Blog Posts by Eric Pfeiffer

  • The newly discovered ossuary which appears to contain a reference to the biblical prophet Jonah (James Tabor/UNCC))

    Investigators using a robotic arm equipped with a remote-controlled camera have discovered what is being called the earliest evidence of Christian iconography in Jerusalem.

    The newly discovered ossuary carries a Greek inscription calling on God to "raise up" someone, which is being interpreted as an early reference to the biblical resurrection of Jesus.

    A second limestone box appears to show the carved image of a fish, which may be a reference to the biblical prophet Jonah. This would be a historical first, as references to the resurrection had not previously been discovered before the 2nd century.

    "If anyone had claimed to find either a statement about resurrection or a Jonah image in a Jewish tomb of this period I would have said impossible -- until now," University of North Carolina scholar James Tabor said in a statement. "Our team was in a kind of ecstatic disbelief, but the evidence was clearly before our eyes, causing us to revise our prior assumptions."

    As significant as this discovery is, it may itself be buried under renewed discussion over the potential discovery of a tomb inscribed with the names of the biblical Jesus and his family. The investigators, lead by University of North Carolina scholar Tabor, are the same team who five years ago claimed to have made "The Jesus Discovery."

    "This does reopen the whole question about the 'Jesus Tomb," Tabor told MSNBC. Yahoo News contacted Tabor, but is still waiting for a response.

    In addition to his efforts on the "The Jesus Discovery," Tabor is also working on a new translation of the Bible, known as the Original Bible Project. He contributed to a controversial TV documentary called, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," which received significant attention at the time of its release, since it was produced in partnership with Academy Award winning director James Cameron.

    The new discovery is actually part of an earlier finding made by Tabor and his team. However, the Israeli government shut down the initial investigation due to protests from local religious groups. A house was built on top of the excavation site, which is now referred to as the "Patio Tomb," because a patio literally rests on top of the site. Tabor and his team were finally able to receive cooperation from the Israeli government by using the robotic technology to explore underneath the site.

    "This inscription has something to do with resurrection of the dead, either of the deceased in the ossuary, or perhaps, given the Jonah image nearby, an expression of faith in Jesus' resurrection," Tabor said in the statement, referring to the "raise up" inscription on the ossuary.

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  • China to soften its one-child policy slogans, but not the law itself

    A billboard promoting China's one-child policy (AP/Greg Baker)

    The Chinese government isn't getting rid of its one-child policy currently in place. It's just making it sound better. China's communist party newspaper, People's Daily, reports that the government will revamp its abrasive-sounding slogans surrounding the policy.

    People's Daily cites several examples of "harsh slogans," including those "which sometimes even threaten criminal acts." The newly instituted program, slugged the "face-washing project," will offer more proactive slogans to help enforce the policy, which has been in place since 1979. China claims the policy, which applies to those living in urban areas, affects approximately 35.9 percent of the population and has resulted in an estimated 400 million fewer births since first being implemented.

    Some examples of the more offensive slogans currently in use include:

    "If you don't receive the tubal ligation surgery by the deadline, your house will be demolished!"

    "We would rather scrape your womb than allow you to have a second child!"

    "Kill all your family members if you don't follow the rule!"

    And…

    "Once you get captured, an immediate tubal ligation will be done; Should you escape, we'll hunt you down; If you attempt a suicide, we'll offer you either the rope or a bottle of poison."

    The new less offensive slogans replacing the more callous ones will reportedly seek to "avoid offending the public and stoking social tensions."

    China's one-child policy has faced criticism from around the world. In addition to more obvious concerns about civil liberties, the policy has reportedly had the unintended effect of many families aborting female babies until a male child is conceived. That trend has resulted in 118 boys being born for every 100 girls, which has contributed to males outnumbering females in China by an estimated 30 to 40 million.

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  • Apps for Apes: Orangutans using iPads to paint and video chat with other apes

    redapes.org

    Orangutans across the world may soon join the ranks of millions of humans as proud owners of new iPads. As strange as that may sound, a conservation group is testing  its "Apps for Apes" program, allowing orangutans to communicate with each other remotely via the iPad's video chat technology.

