(LinkAsia: February 10, 2012)
It's not just the nuclear industry that's having trouble restarting. Japan's fisheries still can't shake off the effects of last spring's earthquake and tsunami. First, the disaster damaged seafood processing plants. Now, NHK says the industry is facing another hurdle that's preventing it from restarting operations.
NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: February 6, 2012
The disaster last spring left its mark on Ishinomaki. It took the lives of nearly 3,300 residents and left the city in ruins. Factories that process seafood were so badly damaged, they couldn't operate. Now the industry is trying to get back on its feet, but it's proving difficult. Takashi Yokoyama owns a seafood processing company. He's building a new plant where the old one stood. He expects to get production rolling again in August. He offered jobs to his former employees, but many turned him down. A lot of them had found other jobs.
Takashi Yokoyama, Suishin:
Some now live with relatives in Tokyo. Others have moved to Sendai, the nearest big city. They found new jobs. At least my former employees are not coming back to work for me.
He's found it impossible to hire new employees to replace the former ones. He's not alone. Many other seafood companies in the devastated region face the same problem. This company started processing seafood again last October, at a factory that had not suffered major damage. But the firm was only able to re-hire seven former employees, half the number working there before the disaster. Noriyuki Hobara owns the company. He asked the local employment agency for seven workers. He waited by the phone. But after four months, no one had applied.
Noriyuki Hobara, Hobara Company:
I thought I would get at least a few calls. But there hasn't been a single one. I simply cannot start a business without workers.
Hobara says people have found higher paying jobs in the building industry, booming now that re-construction has started. Many people need the higher paying jobs to make up for lost wages.
I hear that construction jobs are paying about $130 a day. The truth is that jobs in the seafood industry pay less. We pay about USD$80 a day.
Hobara again asks the employment agency for workers. This time, he offered higher wages, even though his business might lose money.
I decided to raise the wage from USD$80 a day to USD$130.
That's equal to the salary plant managers receive.
I would appreciate it if you could find me one or two people. Obviously, you can't do anything at all without workers. All I want is to hire people and get the business running again.
First, it was the earthquake and tsunami that stopped the plants' operations. Now, it's the rebuilding. Unless the seafood companies find employees, it will take longer for this devastated city to recover.
I can hear it already: This is not real world music!!!
But wait, aren't the blues "world music?" As Link's resident expert, I say "yes, they are!" Of course, that's me singing the song I wrote, so I have a vested interest in bending the category (maybe). But no less a luminary that Howard Mandel, President of the Jazz Journalists Association saw fit to carry this on HIS blog. So there.
Here's the scoop on how this all happened:
Getting laid off because of a recession can really get to you, no matter how busy you make yourself. My partner Bruce Arnold had been writing songs for his new lap steel, and this one, called "Up the Spout" (a Midwestern depression term) just spoke to me. I wrote a melody and words and voilá.
Occupy Wall Street happened right around the time we were shooting the video, so I went down there and got shots of some of the more poignant people and signs... what can I say, they were more sympatico than I thought they'd be, and every one of them could have been you or me. Much has been said against the demonstration, but I for one am glad that someone is expressing the outrage that Americans should be feeling about being used and abused by a system that is badly out of kilter. Do I have the answers? As Mr. Mandel sagely pointed out in his blog: "Nobody should expect policy answers from a blues."
Lyrics to "Up the Spout"
It's a bitter wind, and it ain't no breeze
It shakes the windows and it takes the trees
And it blew me away
I love my work. It's what life's about-
that wind came and blew it all Up the Spout
Yes it blew me away.
Now here I sit... what shall I do
That wind left me here without a clue
Yes, it blew me a way
You were the boss, yet here we meet
Yeah, we both lost on that windy street
Yes it blew us both away
That wind don't care -- we're all just dust
and it' happening to all of us
It's blowing us away
Now with a little luck I'll make it through
But when that wind blows it's gonna come for you too
It's blowing -- It's blowing us away, Up the Spout
Blowing us Up the Spout
For more of Michal's original music videos, visit inter-muse.com.
