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August 2017

Laos/Thailand: Investigate Abduction of Exiled Red Shirt Activist

Wuthipong Kachathamakul, exiled Thai activist, was reportedly abducted by unknown armed men from his house in Vientiane on July 29, 2017.

© 2012 Post Today

(New York) – The Lao authorities should urgently investigate the abduction of an exiled Thai activist Wuthipong Kachathamakul, also known as Ko Tee, Human Rights Watch said today. Eyewitnesses stated that a group of unknown armed assailants abducted him in Vientiane on July 29, 2017, raising grave concerns for his safety.

On July 29, at approximately 9:45 a.m., a group of 10 armed men dressed in black and wearing black balaclavas assaulted Wuthipong, his wife, and a friend as they were about to enter Wuthipong’s house in Vientiane according to multiple witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch. The assailants hit them, shocked them with stun guns, tied their hands with plastic handcuffs, covered their eyes, and gagged their mouths. Wuthipong was then put in a car and driven away to an unknown location while his wife and his friend were left at the scene. According to Wuthipong’s wife and his friend, the assailants were speaking among themselves in Thai. The incident was reported to Lao authorities in Vientiane.

“Wuthipong’s shocking abduction by armed men in Vientiane needs to be fully investigated; it should not be treated with silence or swept under the rug,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The Lao government needs to move quickly to ascertain the facts and publicly report their findings, including an assessment of Wuthipong’s whereabouts and who might be responsible for this crime that was so boldly carried out in its own capital city.”

Wuthipong’s shocking abduction by armed men in Vientiane needs to be fully investigated; it should not be treated with silence or swept under the rug.

Brad Adams

Asia Director

Lao authorities should mount a serious effort to find Wuthipong if he is still in Laos, and take immediate steps to prosecute any persons in Laos who were involved in this abduction.

The Lao government should also permit the office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to open an office in Vientiane to provide protection for persons fleeing political persecution in Thailand and other countries.

In media interviews on July 31, 2017, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan and the army chief Gen. Chalermchai Sitthisart denied knowledge of Wuthipong’s abduction and said they have not received any official reports from Lao authorities yet.

Wuthipong operated a community radio network affiliated with the red-shirted United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) in Thailand’s Pathum Thani province. His programs were known for having a strong anti-monarchy stance. Thai authorities have repeatedly accused him of using his radio program to call for the use of violence, and playing an instrumental role in several violent clashes with the royalist People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC). After the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) staged a coup and took power in the May 2014, he fled to Laos to escape lese majeste (insulting monarchy) charges. The Thai government also accused him of involvement with anti-government militia groups and plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha and other members of the NCPO junta. The Thai government lists Wuthipong as one of the most wanted of the exiled activists that Thai authorities have repeatedly requested the Lao government to arrest and extradite to Thailand. While in exile in Laos, Wuthipong continued to broadcast online radio programs in which he strongly criticized both military rule in Thailand and the Thai monarchy.

Since taking office in April 2016, the new Lao government of Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has repeatedly failed to adequately respond to the country’s serious human rights problems. Lao authorities have routinely disregarded concerns raised by human rights groups. In June 2016, Itthipol Sukpaen, an exiled Thai activist who broadcasted anti-monarchy radio programs, vanished in Vientiane. The Lao government failed to conduct a serious investigation.

Laos has signed, but not ratified, the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Under international law, an enforced disappearance occurs when a person is detained by persons acting on behalf of the state, followed by a refusal of the state to acknowledge their detention or whereabouts, with the intention of placing them outside the law. Despite its obligation to conduct a transparent, thorough, and impartial investigation into all cases of alleged enforced disappearances, to resolve them, and bring those responsible to justice, the Lao government has failed to make progress on at least 10 cases of enforced disappearance, including the case of prominent civil society activist Sombath Somphone—who was last seen being taken away from a police checkpoint in Vientiane on December 15, 2012.

“The Lao government has a responsibility to find out what happened to Wuthipong and identify all those responsible, regardless of the political consequences,” Adams said. “Foreign donor organizations and governments with relationships with the Lao government should speak up now to press Vientiane to answer what happened to Wuthipong.” Source:

While scarfing down some powdered doughnuts tonight, I had an epiphany, surely unoriginal but true: sugar is the cocaine of the masses.

