Santa Claus and Buddy the Elf talk about New York City, where Buddy will soon travel to in order to meet his biological father
Santa: I've been to New York thousands of times.
Buddy: What's it like?
Santa: Well, there are some things you should know. First off, you see gum on the street, leave it there. It's not candy.
Santa: Second, there are, like, thirty Ray's Pizzas. They all claim to be the original. But the real one's on 11th. And if you see a sign that says "Peep Show", that doesn't mean that they're letting you look at presents before Christmas
THE GOOD GIRL
Cheryl, a cosmetics salesgirl in the depressing Retail Rodeo store of a small Texan town, and one of her customers, an old, ugly and overweight woman, discuss skin color, beauty and the latest fashions
Woman: I look too white, don't you think?
Cheryl: Not at all. I'm just trying to match your face with your hair. I was thinking you're not white enough.
Woman: I think I look kind of weird.
Cheryl: The first rule of fashion is you have to look weird. What I'm doing has come straight here from France.
Cheryl: It's called Cirque du Face, meaning "Circus of the Face", and it's all the rage with the Frenchies, ma'am.
Woman: Well, you're the professional.
INHERIT THE WIND
Matthew Harrison Brady, fundamentalist Christian and lawyer for the prosecution, and Henry Drummond, a champion of civil rights and lawyer for the defense, discuss God, Darwin, the world of the animals, and the fate of Bertram Cates, who sits in a local jail cell for teaching evolution
Brady: We must not abandon faith! Faith is the most important thing!
Drummond: Then why did God plague us with the capacity to think? Mr. Brady, why do you deny the one thing that sets us above the other animals? What other merit have we? The elephant is larger, the horse stronger and swifter, the butterfly more beautiful, the mosquito more prolific, even the sponge is more durable. Or does a sponge think?
Brady: I don't know. I'm a man, not a sponge!
Drummond: Do you think a sponge thinks?
Brady: If the Lord wishes a sponge to think, it thinks!
Drummond: Does a man have the same privilege as a sponge?
Brady: Of course!
Drummond: Then this man wishes to have the same privilege of a sponge! [pointing to Cates]
he wishes to think!
Penny Lane, the beautiful and sweet young groupie (a female fan who follows their favorite bands around the country), and William Miller, the very young and still innocent writer who is hoping to become a rocknroll journalist, get to know each other back stage at a concert
Penny: How old are you?
Penny: Me too!
.How old are we really?
Penny: Me too!
William: Actually, I'm sixteen.
Penny: Me too. Isn't it funny? The truth just sounds different.
William: I'm fifteen.
Johnny and his two young daughters discuss their lives in America without Frankie, the son and brother who died before they came
Johnny: Are you okay little girl?
Christy: Don't "little girl" me. I've been carrying this family on my back for over a year, ever since Frankie died. He was my brother too. It's not my fault that he's dead. It's not my fault that I'm still alive.
Johnny: Ah, Christy.
Christy: Mom was always crying because he was her son. But he was my brother too. I cried too... when no one was looking. I talked to him every night.
Ariel: She did, Dad.
Christy: I talked to him every night, until...
Johnny: ...until when?
Christy: Until I realized I was talking to myself.
HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG
Esmail and Behrani, Iranian immigrants, discuss their good fortune at being able to buy Kathy's house for so cheap after the local government took it from her, and how Americans and Iranians are very different people.
Esmail: I feel bad for that lady.
Behrani: The woman's house was taken from her because she did not pay her taxes. That happens when one is not responsible. Do you understand? Do not feel bad. Americans, they do not deserve what they have. They have the eyes of small children who are forever looking for the next source of distraction, entertainment, sweet taste in the mouth. We are not like them. We know rich opportunities when we see them and do not throw away God's blessing.
Shrek and Donkey discuss how he can win the heart of Princess Fiona
Donkey: You love this woman don't ya?
Donkey: Do you wanna hold her?
Donkey: Please her?
Donkey: Then ya gotta gotta try a little TENDERNESS! Chicks dig that romantic crap.
THE STATION AGENT
Fin, the four foot six inch dwarf (in his early 30s), and Emily, the young and seductive librarian (in her early 20s), get to know each other
Emily: What do you do?
Fin: Im retired actually.
Emily: Arent you a little young to be retired?
Fin: No, dwarves retire early. Common fact.
Emily: Yeah, lazy dwarves.
Lieutenant Doyle tries to convince Jeff that there could be lots of reasons why he hasnt seen his neighbors wife in several days, or why his neighbor has been acting in a way that looks suspicious (by, among other things, leaving several times a night with a briefcase, and packing and unpacking dangerous looking knives and ropes in plain view of his exposed living room window). More specifically, Doyle tries to tell Jeff it is highly unlikely an ordinary man would murder his own wife, and then handle the murder tools in such a way that anyone looking could see them
Lt. Doyle: Jeff, you've got a lot to learn about homicide. Why, morons have committed murders so shrewdly that it's taken a hundred trained police minds to catch them.
THE JOY LUCK CLUB
Lindo remember her life back in China as a young teenage girl, when she feared that her parents were going to marry her off to an old man, only to discover that her new husband is in fact a 10 year old boy
I have prayed to the gods many days for you, so that you were not too ugly or too old. Uh
.I must have prayed too hard.
Cassandra and Roland discuss whats going on with Mary, who they have just seen leave a Planned Parenthood clinic (where, among other things, abortions are performed).
Cassandra: There's only one reason good Christian girls come down to the Planned Parenthood.
Roland: She's planting a pipe bomb?!
Cassandra: Okay, two reasons.
The Burnham family, enjoying their suburban American dream at the dinner table, catch up on the day just passed
Carolyn Burnham: Your father and I were just discussing his day at work. Why don't you tell our daughter about it, honey?
Lester Burnham: Janie, today I quit my job. And then I told my boss to go fuck himself, and then I blackmailed him for almost sixty thousand dollars. Pass the asparagus.
Moses explains to 9-year old Addie that even though he is a thief, he is not a totally immoral man, and thus he would never just abandon her at the circus without an adult to take care of her
Moses: I got scruples too, you know. You know what that is? Scruples?
Addie: No, I don't know what it is, but if you got 'em, it's a sure bet they belong to somebody else!*
*Scruples is a sense of morality, or of what is right, which prevents a person from doing something that is immortal or wrong.
