Toy Safety: 2007 WATCH list

Here is the list of the toys not to buy, as compiled by the nonprofit group World Against Toys Causing Harm Inc., or WATCH.

There are retailers out there still selling them, although some of them were recalled. Example being Go Diego Go- Animal Rescue Boat, which I am pretty sure have seen a few days ago at London Drugs.

The top 10 toys on the 2007 WATCH list along with the companies that make them:

1. Aqua Dots or Bindeez, Spinmaster. Contains GHB, lead ?

2. Go Diego Go Animal Rescue Boat, by Fisher Price. Contains lead paint.

3. Sticky Stones, GeoCentral. Magnetized stones that, if swallowed, could “stick together across the intestines, causing serious infections and death.”

4. Jack Sparrow’s Spinning Dagger, Zizzle. Viewed as eye hazard.

5. Dora the Explorer Lamp, Funhouse. Potential for electric shocks and burns.

6. Lil “Giddy Up” Horse – Sassy Pet Saks, Douglas. Contain fibers and small parts that could be a choking hazard.

7. Spider Man 3 New Goblin Sword, Hasbro. Rigid plastic could cause injuries.

8. Hip Hoppa, by Spin Master Ltd. and Vivid Imaginations, Ltd. A combination footboard and bouncing ball that children jump on has the potential for head and other injuries.

9. B’Loonies Party Pack, Ja-Ru, Inc. Children blow balloon-like toy out of substance squeezed from tube. Has potential for chemical ingestion.

10. My Little Baby Born, Entertainment, Inc.; Zapf Creations AG. Baby doll comes attached to tiny pacifier that could be swallowed.

Lil “Giddy Up” has been defended by the company as not being harmful, but rather having a wrong label, that has been fixed in the mean time.
The article follows:

Thursday, 8:37 AM
From the Boston Globe Business Team
Company: Our item doesn’t belong on worst toy list
November 14, 07 02:56 PM
A toy company today disputed the inclusion of one of its products on a list of the year’s “10 worst toys” as compiled by the nonprofit group World Against Toys Causing Harm Inc., or WATCH.
A story in today’s Globe reported that the group included on its list the “Lil’ Giddy-Up Sak with Horse” from Douglas Co. of Keene, N.H.

The toy is a miniature plush-toy horse that comes in a purse.
In an e-mail to the Globe, Douglas president Scott Clarke wrote that Lil’ Giddy-Up Sak should not be on any list that includes recalled toys because his product has been tested many times and the horse and purse meet and exceed government standards.
But Clarke added, “We agree with the comment from WATCH that this item should be more clearly labeled, and we will make the horse age grade match the age grade of the purse.”
The horse is labeled that it’s age appropriate for “birth and up,” and the purse is labeled as appropriate for “18 months and up,” said Clarke, who added the labels would be modified to both read that they’re appropriate for “18 months and up.”

WATCH director James A. Swartz said that the purpose of the top 10 list is not to catalog toys that are recalled but to cite examples of the types of potential hazards that parents could find in toys on store shelves.
As for Lil’ Giddy-Up Sak, Swartz said that the purse features a wooden bead that could get detached during play; according to Swartz, the bead is small enough to pose a choking hazard and shouldn’t be included in a toy “marketed for babies.”
Told that Douglas was planning a label change, Swartz replied, “That’s a good start.”
Clarke noted that the bead on the Lil’ Giddy-Up Sak is securely fastened.
“It does not detach with play,” he said.
(By Chris Reidy, Globe staff)

Second home in the sun

Courtesy of Don Ediger who wrote for International Living, we got some general information on beach properties that could be bought for a good price in various countries.

So, if you want a place in the sun, but don’t want to spend more than $100,000, there are 10 destinations you need to consider:

Costa Rica: It’s a favorite retreat for North Americans who like the country’s cool mountains or beautiful, wide beaches. Costa Rica has superb sport fishing, birdwatching, scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, surfing, and horseback riding. Property prices are rising–but not so fast that you can’t still find bargains.

The Dominican Republic: It’s one of the least expensive countries in the Western Hemisphere. Ocean-view condos are on the market for just over $100,000. For a little more than half that amount you can find an apartment in the capital Santo Domingo, known for its old world charm.

