TIME

Morning Must Reads: January 27

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Blizzard Skirts New York City

Up to four inches of snow an hour fell in parts of the Northeast early Tuesday as tens of millions of people hunkered down for a historic blizzard that shut down travel – but New York City and Philadelphia escaped the worst of the weather

Taiwan Targets Kids’ Screen Time

Taiwanese parents are now legally obligated to monitor their children’s screen time, in light of a new law allowing the government to impose fines

FBI Nabs Alleged Russian Spy

The FBI on Monday arrested an alleged Russian spy in NYC accused of conducting economic espionage — and his ‘spymasters’ may be to blame

Benedict Cumberbatch Apologizes After Race Row

Benedict Cumberbatch apologized Monday after talking about ‘colored actors’ on a U.S. talk show, ironically during a discussion on the lack of diversity in British acting. The Sherlock star said he’s “devastated to have caused offense”

Obama Pledges $4 Billion of Investment in India

U.S. President Barack Obama pledged $4 billion in investment and loans to India on Monday, soon after attending the South Asian nation’s 66th annual Republic Day celebrations as the guest of honor earlier in the afternoon

‘I’d Probably Do It Again,’ Says Lance Armstrong of Doping

Lance Armstrong claims he would never dope today. But if he had to go back in time, the 43-year-old cyclist who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles would probably do it all over again. “People don’t like to hear that. That’s the honest answer,” he said

The U.S. Is Exonerating More People Than Ever

The U.S. exonerated a record number of people in 2014, according to a new report, continuing a steady increase over the last decade as cultural shifts have made some law enforcement agencies more willing to re-examine long-closed criminal cases

Emma Watson to Play Belle in Beauty and the Beast

The Harry Potter actress’ latest role will be another bookish heroine — Belle in Disney’s new live-action adaptation of the classic fairy tale. “Time to start some singing lessons,” the actress posted on her Facebook page

2 Officers Injured in Minnesota Shooting

A man opened fire on two police officers after a swearing-in ceremony at New Hope city hall in Minnesota on Monday. The shooter, who has not yet been named, was fatally shot after exchanging fire with other officers at the scene

Tomas Berdych Stuns Rafael Nadal in Australian Open

Tomas Berdych ended his 17-match losing streak to Rafael Nadal, stunning the Spaniard to advance to the Australian Open semifinals. Berdych played an impossibly clean match to upend Nadal, who was seeking to advance to his fifth tournament semifinal

Fighting Intensifies in Ukraine

Clashes continued to escalate in Ukraine on Monday after a weekend of fierce fighting and shelling in the country’s southeast rendered a five-month-old peace accord all but dead. Russian President Vladimir Putin blames a “NATO foreign legion” for the war

Former Hollywood Exec Accuses Bill Cosby of Sexual Assault

Cindra Ladd, a former entertainment executive, is the latest woman to publicly accuse the 77-year-old comedian of sexual assault. Ladd kept silent about the incident for 36 years, and says she has no plans to sue or discuss the matter any further

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TIME Parenting

This Place Just Made it Illegal to Give Kids Too Much Screen Time

Excess screen time is now considered to be the equivalent of smoking, drinking and using drugs.

Taiwanese parents are now legally obligated to monitor their children’s screen time.

Taiwanese lawmakers approved the “Child and Youth Welfare and Protection Act,” which expanded existing legislation to allow the government to fine parents of children under the age of 18 who are using electronic devices for extended periods of times. The law follows similar measures in China and South Korea that aims to limit screen time to a healthy level.

Citing health concerns, the Taiwanese government can fine parents up to $1595 ($50,000 Taiwanese Dollars) if their child’s use of electronic devices “exceeds a reasonable time,” according to Taiwan’s ETTV (and Google Translate). Under the new law, excess screen time is now considered to be the equivalent of vices like smoking, drinking, using drugs, and chewing betel nuts.

The new amendment doesn’t spell out exactly what time limits should be set on electronic devices (which are called 3C products in Taiwan), but says parents can be held liable if their children stare at screens for so long that its causes them to become ill, either physically or mentally, as Kotaku reports. While that should be O.K. for children angling for 15 more minutes of Minecraft, it’s unclear what is considered “reasonable” under the law— or how the Taiwanese government plans to regulate or monitor screen time.

According to Kotaku, so far the response to the legislation has been negative—which it undoubtedly would be in the U.S. as well—with Taiwanese citizens citing privacy concerns.

