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Recall of Thomas the Tank Engine toys due to lead-paint fears

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A recall issued last week for Thomas the Tank Engine toys made in China and containing lead-based paint, is the latest scare for consumers, and follows recent scandals involving Chinese-made pet food, pharmaceuticals, toothpaste and other toys, The New York Times has reported in a series of articles.

Last week, RC2, a U.S. toy company based in Oak Brook, Illinois, issued a recall for its popular wooden “Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends” train sets. The recall involved 1.5 million “Thomas Wooden Railway” vehicles and train sets sold at toy stores and various retailers across the U.S. from January 2005 through June 2007.

A subsequent recall has been issued in the United Kingdom, where Thomas the Tank Engine was originated in the 1940s as a character in a children’s story by the Reverend W.V. Awdry. Around 70,000 toys are involved in the U.K. recall, according to The Guardian.

“RC2 has determined that the surface paints on the recalled products contain lead. Lead is toxic if ingested by young children and can cause adverse health effects,” the Consumer Product Safety Commission said in a press release dated June 13. “Consumers should take the recalled toys away from young children immediately and contact RC2 Corp. for a replacement toy,” the commission said.

Those “adverse health effects” could include brain and nerve damage, especially in young children, as well as blood and brain disorders. Severe lead poisoning causes vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, anemia, loss of appetite, headaches and in particularly high doses, coma and death.

In an article on Monday, The New York Times reported that recalls have been issued for 24 different toys in the U.S. in the past year, and every one of them was made in China. According to the Toy Industry Association, toys made in China account for around 70 percent to 80 percent of all the toys sold in the U.S., The Times said.

“These are items that children are supposed to be playing with,” Prescott Carlson was quoted as saying by The Times. Carlson is a co-founder of a child-safety website called Imperfect Parent, which tracks recalls of toys and other baby products. “It should be at a point where companies in the United States that are importing these items are held liable,” Carlson said.

RC2 would not comment to The Times, and a Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman would not say how long ago the problem with the lead paint was discovered.

For a follow-up article on Tuesday, The Times visited a factory in Dongguan, in China’s Guangdong province, where the “Thomas and Friends” toys are made. The paper interviewed workers and took photos on the factory floor.

“You’re intruding,” a factory manager identified only as Zhong was quoted as telling the reporters. “Tell me, why exactly are you here?”

During the visit, a reporter, translator and a photographer were detained by factory officials, and released a day later after local police and government officials intervened.

The factory also produces other toys for RC2, including toy John Deere trucks, NASCAR racing models and M&M’s cars, The Times said. RC2 makes the toys under licenses from various companies. The “Thomas and Friends” toys are made under license from Hit Entertainment, which owns the “Thomas” brand.

According to RC2, items in the “Thomas and Friends” recall are:

  • Red James Engine & Red James’ # 5 Coal Tender
  • Red Lights & Sounds James Engine & Red James’ #5
  • Lights & Sounds Coal Tender
  • James with Team Colors Engine & James with Team Colors *#5 Coal Tender
  • Red Skarloey Engine
  • Brown & Yellow Old Slow Coach
  • Red Hook & Ladder Truck & Red Water Tanker Truck
  • Red Musical Caboose
  • Red Sodor Line Caboose
  • Red Coal Car labeled “2006 Day Out With Thomas” on the Side
  • Red Baggage Car
  • Red Holiday Caboose
  • Red “Sodor Mail” Car
  • Red Fire Brigade Truck
  • Red Fire Brigade Train
  • Deluxe Sodor Fire Station
  • Red Coal Car
  • Yellow Box Car
  • Red Stop Sign
  • Yellow Railroad Crossing Sign
  • Yellow “Sodor Cargo Company” Cargo Piece
  • Smelting Yard
  • Ice Cream Factory

Toys listed that are marked with codes containing “WJ” or “AZ” are not included in the recall.

Earlier, RC2 said that customers would have to cover shipping costs to return the toys to the company. It later agreed to cover postage after angry complaints by parents, The Times said in an article yesterday. Refunds will take about two months.



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US retailer Circuit City files for bankruptcy protection

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On Monday, United States electronics retailer Circuit City announced that it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Second largest in its field, behind Best Buy, the company has previously announced that it would close down 155 of its locations leaving an estimated 8000 employees jobless.

