Sunday, September 30, 2012

Work resumes at Okla. refinery after deadly blast

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) ? An oil refinery employee remained in critical condition Sunday at an Oklahoma City hospital as work resumed at the facility where an explosion earlier in the weekend left him injured and another worker dead.

Friday's blast at a boiler inside the refinery south of Oklahoma City injured Russell Mann of Davis and killed Billy Smith, 34, of Pauls Valley, said Garvin County Sheriff Larry Rhodes. The sheriff did not know Smith's age and the hospital wouldn't confirm it.

The CEO of CVR Energy Inc., which owns the refinery in Wynnewood, said in a statement Sunday that the Sugar Land, Texas, company is working with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and state agencies that are trying to determine what caused the explosion.

"I would like to express my deepest sympathy for the employees and families affected by this tragedy," Jack Lipinski said. "We are conducting a thorough investigation of the incident and cooperating fully with OSHA and the Oklahoma Department of Labor."

Rhodes said OSHA investigators arrived at the site on Saturday.

OSHA officials did not immediately return phone messages and emails Sunday.

Damage at the refinery was limited to the boiler, and no other areas of the facility were affected, according to the company's statement.

Rhodes said the explosion occurred after the plant had been shut down earlier in the week for planned maintenance, a 40-day process called a turnaround.

"There is no crude oil refining going on right now," he said.

The turnaround, a periodic shutdown of operations, is for maintenance and upkeep of operating units and resumed Saturday, the company said.

"We want to thank Wynnewood and Garvin County emergency response teams for their rapid response and assistance," said Wayne Leiker, vice president and refinery manager.

The company also had a team of firefighters on site that had the situation under control when deputies arrived, Rhodes said.

"I do know there was no fire; it was more of a blast of the gasses and the pressures that built up within that (boiler)," the sheriff said.

Highways near the site, which is 65 miles south of Oklahoma City, were shut down for nearly two hours after the explosion, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

CVR's website says the company acquired the refinery when it purchased Gary-Williams Energy Corporation in 2011. The refinery has a daily capacity of 70,000 barrels of crude and produces gasoline, diesel fuel, military jet fuel, solvents and asphalt.

Associated Press


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WSU 'Water Works' features Utah poet Katharine Coles

Birds, water and ice are on the agenda for the evening.

Poet, novelist and editor Katharine Coles, 53, of Salt Lake City, will do a reading at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Special Collections room in the Stewart Library on the Weber State University campus.

The event is free to the public. Several of Coles? books will be available for sale at the event and also in the WSU Bookstore.

Coles, who grew up in Utah and is the past poet laureate for the state, addresses the importance of nature and science in people?s lives.

Coles? visit is part of the campus-wide, yearlong program called ?Water Works.? Several guest speakers, from artists to explorers, are coming to WSU this school year ? all addressing a water theme. (Go to for more details.)

?I?ll be reading quite a lot of the Antarctica poems, because where I was in Antarctica was pretty much all water and ice,? Coles said.?

She spent a month in 2010 living on the science station in Antarctica, thanks to the National Science Foundation?s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program.?

?Going to Antarctica is one of the greatest adventures you can have without leaving the planet,? she said. ?It?s that inspirational.?

Her poem ?Tempo for a Winged Instrument? is about the birds in Antarctica. ?There is a lot of light in the poem,? Coles said. ?It was light all the time there. And there are no land animals in Antarctica ? only birds and creatures of the water.?

Coles is the immediate past poet laureate of Utah. ?It?s a pretty prestigious award. It validated the quality of poetry we have in Utah,? said David Pace, Literary Arts and Arts Education Specialist for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums.

Coles has written several collections of poems, including ?The Golden Years of the Fourth Dimension,? ?A History of the Garden? and ?The One Right Touch.? She has also published two novels: ?The Measurable World? and ?Fire Season.?

Some of Coles? poems are simply about her dogs. ?Elegy for a Dog Larger Than Life,? is about her husband?s dog, Andre, a Newfoundland mix with some Labrador thrown in. Andre had serious health problems and almost died on Christmas Day. Coles said she wrote the poem while they were waiting at the animal hospital and she thought the dog was dying. Andre actually lived another couple of years.

Another dog poem, ?The Double Leash,? is about Coles walking her two dogs, who have since passed away: Quigley, a golden retriever, and Cleo, a border collie/Australian shepherd mix. ?They were my constant companions for many years,? she said. ?I used to run with them and we were together all the time.?

The Andra Collection

Coles? writings are part of the Carl E. Andra Memorial Collection, which was started in the Weber State Library Special Collections in 1977 by Jean Andra (now Jean Andra Miller) in memory of her first husband, the late Carl E. Andra, who was an assistant professor of English at WSU from 1965 until he died.?

The collection emphasizes his favorite aspect of contemporary American and English literature of the 20th century.

The collection houses approximately 1,500 volumes. It contains many works that are first editions, or signed by the authors, as well as works of rare or collectible importance.

?My absolute favorite piece is the signed Ernest Hemingway: ?Men Without Women,? ? said Sarah Langsdon, associate curator of special collections at WSU Stewart Library. ?It?s a very valuable piece ? and an interesting piece of Americana.?

The endowment for the Andra Collection, completed in 2011, specified that poetry readings be offered ?from time to time to draw attention to the collection?s existence and importance to the campus and community. It was agreed that poets of regional, state, or local importance be featured.

Coles is a professor of English at the University of Utah. She earned a bachelor?s degree at the University of Washington, a master?s degree at the University of Houston and a doctorate at the University of Utah.

She has also received a fellowship and a New Forms Project grant from the National Endowment for the Arts; a PEN New Writer?s Award; and grants from the Utah Arts Council and the Salt Lake City Arts Council.

Go to to read selected Coles works.