There are some parents however, who might welcome a little help prying their children’s eyes off screens. Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention issues, behavioral problems, learning difficulties, sleep disorders, and obesity. Too much time online may even inhibit a child’s ability to recognize emotions, according to a study by the University of California, Los Angeles. Despite these risks, as technology increasingly becomes a part of modern life, children are spending more and more time in front of screens. A recent study found that in the U.S. 8-year-olds spend an average of eight hours a day with some form of media, with teenagers often clocking in at 11 hour a day of media consumption. A 2013 study by Nickelodeon found that kids watch an average of 35 hours a week of television.

So how much is too much screen time? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under the age of two should have no screen time at all. Entertainment screen time should be limited to two hours a day for children ages 3-18, and that should be “high-quality content.” Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based non-profit, has suggestions for setting up a “media diet” that works for your family.

TIME family subscribers can read our in-depth report on Raising the Screen Generation here. And don’t forget to sign up for Time’s free parenting newsletter.

TIME Taiwan

Man Found Dead in Taiwan After Multi-Day Video Game Binge

Taiwan Video Game show
People play computer games during the Taipei Game Show 2009 in Taipei, Taiwan. Pichi Chuang—Reuters

The man was reportedly a regular customer who often played for days

A man was found dead in a Taiwanese Internet cafe after an apparent three-day video game binge.

The 32-year-old man with the surname Hsieh died from cardiac failure, and an employee found him motionless on the morning of Jan. 8, CNN reported Monday. Hsieh entered the cafe on Jan. 6, according to Jennifer Wu, a police spokesperson from Taiwan’s Hunei district.

Police said the man had likely been dead for hours before he was discovered. The Taipei Times reports that the man was a frequent customer who often played for days on end.

“He has been unemployed for a long time, and Internet cafes were the only place he could go to,” Wu said.

[CNN]

TIME Taiwan

Uber Bans Mulled in Taiwan, Mainland Chinese City of Chongqing

CHINA-BAIDU-UBER-INTERNET-TRANSPORT
Journalists wait for the start of a signing ceremony between Uber and Baidu at the Baidu headquarters in Beijing on Dec. 17, 2014 Greg Baker—AFP/Getty Images

Uber currently operates in eight Chinese cities as well as being on trial in Chongqing

After courting controversy in India and across the U.S., ride-sharing app Uber has now fallen foul of authorities in Taiwan and the Chinese city of Chongqing, over allegations that drivers are not appropriately licensed.

Officials in Chongqing, home to more than 30 million people, said in a statement Monday that Uber drivers operating without commercial licenses amounts to “illegal behavior,” reports Reuters.

The Taiwanese Transport Ministry is likewise mulling whether to shut down Uber’s website and apps.

The news comes less than a week after Uber won investment from Chinese web juggernaut Baidu, the nation’s leading search engine.

[Reuters]

TIME Taiwan

Cross-Strait Ties Just Got More Complicated

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou walks out of a voting booth at a voting station during local elections in Taipei
Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou walks out of a voting booth at a polling station in Taipei during local elections on Nov. 29, 2014 Frank Sun—Reuters

Taiwan politicians must fathom how to engage with China without vexing voters who are increasingly distrustful of Beijing

Ma Ying-jeou is having a bad week. Taiwan’s President went into this weekend’s local elections battered, his approval ratings low. Then on Saturday his party, the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), got thoroughly trounced, losing ground across the island, including key mayoral posts in Taichung and Taipei. The results prompted Prime Minister Jiang Yi-huah to resign and 80 cabinet colleagues to also offer to step down — an act of contrition that may or may not be enough to staunch growing dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of food-safety scandals, the economy, and the island’s relations with China. Ma may yet resign his chairmanship of the KMT.

China and Taiwan have been at odds since Mao Zedong’s communists prevailed and the nationalists beat a retreat across the strait. Ma came to power in 2008 promising to put existential questions about Taiwan’s relationship with China on hold, focusing instead on building economic ties with the Chinese mainland. He was re-elected in 2012 in a hard-fought battle with the opposition Democratic Progress Party (DPP), which is generally more skeptical of Beijing. It was a narrow victory — Ma beat challenger Tsai Ing-wen by about 6% of the vote — and in the years since, his government lost more ground. This spring, demonstrators occupied the legislature under the banner of the Sunflower Movement to protest the government’s handling of a proposed trade pact with China, only heightening the sense of a political reckoning to come.

This weekend, voters delivered it. While it might be tempting, especially from a distance, to read the results as a sort of referendum on cross-strait ties, to do so is to misunderstand the island’s electoral landscape. What the results show, Taiwan watchers say, is that the voting public is deeply unhappy with the status quo under the KMT, including, but not limited to, their China policy. They are worried about quality of life issues, clean government, and want their leaders to focus on competing globally, not just trading with China. “These are local elections, fought on local issues, by local personalities, so we have to be careful not to overinterpret the results” says Alan D. Romberg, distinguished fellow and the director of the East Asia program at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C. “Cross-strait relations were not at the center this time, but next time, in [the 2016 general elections], they will be.”

Indeed, the KMT losses are particularly striking considering that the 2016 presidential election is fast approaching. The prospect of a KMT defeat in that contest — that is to say, a win by the opposition DPP — could potentially alter the calculus of cross-strait ties. Unlike the KMT, which accepts some iteration of Beijing’s “one-China policy,” the DPP is more reticent. The DPP maintains that Taiwan is already a sovereign nation and should engage with China on those terms. The DPP does not see reunification in the future, a no-no for Beijing. As such, the prospect of a DPP government in 2016 is sure to worry the Communist Party’s top cadres. Says Shelley Rigger, a Taiwan specialist at Davidson College in North Carolina: “Beijing is definitely not loving this.”

Especially right now. Since late September, pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong have occupied for long stints three neighborhoods in the former British colony, demanding a more representative voting system. The movement is, like the Sunflower Movement before it, student-led and fueled by a deep distrust of the ruling Chinese Communist Party in Beijing. Though Hong Kong is not — as any Taiwan person would tell you — the same as Taiwan, Beijing cannot be pleased with the parallel. Beijing sees Taiwan as a renegade province and compares Hong Kong to an impertinent child. At a time when President Xi Jinping is speaking evocatively of an “Asia-Pacific dream” and forging ties abroad, it is awkward to have trouble at (what he considers) home.

Going forward, Taiwan politicians must find ways to engage with China without alienating a public that is increasingly wary of Beijing’s embrace. “The question for China is: How do we deal with a Taiwan that does not make anything easy?” Rigger says. After the week he has had, President Ma may be wondering the same thing.

TIME world affairs

China’s New Identity Crisis

Activists Take To The Streets As China Votes On Hong Kong Election Process
Protesters take part of the rally for the beginning of Occupy Central movement outside Central Government Offices on August 31, 2014 in Hong Kong, China. Lam Yik Fei—Getty Images

Zheng Wang is the Director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS) at Seton Hall University in New Jersey and a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Hong Kong is not Beijing, and 2014 is not 1989

Today, students are attempting to occupy the streets outside Hong Kong’s central government complex; 25 years ago, the students occupied Tiananmen in Beijing. However, Hong Kong is not Beijing, and 2014 is not 1989. These similar actions have taken place in entirely different contexts, even though Beijing’s political control is behind both of the events. It is important for us to identify the real sources of the current conflicts in Hong Kong, and not get sidetracked by simple reflections back to Tiananmen.

On the surface, the turmoil in Hong Kong is caused by Beijing’s decision regarding general elections. In reality, the deep sources of the conflict are not so different from the recent large-scale outbreaks of social tensions in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Taiwan. These tensions should not be seen as isolated political battles with Beijing, but rather should be heard as both the battle cry of China’s new identity crisis and a conflict of globalization. For these places, globalization has to some extent become “Chinaization” or “Mainlandization.” These recent events can be explained by the globalization theory “Jihad vs. McWorld.” This theory describes globalization as dialectical interactions between modern commercial fundamentalism and traditional parochialism. It argues that the expanding global commerce and the corporate control of the political process has weakened the autonomy and power of local communities, threatening the identity and culture of the smaller communities while at the same time leading to the reassertion of ethnic and religious identities.

In Hong Kong we can see clearly the effect “McWorld” has had, even though the further integration with mainland China brought prosperity to the city. But most of the advantages and profits produced by this process have gone to business tycoons and corporate elites. Much like the American rallies against the “1%” in recent years, the remaining grassroots population experiences the problems that this success has brought.

Due to the arrival of large numbers of newcomers and the flow of outside capital to Hong Kong, the real estate market has skyrocketed, pricing out much of the population while also increasing everyday cost of living. Large numbers of visitors have made the city quite crowded, leading the local people to worry that further integration will threaten their way of living, the identity of the city, and most of all the distinction of Hong Kong from the mainland that they so cherish.

