<   2009年 09月 ( 79 )   > この月の画像一覧

My mother wanted to die, but the doctors wouldn't let her. At least that's the way it seemed to me as I stood by her bed in an intensive-care unit at a hospital in Hilton Head, S.C., five years ago. My mother was 79, a longtime smoker who was dying of emphysema (肺気腫). She knew that her quality of life was increasingly tethered (ロープでつなぐ) to an oxygen tank, that she was losing her ability to get about (動き回る、歩き回る), and that she was slowly drowning. The doctors at her bedside were recommending various tests and procedures to keep her alive, but my mother, with a certain firmness I recognized, said no. She seemed puzzled and a bit frustrated that she had to be so insistent on her own demise (死去、死亡).

The hospital at my mother's assisted-living facility was sustained by Medicare, which pays by the procedure. I don't think the doctors were trying to be greedy by pushing more treatments on my mother. That's just the way the system works. The doctors were responding to the expectations of almost all patients. As a doctor friend of mine puts it, "Americans want the best, they want the latest, and they want it now." We expect doctors to make heroic efforts—especially to save our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

The idea that we might ration (分配する、割り当てる) health care to seniors (or anyone else) is political anathema (忌み嫌われる物). Politicians do not dare breathe the R word, lest they be accused—however wrongly—of trying to pull the plug on Grandma. But the need to spend less money on the elderly at the end of life is the elephant in the room (誰もが認識しているが口にしたくない重要な問題) in the health-reform debate. Everyone sees it but no one wants to talk about it. At a more basic level, Americans are afraid not just of dying, but of talking and thinking about death. Until Americans learn to contemplate death as more than a scientific challenge to be overcome, our health-care system will remain unfixable.

Compared with other Western countries, the United States has more health care—but, generally speaking, not better health care. There is no way we can get control of costs, which have grown by nearly 50 percent in the past decade, without finding a way to stop overtreating patients. In his address to Congress, President Obama spoke airily (軽快に、軽やかに) about reducing inefficiency (非能率), but he slid past (前方を横切る) the hard choices that will have to be made to stop health care from devouring ever-larger slices of the economy and tax dollar. A significant portion of the savings will have to come from the money we spend on seniors at the end of life because, as Willie Sutton explained about why he robbed banks, that's where the money is.

As President Obama said, most of the uncontrolled growth in federal spending and the deficit (赤字) comes from Medicare; nothing else comes close. Almost a third of the money spent by Medicare—about $66.8 billion a year—goes to chronically ill patients in the last two years of life. This might seem obvious—of course the costs come at the end, when patients are the sickest. But that can't explain what researchers at Dartmouth have discovered: Medicare spends twice as much on similar patients in some parts of the country as in others. The average cost of a Medicare patient in Miami is $16,351; the average in Honolulu is $5,311. In the Bronx, N.Y., it's $12,543. In Fargo, N.D., $5,738. The average Medicare patient undergoing end-of-life treatment spends 21.9 days in a Manhattan hospital. In Mason City, Iowa, he or she spends only 6.1 days.

Maybe it's unsurprising that treatment in rural towns costs less than in big cities, with all their high prices, varied populations, and urban woes (都市部の問題). But there are also significant disparities (不均衡) in towns that are otherwise very similar. How do you explain the fact, for instance, that in Boulder, Colo., the average cost of Medicare treatment is $9,103, whereas an hour away in Fort Collins, Colo., the cost is $6,448?

The answer, the Dartmouth researchers found, is that in some places doctors are just more likely to order more tests and procedures. More specialists are involved. There is very little reason for them not to order more tests and treatments. By training and inclination, doctors want to do all they can to cure ailments (病気、疾患). And since Medicare pays by procedure, test, and hospital stay—though less and less each year as the cost squeeze tightens—there is an incentive to do more and more. To make a good living, doctors must see more patients, and order more tests.

