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Officials aim to drive out air pollution with rain in Thailand.

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Authorities in Thailand are planning to cause artificial rains to drive out severe episodes of air pollution in the capital, Bangkok.

Harmful particles have reached 102 micrograms per cubic metre in recent days, well above a ceiling set by the World Health Organization.



The WHO recommends a maximum daily exposure level of 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

Pralong Dumrongthai is Director General of the Pollution Control Department in Thailand.

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“More than 50% of the problem comes from the diesel cars we’re trying to control. Secondly, the practice of burns represents 35%. The governor of Bangkok has ordered the 50 districts to prevent burns during the harvest season”, he said.

Authorities say the technique will involve dropping vast quantities of chemicals in the clouds to cause the formation of ice crystals that accelerate the break-up of showers. They are also considering producing electric vehicles to end air pollution.

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“In Bangkok, there are 9.8 million car. 2.5 million of them are diesel cars, which is a huge number. But preventing them from entering Bangkok is the right solution. As civil servants, we must therefore find other protection plans”, Dumrongthai added.

Thailand -based Greenpeace Director said this is the worst episode of pollution in a year. And he’s not certain about the strategy by Thai officials to end the menace.

He also added that power plants, which are very coal-intensive, must be required to make greater use of clean energy.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Got Pain? A Virtual Swim With Dolphins May Help Melt It Away

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Source: npr- Virtual reality is not new. But, as people search for alternative ways to manage pain — and reduce reliance on pills — VR is attracting renewed attention.

Imagine, for a moment you’ve been transported to a sunlit lagoon. And, suddenly, it’s as if you’re immersed in the warm water and swimming. That’s what Tom Norris experiences when he straps on his VR headset.

“It’s fantastic, I really feel like I’m there,” says Norris, who is 70 years old, retired from the military, and lives in Los Angeles with his wife. As dolphins frolic and swim by in the virtual scene, “I get a strong feeling of pleasure, relaxation and peace,” he says.

It doesn’t take long to produce that effect — about 10 minutes or so, via the headset.

Norris is no stranger to pain. He’s got chronic pain through his spine, back and hips, from injuries that go back years.

Ever since he was introduced to virtual reality, he’s been hooked. In addition to swimming with dolphins, he’s tried other VR experiences, such as wilderness walks.

Forest Bathing: A Retreat To Nature Can Boost Immunity And Mood

Forest Bathing: A Retreat To Nature Can Boost Immunity And Mood

“I relax. My attention is diverted and it makes the pain more manageable,” he says. Norris was on his deck when we spoke, drinking a morning cup of coffee and watching the hummingbirds. “Pain is part of my life,” he told me.

He uses lots of tools to help him cope, he says, including peer support groups, which he helps lead. But he says he finds VR particularly helpful. For him, the feeling of relaxation and ease that comes from a virtual swim with dolphins tends to linger for several days.

Can You Reshape Your Brain’s

Norris isn’t alone in his positive experience. A study published this month in the journal PLOS ONE is just the latest to document that an immersive, virtual reality experience can be an effective strategy for reducing pain.

VR “changes the way we perceive the pain,” explains study author Brennan Spiegel, a physician and the director of Cedars-Sinai Health Services Research in Los Angeles.

The research was done in a hospital where participants were undergoing treatment for various conditions; some were experiencing pain linked to cancer and others had orthopedic pain. “We divided the patients into two groups,” Spiegel explains.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles has been testing the value of virtual reality devices in hospital settings for a number of years.

Courtesy of Cedars-Sinai

One group tried VR. They used Samsung Oculus headsets that were each fitted with a phone that had a VR app. Patients could select from a library of 21 VR experiences available on the app.

They were free to use the VR devices as much as they liked, but were advised to aim for three daily sessions, 10 minutes per session. The other group of patients got to watch a health and wellness channel on TV, as much as they wanted.

“We found that virtual reality reduced pain by about three times as much as watching TV did,” Spiegel says. Using a zero to 10 pain scale, the virtual reality experience led to a 2 point drop in pain, compared to a half-point drop for watching TV.

Spiegel’s study was partly funded by a grant from Applied VR, a company that sells VR software, but the company played no role in the conduct, data collection, data interpretation, or write-up of the study, he says.

It’s not exactly clear how VR works to help reduce pain perception, but pain specialists say there are likely multiple explanations. Distraction in just one element.

“When the mind is deeply engaged in an immersive experience, it becomes difficult to perceive stimuli outside of the field of attention,” Spiegel and his collaborators write in their journal paper. In other words, when something captures our attention and uses all our senses, we focus on it. It’s like a spotlight — and everything else falls into darkness — at last temporarily.

So, a virtual swim with the dolphins can overwhelm our visual, auditory and other senses. “VR is thought to create an immersive distraction that restricts the brain from processing pain,” the authors conclude.

