That was the sentence handed down to two U.S. journalists from a high court in North Korea. Twelve years of hard labor for supposedly illegally trespassing into the country and acting with “hostility toward the Korean people.”
For more information on this, check out my blog post from last week, “Waiting for a verdict.” Also, via Yahoo! News, you can read “N. Korea sentences US reporters to 12 years labor” by the Associated Press.
Previous news reports stated that Euna Lee and Lisa Ling – who were in China, near the North Korea border, filming a report for California’s Current TV about the trafficking of women – faced up to 10 years for their “crimes,” although it’s quite unclear whether or not these two women actually crossed the country’s border. Clearly those in North Korea claim that they did. However, I’ve repeatedly read that it’s possible the reporters never stepped foot into that country, yet were arrested for doing so regardless.
And now, with 12 years each to serve, the women are expected to become political bargaining tools as North Korea faces repercussions for its recent nuclear testing.
Nobody seems surprised by the sentencing, myself included. And unfortunately, despite a strong lack of diplomacy between the United States and North Korea, our country will likely give this communist state exactly what it wants – leniency – in return for the freedom of these two women.
Although I love journalism and stand by the fact that these women should not been found guilty for their actions – or the lack thereof, naturally – I’m not entirely sure how I feel about securing their freedom by merely slapping North Korea on the wrist for launching dangerous missiles against sanctions forbidding their usage. We are, in essence, providing communists with the power to do whatever they choose if it means a safe return to the states of our citizens. I realize the importance of this, yet nothing whatsoever feels good about seemingly negotiating with terrorists. After all, isn’t that exactly what they are in this scenario?
I’m seriously on the fence here, completely indecisive about my opinions on this matter. Clearly I want Lee and Ling to avoid 12 years of labor in North Korea. But what are we, as a country, sacrificing as a result? Are we putting ourselves at risk? Are we allowing the testing of nuclear weapons that could potentially be used against us? Are we opening up a can of worms that may lead us straight into nuclear warfare? What kind of jeopardy does the state of Alaska – within range of North Korea’s missiles – face in the future if we continue to let them test their devices?
…As horrible as this is to say or even consider, at what point does this become a question of the importance two lives possess versus providing increased nuclear freedoms to a communist state?
All of this remains far too serious to think about on a Monday and reminds me why I avoid politics altogether.
If you aren’t much of a news-buff, it’s possibly unlikely that you are aware of the plight two United States journalists face today in North Korea as they stand trial for crimes unknown to most of us. But for those of us in the news business, those of us familiar with North Korea’s strong control over news content and low tolerance for the journalism practices of the western world, it’s a melancholy day as we await news regarding the verdict.
As of 2 a.m. (eastern) this morning – 3 p.m. in North Korea – journalists Laura Ling* and Euna Lee were to stand trial seemingly for charges of “hostility” against the country and espionage. Unfortunately, while we can assume those are the charges against these women, that’s rather unsure because North Korea retains strict control over all news in their country – both what comes in and goes out. And with a state-controlled media system, little information has been released regarding the accusations made against Ling and Lee, leaving their fate a mystery. However, if charged with the assumed convictions, the ladies face up to 10 years in a labor camp as punishment.
So what did they do?
In March, the women – along with two others – were filming a story on the border of China and North Korea about sex trafficking for Current TV, a California-based station. And in doing so, as they straddled that divide between countries, they were promptly arrested by North Korean forces. The two others at the site managed to escape, while Ling and Lee fell victim to a government that has, or so it seems, decided to use their arrest as a bargaining chip with the United States as nuclear practices of that country are being questioned.
With Kim Jong-il’s recent nuclear testing and the obvious uproar it has caused not only in the United Nations, but in America, all indications are that the result of this trial hinges on how those entities – primarily our country’s government – deal with the potential, discussed repercussions North Korea currently faces. These women have become, quite unfortunately, pawns in a worldwide game of politics.
And while I am not typically politically minded or even relatively interested in the topic, when it comes to two journalists who were simply doing their job being used in this manner, it’s difficult to not become unraveled and enraged. Neither Ling nor Lee were acting with “hostility” toward North Korea. And espionage? You’ve got to be kidding! They were reporting on a topic entirely unrelated to nuclear capabilities, and yet they’ve been pushed into the middle of a political war. It’s just such a shame.
So here I sit, along with many other journalists around the country and world, awaiting this verdict and crossing my fingers that justice truly prevails rather than mounting tensions and political unrest. It’s truly unfortunate that these women have practically become negotiation hostages in North Korea, but we can only hope that that changes today.
