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.


All-women crew prior to the departure of Tippu Express on Thursday.
Image: Mysore Division, South Western Railway.

As a part of a ten-day celebration of International Women's Day, an all-women crew ran the Mysuru-Bengaluru Tippu Express in the South Western Railway region of Karnataka, India. B Shiva Parvathi and Rangoli Patil were the locomotive and co-locomotive pilots of the train, covering 139 km to reach the state capital.

Mysore Divisional Railway Manager Aparna Garg told Wikinews only 10% of the employees in the Mysore Division were women, which constitutes about 650 female employees. The celebration had started on March 1.

Aparna Garg, the Mysore Divisional Railway Manager discussed about this year's initiatives for International Women's Day by South Western Railway's Mysore division with Wikinews
Image: acagastya.

Wikinews spoke with Mysore Divisional Railway Manager Aparna Garg about the ten-day campaign around International Women's Day. This year's theme of the celebration was "Each for Equal", an initiative of Mysore Division. Speaking of the gender-distribution ratio, Garg said "we have ten percent only women employees. Out of a total of, say, 6900 [employees], we have around 650. So that is around ten percent."

Interview with Mysore Railway Divisional Manager Aparna Garg.
Image: acagastya.

Garg discussed the challenges faced by women working for the Indian Railways. "Challenges, I would say, are the same as you find in the society. For a women to achieve something, is not as easy as it is for a man. They have to put double the effort, and the recognition comes very late. And then women are multi-tasking everywhere. So a lady who comes to work in the office: first sees her house and then she comes [to work] and then again she goes back and she does [household work]. So she is much more pressure, and I find them very sincere. Despite all the pressure, I find them extremely sincere and dedicated."

She also went on to discuss the remedies. "[W]hat is required at large is a change in the society and the mindset, which should begin in each house. And if we have boys in the house and we have male colleagues, we have to sensitise them more. And so that, once we have the support of these people and their mindset changes, and that is how we can influence the collective consciousness."

Empty supermarket shelves during toilet paper shortage in Sydney, New South Wales. (Image: Maksym Kozlenko)

As the SARS-CoV-2 virus spread in various countries, people started stocking up various things including toilet paper. Stores started limiting the number of packages per transaction.

Woolworths and Coles in Australia had initially announced a limit of four-pack of toilet paper, but Coles later declared "many stores are still selling out within an hour of delivery". Both store chains later said only one or two packs could be bought in one purchase transaction.

Coles ordered bigger packages from suppliers and increased delivery frequency while Woolworths ordered extra stock to keep up with the requirements.

Recycled toilet paper producer Who Gives a Crap had announced in early March they had run out of stock. reported Kimberly-Clark had been working 24/7 to maintain the supply.


Dorsa Derakhshani in Baku, 2017 (Image: Gibraltar Chess Festival)
Interview with IM Dorsa Derakhshani.
Image: acagastya.

In March, Wikinews interviewed Iranian chess International Master Dorsa Derakhshani, discussing her chess career.

Back in 2017, Dorsa, and her younger brother Borna Derakhshani were banned from representing the Iranian national team. Dorsa was banned since she did not wear a hijab, an Islamic headscarf, while competing at the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival in January 2017. Under the laws of Islamic Republic of Iran, hijab is a mandatory dress code. Her brother Borna Deraskhsani was banned for playing against Israeli Grand Master (GM) Alexander Huzman at the same tournament.

IM Dorsa Derakhshani said she currently studies pre-med at Saint Louis University in the United States and plays for the United States Chess Federation.

Derakhshani said Polgár sisters were her inspiration. "I really liked the three sisters of Polgár, 'specially Judit. Just because she kept on going and she didn't just want to be the best female chess player. She was in top 10. She was one of the first to break the barriers of gender, especially in chess society."

Speaking of the challenges in Iran, Derakhshani said, "one of the big challenges was that there weren't enough tournaments. Because in Iran, women are seen as second-class citizens, so, I wasn't allowed, and women weren't allowed to play, in open tournaments. And there weren't enough women chess players to organise a big event. And so when I was growing up and I was eight, we started — my parents started to request that okay, she is a good child, she should be able to play in male-based tournaments, basically. And they weren't even female tournaments, they were just tournaments. And so when I was eight, and when I was ten, they allowed the children, like the girl childs to play, which was kind of awkward. And then they came up with more flexible rules, like if you are in the national team, you can play whatever tournament you want, if you win your category. But still. It was very sexist."

Dorsa Derakhshani said she had decided early on she did not want to play for the Iranian Chess Federation. Derakhshani spent some time in Spain, playing for the Montcada Chess Club.

When asked if the Iranian chess players reach out to support her after the federation announced banning her, Derakhshani said, "Very very few. And that was something that I expected to be more. Because all of my high school friends, actually most of my high school, just the class that I had: they reached out and they have a group chat and they were really supportive, my high school friends. But from the chess players, I think, Iranian Chess players, very few, maybe not even five or ten reached out to show their support which was very shocking to me."

Speaking of her goals, IM Dorsa Derakhshani said, "I would really like to be in US top five. And I would also really like to be involved in chess as much as I can. I do have my FIDE trainer title, and I would really like to be able to teach more kids. I do have a few students and it seems to be going good, so far. But I would like to understand better how to fix and help the players."

