Medical technologists do approximately 90 million urine analyses a year. Virtually all are done manually and take from 7 to 10 minutes to complete. But now a Chatsworth, California, company has devised a machine that can do a urinalysis automatically and in half the time it takes a competent technician to complete one. It would also save a dollar on each test performed. But the Food and Drug Administration seems to have developed a blockage in approving the new innovation, which looks like it won't get on the market for years—if at all. Where are Nixon's "plumbers" now that we really need them?
Twenty-three foreign governments weren't even slightly amused when the mayor of Emerson, Iowa, Jack Evans, reminded them of their debt to the United States. After his appeal to the American government was rejected, Evans sent letters to the other countries, each of which has received $1 billion or more in grants from Uncle Sam since 1945, asking for financial aid for his little city, which was racked by a flood in June. The Netherlands and Norway rejected his request, and the others haven't been heard from. Undaunted, Mayor Evans suggested that the town of 502 people be annexed by Israel so it could collect foreign aid from the United States. Damage from the flood was estimated at $5 million.
The Food and Drug Administration has proclaimed its official version of "truth" embodied in a government-approved list of words. Drug manufacturers who try to use words on their products that the average person stands a chance of understanding are subject to criminal prosecution and fines up to $10,000 per violation. The FDA rule states that labels on over-the-counter drugs must use technical language such as "allergic rhinitis" rather than "hay fever" and "antitussive" rather than "cough relief." Drug manufacturers, who contend the new labels will only confuse patients, surveyed its consumers and found that only 15 percent claimed to know the meanings of the FDA's language—and half of them were wrong. Sixteen persons thought an "antiemetic" was a person who disliked doctors, and one consumer described an "antiflatulent" as a bust developer. A medical magazine has described the FDA regulation as drug labels only Howard Cosell could love.
Firefighters in Charlotte, North Carolina, twiddled their thumbs while a little bit of civilization burned. Several burly firemen stood by and watched while a father and son beat the daylights out of a police officer—because they didn't know what fire department policy was on helping out in such a situation. The cop took about 20 punches in the face, stomach, and groin until some fellow officers rescued him. Firefighter Ronald Hunter was one of the brave civil servants who couldn't figure out what to do. "The officer was in a jam. He was yelling, 'Help me,' but no one moved. I didn't get as physical as I could have because I wasn't sure what our policy was." Will the firefighters be disciplined? Not likely. R.L. Blackwelder, assistant chief of the Charlotte Fire Department, said there is no policy on aiding police officers being assaulted because the problem has never come up before. "We'll have to look into it," he said.
Bird brains on the Miami police force flew off the handle when they arrested lawyer Harold Keefe and a client for what they thought was a major drug operation. The cops wiretapped the client's phone call to Keefe and heard the following: "I've got your kilo of toco toucan," the client said. "What?" Keefe asked. "I've got your bird," the client answered. The cops assumed that toco toucan was a code word for cocaine, so they busted the lawyer and his client. It turns out that toco toucan is an exotic banana-beaked bird named Skippy that the client, who operated a wild animal farm, was giving to the lawyer. The case dragged on for 18 months until charges were dropped. In the meantime, Skippy the bird died, but Keefe was instructed to put the bird in his freezer to keep it as evidence in the event the case did go to trial. Now, Keefe says, he'll keep Skippy "as a memento of how this can happen to somebody in the judicial system."
The former mayor of Jersey City has written a book affectionately describing the good old days when the shenanigans of boss Frank Hague and his Hudson County crew made Chicago look like a League of Women Voters' convention. His favorite story concerns Barney Duncan, a yeoman Democratic party worker whose loyalty was finally rewarded when Duncan was appointed county commissioner of weights and measures. At Duncan's swearing-in ceremony, a wise-guy reporter asked him, "Barney, how many ounces are in a pound?" Duncan replied: "Hey, give me a break, it's only my first day on the job."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".