This Week in Words: Current Events Vocab for September 4–September 10, 2021

September 6, 2021
Stories about aggressive vultures, a festive ballet, and newborn pandas all contributed words to this list of vocabulary from the week's news.
The New York City Ballet will perform the holiday classic The Nutcracker for the first time in two years. Due to high rates of coronavirus, the performance will not include any dancers younger than 12. It's a major change in the typical Nutcracker cast, which most often includes children dancing the roles of mice, candy canes, and angels, as well as the main characters, the Prince and Marie. The Greek root of ballet is ballizein, "dance or jump around."
One-year-old Israeli twins who were born conjoined at the head were surgically separated this week. It was the first time the rare technique was performed in Israel, and a team of 50 participated in the successful operation. The babies were physically connected by the backs of their skulls; after surgeons separated them, they were able to see each other for the first time. Conjoined derives from a Latin root meaning "join together."
Conservationists cheered the birth of twin pandas at a Madrid zoo on September 6. Years of advocacy work have moved giant pandas from being classified as nearly extinct to the category of "vulnerable." Part of conservationists' protection of the at-risk species has included breeding programs in zoos and sanctuaries. The birth of the two healthy cubs to Hua Zuiba and Bing Xing, giant pandas on loan from China, is seen as a major cause for celebration.
On September 5, a coup in Guinea ousted Alpha Condé, who was the country's first democratically elected president since 1958. Armed members of Guinea’s special forces surrounded the capital on Sunday and detained Condé. The soldiers who seized control of the government denied the action was a coup, defining it instead as a power shift, from one man to the entire nation of 13 million. Coup is short for coup d'état, "blow of state."
A group of volunteers known as the Plover Patrol has dedicated itself to watching over beaches in Queens, New York where endangered piping plovers nest. More than 50 members of the N.Y.C. Plover Project spent the spring and summer educating beachgoers about how to protect the tiny birds, which hatch from eggs laid along the shore and are vulnerable to off-leash dogs and humans. Plovers are federally protected, their habitats having been destroyed by development and erosion.
More than seven million Americans lost their jobless assistance on September 6, when federal unemployment benefits expired. The end of the emergency financial aid affected a historically large group of people, and it occurred during a devastating surge of Covid cases in many states. Critics fear that terminating the benefits will push more people into poverty, while advocates hope the move will combat the ongoing labor shortage. The root of expire means "breathe one's last."
Scientists have discovered that the larvae of some paper wasps use glowing silk to weave their cocoons, causing them to appear fluorescent under ultraviolet light. One such species, Polistes brunetus, which is found in Vietnam, uses material that researchers measured to be several times brighter than any previously known fluorescent land animals or animal materials. Luminous land animals remain a mystery to scientists, who aren’t certain what their glow is used for.
Mexico City's mayor announced that a statue of Christopher Columbus will be replaced with the figure of an Indigenous woman. Columbus has been a fixture on the Paseo de la Reforma boulevard for more than 100 years, but Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said on September 5 that recognizing the 500 year history of resistance by Indigenous women was crucial. The change is part of a growing recognition of abuses faced by native people during and after the 16th-century Spanish conquest.
Researchers have found that dogs can distinguish between intentional and unintentional actions in humans. Scientists tested 51 dogs, first withholding treats deliberately, clearly placing them where the animals could see but not reach them. Then they withheld the treats “accidentally,” making it look like they had clumsily dropped them. The vastly different reactions of the dogs in each circumstance demonstrated their ability to infer whether a person meant to do something or not.
Two months after he was sentenced to 15 months in prison on contempt charges, former South African President Jacob Zuma was granted medical parole. Opposition leaders called Zuma's release from detention "entirely unlawful." The department of correctional services offered only vague details about his medical condition and where he would serve his parole. The original meaning of parole was "promise by a prisoner of war not to escape if allowed to go about at liberty."
Two new CDC studies show that pediatric Covid hospitalizations increased sharply over the summer. In mid-August, the rates of children and teenagers admitted to hospitals was five times higher than it had been in early June. Unvaccinated adolescents were admitted for care at ten times the rate of those who were vaccinated. The Greek root of pediatric is pais, "child."
Many large American companies had planned to reopen their offices after Labor Day, but the Delta variant has prompted about half of them to postpone bringing employees back in person. Uber has pushed its reopening back from October 25 to January 10, while Airbnb is delaying its staff’s return to the office until September of 2022. Some employers are holding off on opening in person while they decide whether or not they will require workers to be vaccinated.
Critics of production quotas at large warehouse employers, including Amazon, say company goals are too high, forcing workers to skip bathroom breaks and frequently violating federal health and safety standards. A new bill in California would require employers to reign in their quotas. Under the law, Amazon would be forced to reveal its performance targets, which are set using a computer algorithm, and lower those goals in order to protect workers from injury.
Though immigration is a controversial topic in the U.S., Americans of all political beliefs are welcoming Afghan refugees. There is general agreement that Afghan citizens who helped the United States during the war in Afghanistan are in mortal danger now that the Taliban rules the country. Thousands of Americans are volunteering to fill out visa applications, provide housing, and buy groceries for refugees. The word comes from the French refugier, "shelter or protect."
New York’s Metropolitan Opera returned after a year and a half with the aptly titled Resurrection by Gustav Mahler on September 4. The free, outdoor performance marked the resurgence of a company that was closed by the pandemic and a bruising labor struggle that left its chorus and orchestra unpaid for over a year. An agreement with the orchestra's union on August 24 paved the way for the Met's figurative musical rebirth. The root of resurrection means "rise again."
Animal welfare advocates hope to use DNA to reunite a young elephant with her mother. The elephant was named Nania, — or "will" — by schoolchildren in Borimo, Burkina Faso, near where she was found in 2017. Nania was separated from her herd when she was just two months old, and her caretakers now aim to return her safely to the wild. Recent DNA testing has revealed that her mother may still be living nearby, making a reunion possible.
NASA announced on September 6 that the Perseverance rover had collected its first sample from the surface of Mars. The specimen of rock, about as thick as a pencil, is one of several samples that will be sent back to earth in an effort to help scientists better understand the red planet. Studying the small rock fragment will provide clues about the age of the Martian boulder it was taken from.
On September 6, Belarusian opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova was sentenced to 11 years in prison. In a closed trial, she was found guilty of conspiracy to overthrow the government after her participation in last year’s protests of what dissidents are calling a rigged presidential election. Kolesnikova’s sentencing was open to the public, many of whom crowded outside the courtroom as the decision on her punishment was announced.
Though Jewish congregations had big plans to celebrate the High Holy Days in person this year — one New York synagogue rented Radio City Music Hall months ago — some have scrapped them for livestreams. The houses of worship that opened for Rosh Hashanah on September 6 and 7 were at partial capacity, many requiring proof of vaccination and masks. The same will be true next week for Yom Kippur, Judaism’s most sacred day. The Greek root synagoge means “a bringing together.”
Midwestern farmers are reporting recent attacks on farm animals by black vultures. Because of the aggressive incidents, a limited number of permits have been issued in Indiana to hunt the protected birds of prey. Scientists say the raptors, which normally eat carcasses, are more likely feeding on stillborn or dying calves, rather than attacking healthy ones. Farmers complain that the vultures also tear rubber parts off cars. The word derives from a root meaning “to pluck or tear.”

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