It's an idea that has the potential to revolutionize the construction industry: Use prefabricated modules to build more than 6,000 housing units. If the real estate development firm Forest City Ratner is able to turn the idea into a reality, the firm will build the tallest modular construction building in the world, a 32-story residential tower in Brooklyn, New York.
(Click the audio player to hear more on this story from CNN Radio's Steve Kastenbaum)
Prefabricated houses are not new. They've been around for decades. But modular construction today is principally used for low-rise buildings. Strong winds exert a tremendous amount of force on taller buildings, and lower floors have to support the weight of many floors above. With modular construction, the challenge comes in designing components that can withstand those forces and do it within a certain price range.
"I think we figured out a way to do this," said structural engineer David Farnsworth. He and his colleagues at the design and engineering firm ARUP spent two years researching and developing ways to build a high-rise modular building.
"The first challenge that we had to overcome was how can we make a modular system that can be built at height and withstand the wind loads," Farnsworth said. "You don't want the building to be moving too much in the wind that people feel it and then they get sick."
Editor's note: This is part of an occasional "Reads You Need" series featuring some of the diverse voices from our site and across the Web on the stories causing ripples throughout the news sphere.
Over the last two days, columnists, advocacy groups and editorial boards have had plenty to say about Tuesday's announcement that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation would stop sending funds to Planned Parenthood¬†for breast exams.
The move by the¬†breast cancer research group came¬†after Congress in September began investigating whether Planned Parenthood, a prominent family planning organization, illegally used federal funds to provide abortions. The Komen foundation has indicated that because it adopted a new policy preventing it from giving money to groups that the government is investigating,¬†it can't continue funding breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood.
"Grant making decisions are not about politics - our priority is and always will be the women we serve. Making this issue political or leveraging it for fundraising purposes would be a disservice to women," the foundation said on its Facebook page.
Some Planned Parenthood supporters have alleged the move is less about investigation and more about abortion. Anti-abortion advocates around the country had questioned the Komen foundation about its grants for months, prompting the foundation to release a statement last year saying that "Komen funding is used exclusively to provide breast cancer programs."
Planned Parenthood said funding from the Komen Foundation has largely paid for breast exams at local centers. In the last five years, grants from the group have directly supported 170,000 screenings, comprising about 4% of the total exams performed at Planned Parenthood health centers nationwide, according to the group.
At least one Komen affiliate might keep sending money, and Planned Parenthood says its fundraising has spiked since the national Komen foundation made its announcement.
Here are a few takes from around the country:
Komen attacks abortion rights
The Baltimore Sun's editorial board says Komen's decision puts "women's health at risk by denying breast cancer screening funds to Planned Parenthood on questionable grounds."
"Has Komen adopted an anti-abortion stance, too? Given the obvious political motivations behind the (congressional) investigation, it's hard not to see the decision as announcing that. According to Planned Parenthood, Komen is the first private organization to withdraw funding on the grounds of the congressional investigation. One can only assume that this outcome, if it stands, will motivate Congress to pursue all sorts of investigations against all sorts of controversial organizations.
That has to be greatly upsetting to many people who have participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure ... . Quite a few have probably written their share of checks to Planned Parenthood to not only support women's right to choose but basic family planning and cancer-screening services.
Breast cancer can strike anyone, including those who avail themselves of contraception. Shame on Komen for succumbing to pressure from anti-abortion groups and risking the health of the very women for whom they claim to advocate."
Editor's note: This post is part of the¬†Overheard on CNN.com¬†series, a regular feature¬†that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
Mitt Romney won the Florida GOP primary, leading some to believe he's carrying strong momentum toward clinching the Republican Party nomination. In his speech afterward, he made comments about the poor, and many are wondering what he meant. William Bennett shared his opinion of Romney.
