But alongside behavioral change to ensure effective teamwork and, for instance, that appropriate bloods and equipment are easily accessible and antibiotics administered, there's a single piece of kit, the pulse oximeter, that is mandated by the checklist. Without it, the WHO decided, surgery is simply unsafe.

In 2011, with the support of prominent medical institutions, Gawande helped to found the charity Lifebox to make safe surgery a reality throughout the world. "We started by doing work that reduced the cost of robust, hospital-grade pulse oximeters for low-income countries by over 80 per cent to just $250," he explains. The Lifebox oximeter can withstand extreme heat and cold and the battery is functional for at least 12 hours. Crucially, it is also tough, and can be dropped from table height without breaking. "It's not going to break down soon after arrival, a serious problem with medical equipment in low-resource countries," says Gawande.

Studies suggest that the WHO checklist, when used correctly with pulse oximetry, reduces complications and mortality by 30 percent. By providing pulse oximeters in low-resource settings, Lifebox estimates that it has contributed to making surgery safer for 10 million patients. Through donations, Lifebox has distributed nearly 15,000 oximeters to hospitals in settings where even the cheapest and most fragile oximeter is unaffordable. But it's much more than this, Gawande says. "If all we were doing was parachuting in a bunch of pulse oximeters, we wouldn't have such a tremendous impact." Instead, through a volunteer network of anesthetists from high-income countries, Lifebox has supplied thousands of anesthesia providers in low-income countries with safety skills training. "Once you introduce the device and safety training into the riskiest part of the hospital system, you begin to build confidence that there are professional values at work aimed at generating better, safer care," Gawande explains. "It gives clinicians confidence that they can take on more difficult cases. And people begin to believe that turning to hospitals when you are in desperate trouble is safe, that these are places you want to go."

Ganbold Lundeg was surprised when he first read the Bible—and not pleasantly. It was 1993, a low point in Mongolian history, when post-Soviet medicine, like the country itself, was floundering. Ganbold, a lecturer in anesthesia at the Health Sciences University of Mongolia, wasn't alone in wondering whether the Bible, much promoted by a visiting surgeon and missionary from Arkansas, Albert 'Buck' Rusher, might offer an answer. So he decided to learn English in order to read it.

The American's Bible classes were a hit with the Mongolian medical community. "Some doctors were converted to Christianity without reading the Bible," recalls Ganbold. "I wanted to read it first." He enrolled at an international school, attending the one English-language course in the whole of Mongolia at the time. "I'd heard so much about the Bible," he recalls. But the text, particularly the Old Testament, was unimpressive, "just like the fairy stories we heard as children."

Yet he has never regarded as wasted the time he devoted to reading how Moses led his people through the Red Sea. Learning English gave him access to English-language medical journals, to which he was able to subscribe with the support of the missionary. "Even in the 1990s, these journals were regarded as subversive—they always arrived opened. I once had a visit from a member of the KGB who wanted to know why I was receiving them."

Most importantly, he says, speaking English enabled him to make a personal connection that has undoubtedly helped to save hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives. In 1999, a Melbourne-based anesthesiologist, David Pescod, arrived in Ulaanbaatar to attend a medical conference. On that first visit, Pescod survived on mutton fat and vodka and spent two weeks listening to lectures in Mongolian interspersed with electricity cuts, all in –4ºF temperatures. The only other fluent English speaker present was Ganbold, who asked Pescod to return to deliver a lecture the following year. Pescod kept going back, forging links there together with a group of Australian colleagues, and what he learned about anesthetic practices in Mongolia surprised him.

Mongolian surgical training and practice, he realised, were based on outdated, frankly dangerous 40-year-old Russian texts, with patients being given inappropriate anesthetic drugs and at insufficient doses. Pescod settled down to write a series of anesthesia textbooks designed specifically for Mongolian hospitals.

In 2004, Ganbold's department, supported by the Australian team, started to implement the WHO's Emergency and Essential Surgical Care program, aimed at strengthening surgical services outside the capital city. "Many people think that surgery is something very special that cannot be delivered in a developing country or in a rural area," he says. "But when we build up safe conditions, educate people and train them appropriately, then doctors and nurses can deliver safe surgery in a very small hospital anywhere in Mongolia."

The recent safe surgery developments have built on this innovation. In 2011, the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist was made mandatory by the Mongolian health department. By 2012, funding from Australian and New Zealand anesthetists had paid for 116 Lifebox pulse oximeters: 64 in Ulaanbaatar, three in Chinggis City, and the others distributed throughout the country. The oximeters themselves have been physically delivered by Lifebox, which also provides teaching materials for a one-day course on pulse oximetry that is now incorporated into a week of training on safe anesthesia that Pescod and his team continue to provide each year in Ulaanbaatar and throughout Mongolia.

Lifebox pulse oximeters have been handed out to surgical teams at 'inter-soum' hospitals, the large district hospitals such as the one in Chinggis City, as well as at smaller soum (township) hospitals, enabling local staff to respond to emergencies. At one level, it means that around 200 people a year with acute appendicitis are treated in Khentii Province instead of having to travel to Ulaanbaatar—the only location able to carry out appendectomies until four years ago. At the other extreme, emergency patients like Gunbileg receive urgent, life-saving surgery.

In January 2014, Ganbold became one of 25 clinical experts advising the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery—"the proudest achievement in my professional career"—with its aspiration to make safe surgery and anesthesia a human right available to all. Mongolia is now cited by the Lancet Commission as a potential model in promoting safe surgery and anesthesia for other medium-sized countries such as Myanmar and Laos, and even for India and China.

Ganbold's great ambition is to open 20 hospitals with functioning operating rooms by 2020, by building up services in strategically located provincial clinics. If that means going cap in hand to wealthy countries and organizations, that's what he does. In Ulaanbaatar, we visit the UK ambassador to Mongolia, and Ganbold explains to her how the UK government could provide assistance with the minimum of funding. The UK firm Diamedica has pioneered the production of basic anesthesia machines that can be used virtually anywhere without electricity or even medical gases. Ganbold urges the ambassador to consider funding such machines for hospitals in remote Mongolia. She agrees to consider the idea.

It's this persistence in seeking out and achieving the best that keeps Pescod coming back to Mongolia, he says. "Unlike other countries where I have lectured, eventually everything we bring to Mongolian anesthetists has been engaged and usually improved," he tells me.

Bilguun Unurbileg, a senior lecturer in anesthesiology at the Health Sciences University of Mongolia and Ganbold's number two, says that's down to their nomadic ancestry. "Mongolians are hard-wired to reach out for new ideas. That's the result of centuries of living in the middle of nowhere, entirely reliant on yourself to care for your family. It's how we survive."

Two thousand miles south of Ulaanbaatar, Assam in northeast India has twice the country's already high average maternal mortality rate: There are around 300 deaths per 100,000 pregnancies in Assam, compared with 174 in India as a whole and just 9 in the UK. Three-quarters of these deaths occur among the 800,000-strong female workforce employed in Assam's tea gardens, where the high number of perinatal emergencies is the result of the harsh conditions of the workday. Even when women and their babies do get successful surgery in the nearest properly equipped hospital, post-operative care remains hazardous, partly because of the lack of pulse oximetry in recovery wards.

