Blog Posts by Eric Pfeiffer

  • Those who eat chocolate regularly tend to be slimmer

    Will chocolate someday be considered a health food? (AP/Stephan Savoia)

    A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine finds that men and women who consume chocolate on a regular basis tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who eat chocolate infrequently.

    The research study tested the BMI of 1,018 men and women in San Diego, Calif., between the ages of 20 and 85. None of the test subjects had a known history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

    But before you grab a family-size candy bar, it's worth noting that the study only found a link between lower BMI and those who eat chocolate frequently, not hard evidence that chocolate contributes to weight loss or personal health. And as the BBC notes, the results are based on the frequency of chocolate consumption, not on the total amount of chocolate consumed.

    "Our findings appear to add to a body of information suggesting that the composition of calories, not just the number of them, matters for determining their ultimate impact on weight," the study's lead author, Dr. Beatrice Golomb, wrote.

    Chocolate has previously been linked to health benefits, particularly dark chocolate. A peer-reviewed study in the Chemistry Central Journal said that cocoa actually contains more antioxidants than other "superfoods" like blueberries, cranberries or acai.

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  • Mitt Romney’s cars will have their own elevator in California home

    Mitt Romney's beachfront California home (AP/Lenny Ignelzi)

    Mitt Romney wants to use his past success in the private sector to help drive the nation's economy forward. But Romney's personal fleet of vehicles will move at a luxurious descent from the comfort of their own private elevator in Romney's new California home.

    Politico reports that Romney's proposed renovations for his California beachfront property, located in the La Jolla community of San Diego, include a car lift for his four on-site cars and 3,600 square feet of underground living space. He's even spent more than $20,000 on a lobbyist to help expedite the approval process through the city government.

    The U.S. Secret Service asked Politico to withhold from publishing the specific, proposed designs for the new property out of respect for the personal safety of Romney and his family. "For operational security, we'd request that you not publish the blueprints," Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told the paper.

    Yahoo!'s own car blogger Justin Hyde provides some additional details on Romney's personal fleet of vehicles, along with some helpful suggestions on the best kinds of car lifts. Hyde notes that the PhantomPark car lift is listed at an estimated $60,000.

    Though unusual, Romney's proposed car elevator is not unique. A company called American Custom Lifts provides home car elevator construction services, though they do not publicly list their prices. And while the Romney's proposed car elevator will undoubtedly be cutting edge, the concept itself is not groundbreaking. A large-scale car elevator was being used in Chicago as far back as 1936, according to the website Chicagoist.

    In this simulated video, you can see designs for an even more luxurious car lift used in an 11th Avenue high-rise in New York:

    News of Romney's expensive renovation plans is sure to stoke criticism of his personal wealth. Romney has gotten into trouble several times on the campaign trail for inartful statements regarding his personal fortune and the financial struggles of other Americans.

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  • Giant, 9-pound Gambian rats invading Florida Keys

    A giant Gambian rat (AP/Douglas C. Pizac)

    When it comes to giant rat infestations, New York gets all the attention.

    But a breed of giant Gambian rats have been rapidly reproducing in the Florida Keys despite a decade-long effort to wipe them out. KeysNet reports the invasive African native species first began showing up between 1999-2001 after a local exotic animal breeder released eight of the rats into the wild.

    "We thought we had them whipped as of 2009," said Scott Hardin, exotic species coordinator for Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "We think they have not moved far but they clearly reproduced," he said.

    The rodents, officially known as the Gambian pouched rat, are the largest known breed of rats in the world. They can grow up to three feet in length and weigh as much as nine pounds. Wildlife officials fear that if the rodents make it to the Florida mainland, they could devastate local crops.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been working with Florida officials to wipe out the rodents, and there are only an estimated few dozen at large, but they can reproduce quickly and do so only five months after being born. After producing a litter, the Gambian rat only has to wait another nine months before having another litter, bearing up to six babies at a time.

    Officials thought they had successfully gotten rid of all of the Gambian rats back in 2008, but several of the burrowing creatures recently began showing up in the yards of local residents. "We were skeptical but went back and talked to people and [saw] there were rats that we missed," Hardin told KeysNet.

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  • James Cameron returns from historic submarine dive to Mariana Trench

    Cameron emerges from his voyage to the bottom of the Mariana Trench (National Geographic)

    Director James Cameron returned safely to the surface on Monday after entering the history books as the first solo diver to reach the depths of the Mariana Trench. The filmmaker, whose 1997 blockbuster "Titanic" won 11 Oscars, has now embarked on 72 underwater journeys.

    "I felt like I, in the space of one day, had gone to another planet and come back," Cameron said in a statement.

    The nearly seven-mile voyage through near freezing temperatures, to what Cameron described as a "completely featureless, alien world" similar to that of the moon's surface, was captured on 3-D video and is expected to be aired on the National Geographic Channel.

    [Related: Deepest spots on Earth]

    National Geographic said Cameron's trip in the submarine named the Deepsea Challenger took him 35,756 feet (10,898 meters) beneath the ocean's surface, traveling through miles of complete darkness.

    "Falling through darkness—that's something that a robot can't describe," Cameron said. "Most importantly, though, is the significance of pushing the boundaries of where humans can go, what they can see and how they can interpret it."

    In the weeks leading up to the Mariana Trench dive, Cameron took part in a series of test dives, during which he set the world record for the deepest solo submarine run.

    [Slideshow: More photos of the Deepsea Challenger]

    Cameron's descent to the Challenger Deep valley of the Mariana Trench took two hours and 36 minutes. He had originally planned to spend about six hours at the bottom, collection soil samples and even wildlife that would be brought back to the surface for further study. However, problems with the submarine's hydraulic systems cut the exploration time down to just over two and a half hours.

