Letter 1: Beware of James Van Praagh...

TO THE EDITOR: I see by the New York Times bestseller list published in the China News on February 15 that the top-selling non-fiction book in America at this moment is a volume titled "Talking to Heaven" by James Van Praagh, published by Dutton. Readers here in Taiwan should be aware that this book is a total fraud written by a total fake. As entertainment, "Talking to Heaven" is a good read and worthy of bestsellerdom. But the theme of the book, that Mr. Van Praagh can communicate with the souls of dead friends, relatives and other loved ones is pure bunk._____ Mr. Van Praagh started out as a "medium" claiming to have paranormal powers and began gaining a following among New Agers in America. As his shtick caught on, and as more followers began eating out of his lap, a New York publisher, seeing good profits, offered a book contract to Van Praagh. The result is this silly, immature, amateur and totally ridiculous book aimed at naive Americans who like to believe in angels, supernatural deities and New Age experiences. Unfortunately, nothing in the book is true: there are no angels, there are no supernatural deities and the "New Age" is a fiction concocted by spaced-out space cadets from such fruity places as California and Florida. Mr. Van Praagh is no medium and he cannot communicate with the dead, even when Larry King invites him on his CNN show. What Mr. Van Praagh is, in spades, is a charlatan. But it is just like America to put a charlatan on the top of the bestseller list! Charlatanism sells. Charlatanism is American's middle name!_____ I mention this only because Taiwan can soon expect to see a Chinese translation of "Talking to Heaven" in paperback, with claims that this American imposter can put you in touch with your dead friends and relatives. All you have to do is "believe." Sure, and could I interest you in buying a nice little bridge in Brooklyn? Just like Michael Drosnin's wonderful piece of fakery titled "The Bible Codes," which has become a bestseller in oh-so-naive Taiwan, watch James Van Praagh's "Talking to Heaven" become the talk of the town in Taipei and points south among Taiwan's intellectual elite in the near future. But readers beware: Van Praagh, who now has his own Internet site (look it up on any search engine), is just another stupid (yet smart)imposter from America trying to sell his soul for a profit. He is no prophet. I saw him on the Larry King show recently, and he came across as a total fraud. But even the normally suave and astute Larry King was taken in by the man's humbug. I cry for thee, America! Taiwan, watch out!______ Sincerely, Terry Walker (apt_6f@hotmail.com)


Letter 2: Regarding Ed Neilan's recent column..

TO THE EDITOR: Edward Neilan wrote in a recent column from Tokyo (Feb.12) that many mainland Chinese who work in Japan legally or illegally are sending back gobs of money earned in yen-rich Tokyo and Osaka to their relatives and hometowns in China. This is true. I once knew a woman from Shanghai who worked in Tokyo's notorious sex industry as a masseuse. She studied Japanese by day and worked as a hostess by night, and when I met her she was making the equivalent of US$10,000 per month servicing Japanese businessmen using their expense accounts for a night out on the town, painting the town red, so to speak._____ My "acquaintance," Ms. Fong, from a middle-class family in Shanghai, was all of 27 years old, had a baby back in China from a marriage that didn't work out, and was socking away gobs of yen nightly in one of Tokyo's famous "entertainment" districts. I asked her what she was going to do with all her hard-earned cash and she told me she was sending it to her mother for a downpayment and monthly mortgage payments on a nice condominium in downtown Shanghai. This is not the kind of story the Associated Press or Reuters, or even your well-travelled columinist Edward Neilan, can report in a family newspaper, but I can vouch for its authenticity. And there are many other Chinese woman like Ms. Fong working in the Japanese sex industry as barmaids and cocktail waitresses and hostesses (pick the euphemism of your choice) in places like Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka. Do they have valid visas and working permits? Yes, they have valid student visas allowing them to study Japanese in bushiban-like cram schools, but they do not have work permits and their work is therefore illegal. But the Japanese authorities (read: yakuza) turn a blind eye to this kind of business, and the women make out like bandits._____ You might wonder how I came to know Ms. Fong in Tokyo. I'll tell you: I was one of her customers, but I called it "research." I learned a lot from Ms. Fong, and I can tell you she was part of a veritable army of female soldiers infiltrating Japan with a hidden agenda: sending huge sacks of money back to the mainland, and the more the merrier. Being a respected journalist, Mr. Neilan probably cannot report on such activities without getting in trouble with his editors. As a result, Ms. Fong's story is part of the Japan (and the China) that nobody knows. Being a single man on the loose in the Land of the Rising Sun, I was able to conduct quite a bit of research about this secret army of Chinese women from Beijing, Shanghai, Canton and points in between. In my experience, they had learned to speak Japanese quite well. They knew the lingo, and they knew how to bingo. No doubt many an apartment or condominium in the "new" China has been financed with money earned by mainlaind women who could teach even Moncia Lewinsky a thing or two about "under the table" gymnastics.____ I tell this story not to shock Tienmou matrons or infuriate the Japanese "embassy" in Taipei, but merely to add some extra information to Mr. Neilan's fine dispatches from the Land of the Rising Sun. He tells good stories. I just wanted to add my two yen here.____ Sincerely, Terry Walker (apt_6f@hotmail.com)

