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Ethiopia: Govt shoots down plane headed to Tigray, Guterres urges cessation of hostilities

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The Ethiopian army announced on Wednesday that it had shot down a plane loaded with weapons destined for the Tigray rebels, which had “violated Ethiopian airspace” after flying over Sudan, the official Ethiopian news agency ENA reported, citing a senior officer. “The plane that violated our airspace from Sudan (…) and which aimed to supply weapons to the terrorist group was shot down by our air force,” ENA said, quoting General Tesfaye Ayalew, who did not specify the origin of the aircraft or the date on which it was shot down.

Fighting resumed on Wednesday in border areas of the Tigray region, with Tigrayan rebels and the federal government blaming each other for breaking a five-month truce. The rebel authorities in Tigray initially accused the federal Ethiopian army of having launched a “large-scale offensive” against their positions, before the Ethiopian government accused them of having “broken” the truce.

The Ethiopian federal forces “launched an offensive early this (Wednesday) morning around 05:00 (02:00 GMT), we are defending our positions,” a spokesman for the rebel authorities in Tigray, Getachew Reda, told AFP from Nairobi.

On Twitter, he spoke of a “large-scale offensive” against the “positions on the southern front” of the Tigrayan rebels.

“Disregarding the numerous peace offers made by the Ethiopian government,” the Tigray rebel forces “launched an attack today at 05:00” (02:00 GMT) and “broke the truce,” the government responded in a statement.

“Our valiant defense forces and all our security forces are responding victoriously and in a coordinated manner to this attack,” the government said, calling on the international community to exert “strong pressure” on the rebel authorities in Tigray.

The region is largely cut off from the rest of the country and it is impossible to verify the claims of either side independently.

In reaction to the latest escalation, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, expressed regrets and called for the cessation of hostilities.

“I am deeply shocked and saddened by the news of the resumption of hostilities in Ethiopia. Ethiopians, Tigrayans, Amharas, Oromos, Afars have already suffered too much. My strong appeal is for an immediate cessation of hostilities and for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front, ed), with at the same time, the full guarantee of humanitarian access to people in need and the reestablishment of public services.”  Guterres said.

– Border areas –

The fighting is the first major conflict to be reported since a truce was agreed in late March by both sides and has so far been largely respected.

Both the government and the rebels reported on Wednesday that there was fighting around the southeastern tip of Tigray, bordering the neighboring regions of Amhara to the west and Afar to the east.

“The offensive on this front … is aimed at occupying southern Tigray,” the Tigrayan rebels accused in a statement.

The Amhara Fano militia – which is supporting government forces against the Tigrayan rebels – says the fighting is taking place in the Mehago and Jemedo areas of the Amhara region, not far from the Kobo area, also in the Amhara region and occupied by the Tigrayan rebels since a counter-offensive in 2021.

The Fano militia claims that no fighting is currently taking place in Tigray itself, although this cannot be independently confirmed.

APDA, an NGO active in the Afar region, reported fighting in a border area between that region and southeast Tigray.

“Federal forces are present in numbers (in the area) of Yallo and are pushing” the Tigrayan rebels “out of Afar.

– Commitments –

The tone had risen in recent days between the federal government and the tiger rebels, with each accusing the other of preparing to resume hostilities, despite repeated commitments by both sides over the past two months to negotiations that have yet to begin.

On Tuesday, the federal Ethiopian army accused the tiger rebels of “defaming” it by accusing it of “moving towards their positions” or “bombing” them.

The African Union (AU), which is based in Addis Ababa and is leading efforts to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table, had still not reacted by early afternoon on Wednesday to the renewed fighting.

The conflict in Tigray began in November 2020, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the Ethiopian army there to dislodge authorities in the region he accused of attacking military bases there, after challenging his authority for several months.

The federal Ethiopian army was supported by regional forces and amhara militias, as well as an expeditionary force from neighbouring eritrea, troops still present in western tigray.

After initially retreating, the Tigrayan rebels regained control of most of the region in a counter-offensive in mid-2021 in which they entered neighboring Amhara and Afar.

The conflict has caused a severe humanitarian crisis in Tigray, where the economic fabric has been destroyed.

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Indonesia Passes New Law To Criminalize Sex Outside Of Marriage

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GETTY There were protests against the new code on Monday

Indonesian lawmakers passed a sweeping new criminal code on Tuesday that criminalizes sex outside marriage, as part of a tranche of changes that critics say threaten human rights and freedoms in the Southeast Asian country.

The new code, which also applies to foreign residents and tourists, bans cohabitation before marriage, apostasy, and provides punishments for insulting the president or expressing views counter to the national ideology.

