Sarkozy pans UN plebiscite
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in Beijing on Monday that Taiwan's plan to hold a referendum on UN membership was a mistake. Sarkozy, on the second day of a visit to China during which nearly US$30 billion in trade deals were signed, said President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) push to hold the referendum next year was ill-advised. "Any unilateral initiative is ineffective and unjustified, notably plans for a referendum in Taiwan," the French leader said in talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) at the Great Hall of the People before reporters were ushered out. In comments to the press afterwards, with Hu standing alongside him, Sarkozy said: "Any unilateral action to change the current status quo will be a big mistake. This initiative is useless and it is impossible for it to succeed." France is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council who all have veto-wielding powers on resolutions.
Ministry shamed over error
The Ministry of Education yesterday promised to edit its online Chinese dictionary after Internet users lambasted it for making an embarrassing mistake. Web users said the ministry defined the term da pao (打炮) as "firing a cannon" or "lighting a firecracker," while the term is modern day slang used to describe sexual intercourse between a man and woman. When asked about the mistake, Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) said he knew nothing about the term and would respect the decision of linguistic experts. A Chinese literature professor at National Taiwan Normal University said the ministry was at fault and the mistake must be corrected before more students were misled.
Policy group targets youths
The National Youth Commission is encouraging people aged between 12 and 24 to join a youth consultation group to contribute ideas on government policies, a commission official said yesterday. Registration began on Sunday and will run through Dec. 8, the official said, adding that this was the third time that the commission had organized such a group. Selected young people, who would serve a one-year term and can be reelected once, would be able to take part in central government meetings and provide their input, the official said. They would be able to discuss youth policies with vice ministers at two or three meetings, he said. They would also be able to propose policies that are beneficial to the welfare of teenagers at such meetings and ask the government officials to discuss and respond to their policy ideas, the official said.
Smokers risk hair loss
Researchers at Far Eastern Memorial Hospital have more bad news for smokers -- it may increase the risk of baldness. The BBC reported on its Web site that a study conducted on 740 Taiwanese men by hospital staff found that Asian men, who are less likely to go bald than their Western counterparts, were more likely to lose their hair if they smoked. The Taipei hospital researchers collated information about the age that the men started to go bald and risk factors which may have affected their hair loss, the report said. Smoking at least 20 cigarettes a day was linked to an increased risk of baldness, even after other factors were taken into account.