Not the best gift — laser key-chain projects swastika

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PHILADELPHIA — It is one of the hottest novelty items for boys, it comes with a warning about radiation, and it can cause eye injuries.

Now there is another problem with these laser-pointer key chains. At least a few of the interchangeable caps that cover them project the image of a swastika.

The key chains are approximately 2 inches long, have a rounded cap and emit a red laser beam. Some are sold with interchangeable caps that, depending on the filter, can project images such as angels, dollar signs or footprints.

The swastika cap was recently found by Sharon and Ken Williams, owners of the Why Be Board? toy store in Manayunk, Pa.

The couple bought a case of 18 key chains, each with five caps.

While testing the toys before putting them on the shelf, Ken Williams changed one of the caps and saw a swastika projected on the wall. "It instantly incensed me," he said.

The couple then tested the other caps. Four of the 18 contained swastikas.

The product they received is called Hi-Quality Laser KeyChain Pointer.

"This so-called toy is ostensibly intended to give people pleasure, but I don't see what pleasure people can get looking at a swastika," said Barry Morrison, director of the Anti-Defamation League's Eastern Pennsylvania-Delaware regional office.

Why Be Board? bought its key chains through a distributor who is Jewish. The distributor declined to be interviewed but, according to the Williamses, was very upset by the swastika caps.

The Williamses said the distributor had purchased the key chains from Cool Things Corp., in Carlstadt, N.J.

Cool Things' catalog depicting the key chains identifies the product as Hi-Output Key Chain Laser. The product the Williamses received had a slightly different name, Hi-Quality Laser KeyChain Pointer.

As for the Hi-Quality chains, they have a logo from a German-based company, TUV Rhineland.

Kevin Mullaney, vice president of operations for TUV Rhineland of North America, said the company's symbol on the package indicates only that one of the company's branches tested the key chains to make sure they "meet all safety recommendations."

The products also have a marking that appears to be from the Food and Drug Administration. But, Brad Stone, an FDA spokesman, said that it was not an official label.

The ADL has begun an investigation.