Spain rejects Argentinian claim its PM is causing ‘poverty and death’ | Javier Milei

Spain has denounced comments by Argentina’s presidency that accused the Spanish government of bringing “poverty and death” to its own people.

The office of the Argentinian president, Javier Milei, had published a statement on X, accusing the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, of damaging Spain’s economy and stability.

The post appears to have been in reaction to earlier comments from the Spanish transport minister, Óscar Puente, who had suggested, during a panel discussion in Salamanca on Friday, that Milei had ingested “substances” during last year’s election campaign.

Milei’s office released a statement on Saturday condemning the remarks while also attacking Sánchez.

It accused Sánchez of “endangering Spanish women by allowing illegal immigration” and undermining Spain’s integrity by making deals with separatists, an allusion to a pact Sánchez’s Socialist Workers’ party struck with Basque and Catalan regionalist parties to form a government, while suggesting his leftist policies brought “death and poverty”.

That provoked a rebuke from the Spanish foreign ministry who said: “The Spanish government categorically rejects the unfounded words … which do not reflect the relations between the two countries and their fraternal people.”

After the election of Milei, a rightwing populist who took the helm in December, relations between Argentina and Spain, ruled by a left-wing coalition led by Saánchez’s Socialist Workers’ party, have significantly cooled.

Milei will travel to Spain in two weeks for an event on 18 and 19 May organised by the far-right opposition party Vox, which is in a race with the socialists in next month’s European elections.

Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this report

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Florida workers brace for summer with no protections: ‘My body would tremble’ | Extreme heat

For Javier Torres and other workers whose jobs are conducted outdoors in south Florida, the heat is unavoidable. A new law recently signed by Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor, that prohibits any municipalities in the state from passing heat protections for workers ensures that it is likely to stay that way.

Torres has seen a co-worker die from heatstroke and another rushed to the emergency room in his years of working in construction in south Florida. He has also fallen and injured himself due to heat exhaustion.

“I work outdoors and have no choice but to work in the heat. I work often in painting and, in the majority of cases, we’re exposed to direct sun and we don’t have shade. Sometimes I feel dizzy and get headaches,” said Torres.

He said employers rarely provide workers with water, leaving workers to ensure they bring enough water to work or find a hose to drink from.

The effects of extreme heat on workers are only expected to worsen due to the climate crisis. Many parts of Florida experienced record heat last year. Orlando hit 100F (37.7C) in August breaking a record set in 1938. The National Weather Service recently issued its outlook for summer 2024, predicting Florida summer temperatures will be warmer than normal.

“The heat can be very intense, especially as we get closer to summer,” added Torres. “What we want as workers who labor outdoors is to have water, shade and rest breaks to protect ourselves.”

At the behest of agricultural industry lobbyists, DeSantis signed HB433 into law on 11 April, a bill scaling back child labor protections that also included an amendment prohibiting all local municipalities in Florida from enacting heat protections for workers.

The exemption came in response to efforts by farm workers in Miami-Dade county to pass heat protections, including proper rest breaks, access to water and shade, as increasingly warming temperatures have expanded the days farm workers are exposed to heat.

Ana Mejia, a farm worker, worked for 11 years at Costa Farms in south Florida where she said she experienced two serious heat stress incidents on the job. Costa Farms was included on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s Dirty Dozen report of unsafe employers in 2024. Costa Farms declined to comment.

“I worked outdoors during my entire time at Costa Farms in temperatures that quite often exceeded 100 degrees,” said Mejia. “I had headaches, sweat excessively, my body would start to shake and tremble. I started to feel dizzy and a lack of coordination, and this feeling of shock and desperation. It was a very bad experience.”

She recounted having to be brought to onsite medical care, but only being given an electrolyte drink and finding no medical professional on site or called to help her.

“The high standards of meeting productivity quotas per day combined with working in high temperatures is putting us in danger,” added Mejia. “The rest breaks are at the discretion of supervisors and often they don’t want to give rest breaks because it will reduce the productivity of the business.”

There are currently no protections in the US for workers from heat. Only a handful of states such as California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Minnesota have passed any heat protections for workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha) is currently reviewing federal heat standard protections and issues fines against employers citing the general duty clause in cases where workers die due to heat stress, but worker groups have advocated that heat protections which include water, rest, shade, breaks and acclimatization are needed to save workers from heat illnesses and their lives.

Up to 2,000 workers in the US die every year due to heat stress, according to a 2023 report by Public Citizen.

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Several business groups are lobbying against heat protections for workers at the federal level, and lobbyists aggressively pushed lawmakers to pass the Florida heat exemption bill.

Orlando Weekly reported on texts from corporate lobbyists to lawmakers urging them to pass the heat exemption bill before the end of the legislative session.

