Slow-moving Morakot stormed into Taiwan’s typhoon hall of infamy this past week, rescue teams complained, largely because clouds hovered in the hardest hit areas even after the killer storm had passed.The clouds blocked any aerial views of mountain villages in southern Taiwan where hundreds of people are presumed dead from landslides.Disaster officials on this western Pacific island, a veteran of raging late summer typhoons, couldn’t even confirm the biggest landslide, which buried a village that was home to more than 1,000 people, until a day after it had happened.But Taiwan’s National Space Organization aims to change that in five to six years by designing a radiometer that could be launched into space on one of its heavier satellites, Formosat-2 or Formosat-5. Positioned around 800 km (500 miles) above earth, the radiometer would check water levels, potentially showing whether a river had suddenly changed course, said Nick Yen, a space organisation programme director.The same radiometer could also detect changes in the sea level, hinting at tsunamis after an earthquake, for which Taiwan is also known.“The National Space Organisation isn’t able to do this yet, but we are working on that,” Yen said in an interview. “It’s quite a useful tool for rescue operations.”Taiwan will seek help from academia and possibly from the United States, which has already developed the technology, Yen said. He did not specify a budget but said developing the radiometer would cost more in labour than in materials. Taiwan, the world’s No. 37 space power, would share radiometer data internationally but keep the technology to itself, he said.(Pictures – Top: Family members of flood victims look at the site of a major landslide that destroyed the mountain village of Hsiao Lin in Kaohsiung County, southern Taiwan, August 15, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer. Centre right: A destroyed home lies partially submerged in a river in Gaushu township after Typhoon Morakot swept through Pingtung county, southern Taiwan, August 14, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer. Bottom left: Taiwan’s first satellite is launched into orbit atop a U.S. Lockheed Martin Athena 1 rocket from Florida, in January 1999. REUTERS/Stringer.)
“Even Reuters’ Ralph Jennings — of whom I’ve been extremely critical for getting the story very wrong when it comes to Taiwan — tells us that ‘half a million’ attended the protest,” a blogger wrote in October after seeing the Reuters’s write-up of an opposition-led demonstration in Taipei against President Ma Ying-jeou.China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan. Ma, Taiwan’s president, likes China. The opposition and the blogger don’t like either.I poured a beer to celebrate because I had it right, up from a score of “lies” that the same blogger gave me on a story earlier that year.Not all of us get off so easy. The blogger would write up a former Taipei-based BBC correspondent for “vague and inaccurate descriptions,” one of the friendlier grades given to the British TV network’s Taiwan coverage. The same commentator gave the China Post, a local English-language paper, a score of “Nazism.””The facts that are always ignored when AP sells its mendacious stories about Taiwan,” the blogger added. And a one-time Taipei bureau chief with Bloomberg was labeled “China-centric,” with the word “China” in red type.Getting blog-flogged is as much a part of being a 21st-century reporter as interviewing and writing. But none of the numerous transparency-wary reporters I know here can name the blogger who names us. Maybe it is one of us, someone quipped at a foreign correspondents club meeting. Maybe it’s you, I said. Maybe it’s you, he replied. Another correspondent said she once got into a debate with the blogger about her low grades, but still never learned the other party’s identity.The blogs that offer Taiwan-based reporters this free publicity identify our sniper only as Tim Maddog, a member of the “education industry” in the central Taiwan city of Taichung. One website lists Michael Turton, a fellow Taiwan blogger, who some correspondents know personally, as a collaborator. But Turton says he doesn’t know who’s mad-dogging us.On June 14 Taiwan’s Liberty Times newspaper ran a guest editorial bylined “Jason Cox,” and the blogger claims it’s his. The editorial text identifies Cox as an American-born, one-time student of Mandarin Chinese who gives advice to Taiwan’s main opposition party. The editorial tagline says Cox works in the iron and steel industry. Paid to give reporters a grilling? Nice work if you can get it!