Interview with Christian Keysers and Valeria Gazzola about empathy and harm aversion observed in lab rats.
Image: acagastya.

A study published in March examined harm aversion in laboratory rats for conspecifics — rats not wanting to hurt other members of the same species — and reported which region of the brain was crucial for it.

Wikinews interviewed two of the authors of the study, Dr Christian Keysers and Dr Valeria Gazzola. In the experiment, the researchers trained lab rats to develop a preference for mechanincal levers, which delivered one pellet of sucrose. After the rats had a developed a preference, the researchers placed another lab rat in an adjacent compartment. This time, when the lever was pressed, an electrical shock was delivered to the other rat, while also delivering a sucrose pellet to the first rat. Researchers observed rats chose to avoid harming their conspecifics even when two sucrose pellets were delivered.

The study also showed this behaviour was due to the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The researchers repeated the experiment after subjecting the rat's brain to muscimol and deactivating the ACC. The active rats in the test group were no longer averse to harming the victim rats, but degree of harm aversion did not drop in the control group rats.


Artistic impression showing the orbits of the triplet of the HR 6819 system. The red trajectory is of the black hole. The two stars are located in the Telescopium constellation and visible to the naked eye from the southern hemisphere. (Image: ESO/L. Calçada)
Interview with Thomas Rivinius about the discovery of the closest known black hole so-far.
Image: acagastya.

A study published by European Southern Observatory researchers reported the discovery of the closest known black hole from the Solar System. Wikinews interviewed researcher Thomas Rivinius.

Around 1010 ± 195 light years from the Solar System, the new discovery is located in the Telescopium constellation in the HR 6819 system. This makes it the first system visible to the naked eye to contain a black hole. Astronomers started observing the system in 1999, Rivinius told Wikinews.

Originally thought to be a binary system of stars, further examination indicated a third unseen object in the system. The star closer to the Black Hole orbits the black hole in just 40.333 ± 0.004 days. This black hole does not have an accretion disk. Using the binary mass function, the researchers estimated the mass of the black hole is at least 4.2 M☉ (Solar masses; 1 Solar mass = mass of the Sun).

Rivinius also said "the first suggestion that it was a black hole surfaced in 2010", and the observations were "made from the Paranal Observatory" in Chile.


In the first of six monthly articles chronicling the 2020 United States presidential election, Wikinews interviewed Michigan Taxpayers Party chairman William Mohr and podcaster Spike Cohen, two individuals the US Constitution Party and US Libertarian Party respectively nominated for vice president at their respective national conventions in May. Wikinews interviewed a third individual, truck driver Angela Nicole Walker, who was selected in May as the running mate for US Green Party presidential frontrunner and Socialist Party USA presidential nominee Howie Hawkins.

Mohr, the running mate of Constitution Party presidential nominee Don Blankenship, discussed the story behind his nomination for vice president, how his political experience complemented Blankenship's business experience, and the challenges and opportunities the COVID-19 pandemic, which Mohr felt overblown, created for the ticket's ability to gain support.

Cohen, the running mate of Libertarian Party presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen, discussed how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan changed his political views from neoconservative to libertarian, how he planned to campaign with Jorgensen in innovative and traditional manners, and how he hoped to gain traction for the campaign with a focus on libertarian issues, viral social media, and getting into the presidential debates.

Walker discussed how she planned to use her political experience to bring people from marginalized communities together, why leftists should vote for her ticket over others, and how she hoped her campaign would unite marginalized communities.

The interview with Dr Naomi Martisius.
Image: acagastya.

A study published in May conducted by archæologist Dr Naomi Martisius and other researchers concluded Neanderthals living in Europe tens of thousands of years ago were more sophisticated than previously thought. The now-extinct species used to carefully select bones from a particular animal species to manufacture their bone tools, the research showed.

The researchers collected bone tools from Abri Peyrony and Pech-de-l’Azé I in France. The bone tools were just a few centimetres in size and were about 50 thousand years old, Dr Martisius told Wikinews. Microscopy analysis of these bone tools, made from the ribs of large bovids, called lissoirs (smoothers) suggested Neanderthals used these tools for working animal skin to leathers. Dr Martisius told Wikinews this was likely due to the physical characteristics of the bovid ribs, which were "thicker" and "stronger" as compared to the "thin and flimsy ribs" of reindeers.

The study reported the archæological sites had far many reindeer bones, however, Neanderthals selectively used bones of large bovids for this purpose. For the purpose of this research, the archæologists used a technology called non-destructive Zooarchæology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS). Instead of damaging the bone artefacts in order to discover its origins, the researchers collected collagen from the plastic containers in which these artefacts were kept. Collagen is a type of protein. These bone artefacts were kept in plastic containers: some were kept for about five years, some for just a few months. During this time, the collagen proteins from bone tools were stuck to the walls of their plastic containers. The collagen samples collected from the walls of the containers are broken into smaller molecules called peptides by using a chemical enzyme called trypsin.

One of the advantages of using bovid ribs over reindeer's thin ribs was the bovid ribs would be more resistant to breaking during flexion, Dr Martisius said. Dr Martisius said such non-destructive ZooMS analysis was previously conducted, but for tools no older than a few centuries. She said such an analysis had never been previously conducted for artefacts so ancient.

