This Week In Words: August 17–23, 2019

August 22, 2019
We’ve rounded up the top words heard, read, and discussed in the news this week. Take a look back at the week that was, vocabulary style.
President Trump cancelled his planned State visit to Denmark in September because the Danish government refused to sell Greenland to the U.S. This abrupt change has strained relations between the two countries, which are allies. Politicians in both countries are expressing concern and confusion over both the original idea and the resulting cancellation of the visit.
"It gained autonomous territory status in 1979, but the island’s economy depends heavily on Danish subsidies."
The Guardian (Aug 21, 2019)
The baby boom took place from 1946-1963. This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock festival, the concert that defined a generation. Except that just about all of the central figures in the revolutionary politics and music of the sixties weren't Boomers. Despite that, they have effectively laid claim to (counter)cultural ownership of that iconic decade. "Canard" means "duck" in French, where it is slang for "hoax".
"There are many canards about that generation, but the most persistent is that the boomers were central to the social and cultural events of the nineteen-sixties."
The New Yorker (Aug 18, 2019)
Doctors and scientists are studying the outbreak of a respiratory disease associated with vaping. Nearly a hundred cases in thirteen states have been reported, and the illness presents as being similar to pneumonia but does not respond to antibiotics. Most of the affected people are in their teens.
Clinicians are encouraged to remain alert for potential cases among people presenting with progressive respiratory symptoms, fever, and/or weight loss who report a history of inhalation drug use, particularly vaping...”
Washington Times (Aug 19, 2019)
Employees at a Royal Dutch Shell plant outside Pittsburgh were told that if they didn't attend a rally by President Trump they would lose their overtime pay. This type of coercion used to be illegal, but the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision held that corporations have the right to use money and other means to pursue political agendas. The word's origin as a term for guns gives it a forceful, "at gunpoint" flavor.
“It used to be illegal for employers to dragoon their workers into participating in their political activities.”
Los Angeles Times (Aug 19, 2019)
Michael Phelps, who holds a record 28 Olympic medals including eight golds from the 2008 Beijing Games, reacted calmly to having another of his world records overturned recently. In an interview, he put his extraordinary accomplishments in perspective, saying that while individual records may fall, his record as a whole remains intact.
“It wasn’t that long ago that Phelps’s sense of self was tied up in those records, so his equanimity in their absence seemed worth a closer look.”
New York Times (Aug 19, 2019)
A privately-funded Israeli lunar lander crashed on the moon last spring. Recently, it was announced for the first time that there were tardigraves in the cargo. These microscopic animals have been known to survive in the cold vacuum of space, so they may not have perished in the accident. This story highlights the legal issues surrounding who decides what may be launched into space, and who is responsible for enforcement of any existing laws against populating the moon with tiny monsters.
Since the Arch Mission Foundation is a US nonprofit, this may fall under its purview.
The Verge (Aug 16, 2019)
The tokay gecko is experiencing a serious drop in population throughout Southeast Asia, as much as 50 percent in some areas. Though some are sold as pets and car insurance spokes-lizards, most are used for traditional medicine in China. Later this month, 183 countries will vote on whether to add the geckos to their list of endangered species. If added, it would place restrictions on their export and require most of those sold to be raised in captivity.
"While the focus of efforts to rein in the wildlife trade often falls on rarer, better-loved creatures such as elephants, rhinoceroses and tigers, thousands of more quotidian species are commercially sought after as well."
Scientific American (Aug 20, 2019)
Vice President Pence announced this week that the U.S. Space Command will be created on August 29. Part of the Air Force, the new military branch will be headed by Air Force General John Raymond and will be a precursor to the Space Force. The goal will be to defend America's interests in space and on Earth. It's unclear whether their first mission will be to battle the tardigraves on the moon.
“For years, Pentagon officials scoffed at the idea.”
USA Today (Aug 20, 2019)
Signs that the economy may be headed for recession have prompted renewed questions about the relationship between capitalism and democracy. The author maintains that political systems need to catch up with the new economic realities of the Information Age. To "stave off" is to repel forcefully, as if by poking with a staff ("staves" used to be the plural of "staff").
"Fiscal constraints, real or imagined, forced central banks to adopt unprecedented strategies that staved off disaster but failed to stimulate a strong recovery."
The Guardian (Aug 21, 2019)
Recent video from Taiwan of a snail infected with a parasitic flatworm went viral. The worm causes the bodies and eyestalks of its hosts to pulsate in garish colors, making them look like caterpillars so birds will eat them and allow the worms to continue their life cycle. Infected snails also move out into the open so they're easier to see, unlike their healthy counterparts. Viruses are also parasites, but ironically it's hard to shoot viral video of them because they're microscopic.
"The process starts all over again, as the birds' intestinal tract provides a space for the flatworm to reproduce and enter another unsuspecting host."
Fox News (Aug 17, 2019)

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