WORD LISTS

An "Unconscionable" "Impasse"? Ten Words in the News That You Need to Know

October 1, 2013
This week, President Obama's phone call with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran marked the first contact of that kind since 1979, the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges opened for business (sort of), and an impasse in Congress led to a Federal government shut down.

To fully understand these unfolding news stories, learn ten key words taken from Washington Post, Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, and New York Times coverage.
frenetic
If you read about this historic moment of diplomatic contact between the U.S. and Iran and are confused about frenetic, you might not understand that it was arranged in haste. Don't confuse it with frantic, which suggests panic. Frenetic means fast-paced, verging toward out of control.
But the Friday call as Mr. Rouhani was heading to the airport to fly home to Iran, after four days of frenetic diplomacy in the United States, was almost as good as a handshake.
-- In Tehran, Phone Call Between Presidents Is as Good as a Handshake, The New York Times, Sept. 28, 2013
momentum
From Physics, momentum describes the force with which an object is moving. The greater the momentum, the easier it is to keep a ball rolling, or a diplomatic process moving along. The Obama administration wanted to catch President Rouhani before he returned to Iran in order not to lose the momentum his U.S. visit had put in place.
The seemingly breathless momentum of the diplomacy, after decades of hostility and suspicion, was clearly taking some Iranians by surprise.
-- In Tehran, Phone Call Between Presidents Is as Good as a Handshake, The New York Times, Sept. 28, 2013
subsidize
The word subsidize is at the heart of the Affordable Care Ace ("Obamacare"), as the law calls for the government to help pay for, or subsidize, insurance for many Americans. Look for this word to appear in any discussion of the new law.
George Sauvigné, a 61-year-old real estate agent from Miami Shores, waited almost three years for...the day when government officials would unveil the centerpiece of the healthcare reform law known as the Affordable Care Act: online exchanges offering subsidized health insurance plans in every state.
-- Obamacare insurance exchange off to rocky start, The Miami Herald, Oct. 1, 2013
eligible
As millions of Americans rush to sign up for government-subsidized insurance plans this week, there's much talk about what individuals might be eligible (meaning qualified, through income and other demographic information) to receive.
Though government officials said the website’s problems had been fixed, as of Tuesday night many were still unable to get past the first step: creating an account necessary to shop for health plans and enroll for coverage, which will be subsidized for eligible low- and middle-income families.
-- Obamacare insurance exchange off to rocky start, The Miami Herald, Oct. 1, 2013
panacea
Not only were alchemists looking to transform ordinary metal into gold, they sought a panacea, or an herb that could cure every illness. They never found it, but the word has stuck around, and now, we use it to refer not just to medicine, but to any one-stop-shopping solution to a set of problems.
But the law itself is no panacea for solving America's problem with the uninsured, who drive up costs for others because they often put off going to the doctor until problems are so severe they must be admitted into the hospital.
-- Affordable Care Act: For Illinois residents, a land of options, The Chicago Tribune, Oct. 1, 2013
forgo
Forgo comes from an Old English word meaning "passed by." To forgo is to go without something you want. ( Forgone, as in "foregone conclusion," means something that's already happened.) In the discussion around Obamacare, you'll hear about people who forgo insurance because they can't afford it, or, as in this example, don't want it.
Some of them are expected to knowingly forgo buying coverage and instead pay a less-costly tax penalty.
-- Affordable Care Act: For Illinois residents, a land of options, The Chicago Tribune, Oct. 1, 2013
impasse
It's not surprising that you'll see both impasse and stalemate on today's list. With Congress at a standstill and the federal government forced to shut down, journalists are calling up every word to describe irreconcilable differences they can find.
The impasse in Congress that has shut much of the federal government was no closer to being resolved on Tuesday as the Senate turned down a proposal from House Republicans to enter negotiations.
-- House G.O.P. Stands Firm on Shutdown, but Dissent Grows, The New York Times, Oct. 1, 2013
furlough
With hundreds of thousands of employees of the federal government being sent home from work, or furloughed, you should know that furlough can be both a noun ("a period of leave from a job or a military posting"), and a verb ("to put someone on leave").
He also said that with hundreds of thousands of federal employees being furloughed nationwide, many of them civilian defense workers, those workers, their families and the small local businesses that rely on their patronage would be hurt.
-- House G.O.P. Stands Firm on Shutdown, but Dissent Grows, The New York Times, Oct. 1, 2013
unconscionable
The current crisis in Congress gives commentators and politicians alike the opportunity to whisk some A+ superlatives out of the closet. When you hear unconscionable, imagine someone is spluttering with rage and frustration.
“For one party, in one branch of Congress, to hold this country hostage in order to override that constitutional process — disrupting the lives of federal workers and the American people who depend on their services — is unconscionable,” said Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington.
-- House G.O.P. Stands Firm on Shutdown, but Dissent Grows, The New York Times, Oct. 1, 2013
stalemate
See impasse. This word comes to us from chess, where checkmate means you've won, and stalemate means no one can. It's another great way to describe the current Congressional stoppage of business, and, as with furlough, it can be used as both a noun and a verb.
Those workers declared essential showed up, but most will work without pay until the stalemate is settled.
-- Washington braces for prolonged government shutdown, The Washington Post, Oct. 1, 2013

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