TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Approval ratings for President Tsai Ing-wen and Premier Lin Chuan rose slightly in the month of February, according to a poll conducted by the pan-green leaning Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation. The survey gave Tsai an approval rating of 41.4 percent, up more than 7 percentage points from January. Tsai's approval ratings were down by 28.5 percentage points since her inauguration. Similar improvements were tallied for Premier Lin Chuan, who leads Tsai's Cabinet. Lin's approval rose to 33.6 percent, although over half (52 percent) of respondents disapproved of his governance.
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Democratic Progressive Party ( DPP) Caucus Whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) today denied that caps on work overtime would be loosened, but welcomed talks with corporate lobbies. "There's no such information," Ker told reporters outside the Legislative Yuan on Monday when asked if he would be meeting corporate leaders to talk about recent government workweek amendments. Ker said that he would welcome talks should the business groups wish to meet with members of the DPP caucus. Government labor regulations put the maximum hours of overtime per employee at 46 hours a month, a number that some business leaders want to see raised to at least 54 hours. Lai and other business leaders blame labor guarantees, claiming the rules have increased costs and shift scheduling difficulties.
Unhealthy air quality (level red) is affecting large swaths of Taiwan this morning, with the Air Quality Index (AQI) in southern and central Taiwan reaching unhealthy levels. Air rated unhealthy for sensitive groups (level orange) was also prevalent in regions of northern Taiwan, including metropolitan Taipei. So just how bad is the air quality down south? Central Taiwan's didn't fare much better, with 37 of the 80 days rated level orange. The number of days rated unhealthy for sensitive groups stood at 12 for northern Taiwan.
NEW ORLEANS -- The NBA is going back to Africa. The league and the National Basketball Players Association announced Saturday that NBA Africa Game 2017 will be held on Aug. 5 in Johannesburg. The game will have a Team Africa vs. Team World format and will support UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and SOS Children's Villages South Africa. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says going back to South Africa "is part of the league's continued commitment to bring the authentic NBA experience to fans around the world."
So much for the balmy weather from last week. Seasonal northeasterly winds will increase in strength tonight, as the Central Weather Bureau forecasts drizzly and colder temperatures for northern Taiwan and the northeast coast, so make sure you've packed an umbrella. Cloud formations in the South China Sea moving north will also bring short intervals of rain to the south, southeast and eastern parts of the island. Rain can also be expected on the offshore islands of Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu. Colder temperatures from the latest front is forecast to affect all of the island over the weekend.
SAPPORO, Japan -- The Asian Winter Games officially got underway Sunday with an opening ceremony that united winter athletes from the world's most populous continent. With the Winter Olympics just a year and a short distance away in South Korea, the continent's leading winter athletes will use the games to fine tune for Pyeongchang 2018. "These games will show the potential of Asia to the world," Katsuhiro Akimoto, head of Sapporo's organizing committee, said. The games run through Feb. 26 and feature more than 2,000 athletes from 31 countries competing in five sports, 11 disciplines and 64 events. The Sapporo Games will also feature athletes from Australia and New Zealand competing, bringing an Oceania element to event.
NEW YORK -- World-class art, meet sweaty aerobics. New York City's cavernous Metropolitan Museum of Art has been holding lively morning workout sessions this winter amid its prized masterpieces. The 45-minute "Museum Workout" sends people in exercise attire chugging through 35 galleries, past paintings, sculptures and armor before the institution opens to the public. Participants start by jogging out of the museum's limestone entrance hall to the Bee Gees' hit "Stayin' Alive." The Met commissioned the Monica Bill Barnes Dance Company for the project.
BERLIN -- A Hungarian love story about two slaughterhouse workers who connect in shared dreams won the top award Saturday at this year's Berlin Film Festival. The Golden Bear had been expected to go to the comedy "The Other Side of Hope," which instead earned veteran filmmaker Aki Kaurismaki a Silver Bear for best director. The jury award went to "Felicite," a film by French-Senegalese director Alain Gomis about a singer in a Congolese night club. "A Fantastic Woman" by Chilean director Sebastian Lelio received a Silver Bear for best screenplay, shared with Gonzalo Maza. A final Silver Bear award for features that "open new perspective" went to movie "Spoor," a murder mystery set in rural Poland.
