Man with a ring stuck on his penis … and other fire brigade stories

Not the best tool for removing stuck rings from swollen, um, members

A man who turned up at hospital with a ring stuck on his penis had to be cut free by 10 firefighters, according to data released by the London fire brigade.

It took firefighters 20 minutes to remove the ring after staff at Queen Elizabeth hospital, Woolwich, were unable to prise it from the man’s genitals.

Two fire engines were dispatched to perform the delicate procedure, which took place in May this year. Two? One to watch and learn?

It was just one of three incidents in which firefighters were called to remove a ring stuck on a penis between April 2010 to May 2011, records show.

The disclosure is one of 417 incidents attended by London’s firefighters involving people stuck in objects, machinery and furniture – not including road traffic accidents…

The removal of rings from fingers accounted for 160 incidents, while 74 people had “other” objects removed. Some 133 people had become trapped in or under machinery or other objects, and 14 people were impaled.

Dave Brown, the brigade’s assistant commissioner for operations and mobilising, said: “You wouldn’t believe some of the incidents we’re called to deal with…we’d ask the public to take greater care to avoid getting themselves into these often ridiculous situations, and to think carefully before dialling 999 and calling us out if there isn’t an emergency.”

Phew? I never matched any of these. But, barely.

Several years back, picking up one end of a heavy chest-of-drawers to help move it a few feet, I felt the tendon in my ring finger pop and let go. Fortunately, I knew what would happen if I wasn’t quick enough to react. I immediately ran into the bathroom and held my hand under the cold water while I worked my wedding ring off asap. Within a minute that finger was double normal size – and I would have been in need of someone to cut the ring off if I hadn’t already forced it off.

And, no, I’ve never gotten near any other portions of my anatomy threatened by something similar. 🙂

Black Friday sales show the class divide between shoppers

Neiman Marcus sold out 10 Ferraris at $395,000 each under an hour of making them available

As the busiest retail weekend of the year begins late Thursday night, the differences between how affluent and more ordinary Americans shop in the uncertain economy will be on unusually vivid display.

Toys “R” Us, Wal-Mart, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Best Buy and Target will start their Black Friday sales earlier than ever — at 9 and 10 p.m. in some instances — with dirt-cheap offers intended to secure their customers’ limited dollars. A half a day later, on Friday morning, higher-end stores like Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom will open with only a sprinkling of special sales.

The low-end and midrange retailers are risking low margins as they cut prices to attract shoppers, while executives at luxury stores say that they are actually able to sell more at full price than in recent boom years.

“We’re now into a less promotional environment than we were before the recession,“ said Stephen I. Sadove, chairman and chief executive of Saks. In the third quarter, for instance, Saks reduced the length of an annual sale to three days from four, and excluded the high-margin category of cosmetics from another regular sale.

Retail analysts are expecting a decent holiday season, with many estimating that sales will increase about 3 percent over last year, with contributions from shoppers across income levels. Yet the Friday after Thanksgiving, the kickoff to the highest-revenue weeks for stores, is expected to lay bare the increasingly parallel universes of retailing in America, the analysts said.

“Those in a more modest income situation are the people who are going to the Wal-Marts and the Best Buys and the Targets at 8, 9, 10, 11 p.m. with little kids in tow because they can’t afford a baby sitter,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consultant firm. “It’s a very unpleasant shopping experience, frankly, for a lot of people.”

Meanwhile, many affluent shoppers will avoid the scene altogether, he said. “The women who are shopping the fourth floor at Saks are not Black Friday shoppers,” he said…

“If you talk to people who are in my business, people who analyze our business, they would consistently tell you that stores at the mall, especially anchor stores, are more promotional than they were last year,” he said. “Now that may not be true at the high end — the strength of the business or the higher-end consumer has allowed them to do a little less promotion — but that’s high end.”