Belize: This English-speaking Caribbean country offers big tax incentives to foreigners who live part- or full-time in the country. While Ambergris Caye and several other coastal areas have become expensive, there are still real estate bargains galore, particularly in the exotic rainforests only a few miles from the ocean.

Mexico: The country has been a favorite of second-home owners for many years, but prices in Mexico can vary just as much as the climate. Today’s savvy property shoppers are attracted by low prices around Yucatán’s Gulf Coast and by the big advantages of the Lake Chapala area–golf, tennis, hiking, and horseback riding, as well as theater, concerts, and garden clubs.

The Bahamas: Sports, nature, and an elegant lifestyle continue to lure people to these islands just off the Florida coast. Though the Bahamas have a reputation for pricey real estate, it’s not difficult to find condos for $100,000 and three-bedroom houses for around $200,000.

Guadeloupe and Martinique: The French West Indies combine Caribbean culture with a Riviera lifestyle. That means dining and dancing as well as opportunities to enjoy nature, whether it’s a hike around a volcano or a dip in ocean waters that Jacques Cousteau described as among the best in the world.

Nicaragua: Despite the potentially worrisome outcome of recent elections, the country remains a haven for second-home owners. Bargains are the big reason. Even at property developments with top-notch golf courses, you can get a condo near the ocean for less than $100,000.

Fighting scabies: natural remedies

My 4 year-old has been diagnosed with scabies. Until a week ago I was sure that scabies is something that happens in third world countries and definitely not to my clean kid. I almost accepted that kids might come to daycare or schools with lice. Although it is hard to believe that in this century we are still fighting these kind of bugs. But scabies? Frightening!
I asked the doctor is I should tell the daycare and it was left up to me. I did, because he did take it from there, that’s for sure. Knowing it, would at least make them wash what it can be washed and maybe the irresponsible parent who sent his kid to the daycare to infect other kids might feel a bit of remorse. I highly doubt it. The result was that my kid was sent home, although he was way past any contagious stage. Whatever.
First response, one coming from a complete panic and not enough research, was to purchase the pretty expensive Kwellada. Full of optimism I put the freaking poison on my son, washed and disinfected everything in the house (and I am talking about 6 wash loads) only to realize that nothing changed. The itch was still there, albeit less annoying, the red spots and bumps were almost unchanged.
At that point I got really upset and started looking for alternative cures.
Not because the Kwellada was $47, but because it’s coming with lots of warnings regarding its toxicity and the maximum number of applications is two!!!
The chances are pretty high that he won’t be cured by the second treatment and then what?

Facts about scabies:
– The mite, its feces and ova laid by females seem to cause the irritation that leads to itching and secondary infection from scratching
– The itching is worse at night
– The incubation period is about three weeks but reinfestation can occur much faster
– In older children and adults the main areas infested are the web spaces between the fingers, wrist and elbows, the axillae, male genitalia and women’s breast; my son had it all over his torso, legs, buttocks and genitalia, but not on the wrists, elbows or the web spaces between fingers

Treatments for scabies:
– Permethrin 5% cream: the most popular choice. According to the literature ‘It has low toxicity and excellent results. It is at least as effective as lindane (Hexit, Odan Laboratories Ltd, Canada; PMS-Lindane, Pharmascience Inc, Canada) and more effective than crotamiton (not available in Canada). Permethrin should be washed off after 8 to 12 h’; it should not be used on young kids or during pregnancy or lactation.
– Lindane cream or lotion: recommended when permethrin is not available; the same precautions concerning young kids and pregnant women
– Precipitated sulphur (7%) in petroleum jelly is a safe alternative therapy for very young infants, and pregnant and lactating women. It is applied on three consecutive days, left on for 24 h after application and washed off before the next application
I quite don’t understand why this safe option has not even been presented to me?
Until our GP is back from his holiday, I will start my son on natural remedies.