WHO: Poet Katharine Coles

WHAT: Reading

WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4

WHERE: Hetzel-Hoellein Room (Special Collections), Stewart Library, Weber State University campus, 3848 Harrison Blvd., Ogden




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Pope's bid to win over Catholic rebels seems at dead end

PARIS (Reuters)- Pope Benedict's bid to draw rebel Catholic traditionalists back to the Roman fold, a major effort that has divided Catholics and sometimes embarrassed him, seems to have hit a dead end with little apparent hope of a solution.

Two leaders of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), which broke away over reforms of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, have recently rejected his conditions for their rehabilitation after a series of contacts following his 2005 election as pope.

SSPX head Bishop Bernard Fellay, who Church officials expect will send a formal reply to Rome soon, has not yet indicated the group's final position but it is not expected to be positive.

A formal or de facto SSPX rejection would be a setback for Benedict, whose decision to lift excommunications on its four bishops in 2009 backfired when it emerged one was a notorious Holocaust denier and the Vatican did not even know it.

"The SSPX has set conditions that are simply unacceptable to the pope," Nicolas Seneze, a French expert on the Society, told Reuters. "Their discussions are now back at square one."

The Swiss-based SSPX broke away from Rome in 1988 in protest against the 1960s reforms that replaced Latin with local languages at Mass, forged reconciliation with Jews and admitted other religions may also offer a path to salvation.

Benedict, who at the time was the Vatican's top doctrinal official, failed to convince SSPX founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre not to ordain four bishops. Appointing them meant the SSPX could continue its work outside of Vatican control.


Since becoming pope, Benedict has met Fellay, promoted the old Latin Mass the SSPX champions and lifted excommunications imposed on Lefebvre and the four bishops when they defied Pope John Paul and went ahead with the unauthorized ordinations.

Benedict's 2007 decision to allow wider use of the old Latin Mass met with a mixed reaction among Catholics. A minority welcomed it but many thought that reviving the 16th century ritual was turning back the clock to before the 1960s Council.

Two years later, he set off a firestorm of criticism from Catholics, Jews and German politicians when his decision to lift the bishops' excommunications brought Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson back into the Church.

Lifting the excommunications meant the four bishops were once again full members of the 1.2-billion member Church, but they and the SSPX - which claims to have 500 priests and a million followers - had no official position or role within it.

In 2010, the Vatican launched closed-door theological discussions with the rebels aimed at an agreement that would make the SSPX a "personal prelature" or autonomous institution in the Church similar to the conservative group Opus Dei.

Benedict insisted they must declare the Vatican Council and Church doctrine since then as valid Catholic teaching. Denying this has been a core principle of SSPX beliefs from the start.

The Vatican issued an ultimatum in March to the SSPX, saying it must accept this condition within a month or face grave consequences, but the exchanges dragged on until Benedict wrote a final letter to Fellay on June 30.


Rev. Franz Schmidberger, head of the SSPX German branch, mentioned the letter in a video recently posted on a Society website and said that the Council included "inconsistencies" that could not be denied.

"We cannot recognize this hermeneutic of continuity," he said, using a theological term for Benedict's view that the Council's reforms were consistent with Catholic tradition.

The Society insisted on its right to continue to denounce some Council reforms as grave errors and always have at least one bishop chosen from its own ranks, he said.

Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, one of the four SSPX prelates, told a traditionalist meeting in mid-September about the letter and called its conditions a "breaking point."

"I would never sign anything like that," he said, according to notes published on a traditionalist website.

Asked by Reuters about the letter, a Vatican spokesman declined to confirm it or comment on relations with the SSPX.

Seneze, author of the book "The Integrist Crisis" about the SSPX, said the group might not officially cut off contacts with the Vatican because it believes its mission is to lead Rome back to traditional Catholicism.

For his part, the pope values the SSPX's commitment to Church traditions and wants to avoid a permanent schism claiming to be Catholic but outside Vatican control.

"Nobody wants to be the first to slam the door and be responsible for a failure of the talks," Seneze said. "Some kind of contacts could continue, but without coming to a conclusion."

The author said allowing the SSPX to reject the Council would be a concession too far for Benedict, who has long defended some reforms - especially the recognition of Judaism - even while reversing some liberal changes the Council made.

"Benedict could not give up on the Council, especially now, just weeks before he celebrates its 50th anniversary," he said. The historic Council opened in Rome on October 11, 1962.

(Additional reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)


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Holiday gifts take wraps off China graft challenge

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The pre-holiday procession of Chinese entrepreneurs bearing gifts for the officials who hold sway over their businesses highlights the ubiquity of corruption in China and the difficulty the government will have in stamping it out.

For the past few weeks, business people across the country have been preoccupied not with their companies' operations, but with delivering thinly veiled bribes to the officials who grant them permits, sign off on the quality of their products or validate their tax bills.

The gift-giving ahead of the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holiday, for which the country will virtually shut down for the week beginning on Monday, has created traffic jams and parking chaos outside many government agencies' offices, according to residents of several cities.

Bearing gift cards, premium liquor, luxury products and even airline tickets, entrepreneurs visit the officials they need to maintain good relations with or expect to receive favors from, perpetuating a culture of corruption about which foreign businesses frequently complain.

"It's the small potatoes that have the biggest appetites," said Li, a woman who runs a retail business in Jinan, capital of the eastern province of Shandong. She declined to give her full name.


Since early September, Li has been busy delivering gift cards, in particular to the district-level officials who sign off on the permits she needs to stay in business.

For this year's festival, she has had to hand out cards worth at least 5,000 yuan ($800) to each official she needs to keep happy. Before the Lunar New Year in the spring of each year, district officials expect double that, she said. Some also demand regular smaller gifts throughout the year.

