Saturday, August 21, 2010

One Man Transforming Kenya One Bridge At A Time

Click to read full story from CNN

West Pokot, Kenya (CNN) -- More than 13 years after his parents drowned in a flash flood, David Kakuko is at the Moruny River, building a bridge that might have prevented their deaths.

The hanging footbridge will provide safe passage over the Moruny, a frequently flooded waterway in West Pokot, Kenya.

"Before the bridge, there [were] so many people, so many who lost their lives," said Kakuko, 32. "I know, because I have no parents. I have no parents, because this river took them."

Kakuko is working alongside other local residents and Harmon Parker, a master mason who has been building bridges through Kenya's mountainous terrain since 1997.

Parker, a Lexington, Kentucky, native who came to Kenya in 1989, has seen firsthand how flash floods -- and the threat of predators such as crocodiles and hippos -- can make rivers impassable in isolated communities.

"I've worked all over Kenya," said Parker, 54. "And every community [has] a story of ... loved ones lost."

When Parker arrived in Kenya as a young missionary, he befriended Jay Hindson, a fellow development worker who introduced him to a bridge build in 1996. The experience changed the course of his life.

"It was a plea from the community," Parker recalled. "I saw that building a bridge could change lives and transform communities."

Parker has been building bridges ever since, and in 2003 he founded the nonprofit organization Bridging the Gap. The organization oversees the building of bridges that not only save lives but connect isolated villagers to resources that can improve their way of life.

"When it floods, people really suffer not being able to get to the clinic or the market or to their school," Parker said. "Like every people, they have dreams. They want to prosper."

Since 1997, Parker has helped build 45 bridges in Kenya. He estimates they've affected tens of thousands of lives, but he insists his work is not about the numbers.

"I have built many bridges in very remote areas for the 'few and the needy' that a larger organization may not consider," he said. "Knowing this bridge will probably save at least one life is what makes me tick. ... I build bridges because I want to save lives, lives that I will never know about."

Parker's hanging footbridges are simple in design, with an average length of 120 feet and an average cost of about $6,000. They are built using basic materials and local tools so villagers can maintain them and make repairs when needed.

Controversy Over 10 Commandments Starts Heated Argument In one Illinois City

Click to read full story from KFVS12

MARION, IL (KFVS) - Atheist Rob Sherman says he now has someone in the Marion community whose rights would be violated over the placement of a religious monument in Marion's Tower Square.

On Monday night Sherman warned Marion city leaders during their council meeting that if he found someone in town who wanted to challenge the city over a Ten Commandments monument, he'd take up the fight against the city.

On Wednesday Sherman introduced Robert Donelson, a proclaimed Wiccan, who now wants his religious symbol on Tower Square too.

"If the Ten Commandments go up, then the Wiccan read goes up too," Donelson said.

Sherman backed up Donelson's request with a multiple faceted statement.

"If Mayor Bob Butler wants to allow a Ten Commandments monument here that's fine," said Sherman. "He can do that as long as he allows Mr. Donelson to put up his pentagram or whatever expression of his perspective about the Wiccan religion."

The Marion Mayor says he sees the proposed religious monument from a different perspective.

"We consider the Ten Commandments monument, if it were there, as a recognition of the fundamental premise for the law of the land," said Mayor Bob Butler.

Spike In Unemployment Claims Highest In 9 Months

Layoffs are back, and that's bad news for the fragile economic recovery.

New applications for unemployment benefits hit a nine-month high last week — a spike that suggests private employers may shed jobs this month for the first time this year.

Workers are losing construction jobs in Georgia and manufacturing jobs in Indiana. Some of the layoffs are coming as stimulus money dries up and public works projects come to a halt. Government employees are being let go, too, as states and cities grapple with budget crises.

Without more jobs, consumers will not feel secure enough to spend much money, further slowing the economy. The grim outlook has economists lowering their estimates for growth in the second half of the year. And on Thursday it led to a sell-off on Wall Street led by investors worried that the United States could tumble back into recession.

