Exercise Your Aging Brain With Technology: How Facebook, Smartphones Can Keep The Mind Young

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While it may seem that spending hours on Facebook is killing your brain cells rather than making you smarter, new research suggests that being connected with technology as you get older might actually be protecting your cognitive abilities — and keeping you young, in a way.

Different hypotheses exist on whether our technology-driven world is making us smarter or not. Some believe that the constant chaos attributed to fleeting memes, tweets, and blogposts reduces our attention span and ability to delve into deep focus — the kind you need when you’re reading a long book. But the researchers of the new study are looking at technology from a different viewpoint, arguing instead that it forces us to use our minds more than ever before.

“Life has become cognitively more demanding, with increasing use of communication and information technology also by older people, and people working longer in intellectually demanding jobs,” Dr. Nadia Steiber, an author of the study, said in the press release. “At the same time, we are seeing a decline in physical activity and rising levels of obesity.”

The study, conducted at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysisat in Austria, examined population surveys in Germany in both 2006 and 2012, comparing participants’ brain processing speed, physical fitness, and mental health as they aged. The researchers found that today, test scores among older people over the age of 50 are much better than people eight years younger than them, who were tested six years ago. What this means, the authors argue, is that older people are getting progressively smarter as technology evolves.

“On average, test scores of people aged 50 plus today correspond to test scores from people four to eight years younger and tested six years earlier,” Valeria Bordone, another author of the study, said in the press release. “We show for the first time that although compositional changes of the older population in terms of education partly explain the Flynn effect, the increasing use of modern technology such as computers and mobile phones in the first decade of the 2000s also contributes considerably to its explanation.”

The Flynn effect is the gradual improvement of both crystallized and fluid intelligence over the years — in short, people’s IQs have been getting higher the more modern our society is. Some underlying reasons might include better nutrition, modern medicine, improved education, and perhaps most recently, the shift from a manufacturing age to one of information.

But can we contribute the Flynn effect to social media, smartphones, and iPads? The researchers will need to further investigate this link to come to stronger conclusions, but we can at least rest assured that technology isn’t necessarily doing us any harm, as many naysayers have warned. One recent editorial published in BMJ and written by researchers at the University College London and the University of Oxford argued that social media, instead of severing IRL (in real life) relationships like many have feared, “has been found to enhance existing friendships and the quality of relationships, although some individuals benefit more than others.”

If you want to protect your cognitive function, however, sitting on your computer all day simply isn’t going to do the trick. In fact, complementing brain exercises with physical activity and a healthy diet will work wonders for your brain health — especially if you start earlier in life. Moderation is key — being plugged into the Internet’s stimulating world can keep you sharp, but disconnecting and reading a good book can also exercise the deeper concentration of your mind.

Source: Bordone V, Scherbov S, Steiber N. Smarter every day: The deceleration of population ageing in terms of cognition. Intelligence. 2015.

Parliament approves proposal to increase Ministers

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The proposal to increase the number of ministers in the National Government was approved by Parliament with a majority of 127 votes today.

The motion was passed with 143 voting for and 16 against while another 63 MPs were absent during the vote.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), National Freedom Front (NFF) and MP Udaya Gammanpila voted against the proposal while the TNA and several UPFA members abstained.

The approved motion was to increase the number of Cabinet Ministers to 48 and the number of non-cabinet Ministers to 45.

As per the 19th amendment to the constitution the total number of cabinet ministers is limited to 30 while the total number of deputy ministers and state ministers should not exceed 40.

However, in the event of a National Government being formed the total number of ministers can be increased with the approval of the Parliament.

The motion was extensively debated in Parliament throughout the day before a vote was taken this evening.

First Tamil in 32 years to lead Sri Lanka opposition

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A Tamil lawmaker became leader of the opposition in Sri Lanka’s parliament for the first time in 32 years on Thursday, in the latest sign of progress towards ethnic reconciliation on the once bitterly divided island.

Rajavarothiam Sampanthan is the first lawmaker from the ethnic minority to lead the opposition since 1983, when Tamil legislators resigned en masse to protest against a statute that compelled them to denounce separatism.

The 82-year-old moderate heads the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which emerged from last month’s election as the third-largest force with 16 seats in the 225-member assembly.

“We shall be loyal to this country and the people of this country,” Sampanthan told the House on Thursday.

“Our primary duty is to ensure that there is an acceptable resolution to the Tamil question.”

AFP

The next opposition leader of Sri Lanka

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TNA’s Sampanthan becomes opposition leader in Sri Lankan parliament MORE
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The Leader of the Opposition by convention leads the largest party not within the government: where one party wins outright this is the party leader of the second largest political party in the House. He or she is normally viewed as an alternative Prime Minister,.. That said any leading MP of the UPFA can become the opposition leader.

