Blog Posts by Eric Pfeiffer

  • Cardboard cathedral planned for earthquake-devastated New Zealand city

    An artist's rendering of the proposed cardboard cathedral (AP/Anglican diocese of Christchurch)

    A famous church in New Zealand that was destroyed in an earthquake last year will be replaced by a cathedral made of cardboard.

    Anglican leaders in the city of Christchurch say the proposed 82-foot-high cathedral, made of 104 tubes of cardboard, will cost upward of $4.1 million, will house 700 people, and is expected to stay in place for around 10 years, according to the Associated Press. Concrete and wood will be used to give the cathedral structural support.

    "I think this building has the potential to become an icon in its own right," said church spokesman Rev. Craig Dixon. "I think it will be greatly loved for a long time."

    In last year's earthquake, the famous ChristChurch Cathedral was destroyed along with much of the city's downtown. In the disaster, 185 people were killed.

    The cathedral will be built across the street from where the Canterbury Television (CTV) building collapsed during the quake.

    "It's very symbolic that it's across the road from the CTV building. It's very poignant," said Richard Gray, who is chairman of the group organizing the cardboard cathedral project.

    The Transitional Cathedral is a symbol of hope for the future of this city as well as being sustainable and affordable," Gray told the Star.

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  • Teller of ‘Penn and Teller’ fame suing alleged magic-trick thief

    Magic performer Teller, right, is suing over an allegedly stolen trick (AP)He's almost as famous for refusing to speak publicly as he is for his magic tricks, but world-renowned illusionist Teller is ready to speak out in court in order to stop an alleged thief he says stole a signature act from the duo Penn and Teller.

    Teller (born Raymond Joseph Teller,) 64, filed a federal complaint against a Dutch entertainer, Gerard Dogge, who has allegedly misappropriated Teller's "Shadows" routine, according to Courthouse News Service. Dogge has been offering to sell the secret of Teller's "Shadows" performance to the highest bidder.

    According to Teller's complaint, Dogge has been performing the trick without permission. Teller first copyrighted the trick in 1983. The Hollywood Reporter notes that Teller filed his complaint under the name "Teller, an individual." The paper also reports that acts such as "Shadows" can, in fact, be copyrighted as "pantomime" routines.

    Dogge, who performs under the name "Gerard Bakardy," posted a video of the routine on YouTube, entitled "Rose & Her Shadow." The video was removed after Teller filed his complaint. Before filing the complaint, Teller contacted Dogge by phone and offered an undisclosed amount of money in return for Dogge not revealing the details of his trick. The two were reportedly not able to reach an agreement. Dogge was offering to reveal the trick to anyone who paid him $3,050.

    When Teller registered a copyright for his trick in 1983, he even included a detailed illustration explaining the details of the routine, during which he appears to clip the petals of a rose from a distance while interacting with the rose's shadow. You can view an image of the copyright illustration Teller created in 1983.

    The complaint was filed in Nevada, where Penn and Teller live and perform.

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  • Titanic discoverer says ship’s wreckage site being destroyed by tourists; how he plans to save it

    The man who first discovered the Titanic wreckage says tourists visiting the site are destroying the remains of the ship's hull.

    "They are loving the Titanic to death," oceanographer Robert Ballard said during an interview with Stephen Colbert.

    Ballard is using the 100th anniversary of the ship's sinking to bring attention to what he says is the unnecessary destruction of the historic site.

    "They are landing on it, crushing the deck, knocked off the crow's nest, leaving all sorts of garbage," he said.

    Ballard said one couple was even married in a submarine that landed on the Titanic's deck, which he called, "a little over-the-top."

    "What we're trying to do is say, look, visit the Titanic. But you don't go to Gettysburg with a shovel. You don't take belt buckles off the Arizona. So, visit, but don't touch," he said.

    On Monday, Ballard will host Save the Titanic on the National Geographic Channel. Along with keeping tourists at arm's length, Ballard has another seemingly

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  • Nazis get their own lobbyist on Capitol Hill

    The American Nazi Party has its own Capitol Hill lobbyist (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)The American Nazi Party has apparently registered its own lobbyist on Capitol Hill, 2008 National Socialist Movement presidential candidate John Taylor Bowles.

