Seven classes of weirdo customer identified in the wild

A study of so-called “customer service sabotage” found there are certain groups of people with the frustrating ability to spoil any shopping trip, flight or restaurant meal regardless of how enjoyable it ought to be.

In a list that resembles the cast of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, researchers said that problematic customers fall into seven categories: dopey, grumpy, smelly, pushy, stubborn, inconsiderate and rude.

People with these qualities, collectively described as “weirdos”, are dreaded by waiters and hostesses because there is little they can do to prevent them ruining other customers’ experience…

The research was carried out by Joel Anaya…The most common were people who swear loudly, followed by customers who become irate or complain at the slightest grievance and those who have poor personal hygiene.

The list also included people who stubbornly insist on behaviour which puts other customers out – such as paying entirely in pennies at a shop counter while a queue forms behind – and people who break rules, for example by pushing to the front of a queue.

It was rounded off by inconsiderate parents who fail to control their misbehaving children, and slow-witted customers who monopolise staff’s time by asking a barrage of questions and keep others waiting.

I have at least one friend who fits a couple of these categories. I hope he doesn’t see this post.

Dangerous meds are available everywhere


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The worldwide counterfeit drug market is huge and growing. The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest estimates that in 2010 the trade reaped around $75 billion, a 90 percent increase since 2005. Over the same period, the Pharmaceutical Security Institute…documented a huge increase in discoveries of counterfeit pharmaceutical products…The World Health Organization previously estimated that as much as 15 percent of the medicine in circulation around the world could be fake. These drugs occupy a wide spectrum of medications, and their quality is suspect; they can be mislabeled, tainted, adulterated, ineffective, or, in the worst cases, all of the above…

Last February, counterfeit Avastin, a widely used cancer drug, was detected in 19 U.S. medical practices in California, Texas, and Illinois. They apparently purchased what they thought was real Avastin from a foreign supplier known as Montana Health Care Solutions…They should have known better, as only a few distributors are authorized to sell Avastin in the United States. Montana Health Care Solutions’ owner is also a key supplier of a large Canadian online pharmacy, CanadaDrugs.com. Further investigations revealed that the fake Avastin had traveled through a number of countries, including Turkey, Egypt, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, before reaching the United States.

So even in such heavily regulated countries as the United States and Europe, fake drugs are now available — primarily through online distributors. Without any oversight, people or businesses from virtually any country with Internet access can find and purchase pharmaceuticals from somewhere else in the world. In fact, the U.S. National Association of Boards of Pharmacy recently reviewed more than 9,600 online pharmacies and found that 97 percent were “not recommended,” meaning that they did not comply with applicable laws and standards…

Global policy has not kept up with the burgeoning counterfeit drug trade. Specifically, cooperation on the illegal trade has gotten caught up in the battle over intellectual property rights (IPR) among public health organizations, countries, civil societies, and pharmaceutical manufacturers. Although this debate centers mostly on generic medicines, illegal copies have been taken along for the ride. On one side, industry representatives argue in favor of harsh penalties for all potentially IPR-infringing medicines, including unapproved versions. On the other side, several nongovernmental organizations and developing countries complain that such enforcement would unduly impede the poorest countries’ access to essential medicines. Complicating matters is that there is no real global consensus on what “counterfeit” means, and laws to combat such fraud are a patchwork at best…

Counterfeit meds are now as global as any legitimate business. If countries, governments, don’t get their act together criminals will take a share of demand and profit. This may be the most menacing public health and patient safety threat of this generation.

Corporations seem to think that this is just a small part of their fight over intellectual property rights. But, it’s the part that places the lives of patients deeper in danger.

Thailand coppers find roasted fetuses stashed in luggage


WARNING: Click on photo for unpleasant image from arrest scene

A British man has been arrested in Thailand after being found with six foetuses that had been roasted and covered in gold leaf as part of a black magic spirit ritual.

The corpses of the unborn baby boys were found packed in a suitcase in his hotel room in Bangkok’s Chinatown district.

Chow Hok Kuen, 28, who holds a British passport but is of Taiwanese origin, confessed to police that he had bought the foetuses several days earlier for almost £4,000. The source of the foetuses is unclear.

He said he intended to smuggle them to Taiwan where they would be sold for as much as six times what he paid on the internet to people who believe that their possession would bring wealth and good luck.

The man told police that that he was hired by another Taiwanese man, named Kun Yichen, who regularly travelled to Thailand to collect the ritualistic foetuses. Worship of the foetuses — observed by some on the Chinese community — is a Buddhist-animist practice known as Kuman Thong that is described in ancient Thai manuscripts…

Lore has it that if the owner reveres the ritual foetus, its spirit will warn and protect its possessor of danger. In practice the foetuses have been replaced by wooden effigies…

Officers made the gruesome discovery in the hotel in the Yaowarat district of Bangkok, where they found that the foetuses had also been tattooed and were adorned with religious threads.

