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Former Governor of Texas Mark White dies aged 77

Monday, August 7, 2017

Former governor of Texas, Mark White died at the age of 77 in Houston on Saturday, his son Andrew White told the Associated Press. The Democrat served as Texas’ governor from 1983 till 1987. White was considered as an education reformer during his single-term in office for bringing some policies focusing on education. White had suffered from kidney cancer for several years.

White’s son, Andrew paid tribute to his father and said, “He [Mark White] cared about Texas deeply […] He realized that this wasn’t about getting re-elected. This wasn’t about being popular. This was about making Texas a better place.” Former Texan Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby called White “one of Texas’ greatest governors”.

The current Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott also paid tribute to White saying, “Mark White cared deeply about Texas […] and he devoted his life to making our state even better, particularly when it came to educating our children.”

Born in 1940, White served as Texas’ secretary of state and attorney general before he became the governor. He defeated then-incumbent Republican, Bill Clements to become Governor in 1983 despite Clements spending thirteen million dollars on his campaign. Four years later, Clements defeated White to become Texas’ governor.

White brought few educational reforms including the “No-Pass, No-Play” policy. Per the policy, students had to maintain a minimum threshold of grades to participate in school sports and extra-curricular activities. The decision was unpopular among many and even blocked by a state-district judge. The state Supreme Court eventually approved the policy.

Defending the “No-Pass, No-Play policy” in 1987, White told the state lawmakers, “Let’s be real: Anyone who can study a playbook can study a textbook. Americans didn’t get to the moon on a quarterback sneak.”

After losing in his re-election attempt in 1987, White returned to private law practice and also became the owner of a security company. In 1990, he ran for the office again, but lost to Ann Richards in the Democratic primary who later became the Governor.

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BBC to cut Electric Proms for financial reasons

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

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The BBC have announced they are to axe annual music festival Electric Proms from their schedule for financial reasons. The festival first took place in October 2006. The 2011 event will not go ahead, with last year’s festival being the last.

Bob Shennan, controller of BBC Radio 2, said he was “disappointed” with the decision to cancel the festival. He said “In the current climate, we are faced with making difficult decisions, including how best to deliver high-quality live music programming throughout the year in light of continuing efficiency savings. I feel that Radio 2 can achieve the same impact of the Electric Proms in an alternative, more cost-effective way. I’m disappointed that the lifetime of Electric Proms has come to an end, but very proud of its fantastically rewarding run of creating new moments in music for the past five years.”

During the festival’s five year run it has featured performances from stars such as Elton John, Neil Diamond, and Shirley Bassey.

The decision to axe the festival comes at a time when the BBC are planning a 20% savings cut. Last week BBC director general Mark Thompson announced 650 job losses after dropping five languages from the BBC World Service.

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Nebraska court bans the electric chair

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Nebraska Supreme Court has banned the use of the electric chair in the execution of murderers. The court found that the application violated the Nebraska constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Since July 2002, Nebraska has been the only state in the United States to use electrocution as its only executional method.

The case developed from death sentence of Raymond Mata Jr., who was convicted in the murder of three-year-old Adam Gomez. Mata’s sentence was upheld by the court but stayed it stating that when petitioning for a date, the state should establish that it has a “constitutionally acceptable method of carrying out Mata’s sentence.” With this ban, no states retain electrocution as their primary means of execution; many other states retain it as an option if their primary methods are declared illegal or the condemned chooses them.

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City of Edinburgh Council seek to improve local music scene

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

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Yesterday evening saw the Usher Hall in Edinburgh host a meeting between representatives of the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) and the local rock and pop music scene. The meeting was dominated with local musicians’ complaints over the “zero tolerance” policy Edinburgh is viewed as having adopted towards amplified music.The meeting began with the leading panel — Norma Austin Hart, vice-convener for Culture and Sport; John Stout, promoter from Regular Music; Kevin Buckle, of local store Avalanche Records; and Karl Chapman, manager of the Usher Hall — introducing themselves and outlining the purpose of the meeting. This being best-summarised as a desire to emulate the vibrant music scene of places as far-flung as Austin, Texas and Sydney, Australia.

