GAZA CITY — It was a good house, Yousif Qirshalli said, staring at the rubble baking in the sun. He had built it over three decades. But its destruction, which occurred on a mid-July day in an Israeli airstrike, wasn’t the worst part.

That came after a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas nearly a month later, when Qirshalli learned he and his family had to leave a relative’s place. It was when they pitched a tent on the dusty ground outside their demolished house, where they’ve spent many nights since. It was when Qirshalli, 65, inquired about local rent prices — and learned there was no way he could afford them.

Official numbers are few in Gaza City, a densely populated seaside enclave of 600,000. But businessmen, rights groups and economists agree that apartment rents here have more than doubled since the war ended, as thousands of displaced residents elbow into an already saturated housing market. Before the war, experts said, an average two-bedroom apartment went for $200 per month; now it can rent for as much as $500.

The surge in rent underscores a housing problem that has plagued Gaza for years: There simply is not enough. Even before the recent war — which the United Nations says destroyed or severely damaged 17,000 houses — the housing market in Gaza was squeezed by Israeli restrictions on imports of construction material, land scarcity and rapid population growth. The United Nations expects Gaza’s population to swell by nearly one-quarter by 2020, from around 1.7 million today to 2.1 million.


In the course of a broader effort to determine the origins of high methane levels in drinking water aquifers near gas wells in Pennsylvania and Texas, scientists found that water in two homes in Parker County, Texas, changed over nine months from containing trace amounts of methane to having high levels.

The newly identified cases “caught this contamination in the act,” said Robert Jackson, a study co-author and professor of environmental science at Stanford University.

The discovery poses a challenge to a long-standing assertion by the oil and gas industry that the energy boom sweeping the country has not damaged water supplies. Other studies have found that water wells near natural gas production are at greater risk of containing methane than those farther away. But industry has contended that the methane found in water wells is naturally occurring and was there all along, prior to the start of gas production.

[…]

Darrah and his colleagues concluded that the water contamination occurred when natural gas from a lower geological depth migrated higher into drinking water sources because of a faulty cement job around the well.

The researchers believe that in nearly all the cases, the water contamination occurred because poor casing or cementing around the gas wells allowed methane to leak out the sides and into aquifers. Said Darrah, “The good news is that most of the issues we have identified can potentially be avoided by future improvements in well integrity.”


At the request of ProPublica, ADP, the nation’s largest payroll services provider, undertook a study of 2013 payroll records for 13 million employees. ADP’s report, released today, shows that more than one in 10 employees in the prime working ages of 35 to 44 had their wages garnished in 2013.

Roughly half of these debtors, unsurprisingly, owed child support. But a sizeable number had their earnings docked for consumer debts, such as credit cards, medical bills and student loans.

[…]

ADP’s study, the first large-scale look at how many employees are having their wages garnished and why, reveals what has been a hidden burden for working-class families. Wage seizures were most common among middle-aged, blue-collar workers and lower-income employees. Nearly 5 percent of those earning between $25,000 and $40,000 per year had a portion of their wages diverted to pay down consumer debts in 2013, ADP found.

Perhaps due to the struggling economy in the region, the rate was highest in the Midwest. There, over 6 percent of employees earning between $25,000 and $40,000 — one in 16 — had wages seized over consumer debt. Employees in the Northeast had the lowest rate. The statistics were not broken down by race.

Currently, debtors’ fates depend significantly on where they happen to live. State laws vary widely. Four states — Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina — largely prohibit wage garnishment stemming from consumer debt. Most states, however, allow creditors to seize a quarter of a debtor’s wages — the highest rate permitted under federal law.


One of Japan’s leading newspapers has been forced into a climbdown over serious errors in articles about two of the most contentious issues in the country: the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the use of wartime sex slaves.

Executives at the Asahi Shimbun, a left-leaning daily whose morning edition has a circulation of 7.6m, said the newspaper’s executive editor, Nobuyuki Sugiura, would be dismissed and other staff severely punished.


Sid Kouider, from the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, said: “We show that the sleeping brain can be far more ‘active’ in sleep than one would think.

"This explains some everyday life experiences such as our sensitivity to our name in our sleep, or to the specific sound of our alarm clock, compared to equally loud but less relevant sounds."

He added that it was possible for people to perform calculations on simple equations while falling asleep and then continue to identify those calculations as right or wrong during a snooze.

Any task that could become automated could be maintained during sleep, he said. But tasks that cannot be automated would stop as sleep took over.

Their research could lead to further studies on the processing capacity of our sleeping brains, the study said.