File photo of Perttu Ahola. (Image: Calinou)

In June, Wikinews spoke to Finnish open-source video game developer Perttu Ahola. About ten years ago, Ahola created Minetest, a sandbox game similar to Minecraft. Ahola told Wikinews he took it as a challenge to create a game like Minnecraft when it was in its alpha version.

Minetest is a free and open-source game, which is free for anyone to download and play. It is written in the C++ programming language, and the source code is available on code-hosting site GitHub. According to Ahola, Minetest attempts to run on older hardware, with limited graphics, but to be accessible to more people: those who have outdated technology, and making it available for no cost.

Speaking about the development of the game, Ahola said, "It was developed in a very iterative manner. We've never had to throw away any big parts. Maybe iterative isn't the best word, I mean it was always developed by building on what was previously created. Actually we've had one big change, although it too was an addition: When we went from version 0.3 to 0.4, Minetest gained its Lua-based modding API. It was a really big change in how people thought about and used Minetest."

Speaking about his typical day as the core-developer of the game, Ahola said, "Currently, as I'm focusing on some other programming projects outside of Minetest, when I have some free time I still check the Minetest IRC channels and GitHub to see what's going on, and if I have something to say I'll make a comment about it. Of course I check my emails to see if any automated system has sent me a warning about something and needs fixing, or maybe there's a private message on the forum about some administrative task that needs doing. I might check some system statistics on the VPS [Virtual Private Server] running the forum to make sure it's running smoothly and make sure backups look ok."


Interview with Anthony Boccaletti.
Image: acagastya.

A study reported in March potential signs of formation of an exoplanet around the star AB Aurigae — something never observed before. Located in the Auriga constellation, AB Aurigae is about 520 light years away from the Earth. The astronomers observed the protoplanetary disk around the star. The astronomers used the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescopes in Chile to study this system.

Wikinews caught up with Anthony Boccaletti, one of the authors of the study, to discuss this findings.

Boccaletti told Wikinews "AB Aurigae is a star which is more massive than the Sun, but also very very young". They observed a protoplanetary disc around the young star. The potential to-be planet is roughly about 30 astronomical units from the star, which is almost the same distance between the Sun and Neptune.

Boccaletti said "Because we know that the planets are forming when a star is very young; so when it's like one million or five million years old. And it took about probably a million year for a planet to form. So it is important to look at very young planet, if you want to understand how the planet forms, you need to look at very young systems."

The researchers used adaptive optics and coronagraphy for this study. Speaking about the type and size of the planet, Boccaletti said, "It will be a giant planet, really. Maybe even bigger than Jupiter. Maybe 10 times the mass of Jupiter. But it couldn't be a planet that is like the Earth. If it were a planet like the Earth, it wouldn't make this kind of spiral. The spiral would not be detectable, in that case. So it's necessarily a very big planet."

Darcy Richardson in 2011.
Image: Darcy Richardson.

In the second of six monthly articles chronicling the 2020 US presidential election, Wikinews interviewed retired marine Billy Joe Parker, vice presidential nominee of the US Prohibition Party, historian Darcy Richardson, vice presidential nominee of the US Alliance and Reform parties, and educator Tiara Lusk, vice presidential nominee of the Life and Liberty Party.

Parker was the running mate of Prohibition Party presidential nominee Phil Collins, who, in June, unsuccessfully attempted to obtain the presidential nomination of the Reform Party. With Wikinews, Parker discussed his decision in "AD 2005" to join the Prohibition Party due to him being impressed with the party's standards and membership. He explained he felt Collins a much better choice for president than the Republican and Democratic nominees and spoke directly to voters, advising them to make a choice benefitting the children of the nation.

Richardson, the running mate of Alliance Party presidential nominee Rocky De La Fuente, secured the vice presidential nomination of the Reform Party, with De La Fuente as the presidential nominee, at the party's national convention in June. Richardson discussed with Wikinews, his plan to campaign for the ticket across the nation, within the confines of COVID-19 restrictions. He compared, unfavorably, President Donald Trump to President Zachary Taylor and described the then-presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as past his prime. Richardson highlighted the Alliance Party's goal to make the United States into a "gold medal nation."

Lusk, who became the first vice presidential nominee of the Life and Liberty at the party's inaugural national convention held virtually in June, was the running mate of the party's founder and presidential nominee J.R. Myers. With Wikinews, Lusk discussed how the Life and Liberty Party has less emphasis on Christianity than the US Constitution Party, how Myers' debate performance impressed her and that led her to join his new party, and said the campaign was focused on healing and uniting the nation.


The burst pipe destroyed the street.
Image: SVTCobra.

In August, a water main broke in the US city of White Plains, New York, cutting off the water supply to most of the city. The burst pipe caused a huge crater to form in a major intersection in the heart of the city, flooding the streets. Emergency crews were on the scene to repair the pipes in order to restore water service. Almost all customers had water restored by the evening of the same day.

Wikinews was on the scene around 6:20 pm local time and could observe a large crater in the street caused by the amount of water from the burst pipe. Crews from the Department of Public Works as well as some the fire department were there. Water was no longer rushing uncontrolled into the street.

Shortly thereafter, at 6:30 pm, the city issued a follow-up statement announcing the break had been contained by DPW. Residents were advised to expect the water to perhaps be "discolored" when it initially returned.

