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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, Friday, May 4: Most of us don't receive our companies' printed annual reports. But you can -- if you ask. I'm with Warren Buffett. These paper things convey a much different feeling than reading summaries or excerpts of them on the Internet.

I've been reading a bunch. I'm impressed with how buoyant, positive and optimistic virtually all of them are. Ones that stand out include Energen, Martin Marietta Materials, Carter's, Universal Health Services, Seacor Holdings, W. R. Berkley Corporation, AIG and Dril-Quip, which I wrote about on Friday. Sadly, it's fallen since then. Over the weekend it reported a 39% increase in net income on 20% higher sales. Wall Street analysts expected more -- 61 cents in earnings, not the 59 cents it reported. I think this fast-growing maker of deepwater drilling and exploration equipment is now a bargain.

David Pogue's Best of Breed: David is the New York Times's Walter Mossberg.

+ Best Small Camera: Canon SD800IS. The IS stands for "image stabilizer," which makes an absolutely enormous difference. It saves about 90 percent of the low-light photos that would otherwise have been ruined by blur. To make matters even better, this camera ($305) offers a 3.8X zoom - better than the 3X on most pocket cams. It also offers face recognition software that properly exposes and focuses on people in your scene. Although no pocket cam eliminates shutter lag altogether, this camera comes very close. And 7.1 megapixels is exactly enough. Oh, and one more thing: it takes fantastic photos. (Harry's note: This is the camera I've recommended also.)

+ Best Amateur SLR: Nikon D40. This camera is small, like Canon's Digital Rebel, but it doesn't pinch your right fingertips like the Rebel does. The price is amazing ($530) considering everything you get: fast startup, zero shutter lag, fast autofocus, big sensor, spacious and bright viewfinder, big screen. ...

+ Best Camcorder: Canon HV20. This camcorder ($1,040) can record either standard video or high-definition video onto standard MiniDV tapes. The image quality is absolutely, forehead-slappingly spectacular when you play it on a high-def TV set. The HV20 has all the goodies of its predecessor, the HV10, like a dedicated autofocus sensor, built-in lens cap and an excellent optical stabilizer.

+ Best DVR: TiVo Series 3. Actually, the Series 2 offers more features, like the delicious TiVo to Go (which lets you transfer your recordings to an iPod, a laptop and so on). But the Series 3 records effortlessly in high definition. It's ridiculously priced at $800 plus subscription, but I'll try to look past that; my job is to name the best video recorder. Incidentally, don't send me e-mail saying how your cable-company DVR does all the same stuff. It doesn't. And it doesn't do even the basics nearly as gracefully as the TiVo. ...

+ Best Smartphone (for now): TIE: Treo 700p (usually $300) and BlackBerry Curve (probably $200). My heart has always been with the Palm phones, with their touch screens, dedication to intelligent design and wealth of add-on programs. Adding Verizon's superior network coverage and high-speed (if pricey) Internet is just gravy. But the new BlackBerry, announced today and going on sale this spring, is really something, too. It's basically the BlackBerry Pearl with a better camera, new spell-checker, and a full QWERTY keyboard, rather than a 20-key keyboard that guesses what word you want.

This is also the first BlackBerry that offers Bluetooth stereo -- that is, it beams the music wirelessly to Bluetooth headphones - and it sounds fantastic. A nice touch: this cellphone has a regular iPod-style headphone jack, so you can use any headphones you want. (Most cellphones have a nonstandard 2.5-mm headphone jack.)

+ Best Laptop: MacBook. It runs both the virus-free Mac OS X as well as Windows, making the world's entire library of commercial software available to you. It's loaded (built-in video/still camera, Wi-Fi, DVD burner, Bluetooth). Its magnetic power adapter means you'll never drag this thing off the table by accident. And its design is light-years cleaner and smoother than Windows laptops, which are covered with so many flaps, panels and stickers, they look like quilts. (The base price is $1,100, but you should get it installed with more memory than the ridiculous 512 megs it comes with.) I'd have said the MacBook Pro, but I find those 15- and 17-inch models too big for convenient portability; I know this is a matter of personal choice, but I always feel like I'm carrying around a serving tray. The 13-inch, extremely bright MacBook screen is just right.

Someone was very prescient. Pity it wasn't me. Under the headline, "Heavy Options Activity Stirs Suspicions," reporter Vikas Bajaj of the New York Times wrote the following story:

Did word of Rupert Murdoch’s offer for Dow Jones leak out early?

On April 25, less than a week before the $60-a-share offer was publicly disclosed, an investor bought an option to buy 280,000 shares of Dow Jones for $40 in September.

