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Uganda, DRC join forces to restore River Nyagak catchment area

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Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Ms Ruth Nankabirwa appears before Parliament's committee on Natural Resources on August 23, 2022. PHOTO | PARLIAMENT PRESS

Uganda environment management officials have joined hands with their counterparts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to protect the catchment areas of River Nyagak so as to generate enough water for downstream power generation in Uganda.

River Nyagak has its source stretching across the borders and flows to Uganda where Nyagak One and Two hydropower plants are being constructed to generate about 10 megawatts of power.

While appearing before Parliament’s Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, which is investigating the constant power crisis in West Nile, National Environment Management Authority (Nema) executive director Dr Barirega Akankwasa, said while the current water levels are sufficient to generate the required power, efforts are being made between two countries to ensure water catchment areas are protected across the borders to ensure so as to ensure constant flow of the river.

“We have assessed the water catchment management, it is a serious issue to ensure the water catchment management across the borders is harmonised. Good enough, the East African Community (EAC) is currently discussing the EAC water resource management policy, so we have an opportunity to harmonise management of catchment areas when we are discussing this policy across the region. As we do tree planting and river bank management and protection here, the same has to be taking place across the borders because whatever happens that side affects the flow of the river this side,” Dr Akankwasa told the committee on Monday.

Dr Akankwasa said the Water ministry has carried out water volume assessment and found that Nyagak has enough water to power 3.5 megawatts on Nyagak One and 6.5 megawatts on Nyagak Two projects.

He said when West Nile Rural Electrification Company applied for abstraction of water for power generation, the authority assessed the application and allowed the company to abstract upto to 6.8 cubic metres per second for power generation. He said this is sufficient to generate the 3.5 megawatts.

Asked if the current power fluctuation in the region has nothing to do with water fluctuations, Dr Akankwasa said the water levels are sufficient to generate power.

However, Energy minister Ruth Nankabirwa disagreed with the Nema boss.

She said the water fluctuations affect power generation because in situations where water levels drop, not all turbines can run.

Put to task to explain her variation, Ms Nankabirwa told the committee that her explanation is based on the details provided by her technical team on the ground.

The committee tasked the ministry officials to ensure the region is connected to the national grid by March next year.

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Pope Francis to undergo intestinal surgery and will be hospitalized for several days

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Pope Francis went to the hospital on Wednesday for surgery on his intestine, two years after he had 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his colon removed because of an inflammation and narrowing of the large intestine.

The Vatican said Francis, 86, would be put under general anesthesia and would be hospitalized for several days.

Pope Francis appeared at his weekly general audience on Wednesday, a day after he went to the hospital for a checkup.

The Vatican provided no details about the medical tests Francis underwent on Tuesday at Rome’s Gemelli hospital. Francis, 86, appeared in good form, though, at his audience in St. Peter’s Square, zipping around the square in his popemobile greeting the faithful. He also had two meetings Wednesday morning beforehand, the Vatican said.

Francis spent three days at the Gemelli hospital in late March. Initially, the Vatican said he had gone in for scheduled tests, but the pontiff later revealed he had felt pain in his chest and was rushed to the hospital where bronchitis was diagnosed. He was put on intravenous antibiotics and was released April 1, quipping that he was “still alive.”

The Argentine pope had part of one lung removed when he was a young man. He also suffers from sciatica nerve pain and has been using a wheelchair and walker for more than a year because of strained ligaments in his knee.

Francis has had a packed schedule of late, with multiple audiences each day. The Vatican has recently confirmed a travel-filled August, when the Holy See and Italy are usually on vacation, with a four-day visit to Portugal the first week of August and a similarly long trip to Mongolia starting Aug. 31.

In a sign that the trips were very much on, the Vatican on Tuesday released the planned itinerary for Francis’ visit to Portugal for World Youth Day events from Aug. 2-6. The itinerary confirms a typically busy schedule that includes all the protocol meetings of an official state visit plus multiple events with young people and a day trip to the Marian shrine at Fatima.

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My son was born with bulging eyes and totally blind – but baffled doctors don’t know why

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A mother is appealing for answers over the mysterious condition which left her son with bulging eyes.

Kobi-Jai Morgan, who is registered blind, was born last March with bruising around his eyes and was unable to open them.

He spent six weeks in hospital, where doctors discovered the structure of his eyes had not fully developed but could not figure out why.

Despite appointments with specialists, medics have been left scratching their heads over what is causing his condition.

His mother, Morgan Nottingham, from Ystalyfera in South Wales, is now desperately searching for answers.

The 24-year-old’s labour was induced in last spring at a hospital in Bridgend, where she had a difficult delivery.

Kobi-Jai was then transferred to a neonatal intensive care unit at Singleton Hospital in Swansea and put on ventilation and a feeding tube.

