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Smuggled Photos from North Korea

Not many people from the West can honestly say they have a firsthand knowledge of what North Korea looks like today. Most of the knowledge the West did have came from the Korean War, which is severely outdated. However, a few modern visitors have made it into the country and back out again, not only with their memories but with photographs as well. The highly insulated nation has been aggressively anti-open towards any source that shows the accurate picture of life inside North Korea, so almost all photos aside from the government itself have been smuggled out. Here is a set of images from Eric Lafforgue was able to get out because of the advance of digital storage and small memory cards versus film cannisters.

The Woman Among the Soldiers

Much of Eric’s tour around North Korea was what the government wanted him to see, one of those things being how strong their military should be seen as. So, no surprise, he had a lot of photos of soldiers. In this case, however, he was also able to capture a sole North Korean lady in traditional dress among a sea of uniforms.

Computer Access

The computer age has made it to North Korea, which has been well-documented by the attack on Sony. However, from the government’s perspective, computers are a tool of the people’s ability to be education and effective. So, there were lots of photos showing technology advancement. Unfortunately, the computers were only functional when there was power. Blackouts are common in North Korea.

Military Work Means Farm Work

Farming is essential for the country. North Korea has had multiple famines, so it’s food production is critical for maintain the country as a whole. The military is no exception, often being used as manpower to assist farms and keep them functional. Eric’s photo of this soldier showed policy in action.

Eating the Grass

Hunger is commonplace for the average person in North Korea, which makes it no surprise why so many lean towards finding a role in some kind of apparatus – at least they get a guaranteed meal every day. Unfortunately, what Eric saw was a lot of other people starving, even to the point of harvesting grass to eat it and make it to another day. His government minders made it clear no one should take photos of the practice.

Kids Playing

Children are extremely controlled and disciplined in the country, so it was an odd experience to find one just being a normal kid and standing out, as in this case in the middle of the road. Curiosity and adventure are normal for children as they explore the world, but the behavior is practically banned in-country.

Appearance Matters

The government has very clear rules about how everything is displayed in the country, even how people are dressed when photographed. Eric was able to catch this interaction where a man to be photographed is essentially being straightened out to look more presentable, i.e. get his shirt unruffled.

Cars are a Rarity

Most people in North Korea only see a vehicle when it involves the military. However, in the main cities a few more are seen regularly as government officials use them in and out of locations. Cars are starting to be a bit more frequent in terms of non-military use, but they still frighten folks in the rural areas.

Double Duty Subway

The subway system for Pyongyang was intentionally designed for more than transportation. It also functions as a ready-made bomb shelter for a significant number of inhabitants of the capital. Photographs showing the tunnels are forbidden and Eric was immediately told to delete this image.

Art has to be Finished

The government has a real problem showing anything unfinished and unapproved, even in the case of artwork being developed or created. That was the case with this painter who was photographed during his work. The government minders made it clear the picture was unfinished and off-limits.

Signs of Famine Barred

Clearly the North Korean government wants any image of its people to show them as prosperous and happy and most importantly, well-fed. That was not the case with this fellow who clearly evokes an image of malnourishment.

DMZ Hotels

Any hotels near the DMZ are very restricted to the point that the guests are not allowed to walk outside on their free time. However, most of the accommodations are actually old houses in the area. Any guest attempting to go outside will likely block a guest asking why they need to go outside. The common phrase is that it is the same as inside the hotel.

No Soldiers Relaxing

Soldiers in North Korea are always seen at attention. So, actually capturing an image of soldiers just being human beings was a big no-no. Eric managed to grab this image of a couple uniforms just having a cigarette and conversation. It’s a big risk as the country has a national law forbidding photographs of people’s faces when doing things that are considered embarrassing to the government.

Creative Boating

One fellow decided to a tire was good flotation device to get from one place to another on water. The image looks typical of a countryside, but what it really might be indicative of is the fact that even natural resources like wood are controlled and extremely rare for use other than the government.

Kid Camps

Wonsan has a Pionners Camp designed to help education children from all over the country. However, for many of the first time attendees, the facility itself is scary and nothing they’ve ever seen in the countryside. That was the case for these kids staring at an escalator.

