TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Taichung resident was hospitalized last week after experiencing symptoms, including difficulty breathing, suspected of being side effects of the influenza vaccine he had received 10 days earlier.
According to Liberty Times, a 51-year-old Taiwanese man surnamed Lin (林) started to experience nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and numbness on Tuesday (Oct. 20), 10 days after being vaccinated for the flu at a local clinic. On Wednesday (Oct. 21), he began to suffer serious breathing problems and had to be intubated in an intensive care unit.
The Taichung Health Bureau said on Sunday (Oct. 25) that Lin remains in critical condition and that his symptoms are associated with the rare Guillain-Barre syndrome, which could eventually paralyze his whole body. Although it is uncertain at the moment whether Lin's respiratory symptoms were caused by the government-funded flu shot, the authorities have promised to help his family apply for drug-related injury relief.
The director of the health bureau, Tseng Tzu-Chan (曾梓展), said it would be difficult to rule out a connection between Lin's case and the flu vaccine, even if no others have reported similar symptoms. He added that the bureau has informed the Centers for Disease Control about the incident.
Meanwhile, Lin's daughter told the media that he does not have any genetic or chronic diseases and that he had even gone hiking on Hehuanshan on Oct. 11. She said her father's condition was unacceptable and that she hopes the authorities can determine the cause as soon as possible.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A magnitude 4.7 earthquake rattled northeastern Taiwan at 9:08 a.m. this morning (Oct. 26), according to the Central Weather Bureau (CWB).
The epicenter of the temblor was 19 kilometers southeast of Yilan County Hall at a focal depth of 63.7 km, according to CWB data. Taiwan uses an intensity scale of one to seven, which gauges the degree to which a quake is felt at a specific location.
The quake’s intensity registered as a three in Yilan County and New Taipei City and a two in Taipei City, Taoyuan City, and Hsinchu County. A lesser intensity of one was felt in Hualien County, Taichung City, Nantou County, and Miaoli County.
No injuries resulting from the quake had been reported at the time of publication.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Invasive green iguanas continue to plague southern Taiwan, wreaking havoc on agricultural produce, irrigation ditches, and ecological balance.
Pingtung Department of Agriculture Director Cheng Yung-yu (鄭永裕) said that the county government has put in place a program to reward people who catch green iguanas with agricultural produce as a reward. The program has yielded a staggering haul of 5,480 iguanas in the first nine months of this year, which is the most in the country and a significant increase compared to the 4,182 caught in all of 2019, according to a CNA report.
The scale of the green iguana problem in the region is difficult to estimate, according to Cheng.
Agricultural authorities said that the 'Godzilla-like' reptiles have mainly been found in Pingtung City, Wandan Township, Zhutian Township, Linluo Township, Chaojhou Township, and Jiuru Township.
As the invasive species like to dig burrows in embankment ditches, they have frequently caused damage to irrigation systems, Cheng added.
Green iguanas can reproduce quickly, with a mother green iguana being capable of producing 40 to 70 eggs a year and the average hatch rate being more than 80 percent, according to the director.
The Department of Agriculture said that green iguanas do not usually attack if unprovoked and urged people who spot the reptiles not to panic but to report the location to the county government by calling 1999. Upon receiving such calls, trained personnel are dispatched, the department added.
People who try to catch the reptiles themselves are advised to watch out for their tails, which they use to attack, and to avoid being bitten, the department said. It went on to advise that those who catch green iguanas measuring 20 centimeters in length should bring them to Pingtung County Bureau of Fire and Emergency Service’s Pingtung and Chaojhou branches to exchange them for agricultural produce.
As green iguanas have been designated as invasive species harmful to the ecological environment and the safety of humans and livestock by the Council of Agriculture, people who keep them as pets must register with the country government before Nov. 30 or face a fine of between NT$10,000 (US$333) and NT$50,000.
NEW YORK - A judge has dropped a third-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing Mr George Floyd on May 25 by kneeling on his neck for more than eight minutes.
Judge Peter Cahill upheld a more serious charge of second-degree murder as well as a second-degree manslaughter charge against Chauvin, 44, who was released on US$1 million (S$1.36 million) bail this month.
