May | 2017 | The Knowledge Dynasty

Monthly Archives: May 2017

Have a lover, have friends, read books. Montaigne was right about one thing | Germaine Leece

We think we are escaping ourselves when we read literature, but we might be going deeper into our interior worlds through the therapy of reading.

The understanding that literature can comfort, console and heal has been around since the second millennium BC; it is no coincidence that Apollo was the god of medicine as well as poetry.

As a bibliotherapist, I’m interested in the therapeutic value stories have to offer us, particularly during times of stress. Here the intent around reading is different; the value of the story lies solely in our emotional response to it.



One of the greatest arguments for using literature as therapy was posited by the Renaissance essayist Michel de Montaigne, who believed there were three possible cures for loneliness: have a lover, have friends and read books. But he argued sexual pleasure is too fleeting and betrayal too common, and while friendship was better it always ended with death. Therefore, the only therapy that could endure through life was the companionship of literature.

Why were the ancient Greeks and Romans right to suppose literature heals the soul? Why did Montaigne trust we could endure loneliness through a lifelong relationship with books? Why, despite all the distractions of modern life, do books still get published and writers festival events get sold out? The answer lies in the power of stories.

Stories have been around since time began; they tell us what it is to be human, give us a context for the past and an insight towards the future. A narrators voice replaces our stressed, internal monologue and takes us out of our life and into the world of a story. Paradoxically, we think we are escaping ourselves but the best stories take us back deeper into our interior worlds. Freud, who believed the reading cure came before the talking cure, once wrote that wherever he went he discovered a poet had been there before. It is difficult to access emotional language and this is why we have writers. They remind us of the universality and timelessness of emotions, helping us better understand our own.

What stories have shaped you? It’s a question worth reflecting on, as this shaping is often subconscious. The act of making it conscious will allow your future reading to perhaps have a different intent; you will be reading your life from now on, allowing you to live it more fully and better understand it.

Recently, more studies are telling us what the ancient Greeks and Romans already knew: reading improves our mental health. In 2009, research out of the University of Sussex found reading could reduce stress levels by 68%, working better at calming nerves than listening to music, going for walks or having a cup of tea. Subjects only had to read silently for six minutes to slow down the heart rate and ease tension in muscles.

A 2013 study found reading literary fiction can help you become more empathetic, by giving you the experience of being emotionally transported to other places and relating to new characters. Other studies have shown reading can improve sleep quality and ease mild symptoms of depression and anxiety.

As a bibliotherapist, I am continually reminded that all forms of literature can help people in all sorts of ways. A person who is grieving may need a predictable plot and an ordered fictional world; a man searching for direction or coming to terms with retirement may need a novel that reflects and explores the transience of life; a mother of young children may reach for a novel that illustrates the arc of life and reminds her she is in just one albeit messy and tiring chapter for now.

Sometimes it is not the content of the stories themselves but just knowing you have control by choosing to read or listen that provides the calming effect. All stories offer a safe, contained world with a beginning, middle and end. We have the power of when to start or stop and choose how long we stay in this story’s world.

Time spent listening to authors talk about their work and their own understanding of the power of literature also allows us, as readers, to reflect on stories that have shaped us.

:Why do stories matter so terribly to us, that we will offer ourselves up to, and later be grateful for, an experience that we know is going to fill us with grief and despair?” questions Helen Garner in her latest collection, Everywhere I Look.

Robert Dessaix, in his memoir What Days Are For, explores narrative as an optimistic form: “Is that why I’m reading a novel in the first place? It’s not a Pollyanna-ish form, it’s not devoid of unravellings and pain, but it’s optimistic in the sense that you keep turning the pages, one after the other in the hope of something transforming happening. Isn’t that it? In the hope of a transforming answer to your particular questions.”

Both authors are exploring their identity as readers and the impact reading can have. The writers festival is more than an event celebrating authors; it also celebrates the power of literature and the power of you, the reader.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/24/have-a-lover-have-friends-read-books-said-montaigne-he-was-right-about-one-of-them

No bailout funds for Greece as eurozone finance chiefs fail to agree deal

IMF and eurozone states fail to bridge divide over Greek debt relief raising prospect of a summer crisis for the single currency if Athens misses repayment.

Eurozone finance ministers have failed to agree a debt relief plan for Greece, raising the prospect of a summer crisis for the single currency bloc if Athens misses a loan repayment.

