Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why Do Americans Stink at Math? - NYTimes.com

Why Do Americans Stink at Math? - NYTimes.com:



 "When Akihiko Takahashi was a junior in college in 1978, he was like most of the other students at his university in suburban Tokyo. He had a vague sense of wanting to accomplish something but no clue what that something should be. But that spring he met a man who would become his mentor, and this relationship set the course of his entire career."



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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

War and Media in the Gaza Strip - NYTimes.com

War and Media in the Gaza Strip - NYTimes.com:



 "Alleged gunfire at an Al Jazeera bureau in Gaza on Tuesday was hardly a boon to the Israeli Defense Forces’ public image – and this was only the latest installment in a string of P.R. debacles facing the Jewish state."



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Monday, July 21, 2014

Capital in the Twenty-First Century (II)

List of some authors presented by Piketty in his Introduction:

  1. Thomas Malthus
  2. Arthur Young
  3. Adam Smith
  4. David Ricardo
  5. Karl Marx
  6. Friedrich Engels
  7. Simon Kuznets
These are not all, he presents a view of the European world in its transit from Feudalism to Capitalism. He emphasizes the lack of data of previous authors, and tools to use them. Armed with these data he was able to discover, what he calls "The Fundamental Force for Divergence: .

This is not an equation of Nature, like Newton's equations of motion, it rather expresses an empirical fact. For all the data he has compiled, the rate of capital reproduction, r, is bigger than the rate of growth, g. One simple way to state it, is that one is better off with acquired capital, than working for a salary.  He predicts that if nothing is done about this, i.e. tax regulations, inequality will keep growing, with possible destabilizing effects.

More Eyes on the Skies

Photo
Testing the mirrors for the James Webb Space Telescope, which NASA says is on track to be launched in 2018. CreditBall Aerospace
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The future, it is often said, belongs to those who plan for it. And astronomers have been busy working the proverbial smoke-filled rooms (or whatever passes for them today) where the destiny of big science is often shaped and crisscrossing one another in airports on fund-raising trips. Now they are about to have something to show for it.
More than a decade after competing groups set out to raise money forgargantuan telescopes that could study planets around distant stars and tune into the birth of galaxies at the dawn of time, shovels, pickaxes and more sophisticated tools are now about to go to work on mountaintops in Hawaii and Chile in what is going to be the greatest, most expensive and ambitious spree of telescope-making in the history of astronomy.
If it all plays out as expected and budgeted, astronomers of the 2020s will be swimming in petabytes of data streaming from space and the ground. Herewith a report card on the future of big-time stargazing.
On June 20, officials from the European Southern Observatory blew the top off a mountain in northern Chile called Armazones, breaking ground for what is planned to be the largest, most powerful optical telescope ever built. Known as the European Extremely Large Telescope, or E-ELT, it will have a segmented mirror 39 meters (about 128 feet) in diameter, powerful enough to see planets around distant stars. By comparison, the largest telescopes now operating are 10 meters in diameter.
Photo
The European Southern Observatory consortium's Very Large Telescope array, in Chile, is made up of four eight-meter telescopes. CreditEuropean Southern Observatory
The European Southern Observatory is a consortium of 14 European nations and Brazil, which has agreed to join but is still waiting for its Parliament to ratify the move. Brazil’s official entrance would put the group more than 90 percent of the way toward the $1.5 billion in 2012 dollars the telescope is projected to cost, enough to begin big-ticket items like a dome, said Lars Christensen, a spokesman for the consortium.
The telescope should be ready on June 19, 2024. “We’ll all be back here,” said Tim de Zeeuw, the group’s director general, at the groundbreaking.
That’s not the only mega telescope project out there. Two years ago, another group of astronomers blasted away the top of another mountain in Chile, Las Campanas, where they plan to build the Giant Magellan Telescope. That telescope will have at its heart a set of seven eight-meter mirrors ganged together to make the equivalent of a mirror 25 meters in diameter. Three of those mirrors have been cast and polished at the University of Arizona, one of nine institutions that make up the Giant Magellan organization. A fourth mirror is on order for next year.
Wendy Freedman, the director of the Carnegie Observatories, one of the spearheads of the Magellan collaboration, said by email that members were now in the final phases of forming a limited liability corporation, the legal and financial entity that will build and own the telescope. To date, the group has raised about $500 million of the $880 million (2012 dollars) needed for their telescope.
She expects construction to begin later this year. “Our plan is to be on the air with the first four mirrors taking early science data in 2021,” she said. “So things are continuing to go very well.”
In Hawaii, there will be no blasting needed, just some grading with a bulldozer, on Mauna Kea, where yet another group of astronomers plans to build a telescope 30 meters in diameter — the simply namedThirty Meter Telescope — on a plateau just below the nearly 14,000-foot summit. Mauna Kea, the highest peak in the Pacific, is already home to 12 telescopes, including the twin 10-meter telescopes at theKeck observatory and a pair of eight-meters, making it the busiest mountain in astronomy.
It is also a sacred place for Hawaiians, many of whose ancestors have been buried up there. As a result, it’s not so easy gaining permission to add yet another telescope, said Michael Bolte of the University of California, Santa Cruz, a co-director of the project, an international collaboration led by Caltech and the University of California and now doing business as Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory LLC.
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Partners in Telescope Making

