Taiwan's largest opposition party declines to join president's alliance
A day after a humiliating election defeat, Taiwan's largest opposition party refused to join the president's new alliance yesterday, an early sign that the vote might not end destructive political feuding.
Taiwanese were closely watching whether the Nationalists would soften their opposition to President Chen Shui-bian after their loss in legislative elections Saturday. The party, which had 110 seats, only won 68, losing their five-decade control of the 225-member legislature.
The vote made the president's Democratic Progressive Party the biggest with 87 seats. But the DPP still lacks a majority, and Chen has been urging opposition lawmakers to join his "National Stabilization Alliance," which he says will help him form the island's first coalition government.
But yesterday, Nationalist spokesman Wang Chih-kang told reporters his party would not join the alliance.
"We have already decided not to participate in the National Stabilization Alliance," Wang said. But he added the Nationalists might support some other kind of coalition-building effort.
The Nationalists might forge stronger ties with the small People's First Party, which won 46 seats. Together the two parties could have 114 seats in the legislature, a clear majority.
"We already have a foundation with the PFP," Wang said. "We are willing to continue to develop that cooperative relationship, including in the legislature."
Meanwhile, a top Nationalist official, Lin Fong-cheng, took the blame for the defeat and offered to resign, the semi-official Central News Agency reported.
Some suspected that the party's chairman, Lien Chan, might step down because this was his second election defeat in less than two years.
Back to tropical storm strength, wandering Olga outlives hurricane season
Large swells pounded island beaches yesterday as a recharged tropical storm Olga followed an erratic course out in the Atlantic, days after the customary end of the hurricane season. Olga grew out of a weather system called a subtropical storm on Nov .24, strengthened to a hurricane, then weakened back to a tropical depression before regaining power on Saturday.
The last storm that persisted past the Nov. 30 end of the six-month hurricane season was Hurricane Nicole in 1998.
"We've been tossing around (the idea) if it hangs around, we might rename it Noel" because of its proximity to Christmas, said Stacy Stewart at the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane Noel preceded Olga in November.
"We'd like to get this over with and out of the way. We have vacation time we're supposed to be taking now," he said.
Swells battered the central and southeast Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos islands. The swells and dangerous surf conditions should continue the next few days, Stewart said.
At 10 a.m. EST yesterday, the storm was centered about 515 miles east of Nassau, Bahamas, with top sustained wind near 45 mph. It was heading north-northwest at about 8 mph, but is expected to turn to the west over the next few days. Its swells and heavy surf conditions could eventually affect Florida's east coast, from Cape Canaveral south, Stewart said.
Olga was the 15th named storm and the ninth hurricane of this year's six-month Atlantic hurricane season.
Castro salutes troops on anniversary
Fidel Castro saluted his troops as MiG fighter jets zoomed overhead, just like in the old days. But Cuba's military celebrated its anniversary yesterday with a parade that reflected the diminished firepower of a country once on the Cold War's front lines.
Unlike its martial parades of the 1970s and 1980s, when Communist Cuba was flush with Soviet weapons it pointedly displayed 90 miles from Florida, the Revolutionary Armed Forces marched on its 45th anniversary without tanks, anti-aircraft weapons, mortars or other big guns.
Instead, there were three combat jets and three helicopter gunships that buzzed by as the parade wrapped up with a crescendo from a brass army band. Less than half the 6,040 marchers carried rifles.
The scaled-down ceremony pointed to the shrunken military mission of a country that once supported rebel movements abroad but has been forced to turn inward and nurse its own struggling economy - though its leader has lost none of his revolutionary rhetoric.
"There exists no weapon more potent than profound convictions and clear ideas of what should be done," Castro, the commander in chief, said in a speech in this southeastern city before the parade.
"For this type of weapon you don't need fabulous sums of money, only the capacity to create and transmit just ideas and values," he said. "That will make our people more armed than ever."
Sitting next to the 75-year-old leader was his brother, Gen. Raul Castro, 70, Cuba's Defense Minister and the president's chosen successor. The brothers rarely appear together.
Raul Castro did not speak, but the Communist Party daily Granma quoted him Saturday as saying Cuba is a "peaceful nation" that does not need offensive weapons.