A meeting of the eurozone’s 19 finance ministers broke up late on Monday night, amid a row with the International Monetary Fund about Greece’s debt burden.



The standoff came just hours after France and Germany pledged to deepen co-operation in the single currency and seize Brexit opportunities for their banking industries.

After more than eight hours of talks in Brussels, Greece’s creditors, the eurozone members states, and the IMF were unable to bridge their differences on Greece’s ability to repay its debts in the long run.

“We were very close and we were just unable to manage it tonight,” said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister, who chaired the meeting. He said he hoped for a deal at the next eurozone meeting on 15 June.

The eurozone-IMF standoff is the final obstacle to Greece unlocking a tranche of bailout funds that will let it repay 7.3m (6.3bn) of loans due to be paid in July.

The EU agreed an 86bn rescue package for Greece in July 2015, an unprecedented third bailout that stopped the country from crashing out of the eurozone.

Although the headline figure has been approved, Greece needs to carry out scores of detailed reforms before receiving the cash, which is paid in instalments. It secured 10.3bn last May, but the latest payment has been held up for months.

It appeared the way was clear earlier in May when the Greek government agreed to extra pension cuts and tax increases demanded by creditors. However, a dispute between creditors has become a major stumbling block.

Northern European countries do not want to sign off cheques for Greece unless the IMF agrees to be part of the third bailout. Countries such as Germany and the Netherlands think the IMF will add rigour to the programme and fear the EU institutions will be too soft on Athens.

But the IMF has so far refused to get involved in Greece’s third bailout because officials think the country’s debts cannot be managed in the long-run. The Washington-based fund has repeatedly said it is looking for a credible strategy to restore debt sustainability.

At the heart of the dispute is a demand that Greece run a budget surplus equivalent to 3.5% of GDP. The European side thinks Greece can hit this target in 2018, but the IMF has long argued that any country with high unemployment, (currently 23% in Greece) would struggle to meet such demanding fiscal targets.

In a sign of a possible concession from both sides, Dijsselbloem said there had been full agreement that the 3.5% primary surplus should remain for five years and eventually fall, although he did not specify a figure.

Speaking about Greece’s debt sustainability, Dijsselbloem said there was a gap in expectations between the eurozone and the IMF. He said: “We need to close that [gap] by looking at additional options or adjusting our expectations. Both are possible and both should be done.” Earlier in the day, the French finance minister and his German counterpart pledged to work towards deeper integration of the single currency union. Bruno Le Maire and Wolfgang Schuble flew to Brussels in the same plane, after a press conference in Berlin where they announced a working group on eurozone reform.

Le Maire, appointed by Emmanuel Macron after the French president’s election victory, said failure to deliver results on reforming the eurozone would bring political extremists of the left and right to power.

Referring to Britain’s looming exit from the EU, Le Maire stressed France and Germany intended to seize any opportunities for their financial industries. “We see in Brexit the possibility for our financial sectors to be more attractive than they were in the past. This means jobs, work, and wealth for our countries.”

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/may/23/no-bailout-funds-for-greece-as-eurozone-finance-chiefs-fail-to-agree-deal

10 new features coming to your phone in Android O


Dave Burke, Google Vice President of Engineering for Android, speaks during the opening keynote address at the Google I/O 2017 Conference.

Image: Getty Images/

Though we got our first peek at Android O back in March, Google finally revealed more details this week at its I/O developers conference about the soon-to-drop version of Android.

Though we’re still quite a ways away from the official release, we know a lot more about the update. At first glance, many of the new changes are subtle, building on updates Google introduced last year with Nougat. (Yes, it’s another boring year for Android.)

Still, there are quite a few features to look forward to, here’s what’s caught our eye so far.



1. No more broken emoji

Tired of missing out on new emoji? Android O will help ensure you never miss out on the latest releases. A new feature for developers lets them integrate a new emoji library that automatically fills in missing emoji even if you don’t have it available yet in your keyboard.

The new emoji feature will help fill in missing characters.

Image: google

2. Smart Sharing

Android O is able to understand what’s in your photos and recommend specific apps and actions based based on what’s in it the composition and your prior behavior. “If a user takes a photo of a receipt, Android O can suggest an expense-tracking app; if the user takes a selfie, a social media app can better handle the image,” Google says.

