This Week in Words: Current Events Vocab for October 22–October 28, 2022

October 24, 2022
Stories about expensive bread, gravestone recipes, and a Ghostbusters hotel all contributed words to this list of vocabulary from the week's news.
Baseball bats have traditionally been made of ash, a hard wood from a tree native to North America. However, the invasive emerald ash borer is changing this custom: not a single batter will be swinging an ash bat this fall. Baseball's 2022 postseason will be the first in which every hitter's bat is instead made of maple. In baseball, the player up at bat has always been called a batter, but in the older sport of cricket, that player is the batsman.
Since the term "cultural bereavement" was coined in 1991, many studies have confirmed the prevalence of this complex emotion among refugees and migrants. It's finally gaining recognition as researchers describe finding "complex mental distress" akin to grief among people who have had to move away from their home countries and cultures. Bereavement stems from a word that means "deprive of" or "take away by violence," and its root, meaning "break."
In response to the California State University System's move to ban discrimination on the basis of caste, two Hindu professors have sued the school. They said the policy is a violation of civil rights on the basis of religion and "singles out Indian and Hindu staff and students." The inherited social hierarchy originated as an intrinsic part of Hinduism, though it now affects all of Indian society. People who fall lowest in the caste system face violent oppression in South Asia.
A woman who bakes recipes she finds etched on gravestones has become very popular on TikTok. Rosie Grant discovered her first such epitaph in a cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, where the grave marker for Naomi Odessa Miller-Dawson included a recipe for spritz cookies. Now Grant seeks out headstones with recipe inscriptions and shares the videos she makes while baking them on social media platforms. The Greek epitaphion, "funeral oration," is the root of epitaph.
A statue unveiled this month in central London honors a woman named "London's kindest hero." A contest elicited 500 nominations for Jo Newby, who has fostered more than 90 children over the past 20 years. As well as caring for them as a temporary parent, Newby has also helped kids with disabilities participate in sports, in part by founding three inclusive soccer teams. The statue depicts the devoted foster parent holding 92 balloons, one for each child she's taken care of.
One day after lawsuits temporarily blocked his student debt forgiveness proposal, President Biden said he will move forward to implement the plan. The program will be put into effect immediately: students who borrowed money for college will have as much as $20,000 of debt eliminated. The White House is encouraging borrowers to apply now, adding that lawsuits to block the plan are "baseless" and won't affect its being put into action.
An Austrian woman who became a millionaire when her wealthy grandmother died is pushing for higher taxes on people who inherit vast sums of money. Marlene Engelhorn co-founded the group Tax Me Now, which campaigns for the unearned wealth of inheritors to be paid as taxes and redistributed. Engelhorn, the heir to a chemical company fortune, opposes new philanthropic organizations, arguing that "what's needed is structural change." Inherit has a root meaning "left behind."
New research suggests that meditation may protect older adults against Alzheimer's disease. The study compared people who took an 18-month class on mindfulness and breathing exercises with a control group that studied a new language. The meditators improved their emotional health and awareness, an effect that lasted after the class ended. Such mental gains have been observed to decrease the likelihood of cognitive impairment. The root of meditation means "to think over."
On October 25, Rishi Sunak became the 57th prime minister of the U.K. At 42, he is the youngest person to serve as head of the British government. Sunak, whose parents are Indian immigrants, is also the first non-white prime minister. He replaced his fellow Conservative Party member, Liz Truss, who served only 50 days in the country's top political office before stepping down. Minister is from a root meaning "servant," in the sense of "serving" the queen or king.
Reporters obtained documents this week showing that if Elon Musk buys Twitter as planned, he will lay off most of the company's employees. Musk told investors he intends to cut the payroll by 75 percent once Twitter is in his control. The current staff of 7,500 would be reduced to about 2,000, cutting total pay by about $800 million annually. Critics say it will severely hamper Twitter's ability to manage its content and prevent data theft and security breaches.
More than 80 years after a German patrol boat sank in the North Sea during World War II, scientists discovered it's been leaking dangerous metals and chemicals. As the vessel has aged underwater, it's released pollutants including arsenic, oil, and heavy metals. The discovery was part of a larger study into contaminants that leak as shipwrecks corrode over time. The Latin root of pollutant is polluere, "to defile or contaminate."
Pioneering radiologist Beryl Benacerraf died this month at the age of 73. She was among the first to use ultrasound technology to detect prenatal abnormalities, and she discovered a distinguishing marker for Down syndrome. Benacerraf specialized in using radiology to help pregnant people learn details of their pregnancies and to detect genetic anomalies in fetuses. Prenatal is from pre-, "before," and natal, whose root means "pertaining to birth or origin."
Recent tests of U.S. students' proficiency in reading and math reflected an enormous decline over the past two years. The results of a national exam, released on October 24, demonstrated the sharpest drop ever recorded in math scores for fourth- and eighth-grade students. Reading ability fell in half of the U.S., with about 30 percent of students showing competence, a decline most experts attribute to the pandemic. The Latin root of proficiency means "go forward."
After a period of historically low air quality in Washington state due to wildfires, conditions improved over the weekend. For two days, Seattle had the world's dirtiest air: the situation there was worse than infamously smoggy cities like Delhi and Beijing. The air quality index, or AQI, reached 240 last week, a level defined by experts as "very unhealthy to breathe." Scientists continue to investigate exactly how human health is affected by breathing substandard air.
Ghostbusters fans can now stay overnight in a replica of the building featured in the movie. Along with the duplicated ghostbusters' headquarters, visitors have access to ghostbusting suits that look just like the originals. The hotel includes many nods to the 1984 film, including a look-alike Ghost Containment System and a pantry stocked with Stay Puft marshmallows and cheesy crackers. The Latin root of replica means "repeat," or literally, "to fold over and over."
European bread prices have skyrocketed over the past few weeks. Higher costs for flour, eggs, milk, and electricity have forced sellers to drastically increase what they charge for a loaf of bread. The E.U. inflation rate hovers around 10 percent, but the price of food has shot up an average of 16 percent. Bread costs nearly 20 percent more than it did a year ago, the fastest price increase ever recorded in Europe. Skyrocket was a noun first, meaning "firework."
A new study suggests that alligator lizards can safely eat black widow spiders thanks to an evolved immunity to their toxins. The arachnids are poisonous, producing venom that's painful to humans who are bitten, and deadly to most small animals. Alligator lizards, however, snack on black widows with no ill effects. In a series of experiments, scientists found evidence that the lizards' resistance to the poison arose as a result of the two species living in close proximity for generations.
Sixty years after vultures died out in Bulgaria, 70 of the enormous birds have been released there as part of a plan to bring back a wild population. Cinereous vultures are the largest, rarest birds of prey, with three-foot wingspans. By feeding on the flesh of dead animals, they play an important role in their ecosystem, removing carrion before it starts to decay. Etymologists suspect that vulture derives from a Latin root meaning "to pluck or tear."

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