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OUR AMERICAN LETTER.

(Special to "Star.")

NEW YORK, February 6.

WINTER DISTRESS.

Midwinter has not found as much relief from suffering among the poor in New York as the promised revival of business after election had led' the charity managers to hope and the number of men out of work continues so great ■that the amissions are appealing for funds to keep s-uc-Ji men from starving. In another two months many of the multitudes who hive in the metropolis on the chance of odd jobs through the winter will have been distributed among the farms of the country for summer, but meantime, undoubtedly, many die from actual starvation. Still it does not seem so hopeless to be poor in New York as in London, for in this country there appears to be always the chance of improvement, while it is stated that there the number of unemployed is appalling and their outlook almost hopeless, for the chance oi their even being able to earn enough money to emigrate is most remote. So far as New York weather is concerned, there has been no protracted severoty, although one or two of the cold snaps have been severe fo> a day or two. Canada has had even more severe cold than usual thus far in all the provinces, according to the reports, and in some places farmers have had to tunnel under snowdrifts to reach their stables. Fairly encouraging and healthy conditions seem to prevail throughout the whole of North America with a much better outlook for the spring than at this time last year. FIGHTING THE GAS MONOPOLY. One of the most interesting Court decisions affecting the metropolis of late has been that in regard to the price of gas. The investigation as to the cost and the relations of profit and loss appears to have been very thorough, and an important ruling was made in regard to the assets of the gas company, which I were included -upon the valuation that it was claimed ought to earn dividends. ThteNjvas the ruling out of the amount entered as value for goodwill, it being held by the courts that where a company has an absolute monopoly of supply, as in this case, the "goodwill" of the business cannot bo considered an asset or of any value. It is not as if a business had been built up on its merits and its customers were in danger of being attracted by competitors. Under the final decisions, all collections made for gas at the rate of a dollar per thousand cubic feet, instead of eighty cents, since the first decision was given and appeal taken two or three years ago, are illegal, and the difference must be refunded. As the amount runs into millions qf dollars the task, which is now about to begin, is an interesting one. Meanwhile, everybody is complaining that the quality of the gas has materially deteriorated. Speaking to the representative of one of the big coal concerns on the floor of the Produce Exchange in regard to this yesterday, he said: "Our company has had the supplying of a great deal of coal used for gas in New York for many years, and I am in a position to know that this decision of the Courts as to price means inferior gas for the people. What we will get now will be eighty cents' worth of gas and twenty cents' worth of wind on the old basis." UNSOUND FTNANOE. The whole trouble with the present financial condition of this country is undoubtedly the ability of a corporation to water its stock. The people seem to h-ave gone mad over the buying and selling of stocks. Men do not put up capital nowadays primarily for the development of an industry, but for the creation of a salable stock, and as soon as a stock becomes dividendi-earning-, it is watered up by the increase of capital on the often fictitious basis of alleged earning capacity and more stock is sold. This week the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company declared its first dividend, and although it was only of one per cent per quarter, the stock advanced immediately on 'change from 70J to 71 J. Those "in the know" had a chance to sell at good profits, nnd there is no question that if another dividend is declared, tbe price of the stock will again fluctuate for the benefit of the holders, probably declining meanwhile so that it may be bought again if desired by men who make a speciality of following that particular line. Of course all stock brokers have their specialities, and each can tell you off-hand the history of the stocks in which he prefers to deal. He may not tell all he knows, but it is certainly not as the result of haphazard rentures that many of them have made successes or been able to predict probable movements. The Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company is a holding corporation formed in 1596, and controls all the elevated and surface railways of Brooklyn except three linea. In the year ended June 20, 1008, there were carried on the combined lines of the B.R.T. 516,182,967 passengers. These included 372,000,000 passengers who paid five cents, and 15,000,000 who paid other sums. There were 122,000,000 transfers accepted, and approximately 2,750.000 were carried free. These passengers were carried in a total of 2,539 passenger cars. STOCK SWINDLES. Talking of selling stock, I had a letter a week ago from a friend in England, asking mc to inquire about an alleged banker in New York whose secretary in London was offering my friend a block of American mining stock at what purported to be a particularly favourable figure, a lump sum which worked out about lOd. the share. I made inquiry on the exchanges, and from the oldest brokers on the street, but they had never heard of the stock. Then I called at the offices of tho "banker," the address of which was on an elaborately engraved card enclosed in the letter from England. I was told that the stock was selling here now at 12i cents (about Od. sterling), but would surely double the following week, and was selling now in England at one dollar (4/-). I was shown a tray of specimens, said to be from the mine at a depth of 400 ft., but which looked a good deal more like boulder smashing*, and might have been from California or Alaska, as well as from Colorado, as claimed, for all that anyone could tell. I obtained a confidential report through a reliable banking agency in regard to the man, and discovered that his career had been that of a printer and a schemer, but never that of n miner or a banker. Some of his previous business associates art now convicts and the police of a western cityare after the srentleman himself for alleged use of the mails for fraudulent purposes. Still he sells stock, and some of the people who buy it here and abroad are going to "get left." On the same date that I was making my investifiation in this connection. I found a little article in one of the dailies about a woman who had died believing herself to be very wealthy and bequeathing her wtf&lth in an extensive wOl, The execu.

