Blog Posts by Eric Pfeiffer

  • 400-year-old diamond may fetch $4 million at auction

    The 400-year-old Beau Sancy diamond (Remy de la Mauviniere/AP)

    Next month, Sotheby's will auction a 400-year-old diamond that is estimated to be worth between $2 million and $4 million.  The "Beau Sancy" is one of the world's oldest known diamonds and weighs 34.98 carats.

    The diamond will be on public display in Paris, London and Zurich until it goes up for auction in Geneva on May 14. View more photos of the Beau Sancy.

    The Beau Sancy once belonged to France's Queen Marie de Medici and was originally cut from a gem mine in the Indian city of Golconda. It was owned by the last Emperor of Germany, Wilhelm II, before being acquired by a private European owner.

    [Related: World's first all-diamond ring; worth $70 million]

    Diamond website overabillion.com says the Beau Sancy gets its name from 16th century French financier and diplomat Nicholas Harlay de Sancy. The gem is described as a "perfect, colorless, rounded pear-shaped diamond."

    More popular Yahoo! News stories

    Armored catfish wreaking havoc in South Florida lakes

    Virginia teacher arrested

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  • Armored catfish wreaking havoc in South Florida lakes

    An armored catfish (Image credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Sun-Sentinel)

    A species of "armored catfish" are damaging South Florida's lakes, causing coastal erosion and even burrowing holes that trip up humans walking along the water's edge.

    Catfish are usually one of the more popular breeds of aquatic life, with their smooth skin and flavorful meat. There's even a highly unconventional form of fishing known as "noodling," in which people use their bare hands to capture catfish.

    But the Sun-Sentinel reports that the Loricariidae (armored catfish) are far less welcome. The non-native and invasive species have rugged scales along their backs and spiky fins. Catching the South American natives can be difficult, as the armored catfish reportedly are not baited by fishing hooks and must instead be caught by nets or even spears.

    "There are some people who get totally upset, and I can understand why," Ralph LaPrairie, a fisheries biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told the Sun-Sentinel.

    The Loricariids are a popular aquarium fish, as they use their suckered mouths to clean algae from tanks. But that same behavior that is helpful in fish tanks actually erodes local shorelines up to 10 feet as the fish devastate aquatic plant life. They have also been wreaking havoc in Texas waterways for a number of years.

    "One, it's a safety issue. Two, it's a curb-appeal issue," Chip Sollins, owner of Lake Erosion Restoration, a contractor in Boca Raton, Fla., told the paper.

    Invasive fish are a growing problem across the U.S. with wildlife officials in Maryland offering a $200 gift certificate raffle to residents who capture and kill snakehead fish, which have been devastating local wildlife in tributaries along the Potomac River.

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  • Virginia teacher arrested for allegedly firing blanks at students

    Manuael Ernest Dillow has been charged with firing blank rounds at 12 Virginia students. (Kingsport Times)A Virginia teacher has been charged with 12 felony counts after allegedly pulling a blank firing gun on his students and firing several times.

    "One for each student who was in there. And basically the charges result of inciting fear into the students," Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman told KSDK.com.

    The incident occurred just days after the five-year-anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings, during which 32 people were shot by a mentally ill student.

    The Kingsport Times reports that Manuael Ernest Dillow, 60, was teaching a welding class at an Abingdon, Virginia, vocational school when he reportedly "gathered" the attention of his students by forcing them to line up.

    "He then pulled a 'blank firing handgun,' black in color, from the back waistband of his pants and discharged the weapon between four and ten shots in the direction of the line of the students," according to a police statement. "The 'report' of the firearm was similar to that of a firearm that fires a projectile, thus placing the students in fear, according to statements. No students were physically injured as a result of the incident."

    Sheriff Newman said Dillow apparently borrowed the gun, which is not capable of shooting actual bullets, from another school department.

    The Washington County Sheriff's Office says the charges levied against Dillow are all class 6 felonies, each punishable by up to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine. Dillow has since been released on a $20,000 bond.

