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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 Monday, October 3, 2005: Amazing returns. Just in:

Investment returns for 12 months to June 30, 2005
New York University

Behind these sterling returns:
+ Alternative investments -- real estate, timber, commodities.
+ Hedge funds.

Endowments magazine did a survey of the investment returns of 210 nonprofit groups. The highest earners for 2004 were:

2004 fiscal year
United Way of Greater Rochester*
Minneapolis Foundation*
National Public Radio (Washington)**
World Monuments Fund (New York)***
Philadelphia Museum of Arts***
* Year to March 31
** Year to September 30
*** Year to June 30

Keep the ideas on energy stocks coming. Hope to address them tomorrow.

How corrupt is New Orleans? There were reports of New Orleans's police officers abandoning their posts. Turns out most of the cops listed on the payroll never existed.

How inept is FEMA? A friend of mine sells equipment. FEMA ordered from him. A few days later they ordered the same stuff. He asked why? FEMA said they had misplaced the first batch.
The saddest FEMA screwup is the story of the $100 million of ice. First, the photo:

Rows of trucks carrying hurricane relief supplies waited on Sept. 14 at a Federal Emergency Management Agency staging area at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala.

Now the story from the New York Times:

When the definitive story of the confrontation between Hurricane Katrina and the United States government is finally told, one long and tragicomic chapter will have to be reserved for the odyssey of the ice. Ninety-one thousand tons of ice cubes, that is, intended to cool food, medicine and sweltering victims of the storm. It would cost taxpayers more than $100 million, and most of it would never be delivered.

The somewhat befuddled heroes of the tale will be truckers like Mark Kostinec, who was dropping a load of beef in Canton, Ohio, on Sept. 2 when his dispatcher called with an urgent government job: Pick up 20 tons of ice in Greenville, Pa., and take it to Carthage, Mo., a staging area for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Mr. Kostinec, 40, a driver for Universe Truck Lines of Omaha, was happy to help with the crisis. But at Carthage, instead of unloading, he was told to take his 2,000 bags of ice on to Montgomery, Ala. After a day and a half in Montgomery, he was sent to Camp Shelby, in Mississippi. From there, on Sept. 8, he was waved onward to Selma, Ala. And after two days in Selma he was redirected to Emporia, Va., along with scores of other frustrated drivers who had been following similarly circuitous routes.

At Emporia, Mr. Kostinec sat for an entire week, his trailer burning fuel around the clock to keep the ice frozen, as FEMA officials studied whether supplies originally purchased for Hurricane Katrina might be used for Hurricane Ophelia. But in the end only 3 of about 150 ice trucks were sent to North Carolina, he said. So on Sept. 17, Mr. Kostinec headed to Fremont, Neb., where he unloaded his ice into a government-rented storage freezer the next day.

"I dragged that ice around for 4,100 miles, and it never got used," Mr. Kostinec said. A former mortgage broker and Enron computer technician, he had learned to roll with the punches, and he was pleased to earn $4,500 for the trip, double his usual paycheck. He was perplexed, however, by the government's apparent bungling.

"They didn't seem to know how much ice they were buying and how much they were using," he said. "All the truckers said the money was good. But we were upset about not being able to help."

In the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Kostinec's government-ordered meandering was not unusual. Partly because of the mass evacuation forced by Hurricane Katrina, and partly because of what an inspector general's report this week called a broken system for tracking goods at FEMA, the agency ordered far more ice than could be distributed to people who needed it.

Over about a week after the storm, FEMA ordered 211 million pounds of ice for Hurricane Katrina, said Rob Holland, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, which buys the ice that FEMA requests under a contract with IAP Worldwide Services of Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Officials eventually realized that that much ice was overkill, and managed to cancel some of the orders. But the 182 million pounds actually supplied turned out to be far more than could be delivered to victims.

In the end, Mr. Holland said, 59 percent of the ice was trucked to storage freezers all over the country to await the next disaster; some has been used for Hurricane Rita.

Of $200 million originally set aside for ice purchases, the bill for the Hurricane Katrina purchases so far is more than $100 million - and climbing, Mr. Holland said. Under the ice contract, the government pays about $12,000 to buy a 20-ton truckload of ice, delivered to its original destination. If it is moved farther, the price is $2.60 a mile, and a day of waiting costs up to $900, Mr. Holland said.

Those numbers add up fast, and reports like Mr. Kostinec's have stirred concern on Capitol Hill, as more wearying evidence of the federal government's incoherent response to the catastrophe. ...

Not all of the ice delivery trips, by an estimated 4,000 drivers, ended in frustration. Mike Snyder, a truck driver from Berwick, Pa., took an excruciating journey that started in Allentown, Pa., on Sept. 16 and did not end until two weeks later, on Friday morning, when he arrived in Tarkington Prairie, Tex.