"They all keep a record book of the reputations of gift-giving by people. If you're not generous enough or didn't perform well during a specific holiday, then word will spread fast," said Li.

Such widespread corruption is nothing new; it has long been recognized as a problem, and the government has taken steps to crack down, especially on officials who are caught red-handed.

But the prevalence of holiday bribe-taking on the eve of the early-November Communist Party Congress - at which a new generation of top leaders will be anointed and ahead of which Beijing is particularly sensitive about issues like corruption - underscores the degree to which it is entrenched.

While the downfall of Bo Xilai - a one-time rising political star who was expelled from the Party on Friday on allegations including taking huge bribes - has embarrassed the Party and government, business people say such behavior is just the tip of the iceberg, with corruption extending down to country townships and city districts.


Beijing's anti-corruption fight has had some impact.

With the Party's reputation singed by a series of corruption scandals and rising public ire over them, it has imposed a "frugal working style" rule on civil servants effective October 1, barring them from spending public money on banquets or fancy cars, and from accepting expensive gifts.

But rather than stamp out bribe-taking, the main result has been a shift in the types of gifts given, away from luxury watches and flashy handbags and towards things like gift cards that can be passed on with a handshake or left discreetly in an office, according to several business people.

Those sensitivities were heightened when an official in Shaanxi province was fired a week ago for discipline violations after internet users collated photos of him wearing a number of luxury watches on various occasions, prompting a flurry of criticism online.

"Watches are not popular now, they're too dangerous to wear," said a businessman named Zhuang, an entrepreneur in Nantong in the eastern province of Jiangsu.

To get around that, in addition to gift cards, many people give gifts together with their receipts, so officials can return the gift for cash, he said.

But there is no option but to keep on giving.

"If I don't make them happy, they will cause trouble for my company," Zhuang said.

($1 = 6.2849 yuan)

(Additional reporting by Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Robert Birsel)


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Android Overload: Galaxy Note II first look, improved Google Maps, Galaxy S3 deal and more

Not every story makes it to our homepage, but they might be worth a look. Here is where we give you all the little extras you might enjoy, so make sure to go over them before you go on your weekend adventures!

  • First look at the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 [Samsung Mobile]
  • Google Maps improves Aerial images ? take it, Apple! [Wired]
  • Deal: $120-130 off Samsung Galaxy S3 Developer Edition [Android Police]
  • How to root the LG Intuition and LG Spectrum on ICS [Android Police]
  • Infographic: The evolution of smartphones [IntoMobile]
  • A NORTH Korean Android tablet in the works? [WSJ]
  • Open WebOS ported to the Galaxy Nexus [WebOS Nation]


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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Electrons confined inside nano-pyramids

ScienceDaily (Sep. 28, 2012) ? Quantum dots are nanostructures of semiconducting materials that behave a lot like single atoms and are very easy to produce. Given their special properties, researchers see huge potential for quantum dots in technological applications. Before this can happen, however, we need a better understanding of how the electrons "trapped" inside them behave. Dresden physicists have recently observed how electrons in individual quantum dots absorb energy and emit it again as light.

Their results were recently published in the journal Nano Letters.

Quantum dots look like miniscule pyramids. Inside each of these nano-pyramids are always only one or two electrons that essentially "feel" the constricting walls around them and are therefore tightly constrained in their mobility. Scientists from Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), TU Dresden. TU Dresden and the Leibniz Institute for solid State and Materials Research Dresden (IFW) have now studied the special energy states of the electrons trapped inside individual quantum dots.

Sharp energy levels

The behaviour of electrons in a material essentially determines its properties. Being spatially constrained in all three spatial dimensions, electrons inside a nano-pyramid can only occupy very specific energy levels -- which is why quantum dots are also called "artificial atoms." Where these energy levels lie depends on the chemical composition of the semiconductor material as well as the size of the nano-pyramid. "These sharply defined energy levels are exploited, for example, in highly energy-efficient lasers based on quantum dots. The light is produced when an electron drops from a higher energy level into a lower one. The energy difference between the two levels determines the colour of the light," Dr. Stephan Winnerl of HZDR explains.

Seeing electrons inside individual quantum dots

The researchers in Dresden working with Dr. Winnerl were recently the first to succeed in scanning transitions between energy levels in single quantum dots using infrared light. Although, they could only do this after overcoming a certain hurdle: While the pyramids of indium arsenide or indium gallium arsenide form spontaneously during a specific mode of crystal growth, their size varies within a certain range. Studying them with infrared light, for example, one obtains blurred signals because electrons in different sized pyramids respond to different infrared energies. This is why it is so important to obtain a detailed view of the electrons trapped inside a single quantum dot.

The scientists approached this task with the special method of scanning near-field microscopy. Laser light is shone onto a metallic tip less than 100 nanometers thick, which strongly collimates the light to a hundred times smaller than the wavelength of light, which is the spatial resolution limit for "conventional" optics using lenses and mirrors. By focusing this collimated light precisely onto one pyramid, energy is donated to the electrons, thereby exciting them to a higher energy level. This energy transfer can be measured by watching the infrared light scattered from the tip in this process. While near-field microscopy involves major signal losses, the light beam is still strong enough to excite the electrons inside a nano-pyramid. The method is also so sensitive that it can create a nanoscale image in which the one or two electrons inside a quantum dot stand out in clear contrast. In this fashion, Stephan Winnerl and his colleagues from HZDR, plus physicists from TU and IFW Dresden, studied the behaviour of electrons inside a quantum dot in great detail, thereby contributing towards our understanding of them.

Infrared light from the free electron laser

The infrared light used in the experiments came from the free electron laser at HZDR. This special laser is an ideal infrared radiation source for such experiments because the energy of its light can be adjusted to precisely match the energy level inside the quantum dots. The laser also delivers such intense radiation that it more than makes up for the unavoidable losses inherent to the method.

