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Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Technology Investor. Harry Newton Previous Columns
9:00 AM EST, Wednesday, August 20, 2009: My picks -- AAPL, GOOG, EWA (Australia), EWZ (Brazil) and STEC -- continue to rise, despite the blip on Monday. Long-term, we need to look more to China for future investment opportunities. My friends at Integre Advisors write:

China's per capita GDP has reached $3,000, a level we think is critical for expanding consumption. China could see personal consumption expenditures grow several times faster than GDP. The growth in passenger car registrations illustrates this point. In 2001 Chinese consumers registered 985,000 passenger cars. By 2008, this number had grown to an estimated 6.76 million units -- still quite modest when compared to the population.

One of their favorite stocks is Tencent Holdings. Look at Tencent this year:

I got suckered and I apologize. I ran a letter on Canadian Health Care that was almost completely bogus. I caught the mistake before noon, so many of you didn't see the Canadian nonsense. For those of you who did, the piece was at least two years old. Snopes checked it out against the facts of Canadian health care and ran their take. Click here.

The moral of Harry's screwup is simple: You can't believe anything anyone emails you or what you read on the Internet. No one checks anything. They post, publish and send what suits them politically. If you don't like Obama-care (whatever it is) you're likely to forward what appeals (like yesterday's Canadian letter) -- despite it being loaded with things that are simply untrue.

I feel stupid. I apologize.

As to real health care reform, the American public is right to be seriously concerned about what the incompetents in Washington will create in haste. A wise man once said, "Washington is eight square miles surrounded by reality." My friend Dan Good emailed me his sensible ideas:

It is not complex. Cut through all the Obama socialism BS and you basically have the best health care system in the world. Problems yes, but there are solutions better than tearing our health care system apart. For example:

1. There are 20 million US citizens who can't afford health care. Many are eligible for state health care programs right now but don't sign up. They are forced to go to emergency rooms which is very high cost and you and I end up paying for it in higher insurance premiums and hospital costs. Let's make them sign up or give them a voucher to buy insurance on the private market. They will have the same health care as you and me.

2. For individuals who are not covered by corporate plans, let's make their premiums tax deductible just as those premiums for corporations.

3. Require young people who can afford insurance ( some 15 million) but think they are immortal and don't need it to buy insurance.

4. Require proof of legal immigration status to be eligible for any of the above.

5. Offer health care buying groups to take advantage of mass purchasing power to negotiate better deals with insurance companies.

6. Require insurance companies to offer a national, not only state plan. Get rid of all the laws forcing state exclusivity. This will create more competition among insurance companies and lower premiums.

7. Create high risk (preexisting conditions) pools for those people to buy insurance.

Do not, I repeat, do not permit the government to destroy our health care system. The government is comprised of low level and undereducated bureaucrats. 300 million people enjoy our system. We should not change it for 20 million who can't afford it. It will dumb down the quality and you and I will suffer.

It is not complicated.

Beware of excessive CAT scans. CAT scans have about 1,000 more radiation exposure as a chest X-ray. Think twice about agreeing to another CAT scan you probably don't need.

What are we still doing in Iraq? Despite our troops and despite the Iraqi troops, no one seems to be able to keep the place safe. Yesterday, 75 people were killed and more than 300 were wounded in a series of explosions in downtown Baghdad.

Yesterday in Baghdad.

My ultra-favorite "What are we still doing in Iraq?" story.

How the US sent $12 billion in cash to Iraq. And watched it vanish
Special flights brought in tonnes of banknotes which disappeared into the war zone
David Pallister, The Guardian, Thursday 8 February 2007

An armed guard poses beside pallets of $100 bills in Baghdad. Almost $12 billion in cash was spent by the US-led authority

The US flew nearly $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills into Iraq, then distributed the cash with no proper control over who was receiving it and how it was being spent.
The staggering scale of the biggest transfer of cash in the history of the Federal Reserve has been graphically laid bare by a US congressional committee.

In the year after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 nearly 281 million notes, weighing 363 tonnes, were sent from New York to Baghdad for disbursement to Iraqi ministries and US contractors. Using C-130 planes, the deliveries took place once or twice a month with the biggest of $2,401,600,000 on June 22 2004, six days before the handover.

