Nassau Guardian Stories

Athletics in Trinidad Tobago is on the rise

July 24, 2014

With a focus on promoting Caribbean athletics globally, the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) is continuing with its "Day in the Life" series featuring some of the best athletes in the region. In Trinidad, Guardian Sports Editor Sheldon Longley, who was with the IAAF team, caught up with the president of the National Association of Athletics Administrations of Trinidad and Tobago (NAAATT), Ephraim Serrette. Serrette spoke quite candidly about the direction of athletics in Trinidad and Tobago.
When it comes to athletics in the Caribbean region, there's no question that Jamaica is the cream of the crop, but the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago is making significant strides, producing more top level athletes than ever before.
Trinidad and Tobago has always been quite formidable in the track events, but now, the country is branching off into the field events as well, particularly the throws. It couldn't be more evident than with the performance of young Keshorn Walcott in the javelin throw in 2012. The Trinidadian star had one of the all-time great years by a track and field athlete, winning four major titles! He overwhelmed the competition for the CARIFTA title, was in a class by himself at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Junior Championships, won the gold at the World Junior Championships and then shocked the world in London, carting off the Olympic title. The Olympic gold was just the second for Trinidad and Tobago, and it came almost 50 years after the first. Hasely Crawford was the first, winning gold in the men's 100 meters (m) in 1976.
Crawford, after whom the national stadium is named, remains an icon in Trinidad and Tobago.
"Hasely continues to be a part of the sport. He's an executive member in NAAATT, and he loves the competition. He makes himself available to talk to the athletes, telling them what the sport could do for them," said National Association of Athletics Administrations of Trinidad and Tobago (NAAATT) President Ephraim Serrette during a recent interview.
As for Walcott, his early success is no doubt a product of unbelievable physical ability combined with talent and hard work, but one has to look at T&T's national programs as well. Coming up behind Walcott, is another phenomenal junior javelin thrower, Shakeil Waithe.
On the senior level, athletes such as Richard Thompson, Michelle-Lee Ahye, Deon Lendore, Keston Bledman and Lalonde Gordon are highly ranked; Walcott and Jehue Gordon have conquered the world already as the reigning Olympic and World Champions respectively; and juniors such as Waithe, Machel Cedenio, Jonathan Farinha, Zakiya Denoon, Aaliyah Telesford and Kayelle Clarke are coming.
Led by Walcott, Trinidad and Tobago had its best Olympic showing ever, in 2012, winning one gold, one silver and two bronze for a total of four medals. NAAATT President Serrette said that the association is very pleased with the direction that T&T athletics is headed in, and this is just the beginning of things to come for that nation. He said that they have focused on maintaining a clear line of communication with their athletes, keeping track of their training, performances and their progress in the sport.
"What we see happening is that better technology is now allowing us to communicate much better with our athletes. With the new vision of this executive, and the communication lines that have been opened up, we know exactly what's happening with them and how they are progressing. We try to have communication with their coaches and their entire team," said Serrette. "Also, we have a better planning process, even with the athletes in school. We have developed some relationships with some of the coaches who would work with us so that they don't run the athletes rugged."
As a result of them venturing more into the schools, Serrette said that participation in athletics has increased, and programs such their 'Right on Track' program and their 'Kids Athletics' Program have produced the desired results.
"More and people are taking interest in the sport," he said. "With the success of Keshorn Walcott coming off the Olympics, we see much more javelin throwers such as Shakeil Waithe surfacing. We are seeing more participation in the hurdles as well."
The two main stadiums in Trinidad, the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain and the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, are loaded with a bevy of the finest Trinidadian athletes in the mornings and evenings, both junior and senior. There just seems to be an aura of fierceness and camaraderie, athletes pushing each other to get better. Specialized coaching, particularly in the throws, has aided tremendously in the success of T&T athletics as well.
Serrette said that it is difficult getting athletes to divert from their personal coaches for national development, particularly because of the relationships those coaches would have built with their athletes over time. Nevertheless, he said that fostering the growth and continued development of their athletes is their primary concern.
"Coaches hold their athletes kind of dear to them, and would not release them into a national program," said Serrette. "At times, we allow them to come with their programs from their coaches for national teams. When you look at our athletes, their performances determine what happens in the future. Everything we do at NAAATT is to cater to the athletes. I'm doing this through the eyes of a former athlete, so I'm continuously looking at what they would want in certain situations. It is our duty to cater to the athletes."
This week, Trinidad and Tobago has a 21-member team at the 15th International Association of Athletics Federations' (IAAF) World Junior Championships in Eugene, Ore., and a 41-member track and field contingent at the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. Serrette is optimistic about the performances of the Trinidadian track and field athletes.
"With the Commonwealth Games, it has garnered the interest of all of our top athletes so Trinidad and Tobago will be well represented," said Serrette. "We saw an increase of about two medals on our London (2012 Olympics) performance, and because of that, sports is big business now. We are hoping that we will be able to attract more sponsors so that we could better manage a structure to take the sport to the next level."
Serrette said that the country's annual budget in the NAAATT for fiscal 2013-2014 was around TT$8.2 million (approx. USD$1.29 million). That vast figure is inclusive of national team travel, the hosting and organization of workshops and clinics, and the cost to effectively manage its programs.
"We're getting closer to our operational budget but we still need more corporate sponsors to get on board with T&T athletics so that we could have less dependency on government, and be able to manage our athletes and programs better," said Serrette.
As far as their doping control program is concerned, Serrette said that they start the testing procedures from an early age. He said that the key is to continually educate the athletes on what is out there, and of the harsh penalties and consequences for their actions.
"We start with the juniors. There are seminars for CARIFTA, and we engage in a number of workshops. Everyone has their work cut out for them as far as doping is concerned," said Serrette. "I think that the money that is involved in track and field is probably driving some athletes to go and get that edge. That might be one of the contributors. People want to get the big dollars so they do what they feel is necessary.
"It's a long fight, but it's everyone's fight. Most of the federations have their own systems in place. I think that we have to continually educate our athletes, and continue testing on a regular basis. Once athletes know that they are going to be tested, that might tend to curb their involvement in PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs)."
Their top female sprinter Kelly-Ann Baptiste failed a drug test last year, and consequently missed the Moscow World Championships.
To date, Jamaica is the only Caribbean nation to host a world junior or world youth championships with the staging of the former in 2002. Just this past May, The Bahamas became the first Caribbean nation to host a senior global track and field competition with the staging of the world relays. Presently, a number of one-day meets and invitationals are held in the Caribbean. Whereas it's not yet a fixture on the calendar just yet, Serrette believes that meets such as their President's Classic, the Jamaica International Invitational and the Meeting International Region Guadeloupe just to name a few, could create a Caribbean circuit of high class track and field meets in this region.
"It would be wonderful if people could come down this side and make that a circuit. I think it calls for greater collaboration with all of the federations and the private meet promoters," said Serrette. "That's something that we could work on, but it has to be a collaborative effort between the countries. We just have to identify the weekends," he added.
A Caribbean circuit could certainly increase the awareness and popularity of the sport here in this region. Even without it, Trinidad and Tobago athletes have already risen to the forefront. The results of their athletes this year, particularly the juniors, has been nothing short of extraordinary.
After leading the world for a stint this year, Richard Thompson and Michelle-Lee Ahye have fallen into second place on the world's top lists in the men and women's 100m respectively. Thompson has a best this year of 9.82 seconds, done for a new national record at their national championships, and Ahye did 10.85 seconds at the T&T nationals, a former world lead that was just recently passed by American Tori Bowie's 10.80 in Monaco. American Justin Gatlin leads the men's list with a best of 9.80 seconds this year, and his lifetime best of 9.79 seconds has him ranked number six on the all-time list. Thompson is close behind him at number nine on the all-time list.
Trinidad and Tobago's only world lead at this point, comes from 18-year-old Machel Cedenio in the junior men's 400m. He has the top two times in the world this year, running 45.23 seconds in the Cayman Islands, and 45.28 seconds at the CAC Junior Championships in Morelia, Mexico. He is the favorite to win the world junior title at the 15th IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene, Ore. this week.
In the men's 400m, Deon Lendore is at number four this year with a personal best clocking of 44.36 seconds. He trails just Kirani James of Grenada (43.74), LaShawn Merritt of the United States of America (USA-43.92) and Isaac Makwala of Botswana (44.01), who has really surfaced out of nowhere this season.
The only other Trinidadian athletes in the top 10 of the IAAF's top performance lists this year, are Shakeil Waithe in the junior men's javelin and Jonathan Farinha in the junior men's 100m. Waithe has a best throw of 72.75m (238' 8") which has him ranked as the ninth best junior thrower this year, and Farinha is tied for 10th in the junior men's 100m with a personal best time of 10.25 seconds.
With the world juniors and the Commonwealth Games currently ongoing, and Trinidad and Tobago well represented, more fantastic times and distances are expected to be on the horizon.