The ruling, which was issued on Wednesday (Oct 21) in Hennepin County, Minnesota, came in response to a motion by lawyers representing Chauvin and three other former officers to dismiss all charges against them for lack of probable cause.
The judge also upheld the charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter that were filed against the three other former police officers who were at the scene of Mr Floyd's arrest and death: J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.
Mr Keith Ellison, the Minnesota attorney general, said in a statement on Thursday that Mr Cahill had based his decision on how appellate courts have interpreted the statute for third-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
"We are considering our options in light of the court's strong order on the remaining charges," Mr Ellison said.
In Minnesota, a charge of second-degree murder is applied when a person is believed to have unintentionally caused someone's death while also intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon the victim. It carries a maximum sentence of 40 years.
Chauvin's actions in pinning down Mr Floyd, as captured in videos of the episode, most likely meet that standard, said Prof Richard Frase, a criminal law professor at the University of Minnesota.
"In order to hold Chauvin liable for second-degree felony murder, the prosecution has to prove that death occurred in the course of committing a felony assault," Prof Frase said in an interview.
"Any felony assault can be the basis for felony murder in Minnesota."
"The degree of assault that someone can be convicted of in Minnesota does not depend on the degree of harm they intended," he added.
"All the prosecution here needs is third-degree assault, which can result in substantial bodily harm, such as breaking a bone but also loss of consciousness."
The prosecution does not have to show that Chauvin intended to seriously injure Mr Floyd or cause him to lose consciousness, Prof Frase said. Prosecutors, he said, needed to show only that Chauvin intended to cause some amount of bodily harm.
"All we have to show is he intended some bodily harm, it escalated into substantial bodily harm, and that's felony assault," Prof Frase said. "And then the victim died, so it's felony murder."
Mr Ellison emphasised in his statement that the court "has sustained eight out of nine charges against the defendants in the murder of George Floyd, including the most serious charges against all four defendants".
"This means that all four defendants will stand trial for murder and manslaughter, both in the second degree," Mr Ellison said.
"This is an important, positive step forward in the path toward justice for George Floyd, his family, our community, and Minnesota," he said. "We look forward to presenting the prosecution's case to a jury in Hennepin County."
Mr Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was arrested May 25 after a convenience store employee called 911 and told the police that Mr Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit US$20 bill.
Video footage shot by witnesses shows that 17 minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, Mr Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath Chauvin's knee, showing no signs of life. His death prompted worldwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism.
As part of the conditions of his release, Chauvin is required to stay in Minnesota until his trial, which is scheduled for March. The Minnesota home he owned with his wife, who has filed for divorce, was sold for US$279,000 in late August, property records show.
PARIS - Europe's reported coronavirus cases more than doubled in 10 days, crossing 200,000 daily infections for the first time on Thursday (Oct 22), according to a Reuters tally, with many Southern European countries reporting their highest single-day cases this week.
Europe reported 100,000 daily cases for the first time on Oct 12.
Europe has so far reported about 7.8 million total coronavirus cases and about 247,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.
European countries like Italy, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia reported their highest single-day coronavirus cases on Thursday.
Europe as a region is reporting more daily cases than India, Brazil and the United States combined. The increase is partly explained by far more testing than was done in the first wave of the pandemic.
The global coronavirus tally stands at about 41.4 million cases and about 1.1 million deaths.
According to a Reuters tally, Wednesday saw the highest total of infections reported in a single day across the world, at 422,835.
As of now, Europe accounts for nearly 19 per cent of global cases and about 22 per cent of global deaths, according to Reuters tally.
In Western Europe, France, which is reporting the highest seven-day average of new cases in Europe with 25,480 infections per day, reported an all-time high of 41,622 new confirmed Covid-19 cases on Thursday, according to French health authorities.
To slow the spread of infection, France's Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday announced widening of a coronavirus curfew to more than two thirds of its population.
Another Western European country Netherlands reported more than 9,000 in 24 hours, a new record, data released by the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) on Thursday showed.
Germany, which reported more than 10,000 daily cases for the first time on Thursday, extended travel warnings for Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, most of Austria and Italian regions including Rome.
