Ker touted as candidate
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus whip Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said party heavyweight Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) has decided to run for the speakership of the Legislative Yuan, the Central News Agency reported last night. The agency quoted Tai as saying that Ker has been working to gain support from DPP comrades for the bid. Following the failure of the DPP to form an alliance with the People First Party for a joint ticket for the speakership, DPP Secretary-General Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄), the party's designated candidate, pulled out of the race on Monday. Meanwhile, DPP Legislator Trong Tsai (蔡同榮) has shown an interest in running for the post as well.
Classrooms full of hazards
Nearly 350,000 junior-high school and elementary school students attend classes in dangerous classrooms, Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Legislator Cheng Cheng-lung (程振隆) said yesterday. Cheng said an investigation of the age and maintenance of classrooms at junior-high schools and elementary schools in 25 cities and counties found that a total of 6,322 classrooms in 20 of the areas pose safety hazards but are still in use. He estimated that there are a total of about 8,720 such classrooms in the 25 cities and counties. Based on the figure of an average of 40 students per class, Cheng calculated that about 348,970 students attend classes in a "dangerous" classroom. The study found Taichung County has the largest number of dangerous classrooms, at 917, followed by Tainan County at 862, and Pingtung County at 770.
■ Disaster Aid
Aid tops NT$360 million
World Vision Taiwan said yesterday that it had received NT$363,716,538 in donations for the tsunami disaster relief fund. As relief efforts are continuing, the organization will designate community and social reconstruction projects as the next priority. According to World Vision Taiwan director Hank Du (杜明翰), the group plans to rebuild schools, houses and set up childcare centers in India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
No parole for dirty official
The Ministry of Justice yesterday rejected former DPP legislator David Chou's (周伯倫) application for parole. According to the Department of Corrections (矯正司), Chou filed his application last month. The department decided to decline his request, because Chou "needs more rehabilitation." Department Director Huang Cheng-nan (黃徵男) said prison records showed that Chou has broken many rules, including hiding NT$50,000 in cash in his cell and smoking and eating betel-nuts at unauthorized times, since he began his jail term at the Hualien Prison. Chou reported to Hualien Prison on Feb. 17, 2003. He is serving a six-year sentence for his involvement in the Ronghsing Park development scandal.
■ Relief Work
Buddhists head to Sri Lanka
The sixth relief mission from the Buddhist Compassionate Relief Tzu Chi Foundation to Sri Lanka following the Dec. 26 tsunami tragedy has left North America to continue aid efforts there. A total of 40 volunteers from Canada and the US are expected to reach Colombo today, mainly to provide medical care. The volunteers are expected to stay there until Feb. 5. Tzu Chi has been in Hambantota, one of the hardest-hit areas, since Dec. 31. Taiwanese medical volunteers with the group have treated an average of 700 people per day in the city over the past 55 days.