Worldwide Cost of Living 2019
The Economist Intelligence Unit has released the report of the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey 2019.
The Survey compares more than 400 individual prices across 160 products and services in cities around the world.
For the first time three cities share the title of the world’s most expensive city – Singapore, Hong Kong and Paris. Living costs in all three cities are 7% higher than in New York, the benchmark city.
In this year’s top 10, Singapore represents the only city that has maintained its ranking from the previous year. Singapore marks its sixth straight year at the top of the rankings.
Unsurprisingly, the cheapest cities to live in were largely made up of those experiencing well-documented political or economic disruption (or both in same cases).
Caracas, Venezuela’s capital was at the very bottom of the list this year, a position previously occupied by war-torn Syria in Damascus for obvious reasons.
Deteriorating economic conditions in Venezuela and hyperinflation are at the root of its downward-trending position down the list.
Source: The Hindu
International Air Transport Association
SpiceJet has announced its membership of global airlines’ grouping ‘International Air Transport Association’ (IATA). SpiceJet is the first Indian low-budget carrier to join the IATA.
The membership will allow SpiceJet to explore and grow its collaborations with international member airlines of the IATA grouping through interlining and code shares.
It will also enable the low cost carrier in seamlessly expanding its network options for its passengers in future.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the trade association for the world’s airlines, representing some 280 airlines or 83% of total air traffic. Formed in April 1945, it is the successor to the International Air Traffic Association, which was formed in 1919.
IATA supports airline activity and helps formulate industry policy and standards. It also provides consulting and training services in many areas crucial to aviation.
Headquarters: It is headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Canada with Executive Offices in Geneva, Switzerland.
Source: The Hindu
World Happiness Report
The United Nations has released the World Happiness Report- 2019.
The list is topped by Finland for the second year in a row.
The US ranks at 19th place despite being one of the richest countries in the world.
India figures at 140th place, seven spots down from last year.
People in war-torn South Sudan are the most unhappy with their lives.
About World Happiness Report:
The World Happiness Report is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness that ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.
It is released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations by the UN General Assembly.
It ranks the countries of the world on the basis of questions primarily from the Gallup World Poll.
How is it measured?
It is based on a questionnaire which measures 14 areas within its core questions: (1) business & economic, (2) citizen engagement, (3) communications & technology, (4) diversity (social issues), (5) education & families, (6) emotions (well-being), (7) environment & energy, (8) food & shelter, (9) government and politics, (10) law & order (safety), (11) health, (12) religion and ethics, (13) transportation, and (14) work. The results are then correlated with other factors, including GDP and social security.
Happiness has come to be accepted as a goal of public policy. And this discourse has given a fillip to a new narrative where the interconnections between law, governance and happiness are being searched.
Experiences from several nations confirm that the countries with higher GDP and higher per capita income are not necessarily the happiest countries and there exists a link between the state of happiness and rule of law.
Source: The Hindu
Real Estate Investment Trust
The recent initial public offering (IPO) of India’s first Real Estate Investment Trust (Embassy REIT) was subscribed 2.5 times, with the share sale generating a demand of over Rs 5,300 crore.
REITs are similar to mutual funds. While mutual funds provide for an opportunity to invest in equity stocks, REITs allow one to invest in income-generating real estate assets.
They are collective investment vehicles that operate and manage property portfolios and give returns to investors. Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) mandated that all REITS be listed on exchanges and make an initial public offer to raise money.
There are three types of REIT available: equity REITs which purchase, own and manage income-generating properties; mortgage REITs which lend money directly or indirectly to real estate owners; and hybrid REITs which are a combination of the first two.
How does an REIT work?
REITs raise funds from a large number of investors and directly invest that sum in income-generating real estate properties (which could be offices, residential apartments, shopping centres, hotels and warehouses). The trusts are listed in stock exchanges so that investors can buy units in the trust. REITs are structured as trusts. Thus, the assets of an REIT are held by an independent trustee on behalf of unit holders.
Why is it important?
The Indian real estate sector has been facing a liquidity crunch on account of unsold inventory and low demand. REITs can help cash-strapped developers to monetise their existing property.
In real estate sector, both rent and capital appreciation from property depend on the location, infrastructure and industrial development around that area. REITs juggle these risks through a diversified portfolio of properties.
REITs can reduce the risk related to your property investments as 80 per cent of the value of the REIT should be in completed and rent-generating assets. They are required to be run by professional managements with specified years of experience notified by SEBI.
Source: The Hindu
NASA has discovered a pulsar speeding through space.
This pulsar is dubbed PSR J0002+6216 (J0002 for short) and sports a radio-emitting tail pointing directly towards the expanding debris of a recent supernova explosion.
The Nasa found the pulsar hurtling through space at nearly four million kilometres an hour. The speed of the pulsar in the space is so fast that it could travel the distance between the Earth and the Moon in just six minutes.
Pulsar J0002 was discovered in 2017 by a citizen-science project called Einstein@Home, which uses time on the computers of volunteers to process Fermi gamma-ray data.
Where is it located?
Located about 6,500 light years away in the constellation Cassiopeia, J0002 spins 8.7 times a second, producing a pulse of gamma rays with each rotation. The pulsar lies about 53 light years from the centre of a supernova remnant called CTB 1.
Its rapid motion through interstellar gas results in shock waves that produce the tail of magnetic energy and accelerated particles detected at radio wavelengths using the Very Large Array (VLA).
What is a pulsar?
