Little green man' in dispute
An engineer has been arguing with Taipei City government about the origins of a little green man who has been spotted all over the city. When pedestrians cross streets in Taipei, traffic lights flash the image of a small, green human figure that speeds up his steps -- encouraging people to walk faster -- in the seconds before the light turns red. Engineer Chang Ming-shun (張銘順) wants the city government to recognize him as the green figure's inventor. "As a father, I must establish my credibility with my little child, so I decided to stand up and speak out," he said yesterday. But Taipei's Transportation Department said the design didn't belong to any one person. After considering Chang's original design, a team of experts had come up with a better version, said an official surnamed Lin from the department. "I felt his drawing of a person was not ideal, so we changed it," the official said.
More visitors raise revenues
Helped by a larger number of inbound foreign visitors, the nation posted a smaller deficit in terms of international tourist spending in the first half of this year, with the figure down by US$189 million from last year's level, according to statistics released by the government yesterday. Taiwan earned US$2.4 billion in tourist dollars and spent US$4.27 billion in overseas travel in the first six months of this year, up by 29.7 percent and 9.2 percent year on year, respectively, for a deficit of US$1.87 billion, tallies compiled by the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics show. Foreign visitor arrivals totaled 1.64 million in the six-month period, marking an annual increase of 18.1 percent.
■ Labor affairs
No more workers needed
The heads of the Kaohsiung City department of Rapid Transit System (DRTS) and the city's Bureau of Labor Affairs agreed yesterday that no more Thai laborers will be imported to construct the city's mass rapid transit (MRT) system after their employment contracts expire. DRTS Director Lee Cheng-pin (李正彬) and labor bureau director Fang Lai-ching (方來進) made the promise in an interpellation session of the city council after six councilors out of the 44-seat body asked that overseas workers on the Kaohsiung MRT system be replaced by local laborers. The six councilors from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party made the appeal after the outbreak of a riot by Thai workers Aug. 21 on the MRT projects to protest against maltreatment by their managers. Subsequent allegations have been made of corruption by local officials.
EPA promotes reuse of PCs
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is urging companies and individuals not to throw away any unwanted old computers, but instead donate them to its "PC rebirth program." An EPA official said yesterday that the agency plans to spend NT$11 million (US$332,800) to renovate 1,600 unwanted computers with 586mhz chips or better and will install new software in the old units, and then give them to low-income people living in remote areas. The official said the EPA is still about 5,000 computers short of its target. The campaign will end Oct. 31, and those who want to support the plan can look for the collection point nearest them by checking online at: www.istec.iii.org.tw. They may also call toll-free on 0800-000-156.