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The Presidential Cognitive Test




by Vijaya Chandrasoma

If you can identify an elephant or a hippo from a picture, or count backwards from 100 in reductions of seven, and know the date, month and year it is today, then you too are eminently qualified to be the President of the United States.

Donald Trump has been bragging that he has aced the test he was recently “persuaded” to take at the Walter Reed Hospital after displaying behaviour more erratic, even nuttier than usual, of signs of probable onset of dementia.

The test under reference, called the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), was created by neurologist, Dr. Ziad Nasreddin, of the Alzheimer Society of Canada. “It’s not an IQ test”, said Dr. Nasreddin, “It’s supposed to help physicians detect early signs of Alzheimer’s, and it’s supposed to be easy for someone who has no cognitive impairment.”

There is always that one kid who was with you in school who brags, usually after a few drinks, that he had aced every test at school, claims to have won the most prestigious awards the school had to offer and scored a ton in the big match which he played only in his dreams. Proving that old maxim “The older we get, the better we were.” Donald Trump is the superlative American persona of this kid.

The MoCA is a screening test designed to evaluate various cognitive functions: attention and concentration, executive functions, memory, language, visuo-constructional skills, conceptual thinking, simple mathematical calculations and orientation.

The 30 questions, in seven parts, are designed to assess multiple aspects of thinking typically impacted by dementia:

=Connect numbered dots in sequence, and draw three-dimensional shapes (like a cube)

=Identify familiar animals (a camel, a hippo, an elephant)

=Draw a clock, including all of the numbers, and set the time to 10 minutes past 11

=Repeat sequence backwards from 100 to 0 in reductions of 7

=Listen to a series of five words and repeat them, in order, a short time later

=Speak and understand whole sentences

I am really surprised that Trump passed this. The following are real sentences Trump spoke during a recent speech, providing valuable advice on household implements, verbatim:

“I did a lot of this sinks, showers, all of this stuff. I did a lot of it. No water comes out. You have some areas where there’s so much water you don’t know what to do with it. You turn on the shower, you’re not allowed to have any water anymore.

“Dishwashers, the dishwasher, right? You press it. Remember the dishwasher, you press it, there’d be like an explosion. Five minutes later you open it up and the steam pours out, the dishes…. now you press it 12 times, women tell me again.

“Well, we like the old light bulb better. I said, I like it better, and so what I did is you can either one. If you want to buy the newer kind you can and if you want to look very handsome or beautiful by buying the older kind like I do. It probably gives a better light whatever it is and you’ll be able to spend a lot less money on a light bulb. I mean, it sounds like little but it’s big stuff. OK. It’s big stuff.”

This is the test that Trump says he aced, and even the doctors at the Walter Reed were amazed at how well he had performed. Trump claims they said, “That’s an unbelievable thing. Rarely does anyone do what you just did.” Perhaps these doctors had set a very low bar for Trump and were shocked he didn’t provide conclusive evidence of Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

At a recent interview on Fox News, veteran newsman, Chris Wallace, mercilessly exposed Trump’s penchant for delusion. When Trump said he got a perfect result on the MoCA test, that he had answered all 35 questions. Wallace, who had a copy of the test with him, pointed out that the test contained only 30 questions. This means that Trump gave himself credit for filling in the information required at the top of the test: name, education (about which I have no doubt he lied), sex, date of birth and current date!

He was so proud of his performance that he challenged Joe Biden, his Democratic rival, to take the test with him. “Let’s take the test right now. Let’s go down, Joe and I will take a test right now. Let him take the same test I took.”

This challenge was the Sri Lankan schoolyard equivalent of “Come for a fight”! Fine for the third form at Royal College, but this is the President of the United States, folks.

Wallace told him at the interview that he also had taken the same cognitive test when he heard that Trump had passed it. “It’s not the hardest test. They have a picture and it says what’s that? and it’s an elephant.

Trump got hysterical. “No, no, no. It’s all misrepresentation. Because yes, the first few questions are easy, but I’ll bet you couldn’t even answer the last five questions. I’ll bet you couldn’t, they get very hard, the last five questions.”

