Wikinews 2014: An ‘Original reporting’ year in review

Wednesday, December 24, 2014With the English-language Wikinews continuing to increase the amount of original content published, we take a look back at some of the eighty-plus original reports from our contributors during 2014.


Texans vote online for new license plate

Monday, February 4, 2008

For the first time in Texas’s history, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is conducting an online vote to help decide which license plate design the state will use beginning in early 2009.

The week-long vote is being held at It started Monday at noon and will end on February 11 at the same time. Anyone can vote for one of five license plate designs, including the current design.

The designs are:

  • Traditional Texas — This simple design features blue highlights at the top and bottom and a gold star.
  • Lone Star Texas — This design uses a mountainous landscape under a bright, cloudy sky as its background. In the top left corner is a white star amid a splash of red and blue.
  • Natural Texas — The background is a field filled with wildflowers.
  • New Texas — This red, white and blue design features a skyline composed of landmarks from major Texas cities including Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. A large gold star is faintly visible in the background.
  • My Texas — This is the current license plate that was introduced in 2000. It features silhouettes of a desert landscape with an oil derrick and a man on horseback, as well as a starry night sky with a space shuttle.

All of the designs incorporate the state’s name, an outline of the state, and the state’s nickname, “The Lone Star State”. TxDOT says they took legibility and reflectivity into account when making the designs, in order to promote safety and law enforcement.

The decision to allow a public vote was made because the state was running out of six-character combinations to assign to drivers. The new license plates will have seven characters, regardless of the public’s decision.

“By the end of this year, we will be out of license plate combinations for the three letters and three numbers that we currently put on the general-issue plate,” said Rebecca Davio, director of Vehicle Titles and Registration. “Because we need to change the plate, we thought it was the perfect time to invite Texans to participate in a design selection.”

According to TxDOT, it took 33 years to exhaust the number of six-character combinations, and using current population growth figures, they project it will take 35 years to run out of seven-character combinations.

The Texas Transportation Commission must give final approval of the design. TxDOT says the commission is “enthusiastic” about giving the public an opportunity to vote for the new design.

TxDOT considered allowing the public to submit designs, but ultimately decided that it would use a “substantial amount of state-worker time” and wouldn’t be a “prudent use of taxpayer money”.

At the time of this writing, an unofficial vote count showed the “Lone Star Texas” design in first place with over 22,000 votes. “Natural Texas” was second with over 14,000, followed by “Traditional Texas”, “New Texas”, and the current design “My Texas”.


UK Wikinews Shorts: March 14, 2010

A compilation of brief news reports for Sunday, March 14, 2010.


US Congress by new law can request President Trump’s New York state tax returns

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The state of New York passed a law Monday allowing the United States Congress to receive an individual’s NY state tax returns via a formal request, including a New York resident, such as current U.S. President Donald Trump. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to sign it into law, which would allow the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Joint Committee on Taxation to request Donald Trump’s tax returns.

The law requires the committees provide a request for a, “specified and legitimate legislative purpose.” The law does not target Trump by name. Rather, the U.S. Congress can obtain personal financial records without a warrant. Republicans in the New York legislature claim this gives legal coverage for the federal government violate an individuals privacy and conduct “fishing expeditions.”

The fourth amendment of the United States Constitution says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

During the 2016 United States presidential race, Trump declined to release any of his tax returns, saying they were under audit by the Internal Revenue Service. It is not required by law for candidates to release this information, but it us unusual for one not to do so.



US plan for broadband Internet released

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The United States Federal Communications Commission released a plan to provide broadband Internet access to at least 90% of the American population today, and sent a copy of the plan to Congress, which will consider whether to introduce legislation to enact portions of the proposal. Other parts will be decided on by various government agencies.

The plan is intended to spur adoption of broadband Internet in the US by extending broadband access to areas of the country, such as rural areas, that do not currently have such access, as well as substantially increasing the speed of existing broadband installations. Currently, only around 65% of American households have broadband connectivity; if approved, the new plan would increase that number to 90% by 2020. According to a statement from the FCC, the plan would provide a “foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness and a better way of life.”

Opposition to the plan is largely based on two points, which are cost, estimated be as much as $350 billion, and the effect on current users of airwaves, which new broadband access would use. According to the FCC, the plan would end up being revenue-neutral, thanks to income from the auctioning of airwaves, although in past such auctions revenue has gone to the US government. Separately, the proposal would include some changes to regulations over Internet lines, which are largely opposed by the industry, as well as plans to introduce a new fee for use of the airwaves, which are currently untaxed.


Kennedy Center names 2007 honors recipients

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Kennedy Center announced that its 30th presentation of the Kennedy Center Honors would go to pianist Leon Fleisher, comedian Steve Martin, singer Diana Ross, director Martin Scorsese and musician Brian Wilson. The Center was opened to the public in 1971 and was envisioned as part of the National Cultural Center Act, which mandated that the independent, privately-funded institution would present a wide variety of both classical and contemporary performances, commission the creation of new artistic works, and undertake a variety of educational missions to increase awareness of the arts.

In a statement, Kennedy Center Chairman Stephen A. Schwarzman said that “with their extraordinary talent, creativity and perseverance, the five 2007 honorees have transformed the way we, as Americans, see, hear and feel the performing arts.”

Fleisher, 79, a member of the Peabody Institute‘s music faculty, is a pianist who lost use of his right hand in 1965 due to a neurological condition. He became an accomplished musician and conductor through the use of his left hand. At 67, he regained the use of his right hand. With the advent of Botox therapy, he was once more able to undertake two-hand performances in 2004, his first in four decades. “I’m very gratified by the fact that it’s an apolitical honor,” Fleisher said. “It is given by colleagues and professional people who are aware of what [an artist] has done, so it really is apolitical — and that much more of an honor.”

