Sharpies O.K. for marking surgery sites – again and again

We know X marks the spot on pirate maps — but it took a six-month University of Alberta study to show that felt pens used to mark the X where surgeons should cut can be reused, saving cash-strapped hospitals some treasure.

The study found that Sharpies, the felt pens often used by medical staff to mark the spot of an operation, don’t need to be discarded after each use.

That’s good news from a savings point of view, since more than 97,000 surgeries were performed in local hospitals last year. Each Sharpie costs more than $1, so that’s a potential saving of close to $100,000.

Infection control specialist Dr. Sarah Forgie came up with the Sharpie study after a chief surgeon questioned the need to throw out markers after each use, standard practice at most hospitals. The chief surgeon questioned if there really was any evidence that the nib of Sharpies can actually transmit bacteria.

A six-month study she headed up found that Sharpies don’t pose a risk of transmitting disease because they use an alcohol-based ink, and alcohol kills bacteria.

A surgeon can carry a Sharpie marker and use it on all of their patients until the ink runs out.

Erectile dysfunction may be an early warning for a heart attack

Erectile dysfunction gives a two to three year early warning of a heart attack, warns an expert. But the link between erectile dysfunction and the risk of heart disease is being ignored by doctors, writes Dr Geoffrey Hackett from the Good Hope Hospital in Birmingham.

Over many years Hackett reports regularly seeing patients referred with erectile dysfunction after a heart attack, only to hear that they had developed erectile dysfunction two to three years before—a warning sign ignored by their general practitioners.

It is well known that erectile dysfunction (a symptom of vascular disease in the smaller arteries) doubles the risk of heart disease, a risk equivalent to being a moderate smoker or having an immediate family history of heart disease. Erectile dysfunction in type 2 diabetes has been shown to be a better predictor of the risk of heart disease than high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

But despite this considerable evidence erectile dysfunction is still treated as a recreational or “lifestyle issue” rather than a predictor of a serious health problem, says Hackett…

“Continuing to ignore these issues on the basis that cardiologists feel uncomfortable mentioning the word ‘erection’ to their patients or that they may have to deal with the management of a positive response, is no longer acceptable and possibly, based on current evidence, clinically negligent”, he concludes.

Phew! A physician who takes responsibility for the inaction of his peers.

Good for you, Hackett.

Dumb online Post of the week

A posting on the social networking Web site MySpace led teenagers to an empty home in North Canton, Ohio, that they used as a hangout spot, police allege.

North Canton Police Department Chief Michael Grimes said eight teenagers, whose identities were not released, are now facing both felony and misdemeanor charges for allegedly breaking into an area home while its owners were away, WEWS-TV, Cleveland, reported Tuesday.

“They knew the family would be gone and so they broke into the house and things went downhill from there,” Grimes alleged. “They ate the food that was there, used some of the alcohol that was there, borrowed the family car that was left there.”

Grimes said the teenagers allegedly learned the house would be empty for a week after reading a MySpace posting by one of the children in the family.

Turning on your computer apparently switches off your brain at the same time.

Group to share patents for radio tracking [who?]

France Telecom, Hewlett-Packard and five other companies got a go-ahead from the U.S. government to form a patent consortium to share high-frequency radio technology used in tracking and identification, according to the Justice Department.

Each of the companies holds at least one patent that a standard-setting group had judged essential to create a type of system that uses a radio frequency to track tagged items. The system is used by stores to track merchandise, in ID cards, and by airlines to track baggage.

“The consortium’s proposed pooling arrangement appears reasonably likely to yield efficiencies,” Thomas Barnett, the assistant attorney general for antitrust, wrote in a letter to the companies’ lawyers.

“It includes safeguards reasonably tailored to minimize the risk of harm to competition,” Barnett wrote.

Regular readers [and commenters] know I don’t find any technology inherently evil. Human beings are needed to turn processes and products to a criminal end – or equally backwards political use.

Still, given the questions raised from most of the political spectrum about governments considering “tagging” citizens – you might expect this consortium to include a bit of language that supports individual privacy in their manifesto. Or don’t they care?

Spending $150K on Sarah Palin’s clothes was a “strategic decision”

Daylife/AP Photo photo by David Zalubowski

The Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August.

According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74.

The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.

The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August.

Politico asked the McCain campaign for comment, explicitly noting the $150,000 in expenses for department store shopping and makeup consultation that were incurred immediately after Palin’s announcement. Pre-September reports do not include similar costs.