Jim explains to Bart why he should not be upset by the racist
attitudes of the people where he has just been named Sheriff
You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the New West. You know.
Forrest finally gets to see Jenny, his best and only real friend,
after many years, and many life changes for both of them
Jenny : Were you scared in Vietnam?
Forrest : Yes. Well, I-I don't know. Sometimes it would stop raining long enough for the stars to come out... and then it was nice. It was like just before the sun goes to bed down on the bayou. There was always a million sparkles on the water... like that mountain lake. It was so clear, Jenny, it looked like there were two skies, one on top of the other. And then in the desert, when the sun comes up, I couldn't tell where heaven stopped and the earth began. It's so beautiful.
Jenny : I wish I could've been there with you.
Forrest : You were
A US Senator asks Astronaut Jim Lovell about
the practical realities of life in a rocket ship
Senator: How do you go to the bathroom in space?
Lovell : Well, um... I tell you it's a very complicated procedure that involves cranking down the window and looking for a gas station.
TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN
Virgil Stockwell, professional bank robber, explains how
he met and fell in love with his future wife, Louise.
I was so touched by her. After 15 minutes, I wanted to marry her, and after half an hour, I completely gave up on the idea of snatching her purse.
THE WIZARD OF OZ
Dorothy meets the Scarecrow on her way to the City of Oz
Scarecrow : I haven't got a brain... only straw.
Dorothy : How can you talk if you haven't got a brain?
Scarecrow : I don't know... But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking... don't they?
Dorothy : Yes, I guess you're right
Otter, arguing before an official Faber College trial to see whether his Delta College Fraternity should be kicked out of campus, for consistent illegal behavior on the part of its members
Otter: Point of parliamentary procedure!
Hoover: Don't screw around, they're serious this time!
Otter: Take it easy, I'm pre-law.
Boon: I thought you were pre-med.
Otter: What's the difference?
[Addressing the room]
Otter: Ladies and gentlemen, I'll be brief. The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules, or took a few liberties with our female party guestswe did
..But you can't hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn't we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg - isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America!
In a moving speech 20 years before the American Civil War (in 1841), John Quincy Adams, former President of the United States, current Congressman, and lawyer for the escaped African slaves of the Spanish ship Amistad, tells the U.S Supreme Court why these Africans, imprisoned in America, should be allowed to return to their African homes, rather than be sent back to slavery in Cuba
The natural state of mankind--and I know this is a controversial idea--is freedom. And the proof is the length to which a man, woman or child will go to regain it once taken. He will break loose his chains. He will decimate his enemies. He will try and try and try, against all odds, against all prejudices, to get home.
Elle and her parents discuss her decision to attend Harvard Law School, in
hopes of winning back her boyfriend, who will also be going to that same school.
Mom: Honey, you were First Runner-Up at the "Miss Hawaiian Tropics" contest. Why are you going to throw that all away?
Elle: Going to Harvard is the only way I'm going to get the love of my life back.
Dad: Oh, sweetheart, you don't need law school. Law school is for people who are boring and ugly and serious. And you, button, are none of those things.
Miles Monore, who had been frozen for 200 years, talks with Dr Aragon upon his awakening
Miles: Where am I anyhow, I mean, what happened to everybody, where are all my friends?
Dr. Aragon: You must understand that everyone you knew in the past has been dead nearly two hundred years.
Miles: But they all ate organic rice!
Bart, the new sheriff of the town of Rockridge, and Jim, the local drunk
who is waking up in the town jail, first meet and get to know each other
Bart: You be my guest, and I be your host.
What be your pleasure, Jim?
Jim: I don't know... play chess... screw...
Bart: Let's play chess.
Jims dad, after accidentally walking in on Jim, who appears
to be masturbating with the help of a fresh apple pie
I have to admit, you know, I did the fair bit of
.masturbating when I was a little younger. I used to call it stroking the salami, yeah, you know, pounding the old pud. [pause]
.I never did it with baked goods, but you know, your uncle Mort, he pets the one-eyed snake 5-6 times a day.
STAND BY ME
Vern and Teddy, two 12 year olds in 1959, discussing
the great heroes of American popular culture
Vern: You think Mighty Mouse could beat up Superman?
Teddy: What are you, cracked?
Vern: No I saw him on TV the other day and he was holding five elephants in one hand.
Teddy: Boy, you don't know nothing. Mighty Mouse is a cartoon. Superman's a real guy. There's no way a cartoon could beat up a real guy.
Vern: I guess you're right. It'd be a good fight though.
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
Coach Jimmy Dugan of the Rockville Peaches, and pitcher Evelyn Gardner, discussing the nature of professional baseball (In this case, professional baseball played by women during World War Two)
Jimmy: Evelyn, could you come here for a second? Which team do you play for?
Evelyn: Well, I'm a Peach.
Jimmy: Well I was just wonderin' why you would throw home when we got a two-run lead. You let the tying run get on second base and we lost the lead because of you. Start using your head. That's the lump that's three feet above your ass.
[Evelyn starts to cry]
Jimmy: Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There's no crying, there's no crying in baseball. Rogers Hornsby was my manager, and he called me a talking pile of pigshit. And that was when my parents drove all the way down from Michigan to see me play the game. And did I cry? NO. NO. And do you know why?
Evelyn Gardner: No, no, no.
Jimmy: Because there's no crying in baseball.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE
Dr. Yen Lo, Chinese spy and all around evil person, discussing how he was able to brainwash American prisoners of war Raymond Shaw into becoming a trained killer for the communists in the years following the Korean War (1950-1953), after he was freed and sent home to United States.
His brain has not only been washed,
as they say
It has been dry cleaned.
THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT
Larry Flynt takes the stand at one of his many trials
for obscenity (specifically for the distribution of Hustler magazine).
Court Clerk: Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Larry Flynt: No.
Judge Thomas Alva Mantke: No?
Flynt: Your honor, I'm an atheist. I can't very well, uh, swear to a God I don't believe exists.
Mantke: Mr. Flynt, you are a handful.
Flynt: I know, your honor
Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner on their
first date, quickly getting to know each other
Harvey: I'll try to be anyone you want me to be.
Joyce: That's a dangerous offer; I'm a notorious reformer.*
* Notorious means famous in a very negative or bad way,
and a reformer is a person who tires to improve things.
