‘Petrolhead Packages’ Launched In Qatar As Country Gears Up To Host First Formula 1 Race

Qatar Tourism

DOHA, Qatar, Nov. 16, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) —

  • Qatar Tourism, in partnership with destination management company 365 Adventures, launches adrenaline-filled “Petrolhead Packages” for Formula 1 visitors
  • Visitors will discover the best of Qatar’s sea, sand and sky through thrilling motorised experiences  
  • The first ever Qatar Grand Prix will take place from 19-21 November 2021

All roads lead to Qatar as the country prepares to host the first ever Formula 1 Ooredoo Qatar Grand Prix 2021.

As the country gears up for the event, taking place from 19-21 November, Qatar Tourism is inviting all racing enthusiasts to experience an action-packed adventure with the launch of thrilling “Petrolhead Packages“.

The adrenaline-filled packages are available to book now, through 365 Adventures and are redeemable until 31 December 2021. They include excursions for a minimum of two people with all the thrills of the sky, sea, sand and stars. From jet skiing and paratriking, to a supercar rental with a pit-stop for lunch, the deals are all curated with the petrolhead in mind.

Chief Operating Officer of Qatar Tourism, Berthold Trenkel, said: “As we gear up to add and host yet another exhilarating international sporting event to our calendars, we’re thrilled to steer visitors towards all our exciting, motorised experiences with these new packages. Our tourism development is accelerating forward, and the speed and excitement of the Formula 1 reflects the transformational journey the country is on.”

The Petrolhead Packages can include:

F1 Petrolhead Package
Day 1 — Sea
Morning Yacht / pearl angler boat trip (2 hours)
Afternoon Jetski (1 hour)
Evening Sunset dhow cruise (3 hours)
Day 2 — Sand and Stars
Morning Supercar with pit-stop lunch (24 hours)
Afternoon Quad bikes (1 hour)
Evening Glamping desert safari (20 hours)
Day 3 — Sky
Morning Paratriking (20 minutes)
Afternoon Plane / helicopter ride (1 hour)

Experience Specialist at 365 Adventures, Denise Castellvi said: “A driving adventure awaits all visitors who choose a Petrolhead Package, fuelled by the best motorised experiences the country has to offer under the winter sun. Visitors will get to experience Qatar’s natural landscapes as they glide through the Arabian waters on a dhow boat, then bash their way through sand dunes on the quad bikes, before soaking up incredible aerial views of the country in a helicopter experience.”

Motorheads who like to watch the pros in action should consider linking their “Petrolhead Package” to one of the many motor-focused events coming up in Qatar. In November, the first Qatar Grand Prix will take place at the Losail International Circuit, and this will also play host to the MotoGP 2022 next year. A Hot Wheels Monster Truck event will take place from 8-11 December 2021, and from 2023 there will be a Formula 1 Grand Prix in Qatar every year for 10 years. Visitors should look for the latest events calendar updates here: https://www.visitqatar.qa/en/events

While motorsports and activities remain popular in Qatar, the country is now constantly looking to boost its sustainability credentials and is enhancing its public transportation system to be more environmentally friendly, with the introduction of electric buses. The country’s public transport system aims to become 25% electric by 2022, and it aims to deploy 2,700 bus stops by 2022.

To find out more information on Formula 1 and what to do in Qatar, visit: https://www.visitqatar.qa/en/events/formula-1-race-qatar-grand-prix


For media-related inquiries, please contact Qatar Tourism’s Press Office on:

+974 7774 7863 | pressoffice@visitqatar.qa

About Qatar:

Qatar is a peninsula surrounded by the Arabian Gulf in the heart of the Middle East, with 80% of the earth’s population within a six-hour flight. Ranked the safest country in the world in 2020 by Numbeo, Qatar welcomes all travellers, and guests from over 85 countries can enter visa-free. Qatar has an incredible variety of easily accessible tourist attractions, a plethora of fauna and flora including Whale Sharks and the majestic national animal the Arabian Oryx, and most experiences are a unique combination of cultural authenticity and modernity. From iconic museums to high-rise restaurants, from thrilling desert adventures to world-famous events including none other than the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, there is something for all types of travellers and budgets.

