This Week in Words: Current Events Vocab for May 21–May 27, 2022

May 23, 2022
Stories about a hidden underground forest, edible tape, and a peanut butter recall all contributed words to this list of vocabulary from the week's news.
The U.S. will form a new Asia-Pacific economic bloc with 12 allies. President Biden announced the alliance on May 23 from Tokyo, where he was meeting with the prime ministers of India and Japan, Narendra Modi and Fumio Kishida. Other friendly nations that will be included in the initiative include Australia, South Korea, and Thailand. The bloc is intended to counter China's economic dominance in the region. Ally first meant "join in marriage," from a root meaning "to bind."
The athletes who competed at the National Senior Games this month in South Florida range in age from 50 to 103. Nearly 12,000 contenders competed to win gold, silver, or bronze medals in 21 different sports, ranging from track and field to pickleball. Ninety-nine-year-old Roy Englert, one of the oldest participants running the 400-meter race, said his advice for living a long life was "Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving." The Greek root of athlete means "prizefighter."
A Maine man who once dreamed of owning a fishing boat has instead devoted himself to solving some of the problems that have eliminated many fish from the region. Rising carbon levels caused by climate change have raised the temperature and acidity of ocean water; Marty Odlin's new company, Running Tide, will use kelp-growing buoys to absorb CO2 from the air and water. A network of thousands of the floating ocean markers will hold small forests of seaweed and acid-reducing limestone.
Saturday Night Live will lose four of its regular actors in its biggest cast shakeup in years. Popular cast members Kate McKinnon, Pete Davidson, Aidy Bryant, and Kyle Mooney are all leaving the show, which just ended its 47th season. McKinnon, who has portrayed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Senator Ted Cruz, among many other figures, said an emotional goodbye in character as alien abductee Colleen Rafferty: “Well, Earth. I love ya. Thanks for letting me stay awhile."
In many countries, crickets are a popular food. Farmers who raise the chirping insects face a common problem: large crickets attack smaller ones, which often chew off their own legs to escape, making them less valuable to customers. Two Thai high school students have solved this problem — their experiments with colored light showed that shining a green glow on the critters calmed them and kept them from fighting. Cricket is imitative, from the sound of their chirps.
Scientists at MIT have built a portable, affordable device that can remove the salt from ocean water with the push of a button. This new desalination machine, which pulls salt and impurities from water using electricity, requires less energy than a typical phone charger. The complex process of making seawater drinkable is a key tool in solving the growing issue of water scarcity. Saline and its Latin root meaning "salt" are at the heart of desalination.
The United Nations Refugee Agency announced on May 22 that a record 100 million people had been displaced by violence, famine, and weather-related disasters. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has so far uprooted eight million people. Worldwide, the number of people forced to leave their homes is about one percent of the global population; if they made up a country, it would be the world's 14th-largest. Displace comes from roots meaning "lack of" and "place or spot."
A new program in New York City will give educators better techniques for teaching kids with dyslexia. Mayor Eric Adams, who struggled with the reading disorder as a student, announced the plan. It includes screening every public school student as well as a required city-wide reading curriculum based on phonics, which is thought to be more effective for dyslexic learners. Dyslexia is from Greek roots dys, "difficult," and lexis, "word."
Engineering students at Johns Hopkins University have invented something that's useful and delicious: edible tape. Tastee Tape is a clear strip that becomes sticky when dampened with water and is strong enough to hold the heftiest burrito closed. Because the students plan to apply for a patent, they wouldn't reveal the tape's ingredients, other than to say they're completely safe to eat. Edible derives from a Latin root meaning "to eat."
When detectives arrested a man in Rockville, Maryland for impersonating a police officer, they realized it wasn't the first time he's faced the charge. Joshua Taber had previously been cited for posing as a law enforcement officer in 2014. This time, police confiscated several weapons, a car resembling an unmarked police vehicle, and identification cards with titles including "Special Agent" and “Diplomatic Protection Services.”
Researchers hoping to observe examples of Asian elephants in mourning turned to YouTube for help this month. They found dozens of videos in which the animals performed behaviors that included walking in circles around the bodies of dead elephants, standing guard over corpses, and carrying deceased babies in their trunks. The study results add to the scientific understanding of how elephants express their grief. The root of mourning means "to remember sorrowfully."
Several states held primaries on May 24 to choose candidates who will face each other in the general election. In Georgia's race for governor, the incumbent Brian Kemp beat challenger David Perdue on the Republican ballot, with 73 percent of the vote. Kemp will face Democrat Stacey Abrams in November. Other closely-watched primaries were held in Texas, Alabama, and Arkansas.
The J.M. Smucker Company issued a recall for Jif peanut butter after an outbreak of salmonella last week. At least a dozen people were sickened, spurring the official request for grocers to remove the product from shelves and consumers to return any they had purchased. A total of 49 Jif products sold in 12 states were included in the recall, all of them produced after October, 2021. The original meaning of recall was "a summons to return or a calling back."
When Trinidad Cervantes graduated from high school last year, she wasn't allowed to wear her graduation cap, which she had hand-beaded and decorated with an eagle feather. Cervantes, a member of Utah's Paiute Indian Tribe, wanted to make sure her younger sister would be able to wear tribal regalia when she graduates in two years. Thanks to her activism, a new state law gives Native students the right to wear culturally and spiritually significant items at school graduation ceremonies.
A Russian soldier who was found guilty of war crimes has been sentenced by a Ukrainian court to life in prison. It was the first such trial since Russia's invasion, which began in February. Vadim Shishimarin was convicted for shooting a 62-year-old civilian. Ukraine is publicizing the trial and sentencing in order to emphasize Russia's responsibility for atrocities its soldiers have committed during the war. The Latin root of sentence means "judgment."
A team of researchers says it's found evidence that certain meteorites contain shards of an ancient version of the planet Mercury. The findings show that meteorites known as aubrites contain the same minerals that comprised Mercury billions of years ago. Their controversial theory is that the planet was once much larger, before parts of it exploded into meteorites. Research continues into whether small fragments of an ancient planet exist inside space rocks found on Earth.
Scientists exploring a 600-foot pit in China's Guangxi region have discovered what they describe as a massive underground forest. Large sinkholes, formed when groundwater wears away bedrock and collapses cave ceilings, are fairly common in this part of China. This one is distinctive for what was found to be growing inside the cavernous space, including trees over 100 feet tall. Researchers are hopeful that the sinkhole may also house previously unknown plant and animal species.
terra cotta
Preservationists are trying to protect more than 1,000 terra cotta sculptures that decorate the facade of the 1940s Parkchester apartment complex in the Bronx. Dozens have disappeared in the last few years, likely removed by maintenance workers. Three-dimensional forms of animals, mermaids, firefighters, and more, shaped from the reddish pottery and painted in colorful hues, decorate the buildings' doorways and corners. A new campaign aims to designate the area as a historic district.
Data released by Pfizer on May 23 shows that the drug company's Covid-19 vaccine is 80 percent effective at preventing symptoms in kids between six months and four years old. An FDA advisory panel will meet next month to discuss authorizing the shots for young children. Vaccine comes from vaccination, coined by the doctor who developed a technique of protecting people from smallpox by injecting milder cowpox microbes: the Latin root means "from cows."

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