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Ten years from now, if health care reform is a boondoggle, you might be able to trace that failure back to a decision in the wee hours of last week's Senate Finance Committee hearings. It happened on Thursday night, just before midnight, when John Kerry put forward an amendment. It was amendment C-8: "Empowering State Exchanges to be Prudent Purchasers." The title may sound innocuous, if a bit arcane.

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What A City Needs

Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City By Anthony Flint (Random House, 256 pp., $27)   For urbanists and others, the battle between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs was the great titanic struggle of the twentieth century. Like the bout between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, their conflict has magnified significance, as the two figures have become symbols. Jacobs is the secular saint of street life, representing a humane approach to urban planning grounded in the messy interactions of the neighborhood.

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Edward Jay Epstein has become the de facto historian of the Madoff scandal. Every time he and I speak, he has found another key to the master Ponzi schemer's evil genius. There was a time when the Securities and Exchange Commission trusted Madoff absolutely. So he was able to clear two other stock markets by saying that the documents they used in their defense were kosher.

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    Sitting in her lawyer's office at South Brooklyn Legal Services, her hands folded calmly in her lap, Sandra Barkley describes how she became the first person in her family to buy a home. The 52-year old single mother begins by speaking in a relaxed southern drawl, but as she comes to recount her experiences more fully, her voice rises, and her cool breaks. In the winter of 2002-2003, an acquaintance of Barkley's put her in touch with United Homes, a New York City-based company that specialized in fixing up and reselling homes purchased at foreclosure auctions and distress sales.

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