The Challenge of Group Photos

Again, Eric was told with certain clarity, none of his photographs were allowed have military personnel in them. That’s fine when the soldiers are stationed at military functions, but it becomes a real problem when 99 percent of the crowd at a zoo or amusement park is military personnel. That was the case in this event at the Delphinium located in Pyongyang.

Lines, Lines Everywhere

A common practice in North Korea involves standing in line. Just about everything involves a line and mass queues are commonplace, even for taking the local bus as seen in this image of the main plaza connection point.

People Must Be Shown Respectfully

The idea that an official is ever portrayed not doing their job correct is never allowed, so photography of that happening is a huge problem for the photographer. Eric managed to catch an image of this official snoozing, which would never have been allowed past the normal censors had they seen in it in his allowed images.

Normal Life is Rough

Visiting groups are shown the best of homes to prove that North Korea is just fine for the average person, even in the country. However, the details give away what’s really going on, as in the case of this bathroom that uses a bath tub and installed water pump for the general water supply for everything.

Sleeping Off Duty

Military personnel are expected to wear their uniform all the time, even when off-duty. So, it’s not a surprise to see a fellow catching a nap when he can, as was the case with this one in a field.

Poverty

Photos of the poor in North Korea are also forbidden, and it doesn’t matter if one argues that poverty exists in every country, even in the West. Yet, just about everyone in the countryside lives in poverty unless they are military or running a collective farm. These two kids carrying buckets aren’t showing hard disparity, but it’s not a luxury life either.

Tremendous Monitoring

Any visiting groups are monitored heavily in North Korea, and one has to wonder how the country sustains itself with so many personnel dedicated to watching others instead of producing anything themselves. It’s very common for visiting media to be followed and watched by two, three even four groups of monitors, so it’s amazing Eric was able to smuggle out any images at all.

There’s No OSHA in North Korea

Worker safety is how well the workers protect themselves. Occupational safety standards as known in the West don’t seem to exist in the country. That was evident in this image of wall repair crews that Eric took in a key moment.

Flash Photography Banned

If you’re the type who likes to take night photos with a flash, good luck. They are often not allowed, and minders will tell you it’s because the flash might scare the locals.

They Have Grocery Stores

The market stores in Pyongyang carry many of the recognizable products people are used to in the West. The issue is who actually shops in these markets. While you can easily find Evian water, for example, the customers allowed are only the country’s elite.

Tip for Tourists

Never take a photograph of the country’s leader from the back, especially statues. Rear images are not allowed and will get you into a lot of trouble. They are considered culturally rude to produce.

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Lowest 48 States See Proliferation in Bald Eagle Population

Renee Yates

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The bald eagle is a symbol of independence, courage, and strength in the United States. Who’d have guessed that a bird of such importance was on the brink of extinction just a few years ago?

Bald eagles have three or four times the vision of humans. They can fly up to 35 miles per hour and dive for prey at even higher speeds.

The bald eagle’s name comes from the Old English word balde, that demonstrates white; the eagle’s white head contrasts with its dark body, giving it the appearance of being bald. In the wild, the bald eagle survives for 20 to 30 years.

According to government scientists, the volume of American bald eagles has grown exponentially by about four times the 2009 number, now at a high of over 300,000 birds currently flying over forty-eight states.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced that bald eagles, a national icon that was once on the verge of extinction, have soared in recent years, with over 71,400 breeding pairs and an estimated 316,700 individual birds.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland praised the eagle’s comeback in her first public appearance since taking office recently, noting that the magnificent bird with its white head has been deemed as sacred to Native American tribes and the country as a whole for eons.

The strong recovery of this beloved bird allows everyone to recollect the country’s collective resilience, in addition to the value of being responsible guardians of the lands and waters that unite us, said Haaland, the first Native American Cabinet secretary.

In 1963, the number of documented breeding pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48 states reached a record low of over four hundred.

The bald eagle population has continued to expand through decades of protection, including the banning of the pesticide DDT.

They have also been included on the list of endangered species in more than forty states. In 2007, the bald eagle was delisted as an at-risk or endangered species.

The bald eagle community is thriving, according to Haaland, who described the bird’s recovery as a “success story” that “testifies to the enduring value of the work of Interior Department researchers and conservationists.”

This work would not have been possible without numbers of individuals accumulating and evaluating many years of scientific data… precisely estimating the population of bald eagles in the United States.

The bald eagle’s birthday is also an excellent time to remember the Endangered Species Act, which is a critical tool in the fight to save America’s wildlife, according to Haaland. The landmark 1973 law is necessary to counter the extinction of species like the bald eagle and American bison, he says.

According to Haaland, her unit would investigate measures taken by the Trump regime to weaken core aspects of the threatened species law, reiterating a promise made by President Joe Biden.

She didn’t go into detail, but environmentalists and Democratic lawmakers have chastised the Trump administration for a number of decisions, including decreasing vital territory needed by the northern spotted owl and removing gray wolf safeguards.

The bald eagle is a raptor (bird of prey) that are located at the food chain’s helm. It captures prey by darting over broad landscape or water with its sharply curved talons. It also absorbs the dead animals’ bodies (carrion).

Eagles are carnivores (mmeat-eaters who hunt throughout the daytime (diurnal) from a high perch. Older eagles have a small range of hunters. Small bald eagles are preyed upon by owls. Fish, small rodents, snakes, as well as other birds are among their favorite foods.

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Cuban Snails Put This Island in the News Again

Kelly Taylor

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Cuba is known for a lot of things after becoming famous due to its country’s revolution, the Cold War and Cuba-Missile crisis, its amazing national baseball team and the tropical location. However, snails don’t normally make the list of great things out of Cuba. However, the island is indeed home to a unique species not found anywhere else, the painted snail or Polymita. The shell produced by the snail is a vibrant color spectrum, and the snail has six different versions on the island in total.

Smuggling and Trafficking

Like many regions in Central America, Cuba has its problems with illegal wildlife trade. Due to a vibrant market of illegal buyers who want exotic animals for their private collections, the Polymita snail population has been almost decimated. They were officially in critically endangered status by any biological standard. When a photographer assigned by National Geographic magazine, Bruno D’Amicis, worked on a story about the Cuban snails, he became involved in trying to save them as well. In addition to the trade in wild animals, any kind of tropical snails were also targets for trinkets and cheap jewelry due to their colorful shells, which didn’t help matters. D’Amicis hoped the story and his efforts would educate readers otherwise.

Natural Conditions

The Polymita snails normally live along the eastern coast of Cuba, eating moss and lichen which in turn gives the animal’s shell its famous colors. In addition, because the snails are so voracious on the moss, the local trees are not overrun by the moss and lichen, which improves their health as well. Other animals benefit from the snails as well.

Warnings & Education

The Polymita snails have not gone ignored locally. Cuban biologists have been warning farmers about the endangered species regularly. The Cuban coffee industry depends on the health of its trees, and the snail contributes to that. When the farmers learned of the connection, they realized why the snail needed protection as well. Biologists in the meantime have been working actively to increase the population of the snails with supported breeding as well as helping authorities block poaching.

The big challenge is to show enough people in Cuba that the Polymita snails are worth more to the country in total alive than as trinket shells or blackmarket animal collections. With only one place on earth that they survive on, Cuba, once the snails are gone, they are truly extinct, which is a tragedy the biologists are working hard to stop.

D’Amicis and Cuban biologists have recognized the need to protect the Polymita snails as well as focused on educating as many as possible on the value of the snails. Time will tell if the efforts were in time. However, for Cuba, a tropical snail has once again put the Caribbean island in the news again, and this time for a reason the world should want to support.

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Connecting Wales: How ‘Hiraeth’ Has Become More Than an Untranslatable Word

Shannon Jackson

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A glimpse of your home country. Maybe the color of its flag. A building you grew up in, a street you visited as a child. Each memory can create an instant connection with something deep in our souls. A feeling, an utterance, or the clenching of our heart can all recall days from our past. More than nostalgia, more than yearning, more than heartache, these feelings for the people of Wales have been distilled into a single phrase: hiraeth.

Not a word pulled from your favorite Lord of the Rings book, hiraeth is something much more complex, much deeper, and far more nuanced. Likened to the English reference to nostalgia, or the feelings of saudade in Portuguese, hiraeth is similar yet dissimilar to all of the feelings that we have since mentioned. For the Welsh, hiraeth is more than a phrase, more than a word, and more than a feeling.

