Making sense of Trump’s negotiations


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NORTH KOREAN CAPTIVES SET FREE GIVE PSALM TO MIKE PENCE

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, a week ago, it was a special day for the United States and a special day for three men who were being held hostage by the North Koreans. When they got off the plane, one of the three handed Vice President Mike Pence a note.

Mike Pence tweeted, “It was an amazing moment I’ll never forget when three Americans stepped onto the tarmac and gave me a signed personal note with Psalm 126 on the back. To these men of faith and courage, God Bless You and welcome home.”

Psalm 126:1-3 reads:

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of the captives of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

our tongue with songs of joy.

Then they said among the nations,

‘The Lord has done great things for them.’

The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.”

DR. REEDER: As we try to look at issues around the world from a Christian World and life view, we try to do this in a commentary fashion and not in a sermonic fashion, but when I hear something like this, I am immediately wanting to go to Psalm 126 and let’s preach the Gospel from the Psalms.

The Bible records that wonderful moment when Jesus is on the road to Emmaus with his disciples and He says to them whose hearts were downcast, “Do you not know that the Scriptures had to be fulfilled?” And, beginning with Moses, with all the prophets in the psalms, He explained Himself in all the Scriptures.

OUR FAITH IS ONE OF FREEING CAPTIVES

And, of course, when you study the psalms, what you’re ultimately seeing is not only the immediate context and fulfillment of these psalms and their historic position, but you’re also seeing them point to Christ. In other words, Christ is the ultimate singer of the psalms — not David, but the great Son of David who is greater than David — and that is Christ, the King of Glory and the Savior of sinners.

When this wonderful psalm that praises God for His delivery of His covenant people and they were restored to the blessings of Zion and, as they are redeemed and delivered from their captivity, while of course that would have great promises as you look at the issue of the restoration of Israel from the Babylonian captivity, but it has even greater fulfillment when you look ultimately not to the people of God being restored after being under the disciplining hand of God from various captivities — what you ultimately have is the glorious blessing of the redeeming work of Christ who sets free His people from the captivity of our sin.

Therefore, when Israel is taken out of the bondage of Egypt and then brought to the promised land, in later years, when Israel is restored from a Babylonian captivity, this psalm takes on particular meaning for God’s covenant people who are numbered within the nation of Israel.

CHRIST BROUGHT THAT FREEDOM TO ALL NATIONS

But now God’s covenant people are brought from all the nations and what you’re looking to is not the Lord’s use of fallible instruments by His grace such as Moses, and David, and Daniel, and Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus and all of these who are in positions of leadership that God uses because the Lord can turn the hearts of the king wheresoever He wishes even as turns the rivers to the sea.

You not only see that but what you see is the intentional work of the God of glory in sending His Son, the Redeemer of His people, the Prophet, Priest and King Who is the fulfillment of all the Scriptures and, in Him, we are delivered and brought into the ultimate Zion and we’ll be delivered finally into a new heavens and a new earth for the covenant people of God who are now being brought from all nations into the kingdom of God.

But, having looked at that glorious truth, now you back up to the initiative that is taking place out of this administration out of the basis of God’s common grace and you see a people who take a text of Scripture that refers to the blessings of God’s covenant people when they are delivered, not only historically, but also spiritually God’s people delivered into the people of God, looking at that glorious psalm that is fulfilled in Christ in the kingdom of God.

And they make an application, not an interpretation, that they feel the same way as they were in the desolation, all of the deprivations taking place — being wrongfully imprisoned in Korea — but now, as a “statement of good will” they are freed through the negotiations that have been taking place by this administration. Of course, it’s come out now that there have been some backdoor negotiations.

DO THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS?

Now, Tom, all of this begs for you and me to make some kind of comment. This, at best, in terms of accepted statecraft, is very unusual. You have a president who is tweeting out things that are, to say the least, offensive to this leader in Korea and here is Korea, who is in Asia, and this is an honor/shame culture — you just don’t abide by any acts of shame — and so everyone anticipates, when he puts out “rocket man” and all of this, that this is going to send relationships spiraling out of control and yet backdoor meetings taking place.