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  • Texas prom queen arrested for allegedly faking cancer, raising $17,000

    Angie Gomez has been accused of faking cancer (Image credit: El Paso Times)A Texas prom queen whose fellow students donated more than $17,000 to her charity has been arrested and accused of faking cancer.

    ABC affiliate KVIA reports that 19-year-old Angie Gomez faces a felony charge and is being held on a $50,000 bond after being arrested on Friday. She is charged with starting a fake charity after falsely claiming to be suffering from leukemia.

    Her fellow students donated to the "Achieve the Dream Foundation," which Gomez set up. She was also treated to her own prom by Da Vinci High School after missing the school's prom due to her alleged illness. That same month, police received an allegation that Gomez did not actually appear to be ill.

    A subsequent investigation found that Gomez had never been a patient at the hospitals where she claimed to have been receiving treatment.

    Her attorney Sheldon Myers says Gomez had "good intentions" for the money and did, in fact, suffer from health problems as a child.

    In January 2011, Gomez told her classmates that she had six months to live after being diagnosed with leukemia. The El Paso Times reported that the $17,000 in donations included checks, gift cards and in-kind donations.

    "She has a real soft spot for people that suffer from those types of diseases, and that's why she was trying to get money for them," Myers said. He added that the $50,000 bond means that Gomez isn't likely to be released from jail.

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  • Most-liked cities: Seattle and Portland tops, Detroit dead last (poll)

    Portland, Ore., one of the most popular U.S. cities according to a poll (AP)

    New research from Public Policy Polling finds that Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Ore., are America's most favorably viewed cities. Conversely, Detroit is the nation's least favorably viewed city.

    The report found that 57 percent of respondents in the poll view Seattle favorably, compared with 14 percent who view it unfavorably. Similarly, Portland has a favorability rating of 52 percent with only 12 percent taking a negative view of the City of Roses.

    In other words, if the Pacific Northwest were a politician, it would be more popular than President Obama and Mitt Romney.

    Perhaps not coincidentally, a recent Yahoo News story found Seattle and Portland to be the top two best cities for hipsters.

    And while Romney counts Michigan as one of his "home states," he wouldn't want Detroit's poll numbers. Only 22 percent of those polled by PPP had a favorable view of the Motor City, with 49 percent taking a negative view.

    These days, it would seem that Portlandia is more popular than Robocop.

    The only other two major cities in the poll to have a net negative view are both in California: Los Angeles (33-40) and Oakland (21-39). However, California is home to the 11th most popular city, San Francisco (48-29).

    The poll demographics also showed some results that PPP says line up with national political trends. For example, the biggest political gap in the poll was over the nation's capital, Washington, D.C. Democrats like it by a net margin of 44 percent;  Republicans dislike it by 24 percent.

    Black and white Americans also had differing views on some of the cities in the poll. Black respondents said they like Los Angeles by a margin of 35 percent, while white respondents dislike it by 16 percent.

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  • BP oil spill two-year anniversary marked by somber statistics

    Friday marks the two-year anniversary of the massive BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Coast. While the FDA says the local fish are safe to eat, several new reports suggest that local wildlife and the overall environment continue to suffer from damaging effects of what many consider the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

    The Associated Press reports that a number of fish in the Gulf are suffering from visible maladies, including, "open sores, parasitic infections, chewed-up-looking fins, gashes," and " "mysterious black streaks" along their bodies.

    Click image for more photos

    On Wednesday, BP sealed an out-of-court settlement for $7.8 billion with lawyers representing thousands of individuals and businesses affected by the spill. However, the company released a statement insisting that seafood in the region was safe for human consumption.

    "Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is among the most tested in the world, and, according to the FDA and NOAA, it is as safe now as it was before the accident," the statement reads.

    While the evidence of continued and extensive environmental damage is "nowhere near conclusive," the damage appears to have extended beyond marine life to the Gulf's deep-water coral, seaweed beds and other species of plants.

    There is lots of circumstantial evidence that something is still awry," said Christopher D'Elia, dean of Louisiana State University's School of the Coast and Environment. "On the whole, it is not as much environmental damage as originally projected. Doesn't mean there is none."

