Cyber warning: beware of ransomware attacks

Decades ago, I remember people talking about the possible cyber war in the future. At that time, it did not make any sense to me. But today, it seems what people had feared for years is becoming a reality. The advanced computer technology of the modern age has given birth to many sophisticated hackers who are responsible for some of the deadliest cyber-attacks the world has ever seen in the recent history. The first was the widely publicized hacking of Sony Pictures in November 2014 in which a group named The Guardians of Peace hacked the database of the film studio and released several new films online. Then came the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the 2016 US Election which led to the leak of thousands of confidential and private emails of the Democratic Party officials on WikiLeaks. Today, we are seeing another kind of cyber-attack, through a ransomware called WannaCry which has already affected more than 150 countries since last Friday. WannaCry is a malicious software that freezes your computer and demands $300 to be paid online if you want to regain access to your files. What causes more panic for the victims is that the ransomware threatens to permanently delete all the files within a week if the ransom money is not paid. Although there is no guarantee that the access will be granted after paying the money, the analysis of the Bitcoin Wallets has shown that a significant amount has already been paid by the victims in a desperate bid to get back their files and documents.

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The dark energy behind anonymity

One winter night in 1993, my wife’s elder sister, Sita Rai in Sibsoo got the biggest shock of her life. While everybody was busy with works late into the night, a group of men suddenly circled them and started attacking them with sticks and machetes indiscriminately. All their faces were covered in black soot. They threatened the family that they would kill them if they do not surrender their money and jewelry. Her father-in-law was subsequently dragged away into the fields, to the spot where he had hidden the money underground and was left with severe cuts and bruises after robbing him of his life-long savings. Later, the family learned that the robbers were from the same village but since they had distorted their faces with soot, they could not be identified. Likewise, many robbers disguise themselves when they rob people. Even if they do not hide their identity, they at least wait for the night to fall before they decide to act so that their identity can be hidden by nature. This is the negative energy you would get when you hide yourself behind the masks.

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Monsoon warning

With the ongoing road-widening activities in full swing and the early arrival of Monsoon this year, it is becoming increasingly risky for people to travel along the national highways today. Over the past couple of months, we have seen a number of tragic accidents along the West-East National Highway that have killed both foreign tourists and Bhutanese nationals. As a mountainous country, the topography of Bhutan itself is not friendly for road travelers but during the Monsoon season, the highways become even worse. The road blockages due to landslides and shooting boulders along the national highways are once again becoming a common phenomenon. As a result, it is very important to take extra caution while driving nowadays. We have already lost many precious lives due to reckless driving. Only the affected families would be able to feel the real pain of having to lose somebody like this. The heaps of sands and lose soil alongside the roads, and the overhanging boulders due to the road-widening activities are some of the most dangerous risk factors for road mishaps. As a driver, one should drive slowly and cautiously so that everybody would be safe. Travelling along the national highways today is like travelling between life and death. One has to be always alert and vigilant because anything can happen any time.

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A baby shower without father

A young girl saw her future too close when she met a guy who looked cheerful and innocent. They instinctively fell in love with each other and started hanging out together. Although both of them were far from securing a stable future, the gravity of love and trust which bound them together gave them the assurance that they were made for each other. But after several months of intimate relationship, they began to discover their differences. Misunderstandings crept in and started to tear them apart. Finally, they decided to end their relationship. The girl painfully let her boy-friend walk away from her life. But soon afterwards, she realized she was pregnant. She kept this secret to herself for five months until her family noticed it. Despite several negotiation attempts, the boy refused to own the paternal responsibility saying he was not convinced that he was the biological father of the baby. However, he at least agreed to give a copy of his Citizenship Identity Card to enable the girl to carry out her medical check-ups and to process her medical documents in the hospital. The girl had her first medical check-up after five months of pregnancy and got her health documents processed. Then in March 2017, she gave birth to a healthy baby son despite those traumatic experiences she had to endure during her pregnancy. This is the story of a young single mother in whose house I and my colleagues went for a baby shower yesterday evening.

