This Week in Words: Current Events Vocab for June 18–June 24, 2022

June 20, 2022
Stories about catnip, a record-breaking triathlete, and a baby aardvark all contributed words to this list of vocabulary from the week's news.
This week, the San Diego Zoo announced its first aardvark birth in more than 35 years. Wildlife care specialists said the cub, born on May 10, is healthy and active, already "using her sharp claws to dig like an adult aardvark." The nocturnal mammals have long snouts and ears, and a preferred diet of ants and termites, which they lick up with their sticky tongues. Aardvark is an Afrikaans word meaning "earth pig."
Researchers say a new study gives them cautious hope for the survival of polar bears. The survey of polar bears on the southeast coast of Greenland showed a subpopulation that adapts easily to changes caused by melting sea ice. Instead of a region frozen solid for months, warming has transformed it to floating ice sheets. The genetically distinct group of bears, which gives birth to fewer cubs, has modified its hunting methods by adjusting to the slushier chunks of glacier.
After last week's announcement by Chinese astronomers that they had detected possible proof of intelligent alien life, their findings were revealed to be mistaken. The signals they had interpreted as having extraterrestrial origins were instead shown to be ordinary radio interference. One scientist explained them as "due to radio pollution from earthlings, not from E.T.” The Latin root of alien is alienus, "foreign or strange."
Three African wild dog sisters traveled an amazing 1,300 miles over the last nine months, according to scientists who tracked the canines using GPS collars. The sub-Saharan Lycaon pictus are some of the most endangered mammals in the world. Researchers believe the dogs left home to start their own pack, journeying twice as far as the species had previously been known to migrate, from Zambia, through Mozambique, and into Zimbabwe. Canine is from a root meaning "dog."
Four days of record-setting rainfall and snowmelt forced the closure of Yellowstone National Park. Floodwater and mudslides cracked concrete roads and collapsed bridges, creating conditions too hazardous for tourists to safely enter the park. Yellowstone officials shut down entrances and evacuated about 10,000 visitors over the weekend. The park's southern loop is slated to reopen within weeks, while its northern half will remain closed at least through the fall.
The U.S. House voted 231 to 190 to pass a bill that will protect endangered species with a $1.3 billion annual fund. The Recovering America's Wildlife Act would be a major conservation effort, providing enough money for states, territories, and tribal nations to safeguard threatened species. One of the bill's sponsors reminded lawmakers that "roughly one-third of our wildlife is at increased risk of extinction." Conservation is from a root meaning "preserve or guard."
A 95-year-old woman known as "the grandmother of Juneteenth" saw one dream fulfilled when June 19 became a federal holiday last year. Now, Opal Lee's activism has spurred plans for a museum commemorating the day the last enslaved people in the U.S. learned about the Emancipation Proclamation. The National Juneteenth Museum will open in Fort Worth, Texas in 2024. Lee, who was nominated for a 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, said, "Juneteenth means freedom to me."
Anyone who's seen a cat play with a catnip-filled toy or rub against the leaves of a catnip plant knows that felines are crazy for the stuff. A new study suggests one practical reason for cats' attraction to Nepeta cataria: it acts as a natural insect repellent. The same chemicals that make cats get silly also fend off mosquitoes, especially once the plant has been bent or chewed by sharp feline teeth. The Latin feles, or "cat," is the root of feline.
On June 19, former guerrilla fighter Gustavo Petro was elected the first leftist president of Colombia. Petro, who was imprisoned during the 1980s for his association with rebel activists, won a decisive victory over the party that has long controlled the country. Economic hardship and rising criminal violence swayed voters to support a one-time insurgent who now promises transformation. In Spanish, guerrilla means "little war," from guerra, "war."
As part of a 30-day study, a North Carolina pest control company is paying people $2,000 to allow cockroaches to infest their homes. The Pest Informer will compare ten do-it-yourself methods of eradicating the roaches, including bleach, boric acid, vinegar, and flour. The paid volunteers must endure a complete cockroach invasion, but the company has guaranteed they will eliminate the pests at the end of the month. Infest derives from infestus, or "dangerous" in Latin.