tors found:a trunk :fnli _ofy&toek cerfcifii-: cates, chiefly of mining and industrial companies, which were carefully sifted out, and the only value obtainable for any in .the lot was about £4, although the face value rah ihto'hundreds of thousUnder the laws here, there seems' to be absolutely nothing to prevent anyone from selling stock, no matter -what. If elaborate offices were established and "properly" advertised for the i sale of anything that has gone abeggang in New Zealand, I have no doubt that J fortune would await the operator. The plan is recognised by the sharpers to> be.' "the easiest way to make a living,", but during the past year or two they, have been hard pushed to make salesj and it' is no wonder they have invaded the English market more daringly than ever. . -LOSS OF THE REPUBLIC. The sinking of the big White Star line steamship Republic after collision with the Jtalian steamer Florida off Nantucket a .few days ago was the sensation of the hotrr' here, and the captain is being roundly censured for not .accepting the aid first at hand of an oil tank steamer with an empty .barge, the pumps of which could/ have helped to keep the Republic afloat, while the steamer towed her toward . shoal water. The Republic's captarjv Jiowever, preferred to wait advices front his company or the arrival of another* 'ship of his own line, so valuable hours 'were wasted in the endeavour to save isalvage money, until finally a bulkhead; col lapsed, and the ship went down with a rush in water variously stated at froipi 31 to 45 fathoms deep—at all too deep for any attempt at salvage-, passengers' baggage and everything else am board being irretrievably lost. The isummoniiig of aid by wireless telegraphy"; was the notable feature of the occasion„vand by this means speedy safety was assured to-the thousand and iriore lives only seven being lost as the result of injuries in the collision. The snip 1 is the biggest that has ever gone to the bottom—another loss due to the inabijitaj*' to ascertain the distance and direction, of another vessel during thick weather. The only device at all successful in this respect seems to be the submarine Signalling apparatus, which carries the sound of a bell under water, and by which sounds can be heard and located at iv distance of several miles. The Republic was equipped with this apparatus, but the Florida was not. All the principal lifrjtbships on the American, Canadian and British coasts, and many of the trans-AHantie liners, are now equipped with it. Jack Binns, the wireless operator on. the Republic, was the hero of the occasion, getting out his storage bat teries under very adverse circumstances after tie ship's engines were stopped, and sticking ~to his post till the last, although, his "office" had been badly smashed in the collision. CONSUMPTIVE EXHIBITION. The fact that disease and abject poverty are largely due to ignorance is being always more strongly urged upon the attention of the thinking public, and one of the most notable movements to enforce this uptm public notice was the tuberculosis exhibition held at the New York Museum, of Natural History. It was open free for iseveral weeks, but closed last month. It was visited by many thousands of people, the halls and corridors being qrowlfed with people during evenings and Sundays. The exhibits were gathered from all the States and many foreign countries. They occupied three floors, and were displayed in such a fashion that one could gain a comprehensive idea of what isAeing done throughout the world to fight yh'at has"heen sensationally named "the white plague." Models and pictures of the sanitoriums and descriptions of fhe work done in numerous places were carefully displayed. Among them I noticed ai map of a portion of New Zealand shoeing the location of the sanitorium at '(Tambridge. Among the lectures given in this connection a Canadian scientist has set forth that the average needless .illness amounts to nine days per individual per year. He thinks this a low estimate, and cannot include all preventable illnesses, such as some of the insanities. But. accepting it as reasonable, and assuming the population of Canada to be 7,000,00, 'and the wage-earning population 2,0001000, and placing the arerage daily wage at only 1 dollar and the average daily coit of illness (i.e., physicians' and nurses' fees, medicines, etc.) at only 1 dollar, we find that this low estimate of the cost to Canada per year for unnecessary illness is 81,000,000 dollars.

