2009年 09月 15日 ( 4 )

The Lehman Shock

Why the bank's failure one year ago was so much more devastating for the rest of the world than for the United States.

The failure of Lehman Bros. on Sept. 15, 2008, was an epic calamity (大規模な災難), but it may have been more important overseas--where September 2008 is referred to as "Lehman Shock"--than it was here.

In the United States, the sudden bankruptcy of America's fourth-largest investment bank was the cathartic (下剤の、下痢を起こさせる) culmination of a process that had been building since subprime lenders began to go bust (倒産する) in 2007. Before Lehman was allowed to fail, we had witnessed the shocking demise (崩御) of well-known firms such as Bear Stearns and of much larger institutions Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac (the two largest U.S. financial institutions as measured by the size of their balance sheets), and AIG. Throughout the summer of 2008, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and the Federal Reserve had been dealing with systemic failure. Yes, Lehman's demise kicked the level of hysteria up several notches (段階) and required unprecedented intervention (前代未聞の介入), particularly in the commercial paper (無担保の短期約束手形) market. But it wasn't a solitary (一人ぼっちの) event. The same day Lehman failed, Bank of America and Merrill Lynch--a larger firm than Lehman--merged. The same week, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley converted to bank holding companies so they could access new sources of credit. Meanwhile, the Bush administration began to concoct (~を企てる) a large-scale bailout (財政救済措置) and a hot presidential election took a decisive turn. Our attention quickly shifted from the dead to the living and wounded.

But for the rest of the world, Lehman's failure stands out, in part because it marked a beginning rather than an end, and in part because Lehman's failure triggered a series of events that affected economies around the world to a much greater degree than the other failures did. It seemed to be the direct cause of serious problems in a way that these other events weren't.

Lehman had issued hundreds of billions of dollars in short-term debt, including commercial paper (無担保の短期約束手形). Commercial paper is usually a boring and unsexy market. But it's a vital cog (非常に重要なもの) in the global economic engine. Companies need access to lots of short-term credit (30 days, 90 days, 180 days) to finance production and shipment of goods. Without it, they're toast (破滅、大きなトラブル). When Lehman filed for Chapter 11, it rendered (~の状態にする) a lot of its commercial paper worthless (or worth a lot less) and caused a panic among the investors and funds that owned it. For all intents and purposes (どの点から見ても), the commercial-paper market seized up (過熱して動かなくなる). If Lehman couldn't make good on its short-term debt, was it safe to lend money to anybody? Banks and financial institutions around the world lost trust in one another, causing short-term lending rates to spike (急上昇する). Since short-term credit is both the lubricant and fuel of global trade, the effect of the Lehman failure was a little like sucking the engine oil and gas out of a race car going 180 miles per hour. The whole machine stalled (失速する、行き詰まる).

All of a sudden, the world seemed to change. Yes, the United States had been in recession since the beginning of 2008. But world trade had held up (持ちこたえる) quite well. But after the Lehman shock, all world trade began to shrink rapidly. Starting in September 2008, the volume of world trade began to plummet sharply. As the World Trade Organization reported in March, "the months since last September have seen precipitous drops (急落) in global production and trade, first in the developed economies, then in developing ones as well." In late 2008, world trade was contracting (収縮する) at a 40 percent annual rate. In Japan, exports, which had held up well in 2008, fell 57 percent between August 2008 and January 2009. Through the first half of 2009, they were down nearly 40 percent from the first half of 2008. In Germany, exports in July 2009 were 25 percent below the level of July 2008. China's exports have fallen, too, although less dramatically.

This sharp contraction (収縮) in exports was as much of a shock to these countries' systems as the sharp fall in housing was to the United States. The United States had built an economy that was highly dependent on housing, leverage (財政てこ率), and easy credit--and that was unable to weather (切り抜ける、乗り越える) stress in any of those sectors. Japan, Germany, and many other countries, by the same token (同様に), had built economies that were highly dependent on credit-fueled trade. For other economies, the Lehman shock meant the sudden recognition that what for years had been a source of jobs and growth was no longer reliable. It's not just that exports to the United States shriveled after September 2008; the flow of goods everywhere, in all directions, has fallen.

