Exploitation is thriving as a business model.

Informative NYT article describes variety of ways people make profits off the poor, including: repeat loans and serial debt; annual interest rates as high as 343 percent; payday loans; car loans where total amount paid in interest and principal for car loan of $951 is $3,093. Discusses auctioning tax lien payments with resulting multiplication of fees, charges, and equity stripping; attorney fees of $450 per hour charged to the poor.

Not only the middle class and the wealthy exploit the poor. Discusses evidence that at times the poor exploit each other. Article describes ‘hierarchy of exploitation’ over food stamp cards, SSI benefits, cost of food, cigarettes; evictions & homelessness.

Great NYT article, off-grid power solutions developed for first-world computers and toys improve third-world life. Tech innovators don’t see the rural poor as a viable market. But LED technology, very efficient batteries and falling solar panel prices have suddenly allowed lights to be delivered to off-grid households at a fraction of previous costs.

The need is overwhelming. More than a quarter of the world has no electricity; about half have no piped water, 2.5 billion have no piped gas. The poor turn to substitutes that are dangerous and expensive.

Power brings more than consumption. It brings safety: people can walk at night, women no longer have to range so far to gather wood for cooking. It brings education: children can study after dark. It brings prosperity: stores can stay open longer. Producers can get the tools they need to produce more — a milk-chiller for dairy farmers, pumps to irrigate crops.

In 2009 there were some 300,000 solar lamps in use in Africa. By the end of 2012, there were 4 million, and sales are doubling each year.

With a chain saw, a wooden mallet and a big needle, volunteers cut, pack, align and smooth straw bale insulation. But straw by definition cannot be perfectly plumb.

Great examples of public interest designs for buildings, in Rawanda and other places.

A Utah building inspector embraces alternative construction methods, as long the the research data is there to support new ways of doing things.

Turning the black tar roofs that cover our cities into green spaces is not cheap or easy, but its benefits to the environment would be great.

Great article in NYTimes about providing homes for homeless veterans. Two social change groups recently joined forces. The result? They are now housing homeless people faster than ever.

Several companies and research labs are working on wearable robots to help disabled people walk or to make the human body superhuman.

Via Verde, a subsidized housing development in the South Bronx, rethinks the mix of private and public spaces and makes an argument for the civic value of architecture.

A NEW interactive database lets renters and buyers track nearly all the privately held subsidized housing in NYC  

"The database has extensive information about 304,800 affordable rental and co-op units in about 2,600 properties. A tutorial is available online at www.furmancenter.org/data/search. An interactive map that lets users filter searches by location, subsidies and physical condition, as well as other criteria, can be reached directly at http://datasearch.furmancenter.org.        ”