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And the Marlin Award goes to ...

July 24, 2014

Trinidad and Tobago gospel reggae artist Joel "Positive" Murray with 13 nominations is this year's top Caribbean Gospel Music Marlin Awards nominee. Lion of Judah Chief Executive Officer Monty G and Lynn Terez Davis-Nixon are this year's top Bahamian nominees with seven nominations each.
In addition to being nominated for album of the year for his latest album "King's Highway", Monty G also was also nominated for producer of the year and song of the year for his hit "Plead My Cause".
Davis-Nixon, who is also known for her alter ego character and personality Dynamite Daisy, has secured a nomination for the inspirational recording of the year for "I Believe". She has also been nominated for the Junkanoo recording of the year for "Sing Hallelujah", and the title track of her debut album "Beautiful" has earned her a nomination for pop vocal performance of the year.
Newcomer and local hip-hop artist Barz Noble has received six nods, including one for new artist of the year and another for album of the year for his debut disc, "Symphonic Signatures".
Well-known praise teams and choirs have also been nominated, including Bishop J. Rodney Roberts and The Apostolic Mass Choir, who have received five nominations, and Adrian Edgecombe and Harvest Generation, who have received four nominations.
The late Kevan "Kevi Kev" McKenzie has been nominated for five awards this year, making him the first posthumous nominated artist in Marlin Awards history.
Manifest, Sammi Starr, Chesternique and Jonathan Farrington have each received four nominations.
Lyrically Blessed, Colyn Major, Shanique Thurston and Avalanchee have each received three nominations.
The nominees and groups with two nominations each consist of the following: Mount Tabor Church's praise team leaders Nadene Moss and Nehemiah Hield as well as Lavern Stewart; Terrance Forbes; Landlord; The Rahming Brothers and gospel legend Pastor Simeon Outten; hip hop artist and Calvary Temple Youth pastor, Bruce "Hyppe" Rusell out of Grand Bahama; TJ Cross; WD-D4; Young Reverend; Stacs and Keith "Halle" Grey Jr. and Anglican Archdeacon James Palacious.
Palacious has been nominated for the traditional vocal performance of the year (male category) for "I Come to the Garden Alone" as well as the traditional vocal performance of the year (duo/group category) for his single "A Wonderful Savior is Jesus My Lord", which was recorded as a duet with Marvin Henfield.
The 2014 Caribbean Gospel Music Marlin Awards winners will be named on Saturday, July 26, at Bahamas Faith Ministries (BFM) Diplomat Center, Carmichael Road. The show kicks off at 7 p.m.
The Marlin Awards is considered a leader in the arena of Caribbean Gospel Music.
Positive, Lynn Terez Davis-Nixon, Isaac Blackman, Nadene Moss, Sherwin Gardner, Halle featuring Stacs, Kezie Peters, Terrance Forbes, Kevin Downswell, Nigel Lewis, Colyn Major, Monty G featuring Bruce Hyppe, Sammi Starr, Jonathan Farrington, Shanique Thurston, Lytie, Lyrically Blessed and Archdeacon James Palacious are all scheduled to perform during the show.
Teen sensation Angelique Sabrina and Edison Sumner and Voices of Praise will perform the national anthem.
Legendary contemporary gospel group Touched will receive this year's Reverend Arthur "Preacher" Rolle Lifetime Achievement Award for the group's outstanding contribution toward the development and advancement of Bahamian and Caribbean Gospel Music.
Trinidad and Tobago's gospel radio personality, film director and Tempo TV host Jamie Thomas will receive the 2014 President's Award for his years of contribution toward the advancement and development of the Caribbean Gospel Music industry.
The Marlin Awards will also honor several individuals who have passed since the hosting of the last awards in 2010. The posthumous nominees include Bahamian gospel legend, the late Kevan "Kevi Kev" McKenzie, co-founder of the gospel hip-hop group United; Renardo Bethell; Lorna Joy Simmons and Dr. Mark Anthony Bethel. Jamaican gospel reggae artist Collin "Craig C" Chambers will also be honored.
The Marlin Awards, founded by Kevin Harris in 1996, celebrates its 18th anniversary this year. The first award show was held on March 16, 1996 in the Le Cabaret Theatre (Atlantis Theatre) on Paradise Island.
The awards ceremony, which started out with only 16 categories, now offers awards in some 50-plus categories, with over 400 artists and industry professionals participating, representing over 20 countries.
Tickets for the awards are $35 general admission and $40 VIP. Tickets can be purchased at Bucks Gospel, Faith Life Book & Music Center, Logos Bookstore and The Bible Book & Gift Center.

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Many of us will be surprised at the great judgment

July 24, 2014

The owner's servants came to him and said, "Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?"
"An enemy did this," he replied.
The servants asked him, "Do you want us to go and pull them up?"
"No," he answered, "because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters, first collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn." -- Matthew 13:27-30.
Someone once told the story of a church member who invited a neighbor to church. The neighbor responded, "I am not going to church because there are too many hypocrites in the church." The church member said, "We have room for one more."
Yes, there are hypocrites in the church. There are Christians and there are demons. Not everyone who becomes a part of and attends church does so to hear the word of God and give praise to his holy name.
Many people do so for different reasons. Some attend church because it is a family tradition, while some attend because church is the place to meet potential husbands and wives. There are those who attend church for social reasons.
In the text Jesus tells a story about a farmer who planted wheat in his field, however, some evil person planted weeds among the wheat. His servants, when they discovered this, wanted to go out and pull up the weeds. The farmer, instead, discouraged them from doing so.
"Let both grow together until the harvest." If you have ever planted corn, you would get a good idea of what the farmer is alluding to. Young corn sprouts and weeds are similar in looks. Unless you know the difference, you would root up the corn sprout for weed. I once had a gardener who did just that.
In the text, Jesus suggests that there is evil in the church, however, it is not for us to decide. We do not know the hearts of man, only God knows that. It is not for you and me to hold inquisitions to determine who is a Christian. That is God's business. Only he can tell.
We can look at the way a person lives and determine that he or she is not walking in the way of the Lord. In such cases, their actions would speak for them. When we see a wayward brother, we in the church should guide the brother or sister back to the right path. However, outside of that, we are not to judge or condemn them.
There are many wolves in sheep's clothing in the church. We don't know them and we cannot find them. That is why the Lord says leave them. "Let both grow together until the harvest." He knows the hearts of man and only he will judge the righteous and the unrighteous.
The Lord will take care of the evildoers in his own time. He is the righteous judge. Therefore, until the day of the final judgment, we are to worship alongside one another. One day God will send his holy angels to make the separation.
So often in our world, we judge other people. We, who are imperfect ourselves, try to distinguish who is righteous and who is unrighteous. Our Lord forbids us to judge because we do not know what is in another's heart.
During our earthly journey, many hypocrites will be in the church. Even though this is so, it is not for us to seek them out, make judgment calls and condemn them. When the day of the great separation comes, God, who knows the heart of man, will determine the difference.
At the great judgment many of us will be surprised. Those who we thought were heaven bound will not be there among the saints. Amen
o Reverend Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at The Lutheran Church of Nassau, can be reached at P.O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas or telephone: 323-4107; E-mail:lutheranchurch@coralwave.com, Website: www.nassaulutheranchurch.org.