Romney said, "I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair, I'll fix it." This started a huge discussion that even got into history.
lolz0rz: "Spoken as a truly educated and compassionate candidate, one horribly unfit for any office, least of all, as POTUS. This mas has failed in connecting with even the middle class family. It doesn't bother me as much that he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and has had a cushion of wealth from birth to now, but because he cannot demonstrate and understanding of any people in this country outside his rich friends, it does not matter what his vision, clear or not, is. He is as undefined as his understanding of the people of this country and he does not deserve the right to run for office, of any kind."
JSS714: "He's rightly worried about the middle class and that's exactly what we need ... not more of Obama's race to the bottom by not worrying about the middle class because we can just keep adding benefits for those not working. Make jobs, not excuses to hand out money."
MerlinX4:¬†"You do realize that the vast majority of the Founding Fathers were rich, right? Imagine how surprised they would be to learn they did not deserve the right to found this country."
IdahoJ: "The difference in the wealth of the Founding Fathers and the wealth of politicians like Romney, is that the Founding Fathers put it all on the line. Not only their wealth, but their lives. Had the Revolution failed, all of them most likely have been imprisoned or put to death as traitors to the Crown. Not only that, but many did put their personal assets into colonies to form militia groups, civic projects and other worthy causes. Ben Franklin is one of particular note in this regard. In some cases, the money was never returned but they continued in 'the Cause' regardless.¬†Romney and his ilk are nothing like the Founding Fathers and any comparison to them is poor judgement IMO."
This person said Romney has to offer people a reason to vote for him: FULL POST
At long last, the Holy Grail of Internet IPOs is here. Facebook filed Wednesday to raise $5 billion in an initial public offering.
It's not yet known on which stock exchange Facebook will trade, or what its ticker symbol will be.
In 2011, Facebook earned $1 billion on sales of $3.7 billion. As of December 31, Facebook had 845 million daily active users.
The vast majority of Facebook's revenue comes from advertising: a combination of search and display ads.
Facebook's other revenue stream is its payment system for purchases within apps and games: Facebook Credits. Facebook keeps 30% of the revenue from those payments, and passes the remaining 70% on to the app developer.FULL STORY
The United States and NATO will end their combat mission in Afghanistan next year, transitioning to a training role in which Afghan security forces will take the lead, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told reporters Wednesday.
"Hopefully, by mid to the latter part of 2013, we'll be able to make a transition from a combat role to a training, advise and assist role," Panetta told reporters traveling with him to Brussels and confirmed to CNN by a defense official.FULL STORY
Editor's note: This post is part of the¬†Overheard on CNN.com¬†series, a regular feature¬†that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
"It's better to celebrate the life of someone rather than mourn their loss in death. Therefore, I say thank you, Don Cornelius. You were a credit to the human race. You helped facilitate the spread of Soul as the conductor of the train, giving artists an outlet beyond the confines of the industry machine so we all could be inspired. Let the Soul Train Scramble Board read: 'Rest in Power Don Cornelius.' "
–Manny UNO Cortez
Our readers are remembering "Soul Train" founder Don Cornelius today after he was found dead of a gunshot wound. He was 75. Authorities are investigating the incident. We're seeing lots of tributes from our readers who said Cornelius inspired them in so many ways.
This comment echoed the thoughts of many who said Cornelius' appeal transcended race and culture:
cherriterri:¬†"I grew up in inner-city Chicago and didn't know there were any other radio stations other than WVON. I loved the Ohio Players and once called to request a song when Don was still doing his show on air. LOL. I asked him if it were okay if I were white. He chuckled and said if it was what I wanted to hear, then it was okay. (I think I was about 11 at the time.) He said it didn't matter what color I was (in that awesome deep voice of his) and that music had the power to make everyone the same color. In that short conversation, he confirmed what I believed even then, color just didn't matter. I watch 'Soul Train' religiously every Saturday. The man was pure class. He inspired me. Rest in Peace, Don."
The most-liked comment came from a reader who also said they watched "Soul Train" regularly. FULL POST
[Updated at 7:29 p.m. ET] Political tensions flared Wednesday after more than 70 people were killed and hundreds more were injured when fans rushed the field and rioted at a soccer game in Egypt.