Samsung Galaxy S8 & S8+ Daydream Compatibility Now Available

Earlier this week VRFocus reported on a statement from Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, suggesting that 11 Daydream compatible smartphone handsets would be available before the year’s end. It now looks like two of those handsets are already available on the market, as Google has revealed the roll out of a compatibility update for both the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+.


Samsung were one of the first smartphone manufacturers to announce support for the Google Daydream platform, but have been relatively slow to integrate this into their consumer handsets. The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ recently received an update which, according to Android Police, specified ‘Google Daydream Compatibility’ in US service provider T-Mobile’s patch notes.

According to Android Police, the documentation soon received an update stating that Daydream compatibility would be coming to both the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ soon. However, the patch notes were updated again and removed any mention of Google Daydream.

While that uncertainty has now ended don’t expect that update to appear straight away. As is a common occurrence with big mobile updates – such as a new version of Android – users will see this rolled out slowly, depending on the mobile carrier as to when they may see it.

Adding Daydream compatibility to the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ makes these two handsets the first to be compatible with both the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream, potentially making them the first choice handsets for virtual reality (VR) aficionados. VRFocus will keep you updated with any further information regarding Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ Daydream compatibility. Source:

The unexpected side effect of Trump’s war on science

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

There’s something different about the crop of Democrats running for Congress in 2018. As in previous years, the party has recruited a small army of veterans in high-profile races and in Republican-held districts. There are loads of state legislators, business owners, and government officials.

But the candidates also include a volcanologist who’s worried that her favorite research spot will be opened up for development, an aerospace engineer who’s running against the climate-denying head of the House Science Committee, a pediatrician who spends part of the year treating leprosy patients in Vietnam, and a physicist who worries what budget cuts would mean to the federal research facility where she spent her career.

All told, more than a dozen Democratic candidates with science backgrounds have announced their candidacies for Congress or are expected to in the coming months. The boomlet of STEM-based candidates amounts to a minor seismic event in a community where politics and research have traditionally gone together like sodium and water. Trump has been in office just six months, but he’s already done something remarkable — he’s gotten scientists to run for office.

The surge of science-based candidates has been aided by a new political outfit called 314 Action, launched last summer by Shaughnessy Naughton, a breast cancer researcher from Pennsylvania who ran for Congress in 2014 and 2016. The group, named for the first three digits of pi, aims to do for candidates with scientific backgrounds what EMILY’s List has done for pro-choice women — funding, recruiting, and training candidates at every level of government. So far, 6,000 scientists have reached out to the group about running for federal, state, and local offices; and 314 plans to also back candidates in three dozen school board races this fall. Washington has plenty of lawyers; maybe it’s time for a fresh experiment.

“Traditionally, the attitude has been that science is above politics, and therefore scientists shouldn’t get involved in politics, and what that ignores is the fact that politicians are unashamed to meddle in science,” says Naughton. “The way we push back against that is to hold a seat at the table.”

The ranks of scientists in Congress have been thin in recent years. Representative Bill Foster, an Illinois Democrat, was a high-energy particle physicist at Fermi National Laboratory in the district he now represents. Until recently, the dean of the bunch was Democratic Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey, an astrophysicist who retired in 2014 and now serves as CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The only STEM field that’s well represented in Congress is medicine; there are 14 physicians between the House and the Senate, but most are Republicans who have shown more of a commitment to conservative dogma than scientific best practices. (Former Georgia Republican Representative Paul Broun, a doctor, infamously referred to evolutionary biology as a lie “from the pit of hell.”)

One result of the dearth of scientists has been a Congress that is often ignorant of the scientific perspective, not just on obvious issues like climate change — Texas Representative Lamar Smith, the chair of the House Science Committee has called it a myth propagated by “so-called, self-professed climate scientists” and subpoenaed emails from government-funded climatologists — but on virtually every subject that comes up.

“When the Help America Vote Act was passed after the 2000 election, nobody thought that was a science issue — who thought anybody would hack election computers?” Holt says. “Right from the start, I said, ‘Hey, wait a minute, you passed a bill that encouraged jurisdictions all over the country to move to electronic voting machines that are simple, easy to use, and completely unverifiable. If you had cleared that with some computer scientists before writing the bill, you would have realized that having unauditable elections is not smart.’”