Caloundra's bench during the first half.
Image: Patrick Gillett.

In August, Caloundra defeated Wynnum 45–24 in their Round 4 Sunshine Coast Rugby Union match which was played at the Grenada Street ground in Wynnum.

Caloundra's half back Jarrod Kidston said, "Yeah it was a good start from us, probably the best start from us in a while. Then we just made a couple of mistakes and let them back in the game. They're a good outfit so they put points on pretty quick."

Wynnum coach Matt Myers said "We got back on even and managed to go try for try for a couple [...] [We] let them [have the] momentum [and they were] over the top, they got a roll on".

In the third of six monthly articles chronicling the 2020 US presidential election, Wikinews interviewed teacher Amar Patel, vice presidential nominee of the American Solidarity Party, filmmaker John de Graaf, vice presidential nominee of the Bread and Roses Party, and engineer Eric Bodenstab, vice presidential nominee of the Unity Party of America.

Patel, on the ticket with Solidarity Party presidential nominee Brian T. Carroll, secured ballot access in Illinois in July. With Wikinews, Patel discussed Carroll asking him to join the ticket, how he used Twitter to complement Carroll's use of Facebook to spread the campaign message, and listed all the states, in addition to Illinois, where the ticket had obtained or was in the process of obtaining ballot access.

De Graaf, on the inaugural ticket with Bread and Roses presidential nominee Jerome Segal, secured ballot access in Vermont in July. With Wikinews, de Graaf described the Bread and Roses Party's focus on quality of life issues, how his background as a documentary filmmaker complemented Segal's academic background, discussed the "Beauty New Deal", and emphasized the party's goal of educating the populace and providing a leftist alternative in non-swing states like Vermont.

Bodenstab, on the inaugural ticket with Unity Party founder and presidential nominee Bill Hammons, secured ballot access in New Jersey in July. With Wikinews, Bodenstab explained why his party decided to field a presidential ticket, described his efforts of building grassroots support in places without much personal connection, and basked in the moment of him and Hammons building a political party and running for president as ordinary citizens.


Maroochydore played much of the first half in their attacking half. They went into the break down by only two points – 12 points to 10. (Image: Patrick Gillett)

In the round five of Australian Sunshine Coast Rugby Union, University defeated Maroochydore 22–10.

"We turned up here knowing we'd be in for a battle [...] They pushed [reigning premiers] Caloundra and they pushed Noosa. We knew the were looking for a scalp. To Maroochydore's credit, they've made some big improvements since last season. I think as the season goes on they'll keep getting better and better, as well", Brad Tronc, University's coach, said.

Maroochydore assistant coach Ben Radmall said it was a hard and physical match. "It was pretty set piece dominated there for the last twenty minutes[...] [It was] a pretty physical game out there this afternoon. It was a good hit out. We're sore after that one", he said.

Jo Jorgensen campaigning in August 2020
Image: Jo Jorgensen for President.

In the fourth of six monthly articles chronicling the 2020 US presidential election, Wikinews took a deeper look into an August bat attack on Libertarian Party presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen, highlighted three points of controversy in the American Independent Party's presidential nomination of Rocky De La Fuente for president and entertainer Kanye West for vice president at its August convention, and examined questions about the citizenship of Senator Kamala Harris, whom then-presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden selected as his running mate in August.

A bat bit Jorgensen on the chin in early August. Wikinews reached out to Jorgensen's campaign manager and deputy campaign manager who witnessed the attack first hand. Wikinews recounted the treatment Jorgensen received while on the campaign trail and noted the impact the story had on the visibility of the campaign as it attempted to gain in the polls to qualify for the official presidential debates.

In mid-August, the American Independent Party, with ballot access in the most populous US state of California, nominated De La Fuente for president and West for vice president. This created some dissention between De La Fuente and his running mate in all the other states, Darcy Richardson. Wikinews spoke to Richardson, who felt the American Independent Party was using De La Fuente and West in an attempt to assist the campaign of President Donald Trump. At the time, West was running for president as the nominee of his creation, the Birthday Party. Wikinews examined public statements from leaders of the American Independent Party, revealing their goal of helping the Trump campaign. Additionally, Wikinews uncovered FEC documents showing a series of payments from De La Fuente to the vice-chairman of the American Independent Party in the months leading up to the party's August convention.

In public statements Wikinews reported, the same aforementioned leaders of American Independent Party, questioned the eligibility of Kamala Harris upon her selection as Biden's running mate, based on the citizenship of her parents at her birth. Wikinews documented a minority of legal experts, including "Birther King" Andy Martin, who agreed in part with the leaders of the party, and highlighted the legal majority that discounted the "birther" arguments entirely and likened them to those questioning the citizenship of former president Barack Obama.


Don Blankenship
Image: Brianhayden1980.

Wikinews interviewed businessman Don Blankenship, 2020 presidential nominee of the US Constitution Party, about his background, the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on his 2020 presidential campaign, his political agenda, and policy positions.

Blankenship named George Washington as the past US president he most admires. He cited multiple aspects providing him with the experience to perform the duties of the presidency such as: previously dealing with the government, knowing government's flaws, being poor, being rich, serving in federal prison, and defeating the establishment. He identified his leadership style as rooted in "truth and conviction."

