Gardens by the Bay wins 2012 World Architecture Festival prize


Click for larger

Cooled Conservatories at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, has won the overall World Building of the Year Award at the prestigious World Architecture Festival Awards 2012…

Located in Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay is a key project in delivering the Singapore 
government’s vision of transforming Singapore into a “City in a Garden.” At a total of 250 acres, the Gardens by the Bay project comprises three distinct waterfront gardens – Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central. The commission to design the 134 acre Bay South garden was won in 2006 by a team led by Grant Associates and including Wilkinson Eyre Architects, Atelier One, Atelier Ten, Land Design and Davis Langdon and Seah.

Stunning.

CEO sends letter to Chrysler employees denying Romney’s lies


Jeep plant in Belvidere, Illinois

Chrysler Group LLC Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne reiterated that Jeep sport-utility vehicle production will stay in the U.S. after presidential candidate Mitt Romney suggested output may move to China.

“Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” Marchionne wrote today in a letter to Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler’s employees. “Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand. It is inaccurate to suggest anything different.”

Romney told a crowd a crowd in Defiance, Ohio, on Oct. 25 that he saw an unidentified story that said Jeep was “thinking of moving all production to China.” The Republican nominee has since aired an ad in Ohio highlighting Chrysler’s desire to make Jeeps in China without mentioning investments and added jobs at U.S. Jeep plants. President Barack Obama is scheduled to air a response ad in the closely contested state today.

Bloomberg News reported Oct. 22 that Chrysler’s majority owner Fiat SpA (F) planned to resume Jeep output in China and may eventually make all of the brand’s models there. The report stated that potential production in China would be in addition to output at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio.

Chrysler hasn’t built Jeeps in China, the world’s largest auto market, since before Turin, Italy-based Fiat took control of the U.S. automaker in 2009 after a U.S.-backed bankruptcy. Production in China would allow Fiat and Chrysler to sell Jeeps that avoid Chinese government tariffs on imported vehicles…

Since its bankruptcy in 2009, Chrysler has announced about $4.2 billion in investments for Jeep models and plants that produce them in Detroit; Belvidere, Illinois; and Toledo, Ohio. The three investments will add about 5,700 jobs combined by next year, Marchionne wrote today in his message to employees.

Republicans have often lied about economics, racism, bigotry of every stripe – when their tactics embrace the worst of hypocrisy. Never can I recall the CEO of a corporation having to distribute a letter to employees about the lies of a presidential candidate.

If you vote for Romney, you’re really going to get what you deserve – untruth in advertising.

Long overdue question – Were suspects framed in 1977 killing?

Two black men wrongly convicted in the 1977 murder of a white Iowa police officer hope to prove something they couldn’t during trials that sent them to prison for 25 years: that detectives framed them to solve a high-profile case.

During a civil trial that starts Wednesday in Des Moines, Terry Harrington and Curtis McGhee will argue that Council Bluffs police officers coerced witnesses into fabricating testimony against them in the killing of John Schweer.

Schweer was found dead while working as the night watchman at a car dealership. Harrington and McGhee, then teenagers from neighboring Omaha, Neb., say detectives used threats against a group of young black car theft suspects to trump up evidence targeting them because of their race and pressure to solve the retired captain’s killing.

Despite little physical evidence, Harrington and McGhee were convicted at 1978 trials and sentenced to long prison terms. They were freed in 2003, after the Iowa Supreme Court found that prosecutors committed misconduct in concealing reports about another man seen near the crime scene with a shotgun. The key witnesses had also recanted their testimony, saying they were pressured into implicating the men.

After winning their freedom, they filed lawsuits against prosecutors and officers they blamed for forcing them to spend their adult lives in the Fort Madison prison. Their case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 over the issue of whether suspects have the constitutional right not to be framed by prosecutors. Before justices ruled, Pottawatamie County agreed to pay $12 million to settle claims against two former prosecutors while not admitting wrongdoing.