Pulsar is a celestial object that emits regular pulses of radio waves and other electromagnetic radiation at rates of up to one thousand pulses per second.
Pulsars are superdense, rapidly spinning neutron stars left behind when a massive star explodes.
Source: The Hindu
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has detected particle plumes ejecting off of the surface of asteroid Bennu. That makes Bennu an active asteroid that is regularly ejecting material into space, which is rare. This is the first time scientists have had close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid’s surface.
The particles range from centimeters to 10s of centimeters, and some of them are slow-moving while others are quickly making their way through interstellar space. Some fall back onto the surface, while others go into orbit around it, like small satellites. The researchers don’t currently understand why this is happening, but it poses no risk to the spacecraft.
OSIRIS-REx’s instruments have confirmed that hydrated minerals, including magnetite, are abundant and widespread on the asteroid. The asteroid is full of valuable materials that may even contain clues about how life began. Bennu is essentially a leftover from the formation of our solar system billions of years ago, although some of the minerals inside it could be even older.
OSIRIS-Rex is the first-ever US mission designed to visit an asteroid and return a sample of its dust back to Earth. The $800 million (roughly Rs. 5,600 crores) unmanned spaceship launched two years ago from Cape Canaveral, Florida and arrived December 3 at its destination, some 70 million miles (110 million kilometres) away.
The plan is for OSIRIS-REx to orbit Bennu, using a suite of five scientific instruments to map the asteroid in high resolution to help scientists decide precisely where to sample from.
Then, in 2020, it will reach out with its robotic arm and touch the asteroid in a maneuver Rich Kuhns, OSIRIS-REx program manager with Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, described as a “gentle high-five.”
Using a circular device much like a car’s air filter, and a reverse vacuum to stir up and collect dust, the device aims to grab about two ounces (60 grams) of material from the asteroid’s surface, and return it to Earth in 2023.
About the mission:
OSIRIS-Rex stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer.
OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers program, which previously sent the New Horizons spacecraft zooming by Pluto and the Juno spacecraft into orbit around Jupiter.
Why was Bennu chosen?
Bennu was selected for a the OSIRIS-REx mission from over 500,000 known asteroids, due to it fitting a number of key criteria. These include:
Proximity to Earth: In order for OSIRIS-REx to reach its destination in a reasonable timeframe, NASA needed to find an asteroid which had a similar orbit to Earth.
Size: Small asteroids, those less than 200m in diameter, typically spin much faster than larger asteroids, meaning the regolith material can be ejected into space. Bennu is around 500m in diameter, so rotates slowly enough to ensure that the regolith stays on its surface.
Composition: Bennu is a primitive asteroid, meaning it hasn’t significantly changed since the beginning of the Solar System (over 4 billion years ago). It is also very carbon-rich, meaning it may contain organic molecules, which could have been precursors to life on Earth.
Additionally, Bennu is of interest as it is a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA). Every 6 years, Bennu’s orbit brings it within 200,000 miles of the Earth, which means it has a high probability of impacting Earth in the late 22nd Century.
Source: The Hindu
March 20, 2019, marks the spring equinox — the first official day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. This day is unique in that the length of day and night are close to equal.
The Vernal Equinox is a solar term with great balance. At the equinox, earth’s two hemispheres are receiving the sun’s rays equally. On the day of the vernal equinox, night and day are often said to be equal in length.
The equinox is the moment in Earth’s orbit when the sun appears to cross the celestial equator. It means longer and warmer days as the northern hemisphere begins to tilt towards the sun.
How do people celebrate it?
The vernal equinox also is the Persian New Year, known as Nowruz. For more than 300 million people worldwide it’s the start of a monthlong celebration of new beginnings.
In Chichen Itza, Mexico, thousands gather at the Kulkulkan pyramid. In the late afternoon, the sun creates a shadow that looks like a snake sliding down the northern staircase.
Holi, a major festival in India that marks the start of spring, also begins on March 20 this year.
Source: The Hindu
Nowruz, also spelled as Navroz, is the Iranian New Year celebrated by ethnic Iranian people. Several ethno-linguistic communities around the world irrespective of their religious background observe it as the start of the New Year. In India, the Parsi community, who follow Zoroastrianism, celebrate Navroz with full fervour.
Navroz is the beginning of the New Year for several communities. It dates back as far as the 6th Century BC, back when the Iranian community were homogeneously Zoroastrians. Once the community divided over the course of history, people of Iranian origin worldwide continued following Zoroastrian traditions and with that the Iranian New Year as well.
What is the significance of Navroz?
Apart from the difference of one or two days, the Iranian community celebrates Navroz on March 21. March 21 is the first day of the Iranian calendar. It is also marked as the day King Jamshid was crowned as the King of Persia. King Jamshid holds a great significance in Zoroastrianism and the day of his coronation is generally considered to be the beginning of the New Year among Iranian people. It is interestingly the first day of the Aries constellation. Navroz is also the day of the Spring equinox and the rituals are performed based on the movements of the sun during the course of the day.
How is it celebrated in India?
In India, the Parsi community celebrate the Iranian New Year in a similar fashion as is around the world. A visit to the Fire Temple, the place of worship of the Parsi community, is a ritual followed on Navroz every morning. In India, prominent numbers of the Parsi community still remain in Mumbai and Gujarat, who celebrate Navroz with ardour.
Source: The Hindu
Kazakhstan renames capital Astana after ex-president
Kazakhstan has renamed its capital Astana to Nursultan to honour outgoing leader Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Mr Nazarbayev served nearly 30 years as leader of the oil-rich nation.