“I haven’t texted you in weeks–HEAT cannot die,” wrote Carol Bowen, a lobbyist for the Associated Builders and Contractors in a text message on 7 March to the House speaker Paul Renner’s chief of staff Allison Carter, the day before the last day of the legislative session when the bill was ultimately passed. “The entire business community is in lock step on this. Thank you for your attention to this concern.”

Ahead of a vote on the bill, the Florida chamber of commerce lobbyist Carolyn Johnson told Republican lawmakers their vote on the bill would be double-weighted on the How They Voted report the chamber sends to its members.

Jeannie Economos, an organizer with the Farmworker Association of Florida, said worker advocacy groups opposing HB433 were hoping the clock would run out for the bill to get passed by the state legislature. Several labor and environmental groups sent letters imploring DeSantis to veto the bill.

“It’s incomprehensible that people who live in Florida, and are supposed to represent the people of Florida, can vote against the health and safety of the workers that make this economy run, who were considered essential workers just a couple years ago and given PPE, are now treated like this, and not giving protection from extreme heat,” said Economos. “That makes no sense and it’s unconscionable.”

She said worker advocacy groups in Florida were regrouping and planned on developing strategies on how to override the Florida law, while continuing to advocate for heat protections at the federal level and conducting heat stress trainings for outdoor workers to protect themselves.

“For us right now, while HB433 is a setback to our campaign, we know the issue of extreme heat isn’t going away anytime soon,” said Oscar Londoño, executive director of the worker advocacy non-profit WeCount!, which has been pushing for heat protections for workers through its ¡Qué Calor! campaign. “We know that the issue is going to get even more and more relevant, and that workers will need to continue to do what is necessary to protect their lives on a job, whether that is through direct action, through workplace organizing, or through ongoing corporate campaign, workers will find a way to win the protection they deserve in Florida.”

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University of Mississippi: ‘abhorrent’ counter-protesters condemned | Mississippi

Dozens of students at the University of Mississippi gathered this week to protest against Israel’s war in Gaza and to call for the state’s flagship university to be transparent in its potential dealings with Israel.

There were hundreds of counter-protesters, in contrast to the few dozen pro-Palestine protesters. The scene evoked memories of the resistance to the civil rights struggle in the US south six decades earlier.

The counter-protesters included individuals waving American flags and Trump flags. At one point, they sang the American national anthem, drowning out the pro-Palestine group’s chants. The Oxford Eagle reported that one person held a “Come and take it” flag while another flew a “Don’t tread on me” banner. The pro-Palestine students held signs reading “Jesus was a Palestinian”, “Stop the genocide,” and “Cut all ties with Israel”.

Less than an hour after the protest began, police disbanded it – notably after counter-protests threw items, including water bottles, at the pro-Palestine group. Police safely evacuated the pro-Palestine students as the largely white, male group of counter-protesters chanted, “Nah, nah, nah, nah, hey, hey, hey, goodbye,” according to Mississippi Today.

Some university leaders and politicians around the US have used the term “outside agitator” to attempt to discredit student-led protests and movements. That label was also evoked frequently during the civil rights movement, during antebellum slavery and 19th and 20th century labour movements and to imply that protesters were motivated not by their own interests and beliefs, but by those of shadowy others.

At the University of Mississippi counter-protest, there were at least two individuals on campus who were reported to be not affiliated with the school, according to the Clarion-Ledger. One counter-protester said he was a student at Mississippi State University, about two hours away, and drove in for the protest. Another told the publication he was a student at the University of Georgia.

There were no arrests, but the actions of the counter-protesters – who shouted “Fuck Joe Biden”, “Who’s your daddy?”, “USA”, “Hit the showers”, “Your nose is huge”, and, in one instance, included a white man making monkey noises at a Black woman – have been widely condemned on social media.

The University of Mississippi’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People criticised the counter-protesters in a statement posted on Instagram.

“The behavior witnessed today was not only abhorrent but also entirely unacceptable,” the statement reads. “It is deeply disheartening to witness such blatant disregard for the principles of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.”

The Mississippi governor Tate Reeves, who himself recently declared April as Confederate Heritage Month and April 29 as Confederate memorial day, celebrated the counter-protesters in a tweet that some say drew parallels to former Mississippi governor Ross Barnett, a proud segregationist.

Reeves captioned a video of the counter-protesters singing the American national anthem with “the ‘protests’ at Ole Miss today. Watch with sound. Warms my heart. I love Mississippi!”

In September 1962, Barnett spoke to an all-white crowd of over 40,000 at the University of Mississippi football game against Kentucky. As Confederate flags waved, Barnett said: “I love Mississippi. I love her people. Our customs. I love and respect our heritage.” The next day, an insurrection took place on campus as James Meredith enrolled, becoming the first known Black student in the university’s history.

In a separate tweet before the protest, Governor Reeves also echoed a statement made by Joe Biden the morning of the protests.

