Hot Topic #26: North Korea

North Korea Quote

Image Credit: Wilson Center

Unless you’ve been living under the rock, it feels like North Korea has been in the news every single day.

I wanted to use this post to walk through several things: A brief history, news articles and documentaries, China’s concerns. and what the media is NOT reporting.


North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is the northern part of the Korean Peninsula.

Korea was annexed by Imperial Japan in 1910. At the end of World War II, Korea was divided into two zones. The north was occupied by the Soviet Union, and the south was occupied by the United States. Attempts at reunification failed. In 1948, separate governments were formed – The socialist Democratic People’s Reublic of Korea to the north, and the capitalist Republic of Korea to the south. An invasion by the north led to the Korean War, from 1950-1953. The Korean Armistice Agreement brought a ceasefire, but no peace treaty.

The North Korean army is the fourth largest in the world. With 1.21 million active duty personnel, it is only behind China, the United States, and India. Its population is estimated, in 2016 numbers, to be over 25 million people. The country shares land borders with China and Russia.

The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a strip of land, 160 miles long and about 2.5 miles wide. It separates the two countries. It was established in 1953 by an agreement between North Korea, China, and the United Nations.

The country functions as a highly centralized, one-party state. They are governed by the Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System. The Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) dominates all North Korean politics, and has an estimated three million members.

Kim Jong-un is the current Supreme Leader, or Suryeong, of Korea. He is part of the Kim dynasty, which has ruled North Korea since 1948.


Aside from general media coverage, there have been several interesting documentaries made about North Korea.

Al and I watched The Propaganda Game several years ago. I think we watched it through Netflix. It was incredibly compelling, eye-opening, and frustrating. I was so angry after we watched it.

In addition, multiple movies have featured North Korea, including The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Die Another Day (2002), Stealth (2005), Salt (2010), Red Dawn (2012), The Interview (2014), and Northern Limit Line (2015).


Over the years, concerns have arisen regarding the Kim dynasty, their treatment of their citizens, and nuclear weapons.

More recently, although North Korea has announced their intent to fully denuclearize, there are significant concerns from the Chinese government. North Korea has been blowing up and destroying some of their nuclear weapon facilities, and China has been very concerned about the radiation dust, and other environmental hazards. But, of course, the media here in the United States isn’t talking about that. But, they should be.

There’s a lot about China and North Korea that hasn’t been reported in the United States. It’s infuriating, really. I learned about investigative journalism early on in my education at Longwood. But, the current reporting has a certain strategy and angle. Not that any of that is an excuse. It’s crappy reporting, crappy journalism. I also believe there is a culture of fear now. Especially since Donald Trump is the President of the United States.


For more information, check out the links below. As always, I try to gather my news sources from a variety of United States and international news organizations.

 


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Advertisements

Commentary #74: The “New Science of Psychedelics”

The New Science of Psychedelics

Image Credit: NPR

Many of you know that I enjoy listening to podcasts. One that I listen to regularly is NPR’s Fresh Air podcast.

This week, Terry Gross interviewed Michael Pollan, a world-renowned author. His books have typically focused on food and agriculture.

However, his new book, titled How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, discusses the history of psychedelics, and the “new” uses of them to help treat anxiety, depression, and helping cancer patients face their mortality.

There have been two phases of clinical trials up until now, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved Phase III, which is “testing of drug on patients to assess efficacy, effectiveness and safety.”

In researching for the book, Pollan himself became a “reluctant psychonaut” with LSD and psilocybin (magic mushroom) to see if these effects were real.

I won’t tell you Pollan’s results, but it’s a really interesting process. I recommend listening to the podcast version of the show, as it’s an extended edition, where Pollan and Gross discuss the history of psychedelics, which is so fascinating to learn. It’s amazing to learn how LSD was first synthesized, and how it has had a turbulent history. Pollan also discusses psilocybin to an extent, which is another interesting part of the story.

For me, I was definitely more than a little skeptical. I’ve never used any drugs or psychedelics in my life. I’ve seen counselors and therapists.

