The Halloween we know today—a holiday in which fun-seekers don costumes, knock on strangers’ doors for candy and embrace all things spooky—was born out of ancient traditions meant to appease the dead. Historians say Halloween, celebrated every year on Oct. 31, is linked to the old Celtic festival Samhain, which marked the end of the harvest season and the start of winter. People began dressing in costumes to disguise themselves from spirits, whom they believed came back to life to kill their crops. They also went door to door to ask for food and “soul cakes” to offer the ghouls in exchange for mercy. Watch the video above to learn more.
BACKGROUND President Barack Obama arrived to small but cheering crowds on Sunday at the start of a historic visit to Cuba that opened a new chapter in U.S. engagement with the island's Communist government after decades of hostility between the former Cold War foes. The three-day trip, the first by a U.S. president to Cuba in 88 years, is the culmination of a diplomatic opening announced by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in December 2014, ending an estrangement that began when the Cuban revolution ousted a pro-American government in 1959. "It's a historic opportunity to engage directly with the Cuban people," Obama told staff at the newly reopened U.S. Embassy, who were gathered at a hotel, his first stop after arriving in the afternoon. Read more >>
CARTOON The cartoon shows Obama ordering a 'Cuba Libre' at the Castro bar, somewhere in Cuba. The bartender, who is none other than Cuban president Raul Castro, gives him a dirty look. A picture of a cigar-smoking Fidel Castro, Raul's older brother, hangs on the wall.
EXPLANATION The Cuba Libre (/ˈkjuːbə ˈliːbreɪ/; Spanish pronunciation: [ˈkuβa ˈliβɾe]) is a cocktail made of cola, lime, and dark or light rum. This cocktail is often referred to as a Rum and Coke in the United States, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, where the lime juice may or may not be included. However, Cuba Libre is also Spanish for 'Free Cuba', and the cartoonist is playing on this double meaning. Obama wants the drink because he's hot, but he'd also like Cuba to be free from one-party Communist rule.
HISTORICAL NOTE Accounts of the invention of the Cuba Libre vary. One account claims that the drink (Spanish for Free Cuba) was invented in Havana, Cuba around 1901/1902. Patriots aiding Cuba during the Spanish–American War—and, later, expatriates avoiding Prohibition—regularly mixed rum and cola as a highball and a toast to this Caribbean island. Read more >>
In this episode of Learn English With Photos, we visit the Tower of London, one of London's most famous historic monuments, and learn some vocabulary connected with the Tower and its history. You can download a transcript and glossary for this lesson here, and see all the previous episodes of Learn English With Photos on the dedicated YouTube channel.
BACKGROUND Germans are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. German Chancellor Angela Merkel led several events Sunday, including the placing of a rose in one of the few remaining sections of the Wall to commemorate the 138 people killed in Berlin alone as they tried to flee the Soviet-allied state. In a speech at the main memorial site for the Wall, Merkel said that "the fall of the Wall has shown us that dreams can come true." She called the Wall a "symbol of state abuse cast in concrete" that "took millions of people to the limits of what is tolerable." Read more >>
One hundred years ago today, many of the men who now lie buried here were returning, in haste, to their barracks, members of Sir John French's British Expeditionary Force, called up by telegram after Britain's declaration of war. On Monday evening, as the shadows lengthened over the wooded and undulating glades of St Symphorien cemetery, Britain honoured them: the first, the last, and all of her 750,000 soldiers who died in the Great War. But not only them: also their former foes – enemies in life, comrades in death – and that whole generation whose lives were blighted by a conflict that claimed, over four terrible years, some 17 million military and civilian lives. Full story >>
VOCABULARY A century is a period of one hundred years. • Wrekin Golf Club was established over a century ago in 1905.
One hundred years ago, after a month of failed diplomacy and rising military mobilization, Britain declared war on Germany and the First World War officially became a global conflict. At least 16 million people lost their lives over the course of the Great War’s four brutal years. And politicians and nations across the globe are commemorating the war’s centenary with speeches, events, and memorials. But while no one can deny World War I’s historical impact, the war is being remembered much differently in the media across Europe. Full transcript >>
BACKGROUND World War I (WWI or WW1 or World War One), also known as the First World War, was a global war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. More than 9 million combatants were killed, a casualty rate exacerbated by the belligerents' technological and industrial sophistication, and tactical stalemate. It was one of the deadliest conflicts in history, paving the way for major political changes, including revolutions in many of the nations involved. Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, following an "unsatisfactory reply" to the British ultimatum that Belgium must be kept neutral. Read more >>
CARTOON The cartoon by Peter Brookes from The Times shows a group of British soldiers 'going over the top' armed only with rifles fitted with bayonets. Certain death awaits them as they approach the barbed wire and enemy fire. One of the soldiers comments to his companion, "At least in a hundred years there'll be no more slaughter, Carruthers ..."
COMMENT The soldier's comment is, of course, meant to be ironic. One hundred years on, the slaughter continues all around the world (Syria, Gaza, Ukraine, Iraq, etc., etc.). 'The war to end all war' was a term for World War I first used in August 1914. Originally idealistic, it is now used mainly in a disparaging or ironic way.
GRAMMAR Note the contraction "there'll be" for "there will be", which is the future form of "there is". The soldier could also have said "there won't be any more", which does, however, sound less elegant.