Exploring Feelings of Hiraeth With People Who Experience It

By this point in our conversation, you are either all-in on the idea of hiraeth or you’ve simply glossed over the concept. For people who have experienced those pangs of nostalgia and golden memories of years gone by, the feeling can almost be translated. Marian Brosschot is a Welsh language officer working in the city of Trelew, Patagonia. Marian has spoken extensively on the subject of hiraeth throughout their work stating, “It’s a kind of longing for a person, place, or time that you can’t get back to… a kind of unattainable longing.”

The word hiraeth is formed out of two roots, “hir” meaning longand “aeth” meaning grief or sorrow. Due to the extensive nature of the term and how complex the feelings are that it is meant to convey, a one-to-one translation has been deemed all but impossible by Sioned Davies, a Professor Emeritus at the School of Welsh at Cardiff University. Davies would go on to explain that the depth of cultural importance was beyond the scope of a traditional translation.

The word ‘hiraeth’ isn’t something new to Wales or Welsh individuals traveling abroad. The word is connected with deep pain and is consistently found in some of the earliest poems throughout the region. Referred to as the Hen Penillion, early Welsh poems plead after their purpose by targeting ‘cruel hiraeth’ that weakens their heart, imbues them with grief, and feels them with a sense of purpose. For however dark this description sounds, poets of the age also imbued hiraeth with a sense of revival, inspired by the romantic period of Welsh culture in the 19th Century.

Hiraeth and the Importance of Back Immigration

More than just a term calling back to days of poems long gone, hiraeth is an important concept to the cultural identity of emigrants, a point emboldened by the work of Bill Jones, professor and specialist of Welsh Modern History. Jones work focuses largely on emigration throughout the 19th century, and it is through this work that hiraeth has gained some further understanding.

Through Jones work as a professor of Welsh Modern History he has uncovered emigrant guidebooks that detail their experiences of hiraeth for not just the country of Wales, but the people, places, and landscapes that they are leaving behind. Jones would use this to potentially argue for an explanation as to why Wales has such a high percentage of ‘back migration’, leading to emigrants returning from abroad for the comforts of home.

As more people learn of the importance of hiraeth, the sentiment itself is enjoying a continued revival. For readers from Wales, does hiraeth ever beckon you’?

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Local Artist From Philadelphia Sets Record For BIGGEST DRAWING in the WORLD

Kelly Taylor

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Are you the kind of person that likes to doodle in your spare time? Maybe you fancy yourself an artist and have put together a few pieces for a local art show. No matter what your background or familiarity with the art world, people like Dyymond Whipper-Young deserve to get some recognition for their work. Whipper-Young is an artist and art teacher from Philadelphia who set her sights on the largest drawing in the world created by a single person. In attempting this feat, Whipper-Young would have to outdo the work of Xiamoi Italia and FRA! who landed the record on November 3rd of 2020 in Altomonte, Italy.

The Old Record: Meet Francesco Caporale

Francesco Caporale, Italy (FRA!) is a graphic designer, illustrator, and art director operating out of Milan, Italy. Born and raised in Almonte, Francesco would become inspired by the varying drawings and images uploaded to the DoodleDream.it platform, a website crafted by Xiaomi Italia. Francesco would select his favorite pieces submitted through the platform before creating a massive, sprawling image featuring his rendition.

FRA would require five days to craft his record-breaking picture, first created in the central square located in Altomonte. More than 567 square meters were brimming with imagined characters, objects, and items inspired by artists from around the world. While massive in scope, FRA!s work was not permanent as the installation was removed upon certification for its place in the record books.

Following the completion of the project, the artwork itself was donated to Altomonte the municipality to parcel out sales to support the community. Individuals interested in bringing home history can purchase a piece from Altomonte at their convenience. Additionally, Xiaomi Italia would release a commemorative series of smartphones to remember the project thanks to a built-in artistic photograph application.

