Joan Smith

Known for her human rights activism and writing on subjects such as atheism and feminism, Joan Smith is a columnist, critic and novelist. An Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a regular contributor to BBC radio, she has written five detective novels, two of which have been filmed by the BBC.

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Women will now play a bigger role in protecting the country, after the Obama administration lifted the ban on women in combat roles

War kills women – in uniform, in civvies

The assumptions that once kept women out of the military have been totally undermined by modern warfare

'Red Ed' looks more like Ed the Ready (for No 10)

Gosh, how would things look if we didn't have a shamelessly partisan right-wing press in this country? The coalition is fractious, the Prime Minister is irritable, the polls are dreadful, and that was before David Cameron had to postpone his big speech on Europe because of the hostage crisis in Algeria. It's time for the Tory papers to swing into action, in other words, and look how well they performed last week.

Tarantino dresses up violence, but violence it is

Quentin Tarantino is a brilliant name for a movie director. "Quentin" sounds a bit cardigan-and-slippers. Then it whams you in the gut – a bit like his films – with a fiery Italian surname. "Tarantino" makes me think of hairy spiders and a manic dance called the tarantella, which gets its name from their bite. I know its actual meaning is prosaic, suggesting his father's family has links with Taranto in southern Italy. (So does the spider.) But that turns out to be rather a good metaphor: both his name and his films promise more than they deliver.

Half of the world's food is thrown away? Come on, supermarkets: give us ‘imperfection’

Special offers that go mouldy in the fridge are partly why people throw so much food away

Guns won't protect Indian women. Ask the US

What was going through Barack Obama's mind as a member of staff told him about the Sandy Hook shootings? In a dramatic photograph released by the White House last week, the President leans against the back of a sofa, arms folded and head bowed. It's a sombre moment: six adults and 20 children had just died in the massacre in Connecticut. No one could avoid shock on hearing the news, but the President must surely have been wondering how on earth to persuade millions of Americans to give up their delusional attachment to guns.

The Government has gone to great lengths to restrict access to university. Where was Willetts's concern for the disadvantaged then?

The Universities Minister's professed concern for white working class boys is risible

2012: A year I won't forget, for all the wrong reasons

I can't remember when I've ended a year so angry. Goodbye 2012 and good riddance. In this country, a “much-loved” entertainer with a warm relationship with a former prime minister was exposed as possibly the UK's most prolific sexual predator.

Lives are at the mercy of quacks online

The most surprising people go in for magical thinking. Faced with a devastating diagnosis, they ignore medical advice and try alternative treatments they've heard about from friends or on the internet.

Leveson: The battlelines are drawn

This is a long game and the Leveson recommendations will become law eventually

Leveson: As someone who was hacked by the News of the World, I believe this scandal is about abuse of power

Leveson said the press is exercising unaccountable power which nobody holds to account.

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Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities