The Temporary Death of Estate Taxes

As of the beginning of this year, the federal estate tax – like Monty Python's dead parrot – has ceased to exist. It is no more. But it is scheduled to return in 2011. With estate taxes in flux, it is highly recommended that you consult with your estate planning attorney to make sure your will meets your needs in this environment.

The bizarre part is that Congress knew for years that the estate tax was set to lapse in 2010. No one thought they would let it happen. Yet here we are. It is possible that Congress will attempt to re-instate the estate tax retroactively. Such an action, however, would face a constitutional challenge.

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Intelligent Risk Taking

One sure way to become a multi-millionaire is to start out with lots of money.  The maverick businessman Ted Turner began his empire when he inherited the South's largest billboard company from his father.

Turner did, however, play a large role in his subsequent business success.  As Malcom Gladwell points out in an article in the New Yorker, Turner's decision to buy a UHF television station in Atlanta in the 1960s was met with deep concern from both his lawyer and his accountant.  They warned that Turner risked losing everything if the TV venture failed.

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Embracing Failure

Many motivational speakers, and a large number of self-help books, claim to possess the secret to success.  But insights on achieving success can also be found in less obvious places.  One such example is the book "Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle" by Dan Senor and Saul Singer.

Israel's ability to launch a large number of innovative high tech businesses is staggering given its small size.  The authors point out that recently Israel's share of the global venture capital market was around 31%, more than all of the United Kingdom, Germany, and France together.  Moreover, after the United States, Israel has more companies listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange than any other country, including all of Europe combined.

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Impressions of India

India offers a constant, but wonderful, assault on your senses.  My family and I had the good fortune to traverse part of the country earlier this month.  We returned to America awed and slightly overwhelmed.  The following impressions are meant to provide you with an overview of our incredible experience.

Street Life – All of life in India seems to take place on the chaotic streets.  At any moment you can see swarms of people engaged in a myriad of activities: working, shopping, walking, sitting, spitting, sleeping, begging, driving, bicycling, getting a shave, getting a haircut, and although we did not see it directly, getting their ears cleaned.  And that’s just the people.  Cows really do roam around unattended, as well as goats, dogs, and the occasional monkey.  Crossing the street is an act of faith that you can navigate the onslaught of humanity and vehicles safely.  I am here to report that we did it successfully.

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A Contrarian View of Health Care Reform

Imagine an America in which more than 40 percent of a family's income goes to a vital necessity.  It is not health care today, it was food in the year 1900.  At that time, over half the American work-force was engaged in agriculture, which consisted of numerous inefficient farms with low crop yields.  The high cost of food kept us a basically poor country.

Today, food accounts for only a small portion of our budget and labor force.  How did the United States achieve such a dramatic turnaround?  In a brilliant article in the New Yorker, surgeon and author Atul Gawande describes how the federal government did not impose a grand solution by decree.  Instead, the government created a series of pilot programs that showed farmers -- who held a deep-seated fear of change -- better farming techniques from local representatives of the Department of Agriculture.

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