An artist's conscience, a haunted stick and a nuclear bomber were just some of the items offered for sale on eBay this year, as the Internet auction house cemented its status as the global colossus of e-commerce. \nThe phenomenal popularity of the World Wide Web's largest forum for buying and selling is reflected in eBay's current share price of close to US$118, up more than 300 percent from two years ago. \neBay shifted a staggering US$24 billion worth of items last year, and that figure is expected to top US$30 billion in 2005, with some estimates predicting a turnover of US$100 billion by 2010. \nUnlike other Internet firms, eBay has spawned its own economy, with the company estimating that 430,000 people -- among its 125 million registered users worldwide -- now run a full- or part-time business through the Web site. \nThe auction house is also seen as a social indicator, with the number-one search term shifting from "Gucci" in 2002, to "BMW" last year and the 2004 winner, "RV," short for recreational vehicle -- or large mobile homes favored by retirees. \neBay's extraordinary growth has won universal plaudits and the company's CEO Meg Whitman, 48, topped Fortune Magazine's annual list of the 50 most powerful women in business this year, eclipsing Hewlett-Packard chairman Carly Fiorina, who had been ranked No. 1 for the past six years. \nPublicity-wise, the company's pervasiveness has seen its fame spread far beyond the borders of the business pages, thanks in no small part to a lengthy list of bizarre auction items that have attracted national and even international media attention. \nFrom a piece of gum chewed by teen pop idol Britney Spears to a 40-tonne Vulcan bomber, eBay has become a repository for every item imaginable, including a few that are almost unimaginable. \nEarlier this month, an Alabama artist, who dumped her cheating boyfriend, decided to offload her conscience by auctioning it on eBay, wrapped in "a handcrafted purple bag." \nMeanwhile, in the UK, an aide to the royal family lost his job after attempting to sell off one of the traditional Christmas puddings Queen Elizabeth II gives her staff every year. \n"Disciplinary action was taken as a result of an incident where a pudding was placed on eBay," a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said. \nThe sale that attracted the most attention was that of a half-eaten, 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich that the owner, a woman from Florida, claimed bore the image of the Virgin Mary. \nThe item was eventually purchased for US$28,000 by an Internet gaming company, GoldenPalace.com, which plans to take the sandwich on tour. \nThe same company also paid out US$65,100 to a woman in Indiana who sold the ghost of her father in an attempt to soothe her 5-year-old son's concerns that they were living in a haunted house. \nThe auction was sanctioned by eBay, which normally strikes intangible items, after the spirit in question was auctioned in the form of a "haunted" cane that once belonged to the woman's father. \n"It's just the new Americana thing," GoldenPalace.com spokesman Monty Kerr said when asked to explain the online casino's interest in both items. \nOthers have turned to eBay to exact revenge, including Janet Schoenberg, who offered up a Manhattan housing court judge -- with "free worldwide shipping included." Schoenberg said the judge in question, Jerald Klein, had mishandled her case. \n"In today's world, this is how people who are not celebrities can get their voice heard," she said. \n"I am a housing court judge. But I'm not for sale," was Judge Klein's bemused response. eBay monitors removed Schoenberg's posting from the site. \nLike most online traders, eBay experienced a sharp rise in volume over the holiday season, but unlike the others it enjoys a double bite at the Christmas cherry as people seek to offload unwanted gifts. \nIn the case of three young boys from Texas, their gifts were auctioned off before Santa even got a foot down the chimney. \nAfter they ignored a parental injunction to improve their behavior, the boys' father sold their gifts and the family Christmas tree on eBay. \n"The kids still had a wonderful Christmas," their mother insisted to the Houston Chronicle. "It was [what] it should be, though a bit toned down."
FORCED LABOR: Customs officials have seized a 11.8 tonne shipment of products made from human hair on suspicion they were produced by people facing human rights abuses Federal authorities in New York City on Wednesday seized a shipment of weaves and other beauty accessories suspected to be made out of human hair taken from people locked inside a Chinese internment camp. US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officials said that 11.8 tonnes of hair products worth an estimated US$800,000 were in the shipment. “The production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation, and the detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message to all entities seeking to do business with the United States that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in
JUST QUESTIONS: Expelled reporter Ai Kezhu said that every member of Southeast Television had complied with the law and had not appeared on any talk shows Two Chinese reporters yesterday left Taiwan after the government revoked their accreditation and ordered them to leave amid a probe into allegations that several Chinese media outlets have set up studios and produced political talk shows in Taiwan. The two reporters — Ai Kezhu (艾珂竹) and Lu Qiang (盧薔) — worked for Fujian Province-based Southeast Television and arrived in Taiwan in December last year. The Mainland Affairs Council has launched an investigation after local media reported that Chinese broadcasters — including China Central Television, Southeast Television and FJTV — had set up studios in Taipei and produced political talk shows. Council Deputy Minister
UPTICK IN NUMBERS: The Taipei deputy mayor said the city has services to assist new immigrants, but has established an office specifically to help those from Hong Kong The Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office today officially opens, where it is to provide humanitarian assistance to Hong Kongers, after Beijing yesterday passed a controversial national security law for the territory. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) expressed dismay over China’s passage of the law, saying that Beijing has broken its pledge to allow Hong Kong to maintain a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years following its handover from the UK. “I feel extremely disappointed [about the law’s passage], which means China did not keep its promise to Hong Kong,” Tsai said in Taipei. Beijing’s “broken promise” also
‘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