Hospitals across Europe remain under strain. Even though the it remains well below levels at the peak of the crisis six months ago in the region, Covid-19 hospital admissions and occupancy are going up again.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) expert said on Monday said Europe and North America should follow the example of Asian states by persevering with anti-Covid measures and quarantining anyone who comes into contact with infected people.
Ireland became the first country on the continent to re-impose a full-on lockdown on Thursday, with its five-million-strong weary population ordered to stay home for six weeks, and non-essential businesses told to shut up shop.
"The infection rates, hospital occupancy rates but also death rates are rising all over Europe," warned Andrea Ammon, head of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, in an interview with the BBC.
In Dublin, resident Jo Finn told AFP a lot of friends were struggling with mental health issues.
"Because of this second lockdown we can't socialise, we can't meet up," Finn said during a muted morning rush hour.
In France, meanwhile, a nighttime curfew that had already been in place in Paris and eight other cities was extended to wide swathes of the country, more than doubling the number of people affected to 46 million.
"The health situation of our country continues to deteriorate," Prime Minister Jean Castex warned as France registered a record 41,622 new cases over 24 hours on Thursday, and 165 deaths.
Germany, Denmark, Portugal and Italy all registered their highest one-day tallies since the pandemic began, and a slew of other European countries are voicing alarm at rapidly rising infections.
Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute disease control centre, said "the overall situation has become very serious".
German health experts said it was still possible to combat the outbreak by observing recently-toughened rules on distancing and gatherings.
For its part, Italy ordered curfews in regions that cover the capital Rome and business hub Milan.
And Portugal has banned people from travelling between cities for five days starting October 30, which includes a bank holiday.
Greece meanwhile declared a night curfew in Athens, Thessaloniki in the north and other areas.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Minister of National Defense Yen Teh-fa (嚴德發) said on Thursday (Oct. 22) that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) can mobilize approximately 450,000 soldiers for a major war if she gives the order.
While reporting on the reform plan for Taiwan's reserve force at the Legislative Yuan, Yen said around 260,000 reservists and 185,000 active service members can respond quickly to a national defense crisis under Tsai's command. He pointed out that the Ministry of National Defense (MND) has come up with initial schemes to increase the frequency of reservist call-ups to enhance the combat readiness of the nation's reserve force.
In response to Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Johnny Chiang's (江啟臣) concerns over the actual time it would take for reservists to prepare for combat, Yen said MND will initiate the reforms in 2022. He added that the military will also evaluate other ways to make reserve units more reliable for regular forces to depend on.
Meanwhile, Yen said the MND currently has no intention of extending the four-month basic training or reintroducing a one-year military service requirement for Taiwanese of conscription age. He explained that the government is still aiming for an all-volunteer force and conscripted soldiers could become a distraction for the volunteers.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China on Thursday (Oct. 22) threatened to retaliate after the latest round of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan was announced.
The Trump administration has increased support for Taiwan through vital arms sales and visits by senior U.S. officials amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing over the South China Sea, Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet, and trade. China has significantly ramped up threats against Taiwan with large-scale military exercises in addition to an alarming increase in incursions by Chinese military aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.
In response to the U.S.' approval of a potential US$1.8 billion arms package for Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) at a daily press conference called on the U.S. to end its policy of selling arms. The sales “seriously interfere with China’s internal affairs, seriously damage China’s sovereignty and security interests, send a seriously wrong signal to Taiwan independence forces, and severely damage China-U.S. relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” he claimed.
“China will make a legitimate and necessary response according to how the situation develops,” Zhao said. The spokesman did not give any specific details as to what that response would entail.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Yen De-fa (嚴德發) thanked Washington and said the latest package will help improve the country’s defensive capabilities in order to face the “enemy threat and new situation.” Yen said, “This includes a credible combat capability and asymmetric warfare capabilities to strengthen our determination to defend ourselves.”
“This shows the importance the U.S. attaches to security in the Indo Pacific and Taiwan Strait. We will continue to consolidate our security partnership with the U.S.,” he added. The defense minister also said Taiwan is not looking for a confrontation.
“We will not engage in an arms race with the Chinese communists. We will put forward requirements and build fully in accordance with the strategic concept of heavy deterrence, defending our position and needs,” Yen stated.
