Several US Taiwan experts gave a thumbs up to the constitutional package approved by the Legislative Yuan this week, saying it will lead to a more moderate, responsible legislature and a better overall quality of lawmaker in the future. \nThey also felt that the legislature's actions could blunt any momentum toward radical constitutional change in the future, and said they doubted China would react negatively to the changes that will result from this week's overwhelming vote in favor of the reforms. \n"It's a welcome and much needed reform," said John Tkacik, a long-time Taiwan specialist at the conservative Washington-based think tank, the Heritage Foundation. \n"All the things [in the package] are positive things that are needed," said former American Institute in Taiwan chairman Nat Bellocchi. \nThere was no surprise that the reform packaged was approved, given the bipartisan support from the pan-blue and pan-green camps, although Shelley Rigger, a professor at Davidson College in North Carolina, quipped, "it's surprising because it is very rare that politicians vote themselves out of a job," a reference to the decision to reduce the Legislative Yuan's size from 225 to 113 seats in 2008. \nTkacik stressed the package's moderating influence. With the current multi-seat districts and large size of the legislature, "an awful lot of extremists and unsavory people are elected to public office," he said. The new winner-takes-all system will be "a very moderating force on the politicians and the electorate," he said. \nRigger agreed. Under the new system, the parties "have to be responsible for the way they vote in the legislature. This was something where they felt the pressure so intensely that they had to go ahead and do it," she said. \nIndividual legislators "had to be made to toe the line," which the reforms will accomplish, she added. \nChina is not expected to react strongly, the experts contacted by the Taipei Times all felt. \n"It's none of their business," said Bellocchi. "It shouldn't have any impact on China-Taiwan relations. It's just a local government doing what they want to do," he said. He drew a parallel with the elimination by Taipei of the Taiwan Provincial Government in the late 1990s, which China largely ignored. \nRigger called the changes envisioned in the constitutional package as "technical changes. I don't see these changes in any way changing Taiwan's relations with the mainland," she said. \nIf the at-large seats were eliminated, China's reaction would be different, she feels. "Those seats were meant to represent the people of China, writ large," she said. So, their elimination might have had symbolic meaning for Beijing, she said. \n"I personally don't think China cares one way or the other," said Tkacik, who agrees that China will see this as a local matter, saying Taipei "can do whatever they want." \nTurning to the referendum, Tkacik says that the Taiwan Solidarity Union's proposal to enact a civil referendum law allowing any group of citizens to collect signatures and put a referendum on the ballot "would have set the Chinese off." But the referendum law that passed, which requires a super-majority in the Legislative Yuan to propose a referendum, "is anodyne," Tkacik said. \nFor Rigger, the package "should come as a relief for people in Washington and Beijing who have been worrying about this constitutional reform ... this takes some of the wind out of the sails of the constitutional reform movement because rationalizing the legislature was a very popular reason to have constitutional reform. So I don't think it's going to be that easy to get up a head of steam for additional constitutions changes one this one is made," she said. \nShe said the current package "is not as problematic as it could have been," calling it "much more modest" than President Chen Shui-bian was talking about only a year ago. \nNevertheless, Bellocchi cautioned that Taipei "still has a long way to go" before the reforms are implemented. "There is a lot of work to do yet," he said. \nIt was not clear which party will stand to benefit or lose in the end from the approved package. "It's possible that the Democratic Progressive party (DPP) will not do as well" under the new rules, Tkacik said. However, he noted that given the current Legislative Yuan's size, the DPP "found it very difficult to find qualified candidates" to fill the seats. \nIf the package was proposed by the DPP and passed with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) support, "I would have been surprised," he said \nBut, since it was proposed by the pan-blue camp, "I have to go back and look at it again. It doesn't make sense that the KMT-PFP would benefit much. Which tells me it is possible the DPP sees some loophole that isn't apparent to the naked eye." \nHe drew an analogy with last year's referendum law, in which Chen recognized Article 17 as a loophole to call himself for an election-day referendum, despite pan-blue efforts to prevent him from doing so.
A Taipei veterinarian is urging pet owners to avoid using insecticides around their homes, as their ingredients can be toxic to pets. Commercial-grade insecticides contain pyrethroids — organic compounds similar to natural pyrethrins, pesticides produced by flowers such as chrysanthemums — in quantities that are harmless to humans, but potentially fatal to cats and dogs, Asian Veterinary Specialist Referral Center veterinarian Chua Man-ling (蔡曼琳) said. Even in small quantities, pyrethroids are hazardous to cats, as they lack the metabolic enzymes needed to process them, Chua said. Cockroach sprays and ant traps are especially dangerous to pets as they contain boric acid, she
DREAMING OF TRAVEL: About 7,000 people applied for the experience, with about 60 chosen for the first flight yesterday, which includes boarding an airplane Starved of the travel experience during COVID-19? Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) has the solution — a fake itinerary where you check in, go through passport control and security, and even board the aircraft. You just never leave. The airport yesterday began offering travelers the chance to do just that, with about 60 people eager to get going, albeit to nowhere. About 7,000 people applied to take part, with the winners chosen by random. More fake flight experiences are to take place in the coming weeks. “I really want to leave the country, but because of the pandemic, lots of flights cannot fly,”
A DEPRIVATION? The Taiwan Higher Education Union said the program, which drew much student criticism, undermined students' right to an education The Taiwan Higher Education Union on Monday accused Ming Chuan University (MCU) of sacrificing its students’ right to education by altering the English-language instruction for first-year students. The university, which has long emphasized the value that it places on English-language education, in the 2019-2020 academic year changed its English program for first-year students to a combination of self-learning through online videos and weekly lab sessions, during which students would take online tests, the union said. The change has deprived more than 3,000 students of in-person instruction and of interaction with their teachers, the union added. The online program drew much criticism from students
DOING ENOUGH? The HPA budgets NT$1.3 billion to prevent the health hazards of tobacco, but has no separate budget to fight teen drinking, a doctor said The government should step up alcohol education and prevention efforts, and allocate more of the budget to it, doctors said on Friday, citing the high consumption of alcohol among Taiwanese adolescents. One out of four 12-to-17-year-olds has consumed alcohol, said Yen Tsung-hai (顏宗海), director of Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s Department of Clinical Toxicology. The Health Promotion Administration (HPA) budgets NT$1.3 billion (US$43.9 million) annually to prevent the health hazards of tobacco, but it has not allocated a separate budget for preventing teenage drinking or excessive alcohol use, Yen said. “There is no so-called ‘safe drinking level’ for minors,” because any amount consumed