"Healthcare for mothers working in tea gardens is pathetic," says Surajit Giri, a consultant anesthetist and critical care physician based at Demow Community Health Center near Sivasagar, northern Assam. He is employed by the Indian government as part of its recently established National Rural Health Mission. But he's well aware of the deficiencies of the service. Demow is the only clinic providing care for seven tea gardens—and has only one operating room, with basic obstetric intensive care facilities.

Last October, Giri helped to organize a 'Train the Trainers' workshop in Dibrugarh, supported by Lifebox, focusing on the benefits of pulse oximetry in post-operative care—an area local practitioners had identified as being one where they most needed support. Neeraj Bhardwaj, a UK consultant anesthetist, talked 68 local anesthetists through a one-day 'Safer Anesthesia' workshop. And at the end of the day, each practitioner was able to go back to work with their own new Lifebox pulse oximeter. 

The day after receiving the Lifebox oximeter, Giri made it mandatory for nurses at the health centre to monitor oxygen saturation levels in newborn babies, using the neonatal probe that comes with the adult oximeter for an extra $25. Already, he says, healthcare is safer. "That day, a baby was delivered that was shown by the probe to have just 58 per cent oxygen saturation. The nurse immediately shouted for my help to resuscitate the baby, which I rushed to do—and it soon started crying healthily, maintaining oxygen concentration without assistance. Without the oximeter, that would not have happened. If five minutes had gone by before we took action, the baby would probably have survived, but with a disabling brain injury."

The Dibrugarh course is the first event of a three-year initiative funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation that will eventually hand out 675 Lifebox pulse oximeters, with appropriate training, initially in three regions of India: Bihar, Odisha, and Assam. It's the start of a journey to transform surgery in a country where currently 7,000 out of 155,000 operating rooms lack pulse oximetry.

"Of course Lifebox pulse oximeters increase the safety of patients," says Giri. "But they also increase the security and confidence of anesthetists to join rural services, which they haven't done before because of lack of technology and poor infrastructure."

Ankhbaatar was 38 weeks pregnant when, lifting a heavy load while setting up camp in her felt-walled ger, she felt a sudden sharp pain in her abdomen. It was September 2015 and she knew straight away that her baby was at risk.

The nomad family's ger was pitched in Khovd Province in western Mongolia. It's a natural paradise: a vast area of snow-covered peaks, rocky deserts, and salt lakes that is an adventure playground for tourists in the summer and a favored location for Mongolia's nomads to graze their herds of sheep, goats, and yaks. 

Ankhbaatar used her cell phone to summon the rural soum doctor from a small surgery a 12-mile off-road drive away. He examined her, and confirmed that she had suffered a placental abruption, the pressure from the load she was carrying almost certainly causing a swathe of blood vessels that feed the fetus to detach from the wall of the uterus. 

"The rural doctor reported that the fetus was distressed and that it was out of the question for the mother to travel to us," recalls Dr. Nansalmaa, an obstetrician based in the main hospital in the city of Khovd. So the obstetric team, Nansalmaa, an anesthetist and a neonatologist went to Ankhbaatar's ger, together with the basic equipment needed to carry out an emergency caesarean section, including an oxygen concentrator and suction machine, an operating lamp, a Honda electricity generator and, perhaps most importantly, a pulse oximeter.

Within hours of an incident that until recently would have consigned Ankhbaatar (not her real name) and her baby to becoming yet another obstetric fatality, both mother and baby survived thanks to safe spinal anesthesia followed by a caesarean section. 

Ger surgery is rare. But when necessary, it happens without fuss. For nomadic patients, that instills confidence: not just in the healthcare system, but also in their chosen traditional lifestyle. That's what I discover when I call on Tumurdavaa Gursed in the ger that was the location for her emergency surgery eight years ago, when she was close to death due to a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. She too was unable to travel, and would have died had the emergency surgical team not already been in operation and ready to travel through the night to carry out the emergency operation—albeit without a pulse oximeter—at first dawn.

I sit on the low bench used for the operation, reflecting on the commitment of the team back then—carrying out a two-hour operation in a roasting hot ger, the anesthetist bent almost double throughout to monitor his patient.

Tumurdavaa, serving boiled horse with blood pudding and potatoes along with fresh cream and biscuits, is silent as we eat. I take it for shyness at first, but then realize it's simply a lack of interest in small talk. When I ask her about her brush with death, she talks at length, eloquent in paying tribute not only to the medical team but also to the impact of the policy of safe surgery on nomadic life. "I'm so joyful and reassured," she tells me, "that I can continue living blissfully beside my animals."

This article was first published by Wellcome on Mosaic and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

14 Feb 22:53

Javier Marías: "Internet es la imbecilidad organizada"

by Daniel Arjona

"Internet nos ha traído por primera vez en la historia la imbecilidad organizada y esa es más difícil de combatir que la imbecilidad individual. Los que escribimos y opinamos estamos cada vez más achantados por cualquier cosa que pueda ser tachada de machista, racista, anti animalista... Hay presión." Javier Marías (Madrid, 1951) ha denunciado este martes la "estupidización de las redes" en un almuerzo con periodistas en un local de la Cava Baja de Madrid con motivo de la presentación de la edición conmemorativa de los 25 años de 'Corazón tan blanco' que esta semana sale a la venta. Una novela "literaria" que despachó la increíble cifra de 2.300.000 ejemplares en todo el mundo, fue editada en 44 países y traducida a 37 idiomas. Era otra época.

Cuando Marías lamenta durante la comida que, en la sociedad de hoy, se ha perdido el sentido del humor, le preguntan si no le ha ocurrido de alguna forma lo mismo a él pues sus columnas semanales en el dominical de El País parecen cada vez más agrias y desabridas, ya sea contra los perros o contra el teatro vanguardista. "No sé si ustedes se han dado cuenta de que en un plazo breve en este país se ha pasado del 'toda opinión es respetable' al 'no tolero una opinión que me contraríe'". Y remata: "Hay furia vocacional. Hay personas que se levantan cada mañana y piensan a quién pueden cargarse hoy". Marías, por cierto, se ufana de escribir "con máquina" y que lo que sale en las redes "me lo cuentan".

Lectores impacientes

"Si 'Corazón tan blanco' fuera una novedad editorial este 2017, dudo mucho que disfrutara de la misma fortuna que tuvo en su día. Los lectores de hoy son más impacientes, quieren mucha más intriga de la que hay aquí". Y sin embargo, aunque Marías menciona durante la comida el dato de los 2.300.000 ejemplares vendidos, en el prólogo de la nueva edición de su libro confiesa que "es imposible saber sus ventas reales en España durante su primera andadura”.

¿Es esta una velada alusión a la polémica que tuvo en su día con el primer editor del libro, Jorge Herralde, de Anagrama, al que acusó en una carta en El Mundo el 8 de octubre de 1996 por su "insoportable trato" y por "las reiteradas inverosimilitudes en las liquidaciones de mis libros, nunca explicadas satisfactoriamente”? "Velada alusión es una expresión adecuada", responde Marías a este periodista.

- ¿Pero por qué pensaba que Herralde le hurtaba las cifras de ventas de sus libros?

- Llegó un momento en que tuve mis dudas acerca de las cifras que me daba. Pero ya me estás preguntando demasiado.