"Next, we intend to reveal the behaviour of electrons inside quantum dots at lower temperatures," Dr. Winnerl says. "From these experiments, we hope to gain even more precise insights into the confined behavior of these electrons. In particular, we want to gain a much better understanding of how the electrons interact with one another as well as with the vibrations of the crystal lattice." Thanks to its intense laser flashes in a broad, freely selectable spectral range, the free electron laser offers ideal conditions for the method of near-field microscopy in Dresden, which benefits particularly from the close collaboration with Prof. Lukas Eng of TU Dresden in the scope of DRESDEN-concept.

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Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

  1. Rainer Jacob, Stephan Winnerl, Markus Fehrenbacher, Jayeeta Bhattacharyya, Harald Schneider, Marc Tobias Wenzel, Hans-Georg von Ribbeck, Lukas M. Eng, Paola Atkinson, Oliver G. Schmidt, Manfred Helm. Intersublevel Spectroscopy on Single InAs-Quantum Dots by Terahertz Near-Field Microscopy. Nano Letters, 2012; 12 (8): 4336 DOI: 10.1021/nl302078w

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.


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Costa Mesa Man, 37, Gets Life For Fatally Shooting Ex-Wife, Her ...

Robert Allan Lehmann (courtesy OC District Attorney's Office)

Robert Allan Lehmann (courtesy OC District Attorney?s Office)

SANTA ANA (CBS)??? A Costa Mesa man who gunned down his ex-wife and her father execution-style was convicted Friday of first-degree murder.

Robert Allan Lehmann, 37, shook his head and muttered to himself when he heard the jury?s verdict, which followed about two hours of deliberations, Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy said.

?We had an excellent jury and they did the right thing,? the prosecutor said.

Lehmann shot and killed the pair after drawn out court hearings involving the educational needs of his daughter, who has special need.

The panel found true special circumstance allegations of lying in wait ? which applied only to his ex-wife ? and multiple murders, Murphy said. Lehmann will be sentenced to life in prison without parole on Nov. 2.

Defense attorney Jeremy Goldman acknowledged in his opening statement that his client shot and killed the victims, but said Lehmann was in a ?sleepwalking state.? Goldman alleged Lehmann had taken too much anti-anxiety medication and downed the drugs with beer.

Goldman argued that his client should be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, not first-degree murder, for killing 32-year-old Emily Ford and 62-year-old Russell Ford outside the defendant?s home in Costa Mesa on May 3, 2011.

Lehmann and his ex-wife met in February 2003 and wed when she got pregnant with their daughter, Amanda. The marriage lasted less than a year.

The two shared custody of their child, who was diagnosed with Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome, a rare disorder that affects development of blood vessels and can sometimes lead to one limb being larger than the other, Murphy said. She was later diagnosed with ADHD, the prosecutor said.

Disputes arose between the parents over their daughter?s education, Murphy said, with Amanda?s mother wanting her to be ?mainstreamed? as much as possible, and Lehmann advocating special education classes. The schooling disagreement led the parents to family court about 20 times, he said.

According to Goldman, his client?s child was in ?great risk of being held back? after kindergarten, so Lehmann ?spent tens of thousands of dollars? on attorneys and experts and was granted full control over decisions about the girl?s education in September 2010.

Lehmann decided that his daughter should be taken out of a public school in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and placed in a child development center at UC Irvine. Another dispute followed over who would pay for the schooling.

His ex-wife ultimately told UCI officials ? who required both parents to be on board ? that she had changed her mind altogether, Goldman said, prompting Lehmann to file a court order on his own because he could no longer afford an attorney.

The shooting happened hours after a court hearing stemming from the schooling dispute.

When Lehmann arrived home, he sent his wife of two years out with his daughter to a local Golden Spoon frozen yogurt shop and got a gun out of a safe in his home, Murphy said. When Emily Ford and her father arrived to pick up the girl, Lehmann opened fire on his ex-wife at his front door, the prosecutor said.

Emily Ford, who had gotten remarried and had a new baby, stumbled back and was then shot in the back as she tried to run away, Murphy said. The defendant subsequently turned the gun on his former father-in-law, shooting him in the arm and then several times in the back when he tried to flee, Murphy said.

The defendant then reloaded the weapon and shot the victims in the back of the head, execution-style, the prosecutor said. A ?mellow? Lehmann then called authorities and had a ?casual conversation with the 911 operator,? Murphy said.

?He sounds a little bit tired? on the call, Murphy said, adding Lehmann also waited for police to arrive.

Goldman countered that Lehmann was in a fog from taking the anti-anxiety medication throughout the day, thought he had lost custody of his daughter and went home and took ?a great deal? more of the drug, Goldman said.

Lehmann testified he did not remember anything about the shootings because he had blacked out, Murphy said.

(?2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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Eastern China: One Big Metropolis? The New City Movement

?Around 14 years ago I went up into the tower with an urban developer and we looked south. We could see all the way to the river then, there was nothing in between. He pointed out into the distance and said that he was building a city out there. Now there?s a city.?

The above anecdote, which a long term expat told me, sounds like a good intro for the story of modern China. Brand new cities are popping up here just about everywhere, connecting rapidly expanding existing cities together into truly massive urban zones. At times it seems as if the entire east of the country is combining into one massive metropolis from Harbin to Guangzhou: an experiment in urbanization unlike any that has been played out on planet earth before.

Urban life in the 21st century: mega-cities

China must be an engineer?s dream. I don?t think that any other country has ever provided their city planners, civil engineers, and architects with so many blank canvases upon which to paint brand new cities. It has been reported that China has constructed 500 new cities since 1978. The country now has over 100 new cities in the works and is projected to build 400 more by the year 2020 ? and these numbers do not even include the connector zones and ?suburban? housing developments which litter urbanization into the voids between proper cities.