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Hundreds of Bahamians attend GUF gathering

July 24, 2014

Some 900 delegates representing nine islands of The Bahamas made the pilgrimage to Winston-Salem, North Carolina to attend the first annual Gathering of Global United Fellowship (GUF) under the leadership of the presiding prelate, Reverend Bishop Neil C. Ellis.
Fourteen nations and six continents attended the first interdenominational conference. To date more than 400 fellowships, businesses and churches comprise its membership.
The Bahamian delegates represented New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Bimini, Cat Island, Exuma, San Salvador, Harbour Island and Great Harbour Cay.
More than 5,400 delegates attended the nightly sessions held at the Benton Convention Center.
The fellowship's mandate is to unite Protestants, Charismatics, Pentecostals and independents; enhance the marriages of clergymen; equip ministry leaders; resurrect the dying discipline of prayer and build authentic relationships in the Body of Christ. It is not a denomination.
Several Bahamians were featured as facilitators of the more the 40 classes offered in various aspects of ministry, including parish leader for the central Bahamas, Dr. Deanza Cunningham and Bishop Walter Hanchell.
GUF has been in existence for less than a year.
"Less than a year ago, we embarked on a mission to unite, enhance, equip, resurrect and build the Body of Christ. We are so very pleased to have witnessed the coming together of believers from across the nations who did not have to disassociate themselves from their denominational roots to become a part of the global experience," said Ellis, who is also senior pastor of Mt. Tabor Church.
The second annual gathering will be held July 6-10, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida. Visit www.globalunitedfellowship.org for more information.
Established in 2013 under the leadership of Bishop Neil C. Ellis, Global United Fellowship (GUF) is a cross-denominational fellowship of spiritual leaders and churches united to expand the kingdom of God to all the nations of the world and strategically plan, implement and execute transformative and generational impact.
The fellowship's five-prong mandate is to unite churches, equip leaders, enhance marriages, resurrect the discipline of prayer and build covenant relationships within the Body of Christ.
GUF is comprised of more than 300 churches from countries and provinces including The Bahamas, England, Jamaica, Pakistan, South Africa, the Turks and Caicos Islands and The United States.

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Show your appreciation

July 24, 2014

I believe that thankfulness is an essential quality for everyone to develop as they travel the road of life. There's no doubt about it, anyone who becomes successful in either their personal or professional life didn't get there all by themselves, that's for sure. From the time we're young children, our parents, guardians and other relatives played an important role in our growth and development, and I believe that it's most important for all of us to show our appreciation to all of those who assisted us in any way in finally getting to where we are today. Let's not take anyone for granted. Let's make everyone in our life know that we really do appreciate them and all of their efforts on our behalf over the years.
Anyone who is in business knows full well that without all of the members of their staff they would not be able to run an effective, efficient, productive and successful business. So owners of successful businesses and those at the top of large organizations need to let all members of the staff know in no uncertain manner, that their daily efforts on behalf of the company are greatly appreciated. Managers and supervisors need to continually compliment their workers when they do an excellent job. Just letting people know you appreciate them and their efforts on behalf of the company will indeed go a long way in building and maintaining staff loyalty and satisfaction.
Also business owners who introduce profit sharing schemes, and or who pay annual bonuses based on the overall performance of the company, are indeed sharing their appreciation with the staff, who let's face it contributed in no uncertain terms to the success of the company.
Of course, to all of the married people in my reading audience, please don't take you spouse for granted as far too many do. If you do, chances are one day he or she may in fact just walk out on you. So show your appreciation to your spouse each and every day as you both continue to grow in love and trust.
Finally, when you pray, don't forget to show your appreciation to your spiritual father, God for the very breath of life, and for the constant assistance he gives you as you journey onward each and every day on your way to success city. Yes, always, always show your appreciation to all who assist you each and every day of your life.
o Think about it!
Visit my website at: www.dpaulreilly.com.
Listen to "Time to Think" the radio program on STAR 106.5 FM at 8:55 a.m. & 6:20 p.m.

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Personal codes for conduct and relating to others

July 24, 2014

It is sad and seems so unreal that the human race over the millenniums has inflicted unkindness, violence and injustices upon its very own. It is like a dog eating its own foot off and preventing itself from walking. Millions of men, women and children have painfully, emotionally and physically suffered. Historically, the ones who have suffered the most and been dealt a blow of injustice and pain are the children and women. It was just a few hundred years ago that children were considered no more than "talented toys". At age 11 they were forced to work in factories and dark dungeons, mining coal and working on farms. Today, in many countries around the world, children are still being raped, beaten, used and abused; thus, governments have passed laws to protect the right of children to be safe. It has been 52 years since the women in The Bahamas were allowed to vote. When slaves were freed, soon after, the black man was legally allowed to vote in the United States of America (in some states), but women -- white and black, had to still struggle for equality. It was not until almost six decades later in the USA (1921) that white and black women were given permission to vote. In The Bahamas, it was not until 10 decades later.
Because of the ill treatment of humans, many treaties or conventions have been developed to bring equality, justice and fairness. These conventions, having been created by the United Nations, are to be agreed upon by each member state. It is a shame that we humans have had to develop treaties to remind us what should be so basic and humane -- fair treatment, freedom from violence, equal voice, power, vote, access and opportunity. Here are a few conventions that have been written, simply because of humans being unable to act like humans -- the Conventions on Human Rights; Convention on the Rights of the Child; Convention to Eliminate of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; Convention Against Torture; United Nations Convention Against Corruption; Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
I will share with you excerpts from a few of the conventions or declarations -- notice how basic, yet important, they are. First, I must share the Declaration of the Essential Rights of Afghan Women given in 2000. Note how basic they are and how we take such rights for granted.
The fundamental right of Afghan women, as for all human beings, is life with dignity, which includes the following rights:
oThe right to equality between men and women and the right to the elimination of all forms of discrimination and segregation, based on gender, race or religion;
o The right to personal safety and to freedom from torture or inhumane or degrading treatment;
o The right to physical and mental health for women and their children;
o The right to equal protection under the law;
o The right to institutional education in all the intellectual and physical disciplines;
o The right to just and favorable conditions of work;
o The right to move about freely and independently;
o The right to freedom of thought, speech, assembly and political participation;
o The right to wear or not to wear the veil or the chadri;
o The right to participate in cultural activities including theater, music and sports.

Here are a few excerpts from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the child
Article 6: Life, survival and development. The right of the child to life and the state's obligation to ensure the child's survival and development.
Article 9: Non-separation from parents. The right of the child to retain contact with his parents in cases of separation. If separation is the result of detention, imprisonment or death the state shall provide the information to the child or parents about the whereabouts of the missing family member.
Article 11: Illicit transfer and non-return of children. The State shall combat child kidnapping by a partner or third party.
Article 18: Parental responsibility. Both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing of the child and assistance shall be given to them in the performance of the parental responsibilities.
Article 19: Abuse and neglect (while in family or care). States have the obligation to protect children from all forms of abuse. Social programs and support services shall be made available.
Article 23: Disabled children. The right to benefit from special care and education for a fuller life in society.
Article 24: Health care. Access to preventive and curative health care services as well as the gradual abolition of traditional practices harmful to the child.
Article 28: Education. The right to free primary education, the availability of vocational educating, and the need for measures to reduce the drop-out rates.
Article 34: Sexual exploitation. Protection of the child from sexual exploitation including prostitution and the use of children in pornographic materials.
Here are a few excerpts from the International Convention on Human Rights
Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Article 2: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Article 4: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
Article 9: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Article 13: (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
These conventions really cause one to think. Shouldn't these be so natural for all humans to follow? Unfortunately it has not been the case. What part are you going to play to bring equality, justice, fairness and the illumination of all forms of violence? What are your personal codes for conduct and relating to others?
o Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist, U.S.A. Send your questions or comments to barringtonbrennen@gmail.com; or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas; or visit www.soencouragement.org; or call 242-327-1980, or 242-477-4002.

