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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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9:00 AM Tuesday, November 15, 2005: Today's perfect investment is the Treasury's I Bond. They yield 6.73%. They are subject to federal taxes, but not state or local. You must hold them for one year. If you redeem them within the first five years, you'll forfeit the three months most recent interest. You buy them directly from the Treasury. Click here.

I suspect you'll never hear about I Bonds from your broker because they can't sell them and/or don't make a commission on them. But you'll hear lots of nonsense about why they're not useful for your portfolio. But they are. Trust me.

The stockmarket is basically flat this year and the outlook for next year is not bright. The thought that the U.S. Treasury will pay you 6.73% is enormously appealing. I Bonds are clearly more attractive than the short-term muni floaters I've been buying. These short-term muni floaters pay 2.4% to 2.8% which is triple tax-free and which is the equivalent of basically 4.3% before state, federal or local taxes. You'd better do your own arithmetic and use your own estimated taxes. The above is mine. I'm getting raped near the top of the tax bracket. Your mileage may vary. You may be more fortunate.
Thanks to reader John J Plummer for bringing the I Bond to my attention.

One difference: floaters are very short-term. They tied your money up for seven to 30 days. I Bonds tie your money up for a year. But for the extra interest and the guarantee of the Federal Government (as against a local municipal authority), I'll take I Bonds every day.

Big Problem with I Bonds: For some dumb reason, you're only allowed to buy $30,000 of I Bonds each year! Dumb. Dumb. Dumb!

All about the bird flu: We're all worried dying. Today's Wall Street Journal reports:

Tamiflu and Relenza work by blocking a protein present in every type of flu, neuraminidase (the N in H5N1). If taken within 48 hours after symptoms appear, the drugs have been shown to limit the spread of flu virus in the body, reducing the severity of symptoms and the length of illness. The drug is highly effective if taken within 12 hours of the first symptoms: In one study, those patients got better in about a day, compared with three days for patients who took the drug later and 4.3 days for patients who didn't take any antiviral drug. In addition, Tamiflu and Relenza are 70% to 90% effective in keeping family members of a sick patient from getting sick themselves.

Because we don't yet have a vaccine for H5N1, the thinking is that a human outbreak might be controlled by blanketing villages or communities where outbreaks occur with the neuraminidase-inhibiting drugs. That would help reduce the severity of the illness among flu victims, protect healthy people and prevent the disease from spreading outside the community.

But there are several reasons why it is impractical for individuals to stock up on flu drugs. First, we don't yet know what an adequate dose is. While 10 pills of Tamiflu -- two pills a day for five days -- is typically enough to battle regular flu, rodent studies suggest we might need more than that to battle H5N1. In August, the Journal of Infectious Diseases reported that the standard five-day dose protected only 50% of mice infected with H5N1. Eight days of treatment boosted survival to 80%.

In addition, the flu drugs protect you only as long as you are taking them. If you are the only one in your neighborhood taking Tamiflu during an outbreak, it isn't going to do you much good because you will be as vulnerable as everyone else the moment you stop taking the drug.

While stocking up on flu drugs isn't a practical way to prepare for a flu epidemic, there are things you can do. Doctors say you should start getting into the habit of better hygiene: Wash hands often, particularly after touching public handrails. Keep hands away from the face and mouth.

And if bird flu does come to your city, chances are quarantines will be an important way to curb the spread of the disease. As a result, it might make more sense to stock your pantry with nonperishable food items and other supplies than to stock the medicine cabinet with Tamiflu.

That is what Heidi Hansen of Oshkosh, Wisc., decided to do after learning it wasn't practical to try to obtain Tamiflu for her family of four. She has stocked up on food, water-purification tablets, blankets and other items she might need in an emergency. "It could be for an ice storm or it could be because of an avian-flu outbreak that quarantines everyone," says Ms. Hansen. "We're prepared for just about anything."

The Tennis Masters in Shanghai: ESPN has it every morning. It ends on Sunday. Federer is playing and winning, as usual. I taught him everything he knows. (I wish.) I got alerted to the Tennis Masters by programming "tennis" into my TiVo. It finds me tennis anywhere in the world, any time. Good feature.

Unreal weather in New York: It's raining this morning in New York. But the last few days have been gorgeous. Susan and I had a picnic in Central Park yesterday. It was wonderful, even romantic. After 34-years, that's a BIG statement. So you may enjoy also:

About 200 yards from our house.

The Sheep Meadow, site of our picnic. Almost empty on a Monday.

The Chinese hire gigantic stretch white limos to bring them to Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street. The entire bridal party walks into the path and the bevy of still and movie photographers put them through ridiculous gyrations for the sake of posterity, or something. Then they get back into the limo, get married and have a bang-up party that couldn't be beat. Some exhausting day.

One day, I'm going to learn how to identify trees. For now, this is a green tree.

And this is a red one. There are 175 varieties of trees in Central Park.

Every child who's visited Central Park has posed with this statue, "dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed Dan Titoxin 600 miles over ice, across treacherous waters through Arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of stricken Nome in the winter of 1925. Endurance. Fidelity. Intelligence." I kid you not.

View from the Roosevelt Island Tram, on my way to tennis. I played twice yesterday. I couldn't resist. Dig the azure blue sky.

All photos taken with my Canon PowerShot SD-450. Highly recommended.

Recent column highlights:

+ Dumb reasons we hold losing stocks. Click here.
+ How my private equity fund is doing. Click here.
+ Blackstone private equity funds. Click here.
+ Manhattan Pharmaceuticals: Click here.
+ NovaDel Biosciences appeals. Click here.
+ Hana Biosciences appeals. Click here.
+ All turned on by biotech. Click here.
+ Steve Jobs Commencement Address. The text is available: Click here. The full audio is available. Click here.
+ The March of the Penguins, an exquisite movie. Click here.
+ When to sell stocks. Click here.

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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