About Qatar Tourism:

Qatar Tourism is the official government body responsible for the development and promotion of tourism in Qatar, facilitating the sector’s exponential growth. Qatar is a destination where people of the world come together to experience unique offerings in arts, culture, sports, and adventure, catering to family and business visitors, rooted in Service Excellence. Qatar Tourism seeks to boost the entire tourism value chain, grow local and international visitor demand, attract inward investment, and drive a multiplier effect across the domestic economy. The Qatar Tourism Strategy 2030 sets an ambitious target to attract over six million international visitors a year by 2030, making Qatar the fastest growing destination in the Middle East.

Web: www.visitqatar.qa

Twitter: @VisitQatar

Instagram: @VisitQatar

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Philips advances ultrasound portfolio with new robust imaging tools and features for Radiology to increase diagnostic confidence and workflow efficiency

November 16, 2021

  • Advanced diagnostics for the early detection of liver disease on the company’s ultrasound systems EPIQ Elite and Affiniti receive FDA 510(k) clearance
  • New Philips Liver Fat Quantification allows non-invasive diagnosis of early-stage fatty liver disease
  • Collaboration Live telehealth solution brings remote diagnosis to mobile platforms including iOS, Android and Chrome

Amsterdam, the Netherlands – Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA), a global leader in health technology, today announced it has received 510(k) clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its new Liver Fat Quantification tools as part of the latest release of its ultrasound systems EPIQ Elite and Affiniti, bringing the cost and accessibility advantages of sonography to the diagnosis of early-stage liver disease. Featured at this year’s Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual meeting (November 23 – December 2, Chicago, USA), the new tools will allow clinicians to track liver health.

Fatty liver disease is the most common and earliest stage of chronic liver disease. The incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is increased by various risk factors, including Type 2 diabetes and obesity. It is estimated that NAFLD may be present in about 25% of the global population [1]. NAFLD includes milder fatty liver disease, as well as more severe forms that include inflammation, a condition called Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), and fibrosis. Research suggests that early intervention enables patients to adopt lifestyle changes that can help to prevent liver disease [1], while early assessment of fatty liver is key to potentially reversing this progression of liver disease [2].

“With a quantitative way of measuring liver fat, it is a lot easier for us to let the referring physician know where the patient is quantitatively on the NAFLD spectrum,” said Richard G. Barr, MD, PhD, President, Radiology Consultant, Inc., Youngstown, Ohio, U.S.A., and Medical Director at Southwoods Imaging. “With traditional gray scale imaging, we could only tell if the liver had a high degree of fatty infiltration or if it was normal, but it was very hard to assess whether fatty liver disease was mild, moderate or severe. Attenuation imaging now gives us a numerical value that will enable us to follow the patient over time. With the combination of quantitative fat assessment and liver stiffness the probability of NASH can be assessed.”

With the extended remote functionality of Collaboration Live on both the EPIQ and Affiniti platforms, technicians can also securely access on-demand, real-time guidance and decision support to enhance diagnostic confidence and workflow efficiency during exams.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates the continued advancement of our ultrasound portfolio to increase diagnostic confidence and workflow efficiency,” said Jeff Cohen, General Manager of Ultrasound at Philips. “Accessible ultrasound-based Liver Fat Quantification is a screening and early diagnostic tool that will allow many more patients to take their health into their own hands by making simple lifestyle changes.”

Enhancing the diagnosis and treatment of early-stage and advanced liver disease
Philips Ultrasound Systems EPIQ and Affiniti on Release 9.0 now support radiologists and hepatologists in the diagnosis and treatment from early-stage to advanced liver disease, making it easier to perform longitudinal studies to assess liver disease progression. With this latest release, the company further strengthens its liver solution and expands its full availability to the Affiniti 70 and Affiniti 50 – supported by the innovative PureWave C5-1 Curved transducer, now also available on Affiniti 50 – to enhance diagnostic confidence in abdominal, hepatology, and vascular and gynaecological ultrasound exams as well. The new Liver Fat Quantification tools complement the company’s existing ultimate solution for liver assessment with real-time shear wave imaging, contrast enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) and fusion and navigation. The Liver Fat Quantification tools, which feature ease of use plus intuitive workflow and reporting, is available on both the C5-1 and the small footprint mC7-2 MicroConvex transducer, to accommodate different body types, from smaller patients to high BMI patients [3].