The investment was extraordinary for several reasons. Shares of Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, were trading at about $36 at the time and had not crossed $40 in a year. The future for newspaper companies, meanwhile, was widely considered to be grim. As a result, the options cost the investor a mere 85 cents a share on the American Stock Exchange.

After Mr. Murdoch’s offer was announced on Tuesday, however, shares of Dow Jones shot up to $56 and the value of the options jumped to $17.20. The buyer of the options had a profit, on paper, of $4.6 million as of yesterday afternoon.

The investor was either lucky, highly perceptive or — as many on Wall Street suspect — acting on insider information.

That profitable bet was one of severally unusually large trades in the options to buy shares of Dow Jones in the last week, indicating that some investors may have known about the acquisition offer ahead of time. And that may not be surprising, given that the initial proposal was formally made in a letter Mr. Murdoch sent two weeks ago.

Trading in options of the company is generally light and has rarely exceeded 100,000 options a day, let alone in one big trade.

“The chances of this being just shrewd timing are zero,” said Jon Najarian, co-founder of, a site that studies unusual trading patterns. ...

Trading in options of Dow Jones shares is so sparse that investors who want to buy or sell them pay a premium to do so, Mr. Najarian of said. He estimates that investors have made up to $10 million in profits from trades in Dow Jones options since April 25.

Trading in actual shares of Dow Jones, by comparison, has not been as unusual. ...

Even with the more blatantly skewed options trades, though, investigators could have a hard time proving insider trading.

Officials would have to trace the flow of insider information to the investors who benefited from the options trade through someone familiar with the News Corporation’s overture to the Dow Jones board and the Bancroft family, which has a controlling voting interest in the company. Officials would also have to prove that the person making the trade did not have another legitimate reason to buy the options.

Instances of unusual trading in options before the announcement of blockbuster mergers and acquisitions have drawn increasing scrutiny in recent years as deal making has heated up and as options have become increasingly popular with institutional and individual investors. Their popularity has grown, in part, because they allow investors to bet on changes in the price of a stock at a fraction of the actual share price. (The number of options contracts traded in April was up 30 percent from a year ago, according to the Options Clearing Corporation in Chicago.)

In March, the S.E.C. accused five people of insider trading in buying options to purchase the shares of TXU, the Texas energy giant that has agreed to be bought out by private equity firms in a $45 billion deal. The five are accused of making $5.3 million in illegal profits. ...

In Jihadist Haven, a goal: To kill and die in Iraq: This is the headline of an absolutely engrossing article in today's New York Times.

Ahmed Khalil Abdelaziz Salah, an imam, led young men in Koran studies last month in Zarqa, Jordan.

The article begins:

ARQA, Jordan — Abu Ibrahim considers his dead friends the lucky ones. Abu Ibrahim, right, and one of his mentors prepared to pray in a house in Zarqa. Abu Ibrahim, who uses this name as a nom de guerre, regrets that he has not carried out a suicide attack. Four died in Iraq in 2005. Three more died this year, one with an explosives vest and another at the wheel of a bomb-laden truck, according to relatives and community leaders.

Abu Ibrahim, a lanky 24-year-old, was on the same mission when he left this bleak city north of Amman for Iraq last October. But he made it only as far as the border before he was arrested, and is now back home in a world he thought he had left for good — biding his time, he said, for another chance to hurl himself into martyrdom.

"I am happy for them but I cry for myself because I couldn’t do it yet,” said Abu Ibrahim, who uses this name as a nom de guerre. “I want to spread the roots of God on this earth and free the land of occupiers. I don’t love anything in this world. What I care about is fighting.”

To read the rest of the article, click here. If that doesn't work, send me an email and I'll send you the story.

How to drive in Los Angeles. Instructions for visitors:
+ The morning rush hour is from 5:00am to noon. The evening rush hour is from noon to 7:00pm. Friday's rush hour starts on Thursday morning.

+ The minimum acceptable speed on most freeways is 85 mph. On the 105 or 110, your speed is expected to match the highway number.

+ If you actually stop at a yellow light, you will be rear ended, cussed out, and possibly shot.

+ Watch carefully for road hazards such as drunks, skunks, dogs, cats, barrels, cones, celebs, rubberneckers, shredded tires, cell phoners, deer, road kill, and the coyotes feeding on any of these items.

+ GPS does not work in LA. None of the roads are where they say they are or go where they say they do. All the freeway off and on ramps are moved each night.

+ Do not try to estimate travel time, just leave Monday afternoon for Tuesday appointments, by noon Thursday for Friday and right after church on Sunday for anything on Monday morning.

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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