The Observer reports that more than 5,000 untrained teachers who have been allowed to work in academies and free schools under Michael Gove's education reforms will be sacked if Labour wins the next election, unless they gain a formal qualification within two years. Full story >>
VOCABULARY The sack is being told by your employer that you can no longer continue working for a company, etc, usually because of something that you have done wrong. • Her work was so poor that she was given the sack.
VOCABULARY The Mail's headline is a play on the word honours. In Britain, the honours list is the list of people who have been selected to receive titles or awards from the Queen because of their achievements. However, The Mail doesn't think that some of this year's recipients deserve their honours, so they've changed it to "dishonours". Dishonour is a state in which people disapprove of you and lose their respect for you. • Profumo served penance for parliamentary dishonour with more than 30 years of charity work among the poor in the East End of London. Note that dishonour is an uncountable noun and not usually used in the plural form.
The Daily Mail reports that a gang of criminals are to claim compensation for whiplash after their prison vans crashed into each other on the way to a trial. Full story >>
VOCABULARY Whiplash is a neck injury caused by the head suddenly moving forwards and then back again, for example in a car accident. • Up to 60% of the whiplash claims brought by car drivers or passengers after accidents are either fraudulent or exaggerated.
The chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, Stephen Hester, was forced out of his job on Wednesday with a payoff at least £1.6m as the bailed-out bank started preparations for privatisation next year. Full story >>
IDIOM If you clear the decks (informal), you prepare for an activity, event, etc. by removing anything that is not essential to it. • The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Tuesday cleared the decks for the merger of Tech Mahindra and Mahindra Satyam. This expression originated in naval warfare, when it described preparing for battle by removing or fastening down all loose objects on the ship's decks.
BACKGROUND This cartoon by Paul Thomas from The Daily Express relates to UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's plans to ban fizzy drinks from all schools under Government efforts to slash spiralling obesity rates. State schools are already banned from selling fizzy drinks, as well as junk food, sweets and crisps, under guidelines introduced by Labour in 2007. But academy schools and new free schools are not under local council control. Full story >>
COMMENTARY The cartoon shows three schoolchildren in their school uniforms on their way to school. One of the boys, seeing a newspaper hoarding about the fizzy drink ban, comments, "Especially lager and cider ..."
EXPLANATION The suggestion is that the government should be more worried about children drinking alcoholic drinks such as cider and lager.
VOCABULARY 1. Cider is a drink made from apples which in Britain usually contains alcohol. 2. Lager is a type of light beer. 3. Fizzy drinks are drinks that contain small bubbles of carbon dioxide.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. Is this another example of the "nanny state" in action, or an essential measure to protect children's health. 2. What other things would you ban from schools? 3. Should the ban on fizzy drinks be extended to other areas? 4. Is a ban on fizzy drinks in schools an effective measure to combat child obesity?
Britain is to call for G8 action against the spread of drug-resistant bacteria by clamping down on the overuse of antibiotics. Full story >>
VOCABULARY Journalists refer to a type of bacteria as a superbug when it is very difficult to deal with because it cannot be killed by antibiotics. • The World Health Organisation says superbugs are the greatest threat to human health we face today.
The Daily Telegraph says Labour would cap spending on the state pension if the party wins the next election. Full story >>
VOCABULARY If the government caps an organization, council, or budget, it limits the amount of money that the organization or council is allowed to spend, or limits the size of the budget. • The Secretary of State for Environment has the power to cap councils which spend excessively.
The Observer says ministers will respond in parliament to claims GCHQ gathered intelligence through a controversial US spying agency. Full story >>
VOCABULARY You can refer to information as data, especially when it is in the form of facts or statistics that you can analyse. In American English, data can be a singular or a plural noun. The data is compelling and The data are compelling are both correct. In technical or formal British English, data is sometimes a plural noun, but at other times, it is an uncount noun, as in The data highlights some interesting trends.
The Washington Post and Britain's Guardian newspaper on Thursday published top-secret information from inside NSA that described how the agency gathered masses of email data from prominent Internet firms, including Google, Facebook and Apple under the PRISM program. Some of the companies denied that the NSA and FBI had "direct access" to their central servers. [Source: Yahoo! News]
VOCABULARY If someone snoops on a person, they watch them secretly in order to find out things about their life. • Governments have been known to snoop on innocent citizens. Snoop is also a noun. • Most finders of lost smartphones are snoops.
The Daily Express says there is fresh proof that Britain can prosper outside the EU with the news that global exports are surging. Full story >>
VOCABULARY Proof is a fact, argument, or piece of evidence which shows that something is definitely true or definitely exists. • You have to have proof of residence in the state of Texas, such as a Texas ID card.
BACKGROUND Local communities are to be given more powers to block onshore wind farms, but also offered greater incentives to accept them, the government says. Planning guidance in England will be changed to ensure local opposition can override national energy targets. Read more >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Paul Thomas from The Daily Express shows a smiling scarecrow in a field holding a bottle and glass of champagne. A local (Nimby?) tells his companion, "We won the battle not to have a wind farm here ..."
QUIZ Can you spot the fox's tail?
VOCABULARY A scarecrow is an object in the shape of a person, which is put in a field where crops are growing in order to frighten birds away.
This cartoon by Andy Davey from The Sun relates to a story in the same paper about Britain's "chubbiest police officer", who is rather cruelly nicknamed "Plodzilla" (plod is a British slang term for a policeman).
According to The Sun's article, "Podgy Sgt Andy Sharp looks like he might need arrest — as the UK’s tubbiest cop." The article goes on to say that "recruits have to pass fitness tests when they join [the police], but there are no requirements for non-specialist officers to complete tests once they are in the job.
A report found just 35 per cent of London police were of normal weight — with 44 per cent overweight, 19 per cent obese and one per cent morbidly obese." Full article >>
The cartoon shows an overweight police officer chasing an equally overweight thief, who has just stolen a flat-screen TV by smashing a shop window. The policeman has dropped the box of donuts he was eating, and is clearly out of breath (Pant! Pant!).
Apart from the problem of obesity in modern Britain, the cartoon also evokes the economic crisis (the bargain shop next to the TV store has closed down), and contemporary fashion trends (the hoodie thief is wearing the obligatory tracksuit and trainers).
VOCABULARY 1. If you pant, you breathe quickly and loudly with your mouth open, because you have been doing something energetic. 2. A thief is a person who steals something from another person or a shop, etc. 3. If you describe someone as tubby, chubby or podgy, you think that they are slightly fat. 4. A hoodie is a young person wearing a hoodie (a type of casual jacket with a hood). Hoodies are thought by some people to be badly behaved or possibly criminal.