The COVID-19 pandemic restricted his ability to obtain ballot access in many states. He lamented he would only receive half of the votes anticipated due to pandemic-related limitations, and argued if he had been president during the start of the pandemic he would have quarantined those with symptoms, protected elderly people, and allowed young people to work.

As president, Blankenship said he would reduce the number of cabinet members and appoint those who previously have not worked in government. He would choose judges based on their fidelity to the US Constitution and would apply pressure to Congress based on "common sense" without drama and hyperbole. Politically, Blankenship opposed any government action to combat climate change, argued for less intervention in the affairs of other nations and for most US troops abroad to be brought back to the US. He derided social media censorship, endorsed an end to illegal immigration to the US, and endorsed education equality based on location rather than race.

In his final plea to voters, Blankenship quoted the inaugural address of President John F. Kennedy as crucial to maintaining the survival of the United States, "Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."

Portrait of Wayne Tseng
Image: Wayne Tseng.

In October, Wikinews spoke with 2020 Melbourne, Australia Lord Mayor candidate Wayne Tseng about his election campaign. Tseng runs a firm called eTranslate, which helps software developers to make the software available to the users.

Tseng discussed his plans for leading Melbourne, recovering from COVID-19, and "Democracy 2.0" to ensure concerns of minorities in the city were also heard. Tseng also focused on the importance of the multi-culture aspect and talked about making Melbourne the capital of the aboriginals. Tseng also explained why he thinks Melbourne is poised to be a world city by 2030.

At that time, Sally Capp was the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, the Victorian capital. Capp was elected as an interim Lord Mayor in mid-2018 after the former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle resigned from his position after sexual assault allegations.

Speaking of Capp's governance, Tseng said, "I do appreciate the hard work Sally did to bridge the political divide in a council chamber she inherited. This year the pandemic has made her work even harder as for any other leaders. But what she fall short off is to stand up to the State Government (provincial government) which [has] restricted the city ability to take its own decisive action to better protect the city."

Tseng proposed the plan of "Re-open, Reset, Reform". "My strategy is to Re-open, Reset, Reform as part of Melbourne Recovery. There is a comprehensive plan for recovery in all sectors from business to residents. See attached document", Tseng said.

Also speaking about the multi-cultural aspects of Melbourne, Tseng said: "The distribution of indigenous people depends on a lot of factors. These again due to historical reasons that we can go on forever. [There] are tens of indigenous tribes across the country. Sadly some were hunted to extinction in the last century, particularly in Tasmania. Mak[ing] a location a capital for the First Nations people will be symbolic rather than totally enshrine[d] in law. Ideally it would be best in the City of Darwin. But unless I was a mayor there, it may not happen. So having [it] in Melbourne does allow some symbolic and provide a forum for the different tribes to gather and have open discussions. The 'capital' can rotate from city to city periodically if other cities allow. But ultimately it will be up to the elders to approve."

Phil Collins
Image: Prohibition Party.

Wikinews interviewed former Libertyville Township, Illinois trustee Phil Collins, 2020 presidential nominee of the US Prohibition Party, about his background, the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on his 2020 presidential campaign, his political agenda, and policy positions.

Collins named Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan as the past US presidents he most admires. He cited his 21 years of military service including a stop outside Baghdad and his background in government as a township trustee as providing him the experience in leadership to serve as President. He described his personal leadership style as focused on following the US Constitution.

The COVID-19 pandemic restricted his ability to obtain ballot access in many states, namely Tennessee. Nevertheless, he was able to obtain more ballot access than his party's 2016 ticket and so anticipated receiving more votes. For the pandemic, he outlined a plan to encourage cooperation among the different US states and find out how the states with fewer infections did so in a televised press conference.

As president, he said he would nominate a cabinet made up of people who could work with members of his own party as well as the Democratic and Republican parties. He singled out former Defense Secretary Robert Gates as his choice for Secretary of State. As for the others, he said he would seek input from fellow Prohibition Party leadership. For Supreme Court nominations, Collins said he would nominate current federal judges who base their opinions on the US Constitution. He planned to connect with members on a personal level in order to pass his agenda in Congress.

On the issues, Collins said he would combat climate change through recommendations from former leaders of the EPA. He proposed splitting the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh area between Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve their differences. To avoid social media censorship, he said he would encourage the people of the US to use alternatives. As for race relations, Collins proposed more advertising for federal government positions aimed at minorities, and the posting of federal anti-discrimination rules in each federal office.

Bill Hammons
Image: Bill Hammons.

Wikinews interviewed entrepreneur Bill Hammons, 2020 presidential nominee of the Unity Party of America, about his background, the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on his 2020 presidential campaign, his political agenda, and policy positions.

Hammons named George Washington as the past US president he most admires. He cited his experience as the founder and chairman of the Unity Party, his time managing Newsweek magazine, and founding of the site Bill's List as providing him with the experience to be president. Hammons described his leadership style as centrist, looking to others from all sides for input.

Had he been president at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hammons said he would use the Defense Production Act to produce the supplies to combat the coronavirus, expand testing, use social media to trace those infected, and convert unused hotels as a place to house the quarantined. Before the pandemic, Hammons explained he campaigned door-to-door but afterwards made use of targeted phone calls and text messages to reach voters. Despite the pandemic, he predicted growth for the Unity Party.

