Bird's Nest snow festival to woo winter sports fans

BEIJING, Nov. 30 -- The Bird's Nest may have been built for last year's Summer Games but Beijing's stunning Olympic stadium will soon be targeting fans of winter sports.


As temperatures have begun to drop in recent weeks, so too has the number of visitors to the 80,000-seater venue, which cost 3.6 billion yuan ($527 million) to build.

And, fearing another harsh winter, National Stadium Co Ltd, which owns the Bird's Nest, yesterday unveiled ambitious plans to spend 50 million yuan on a spectacular "snow festival".  

From Dec 19, visitors will be able to pay 120 yuan to enjoy skiing and snowboarding, among other things, on its newly constructed slopes.

The stadium owners expect to attract more than 20,000 visitors a day - twice as many as it currently does - during the two-month festival, which will include countdown events for both the Western and Chinese new years.

Officials revealed it would take just 5,000 visitors a day to cover the costs of the project.

"It's not a bad idea. You can ski on man-made snow in Dubai, so why not here?" said Heiko Grasse, a tourist from Munich, Germany, yesterday.

Famous outdoor equipment makers and local brands are in talks over sponsorship for the event, the Bird's Nest owners said yesterday, while the capital's television network will also provide 500 hours of coverage.

"The Bird's Nest will not have a cold winter again," Wu Jingjun, the new president of National Stadium Co Ltd, told China Daily yesterday. "We will create seasonal events almost every month from now on with assistance from the government and, importantly, the public."

Yang Cheng, a newly appointed vice-president of National Stadium Co Ltd, said the snow festival would run for five consecutive winters if successful.

The Beijing municipal government took a controlling stake in National Stadium Co Ltd last August in a bid to boost profitability.

Despite the fact that work to build new luxury diners and arcades has been put on hold, as well as a controversial move to sell the venue's naming rights by CITIC Investment Holdings, the company that used to hold a controlling stake, sports industry analysts say a State-controlled company would help the venue get more permits to host profitable events such as the snow festival.

Before the switch, CITIC made 260 million yuan from their post-Games operations, with 70 percent generated by tours given to about 8 million visitors since last October. But as tourist numbers have dropped from 50,000 to just 10,000 a day, the stadium is desperately in need of a new commercial mechanism.

Wei Jizhong, a senior consultant to the Beijing Olympic organizers and chairman of China Sports Industry Co, said it seems operators have finally found the right commercial model for sustainable development.

"The public, especially the growing middle class, will find the idea of having a skiing playground in downtown Beijing innovative. I would consider this a success if the State-run owners can strike a balance, or even subsidize a little," Wei told China Daily.

In an official statement released on its website last week, National Stadium Co Ltd said the venue would seek "more non-profit social benefits" while "hosting top-level events".

In the latest bid to boost popularity, the company is also offering 40,000 yuan to the winner of a global campaign to select a new mascot and logo for the landmark.

The Bird's Nest was recently given a green light by the government to host a friendly soccer match involving Spanish giants Real Madrid next August. The deal followed the news that the Race of Champions will continue to be staged at the venue for at least two more years.

"To sustain growth in the future, the Bird's Nest should create a long-term establishment similar to the Super Bowl in the United States," said Wei.


Rime scenery along the Songhua River

Beautiful frosty scenery appeared on both banks of the Songhua River after a sudden temperature drop and attracted swarms of tourists.




This photo taken on Saturday, November 28, 2009, shows the spectacular frost scene on the banks of the Songhua River of Jilin province in northeast China.

46th Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan

Chinese mainland actors and movies received a series of titles of the 46th Taiwan Golden Horse Award Saturday night.



Li Bingbing took out the best leading actress award for her performance in "The Message", an espionage movie produced by Huayi Brothers Media Group and Shanghai Film Group.

Huang Bo shared the best actor title with Nick Cheung from Hong Kong with his performance in "Cow", which is the first time for the award to have a shared best actor title.

Wang Xueqi and Yu Shaoqun won the best supporting actor and the best newcomer titles for their performance in "Forever Enthralled", a biographical movie for renowned Beijing Opera artist Mei Lanfang.