“Campus police, city, county, and state assets are being deployed and coordinated,” Reeves tweeted. “We will offer a unified response with one mission: peaceful protests are allowed and protected – no matter how outrageous those protesters’ views may seem to some of us. But unlawful behavior will not be tolerated. It will be dealt with accordingly. Law and order will be maintained!”

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators at the University of Mississippi. Photograph: Maria Ramirez/AP

In Biden’s statements on the protests around the nation, he said: “We’ve all seen images, and they put to the test two fundamental American principles … The first is the right to free speech and for people to peacefully assemble and make their voices heard. The second is the rule of law. Both must be upheld.”

UMiss for Palestine, the student group that organised the protest, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The group did share a statement on Instagram following the protest, saying the University of Mississippi “is playing host to US military officials who are complicit in the genocide of Palestinian people via an aerospace and defense conference”.

“Our vocal protest outside the library was a peaceful demonstration of our dismay with the behaviour of the university,” the statement continues.

“We were confronted by counter-protesters who engaged in blind reactionarism that had little to do with the genocide we were protesting as well as our demands. We condemn the hateful actions and rhetoric of the counter protesters, who threw food and made violent threats toward our protesters. We expected our first amendment rights to be better protected and were deeply ashamed that they were not.”

The University of Mississippi’s student newspaper, the Daily Mississippian, spoke with students in support of UMiss for Palestine’s efforts. A junior, named Xavier Black, said: “There’s a lot of dissension towards this kind of movement.”

“But as we’ve seen throughout history, time and time again, the student movement is never wrong,” he told the paper. “Time and time again, anytime there’s a student protest, and you’re against it, you’re on the wrong side of history. So I would like to be on the right side.”

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Bumblebee nests are overheating to fatal levels, study finds | Bees

Bumblebee nests may be overheating, killing off broods and placing one of the Earth’s critical pollinators in decline as temperatures rise, new research has found.

Around the world, many species of Bombus, or bumblebee, have suffered population declines due to global heating, the research said. Bumblebee colonies are known for their ability to thermoregulate: in hot conditions, worker bees gather to beat their wings and fan the hive, cooling it down. But as the climate crisis pushes average temperatures up and generates heatwaves, bumblebees will struggle to keep their homes habitable.

Most bumblebee broods would not survive at temperatures above 36C, the paper, published in Frontiers in Bee Science, concluded. The research team reviewed 180 years of literature, and found that for all bumblebee species studied the optimum temperature range for incubating nests was between 28C and 32C.

Peter Kevan, the lead author of the study, told the Guardian: “If [bumblebees] can’t keep temperatures below what is probably a lethal limit of about 35C, when the brood may die, that could explain why we are losing so many bumblebees around the world, especially in North America and Europe.”

Bumblebees have suffered population declines around the world due to global heating. Photograph: Rebecca Cole/Alamy

Kevan, who is a professor emeritus at the University of Guelph’s School of Environmental Sciences in Canada, added that the research examined the often-overlooked role of the nest as a “superorganism”.

“Researchers have been looking at foraging behaviour and fanning to keep the brood cool, but there are very few studies that look at the whole nest,” he said. The study argued that nests should be seen as a whole: while some individual bees may be able to cope with heat, if the nest becomes too hot to raise healthy larvae the whole colony will decline.

Dave Goulson, a professor of biology at the University of Sussex, who was not involved in the research, said: “We have known for a long time that bumblebees are cool-climate specialists. Most insects are more abundant in the tropics, but bumblebees are weird in that they are at their most abundant in places like the Alps and Britain.”

They are big and furry as an adaptation to living in cooler places, he said. “There are even some that live in the Arctic, the Bombus polaris. That means an obvious problem with climate change – they are vulnerable to warming.”

When nests overheat, he added, bumblebees work to cool them by flapping their wings, “but if the air outside is too hot, that’s not going to help”.

Goulson said there is already evidence that bumblebees have started to disappear from the warmer edges of their range. “There have been publications showing mountain bumblebees are moving higher as a way to combat warming, but obviously there is a limit to that.”

The paper’s findings, said Goulson, who has spent 30 years studying bumblebees, are “really depressing”. “It is kind of heartbreaking to think that many may disappear.”

Other studies, he said, suggest that the UK “might lose about half our bumblebee species in coming years, depending on the pace of climate change”. Their populations had been declining due to habitat loss, Goulson said. “Now, [with rising temperatures] we have a double whammy.”

Bumblebees are important pollinators of wildflowers and crops. Photograph: Rebecca Cole/Alamy

Richard Comont, the science manager at Britain’s Bumblebee Conservation Trust, also not part of the study, said he was glad to see the new research. “It’s something that there has been speculation about for a while,” he said.