BEST IN SHOW
Buck Laughlin, the loveable but not too smart guest announcer of the Philadelphia Dog Show, discussing the friendly host city and its role in American History
A question that's always bothered me and a lot of people: Mayflower, combined with Philadelphia - a no-brainer, right? Cause this is where the Mayflower landed. Not so. It turns out Columbus actually set foot somewhere down in the West Indies. Little known fact.
Mafia boss Paul Vitti and his dear gangster friend Dominic,
discussing future challenges to the "family business."
Dominic: Times are changing. You've got to change with the times.
Paul: What?; Am I supposed to get a fuckin' website?
MEET THE PARENTS
Jack Byrnes reads his poem about his beloved mother, who recently died, to his daughter Pam and her boyfriend Greg.
Jack: "My Mother" by Jack Byrnes.
You gave me life. / You gave me milk. / You gave me courage. / Your name was Angela. / An Angel from Heaven. / But you were also an angel of God. / And he needed you to. / I selfishly tried to hold on to you, / While the cancer ate away at your organs, / Like a rebel force. / And now we'll meet in heaven. / And I shall see you / Nevermore. Nevermore. Nevermore.
Pam: Dad, that's beautiful.
Greg: Yes, it was so beautiful, and yet, had so much information.
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
Blanche Dubois, talking to a doctor who has arrived to take her away, most likely to a mental hospital.
Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
[This is one of the most famous lines in the history of cinema!]
Carolyn and Lester Burnham at the dinner table, discussing his last day at work with their daughter Jane.
Carolyn: Your father and I were just discussing his day at work. Why don't you tell our daughter about it, honey?
Lester: Janie, today I quit my job. And then I told my boss to go fuck himself, and then I blackmailed him for almost sixty thousand dollars. Pass the asparagus.
Carolyn: Your father seems to think this type of behavior is something to be proud of.
Lester: And your mother seems to prefer I go through life like a fucking prisoner while she keeps my dick in a mason jar under the sink.
Carolyn: How dare you speak to me that way in front of her. And I marvel that you can be so contemptuous of me, on the same day that you LOSE your job.
Lester: Lose it? I didn't lose it. It's not like, "Whoops! Where'd my job go?" I QUIT. Someone pass me the asparagus.
A BEAUTIFUL MIND
John Nash, a psychologically disturbed mathematical genius, on game theory and sex.
If we all go for the blonde and block each other, not a single one of us is going to get her. So then we go for her friends, but they will all give us the cold shoulder because no on likes to be second choice. But what if none of us goes for the blonde? We won't get in each other's way and we won't insult the other girls. It's the only way to win. It's the only way we all get laid.
A MIGHTY WIND
Terry Boehner, of The New Mainstreet Singers, on his completely "normal" religious and philosophical beliefs;
Humankind is simply materialized color operating on the 49th vibration. I mean, you'd make that conclusion walking down the street or going to the store
HAROLD AND MAUDE
A conversation between Harold, about age 20, and Maude, about age 80, on cars, private property and the educational crime of robbery.
Harold: You hop in any car you want & just drive off?
Maude: Well, not any car. I like to keep a variety. Always looking for the new experience.
Harold: Nevertheless I think you're upsetting people. I don't know if that's right.
Maude: Well, if some people get upset because they feel they have a hold on some things, I'm merely acting as a gentle reminder: Here today, gone tomorrow, so don't get attached to things!
BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE
John Nichols, a gun nut, talking to Michael Moore, the film's narrator, about how he protects himself at night.
John Nichols: I sleep at night with a gun under my pillow.
Michael Moore: Aw, come on. Everyone says that.
PLANET OF THE APES
Dr. Zaius, the ape Minister of Science, lecturing Dr. Zira, an ape animal psychologist, on the dangers of human beings.
Dr. Zira, I must caution you. Experimental brain surgery on these creatures is one thing, and I'm all in favor of it. But your behavior studies are another matter. To suggest that we can learn anything about simian nature from a study of man is sheer nonsense. Why, man is a nuisance. He eats up his food supply in the forest, then migrates to our green belts and ravages our crops. The sooner he is exterminated, the better.
THE GOOD GIRL
Jack Field, Retail Rodeo store manager, addressing the store's employees, after Holden Worther, a young clerk, commits suicide.
Holden was a thief and a disturbed young man and what happened was a sad thing. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from this tragedy, like, uh, don't steal and don't be disturbed.
General Turgidson and the President of the United States talk about what to do after the US accidentally launches a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, with Turgidson proposing a second attack to eliminate the possibility of a counterattack.
General Turgidson: Mr. President, we are rapidly approaching a moment of truth both for ourselves as human beings and for the life of our nation. Now, truth is not always a pleasant thing. But it is necessary now to make a choice, to choose between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless distinguishable, postwar environments: one where you got twenty million people killed, and the other where you got a hundred and fifty million people killed.
President Muffley: You're talking about mass murder, General, not war!
General Turgidson: Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.
HAROLD AND MAUDE
Harold: Maude, do you pray?
Maude: Pray? No, I communicate.
THE LAST PICTURE SHOW
Sam "the lion," the town's most loved citizen, talking about life and aging
Being a decrepit old bag of bones, that's what ridiculous. Getting old.
KISSING JESSICA STEIN
Helen and Jessica get to know each other
Helen: What does your therapist say about all of this?
Jessica: Oh, I could never tell my therapist.
Helen: Why not?
Jessica: Because it's private.
THE JOY LUCK CLUB
Rich and Waverly finalize their wedding plans
Rich: So, do you think your mom will come to the wedding?
Waverly: I think she'd rather get rectal cancer.
Leo Bloom the accountant, and Max Bialystock the Broadway producer, discussing how they might be able to make some money
Leo: Let's assume, just for the moment, that you are a dishonest man.
Max: Assume away.
MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON
Jefferson Smith, the young, innocent, and newly appointed Senator, arrives in the United States Senate chambers for the first time.
Daniel Webster sat here?! Holy Mackerel!
The Magic Mirror, explaining to Lord Farquaad what the beautiful Snow White (of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs") is really like.
Although she lives with seven other men, she's not easy.
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING
Maria Portokalos, speaking to her grandson..
Nicko, don't play with your food! When I was your age, I didn't have food!
Sally talking to Brian, her new British friend, trying to find out if he is straight or gay.
Sally: Well, do you sleep with girls or don't you?!
Brian: Sally! You don't ask questions like that!
Sally: I do.
Rose, Thomas Andrews (the Titanic's designer) and Cal (Rose's arrogant fiancée), discussing the safety of the ship in the hours before it hits an iceberg.
