Ant Middleton dropped by Channel 4 over ‘personal conduct’

Channel 4 has said it will not work with Ant Middleton again due to his “personal conduct”.

Last year, the SAS: Who Dares Wins star faced criticism over comments about the Black Lives Matter protests and coronavirus.

In a statement, the channel confirmed he “will not be taking part in future series of SAS: Who Dares Wins”.

After a number of discussions with him, “it has become clear that our views and values are not aligned”.

“We will not be working with him again,” Channel 4 added.

Ant Middleton
image captionThe former soldier faced a backlash for his comments about coronavirus and Black Lives Matter protests

The 40-year-old said on social media he had “decided it’s time to move on from SAS Who Dares Wins UK”.

He added: “Big respect to my fellow DS – it’s been a journey I’ll never forget. Thanks to everyone that took part and made the show what it is.”

“Really excited about the future and what’s coming this year.”

In June, he apologised after referring to Black Lives Matter protesters as “absolute scum” as he complained about the “extreme left” and “extreme right” taking to the streets.

Ant said he was “anti-racist and anti-violence” after deleting the tweet.

In March last year, he backtracked on comments he made about the coronavirus pandemic after he urged people to “carry on as normal”.

He told his social media followers to not “be a sheep” and said he did not believe Government advice to self-isolate applied to him because he is “strong and able”.

The former soldier later said he had been “a bit insensitive towards the magnitude, the scale, of the crisis that’s happening in the UK”.

SAS: Who Dares Wins sees civilians put through gruelling military training exercises to test their physical and mental strength.

Ant also presented the programme’s celebrity spin-off, which has featured famous faces including 1Xtra presenter Yasmin Evans, reality star Joey Essex and ex-footballer Wayne Bridge.

Cocaine ‘worth billions’ seized in record Germany and Belgium haul

Customs authorities in Germany and Belgium have seized a record of more than 23 tonnes of cocaine that was destined for the Netherlands.

German officials discovered 16 tonnes of the drug in five shipping containers that had arrived in the port of Hamburg from Paraguay earlier this month.

Police in the Netherlands were notified and a further 7.2 tonnes of cocaine was seized at the Belgian port of Antwerp.

Officials in Germany said the cocaine had a value of billions of euros.

A 28-year-old man suspected of involvement in the trafficking of the drugs has been arrested in the Netherlands, Dutch police said on Wednesday.

The two raids, which took place earlier this month, resulted in the seizure of an “enormous amount of cocaine”, customs officials said. 

In Antwerp, the drug was hidden in a container filled with wood blocks from Panama.

The cocaine found in the northern German city of Hamburg was concealed in tins of wall filler, which had entered Europe on a container ship from Paraguay.

Cocaine found in over 1,700 tins of wall filler in Hamburg, Germany
image captionOfficials ordered the containers to be emptied after noticing “clear irregularities”
Cocaine found in over 1,700 tins of wall filler in Hamburg, Germany

Customs officers decided to take a closer look at the Paraguayan containers after noticing “clear irregularities” with some of the contents – tin cans that were meant to be filled with putty.

“Beyond a layer of genuine goods, packed just behind the container door, numerous tin cans were in fact filled with other goods,” officials said.

Tins that were found to contain cocaine, 24 February 2021
image captionCustoms officials said the amount of cocaine discovered had a street value of “several billion dollars”

Investigators then ordered the containers to be unloaded, and found cocaine stashed away in more than 1,700 tins.

“This is the largest amount of cocaine ever seized in Europe and one of the largest single seizures worldwide,” German customs said, referring to the Hamburg haul alone.

“We are estimating a street sales value of between €1.5bn and €3.5bn ($1.8bn and $4.2bn) for the 16 tonnes,” Hamburg customs official Rene Matschke told AFP news agency.

Hamburg is Europe’s third biggest port, and the largest in Germany.

Paraguay has been a key transit country for drugs for years.

Powerful drug trafficking gangs from neighbouring Brazil, such as First Capital Command (PCC), have expanded across the border into Paraguay and are running many of the smuggling operations there.

The drugs after often shipped in containers from Paraguay to port cities in Europe.

This latest haul, however, is the biggest ever discovered in Europe.

In October, 11.5 tonnes of cocaine was discovered hidden in scrap metal containers that had arrived in Antwerp from South America.

In August 2019, customs officials at the port of Hamburg sized about 4.5 tonnes of cocaine from a shipment that was listed as soya beans. Officials said at the time that the street value of the haul was approximately €1bn. 

Last year, about 102 tonnes of cocaine was intercepted while heading for Europe.

Kim Kardashian files to divorce Kanye West – US media

Kim Kardashian has filed for divorce from rapper Kanye West, according to reports in US media.

The couple have been married for almost seven years and have four children together. 

The news was broken by celebrity news website TMZ after months of rumours of marital difficulties.

Reports in US media suggest the reality star, 40, has requested joint legal and physical custody of their children. Neither have publicly commented.

