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"It's like a big pack of wolves going from one commodity to the next." -- Caesar Bryan, manager of GAMCO Gold Fund, on copper and platinum reaching record prices on May 9 as gold topped $700 an ounce for the first time since 1980, to USA Today

No wonder George Steinbrenner is one of the richest owners in pro sports. Some teams pay hefty fees to search firms to recruit coaches. Steinbrenner's New York Yankees organization appears to have posted the job in a newspaper's help-wanted section. That's right. In the classified ad pages of the Sunday (May 7) edition of The New York Times -- sandwiched between an ad for civil engineers and one for a position in collection accounts -- the Yankees are advertising for a "special assignment" coach, someone who works on certain players' skills. The key criterion: at least two years' coaching experience in college, the minors, or majors. Applicants are to fax r?sum?s to Abel Guerra at a Tampa number.

There's always the chance that the ad was posted as a fair-hiring formality or by a fan fed up with Randy Johnson's ERA. (A Yankees spokesman did not return calls seeking comment.) Whatever the story, that fax machine may be jammed with r?sum?s by now. If Seinfeld's fictional George Costanza, who famously lucked into a job with the team, didn't give the average fan hope about working for the Yanks, the real-life George Steinbrenner has.

Before he retired as chairman and CEO in 2001, Hugh McColl built what became today's Bank of America (BAC) by acquiring roughly 50 companies in about 18 years. Now, after running a mergers-and-acquisitions advisory firm for about five years, he's again eyeing financial services companies -- this time as an investor. McColl has launched a private-equity firm, Falfurrias Capital Partners, based in Charlotte, N.C., just like BofA. His partner at Falfurrias is BofA's former chief financial officer, Marc Oken. Like McColl, he has property in the Falfurrias ranch country of southern Texas. McColl is starting his venture, as are other private equity funds, to invest in small banks: community institutions that are fighting the cutthroat pricing and savvy marketing tactics of big banks with old-fashioned service. Funds such as Belvedere Capital of San Francisco and Resource Financial Institutions Group of New York are expected to inject these players with fresh capital.

With M&A heating up in the banking sector, there are plenty of deals to be made. So far, Falfurrias has raised about half of the $85 million to $100 million it's seeking from investors to use starting this summer. Says Oken: "We won't be taking over any big banks at that level."

Is there a market for a DailyCandy for guys? Since its October launch, Thrillist, a New York-based e-mail newsletter about gadgets, bars, and travel for young, urban, affluent men, has attracted 15,000 subscribers to its local edition. It just got 4,000 more with a new national edition. Next may be Dallas and Los Angeles versions. "There are guys that want and need this information," says co-founder Ben Lerer. "It's a neglected demographic."

Like the popular DailyCandy, which sends chic shopping newsletters to young women, Thrillist sells ad space on its e-mails, which are written with an almost comical swagger -- highlighting, for instance, "late-night gorging" destinations. Lerer says he solicits business advice from friends at DailyCandy, which has 1.3 million subscribers and 11 regional editions. He sees just as much potential in Thrillist.

JupiterResearch (JUPM) media analyst Barry Parr says figuring out what men want from this format will be tricky. But advertisers such as American Apparel are paying about $1,200 for banners and $12,000 for separate e-mails containing only their ads. If Thrillist convinces others it is the next DailyCandy, more money may flow in soon.

It may be America's next branding frontier. Design Barcode, a Tokyo-based company that customizes bar codes for Japanese companies such as Wacoal, an apparel maker, has teamed with a Seattle-based distributor, Pacarc, to take its business stateside. James Allard, Pacarc's co-founder, says Pacarc is already in serious talks with two major U.S. consumer product companies. Would U.S. consumers notice bar codes with logos or images? Allard says a trend toward self-checkout counters will put millions of eyeballs on the codes, letting companies "connect with their customers on a daily basis." In Japan, he adds, media buzz about the codes gave companies free publicity.

www.nextbillion.net

WHY READ IT

Backed by the World Resources Institute, it features frank debate about investing in poor economies.

NOTABLE POST

"Optimists often cite microfinance [lending] as a 'development success story,' but realists know...it suffers from high interest, misrepresentation of repayment rates, poor risk management, and insufficient scale.... Similarly, there's a lot of talk about the benefits of computers, PDAs, cell phones, the Internet, etc., when it comes to development. Take off the rose-colored glasses, however, and you'll notice a slew of defunct telecenters...."

A hearing aid used to be right up there with dentures as an unwelcome sign of aging. But the bulky beige devices are yielding to sleek, colorful ones as America's baby boomers become part of the $3.5 billion hearing aid market. Oticon, based in Denmark, offers the Delta, designed to look like an electronic gadget. "We tried to make it cool," says Gordon Wilson, Oticon's marketing vice-president. The aid has a stylish behind-the-ear amplifier that comes in bold colors. Teresa Clark, a San Mateo (Calif.) audiologist, says she has sold about 20 of the aids since their debut some six weeks ago. They sell for $1,700 to $3,000, depending on the features. GN ReSound, another design-conscious hearing aid maker, also based in Denmark, has sold 300,000 of its ReSoundAIRs since their launch in 2003.

Some 15% of America's 77 million boomers have hearing loss, and, says Sergei Kochkin, head of the nonprofit Better Hearing Institute, aids that look like "a cool little consumer electronics device" fit their generation's vigorous self-image.

It's not necessary to put a dollar amount on a cure for cancer to consider it a tremendous medical advance. But two economists at the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business have tried to do just that, concluding that a cure for the disease, which killed more than 570,000 Americans last year, would be worth about $50 trillion. In fact, just a 1% reduction in overall cancer mortality could be valued at nearly $500 billion, they estimate.

Kevin Murphy and Robert Topel, who have long studied the economics of health, calculated the return on increasing the average American life span by eradicating the disease. Their study, slated to appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Political Economy, found that the value of such longevity gains would far exceed even today's rapidly rising medical expenditures.

To measure the economic benefit of longer lives, Murphy and Topel looked at longevity gains made in the 20th century, during which the nation's average life expectancy increased by 30 years, to age 78, thanks largely to improved sanitation, refrigeration, and vaccination measures. Those additional 30 years were worth about $1.2 million per person, the study concludes. And the improvements in life expectancy from 1970 to 2000 alone (primarily through medical advances) added $3.2 trillion a year to the economy. The two professors came up with their numbers by creating a model that deducts medical research and health-care expenditures from productivity and other gains.

Total health-related research spending in the U.S. last year was $28 billion.

The lesson of the last 50 years, says Murphy, is that we must "address the issue of research that will continue to extend longevity without breaking the bank."


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