Group helps quake victims
The Taiwan International Health Action (Taiwan IHA) group has dispatched a medical mission to Indonesia to help those affected by a magnitude-6.3 earthquake that rocked the country's Batusangkar District on Tuesday, leaving up to 100 dead and hundreds injured, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. The spokesman said that the group, an ad hoc interagency body established by the Executive Yuan's Department of Health and the ministry, has sent a four-member medical team to the earthquake-affected area in West Sumatra Province to assist in disaster relief. The spokesman said the Taiwan IHA began operations in March last year to provide international humanitarian medical aid and promote medical cooperation. The group has helped international relief and disease prevention efforts on many occasions, he added.
Moderate quake strikes
A moderate earthquake struck off northeastern Taiwan on Thursday night, meteorologists said. No damage, injuries or tsunami warning was immediately reported. The magnitude 5.2 quake hit at around 11:30pm local time and was centered at sea about 6km southeast of the coastal city of Suao, the Central Weather Bureau said in a news release. Suao is about 150km southeast of Taipei. The earthquake was felt in northern and central parts of Taiwan, the bureau said.
Fraud ring busted
Police recently raided a criminal ring in Taichung, arresting nine people suspected of obtaining money by fraud, mostly from people living in China, the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) said yesterday. The criminal organization, which specialized in fraud, was headed by a woman surnamed Hsieh (謝) who, together with her accomplices, employed a "phishing" scheme aimed at Chinese citizens living in inland regions, as well as major cities including Beijing and Tianjin, the CIB said. Based in Taichung, the suspects made a massive number of telephone calls through Internet phone systems to mobile phone users in China. Masquerading as bank staffers or police inspectors investigating credit card fraud, the suspects lured their victims into remitting money to a dummy bank account via ATMs. The fraud ring had made more than 1 million phone calls since last July and succeeded in defrauding their victims of about NT$100 million (US$3 million). The swindlers had also "laundered" the money by wiring it back to Taiwan via an underground remittance system, the CIB said. The suspects have been sent to the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office on charges of fraud.
Stem-cell advances reported
A team of scientists working at the gynecology department of the National Taiwan University (NTU) has successfully produced ovarian follicles from human embryonic stem cells. The scientists said that this represented a major advancement in stem-cell research and could be a major breakthrough in the treatment of infertility. The research team added that it could also help advance future research in the field if functional egg cells could be successfully grown from the ovarian follicles. The NTU team's paper detailing its research made the cover story of last month's issue of the science journal Human Reproduction.
Chen lauds orchid show
President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday expressed hope that the annual Taiwan International Orchid Show (TIOS) would become a platform for sales of Taiwan-grown orchids to other countries around the world. Chen spoke of his expectations during a visit to the 2007 orchid exhibition held at the Taiwan Orchid Plantation, a biotech park in Tainan County as part of the local government's drive to promote technological research and development in orchid cultivation. Chen visited the TIOS hours before its formal opening. Speaking to reporters at the event, Chen said he was very excited to know that the number of foreign visitors to the exhibition had been doubling year on year since its debut in 2005. The boom is believed to be the best encouragement to local orchid growers and related businesses, Chen said.