Weekendish: The best of the week's reads

Westgate attack, Nairobi, September 2013 Image copyright Kabir Dhanji

A collection of some of the best reads from the BBC News website this week, with an injection of your comments.

It's a year since gunmen believed to have been from the Somali Islamist group al-Shabab, allied to al-Qaeda, brought mayhem to an upmarket shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya. On a sunny Saturday morning gunmen stormed the centre and proceeded to randomly shoot at men, women and children. In the ensuing chaos, shoppers and retail staff tried to escape, while others hid next to bodies of fellow shoppers, wondering who would get to them first - the police and Kenyan security forces, or the militants and their guns. At least 67 people died, and hundreds were wounded. Voices From The Mall focuses on the first terrifying hours of the Westgate siege, and in a series of interviews, survivors recall their desperate attempts to save their own lives, while a responder tells how he came face to face with a gunman.

Kenya's Westgate attack a year on: Voices from the mall

Image copyright Frederic Buyle


A sperm whale could swallow a human within a matter of seconds without even having to chew. So a group of marine mammal scientists who free-dive with the bus-sized mammals with only masks and flippers might be regarded as foolhardy by some. But the research group insists this is the most effective way to observe sperm whales without scaring them, and makes the divers much more likely to be welcomed into pods for hours at a time. Marc Jacobs ‏tweets: "Learned an interesting fact. A sperm whale is the loudest animal on the planet & can vibrate your body to death. Hm." Faye Wilde ‏@diver54321 adds: "Maybe on scuba, no way I could freedive would get distracted and breathe by accident!!"

The freedivers who swim with whales

Image copyright ALAMY

Should 'Hitler's church' be rebuilt?

Plans to rebuild a baroque church in Potsdam have been met with deep consternation by many in Germany. It's a building with a rich history, having once hosted JS Bach as its organist. So why are so many against its reconstruction? Because the church was also the site of Hitler's famous meeting with President Hindenburg in 1933 - an event which many see as a turning point, when Hitler was legitimised in the eyes of Germany's upper class. The building was bombed during World War Two and finally destroyed in 1968, and many in Germany believe that should have been the end of its story. But a group spearheading plans for reconstruction has different ideas.

The church described as a 'symbol of evil'

Image copyright ALAMY

Out in the open

Sir John Gielgud was arrested for it in 1953. And the singer George Michael, also famously apprehended after an incident in a Los Angeles public toilet, said he had no shame about it (and even wrote a song about it). Decades ago, the police in the UK did their utmost to stop gay men having sex in public toilets and outdoor "cruising grounds". And for centuries heterosexual couples have had sex in secluded spots, often referred to as "Lovers' Lanes". A decade ago footballer Stan Collymore admitted to "dogging" - having sex in a public place watched by onlookers. Today much has changed and the police take advice on "sensitivity and fairness" in dealing with those who have sex in public places. A Freedom of Information request, submitted last year, revealed specific guidelines, published in 2009 by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) on the policing of sex in public. Julie Bindel assesses these guidelines and looks at the history of cruising. Cara Sutra ‏tweets: "The Sex in Public news: I believe that as long as you're not upsetting anyone or visible to underage then why not?" Simon T ‏@nudeweatherman adds: "Parallels with public nudity here … although I loathe to connect sex and naturism. As always, common sense is key..." Paul Bradshaw ‏tweets: "Great example of #jargon and #foi: Public Sex Environments (PSE)."

The tricky business of policing sex in public

How do blind people dream?

Image copyright Thinkstock

People who were born blind have no understanding of how to see in their waking lives, so they can't see in their dreams. But most blind people have lost their sight later in life and can dream visually. Danish research in 2014 found that as time passes, a blind person is less likely to dream in pictures. There are a small number of questions that blind people seem to get asked regularly. But what about the lesser-known things about blindness?

Blindness, by those in the know

Poirot and the case of the vanishing Belgians

Image copyright Alan Taylor, Folkestone Historical Society

The UK was home to 250,000 Belgian refugees during World War One - the largest single influx in the country's history. In some purpose-built villages they had their own schools, newspapers, shops, hospitals, churches, prisons and police. These areas were considered Belgian territory and run by the Belgian government. They even used the Belgian currency. But despite their numbers the only Belgian from the time that people are most likely to know is the fictitious detective Hercule Poirot. So why did the Belgians more or less vanish?

How 250,000 Belgians didn't leave a trace

Here are some things we've enjoyed this week from elsewhere around the web:

Inside Japan's love hotels - Vice

The caffeine-free guide to keeping sharp at work - Quartz

In Jordan, Ever Younger Syrian Brides - The New York Times

The Surprising Origin Story of Wonder Woman - Smithsonian Magazine

Remember #BringBackOurGirls? This Is What Has Happened In The 5 Months Since - Huffington Post

Road Safety Poetry, by the Delhi Traffic Police - The Atlantic

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