Eastern China seems to be transforming into one big city. The dots on the map depicting urban areas are expanding, cannibalizing their neighbors and becoming mega-cities. In between these areas of rampant urban expansion, new cities are being erected. It is not absolutely insane to predict that at some point in the not too distant future all of these dots could be connected from the north to the south of the eastern part of China, and form a picture of what urbanization means in the 21st century.


China?s urban areas

As I write this there is a project in works in the southeast of China?that will smash all records for the size and population of a metropolis. Called the ?Pearl River Delta into One? plan, it will merge the already giant cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen together, and Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Zhuhai, Jiangmen, Huizhou, and Zhaoqing will be incorporated into the mix. This monster city will have a population over over 42 million people and will be the size of the Netherlands, or 34 times the size of New York City. Projected to be completed in six years, it will be a 16,000 square mile urban onslaught.

Beyond the hype about this project, the reality is that this mega-city pretty much already exists. The above mentioned cities have already sprawled out into each other organically, and there is pretty much no clear way to tell where one ends and another begins. For all intents and purposes, the ?Pearl River Delta into One? project is just a plan to merge these cities? municipal utility and transportation services together in a megalopolis that has taken on a life of its own.


Nanjing skyline

Of course, this is not the only mega-city that China has or will have in the future. It?s predicted that by 2025 China will boast over 220 cities with populations over one million and eight mega-cities with over 10 million people each.

The making of new cities

?Right now, there are only about 50,000 farmers in the industry zone, but our next aim is to build a new city with a population of one million,? Wang said. ?Starting from zero, it will lead the way not only as a demonstration zone for industrial relocation, but as a model of labor transfer,? ran a quote from a story ? a statement that is being repeated many times over as new cities are built all over the country.


Guangzhou/ Shenzhen super city

China is on the verge of an urbanization movement like the world has never known before. On the forefront of this mass movement is the new city. What is a new city? Well, it?s an urban area that is planned out and built up virtually from scratch. Stake out an area of land, remove the farmers and anyone else living on it, demolish all the buildings, and viola, a perfectly blank canvas upon which to paint a city.

Building entirely new cities from scratch is perhaps an estranged concept in the West. For us, cities are entities that seem fixed in place and permanent: you can reconstruct them, expand them, rezone them, or alter them, but clearing out an area and building an entirely new one, well, that is just not something we really do too much anymore. But this has become a regular part of life in China: outside of just about every established city, expansion projects and satellite cities are growing like weeds. As the country?s big cities become congested and choked by their own success and development, new urban sectors are popping up around them to relieve the burden of a bludgeon population and unchecked migration. As a hermit crab discards its shell and finds another when things get too tight, the new cities of China act as pressure valves, as they help release the stresses being put upon the country?s major urban centers.

Like how colonists or victorious generals throughout history would plant their foot on a piece of barren ground and say, ?I will build my city here,? China is clearing out vast amounts of underdeveloped areas for urbanization projects. Besides being fertile ground for profit and rising the national GDP, the new city serves two primary functions:

A) They are built for migrants gravitating towards urban centers from rural areas. It is reported that 300 to 400 million more migrants will move into cities in China over the next 15 years. Combine this with the 691 million who are already urban dwellers, and you are going to need some more cities.

B) They are built for the upper and middle classes who wish to migrate away from major urban centers. Nobody likes smog, heavy traffic, cramped living conditions, and paying more for housing than what it should be worth. So many Chinese are moving into new housing/ urban developments outside of major cities where they can live in more affordable apartments, raise their standard of living, and, overall, exist in a healthier environment.

Many of the new middle/ upper class urban developments in China are sometimes called ?car cities,? as, bluntly speaking, they are built with automobile transit in mind. They invariably have super-wide boulevards, incredible bike lanes, massive sidewalks, pedestrian over and under-passes, parking areas, a squared up street grid, and a very clearly laid-out traffic pattern. In these places, humans and cars get along symbiotically, the entire scheme is as if it has been designed by a higher engineering power.

It has.

These new cities have the advantage of being completely designed on a single, cohesive plan, by a coordinated group of urban planners and engineers. All the pieces fit together, and the outcome is very much like SimCity turned into reality. The effect is often startling: these cities tend to be truly nice places to live.

The rebuilding of old cities


Taizhou, an old city, is being rebuilt

I talk about new cities here, but for anyone who has been around China, it is clear that there is rarely such a thing as an old city. Sure, there are plenty of cities here that are thousands of years old and parts of Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou etc . . . ?have buildings that have been standing for hundreds of years, but the bulk of even these historical urban centers have been gutted and completely redone within the past few decades.?What ?old city? really means in China is a new city build on the ruins of its predecessor.

It?s almost as if China is treating it?s old cities like an obsolete computer: rather than continuously updating old software and repairing an endless string of problems you just chuck the entire unit and buy a new one ? and to make up for the years of hassles you go for a model that?s state of the art in every way imaginable. I?ve walked through many ?old? cities here that are full of recently built, super-modern buildings, large, freshly paved?boulevards, and have a newness in their appearance and feel that there is virtually nothing that hints that these places are over a decade or two old, let alone two millenia. China has built themselves an entirely new country.



Modern architecture in China

However they?re built,?modern cities in China are works of art, they are often all out urban masterpieces.

To say that modern Chinese cities are futuristic would be an understatement: they ARE the future. What I?m looking at in China: the skyscrapers, the oddly assembled geometric buildings, the super wide boulevards, the way the hues of the buildings to blend together with their landscape, and the stark nakedness of it all seems like a sci-fi movie set. When walking down a street of a well-done modern city in this country I almost expect a robotic voice to call out to me from a loudspeaker and say something to the effect of, ?Welcome to the future, everything is perfect and lovely here.? There is definitely something Singaporean about the direction urban China is heading.