Bumblebees are important pollinators of wild flowers and crops including tomatoes, runner beans, apples, blueberries, blackcurrants and raspberries. For other pollinators, Goulson said, the outlook under a hotter climate is less clear. Some bee species can cope with warmer temperatures, and some species that now live farther south may move north as temperatures rise, making a new home in the UK. With other pollinators, he said, such as flies, wasps, butterflies, birds and bats, “it’s hard to generalise”.

To stem declines, increasing habitats and decreasing pesticide use could help, Goulson said – but really, “we need to knuckle down” and make sure global temperatures “do not go past 2C” of heating.

Find more age of extinction coverage here, and follow biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on X for all the latest news and features

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‘Pesticides by stealth’: garden soil conditioners killing worms, experts fear | Invertebrates

Gardeners are inadvertently killing scores of earthworms with soil conditioners marketed as “organic”, experts fear, as they call for tighter regulation on products that poison the invertebrates.

Earthworms may appear humble, but Charles Darwin thought their work in improving soil structure and fertility was so important he devoted his final book to them and said: “It may be doubted if there are any other animals which have played such an important part in the history of the world as these lowly organised creatures.”

However, some gardeners who want a tidy lawn remove worm casts, which can be viewed as unsightly, particularly if the casts – made of the worms’ excrement – are squashed and spread over the surface.

Dozens of products available to gardeners and greenkeepers say they combat these casts, reducing the time-consuming task of their manual removal. However, most contain saponins, which have been found to be highly toxic to earthworms. Some of these are marketed as “organic soil conditioner” with no mention of the deadly effect they have on worms. Others promise to “irritate and deter” worms, pushing them to deeper soil – not mentioning the active ingredient that could kill them.

Despite their potential toxicity to garden creatures, soil conditioners do not go through the same rigorous risk assessments as pesticides, experts say, and are lightly regulated.

Some gardeners who want a tidy lawn remove worm casts. Photograph: Universal Images Group/UIG/Getty Images

Worms ingest dead plant material and break it down into nutrients, and healthy soil is important for a thriving garden and the wider ecosystem. The Royal Horticultural Society points out that casts are good for the soil and can be used as a nutrient-rich potting medium, and it discourages their removal.

Worms are thought to be under threat: though studies into their populations are scarce, recent research suggests numbers in the UK may have fallen by about a third in the past 25 years.

Prof Dave Goulson, a biologist at the University of Sussex, has written extensively on gardening in symbiosis with invertebrates, and has been investigating the soil products. He told the Guardian: “Dozens of products are being sold to gardeners and groundskeepers, especially [at] golf courses, to combat worm casts. Many contain saponins, found in one scientific study to be ‘highly toxic’ to earthworms.

“The products are widely marketed online, with some bulk products obviously aimed at professional greenkeepers, other smaller bottles aimed at gardeners. The saponin usually seems to derive from ‘tea seed’, so is an organic product, but that doesn’t mean it is harmless: botulinum toxin and cyanide are organic. Groundskeepers should not be allowed to poison earthworms while pretending to ‘condition’ the soil. It seems to be pesticides by stealth.”

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Some of the products to combat worm casts are aimed at professional greenkeepers, such as at golf courses. Photograph: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images

Campaigners are calling for the government to investigate these products, suspending their use until their effect on earthworms and other wildlife is fully understood.

Nick Mole, a policy officer at Pesticide Action UK, said: “Fertilisers and soil conditioners aren’t subject to anywhere near the same level of scrutiny as pesticides. They don’t appear to go through a risk assessment process to ascertain if they are harmful to non-target species such as earthworms, which is highly concerning given how widely they are used.

“Any substance that is intentionally released into the natural environment has the potential to cause harm, even those labelled as organic. Now that the alarm bells have been sounded the UK government must act quickly to suspend use of these products while they investigate further, including conducting thorough risk assessments looking at the impact of these products on earthworms and other wildlife, including aquatic species. Or will the government sit on its hands for another 10 years, as it did with neonicotinoids and bees?”

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson said: “Decisions on the use of pesticides are based on careful scientific assessment of the risks. Pesticides are only allowed on to the market if they meet strict environmental requirements and pose no threat to human health.”

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Three bodies found in northern Mexico where Perth brothers went missing | Australia news

Three bodies have been found in an area of northern Mexico where two Australian brothers and an American friend are missing.

Perth siblings Callum and Jake Robinson, both in their 30s, were travelling in the region on a surfing holiday, with their friend Jack Carter Rhoad, a US citizen. The trio was reported missing when they failed to check into pre-arranged accommodation near the city of Ensenada last weekend.

Late Friday Mexico time, the state attorney general’s office confirmed at least three bodies had been found in a remote and “difficult to access” area in the Ensenada region of the Baja California peninsula. The bodies have not yet been formally identified.

News outlet Zeta reported the bodies were found in a well, in steep and rugged ground on ranchland at Santo Tomás on the Pacific coast. It also reported a fourth body, likely to have been there longer, was recovered from the same place.

