Blog Posts by Eric Pfeiffer

  • The empty $34M command and control center in southern Afghanistan (Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction)The U.S. military has reportedly spent $34 million to build a new complex in Afghanistan – but is unlikely to ever actually use the facility.

    Voice of America reports that the unused site came to the attention of a congressional oversight committee that reviews projects in Afghanistan.

    "I don't know if [Secretary Chuck Hagel] will provide a formal response. I do not have one at this stage," said Defense Department spokesman George Little when asked about the project. "I think it is going to take us a little bit of time to review the findings and to coordinate with the SIGAR."

    SIGAR stands for the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, which described the base as a "potentially troubling example of waste."

    Special Inspector General John Sopko told Congress that some U.S. commanders opposed the 20,000-square-foot installation’s construction in 2010. But a year later, a British firm was nonetheless hired to build it. Originally, it was planned to serve as

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  • Apple Store in Madrid built atop 15th-century ruins

    The logo outside of Apple's flagship NYC location (Reuters)When you’re the biggest company in the world, you’re bound to ruffle a few feathers. In Spain, Apple’s new store is built on top of the ruins of a 15th-century hospital.

    El Pais reports that the remains of a 60-bed hospital once used to treat plague victims have been found in the basement of Apple's 20,000-square-foot store in Madrid.

    “We’re not surprised to find these remains because we knew they could be there,” said Jamie Ignacio Munoz, director of the Madrid Heritage Department, in an interview with the paper. “The building is located on a historic site and is protected as an area of public cultural interest, so that any action on the ground has to have the approval of the heritage department.”

    City officials in Madrid originally stumbled across the ruins of both a church and San Andres Hospital, a 600-year-old structure demolished in 1854, while building a new Sol Metro stop. The city still allowed Apple to construct its store nearby and even asked the company to cover the ruins

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  • Singing may be just as healthy as yoga, scientists say

    Jennifer Lopez performs in concert (Atlantic Wire)Deep, controlled breaths and coming into harmony with those around you. It sounds like a description of some of the basic fundamentals of yoga. But it could also be applied to singing. Does comparing the two sound like a stretch? Not to some scientists who say that singing is just as healthy as yoga.

    The London Telegraph reports that researchers at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg have found that the heartbeats of choir members begin to synchronise, resulting in a calming effect on the mind and body that has the same health benefits as the ancient practice of yoga.

    “Song is a form of regular, controlled breathing, since breathing out occurs on the song phrases and inhaling takes place between these,” Dr. Björn Vickhoff, who led the study, told the paper. “It gives you pretty much the same effect as yoga breathing. It helps you relax, and there are indications that it does provide a heart benefit.”

    To get their results, researchers had a group of teenagers perform three singing

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  • Turkish man locks head in wire cage to quit smoking

    How far would you go to quit smoking?

    A Turkish man has literally locked his head in a cage as a last ditch attempt to quit the habit. In a YouTube video, 42-year-old Ibrahim Yucel explains why he went to such an extreme measure:

    “I have been smoking since high school,” he says in the video. “I have tried to quit smoking each year on my birthday. Unfortunately, I could not.”

    Yucel told the Hurriyet Daily News that he smoked two packs a day for more than 20 years before putting on the cage helmet, which he says was inspired by seeing motorcycle riders in helmets.

    "My father developed lung cancer and died because of smoking,” Yucel says in the video. “I decided it was time to hinder my will.”

    And for at least two days he’s managed to stay cigarette free, though not without some serious effort and potential embarrassment.

    To construct the helmet cage, Yucel took around 130 feet of copper wire and wound it into a tight circle and placed two locks at the bottom of the cage. When he heads

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  • NASA sends encouraging letter to 7-year-old aspiring astronaut

    NASA's encouraging response to 7-year-old Dexter Walters (Imgur)NASA has said it would like to send an astronaut to Mars some day soon, and 7-year-old Dexter Walters has volunteered.

    In a letter to NASA, the young British boy wrote, "I heard that you are sending two people to Mars and I would like to come, but I'm 7, so I can't," Dexter's letter read. "I would like to come in the future. What do I need to do to become an astronaut?"

    And really, what 7-year-old boy doesn’t want to be an astronaut?

    The great part about this story is that NASA actually responded to his letter.

    "NASA wants you to know that your thoughts and ideas to further space exploration are important, and we hope that you will continue to learn all you can about NASA's space programs, missions, and accomplishments," reads the letter Walters received from NASA's Public Communication Program. "Just think – in a few years, you could be one of the pioneers that may help lead the world's activities for better understanding of our earth and for exploring space."

