Blog Posts by Eric Pfeiffer

  • An X-ray shows the ring of 37 magnets swallowed by Payton Bushnell (KPTV)

    A 3-year-old with curious eating habits is recovering after swallowing 37 high-powered "Buckyballs" magnets. KPTV reports that after she ate them, the magnets formed a dangerous ring inside Payton Bushnell's digestive track, snapping her intestines together and ripping holes in both her small intestine and stomach.

    "They saw a circle had formed in her stomach, and they thought she swallowed a bracelet," Payton's mother, Kelli Bushnell, told the station.

    Buckyballs has released a statement on their website, reading:

    "Buckyballs was saddened to learn that a 3-year old girl in Oregon had swallowed high-powered magnets but we are relieved that she is expected to make a full recovery. This unfortunate incident underscores the fact that Buckyballs and Buckycubes are for adults. They are not toys and are not intended for children. We urge all consumers to read and comply with the warnings we place on all our products, on our website and in stores. Please keep these products out of the hands and reach of all children."

    A recent report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says there have been 22 cases of children swallowing magnets since 2009. And the New York Times reported that while swallowing a single magnet rarely poses problems, swallowing even just two can prove fatal. The Canadian government explains on one of its health information sites that once someone has swallowed more than one magnet, the magnets can literally travel through the intestines until they link up. Along the way, they can create dangerous blockages and even slowly tear through the intestinal walls themselves.

    Needless to say, Payton Bushnell survived, thanks to her doctors at Randall Children's Hospital at Legacy Emanuel. She's expected to make a full recovery.

    "Her mom and I prayed and hoped she'd get through it," Payton's father, Aaron Bushnell, told KPTV. "It's a miracle she is doing as well as she is."

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  • Watch the northern lights from the International Space Station (Video)

    The International Space Station has provided many opportunities for looking outward into the undiscovered territory of space. But in this video, the space station offers a unique perspective on one of Earth's greatest visual spectacles: the northern lights.

    "We can actually fly into the auroras [northern and southern lights]," NASA astronaut Don Pettit, a flight engineer for the orbiting lab's current Expedition 30, told Space.com. "It's like being shrunk down and put inside of a neon sign."

    The northern and southern lights, also known as aurora borealises, are caused when sun particles collide with the Earth's atmosphere. The collisions can result in a broad array of colors, depending on how the particles interact with oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere and how high they are at the time of impact. Lower elevation impacts usually result in green lights, while those at a higher atmosphere produce more red results. Nitrogen particles also create blue and purple hues. You can read more about how the different colors are created in this informative post from Causes of Color.

    "Red auroras reach all the way up to our altitude 400 kilometers [240 miles] above Earth," Pettit told Space. "Sometimes you feel like you can reach out and touch them. Green emissions, on the other hand, tend to stay below the space station," he said. "We fly right over them."

    Back in January, we showed you time-lapse photography taken during an especially large solar storm that extended the northern lights' visibility on the ground.

    As beautiful as the northern lights are to watch, they also pose potential risks to our technology-driven world. Scientists recently said there is about a 12 percent chance of a massive solar storm in the next few years that could make the aurora borealis visible "from Manhattan to the Caribbean," according to the New York Daily News. But such a display could wreak havoc on the world's power systems and communications satellites. The last known storm of similar magnitude struck in 1859, causing severe damage to telegraph poles.

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  • Rescued shelter dog now a top New York canine crime fighter

    Wheeler's police profile page (troopers.ny.gov)A German shepherd rescued from a New York State animal shelter has become one of the state's top crime fighting dogs.

    Known as Sgt. Harry J. Wheeler, the K-9 star who has helped find six bodies in police investigations was found wandering the streets of Brooklyn as an abandoned pup eight years ago, according to Petside. Wheeler was rescued by Liz Keller, who works for the Glen Wild Animal Rescue. Petside writes that when Keller noticed Wheeler's keen perception and protective nature, she thought he would make a good police dog. He then went through a 20-week training course with the New York State Police canine division, and he serves today in Binghamton, N.Y.

    Sgt. Wheeler has played a critical role in several police investigations, including helping investigators locate the body of a missing boy, the New York Daily News reported. Police had been unable to find the boy's body for months. "Without the body, [the suspect in the boy's murder] wouldn't have been convicted," New York State Police Trooper Michael Boburka told the paper.

    Wheeler even has his own profile page on the New York State Police's website, where his specialties are listed as: "Handler protection, tracking, building searches, narcotics detection, and cadaver detection."

    "He's been such a good partner," Boburka told the Huffington Post. "It's hard being a canine handler, but Wheeler made it easy."

    And though Wheeler's record is exceptional, he's definitely not the only shelter dog serving on the force. The New York Daily News also reports that about one-third of New York State's police dogs are also rescues. "I don't know why they get such a bad rap," Sgt. David Rivera, who heads the unit, told the paper.

