Japan economy shrinks 6.8%; Russia-West tensions hit German business confidence; Resumes that lie; A pianist in Syria’s Yarmuk camp

1 Japan economy shrinks 6.8% (BBC) Japan’s economy contracted by an annualised 6.8% in the second quarter of the year, the biggest fall since 2011 when it was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami. The official gross domestic product figure though was smaller than the 7.1% drop economists expected. The shrinkage was largely in response to a government sales tax, which held back consumer spending.

On a quarterly basis, the economy contracted 1.7% in the second quarter after a 1.5% rise in the first three months. Private consumption, which makes up 60% of economic activity, was 5% down on the previous quarter. The economy grew at an annualised rate of 6.1% in the first quarter of this year.

Recent retail sales and factory output figures both indicated a negative impact from the sales tax rise. Marcel Thieliant, Japan economist at Capital Economics, said a rebound was expected in the coming months: “The collapse in economic activity last quarter was largely a result of the higher sales tax, and we still believe that the recovery will resume in the second half of the year. “Consumers had brought forward spending ahead of April’s increase in the consumption tax.”


2 Russia-West tensions hit German economic confidence (Angela Monaghan in The Guardian) Confidence among German investors nosedived in August amid tensions between Russia and the west which are expected to bring Europe’s largest economy to a standstill. The ZEW indicator of economic sentiment plunged more sharply than expected to a 20-month low of 8.6 points from 27.1 points in July. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a far smaller fall, to 18.2 points.

The index has fallen for eight consecutive months. Heightened geopolitical tensions are raising fears that the eurozone’s weak recovery will be snuffed out altogether, and that Germany’s economy will flatline. As Russia’s biggest trading partner in the EU, Germany is expected to be one of the economies hardest hit by Vladimir Putin’s dispute with the west over his treatment of Ukraine, which has triggered sanctions and countersanctions.

The authors of the report said the decline in economic sentiment was the result of the geopolitical tensions that have begun to weigh on Germany’s growth. The extent of Germany’s woes will be laid bare on Thursday, when the first official estimate of second-quarter GDP is expected to show zero growth, following 0.8% growth in the first quarter. Growth in the eurozone is also expected to slow to 0.1% between April and June, from 0.2% in the first three months of the year.


3 Resumes that lie (Julie Balise in San Francisco Chronicle) An impressive resume can open new doors for job-seekers. An inaccurate one can close them. It looks like some applicants are testing their luck, with 58 percent of hiring managers in a recent CareerBuilder survey saying they have caught a resume lie. One-third of respondents say they saw an increase in resume lies after the recession.

The most common resume lie is embellishing the skill set, followed by embellishing responsibilities, dates of employment, job title, academic degree, companies worked for, and accolades and awards. Fifty-one percent of respondents said they would automatically throw out a resume containing a lie, 41 percent would base their decision on the type of lie, and 7 percent would overlook a lie if they liked the job candidate.

CareerBuilder also looked at the industries where the most hiring managers report catching resume lies. Financial services came out on top, with 73 percent of managers catching a lie. It was followed by leisure and hospitality, at 71 percent; information technology, at 63 percent; health care (more than 50 employees), at 63 percent; and retail, at 59 percent.


4 A pianist in Syria’s Yarmuk camp (Rana Moussaoui in Dawn) In the Yarmuk camp in southern Damascus, the notes escape a piano set in a scene of destruction and the children in Ayham al-Ahmed’s little group sing of hunger and suffering. The music in the Syrian camp, under siege for a year and wracked by violence, seems at odd with the brutality that is all around.

In photos posted on Facebook, the 26-year-old plays the piano in streets littered with debris, his face growing thinner with each passing month. Once a thriving neighbourhood home to 150,000 Palestinian refugees and Syrians, Yarmuk has been reduced to a shell of its former self in the conflict that began in March 2011.

Caught in fighting between rebels and the regime, just 18,000 residents remain, suffering under a government siege that has caused the deaths of some 200 people in a year, including 128 of hunger. “I weighed 70 kilos between the siege, today I weigh 45,” says Ahmed. The privations in the camp were so serious that Ahmed, who loves to play Haydn and eastern jazz, evacuated his wife and two-year-old son, both suffering severe anaemia.

Under the circumstances, Ahmed’s creation of the “Youth Troupe of Yarmuk “in 2013 was a rare ray of light. “It was important to emerge from the despair we were living in,” he says. When he plays, he says, he feels that “there is once again something good in this life”. Ayham’s father, 62-year-old Ahmed al-Ahmed, is a blind violinist who played with the troupe until rheumatism exacerbated by malnutrition forced him to quit.

“I want to put a smile on the faces of children,” says Ayhem al-Ahmed, who named his children’s choir “Buds of Yarmuk”. One song about those in exile from the camp, called “Brother, we miss you in Yarmuk”, spread like wildfire on social networks. It describes the story of Syrians who have been displaced from their homes or become refugees — some nine million citizens in all.



About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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