BACKGROUND Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn has said he would consider women-only rail carriages to help stem a rise in assaults on public transport. Mr Corbyn told the Independent he would consult women on the suggestion. But the idea was attacked as outdated and unhelpful by his Labour leadership rivals Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham. And other critics, including Conservative women's minister Nicky Morgan, said it smacked of "segregation". It comes after British Transport Police (BTP) figures suggested sex offences on trains and at stations had risen by 25% to record levels. Full story >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Morten Morland from The Times shows a 'women only' railway carriage which has become uncoupled from the rest of the rest of the train. A voice from inside the carriage says, "We appear to be going backwards."
COMMENTARY Women only train carriages are not a new idea, and reaction to Corbyn's suggestion has been mixed. However, the cartoonist clearly thinks that it would be a reactionary move since the comment about going backwards can be taken literally (the carriage is moving backwards), and figuratively (attitudes to women are going backwards). The fact that the carriage is red could be a deliberate reference to the Labour party, whose traditional colour is red. In which case, the cartoon could also be interpreted as a comment on Corbyn's desire to 'turn back the clock' with his far-left policies.
PRONUNCIATION 1. The irregular plural of 'woman' is 'women', pronounced 'wimmin', or /'wɪmɪn/ in phonetic script. 2. 'Carriage' is pronounced 'carridge', or /ˈkærɪdʒ/ in phonetic script.
LESSON IDEA This story would make a good topic for class debate. For or against?
BACKGROUND US conservatives have lined up to condemn the deal reached between major world powers and Iran. The agreement limits Iranian nuclear activity in return for the lifting of crippling international economic sanctions. The US Congress has 60 days in which to consider the deal, though President Barack Obama has said he will veto any attempt to block it. Israel's government has strongly criticised the agreement. Negotiations between Iran and six world powers - the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany - began in 2006. The so-called P5+1 want Iran to scale back its sensitive nuclear activities to ensure that it cannot build a nuclear weapon. Iran, which wants international sanctions lifted, has always insisted that its nuclear work is peaceful. Full story >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Adams from The Daily Telegraph uses a graphic representation of an English idiom to comment on the deal. If someone runs rings (a)round you, they are very much better, faster, or more successful at something than you are: Our girls' hockey team have run rings round all their opponents this year. The cartoon shows Iran's President Hassan Rouhani literally running rings around President Obama, but the rings form the nuclear symbol. The message seems to be that Rouhani has got the better of Obama and the best of the deal, which would explain why he seems so happy and Obama looks rather bewildered.
LANGUAGE NOTE According to The Phrase Finder, 'Running rings around' originated as an English hunting term. It was used by fox-hunters but more often by those indulging in hare-coursing, which is now banned in the UK. The circling runs made by the hare in its attempts to outrun the chasing greyhounds were called rings. The first person to refer in print to rings with that meaning was the Member of Parliament for Ipswich, William Churchill, in 1717.
BACKGROUND Iran has struck a deal with six major world powers over its nuclear programme. The country has agreed to important concessions to reassure the international community that they do not seek to make a nuclear bomb, in return for the lifting of some sanctions. The deal was agreed on day 18 of long and gruelling talks in Vienna between Iran and countries including the UK, US and Russia. It was established against the wishes of Israel, and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described it as a "historic mistake". However, Iran's president Hassan Rouhani has said it is a "victory" brought about by the "steadfastness, resistance, patience, perseverance & support" of Iranians. Full story plus video >>
COMMENTARY The cartoon by Peter Brookes from The Times features US President Barack Obama and Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and is a graphic representation of the proverb 'He who sups with the devil should use a long spoon.' This means that person who has dealings with a dangerous or wily person should be cautious. However, the evil expression on Khamenei's face and the fact that he has a nuclear symbol on his shirt suggest that Obama is not being cautious enough. He may be using a long spoon, but he's still got his arm around Khamenei's shoulder.
LANGUAGE NOTES 1. To sup is an old-fashioned word which means to take drink or liquid food by sips or spoonfuls. • She supped up her soup delightedly. 2. When Obama says 'I am!', he means 'I am using a long spoon'.
BACKGROUND As part of the agreement reached with the the rest of the eurozone on Sunday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras Tsipras pledged to implement radical reforms to ensure the Greek oligarchy finally makes a fair contribution. The tax status of Greek shipping magnates has been a particular point of contention during Greece’s fraught negotiations with its creditors. Under a provision written into the Greek constitution half a century ago, the government is forbidden from taxing what the ship owners earn abroad, a hallmark of the political influence these oligarchs have enjoyed for decades. In recent weeks, European leaders have urged Greece to shift more of the country’s financial burden onto the super rich. Read more >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Mac from The Daily Mail shows a super-rich Greek oligarch on his yacht, which is moored at the end of a long jetty leading to his sumptuous villa. He's reading about the 'Greek cuts' in the newspaper, and tells his maid to fetch him a dictionary because he doesn't know the meaning of the word 'tax' (since, we assume, he has never had to pay it!)
