Wikinews 2020: An ‘Original reporting’ year in review

Friday, January 1, 2021

After an active year of original content published on the English-language Wikinews, we take a look back at some of the two dozen-plus original reports from our contributors during 2020.

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Florida frog skull survey shows spikes, say scientists

Thursday, March 26, 2020

In a new study released by the Florida Museum of Natural History on Monday, scientists report spiky skulls evolved at least 25 separate times in different kinds of frogs. The survey was reportedly to be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lead author Daniel Paluh, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Florida, said, “Superficially, frogs may look similar, but when you look at their skulls, you see drastic differences […] Some of the weirdest skulls are found in frogs that eat birds and mammals, use their heads as a shield, or in a few rare cases, are venomous. Their skulls show how strange and diverse frogs can be.”

Some scientists had previously suggested smaller frogs would tend to develop spiky skulls, but that is not what this study reports. Here, researchers evaluated CT scans on 158 different species. They found frogs that had similar ecological niches — meaning they either acquired food in the same way or defended themselves from predators in the same way — tended to develop skulls with similar grooves, spikes, or specialized jaw joints regardless of whether they were ancestrally related to each other.

According to the study, skulls with spikes, grooves or ridges — called hyperossification — often accompanied frogs eating very large prey relative to their own body size. The strong, spacious skulls would allow the frogs to have very big mouths with which to catch birds, rodents, reptiles and other frogs. Spikes sometimes coincided with venomous frogs. The researchers speculated the spikes make it dangerous for predators to hit the frog’s head, as the spikes would break venom sacs under the frog’s skin.

Other bone formations included projections resembling fangs or lower teeth that different species of frogs use for catching prey and fighting. Very few frogs have true lower teeth.

One of the study’s authors, herpetologist David Blackburn, told Discover Magazine the frequency of spiky skulls evolving in otherwise unrelated frogs suggested some deep pattern frogs fell into as circumstances arose: “Somehow, these frogs are turning on some ancient developmental machinery in their DNA.”

Since 1973, when frogs skulls were last comprehensively surveyed, scientists have documented enough new species to double the number known to humans. Also, modern techniques exploit CT scans, of which Paluh and his team made liberal use. The research was part of the oVert project, funded by the National Science Foundation, meant to comprehensively CT-scan over 20,000 vertebrate specimens from United States museums.

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Thirteen dead, several wounded in Fort Hood, Texas shooting

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The United States Army has confirmed that thirteen people have been killed after a shooting rampage at the Fort Hood army base in Texas. An additional thirty are reported wounded, and the gunman is in stable condition after being shot by military police. Two other soldiers are in detention.

The incident took place at a deployment readiness center. According to local congressman John Carter, shooting broke out shortly before a graduation ceremony.

The gunman has been identified as an army officer, Major Malik Nadal Hasan. He is a mental health professional, presumably either a psychologist or psychiatrist, according to an unnamed defense official. Two other suspects were in custody, the base commander, Lieutenant-General Bob Cone, said.”Our investigation is ongoing, but preliminary reports indicate that there was a single shooter,” Cone said at a news conference. “The shooter is not dead, but in custody in stable condition.”

Initial reports said that the gunman had been shot to death by military police; however, General Cone now says that the man is in custody and is in the hospital with injuries, but is in stable condition. FOX40 News in Sacramento managed to record a military spokesperson commenting on why the media wasn’t informed about the status of the gunman until four hours after the initial announcement was made that he had been fatally shot. That military spokesman replied, “the doctors didn’t know who they were working on.”

When asked at the conference whether Hasan’s attack might have been a terrorist act, General Cone replied that “I couldn’t rule that out, but I’m telling you that right now the evidence does not suggest that.”

It is not currently clear if those killed and wounded are civilian or military. The gunman is reported to have been in uniform and using handguns. Eyewitnesses claim at least one man was armed with a high-power sniper rifle. The chief of media at the base, Christopher Hogue, said to reporters that “the only one we know who was shooting was killed and he had two handguns.”

There may have been other people involved in the shooting, however. “We […] have apprehended two additional soldiers that are suspects. There were eyewitness accounts that there may have been more than one shooter,” General Cone said.

Effective immediately Fort Hood is closed. This is not a Drill. It is an Emergency Situation.”

The Killeen Independent School District said that all schools in the area were placed on lockdown. The base was closed down following the incident as well. “Effective immediately Fort Hood is closed,” a statement on the Fort Hood website read. “This is not a Drill. It is an Emergency Situation.” The website appears to have gone down shortly after the announcement.