Rose: Excuse me, Mr. Andrews, but I've been doing the math in my head and it seems that with the number of people there are on board, there aren't enough lifeboats.
Thomas: Not enough by half actually. Gosh, Rose, you miss nothing do you? I had originally intended for there to be more, but it was thought by some that it would make the decks seem too cluttered.
Cal: A waste of space as it is on an unsinkable ship.
The Christian Science Monitor, June 21, 2005.
Oil prices relentless rise
Hovering near $60 a barrel, they may hit consumer
spending and ripple through the economy.
If something is relentless, it forcefully continues without stopping or slowing down, over a long period of time. In this case, the rise in the price of oil has continued to go up almost without stop for over a year.
To hover is to float gently in the air, perhaps the way a hummingbird remains still while feeding from a bottle. In this case, if high oil prices hit consumer spending, it means that people will start spending less because so much of their money is going to pay for gas and energy. If a price rise ripples through the economy, it effects everything in that economy, from inflation to unemployment (To ripple means to literally flow out in small circular waves, the way water reacts if you throw a stone into a lake).
San Francisco Chronicle, May 21, 2005.
Bush vows to veto stem cell bill
Hes also critical of breakthrough by Korean Scientists
To vow to do something is to promise to do it. If a President vetoes a bill passed by Congress, he refuses to sign it into law (The Congress can still make the bill a law if 2/3 of the Congress vote to overrule the veto). A stem cell is a type of master cell that can create specialized cells, such as cells for the heart, skin or brain. They are found in brand new embryos after a sperm cell and egg join together. A bill is a proposed law.
To be critical of something is to criticize it or speak negatively of it. A breakthrough is an important word for a major advance in science or knowledge. In this case, Korean scientists have discovered how to use stem cells from human embryos, and by doing so, they hope to help find cures to all kinds of diseases. However, most conservative American politicians, including President Bush, claim such research is immoral because it kills human life. Obviously, the stem cell debate is very closely linked to the never-ending debate over abortion.
The San Francisco Chronicle, April 6, 2005.
Kansas School Board Moves
to Challenge EvolutionAgain
Religious Backers of intelligent design
seek to change how science is taught
Kansas is a conservative state in the middle of the United States, and a school board is a group of citizens responsible for the policies of the local public schools. Evolution refers to the theory of the 19th century English biologist Charles Darwin, who stated that man evolved or came from apes, over millions of years.
A backer is a supporter, and intelligent design is a theory or beliefmore religious or philosophical than scientificthat Darwins theory of evolution cant be correct because the universe is so complex that only a God could have created it, and the things within it. In this context, to seek something is to try and get it.
This headline captures one more front in Americas culture wars, fought between religious conservatives and more secular liberals, who want a clear separation between religion and government. Of course this war is really nothing new, and in fact conservative Christians have been fighting the teaching of Darwins theory of evolution for decades. Indeed, the subject of this months ESLnotes movie, Inherit the Wind (made in 1960), is about the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, in which a high school science teacher was tried for teaching evolution, which in the state of Tennessee had just become crime.
The Courier Times, Levittown Pennsylvania, April 24, 2005.
Spotlight on Students, Steroids
In wake of Congressional Hearings on pro-athletes,
attention has focused on use by local teens.
The spotlight is the center of attention by a lot of people (It is literally a powerful light that shines on a very small part of a stage during a concert or play). Steroids are illegal and often dangerous drugs which have become commonly used by professional athletes, because they can make people faster or stronger, and thus give them an unfair advantage over athletes who dont use them.
In the wake of something means in the time that follows an important or influential event. Congressional Hearings are public sessions in which members of Congress ask questions of important people involved with whatever issue they are investigating (in this case, the illegal use of steroids in professional baseball). To focus on an issue is to concentrate on it, and teen is a common way of referring to teenagers (those who are aged 13-19).
Stars and Stripes, April15, 2005.
Feds Say AF Jet Used
to Smuggle Ecstasy
Guardsmen allegedly brought 290,000
Pills from Germany to the US
Feds is a much loved slang word to describe law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, that work for the Federal Government (as opposed to one of the 50 state governments or local police). In this context, AF stands for the Air Force.
To smuggle something illegal is to secretly bring it from one place to another, or in this case, to sneak it into the country. Ecstasy is an illegal drug that is popular among teenagers (More generally, ecstasy is a feeling of total joy or happiness).
In this context, a guardsman is a member of the National Guard, which are military units that are based in all 50 of the states (though they have recently been used to fight in Iraq). If a person allegedly does something illegal, they have been accused of doing it, though it has not yet been proven in a court of law, and they may in fact be innocent.
The Daily Record, Morris County, New Jersey. March 27, 2005
Age Creating a Rift on Social Security
Opinions differ on whether system
needs fine-tuning or overhaul
A "rift" is a big crack or empty space, that in this context means a big difference of opinion. "Social Security" is the government payment system that guarantees old people in the US a minimum income.
If opinions "differ," they are in disagreement or go in different directions. "To fine-tune" a system is to adjust or correct it a little bit to make it better, while "to overhaul" a system is to change it fundamentally and completely.
Generally speaking, younger workers are more likely to want to fundamentally change the social security system (by allowing workers to invest their own retirement money), while older workers are more likely to want to keep the system basically the same (by making sure the government continues to guarantee a minimum income).
The Wall Street Journal, March 3rd 2005
Currency Drop Doesnt Mean Crisis
Lowered Dollar is Likely to Spur
Economic Growth, Fed Study Says
A nations currency is the name of its money (The US currency is the dollar). Over the last few months, the dollar has lost a lot of its value against other currencies.
If an event spurs the economy, it causes it to grow quicker and faster. In this case, the Fed is the American Federal Reserve Bank, which is considered the most powerful bank in the world since it decides on many types of interest rates in the United States. The federal reserve study is saying that even though the dollar has lost a lot of value, the American economy might actually benefit from this.
The San Francisco Chronicle, February 10, 2005
Stocks sag, but HP soars on Fiorina ouster
A typical headline from the business page!; In a general sense, stocks refer to the stock market, and if the market sags, it drops or goes down a little. HP refers to the Hewlett Packard company, and if its stock price soars, it goes up dramatically, like a bird that flies high into the air.
