(Image c/o SFist)
By Isabella Wynn
Nothing ever happens around here, right? The Lamorinda area is a safe, quiet cluster of cities and towns where the demographic appears to be mainly made up of old, rich people, some college students, and young families. Have you ever wondered if there is more going on than you may think? That perhaps the Lamorina area is too quiet?
You may have heard about big-name celebrities living in the area. My sources tell me that Buster Posey and Alanis Morissette live in Lafayette and Zendaya allegedly spent a lot of her childhood in Orinda. This may be fun news, but there’s nothing scandalous about where these celebrities live or grew up.
I’d like to introduce you to The Purple People. In the lovely, little city of Lafayette resides Lafayette Morehouse. “Morehouse” lifestyle practices were founded by a man named Dr. Victor Baranco in the 1960s. Popularly known as a “sex cult”, this “intentional living community” defines themselves as researchers studying pleasurable group living. In exploring human nature they have discovered how group living can lead to the most enjoyable life. And these people really do seem to be living pleasurably.
They present their research findings through payable courses open to new and existing community members. Most notably is their $16,800 course titled “Expansion of Sexual Potential Intensive.” Members may also be invited to train for a certification in the demonstration of female pleasure and teaching the Fundamentals of Sensuality course. In addition to these courses, a momentous occasion for Lafayette Morehouse occurred in 1976 where Victor Baranco and his female counterpart, Diana, hosted a public event demonstrating female sexual pleasure and its extensive possibilities for three consecutive hours. Diana is still a member of Lafayette Morehouse and teaches courses.
Known as The Purple People (although community members dislike this nickname), Lafayette Morehouse is located on the outskirts of Lafayette on the edge of the Summit Ridge neighborhood in Walnut Creek. Their property holds communal houses, tennis courts, a night club, and a pool. They also drive golf carts around their property. In my attempt to visit the 23 acre Lafayette Morehouse property, I was met with a hard-to-find dirt road. Upon entry I was bombarded with screaming signs stating “Private Property” and “No Trespassing.” Morehouse is, of course, located at the very end of the long dirt road. I slowly drove past huge, gray houses with steep driveways until I could catch a glimpse of purple buildings. Out of respect for the property owners, I unfortunately could not will myself to explore further, but I can confirm they exist at the address found on Apple Maps.
Given their nickname, the Purple People live in purple houses and travel by old-school purple limousines. They even used to operate More University between 1977-1997, where students could study and get degrees in Humanities and Sensuality & Lifestyles. Their three 5-star Yelp reviews paint Lafayette Morehouse as a welcoming, educational community teaching students how to successfully grow their relationships through better communication and intimacy practices. However, Morehouse wouldn’t be a cult without some scandals.
One of Morehouse’s few rules is “don’t do anything you don’t want to do,” yet some have openly shared with the press that the group uses intimidation tactics to keep members quiet and coercion into taking illegal drugs. Dr. Baranco was charged with LSD possession in 1994. Aside from these small scandals and the very little information about them, Morehouse appears to quietly keep to themselves.
Living in their purple houses and driving their purple cars, The Purple People live their pleasurable lives in many different types of relationships and lifestyles; ranging from celibacy to polyamory. They spend their time throwing parties and practicing gardening, cooking, building, painting, and working on cars. They believe in perfection and achieving their highest potential. These Morehouse practices have made their way out of Lafayette. Communal living experiments using Morehouse principals have been located across the United States. With most groups residing in California, including the original Morehouse in Lafayette, groups have also been located in other states such as New York, Georgia, Hawaii, and more.
Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Spending your time partying, gardening, playing tennis, learning new skills, and having the best sex of your life? Morehouse believes in living your best life at your highest potential. Now, this isn’t a promo. Let’s not forget about the fact that Morehouse is ultimately a cult, however they don’t appear to be harmful and I am in no place to judge other people’s lifestyle choices. Please do stay respectful of their property.