In 2009, movies finally began to present stories about the devastating impact of the current global economic crisis. The movie that grabbed the most attention and was hailed as capturing a zeitgeist moment on corporate downsizing was UP IN THE AIR. Despite its acclaim and multiple predictions that it would be the one to beat at this year’s Oscar’s, it went home empty-handed. Truth be told, I wasn’t a big fan of the movie and thought its depiction of the economic crisis was more slick than illuminating. Where were the personal stories that showed the real devastation of job loss?
Italy’s satisfying answer is DAYS AND CLOUDS, directed by Silvio Soldini (BREAD AND TULIPS, AGATA AND THE STORM). It traces the harrowing economic descent of a sophisticated, upper-middle-class couple in Genoa after the husband loses his job. Flawless performances by Margherita Buy and Antonio Albanese as the couple (Elsa and Michele) keep us riveted as they attempt to grapple with their escalating fears about an unfathomable future.
All seems fine as the movie opens with a surprise celebration of Elsa’s graduation from an art history program. But when Elsa wakes up, Michele confesses that he hasn’t worked in months and they will probably have to sell their home. Elsa is furious at what she perceives as a betrayal of marital trust. While Michele explains that he did not want to distract her from her exams, it soon becomes clear that much more is at issue—Michele’s unbearable shame for jeopardizing a way of life that he can no longer maintain.
The theme of shame runs deep as Elsa discovers her own inability to share the news with her daughter or close friends. The stress of these multiple non-disclosures begins to create a weight so heavy that the marriage starts to buckle under the strain. The pain is so palpable I felt my heart racing as fast as their downward tumble.
I picked the clip below because it shows how the couple’s economic unraveling is beginning to invade all aspects of their life. It also highlights Michele’s state of denial and embarrassment as he pretends that everything is OK. In this scene, with the news of Michele’s job loss still fresh for Elsa, the simple act of picking up a dinner check with friends quickly devolves into an angry confrontation:
One review of this film suggests that Michele’s denial and anger are, in part, exacerbated be an “Italian machismo” that impairs his ability to cope with a surreal loss of stature. I’m not sure that’s correct. It seemed to me that Michele’s reaction was more universal and not necessarily affected by any cultural distinctions.
Michele’s search for employment flows from denial to desperation so quickly that he has difficulty adjusting to a reality that finds him working odd jobs as a postal messenger and plaster/painter--anything to avoid the horror of doing nothing. Elsa must also adjust to a future that requires working two shifts as a secretary. And she discovers that she must make decisions about whether to consider alternate life choices including other men. A pass from a wealthy, attractive businessman is not so easily dismissed and the pain of this discovery is revealed in a breathless moment of sadness, vulnerability and desire.
Film’s ending does, however, provide a glimmer of optimism and it is Elsa’s art restoration that serves as an apt metaphor: if you can scrape away the years of passive neglect that can camouflage a marriage, you may find, if you’re lucky, something very beautiful that has somehow managed to endure. Whether that’s true or not, we finally have a film that accurately captures the economic calamity that can happen to anyone. And it’s pretty scary.
China sees two major challenges to its economic growth: rising unemployment and a deep investment in the U.S. dollar. Beijing's answer: spend and invest, and wheel and deal. In the process, China is crafting a recovery strategy that's spreading its interests around the world.
Sources: CCTV, China; Al Jazeera English, Qatar; Russia Today, Russia; BBC, U.K.; Press TV, Iran; Todo Noticias, Argentina
Global Pulse primary production is off this week, but assistant producer Elizabeth Cabrera had the foresight to produce our first behind-the-scenes piece shot in and around Link TV's San Francisco offices. She directs a team that includes Erin Zaleski as writer and co-producer, Fanny Dassie as writer and production assistant, and Shima Nishimuta and Virginia Gazzinelli as shooters. The piece follows up on a segment of last week's episode "Global Meltdown: Human Fallout" that examined the rising joblessness of South Korean graduates. In the coming months, we hope to share similar pieces that spotlight the diverse perspectives of our international team.