    U.S. News found the PDF document which shows that Bowles registered with the Clerk of the House as a lobbyist on Tuesdayon LegisStorm.

    UPDATE: Gawker has an interview with Bowles about his new lobbying career. Despite belonging to an ideology rooted in antisemitism, Bowles said he'd be open to working with Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman.

    According to the form filled out by Bowles, he registered as a lobbyist in order to pursue issues relating to, "Political Rights and ballot access laws." His form also reportedly cites accounting, agriculture, clean air and water, civil rights, health issues, the Constitution, immigration, manufacturing, and retirement as "general lobbying issue areas," according to U.S. News.

    "I don't see why not," Bowles told the paper when asked if he actually thought a member of Congress would be willing

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  • Texas hail and mud drifts ‘waist to shoulder’ high

    A motorist trapped in the Texas hail storm (Photo credit: Amarillo/Potter/Randall Office of Emergency Management)Maintenance crews in the Texas Panhandle are working to clear roads after several inches of hail fell Thursday night. In some areas, the hail mixed with heavy levels of dust to create muddy drifts that were waist- to shoulder-high, according to the Associated Press.

    "It was crazy," National Weather Service Meteorologist Justyn Jackson said about the storm, which first hit Wednesday afternoon.

    Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas said that in rural areas, the hail mixed with rushing rainwater across dry land, which resulted in the mud and hail combination that accumulated to levels ranging from 2 to 4 feet in some areas.

    "There were just piles of hail," said Maribel Martinez with the Amarillo/Potter/Randall Office of Emergency Management. "Some of the cars were just buried in hail and people were trapped in their cars."

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  • North Korea launches long-range missile; launch fails

    UPDATE: [9:20pm ET]: This story will be updated as events unfold.


    • U.S. officials say they believe the launch failed.
    • U.N. Security Council is meeting Friday to discuss a response.
    • This is the third failed attempt at an orbital launch since 1998.



    Defying international pressure, North Korea launched a long-range missile Friday morning. However, U.S. officials say they believe the attempted launch failed before the missile was able to leave the Earth's atmosphere.

    U.S. officials confirm that a North Korean long-range missile appears to have broken apart midair after launch. Officials say they believe the missile fell apart within the Earth's atmosphere before crashing into the sea.

    "Despite the failure of its attempted missile launch, North Korea's provocative action threatens regional security, violates international law and contravenes its own recent commitments," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

    "The President has been clear that he is prepared to engage constructively with North Korea.  However, he has also insisted that North Korea live up to its own commitments, adhere to its international obligations and deal peacefully with its neighbors," Carney said.

    Japan's Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka has backed U.S. reports that the launch failed. "We have confirmed that a certain flying object has been launched and fell after flying for just over a minute," Tanaka said.

    South Korea's Defense Ministry first reported the launch, which is seen as defying international warnings and widely viewed as a provocation from the rogue state.

    The U.N. Security Council will meet Friday to discuss a response to the North's attempted launch.

    South Korea Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters in a nationally televised news conference that the rocket was fired at 7:39 a.m, local time Friday. "We suspect the North Korean missile has fallen as it divided into pieces minutes after liftoff."

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  • Taste testers enlisted to sample fish exposed to Scottish gas leak

    Taste testers sampled fish near North Sea gas leak (Martin Langer/APGreenpeace)

    Scotland's government has brought in a team of taste testers to ensure the safety of fish potentially affected by an ongoing gas leak emanating from a North Sea oil platform owned by French multinational oil and gas company Total S.A.

    The government brought to the Marine Scotland Science organization "specially trained sensory testers" who tasted seven species of fish found near the gas leak.

    In a statement on the government's website, Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said the results showed the fish "are untainted by hydrocarbons."

    According to the government site, the specially trained testers can "detect the taint of hydrocarbon contamination in fish."

    The Daily Record reports that the salmon trade has become one of Scotland's most booming industries. The first salmon farm opened just 40 years ago in 1971. There are 250 such farms in place, producing an estimated total of 150,000 tons of the fish annually.

    "The environmental impact of this gas leak has been minimal so far, however it's important we take precautions and analyze all available data," Lochhead said in the statement. "Therefore it's reassuring that sensory testing of the fish samples gathered by the Alba na Mara have found they are untainted by hydrocarbons."

    Total's facility was evacuated in March after a gas leak was discovered that has subsequently released millions of cubic feet of natural gas every day.

    Government spokesman Tom Whittles said the taste testing was done to offer "early feedback and reassurance," to the country's fish eating population.

    "(It's an) established procedure which uses the power of the human tongue," he said.

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  • Fox News chief Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly (AP/THR)

    The law firm Epstein Becker & Green P.C. has sent a legal threat on behalf of Fox News to Gawker Media publisher Nick Denton over his site's ongoing "Fox Mole" story involving recently fired Fox News employee Joe Muto.

    Gawker published the full letter, which states, "Be advised that Muto's admissions are admissions of likely criminal and civil wrongdoing on both his and Gawker's part, which will be the subject of further extensive investigation. Fox News will pursue its rights and remedies in the appropriate legal forums."

    The letter goes on to say, "Gawker should immediately stop publishing information and videos that have been unlawfully obtained by or from Joe Muto, and return them to Fox News."

    In response, Gawker not only published the letter but has posted a photo of "O'Reilly Factor" host Bill O'Reilly standing with a group of friends, including a topless woman.

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  • Six bulldog puppies rescued from locked suitcase

    Six puppies, mother at Toledo-area Humane Society (Dave Zapotosky/The Blade via AP)

    What could be more adorable than six bulldog puppies sitting in a suitcase? As cute as the above photo is, it has a less-than-heartening beginning.

    An Ohio man has been charged with animal abandonment after Humane Society authorities matched his name with a suitcase in which the six puppies had been trapped. The suitcase, allegedly belonging to Howard Davis, 53, had been left next to a garbage can in a Toledo alleyway.

    The puppies were discovered after someone noticed their mother pacing around the closed suitcase.

    Toledo Area Humane Society spokeswoman Cyndi Condit told Reuters that Davis lives only two blocks from where the puppies were found.

    "Howard's name was on the tag of the suitcase and the mother was licensed to him," Condit said.

    If convicted, Davis faces a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $750 fine. Davis claims the suitcase was stolen from him and that he had given the dogs to a friend in Michigan.

    Over the next four weeks, the three male and three female puppies will remain with their mother before they are eligible for adoption. But they also have a job to do in the meantime: literally serving as evidence against Davis.

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  • Canada issues glow-in-the-dark dinosaur quarter

    Glow-in-the-dark Canadian coin (Royal Canadian Mint)Less than two weeks after announcing it was removing the penny from circulation, the Royal Canadian Mint is back in the news after revealing plans for a glow-in-the-dark quarter featuring an illuminated dinosaur skeleton.

    When exposed to light, the quarter looks fairly ordinary, featuring the image of Queen Elizabeth on one side and an image of a dinosaur on the other. But take away the light and the quarter produces its own bright display, as the full-image of the Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai is replaced by a glowing visage of its skeleton. The 26-foot dinosaur was discovered in Canada in 1972.

    Though as CNET reports, the image of Queen Elizabeth does not glow in the dark.

    But you don't have to be Canadian to get one of the unique coins. You can in fact purchase your own glowing dinosaur coin directly from the Royal Canadian Mint. The coin will set you back a little over $30 in U.S. currency, more than 120 times its actual monetary value.

    One reason to pick up the collectible coin is that the future of Canadian small change itself may be in doubt. In another bit of interesting news, the mint announced on Wednesday its plans to unveil a digital currency card. The MintChip will eventually let Canadians make direct cash transactions with each other using smartphones, USB flash drives, Web browsers, tablets and cloud computing, according to the Toronto Star.

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