Next time you find yourself in Lafayette, keep an eye out for those old school purple limousines and people traveling in groups. You may be grocery shopping with Morehouse members and you wouldn’t even know it.
Louisiana Republican won enough votes weeks after McCarthy ousted
(Image c/o Ting Shen / Bloomberg / Getty)
By Drew Paxman
Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana was sworn in as the 56th Speaker of the House on October 25 after weeks of political infighting within the Republican Party.
“We will do our duty here, we will serve you well,” Johnson said in his first speech before being sworn in. “We will govern well, and we’ll make you proud of this institution again.”
The vote came three weeks after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted by a caucus within the Republican Party. The removal of McCarthy led to weeks of deliberation within the GOP, who nominated representatives Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan, and Tom Emmer. Scalise and Emmer withdrew their nominations; Jordan withstood three Speaker votes before being ousted in a secret ballot.
Republicans and Democrats do not see eye-to-eye on the election of Johnson to the speakership.
“The question here is ‘Is Mike Johnson the right guy at the right time?’” described Republican representative Chip Roy of Texas. “And I think he is…he’s got his pulse on where the American people are.”
“I do have concerns about him,” Democratic representative Judy Chu of California countered. “He is a MAGA extremist that was one of the leaders to overturn the presidential election on January 6. That goes against everything that our country stands for.”
Johnson made his first objective as Speaker very clear: to forward a bill to support Israel on the House floor.“We stand at a very dangerous time…the world is in turmoil,” Johnson said. “But a strong America is good for the entire world.”
By Tucker Long
The United States, the world's largest supplier of weapons, has been hard at work trying to keep up with the international demand for arms. America has been supplying ammunition, smart bombs, and interceptors for the Iron Dome missile-defense system to Israel, with President Biden assuring that more military aid is on the way. Countries in the middle east like Israel and Saudi Arabia are significant buyers of American weapons, and war in the region will surely increase their arms purchases.
This comes at a time when military spending and arms sales are already surging due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, as well as heightening tensions in East Asia due to the perceived threat of China. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in 2022, total military expenditure reached a new high of $2240 billion. The three largest spenders are the U.S., China, and Russia, who account for 56% of all arms spending.
As the war in Ukraine rages on, so does military spending on both sides. Russian military spending grew by 9.2% in 2022, this comes as President Biden says that he will not prioritize support for Israel over support for Ukraine. The conflict in Eastern Europe has led to what the SIPRI referred to as “Cold-War levels of military expenditure” in Western and Central Europe, spending $345 billion in 2022, in real terms the highest level since 1989. This increased demand in weapon sales has led to other countries getting in on the action when the US is not able to keep up their supply. Notably in Poland, a nation bolstering their military, weary of Russia, has been increasing their military spending, buying not only from the U.S. but also South Korea and Turkey.
American allies in Asia, such as Taiwan, are also buying more weapons due to a perceived threat coming from China. Among the fervor for arms sales, large powers such as India and Indonesia are switching weapon suppliers, looking away from Russia and China, and towards Western nations. This is being seen as a way to improve relations and form ties between these countries and the United States, as long-term contracts require close government coordination on both sides. Indonesia backed out of a deal with Russia for fighter jets in 2018, now having a tentative deal to purchase American-made Boeing F-15s and Lockheed-Martin Blackhawk helicopters.
This increase in armament throughout the world could certainly have disastrous effects. According to Dr. Nan Tian from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, “The continuous rise in global military expenditure in recent years is a sign that we are living in an increasingly insecure world.” While it is true that having weapons contracts between nations can strengthen alliances and generate economic activity, it leads to a highly armed and more volatile world. It is feared that the surge in weapons sales and larger militaries can mean smaller conflicts becoming bigger, leading to the involvement of major powers, and ultimately more bloodshed.