A serviceman at the base described his experiences to the BBC. “I heard the emergency announcement over the speakers outside and saw people rushing to get indoors. In our office we’re okay but we’re hearing about the deaths. […] We are still on lockdown. I am hearing that at least nine people may be dead.”

Greg Schannep, a retired colonel, was heading to the 2 P.M. graduation ceremony when he heard gunshots and saw an injured soldier run past him. “Initially, I thought it was a training exercise,” he recounted, as quoted by the New York Daily News. “A soldier came running past me and said ‘sir, there is someone shooting.’ As he ran past me I saw blood on his back. I don’t think he even knew he had been shot.”

“It’s chaotic,” said the director of a local coffee shop near the base, as quoted by the Associated Press. “They’re just saying that they’re under attack they don’t know what’s going on. […] The phones are jammed. Everybody is calling family members and friends. Soldiers are running around with M-16s.”

The authorities are still gathering information about the shooting, according to Homeland Security spokeswoman Sara Kuban. “DoD [Department of Defense], DHS [Department of Homeland Security], FBI and other members of the intelligence community are assessing and gathering facts about the shooting. Because this is early in this event, we cannot at this time confirm motives behind these shootings,” she said.

The Scott & White Memorial Hospital in the town of Temple received ten of the injured victims from the attack. Its website has posted an appeal for blood donations. “Due to the recent events on Fort Hood, we are in URGENT need of ALL blood types,” it said. The hospital received 200 blood donations since 2:45 P.M. local time.

The hospital was soon closed to visitors after the wounded people were received. “[We are] no longer open to visitors as we focus our attention upon the victims and their families,” a statement on the website said. The associate system chief medical officer said that they did not have specific information on their conditions. “We get patients like this, but not usually all at once,” said director Glen Couchman.

Another health facility, the Metroplex Adventist Hospital, received seven other victims. The hospital stated that one of them was soon pronounced dead, and two others, including an EMS paramedic, are in surgery.

Fort Hood is situated in the town of Killeen. It is the largest military base in the world, houses around 40,000 US troops, and is about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Austin. It has been compared to a small town, with its own schools, convenience stores, and even two museums.

This is not the first time Killen has witnessed a shooting spree. The town was the site of the worst shooting spree in American history until the Virginia Tech massacre, when on October 16, 1991, George Jo Hennard drove his truck through the front window of Luby’s Cafeteria and proceeded to shoot and kill 23 people and wound another 20, before commiting suicide in what is know as the Luby’s massacre. It should be noted Major Hasan is an alumnus of Virginia Tech.

Hasan’s motives for the shooting spree were not immediately clear, however, Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison told the FOX news agency that “I do know that he has been known to have told people that he was upset about going [to Iraq].”

[Going to Iraq] was probably his worst nightmare

A cousin of the gunman, Nader Hasan, told FOX that his cousin had been ordered to deploy to Iraq, but was unwilling to do so. “We’ve known over the last five years that was probably his worst nightmare,” he said.

According to Nader, Nidal is a US-born Muslim who had joined the military after finishing high school, and was a graduate of Virginia Tech, where he received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. He was also a member of the ROTC, and used to be a psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

“He was a psychiatrist at Walter Reed dealing with the people coming back and […] trying to help them with their trauma,” Nader said.

Retired colonel Terry Lee told FOX that “[Hasan] said maybe Muslims should stand up and fight against the aggressor. At first we thought he meant help the armed forces, but apparently that wasn’t the case. Other times he would make comments we shouldn’t be in the war in the first place.”

Security officials said that some Internet postings made half a year ago, discussing suicide bombings and other forms of violence, appeared to have been posted by Hasan, but this has not been officially confirmed.

Some army bases around the US increased security measures following the attacks. “The bottom line for us is that we are increasing security at our gates because the threat hasn’t yet been defined, and we’re reminding our Marines to be vigilant in their areas of responsibility,” said the public affairs officer for the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona, Captain Rob Dolan.

We don’t have reason to believe that this is anything other than an isolated incident

However, a spokesman for the Department of Defense said that the attack appeared to be an isolated incident. “This is an isolated and tragic case and we’re obviously in the process of obtaining more information as the events unfold,” said Lieutenant Colonel Eric Butterbaugh.

“We don’t have reason to believe that this is anything other than an isolated incident,” an army spokesman from Fort Lewis in the state of Washington, Joe Piek, commented. “We don’t normally discuss security operations at the post anyways, but I am sure this is something that our security law enforcement will be reviewing. As we are watching and listening, there is a lot we don’t know.”