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Our progress is only because of our God, whose son Jesus Christ came that we might have life in all its abundance

July 24, 2014

A few years ago I went on a tour of the Far East, inclusive of Malaysia; only through experience one would know that it is all first world. The mindset and physical developments would blow your mind. The cost of living is much lower than here in the Western world, and now, with a shrinking world, many Bahamians physically travel to these parts to do commercial shopping. We are not to be blinded by just thinking China when referring to the Far East. My hotel was a small component within a super expansive shopping complex stretching several blocks. The population is in the millions with mixed ethnic groups and any number of faith groups well entrenched.
I learned many lessons on this tour, sponsored by the Public Hospitals Authority. It was designed to expose me, as chaplain, to advanced models of pastoral care and chaplaincy within hospitals. This exposure really blew my mind. Ironically I'm experiencing an uphill struggle to influence our "boxed" thinking in this area of health care delivery so as to cause a revolution as we modernize and expand on health care in our public system. We are so archaic in so many areas of national development.
Other lessons I learned included a humanitarian approach in rendering public service, an example is in the banking industry. The call-up system is entrenched in the banks. Why should anyone, in this modern era be forced to stand on long, long lines for service? I shared the revolutionary idea with officials of a bank upon my return. Oh, they were enthralled, but just lip service, hot air; promises were made, and nothing has happened. Another bank is the model for this simple, yet profound humanitarian advancement. Many other business places can benefit from such an advancement and be more sympathetic to its weary customers. A line for senior citizens only is so outdated, it's pitiful, especially with modern technology and conducting business online. Courses in such technology must be widespread and made available across the archipelago.
I congratulate those who in small pockets are offering such courses, but we are far from being as intentional and all-inclusive. Who will "bell this cat"? Your answer is as good as mine. Churches and civic organizations, business places can directly benefit from this new culture. We must measure up to this inevitable initiative that beckons us. Senior citizens and those physically challenged must be primary in our efforts.
Another time we can discuss how backward we really are in our technology as it might pertain to cellular services, or the lack thereof, and our transportation system. Their cell phones are traded in every six months and dropped calls are unheard of. Cars are traded in every five years, maximum. I guess that they are then shipped to us, the primary users of second-hand products. That "hand-me-down" mindset is well entrenched in our culture.
When offering for public office, one must have a resume of proven capability, like successfully operating a business of a given magnitude. Oh, if we only had some standard for those offering for public service in these parts. In our system, persons successful at the election polls believe they are endowed with some divine right, talents and abilities to govern and seek no training and exposure. Shouldn't we have a system in place where those seeking public office should have a proven track record?
Development does not necessarily bring crime as part of that package. The crime statistic is lower in the Far East than it is in other parts of the world. The eastern countries, particularly Singapore and Malaysia are clean, because litter laws are enforced. Drug laws are enforced without exception, even to the point of death. Crime, so common place with us, is almost unheard of in these first world countries. Development must come with planning and enforcing moral and ethical codes of conduct.
All this must be grounded on a spiritual foundation that must be unshakeable and uncompromising. The Islamic faith has the edge over all other faith groups and herein we understand the strong moral code of conduct. However Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds. People cultivate and express their faith by growing numbers going to church. I preached at St. Paul's Anglican Church in Kuala Lumpur at four services on one Sunday with a combined congregation of just over 1,000. The cathedral in Singapore has approximately 10 services on a Sunday. They use both the church and parish hall for Sunday services. I discovered a people strong in faith and not nominal Christians. They love their God and their church. In fact, I was asked to preach at least an hour each time I went to the pulpit. I was required to present my sermon notes on the Friday before so that it could all be on power point for the Sunday's presentation. I was moved by their love for God and the excitement in worship.
There is more, but I trust I've made the point on modernization. It must be taken holistically. This, I hope, will shatter our own fallacies about modernization which should be influenced by our faith and to understand that all our progress is only because of our God whose son Jesus Christ came that we might have life in all its abundance. Such progress should take us closer to God and thus cause a spiritual explosion that will influence our ethical and moral conduct.
o Reverend Canon S. Sebastian Campbell is the rector at St. Gregory's Anglican Church.

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Call on God and tell him your problems

July 24, 2014

They made me the keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vineyard have I not kept - [Song of Solomon 1:6]
Growing up as the daughter of a preacher man, many times I have heard persons remark, "Preachers' children are the worst children". Then on occasions I have listened to complaints coming from spouses, "My husband is the best carpenter/builder there is, but this door been on one hinge for ages", "My wife sewing for everyone, and I been asking her to tack one button on my shirt over and over again". Neglect is the driving force behind decadence and he that knoweth and doeth not shall be beaten with many stripes so declares the holy word!
I have heard complaints coming particularly from men folk of wives who come home well past midnight from church. They further complain that the stove is always cold, and pots are empty, and the bedroom has become the bored room.
It is one thing for someone to remark negatively about another just for the sake of being mean and unkind, but when that which is spoken is as a result of acting and going against the grain, the cap fits the offender. So here it is in our text today no one other than the transgressor has to speak about the truth of the matter. "They made me keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vineyard have I not kept."
How many times have we labored continuously on behalf of others and leave our loved ones and surroundings unattended? Are we just to keep other people's property clean and not clean that which is ours? Are we to look after the health of others and pay no attention to warning signs sent by the body? Why must we gather the bounty for others and then be sent away empty-handed? Then, are we to keep on pushing others into the pools of opportunities only to have doors shut in our faces and no remembrance of what has been done to advance their cause? What about adhering to every law in the city of your visitation only to come back home and break every traffic and environmental law in your land?
The Song of Solomon, that is also referred to as the 'Song of Songs', is the last of the five poetical books of the Old Testament -- Job, The Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. It is annually read by the Jews in their synagogues at the feast of the Passover. There are differences of opinion as to the interpretation thereof, but the bottom line is that the love of Christ for the redeemed church as compared to in The New Testament is as the love of a bride and groom at their wedding.
What is your life like as you read? Are you weary and worn from toiling in other people's vineyards and there is nothing happening for you? Why are you giving your all and getting nothing in return? Have you educated your children at the sacrifice of you being deprived of the basic necessities of life only to have them not even call to see how you are doing? If you say someone made you, does that mean the situation you are in was not really your choice and there was nothing you could do to improve your upward mobility? I remember some of the last words my late father said to me: "Any water they put you in, you will swim". And, oh, how I proved that to be so. The "theys" of this world can make life so miserable for you. Only God can take you out of their snares and clutches.
I pray today if you are in a situation and aware of what is happening, you call on God and tell him all about your problems and sure enough he will answer and be your deliverer. Do not keep company with those who are trying to turn you away from that which is right -- away from your God for the lust of this world. When you are caught in Satan's trap, your vineyard of love, peace and joy is taken away from you. Your hunger and thirst for righteousness is overgrown by the vines of hate, malice, injustice and greed, and your focus is turned to blindness. Today is your new day of awareness and change.
o E-mail rubyanndarling@yahoo.com, write to P.O. Box 19725 SS Nassau, Bahamas, or telephone 242-394-0376 242-393-7753 with your prayer requests, concerns and comments. God's blessings!

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Chamber: Simplified VAT 'very smart'