A billion-dollar telescope capable of outperforming Hubble can’t be built by a backyard stargazer or even a single university. The Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii and the Giant Magellan in Chile, both now on the verge of construction, are the products of international teams that have pursued their dreams even through a global recession.
  • Thirty Meter Telescope
    Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy
    California Institute of Technology
    Department of Science and Technology of India
    National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
    National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
    University of California
  • Giant Magellan
    Australia Astronomy Limited
    Australian National University
    Carnegie Institution for Science
    Harvard University
    Korean Astronomy and Space Science Institute
    Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
    Texas A&M University
    University of Arizona
    University of Chicago
    University of Texas at Austin
“I think we’re finally free and clear to build on that site,” Dr. Bolte said in an interview, saying they had chosen an unobtrusive spot for the telescope. He expects to begin grading a road to the site this summer as soon as the project clears its last hurdle with the Hawaiian authorities.
The Thirty Meter Telescope will cost $1.2 billion in those same 2012 dollars. By early next year, when India and Canada are expected to become full members of the corporation, Dr. Bolte said, they will have 85 percent of the money needed; they are still looking for more partners. A grand groundbreaking ceremony is being scheduled for Oct. 7.
“It’s a crazy science,” Dr. Bolte said, ticking off the names of historical benefactors of astronomy and telescope financiers, “that facilities at the forefront tend to be built with private money,” something that rarely happens in, say, physics.
Big Mirrors, Big Views
The view from these new telescopes, astronomers say, should be spectacular.
A telescope’s ability to gather light is determined by the area of its primary mirror. For a long time, the five-meter Hale reflector on Palomar Mountain, in San Diego County, was considered the practical earthly limit, but in the 1980s, astronomers devised ways to build bigger, thinner, mirrors that would not sag, leading to a bevy of eight-meter mirrors as well as the two 10-meter Kecks. The Magellan, the smallest of the new breed, however, will be six times as powerful as the Kecks in scooping up distant dim starlight; the others will be even more powerful.
The Hubble Space Telescope is only 94 inches, about 2.4 meters in diameter. It gains its power not from size but from being above the atmosphere, which blurs and filters the light from stars.
Photo
A rendering of the Thirty Meter Telescope, to be built by an international consortium in Hawaii.CreditCaltech, University of California, and the Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy
Increasing their powers even more, the new telescopes will be equipped with a technology that did not exist the last time around: adaptive optics, the ability to adjust the shape of the mirrors to minimize or cancel the effects of the atmospheric turbulence that causes stars to twinkle. The result, astronomers say, is that these telescopes will be able to detect fainter objects than Hubble can, like planets or bits of galaxies coming together, and more clearly.
A Boom in Chile
The inauguration of these new telescopes, early in the next decade, will further enshrine the Atacama Desert in Chile, which is bone-dry, high, dark and blessed with remarkably steady air, as the center of world astronomy. The region already is home to, among other observatories, the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array, or ALMA, an international project that is the world’s most expensive radio telescope, and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, an array of four eight-meter telescopes near the site of the coming Extremely Large Telescope.
The whole neighborhood, in fact, is booming. But for red tape, construction was also supposed to have started this month on theLarge Synoptic Survey Telescope on Pachón Mountain, in, yes, Chile. That telescope, a joint project of the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, is eight meters in diameter. That mountain was dynamited back in 2011. The project director, Steve Kahn of Stanford, said that a news release was already written and waiting for the moment when the project, officially the LSST Corporation, receives formal approval from the National Science Foundation to start spending money.
“I am sure we will get started officially soon, but unfortunately, this process isn’t over until it is over,” Dr. Kahn wrote in an email.
A ceremony for laying the “first stone” is planned for next spring in Chile, he said.
The National Science Foundation has budgeted $473 million to build the telescope. The Energy Department is kicking in $165 million for a 3,200-megapixel camera, which will produce an image of the entire sky every few days and over 10 years will produce a movie of the universe, swamping astronomers with data that will enable them to spot everything that moves or blinks in the heavens, including asteroids and supernova explosions.
Photo
The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, a project of the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, will photograph almost the whole sky every few days, also from Chile. CreditLSST Corporation
Among the Stars
What about outer space, where the stars actually are?
It was front-page news two years ago when the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates spy satellites,gave NASA two space telescopes the same size and design as a Hubble that had been sitting in a warehouse. Some astronomers, notably the former astronaut and Hubble repairman John M. Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for science mission, suggested that one of these could be used to jump-start a mission to study dark energy.