…a horrific outburst of violence

President Barack Obama described the incident as “a horrific outburst of violence” in a press conference in Washington D.C., going on to say, “It is difficult enough when we lose these brave men and women abroad, but it is horrifying that they should come under fire at an army base on US soil. […] We will make sure that we get answers to every single question about this horrible incident. We are going to stay on this.”

Texas Senator Hutchison released a statement regarding the incident. “I am shocked and saddened by today’s outburst of violence at Fort Hood that has cost seven of our brave service members their lives and has gravely injured others. My heart goes out to their loved ones,” she said.

“Our dedicated military personnel have sacrificed so much in service to our country, and it sickens me that the men and women of Fort Hood have been subjected to this senseless, random violence. I know all Americans share this concern for the soldiers and their families who are affected by this tragedy,” the statement continued.

Robert Gates, the Defense Secretary, expressed his sympathy to those affected by the attack. “I can pledge that the Department of Defense will do everything in its power to help the Fort Hood community get through these difficult times,” he said in a statement.

Vice President Joe Biden also offered his condolences. “We are all praying for those who were wounded and hoping for their full and speedy recovery. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the entire Fort Hood community as they deal with this senseless tragedy,” he remarked.

“I was saddened to learn of the tragic incident at Fort Hood. Laura and I are keeping the victims and their families in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” wrote former president George W. Bush in a statement from his office in Dallas.

The state’s governor, Rick Perry, ordered all flags in Texas to be flown at half-staff until Sunday. “[I am] keeping those affected by today’s incidents in our thoughts and prayers,” he said.

The junior senator from Texas, John Cornyn, also issued a statement. “My heart goes out to the victims of the tragedy that occurred today at Fort Hood, as well as their families. Fort Hood is one of our nation’s finest and largest military installations, and a place that has long been a source of pride for Texans, and for all Americans who value the selfless service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform,” the statement read.

“It is imperative that we take the time to gather all the facts, as it would be irresponsible to be the source of rumors or inaccurate information regarding such a horrific event. Once we have ascertained all the facts, working with our military leaders and law enforcement officials on the ground, we can determine what exactly happened at Fort Hood today and how to prevent something like this from ever happening again.”

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Dairy cattle with names produce more milk, according to new study

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Giving a cow a name and treating her as an individual with “more personal touch” can increase milk production, so says a scientific research published in the online “Anthrozoos,” which is described as a “multidisciplinary journal of the interactions of people and animals”.

The Newcastle University‘s School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development’s (of the Newcastle University Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering) researchers have found that farmers who named their dairy cattle Ermintrude, Daisy, La vache qui rit, Buttercup, Betsy, or Gertrude, improved their overall milk yield by almost 500 pints (284 liters) annually. It means therefore, an average-sized dairy farm’s production increases by an extra 6,800 gallons a year.

“Just as people respond better to the personal touch, cows also feel happier and more relaxed if they are given a bit more one-to-one attention,” said Dr Catherine Douglas, lead researcher of the university’s School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. “By placing more importance on the individual, such as calling a cow by her name or interacting with the animal more as it grows up, we can not only improve the animal’s welfare and her perception of humans, but also increase milk production,” she added.

Drs Douglas and Peter Rowlinson have submitted the paper’s conclusion: “What our study shows is what many good, caring farmers have long since believed. Our data suggests that, on the whole, UK dairy farmers regard their cows as intelligent beings capable of experiencing a range of emotions.” The scientific paper also finds that “if cows are slightly fearful of humans, they could produce [the hormone] cortisol, which suppresses milk production,” Douglas noted. “Farmers who have named their cows, probably have a better relationship with them. They’re less fearful, more relaxed and less stressed, so that could have an effect on milk yield,” she added.

South Norfolk goldtop-milk producer Su Mahon, one of the country’s top breeder of Jersey dairy herds, agreed with Newcastle’s findings. “We treat all our cows like one of the family and maybe that’s why we produce more milk,” said Mrs Mahon. “The Jersey has got a mind of its own and is very intelligent. We had a cow called Florence who opened all the gates and we had to get the welder to put catches on to stop her. One of our customers asked me the other day: ‘Do your cows really know their names?’ I said: I really haven’t a clue. We always call them by their names – Florence or whatever. But whether they really do, goodness knows,” she added.

The researchers’ comparative study of production from the country’s National Milk Records reveals that “dairy farmers who reported calling their cows by name got 2,105 gallons (7,938 liters) out of their cows, compared with 2,029 gallons (7,680 liters) per 10-month lactation cycle, and regardless of the farm size or how much the cows were fed. (Some 46 percent of the farmers named their cows.)”

