Decoding Brain Waves Helps Identify Music, New Study Suggests

This undated image of the human brain was taken through scanning technology. REUTERS/FILE
This undated image of the human brain was taken through scanning technology. REUTERS/FILE
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Decoding Brain Waves Helps Identify Music, New Study Suggests

This undated image of the human brain was taken through scanning technology. REUTERS/FILE
This undated image of the human brain was taken through scanning technology. REUTERS/FILE

A new technique created by researchers at the University of Essex for monitoring brain waves can identify the music someone is hearing. The study was published on January 19, in the journal Scientific Reports.

The researchers hope the project could lead to helping people with severe communication disabilities such as locked-in syndrome or stroke sufferers by decoding language signals within their brains through non-invasive techniques.

Dr. Ian Daly from Essex's School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, who led the research, said, “This method has many potential applications. We have shown we can decode music, which suggests that we may one day be able to decode language from the brain.”

While there have been successful previous studies monitoring and reconstructing acoustic information from brain waves, many have used more invasive methods such as electrocortiography (ECoG), which involves placing electrodes inside the skull to monitor the actual surface of the brain.

Essex scientists wanted to find a less invasive way of decoding acoustic information from signals in the brain to identify and reconstruct a piece of music someone was listening to.

The research used a combination of two non-invasive methods—fMRI, which measures blood flow through the entire brain, and electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures what is happening in the brain in real time—to monitor a person's brain activity while they are listening to a piece of music.

Using a deep learning neural network model, the data was translated to reconstruct and identify the piece of music. Music is a complex acoustic signal, sharing many similarities with natural language, so the model could potentially be adapted to translate speech.

The eventual goal of this strand of research would be to translate thought, which could offer an important aid in the future for people who struggle to communicate, such as those with locked-in syndrome.

During the study, the participants listened to a series of 40-second pieces of simple piano music from a set of 36 pieces differing in tempo, pitch, harmony and rhythm. Using these combined data sets, the model was able to accurately identify the piece of music with a success rate of 71.8 percent.



Where Will You be for the April 8 Total Solar Eclipse?

FILE - People gather near Redmond, Ore., to view the sun as it nears a total eclipse by the moon, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
FILE - People gather near Redmond, Ore., to view the sun as it nears a total eclipse by the moon, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
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Where Will You be for the April 8 Total Solar Eclipse?

