>'They' is word of the year
Merriam-Webster has named "they" its word of the year.
The US dictionary also recently added a new definition of "they", reflecting its use as a singular personal pronoun for non-binary people.
A number of high-profile non-binary figures were in the news this year and searches for "they" on Merriam-Webster's website were 313% higher this year than they were in 2018.
"It reflects a surprising fact: even a basic term - a personal pronoun - can rise to the top of our data," the dictionary said in a statement. "English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun to correspond neatly with singular pronouns like 'everyone' or 'someone', and as a consequence 'they' has been used for this purpose for over 600 years."
>Mayor bans death on weekends
The mayor of a rural French community has taken the rather extreme and outlandish decision to ban residents from "dying in their homes on Saturdays, Sundays and on public holidays" due to a lack of doctors in the area.
La Gresle is community of roughly 850 people on the outskirts of Lyon which, like many rural communities across France, suffers an acute dearth of doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners.
The problem came to a head early this December after no doctor could be found to record official medical details following the death of an elderly nursing home resident.
La Gresle Mayor Isabelle Dugelet said that the "absurd order" was in response to "the absurdity of the (healthcare) system."
The mayor acknowledged that the "death ban" is indeed a publicity stunt to try and draw attention to the community's dire healthcare situation in the region.
>US Fed holds rates steady
The US Federal Reserve on Wednesday left interest rates unchanged after cutting rates at each of the last three meetings, as officials assessed the effect of rate cuts on the US economy.
The Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed's policy-making committee, decided to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 1.5% to 1.75% after concluding a two-day policy meeting, in line with market expectations.
"Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in October indicates that the labor market remains strong and that economic activity has been rising at a moderate rate," the Fed said in a statement, adding that household spending has been rising at a strong pace while business fixed investment and exports remain weak.
The median estimate for the federal funds rate is at 1.6% at the end of 2020, suggesting no rate cuts or hikes in 2020, according to Fed officials' interest rate forecasts released on Wednesday.
>TOEFL, CSE standards linked
China's Standards of English Language Ability, or CSE, the country's first standards for English proficiency, have been linked to the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), which will further promote the international integration of China's foreign language assessment system, according to education authorities.
The National Education Examinations Authority under the Ministry of Education and the Educational Testing Service, who administrates TOEFL tests, jointly released the results of a two-year research effort on aligning the standards and the tests at a news conference on Wednesday.
By linking TOEFL test scores to the CSE, for example, a minimum overall score of 37 in TOEFL is equal to CSE Level 4, with the minimum scores of 4 in listening, 7 in reading, 13 in speaking and 13 in writing.
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