All this treatment does not necessarily buy better care. In fact, the Dartmouth studies have found worse outcomes in many states and cities where there is more health care. Why? Because just going into the hospital has risks—of infection, or error, or other unforeseen complications. Some studies estimate that Americans are overtreated by roughly 30 percent. "It's not about rationing care—that's always the bogeyman (ブギーマン、子取り鬼) people use to block reform," says Dr. Elliott Fisher, a professor at Dartmouth Medical School. "The real problem is unnecessary and unwanted care."

But how do you decide which treatments to cut out? How do you choose between the necessary and the unnecessary? There has been talk among experts and lawmakers of giving more power to a panel of government experts to decide—Britain has one, called the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (known by the somewhat ironic acronym (略語) NICE). But no one wants the horror stories of denied care and long waits that are said to plague (苦しめる、悩ます) state-run national health-care systems. (The criticism is unfair: patients wait longer to see primary-care physicians in the United States than in Britain.) After the summer of angry town halls, no politician is going to get anywhere near something that could be called a "death panel."

There's no question that reining in (制御する) the lawyers would help cut costs. Fearing medical-malpractice suits, doctors engage in defensive medicine, ordering procedures that may not be strictly necessary—but why take the risk? According to various studies, defensive medicine adds perhaps 2 percent to the overall bill—a not-insignificant number when more than $2 trillion is at stake (賭けられて、危機に瀕して). A number of states have managed to institute some kind of so-called tort reform, limiting the size of damage awards by juries (陪審員) in medical-malpractice cases. But the trial lawyers—big donors to the Democratic Party—have stopped Congress from even considering reforms. That's why it was significant that President Obama even raised the subject in his speech last week, even if he was vague about just what he'd do. (Best idea: create medical courts run by experts to rule on malpractice claims, with no punitive damages.)

But the biggest cost booster is the way doctors are paid under most insurance systems, including Medicare. It's called fee-for-service, and it means just that. So why not just put doctors on salary? Some medical groups that do, like the Mayo Clinic, have reduced costs while producing better results. Unfortunately, putting doctors on salary requires that they work for someone, and most American physicians are self-employed or work in small group practices. The alternative—paying them a flat rate (均一料金) for each patient they care for—turned out to be at least a partial bust (失敗). HMOs that paid doctors a flat fee in the 1990s faced a backlash (反発、反動) as patients bridled at long waits and denied service.

Ever-rising health-care spending now consumes about 17 percent of the economy (versus about 10 percent in Europe). At the current rate of increase, it will devour a fifth of GDP by 2018. We cannot afford to sustain (維持する) a productive economy with so much money going to health care. Over time, economic reality may force us to adopt a national health-care system like Britain's or Canada's. But before that day arrives, there are steps we can take to reduce costs without totally turning the system inside out.

One place to start is to consider the psychological aspect of health care. Most people are at least minor hypochondriacs (心気症患者) (I know I am). They use doctors to make themselves feel better, even if the doctor is not doing much to physically heal what ails (苦しめる、悩ます) them. (In ancient times, doctors often made people sicker with quack (いかさまの) cures like bleeding.) The desire to see a physician (内科医) is often pronounced in assisted-living facilities. Old people, far from their families in our mobile, atomized (細分化された) society, depend on their doctors for care and reassurance (安心). I noticed that in my mother's retirement home, the talk in the dining room was often about illness; people built their day around doctor's visits, partly, it seemed to me, to combat loneliness.

Physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital are experimenting with innovative approaches to care for their most ill patients without necessarily sending them to the doctor. Three years ago, Massachusetts enacted (制定する) universal care—just as Congress and the Obama administration are attempting to do now. The state quickly found it could not afford to meet everyone's health-care demands, so it's scrambling for (~に奔走する) solutions. The Mass General program assigned nurses to the hospital's 2,600 sickest—and costliest—Medicare patients. These nurses provide basic care, making sure the patients take their medications and so forth, and act as gatekeepers (門番)—they decide if a visit to the doctor is really necessary. It's not a perfect system—people will still demand to see their doctors when it's unnecessary—but the Mass General program cut costs by 5 percent while providing the elderly what they want and need most: caring human contact.