The campaign does not comment on strategic decisions regarding how financial resources available to the campaign are spent,” she said.

Later on they backed down and said the goodies will go to charity after the election.

Poor Sarah. She doesn’t get to keep the Party favors. OTOH, if they put her outfits up on eBay, I’ll bet they turn a profit.

Sarkozy needled by voodoo doll

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened to sue a publishing company if it does not withdraw from shops a “voodoo doll” in his image.

The doll comes with pins and a manual with instructions on how to put the evil eye on the president. Users can stick the pins into choice quotes from Mr Sarkozy which are printed on the doll.

Mr Sarkozy’s lawyer said the president had the “exclusive and absolute rights” over his own image.

He also has exclusive and absolute rights to act like a fool.

John McCain endorsed by Al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda is watching the U.S. stock market’s downward slide with something akin to jubilation, with its leaders hailing the financial crisis as a vindication of its strategy of crippling America’s economy through endless, costly foreign wars against Islamist insurgents.

And at least some of its supporters think Sen. John McCain is the presidential candidate best suited to continue that trend.

Al-Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election,” said a commentary posted Monday on the extremist Web site al-Hesbah, which is closely linked to the terrorist group. It said the Arizona Republican would continue the “failing march of his predecessor,” President Bush.

The Web commentary was one of several posted by Taliban or al-Qaeda-allied groups in recent days that trumpeted the global financial crisis and predicted further decline for the United States and other Western powers. In language that was by turns mocking and ominous, the newest posting credited al-Qaeda with having lured Washington into a trap that had “exhausted its resources and bankrupted its economy.” It further suggested that a terrorist strike might swing the election to McCain and guarantee an expansion of U.S. military commitments in the Islamic world.

The terrorists have won!

Boy tunnels into electric substation. Mother sues power company.

A potential Darwin Award in the making

A Canadian woman whose 9-year-old son tunneled into an electric sub-station and was badly burned is suing a Manitoba power utility for negligence.

The unidentified boy was one of four children who couldn’t get through a locked gate or over a high fence surrounding the transformer on May 29, 2006, so they dug a tunnel beneath the fence. The boy touched a live wire and was thrown 15 feet into the air and landed with extensive burns to his upper body.

The mother’s lawsuit alleges Manitoba Hydro was “aware of the inherent dangers connected with the power transformer … and in particular, the danger of allowing the site, which was alluring to children, to be accessed by them,” the report said.

The suit contends the boy was left with severe scarring and mental impairment.

The boy is also left with a mother who never taught him not to perform stupid self-destructive acts.

Dumb crook of the day


Police say a Mesa, Ariz., man allegedly carrying burglary tools claimed he broke into a home because he needed to charge his cell phone. Scott Boe, 24, was charged with one count of second-degree burglary and one count of possession of burglary tools.

Boe was apprehended Friday by the homeowner, who also is a detention officer, who noted Boe allegedly admitted he did not have permission to be in the home but said he needed a power outlet to recharge his cell phone.

Boe’s backpack, found in the home, allegedly contained several knives, a large pry bar and other tools routinely used by burglars, police told the Arizona Republic.

I’d be really tempted just to shoot someone I found in my home uninvited. Though – given the vagaries of life under the Patriot Act – I worry about accidentally shooting a government operative.

Instead of a professional crook.

Saudis indict 991 terror suspects

Saudi authorities have indicted 991 suspected militants on charges that they participated in terrorist attacks carried out in the kingdom over the last five years.

The legal proceedings mark a significant step in Saudi Arabia’s fight against terror. Authorities had been reluctant to hold trials for terrorism charges that could result in death sentences until they had shown the public that every effort had been made to give the men a chance to repent.

“In the past few years, the kingdom has been the target of an organized terrorist campaign linked to networks of strife and sedition overseas,” said Interior Minister Prince Nayef.

This campaign targeted the way of life, economy and principles of Saudi society and sought to create chaos,” he added. “It has direct links to a deviant group that adopts the (mind-set) of al-Qaida.”

The militants have been responsible for more than 30 attacks in the kingdom since May 2003, Nayef said. Those attacks killed 164 people, including 74 security officials, and wounded 657 security officials and 439 civilians…

The government fears a public backlash against its crackdown if it takes overly harsh measures against the militants, and it wants to avoid accusations that it is just trying to please the United States.