At yet another interview with Fox News Contributor, Dr. Marc Siegel, Trump described the hardest question at great length, one that no one but a stable genius could answer correctly, viz. Listen to these five words: PERSON, WOMAN, MAN, CAMERA, TV. Then repeat these words, in the same order, 15 minutes later. Trump somehow convinced himself, however, that (the test) is akin to a MENSA exam, and his ability to score a perfect score is proof of his genius. “The poor guy seems stuck, unable to shake his preoccupation with it.”

Trump is so obsessed with this test, as he needs voters to believe it proves beyond any doubt that he is cognitively capable of doing his job. Which probably is an indication he is trying to convince himself that, in the alternative world in which he lives, America is doing wonderfully well under his “strong leadership”.

Also, this obsession may show that he is beginning to understand why his popularity rates are tanking. His current desperation is making him take more dangerous, illegal, even unconstitutional actions to win re-election by any means. He has recently deployed federal troops to states run by Democratic governors, without requests from their governors, indeed in spite of their resistance, to “subdue” protestors against police brutality. Protests which have been escalating in all parts of the nation since George Floyd was murdered on May 25, eight weeks ago.

Trump is following Hitler’s playbook to the letter; Hitler sent his Storm Troopers known as the Brownshirts, the Nazi Party militia, to serve as the Nazi army to quell German protests in the 1930s.

Three of the last and most difficult questions on the test were:

=Serial 7 subtraction starting at 100: 93, 86, 79…..

=Fluency: Name maximum number of words in one minute that begin with the letter F (passing grade – 11 words)

=Orientation: Date, Month, Year, Day, Place, City (This last question in the test was worth six points of the total 30!)

My six-year old grandson will ace this test, no problem.

I am, of course, praying (as fervently as only an atheist can pray) that Trump will not win a second four year-term or postpone/cancel elections by illegal means or refuse to leave the White House if he is defeated at the polls. But I suspect there’s a nagging fear in every journalist’s mind that they will have to buckle down to some serious hard work next year if a real president is elected. The jokes will be no longer be writing themselves on a daily basis.


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Lingering world disorder and the UN’s role



The 9/11 Twin Tower horror in New York.

Russia could very well be questioning the legitimacy of the UN system by currently challenging the right of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to arbitrate in the conflicting accusations of genocide brought against each other by it and Ukraine. Russia has countered Ukraine’s charge of genocide, occasioned by its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, by accusing the latter of perpetrating the same crime in the rebel region of Eastern Ukraine, which is seen as being within the Russian sphere of influence.

As is known, when Russia did not participate in a hearing sanctioned by the ICJ on the charge of genocide brought against it in March 2022, the ICJ called on Russia to halt the invasion forthwith. Russia, however, as reported in some sections of the international media, reacted by claiming that the ICJ has ‘no jurisdiction over the case since Ukraine’s request does not come within the scope of the Genocide Convention.’ The main sides to the Ukraine conflict are at present reportedly stating their positions in the ICJ with regard to the correctness of this claim.

Whereas, the law-abiding the world over would have expected the ICJ’s word to prevail in the Ukraine conflict, this does not seem to be the case. More precisely, it is the moral authority of the UN that is being questioned by Russia. Given this situation, the observer cannot be faulted for believing that Russia is ‘sticking to its guns’ of favouring a military solution in the Ukraine.

Considering the foregoing and the continuing lawlessness in other geographical regions, such as South-West Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa, the commentator is justified in taking the position that little or nothing has been gained by the world community by way of fostering international peace over the decades.

Most distressing is the UN’s seeming helplessness in the face of international disorder, bloodshed and war. The thorny questions from the 9/11 New York twin-tower terror attacks, for instance, are remaining with humanity.

One of the most dreaded questions is whether the UN Charter has been rendered a dead letter by the forces of lawlessness and those wielders of overwhelming military might who couldn’t care less for moral scruples. Those state actors who display these traits risk being seen as destruction-oriented subversives or terrorists who are impervious to civilizational values.

Commentators are right when they point to the need for UN reform. This is, in fact, long overdue. Of the original ‘Big Five’ who went on to constitute the permanent membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC) at the end of World War 11 and who oversaw the establishment of the UN, only the US and China retain major power status in the true sense of the phrase today.