A burnt-out ute, matching the description of the one the three men were driving, was found earlier nearby, sparking an intense search of the area.

Map of northern Mexico showing locations of K-38 surf spot and Baja California

The Robinson brothers’ last contact with their family was last Saturday. The surfers had planned to camp near the beach last weekend, then stay at an Airbnb in Rosarito, according to social media posts by friends and family. But they never checked into their accommodation, and Callum Robinson failed to show for work in San Diego last week.

Friends and family appealed on social media for any information on their whereabouts, saying it was “out of character” for them not to be in contact.

On Friday, the Australian brothers’ parents, Debra and Martin Robinson, said they were “heading to the US/Mexico to be as close as possible to the area where they were last seen”.

“Callum and Jake are beautiful human beings,” they said in a statement to media.

“We love them so much and this breaks our heart. Our only comfort right now is that they were together doing something they passionately loved.”

Baja California’s state chief prosecutor, María Elena Andrade Ramírez, said the chances of finding the men had diminished as a result of delays to the investigation.

“Unfortunately, a notice of their disappearance was only filed in the last few days, so very important hours were lost there,” she told a press conference in Mexico on Friday.

Three Mexican nationals, a woman and two men, have been arrested in relation to the disappearance of the three men.

The woman was arrested in the town of Maneadero, about 8km south of Ensenada city on Mexico’s Pacific coast. She was carrying a grey iPhone with a picture of a man matching the description of one of the missing men, as well as a small quantity of drugs.

Investigators have found abandoned tents believed to have belonged to the missing men near to where they were last seen. Andrade Ramírez said also at the same site “other evidence was found that could be linked to these three people we have under investigation”.

Antonio Otañez, president of the Baja California Surf Association, told the Guardian the news of the men’s disappearance was “painful for the surfer community”.

“Everyone is in shock. We can’t believe it.”

He said the Baja California peninsula surfing community would hold a rally on Sunday, “to show solidarity with our Australian and American friends, and to demand security for the surfer community in the whole state”.

“Some friends told me they met [the missing surfers] here in the 38 and in San Miguel. They told me they were really great guys, friendly.”

Otañez said the area was not especially dangerous for surfers.

“You think Tijuana and you think cartel, mafia. But we who live here don’t see such risk. Of course, there’s crime. And you hear about deaths, but these are usually between the drug trafficking groups. But against civilians? Situations like this are very rare here. And still more with foreigners.”

But Otañez said the road to Punta San Jose was isolated.

“You have to drive for about an hour on a dirt track. And there’s no signal, no electricity, nothing. I’ve been various times and it’s a beautiful place with perfect waves. I have no idea what happened. But it’s very easy to get lost there. It’s a dirt track in the middle of nowhere.”

Governor of Baja California Marina Del Pilar said authorities were determined to resolve the case.

“We will not rest until we find the location of Jack Carter [Rhoad], Jake and Callum Robinson, a task in which we will spare no time, resources, or efforts. We will take the necessary measures to resolve this case, as we will not allow Baja California to see its peace disturbed, nor will we allow the tranquillity of those who visit us to be disrupted.”

A spokesperson from Australia’s department of foreign affairs and trade told the Guardian “the Australian embassy in Mexico City is working closely with the Australian federal police and local authorities regarding the two Australians reported missing in Mexico”.

“The department … recognises this is a very distressing time for the family and is in regular contact with them to provide support.”

The department has urged people to exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to Baja California “due to the threat of violent crime”.

Drug cartels are known to operate in the region and the state’s chief prosecutor said “all lines of investigation” remained open.

The US state department said it was aware of a US citizen missing in the Baja California region of Mexico, and stood “ready to provide all appropriate assistance”.

“The US department of state and our embassies and consulates abroad have no higher priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas.”

In reference to news reports that bodies had been recovered in the region where the men were last seen, a spokesperson said: “We are aware of those reports and are closely monitoring the situation. At this time we have no further comment.”

Violence in Mexico soared with the launch of the militarised “war on drugs” in 2006, and it has remained stubbornly high throughout the term of López Obrador, which began in 2018.

In 2023 Mexico saw more than 30,000 homicides for the sixth consecutive year. More than 100,000 people are also missing.

In 2015, Western Australian surfers Adam Coleman and Dean Lucas were murdered, believed to have been shot by gang members in the neighbouring Sinaloa region before their van and bodies were burnt.

The Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, as well as the opposition foreign spokesman, Simon Birmingham, and WA’s premier, Roger Cook, expressed their concerns for the surfers’ safety and wishes for their safe return.

with AAP and Reuters

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‘I don’t even dream about sex … I don’t miss it at all’: readers on why they chose celibacy | Australian lifestyle

Over the last few years more than 120 million posts have appeared on TikTok about the rise of an unexpected trend: self-imposed celibacy.