Other initiatives ensure that the elderly get counseling about end-of-life issues. Although demagogued as a "death panel," a program in Wisconsin to get patients to talk to their doctors about how they want to deal with death was actually a resounding success (大成功). A study by the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that such conversations between doctors and patients can decrease costs by about 35 percent—while improving the quality of life at the end. Patients should be encouraged to draft living wills to make their end-of-life desires known. Unfortunately, such paper can be useless if there is a family member at the bedside demanding heroic measures. "A lot of the time guilt is playing a role," says Dr. David Torchiana, a surgeon and CEO of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization. Doctors can feel guilty, too—about overtreating patients. Torchiana recalls his unease over operating to treat a severe heart infection in a woman with two forms of metastatic cancer (転位癌) who was already comatose (昏睡状態の). The family insisted.

Studies show that about 70 percent of people want to die at home—but that about half die in hospitals. There has been an important increase in hospice or palliative (一時凌ぎの) care—keeping patients with incurable diseases as comfortable as possible while they live out the remainder of their lives. Hospice services are generally intended for the terminally ill in the last six months of life, but as a practical matter, many people receive hospice care for only a few weeks.

Our medical system does everything it can to encourage hope. And American health care has been near miraculous—the envy of the world—in its capacity to develop new lifesaving and life-enhancing treatments. But death can be delayed only so long, and sometimes the wait is grim (残酷な) and degrading (品位を落とす). The hospice ideal recognized that for many people, quiet and dignity—and loving care and good painkillers—are really what's called for.

That's what my mother wanted. After convincing the doctors that she meant it—that she really was ready to die—she was transferred from the ICU to a hospice, where, five days later, she passed away. In the ICU, as they removed all the monitors and pulled out all the tubes and wires, she made a fluttery (ひらひらした) motion with her hands. She seemed to be signaling (合図を送る) goodbye to all that—I'm free to go in peace.

end-of-life issueについてでした。
by yu-fen-sun | 2009-09-16 00:11 | 英語関連

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
Another U.S. airline trying to woo (求める、得ようとする) JAL

American Airlines parent AMR Corp. is negotiating for closer ties and possibly an investment in financially troubled Japan Airlines Corp., according to a person familiar with the talks.

American would like to form a joint business venture with JAL in which the two carriers would seek antitrust (独占禁止の) immunity to work closely in setting schedules and prices for service around the world, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity (匿名の条件で) because of the sensitive nature of the talks.

The negotiations, which grew more intense (張りつめた) over the past four weeks and included meetings in Texas and Tokyo, raised the specter (不快な見込み) of a bidding war (入札合戦) for a piece of JAL.

Delta Air Lines Inc., the world's biggest airline operator, also is in preliminary (予備の、準備の) discussions about buying a stake (株を入手して買収する) in JAL for about $300 million. Delta could become a leading shareholder in JAL and get coveted (切望する) access to Haneda airport, which is close to Tokyo's business district, according to a person briefed on the Delta situation.

A spokesman for Fort Worth, Texas-based AMR, Roger Frizzell, said, "We are in discussions at the senior executive level in Japan with JAL." He declined to comment further.

The person familiar with AMR's negotiations said that while AMR might invest in JAL, the two sides had not settled on an amount or the nature of the investment. AMR could buy a stake in JAL or invest in senior debt that could be converted to (~に変えられる) stock, the person said.

A cash infusion (注入) would help JAL, which reported a $1 billion loss in its most recent quarter.

American and JAL already have a so-called code-sharing agreement in which they sell seats on each other's flights. If they won immunity (免責、免除) from antitrust laws, they could cooperate in setting prices and schedules. For example, instead of each operating a Chicago-to-Tokyo flight around the same time, they could stagger (重ならないように調整する、シフトする) the flights to maximize traffic while splitting the revenue (歳入、収入).