Cao Yu with "City of Life and Death", a movie depicting the Nanjing Massacre during Japanese army's invasion of China, won the best cinematography, and "Crazy Racer" won the best special visual effects.


'Low' expectations for Christmas sales


Businesses in Beijing are gearing up for one of the biggest shopping seasons in China, but some predict bad tidings for profit after the economic crisis.

Tianyi market, the largest wholesale market in Beijing with more than 3,000 traders selling everything from buttons to jewelry, is busy preparing for Christmas.

Li Qingfu, the deputy general manager of Tianyi, told METRO: "Christmas and Spring Festival are the two major shopping seasons in Beijing. In our market, we estimate that a throughput of goods for Christmas season alone will be close to 100 million yuan."

A 4-m-tall Santa Claus has been welcoming shoppers from the roof of the market since early November, and Christmas decorations and lights already decorate the market's first floor.

But a trader in the market surnamed Ge is not so optimistic. He put out Christmas items on shelves on Nov 7, 10 days earlier than previous years in a move to counter reduced consumer spending.

Ge said: "Since the exports of Christmas goods have been so drastically influenced by the global financial crisis, I decided to start selling decorations earlier and avoid market competition."

Ge said he has a customer in the US who used to order as much as 1 million yuan of Christmas decorations every year. This year the customer cut the order in half.

Vantone, another wholesale shopping center in Beijing with a 10-year history, has also decorated its windows with Christmas trees and toy reindeers.

Qi Wei from the planning department at Vantone said: "We really pay attention to this Christmas. Since the general economic climate is not very good right now, we really want to attract more customers."

Qi said her department has been making plans for Christmas since September. "We have already ordered 600 Christmas hats for our employees. And all our posters and decorations will be ready by the middle of this month," she said.

Qi didn't want to reveal the amount of money Vantone has invested in its Christmas preparation but admitted the shopping center has spent more than in previous years.

Chen Yaona, a gift supplier who owns three shops in Beijing, ordered Christmas decorations valued at about 1 million yuan from Guangdong province in mid October.

Chen, who has been running the service in Beijing for seven years, is not optimistic about this year's Christmas shopping season. "Some restaurants in Beijing are more cautious this year," she said.

Chen told METRO that due to the financial crisis, her customers value every penny of their budget and consult with numerous shops to get the lowest prices. A spokeswoman for the Beijing Hilton Hotel said they had bought a three-story-tall Christmas tree for its annual tree lighting ceremony, but also refused to reveal their Christmas budget.


Traditional Kunqu "Peony Pavilion" performed in Shanghai

Shows a scene of "Peony Pavilion", a well-known Chinese traditional Kunqu Opera, at the ancient stage of Sanshan Guildhall in Shanghai, east China. The Kunqu Opera "Peony Pavilion" will be staged during the 2010 Shanghai World Expo for 120 times.

A scene of "Peony Pavilion", a well-known Chinese traditional Kunqu Opera, at the ancient stage of Sanshan Guildhall in Shanghai, east China.



Three Types of Face Changes

In the Wiping Mask routine the actor applies cosmetic paint in a certain position on his face. If the whole face is to be changed, the cosmetic paint is applied to the forehead or eyebrows; for changes on the lower half of the face, paint is applied to his cheeks or nose; or to other specific parts.

The Blowing Mask routine works with powder cosmetics, such as gold, silver, and ink powders. Sometimes a tiny box is placed on the stage; the actor draws near and blows at the box. The powder will puff up and stick to the face. Sometimes the powder is put in a cup. The secret to success in this act is to close the eyes and mouth and to hold the breath.

The Pulling Mask routine is the most complicated. Masks are painted on pieces of damask, well cut, hung with a silk thread, and the lightly pasted to the face one by one. The silk thread is fastened in an inconspicuous part of the costume. With a flick of his cloak the performer magically whisks away the masks one by one as the drama develops.

One Sichuan Opera master also used qi gong movements as he changed face color from red to white, then from white to black.