Launch of Philips’ Liver Fat Quantification solution at RSNA 2021
Philips will debut its Liver Fat Quantification solution at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) Annual Meeting later this month. For more information on Philips Liver Fat Quantification, including live demos, follow @PhilipsLiveFrom for updates throughout the RSNA event. For more information on Philips’ portfolio of liver ultrasound solutions, visit the Philips liver assessment webpage, and join Philips at RSNA 2021 where the company will spotlight its latest portfolio of radiology workflow solutions and smart connected imaging systems to increase efficiency and diagnostic confidence in precision care and treatment.

[1] Asrani et al. Burden of liver disease in the world. J Hepatology. 2019;1.
[2] Younossi ZM. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – A global public health perspective. J Hepatol. 2019;70(3):531-544.
[3] Chen J. Realizing dramatic improvements in the efficiency, sensitivity and bandwidth of ultrasound transducers. Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. 2006.

For further information, please contact:

Kathy O’Reilly
Philips Global Press Office
Tel.: +1 978-221-8919
E-mail: kathy.oreilly@philips.com

About Royal Philips

Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA) is a leading health technology company focused on improving people’s health and well-being, and enabling better outcomes across the health continuum – from healthy living and prevention, to diagnosis, treatment and home care. Philips leverages advanced technology and deep clinical and consumer insights to deliver integrated solutions. Headquartered in the Netherlands, the company is a leader in diagnostic imaging, image-guided therapy, patient monitoring and health informatics, as well as in consumer health and home care. Philips generated 2020 sales of EUR 17.3 billion and employs approximately 78,000 employees with sales and services in more than 100 countries. News about Philips can be found at www.philips.com/newscenter.


Business Process Management and Robotic Process Automation Industry Veteran Abhijit Kakhandiki joins the iGrafx Advisory Board

TUALATIN-PORTLAND, OR, Nov. 16, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — iGrafx, a worldwide leader in digital business transformation and process management, announces that Abhijit Kakhandiki, business process management (BPM) and robotic process automation (RPA) industry veteran, will join iGrafx as a Board Advisor. Mr. Kakhandiki is a seasoned product executive with a proven track record across diverse industries focused on Software as a Service (SaaS) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) domains.

“Abhijit brings 30 years of product design and strategy to iGrafx,” said Teesee Murray, CEO of iGrafx. “What impressed me most is his business acumen and entrepreneurial approach at solving complex process problems. At iGrafx we have the desire and ability to move fast when it comes to product development and Abhijit has the intellect and experience to advise us well as we make key decisions across our product roadmap and go-to-market strategy.”

Mr. Kakhandiki has served as chief product officer at both public and private companies. At LiveRamp (NYSE: RAMP) he led product vision, strategy, design, and roadmap. At Automation Anywhere, he built SaaS and AI products to enable enterprises to gain quantum leaps in efficiency through the automation of business processes. In addition to decades of proven product expertise, Mr. Kakhandiki holds numerous patents in the process automation space.

“iGrafx has a long history of delivering process excellence to global corporations,” said Kakhandiki. “2021 has been a pivotal year with significant new investment and leadership, resulting in a company that is now perfectly poised to take advantage of the next evolution of process management. I look forward to working with iGrafx as they fine tune their awesome roadmap and GTM strategy with organic and inorganic announcements.”

Mr. Kakhandiki’s Board Advisor appointment is effective immediately.

2021 is the 30th anniversary of iGrafx. The company delivers business process management solutions to the largest companies in the world—particularly those in heavily regulated markets where process management and compliance are critical functions. More information about Mr. Kakhandiki and the iGrafx leadership team can be found at igrafx.com.

About iGrafx

iGrafx, a leader in Business Process Management, enables the world’s largest enterprises to turn process into a competitive advantage. The iGrafx Platform captures and connects critical business operations for detailed analysis, modeling, and optimization. In today’s competitive market, business leaders must align business objectives and IT systems, comply with industry regulations, automate business process, and identify and implement process efficiencies by undertaking initiatives such as RPA, Six Sigma and Lean. With iGrafx, businesses connect the dots across these efforts to deliver results, improvements, and increase return on investment. Learn more by visiting www.igrafx.com.


Veena Vadgama

Hitachi Energy launches IdentiQTM digital twin for sustainable, flexible and secure power grids

Game-changing solutions built on the unique domain expertise of the technology and market leader in power grids which integrate with Hitachi’s Lumada platform

Zurich, Switzerland, Nov. 16, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Zurich, Switzerland, 16 November, 2021 – Further to its press release on October 13, 2021, announcing its evolution to Hitachi Energy, the global technology and market leader in power grids today launched IdentiQ™, its digital twin1 solutions for high-voltage direct current (HVDC) and power quality solutions. IdentiQ2 will help to advance the world’s energy system to be more sustainable, flexible and secure, accelerating the transition towards a carbon-neutral future.

IdentiQ is the digital twin of a HVDC converter station, STATCOM or other power quality solution. It provides all the relevant asset information, analytics and operational data in an intuitive and easy-to-navigate dashboard, which users can customize to match their needs. IdentiQ includes 3D interactive visualization of the complete asset, combined with one-click access to all the associated plant and equipment information, including engineering documentation, operational and maintenance procedures, safety training and live operational data for monitoring and analytics.

“IdentiQ is a game-changing digital twin solution built on our unique domain expertise and leadership in power grid technologies and innovation,” said Niklas Persson, Managing Director of Hitachi Energy’s Grid Integration business. Niklas added, “It is a significant addition to Hitachi Energy’s digital offering and supports our customers’ efforts to continuously enhance the efficiency and reliability of their grid investments.”

IdentiQ will enable customers to improve the management of power grid assets by clustering all information into one digital location for seamless access by all operational functions. This approach stands at the core of Hitachi Energy’s vision for digital twin technology: delivering the right resources and information to the right people at the right time for optimized operations and smarter decision making.

IdentiQ makes HVDC and power quality assets more:

·       Sustainable and eco-efficient – by enabling comprehensive remote analysis and support and by digitalizing paper-based information on older installations;

·       Flexible – by adapting to continuously changing asset performance needs over the entire life cycle;

·       Secure – by complying with industry-leading cybersecurity standards and protecting all asset data and information from being misplaced or destroyed; and safer, by providing virtual training on on-site procedures, required clothing and evacuation routes before visiting a site.

Digitalization is essential to making electricity the backbone of the entire energy system and advancing a sustainable energy future for all. It is key to the integration of bulk and distributed renewables, as well as the electrification and decarbonization of sectors like transportation, industries and data centers; and empowering countries and companies to meet their carbon emission reduction goals.

IdentiQ integrates with a range of enterprise business systems, including Hitachi’s Lumada platform and the Lumada suite of Asset and Work Management software, and together  they provide system-wide visibility – from the site to the boardroom. IdentiQ is part of Hitachi Energy’s ambition to drive the pace of digital and eco-efficient innovation in power grid technologies and accelerate the transition towards carbon-neutral energy systems. The launch builds on a year of powerful innovation from Hitachi Energy, including:

·       Lumada Asset and Work Management – launched in January 2021, to enable asset-intensive industries to be more adaptive, collaborative, insightful and predictive. Lumada features technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, advanced data analytics, hybrid cloud management and cybersecurity; and

·       EconiQ™ – launched in April 2021, providing an eco-efficient portfolio of products, services and solutions that deliver an exceptional environmental performance compared to conventional solutions.

Both portfolios are integral to Hitachi Energy’s Sustainability 2030 strategic plan, which draws on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to deliver social, environmental and economic value.


1.     A digital twin is a virtual representation that is designed to accurately reflect a physical asset or system, providing insight into the systems’ performance or lifecycle.

2.     IdentiQ™ stands for accuracy, intelligence and quality.

About Hitachi Energy

Hitachi Energy is a global technology leader that is advancing a sustainable energy future for all. We serve customers in the utility, industry and infrastructure sectors with innovative solutions and services across the value chain. Together with customers and partners, we pioneer technologies and enable the digital transformation required to accelerate the energy transition towards a carbon-neutral future. We are advancing the world’s energy system to become more sustainable, flexible and secure whilst balancing social, environmental and economic value. Hitachi Energy has a proven track record and unparalleled installed base in more than 140 countries. Headquartered in Switzerland, we employ around 38,000 people in 90 countries and generate business volumes of approximately $10 billion USD. 

Rebecca Bleasdale
Hitachi Energy Ltd.
+41 78643 2613

Cawood Scientific Group Joins Ensign-Bickford Industries

DENVER, Nov. 16, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Ensign-Bickford Industries, Inc. (EBI) today announced it has successfully closed on its acquisition of Cawood Scientific Limited (Cawood), headquartered in Bracknell, UK.