Natural remedy options:

– Tea tree oil
– Neem oil/cream
– Oregano oil

Tea tree oil

It’s common use is as antiseptic and antibacterial. Due to the surge of super resistant bacterium, tea tree oil has been investigating as tool against Staphylococcus aureus, a dangerous pathogen found in hospitals. A study published in 1995 in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy found that a dilution of 0.5 percent tea tree oil killed this bacterium in test tubes.
For at-home use, tea tree oil is great for disinfecting minor cuts, abrasions and burns. It also works against lice: mix 5 drops of tea tree oil with 5 drops of eucalyptus oil and 6 drops of lavender oil in 2 ounces of almond or olive oil. Saturate hair and Scalp, cover with plastic and let sit for 2 hours. Then comb hair with special nit comb and wash. Repeat daily until lice are gone.
Gargling twice daily with a few drops in warm water relieves sore throats. Rubbed on the nose and forehead, it alleviates head congestion. A few drops on the chest and back breaks up a phlegmy cough.
Where to buy it: almost everywhere


Known as “the village pharmacy,” India’s neem tree is practically a first-aid kit in itself. Packed with the antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antihistamine, antiseptic, spermicidal and immune-system stimulating components nimbin and nimbidin, neem is said to do everything from repelling insects to preventing pregnancy. “It’s a great family first-aid herb,” says Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, a Seattle-based herbalist and co-author of Herbal Defense (Warner Books, 1997).
Added to toothpaste and mouthwash, it prevents cavities and gingivitis; in creams (containing at least 25 percent neem oil), it combats vaginal infections and sexually transmitted diseases; in soaps and shampoos, it kills lice, ringworm and scabies; mixed with equal parts vegetable oil and water, it makes a healing soak for athlete’s foot; undiluted, it repels fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and flies.
But neem oil is a real standout for skin care. Ayurveda believes that skin conditions are the result of excess sugar in the body, so neem’s bitterness is used to restore balance.
The oil also contains fatty acids, which build collagen, promote wound healing and maintain skin’s elasticity. According to John Conrick, author of Neem–The Ultimate Herb (Hopeful Communications, 1994), neem is as effective as cortisone for psoriasis, Wash the affected area with neem soap, then apply a cream with at least 1 percent neem oil. This same recipe can be used for acne, eczema, cuts and scrapes, minor bums and ringworm. For lice and scabies, use neem shampoo, then add a neem cream to the hair and scalp, leave it in overnight, and comb through with a nit comb before washing it out. (Try the same routine, minus the nit comb, for dandruff.)
Where to buy it: Vitanetonline, cost:$12.70 for 2 oz; Healthandyoga, cost: $12.95 for 50 grams and Worldshoppingmall cost:, neem cream 7.43 EUR, 50 gr, neem oil 10,50 EUR for 100 ml
Warning: not suitable for those with nut allergies.

Oregano oil

Oregano oil is a potent remedy for skin and fungal conditions, chronic pain, insect bites, and even nasty summer colds. Its powerful antiseptic, antibacterial, antiparasitical, antiviral, analgesic and antifungal properties are attributed to the active ingredient carvacrol.
For most skin problems, Cass Ingram, D.O., author of ‘The Cure is in the Cupboard: How to Use Oregano for Better Health’ (Knowledge House, 1997), recommends applying 1 drop of oil to the affected area or soaking a cotton ball with oil and taping it in place overnight. You also can treat fungal infections, insect bites and minor bums this way.
If applying the oregano oil on sensitive areas like face or genitals, dilute 1 or 2 drops in a teaspoon of olive oil first.
Where to buy it: health food store

Which video console is best for you?

The interactive entertainment industry is worth multibillion-dollars. The war to win the biggest share of the market is among the three big players, namely video game machines: Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony Play Station 3 (PS3) and Nintendo Wii.
The console war grew more fierce with the introduction of high-definition gaming by PS3 and Microsoft Xbox 360, and with inventive ways to control games with the Nintendo Wii.
Which one would be best for you and your family?
Let’s try to summerize their features:

Microsoft Xbox 360
Xbox 360 was designed primarily for older gamers, teen and up. With the new version of Xbox Live Arcade games available via the on-line Xbox Live service (cost $60 a year), Microsoft moved closer to the younger gamers.
Xbox 360 has the most comprehensive network of all three consoles: players can play with or against others in cyberspace, compete in tournaments, chat or download games extras. It does not have built-in Wi-Fi, so you need to connect a broadband cable to the machine or purchase a snap-on wireless receiver.
Xbox 360 is also designed as a multi media machine for the living room that can play DVDs, CDs, and MP3s.
You can also purchase an optional HD-DVD add-on. As per the Microsoft, the owners of Xbox 360 will be able to download full-length feature films to the console’s hard drive.
The entry level core system does not have a hard drive, has a wired controller and composite A/V cables. The premium bundle includes a 20 GB hard drive, wireless controller, headset and a game.
The black Xbox 360 Elite includes a 120 GB hard drive and HDMI audio/video output for 1080p resolution.