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  • Teacher fired after assigning violent math problems to third graders

    A Washington, D.C., charter school teacher has been fired after it was discovered the teacher had assigned third-grade students a number of math problems framed around violent and illegal scenarios.

    At first, the unnamed teacher at the Trinidad Center City School claimed he had been ordered to assign the problems, but it was quickly discovered that the teacher had actually downloaded them from a free homeschooling website called "HomeschoolingParadise.com."

    "I was absolutely distressed," Dr. Beverley Wheeler, the CEO of Center City PCS, which oversees Trinidad, told WUSA9.  "It doesn't follow anything we do. We are about character, excellence and service and I found them to be violent and racist."

    Even more baffling, other parents at the school say the teacher in question is a minister.

    [Parents outraged after homework references slavery, beatings]

    I went to the Homeschooling Paradise website and took a look at the third-grade homeschooling "Worksheets" curriculum. To start, the site's

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  • Rhode Island Republican Barry Hinckley's U.S. Senate run got a boost this week when a cute campaign video featuring his 5-year-old son Hudson hit the web. But it was Barry and Hudson's bizarre follow-up interview with Fox News that may make the more lasting impression.

    In the campaign video, "Economics for five-year-olds," Hudson breaks down criticism of President Obama's economic policies, asking, "Five-year-olds, are you better off now than you were five years ago?" Of course, President Obama was not in the White House five years ago, but we'll cut the kid some slack. Whether or not you agree with the video's political message, Hudson is adorable and charismatic.

    So, Fox News host Neil Cavuto had Barry and Hudson Hinckley on his show to discuss the ad. This is where things got very weird, very quickly. Throughout the video, Barry Hinckley can be seen reading something off-screen and mouthing the exact words his son Hudson is saying in response to Cavuto's questions. (The interview starts at the 1:30 mark in the video below.)

    Hilariously, things momentarily go off script when Cavuto inquires somewhat skeptically, "Hudson, are you worried about our debt?" Hudson pauses long enough for his Dad to interject, asking, "Are you worried about paying back the money?" Finally, Hudson answers, "Um, no."

    Barry Hinckley appears a little irritated and Cavuto jokes, "You're not worried about it at all. So, the whole ad was a lie!"

    So, what in the world was happening? Most likely, the interview was scripted so that 5-year-old Hudson would stay on his Dad's campaign message. Hinckley insists that most of the people who have watched his son's campaign video are supportive but a look over the video's comments shows plenty of people bringing up the never-ending question of whether a politician should use their own children for political gain.

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  • Mansion servant enslaved by uber-rich New York family for nearly six years

    An aerial view of Llenroc mansion (thesmokinggun.com)

    A wealthy New York woman is facing criminal charges after being accused of keeping an illegal immigrant as an indentured servant and forcing her to live in a closet for nearly six years.

    Documents posted on the Smoking Gun allege that Annie George, 39, and her now-deceased husband, Mathai Kolath George, hired an illegal immigrant from the Indian state of Kerala. The immigrant, identified only as "V.M.," was promised about $1,000 a month in wages to live in the family's 34-room, 30,000-square-foot home, known as Llenroc mansion, which houses a helicopter pad, 15 fireplaces, marble flooring, 24-karat gold gilded ceilings and a glass elevator. V.M. was tasked with taking care of the Georges' four young children, along with performing household duties in the mansion located about 20 miles north of Albany.

    New York's minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Even if V.M. had been allowed to leave the residence at the end of a regular 40-hour workweek, she would have been entitled to a minimum, pretax income of $290 per week, or $1,160 per month.

    Instead, the "forced labor situation" (as described in the court papers) was even worse than the already-below minimum wage offer of $1,000 month. V.M. received 85 cents an hour, working 17-hour days, seven days a week, over the 67 months she was kept inside the George residence.

    All told, V.M. received only about $29,000 over the five and a half years she was forced to work for the George family.

    The Smoking Gun reports that immigration agents received a tip from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center last year and removed V.M. from the George's property. The U.S. Department of Labor conducted its own investigation and says V.M. is entitled to $206,000 in back wages. She was also allegedly denied health benefits, sick days or any personal time off from her labors.

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  • New winged roller coaster ‘the Swarm’ rips the arms off crash test dummies

    The Swarm roller coaster (ThorpePark.com)

    A theme park in London is set to debut a powerful new winged roller coaster this month, but only after first figuring out how not to dismember its riders. Time reports that Thorpe Park has been conducting test runs of its new coaster, the Swarm, even enlisting fighter pilots who described the ride as "gut-wrenching."

