Thursday, May 15, 2003

Exploding pacemakers

I just made the sort of mistake only a sleep-deprived historian could. In the world in brief section of the NY Times I saw the headline “Belgium: War Crimes Complaint Against Franks,” and my first thought was that the statute of limitations should have run out for the Franks about 1,400 years ago. Turned out they meant Gen. Tommy Franks. Well that makes more sense. Now the Visigoths...

An interesting leak in the NYT (will anybody be horribly befuddled if I just use that abbreviation in the future?), which was told by FBI sources that they had nothing to do with the expulsion of Cuban diplomats for spying, in other words they may have been spies, but did nothing in particular recently to justify the measure, which was ordered for political reasons by the White House. This sort of childish message-sending is bad enough for normal diplomats, but 7 of them were in Cuba’s UN delegation, and the UN host country should not be screwing around with that without a very much better reason than they had. It’s not just showing contempt for Cuba, but contempt for the UN.

The House Armed Services Committee rejected the Bush proposal to allow development of baby nukes (the Senate committee went the other way). How ‘bout that?

For those who of you who like the Opera web-browser but are annoyed by the flashing banner ads, they have disappeared in the last few weeks. My guess is that they run ads on the newer versions of the program, but have stopped for the older ones.

So Texas state cops enlisted Homeland Security in the search for the missing D’s by claiming to have believed their plane had crashed. Naturally, Tom Ridge’s boys in yellow failed to detect the false alert.

Paul Wolfowitz told Turkish tv that the Bush admin was disappointed that the Turkish military hadn’t overruled the civilian government to assist the US in Iraq.

From the Danish Post, via Funny Old World in Private Eye:
“Every time this happens, it’s a disaster,” Claes Foghmoes of the Danish Crematorium Owners Association (DCMA) told reporters in Copenhagen, “and the explosions are happening more and more often these days. Whenever there’s a blast, it disables the entire mechanism, and we have to let the oven cool for two to three days, before we can go inside to change the parts. And as a result, we’re often left with a backlog of bodies, which have to be rerouted to other crematoriums.”

Earlier, Dr Niels Bloch of the Medical Officers Association had described how explosions were disabling or destroying crematoriums throughout Denmark, because doctors forget to remove pacemakers from deceased patients. “It’s my impression that these accidents aren’t due so much to forgetfulness, but to the fact that the doctor who signs the death certificate often isn’t aware that the deceased has a pacemaker to begin with. Lithium batteries are commonly used in pacemakers, and they explode like TNT when exposed to extremely high temperatures. This sort of explosion is so powerful that the crematory oven brickwork, heat sensors, and cover can all be irreparably damaged, and the DCMA then sends damage bills of up to DKK 100,00 to liable hospitals and doctors.

“What we need is legislation that makes it a matter of standard procedure for patients to have the word ‘pacemaker’ tattooed to their chests when they are fitted with one. How can doctors know otherwise, except by asking them? And of course, when the patient is dead, that line of enquiry becomes rather tricky.”

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