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Saturday, November 26, 2016

India's 1% holds 60% wealth

India is the second most unequal country in the world with the top one per cent of the population owning nearly 60% of the total wealth, according to a report.

According to Global Wealth Report 2016 compiled by Credit Suisse Research Institute, the gap between the world’s haves and have-nots does not appear to be getting any narrower and a mere 0.7% of the global population owns nearly half the world’s wealth.

The report identified Russia as the world’s most unequal country with a huge 74.5% of the nation’s wealth controlled by the richest 1% of people.

In India the top 1% own 58.4% of the wealth, while the figure was 43.8% for China, the ‘Independent’ reported.

“While the bottom half collectively own less than 1 per cent of total wealth, the wealthiest top 10% own 89% of all global assets,” the report said.

“Our calculations suggest that 80% of adults in India and Africa belong to the bottom half of the global wealth distribution,” it said.

The contrast between China and India may also come as a surprise, given their similarities in terms of huge populations and rapid growth.

Their representation in the global bottom half is very different, and the discrepancy is even greater in the bottom quintile which covers 31% of Indians but only 7% of Chinese, the report said.

The report said that while wealth has been rising in India, not everyone has shared in this growth.

“There is still considerable wealth poverty, reflected in the fact that 96% of the adult population has wealth below US $10,000, whereas this percentage is only 68% in China,” it said.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Did Ants Invent Agriculture?

A new study shows that ants are hard working farmers. Or at least one species of ants is. It lives in Fiji and has been farming plants for some 3 million years.

The ant in question is Philidris nagasau, an ordinary looking, small, black ant. It lives in and eats Squamellaria, a plant that grows in the cracks and elbows of different kinds of trees. The Squamellaria plant, which looks more like a fungus, forms lumpy, brown, bulbous protrusions from the branches of the trees it lives on.

The new study, published in Nature Plants, shows that these ants not only live inside these hollow plants, they also farm them.



Guillaume Chomicki, a botanist at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich and the lead author on the study found that the ants gather Squamellaria seeds and leave them in the cracks of trees. As the plants grow, the ants fertilize them with their own poop. Once the plants produce fruits, the ants harvest the seeds, and the process starts all over again.

Every plant Chomicki checked had ants living in it. And the ants don't hang out in other plants, suggesting that the ants and plants are dependent on one another. The ants seem to work with and live in six different species of this plant.

Brian Fisher, an entomologist-in-residence at the California Academy of Sciences,  says approximately 40 percent of annual plants in the Northeastern United States, are dispersed by ants. As for ants feeding plants, ant poop seems to be an abundant fertilizer for many plants.

But, Fisher notes, these ants are not the first to try agriculture. Leaf-cutter ants, for example, have been farming for at least 8 million years. But the leaf-cutter ants farm fungus, not plants.

Some ants seem to have domesticated animals too. Certain species herd wild aphids from plant to plant, and 'milk' honeydew, a sticky, sugary secretion, by gently stroking the aphids with their antenna.

Acropyga ants take it one step further, and farm mealybugs, a type of bug that lives on tree roots. They carry the mealybugs from root to root and eat their honeydew. And just like the leaf-cutters, when it's time to start a new colony the queen will carry a pregnant mealybug as she flies to her new home. These ants have been farming mealybugs for a much longer time – a fossil Acropyga carrying a mealybug that was found in amber is believed to be 15-20 million years old.

In comparison, our own ancestors living in the Fertile Crescent are thought to have started tinkering with farming only 12,000 years ago.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Nepal Bans New India Currency

Nepal Rastra Bank on Thursday banned the use of India’s new currency notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 2,000 denomination, terming them “unauthorised and illegal”.

These two currency notes were issued by the Reserve Bank of India recently after old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 denomination notes were withdrawn.

Nepal Rastra Bank has called the new currency notes “unauthorised and illegal”.

NRB spokesperson Narayan Poudel said these new currency notes are not yet legal in Nepal, according to Onlinekhabar.com.

Mr. Poudel said these notes will be legal in Nepal only when India issues a notification as per the Foreign Exchange Management Act.

India is likely to issue a FEMA notification, allowing people in Nepal and India to possess certain amount of Indian currency.