The settlement did not resolve claims against Council Bluffs and former detectives Dan Larsen and Lyle Brown…

Larsen and Brown thought…they could pin the murder on…some ‘ghetto dwellers‘,” plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote, using a term detective Larsen once used to refer to Omaha residents. “Either way, Larsen and Brown would be putting blacks in front of a white Council Bluffs jury for the killing of a white Council Bluffs cop. That would mean case closed and they would be heroes.”

RTFA, follow the story. Justice delayed for 35 years is justice denied.

And why, pray tell, do you have to go to the Supreme Court for a ruling on whether suspects have a constitutional right not to be framed? Absolutely contemptible.

Sorting the real Hurricane Sandy photos from the fakes

With Hurricane Sandy approaching the New York metro area, the nation’s eyes are turning to its largest city. Photos of storms and flooding are popping up all over Twitter, and while many are real, some of them — especially the really eye-popping ones — are fake.

This post, which will be updated over the next couple of days, is an effort to sort the real from the unreal. It’s a photograph verification service, you might say, or a pictorial investigation bureau. If you see a picture that looks fishy, send it to me at alexis.madrigal[at]gmail.com. If you like this sort of thing, you should also visit istwitterwrong.tumblr.com, which is just cataloging the fakes…


Click for closer

Everything about the lit-up Jane’s Carousel pictures from Dumbo scream fake. One, the carousel is gorgeous. Two, it’s lit up like a beacon amidst the dark of the flood waters. Why are the lights on? Three, it seems difficult to get this photograph from that area. Shouldn’t the photographer have evacuated?

Well, yes, it turns out. Anna Dorfman, a book designer who lives in Dumbo, took this photo shortly before evacuating. She’s confirmed that she took it. Another Instagram user and Dumbo resident, Ana Adjelic, also posted a photo of the carousel from a different angle. And we also got independent confirmation from a journalist Jeff Howe that another friend who lives in the area had sent him similar photographs. These may be the most improbable and striking images of the night, and they are real. There will be moments of serendipity and islands of beauty amidst any storm.

RTFA for more real vs. fake photos from this monster storm. The article continues to be updated.

Global coffee – India’s first Starbucks have waiting lines


Photograph: Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images

During the past 10 days, sweaty queues of up to 50 people have formed outside an old colonial building in downtown Mumbai, while a security guard operates a one-in-one-out policy. These hopefuls are not trying to get into an edgy new nightclub or shake hands with a visiting politician. They are waiting for up to an hour to go to Starbucks. “There’s excitement among everyone,” said Akhil Somani, a 27-year-old financial adviser, as he stood in line last weekend. “We have our own coffee brands but this one has had a lot of hype.”

Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee-shop chain, opened its first branch in India on 19 October. Two more branches – including one in Mumbai’s famous Taj Mahal Palace hotel, which has likewise seen dozens of people queuing for a frappuccino – opened last week. With more than 17,600 branches in 61 countries, it is perhaps surprising that the Seattle-based company has only just arrived in India. It entered China in 1999 and has around 600 outlets there.

India is the home of chai, sugary and milky tea ladled into tumblers at street stalls for around five rupees. However, as Indians’ disposable incomes rise, cafes are cropping up in large cities. The country’s cafe sector is worth $230 million, up from $40 million five years ago, according to a report by Technopak, an Indian consultancy. Cafe Coffee Day, a no-frills homegrown chain, dominates the market. The UK’s Costa Coffee and the US’s The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf also have a small presence.

The appearance of Starbucks, whose Mumbai branches offer paneer wraps as well as blueberry muffins, also reflects India’s increasingly international malls and high streets. More western chains are expected to open branches here in the near future, after constraints on foreign investment were loosened this autumn.

India’s coalition government, led by the Congress party, in September relaxed rules on local sourcing for foreign “single-brand retailers” – shops that sell items belonging to one brand. Last November, it scrapped rules stating that such retailers needed to partner with a local company. Following these reforms, Ikea this month applied to open around 25 outlets. Starbucks has entered India through an $80m joint venture with Tata, one of the country’s biggest conglomerates, having worked on this deal before the rules changed…

Opposition parties and independent shopkeepers have held protests in response to the retail reforms. Yet many customers hope foreign brands will result in more choice and better quality, as local businesses will have to fight to retain clients. “More competition is good for the customer,” said Somani as he finally managed to enter Starbucks, only to join another queue for the counter.