The Newcastle University team which has interviewed 516 UK dairy farmers, has discovered that almost half – 48% – called the cows by name, thereby cutting stress levels and reported a higher milk yield, than the 54% that did not give their cattle names and treated as just one of a herd. The study also reveals cows were made more docile while being milked.

“We love our cows here at Eachwick, and every one of them has a name,” said Dennis Gibb, with his brother Richard who co-owns Eachwick Red House Farm outside of Newcastle. “Collectively, we refer to them as ‘our ladies,’ but we know every one of them and each one has her own personality. They aren’t just our livelihood, they’re part of the family,” Gibb explained.

“My brother-in-law Bobby milks the cows and nearly all of them have their own name, which is quite something when there are about 200 of them. He would be quite happy to talk about every one of them. I think this research is great but I am not at all surprised by it. When you are working with cows on a daily basis you do get to know them individually and give then names.” Jackie Maxwell noted. Jackie and her husband Neill jointly operate the award-winning Doddington Dairy at Wooler, Doddington, Northumberland, which makes organic ice cream and cheeses with milk from its own Friesian cows.

But Marcia Endres, a University of Minnesota associate professor of dairy science, has criticized the Newcastle finding. “Individual care is important and could make a difference in health and productivity. But I would not necessarily say that just giving cows a name would be a foolproof indicator of better care,” she noted. According to a 2007 The Scientist article, named or otherwise, dairy cattle make six times more milk today than they did in the 1990s. “One reason is growth hormone that many U.S. farmers now inject their cows with to increase their milk output; another is milking practices that extend farther into cows’ pregnancies, according to the article; selective breeding also makes for lots of lactation,” it states.

Critics claimed the research was flawed and confused a correlation with causation. “Basically they asked farmers how to get more milk and whatever half the farmers said was the conclusion,” said Hank Campbell, author of Scientific Blogging. In 1996, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs provided for a complex new cattle passport system where farmers were issued with passport identities. The first calf born under the new regime were given names like “UK121216100001.”

Dr Douglas, however, counters that England doesn’t permit dairy cattle to be injected hormones. The European Union and Canada have banned recombinant bovine growth hormone (rGBH), which increases mastitis infection, requiring antibiotics treatment of infected animals. According to the Center for Food Safety, rGBH-treated cows also have higher levels of the hormone insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1), which may be associated with cancer.

In August 2008, Live Science published a study which revealed that cows have strange sixth sense of magnetic direction and are not as prone to cow-tipping. It cited a study of Google Earth satellite images which shows that “herds of cattle tend to face in the north-south direction of Earth’s magnetic lines while grazing or resting.”

Newcastle University is a research intensive university in Newcastle upon Tyne in the north-east of England. It was established as a School of Medicine and Surgery in 1834 and became the “University of Newcastle upon Tyne” by an Act of Parliament in August 1963.

The School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development is a school of the Newcastle University Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering, a faculty of Newcastle University. It was established in the city of Newcastle upon Tyne as the College of Physical Science in 1871 for the teaching of physical sciences, and was part of Durham University. It existed until 1937 when it joined the College of Medicine to form King’s College, Durham.

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Bathurst, Australia’s new hospital to be almost doubled in size

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Bathurst Regional Council, the local government responsible for the city of Bathurst and its surrounds in Central Western New South Wales, Australia yesterday revealed it had received a development application for the new Bathurst Base Hospital.

The new hospital is to be built behind the current hospital on the same site and is expected to cost the New South Wales government AUD96 million. The Bathurst Hospital will be the first in the Bathurst-Orange-Bloomfield redevelopment project.

The new hospital will have 149 beds, up from 85 for the current hospital. The hospital will also feature a mental health unit – previously psychiatric patients had to travel to Orange to the Bloomfield Hospital for treatment.

The Bathurst Hospital is expected to have state-of-the art facilities and will share some services with the to be constructed Orange Base Hospital.

The Bathurst Regional Council has approved the demolition of 12 buildings on the hospital site for enabling works. The hospital site is heritage listed although council decided that as the buildings do not contribute to the streetscape they may be demolished.

The demolitions are expected to take place late next month and will take around six weeks to complete. A temporary driveway will then be built to replace the current service entry for food and linen as it will become part of the work site.

Upon completion of the new hospital, the current ward block will be demolished leaving the original building from the late 19th century intact. The original building is expected to become an education centre and consulting rooms.