The couple are among the most recognisable stars in the world and are both hugely successful in their own right.

Kim first found fame in 2007 as the star of an E! Television reality series about her family. Keeping up with the Kardashians has remained hugely popular since, with its 21st and final series due to air next year. 

The reality star has found success in many other areas of business, from mobile apps to make-up, and Forbes estimates her personal wealth to be about $780m (£556m).

Kanye West has been one of the biggest names in rap music for over 15 years and has also found incredible success as a fashion designer. 

The couple were friends for years before they got together. They had their first daughter, North, in 2013 with three more children – Saint, Chicago and Psalm – following after their 2014 marriage

The dark side of believing in true love

Old-fashioned romantics might have the wrong idea about love. Strong beliefs in true love could be blinding you to both the good and bad in your partner, with sometimes toxic results.

Have you ever explained issues you have with your partner to your friends, only for them to think they are not worth worrying about? Or have you seen a friend start a new romance with someone you think is completely unsuitable but they seem to go from strength to strength?

Psychologists have found two scales that influence how we start and maintain relationships.

One measures how much importance we put onto first impressions and early signs of compatibility, while the other measures how likely we are to work through problems in relationships. They are called implicit theories of relationships (because we don’t often talk about them). We might intuitively think of ourselves as more or less likely to believe in true love – but this is not something that we openly discuss with others or are conscious of when we start new relationships.

Together, these two scales can tell us if we are more likely to avoid talking about issues with our partners, look for faults where they might not exist, and ‘ghost’ our way out of relationships. Differences in these implicit attitudes can also help us understand the reasons that others’ romantic choices often seem inexplicable to us.

Do you believe in love at first sight? Or does it grow over time? (Credit: Getty Images)
Do you believe in love at first sight? Or does it grow over time? (Credit: Getty Images)

To find out how you score, take the two quizzes below.

The Soul Mate scale

Answer the following questions on a scale of one to seven, where one is strongly disagree and seven is strongly agree.

1. Success in a romantic relationship is based mostly on whether the people are “right” for each other.

2.  There is a person out there who is perfect (or close to perfect) for me.

3.  In marriages, many people discover (vs. build) a deep intimate connection to their spouse.  

4. It is extremely important that my spouse and I be passionately in love with each other after we are married.

5. I couldn’t marry someone unless I was passionately in love with him or her.

6. There is no such thing as “Mr. Right” or “Ms. Right”.

7. I expect my future husband or wife to be the most amazing person I have ever met.

8. People who are searching for a perfect match are wasting their time.

9. The reason most marriages fail is that people aren’t right for each other.

10. Bonds between people are usually there before you meet them.

Now for scoring. First add your answers for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9 and 10. For questions 6 and 8, you need to subtract each answer from the number 8 and use the new number as your answer for that question. For example, if you answered “6”, add a 2 to your total. Once you have your final total, divide by 10 to get your average for this scale.

The Work-it-out scale

Answer the following questions on a scale of one to seven, where one is strongly disagree and seven is strongly agree.

1. Success in a romantic relationship is based mostly on how much people try to make the relationship work.

2. In marriage, effort is more important than compatibility.

3. In a relationship, love grows (vs. love is found).

4. If people would just put in the effort, most marriages would work.

5. I could be happily married to most people, if they were reasonable.

6. The reason most marriages fail is that people don’t put in the effort.

7. How well you know someone depends on how long you have known him or her.

8. If I were to marry a random person, I would be satisfied.

9. Only over time can you really learn about your partner.

To find out your score, add together your answers and divide by 9.

The questions in this quiz are taken from the Relationship Theories Questionnaire used by Renae Franiuk, of Aurora University, Illinois, in her research into implicit theories and relationship satisfaction and longevity. Franiuk uses ‘Soulmate’ and ‘Work-it-out’ to describe the two scales. Other researchers use ‘destiny’ and ‘growth’ to describe similar scales.

When relationships are struggling, people who score more highly on the 'growth' scales cope best (Credit: Getty Images)
When relationships are struggling, people who score more highly on the ‘growth’ scales cope best (Credit: Getty Images)

If you scored highly for ‘soulmate’ beliefs and are surprised by this, Franiuk says you won’t be alone. “People have a tendency to think they will be a ‘work-it-out’ type but we see pretty high endorsement for ‘soulmate’. When we hear about the theories on the surface, ‘soulmate’ turns people off because it’s not scientific but it’s just a word. We could call it something different to make people want to identify with these romantic beliefs. It’s not surprising that we want to believe these ideas when so much in Western culture pushes people towards them.”

For people who score well on the growth scales, a conflict can improve the strength of the relationship

Now you have your score, what should you look out for? When relationships are struggling, people who score highly on growth scales cope best. In fact, the presence of a problem to work through can improve the strength of the relationship; couples who score highly on growth scales actually report feeling better about their relationship after a conflict has been worked through. For these people, it might be necessary for small, fairly inconsequential, issues to arise in the relationship to keep the couple focused on working together. The more investments a couple make, the more committed they feel. They enjoy the challenge.