Delta, which declined to comment, doesn't have a Japanese partner. A Delta-JAL hookup would raise doubts about JAL's ability to remain in oneworld, an alliance of airlines that includes American and British Airways. Delta is in another alliance, called SkyTeam, which also includes Air France-KLM.

JAL reportedly has also entered talks with Air France-KLM to expand its business in Europe with through Air France-KLM.

JAL officials said Friday they were considering various tieups with a wide variety of potential partners, but nothing had been decided.

JAL is in the midst of major restructuring. The airline posted its biggest-ever quarterly loss of ¥99 billion in the April-to-June period.

It has forecast a net loss of ¥63 billion for the current fiscal year, which ends next March, and plans to cut the number of flights and slash costs (経費削減する) by ¥53 billion this fiscal year and another ¥100 billion next year.

by yu-fen-sun | 2009-09-14 23:02 | 英語関連
As authorities continued their search for a Yale University graduate student and bride-to-be who disappeared several days ago, they said they are now examining potential evidence from a laboratory where she was last seen.

Items that could be evidence have been seized and are being analyzed, but none has yet been associated with Annie Le, FBI spokeswoman Kim Mertz said at a news conference Saturday.

Mertz would not confirm reports that the items found included bloody clothing. "I will categorically say a body has not been found," Mertz said. "Items that could potentially be evidence have been seized. None have yet been associated with Annie Le at this time."

Le was last seen Tuesday at a university laboratory. She swiped her identification card (身分証明書を機械に通す) to enter the building Tuesday morning, but authorities have found no record of her leaving, despite some 75 surveillance cameras (監視カメラ) that cover the complex (総合ビル).

Authorities said they still have not determined whether Le's disappearance is a criminal case. "We don't know where she is. We don't know what happened to her," Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said. "We don't know if a crime was committed or not."

Investigators, having already gone through the videos once, continued to review the surveillance tapes frame-by-frame (静止画で) Saturday to see if they overlooked Le, who could have changed into a laboratory coat (実験着) or other clothes before leaving the building. Mertz said the review included video enhancement being conducted by state police. "I do not know that it's definitive (明確な) that she has left the building at this point," Mertz said.

On Saturday, investigators took what appeared to be blueprints (見取り図) to the building. FBI agents were also spotted questioning a man outside the lab. When they finished talking, the man got in the front seat of the unmarked car and an FBI agent got in the back seat. The car then drove away.

Yale is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to Le's whereabouts (行方).

Le, who's of Asian descent, stands 4-foot-11 and weighs 90 pounds. Her purse, cell phone, credit cards and money were found in her office. Officials say there's no evidence of foul play (犯罪行為).

Le, originally from Placerville, Calif., was set to get married Sunday at the North Ritz Club in Syosset, N.Y., on the north shore of Long Island. Workers at the club say the wedding was canceled Friday.

Police say Le's fiance, Jonathan Widawsky, a Columbia University graduate student, is not a suspect (容疑者) and is assisting with the investigation.

At Le's apartment building across town, hopes for Le's safe return waned (弱まる). "I feel bad what happened to her," said Anna Beth Funk, who lives across the street from Le's apartment. "It broke my heart hearing she was about to get married because I love being married and it must be so hard for her fiance."

Wesleyan University professor Charles Lemert, who also lives across the street, said Le always took time to talk to his 11-year-old daughter. "I wish more than anything this could be solved and turn into some kind of misunderstanding, but it seems bleak (希望の無い)," he said.

by yu-fen-sun | 2009-09-13 23:06 | 英語関連

Real 'fraternity' with U.S.

Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Hatoyama's article on the "Banner of Fraternity (友愛関係)" — particularly the part that deals with globalization, Americanism and Japan's relations with her Asian neighbors — has drawn many comments both in Japan and the United States.

Most of them expressed concern about the ambiguity of his tilt toward a "more independent stance" and his emphasis on "closer relations with Asian countries." Some appear to be annoyed with his criticism of the excess of market principles (市場原理) and globalization.