The retailer also said more cutbacks will be on the way. “Circuit City was incredibly successful in the 1980s and 1990s, but they never changed after that,” says David Schick, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus.

In August, Best Buy, reported that its profits had gone up to show a quarterly profit of US$200 million. Meanwhile, Circuit City reported a loss of $239 million in September.



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Man charged with attempted murder in £40 million London jewel heist

Sunday, September 6, 2009

24-year-old Aman Kassaye, of no fixed abode, is to face a charge of attempted murder for his alleged role in an armed robbery that netted £40 million ($65 million) worth of jewelry from a London store.

Kassaye is the seventh man to be charged, and is also facing prosecution for conspiracy to rob the Graff store in New Bond Street, false imprisonment, and using a handgun to resist arrest. He will appear at Wimbledon magistrates court on Monday.

The other six men have already been remanded in custody until October 23, when they will appear at Kingston Crown Court. All are facing charges of conspiracy to rob, and two of them are also charged with a firearms offense.

43 diamond rings, watches, and bracelets were taken from the store. The theft occurred when two armed and suited men walked in and took an employee hostage. It has been reported they used prosthetic masks made from liquid latex but police have not confirmed this. Amateur footage also shows a shot was fired. No-one was injured.

The robbery is one of the biggest the United Kingdom has seen. After the crime a string of getaway vehicles was used, with police believing several more offenders assisted with this stage of the plan. Although The Telegraph claims no stolen property has yet been recovered, this is also unconfirmed by police.



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Founder and CEO of Rockmount Ranchwear Jack Weil dies at age 107

Friday, August 15, 2008

Jack A. Weil, founder and CEO of Rockmount Ranch Wear died on August 13 at the age of 107 in Denver, Colorado. He was the oldest working CEO in the United States. He was also known as “Papa Jack”.

He was born on March 28, 1901 in Evansville, Indiana. In 1946, Weil rented a space at 1626 Wazee Street in Denver and set about trying to create a fashionable yet practical identity for the western ranchers of the region.

I never wanted to be the richest man in the cemetery

Weil was well-known for coining the phrase “The West is not a place, it is a state of mind.” He was the first person to put snaps on Western shirts, patented the saw-tooth pocket design seen on many Western shirts, and was credited with inventing the bolo tie.

In 2001, he told Associated Press, “I learned fast you can’t sell to cowboys; they have no money. You have to appeal to the cowboy in everyone and sell to them.”

Among his customers were Ronald Reagan, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Nicholas Cage. More recently, Rockmount shirts were worn by the late Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in the 2005 Academy Award-nominated movie, Brokeback Mountain.

Weil’s wife, Beatrice Baum, died in 1990, followed by his son Jack B. in January 2008.

“I never wanted to be the richest man in the cemetery,” he told his grandson and current president of the family business.



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High school football coach shot dead at school gym in Iowa

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

An American football coach has been shot at his school gym in Iowa, United States. Ed Thomas was shot in front of his students at around 8.00 am local time. Thomas was in the weight room at the time of the shooting. An adult male has been arrested suspected of his murder.

Thomas was the head football coach at Aplington-Parkersburg High School. He had coached 37 seasons of High School football in his career and has a career record of 292-84 of which 156-31 is with Aplington-Parkersburg. He led Parkersburg to 19 state playoffs and won state titles in 1993 and 2001. He was named NFL High School Coach of the Year in 2003 and previously coached four active NFL players including Brad Meester, Jared DeVries, Casey Wiegmann and Aaron Kampman.

Thomas was well known in the local community for his work. When Parkersburg was hit by a tornado in the summer of 2008 Thomas worked endlessly to restore the damaged football field. County Sheriff Jason Johnson said that “Coach Thomas is the pillar of the community. Anything that affects him affects Parkersburg.”

No students were injured during the shooting.



Signs You Need To Get Your Dog To The Vet

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byAlma Abell

So your dog isn’t feeling quite as festive as he normally does this morning. In fact, he seems pretty listless and quiet. Not sure if it’s time to take him to the vet yet? Here are a few more signs that say you need to get your pet to the nearest veterinary hospital right away:

1. He lost weight. He’s been eating poorly for days. And losing weight because of it. You think it’s just a lack of appetite for the same flavor of meat and milk bone. But what if it’s something else?

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2. He’s been inactive. He always used to be so active, running around, chasing everything in sight. Now he doesn’t move around as much and seems to suffer from joint pain when you hug him. That could be a sign of something else. Have that checked out before it gets worse.

