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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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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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