NEW YORK -- While conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos insulted comics Lena Dunham, Leslie Jones, Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman, his appearance on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" was relatively tame -- at least until the cameras were turned off. Yiannopoulos called Maher his "favorite liberal" and directed most of his ire at female comedians. "The Democrats are the party of Lena Dunham. The more the American people see of Lena Dunham, the fewer votes the Democratic Party is going to get." Yiannopoulos' Twitter account was suspended last year after a series of racially insensitive tweets were directed at Jones, who is black.
LONDON -- London Fashion Week kicked it up a notch Saturday with the latest womenswear previews for fall and winter -- just as the weather in the British capital took a decidedly spring-like turn. The second day of the fashion extravaganza featured Jasper Conran, Emilia Wickstead, Molly Goddard and others, with Italian designer Donatella Versace's Versus line closing the day in typical rock `n' roll style. DONATELLA ROCKS ON WITH VERSUSDonatella Versace brought her brand's rock `n' roll sensibility to London Fashion Week, closing out Saturday's shows with an ear-splitting, strobe light-filled runway show that enthralled her youthful audience. The word VERSUS was emblazoned on choker neckbands, outfits -- even on the thongs that were intentionally displayed. A nifty black and white jumpsuit for men had the brand's name displayed multiple times, and on the accompanying handbag as well.
ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico -- Actor Shia LaBeouf has brought a performance-art piece against President Donald Trump to New Mexico's largest city. The Albuquerque Journal reports that LaBeouf, along with two other artists, brought on Saturday a 24-hour live-streaming camera mounted to a wall with the message in block letters: "He will not divide us," referring to Trump. The artists want people to go up to the camera and repeat the phraseLaBeouf told the Journal: "We are anti the normalization of division. The rest of the info is right there, chief, I got nothing else to say to you." LaBeouf was arrested in New York City last month after he got into an altercation with another man during the performance art project.
HONG KONG -- On March 26, Hong Kong's next leader will be voted in by an Election Committee of 1,194 members. But the experience has galvanized the pan-democratic, or pro-democracy camp, to be more pragmatic. This time, they hold 326 votes — which is more than a quarter of the votes in the Election Committee — and are determined to make them count. With the election featuring three pro-establishment figures — Carrie Lam, John Tsang and Regina Ip — for the first time, the pan-democrats could be the "kingmakers" in a tight race. To qualify, each contender needs at least 150 nominations from the Election Committee made up of mostly pro-Beijing property tycoons, lawmakers as well as representatives of professional bodies and trade associations.
BANGKOK -- The government's latest reconciliation effort is underway with a Defense Ministry committee inviting political parties to discuss ways of achieving national unity. Each conducted its own inquiry into the root causes of the conflict and how reconciliation could be reached. The consensus reached is that longstanding social inequality and injustice are the root causes of the conflict. So what goal does the current junta-backed government have in mind with its latest reconciliation effort? Is it political amnesty and a "national unity government" without opposition, or deeper reconciliation driven by a commitment to open and democratic governance?
KATHMANDU -- The battle to legalize abortion in Nepal was hard won. Abortion is legal in Nepal under certain conditions regarding time of gestation, and extenuating circumstances such as rape or risk of life. However, the U.S.'s Global Gag Rule entails a stoppage of U.S. government funding to overseas organizations that provide legal abortion services or counselling to women on abortion. A glimmer of hope has presented itself in an announcement by the government of Nepal to provide free abortion services in its 2015-16 budget. Unless the Nepal government irons out these plans, the GGR is likely to have huge repercussions due to withheld U.S. aid earmarked for the purpose of supporting reproductive health services in Nepal.
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Presidential Office said it would not comment on "speculative reports," after local media claimed groundwork was being laid for a meeting between President Tsai Ing-wen and China's Xi Jinping. Local investigative journalists, citing an anonymous source within the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said though cross-strait ties had cooled since the new administration took office, representatives from both sides had been coordinating efforts for President Tsai Ing-wen to meet with her Chinese counterpart Xi. We will continue to observe developments and moves taken by Beijing." Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), a DPP grandee and head of Foundation on Asia-Pacific Peace Studies, a private think tank that has served as an indirect channel of communication with China, the U.S. and Japan, previously said that a Tsai-Xi meeting would "definitely happen." But the source warned that the future of cross-strait relations was still full of uncertainties, pointing to challenges including allegations of Chinese intervention in exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer cancelation of her trip to Taiwan.