Politicians who think they’re doing a nation’s economy a favor by keeping out foreign investment are fools. They may garner a few more votes among superpatriots or business ignoranuses. They restrain expansion from investors bringing something as simple as a new outlook to the economy.

And then there are those who would like to introduce even more barriers to foreign investment. They would enjoy nothing more than dragging our own tawdry economy into a trade war, protect a few personal investments – well, investments made “personal” by lobbyists – in the name of national security. Yup. Our unemployed feel lots more secure when foreign investors are prevented from putting a few bucks into a business in the GOUSA.

A memo from the boss – Vote the way I say or lose your job!

Imagine getting a letter from the boss, telling you how to vote.

Until 2010, federal law barred companies from using corporate money to endorse and campaign for political candidates — and that included urging employees to support specific politicians.

But the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has freed companies from those restrictions, and now several major companies, including Georgia-Pacific and Cintas, have sent letters or information packets to their employees suggesting — and sometimes explicitly recommending — how they should vote this fall…

Dave Robertson, the president of Koch Industries, sent an information packet and letter this month to more than 30,000 employees of a subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific, a paper and pulp company. The letter attacked government subsidies for “a few favored cronies” as well as “unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses.”

The letter added, “Many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation and other ills.”

The Georgia-Pacific letter, first reported by In These Times, included a flier listing several candidates endorsed by the Koch brothers, the conservative billionaires, beginning with Mitt Romney, as well as opinion articles that the brothers had written.

Travis McKinney, a forklift driver for Georgia-Pacific in Portland, Ore., said the company’s political packet had spurred widespread discussion. “It leaves a bad taste,” Mr. McKinney said. “I won’t even wear my Obama pin to work because of the mailer…”

Mr. Romney has himself urged business owners to appeal to their employees. In a conference call in June organized by the National Federation of Independent Business, he said, “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.”

The scumbags who voted the Supreme Court majority decision for this case are as out of touch with the needs, feelings problems and life of working people as Romney, himself. To equate the political voice, the political power of an employee with their employer is not only absurd – it is criminal.

This past week, Chevron set a new record – donating $2½ million to the SuperPAC run by John Boehner. The dollars and dime donated by oilfield workers ain’t about to equal that sort of clout in decades. The thugs at the top just write a check from petty cash.

Candy maker’s “Jolly Lollys” are marijuana-based — Busted!

With Halloween right around the corner, police said several University at Buffalo students were having a special treat of candy-flavored marijuana when they got spooked by a raid Thursday.

Alexander J. Zito was throwing a party for the students at his Delaware Avenue apartment when Buffalo narcotics detectives arrived to discover chocolate-flavored marijuana, hard candy containing marijuana, 640 “Jolly Lolly” marijuana lollipops and 5 pounds of regular marijuana…

Zito, 26, allegedly arranges to obtain the marijuana on trips to California under the guise that it is for medicinal purposes and then has it shipped here through the U.S. Postal Service. Medical marijuana in California is legal under state law, but that is not the case in New York…

Though Zito claimed to be unemployed for two or three years, he apparently was prospering. Police found records indicating his rent was paid six months in advance and the furniture in his residence was brand new. Business cards, Mulhern said, also were found stating Zito was the proprietor of a medical marijuana shop in San Diego…

But different forms of marijuana were not the only thing Zito had, police said. Hashish and crack cocaine also were found at his residence. He was charged with felony possession of marijuana and cocaine.

Now, if we were rid of the anachronistic and absurd laws making this behavior illegal, he could have turned himself into Buffalo’s Entrepreneur of the Year.

Albeit, in a decriminalized environment, Zito would have had to conform to useful business protocols – like paying taxes.