The National Academy of Sciences had ranked that mission atop the to-do list for this decade, but it was ambushed by the rising cost of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (more on that later).
A committee from the academy has recently endorsed the idea of using the spy telescope, which is 2.4 meters in diameter, for the mission, instead of the originally envisioned one-meter telescope. The academy agreed that the bigger telescope would enhance the scientific returns of the mission, now known as Wfirst-AFTA, for Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope-Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets, but warned that it could increase the cost and complexity. Congress directed NASA to spend $56 million on the mission in the last fiscal year, 2014, and the proposed budget for 2015 includes about $14 million.
If this keeps up, said David Spergel, an astronomer at Princeton who is involved with the academy and the telescope, the mission could start as early as 2023, near the time the European Space Agency will send up its own dark energy probe, known as Euclid. By then, he said, the mission’s name would probably be less of a mouthful. “The good thing about Wfirst-AFTA,” Dr. Spergel wrote in an email, “is that there is no way that we will keep that name.”
Among the possibilities that NASA is studying closely is adding a coronagraph to the telescope. Coronagraphs are basically opaque disks that were invented to black the intense light from the sun so astronomers could study the feathery faint corona of hot gases streaming outward from it. Exoplanet hunters are eager to deploy them to look for planets around distant stars. Getting a coronagraph on the dark energy telescope would be a valuable step toward a future mission, once known as the Terrestrial Planet Finder and now known by the placeholder name of New Worlds Telescope, long a dream of exoplanet hunters, that would be able to study Earthlike planets for signs of habitability, weather and life.
Photo
A rendering of the Giant Magellan Telescope that will be constructed atop a mountain in Chile. CreditGiant Magellan Telescope
And then there is the most expensive and high-flying “big eye” of all, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which Nature magazine once called “the telescope that ate astronomy.” Named for a former administrator of NASA, it is the successor to Hubble (which is still going strong, thank you), but is almost three times its size, with a 6.5-meter-diameter mirror that will have to fold out like a flower in orbit.
The Webb telescope was supposed to be launched this year, but was late and burned past its $5 billion budget like one of NASA’s rockets, devouring money that could have gone toward other projects. The House Appropriations Committee once voted to cancel it, but the project was reinstated with a budget cap of $8 billion and a launch date of 2018.
Since then, no news has basically been good news for Webb. It is still on track for 2018, NASA says. In July the agency reported that it had finished testing the framework that will hold the leaves of the telescope mirror and scientific instruments in place.
Heat and Light
The Webb telescope was built to study the first stars and galaxies that emerged in the hundred million years or so after the Big Bang, a missing period in cosmic history. It is therefore designed to record infrared radiation rather than visible light because objects at that distance and vintage are flying away from us so fast, by the rules of the expanding universe, that their light has been “redshifted” to longer wavelengths.
As it happens, infrared, or heat radiation, is an excellent way to study planets, which tend to emit more heat than light. Astronomers have long hoped that spectroscopic observations of an exoplanet atmosphere might reveal the signatures of life, such as oxygen or chlorophyll.
Recently, some astronomers have suggested they might even be able to see industrial pollution as well, in particular chlorofluorocarbons, the greenhouse gases that also destroy ozone. Over a few millenniums of industry, the thinking goes, some of these gases could build up to levels detectable from far away and stay that way for 50,000 years.
It would be ominous, however, Henry W. Lin, a student at Harvard, and his colleagues wrote in a paper submitted to The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, if astronomers see the markers of pollution around some distant planet but no indications of present life. That detection, they wrote, “might serve as an additional warning to the ‘intelligent’ life here on Earth about the risks of industrial pollution.” The future belongs to those who plan and care for it.
Last but hardly least is the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been providing humanity with matchless cosmic postcards from its perch above the sky ever since it was launched in 1990 and first fixed in 1993. Hubble was last visited and serviced by astronauts — presumably for the final time — in 2009. Matt Mountain, the director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, reports that it is doing well. A recent NASA review concluded, he said in an email, that “Hubble is operating at or near the highest level of performance and scientific productivity in its history.”
Recent estimates of its orbit suggest that it will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere no earlier than 2027 and may probably stay up well into the 2030s. Its main instruments are likely to still be working in 2020. That means the Hubble will still be operational when the Webb telescope goes up in 2018.
“It looks like it,” Dr. Mountain said. “We are certainly setting our planning that way.”

