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All that glisters is not gold as dowries adapt to India’s new wealth

NEW DELHI: For centuries Indian marriages have been sealed with gold. Each wedding season countless brides are given away wearing elaborate sets of golden jewellery including earrings, necklaces, bangles, rings and ”tikis” worn on the forehead. Gold has been an integral part of the dowry system, outlawed 50 years ago but still widely practised across the subcontinent.The ancient link between gold and dowries is one of the main reasons India is the world’s biggest consumer of the yellow metal. This national fetish has been lucrative for Australia. India imported $5.7 billion worth of Australian gold last financial year, which is more than Australia made selling coal to China.Even today some families start amassing gold as soon as a daughter is born in preparation for her eventual nuptials. In parts of south India, which has more gold per capita than anywhere in the country, wealthy families can be expected to send off a bride with at least a kilogram of gold as part of a marriage arrangement.The connection between gold and marriage is enshrined in Hindu mythology. Legend has it that when Venkateswara an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, wanted to marry the princess Padmavati he sought a loan of gold from Kuber, the god of wealth, to pay her father. Devotees still donate gold and jewellery at certain temples in a symbolic gesture to help Venkateswara win the hand of the princess.Along with its key role in weddings, gold is used to flaunt family wealth and signify social status. It has also been a popular source of retirement saving and insurance against calamity. No one knows exactly how much gold has been passed from generation to generation and is now stashed in safe deposit boxes across India. But bullion analysts estimate families are sitting on about 15,000 tonnes of gold worth more than $601 billion.Increasingly gold is being used as collateral for loans, especially by workers who have no documents to prove their income. When the Reserve Bank of India announced it was purchasing 200 tonnes of gold from the International Monetary Fund last month, many saw it as a symbol of India’s love affair with the precious metal.Demand for gold normally surges at this time of the year because of the wedding season. But this year’s batch of bridal couples will be receiving lower quantities of gold than they might have expected. A record spike in the world gold price has dampened demand and India’s 800,000 gold jewellery retailers are feeling the pinch.Amit Singh, whose family has traded gold jewellery from a small shop in Delhi’s bustling Chandi Chowk market for 75 years, says business is down more than 20 per cent compared with last year.”People are still buying gold but in smaller amounts,” he said. ”A family that last year would have bought 100 grams is going for 70 grams this year because the price is so high. They are going for lighter jewellery sets.”However, something more fundamental might eventually suppress India’s appetite for gold. India’s modernisation and industrialisation has helped create a wealth of alternative dowry options for the country’s rapidly expanding middle class. The dowry for a middle-class female today might include a Kawasaki, a laptop, a plasma television, a Blackberry and a mutual-fund investment along with some jewellery. For the increasingly wealthy and well-educated middle classes gold has shifted from being a rigid contractual requirement for marriage to being a symbolic wedding gift.”As the traditional dowry comes under pressure from social change so too the gold component in the dowry is under pressure,” says Gary Mead, a commodities analyst from the VM Group.Gold has traditionally been viewed in India as an important ”defensive asset”, but gold’s place as a form of saving is also under challenge.Rising middle-class wealth and improvements in India’s banking system have reduced the need for holding a defensive investment like gold.”India’s upper and middle classes are driven much more by fashion than necessity,” says Mead.”It’s not going to change over night but over the slow march of time – maybe the middle of this century – younger generations are going to start saying why are we holding on to Granny’s gold?”Suresh Hundia, the president of the Bombay Bullion Association, agrees that economic and social change will change the nature of demand for gold. But he believes the precious metal will always have a special attraction.”Indians will always be interested in gold,” he says. ”They worship it.”India’s multitude of gold traders will be hoping their country’s marriage traditions are so strong that brides will wear the traditional golden jewellery no matter what.
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Fuel spill as dog trailer, semi crash

About 100 litres of fuel was spilled onto Victoria Street yesterday when a semi-trailer and car towing a dog trailer collided. Photo: BELINDA SOOLEThree greyhound dogs will live to see another race after the trailer they were travelling in and a semi-trailer collided yesterday.
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The accident happened on Victoria Street about 9am when a white Subaru towing a dog trailer and a semi-trailer that was turning into the BP service station on Victoria Street crashed.

The incident caused the fuel tank of the Toll semi to rupture, spilling about 100 litres of diesel on to the road.

“There was the potential of 600 litres of fuel leaking out of the truck so we needed to pump it out,” NSW Fire and Rescue Delroy brigade captain Bernie Reid said.

The Dubbo HAZMAT team attended the scene and used four tonnes of sand to soak up the spilt oil from the road.

“We are using spag soil – a saw dust material with chemical in it that will soak into the oil.”

Traffic was stopped and delays occurred for about an hour and a half along Victoria Street.

The three dogs inside the trailer were unharmed.

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Air France inquiry after mayday call

PARIS: France’s accident investigation agency has opened an inquiry into an Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, which ran into difficulties last month close to where another of its planes vanished in June with 228 people on board.In an attempt to ”shed light” on the crash of Flight AF447, which went missing while flying over the Atlantic, the Bureau of Investigation and Analysis said it was looking into what triggered Flight AF445 to issue a mayday signal flying the same route on November 29. ”We cannot ignore such a coincidence,” a spokesman said.The A330 airbus – the same model as the aeroplane which went down on June 1 – was four hours into its flight to Paris when it hit heavy turbulence, an Air France statement said. ”[The aircraft] performed a standard descent in order to avoid a zone of severe turbulence and get back to a less turbulent level of flight.”The airline insists the emergency signal was not sent because the pilots believed they were in danger. However, according to media reports, the jet descended by far more than 300 metres – the standard procedure for avoiding turbulence – causing panic on board.Le Figaro said the plane plunged from 11,000 metres to 9300 metres and quoted one passenger, who said the aircraft appeared to be ”no longer under control”.Guardian News & Media
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EU leaders pledge support for Greece to protect euro

BRUSSELS: Europe’s leaders admitted they fear a financial black hole in Greece could drag down the entire euro zone.At a two-day summit in Brussels the heads of the 27 European Union member states held talks that were meant to be about financing the fight against climate change.But with Greece facing ever-expanding public debts that have triggered market fears of national bankruptcy, economic problems overtook proceedings.The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, hinted at help for those in the ”greatest difficulty”, given ”everyone’s concern” was maintaining a stable euro.”We are agreed within the Euro group that we need to respect the criteria of European stability on budgetary matters,” she said, after warning that all EU states share ”common responsibility” for Greece.Sweden, which is holding the EU presidency, said that Greece’s €300 billion ($481 billion) debt albatross required ”support” from the EU ”family”.In an effort to assuage concerns, the Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou, vowed to ”revamp the Greek economy, to modernise the public sector, to fight chronic problems such as corruption … to make sure we have a sound, viable economy”.His Government’s credibility has been damaged by the revelation that public deficit is expected to surge to 12.7 per cent of output this year and that debt amounts to 113 per cent of gross domestic product.He sought to reassure financial markets and investors by stating that budget proposals to cut spending would be produced within six to seven weeks.One diplomat said the new Lisbon Treaty, which took force on December 1, left the field open for EU aid. ”Everything is possible,” apart from an European Central Bank loan, he said.”If France wants to give money to Greece there is nothing to prevent it. Bilateral loans are not banned by the treaty. If it develops into a full-blown crisis we would get everyone around the table and see how much cash we could get.”The ratings agency Fitch downgraded Greece’s credit rating this week, prompting fears of spillover effects for the 16 countries that use the euro.Agence France-Presse
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140 Jobs on Menu

A new retail development on Dubbo’s west side boasting a new Oporto fast food outlet and a cluster of other businesses will generate up to 140 jobs.
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Dubbo businessman John Nixon will put Bondi burgers back on the city’s menu and create 30 new jobs at the new Oporto outlet, to be built within the $3 million venture.

Oporto has announced it will open a store in Whylandra Street as part of John Nixon’s “exciting new convenience and food retail centre”.

Mr Nixon is confident the new Oporto will hold its own in a “competitive market” despite the closure of Dubbo’s first Oporto 12 months ago.

