Return to Transcripts main page


Unemployment Rate Unchanged at 9.1 Percent; Japan`s Nuclear Crisis: Six Months Later

Aired September 6, 2011 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN ANCHOR: I wish I had a voice like that. I want to say thanks to Tom, one of our CNN Student News iReporters, for kicking off today`s show in style.

I`m Carl Azuz. Welcome back for another week. And if your summer break is just ending, welcome to a new school year. First up, we`re focusing on jobs today, or rather the lack of them for many Americans.

President Obama is gearing up for a big speech Thursday about how he plans to create more jobs. But ahead of that, a new set of unemployment numbers came out Friday, and they weren`t good. The nation`s unemployment rate is still at 9.1 percent. But what was really significant about this new report is that no new jobs were created in August.

Picture it this way: nearly one out of every 10 people who`s looking for a job in the U.S. isn`t getting one. And that`s putting a lot of pressure on the president to try to make some changes. CNN`s Jessica Yellin has more on how people are responding to the latest jobs report.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): In a blog post, a White House economist calls the latest unemployment figures "unacceptably high," and this administration official says Americans are suffering because of Washington politics.

HILDA SOLIS, SECRETARY OF LABOR: . as soon as a campaign season starts and sets in, that there seems to be a different tone. And it`s unfortunate, because we`re hurting millions and millions of families.

YELLIN (voice-over): The numbers are fodder on the campaign trail for the president`s Republican opponents.

MITT ROMNEY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is zero faith in Barack Obama, because he`s created zero jobs last month.

JON HUNTSMAN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We`re totally stalled out. We`re totally in neutral. We`ve got people suffering out there.

YELLIN (voice-over): The current Republican front runner, Rick Perry, insists, "Our country cannot afford four more years of economic misery." But it`s not just Republicans who are down on the economy. Just listen to the president of the AFL-CIO.

RICHARD TRUMKA, PRESIDENT, AFL-CIO: . at this employment rate, you won`t get back to pre-recession levels of employee for eight or 10 years. That`s totally unacceptable.

YELLIN (voice-over): The latest CNN ORC polling shows Americans are not feeling too optimistic. Eighty-two percent believe the economy is in a recession. Sixty-eight percent say it`s important for the Obama administration to work on creating jobs. Only 30% say the president`s priority should be reducing the deficit.

One reason the president is building so much momentum for the jobs plan.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If enacted, this plan will have a positive impact on growth and a positive impact on job creation.

YELLIN (voice-over): Given the gridlock in Washington, it`s a prediction the White House may never see tested.


AZUZ: Yesterday was Labor Day, and many presidential contenders spent the day at events around the country, talking about -- guess what? The economy.

As you see here, President Obama spoke to a crowd in Detroit, Michigan. He said he plans to fight for his new job growth plan, and for union workers, and to take steps to help out middle class Americans.

Republican candidates also focused on the economy in events at New Hampshire and South Carolina, which are early primary states. They criticize the way the president`s handling the economy, and promise they would take America in a new direction by spending less money and cutting back on regulations.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Time for the Shoutout. What does a meteorologist study? If you think you know it, then shout it out. Is it space? Rocks? Earthquakes? Or weather?

You`ve got three seconds, go.

Meteorology is a study of atmosphere, including weather and climate. So that`s what a meteorologist studies. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.


AZUZ: Tropical Depression Lee, which has weakened from a tropical storm is dumping heavy rain across a large section of the nation`s southeast. That`s causing very severe flooding. Look at this right here.

This is just a sample of what residents in the area have been facing since the storm came ashore on Sunday in southern Louisiana. Meteorologists say Lee will bring up to 20 inches of rain to some areas as it moves northeast. A lot of that`s expected to fall in places where grounds are already drenched, and rivers are already full from Hurricane Irene.

Monday what remained of Lee was threatening to cause even more flooding as well as tornadoes. Authorities declared tornado watches in parts of Alabama, Florida and Georgia, more than 100 homes in suburban Atlanta getting damaged from storms last night.