Edición conmemorativa de 'Corazón tan blanco'

Marías se pasó a Alfaguara y es este sello el que publica ahora en edición en caja de lujo que incorpora un libro extra de artículos suyos -y de otros- sobre su novela -incluida una estupenda carta/crítica de Juan Benet. El libro extra se titula 'No he querido saber' y remeda el inolvidable arranque de su novela: "No he querido saber pero he sabido que una de las niñas, cuando ya no era niña y no hacía mucho que había regresado de su viaje de bodas, entró en el cuarto de baño, se puso frente al espejo, se abrió la blusa, se quitó el sostén y se buscó el corazón con la punta de la pistola de su propio padre, que estaba en el comedor con parte de la familia y tres invitados'.

Un golpe de fortuna

Javier Marías bebe cerveza sin alcohol y lamenta que en estos almuerzos el protagonista habla y habla y apenas puede comer ni salir a fumar. Recuerda cómo en 1990, con cuarenta años recién cumplidos y un puesto "miserable" como profesor adjunto de Teoría de la Traducción en la Complutense de Madrid, se planteó si vivir o no de la literatura. "Dudé, no tanto por el poco dinero que ganaba en la Universidad como por cerrarme una puerta psicológica si la abandonaba. No podía imaginar que, un año después, el éxito de 'Corazón tan blanco' me iba a permitir hacerlo. Fue un golpe de fortuna". Vaya que si lo fue.

Aquella era la séptima novela de Marías, las anteriores no se habían vendido mal, según cuenta, llegando hasta los 10.000 ejemplares. 'Corazón tan blanco' empezó también bien en España, sin excesos, hasta que un buen día fue recomendada en el mítico programa alemán 'El cuarteto literario', del crítico Marcel Reich-Ranicki. Su editorial alemana de entonces había publicado el libro de rebote después de que la que le solía editar en aquel país cambiara de dueños y se lo quitara de encima. Fue ofrecido a otros cinco sellos y todos lo rechazaron menos uno, Klett-Cotta.

"Un buen día me avisaron muy emocionados de que iban a hablar de mí en el programa de Ranicki y me sorprendió, pensaba que era el típico programa de libros que se emitía por la noche". Pero en Alemania aquel programa 'de libros' era uno de los más vistos de la televisión y su presentador puso la novela de Marías por las nubes y exigió: "este libro debería estar el primero en las listas de los más vendidos de Alemania". Y lo consiguió.

En la citada carta de Juan Benet sobre 'Corazón tan blanco' los elogios son tan interesantes como las críticas. El autor de 'Volverás a Región' le afea "un cierto olor a intriga”.

- ¿A usted también le parece, como a él, que escribir una novela con argumento es fácil pero que lo más difícil es escribir una novela sin argumento?

- Yo estoy de acuerdo con Don Juan. De hecho, mis novelas no tienen mucho argumento. Pero he aprendido de Hitchcock que quien escribe una novela debe ofrecer un mínimo argumento o intriga al lector. Es el pasaporte para poder incluir luego lo que le interesa, las reflexiones y digresiones. No es un truco de mala ley.

14 Feb 22:50

What Swearing Off Sex Does To Your Brain

by Hanson O'Haver For Broadly

In honor of Valentine's Day, we're spending the week debunking myths and lies about romance. Read the rest of our "Love is a Hoax" coverage here.

"We should be fucking," the David Banner song "Fucking" says. But is it true? Reminders of sex are certainly common in our society, from the advertisements on the subway to the attractive people on the subway who make us think about sex. Sometimes sex—the physical wants, the search for the right partner(s), the fear that everyone else is having more frequent and better choreographed intercourse than you—can feel like an oppressive force in our lives. Beyond this, there's a perception—especially prevalent among men who frequent online forums—that sex (or even self-achieved orgasms) causes the comer to lose energy that could be otherwise put towards building a better life.

For some people, these complications are too much to take. They've gone ahead and forsworn intercourse (and, in some cases, masturbation). Sometimes this is a temporary decision, a realignment of sorts, like a more literal Dry January. For other people, like the voluntary celibates of Reddit, this is a long-term project, with message boards forming an AA-like support group. These "volcels," as they're known (in contrast to involuntary celibates, or "incels"), swear that their white-knuckle lifestyle gives them courage, confidence, calmness, creativity, and other benefits that don't start with c.

Read more: Can You Go Crazy from a Lack of Touch?

I'm generally skeptical of online health advice, and doubly so when lifestyle guru Tim Ferriss backs it. Still, the idea that doing a counterintuitive and unpleasant thing could actually be good is the kind of pseudoscience that makes intuitive sense—hence the appeal of toe shoes and eating paleo. I wasn't, like, about to try it, but the neurological case against sex still seemed plausible. I decided to see if the scientific facts back it up.

I first spoke with Dr. Beverly Whipple, a leading sexologist and the co-author of The Science of Orgasm and numerous other books on sexuality. She told me that she's unaware of any medical benefit to abstaining from orgasm, and she literally co-wrote the book on the subject. "I would know about this if there was something scientifically to it."

Next I spoke with Dr. Nan Wise, a sex therapist and psychotherapist with a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. She said that there really is no physiological benefit to abstaining from orgasm, but things are more complicated than that. "When it comes to sexuality, you always have to look at biological, psychological, and social stuff." The power of the mind shouldn't be discounted. "Here's a place where the power of belief is going to determine what people experience, and their experience is going to confirm their belief. For people who believe that abstinence is going to help them, the belief itself may be driving some of the benefits."

I wasn't, like, about to try it, but the neurological case against sex still seemed plausible.

That said, any physical benefits from celibacy are likely to be short-lived. "There's really no hard evidence in support of the notion that abstaining from sexual activity or from ejaculation has any demonstrative benefits," Wise says. "On the other hand, there's evidence that having fairly frequent ejaculations has health benefits in terms of lower levels of prostate cancer. In general, there's a lot of evidence that engaging in regular sexual behavior is physically and emotionally helpful for both men and women, as long as we're not getting diseases or doing stupid things."

What about the message board belief that not ejaculating allows men to build up more testosterone? "There's an old study that shows testosterone levels increase if men abstain for seven days, but there hasn't been any continued evidence of that." (The study Wise refers to, conducted by researchers at Zhejiang University in 2002, found that testosterone spiked after seven days of abstinence but went back to normal fluctuations after that.) In other words, the relationship between testosterone and orgasm isn't quite as simple as people think; testosterone isn't something that just increases until it spills out during orgasm. Dr. Wise says the perception is "that people who have lower testosterone have less sex, in particular men. But there's also evidence that engaging in sexual behavior increases testosterone levels. It's not that low T causes people not to have sex; not having sex may actually inhibit testosterone."

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To be clear, it's not that abstinence is actively bad for you. It's just that it prevents you from getting all the health benefits that can come from sex. "A lot of the benefits of sex are not just about sex," Wise says. "It's about having connection with another human being. Even masturbation is a pleasurable activity. Orgasm is fantastic for your brain. A lot of different regions are activated, which means they're getting a lot of blood flow. It's kind of a workout for your brain."

Nevertheless, Dr. Wise says that sexuality is shockingly under-studied. "There are major gaps in the literature, in particular with female sexuality," she says. "And unless a drug company can make money, there's very little funding." This lack of hard data allows misconceptions and quackery to take root. "It's so sad. We're so uncomfortable in this culture with dealing with our sexuality in a healthy way."

