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News Briefs

Skyscrapers Make Shanghai Sink


Like so many people here, Wang Yong Xin happily moved into a high-rise apartment in the 1990s, when the construction frenzy seemed to capture this financial center’s ambitions to become the next New York or Hong Kong. New skyscrapers always seemed to be rising, and Shanghai’s self-esteem rose with them.

Now, though, Wang, a local business owner, is more frustrated than impressed. He frets about traffic, pollution and what many local residents say is the diminishing quality of life. There is even the inconvenient fact that some scientists believe the skyscrapers are causing the city to sink.

One solution, Wang said, is to stop building skyscrapers. “It would certainly alleviate some of the problems,” he said. “There are enough high-rise buildings.”

Surprisingly, many officials in Shanghai seem, at least partly, to agree. Sometime this fall, the city’s urban planning bureau is expected to revise local building laws to limit, if not ban, high-rise development.

Built on a swamp, Shanghai sank by roughly eight feet from 1921 to 1965, largely because of the draining of groundwater beneath the city. But officials managed to correct the problem and virtually stop the sinking -- for a while. Statistics vary, but the city is again sinking, at roughly 1 centimeter a year.

Imagining Thought-Controlled Movement for Humans


Striking progress in what can honestly be called thought-controlled robotics raises an obvious question: If monkeys can do it, why not humans?

Scientists at Duke University reported on Monday in the first issue of the Public Library of Science, a new journal with free online access at, that a monkey with electrodes implanted in its brain could move a robot arm, much as if it were moving its own arm.

The possibility of adapting this for paralyzed humans is obvious. Experts working on the brain-machine interface say that adapting such experimental efforts for human use may begin within a few years. The long-term implantation of electrodes into human brain tissue is already being done with deep brain stimulators that alleviate chronic pain and movement disorders. Because of their use physicians are less worried that brain implants will cause infections or strokes.

China Expects Growth in Tourism


The tourism industry in China is set for rapid growth in the coming years, despite lingering fallout from the SARS epidemic earlier this year, according to a report released here Monday.

The report, issued by the World Travel and Tourism Council, a private organization that represents hotel and travel companies, predicts that the number of tourists and business travelers visiting China will grow 22 percent a year beginning next year through 2013, and the flow of Chinese tourists and travelers going abroad will probably grow even faster.

Council representatives and travel industry executives warned, however, that China must overhaul its tourism administration and accept more foreign involvement if it is to manage the expansion.

“China has the potential to become one of the world’s greatest tourism economies, but the scope of effort needed is staggering,” said Jean-Claude Baumgarten, president of the council.

The report was issued a few days after the end of China’s weeklong National Day holiday.