Part of the Planet Money T-shirt Project
Charities like Goodwill sell or give away some of the used clothes they get. But a lot of the clothes get sold, packed in bales and sent across the ocean in a container ship. The U.S. exports over a billion pounds of used clothing every year — and much of that winds up in used clothing markets in sub-Saharan Africa.
On today's show, we visit a giant used-clothing market in Nairobi, Kenya to see what happens to American clothes (including, presumably, some Planet Money T-shirts) after Americans are done with them.
The European Space Agency's Rosetta probe, launched in March 2004, will be awakened from a deep sleep next month in preparation for a rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which will culminate late next year with the first-ever soft landing on such a body.
The 6,600-pound spacecraft, which has spent nearly a decade making repeated flybys of Earth and Mars to gain enough speed to catch the comet, was put in hibernation in July 2011, after its last major gravity-assist maneuver.
Rosetta's wake up call is set for Jan. 20, 2014 at precisely 1000 GMT (5 a.m. EST).
The ESA is marking the event next month with a competition, inviting the public to share "a video clip of you shouting 'Wake up, Rosetta!'"
You can upload the video to ESA's dedicated Facebook page.
The Washington Post says NASA's Deep Impact mission, which fired a projectile at a comet in 2005 in hopes of analyzing the debris, was "just a drive-by" compared to the ESA's efforts.
"[European] Scientists hope that by flying Rosetta alongside the comet and sending down a barrel-size lander to collect and analyze samples, they will get an even better idea of what comets are made of and what role they played in the formation of our solar system."
In August, Rosetta will pull up alongside 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and on Nov. 11, 2014, is set to place its robotic lander, called Philae (after an island in the Nile River) on the comet's surface.
The Post says the proposed feat has been variously described as either parachuting onto a mountaintop or leaping from one speeding car to another.
Anticipating Tuesday's announcement by the ESA, Space.com wrote in October:
"Scientists hope the comet images and data collected by the $1.4 billion Rosetta probe will help them piece together the early history of our solar system since comets are among the most primitive objects in our cosmic neighborhood. By searching for organic molecules on the comet's surface, Rosetta also could help scientists examine the possibility that space rocks planted the seeds of life on Earth, researchers said."
The first word that comes to mind when I think about modern life is "overload." The second is "dispersion."
We are the targets of an ongoing war for our attention: the Web, new technologies, food, clothing, music. We feel the constant need to be connected; TV and radio are just not enough. We need to link to social media outlets, know what's going on or else be out; each instant of time is taken by a screen, small or large; information pours down in torrents.
If we forget our cell phone at home, we feel like a body part is missing; we are the phones, the phones are us. We are addicted to it, as we can see when a plane lands after a 45-minute flight and hundreds of passengers turn on their phones as if their lives depended on information that just came out. We are addicted to linkage and I am guilty as charged.
We no longer allow time for contemplation.
People feel time is passing faster because we have less and less control over it. To do nothing feels like a huge waste of time. Any open window of time must be filled with tweets, Facebook updates, email, YouTube videos, podcasts. If no one is talking about us, let's make sure that they do.
One of the victims of this "race to linkage" is our connection to nature. We can call it the new missing link.
We hardly look up to the sky or the at the life around us. To most people nature is a concept, something that exists out there, that we see in YouTube videos or magazines, on BBC and Animal Planet specials. To recover a sense of control over time we need to return to nature; we need to create space to observe other forms of life; we need to reconnect with the night sky, far from the city lights. At least this is what I do to slow down.
To me, entering a trail for a hike or run is like entering a temple. And as with any temple, I go in search of a connection, trying to restore a sense of identity as I surround myself with green and blue.
We recently published a story about how used clothes that get donated in the U.S. often wind up for sale in markets in Africa. As part of the story, we published some photos of used T-shirts we found in a couple markets in Kenya.
One shirt in particular caught our eye:
The shirt had a name inside it (Rachel Williams) and a bat mitzvah date (Nov. 20, 1993). We wanted to close the loop — to find Rachel Williams, and Jennifer of "Dancing with the Toons" fame. So yesterday, we threw up the Internet bat signal and asked for help tracking down Rachel and Jennifer.
Adam Soclof of JTA, a Jewish news service, saw a post about our search and set out to find Rachel Williams. He used Facebook Graph Search to look for people named Rachel Williams who had a friend named Jennifer, who would have been about 13 in 1993, and who he shared common Facebook friends with.