President Maithripala Sirisena promises consensual governance

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President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday said his administration would introduce a new political culture and the country would be governed through consensus for the next two years.

`This country has been ruled by two parties from time to time since Independence. One party ruled the country for 35 years and the other for 32 years. I hope to change this political culture and replace the two party system by a government of consensus during my time. I hope all of you will extend your cooperation and assistance to make that effort a success for the betterment of the country and nation,` the President said, presenting the first Statement of Government Policy in Parliament yesterday.

He requested all MPs to pay their attention to find ways and means to reinforce the on-going efforts to reach a consensus on the basis of the accord between two major parties. `In preparing the agenda of the government of consensus, my presidential election manifesto titled, A compassionate governance, a stable country approved by the people of this country will provide the foundation. On that foundation we will build on the plans and programmes envisaged in the UNP s manifesto titled `A New Country in 60 Months: Five Point Plan`, and UPFA s manifesto A Certificate guaranteed for the future , JVP s manifesto `Accord of Conscientiousness` and TNA s election manifesto. The policy document of the government of consensus is being prepared now with comparative studies on those manifestos and it would soon be made public.`

`The identity of a nation or a country is found on its constitution. That is why a constitution is considered supreme. During the 60 years after independence we have adopted three constitutions.

Yet it is so unfortunate that we have not been able to adopt a constitution which enables all of us to agree as a single nation. Since the day the 1978 Constitution was passed, there were various opinions and complaints with regard to the executive presidency and electoral system. I have paid my attention to this matter in my manifesto Compassionate governance, a stable country . Getting the 19th amendment to that constitution passed in parliament was fulfilment of one of the promises I made in that manifesto. Now it is up to this parliament to decide whether we can continue with the executive presidency and if so what its nature should be. One of my other pledges was to amend the electoral system that has been pestering this nation for more than three decades. As you all know the basic foundation towards changing the electoral system is provided with the 20th amendment I have presented. The present parliament is bound by the historic duty of amending the electoral system so it could be acceptable to all political parties and members of the civil society.`

President Sirisena said that it was before new Parliament to take political decisions, preparing policies which would lead the country ahead in post-conflict reconciliation process. `You elected to this parliament have become the shareholders of the supreme task of creating a new political culture which will help us stand as a single nation irrespective of ethnic and religious differences. I as the President am dedicated to provide leadership, guidance and assistance to you all in that regard.

`I believe that human resource is the most valuable resource our country has. It is only by improving the human resources we can develop this country on par with other developed nations in the world. Our country has already achieved middle income earning stage and moving further from there is only through the capacity building of the human resource and converting this country s work force into a trained labour that can accept any challenge in both local and foreign labour market.

`I would like to remind you that the 21st century is the century of Asia. We should make use of Sri Lanka s geo-political location to the maximum in that context of Asia rising in the world. We should prepare our national economic policies keeping this in mind`.

The President said that there had been many neglected areas in economic policy planning. Self-employment and small scale entrepreneurial industries were among them. The new government should focus to remedy such negligence and capitalize on the avenues that strengthen the national economy.

`People voted for my A Compassionate governance, a stable country programme for its main features of doing away with corruption and protection of state resources. Hence one of the main policies of my government is to fight corruption. In that regard, our government will further strengthen the institutional mechanisms available to arrest corruption and waste. We will also not hesitate to take punitive action against those who are accused of corruption and misappropriation of public funds irrespective of their status.`

President Sirisena promised that his government would work to minimise the economic disparities as much as possible. He said that a country could not be called a developed nation if a few rich people were enjoying the dividends of development while the majority remained poor. `Thus, our government will work towards increasing the per capita income and to minimise the economic disparities between the rich and poor in the meantime. Minimizing the economic disparity will also result in expansion of the middle class/

`Many countries in the world had achieved fast development at the cost of environment. Now they had realised the ill-effects of the speedy march towards development. It had resulted in many unintended consequences. Therefore, we will plan our development giving priority to green policies.`

The President said there was a pressing need for national policies which would not change as governments or presidents changed.

He said that action would be taken to ensure that the rights of vulnerable groups, women, children, disabled and elders be safeguarded.

There were some shackles of feudalism still hampering the nation in its efforts to stand up. `There are many backward, traditional vestiges of feudalism in our society. For example, we have noticed how some people become inconvenient when they are requested to say their full name loud because certain surnames indicate their caste identities. I have taken initiative to enable people to enter their surnames in official documents only if they are willing to do so and not to make it compulsory.`

PayPal.Me Peer-to-Peer Payments Service Launched

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PayPal on Tuesday announced the rollout of a new peer-to-peer payments service called PayPal.Me. The service is an easy method to get back the money users had lent, or start a collection drive.