And then we see this monumental moment of North Korean dictator and the South Korean leadership right at the demilitarized zone, shaking hands, and these declarations, and now these peace accords that are moving forward and now promises of denuclearization taking place. He’s wily as a fox, this president is, because he’s doing these things publicly and these other things are taking place privately. Much of what we think is accepted statecraft actually, in negotiations around issues, ought to be reexamined.

IS AMERICA FIRST A CHRISTIAN MANTRA?

Now, what I don’t think should be reexamined is the call for decorum in relationships. I do not believe that you violate the dignity of human beings in order to maneuver them to a negotiating table to get the best deal that you can. And I do not believe that a commitment “to put America first” which, in its best light is, I’m going to look out for the interest of my nation first and, by the way, I expect you to look out for the interest of your nation first. I believe the best interpretation of that is you are elected to take care of your people so that should guide your negotiations.

Tom, let me share a story: My father was involved in baseball and he was on the periphery of a trade that took place between some major league baseball teams. Dad’s team got clearly the best of the trade — it was a six-player swap and the three players they got went on to have unbelievably productive seasons and the three players they gave up had unproductive seasons.

And I looked at Dad and I said to Dad, “That was a great trade.” He said, “No, son, that was a bad trade. Whenever you make a trade and whenever you do a negotiation, you want to make sure that the person you’re negotiating with gets a win. You need to get the win you need to get, but they need to get a win, too, for two reasons. First, you want to honor the dignity of the person that you’re negotiating with and secondly, if you’re not negotiating in good faith so that they come out with a positive, then they’ll never be back at another negotiating table with you. And, son, very seldom in the affairs of life do you ever settle anything that needs to be settled at one sit-down and at one negotiation.”

WE NEGOTIATE TO WIN OTHERS TO CHRIST

While I will acknowledge that that unorthodoxy is maybe a good thing from time to time, I do want to say and affirm, from a Christian world and life view, people are made in the image of God and nations are made up of people and, therefore, when we deal with people, we need to deal with them with dignity and respect. We always are looking as Christians, wanting to influence our own nation to conduct itself in such a way that, by God’s grace, it might be a bridge-building moment that we can actually create opportunities for us to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all the nations.

And we will see not only the blessing of people who are unjustly imprisoned for political reasons delivered and see their joy expressed in that handwritten note with that Psalm 126 that was given to our vice-president, but we can see even more that people give praise to the God of glory because they are delivered from their sins and the negotiations among nations have actually opened the doors for the ambassadors of Christ to bring the Good News.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

 

32 mins ago

Birmingham’s new Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema is ready for its premiere

The new, permanent home of Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival will open its doors this weekend, just in time for this year’s event.

Chloe Cook, executive director of the Sidewalk Film Festival, said the 11,500 square-foot facility is not complete, but is far enough along to be used as a festival venue this weekend.

“After the festival we will go dark for a week,” Cook said. “Then we will have a soft opening Labor Day weekend before our grand opening September 13-15. We’re very excited.”

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Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema a dream come true from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The cinema, located in the basement of the Pizitz building on 2nd Avenue North, features two 89-seat theaters and an education room for special events. Outside of the festival week, it will function very much like a typical movie theater, operating seven days a week on a year-round basis, screening the latest independent feature films on one of two screens.

“We’re excited to have something slightly larger than a jewel-box movie theater, but not a huge multiplex-type facility where we can carefully curate the programming for our community,” Cook said. “When I took the job in 2009 I did not imagine this would come to fruition. I really think a lot of redevelopment in the north side of downtown Birmingham has happened around our annual festival and it continued happening to the point that we felt like the timing was right to pursue this project and fill that cultural void.”

