Friday, 24 August 2012

When Less Means More

A major catch that has resulted in many a commercial bank, or a domestic furnishing and appliance store to make a killing at our expense is the lower premiums they charge us for loans and hire purchases.  The real killer here is compounding; being charged interest on interest.  This actually causes the principal sum growing in real terms.  They won’t tell you that though.
Now if you think that was bad, wait till you hear this.  Things may even get worse!  Ever heard of refinancing? Is that a good, or a bad thing? 

Well, it depends.  If your loan account is young and you’re at the stage where you’re paying mostly interest then a cheaper loan could help you.  You’ll replace the original rate with the lower which will allow you to pay less for the loan.  But wait!  Make sure you’re not paying any less per month, otherwise you’ll just end up paying the same amount or more that would have originally paid anyway.

If, on the other hand, your existing loan account is aged, and there is less paying time ahead of you than there is behind you.  Refinancing may not be for you.  At this stage the major portion of your payments will go towards paying down the principal.  This means that your creditors are making less money.  The way for them to make more on what’s left on your loan is to get you to refinance.
Remember, as a rule of thumb, the quicker you pay off your loan the less expensive your loan is.  Of course this means bigger individual payments.  Here you have to decide whether you’re going to have your cake, or eat it; accept that you have a loan and make lifestyle adjustments, or just live as usual.  Make the changes.

So smaller payment amounts or smaller interest rates, more often than not, mean paying out more.  Weigh the pros and cons before you enter into a loan agreement.  As far as it is possible live a debt-free life.  After all, the Bible does say, “Owe no man anything, but to love one another….”  Rom. 13: 8.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Excellent Speech Minister Thwaites

I had the recent delight of sitting in audience to the Minister of Education, the Honourable Ronald Thwaites.  He addressed an audience of Northern Caribbean University (NCU) workers during their annual Colloquium talks.  I was enthralled by his fluent and fanciful articulation of what he sees as the role of an effective education system in making in creating the Jamaica we wish to have by 2030.   
In his presentation he took the opportunity to revisit the issue of the woefully short supply of qualified Mathematics teachers in the island.  As he did this he summoned NCU to the aid of the nation in alleviating the perennial educational woes.  He also alluded to the likelihood of universities accessing government funding if relevant researches are done to bring lasting solutions to the nation’s varied educational challenges.
He was most passionate as he lamented the woes assailing early childhood education in Jamaica.  He bemoaned the mockery it is to an educational process that has to spend so much on remedial work at the higher strata of the educational pyramid.  “Do it right the first time,” he emphasized.
In responding to suggestion of making it more attractive to work at the lower levels of the educational system, the minister was forthright to underscore that an increase in the wage bill was not a feasible option at this point.
It isn’t only an established construction phenomenon that the firmer the foundation the greater its ability to accommodate a taller building.  The same is true of an individual’s educational climb.  This is not rocket science.  The firmer the foundation at the early childhood stage of our educational system the greater the likelihood that these students will succeed at the higher levels….
As I reflect on the way forward I’m reminded of the glory days of West Indies Cricket; the days when Clive Lloyd was captain of the West Indies Cricket team.  There was so much depth in the players of the team that one commentator was confident that even a donkey could lead the West Indies and they would still win matches.  Although taken to task for his comments, which I believe were misunderstood as an insult to Clive Lloyd, I believe he echoed an important principle that might be most instructive in pointing the way forward for education in Jamaica.  The question is, how do we create that depth in our children that will almost certainly create guaranteed success at the higher levels of their educational pursuits?
Here I will join those who believe that at least some of the big bucks should be redirected from the tertiary levels to the primary and early childhood levels.  There are two excellent reasons why this would be a good move: 1. Better facilities; 2. we’d also be able to attract the crème de la crème of our qualified teachers within the nation to these lower level institutions.  After all, if they don’t follow the “carrot” it would be quite revealing that those who teach the teachers to teach children have no real passion to teach the nation’s children.
Clearly, there are challenges to accessing tertiary level education, and a redirecting of funds will definitely make it even more challenging for those who are accustomed to receiving government assistance.  But the fact is, unlike children, graduates from the secondary system are at least able to work and help themselves.  The formula then is this: start out with a strong primary and early childhood foundation.  Augment that with a secondary system that equips graduates with an employable skill for which they will receive HEART certification.  And as the Minister strongly intimated, it has been to our hurt and embarrassment that we have traditional held the view that it is the student who showed little prospect in the academics who must be otherwise directed to the vocational areas.  This will ensure that the secondary graduate is prepared to independently pursue higher education, whether here or abroad.  The of working and studying is not a new concept; it is one that has been working for decades at NCU through its Work and Study Programme.
I got a sense from the trajectory of the astute Minister’s presentation; he would be inclined to agree with my inferences from his speech.  I did note however that repeatedly in his largely adlib presentation, reference was made to how things have always been done.   I wonder if I correctly sensed his struggle to choose between the obvious way forward and listening to the “wisdom” of the way we have always "done things."  I put it to the Minister that not only would history be kind to him, but it would also be safe political risk to take to indeed put greater emphasis on the lower echelons of our educational system.  I pray that what I did indeed hear would constitute what might be termed, “the writing on the wall,” for education in Jamaica. 

Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites (right), is greeted on arrival at Northern Caribbean University’s (NCU) central campus in Mandeville, Manchester on August 20, for the institution’s colloquium, by President, Dr. Trevor Gardner (left). Rev. Thwaites was guest speaker at the two-day event, which was held under the theme: ‘The Relevance of Seventh-Day Adventist Higher Education in Today’s Global Environment’. Looking on are: NCU’S Vice Presidents, Dr. Beverly Cameron, Student Services (second left) and Yvonne Bignall, University Relations (partly hidden).
On a lighter note. Though sworn to diametrically dissimilar doctrinal dogmas in some critical areas of our respective faiths, I more than once mused at the thought of joining the Minister’s congregation next Sunday.  But more seriously though, I would hardly be perturbed, but rather delighted, if in speech only our educational system were to produce several more Ronald Thwaites.  Excellent speech Honourable Minister.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Our national dish - what's in it?

Our national dish - what's in it? - Health - Jamaica Gleaner - Wednesday | August 15, 2012

By Marsha N. Woolery
Jamaica's national dish is ackee and salt fish. Ackee, Sapida blighia, a fruit named after Captain William Bligh, who took the fruit from West Africa to Jamaica. Salt fish is a headless cod that is dried, then salted to increase flavour and shelf life.
In the Caribbean food group, ackee, although a fruit, is classified in the fats and oils group because the main nutrient present is fat. Ackee is more than 50 per cent fat, with the majority of the fatty acid being linoleic acid. Linoleic acid is an unsaturated fat that is also found in corn, sunflower and safflower oils.
According to the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute's (CFNI) food composition tables 2000, 100g (three ounces or nine arriles/seeds) of cooked canned ackee provide 151 kilocalories, 15.2g of total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 0g saturated fat, 270mg potassium and 240mg sodium. Although ackees are high in fat, it is the type of fat that is considered to be 'good fat', but nevertheless should be eaten in moderation.
Salt fish high in protein
Saltfish is classified in the Caribbean food group as foods from animals. It is high in protein, low in fat, but because of the processing is very high in sodium. According to the CFNI's food-composition tables supplement 2000, 100g (three ounces), cooked salt fish provides about 138 kilocalories, 32.5g of protein, 0.9g total fat and 400mg sodium.
The dietary recommendation for sodium is 2,400mg or one teaspoon salt per day for persons without high blood pressure or kidney or heart disease. Persons at risk of developing these diseases may have 1,500mg sodium or less than one-half teaspoon salt per day. Nutrition professionals recommend that persons with high blood pressure, kidney and heart disease avoid or limit the use of salt fish because of its high sodium content.
Soaking salt fish hardly helps
The practice of washing, soaking and boiling salt fish prior to 'cooking it up' does not necessarily reduce the sodium content significantly. Up to the early 2000s, research was being conducted on the relationship between ackee consumption and the development of prostate cancer in Jamaican men. There was no evidence to prove that ackee consumption was a contributing factor in the development of prostate cancer in Jamaican men.
Ackee, being a sponge-like fruit, is very absorbent, so it is recommended that during the process of preparing our national dish, the use of oil should be limited not only because of ackee's fat profile but because the oil used in cooking is absorbed into the fruit, thus increasing the fat content of the dish.
Jamaica is now 50. Let us endeavour to live well to be able to celebrate in 2062.
Marsha N. Woolery is a registered dietitian/nutritionist in private practice and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email:

