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1 World Trade Center courts Chinese interest

NEW YORK | The quest for tenants to fill the floors at a World Trade Center skyscraper has gone global — all the way to China.

A private real estate developer connected to the project at ground zero is heading to a conference of business leaders in China this weekend. Douglas Durst of the Durst Organization says 1 World Trade Center has generated “tremendous interest” among Chinese companies that are considering opening international offices.

The building was formerly known as the Freedom Tower. When it’s completed, it will be the tallest building in the country, with an antenna bringing it to 1,776 feet.

The first completed deal for a tenant in the tower has been with a Chinese real estate company. Vantone Industrial signed a lease in 2009 for about 200,000 square feet.

NORTH DAKOTA

iPhone-starved states welcome new gadget

FARGO | Apple devotees in states largely disregarded under a formerly exclusive deal to distribute the iPhone rushed to stores to snap up the gadget early Thursday as Verizon Wireless entered the fray.

Phil Toso, the manager of a Verizon store in Baxter, Minn., said dozens of people showed up when the business opened at 7 a.m. Thursday. The store normally opens at 10.

Previously excluded from the iPhone club because of AT&T’s at-best spotty coverage in this part of the country, cell-phone users in areas of the Dakotas, Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming can now get the phone through the nation’s largest wireless carrier.

PENNSYLVANIA

3 dead, 2 missing in natural-gas explosion

ALLENTOWN | A natural gas explosion rocked a downtown neighborhood overnight Wednesday into Thursday, leveling two houses and spawning fires that burned for hours through an entire row of neighboring homes. Three people were killed, including an infant, and at least two others were unaccounted for Thursday.

The victims ranged in age from 4 months to 79 years old, fire Chief Robert Scheirer said, but city officials have not released the names of those killed or missing.

Chief Scheirer said 47 buildings were damaged, and eight were expected to be total losses.

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