In Xinjiang, Taiwan, and Tibet there is another story of globalization. The Uighurs, Taiwanese, and Tibetans feel they have been marginalized. For the Uighurs population, their response is jihad. In recent years we have seen the violent attacks in Xinjiang and other parts of mainland China. These violent actions can to some extent be seen as local resistance and rebellion in response to this marginalization and threat of identity, though any terrorist actions should be condemned.

Whereas the Hong Kong students went to the street to protest, a group of Hong Kongese business tycoons went to Beijing and met with the Chinese leadership. Beijing was pleased to gain their support. It is similarly common in Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang for elites to have maintained good relations with Beijing. The CCP has garnered support from the successful elites, while keeping their growth tied closely to Beijing. There are many cases of major Taiwanese corporations having relocated their headquarters from Taiwan to the mainland. The huge market the mainland offers has brought enormous profits to the Taiwanese business community. For example, a Taiwanese company in Mainland China manufactures almost all iPhones.

This phenomenon can be explained by another theory of globalization: “integrated on top, collapsed on the bottom.” When the elites of the different regions and industries gain from globalization, they become more united and integrated behind the banner of shared economic interests. On the other hand, even though the living standards of people in the grassroots have been improving in recent years, they have suffered many of the negative consequences of the globalized economy, such as the demise of their established traditions, cultural morality, and identity.

It is in this identity crisis that the different groups have chosen to express their protests. The recent student movement in Taiwan against the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement with China has been the Taiwanese response. While the protests in Hong Kong and Taiwan should not be confused for any type of jihad like that of the Uighurs’, they nonetheless underscore common issues. Unfortunately, Beijing is not well versed in handling identity issues. Identity-based conflict is different than interest-based conflict. People won’t change their cultural identity, whether by intimidation or by compensation. Both the proposition of bribes and the threat of use of force often only worsen a situation, as people remain steadfast to their identity. Beijing lacks an understanding of this concept and how to remedy it.

Hong Kong’s problem will continue for as long as the structural sources of conflict cannot be addressed. The identity crises in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Taiwan, and Tibet will surely become Beijing’s real tests and dilemmas. How well the Chinese leadership deals with these crises will determine China’s rise and future development. From this perspective, the identity issues have a real global impact, as does the street movement in Hong Kong.

Zheng Wang is the Director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS) at Seton Hall University in New Jersey and a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Hong Kong

Global Support Pours In for Hong Kong Democracy Protests

AUSTRALIA-HONGKONG-CHINA-POLITICS-DEMOCRACY
Notes from supporters of the thousands of protesters who paralyzed parts of Hong Kong to demand greater democracy from Beijing are seen in Sydney on Sept. 29, 2014 Peter Parks—AFP/Getty Images

Rallies in the U.S., Australia, Taiwan, Europe and elsewhere have been held to express solidarity

As tens of thousands of protestors flooded the streets of Hong Kong over the weekend, their struggle for democracy captured the imaginations of supporters across the world.

The Wall Street Journal reported that a group called the Hong Kong Overseas Alliance organized protests Saturday in various cities to show their solidarity with the Occupy Central movement — now being dubbed the Umbrella Revolution because of the ubiquitous umbrellas being used by protesters to shield themselves from police pepper spray.

Demonstrations were held by the group in New York City, which saw 200 people march on the Chinese consulate. Smaller protests were held in Vancouver and Los Angeles.

Another group, calling itself United for Democracy: Global Solidarity With Hong Kong, conducted a rally in London on Saturday that drew over 400 people. The protesters, mainly Hong Kong citizens and students, marched to the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in the city’s plush Mayfair district, and tied yellow ribbons on the building’s railings.

The yellow ribbon has been adopted as the symbol of Hong Kong’s struggle for democracy, and has inspired a movement in Australia called the Yellow Ribbon Campaign. The campaign reportedly collected 500 signatures from 12 Australian universities for a petition of support.

“My heart sinks, as my brother and sister are participating in Occupy movement. I am worried for their safety,” organizer Chrisann Palm, a Brisbane-based Hong Kong citizen who teaches at Queensland University of Technology, told the Journal.

According to Global Solidarity’s social-media accounts, there were rallies in Perth, Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne on Monday, as well as in Kuala Lumpur and Paris. Demonstrations are planned for Dublin, Seattle, Auckland, Copenhagen and Stockholm on Oct. 1.

A petition urging support for Hong Kong’s push for democracy has also made its way onto the White House public petitions site. “We hereby strongly appeal to the U.S. government to make it clear to the Beijing authorities that any effort to crackdown peaceful demonstrations by force will be strongly opposed and severely punished,” said the petition, which has already reached more than 183,000 signatures in response to its goal of 100,000 by Oct. 4.

