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Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor.

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8:30 AM EST Wednesday, August 23, 2006: I have this mortal fear that once I discover it, it's too late and bound for The Big Crash.
Or, by the time I jump in, there's so little left, I have to short-time it, watch it hawklike, grab a few pennies and get the heck out before The Big Crash. Which means time it. None of us -- least of all me -- is good at timing. It goes up. We figure we're geniuses. We stick with it. Then one lovely day (or week) we get busy and don't pay attention. And by then The Big Crash and it's all over.

Cases in point: If you held on...
.. Our Bird Flu portfolio is down 16.9%.
.. Our China portfolio is down by at least 20%.
.. Our Alternative Energy portfolio is down 24.8%
.. Cramer's "Fast and Furious" portfolio is down by 21.3%
Within each of these, there are stocks above what we "paid" for them. But not many. Finding them is not easy. For example, only four of the 21 stocks in the alternative energy portfolio are up, as of last night.

Now check this uranium chart. It's from this week's Economist:

That's more than a fourfold increase in the price of uranium in three years. Bubbly? You betcha. Is it too late for you and I? Probably. Read the Economist's piece:

As the price of uranium rises, ever more firms seek to cash in on it

Call it a boom within a boom. The prices of various metals continue to set new records: on August 16th, for example, a tonne of nickel traded for more than $29,000. Mining firms, meanwhile, are as sought-after as the stuff they produce: this week, Xstrata, a Swiss mining group, won a battle to buy Falconbridge, a Canadian one, while CVRD, a Brazilian firm, became the third bidder for Inco, Falconbridge's former suitor. Yet even by these standards, uranium and the firms that dig it up are hot commodities.

The price of uranium oxide, from which fuel for nuclear power plants is made, has risen from $7.25 a pound in 2001 to $47.25—a record in nominal terms. In the same period, the shares of Cameco, the Canadian firm that is the world's biggest producer of uranium, have risen from less than $3 to over $38 (see chart).

In part, the rise simply reflects the cyclical nature of most commodities. But the changing fortunes of nuclear power have accentuated the ups and downs for uranium. In the 1970s miners expanded their output, and generating firms built up stocks of fuel, in anticipation of a steady expansion of nuclear power. But after nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island in America in 1979 and at Chernobyl in the Soviet Union in 1986, nuclear power fell out of favor. The end of the cold war made matters worse for miners: America and Russia began converting enriched uranium from decommissioned nuclear weapons into fuel, adding to supply just as demand was ebbing. The price of uranium duly tumbled, and lots of mines closed.

Nowadays, barely half of the uranium needed to run the world's nuclear power plants comes from mines. Existing stocks, former nukes and reprocessed fuel provide the rest. But these secondary supplies are beginning to run low. Demand, meanwhile, is rising—27 new nuclear plants are under construction, to add to the 442 already operating, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog. Many countries are planning to build more, or are at least contemplating the idea. Moreover, since nuclear plants are cheap to operate but expensive to mothball, they are often run at full tilt even when demand for power slackens.

Unearthing more uranium is expensive and time-consuming. Equipment and engineers are in desperately short supply for all mining projects at the moment. In many countries planning restrictions have become more onerous since uranium's heyday in the 1970s. Australia, for one, has the world's biggest reserves, but only three mines. The country's federal government recently decided to drop its long-standing ban on new mines, but state governments have yet to follow suit.

Those obstacles have not deterred several new firms that hope to strike it rich with uranium. Andrew Ferguson, who manages Geiger Counter, a nuclear investment fund, reckons that more than 200 uranium-mining firms have listed on stockmarkets around the world in the past 18 months. Geiger Counter itself listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) last month. A Canadian-based firm with mines in Kazakhstan, UrAsia Energy, will join the LSE's Alternative Investment Market (AIM) later this month. Unlike other commodities, uranium itself does not trade on any exchanges. But earlier this year, Nufcor Uranium, a firm that simply stockpiles uranium, also listed on AIM, allowing investors to bet on the price, rather than on specific mining projects. Shares in another such firm, Uranium Participation Corporation, have risen by more than half since their listing in Toronto last year.

Most of these start-ups, however, do not have any uranium in hand—just plans to look for it. John Wilson, of Resource Capital Research, says it takes at least five years to develop new mines once the stuff is found. By then, analysts guess, the price will have fallen back a bit, along with some of the wilder share valuations.

I feel pretty. Oh so pretty.

I don't do this often. But you MUST go to, wait for it to load and the play the Sharapova commercial. The song is from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story. Remember, it was Maria who sung this song in West Side Story. And Sharapova's first name is.... Whoever put this commercial together is a creative genius.

"We passed it by three law firms." Yesterday's investment pitch was riddled with typos and spelling mistakes. The idea -- it wasn't yet a product -- was far too early. They needed money for R&D. And they were valuing their startup at $50 million -- about ten times too high. But they asked why I said "No." And I stupidly answered.

Rule Number One. Never explain why you don't like it. Just say "No, thank you. And the best of luck." If you say why, you'll find yourself in an endless discussion. And you'll be told that "we passed it [the pitching document] by three law firms." What do lawyers know of typos, spelling mistakes and lousy layout? What do lawyers of raising money?

Take two and cross your fingers: I love Men's Health magazine. It has wonderful nuggets. The latest is a special report into "off-label" drug use -- exploding and dangerous. Explains the magazine:

Once a medication is approved by the FDA, your physician is allowed to dispense it as he or she sees fit. This makes a certain amount of sense. To gain FDA approval, a drug company must prove that its product is both safe and effective -- a process that can take several years, tens of millions of dollars, and multiple major studies. If, after all that energy and expense, the FDA says a medication can safely treat condition X, why not let doctors prescribe it to try to remedy Y and Z, too?