As well as bruising around the eyes, he had a large hole in his heart and a floppy larynx — the tube that helps carry air to the lungs and contains vocal cords.

His unknown condition means his eyes are light-sensitive and he spends a lot of time in discomfort.

As a result, he sometimes scratches his eye and pushes his eyelids towards his eyebrows when they are irritated.

His mother administers four different types of eye drops to Kobi’s eyes every day and he wears specialist transparent glasses made by Cardiff University.

The 15-month-old has been to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and visited private specialists — but still does not have a diagnosis.

However, tests show that he can see some light and shadows.

Ms Nottingham said: ‘We’ve come to terms with the fact that he might not have his vision for life. But we get looks as it is.

‘He has bulgy eyes and the bottom of his eyes scrape across his cheek. He doesn’t realise while he’s little but it’s really sad, bless him.’

Kobi-Jai can now tell his mother when his eyes are bothering him.

She added: ‘He cannot carry on with his eyes like that. There has to be someone out there that knows something.

‘This is completely new to us. When he starts going to school — you know what kids are like. He has children coming up to him already and saying: “Oh mammy he looks scary”. I want answers.’

Ms Nottingham called for more research and resources that could help Kobi-Jai.

She said: ‘At the moment we have found no blind support centres, schools or sensory classes locally. The closest specialist school is in Birmingham.

‘We want to bring more awareness and help and support other parents going through the same thing. We’re all learning.’

A fundraiser set up to support Kobi’s medical care has raised over £12,500.

Family friends have organised a 12-hour charity walk, five-a-side football tournament and bike ride in a bid to raise more funds to help with his care.

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US actor Danny Masterson found guilty on two rape counts

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Los Angeles Times via Getty Images Masterson arrives at the Los Angeles court to learn his fate with his wife, Bijou Phillips

A jury in Los Angeles has found US actor Danny Masterson guilty on two out of three counts of rape.

The star of That ’70s Show, a TV series, faces up to 30 years in prison. He was led from court in handcuffs.

Three women, all former members of the Church of Scientology, accused the actor of sexual assault at his Hollywood home from 2001-03.

Prosecutors argued Masterson had relied on his status as a prominent Scientologist to avoid accountability.

The jury of seven women and five men was unable to reach a verdict on a third count after a week of deliberations, ending up deadlocked at 8-4.

One of his victims, who was raped in 2003, said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press: “I am experiencing a complex array of emotions – relief, exhaustion, strength, sadness – knowing that my abuser, Danny Masterson, will face accountability for his criminal behavior.”

Masterson’s wife, actress and model Bijou Phillips, wept as he was led away, CBS News reports. Other family and friends sat stone-faced.

Another jury in an earlier trial was unable to reach a verdict in December 2022.

Prosecutors chose to retry Masterson and this time the judge allowed attorneys to present new evidence that had been barred from the first trial.

Though the actor was not charged with drugging his victims, the jury heard testimony that the women had been dosed before he raped them.

Masterson was first accused of rape in 2017 during the height of the #MeToo movement. He responded by saying that he had not been charged or convicted of a crime, and that in the climate at the time “it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused”.

Charges came after a three-year investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department. Prosecutors did not file charges in two other cases because of insufficient evidence and the statute of limitations expiring.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors argued that the Church of Scientology had helped cover up the assaults – an allegation the organisation has categorically denied.

At the time of the assaults, Masterson and all three of his accusers were Scientologists. Several of the women said it took them years to come forward because Church of Scientology officials discouraged them from reporting the rape to police.

Instead, they were forced to rely on the Church’s “internal justice system”, prosecutors said.

Scientology officials told one survivor she would be kicked out of the Church unless she signed a non-disclosure agreement and accepted a payment of $400,000 (£320,000), according to prosecutors.

Judge Charlaine Olmedo allowed both sides to discuss the dogma and practices of Scientology.

But Deputy District Attorney Ariel Anson told jurors during the trial: “The Church taught his victims, ‘Rape isn’t rape, you caused this, and above all, you are never allowed to go to law enforcement.'”

Throughout the trial, the defence tried to undermine the credibility of the “Jane Does” by focusing on inconsistencies in their testimony and their supposed drive to get “revenge” against their former Church.

During closing arguments, Masterson’s defence lawyer said of the survivors: “If you are looking for motives why people are not being truthful… there are motives all over the place.”

Although the Church of Scientology was not a defendant in the case, before closing arguments began, a lawyer with ties to the Church emailed the district attorney’s office to complain about the way the Church was portrayed during the retrial.

The defence also argued that the prosecution had relied heavily on testimony about drugging because there was an absence of evidence of any force or violence.

Masterson’s lawyers tried, unsuccessfully, to have a mistrial declared.

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