This Week In Words: June 6–12, 2020

Stories about high-profile resignations, a possible post-police Minneapolis, and controversy surrounding the Justice Department all contributed words to this week's list of timely vocabulary.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. arbiter
    someone chosen to judge and decide a disputed issue
    The Justice Department showed a "gross abuse of prosecutorial power" in its push to drop the case against Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, a court-appointed arbiter said Wednesday.
    USA Today (June 10, 2020)
    A judge tasked with reviewing the Justice Department's move to drop the charges against former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn said that the arguments for dismissing the case were without merit and represented an abuse of power. He went on to accuse the department of trying to protect an ally of the President using weak and even contradictory arguments. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to Congress during the special counsel's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
  2. blunder
    an embarrassing mistake
    Bennet's tenure had been marked by a series of high-profile blunders.
    CNN (June 7, 2020)
    The editor of the New York Times editorial page resigned after he published an opinion piece by Senator Tom Cotton calling for deploying the military around the country to disperse and even attack protestors. After the piece was met with a firestorm of criticism, James Bennet admitted that he hadn't even read it before approving its publication.
  3. capacity
    the amount that can be contained
    According to local reports, hospitals statewide remained below capacity on Monday, and none of the new coronavirus cases had been linked to recent protests in the state.
    Washington Post (June 9, 2020)
    A number of states, many of which relaxed their restrictions before the Memorial Day holiday, are seeing a sharp increase in serious Covid-19 cases that require hospitalization. Widely shared videos from that weekend showed resorts in Arizona and elsewhere crowded with people not wearing masks or maintaining social distancing.
  4. demur
    politely refuse or take exception to
    Jacob Frey, the Minneapolis mayor, demurred when asked if he would abolish the police department – but the nine city council votes will be enough to override Frey’s veto.
    Guardian (June 8, 2020)
    The Minneapolis city council voted to dismantle the police department and replace it with a new public safety system. The nine-member majority in favor of the move is enough to override the Mayor's veto if he chooses to block the change. A clear picture of the new model has not yet emerged, but it would likely involve sending more resources to anti-poverty, mental health, and drug treatment facilities, since that's what most 911 calls are about.
  5. jeopardize
    pose a threat to; present a danger to
    He added: "I cannot let my behaviour stand in the way of HQ's or affiliates' missions. They are too important to jeopardize."
    BBC (June 10, 2020)
    Greg Glassman, the CEO of CrossFit, resigned after making racist remarks in the wake of the George Floyd murder and ensuing protests. After some inflammatory tweets and remarks in a Zoom call, hundreds of gyms withdrew from any affiliation with the brand, and Adidas ended its partnership with the company. Jeu parti means "divided game" in French, implying uncertainty and risk. Jeopardy means danger, so jeapordize means "put in danger."
  6. moratorium
    suspension of an ongoing activity
    “We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested.”
    Washington Post (June 10, 2020)
    Amazon has banned law enforcement from using its Rekognition facial recognition software for a year, saying that government needs to strengthen privacy laws to protect the public. The software can be used for tagging friends in photos, but can also be used to identify protestors. It's also far from perfect, and makes more errors with darker-skinned faces. Moratorium is Latin for "delay."
  7. repercussion
    a remote or indirect consequence of some action
    But by building pressure that is too great to ignore, public scrutiny can make it easier to ensure that the guilty officers suffer repercussions.
    Economist (June 9, 2020)
    New York's law keeping police records sealed, the most restrictive in the country, was repealed by the state legislature. The Governor says he will sign the bill. Disciplinary records will now be available under the state's freedom of information law. Previously they were extremely hard to access, so lawyers often couldn't tell if an officer their client was suing had a history of bad behavior.
  8. signatory
    one who writes his or her name on and is bound by a document
    The signatories are mostly former career prosecutors, supervisors and trial lawyers who are not household names and worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations.
    Washington Post (June 10, 2020)
    Over 1,250 former employees of the Justice Department signed a letter demanding that the department's inspector general investigate Attorney General Bill Barr for his role in ordering troops and police to clear Lafayette Square so that the President could walk across the street for a photo op. Using the Justice Department for political means is illegal, and the lawyers and staffers who signed the letter expressed outrage that Barr appeared to be doing just that.
  9. suppression
    forceful prevention; putting down by power or authority
    “Voter suppression is a threat to our democracy.”
    New York Times (June 10, 2020)
    Georgia's primary vote was a disaster, with many voters waiting for hours. New voting machines malfunctioned, a new check-in system proved to be buggy, and because counties with the highest minority populations had the most problems, Democrats said that this was proof that the state government is purposefully making it hard for those communities to vote. That's what suppression means: using the power of government to decrease voting in areas likely to vote against a particular party.
  10. vigil
    the rite of staying awake for devotional purposes
    This week, thousands of mourners attended vigils and memorials for George Floyd, which culminated in his funeral in Houston on Tuesday.
    Guardian (June 10, 2020)
    Philonese Floyd, George's brother, testified before a House committee, begging lawmakers to do something to end police violence against Black people. Congressional Democrats have put forward legislation addressing sales of military equipment to police, as well as measures to prevent misconduct and the use of excessive force. Vigil is Latin for "awake" or "alert;" it's used to describe groups of people, often holding candles or other lights, gathering publicly to remember someone.
Created on June 10, 2020 (updated June 15, 2020)

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