For these reasons, growth believers will overlook big differences in compatibility. For them, compatibility might become more aligned with time – and that is something that is worth being worked on.

When they realise that someone isn't their soul-mate, "destiny" believers may abandon the relationship and "ghost" their partner (Credit: Getty Images)
When they realize that someone isn’t their soul-mate, “destiny” believers may abandon the relationship and “ghost” their partner (Credit: Getty Images)

The opposite is true for people with strong destiny beliefs, with some potentially toxic consequences.

Particularly in the early stages of a relationship the presence of an issue can precipitate a break-up, as the destiny believer realises that their “perfect” soulmate is fallible. The destiny believer may argue that their partner “never really understood me” or that a small fault is “evidence that we’re not really compatible.” This is the case even if the couple are relatively well matched, Franiuk has found.

People who believe in true love are more likely to ‘ghost’ their ex-partners

Worse still, they may exit the relationship in a less-than-charitable manner. People who believe in true love are more likely to ‘ghost’ their ex-partners – avoiding contact until the other person gives up speaking to you. Perhaps because the ghoster does not feel it is worth the investment to try to maintain the relationship if the other person is not ideal for them and does not see the benefit in providing feedback. “They don’t see it as a negative thing to do,” says Gili Freedman, a psychologist at St Mary’s College of Maryland, who studies social rejection. “Your score on the growth scale had less of an effect overall, although, if you scored highly for growth you were more likely to feel negative about ghosting.”

People with "destiny" beliefs about love tend not to discuss their relationship issues, which can lead to growing resentments (Credit: Getty Images)
People with “destiny” beliefs about love tend not to discuss their relationship issues, which can lead to growing resentments (Credit: Getty Images)

If they don’t break up over an issue – and still believe that they’ve found their true love –  the destiny believer may simply overlook the issue altogether. “Destiny believers tend to be more forgiving of a partner and more likely to avoid a fight because they want to believe that this person is their soulmate,” says Franiuk. That could be positive for minor disagreements. “But if you’re avoiding big conflict you end up staying with someone who is not good for you.”

And the consequences can be extremely serious. Destiny believers who have been together for longer are more likely to overlook issues, fooling themselves into thinking they are a better match because of the amount of time they have been together.

“We found that the longer destiny theorists stayed in relationships with someone who is not the right person, the more they reported violence,” says Franiuk. “They downplay problematic relationships. They might give someone a longer chance than other people might. Some might see warning signs early and end the relationships, but there will be some who don’t believe they are in a relationship with the right person but for economic reasons they remain and their personality traits make them more forgiving, which puts them in dangerous situations.”

It would seem that romantic beliefs remain fixed over time. So, once a destiny believer, always a destiny believer. “These theories are deeply held. Once people hit their 20s and 30s personalities are pretty stable. Like personality, relationship building is developed at an early age – children form these ideas based on the relationships around them,” says Franiuk.

The "growth" beliefs about relationships tend to lead to better communication and greater long-term satisfaction. Problems can even make the couple stronger (Credit: Getty Images)
The “growth” beliefs about relationships tend to lead to better communication and greater long-term satisfaction. Problems can even make the couple stronger (Credit: Getty Images)

The two implicit theories do not need to be mutually exclusive, though. “You can have beliefs that relationships improve when couples work on them together, but [still believe] there is still the ‘right’ person out there for you,” says Freedman. “There are not going to be many people that think that no growth is possible. And we can still alter the ways we express those beliefs. We would expect that past experiences will shape how we approach new relationships.” So just because you believe in romantic destiny, you might end the relationships in a more compassionate way, rather than ghosting, or you might make a more conscious effort to work through problems rather than overlooking them.

They say the course of true love never did run smooth – but a greater awareness of our own romantic tendencies might just help us navigate those bumps and turns along the way.

By: By William Park

‘When are you getting married?’

Be “softer” and “more humble”, a work client told happily single Tulanana

The pressure to marry is something many people know only too well.

“It’s coming from family, friends, people you work with, people you go to church with – and It can be quite intrusive,” says 27-year-old lawyer Ebunoluwa Tengbe.

Colleagues in her office in Freetown often tell her she spends too much time working and should be out meeting people instead.

“I am happy – I don’t feel incomplete, until those questions start coming up so often that you start to doubt yourself,” says the young Sierra Leonean.

It’s a similar story in Tanzania, says journalist and media entrepreneur Tulanana Bohela.

On one occasion after a workshop, a client questioned why Ms Bohela wasn’t married and suggested she become “softer” and “more humble” to bag a husband.

“I’m one of very few cousins or family members to have not moved from my father’s house to another man’s house,” she tells The Comb.

Instead the 33-year-old lives alone, which she says raises eyebrows in her “conservative” country. She’ll often tell people she lives with her brother to put them at ease.

Source: The Comb (BBC)

Can online sex build intimacy?