At Saks Fifth Avenue and other luxury stores, full-price selling has generally been increasing. So the few deals at luxury stores on Friday are not so much bargains as token nods to the Black Friday tradition. Saks is offering half off cashmere sweaters, Neiman Marcus is giving discounts on a future shopping trip when people spend more than $100, while Nordstrom says it does not have big promotions planned.

High-end retailers “don’t have to do anything desperate — it’s kind of hard to see a 5 a.m. queue outside of a Fifth Avenue luxury retailer,” said Chris Donnelly, a senior executive in Accenture’s retail practice. “If you don’t have to put it on sale and people are still going to buy it, why put it on sale?”

Since I’m a news junkie who actually prefers to watch news instead of consuming what some media hack considers entertainment – I get a lot of my TV news coverage from business channels like Bloomberg TV. Folks in business, concerned with markets and investing, haven’t any inclination to watch crap. There’s a lot more news on hand in a half-hour of Bloomberg TV than you might bump into on CNN or one of the truly cruddy network news programs in an hour or two.

Consequently, I absorb a lot of business and sales analysis – by osmosis, I guess.

Some of the soundest economists I’ve watched feel the growth in sales for this holiday season will surpass 6%. More than anything suggested in this article. The question is how much of that is the bump at the upper end from the folks with serious increases in their disposable income – over the same period that’s seen a continuation of the decline in real income for the American middle class that started to nosedive with the Bush/Cheney election?

London coppers Taser man carrying toy gun in his briefcase

Oy, we saw you picking yer nose!

Metropolitan police officers fired a Taser nine times at a man sitting on a train in the belief he was carrying a weapon in his briefcase.

The use of Tasers on a train comes as the commissioner of the Met police, Bernard Hogan-Howe…said this week he wanted to see more Tasers in response cars and Scotland Yard has confirmed work is going on to review the availability of Tasers for its officers…

BTP said Tasers were used by Met officers to restrain Justice Livingstone when he failed to comply with officers’ requests to remain seated. Scotland Yard said a Taser was fired several times after the suspect moved towards officers while shouting and refusing to move his hands from his pockets.

The Met police and British Transport Police said the suspect was in possession of an “imitation” firearm.

Livingstone, who said he had no history of mental health problems, had bought the toy gun earlier for his son’s birthday. “It was 99p,” he said…

“…they jumped at me and used the Taser four times at my chest. That did not have any effect, I felt no current. They then held me down, grabbed on to my head and pinned me down and shot me in the back of the head with the Taser three times and I felt the current…

Livingstone said he was taken to a police station in Victoria where…he was stripped naked, he said, and refused access to a lawyer.

He was eventually sent to Bethlem Royal hospital in Beckenham where he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. But on Wednesday, after he made an appeal to the mental health tribunal, he was released and is now at his home in south London…

BTP said its officers were called along with the Met to reports that a man was on the platform waving a gun.

Livingstone said he would be making a formal complaint about his treatment.

At this point the story is pretty confused. I know a fair bit about the fog or war and comparable foggy minds in the heat of civil conflict. Police are as likely as civilians to jump to conclusions based on what they expect to confront – regardless of the facts.

If this ever gets to court and the coppers place in evidence a 99p toy gun made of orange plastic – I don’t think they stand a prayer of getting away without paying a considerable amount in compensation to Mr. Livingstone. Especially if they allow photos of his injuries.

Fox News fans dumber than folks who watch no news at all!

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

If Fox News viewers want to be informed about current events, they might as well turn off the TV.

A poll released by Fairleigh Dickinson University on Monday found that people who get their news from Fox News know significantly less about news both in the U.S. and the world than people who watch no news at all.

In a survey of 612 New Jersey natives, Fox News fans flunked questions about Egypt and Syria when compared with people who don’t watch the news. Fox viewers were 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians toppled their government and 6 points less likely to be aware that Syrians have not yet overthrown theirs.

“Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven by Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News,” Dan Cassino, a Fairleigh Dickinson professor who served as an analyst for the poll, said in the report. “Rather, the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at all…”

The most informative outlets were found to be the Sunday morning news shows as well as outlets like the New York Times, USA today and NPR.


