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Merriam-Webster picks ‘vaccine’ as the 2021 word of the year

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With an expanded definition to reflect the times, Merriam-Webster has declared an omnipresent truth as its 2021 word of the year: vaccine.

“This was a word that was extremely high in our data every single day in 2021,” Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor-at-large, told The Associated Press ahead of Monday’s announcement.

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“It really represents two different stories. One is the science story, which is this remarkable speed with which the vaccines were developed. But there’s also the debates regarding policy, politics, and political affiliation. It’s one word that carries these two huge stories,” he said.

The selection follows “vax” as word of the year from the folks who publish the Oxford English Dictionary. And it comes after Merriam-Webster chose “pandemic” as tops in lookups last year on its online site.

“The pandemic was the gun going off and now we have the aftereffects,” Sokolowski said.

At Merriam-Webster, lookups for “vaccine” increased 601 percent over 2020, when the first US shot was administered in New York in December after quick development, and months of speculation and discussion over efficacy. The world’s first jab occurred earlier that month in the UK.

Compared to 2019, when there was little urgency or chatter about vaccines, Merriam-Webster logged an increase of 1,048 percent in lookups this year.

Debates over inequitable distribution, vaccine mandates and boosters kept interest high, Sokolowski said. So did vaccine hesitancy and friction over vaccine passports.

The word “vaccine” wasn’t birthed in a day, or due to a single pandemic. The first known use stretches back to 1882 but references pop up earlier related to fluid from cowpox pustules used in inoculations, Sokolowski said.

It was borrowed from the New Latin “vaccina,” which goes back to Latin’s feminine “vaccinus,” meaning “of or from a cow.” The Latin for cow is “vacca,” a word that might be akin to the Sanskrit “vasa,” according to Merriam-Webster.

Inoculation, on the other hand, dates to 1714, in one sense referring to the act of injecting an “inoculum.”

Earlier this year, Merriam-Webster added to its online entry for “vaccine” to cover all the talk of mRNA vaccines, or messenger vaccines such as those for COVID-19 developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

While other dictionary companies choose words of the year by committee, Merriam-Webster bases its selection on lookup data, paying close attention to spikes and, more recently, year-over-year increases in searches after weeding out evergreens.

The company has been declaring a word of the year since 2008.

Among its runners-up in the word biography of 2021:

INSURRECTION: Interest was driven by the deadly Jan. 6 siege on the US Capitol. Arrests continue, as do congressional hearings over the attack by supporters of President Donald Trump. Some of Trump’s allies have resisted subpoenas, including Steve Bannon.

Searches for the word increased by 61,000 percent over 2020, Sokolowksi said.

INFRASTRUCTURE: President Joe Biden was able to deliver what Trump often spoke of but never achieved: A bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law. When Biden proposed help with broadband access, eldercare and preschool, conversation changed from not only roads and bridges but “figurative infrastructure,” Sokolowski said.

“Many people asked, what is infrastructure if it’s not made out of steel or concrete? Infrastructure, in Latin, means underneath the structure,” he said.

PERSEVERANCE: It’s the name of NASA’s latest Mars rover. It landed Feb. 18, 2021. “Perseverance is the most sophisticated rover NASA has ever sent to the Red Planet, with a name that embodies NASA’s passion, and our nation’s capability, to take on and overcome challenges,” the space agency said.

The name was thought up by Alexander Mather, a 14-year-old seventh-grader at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia. He participated in an essay contest organized by NASA. He was one of 28,000 K-12 students to submit entries.

NOMAD: The word had its moment with the 2020 release of the film “Nomadland.” It went on to win three Oscars in April 2021, including best picture, director (Chloé Zhao) and actress (Frances McDormand). Zhao became the first woman of color to win best director.

The AP’s film writer Jake Coyle called the indie success “a plain-spoken meditation on solitude, grief and grit. He wrote that it “struck a chord in a pandemic-ravaged year. It made for an unlikely Oscar champ: A film about people who gravitate to the margins took center stage.”

Other words in Merriam-Webster’s Top 10: Cicada (we had an invasion), guardian (the Cleveland Indians became the Cleveland Guardians), meta (the lofty new name of Facebook’s parent company), cisgender (a gender identity that corresponds to one’s sex assigned at birth), woke (charged with politics and political correctness) and murraya (a tropical tree and the word that won the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee for 14-year-old Zaila Avant-garde).

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RAK arts festival celebrates 10th anniversary in February launch

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The Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival (RAKFAF) will celebrate its 10th edition this year, under the theme ‘The Journey,’ a celebration of the annual event’s first decade and the first 50 years of the United Arab Emirates.

The annual arts festival – established under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah – will open to the public on Friday 4 February and run until Thursday, 31 March 2022.

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Artists will share their interpretations of what this theme means to them through the lens of ancestry, migration, national identity, and personal growth.

The historic Ras Al Khaimah pearling village of Al Jazirah Al Hamra will once again provide the central backdrop for the Festival, having been its home for the past three years and standing as a critical bridge between Ras Al Khaimah’s cultural heritage and contemporary art scene.

Satellite exhibition sites will also offer unique settings for different events including the public viewing deck of the UAE’s highest peak Jebel Jais and the Open Park on Al Marjan Island.

The free-to-attend outdoor art, photography, and sculpture exhibition will present a diverse collection of artworks from over 150 artists hailing from more than 45 countries. There will also be a vibrant program of film screenings, workshops, guided tours, and other events held across the Festival’s various locations.

The Festival’s Director, Suqrat bin Bisher, noted that despite the global pandemic hitting the event last year, it remained popular.