世界を震撼させたLehman Brothersの経営破綻から一年です。
sub-prime mortgageもそうでしたが
by yu-fen-sun | 2009-09-15 22:51 | 英語関連
First-time finalist Del Potro stuns (打ち負かす) Federer

Sixth seed Juan Martin Del Potro, in his first Grand Slam final, stunned defending champion and top seed Roger Federer to take the men's singles title at the U.S. Open in New York.

The 20-year-old Argentinean took the Swiss world No. 1 to five sets, including two tie-breakers that went Del Potro's way, winning 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2.

Del Potro's win, which took four hours and six minutes, ended Federer's five-year reign at the U.S. Open. Federer, 28, was seeking his sixth consecutive U.S. Open win, which would have equaled the feat (偉業) achieved in 1925 by American Bill Tilden, who then went on to claim his seventh U.S. Open title in 1929.

Already this year Federer won the French Open and Wimbledon titles and was Australian Open runner-up.

Federer claimed the opening set after leading 3-0 at the beginning, Press Association Sport reported, and he achieved an early break in the opening game of the second set as well.

However, Del Potro broke back when Federer was serving for the second set at 5-4 up, with the set eventually going to a tie-break.

Federer had never lost a tie-break in a U.S. Open final, winning his four previous ones, but Del Potro ended that sequence by taking the tie-break 7-5 to tie the scores.

The third set included a failed challenge by Del Potro, an angry response by Federer to the chair umpire, and a couple double-faults by Del Potro to give Federer the set, according to Press Association.

Del Potro returned to form in the fourth set that saw Federer near victory but not attain it. The set went to a tie-breaker that Del Potro won.

Del Potro sped to a 5-2 lead in the fifth set, and with Federer serving, the game went to deuce before Federer double-faulted and then overshot a backhand, resulting in Del Potro's first Grand Slam victory.

Del Potro won more points than Federer, who had 11 double-faults -- as well as 13 aces.

Del Potro, a quarterfinalist last year, had reached the finals after beating 16th seed Marin Cilic of Croatia in the quarterfinals and then crushing third-seed Rafael Nadal of Spain in the semifinals. After defeating Nadal, Del Potro had then called the victory "the best moment of my life."

by yu-fen-sun | 2009-09-15 15:20 | 英語関連
Epidemiologists (疫学者、伝染病学者) love to crunch numbers (計算する) — and Americans, on the whole (概して、全体的に見ると), love to ignore them. Even the most health-conscious among us soon grow numb (何も感じなくなる) to the storm of statistics warning us about rising levels of obesity or falling levels of exercise or all the other numerical indicators (数字表示器) that tell us how unwell (体調が良くない、不健康な) we're getting. But on Sept. 14, a team of researchers released a new finding that should cause even the most data-weary folks alarm.

According to a paper published Monday in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, fewer than 8% of all Americans can now be considered at low risk for heart disease. No one needs a statistician's help to know that that means more than 92% of us are not as healthy as we could be, and that's worth paying attention to.

The study was actually the latest in a series of studies, all of which have been part of a program known as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). Administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the program is a four-decade attempt to evaluate the country's health by conducting surveys and physical exams with a rotating sample group of about 10,000 Americans. The first NHANES study was conducted from 1971 to 1975, the second from 1976 to 1980, the next from 1988 to 1994, and the most recent — from which the heart-disease findings are only now being released — from 1999 to 2004.