Go to Yahoo! news’ “2 US journalists on trial in North Korea” for more information. Once news breaks and the verdict is announced, I’ll post that information.
* Her older sister is Lisa Ling, who you might be familiar with through Oprah – where she often appears regarding expose material, such as LDS camps and puppy mills – or through her brief stint on The View.
Although the fury of Election Day has come and gone, Obama’s win isn’t the only thing making headlines nearly one week later; California’s Proposition 8, which unfortunately passed with 52 percent of the vote, remains a fairly dominent topic.
And despite my last post noting my assumed removal from the political scene, I naturally feel the need to comment about this obvious display of inequality that changed the recently granted gay marriage rights of the West Coast.
Taking a gander at most newspapers and magazines, Prop 8 received national attention as a ballot question and, following the presidential race, touted the highest financial expenditures, approximately $73.4 million, from both sides – those for the proposition, which would ban gay marriage, and those fighting against the statute and the limitations it would impose upon a state that only several months ago legally approved of same-sex marriages.
As someone who, quite unfortunately, is a North Carolina resident and thus, had little say in helping to decide Prop 8, I could only cross my fingers – and toes, legs, arms and even my eyeballs – hoping that Californians would retain their equality, retain that sense of comfort and happiness in knowing sexuality no longer dictates which rights they are entitled to. And despite refreshing my browser, set to CNN.com, about a million times on Nov. 6, praying for the judgment to fall against the proposition, it became clear later that day that the tides had sadly turned on the other side of the country … and I was one of many, many people who couldn’t help but deeply sigh at that decision.
I can easily sit here and spout the same opinions I held last time I wrote about gay marriage – check out One ticket to hell, please – but instead, let’s take a look at some of the information that has spewed from this ill-fated decision…
— In a Nov. 6 Time Magazine article by John Cloud, “Why Gay Marriage Was Defeated in California,” the writer takes a look at why the proposition passed despite more money – nearly twice as much – and more visible support against it, including celebrities. And while he presents a viable argument explaining this reasoning, one singular point struck me as shocking:
“Gays came back in some polls, but they couldn’t pull out a win. Part of the reason is that Obama inspired unprecedented numbers of African Americans to vote. Polls show that black voters are more likely to attend church than whites and less likely to be comfortable with equality for gay people. According to CNN, African Americans voted against marriage equality by a wide margin, 69% to 31%.” – Cloud
And while I undoubtedly believe this isn’t the case across the country – or perhaps I’d just prefer to hope it isn’t – I am simply alarmed at those percentages. African Americans, who only several decades ago fought for their own equality, truly voted against equality for others? I saw this article, this segment, and felt deeply saddened by it. I would like to say I find it hard to believe that individuals whose ancestors were refused a plethora of rights in this country would refuse those same liberties to others, but the numbers don’t lie. To me, it’s nothing but ignorance, and honestly, it’s a bit disgraceful.
— Melissa Etheridge, who has been openly gay for a number of years now, issued her opinions about the monumental decision, via a blog entry at The Daily Beast, in “You Can Forget My Taxes” (a thank you to my friend, Aimee, for this link). She makes some amazing points in her message, which – if you opt to not read the piece in its entirety – boils down to the fact that gay men and women should not have to pay the same amount of taxes due to some of their rights being stripped as a result of Prop 8.
“Anyways, she and I are not allowed the same right under the state constitution as any other citizen. Okay, so I am taking that to mean I do not have to pay my state taxes because I am not a full citizen. I mean that would just be wrong, to make someone pay taxes and not give them the same rights, sounds sort of like that taxation without representation thing from the history books.” – Etheridge
And, in my eyes, she creates a very strong argument. If, as a society, we are going to tell people they are, indeed, “second-class citizens,” why should they have to pay the same amount of state and federal taxes if they are not allowed the exact same rights as everyone else? Simply put, we shouldn’t. It’s unfair. It is unjust of us, as a country, to tell people they can have “most” freedoms, but not all, and yet should fork over the same percentage of income as those who are granted every liberty afforded to straight men and women. Yes, I grew up in a household where I was repeatedly told that “life isn’t fair,” but I’ve never been one to accept that … and clearly, neither will Etheridge and many others, both straight and gay, across this nation.
