Learning new language 'slows brain aging', European Commission proposes freeze of South Stream, Russia and US in talks on new ISS projects, Syrian vote deemed a 'tactical victory' for Russia, Turkey restores access to YouTube, US defends stance on Palestinian government.
Moskovskiy Komsomolets writes that according to a Scottish study, Learning a second language can have a positive effect on the brain, effectively slowing its aging. The daily notes that the age at which a second language is learned is not important – in other words, even adults may reap health benefits stemming from studying a new language. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have finally published analyzed data which was gathered for almost 75 years; a total of 835 residents of Edinburgh have participated in the study. They have engaged in cognitive tests: for the first time in 1947 at the age of 11 and for the second time between 2008 and 2010, when they have passed the 70 year old mark. 195 studied a second language before adulthood and 65 after; both groups tested much better in the second trial than those who spoke only one language, the article notes. Authors highlight that a positive effect was evident even among those subjects who learned a new language after 30; some even took up a new language in their senior years, and yet the effect was present.
RBC Daily reports that the European Commission has proposes a temporary halt of the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline from Russia to western Europe bypassing Ukraine until the project meets the requirements of the so-called Third Energy Package. The daily quotes Sabine Berger, spokesperson for energy commissioner Günther Oettinger, who stressed that EU was not blocking South Stream, but only wanted it to be up to norms of the European Union. “Early this year a workgroup with members of the European Commission and a Russian party was established; two meetings were held. However, disputing the Third Energy Package in the WTO Russia undermines the basis of this workgroup. Thus the commission proposed to freeze South Stream project until it satisfies European Commission's legislation.” The spokesperson added that the project may be altered depending on the priorities of EU's energy security policy. The daily reminds that Russia has initiated a WTO legal inquiry into the Third Energy Package, which prohibits gas extraction companies from owning major pipelines.
Izvestia reports that Russia and the United States are currently discussing the future of joint scientific research and cooperative use of equipment on Russia and American modules of the International Space Station. The newspaper quotes Olegn Orlov, deputy director of the Institute for Medical and Biological Problems, who said, that despite tensions between the two countries, Russia's Space agency has ordered intensification of the scientific missions on board of the ISS. “We're ready for this. We're discussing the possibility of consolidating the resources of the ISS with American Partners to make some of research a joint undertaking. Scientists would be able to use facilities that we and our partners have. We can also discuss more active engagement of the crew." The daily reminds that NASA previously announced that due to the Ukraine situation the agency was suspending all contacts with Russian governmental organizations excluding the ISS program – the article notes that the United States simply has no choice as the only way they can access it is through the Soyuz spacecraft.
The Moscow Times reports that Syrian presidential election voting took place Tuesday in territories controlled by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, following a string of victories against rebel troops. Experts viewed the vote as an attempt by Assad to boost his perceived legitimacy at home and abroad. The daily suggests that though the presidential election marks a short-term success for the ruling regime of war-torn Syria and its geopolitical patron Russia, it does not signify a decisive victory, Russian analysts said. The election will not enhance Assad's legitimacy in the eyes of the Western and Arab leaders that oppose him, experts said. However, they will hold the symbolic significance for Assad of proving his resilience. When civil strife hit a boiling point in 2011, the regime's days appeared to be numbered, said analysts interviewed by the daily. However, this resilience scores points for Russia, Syria's longtime geopolitical ally, and enables it to to publicly treat Assad as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, said Alexander Shumilin, head of the Center for the Analysis of Middle East Conflicts at the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies in Moscow.
Turkey's Telecom regulator removed an official order blocking access to YouTube from its website on Tuesday after the country's top court ruled last week that the ban was a breach of human rights, The Guardian writes. The daily reminds that blocks on access to YouTube and Twitter were imposed after illicit audio recordings, supposedly revealing corruption in Prime Minister Erdoğan's inner circle, were leaked on the sites. The block on access to Twitter was lifted in April. The ban on YouTube was imposed on 27 March in the buildup to local elections after a tape of top security officials discussing possible military intervention in Syria was leaked. The newspaper writes that Erdoğan condemned the tape recording, which followed a series of other leaked wiretaps, as an act of treason. He subsequently emerged from local elections on 30 March with his popularity largely intact. Meanwhile, Turkey's highest court, deliberating appeals submitted by individuals challenging the ban, last week ruled that the block was a violation of the right to freedom of speech.
On Tuesday State Department spokesperson Marie Harf read a lengthy statement defending the U.S. position on the new Palestinian government even before reporters could ask her about harsh criticism from Israeli officials, the Washington Post writes. She stressed that the announced lineup of ministers includes none who are members of the militant Palestinian group that has advocated Israel’s destruction. The new coalition reunites the moderate Fatah faction — which has held peace talks with Israel — with Hamas. Palestinian leaders believed that the split was a major stumbling block to the goal of statehood and that a unified government would be stronger. The newspaper reminds that Israel called the American position a slap in the face. Members of Congress quickly agreed, and two Republican senators called on the administration to reconsider aid immediately. The Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington issued a statement commending the U.S. position.