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Russian Pop Idol for prisoners : The Independent on Sunday

The first sound of the contest isn’t particularly musical. Boots on the stairs, heavy feet, much thumping. I lean over the grubby concrete staircase and see seven virtually shaven heads atop seven meaty bodies in fatigues, surrounding one slim girl with bleached hair. This is Yelena Kozlova, and – because she’s currently serving an eight-year prison sentence for theft – she needs a little company on her way to the toilet.

The Cup and the Knife : The New Statesman

The cup came first. My mother, Sheila, now 73, asked her husband John, my stepfather for 30 years, to put a cup on a saucer. He couldn’t. He waved it about, he put it somewhere else, he put it everywhere but where it should be.

The price of risk : The New York Times

On Friday, Jan. 13, the actor Julian Sands set off for a hike up Mount Baldy in California’s San Gabriel Mountains. He had done this kind of thing before: Mountain hiking was his passion. The 10,000-foot Mount Baldy is a difficult climb, but he had seen worse. In the Andes, he and three friends had reportedly been caught at 20,000 feet in a storm so violent, nearby climbers died. “We were lucky,” he later said.

Long Covid and me : The Guardian

One of the mysteries of Covid is how it hits the fit. Before January, I was one of those people. I ran 30 miles a week. I could turn up to a 20-mile fell race on inadequate training and run it, thoughtlessly. I did yoga, weight training and cycling. I had a low resting heart rate and strong biceps. For a 52-year-old menopausal woman, I was in extremely good shape.

      But then on 3 January I fell ill with a sore throat, then flu-like weakness, a cough that hasn’t left me since, and a constant and persistent headache that is resistant to every painkiller.

A very old essay on death

On a major TV channel broadcast in this country, on an evening drama show, two characters are looking up at a tree. When the camera pans up to the top of the branches, the viewer sees a hanging, blackened corpse, realistically human and dead. On the ground, it shows a patch of gloopy fluid that has supposedly dripped from the decomposing body. A crow is shown, pecking at the body's head. Then it pecks an eyeball. The camera spares no detail. Within a few seconds, the head falls off and hits the ground.

Race and blood: New York Times

“We need black blood.”

I didn’t know what to say to this, not least because it had been said by the head of donor services at England’s National Health Service Blood and Transplant. The interview was for a book I was writing on blood, a topic I knew a little about by then, but the baldness of his statement still shocked me. Surely we’re all the same under the skin?

Blood tales: Observer magazine

I go running around a lake and brambles scratch me. The wounds should heal quickly on my legs, but they don’t, because I scratch the scratches, and I scratch and scratch. I can plot every fell run, every fall, from the white lines. I know this, yet still I scratch. And I ask myself, why do I like to see the blood?

On menopause: Mosaic Science

There are few things that science doesn't yet know about the menopause: what it's for, how it works, and how best to treat it. While heading for my second menopause (really), I spent a year trying to understand why treatment and knowledge and care of something that affects millions of women is still so unsatisfactory.

The truth about multiple orgasm: The Guardian

On-screen depictions of sex show women coming again and again, yet in reality many women never climax during sex. My piece on the surprising truths about orgasm, the clitoris and the G-spot.

Why we still haven't stopped cholera: Mosaic Science

In 2010, after a hundred-year absence, cholera returned to Haiti, brought by UN peacekeepers from Nepal. Since then, 10,000 Haitians have died. It is the worst outbreak of cholera in modern history. I travelled to Haiti in 2015 to ask a simple question that has a difficult answer: why can't we beat cholera?

The Condom Grandma and why old people get HIV: The Sunday Telegraph

Older people have sex too. And they also get HIV: nearly 20 percent of new HIV diagnoses in the US are in the over-50s. In 2006, I travelled to Florida to meet Miriam Schuler, better known as the Condom Grandma.

The taboo of menstruation: New York Times

Khushi knew it was cancer. Ankita thought she was injured. None of the girls knew why they were suddenly bleeding, why their stomachs were “paining,” as Indian English has it. They cried and were terrified and then they asked their mothers. And their mothers said, you are normal. You are menstruating. You are a woman now.

The most mysterious material: TheSunday Telegraph

Twenty years ago Maurice Ward invented a material that could resist the force of 75 Hiroshimas. Why haven't we all heard about it? This is the story of Starlite.

The women of Afghanistan: Glamour

Aqila leans over and whispers in embarrassment that she was imprisoned for four days by the Taliban for working for a foreign organisation, and that on the way to jail, she had to scrape off her nail polish (also illegal) to prevent more punishment. "There were 25 women in prison with me," she whispers. "And every single one was there for stupid things."

Shame villagers about toilets, save a child's life: Scientific American

Human excrement can carry up to fifty communicable diseases. Diarrhea, 90 percent of which is caused by food and water contaminated by excrement, kills a child every fifteen seconds. That’s more than AIDS, malaria, or measles, combined. Human feces are an impressive weapon of mass destruction. Working with the Gates Foundation, I travelled to Mozambique to see how to save with world with sanitation. 

Saddam's Cake: Arena magazine

Saddam's birthday cake is limegreen and pink and shaped like a flower. It sits in the middle of a parade ground painted with lurid pastel designs, like my primary school playground, except St. Johns C of E Infants didn't have a line of dancing sheikhs, or two balconies full of sinister men in black moustaches.

Inside Dracula Park: Independent on Sunday

Dracula Park was first announced in April by Romanian tourist minister Dan Matei Agathon. Foreigners were obsessed with Dracula, he reasoned, so why not build them a theme park?

Dirty little secret. The loo that saves lives in Liberia: The Guardian

Not just a flash in the pan: in 2012 I returned to Liberia to interview President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf about her mission to save lives with toilets. She was rather stern.

Worse things happen at sea: The Guardian

Worse things happen at sea: I wrote for about why two ships still sink every week, why two thousand seafarers lose their lives every year, why shipping is the second most dangerous job on earth, and what can be done about it.

They don't see it as rape: they just see it as pleasure for them. The Guardian

A year ago, I wrote an article in Guardian Weekend about gang rapes, "tournantes", in France. In interviews, I confidently told people that nothing similar was happening in the UK. I was wrong.

Revolt against the rapists: les tournantes: The Guardian

In deprived, out-of-town estates in France, teenage girls have become targets, victims of a code that labels them easy game for gang rape. Now the fightback has begun against "les tournantes," where a woman is passed around like a joint or a beer.

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