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Preventing the Winter Blues, North Korea, Opioids: RAND Weekly Recap

January 3, 2020

This week, we discuss ways to prevent the winter blues; what Kim Jong Un's latest threat means; where to direct opioid settlement funds in order to save lives; Russia's new hypersonic weapon; and one RAND expert's thoughts on improving education.

A young woman looks out the window during winter, photo by Maridav/Adobe Stock

Photo by Maridav/Adobe Stock

How to Ward Off the Winter Blues

The joy of the holiday season can sometimes be eclipsed by feelings of regret: not-quite-achieved resolutions, disappointing family get-togethers, wishes that the new year will be different. Regret is a slippery slope for mental health, says RAND's Wendy Troxel. It can lead to the winter blues and even depression.

But adopting a few simple, science-backed strategies can help fend off these feelings all year long, she says. First, think about what you're grateful for. Second, begin the day by looking at something beautiful. And finally, practice self-care, including getting enough sleep.

Kim Jong Un attends a meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea in this undated photo released on December 31, 2019, photo by North Korean Central News Agency via Reuters

Kim Jong Un at a meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea in this undated photo released on December 31, 2019

Photo by North Korean Central News Agency via Reuters

What Does Kim's Latest Threat Mean?

On New Year's Eve, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced he would no longer abide by a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests. He also teased a “new strategic weapon.” According to RAND's Naoko Aoki, Kim's remarks signal a major shift for Pyongyang. Kim is preparing the public for a prolonged confrontation with the United States. And while there is still some room for diplomacy, “things do not look very optimistic right now,” she says.

Pill bottle with pills spilled out of it, photo by Moussa81/Getty Images

Photo by Moussa81/Getty Images

How to Spend Opioid Settlement Funds

Pharmaceutical companies could end up paying a global settlement for oversupplying prescription opioids. Any settlement wouldn't come close to covering the $1 trillion in costs of America's opioid crisis. That's why it's vital to allocate funds carefully, say RAND experts. To save the most lives, the money should go toward expanding access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone; supporting needle exchange programs and supervised injection facilities; providing effective treatment; and helping mothers and children.

The X-51A Waverider is set to demonstrate hypersonic flight

The X-51A Waverider is set to demonstrate hypersonic flight

Graphic by U.S. Air Force

Hypersonic Weapons: Mitigating the Threat

The Kremlin announced last Friday that Russia has added a new hypersonic weapon to its arsenal. A 2017 RAND report detailed the destabilizing threat of these high-speed weapons. The authors estimated that there was less than a decade to prevent proliferation. A necessary first step is for Russia, the United States, and China to agree to not export complete hypersonic missile systems or their components.

Darleen Opfer, photo by Grace Evans/RAND Corporation

Photo by Grace Evans/RAND Corporation

A Conversation with Education Policy Expert V. Darleen Opfer

As a former special education teacher, RAND's V. Darleen Opfer has seen firsthand how policy decisions affect the classroom. Opfer now leads RAND Education and Labor, which conducts research to help make students and workers more effective in a 21st-century workplace. In a new Q&A, she discusses how to improve education, the challenges of an evolving labor market, and lessons from classrooms abroad.

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