Announcement and call for submissions

December 5th, 2006

The first edition of the Freedom and Human Rights Blog Carnival is coming up on January 7, 2007.

If you have a blog, feel free to submit an entry relating to freedom, democracy, human rights, or related issues. The deadline for submissions is at the end of each month. (Non-partisan preferred, and no profanity.)

If you are interested in the freedom of others, be sure to check out the carnival, which will usually be published on the 7th of each month. Subscribe to make sure you don’t miss it!

(What’s a blog carnival? It links to a collection of posts about a topic on other blogs.)

Blood in the snow: Murdering Tibetans at Nangpa Pass

December 5th, 2006

Imagine seeing humans shot down like animals being hunted. That’s what happened on September 30, 2006 at Nangpa Pass, high up in the snow-covered mountains. Thanks to a Romanian cameraman at a nearby mountaineering advanced base camp, you can see this atrocity too.

A group of refugees were trying to escape to India, via Nepal, from China-occupied Tibet. Chinese border troops opened fire, killing a young woman and possibly one or more others.

Two other young members of the group, who were interviewed after reaching safety, explained that they were going to India to seek education and the influence of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual (and former political) leader, who lives in India with Tibet’s government-in-exile. The victim, Kelsang Namtso, was a nun, and was hoping to join a nunnery in India.

Tibetans face discrimination and government persecution in their homeland.

This is cold-blooded murder, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to human rights abuses committed by China’s government. Many Chinese suffer persecution, torture, and even death for political and religious reasons, and all are restricted in terms of freedoms and rights.

I encourage you to watch this video, and afterwards, maybe you’ll join me in calling for a free Tibet–and a free China.

Cyber attack from al Qaeda: the bad news and the good news

December 1st, 2006

You may have noticed that the U.S. government issued a warning to online stock and banking services about the possibility of cyber attacks from terrorists, due to an al-Qaeda message encouraging such attacks. The timeframe for the possible attacks is precisely during the entire month of December–starting today.

I will explain why this development has a bright side. But first, let’s look at the bad news.

Although it hasn’t received much attention before this, the possibility for cyber warfare is huge. By breaking into computer networks, enemies could disrupt economic transactions or even vital services. It’s almost a certainty that cyberwar will eventually be used in a major assault on a nation, because it’s such a cheap and potentially easy way to cause disruption and harm from a distance.

Officials may mutter the obligatory words of downplaying this threat, as they always do, but in reality, there is little to be comforted about. Cyber attacks are not a theoretical future threat; they are a current menace. I’m not talking specifically about al Qaeda; terrorists might be able to launch a successful online attack, but they are not distinguished in this area. That honor belongs to China’s military.

Chinese hackers have gained access to Department of Defense computers hundreds of times per year. The known (or reported) intrusions have targeted computers on unclassified networks, but China’s cyber warfare units are believed to have obtained sensitive information about items such as a future command and control system, flight-planning software, and a helicopter mission-planning system. The PLA is placing emphasis on information technology in warfare.

Of course, targeting civilian systems for financial institutions, utilities, and so on could be devastating. I consider it likely that China’s military can find ways to attack some of these institutions. The Chinese government’s quest for asymmetrical warfare capabilities are well known, although the exact details of the “assassin’s mace” are a matter of speculation. China and the U.S. are on a likely collision course due to the question of Taiwan’s future. For an easy-to-read look at some cyberwar and other scenarios, see the book Showdown by Jed Babbin and Edward Timperlake.

But the key element is surprise. The ideal cyber attack would involve the enemy waking up one morning with vital service missing–electrical outages, disruption in communications, corrupted financial data. This could be used alone, or to set the stage for other types of military attacks.

This brings us to the positive aspect of the current news. America, having been actually hit by terrorists in 9/11, has learned not to ignore threats from terrorists. So, we may well benefit from having terrorists call for cyberwar, because this ensures that the threat will receive more attention, and as a result, important systems may be better protected than they would have been otherwise. Indeed, this month’s proclaimed threat may be a blessing in disguise, reducing the possibility of a very nasty surprise in the future.

What’s going on in India, the world’s biggest democracy?

November 29th, 2006

It’s reassuring to know that the second most populous nation in the world is a democracy. (Although the largest is not.)

But laboring in the area of human rights, problems tend to come to my attention. And what comes with unfailing regularity is news of religious violence and persecution in India. This often takes the form of Hindu extremists attacking Christians and other religious minorities, and India is regularly included in reports from sources such as Voice of the Martyrs. In fact, the U.S. government listed India as a Country of Particular Concern regarding religious freedom during 2002-2004.

The latest report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom mentions improvements by the new government since elections shifted the political landscape in 2004, but finally admits that attacks still occur continually, especially in areas controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

It seems that Indian authorities and police are not taking sufficient actions to stop the attacks, and in fact, sometimes police harass the victims.