Headquartered in Denver, CO, EBI is a 185-year-old privately held corporation with diversified businesses in aerospace and defense, molecular diagnostics, and pet food palatability markets. Cawood Scientific is the UK’s leading independent scientific group, with laboratories throughout the UK, EU, and US serving the agriculture, food, and environmental sectors. Cawood will become a member of EBI’s Agriculture and Environmental Diagnostics Group.

Commenting on the acquisition, EBI President and CEO Tom Perlitz said, “Cawood has more than just exceptional growth potential, it comes to us as a thriving business with a solid market position and great talent – built on a set of strong principles that very closely mirror the core values of EBI. This partnership will support both goals to expand our diagnostic offerings and extend our reach in global markets, and we could not be more pleased to welcome Cawood into the EBI family.”

“Over the last 18 months, Cawood has doubled in size, following significant investment in acquisitions, equipment, and technology, and EBI is committed to supporting and guiding that strategic growth long-term,” said Cawood’s Simon Parrington, who will continue as the Cawood Group CEO.

Tom Perlitz also noted, “Cawood will represent a unique partnership with EBI’s EnviroLogix business that will strengthen and grow EBI’s foothold in the agricultural supply chain. With the addition of Cawood’s capabilities to our diagnostics growth platform, we will be able to offer a compelling farm-to-feed diagnostic solution for our customers in the ag industry as we expand globally.”

Ensign-Bickford Industries (EBI) is a 185-year-old privately held corporation with diversified businesses in aerospace & defense, molecular diagnostics, and pet food palatability markets. EBI’s businesses provide the global marketplace value-added products and services, including palatability enhancers for the pet food industry, precision energetic systems for the aerospace market, innovative explosive and non-explosive solutions for defense customers, and molecular and protein detection for the agricultural industry. EBI is headquartered in Denver, CO. For more information, visit http://www.ensign-bickfordind.com/

Cawood Scientific Limited (Cawood), is the UK’s leading independent scientific group, with offices in the US, Spain, Czech Republic, and Republic of Ireland. The group provides independent laboratory analysis for the agriculture, food, infrastructure, and environmental sectors, as well as contract research to support the development of agrochemicals, biocides, and other chemicals. For more information visit https://cawood.co.uk/

Media Contact
Alexandra Ulrich

InDevR Launches ArrayMax Mixer for Even Faster VaxArray Assay Times

Featured Image for InDevR, Inc.

Featured Image for InDevR, Inc.

BOULDER, Colo., Nov. 16, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — InDevR, Inc., a life science tools company providing powerful analytical technologies to support the development and production of vaccines and biotherapeutics, announced commercial availability of its new ArrayMaxTM Mixer to provide significantly reduced assay times for its VaxArray® Portfolio of immunoassay kits.

Current VaxArray Assays include kits for influenza, coronavirus, measles/rubella, and polio, and provide vaccine manufacturers faster characterization of identity, quantity, and stability parameters during manufacture and release of vaccine products. The ArrayMax Mixer significantly improves mixing over static incubation or traditional orbital shakers during assay execution using either antibody or antigen samples. In internal validation studies comparing ArrayMax to original VaxArray protocols, similar or improved analytical performance was obtained using new ArrayMax-executed VaxArray protocols and up to an 85% reduction of time to result was obtained.

In a small 6″x 6″ footprint, this convenient new tool provides the possibility to generate VaxArray results in a fraction of the time compared to traditional ELISA, providing a total assay time of less than one hour for currently available VaxArray Kits. As an example, the VaxArray Influenza Seasonal HA Assay previously had an approximate 2.5 hour time to result including sample preparation. Using the ArrayMax Mixer, the total assay time was reduced to < 30 minutes, which provides a 5x faster time to result. Coupled with high throughput multiplex detection of several analytes simultaneously, VaxArray allows incredibly fast, best-in-class immunoassay detection of vaccine products or serology analytes. InDevR also offers custom immunoassay kits for measurement of up to nine analytes, and ArrayMax enables all of these measurements in ~1 hour.

Erica Dawson, CTO of InDevR, noted, “Our VaxArray Assay Kits already provide significant advantages over outdated, laborious, and error prone techniques such as SRID, TCID50, and ELISAs. This further reduction in total assay time for the VaxArray Kits will benefit any vaccine development or manufacturer in bioprocess development, optimization and monitoring, as well as vaccine release testing. We are excited to continue empowering vaccine producers by further expanding our portfolio.”