So this is one of the rare situations where doctors advise: If it feels good, do it. "Pleasure is really important," Wise says. "Sex is great for us, especially if we feel good about sex and about the people we're having sex with—including ourselves."

14 Feb 22:49

Why Men Fall In Love Faster Than Women

by Jessica Pan For Broadly

In honor of Valentine's Day, we're spending the week debunking myths and lies about romance. Read the rest of our "Love is a Hoax" coverage here.

"I love you."

It's an excruciatingly common misperception that straight women throw themselves headlong into the classic three-word declaration, desperate to know "what we are" and "where we're going." But studies show heterosexual men tend to fall in love, or believe they have fallen in love, much faster than their female partners.

One such study surveyed 172 college students. "Men," it said, "reported falling in love earlier and expressing it earlier than women reported. These results indicate that women may not be the greater 'fools for love' that society assumes."

This finding was at odds with the students' preconceived notions, says psychologist Marissa Harrison, who co-authored the study. "Women are assumed to be emotional; sometimes overly so, or rash," she tells Broadly. "Both men and women in our study presumed that women would fall in love and say 'I love you' faster than men."

Neil Lamont, a London-based psychologist, thinks people generally tend to see men as more pragmatic or even commitment-avoidant. " time and she would only become pregnant by one man," she says.

But she also stresses that this doesn't mean infidelity can—or should—be chalked up to survival instincts. "Today, if a man commits to a woman, and vice versa, one's modern frontal cortex should allow them to keep that commitment. That is, I am not saying evolved drives confer a license to infidelity or abandonment of one's partner."

Translation: men can't excuse their cheating because of their drive for "species survival" or evolution because, well, men aren't actually cavemen anymore—their brains have evolved to control their urges.

But, they're still more likely to say "I love you" first.

14 Feb 22:46

Why Every Generation Freaks Out About a New Drug

by Maia Szalavitz

It's not hard to discern a general pattern over the course of American history when it comes to drug use: Every decade or so, a new panic emerges. In the 1960s, the slogan was "speed kills," and the alarm was raised about LSD. The 70s saw the emergence of a bona fide heroin epidemic. The 80s, of course, were high on cocaine, culminating in the crack era. The 1990s embraced nostalgia: Heroin was chic again, even if it allegedly fried your brain like an egg. The 2000s saw the rise of methamphetamine, and so far, this decade has largely (if by no means exclusively) been a story of heroin and opioids.

So what does this panic calendar portend for the future of our currently en vogue opioid problem—and drug policy in America?

The failure of any given generation to recognize the dangers of drugs not currently in fashion is such a recurring theme that it's been given a name. The University of Michigan's Lloyd Johnston calls it "generational forgetting," and, during the four decades in which he's led the US government's large national survey of youth drug use, Monitoring the Future (MTF), it has been on consistent display.

"We use the term to refer to the general idea that younger generations often do not know about the dangers of a drug-use epidemic," says Richard Miech, another professor at the University of Michigan and a co-investigator for MTF. "While one generation may have learned the hard way about the dangers of a specific drug… the next generation may have to learn the same lesson all over again."

"I often mention in it my lectures," adds University of California Professor Emeritus Craig Reinarman, a sociologist, "It seems to me that it's the result of a policy choice because the amount of cultural learning that takes place gets erased," he continues, explaining that as users become familiar with particular drugs, they tend to develop ways to manage risks. Drug education that focuses primarily on "just say no" doesn't leave room to pass these harm reduction measures down, he notes.

The problem is exacerbated by mass media outlets, which, as I noted in my last column, have a nasty habit of using select quotes and anecdotes to refashion the currently hot drug into the most deadly and addictive scourge ever. This results in ironic contradictions for anyone who actually bothers to read the archives and misinformation that drives public policy. Since every new threat is described as unprecedented, the lessons of the past go unheeded.

I experienced this for the first time myself in the 1980s, when, if you listened to the media, crack use was going to escalate forever until every suburban teen was curled up in a den with her own pipe. In fact, by the time a drug epidemic becomes a matter of public concern, it is typically already on the wane: Reinarman's research documented this quite clearly in a seminal analysis of that period. He notes that cocaine use in the US overall had begun to decline before the 1980s panic over it even started: the percent of the population who said they'd ever tried cocaine peaked in 1982, around four years before the media hysteria about the problem really took off.  

As for crack, the first time the government measured use by high school students resulted in the highest number ever seen: 4.1 percent of high school seniors in 1986 reported having used it in the past year, though the vast majority of these had done so only once. That number was down by 25 percent within two years. Nonetheless, media coverage continued to report that a whole generation was at increasing risk because of the "deadly" drug. (In 1985, there were a total of eight crack-related deaths among youth in the entire US and such deaths were never seen in more significant numbers, as reported in Reinarman's book Crack in America.) 

Of course, violence related to the illicit sale of crack, crack addiction itself, and the mass incarceration policy that was pursued in the name of addressing the problem did do tremendous harm—particularly in the black community in cities. And in fact, a healthy generational response grew up indigenously: the younger siblings and children of the crack generation—far from becoming the crack-fueled "super-predators" politicians had predicted—mainly turned to a different, and far more benign drug.

While the media and politicians were obsessing about young white Americans, grunge and the "deplorable" fashion trend of heroin chic, in the 1990s, the black hip-hop generation was turning to marijuana, according to David Courtwright, a professor of history at the University of North Florida, who cites research by Andrew Golub and Bruce Johnson.

Courtright, who is a pioneer in the study of opiate use in American history, notes that in the 90s, some black teenagers "shunned the drugs that messed up their elders. They would see what they called a 'thirsty crackhead' and say, 'I'm not going to do that. I'll smoke reefer instead.'" And some of the adults who had themselves been hooked on crack began using marijuana, too—to wean themselves off of the harder stuff.

Check out our interview with Alexis Neiers about 'The Bling Ring' and her drug problems.

It's too early to tell yet how our current opioid epidemic will play out and whether there will be another turn towards less risky drugs like marijuana—or whether this generation will switch to a drug type that has harmed prior generations, but received little notice lately.

If recent history is any guide, next up should be a stimulant—perhaps Ritalin, Adderall, cocaine or some new synthetic upper. Today's young people have been exposed to countless headlines and videos warning of opioid problems and they've likely seen the struggles of family members or older friends. But far less attention is given to stimulant risks.

Still, what is clear is that the move away from opioids is already happening among younger people. According to MTF data, past-year use of prescription opioids by high school seniors peaked at 9.5 percent in 2004 and was just 5.4 percent by 2015; for heroin, past year use peaked at 1.5 percent in 2000 and is currently only .3 percent. Daily use of prescription opioids reached .4 percent in 2009, but is now just .1 percent. Says Miech, of the trend among youth, "Since 2009, use of these drugs fell by 40 percent."

That's the good news. The bad news is that people suffering from opioid addiction right now are not being adequately treated and will continue to be at risk for overdose, particularly given the rising supply of fentanyl. If we want to stop the constant cycling of generations from one drug to the next, we need to focus more on why people use—not on whatever drug is particularly fashionable.

Follow Maia Szalavitz on Twitter.