Face changing is a magical art. Actors change more than 10 masks in less than 20 seconds! By raising the hand, swinging a sleeve or tossing the head, an actor uses different masks to show different emotions, expressing invisible and intangible feelings through visible and tangible masks. From green to blue, red, yellow, brown, black, dark and gold, these masks show fear, tension, relaxation, slyness, desperation, outrage, and so on.


Sichuan Opera master Peng Denghuai changed 14 masks in 25 seconds, and reverted to four masks after revealing his true face. This was his latest Guinness World record, breaking his previous one. Hong Kong super star Andy Lau was said to respect Mr. Peng as teacher and mentor in this stunt.

Today hi-tech is used to enhance this traditional art. Lasers and twinkling lights add a touch of mystery. And modern faces like Zorro are invited to the stage.

Sichuan Opera, like hot-pot and other Sichuan cuisine winners, is exciting, rich and good-natured.


Performing Art Model of Kunqu

In the performance of Kunqu, refinement and rigor are emphasized.

A standard Kunqu scenario is very intricate. A Kunqu program not only details the arrangements of acts, verses, and the names of tunes to which verses are set, but also defines the roles, stage settings, costumes, props, and performers' movements, even going so far as to explain the significance of the position performers take on stage.


The roles of Kunqu are broadly divided into seven categories, including sheng (male roles), dan (female roles), jing (painted face), mo (middle-aged male roles), chou (clowns), wai, and tie, and each category has further subdivisions. For instance, the sheng roles have laosheng (aged male roles), wusheng (male warriors), and xiaosheng (young male roles), each of which are further divided according to the characters' prominence within the play. The xiaosheng -- young male role -- is divided into daguansheng (big hat role), xiaoguansheng (small hat role), jinsheng (kerchief role), qiongsheng (pauper role) and zhiweisheng (a warrior whose helmet decorated by a pheasant tail feather). The dan roles are divided into six sub-categories.

The Kunqu style of stage makeup is mainly used for jing and chou roles, and occasionally for sheng and dan roles. The three predominant colors being red, white and black. The shades of blue, green, purple and gold are used to portray forest brigands, or ghosts and demons. As in Peking Opera, the color red represents loyalty and justice, black conveys uprightness and straightforwardness, white signifies cunning and shrewdness, and yellow indicates a fierce, tough character. Most of the patterns and techniques of Peking Opera facial makeup evolved from Kunqu, and some were just copied from it.

The most prominent characteristic of Kunqu performance is its lyricism, where the posture of each role is in a dancing mode. Almost all traditional Chinese drama has elements of dance, and in some plays dances have been added, but these are unlike Kunqu, where every physical movement from beginning to end is in the mode of dance, thus creating a complete scope of performance technique.

Mei Lanfang, a great master of Peking Opera, also learned Kunqu, and had a deep understanding of both. He said, "In Peking Opera, postures are relatively unrehearsed, with no structured choreography, but Kunqu is quite different in this respect. The performer match specific postures to each aria. Kunqu truly integrates singing and dancing into each individual performance, with equal emphasis on singing and acting. Performing Kunqu is particularly demanding because the actor is, in effect, dancing from beginning to end."

Kunqu dance is divided into two categories. One is mime, used to interpret to the audience the verses the performer sings; the other is lyrical, to describe scenery, the characters' situation, and their emotions.

One zhezixi (opera highlight), "Zhaojun Leaves the Pass," tells of Wang Zhaojun, a beauty at the Han Dynasty imperial court, on her way to marry the Xiongnu Khan, in order to cement relations with the rulers of ethnic minorities in the border regions. The drama describes Zhaojun's complex emotions and the hardships of the journey. On stage, Zhaojun sings while dancing, and her attendant turns somersaults throughout the performance, which is why this drama is seldom performed, because few performers are able to fulfill its demands.

Plays in this genre are not only taxing for the performers, but also for the audience, since the lyrics are difficult to understand, and the singing is slow and drawn out -- a challenge to concentration and patience. In addition, a drama is generally quite long. In June, 2001, "The Peony Pavilion" was performed in Berlin, Germany, and lasted 19 hours. The local newspaper dubbed it as "a drama marathon." It is rare to see a full performance of this play at one sitting. Usually only a few acts are performed, each lasting 30 to 40 minutes.


