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"If I make a mistake with my own money, it isn't as big as making a mistake with Warren's money." -- Bill Gates, after accepting Warren Buffett's $31 billion gift to his foundation

For John Halamka, Harvard Medical School's chief information officer, technology and privacy are close to the heart. He was among the first to have a radio-frequency ID chip put in his arm to help doctors find his medical records should he arrive unconscious at an ER. Now the 44-year-old is having his genome sequenced and will post a map of his makeup online, including clues as to what may one day kill him or make his children predisposed to illness.

The idea behind these stunts is to start a national conversation about the trade-offs between privacy, quality of care, and cost as medicine gets more high tech. "If in 10 years we'll be carrying around our genome on RFID chips, we have to understand the implications," says Halamka, who chairs a federal standards panel on a proposed electronic National Health Information Network. His own stance: Only patients who agree to it should have their records linked to an e-network. (His ID chip lacks passwords a hacker would need to get his records.) That's different from the "opt-out" provision other experts favor. But Halamka insists that "you only get one chance to get privacy right." Any network, he says, must be trusted by patients and providers alike.

Be careful what you wish for. In September, 2000, Ronald Astin, a Vinson & Elkins partner, sent a memo to the management committee of the giant Houston law firm. Unhappy with his compensation (partners averaged $655,000 that year), he argued that he should get more credit for the work he was doing for a V&E mega-client by the name of Enron.

Six years later, some people want to give Astin that credit, in spades: plaintiffs in a class action seeking to hold V&E and others liable for Enron shareholder losses. Part of V&E's defense in the case, now pending in Houston's federal court, is that the firm was little more than a glorified paper pusher for Enron, with no role in shaping the transactions that created the financial house of cards. The plaintiffs, who obtained thousands of V&E documents as part of the suit, are using Astin's memo to argue the opposite. In making his case for more pay, Astin wrote that to handle Enron's work, "detailed knowledge of both the client's business and strategy and existing and planned transactions are necessary." In a June 13 court filing, plaintiffs cite the memo as one of "a Whitman's Sampler" of V&E papers showing that the firm "was present at the creation, active throughout and still in on [Enron's] fraudulent scheme when it finally collapsed." Neither Astin nor V&E responded to requests for comment.

Last summer was the hottest season of 2005 for initial public offerings. Some 92 companies raised nearly $15 billion in those three months. But if current activity is any indication, this summer's roster of IPOs will be a quick read. Market researcher Dealogic estimates that compared with last June about 17% fewer companies will go public this June, raising 46% less money.

The main culprit: recent volatility in the stock market. Starting as far back as February, a slew of companies have been canceling or postponing IPOs, many citing skittish market conditions as the main reason for their decisions. "If we get past July 4 and we still see IPOs being canceled due to market volatility, we may not see many IPOs again until after Labor Day," says Larry Wieseneck, co-head of global finance at Lehman Brothers. In the month of June alone, companies have canceled or postponed nearly $2 billion worth of IPOs, the largest amount of withdrawn IPOs in one month since November, 2004, when $3 billion worth of deals were yanked.

Among the market-related June casualties have been semiconductor producer Wintegra (whose IPO was projected to raise $64 million) and BioNumerik Pharmaceuticals ($75 million).

Famously founded by students for students, Facebook gets lots of r?sum?s from recent college grads, says co-founder Chris Hughes. At 100 employees and growing, the social networking site seems to be looking way beyond the kids in the hall for new hires. "We're now at a stage in our growth where it's good to have people with some experience and background," says marketing director Melanie Deitch. Among current openings: PR manager (minimum of 5 to 7 years in corporate communications), director of inside sales (5 to 10 years in online management), and HR director ("Prior experience leading the HR function for a fast-growth company from startup through IPO or successful acquisition").

www.cenekreport.com

WHY READ IT

For useful, readable posts about new research and trends "in the world of work." Robert Cenek, head of an Iowa-based human resources consultancy, is the self-proclaimed "fad-free" blogger, and he delivers on that promise. No buzzwords. (And he doesn't use the site to flog his own firm.)

For time-strapped HR and management types, here are thumbnail reviews of studies, surveys, and books on, say, the failure rate of small enterprises, the case for conducting longer exit interviews, and "the constellation of factors" that drive job-hopping.

The real estate boom has hit the Monopoly board. In the update of the London version, the cost of an Oxford Street site has risen 10,000-fold, to about $5.6 million. And that shopping artery is the only location to survive from the 1936 original. Gone is Park Lane in fashionable Mayfair, once the priciest spot, at about $1,600. It has been replaced by Kensington Palace Gardens, reckoned by real estate agents to be Europe's costliest residential address. That site on the board goes for $7.4 million, perhaps a bargain: The street, home to several embassies, is named for the nearby royal residence. A few years ago, steel baron Lakshmi Mittal paid about $130 million for a mansion at Nos. 18-19. For folks who can't absorb such heady numbers (passing Go? See headline), Parker Brothers, the Hasbro (HAS) unit that owns Monopoly, is still selling the old London version of the game.

Using a mobile handset to watch digital TV, surf the Net, take photos, listen to music, and pay for train tickets is apparently not enough. Japan's top mobile carrier, NTT DoCoMo, and Tanita Corp. are offering a new service: testing breath samples for alcohol. On June 26, the two began selling a device designed to help trucking, taxi, or bus companies learn if their drivers have been drinking.

To use the $800 device, drivers breathe into an alcohol sensor, developed by Tanita, that connects to DoCoMo's 3G handsets. The result is then beamed to a manager's PC using software downloaded over DoCoMo's network. (If employees have been drinking, the company presumably orders them to stop driving.) There's no point trying to get a friend to breathe into the phone. Using the mobile's live video functions, managers can see on their PCs who is exhaling.

DoCoMo's offering isn't the only unusual cell-phone gewgaw on the market in Japan. In April, Vodafone and Sharp together released a handset that recognizes cosmic constellations when pointed skyward.

American Apparel, the fast-growing Los Angeles maker of trendy T-shirts and flirty dresses, will throw a grand-opening party in late July at its latest, hippest retail outlet: a computer-generated boutique within the online universe known as Second Life.

The $250 million company is the first real-life retailer doing business in the popular simulation game, in which players negotiate a virtual world through pixel-ated alter egos called avatars, from time to time paying real currency for digitally rendered property, services, and goods.

Just as in real life, the retailer has stirred up controversy. Second Life denizens objecting to its racy real-world ads staged a digital-world protest. Still, ever since American Apparel quietly opened its online outpost a few weeks ago, it has sold about 2,000 digital items, according to Raz Schionning, the chain's Web services director, each for $1 or less. "We don't intend to make a profit, but there's a lot to be learned in this arena," she says. (The company won't say what it paid Linden Labs, Second Life's creator, to open the shop.)

Schionning says American Apparel is hiring virtual store clerks, in part to test-market its new jeans before they appear in its shops this fall. And virtual shoppers will soon get a 15% discount at the retailer's 132 stores worldwide.


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