Meanwhile Mashable reported that a group in Ferguson — the Missouri town where the shooting of black teenager Michael Brown sparked protests and police crackdowns — held up signs in Chinese to express their solidarity with Hong Kong demonstrators.

Closer to home, solidarity protests have been convened in Taiwan’s capital Taipei, with the Straits Times reporting that a group of protesters led by student activist Chen Wei-ting demanded that their President condemn the situation in Hong Kong and cease all dealings with the Chinese government. Pro-democracy protesters also reportedly crowded a Hong Kong trade office in Taiwan, and briefly scuffled with police.

MONEY mobile payments

Why the U.S. Lags the World in Mobile Payments

Octopus card
Hong Kong's Octopus card Horizons WWP—Alamy

Many American consumers are beyond excited by the prospect of Apple Pay, but overseas the iPhone's latest feature is old news.

When Apple announced its new payment service, Apple Pay, earlier this month, many in the tech world were blown away. The system allows iPhone users to pay at the checkout counter simply by holding their phone to a receiver for a few seconds. Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge, called Apple Pay “this week’s most revolutionary product,” and eloquently summarized how most Americans already feel about the status quo: “mobile payments have sucked so far, and it’s high time somebody fixed it.”

Bohn is right, but what he likely meant to say was “mobile payments have sucked so far in the United States.” Across the globe in Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, viewers of Apple’s announcement could be forgiven for falling asleep. Using your phone to buy stuff? We’ve been doing that for years.

In Hong Kong, residents regularly pay for goods, services, and public transit, all without swiping or signing. Instead, shoppers can simply wave their Octopus card, which uses a technology similar to Apple Pay, at checkout and go on their merry way. Octopus Holdings claims 95% of people in Hong Kong between ages 16 to 65 use its product, and Octopus is accepted at 14,000 retail outlets. Even more impressive, the card’s swipeless technology has been incorporated into phones, and yes, watches too. When did this magical future tech launch? Hong Kong has had Octopus since 1997.

Apple Pay-like services are also old news in Japan, a country where mobile payments are already ubiquitous. Afterall, it was Sony that invented the region’s major method of short-range data transfer. That technology eventually came to power Hong Kong’s Octopus card, as well as a slew of Japanese mobile wallets. Today, nearly every cell phone sold in Japan (other than the iPhone) comes with mobile payment technology built in by default.

Takeshi Natsuno, a former executive at one of Japan’s largest wireless carriers, once bragged, “When I leave my house in the morning all I take with me is my phone, which lets me do everything—pay, take public transport—simply by swiping a special reader in shops, stations or airports.” Sounds just like the promise of Apple Pay, except Natsuno said that in 2004.

But the world leader in mobile payments isn’t a glittering Eastern city. According to the Economist, that title belongs to Kenya and its revolutionary cell phone-based payment system, M-PESA. Launched in 2007, the service allows users to essentially text money back and forth while using telecom giant Safaricom, M-PESA’s creator, as a bank. Deposits and withdrawals are made through Safaricom’s network of 40,000 agents. Once money is in the system, it can be sent to any other M-PESA customer—even merchants—via a phone menu. Thanks to M-PESA, the Economist notes, “paying for a taxi in Nairobi is easier than it is in New York.”

Why is the U.S. so far behind other countries? There isn’t a single answer. At least in Asia-Pacific, major players may just be more willing to adopt the latest tech. “The thing hindering mobile payment development and contactless cards is that there’s an infrastructure set up in place and banks [and merchants] feel compatible with the current infrastructure,” said Theresa Jameson, senior analyst at Datamonitor Financial. “Certain markets are more willing to adopt new payment technologies.”

New contactless payments for public transport have also helped put Apple Pay-like technology in the hands of every consumer. Hong Kong’s Octopus card, as well as Japan and Taiwan’s mobile payment systems, each originated as a better way to pay subway fares. Over time, merchants gradually began to get on board with the new technology until swipeless payment became a norm. Ben Thompson, founder of the website Stratechery, describes how this exact process played out in Taiwan when a new Octopus-style transit card was introduced:

When I first arrived in 2003 almost everything was cash only. Just a year earlier, however, in 2002, the EasyCard Corporation née Smart Card Corporation had rolled out an RFID stored value card for use on Taipei’s new MRT (subway) system… Within a few years you could use the card everywhere: buses, trains, taxis, parking, government fees, and now, 10 years on, almost every retailer, and the RFID chip is no longer limited to cards, but is embedded in some phones, key fobs, and more.

