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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 Tuesday, September 12, 2006: I told my busy real estate mogul I was starting a new business. He looked at me as though I had flipped out. "You should be enjoying your life." Everyone envies someone else?

How to motivate builders and subcontractors: Short answer: You can't. I've tried pleading, begging, groveling and threatening. Groveling seems to work best. My friend, a big developer, says his builder walked in yesterday, said he was losing money on the fixed price job and demanded $2 million extra to finish it, or he'd walk.

Manhattan real estate update: The $1,000 per square foot for Manhattan apartments is holding, but just barely. Prices are down 10% from a year ago. It's clearly a buyers' market in residential real estate. The buyers know it. They're taking much longer to close. And the banks (the mortgage lenders) are more conservative in their appraisals. In recent cases the banks have come in lower than what the buyer (their client) agreed to pay.

The picture is completely opposite in commercial. "It's the hottest it's ever been," one mogul told me last night. "There's a huge demand for commercial space." The latest trend -- office condominiums.

Suffering your way through September: Mark your calendars. Hay fever season begins August 24 each year and ends with the first decent frost. I have "enjoyed" hay fever for over 50 years. I humbly present my "solutions":

1. Wash your face with cold water and soap. This removes the bad stuff off your face.
2. Turn on the airconditioner. When you're freezing, you're not sneezing.
3. Don't rub your eyes. That makes them worse.
4. Get someone else to vacuum out your room.
5. Keep away from dogs and cats.
6. Don't go to the octor to figure what you're allergic to. Most likely, you'll be like me -- allergic to everything. Being inoculated against "everything" or even avoiding "everything" doesn't work.
7. Claritin (loratadine) works somewhat. it doesn't put you to sleep as quickly as some others do.
8. Exercise works. You don't sneeze when you're sweating.

The only good news with allergies is that every few years your sensitivity to allergies changes. Maybe it's every seven years. Maybe not. This scene is from the movie, The Seven Year Itch. The best part of allergies is watching the movie.

Karen Greenberg's Prius, an update on yesterday's column: My friend Karen's Prius does 52.7 miles per gallon in the city and 43 miles to the gallon on the highway. Most people who drive an SUV get fewer than 20 miles per gallon. Writes Karen, "Sweetie, don't make fun of the Prius. I like driving it more than my 2003 500SL, though the 500SL is a hell of a lot sexier especially with the hard top down."

The Prius

The Mercedes, more money, less gas mileage, but sexier.

The point of yesterday's column: In between the Prius and the Mercedes, there are huge opportunities for saving oil. Transport is the single biggest consumer of oil in the U.S. We need to reduce oil to reduce the money in Middle Eastern dictator hands.

All about Global Warming: Michael Crichton thinks it s a crock. Arnold Schwarzenegger is obsessed with it. I'm confused. The Economist has a big survey on it, titled, The heat is on. Excerpts:

Global warming, it now seems, is for real.

THE world's climate has barely changed since the industrial revolution. The temperature was stable in the 19th century, rose very slightly during the first half of the 20th, fell back in the 1950s-70s, then started rising again. Over the past 100 years, it has gone up by about 0.6°C (1.1°F).

So what's the fuss about? Not so much the rise in temperature as the reason for it. Previous changes in the world's climate have been set off by variations either in the angle of the Earth's rotation or in its distance from the sun. This time there is another factor involved: man-made “greenhouse gases”.

When the sun's energy hits the Earth, most of it bounces back into space. But carbon dioxide and around 30 other greenhouse gases, such as methane, help create a layer that traps some of the heat from the sun, thus warming the planet. And, because of the burning of fossil fuels, which contain the CO2 that the original plants breathed in from the atmosphere, levels of CO2 have increased from around 280 parts per million (ppm) before the industrial revolution to around 380 ppm now. Studies of ice cores show that concentrations have not been so high for nearly half a million years. At the current rate of increase, they will have reached 800 ppm by the end of this century. Given that CO2 being emitted now stays in the atmosphere for up to 200 years, getting those concentrations down will take a long time.

The first person to spot the connection between temperature and human activity was a 19th-century scientist called Svante Arrhenius. He speculated that emissions from industry could double CO2 levels in 3,000 years, thus warming the planet. Being a Swede, he thought that was just fine. In 1938 a British engineer called Guy Callendar gave a talk to the Royal Meteorological Society in which he claimed to have established that the world was warming, but he was regarded as an eccentric. The idea of global warming seemed bound for the intellectual dustbin.

If interest in climate change was lukewarm in the first half of the 20th century, it went distinctly chilly in the second half, for the good reason that the world was getting cooler. In 1975 Newsweek magazine ran a cover story entitled “The Cooling World” that gave warning of a “drastic decline in food production — with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth” — a prediction repeated with understandable glee by those who suspect the current worry is just another such scare.

The mid-20th-century blip turns out to have been the consequence of another by-product of human activity: sulphur and other airborne particles that bounce back sunlight before it can hit the Earth, thus offsetting the greenhouse effect. By the late 20th century, efforts to control that sort of pollution were having an effect. The particulate content of the atmosphere was falling, and the world began to heat up once more. The idea of global warming was retrieved from the bin and turned into one of the biggest arguments of our time.

The debate involves scientists, economists, politicians and anybody interested in the future of the planet. It is charged by the belief on one side that life as we know it is under threat, and by the conviction on the other that scientists and socialists are conspiring to spend taxpayers' money on a bogey. It is sharpened by a moral angle — the sense, deep at the heart of the environmental movement, that the consequence of individual selfishness will be collective doom: the invisible hand is a fist, and original sin an SUV.