    Orangutan Outreach founder Richard Zimmerman says has iPads have already been donated to zoos in Milwaukee, Atlanta and Florida. A board member of the Houston Zoo also recently donated an iPad. More of the tablets will soon be sent to the Memphis Zoo, the Center for Great Apes in Florida and to the Toronto Zoo. Orangutans are considered to be amongst the most intelligent of primates, making them a good case study for the interactive technology.

    "It's not a gimmick," Zimmerman told Yahoo News in a phone interview Tuesday.  "If they don't want to do it, they won't. There are actual measurable benefits."

    Zimmerman said  that orangutans in zoos and other primate facilities usually receive all the food and love they need. However, during winter months they are forced to spend long periods of time indoors, which is counter to their natural habitat. And living indoors for extended periods of time can result in boredom and stunt social growth among other primates.

    "They need stimulation, especially indoors," Zimmerman tells Yahoo News. "The zoo keepers can see the benefit from this sort of enrichment. We're doing this as enrichment as opposed to research. But researchers are getting involved, that's just not our jurisdiction."

    Scientists and layman alike have long speculated on ways to better indoctrinate primates and other animals with human technology. Dolphins have already demonstrated an ability to interact with iPad technology with researchers using it as a language interaction device between dolphins and humans. There are even several iPad games made specifically for cats.

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  • Wyoming legislator David Miller introduces “doomsday” bill

    (AP/ The Bohle Company for Left Behind Games )

    Wyoming Republican state legislator David Miller has introduced a bill to prepare his state for a doomsday scenario in which the nation's economy and social structure completely collapse.

    "Things happen quickly sometimes — look at Libya, look at Egypt, look at those situations," Miller told the Star-Tribune. "We wouldn't have time to meet as a legislature or even in a special session to do anything to respond."

    Miller's bill seeks to create a state-run continuity force that would study and prepare Wyoming for potential national or worldwide catastrophes. One specific component of the bill calls for the state to look into the possibility of issuing its own currency in the event the U.S. dollar collapses.

    "If we continue down this course, this is the way any society ends up — with a valueless currency," Miller told the Star-Tribune.

    Miller's original bill would have appropriated $32,000 for the task force, but the state's Joint Appropriations Committee has already cut the number in half. Six other states have attempted a similar currency creation effort in recent years — and all have failed. While Miller's bill may sound a bit extreme, there have been genuine concerns about the devaluation of U.S. currency in recent years. Last year, the International Monetary Fund predicted that China's economy would overtake that of the U.S. in five years.

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  • Michael Douglas films anti-insider trading video for FBI (Video)

    Actor Michael Douglas has filmed a new public service announcement for the FBI that plays on his character Gordon Gekko from the film "Wall Street."

    In 1987, Douglas won an Oscar for his portrayal of the fictional Gekko. Douglas and writer-director Oliver Stone constructed the villainous Gekko character as a cautionary tale of the excesses of corporate greed. But in the quarter century since the film's release, Gekko's infamous "greed is good" speech has become a rallying cry of many working on Wall Street.

    But now, Douglas is playing on the character's fame to warn about the dangers of insider trading. The PSA begins with a clip from "Wall Street" before transitioning to a present-day Douglas, who says:

    "Hello, I'm Michael Douglas. In the movie 'Wall Street,' I played Gordon Gekko, a greedy corporate executive who cheated to profit while innocent investors lost their savings.

    "The movie was fiction, but the problem is real. Our economy is increasingly dependent on the success and the integrity of the financial markets. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is."

    FBI Special Agent David Chaves tells Bloomberg News that Douglas wanted to do something to help combat what he sees as a misguided culture on Wall Street. Chaves says Douglas told him people working on Wall Street often approach him, offering a "high-five" for his portrayal of Gekko.

    "We thought one of the most revered actors of our time would be a great voice for combating crime on Wall Street," Chaves said.

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  • Adolf Hitler’s long-lost collection of paintings discovered

    A piece of lost German artwork stolen during World War II, recovered last year (AP/Michael Sohn)A Czech historian has discovered a long-lost collection of paintings belonging to Adolf Hitler. The Telegraph reports that the unearthed works of art include a "massive" painting entitled "Memories of Stalingrad." Even though the battle of Stalingrad was one of the German army's most brutal defeats in World War II, the painting is said to have been one of Hitler's favorites.