— A coworker brought an editorial cartoon from Slate magazine’s Web site to my attention today, and I think it quite adequately depicts how that 52 percent of California voters see gay marriage rights:
It’s sad to realize how accurate this image is, especially in light of the approval of Prop 8. It’s also interesting to look at it and know how little we’ve truly progressed in the last 50 years. In 1958 – not as long ago as many of us would like to think – the same image could have displayed “whites” on the left and “blacks” on the right, and been just as truthful as this portrayal.
As a country, we like to think we have far advanced past those days of racism and inquality. These examples are just a few of the many that have emerged following the passing of Prop 8 last week, and I’m sure more will come as protests and vigils continue throughout California in the hopes of turning over this ballot question in 2010. Until then, I’ll keep my fingers and every other body part crossed that with Barack Obama in office – a man who proved America can, sometimes, look past differences and elect a black man as president – not only will California and other states, such as Arizona and Florida which also banned gay marriage this election, change their views on these unions, but the country as a whole can move forward, in the direction of complete equality for all citizens.
Folks, this isn’t change we can openly refuse … it’s the kind of change we really need, and I’m confident we’ll all one day find here in the United States.
Seeing as it is Nov. 4 and this year that date signifies more than still-recovering-from-Halloween-debauchery, I figured I’d jump on the bandwagon and offer up my somewhat-obligatory Election Day post.
And after nearly two years – more or less – of presidential discussion and government mumbo-jumbo, I’d like to inform you all that I am, unfortunately, still fairly politically uninclined. While I took a more vested interest in this particular election year than I have in any other beforehand – albeit, this is only my second presidential election year of voting eligibility – I can bet all $42 in my wallet right now that come Thursday, the amount of political news I read will once again be nonexistant.
Considering the fact that I did, somehow/somewhat, move from a relatively uninformed voter – basing my decision on solely the abortion issue – to a more-knowledgeable ballot-caster, those who I have argued with about their decision to support the McCain/Palin ticket, including my own mother last night, would probably be surprised that I’m still rather apathetic in my political views. After all, once this election is decided – hopefully as I peacefully slumber this evening – I have little to no basis for voicing my opinions anyway as I truly care little for the government forums. Perhaps in another four years, when another vital decision rears its head, I’ll again delve into this world, but for now, I suppose I’m happy to leave it behind.
I could sit here and discuss my aggravation for people’s ignorance in calling Obama a “Muslim” despite his Christian beliefs; I can complain about how various campaign signs have been needlessly vandalized; I might even attempt to explain my disdain for the McCain/Palin ticket, which only half derives from the vice presidential candidate’s stupidity.
But instead, I’m simply going to bid this election season farewell and cross my fingers that the Democratic party takes over following the last eight years of complete and utter disastrous leadership. If the Washtington Redskins’ demise last night – 23-6, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers – is any indication, a change of party power is definitely in order (visit http://tinyurl.com/65mzhv for additional information).
Obama/Biden ‘o8 for the win.
Another day, another stab at my dear old Scranton.
While I will openly admit the latest SNL election/debate parody was hilarious – primarily Tina Fey’s spot-on Sarah Palin-esque performance – I, as a native Scrantonian, couldn’t help but feel a bit dismayed by the criticism of my hometown. (And those of you who watched that skit and know me at all, even if through this blog alone, should’ve known a few comments on it would be forthcoming.)
For those who may have missed the skit – though, with the constant discussion of it on Monday, I’m not sure that was possible – check it out. (I would have embedded it, but NBC makes that nearly impossible on WordPress.)
In his depiction of Sen. Joe Biden – a Scranton native who constantly remarks about his “roots” – SNL cast member Jason Sudeikis calls my poor hometown “the absolute worst place on earth.” Okay okay, it was clearly a joke, but … there have to places worse than Scranton, right?
If you aren’t up to watching the skit – or already did and, unlike me, didn’t pay way-too-close attention to the Scranton references – here’s a transcript of what is said about my Northeastern Pennsylvania home:
“I come from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and that’s as hard-scrabble a place as you’re going to find. I’ll show you around sometime and you’ll see – it’s a hell hole, an absolute jerkwater of a town. You couldn’t stand to spend a weekend there. It’s just an awful, awful sad place, filled with sad, desperate people with no ambition. Nobody, I mean nobody, but me, has ever come out of that place. It’s a genetic cesspool. So don’t be telling me that I’m part of the Washington elite, because I come from the absolute worst place on earth – Scranton, Pennsylvania. And Wilmington, Delaware, is not much better.”