It was unclear whether intense sports rivalries or political strife caused the clashes in the northeastern city of Port Said.
But hours after the fighting, protesters in Cairo chanted, "Down with military rule" and "Tomorrow we come, we take the military down." And the secretary-general of the Muslim Brotherhood party blamed Egypt's military for the deaths.
Egypt's interior ministry blamed fans for provoking police.
"There were organized groups in the crowds that purposely provoked the police all through the match and escalated the violence and stormed onto the field after the final whistle," Gen. Marwan Mustapha said. "Our policemen tried to contain them but not engage."
At least 47 people were arrested after the clashes, he said.FULL STORY
American Airlines says it plans to cut 13,000 jobs as it attempts to emerge from bankruptcy, according to CNNMoney.
A congressional panel Wednesday took up the uneasy topic of Afghan security forces turning on their international allies, incidents that have fueled mutual distrust at a critical juncture of the long-running conflict.
Rep. Buck McKeon, the California Republican who chairs the Armed Services Committee, said that existing security procedures failed to identify 42 attackers between 2007 and 2011; 39 of those attacks were by members of the Afghan National Security Force and three by contracted employees.
"This is 42 attacks too many, and the new process must do better," McKeon said.
That number did not include the latest incident, in which a man wearing an Afghan National Army uniform killed a coalition forces member in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday.
The panel heard testimony from four defense officials who laid out delicate issues pertaining to Afghan security forces, among them the vetting of Afghans brought onto coalition bases to provide security.
The defense officials said that in 58% of cases, the attackers were not puppets of insurgent groups but acted on their own accord, perhaps over a personal dispute.
Such disputes can arise from cultural misunderstanding, religious and ideological friction or combat stress, said Brig. Gen. Stephen Townsend, director of the Pakistan/Afghanistan Coordination Cell in the Joint Chiefs of Staff office.
He said cultural training has been vital for U.S. soldiers and now, the Afghans are considering doing the same in providing better understanding of Americans.FULL STORY
Don Cornelius, the founder of the "Soul Train" television show, has been found dead in Los Angeles, Lt. Larry Dietz of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said Wednesday. He was 75.
He died of a gunshot wound at a house on Mulholland Drive, said Los Angeles police Officer Tenesha Dodine. Police responded to the call about 4 a.m. (7 a.m. ET), Dodine said.
An investigation was ongoing into whether the gunshot wound was self-inflicted, police said.
Cornelius created a pilot for "Soul Train" using $400 of his own money, according to the website biography.com. The show was named after a promotional event he put together in 1969, the site said.
"Soul Train is the longest running, first-run, nationally syndicated program in television history," according to the website of Soul Train Holdings. "During its 37-year run, the show featured such staples as the Soul Train line and performers as important and diverse as Al Green, Ike & Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Whitney Houston, David Bowie, Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson and Beyonce."FULL STORY
Colombian guerrillas have postponed the release of six hostages because of alleged militarization in the area where they operate, the group said Wednesday.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, are the nation's main leftist rebel group. In a statement, they accused the government of President Juan Manuel Santos of plotting a military rescue of the hostages despite plans for a unilateral release.
"The area we had chosen for the release of the prisoners... has been unjustifiably militarized by the Colombian government, which forces us to delay it," the statement said.FULL STORY
The death toll from a string of crashes on Interstate 75 near Gainesville, Florida, early Sunday amid heavy smoke from a nearby brush fire has risen to 11 with the discovery of another body, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
An additional victim was found in a Dodge truck, the Highway Patrol said in a statement. The body was not immediately identified.
The National Weather Service warned that patchy smoke and fog may still be present in the area Wednesday.FULL STORY
The Florida Republican presidential primary has come and gone, but now the candidates are focusing on Nevada's caucuses.¬† Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of all the political news and views from the campaign trail.
Today's programming highlights...
10:00 am ET - U.S. economic outlook hearing - The director of the Congressional Budget Office testifies before a House committee on the state of the U.S. economy.
