Tis the season to network

Rhonda Abrams

The holiday season is busy, but it's also a great time for networking. By networking, I don't mean installing all those computer cables around the office; I'm talking about getting out there and meeting people who might be potential customers or referral sources.

Check your in-box and your mailbox. Check the business section of your local newspaper. You'll find invitations to or listings of many business and social events you can attend. This is the season for holiday parties, end-of-year Chamber of Commerce mixers, trade and industry get-togethers. And don't forget the parties your own friends invite you to.

In the early years of my consulting business, I was a regular attendee at networking events, and they were critical for finding my first clients as well as helping me learn more about my market.

To help you get ready for all those events you can attend in December, here's a refresher course in networking:

Attend. You can't meet people sitting in your office. I know how difficult it is to drag yourself to some of these events, especially when you've got a ton of work to do. But you've got to keep marketing to keep income coming in, and this is a great time to meet new contacts. You never know which event may bring you the big customer.

Bring business cards and a pen. Always bring your business card, even to a purely social function. If you're going to a business mixer or trade event, bring plenty of cards. I'll tell you what the pen is for later.

Wear a name tag. Sure, those stick-on labels proclaiming, "Hello, My Name Is..." may seem silly, but people have an easier time remembering your name if they see it as well as hear it. Write your first and last name as well as the name of your company.

Approach people. Even if you've been a wallflower all your life, now's the time to get over it. A good way to meet people is in the drinks line or by the buffet table. If it's a business event, it's perfectly appropriate to start the conversation with, "Hi, I'm ..." If it's social, you can make a positive comment about the food, the room, or the host. You don't have to be brilliant; other people are grateful for someone taking the initiative.

Have a clear, concise statement of what you do and, ideally, who you do it for. In even the most social setting, you're likely to be asked, "What do you do?" Have a one-line description people can easily remember. Make the description appropriate for the group you're attending. In a real estate trade meeting, for instance, you could say, "I'm a mortgage broker specializing in no-doc loans." In a general business or social setting, you'd change that to "I arrange mortgages or refinancing for people who have a hard time getting loans."

Actively listen. The tendency, especially if you're nervous, is to want to either stand back and say nothing at all — or to immediately start talking about yourself. Instead, ask questions and listen. Use your time to establish rapport — some common connection — rather than trying to make a sales pitch.

Give people your business card. You don't have to wait for someone to ask. Once you've got a conversation going, it's perfectly appropriate to say, "I've enjoyed meeting you. Here's my business card."

Ask others for their business card. If someone doesn't offer you a card, and you think you may want to follow up with them, just ask, "Do you have a card?" If they don't have one, whip out that pen you brought and have them write the info on the back of one of yours.

Move on. Don't stay with one or two people the whole event. Mingling means moving around. You can excuse yourself to go get another drink, or just end a conversation with "It's been great talking with you. Let's get together some time for lunch."

Follow up. You've gone to the event. You've made the contact. You have their business card. Now make the call.

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Will You Be Naughty or Nice to Your Network This Holiday Season?

The holidays are a great opportunity to reach out to people you care about, personally and professionally. Yet, more so than the thought, it's the execution that counts most during this frenzied time of year. Use these tips to make sure your efforts to spread cheer don't come off as insincere.

Naughty: You send out pre-engraved, homogenous company holiday cards with nary a signature.
Nice: You write a personal note to each recipient, even if it's just a few words.

Naughty: Giving everyone a generic, clich├ęd gift that your clients may not be interested in - or able to enjoy.
Nice: Recognizing that not everyone likes chocolate or popcorn or drinks wine and instead giving people something that reflects their tastes. Stumped? Try giving out spices from Penzeys. Or make a donation to a charitable organization in which a client has expressed interest.

Naughty: Throwing a holiday party and not allowing folks to bring a guest.
Nice: Forget the party! Most people are busy enough around the holidays. Why not throw a New Year's brainstorming session for friends and clients wherein you all help each other set professional goals and offer up advice and support?

Naughty: Your holiday greeting is the only time you reach out to your network each year.
Nice: Call everyone personally, apologize for being out of touch, and schedule a time to grab lunch or a drink in January.

Naughty: You call in favors at the eleventh hour, stressing out vendors and well-connected friends.
Nice: Plan ahead for business and don't pull any strings during the holidays - unless, of course, your job is on the line.

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Two Words To Boost Your Career: Thank You

Rosalie Maggio

Beginning with the "thank you" for your first job interview and ending with the "thank you" for your retirement party, your career can benefit enormously from simple notes of gratitude written along the way. Frequent, well-written thank-you notes can foster professional success in unimaginable ways, and they are especially important after a job interview.

The Mechanics

Thank-you notes should be printed on letterhead stationery or personal-business stationery, or -- for a little warmer tone -- handwritten on fold-over note cards. You can simplify the process by sending an email thank-you message (more on this later), which is not as distinctive as a handwritten note but far better than no message at all.

As you're writing, don't worry about being creative or clever or profound. People are so charmed to receive thank-you notes at all that they are seldom very critical. "Thank you very much" are words that everyone likes to read.

After the Job Interview

An essential job-seeking technique as well as a gesture of courtesy is to thank the people who interview you. Write a note immediately after the interview and before a decision has been made.

1. State what you liked about the interview, the company, and the position.

2. Emphasize briefly and specifically your suitability for the job.

3. Address concerns about your qualifications that came up during the interview.

4. Mention any issue that you didn't have the opportunity to discuss. But primarily say thanks.

5. If you felt you had a particularly friendly interview, you might close with a sentence or two referring to something you talked about unrelated to the interview (like sports, common interests, or family).

Keep in mind that several people spent time setting up the appointment, doing the paperwork, interviewing you, and doing the paperwork again. They'll appreciate a little recognition.
A few letter-writing experts dislike the "thanks again" that concludes so many thank-you letters and notes. However, it is a popular and benign way of reminding the reader of the purpose of your note. If you like it, use it.

A Sample Note

A sample thank-you note for a job interview might look like this:

I enjoyed this morning's discussion of the research position you want to fill. I was pleased to know that my advanced degree is definitely an asset, and I was impressed by the team spirit among the other employees I met. Thanks so much for your time and for the congenial interview.

Other Factors To Consider

You can email your thanks, but in most cases, it's not as impressive. The point of a thank-you note is that it is personal and somewhat formal. However, if the company you're interviewing with tends to do business by email and if most of your contacts have been through email, then it's definitely the way to go.

Once you're hired, you'll want to send thank-you notes -- or notes of appreciation, which is almost the same thing -- to the interviewers, your new boss, and anyone else you dealt with throughout the interview process. Saying thanks is one of the least expensive, easiest strategies in creating a favorable environment for yourself wherever you go.
Harvey Mackay, founder and chairman of the Mackay Envelope Corporation and bestselling author of "Swim with the Sharks (Without Being Eaten Alive)," says, "Anyone too busy to say 'thank you' will get fewer and fewer chances to say it."

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Bridge the Generation Gap with a Younger Boss

Roberta Chinsky Matuson

You're over 40, and your new boss is under 30. You're not alone. As seasoned workers continue to delay retirement, this scenario will become the rule rather than the exception. The situation might be an adjustment for you, so here are some tips to help you manage your relationship with your younger boss.

Give Your Boss a Chance

Get to know your boss before making assumptions that he or she isn't qualified. Who knows? You might even learn a thing or two from them.

Strive for Consensus

When conflict emerges, manage it before things implode. For example, your boss may measure performance partly based on face time. This is common among Generation X managers, who were born between 1965 and 1979. As a Baby Boomer (born between 1946 and 1964), you believe performance should be evaluated based on results. Speak to your boss about your concerns.

Look for the commonalities. You both would probably agree that completing tasks in a timely and cost-effective manner is what work is all about. You can then work towards aligning your differences to accomplish your mutually agreed-upon goals.

Be an Employee, Not a Parent

It's no secret that your new boss is young enough to be your child. Resist the urge to parent your boss. When asked, provide advice on business-related items only. Keep your suggestions brief, and avoid the trap of saying, "Well, in my experience?," because it might make your young boss feel inadequate.

Advice regarding personal matters, even if requested, should be avoided at all costs. This will help you avoid being viewed as a parental figure.

Manage Your Own Insecurities

Your boss has enough on his or her mind without having to deal with insecure employees. If you don't feel confident about a particular skill, ask for more training. On the other hand, if you happen to have proficiencies in areas needed by the company, gently inform your boss of your expertise.

Respect Communication Differences

Understand your manager's communication style and adapt your style accordingly. As a Baby Boomer, you may prefer to talk by phone or face to face. Most Gen Xers prefer e-mail. If your boss is a Millennial (born after 1980), a quick lesson in text messaging might be in order.

Be Open With Your Boss

Your boss may feel a bit threatened by your experience and knowledge. He or she may think you are waiting for them to make a mistake so you can take their job.

If you have little interest in your manager's position, tell him or her so. This approach will enable your boss to see you as an ally, rather than a predator.

If you are interested in moving up, seek your manager's assistance. Ask your boss to put together a development plan to help you transition to the next level. Remind your boss that companies are more apt to promote an employee if there is someone else in the organization who can take on his or her role.

As a subordinate, it's your job to be supportive of your boss. If you do your job well, he or she might soon be promoted. And you might add another good reference for your future.

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Employers Seek "Boomer-Friendly" Status

Tom Musbach

Unlike their parents or grandparents, many baby boomers aren't interested in retiring from work in their 50s and 60s. As a result, companies are making strategic decisions to support an aging workforce by providing flexible work schedules, telecommuting options, and other benefits to retain and attract candidates over the age of 50.

Some major companies, for example, post jobs on sites that cater exclusively to seniors. Others apply to make the AARP's annual list of 50 Best Employers for Workers Over 50.

The AARP Honor Roll

The employers honored by the AARP in 2006 include Mercy Health System of Janesville, Wis.; Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Conn.; Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. in Nutley, N.J.; Volkswagen of America Inc. in Auburn Hills, Mich.; John Deere of Moline, Ill.; and Principal Financial Group of Des Moines, Iowa. (You can find the complete list at AARP.org.)

Mercy Health, the not-for-profit organization that topped the AARP list, was singled out for offering numerous flexible options, including weekend-only work, nursing "float" options (work at different facilities or departments), work-at-home opportunities, "seasonal work" programs, and on-call assignments that involve a limited number of hours per month that can be expanded or contracted based on an employee's availability.

Health care and education were the most visible industries on the AARP list in 2006.

"Many leaders in health care are looking to experienced employees to help them deal with a massive labor shortage that threatens the quality of the most basic services they provide," said Stefanie Weiss, spokeswoman for Civic Ventures, a think tank devoted to career development for seniors. "We hope that leaders in education, government, and the nonprofit sector -- to name a few fields facing similarly dire labor shortages -- follow health care's lead, and soon."

No Shortcuts

Roberta Chinsky Matuson, principal with Human Resource Solutions based in Massachusetts, cautioned that lists like the AARP's are only one type of resource that job seekers over 50 should consult.

"Job seekers should keep in mind that many organizations have large public-relations departments that help their companies make it onto these lists," she said. "There are many great companies that never even apply."

She added that baby-boomer candidates should do their own research on companies and consult with friends and others in their network to get a sense if an employer is supportive of mature workers.

What Boomers Want

Civic Ventures, working with Princeton Survey Research Associates and the MetLife Foundation, recently asked 1,000 Americans aged 50-70 what type of work they aspire to. "Half of those polled expressed interest in jobs to help improve the quality of life in their communities, jobs that connect them to their passion in life, a purpose bigger than themselves, and other people," Weiss said.

Monique A. Dearth, president of Incite Strategies, an Atlanta-based human resources consulting firm, agrees that many employees over 50 have different priorities on the job.
"They are experienced employees who generally aren't looking to develop a high profile career," she said, "but rather want to leverage their past experience, feel valued in the organization, and contribute at a meaningful level."

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Putting about $70,000 in play

Susan Guyett

Special Olympics Indiana supporters got some help from the agency's athletes during the recent annual Holiday in the Heartland party.
Guests were encouraged to put themselves through the paces, the way Special Olympians do, in a variety of games that organizers set up for fun.
Co-chair Greg Sandhage of Innovative got a few pointers from athlete LeeAnne Bettenhausen, who knew a thing or two about tossing a beanbag. Other Special Olympians were available to give pointers at each game.
The evening at the Marriott in Downtown Indianapolis on Nov. 17 raised close to $70,000. WIBC-AM (1070) pitched in, too, with Dave "The King" Wilson and Joe Staysniak on hand to keep the evening rolling along.
Sports stars -- including race car drivers Vitor Meira and Ed Carpenter, Quinn Buckner of the Indiana Pacers, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and NASCAR's Tony Stewart -- donated either their time or merchandise to support the auction.
Baseball legend Carl Erskine, a longtime supporter of Special Olympics, also was on hand to charm guests and entertain with some harmonica music.
Corporate sponsors included KeyBank, Sport Graphics, Emmis Communications, Bingham McHale, Ratio Architects and Duke Energy.

Get holiday decorating ideas during charity house tour

Need some last-minute holiday decorating ideas?
Marcha and Michael Bennett will open their home for the annual "Home for the Holidays" house tour that benefits the Circle City Chapter of Links Inc.
The Bennetts' home at 1142 Laurelwood Drive in Carmel has been decked out for the holidays for guests to view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Dec. 2-3.
Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased at the house. Proceeds go toward the chapter's charitable activities. Call (317) 598-8687 or (317) 679-8527 for more information.

Special Olympics chief to lead USA Diving

Debbie Hesse, who has been president and CEO of Special Olympics Indiana since 2003, will become CEO of USA Diving in January.
Before joining Special Olympics, Hesse was executive director of USA Synchronized Swimming.
Hesse said she would be working on the next Special Olympics project, the John R. Wooden Tradition Coaches Dinner on Dec. 15 at the Westin Hotel in Downtown Indianapolis. She will then take some time off before starting her new job.

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Your Personal Identity Data & Financial Account Credentials - Who Has Them?

What is Phishing and Pharming?

Phishing attacks use both social engineering and technical subterfuge to steal consumers' personal identity data and financial account credentials. Social-engineering schemes use 'spoofed' e-mails to lead consumers to counterfeit websites designed to trick recipients into divulging financial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames, passwords and social security numbers. Hijacking brand names of banks, e-retailers and credit card companies, phishers often convince recipients to respond. Technical subterfuge schemes plant crimeware onto PCs to steal credentials directly, often using Trojan keylogger spyware. Pharming crimeware misdirects users to fraudulent sites or proxy servers, typically through DNS hijacking or poisoning.

How to Spot A Phishing Scam

At first glance, it may not be obvious to the recipients that what is in their inbox is not a legitimate e-mail from a company with whom they do business. The "From" field of the e-mail may have the .com address of the company mentioned in the e-mail, and the clickable link may also appear to be taking you to the company's Web site, but will in fact take you to a spoof Web site. Looks can be deceiving, but with phishing scams the e-mail is never from who is appears to be!

Phishing e-mails will contain some of these common elements: (view screen capture above from Eudora)

1. The "From Field" appears to be from the legitimate company mentioned in the e-mail. It is important to note, however, that it is very simple to change the "from" information in any e-mail client. While we're not going to tell you how, rest assured it can be done in a matter of seconds!

2. The e-mail will usually contain logos or images that have been taken from the Web site of the company mentioned in the scam e-mail.

3. The e-mail will contain a clickable link with text suggesting you use the inserted link to validate your information. In the image you will see that once the hyperlink is highlighted, the bottom left of the screen shows the real Web site address to which you will go. Note that the hyperlink does NOT point to the legitimate Citibank Web site URL.

In this instance, the text you click is "here", However, this may also state something like "Log-in to Citibank" or "www.citibank.com/secure" to be even more misleading. This clickable area is only text and can be changed to anything the sender wants it to read.

Additionally, you may spot some of these elements that did not appear in this particular scam:

Logos that are not an exact match to the company's logo, spelling errors, percentage signs followed by numbers or @ signs within the hyperlink, random names or e-mail addresses in the body of the text, or even e-mail headers which have nothing to do with the company mentioned in the e-mail.

Who Is Behind the Phishes & Why

The people behind phishing e-mails are scam artists. They literally send out millions of these scam e-mails in the hopes that even a few recipients will act on them and provide their personal and financial information. Anyone with an e-mail address is at risk of being phished. Any e-mail address that has been made public on the Internet (posting in forums, newsgroups or on a Web site) is more susceptible to phishing as the e-mail address can be saved by spiders that search the Internet and grab as many e-mail addresses as they can. This is why phishing is profitable for scammers; they can cheaply and easily access millions of valid e-mail addresses to send these scams to.

Common (Phish) Sense

After reading this far, we hope that you will be able to spot a phishing e-mail without too much difficulty. The e-mail represented above is just a sample; phishing e-mails can appear to be from any bank, PayPal, eBay, credit card companies, an online retail store — basically from anywhere a person may have registered for an account, and usually would have supplied financial information when registering.

The golden rule to avoid being phished is to never ever click the links within the text of the e-mail. Always delete the e-mail immediately. Once you have deleted the e-mail then empty the trash box in your e-mail client as well. This will prevent "accidental" clicks from happening as well. If, for some really odd reason you have this nagging feeling that this could just possibly be a legitimate e-mail and nothing can convince you otherwise, you still need to adhere to the golden rule and not click the link in the message. For those truly worried that an account may be in jeopardy if you do not verify your information, you need to open your Web browser program of choice and type the URL to the Web site in the address field of your browser and log on to the Web site as you normally would (without going through the e-mail link as a quick route). This will provide you with accurate information about your account and allow you to completely avoid the possibility of landing on a spoof Web site and giving your information to someone you shouldn't.

Now that you know how to avoid being phished, there is still the question of what to do about phishing e-mails should you be a recipient of them. First of all, you can visit the Web site of the company from whom the e-mail appears to be from and take the time to notify them of the suspicious e-mail. Many companies do want to know if their company name is being used to try and scam people, and you'll find scam and spoof reporting links within some of these Web sites. Additionally, you can report phishing to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and depending on where you live, some local authorities may also accept Internet phishing scam reports. Lastly, you can also send details of a phishing scam to to the Anti-Phishing Working Group who is building a repository/database of common scams to help inform people of the risks.

The New Phish - Spear Phishing

As with all malicious code, once a small percentage of the population starts to catch on, the perpetrators find ways to make the attack a little different, and this case, make the phish harder to net. The newest type of phishing scam is one that focuses on a single user or a department within an organization. The Phish appears to be legitimately addressed from someone within that company, in a position of trust, and request information such as login IDs and passwords. Spear phishing scams will often appear to be from a company's own human resources or technical support divisions and may ask employees to update their username and passwords. Once hackers get this data they can gain entry into secured networks. Another type of spear phishing attack will ask users to click on a link, which deploys spyware that can steal data.

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10 Things Your CongressMan Wont Tell You

Brigid McMenamin

1. "I can't lose."
This year 404 members of the U.S. House of Representatives are standing for reelection. For most it's a formality: On average, more than 90% of House incumbents win, according to a 2005 report by the Cato Institute.

What's behind the incumbency advantage? Campaign financing, for one thing. We taxpayers pick up the tab for incumbents' regular offices, staff, publicity, travel and mailings, so they needn't raise as much money to run. Challengers, on the other hand, must come up with a fortune — and do so in dribs and drabs since Congress caps individual contributions at $2,000.

But the biggest factor is partisan gerrymandering. Since the Supreme Court ruled in 1969 that states must ensure each congressman represents the same number of constituents, the process of redistricting after every census has been aggressively used by state party bosses to protect their incumbents. "Because of gerrymandering, almost 90% of Americans live in congressional districts where the outcome is so certain that their votes are irrelevant," concludes the Cato report. And it's bound to get worse: In June the Court ruled states can redraw congressional districts as often as they please.

2. "I'm above the law."
Some people were dismayed last spring when Capitol Police didn't give a sobriety test to Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) after he rammed a Capitol Hill security barrier late one night and emerged from his Mustang "impaired," with "unsure" balance and "slurred" speech, according to the police report. Georgetown University law professor Paul F. Rothstein wasn't surprised: "They always give [congressmen] a pass."

Why? Inside Congress author Ronald Kessler says that historically, most officers have operated under the mistaken impression that the Constitution prohibits arresting or even ticketing congressmen while Congress is in session. The belief was so prevalent that the Justice Department issued a statement in 1976 explaining the "previous policy of releasing members who had been arrested was based on a misunderstanding of the clause in the U.S. Constitution," which forbids only civil arrest, not arrest for a crime.

Nonetheless, Capitol Police still coddle and avoid arresting members of Congress. For one thing, protecting congressmen is part of their mission. For another, Congress controls their budget — including top cops' salaries.

3. "Read the bills I vote on? Who's got that kind of time?"
In a perfect world, our legislators would vote on each bill based on thorough, firsthand analysis. But that's not how it works in Washington. Most congressmen don't actually read bills, relying instead on impressions gleaned from staff and lobbyists. And in many cases, they couldn't read them if they wanted to: The 700-plus-page Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005, for example, surfaced after 1 a.m. and went to vote early the next morning. "That's the way it's done," Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) told the Hartford Courant in January.

Result: Congressmen seldom know exactly what they're voting on. Take the 1,600-page Appropriations Bill in 2004 that had already made it through the House before it was discovered that a staffer had slipped in a provision permitting his committee to browse any tax return filed with the IRS.

There have been some attempts to get Congress to change its ways. In February, for example, D.C. nonprofit ReadtheBill.org persuaded some reps to introduce a resolution requiring the House to post each bill online for 72 hours before even debating it. But that resolution has been languishing in the Rules Committee ever since.

4. "Congress is just a stepping stone to big money — in lobbying."
Congress is a pretty good gig, financially speaking. Our senators and representatives currently earn $165,200 a year — four times the median U.S. household income. But it's not nearly as lucrative as lobbying, a job congressmen have begun flocking to once they're out of office. "As late as the 1980s, few lawmakers became lobbyists because they considered it beneath their dignity," writes Robert V. Remini in The House: The History of the House of Representatives. But today it's the top career choice for former congressmen. According to a 2005 report by Public Citizen, since 1998 more than 43% of all eligible departing congressmen have gone into lobbying. Take William Tauzin. The Louisiana Republican, and former chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, left the House for a $1 million-plus-a-year job as president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. According to press reports, PhRMA was wooing Tauzin the same month he pushed through the Medicare bill. Tauzin denies it fueled his zeal for the bill, but you can't help wondering how the prospect of that kind of money might influence one's judgment.

5. "My health care benefits are way better than yours..."
Congressmen love tinkering with our health care. They virtually created the managed-care industry, for instance, with the Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973, which tilted the playing field in favor of HMOs, ultimately stripping many Americans of all other choices. Meanwhile, congressmen enjoy more than a dozen options, including the prized indemnity plans only 3% of workers with coverage receive. On top of that, for an annual fee of $480, they can get just about all the medical attention they want at the Capitol Office of the Attending Physician, which has five doctors and a dozen assistants on call for routine checkups, tests, prescriptions, emergency care and mental health services. Who's making up the difference? Taxpayers, naturally, to the tune of at least $2.5 million this year alone.

What happens once a congressman is out of office? He needn't fret: Just five years into the job, he's entitled to keep his regular health coverage until he's ready for Medicare. And he doesn't have to pay extra, as you do for Cobra, under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which he voted for in 1996.

6. "...and so is my pension."
Congress is forever changing the rules on retirement plans: limiting contributions, punishing pension underfunding and making it hard for employers to plan ahead. Just this summer Congress passed yet another complex bill that's likely to wreak more havoc, according to James A. Klein, president of the American Benefits Council. The new Pension Protection Act includes funding rules that, Klein says, "could undermine the retirement security of the very participants the bill's trying to protect." Indeed, less than a month after the PPA took effect, DuPont froze its pension plan and cut back on benefits.

Whatever the outcome, Congress won't be losing sleep — their pensions are exempt. Most qualify for a 401(k)-style plan with a nice match, up to 5% of salary. After five years on the job, they're also entitled to a regular pension, bigger than almost all other federal workers' at the same pay and twice what a midlevel executive would expect. If elected before age 30, they can collect in full at age 50; those elected later can retire after 25 years or at age 62. Their pensions rise regularly with the cost of living and can never be taken away — short of a conviction for espionage or treason-related offenses.

7. "I enjoy great perks and gifts, and it's all legal."
Working on Capitol Hill comes with a lot of fringe benefits. Congressmen enjoy taxpayer-subsidized gyms, salons and restaurants, free parking, and a nice office. They also get $1 million-plus allowances per year for staff, mail and travel home, where they can rent another office and lease a car on your dime, according to the National Taxpayers Union.

On top of that, House ethics rules allow them to accept gifts, luxury jet rides and free overnight trips of up to seven days abroad for meetings, fact-finding missions and speaking gigs, provided they're related to official duties and not sponsored by lobbyists. Between 2000 and 2005, congressmen and staff accepted 23,000 of these trips, often to vacation spots and worth nearly $50 million, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Turns out that 90 were sponsored by lobbyists — Mr. and Mrs. Tom DeLay's infamous $28,000 golfing trip to Scotland among them.

With elections looming, there has been talk of reform. In January, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) called for a ban on such trips and gifts, but come May he was happy to settle for the sham cleanup proposed by the Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act — which would offer optional ethics classes for congressmen but allow them to go on accepting gifts.

8. "I simply can't be fired."
Once he's elected, it's almost impossible to kick a congressman out of office, even if he becomes mentally incompetent or is sent to prison. To oust a member of the House or Senate, it takes a vote of two-thirds of his colleagues — which has happened only twice since the Civil War, five times in all of U.S. history.

House rules do discourage a congressman from participating in committees if convicted of a crime for which he could get two years or more in jail, and his own party may force him from leadership positions even if he's not convicted. For example, Democrats pushed Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) off the Ways and Means Committee last June because FBI agents swear they caught him accepting a $100,000 bribe and found $90,000 cash in his freezer. (Jefferson denies any wrongdoing.) But even if convicted and sent to prison, Jefferson could seek reelection from his cell, as did former Ohio Democrat James Traficant Jr. in 2002. Traficant received only 15% of the vote and lost his seat — but he was still allowed to collect his full pension.

9. "Lobbyists love me because I deliver the goods."
The reason lobbyists court lawmakers is that they have the power to help friends and hurt foes. For instance, a congressman can create a specific tax break or other loophole for a lobbyist's clients, giving them an unfair advantage over rivals. Congressmen also hold the power to steer federal funds to friends by earmarking money for pet projects — a power they often abuse. Case in point: the notorious "Bridge to Nowhere," a Golden Gate-size span between a small town in rural Alaska and a nearly deserted island, for which Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) persuaded Congress to earmark $223 million in 2005. Similar abuses have increased dramatically in recent years, with the number of earmarks coming out of the House Appropriations Committee nearly tripling, to 15,877 earmarks worth $47.4 billion in 2005, from just 4,126 earmarks worth $23.2 billion in 1994, according to the Congressional Research Service.

10. "Rules are meant to be broken."
Congress is notorious for breaking its own rules: Only a handful of members dock their own pay when absent for reasons other than health, for example. But it's Congress's failure to follow its own legislative procedures that's truly galling. When the joint House-Senate conference committee meets to reconcile different versions of a bill, for instance, House rules forbid adding anything beyond the scope of the version the House has already approved. And once the committee comes up with a compromise bill, the House is supposed to hold at least one public meeting, giving members a written explanation of the changes and three days until the vote. But the conference committee routinely flouts these rules, often making big changes without explanation, then getting the Rules Committee to waive restrictions so they can rush bills through unread. How common is this? The Rules Committee issued so-called blanket waivers for all 18 bills that went through the conference committee from Jan. 4, 2005, through March 2006.

Last December, Speaker Hastert took it a step further by letting Sen. William Frist (R-Tenn.) add on to a bill after the conference committee was finished: 40 pages of legislation protecting makers of avian flu vaccine and similar drugs against liability even if they injured or killed patients through gross negligence. Then Hastert got the Rules Committee to make kosher what he'd done. Frist's spokesperson claims there was "bipartisan consensus" for such an incentive, but couldn't explain why it hadn't made it into the text of the bill if it was so popular. Hastert's office failed to return our calls.

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Office Party Embarassment - I Got Drunk and asked my boss ........

Roberta Chinsky Matuson

Monster Contributing Writer

I work as a recruiter for a third-party agency. I recently attended a company sales meeting, where I had a few too many drinks. While somewhat intoxicated, I asked my boss out on a date. She said no, and things haven't been the same at work since.

I really like the firm, and I know I can learn a lot from my boss. But now I am afraid I have really screwed things up. How do I clean up this mess so I can have a decent working relationship with my boss again?

WHAT THE EXPERT SAYS: Believe it or not, this will only be a bad memory at some point. But for now, you should patch things up so your relationship with your boss does not affect your productivity. Here are some tips to help you get on the road to recovery.

Take Responsibility

First, go into your boss's office and apologize for your behavior. Let her know you recognize your action was inappropriate, and tell her it will not happen again. Tell her you would like to get things back on track and reestablish a good working relationship. Ask if she has any suggestions about how to make this happen.

Be Productive

Your work is very results-oriented. Make sure you focus on getting the results your boss expects. Try to put this situation behind you and do what it takes to make your boss look good. If you're a top performer, she'll be less inclined to move you out of her department. Remember, her income is usually directly dependent on yours.

Check Your Ego at the Door

Pride is a funny thing. It can prevent us from asking for help when we really need it. Yes, what occurred is embarrassing and your pride has probably been hurt, but you need to put your ego aside. The sooner you make things as normal as possible, the sooner this memory will fade.

Nothing Is Working

If a fair amount of time has passed and you still feel things are not back to normal, consider moving on. Life is too short to work in an uncomfortable environment.

Learn from Your Mistakes

Don't allow yourself to make the same mistake again. You will probably be attending other company sales meetings, holiday parties, etc., where alcohol will be served. Stay away from the punch bowl. You don't need it to have a good time, and as you can see, things can get very complicated when you're not in full control.

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10 Things Your Lawyer Won't Tell You

Brigid McMenamin

1. "You might win your lawsuit and wind up with nothing."
Expecting a bundle from a big lawsuit? Don't start spending it yet. You may be shocked to learn how little you'll get to keep.

Lawyers may not like to mention it, but federal taxes — at a rate of 25 to 35% — can easily wipe out most of the money you win in civil lawsuits; bodily injury suits are the only exemption. You'll probably even have to pay federal taxes on the part that's earmarked for your attorney, unless you live in the one of the few regions, including Alabama, Michigan and Texas, where federal appeals courts have sided with taxpayers.

"It wasn't worth filing the suit," says a midwestern sales manager who settled a discrimination case against her employer confidentially for $150,000 in January. The woman will net $14,000 after lawyers' fees, expenses and taxes, says a source close to her case. Some "winning" plaintiffs even wind up in the hole. Realizing that such grim victories chill business, members of the National Employment Lawyers Association are prodding Congress to stop taxing discrimination awards and settlements, which often take the biggest hit. So far, they've had no luck.

2. "Gee, I don't know much about the law..."
Ask an attorney about anything outside his niche and odds are he won't know. Teacher Marie Karim learned that when she decided to sue the New York City hospital where she had developed an infection and a hernia in 1999 during exploratory surgery. Karim, 27, hired Sheri B. Paige because her mother had once consulted the Norwalk, Conn., lawyer about collecting a debt. Karim says Paige assured her that she had experience with medical malpractice cases.

More than a year later, Karim discovered that Paige had virtually no such experience and that she hadn't even filed the suit. Worse yet, the statute of limitations had run out. "I wanted to kill her," says Karim, who got $325,000 from Paige's insurance company in 2002 with assistance from a specialist in legal malpractice. Paige denies all wrongdoing and blames the entire mess on Karim. But in November 2002 a Connecticut lawyer grievance panel found probable cause to believe that Paige was guilty of misconduct. A hearing is set for this month.

Karim should have hired an expert — someone who does almost nothing but medical malpractice.You can find specialists in the lawyer directory Martindale-Hubbell, available in any library or online at lawyers.martindale.com, or in FindLaw (www.findlaw.com).

3. "...but I'd sure like to get to know you better."
Unlike doctors, lawyers in most states are allowed to have sex with clients. And many do. Nearly 20% of attorneys surveyed nationwide by the University of Memphis in 1993 admitted they or a lawyer they knew had had an affair with a client.

Lawyer-client flings, especially in divorce and family law cases, can warp the lawyer's judgment, prompting him to either prolong the dispute or sacrifice the client's interests to end it fast, notes Texas Wesleyan University law professor Malinda L. Seymore. The client may submit in the belief that if she does, the lawyer will do more to help her keep her home and children.

That's what Plantation, Fla., lawyer Steven W. Effman told two female clients to entice them to service him in his office, according to the women's sworn testimony. Not only did Effman fail to deliver on his promises, these clients say, but he actually had the nerve to bill at least one for their trysts. The Florida bar filed a complaint against Effman in 2002, and a court suspended his license for 91 days. Effman insists his affairs were consensual and denies making promises or billing for sex.

Despite such scandals, the American Bar Association didn't rule on the issue until 2002, when it noted that lawyer-client sex is generally unethical but it is up to each state whether to adopt an outright ban on the practice. Only six have.

4. "Okay, I've made some mistakes. Good luck finding them!"
Trying to learn whether a lawyer is a bad apple can be an exercise in futility. The ABA keeps a database of known ethics violators and makes the information available if you call 312-988-5321, but it relies on voluntary reports from state bar counsels. You could call the bar counsel in the appropriate state directly — listed at www.nobc.org — but that can also be a dead end unless the attorney has been suspended or disbarred. Many states just say he's "in good standing" even if he has had lots of complaints or worse.

Take Las Vegas lawyer Kenneth L. Hall. According to the Nevada bar, Hall has no disciplinary record. Run a search on him at Google.com, however, and you'll find a newspaper story about his suspension in 2001 for videotaping an intimate encounter he had with a woman in his office in the presence of her toddler daughter. Why doesn't the bar tell you about the suspension? Hall, 54, convinced a court to set it aside, though he admits to the tryst.

Beyond Google, which is free, you can do a background search by using commercial sites such as www.knowx.com or www.gaprs.com, which charge a small fee — typically $10 to $30.

5. "I never win."
So your attorney has plenty of experience in his field, but has that been as a winner or a loser? How you find out depends on the situation. If you're hiring him to defend you against a criminal charge, ask him if he ever worked in the prosecutor's office and for how long, because that's where the best criminal defense lawyers typically get their training. For any court case — criminal or civil — you also want to know how many cases he's actually taken to trial in the past five years. Experts say even five or six can be plenty, if at least one win is in a case similar to yours. If he says his cases usually settle, that's a bad sign. A guy who's known for always settling can't drive a hard bargain. "It certainly helps if the defendant knows [a lawyer] is ready to go to court," says Bert Braud, a Kansas City, Mo., litigator who takes at least one case through trial each year.

6. "I won't take your chump-change case."
Just because you have a strong legal case doesn't mean a lawyer will take it on — not if it is bad for his bottom line. That's especially true with claims involving securities arbitration, usually against brokers who have churned clients' accounts or put them in unsuitable investments. Most brokers require their clients to agree to arbitration when opening an account. The number of these cases has risen more than 56% since 1998, according to NASD Dispute Resolution, the group that hears 90% of such cases.

Trouble is, the few lawyers who know about this growing field generally refuse to handle claims of less than $50,000 because smaller cases generate small fees. Henri Draznin, a retired customer-service rep, found himself in such a bind. He couldn't find a lawyer willing to help him recover $9,000 he'd lost in high-yield bonds, which his broker had put him into without mentioning they were risky for a retiree. Draznin was out of luck until he found a legal clinic at New York's Pace University Law School, where students supervised by Professor Barbara Black helped him file an arbitration claim, winning him $4,046 in February 2003.

Short of finding a law school clinic eager to help you, what can you do? Contact the Legal Referral Service at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York at LRS@abcny.org. You can get a referral to an NYC attorney and arrange a $25 initial consultation. Or you can contact Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association (www.piaba.org) to get the name of a lawyer in your area who is experienced in securities. Try offering him a little more than his usual percentage — say, 33%, rather than 30 — to sweeten the pot.

7. "I charge as much as you'll let me."
Most lawyers can charge for their services in a variety of ways: a flat fee, an hourly rate of typically $100 to $300 an hour, or a percentage of the award, usually billed at 30 or 40%.

Which is best for you? If your case is simple, a flat fee is best. It gives the lawyer an incentive to solve the problem efficiently. When you're filing suit for, say, personal injury, employment discrimination or malpractice, you're generally better off paying a percentage. The incentive in these cases should be to get as much money as possible, fast, and if your attorney fails, you aren't stuck with a big bill. Have him take his fee after expenses, to keep his administrative costs down. Don't ever pay a percentage to settle an estate or for a divorce or a real estate deal. A $1 million closing or divorce is no more difficult than a $500,000 one, so why pay more?

If you have a strong civil suit, your best bet may be a hybrid fee: an hourly rate if the lawyer can solve the problem in a few hours, switching to a percentage if it takes longer or he has to sue. A Fortune 500 company executive hired Kansas City's Braud to handle a sex discrimination case in 2001, and the lawyer was able to wrest a six-figure settlement out of the employer in about 15 hours. His fee was $2,000 instead of the more than $33,000 she would have paid had he charged a percentage. If a lawyer resists such a deal, tell him you need to interview a few more attorneys before you decide whom to hire. He'll likely come around.

8. "You may be better off without me."
Many of the things lawyers do you can do for yourself, provided you have the time and inclination to learn how. You can write your own will, for instance, if you have a relatively uncomplicated estate. A good place to get help is legal software publisher Nolo (www.nolo.com), whose Quicken Lawyer 2003 Wills sells for $30.

For issues that are too complicated to be handled without some legal assistance, an interim step between going it alone and a lawyer is the paralegal. Depending on the state, these professionals can handle living trusts, bankruptcy petitions, house closings and uncontested divorces — and often for just a few hundred dollars. The only things paralegals can't do are give legal advice and represent you in court.

Before you sign on, look for experience and expertise in a particular field. It's also nice — but not essential — for the paralegal to hold a degree or certificate from one of the 800-plus training programs in the U.S. (247 of them approved by the ABA) or be deemed a registered paralegal by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations or a certified legal assistant by the National Association of Legal Assistants.

9. "Wanna sue me? Oops — you signed that away."
Most lawyers are competent and ethical. But what if yours screws up? Can you sue him? Not if you agreed to submit disputes to arbitration, where the rules of law and evidence don't always apply, and you'll have neither the right to a jury nor perhaps even the right to appeal.

Many lawyers insert compulsory arbitration provisions in their retainer agreements, which isn't necessarily unethical, according to the ABA, providing that the agreement doesn't insulate the lawyer from liability and the client understands what it means. Such a clause should be a warning for you to take your business elsewhere.

Inventor Walter R. Fields says he didn't realize he was giving up his right to sue when he hired Maslon Edelman Borman & Brand, a large Minneapolis law firm, to sue the builder of his mold-infested $1.2 million house. Disappointed when he lost his case, Fields tried to sue Maslon Edelman for malpractice, claiming, among other things, that the firm had failed to submit evidence of the mold in time. But in 2001 a Minneapolis court refused to hear the case because of an arbitration clause in Fields's retainer agreement. Fields also came up empty after arbitrators rejected his claim and two courts upheld the arbitration. He has declined to discuss the case further until he has exhausted all possible legal remedies. Maslon Edelman denies malpractice, claiming the mold was a side issue, and defends the arbitration clause, saying that Fields had weeks to review the agreement with a lawyer before signing.

10. "And even if you can sue, you can't win."
It's mighty tough to nail a lawyer for malpractice. Some 68% of malpractice claims from 1996 through 1999 closed without the client receiving payment from the lawyer's insurance company, and only 6.7% netted more than $50,000, according to a 2001 ABA survey.

Why is it so hard? For one thing, only an estimated 30 to 50% of lawyers even carry insurance, so collecting is a long shot. Plus, to win your case, you have to prove not only that the lawyer failed to perform but also that your case would have turned out differently had he done a better job. Hard to do, since a legal issue is seldom a slam-dunk, even if the lawyer does everything right.

Malpractice insurance doesn't cover everything anyway, as Leslie Cerrato learned in 2002, after she won a $250,000 settlement from her lawyer, Milo J. Altschuler. The prominent attorney pleaded no contest to the charge that in 1991 he put Cerrato over his lap in a Connecticut courthouse and spanked her to discourage nervous fidgeting in front of the judge. Altschuler authorized Cerrato to make her claim with his insurance carrier, American Home Assurance, but the company balked, insisting that malpractice insurance does not cover spanking. "[F]ondling the bare bottoms of female clients is not part of the practice of law," argued American Home. A federal judge agreed, dashing any hopes Cerrato had.

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Top 5ive Items to Always Buy Generic

Kelli B. Grant

ARE YOU A CONNOISSEUR of generic products? If not, you should be — at least when it comes to some items.

While some brand-name products may taste better than their store-label counterparts, others are premium only in price. According to a 2005 study by Consumer Reports, opting for some store-brand or generic products can easily save you 50% — without cutting quality.

In fact, some store brands, also known as private-label brands, are produced by the same big-name companies churning out the products you know and love, says Joanna Pruess, author of "Supermarket Confidential." Yup — that's right. Some are identical (minus the fancy packaging), while others do use slightly different recipes. Exactly which companies are producing what and for whom isn't well advertised: Remember, they'd prefer you shell out for the pricier version. But 4C Foods Corp., for example, has been up-front about its brand-name bread crumbs, grated cheese and drink mixes being used as private-label at more than 50 chains.

Here are five supermarket products you should always purchase generic:

1. Produce
Choosing unmarked oranges over those with a Sunkist sticker on them isn't an apples-and-oranges conundrum, says Mary Hunt, publisher of "The Cheapskate Monthly" newsletter. Without the marketing sticker on, say, Dole bananas or Chiquita pineapples, the underlying fruit is identical. "It's crazy to pay more," she says.

Product Store Label Brand Name Savings
Bananas, per pound $0.59, Fresh Direct $0.89, Chiquita
$0.69, Dole
Navel oranges, each $0.89, Stop & Shop $0.99, Tropicana 10%
Strawberries, 1lb. $1.50, Stop & Shop $3.99, Driscoll's 42%
Iceberg Lettuce, each $1.79, Stop & Shop $2.49, Foxy 28%
* Based on prices from supermarkets in the New York City region.

2. Coupon-scarce goods
So is it always cheaper to buy generic? Definitely not, says Teri Gault, founder of the Grocery Game, a program that maximizes consumer savings by matching local supermarket sales with manufacturers' coupons. A good coupon, especially one that's doubled by the supermarket, can make a brand-name product the better deal.

But some branded items rarely, if ever, get discounted, she says. This includes butter, dry beans, spices and seasonings. So you might as well go generic — and consistently save.