According to scientists, a new variety of avian influenza isn't just making birds sick — it's also affecting mammals. The virus has moved across North America during the past few months, infecting chickens, ducks, geese, and gulls. Surprisingly, it has also sickened red foxes, coyotes, skunks, and other warm-blooded vertebrates. Experts suspect that wild birds have infected their predators. Mammals, however, don't appear to spread the virus between themselves.
Tennis player Natela Dzalamidze, who was born in Russia, has changed her nationality in order to qualify for Wimbledon on June 27. The tennis championship banned Russian players after that country's invasion of Ukraine. Dzalamidze is now officially a citizen of Georgia, making her eligible to compete with her partner, Aleksandra Krunić of Serbia, in Wimbledon's doubles tournament. Nationality is from nation and its Latin root, which means "be born."
A massive wildfire in Arizona has burned more than 20,000 acres over the last week, destroying parts of the Kitt Peak National Observatory. The Contreras fire consumed four research buildings in the complex, but its dozens of telescopes apparently remain unharmed. Officials say it may be weeks before astronomers and astrophysicists can return to the observatory, which is the oldest such facility to be funded by the National Science Foundation.
The European Union has banned the use of certain pigments by tattoo artists. Regulators there ruled that the tints may be hazardous when injected into skin, where some of them remain permanently. Among the dyes considered potentially harmful are Blue 15:3 and Green 7, which were linked with higher rates of bladder cancer. The ban raises the possibility that the U.S. may enact similar tattoo pigment restrictions in the future. The Latin root of pigment means "paint."
The selling price of Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, plummeted this week, raising fears about the market's stability. Prices fell from a peak of $64,000 to just $19,000 per share. The plunge erased $900 billion in total value, as investors sold their shares in favor of less risky investments. Bitcoin is considered to be the most stable digital currency, and previous dips in price have quickly bounced back. Plummet is from the verb plumb, "sink like lead."
New research shows that primeval rodents weren't quite as large as scientists previously thought; rather than being the size of bison, they were more comparable to ponies. Earth's original gnawing mammals were much bigger than today's largest rodents, 175-pound capybaras. By comparing a joint in the skulls of these modern animals with fossils, scientists estimated that the first rodents, once believed to be bison-sized, likely grew to the size of a small horse.
A Rhodes Scholar who set her sights on unionizing one Starbucks store has far exceeded her goal. In December, the Buffalo Starbucks where Jaz Brisack has worked since completing a prestigious scholarship at Oxford University became the first in the company to form a union. Since then, inspired by Brisack's efforts, more than 150 stores have voted to unionize. The elite Rhodes Scholarship produces many superstars in law and government; Brisack stands out for her focus on workers' rights.
Health officials in the U.S. say a current surge in Covid-19 cases hasn't resulted in an uptick in deaths. The pattern repeated over the past two years — a dramatic increase in infections followed by a deluge of hospitalizations and deaths — seems to have shifted. Experts say the large number of people with some immunity, from vaccination or prior illness, means that although vast numbers of Americans are currently infected with coronavirus, most are protected from its worst effects.
Scientists who study cognitive illnesses that may be caused by head trauma are taking a close look at as many NFL players' brains as they can. By examining the brain activity of athletes who have sustained repeated concussions, the researchers hope to gain a deeper understanding of conditions like chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is often diagnosed in football players. Dozens of current and former players have volunteered to help. The root of trauma means "wound."
A 40-year-old Swiss Olympic athlete retired this month after officially becoming the first woman to finish a triathlon in less than eight hours. Nicola Spirig broke the world record by more than 40 minutes, completing the German Sub7Sub8 race in seven hours, 34 minutes, and 19 seconds. The triathlon includes swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles; the word is from tri-, "three," and the Greek athlon, or "contest."

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