Hammons planned to fill his cabinet with a "Team of Rivals" like that of Abraham Lincoln's administration. He said he would look at a judge's common sense to determine who to nominate to the Supreme Court and devised a plan to prevent future Court packing with a Constitutional amendment. For dealing with Congress, Hammons emphasized the use of compromise.

As for policy matters, for dealing with climate change, Hammons said he would take advice from billionaire Bill Gates, Harvard scientists, and explore the distribution of cooling material into the atmosphere. He endorsed the use of US peacemakers to resolve the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, and argued that Facebook and other social media were doing a good job of striking a balance between freedom of expression and the protection of democracy. He proposed changing the motto of Black Lives Matter to "Black Lives Matter Too" and Defund the Police to "Refund the Police", and the nation could then "take a sober look at how we can be a more harmonious nation going forward".

Philipp Hagemeister had previously maintained youtube-dl's source code
Image: Philipp Hagemeister.

In October, after reciving a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) take-down notice from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), code hosting and sharing website GitHub blocked the public access to youtube-dl, a software which can download videos from the internet via the command-line.

RIAA's DMCA notice alleged the script's purpose of existence was to "circumvent the technological protection measures used by authorized streaming services such as YouTube" and "reproduce and distribute music videos and sound recordings owned by our member companies without authorization for such use". youtube-dl has multiple unit tests in its source code, which test whether the software works in different circumstances or not. One of the tests included the URL of some copyrighted songs.

Wikinews spoke with a former maintainer and contributor of the youtube-dl project Philipp Hagemeister about this blocking. Hagemeister told Wikinews, "youtube-dl downloads and plays videos and music, just like any other web browser, from over 1000 different services. Its uses are varied: It enables video playback on many devices (e.g. Raspberry Pi) where the video services don't work properly, it makes high-quality video playable for people with a bad or no Internet connection, it enables disabled users to use tools to play videos, and it is used for archival and research."

GitHub's DMCA repository, where the takedown notice was published for public viewing, was subject to contant vandalism from multiple GitHub users. One user submitted a pull request, merging the source code of youtube-dl along with the DMCA repository. This enabled users to view youtube-dl's source code from within the DMCA repository, provided they know the commit id.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation said on Twitter "Youtube-dl is a legitimate tool with a world of a lawful uses. Demanding its removal from Github is a disappointing and counterproductive move by the RIAA."

Soon after the public access to the repository was locked, multiple users started sharing the source code via self-hosted git servers, Tor sites and via the Torrent protocol leading to a Streisand effect. Streisand effect is when a measure to censor information causes further spread of that information.

In the fifth of six monthly articles chronicling the 2020 US presidential election, Wikinews reported on the Libertarian Party ticket of Jo Jorgensen and Spike Cohen achieving ballot access in all 50 states in September, examined the proposal of Unity Party presidential nominee Bill Hammons to prevent future packing of the Supreme Court amid the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and documented the positions of multiple presidential candidates on the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict that intensified in September.

The Jorgensen-Cohen ticket attained ballot access in all 50 US states in early September; noteworthy due to the restrictions placed on petitioning with the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing. Wikinews looked back at past third party and Independent presidential tickets that achieved the same feat. One of those tickets was that of the Libertarian Party in 1996 that included Jorgensen as the running mate for Harry Browne.

In September, the death of liberal Justice Ginsburg and nomination of conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett as her replacement led to calls from some Democrats to add more justices. Wikinews spoke with presidential candidate Hammons, who proposed fixing the number of justices at 13, the number of federal circuit courts, with a constitutional amendment to prevent Court packing.

As the conflict between the nations of Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh increased in September, Wikinews asked Jorgensen, Constitution Party presidential nominee Don Blankenship, and Prohibition Party presidential nominee Phil Collins for their positions on the matter. While Jorgensen and Blankenship argued the US should remain out of the conflict and let the nations resolve it themselves, Collins proposed the disputed region be split in half.

Jo Jorgensen
Image: Jo Jorgensen for President.

Wikinews interviewed psychology professor Jo Jorgensen, 2020 presidential nominee of the US Libertarian Party, about her background, the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on her 2020 presidential campaign, her political agenda, and policy positions.

Jorgensen named Thomas Jefferson as the past US president she most admires. She cited the knowledge, instilled in her from her grandmother who migrated from Denmark, that business and family work better without government interference, as the most important preparation for an individual to have to serve as president. Jorgensen cited her leadership style as "first, do no harm."

If she were president at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jorgensen says she would have prevented government agencies from blocking access to free market solutions, used the bully pulpit of the presidency to encourage the wearing of masks and social distancing, and put an end to pandemic-related lockdowns. Because of the pandemic, Jorgensen says her campaign events had limited participants and that the restrictions hampered her campaign ground game. However, she was able to use social media to reach potential voters. She acknowledged her lack of name recognition made it difficult initially but was satisfied with her position in opinion polls and felt it was a victory that the major party candidates discussed liberty issues such as lowering taxes, bring US troops back to the US, and suspending the war on drugs. She hoped her campaign would be remembered for her pledge to "make America like one giant Switzerland, armed and neutral."

