UPDATE

March 4, 2005

On finance and practice

Tsunami aid? You can deduct it now

ETFs gain in popularity Exchange-traded funds' assets grew by 47 percent to $222 billion in 2004, with 35 new funds launched, says Morningstar. The financial research firm lists more than 150 ETFs in its database. The performance of ETFs mirrors that of traditional funds, with value-oriented ETFs doing better than growth-oriented ETFs. Real estate, energy, consumer, and industrial-sector ETF funds did well in 2004, while those tracking technology, semiconductors, and large-cap pharmaceutical stocks slumped.








Don't ditch your landline yet

Consumers who use Internet and cell phones are frequently plagued by poor service, says Consumer Reports. Nearly 70 percent of frequent cell phone users had at least one dropped call a week, according to a September survey. Nearly 60 percent complained about at least one bad connection. Only 31 percent say their cell phone company was "very helpful" in response to a service request. Verizon Wireless topped the ratings in each of 17 major metropolitan areas surveyed, but that didn't mean it was problem-free, says Consumer Reports. Verizon just had fewer problems than the other wireless companies.

Internet phones, too, often provide uneven service, Consumer Reports found in a survey of usage in three cities. Voice quality is often poor, and some incoming calls were dropped or lost. Moreover, Internet phones don't connect well to 911 emergency call centers, and won't work during a power outage.

Rewards for the well-traveled pet Bringing Fido on your next flight will earn you some treats from Midwest Airlines and United. If you fly with your pet on United on or before May 27, you'll get 1,200 bonus miles-if you're a member of the airline's frequent flier club. Your furry friend can even ride with you in the cabin. On Midwest, frequent fliers earn one free roundtrip for their pet for every three paid roundtrips they take with the animal. There are no deadlines for booking and flying, but the pets must ride in the plane's kennel area in the cargo hold. (Sorry, no Great Danes in coach.)

Heading your way: more spamNearly nine of every 10 e-mail messages are unsolicited, says Postini, an online security company. That's up from 78 percent a year ago, despite the passage of CAN-SPAM, a federal law aimed at controlling unwanted e-mail messages. Legitimate e-mail dropped from 22 percent to 12 percent in 2004, while the number of infected messages rose to 1 in 25. The onslaught of junk e-mail will probably get worse this year, with legitimate mail dropping from 12 percent to 8 percent of the total, says Postini. CAN-SPAM went into effect in the beginning of 2004.

Clinical research: What's important to doctors

According to a study of physicians' reading habits, the quality of the data-and the credibility of the journal in which it's published-is far more important to doctors than who's producing it or sponsoring it. Researchers concluded that data presented clearly, with compelling scientific evidence to back it up, have the greatest impact on clinical practice.