3. He keeps scratching, licking or chewing his tail or neck or some other body part he can reach. That could be fleas, of course, but there could be allergies as well.

4. He smells awful. If you notice your dog starting to smell, that’s a very bad sign. Don’t wait around to see if the condition improves—bring your dog to the vet right away.

5. He’s vomiting. Vomiting almost always comes with diarrhea in dogs. This could be a case of gastric problem, which goes away easily enough. Observe your dog. If he seems fine after vomiting, then just withhold food for the next 4-6 hours. Make sure to give him plenty of water so he won’t get dehydrated. However, if your dog is vomiting dark blood, almost black, that’s a sign of food poisoning. Get in your car and get to the veterinary hospital right away!

6. Lump in his stomach. Gently check your dog for signs of injury or pain. If you feel a slight distension in the stomach, he could have the bloat, known medically as gastric dilatation volvulus.

Some hospitals or clinics, like the All Creatures Hospital, offer several surgical procedures so if you believe your pet needs one, call for an appointment today. The sooner you have any of these treated, the sooner your pet will go back to being his old self: going around full of life and giving out furry hugs and doggy kisses to you and your family. You can also connect with their Facebook page.



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100s of thousands take to the streets across France

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets across France this weekend to pressure the conservative government to discard a new law, which they say will erode job security.

The marches were mostly reported as festive and peaceful. Other reports indicate that youths pelted police with objects, overturning and setting fire to a car at the end of the main protest in Paris. Police fired many rounds of tear gas. Demonstrations were also reported in Marseille, Rennes and Lille, where police charged and teargassed crowds.

Rally organisers estimate the turnout across the country at over a million people, with around 500,000 of them in Paris. However, the Interior Ministry reported 503,000 nationwide, with 80,000 in Paris.

The protesters are demanding that the Government withdraw the “First Job Contract” (CPE) – which allows employers to fire workers under the age of 26 without explanation in their first two years on the job. The aim of this new law is to encourage businesses to employ more young workers, given that their employment will be more flexible and convenient in economic terms. In the western city of Rennes, students wore plastic garbage bags with signs declaring: “I am disposable.”

The Paris march began with students in front and workers behind, but turned into a multi-generational mix including many parents who joined their teenage children. Banners declared “No to throw-away youths” and “Tired Of Being Squeezed Lemons.” The actions are only the third time in almost four decades – after 1968 and 1994 – that students and workers marched together.

“I risk working for two years for nothing, just to be fired at any moment,” said Paris student Coralie Huvet, 20. Unemployment is currently a major political issue in France. The French national average is 9.6 percent, and youth unemployment is nearly 21 per cent. The rate rises to 40-50 percent in some of the poor suburbs hit by several weeks of youth rioting last year.

Recent opinion polls show that 68 percent of French people oppose the new law, a rise of 13 percentage points in a week, and that French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin‘s popularity has dropped six points to 37 percent.

Since the beginning of March, protests, occupations and direct action against the new CPE employment law in France have been increasing, with university and school students leading the dissent.

Railways have been blockaded, airports disrupted, and up to two thirds of France’s universities have been occupied or disrupted, as well as many schools. Clashes with police have occurred throughout the country.



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2006 “Stolenwealth” Games to confront Commonwealth Games in Melbourne

Friday, March 3, 2006

The possibility of large-scale protests in the face of the 3,000 journalists covering the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, has event organisers and the Government worried.

The group “Black GST” – which represents Indigenous Genocide, Sovereignty and Treaty – are planning demonstrations at prominent Games events unless the Government agrees to a range of demands including an end to Aboriginal genocide, Aboriginal Sovereignty and the signing of a treaty.

The Black GST say they hope the focus of the world’s media will draw attention to the plight of indigenous Australians during the Games. Organisers say supporters are converging from across Australia and from overseas. Organisers say up to 20,000 people may take part in talks, rallies, colourful protests and many cultural festivities designed to pressure the Federal Government on Indigeneous rights issues. They want the Government to provide a temporary campsite for the supporters, saying “organised chaos was better than disorganised chaos.”