The electricity was out in the small community. When Mr. Snyder pulled up in front of a local church and unloaded his ice, residents were overjoyed to see him. "I felt like I did a lot of good," he said.

Truck drivers who pinballed around the country felt differently.

Having almost lost his Florida home to a hurricane last year, Jeff Henderson was eager to help when he heard that FEMA needed truckers to carry ice. He drove at his own expense to Wisconsin to collect a 20-ton load and delivered it to the Carthage staging area.

Then he, too, was sent across the South: Meridian, Miss.; Selma; and finally Memphis, where he waited five days and then delivered his ice to storage.

"I can't understand what happened," Mr. Henderson said. "The government's the only customer that plays around like that."

Mike Hohnstein, a dispatcher in Omaha, sent a truckload out of Dubuque, Iowa, to Meridian. From there, the driver was sent to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, to Columbia, S.C., and finally to Cumberland, Md., where he bought a lawn chair and waited for six days.

Finally, 10 days after he started, the driver was told to take the ice to storage in Bettendorf, Iowa, Mr. Hohnstein said. The truck had traveled 3,282 miles, but not a cube of ice had reached a hurricane victim.

"Well," Mr. Hohnstein said, "the driver got to see the country."

His company's bill to the government will exceed $15,000, he said, but the ice was worth less than $5,000. "It seemed like an incredible waste of money," he said. ..

Don't send valuable packages through the post office. Packages disappear and can't be traced. UPS and FedEx have tracking systems that work. The USPS doesn't.

Bali is a wonderful, special place. When I visited it, I thought "this is the place I want to retire to." Words cannot adequately describe its beauty and its gentleness. On the weekend three suicide bombers killed 26 and injured 100. The bombings carried the signature of a group called Jamaah Islamiyah. Over the weekend the Australian prime minister, John Howard, a close ally of America, said "There's nothing the terrorists want more than to destabilize Indonesia and what Indonesia represents as a moderate Islamic country and bulwark against the perverted, obscene version of Islam which is represented by these terrorist attacks."

I asked my Australian friend, who studies these things, to explain Jamaah Islamiyah to me. He wrote:

JI are psychopaths.
So trying to 'understand' them is ultimately an impossible task. They want Sharia law. They are descended from a group who tried to set up an idyllic Muslim state at the time of Indonesian independence. Sukarno crushed them and proclaimed Panchasila -- the first rule of which was tolerance for other religions, as long as people believed in God. Panchasila is No 1 target for JI. This means Bali is a particularly suitable target, with its tolerance, and Hindu overlay on animism. The West is pagan. Women must wear veils. Nightclubs are evil. The Indonesian State is illicit. They believe JIHAD must be waged against anyone who does not belong to their particular fundamentalism. Yes women and children too. If one carries out Jihad (i.e. bombings) that will ensure Sharia Law will come into force. Of course the senior guys only make bombs and plans. They recruit simply boys to be the bombers. One of the previous Bali bombers had a wife of two years or so and two small kids.

This is the Bali I remember -- volcanic, with steep gullies and every inch farmed by the best irrigationists in the world -- the Balinese. There is a highly developed and sophisticated Law of Riparian rights whereby the farmer at the bottom has rights to water vis a vis the farmer at the top.
This is what the suicide bombers did to a restaurant in Bali.

Rosh Hashanah begins tonight
It celebrates the beginning of the Jewish New Year. All Jewish holidays, according to Jewish folklore, can be summarized in three short sentences:

+ They tried to kill us.
+ They failed.
+ So, let's eat.

Here are some famous cracks by famous Jews:

+ I once wanted to become an atheist but I gave up. They have no holidays. -- Henny Youngman

+ The time is at hand when the wearing of a prayer shawl and skullcap will not bar a man from the White House, unless, of course, the man is Jewish. -- Jules Farber

+ The remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served us nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found. -- Calvin Trillin

+ Let me tell you the one thing I have against Moses. He took us forty years into the desert to bring us to the one place in the Middle East that has no oil! -- Golda Meir

+ My idea of an agreeable person is a person who agrees with me. -- Benjamin Disraeli

+ A spoken contract isn't worth the paper it's written on. -- Sam Goldwyn

+ I have enough money to last me the rest of my life unless I buy something. -- Jackie Mason

+ I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying. -- Woody Allen

+ Marriage is a wonderful institution. But who wants to live in an institution? -- Groucho Marx

+ When I bore people at a party, they think it is their fault. -- Henry Kissinger

Recent column highlights:
+ 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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