The rest of the original heavyweights cannot be considered ‘spent forces’, but there are other powers of more recent origin who could easily vie for their positions. Some of these are India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and Indonesia. Inducting some of the latter into the UNSC could help constitute a more globally representative UNSC. That is, they will help put together an UNSC which is more faithfully reflective of the current global power distribution.

Theoretically, a more widely representative and inclusive UNSC could be a check against the arbitrary exercise of power by the more ambitious, expansionary and authoritarian members of the UNSC but a foremost challenge facing the UN is to induce such new members of the UNSC into representing the vital and legitimate interests of the ordinary publics within these states and internationally. Minus such representation of the world’s powerless UN reform could come to nought. In fact, this could be described as a prime challenge before the UN which could decide its enduring relevance.

Admittedly, the challenge is complex and defies easy resolution. Not all the countries that are seen as prospective UNSC members are democratic in orientation. That is, they would not be people-friendly or egalitarian. Most of them are governed by power elites that are part of what has been described as the ‘Transnational Capitalist Class’ and could be expected to be repressive and parasitic rather than caring or egalitarian. How then could they be expected to be committed to re-distributive justice within their countries, for example?

In the short and medium terms, the UN system could bring into being systems and institutions that could make it comparatively difficult for the power elites of the world to be parasitic, exploitive, self-serving and unconscionable. Strengthening and giving added teeth to systems that could prove effective against money-laundering and allied practices of self-aggrandizement is one way out.

Ironically, it is perhaps the UN that could lay the basis for and provide these mechanisms most effectively and non-obtrusively. It would need to work more with governments and publics on these fronts and lay the foundation for the necessary accountability procedures within states. It should prepare for the long haul.

In the longer term, it’s the coming into existence of democracy-conscious governments and ruling strata that must be sought. Here too the UN could play a significant role. Its numerous agencies could prove more proactive and dynamic in inculcating and teaching the core values of democracy to particularly poor and vulnerable populations that could fall prey to anti-democratic, parochial political forces that thrive on division and discord.

UN aid could be even directly tied to the establishment and strengthening of democratic institutions in particularly impoverished countries and regions. Thus will the basis be laid for younger leaders with a strong democratic vision and programmatic alternative for their countries. Hopefully, such issues would get some airing in the current UN General Assembly sessions.

Accordingly, the broad-basing of the UNSC is integral to UN reform but the progressive world cannot stop there. It would need to ensure the perpetuation of the UN system by helping to bring into being polities that would respect this cardinal international organization which has as its prime aim the fostering of world peace. Democracy-conscious populations are an urgent need and systems of education that advocate the core values of democracy need to be established and strengthened worldwide.

The coming into being of rivals to the current Western-dominated world order, such as the BRICS bloc, needs to be welcomed but unless they are people-friendly and egalitarian little good will be achieved. Besides, undermining the UN and its central institutions would prove utterly counter-productive.

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Country Roads …concert for children



Sponsors and Country Music Foundation officials - from left: Dmitri Cooray (Jetwing), Maljini Jayasekera (Cargills), Feizal Samath (President CMF), Susaan Bandara (LOLC), Deepal Perera (SriLankan Airlines) and Spencer Manualpillai (Dilmah)

I’ve always wondered why those who have hit the big time in their profession, as singers, have not cared to reach out to the needy.

They generally glorify themselves, especially on social media, not only with their achievements, but also with their outfits, etc. – all status symbols.

I’m still to see some of the big names grouping together to help the thousands who are suffering, at this point in time – children, especially.

However, I need to commend the Country Music Foundation of Sri Lanka for tirelessly working to bring some relief, and happiness, to children, in this part of the world.

Country Roads is said to be Sri Lanka’s and South Asia’s longest running charity concert for children, and this year, they say, the show will be even better.

This concert has consistently donated 100% of its proceeds to children’s charities in Sri Lanka. Over the past 35 years, this has resulted in several million rupees worth of aid, all of which has contributed directly to addressing the most pressing issues faced by children in Sri Lanka, a common practice since the concert’s first edition was held in 1988.