This also applies to videos, URLs, text, and other types of content your phone can learn what you typically do with different types of content to improve its recommendations.

3. Cleaner Icons

Android developers can now create an array of icons to match the styles for different devices. This means if you use a phone that defaults to round app icons, apps that have typically used square icons now have the ability to use round ones instead.

Image: google

4. Notification Snoozing

Android O is placing a lot of emphasis on improving notifications. One notable tweak will be the ability to snooze a notification for later.

5. Badge Notifications

One of the biggest changes to notifications is the addition of badge notifications small dots that appear over an app icon to indicate a new notification from that app. Additionally, you can long press on an app to check its notifications.

Image: google

6. Background colors for notifications

Another small but noticeable way Google is redesigning the look and feel of notifications: Developers will have the ability to enable background colors for notifications from their app.

But don’t expect your notifications tray to look extra colorful Google recommends developers “only use this feature in notifications for ongoing tasks which are critical for a user to see at a glance,” like navigation or phone calls.

7. Notification Channels

Besides just changing the look and feel of notifications, Android O is letting users have much more fine-grained control over which notifications they see in the first place with something called notification channels. Notification channels let you decide which types of notifications you want to see from your apps.

Not many developers have had a chance to take advantage of this yet but as you can see in this example from the Google app, it lets you individually mute certain categories of notifications.

8. New Android TV Launcher

In addition to getting new superpowers thanks to Google Assistant, Android TV is getting a redesigned launcher menu that emphasizes content discovery.

Image: google

9. New animation styles

This one is a little more subtle: Android O is adding support for a new animation style called physics-based animation. “Physics-based animation relies on the laws of physics to manifest a high degree of realism in animation. In our day-to-day life, when a change occurs, it comes with a physical transition that is natural for us to recognize.”

Image: google

This will manifest in a few different styles of animations, but one is a new type called “fling animation,” which helps you slow down motion at the end of a graphic.

10. Picture-in-picture

It’s been mentioned before but it bears repeating: Android O is getting support for picture-in-picture that works with any app, not just YouTube. It will take some time before more developers start adopting the feature, which is pretty buggy in the current developer preview, but PiP will definitely level up your multitasking.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/20/new-android-o-features/

Fentanyl seized by law enforcement doubled in 2016, DEA says

(CNN)The United States is seeing a dramatic increase in drugs containing fentanyl, newly released data from the Drug Enforcement Administration shows.

From 2015 to 2016, more than twice as many drugs seized by law enforcement agencies and submitted to labs have tested positive for fentanyl, in what appears to be an escalating trend.

The National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS), a program of the DEA, points to a drastic surge of lab submissions that tested positive for fentanyl — going from 15,209 in 2015 to 31,700 in 2016.



In addition, lab testing of fentanyl analogues — drugs with close structural resemblance and similar effects to fentanyl — went from 2,230 in 2015 to 4,782 in 2016.

“Drug use today has become a game of Russian roulette. There’s no such thing as a safe batch, this is the opioid crisis at its worst,” DEA spokesman Rusty Payne told CNN.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid typically prescribed to treat patients with severe pain, is approximately 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine, according to the NFLIS.

Last year, the country lost more than 52,000 Americans to drug overdose — more than 33,000 of those from opioids, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. It means more people die from opioid-related causes than from gun homicides and traffic fatalities — combined, the DEA states.

Fentanyl reports remained fairly steady between 2003-2013, until sharp increases occurred beginning in 2014 through 2016, particularly noticeable in the Northeast and Midwest.

“Drug addicts know they are taking fentanyl at times, and know it can kill them, but are willing to take the risk,” Payne said, adding that Chinese labs that manufacture the substances are trying to stay ahead of law enforcement using chemistry advances, tweaking the chemical structure to create a slightly different analogue.

Payne also pointed at “a tremendous opioid demand in this country” that pushes Mexican drug cartels to add pure fentanyl to heroin batches, creating hundreds of thousands of dosage units. According to DEA reports, Mexico continues to supply up to 85-90% of the domestic heroin market.

The DEA is working hard on education, enforcement and prevention to battle the crisis, Payne said, but added it is a vicious cycle that is eventually up to the community to end. “The next generation has to be better. We need to make sure people don’t ever start,” he said.

