With the World Cup wrapping up at Rio's legendary Maracaña stadium Sunday afternoon, many are already asking if this has been the best World Cup ever.
It's the ubiquitous question, gracing the headlines of publications from Forbes, to The Guardian and The Atlantic, as pundits try to find Brazil 2014 a place in the World Cup pantheon.
VOCABULARY A reshuffle is the process of changing the jobs or responsibilities of the people in a particular group or organization. • Reshuffles are almost never a sign of political strength and invariably suggest a major problem at the heart of government.
BACKGROUND Germany were crowned world champions for the fourth time as Mario Gotze's extra-time winner beat Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final. Gotze demonstrated perfect technique and commendable calm to chest down Andre Schurrle's pass and sweep in a left-foot finish with the prospect of a penalty shootout only seven minutes away. Argentina, with skipper Lionel Messi looking subdued despite flashes of his talent, could not respond and Germany claimed their first World Cup since they beat the same opponents in Rome 24 years ago. The success means Joachim Low's side have become the first European team to win the trophy in South America. Read more >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Paul Thomas from the Daily Express shows a man sitting in an armchair drinking a can of beer whilst watching (we assume) the World Cup final on TV. His wife, who is standing beside him with a long piece of paper, tells him, "It's the list of things you said you'd get round to after the World Cup final ..." The man does not look happy!
COMMENT The cartoonist uses the stereotype of the husband who always finds excuses to put off doing jobs around the house — and the wife who nags him to do them.
VOCABULARY If you get round to (doing) something, you do something after you have intended to do it for some time. • I meant to call you, but somehow I never got around to it. • After putting off for a long time, he finally got round to fixing the leaking tap.
After a long, hard-fought battle, Germany is taking home it's fourth World Cup. It took nearly 113 minutes for the stalemate to break open, but it was the foot and chest of German striker Mario Götze that broke the hearts of Argentineans everywhere and led Germany to victory. Full transcript >>
The Armed Forces must adapt to deal with “unseen enemies”, David Cameron says as he announces a £1.1 billion investment in the military to tackle new threats to national security. The Prime Minister will say that spending on “intelligence and surveillance” equipment, such as drones, is a “national necessity”. Mr Cameron, writing in The Telegraph, warns that Britain faces changing threats in the form of global terrorism and unseen cyber criminals who can target the country from abroad. Full story >>
VOCABULARY To pledge is to promise a certain amount of money for a particular purpose. • The international community pledged $500 million for economic reconstruction.
Sometimes dreams don't come true, and with the growing prominence of social media, it's not too hard to screw up a good opportunity. That's something 17-year-old Axelle Despiegelaere had to learn the hard way. Full transcript >>
Desmond Tutu, one of the world's most eminent religious leaders, has made an extraordinary intervention in the debate over assisted death, by backing the right of the terminally ill to end their lives in dignity. Writing in the Observer, the 82-year-old retired Anglican archbishop, revered as the "moral conscience" of South Africa, says that laws that prevent people being helped to end their lives are an affront to those affected and their families. Full story >>
VOCABULARY Assisted dying is the suicide of a person afflicted by an incurable disease, using a lethal dose of drugs provided by a physician for this purpose. • Some people opine that with good palliative care there is no need for assisted dying.
Amazon is getting serious about its plans to fill the skies with delivery drones. The tech company just sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration requesting special permission to test its unmanned flying robots.
BACKGROUND The Government will today be hit by the biggest strike over pay since it came to power when over a million public sector workers will walk out in bitter disputes over pay, pensions, jobs and spending cuts. Home helps, lollipop men and women, refuse collectors, librarians, dinner ladies, parks attendants, council road safety officers, caretakers and cleaners will be joined by teachers, firefighters, civil servants and transport workers. Read more >>
THE CARTOON The scene is a street in Bury (pronounced 'berry'), a town just north of Manchester. The wheelie bins and dustbins are full, and there are bags of rubbish (or bin bags) all over the place. Rats can be seen on the road. A man comments to a woman, "Our dustmen aren't on strike — they only collect the rubbish once every three weeks!"