Carly Fiorina was the Chief Executive Officer (or CEO) of HP, but she was recently ousted, which means that she was forced to resign or quit from that position (An ouster is the noun, and to oust is the verb). Thus, this headline is saying that investors were happy that Fiorina was forced out, and therefore HPs stock price went up, even though the rest of the market went down.
The Washington Post, January 22nd, 2005
Vaccine Shortage turns to Surplus
U.S. is likely to lift restrictions and urge flu shots
A vaccine is a type of medicine that is given to people, usually in the form of a shot (needle), in order to prevent them from getting a disease or just getting sick. A shortage is the condition of having too little of something, and a surplus is the condition of having more than enough of it. Until recently, there was not enough vaccine in the US for preventing the flu.
If a government lifts restrictions, it ends rules or regulations that were preventing something from happening. To urge that a person do something is to strongly encourage them to do it, or more specifically in this case, to encourage people to get their flu shot.
The San Francisco Chronicle, January 6th, 2005
Nominee on Hot Seat
Gonzalez to face questions on
role in terror, torture memos
The Attorney General is the highest level lawyer in the United States government and is responsible for all law enforcement. A nominee is a person who is officially nominated for an office or position, and if that person is on the hot seat, they are likely to face serious and even aggressive questions before they are approved for the job (In this case, the nominee is Alberto Gonzalez, who was nominated by the President, and must be approved by the US Senate).
A memo is an informal written note (short for memorandum), and in this case, refers to notes that Gonzalez wrote in helping to form US policy on the treatment of prisoners around the world after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The Buffalo News, December 19th, 2004
Glitches at Major Websites
Hamper Online Holiday Shoppers
A "glitch" is a minor problem that prevents a person or plan from moving forward until it is fixed, and to hamper is to prevent, restrain or interfere with. "Online" is a relatively new word that refers to the world wide web and internet.
This article reports that major online retailers like Amazon.com are losing sales because there are minor technological problems which are preventing consumers from buying what they want.
The Morning Call, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 12/02/04
Couples Tying Knot Later These Days
Young People focus on careers, Dwindling Pressure
To tie the knot is to get married (A knot is what you make with your shoe laces when you tie your shoes). To focus on something is to concentrate on it, and a persons career is their profession, or the jobs they have throughout their life.
If something dwindles, it grows smaller and smaller. In this case, the pressure to get married early has dwindled, and thus the statistics show that more and more Americans are not marrying until they are 30 or over (And in fact, the article itself says that more American are choosing to never get married).
Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming, 11/18/04
Tenacious Kmart Gambles
$11 Billion on Sears Merger
Will form Nations Third Largest Retailer
Tenacious refers to a person (or in this case, business) that keeps on trying or struggling over a long period of time, despite many difficulties. Kmart and Sears are two well known department stores, and in the business world, a merger is the combining, or joining together, of two different companies.
A retailer is a business that sells products to the public, such as a clothing store.
In this case, Kmart and Sears are merging because they face extreme competition from Walmart, which has become the worlds biggest company in the last few years. It is believed by some that Kmart and Sears are too weak to survive alone, but together, they have a better chance of doing so.
San Francisco Chronicle, November 5th, 2004
Upsurge of Social Strife
Rattles Chinas Rulers
Protests, strikes now daily
problem for Communist Party
An upsurge is a sudden and big increase, and strife is violence or dangerous tension between groups of people. To rattle a person is to physically shake, disturb or scare them, and rulers are political leaders.
Strikes are actions in which workers refuse to work until they are given what they demand, which is usually more money and better working conditions.
Taken together, the headline and subline paint a picture in which the economic and political situation in China is becoming more tense because so many people are dissatisfied with either economic or political developments in the country.
Houston Chronicle, October 23rd, 2004
Price of Oil Soars to $55; Dow Dives
With other key fuel prices surging,
fears abound about economys health
This is a headline with lots of dramatic action verbs!
To soar is to rise quickly, like a bird or plane that moves higher into the air (Oil has risen to $55 per barrel, which is a record high price).
The Dow refers to the Dow Jones Industrials, which is a list of stocks for the 30 biggest companies in the United States. To Dive is to fall very quickly and dramatically, as when a swimmer jumps off a diving board and into a pool, hands and arms first.
Fuel is a gneral word for gasoline, oil and other similar sources of energy. To surge also means to rise quickly, or more generally, to quickly increase in energy or intensity. If fears abound about something, there are lots of reasons why people are, and perhaps should be, nervous or scared.
York Sunday News, York Pennsylvania, October 3rd
Could Election Snafu
Poll Watchers worry about a fiasco
like the one that hit Florida in 2000
A snafu is an unexpected and troublesome problem (It is an interesting and recently created word that comes from situation normal all fucked up). In this context, to strike is to hit.
A poll is the place where people vote, and a fiasco is a great little word for a total failure or defeat. As the Presidential election nears, many people are saying there are so many possible problems with the voting equipment that will be used that there could be several states, such as Pennsylvania, that have the same type of voting problems that the state of Florida had in the 2000 election.
New York Daily News, September 18th , 2004
Home Alone Star Macaulay Culkin
Booked for Drug Possession in Okla.
Busted is a popular colloquial word that means to get caught doing something illegal or immoral. In this case, a well known Hollywood movie star was caught by the police, but you can also be busted by a teacher or even your own parents.
To be booked for a crime means to be arrested and officially charged or accused, usually at a police station. In this case, drug possession is the act of owning or controlling an illegal drug such as marijuana, which in certain US states, like Oklahoma, can be punished by many years in jail!
San Francisco Chronicle, September 1st, 2004
Polls show the Young
fear Return of Draft
A poll is a question and answer survey, which is used to determine what the public is thinking about various issues (For example, in recent polls, Bush and Kerry seemed to be even in the upcoming presidential election).
The Draft is a common expression for the act of forcing young people to join the military, usually for at least a year or two. There has not been a draft in the US since the Vietnam War, but some politicians have been to discuss bringing it back given the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Kansas City Star, August 17, 2004
Nerves Begin to Fray for
Storms Weary Victims
This headline is discussing the impact of Hurricane Charley, which caused at least 20 deaths and major destruction throughout the state of Florida. To fray is to gradually come apart, the way threads do at the end of old or worn clothing, and thus if a persons nerves begin to fray, they become extremely irritable or easily upset.
If a person is weary, they have become extremely tired or exhausted with their situation (Dont confuse this word with wary, which means skeptical, fearful or doubtful, often of another persons promises).
