- Japan Focus: Returning To Tokyo
- Many Low-Wage Jobs Seen as Failing to Meet Basic Needs
- European Monetary Policy: Trigger Happy
- Broken Links: Japan And The Global Supply Chain
- Japanese Earthquake Threatens to Shut Down Taiwanese Fabs
- Spanish Scientists Search For Fuel Of The Future
- Recycled: Platitudes From The President
- Plutonium And Mickey Mouse
- Despite Assurances on Milk, Radiation Fear Lingers
- New Problem In Japan: Radioactive Corpses
Japan Focus: Returning To Tokyo (jdargis)
It goes without saying that compared to the struggles facing the grieving, the homeless and the jobless, hunting for toilet paper and switching off the lights in Tokyo – now that I’ve returned home – is not much of a hardship.
But the subtle (and not so subtle) shifts in Tokyo’s landscape show the extent to which countless residents and businesses have been touched by recent events.
According to the report, a single worker needs an income of $30,012 a year — or just above $14 an hour — to cover basic expenses and save for retirement and emergencies. That is close to three times the 2010 national poverty level of $10,830 for a single person, and nearly twice the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
European Monetary Policy: Trigger Happy (jdargis)
The increase may be small but it would mark the turn in the interest-rate cycle. And the case for early tightening looks flimsy. True, euro-wide inflation has risen in recent months above the ECB’s target of “below but close to 2%”. But the overshoot, to 2.6% in March, has been primarily driven by higher energy costs, reflecting the jump in world oil prices. Measures of “core” inflation, which exclude more volatile things like energy and food, have remained at around 1%.
Like the sudden evaporation of liquidity that the banks experienced, factories are finding that parts that had always turned up reliably have stopped coming. As with financial regulators’ discovery of how poorly they understood the “shadow banking” system and arcane derivatives contracts, manufacturers are discovering how little they know about their suppliers’ suppliers and those even farther down the chain. When Lehman went bust, other banks struggled to measure their exposure because Lehman turned out to be not a single institution but a tangle of many entities. Assembly firms are now finding that their supply chain looks much the same.
Taiwan’s high-tech sector is scrambling to determine how its own manufacturing will be affected by the troubles across the sea. Industries that rely on Japanese suppliers for raw materials and components are wondering how long it will take to restore reliable power and transportation in eastern Japan, which is home to several key suppliers. But some Taiwanese companies may also be able to find opportunities in the crisis, filling the void left by the temporary shutdown of Japanese plants.
Spanish Scientists Search For Fuel Of The Future (Alfredo E.)
At a time when companies are redoubling their efforts to find alternative energy sources, the idea is to reproduce and speed up a process which has taken millions of years and which has led to the production of fossil fuels.
“We are trying to simulate the conditions which existed millions of years ago, when the phytoplankton was transformed into oil,” said engineer Eloy Chapuli. “In this way, we obtain oil that is the same as oil today.”
Recycled: Platitudes From The President (jdargis)
Mr Obama’s plan has four main strands: increasing domestic production of oil, boosting the use of biofuels and natural gas as substitutes, encouraging the spread of electric cars and making petrol-powered vehicles more efficient. He also chucked into the mix his “clean energy standard”, a scheme to promote less polluting forms of electricity generation, even though it has nothing to do with oil imports (energy generation relies on coal, gas, nuclear or renewables, but not on oil, which is used almost exclusively for transport, heating and industry.)
None of this is new. The clean-energy standard was first wheeled out in Mr Obama’s state-of-the-union speech in January, and is anyway only a rehashed version of a much older proposal to promote renewable energy, with nuclear power and natural gas bolted on to broaden its appeal. The administration was already working on a fresh series of ever more demanding fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles for when the current lot run out in 2016. Mr Obama had also previously pledged to nurture growth in domestic oil production, to counter Republican cries of “Drill, baby, drill.”
Plutonium And Mickey Mouse (jdargis)
Japan’s nuclear crisis drags on, exposing profound failures both at the company and in national energy policy.
“I’ve had members call to ask whether we’ve seen the media, and media calling to ask how this is impacting our members,” said Michael Marsh, the chief executive of Western United Dairymen, the milk industry’s West Coast trade association. Mr. Marsh said he had repeated the assurances given by officials, but he also understood the fears in the supermarket’s refrigerated aisle.
“Consumers, doubtless, when they hear about something like this, the cautionary principle kicks in,” he said. “Even if you’d have to drink an oil tanker of this.”
Authorities in quake-affected northeastern Japan are seeking to decontaminate infected corpses before they can be disposed of.
Meanwhile, thousands of people are fleeing the area as radioactive material still leaks from the stricken plant on Japan’s east coast.
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