The new PayPal.Me peer-to-peer payments lets users easily name their amount and share a personal link to get paid back. “PayPal.Me makes requesting money from groups of friends, family and colleagues suddenly so much easier and faster. Rather than following up individually, you can email your PayPal.Me link to co-workers to chip in for an engagement present for another co-worker. Or stop asking each of your fellow bridesmaids for bachelorette party payments and just send a group text message with your PayPal.Me link,” said the company’s post.

For instance, a link can be named as paypal.me/ndtvgadgets and can then be sent to groups of friends, family and colleagues using email, instant messenger, social media post, blog, or website. The recipients can then open the link on a wide variety of devices, fill in the amount they want to pay (which was due) and click on send, after which the particular amount is then deducted from their PayPal account and is transferred on to the sender’s account.

The PayPal.Me service for now is available in 18 countries – the US, UK, Germany, Australia, Canada, Russia, Turkey, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria.

The company, according to its recent survey, said that “adults worldwide are owed more than $51 billion in IOUs (unpaid, small debts) from friends and family[…]These billions of dollars go unclaimed simply because people hate spending the time to chase down debts, and have those awkward face-to-face conversations. That same study found that over 50 percent of Americans find it awkward to ask their friends or family to pay them back. But PayPal.Me changes everything about getting paid back.”

PayPal last month teamed up with BlackBerry, the smartphone maker, to allow peer-to-peer (P2P) payments where the conversation is already happening in the BBM app. Using the service, BB10, Android and iOS users can send money securely with PayPal straight from their BBM app. For sending money via BBM, users will have to tap on the “Send Money” icon in the app and connect a PayPal account. You can start sending money once the receiver (whom you intend to send money to) also connects their PayPal account to BBM.

Wall Street slumped after week data from China escalated

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Wall Street slumped more than 2 percent on Tuesday, pushing all three major indexes into the red for the year, after weak data from China escalated fears that the slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy will constrain global growth.

The sell off was broad. All 10 major S&P sectors were lower between 1.8 and 3.4 percent. All 30 Dow components were down between 1.5 and 4 percent.

Data early on Tuesday showed that China’s manufacturing sector shrank at its fastest pace in three years in August. Later in the day, data showed that the pace of growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector slowed in August to its weakest in over two years.

Adding to the nervousness, International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde said global economic growth was now likely to be weaker than had been expected just a few months ago.

The weak data pushed oil prices down more than 7 percent, snapping three days of gains, and also reduced the odds that the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates this month.

Google unveiled a new logo

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Following its corporate reorganisation last month, Google is making another major change – the company on Tuesday unveiled a new logo.

Google’s new logo epitomises the company as it stands today, present on myriad devices rather than its humble roots of a single browser page. Apart from the redesign of the full logo, which while retaining the same colours for the letters features a new font, Google has also reimagined its little blue ‘g’ icon to a four-colour ‘G’.

The updated logo features a sans-serif typeface, similar to the one being used by Google’s newly created holding company, Alphabet. The new logo is already visible on its Search home page, and will roll out across products soon. It is the fifth such logo redesign since Google started in 1998.

India clinch a historic series victory at Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka all out for 265 on the final day of the third Test. First Test series win under Virat Kohli’s captaincy.
Sri Lanka were 249 for seven in their second innings post-tea session on the fifth day of the final cricket Test against Sri Lanka on Tuesday. Sri Lanka still need another 137 runs to win this Test.

Right-hand batsman Angelo Mathews carried the Lankan side on his back as he scored 110 on the trophy-deciding match between the two countries. Indian pacer Ishant Sharma seured his 200th Test wicket as he bagged Mathews by lbw.

With just three wickets in Sri Lanka’s pocket, India inches closer to a series victory.

Until lunch Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews provided some resistance with a half-century. He was batting on 56, while Kusal Perera was on 12 at the break, still needing 252 runs for victory.

Having started the day at an overnight score of 67 for three, Sri Lanka added 67 more runs to the total, while losing two wickets in the morning session.

With the ball still relatively new, Ravichandran Ashwin (1/22) completed his over from day four evening and was immediately taken off. The pacers were then deployed with Umesh Yadav (2/41) and Ishant Sharma (2/26) beginning the proceedings.

Ishant should have taken a wicket in his very first over of the morning, when Mathews edged a delivery behind, but it was off a no ball.

The Lankan skipper then denied any straight chance for the rest of the session, as he went on to score his 23rd Test half-century off 118 balls. But prior to that, there were some moments of disappointment for the hosts, as two of their main batsmen got out to poor shots on a day five pitch that was still easing out.

Kaushal Silva (27 runs, 50b, 4X4) was the first to get out, in the third full over of the day. Yadav continued his short-ball tactics but aimed it better at the right-handed batsman, who didn’t find too much space to properly pull the delivery. Instead, he simply gave a catch to Cheteshwar Pujara at short midwicket and he made no mistake.