This cartoon by Gary Barker from The Times relates to the ongoing Greek Debt Crisis. In the left-hand panel, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is shown holding a gun to the head of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. This was the situation following last week's referendum in which over 60% of Greeks voted to reject EU austerity measures, and Tsipras (briefly) seemed to have the upper hand. However, in the right-hand panel, the situation is reversed, and it's Merkel who is holding the gun to Tsipras's head. In fact, Angela Merkel has called Tsipras's bluff, and is threatening a Grexit if he does not get the Greek parliament to agree to an even more draconian austerity package.
IDIOMS 1. If you hold or put a gun to someone's head, you force someone to do something by using threats. • How could I refuse when she was holding a gun to my head? 2. The saying 'a week is a long time in politics' is usually attributed to British Prime Minister Harold Wilson in the mid-1960s. It means that in politics, a lot of change can happen in a short space of time.
Today's cartoon by Adams from the Daily Telegraph shows Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in a German bierkeller with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a busty barmaid. Tspiras has already had too much to drink but he's calling for yet another 'stein' of beer. Merkel looks unimpressed and points to a sign which reads: "Do not ask for credit as refusal may offend". This is a sign often seen in bars which basically means that you have to pay for your drinks when you order them and should not expect to 'run a tab' (to accumulate charges on a bill at a bar).
EXPLANATION The cartoon is clearly a metaphor for the Greek debt crisis with the Greeks 'drunk' on cheap credit, and the Germans no longer willing to bankroll their drinking spree. However, there's also a reference to the idea of the 'Last Chance Saloon', which has been translated into faux-German here. Last Chance Saloon was a popular name of a type of bar in the United States that began to appear in the 19th century as an early expression of border economics. Saloons situated near areas where alcohol was not easily obtainable frequently took the name as a literal indication to customers that this was their final opportunity to imbibe before progressing to an area where obtaining, selling or drinking alcoholic drinks was prohibited. The phrase "last chance saloon" also has common British metaphorical use, based upon this historical context. Here the phrase refers to the fact that we've reached the point of no return where Greece must come up with acceptable proposals for yet another bailout plan by Sunday or exit the euro (the famous 'Grexit').
BACKGROUND George Osborne has announced that families who have a third child will not receive more child support than they would for two children. The Chancellor announced in his emergency budget that families who have a third child, or subsequent children after 2017 will not receive additional tax credits or universal credit support. There have already been warnings that the move will hit families hard, with Chief Executive of The Children's Society Matthew Reed saying: "The announcement to limit child tax credits to two children is effectively a two child policy for the poorest families." Full story >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Mac from The Daily Mail shows a couple in bed. There is a big dividing screen in the middle of the bed with the words: "Tax credits will be payable for only two children. Wev'e (sic) got two." The husband calls to his wife: "Well it makes a change from 'I've got a headache!'"
EXPLANATION The wife does not want to have another child for which they would not receive tax credits, so she's fixed up the screen (using ropes and pulleys) so that her husband can't have sex with her. If you look closely, you can see the two children they already have sleeping in bunk beds on the left. As for the husband's comment, pretending to have a headache has long been acknowledged as the most common excuse to avoid action in the bedroom, and we must assume it's one he's often heard before!
PUNCTUATION Did you spot the punctuation mistake? Yes, it should be "we've" not "wev'e" The apostrophe is there to replace the missing letters 'ha' from the word 'have' (just like in "I've", which is written correctly). Even the best cartoonists (and bloggers) make mistakes sometimes!
This cartoon by Chappatte from the International New York Times relates to Sunday's referendum in which Greeks are being asked to vote on whether to accept a proposal by the country's creditors for more austerity to keep aid flowing.
The cartoon shows a Greek man dressed in rags about to put his vote in the ballot box, above which is a sign with the words "Austerity or Bankruptcy?" He asks his wife, "Which form of poverty do we prefer?" Meanwhile, around the corner an EU official and IMF head Christine Lagarde watch to see what happens.
COMMENT Whichever way Greece votes, the country will almost certainly end up even poorer than it is now. A 'yes' vote would mean more austerity, while a 'no' vote would be likely to lead to Grexit and bankrupt the country.
PRONUNCIATION Click here to hear the word bankruptcy (/ˈbæŋ.krəpt.si/) pronounced.
BACKGROUND Holidaymakers heading to Greece over the next few days are being advised to take plenty of cash with them amid fears the country’s cash machines could be shut down if a resolution to the crisis is not found. As the Greek people continued to empty the country’s banks, with €1.2bn (£857m) withdrawn on Thursday alone, fears have grown that the banking system could be shut down. Around 2 million Brits travel to Greece each year and falling prices in recent months led to big surge in bookings to the country, according to Abta, the group which represents travel agents and tour operators. It is advising travellers to take “plenty of cash and a mixture of other payment methods so that they are covered for all situations”. Full story >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Kipper Williams from The Guardian shows a couple about to board a holiday flight to Greece. They are carrying a cash machine. The woman comments, 'We're not taking any chances.'