Product Store Label Brand Name Savings
Dried split green peas, 1lb. bag $0.59, Stop & Shop $0.69, Goya 14%
Paprika, 4oz. $1.39, Spice Classic $5.99, McCormick 77%
Parsley, 0.5oz. $1.39, Spice Classic $2.69, McCormick 48%
Salted butter, four sticks (1 lb.) $3.29, Stop & Shop $4.59, Land O' Lakes
$3.99, Hotel Bar
* Based on prices from supermarkets in the New York City region.

3. Over-the-counter medications
Don't dismiss your drug-store brand pain, cold and cough medications. Advil, Motrin and Pediacare Fever (among others) are, by any other name, ibuprofen. And according to rules set by the Food and Drug Administration, any products with the same active ingredient must meet efficacy standards. In consumer-speak, that means your drug-store aspirin must be just as effective as its brand-name counterpart, Bayer. And the price difference can be astounding:

Product Store Label Brand Name Savings
Aspirin, 100-count bottle $1.99, Rite Aid $6.49, Bayer 69%
Ibuprofen, 100-count bottle $6.99, Rite Aid $9.99, Advil
$8.89, Motrin
Loratadine, 20-count package $9.99, Rite Aid $18.99, Claritin 47%
Naproxen, 200-count bottle $11.99, Rite Aid $14.99, Aleve 20%
* Based on prices in the New York City region.

4. Canned fruits and vegetables
Open up a can of Del Monte sweet corn and a similar can of the store brand, and you're not likely to notice much difference, says Joanna Pruess, author of "Supermarket Confidential." One caveat: When it comes to mixes, the name brand may have a slightly higher count of prized ingredients, say, cherries in fruit cocktail.

Product Store Label Brand Name Savings
Canned cut green beans, 14.5 oz. $0.79, White Rose $1.49, Green Giant 47%
Canned sliced carrots, 14.5 oz. $0.49, Stop & Shop $1.09 Del Monte 55%
Canned sliced peaches, 15 oz. $1.59, White Rose $2.09, Del Monte
$1.99, Libby
* Based on prices from supermarkets in the New York City region.

5. Pantry staples
Single-ingredient items such as flour, salt and sugar are held to government regulations for production, packaging and storage. In other words, sugar is sugar, regardless of its label.

Product Store Label Brand Name Savings
Granulated sugar, 5lb. bag $2.39, Stop & Shop $3.79 Jack Frost
$2.99, Domino
Iodized salt, 26 oz. $0.69, White Rose $1.99, Diamond Crystal
$0.99, Red Cross
$0.81, Morton
All-purpose flour, 5lb. bag $1.19, Stop & Shop $3.39, King Arthur
$1.49 Gold Medal
* Based on prices from supermarkets in the New York City region.

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Google shares top $500 for 1st time


AP Business Writer

Google Inc.'s stock price surpassed $500 for the first time Tuesday, marking another milestone in a rapid rise that has catapulted the Internet search leader into the corporate elite.

Continuing a recent surge driven by Wall Street's high expectations for the company, Google's shares rose $11.38, or 2.3 percent, to $506.43 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

That left Google with a market value of about $155 billion just eight years after former Stanford University graduate students Larry Page and Sergey Brin started the business in a Silicon Valley garage.

The Mountain View-based company now ranks as Silicon Valley's second most valuable business, eclipsing the likes of Intel Corp., the world's largest computer chip maker, and Hewlett-Packard Co., a high-tech pioneer that also famously started in a garage 67 years ago. With a market value of about $164 billion, networking equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc. is the only Silicon Valley firm worth more.

Google's remarkable success has minted Page and Brin, both 33, as multibillionaires along with their hand-picked chief executive, Eric Schmidt.

Hundreds of other Google employees are millionaires because so many investors want to own a piece of a company that has become the Internet's most powerful financial force while building a brand so ingrained in society that it has become part of the English language.

It took slightly more than a year for Google's shares to travel from $400 to $500 — the stock's longest journey from one major milestone to the next since the company priced its initial public offering at $85 in August 2004.

The shares topped $100 on their first day of trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market, then crossed $200 in less than three months. The stock broke through $300 another seven months later in June 2005 and then breached $400 on Nov. 17 last year.

The latest spurt of optimism appeared to reflect a belief that Google will quickly introduce ways to mine more online advertising revenue from its just-completed $1.65 billion acquisition of YouTube Inc. Google used its stock to finance the deal.

"Arguably, Google is positioning itself yet again to play in an emerging market that is going to be very significant," said David Garrity, director of research for Dinosaur Securities.

Like other Internet stocks, Google is also getting a seasonal lift in anticipation of more holiday shopping being done online. With a 45 percent share of the Internet search market in the United States, Google is expected to direct much of the shopping traffic — a role likely to generate more referral fees for the company.

Google so far has made most of its money selling brief, written ads that are posted alongside search results and other online content, but management believes it can amass even bigger profits by expanding into video and delivering more messages to mobile computing devices.

Management also wants to extend Google's advertising clout beyond the Web. The company is currently testing a program to place ads in 50 of the nation's largest newspapers and hopes to begin distributing radio ads by the end of this year.

"They have the opportunity to become a quasi-advertising agency," said Global Crown Capital analyst Martin Pyykkonen.

Those grand ambitions are one of the reasons that Google shares keep climbing. The run-up makes Google's stock look fairly expensive by one widely used barometer known as the price-to-earnings, or p/e, multiple.

Analysts, on average, predict Google will earn $13.70 per share next year, leaving the company's p/e at about 37. By comparison, the p/e of Microsoft Corp. — the world's most prized technology company with a market value of nearly $300 billion — is about 21, based on analyst's 2007 earnings projections.

Most analysts still believe Google is reasonably priced because of the breakneck growth that is expected to propel the company's profit well beyond $2 billion this year, up from a mere $106 million in 2003.

"It's not really trading at obscene levels," said Pyykkonen, who expects Google shares to hit $550 soon. Other analysts believe Google will hit $600 within the next year.

Betting against Google has proven to be foolish so far. In the months leading to Google's IPO, widespread skepticism about the company's growth prospects prompted management to discount its desired price, enriching investors who were able to buy at $85. And just eight months ago, Google shares dropped as low as $331.55 amid fears that the company's earnings growth might be on the verge of a dramatic slowdown.

Anyone waiting for a stock split before investing in Google risks being left on the sidelines. Although most publicly held companies regularly split their stock to create a lower per-share price that appeals to more Main Street investors, the proudly unconventional Page and Brin have repeatedly indicated they have no intention of resorting to that maneuver.

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