Globetrotting: news from around the world – November 2016

European and US buyers are driving gold’s surge on international markets, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says streaming videos helps the company sell more shoes.

PRECIOUS METALS

All that glitters is gold

Traditionally, the world’s biggest buyers of gold have come from China and India, but now it’s European and US buyers who are driving the precious metal’s surge, reports RFI.

By mid-September, the price of an ounce of gold had moved up to US$1,337, a 25% increase since the beginning of 2016. The metal had been rising for three consecutive quarters — its longest upward trek since 2011. The main driver of the demand was the US Federal Reserve, which had again decided not to increase interest rates.

Meanwhile, sales of gold in Asia are stagnating or declining because of the higher price. Many Indian buyers are turning into sellers. “Paper gold” is the only form of the metal currently in ascension mode: Chinese investors have quadrupled their purchases of exchange-traded funds backed by gold.

ENTERTAINMENT

Golden Globe shoes

Amazon logo and leather boots

Can streaming videos help Amazon sell more shoes? The answer is yes, according to CEO Jeff Bezos, as reported by Business Insider UK. That’s because the company is able to monetize its subscriptions in what Bezos calls a “very unusual way.” Once its Prime subscribers pay their annual fee, they look to get more value out of the program by extending their shopping to other product categories. “When we win a Golden Globe, it helps us sell more shoes,” Bezos said at last summer’s Code Conference.

Now Amazon is applying the same logic to take on Apple and Spotify in the music streaming business. At a reported monthly fee of US$5, the new service will probably lose money, but, writes Business Insider, “Bezos doesn’t have to sweat the margins in the same way as competitors like Spotify or Netflix, whose entire business is built around a single offering.”

PHARMACEUTICALS

The US$10,000 acne cream

The pharmaceutical industry’s strategy of acquiring drugs and then bringing in sharp price increases is still going strong, reports Boing Boing. In May 2015, a 60g tube of acne cream Aloquin cost US$241.50. As of September 2016 it cost US$9,561. That’s after Novum Pharma purchased Primus Pharmaceuticals, then raised the price three times in a row.

Even at US$241.50 the cream wasn’t exactly a bargain. What’s more, the FDA says “there is only limited clinical evidence suggesting it is safe and works as intended.”

HEALTH

Sweet tooth, bad heart

Doughnut

Beware food-industry-funded research, warns a Quartz report. A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association uncovers a plot hatched in the 1960s by the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) to down- play evidence linking sugar consumption to heart disease.

In 1965, after an article was published in the New York Herald Tribune tying sugar use to heart disease, the SRF launched a project in which it paid Harvard University researchers to deflect the threat. In 1967, the New England Journal of Medicine published a review from the project, concluding that heart disease was tied to cholesterol and fat, not sugar. 

About the Author

Yan Barcelo


Yan Barcelo is a journalist in Montreal.

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