Contextualizing the Past Landscape and Relations
“Palestinians from Gaza leaving the occupied West Bank to go to Jordan in 1968” (Image c/o New York Times)
“Exodus 1947, Jewish refugees wait to board the President Warfield on a quay in Sete's harbor, on their way to Palestine” (Image c/o U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)
By Jenevieve Monroe
In the past week, the United States has emerged as a pivotal actor in the ongoing global discourse regarding the Middle East’s humanitarian crisis between Israelis and Palestinians. Nations from around the world have shared varying perspectives and concerns surrounding the conflict. The focus of dispute between these two groups begins with the land itself: both Palestinians and Israelis claim ancestry, religious sanctity, and indigenous rights to the land East of the Mediterranean Sea.
In the perspective of many Israelis, their state has existed since the ancient kingdoms of Judea and Israel, biblically known as the Land of Canaan. The Israelities occupied and conquered the land of Cannaan in the late 2nd millennium BCE; this occupation was justified using the Bible, which identified Canaan as the Promised Land for the Israelites. The people who had been living in this region prior to Israeli occupation were known as the Caananites, and are considered to be the ancestors of some Arabs and Jews today.
Some Palestinians state that they are descendents of the ancient Canaanites. According to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, “This land is for its people… who were here 5,000 years ago.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denies this, however, stating that the ancestors of modern Palestinians “came from the Arabian peninsula to the Land of Israel thousands of years” after the Israelites. The disagreement between these claims was largely contested between native Palestinians and Jewish refugees following World War I. The indigenous people in this area, labeled as the Canaanites in the Bronze Age, did not have a distinct ethnic group and faced occupation for centuries. Some scholars believe these lands have been given the name “Palestine” as a derived version of the word “Philistia”, which comes from the Philistines that occupied the region in the 12th century BCE
Since the existence of Canaan, these lands have been conquered for centuries by the following powers:
Israelites (13th to 9th BCE), Philistines (12th BCE), Assyrians (8th and 7th BCE), Babylonians (6th BCE), Persians (6th and 5th BCE), Alexander the Great (4th BCE), Seleucids (3rd and 2nd BCE), Romans (1st BCE and 1st CE), Umayyad/Abbasid/Fatimid Caliphates (7th to 12th CE), Crusaders (12th CE), Ayyubid and Mamluk Islamic dynasty (12th to 16th CE), Ottoman Caliphate (16th to 20th CE), League of Nations’ British Mandate (20th CE), and the State of Israel (20th to present).
With this diverse history of conquest came different forms of oppression. For Jewish inhabitants around the 2nd century BCE, they were severely persecuted. They revolted against and were violently suppressed by generations of Roman rulers. Under the Babylonian empire in 6th century BCE, the sacred Jewish First Temple was decimated and many Jewish civilians were forced into exile. This trend continued under the Roman empire, where Roman legions under King Titus destroyed the Second Temple during the Jewish-Roman wars and forced an even greater Jewish diaspora from Jerusalem in 70 CE. After the revolt, the Romans changed the region’s name from Judea to Syria-Palaestina as a means of erasing Jewish identity.
By the 7th century CE, the prophet Muhammad founded Islam in this region and viewed his beliefs as an extension of Abrahamic Judaism and Christianity. Many Christians, Muslims, and Jews generally coexisted in these lands for centuries following. The prophet’s death in 632 CE prompted Islamic expansion into the region and Jerusalem was conquered by 638 CE. For the next four centuries, the region was under Islamic rule and Caliphate. From the 11th to 13th century, Christianity had overtaken Europe and the Crusaders captured Jerusalem. The city was renamed as the “Kingdom of Jerusalem” and deemed a Crusader state. This transition of power from Islam to Christianity led to centuries of violence between Muslims and Christians in the region. These conflicts led to the Mamluks, an Islamic dynasty, recapturing Jerusalem from the Crusaders. In 1517, the region was once again conquered. The Ottoman Empire governed Palestine from 1517 until 1920 when they were defeated in World War I.