When a drug is used this way -- that is, for something other than what's listed in the package insert -- it's called an off-label use. The classic off-label drug is minoxidil, which began life in the 1970s as Loniten, a pill for treating high blood pressure. Patients taking Loniten began reporting an unusual side effect: hair growth. It wasn't long before some ingenious pharmacist began crushing Loniten pills and dissolving them in a solution that balding men could then rub onto their scalps. Minoxidil is now a baldness treatment named Rogaine, available at your local CVS for $25.

If there's a lesson here, it's that drugs generally work across a wide range of body systems, often in ways even their makers don't understand. For example, another class of blood-pressure-lowering medications, known as beta-blockers, have been used off-label for years to quell stage fright. That's logical, since beta-blockers work by lowering the heart rate. Older SSRI-class antidepressants such as Zoloft and Prozac can help control premature ejaculation. The anti-anxiety medication Xanax has been found to relieve irritable-bowel syndrome, of all things. Ritalin is used to combat fatigue. And so on.

These kinds of off-label uses are so common they're routine. Exact figures are difficult to pin down, but most sources estimate that one in four prescriptions in the United States is written for an off-label purpose. With total annual U.S. prescriptions over 3.6 billion, that works out to almost 1 billion off-label prescriptions in 2005. It's a staggering number of scripts, and some would say evidence of how essential off-label drugs are for treating patients -- and for advancing the art of medicine. ...

... Still, off-label prescribing comes with undeniable risks. Once your physician departs from FDA guidelines, he -- and you, the patient -- may be sailing into a foggy sea, with little solid research to guide the way. Very often, off-label drug uses are supported only by very small, uncontrolled studies -- or, worse, by anecdotal physician experience. In fact, a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine reveals that nearly 75 percent of the drugs prescribed off-label in 2001 had "little or no scientific support" for their use. One of the worst offenders was gabapentin. The researchers singled out gabapentin for the disturbing disparity between how often it was used off-label (83 percent of gabapentin prescriptions written -- more than any other drug) and how few of those prescriptions were backed up by sound science (just 17 percent). Gabapentin's brand name: Neurontin.

"Off-label drug prescriptions without scientific data aren't necessarily dangerous situations," says Randall Stafford, M.D., Ph.D., the lead study author and an associate professor of medicine at Stanford University. "But there are situations in which our knowledge is really limited, and that creates the potential for safety issues."

If you using a drug for off-label treatment, you must read this article. Click here. Even better, pick up a copy of the September issue of Men's Health at your local newsstand.

How doctors work:
1. A man comes into the ER and yells, "My wife's going to have her baby in the cab!" I grabbed my stuff, rushed out to the cab, lifted the lady's dress, and began to take off her underwear. Suddenly I noticed that there were several cabs -and I was in the wrong one. -- Dr. Mark MacDonald, San Antonio, TX.

2. At the beginning of my shift I placed a stethoscope on an elderly and slightly deaf female patient's anterior chest wall. "Big breaths," I instructed. "Yes, they used to be," replied the patient. -- Dr. Richard Byrnes, Seattle, WA

3. One day I had to be the bearer of bad news when I told a wife that her husband had died of a massive myocardial infarct. Not more than five minutes later, I heard her reporting to the rest of the family that he had died of a "massive internal fart." -- Dr. Susan Steinberg, Manitoba, Canada

4. During a patient's two week follow-up appointment with his cardiologist, he informed me, his doctor, that he was having trouble with one of his medications. "Which one?" I asked. "The patch. The nurse told me to put on a new one every six hours and now I'm running out of places to put it!" I had him quickly undress and discovered what I hoped I wouldn't see. Yes, the man had over fifty patches on his body! Now, the instructions include removal of the old patch before applying a new one. -- Dr. Rebecca St. Clair, Norfolk, VA

5. While acquainting myself with a new elderly patient, I asked, "How long have you been bedridden?" After a look of complete confusion she answered..."Why, not for about twenty years - when my husband was alive." -- Dr. Steven Swanson, Corvallis, OR

6. I was caring for a woman and asked, "So how's your breakfast this morning?" "It's very good, except for the Kentucky Jelly. I can't seem to get used to the taste" the patient replied I then asked to see the jelly and the woman produced a foil packet labeled "KY Jelly." -- Dr. Leonard Kransdorf, Detroit, MI

7. 7. A nurse was on duty in the Emergency Room, when a young woman with purple hair styled into a punk rocker Mohawk, sporting a variety of tattoos, and wearing strange clothing, entered. It was quickly determined that the patient had acute appendicitis, so she was scheduled for immediate surgery. When she was completely disrobed on the operating table, the staff noticed that her pubic hair had been dyed green, and above it there was a tattoo that read, "Keep off the grass."

Once the surgery was completed, the surgeon wrote a short note on the patient's dressing, which said, "Sorry, had to mow the lawn." Submitted by RN no name.

8. As a new, young MD doing his residency in OB, I was quite embarrassed when performing female pelvic exams. To cover my embarrassment I had unconsciously formed a habit of whistling softly. The middle-aged lady upon whom I was performing this exam suddenly burst out laughing and further embarrassing me. I looked up from my work and sheepishly said, "I'm sorry. Was I tickling you?" She replied, "No doctor, but the song you were whistling was, "I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener". -- Dr. wouldn't submit his name.

It's peach season. Where I am, they're out of this world.

I ate four yesterday.

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. Thus I cannot endorse any, though some look mighty 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 Claire's law school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.
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