Competing with Siri

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Is it wrong to be annoyed when friends are more interested in their mobile devices than pleasant dinner conversation?

You’re sitting at 1889 with your friend who invited you there for dinner. She seems nervous about something and keeps fiddling with her napkin. She starts off with small talk about classes and the weather to which you respond “good,” and “yeah.” After taking a big breath she whispers to you “Ok I just have to spit it out…I’m pregnant.”

Of course you don’t hear any of this because you’re playing Words with Friends on your iPhone.

The presence of an extra guest of electronic origins is common at any social gathering, most of the time right on the table next to the silverware. Students’ addiction to technology has become apparent as Apple comes out with Siri, the human-like app that performs your every request at the sound of your voice.

Siri is just a portal to the other features of the smartphone like Draw Something, the seven-week-old game that has already been downloaded over 35 million times according to the New York Times. This game pairs you with another player miles away with whom you engage in a Pictionary type war of doodles. We just can’t seem to place more value on face-to-face conversations than interactions with someone miles away.

At a visit to 1889 last night, I took a look around me to see if other diners were experiencing the same feelings of angst as I was. Of the seven groups there, at least half of the customers at each table had their phone safely within eyesight. One table of two gentlemen did not even seem to be exchanging conversation with each other but were just fiddling with their phones.

A recent article in the Greensboro News and Record provided information about restaurants that now provide cellphone dishes to cover the device that you will undoubtedly place next to your plate, so that no food debris fall on it during your meal. “That’s disgusting,” snorted my roommate after I read this article to her. She was disturbed by the news, which is ironic because I’ve never been to a meal with her where her phone wasn’t in plain sight. I received similar reactions from friends when I read this article to them, leading me to think that we know this addiction to technology is wrong, yet we constantly overrule this instinct because that emergency text message could come at any minute.

At what point does this behavior become rude? I can’t help but feel annoyed when I’m at a restaurant with three friends and a conversation ends, only to be followed by the sounds of Facebook bings and email beeps. I have no choice but to sit there and wait while my friends finish their level of Tomb Runner or text their reply back to their other friend.

The fact is, our outlook on social etiquette is changing as fast as our cellphones are evolving. Are my feelings of offense based on the laws of basic human courtesy or cultural norms that are as outdated as Miss Manners? I guess I’ll just have to ask Siri.

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Fewer Details, More Determination

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Nobel Peace Prize winner’s philosophy challenges the current economic system

By Lizzie Harkey

Muhammad Yunus thinks logically. “Why would you only give money to the people that already have it?” he asked at Elon University’s spring Convocation for Honors on Monday at 3:30 p.m.

This philosophy is Yunus’ prime motive in his efforts to create economic and social development among low-income villages through increasing their credibility with banks. He did this initially by investing his own money into businesses that the banks have denied support, but not claiming any shares of the company as it grows. In this way, he loses no money but cultivates the economy. His work with the Grameen village in Bangladesh won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. After investing a total of $27 American dollars and starting over 50 companies, his microfinance strategy has taken on the economic system.

He taught as a professor of economics from Middle Tennessee State University in 1965 however he makes a point to go against his discipline’s teaching. He believes poverty comes from a system that demands collateral and focuses on the rich. His investment strategy takes the opposite approach: “They go to the rich I go to the poor. They go to men I go to women. They go to city center I go to the villages.”

Yunus’ work with the Grameen Village in Bangladesh and the resulting Nobel Peace Prize gained him the notoriety with companies such as Danone and Adidas. Top executives at Adidas sought Yunus in 2009 for a campaign to improve their reputation after they were criticized on exploitation of the developing world. He proposed a small but drastic program to provide shoes to the poor by making product that would only cost one euro. The company’s shock that resulted is just another example of the one-dimensional system we are operating in; a system that only values monetary gain. This system can be fixed by programs such as the one Yunus proposed for Adidas, as long as we decide to stop at nothing to see them through.

Yunus’ ambition and life advice was well received at Convocation; especially since a special recognition of Elon seniors who will need his advice most had preceded his speech. The story he told to an audience of over 1,000 of his rise to fame was not focused on details and obstacles. His message was clear: if you want to do something, do it. “Always consider the logic behind your decisions and maintain what you think is right,” he added. “Human beings have unlimited creativity…If you believe that you can do it, it will happen.”

Human Trafficking Panel Reveals New Insight on Age Old Problem

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If you thought slavery was a thing of the past, think again

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            Four distinguished panelists were brought together this evening in Elon University’s LaRose Theater to provide their individual perception of a problem that many people ignore: Human Trafficking.

But don’t forget about slavery, forced labor and smuggling. A list is required because the nomenclature is confusing according to panelist and professor Kevin Bales. In fact, a lot is unclear about this issue that affects approximately 27 million people worldwide. Slavery and human trafficking are largely ignored by a police force that doesn’t know what to look for and without an involved police force there can be no prosecution of traffickers.

Helen Grant of Indiana University Law School and Professor at Elon used graphs and statistics to present information about the few cases of trafficking that have come before the court. “You can’t count what you don’t see,” said Grant after describing a particularly gruesome case involving migrant workers held against their will on a farm in Ft. Myers, FL.

“We are still in the dark about a lot of things,” said Bales. The movement he is so devoted to, called Free the Slaves, has helped reduce the amount of slavery present in the world but according to Bales it’s going to take “intellectuals like you” to really eradicate it completely.

Intellect was a key point for court mediator Tony Williams as he stressed the need to find the true victims. Ito understand human trafficking it is important not to “undermine actual victims by spreading the veil of trafficking too broadly” according to Williams. Defining a victim of human trafficking can include many forms of abuse, which is why education on the different types of human trafficking is a vital step for the future of this movement.

Defining a victim is even harder overseas according to panelist Dr. Richard Smith who researches night clubs in the Philippines. These women put themselves at the mercy of rich foreigners not because they are being forced to, but because they have goals. Raids in these bars where young girls work are usually unsuccessful because the girls see them as interfering with their life strategies.

The panelists were optimistic about the future of combating human trafficking but they are still calling out for help. The dream of Kevin Bales and everyone else in this movement is simply this: “Instead of trying to make it illegal, we’re trying to eradicate it completely.”

Lyrics and Laughter to Eliminate Muslim Stereotype

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Wright Illuminates a Muslim Approach to War that may Surprise some Americans

It started off as a solemn mention of bombs and deceased personal friends. Robin Wright, foreign affairs correspondent and author took the stage last night to inform a packed McCrary Theater of the situation in the Islamic world.

Wright has been reporting in Syria since the fourth Middle East war in 1973. She has witnessed the current uprising of people bringing a turning point in this region and documented the peaceful demonstrations like rebellious graffiti and protests frequenting Syrian streets. The people that are bringing about this change are not a distinct group; they are martyred shop owners, women’s rights bloggers, and 13-year-old protest marchers. The focus on peaceful protesting has been key in establishing the new Muslim voice and promoting that voice to the world.

Cassie McClellan, an Elon Student in attendance, expressed her surprise about the Muslims’ use of culture and music to bring about change. These peaceful protests have indeed taken on the face of goofy rap stars and comedians who use their art to separate themselves and their followers from the stereotypical Muslim terrorist image. Rap music is strictly banned in most Middle Eastern countries but Wright calls it “the rhythm of resistance”. Other mediums have been used as well such as comic book heroes illustrating what it means to live a respectable life and comedians joking about an attempted terrorist attack in which the would be bomber of the northwest flight to Detroit in 2009 hid a bomb in his underpants. Maz Jobrani, a popular Iranian comedian, jokes, “If the reward for this bombing is 72 virgins in heaven, can we put the bomb somewhere else?”

It is this negative image and other specific issues in Muslim life that these peaceful protestors are fighting. Dalia Ziada, an Egyptian activist, organized film festivals and campaigns to fight female circumcision practices and other sexist behaviors. Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire to protest the confiscation of his food by the government and their unwillingness to help him find work again. As these stories of protest leak out to other Middle Eastern citizens, more join this new revolution.

Comedy and movies that make light of terrorist actions and condemn their drastic measures are small steps in establishing the new Muslim identity. A major theme of Wright’s talk was the power of one to change the world, and these actors, comedians, and everyday people are working behind the scenes to do just that. Bombs will continue to fall and citizens will continue to be beaten as long as the military maintains their hold on Syrian society, but as long as people are still setting themselves on fire for their cause and women are experimenting with new, progressive ways to wear their religious shawls or hijabs, change will come to the Middle East.

Lizzie Harkey

A Conversation with Judith Jamison

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Jamison’s speech on leadership feels like chatting with a wise aunt

Lizzie Harkey

Judith Jamison, award winning dancer and former artistic director at Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, took the podium at Elon University’s Whitley auditorium on Monday night to speak of leadership and passion and more often than not, her own life. Mrs. Jamison was chosen as Elon’s Isabella Cannon Distinguished Visiting Professor of Leadership for her work in the arts.

“I have not read a word of this,” she said pointing to her papers after spending 15 minutes telling the audience the similarities between dance and the black church and the importance of serving each other. Her unscripted nature became more obvious as her speech continued. She waved goodbye to students leaving early, went on tangents and became distracted by passing trains. With each digression a new piece of advice was offered such as “shut up and listen” or “recognize the beauty in all of us”.

Jamison emphasized the importance of mentors in our life journeys by mentioning various mentors in her life and inspirational people whose words she feels are worth repeating. Among those were her supportive parents and compassionate childhood dance teacher who gave her the confidence to pursue dancing and work hard at the path that would bring her happiness. Although this message “do what makes you happy” is a common one, her own life stories made the audience sit in rapt attention for whatever wild story she told next.

Her background as a dancer at the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater inspired many of these stories as they often included her employer Alvin Ailey. His funeral in December of 1989 was devastating for Jamison but the 7,000 mourners present illustrates the passion one can have for a person and what that person represents. Among other themes, passion is key for dancers especially because it is the translator from body movement to communication between the audience and the performer.

Jamison’s warmth with a crowd of 100 students and faculty members gave the feeling of listening to a wise and beloved neighbor. The strict professional setting was shattered the moment she posed for a photographer saying, “This is a great shot!” Jamison demeanor is a perfect illustration of the balance between passion and lightheartedness, individuality and the willingness to learn. “You must reflect your lineage, become the embodiment of the best that is in each of us.”

Labor Unions and PR

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Labor Unions are established to better the working conditions of their members in whatever line of work they are in. They lobby corporations, negotiate with business leaders, and generally advocate the rights of workers. On Monday the Communication Workers Union will see if their lobbying efforts paid off when Ministers decide on a law that will require that all newborn puppies be microchipped at birth so that they will be more traceable and owners can be prosecuted in the event that their dog assaults someone. This law could lead to a direct improvement in working conditions for postal workers because over the past four years more than 23,000 postal workers have been attacked by dogs and almost 400 have taken time off sick in the past year following an attack. Passing this law will hold vicious dog owners more accountable for their pets.

Representatives of the CWU have made personal statements concerning the law on behalf of the organization that attacked the government in England, calling their previous action, the “Dangerous Dogs Act” a “failed” act and comments that make the government seem lazy. The Union has come up with a e-petition that supports changes to the law, which has already received more than 10,000 signatures. The CWU has latched on to this law as an opportunity to improve their workers’ conditions and play an advocacy role.

Another advocacy group has responded to the proposed changes in the law, but has taken the opposite approach. The Freedom Association campaigns for individual liberty in England protests the law, seeing it as an attempt by the government to penalize law-abiding dog owners. Millions of dog owners who have never experienced any trouble with their pet will now have to pay to fit their dog with a chip. This organization is doing the same thing as the CWU, advocating for their members aka all free peoples. The Freedom Association has provided an excellent example of the drama that unfolds when people take a stand on an issue that affects so many people.

A major goal in the CWU’s campaign is for more owners of violent dogs to be held accountable for their animals, as they have caused a lot of harm over the years. I feel like this law is effective, but current owners should not be penalized unless their dog has caused an incident. Perhaps as of Monday all newborn puppies should receive the microchip but not dogs born before the new law. The groups involved with this law are trying to take a stand to show that they are willing to press peoples’ buttons to get what they want. They represent a lot of people and have a lot of leverage. Labor Unions seem to be somewhat of a hassle in this way because they create a lot of laws to cooperate with and paper work to fill out. Labor Unions are a big part of Public Relations however because they use their power of communication to improve working conditions for others and that is vital to a world that can be very manipulative.

 

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17807349

Yunus

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Fewer Details, More Determination

Nobel Peace Prize winner’s philosophy challenges the current economic system

By Lizzie Harkey

 

Muhammad Yunus thinks logically. “Why would you only give money to the people that already have it?” he asked at Elon University’s spring Convocation for Honors on Monday at 3:30 p.m.

This philosophy is Yunus’ prime motive in his efforts to create economic and social development among low-income villages through increasing their credibility with banks. He did this initially by investing his own money into businesses that the banks have denied support, but not claiming any shares of the company as it grows. In this way, he loses no money but cultivates the economy. His work with the Grameen village in Bangladesh won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. After investing a total of $27 American dollars and starting over 50 companies, his microfinance strategy has taken on the economic system.

He taught as a professor of economics from Middle Tennessee State University in 1965 however he makes a point to go against his discipline’s teaching. He believes poverty comes from a system that demands collateral and focuses on the rich. His investment strategy takes the opposite approach: “They go to the rich I go to the poor. They go to men I go to women. They go to city center I go to the villages.”

Yunus’ work with the Grameen Village in Bangladesh and the resulting Nobel Peace Prize gained him the notoriety with companies such as Danone and Adidas. Top executives at Adidas sought Yunus in 2009 for a campaign to improve their reputation after they were criticized on exploitation of the developing world. He proposed a small but drastic program to provide shoes to the poor by making product that would only cost one euro. The company’s shock that resulted is just another example of the one-dimensional system we are operating in; a system that only values monetary gain. This system can be fixed by programs such as the one Yunus proposed for Adidas, as long as we decide to stop at nothing to see them through.

Yunus’ ambition and life advice was well received at Convocation; especially since a special recognition of Elon seniors who will need his advice most had preceded his speech. The story he told to an audience of over 1,000 of his rise to fame was not focused on details and obstacles. His message was clear: if you want to do something, do it. “Always consider the logic behind your decisions and maintain what you think is right,” he added. “Human beings have unlimited creativity…If you believe that you can do it, it will happen.”