Yet another kick in the balls for the place I was born and raised…
And while I was fairly annoyed upon my first watching, a brief discussion with a coworker made me realize that this comedic parody was about much more than dissing Scranton; it was political commentary about Biden’s approach when addressing others about his NEPA roots.
Although he was born in the same town as I, Biden’s family left when he was only 10 years old. That’s hardly an age where a young boy would have any appreciation for … well, for anything but GI Joes, Legos and maybe toy trucks. And while Scranton may not be in the same league as other cities of the same size – unfortunately plagued with crime (which has not necessarily risen, but definitely become more prevalent), a poor job market and deteriorating conditions as a result of the slumping economy – there is value still there; value Biden claims to see and yet, consistently devalues in his remarks.
While attempting to portray himself as an average citizen, it seems Biden associates himself with Scranton – a practically perfect example of a blue-collar, working class place, which viewers of “The Office” (blah) can easily notice. But anyone can also see that Biden is as far away from blue-collar as Clay Aiken is from straight. It doesn’t take a genius to figure either of those facts out even if neither man wants (or wanted, in Clay’s case) to admit the truth.
It also helps Biden to continually mention his “home” because Pennsylvania remains such a swing state. Despite being more Republican-minded in the rural areas, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are filled with liberal voters. This mix, and the fact that Scranton remains one of the bigger cities in the state following the latter two, creates a stomping ground for candidates. And any tie – even former Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton’s somewhat weak connection – to Scranton makes for a formidable one these contenders can use to gain those necessary votes.
So even if I may not entirely approve of being called a “nobody” since I did leave Scranton, but am obviously not of the Biden-caliber, at the very least I see the undercurrent of political commentary that more clearly demonstrates the Democratic VP candidate’s tendency to subconciously berate my hometown while seemingly praising his “humble” Pennsylvania roots.
Filed under: Poli...what?
Amidst what could be will be a landmark election – either naming the first black man as president or the first woman as vice president – I ought to have a somewhat vested interest in the ongoing campaign. Yet, I cannot move past apathy. And as a 23-year-old who will likely be affected by the next president and his decisions, I lack all reasoning for my shortcomings in political motivation.
As a journalist and “a bleeding heart,” as my stepfather would say, I’d label myself liberal-minded. When registered to vote in Pennsylvania – something I have yet to do in North Carolina, though I’m working on it – I was a Democrat, and voted as such in the last presidential election, though, clearly, that made little difference. I am highly considering registering independent these days, but regardless, I’d say my vote will nearly always swing toward the less conservative stance on most issues.
However, in this election, I’m still not entirely aware of where both candidates stand on the majority of political topics facing this campaign. I did not watch the Democratic National Convention, with the exception of ten minutes because I turned on my television following work and Barack Obama was officially receiving his party’s nomination. I thought, “hey, this is a pretty monumental moment,” and persuaded my thumb to avoid skimming the channels for a brief period of time.
I have also avoided the Republican National Convention. Not because I’m highly unlikely to vote for a Republican anyway – and by “highly unlikely,” I mean “never going to happen” – but because the season premieres of Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, 90210 and America’s Next Top Model took precedence this week.
And, although I’m generally uninformed – due to my aforementioned apathy and teenage-esque television choices – I know who I would vote for if Election Day were tomorrow simply based on one issue: Abortion.
Yes, we are in a time of war and far too many men and women – one is too many, if you ask me – are losing their lives fighting for what I believe to be an unjust cause. And yes, I completely agree than an abstinence-only education will fail. (Okay, perhaps I have more opinions than abortion-related ones, but these all pall in comparison.) But the simple issue of abortion and a woman’s right to choose – a right very few Republicans believe women should be afforded – often determines my political mindset.
I have always held very strong opinions on this particular topic, which, since moving to the south, has gotten me into an argument or seven in the past year. And because of my unfaltering position on abortion – in conjunction with the stubborn attitude I’ve always maintained – I could never, and I mean NEVER, give my vote to someone who believes women cannot make their own decision, as if we’re incompetent and incapable of soundly deciding what is in our best interest.
And for those who want to challenge my stance on the issue, I do understand an individual’s reasoning for taking the opposing side. I completely grasp that position. However, it’s not one I agree with, and thus, will not choose a commander-in-chief who holds those views.
This impending election places two pro-life Republicans against two pro-choice Democrats, making my choice more than simple, further perpetuating my apathy. If, by some strange twist of reality, Republican candidates change their anti-abortion stance – same goes for the Democratic party altering their views – I’d review and consider other issues. But, for now, the parties seem to make my decision-making process a relatively small one.
