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8:30 AM Thursday, January 20, 2005: Oil at $80 a barrel? Plummeting store-based retail sales? Booming Internet retail sales? Huge drops in attendance at theme parks and Las Vegas casinos and hotels? Bankruptcies for all the major airlines? Major boom in security equipment and services?

No one can predict the future. But these scenarios are laid out in a major cover article Richard Clarke has written for the present issue of The Atlantic Monthly magazine.

I sincerely recommend reading Clarke's piece.

In an interview with Clarke accompanying the long article, the interviewer asks: "How did you come up with the idea to write an imaginary account of the first ten years of the war on terror?"

Clarke answered: "I remembered how influential the 1970s book The Third World War was in stimulating debate over what we should do about the NATO-Soviet Union confrontation that was building in Europe. In that book, a British general named Sir John Hackett jumped ahead about ten years and portrayed what would happen in a war in Europe between these two very modern militaries. It did so in such graphic detail and with such credibility that it really stimulated a great debate and gave us a big impetus towards creating the arms-control measures that largely demilitarized Europe. I thought, What better way to stimulate debate about homeland security than to do the same kind of thing: jump ahead about ten years and show what will happen if we don't improve our homeland-security posture before attacks occur?"

At the end of his article, Clarke writes, "This scenario is intentionally very bad but not worst-case. (A nuclear or biological attack would be the worst case.) The purpose of this article is to suggest that there are still opportunities to avoid such disasters without sacrificing our liberties, if we act now. Finally, for those who may say that this has given the terrorists recipes and road maps for how to attack us, here's a bit of bad news: the terrorists already know in much greater detail how best to attack us again."

I recommend you buy the latest issue and read the two articles. If you would like to read them now here they are:

Ten Years Later, Clarke's article.

Fatal Vision, the interview.

Read and ponder. Sorry to be so depressing. But Clarke's forecasts have major potential implications for our future investments. Do not dismiss Clarke's ideas because the administration sacked him or because of your political bent. Read and think. Discuss Clarke's ideas with your family and friends. I don't make this recommendation lightly.

Harry Newton

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. That money will help pay Claire's law school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.
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