In this section of the site, we bring you the stories behind the newspaper headlines to help you understand the issues that shape our lives.
We will be adding new topics regularly, so scroll down below to see the latest!
EU Referendum Row 13/05
David Cameron has rebuked senior Cabinet ministers Michael Gove and Philip Hammond after they stated that they would vote to leave the EU if a referendum were to take place now. What does a referendum on the european union mean?
Q&A:Tory row over an EU referendum
Tory EU referendum row: Guardian live blog
The EU referendum paradox
BTH: Local Elections 2013 07/05
The Local elections were held last week in 34 local authorities in England and one in Wales on 2 May 2013. The UK Independence Party (Ukip) made unexpectedly big gains with the party polling around a quarter of all votes cast.
Local Elections 2013
Q&A: Local elections 2013
Local elections 2013: results mapped
EU bans bee-harming pesticides 29/04
The European Commission gave a historic vote on Monday to enforce the world's first continent-wide ban on widely used insecticides (neonicotinoids), which are linked to serious harm in bees.
Friends of the Earth: About The Bee Cause
BBC News - pesticides'damage brains of bees
Bee deaths: Should the EU ban neonicotinoids?
Boston Marathon bombings 22/04/13
Two large bombs at the final stretch of the Boston Marathon on Monday 15 April resulted in at least three fatalities and injured more than 100 people. Two Chechen brothers have been identified as the main suspects. Tamerlan Tsarnaev (26) was killed in a shootout with police. His younger brother Dzhokhar (19) is under arrest after days of manhunt.
Boston Marathon bombings
Boston bombers manhunt - timeline
Q&A: Suspects' Chechen connections
Margaret Thatcher's Death 15/04/13
Margaret Thatcher, former Conservative Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, died of a stroke in London on 8 April 2013 at the age of 87. Britain's first female prime minister polarised opinion in her life and now in death. Loved and hated in equal measure for her divisive economic and social policies known as 'Thatcherism', she became a dominant political figure of the 20th century.
Premiership of Margaret Thatcher
What is Thatcherism?
Margaret Thatcher's legacy
The Korean Crisis 08/04
As tensions rise in the wake of North Korea's nuclear threats against the US and South Korea, British Foreign Secretary William Hague has called for calm. Here are some links to help you understand the context of the current situation.
The Korean crisis in 90 seconds
Timeline: North Korea's brushes with international community
Welfare Reform 2013 02/04/13
This month sees the introduction of sweeping changes in social welfare, justice, health and tax across Great Britain as part of the Government's controversial Welfare Reform Bill. What are the implications for you and your family?
Everything you need to know about welfare reform in 2013
The day Britain changes: welfare reforms and coalition cuts take effect
Find out how you are affected
Budget 2013 20/03/13
Today the Chancellor, George Osborne, gave his budget statement to the House of Commons. But how will the budget affect you? And how does the government spend our money?
What the budget means for you
The government's spending - visualised
Gaza crisis 19/11/12
Ash dieback 19/11/12
The deadly ash dieback fungal disease (Chalara fraxinea) which threatens UK's ash trees has spread to Northern Ireland. Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has acknowledged that the disease will not be eradicated and said that efforts would focus on slowing its spread. However, he adds this does not necessarily mean the end of the British ash as efforts would also focus on developing resistance to the disease. While most of the country's 90 million ash trees are likely to succumb to the disease, there is hope in the naturally resistant strains of ash, which have been found growing alongside dead and dying trees in the very intense epidemic in Denmark.
Chalara dieback of ash - Q&A
How to spot Chalara fraxinea in your garden
2012 US ELECTION SPECIAL
As the 2012 US presidential campaign enters its final weeks, the polls show the race for the White House is far from over with incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama clinging to a narrow lead over former Massachusetts Governor, Republican Mitt Romney. The US presidential election is to be held on Tuesday 6 November 2012.
In the run up to election day, Life Squared will present and explain the 4 main steps involved in the election process for the most powerful job in the world.
4. The Electoral College 6/11/12
Every four years, on the Tuesday after the first Monday of November, millions of Americans go to local voting booths to cast their vote for the next president and vice president. Surprisingly, the most popular candidate is not guaranteed to win because the presidential election is officially decided by the votes of the Electoral College.