FILE - People gather near Redmond, Ore., to view the sun as it nears a total eclipse by the moon, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
FILE - People gather near Redmond, Ore., to view the sun as it nears a total eclipse by the moon, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Where will you be watching the April 8 total solar eclipse? There are just a few weeks left to pick your spot to see the skies darken along a strip of North America, whether by land, sea or air.
For those who live inside the 115-mile-wide (185-kilometer-wide) path of total darkness, it may be a matter of just stepping outside and donning special eclipse glasses to watch the spectacle unfold. For the millions outside the path, or those who just want to improve their chances of clear skies, it could mean hitting the road with a game plan.
The eclipse reaches Mexico’s Pacific coast in the morning, cuts diagonally across the US from Texas to Maine and exits in eastern Canada by late afternoon. Most of the rest of the continent will see a partial eclipse, The Associated Press reported.
WHERE TO WATCH THE TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE The weather will be key, and spring weather along the path can be dicey. Mexico and Texas offer the best odds of sunny skies, said retired Canadian meteorologist Jay Anderson.
“There’s no guarantee of sunshine anywhere — just better chances,” he said.
Anderson studies satellite data for the previous 20 years to calculate how often a location has cloudy weather on any eclipse day. Besides Mexico and Texas, he said there are other promising spots on the path of totality, particularly along the Great Lakes.
The advice: If you’re flexible, start paying attention to local weather about 10 days out, and make your plans on the three-day forecast. Die-hard eclipse chasers often line up more than one location and make last-minute decisions based on the best forecast, he said.
HOW TO PREPARE LIKE AN ECLIPSE CHASER One veteran eclipse chaser recommends picking a location and make it a vacation so that the eclipse is “the cherry on top” and not the only highlight — just in case things don’t work out.
Tom Schultz will be traveling from his retirement home in Costa Rica to watch the eclipse from his mother-in-law’s house in Rochester, New York, along with other relatives.
“If we get rained out, we’ll get this great family reunion,” said Schultz.
Veteran Anne Marie Adkins could drive across town in San Antonio to see the total eclipse, but opted to join an astronomer-led tour to Mazatlán, Mexico, betting on clear skies there. She’s been thwarted by clouds on other trips. For the 2017 US eclipse, she went to Nebraska and had to scramble that day to find better skies.
“It’s a gamble. You never know what you are going to get,” said Adkins.
Post-eclipse traffic is a particular worry, especially in more rural areas like the Texas Hill Country. Patricia Moore, of the Bandera visitors center, said last year’s “ring of fire” eclipse provided a dress rehearsal for police and other first responders. Tiny Bandera — the “Cowboy Capital of the World” — expects crowds from nearby weekend music festivals.
“After the eclipse will be a challenge,” she said.
WHERE ARE THE ECLIPSE WATCH PARTIES? With the eclipse falling on a Monday, cities and towns along the path have lined up a weekend full of activities and watch parties to attract visitors. There are a multitude of music festivals and gatherings planned at museums, parks, wineries and other businesses hoping to capitalize on the buzz.
Niagara Falls has a slate of events for days and is expecting July Fourth-sized crowds for the eclipse, said Sara Harvey, spokeswoman for Destination Niagara USA.
There are multiple vantage points to watch the show from Niagara Falls State Park, and the famous Maid of the Mist tourist boats may be running, weather permitting, she said. Even if it’s cloudy, visitors will get “a beautiful view of the falls,” Harvey said.
In Waco, Texas, festivities will culminate on eclipse day with science-themed activities outside Baylor’s McClane stadium, along what's called Touchdown Alley.
It may be too late to snag a cabin on a cruise ship positioned off the Mexico coast for the eclipse, but there are other watery options including a ride on the paddle-wheeler Victorian Princess on Lake Erie from Erie, Pennsylvania.
If the sky beckons, Southwest and Delta have identified flights that will fly along or near the eclipse path. A special Delta flight from Austin to Detroit quickly sold out, prompting the airline to add another from Dallas.
Looking for an different kind of place to watch the sun, moon and Earth align? The Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host NASA astronauts and other guests. Cedar Point amusement park on Lake Erie in Sandusky, Ohio, is opening for the day. And the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas is throwing a tailgate fundraising party and inviting visitors to watch the zoo’s residents react to the midday darkness.
You can also spend the day visiting the planets. In northern Maine, a scale model of the solar system is displayed along nearly 100 miles (160 kilometers) of US Route 1. Retired geology professor Kevin McCartney expects to unveil a new 23- foot-tall (7-meters-tall) roadside sun at the University of Maine at Presque Isle on eclipse day. “You won’t be able to miss it,” he said.
Anderson, the weather expert, said it's well worth the travel to see the “special magical moment” of a total eclipse: “It's the Taylor Swift of natural events.”


Last Surviving Member of 1st Team to Conquer Mount Everest Says it is Crowded, Dirty Now

Kanchha Sherpa sits on a chair during an interview with The Associated Press at his residence in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, March 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
Kanchha Sherpa sits on a chair during an interview with The Associated Press at his residence in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, March 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
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Last Surviving Member of 1st Team to Conquer Mount Everest Says it is Crowded, Dirty Now

Kanchha Sherpa sits on a chair during an interview with The Associated Press at his residence in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, March 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
Kanchha Sherpa sits on a chair during an interview with The Associated Press at his residence in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, March 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