The Courier Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, July 31, 224
Mike Tyson KOd
17,000 watch ex-champ flop in comeback bid
If a boxer is KOd, he is literally knocked out, perhaps even to the point of being unconscious, and thus he is beaten by his opponent (It is pronounced K--Od). To flop is to fail or not succeed, and a comeback bid is an attempt to return to great success after having failed, been beaten or even disappeared from public view for many years.
In this case, the boxer Mike Tyson, who 15 years ago was considered the most feared athlete in his sport, was trying to win a boxing match after seeing his career fall apart in the last several years. Unfortunately for Tyson, he was badly beaten by a British boxer named Danny Williams, who knocked him out in the 4th round of their fight.
The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, July 18, 2004
Ready for Prime Time
Iowas first lady is gearing up
for spotlight at Dem convention
In the television industry, Prime Time refers to the hours between 8 and 10pm, when there are the most TV viewers. Thus, in a more general sense, if a person is ready for prime time, they are ready for something very important that will be seen by a lot of people.
Iowa is a state in the Midwest, and its first lady is the wife of that states governor (The first lady of the United States is the wife of the President). To gear up for something is to prepare for it, and if a person is in the spotlight, they are being watched by lots of people (Literally, it is a very powerful light that focuses on a particular spot or place, that can be seen from far away). The Dem Convention refers to the Democratic Party political convention, which will be held in Boston at the end of July.
This is an article about Christie Vilsack, the wife of the Iowa Governor, who
will have a chance to give an important speech at the upcoming convention.
The Green Bay Gazette, July 3rd, 2004
Marlan Brando 1924-2004
Screen Legend Remembered
for Innovation, Eccentricity
A Screen in this context refers to a movie screen, and thus a Screen Legend is an actor who has become so famous that almost everyone knows who he is. Innovation is the act of doing something in a completely new and different way, and Eccentricity refers to behavior that is considered odd, unusual or very different from normal.
Marlan Brando was certainly one of the most famous actors of all time, and while his acting style was considered incredibly innovative and even revolutionary, as a person he was considered a very strange and mysterious man.
Miles Monore, who had been frozen for 200 years, talks with Dr Aragon upon his awakening
Miles: Where am I anyhow, I mean, what happened to everybody, where are all my friends?
Dr. Aragon: You must understand that everyone you knew in the past has been dead nearly two hundred years.
Miles: But they all ate organic rice!
Washington Post, June 17th, 2004
Bin Laden Portrayed
as a hands-on Leader
The mastermind of a big or complicated plan is the person who is responsible for creating it or putting it together, by thinking of all the necessary details. If a person is portrayed in a certain way, that is how they are described to others.
A leader who is hands-on is a person who is heavily involved in all the small details of the business or organization that they lead (A leader who is hands-off lets people who are lower down in the organization take care of all the details).
All of this is describing what was found by an official US governmental committee that was investigating the 9-11 terrorist attacks. In their report, they concluded that Osama bin Laden was very involved in the planning of the attack, including both its timing and the locations that were to be hit.
San Francisco Chronicle, June 3rd, 2004.
Rice Plays Enigmatic Role
in Bushs Foreign Policy
Star Dimming for Security Adviser
Enigmatic is an interesting adjective that means mysterious, or hard to see or understand. If a star starts to dim (either a real star in outer space or a famous human star), it fades, or starts to lose its brightness and power.
This headline is noting that as problems rise for President Bush due to the situation in Iraq, the reputation of his national security adviser, Condolezza Rice, is also being badly damaged, even among those who had previously supported her.
Wall Street Journal, May 22nd , 2004
Dose of Reality
Biotechs Dismal Bottom Line:
More than $40 Billion in Losses
Biotech is short for biotechnology, or in this case, the companies that try to create new drugs through intensive research in biology, genetics and other related sciences. Dismal means depressing or perhaps very bad. The bottom line is a common and useful expression for the most important or basic fact, and for a company, that is usually how much money has been made or lost. Alas, for the biotech industry, they have lost $40 billion in the last year.
Note the little headline at the top: A does of reality is a play on words, since to be given a given does of reality usually means to be shown how hard or difficult something is, after having thought it would be quite easy. In addition, though, a dose is a separate unit of measurement for a drug.
San Francisco Chronicle, May 2nd, 2004.
Grim forecast sees housing in
tatters after major S.F. Quake
Grim is a powerful adjective which means very gloomy, negative or dominated by bad, depressing or even horrible news. A forecast is an official prediction, often based on scientific study, and if something is in tatters, it has been completely destroyed or ruined, specifically by being torn or ripped apart.
S..F. is a common abbreviation for San Francisco, and a quake is short for an earthquake. In short, this headline is saying that if a major earthquake hits SF (like the one in 1906), a large percentage of people will find themselves without houses to live in.
This is the type of article that makes some people who live in California very nervous. Still, most natives would probably read the headline, try to put it out of their minds, and then just hope that the next really big earthquake hits the day after they die
The Columbus Dispatch, Columbus, Ohio, April 17th, 2004.
Mere Mention of Draft Unsettling to Some
In this context, mere is another way of saying just or only. A mention is the act of briefly talking about or calling attention to something, usually in a casual or informal manner. The draft is the governmental policy of forcing people to join the military, and if something is unsettling to people, it is disturbing or makes them feel uneasy or uncomfortable.
The United States has not had a draft since the early 1970s, but given the situation in Iraq, some politicians are starting to talk about bringing it back. Obviously, this would be an extremely controversial decision!
The Republican-American, Waterbury, Connecticut, April 1st 2004
Smoking Ban A Real Drag for Local Bars
Move to Private Clubs, Loss of Business Feared
If smoking is banned in certain places, it is made illegal to smoke in those places, and if something is a real drag, it is much disliked and even resented. In many cities throughout the United States, new laws are being passed to outlaw smoking in all public places, and naturally, bar customers and owners dont like these laws!
Also note that main headline is a subtle play on words because a drag is both something that is strongly disliked and a puff or a draw on a cigarette.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3/104
Spains Ruling Party Ousted
Deadly Terror Attacks Spark Voter Backlash
A "Ruling Party" is the political party that has control of the government. "To oust" a party (or person) is to force them out, either literally outside, or more commonly, from power.
"To spark" something is to cause it to get started or take place ("A spark" is the tiny bit of flame that causes or starts a fire). A "backlash" is an often violent or unexpected reaction against what has just occurred, or perhaps against a particular group or person.
In this case, it is believed by some that many Spanish voters decided to vote for the opposition Socialist party as a reaction to the terrorist attacks in Madrid, because they felt that if Spain had not gone to war in Iraq, Al Queda terrorists would never have attacked in Spain.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3/104
Marines land in Haiti on heels of Aristide's exile
Violence in capital ebbs after a day of anarchy
The "Marines" are a branch of the US armed forces that are known for fighting both on land and water. To "land on the heels of" another event is to arrive just after that event (Your heels are on the bottom of your feet). "Exile" is the act of escaping from a country in order to avoid being killed or hurt, and thus in this case, it appears the US marines arrived just after President Aristide of Haiti fled to Africa.
If violence "ebbs," it begins to decrease or go down after a period of great intensity. "Anarchy" is a political term that refers to a state of great disorder, violence and confusion. In brief, Haiti has once again become a very dangerous and politically explosive place.
The Spokane Review (Spokane, Washington), 2/14/04
More Gays get Hitched
Opponents Fail to get Court to Halt
San Francisco Same-Sex Weddings.
"Gays" are obviously homosexuals, and "to get hitched" is a slangy way of saying to get married. An "opponent" is a person who is opposed to or against something, and "a court" refers to both the building where trials are held, and as in this case, a judge. "To halt" something is to stop it.
This story refers to the decision of the local San Francisco government to give out marriage licensees to gay couples, despite the fact that gay marriages are officially prohibited in California. Since the Supreme Court of the state of Massachusetts has just announced that gay marriage must be allowed in that state, this issue is becoming a fascinating and emotional one throughout the United States.
The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa), 2/2/04
Special Report: The New Iowans
Tales of the Good Life Draw Chicagoans
Idealized Iowa Quiet, Affordable,
but Cities Feel Burden of Influx
"Tales" are stories, and "to draw" people is to attract them or pull them closer. If a place is "idealized," it is seen as being much more wonderful than it really is, perhaps even close to perfect. A "burden" is a responsibility, or something that is carried or worrisome, and an "influx" of people is a sudden and large number of them that are moving in a particular direction.
This headline refers to the common American phenomenon of people who are constantly in motion, looking for better places to live (The average American moves every seven years!). In this case, the focus is on the large number of people who live in Chicago, the biggest city in the American Midwest, who are moving to Iowa, which is a fairly rural state a few hundred miles to the West.
The Chronicle Telegram (Eldyia, Ohio), 1/15/03
Schools Crack Down on Sex Cases
Board president defends probe into teacher's relationship
"To crack down" on something is to aggressively try and eliminate it, or get rid of it. As you could probably guess, the sex cases in question refer to possible sexual or romantic relationships between high school teachers and their students.
Here, the "board" refers to the school board, which is a group of local citizens who control the policies of a school, and "to probe into" something is to investigate it with great seriousness.
Although these types of teacher-student relationships are considered scandalous and unacceptable by most Americans, they are probably much more common than most people would like to admit.
Scottsdale Tribune, 12/17/03
Morning-After Pill Touted
FDA Panel Favors Over-the-counter Sales
The "morning-after pill" is a controversial birth control pill that women take if they are afraid they might get pregnant, usually within 24 hours after having had sex. "To tout" something is to publically praise or say good things about it.
The "FDA" is the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for the safety of food and medicines in the United States. A "panal" is a group of people who are chosen to study a particular topic and make recommendations based on what they learn. If a drug is sold "over-the counter," it is available at any drug store, without the need for a doctor's prescription (This, of course, makes it much easier to buy).
New York Times, 12/1/03
Leaving Board, A Disney Heir Assails Eisner
Here, "Board" refers to the Board of Directors of a company (In this case, the Walt Disney Company). An "heir" is a child or other relative who inherits money or property, usually from a family member of an older generation, and "to assail" a person is to violently attack or criticize them with great anger or emotion.
The Disney heir in question is Roy Disney, a nephew of the founder Walt Disney, who is bitterly angry at Michael Eisner, the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of the Disney Company. The strained Roy Disney-Michael Eisner relationship has made news for many years.
Washington Post, 11/15/03
GOP Hails deal on Energy Bill
Republicans Upbeat; Democrats Skeptical
The "GOP" stands for the Grand Old Party, which refers to the Republican Party. "To Hail" something is to praise it, or claim it is very positive or great. A "bill" is a proposed law, which may have been passed by the Congress, but has not yet been signed by the president.
To be "upbeat" is to be optimistic or cheerful, while in this case, to be "skeptical" is to be pessimistic. Thus Republicans think the energy bill that Congress will send to the President will be good for the country while the Democrats are doubtful. Clearly, the more one knows about American politics, the easier it is to understand this headline.
Williamsport Sun-Gazette 10/27/03
Study Finds Children Under Age 2 Chowing Down on Junk Food, Soda
"Tubby" is a colloquial word for fat, or more colloquially chubby (which is more commonly used), and a "toddler" is a very young child or older baby. "To chow down" on food is a very slangy way of saying to eat it quickly or with great pleasure. "Junk food" is a widely used term for any kind of food that is mass produced cheaply and considered bad for your health (most fast food, such as that of McDonalds, is considered junk food), and soda is another word for soft drinks such as Coke or Pepsi. This is another discouraging article on the sad state of American health.
San Francisco Chronicle 10/2/03
Disclosures Disrupt Campaign
Mea Culpa: Actor admits he behaved badly toward women
This headline is discussing the political campaign of actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, for Governor of California. In this context, a "disclosure" is a piece of information that is embarrasing or harmful if it is released to the public, and "to disrupt" a political campaign is to stop it from moving forward normally, or perhas to throw it into disorder or chaos.
"Mea Culpa" is a well known Latin expression (widely used in English) that means "I am guilty of the charges against me." Here, Schwarzenegger is specifically admitting to the press that he groped, or physically touched women in an unwanted or offensive way, while making various movies over the years.
The Detroit News and Free Press, 9/1/03
Claims of Recovery Ring Hallow to Jobless
Unemployment in Michigan is Highest in Decades
In this context, a "recovery" refers to the economy, which is in a stage of growth and the creation of jobs (Usually after a period of recession, when the economy shrinks and loses jobs). If a statement "rings hollow," it seems false, often because personal experience makes it hard to believe. Thus, in this case, economists are saying the economy is growing, but sadly, it also seems that
Anchorage Daily News 9/17/03
State May take pot cases to Feds
Attorney General wants police to investigate cases regardless of amount of drug
In this case, the "state" is the state of Alaska, and "pot cases" refers to legal cases in which people are arrested for growing or using marijuana (Pot is the most common slang term for this illegal drug). The "feds" refers to the federal government in Washington DC, as opposed to the 50 individual state governments.