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How to deal with problems positively

Problems are part of our life. They teach us lessons and make us a strong person every time we stumble upon them. If we did not have any problem in life, I don’t think the human civilization could have evolved into such a glory today. When you find yourself entangled in problems, it is not the end of everything. A problem is just a bend in the life’s journey and you can easily maneuver around it if you know how and when to turn. When we don’t find a way out of the situation we are in, we feel we are the most miserable people in this entire world. But if we all are to take out our troubles and keep them on the table to be exchanged with that of others, I am sure that after a brief silence, everybody would choose to take back his or her own troubles. We would be able to appreciate what we have only when we compare ourselves with those who are more miserable than us. In fact, we all have adequate resources within us that can help us maneuver out of any difficult situation, but the problem is that we don’t easily recognize those assets in us. Life is beautiful only if you know how to decorate it with the colors you have in your heart. If you can see both sides of a coin, you can definitely find your way out when you get stuck. But if you focus only on one side of the coin, you cannot have a bird’s eye-view of the situation around you.

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Who is rich?

A poor woman works at a construction site. Under the shade of a small umbrella nearby, her little baby keeps crying. She excuses herself from work from time to time to breastfeed him but it’s not enough to quench his hunger and thirst. During the lunch break, she walks into the nearby hotel and requests the owner if she could have a glass of milk for her baby but the owner tells her that she has to pay if she wants the milk. She does not have any money. So with a blush on her face, she comes back to work. The baby is still crying hard but there’s nothing she can do to help him.

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How women help men define their way of life: a short family drama

Many people say that the nature of a man is often defined by the attitude and behavior of his wife at home. Although this theory is often debatable, some women might agree that the happiness and wellbeing of the family depends significantly on how they behave with their husbands. Women are the main source of comfort and warmth in the family. Their attitude and behavior can certainly influence the way their husbands behave at home. The following two scenarios will demonstrate how men can define their way of life according to how their wives behave with them.

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A gruesome reminder for young social media users

The advent of social media has significantly revolutionized the way we relate to others. It has become easier than ever to find people with common interests and connect with those whom we love and care. The entire world is growing up online. Due to the absolute convenience and easy access the social networking sites offer, social media is becoming one of the most widely used tools for marketing or information-sharing. Today, many people are using social media like Facebook and Twitter even to organize informal gatherings and to share the event with the public. However with so many young people growing up online using social media, their personal safety is becoming a concern for parents and teachers. The recent rape and murder of a 19-year-old girl in Gomtu is a gruesome reminder that social media can be dangerous if you don’t know how to use it responsibly.

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Read for the Blind: a great innovation that can help the visually impaired see the world through books

Due to the lack of commitment on the part of the concerned agencies to produce reading materials in accessible formats, the visually impaired people in Bhutan still do not have access to public libraries and other resources. As of now, we are able to access only the free materials published online such as news articles and stories. The major publications such as books, magazines and research articles are beyond our reach. Forget about having the library books and other publications in accessible formats, we don’t even have enough textbooks that are accessible for the students especially those studying in higher secondary schools and university colleges. The publishers are too concerned about the copyrights that they are not willing to share the electronic version of their publications with the visually impaired readers. A library is the most popular source of information and knowledge but without accessible materials available, there is no way a visually impaired person can access it.

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Honoring men with wombs

I love women not because they are simply beautiful outside. I love them because they are equally beautiful inside. I should say that they are the most wonderful creation of God, for they have the heart that can accommodate this entire world. If you don’t believe it, just look through the eyes of your mother, sisters and your wife. You would definitely see your world in them. Yet, we often fail to recognize the role they play in shaping our world and subject them to unnecessary pain and suffering. I don’t understand why some men treat women just like sex objects when the same gender has given them birth, raised them with love and care, and left them with a promising future to lean on for the rest of their life. It is true that for centuries, these beautiful women have lived together in harmony with men, peacefully submitting to the demands and orders of men and fulfilling their duties prescribed by the society without any complaint. But even today, we often fail to acknowledge the love and sacrifices they make every day just to make this world little safer and beautiful for us to live in.