14 Feb 22:39

Six Things People Still Get Wrong About Sex

by Debby Herbenick

For more than 15 years, I've taught human sexuality classes to thousands of college students. I've also answered sex questions for magazines, newspapers, and websites. In other words, I've seen and heard it all. And thanks to the barely-there state of sexual education in the US, there are a number of myths that just won't go away. (As of 2014, most schools still preach abstinence as the best way to avoid pregnancy and STD transmission. And only 35 percent of classes teach students how to correctly use a condom, according to the Guttmacher Institute.) These are the six misconceptions I find myself correcting most often—while wishing I didn't need to.

You Can't Have Sex During the Placebo Week of Birth Control I regularly hear from teens and young adults who are worried they might be pregnant after having sex without a condom during the so-called "placebo week" of their birth control pill pack. What this tells me is that many women and men don't know how birth control pills work. They wrongly assume that the pill only "works" to prevent pregnancy on days when active hormonal pills are swallowed, as if every pill provides just 24 hours of protection. Nope!

Read more on Tonic

14 Feb 22:28

Do You Eat Your Eggshells?

by Mayukh Sen

We've all been there—some of us more than others, I guess. You’re whipping up a culinary storm when, before you know it, whoops! A shard of your eggshell gets in your pancake. A nice crunch in your morning frittata.

Last week, while scrolling through Twitter, I came across this somewhat bizarre, fear-mongering Business Insider video above that provocatively suggested I eat my eggshells rather than discard them. Hm.

STOP throwing away your eggshells, the video's bold typeface demands of me. It goes on to detail the sheer number of wasted egg shells produced in the States alone—150,000 tons—and it offers a suggestion to remedy this through eating your eggshells instead. The video walks through the benefits, arguing that an eggshell is a hearty source of calcium; a chicken eggshell contains roughly twice the recommended daily value of calcium.

And then comes the catch: The video warns that, if you'd actually like to eat your eggshells, you'd better boil them to kill any bacteria, bake them at 200° F degrees for 10 - 15 minutes, and grind them. The resultant powder can fit in much of anywhere: pizza dough, bread, spaghetti. Careful, though, the video warns at the end; too much calcium can be bad for you.

Thank you, Business Insider. That was quite a ride.

All About Eggs
All About Eggs by Joy Belamarich

The suggestion that you should eat your eggshells isn't new; in watching this video, I think of the soul who wrote The New York Times three years back asking if it was permissible to eat part of an eggshell with a soft-boiled egg every morning. Most proponents of eating eggshells point to a 2003 study that demonstrated the eggshell’s capacity to act as a buffer against senile osteoporosis.

Still, I'm not sure I'm convinced. The process seems too cumbersome, and there may be calcium-rich alternatives to eggshells that require less preparation. But I guess I’m willing to try.

Do you eat your eggshells? Would you ever? Let us know in the comments.

14 Feb 14:28

I've been visiting Russia for nearly 30 years. I've never seen Russians prouder than under Putin.

by Lisa Dickey

One evening in October 2015, my Russian friend Valera and I went to the movies in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. There was a multiplex not far from his apartment, and with a dozen movies to choose from, we decided to see The Martian.

As we walked out of the movie, I asked how he liked it. To my surprise, he began fuming about a scene I hadn’t thought twice about: a plot point in which the Americans ask China, not Russia, for help in getting a powerful enough rocket to return to Mars.

“Why would the Americans ask China for a rocket?” he practically spat. “Everybody knows the Russians have the greatest rockets in the world. We were the pioneers in space!”

I told him I didn’t think this was meant as a slap at Russia, and that as far as I knew, the Chinese had an impressive space program too. But Valera — who’s actually one of my more apolitical friends in Russia — was convinced that the film’s producers, most likely under the direction of the US government, had picked China to deliberately belittle Russia. This was a pretty wild assertion, but it’s a sign of the times in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

For the past few weeks, President Trump has unsettled foreign leaders around the world, not to mention both Democrats and Republicans at home, with his unrelenting praise of Putin. He regularly lauds the Russian leader as smart, strong, and popular — and I can personally attest that he’s right about that last trait.

I saw Putin’s enormous public support firsthand during three months I spent in Russia in 2015. My takeaway: Many ordinary Russians believe he has has — to paraphrase a Trumpism — made Russia great again. And they love him for it. While Western observers criticize Putin for his dismal human rights record, brutal crackdowns on dissent, the annexation of Crimea, and apparent desire to upend the geopolitical order, none of these things has dented Putin’s public support at home.

This is the story of how Vladimir Putin transformed himself from being a little-known mayoral adviser to the most popular and powerful leader in recent Russian history.

Putin inherited a broken, dispirited country. Russians believe he’s fixed all that.

In 1995, 2005, and 2015, I took three identical trips across Russia (I’ve been visiting Russia since 1988). On each of those three 5,000-plus trips from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg, I stopped in the same 11 cities and interviewed the same people — sort of like the British documentary series 7-Up, but with Russians.

On the first trip, in 1995, the country was in shambles. Just four years out of the Soviet era, the Russian economy was tanking and the value of the ruble had plummeted, wiping out many people’s savings. A tiny sliver of enormously wealthy people was perched at the top of the economic ladder, while most of the rest struggled. Western goods were now available in Russia, but the general population couldn’t afford to buy them. And anyone wanting to start or run a business had to contend with the ever-present Russian mafia, which routinely demanded exorbitant sums for “protection.”

The president then was Boris Yeltsin, who was, it’s fair to say, not a paragon of stability. During the course of his presidency, he morphed from heroic resister of the 1991 coup attempt, standing valiantly atop a tank, to a fleshy, unpredictable, alcohol-fueled embarrassment. In its 2007 obituary of Yeltsin, Time magazine observed that “in the US, Boris Yeltsin will be more fondly remembered as the man who turned the menacing Russian bear of Cold War fear-mongering into a warm and cuddly creature, supine, pitiable and willing to perform in exchange for scraps.”

For a country that had for decades been one of the world’s two superpowers, this was an ego-smashing fall. When I asked about America on that 1995 trip, Russians often responded with admiration, even envy. One 18-year-old in Moscow, a McDonald’s employee named Yuri, told me that “the only people who criticize the wave of American culture in Russia are either nationalists or they're crazy.” And a 14-year-old named Denis, who was puffing on cigarettes when I interviewed him, told me, “I would definitely go live in America. Right now. No question.”

The prevailing attitude among most of the Russians I spoke with seemed to be a friendly, wistful appreciation of the United States. And Putin was a complete unknown, working in St. Petersburg under then-Mayor Anatoly Sobchak.

On my second trip, in 2005, things had changed. By then, Putin had been president for five years, and I saw a marked difference in the fortunes not only of the Russians I’d first interviewed 10 years earlier but of their towns and cities as well.

Almost all the people I talked to, in places such as Chita, Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, and Kazan, were better off financially than they’d been in 1995; many now had credit cards, had traveled to Turkey or Thailand on vacation, and could afford to buy imported clothes and food. In their towns, potholed streets had been repaired, bridges had been built, new apartment buildings were going up. Between 1995 and 2005, the price of oil nearly tripled, and with that rise came a rise in Russia’s fortunes. In the eyes of many Russians, these improvements were a direct result of Putin’s leadership.