Monday, 13 August 2012

The "IF, THEN, BUT" of God's Grace : Leviticus 26

The chapter starts out with God laying His just claims on the Israelites, "Make no idols to bow down to... and observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my Sanctuary.  I am the LORD." Vs. 1, 2.

Verses 3-13 introduces the first If/Then clause regarding the benefits forthcoming from a willing obedience to God's decrees and commandments.  And what a beautiful this painted; God is good, and kind, and fun to serve.  Such great blessings!

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But then came the first "But" in verse 14.  This was followed by a horrible litany of horrible curses that would be forthcoming from disregarding God's legitimate claims on our lives.  This continues up to verse 39. We see in these verses the dark side of pure justice, unmixed with mercy.  Here Revelation 14: 10 comes to mind, "The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:"

But true to His nature as a gracious God, we get a redemptive "But" in verse 40 that offers us a way out of our sinful state: "But if they confess.../ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1: 9.  What a consistent picture of Grace the Bible paints of God both in the Old and New Testaments!  God never leaves us without a way out.  1 John 2: 1 says, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not.  And (But) if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."

I thank God for Jesus Christ, "the Way," (John 14: 6) back to God after we sin.  The choice however lies with us.

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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Revived by His Word – Leviticus 19

I've not so far read a more loaded chapter than this one.  There are just so many things that jump at you from nowhere - seemingly random pickings from the core elements of true holiness.

So we're called to holy living; an invitation that is immediately followed by a call to respect parents, and honour the LORD's Sabbaths; the only two commandments that interestingly do not start with, “Thou shalt not….”  The thing that these two commandments have in common is that they direct individuals back to their sources of origin.  The Sabbath points to the Creator; parents, are procreators.  The implication here is that in either case we are accountable both to God and to our forebears for our behaviour.  The requirement of God, the primary source of the human species, is that we all be holy as He is holy.  Most parents hope that children do as they say (and sometimes as they (the parents) do). In the ideal world God hopes lessons learned from Him by past generations are passed on to future, so knowledge of Himself would not be lost.

Parents are therefore reposed with much God-ordained authority.   And in real sense our response to God and our parents will inform our treatment of our neighbours.  Micah 6: 8 clinches the idea of what Leviticus 19 is generally calling us to do, "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"  This seems to be what holiness comes down to.

The Bible's call to a high moral standard, or holy living takes us beyond mere inhibitions, and things to avoid ("Thou shalt not"); it calls us into decisive action.  Hence "Remember my Sabbaths," and "Honour thy father and mother."  Holiness is the visible, the audible, and the palpable fruit of the indwelling Spirit of God.  It isn't a private belief system, but an "everyone can see it," way of living.  It is definitely not abrasive, although it will create discomfort among those of another spirit.  But as it points out the ills of individuals, it does so in a spirit of meekness and love.  "The FRUIT of the Spirit is LOVE...." Gal. 5: 22.  At the heart of holy living is love:  love to God; love for our neighbours; love for ourselves.

May God help us all to submit to His Holy Spirit, through whom holy living, as God desires, will be the way of life of all who profess knowledge of God.  Amen.