Shaoxing Opera ( Yue Opera )

Yue Opera, originated in the area of Sheng County in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province in the early period of the century, is a rapidly developed local opera with a short history in China. It was named "Yue Opera" because it has its origin in part of Yue State in the Spring and Autumn Period dating back about 2,000 years ago.


Known as "Xiaogeban" or "Diduban" (Small Singing Group), the opera was circulated first among the country folk in its early period of development. At that time Yue Opera was simple as it had developed from folk talk and singing. Later it moved into Hangzhou, shanghai and other parts of the country. By now, many years' development has made it a most important opera style next to Beijing Opera in China, taking its theme from fairy tales, literary classics and historical stories. The voices of Yue Opera are soft and beautiful, and easy to learn. Different voices from various schools were developed which led to the emergence of large numbers of fans devoted to each school. The famous and heart-rending Chinese violin concerto Butterfly's Love drew its musical materials from Yue Opera. The film of Yue Opera from the same play won an award at an international film festival in the music category. The male role in a Yue Opera play is always played by women and the characters appear exceptionally charming, natural and unrestrained.

Yue Opera as a folk opera style has its origins in Hangzhou. Yue Opera lovers would meet regularly and sing. If you come to Hangzhou and stroll along the lakeside in the early morning, you will certainly hear opera lovers heartily singing Yue Opera. The resident Yue Opera companies in Hangzhou are the Zhejiang Yue Opera Troupe and the Hangzhou Yue Opera Troupe. The "Xiaobaihua" Performing Group of the Zhejiang Yue Opera Troupe is best known in Hangzhou and very influential across the country, and in Hong Kong and Macao. Yue Opera lovers coming to Hangzhou may have the fullest chance to enjoy various performances and Yue Opera styles given by different Yue Opera schools in the city.


More about Qinqiang

There are generally two kinds of arias in Qinqiang Opera: Huan yin ("joyous tune") and Ku yin ("sad tune"). Each type was used in accordance with the plots and figures. The major accompanying instrument used is the Ban hu (a stringed instrument), featuring a clear and melodious sound.

Qinqiang performances are characterized by a simple, bold, exquisite and penetrating, yet exaggerated style. The roles are categorized into 13 types, namely, four types of sheng (male roles in traditional Chinese opera), six dan (female characters), two jing (painted-face characters) and one chou (clown).

The different dialects of various areas and types of folk music have contributed to slight differences in the opera itself in terms of pronunciation, aria, music etc, forming four major genres. In recent years, the major genre in and around Xi'an has played a dominant role in innovating and developing the art form.

Qinqiang Opera songs are sonorous, bold and touching; its music is colorful and elegant; and its performances on the whole are plain, exquisite and lively. Furthermore, it boasts such unique performing skills as spitting fire and hat dances by the performers.

However, since the 1980s, local operas have struggled for survival, despite their long history and cultural value. Sadly, Qinqiang Opera is no exception. Cultural specialists are working hard to preserve the art form; some have even proposed to enlist Qinqiang Opera as an "Intangible World Heritage."


Snow over the Forbidden City in Beijing

People visit the snow-covered Forbidden City in Beijing November 10, 2009.

The snow-covered Forbidden City in Beijing November 10, 2009.



Beijing has had its second snowfall for this winter.


Dreamy Fayuan Temple after a heavy snow

Situated south of Jiaozi Alley outside Xuanwumen, Fayuan Temple is the oldest ancient Buddhist temple in Beijing. It also houses the China Buddhist Association, the China Buddhism Institution and the China Buddhism Library and Relic Center, thus serving as an important venue for nurturing young monks and Buddhist research.


Must-buy products for visitors to Tibet

Tibetan ornaments are made of pearls, agates, corals, turquoise rocks, and beeswax, as well as jade, gold and silver. Visitors from other parts of China are often spotted at the souvenir shops on the Barkhor Street, downtown Lhasa, capital of Tibet.

Caterpillar fungi, ginseng and pilose antler are considered the top three tonics in China. Caterpillar fungus is believed to be the only Chinese medicinal herb that can balance yin and yang in the body.