Letter 3: Mr. Eyton should do his homework...

February 16 TO THE EDITOR: Laurence Eyton, whose weekly Sunday columns grace your editorial page with insightful and penetrating commentary, made a slight gaffe the other day (Feb. 15). In his column headlined "The irony of bailing out Malaysia," Eyton, who should know better, repeated, without properly researching his sources, the old canard about an "international Jewish-led Western conspiracy" threatening Malaysia, a comment Eyton incorrectly attributes to Mahathir Mohammed. Mr. Eyton, do your research._____ Mahathir never said anything about a "Jewish-led Western conspiracy with a secret mission to keep Asians in their place," as you wrote in your column. All he said, in critizing Geroge Soros' financial moves in Asia, was that Soros was of Jewish background. But Mahathir never mentioned anything about a Jewish-led Western "conspiracy." He never uttered this ugly phrase. _____ Unfortunately, many journalists, including Thomas Freidman of the New York Times, who writes frequently for the China News, picked up Mahathir's comment about Soros and embellished it with an imagined reference to the old "world Jewish conspiracy" canard. But in fact, Mahathir, who of course was way out of place trying to connect Soros' ethnicity with his behavior as an adult financial investor (there is obviousy no connection), never connected Soros to any "world Jewish conspiracy." ____ Some elements of the media, sloppy in their reporting habits as usual, have taken an ugly comment by Mahathir and made it even uglier, thus perpetuating the old canard about Jews and international conspiracies. Unfortunately, many ill-informed readers end up having their prejudices against Jews reinforced when they read such poorly-researched columns._____ Laurence Eyton, do your homework. As the Taipei correspondent for the Economist magazine in Britain, you should be above repeating damaging old canards, especially when they are not true. Correct me if I am wrong. (Show me the actual quote, that is.) _____ Sincerely, Terry Walker

BAN NAZI SWASTIKA DECALS IN TAIWAN!

With the increasing popularity of motorscooter helmets made in Tainan sporting Nazi swastikas (we even saw a 31 year old Canadian man wearing such an ugly helmet the other day, and he offered no apologies -- how quickly the young forget; he showed little conciousnesss of what he was doing or how his little acted betrayed the memories of million of people who died at the hands of the Nazis, Jews and non-Jews) ... the time has come to ask the Control Yuan and the Legislative Yuan and even President for Life Lee Teng-hui to BAN these ugly Nazi stickers from public display in all of Taiwan. It;s okay to collect Nazi memorabilia if that's your thing in private, but to use these decals in public (we even saw some on a taxi cab the other day, affixed to the truck hood) is going too far and is damaging to the international reputation of Taiwan (Little China). Therefore we have asked that a resolution be adopted into the Legislature that would make it a crime to publicly display such stickers or make helmets for public use. O you little dumb Canadian man: how could you be so stupid and callous, so smug in your assertion that you were just a fan of German military strategies in WWII and not a supporter of Hitler at all. Yes, of course, great justification for your hobby. We hope you fall off your motorscooter and break your neck! Take that, dumb Canadian all of 31 years of age!) If anyone reading this would like to join our campaign, just write apt_6f@hotmail.com