After the end of World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire , the League of Nations seized the territory of Palestine and transferred its authority over to Britain. The document solidifying this was called the British Mandate for Palestine in 1920. The League of Nations’ mandate told Britain to control the lands and natives “until such time as they are able to stand alone” while simultaneously creating a Jewish national homeland in the region. This became a major point of contention because Britain, acting as an imperial power, promised the region to both Jewish Zionists and native Palestinians. From 1915 to 1916, the British government indicated support for Arab independence and Arab self-rule in a series of communications known as the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence. Their support specifically referenced Palestinian liberation. Less than a year later, the British government issued the Balfour Declaration. This document expressed British support for the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine and an explicit clause stating no harm would come to non-Jewish natives in the region. The hopes for a Jewish homestead was not new to diplomats; the creation of Zionism was a way for Jewish people to unite under a theocratic state and avoid persecution. Britain orchestrated a great influx of Jewish immigrants into the region, resulting in territorial disputes between natives and immigrants. This event was a catalyst for the overarching debate on who owns the land: current residents or immigrants with ancient ties to the region?
By 1936, the dispossession of Palestinian land, the lack of self-determination, and several altercations put many native Arabs in distress. This caused the Arab Revolt, which lasted from 1936 to 1939. The revolt began with spontaneous acts of violence by the followers of Sheikh ʿIzz al-Dīn al-Qassām, a man who had been killed by the British. One example of this was the murder of two Jews that year. The revolt became a series of protests, strikes, and acts of civil disobedience against British mandatory authorities. Over time, the protests escalated into violent attacks against the British forces and Jewish settlements. An array of two-state solution proposals were prepared as a form of compromise. The Peel Commission (1927) and the UN Partitions Plans (1947) responded with geographic delinations of land ownership between immigrants and natives. However, resolution between the groups never happened because Palestinians felt their land rights were not equitably represented in the distribution policies.
Both the British government and Jewish Zionists disregarded the outcome of this democratic process and declared the region as Israel on May 14th, 1948. Following the declaration, major conflict ensued between the groups which became known as the Arab-Israeli War. The conflict resulted in significant territorial changes, with the newly established State of Israel gaining control of more land than what was proposed in the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947. The State of Israel viewed the resolution of this war as the result of several armistice agreements that delineated ceasefire lines; for native Palestinians, however, these events are called the 1948 Nakba (also known as “The Catastrophe”). For approximately 700,000 Palestinians, they were forced out of their homes by Israeli police brutality and became refugees. Violent massacres ensued, like the Deir Yassin massacre, and villages were destroyed. Palestinian families were separated, properties and livelihoods confiscated, and citizens expressed experiencing an overall loss of identity and culture. The Nakba has left a profound impact on Palestinians to this day.
Extensions of conflict similar to this ensued throughout the decades. One significant example was the 1967 Six Day War. Border disputes heightened between Israel and several Arab states; diplomatic tensions also peaked with Egypt’s strategic closure of a waterway that Israel depended on for trade. The State of Israel launched a preemptive strike on June 5, 1967. War broke out in lethal, swift waves between countries. By the end of the War, Israel had won several victories that expanded their territory, displacing even more Palestinians. All of Jerusalem was claimed as Israel’s “eternal capital”. This war left a legacy of diplomatic implications for Israel. A summit was held after, known as the Khartoum Arab Summit, which voted on a resolution called the “Three No’s”, meaning no peace, no recognition, no negotiation with the state of Israel.
Persistent violent clashes continue to this day. While property rights center these historical tensions, religious rights do as well.
Both Jews and Muslims share sacred religious sites in Jerusalem. For those who practice Islam, Palestine is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Islamic tradition considers it to be the third holiest place in the world. According to the Qur’an, Muhammad was divinely transported one night from Mecca to the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. It was there that he led Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other messengers of God (known as Allah in Islam) in ritual prayer. That same evening, Muhammad was taken up to heaven from the site of the Dome of the Rock and spoke directly with Allah.
