High-rise housing going modular
This rendering shows a proposed modular housing development that would stand behind the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
February 1st, 2012
09:26 PM ET

High-rise housing going modular

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)

Forest City Ratner's director of construction, Bob Sanna, stands next to Brooklyn's Barclays Center arena, on the site where the company plans to build the tallest modular construction building in the world.

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."


In the Big Apple, the aroma of chestnuts
Tourists heading to the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center in New York are lured in by the pleasing aroma of chestnuts.
December 23rd, 2011
06:33 PM ET

In the Big Apple, the aroma of chestnuts

Editor's note: Listen to the CNN Radio broadcast about the smell of chestnuts in New York:

It’s a familiar smell in the streets of New York this time of year. Alongside the hot dog carts and food trucks, you find vendors roasting chestnuts on the same stoves they use to heat up pretzels. Bowls filled with holiday treats hang from their carts.

Tourists heading to the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center are lured in by the pleasing aroma as it wafts through the skyscrapers in Midtown Manhattan. A few bucks will get you a paper bag filled with the piping hot holiday treat.

“We used to roast chestnuts when my grandfather was alive because he used to love them,” said Jennifer DeSalle Zino of Cornwall, New York. “It actually does make me think of him when he was alive and we would do that when he was a kid.”

The aroma reminds many tourists of their childhoods. Ray Edmundston of Bayard, Delaware, couldn’t resist the chestnuts. “My grandparents used to take me in to see the Christmas parade in Philadelphia,” Edmundston said, “and I remember the vendors at City Hall in Center City. They’d have two or three vendors there sell roasted chestnuts.”

The chestnuts are a street-food favorite in New York when the temperature dips down below the freezing mark. You’ll only be able to find them, though, for a few more weeks.

Security hurdle keeps U.S.-bound Iraqi refugees in limbo
Musadaq Alsamawi and his wife hold photos of their daughter, who hasn't been able to join them at their new home in Arizona.
December 23rd, 2011
05:10 PM ET

Security hurdle keeps U.S.-bound Iraqi refugees in limbo

Editor's note: Listen to the CNN Radio broadcast about the security hurdles faced by Iraqi refugees trying to enter the U.S.:

While the U.S. military has pulled out of Iraq, thousands of Iraqis who worked for the men and women in uniform are hoping to follow in their boot tracks.  But a special immigration program meant to facilitate the process has slowed to a crawl, leaving many Iraqis fearing for their lives as they wait to be accepted into the United States as refugees.

The hang-up seems to have been caused by an additional security screening implemented at the start of 2011. Iraqis requesting resettlement go through a series of security background checks and medical exams before they’re cleared to travel to the United States.  The process used to take approximately six months.

“When the newest layer went into place …  it brought the whole system more or less to a halt,” said Bob Carey, vice president of Refugee Resettlement and Migration Policy at the International Rescue Committee. The non-profit agency works on refugee issues around the world.

“Certain security checks expire. Medical exams, which have to take place before refugees enter the U.S., expire,” said Carey. By the time all of the security checks are completed, he said, the initial screenings have expired and the applicants have to become recertified. “So it becomes kind of a circle that refugees are caught in and can’t get out of.”


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Filed under: Iraq • Military • Politics • U.S. • U.S. Army • World
U.S. ports in race to be ready for increased Panama Canal traffic
Workers help to construct a new set of locks at Panama Canal on July 1.
December 16th, 2011
07:42 PM ET

U.S. ports in race to be ready for increased Panama Canal traffic

Ports along the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts are racing to expand so that they can take on an anticipated growth in shipping once an expanded Panama Canal opens.

(Click the audio player to hear more on this story from CNN Radio's Steve Kastenbaum)

New locks are expected to be completed at the Panama Canal in 2014. They’ll enable much larger ships to pass through the canal, providing these ships to take direct routes between Asia and the U.S. East Coast.

“It will dramatically change the dynamics of shipping to the East Coast, or at least that’s the expectation of some in the industry,” said Manju Chandrasekhar, a vice president with the engineering firm Halcrow. He’s been working on port expansions and other infrastructure projects for the past 16 years.

“These ships are bigger. It also means that they sit deeper in the water. The industry term is the draft,” Chandrasekhar said. “They draw a deeper draft, which means that the navigation channels, or the access waterways, to these ports will need to be deepened in certain ports.”


December 1st, 2011
10:03 AM ET

Exclusive: Inside the offices of Occupy Wall Street

A block away from the New York Stock Exchange, a few dozen Occupy Wall Street organizers show up to work every day at an office building in the heart of Manhattan's Financial District. The movement may have lost its public face - a handful of protesters appear at Zuccotti Park on any given morning - but the folks who sit at desks inside the office said Occupy is still very much alive despite the recent evictions of encampments across the country.

CNN was granted exclusive access to the office where signs with critical information and phone numbers hang on the walls alongside artwork featuring slogans familiar to the movement. Groups of people cram into the small conference rooms for strategy sessions.

Posters featuring Occupy slogans hang on the office walls.

The office space appears to be the movement’s nerve center. But the volunteers who plan future actions, network with other Occupy protests and deal with logistical issues insisted the location is not Occupy Wall Street’s headquarters.