While some predicted a post-pandemic era of “sexual licentiousness”, readers from all walks of life and across generations told us that far from doubling down on hookup culture, they’ve found refreshing clarity in a more austere approach to physical intimacy.

While some readers’ forays into sexual abstinence predated Covid, common threads remained. Whether readers had decided to apply the breaks for a few months or the rest of their lives, they all agreed that celibacy had been a positive experience that offered some welcome perspective on not only their relationship with sex, but with themselves.

‘I didn’t have sex with anyone but myself for eight months’

I’ve always been a people pleaser and during sex this instinct made me focus on my partners having a good time, which included faking orgasms. I still enjoyed the sex and was never an unwilling partner but I felt ashamed that I was being deceitful. And of course I also wanted to orgasm during sex, but until recently I’d only ever orgasmed through masturbation.

When my last relationship ended I promised myself that I wouldn’t start another one or have sex with anyone until I’d worked on building my confidence and sense of self-worth to the point that I could value my own pleasure as much as that of my partner. And it worked!

I didn’t have sex with anyone but myself for about eight months. When I returned to sex with a partner, I was able to be honest with them about what I wanted and orgasming during sex has become the norm.

Celibacy gave me space to work on myself and break an unhelpful pattern and I’m so glad I did it.
Anonymous, Australia

‘It is liberating to be free of old ideas about intimacy’

I’ve been celibate for a few years now and love this lifestyle. I’m in my mid-50s and have found peace of mind, financial security and stress-free daily living from my choice. Staying solo (I don’t use the term “single”) is the best decision I’ve ever made.

After a divorce at 30 and a string of short-term relationships with men who were so immature, insecure and self-centred that I had to lose myself if I wanted the relationships to work, I came to realise that solo life was better on every level.

My sexual needs are addressed and enjoyed alone and my emotional life has expanded and is cherished through long-term friendships and my family. I highly recommend this lifestyle for women tired of catering to men.

It is liberating to be free of old ideas about intimacy and relationships and choose to live life on my terms of happiness. I plan on being celibate forever.
Anonymous, Australia

‘Celibacy affords absolute clarity of mind’

My experience of celibacy was not so much a choice as a natural consequence of the intense Zen training I was undergoing at the time. I am an ordained Zen Buddhist monk in my 50s. I am also married with children. I have been through two periods of celibacy: once pre-monastically in India and that was six months’ long. The second time was in the monastery and lasted just over a year.

I have always been very sexual and I still am, perhaps even more so now as a consequence of my experiences. But at the time celibacy was a natural progression from desire to quite literally no desire. True celibacy in my opinion is the inability to even conceptually experience desire. From this place, one person interacts with another as simply human rather than an object of desire.

When sexual thoughts are absent it is incredible to realise how much of our day-to-day life is usually taken up with conscious and subconscious sexual considerations and awareness. Celibacy affords absolute clarity of mind.

My master’s master once said: “The closest most people come to enlightenment is an orgasm.” I now practise Tantra and as long as I remain in a sexual relationship, this bridges the gaps between my sexual relationship and spiritual needs.
Venerable Daiju Zenji, Sydney

‘I was using sex and my appearance as a way to validate myself’

Nearly 10 years ago, a frank conversation with my best friend brought home some hard truths. With my best interests and safety at heart she told me she believed that after years in a nasty relationship that had chipped away at my self-esteem, I was using sex and my appearance as a way to validate myself.

I decided to take a year off from sex and dating. The best thing was being able to separate who I am at my core from how I look or what others think of me.

Getting back into dating after my celibacy ended was tough. It reminded me that there are a lot of duds out there that won’t see or appreciate the inner work you’ve done. Then I met my partner.

I’m glad I did the hard work when I did, because figuring out who I am and not seeking approval through sex has placed me well for a stable relationship.
Anonymous, Australia

‘Life is definitely less complicated’

In the gay scene which is now dominated by dating apps, sex is primarily a commodity that is used to put notches on the bedhead. I just got sick of the merry-go-round where you have to have sex in order to meet someone.

I’ve been celibate for three years now and life is definitely less complicated. I’ve found out that you don’t need to use sex to fill the voids in your life. I got myself a dog two years ago, and it’s awesome coming home to something alive in the house.
Ian, Sydney

‘I don’t miss the sexual urges of my fertile years’

Throughout my life I had the good fortune to enjoy sex without any detrimental physical or psychological interference that might have affected my desire to continue to stay sexually active. But now in my early 60s I’ve been happily celibate for two decades.

I have never worried about “the norm” and for me at least, being sexually active, or not, is simply dictated by biology. Just as I don’t miss my baby teeth, I don’t miss the sexual urges of my fertile years.

As a child I was aware that sex was something that older people seemed to be obsessed about, but I had no interest in it until I became a horny adolescent. Post menopause, I seem to have gone full circle back to feeling free of desire and seeing that sex is simply something younger people are interested in but holds no appeal to me. The desire to masturbate stopped, I don’t even dream about sex. It’s just gone and I don’t miss it at all.

