Thursday, January 5, 2012

Betel nut brouhaha

HSINCHU, Taiwan — A magazine here is catching flak for touting scantily clad betel nut vendors as a tourist attraction. The minor flap has renewed debate over a unique but controversial part of Taiwan's pop culture. Betel nut, a mild stimulant, is enjoyed across Asia. But only in Taiwan is the nut sold by fetching young women in outrageous outfits, perched in neon-lit, see-through roadside stands. FULL STORY.

Double Jeopardy

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Japan hangs them. China puts a bullet in their head. Taiwan makes them lie face down on a blanket, then shoots them in the back or skull. Asia has had few qualms about capital punishment. It put more people to death in 2009 than the rest of the world combined, according to Amnesty International, with “the vast majority” of those executions in China. But now, movements are afoot to abolish the death penalty. FULL STORY.

Love Motel 2.0

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Gone are the days of scuzzy "rest" hotels, rented by the hour to furtive lovers. The latest generation of Taiwan love hotels are over-the-top pleasure dens, kitted out with full karaoke sound systems, massive jacuzzis and high-tech privacy protection. FULL STORY.

Japan: Just-in-time workers

NAGOYA, Japan — For decades, Japan's big firms were famous for their deal with employees: The corporation was a big family that looked after its workers for life. In return it expected total dedication. That was the Japanese way, and part of the popular 1980s American media narrative on the rise of Japan, Inc. It's no longer true. Instead, more than 17 million people in the world's second largest economy are now "irregular" workers, or temps, according to government statistics. FULL STORY.

Red light fight

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Massive debts pushed her into prostitution. Now, after several false starts, she's pocketing $3,000 in a good month, turning tricks as a self-employed Taipei street-walker. The money's good, she says, but there's just one problem: the cops. Prostitution is illegal in Taiwan, and the cops have several times hauled her in for three days in jail, or a fine up to $1,000. If sex work is legalized in a year's time as now planned, though, she says her working conditions will improve. FULL STORY.