■ PUBLIC SERVICE
Changhua top in firefighting
Changhua County ranked first in a national evaluation of firefighting performance, Hsiao Chia-cheng (蕭嘉政), the director-general of the county's Fire Bureau, said on Thursday. The bureau's performance was designated as “excellent” this year, receiving top ratings in five major categories — fire prevention, disaster rescue and relief, local residents' involvement in firefighting efforts, fire disaster investigations and emergency medical treatment. Hsiao said the National Fire Agency conducts the annual evaluation in seven major categories, with more than 200 rating items on each city and county's firefighting performance. The county won fifth place in 2005, third in 2006 and first last year, winning top ratings in four major categories, Hsiao said.
CDC gets antivenin order
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said on Thursday it had received orders from the US State of Florida for four kinds of antivenin to combat snakebite. The CDC said the orders from the Miami Fire Department are for antivenin of various well-known venomous snakes, including the Russell's viper and the banded krait. The orders were for four types of antivenin, 20 doses each. The CDC has invited private companies to undertake the production of the total 80 doses of antivenin, with the CDC supplying the development know-how, CDC officials said. The CDC said it had received more than 20 orders since 2003 from the US, the UK, the Netherlands and Israel for antivenin, with sales totaling nearly NT$3 million (US$90,100). The CDC, quoting WHO statistics, said that about 125,000 people die from snake bites worldwide each year, while only 22 pharmaceutical companies from 17 countries are capable of producing antivenin.
US university offers tuition
The University of South Carolina, which maintains academic exchanges with several universities in Taiwan, is offering tuition privileges to Taiwanese pursuing advanced studies at the university beginning next year, a faculty source said on Thursday. Taiwanese admitted for studies next year will be charged preferential tuition rates previously reserved only for students from South Carolina, the source said. The university, which maintains academic exchanges with the Taipei-based National Taiwan University and Ming Chuan University, as well as Taichung's China Medical University, has also decided to hire several teachers from Taiwan to teach Mandarin starting next year. The university has increased its exchanges with the Taiwanese universities since its president and deputy presidents began making visits to Taiwan several years ago. It has also organized two teams of faculty and student representatives that travel to Taiwan each summer to learn Chinese and attend cultural exchange forums.
Spend more, Siew says
Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) said yesterday that increased consumer spending was vital to helping the domestic economy gradually recover. Speaking at the opening of IT Month in Taichung, Siew said that while the government was responsible for implementing measures to stimulate the economy, it was more important that consumers have confidence in the economy and increase spending. He said the government had moved to stem a further decline in the economy through its consumer voucher program and public construction projects, which he said could lift the economy next year.