For those who practice Judaism, the site of the mosque has become a focal point of conflict between these two groups. It is also deemed sacred to the Jewish community due to its historical association with the Temple of Jerusalem in ancient Israel (also known as Temple Mount). The First Temple was constructed at this site in the 10th century BCE by King Solomon, the son of King David. This temple was a place of worship, housing the Ark of the Covenant, which was believed to contain the tablets of the Ten Commandments. The First Temple stood for several centuries but was destroyed in 586 BCE by the Babylonians. This event is a crucial part of Jewish history, since it ultimately led to the Babylonian Exile and began a series of Jewish diasporas. A second temple was built in the 6th century BCE under the Persian Empire's, only to be destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. The site today embodies what Jewish people call the Temple Mount.
It is imperative to provide context for the religious importance of these sites, as their accessibility has been a contentious issue between Palestinian Muslims and Israeli Jews. The site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque is under coordination with the Jordan government to allow Palestinian Muslims access for worship, but entry into the building is controlled by Israeli police. The holy grounds, known as Al Haram Al Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), are solely for Muslim worship.
Many Palestinian Muslims fear that the precedent of religious coexistence between groups is being eroded by a far-right Jewish movement. According to CNN, Israeli police conducted several raids in the Al-Aqsa Mosque earlier this year. “Videos shared on social media showed Israeli police beating screaming Muslim worshipers with batons.” Israel Defense Forces state that they stormed the mosque after “hundreds of rioters and mosque desecrators barricaded themselves inside” and were said to be throwing fireworks and stones at them. The violence prompted rocket fire from southern Lebanon and Gaza, to which Israel retaliated with airstrikes.
For Muslim Palestinians, however, this event was viewed as an act against their ethnic group and religious practice. A Palestinian resident of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood commented on the issue to CNN saying, “I feel pain. True pain deep inside…This is a house of God. It is for worship. Not for occupation or provocation. Even as we pray, we are provoked and monitored by the Israelis.”
The historical context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complex array of narratives, indigenous claims, and violent historical events. It encompasses a connection to the land, religious practice, and centuries of both coexistence and contention. The recent terrorist attacks on October 7th have since caused further strain on these hostile relations. Over 1,400 Israeli citizens were killed and 5,132 injured by Hamas. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department. The events have been deemed the “deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust”. Israel Defense Forces have since responded against Hamas by using air strikes against the city of Gaza and trapping all citizens, a city home to more than 2 million civilians. It is considered to be Hamas's home base. The IDF has also deployed airstrikes in the West Bank against a mosque alleged to hold Hamas militants. The bombings are ongoing at this time and the latest death toll stands at 4,741 Palestinians killed and over 20,386 injured.
This situation underscores the urgency of the Middle East’s developing humanitarian crisis as the toll of fatalities continue to mount.
(Image c/o Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
By Matthew Colvin
Visiting News Reporter
New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez has pleaded not guilty to a double indictment on charges of bribery and conspiring as a foreign agent with the nation of Egypt. It is the second time he has been indicted for corruption-based offenses in the past decade.
According to the indictment, a federal search of the senator’s home turned up nearly $500,000 in cash, as well as gold bars and a Mercedes-Benz convertible. Both the senator and his wife, Nadine Menendez, stand accused of having acquired all of these funds via a “corrupt relationship” with several other businessmen. Menendez has vehemently denied the charges, claiming that the indictment was “as outrageous as it was absurd.”
The accusations did not stop there, however. On October 12, Menendez was charged with taking actions within the Senate on behalf of the Egyptian government, which would qualify him as an unregistered foreign agent. Despite charges of Menendez’s corruption consolidating, he continued to fervently deny them, claiming that, “piling new charge upon new charge does not make the allegations true.” While many other Democrats have called for Menendez to simply resign, the New Jersey senator has stubbornly refused.