"Research focusing on how to take advantage of our sleeping time must consider what is the associated cost, if any, and whether it is worth it," Mr Kouider said.


A collateralized debt obligation (CDO) is a type of structured asset-backed security (ABS). Originally developed for the corporate debt markets, over time CDOs evolved to encompass the mortgage and mortgage-backed security (“MBS”) markets.

Like other private label securities backed by assets, a CDO can be thought of as a promise to pay investors in a prescribed sequence, based on the cash flow the CDO collects from the pool of bonds or other assets it owns. The CDO is “sliced” into “tranches”, which “catch” the cash flow of interest and principal payments in sequence based on seniority. If some loans default and the cash collected by the CDO is insufficient to pay all of its investors, those in the lowest, most “junior” tranches suffer losses first. The last to lose payment from default are the safest, most senior tranches.


Securitization is the financial practice of pooling various types of contractual debt such as residential mortgages, commercial mortgages, auto loans or credit card debt obligations and selling said consolidated debt as bonds, pass-through securities, or collateralized mortgage obligation (CMOs), to various investors. The principal and interest on the debt, underlying the security, is paid back to the various investors regularly. Securities backed by mortgage receivables are called mortgage-backed securities (MBS), while those backed by other types of receivables are asset-backed securities (ABS).

Critics have suggested that the complexity inherent in securitization can limit investors’ ability to monitor risk, and that competitive securitization markets with multiple securitizers may be particularly prone to sharp declines in underwriting standards. Private, competitive mortgage securitization is believed to have played an important role in the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis.


Let’s step back and review where this complexity comes from. In an attempt to model real-world phenomena, we made some apparently reasonable decisions: We modeled real-world objects with local state by computational objects with local variables. We identified time variation in the real world with time variation in the computer. We implemented the time variation of the states of the model objects in the computer with assignments to the local variables of the model objects.
 Is there another approach? Can we avoid identifying time in the computer with time in the modeled world? Must we make the model change with time in order to model phenomena in a changing world? Think about the issue in terms of mathematical functions. We can describe the time-varying behavior of a quantity x as a function of time x(t). If we concentrate on x instant by instant, we think of it as a changing quantity. Yet if we concentrate on the entire time history of values, we do not emphasize change — the function itself does not change.
 If time is measured in discrete steps, then we can model a time function as a (possibly infinite) sequence. In this section, we will see how to model change in terms of sequences that represent the time histories of the systems being modeled. To accomplish this, we introduce new data structures called streams. From an abstract point of view, a stream is simply a sequence. However, we will find that the straightforward implementation of streams as lists (as in section 2.2.1) doesn’t fully reveal the power of stream processing. As an alternative, we introduce the technique of delayed evaluation, which enables us to represent very large (even infinite) sequences as streams.
 Stream processing lets us model systems that have state without ever using assignment or mutable data. This has important implications, both theoretical and practical, because we can build models that avoid the drawbacks inherent in introducing assignment. On the other hand, the stream framework raises difficulties of its own, and the question of which modeling technique leads to more modular and more easily maintained systems remains open.

[…]

Streams are a clever idea that allows one to use sequence manipulations without incurring the costs of manipulating sequences as lists. With streams we can achieve the best of both worlds: We can formulate programs elegantly as sequence manipulations, while attaining the efficiency of incremental computation. The basic idea is to arrange to construct a stream only partially, and to pass the partial construction to the program that consumes the stream. If the consumer attempts to access a part of the stream that has not yet been constructed, the stream will automatically construct just enough more of itself to produce the required part, thus preserving the illusion that the entire stream exists. In other words, although we will write programs as if we were processing complete sequences, we design our stream implementation to automatically and transparently interleave the construction of the stream with its use.

[…]

Our implementation of streams will be based on a special form called delay. Evaluating (delay <exp>) does not evaluate the expression <exp>, but rather returns a so-called delayed object, which we can think of as a “promise” to evaluate <exp> at some future time. As a companion to delay, there is a procedure called force that takes a delayed object as argument and performs the evaluation — in effect, forcing the delay to fulfill its promise.

[…]

We have seen how to support the illusion of manipulating streams as complete entities even though, in actuality, we compute only as much of the stream as we need to access. We can exploit this technique to represent sequences efficiently as streams, even if the sequences are very long. What is more striking, we can use streams to represent sequences that are infinitely long.