Does your vote count? The Electoral College explained
The Electoral College: how it works
Q&A: The US Electoral College
3. The General Election 31/10/12
Election Day is when popular ballots are held to select public officials including national, state and local government representatives. It is held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This year it is on 6 November, 2012. The presidential election will also be held on this date.
United States Elections, 2012
The General Election Campaign
General Election FAQs
2. National Conventions 26/10/12
After the primaries and caucuses each major party holds a national convention. The main event at a national convention for any political party is the official nomination of the president and vice president.
What are national conventions?
History of national conventions
1. Primaries and caucuses 16/10/12
It all starts with a series of elections known as primaries and caucuses.
Q&A: US primaries and caucuses
Primary elections explained
Primaries v caucuses
Party conference season 9/10/12
Party conference season is drawing to a close this week with The Conservative Party's conference in Birmingham between 7 - 10 October.
Party conference season
Q&A: 2012 Party conferences
Politics Weekly podcast: party conference season preview
Hillsborough report 16/09/2012
Following the findings of the Hillsborough report published 3 days ago, relatives of those killed in the 1989 disaster have announced they are to seek new inquests. The independent inquiry reveals an establishment cover-up of police failings during the human crush on the terraces of Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield during the FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham. A key finding was that officers had altered statements and tried to blame fans for the deaths. The death toll was 96 due to crush asphyxia with 766 others injured.
The Hillsborough Football Disaster - Hillsborough Justice Campaign
Hillsborough disaster: David Conn analyses report
BBC News Hillsborough papers: Key excerpts
Julian Assange Embassy Controversy 26/08/12
Britain has given up its threat to enter Ecuador's London embassy to arrest Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, Ecuador's president Rafael Correa has said. The president had previously warned it would set a dangerous precedent, allowing nations to enter British diplomatic buildings elsewhere. Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning over rape allegations. He claims this is a pretext to transfer him to Sweden where he will be extradited to US to face trial for 'espionage'.
Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority
Timeline: sexual allegations against Assange in Sweden
Should Julian Assange be extradited? Comment is free: The Guardian
UK Economy 13/08/12
In the wake of The Olympics, Sir Mervin King, governor of the Bank of England, has warned that the games may not have a long-lasting impact on the economy. A new survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) backs up this gloomy assessment. It shows that out of a third of private sector employers who have held on to key staff, two thirds would have to cut back if economic growth does not pick up in the next year. Britain's economy has shrunk for the past three quarters.
Economy tracker: GDP
Blog: The incredible shrinking UK economy - an update
Economy of the United Kingdom
London 2012 Olympics 27/08/12
The opening ceremony of the London 2012 Summer Olympic titled ‘Isles of Wonder’ took place on 27 July 2012 breaking the record as the most watched opening ceremony in Summer Olympics history according to NBC. It is the third time for London to be hosting the Olympics. The games were previously held in London in 1908 and 1948. The world's top athletes will be performing in 32 venues - 22 in London with the rest spread around the country. The Summer Olympics began Friday 27 July 2012 and ends Sunday 12 August 2012.
2012 Summer Olympics
A Guide to the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games
Official channel of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games
Lords reform 10/07/12
The coalition government has dropped its plans for a crucial vote on the timetable motion for the House of Lords Reform Bill. This parliamentary motion sets out time limits for the bill’s next stages during a second day of debate. The government faced defeat on the vote after politicians within the Conservative party threatened to revolt over proposals. The Bill would cut membership of Lords to 450 by 2025, and make 80 percent of the chamber's seats elected for non-renewable 15-year terms, with the rest appointed by an independent committee on the basis of particular expertise.
House of Lords Reform
Q&A: House of Lords reform
Do we need a House of Lords?
Libor Scandal 9/07/12
After a torrid week the Barclays Libor scandal continues to grow. Libor is the London Interbank Offered Rate. It is the interest rate the banks loan to each other at. Barclays was fined £290 million after staff were said to have filed misleading figures about what it was costing it to borrow. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) and other regulators in several countries are also investigating seventeen other banks, including Lloyds, RBS and HSBC. Former deputy governor of the Bank Of England, Sir John Gieve believes that the Barclays Libor scandal is just the tip of the iceberg. The British Bankers' Association (BBA) is investigating how it can change the way Libor is set. So what does the Libor scandal mean for you?