July 24, 2014

The government has been applauded for being "very smart" in its decision to simplify the administration of value-added tax (VAT) for businesses in newly-tabled legislation, having eased filing and accounting requirements and the level of exemptions of goods and services.
Chairman of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) and Co-chair of the Coalition for Responsible Taxation Robert Myers told Guardian Business he is "very encouraged" by what he had heard of the adjustments made by the government to the Value-Added Tax Bill 2014, tabled in Parliament yesterday.
"It sounds good. It sounds like they've listened, and I'm very encouraged by what I've heard. From what I can tell it's headed in the right direction," said Myers.
With regard to the simpler filing requirements, Myers added: "This was a big part of what we were saying. The simpler you make this - and this is the big issue - what happens is the more compliance you have. You have less tax cheats.
"So the real bonus there is that it's not so hard for the private sector and it's not so hard for the government to administer. The simplicity makes it easier and cheaper and creates greater compliance for everyone, and with a lower rate you need that compliance.
"I think it's very smart of them to have taken that advice."
Finally tabling the bill, which will pave the way for the introduction of a new system of taxation for The Bahamas in January 2015, Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis said yesterday that the bill "sets out a solid world class policy and administrative framework for fiscal reform".
This, he said, is one "that would be successful in moving our nation to a system of taxation that is both economically efficient and adequate to service the needs of modern government and to promote economic growth and prosperity."
He again defended the decision to pursue a VAT, pointing out that advice received by the government indicated that it would have the least detrimental impact on the economy among the various forms of taxation as the government moves to overhaul its currently outdated tax model and replace it with one that captures a wider base of economic activity.
Exemptions
The bill to a large extent follows what had been presaged by the government, including a "lower rate, fewer exemptions" model. No goods will be exempted from VAT, while a smaller list of services will be exempt. These include financial services covering all forms of lending and savings products issued by banks, insurance companies and other financial services; sales and rentals of dwellings; education services, specifically tuition; public, but not private, healthcare; day care; care facilities for the indigent and infirm; religious services; services by charitable organizations and government services connected with taxable activities. Notably, utilities such as electricity will not be exempt from VAT, and neither will general and medical insurance.
Following on from its commitment to lower a small set of tariffs come the introduction of VAT in 2015, government tabled a Tariff Amendment Bill that reduces duty on a number of items come January 1, in some cases to a lower rate and in some cases to zero. These items, listed in documents already posted to the government's website, include jewelry, apparel, certain food items, construction materials, machinery and appliances such as refrigerators and stoves.
Filing requirements
Significantly, the new bill has been adjusted in a number of significant ways, which should ease the administrative and cost burden on the private sector. The final version of the legislation has markedly been tweaked to take into account the advice of New Zealand VAT experts Dr. Don Brash and John Shewan in a variety of areas.
These include having less frequent filing requirements than the initial proposed monthly filing for all registrants. Under the new bill, businesses with annual taxable sales over $5 million will file monthly, and those with sales exceeding $400,000 will file quarterly; those under the $400,000 threshold but over the $100,000 registration threshold will file semi-annually.
The former draft of the bill called for accrual accounting for VAT. The newer version, per the New Zealanders' advice, now calls for a less complex, cash-based accounting system. This change, Myers said, has made the chamber "very happy".
"It will make it a lot easier. They are not making any less money; they are just cutting all of their administrative costs," he said.
Besides being a more simple form of accounting, Halkitis said that this should eliminate "working capital concerns over the treatment of bad debt". Also with respect to bad debt, the bill includes provisions which should make receiving refunds on VAT paid on unpaid invoices less complex.
The government will also introduce a "simplified VAT return", using a flat rate scheme for those with turnover under $400,000. In this case, VAT will be calculated as a fixed percent of cash sales, with no need to account for input tax paid.
Meanwhile, groups of companies will be able to register, eliminating the need to recognize VAT on intra-company transactions.
Task force
Halkitis also said that the government will, as earlier anticipated, appoint a three person task force to educate the private sector on the tax, just as New Zealand brought on board private sector representatives to spearhead its VAT education effort. These individuals have yet to be identified.
Myers said that notwithstanding the fact that the government has taken into consideration many of the recommendations of the coalition with respect to the legislation, the coalition is continuing its campaign on tax and fiscal reform with a view to ensuring the government follows through on other commitments key to ensuring the "overall objective" of debt and deficit reduction is achieved.
"Tax reform is only one aspect of what has to happen to get back on the road to fiscal recovery. So it's great that we've got that done, but what's critical is fiscal reform, energy reform; all of those things are of critical importance."
Another prominent businessman, speaking on condition of anonymity, was more critical of the legislation tabled overall, in particular the decision to keep most duty rates where they currently stand.
"If there is no duty reduction, then there will be no 'buy in' from the private sector. The private sector has made it clear: lower duties vis a vis VAT rate, put in place a Freedom of Information Act and engage in genuine fiscal reform. Without these three demands being worked into VAT reform, there is no reason for the private sector to support the government's position on VAT. Chaos will result. The deficit and debt will get worse."
The government and the opposition committed to going into its summer break once it has finished dealing with several sets of bills, including value-added tax.

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'Big fall out' for automotive sector with no duty drop

July 24, 2014

The automotive industry is likely to experience a "big fall out" with the introduction of value-added tax (VAT), one of its major players has argued. The statement came after the government decided to leave vehicles off the small list of imported goods which will see duty reduced to coincide with the introduction of the tax in 2015.
Rick Lowe, operations manager at Nassau Motor Company, said that without reducing duty on vehicles to coincide with the introduction of the 7.5 percent VAT, more consumers will be "pushed into foreign markets, and that's going to then impact employment and (business) viability".
He was commenting after the government tabled the revised VAT Bill and regulations yesterday in Parliament, in addition to a Tariff Amendment Bill outlining the tariffs
which will be reduced when the tax is brought into effect on January 1 2015. The bill calls for VAT at 7.5 percent, with no goods exempted, and a shorter list of exempted services.
While Guardian Business had heard from a number of sources that the government was considering including vehicles as one of the items on a limited list of goods on which duty would be reduced in order to minimize the impact on consumers and the sector, the Tariff Amendment Bill makes no mention of duty on vehicles being reduced in any way.
Just over 100 items face reductions in duty. The list includes cameras (seven percent to duty free), watches (10 percent to duty free), refrigerators (25 percent to five percent), various types of apparel (25 percent to 20, and 35 percent to 20), footwear (25 percent to 20 percent), pharmaceutical goods (35 percent to 25 percent), beauty or make up products (45 percent to 35 percent) and more.
Lowe said: "Our industry, if not the highest taxed, is one of them, and they just keep increasing the burden and sooner or later you reach a tipping point."
"If there's going to be savings to import your car directly, why buy it locally? You have no advantage then of buying it locally except your warranty."
Since July 1, 2013, customs duty on vehicles under $10,000 has been 65 percent. Vehicles costing more than $10,000 but less than $40,000 face a duty rate of 75 percent; those over $40,000 are charged a duty rate of 85 percent.
Commenting on another aspect of the revised VAT Bill, which the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) yesterday welcomed as having introduced "very smart" adjustments to the original proposal, Lowe said that he found it "interesting" how the government is now placing different filing requirements on businesses of different sizes.
"Obviously they are targeting what they perceive as big business. It confirms it's not a simple tax system when you have to start making allowances," he said.
In the VAT Bill, the government adjusted the previous draft of the legislation to allow for monthly filing for businesses with annual taxable turnover of over $5 million, quarterly filing for businesses with turnover of more than $400,000 and semi-annual filing for businesses with turnovers of less than $400,000 but more than the $100,000, for initial VAT registration.
Lowe said that while Halkitis touted how the government is now presenting the revised bill having consulted widely, he is of the view that the automotive sector never got an audience with the government.
"We've asked for meetings with the prime minister and Halkitis, and we've not had a formal response to our request. We've had three meetings with Halkitis and each time (Financial Secretary John) Rolle came to the meeting, so it was obvious they are in a dilemma but it appears they are not willing to really get involved with our industry to get an understanding of where we're at, from the political side. It's very discouraging," he added.

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Grocers 'relieved' at food item exemption reversal

July 24, 2014

A major shift by the government to no longer exempt any food items in newly-tabled value-added tax legislation was welcomed by the head of the Retail Grocers Association (RGA), who expressed his pleasure that the government had "seen the wisdom" in the association's position.
Philip Beneby, president of the RGA, said of the elimination of the "VAT exempt" items from the legislation: "It will make it simpler and easier for the food industry, and I am happy they have seen the wisdom in that, because we were the ones who were going to be affected the most in that regard."
The decision by the government to include a lengthy list of exempted food items in previously released VAT legislation had raised the ire of the RGA, which said that it threatened the viability of many grocery stores and could ultimately lead to higher prices on non-exempt items, given the requirement of not being able to reclaim expenses related to sales of non-exempt items. "That's one of the components that had the grocers association kind of in a little tangle with the government. This is something that we have been putting forth to the government right from the outset: why have any exempt food items, because there's no country that has VAT with food items exempt? And of course the experts from New Zealand told them the same thing.
"It took the advice from the outside for them to listen, because we said that to them a long time ago, but be that as it may, it's a relief," said Beneby.
Speaking when he tabled the VAT Bill in Parliament yesterday, along with a Tariff Amendment Bill that will reduce duty rates on relatively small selection of just over 100 items, Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis noted the influence of New Zealand tax experts, Dr. Don Brash and John Shewan, on the final form of the VAT legislation. Shewan and Brash had recommended a "lower rate, fewer exemptions" VAT model, as in New Zealand, to reduce compliance costs and gain private sector buy-in. In particular, they had questioned the wisdom of such a lengthy list of exempted food items.
While the government initially suggested it had exempted these goods in order to alleviate the impact of VAT on the poor, Halkitis yesterday confirmed that it will instead seek to do this via cash transfers to low income individuals.