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/19/health/fentanyl-surge/index.html

How these 4 women are disrupting the tech scene

Image: FotoshopTofs / pixabay

Despite receiving the same education as their male counterparts, women with STEM degrees (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are actually less likely to work in a STEM occupation.



One important step to closing the gender gap in STEM fields is sharing the stories of women thriving in these careers and not just the role models of STEM women in history, but the stories of those in the field today. University of Phoenix believes that shining a spotlight on women who are making waves will help inspire future generations of female tech geniuses.

Following are stories about four intrepid women who are making a name for themselves in tech and who are helping to shape the future of the industry.

Image: University of Phoenix

Meilani Conley

Meilani Conley knew early on that she was destined to pursue a career in science and mathematics. Though the adults in her life tried to dissuade her telling her that women have fewer opportunities in STEM fields than men Conley persevered and currently holds a Bachelor of Computer Science and Mathematics from Southwest Baptist University and a Master of Information Systems from University of Phoenix.

Conley’s passion for computers began when she was nine years old. She was constantly fascinated by the inner workings of electronics. While the kids in her class daydreamed about summer vacation, Conley’s mind was filled with metal, wires and electricity. She’s proved that you can beat the status quo by pushing yourself and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Computer Science from Clarkson University.

Image: UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX

Kirsten Hoyt

Kristen Hoyt, Academic Dean for the College of Information Systems and Technology at University of Phoenix, has a lot to say about women pursuing careers in tech.

“In 1996, women made up about 37 percent of the IT workforce, but in 2010 that number dropped to 25 percent,” said Hoyt in one radio interview. In fact, as of 2014, the most common occupations for women were secretaries, administrative assistants, and teachers.

Hoyt’s program at University of Phoenix is directly fighting back to change this statistic by developing partnerships to advance women in technology. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is projected that there will be 1.4 million computer-science jobs by 2020 but not enough individuals with the skills to apply for those jobs.

Hoyt was persistent in her interests while growing up and says she was fortunate enough to take a coding class early on. This led to a degree in programming that ultimately brought her to the role of Academic Dean for University of Phoenix College of Information Systems and Technology.

What else is to be done to ensure equality in the workforce? Hoyt said she believes in establishing a technology-based foundation from the earliest days of our children’s educations, and cites her own experience as the reason she believes in jumpstarting technology education for students at a young age.

Image: UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX

Stephenie Gloden

Stephenie Gloden is the vice president of Enterprise Resource Management for Apollo Education Group, a position she earned through her persistence and years of hard work. With more than 20 years of IT experience primarily focused on software development and IT operations leadership Gloden sought out a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology and a Master of Business Association from University of Phoenix, along with a Master of Science in Information Management from Arizona State University.

Gloden’s most recent initiative is University of Phoenix startup, the RedFlint experience center located in downtown Las Vegas. As co-founder and business lead for strategy, Gloden is responsible for educating, incubating and accelerating ideas that solve the problems facing small businesses and the local community – including non-profits, schools and hospitals. Gloden’s diehard entrepreneurial spirit brought her to where she is today something both men and woman should strive for in their careers.

Image: UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX

Charity Jennings

What can you do to be an ally to women and ensure you’re doing everything in your power to help them succeed? The answer is far simpler than you may think.

According to Charity Jennings, to cultivate and sustain diverse perspectives and expand the pipeline of IT talent, women must feel welcome in the industry.

Jennings serves as the program dean for University of Phoenix College of Information Systems and Technology, and has expanded her role to take on high profile technology projects that have University-wide impact.

Whether women are writing code or leading the next IT startup in Silicon Valley, it’s critical to get our young women engaged and excited about becoming future engineers, web developers, tech entrepreneurs and executives.

Jennings says that the responsibility lies in the hands of educators, corporations, policy makers, community leaders and parents to help cultivate and nurture the interests of young women and help them reach their goals.

So when you see your daughter, cousin, niece or student taking apart her PC or fiddling with the HTML of a website, you can play a role in helping her explore opportunities in STEM by encouraging her interests and by showing her all of the opportunities for a career in tech.

The message to women everywhere is clear: the tech industry needs you.

Watch next: ‘There is a difference between difficult and impossible’: Three girls pursuing STEM careers in Egypt

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/05/women-in-stem-uop/

Barbershop Books is using barbershops to inspire kids to read

Sometimes a book is just a hobby, a fun way to consume a new story. But sometimes a book is a powerful tool to advance social change.