Councillor Hart indicated officials from Austin had already offered to get involved in improving the live music scene in the city; although none were present from Austin, US-born local musician Pat Dennis provided his frank opinion on where Edinburgh fails to nurture the local music scene: that failure to support a grass-roots, small venue, music scene prevents the city being capable of organising events similar to Austin’s South by Southwest festival outwith August, when Edinburgh hosts the Festival and Fringe.

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Coming in for the lion’s share of criticism, staff from CEC’s Licensing Board were visibly uncomfortable when the topic of the “single complainant” was brought up time and time again. Unlike any other business within the city, or residential properties, noise pollution within premises permitted to sell alcohol is not managed by environmental health staff. That responsibility is bundled with the alcohol license, which leaves publicans fearful that their premises will be forced to close if they do not comply with demands to cease use of any amplification, or hosting live music. This was characterised as a ‘tyranny of the minority’, a most-undemocratic approach where one person — for example, recently moved into a property adjacent to a long-established premises hosting live music — could force the closure of a business which has hosted local talent for 30+ years.

Taking heed of the strength of feeling from the majority present, Councillor Hart made a number of personal commitments towards the end of the meeting. Those included setting up a working group, Music is Audible, to look at how the council could better work with venues, and to have a follow-up meeting in March next year.

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Wikinews Shorts: September 29, 2010

A compilation of brief news reports for Wednesday, September 29, 2010.

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Canadian woman gives birth while sitting on toilet

Friday, December 18, 2009

International media attention has been a harsh mistress for 32-year-old Heather Richard of Winnipeg, Manitoba, who gave birth on Sunday while sitting on the toilet. Richard, who believed she was barren and thus assumed she could not be pregnant, thought she was suffering from cramps and a bad bowel movement.

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“I kept getting the urge to push and just thought it was a real bad bowel movement,” Richard told the Winnipeg Sun, whose interview was picked up by the Canadian wire service. “It just fell out. I thought it was my intestines, so I’m freaking out…but then it’s a little boy.” Richard realized that the product was a baby and not her insides when its leg twitched.

Relatives of Richard’s found her hysterically crying and pointing at the toilet. “She was crying and saying, ‘Help me, get my baby out of the toilet, he’s drowning,” Keith Richard, her cousin, told the Sun. While the rest of the family was immobile by the revelation, police officers knocked on her front door; she was to be arrested due to outstanding warrants that Richard says have since been cleared.

One officer performed CPR on the baby and it was rushed to the hospital. The baby, since named Isaiah, weighed five pounds, nine ounces, and suffered a skull fracture, presumably as a result of his head hitting the toilet bowl. The baby is in stable condition and Richard is recovering from her birth at home.

The incident spread like wildfire in the Canadian and international press on Tuesday and Wednesday. When asked about the coverage, Richard told the website canoe.ca that she was embarrassed at all the fuss the story generated.

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Surprise demolition of partially collapsed building in Buffalo, New York met with opposition

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Buffalo, New York —Wikinews has learned that, in a surprising turn of events, the city of Buffalo located in New York, has ordered and begun an emergency demolition on a three story 19th century stable which partially collapsed on Wednesday June 11 causing at least five homes to be evacuated. Residents are not happy, and despite the short notice of the demolition, nearly 30 people showed up to protest it. Demolition was not supposed to begin until Monday June 16.

At about 2:30 p.m. (eastern time) on June 13, demolition crew arrived at the stable located at 428 Jersey Avenue and began to unload heavy equipment which will be used to demolish the building. This came as a surprise to residents, as demolition was not supposed to start until Monday June 16.

During the early afternoon hours on June 11, the Buffalo Fire Department was called to scene after residents called 9-1-1 stating that part of the building had collapsed. Material from the building fell into the yards of at least three neighboring houses. Some of the bricks landed inside the building, while some fell into the yards of some houses behind homes on Richmond Avenue, leaving a ‘V’ shape.

At about 3:30 p.m. crews began to demolish a small portion of the stable located behind Joe Murray’s home, a resident who lives behind a portion of the building on Jersey and Richmond avenues. While demolition was taking place, the section collapsed into Murray’s backyard, prompting a call to police. Some residents who own home surrounding the building were inside Murray’s house holding a neighborhood meeting when demolition began. No one was injured when the section collapsed.