Social isolation has also meant sexual isolation for people keen to explore physical intimacy. Is virtual sex enough – or do we need to be touched?

About three months into lockdown in the UK, 26-year-old student Emma signed into a Zoom meeting with a group of people she’d only ever met through online chats. Organised by Killing Kittens, a company that, pre-Covid-19, hosted in-person sex parties with an emphasis on women’s empowerment, the “virtual house party” kicked off with drinking games. It was unlike anything she’d ever attended.

“We played ‘Never Have I Ever’,” she says, “and [the organisers] asked us questions like, ‘Which celebrity would you most like to see at a Killing Kittens party?’.” It got attendees talking about their fantasies and preferences – a smooth segue into the less structured part of the evening, during which some participants “removed clothing”, says Emma. “It was just a really good, quite sexy interaction with other people.”

It was the kind of connection Emma had been craving. With her one housemate staying with family, and having lost her job in March, Emma has spent much of the pandemic physically isolated. “There were points at which it got quite lonely,” she says.

Though she’d attended sex parties in the past, Emma had only just joined Killing Kittens in November 2019. “I was a little nervous to get properly involved,” she says, and when the pandemic hit, she worried she’d missed her chance. Instead, she joined one of Killing Kittens’s singles chat groups and started making close friends, which made her feel comfortable enough to try a virtual party on for size.

During the pandemic, social isolation has also meant sexual isolation for both individuals and couples hoping to explore physical intimacy. While recreating the tactile experience of sex online isn’t straightforward, virtual experiences – from dirty-talk Zoom workshops to sex parties like the one Emma attended – have helped fill the intimacy-shaped void felt by so many. To a certain extent, at least. For attendees and organisers, online sexual encounters can ‘mimic’ in-person experiences and offer much-need psychological relief, but there’s no direct replacement for physical touch.

As they meet new people and date, many singles have acknowledged that 'digital intimacy' is important during the pandemic (Credit: Alamy)
As they meet new people and date, many singles have acknowledged that ‘digital intimacy’ is important during the pandemic (Credit: Alamy)

However, beyond just acting as a stand-in for sex during the pandemic, these virtual experiences may also be showing us what’s important in intimacy writ large – both while we’re in isolation and once we can touch each other again.

Discovering digital intimacy

Almost a year into the pandemic, many have found ways to date and form relationships online. Dating apps such as Bumble now let users indicate “virtual only” or “socially distanced” dating preferences. According to a Bumble representative, in-app video calls were up by 42% in May 2020 compared to pre-lockdown March.

But replicating a first date via video chat is a far cry from recreating sexual experiences over the web. Key elements – physical touch most prominently – don’t have a straightforward, online substitute.

Still, people are getting virtually intimate. In October, hard-seltzer company Basic surveyed 2,000 single under 35-year-olds in the US, and found that 58% had had virtual sex during the pandemic. Of those, 77% did so with someone they’d never had sex with in person. Per a Bumble survey of 5,000 UK singles, 32% said “digital intimacy” was important in a relationship “both during lockdown and when measures lifted”.

There’s a big sexual gratification in being able to watch and be watched – Emma

For Emma and others who’ve dabbled in online sexual encounters in the past year, things like virtual sex parties, educational Zoom workshops, remotely controlled sex toys and simply engaging in sex-positive communities have proven to be both sexually fulfilling and antidotes to physical intimacy. “There’s a big sexual gratification in being able to watch and be watched,” says Emma, who describes herself as an “exhibitionist”.

Plus, watching real couples have sex is different from watching pornography. It’s personal – and the connections Emma’s made in these sex-positive spaces are, too. She and other single attendees have formed “tight bonds”, she says, “because we’ve all shared this experience on a very similar level”.

In London, David runs the brick-and-mortar adult lifestyle club Le Boudoir. In October, when he started hosting virtual sex parties with other London lifestyle clubs such as Purple Mamba, he noticed first-time attendees behaving like they would in physical spaces. Instead of huddling in the corner, they’re initially hesitant to virtually chat with others, but “you can literally see them warm throughout the evening”, says David.

Like Killing Kittens, these events start with icebreakers and performances (i.e., erotic dancers), which help get people in the mood. The progression of the parties looks a lot like it would in real life. “That’s technology mimicking real life,” he adds.

Along with individuals, some couples are also exploring outlets for online sexual interaction (Credit: Alamy)
Along with individuals, some couples are also exploring outlets for online sexual interaction (Credit: Alamy)

The element of safety

The online nature of these events also expands attendee demographics, so they span more locations, age ranges and experience levels.

People attend Boudoir and Purple Mamba’s events from Israel, South Korea, Australia and the US. A party that starts on Saturday evening, UK time can roll into evening on the US’s East Coast and across America. Sayle has also noticed virtual events attracting younger attendees – not only because they’re more online and “that’s how they communicate”, says Sayle, but also because online events remove the financial barrier to showing up at a physical party. Online Killing Kittens parties cost £20 ($27), while in-person ones can cost £350 ($480).

