WORD LISTS

Is Chris Christie a "Miscreant"? A Quick Current Events Vocab Quiz

January 15, 2014
Follow the New Jersey traffic scandal, Obamacare fallout, NSA hacking, Pacific Rim trade negotiations, and Internet law...from a vocabulary perspective!

This current events list was drawn from New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Atlantic coverage.
miscreant
This week's news was dominated in the US by Chris Christie's bridge-closing scandal, which allowed words like miscreant and reprehensible to get some air. These are strong words you don't see often. Generally, a miscreant's the lowest of the low. Think: stealing from your grandmother.
The news media go into hyperdrive, a legislative committee cranks up an investigation and issues subpoenas, politicians from the other party attack, and those from the miscreant’s party distance themselves as quickly as possible.
--Chris Christie Was Never Going to Be President Anyway, The Atlantic, Jan. 14, 2014
reprehensible
As with miscreant, reprehensible is very strong. Save it for shutting down a city on the first day of school; it's not about double dipping bread sticks or telling white lies to friends.
There is no question that closing down three lanes of the George Washington Bridge simply to punish the Democratic mayor and (largely Democratic) population of Fort Lee was reprehensible and inexcusable.
--Chris Christie Was Never Going to Be President Anyway, The Atlantic, Jan. 14, 2014
onslaught
With Republicans attacking Democrats vulnerable for their support of Obamacare, onslaught, a term for a military "attack," should bring to mind not an enemy army hurtling toward you on the field of battle, but a night spent watching negative political ads. Which is maybe worse?
Democrats are increasingly anxious about an onslaught of television ads hitting vulnerable Senate and House candidates for their support of the new health law, since many lack the resources to fight back in the early stages of the midterm campaign.
--Ads Attacking Health Law Stagger Outspent Democrats, The New York Times, Jan. 15, 2014
surreptitiously
The outing of the U.S. National Security Agency's surreptitiously--which means "secretively" or "sneakily"--implanting transmitters into computers around the world as part of a cyber-attack launch pad sounds like something straight out of a John le Carré novel. To understand how very real it is, you need to be up on the definition of surreptitious, or at least know that it doesn't mean "with the owner's consent."
The technology, which the agency has used since at least 2008, relies on a covert channel of radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards inserted surreptitiously into the computers.
--N.S.A. Devises Radio Pathway Into Computers, The New York Times, Jan. 14, 2014
unwitting
Remember unwitting, as in peoples whose computers are being monitored by the NSA, by keeping in mind that wit means intelligence or humor. Unwitting means "not aware." It carries a connotation of innocence, too. Unlike ignorant, which can make a victim sound like they're just poorly-informed, being unwitting is not about what you know. It's about what you notice.
In most cases, the radio frequency hardware must be physically inserted by a spy, a manufacturer or an unwitting user.
--N.S.A. Devises Radio Pathway Into Computers, The New York Times, Jan. 14, 2014
malicious
The fact that software implanted inside a computer to work against the user is called "malicious software" should come as no surprise. Malicious means "bad" but unlike reprehensible (above), it refers to the evil nature of a thing, not its judgment by society.
That map suggests how the United States was able to speed ahead with implanting malicious software on the computers around the world that it most wanted to monitor — or disable before they could be used to launch a cyberattack.
--N.S.A. Devises Radio Pathway Into Computers, The New York Times, Jan. 14, 2014
contentious
With the Obama administration retreating from a defense of proposed environmental regulation in the 12-nation negotiations for a Pacific Trade Agreement, contentious is a good word to know. It describes quarrelsome people, or issues people tend to quarrel over, and here sheds light on why the U.S. is losing the fight for environmental regulation in the region.
The Obama administration is retreating from previous demands of strong international environmental protections in order to reach agreement on a sweeping Pacific trade deal that is a pillar of President Obama’s strategic shift to Asia, according to documents obtained by WikiLeaks, environmentalists and people close to the contentious trade talks.
--Administration Is Seen as Retreating on Environment in Talks on Pacific Trade, The New York Times, Jan. 15, 2014
rift
As with contentious, rift's a fighting word. It refers to the divide between two people--the kind that often comes after they've had a fight--that resembles a fissure or wide crack in rock and the resulting chasm that cannot be crossed.
The negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would be one of the world’s biggest trade agreements, have exposed deep rifts over environmental policy between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations.
--Administration Is Seen as Retreating on Environment in Talks on Pacific Trade, The New York Times, Jan. 15, 2014
omit
Wondering how reporters became aware that the Obama administration is leaving aside the environment in Pacific Trade Agreement negotiations? You'll need to know that the word omit means to leave out, which is precisely what the latest draft of an agreement has done with U.S.-proposed environmental regulations.
Ilana Solomon, the director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, said the draft omits crucial language ensuring that increased trade will not lead to further environmental destruction.
--Administration Is Seen as Retreating on Environment in Talks on Pacific Trade, The New York Times, Jan. 15, 2014
neutrality
By ruling that Internet providers ought to be able to pay more for more bandwidth, the U.S. appeals court is challenging the concept of "net neutrality," which suggests that all providers have access to the same means of delivery. In other words, they'd start out on an equal or neutral playing field.
Supporters of net neutrality had urged Mr. Obama's first FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, to reclassify broadband as a telecom service.
--Court Tosses FCC's 'Net Neutrality' Rules, The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 14, 2014

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