Tibetan knives are carried around by Tibetan people for cutting meat and self-defense. The knives for males are boorish and sharp, while those for females look refined and delicate.

Tibet's totem masks are a kind of handicrafts originating from the religion. On religious occasions, the masks feature the images of various gods and goddesses, such as Protector of Dharma and Goddess of Fortune. The masks are well received by visitors, especially by foreign ones.

Traditional Tibetan carpets fall into three categories, namely, carpets, tapestries and rugs. Carpets produced in Gyantse County, Xigaze Prefecture, are the most famous.


Bright-colored autumn in Tachuan Village

Under the precinct of the ancient Town of Hongcun, Tachuan, also known as Tashang, is a village located in Yixian county in east China'sAnhui province. Each autumn, Tachuan is a paradise for photographers as it is full of colors and scenic beauty. The layout of the village aligns with the mountains to create a pagoda shape.



Google offers free holiday season Wi-Fi service at U.S. airports

Google Inc. on Tuesday said it is providing free Wi-Fi service as a holiday gift now through Jan. 15 next year in dozens of airports across the United States.

Currently, there are 47 airports participating in the project, including Las Vegas, San Jose, Boston, Baltimore, Burbank, Houston, Indianapolis, Seattle, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, St. Louis and Charlotte.

As a result of the project, Burbank and Seattle airports will begin offering airport-wide free Wi-Fi access indefinitely, Google said.

In October, the company also announced that it is working with Virgin America to provide free in-flight Wi-Fi service for the airline's passengers during this holiday season.

The Internet search giant said once travelers log on to networks in any of the 47 participating airports, they can choose to make a donation to three charities, and their donations will be matched by Google.

"We're very happy to extend our Holiday Wi-Fi gift to the millions of people who will spend time in airports over the next few months," Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search products and user experience, said in a statement.

"We know that this is a very hectic travel season for people, and we hope that free Wi-Fi will make both traveling and connecting with friends and family a little bit easier," she added.

Over 100 million people are expected to pass through the participating airports during the upcoming Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's holiday, Google said, citing estimates from U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

"Google gets this year's Wi-Fi Santa award for sponsoring complimentary access in dozens of airports, both to the traveler's and airport's benefit," said Dave Hagan, president and chief executive officer of Boingo Wireless, one of Google's partners to provide the free airport Internet wireless access.

"In addition to the obvious bonus holiday travelers will enjoy, sponsored access will increase overall Wi-Fi usage in the participating airports and help supplement the airport's increasingly important non-airline incremental revenue," Hagan noted.


Study finds new middleweight class of black hole

Astronomers have found new evidence that supports the existence of a middleweight class of black holes, not like the either little or big variety in previous studies, according to media reports Wednesday.

NGC 5408 X-1, the newly found object, is an X-ray source in the NGC 5408 galaxy, 15.8 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Centaurus.

"Intermediate-mass black holes contain between 100 and 10,000 times the sun's mass," said Tod Strohmayer, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The new study used the European Space Agency's orbiting XMM-Newton observatory to observe the black hole in 2006 and in 2008. It found further proof that the signal is a medium-sized black hole.

Black hole is infinitely dense and it could trap matter and even light with its gravity. Though astronomers can't see it directly, they detect a black hole by its gravitational pull on other objects, and by the ray it emitted when massive things fall into it.

NGC 5408 X-1 emits more X-rays than a typical star, but less than supermassive black holes. And its flickering is about 100 times slower than that seen from stellar-mass black holes. Based on this, the researchers consider it probably a middleweight.

H1N1 vaccine: Many can't get it; some don't want it

Supply isn’t keeping up with demand when it comes to the H1N1 vaccine. But an official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the situation is beginning to improve.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s chief health officer for H1N1 response, told KPCC’s Patt Morrison that vaccine production hasn’t gone as well as manufacturers had hoped.

“I think the fundamental challenge right now is that the production of the virus has been slower than expected because the virus is not growing well in eggs,” said Dr. Schuchat.

“It’s improving in terms of the yields we’re seeing. But right now, we’re at a situation where the supply is not up to the tremendous demand that we’re seeing.”

