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It is always interesting to read your ideas in "Where to Invest" (Cover Story, Dec. 26/Jan. 2) on what may be a good investment in a forthcoming year. However, it would be interesting and enlightening for both forecasters and readers if you published a scorecard on what happened to your picks of the prior year. I lost a good bit of money by taking your 2005 recommendation that Doral Financial Corp. was a good [banking] company to invest in ("How to seize a gran oportunidad," Where to Invest, Cover Story, Dec. 27, 2004). I don't expect you to make up my loss, but some sympathy would be nice.
"After the housing runup" (Smart Strategies, "Where to invest," Dec. 26/Jan. 2) misses the mark on a couple of points regarding office real estate investment trusts. The statement "REITs that own hotels or apartments might be good choices because they can raise their rents...as opposed to, say, office building owners, whose tenants are protected by long leases" would seem to imply that rents are unchanging over the life of a lease. In reality, annual rent increases are typically built into most long-term leases. Such leases really protect the investor.
The statement "stay away from REITs that own office buildings...the value of their buildings tends to fall when interest rates rise" would be true for a REIT with only one building and no provision for rent increases. But REITs are portfolios of properties, and a smart portfolio manager will diversify lease expirations over many years. In any given year, leases up for renegotiation will almost always include rent increases in periods of rising interest rates caused by inflation or strong economic growth.
Your math is accurate. But other components of the equation are not fixed -- which means, if the REIT does its job, net operating income will rise.
Leo Wells III
Norcross, Ga. As a result of my Jan. 2, 2005, assertion that 2005 "could" be the year that the dollar finally collapsed, BusinessWeek bestowed the dubious honor of making it the ninth of "The 10 Worst Economic Predictions About 2005" (Up Front, Dec. 26/Jan. 2). Although I was not alone in warning of dollar weakness, the fact that our currency did not collapse in the year just past does not invalidate my view that it eventually must. There is simply no other cure that will rectify the world's gaping economic imbalances. Whenever the music finally stops for the greenback, be it in 2006 or 2007, the economic fallout will certainly be the big story of the year.
Although my dollar call may have been premature, I'm also on record for predicting that 2005 would see oil rising to $65 to $70 per barrel, and gold break through $500 per ounce. I can only assume that your magazine is planning to use those calls for a similar article on the year's most accurate predictions.
Peter D. Schiff
Euro Pacific Capital Inc.
Darien, Conn. Catherine Arnst calls LifeSharers, which rewards registered organ donors with preferred access to transplantable organs, a "closed network" ("Check a box and save a life," Viewpoint, Dec. 26/Jan. 2). The exact opposite is true. Membership is free and open to all (lifesharers.org or 1-888-ORGAN88). We welcome everyone, and we turn no one away.
About 70% of the organs transplanted in the U.S. go to people who haven't agreed to donate their own organs when they die. LifeSharers makes the organ allocation system fairer by helping registered organ donors get a fair shake.
David J. Undis
The majority of adults with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency get genetically induced emphysema, in addition to other chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. (I know this because I have alpha-1, too.) I belong to an alpha-1 education group, and several of the people in the group are in desperate need of a lung transplant, just as Arnst's friend is in desperate need of a liver transplant. The Alpha-1 Foundation (http://www.alphaone.org) is a wonderful source. Its president, John W. Walsh, is an alpha, too (as we call ourselves).
Alpha-1 is still regarded by many doctors as a textbook illness, and they don't test for it. There are about 5,000 known alphas in the U.S., but it is estimated that 80,000 to 100,000 people in the U.S. have it. It's not curable, but there is therapy for it (a weekly IV infusion) and other things we alphas can do to help ourselves be functional and live longer. For my alpha friends and all alphas who desperately need lung and liver transplants, I thank you so much for writing about this.
Winchester, Mass.Editor's note: Rob Fasano successfully received a liver transplant on Dec. 19.Catherine Arnst is right on. Medical professionals and families would not face such heart-wrenching decisions if organ donation were mandatory. Our culture is more than ready to define itself a "giving" society. Nothing stands in the way of this gift, except the health of the donor. It should be something on which we can build a consensus. Unfortunately, programs making everyone a donor (with a provisional choice to opt out) seem not to be a priority to lawmakers. It certainly would be a statement for the ages if we all made the choice to opt in.
Boca Raton, Fla. How wonderful to read about Japan's supaa ginosha -- those special technicians who are drawn to the details ("Better than robots," Global Business, Dec. 26/Jan. 2). Having lived in Japan for seven years, I assure you that these supertalented craftspeople work everywhere in the country -- from factories to business offices. And while it can be frustrating to sometimes face an impending deadline in a business setting when you're working with someone who's overly focused on the details, it's very heartening to see that in factories where these skills are required to give Japan a competitive edge, the talent is being recognized.
Long Beach, Calif. Guy Pfeffermann's "Give Africa's B-schools a boost" (Outside Shot, Dec. 26/ Jan. 2) points out a very pressing problem when it comes to arming Africa with the tools and knowledge to fight poverty and disease, and to rebuild the infrastructure of countries torn apart by war and corruption. Simply throwing foreign aid at the problem may assuage Western guilt, but really provides little long-term benefit. Instead, we must insist Africa invest in its own citizens, rather than seek debt forgiveness and Western currency.
The African continent is amazing and diverse, as are its people. This asset is all too often overlooked as a method of relieving some of the problems plaguing most of Africa's nations. Education of Africans, by Africans, can begin to erase some of the inequality that leads to corruption and military juntas. But if educated Africans simply leave the continent for more promising futures abroad, this can never be realized.