If so many of earth’s species are currently facing extinction, how does it make sense to allocate scarce resources to trying to bring back already extinct creatures like woolly mammoths? Let’s take a look at the project’s sales pitch and judge just how worthy it is. First of all, there’s the “Jurassic Park” drawcard, making something a huge spectacle to showcase how awesome the company and researchers think they are, ultimately to earn more fame and money for themselves. If this is the goal, and the whole venture is designed to attract investors but not necessarily result in a successful product like so many Kickstarter or manned mission to Mars projects, then surely they have already achieved a significant part of their objectives by attracting US$15 million?
According to some, sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but there is a fine line between being funny and being disparaging when discussing absurdities like the royal family of a nation, and thankfully the author of this article crosses that line quite freely. Employing sarcasm in order to poke fun at the British royal family, the author points out that, for a family who was born astronomically wealthy, privileged and powerful simply because their ancestors killed, destroyed or interbred with whichever other rival despots tried to compete with them in the past, it is supremely ironic to the point of hilarity that they advertise ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’ as values undergirding their employment policies. That’s a bit rich coming from the family who was once at the head of the world’s greatest empire, responsible for subjugating, colonising and enslaving hundreds of millions of people! Oddly enough though, they haven’t been subjected to any kind of legal action from victims suing for reparations from the many nations whose wealth they plundered. Perhaps the author could have hammered home this point a little more forcefully, rather than focusing on how blissfully unaware many fellow Brits are of just how emblematic the royal family are of the huge disparity in wealth and privilege that exists in the UK!
Have you ever seen a snake outside of a zoo or pet shop? Every town and city in Taiwan has many species of snakes, some of which are venomous, but most people do not come across snakes regularly. Even in Taipei, where many districts are crisscrossed by creeks and rivers or are bordered by forested and mountainous areas, snakes are very common. It’s just that most people do not notice snakes – or other wildlife living in the city for that matter – because many critters are nocturnal and they wisely shy away from contact with murderous humans.
Should cruelty of any kind to any creature be tolerated? Recent news reports of the disregard for the life of and mistreatment of pet animals, like the euthanising of 154 cats smuggled from China, have once again shone a light on the plight of creatures used by humans for their own purposes. At the same time, the reactions of various animal welfare groups and netizens also highlight the peculiar form of hypocritical speciesism that epitomises modern human’s views towards other animals. On the surface, political parties and various people working in the fields related to animal welfare appear to be calling for the increased protection of animals. They want to increase the enforcement of the protection afforded to animals under the Animal Protection Act, which seems like an admirable goal to be fighting for. This act, along with the increasing public awareness of animal welfare issues, are certainly positive trends that have been developing in Taiwan in recent years. On the other hand, groups like this are often simultaneously tacitly supporting the mistreatment of the very animals they claim to love, whilst also completely ignoring the rights of other creatures that they don’t have a personal preference for.
Heart-wrenching scenes of local people clinging desperately to US military aircraft as they take off – no, this is not Saigon, Vietnam in 1975, although it is eerily similar and just as horrific for the local people involved – this time it is Kabul, Afghanistan in 2021. How could the USA yet again fail to provide safety for the people, let alone build or rebuild the infrastructure and institutions, of a nation that it has inflicted massive devastation and unnecessary death on? Didn’t the hundreds of thousands of generals, “intelligence” analysts, financial analysts, NGOs, contractors and various other profiteers of war employed by the US government warn it of the futility of trying to force Afghanistan into becoming a nation structured and run according to American diktat? Of course they didn’t, because why would they be interested in depriving themselves of income for the sake of peace?
After basking in the glory achieved by Taiwan’s Olympians, let’s now take a good hard look at an extremely inglorious side of this Olympics – violence against animals. In a cruel holdover from much less enlightened times, the Olympic Games still has several events that involve horseriding, including the equestrian events of dressage, eventing and jumping, as well as the modern pentathlon. Any event that relies on horse-riding invariably also involves whipping the horses, among other instances of animal cruelty to “train”, “bond with” and “control” the horses. Why is it that a supposedly modern and global sporting event such as the Olympic Games encourages such horrendous cruelty to animals?
What do the Olympic Games mean for an athlete? Some people may argue that it is all about the honour of representing one’s nation on the world stage. Others might say that it is about competing against the other top athletes in a sport, to see how they measure up. But what about competing for money? Offering a bonus to medal winners sounds like a reasonable idea, and sure enough, most countries pay out at least a nominal amount to their successful athletes. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly though, is the fact that Taiwan apparently pays out the third highest amount of money to gold medal winners out of all countries in the world, with NT$20 million, ranking only behind Singapore and Indonesia! In addition, the NT$7 million paid to bronze medal winners is higher than the prize money awarded to all other countries’ gold medal winners, besides Singapore and Indonesia! So, should the gold medal cash prize be increased by fivefold to NT$100 million, silver to NT$80 million and bronze to NT$50 million, and fourth place rewarded with no medal NT$20 million? Of course, the billionaire Terry Gou is quite welcome to pay athletes out of his own extremely deep pockets, but unsurprisingly that doesn’t seem to be something he is offering.
The Olympics have finally started, and Taiwan is off to an awesome start – winning 6 medals early to climb to twelfth in the overall medal tally. Could this great start have been predicted, based on the terrible reputation that many sports associations in Taiwan have had for many years? The latest controversy is around the discrepancy in treatment of national athletes compared with the more preferential services provided to members of their respective sports associations, including coaches, trainers and other support staff. While flying economy class from Taipei to Tokyo might not be considered arduous, as the writer of this article helpfully points out, support staff flying business class while the athletes are in cattle class is only the latest instance where Taiwanese athletes – surely the main focus of the whole enterprise – are treated as second-class citizens.
How secure is an Apple device? According to the latest reporting on yet another phone hacking scandal: not very. This investigation into the Pegasus project, a suite of spyware tools created by the Israeli spyware developer, NSO, and sold to authoritarian governments and other malicious organisations, who then used the software to spy on and repress dissidents, journalists and other opponents, has revealed just how vulnerable smartphones are.
In recent years, Taiwan has made admirable strides in recognising the rights and improving the lot of some minority groups, showing how much can be achieved by a progressive government that is intent on changing the status quo for the betterment of all of its citizens’ lives, and not just pandering to the tyranny of the majority. One of the most notable examples is in legalising gay marriage, and it is in relation to this achievement that we shall examine some disconcerting developments that show there are still bigoted views that are holding the region back. For example, derogatory comments recently made at a press conference by Taipei’s mayor about gay people indicate that there is prejudice in some of the nation’s politicians. Do comments like the mayor’s indicate that there is still systemic prejudice against LGBTQ groups in Taiwanese politics?