Joan Smith - The Independent

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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It's 12p for a burger, but you do get some change

Thirteen years ago, a trial in Yorkshire revealed that hundreds of tons of poultry declared unfit for human consumption had entered the food chain. For several years, five men had operated a nationwide scam, selling chicken and turkey destined for pet food to butchers' shops, restaurants and supermarkets. Stomach-churning details emerged of how they'd washed the meat to get rid of mould and faeces, and soaked it in brine to remove the stench. The judge criticised the gang for targeting discount supermarkets serving poorer consumers who couldn't afford more expensive cuts of meat.

For the victim trials can be a second ordeal

Frances Andrade is believed to have killed herself during the trial of Michael Brewer

There's only one Clinton now. She's been great

Hillary Clinton's memoirs end in 2001, just after she was elected to the Senate and eight years before she became Barack Obama's Secretary of State. They're called Living History, but her own political career was still in the future when the Clintons left the White House for the last time. The woman who stepped down as the US's chief diplomat two days ago is living proof that Scott Fitzgerald was wrong when he said there are no second acts in American lives.

Queen of fiction: Hilary Mantel

The Costa Book Award is hers, but let's be frank: Hilary Mantel peddles snobbish period soap operas

These books are heavy on history but light on emotional substance

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

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