“All have agreed to ratify the (draft changes) into law,” said lawmaker Bambang Wuryanto, who led the parliamentary commission in charge of revising the colonial-era code. “The old code belongs to Dutch heritage … and is no longer relevant.”

The world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia has seen a rise in religious conservatism in recent years. Strict Islamic laws are already enforced in parts of the country, including the semi-autonomous Aceh province, where alcohol and gambling are banned. Public floggings also take place in the region for a range of offences including homosexuality and adultery.

A previous draft of the code was set to be passed in 2019 but was postponed after nationwide protests prompted Indonesian President Joko Widodo to intervene. In a televised address at the time, Widodo said he decided to delay the vote after “seriously considering feedback from different parties who feel objections on some substantial content of the criminal code.”

In the lead-up to Tuesday’s vote, rights groups and critics warned that the new code would “disproportionately impact women” and further curtail human rights and freedoms in the country of more than 270 million people.

Human Rights Watch Indonesia Researcher Andreas Harsono said the laws are “a setback for already declining religious freedom in Indonesia,” warning that “non-believers could be prosecuted and jailed.”

“The danger of oppressive laws is not that they’ll be broadly applied, it’s that they provide an avenue for selective enforcement,” he said.

Under the laws, sex outside marriage carries a potential one-year prison term, and the crime of blasphemy, already on Indonesia’s books, could now lead to a five-year prison sentence.

Rahmat Purnama, from the University of Indonesia’s law faculty, said the laws would be implemented after a transitional period of three years.

Source: CNN

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Elon Musk Hopes to Test a Brain Implant in Humans Next Year

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In this still image from the Neuralink presentation video on YouTube, a presenter, lower left, described how a monkey used a wireless transmitter to “type” characters on a keyboard.Credit...Neuralink

Neuralink, the startup Elon Musk founded to link our brains directly to computers, showed progress Wednesday in two medical areas: helping blind people to see and helping people with spinal cord injuries to walk or use their hands.

The company, one of five that Musk leads, is working on technology to drop thousands of electrodes thinner than a hair into the outer surface of human brains. Each electrode is a tiny wire connected to a battery-powered, remotely recharged, quarter-sized chip package that’s embedded into a spot that once held a circle of skull. The chip, called the N1, communicates wirelessly with the outside world.

The technology is still far from the initial medical uses, much less Musk’s ultimate vision of using Neuralink to hang out with superintelligent AIs. But the company is making significant progress, including applying with the Food and Drug Administration to begin human trials it hopes to start within six months, the company said at a “show and tell” event lasting more than two hours.

“Our goal will be to turn the lights on for someone who’s spent decades living in the dark,” said Neuralink researcher Dan Adams, who’s working on the effort to repackage camera data into a brain-compatible format and pipe it directly to the visual cortex.

Musk has some cred when it comes to revolutionary tech. His electric-vehicle company Tesla is profoundly changing cars and his SpaceX outfit is transforming space access with reusable rockets. His reputation as a tech genius has taken a beating, though, with the chaos at Twitter after his $44 billion acquisition. Musk’s Boring Company, which aims to revamp auto transportation with tunnels, also hasn’t lived up to its promises yet.

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US President Joe Biden turns 80 Today: New Generation’ of Democratic Leaders Takes Control in Congress

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President Joe Biden will celebrate his 80th birthday on Sunday, marking the first time a sitting president has reached that milestone while in office and fueling speculation about how his advancing age will affect his political future.

Biden — who was the oldest person to assume the presidency in January 2021, just 61 days after his 78th birthday — has said he intends to make another White House bid, even as his age-adjacent peers, including 82-year-old House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have made the decision to step away from leadership in order to make way for a younger generation.

“My intention is that I will run again. But I’m a great respecter of fate and this is ultimately a family decision. I think everybody wants me to run but we’re going to have discussions about it. And I don’t feel any hurry one way or the other to make that judgment.” he said last week, after helming what many say is the most successful midterm election for a sitting president’s party in decades, though noting that those results would not have an impact on his decision to run again.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden greets guests before speaking at an event at the White House complex, Nov. 18, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

Biden is the oldest person to serve as commander in chief in the nation’s history. Should he seek reelection in 2024 and win, the president would be 86 by the end of his second term. He has said he’ll talk over his future with his wife and the rest of his family over the holidays.

Biden has said he is hoping that he and his wife “get a little time to actually sneak away for a week around between Christmas and Thanksgiving” and that his decision to run for reelection will likely “be early next year we make that judgment.”

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