Strong winds from Lee have also fueled devastating wildfires in Texas, dozens of them, stretching across a 16-mile area. The fires have burned down at least 300 homes and forced thousands of people to leave the area. Officials say one blaze has already scorched about 25,000 acres. That`s roughly equivalent to 25,000 football fields.

Texas is in the middle of its worst fire season ever. A record 3.5 million acres total have burned since November because of hot, dry weather and a major drought. Officials say low humidity levels and strong winds from Lee have only made things worse.


UNIDENTIFIED: See if you can ID me. You learn about me when you study plate tectonics. I`m a zone where a lot of earthquakes and volcanoes occur. I form a horseshoe-shaped ring around the Pacific Ocean.

I`m the Ring of Fire, where most of the world`s strongest earthquakes happen.


AZUZ: Japan is on the Ring of Fire. The island nation was jolted by a tremendous earthquake in March, and the tsunami that came afterward flattened some of the buildings that were still standing. It also caused a nuclear meltdown that could take years to clean up.

Kyung Lah shows us what life is like in a crippled part of the country.

KYUNG LAH, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): A radiation meter`s static is the constant background noise to Yuki Osaku and her two young children`s day. Six months after Japan`s nuclear crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant began, Osaku has more, not less anxiety about her air, food and water.

Radiation readings outside the house are elevated, even though she lives in Kashiwa, just north of Tokyo, 200 kilometers away from the crippled plant. But Kashiwa is a relative hot spot. If a family lived outdoors a full year, the exposure would be 10 times higher than before the nuclear crisis began, but still at a level the government calls safe.

But Osaku won`t take any chances. Her children live indoors, and if she must go outside, she wears a mask. Eating and drinking is now a constant source of fear.

"I don`t believe the government," she says. "As I do more research, there`s nothing to make me feel at ease about our safety."

LAH: From the mother, here to the streets of Tokyo, it`s a sentiment that`s only grown in the last six months, suspicion and distrust of both Japan`s government and of TEPCO, the owner of the crippled nuclear plant.

HIRO HASEGAWA, TEPCO SPOKESMAN: Just after the accident, there were, you know, so many things happened, I should say, you know, sometimes we didn`t know what`s happening there. It might have frustrated so many people.

LAH (voice-over): The biggest frustration, TEPCO`s slow release of information. TEPCO took months to admit that three of the nuclear cores suffered full meltdowns at the plant. Temporary cooling systems are now in place, keeping the cores stable, but Fukushima remains a crisis, the cold shutdown not expected until early next year.

Twenty kilometers around the plant is a closed-off hazardous zone. Eighty-eight thousand residents still have no idea if they`ll ever be able to return to their homes.


AZUZ: Some of you run cross-country. An American woman just did it literally coast to coast, Florida to California, 3,000 miles on foot. You think running a marathon is hard? Whitney Henderson ran more than a marathon a day. Took her three months, averaging about 33 miles a day to do it.

Why did she do it? To raise money for a couple of her favorite charities.


WHITNEY HENDERSON, CROSS-COUNTRY RUNNER: All of the miles across the country that I just thought -- I just didn`t know if I`d make it there. I was questioning my ability. I didn`t know if I could make it. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. And I had a dream in my heart, and it`s now becoming a reality.


AZUZ: That`s called perseverance. Know what else takes perseverance? Eating 183 chicken wings in 12 minutes.

This is Sonya Thomas at the United States Chicken Wing Eating Championship, she wasn`t the biggest competitor, but she gobbled up the competition and broke her own record of 181 wings.

Think about this: Thomas weighs 100 pounds -- at least she did before the event -- and she is the champion of what`s called the Super Bowl for the chicken wing industry. But though she took home a trophy and $1,500, sadly, there`s no Super Bowl wing.

CNN Student News will "wing" in a new day tomorrow. Don`t be too "chicken" to join us.