Bankers under fire again
Investment bankers have come in for more abuse — not over their bonuses this time, but for allegedly driving up the price of Christmas turkeys. Paul Kelly, the poultry industry’s “turkey man of the year,” blames them for driving up the cost of wheat-based animal feed from ￡95 (US$149) per tonne to ￡177. “My contacts in the City tell me the price of wheat is soaring because of financial speculation,” he said. “It’s not good for farmers or consumers. What is happening is fundamentally wrong and obscene.” The boss of Kelly Turkey Farms in Essex warns that consumers can expect to pay up to ￡3 extra for their birds. The increase in feed prices comes despite strong commodity supplies. Wildfires destroyed some Russian wheat during the summer, but the US and other regions have had good harvests. Since the financial crisis began, analysts have watched speculative money pouring into commodity derivative markets, including food. The World Development Movement (WDM), a UK-based anti-poverty group, said the government needed to curb the behavior of investment bankers and hedge funds. “As City traders enjoy their Christmas bonuses, their speculative activities are fueling food price inflation,” WDM’s Deborah Doane said. “This is bad news for the millions who live on the breadline in developing countries, as well as for hard-working families struggling to get by here in the UK.”
Toilet water to be recycled
South Africans will drink recycled toilet water for the first time later this month when a reclamation plant in the drought-stricken town of Beaufort West starts operating. The facility, built by Water and Wastewater Engineering, a Stellenbosch-based company, will treat effluent from the town’s sewerage treatment works and pump purified water directly into its reservoir, chief executive Pierre Marais said. A water shortage forced Beaufort West to cut supplies for 36 hours at a stretch this month, Louw Smit, director of engineering services for the municipality, said in a statement on the City of Cape Town’s Web site on Tuesday. “This is the first time this type of technology has been used in South Africa,” Marais said in an interview on Wednesday.
Putin in love with puppy
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says he loves Buffy, his new puppy, even though the Bulgarian shepherd leaves puddles and piles around the house. Buffy, a cute caramel-and-white-patched dog, was given to Putin by his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borissov in Sofia last month. Last week, a young Russian boy won a national competition to name the male dog. Asked on Thursday during a live call-in show as to how Buffy’s doing, Putin replied: “Excellently. He draws me huge puddles around the entire house and leaves piles, but he’s a very pretty boy, of course, and I love him,” Putin said.
Hotel boasts US$11m tree
When they deck the halls in opulent Abu Dhabi, it comes with gold ornaments and gem-studded bows on a towering Christmas tree. The US$11 million symbol of the season has become the latest extravagance at the Emirates Palace Hotel, which boasts its own marina, heliport and a vending machine that pops out small gold bars. The hotel’s general manager, Hans Olbertz, was quoted in local newspapers on Thursday as saying the 13m faux fir has 131 ornaments that include gold and precious stones, such as diamonds and sapphires.