Emma, who doesn’t live in a major city, likes that she doesn’t have to spend money on travelling to an event in London, which would include putting up for a hotel, meals and new clothes. “As a student, that’s quite nice,” she says.

Boudoir and Purple Mamba’s virtual sex parties now attract around 150 attendees on a given Saturday. About half are first timers. Sayle sees a similar split at Killing Kittens’ events. “A lot of [attendees] are totally new people who would never have thought about [attending a sex party] before,” says Sayle. There’s a “safety element” to showing up via video chat, she adds: “You can close the screen at any point.”

That’s exactly what made UK-based couple Matt, 31, and Emily, 29, feel comfortable about going to their first-ever sex party during the pandemic, with Boudoir and Purple Mamba, online. “You’re in your own house,” says Matt. “It’s the safety of it.” Though they would have likely gone to an in-person event eventually, “it would have taken longer,” says Emily.

Just because you’re separated by distance doesn’t mean the activity you’re doing… is somehow less than if it was in person – Megan Stubbs

So far, the online events have let them explore their sexuality and relationship. Everyone’s “different styles” come through, says Matt, which creates a real, shared experience with another couple – one they didn’t think they’d want to experience before the pandemic. They’ve since changed their minds. Virtual encounters have also helped Matt and Emily put language to their desires. Because they’ve had to clearly communicate with others remotely, they’ve learned certain terms that describe their preferences.

This fits with a trend Michigan-based sexologist Megan Stubbs has observed. “I see more avenues of communication being open. People are talking more and getting more specific about their needs.” Distance necessitates this. When you’re not in the same room as your sex partner(s), you can’t rely on body language and subtle cues. But, she adds, “Just because you’re separated by distance doesn’t mean the activity you’re doing… is somehow less than if it was in person.”

‘Touch deprivation’

Still, experts and people having virtual sex agree nothing can completely substitute for physical touch. As Sayle puts it, “You can’t recreate an orgy online.”

Virtual boudoir parties have drawn groups from around the world and across different demographics (Credit: Alamy)
Virtual boudoir parties have drawn groups from around the world and across different demographics (Credit: Alamy)

This is, in part, because of the cellular processes that take place when a person is touched. Tiffany Field, who heads the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, explains that “moderate pressure touch” stimulates pressure receptors under the skin. “That sets off a chain reaction,” she says, that slows the nervous system. “The heart rate slows down, blood pressure slows, and brainwaves change in the direction of theta, which is a relaxation state.”

Levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that kills immune cells, also decrease when we’re touched, while natural killer cells (which kill bacteria, viral and cancer cells) increase, according to Field’s research, which specifically examines massage therapy. “It’s ironic, during this time when there’s a lot of touch deprivation going on,” she says, “that we don’t have the protection of the natural killer cells killing the viral cells.”

Based on her research of “moderate pressure touch,” Field says people living alone can still help stave off touch deprivation through “self-touch”. That even includes simple activities such as stretching and walking, which stimulate pressure receptors on the bottoms of our feet. Engaging in virtual sex surely falls into that category, if participants are willing to get active.

A deeper appreciation

Of these online-sexual-experience organisers and participants, all say they’ll likely continue with virtual experiences even when it’s safe to mingle with strangers. Digital intimacy offers something unique – the ability to stay at home but still engage in a fulfilling activity, with a geographically wider array of people, for minimal or zero cost.

In-person events, though, will likely boom. “Thousands of years of history of what happens post-pandemics and post-war show that people start shagging,” says Sayle. “It’s going to happen.”

The pandemic could also have another effect – it may make us all realise how touch-deprived we were to begin with. Before Covid-19, touch expert Field and colleagues were conducting a study in which they observed how much people were touching one another at airport departure gates. People were touching, says Field, only 4% of the time. Sixty-eight percent of the time, they were on their phones. Online platforms and social media were driving us physically apart pre-pandemic. Now, they’re facilitating people being together.

“I think what Covid has done has exacerbated [touch deprivation],” says Field. “Maybe [people] are beginning to appreciate that they’re missing the touch they did have.”

By: By Jessica Klein – BBC

Financial pain of Covid ‘not shared equally’

More than five million people have fallen into a “fragile” financial position owing to the coronavirus crisis, with young working adults among the hardest hit.

People from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds were also more seriously affected than others, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said.

The regulator said “the pain is not being shared equally”.

An estimated 14.2 million people are vulnerable to a financial shock.

‘Worrying findings’

The regulator’s Financial Lives survey is a benchmark for the state of the nation’s finances.

A total of 16,000 people were interviewed in February last year, with another 22,000 spoken to in October, after the pandemic struck.

As a result, it gives a snapshot of the first six months of restrictions caused by the coronavirus crisis.

The findings suggest that a quarter of the UK adult population now have low financial resilience. That means they have debts that are hard to manage, low savings, and are vulnerable to a financial shock such as a large, unexpected bill.