Dyymond Whipper-Young Breaks the Record

Heading back across the ocean we find ourselves in Philadelphia where Dyymond Whipper-Young has begun to work on her own dream project. Whipper-Young is an art teacher from Philadelphia who was inspired by the works of FRA! The 24-year-old art teacher knew that there was a ton of work ahead of her, but she was driven by her passion and love for the work. Whipper-Young stated in a video that was released to the press, “The purpose is to inspire people to find their own creative pulse.” Whipper-Young would go on to detail how creativity is imbued ‘in all of us’ and that the exhibition was her outlet and her way of inspiring others.

For Whipper-Young, the project would not take place within a city square like FRA, and instead, it would be installed at the Mandell Center located within The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Whipper-Young would settle on working with Crayola Project XL Markers to create the art piece, a job that would take more than 63 hours spread across five days of effort. The final result was an image that spanned 6,500 square feet.

Upon completion, Whipper-Young would dub the piece, “Crayola IDEAworks: The Creativity Exhibition” The CEO at The Franklin Institute was effusive in his praise of the piece as Larry Dubinski would go on to say that the goal of the institute was to ‘inspire and empower’ people of every age and from every walk of life to create and explore their curiosities. These words were echoed by Whipper-Young after her piece was unleashed at the institute. Whipper-Young would go on to say, “It has sea, it has land, it has space. You’ll really get to experience those things once you’re in IDEAworks.”

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U.K. Conservationists See Rising #s in Great Crane Project Success Story

Kevin Wells

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The Cranes of Great Britain may sound like the title of a lost Sherlock Holmes novel, but we assure you that isn’t the case. Instead, cranes are large, long-necked, and long-legged birds that once happily called the United Kingdom their home. Over 400 years ago, the Cranes of the United Kingdom would go extinct as a direct result of over-hunting and habitat destruction, particularly to the wetlands of the United Kingdom.

While their extinction was on the record more than 400 years prior, careful work by conservationists along with some natural luck has led to renewed optimism for the species. One particularly large reason for hope in the Great Crane population throughout the United Kingdom can be tied directly to the work of The Great Crane Project, established in 2009 through a partnership with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Pensthrope Conservation Trust, and The RSPB.

Successes of the Great Crane Project

We can’t look directly at the work of the Great Crane Project for a complete understanding of how we’ve arrived to this point with the great cranes of Britain. The luck we mentioned above is likely due to the return of a few birds to the county of Norfolk back in 1979. This coupled with intense conservation efforts would lead to some semblance of the success we are currently experiencing.

According to a survey published in partnership with RSPB, the Wetlands Trust, and Wildfowl, more than 85% of the wild crane breeding population can be tied to protected natural reserves, places where conservationists are proud to do most of their work. Developing their efforts together, the team behind the Great Crane Project has been successful at helping rehabilitate existing habitats while developing new protected areas for the birds to call home.

Originally traced back to the Middle Ages, the cranes of Britain had been gone for quite some time. Typically associated with breeding throughout Middle-Aged Europe, the history of the bird has some unique legal relevance as well. In 1533 a measure was introduced through an Act of Parliament to make the theft of a cranes’ egg a punishable offense that included a fine. More mentions of crane preservation manifested within the Household Book of the L’Estrange Family.

A Rapidly Recovering Bird

According to the most recent estimates supplied by the British Trust for Ornithology, 2017 estimates would reveal that the U.K.’s breeding population of cranes at just 10 pairs. After years of work through The Great Crane Project, that number is now up to a robust 64 pairs across the United Kingdom. In 2020, those 64 pairs would go on to produce an additional 23 chicks. Some experts in the field of conservation have argued that there are more than 200 cranes within the United Kingdom at the time of this writing. Creating a diverse and growing pool is immensely important for such an endangered animal.

While the rising numbers of the crane population are inspiring, there is still plenty of work to do for the bird to experience a full comeback. The Great Crane Project has worked extensively with what funding they’ve acquired to create ‘crane schools’ or rearing facilities throughout the U.K. One crane school was established at WWT Slimbridge to feature an acre of marshy garden purposed solely for rearing crane chicks. More than 20 cranes are raised and released every single year at the crane school, with more birds finding the same experience at Somerset.

Damon Bridge is the chairman at UK Crane Working Group and he has pointed out the resilience of the bird through its recent resurgence. Bridge would go on to argue that continued success can be found through adequate environmental protection.

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