The development of the Whylandra Street site comes after supermarket giant Woolworths and fast-food restaurant McDonalds established a presence in the city’s western quarter. Dubbo City Council previously announced its intention to balance the residential growth of the city’s east on the western side.

Local firm David Payne Constructions is building the development that will eventually house seven new food and retail outlets. Site works are on schedule.

Together the stores will add 140 jobs to the city’s economy.

Mr Nixon, who was not the former Oporto’s franchisee, was more keen to talk about the restaurant’s opening – set for August – in the city than its past.

“I am really excited to be able to bring the great Oporto taste of fresh grilled chicken and burgers to my home town,” he said.

“I have no doubt that the people of Dubbo will embrace it.”

When asked about last year’s closure of Oporto, Mr Nixon was upbeat.

“Oporto is a very successful business model that has been trading for more than 20 years and has more than 140 stores in Australia and across the world,” he said.

“The original Dubbo store opened with exceptional sales and was extremely well received by the local community.

“We have every confidence that the new Oporto store in Dubbo will quickly re-establish its place in this competitive market.”

The first Oporto was on the corner of Cobra and Gipps streets, but a change of address may be the recipe for success.

“Prior to opening Oporto in Dubbo we undertook extensive market research in the area and found that all the major brands were well represented and trading extremely well,” Mr Nixon said.

“We believe there is real opportunity for Oporto as the industry continues to grow, specifically within the Whylandra Street precinct.”

Mr Nixon is a long-time Dubbo resident and has extensive experience in the retail sector.

Active in his community, he is also a pilot and has been involved in the Angel Flight program for more than five years.

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Improving lives with open arms

Manager Johanna Leader with counsellor Alex Quigley, community liaison officer Ian Barret, co-ordinator Mel Singh and community liaison officer Emma Livingston. Photo: AMY GRIFFITHSA program to improve social inclusion in Dubbo is being launched at Apollo House today.
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The ‘Resilience’ program is one component of the Dubbo Regeneration Partnership Plan that was developed in consultation with the East Dubbo community.

Run by the Leader in Development team, the program will operate out of Apollo House in Collins Street and provide activities and programs for families such as playgroups, reading groups, health focus groups and workshops for parents.

“Resilience is a program to improve social inclusion within the local community, offering a variety of activities to build the cohesion within the community, and identify service gaps that can be removed through further co-operation and integration of services from government and non-government organisations,” Leader in Development founder Johanna Leader said.

“We want to maintain an environment where individuals and families can feel comfortable to participate in the many activities that will be brought through the doors of the Apollo House, into the streets and recreational spaces of the Apollo community.”

Ms Leader is assembling a team of passionate and motivated staff that understand the needs of people living in the area and who are able to provide support with practical ideas to help improve the lives of people in the estate.

“I am hopeful that the rapport and trust that we develop with the community will enable us to better assist people with referrals for support, particularly where families are experiencing hardships” Ms Leader said. Apollo House was previously managed by the East Dubbo Women’s Group.

Housing NSW western area director Mark Byrne thanked three women whose involvement in Apollo House was instrumental.

“Michelle, Ellen and Pat Doolan have been the cornerstone of the Apollo House with the East Dubbo Women’s Group for many years,” Mr Byrne said.

“These wonderful and highly respected Aboriginal women have so much on their plates and so it is timely that we are able to get Leader in Development involved to lighten their collective loads just a little.”

The Dubbo Regeneration Partnership Plan has been operating over the past four years and has incorporated significant upgrades to properties, street scapes and recreational spaces, and large financial investments in social and learning and employment strategies.

A morning tea will be held at Apollo House today at 10am for local agencies and services and will be followed by a barbecue at 12 noon.

