[VIDEO] Why is Everything in China Falling Apart?

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Multiple People Trapped Beneath Scaffolding Collapse in Downtown Houston 

At least six construction workers have been injured in a huge scaffolding collapse in downtown Houston.

“We are monitoring the situation very closely and working alongside authorities as we try to determine the cause of this accident. In the mean time, we are grateful to the first responders on the scene and praying that everyone is OK.”

The accident occurred just after 11am at a luxury apartment building under construction at 300 Crawford at Commerce, near Minute Maid Park.

A huge scaffolding collapsed at an apartment building under construction near Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston.

HFD Captain Ruy Lozano says six workers have been pulled from the rubble and have been transported to area hospitals. Capt. Lozano describes the injuries as non life-threatening, but significant.

[CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE VIDEO]

Capt. Lozano says a secondary collapse is not only possible, but highly likely. Onlookers are being moved back due to fears of further collapse.

Witness Julio Zavala says he heard the collapse and ran toward the scene, where he helped pull at least one victim from the twisted metal.com Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Construction Sites: Drone Overlords

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Drones are being used to capture video footage that shows construction progress at the Sacramento Kings’ new stadium.

Will Knight writes: For some construction workers, any thoughts of slacking off could soon seem rather quaint. The drones will almost certainly notice.

“It’s not new to the construction industry that there would either be people standing and observing operations, or that there would be fixed cameras. Yes, making this autonomous has a different feeling for the workers.”

The workers building a lavish new downtown stadium for the Sacramento Kings in California are being monitored by drones and software that can automatically flag slow progress.

“But you have to keep in mind that it’s not really questioning the efficiency of the workers, it’s questioning what resources these guys need to be more efficient.”

The project highlights the way new technologies allow manual work to be monitored and scrutinized, and it comes as productivity in other areas of work, including many white collar jobs, is being tracked more closely using desktop and smartphone software.

Software developed at the University of Illinois can show different stages of construction.

Software developed at the University of Illinois can show different stages of construction.

“We highlight at-risk locations on a site, where the probability of having an issue is really high. We can understand why deviations are happening, and we can see where efficiency improvements are made.”

— Mani Golparvar-Fard, an assistant professor in the department of civil engineering at the University of Illinois, who developed the software with several colleagues

Once per day, several drones automatically patrol the Sacramento work site, collecting video footage. That footage is then converted into a three-dimensional picture of the site, which is fed into software that compares it to computerized architectural plans as well as a the construction work plan showing when each element should be finished. The software can show managers how the project is progressing, and can automatically highlight parts that may be falling behind schedule.

[Read the full story here, at MIT Technology Review]

“We highlight at-risk locations on a site, where the probability of having an issue is really high,” says Mani Golparvar-Fard, an assistant professor in the department of civil engineering at the University of Illinois, who developed the software with several colleagues. It can show, for example, that a particular structural element is behind schedule, perhaps because materials have not yet arrived. “We can understand why deviations are happening, and we can see where efficiency improvements are made,” Golparvar-Fard says.

Such additional scrutiny is controversial. It raises worries over worker privacy, for instance, and fears that people may be encouraged to work excessive hours.

Another project involves tracking the activity of individual construction workers in video footage.

Another project involves tracking the activity of individual construction workers in video footage.

“Such additional scrutiny is controversial. It raises worries over worker privacy, for instance, and fears that people may be encouraged to work excessive hours.”

Golparvar-Fard concedes that this could be an issue, but he defends the idea. “It’s not new to the construction industry that there would either be people standing and observing operations, or that there would be fixed cameras,” he says. “Yes, making this autonomous has a different feeling for the workers. But you have to keep in mind that it’s not really questioning the efficiency of the workers, it’s questioning what resources these guys need to be more efficient.” Read the rest of this entry »


Too Easy: How the West Was Lost

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A few days ago, the first reviews began to trickle in for the comedy The Interview, which depicts a shambolic attempt to assassinate the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

Unfortunately, they were less than enthusiastic. One critic called it a ‘non-stop sledgehammer … bereft of satiric zing’, while the Hollywood industry paper Variety called it an ‘alleged satire that’s about as funny as a communist food shortage’.