The study adds to other evidence pointing toward potential benefits of VR to manage pain. Going back more than 15 years, studies have shown the technique to be useful in a range of settings — from helping people cope with anxiety to helping reduce acute pain during medical procedures, during physical therapy or during dental procedures. And, there’s some evidence VR can help with chronic pain, too.

Still, there are some unanswered questions, says Zachary Rosenthal, a clinical psychologist at Duke University who has been involved in research on VR’s effect on pain. “Distraction is helpful for pain,” he says. “That’s an understood phenomenon. … But why should VR be better than any other kind of distraction?” he wonders.

Spiegel’s research “starts to answer this question,” says Rosenthal. “I do think this study moves the needle forward.”

If you’re new to virtual reality, Spiegel has some advice: “It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor first, whenever self-treating symptoms. But in general, it is safe to use VR at home,” he says. About 5% to 10% of people who try it get cybersickness, which is basically a feeling of dizziness or vertigo, similar to motion sickness. So, it’s good to be aware of this risk.

“For people who own an Oculus Go or Oculus Quest [headset], I suggest Nature Trek, which is an outstanding set of content that is peaceful and meditative” for the treatment of pain, says Spiegel, who has no financial ties to the company. And there are other companies that make a variety of software specifically aimed at easing pain.

“For cheap and easy access to VR experiences, you can simply visit YouTube and search its massive library of free VR content,” Spiegel says. “If you want a virtual trip to the beach, type ‘VR beach’ into the YouTube search engine. Or ‘VR forest.’ It’s all there for the taking.”

VR is certainly not a panacea, but it can be another tool in the pain management toolkit. Spiegel and his collaborators say there’s still a lot to learn as to which types of VR may be most effective.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Ex-Sudan president admits receiving millions from Saudis, court hears

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Source: Reuters- Sudan’s ousted president Omar Hassan al-Bashir acknowledged receiving millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia, a police detective told a court on Monday at the start of a corruption trial that many Sudanese thought they would never see.

Bashir listened to the testimony without comment, sitting in a metal cage and wearing traditional white robes and a turban in his first appearance in a Khartoum courtroom.

He is charged with illicit possession of foreign currency and accepting gifts in an unofficial manner. Bashir’s lawyer dismissed the accusations, telling reporters after the hearing it was usual for leaders to hold amounts of foreign currency.

The veteran leader spoke to confirm his name and age. When asked about his residence, Bashir laughed and said: “formerly the airport district, at army headquarters but now Kobar prison,” referring to the detention complex where he sent thousands of opponents during his rule.

The Saudi government communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the testimony.

Bashir weathered multiple rebellions, economic crises, U.S. sanctions and coup attempts until he was overthrown by the military in April after mass protests against his 30-year rule.

His trial will seen as a test of how serious authorities are about trying to erase the legacy of a rule marked by widespread violence, wars, economic collapse and the secession of South Sudan.

The 75-year-old, who seized power in a coup in 1989, arrived at the courthouse in a convoy with military and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces soldiers.

Family members shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is the Greatest) and he raised his hand in greeting from the courtroom cage.

A small number of family members were permitted inside the cage after the session ended to speak with him. The next hearing was scheduled for Saturday.

SAUDI MONEY

Police Brigadier General Ahmed Ali Mohamed, a detective in the team investigating Bashir, testified that Bashir told them he had received $25 million from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, known as MbS.

The detective cited Bashir as saying MbS gave him the money for spending outside the Sudanese state budget and that it was spent on donations, without going into further details on who received it.

Sums of $351,000, more than 6 million Euros and 5 million Sudanese pounds were found at Bashir’s home when he was arrested, a judicial source said at the time.

Mohamed said Bashir also told investigators he received $65 million dollars, in two separate payments, from former Saudi King Abdullah.

Bashir’s lawyer Ahmed Ibrahim told reporters: “There is no information or evidence with regards to the accusations of illicit gains aimed at Bashir.

“Anyone in his occupation [has] to have foreign currency and it was in a room attached to his office in his presidential residence,” he added.

Bashir was also charged in May with incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters, and prosecutors also want him questioned over suspected money laundering and terrorism financing.

Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of masterminding genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region.

On Saturday, Sudan’s ruling military council, which took over after Bashir’s ouster, signed a power-sharing agreement with the main opposition coalition, paving the way for a transitional government and eventual elections.

The pact sets up a sovereign council as the highest authority in the country, but largely delegates executive powers to the cabinet of ministers.

The sovereign council was due to be sworn in on Monday. But the spokesman for the Transitional Military Council, Lieutenant General Shams El Din Kabbashi, said the formation of the new ruling body would be delayed by 48 hours on the request of the opposition coalition.

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