But there is an underbelly to all of this urbanization and development, such as ghost cities, the much anticipated housing bubble, and the gloomy prospect that China?s economic upturn may soon level off or even drop hard. Whether China is building itself a utopia or setting itself up for dystopia nobody can tell. All we can do is ride the wave and find out where it?s going later.

We will continue to focus on the issues related to China?s continued urbanization on, as The New China series continues.


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Google can't enforce German Microsoft injunction: ruling


by GrabNetworks

The next generation of video game consoles is upon us. Nintendo released the release date and pricing details for its new Wii U console yesterday in a press conference in New York City. The new gaming platform will ship on November 18, just in time for the holiday season, and more specifically for the Black Friday shopping bonanza. There will be two models, a $299 model with more basic pack-ins and a $349 model that comes with a game and other accessories. The system will launch with game titles like New Super Mario Bros U, Nintendo Land, and Rayman Legends.The Wii U is considered to be the first of the next round of video game consoles to come from the big three companies: Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony. Read?More?>>

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Microsoft has lowered the price of its best selling Kinect Xbox accessory. The tech giant announced today that the motion control device will now cost $109.99 down from $149.99, making for a slash of $40.The Microsoft Kinect is a video game peripheral that allows players to forgo traditional gaming controllers and instead command games with their bodies. The device can detect a wide range of movements from up to two people at once. Recently, there have been numerous rumors of a new-and-improved Kinect in development, not to mention a new Xbox console, and it stands to reason that this price drop could signal an upcoming announcement.


Learn about the LCD screen on your digital camera in this digital photography lessons video from Howcast.


As the number of Android and iOS apps increases, so does the challenge of grabbing customers attention. Heres what you need to know about app marketing.


The iPhone is not the only thing Apple announced today. New versions of the iPod Nano and the iPod Touch were revealed at the tech giant's event in San Francisco. The new iPod Nano design is completely different from the latest square model. It will have a 2.5 inch multi-touch screen and will be able to be integrated with iTunes. The new iPod Touch will be bigger, having the 4 inch screen just like the new iPhone 5. It will have a faster processor for games and a better camera. Both versions of the iPod will also come in a variety of colors.The Nano will start at $149 for the 16GB version and $199 for the 16GB version of the iPod Touch.Each of these will also include the newly redesigned headphones called EarPods. Apple said they used 3D ear scans to create a fit that should work with most ears. The redesign took three years and will ship as a stand alone product today, September 12. For more on Apple's announcement, keep it right here to the Financial News Network, follow us on twitter @FNNOnline or go to our website at

Product Review:

In the video world monitors are probably more critical than any everyday old computer monitor is. Serious photographers who play with Photoshop will know what I mean. Calibration is everything. Which leads me neatly to the BENQ GW2450 which landed on my desk today.


by GrabNetworks

Good morning, you are watching The Financial News Network on, I'm Geoffrey Parrish. If you thought that weekends were only a sales bonanza for movies, think again. The new iPhone 5 launched Friday September 21st, and Apple has announced that it sold over five million iPhone 5's in the device's first weekend.This new version of the iPhone is the slimmest and lightest ever, and features the new iOS 6 operating system. iOS 6 also launched last week, and has already been downloaded by over 100 million Apple mobile users.The much anticipated smartphone launched in 9 countries already, including the US, Japan, and the United Kingdom, and will be launching in 22 more by September 28th. For this and more business news, follow us on twitter @fnnonline, or see more videos on the web at Read?More?>>

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Warning: graphic video. Six teenagers were in custody Friday on charges they brutally beat a neighbor on her stoop just 'for fun' and then posted cellphone video of the attack on Facebook, authorities said.


An outspoken woman protesting outside a Romney campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio says she is voting for Obama because "he gave us a phone, he gonna do more." She's referring to the free government cell phone program.


Cellphone companies are placing antennae in residential areas without warning because Industry Canada rules say there doesn't have to be any notification unless the towers are over 15 metres tall


Immersing your phone under water might not seem like the most sensible thing to do, but it's surprising just how many people manage to do just that.


NeoMedia (PINK:NEOM) is popular among investors today after the company announced it will be licensing its patent portfolio to Microsoft (NYSE:MSFT). The portfolio consists of 74 patents mostly dealing with the mobile barcode industry. The technology they pioneered turns phone cameras into barcode scanners which allows for a variety of uses including mobile marketing, consumer oriented advertising, and mobile ticketing and couponing. Microsoft will have a worldwide, non-exclusive license to the portfolio, allowing the company to use NeoMedia's assets to create new, customized solutions for mobile barcode software.This could not only bring more value to NeoMedia but also to Microsoft as it continues to try and roll out its new line of Windows smartphones.