Many people have cut back on essentials, around a fifth expect to borrow from family and friends, and one in 10 plan to use a food bank.

“While there are some positives in the data, many of the findings are worrying,” said Nisha Arora, director of consumer and retail Policy at the FCA.

“The pain is not being shared equally with a higher than average proportion of younger and BAME adults becoming vulnerable since March. It is likely the picture will have got worse since we conducted the survey.”

By Kevin Peachey
Personal finance correspondent, BBC News

Heineken cuts 8,000 jobs after Covid hits sales

Beer giant Heineken has announced plans to cut nearly 10% of its workforce after a sharp drop in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It said 8,000 jobs would go, some of them at the head office in Amsterdam.

Heineken chief executive Dolf van den Brink said 2020 had been a year of “unprecedented disruption”.

Bars have been closed in many parts of the world, and some countries, such as South Africa, have imposed temporary bans on alcohol sales.

The company is the world’s second-largest brewer, with Heineken being Europe’s top selling lager. It also owns the Tiger and Sol brands.

UK impact

Heineken’s restructuring plans were initially announced in October, although it did not say at the time how many jobs would be affected. However, the employee consultation process has now finished.

The cuts will hit less than 5% of the 2,300 Heineken employees in the UK, but jobs will go across the business.

A UK spokesperson for the company said: “The closure of pubs in March and subsequent restrictions, including over the Christmas period, have had an impact on sales volumes of beer and cider for the full year.”

While Heineken had seen more sales outside of pubs, this had not made up for the hit to its pub trading.

“The NHS vaccination programme is a light at the end of the tunnel, and we look forward to welcoming back consumers to pubs across the country as soon as it is safe to do so,” the spokesperson said. 

As it announced the job cuts, Heineken also reported a net loss for 2020 of €109m (£96m), having made a €1.15bn net profit the year before.

The brewer said it wanted to make €2bn of savings over the three years to 2023, including cutting €350m in personnel expenses.

Romance fraud on rise in coronavirus lockdown

Romance fraud – scamming someone out of money by pretending to want a relationship – has been on the rise during lockdown.

More than 2.3 million people across Britain used dating apps during the initial coronavirus lockdown according to the Online Dating Association

According to UK Finance, there was a 20% increase in bank transfer fraud linked to romance scams in 2020 compared to 2019.

And £68m was lost to such scams in 2020, said the UK’s Action Fraud – another increase on the previous year.

Organisations warned people to be vigilant ahead of Valentine’s Day.

The advice includes:

  • online daters should not send any money, allow the other person to access their bank account, transfer money or take out a loan on the other person’s behalf
  • hand over copies of personal documents such as their passport or driving licence
  • invest money on the other person’s advice
  • receive or send parcels on the other person’s behalf
  • fraudsters may also use fake profile photos. Performing a reverse image search on a search engine can help to show whether a photo has been copied from elsewhere
  • contact your bank immediately if you think you have fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud

In both 2019 and 2020, the amount of money lost to romance fraud outstripped that stolen by online shopping fraud, according to Action Fraud, which is the main reporting body in the UK.

In 2020, online shopping and auction fraud accounted for £63m compared to £68m for dating scams.

The Covid-19 pandemic has added to the problem.

“The national lockdowns, and other restrictions on our social lives, implemented because of the coronavirus outbreak, have meant more people have been seeking companionship online and this has undoubtedly affected the number of reports we have seen,” said Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud.

“Romance scams can leave customers out of love and out of pocket,” added Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at trade association UK Finance.

Money laundering

Woman at a laptop
image captionA widow lost her life savings after being used as a “money mule” by a man she fell in love with

Victims of romance scams lose money via money transfers, and sending fraudsters gift cards and vouchers or presents such as phones and laptops. Some even provide access to their bank account or bank card.

Fraudsters can be very convincing, using emotive language and stories to manipulate people, for instance saying they need money for medical bills.

And increasingly, victims are at risk of prosecution as well as having their bank account emptied – as it is revealed that some scammers are now asking them to unwittingly launder money for criminal gangs.

ABC News reported on an Australian woman who thought she was falling in love with a US army officer but ended up laundering A$150,000 (£83,000) for such a gang.

Identity fraud

According to data from Lloyds Bank, people aged 55 to 64 are particularly at risk.

Like Anna (not her real name) who is in her 50s and a widow: she became prey to her scammer – who called himself Tim – after meeting him on a dating website, initially using its chat facility before switching to WhatsApp. 

After a few weeks, Tim told Anna he was travelling to Romania to work on a transport project, and asked her to send money. First he asked for small amounts, and then larger ones, eventually defrauding her of £320,000.

Romance fraud often starts on online dating websites but quickly switches to social media or old-fashioned texting, so there is no evidence of the scam.

Sometimes the scammer is more subtle than just asking for money, seeking instead to garner personal information, which can later be used to commit identity fraud.

Many victims do not report romance scams because they are embarrassed or ashamed. But for those who do, there is some recourse. In 2019 banks agreed to a voluntary code which said that if someone “has taken reasonable care and has any element of vulnerability” they are more likely to receive a refund.