    Historians tell the Telegraph that the collection could be auctioned for about $2.6 million. However, the convent where the paintings were discovered has said in a statement that it intends to keep the collection. The collection was discovered by Jiri Kuchar, a Czech historian, in the town of Doskany, north of Prague.

    Hitler had reportedly ordered the paintings to be hidden in a monastery in southern Bohemia, but they were found by American forces during the war. Exactly how the paintings disappeared and ended up in the convent remains a mystery.

    German forces were notorious for stealing and hiding priceless works of art during Hitler's reign. A 2006 book, "Rescuing Da Vinci," by Robert M. Edsel, chronicles the efforts of American soldiers who recovered thousands of pieces of stolen and lost artwork during World War II.

    And Hitler himself was an aspiring artist of sorts. You can view some of his paintings here.

    Kuchar tells the Telegraph that there are still nine more paintings in the collection that have yet to be discovered. "I've got a feeling that many places will be reluctant to admit their favorite works of art have this unfortunate historical blemish," he said.

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  • New list of 49 foods to avoid includes some that seem healthy

    Not all diet foods are as nutritious as you might think. (AP/Larry Crowe)The New Zealand Medical Journal's new list of "non-essential, energy dense, nutritionally deficient" (aka NEEDNT) foods, aimed at helping educate obese people about foods to avoid, includes a number of usual suspects on the 'do not eat if you are dieting' list. Coming in at #1 (list is alphabetical, not in ascending/descending order of value) is alcohol, followed by biscuits, butter, cakes and chocolate.

    But there are a few surprises among the 49 dietary offenders.

    Take Muesli, that supposedly wholesome mix of oats and fruits and nuts. Turns out its almost as nutritionally bereft as a biscuit.

    Muesli bars come in at 29 on the list. Dr. Jane Elmslie explained to New Zealand's National 3 News : "Muesli bars are a classic example of how overweight people can be misled into thinking they're eating healthy food. Most muesli bars are high in calories, and fat and sugar, with minimal nutritional value. Essentially they are just another form of biscuit."

    Muesli is actually a repeat offender on the list, with "toasted muesli" showing up at number 47. (How times have changed: Museli was first introduced as a health food in the early 20th century.)

    Honey made the list too, taking the 23rd spot. Long-used in alternative medicinal practices and in cooking, it turns out honey itself doesn't offer much in the way of nutrition, though it is a good source of natural sugar.

    The final entry on the list may be the most surprising of all: yogurt. Though if you keep your yogurt plain and simple you might be safe: the list only recommends avoiding  yogurts containing more than 10mg of sugar per 100mg container.

    "Energy drinks," which few people think are a health food but are nonetheless consumed by athletes, trainers and other people around the world on a daily basis, come in at #15. (The Sideshow recently wrote about the Buddhist monk billionaire who founded the 5 Hour Energy Drink. He says he has one every morning and another dose before exercising.)

    Number 18 on the list is "fried foods." However, the Sideshow recently reported on a new study claiming that fried foods themselves aren't the problem; it's the oil you use to cook them in.

    You can read the full list after the jump.

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  • Arizona man arrested after rescuing and adopting drowning raccoon

    (AP/Bob Jordan)

    UPDATE: I spoke with Tom Cadden, a public information officer with the Arizona Game and Fish Department today, who provided some helpful information on this story. First, Cadden explained that Stan Morris was not in fact arrested for keeping a wild raccoon. Turns out, he was arrested for an outstanding, unrelated misdemeanor that turned up in police records after authorities were alerted to the raccoon situation.

    Cadden also asked that we address reader concerns about the fate of Sonny the raccoon. "We'll be putting out feelers to the community," for someone who can adopt Sonny, Cadden tells Yahoo! News, saying that a zoo, animal rehabilitation center or an educational institution are the most likely destinations. Sonny would only be put to sleep if tests showed he had an infectious disease. Cadden's other concern was that readers might be misinterpreting Morris' actions. "After he rescued the raccoon, the best thing he could have done for it would have been to release it, or to contact the authorities," Cadden said. "By taking it home for several months the animal was 'imprinted.' He removed its chance to live its life in the wild," Cadden said. "The best thing people can do for wildlife is to keep them wild."

    Original story begins below.

    **********

    When 57-year-old Stan Morris saw a raccoon drowning in the Colorado River, he decided to put his own health at risk by saving the struggling animal. Seven months later, the good-hearted deed landed Morris in jail.