The Iranian foreign minister called talks with the United Nations nuclear team "a positive forward step" after the delegations' visit¬† to the country, the semiofficial Fars News Agency reported.
The International Atomic Energy Agency team "had some questions and we had very good meetings," Ali Akbar Salehi told the news agency.
The team did not ask to inspect nuclear facilities, Salehi said, according to the news agency.FULL STORY
Officials are monitoring a remote Alaska volcano that could launch an ash cloud, potentially threatening intercontinental flights.
"Eruptive activity" of Cleveland Volcano was detected in satellite data, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
The volcano, also known as Mount Cleveland, is on the Aleutian Islands, southwest of mainland Alaska.
Steve McNutt, a scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said 90% of air freight from Asia to Europe and North America flies over Alaska air space, and hundreds of flights - including more than 20,000 passengers - fly through Anchorage's air space daily.FULL STORY
Wisconsin released the names of more than 1 million people who signed a recall petition against Gov. Scott Walker, state officials said, despite safety concerns among petition signers.
"In the interest of full transparency, the board has always planned to release copies of recall petitions to anyone who requested them and to post them online," said Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel.
"However, we recently heard from a number of people who are concerned about their personal safety if their names and addresses are made public."
The state Government Accountability Board announced its plans Tuesday, citing Wisconsin's Public Records Law and a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision involving the release of referendum petitions in Washington state.FULL STORY
A NATO spokesman in Afghanistan said Wednesday not to read too much into media reports that NATO believes Pakistani intelligence is helping the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
Lt. Col. Jimmie E. Cummings said the classified NATO report cited in the media was based on the "opinions or ideals" of Taliban detainees - and represented only their opinions, not the actual progress of NATO against the Taliban.
Pakistan also firmly dismissed the accusation it was helping the Taliban across the border.
"We are committed to non-interference in Afghanistan," Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said Wednesday.
"This is frivolous, to put it mildly," Basit said.
"Pakistan has suffered enormously because of the long conflict in Afghanistan. A stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in our own interest and we are very much cognizant of this," he said.
CNN has not independently confirmed the contents of the report, but its alleged contents would be consistent with longstanding international concerns that elements within Pakistan's powerful Inter Services Intelligency agency are helping the Taliban in Afghanistan.FULL STORY
The president of Florida A&M University said the college is canceling its summer band camp program and suspending all clubs as the school continues to deal with the fallout from the suspected hazing death of a marching band student.
"Our top priority is the health, safety and well being of students," said FAMU President James Ammons on Tuesday. "We are convening a panel of experts and outstanding thinkers to provide advice and recommendations on the operation of student organizations. Before we enter into a new student intake process, we should have the benefit of the work coming from the committees and the investigations."
The move comes weeks after four members of the university's fabled Marching 100 band were arrested on hazing-related charges.
Those charges are unrelated to the November hazing death of drum major Robert Champion.FULL STORY
Los Angeles elementary school teacher who allegedly took bondage photos of more than two dozen students in his classroom, including some with suspected semen-filled spoons at their mouths, will make a first appearance before a judge Wednesday morning.
Mark Berndt, 61, remained in Los Angeles County jail on a $2.3 million bond.
Authorities arrested him Monday at his home, and charged him with 23 counts of lewd acts on a child.
"I feel for those parents and for those babies - those helpless babies," Wanda Mosley, a resident who near Miramonte Elementary School, told CNN affiliate KABC.
The chilling accusations were a stunning betrayal for many parents.FULL STORY
The family of a Minnesota couple that remains unaccounted for after a massive cruise ship ran aground off an Italian island last month plans to hold a memorial service to celebrate their lives.
Gerald and Barbara Heil have been missing since the Costa Concordia hit rocks and ran aground off Giglio Island on January 13.
Relatives said they accept the decision to call off¬† the search for missing passengers. A service is planned in the coming weeks, the family said in a statement.FULL STORY