The original building was opened in 1834. Since then the facility has undergone numerous upgrades and add-ons, with the present ward block being opened in stages from 1978 to 1982.

Other buildings expected to be retained include the Daffodil Cottage (a cancer care centre) and the original Nurse’s quarters known as Poole House.

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Benefits Of Granite Kitchen Countertops Minneapolis

byAlma Abell

Granite is one of the most cost effective, durable and practical countertop options. It is a beautiful natural stone that’ll add warmth and color to your kitchen. In addition, granite is a very tough and highly resistant material which can sustain its properties in practically any environment. Granite’s hardness is second only to diamond, the hardest natural material in the world. In fact, diamonds are utilized to cut as well as polish granite.

The popularity of granite countertops has increased dramatically over the past ten years, and, as such, prices have reduced considerably. This natural stone is available in several different colors, from different tones of white to reds, browns, blues, greens, black and blues. The most popular shades are beige and brown. Granite kitchen countertops Minneapolis can withstand hot items like pans and pots, and are highly resistant to stain when it is sealed using a silicone based sealant.

Granite kitchen countertops Minneapolis are unique for the reason that no two granite pieces are exactly alike. What this means is that each natural granite countertop is a beautiful, one of a kind masterpiece. Granite kitchen countertops can create an elegance and brilliance that’s only found in nature. These countertops possess a natural loveliness that can complement any style of cabinets or tone of wood. It does not matter whether you intend to remodel your present kitchen or build a new house, with a granite kitchen countertop, you can be certain that you’ll add value to your house.

Even though granite countertops can be a little costly to install, they’ll pay for themselves in the end. When you decide to sell your house, you will discover that home purchasers who want granite kitchen countertops will be prepared to pay you more for your house than if you installed plastic laminate or ceramic tile. If you are looking to replace your old countertop with granite, make sure you hire a professional granite installer, such as Granite Unlimited Inc. to do the job for you. If you plan to install new kitchen cabinets during your kitchen remodeling project, ask your granite fabricator or installer what they suggest for cabinetry.

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Toothpaste fills cavities without drilling

Thursday, February 24, 2005

A paste containing synthetic tooth enamel can seal small cavities without drilling. Kazue Yamagishi and colleagues at the FAP Dental Institute in Tokyo say that the paste can repair small cavities in 15 minutes.

Currently, fillers don’t stick to such small cavities so dentists must drill bigger holes. Hydroxyapatite crystals, of which natural enamel is made, bond with teeth to repair tiny areas of damage.

Yamagishi and colleagues have tested their paste on a lower premolar tooth that showed early signs of decay. They found that the synthetic enamel merged with the natural enamel. The synthetic enamel also appears to make teeth stronger which will improve resistance to future decay. As with drilling, however, there is still the potential for pain: The paste is strongly acidic to encourage crystal growth and causes inflammation if it touches the gums.

The paste is reported in the journal Nature.

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US Supreme Court upholds ban on partial birth abortions

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Supreme Court of the United States on Wednesday April 18 has upheld the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. The 5-4 vote reflected the change in vote count resulting from the retirement of Justice O’Connor and the confirmation of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito.

The Intact dilation and extraction procedure, also known as partial birth abortion, involves removing an intact late-term fetus from the womb via the cervix. While it is a relatively rare operation – 0.17% of all abortions in the US in 2000, it has become a focal point in the abortion debate.

The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act bans the procedure in cases where the fetus is terminated during the operation, unless it is performed to to save the life of the mother.

Justice Kennedy wrote in the opinion of the court: “respondents have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases.” Further, he said, “Respondents have not demonstrated that the Act, as a facial matter, is void for vagueness, or that it imposes an undue burden on a woman’s right to abortion based on its overbreadth or lack of a health exception. For these reasons the judgments of the Courts of Appeals for the Eighth and Ninth Circuits are reversed.”

In a concurring opinion, Justice Thomas stated that he joins “the Court’s opinion because it accurately applies current jurisprudence, including Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833 (1992).”

In dissent Judge Ginsburg wrote: “Today’s decision is alarming. It refuses to take Casey and Stenberg seriously. It tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.”

Justice Kennedy’s words also recall the complicated issues of standing related to such cases. An issue in Roe v. Wade was the impossibility of any individual having standing in a court proceeding regarding abortion rights, since court proceedings take more than the 9 months of pregnancy, retiring any individual plaintiff’s standing before an appeals process can take place. The criterion of “a large fraction of relevant cases” may effectively deny standing to any plaintiffs who wish to litigate particular restrictions in some relevant future cases.

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