EXPLANATION They'll still be able to get money from their personal cash machine even if the Greek ATMs are shut down.
LANGUAGE If you say that you are not taking any chances, it means that you are not taking any risks. In this context a chance is a possibility that something negative will happen. • I'm delivering my work by hand - I'm not taking any chances.
BACKGROUND We've entered the final day of campaigning before the UK goes to the polls tomorrow. In case you hadn't noticed it's not just the politicians on message this General Election campaign. The nation's newspapers want you to vote too and some of them have been a little more obvious than others about which way you should cast your ballot. With one day to go until the biggest political day of the year we decided to take a look... Read more >>
CARTOON The Daily Mail is traditionally a Conservative paper, so it's no surprise that they are urging their readers to vote Tory in tomorrow's general election. They've even published a guide on how to vote tactically to keep Labour out of Number 10. And today's cartoon by Mac from the Daily Mail suggests that you'd have to be a sadist or a masochist to vote for Labour. The scene is the The Sadist and Masochist Club, where members are inflicting all sorts of pain on themselves. One says to another, "Yeah. Roll on tomorrow. I'm voting Labour, too".
LANGUAGE If you say roll on (whatever), you mean that you want a particular time or event to come quickly. • Roll on the holidays!
QUIZ See if you can match these actions to the people in the cartoon.
BACKGROUND With less than a month left to the May 7 election, Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives and opposition Labour party are tied at 34 percent, according to a YouGov poll for The Sun newspaper published on Friday. Labour and Conservatives remain unchanged at 34 percent from a day earlier, according to the latest YouGov poll. The poll put UK Independence Party unchanged at 14 percent, the Liberal Democrats at 9 percent, up 2 points, and the Greens unchanged at 5 percent, the newspaper said. The two main parties have been neck-and-neck in the polls since the beginning of the year, with neither establishing a lead beyond the typical 3 percent margin of error in most surveys. Full story >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Brian Adcock from The Independent shows UK PM David Cameron and Labour Party leader Ed Miliband neck and neck as they head for the finish line in the election race. Way behind them come the leaders of the other main parties: Nigel Farage (UKIP), Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats). However, the prize which awaits the first one to cross the finish line is a hangman's noose marked 'Hung Parliament'.
IDIOM - NECK AND NECK This saying goes back to at least the early to mid-19th century where it was a common term used in horse races. Sometimes, during a race, horses and their riders will be evenly matched, running side by side with each other. When this happens, the horses are said to be neck and neck. Today, this phrase is used, not just in reference to horses that are evenly matched, but also to other types of competitions where things are close. • Mary and Ann were neck and neck in the spelling contest. Their scores were tied.
EXPLANATION The cartoonist is playing on the expression neck and neck and the fact that a condemned man has to put his neck in the noose before he is hanged. The noose represents a 'hung parliament', which is an election outcome in which no party gains an absolute majority of seats. When that happens, the party with the most seats will usually try to form a coalition with one or more of the smaller parties (which is what happened after the 2010 UK General Election). The cartoonist is highlighting the fact that the most likely result on May 7th is another hung parliament, which will make governing more difficult for whoever becomes Prime Minister (and it's bound to be either Cameron or Miliband).
I'm a subscriber to Private Eye, the British satirical magazine which appears once a fortnight. One of the Eye's best features is its covers. The latest one relates to Hillary Clinton's announcement last Sunday that she intends to run for president in 2016.
The picture shows Hillary and her husband Bill. Hillary says, "It's time to have a woman in the Oval Office". Bill replies, "Been there, done that".
EXPLANATION The joke relies on the double meaning of the verb 'to have', which can also be used mean 'to have sex with'. The reference is to Bill Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky when he was president. "Been there, done that" is an ellipsis for "I have been there and have done that". The expression is used when the speaker wants to highlight his personal experience or knowledge of a particular place or topic (often in a show of one-upmanship). • Paragliding? Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.
BACKGROUND Hillary Clinton confirmed on Sunday what much of the political world has taken as a foregone conclusion for months, if not years: she's running for president in 2016. The former secretary of state, senator, and first lady formally announced her candidacy in a video Sunday afternoon. Read more >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Chappatte from Le Temps, Geneva is a spoof on the hit Netflix series House of Cards, which becomes 'House of Clinton'. Season 2 is a reference to the fact that Hillary's husband Bill was president from 1993 to 2001, so if Hillary wins it will be their second spell in the White House. House of Cards is famous for having lots of intrigue, sex, and scandal — so nothing like the House of Clinton :-)
COMMENT I enjoyed Season 2 of House of Cards but thought that Season 1 was better. And, of course, Game of Thrones is much superior.