The National Book Foundation announced the winner of the 2017 Innovations In Reading Prize on Monday. The prize is an annual award that honors individuals and organizations that are using literature to make a social impact on the world and comes with a $10,000 prize. The award was founded in 2009, and since it launched, it has honored a variety of organizations including Next Chapter Book Club and Chicago Books to Women in Prison.

This year, the winner of the Innovations in Reading Prize is Barbershop Books, a community-based literacy program that creates child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops.

The program was founded in 2013 by Alvin Irby, an author and former kindergarten and 1st grade teacher, as a way to help young black boys identify as readers.

“At Barbershop Books, we believe that by pairing books and reading with barbershops, over time an association will be formed in community members and children that when they see a barbershop, it will trigger them to think about books and reading,” Irby explains.

The idea came to Irby when he saw one of his students walk into a barbershop without a book.

“[My student] just sat there with this bored look on his face for 15 or 20 minutes, and the whole time, I kept thinking, He should be practicing his reading right now,'” he said. “So it was literally that perfect storm that brought about the idea: me being a teacher, me seeing my student, and me spending a lifetime going to the barbershop and understanding how important it is for the young boys who go there.”

Since its launch, Barbershop Books has partnered with more than 50 barbershops across 20 cities in 12 different states to provide books for young black boys, a community that Irby explains is often underserved in school.

“Many young black boys may literally never see a black man reading in school during the years when theyre learning to read because there are so few black male elementary school teachers,” Irby says.

Because of this, Irby says, many young black boys never have people who look like them encouraging them to read.

But that’s where barbershops come in.

“For many of those same young black boys, if they go to a barbershop, they actually see their barber at least once or twice a month,” he said. “Those frequent trips to the barbershop creates this opportunity to help boys identify as readers.”

Image: Barbershop Books

But Barbershop Books is about more than just giving kids access to books it’s about giving kids access to books they want to read.

“This is really what Barbershop books is about, getting young black boys to say three words: Im a reader.”

“One of the things youll notice as I talk about Barbershop Books is that you wont hear me talking about reading skills or vocabulary,” Irby said. “Thats not a coincidence. I think there are far too many young black boys whose first and early reading experience are almost all skills-based. And there are fewer and fewer opportunities for children just to have fun, low-stress interactions with books and reading. And thats what Barbershop Books is trying to do. Our belief is that if we can create positive reading experiences early and often for young black boys, then they will choose to read for fun because they will identify as a reader.”

And that is the very core of Barbershop Book’s mission not just getting students to pick up a book, but rather to self-identify as a reader.

“This is really what Barbershop books is about, getting young black boys to say three words: Im a reader,” he said. “If we can get young black boys to say those three words, we believe they will read for fun, and if they read for fun, we believe they will reach higher levels of reading proficiency.”

It’s a mission that Irby hopes to spread to more and more places. With the $10,000 prize money, Irby plans to expand Barbershop Books to expand to Little Rock, Arkansas (Irbys hometown), partnering with 10 new barbershops and conducting trainings for barbers to learn how to establish reading community spaces.

Barbershop Books wasn’t the only organization spotlighted by the National Book Foundation with the innovations in reading prize. The organization also announced several honorable mentions including: Books@Work, Great Reading Games, Poetry in Motion, Reach Out and Read.

You can learn more about each organization below.

Honorable Mentions:

Books@Work

Image: Books@Work

Books@Work brings professor-led literature seminars to workplaces and community settings to build confidence, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. Through shared narratives, Books@Work builds human capacity to imagine, innovate, and connect, strengthening cultures of trust, respect, and inclusion.

Great Reading Games

Image: Great Reading Games

Great Reading Games is a national audiobook reading competition from Learning Ally, a non-profit that helps students with print-disabilities. The contest is designed to motivate students to increase the frequency and duration with which they read.

Poetry in Motion

Image: Poetry In Motion

Poetry in Motion is a project by the Poetry Society of America that places poetry and accompanying art in subway cars throughout New York City. Since it was a founded in 1992 (with a brief hiatus between 2008 – 2011), Poetry In Motion has brought more than 200 poems and excerpts to millions of subway riders.

Reach Out and Read

Image: Reach Out and Read

Reach Out and Read is a nonprofit organization that gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/01/innovations-in-reading-prize-barbershop-books/

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