The argument is peopled by big characters: James Lovelock, a British scientist who believes that mankind has fatefully unbalanced the delicate mechanisms of a world he calls Gaia; Bjorn Lomborg, a hyperactive Danish statistician who believes that scientists are twisting figures to scare people; Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California, whose mission is to terminate climate change; and James Inhofe, chairman of the environment and public works committee in America's Senate, who says it is all nonsense.

Unfortunately, the argument is also fuelled by ignorance, because nobody knows for sure what is happening to the climate. At a macro level, modeling what is one of the world's most complex mechanisms and projecting 100 years ahead is tricky. At a micro level, individual pieces of data contradict each other. One shrinking glacier can be countered by another that is growing; one area of diminishing precipitation can be answered by another where it is rising.

Ignorance and fear have spawned an industry. Governments, international bureaucracies and universities are employing many thousands of clever people to work out what is going on. Foundations are pouring money into research. Big corporations now all have high-level climate-change advisers with teams of clever young things scurrying around to find out what the scientists are thinking and what the politicians are planning to do.

The establishment of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change under the auspices of the UN was designed to silence the arguments and give policymakers an agreed line on what the future holds. But given how little is known about either the climate's sensitivity to greenhouse-gas emissions or about future emissions levels, that proved difficult. Not surprisingly, the IPCC's latest report, published in 2001, offers a wide range of predicted temperature rises, from 1.4°C to 5.8°C by the end of this century.

This huge range limits the usefulness of the IPCC's findings to policymakers. Nor has the panel's existence quieted the debate. Skepticism about its science and especially its economics has led a number of people to disagree with its findings. Some challenge the evidence that climate change is happening; others accept that it is happening, but argue that it isn't worth trying to do anything about it.

Since that IPCC report five years ago, the science has tended to confirm the idea that something serious is happening. In the 1990s, satellite data seemed to contradict the terrestrial data that showed temperatures rising. The disparity puzzled scientists and fueled skepticism. The satellite data, it turned out, were wrong: having been put right, they now agree with terrestrial data that things are hotting up. Observations about what is happening to the climate have tended to confirm, or run ahead of, what the models predicted would happen. Arctic sea ice, for instance, is melting unexpectedly fast, at 9% a decade. Glaciers are melting surprisingly swiftly. And a range of phenomena, such as hurricane activity, that were previously thought to be unconnected to climate change are now increasingly linked to it.

This survey will argue that although the science remains uncertain, the chances of serious consequences are high enough to make it worth spending the (not exorbitant) sums needed to try to mitigate climate change. It will suggest that, even though America, the world's biggest CO2 emitter, turned its back on the Kyoto protocol on global warming, the chances are that it will eventually take steps to control its emissions. And if America does, there is a reasonable prospect that the other big producers of CO2 will do the same.

For more, click here.

Australia's reaction to Global Warming:
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- A saloon-style striptease, complete with corsets and balloons, at an Australian government-sponsored conference on global warming left some scientists hot and bothered and the organizers in boiling water.

The show was cut short and organizers issued an apology after some delegates at the Australia and New Zealand Climate Forum's dinner in Canberra walked out in disgust at what was intended as a lighthearted break from the weighty business of rising temperatures.

Rebecca Gale, who led the team of dancers from Miss Kitka's House of Burlesque, said the performance was in reasonably good taste and she didn't understand what the fuss was about.

Gale said she emerged into the function room during dinner wearing a heavy corset, black fishnet stockings and at least a dozen balloons, which she invited delegates to pop as she danced to Peggy Lee's sultry 1958 hit "Fever."

"The most that any of the girls get down to is vintage lingerie, which is corsetry and stockings," Gale told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio on Friday. "It's not like we were doing full nudity and simulating sexual acts or anything like that. There was not even a midriff on display."

But some in the audience objected to the Wednesday night show in Australia's old Parliament House, and the dance troupe was asked to stop about 10 minutes into a 45-minute routine, Gale said. The Australian National University, which organized the conference, issued a statement the next day apologizing for any offense caused. ...

When Environment Minister Ian Campbell got wind of the show, he canceled his department's $2,290 sponsorship, and the Agriculture Department followed suit, withdrawing $3,800. "I am appalled at what happened," he said.

Prime Minister John Howard was less prudish. "My reaction is well, probably not appropriate, but I'm not going to list it for discussion at the next meeting of the national security committee," Howard told the Southern Cross Broadcasting network.

The Texas Gotcha:
A Texan was stopped by a game warden in East Texas recently with two ice chests full of live fish in water, leaving a river
well known for its fishing. The game warden asked the man, "Do you have a license to catch those fish?"

"Naw, my friend, I ain't got no license. These here are my pet fish," explained the Texan.

"Pet fish?" asked the game warden.

"Yep. Every night I take these fish down to the river and let 'em swim' round for a while. Then I whistle and they jump right back into this ice chest and I take 'em home."

"That's a bunch of BS! Fish can't do that !" said the game warden.

The redneck looked at the game warden for a moment and then said, "It's the truth. I'll show you. It really works."

"Okay, I've GOT to see this!" said the game warden.

The redneck poured the fish into the river and stood and waited.

After several minutes, the game warden turned to him and said, "Well?"

"Well, what?" said the redneck.

"When are you going to call them back?" asked the game warden.

"Call who back?" asked the Texas redneck.

"The FISH!" the game warden exclaimed.

"What fish?" asked the Texas redneck.

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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