However, Pollan lessened my skepticism a bit during his interview with Gross. One of his interview subjects was a woman who had survived ovarian cancer. She was absolutely terrified of it recurring, and she was paralyzed with fear. She found a guide, a therapist who administered small doses of one of these psychedelics, and helped her along her trip. She discovered this “black mass” underneath her rib cage during the trip, and originally though it was her cancer. The guide helped her understand that it wasn’t cancer, but in reality it was her fear and anxiety. During the trip, she commanded the black mass to leave her body, and it did.

When Pollan’s fact-checker called to verify her account right before the book’s publication, Pollan’s original words were something to the effect of “this black mass was significantly reduced after her experiences with psychedelics.”

The woman corrected the fact-checker over the phone and said, “No, it wasn’t ‘significantly reduced.’ It was extinguished.”

Again, some of my skepticism remains, but as someone who has a diagnosed anxiety disorder (GAD), hearing the woman’s story gave me hope. I truly believe these psychedelics helped her.


For more information, check out the following links:


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #73: Thoughts on “Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist”

Evil Genius

Image Credit: Rama’s Screen

It’s time for another diatribe on a Netflix original series!

If you’re interested in other Commentaries I’ve published on other Netflix original series, here are the links:


“Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist” explores the case of Brian Wells, a 46-year-old pizza delivery driver, in Erie, Pennsylvania. Wells was the unfortunate pawn who was forced to rob a PNC Bank in Erie on August 28, 2003. He had extremely detailed notes for the bank employees, demanding $250,000. He walked out with a little over $8,000.

The police spotted him standing outside his Geo Metro, in the parking lot of an Eyeglass World retail store near the bank, and placed him under arrest. As police were calling the bomb squad and assessing the situation, Wells indicated that he didn’t have much time, as a timer was beeping on the bomb.

The bomb was locked around his neck.

In this four-part series, documentary filmmakers interview almost all of the parties involved, from the local police, state police, FBI, ATF, friends of Wells, and several alleged co-conspirators.

Unfortunately, Brian Wells was not available to be interviewed.

As we started watching Part One, I looked at Al and I said that I remembered seeing the news coverage about this case. At the time, in August 2003, it was the last week or so of summer break, right before I started my freshman year of high school.

I remember the “pizza bomber” case.

The reason why Brian Wells wasn’t available to be interviewed for this documentary, 15 years later? While handcuffed, sitting on the pavement in the Eyeglass World parking lot, police could only watch as the bomb around his neck exploded.

The documentary, in the span of about four hours, dives deep into the complicated world of mental illness, and Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. Once a striking woman in the town, Diehl-Armstrong was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, among other illnesses.

For years, Diehl-Armstrong professed her innocence. She vehemently denied she was involved in any bank robbery, or murder plot. She claimed she’d never met Brian Wells. She blamed Wells’ unfortunate demise on several others.

But, evidence doesn’t lie. In the middle of the Wells investigation, another party, William “Bill” Rothstein, called police and told them he found a body in the freezer, and Marjorie (or Marge, as the documentary filmmaker calls her) killed him.

Unlike Making A Murderer and The Keepers, I appreciated how concise Evil Genius was. I think dividing it into four episodes was the right choice. It was well-planned, and well-executed.

Along the way, the interviews conducted were well-done, accurate, and simply fascinating. This is one of those cases where it’s hard to delineate who is and should be involved, law enforcement wise, and how those jurisdictional arguments can hinder an investigation. It shows the need for constant communication between agencies, something that was sorely lacking in several areas with this particular case.

The series also heavily focuses on mental illness, hoarding, and narcissism. Diehl-Armstrong made me sick from the very beginning. To me, she is an evil individual, who is a true narcissist. She only cares about herself, and will place blame on someone else within seconds. She’s angry, combative, and definitely not a nice woman.

