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Caught in a storm? Keep calm and bake on

Bakers in Houston make the most of adversity while injured Yemeni girl inspires support

BAKING UP A STORM

Hurricane Harvey had just slammed into Texas.

Inside a Mexican bakery in Houston, four bakers were about to call it a day, after working overtime to make enough bread for people stocking up on food. But they were stranded because of rising floodwaters in the streets.

Instead of sitting around and worrying, the staff of El Bolillo Bakery decided to do what they do best: Keep calm and bake on.

In the two days that they were trapped inside the shop - which fortunately had electricity and lots of flour - they baked up a storm.

By the time they were rescued on Monday, they had used more than 1,900kg of flour to make more than 5,000 bread items. These were later distributed to emergency centres in the area.

"They just couldn't handle the stress and they needed to do something, so they made bread," Mr Brian Alvarado, manager of El Bolillo, told the Washington Post. "They were thinking of everybody else, and they just started making bread for the community."


The staff of Mexican bakery El Bolillo in Houston, Texas, decided to bake bread for their community when they were trapped in the shop for two days because of Hurricane Harvey. By the time of their rescue, they had baked more than 5,000 bread items, using over 1,900kg of flour. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB/GOFUNDME

On Tuesday, the bakery posted on its Facebook page a picture of the bakers and huge trays of bread. The post went viral, with many praising the bakers. One person wrote: "These people are as sweet as their baking. Thanks!"

Others paid it forward by contributing to a GoFundMe page set up by the bakery's owner to raise money for employees who had lost their homes in the storm.

The story also caught the attention of former Mexican president Vicente Fox, a critic of US President Donald Trump. He tweeted on Thursday: "@realDonaldTrump in your face! These are the 'bad hombres', you're so scared of, giving a taste of solidarity in a time of need."

NOT CLOSING AN EYE TO VIOLENCE

Her eyes were so badly bruised and swollen, she could barely open them. But the young Yemeni girl did not give up, using two fingers to prise open her right eye.


Twitter users in Yemen are posting photos of themselves with one eye closed in solidarity with a young girl injured in an air strike. PHOTO: TWITTER/@KAREMO_5

The image of Bouthaina al-Rimi, said to be four or five years old, struggling to open her eyes was shared by people in her country. Many posted on social media photographs of themselves with one eye closed to show support for the girl, reported BBC News.

Bouthaina's parents, five siblings and an uncle were all killed when an air strike destroyed their home in the Attan neighbourhood of Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, two Fridays ago. The little girl was pulled from the rubble by another uncle, Mr Saleh Muhammad Saad.

"We lifted the rubble and saw first her brother Ammar, who was three, and her four sisters, all of them dead," he was quoted as saying by Reuters. "I paused a little and just screamed from the pain. But I pulled myself together, got back there and then heard Bouthaina calling."

The girl, who suffered from concussion and skull fractures, soon became a symbol of the plight of victims in Yemen's civil war.

The Saudi-led military coalition which supports the Yemeni government, and is fighting Houthi rebels aligned with the previous president Ali Abdullah Saleh, took responsibility for the air strike, saying it was a "technical mistake".

The Arabic hashtags #Bouthaina_The_Eye_Of_Humanity and #I_SPEAK_FOR_BUTHINA have both been used more than 3,000 times, reported BBC News.

A user, who shared Bouthaina's photo, tweeted: "The world can see your crime from my eyes."

LISTEN - THE BEDSHEET THREADS ARE CALLING OUT TO YOU

A woman, in her soft, almost whispering voice, says: "Listen to how nice it sounds."

As she runs her hands across the bedsheet, she adds: "Listen as we explore the thread count of a fitted sheet… You can hear each thread."

For the next 13 minutes, the YouTube video shows her hands - her face is not shown - caressing the sheets, pressing on the fluffy duvet and tapping softly on the pillow. There is no background music or subtitles. It is dead silent - so that viewers can focus on the "sound" of threads and fibres, and the woman's whispering voice.

You have just tuned in to Oddly Ikea, the Swedish furniture giant's new ad targeted at college students in the United States - and the strange world of ASMR videos.

The term ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, was coined by Web designer Jennifer Allen in 2010. It is often described as the tingly, relaxing sensation that can be triggered by soft voices or ambient sounds.

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The sensory experience has been quietly gaining popularity on YouTube, in the form of videos featuring people speaking in whispers or doing mundane tasks like turning the pages of a book.

Some find it relaxing, and claim it helps to relieve stress and even insomnia. Others say it is bizarre.

While the benefits of ASMR are still being debated, these videos have become so popular that businesses are fast tapping the trend. According to a Google report last year, there were more people searching for ASMR than for "candy" or "chocolate" on YouTube. A search on the site shows more than 10 million results.

Other ASMR-inspired advertisements include one for Dove chocolate featuring Chinese celebrity Angelababy - think whispering voice and the sound of her tearing the foil wrapper and biting into the chocolate bar.

The trend of businesses cashing in on ASMR has drawn mixed reactions. A viewer said she was "torn" between being happy that more people were exposed to ASMR, and "being really upset that companies are using ASMR to sell their products".

Can the whispering videos set the tills ringing? We'll see, or hear.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 03, 2017, with the headline 'Caught in a storm? Keep calm and bake on'. Print Edition | Subscribe