A-mei in hot water
Some people might think that seeing Chang Hui-mei (張惠妹) in concert is something to die for, but the Taipei health department was not amused when it found that the pop singer and her band were being rushed in a privately booked ambulance from venue to venue on New Year's Eve. The Taipei City Department of Health said yesterday that although the I Hsin Ambulance Co is a private company, this does not absolve it from its duty to transport the injured and sick, and it will be fined NT$200,000 (US$6,154) for transporting the pop singer, aka A-mei (阿妹), and her band from Taoyuan City to Taipei City, said Kao Wei-chun (高偉君), a department official in charge of medical management. Kao made the remarks after Democratic Progressive Party City Councilor Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) accused television station CTV at a news conference of leasing an ambulance for the singer to facilitate her whirlwind performance tour on New Year's Eve.
Student `buys' friendship
A high school student has given away NT$10,000 (US$300) in cash and gifts to his classmates to buy their friendship, a newspaper said yesterday. Huang, a student at the Wenshan High School in Kaohsiung County, had no friends at school so he decided to buy their friendship by giving birthday gifts to his classmates, the United Daily News reported. Huang gave presents or cash to 10 classmates so that they could buy their own birthday presents, the paper said. The loner's father found out that his son was stealing money from home to buy the gifts for his classmates and reported to the school. The school has reprimanded the students for accepting birthday gifts from Huang and asked them to return the presents or cash to Huang, the report said.
■ Lunar New Year
Government offers gifts
In view of the coming Lunar New Year which falls on Jan. 29 this year, free Spring Festival posters with placards featuring poetry will be available upon request for all visitors to the Presidential Office between Jan. 9 and Jan 27. According to Chen Wen-tsung (陳文宗), director-general of the Presidential Office's Department of Public Affairs, two kinds of Spring Festival couplets are available this year. The Presidential Office is open from 9am to 12am, Monday to Friday, for visitors to tour the building. English-speaking tour guides are available.
■ Lunar New Year
Taipei announces theme
The Taipei City Government invited the public to participate in the 2006 Taipei Lantern Festival at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall from Feb. 10 to Feb. 19. This year's festival, with the theme of "A Prosperous and Fortunate Taipei," will feature a dog mascot -- named "Wang Wang" (旺旺) (in Chinese 旺 carries the meaning of prosperity) -- as well as Wang Wang's journey with a little boy to find his sister Fu Fu (福福). The Taipei City Government invited residents to attend the festival to join the journey of the mascot, and to discover how the story ends on Feb. 11, during lantern-lighting night. At a press conference yesterday the city government also released the design of a handheld lantern for the festival, which is based on the mascot. A total of 100,000 lanterns will be given out free to participants during the festival.