NOTES 1. The sepia look of the cartoon is meant to recall the photos of the time. 2. Carruthers is a posh name which suggests the cliché of the upper-class soldier who has enlisted for idealistic reasons.
BACKGROUND On June 28, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian crown prince Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, where he had come to inspect his occupying troops in the empire’s eastern province. The shots fired by Serb teenager Gavrilo Princip sparked the Great War, which was followed decades later by a second world conflict. Together the two wars cost some 80 million European lives and ended four empires, including the Austro-Hungarian, and changed the world forever. Read more >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Chappatte from Le Temps, Geneva, shows the moment of the fateful assassination. A bystander comments, "Gosh, bad century ahead". The 'joke' is the the man can't possibly know what will happen as a result of the killing.
COMMENT Foresight is a wonderful thing!
VOCABULARY People say ‘Gosh!’ when they are surprised or shocked. • Gosh, is that the time? ‘Gosh!’ is a euphemism for ‘God’.
TRANSCRIPT REPORTER: Flanked by war veterans, U.S. President Barack Obama and his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, commemorated the Allied D-Day landings on Friday, marking the 70th anniversary of the historic military invasion. At the Normandy American Cemetery, Obama praised the bravery of the 160,000 U.S., British and Canadian troops who waded ashore to confront Nazi Germany's forces. U.S. PRESIDENT, BARACK OBAMA: "I am honored to return here today to pay tribute to the men and women of a generation who defied every danger. Among them are veterans of D-Day, and gentlemen, we are truly humbled by your presence here today." REPORTER: It was on June 6, 1944 that those troops arrived, hastening their eventual victory over the Nazis. Obama and Hollande held a moment of silence and toured one of the beaches where the battles took place. It was there in Normandy, where 90-year-old Thomas Hewlett of Liverpool landed. He was among 3,000 veterans in attendance. WORLD WAR TWO VETERAN THOMAS HEWLETT: "I'm overwhelmed with it all, that's all I can say, and it makes me feel very humble. I think we appreciate it. They're all very kind to us for doing what we did, which I'm glad we did. That's the best I can say I think." REPORTER: All throughout the streets, signs of gratitude still lasting after 70 years.
From all-out Normandy reenactments, to a visit by Britain's Queen Elizabeth with French President Hollande, the schedule ahead of the 70th anniversary of D-Day landings is packed with events. Gavino Garay reports.
TRANSCRIPT REPORTER: It's a dramatic day on the beaches of Portsmouth, England. Here, British and Dutch troops are performing a reenactment of World War Two's Normandy landings. This, a day ahead of the 70th anniversary of D-Day landings. In Normandy, France itself, WWII buffs aren't missing out on an opportunity to seize the day -- and the beach. They're paying tribute to the soldiers who landed on these shores 70 years ago. Meanwhile, Prince Charles visited power boats used in the D-Day landings, and met with veterans. GLIDER PILOT VETERAN SAYING: "I can't believe what's going on here! All these people it's amazing look at them all, everybody. I mean, we were just doing what we were told, and that was it." REPORTER: He also laid a wreath next to the iconic Pegasus Bridge. In Paris, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, greeted by French President François Hollande, laid a wreath at the tomb on the unknown soldier. June 6 will commemorate the 1944 seaborne invasion that helped speed up the defeat of Nazi Germany.
This Learn English With Photos lesson is based on photos taken during a visit to Stonehenge in 2012. Learn some interesting facts about one of Britain's most famous historical monuments and improve your English vocabulary at the same time. There's also a speaking activity at the end. You can download a transcript and glossary here.
In the first panel of the cartoon Merkel/NIghtingale is ticking Putin off (we can guess it's for invading Crimea). She's holding a lamp labelled 'GAS'. In the second panel, Putin blows out the flame of the lamp. And in the third panel, they are in complete darkness.
BACKGROUND The United States is marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F Kennedy. In cities and towns across the country, people will reflect upon the words of the charismatic president whose rhetoric continues to inspire. "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country," Mr Kennedy urged Americans in his thick Boston accent at his inaugural address on January 20, 1961. Shot dead in his first term at the age of 46 as he was driven through Dallas, Texas, in an open-top limousine on November 22, 1963, Mr Kennedy's unfulfilled promise has become a symbol of the lost nobility of politics. Read more >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Chappatte from the International New York Times shows the moment just before President Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald (or was he?). JFK and the First Lady are travelling in an open-top limousine, waving to the cheering crowds lining the route of the presidential motorcade. They are just passing a sign which reads "End of Innocence."
EXPLANATION Many Americans view the Kennedy assassination as the day a nation lost its innocence. For a start, for a president to travel in an open-top car would be unthinkable nowadays. And as the Idaho Press-Tribune points out, "the assassination was the first in a string of similar attempts — some successful, some not. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed on April 4, 1968. Kennedy’s brother Bobby, at the time campaigning for the presidential nomination, was murdered on June 5, 1968. Then there was the string of high-profile attempts in the early 1980s — Musician John Lennon killed on Dec. 8, 1980, President Ronald Reagan survived the March 30, 1981, attempt on his life, as did Pope John Paul on May 13, 1981." Read more >>
MORE RESOURCES For more resources on the Kennedy assassination look no further than Larry Ferlazzo's excellent list. However, I would like to highlight the National Geographic's wonderful interactive web page 'Killing Kennedy'. It's truly amazing.