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  • Shampoo ad using Hitler’s image sparks outrage, calls for removal

    A new Turkish shampoo commercial featuring video of Adolf Hitler declaring the hair rinse a product for "real men" has been met with formal complaints from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and others who say it is deeply offensive.

    "We follow with sadness and regret the use of Hitler figure in the Biomen Men Shampoo advertisement, which was brought to the screen in recent days," the Turkish Jewish Community said in a statement.  "It's totally unacceptable to make use of Hitler, the most striking example of cruelty and savagery. ... Using him in an advertisement for whatever reason is an unacceptable situation and could not be accepted by us at all. This is beyond all ethics as well as a huge insult to human rights."

    The ad has been running on Turkish television stations for about a week, AFP reports.

    In the ad from shampoo maker "Biomen," archived video of former Nazi leader Adolf Hitler is played in which he is seen yelling and gesturing wildly with his hands, while a fictional text translates his message across the screen.

    "If you are not wearing a woman's dress, you should not use her shampoo either," Hitler says in the ad. "Here it is, a real mens' shampoo, Biomen." The video then cuts to a picture of the shampoo bottle with the on-screen message, "Real men use Biomen."

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  • Blind dog rescued from trash pile gets its eyesight back and a new home

    In this video, a very sick and abandoned dog is found lying in the middle of a trash heap somewhere in Los Angeles. Volunteers at the animal rescue operation Hope for Paws had heard about the dog and brought a video camera with them to document their efforts. The video might make you cry, but its ending will also undoubtedly leave you with a smile on your face.

    [Related: Donate to Hope for Paws]

    When they found the dog, she was blind in both eyes and reportedly had the worst case of fleas they had ever seen. Throughout the video, you get to watch the dog, which they named "Fiona," experience a miraculous recovery. After a nationwide fundraising and awareness effort, Fiona was able to receive an expensive surgery that restored vision to one of her eyes.

    Fiona has since been adopted and her rescue video has become something of a hit on the Web. Here's another video chronicling her recovery. This video was taken before she was adopted and  includes scenes of Fiona wearing an unbearably

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  • Borat anthem played during actual Kazakh gold medal ceremony

    Actor Sacha Baron Cohen in character as "Borat" (AP/Mark Baker)

    A gold medal-winning athlete on Kazakhstan's shooting team was unintentionally dishonored after organizers of a competition in Kuwait mistakenly played a parody of Kazakhstan's national anthem from the movie "Borat" during the event's awards ceremony.

    When Maria Dmitrienko approached the stage to receive her medal at the 10th Arab Shooting Championship in Kuwait, the fictional anthem began playing, which includes derogatory lyrics such as:

    Kazakhstan greatest country in the world.

    All other countries are run by little girls.

    Kazakhstan number one exporter of potassium.

    Other countries have inferior potassium.

    The BBC reports that the team quickly asked for an apology from the event's organizers and the medal ceremony was held again, minus the offensive music.

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  • Atheists holding Reason Rally in Washington, D.C., this weekend

    Richard Dawkins (AP/Manish Swarup)An organized group of atheists and some of the biggest voices from their movement will hold Reason Rally on The National Mall this weekend to raise awareness for their cause and to encourage members of Congress to respect their views.

    "We need to stress to the theists that we are here," David Silverman, chairman of the rally committee and president of the American Atheists, told CNN's Belief Blog. "Atheism is growing in all 50 states. What people don't seem to understand is all we demand at American Atheists is equality."

    Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins, arguably the most famous living atheist in the world, will headline the Reason Rally. Dawkins says he hopes the event will pressure members of Congress to respect the views of nonbelievers in America.

    "The nonbelieving constituency has not been vocal enough, and it therefore has been politic for them to be ignored by their congressmen, by their senators," Dawkins said.

    The event is advertised as the largest gathering of atheists in

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  • 300 Danish lottery players accidentally told they’re billionaires

    (AFP/Jean-Loup Gautreau)The Danish state-run lottery says it accidentally sent letters to 300 Keno winners falsely informing them that they had each won 28 billion kroner (about $5 billion).

    "Three hundred of our lottery players who won the lottery, the Keno, received a message saying they had won a sum in the billions. And they never won that amount," Thomas Roersig, a spokesman for the state-run lottery company Danske Spil told AFP. "We are of course very sorry. We have now written to them to inform them of the sum that they really won," Roersig said.

    And while it's pretty unrealistic to believe anyone could literally win billions in a lottery, some of the winners say they took the letters at face value. "My heart leapt and I started thinking of all the things I was going to do with the money: take my family on holiday, buy a new house, a new car," Flemming Dahl told the website Nordjyske.dk.

    [Related: Big Michigan lottery winners still getting food aid]

    Danske Spil sent out follow-up letters to the winners

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  • shawish-jewellery.comSwitzerland's Shawish Jewelry has created the world's first diamond ring.

    Not impressed? Well, consider that the entire ring  is carved from a diamond, whereas most other diamond rings are composed of a precious-metal band with a diamond centerpiece. Styleite writes that the 150-carat ring runs laps around some other famous diamond competitors, including Beyoncé's 18-carat engagement ring from Jay-Z and the even better known 30-carat ring given to the late Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton.

    The ring was created by Shawish's president and CEO Mohamed Shawesh using lasers (yes, lasers!) along with traditional diamond cutting and polishing techniques. It took a full year to carve the ring, which has been copyrighted and is expected to sell for $70 million.

    Click image for more photos

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