This Week In Words: Current Events Vocab for December 19–25, 2020

December 21, 2020
Stories about astronomical events, a major hack attack, and one of soccer's biggest records falling all contributed words to this list of vocabulary from the week's news.
Russian military hackers breached a number of U.S. government networks, including email systems at the Treasury Department and other highly sensitive agencies. The full scope of the attack is still unknown, as is the amount of time it will take to fix, but security analysts agree that it's the most serious intrusion of its kind in history. Breach comes from Old English, from the same Germanic root as "break."
On Monday evening, Jupiter and Saturn appeared to come together in the sky although they were actually hundreds of millions of miles apart. Amateur and professional astronomers went outside around sunset and captured some beautiful images of the two planets and their many moons seemingly overlapping. The last time the two got this close was in 1226, and the next such conjunction will be in 2080.
Attorney General William Barr said that he sees no need for a special counsel to investigate the President's claims of widespread election fraud. The President discussed appointing Sidney Powell, a lawyer for his campaign, to investigate a number of alleged conspiracies regarding voting machines and election irregularities he has been claiming cost him the election. Counsel is another word for "lawyer;" it also means "to advise" and "advice."
Alexey Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who was poisoned with a nerve agent by Russian intelligence, duped one of his attackers into confessing and revealing many elements of the plot. Pretending to be a high-ranking officer, he called the operative to ask him about the mission and why it failed. He learned, among other details, that they sprayed the poison in his underwear while he was away from his hotel. Though Navalny nearly died, he was treated in a German hospital and has recovered.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupted, filling the Halema'uma'u crater with lava and sending a plume of fumes, smoke, and ash into the air over nearby communities. This is the volcano's first major activity since 2018's massive eruption that destroyed hundreds of homes — wiping out the entire village of Kapoho — and radically reshaped the Big Island's coastline.
According to the series creator John Favreau, a newly announced "The Mandalorian" spinoff titled "The Book of Boba Fett" will be executive produced by Robert Rodriguez along with Favreau and "Mandalorian" producer Dave Filoni. Rodriguez directed "The Tragedy" episode in season two. In total, Disney+ has plans for eleven new Star Wars shows to release in the coming 2–3 years.
The Justice Department announced charges against the Libyan man who made the bomb that blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. The attack killed 270 people, including 190 Americans. Prosecutors are seeking Abu Agila Mohammad Masud's extradition from Libya to face trial in the U.S. Extradition is built from the Latin prefix "ex-," meaning "out," and the verb "tradere," meaning "to deliver."
Negotiators from the House and Senate finalized the pandemic relief bill, compromising on a number of key areas. Both houses of Congress then passed the legislation, meaning that aid to individuals, businesses, and state and local governments would begin arriving soon after the President signed it. But President Trump threatened to veto the bill, insisting that the $600 per person payment be increased to $2000. Democratic leaders agreed to this increase.
Engineers at the University of California Berkeley have developed a wearable sensor array that uses artificial intelligence to read electrical signals in forearm muscles and correctly interpret those as the hand gestures the wearer makes. This means that prosthetic limbs could become much more capable, and that in time computer users, drivers, and gamers might be able to perform those tasks without a physical interface like a keyboard, steering wheel, or controller.
President-elect Biden named Representative Deb Haaland, a Democrat from New Mexico, to be his Secretary of the Interior. If confirmed, Haaland will be the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary. In addition to administrating 500 million acres of public lands, the Department of the Interior also includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Representative Haaland said that she is honored by the appointment and is eager to get to work implementing Biden's climate agenda and other projects.
Many provinces in China are rationing electricity as unusually cold weather combined with an improving economy are driving demand and taxing the country's power grid. Coal, which the country uses to generate most of its power and which many people use for heat and cooking, is in short supply. Streetlights are dark, factories are open part-time, and elevators in apartment buildings have been shut down.
The trailer for "Coming to America 2," the long-awaited sequel to 1988's hit Eddie Murphy movie, was released this week. The film will premiere in March and features Murphy and Arsenio Hall reprising the multiple roles they played in the first film: two lead characters plus a number of smaller parts including the regulars at a Queens barber shop. The film also stars Teyana Taylor, Shari Headley, Wesley Snipes, and James Earl Jones.
December 21 marked the winter solstice, the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere, when the sun rises to the lowest point in the sky. Ancient monuments around the world — from Egypt to Peru to Britain and more — were built so that the light on the solstice would illuminate a particular rock, chamber, or structure. The mound in Newgrange, Ireland, from around 3200 B.C.E., has a tunnel that lets the light from the winter solstice sunrise into a chamber deep underground.
Lionel Messi, the soccer superstar who plays for Barcelona, broke Brazilian legend Pele's record for the most goals scored for a single team. In the second half of a game against Valladolid, Messi kicked in his record-breaking 644th goal as a Barcelona player. Pele's record tally of 643 goals, scored during his 18 years playing for Santos in the 1960s and 70s, stood for 45 years. It took Messi 16 years to beat it.
The NBA began its new season this week, just 72 days after the Lakers won the title, concluding the previous season. The schedule was thrown into chaos by the pandemic. League officials, players, and fans hope that this season can proceed normally — or as normally as possible with no fans in the arenas and all the safety protocols in place.
Part of the pandemic relief bill that Congress passed includes the CASE Act, a law meant to protect copyrighted material on the Internet. Supporters of the law say that it will crack down on illegal streaming and allow artists and other creators to file trademark or copyright claims easily, without having to go to federal court. Opponents say that it could result in regular Internet users getting huge fines for doing things that many people do all the time, like sharing memes.
A new variant of the coronavirus is spreading in England, causing concern around the country and the world. The mutations that make this strain distinct appear to make it more infectious — it can spread more easily between people — but not any more deadly. It's too early to say whether the vaccines currently being used will perform any differently against this version of the virus.
Apple is planning to build cars by 2024, possibly sooner, and the company says the vehicles will include new self-driving and battery technology. Apple previously halted development of a car design in 2016. There are lots of rumors, and some concept images online, but the company is keeping details about the program secret. Vehicle comes from the Latin "vehiculum," meaning "cart." The verb "vehere" means "to carry."

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