[…]

Streams with delayed evaluation can be a powerful modeling tool, providing many of the benefits of local state and assignment. Moreover, they avoid some of the theoretical tangles that accompany the introduction of assignment into a programming language.
 The stream approach can be illuminating because it allows us to build systems with different module boundaries than systems organized around assignment to state variables. For example, we can think of an entire time series (or signal) as a focus of interest, rather than the values of the state variables at individual moments. This makes it convenient to combine and compare components of state from different moments.


In Jonathan Franzen’s 2001 novel, “The Corrections,” a disgraced academic named Chip Lambert, who has abandoned Marxist theory in favor of screenwriting, goes to the Strand Bookstore, in downtown Manhattan, to sell off his library of dialectical tomes. The works of Theodor W. Adorno, Jürgen Habermas, Fredric Jameson, and various others cost Chip nearly four thousand dollars to acquire; their resale value is sixty-five. “He turned away from their reproachful spines, remembering how each of them had called out in a bookstore with a promise of a radical critique of late-capitalist society,” Franzen writes. After several more book-selling expeditions, Chip enters a high-end grocery store and walks out with an overpriced filet of wild Norwegian salmon.

Anyone who underwent a liberal-arts education in recent decades probably encountered the thorny theorists associated with the Institute for Social Research, better known as the Frankfurt School. Their minatory titles, filled with dark talk of “Negative Dialectics” and “One-Dimensional Man,” were once proudly displayed on college-dorm shelves, as markers of seriousness; now they are probably consigned to taped-up boxes in garages, if they have not been discarded altogether. Once in a while, the present-day Web designer or business editor may open the books and see in the margins the excited queries of a younger self, next to pronouncements on the order of “There is no document of culture which is not at the same time a document of barbarism” (Walter Benjamin) or “The whole is the false” (Adorno).


Chances are your local mall is hurting. There are roughly 1,200 enclosed malls in the U.S. and only about a third of them are doing well.

Online shopping, the recession and demographic shifts are some of the factors killing shopping malls. And as these changes leave behind huge concrete carcasses, they’re being “reimagined” into everything from medical centers to hockey rinks.

Ellen Dunham-Jones, a professor of architecture and urban design at Georgia Institute of Technology, has been following dead and dying malls in both urban and suburban landscapes. She speaks with NPR’s Steve Inskeep.


Older people who have relied on a class of drugs called benzodiazepines to reduce anxiety or induce sleep are at higher risk of going on to develop Alzheimer’s disease , new research finds, with those whose use of the medications is most intensive almost twice as likely to develop the mind-robbing disorder.

Benzodiazepines — marketed under such names as as Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin — are widely used to treat insomnia, agitation and anxiety, all of which can be early signs of impending Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly. But the current study sought to disentangle benzodiazepines’ use in treating early dementia symptoms, probing instead the possibility that heavy use of the medications may permit, cause or hasten the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia.


On July 29, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications released the results of its latest survey on Japanese housing, which it completed last fall and conducts every five years. The statistic that caught the media’s attention was the one for akiya, or vacant homes. As of the end of October 2013, 13.5 percent of all housing units in Japan were empty, which is 0.4 percentage points higher than the portion in 2008, the last time the survey was carried out.

The rate itself is considered high, even if the increase over five years seems slight. The fact is, the overall housing stock has increased during those five years. In 2008 there were just over 7.5 million vacant homes in Japan. Now there are at least 8.2 million, which is a rise of 9.3 percent. The reason for the discrepancy is that so many new homes were built in the meantime while a larger percentage of existing homes went vacant or were abandoned. More importantly, few of these older, derelict homes were torn down.

Though the number of akiya has been growing for many years, the central government has done nothing about it. These new statistics, however, cannot be ignored. Vacant houses are fire traps and sanitation hazards. They also bring down surrounding property values — or, at least, they do in most developed countries. In Japan, vacant houses are usually found in neighborhoods containing homes that are just as old, and regardless of whether or not they are occupied, houses of a certain age have no market value in Japan, so nobody worries about that aspect of akiya.


..in contrast to the magician—who is still hidden in the medical practitioner—the surgeon at the decisive moment abstains from facing the patient man to man; rather, it is through the operation that he penetrates into him.
 Magician and surgeon compare to painter and cameraman. The painter maintains in his work a natural distance from reality, the cameraman penetrates deeply into its web. There is a tremendous difference between the pictures they obtain. That of the painter is a total one, that of the cameraman consists of multiple fragments which are assembled under a new law. Thus, for contemporary man the representation of reality by the film is incomparably more significant than that of the painter, since it offers, precisely because of the thoroughgoing permeation of reality with mechanical equipment, an aspect of reality which is free of all equipment. And that is what one is entitled to ask from a work of art.

Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction