The Initiation by Chris Babu, Permuted Press, 325 pp., $21.If adolescent boys may be the most difficult age group to entice into reading literature, Southampton resident Chris Babu certainly makes a strong pitch for their attention with The Initiation, a compelling futuristic adventure tale that will appeal to young males with heroism fantasies and testosterone on the move.It’s possible, though, that teenage girls who tend to mature earlier, and are not sidelined by romance fiction, may also find Babu’s debut novel engaging.One of the main characters, Clarice, a beautiful, super-bright withdrawn 15-year-old, comes to allow herself to feel affection for the protagonist of the book, young Drayden Coulson, a “math geek” and the smartest guy in his class, but also kind of shy. What they share is a love of intellectual challenge, and what the plot of The Initiation gives them and four of their classmates is plenty of challenge by way of a series of life or death games.Call the story a “nerd version of The Hunger Games,” the author has said. And look at it as “quasi-interactive” because it invites readers to solve the “brainy challenges” that confront the youngsters who pledge for The Initiation, as a way to improve their lives.What the characters can’t imagine, however, are the timed mental and physical ordeals they will have to face in the sinister, abandoned NYC subway system, where the Initiation takes place. Some puzzles may be familiar to older readers, but everyone will recognize that the ultimate challenge is to be a decent and courageous human being in the face of fear, envy, or pain.The author, a former Wall Street bond trader and a math graduate from MIT, cleverly draws on contemporary concerns to fashion his sci-fi narrative: “If several of the world’s major issues all went worst-case scenario at the same time, you’d end up with the near-future dystopia of New America.”That apocalyptic “Confluence” has already occurred when the story begins, leaving in its wake a despotic regime of 100,000 people who live in Manhattan, are separated into class zones, and are ruled by restrictive political, economic, and societal laws. Teachers and parents might well consider suggesting that this literate and suspenseful book be included on middle school and high school curricula.Annie’s Bones by Howard Owen. The Permanent Press, 264 pp., $ 29.95.Though this is crime literature award-winning Howard Owen’s 16th book from his Sag Harbor publishers, he continues to deliver inventive fiction by way of colorful characters and a strong sense of place, usually regions around his home town of Richmond.Fans will recognize some minor characters who were major players in earlier murder mysteries, and it’s nice to see them back, if briefly, because Annie’s Bones is in many ways about nostalgia — as though Owen is keeping up with his own age as well as the age of his protagonist, who is introduced on page one “squatting like an arthritic catcher in the Virginia mud.”The narrative opens in May 2016 and alternates between that date and 1968, when James Grayson (Gray) Melvin’s 19-year-old college sweetheart went missing after rejecting him. She ran from his car, never to be seen again until 48 years later, when her bones accidentally turn up during a local dig.Gray would have married Annie in a heartbeat. She still had his class ring when they split. But what happened that night she fled? He’s well aware that locals consider him the prime suspect in her disappearance, which they really think was murder. Four decades later, her family is still hell bent on revenge.Wealthy and politically well connected, her brother ensures that Gray never gets or keeps a decent job, especially in journalism, his love, and it is obvious who makes the phone call that sets the plot in motion: “Enjoy your last few days of freedom, asshole . . . they found her. They found Annie.”By giving Grey sympathetic context — a drunken father, a mother who left him when he was a child, a troubled sister, a failed marriage — Owen makes clear that Grey is a likeable, hardworking man who is honest with himself. (“He didn’t have any experience being cool. He only had experience pretending to be cool.”) He has earned the love of a good woman, but even she doesn’t know the full story of his relationship with Annie.Still, she stands by him, giving Owen a chance to do what he does best — craft complex characters of flawed humanity that are as much universal in their longing as they are exemplary of a changing rural, low-income part of the country that more Americans should know more about. Share
Easy-to-understand guides on scientific evidence could be introduced in courts as part of joint efforts to explore common interests between lawyers and scientists.The lord chief justice, Royal Society and Royal Society of Edinburgh have announced a joint project to develop a series of ‘primers’ on scientific topics, designed to assist judges, legal teams and juries when handling scientific evidence.The first primer will cover DNA analysis.Lord Thomas of Cwymgiedd, the lord chief justice, said the project was the ‘realisation of an idea the judiciary has been seeking to achieve’. The Royal Society and Royal Society of Edinburgh ‘will ensure scientific rigour’, he added.The primers will cover the limitations of the science, challenges associated with its application and an explanation of how the scientific area is used within the judicial system.Royal Society executive director Dr Julie Maxton said: ‘This project had its beginnings in our 2011 Brain Waves report on Neuroscience and the Law, which highlighted the lack of a forum in the UK for scientists, lawyers and judges to explore areas of mutual interest.‘We are very pleased to be building on this piece of work and playing a leading role in bringing together scientists and the judiciary throughout the UK to ensure that we get the best possible scientific guidance into the courts – rigorous, accessible science matters to the justice system and society.’Last year Supreme Court justice Lord Hughes told expert witnesses that he envisaged primers could be used in ‘modest’ matrimonial disputes, where assets such as a house or ‘modest’ ISA were ‘suitable for a single expert’.He said primers would not put expert witnesses out of work, as there would ‘always be disputed territory beyond the agreed minimum and there will always be litigants who need to go there’.
Portia stepping down as leader of Jamaica’s People National PartyJamaica’s first female prime minister; current Leader of the Opposition and leader of the People’s National Party Portia Simpson Miller has announced she will be stepping down as the party’s president. She made the announcement that she will not be seeking re-election as party president next September to members of the PNP’s National Executive Council meeting on Sunday. She told the members “I will leave you as party leader but I will always be with you.”Announcement of Simpson’s Miller has received favorable response from several supporters of the PNP, one of Jamaica’s oldest political parties formed by Jamaican National Hero Norman Washington Manley in 1938. Over the past 10 months, the PNP has lost a General Election, on February 25, and a Local Government Election, on November 28, under Simpson Miller’s leadership.Calls for her resignation have been circling since the general election but Simpson Miller was reelected as party leader at the party’s annual conference after those elections. The calls, including from the party’s youth arm, the Peoples National Party Youth Organization (PNPYO), grew louder after the PNP’s defeat in the Local Government elections.The Party will now focus on identifying a suitable successor to Simpson Miller, one who can galvanize maximum support from party members nationwide, make the party a formidable opposition party, and prepare it to retake the reign of government when the next general elections are called, which is constitutionally due in February 2020. However, several analysts believe with the ruling Jamaica Labor Party having a majority of only one seat in the Jamaican parliament, the leader of the JLP and Prime Minister Andrew Holness could call elections earlier to try and secure a larger majority.Meanwhile, the PNP also has a new general secretary. On Sunday, the party’s deputy secretary Julian Robinson, MP for the St. Andrew South East Constituency took over the position of general secretary from Paul Burke who had like his party president, fallen out of favor with a large group of PNP supporters.Robinson is one of the party members whose name has been touted as a possible successor to Simpson Miller as Party leader. Other names being suggested are former finance minister Dr. Peter Phillips, former national security minister Peter Bunting, former mining and energy minister Phillip Paulwell and former sports and culture minister Lisa Hanna.Addressing members of the PNP’s National Executive Council on Sunday, Robinson told them “Challenges clearly exist……But as we restore our noble institution to strength and power, we must do so conscious of our movement’s roots, our established principles and the strong foundation upon which we must continue to build.”Robinson also said that as a party, comrades must “situate our ideology within the context of our current realities, without compromising our core values.” He cautioned the members that “there is much, much work to be done” to return the party to retake the government of Jamaica.
The four projects established their own volunteer groups but remained together under the umbrella name ‘Bump, Baby and Beyond’, allowing each project to develop in their own way but with the shared support and collective knowledge across the organisation.This new umbrella organisation set out a clear core philosophy of creating supports which help children get off to the best start by meeting the needs of our families – with a single thread running through all of it … connection:Connecting parents to their child;Connecting parents to each other;Connecting families to supports;Connecting families to their community www.facebook.com/dumfriesnappylibrary Although the main library charge a small fee for hire it is only there to cover insurance and reinvest in stock. However, there is absolutely no pressure to hire and meets are run largely for information and support – and anyone is free to pop along and try. Recognising that any form of charging could be off-putting and discriminatory the library started running their free newborn stretchy hire project in 2015. This project aims to break down any barriers to accessing support by offering free hire to all babies under 4 months. In addition to opening up access to parts of the community who may not have been able to support a hire, it also gives the wider population the opportunity to try before they buy and we can see it is opening up babywearing to a much wider range of families than previously. Although we offer the scheme at all meets we also run a free hire specific meet which allows new parents to meet and chat, as well as try the slings. Bump Baby and Beyond – Connecting Families Across Dumfries and GallowayBackground Information Through the meets the peer supporters: convey the benefits of babywearing;promote positive attachment;demonstrate the different types of slings;give advice about correct fitting and positioning;offer a borrowing service;share advice with one another;share information about offers, discounts and competitions Create a supportive community for all parents, which enables the development ofsupportive peer relationship and friendships, and helps tackle social isolation;Foster positive relationships between parent and child;Support the mental and physical well-being of parents;Support parents to give their children the best start in life;Offer the opportunity to engage in new experiences; and build capacity in the community through volunteering;Offer access to advice and expertise;Directs families to other pathways of support;Work in partnership with other community and statutory services;Are inclusive and open to all;Ultimately all our work is about connection.Connecting parents to their children through play, and support with attachment and bonding; Connecting parents to each other through the provision of both online support and opportunities to meet; Connecting families with their communities by directing them to sources of support, activities, and groups;Connecting groups and service providers across the region.Connecting parents to opportunities through a volunteering programme. BackgroundBack in 2010 a small group of mums attending NHS Dumfries and Galloway’s breastfeeding drop-in in Dumfries, decided to pull together their resources to support the service that had brought them together and supported them in the early days of their parenting journey. They formed under the name Mum2Mum Friends and through fundraising were able to support the NHS peer support services to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding through the purchase of books, promotional goodies for mums and through their fledgling facebook support group. The group quickly expanded as more and more parents relied on the mum2mum facebook group for information and peer support, particularly in the middle of night!A year down the line and more and more parents were keen to get involved and were bringing their own ideas to the group, keen to tap in to the support of other parents with similar interests. The group then took on the role of coordinating talks on topics such as babywearing and real nappies, and recognising that it wasn’t just breastfeeding mums that were interested in finding out about these topics they set about exploring option to ensure all parents in the community could benefit from the sharing of information and support.From this point four separately focussed projects emerged:Mum2Mum Friends – continued to offer breastfeeding and early days’ support via their facebook group;Dumfries Sling Library – provided babywearing advice, support and lending serviceDumfries Nappy Library – real nappy advice, support and learning serviceBabes in the Woods – outdoor play for families Volunteering Projects The library was set up in response to the growing interest in babywearing and its benefits and the desire for people to try before they buy. The library initially had a limited stock of donated slings but following some very successful fundraising the volunteers managed to raise enough to buy some additional slings for the collection and to bring the UK School of Babywearing to the region for the first time. This resulted in the training of 10 of their own peer supporters; and the subsidising of 6 parents from groups outwith Dumfries, and another Dumfries based mum who subsequently set up her own library. The biggest activity that Mum2Mum Friends undertakes in terms of supporting families is through their online facebook support group. The page is limited access (not viewable by the general public) and is available to parents from Dumfries and Galloway. With 1500 members we are Dumfries and Galloway’s largest and most active parenting forum.Although the page started out as a safe haven for advice and support around breastfeeding it has developed into a space where local families, predominantly mums, can discuss a whole array of topics pertaining to the early stages of parenthood. So in addition