Part of Putin’s appeal was that, unlike Yeltsin, he radiated discipline: He didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, and was a black belt in karate. His actions, words, and very bearing conveyed a message of Russian strength, and the effect on Russians’ pride was palpable. It reminded me of the effect Ronald Reagan had on conservative Americans in the early 1980s, when he followed the national malaise of the Carter era with his relentless message that America could be great again.

This is why Russians buy Putin-emblazoned refrigerator magnets, T-shirts, and calendars

When I made the third trip, in 2015, a few themes kept surfacing: 1) people (such as my friend Valera) felt that the USA didn’t sufficiently respect Russia; 2) they loved and admired Putin; and 3) they were confident that Putin would restore Russia’s proper standing on the world stage — regardless of whether that involved lifting up Russia, knocking the US down a peg, or some combination of the two.

I’d wondered whether Putin was really as popular as reports and polls suggested — a July 2016 survey from a Moscow-based nonprofit pegged it at an astonishing 82 percent — and it didn’t take long to determine that he was. Everywhere I went, I saw his face: gazing out from refrigerator magnets, emblazoned on T-shirts, plastered all over wall calendars. In people’s homes, I saw framed photos of him placed lovingly beside family photos in the living room shkaf, or bookcase. One woman in Vladivostok, in response to my question of how she felt about Putin, picked up her framed portrait and gently kissed his face.

He was fabulously popular, even though the Russian economy was once again in a slump. Between January 2014 and September 2015, when I landed in Vladivostok, the value of the ruble fell by half, obliterating Russians’ purchasing power. Yet almost none of the Russians I spoke to blamed Putin. Instead, they blamed the Americans (and the West generally), for two reasons. First, for the sanctions we imposed following the annexation of Crimea. And second, because they were convinced we had artificially depressed oil prices specifically in order to damage their economy, which is heavily dependent on income from oil exports.

This, more than anything, persuaded me that Putin’s power runs deep and wide in Russia. It’s easy for a leader to gain support when the economy is strong. What’s difficult is maintaining that support even as things start to go south, and Putin has done that.

Yet of course there’s that other, darker reason he’s able to maintain such sky-high support. During his time in power, Putin has systematically stamped out political dissent and gutted what had once been a relatively free press. Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot dead within sight of the Kremlin in February of 2015. Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium-210 in London. And as I write this, fierce Putin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza — who already survived one poisoning in 2015 — is in grave condition in Moscow, after his organs failed following an apparent second poisoning. He’s 35 years old.

Journalists who’ve criticized Putin’s government have also felt its wrath, being blacklisted, intimidated, threatened with prosecution, and occasionally murdered. Opposition journalism has been relentlessly suppressed; as a result, Russians who get their news from television are treated to a steady diet of pro-Putin — and anti-US — reports. And while more sophisticated consumers of Russian media realize these reports are one-sided, others don’t.

Many Russians continue to believe that the Russian press is completely free. A wealthy, world-traveling woman in Chelyabinsk named Masha was one of these: “The Russian press is certainly more free than the American press,” she told me over lunch in October 2015. When I asked her about journalists such as Anna Politkovskaya, shot dead in her Moscow apartment building following critical investigative reporting in Chechnya, Masha replied simply, “Journalists get killed in America too.”

Which brings us back around to our new president, Donald Trump. As his White House team continues to disseminate statements that are demonstrably untrue, while simultaneously engaging in a running effort to discredit CNN as a “fake news” operation, it does appear that he’s taking a page out of the Kremlin’s playbook. And I couldn’t help but notice that his recent rebuttal to Bill O’Reilly — “We have a lot of killers. … You think our country is so innocent?” — sounds an awful lot like the assertions of Masha in Chelyabinsk.

Amid all this, one fact is inescapably true. Yes, in The Martian, the US turned to the Chinese for rocket help. But even so, there’s no doubt that unlike in the 1990s, Americans are once again paying very close attention to what Russia does. In the eyes of many Russians, Vladimir Putin has made their country great again. Now we must ensure that our own president’s quest to “make America great again” doesn’t come at a similar cost.

Lisa Dickey is the author of Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia (St. Martin's Press, 2017). As a book collaborator and ghostwriter, she helped write 17 published nonfiction books, including eight New York Times best-sellers. Dickey began her career in St. Petersburg, Russia, writing articles for the Moscow Times and USA Today. She also regularly appears at live events such as the Moth Grand Slam.

14 Feb 14:25

A Face made from South American Heads of State

by Alex E
14 Feb 14:23

Liberals on Match.com aren't in the mood since the election of Donald Trump

by Brian Resnick

29 percent of liberals on Match.com say they’ve been less interested in dating since the election.

Failing to woo a liberal this Valentine’s Day? It’s not just you. For some liberals in the United States, the presidential election results have been a total turn-off.

Normally in the first month of the year, the dating site Match.com sees an uptick in the number of active users on the site. January, after all, is a popular month for singles to get back out there.

But this January, Match.com noticed something surprising: a decrease in activity among the site’s more liberal users. In January, “people who call themselves liberals were far less likely to sign up with Match” and weren’t contacting potential matches or checking out new profiles as much, says Helen Fisher, the company’s science adviser.

Meanwhile, conservatives flocked to find new partners in droves. Users in counties that voted for Donald Trump seem to be more interested in dating than users in counties that voted for Hillary Clinton.

Match was curious about why, as the site didn’t see conservatives drop out of the game after Barack Obama’s reelection in 2012. So in the past few weeks, Match randomly polled 1,800 of its users. The sample included roughly the same number of Trump and Clinton voters (38 percent voted for Trump, 40 voted for Clinton) and slightly more men than women (54 percent of the sample were men).

The results suggested the election really did have an effect on users’ self-reported dating drive: 29 percent of liberals said they felt less like dating since Trump won. Among conservatives, that figure is 14.2 percent.

Why? Match is not so sure. Fisher, a biological anthropologist by training, suggests a simple answer: “They’re depressed.” (A political loss could depress the drive to mate. Or it could be that liberals are generally feeling downtrodden and aren’t yet ready to let joy back into their lives.)

What’s more, conservatives reported a greater willingness than liberals to reach out across the aisle in their love lives post-election. Around 60 percent of the liberals responded they are less likely to date a conservative than two years ago. Meanwhile, around 56 percent of conservatives said the same.

Of course, a poll of Match users isn’t representative of all of Americans. But it illustrates a trend other social scientists have picked up on. As Ezra Klein has written, it’s now more common for Americans to discriminate based on politics than it is to discriminate based on race.

“The more partisanship becomes a social identity — and I think this is as true today as it's been in modern American politics — the more we should expect people to engage in in-group favoritism and out-group discrimination," political scientist Danny Hayes told Klein. So it’s not surprising that in the aftermath of a hostile election cycle, partisans are feeling less warmly toward one another, and less likely to date the other side.

“We tend to fall in love with somebody who has the same values as we do,” Fisher says. “And this is a time when the values are very polarized, and very personalized.”

Which is perhaps concerning. People who have more social interactions with members of other political parties tend to have warmer feelings about them, Pew Research finds. “Fully 62% of Republicans with just a few or no Democratic friends feel very coldly toward Democrats,” Pew reported in June 2016. “That compares with just 30% of Republicans who have at least some Democratic friends.”

