Sunday, October 11, 2015

Gold likely to fall more in 2015; New era beckons for supersonic air travel; Beef grows more political in India

1 Gold likely to fall more in 2015 (Cleofe Maceda in Gulf News) Gold is expected to register further price declines towards the end of the year, but will not go lower than the $1,100 level, according to the latest analysis.

Dutch bank ABN Amro has revised its year-end gold forecast from $1,000 to $1,100 per ounce, citing that the US dollar is likely to be weaker than earlier expected, while the US Federal Reserve is seen to adjust the rates only in 2016. By the end of next year, gold is expected to drop to $900, instead of $800.

The precious metal has not reached this year’s bottom yet, so there will still be further price adjustments over the next few days or weeks. “This does not mean that we have seen the low in gold prices. We still expect the Fed to hike interest rates next year and the US dollar to rally in an environment of positive investor sentiment,” wrote Georgette Boele, coordinator, foreign exchange and precious metals strategy at the bank.

2 New era for supersonic air travel (Stuart Clark in The Guardian) Supersonics are back. Around the world, aerospace companies and organisations, including Nasa, are developing the technology that will allow passengers once again to fly at faster than the speed of sound. The first of this new breed of aircraft could be flying early in the 2020s.

It was way back in 2003 that Concorde was retired. The airliner entered service in 1976 but was hobbled by complaints that it was too loud. As a result, it could only break the sound barrier when flying over the ocean. This restricted its operation and turned it into a niche aircraft operated only by British Airways and Air France on transatlantic flights.

“The technology simply did not exist to create a new generation of practical and efficient supersonic airliners,” says Doug Nichols, CEO of Aerion, an aviation company in the vanguard of the revival. Now, however, technology has advanced and companies smell profits.

Although it was widely reported that Concorde was a loss leader, that is not a fair assessment, according to Ben Lord, chairman of the Save Concorde Group. “It annoys me when I hear that Concorde was a financial failure,” says Lord. “In its last six months of operation, BA made £54m net profits from five aircraft.”

“Aerospace companies, Nasa and other institutions are researching ways to quiet sonic booms, and over time, perhaps 10 to 20 years, solutions will emerge,” says Nichols. If and when they do, supersonic aircraft will be able to fly over land, opening up many more routes and increasing the attraction of such jets even more. If these companies can make it work, the future of air travel is set to become faster.

3 Beef grows more political in India (San Francisco Chronicle) The legislator was full of outrage when he arrived in the north Indian village days after the killing of a Muslim farmer who was rumored to have slaughtered cows. A Hindu mob had smashed through the heavy wooden door to the man's home, then beat him to death with his wife's sewing machine.

The legislator's anger, though, was not about the killing. Instead, Sangeet Som was furious that men had been arrested in the attack in the village, just 30 miles from New Delhi. Som, a member of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, called the arrests "atrocities on innocent villagers." As for the family of the dead man, he dismissed them as "those cow killers."

Cows have long been sacred to Hindus, worshipped as a mother figure and associated since ancient times with the god Krishna. But increasingly, cows are also political. They have become a tool of political parties, an electioneering code word and a rallying cry for both Hindu nationalists and their opponents.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his silence on the late September mob killing of Mohammad Akhlaq, saying religious and ethnic bigotry threatened the country's economic growth. "We should decide if Hindus want to fight Muslims or poverty. Muslims must decide if they want to fight Hindus or poverty," Modi said.

But Modi also rose to power as Hindu nationalist, and since his election last year hard-line Hindus have been demanding that India ban the sale of beef — a key industry within India's poor, minority Muslim community. Since becoming prime minister, though, he has danced delicately between an intense desire to be seen as a tolerant international statesman and the need to satisfy a political base that is deeply distrustful of Muslims and other minorities. India, a country of 1.3 billion, is about 81 percent Hindu and 13 percent Muslim.

Authorities are still investigating after the arrests of eight villagers for Akhlaq's death, but announced Friday that the meat found in his home turned out to be mutton — not beef. Meanwhile Som, the Hindu firebrand and avowed strict vegetarian, has denied media reports that he once owned part of a major Indian meat export company. The company exports goat and buffalo meat, but apparently not beef.

The public bitterness on both sides hides the reality of much of Indian life, where Hindus and Muslims can live alongside one another for decades without incident. In Akhlaq’s village, for example, more than 100 Hindu villagers trekked to his family's home a few days after the attack, to urge his family not to move away. Hindu leaders also pledged to ensure that upcoming Muslim marriages went ahead without incident.

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