to breastfeeding mums, we now also have formula feeding parents willingly accessing the page. This has been a very positive step in our development as it has resulted in the page being more inclusive and has also opened up the possibility of breastfeeding to those who previously hadn’t considered it. For more information, please see:Our facebook page: www.facebook.com/dumfriesslinglibraryOur new website: http://dumfriessling.wix.com/dumfriesslinglibrary Dumfries Sling Library We have also invested in training for volunteers with specialist input from a local breastfeeding consultant. Working to a similar model as the sling library, the nappy library offers the chance to find out more about cloth nappies and the practical and environment advantages of this. Although Dumfries Sling Library was only formally constituted as an independent project in 2013, sling lending and babywearing advice has been a core part of the support available through mum2mum friends at the NHS Drop-In for a number of years. Whilst we have retained our focus on breastfeeding, the page now does this in the broad context of getting all our children off to a healthy start. Topics routinely covered on the page include sleeping, weaning, colic, reflux, nappy rash, allergies, postnatal depression, sleep deprivation and growth spurts. We are careful to ensure that parents are always directed to formal sources of support and keep a list of key contacts available for those requiring additional support. However, most of the time the parents simply need re-assurance that what they are experiencing is normal and that other mums out there have experience the same … and survived! Who are we?Bump, Baby and Beyond is a parent led community group based in Dumfries and Galloway. Our mission is to develop and offer community based support and services to families, which: As Bump, Baby and Beyond we became a Scottish Charitable Organisation with a Board of Trustees in 2014.Since this time a range of other supports have developed:Sensory craft and messy play sessions;Buggy Babes walking group;Postnatal Support Group – bringing new parents for cuppa, biccie and the chance to learn more about wider supports in the community;Parent Chat Sessions – one off talks / awareness raising sessions for parents – first aid, childcare, messy play;Parent Book Group;Parent Craft Group;Event Support – Baby and Toddler Tent at local festivals and events. Babywearing has huge benefits for parents and carers. It helps foster good attachment and bonding between carer and child; it can calm children and make them feel secure; it can improve sleep and reduce the symptoms of colic and reflux; and it is very practical, as you get use of your hands back! At present we are working with a number of partners to secure the long-term use of some local woodland which would be turned in to a permanent forest school / outdoor pre-school resource – and we are currently in negotiation about the use and management of the site. Further to this we are working with a number of partners to establish a family focussed community garden. This site would have a particular focus on outdoor play and sensory experiences for babies and very young children, as well as being able to offer opportunities for growing and harvesting fruit and veg. We hope to take over the site in the coming months. www.facebook.com/outdoorplaydumfriesMum2Mum FriendsAs described above Mum2Mum Friends was our first project, and is where the ideas for all our other projects have emerged. The group has two primary functions: to support and promote breastfeeding in our communities; and to offer a safe online space for mums across the region to access advice and support around a range of early days parenting issues, with a particular focus on breastfeeding.In terms of breastfeeding support, many of our volunteers have completed the NHS peer support training and practice as a peer supporter alongside the advice they offer as part of our online community. They are all enthusiastic and passionate about breastfeeding and its benefits, and as a group work together to take forward activities to raise awareness across the community. Examples of their activities are:‘We all chose to breastfeed’ poster – which depicts normal, local mums who have breastfed and is used across nhs and community premises to promote breastfeeding;Funding of promotional materials – key chains, photography within the drop-in;Organising annual promotional events such as the BIG Latch On and fundraising efforts such as the Bake Off to raise money for the drugs in breastmilk helpline;Campaigned for, researched and in the initial stages, helped run part of the breastpump loan scheme;Contribute to expertise to the weekly NHS Babychat programmeCollated a booklet of breastfeeding stories – with experiences from our local mumsPromote NHS breastfeeding related activities across our membershipProduce a monthly newsletterCurrently engaged with NHS Dumfries and Galloway to develop a breastfeeding welcome schemeCurrently looking at options for training for volunteers who contribute to and monitor the mum2mum friends facebook groupHosting an up to date list of local groups and family friendly activities AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to FacebookFacebookFacebookShare to TwitterTwitterTwitterShare to LinkedInLinkedInLinkedInLocal community group celebrates 7 years of helping parents and young children to get off to the best start in life with a call for new volunteers.Dumfries based charity Bump, Baby and Beyond, which started life as Mum2Mum Friends in 2010, is an entirely volunteer run organisation that provides a range of group and online based supports to parents and their young children.Starting as an online breastfeeding support group in 2010 the parent volunteers quickly identified a range of gaps in the provision of support to new parents and set about growing their own community based activities