As the political shockwave of the 2016 election continues to set in, people are still figuring out how to deal with it on a personal level. A recent Reuters poll finds the number of people who reported getting into arguments with family or friends increased 6 points from December to January (from 33 to 39). Thirteen percent told Reuters they had ended a relationship with a family member or friend due to the election.

But if Republicans and Democrats can’t get together over awkward first-date drinks, how will the parties ever get along?

12 Feb 16:34

33 Girls Share The Gross Things They Do When Their Partner’s Not Around

by Lorenzo Jensen III
Illustration by Daniella Urdinlaiz
Illustration by Daniella Urdinlaiz
Found on AskReddit.

1. I chew my toenails.

“Chew my toenails. I’ve done it for years but I know my husband would freak out if he saw me do it (he doesn’t like feet)”

Jazzymoose


2. I squeeze the goo out of my pierced nipples.

“I had pierced nipples years ago, and the holes still gather sebum. I’ll wait for a couple weeks and then squeeze the goo out of each nipple (two piercing holes per nip) in an explosive POP! But only when my husband is not around.”

graciewindkloppel


3. I let my cat eat my boogies.

“Let my cat eat my boogies.”

theyellowpants


4. I pull my butt hairs out.

“I like pulling my butt hairs out. I’d shave, but every time I try shaving my ass it ends up in me accidently cutting myself. Its hell.”

cuddlise


5. I let my dog lick my mouth.

“I let my dog lick my mouth.”

Requisbabu


6. I blow out snot rockets.

“Blow out a snot rocket (I’m humiliated to admit this), but sometimes it’s better than waiting to find a tissue or paper towel, to only have that gross wad to hang onto until I get a chance to throw it away.”

lanapocalypse


7. I smell my boob sweat.

“I smell my boob sweat. I swear that it smells better than the rest of my body.”

Laurie_Jo


8. I fart like a fucking fog horn.

“I fart like a fucking fog horn and compliment myself of my abilities to do so.”

Aishas_Star


9. I fart explosively.

“Fart explosively. I get a certain satisfaction from letting go of a gas bubble that could fill a birthday balloon, but I doubt my SO would.”

stormycloudysky


10. I tweeze my ingrown armpit hairs.

“Those ingrown armpit hairs aren’t gonna tweeze themselves.”

nobody_likes_beets


11. I pick at blackheads and analyze my pores.

“Pick at blackheads and analyze my pores. I also use scissors to cut split ends.”

nativehoneybaby


12. I clean out smegma from my vulva.

“Poop. Clean out smegma from my vulva. Fart with abandon.”

Buttsex


13. I grab the lips of my vagina and pull them out, making a suction sound.

“I grab the lips of my vagina and pull them out, making a suction sound. Kinda like if you grabbed your face cheeks and pulled them out continuously.. Not sexual just funny.”

SoKawaiiGirl


14. I eat as if someone is going to take it away from me.

“Eat as if someone is going to take it away from me.”

meowdryhepurrrn


15. I stand in front of my magnifying mirror for hours and squeeze every pore and pluck every errant hair.

“Stand in front of my magnifying mirror for hours and squeeze every pore and pluck every errant hair. It’s thrilling.”

Weerrrd


16. I talk Ace Ventura-style with my vagina.

“I talk Ace Ventura-style with my vagina.”

blondeandtall


17. I pick my nose.

“I pick my nose.”

L1ttleMonster


18. I pluck my ginger unibrow.

“I’ll walk pantsless around the apartment with my hands in my panties like it’s a little pocket. It’s 100% not sexual, just comfy as fuck. I’ll also perform makeup tutorials with my cat as my sole audience. I’ll also pluck my ginger unibrow that I’ve managed to keep hidden from him for 3 years. And my three chin hairs.”

jerden


19. I wear his dirty shirts around the house.

“I’ll wear his dirty shirts around the house. His man stink smells good, but I’m not willing to tell him that.”

JesusHCrisco


20. I scratch my cooch and sniff my finger.

“I scratch my cooch, or just touch it. Similar to when guys just have their hand hanging out down there, nothing sexual. I also like my own smell, tho, so I sniff my finger when I’m done.”

thatgrrrl117


21. I take “luxury poops.”

“I have luxury poops…. I’ll roll a joint, sit on the toilet, watch Netflix on my tablet, maybe bring in a coffee…. just poop for like 30 minutes. My bathroom is super comfy.”

DreyaNova


22. I empty my menstruation cup.

“I empty my menstruation cup…

I poop/pee/fart/pick my nose/wear stank ass clothes/use my toys literally all of those are okay for me in front of him. But I refuse to open the flood gate of the bloody river. I yell at him to leave the bathroom. We are quite comfortable with each other otherwise.”

NovaCain


23. One in the pink, one in the stink, then a song.

“Insert one finger in my vagina, the other finger in my butthole, while at the time shouting…🎶 hello from the other siiiiide🎶

CallMeWaltrop


24. I floss my teeth using my own hair.

“Happens anyway when my partner is around, but I circumvent potential difficulties by getting with people as gross as I am.

Probably, openly picking the food stuck in my teeth. Using the hair my glasses weirdly rip out, to floss my teeth. Scratch my nethers when I’m at that stage where the hair growing back makes it itchy. Picking at my lips until they bleed and then licking my lips because I like the taste of blood (I recently got a fidget cube and it’s fun but doesn’t stop the lip-picking because fidget cubes do not taste of copper.)…

I went through a phase in which I was fascinated with my own pee (as opposed to others’ now, but I digress). I guess trying your own pee is a bit gross and was definitely was a thing that happened when no partner was around. And wearing something and peeing yourself and kinda sitting that, really the kind of thing where every time you recall it, you die a little bit inside, so yeah.”

PM_ME_UR_DECOY_SNAIL


25. I watch an ungodly amount of popping videos.

“Watch an ungodly amount of popping videos. He’s disgusted by it, but it’s SO SATISFYING.”

ToastyCheeseSandwich


26. I eat the shredded cheddar cheese out of the bag.

“I eat the shredded cheddar cheese out of the bag.

murder_kitty


27. I openly burp.

“Honestly, I openly burp when I’m alone. Loud roars, man. He comes around and I keep it quiet and hidden behind my hand.”

AlyceMagick


28. I smell his dirty shirts.

“I smell his dirty shirts because I love the smell of his pheromones.”

Laksflas


29. I sit with my hand down my pants (Al Bundy style), just because I’m always cold and it warms my hand.

“I fart and smell the fart, cause the smell can tell me how my poop will be later on. Also, I take shits with the door wide open. I sit with my hand down my pants (Al Bundy style), just because I’m always cold and it warms my hand. I scratch wherever I have an itch. I pull hairs (from my head) out of my buttcrack. I deal with all pimples and blackheads. Those kinds of things.”

Pheebje


30. I masturbate thinking about other guys.

“I masturbate thinking about other guys (and even girls) sexually dominating me, since he is not into dominant sex (I girlhandle him.)”

antipoppingcrusade92


31. I get super fucking high, sit around in dirty PJs, drink a six-pack of beer, and order three boxes of breadsticks from Pizza Hut.

“I get super fucking high, sit around in dirty PJs, drink a six-pack of beer, and order three boxes of breadsticks from Pizza Hut. I only need two boxes but they have that damn minimum for delivery.”