    Before his arrest, Morris and the raccoon he affectionately named "Sonny," had developed quite a bond, according to the Associated Press. Morris told police he first looked online to see if it was against the law to keep a raccoon as a pet. When he didn't find any information telling him otherwise, he decided to adopt Sonny.

    Technically, it is legal to keep a raccoon as a pet in Arizona, but an owner must first obtain an exotic animal license or permit. Most states that do allow raccoon ownership recommend adopting one from a professional breeder.

    Morris says Sonny became domesticated after being adopted. In fact, Arizona Game and Fish Department officers were only alerted to the situation when reports began surfacing of a man walking around town with a raccoon perched on his shoulders.

    A look over the Game and Fish Department website gives the impression that Arizona doesn't care much for raccoons. Not only did the state arrest Morris for keeping Sonny as a pet, but it has a law that states a raccoon, "is the only animal in Arizona that can be legally taken with a firearm at night."

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  • Do you see George Washington's face in this McNugget? (Ebay.com)

    A Nebraska woman is auctioning a three-year-old McDonald's Chicken McNugget she believes resembles our nation's first president, George Washington. And it looks like she's on pace to make some cash in the sale. But, it's all for a good cause.

    The Sioux City Journal reports that Rebekah Speights is selling the patriotic McNugget to help raise money for a church summer camp. As of posting time, the McNugget had received 17 different bids and was going for $356 on Ebay. The auction is scheduled to end on March 1st.

    "I looked down at the McNugget and just started laughing," Speights told the Journal. "I saw this portrait of George Washington staring back at me."

    So, how did she discover the politically-themed piece of poultry? Speights writes on her Ebay page:  "As I was cleaning up, I noticed one particular nugget and began to laugh. I picked it up for a closer look, and sure enough it was in the likeness of President George Washington. I decided to take it home and show my husband this hysterical find."

    And like George Washington himself, this McNugget is no spring chicken. Speights writes that she nearly ate it while dining at a Sioux City McDonald's three years ago. After her children refused to eat the McNugget, Speights says she noticed the resemblance to Washington.

    And now, the nugget itself appears to have a spiritual journey of sorts. "We have shared many laughs over this 'President George Washington Chicken McNugget,' Speights writes. "But now he has been called to a higher purpose."

    The Sioux City Family Worship Center is hoping to raise $15,000 to send 50 children to a summer camp, though presumably not entirely from the sale of the McNugget.

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  • Australian woman turns tables on Nigerian scammers

    A sign warns Nigerian computer users against engaging in Internet scams. (AP/Sunday Alamba)Nigerian email scams have become nearly as commonplace as the Internet itself. But one Australian woman wound up in jail after turning the tables--to the tune of $30,000--on a group of con artists.

    The Courier-Mail reports that Sarah Jane Cochrane-Ramsey, 23, was employed as an "agent" in March 2010 by the Nigerians, but didn't know they were scam artists. Her "job" was to provide access to an Australian bank account opened in her name where the Nigerians could then transfer money they had received from a phony car sales website. Cochrane-Ramsey was told she could keep eight percent of the transfers.

    But, then she decided to steal from the thieves themselves. According to the Courier-Mail, she received two payments, totaling $33,350, but spent most of it on herself.

    If you're not familiar with the so-called Nigerian Scam, also known as the (419) scam, or Advanced Fee Fraud, here's a brief explainer: the fraud works by convincing an individual to give money and/or bank account access to a third-party in exchange for future financial rewards.

    Most commonly, the scam artist will claim to be a wealthy Nigerian individual looking to move his vast financial resources to another country. He then promises the fraud victim a hefty payment in exchange for a temporary loan or bank account access in order to facilitate the move. Of course, the fraud victim never receives the promised payout and instead usually ends up losing thousands of dollars in the process. According to Scam Busters, the Advance Fee Fraud scams often target small businesses and charities. And while the scam has been around for years, the U.S. Financial Crimes Division of the Secret Service still receives a reported 100 calls a day from people claiming to be victims of a (419) crime.

    But, back to the Cochrane-Ramsey case. The real victims who thought they were buying cars online reported the scam to the police, who traced the account back to Cochrane-Ramsey. She was ordered to appear in Brisbane District Court and plead guilty to one count of aggravated fraud.

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