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Beyond the Front Pages

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As a society, we like our news fast and our solutions faster, but this week delivered a reminder that problems that made front-page news years back can make for positive updates a decade or so later (albeit hidden on page 23 of the paper).

Teen pregnancies are a case in point. Oft-used as the (im)perfect example of 'Broken Britain', it was announced this week that girls aged between 15 and 19 are today half as likely as their grandmothers to become pregnant. In fact, teen pregnancy rates are plummeting, according to numbers released by The Office of National Statistics, and a lot of that is down to decisions made by the government of 1999 and its not-so-snazzily named Teenage Pregnancy Strategy.

As Times columnist Philip Collins wrote on Friday, "Teen pregnancy is falling, thanks to decisions made 15 years ago. That's how long it takes to tackle big social problems... Policy and politics run on different cycles. We must reconnect them."

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Kerry Harvey, who gained national attention after appearing in the controversial "I wish I had breast cancer" adverts from Pancreatic Cancer Action, passed away this week aged just 24. While her family and supporters joined together in mourning, the Advertising Standards Authority said they were considering banning the adverts altogether. More than 100 complaints were raised over the ads, which aim to highlight the tragically low survival rates for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Unrepentant to the end for her decision to appear in the posters, one of the last things Kerry said on record was: "Hopefully the campaign will lead to more money being spent on research into pancreatic cancer. It won't help me, but I hope it will mean others will have a better chance than I have."

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On Wednesday night, I hunkered down on the sofa to watch Channel 4's Strippers. The topic of lap dancing and strip clubs is one I tend to avoid at all costs. I agree with all the arguments leveled against them, but can just as easily be persuaded it's empowering for the dancers earning thousands of pounds a night, and more fool the men parting with their cash so easily.

An hour's insight into the stark reality of life behind the scenes at a club in Glasgow and I'm firmly in the anti camp.

Why relevant? At the same time as the programme was being broadcast, a new study was released that showed one in three strip club dancers are students.

In a wide-ranging report, undertaken by Leeds University academics Dr Teela Sanders and Dr Kate Hardy, more than 200 dancers across the country were interviewed with 29.4% of them turning out to be students.

The frankly mind-boggling stat was put down to a combination of financial need, but also the normalisation of lap dancing. According to the report, for many dancers, "selling striptease had become more palatable and socially acceptable".

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If selling one's body for titillation, if not actual sex work, is now the norm, so is reading about it. Just when you thought there was nothing left to be written about the cultural phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey, news just in that sales of the trilogy have now passed 100million. That's an awful lot of spanking scenes being consumed on the daily commute.

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On the topic of female role models, the head of BBC One this week promised to create more prominent TV roles for women and black actors. Charlotte Moore insisted: "I'm very committed to broadening the range of diversity, whether that's with more complex roles for women or greater representation across leading roles."

Here's hoping within those complex roles there are many inspiring women to greater aspirations than a silver pole.

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