It’s sad, really. They interviewed her father, and showed photos of her when she was younger. Back then, she showed immense beauty and immense promise. She’s extremely intelligent, and that’s ultimately part of the issue. She was called a mastermind, and I believe it.

Personally, I believe Wells was an innocent victim. I believe he was simply delivering pizzas, doing his job, and was caught up in an unfortunate series of events that led to his murder that day in August 2003.

However, the documentary looks at both sides – Was Wells a true victim, or was he involved in the plot?

You decide.

At the end of the series, I felt like all my questions had been answered. The right people, I believe, were arrested and prosecuted accordingly. The law enforcement agencies have learned, at least I hope they have learned, that constant communication and cooperation is key. Justice delayed is justice denied.

I thought it was a fascinating subject to explore and discover, especially since it’s been nearly 15 years since Brian Wells was killed. I applaud the filmmakers for choosing to focus on this case, their research, their interviews, and being as unbiased as possible. It’s not easy to do, especially with a case like this, one that got more complicated and convoluted.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #61: “Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide”

Girls Auto Clinic - Amazon

Image Credit: Amazon

I first heard about this book when Patrice Banks was interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air podcast!

Here’s the link from the NPR archives:


I wanted to buy this book the minute I saw the podcast episode in my library.

I’m a bit biased, I think. Being the only child, my dad made sure that I was comfortable around cars from a very early age. Since he was an engineer, he wanted me to be as confident as possible with math and science, and anything related to it. Cars are complicated, don’t get me wrong, but being naturally curious, I learned quickly.

My dad taught me how to change the oil in our Volvo station wagon before I entered middle school. I also learned the essence of a gas and maintenance log, checking tire pressures, and having an emergency kit ready to go.

I also learned that my parents keep their cars for as long as possible. Our family only had/went through five cars by the time I graduated from college in 2011.

  • White Volvo 240 station wagon, 1988-2016
  • Gold/beige Saturn SL sedan, early 1990s
  • Forest green Volvo S70 sedan, 1998-2011
  • Gold/beige Ford Ranger truck, 2005-present
  • Gold/beige Toyota Camry sedan, 2010-present

The only new cars my parents ever purchased, in my lifetime, were the Volvo station wagon, and possibly the Saturn sedan. Everything else was/has been used. I learned how to drive stick on the Ford Ranger when I was in high school, although the Saturn sedan was also a manual transmission. The Camry is my baby, whom I call “Sandy.”


I really appreciate Banks writing this type of guide. It’s important for everyone to know the basics about the car you drive, but especially women. Banks has said this book arose out of her own experiences, and shame, with being incredibly intimidated by mechanics, car repairs, dealerships, and more.

Although I was fortunate to have a wonderful dad who taught me many things about cars early on, I know many women aren’t so lucky. Even some men I know aren’t handy with their cars, and trust their mechanics to fix whatever is wrong.

Banks does a great job with breaking a car down into its basic components, and making everything less intimidating right off the bat. She founded Girls Auto Clinic as a series of workshops, where women were encouraged to bring their cars and be prepared to get their hands dirty. She’s learned from her mistakes, and tries hard to educate others. When she was younger, Banks found she was getting a new car every three-four years, dropping a ton of extra money on repairs because she was ignoring or was intimidated by routine maintenance, and zoning out when mechanics were explaining the work that was being done.

She encourages, implores women (and men) to learn the basics first, then to become very intimate with your vehicle, and to continue a similar relationship with every vehicle after that. Once you’re armed with knowledge, everything becomes easier.

Here are a few basics Banks encourages everyone to learn:

  • How to pop and raise your vehicle’s hood
  • What the lights on your dashboard or instrument panel mean
  • How to check your tire pressure
  • How to add air to your tires
  • How to measure your tire tread
  • How to check your fluids under the hood
  • How to change a tire
  • Finding and keeping a great PCT

Banks doesn’t encourage the common driver to change their own oil, although Al and I do that with our own cars. We know how, and the amount of money spent is a little less than the traditional oil change services.