    The letter also shows

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  • Patient awoke to doctors mistakenly preparing to remove her organs

    St. Joseph's Hospital Center (Facebook)Not everyone looks forward to a visit to the doctor. And some people even have an irrational fear of hospitals.

    But sometimes things do, in fact, go horribly wrong, as in the case of a Syracuse, New York, resident who awoke during a trip to the emergency room to find that doctors were mistakenly preparing to remove her organs.

    The Post-Standard reports that in October 2009, Colleen S. Burns was taken to the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Hospital Center, suffering from a drug overdose. Although a nurse told doctors that Burns was recovering from her overdose, those same doctors pronounced her dead.

    A call was placed to her family informing them that Burns had passed away, and the family subsequently agreed to have her removed from life support and gave the hospital clearance to harvest her organs.

    But Burns was not dead. In fact, a number of signs clearly pointed to her being alive. When a nurse performed a mandatory reflex test on Burns, her toes curled downward. She appeared to be

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  • Woman mysteriously living in Cancun airport

    An unidentified passenger walks through the Cancun airport terminal. (AAP)She’s not a criminal and she has a passport. But authorities at Cancun’s airport say a Mexican woman has been living inside the airport for more than a week after getting off a flight back from the U.S.

    News Corp Australia reports that 45-year-old Marcela Silvia Montano Mancera is a Mexican citizen, leaving airport authorities baffled as to why she hasn’t simply left the airport and returned home.

    "She looks like a regular passenger at first glance, people don't look at her, but we have seen her every day. ... We are not doctors, but it's obvious that she has problems, some of my co-workers tried to speak with her, but at times it seems as if she loses it," an airline worker told News Corp.

    In the meantime, employees are becoming increasingly worried about the mental health of the woman, who has been seen eating, sleeping and even bathing at various locations throughout the airport. And reportedly, she has been withdrawing money from an ATM inside the airport, which would seem to rule

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  • Iced cream: Some Twinkies will be frozen before returning to store shelves

    Twinkies are returning to store shelves but in some form, they're still on iceTwinkies fans, it’s time to chill. With less than two weeks before Hostess products return to stores across the country, the company’s new ownership says it will freeze some of the snack items before shipping them from the bakery to retailers.

    The New York Post reports that the change comes after Hostess products were previously shipped from company bakeries to retail outlets within 48 hours of production.

    However, Hostess Yahoo! News that the request actually comes directly from retailers themselves and will only affect a small percentage of the company's overall production.

    "A select number of retail customers - representing about 10 percent of our distribution - have explicitly requested to receive frozen product," Hostess spokesperson Hannah Arnold told Yahoo! News over email. "This allows them to date the product for freshness, provides flexibility in filling their shelves, and has no impact on the quality or taste of our products. The choice is up to our customers."

    However,

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  • Man says one day of P90X sent him to the emergency room

    Businessman Matt Lombardi recovering in the ER after one day of P90X (CollegeSpun.com)The P90X workout is one of the biggest fitness trends in the past several years, with enthusiastic endorsements across the cultural spectrum, including everyone from singer Pink to 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

    But businessman Matt Lombardi says just one day of the program’s strenuous routine sent him into the emergency room with near kidney failure.

    “I simply wanted to get back in shape. I could have killed myself in the process,” Lombardi writes on his site, College Spun.

    Lombardi says he has “always been an athlete” and that he didn’t wander recklessly into the program. Instead, he says he wanted to try P90X to help lose the 20 pounds he had gained while developing College Spun.

    After completing only half of the first day of workouts, Lombardi said he woke up the next morning feeling sore and ill.

    “If you’ve done P90X, then you know that the first day (chest & back) is really, really difficult,” he writes. “You’re asked to do push-ups, then pull-ups, then

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  • Loch Ness Monster mystery could be explained by a fault line under the lake

    Could the Loch Ness Monster actually be the result of a fault line? (AP)The legend of the Loch Ness Monster has persevered for more than 200 years. But could tales of a prehistoric sea creature located in a deep Scottish body of water be explained by science?

    That’s the source of a new theory, which speculates that the Loch Ness Monster may actually be a fault line lying underneath the Scottish lake.

    Even after 200 years of technological advances since the first reported spotting in 1806, rumors of the Loch Ness Monster continue to persist. In fact, technology has played a role in spawning some Nessie theories.

    For example, in 2011, local boat skipper Marcus Atkinson produced a sonar image of what he described as a large object following his boat for several minutes at a depth of 75 feet.

    And in 2012, George Edwards shared a photo of an unexplained image in Loch Ness. Skeptics have said the image was likely of a log floating atop the water.

    Scientific American reports that Italian geologist Luigi Piccardi believes the Great Glen fault system is actually

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