A slow-moving typhoon that collapsed a tunnel, knocked out a bridge and set off mudslides, killing 12 people in Taiwan last September, is coming back this year.This time it’s on worldwide TV.Typhoon Hunter, a 46-minute documentary led by Local Tiger International Co. and funded in part by the Taiwan government, tracks an effort to send weather sensing aircraft into the eye of the typhoon. Taiwan worked with Japan and the United States, both of whose territories were hit by the same storm, to fly the dangerous mission for recording changes at the centre of the typhoon.”This reveals for the first time the scientific secrets to the incubation, formation and fierce destructive power of typhoons,” government information Minister Su Jun-pin said in a statement.The storm in question was Typhoon Sinlaku, which packed wind gusts as high as 162 kph (101 mph) and dumped up to 1,400 mm (55 inches) of rain in some parts of Taiwan. (For a story from the time, click here) Three died in the collapsed tunnel, one drove off the fallen bridge and others were killed in weather-driven traffic accidents. The typhoon also hurt 23 more people and prompted thousands to evacuate. The film debuts on June 21 on the National Geographic Channel, which has collaborated with the Taiwan government since 2004 to show short natural phenomenon films.Typhoons, which are similar to hurricanes in the Atlantic, are swirling low-pressure systems that regularly hit Taiwan, Japan, China and the Philippines in the second half of each year. They gather strength from the warm waters of the Pacific or the South China Sea before weakening over land. Taiwan authorities usually call off work and school for major typhoons to minimise injury from blown debris. People are admonished to put hanging signs and potted plants indoors, while flights are cancelled and seaports shut down. The brunt of a storm usually passes within a day. “Typhoons are not only of interest to people in Taiwan, but lots of people want to study them,” director Jose Garcia Sanchez said at a mid-June film unveiling ceremony in Taipei. “Some don’t know what a typhoon is.”Links: Sinlaku YouTube Video, and finally: where’s the next typhoon?(Photo credits: top left – Paramilitary policemen run with a child as Typhoon Sinlaku hits a levee in Taizhou, Zhejiang province, September 15, 2008. About 460,000 people in east China’s Zhejiang and Fujian Provinces have been evacuated as tropical storm Sinlaku, which was weakened from a typhoon on Monday morning, was approaching, Xinhua News Agency reported. REUTERS/China Daily. Right – Rescue workers look at the collapsed Hofeng Bridge across the Dajia River in Taichung after the passing of Typhoon Sinlaku September 15, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer)
An animal rights group’s annual contest to root out the sexiest female vegetarian in Asia has pounced on its first prey in Taiwan, offering the winner dubious publicity in her rabidly carniverous homeland.Taiwan TV and film actress Barbie Hsu, 32, beat 200 other contestants in the fifth online voter poll by People for the Ethnical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a U.S.-based advoacy group also known for shocking socially conservative Asian cities with anti-meat or anti-fur street protests starring nearly naked activists in lettuce-leaf loincloths or covered up by little more than a protest sign (see below for a photo of Mia Gray, Miss Eurasia 2008).Hsu, best known for her roles in TV series such as Mars and Meteor Garden, got 1,346 votes in the female category. Bollywood star Shahid Kapoor was voted Asia’s sexiest vegetarian man.”I think we should respect the life of all species, a dog, a person,” PETA quoted Hsu as saying. “Lives are equal, eating meat is like eating corpses to me, and it makes me feel sick and sad.”She should know. Her western Pacific island of 23 million people is known for scooping all manner of wildlife off the ocean floor and putting pork in everything from sushi to baked bread. Some rural Taiwanese speak proudly of eating field mice. One restaurant in Taiwan serves crocodile.The sexy part of her contest win may earn Hsu favor at home in Taiwan, but probably not the veggie part.”I don’t know how people will take to that,” said Isabella Ho, who works for a film company in Taipei. “I don’t think Taiwan people will take the distinction that seriously. “But, Ho said, “I’d see it as a PR stunt, and her PR stunts are very effective.”PETA is more optimistic.”Sex sells, and PETA will do anything to draw attention to cruelty to animals,” said Ashley Fruno, senior campaigner with the group’s Hong Kong center.Links:Sexy vegetarian contest details: http://www.petaasiapacific.com/FeatureSexiestVegetarianCelebrity.asp More about Barbie Hsu: http://www.spcnet.tv/Barbie-Hsu-ac470.html#Filmography
War is the last thing on the minds of Taiwan’s leaders these days as the island government moves to make friends with rival China. Even in far more hostile times, Taiwan’s KMT leadership had privately given up dreams of using force to take control of the mainland, according to documents that are now available for public viewing.
A public opening in May of the forested Back Cihu compound outside Taipei teaches 400 eager visitors per day how the island-based Republic of China government aimed to strike back at the Communist People’s Republic of China, but it ultimately abandoned the idea.
Chronically isolated Taiwan found a powerful new friend over the past year – its once bitter adversary China. But as Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, a leading figure behind that friendship, reaches his first anniversary in office on May 20, the two sides have shown they’re ready to back away from each other again.
Ma’s first year saw what few could have imagined even two years ago, never mind 60, when Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to Taiwan from China after losing the Chinese civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communists. China still claims sovereignty over democratic, self-ruled Taiwan and has threatened to take it by force if necessary. It has said the two sides must ultimately be united.
Pop stars everywhere compete for the hearts, minds — and ears — of young people whom marketers believe are a long-lasting target audience. In Taiwan, dancing diva Jolin Tsai has picked up the tempo, reaching down to school children who are just learning to talk, never mind downloading music.
The 28-year-old singer and local paparazzi prey, enjoys widespread recognition in Taiwan, and now she has helped the east Asian island’s youth survive their studies — the daily tedium of memorizing lessons or getting scolded by teachers for mistakes — by recording messages for intercoms at about 3,000 primary and secondary schools.
Working-class folk who grew up with ad hoc, grab-a-mike-and-sing entertainment at the temple entrances and sultry night markets of industrial southern Taiwan found a hero in a local guy with an odd-shaped haircut and a gift for comedy skits about sex. Chu Ge Liang went on to become a home video sensation before cable TV, cheering up the haggard south by speaking the region’s animated dialect and taking swipes at more mainstream Taiwan performers who would talk the official, but less intimate, Mandarin Chinese and weren’t very funny.
Like American radio “shock jock” Howard Stern, he would invite women to his shows — at their own risk. A run of films followed. The 62-year-old star’s real name is Hsieh Hsin-ta, but he is best known as “Chu Ge Liang,” which roughly translates to he’s horny.
Police should have brought sandwiches and sodas to the park outside a Taipei hotel where Taiwan negotiators and counterparts from old foe China held talks. Hardly anyone demonstrated against the mid-April meeting.
What’s more, over the weekend, as the two sides met more formally in China to sign agreements on trade and finance, Taiwan TV viewers watched news about swine flu in Mexico and the United States or celebrity scandal reruns. Monday morning newspapers’ editorials barely raised the usual spectre of Taiwan sacrificing its democratic self-rule to Communist China in exchange for lucrative trade deals.