The biggest tip to keep in mind: Beware of cheap car services. Oil changes aren’t normally $5.00 flat. Your car is a big part of your life – Don’t automatically spring for something cheap to save money.


Now that I’ve read the book, I plan to keep this in my glove box. It’s chock-full of valuable tips, tricks, diagrams, and recommendations.

I hope that she expands the Girls Auto Clinic across the country, too. It’s a valuable organization that empowers women in a male-dominated profession.

For more information, check out https://girlsautoclinic.com/.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #72: Books That Every Reader Needs To Read

Books Everyone Should Read - Imgur

This is a consensus cloud of Books Everyone Should Read. Image Credit: Imgur

Thrice Read! You ladies are on a roll!

Here’s the link to their post:


So, without further ado, here’s my list!

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • I’ve expressed multiple times how much I love this book. I re-read it every year. It’s amazing sometimes how you fall in love with assigned reading!

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee

  • This was another assigned reading book. It was incredibly powerful for me. I don’t re-read it every year, but I have read it multiple times.

The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks

  • Aside from the movie (2004) being excellent, the book is one of my all-time favorites from Sparks. It’s a classic romance, in my opinion.

The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank

  • Another assigned reading book that has stuck with me. Learning Anne’s story was pivotal, as I have Jewish relatives and ancestry. Plus, I’ve been fascinated by anything related to World War II for as long as I can remember.

The Giver, Lois Lowry

  • Lowry is one of my favorite authors. This book initially scared me, and gave me nightmares, so it was left unfinished for years. I think I finally got through it for the first time in college. It’s a powerful book. Plus, the movie adaptation (2014) is decent, too.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling

  • I don’t think I will ever not mention Harry Potter. Although I was a late bloomer in terms of reading the series, once I started, I was absolutely hooked. Rowling is a literal wizard!

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

  • I dove right in after it was published. This started the big dystopian kick for me. This book, and series, are ones that I will always keep on my bookshelf.

The Help, Kathryn Stockett

  • I love historical fiction, especially set in the 20th century. I devoured it within a few days, and then my mom read it. The movie (2011) is a great watch, too. Mom and I saw it together.

The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls

  • I can’t remember who recommended Walls’ memoir, but I’m so glad they did. I could not put this book down, although I probably should have been studying at the time. Walls is an amazing writer and storytelling, and her family’s adventures are something to behold. This, and her other books, will always be on my shelves.

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

  • This was another assigned reading book, for one of our first presentations in Mr. Degnan’s ninth-grade English class. Originally, I hated the book. But, years later, I re-read it, and now I love it.

Night, Elie Wiesel

  • My school district focused on World War II and the Holocaust in middle school. We did a huge unit on the Holocaust, and this book was a big part of it. However, this is one of those books that I’ve only read once, since it absolutely haunted me.

The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton

  • I don’t remember when I first read this book, but it’s always stuck with me. I found myself re-reading it several years ago, when I was going on job interviews right out of college. It’s one of those pivotal books that has so many lessons wrapped up in a good story. Plus, the movie adaptation (1983) is excellent – One of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen.

The Awakening, Kate Chopin

  • I agree with Thrice Read on this one. You either love it or hate it. I loved it from the first read.

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

  • Although fictional, Steinbeck perfectly captures the essence of despair as a family leaves Oklahoma to escape the Dust Bowl. But, life isn’t as rosy as they thought once they arrive in California. It’s a classic book about such a tumultuous time in American history.

The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg

  • I’m going to recommend Allsburg’s books as a whole (He’s written many, including Jumanji and Zathura), but The Polar Express was a childhood staple. My parents had the hardcover book, the cassette tape, and the bell. We also went to see the movie (2004) as a family. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

This was such a fun post! So much nostalgia!

What’s a book you believe ever reader should read at some point?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #71: “My Non-Fictionalized Love”

Image result for love quotes

Image Credit: BrainyQuote

I’m part of a really cool group on Facebook called Bloggers Helping Bloggers. It’s a unique community, where members can share their recent posts, publicize their blogs, and provide tips and tricks to the group as a whole.

