This Week in Words: Current Events Vocabulary for March 18–March 24, 2023

March 20, 2023
Stories about the vernal equinox, contraband peanut butter, and new NASA spacesuits all contributed words to this list of vocabulary from the week's news.
NASA revealed brand new spacesuits that will be worn by Artemis astronauts on future moon voyages. The black, orange, and blue lunar suits were designed by a private company and will be used during NASA's next moon landing in 2025. Astronaut, from the Greek roots astron, "star," and nautēs, "sailor," was coined by a 1930s science fiction writer and adopted by the U.S. space agency in the 1960s.
The United Nations released a new climate report warning that the earth is on the brink of catastrophe. According to scientists, the planet is approaching a threshold for disastrous effects of global warming, which can be avoided if immediate action is taken. In order to avoid extreme heat waves, famines, and pandemics caused by climate change, countries must rapidly transition away from fossil fuels. The Greek root katastrophē means "a sudden end."
After the TSA confiscated a passenger's peanut butter, the agency clarified that it considers the nutty spread to be a liquid. Patrick Neve, who was flying from Pittsburgh to Tulsa, had packed snacks for the trip, including a jar of creamy Jif. When it was seized by a security officer, who said, "No liquids, gels, or aerosols," Neve was confused about which category described peanut butter. A TSA official later said that it's a liquid because it "takes a shape dictated by its container."
High levels of lead contamination have been found in people who work at Mexican recycling plants, and experts say it's caused by the removal of lead from U.S. car batteries. Lead poisoning, which can cause severe neurological and gastrointestinal effects, results from breathing dust that's created — in this case, as old batteries are disassembled for parts. Contamination is from a Latin root meaning "defilement or pollution."
The vernal equinox occurred on March 20 at exactly 5:24 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Signifying the beginning of spring and the end of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the equinox marks the moment when the sun is precisely above the equator and day and night are of approximately equal length. A forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts higher-than-average spring temperatures in the eastern and south-central regions of the United States.
An American aid worker held as a hostage in Niger for six years was set free this week. Jeffery Woodke, abducted by militants in 2016, was reported to be in good health after his release from captivity. It is unclear why he was freed; U.S. officials stated that no ransom was paid to his kidnappers. An earlier meaning of hostage was "hospitality," from a root that means "guest."
New York prosecutors asked Donald Trump to testify before a grand jury, spurring rumors that an indictment of the former president would follow this week. The media is speculating that Trump will be charged with falsifying business records in connection with "hush money" payments he made in 2016. Trump's indictment would be the first time a U.S. president has been charged with a crime.
The International Space Station jettisoned old communications equipment, chunks of which created a nighttime light show over California. The space debris was ejected three years ago and has been orbiting the planet ever since. This week some fast-moving objects could be seen as they burned up in Earth's atmosphere, visible as streaks of bright light. Jettison began as a nautical term, meaning "throw overboard to lighten a ship's load," from a root meaning "to throw."
A new study shows that birds take breaks on their routes during migration to refresh their immune systems. Scientists had previously believed that the mid-journey stops were only used to eat and build up reserves of fat for the long seasonal trips from one region to another. By sampling birds' blood, researchers learned that their immunity to bacteria increased dramatically after each pitstop. The Latin migrare, "move from one place to another" is the root of migration.
Country star Reba McEntire is helping to resurrect her hometown. McEntire was born in Atoka, Oklahoma, which has struggled economically for years. As the town's population declined over the last two decades, much of its downtown district fell into disrepair. Since McEntire opened a new restaurant and concert venue in Atoka, the town has surged back to life, with 500,000 tourists visiting in just the first two months. McEntire hopes Reba's Place is just the first step in Atoka's revival.
A new Indian wildlife sanctuary will expand the territory available to the country's growing population of Asiatic lions. The endangered species is only found in the state of Gujarat, where the lions have been nurtured and protected by conservation efforts over the past two decades, raising the population to nearly 600 from 359 in 2005. The new refuge will give the lions additional space as their numbers continue to rise. The Latin source of sanctuary means "sacred place."
Late last week, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian president Vladimir Putin. The judicial document accuses Putin of war crimes, citing his responsibility for the abduction of thousands of Ukrainian children over the past year. The warrant is mainly symbolic, but it's widely seen as a condemnation of Russia's actions in Ukraine by the 104 member countries of the ICC.

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