Home of Taiwan’s past president becomes a McDonald’s

McDonald’s has turned a house in Taiwan where the son of the former Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek once lived into a restaurant, dividing opinion on the island and in China.

The McCafe opened on Friday in the former residence of Chiang Ching-kuo, near West Lake in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. A side wing of the two-storey wood and brick lakeside villa had already been turned into a Starbucks in October.

Chiang Ching-kuo lived in the western-style villa with his family for a short time in 1948. He fled the mainland in 1949 after the Chinese Nationalist party’s army was defeated by the communists, retreating to Taiwan where he was president from 1978 to 1988…

A McDonald’s spokesperson declined to comment.

For many “important” political figures in recent decades I think this transformation is spot on. We could rent out Richard Nixon’s home to be the World Headquarters of the White Citizen’s Council. The Texas ranch that George W. Bush bought specifically to befuddle ignorant voters into thinking of him as a good ol’ boy instead of the incompetent and petty front man for religious crusades around the world – could become a theme park for Madison Avenue Republicans, e.g., Kinder, Gentler Conservative-land. Complete with plastic promises.

Pic of the Day

deflating duck
Click to enlarge

A giant yellow duck on display in Taiwan became a high-profile victim of Thursday’s earthquake after it deflated before exploding during an attempt to reinflate it…

One of my favorite photo topics…we’ve done this duck a couple of times. He’ll need reanimation, now.

Outdoor recess time reduces your kid’s risk of nearsightedness

Two new studies add to the growing evidence that spending time outdoors may help prevent or minimize nearsightedness in children. A study conducted in Taiwan, which is the first to use an educational policy as a public vision health intervention, finds that when children are required to spend recess time outdoors, their risk of nearsightedness is reduced. A separate study in Danish children is the first to show a direct correlation between seasonal fluctuations in daylight, eye growth and the rate of nearsightedness progression…

In one of the new studies, an elementary school in Taiwan required its 333 students to spend recess outdoors for a year from 2009-10 so that researchers could learn whether this would reduce myopia rates. A similar school nearby served as the control group and did not require outdoor recess. The children in the intervention school, many of whom had formerly spent recess indoors, now spent a total of 80 minutes per day outdoors.

Students at both schools received eye exams at the study outset and one year later. The results showed that significantly fewer children became nearsighted or shifted toward nearsightedness in the school that required outdoor recess, compared with the control school. The researchers recommend that elementary schools in Asia and other regions add frequent recess breaks and other outdoor activities to their daily schedules to help protect children’s eye development and vision…

“Because children spend a lot of time in school, a school-based intervention is a direct and practical way to tackle the increasing prevalence of myopia,” said the leader of the study, Pei-Chang Wu, M.D., Ph.D., of Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

A separate study on the impact of daylight exposure on eye development analyzed data collected in a 2005 clinical trial that included 235 Danish school children with myopia. The participants were divided into seven groups, each of which represented a different seasonal interval. Because daylight hours fluctuate markedly with the seasons in Denmark, from seven hours in winter to nearly 18 in summer, access to daylight was distinct for each group. Axial eye length — the distance from the front to the back of the eye — and vision were tested in each group of children at the beginning and end of their seasonal interval. Axial length is an important measurement because elongation of the eye indicates that the person’s myopia is worsening. In the children with access to the fewest hours of daylight, eye growth averaged 0.19 mm; in those with access to the most daylight, eye growth was just 0.12 mm.

“Our results indicate that exposure to daylight helps protect children from myopia,” said the leader of the study, Dongmei Cui, M.D., Ph.D., of Sun Yat-sen University, China. “This means that parents and others who manage children’s time should encourage them to spend time outdoors daily. When that’s impractical due to weather or other factors, use of daylight-spectrum indoor lights should be considered as a way to minimize myopia.”

Bravo! Great start to in-depth research. Tell your local beancounter school board to pay attention.

Russia set to halt imports of U.S. beef, pork

U.S. pork and beef exports to Russia could come to a halt on Saturday following Moscow’s requirement that the meat be tested and certified free of the feed additive ractopamine…

The move could jeopardize the more than $500 million a year in exports of U.S. beef and pork to Russia…

The United States asked Russia, the sixth-largest market for U.S. beef and pork, to suspend the requirement even as it warned domestic meat companies that Moscow might reject their pork shipments that contained ractopamine and stop buying pork from processing plants that produced pork with the drug.