Details of the shipments have emerged in a memorandum prepared for the meeting of the House committee on oversight and government reform which is examining Iraqi reconstruction. Its chairman, Henry Waxman, a fierce critic of the war, said the way the cash had been handled was mind-boggling. "The numbers are so large that it doesn't seem possible that they're true. Who in their right mind would send 363 tonnes of cash into a war zone?"

The memorandum details the casual manner in which the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority disbursed the money, which came from Iraqi oil sales, surplus funds from the UN oil-for-food programme and seized Iraqi assets.

"One CPA official described an environment awash in $100 bills," the memorandum says. "One contractor received a $2 million payment in a duffel bag stuffed with shrink-wrapped bundles of currency. Auditors discovered that the key to a vault was kept in an unsecured backpack.

"They also found that $774,300 in cash had been stolen from one division's vault. Cash payments were made from the back of a pickup truck, and cash was stored in unguarded sacks in Iraqi ministry offices. One official was given $6.75 million in cash, and was ordered to spend it in one week before the interim Iraqi government took control of Iraqi funds."

The minutes from a May 2004 CPA meeting reveal "a single disbursement of $500 million in security funding labelled merely 'TBD', meaning 'to be determined'."

The memorandum concludes: "Many of the funds appear to have been lost to corruption and waste ... thousands of 'ghost employees' were receiving pay cheques from Iraqi ministries under the CPA's control. Some of the funds could have enriched both criminals and insurgents fighting the United States."

To read the entire story, click here.

Your success (or failure) is in your hands. Items from yesterday:

+ Neither 3M nor its distributor American Sun Control has responded to my many left messages and emails about my buying 3M window film. It's been nearly two weeks. I want to buy. They apparently don't want to sell. What is so hard about calling a potential customer?

+ sold me a pole and two signs for $120. Each sign had two holes to attach via screws to the pole. They sent me only two screws, nuts, washers, etc.. I called and asked for the two missing screws. After several minutes of waiting, they told me to "go to my local hardware store." I said no. They countered with $6.71 for two screws, nuts, washers, etc. . I said no. Finally a supervisor sent them for free. It turns out the screws come with the pole, not the signs. Go figure.

+ Because we were elite Hertz Number One Club members, Hertz offered us the car for $984. Priceline had the same Hertz car for just under $500. Our travel agent got the same car from Hertz for $434.

+ Citibank changed my 100-year old Visa card number without asking and sent me new cards. I have the card registered with every vendor from telephone companies to tennis gear distributors. I asked Citibank to let me keep my old card. No. I asked them for help notifying all my vendors. No.

Why is life so complicated?

It's hot and humid in the city.
Susan says, "Harry, go research movies. Find an air-conditioned movie."

I do my husbandly chore. I go on the Internet and find a movie called The Ugly Truth., I read the reviews. This one caught my eye:

This movie sucked
by jas0nleslie

I considered walking out of the theatre about 30 minutes in but since we don't get out much, my wife and I stayed. The remainder wasn't any better. I signed up on Fandango just now so I could inject some reality into this Fan Meter. "Go" is not at all accurate.

Cisco's phone systems are expensive and not good. From a friend:


I thought you might be interested to know that we just received our annual maintenance quote (or service contract) for our Cisco VoIP phone system.. The cost, not including Smartnet, is $162,000.00. If we want to have 24x7 network monitoring included, then the cost would jump to $218,480.00 per year. Keep in mind that we only have a total of 1,500 Cisco IP phones on this contract. I pay a total of $120,000.00 a year for about 8,000 NEC phones and that price includes parts.

This is an incredible amount of money when compared to others such as NEC or Avaya. I can certainly see the value of Cisco and the ROI they preach. How does anyone afford this? And yet they continue to sell -- mainly on fear that the others will go out of business.


