This story comes from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.:

Before buckling babies and toddlers into car seats, parents should
be sure to remove puffy winter jackets that may slacken seatbelts,
warns Transport Canada.

Barbara Baines, a spokeswoman for the federal agency, said winter
coats and snowsuits may pose a serious safety hazard in the event of a
crash.

"Unfortunately during a collision because there is compressing
material, the weight of the child and the force of the collision is
going to push that suit down -- which is going to make the harness
loose," Baines said Tuesday. "[This] is going to make it possible for
ejection."

Transport Canada said caregivers should keep children warm using fleece sweaters or blankets during the winter months.

Ottawa consumer Glen Gower said he was surprised to learn that the
harnesses on some car seats were not designed to be used for children
wearing winter clothing.



Fake Fur that Isn't Fake

No doubt some of you will do stories on the after-Christmas shopping rush. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has a follow-up to last year's study on clothing stores that sell faux fur-trimmed clothing -- but the HSUS says the fur is not fake:

Following up on last winter's HSUS investigation that uncovered a faux fur scandal in the apparel and retail industry,
HSUS discovered again this winter that many leading retailers -- including
Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, Dillard's, Saks Fifth
Avenue and Yoox.com -- have not addressed this consumer deception.

Certain jackets sold by these companies with the brand names
Burberry, Andrew Marc, Marc New York, Preston & York, Aqua,
Ramosport and Adam+Eve were found to be falsely advertised or mislabeled as faux fur or "ecological" fur* when in fact they are trimmed with real animal fur.

The Humane Society goes on to say:

Falsely advertising or mislabeling a real fur product is a violation
of the federal Fur Products Labeling Act, which the Federal Trade
Commission is empowered to enforce by seizure of false or deceptively
advertised or labeled garments, the initiation of proceedings for
injunctive relief, and the imposition of monetary penalties, which can
range up to $5,000 per violation.

The violations documented by The HSUS include a Burberry brand jacket advertised online
by Saks Fifth Avenue as "faux." The jacket's label does not indicate
that it contains fur, but laboratory tests reveal that it is trimmed
with rabbit fur. The Fur Products Labeling Act currently requires the
labeling of fur apparel only if the garment contains more than $150
worth of fur.

"Because of this loophole, consumers
don't even realize they've been duped into buying real fur," said
(Kristin) Leppert (director of The HSUS's fur-free campaign).

Of the two jackets falsely labeled "trim: polyester," one is a
size-four girl's jacket bought in the children's section of Neiman
Marcus. Test results reveal that the coat actually contains raccoon dog
fur.

Last winter, of 25 fur-trimmed jackets tested by The HSUS, every
single one was falsely advertised, falsely labeled, unlabeled or had a
combination of these problems. Twenty were identified by laboratory
testing as raccoon dog and three as domestic dog.



Counseling for the National Guard

Stateline.org reports on an important provision that would require National Guard members to seek counseling upon their return from war:

Another closely-watched provision of this year's Defense Authorization Act would nationalize a Minnesota
program that requires all National Guard members in the state to attend
a series of three training events after combat deployments -- roughly
30, 60 and 90 days after they return from war. (See related story: In Minnesota, soldiers relearn civilian life)


The program, called Beyond the Yellow Ribbon,
forces returning Guard soldiers to meet face-to-face with professional
counselors -- and one another -- to discuss difficulties associated with
coming home, from reconnecting with family members to paying bills to
finding treatment for any lingering psychological problems such as
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


In other
states, Guard soldiers return from combat and often are thrust back
into society without being forced to attend meetings to help them
overcome problems associated with long overseas deployments. More than
250,000 Guard members have seen action during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- some for tours of duty as long as 22 months.




Pet Rental

The Boston Globe says that this spring, Beantown will join New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, San
Francisco and Washington, D.C., as a home to a pet rental franchise. The business is for people who want a pet, but only part-time. Animal rights folks
are howling, according to the article:

FlexPetz, a California-based company, will open a Boston branch of
its dog rental service this spring with a fleet of 10 dogs available
for romps on the Common or weekend sleepovers. The company bills itself
as a "unique alternative to full-time pet ownership" that will even
drop off a dog when you're ready for it and pick it up when you've had
enough. It is drawing howls of condemnation from local animal rights
groups and animal behaviorists.

"This promotes dogs as disposable
items," said Bryn Conklin, an animal protection specialist at the
Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"Dogs
need stability in their lives, they need a long-term commitment, and
they need a secure environment," said Ray McSoley, a local trainer who
called the company a "four-legged escort service."

"It's
incredibly disrespectful to the dog, and it's also disrespectful to the
renter because it devolves the purpose of having a dog in your life.
There is no commitment there."

FlexPetz's president and CEO,
Marlena Cervantes, said the dogs often come from shelters and are
specially selected for temperaments that can withstand the weekly
uprooting. She said they are not without structure and routine in their
lives; when they are not rented out to customers, the animals live in
dog day-care facilities where they roam free and enjoy pack
camaraderie. She said the dogs may wish they were in more permanent
situations but that compared with the shelters where many of them came
from, they are better off.

"Bear in mind that these dogs are in
need of homes, and they understand that," she said. "They are happy to
not be caged up, to receive top veterinary care, to be regularly
groomed, to be active, and to be playing with other dogs."

The company says its target market is busy professionals without time to care for a dog of their own.

It
has opened branches in San Diego, Los Angeles and New York this year
and plans others in Washington, San Francisco and London by spring.
The service is not cheap. To rent a dog, customers must pay $300 in
initiation and membership fees and then shell out more when it comes
time to rent a dog. A weekend day with a dog is $39.95. Dog drop-off
and pickup at a home or office is an additional $35. An "inconvenience
fee" of $75 a day is added for dogs brought back late.


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Editor's
Note: Al's Morning Meeting is a compendium of ideas, edited story
excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as
original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly
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whenever possible. The column is fact-checked, but depends on the
accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. Errors and
inaccuracies found will be corrected.