Dr. Schuchat said twice the number of H1N1 vaccine doses are available today as compared to two weeks ago.

A national poll by the Harvard School of Public Health suggests only about a third of adults who’ve tried to get the H1N1 vaccine have been able to find it.

But some who could have the H1N1 vaccine say they don’t want it. University of Pennsylvania professor Art Caplan says refusing the vaccine is distressing – and dangerous. Caplan, who studies medical bioethics, says it might be time for a few “fireside chats.”

“Not just from the president, but the surgeon general and the CDC head,” said Caplan.

“There’s so much fear and misunderstanding out there that we really have to mount a much more sustained campaign to take it on. When so many people say ‘I don’t need this right now. I wouldn’t get this vaccine,’ you know that you haven’t done the job yet.”

That job doesn’t appear to be done in L.A. County.

Public health director Jonathan Fielding today told the Board of Supervisors that H1N1 vaccinations rates among African-Americans are lower than he expected. He said data suggests there’s a “lack of willingness” in the black community to get vaccinated.

A fairytale couple on Duoqing Cliff

When a hero saved a beauty it brought love between an elder sister and a younger brother. At that time, he was a bachelor in the prime of life who lived like a nomad. She was a widow who was six older than him, and lived in a mountain cave with her son and daughter……

Good times were fleeting and the grey-haired love birds persistently stay in the cave and are inseparable. They go out at sunrise and return at sunset, and enjoy their lives as a happy couple.

Their home under Duoqing Cliff
Loving wife and husband

Jiuhua Shanzhuang Hot Springs listings in Beijing

Radon: you don’t want it building up in your house, but a bit of exposure to it in this hot spring has been found to be helpful for alleviating skin ailments, arthritis, fatigue and depression. Jiuhua Shanzhuang provides over 20 hot spring pools with di. erent functions and various kinds of baths, including mud baths and medicinal stone steam baths. Traditional Chinese Medicine massages and fi tness rubdowns are also provided.

Hours: 8:30 am to 1:30 am

Address: Xiaotangshan County, Changping District

How to get there: Take No. 5 subway to Tiantongyuan Station and transfer to bus No. 984 to Jiuhua Shanzhuang, the terminal station

November special price: 188 yuan per person (includes hot spring, medicated bath, sauna and body scrub)

Regular price: 300 yuan per person (not including body scrub)

Telephone: 6178-2288

Website: www.jiuhua.com.cn

Fengshan Hot Spring Resort 凤山温泉度假村

There are 36 kinds of hot spring pools here, with an average temperature of 38 C. Guests can enjoy bubble baths, medical baths, flower baths and milk baths amid the rocks, trees and caves.

Hours: 24 hours

Address: East Shuiku Road, Changping District

How to get there: Take bus No. 925 to Fengshan Station

November special price: 888 yuan for two people, (includes hot spring, breakfast and one-night in a standard room)

Regular price: 268 yuan per person (hot spring only)

Telephone: 6071-1188

Website: www.bjfswq.com


The Ft. Hood Hero: Who is Kimberly Munley?

The west side of Killeen, Texas is like countless other places in America's heartland, freshly carved out of prairie pastures with wide streets in bucolic neighborhoods like "Sunflower Estates" and "Bridgewood." But on a glorious cloudless fall day, the flags at the home sales center nearby are at half mast in honor of the 13 fallen at Ft. Hood, victims of a gunman whose deadly attack was stopped thanks to a petite, long-haired blonde mom from the neigborhood.

Sgt. Kimberly Munley, 34, a civilian Department of Defense police officer at the base, is credited with stopping the firing rampage of U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan at the Soldier Readiness Center within a few minutes after he launched his attack. The center is a quick five minute drive from Munley's home, past the new strip centers and the high school football field along wide Cross Creek Boulevard, but a world away from the horrors inflicted in one of the worst incidents of soldier-on-soldier violence in U.S. Army history. (Read TIME's report: "Stresses at Fort Hood Were Likely Intense for Hasan")

Munley, described by neighbor Brooke Beato, as "very petite, with long blonde hair and a strong personality," was credited by base officials with preventing further carnage by aggressively engaging Hasan as he shot at her. She rounded a corner, took aim at Hasan and brought him down, officials said. "It was an amazing and an aggressive performance by this police officer," base commander Lt. Gen. Robert Cone said. It also was a tactic straight out of recent lessons learned from the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, when first responders waited for additional backup before engaging the shooter.