Capital in the Twenty-First Century (I)

Thomas Piketty has started a conversation. I am just one, among the hundreds of participants. I wrote an introductory note, here. This is the second of a series. The Contents of the book is as follows:

Acknowledgements ' vii

Introduction ' 1

Part One: Income and Capital
1. Income and Output ' 19
2. Growth: Illusions and Realities ' 72

Part Two: The Dynamics of the Capital/Income Ratio
3. The Metamorphoses of Capital ' 113
4. From Old Europe to the New World ' 140
5. The Capital/Income Ratio over the Long Run ' 164
6. The Capital-Labor Split in the Twenty-First Century ' 199

Part Three: The Structure of Inequality
7. Inequality and Concentration: Preliminary Bearings ' 237
8. Two Worlds ' 271
9. Inequality of Labor Income ' 304
10. Inequality of Capital Ownership ' 336
11. Merit and Inheritance in the Long Run ' 377
12. Global Inequality of Wealth in the Twenty-First Century ' 430

Part Four: Regulating Capital in the Twenty-First Century 
13. A Social State for the Twenty-First Century ' 471
14. Rethinking the Progressive Income Tax ' 493
15. A Global Tax on Capital ' 515
16. The Question of the Public Debt ' 540

Conclusion ' 571

Notes ' 579
Contents in Detail ' 657
List of Tables and Illustrations ' 665
Index ' 671

The book is entertaining, with examples taken from popular culture, both modern, and from centuries back. I in particular liked his mention of Forbes Magazine list of billionaires. He mentions, both Carlos Slim, and Bill Gates, without getting into a debate about who deserves what, and more interested in how the accumulation of capital happened.