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Trade expert: 'Tremendous opportunities' for Bahamas

July 24, 2014

A renowned expert in international trade policy has stated that the potential to provide intermediate inputs in services and manufacturing provides "tremendous opportunities" for the Bahamian economy.
"It's only necessary to become competitive in one of the inputted products into a final good, or one of the inputted services into a final good, to be able to capture a slice of the global economy and global trade," stated Dr. Sherry Stephenson, senior advisor for services trade at the Organization of American States (OAS).
"This opens tremendous opportunities, particularly for small producers and small countries, in ways that were never obvious before."
Stephenson made the remarks before a panel on the possibility of integrating Bahamian goods and services into global value chains (GVCs); she claimed that The Bahamas was well poised to integrate into the global services chain.
"Services are where the promise is, I think, for The Bahamas...they require less capital investment than manufacturing, and they provide tremendous opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs)," said Stephenson.
"If you look at trade in value-added terms and not in gross terms, the importance of services doubles...Rather than constituting 20 percent of world exports in goods and services, as the WTO has officially published for years, in value-added terms it constitutes 46 percent."
Given that the figure was provided in 2008, Stephenson suspects that services currently represent over half of world trade in value-added terms.
According to Stephenson, 70 percent of global trade is composed of trade in intermediates, and not final products. While Stephenson claimed that the Caribbean and Latin America currently only comprise a small part of the intermediate trade, she indicated that the region had the highest growth rate of any region in the world in terms of activity in intermediate goods.
Stephenson argued that The Bahamas needs to shift from exports of completed goods to intermediate inputs. Of the three categories in which The Bahamas was a net exporter, earth products, fish goods and plastics, Stephenson showed that the two natural resource product areas were in decline. However, plastics showed growth.
"It's harder to participate and reap a lot of value-added out of a value chain in a natural resource product area...than participating in a value chain in the industrial...or electronic or manufacturing product area," said Stephenson.
Stephenson warned that Bahamian tariffs remained "very, very high" and that high tariffs are the chief impediments of the functioning of GVCs.
"In a world of [GVCs], tariffs no longer protect, but they punish production and trade...and so do regulatory restrictions in services," stated Stephenson, who also listed excessive port and terminal handling costs and lengthy export delays among the chief challenges facing Bahamian involvement in GVCs.
"What is very interesting is that this production and trade patterns are now following very closely the pattern of foreign direct investment...investment and trade these days are linked inextricably...It's critical to maintain open markets for cross-border trade and [FDI]."
The Bahamas ranked 84th of 189 economies in terms of ease of doing business in the World Bank's 2014 "Doing Business" report, down seven positions from 2013. However, it ranked 33rd of 161 economies in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) development, second only to Trinidad and Tobago in the region.
Minister of Financial Services Ryan Pinder claimed that The Bahamas was already expanding its role in intermediate input through improved port infrastructure and data processing.
"We're putting in place an electronic window...for customs declarations...to help facilitate the logistics and customs clearing mechanisms to support the success in a trade policy in a global value chain," said Pinder.
"We are actively putting together the infrastructure and the modernization initiatives concurrently with developing the strategy, which will fundamentally be a pillar of economic development in the country utilizing our location, with respect to goods, or certainly our human capital, with respect to services."
Stephenson will assess the viability of Bahamian integration into GVCs during her stay in The Bahamas from July 22-24 before presenting her findings at a later date.

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Realtors question impact of new VAT Bill

July 24, 2014

Members of the real estate industry have expressed considerable concern over yesterday's tabled value-added tax (VAT) legislation, claiming that it raised more questions than answers.
"We're still trying to comb through the bill," said a realtor, who wished to remain unnamed, adding that several realtors shared concerns over the taxes applicable to professional fees within the industry, including realtor commissions and legal fees.
"We need to educate the public as to how this will be affecting us."
While the new legislation revealed that several key services of the real estate industry, including sales of vacant land, would be exempted from VAT, the tax statuses of professional fees have not been directly addressed.
"My main concern...is in house financing," said another realtor, arguing that lingering uncertainty over term agreements could harm the industry. "How do you apply the tax in those situations when only 10 percent of the funds change hands?"
Pertaining to real estate, the services that will be exempted from VAT are sales or rentals of residences, sales of vacant land and leases of land if intended to be used for the construction of a dwelling.
Mike Lightbourn, owner of Coldwell Banker Lightbourn Realty, stated that the exemptions were "good news", but stressed that VAT would still have an "adverse effect on the economy".
"We know the government needs to raise money," said Lightbourn. "But I think the amount of money we collect will be less than it costs to collect it."
While the exemptions were a positive sign for the real estate industry, Lightbourn felt that similar concessions were required for the construction sector.
"We need to stimulate construction...it has such a great multiplier effect on the economy," stated Lightbourn.
Another real estate representative said that exemptions for professional fees were unlikely, given similar VAT legislation in the region and the government's previously proposed VAT legislation.
"Even in the November draft...services rendered during transactions were subject to VAT...I wouldn't be surprised if that was still the case because that is how it works for other countries in the region."
Yesterday's tabled bill confirmed that the government still intends to implement a single 7.5 percent VAT rate across most industries, with few service exemptions. No goods are exempted and there have been no broad tariff reductions.
The government is currently in the process of establishing a new central revenue administration (CRA) to consolidate the collection of a number of taxes and fees in a more efficient and effective manner.

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Kelly's Freeport Ltd. invests in staff

July 24, 2014

Kelly's Freeport Ltd. has congratulated its supervisors for successfully completing an intense leadership training program conducted by Billie Bowe, president and CEO of Benchmark Consulting Services Ltd.
The training, entitled "Leadership essentials - a look into your future as new and emerging leaders", focused on preparing those charged with leadership responsibilities with the necessary skills to be more effective and empowered in their roles.
"At Kelly's we consider our associates to be one of our greatest assets," said Lynn Lowe, managing director of Kelly's Freeport Ltd. "We believe that happy, committed and well-trained associates equate to happy customers.
"Those engaged, well-trained and highly-valued employees in turn deliver the kind of personalized service that builds customer loyalty and satisfaction. When associates feel that they are genuinely valued for their contributions and they can articulate what makes your store better than the rest, they carry that message into the community in a way that is more powerful than any advertising you could ever do."
This is one of several training programs Kelly's has slated for the rest of the year for all levels of the organization, including a customer service course to be conducted by Benchmark.
"Kelly's commitment to the training and development of all employees is commendable," said Billie Bowe, president of Benchmark.
She added: "In these lean times, businesses often overlook the value of continuous training of their number one asset; their people. It is during these difficult times, now more than ever, that employers provide training and development opportunities for their staff to remain motivated and engaged."

