After more than nine months in Russian
detention, WNBA player Brittney Griner was released late last week to U.S. officials. Griner had been held in custody since her February arrest and dubious conviction on drug charges. Her release was part of a prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Russia. By December 11, Griner was back on a basketball court at an army medical center in Texas, practicing her dunk. The Latin root of
detention means "hold back."
Iranian officials publicly
executed two protesters over the course of the past week. Human rights advocates and Iranian citizens have condemned the state killings, and several religious figures in Iran have also spoken out against the brutality of the punishment. Hundreds of Iranians have died at the hands of the country's security forces since protests started in September. According to the UN, more than 1,400 people have been arrested, and about 450 have died.
A team of researchers announced they'd made a major breakthrough in nuclear
fusion technology this week. For the first time, the power of the sun was recreated inside a lab, in the first scientific nuclear reaction to produce more energy than was used to start it. The fusing of atoms to make energy is what gives stars like our sun their radiance, and scientists hope it will soon be a renewable energy source.
Fusion is from a root that means "to melt."
A British teenager with
leukemia was successfully treated with a new gene editing technology. The technique, a more precise variation on CAR T-cell therapy, is known as base editing. After being diagnosed with the cancer, which forms in the blood cells, the 13-year-old received a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy, but those treatments failed. In May, she was infused with immune cells that had been base edited, and she remains in remission more than six months later.
Karen Bass was sworn in as the new
mayor of Los Angeles by Vice President Kamala Harris on December 11. Bass will be the first woman, and only the second Black person, to serve as the highest-ranking official in that city. She gave a speech that acknowledged the steep challenges facing Angelenos, and she declared a state of emergency homelessness.
Mayor is derived from a root that means "great."
The Mzayen World Cup, a camel
pageant, was held in the Qatari desert about 15 miles away from where World Cup matches are taking place. The spectacle was part of a slate of cultural awareness programs Qatar has planned for soccer fans. Hundreds of camels were parading past judges; the animals wore strands of jewels and decorated collars. After they were evaluated on their good looks, a poised and graceful female camel named Nazaa’a was crowned the winner.
A pair of pants
salvaged from a ship that sank in 1857 sold at auction this month for $114,000. The pants and other artifacts were recovered from the remains of the SS
Central America, which sank in a hurricane during a voyage from Panama to New York. The trousers, thought to be an early pair of Levis jeans, were found inside a trunk belonging to a survivor of the wreck.
Salvage is from an Old French word,
salver, "to save."
Unusually cold and snowy weather brought parts of the U.K.'s transit network to a
standstill over the weekend. Flights were canceled and many rail lines experienced lengthy delays. The country rarely gets the kind of snowfall that disrupts travel, and the conditions caused several transit systems to come to a complete halt for an entire day. Before
standstill was coined around 1700, the word
stand was used in the same way, to mean "a state of no movement."
Since electric cars were first available, drivers have noticed that it's nearly impossible to tune into AM radio stations. The vehicles generate electromagnetic energy that interferes with the frequency and causes
static, and most new electric cars don't even have an AM option. Broadcasters are naturally concerned about the future of AM radio. The word
static was first used in the context of radio in the early 20th century, named for its cause,
Los Angeles animal control officials issued a license to a six-year-old allowing her to keep a
unicorn in her backyard. The girl had written to the city asking for permission to care for the mythical one-horned creature "if (she) can find one." The agency replied that she could, if she gave it "access to sunlight, moonbeams, and rainbows," and sent the girl a stuffed toy
unicorn to care for in the meantime. The word's Latin roots are
uni-, "one," and
In Maine, farmers and nonprofits are collaborating to assist the seasonal workers who forage balsam for the state's
wreath industry, a job Mainers call
tipping. Many of those who gather evergreen branches during the late fall and winter are migrant laborers paid low wages by companies that produce the festive circular bands which decorate front doors for the holidays. Donated clothing, supplies, and blankets are making the season a bit brighter for
wreath foragers this year.