“[The building] can come down any minute,” stated Donna Berry of the Buffalo Police Department who also added that when police arrived on scene, they immediately put a stop to demolition, fearing the safety of surrounding residents and pedestrians.

“So many [of the] people [living around the building] are at risk, it makes me want to cry,” added Berry.

Police, local politicians and area residents are concerned that demolition crews and the city are not taking the proper precautions to ensure the safety of residents during demolition.

“[There is] no protection for neighbors. [This is] appalling and beyond negligence,” stated Tim Tielman, Executive Director of the Campaign for Buffalo who was referring to the negligence of the demolition crew.

“[In order to stop demolition] citizens must demonstrate direct harm to themselves,” added Tielman.

The city’s preservation board held an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the issue. Wikinews has learned that the owner of the building, Bob Freudenheim, gave the city permission to demolish the building because he would not be “rehabilitating the building anytime soon.” Freudenheim was part-owner of the Hotel Lenox at 140 North Street in Buffalo and was also an advocate to stop the Elmwood Village Hotel from being built on the corners of Forest and Elmwood Avenues in 2006 and 2007, which Wikinews extensively covered. He also financially supported a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the hotel from being built. Though it is not known exactly how long Freudenheim has owned the stable, Wikinews has learned that he was the owner while fighting to stop the hotel from being built.

Tielman states that he was in contact with Freudenheim this morning. Tielman states that Freudenheim “is not spending a dime” to have the building renovated. Tielman states that Freudenheim has offered to sell the building to any interested party for only one US dollar, but that he “flip flops [his decision] constantly,” sometimes wanting hundreds of thousands of dollars for the building. Wikinews has attempted to contact Freudenheim, but so far has been unsuccessful.

City building inspectors were also on scene evaluating the building and ensuring the safety of residents. Donald Grezebielucina states that “some people are on notice to vacate their properties”, but also stated that no other precautions were being taken other than placing “tires and scaffolding” onto the side of 430 Jersey, which sits less than eight feet from the buildings East side.

“The gas has been shut off in case we lost the building, so there would be no explosions or anything like that. It’s so unstable, the structural integrity is gone. The chemical composite of the trusses has changed dramatically and dry rotted. There are three vehicles in the basement which totally disappeared,” stated Grezebielucina to the press while protesters yelled “save our building, save our neighborhood.”

Wikinews has also learned that local residents have consulted a lawyer regarding the issue, and hope to petition the New York State Supreme court to issue an injunction to stop demolition. They states that Freudenheim should be “100% responsible” for his actions, and many are afraid that once the building is demolished, Freudenheim’s charges of neglect will be abolished. Freudenheim is facing housing violations for neglecting the building. Though residents are fighting, Tielman states that “an injunction is unlikely.”

“We had a letter of violation against him. He was supposed to have started work to stabilize the brick this Monday. We all hope this building could be saved. But we’ve got five houses evacuated and we cannot tolerate any further delay. We’ve got to get people back into their homes in a safe condition,” said Richard Tobe, Commissioner of the city’s Permit and Inspection Services.

Demolition is set to resume at 8:00 a.m.in the morning of Saturday June 14.

Mike Lombardo, the Commissioner for the Buffalo Fire Department, believes that the building was built in 1812 or 1814, making it nearly 200 years old. It is one of only three stables still standing in the city.

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‘Bloody Sunday Inquiry’ publishes report into British Army killing of activists in Northern Ireland

Thursday, June 17, 2010

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On Tuesday, the “Bloody Sunday Inquiry” published its report into 1972 British Army killing of fourteen civil rights activists in Northern Ireland.

The Saville Inquiry, a twelve-year-long public inquiry into the fatal shooting, published their 5,000-page report; stating, the deaths were “unjustified”.

The events of “Bloody Sunday” in 1972 saw soldiers open fire on civilians during a civil rights march. Family members and supporters of the victims reacted positively to the report, as they gathering outside the Guildhall in Derry.