The only surviving member of the mountaineering expedition that first conquered Mount Everest said Saturday that the world's highest peak is too crowded and dirty, and the mountain is a god that needs to be respected.
Kanchha Sherpa, 91, was among the 35 members in the team that put New Zealander Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay atop the 8,849-meter (29,032-foot) peak on May 29, 1953.
“It would be better for the mountain to reduce the number of climbers,” Kanchha said in an interview in Kathmandu on Saturday, “Right now there is always a big crowd of people at the summit.”
Since the first conquest, the peak has been climbed thousands of times, and it gets more crowded every year. During the spring climbing season in 2023, 667 climbers scaled the peak, but that brought in thousands of support staff to the base camp between the months of March and May.
There have been concerns about the number of people living on the mountain for months on end, generating trash and waste, but authorities have no plans to cut down on the number of permits they issue to climbers.
There are rules that require climbers to bring down their own trash, equipment and everything they carry to the mountain or risk losing their deposit, but monitoring has not been very effective, The Associated Press reported.
“It is very dirty now. People throw tins and wrappings after eating food. Who is going to pick them up now?” Kanchha said. “Some climbers just dump their trash in the crevasse, which would be hidden at that time but eventually it will flow down to base camp as the snow melts and carries them downward.”
For the Sherpas, Everest is Qomolangma or goddess mother of the world, and is revered by their community. They generally perform religious rituals before climbing the peak.
“They should not be dirtying the mountain. It is our biggest god and they should not be dirtying the gods,” he said “Qomolangma is the biggest god for the Sherpas but people smoke and eat meat and throw them on the mountain.”
Kanchha was just a young man when he joined the Hillary-Tenzing expedition. He was among the three Sherpas to go the last camp on Everest along with Hillary and Tenzing. They could not go any further because they did not have a permit.
They first heard of the successful ascent on the radio, and then were reunited with the summit duo at Camp 2.
“We all gathered at Camp 2 but there was no alcohol so we celebrated with tea and snacks,” he said. “We then collected whatever we could and carried it to base camp.”
The route they opened up from the base camp to the summit is still used by climbers. Only the section from the base camp to Camp 1 over the unstable Khumbu Icefall changes every year.
Kanchha has four children, eight grandchildren and a 20-month-old great-granddaughter.


Saudi Education, Foreign Ministries Launch Study Visa for International Students

"Study in Saudi Arabia" platform
"Study in Saudi Arabia" platform
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Saudi Education, Foreign Ministries Launch Study Visa for International Students

"Study in Saudi Arabia" platform
"Study in Saudi Arabia" platform

The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have jointly launched the Study Visa Issuance Service on the "Study in Saudi Arabia" platform.

The service is intended for international students who wish to study in the Kingdom and was launched in the presence of Education Minister Yousef Al-Benyan.
The initiative was launched during the "Human Capacity Initiative" conference that took place in Riyadh on February 28 and 29. The conference was held under the patronage of Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince, Prime Minister, and Chairman of the Human Capacity Development Program Committee.
The new visa service aims to facilitate the visa issuance process for international students. The platform aims to achieve integration between the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and related sectors.
The "Study in Saudi Arabia" platform provides a range of services that contribute to providing educational options for students who wish to study in Saudi Arabia. The platform aims to enhance the Kingdom's role as a global educational destination. It enables international students to submit applications for admission to Saudi universities with ease and also provides short-term academic, training, and research programs, as well as long-term educational opportunities within a modern and distinguished educational environment.
The platform also aims to enhance academic and cultural cooperation and to fulfill the Kingdom's Vision 2030 by developing the education sector and attracting talent and competencies to Saudi Arabia.


Saudi Team Successfully Separates Nigerian Conjoined Twins

Saudi team successfully separates Nigerian conjoined twins. (SPA)
Saudi team successfully separates Nigerian conjoined twins. (SPA)
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Saudi Team Successfully Separates Nigerian Conjoined Twins

Saudi team successfully separates Nigerian conjoined twins. (SPA)
Saudi team successfully separates Nigerian conjoined twins. (SPA)

A medical team at King Abdullah Specialist Children's Hospital has successfully separated Nigerian conjoined twins, Hassana and Hasina, SPA said on Friday.
The separation comes under the directives of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister.
Following their arrival in Riyadh on October 31, 2023, the twins underwent extensive examinations, which revealed they shared areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves.
The complex 16.5-hour surgery, which was carried out Thursday morning by 39 medical professionals, marks the 60th operation performed by the Saudi program for separating conjoined twins.
Over the past 34 years, the program has cared for 135 conjoined twins from 25 countries.
"Such successive medical breakthroughs are a testament to the Kingdom's shining examples of progress and development," said Advisor to the Royal Court, Supervisor General of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) and head of the medical team Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah in a statement following the surgery.
He highlighted the Kingdom's commitment to humanitarian and medical excellence, aligning with Vision 2030's healthcare development goals.
The twins' parents expressed their gratitude to the Saudi leadership and medical team for the life-changing surgery and exceptional care.