Through Bloggers Helping Bloggers, I recently discovered Melissa, the author of Perspective Changes Everything.

She posted a link to her most recent post to her Facebook page this morning, and I devoured it immediately. What a powerful message!

Here’s the link to her post:

 


Image result for love

Image Credit: Thought Catalog

Melissa and I are a lot alike. We’ve always had our noses in books, since we were kids. She loved Danielle Steel as much as I did.

She watched more soap operas than I did, but I remember learning about them from my grandmothers and a few other female family members. Personally, I never saw the appeal of watching them religiously, although I did see a few episodes when I stuck home sick in middle school and high school. I always found myself rolling my eyes, hardly believing the drama that the actors were projecting, and changing the channel within a few minutes.

Melissa also referenced the movie adaptation of The Notebook, which I still watch occasionally. I’ve read almost all of Nicholas Sparks’ books at this point, plus seen most of the movies. I told Melissa in a comment on her Facebook post that I did my senior thesis in college on the perceptions of love and romance with the Nicholas Sparks books. True story!

But, as time has passed, I noticed that my perception of love and romance had always been heavily influenced by the books I read, and the movies I watched.

And, today, those perceptions are very different from the media portrayals.


I’ve seen this evidence in my own relationships. I’m a Christian woman, so I was raised to save sex for after marriage.

However, as early as middle school, I noticed that some of the Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs), and young adult literature was already shaping my young mind. I thought about, dreamt about a boy kissing me in front of the entire school, youth group, what have you. PDA all the way, LOL.

When I was in high school, I found myself fantasizing about being swept away by a handsome boy/man, falling in love, and eventually having sex with him. Marriage would be nice, too, and hopefully kids (ideally a boy and a girl), but I knew that was a long way off. I’d dated two guys by the time I was headed to college, and I was a full year into the third relationship by the time I started at Longwood in August 2007.

Some of you know that my third relationship, from 2006-2010, quickly became manipulative and eventually abusive. Not a Lifetime movie type of situation, but there was definitely drama.

When I first met Al in 2010, I was just starting to heal. I’d been through immense trauma, and it’s taken me many years to deal with all the repercussions. Nearly four years of manipulation and abuse is a long time. But, I’m grateful that I was able to finally recognize the signs, and escape when I did.

If I had stayed with John any longer, he would have proposed to me less than a month later, the day after my birthday in 2010. Knowing me, I would have said yes.


It’s interesting to think about my first date with Al. When I’ve told the story to people, I usually get the following comments:

  • Oh, wow. That’s so sweet!
  • It sounds like a fairy tale.
  • It sounds like something out of a Nicholas Sparks book / movie.
  • That’s so romantic.
  • Awwwww!

I’m always flattered. Trust me. That first date was something truly special, and I think about it often.

I learned on our wedding day, more than five years later, that Al knew he wanted to marry me after that first date.

For me, it took me about a week to realize that’s what I wanted. Mainly because I wanted to make sure this whole thing wasn’t a dream – That it was reality.

Nearly the first year of our relationship was “long-distance,” because I was a senior at Longwood, three hours away. Thankfully, we got along so well from the very beginning, that we didn’t have a lot of fights, disagreements, arguments, etc.

Were there stressful times? Absolutely. I remember multiple times feeling incredibly guilty because I only had 5-10 minutes to talk to him on the phone, because my schedule was so packed. It’s a wonder that I slept well at all during those two semesters!

I’m grateful that we both are good communicators, because I’m convinced that’s one of the main reasons we’ve been together for so long. Sure, there are definitely times that we struggle with it.

Because of the manipulation and abuse, I was truly afraid to speak my mind and express my feelings for the longest time, and Al helped me overcome that fear. He was so respectful of me from the get-go, willing to listen, and to just hold me if all I could do at that particular moment was cry. I’ve learned to become a better listener throughout the years, and I know that’s improved my communication skills.