by GrabNetworks

From, this is the Financial News Network. Here's a few things to watch for in the financial world today September 5.Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE:P), the online radio that predicts listener music preferences, is down over 16% in trading this morning, on the news that Apple is planning to develop a competing music streaming service. Apple's potential service would work on its iPhone and iPad, as well as on Mac computers and laptops running Windows, according to the Wall Street Journal. Prior to this news, the Oakland, California-based Pandora was doing well-- its shares had grown 26% this year, and it had been able to hold off rivals like Spotify. But it is difficult to compete with the Apple (NASDAQ:AMZN) unveiled some exciting new products yesterday, and the company is seeing a corresponding bump in the market, trading up over 1%. At a news conference yesterday, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos introduced multiple versions of a new tablet. The largest, the Kindle Fire HD, has an 8.9 inch display, a camera, and cellular data connectivity. It is cheaper than the iPad by $200. All of the new Amazon products are being positioned as cheaper alternatives to Apple's tablets, with Apple's newest iPad starting at $499 compared to Amazon's Kindle Fires starting at $199.Lululemon Athletica (LLL.TO), the Canadian yogawear retailer, is up this morning in response to its reports of a higher quarterly profit. The company reported earnings of $57.2 million, or 39 cents per share, in the second-quarter. This is sharply up from earnings of $38.4 million, or 26 cents a share, a year ago. Lululemon also raised its full-year forecast for net revenue to $1.345 billion to $1.360 billion, up from $1.32 to $1.34 billion. The activewear company, which was founded in 1998 and became famous for its $98 yoga pants, has already firmly established itself in Canada, and is continuing to expand its presence in the United States, where it is popular among wealthy, active women. Those were a few things to watch out for here on the Financial News Network. For more coverage and analysis of the business world follow us on twitter @FNNOnline or check out our website at Read?More?>>

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Good morning, you are watching The Financial News Network on, I'm Geoffrey Parrish. If you thought that weekends were only a sales bonanza for movies, think again. The new iPhone 5 launched Friday September 21st, and Apple has announced that it sold over five million iPhone 5's in the device's first weekend.This new version of the iPhone is the slimmest and lightest ever, and features the new iOS 6 operating system. iOS 6 also launched last week, and has already been downloaded by over 100 million Apple mobile users.The much anticipated smartphone launched in 9 countries already, including the US, Japan, and the United Kingdom, and will be launching in 22 more by September 28th. For this and more business news, follow us on twitter @fnnonline, or see more videos on the web at


Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE:P), the online radio that predicts listener music preferences, is down over 16% in trading this morning, on the news that Apple is planning to develop a competing music streaming service. Apple's potential service would work on its iPhone and iPad, as well as on Mac computers and laptops running Windows, according to the Wall Street Journal. Prior to this news, the Oakland, California-based company was doing well-- its shares had grown 26% this year, and it had been able to hold off rivals like Spotify. But it is difficult to compete with the Apple juggernaut.


The U.S. Naval Academy's 22nd Company in Annapolis, Maryland apparently has some free time on their hands. So they recreated a very professional looking music video spoof of South Korean artist Psy's Gangnam Style. Vanessa Yurkevich tells about the new viral video.


Apple has announced its latest iPhone, as well as improvements to its line of mobile music players.


Are you really pumped for the new iPhone, but you're not sure what to do with your old one? We've got you covered! From donating to soldiers to transforming it into your home music system, Gillian Pensavalle has some ideas to get you through this exciting, yet confusing time.





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Friday, September 28, 2012

Before the Debates: A Polling Review

With the debates approaching - albeit their importance debatable - the most perplexing element of the 2012 presidential campaign is this: Barack Obama could win.

The condition of the economy suggests otherwise. The general rule is straightforward; when economies are bad, incumbent presidents pay the price. This year, it's not so simple.

The absence of a compelling economic plan from Mitt Romney, doubts about his priorities, his shortfall in personal popularity and his campaign missteps have combined to make the contest a more competitive one than 8.1 percent unemployment would predict. Indeed the irony of this election is that, since the conventions, it's gone from a race that Romney has tried to win by not being Obama to one in which Obama has advanced simply by not being Romney.

That's a surprise, given Obama's vulnerabilities. The nation is crawling on bloodied knees out of the longest, deepest downturn since the Great Depression. Unemployment, 6.1 percent when Obama was nominated, is 8.1 percent now. Underemployment is down from its peak in 2009, but still an extraordinarily high 14.7 percent. Average length of unemployment, 17.7 weeks four years ago, is 39.2 weeks now. Median incomes last year were their lowest since 1996.

That is not the kind of change voters signed up for in 2008.

A president who's presided over these kinds of numbers - indeed, over 43 straight months of 8+ percent unemployment - is not well-positioned to win re-election. Neither is one with less-than 50 percent approval in September of an election year, and majority disapproval of his economic performance.

GAME - So why is Obama in the game? Polling results suggest a range of reasons:

Obama continues to benefit from comparison to his predecessor, the most unpopular second-term president of the postwar era. After this long at the helm, Obama would be expected to own the economy. Instead, remarkably, most registered voters blame George W. Bush, not him (52-34 percent), for the country's current economic problems. That includes 52 percent of independents, often swing voters in national elections.

Another Bush legacy is a dramatic break in the gradually increasing competitiveness of the Republican Party in partisan affiliation. Twenty years of gains led the GOP to the holy grail of parity with the Democrats in self-identification in 2003. Since then, though, Republican allegiance has fallen, from 31 percent on average that year to 24 percent on average the last three years straight. Independents now predominate; unanchored by partisan predispositions, they introduce volatility. Nonetheless, the decline in GOP allegiance can only help Obama, as it did in 2008, when Democrats exceeded Republicans in turnout by 6 percentage points.

In a highly partisan age, Obama has retained his core supporters. And demographics are on his side: Obama lost whites by 12 points in 2008, about the average for a Democratic presidential candidate. But whites have seen their share of the electorate slide steadily, from 90 percent in 1976 to 74 percent four years ago. The growing proportion of nonwhites favors Obama by 3-1. To the extent they show up to vote, he's helped.

Bad as the economy is, it's been worse - and what matters is not only the level of discontent but its trajectory. The weekly Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, while very low in historical terms, is on track for a 2012 average that'll be its highest since 2007. Unemployment peaked at 10 percent, and underemployment at 17.4 percent, in October 2009. Long-term unemployment, while 39.2 weeks now, peaked at 40.9 weeks in November 2011. Recent polls have suggested an easing in the number of Americans who say the country is seriously off on the wrong track.