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  • $1 million for a penny; one of world’s rarest coins sold at auction

    Click photo to view more images. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)Click photo to view more images. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)One of the first pennies ever produced by the U.S. Mint was put up for auction Thursday night and reportedly sold for more than $1 million.

    Bids for the 1792 Silver Center penny reached $1.15 million Thursday night, according to Heritage Auctions, which conducted the sale. The U.S. Mint itself was founded in April, 1792.

    If you don't have $1.15 million on hand, there are more affordable rare coins available. The Canadian Mint recently began selling a limited-edition glow-in-the-dark quarter featuring a dinosaur skeleton for around $30.

    And the website ThinkGeek offers electromagnetically shrunk quarters for $25, or 100 times their actual value as currency.

    ABC News reports that the rare penny is made of copper with a small silver plug at its center. It was an experiment by the then-fledgling U.S. Mint, which shelved the penny before it could go into mass circulation. The U.S. Mint determined the penny was too large and heavy for practical use.

    Todd Imhof at Heritage Auctions told ABC

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  • Woman’s Coca-Cola ‘habit’ cited in death

    Experts say Natasha Harris Coca-Cola habit probably contributed to her death (AP/New Zealand Herald)When people attribute someone's untimely death to a Coke overdose, they're usually not talking about the world's most popular soda.

    But experts in New Zealand say Natasha Harris' 2-gallon-a-day Coca-Cola consumption "probably" contributed to her death. The soda company responded to the alleged connection by noting that even water consumption can be fatal in excessive amounts.

    "The first thing she would do in the morning was to have a drink of Coke beside her bed and the last thing she would do at night was have a drink of Coke," Harris' partner Chris Hodgkinson said in a deposition. "She was addicted to Coke."

    Hodgkinson testified that Harris drank between 2.1 gallons and 2.6 gallons of Coke every day.

    The 30-year-old Harris died of a heart attack in February 2010. According to New Zealand's Fairfax Media, pathologist Dr. Dan Mornin testified on Thursday that Harris likely suffered from hypokalemia (low potassium levels), which he believes was caused by her overall poor nutrition, including the unusually high levels of Coke consumption.

    Though in fairness to the soda manufacturer, it was also revealed that Harris made other questionable health choices before her death, including smoking a reported 30 cigarettes per day and having poor eating habits. Dr. Mornin also said Harris had "toxic levels of caffeine" in her blood, though it's not clear if those levels came exclusively from Coke or from a combination of other sources, including coffee.

    Karen Thompson, a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola Oceania, defended the safety of her company's products in a statement:

    "We concur with the information shared by the coroner's office that the grossly excessive ingestion of any food product, including water, over a short period of time with the inadequate consumption of essential nutrients, and the failure to seek appropriate medical intervention when needed, can be dramatically symptomatic."

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  • New footage from inside Delta Flight 1063 (VIDEO)

    New video footage has been released from inside Delta Flight 1063, which made an emergency landing at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on Thursday.

    The new video, posted by RightThisMinute, was captured by a Delta passenger who was filming the flight's takeoff as a flock of birds flew past the passenger window moments before striking the plane's right engine.

    The site has also posted video from just after the plane's emergency landing, during which a passenger discusses their experience. You can also view this footage taken from inside the plane moments after the bird strike occurred.

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  • World’s oldest living man celebrates 115th birthday

    Jiroemon Kimura of Kyoto, Japan, the world's oldest living man, celebrated his 115th birthday on Thursday.

    According to the Gerontology Research Group (GRG), an international body that specifically deals in longevity research, he is not only the world's oldest living man, but is the third-oldest man in recorded history.

    "I'm delighted beyond words," Kimura said of his milestone.

    However, Kimura is not technically the world's oldest living person. That distinction belongs to Georgia resident Besse Cooper, who was born on August 26, 1896.

    Kimura has fathered 7 children (5 are still alive), has 14 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, and 13 great-great-grandchildren. He says eating small portions of food has been his secret to longevity. Kimura worked at a post office for 38 years before switching careers to become a farmer, which he was until he was 90 years old.

    And Kimura has another distinction: He is technically a supercentenarian, someone who is 110 or older. According to GRG

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