BBC News Timeline: Barclays widening Libor-fixing scandal
Libor: What the scandal means to you – Q&A - Mirror online
Video explaining what Libor is
Welfare reforms 25/6/12
The prime minister David Cameron unveiled radical welfare reforms in a speech yesterday in Kent. He’s announced 17 proposals including one of the more controversial ideas of a housing benefit ban for under-25s. The proposals are expected to be ones for the next Tory manifesto, rather than for the current coalition government.
David Cameron’s welfare speech in full
Welfare Reform - DWP
Scottish Independence 25/6/12
The Scottish independence referendum debate is in the headlines with the launch of the Better Together campaign, which is against Scotland splitting from the UK. At the launch in Edinburgh, former chancellor Alistair Darling confirmed he will lead the Better Together coalition as an independent body officially supported by Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats. The independence referendum is anticipated in late 2014.
Scottish independence referendum, 2014
Scottish Independence: the essential guide
BBC News - Q&A: Your Scottish independence questions
Greek Elections: Pro-bailout party to attempt coalition 18/6/12
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, set to win in the election has declared the Greek people have voted for the euro. The conservative leader wants to form a government as soon as possible. It's still not clear that Greece can stay in the eurozone. Some economists believe that Greece must leave eventually to avoid an economic disaster for the rest of the eurozone.
Greek election results mapped: Infographic
The Economist poll: Should Greece leave the eurozone and return to the drachma?
Documentary: Greece in Crisis. Euro or Drachma? In or out E.U.?
Eurozone crisis: Spain rejects bailout claims 6/6/12
Spain says no to the European Union bailout fund called the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) to stem its ever-deepening banking crisis. Instead, the government has turned to the financial markets, an approach widely considered to be unsustainable and a grave risk to the euro. Beleaguered with bad loans as a result of the 2009 property crash, the Spanish banking sector is thought to need between €75 billion and €100 billion worth of liquidity.
Spainistan, from the Spanish Building Bubble to the Crisis (English subtitles)
Q&A: Spain’s woes
European Financial Stability Facility
Protest Against GM Wheat Crop 27/5/12
Hundreds of anti-GM protesters have been kept from destroying an experimental crop of genetically modified wheat in Hertfordshire. The protest group calling itself Take the Flour Back had planned to destroy the GM wheat plants, which they fear could cross-contaminate nearby fields. The experimental crop of GM wheat was planted in April and is due to grow until September. It has been developed with genes from the mint plant.
Quick Guide: GM food
Genetically modified food controversies
Friends of the Earth briefing on GM crops and food
UK double-dip recession worse than predicted 24/5/12
Britain’s first double-dip recession since 1975 is deeper than expected after revised figures showed a sharper decline in the economy than estimated. The news comes as a huge blow to the Coalition as gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 0.3% in the first three months of 2012 from a first estimate of 0.2%. It confirms Britain is enduring its longest economic slump for a century.
Video: What is a double-dip recession?
UK recession news and information
How long will Britain’s recession last?
Egypt Elections 23-24/5/12
Polling stations have opened for Egypt’s first free presidential election on 23-24 May. The election will see a transfer from military rule after the ousting of Hosni Mubarak in the Arab Spring uprising. There are 13 candidates running from left wing radicals to Islamist hardliners - one has dropped out and five of which are regarded as the main contenders. The first two-day vote is not expected to produce an outright winner, so a runoff between the top two contenders will be held 16-17 June. The winner will be announced 21 June.
Egyptian presidential election, 2012
What you need to know
Interactive guide to the candidates
Lockerbie bomber dies 20/05/12
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing above Scotland, which killed 270 people, has died at his home in Tripoli, Libya. For many relatives of the victims his death still leaves unanswered questions about his guilt but David Cameron has rejected a new Lockerbie inquiry in the wake of Megrahi’s death.
Lockerbie Plane Bombing with back story and latest videos
A commentary on the case of Abdelbaset-al-Megrahi
G8 Summit 19/5/12
David Cameron has joined world leaders for the 38th annual G8 summit at the American presidents country retreat in Camp David, Maryland. The G8 consists of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.