NEW YORK'S ALIEN ELEMENT. Statistics compiled by the Police Conimissioner of .New York show that while 85 per cent of the city's population of four millions' is either foreign-born or of foreign parentage, and nearly fifty per cent, or.itwo millions, do not speak the English language, exactly 85 per cent of the criminal class belongs to this foreign moss. The crimes committed by the Hebrews are generally against property; and shop-lifting being their forte, the most expert of all street thieves* being Hebrew boys of 15 or 16. Murders are rare among them. In this they, differ from the Italians, most of whomiare industrious and honest citizens, but .among whom is always to be found a certain percentage of murderous. desperadoes, who have been driven from their own cmj.ntry, and who continue their career al crime in the New World. This class constitutes the most desperate, brutal and degraded body of malefactors probably in tta world, and the hardest to deal with because of the terror-caused conspiracy of-silence among their honest co-patriots. So other nationalities approach the Hebrews and the Italians in their criminal record. TRAGIC ACCIDENTS. The record of fatalities upon surface, subway, elevated and steam railways in New York City during 1908 shows a total of 444, besides 35,000 injured. Accidents of'i all kinds, including those resulting in noi injuries, numbered 56,481 Passengers om open street cars during the summer • suffered most from accidents. Statistics of railway accidents in the Dominion of Canada during the last fiscal year, just published, show 64 passengers killed and 326 injured, besides 246 employees killed and 866 injured, a material increase over the previous year. Including people killed on tracks and in other ways the total number of killed was 520, and injured 1308, as against 460 killed and 603 injured during the previous fiscal year. JOTTINGS. An interesting dinner is to be given next week in Philadelphia to a famous surgeon by 150! men upon whom he has successfully operated and from 125 of whom he has: (removed their vermiform appendixes. This surgeon has performed 450 operations 'in a yoar, and is also consulting professor of anatomy at a university. Portland, M.,', is to be added to the list of cities that are about to adopt the commission form of government. The plan proposed, there is to abolish the

lower, branch of'; the: Municipal Legislature and: to entrust-aU. the city affairs to a Mayor and four aldermen. The Mayor is to receive £500 a year and [ the aldermen f4OO eaolr, and they are to be required to devote their whole time to the city. The difficulty will be to get competent men to serve the city at that price.

When the 221 members of the House of Commons in the eleventh Parliament of Canada assembled on January 20 for their first look at their collective selves, the survivors from the last Parliament found just one-third of the- old crowdmissing, and an additional effect of newness given to the scene by a general shuffle of seats. Nothing of- great importance has thus far developed in Canadian legislation.

The Congress in Washington is fast nearing its end, and nothing of supreme importance is expected to transpire before the inauguration of President Taft on March 4. .

The cutting of the second railway tunnel beneath the Hudson to New York city has just been completed, and it will soon be in operation for railway trains. Its terminus will be more than a mile farther down town than the other. Much interest attaches to the suit for libel now pending between Mr. Rockefeller and the principal of the "yellow journals" among the dailies. Popular sympathy seems to be with the millionaire and the editors, now out on bail, may have to suffer severely. A good deal of fun is being made at the incorporation of Mark Twain. The action was taken to protect his heirs against any future use of the norn de plume by unauthorised persons, as has been the case with the late May Agnes Fleming and other authors. Mr: Clemens is the first known author to Incorporate himself while yet alive, however, and as yet he is very much alive.

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OUR AMERICAN LETTER. Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 65, 17 March 1909

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