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Social promotion or an earned right

July 23, 2014

The first day of school is always a sight to behold -- children with their perfectly coiffed hair, uniforms starched to perfection and spit-shined shoes. But do people ever stop to wonder how many of these children have moved on to the next grade level because they have earned the right and are not advancing through social promotion -- a practice that has always been a part of the school system and is still prevalent today, according to educators.
Social promotion is the practice of promoting students along from grade to grade with their peers, even if the students have not satisfied academic requirements or met performance standards at key grades. It is called social promotion because it is often carried out in the perceived interest of a student's social and psychological wellbeing. At the same time, it has been shown that the practice of having students repeat a grade often has negative educational consequences, hence the social promotion.
The issue of social promotion came to light after The Nassau Guardian viewed the report card of a nine-year-old, fourth grade student whose summer grade point average (GPA) was listed as 2.04 -- and had one A grade, two B grades, four C grades, 1 D grade and eight E grades, and wondered how the grades added up.
The Nassau Guardian polled a number of educators who were given the student's letter grades to calculate a GPA based on the Ministry of Education's grading system, which they said was standard across the board. Two of the educators calculated a GPA of 1.1875 (which they said was rounded up to 1.19); another two educators said their calculations were 1.19 -- a stark difference from the 2.04 on the report.
All of the educators canvassed expressed shock at the 2.04 GPA given, considering the letter grades, but spoke with The Nassau Guardian on condition of anonymity.
In the teacher's comments section, the teacher wrote that the student had struggled through the academic year largely in part to the child's lack of focus during lessons; the student, the teacher said, was too easily distracted. The teacher urged the parents to encourage the child to work harder in fifth grade, but there was no mention of possibly the child having to repeat.
The educators who spoke with The Nassau Guardian weren't surprised. They said social promotion has always been a part of the school system and is prevalent today. They said social promotion is seen as necessary due to an issue with space and being able to allow children to move on so that other students can move up, but it also creates a problem if the child is unable to gain the skills he or she needs to achieve higher level.
On the flip side, the educators said that keeping a child back can scar the student for life and, in some cases, the child that is held back ends up being the bully in class due to being older and bigger than peers.
A senior in the tourism sector (who preferred to remain anonymous) said she remembers having to repeat eighth grade at a top private school due to her grade point average being below that required to be promoted to ninth grade. She said her mother gave her the option of repeating the grade in the private school or entering the government school sector. The woman said she preferred to not repeat because she would have been embarrassed. She was enrolled in a government school, where she proceeded to achieve honor roll status every year until she graduated.
Most of the educators who spoke with The Nassau Guardian said a child with eight E grades on a report card needs special and immediate intervention.
"A red flag should have gone up for quite some time," said one educator. "The grades tell me that it's not a new problem, but an old problem, and I would probably want to provide that child with some form of intervention in the resource room, pull out programs, call in special services...whatever," said the educator.
Another educator said the "E" grades meant nothing.
"That child is performing at the lowest level possible, based on the grading systems out of 5 -- A, B, C, D and E."
The student, who was not taught at any of the schools of the educators that The Nassau Guardian spoke with, said there needed to be a secondary check of the grades and the GPA given.
"By looking at these grades and looking at the GPA, something is definitely wrong and so it would have been checked. I know most schools are computerized in using the reporting system, and so most times you will get an error, so you will have to go back and repost, and re-average to come up with the correct GPA," said one educator.
As to whether she thought the child was being socially promoted, the educator was noncommittal.
"Again, it all depends. We have students in our system who do not function like the mainstream students -- we have students who are autistic, so many of our teachers are not quite able to deal with them, and so we look for a resource person or other persons who can teach these students, based on their learning level."
The educator also said that the grades reflected could have been because the child was not being taught based on his or her learning style, and that the student was only getting the umbrella-type teaching.
According to the educator, the child's parents needed to be called in for a discussion with them over the ramifications surrounding the child's grades and learning; the parents should also be encouraged to work with the child at home. At school, she said, an intervention strategy needed to be plotted for the child -- even if it meant bringing the child in on a Saturday morning.
The educator would have asked for the child to be retested, to see where the student was academically, taking his or her level from there and moving on.
"There are adults who can't take exams and they hyperventilate in exams," said the educator. "I know our ministry was speaking about oral exams for kids who can't take a written exam, to give them an oral exam to help them along, but that has not materialized. We're still into the paper and pen."
As to whether the child should be promoted or repeated, the educator said if the child had been repeated previously he or she should not repeat again.
On the report card, the child's teacher commented satisfactorily on all traits except one -- the child was given a "U" grade which stands for unsatisfactory in work habits, which the educator said spoke volumes concerning the student's lack of focus.
"Their study habits are not there. Their classroom work habit is limited. It seems this child was very easily distracted," said the educator.
Another educator was astounded that the child had eight E grades in reading subjects -- comprehension and literature; language arts subjects -- written composition and grammar and usage; mathematics subjects -- concepts of numbers, computation and application and religious education.
Ministry of Education core subjects include mathematics, language arts, social science, religious studies and physical education.
The educator expressed curiosity over whether the child's teacher had made contact with the parents and told the parents that their child was at risk for failure.
"What parent would want to receive a report card with eight 'E' grades? A lot of variables would come into play," said another educator.
One thing the educator was absolutely certain of was that, based on the letter grades, the 2.04 GPA was totally incorrect.
"I don't care what system they are using -- a 2.04 as GPA is not correct. It just could not add up, not with eight E grades. I'm not sure what system the teacher is using as well -- maybe it erred. When you use some form of electronic system, it gives room for error," said the educator.
The educator was uncertain whether the child was being socially promoted.
"I'm not sure that the teacher wants to promote someone with those grades. I would want to see some form of intervention."
The unsatisfactory grade given to the student under traits also spoke volumes about the educator.
Not a fan of repeating students, the educator believes students should move along with their peers, but added services should be provided for the student to assist him or her in the upcoming grade. The educator said collaboration was needed between the parents and the teacher. The educator also called for the child to be tested.
"My first concern is always for the student, and we have to do right by them. A lot of students come with issues and they may have some challenges in terms of academics, but I believe all children are educable, as long as they can learn. I think we do our very best as educators to ensure that they receive some kind of formal education, and in doing so, if you find the child is still failing, then you need to go out of school and provide the child with the services that are available."
If the child had been in the school at which the Guardian Lifestyles source taught, according to the educator, the child would have been referred to a guidance counselor in the first instance, who would then have referred the child to special services, if it was necessary. Special services would have tried to find some form of intervention for the child in the school environment. In the event of such an intervention not working, the educator said the child would probably be placed in a self-contained program like Stapledon School or the incoming special needs program that will be opened in September at the Our Lady's Catholic Primary School site.
The educator also had advice for fellow colleagues to be very careful in working out students' grades. The educator said when something is put in black and white that it's very difficult to take back.
"Teachers have to be efficient, proficient and transparent in their grades. I would double-check all of my work to ensure that the GPA is correct before I hand it out to parents."
The Nassau Guardian reached out to Ministry of Education, Science and Technology officials who declined to comment.

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Lyford Cay Foundation grants 15,000 to REACH summer camp

July 23, 2014

Lyford Cay Foundation awarded a $15,000 grant to the non-profit organization REACH (Resources and Education for Autism and Related Challenges) to help facilitate the organization's 14th annual summer camp for students with autism spectrum disorders. Funding from the foundation allowed the group to accept more than 90 students, the largest number of participants in the camp's history. In line with the foundation's mission, the camp is free to all participants and offers an inclusive environment that allows students to stay engaged and continue learning throughout the summer.
The four-week program was held at T.G. Glover Primary School. Classes were facilitated by special education teachers, assistants and aides. Camp Co-coordinator Teri-Gaye Vassell said that no child was turned away and the group accepted siblings and students without autistic spectrum disorders in order to help special students develop social behavioral skills.
This year's theme, 'All Things Bright and Beautiful', had students learning about creation, nature and wildlife through crafts, music and caring for animals and plants.
"REACH's mandate embodies the foundation's mission to serve those most in need in the community," said Maureen French, Lyford Cay Foundation's managing director. "Our donors and board of directors are amazed by REACH's commitment to integrate children with autism spectrum disorders into society. We are proud to partner with REACH and inspired by their work."

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Chantal Adderley named to Maine Maritime Academy Dean's List for spring 2014

July 23, 2014

CASTINE, Maine - Chantal Adderley of New Providence was recently named to the Maine Maritime Academy (MMA) dean's list for outstanding academic achievement in the second semester of the 2013-2014 academic year. She is studying marine transportation operations. Students named to the dean's list earn a grade point average of 3.3 or above.
Maine Maritime Academy is a co-educational, public college on the coast of Maine offering 18 degree programs in engineering, management, science and transportation. MMA students benefit from hands-on instruction, international sea time aboard the Training Ship State of Maine and Schooner Bowdoin, cadet shipping aboard commercial vessels and cooperative education assignments.