“What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong”, British Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons. He also said, “[t]he Government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the armed forces, and for that, on behalf of the Government, indeed on behalf of our country, I am deeply sorry”, and that “[t]here is no doubt. There’s nothing equivocal, there are no ambiguities”.

Cameron said the Saville report states that those killed did not pose a threat and some of those killed and injured were clearly fleeing or going to help those injured or dying. Some of the key findings were;

  • “The firing by soldiers of 1 Para caused the deaths of 13 people and injury to a similar number, none of whom was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury”;
  • “Despite the contrary evidence given by soldiers, we have concluded that none of them fired in response to attacks or threatened attacks by nail or petrol bombers”;
  • Accounts by soldiers were rejected and some had “knowingly put forward false accounts”;
  • The paratroopers shot first and later members of the official IRA fired a number of shots but this “did not provide an explanation for why soldiers targeted and hit people”;
  • Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein, was “probably armed with a sub-machine gun” on the day, but did not engage in “any activity that provided any of the soldiers with any justification for opening fire”.

Twenty-seven civil rights activists were shot by the British Army’s Parachute Regiment (of which “1 Para” was identified as the regiment mainly responsible) during an illegal Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) march in the Bogside area of Derry in 1972. The NICRA was an organisation, formed in early 1967, which campaigned against discrimination of the Roman Catholic minority in Northern Ireland and had five key demands: “one man, one vote”; an end to gerrymandering, housing discrimination, public authority discrimination and the abolition of the B Specials police reserve.

In the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, an inquiry by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, justified British army actions on the day and claimed that many of the activists were armed with guns and nail bombs. Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader MP Mark Durkan said, “[t]he families have waited a long time for justice and for a long time the reputations and innocence of their loved ones have been smeared by the findings of Widgery”.

The shootings lead to the strengthening of Irish republicans’ anti-British army arguments in the Nationalist community and provided the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) with queues of new recruits for its “long war”, which resulted in 30 years of The Troubles.

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The 12-year inquiry is the longest-running and most expensive public inquiry in British judicial history, costing around £200 million. Around 2,500 people gave testimony, including 505 civilians, nine experts and forensic scientists, 49 journalists, 245 military personnel, 35 paramilitaries or former paramilitaries, 39 politicians and civil servants, seven priests and 33 Royal Ulster Constabulary officers. Evidence included 160 volumes of data with an estimated 30 million words, 13 volumes of photographs, 121 audio tapes and 10 video tapes.

The victims included Patrick Doherty (32), Hugh Gilmour (17), Jackie Duddy (17), John Young (17), Kevin McElhinney (17), Michael Kelly (17), Gerald Donaghey (17), William Nash (19), Michael McDaid (20), Jim Wray (22), William McKinney (27) and Bernard “Barney” McGuigan (41). John Johnston (59) died four months later.

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Swiss reject single health insurance

Monday, March 12, 2007

24 of 26 Swiss Cantons rejected the proposal for a single health insurance system, in which premiums would be based on income and wealth. The vote on Sunday was the latest in a series of attempts to cut rising costs and ease the financial burden on citizens.

Around 71% of voters rejected the reform. Turnout was at about 46%, slightly above the Swiss average.

As expected, voters in the main German-speaking part of the country turned down the planned reform, which was supported by the centre-left but opposed by the centre-right as well as the business community, parliament and the government.

Opposition in the French and Italian speaking regions was less pronounced. The cantons Jura and Neuchâtel in the French speaking regions voted in favor of the proposed reforms.

Health insurance premiums are higher in southern and western Swiss cantons than in German-speaking areas.

The Swiss Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin said an important part of the Swiss Population appeared to be opposed to “a revolution” in health insurance but he said that he wanted current reforms currently under discussion in the Swiss Parliament to go ahead. He called on all sides, especially health insurers and the cantonal authorities, to make efforts to reduce spending on health insurance and aim for a greater cost efficiency. Currently Switzerland has 87 private insurers providing mandatory basic health care coverage for Swiss residents under a 1996 law. But costs have sky-rocketed. Over 100,000 people are not covered by health insurance due to non payment.