For that portion of the survey, the investigators focused on people in the 25-to-74 age group and evaluated five different risk factors for cardiovascular (心臓血管の) disease: blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking history, obesity and diabetes. To be considered at low risk, subjects had to have a blood pressure reading of 120/80 mm Hg or lower without the aid of medication and a cholesterol level below 200 mg/dL, also without drugs. They had to be nonsmokers or at least former smokers, not be overweight or obese, and never have been diagnosed with diabetes. "From a prevention point of view, it's important that Americans achieve as many of these goals as possible," says the CDC's Dr. Earl S. Ford, the lead author of the study.

That's why it's troubling that so few of us did. In the latest NHANES, just 7.5% of adults were considered low risk in all five areas. That's a significant dip (落下、下落) from the 10.5% in the 1988-94 survey — which was already a decidedly (明らかに) poor score. Within the adult population, there is no particular demographic (人口統計学の) slice that's doing particularly well, but some are clearly faring better than others. Among women in the current study, 10.5% were considered low risk (a decrease from 15.5% in the previous survey), compared to just 4.8% of men (down from 5.7%). In the 25-to-44 age group, 12.1% came in at low risk, compared to 3.5% of 45-to-64-year-olds and just 0.8% in the 65-to-74 demographic. Whites, among whom 8.2% were at low risk of heart disease, did better than Mexican Americans (5.3%), and both did better than African Americans (4.6%). The racial gaps have much to do with socioeconomic disparities (格差、不釣り合い) and unequal access to health care, but there are also genetic factors at play, with certain groups having a higher susceptibility to certain conditions.

Bad as the current numbers are, they are actually not historic lows. In the 1971-75 survey, just 4.4% of the entire sample group was considered low risk; that percentage climbed to 5.7% in the next survey before peaking in the third one. The trend was reversed this time around. "Until the 1990s, we were headed in a positive direction," says Ford. "But then it took a turn."

Surprisingly — and encouragingly — rising heart-disease risk does not necessarily translate to rising heart-disease deaths. Last year, the American Heart Association announced that since 1999, deaths from coronary (冠状動脈の) heart disease fell a remarkable 25.8%. There are a lot of reasons for that happy development, but the leading ones are better drugs and technology, closer adherence to evidence-based practice guidelines and the simple precaution of getting people in cardiac distress to the hospital fast.

All the same, the best way not to need the hospital at all is not to get sick, and even the greatest advances in treatment will amount to little if we can't bring the risk factors under control. The most important factors to attack, the Circulation paper explains, are not cholesterol or tobacco use. Both continue to drop, and with recent federal action to boost cigarette taxes and allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco for the first time, the decline in smoking may actually accelerate. (Indeed, last year, the share of Americans who use tobacco fell below 20% for the first time in modern memory.)

The real problems are blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, all of which are relentlessly (容赦なく、執拗に) on the rise. Worse, there's a time bomb in the trend lines. According to a 2008 survey by the CDC, 32% of American children are now overweight or obese, a number that at least appears to have plateaued (進歩が止まる、頭打ちになる) after a long period of steady increase but one that's shocking all the same. Once those children reach the 25-to-74 demographic, their heart-disease risk could cause the national numbers to explode. "As these children grow up, I expect to see a decrease in the number of people who qualify as low risk," says Dr. Seema Kumar, a pediatric endocrinologist (小児内分泌学者) and medical director of the Weight Management Program for Children at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "Our obese children are at high risk of becoming obese adults; some of them are already developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes."

The answer to much of this — as is so often the case — is better diet, more exercise and early detection (早期発見). Such preventive measures form one of the cornerstones of the ongoing health-care debate — one of the few points on which nearly all sides can agree. The authors of the new study call for physicians to be reimbursed for heart-disease-prevention measures like working with their patients to develop weight-loss and smoking-cessation plans and to be allowed enough breathing room in their schedules to let them do good cardiac assessments. Schools and workplaces, the paper argues, should also be in on the prevention game. Since both are places where large numbers of people congregate (集まる), they are also places where simple measures like blood-pressure screenings could do the most good.