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Jailed photographer insists he was helping blackmailed celebrities

ROME: A notorious Italian photographer has been jailed for three years and eight months after trying to extort thousands of euros from celebrities in return for not selling embarrassing photographs of them to gossip magazines.Fabrizio Corona was found guilty on Thursday of blackmailing sports stars, including the Brazilian footballer and Inter Milan striker Adriano, the former AC Milan footballer Francesco Coco and the MotoGP rider Marco Melandri.But the Milan court acquitted Corona of trying to extort €200,000 ($320,000) from Lapo Elkann, a member of the Fiat-owning Agnelli family, and of attempting to blackmail another Italian footballer, Alberto Gilardino.Corona, 35, said he was ”ashamed to be Italian” after his jail sentence was read out. ”It’s an embarrassment. It means they should condemn all the photo agencies in Italy, who do exactly the same as I do,” he said, adding that he would appeal against the decision.None of Corona’s victims turned up at the trial.Corona says he was doing the celebrities a favour by offering them the photos at the same rates he would have asked from the gossip magazines.”I offered the photos at a good price just to my friends. I could have earned a lot more.”Corona was backed up earlier in the trial last year when a lawyer representing Barbara Berlusconi, the Prime Minister’s daughter, insisted a €20,000 deal to buy photos showing her client leaving a nightclub was not blackmail but ”almost a courtesy”.Corona has become a celebrity in his own right since the blackmail plot first hit the headlines in 2006, dating an Argentinian model, Belen Rodriguez, and making regular television appearances including a stint on a reality show, The Farm, where he was voted off by the public in the third episode.Judges will decide next month whether Corona should stand trial in Potenza for trying to extort money from a host of other Italian showbiz names.Guardian News & Media
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English whisky finally comes of age with first release in 120 years

LONDON: English whisky will go on sale in Britain next week, the first time in more than 120 years that a distillery south of Hadrian’s Wall has produced the drink.The single malt made at St George’s distillery in Roudham, Norfolk, has already received favourable reviews in its pre-whisky form – the spirits have to mature for three years before being officially designated whisky.Keir Sword, the proprietor of Royal Mile Whiskies, the whisky retailer in Edinburgh, has tasted the peated and non-peated varieties of St George’s and thinks English whisky has what it takes to become a decent tipple.”Both should improve over time and they will be good whiskies,” he said.The English Whisky Company, which owns the St George’s distillery, was started by Andrew Nelstrop, a farmer, and his father, James. In a publicity coup for the Nelstrops, their distillery was officially opened by Prince Charles in March 2007.St George’s uses barley from eastern England and water from the local Breckland aquifer, through a 48-metre borehole in the garden. The company plans to produce between 150,000 and 200,000 bottles a year.Guardian News & Media
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City’s history place to pave way for its future

The launch of one of the most important community planning projects in Dubbo’s history will take place in the grounds of the city’s first courthouse – the Old Dubbo Gaol.
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A salute to Dubbo’s progressive past, the public event at the 164-year-old heritage site signals the start of the city’s efforts to shape its future.

Dubbo mayor Allan Smith will officially launch the Dubbo 2036 project on Monday, May 2.

“I cannot underestimate the importance of the Dubbo 2036 Community Strategic Plan to this Local Government Area,” Cr Smith said.

“As the city’s highest level plan, future decision-making over the next 25 years will be aligned to this long-term vision. It will be the first time this community has been asked to create its own future.’’

Everyone is invited to the official launch at Old Dubbo Gaol from 1pm on May 2. The launch will feature special guest Lisa Smith from Minds at Work who will host a ‘Futurescoping’ workshop – an interactive session designed to reflect on the past whilst creating the future.

Cr Smith will also announce the winner of the Draw Dubbo 2036 competition for Year 6 students.

“Creating a 25-year plan for Dubbo includes seeking input from our future generations,” Cr Smith said.

“Year 6 students from schools across the Dubbo LGA were asked to draw their vision for Dubbo in 2036. I am really looking forward to seeing their entries and their ideas for the future.’’

Throughout May, council will seek a wide range of views and opinions that will help create the Dubbo 2036 Community Strategic Plan.

Opportunities to provide input include:

o 22 targeted community workshops

o Two open public forums

o Two ‘Have a Say Days’

o A Dubbo 2036 site at Dubbo Show

o Information booths at Centro and Orana Mall Marketplace

o Dubbo 2036 community questionnaire

A website, dubbo2036南京夜网.au, has been established – a one-stop-shop of information including web forums and latest news.

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