    The self-described "flight through apocalyptic devastation on Europe's tallest winged rollercoaster" propels up to 28 riders at a time with their arms and legs dangling freely at 62 miles per hour and includes trips through an inverted 127-foot drop and several close encounters with walled structures that are designed to make passengers feel like they are about to crash.

    [Zero-gravity roller coaster could bring weightless thrills to Earth]

    The ride's designers ran some test runs with crash test dummies, leaving many shocked when the dummies returned from the experience missing arms and legs. A team of former British fighter pilots were then brought in as the coaster's preparation neared completion. Mark Cutmore, team leader of the Blades, a stunt pilot organization, told the Metro: "I am a self-confessed adrenaline junkie, but even as a pilot used to G-force there were some gut-wrenching moments, and I have to admit the near miss element is eye-watering -- you really do feel as if you are going to crash into the structures."

    You can watch a simulated video of the Swarm here:

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  • Doctors rebuild man’s dented forehead using his own body fat

    Tim Barter before and after his surgery. (Original images courtesty King's College Hospital)

    In June 2009, Tim Barter fell 25 feet from a drainpipe, hit his head on a brick wall and was left in a coma for 10 days. When he awoke, his forehead was caved in because doctors had performed an emergency life-saving operation to repair his shattered skull, cheekbone and eye socket. But even after the surgery, he experienced double vision and other aftereffects from the incident.

    "My head felt really strange. I only had skin over where the skull had been removed, so it was very soft to touch, particularly when the hair had started to grow back," Barter said in an interview with BBC Breakfast.

    Less than three years later, the Telegraph reports Barter has experienced an amazing recovery after doctors performed an innovative surgery to repair his forehead using fat from his own stomach.

    The surgery was performed by Dr. Robert Bentley, a surgeon at London's King's College Hospital. The procedure involved using titanium plates to repair Barter's skull. As painful as it might sound, the plates were inserted through Barter's cheeks to avoid scarring. Fat tissue from his stomach was then injected into his forehead to fill the damaged section of his skull.

    Barter had a successful life pre-accident, working on the popular "Dr. Who" program for a number of years as a visual effects supervisor. But now, Barter is embracing life like never before.

    "I'm making the most of everything now where I didn't before," Barter, 32, tells the BBC. His new list of physical activities includes wall climbing, kayaking and even skydiving. "I love the falling. It's just the split second at the end that's an occasional problem," Barter joked. "I can't put anything off anymore. I'm doing what I've always put on my list," he said.

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  • Kenyata White and Aeimee Diaz (Photo credit: 12News)Kenyata White and Aeimee Diaz were celebrating their anniversary at the American Kitchen & Wine Bar in downtown Phoenix this week when they were suddenly asked to leave the restaurant for "inappropriate behavior." But after an uproar on Facebook and other social media sites, the lesbian couple has been welcomed back with open arms -- and free drinks.

    The Arizona Republic reports that the couple was asked to leave the restaurant, which is in the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel, after the two women were seen hugging and kissing at their table. A manager approached them to tell them their behavior was "inappropriate," and making other customers "uncomfortable."

    "My partner and I were reminiscing," White told the Arizona Republic. "I had my arm around her neck, and she had her hand around my waist. I gave her a hug for about a minute, pulled myself away to give her a quick kiss, and then we continued talking."

    White posted about the incident on her Facebook page and received an overwhelming response of support from the online community. Representatives of the hotel then met with the couple to apologize for the incident.

    "We had the opportunity to meet with the couple late (Tuesday) to listen to their story and better understand their view and how they felt," hotel General Manager Leo Percopo said in a statement. "We had a collaborative conversation, and both parties are taking this incident seriously. Together, we have identified opportunities in which both parties can unite and work together to foster diversity awareness."

    White said the couple was not only invited back the next day, but offered free drinks as partial recourse.

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  • Grizzly bear charges at Alaskan tourists (Video)

    In the above video, a wild Grizzly bear suddenly charges at a group of Alaskan tourists. Thankfully, no one was hurt in the incident.

    The group of 10 tourists was visiting Katmai National Park and was taking part in what was billed as a safe viewing of the Grizzly bears in their natural habitat, according to the Daily Mail. But one of the bears suddenly charged from its stream directly at the tourists, who were forced to sit in silence, lest they upset the bear further and provoke a potentially deadly attack. At one point, the bear reportedly got close enough to a tourist to sniff his hooded sweatshirt, before returning to the stream.

    'We had a safety class beforehand about what to do if we encountered a bear," tourist Larry Griffith, 59, told the Daily Mail. "All the bears were catching fish when this particular bear circled our group several times, wanting us to leave his fishing spot. This was not supposed to happen. Our guide said he saw this as a bluff charge, trying to scare us, which he did! We were all in shock but were happy that no-one in our group jumped up, ran away or screamed for their lives."

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