A state's "Attorney General" is its highest prosecuter or law enforcement officer. Taken together, the headline and subhead are saying that the Attorney General of Alaska wants the federal government to prosecute marijuana users in Alaska under federal law, because he can no longer do so under state law. This is because voters in the state of Alaska voted to make possession of a small amount of marijuana legal, but it's still a crime under the (ridiculous!) Federal law.
More and more people can't find work.
Los Angeles Daily News, 8/19/03
Pipe Dreams for LAX?
Hahn's security proposals depend on technology still non-existent
A "pipe dream" is an excellent colloquial expression for a dream or hope that is not really possible, or perhaps extremely unlikely to happen. "LAX" (pronounced L-A-X) is the well known abbreviation for Los Angeles International Airport (many other major airports are known by their three letter abbreviations, such as SFO for San Francisco's International Airport, or JFK for New York's Kennedy Airport).
Jesse Hahn is the current mayor of LA. The rest of the sub headline seems fairly easy to understand, but note that it is written in an almost poetic style, with the adjective "non-existent" (which is to say, not yet invented), placed after the noun.
Taken together, the headline and sub headline strongly suggesting that Mayor Hahn's plan to improve security at the LA Airport is not realistic, or at least not likely to succeed any time soon.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/9/03
Archbishop Seeks to Avert Church Split
World Anglican Leaders Meet over Election of Gay Bishop
An "Archbishop" is the highest level official of the Anglican Church (which is also called the Episcopal Church), a major subgroup within Christianity. "To seek to avert" something is to try and avoid, or prevent it. If a church "splits," it divides into two. A "Bishop" is a middle level religious official in the Anglican church.
Thus, this headline is saying that Anglican church leaders will meet to try and prevent the church from splitting up, which could happen because many people in the church are so strongly opposed to homosexuality.
The Manila Times, 7/27/03
Coup Plot Foiled
A "coup" (rhymes with "blue") is a French word, commonly used in English, for a sudden takeover of the government by military officers. It is short for "coup d'etat," which literlly means the overthrow of the governent by a small group. A "plot" is a secret plan that is usually created to do something illegal or immoral. If a plot is "foiled," it is discovered and broken up or crushed. This headline refers to the recent attempt by a small group of soldiers in the Phillipines to overthrow the government of President Arroyo.
The Delaware News Journal, 7/19/03
Police Crack Down on Motor Scooters
If the police "crack down" on something, they decide to forcefully try and stop it. A "motor scooter" is a popular type of very small motorcycle or motorized bike, often called a moped, or just a scooter. They are often illegal, depending on the city and the size of the scooter. Here, the Dover, Delaware police have started to give expensive tickets to those people who drive them illegally on city streets.
The Idaho Press Tribune, 7/13/03
Layoffs Spur Bankruptcy Surge
A "layoff" is the act of telling a worker they are no longer needed at a job, usually because of difficult economic conditions. "To spur" something is to stimulate it or cause it to happen. "Bankruptcy" is the act of legally declaring that you do not have enough money to pay the debts you owe to other people, and if something "surges," it increases quickly and dramatically. Thus, this headline is saying that as more people lose their jobs, many more people are unable to pay the debts they owe others, and thus they are declaring bankruptcy. Sad ;-(.
The Telegraph (Nashua, New Hampshire), 7/5/03
Violence in Iraq Escalates
Voice thought to be Saddam's vows more attacks on Americans
If violence "escalates," it becomes more common, intense and dangerous. If a person "vows" to do something, they promise to do it, and this promise is made in a very solemn or serious way.
Albuquerque Journal, 6/25/03
Nuke Security Agency Earns GAO Thrashing
"Nuke" is a common slang word for Nuclear, and in this case the words are referring to the federal government department that is responsible for assuring the safety of nuclear power plants (Officially called the Nuclear Regulatory Agency). The "GAO" is the General Accounting Office, which is the federal government agency that is responsible for making sure all other departments in the government are run safely and efficiently, without wasting money. "To thrash" is to hit repeatedly with great violence, or more generally, to severely criticize. Thus, this headline is saying that the GAO is severely criticizing the Nuclear Regulatory Agency for not performing their job well.
Chicago Sun Times, 6/14/03
Dragnet out for Deadbeat Dads
A "dragnet" is a serious effort by the police to surround an area in order to capture criminals that are trying to escape (just as you might use a net to capture fish that are swimming under the water). "Deadbeat" is a slang word for a person who doesn't pay the money they owe, and "deadbeat dads" are those fathers who aren't paying the money they legally owe their ex-wives to help them take care of their children. Thus, this says that the government is getting serious about forcing divorced fathers to pay for the costs of raising their children.
Boston Globe, 6/8/03:
For Bush, much at stake in Mideast initiative
If there is a lot "at stake" for a person, there is a lot that is at risk, that could result in very good or very bad things, depending on what happens. An "initiative" is a first step in a larger plan or action. Here, the reference is to the current "Road map to Peace" for the Israelis and Palestinians, and the fact that if it succeeds, Bush will greatly benefit, but if it fails, it will hurt him politically.
San Francisco Chronicle, 5/31/03:
Grads Find Creative Ways to opt out of Tight Job Market
In this case, "Grads" is a short way to refer to those who have just finished or graduated from college, "to opt out of" something is to decide not to participate in it, and if the job market is "tight," there are few jobs available. This headline is a discouraging sign of today's difficult economic situation.
New York Post, 12/30/03
Pack Rat Buried Alive
Two Days Trapped in Bronx Apartment
A "pack rat" is a person who buys, collects and owns an endless amount of stuff, from clothes to furniture to electronics, most of which is usually junk. A pack rat's apartment is often extremely cluttered and messy. "The Bronx" is one of the five major New York City districts.
This is a classic headline about a truly ridiculous situation. A man in the Bronx fell into a large pile of junk (trash, crap, etc.) in his own apartment, and was unable to get out of it for two days. He was finally saved when a family member came into the apartment looking for him, and found him buried alive, underneath all that stuff.