"She walked up and engaged him," said Lt. Gen. Cone told Associated Press. As a member of the base Special Reaction Team, Munley had learned that "if you act aggressively to take out a shooter, you will have less fatalities," Cone said.

Soon after Munley fired at Hasan, taking him down, she herself fell wounded and police radios quickly sent out an "Officer down" call. Wounded three times in the arm and leg, Munley is in stable condition after undergoing surgery Friday to repair damage to an artery. Base officials said she wishes she could have acted even faster and saved more lives, and she spent Thursday evening calling friends and colleagues, expressing those regrets.

While Thursday's shooting sent a shockwave through the tight-knit Killeen community, Beato, whose husband is an Army captain, said she was not surprised when Munley's name surfaced as the police officer who ended the shooting. "It was just like her - she carries herself with confidence," Beato said.

Beato is a 30-year-old mother of four whose children often play with Munley's daughters, ages 12 and 3, in the quiet cul-de-sac. "I couldn't believe what happened, but when I heard what she did," says Beato of her neighbor, "I believed that because of who she is - I know her."

Munley, who worked as a police officer for five years in North Carolina where her father, Dennis Barbour, once served as mayor of Carolina Beach, is a talented shooter and member of the base's Special Reaction Team which trains for the possibility of events like Thursday's shooting rampage. She also is a passionate fan of Twitter and once news of her actions spread, her followers began to blossom in number - among them country singer Dierks Bentley who posed for a photo with the petite police officer at the fort's annual July Fourth FreedomFest. The photo is posted on her Twitter page along with a brief biographical quote: "I live a good life...a hard one, but I go to sleep peacefully at night knowing that I may have made a difference in someone's life."


zha jiang mian

I celebrated my third birthday with a big steaming bowl of noodles, which I so coveted. With the bowl at the edge of the table and my mouth strategically placed, I shoveled every last bit of noodle and sauce into that vast cavernous hole. Yea, I was a fat and happy 3 year old, with a wicked bowl cut. And I loved zha jiang mian, a dish that to this day, I still turn to for comfort and memories of my grandfather's kitchen. It's a very traditional noodle dish from Northern China, consisting of wheat noodles covered in a thick sauce of ground pork, garlic, and fermented bean paste. Usually fresh julienned carrot and cucumber is piled on top for crunch. This dish is like the Chinese equivalent of mac and cheese, easy and cheap to make, filling and hearty, and just as culturally significant.

Zha jiang mian literally means "fried sauce noodles." That's because when the sauce is cooked, the bean paste is added to a generous amount of sizzling peanut oil at the bottom of the wok. The kind I grew up with was brown in color, but other versions use yellow bean paste. The Korean version, ja jang myeon, was adapted from the Chinese, and though it sounds exactly the same, it uses many different ingredients. The bean paste is roasted and fermented, lending it a dark brown, almost black-ish color. Diced zucchini and onion is usually added to the sauce, and instead of ground pork, squid and clams are oftentimes used.

In Baltimore, there are no Chinese restaurants that offer up ja jiang mian, but you can find the Korean version at Nam Kang (2126 Maryland Ave.). You can probably get it at Lotte Plaza too, at their small eatery inside the store.

Many vegetarian versions of the sauce can be made, by replacing the pork with scrambled egg. You can add any leftover diced veggies you want, that is the beauty of this dish.

Zha Jiang Mian
yields 2 cups of sauce

Oriental style noodles (long thin white noodles, with wheat flour, water and salt listed as the only ingredients)

4 Tbsp chunjang (Korean fermented black bean paste)
1/3 lb. ground pork
1 Tbsp Shaoxing rice cooking wine
1 small onion, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp minced ginger

julienned carrot and cucumber

1. In a large pot or wok, heat up 1 Tbsp oil, and add ground pork. Stir to break up the meat into small pieces, and cook through, adding cooking wine and half the garlic. Push to one side of the pot and add in the diced onion, zucchini, garlic and ginger. Stirfry all ingredients for 5-10 min until onions and meat start to brown up nicely.

