This Week in Words: Current Events Vocab for September 11–September 17, 2021

September 13, 2021
Stories about an innovative parrot, a weird asteroid, and a very lucky cat all contributed words to this list of vocabulary from the week's news.
This week marked the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Two decades later, Americans marked the terrible day with moments of silence and remembrance of the people who died that day. President Biden and former American presidents honored the anniversary in ceremonies at New York’s September 11 Memorial & Museum and the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania.
Professional surfers are increasingly trading natural ocean waves for artificial ones produced in wave tanks. Wave parks like the BSR Surf Resort in Waco, Texas provide ideal waves by generating each surge of moving water using powerful underwater fans that blow compressed air. A computer algorithm controls the size and shape of each wave, allowing users to select their preferred conditions. Several 2020 Olympic surfers trained in artificial wave tanks.
A powerful telescope at an observatory in Chile has captured the most detailed photos ever of the asteroid Kleopatra. Astronomers say the rocky, orbiting object has a “weird, dog-bone shape,” and predict the new pictures will provide clues to the solar system. They’ve already revealed that Kleopatra, which is 125 million miles from Earth in an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, is much lighter than previously thought. The Greek root of asteroid means “star.”
The world’s largest carbon capturing plant has opened in Iceland. The facility, which aims to pull 4,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, will play a vital role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the layer of air surrounding the earth. Climate experts say that the goal of having a carbon-neutral planet by 2050 depends on sucking carbon dioxide out of the air, and that Iceland’s new plant sets a standard for future efforts.
The Inspiration4 SpaceX mission lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on the evening of September 15. It will be the first earth-orbiting flight to have a completely civilian crew, and the first commercial spaceflight, with no NASA involvement. None of the crew's four members, two of whom won their seats in a sweepstakes, has ever been to space before. They will orbit Earth for three days at an altitude of 360 miles. Civilian is derived from a Latin word meaning "citizen."
The Metropolitan Museum of Art held its annual over-the-top fundraiser on September 13, after skipping the event in 2020 because of the pandemic. The 2021 Met Gala had an "American Independence" theme, and its attendees' flamboyant costumes fittingly ranged from stylistic nods to the American West to overtly political messaging. Although gala now means "lavish party," its original definition was "festive dress or attire."
Two companies are offering fans of horror films financial incentives to watch scary movies next month. Just in time for Halloween, DISH Network and the website FinanceBuzz will each pay one devotee of scary movies $1,300. Winners will have to view hours of creepy cinema: either 13 Stephen King adaptations, or a collection of frightening films like The Blair Witch Project and Get Out. The Latin root of horror means "to bristle with fear."
Several recent studies have shown that some people have a “superhuman” immunity to Covid-19. Scientists who specialize in immunology explain that these lucky individuals produce extremely high levels of antibodies in an unusually flexible way, making them much less vulnerable even to new variants of the disease. Their bodies are able to fight off the virus quite easily. People who have this "hybrid" immunity were infected with Covid and then received a full course of the vaccine.
The Biden administration announced several new mandates intended to reduce the spread of coronavirus, including increased fines for not wearing a mask on airplanes and in airports. First-time offenders will now have to pay at least $500 for violating TSA mask rules, and subsequent fines may be as high as $3,000. Mandate derives from a Latin root that means “command or order.”
On September 13, North Korea said it had tested new long-range cruise missiles, an announcement that was widely seen as evidence of an increasing arms race between North and South Korea. The weapons, which were launched over the weekend, traveled for two hours and hit targets almost 1,000 miles away. Cruise missiles tend to be low-flying and difficult to detect, and they follow a programmed path before exploding on impact. Missile's root means "that which is thrown."
Maia Chaka became the first Black woman to officiate an NFL game on September 12. When the New York Jets and the Carolina Panthers met up in Charlottesville, North Carolina, Chaka was one of seven officials on the field refereeing. Her career has included officiating college football and teaching physical education. The original meaning of officiate was religious: "perform divine service."
A disabled parrot named Bruce has invented a tool that works as a prosthetic beak. The bird, a New Zealand species known as a kea, was found as a baby; the researchers who rescued him speculate that his beak was destroyed in a rat trap. In order to survive, kea must clean dangerous parasites and dirt from their feathers using their beaks. Bruce taught himself to pick up a pebble and use it as a substitute beak, combing his feathers as he holds it between his tongue and lower beak.
California Governor Gavin Newsom decisively defeated a statewide recall effort on September 14, when voters chose not to remove him from his position. The recall attempt, led by the state Republican party, was motivated by objections to California's vaccine and mask mandates and other pandemic protections enacted by Newsom.
The union representing basketball referees came to a quick agreement with the NBA about vaccine rules. The contract stipulates that all refs must be fully vaccinated to work at games, a requirement supported by all 145 union members who officiate NBA, WNBA, and G League basketball games. Neither the National Football League nor Major League Baseball have similar agreements with their referees. In the 1600s, a referee was someone who examined patents.
On September 13, a privately-funded group of researchers announced plans to resurrect the long-extinct woolly mammoth in Siberia. They are employed by a company that aims to revive the species using elephant DNA that will be edited to add traits like size, wiry hair, and insulating layers of fat. Many scientists are skeptical of the group's ability to bring the defunct species back to life — and the ethics of attempting to do so. The root of resurrect means "born again.”
Spring-run Chinook salmon, once plentiful in California creeks and streams, have become endangered by the state's continuing drought. In order to spawn before swimming upstream, the silvery fish require cold water; in some California spawning grounds, the water is ten degrees higher than normal. Rising temperatures and low water levels also hamper the salmon's upstream migration, putting the species in further danger of extinction. The root of salmon means “leaping.”
The first parents to stand trial in a college admissions scandal went to court this week. Two men face charges of paying up to $300,000 to secure college admission for their children. The case is a public embarrassment for the parents, but also for the admissions process itself, making the roles played by privilege and money shockingly clear. A college consultant involved in the scandal pled guilty to racketeering in 2019. The Greek root means “a trap or snare laid for an enemy."
The most exciting moment of a September 11 game between the Miami Hurricanes and the Appalachian State Mountaineers occurred when a cat suddenly fell from the upper deck of the football stadium. Fans filling the outdoor sports venue's rows of seats began pointing at the black and white cat, which was dangling from a high tier by one paw. Two quick-thinking spectators grabbed a flag, fashioned a landing pad, and caught the cat safely as it fell.
Eco-conscious shoppers might not realize that the familiar recycling symbol, a rounded triangle with three arrows, doesn't necessarily mean an object can be recycled. A new California bill would ban using the symbol on things that aren’t recyclable. Proponents say manufacturers' unregulated use of the emblem deliberately misleads consumers into tossing tons of garbage into recycling bins each year. The law would limit the "chasing arrows" logo to goods that can be recycled.
Tropical Storm Nicholas made landfall on September 14, hitting the Gulf Coast with hurricane-force wind and rain. The storm developed over the warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, building strength as it moved toward the coast of Texas. On September 15, Nicholas was downgraded to a tropical depression and stalled over an area of Louisiana that remains without power after being battered by Hurricane Ida weeks ago. Southeast parts of the state are under a flood watch through Friday.

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