"Today's news on the economy has been nothing but awful," Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients. "The recovery is clearly slowing."

The Labor Department announced Thursday that initial claims for jobless benefits rose by 12,000 last week to 500,000 — the highest level since November and the third straight increase.

As the economy recovered from the worst downturn since the 1930s, jobless claims declined steadily from a peak of 651,000 in March 2009 to a low of 427,000 in July before rising steadily over the past six weeks. In a healthy economy, jobless claims usually drop below 400,000.

"This is obviously a disappointing number that shows ongoing weakness in the job market," said Robert Dye, senior economist at the PNC Financial Services Group.

Dye said claims showed a similar pattern in the last two recoveries, but eventually began to fall again. The current elevated level of claims is a sign that employers are reluctant to hire until the rebound is well under way. That's what happened after the 1991 and 2001 recessions, which were dubbed "jobless recoveries."

Economists caution that more than 350,000 temporary census jobs ended in recent months, and those workers could be applying for benefits. Congress also recently restored an extended unemployment benefits program, which can sometimes spike claims.

The jobless report and a separate report showing that manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic declined in August sent stock markets tumbling. The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 144 points for the day. Interest rates dropped sharply as investors flocked to the safety of Treasury bonds.

A rush to move money into Treasurys in recent months has sent mortgage rates to the lowest level in decades. They dipped for the eighth time in nine weeks.

Also Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office said the deficit is on pace to exceed $1.3 trillion for the budget year that ends in September. That would be the second-largest ever, just below the record of more than $1.4 trillion in the last fiscal year.

Partially fueling the deficit was hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus spending intended to help lift the country out of recession. But many of the programs are now ending, taking jobs with them.

Ken Simonson, chief economist at the Associated General Contractors of America, said highway contractors began working on stimulus projects as much as a year ago, "and now that pipeline is empty."

Work on commercial projects such as office buildings, malls and hotels is "dead, dead, dead," he added.

Construction firms are letting go of more workers as the housing sector slumps and federal stimulus spending on public works projects winds down. Construction-related layoffs have been particularly heavy in recent weeks in Georgia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

In Washington, Republicans have made Democrats' handling of the economy the No. 1 campaign issue heading into the midterm congressional elections. President Barack Obama cited the jump in jobless claims to call attention to Republicans who are opposing his proposal to help small businesses.

That bill would provide up to $30 billion in additional lending to small businesses and about $12 billion in tax breaks to encourage hiring. But Republicans and some Democrats are balking at more government spending because of the effect on the deficit.

Watch Your Money North Korea Sending Fake $100 Dollar Bills To U.S

Click to read full story from World Net Daily

A New Jersey man was shocked when police informed him that the $100 bill he withdrew from his bank to pay taxes earlier this month was a masterfully made counterfeit.

What the man may not have realized is that the State Department has confirmed a rash of these almost undetectable counterfeits, called "super-notes," have been flooding the U.S. from North Korea in a form of monetary sabotage one former FBI agent warns could constitute an act of war.

The existence of the supernotes was exposed in 2008, when several Chinese men were convicted of smuggling tens of millions of dollars worth of the counterfeit money into the U.S.

Originally, the supernotes fooled even state currency experts.

"It wasn't until they took [a] bill back to Washington, D.C., and they examined it in the labs of the Secret Service … that they determined that in fact it was a supernote," author and former FBI agent Bob Hamer explained to the Christian Broadcasting Network. "It's a near-perfect replica of our $100 bill."

But authorities also discovered that the Chinese men hadn't actually produced the counterfeits; they were only the vehicle for smuggling the currency into the U.S.

Last month, the International Business Times reports, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley confirmed U.S. officials now have "no doubt" that North Korea is behind the counterfeit currency ring.

And that, Hamer told CBN News, could be considered an act of war.