(Of course, not all the news is bad. I’ve also noticed that India has officially recognized Falun Gong, the heavily persecuted religious/meditation group originating from China, and the group seems to be doing fairly well there. That is a positive development to contrast with the other points.)

This situation had set the background for me when a new report crossed my desk. This time it was from a Tibetan pro-democracy group. Tibetan activist Tenzin Tsundue was forbidden by Indian authorities from leaving Dharamshala, the home of the Tibetan government-in-exile, until after Chinese leader Hu Jintao’s visit to India is over. The purpose was to prevent him from leading effective demonstrations against the Communist leader.

This represents a preemptive crackdown by the world’s largest democracy as it is visited by the leader of the largest totalitarian state.

Despite this, it appears that India had quite a lively protest during Hu’s visit, with hundreds of peaceful demonstrators calling attention to the repression in their homeland. Unfortunately, at one point a student decided to set himself on fire in protest–he was saved, but the desperation of his act highlights the extreme suffering of Tibetans in a largely indifferent world.

Due to the size and success of the protests, activists actually gave an ironic thank-you to Indian and Chinese authorities for trying to silence the well-known activist Tsundue, because “they have now created hundreds more Tsundues.”

India’s democracy is a major asset in a world that is still divided between freedom and tyranny, and protecting human rights and freedoms there is crucial. If you would like to encourage India’s government to take action and improve in these areas, I will include a link for official contact information.

http://goidirectory.nic.in/

Launching a library

November 28th, 2006

I’m happy to announce ReadThese.com, a new site where I will be personally selecting and introducing books for free online reading–literature that I consider to be of very high quality, and well worth reading. These are books that have given important insights, told great stories, or otherwise offered much to the reader.

My personal introduction to each book will explain the valuable qualities and contributions I see in the work.

The first book I’ve selected is Charles Eastman’s autobiography, Indian Boyhood. Get inside the world of a young Dakota Sioux and discover a treasure of information about Native American life. The experiences and concepts that Eastman shares in this book are nothing short of fascinating. His vivid and thoughtful descriptions bring the Dakota tribe back to life for the reader, with their beliefs and motivations as well as their activities and adventures.

Read this, if you would like to experience an incredible encounter with the Sioux, and bookmark ReadThese, if you would like to find selected outstanding books.

The other facets of Curry Kenworthy (or, I start blogging and expand this site)

November 28th, 2006

For many years my web page has focused exclusively on my software. However, as some may have speculated, my life has a few more angles in addition to that one. In the last several years I have become increasingly involved in nonprofit work, and also in the study of human society and well-being.

Besides that, I’ve always had something of the “Renaissance man” in me, delving into a range of interests too numerous to list all at once. My nonprofit work and other endeavors have manifested themselves elsewhere, but they hadn’t trickled back to this website. That was on the to-do list, but it didn’t come to fruition, until now.

I’ve finally taken the plunge. This blog will allow me to share my thoughts and experiences in other fields of endeavor as well as sharing more about my shareware. Additionally, I will be adding links to some new types of content at the curryk.com site.

The end result will reflect more of what I do, and allow me to do more that reflects my priorities–to help individuals and societies solve problems, meet their needs, and improve their well-being; and to delve into and contribute to some of the fascinating and important areas that human experience has to offer. Those have been driving forces behind my efforts in software as well as in activism, and now I’m happy to be able to share more here at curryk.com.

Best wishes,

Curry K.

Enjoying an ancient game

November 22nd, 2006

Lately I’ve been playing Senet when I need some relaxation. The Ancient Egyptians may have started playing it more than five thousand years ago, and they kept going for three thousand years. Having played it quite a bit myself, I can understand their fascination with the game.

Senet is played on a board of three rows and ten columns, and the object is to get your players off first. The game is fairly simple, but the fifteenth square and the last five squares have special rules that make things challenging and interesting. No one knows exactly how Senet was played, but plausible rules have been deduced by historians. I find that playing the game also leads to assumptions (right or wrong) of what rules work best.

I’m actually playing my own implementation of Senet; I am making computer software for the game, which will be available on this site. And of course, I’m playing against the computer.

It’s quite possible to use strategy to gain advantages during the game, but when it comes down to the final piece, it usually becomes a matter of pure luck. (Usually, although not always.) It can be frustrating to have an overwhelming lead on your opponent, only to lose the game due to unlucky throws that force your last piece to move backward repeatedly. No wonder the Egyptians connected success in the game with divine favor. (In fact, it became very significant in their religious beliefs, although it continued to be played for normal entertainment as well.) Senet was even a hieroglyphic character in their writing. They were obsessed with it.

I find it really enjoyable to play a game that made up an important part of people’s lives thousands of years ago. That sense of connection with the past is a welcome addition to the fun of the game. I may become almost as obsessed with the game as they were–although I don’t stake my spiritual welfare on it.

Stay tuned for my Senet game. In the meantime, if you’d like to try a unique arcade puzzle game, different than any you’ve played before, download Ashalii.