The senator previously faced a set of bribery charges completely unrelated to the current situation in 2017, but the ordeal ended in a simple mistrial. However, with both charges and evidence seemingly stacking up against the senator in this new case, the result may prove to be quite different.
On October 23, Menendez officially entered his not guilty plea before US District Judge Sidney Stein in a federal court, not budging from his established stance. As the official trial is commencing, should Menendez be found guilty, he may be facing up to 50 years of imprisonment.
(Image c/o David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
By Anthony Romero
Rising tensions surrounding the Israel-Hamas War have escalated on Harvard’s campus as it struggles to mediate in the face of strong emotions coming from both sides. On October 7th, a letter penned by the Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and co-signed by 33 other student organizations was posted on the group’s Instagram, condemning the Israeli government and stating it is “entirely responsible” for the violence occurring overseas. The letter served as a response to the surprise Hamas attack that was met with Israeli retaliation, claiming the lives of 1,300 people and injuring 4,562 others during the initial attack on Oct. 7th, as per reports from the UN by Israeli officials.
As the letter started to circulate, it sparked a national backlash and a massive uproar among Harvard’s most influential alumni and donors. In its efforts to maintain an aura of neutrality, the university runs the risk of alienating concerned students and faculty with its extended silence. “In nearly 50 years of Harvard affiliation, I have never been as disillusioned and alienated as I am today,” stated former Harvard president Larry H. Summers on X, formerly known as Twitter. Dr. Summers was also critical of the university’s failure to denounce the students’ statement, a sentiment also shared by other members of the Harvard community. On Oct. 10th, Bill Ackman founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management called for Harvard University to release the names of the affiliated students for the purpose of “blacklisting” those students from their potential hiring pools. As reported by The Harvard Crimson, this ongoing controversy and the growing demand for names has resulted in a number of websites releasing student information and doxxing close family members. A billboard truck, sponsored by conservative media group Accuracy in Media, has also been seen driving around the college town as recently as late last week displaying the names and photos of suspected students, alongside messages accusing them of antisemitism.
The conflicting reactions from the Harvard community have highlighted a wider discussion of the application of free speech within the divided campus. The open declaration by Wall Street and big law leaders to refuse the hiring of students has led many to view this as a genuine threat and are intimidated by the sight of trucks parading their classmates’ information in public. Former president of the American Civil Liberties Union Nadine Strossen has likened the collecting of names to the McCarthy-era blacklists, labeling the threats to people’s future careers as an overreaction and an obstacle to “more thoughtful and less categorical pronouncements” on Harvard’s campus. Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of UC Berkeley’s School of Law, condemns the truck’s public intimidation of students but simultaneously recognizes that “you can’t express your views and then say, ‘Those who criticize me are chilling my speech.’”
On Oct. 12th, Harvard President Claudine Gay released a follow-up video rejecting terrorism and hate, as well as the harassment and intimidation of individuals in the community. Gay reaffirms the college’s dedication to free expression and establishes in a previous statement that although students and affiliated groups reserve the right to speak for themselves, this does not extend to Harvard leadership or the university itself.
Jordan current GOP nominee after Scalise withdrew name and McCarthy ousted.
(Image c/o Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
By Drew Paxman
Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio has been nominated by Republicans for the 56th Speaker of the House. The news comes just a day after Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana withdrew his name from voting consideration.
“The House Republican civil war continues to rage on,” remarked minority leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York in a speech he gave with the entire Democratic caucus outside Capitol Hill. “House Republicans have chosen to triple down on the chaos, triple down on the dysfunction, and triple down on the extremism.”
Jeffires is referring to Jordan’s association with the Freedom Caucus, a group Republicans that Jordan helped co-found. Florida representative Matt Gaetz, a member of this caucus, led an effort to remove former Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Oct. 4. Gaetz showed enthusiasm for the potential 56th Speaker, taking to X: “It’s Jim Jordan Time!”
McCarthy also confirmed his vote to the press. “I would support Jordan.”