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Basic tips on how to encourage children to eat healthy foods

Children are generally fussy eaters. They always have to be coaxed into eating with us during the usual mealtimes but again, they don’t easily eat what they are served. All the parents would have experienced how difficult it is to make children eat healthy foods. My children still refuse to take many vegetables especially the ones we don’t take every day. I don’t know why but potato has become their only all-time favorite vegetable. We have been trying every possibility to make them take other vegetables as well but we have not been able to change their food habits as we have wanted.

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Inclusive curriculum is key to the success of inclusive education

Photo of blind children reading braille books. Image courtesy: Muenselling Institute's website

We have been lately talking about inclusive education in Bhutan and some of the schools have already been modified to accommodate children with varying abilities in the same learning environment. But no matter how accessible the general infrastructures of the school might be, or how well trained are the teachers dealing with students with special needs, I think the goal of inclusive education cannot be achieved if the school curriculum is not inclusive. When we talk about inclusive education, people mostly think about only accessible physical infrastructures within the school campus and disabled-friendly facilities and services. But we have never thought of the curriculum which is the backbone of formal education system in the country. I feel that our school curriculum is very rigid at the moment. We are expected to learn what is prescribed in the textbooks and not what we are good at or what we love doing. When the curriculum is developed, the needs of persons with disabilities especially the visually impaired children are never considered. As a result, the curriculum is largely visual-based and hence, the visually impaired children are deprived of the opportunity to participate equally in the classroom.

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Leading children through the turning point of their life

In the BCSE and BHSEC results for the academic year 2016 declared recently, the Bhutanese students who had appeared for the exams have seen the harvest of their year-long hard work and struggle. But as usual, not everybody is lucky. While those who have qualified for higher studies are busy celebrating their achievements with their families and friends, others are going through a terrible time. Many anxious parents are seen rushing for admission in the private schools or exploring other viable options for their children. It is a crucial turning point for the students and everybody is deeply concerned. But I don’t believe that the failure of the present should ruin your aspirations for the future. You may not be good in academic studies, but you may be excellent at something else. Just turn around, focus on what you believe you are good at and start working on it. Someday, you will have the future as promising as that of anybody else. Academic excellence is not the only secret of success. Many successful people in the world do not have even a degree. So just keep your head high and always stay positive. Sitting down and crying over the spilled milk won’t get you anywhere. It would only destroy your dreams.

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The painful realities of life in Thimphu

Panoramic view of Thimphu City. Image source: www.visitcity.com

As the Capital City of Bhutan, Thimphu has been undergoing a major transformation over the years with numerous developmental activities coming up in all corners. With various modern facilities and infrastructures in place, the city has been considered a safe haven for thousands of Bhutanese people who come here for education, employment and business. However, with the rising cases of senseless murder, burglary and robbery over the recent years, I think Thimphu is now losing the glory of its past. There are many people who no longer feel safe here today.

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How television can be bad for children

Television has become an integral part of our life at home today. It has become so ubiquitous across the globe that it is hard to imagine life without it. Nowadays, most of us have at least two to three television sets at home. The advent of television era has definitely changed the world and how we view it. While television has opened our door to the outside world, it comes with both necessary and unnecessary channels. Just with the point and the click of a button, the viewing options are endless. There are literarily hundreds of channels to choose from. Cartoons, cooking shows, news and other entertainment shows fill up the airwaves. With so many channels available to turn to, choosing the appropriate channels especially for children is increasingly becoming a concern. Some studies have indicated that television is bad for children since it often promotes violence and aggression, be it through cartoons or movies.

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