You have to love transubstantiation.

Mario Batali’s challenge to Republican attempts to cut food stamps


Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

To much of the world, it was Monday. To Mario Batali, it was Day Four.

The chef, his wife and their two teenage sons are eating for a week on the equivalent of a food stamp budget in protest of potential cuts pending in Congress to the benefit program used by more than 46 million Americans.

That’s $31 per person for the week, or about $1.48 per meal each…

“I’m (expletive deleted) starving,” said Batali, who’s on the board of the food relief agency Food Bank for New York City, which issued the challenge to celeb pals like Batali and anybody else who wants to know what it’s like…

One lesson: forget organic and anything pesticide or hormone-free. “The organic word slides out and saves you about 50 percent.”

So what’s on the Batali menu through Thursday? Lentil chili with onion, water and cumin was one dinner that came with a complaint from his wife when he bought two bags of lentils instead of one, until he convinced her the extra cost would mean cheap eats for the next day.

Rice and beans is in my lunch every day,” Batali said. “We got a bag of mini gala apples for $3. We bought a pork shoulder roast for $8 and got two and a half meals out of it. I got a whole chicken for $5, but it was spoiled so I had to return it and got a $7 chicken instead. They were out of $5 chickens…”

His kids are doing well and didn’t have to be dragged into what Batali described as less of a publicity stunt and more of a conversation starter about what it means to be hungry in America today.

“They’re having more peanut butter and jelly than they’ve had in the last 10 years because bread is inexpensive and peanut butter and jelly, if you buy it at the right place at the right time, is cheap,” Batali said.

Also, the boys are eating school lunch, as those in low-income families do for free…

“Nearly 3 million New Yorkers have difficulty paying for the food they need,” Margarette Purvis said. “They live in every single neighborhood. We’re not trying to compare the food stamp challenge to the very real challenges people face. We’re just trying to raise awareness that it’s no longer just the homeless. It’s working families who use the food stamp program. It’s seniors. It’s a lot more children, in every single neighborhood…”

When such a well-known chef joins a campaign like this the numbnuts on the Right get all pissed off. I haven’t taken the time to link to crap from the Fox Noise crowd; but, apparently they’re upset enough to blather about Mario all the time. Which helps, of course, to bring consciousness of the attack on Food Stamps by Republicans and the Kool Aid Party — to serious foodies.

Milestone: most American children under 1 are now minorities

U.S. minorities now represent more than half of America’s population under the age of 1, the Census Bureau said, a historic demographic milestone with profound political, economic and social implications.

“2011 is the first time the population of infants under age 1 is majority minority,” said Robert Bernstein, a Census Bureau spokesman.

The latest statistics — which also count the national population younger than 5 as 49.7% minority in 2011, an increase from 49% in 2010 — portend a future of a more racially diverse America, with new and growing populations playing more important roles politically and economically in years to come, analysts say.

Like other analysts, Kenneth M. Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey Institute and professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, isn’t surprised at the trend. “We’ve known it was going to come, but the question was what year the “crossover point” would happen, he said…

Johnson sees the trend as an opportunity for more Americans to embrace diversity. More children are going to be exposed to a more diverse group of classmates, and that will affect attitudes and outlook…

Mention it that way to your friendly neighborhood Tea Party commissar. Then, duck and run!

Jeff Passell, senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, called the Census numbers “a cumulative effect of 35 to 40 years of immigration” bringing large numbers of Latinos, Asians and other immigrants into the United States.

He said the Hispanic population in particular is very young, much more concentrated in child-bearing years, and has a higher fertility rate than the white, non-Hispanic population. Lately, he says, there are a lot more births among native Hispanics in the United States than new Hispanic immigrants, a “cumulative effect” of immigration. Also a cumulative effect of poor education, machismo and religion-based culture.

Michael White, professor of sociology at Brown University, said the rise of minorities fits into a longer-term evolution of the U.S. population…truly a “melting pot,” he said.

White says it’s hard to say how the changes will affect politics and that one can’t assume that ethnic patterns will determine voting patterns. Local economic issues, for example, will evolve differently in different states and cities, and there are economic benefits of having a younger population, he said.

Ain’t he naive? Aside from essential economic issues, cultural divisions that reflect class assignment by ethnicity and color – he makes no mention of the traditional WASP leaders of American conservatism and their even more bigoted cousins in the Tea Party.

Wander through the comments following this CNN article. If you thought you didn’t live in a racist nation you’re in for a sad awakening. The semantics range from patent leather rationales for bigotry to straight-up racism. The more things change, the more some fools fight harder to remain the same.