I am not, nor have I ever been, politically-inclined. Generally speaking, I tend to avoid news articles that surround politics in any fashion. Simply put, it’s not where my interests lie, nor will it ever be – so I assume. And while it may seem I am thusly an uninformed voter, since I am making my decision based on one issue alone, I don’t live under a rock. Whether or not I choose to inquire about the political choices of these candidates, the news surrounds me regardless and I can ascertain their stance on a variety of topics … and, typically, I still side with the Dems – i.e. The pro-choice, anti-war, gun-control supporting hippies of the 21st century.
I’ve been told by everyone from my editor to my parents that as I grow older, I’ll become more interested in politics and perhaps base my decision on more than the fate of unborn children. But for now, I am completely content remaining fairly apathetic and making my choice without further investigation of the candidates. Maybe that’s not how you, your family, your friends or hell, even your dog would decide, but I’m game for whatever keeps me content. And, for me, that’s a candidate who has faith in my decision-making abilities when it comes to my body and the children I may or may not spawn.
For a town to take pride in itself, and thus its local newspaper to tout the accomplishments and ties of residents, is one thing. But I think my hometown has moved into an entirely different realm, perhaps including obsession and feeble attempts to reclaim a good name.
Although I was only seven years old when President Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, I still recall the publicity my hometown paper – which was recently renamed to The (Scranton) Times-Tribune – gave to him and his wife simply because Hillary’s father, Hugh Rodham, was born in Scranton, Pa. Over the years, including 1993 when Rodham died and was buried in Scranton, that particular factor carried significantly more importance to Northeastern Pennsylvania community.
Then, when (Hillary) Clinton began her campaign for the Democratic nomination, her relationship to the former coal-mining city was often prominently displayed on the front pages of every publication, looming over their Web sites on a fairly consistent basis. Officials considered Clinton’s chances in NEPA, and the entire state, rather well considering her ties — Sorry folks, I rarely keep up with politics and have no idea how she eventually faired in the primary election. — almost labeling her a “shoe in” for the presidential nomination.
Clearly, we all know how that played out.
And then, after months of speculation over who Democratic candidate Barack Obama would choose as his vice presidential running mate, what did he do? He chose a Scranton native, turning the city into an uproar of excitement over the possibilities for Pennsylvania’s sixth most populous city – despite Forbes magazine recently listing it among “America’s Fastest Dying Cities.” Go Scrantonia.
Since the VP announcement, The Times-Tribune Web site has been clouded with various references to Sen. Joe Biden. Apparently CNN was filming around the city, allowing for a five sentence article today about the media outlet’s endeavors. As of this moment, I count four separate Biden-related stories under the local news category. A bit heavy, in my opinion.
I may have moved away from Scranton – primarily because the journalism opportunities there were few and I always yearned for life elsewhere – but the city has made various commendable efforts to regain a positive name.
For too long, my hometown has had a negative reputation as “a hole,” a place where successes are few and crime has continually increased; a place that was once known for coal mining and electric cars, but has since been fairly unable to create a prosperous economy for the region following the decline of those two industries. This is a point the Forbes article blatantly states, “Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, Penn. are no longer thriving coal towns, and the region has struggled to build a post-industrial economy.”
All of that is very true. But the current Mayor and many officials throughout both the city and county have worked continuously to regain the positive reputation held nearly a century ago. But rather than those accomplishments being nationally recognized, or even locally at times, those progressive steps have been trumped by politicians – who, HELLO!?, left Scranton! – and comedic syndication. (Yes, I’m talking about The Office, and I’m not even going to start on that topic.)
As both a journalist and someone who spent the majority of her life in Scranton – a girl who terribly misses Catholic churches and bars on every other corner and the taste of NEPA pizza, not to mention Church picnics, kielbasa, pizza fritas, poppyseed stollen, the Electric City sign, the Times tower and “Jeet yet? No, j’ew?” – it bothers me terribly to see these lackluster ties overshadowing the progressive attempts toward creating a better city.
The publications there should be recognizing those milestones, rather than the newest “celebrity” whose grandmother once ate a turkey sandwich from a downtown diner. It’s about taking pride in what/who still remains and the steps being taken to revive the unfortunately dying coal region. Misplacing the city’s importance in politicians and fictional television shows will do little when the world is laughing at Scranton as a place that “could have been” or “would have been,” but simply “isn’t.”