Do You Want to Improve Your Vocabulary Through News?

New York’s new anti drink-driving measures have been ushered in with a fanfare. Dozens of teams of officers have been out on the streets of the city carrying out random checks on motorists and at least one car has already been seized. It’s been confiscated under the provisions of old laws which allow the government to seize vehicles used in crimes. The driver will only get it back if he or she is subsequently cleared of drink-driving. Otherwise, it’ll be auctioned, with the proceeds going into city coffers.
  drink-driving: a compound noun describing driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcoholfanfare: literally, a short ceremonial tune played on a trumpet. Here it means with a lot of noise and publicity

dozens: journalists’ use of dozens is a concise way of implying large numbers

seized: here means taken forcibly. It can also mean arrested

confiscated: officially to seize somebody’s property, usually on a temporary basis

cleared : in this context, found innocent

city coffers: coffers is another word for money chests. Here the meaning is money going into the city’s bank account

NEWS 2   This zero-tolerance of drink-driving is the latest initiative introduced in the wake of New York’s highly successful zero tolerance crime policy under which even the most minor crimes are prosecuted. More than six thousand people were arrested for drink-driving in New York last year. If that means six thousand cars are seized in 1999, this could prove a lucrative policy for the city. But in a nation where the car is many people’s most prized possession, it could also prove deeply unpopular.
WORDS    zero-tolerance: another compound noun used to imply that even minor crimes will be punishedin the wake of: following, as a wake follows a ship as it moves

most prized: most prized is an example this time of a compound adjective, in this case describing possession

More than a thousand rescue workers have been searching the blast site for sign of survivors but hopes of reaching anyone alive have all but disappeared. As they worked, a huge police operation swung into action to find three men named as key suspects. Security at nuclear power plants, airports and other potential targets throughout Russia has been stepped up. Troops and police have been drafted into the capital and have been searching buildings for explosives. They reported finding and defusing one bomb. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, Russian officials now openly blame Islamic militants fighting for an independent homeland in Chechnya and the neighbouring republic of Dagestan.
  all but: very nearly or almosthuge: very large

swung into action: began

potential targets: possible targets – places that may be aimed at

stepped up: increased

defusing: taking a fuse out of a bomb so that it cannot explode. A fuse delays the explosion of a bomb

NEWS 2   Most people in Moscow live in just such a block as the two destroyed in the past week, in Guryanova Street and now on the busy Kashirskoye Boulevard on the city’s south side. In both cases the multi-storeyed buildings collapsed in a heap of rubble. The people asleep inside had little chance of escape, whether they were on the top storeys or lower down. Many of Moscow’s apartment blocks were built rapidly from pre-fabricated panels in the post-war years, to house the dramatic expansion of the population which now stands at over ten million. These blocks have always been vulnerable to fire and gas explosions, like the one last year which killed six people.
WORDS    just such a block: a block of flats similiar to the one which has been destroyedmulti-storeyed buildings: buildings constructed on a number of levels or storeys (floors)

a heap of rubble: a pile of broken glass, metal and cement

post-war years: in this case, the years following the Second World War

stands at: at present the population is over ten million but this number may change

vulnerable: if a building is vulnerable, then it is not well protected against explosions – from fire, gas or bombs

Parts of south eastern Australia are among the most fire prone in the world. The ferocity of these outbreaks across the Eyre peninsula has taken the most hardened fire fighters by surprise. An area almost the size of Greater London has been destroyed.

Most of those who died are thought to have been incinerated in their cars as they tried to escape the flames. They’ve been fuelled by a cocktail of high summer temperatures, gusting winds and tinder dry conditions.

More fires have been reported across South Australia, including in hills near Adelaide. Others are burning in the neighbouring state of Victoria; further north in New South Wales emergency crews have also been placed on alert.

Phil Mercer, BBC News, Sydney

Listen to the words

more likely to suffer

great intensity

sudden occurrence

a piece of land almost completely surrounded by water but joined to a larger mass of land

most hardened
toughest, strongest

destroyed by burning

a cocktail
a mixture

gusting winds
sudden strong rushes of wind

tinder dry conditions
a ‘tinder box’ was used, instead of matches, to start fires many years ago; so this expression means that the countryside is so dry it will very easily catch on fire

placed on alert
ready to deal with danger

The earthquake struck in an area prone to tremors. It’s at the junction of the two continents of Europe and Africa where the earth’s crust is broken and fragmented. One of the world’s major geological faults passes through the region. The North Anatolian Fault and its branches cross several built up areas and earthquakes aren’t unusual. However, this latest is particularly violent. Its effects are made worse as the ground is made up of sediment rather than hard rock and can in effect swallow buildings much like quicksand. Scientists from the British Geological Survey who have visited Turkey have expressed concern over the buildings in the area. The number of deaths from similar tremors in areas of the United States and Japan has been lower largely due to the buildings being designed to withstand earthquakes.
  earthquake: a shaking of the ground caused by movement of the Earth’s crustprone to tremors: likely to suffer from earthquakes

earth’s crust: the Earth’s surface

broken and fragmented: split into small parts

North Anatolian Fault: one of several areas, such as the San Andreas Fault in North America, where earthquakes are common

built up areas: usually inner cities with a large number of buildings and therefore a large population

sediment: soft deposits

quicksand: a deep soft sand which people can easily sink inot when walking on it

to withstand: to resist

NEWS 2   One of the problems is that many construction companies simply flout building regulations laid down by the Turkish authorities. Engineers accuse some Turkish builders of using poor quality reinforcing bars and skimping on cement. Such problems are compounded by migration from poor rural areas to major cities. The new arrivals often build their own houses or shacks from whatever materials they can find.
WORDS    flout: ignorelaid down: issued an official order

authorities: a word commonly used in news reports for official bodies such as the police, the judiciary or a local council

skimping: using less of a quantity than you really need in order to save money

compounded by: made worse by

shacks: small huts or poorly built houses

All the rescuers found in the mountains of the Sierra de Perija in Venezuela was the scattered wreckage of the plane and the charred corpses of its occupants. There were no survivors.

The plane not only lost both of its engines – a fact revealed from its last radio messages – but the aircraft exploded on impact, producing a fireball that was seen kilometres away. The aircraft’s black box has been found and will be analysed by experts from Venezuela and France, which has sent its own investigators to look into the tragedy.

West Caribbean Airways is now under the microscope. The company lost another aircraft in March this year in a crash which killed eight people. The airline is in severe financial difficulties and even before this disaster had been told to tighten up its maintenance programme by the Colombian Aviation Authority. The company’s promised to suspend flights until preliminary investigations are completed.

Jeremy McDermott, BBC News, Medellin

Listen to the words

scattered wreckage
parts of the broken plane not found in one place

charred corpses
dead bodies that became black because they were burned


exploded on impact
burst as a result of crashing into something

black box
a flight recorder in an aircraft

to look into
to investigate

under the microscope
under scrutiny, under investigation

lost another aircraft
refers to the fact that the company had another plane crash

in severe financial difficulties
badly lacking money

to tighten up
to make more stringent; to follow the rules more closely