I know many postmenopausal women are convinced to or wish to keep hormones at a level to ensure desire remains, but to me that is back-to-front thinking. Being celibate feels as natural to me now as it did when I was a child.

Living alone and celibate feels like freedom and like my life was always leading to this point where I would be free of complying to anybody’s needs but my own.
Anonymous, Australia

Quotes have been edited for structure, clarity and length.

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Trump’s closest staffer takes the stand – and tears up after damaging testimony | Donald Trump

On the docket: Hope Hicks, Trump’s favorite staffer, takes the stand

Hope Hicks spent more time with former president Donald Trump than perhaps anyone else, from the launch of his political career through the end of his time in the White House.

On Friday, Hicks took the witness stand to testify against her former boss.

Hicks, a former campaign and White House spokeswoman who was constantly by Trump’s side and one of his most trusted advisers until he left office, appeared at his trial under subpoena, and was clearly unhappy about being compelled to testify. After being asked to speak more clearly into the microphone, she said she was “really nervous” to be there. Later, as Trump’s lawyer began cross-examining her, Hicks burst into tears, and Judge Juan Merchan granted a recess to allow her to compose herself. She was spotted clutching a tissue.

Hicks testified to prosecutors that Trump told her in 2018, when the story about adult film star Stormy Daniels’ alleged affair became public, that his fixer and attorney Michael Cohen had paid to keep the story quiet “from the kindness of his own heart” and didn’t tell anyone it had happened. She said she didn’t believe him, because that would be “out of character for Michael”, whom she knew as the “kind of person who seeks credit”, not “an especially charitable or selfless person”. That testimony undercuts Trump’s chances of distancing himself from Cohen’s hush-money payment. Prosecutors need to prove Trump falsified business records to repay Cohen for that payment.

At the end of prosecutors’ questions, Hicks told them that Trump’s attitude in 2018 when the Daniels news broke “was it was better to be dealing with it now and that it would have been bad to have that story come out before the election”. That helps prosecutors, who are seeking to show that Trump conspired to bury accusations of marital infidelities to help win the election – the underlying crime that lets them elevate their charges of falsifying business records against him to felonies.

She also testified about the panic that set in within the campaign in early October 2016 when the Access Hollywood recording emerged of Trump bragging about groping women. “It was a damaging development,” she said. “This was a crisis.”

But she then undercut prosecutors’ theory of the case – and helped her former boss with testimony that, while it made Trump look like a huge jerk, could actually help him avoid conviction. Trump’s lawyers argue that Trump was simply worried about how his wife, Melania, would feel about extramarital affars – and Hicks gave them some significant ammo on that front.

Hicks testified that on the day that the Wall Street Journal planned to publish the story that the National Enquirer had bought then buried about former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s claim of an extended affair with Trump, he was concerned about how Melania would react and tried to keep the news from her. “He wanted me to make sure that the newspapers were [not] delivered to their residence that morning,” Hicks said.

Melania Trump, who has not attended any of her husband’s criminal trial, was pregnant and delivered their son Barron during the period that McDougal claims the affair occurred. Trump’s son Eric is the only member of his immediate family to join the former president in the courtroom.

During cross-examination, Trump attorney Emil Bove took a gentle approach with Hicks, who seemed not to want to hurt her boss. Bove got Hicks to agree with his statement that Cohen sometimes “went rogue” without discussing things with the campaign.

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In other news

Judge Juan Merchan presides during former Trump’s criminal trial on 3 May 2024 in this courtroom sketch. Illustration: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

Before the jury was brought in on Friday morning, Merchan corrected Trump’s false claim made yesterday outside the courtroom that the judge’s gag order against him prevents the former president from testifying in the trial (it just blocks him from talking about witnesses and the jury outside the courtroom). ​​“It came to my attention that there may be a misunderstanding [about] the order restricting extrajudicial statements and how it impacts Mr Trump’s right to testify at trial,” he said. “I want to stress, Mr Trump, that you have an absolute right to testify at trial … The order prohibiting extrajudicial statements does not prevent you from testifying in any way.”

After the trial day concluded, Merchan ruled with Trump’s attorneys and said that if the former president takes the stand to testify, prosecutors aren’t allowed to bring up the fact that Merchan had held him in contempt for violating his gag order, saying it would be “prejudicial”.

A California man has been charged with sending death threats to Fani Willis, the Fulton county district attorney who is overseeing the Georgia prosecution against Donald Trump over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the state. The man, Marc Shultz, posted multiple comments last October in two separate YouTube live streams that threatened Willis with violence and murder, including one comment that she “will be killed like a dog”.