Four drugs cause two-thirds of hospitalizations in older Americans

Warfarin “flower”

Blood thinners and diabetes drugs cause most emergency hospital visits for drug reactions among people over 65 in the United States, a new study shows.

Just four medications or medication groups — used alone or together — were responsible for two-thirds of emergency hospitalizations among older Americans, according to the report. At the top of the list was warfarin, also known as Coumadin, a blood thinner. It accounted for 33 percent of emergency hospital visits. Insulin injections were next on the list, accounting for 14 percent of emergency visits.

Aspirin, clopidogrel and other antiplatelet drugs that help prevent blood clotting were involved in 13 percent of emergency visits. And just behind them were diabetes drugs taken by mouth, called oral hypoglycemic agents, which were implicated in 11 percent of hospitalizations.

All these drugs are commonly prescribed to older adults, and they can be hard to use correctly. One problem they share is a narrow therapeutic index, meaning the line between an effective dose and a hazardous one is thin. The sheer extent to which they are involved in hospitalizations among older people, though, was not expected, said Dr. Dan Budnitz, an author of the study…

As Americans live longer and take more medications — 40 percent of people over 65 take five to nine medications — hospitalizations for accidental overdoses and adverse side effects are likely to increase, experts say…

A common denominator among the drugs topping the list is that they can be difficult to use. Some require blood testing to adjust their doses, and a small dose can have a powerful effect. Blood sugar can be notoriously hard to control in people with diabetes, for example, and taking a slightly larger dose of insulin than needed can send a person into shock. Warfarin, meanwhile, is the classic example of a drug with a narrow margin between therapeutic and toxic doses, requiring regular blood monitoring, and it can interact with many other drugs and foods…

One thing that stood out in the data, the researchers noted, was that none of the four drugs identified as frequent culprits are typically among the types of drugs labeled “high risk” for older adults by major health care groups…

Dr. Budnitz said that the new findings should provide an opportunity to reduce the number of emergency hospitalizations in older adults by focusing on improving the safety of this small group of blood thinners and diabetes medications, rather than by trying to stop the use of drugs typically thought of as risky for this group.

Dr. Budnitz thinks it is critical that patients tell their physicians everything they’re taking. Well, presuming that the digitizing program put in place by President Obama is proceeding at least as quickly as anything else that hasn’t been roadblocked by the Party of NO – seems to me it soon should be practical for that physician to have someone on staff run a database check on his patients for exactly these conflicts and dangers.

Leaving the responsibility up to a patient who may not even be able to spell the crap he’s taking ain’t the most reliable approach. Involving doctor and pharmacy database records makes as much sense or more.

Cyberattack on water plant in Illinois – doesn’t hold water!

Federal officials said Wednesday they have found no evidence to support an initial state report that foreign hackers caused a water pump at an Illinois water plant to fail this month.

The preliminary report, collected by a statewide terrorist intelligence center in Illinois, had said that a Russian hacker had taken control of the operating system at the water plant in Springfield. The pump turned on and off repeatedly, burning out the motor, the report said…

But the Department of Homeland Security and FBI said they failed to confirm reports of a cyber­attack. DHS spokesman Chris Ortman called the Illinois state report nothing more than “raw, unconfirmed data.”

He said that the federal investigation also failed to confirm the report’s claim that hackers broke into a software company’s database and retrieved user names and passwords, which enabled access to the water plant system.

“In addition,” Ortman said, “DHS and FBI have concluded that there was no malicious traffic from Russia or any foreign entities, as previously reported.”

Officials from the state intelligence center did not return phone calls seeking comment…

Please, let’s don’t start letting reality, verifiable conclusions or facts stand in the way of Cold Warriors who are required by that alien implant in their brain to transform every possible SNAFU into an assault upon God, Apple Pie and the American Way of Life.