On Wednesday (Oct. 21), the U.S. State Department formally notified Congress of the potential US$1.8 billion sale of three weapons systems, including missiles, artillery, and sensors, to Taiwan. It also covers 11 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) truck-based rocket launchers produced by Lockheed Martin Corp for an estimated cost of US$436.1 billion.
Also included are 135 Boeing AGM-84H Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) Missiles and related equipment, totaling an estimated US$1 billion, and six MS-110 Recce external sensor pods produced by Collins Aerospace for Taiwan’s F-16s at an estimated cost of US$367.2 million.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The U.S. should continue to support Taiwan since the country's safety aligns with American interests in the Indo-Pacific, according to Washington think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
In a 64-page report published Wednesday (Oct. 21), the CSIS pointed out that enhancing Taiwan-U.S. relations is necessary regardless of how the presidential election turns out. The report was organized by former officials in charge of American policy on Taiwan in both Democratic and Republican administrations.
The report, which serves as a recommendation to the White House, said both major parties are in consensus over the importance of maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait. The authors urged the government to upgrade its Taiwan policies, such as by exploring a bilateral trade agreement, integrating Taiwan into discussions on cybersecurity and IT supply chain issues, reviewing the U.S.' "strategic ambiguity" on cross-strait relations, and increasing high-level exchanges between officials.
The report also encouraged Taiwan to steadily build its own core capabilities by making strides in economic growth, innovation, global competitiveness, economic autonomy, and defense. It stated that the U.S. should work to make Taiwan less isolated so it can continue to make contributions to the Indo-Pacific region and global public good.
Meanwhile, the report highlighted the threats and coercion employed by Beijing against Taipei and said Washington must develop a new system for deterring Chinese intimidation. It added that although China is frequently sending military planes into Taiwanese air space as a show of force, a large-scale attack on the nation is unlikely at the moment.
LEGANES, SPAIN - At Severo Ochoa hospital in a Madrid suburb badly-hit during the pandemic's first wave, the intensive care unit is once again full and exhausted medics dread a repeat of the same "horror".
"We're swamped," admits Ricardo Diaz Abad, head of intensive care at this hospital in Leganes, south-west of Madrid, standing in front of the unit's 12 beds, all filled with gravely ill Covid-19 patients.
"Unfortunately we lost two patients" overnight, he tells reporters as nurses tend to the patients, who range in age from 54 to nearly 80, through a glass window.
Wearing white plastic suits, protective glasses, one or two masks, gloves and plastic shoe covers, the caregivers take turns to enter the unit.
Inside, the heavy silence is broken only by the hiss of the ventilator machines that help the patients breathe, their vitals monitored on a host of glowing computer screens.
Unlike the first wave when the hospital did not have enough beds for Covid-19 patients, "we can now treat them because we have created space," said Diaz Abad.
But staff fear once again being overwhelmed if infections continue to rise.
'Even more tired'
When the pandemic hit in March, "the corridors were full of patients with oxygen bottles sitting on chairs," said emergency doctor Luis Diaz Izquierdo, wearing a green gown and multi-colour bandana, and with bags under his eyes.
"The first wave required a great physical and emotional effort... (now) we're even more tired because we haven't had time to completely recover." Madrid and the surrounding region has been the worst-hit area of Spain, where the virus has so far claimed nearly 34,000 lives.
At the height of the first wave in March, hospitals were swamped and officials turned a Madrid ice rink into a temporary morgue to cope with the surge in deaths.
Near the city's Barajas airport, an army of cranes is working round the clock to build a new hospital - expected to open in November - designed to deal with the pandemic.
To try and slow the spread of the virus, a partial lockdown was imposed in early October on the capital and several satellite towns like Leganes.
But many healthcare workers feel the restrictions are not enough to slow the surge of patient arrivals.
At the hospital entrance, posters call for protests, saying: "No more avoidable deaths".
Sonia Carballeira, a 39-year-old nurse, said the "workload sometimes prevents us from making all the video calls that we would like" between patients and relatives who cannot visit in person.
"We expected a second wave would occur but not so soon, since the flu season hasn't yet started," she says at the entrance to the hospital's "Covid zone" where 48 patients are being treated.
Inside, 61-year-old patient Manuel Collazo Velasco still can't get over how the virus has altered his sense of taste.