As Thompson points out, another reason behind America’s stagnation in the mobile payment space is simply the inertia of the credit card system. Magnetic stripe cards are accepted by as many as 9 million U.S. businesses, and it will take an enormous investment to make Apple Pay even half as prolific. However, in countries like Taiwan and Kenya, where credit card penetration is low, or Japan, where there is a cultural aversion to debt, new alternatives were given an opportunity to flourish because credit cards had not already dominated the market.

But as America slowly prepares to move from magnetic strips to Near Field Communication (NFC) systems like Apple Pay, Asia may be held back by its own form of inertia. “Japan and Hong Kong are faced with a dilemma,” says Datamonitor’s Jameson. “If they wish to begin using Apple Pay or other NFC-based mobile payment services, they will need to start from the ground up in building their contactless/mobile payments ecosystem like the rest of the world – which would require considerable investment.” Their other option? “Stick with their existing system while the rest of the world moves in a different direction.”

TIME Taiwan

‘Gutter Oil’ Scandal Raises Food-Safety Fears Once Again in Greater China

Travel Trip Hong Kong on a Budget
A man buys a cake from Maxim's Cakes in Mongkok, Hong Kong, in this file photo from Dec. 18, 2008 Kin Cheung—AP

Potentially harmful oil may have been used in pastries sold by popular bakery chain and also 7-Eleven

A Taiwanese food-safety scare has spread to Hong Kong with the revelation that the city’s biggest bakery chain, as well as branches of 7-Eleven and Starbucks, may have been selling pastries made with so-called gutter oil.

The Hong Kong–based South China Morning Post reports that the popular breakfast staple known as pineapple buns, offered in branches of Maxim’s Cakes and 7-Eleven, as well two specialty Starbucks outlets, could have been made with gutter oil — a potentially harmful blend of oil extracted from food waste, offal and the byproducts of tanneries.

The news once again puts the issue of food safety under the spotlight in a part of the world that has been bedeviled by everything from adulterated baby milk formula to exploding watermelons and even fake eggs.

The Post said that since August 2011 Maxim’s Cakes had bought 34 tons of oil from a Hong Kong importer, who in turn purchased it from Chang Guann, a major lard supplier based in Taiwan. The oil was used to make the bakery chain’s iconic pineapple buns — so called not because they contain pineapple but because of the distinctive shape of the sugar and biscuit crust baked onto the buns’ surface. All the items have now been recalled.

Police in Taiwan last week said that Chang Guann had purchased 243 tons of oil from a gutter oil ring in southern Taiwan since March. The Taiwanese lard giant — which says it was unaware that the oil was gutter oil — in turn sold 51,981 cartons of oil to hundreds of food companies around Asia, according to Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration.

Authorities in Taiwan say that over a thousand Taiwanese companies have used oil supplied by Chang Guann to make a total of 139 different products. Local groceries across China pulled several Taiwanese brands of dumplings, sauces and noodles from their shelves over the weekend.

Many regional food suppliers and restaurants harbor reservations about the quality of food from China, where a series of recent scandals — including chicken feet marinated in hydrogen peroxide and the use of expired meat by one of the country’s top food suppliers — continues to unsettle consumers.

Still, Taiwan had boasted a better reputation.

“Bakeries from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore have done particularly well in China because of worries about locally produced food,” wrote the New York Times, in a Sept. 6 article about the Mid-Autumn Festival pastries known as moon cakes.

But in the wake of the Chang Guann scandal, revelers could be shunning Taiwanese moon cakes this year. Hong Kong health officials told Agence France-Presse that moon cakes sold around the city are undergoing checks.

Maxim’s has told the Hong Kong authorities its moon cakes were not made with contaminated oil, but lab tests are being carried out, the Post reports.

[SCMP]

TIME Taiwan

Taiwan’s Crippling Gas Explosion Caught On Camera

Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city, is currently in a state of disarray due to blasts caused by a gas explosion. The number of casualties has now surpassed 250, with bodies continuing to be discovered as the day progresses.

Eruptions began around midnight Thursday and continued into the morning Friday. Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) announced that residents had been reporting smells of leaking gas to authorities prior to the explosions.

Investigations are currently underway to uncover how the blasts could have occurred and who was responsible. It is currently assumed that the cause was underground gas leaks from petrochemical pipelines built alongside the city’s sewer system.

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