VOCABULARY Dustman is an informal word for a man whose job is to collect the rubbish from outside people's houses. Other informal terms include binman and rubbish man. The more formal/official (and gender neutral!) term (used in job ads, etc.) is refuse collector. The American word is garbage collector. See here for more on this vocabulary area.
Germany has expelled the CIA’s station chief in Berlin over reported cases of U.S. spying in the country. A Bloomberg correspondent in Berlin says, “This is a massive diplomatic rift.” Or, as The Washington Post puts it, “an unusual action among allies that is a very public expression of anger.” But note, media aren’t calling this decision unwarranted. Full transcript >>
UK prime minister David Cameron yesterday unveiled emergency laws, to be bundled through parliament in days, designed to shore up the powers of spies, police and government agencies. But Cameron agreed to a "sunset clause" time-limiting the bill to 2016, a full-scale review of intercept laws, a new oversight board and restrictions on the number of public bodies that can make use of surveillance data. Full story >>
VOCABULARY Snooping is watching someone secretly in order to learn about their personal life or business. • The director of campaign group Liberty has said that new data laws are not just for 'snooping on suspects' but will be used on everyone.
BACKGROUND Holidaymakers and business travellers who arrive at airport security with uncharged mobile phones or other electrical items will be stopped from boarding planes bound for the United States and effectively treated like “terrorists”. British Airways said passengers who failed to turn on devices when asked will be immediately banned from their US flight and have to reschedule, even if they offer to abandon the item or send it on separately. Turning on an electronic device can show a security screener that the laptop computer or mobile phone is a working device and that its batteries are not hidden explosives. Read more >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Mac from the Daily Mail shows passengers queueing at the 'Phone Checkpoint' in Gatwick Airport. Some mobile phones (in the box) have already been 'confiscated', supposedly because they weren't charged. The joke is that the security officer is using the man's moblie phone to call her mother in Australia — just to check that it's working, of course!
VOCABULARY If you board a plane, train, bus, or boat, you get onto it. However, you get into a car or taxi.
Well, this is kind of obvious. Ok, really obvious. New research says teens are still spending too much time in front of screens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracked kids between the ages of 12 and 15 in nationwide studies and found 73 percent watched TV and used a computer for more than two hours a day — what health experts caution is excessive screen time. Full transcript >>
With wealth beyond most people’s wildest dreams, Britain’s leading celebrities can easily afford to pay their fair share of tax. But many turn to avoidance schemes to bring contributions down – denying the Treasury vital funds that could go towards hospitals, schools and other services battered by cuts. And yesterday it was revealed some of our best-loved stars are among 33,000 Brits being hit by massive demands after ploughing their earnings into such arrangements, leaving a tax shortfall of £5.1billion. Read more >>
VOCABULARY A tax dodge is an informal expression which means the same as 'tax avoidance scheme' — a (supposedly) legal way of paying less tax. • One tax dodge often used by multi-national companies is to squirrel their earnings abroad in foreign subsidiaries located in countries where taxes are lower.
BACKGROUND Just over one week ago former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was placed under formal investigation on suspicion of influence peddling and other crimes, after being detained and questioned by prosecutors as a suspect for over 18 hours. Sarkozy was indicted with bribery and violation of professional secrecy. Read more >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Chappatte shows a couple sitting at a café terrace somewhere in Paris (note the Eiffel Tower). The man is reading about the Sarkozy's judicial problems on his tablet, and the woman is reading an article about 'Welcome to New York', the film starring Gérard Depardieu which tells the story of the so-called Sofitel scandal in which French left-wing politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn (aka DSK) was accused of sexually assaulting a chambermaid in a New York hotel. Strauss-Kahn was head of the IMF at the time, but was widely tipped to become the next French president.
COMMENTARY The expression 'political alternance' would normally refer to a situation where political parties take it in turns to hold power. Here, however, it's used ironically to highlight the fact that a scandal on the left is followed by one on the right, and so on.