For her cabinet, Jorgensen said she would invite policy analysts from the Cato Institute and Reason Foundation, others who advocate for smaller government, and libertarians who hold elected office as Democrats and Republicans. She cited the presidential veto as her biggest tool when dealing with Congress, and endorsed smaller budgets, cannabis decriminalization, and reform of criminal law. Jorgensen said she would pardon all imprisoned for a non-violent drug offenses and whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. As commander-in-chief of the military, she planned to bring home all overseas US troops.

As for policy matters, Jorgensen called for an end to subsidies to the energy sector, particularly that of fossil fuels, and for an increased focus on nuclear power. She argued for staying out of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict entirely and that she was more concerned with government censorship than censorship from social media platforms. As for improving race relations, Jorgensen endorsed criminal justice reform including reforms of police tactics and decriminalization of victimless crimes, and for an end to licensing laws restricting equal opportunity in economics.

Brian T. Carroll.
Image: Roy Dressel.

Wikinews interviewed retired teacher Brian Carroll, 2020 presidential nominee of the American Solidarity Party, about his background, the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on his 2020 presidential campaign, his political agenda, and policy positions.

As a past history teacher, Carroll gave his opinion on many presidents, adding he had recently acquired an appreciation for Ulysses S. Grant. He cited his teaching and experience in raising community awareness as the political experience he needed for the role of president. Carroll described his leadership style as opposite that of President Trump, which he felt included listening to experts and hiring an organized staff.

For the COVID-19 pandemic, Carroll said he would have used the guidelines of President Barack Obama and employed the Defense Production Act. He explained that rather than campaigning, the pandemic had kept him at home with his wife, which he considered a blessing. Personally, he felt the pandemic was less stressful than for others. However, he expected to perform better in the presidential election than the ticket his party nominated in 2016.

Carroll said he wanted to nominate a cabinet that would work with Congress with an emphasis on bipartisanship. Specifically, he said he would ask the Climate Solutions Caucus and the Problem Solvers Caucus for cabinet recommendations. For the Supreme Court, Carroll wanted judges with opinions more aligned with consumers and workers than corporations.

On the issue of climate change, Carroll favored less reliance on carbon energy and endorsed thorium nuclear as well as solar, wind, thermal, and carbon capture technologies. On other issues, Carroll opposed any military intervention in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict but called for diplomatic maneuvers. He said we should be patient with social media as it is in its teen years, and said that race relations were a high priority and that he agreed with many policy recommendations in the Contract with Black America.

In his final plea to voters, Carroll argued that while the major parties focus on panic, the Solidarity Party stands for hope.


In the sixth of six monthly articles chronicling the 2020 US presidential election, Wikinews covered two debates of independent and third party presidential candidates that the Free and Equal Elections Foundation held in October. Three third party presidential candidates that did not participate in either of those debates provided Wikinews with their final pleas to voters. Additionally, three political pundits gave their predictions on the ultimate outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

The Free and Equal Elections Foundation held two debates in October for which Wikinews provided detailed summaries. Free and Equal's founder and director Christina Tobin moderated both debates. The first debate featured Independent presidential candidate Brock Pierce, Green Party presidential nominee Howie Hawkins, Constitution Party presidential nominee Don Blankenship, American Solidarity Party presidential nominee Brian Carroll, and Party for Socialism and Liberation presidential nominee Gloria La Riva. All of these candidates participated in the second debate except for Blankenship.

Wikinews sought out some of the other third party and independent presidential candidates that did not participate in either October debate to obtain a final plea to voters. Libertarian Party presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen, Prohibition Party presidential nominee Phil Collins, and Unity Party presidential nominee Bill Hammons each provided a statement. Jorgensen directed her message to disaffected Democrats and Republicans, telling both to "Be Bold. Vote Gold." Collins discussed the harmful effects of alcohol and mentioned that his party supports a balanced budget, gun rights, and opposes abortion. Hammons argued he could be in the running in a close election if he obtained just one electoral vote and asked voters to "vote their conscience."

Wikinews sought out election predictions from political blogger Thomas Knapp, senior news analyst of the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, and attorney Ron Gunzburger, founder of Whereas Knapp and Gunzburger predicted a victory for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Tancredo predicted President Donald Trump would be re-elected in a landslide victory.

Portrait of Jephcott.
Image: Sustainable Australia.

Following the resignation of Division of Groom's MP John McVeigh for family reasons, the Australian electoral district in Queensland had a by-election. Sandra Jephcott of the Sustainable Australia party was one of the four candidates running for the by-election. Wikinews spoke with Jephcott about her campaign.

According to the party's website, Jephcott is a veterinarian and farmer, who has completed a veterinary degree from the University of Queensland, as well as a Master of Business Affairs at Bond University and a Master of Science at James Cook University.

Sandra Jephcott spoke about overdevelopment and corruption as some of her priorities. "I believe that the Groom by-election offers voters an opportunity to send a message to the two major parties that we're not happy with business as usual politics — including rampant overdevelopment and systemic political corruption that negatively impacts on the environment." She also spoke about the plans to combat climate change. "Net zero or net negative Australian greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (or ideally sooner)", Jephcott said.

Portrait of Craig Farquharson.
Image: Liberal Democrats - Queensland.

Wikinews also interviewed Craig Farquharson, who was the Liberal Democrat candidate for the 2020 Groom by-election following John McVeigh's resignation as the MP.