In some sense, scientists were victims of their own success. The growth of government-funded science over the last half century through everything from the National Institutes of Health to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has helped thousands of researchers carve out careers. But it has also incentivized scientists to put their heads down and keep quiet, lest they jeopardize that funding.

“On average, scientists are not particularly outgoing and are psychologically not conditioned for this sort of thing,” Holt says. But just as importantly, “the entire rewards system of science doesn’t encourage social or political involvement.” Getting more scientists in the House requires knocking down their preconceptions about how people in STEM should approach public life.

One reason for the political awakening is Trump himself. Even before taking office, his transition staff roiled the scientific community when it asked the Department of Energy for a list of staffers who had worked on global warming; the anticipated purge never materialized, but the Trump DOE has issued guidelines instructing employees not to use terms like “emissions reductions” and even brags on its agency Twitter account that Secretary Rick Perry is winning the “fight” with climate scientists. EPA director Scott Pruitt has jettisoned dozens of members of his agency’s scientific advisory board.

Trump has defied scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change and placed unqualified friends and allies in charge of departments responsible for doling out billions in funding. His proposed travel ban would bring the hammer down on international researchers. And he has called for steep budget cuts that would more than decimate research budgets and send scientists looking for new sources of funding or risk abandoning their projects. And all that is just six months in.

Jess Phoenix, a volcanologist seeking the Democratic nomination in the Southern California district represented by Republican Steve Knight, decided to run when she saw that the public lands where she’s done much of her research were at risk of losing their protections in the Trump era.

Phoenix has traveled around the world studying lava flows, but “it’s fair to say the Mojave is where I fell in love with science,” she says. Her first research project was in Death Valley National Park, and she runs an educational nonprofit for grade school students that’s based in the Mojave National Preserve. The newly created Mojave Desert National Monument was among several dozen sites being reviewed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for delisting or possible downsizing.

Like Phoenix, many of the science candidates are running in districts with a high percentage of voters with college degrees. Elaine DiMasi, a physicist who is on leave from Brookhaven National Laboratory, is preparing to run against Long Island Republican Lee Zeldin. Jason Westin, an oncologist and researcher at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center, is running against Texas Republican Representative John Culberson in part because he’s worried about what NIH cuts would mean for him and his colleagues. Stem-cell scientist Hans Keirstead is the leading challenger to take on longtime Orange County Representative Dana Rohrabacher, whose district was carried by Hillary Clinton last fall. Joseph Kopser, an aerospace engineer and Army veteran, is one of eight Democrats running against Lamar Smith in a district that includes the University of Texas. All four of those challengers have been in talks with 314 PAC.

In June, not long after her Republican congressman, Ed Royce, voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, California pediatrician Mai-Khanh Tran switched her office hours to part-time and announced she was running for his Orange County seat.

“I felt like my heart was gripped by this overwhelming pain,” says Tran, who spends part of her year treating lepers in her native Vietnam. “But I went to work and one of the first patients I saw in the office was a patient with a very severe illness — she had a brain tumor.” The girl’s mother, who worked at a nail salon, had been able to get health insurance through a subsidy provided by the Affordable Care Act. “We were hugging each other, crying — we really thought that our lives and a lot of our patients would be affected very soon. I didn’t realize how soon.”

Trump’s election was an energizing moment for Tran not just because of her place in the health care system, but because in addition to being a pediatrician and leprosy researcher, Tran is also a refugee.

She left Vietnam when she was nine on one of last “Orphan airlift” flights out of the country before the United States evacuated Saigon. Her father had dropped Tran and two siblings off at an orphanage because it offered the best chance of survival. (They would later reunite in Oregon.) “I kept thinking, ‘What on Earth is he wearing sunglasses for?’” she said of their parting. “‘He’s such a proper man, why is he wearing sunglasses?’ And it dawned on me years later that he didn’t want us to see him cry.”

Tran’s flight was filled with orphans and handicapped children. When they finally landed, she remembers being carried off the plane by a Marine; the nature of her arrival in the country was formative not only in her decision to get into medicine, but also in her political outlook.

“When I see that picture of that little Syrian boy, I remember thinking I was just as scared as he was once,” she said, referring to the now-iconic photo of Omran Daqneesh sitting dazed and bloodied in the back of an Aleppo ambulance. “I don’t know why I was any more deserving of being in this country.”