Martin, 62, a comedian who has written books and essays in addition to his acting and stand-up comedy career, rose to fame during his work on the American television program Saturday Night Live in the 1970’s. Schwarzman praised his work as that of a “renaissance comic whose talents wipe out the boundaries between artistic disciplines.” Martin responded to the honor saying, “I am grateful to the Kennedy Center for finally alleviating in me years of covetousness and trophy envy.”

Ross, 63, was a product of Detroit‘s Brewster-Douglass Projects when as a teeager she and friends Mary Wilson and Florence Ballardis formed The Supremes, a ground-breaking Motown act. She portrayed singer Billie Holiday in the 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues, which earned her an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe award. “Diana Ross’ singular, instantly recognizable voice has spread romance and joy throughout the world,” said Schwarzman. Ross said she was “taken aback. It is a huge, huge honor and I am excited to be in this class of people.”

Scorsese, 64, is one of the most accomplished directors the United States ever produced, whose work includes Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, GoodFellas, Cape Fear, The Last Temptation of Christ and The Departed, for which he won a 2006 Academy Award for Best Director after being nominated eight times. Scorsese said, “I’m very honored to be receiving this recognition from the Kennedy Center and proud to be joining the company of the very distinguished individuals who have received this honor in years past.”

Wilson, 65, along with his brothers Dennis and Carl, formed the Beach Boys in 1961. They had a series of hits that included “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” Their 1966 album Pet Sounds is considered one of the most influential recordings in American music. “This is something so unexpected and I feel extremely fortunate to be in the company of such great artists,” said Wilson, who is currently on tour.

The Kennedy Center’s board of trustees is responsible for selecting honorees for “lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts.” Previous honorees, including Elton John and Steven Spielberg, also submitted recommendations. A wide variety of people were under consideration, including Emanuel Ax, Evgeny Kissin, Renee Fleming, Laurence Fishburne, Francis Ford Coppola, Melissa Etheridge and Kenny Chesney.

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush will attend the center’s presentation at its opera house on December 2, 2007, which will broadcast on December 26 on CBS.


Gastric bypass surgery performed by remote control

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A robotic system at Stanford Medical Center was used to perform a laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery successfully with a theoretically similar rate of complications to that seen in standard operations. However, as there were only 10 people in the experimental group (and another 10 in the control group), this is not a statistically significant sample.

If this surgical procedure is as successful in large-scale studies, it may lead the way for the use of robotic surgery in even more delicate procedures, such as heart surgery. Note that this is not a fully automated system, as a human doctor controls the operation via remote control. Laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery is a treatment for obesity.

There were concerns that doctors, in the future, might only be trained in the remote control procedure. Ronald G. Latimer, M.D., of Santa Barbara, CA, warned “The fact that surgeons may have to open the patient or might actually need to revert to standard laparoscopic techniques demands that this basic training be a requirement before a robot is purchased. Robots do malfunction, so a backup system is imperative. We should not be seduced to buy this instrument to train surgeons if they are not able to do the primary operations themselves.”

There are precedents for just such a problem occurring. A previous “new technology”, the electrocardiogram (ECG), has lead to a lack of basic education on the older technology, the stethoscope. As a result, many heart conditions now go undiagnosed, especially in children and others who rarely undergo an ECG procedure.


Two new schools open in Beslan

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Two new schools have opened in the North Ossetian town of Beslan to replace School Number One that was destroyed in the Beslan school siege.

The mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, attended the opening ceremony and symbolically handed over the keys to the buildings to the school directors. He said the construction of the schools is part of a general plan to help rebuild Beslan and hoped that “children go to school with a feeling that will help them in life in the future”.

The construction was financed by the Russian government. The two schools, totalling 36,000 square meters, will house 600 pupils each. The first day of school in the new buildings will be on September 5th, 2005.

Beslan’s School Number One was seized by terrorists in September 2004. The 3-day standoff claimed the lifes of 344 people, 172 of them children.


Wikinews interviews Joe Schriner, Independent U.S. presidential candidate

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Journalist, counselor, painter, and US 2012 Presidential candidate Joe Schriner of Cleveland, Ohio took some time to discuss his campaign with Wikinews in an interview.

Schriner previously ran for president in 2000, 2004, and 2008, but failed to gain much traction in the races. He announced his candidacy for the 2012 race immediately following the 2008 election. Schriner refers to himself as the “Average Joe” candidate, and advocates a pro-life and pro-environmentalist platform. He has been the subject of numerous newspaper articles, and has published public policy papers exploring solutions to American issues.

Wikinews reporter William Saturn? talks with Schriner and discusses his campaign.


U.S. general to head NATO forces in Afghanistan

Thursday, February 15, 2007

General Dan McNeil, the highest-ranking U.S. general, will soon lead NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Following a year of increasing violence in the south of Afghanistan, NATO forces began to attack the heartland of the Taliban. NATO Commander General McNeil is expected to enact a more aggressive policy towards militants than his predecessor, British General David Richards. General Richards supported a peace agreement in the city of Musa Qala, but his plan of action failed when an estimated 200 Taliban fighters overran the town on Thursday. McNeil was appointed two weeks after the Defense Department extended the tour of 3,200 10th Mountain Division soldiers.

Col. Tom Collins, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, said that McNeill’s arrival and increased troop levels underscored American commitment in Afghanistan. Today there are 26,000 troops in Afghanistan compared to 9,500 troops in 2002. About 14,000 of these troops are under NATO command, 12,000 of whom train Afghan forces in the area. McNeil, who served in Afghanistan in 2002-2003, said “We will quit neither post nor mission until the job is done or we are properly relieved.”