to meet the needs of fellow mums and dads.The charity now boasts an amazing range of supports delivered through a series of parent led projects which now also include Dumfries and Galloway Nappy Library, Dumfries Sling Library and the Babes in the Woods projects. Alongside these are monthly sensory and messy play sessions, a children’s book group, and two adult social groups which host a craft night and book group each month.Collectively the charity sees over 100 families attending sessions every month and many hundreds more accessing online support through their key facebook groups Mum2MumFriends, Mummies United and Bump, Baby and Beyond. These sites provide much needed safe spaces for parents to discuss the challenges of the early days of parenthood; seek practical advice and direction in relation to their parenting journey as their child grows; and offer vital guide to what’s on for families in the community.Trustee Mirka Soukopova said “It’s hard to believe that 7 years has past but we felt it was really important to stop for a moment and appreciate all the hard work that has gone in to get us to this point. Most importantly to say thank you to every volunteer, regardless of the extent of their involvement, who has helped us along the way.”Mirka went on to explain the need for their current drive for new volunteers, “We rely heavily on parent volunteers, who will always be the backbone of our organisation, but unfortunately they can outgrow their roles as their children grow older. As such we are always keen to capture the energy, enthusiasm and experiences of new parents to ensure our provision stays fresh and relevant to new parenting challenges.”The charity currently has around 40 core volunteers who help run the existing sessions and offer general support, such as fundraising, across the organisation. The Trustees are not only keen to see the number of project volunteers expand but are also actively on the hunt for Board Members to join them to oversee the running of the charity.Rebecca continued “Since becoming a charity we have invested in the future development of the organisation with funding from two Scottish Government backed Volunteer Support Grants. One area we identified as a priority through this work was to attract a wider range of skills to our Board and as such we are keen to recruit new Trustees to a range of roles and we are happy to speak to anyone who may want to find out more.”Below is a quick guide to the key projects, anyone interested in finding out more about the charity’s work, or who may be interested in volunteering please email [email protected] Babes in the WoodsBabes in the Woods is our outdoor playgroup / forest school, which is focussed on families with children up to 8 years old. The project was created from the idea of a parent, and in 2012 we secured access to a piece of forestry on the edge of Dumfries, for our own outdoor classroom. Our parent led group understand that early access to outdoor play (whatever the weather!) has social, emotional, cognitive and physical benefits for children and their parents. We also know that we live in one of the most amazing and diverse regions in the UK and are blessed with many opportunities to be outdoors.Our vision is that all families understand the importance of outdoor play, know how to play outdoors safely and creatively, develop an appreciation for our wonderful natural heritage and understand and are able to access the opportunities for outdoor play in their own communities.The project hosts regular meets both in our HQ and at partner sites which allow families to engage with their environment, connect with one another, and learn. The activities include:storytime,discovery sessions (bug hunts / pond dipping),creative sessions (making mud creatures / fat balls),active engagement sessions (putting up bird boxes, planting, creating bug dens),free play Dumfries Sling Library Since then the library has grown from strength to strength. Having set an initial target of 12 hires in their first year, the did 50 in less than 6 months and are now delivering 3 sling meets a month. More excitingly we have funded further training allowing another 15 peer supporters to be trained and two of these Mirka Soukapova and Ami Aindow have undertaken further intensive specialist training to become qualified babywearing consultants. Presently we have 40 core volunteers across our Board of Trustees and Projects – plus a network of partners and friends who support our work on a more ad-hoc basis. The majority of our volunteers are parents to young children themselves and wish to pay forward the support they received in the earliest days of parenthood. Recognising the importance of our volunteers we have invested heavily in putting in place policies and training which creates a sustainable model of delivery.We were successfully been awarded £10,000 in each of the last two years, from the national Volunteer Support Grant in 2015/16, which allowed us to develop our structures and offer specialist training to project leads which could be cascading to new volunteers.
LOWELL, Mass. (AP) — Lance Crawford scored a career-high 35 points and UMass-Lowell pulled away from Maine in the second half to post an 82-71 win Wednesday night.The freshman, whose previous high was 18 points, was 11-of-18 shooting from the field, including 5 of 8 from beyond the arc. Crawford opened the game by burying a 3-pointer and had five points in just the first minute of play. He closed the game by scoring 15 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, in the final 6:53 to close out the Black Bears.Matt Harris added 21 points, hitting 4 of 8 from distance, for UMass-Lowell (12-15, 6-8 America East).Maine (3-23 2-11) had all five starters score in double figures. Till Gloger led the way with 23 points. Zarko Valjarevic and Troy Reid-Knight each added 11 points and Aaron Calixte and Kevin Little added 10 apiece.