Media Contact:

Terry Salyer, CCO

Phone: 650-520-8251

Email: salyer@indevr.com

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Lumiiis Announces The Dingles NFT Launch, Paying Daily Rewards, Available on Solana

Launching November 2021, Dingles by The Secret Order of Lumiiis is a collection of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) on the Solana blockchain that pays daily rewards in the form of LumiiiTokens, the official governance token of the Lumiii ecosystem.


TORONTO, Nov. 15, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Secret Pirates Entertainment Inc., the creators of The Secret Order of Lumiiis™ franchise — a decentralized edutainment ecosystem built on the Solana (SOL) blockchain — announces the launch of The Dingles, a collection of 7,777 generative non-fungible tokens (NFTs) featuring the wild Dingles of Dingledum. It will launch Nov. 13, 2021.

This limited NFT collection has a total supply of 7,777 on Solana. Owning a Dingle NFT gives holders access to the Lumiiis’ world of Dingledum, providing passive rewards in the form of LumiiiTokens, as well as chances to win even more physical and digital collectible assets. The rarest Dingles — those featuring gold foil backgrounds — will become characters in the Secret Order of Lumiiis series.

The NFTs are priced at 1.8 SOL each.

Each Dingle is unique. They are programmatically generated through the blockchain from over  100 possible traits and accessories including face wear, hair, clothing, jewelry, zombie features and more. Owners of the NFTs have commercial rights and ownership over their assets.

“We are excited to share these NFTs that provide a new and fun way for holders to get involved with our project as we continue to develop this pathway for people to participate in the creative process,” said Ali Badshah, co-president, CEO and creator of the Lumiiis franchise. “We urge people to participate and look forward to growing our community as we introduce a revolutionary way for kids and parents to explore the exciting world of DeFi and blockchain together.”

In The Secret Order of Lumiiis, The Dingles of Dingledum overuse and over-consume. They get distracted easily, cause a whole bunch of global issues and have finally pushed Dingledum past the tipping point. They are an allegory for humanity and represent the foolish in all of us. Like humanity, the Dingles can use all the help they can get.

About Secret Pirate Entertainment Inc.

Secret Pirates Entertainment Inc. is a Canadian global media and gaming company marketing consumer products across all age groups. Founded in 2021 by Ali Badshah and Mehdi Rahman, Secret Pirates’ mandate is to democratize the global arts and entertainment industry through social utility and decentralized technologies.

About The Secret Order of Lumiiis

The Secret Order of Lumiiis and The Lumiii Franchise aim to introduce crypto storytelling to the world. Co-Founded by ACTRA Award-nominated actor, showrunner, and comedian Ali Badshah and international business leader Mehdi Rahman, Lumiiis by Secret Pirates Entertainment Inc. demystifies the blockchain and decentralized finance (DeFi) for kids and adults through education, entertainment, gaming and easy-to-use crypto offerings across over 11 international markets. Launching in Fall 2021, Toronto-based Lumiiis will deliver the first-of-its-kind decentralized edutainment ecosystem, powered by the blockchain.

To learn more about Lumiiis and LumiiiTokens visit Lumiii.com.


Tiffany Kayar

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Thai Court Bars Royal Reform Calls, Fuels Fears of Swelling Social Schism

BANGKOK — A top court in Thailand last week ruled that a trio of activists at the vanguard of a youth-led movement to rein in the power and wealth of the country’s monarchy had breached the constitution, which holds the king to be inviolable.

The defendants — Arnon Nampa, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul — unveiled a list of proposed reforms at a rally in Bangkok on August 10, 2020. They say their aim is to bring the country’s increasingly powerful monarchy in line with democratic norms and have denied any intent to see the institution abolished.

But in a decision broadcast on television November 10, the Constitutional Court said the 10-point list of reforms the activists unveiled aimed not at reform but held “hidden intentions to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.”

The justices said those intentions were inherent in “any actions that seek to undermine or weaken the institution.”

The court’s ruling, which carried no penalties, drew swift and strong rebuke online. The day after the court’s decision, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam warned protesters to “be more careful in future rallies” in light of the verdict.

Undeterred, thousands of Thais marched through the streets of Bangkok Sunday repeating their calls for reform of the monarchy, denouncing the court ruling and burning straw effigies of the nine justices.