Farquharson told Wikinews, "What prompted me to run as a candidate in Groom is, because as a small business owner, I could not get my elected MP to talk to me or even to call me back. I became "cheesed off" with elected representatives who are inaccessible to their electorate, and resolved to do something about it. I have pledged that if elected I will be as accessible as possible to voters in my electorate. After 36 years of being a safe Coalition seat, the electorate is ready for change, and wants the additional attention that a more marginal electorate gets, or alternately another party to represent them."

Spaking for the Liberal Democrats, Farquharson said they "would like to see some of the restrictions relaxed to enable people to take personal responsibility for their own health. We do not believe recreational drug use should be criminalised — this is harmful to society and funnels money to dangerous gangs via the black market. We believe that drug abuse is a separate matter to use, and should be treated as a health issue rather than a criminal matter."

Speaking about coal mining and renewable energy sources, Farquharson said: "While Australia can switch to alternative technologies to generate power and for energy, many undeveloped nations depend on cheap electricity to lift their billions out of poverty. And responding to this demand, providing a better quality of coal would not only be an environmental improvement, for humanity and for alleviation of global poverty, it is the right thing to do."


Logo of CentOS.
Image: CentOS.

US-based software company Red Hat announced they were shifting their investments from CentOS Linux to a rolling-release of CentOS Stream as an upstream for the development of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). This led to many users expressing their frustration on Internet Relay Chat (IRC), Reddit and CentOS project's mailing list.

CentOS has been in existence sincne 2004, providing the freely-licensed RHEL for no cost. It was absorbed by Red Hat in 2014, and in the process, Red Hat gained the trademark rights of "CentOS". Stream was announced in September 2019, months after IBM acquired Red Hat.

One of the quality assurance team of CentOS team, Pablo Greco, told Wikinews, "I've been using Stream for most of my things ever since it came out, and I love the idea for it. The only problem is that Stream is being used as an excuse to kill CentOS, and that's the part I hate." CentOS 8's End of Life (EOL) was cut short from 2029 to December 2021, while CentOS 7's EOL is in 2024. Wikinews spoke to Greco, as well as CentOS project's community manager Rich Bowen, who also works for Red Hat.

Greco told Wikinews CentOS "used to be rock solid distribution, with almost everything that RHEL has, but without all the hassle or the costs of a RHEL license, and obviously without the main benefit of RHEL which is the support." Bowen said, "One of the exciting things about the move to CentOS Stream is it's designed to be an actual contributor community, rather than the legacy CentOS Linux that is almost entirely a consumer community."

Gregory Kurtzer announced Rocky Linux to take the place of CentOS.
Image: Gregory Kurtzer.
Logo of Rocky Linux
Image: Josh Urbain and Hayden Young.

After Red Hat's announcement to stop investing in CentOS, Gregory Kurtzer announced Rocky Linux to fill in the void of CentOS. Kurtzer had started CAOS Linux, which was then succeeded by CentOS when Rocky McGaugh, a developer of CAOS rebuilt the source code of RHEL to provide a monetarily free alternative.

"Thinking back to early CentOS days... My cofounder was Rocky McGaugh. He is no longer with us, so as a H/T [hat tip] to him, who never got to see the success that CentOS came to be, I introduce to you...Rocky Linux", Kurtzer said to announce the project. Kurtzer discussed the origins of CentOS and plans for Rocky Linux in an interview with Wikinews.

Speaking of Rocky Linux, Kurtzer said the "goal is to be bug-for-bug compatible with RHEL and provide a long life for enterprise needs." He also said existing CentOS operating systems can be converted to Rocky Linux by executing a single command. Though no formal date of release has been announced, Kurtzer said, it can be expected "near the end of Q1 or beginning of Q2 2021", and both x86-64 as well as ARM architecture will be supported.

There are about 65 developers working on the CentOS replacement, Kurtzer said. He also added, "My commitment to the project is that Rocky will always remain in the best interest of the community and everyone who wishes to be part of the organization, with good intentions, will be welcomed. Since day one, Rocky's coordination efforts have been completely transparent."

File photo of Dr Sara Seager.
Image: Conrad Erb.

A study published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Dr Sara Seager and other researchers in May showed single-celled organisms like E. coli and yeast were able to survive in 100% hydrogen gas as well as 100% helium gas atmosphere. Wikinews reached out to Dr Seager to discuss the findings of this study in which organisms thrived in an oxygen-less environment.

The study reported the organisms were reproducing normally in both 100% H2 and 100% He environment. However, the sigmoid-shaped growth curve was not on par with 100% air. E. coli and yeast switch from ærobic respiration, which uses oxygen, to anærobic respiration and fermentation. Both processes are less efficient and do not produce as much energy as ærobic respiration.

"There's a diversity of habitable worlds out there, and we have confirmed that Earth-based life can survive in hydrogen-rich atmospheres. We should definitely add those kinds of planets to the menu of options when thinking of life on other worlds, and actually trying to find it", Professor Seager said.

The research paper reported E. coli releases a number of gases when it lives in hydrogen-based atmosphere including ammonia, methanethiol, dimethylsulfide, carbonyl sulfide, carbonyl disulfide and nitrous oxide. These gases can serve as biosignature gases which can help astronomers detect and study potential life on exoplanets.