Ractopamine is used as a feed additive to make meat leaner, but countries such as China have banned its use despite scientific evidence that it is safe…

The U.S. Meat Export Federation told its members by email that since the U.S. Department of Agriculture had no testing and certification program in place for ractopamine, the Russian requirement could effectively halt U.S. pork and beef exports to the country by Saturday…

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, in a note posted on its website on Friday afternoon, said: “Exporters are cautioned that Russia may reject U.S. pork shipments and delist producing establishments if ractopamine residues are detected in exported product.”

FSIS also said at the moment it was not requiring meat companies for documentation attesting their pork was free of ractopamine before issuing its export certification.

Are there requirements for measuring ractopamine sold for consumption to Americans, eh?

Analysts said the Russian move was linked to the Senate’s passage of the trade bill and blah, blah, blah

Tyson Foods…a leading U.S. meat company, and agriculture powerhouse Cargill…declined to comment on how a halt in exports would impact them, but both noted the U.S. and Russian governments were in discussions.

Yes, there are 100 countries including the European Union rejecting pork with ractopamine residues. Mother Jones wrote a delightful article in February when Taiwan rejected US shipments – entitled “US Pushes the World to Import Our Dodgy Meat” – and if you’d like some delightful midnight snack reading matter, try this report from the USDA describing the symptoms of some pigs tested with the stuff.

Boats from Taiwan join China confronting Japan at sea

Japanese Coast Guard vessels fired water cannon to turn away about 40 Taiwan fishing boats and eight Taiwan Coast Guard vessels from waters Japan considers its own on Tuesday in the latest twist to a row between Tokyo and Beijing.

Japan protested to Taiwan, a day after it lodged a complaint with China over what it said was a similar intrusion by Chinese boats.

Sino-Japanese relations deteriorated sharply this month after Japan bought disputed East China Sea islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, from their private owner, sparking anti-Japan protests across China.

Taiwan has friendly ties with Japan, but the two sides have long squabbled over fishing rights in the area. China and Taiwan both argue they have inherited China’s historic sovereignty over the islands…

Japanese public broadcaster NHK showed footage of a Japanese Coast Guard ship shooting water at a Taiwan fishing boat, while a Taiwan patrol vessel blasted water at the Coast Guard ship in reply.

While few experts expect a military confrontation, an unintended clash at sea would increase tension, although all sides are expected to try to manage the row before it spirals out of control.

Japan’s top diplomat, Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai, was in Beijing for a meeting with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun in a bid to ease tensions between Asia’s two biggest economies.

Anyone with an acceptable knowledge of history of the region through the last 150 years or so would have no reason to support Japan other than political opportunism, deliberate pandering to Japan’s imperial past – instead of the victims of that imperialism.

Which means, yes, of course, I expect the United States and President Obama to back the Japanese.

A wedding with two beautiful Buddhist brides


A lovely wedding – truly a family affair

Two women in veils and voluminous white gowns kneel in front of a statue of the Buddha, exchanging vows and prayer beads to the languorous intonations of Buddhist chants.

This unconventional ceremony on Saturday was the first same-sex Buddhist wedding held in Taiwan, where a landmark bill to legalize same-sex marriage has been pending since 2003…

Huang Mei-yu said she and her partner of seven years, Yu Ya-ting, decided to hold a Buddhist wedding to acknowledge their own faith, as well the predominant religion of the nation, according to the Taipei Times newspaper. They hoped the ceremony, which was performed by a renowned Buddhist master, would encourage Taiwanese society to accept same-sex marriage.

“Of course it helps (promote same-sex marriage), said Wu Hsiao-wen, Secretary of the Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy, saying that the ceremony set a strong example for the Buddhist community. She added that its legitimacy was bolstered in the public’s eyes by its blessing from Shih Chao-hwei, a highly-respected Buddhist social activist, who presided over the ceremony. Shih founded the Hong-Shih Buddhist College and the Research Centre for Applied Ethics at Hsuan Chuang University…

Taiwan was the first nation in Asia to introduce a bill to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples. Drafted in 2003 under former president Chen Shui-bian, it has made little headway in Taiwan’s legislature, however.

“I remember when I told my parents that we would get married, their first question was, ‘Is this legal?'” Huang told reporters at her wedding. “I could only say to them that it would (become legal) soon, but I didn’t know when would be considered soon. So we hope it will become legal. For us and for our families, it is very important.”

Someday, somewhere on this silly little planet, there will be a schoolchild asking, “Why must we study this ancient history of societies where civil rights didn’t exist for every citizen?”

Not in my lifetime. But, it will come to be. We may be a species that is surprisingly slow to learn and change; but, we have that capacity and it is irrevocable.