The reform movement has shattered a generations-old taboo against any criticism of Thailand’s monarchy, which can carry a 15-year prison sentence.

By stifling open debate on reform, the ruling will only aggravate one of the most volatile fault lines running through Thai society, said Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of the political science faculty at Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani University.

“The court almost like closed the door for discussion on the issue relating to the institution of the monarchy because the court defined the demand for reform as unconstitutional,” he told VOA.

As a consequence, he added, “I think it would actually deepen the existing divisions between the conservative groups and the liberal groups in Thailand.”

Those divisions have fueled more than a year of protests in Bangkok met by pushback from conservative groups determined to preserve the monarchy’s pride of place in Thai society and waves of arrests and criminal charges against rallygoers. Rights groups says more than 150 people have been charged with defaming the royal family since August 2020.

In a November 11 statement, human rights group Amnesty International’s deputy director of research for the region, Emerlynne Gil, called the ruling “a dangerous warning to hundreds of thousands of Thais who want to express their opinions or legitimate criticisms of public figures or institutions.”

And while last week’s verdict carried no penalties, Gil said it could clear the way for charges of sedition and treason against the three activists and others.

“The situation in Thailand now is a really hard moment for the freedom of expression. After the statement from the Constitutional Court, I can say that we don’t have the freedom of expression anymore,” Rangsiman Rome, a lawmaker for the progressive opposition Move Forward party, told VOA.

He said the court ruling will do nothing to salve the deep-seated grievances many Thais have with the monarchy, or with the government they blame for shielding it from reform, and only make it harder to find a peaceful resolution.

“For me, when we talk about democracy, it’s not just [that] the power belongs to the people, but it means we can have some mechanism to talk, to discuss, we don’t have to use the violence to fight out the problem,” he said. “But this way, it looks like one side wins and the other side has to be silent. So, I cannot imagine how can we figure out the problem now.”

A spokesman for the government did not reply to VOA’s requests for comment.

However, at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review of Thailand’s rights record on November 10, the same day as the court’s verdict on the three activists, the government defended the monarchy’s authority and the administration’s use of the royal defamation law to preserve it.

“It reflects the culture and history of Thailand, where the monarchy is one of the main pillars of the nation, highly revered by the majority of Thai people,” Nadhavathna Krishnamra, the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s head of international organizations, told the council.

“Its existence is closely linked to safeguarding the key national institutions and national security,” he added.

Many Thais do still revere the royal family as semi-divine and the linchpin of Buddhism as the country’s national religion.

But Titipol of Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani University said the reform movement is riding a wave of generational change. And while last week’s verdict may scare some reformists off the streets for a while and slow the movement down, he added, calls for change will only keep growing.

“I don’t think it is possible to stop this demand,” he told VOA. “In the long term, you cannot change the way people think. If we look at the future of Thailand now, younger generations are growing up and they have [a] different thinking process, different perceptions [of] the world. Once these generations grow up, Thailand might be different.”

Source: Voice of America

Thai PM’s odd suggestions cause quite a stir

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha suggested that Thai people should learn how to swim, exercise and study two languages during his visit to the southern province of Krabi to attend a mobile cabinet meeting, among other duties.

While Prayut and other ministers were at an opening ceremony for Krabi’s Hat Nopparat Thara-Mu Koh Phi National Park, the prime minister met with some locals, saying that today is the day when Thailand “is being transformed”, and the most important thing is to maintain the country’s stability. Without it there would be chaos and many countries are keeping an eye on Thailand, he added.

Toward the end of his remarks, he asked people who cannot swim to learn, claiming that he has taught children how to swim. He said that, if you know how to float on water, you will never drown and people will help you, but “if you drown you will die”. He also suggested that Thai people should exercise and study two languages to survive.

Such suggestions caused quite a stir on social media. Some netizens asked “So, how many languages can the PM speak?” and “He should take his own suggestions first, especially the last one”. One of the users also commented “Thai people would like to suggest that the prime minister resigns, so that he can read books at home, learn how to swim and study English.”

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service

Phnom Penh Rebuffs US Sanctions of Cambodian Military Leaders

WASHINGTON / PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA — The United States announced sanctions against two high-level Cambodian military officials last week, setting off a storm of invectives from Phnom Penh and ratcheting up tensions related to Chinese development around the strategically located Ream Naval Base.