The 2006 Stolenwealth Games convergence, described by organisers as the “cultural festival of the 2006 Commonwealth Games,” was virtually opened on March 2nd with the launch of the official “Stolenwealth Games” website. Scoop Independent News and Perth Indymedia reported that the launch was held at Federation Square in Melbourne. The site contents were projected via wireless laptop by the Stolenwealth Games General Manager, and a tour of the website was given on the big screen. He said “overwhelming amusement was the response from the audience.” The group say permanent access points to the website are being set up at public internet facilities across Victoria during the coming weeks.

“Interest in the Stolenwealth Games is building all over the world and this fresh, exciting and contemporary site will draw in people from Stolenwealth Nations around the globe to find out about the latest news and events,” said a Stolenwealth Games spokesperson. “We have been getting many requests from around the world wanting to know about the Stolenwealth Games. We have provided many ways that individuals and organisations can support the campaign by spreading the word.”

The Victorian Traditional Owner Land Justice Group (VTOLJG) which represents the first nation groups of Victoria, has announced its support to boycott the 2006 Commonwealth Games until the Government “recognises Traditional Owner rights.” The group asserts that culture has been misappropriated in preparation for the Games.

Organisers of the campaign say they welcome the formal support from the Traditional Owners. “While some seek to divide and discredit Indigenous Australia, this support is further evidence that the Aboriginal people are united in opposition to the ongoing criminal genocide that is being perpetrated against the Aboriginal people” said Black GST supporter and Aboriginal Elder, Robbie Thorpe.

“We now have endorsement from the VTOLJG and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy for the aims and objectives of the Campaign and we are looking forward to hosting all indigenous and non-indigenous supporters from across Australia in March,” he said. The Black GST group have said “the convergence will be held as a peaceful, family-focussed demonstration against genocide, and for the restoration of sovereignty and the negotiations towards a Treaty.”

But the campaign has received flak in mainstream media, such as Melbourne’s Herald Sun, who wrote: “the proposal to allow BlackGST to set up an Aboriginal tent embassy at a site well away from the Commonwealth Games will be interpreted by some as the State Government caving in to a radical protest group. A major concern for the Government… is to protect the event from disruption… no chances should be taken…”

The Black GST has been planning the convergence for months, calling for Aboriginal people and their supporters to converge on Melbourne. The Melbourne-based Indigenous rights group have called on thousands of people concerned about the plight of indigenous Australians to converge on Melbourne during the Games, which they have dubbed “the Stolenwealth Games”. But the choice of Kings Domain has made conflict almost inevitable, as the area is one of the areas gazetted by the State Government as a “Games management zone”.

Under the Commonwealth Games Arrangements Act, any area gazetted as a management zone is subject to a range of specific laws – including bans on protesting, creating a disturbance and other activities. The protest bans will be in effect at different times and places, and offenders can be arrested. A spokeswoman for the Black GST, which advocates peaceful protest, said the site had been chosen because it was close to where the Queen will stay on March 15. “We figured that she is only in Melbourne for 27 hours or something like that so we thought we would make it easy for her to come next door and see us,” she said. “We are a very open, welcoming group, so she will be welcome to come and join us.”

Kings Domain is the burial site for 38 indigenous forefathers of Victoria. Black GST elder, Targan, said trade union groups have offered to install infrastructure at the site. The group initially worked with the State Government to find a suitable camp site, but the relationship broke down when the Government failed to meet a deadline imposed by the protesters. “While we are disappointed the ministers were not able to meet deadline on our request, we thank them for their constructive approach towards negotiations and the open-door policy exercised,” said Targan.

A spokesman for Games Minister Justin Madden said the Government was still investigating other sites. Victoria Police Games security commander Brendan Bannan said he was not convinced the Black GST represented the views of most indigenous people. “We are dealing with the Aboriginal community and they don’t seem to support it at all … the wider Aboriginal community don’t support disruption to the Games at all,” he said.

The Government was told that Black GST supporters would camp in Fitzroy Gardens and other city parks should it fail to nominate a site. A spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gavan Jennings said the Government was taking the issue seriously, but had not been able to finalise a campsite before the deadline.

Under special Games laws, people protesting or causing a disturbance in “Games management zones” can be arrested and fined. While prominent public spaces such as Federation Square, Birrarung Marr, Albert Park and the Alexandra Gardens fall under the legislation, such tough anti-protest laws cannot be enforced in the nearby Fitzroy Gardens.

