This Week in Words: Current Events Vocab for October 2–October 8, 2021

October 4, 2021
Stories about zombie plants, Mercury's craters, and a real-life Star Trek all contributed words to this list of vocabulary from the week's news.
October 8 is Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary — and the amusement park will hold an 18-month-long celebration. After a summer surge of Covid cases in Florida, Disney World announced it will require masks for visitors who attend its half-century bash, and a planned anniversary parade has been cancelled. But enhanced park lighting and a brand new Ratatouille-themed ride at neighboring Epcot are sure to lure Disney fans. Anniversary's Latin root means "year."
A joint mission between the European Space Agency and Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency has revealed rare images of Mercury’s craters. During a flyby of our solar system's smallest terrestrial planet, the spacecraft captured black-and-white photos of Mercury's northern hemisphere. The pictures revealed smooth, lava-flooded plains surrounding the bowl-shaped cavities of the planet's craters, a surface that looks strikingly similar to the cratered expanse of Earth's moon.
Since September 1, Covid cases in the U.S. have declined by 35 percent. This decrease in infections reflects a worldwide trend; around the globe, cases have fallen by a third over the past month. While scientists don’t know the exact cause of the decline, it follows the virus's mysterious pattern of diminishing for two months after a surge. The Latin root of decline, declinare, means "to lower."
At least nine members of a Cuban baseball team defected during a tournament in Mexico on October 2. After the players officially gave up their allegiance to their home country, Cuban officials responded by calling the defections "vile abandonments." They also blamed a United States policy that doesn't allow Cubans to play for Major League teams without defecting. The players who left their national team can apply for U.S. asylum from Mexico.
An ocean drone has provided the first ever look inside the center of a category four hurricane. As Hurricane Sam moved across the Atlantic Ocean this weekend, the autonomous vessel captured video footage of the storm, whose gusts exceeded 130 miles per hour. Operating without a crew via remote control, the drone, called Saildrone, is seen as a potential tool for improving forecasting at a time when storms are much more dangerous and unpredictable.
As part of a worldwide effort to slow climate change, many cities are electrifying their entire mass transit systems. In Bergen, Norway, public ferries are transitioning from diesel fuel to battery power. Bogotá, Colombia is in the process of switching from transportation that runs on oil and gas to electric gondolas and buses. Cities that have begun to electrify their transportation systems have seen benefits including cleaner, healthier air quality and less noise pollution.
A whistleblower has exposed the fact that Facebook knew it was causing harm and prioritized profits anyway. Frances Haugen, who worked as a Facebook product manager for two years, revealed evidence to regulators, lawmakers, and journalists that showed the company was fully aware of various harms it had caused. Haugen provided tens of thousands of documents that reveal internal discussions and strategies, including possible evidence that Facebook misled users and investors.
New Covid-19 relief grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities were announced October 4. The grants will provide nearly $88 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to cultural institutions that have been financially harmed by the pandemic. Museums, historical sites, libraries, and universities in 54 states, districts, and territories will receive emergency funds. In Latin, the literae humaniores, or humanities, are the "more human studies."
Thousands of Brazilians took to the streets on October 2 to demand the impeachment of President Bolsonaro. Residents of several cities rallied for their leader's removal, accusing him of destroying the reputation, economy, and environmental health of Brazil. The country has been devastated by high inflation and surging rates of Covid-19 over the past year. In a recent poll, a majority of Brazilians rated Bolsonaro as "bad" or "very bad.”
Starting next week, FEMA will incorporate climate risk into the cost of flood insurance, dramatically increasing the expense of living near the coast. Policies that provide financial protection in the event of flooding have long been subsidized by the government, making them less expensive. Now insurance costs will reflect the reality that eight million homes are currently at severe risk from rising sea levels.
On October 6, the World Health Organization endorsed the first-ever vaccine to protect against malaria, a disease that kills about 500,000 people every year, half of them young children. Malaria spreads through mosquito bites, and it's one of the deadliest infectious illnesses on Earth. The new vaccine, the first used to prevent any parasitic disease, has an efficacy rate of about fifty percent. The Italian source of malaria is mala aria, which means "bad air."
A new exhibit by conceptual artist Barbara Kruger at the Art Institute of Chicago uses text, images, and memes to examine the power of online media. The exhibition, Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You., addresses the harmful influence of the internet in a humorous way, using often-shared online tropes (like cat videos) along with familiar text, icons, and images. Meme was coined from the Greek mimeisthai, "to imitate."
As Britain settles into post-Brexit life, the country is pivoting back to imperial measurements and away from the metric system. Most countries use meters, liters, and grams to weigh and measure, and members of the European Union must label products with metric units. Now, shops in the UK are free to label goods only in ounces and pounds.
On October 4, two scientists were awarded a Nobel Prize for their research into the effect of temperature and touch on the nervous system. Physiologist David Julius used capsaicin, which gives chili peppers their spiciness, to identify a protein in nerve cells that responds to uncomfortable heat. Molecular biologist Ardem Patapoutian's work found the specific nerve receptor that responds to pressure and touch.
A Facebook outage on October 4 revealed how dependent the entire world is on its apps and services. Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Oculus all went down for more than five hours, affecting 3.5 billion people worldwide. Facebook's use as a sign-in tool also meant that many smart TVs, thermostats, and security systems were unavailable. Businesses that depend on the apps to take orders and reach clients lost thousands of dollars due to the disruption.
A group of 600 journalists around the world contributed to a report released on October 3, dubbed the Pandora Papers, which has revealed how wealthy people hide their money in overseas accounts. Offshore financial institutions shield rich, powerful clients from paying taxes in their home countries and obscure their assets from the public. King Abdullah II of Jordan was among a group of world leaders found to be hiding money in these secret overseas accounts.
Scientists have discovered a parasite that turns its plant hosts into virtual zombies. Once a plant is infected with Aster Yellows phytoplasma, it takes on a different appearance and doesn't seem to age normally. Remaining in a youthful state, the plant continues to produce sap for insects to ingest — and once they do, they spread the parasite onto new hosts so the cycle can continue. The Greek root parasitos means "one who eats at the table of another."
On October 3, a pipeline off the southern coast of California ruptured, causing a massive oil spill. At least 126,000 gallons of oil leaked into the Pacific Ocean, killing birds and fish and creating an oil slick that spread across 13 square miles. The spill was the largest since 2015. The age and condition of the decades-old pipeline likely caused the rupture. Rupture derives from a root word that means "to break."
A warming climate imperils the future of Georgia’s state symbol, the peach. Since 1995, peaches have been the official state fruit of Georgia, which is nicknamed the Peach State. The image of the juicy, round fruit is indelibly connected with this southern state. Now scientists are warning that the connection may become entirely symbolic, as Georgia's climate increasingly fails to provide the low winter temperatures that peach trees need to form buds.
On October 12, ninety-year-old William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk on the television show Star Trek, will become the oldest person to travel to space. Shatner will join three other passengers on Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin rocket. Shatner's literal star trek will take him into space for just a few moments, as a crew member of the second Blue Origin voyage. Trek has a Dutch root, trekken, "to march or journey."

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