He had put on 53 runs for the fourth wicket with Mathews.

Lahiru Thirimanne (12) came to the crease looking to make amends for a lean series. He started full of intent to score runs and helped Lanka cross the 100-mark in the 36th over.

After which Mathews also scored his half-century.But his problems began when spin was re-introduced with Amit Mishra (0/16).

Both spinners were deployed in tandem thereafter, and Ashwin struck in his very first over of the new spell.

Thirimanne looked to play against the turn and only managed to lob a leading edge caught by KL Rahul at silly point.

This was the fourth time in six innings in this series that Ashwin dismissed the left-handed batsman. Perera and Mathews then batted out the rest of the session before lunch.

Despite an easier pitch as compared to the past four days, Lanka are still staring down the barrel, even as India look to push on for their first overseas Test series win, since beating West Indies in 2011.

India, who were all out for 274 in their second innings yesterday, had an overall lead of 385 runs.

The series is pegged at 1-1 after the hosts won the first Test in Galle by 63 runs, and then India came back strongly with a 248-run victory, at the P Sara Oval in the second game of the three-match series.

Democracy on bumpy ride

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The TNA has thrown its hat into the ring for the Opposition Leader s post. The UPFA will cease to be an Opposition party if it joins forces with the UNP to form a national government. Therefore, the TNA, with 16 MPs elected on the ITAK ticket, demands the aforesaid post.

The JVP has also staked its claim for the position of the Opposition Leader. Those who are opposed to the TNA politically maintain that it lacks a national reach and, therefore, is not qualified to lead the Opposition. But, there is no constitutional provision to that effect and what really matters is the number of seats in Parliament.

President Maithripala Sirisena sought to justify the appointment of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister following the Jan. 08 presidential election on the grounds that the Opposition coalition which backed his candidature had asked for a popular mandate for that purpose. Today, the SLFP has decided to join a UNP-led national government though the UPFA coalition, of which it is only a constituent, told the electorate, in no uncertain terms, before the August 17 general election, that it would not join any government with the UNP as a partner. About 4.7 million people endorsed its position!

What we are witnessing today is antithetical to good governance. Some candidates rejected by the people at the recent general election have been appointed to Parliament through the backdoor and the party which the electors have relegated to the Opposition is going to exercise power as a partner of the government. When Mahinda Rajapaksa lost the last presidential election President Sirisena et al asked him to respect the people s verdict and go home. While Rajapaksa was making a bid to secure premiership President Sirisena told him that there were other SLFP seniors who were eligible for that post. But, the President has appointed a bunch of defeated candidates to Parliament at the expense of more deserving nominees on the UPFA s National List! Such action is not only tantamount to a distortion of the will of the electorate but also bound to lead to a severe erosion of public faith in the electoral system.

It is a travesty of democracy for a party sharing power with another in Parliament or any other political institution for that matter to act as the Opposition. In the last Parliament, towards the latter part of its term, the Opposition and the arbitrarily appointed government became political Siamese twins. The next Parliament which will last at least four and a half years, unless, of course, its members decide otherwise, should have an Opposition which is not an appendage of the government. A dichotomy between the UPFA and the SLFP which did not contest the August 17 election is not possible.

The Opposition is to a government what a brake system is to a juggernaut. A robust countervailing force is a prerequisite for protecting democracy and safeguarding public interest. In this country governments are notorious for stealing public funds and abusing power and the public needs the help of a set of disgruntled, jealous thieves to catch others of their ilk or at least raise the alarm. The alleged corrupt deals under the Rajapaksa government would not have come to light if the UNP had been part of the UPFA government.

Attempts being made to form a UNP-SLFP joint administration are sure to run into a legal snag over the number of ministers to be appointed. It was the UPFA and not the SLFP which contested the last general election. The 19th Amendment does not provide for the Cabinet to be expanded in the event of a party which has not contested a general election joining forces with the winner to form a national government. This problem can be avoided by limiting the Cabinet to 30 members. But, in such an eventuality, there won t be enough ministerial posts for the UNP to share with the SLFP!

Whether President Sirisena will succeed in wresting control of the UPFA s decision-making body and getting it to do his bidding so as to clear the constitutional hurdle at issue remains to be seen. All indications are that there will be a legal wrangle. If the UPFA officially joins the national government on the cards, of its own volition or under duress, it will have to cede its right to the post of the Opposition Leader.

The SLFP has sought to justify its decision to join a national government by claiming that the two main parties should work together if the country is to achieve progress. Its MPs do not necessarily have to savour power for this objective to be achieved. The SLFP can extend conditional support to the UNP for the sake of the country without asking for ministerial posts.

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