And there's Romney. His resume may be perfect for a different election; for this one, less so. Public anger still focuses on Wall Street and the financial institutions that are seen to have led the charge off the cliff. A majority sees the economic system overall as favoring the wealthy; the Census Bureau reported two weeks ago that what recovery has occurred disproportionately has benefited the well-to-do. All this is hardly hospitable terrain for a candidate who's a former corporate takeover specialist, one of the wealthiest candidates ever to seek the presidency, son of a corporate titan, with a 14 percent tax bill (two-thirds think he didn't pay his far share) and the accoutrements of wealth and power.

ATTRIBUTES - The news media have focused on Romney's vast likeability gap with Obama, but that is not the main game. Presidents aren't elected to be beer buddies but to run the country. More important (in addition to partisanship and trust to handle economic policy) is the public's sense that Romney is less attuned than Obama to the economic problems of average Americans - a lack of empathy that does matter, significantly, in vote preferences.

Among the data: Seventy-four percent of Americans say Romney has little or nothing in common with them. (Fewer, albeit 59 percent, say the same about Obama; these from a recent Esquire/Yahoo! News poll.) Romney trails by 15 percentage points among registered voters in trust to better advance the interests of the middle class and by 10 points in better understanding ordinary folks' economic problems. Fifty-eight percent think he'd pursue policies that favor the wealthy, vs. just 23 percent who say the same about Obama.

Moreover, while benefiting from Obama's weak performance on the economy, Romney has not made the case that he'd do better. Remarkably given Obama's performance, registered voters split 47-45 percent, Obama-Romney, in trust to handle the economy in the last ABC News/Washington Post poll. Romney also trailed numerically in trust to handle taxes - never a good sign for a GOP candidate on one of their party's signature issues. Obama even was competitive in trust to handle the deficit, particularly unusual for a Democrat.

In addition to suspicions about a perceived tilt toward the wealthy, these results reflect both Romney's personal disconnect and his failure to enunciate an affirmative reason for voters to support him. Registered voters by 63-31 percent say Romney has not done enough to explain what policies he'd pursue as president. (On Obama, the judgment is not positive, but much less negative - 49-46 percent.) Romney trails Obama by 10 points in strong enthusiasm among his own supporters. And ABC/Post polls have documented Romney's persistent shortfall in favorability, the most basic measure of a public figure's personal popularity - a measure on which he's been underwater in 12 of 14 surveys the past year.

The "47 percent" comment hardly helped - Romney's remark, at a surreptitiously taped fundraiser in Florida, that nearly half of Americans don't pay taxes, feel victimized and over-rely on government assistance. The risk is not so much of this creating a negative image, but, potentially more damaging, that it could reinforce an existing one.

One question is whether the comment motivates Obama's supporters to turn out against Romney; another, whether it may demotivate potential supporters who conclude that Romney's not running the race they wanted to see. Troublingly for him, the public by a wide 61-35 percent expresses an unfavorable opinion of how Romney's handling his campaign - up by a dozen points since midsummer, now including 64 percent of independents and one in four in his own Republican Party.

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY - For all that, this election, somewhat more explicitly than usual, also is about fundamental political and economic philosophies. And on these both candidates have competing advantages, clearly apparent in ABC/Post polling and in their own thrusts and parries - and likely fodder for Wednesday's debate.

An important one for Romney is size of government. Registered voters by 59-35 percent say they prefer a smaller government that does less over a larger government that does more. But they say the opposite about what Obama prefers - by a vast 73-16 percent, he's seen as favoring larger government. Romney's on the right side of this equation (69-18 percent, smaller vs. larger government); hence, he's hit Obama over the head repeatedly with the big-government club.

Whether it's enough is an open question, because expressed preference for smaller government may be more of an aspiration than a focused demand, given the lack of consensus on where to cut. Interestingly, for example, registered voters by 51-37 percent say federal spending on infrastructure projects, rather than cutting taxes, is the better way for government to try to create jobs. That tilts part of the argument back to Obama.

So does another question, one assessing attitudes about economic fairness. Registered voters divide 54-36 percent on what's the bigger problem - "unfairness in the economic system that favors the wealthy," or "over-regulation of the free market that interferes with growth and prosperity." That neatly describes the Democratic/Republican, Obama/Romney difference on the subject, and it shows up overwhelmingly in vote preferences. Those who see unfairness as the bigger problem favor Obama by 71-20 percent. Those who say it's over-regulation favor Romney, 87-11 percent.

With all this in the mix, the debates have been described as critical. So may they be - but likewise, maybe not. In a review we published in 2008 of polling data since 1960, we found just one debate that appeared directly to influence vote preferences, toward Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The debates, though, can have other, more subtle impacts on campaign dynamics - confirming predispositions rather than shifting them, for example by reassuring voters that their preferred candidate in fact has the chops for the job. This year, Obama's task, deflecting blame for the economy, is no easy one. But Romney's may be tougher still: not to reinforce existing attitudes about his priorities, plans and personal attributes, but to change them.

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Venturi announces 300HP, ?300K America all-terrain EV, coming in 2014


If you feel the need to rapidly hit the great outdoors without despoiling it, Venturi just may have your ride -- provided you have about $400,000 to spare. The company just launched the America EV at the Paris Auto Show, packing a 300HP powerplant, 53 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and projected 200 mile range to go along with the breathtaking price tag. Venturi's touting the car as more than just a smooth pavement flyer though, saying that it has a go-anywhere attitude with its high stance, generous clearance and tough carbon-fiber chassis. Still, if you want to go fast, the car can hit a top speed of 120 mph, and once you've burned off all the volts, can be fast charged in four hours, or ten from a 230V socket. Despite its off-road gumption, the rear-driver has considerable competition for sports EV dollars -- and a smooth road to its 2014 availability target is no given.

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