I consider this to be a very important work. I illustrate with one thought. A week from now, we are remembering the catastrophic decision by a few men to go to war a hundred years ago. That year, the distribution of wealth, was similar to what we have now, after a lull in the accumulation of capital, the world witnessed the creation of a huge middle class in Europe and the US, but now we are back to those levels of inequality that might have caused the war: Who assures us, that the same type of men, won't take us to war over Ukraine or Israel now?

America’s Test at the Border - NYTimes.com

America’s Test at the Border - NYTimes.com:



"The crisis of young migrants at the Texas border is a test of American values, one of those surprise exams that history now and then throws our way: Here are 57,000 helpless children. We are a nation of 300 million. Do we spit on them, or give them blankets and beds?"



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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Capital in the Twenty-First Century

There was a book written in the middle of the Nineteenth Century with a similar name: Capital. It was written in German by a man living in England. Europe and the world then, were under social stress. In the beginning of the Twentieth Century, the world witnessed the First Social Revolution in the world, which exploded in Mexico. On my mother's side, my immediate family was involved. My grandmother's brothers joined a democratic movement, which sent the Mexican dictator to die in Paris.

I did not know the level of economic inequality then prevalent in Mexico, and Europe, until I read the book by Thomas Piketty, which is the subject of this note. Now, we are back to those horrendous levels of inequality, and even though, the book's author does not predict a repetition of those events, I do see very disquieting similarities to the time when the world unraveled, on July 28, 1914. 

Piketty is a tenured professor at the Paris School of Economics, which he co-founded. His parents witnessed the events of May 68, in Paris. On October 2, of that year, I almost witnessed the Tlatelolco Massacre myself. I can write this note, because I did not go to the democratic student protest, planned for that day. At least since that day, I have been trying to understand the events of my youth. I can report now my understanding, based on the rigorous scientific work of Thomas Piketty. 

For this introductory note I only write, that his findings can economically be expressed in the mathematical expression:



In future installments I'll try to elaborate more. Suffice it to say here, that it empirically describes the accumulation of Capital. Karl Marx, who was the German author of the other Capital, did not have access to the tax records, nor did he have the powerful computers needed to filter out, so much information, and discover the dynamics of Capital accumulation to the present time.

The final message is simple though. If wealthy people, are not taxed, we risk to have, another century of butchers ruling the world.

Flux and the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus

Mario Rabinowitz writes, :

 "Although traditionally treated the same mathematically, n dimensions in a higher dimensional space, are not the same  as strictly n-space because flux can’t be confined to just the given n dimensions in a higher space."

I agree with the importance  of the flux concept. Flux plays a fundamental role in applied mathematics. Geometers have codified the concept of Differential Form. Given an n-space, there is associated an n+1 space. I can illustrate this with two examples.

In one dimension, we have the boundary, i.e. two points of dimension zero at the ends of the line. The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, states that the sum of line elementary sizes, is equal to the total size of the line. Every line element has two ends, when one adds them up, they cancel in pairs, leaving only the first end of the first element, and the last end of the last element. This boundary can be said to represent a flux, coming out of the line, which would be the source.

For a two-dimensional surface, we also have a lower dimensional boundary. If one adds the areas of the elements, the elementary boundaries will again cancel out. We are left with the closed line which is the boundary of the surface.

So on, and so forth.

In Field Theory, Michael Faraday, had the physical visualization of the electric and magnetic forces, well conceptualized, and James Clerk Maxwell  invented the mathematics that goes with them.

These two men represent one of the Golden Ages of England.

Then came Carl Friedrich Gauss, and his student Bernhard  Riemann, from Germany, and the French Mathematician, Élie Cartan, to finish the story of Differential Forms.