Official 2012 G8 Summit website
Understanding the G8
The Guardian (live blog)
Ratko Mladić 17/5/12
A prosecution error sees the ‘Butcher of Bosnia’ Ratko Mladić’s war crimes trial delayed until further notice. The former Bosnian Serb army chief is charged with masterminding some of the worst atrocities in Europe since the Second World War. Mladić is accused by The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of being responsible for the 1992-1995 Siege Of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica Massacre.
The Prosecutor v Ratko Mladić
Timeline: Siege Of Srebrenica
Documentary: Srebrenica – A Cry from the Grave
Greek elections 15/5/12
Attempts to form a coalition government in Greece have collapsed so the country will soon be holding fresh elections - the outcome of which could be critical for its future in the eurozone.
Should Greece default?
Afghan ‘police’ kill two British servicemen 13/5/12
Two UK servicemen have been shot dead by rogue Afghan policemen in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. The incident has raised fears of Taliban infiltration. The number of British military deaths in Afghanistan since 2001 is now 414.
The Queen’s Speech 9/5/12
The Queen’s Speech has set out the government’s legislative plans for next year with 19 new laws proposed to boost economy, bring down bills and reform House of Lords. It is where the head of state reads out a list of bills and aspirations written by the government for the parliamentary year ahead.
Queen’s Speech 2012 explained
Queen’s Speech 2012 at-a-glance: Bill-by-bill
The full list of Queen’s Speech measures – as open data
The political situation in Syria continues to make headlines. Below are some resources to provide some more background to the country and its situation:
BBC profile on Syria
Discussion with New York Times writer. The Arab Spring - why now?
BBC Panorama documentary - inside the secret revolution (parts 1 and 2 above)
François Hollande wins French Presidential Election 8/5/12
On Sunday night François Hollande became the first socialist French President since 1988, ousting conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy after one term. The socialist victory makes France the only major European country with a left-wing leader and could potentially mark the beginning of an anti-austerity movement across Europe.
Austerity is the economic policy of deficit-cutting, lower spending, and a reduction in the benefits and public services provided aimed at reducing a government’s deficit (or borrowing). The French president-elect has called for changing Europe’s Fiscal Compact treaty – the key element of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy in the fight to resolve the eurozone debt crisis. Now François Hollande is promising to amend their signature compact – agreed in principle by all EU nations except the UK and the Czech Republic.
The Fiscal Compact rewritten in layman’s terms
Eurozone Debt Crisis explained, provides news feeds, twitter updates
What really caused the eurozone crisis?
Mayoral Elections 8/5/12
In Saturday’s mayoral elections, Boris Johnson narrowly won a second term as London mayor, beating Labour rival Ken Livingstone by a 3% margin, following heavy Tory losses in the local elections. So what is the London Mayoral Election? Every four years Londoners get to vote for their Mayor and for members of the Greater London Assembly (GLA). Many towns and cities have mayors but the Mayor of London has the largest mandate out of any individual politician in the UK. The Mayor of London and London Assembly are responsible for a budget of £14.6bn for policing and fire services, transport services, housing and regeneration, and to promote London’s economy. For the mayoral election a system called Supplementary Vote (SV) is used.
How does the Supplementary Vote work?
What the Mayor of London and the London Assembly do
The London mayor’s full manifesto
The Leveson Inquiry - 30/4/12
The Leveson Inquiry is hitting the headlines again as prime minister David Cameron is called to the Commons on Monday to explain why he is referring the culture secretary to the inquiry instead of the ministerial code adviser.
But what is the story behind the headlines? It is basically a two-part inquiry initially into “the culture, practices and ethics” of the UK press. David Cameron set it up in the wake of the News of The World (NoW) phone hacking scandal. These were allegations that the NoW had been unlawfully intercepting voicemail messages of celebrities and other prominent people to find stories. The most shocking case was the hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s voicemail. The scandal also prompted wider questions about relationships between the press, police and politicians.
The second part of the inquiry will examine the extent of unlawful conduct within media organisations and whether there was complicit misconduct or bribes during the police investigation of the phone-hacking allegations. Lord Justice Leveson was appointed chairman of the inquiry.
Some useful background links on this story are provided below:
The official website
Q&A: The Leveson Inquiry
An interactive guide including reports, live blogs, video footage and statements