Saudi Press Agency, Sky News Arabia Sign Cooperation Agreement

Saudi Press Agency and Sky News Arabia sign cooperation agreement. (SPA)
Saudi Press Agency and Sky News Arabia sign cooperation agreement. (SPA)
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Saudi Press Agency, Sky News Arabia Sign Cooperation Agreement

Saudi Press Agency and Sky News Arabia sign cooperation agreement. (SPA)
Saudi Press Agency and Sky News Arabia sign cooperation agreement. (SPA)

The Saudi Press Agency and Sky News Arabia signed a cooperation agreement in the field of news training, SPA said on Friday.
Assistant Minister of Media Dr. Abdullah bin Ahmed Al-Maghlouth attended Thursday's signing ceremony which took place during the Human Capability Initiative (HCI) in Riyadh.
The HCI is held under the patronage of Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister and Chairman of Human Capability Development Program Committee Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
The program seeks to realize Saudi Vision 2030.
The agreement focuses on the specialized courses offered by the academy in the field of news, exchange of expertise, and utilization of technology.


Jeddah Middle Corniche Closed 10 Days for Maintenance

People stand on the corniche in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
People stand on the corniche in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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Jeddah Middle Corniche Closed 10 Days for Maintenance

People stand on the corniche in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
People stand on the corniche in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

The Jeddah Governorate Municipality announced that the waterfront on the middle Corniche will be closed starting next Sunday, March 3, for 10 days for maintenance and preparation work.

The municipality explained that the closure of the waterfront comes out of its concern for the safety and health of visitors during the maintenance work for the facilities at the waterfront, SPA reported.

The closure includes the seating and picnic areas, starting from Al-Anani Mosque to Palestine Street.
The maintenance work includes rehabilitating the entire plantings of the waterfront project on the Middle Corniche and the Palestine Street walkway, repairing sidewalks, and cleaning and equipping fountains and lighting poles.


Saudi Medical Team Begins Separating Nigerian Conjoined Twins

The twins share areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves. SPA
The twins share areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves. SPA
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Saudi Medical Team Begins Separating Nigerian Conjoined Twins

The twins share areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves. SPA
The twins share areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves. SPA

A Saudi medical and surgical team began on Thursday separating Nigerian conjoined twins Hassana and Hasina at King Abdullah Specialist Children's Hospital in King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh.

The separation is in implementation of the directives of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister.

Following their arrival in Riyadh on October 31, the twins underwent extensive examinations, which revealed they share areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves.

The surgery will be performed in nine stages and is expected to take approximately 14 hours.

A team of 38 consultants, specialists, technicians, and nursing staff in the specialties of anesthesia, pediatric surgery, urology, orthopedics, plastic surgery, and pediatric neurosurgery will participate in the operation.

According to Advisor at the Royal Court, Supervisor General of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), and head of the medical team Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah, the success rate of the operation is 70%.

This is the 60th operation performed by the Saudi program for separating Siamese twins.

Over the past 34 years, the program has cared for 135 conjoined twins from 25 countries.
Al Rabeeah expressed gratitude to the Saudi leadership for its support of the program.


Living Near Fast Food Restaurants Could Affect Heart Health, New Study

(FILES) A driver in a vehicle places his order from a drive-thru lane at a Wendy's fast food resturant in Alhambra, California on May 5, 2020. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)
(FILES) A driver in a vehicle places his order from a drive-thru lane at a Wendy's fast food resturant in Alhambra, California on May 5, 2020. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)
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Living Near Fast Food Restaurants Could Affect Heart Health, New Study

(FILES) A driver in a vehicle places his order from a drive-thru lane at a Wendy's fast food resturant in Alhambra, California on May 5, 2020. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)
(FILES) A driver in a vehicle places his order from a drive-thru lane at a Wendy's fast food resturant in Alhambra, California on May 5, 2020. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)

A new British study, involving 500,000 adults, has found that living near fast food restaurants could harm the health of the heart.

These kinds of ready-to-eat food environments typically provide unhealthy foods and drinks, and have been linked to cardiovascular diseases, mostly heart failure. The findings were published in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart muscle can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen. In this case, fluids can accumulate in the lungs, causing shortness of breath. This condition can lead to narrowing the heart arteries and raising blood pressure.

This study is likely the first to assess the association between food environment and heart failure with long-term observation, according to the researchers.