"Much potential exists to reverse ominous (不吉な) trends in cardiovascular health," the authors write, "but this is unlikely to occur without making prevention of overweight and obesity a national priority." There's no way of knowing when Americans who have heard this refrain again and again will take notice (気に留める) — and take action — but when 92% of us are affected, now seems like a very good time.

by yu-fen-sun | 2009-09-15 15:08 | 英語関連
Is There a Climate-Change Tipping Point (転換点)?

Global warming — the very term sounds gentle, like a bath that grows pleasantly hotter under the tap. Many people might assume that's how climate change works too, the globe gradually increasing in temperature until we decide to stop it by cutting our carbon emissions. It's a comforting notion, one that gives us time to gauge (計る) the steady impact of warming before taking action.

There's just one problem: that's not how climate change is likely to unfold (広がる). Instead, scientists worry about potential tipping points — triggers that, once reached, could lead to sudden and irrevocable (取り返しのつかない) changes in the climate, almost without warning. It's the same phenomenon of sudden collapse that can be seen in any number of complex systems that seem perfectly stable, until they're not — ecosystems, financial markets, even epileptic seizures (てんかん発作). The trick is to identify the warning signs that indicate a tipping point — and collapse — are about to be reached and to take action to avoid them.

A new article in the Sept. 3 issue of Nature shows there may be ways to do this, since certain warning signals appear to be similar across a variety of complex systems. Researchers from Wageningen University, the University of Wisconsin and Scripps Institution of Oceanography (海洋学) found that an assortment (仕分け、分類) of systems they studied all had critical thresholds (分かれ目、境界) that could trigger change from one state to another — changes that tend to be abrupt (唐突な), not gradual. "Such threshold events don't happen that often, but they are extraordinarily important," says study co-author Stephen Carpenter of the University of Wisconsin. "They are the portals (入口、玄関) to change."

So, how do we know that change is at hand? The Nature researchers noticed one potential signal: the sudden variance (変化) between two distinct states within one system, known by the less technical term squealing. In an ecological system like a forest, for example, squealing might look like an alternation between two stable states — barren (不毛の) versus fertile (肥沃な) — before a drought (干ばつ) takes its final toll on the woodland (森林に被害を与える) and transforms it into a desert, at which point even monsoons won't bring the field back to life. Fish populations seem to collapse suddenly as well — overfishing causes fluctuations in fish stocks until it passes a threshold, at which point there are simply too few fish left to bring back the population, even if fishing completely ceases. And even in financial markets, sudden collapses tend to be preceded (先んずる) by heightened trading volatility (変わりやすさ、不安定さ) — a good sign to pull your money out of the market. "Heart attacks, algae blooms (藻の異常発生) in lakes, epileptic attacks (てんかん発作) — every one shows this type of change," says Carpenter. "It's remarkable."

In climate terms, squealing may involve increased variability (変化) of the weather — sudden shifts from hot temperatures to colder ones and back again. General instability ensues (後に続いて起きる) and, at some point, the center ceases to hold. "Before we reached a climate tipping point we'd expect to see lots of record heat and record cold," says Carpenter. "Every example of sudden climate change we've seen in the historical record was preceded by this sort of squealing."

The hard part will be putting this new knowledge into action. It's true that we have a sense of where some of the tipping points for climate change might lie — the loss of Arctic (北極の) sea ice, or the release of methane from the melting permafrost (永久凍土) of Siberia. But that knowledge is still incomplete, even as the world comes together to try, finally, to address the threat collectively. "Managing the environment is like driving a foggy (霧のかかった) road at night by a cliff (崖、絶壁)," says Carpenter. "You know it's there, but you don't know where exactly." The warning signs give us an idea of where that cliff might be — but we'll need to pay attention.

the point of no returnを既に超えてしまっていると主張する学者も少なくない
by yu-fen-sun | 2009-09-15 00:54 | 英語関連