Like McCarthy’s own tough path to the speakership back in January–which consisted of 15 contested ballots–Jordan’s own path seems difficult. In the initial secret ballot, only 124 Republicans supported Jordan, 93 votes short of the necessary 217 needed to become speaker. 81 of those votes went to Representative Austin Scott of Georgia.
Representative Don Bacon of Nebraska told CNN that he feels electing Jordan to the speakership would be rewarding the “bad behavior” of the eight caucus members who voted out McCarthy.
Former Republican–now Independent–congressman Denver Riggleman feels confident about where Jordan will stand in the coming days. “Jim Jordan’s not going to be Speaker,” he told MSNBC host Ari Melber.
Russell Dye, Jordan’s spokesman, gave a much more optimistic approach. “Jim Jordan is the only person who can unite the conference and get 217 votes to become speaker,” Dye told Fox News.
The House has stopped for the weekend and will resume activities on Monday, Oct. 16.
On the American soldier who had fled to the isolationist state.
(Image c/o Ahn Young-joon/Associated Press)
By Anthony Romero
US Army Private Travis King was released from North Korean custody in September after transfer negotiations between the two nations agreed on his safe expulsion to the Chinese border city of Dandong. Private King was reunited with his family in the United States and entered a reintegration program at the Brooke Family Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas after spending more than two months in North Korea. Following his complete recovery, US military officials are set to discuss the potential consequences of the incident after more information comes to light.
North Korean authorities cited their arrest of Pvt. King on reasons of “illegally intruding” into their territory, signifying continued tensions between the nation’s borders and those who cross it. This correlates with the confirmation of King’s willful trespass into the country on July 18, 2023, during a civilian tour of the Joint Security Area that rests between the borderlines of North and South Korea. The Korean Central News Agency reported that King’s reasoning for his illegal crossing was that he “harbored ill feelings against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the US Army and was disillusioned about the unequal US society” (The New York Times, 2023). According to interviews from local authorities and civilians, King was heard laughing as he made a sudden dash across the demilitarized zone and was subsequently picked up by North Korean officials. The day before his capture, King was scheduled to be escorted by American authorities to the Incheon International Airport for a flight back to the US, but King never boarded the plane.
Travis King, 23, was stationed in South Korea as a member of the First Brigade Combat Team, First Armored Division, and is a decorated soldier, having been awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Defense Service Medal, and other additional honors. South Korean police transferred King to US military officials in September 2022, due to an alleged incident of assault of a Korean national and/or nationals and destruction of public goods. King was reported to have been previously detained at a South Korean facility in Cheonan and was set to potentially face additional disciplinary action after his arrival to the US, though it remains unclear if this was in direct response to his charges overseas.
Located along what is known as the Panmunjom peace village, the Joint Security Area (JSA) marks a 250 km-long stretch of land designated as a Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. The JSA is monitored by North Korea and the UN Command, and both sides of the area are lined with heavy armaments and razor wire. Multiple companies offer South Korean tourists a tour of the JSA, it was on one of these tours that Pvt. King where made his crossing of the border.
King’s capture and release occurred in a series of simultaneous events that encompassed fraught international relations amid rising tensions between Pyongyang, Seoul, and Washington. The same day of King’s crossing also marked the arrival of the USS Kentucky, a nuclear-powered ballistic submarine, that arrived at a port in Busan as a symbol of US-South Korean naval power and the reinvigoration of their alliance. The docking was a response to a February 2023 military test of two ballistic missiles over the seas of Japan and the Korean Peninsula.
Associated Press https://apnews.com/article/north-korea-us-soldier-travis-king-00c171778e378d95fe1115fe31612ec2
CNN Politics (October 2023)
CNN Politics (July 2023)
The New York Times
The Guardian (19 July 2023)
The Guardian (18 July 2023)
By Callista Yu
American Journalism Student
By Daylana Ferguson
American Journalism Student
Madison Sciba '24,