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Hope Hicks and the ‘Melania’ defense: Trump trial key takeaways, day 11 | Donald Trump trials

Donald Trump’s former communications director Hope Hicks provided testimony on Friday that could be helpful both to prosecutors and the former president’s defense, revealing the fallout inside the Trump campaign in the wake of the damaging Access Hollywood tape on which Trump bragged about sexual assault.

Here are the key takeaways from day 11 of People of New York v Donald J Trump:

  1. 1. Hicks suggests Trump was behind money to Daniels

    Hicks bolstered a key part of the prosecutors’ case that Trump was the source of the $130,000 paid to Stormy Daniels, when she cast doubt on the description relayed to her by Trump himself, that his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen had simply paid Daniels out of selflessness.

    Prosecutors asked on direct examination what Hicks thought of that account. “That would be out of character for Michael,” Hicks acknowledged. “I didn’t know him to be an especially selfless person. He was the kind of person to seek credit.”

    Hicks casting serious doubt on Trump’s suggestion that Cohen paid the money was an important moment: she essentially discredited the Trump team’s contention that the entire hush-money scheme was orchestrated by Cohen and Trump was removed from the operation.

    In doing so, Hicks also provided a second win for prosecutors, as she revealed that Trump had some direct knowledge about the hush-money scheme.

    Trump’s lawyer Emil Bove twice objected when the Manhattan district attorney prosecutor Matthew Colangelo pried into whether it would have been out of character for Cohen to have paid the hush money without telling Trump, but the judge overruled both objections.

  2. 2. Hicks helps Trump’s ‘Melania’ defense

    Hicks handed a gift to Trump when she testified on direct examination that the reaction of his wife Melania was his biggest concern on the morning that the Wall Street Journal article detailing the hush-money payments came out three days before the 2016 election.

    “He was concerned about how it would be viewed by his wife,” Hicks said.

    The Trump team suggested in opening statements that the main reason why the catch-and-kill scheme to buy Daniels’ story happened was because Trump found it embarrassing for him and for Melania – an alternative explanation to prosecutors’ case that it was to influence the election.

    Prosecutors subsequently tried to have Hicks add that Trump was also concerned about those stories derailing his 2016 campaign, but Hicks only offered that Trump was always asking how certain news would “play” with voters.

  3. 3. Hicks helps Trump distance Cohen

    Under cross-examination by the Trump lawyer Bove, Hicks also affirmed that Cohen had juvenile tendencies and that he often inserted himself into the Trump 2016 campaign unsolicited even though he had no formal role with the campaign, which had its own lawyers.

    Bove asked Hicks in a series of quickfire questions: If Cohen took “unauthorized” actions? If Cohen “went rogue”? Or if Cohen sometimes did things that were unhelpful? “He liked to call himself ‘fixer’, or ‘Mr Fix-It’. And it was only because he first broke it.” 

    In granting that Cohen sometimes acted unilaterally, Hicks opened the door for Trump’s team to lean into their contention that Trump was removed from the catch-and-kill schemes and it was Cohen freelancing his way through the operation.

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Berlin wants to give away Joseph Goebbels’ countryside villa | Germany

Berlin’s government is offering to give away a villa once owned by Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, hoping to end a decades-long debate on whether to repurpose or bulldoze a sprawling disused site in the countryside north of the German capital.

Joseph Goebbels. Photograph: CSU Archives/Everett Collection

“I offer to anyone who would like to take over the site, to take it over as a gift from the state of Berlin,” Berlin’s finance minister, Stefan Evers, told the state parliament, the German Press Agency reported.

Berlin has repeatedly tried to hand off the site to federal authorities or the state of Brandenburg, where the villa lies, rather than continue to pay for maintenance and security at the complex, which has become overgrown and fallen into disrepair.

Evers renewed that offer on Thursday, calling for proposals that reflected the site’s history. He didn’t say if proposals from private individuals would also be considered.

“If we fail again, as in the past decades, then Berlin has no other option but to carry out the demolition that we have already prepared for,” Evers said.

Goebbels, one of Hitler’s closest allies, had the luxury villa built in 1939 on a wooded site overlooking the Bogensee lake near the town of Wandlitz, about 40km (25 miles) north of Berlin.

A retreat from Berlin, where he lived with his wife and six children, Goebbels used the villa and an earlier house on the site to entertain Nazi leaders, artists and actors – and reputedly as a love-nest for secret affairs.

After the war, the 17-hectare (42-acre) site was used briefly as a hospital, then taken over by the youth wing of the East German Communist party, which constructed a training centre, including several large accommodation blocks.

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After German reunification in 1990, ownership of the site returned to the state of Berlin. However, the city found no use for it. The site has since become an attraction for day trippers who can pick their way through the overgrown grounds and peer through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the villa.

Goebbels moved back to Berlin in the final phase of the second world war. He and his wife killed themselves and their children with cyanide capsules in Hitler’s bunker as Soviet troops closed in.

The family’s opulent home on an island in Berlin was sold at auction in 2011.

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