In Anna’s case for example, she was able to recover half of what she lost.

Orgasm!!! The wicked adrenaline in man

Look, we all wanna know how to have an orgasm that blows our freakin’ minds, every time. But unfortunately, it’s not always that easy.

Research shows that only about half of women consistently have a happy ending during partnered play and 9 percent have never-ever orgasmed during intercourse. (Worth mentioning: The percentage of pleasure-seekers who do consistently O during sex is significantlyyyyy higher for women in same-sex relationships).

Not to worry. Here, sex experts explain everything you need to know to have an orgasm, whether you’re trying to ring the bell for the first time or take your big O to another level of pleasure.

What’s an orgasm, exactly?

Let’s start with a definition, shall we? An orgasm is “a feeling of intense pleasure that happens during sexual activity,” according to the National Health Services.

But Taylor Sparks, erotic educator and founder of Organic Loven, the largest BIPOC-owned online intimacy shop says the definition is even broader than that! After all, orgasms can happen *outside of* sexual activity (looking at you, coregasms). Orgasms, she says, are simply an involuntary release of tension.

“For vagina-owners, orgasm typically feels like a period of tension where your heart beats faster, breath hitches, and muscles tighten followed by a release of that tension,” she explains. “Often, people will even have what feels like a rhythmic pulsing in and around their genitals.”

While orgasms vary in intensity, Searah Deysach, longtime sex educator and owner of Early to Bed, says that “for the most part, you’ll know when you’ve had an orgasm.”

Different kinds of orgasms:

“Stimulating different parts of the body can result in orgasms that feel different from one another,” Deysach explains. Each is named for the body-part that needs to be stimulated in order for them to occur, including

  • Clitoral orgasm: The clitoris is the small, nerve-dense bud at the apex of the labia that serves no function other than to provide sexual pleasure (!). When orgasm happens as a result of clitoral stimulation—be it from your partner’s hands or tongue, or a clitoral vibrator—it’s called a clitoral orgasm! FYI: This is the most common type of orgasm for women, says sex therapist Ian Kerner, PhD, author of She Comes First.
  • Vaginal orgasm: A previous Women’s Health survey found that a substantial 37 percent of vagina-havers can orgasm from penetration of the vaginal canal alone. That’s a vaginal O!
  • Cervical orgasm: Your cervix is the vaginal canal’s anatomical stopping sign. Located at the wayyy back of the vaginal canal, the cervix is what separates the vagina from your reproductive organs. But beyond just what keeps tampons from traveling into your bod (#bless), the cervix can also bring on some serious pleasure when stimulated.
  • G-spot orgasm: Often described as feeling more full-bodied than clitoral orgasms, G-spot orgasms occur from stimulation from the G-spot, a nerve-packed patch of sponge located 2 (ish) inches inside the vaginal canal.
  • Nipple orgasm: A nipple orgasm is “a pleasurable release of sexual arousal, centered on nipple stimulation and not caused by stimulating the clitoris [or penis] directly,” as Janet Brito, PhD, a sexologist and clinical psychologist in Honolulu previously told Women’s Health.
  • Anal orgasm: For some, this means stimulation of just the external anus (for instance, during rimming). And for others, it means stimulation of the internal anal canal (for instance, with anal beads, a penis, or finger).
  • Blended orgasm: Any orgasm that comes from stimulating two or more body parts. Nipples + anus= blended orgasm! Clit + vagina? Also a blended orgasm.

Important: The goal in differentiating the many types of orgasms *isn’t* to create an orgasm hierarchy (lol). The goal, Deysach says, is to encourage people to experiment with their bodies to discover what feels best for them. Noted!

“If you can get off from nipple stimulation alone, that’s great,” she says. “If you need vaginal, clitoral, and anal stimulation all at once to have an orgasm, that’s awesome too.” Every human body is unique and will respond differently to sensation. “So keep an open mind, find what you like, and go with it,” she says. “After all, an orgasm is an orgasm is an orgasm.” True that.

How to have an orgasm:

Achieving consistent, mind-blowing orgasms is kind of like winning the lottery. Sounds amazing, but basically a pipe dream, right? With these little tricks, it doesn’t have to be.

1. Prioritize cuddling.

In the name of boosted oxytocin, rather than saving spooning for after sex, spend some time snuggling up pre-play.

Known as the “love hormone,” oxytocin might be the key to better orgasms, according to a study in the journal Hormones and Behavior. The study found that couples who received oxytocin in a nasal spray had more intense orgasms than couples who took a placebo.

Since you probably don’t have oxytocin nasal spray on your nightstand (lol), try giving yourself the same jolt of the hormone naturally by hugging, cuddling, or making other gestures to show your love to your partner. Your post-cuddle O will surprise you.

2. Don’t skip right to penetration!

According to Kerner having an orgasm requires a few key ingredients.