Indeed, the article, at least in the abridged (要約された) English version — which omits (省略する) the major part of the reference to the "spirit of fraternity" — seems to be dotted with (点在している) expressions that may cause some concern in American minds. However, the reactions by some American commentators, as well as by some Japanese so-called diplomatic experts, seem a little exaggerated in their tone of dismay and warnings about this article.

It may therefore be useful for us, from the standpoint of future Japan-U.S. relations, to analyze the background of these warnings. In other words, if one analyzes the reasons and circumstances that lie behind the recent ripples (波紋) over the article, one could draw several lessons that both Japanese and Americans have to keep in mind in dealing with bilateral relations.

The important point that we have to reflect upon is the rapidity and intensity (激しさ) of the formation of an "alliance" between some American "experts" on Japan and Japanese intellectuals (有識者) who have been close to the conservative camp in Japan. They tend to echo each other whenever the Japanese side tries to "review" some aspects of the Japan-U.S. alliance.

The concerns or criticisms voiced by American "experts" have frequently been quoted by Japanese security or diplomatic "experts" as signs, or potential signs of strain (緊張), in Japan-U.S. relations. Then voices begin to be heard in Japan that there is a danger or risk of deterioration in relations with the U.S. These voices apparently take it for granted that any bad impact upon Japan-U.S relations should be avoided at all cost (いかなる犠牲を払っても) and that the upholding (進展、守ること) of good Japan-U.S. relations is, in itself, the most important priority in the diplomacy (外交) of Japan toward the U.S.

In the eyes of some Japanese "experts," keeping up good relations with the U.S. is essential for maintaining the credibility of the alliance. However sound (健全な) and reasonable it may appear at first sight, this approach confuses the question of credibility — based on the balance of interests — with the absence of criticism of the balance of the alliance. Convergence (合致) of strategic interests is more important than friendly sentiment.

Moreover, if the U.S. administration refuses to review what the Japanese conservative government agreed with the Bush administration on the grounds that a state-to-state agreement should not be altered as the result of a change in administration, it will be legitimate (合法な、正当な) for Japan and Europe to demand that volte-faces (180度の転換) of the U.S. administration with regard to the Iraq war or nuclear or environmental issues are not acceptable if they run counter to (~に逆行する、~に矛盾する) past international understandings with the Americans.

In any event, the argument that calm, good relations with the U.S. are the top priority for Japan is wrong. A truly good relationship is one in which both sides frankly discuss the merits and demerits of any part of their relations. Attempts to discourage Japanese comments that taste bitter to Americans do not, in the long run, serve to promote good relations between Japan and the U.S.

At present, there is a political danger that some conservative elements in Japan and their American counterparts are trying to form an invisible alliance to weaken the diplomatic credibility of new Japanese political forces by shouting that such and such comments or moves will have a bad impact on friendly relations with the U.S. Sensible people on both sides of the Pacific should defy (寄せ付けない) such cries and emancipate (解放する) Japan-U.S. relations from the hands of "good-relations-first advocates."

At the same time, the new administration in Japan should understand a sentimental rebellion (反乱) against "Americanism" does not serve any purpose and that Japan's relations with the U.S. should be fundamentally based on Japan's strategic considerations, taking into account the rise of China, the long-term role of American forces in Asia, and the possible roles that Japan could play between the two large "military" powers in Asia. Japan's "fraternity" with the U.S. should go far beyond "friendship."

それが、wise and considerate citizensを育むのです。
by yu-fen-sun | 2009-09-13 22:45 | 英語関連

What gomi problem?

There is a growing concern in Japan about gomi yashiki, or trash houses, created by people who hoard (ため込む) useless stuff. Eventually, their collections start overflowing from their houses onto the streets. Such people often have more feline (猫科の) friends than human. I never realized that cats shared this same predilection (偏愛、~への好み) for junk.

We have some of these gomi yashiki on our island. But the difference is that here, there is plenty of room to spread out, so people can collect an infinite amount of junk. Luckily, these keen collectors are not very good gardeners, so the grasses and weeds grow up over the junk and disguise it — as green piles of vines (つる) with the hint of something lurking (潜んでいる) underneath.