Sony Playstation 3
Available with a 60 GB and 80 GB hard drives, PS3 offers the most technologically advanced hardware, resulting in almost perfect graphics, multidirectional surround sound and lots of on-line goodies.
PS3 also has integrated Wi-Fi support, memory card readers and multiple USB ports.
It is the only game console that can play movies on Blu-ray Discs. PS3 plays CDs, DVDs and Super Audio CDs.
The controller employs a six-axis motion-sensing system, so you can tilt it to alter the action onscreen.
PS3 is backward compatible, so it can also play PS1 and PS2.

Nintendo Wii
Nintendo Wii was the success story of 2007. Do you remember the commercials with the Japanese guys coming to people and offering the controller that resembles with a DVD remote?
The wireless Wii controller has built-in motion sensors so whatever the player does with it in front of the TV is mirrored onscreen in real time.
It also has a built-in speaker.
Nintendo Wii is Wi-Fi ready, allowing gamers to log on to the internet over a wireless network to play games against others, download classic Nintendo and Sega games or access news.

Faith Crisis: The God Who Wasn’t There

“Religion is regarded by the common man as true … by the wise as false … and by the rulers as useful.”Seneca, Roman Philosopher

Within our perceived and tangible existence we could find ourselves at a spiritual crossroads: Does God exist? Was Jesus real? By ‘we’ I am talking about the open-minded people who would not necessary adopt the truism way of thinking, who are not brain washed and more than anything who would really like to get some answers.  Sometimes I envy the people who are very confident in their beliefs. The atheist who believe there is nothing out there, and after we die it’s nothing left, other than us becoming dust. Or the hardcore religious guys who believe that there is an omnipotent, ubiquitous somebody (namely God) who punishes according to your sins or the wrongdoing of your ancestors. I am none of them. There is a part of me who believes that there is something out there. We are created of energetic particles and we cannot just vanish. If we are to find answers, we have to investigate pros and cons literature.

 I was born and raised Christian Orthodox and it’s absolutely nothing spectacular about this religion.

 I will not define myself as not being spiritual. Just that Christianity left me with a bitter taste in my soul. My quest has not stopped.

The next stop in my spiritual journey is to try to understand the atheistic point of view.

I guess one of the reasons the skeptics are looking for proofs is to counteract the forced feeding coming from the righteous.

 One of the movies that created some buzz is The God Who Wasn’t There . I went looking for reviews about the movie on the Internet. Following are some of my findings:

Claims  made by Flemming and interviewees in The God Who Wasn’t There include:

  • The divine Jesus was based on older, mythic “savior figures” such as Dionysus and Mithras and that Christian leaders are reluctant to teach early church history because it supports, rather than debunks, the theory that Jesus was a mythic figure rather than a historic personage.
  • Earlier gods like Thor, Balder, Deva tat, Dionysus, Bacchus and Horus shared one or more similarities to Jesus, including “Born of a virgin on December 25”, “Killed on a Cross or Tree”, “Visited by Magi from the East”, “Rode Donkeys into the City” and “Betrayed for 30 Pieces of Silver”.
  • Christianity’s global success is based on its claim to historical accuracy. Unfortunately for the Christian church, the “proof” evaporates on closer scrutiny.
  •  The film opines that modern Christians aren’t taught about early history of their religion because, upon any real scrutiny, evidence of Jesus’s life evaporates.
  • Moderate Christianity makes even less sense than a fundamentalist interpretation of Christian doctrine because the Bible contains many messages incompatible with toleration of non-Christians, particularly Jews (who reject Jesus as a savior and, thus, are damned).
  • Christian doctrine is contradictory in details but unambiguous on one point: God demands you believe in him or be damned to eternity in hell. Flemming sees this as, essentially, mind control.