In statements about the decision, the U.S. specifically cited corruption related to the naval base, which has become a geopolitical flashpoint between the superpowers, as the U.S. worries it may become a Chinese military outpost on the Gulf of Thailand.

On November 10, the U.S. Treasury Department and State Department announced the sanctions against General Chau Phirun, director-general of the Defense Ministry’s material and technical services department, and Admiral Tea Vinh, the Royal Cambodian Navy commander and the brother of Defense Minister Tea Banh.

The blacklisting bars the two men and their relatives from traveling to the U.S. and freezes any of their assets in the country, including those belonging to any entity in which they own a majority stake.

The State Department said Chau Phirun and Tea Vinh were involved in corrupt acts that undermined the rule of law and public faith in institutions. It specifically accused Chau Phirun of personally profiting from U.S.-backed improvements to the Ream Naval Base in 2020 and 2021 and inflating the costs of related construction.

U.S. embassy spokesperson Chad Roedemeier in Phnom Penh cited systemic corruption, transnational organized crime and human rights abuses when asked about the action against the generals.

“U.S. officials have regularly raised these concerns with Cambodia’s leaders, but regrettably there have been no meaningful changes,” he wrote in an email to VOA Khmer on November 11.

The State Department statement also said both men have been designated for public corruption under Executive Order 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

Neither Chau Phirun nor Tea Vinh responded to VOA Khmer’s requests for comment made to their cellphones.

Ministry of Defense spokesperson General Chhum Socheat and Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Koy Kuong did not respond to VOA Khmer’s requests for comment. Tea Vinh’s son, Tea Vichet, hung up when contacted by VOA Khmer.

Both ministries released statements Friday attributed to anonymous spokespeople rebuffing the U.S. sanctions against the two top Cambodian senior military officials.

“The Ministry of National Defense regards this action as senseless and provocative. The United States has once again tried to destroy the harmony of the Cambodian people,” said the Defense Ministry.

“There is no difference between their current actions and their brutal behaviors undertaken in the past which resulted in destruction and tragedy for Cambodia and other countries around the world,” it added.

The Defense Ministry added that the U.S. need not worry about the Chinese activity around the Ream Naval Base in Preah Sihanouk province. The base is located on the Gulf of Thailand.

“The modernization at REAM is certainly not a threat to the security of any countries, as alleged. The Ministry of National Defense and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces have always shown goodwill towards other countries’ sovereignty and regard this as respect of mutual interests and a way of evading friction,” the statement said.

“In contrast, the United States constantly displays a disregard for Cambodia’s sovereignty to further its own interests and enhance its position in current geo-political rivalry,” it added.

VOA Khmer contacted the Chinese embassies in Cambodia and in Washington on Tuesday for a response to the sanctions in light of U.S allegations of China’s continuing involvement with the Ream base. There have been no responses.

Tensions were heating up over the developments around Cambodia’s key port city before the U.S. sanctioned the military leaders.

Following the release of a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies last month showing that construction was continuing on the naval base, the U.S. embassy accused Cambodia of being opaque about its intentions.

Roedemeier, the U.S. embassy spokesperson, said at the time that it was “aware of consistent, credible reporting that significant construction by the People’s Republic of China continues at Ream Naval Base.”

At the time, VOA Khmer contacted the Chinese embassies in Phnom Penh and Washington for comment on the new construction at the Ream base. Neither responded.

In its statement last week responding to the latest U.S. sanctions, Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs deplored the “long-arm jurisdiction” of the U.S. in its statement, calling the allegations “groundless” and driven by geopolitical motives.

Chin Malin, spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice and vice chairman of the Cambodia Human Rights Committee, on Thursday accused the U.S. of committing an “anarchic activity” contrary to the principles of international law and order.

He said the U.S. was guilty of the same sins as China and its other geopolitical foes. “It is the anarchy of international politics started by the superpowers,” Chin Malin added.

Ruling party spokesperson Sok Eysan said the generals had no plans for visiting the U.S. “From my understanding … there will be no effect,” he said.

However, Cambodian political observer Sophal Ear, associate dean for undergraduate programs and global development and associate professor in the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, said the latest sanctions were significant as a sign of things to come.

“I think there could be hundreds of names in the future, so adding two more is important and symbolic. Cambodians have not been forgotten,” Sophal Ear said in an email sent to VOA Khmer.

Source: Voice of America