Some day people will uncover lost treasures preserved in people's back yards in piles of vines. Things thought lost forever will be found: ninja, the Ainu culture, and gold bars (金の延べ棒) with the imperial stamp on them.

The gomi yashiki problem is bound to get worse (悪くなる運命にある) with Japan's aging population. Because the older people get, the more of tight wads (けちな奴) they become. Wealthy people are no exception to the ever increasing fear of not having enough. The older they get, the more fearful they get and the more they hoard things, including money.

Even perpetual (永遠に続く、果ての無い) money hoarders can never hoard enough, and people thus feel they must economize (倹約する、節約する) in order to save more money to hoard. After all, why spend money on something like new clothes, when your closets are full of completely inappropriate things you can wear instead?

The Japanese government, which has thoroughly researched the non-spending habits of old people, is very aware of the Hoarding Factor which is why the inheritance tax (相続税) is so high in Japan. Sure, money can be given away in smaller increments (増加分、増加量) to avoid a tax, but old people don't give away their money, even in small increments. And the government knows this. They also know that the old folks are secretly playing the lottery and pachinko, and probably winning.

After having money hoarding tied up with the inheritance tax, the government is now looking at people who hoard garbage. One ward is considering fining people ¥50,000 or so for having too much junk. I'm not sure this is the right thing to do though. I mean, it would cost far more money to pay someone to come in and remove the stuff than it would to pay a fine for being able to keep it. And who would the money paid in fines go to? Probably not towards the problem or the inconvenienced neighbors.

On my planet, the United States, we have garage sales and moving sales. Perhaps the authorities in Japan should distribute free "Garage Sale" signs, and "Not Moving Sale" signs. At least the stuff would have a chance of moving on to someone else's gomi yashiki and each owner could turn some kind of profit on it.

One thing that helps contain the problem on our island is that people here do not have access to vast amounts of garbage to pilfer (盗む、くすねる) from the way people do in the cities, where millions of residents throw out (投げ捨てる) sodai gomi (big garbage) on special days of the year. The hoarders probably make special sodai gomi calendars, marking the days with big red pens as if they are national holidays: No need to shop for socks for another 4 years!

On the other hand, with a population of just 665 people, there is a much smaller number of trash heaps (ゴミの山) to pick here, so you have to watch your own trash very carefully. I'm convinced this is the real reason for the garbage police, the neighbors who stand guard at the garbage pile on certain days of the week. They're making sure no one steals it. Or redistributes it. Like good citizens, the neighbors are seeing off the garbage.

When my ex-landlord finally moved all his stuff out of my house, he had bags and bags of garbage to throw out, as most people do when they move. But as we placed it outside the house, we noticed that it started disappearing, a bag here, a bag there. We finally caught the culprit — a neighborhood lady quietly carrying each bag back to her house.

People often wonder why old people hoard. Well, why not? They have nothing to lose, except the pathway to get inside their house.
by yu-fen-sun | 2009-09-13 22:08 | 英語関連
President Barack Obama assailed (激しく非難する、口撃する) critics of his health care initiative Saturday, seeking to grab the megaphone from his opponents and boost momentum in his drive to get Congress to approve his chief domestic priority.

"I will not accept the status quo (現状) as a solution. Not this time. Not now," the president told more than 10,000 people during a rally that had every feel of a campaign event.

He said he wouldn't waste time with people who have decided "that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it." He said he wouldn't stand by while special interests "use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are." And, he warned "If you misrepresent (不正確に伝える、事実を曲げて述べる) what's in the plan, we will call you out."

The president carried his reinvigorated (再活性された) pitch to overhaul (徹底的に点検する)and expand the nation's health insurance system the one-day trip to friendly territory. His address at Target Center was part of a weekend campaign by the White House to give the president as much exposure as possible after his prime-time (ゴールデンタイムの) address Wednesday to Congress.

by yu-fen-sun | 2009-09-13 03:37 | 英語関連