Why Observable Space Is Solely Three Dimensional

rabinowitzASTP17-20-2014.pdf:

Mario Rabinowitz
Armor Research, 715 Lakemead Way
Redwood City, CA 94062-3922, USA

Quantum (and classical) binding energy considerations in n-dimensional space indicate that atoms (and planets) can only exist in three-dimensional space. This is why observable space is solely 3-dimensional. Both a novel Virial theorem analysis, and detailed classical and quantum energy calculations for 3-space circular and elliptical orbits indicate that they have no orbital binding energy in greater than 3-space. The same energy equation also excludes the possibility of atom-like bodies in strictly 1 and 2-dimensions. A prediction is made that in the search for deviations from  of gravitational force at sub-millimeter distances such a deviation must occur at < ~  (or < ~ considering muonium), since atoms would desintegrate if the curled up dimensions of string theory were larger than this. Callender asserts that the often-repeated claim in previous work that stable orbits are possible in only three dimensions is not even remotely established. The binding energy analysis herein avoids the pitfalls that Callender points out, as it circumvents stability issues. An uncanny quantum surprise is present in very high dimensions.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Influx of South Americans Drives Miami’s Reinvention - NYTimes.com

Influx of South Americans Drives Miami’s Reinvention - NYTimes.com:



"MIAMI — As the World Cup played out over the past month, yellow-clad Colombians packed the Kukaramakara nightclub downtown, Aguila beers in hand, shouting, “Colombia, Colombia!” Outside, Brazilians in car caravans blasted samba music. Argentines, some in blue-and-white striped jerseys, jammed into nearby steakhouses and empanada joints. Around town, children filed into Sunday Mass, their jerseys ablaze with their futbol heroes from across Latin America."



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A Classroom Leaves the Syllabus to the Students - NYTimes.com

A Classroom Leaves the Syllabus to the Students - NYTimes.com:



"BETHLEHEM, Pa. — The scene in a cavernous building atop a forested hill here resembles a brainy, free-form summer camp, or a loft where twentysomethings meet to pursue esoteric dreams. It does not look like the usual notion of college."



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Friday, July 18, 2014

Indications of Intermediate-Scale Anisotropy of Cosmic Rays with Energy Greater Than 57 EeV in the Northern Sky Measured with the Surface Detector of the Telescope Array Experiment

The Telescope Array is the largest cosmic-ray detector in the northern hemisphere. It
consists of a scintillator surface detector (SD) array (Abu-Zayyad et al. 2012a) and three
fluorescence detector (FD) stations (Tokuno et al. 2012). The observatory has been in full
operation in Millard Country, Utah, USA (39. ◦ 30N, 112. ◦ 91W; about 1,400 m above sea level)
since 2008. The TA SD array consists of 507 plastic scintillation detectors each 3 m 2 in
area and located on a 1.2 km square grid. The array has an area of ∼700 km 2 . The TA
SD array observes cosmic ray induced extensive air showers with E >∼1 EeV, regardless
of weather conditions with a duty cycle near 100% and a wide field of view (FoV). These
capabilities ensure a very stable and large geometrical exposure over the northern sky survey
in comparison with FD observations that have a duty cycle of ∼10%.

Netanyahu Warns of Wider Israel Operation in Gaza - NYTimes.com

Netanyahu Warns of Wider Israel Operation in Gaza - NYTimes.com:



"JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said Friday that he had ordered the military to “prepare for the possibility of widening, significantly,” the ground operation in the Gaza Strip begun Thursday night, but acknowledged “there is no guarantee of 100 percent success.”"



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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Towns Fight to Avoid Taking In Migrant Minors - NYTimes.com

Towns Fight to Avoid Taking In Migrant Minors - NYTimes.com:



"OYSTER CREEK, Tex. — A shelter for Central American children who crossed the border illegally opened behind Gregg Griffith’s house here a few months ago. The children are quiet. No one has hopped over the fence that separates his backyard from the shelter, a once-vacant youth home. But when Mr. Griffith looks at the brightly painted brick buildings, he is mostly resentful."



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Israel Announces Ground Invasion of Gaza Strip - NYTimes.com

Israel Announces Ground Invasion of Gaza Strip - NYTimes.com:



"JERUSALEM — Israel began a ground invasion into the Gaza Strip Thursday night, saying it would target tunnels that can infiltrate its territory after cease-fire talks failed to de-escalate the air war that has raged for 10 days."



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