In 2014, the concert contributed Rs. 500,000 to Save the Children Sri Lanka, to support its mother-and-child programme for local plantations. During the same year, another Rs. 100,000 was given to the Oxonian Heart Foundation, to help treat impoverished and destitute children suffering from heart disease, while a further Rs. 100,000 was donated to a poor family caring for a special needs child. In commemoration of its landmark 25th anniversary concert in 2013, CMF donated a million rupees to aid in a special UNICEF project.

Astrid Brook from the UK

The 2023 musical extravaganza will feature the bright lights and panoramic cityscape of Colombo, as its backdrop, as it will be held at the picturesque Virticle by Jetwing, which is situated high above the city, on the 30th floor of the Access Towers building, in Union Place, Colombo 2.

The 35th anniversary Country Roads concert for children will take place on Saturday, 7th October, 2023.

Feizal Samath, President of the Country Music Foundation (CMF), the concert organisers, commented: “We are very much looking forward to this event as it’s being held after a lapse of five years, due to unavoidable circumstances.”

Fan favourites the Mavericks from Germany and Astrid Brook from the UK will once again return to headline the 2023 concert, and joining them on stage will be local outfit Cosmic Rays, as well as the Country Revival Band, with Feizal and Jury.

Dirk (from the Mavericks) has this to say to his Sri Lankan fans: “2018 was the last time we were in your beautiful country with the Mavericks band. Then Corona came and with it a long break. I missed you very much during this time.

“It has now been five years since my last visit to Sri Lanka. A lot has changed. The sponsorship that has always made this trip possible for us is gone. But we didn’t just want to end this tradition, which we have learned to love so much since 1992. That’s why we’re travelling to Sri Lanka this year entirely at our own expense, because it’s an affair of the heart for us.

Mavericks from Germany

“We very much hope that it won’t be the last Maverick performance in Sri Lanka. We hope that this unique journey will continue, that there will also be a Country Roads concert in the years to come.”

The 35th anniversary edition of the Country Roads concert for children will be supported by Official Venue Virticle by Jetwing, and Official Airline SriLankan Airlines, as well as its other partners, Jetwing Colombo Seven, Cargills, LOLC, and Firefly.

Tickets are currently available, for a charitable donation of Rs 2,000 each, at Cargills Food City outlets at Kirulapone, Kohuwela (Bernards), Majestic City, Mount Lavinia (junction) and Staples Street.

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Healthy, Glowing Skin



Give your skin a boost by including the following into your diet:

* Avocados:

Avocados contain healthy fats which can help your skin stay moisturised and firm.

They also contain vitamin C and E – two important nutrients that your body need to support healthy skin and fight free radical formation.

Avocados are also rich in biotin, a B vitamin that some nutritionists believe can help promote healthy skin and hair. A deficiency of biotin can lead to skin problems, such as rashes, ache, psoriasis, dermatitis and overall itchiness.

* Carrots:

Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which fights against sunburns, cell death, and wrinkles. Vitamin A also adds a healthy, warm glow to your skin.

You can get vitamin A by consuming provitamin A through fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based products. Your body then converts beta-carotene into vitamin A to protect your skin from the sun.

Provitamin A can also be found in oranges, spinach, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, bell peppers, broccoli and more.

* Dark Chocolate:

Dark chocolate is beneficial for your skin because cocoa powder boasts a bunch of antioxidants. These antioxidants hydrate and smoothen your skin, making your skin less sensitive to sunburn and improves the blood flow of your skin. Make a healthy choice by opting for a bar of dark chocolate with 70% cocoa for more antioxidants and lesser added sugar.

* Green Tea:

Green tea has been said to protect the skin against external stressors and ageing. This is because it is antioxidant-rich and contains catechins that protect your skin, reduce redness, increase hydration, and improve elasticity.

A diet rich in antioxidants along with adequate hydration may even out your skin texture, strengthen your skin barrier and improve your overall skin health.

Avoid adding milk to green tea as the combination can reduce the effects of the antioxidants present in green tea.

Additional tips for healthy skin…

Don’t forget to stay hydrated because water plays a big part in the appearance of your skin. Water ensures your skin has enough moisture, which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps with nutrient absorption, removal of toxins and blood circulation.

Besides food and water, it is important to observe proper hygiene. This means no touching your face until you’ve washed your hands. Your hands carry more bacteria than you think and the occasional touch here and there can add up. After a long day out, cleanse your face thoroughly.

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