This Week In Words: January 4–10, 2020

News stories about fires, earthquakes, Iran, and lab-grown meat all provided vocabulary for this week's list of must-learn words.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. consternation
    sudden shock or dismay that causes confusion
    But the loss caused consternation in Misurata, a coastal city 130 miles to the west whose fighters are the linchpin of government efforts to defend Tripoli.
    New York Times (Jan 7, 2020)
    The ongoing conflict in Libya got more serious as rebels took the coastal city of Surt. It's a complicated situation, especially with foreign countries backing different sides and sending troops to help. The U.N. supports the current government, which now only holds a strip of land on the coast around the capitol, Tripoli. Turkey backs the government and has sent soldiers to try to retake Surt.
  2. contingent
    a temporary military unit
    Al-Asad air base in Iraq’s Anbar province, which hosts a US contingent, was hit at least six times, the US military confirmed.
    Guardian (Jan 8, 2020)
    After the U.S. killed Iranian military leader Qassem Suleimani in a drone strike near the Baghdad airport, Iran responded by hitting a couple of American bases in Iraq with missiles. Iranian news said that at least 80 Americans were killed in the attacks, while the U.S. said that they were warned ahead of time by the Iraquis and that there were zero casualties. Observers speculate that Iran wanted to save face by responding, but did not want to escalate the situation by doing any real damage.
  3. excoriate
    express strong disapproval of
    But Judge Emmet Sullivan was unimpressed and excoriated Flynn for his crime.
    Salon (Jan 7, 2020)
    Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced, and prosecutors are asking the judge to send him to jail for up to six months. Flynn initially cooperated with the prosecution, but that deal fell apart after he refused to take any responsibility and worked to undermine a related case against another defendant. Excoriate comes from the Latin corium for "skin," so excoriate means "to skin" or "to flay," though it's mostly used in a figurative sense.
  4. fiat
    a legally binding command or decision
    “The American people do not want, and our Constitution will not abide, a president who rules by fiat and demands obedience,” Biden said.
    Washington Post (Jan 7, 2020)
    Joe Biden sharply criticized the President after the attack that killed Suleimani, saying that he acted without authorization and without regard to the consequences of such a serious escalation of the conflict between the U.S. and Iran. Biden called on the President to explain the decision and back it up with evidence that there was an imminent attack being planned that Suleimani's death prevented. Fiat means "let it be done" in Latin. Rule by fiat is something that dictators do.
  5. injunction
    a judicial remedy to prohibit a party from doing something
    In the complaint, Uber and Postmates asked the court to order a preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing the new law.
    Washington Times (Jan 8, 2020)
    Uber is suing California over a new statute that would require them to classify their drivers as employees rather than independent contractors. The law requires companies to give workers fair pay, health insurance, sick leave, and other benefits that traditional employees receive. Uber's stock price has fallen almost a third since it went public last May, and investors worry that the law will hurt the bottom line.
  6. primordial
    having existed from the beginning
    It’s a primordial soup of bacteria, taken from the soil and multiplied in the laboratory, using hydrogen extracted from water as its energy source.
    Guardian (Jan 8, 2020)
    Scientists are successfully growing food in labs, using bacteria. The process is so efficient, and produces so little waste, that hopes are high for providing healthy, affordable food for the growing world population in a way that doesn't deplete natural resources like water and topsoil.
  7. shroud
    cover as if with a burial garment
    The unprecedented fire crisis in southeast Australia that has destroyed 2,000 homes and shrouded major cities in smoke has focused many Australians on how the nation adapts to climate change.
    AP (Jan 8, 2020)
    The devastating fires in Australia eased a bit as cooler weather and some rain arrived, but the problem is still incredibly serious and widespread. 26 people have died, and some estimates of animal deaths have climbed to over a billion. Some endangered species may have gone extinct. The Prime Minister has taken a lot of criticism for denying that climate change has contributed to the fires, and opposition leaders are calling for hefty reductions to greenhouse gas emissions.
  8. skittish
    unpredictably excitable, especially of horses
    Yet higher energy costs at a time of heightened geopolitical risks are likely to leave investors and companies skittish, fund managers and analysts said.
    Reuters (Jan 8, 2020)
    Unrest in the Middle East has oil prices rising, and though that's good for the energy sector, it's bad for other industries and consumers as fuel costs make everything else more expensive. Continued uncertainty has investors on edge, especially since Iran controls the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow piece of ocean through which nearly 20 percent of the world's oil is transported in ships.
  9. subduction
    movement of the edge of one tectonic plate under another
    Scientists described the island as being “squeezed” by two major faults known as subduction zones, where tectonic plates dive beneath one another.
    Washington Post (Jan 7, 2020)
    Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, was hit by a couple of big earthquakes. Much of the island lost power, and 300,000 people had no water either. Recovery efforts are made more difficult by the fact that much infrastructure is still not fully repaired after the storm. Officials are urging the administration to release the rest of the Maria disaster funds and add more for the new disaster.
  10. vie
    compete for something
    Pelosi has yet to choose House impeachment managers for the trial, a politically sensitive next step, with many lawmakers vying to be candidates.
    AP (Jan 8, 2020)
    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he has the votes to set impeachment trial rules, so Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi should send the articles to the Senate so the trial can begin. She is holding out until the Senate agrees to hear witnesses, which McConnell is refusing to do. He has said that he wants a quick acquittal of the President. Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says he will force the Senate to vote on witnesses, and that without them the trial will be a joke.
Created on January 8, 2020 (updated January 8, 2020)

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