Searching for other arguments, I found these clarifications on some of the arguments used by Flemming to support his theory:

Born of a virgin on December 25 – None. And according to the Gospels, not even Christ. Mithras was formed from a rock on Dec 25, but this date doesn’t appear to predate Christ.

Stars Appeared at Their Births – Krishna

Visited by Magi from the East – None

Turned Water into Wine – I’ll put Dionysus here, though there is no myth where he does it himself. In one story, empty jugs left in a Dionysus Temple miraculously fill with wine overnight. In another story, a devotee causes a spring of wine to appear. In neither case is “water turned into wine” — wine only gets created. (Again for those who want to quibble: I am going with the wording presented. I suspect “turned water into wine” is worded that way to bring up the image of Christ personally performing that miracle. Why not just say “Wine gets miraculously created”, which would be a match?)

Healed the Sick – Asclepius, a few others, especially when believers prayed to them after they ascended to heaven.

Cast out Demons – Krishna, Buddha

Performed Miracles – Several 

Transfigured Before Followers – None.

Rode Donkeys into the City – None. Dionysus is depicted riding on a mule, though not into a city. (What? Close enough, you say? Then why not say “Rode a beast of burden to some place for some reason”? Then it would be a match) 

 Betrayed for 30 Pieces of Silver – None (though I’ve heard this is true of Socrates)

Celebrated Communal Meal with Bread and Wine – Mithras 

Which (Celebrated Communal Meal) Represented the Saviour’s Flesh and Blood – None

Killed on a Cross or Tree – None

Descended into Hell – Dionysus

Resurrected on Third Day – Attis (though the evidence for this doesn’t appear to predate Christ)

Ascended into Heaven – Lots! (Not sure where else gods are supposed to go)

To Forever Sit beside Father God And Become Divine Judge – None (Osiris and Mithras do become judges, though don’t sit beside a Father God) 

From the same source it comes the following information: 

Richard Carrier says in the movie:

“You have someone make up a fake quote, or misrepresent a document, misrepresent the evidence. [Readers] assume: “This guy wouldn’t lie. He wouldn’t have made this stuff up.” And so they go and repeat it. And so you get the lie repeated many times mostly by people who aren’t lying – they really do think it’s true. They just didn’t check.”For me, Carrier’s statement summarizes the data content of Flemming’s movie. Flemming has presented misinformation on pagan “saviour figures” that is repeated uncritically from website to website. From the reviews on atheist websites, many people have just accepted this misinformation as fact. After all, Flemming wouldn’t lie. He wouldn’t have made this stuff up. But unfortunately he just didn’t check. And, while it is true that Paul gives few historical markers in his writings, Jesus Mythers rarely (if ever) attempt to examine that pattern within the context of the literature of the day. Again, there doesn’t appear to be any checking… which brings up this point: What are Flemming’s sources? Where did he get his information from? While I can’t criticize him for including references to his sources in the movie, it has been a year since he has released it, and the research that he said he did has been slow in coming forth. And why no follow ups with interviews with other scholars on some of these points? There are actually a number of Jesus Myth variations, with Earl Doherty’s version the pre-eminent one currently. All Jesus Myth proponents believe that their particular view remains unrefuted, though obviously not all Jesus Myth theses can be correct at the same time. (This is of course a similar situation that religions find themselves in). Which one is the “true” Jesus Myth theory? Flemming appears to have adopted Doherty’s version (with a dash of Acharya S or Freke&Gandy), though I doubt that he has investigated Doherty’s thesis in any more depth than he investigated Christian origins when he was a fundamentalist. Finally, I should point out that the reviews of Flemming’s movie on atheist websites have generally accepted it on good faith — and generally uncritically. I hope that my analysis encourages a more skeptical attitude towards Flemming’s movie. I think I’ve presented a strong case that the claims made in the movie should at the least be examined on their merits, rather than assumed to be true. But it is worth pointing about again that I am a Christian, so I may be biased. I urge interested readers to look into claims for themselves, and not take my word or Flemming’s word for anything. What about the evidence for a historical Jesus? Well, that isn’t very strong either. But currently scholars — both religious and secular — appear to believe that they have enough evidence to come to a conclusion. And until mythicists start to present their cases in peer-reviewed publication, the current consensus that there probably was a historical Jesus at the core of Christianity is a reasonable position based on standard practice of conducting historical research.”