Another revelation for me was being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in the summer of 2015. I always knew that I had anxious tendencies for many years, but getting the actual diagnosis was huge for me. It answered so many questions. I know Al was grateful that I saw the need to see a counselor at that time, given my expression of unresolved feelings regarding my relationship with John, and we were toward the end of planning our wedding. I knew I needed to lay everything on the table before making this life-long commitment to Al a few months later. At the time, I was also struggling with a friendship/relationship with a male classmate-turned-friend, Justin.

We got married on November 14, 2015. Al makes me so happy, truly. Together, we bought our house in the summer of 2016, and we hope to adopt a greyhound later this year.

We both have stable jobs. We look forward to doing some traveling before 2018 ends. And, we’re starting to plan for the future, too.

One of my favorites :)

One of my favorite photos from our wedding. Image Credit: Stellar Exposures

I believe that everything happens for a reason, and that we were meant to find each other. Al’s brother, Nick, was the main instigator for getting us together, and I can’t properly express my gratitude.


Throughout the years, I’ve witness multiple “true love” stories, many in my own family.

  • My parents, married for 36 years.
  • My in-laws, married for 36 years.
  • My mom’s parents were married for 64 years before my grandfather passed away in 2008.
  • My dad’s parents were married for 51 years before my grandmother passed away in 2011.
  • Both sets of Al’s grandparents were married for decades before his grandfathers passed away in 2004 and 2006.
  • Many of Al’s aunts and uncles have been married for more than 30 years.
  • My Aunt Marny and Uncle Butch, married for well over 40 years.
  • Many couples in our church congregation have been married for 30, 40, 50, 60 years.

Every couple that I’ve listed has gone through their own trials and tribulations. My parents struggled to get pregnant, Mom had three miscarriages, and then I was born 15 weeks early. I was the only child. We were a Coast Guard family, and moved twice before I was five. Dad retired from the USCG in 2002, and worked for NOAA until his retirement in 2016. Our wonderful federal government brought its fair share of stress and frustration, but they stuck it out.

Al’s parents didn’t have a lot of money at first. They started dating when they were in high school – Their best friends also married each other. Then, Al’s dad got a job with Newport News Shipbuilding, and stayed there until he retired in 2014. They both have had health scares, but they’re doing great now.

All of our grandparents, in some way, shape, or form, were touched by war or military service.

Several of our aunts and uncles have children, but several don’t. Many have had health issues. A few have had mental health crises, and a couple have been unemployed for periods of time. But, through it all, their marriages have been strong and solid.

I think about all these strong, stable, solid marriages often. More often now that I myself am married. I feel blessed, knowing that I am surrounded by so many people, mostly family, that have made their marriages work, blossom, and prosper. I learn from all of them, constantly.


I love what Melissa says about never throwing in the towel. Never giving up. Realizing that marriage is work.

This is the third time this week that I’ve seen Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages book come up, in either blog posts or conversation. I’m taking this as a sign that Laura Beth needs to read it!

Through Melissa’s post, I’ve resolved to read Chapman’s book, give my marriage more attention, helping Al and I grow even stronger as a couple.

I know Al’s not going anywhere. And neither am I. We’re in it for the long haul.


So, thanks, Melissa. I needed to read your post today. I needed to write about it. To share it. To digest it.

Thank you. I’m so grateful!


What about you?

Do you have a “non-fictionalized love” story?

What do you think about the influence of media on love and romance? Let me know!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

 

 

Book Review #60: “A Girl Named Hillary: The True Story of Hillary Clinton”

A Girl Named Hillary

Image Credit: Amazon

Like A Girl Named Rosa, this book was a fast read.

I appreciated that Hillary was considered for this series, given her recent presidential campaign.

Like Rosa’s book, I learned several new things about Hillary. Since her childhood, she’s always stood up for herself and tried to help others.

I literally grew up watching Hillary as First Lady from 1993-2001. So, in a way, she has always been inspiring to me. I think this book can be just as inspiring to other girls, now, and in future generations.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