The study involved more than 500,000 adults, ages 37-73 years old, in the UK.

During the research, the team measured the link between living within one-kilometer from three types of food environments — pubs or bars, restaurants or cafeterias and fast-food restaurants.

The study documented nearly 13,000 heart failure cases during a 12-year follow-up period.

The analysis found that a closer proximity and a greater density of ready-to-eat food outlets were associated with a 16% risk of heart failure compared to those with no ready-to-eat food environments near their homes.

It also found that those in the highest density areas of pubs and bars showed a 14% higher risk for heart failure; while those in the highest density areas for fast-food outlets had a 12% higher risk.

Heart failure risk was stronger among participants without a college degree and adults in urban areas without access to formal physical activity facilities such as gyms.

According to the researchers, these findings add to previous studies that have suggested that exposure to ready-to-eat food environments is associated with risks of other disorders, such as Type 2 diabetes and obesity, which may also increase the risk of heart failure.

Authors said the findings suggest that improving access to healthier food environments and physical fitness facilities in urban areas, along with helping more people attain higher levels of education, could reduce the increased risk of heart failure linked to quick-meal options.


Theater Supervisors from Australia Train Saudi School Teachers

Training on making marionettes and how to move them on stage (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Training on making marionettes and how to move them on stage (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Theater Supervisors from Australia Train Saudi School Teachers

Training on making marionettes and how to move them on stage (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Training on making marionettes and how to move them on stage (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The Saudi Ministry of Culture gives great attention to enhancing arts and culture in the local community, and recognizes the vital role school theater plays in growing the talents and skill of students.

As part of its efforts to promote school theater, the ministry has carried on an initiative aimed at training school teachers on theater arts, with the help of 160 supervisors who provide the guidance and support that schools need to develop and implement theater-related activities.

The School Theater Initiative is one of the top national initiatives launched by the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, as part of a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Education, to create a school theater movement aimed at enhancing the theater culture and growing a generation interested in theater.

The commission stated that the initiative will develop and grow the skills of supervisors and teachers through international programs curated by experts in theater and performative arts, in collaboration with Australia’s Monash University. The efforts seek to provide the trainees with the skills needed to fuel the sector with the essential theater elements, including acting, drama, design and direction.

The training program consists of several phases: the first ran from October 2002 until November 2022, during which several visits were paid to schools in Riyadh, to take a closer look at theater activities in the Kingdom and form the training team. The second saw the launch of the training program for the first promotion, including 20 teachers and 40 supervisors, as well as reviewing and assessing the content after the conclusion of the training.

The training started in the third phase, while the fourth, which ran between December 2023 and January 2024, graduated the first promotion of supervisors, who were responsible for training several groups of 20 teachers. The training program of the third and fourth promotions covered the cities of Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Abha and Tabuk.

The fifth phase, which has kicked off earlier this year and ends in December, is designed to supervise and support the teachers that will be trained by 160 supervisors, in addition to selecting the best 1,000 school plays from different cities and provinces.


Volcanic Ash Forces Some Airlines to Suspend Flights from Mexico City 

The Popocatepetl volcano emits smoke and ash, seen from Mexico City at sunrise on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP)
The Popocatepetl volcano emits smoke and ash, seen from Mexico City at sunrise on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP)
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Volcanic Ash Forces Some Airlines to Suspend Flights from Mexico City 

The Popocatepetl volcano emits smoke and ash, seen from Mexico City at sunrise on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP)
The Popocatepetl volcano emits smoke and ash, seen from Mexico City at sunrise on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP)

Mexico City International Airport on Tuesday said airlines have canceled 22 domestic and international flights to carry out safety checks after planes encountered ash from the Popocatepetl volcano while flying toward the capital.

In a post on X, the airport said it remains open and in operation.

"Specialized teams and management remain on alert and are evaluating the ash conditions," the airport said. "At this time, the volcanic ash cloud is heading toward the Gulf of Mexico."

The airport advised travelers to stay informed through their airlines and official airport channels.

The government has issued a "yellow alert" for activity from the nearby volcano, whose name in the Aztec Nahuatl language means "Smoking Mountain."

Authorities earlier on Tuesday said a column of smoke from the volcano was blowing to the north-northwest and could bring ash over the capital.