“This is just an office space that a handful of people have tried to make a resource for the Occupy Wall Street movement,” said Han Shan, a member of Occupy Wall Street’s press relations and direct-action working groups. “Everybody is looking around trying to figure out where the heck the headquarters is, and the truth of the matter is this movement is bigger than any piece of geography, than any piece of real estate, than any square block.”

Click the audio player to hear more on this CNN Radio report:

 “This is one of our offices, it’s not a headquarters,” said Megan Hayes, a volunteer who said she puts in about 50 hours each week at the office space and other locations where Occupy Wall Street has set up shop.

“It’s nice at times to not have the rain over your head, especially when you’re trying to type on your computer,” Hayes said, “but we would still get the same amount of work done with or without this office space.”

Still, the effort critical to maintaining the movement’s momentum gets done in the cubicles and conference rooms at the office every day. The finance committee manages expenses and donations. A communications group disseminates information agreed upon by consensus. The housing group makes sleeping arrangements for protesters who had nowhere to go after police raided their encampment in Zuccotti Park.

“People recognized that there was a need for some sort of space to get work done that requires Internet, that requires electricity, that requires security and safety, that requires indoor space,” Shan said.


Parade balloons ready to fly
Floats for the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade are prepared Wednesday in New York.
November 24th, 2011
07:18 AM ET

Parade balloons ready to fly

A tangled web of hoses covered the streets around the Museum of Natural History in New York as 15 giant helium balloons were inflated late Wednesday afternoon. They're the premier attraction in the 85th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people to the route as the holiday season is ushered in.

(Click the audio player to hear more on this story from CNN Radio's Steve Kastenbaum)

Crews were extra careful to ensure that the balloons were well secured as wind gusts and the occasional light rain shower pushed them around. But the wind is expected to die down by morning, and Macy's officials do not anticipate any problems flying the balloons in the parade.

"Everyone has seen this parade. You've grown up with it," said Jimmy Artle, a member of the production team. This is the 31st straight year that he's worked on the parade. "The parade has been here long before me. It's going to go on long after I'm gone. It's like being a caretaker. It's an amazing feeling."

About five new balloons will be featured, including Julius, the Paul Frank monkey. And a balloon making its return after an 18-year absence will be Sonic the Hedgehog. Eleven marching bands, dozens of floats and hundreds of clowns will join them as they make their way to Herald Square, the site of Macy's flagship store.


November 20th, 2011
11:55 PM ET

A week of challenges for Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street protesters say last week's evictions from Occupy encampments across the United States have reinvigorated the 2-month-old movement. Others say the moves by police hail the beginning of the end. CNN Radio’s Steve Kastenbaum spent the week at New York's Zuccotti Park in Manhattan. Click the audio player to hear his recap of the week.

You can listen to the CNN Radio Reports podcast on itunes or subscribe to the podcast here.

Wall Street protesters coalesce; movement spreads nationwide
The Occupy Wall Street protests have been spreading in Los Angeles, California and across the country.
October 5th, 2011
12:00 PM ET

Wall Street protesters coalesce; movement spreads nationwide

The few hundred people camped out at Zuccotti Park in New York’s Financial District in an entrenched protest loosely focused on corporate greed and big business’s involvement in government will see their numbers bolstered by thousands this afternoon.

A half-dozen labor unions, including the local Transport Workers Union are joining Occupy Wall Street for a march through Lower Manhattan today. The demonstrators plan to leave their encampment and join the union members at Foley Square about a mile north of their location. Then, together, they’ll march back down to Zuccotti Park.

Listen to the full CNN Radio report here:

As the number of protesters grows the movement shows no signs of letting up. It has spread to several other cities across the country. An Occupy Philadelphia protest began this week.

Time.com: How Occupy Wall Street echoes the 'Indignados' of Spain

The movement is leaderless and lacking an organizational structure. But that doesn’t mean it’s disorganized.

“We didn’t set up a clear set of goals to begin with because we felt we were trying to bring people together and start a conversation, and from that conversation … the goals and demands will become clear,” said Lorenzo Cerna, one of the volunteers working in Occupy Wall Street’s ad hoc media center.

Open Story: Are you there? | Photos

The process for facilitating the conversation revolves around what the demonstrators call a General Assembly. It meets daily, sometimes twice a day, and anyone can stand up and voice an opinion. Those listening nearby then repeat what the speaker said, amplifying it so that everyone else can hear the message.

They’re trying to create a consensus around a clear objective through a group process.

“It takes some time. So we have to be patient,” Cerna said. “A lot of people want a specific thing to be said. But I think that specific thing will eventually be said.” As he looked at the diverse group of people around him he said, “This movement is very much about bringing people together and for getting people to start talking to each other and start working together.” In that regard, he believes Occupy Wall Street has been successful.

Opinion: Just a phase? You don't get it

While they figure out what their goals are, they’ve organized different volunteer groups tasked with keeping the park clean, distributing food donated by people sympathetic to their cause, and dealing with medical and legal issues.

They even have their own internal security force, although, they didn’t want to be called security. They settled on the term "De-escalation." They call out people violating the group rules of no drugs and alcohol and respecting each other’s property.

Who are the voices behind the protests, movement to #OccupyWallStreet?

While the people who make up Occupy Wall Street figure out how they want to focus their message, no one can say how long it will take and where this is all heading. As more people join the protest they get to have their opinions heard, too, drawing out the process.

You can also listen to the CNN Radio Reports podcast on itunes or subscribe to the podcast here.