Tran has a head of steam in Royce’s Southern California district. In July, she picked up the endorsement of EMILY’s List. But in a sign of the changing currents in her field, she isn’t even the only scientist in the Democratic primary to take on Royce. To get to the general election, she first has to get past a group of challengers that includes Phil Janowicz, a former Cal State Fullerton chemistry professor who left his job at the education company McGraw-Hill the morning after the election to begin planning for his campaign. Like Tran, Janowicz has been in touch with 314; he flew to D.C. in April for the group’s first candidate training. His slogan: “Solutions for Congress.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline The unexpected side effect of Trump’s war on science on Jul 31, 2017. Source:

Kanex GoPlay Sidekick delivers console-class gaming to portable devices

kanex-goplay-sidekickKanex is a name that many of us are familiar with when it comes to accessories for many of our portable devices, from smartphones to smartwatches. This time around, the gaming crowd will be pleased to hear that Kanex has something up their sleeves to deliver an enhanced gaming experience with Apple’s bevy of hardware. Enter the Kanex GoPlay Sidekick, a portable wireless game controller for iOS devices. With the GoPlay Sidekick, it will allow console-style gaming to be experienced on the iPhone, iPad, and even Apple TV, now how about that?

This pocket-sized wireless game controller has been certified by Apple, where it is compatible with just about any controller-supported game that can be found on the App Store. Sporting an internal rechargeable battery that delivers up to 20 hours of gameplay, it will make use of Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity in order to hook up to the corresponding iOS-powered device. With a patent pending, innovative clamshell case, the controller will remain protected while it is on the go, while doubling up as a stand in order to prop up the device while delivering a console-like gameplay experience, away from the comfort of your own home.

Mobile gaming no longer needs to sacrifice the level of control with the GoPlay Sidekick from Kanex, or so that is what the manufacturer claims. Sporting a button layout that is inspired by traditional console controllers, the Kanex GoPlay Sidekick delivers a more refined level of control compared to the touchscreen which clouds the action when your thumbs move all over the place, while pressure-sensitive buttons, dual analog joysticks, trigger buttons and a D-pad complete the picture.

When not in use, it can slip into a pocket or bag with ease, and the rechargeable battery will be charged via the iPhone’s Lightning cable, where a single full charge delivers up to 20 hours of non-stop gameplay. The Kanex GoPlay Sidekick will retail for $59.95 apiece.

Press Release
[ Kanex GoPlay Sidekick delivers console-class gaming to portable devices copyright by Coolest Gadgets ]


MSI WS63 workstation updated with NVIDIA Quadro P4000 graphics

msi-ws63-updatedMSI knows that it cannot simply stand still and let the world go by, this is the surefire path to obsolescence. This is also the main reason as to why they have decided to give the MSI WS63 workstation an update, cramming into it the NVIDIA Quadro P4000 graphics chipset to deliver superior mobile performance, regardless of where you are at that point in time.

The updated MSI WS63 which is powered by the Quadro P4000 with Max-Q Design brings with it a slew of benefits. Sporting a smaller design, it also delivers improved graphics performance as well as boasts of an optimized air flow system, allowing MSI to redefine the term ‘portable workstation performance’.

Using NVIDIA’s Pascal architecture, the Quadro P4000 GPU is touted to be able to offer more than 40% the visualization performance and 1.7 times the computing performance compared to its predecessor. With the MSI WS63 boasting of the performance capability and memory capacity that large workstation models have, it is able to churn out photo-realistic renderings and a compelling VR experience without missing a beat, all arriving in a thin and light mobile workstation chassis.

Hardware specifications of the MSI WS63 include 8GB of GDDR5 memory in the Quadro P4000 GPU, 32GB of RAM, NVIDIA GPU Boost 3.0, five pipes for optimized thermal design, a 41-blade fan for the CPU, built-in biometrics and high-level security for enterprise-grade security, which have been certified by Windows Hello, a 15.6” display that arrives in either Full HD or 4K IPS options. In terms of storage, you can pick from either a 512MB SSD + 2TB HDD or a 256MB M.2 SATA + 1TB HDD, depending on your budget and needs, all powered by a 7th generation Intel Core i7 processor. The starting price stands at $3,099 apiece.

Press Release
[ MSI WS63 workstation updated with NVIDIA Quadro P4000 graphics copyright by Coolest Gadgets ]


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