The first Rachel he tried was not the Rachel we were looking for. But he found the right Rachel on the second try:
Rachel, super random, but recognize this bat mitzvah shirt? Let me know...
It is my shirt! Williams is my maiden name. The bat mitzvah girl is Jennifer Slaim, she is married now. That picture is crazy!
(Read Adam's full post here. It includes his conversations with both Rachel and Jennifer.)
We saw Adam's post and followed up with Rachel this morning (her last name is now Aaronson, by the way). She told us she had a bunch of bat mitzvah T-shirts that spent years sitting in the basement of her parents' house, in the Detroit area. This one had her name in it because she took it to summer camp. About five years ago, she said, her mom gave the shirts away to a charity called Purple Heart.
She told us she's happy that the shirt will have a second life in Kenya. "I would love for the shirt to continue to be worn, to continue to be used," she said. "I hope whoever's wearing it is wearing it in good health and happiness."
Rachel also put us in touch with Jennifer, who said that this was, indeed, the shirt she gave away at her bat mitzvah, which was held 20 years ago at a Somerset Inn in Troy, Michigan. She even sent us pictures.
Jennifer was into cartoons at the time, especially Betty Boop. Hence the theme. When she saw the picture of her shirt yesterday, she said, "I couldn't stop laughing. It's crazy ... Twenty years later, who would think that my shirt would make it to Africa?"
"Atomic energy makes our town and society prosperous," reads a sign photographed by filmmaker Atsushi Funahashi for Nuclear Nation. By the time he shows this small-town civic motto, the irony is unmistakable: Japan's nuclear-power industry may have enriched society, but it has left this particular city desolate.
The place in question is Futaba, which borders the Fukushima Daiichi nuke plant. Funahashi shows Futaba mostly in exile; after four of the six reactors failed on March 12, 2011, the town's residents were evacuated. As of April 2011, 1,415 of them were living in an abandoned high school in Saitama, the prefecture that holds much of Tokyo's northern sprawl.
Over the nine months the movie chronicles, about half the refugees leave the school building. Many return to the Fukushima area, but none to Futaba, which is still radioactive and officially off-limits. When a bus trip is organized so former residents can retrieve treasured belongings — for one, that means Mad Max and Planet of the Apes DVDs — the visitors are allowed only two hours within the hot zone.
Despite its title, the film spends little time analyzing Japan's macro issues as a "nuclear nation"; the director, who also served as editor and main cinematographer, sticks with the Futaba refugees. His approach is direct, intimate yet respectful, and sometimes as mournful as the stark piano-and-flute score. Both movie and music proceed slowly, although probably faster than in the original version, which was nearly an hour longer.
The principal characters include Mayor Katsutaka Idogawa and a father-son team, Ichiro and Yuiichi Nakai, who use their two hours in Futaba to pray for the soul of the wife and mother who died in the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and nuke-plant hydrogen explosions.
When the movie leaves the Saitama shelter, it's usually to follow the mayor or other residents on a mission. Some of them stage a march in Tokyo, protesting Futaba's abandonment. There, in a classic clueless-politician moment, one elected representative bows solemnly to a demonstrator and asks, "Where are you from?"
Sometimes, though, the nation comes to the evacuees. The emperor and empress pay a visit, and a military band arrives to perform sad enka ballads and a tune that vows, "We love our Fukushima home." There are also letters and promises of compensation from the national government and the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which some find disappointing. "It would have been nice to receive something more heartfelt," remarks a shelter resident.
Each new reactor brought an influx of cash, Idogawa explains, but only temporarily. After all the construction, Futaba was still one of the 10 poorest towns in the country. That's why the mayor endorsed two more reactors, whose construction had been scheduled to begin just a month after the disaster.
By mid-2011, the mayor had changed his mind about nuclear power — not that it mattered much. He still had an office, but it was in a high school some 150 miles away from a town he couldn't even visit.
Idogawa and the Nakais aren't the documentary's only mavericks. There's also farmer Masami Yoshizawa, who insists on feeding and watering his cattle, even though the animals are too radioactive to have any economic value.
"I'm committed to letting these cows live," says Yoshizawa. That sentiment, given the circumstances, seems rather more inspiring than "Atomic energy makes our town and society prosperous."