This Week in Words: Current Events Vocab for June 12–June 18, 2021

June 14, 2021
Stories about a prize-winning Pekingese, pink snow, and a brand-new ocean all contributed words to this list of vocabulary from the week's news.
During the spring and early summer, parts of the snow-covered French Alps turn various shades of pink. Scientists have begun to study the algae blooms responsible for this phenomenon, known locally as “glacier blood” or “watermelon snow.” The researchers' initial findings show that certain species of the simple, nonflowering plant have evolved to thrive in high elevations. The Latin root of algae means "seaweed."
An anonymous bidder paid $28 million at an auction for a seat in a private space capsule next month. The brief July 20 flight will transport four people beyond Earth's atmosphere, where they will be weightless for a few minutes. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, is the founder of Blue Origin, the space travel company that offered the voyage to the highest bidder. Auction, a sale in which buyers bid on a product or service, has a root meaning "to increase."
On June 12, Danish soccer player Christian Eriksen collapsed midway through his team's match against Finland in the European Championship. He was treated on the field, surrounded by a circle of his teammates, after suffering cardiac arrest. Eriksen regained consciousness once medical teams had used a defibrillator to restart his heart. The word cardiac derives from the Greek kardia, "heart."
Since billions of Brood X cicadas began emerging from underground over the past few weeks in 15 U.S. states, veterinarians have been inundated with worried calls. Experts are reassuring pet owners that it's perfectly safe for dogs and cats to eat the large, noisy, winged insects. Whether they gulp the cicadas from the air or chomp on the stiff exoskeletons they find on the ground, the worst that pets will suffer is an upset stomach.
A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against a Texas hospital that required its employees to be vaccinated. On June 12, U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Hughes ruled against 117 nurses and other workers at Houston Methodist Hospital who had argued that Covid-19 vaccines are "experimental and dangerous." The hospital can now legally fire employees who refuse vaccination. In his dismissal of the lawsuit, Judge Hughes said the hospital was acting in the best interest of patients and staff.
Extreme heat in the western United States this week has worsened the area's ongoing drought. Triple-digit temperatures have broken records in cities including Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Denver, affecting more than 40 million people. The drought is considered “extreme” or “exceptional” in over half of the region, with low reservoir levels, water restrictions, and increased fire risk from severely dry soil. The Germanic source of drought, dreug, means "dry."
A new study by neurobiologists has shown that when birds sing a duet, their brains are linked together. The graceful call-and-response of songbirds warbling together is made possible by a coordinated interaction between their brains, triggered by the sounds of each other's songs. The researchers described it as "seemingly telepathic." Duet has a root that means "two."
The U.S. drug company Novavax announced on June 14 that their Covid-19 vaccine showed a 90.4% efficacy rate in clinical trials. This degree of protection against the virus is equivalent to vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna, both of which have proved extremely successful at preventing coronavirus. The Novavax option is unlikely to be widely used in the U.S., as the need for effective vaccines is currently much higher in other countries.
On June 15 the Biden administration released a new plan for combating domestic extremism. Strategies intended to reduce violence include screening government workers for ties to hate groups and hiring more intelligence analysts, investigators, and prosecutors. The plan reflects a shift in priority, from foreign terrorists to domestic extremists.
A preliminary study has tested an ear, nose, and throat doctor's hypothesis that "supertasters" are less likely to fall ill with Covid-19. Based on observations of patients and colleagues who were exposed to the virus, rhinologist Henry P. Barham speculated that a gene which affects the ability to taste bitterness might also protect against severe symptoms. The study appeared to support Barnham's hypothesis, with "nontasters" being far more likely to contract Covid-19.
The entire state of Maine has faced an infestation of poisonous caterpillars this spring. Browntail moth caterpillars, which have tiny hairs that can cause severe rashes and breathing problems, are common along Maine's coast. But their appearance in all 16 counties is unprecedented, and many towns have been so overwhelmed by the fuzzy insects that they have declared public health emergencies. The state's current dry conditions are thought to be responsible for the infestation.
Four months after she was removed from power, deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was put on trial by Myanmar's military junta. The trial began on June 14 behind closed doors; the 75-year-old Suu Kyi has been held since February's coup in undisclosed locations and has only twice been allowed contact with her lawyers. She has been charged with crimes that outside legal experts describe as politically motivated.
On June 12, Israel's parliament voted 60-59 to appoint a new prime minister and to oust Benjamin Netanyahu, who had held that position for the past 12 years. A fragile coalition of eight parties backed the country's new leader, Naftali Bennett, forcing Netanyahu out of power. The Latin root of oust is obstare, "stand opposite to or block."
The Southern Ocean in Antarctica has gained widespread recognition as the world’s fifth ocean, thanks to a new map published by National Geographic. Many scientists have long acknowledged the cold waters swirling around Antarctica as a distinct ocean, rather than an extension of the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans. The official identification by National Geographic means the Southern Ocean will appear on maps, bringing public awareness to an often overlooked area of the world.
Baseball Reference, the main online source for historical baseball records, changed dramatically on June 15, when many Negro League statistics were added. The move is a precursor to Major League Baseball's plan to update its own records of batting averages and other player achievements by incorporating the Negro League's data. Black players were barred from the MLB before 1947, and the early accomplishments of more than 3,400 players have largely gone unrecognized.
NATO's 31st annual summit, the first attended by President Biden, took place in Brussels on June 14. The meeting between leaders of the 30 member countries focused on the security risks posed by China's growing power. Winston Churchill is credited with first using the word summit outside of its "top of a mountain" meaning. In a 1951 speech, Churchill called for talks with the Soviet Union "at the highest level," describing a metaphorical "parlay at the summit."
A Pekingese named Wasabi was victorious at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show this week. The flat-faced, longhaired lap dog beat out six other canines — including a Samoyed, a whippet, and a sheepdog — to win Best of Show. The competition, which is usually held indoors at Madison Square Garden, convened on the grounds of a historic riverfront estate in Westchester County. Wasabi was also the winner of 2019's AKC National Championship.
A survey company testing underwater equipment found the wreckage of a small airplane in a California lake — and may have solved a 56-year-old mystery. Workers for Seafloor Systems were able to detect the remains of an aircraft at the bottom of Folsom Lake thanks to unusually low water levels caused by drought conditions. The wreckage fit the description of a Piper Comanche 250 that crashed in 1965 and had never been recovered, despite many extensive searches.

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