They've been pilloried in the media, set fire to and criticized by a top US road traffic safety official. \nIt's been open season on America's favorite form of transport -- the sport-utility vehicle. Now, two cash-strapped US states are about to ax them from official state fleets. \nIn Massachusetts, Republican governor Mitt Romney is considering ditching the 428 SUVs in the state fleet in favor of something a little more economical and environmentally friendly. \nThe governor, who is grappling with a state deficit of US$650 million this fiscal year, doesn't see why "officials can't use a regular sedan," Romney's spokeswoman Jodi Charles said Thursday. \nNext door in Connecticut, officials are also looking to reduce the state's fleet of 200 gas-guzzlers because of budget problems. \n"It doesn't seem like there's a consumer backlash yet, but it's encouraging to see that decision-makers are getting the message," said Gary Skulnik, a spokesman for the Sierra Club. \nThe Sierra Club together with other green groups have been some of the most outspoken critics of the vehicles because, it says, their tailpipe emissions contribute to pollution and the wider problem of global warming. \nIt's planning to launch a publicity broadside against the most steroidal of SUVs -- General Motors Corp's Hummer H2 (which gets about 16 kilometers to the gallon around town) -- in the near future. \n"It's an abomination. It has no place on the road," Skulnik said. \nThere may be no sign of a grass-roots revolt against SUVs yet -- sport utilities and pick-up trucks outsold passenger cars in 2001 and last year in the US market -- but the chorus of disapproval has definitely been getting louder. \nJeff Runge, chief of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, made headlines when he said SUVs posed an "astounding" threat to drivers. \nCiting NHTSA figures which show that an SUV occupant is three times as likely to die in a rollover as an occupant of a passenger car, Runge expressed amazement at the popularity of the vehicles, which some consumer groups say are more likely to roll because of their higher center of gravity. \nAlso last month, a series of provocative ads suggesting owners of gas-thirsty SUVs indirectly support terrorists from oil-rich Middle East countries began airing on US television. \n"What is your SUV doing to our national security?" the Detroit Project, an ad-hoc group of Los Angeles-based movers and shakers led by the national newspaper columnist Arianna Huffington, asks in one ad. "Tell Detroit their gas-guzzlers help terrorists buy guns." \nThe behemoths of the road have also drawn the ire of the environmental and anti-war activists. The eco-warriors of the ELF (Earth Liberation Front) torched several SUVs in a Pennsylvania dealership on New Year's Day, while more recently the words "No blood for oil" were found spray-painted on SUVs in Newton, Massachusetts, linking the vehicles with the potential US attack on Iraq.
HONG KONG SECURITY: The president blasted regulations requiring Taiwanese agents or political organizations to provide information on their Hong Kong-related activities President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday warned of countermeasures should controversial Chinese national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong undermine or harm Taiwanese interests. Article 43 of the legislation empowers the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to serve written notices to Taiwanese political organizations or individual agents to furnish information on their Hong Kong-related activities, including their personal particulars, finances, assets, expenditure and capital in the territory. Failure to comply or providing false or incomplete information can result in a fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,903) or imprisonment of six months or two years respectively. Tsai said that Taiwan would keep a close watch on how
PROBE LAUNCHED: An officer who served as a supervisor in the drill died in an apparent suicide after the accident, which was caused by unexpected waves Two marines who were on Friday injured in a military exercise in the waters off Kaohsiung passed away yesterday, Navy Command said. The marines — surnamed Tsai (蔡), 26, and a sergeant surnamed Chen (陳), 36 — were in a seven-member Marine Corps team that encountered rough seas during a simulated response to enemy forces landing on Taiwan. Their rubber craft overturned in waters off Taoziyuan (桃子園) beach in Zuoying District (左營), injuring four of the marines. They were rushed to hospital, where three of them — Tsai, Chen and a 34-year-old sergeant — were taken to an intensive care unit
MORAL COURAGE: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the global community to face China’s intention to subdue Taiwan and reject such irrational requests The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday strongly condemned the Chinese government for meddling with US officials’ interactions with Taiwan after FBI Director Christopher Wray revealed China’s efforts to discourage US officials from visiting Taiwan. The greatest long-term threat to the US’ information security and intellectual property, as well as its economic vitality, is China’s counterintelligence and economic espionage operations, Wray told a video event at the Hudson Institute in Washington. Beijing is engaged in a highly sophisticated and maligning foreign influence campaign, with methods that include bribery, blackmail and covert deals, he said. Giving an example, Wray said that when a US official
‘SIGNAL TO ALLIES’: The US Navy’s exercises are not in response to those carried out by China, the commander of the strike group led by the USS ‘Ronald Reagan’ said Two US aircraft carriers were yesterday conducting exercises in the disputed South China Sea, the US Navy said as China also carried out military drills that have been criticized by the US Department of Defense and neighboring states. China and the US have accused each other of stoking tension in the waterway at a time of strained relations over everything from COVID-19 to trade to Hong Kong. The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan were carrying out operations and exercises in the South China Sea “to support a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the navy said in a statement. It did not say exactly