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January 1, 2021 GMT

COVID-19 DOMINATES ANNUAL LIST OF BANISHED WORDS, TERMS

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. (AP) — Even as vaccines are being rolled out to battle the coronavirus, wordsmiths at Lake Superior State University in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula say they want to kick any trace of it from the English language. “COVID-19” and “social distancing” are thrown in with “we’re all in this together,” “in an abundance of caution” and “in these uncertain times” on the school’s light-hearted list of banned words and phrases for 2021. Of more than 1,450 nominations, about 250 words and terms suggested for banishment due to overuse, misuse or uselessness had something to do with the virus. “COVID-19” is at the top of the list. Other terms that made it: “unprecedented,” “Karen” and “I know, right?”

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SERIAL SQUIRREL: NEIGHBORS KEEP EYE OUT FOR FIERCE RODENT

NEW YORK (AP) - Residents of a Queens neighborhood are dealing with a squirrely threat. Neighbors in New York City’s Rego Park neighborhood tell WCBS-TV that an aggressive squirrel has jumped on them and bitten them in the past several weeks. Micheline Frederick has a bruise on her wrist where she says the squirrel landed on her and then bit her fingers and hand. Other neighbors say they’ve also been jumped on and bitten by a squirrel. The reason for the aggressive behavior is not clear. The CDC says small rodents like squirrels rarely test positive for rabies and are not known to have transmitted it to humans.

ONE GOOD THING: SPECIAL OLYMPIAN SPREADS MESSAGE OF LOVE

UNDATED (AP) — Derek “Tank” Schottle was withdrawn and bullied when he was a young boy. Special Olympics allowed him to gain confidence and transform into a leader. Once Tank took his message of love and hope to social media, his followers soared. Now his daily affirmations spread joy to more than 100,000 Twitter followers and beyond during the bleak days of a pandemic. Even celebrities and professional athletes have taken notice of the man who has become an advocate for Special Olympics and anti-bullying.