“After the success of last year’s Festival which played a truly important role in bringing the community together in spite of a global pandemic, we are excited to reach this 10th year in which we celebrate togetherness, humanity and Ras Al Khaimah’s role in the world of art and culture,” Bisher said.

“Our stunning natural landscape offers the perfect backdrop for open-air events from film to exhibitions in addition to helping us broaden the festival’s reach to those who may not otherwise have discovered us.”

Speaking ahead of the Festival’s opening next month, His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, suggested that the 10th year of RAKRAF is a momentous occasion and a cause for great celebration, coinciding as it does with the UAE’s 51st year.

“Arts and culture are vital components in humanity’s ongoing pursuit of greater togetherness and tolerance, as these fields promote the virtues of dialogue, collaboration and understanding, which remain a constant means of uniting humanity. The festival provides a platform for artists from all over the world, as well as our local talent and community members, to come together in a unique location to converse, to forge bonds and to learn, all through the medium of art and culture,” he said.

All international standard COVID-19 safety guidelines are in place for RAKFAF.

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Al Arabiya becomes first regional news channel to exceed 10 mln YouTube subscribers

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Al Arabiya has become the first news channel in the Arab region to reach over 10 million YouTube subscribers.

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Videos posted on Al Arabiya’s YouTube channel have gained over 5 billion views, a number no other competing news channel in the Arab region has reached.
The Al Arabiya team has published 110,000 videos and the hours watched on the Arabic YouTube channel exceeded the 200-million-hour mark.
The numbers also reveal more about the keenness of Arab nationals to follow and interact with Al Arabiya and its published content. Al Arabiya videos on YouTube have received more than 52 million likes, and more than 20 million comments.
Al Arabiya is not only leading the Arab region channels on YouTube, but also on other social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and others.
Mamdouh al-Muhaini, General Manager of Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath channels, confirmed that Al Arabiya always aims to lead, whether as a television station or through its various platforms on social media.
Al-Muhaini pointed out that these figures confirm the trust of the viewers and followers of Al Arabiya, “and this trust is a major responsibility that falls on the shoulders of Al Arabiya and its employees.”
He also stressed that “Al Arabiya has not and will not stop improving to keep up with anything new in the media,” explaining that “the content published on the Al Arabiya platforms always takes into account the age group and the geographical location of the reach of each media platform in different countries.”

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Qatari Al-Attiyah wins Saudi Arabia’s Dakar Rally, Sunderland takes motorbike race

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Nasser Al-Attiyah clinched his fourth Dakar Rally title on Friday in Jeddah after leading from the first stage on New Year’s Day.

Al-Attiyah could afford to let nearest rival Sebastien Loeb, the former nine-time rally world champion, beat him by more than five minutes on the 12th and last sandy stage from Bisha and still cruise to overall victory by more than 27 minutes. The Qatari previously won in 2011, 2015 and 2019.

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British rider Sam Sunderland won his second Dakar motorbike title after beating stage winner Pablo Quintanilla of Chile by 3 1/2 minutes, the closest margin since 1994.

But the rally’s end was overshadowed by the road crash death of a support staff member from the PH Sport team on a liaison route.

Quentin Lavalée, aged 20 of France, was killed when the car he was driving collided with a local truck, police told Dakar Rally organizers. A passenger with Lavalée, Maxime Frere of Belgium, was injured and taken to a Jeddah hospital. Lavalee was a chief mechanic.

Al-Attiyah was runner-up in the last two Dakars in Saudi Arabia, and focused on rallying in the past year without sharing time with sport shooting or powerboating. Plagued by punctures on the Dakar, he fine-tuned a Toyota with bigger tires and suspension and came to Saudi having won seven rallies.

His biggest rivals struck trouble early. Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel lost a rear wheel and three-time champ Carlos Sainz made a bad navigation error. Loeb’s drive shaft broke and by the rest day a week ago, Al-Attiyah had a 50-minute lead.

Loeb desperately chipped at the gap in search of his first Dakar title but Al-Attiyah and co-driver Matthieu Baumel expertly avoided trouble.

“It was an incredible Dakar for us. The whole race went without a hitch,” Al-Attiyah said. “We opened up a gap on the first day and have since managed our lead. We’re really happy, and I reckon we’ll start thinking of the next Dakar in a week or 10 days.”

Al-Attiyah’s fourth Dakar tied him for second most with Ari Vatanen. Peterhansel leads with eight.

Loeb’s second place matched his 2017 result in Argentina.

“We never stopped attacking, so we have no regrets,” Loeb said. “Nasser has tons of experience and a co-driver who only makes mistakes once in a blue moon, so he controlled the race to perfection. I still had a blast, though, because every time we gained time on him, it felt great.”

Saudi driver Yazeed Al Rajhi was third for his first Dakar podium at his eighth attempt.

Sunderland’s preparation wasn’t ideal. Riding for his new team GasGas, he had a bad crash at the Rally Kazakhstan and retired ill from the Morocco Rally. Yet, he led throughout the first week of the Dakar and when he was challenged in the second week, timed his winning run to perfection.

“I had a pretty rough season, but when you win the Dakar, it’s all worth it,” Sunderland said.

Quintanilla was runner-up for the second time in three Dakars.

“It was physically and mentally exhausting. But I’m really pleased with my performance,” Quintanilla said.

Austrian rider Matthias Walkner, the 2018 champion and twice runner-up, was nearly seven minutes back in third overall which, he said, “almost feels like a victory.”

Sunderland’s brother-in-law, Adrien van Beveren of France, was fourth, and Joan Barreda of Spain fifth while carrying a shoulder injury.

Mason Klein, the 20-year-old American on debut, was ninth, 13 seconds ahead of two-time winner Toby Price of Australia.

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