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The New Year's Eve ball drop explained

Published: Wednesday, December 27, 2017 @ 9:57 PM

New Year’s Eve Traditions

There are the funny glasses, the champagne, the pressure to find someone to kiss, the dramatic countdown and finally ... the ball drops in New York City's Times Square and it's a brand new year.

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It's estimated more than one billion people worldwide tune in to watch that massive ball slide down the pole on New Year's Eve when the clock strikes midnight. But why do we do it? 

It turns out a ball drop is a really outdated way to tell time. Time balls were created in the early 1800s to help sailors keep track of the precise time of the day.

Soon, people all over the world started using time balls to set their clocks, including people in New York City, the home of the famous New Year's Eve ball drop. 

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That tradition dates back to 1907. The first New Year's Eve Ball was lowered on a flagpole on top of the building where The New York Times was headquartered. The ball was 700 pounds, made of iron and wood and was covered with 100 light bulbs.

But according to The New Yorker, the ball-drop was a back-up plan. Originally, the owner of the Times wanted to set off a giant fireworks display instead, but the city wouldn't issue him a permit.

Fast-forward to 2015 and the ball has been through seven different renovations. The version we see today is a massive 11,875 pounds. It's covered in more than 2,500 Waterford crystals and is illuminated by more than 32,000 LED lights. 

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Its permanent home is atop the One Times Square building. It sits ready and waiting all year long until Dec. 31 rolls around again. And just like clockwork, the ball starts its 141 foot descent at 11:59 p.m. and 60 seconds later, a new year has officially arrived. 

Workers prepare to install the last panels on the New Year's Eve ball above Times Square, New York, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. The 12-foot diameter ball carries over 2600 Waterford crystals and is lit by more than 32,000 LEDs. (Seth Wenig/AP)

Florida man dead after diving in underwater caves

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 3:32 PM

Underground cave.
Handout/Getty Images
Underground cave.(Handout/Getty Images)

A 50-year-old Florida man is dead after cave diving in Weeki Wachee Springs State Park this weekend, officials said.

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Davin Brannon, 53, of Dover, was diving in the Eagle’s Nest cave around noon Saturday when Hernando County Sheriff officials were called about a diver in distress.

By the time crews arrived at the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area, north of Tampa, Brannon was dead, officials said. 

"They weren't planning to explore any deeper than the first room of the cave when the incident occurred," sheriff’s office spokesman Michael Terry told WTSP. "We don't know if he simply drowned or if he had a heart attack, it's hard to tell at this point." 

The medical examiner has been called in to determine the exact cause of death.

Eagle’s Nest underwater caves is the site of other recent drownings: two divers drowned in 2016 and another in January 2017, according to WTSP. 

Shirtless flag-bearer from 2016 Olympics qualifies for 2018 Games

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 2:27 PM

Pita Taufatofua carried the flag for Tonga at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Pita Taufatofua carried the flag for Tonga at the 2016 Summer Olympics.(Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

The flag-bearer from Tonga who walked shirtless in the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics will need to pack some warm shirts for the South Korean games.

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Saying that “a miracle happened,” Pita Taufatofua qualified for the Pyeongchang Olympics in cross-country skiing Saturday, The Wall Street Journal reported. Taufatofua had failed in two previous attempts to qualify for the Winter Olympics, but on Saturday, he met the standards in five races to qualify, ESPN reported.

“I gave it absolutely everything,” he told the Journal. “I died at the end.”

Taufatofua qualified in taekwondo at the Rio de Janeiro Games, ESPN reported. He was eliminated in his first bout.

Hospital blames contraceptive app for accidental pregnancies

Published: Monday, January 15, 2018 @ 2:16 PM

Hospital Blames Contraceptive Phone App for Pregnancies

A phone app that claimed it was an effective digital contraceptive is now under fire after dozens of women who said they used the app became pregnant.

Natural Cycles was certified as a birth control method in the European Union last year.

It would help woman keep track of body temperature to predict when women could become pregnant when not using traditional forms of birth control, the Evening Standard reported. It was promoted as an alternative to birth control pills and researchers believed in the results after they found it was up to 99 percent effective, the newspaper reported last year.

>>Mobile app designed to prevent pregnancy approved in Europe

Now a Swedish hospital is casting doubts on the method after it has reported dozens of unwanted pregnancies from users over the past few months, The Daily Mail reported.

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The app is popular in Europe where users went from 5,000 in 2016 to 125,000 in 2017. 

And while there have been reports of unplanned pregnancies, the company markets Natural Cycles told the Daily Mail, “No contraception is 100 percent and unwanted pregnancies is an unfortunate risk with any contraception.”

Company officials said that the number that the hospital was reporting, 37 unplanned pregnancies out of 668 users, is within the 93 percent risk communicated to consumers, the Daily Mail reported.

The Evening Standard reported that the risk of unplanned pregnancy while using birth control pills is about 91 percent.

Boy, 12, dies from flu-like symptoms in Michigan

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 11:34 PM

Ohio has reported the third flu-related infant death this season.

12-year-old boy from Michigan who vomited during dinner one night, went to an urgent care facility the next night and had a flu test come back negative tragically died the very next morning.

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Michael Messenger’s family can’t believe how quickly their world was turned upside-down, losing a son and a brother who had been so full of life in just a matter of days.

The timeline of Messenger’s symptoms, evaluation and death has his mother Jessica Decent-Doll urging other parents not to wait if they see signs of flu.

“Don’t wait, it’s all I can say. This flu or whatever is going around this year is unbelievably dangerous,” she told the Times Herald.

Messenger vomited during dinner Jan. 9, was taken to an urgent care the next evening where he was cleared for flu and administered anti-nausea medication and was found unresponsive at home in bed the morning of Jan. 11.

An hour and a half later, he was declared dead at a hospital.

Decent-Doll said her son’s vital signs were deemed normal at the urgent care center and that the family was advised to give him fluids.

By 9:15 a.m. Thursday, it was clear Messenger’s life was in grave danger.

“I ran upstairs, and I sat with him, and I tried to get him to respond to me, but there was no response, nothing,” Decent-Doll said. “It’s indescribable, it really is.”

The grieving mother said that her son had just gotten a flu shot in December and that he “never stopped, ever. He loved science. He loved his family.”

Kristen Ervinck started a GoFundMe to help the grieving family:
"Mikey was so full of life and so energetic he lit up the room with his smile," it read.

The GoFundMe raised more than $12,000 as of Saturday. 
At least 30 children have lost their lives to the disease this flu season.

Michael Messenger's funeral was Thursday. His family is still waiting for the results of his autopsy.