  1. Vasocongestion (i.e. blood flow to your pelvis)
  2. Myotonia (muscular tension throughout your body)
  3. The brain’s natural opiate system being turned on (because it triggers oxytocin)

The best way to get these ingredients? “Gradual[ly] building up arousal rather than a race to orgasm,” he says. In other words, slow down. Trust, the end result will be worth the wait.

3. Focus on the clitoris.

Jennifer Wider, MD, suggests focusing on sex positions that directly stimulate the clitoris during penetrative sex. “That can provide a consistent orgasm in the majority of [vagina-havers],” she says. Try rider-on-top, which allows you to grind your clit against your partner, or rear entry, with you or your partner stimulating your clitoris.

Another option: Stick to your fave sex positions, but get your clit in on the action with the help of a clitoral vibe. Or, take matters into your own hands by bringing your digits downstairs.

4. Use a vibrator.

Vibrators are literally made to help you orgasm, after all. “Vibrators increase the frequency and intensity of orgasms—whether you’re alone or with a partner,” says Jess O’Reilly, PhD, host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast. She suggests starting with a vibrator that will target your clitoris, G-spot, or both. A few to get you started.

15 Clit Vibrators That’ll Make You Come In Minutes

Ultimately, though, the type of vibrator you try will depend on the type of stimulation you enjoy—and the type of orgasm you’re interested in exploring. A vibrating butt plug or string of vibrating anal beads will bring whole of “oh baby!” to your backside. While vibrating nipple clamps will make you tingle and giggle without any between-the-leg lovin’.

5. Think about your cycle.

If you feel like your orgasms have been meh or not even there lately, consider trying to time sex around your cycle. Generally, your libido peaks during ovulation— that’s about two weeks before your period shows up—so the chances of having an orgasm will go up during this time period, Wider says.

FYI: This is especially important if you’re exploring cervical orgasms. That’s because, as O’Reilly previously told Women’s Health, some people are more likely to have cervical orgasms during ovulation. If having your cervix touched feels ouchy but you’re still curious, try it during a different time of the month to see if it feels better.

6. Don’t hold back on the lube.

No matter what sexual acts you enjoy, lube is a pretty handy tool to have in the bedroom. It reduces uncomfortable friction and allows you to “safely engage in a wider range of acts, techniques, and positions,” O’Reilly says. Not only that, it also “leads to higher levels of arousal, pleasure, and satisfaction,” she says.

For anal play, so long as you’re not using a silicone-based toy, Deysach recommends a silicone-based lube, which is thicker than water-based ones. For all other acts though, a water-based lube is perf.

Oh, and don’t snooze on lubes’ utility for nipple play. A little dab of lube on your finger can be the difference between hand-on-nipple stimulating feeling irritating and feeling ah-mazing.

7. Whip out a fantasy.

Adding a little psychological stimulation to the equation can help enhance physical stimulation, which is why Kerner recommends fantasizing on your own or with your partner. “Fantasy is also a powerful way to take your mind off other stressors or any other anxieties you may be experiencing,” he says. And, for the record, “it’s okay to fantasize about someone other than the person you’re having sex with,” Kerner says. (Maybe just keep that info to yourself.)

8. Try sensation play.

“The simple act of turning off the lights, closing your eyes, using a blindfold, or wearing sound-canceling headphones can help you to be more mindful and present during sex—and lead to bigger, stronger orgasms,” O’Reilly says. “This is because the deprivation of one sense can heighten another, so when you remove your sense of sight or sound, you may naturally tune into the physical sensations of the sexual encounter.” Before you tie an old tube sock around your boo’s eyes, just be sure to ask for consent first.

9. Feel yourself up in the shower.

Sure, you shower to get clean, but take a minute or so to embrace your body when you’re in there. “It’s very simple: As you shower, rather than touching to wash yourself, take one minute to touch for sensuality and pleasure,” O’Reilly says. “Feel your skin, take a deep breath, and bask in the heat and warmth that surrounds your body.” This can help you de-stress and get in touch with what feels good to you—and that can do you a solid when you’re in bed later, she says.

10. Forbid orgasm from happening altogether.

“If you’ve struggled with achieving orgasm, you may find yourself in a cycle of being anxious about having an orgasm, which makes having an orgasm even more difficult,” says Deysach. Sighhh. So while it may sound counterintuitive, taking orgasm off the table (er, bed) altogether “can give your brain a rest and allow your body the opportunity to enjoy the sensation without the pressure of feeling like you need to ‘achieve’ orgasm,” she says.

Worth a try, right? As she says, “You never know, maybe not thinking about orgasm will make it easier for you to find your way.”

11. Take an orgasm ‘break.’

On a similar note, “sometimes taking a masturbation and orgasm break for a day or two can be a good ‘refresh,’” Kerner says, noting that people sometimes “report stronger orgasms during masturbation after taking a short break.” If you can, try taking sex or solo love off the table for a day or so and see where that gets you. A simple reset may be just what you need to ramp things up.