Friday, June 29, 2007

News: Chinese Thomas Train Factory Threatens and Holds Reporter

The New York Times has a fascinating article today about a journalist who visited the factory that made the red and yellow toys subject to the great Thomas Lead Paint Recall of 2007. It makes for a very interesting look into the Chinese power struggle. Here we are often led to believe that an oppressive government in China controls everything and can enforce unreasonable rules whimsically. This article points instead to corporate interests intimidating the police and holding reporters hostage. (In the states business has that much power too, but they use the political process rather than overt intimidation). The article is a great read. Here's an excerpt:
As an American journalist based in China, I knew there was a good chance
that at some point I’d be detained for pursuing a story. I just never thought
I’d be held hostage by a toy factory.

That’s what happened last Monday, when for nine hours I was held, along
with a translator and a photographer, by the suppliers of the popular Thomas
& Friends toy rail sets.

...Factory bosses, I would discover, can overrule the police, and
Chinese government officials are not as powerful as you might suspect in a
country addicted to foreign investment.

I shouldn't have been surprised by the reception. The last time I
arrived at a factory under suspicion for selling contaminated goods
(toothpaste), they quickly locked the gate and ran. A month earlier, I walked
into the headquarters of a company that sold tainted pet food to the United
States, and the receptionist insisted the owner was not in. When my translator
called the owner, we heard his cellphone ring in the adjoining room. I peeked in
and saw the boss scamper out the backdoor.

For American journalists, there’s a tradition of showing up at a crime
scene, or visiting a place that has made news. But in China, where press
freedoms are weak, such visits can be dangerous.

Last year, a young man working for a Chinese newspaper was beaten to
death after he tried to meet the owners of an illegal coal mine. Local officials
later insisted he was trying to extort money.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Article: Understand Your Childs Thomas Obsession

This is a first for me. A personal essay about Thomas. It's well written and deals with a mother learning to understand her child's obsession with Thomas. Here's an exerpt and the link:

My husband and I faced a crucial decision: we could pretend we'd never heard of Day Out With Thomas, refuse even to speak of it and pray that William would snap out of his mania soon. (This is the strategy I employ regarding Disney World: "Don't ask, don't tell.") Or, we could head straight into the melee and hope to come out safely on the other side: the "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach.

Friday, June 22, 2007

News: The Little Engine That Could Poison

The Little Engine That Could Poison - Is that not the greatest headline you've ever seen? I've gone back and forth as to whether it should have a ... before the poison. Still... great line.

For decades, Thomas the Tank Engine and his fellow trains have been teaching
children important life lessons. Now the plucky locomotives — especially the
haughty and sometimes naughty James the Red Engine — are serving up important
lessons about regulating environmental poisons in the global economy.

I thought this was enlightening:
In many parts of the world, from Asia to Africa to Eastern Europe, children
and workers still face levels of lead exposure not seen here for decades. The
red and yellow lead paint at RC2 Corporation’s Chinese toy factory may still be
used on toys for domestic consumption, or for export to other countries. Our
children will not truly be safe from hazardous products and environmental
hazards until stiff standards are global norms.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

News: Thomas Trains Toy Recall

Lots of wooden train (mostly red) sets & components sold at toy stores and various retailers nationwide from January 2005 through June 2007 are being recalled.

The recall involves only the specific wooden vehicles, buildings and other train set components for young children listed in the chart below. The makers 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. Nothing has been reported yet. My kids play with many of the effected toys and their lead levels were checked 2 months ago (we moved) and they were very safe (so no need to panic).

Recalled Product Names
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

Click here for the company's list of pictures (pdf)