MissBanana_


32. Finger my tight little asshole.

“Finger my tight little asshole.”

yurmumm


33. I cut my poop with a stick.

“I have a poop stick! At one point, my poop stick was one of those toilet sponges that has a 12-18 inch plastic handle on it and the sponge at the bottom. I tore the spongy piece off so it’s just a stick now.

My whole life I have always had large poops. It would always clog and flood the toilets growing up. My mom would get angry and I was so embarrassed. My siblings always made fun of me. As an adult I just bought a plunger for the bathroom and it was easy enough to unclog when it happened, which is always 1-2 times a week.

My fiancé and I bought a house a few years ago. I was so terrified of having to poop when he was home. Not because of noises or smell, but I didn’t want to clog the toilet. We have only one plunger we keep in a basement utility closet. I’m too embarrassed to walk to the basement for the plunger and back up the stairs where he can then hear me plunge my poop down the toilet. Yes, I know he would still love me anyway, but I’m not willing to give up that much of my dignity.

Enter my poop stick! I had to use the bathroom so bad one day he was home and as soon as I saw it I knew it wouldn’t go down. Searched the bathroom for anything that may help when I saw the spongy stick. It was left behind by the previous homeowners. I tore the sponge off and used that end to cut up my poop into smaller pieces. Quicker than plunging and no awkward noises.

Three years on and I still have that damn stick. It’s kept in a bag lying in the back corner in the cupboards under the sink. When I need it, which is often, I put on a pair of disposable gloves and grab the stick and cut the poo into smaller pieces. Spray the stick with bleach spray, run it under hot water, and put it back in the bag under the sink. If he finds it he will have no way of knowing what it was for. Sometimes I look at him after leaving the bathroom and think about how weird it would be if he knew I was just slicing up my massive poop log just a few moments ago.

I don’t know why my poops are so big. I’m a petite woman, not overweight. I’m very hydrated, eat a healthy diet, and hit the gym before work 3-5 days a week. I have lots of fiber, yogurt, salads, fruits, etc. It doesn’t hurt or anything. It just comes out in one long thick piece. I don’t understand when people need 20 min to poop. It takes me no more than 30 seconds from start to finish (not including the poop cutting thing.)

It’s made things quite difficult for me though. I can’t poop anywhere other than home. If I all a sudden have to go at 11am I wait until I get home at 6 pm. No one wants to be the girl known around the office for flooding toilets. On vacations I use bathrooms at restaurants and fast food places cuz they have stronger flushing toilets I’ve noticed. Once I was at a small hotel/casino for a weekend. Woke up and I was dying to poop immediately. Waited til breakfast and used the casino bathroom next to the restaurant we had breakfast at. It was so big, one of my biggest ever. I pushed the handle and ran out without waiting to see what happened. Another woman was also in a stall. I heard the overflowing water hitting the tile floor before I exited the bathroom. We walked out after breakfast and I saw employees mopping up the water and trying to dry the carpet outside the bathroom. I had only been dating my now fiancé a few months and was terrified the casino would know it was me and kick us out or something.

TL;DR I cut up my poop with a stick!”

PooPooStick TC mark

12 Feb 16:25

Ha fallecido Jirō Taniguchi

by John Swift


Adiós a un grande del manga.


Una triste noticia. Uno de los autores japoneses más interesantes del manga moderno nos ha dejado con solo 69 años de edad. El autor, curiosamente, vendía más en occidente que en su propio país, aunque el reconocimiento le llegó a ambos lados de las fronteras de Japón. Por una parte, fue galardonado con el Premio Osamu Tezuka de Japón por su obra La época de Botchan, además de los Premios de la Asociación de dibujantes japoneses. Su estilo era más occidental y realista y las historias que proponía en muchas de sus obras eran dirigidas a un público más maduro y adulto. Joyas como Barrio Lejano (una obra maestra sin lugar a dudas), El olmo del cáucaso, Furari, La cumbre de los dioses o Crónicas de la era glacial fueron algunos de sus trabajos más reconocidos y apasionantes, marcando siempre su estilo propio.

Además, Ponent Mon tiene programado para junio el lanzamiento de otro de sus mangas, Venecia, un título muy diferente a los anteriores, con alto contenido autobiográfico.


Otros galardones que ha conseguido han sido:

- 1 Premio Shōgakukan por Inu wo kau (Tener un perro)

- 3 Premios Haxtur por El olmo del cáucaso, Seton: Lobo, el rey y Sandhill Stag. Seton.

- Varias nominaciones a los Premios Eisner, aunque nunca consiguió ganarlo.


Adiós, maestro.

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12 Feb 16:25

La serie basada en SCALPED ya tiene directores

by John Swift


Adaptación del cómic de Vertigo a la televisión


El canal WGN American va a realizar un episodio piloto, y futuriblemente una serie, basada en la serie de cómics Scalped, creada por el ganador del Premio Eisner en 2016, Jason Aaron, y R.M. Guéra. Dicha serie relata la inflitración de un agente del FBI en una reserva india. El agente, llamado Dashiel Caballo Loco, debe ir escalando posiciones dentro de una organización criminal regentada por su propio tío, entrando en una vorágine de violencia sin parangón que le llevará hasta el límite.


Según el portal Deadline, los directores del primer episodio serán los belgas Bilall Fallah y Adil El Arb. Bilall Fallah ha sido director de películas como Black (2015), Image (2014) y Bergica (2012). Por otra parte, Adil El Arb colaboró en la dirección con Fallah en Black e Image, y realizó Broeders en 2011.

El cómic es una joya, de esas historias de género negro que no te sueltan en ningún momento, con multitud de personajes cada vez más interesantes... ¡esperemos que la serie esté a la altura!

12 Feb 14:15

Ferrol busca reverter coa peonalización a crise poboacional e comercial do seu centro

by Marcos Pérez Pena

O Concello lanza a súa proposta para limitar o tráfico rodado no seu centro histórico, seguindo o camiño aberto por cidades como Pontevedra ou Compostela. O obxectivo do proceso, en fase de debate, é revitalizar a urbe e frear o deterioro do Barrio da Magdalena, cun 40% de vivendas e locais comerciais baleiros

12 Feb 13:46

Jim Jefferies tells Piers Morgan to ‘fuck off’ for defending Trump’s Muslim ban

by Jordan Freiman
He has a point.
12 Feb 12:34

Las familias de los 11 ordenses fusilados en Boisaca en 1937 reivindican su memoria e inocencia

Homenaje de la asociación cultural Obradoiro da Historia

12 Feb 12:32

The AI threat isn't Skynet, it's the death of the middle class

by forza
"I am less concerned with Terminator scenarios," MIT economist Andrew McAfee said on the first day at Asilomar. "If current trends continue, people are going to rise up well before the machines do." McAfee pointed to newly collected data that shows a sharp decline in middle class job creation since the 1980s. Now, most new jobs are either at the very low end of the pay scale or the very high end. He also argued that these trends are reversible, that improved education and a greater emphasis on entrepreneurship and research can help feed new engines of growth, that economies have overcome the rise of new technologies before. But after his talk, in the hallways at Asilomar, so many of the researchers warned him that the coming revolution in AI would eliminate far more jobs far more quickly than he expected. [Wired]