2. Stir in the bean paste and enough water to make a sauce of thin consistency (1/2 cup). Add the sugar. Simmer for 5-10 min until the sauce has thickened up.

3. Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the package label, usually 5-6 min in boiling water.

4. To serve**, heap the noodles in a bowl and ladle the sauce overtop. Garnish with carrots and cucumber.

**Traditionally, many Chinese like to drizzle on top Chinese rice vinegar, call Chinkiang Vinegar. It is dark, like balsamic

Obama, House Dems Press for Health Care Votes

President Barack Obama and House Democrats scrambled on Thursday to secure the votes to pass a historic health care overhaul initiative, working to ease disagreements with rank-and-file lawmakers over abortion and illegal immigrants.

Obama met at the White House with several Hispanic lawmakers who oppose any prohibition on the ability of illegal immigrants to use their own money to purchase health coverage in a new government-run marketplace.

"He listened to us. We listened to him," said Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. "We made it very clear that 20 votes in the Hispanic caucus" depend on the language in the House bill. Currently, there is no prohibition in the House bill against illegal immigrants buying insurance in the exchange, but the White House backs such a ban and one exists in the Senate bill.

"I think that he got our message," Velazquez said.

House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said later that she did not believe there would be any change to the House bill on immigration.

The second-ranking Democrat in the House said lawmakers would debate and vote Saturday on the $1.2-trillion, 10-year measure that expands coverage to millions of uninsured. In a major boost, the American Medical Association and the powerful seniors' lobby AARP both threw their weight behind the bill. AARP, with its 40 million members, promised to run ads and contact activists to gin up support.

Obama planned a rare visit to the House to persuade wavering Democrats. It had been set for Friday morning but after the fatal shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, the White House rescheduled it until Saturday.

Democratic opponents of abortion — under pressure from Catholic bishops — want stronger provisions written in the bill that no federal funds would be used to finance abortion in coverage bought in the government-run exchange.

The Empire strikes back

NEW YORK – Everyone stood in the same spot to take a picture. It was a secluded area behind the clubhouse-turned-animal house where hundreds of glass empties littered the ground and new ones still popped like popcorn toward the end of a bag. Not only did the keepers of the trophy want to keep it clean, they knew there was no more appropriate place to pose than against a menacing jet-black wall with the New York Yankees’ logo in the middle.

The Empire struck back Wednesday night. It awoke from a nine-year dormancy and, after spending a billion dollars the last half-decade, got it right. It marched with renewed purpose, accompanied, it seemed, by the ominous music that trailed Darth Vader. And with a 7-3 victory to christen the new Yankee Stadium a home of champions in its first season, the Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies for their 27th World Series title and first since 2000.

Gone were the inefficient Yankees of late, their payrolls bloated with overpaid, aging laggards. This group combined young with old, prospects with mercenaries, and they grew into the cohesive unit that for so many years the Yankees had lacked with dizzying results. Championship-free seasons in New York go by dog years, so nine felt like forever to the 50,315 who weren’t quite sure what nickname to assign this group.

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“You can call us anything you want,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “You’re also going to have to call us world champions.”

Which doesn’t differ much from the usual. The Yankees own more championships than any team in professional sports. George Steinbrenner, the tyrant who bought the Yankees for $10 million and grew them into a billion-dollar corporation, watched his seventh title from home in Florida while his son Hal ushered in a new generation of Steinbrenner with his first championship as managing partner.

The chaos surrounding this one makes it among the franchise’s best. It came months after Alex Rodriguez(notes), their best player, admitted to previously using steroids. Which followed the Yankees’ signing of three players to $423.5 million worth of contracts. And happened about a year after Andy Pettitte(notes), the winning pitcher in the Game 6 clincher, said he used human growth hormone. All with the specter of the 2004 American League Championship Series loss to Boston still hovering like a stratus cloud.