“Trains could crash, pipelines explode, the financial markets risk going into meltdown, the National Grid might crash, hospitals could fall dark, cash dispensers might go dead and ordinary life might come grinding to a halt. Last year, the People’s Liberation Army’s Shanghai-based cyber unit was caught hacking into major American corporations such as the nuclear power company Westinghouse Electric and the United States Steel Corporation.”

Even the film’s makers probably imagined that having earned back its budget from its target audience of American teenagers, their picture would soon disappear into well-deserved obscurity.

Climb-down: Randall Park as North Korean tyrant Kim Jong-un in The Interview, which has been pulled from release after Sony Pictures was hacked and confidential material leaked across the Internet

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Terrorists:Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju remembered the three year anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il. If North Korea was to launch a cyber attack it could bring the West to its knees in 15 minutes

How wrong they were. For it now seems certain that The Interview will go down in history not as an indictment of Hollywood’s obsession with the lowest common denominator, but as a chilling symbol of the future of international conflict.

When, two days ago, the film’s parent company Sony announced it was cancelling its Christmas Day release, the decision was widely seen as an abject surrender to foreign pressure.

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All week, North Korean hackers have been leaking secrets found in Sony’s emails, from insider gossip about the star Angelina Jolie to the script of the next James Bond film.

In an attempt to shore up wavering cinema chains who were uncertain as to whether to screen the film, Barack Obama recommended that ‘people go to the movies’.

But as pressure mounted, it became clear Sony’s American bosses lacked the courage to stand up to Kim Jong-un’s cyber bullies. And when the hackers issued a terrifying warning to American audiences, telling them to ‘remember September 11, 2001’, Sony simply lost its nerve.

Thus, The Interview has vanished from the schedules, and it seems unlikely it will ever return.

In the meantime, Hollywood figures have been queuing up to denounce Sony’s decision as an awful setback for free speech. ‘Today, the U.S. succumbed to an unprecedented attack on our most cherished bedrock principle,’ said the director Judd Apatow.

The actor Rob Lowe went further: If Sony had been in charge of the Allied war effort in World War II, he said, then the Nazis would have won.

In many ways the story could hardly be a better metaphor for American foreign policy in the past few years.

After almost a decade of reckless, ham-fisted over-stretch under George W. Bush — typified by this month’s appalling revelations about the CIA’s torture programme — the U.S. has turned inwards.

Obama’s policy in Syria and Ukraine has been a shambles, his attitude to Russia is dithering and pusillanimous, and he seems entirely bereft of ideas about how to fight back against the jihadists of Islamic State. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Chinese Construction Worker’s Vanilla Ice ‘Running Man’ Dance Goes Viral

A dancing video showing a migrant worker doing Vanilla ice’s signature “running man” moves in a construction site in east China’s Jiangsu Province hit Chinese social media recently and became a smash hit.

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Why I Bought A House In Detroit For $500

The author boarding up his home, 2009. Photograph by Mike Williams

The author boarding up his home, 2009. Photograph by Mike Williams

  writes:  After college, as my friends left Michigan for better opportunities, I was determined to help fix this broken, chaotic city by building my own home in the middle of it. I was 23 years old.

My first job out of college was working for a construction company in Detroit.

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“We’re an all-black company and I need a clean-cut white boy,” my boss told me over drinks in a downtown bar when he hired me. “Customers in the suburbs don’t want to hire a black man.”

When a service call would come in, we would ask, “Does he sound white or black?” If it was the former, I would bid the job. If the latter, my boss would. Detroit is one of the most segregated metro areas in the nation, and for the first time I was getting what it felt like to be on the other side of that line. In contrast to the abstract verbal yoga students at the University of Michigan would perform when speaking about race, this was refreshing. And terrifying. I couldn’t hide behind fancy words any longer.

Read the rest of this entry »