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Uniqlo's Success Brings More Japanese Retail

FASHION • Following the ultrasuccessful debut of Uniqlo, Japanese store Muji to open two stores in NYC. [WWD] • Libertine settled its copyright-infringement suit against knockoff king Allen Schwartz. [Downtown Darling] • Tyra Banks gains weight, laments fashion's unreasonable expectations. [People] FINANCE • Merrill's top brass gave themselves a big ($172 million) pat on the back for a job well done in 2006. [WSJ ] • Venture capitalists invested $2 billion in 249 companies in the New York area last year, up 18 percent from 2005. It was the highest level of funding since 2001, when the Internet broke. [Crain's] • If increasing the size of the biggest leverage buyout bid in history doesn't make Stephen Schwarzman sweat, the Blackstone Group should be just fine. [DealBook]

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Watching ‘Top Chef’ With a Top Chef

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Everybody's watching Bravo's latest hit, Top Chef — even professional chefs (and professional food bloggers). After last night's installment, Grub Street's Josh Ozersky checked in with chef Jimmy Bradley for the Red Hat, Mermaid Inn, and Harrison restaurateur's take on the developments. Last season's winner, Harold Dieterle, previously worked at Bradley's the Harrison. With that insight, who does Bradley think will win this time? Ilan. Why? Find out on Grub Street. Red Cat Owner Betting on Ilan to Win 'Top Chef' [Grub Street] Related: Sam Talbot (Formerly) of ‘Top Chef’ Splurges at Nobu [Grub Street] Earlier: ‘Top Chef’'s Marcel Doesn't Love Joel Robuchon That Much [Daily Intel] So Hot She’s Flammable: Host Roasted by Top Chefs [Intel]

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The Freedom Tower Exists for Anyone Who Truly Believes in It

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How starved is the city for any tangible progress at ground zero? Well, consider this bit from today's Times:
Stand on Vesey Street, between Greenwich and Washington Streets. Look through the chain-link fences and over the Jersey barriers. The tops of six columns of the tower’s south perimeter are now visible, sprouting from the depths of ground zero. A seventh column, standing alone nearby, is where the Freedom Tower’s east plaza will be … They are visible from the sidewalk now because a second tier of steel has been added to each column, bringing them up to about 8 feet below street level.
That's right, reporter David Dunlap gives you step-by-step instructions on where to stand, which way to face, and how hard to squint to see the thicket of steel that will eventually become the foundation for the Freedom Tower. Imagine the corks that will pop when the construction actually reaches sidewalk level. What a View to Behold, and It's Really Something [NYT]

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