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JAMAICAN NEWS: Decemer 13th – 19th, 2014

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The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has given its approval for US$10 million to fund Basic Needs Trust Fund projects in a number of nations in the Caribbean, including Jamaica. The projects are designed to improve access to education, human resource development, water and sanitation initiatives, and basic community access for low-income areas.

The “Tablets in Schools” pilot project has suffered from some early difficulties in its roll-out, but Jamaica’s Ministry of Education and members of e-Learning Jamaica Company Limited are not worried. The program has been called a relative success, but it also experienced problems such as students being distracted from class work by the devices. The program has also seen some tablets lost through theft and carelessness.

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has warned some members of her own party about voicing their criticism of her government in regard to the National Housing Trust (NHT) and the Outameni arrangement. She said she was “not amused” by the criticisms and warned against publicly making such statements.

Jamaica’s government confirmed that a number of its websites experienced cyber attacks in recent weeks. The attacks led to shutdowns and tampering with statistics. According to Julian Robinson, Minister of State in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, ten websites were accessed by hackers, showing the vulnerability of Jamaica to cyber attack.

According to Dr. Chris Tufton, co-executive director of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute, people should not expect government and politicians to create jobs for them. They need to downgrade their expectations of government aid, he told graduates of the Global Institute of Certified Specialists. A former senator, Tufton said graduates should realize they must make their own way as the days of the Jamaican government directly creating jobs are over.

Two inner-city primary schools and eight state-operated children’s homes will receive donations of heritage publications to their libraries from the Jamaica Information Service (JIS). Another 67 students attending the two schools at Grade Four level have also received reading materials. The books are a gift from the Research and Publications Department and cover Jamaican folk customs, native plants, and histories of the various peoples who lived on the island.

Top Jamaican political leaders are hailing the diplomatic breakthrough agreement made between the United States and Cuba to normalize their relationship after a U.S.-imposed embargo imposed over 50 years ago. U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuba’s President Raul Castro revealed that there had been 18 months of “secret” talks about re-establishing diplomatic ties between the two nations. These ties were cut in 1961. Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said the move represented “bold and visionary leadership” by the two presidents and that both deserved praise for their actions.

The new United States Ambassador to Jamaica, Luis Moreno, has been sworn in at the U.S. State Department. Moreno is known as a “problem-solver” and is considered to be an excellent choice for the position in Jamaica. Professor Stephen Vascianne, Jamaica’s ambassador to the U.S., was present at the ceremony. The new ambassador will take up residence in Kingston shortly after Christmas 2014.


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When the Facts Don’t Matter

Whenever I read the narrative as recorded in Luke 1, my sympathies go out to Zacharias, the priest.  Of he and his wife Elisabeth we are told: “And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years” (vv. 6-7, KJV).  However, one day while Zacharias “executed the priestly office before God . . . in the temple of the Lord” an angel of the Lord appeared unto him with the pronunciation that “thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John” among other things (vv. 13-17). Of course, Zacharias did what anyone in his position with an elderly wife would do. He “said unto the angel, ‘Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years'” (v. 18).  In other words, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman” (The Message). Luke continues, “And the angel answering said unto him, ‘I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season'” (vv. 19-20, KJV).  Poor Zacharias; struck dumb for a several months because he did not believe the angel of the Lord.

However, who could have blamed him for asking the obvious?  Elisabeth was so dumbfounded that when she did conceive, she “hid herself five months” (v. 24) so that, as Bible Commentator Adam Clarke puts it, “she might have the fullest proof of the accomplishment of God’s promise before she appeared in public, or spoke of her mercies.”  Both of them looked at the circumstances of their age and though they were both righteous and blameless before God, faith did not come easily in the face of the facts. It is interesting to note that six months after appearing to Zacharias, the same angel “was sent from God” to Nazareth, this time “to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” (vv. 26-27). After the pronunciation that she would conceive and bring for a son who was to be called JESUS, among other things, Mary too responded in a manner that was consistent with the facts of her situation at the time: “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (v. 34).  The angel’s response to the question was not a pronunciation of dumbness or any other affliction but one of assurance: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible” (vv. 35-37).

What can we take away from the narratives? One of the most important to me is the reminder that God does not allow the facts of our circumstances to get in the way of what He wants to do in our lives. Sickness? No problem! Born on the wrong side of the tracks? No problem! Messed up life? No problem! Whatever the facts of our circumstances, they are no problem for God! Ask Abram and Sarah and the many men and women throughout the ages in whose lives He has worked when the facts were against them.  The truth of the matter is that He is still the same God and as it was then, it is still true today – absolutely nothing that is consistent with His nature is impossible with Him.  He is omnipotent; He has all power to do whatever He purposes to do subject only to the restraints He puts on Himself. Do not let the facts of your circumstances get in the way of the truth of God’s abilities.  In the big scheme of things, the facts are no match for the truth.  

From my house to yours, a very Merry Christmas.




FOR MORE NEWS VISIT:  Jamaican Diaspora Weekly News  Caribbean Weekly News  Jamaica Entertainment & Arts Weekly  Jamaica Business Weekly News  Jamaica Sports Weekly

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Written by Staff Writer