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RBC sends primary school student to summer camp

July 23, 2014

Valencia R. Richardson, a fifth grade student at Uriah McPhee Primary School, was the recipient of the RBC Innovative Science Summer Camp Scholarship.
Valencia was selected as the recipient by her school as a result of her stellar school record, including regular school attendance, academics and positive school spirit.
"My two weeks at Innovative Science Summer Camp was an exciting learning experience," said Richardson. "We learned how things around us work and about nature. The rocket blasting was great. Science camp was fun because it was hands-on. I thank RBC for the opportunity."
RBC Royal Bank sponsored the camp financially in the form of the scholarship that was awarded to Valencia as well as a contribution toward the camp's general expenses.
"We are proud to sponsor the Innovative Science Summer Camp," said Jan Knowles, RBC manager, public relations and corporate communications. "RBC firmly believes every child needs and deserves our complete commitment so they can be healthy in mind, body and spirit."
The mission of Innovative Science Summer Camp is to make science and learning about science a fun experience for children. Participants at the camp conducted experiments to test their hypotheses to scientific questions that they had always wanted to know the answers to. They learned how to recycle and what items are able to be recycled in The Bahamas. Campers also grew crystals and made designer candles, ice cream and goo. The camp culminated with a parents' day, during which parents were invited to see what the students learned during the camp. During parents' day, each child made a presentation explaining how he or she formed a project hypothesis and the research he or she undertook to test the hypothesis.
"Science education and the important role it plays in the development of children usually takes a back seat to reading and math," said Sheena Davis, president of Innovative Science. "Although these subjects are crucial, the role science plays in the educational development of children needs to be acknowledged. Everything we do on a daily basis involves science -- from breathing to growing our food. Science education fuels the natural curiosity that children have and provides them not only with a potential future career, but valuable critical thinking skills that they will use throughout all of life."
Davis said in a global economy where innovation provides a competitive edge, science education is important to the advancement of children.
She thanked RBC for its sponsorship of the camp and the scholarship that provided an opportunity for a child to grow and develop through science.
Innovative Science is run all year and provides after-school programs, in-class workshops, science-themed birthday parties, corporate fun days and environmental awareness exhibitions.
"Our summer camp and after-school program students have primarily come from the private school system, but this year, through the support of our scholarship donors, including RBC, we were able to host three students from the public school system," said Davis.

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The end is the beginning

July 23, 2014

I bumped into someone some days ago who was obviously, to use the popular vernacular, down in the dumps, she was quite miserable and appeared to be about ready to burst into tears. I enquired if anything was wrong, as she just didn't appear to be her old, upbeat self. She informed me as she looked at me with a rather forlorn look on her face and very doleful eyes which appeared to be red and slightly swollen obviously from a whole lot of crying, that her personal relationship had come to a rather abrupt ending as her partner, whom she had planned on getting married to in a short time, had in fact got engaged to someone else which he informed her about the night before. So his relationship to her had indeed come to a very abrupt end.
She had been in a relationship with this man for years and really did feel that it would last and stand the test of time. We went for coffee and I did my very best to console and comfort this distraught young lady in her hour of need. Over the next few weeks, I spoke with this young lady quite often on the phone. as she would call me to share her feelings with me.
The main message which I did my very best to get firmly planted in her consciousness is the fact, that just because her relationship had come to an end, it was certainly not the end of her life. There would be other relationships in the future. After all, this beautiful young lady was only in her 40s and had indeed a whole lot going for her. I impressed on her that the end is the beginning.
You see, I remember well when someone left me in a similar situation many years ago and I was absolutely broken-hearted. At that time, an extremely spiritual friend said to me "Paul, she has just released you for your higher good." Yes indeed, we all need to get the concept into our collective heads, that every ending is in fact a brand new beginning.
So you just finished working for an organization that you had worked for, for a long time. However, at the same time you've started working for another company and your future really does look very promising as you begin to explore a totally new field. Yes indeed, it doesn't matter what phase of your life has come to an end, for the end is the beginning of another exciting phase of your life!
o Think about it!
Visit my website at: www.dpaulreilly.com.
Listen to "Time to Think" the radio program on STAR 106.5 FM at 8:55 a.m. & 6:20 p.m.

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Lewis, Delauze, Cartwright make semis at world juniors

July 23, 2014

Regardless of how his event turns out, Kirk Lewis can say that he is one of the best 24 short hurdlers under 20 years of age, in the world.
The 19-year-old junior sensation became the first Bahamian to advance out of the opening rounds at the 15th International Association of Athletics Federations' (IAAF) World Junior Championships, currently ongoing at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
Lewis was just three one hundredths of a second off his personal best time, running 13.93 seconds for a third place finish in his heat. The top three in each heat and the next three fastest times advanced to the semi-finals, and based on time, Lewis is the final qualifier. There's no doubt that he will have to go much faster in the semis tonight if he has any intention of running in the final on Thursday. Lewis will run out of lane one in the third of three semi-final heats at 5:49 p.m. this evening, 8:49 p.m. local time.
The other Bahamian in the boys' 110 meters (m) hurdles, Xavier Coakley, wasn't so fortunate.
Coakley was right at his personal best time, running 14.01 seconds, but it was only good enough for fourth in his heat and 29th overall.
Great Britain's David Omoregie is the top qualifier for the semis, running 13.24 seconds. Wilhem Belocian, from Guadeloupe but running for France, is the second fastest qualifier for the semis. The four-time CARIFTA gold medalist ran 13.40 seconds. Jamaican Tyler Mason is the third fastest qualifier for the semis, running 13.46 seconds.
From the boys' 400m last night, both Henri Delauze and Janeko Cartwright moved on to the semi-finals. Delauze was third in his opening round heat in 47.07 seconds, and tied for 11th overall, and Cartwright moved on as one of the fastest non-automatic qualifiers as he was fourth in his heat and finished 13th overall, in 47.10 seconds. Both athletes were close to their personal best times. Delauze has a personal best time of 47.06 seconds, and Cartwright has a personal best time of 47.07 seconds. The top three in each heat and the next three fastest times advanced to the semi-finals.
The boys' 100m heats were also ran yesterday; neither Bahamian moved on to the semis.
Both Keanu Pennerman and Cliff Resias were fourth in their heats, in times of 10.57 and 10.60 seconds, respectively. Pennerman was 23rd overall, and Resias was 25th. They lost out on time as the top three from each heat and the next three fastest times qualified for the semis.
New world junior record holder Trayvon Bromell, from the United States of America (USA), is the top qualifier for the semis. He is the only junior to ever run under 10 seconds, recording a world junior record of 9.97 seconds at Hayward Field in Eugene in mid June. He ran 10.13 seconds yesterday. Bromell's teammate Kendal Williams is the second fastest qualifier for the semis with his opening round time of 10.23 seconds. Cejhae Greene, of Antigua and Barbuda, ran the third fastest time yesterday, a personal best of 10.27 seconds.
Kieanna Albury and Brianne Bethel competed in the opening rounds of the girls 100m last night, and Dannielle Gibson was set to see action in the girls long jump, but the results of those events were unavailable up to press time.
"We're very excited," said team Head Coach Jason Edwards from Eugene yesterday. "We just want the kids to put their best efforts forward. This is a high level meet, top in the world for juniors. The kids know that because we have been stressing to them the importance straight through, so they're focussed on going out there and giving it their best. The team is together and they understand what they need to do. Really, we just want them to compete to the best of their abilities. We're looking for personal best times. The ultimate goal would be to win medals, but we're not putting any pressure on these kids. We just want them to do their best."
Competition continues for The Bahamas' 24-member team today.
In the morning session, LaQuan Nairn will be the first jumper in Group 'A' in the qualifying rounds of the boys long jump. The automatic qualifying distance for the final is 7.70m (25' 3-1/4"), or at least 12 top performers advance. Shaquania Dorsett will run out of lane five in heat five of the girls 400m at 11:59 a.m., 2:29 p.m. local time. The first four in each heat and the next four fastest times will advance to the semis. Finally in the morning session, D'Mitry Charlton will run out of lane four in heat five of the boys 400m hurdles at 12:34 p.m. in Eugene, 3:34 p.m. here in The Bahamas.
The afternoon session will feature Lewis in the semis of the boys 110m hurdles, and the semis of the girls 100m, and boys 400m. The 100m finals are scheduled for later on tonight. Also, the final of the women's long jump is scheduled for tonight.

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