Games chairman Ron Walker has urged the group to choose another date for its protest march through the city, which is currently planned to coincide with the opening ceremony on March 15. The group believes that an opportunity to gain attention for indigenous issues was lost at the Sydney Olympics and has vowed to make a highly visible presence at the Games.

The Black GST said the Australian Aboriginal Tent Embassy’s sacred flame, burning over many years at the Canberra site will be carried to Melbourne before the Games, and its arrival would mark the opening of the protest camp from where a march will proceed to the MCG before the Opening Ceremony.

Black GST claims supporters from all over Australia, including three busloads from the West Australian Land Council, will gather in Melbourne during the Games for peaceful protests.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gavin Jennings had offered Victoria Park to the protesters. Victoria Park, former home of Collingwood Football Club, where one of the strongest statements of Aboriginal pride, when St Kilda star Nicky Winmar in 1993 raised his jumper and pointed to his bare chest after racial taunts from the Collingwood crowd.

Black GST, which has labelled the Games the Stolenwealth Games, said the State Government had failed to find a suitable venue. Black GST may encourage protesters to camp in prominent parks such as Fitzroy Gardens and Treasury Gardens. Graffiti supporting the action has also appeared in central Melbourne.

Melbourne City councillor Fraser Brindley has offered his home to the Black GST organisers. “I offered my home up to people who are organising visitors to come to the Games,” he said. Cr Brindley will be overseas when the Commonwealth Games are held and has offered the free accommodation at his flat at Parkville. He said he agreed with the protesters’ view that treaties needed to be signed with indigenous Australians. “I’m offering it up to the indigenous people who are coming to remind Her Majesty that her Empire took this land from them,” said Cr Brindlley. Nationals leader Peter Ryan said: “This extremist group has no part in the Australian community.” Melbourne councillor Peter Clarke said the actions were embarrassing and that he would try to discourage him. “It’s not in the spirit of the Games,” he said.

Aboriginal elder, Targan, said the possibility of securing Victoria Park was delightfully ironic. “There’s a lot of irony going on,” Targan, 53, a PhD student at Melbourne University, said. “GST stands for Genocide, Sovereignty and Treaty. We want the genocide of our people to stop; we want some sovereignty over traditional land, certainly how it is used, and we want a treaty with the government,” Targan said.



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Open Rights Group holds first conference in London

Sunday, July 25, 2010

London — The Open Rights Group, a pressure group pursuing reform of intellectual property law in the United Kingdom, held its first “ORGCon” yesterday at City University London. Approximately 100 delegates took part in six hours of panel discussions and workshops on a wide range of topics in intellectual property, discussing such subjects as “How To Talk To Your MP” and “ACTA: A Shady Business”, in what ORG billed as a “crash course in digital rights” designed to inspire campaigning on intellectual property issues.

Cory Doctorow, a fiction author and digital rights activist, led the keynote panel discussion “Thriving in the Real Digital Economy”, which opened the conference. Doctorow called for a “reframing” of the digital rights slogan “information wants to be free”. “The most important thing” about digital rights, he noted, “has nothing to do with art. We are refitting the information network with lots of control.” Digital rights management (DRM) technologies, Doctorow warns, build in limitations on how consumers exchange information and “abuse the market”. John Buckman of Magnatune followed up Doctorow’s comments, noting that DRM is “unsustainable” but that the public needed to “pressure companies into” open-source solutions.

A keynote speech by James Boyle compared the current age to the age just before application of the theories of Adam Smith and other early capitalist economists began breaking down the entrenched monopolies of mercantilism. Boyle called on the audience to come up with a “jaw droppingly simple” idea for a reformed copyright system; he gave his speech in front of a projection of the twitterfall as audience members commented on his words.

Boyle, like most of the conference, took a pro-reform but anti-piracy position, saying “It is a tragedy that an entire generation has lost the notion that breaking the law is wrong”. While several members of the Pirate Party UK, wearing matching t-shirts, attended the conference and held a fringe meeting during the last session, none spoke in the keynote sessions either as panelists or in the discussions.

Among the many workshops which comprised the last three hours of the day, Open Rights Group held a session on student groups and committed itself to establishing Open Rights Group Youth societies at universities across the United Kingdom. Young activists, such as Wikipedian Jdforrester, also dominated the “Your Shout” session in which any and all delegates could give three-minute speeches on any intellectual property subject which interested them.

The organisation hopes to host a second ORGCon in 2011.