"It has no sugar yet I find it very, very sweet," he said while eating natural yoghurt.
In another room, Carmen Diaz Coello, a 72-year-old grandmother in a white-and-yellow dressing gown, is learning to walk again.
A standoff between the central government and Madrid's regional authorities over what virus restrictions to impose, and a more relaxed attitude among the general public has caused some unease at the hospital.
"On a scientific level, we have learnt a lot about how to treat patients... but I get the impression we've learnt very little within society," sighs Diaz Izquierdo.
PARIS - French police have conducted a series of raids targeting Islamist networks, three days after the beheading of a history teacher who had shown his pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin vowed there would be "not a minute's respite for enemies of the Republic", after tens of thousands took part in rallies countrywide on Sunday (Oct 20) to honour teacher Samuel Paty and defend freedom of expression.
A silent rally was planned Tuesday evening, as well as a ceremony Wednesday at the Sorbonne attended by President Emmanuel Macron.
Fifteen people have been detained so far, including four pupils who may have helped the killer - an 18-year-old of Chechen origin who was killed by police - to identify the teacher in return for payment.
Law enforcement carried out 40 raids on Monday, mostly around Paris, with many more planned.
"We want to harass and destabilise this movement in a very determined way," one ministry source said.
Darmanin said the government would also tighten its grip on institutions and charities with suspected links to Islamist networks.
Free speech debate
Paty, 47, was attacked on his way home from the junior high school where he taught in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, 40km northwest of Paris.
A witness, who gave only his first name Stephane to news channel LCI, said he was nearby when the "barbaric" attack happened, sheltering with his children.
"We did not know what is going on. There was just a beheaded man in front of our house," he said, adding he then saw the assailant take pictures.
A photo of the teacher and a message confessing to his murder was found on the mobile phone of his killer, Abdullakh Anzorov, who arrived in France with his family from the predominantly Muslim Russian region of Chechnya more than a decade ago.
Four members of the killer's family were among those detained.
The killing has drawn parallels with the 2015 massacre at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, where 12 people, including cartoonists, were gunned down for publishing cartoons of Mohammed.
Paty had shown his class one of the controversial images after first giving Muslim children the option to leave the classroom.
But the lesson nonetheless caused uproar.
The father of one of Paty's pupils launched an online campaign against the teacher and has now been arrested along with a known Islamist radical.
Darmanin accused the pair of in effect issuing a "fatwa" against the teacher.
Officials named two groups they would target for closure - the Collective Against Islamophobia in France that says it monitors attacks against Muslims, and BarakaCity, which describes itself as a humanitarian organisation.
In a social media post, BarakaCity accused Darmanin of "going mad" and said he was taking advantage of a tragedy.
Darmanin also ordered the closure of a Paris mosque, accusing its imam of encouraging intimidation of the teacher and publicising the school's address.
Meanwhile, Paris prosecutors said they had opened an investigation into a French neo-Nazi website hosted abroad that republished the photo of Paty's decapitated corpse posted to Twitter by the killer.
'Can't give in to fear'
French teachers have long complained of tensions around religion and identity spilling over into the classroom.
One education expert warned Monday that the murder might deter teachers from tackling sensitive topics in future.
"There's a huge amount of self-censorship," said Jean-Pierre Obin, a former inspector for the French education system. "We must fear that there will now be more."
But Jonathan Renoir, a 26-year old history teacher at a junior high school in Cergy near Paris, said: "We can't give in to fear, we must continue to talk about controversial things in class." Emotions were still running high outside Paty's school on Monday, where Muslim leaders gathered to offer condolences and distance their religion from the atrocity.
"It is very important to come here to show our sorrow, to show that what happened here is not Islam. It was done by thugs who have nothing to do with Islam," said Kemadou Gassama, an imam in Paris.
And the political temperature was also rising, with Macron launching the anti-Islamist effort by promising that "fear is about to change sides".
Far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen - likely to face Macron in a 2022 presidential election - called for "wartime legislation" and an immediate moratorium on immigration.
Paty's beheading was the second knife attack since a trial started last month over the Charlie Hebdo killings. In the other attack, two people were wounded outside the publication's former offices.