To win the battle of the cost of health care, everyone must place his or her private interests behind the interests of the general public. -Pascal Couchepin at a news conference

Opponents to the initiative argued that a single insurance system would lead to complacency and create a two-tier system, in which the wealthy would be the only ones available to afford to have additional private insurance coverage.

Supporters of the initiative said a single health insurer would increase the system’s efficiency and allow for annual savings of at least 300 million Swiss Francs (about $245 million) in administrative costs. Currently, the funding system is unbalanced, since many clients on low incomes use state subsidies to pay their premiums, according to the Green Party and the Social Democrats.

The initiative to unite all the insurance companies and introduce premiums based on wealth and income was the most recent in a series of attempts over the past ten years to reduce the public spending on health care. A proposal, similar to this recent proposal, to modify the funding system of the health insurance companies was rejected by 73% of voters in 2003.

Switzerland has the most expensive health system in Europe. Switzerland’s expenditure on health care was 11.6% in 2005, in front of Germany and France but behind the United States.

Learn more about Swiss Federal Council and Voting in Switzerland on Wikipedia.
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UK police locate missing Chinese teen Mei Chen, silent on details

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Seventeen-year-old Chinese student Mei Chen, who vanished from her host family’s home in Scarborough, England, was found safe and well on Thursday by police. Her host family suggested she was travelling to meet an unknown person from the Internet; Wikinews has contacted authorities to establish the circumstances, but has received no answers.

North Yorkshire Police launched an urgent appeal on Tuesday for the teen’s whereabouts, and alerted all of the United Kingdom’s regular police forces as well as the British Transport Police and border authorities. She had been studying in Scarborough’s International School since arriving in the country in October.

The original police appeal has since been removed, and replaced with a boilerplate notice the content “may have been moved or deleted”, possibly “because the crime has been solved or the missing person found.” The 5-foot-1-inch (1.55m) girl was reported missing by her host family on Monday, with them suggesting they were “very concerned” for her. They also raised concerns Chen may be taken advantage of due to her young age, and reported she had discussed visiting London to meet an online friend.

it [is] hard to contemplate just how harrowing an experience a missing loved one overseas can be

“No matter where in the world it happens, a loved one becoming a missing person is devastating for all involved”, Matt Searle, Chief Executive of The Lucie Blackman Trust, told Wikinews on Thursday night. The charity provides support to those within the UK who experience loved ones abroad going missing, and more broadly supports UK victims of serious crimes overseas. Searle noted families of those missing find themselves “forever fearing the worst and imagining unthinkable outcomes”, adding “when all of this is happening on the other side of the world, continents away, families feel even more helpless. At home they could talk to police, authorities and other organisations, go to the site they were last seen and at least do something. This is often impossible in overseas cases — culture and language barriers often create huge hurdles in simply reporting a case at all.” He concluded by saying that, while charities such as his can provide some support, ultimately “it [is] hard to contemplate just how harrowing an experience a missing loved one overseas can be.”

Investigators found Chen caught a train from Scarborough on Monday morning shortly before 10:00 and alighted at York. From there, she caught another train travelling via Peterborough to London. Wikinews contacted three police forces in a bid to establish where Chen was found, and if any investigations into the circumstances of her disappearance are ongoing. British Transport Police told our correspondent the force was “alerted in the same way we would be for any missing person thought to be travelling on the rail network”.

A British Transport Police spokeswoman told Wikinews, “I believe this was a North Yorks Police investigation, so you’d need to contact them for details.” She also said the force “wouldn’t hold that sort of info” in response to our inquiries. Wikinews asked North Yorkshire Police for the same information, but has received no response; the Metropolitan Police, which cover the London area, also failed to reply.

A message to the National Crime Agency, which includes a Child Exploitation and Online Protection area, has also gone unanswered. Wikinews wished to know if the agency was aware of the case and, if so, if they were conducting any investigations.

Scarborough International School of English describes its goal as “to develop a warm, safe and caring atmosphere where every student will be happy and successful in learning English.” Its website describes “a strong sense of belonging to a family community here”. Wikinews contacted the school but they did not reply.

North Yorkshire Police have issued a terse statement confirming Chen has been found, and thanking the public for sharing their initial, removed, appeal.

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