My ongoing obsession with Lyme Disease. A friend has had it for ten years and still suffers major pain. Other friends have had it several times and don't enjoy it. This disease is spreading as the deer tick continues its westward march. I'm not a doctor. But several things are evident:

1. You don't want any part of this disease.

2. Staying out of the high grass, wearing cover-up clothing and spraying yourself with deet are your key weapons.

3. Check yourself, your mate and your dog for ticks and remove them carefully ASAP.

4. Don't panic. You don't need antibiotics if you got rid of the tick quickly. You do need antibiotics if you didn't and you've got a bullseye.

The Wall Street Journal ran a piece yesterday that confirmed what we knew already -- the test is inaccurate. Get treated if there's a chance you're infected. Here's the piece:

It's All in the Timing For Lyme Disease Test
By Laura Johannes of the the Wall Street Journal.

You got bitten by a deer tick—now what? A Lyme disease blood test is used to look for evidence of infection with bacteria that cause the disease, according to laboratories that offer the test. Physicians say the test has poor accuracy until at least three weeks after the bite, but can be used if a patient has late-stage symptoms.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27,444 cases of Lyme disease were reported in 2007. The disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium and is often treated with antibiotics. It is spread by black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, and is most common in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and Wisconsin, according to the CDC.

The most common test involves two tests from the same sample. It typically costs about $25 to $70 and is often covered by insurance. Based on CDC guidelines, the blood is usually analyzed first with an antibody test called ELISA. If it is positive or unclear, then a confirmatory test called the Western blot is done.

Allen C. Steere, a Harvard University scientist who led the team that discovered Lyme disease in 1975, says the two-tier test is "quite accurate" as long as you use it properly—which means for the most part, not too soon after the suspected infection. In a study published last year, Dr. Steere and his colleagues found that of 76 patients exhibiting a bulls-eye-shaped rash characteristic of early Lyme disease, only a third tested positive for the disease. The bulls-eye rash typically appears within a week or two of infection, according to the CDC. But three to four weeks later, two-thirds of the group tested positive.

Given the tests' low sensitivity in the early stages of Lyme disease, physicians recommend treating with antibiotics when the patient develops the rash or other clear symptoms.

Still, individuals bitten by a tick in an area where Lyme disease is prevalent often think they should be tested immediately. Many people go to their doctors and say "I got bit by a tick. Test me!" says Wisconsin researcher Edward A. Belongia, director of the Epidemiology Research Center at the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation. Dr. Belongia is author of a 2004 study that found only 20% of 356 Lyme tests the scientists reviewed were clearly appropriate, based on the patients' symptoms. Doctors say it is also wrong to get a test after being treated for the disease, since the antibodies can linger for years in your blood.

Critics of the test, such as Raphael B. Stricker, a past president of International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, a Bethesda, Md., group of doctors specializing in treating chronic Lyme disease, say the tests miss many patients with late-stage Lyme disease. These patients can often test negative, Dr. Stricker says.

Dr. Steere says that in his experience, the test is very effective in patients with late-stage manifestations of the disease, such as arthritis or nerve damage. He does his testing in a research lab at Massachusetts General Hospital. Accuracy may vary from laboratory to laboratory, Dr. Steere adds.

Some labs specializing in Lyme disease test for additional proteins they say are a sign of infection, and as a result some doctors believe they are more accurate. But Dr. Steere says the tests haven't been proven scientifically. The CDC Web site warns consumers to beware of labs offering nonstandard Lyme disease tests. The CDC encourages patients to "ask their physicians whether their testing was performed using validated methods."

You can get the tick tested, but doctors say that generally isn't necessary. Even if the tick has Lyme bacteria, the disease won't be transmitted to you unless the tick fed on you for 24 to 72 hours.

These classifieds allegedly ran in newspapers (when there were still newspapers)

1/2 Cocker Spaniel, 1/2 sneaky neighbor's dog.

$300 Hardly used, call Chubby.

California grown - 89 cents/lb.

Must sell washer and dryer $300.

Worn once by mistake. Call Stephanie.

Complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica, 45 volumes. Excellent condition. $1,000 or best offer. No longer needed. Got married last month, Wife knows everything.

This column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads on this site. Thus I cannot endorse, though some look interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay Michael's business school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.