Cook said the $4.9 million facility would not have happened without the generous support of a variety of contributors.

“We have been so fortunate to receive generous support from our corporate community, including Alabama Power (Foundation)Regions BankBlue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, as well as our foundation community,” Cook said. “We’ve seen support from the Hugh Kaul Foundation, The Stephens Foundation, The Daniel Foundation, but we’ve also seen a lot of individuals who are not people who could start a foundation but they can send in a check for $250 or $25. That’s been really rewarding.”

To learn more about the Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema, visit MakeMovieMagic.com. To learn more about the Sidewalk Film Festival, visit SidewalkFest.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

SchoolFest sets the stage for Alabama children

The following is the latest installment of the Alabama Power Foundation’s annual report, highlighting the people and groups spreading good across Alabama with the foundation’s support.

 

Plato said art imitates life. Oscar Wilde said it was the other way around. It’s an argument that continues. However, one art form brings us face to face with the connection between art and life, perhaps better than any other: theater. It’s here people act out stories, hoping their audience forgets for a moment that it’s all make-believe. Were it not for the SchoolFest program of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF), many Alabama children might never be exposed to the magic of theater.

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Every year, 40,000 students attend SchoolFest in Montgomery. From the professional actors to the costume and set design, the productions are the same as those presented to other ASF audiences. Thanks to grants from the Alabama Power Foundation and others, ticket prices are discounted and many schools attend for free, exposing students from all walks of life to art.

For some, it’s an experience they’ll never forget. For others, like Emily Prim, it’s life-changing. Prim is assistant wardrobe supervisor at ASF. She remembers distinctly when the “theater bug” bit her. “I was in seventh grade at St. James School in Montgomery. We had a field trip to SchoolFest, where we saw ‘James and the Giant Peach.’ I remember it so well, because there was a Ferris wheel on stage that was the peach, and I thought that was so cool. I was sorta thinking about theater, because of shows we had done in school and stuff, but when I came to see ‘James’ here, it made me start thinking that this is something I could do after I graduate,” Prim said.

Prim’s experience is what ASF is all about. Executive Director Todd Schmidt put it this way: “It’s really a bedrock of our mission at ASF, which is to create communities through transformative theatrical experiences. It’s a lot of kids’ first introduction to theater. It’s important to do that, especially in this time of continued cuts in arts funding.”

Shakespeare Festival’s SchoolFest puts the arts at center stage for Alabama students from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Just in the past year, students have seen productions of “The Sound of Music,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Our Town,” “Steel Magnolias” and “Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963.” The latter featured 24 students from Montgomery Public Schools in the cast. Schmidt chooses shows that are appropriate for audiences of all ages. SchoolFest builds many of these productions around school curricula.

“We put our programming out to schools, and then they select what they think is relevant to what they’re doing and what they want their kids to be exposed to,” Schmidt said.

What started decades ago as productions appropriate for students has continued to expand. In addition to SchoolFest, ASF offers educational programs. There are theater classes for adults and children, and summer theater camps for students. ASF has hosted a series of conversations that are tied – at least in part – to the shows. U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell spoke alongside a cast member from “Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963.”

“These are not about our productions, but they focus on themes of the productions,” Schmidt said. “There’s one coming up that talks about women dealing with glass ceilings, working in fields normally dominated by men, which ties somewhat into the production of ‘Steel Magnolias’ and a new production, ‘Into the Breeches.’”

Lonny Harrison, director of theater at St. James School in Montgomery, has been bringing students to see productions at ASF for 21 years. “We have some students who, up to the point they’ve hit SchoolFest, have never seen a live production outside of a school play. This definitely helps get them more into the arts.

It seems like kids respond differently to every show, but whether it’s something that’s the most amazing thing to them, or something that makes them think more critically, it at least makes them think about it. When we left ‘Romeo and Juliet’ the other day, kids were saying, ‘Let’s do some Shakespeare!’ I had to tell them, ‘Small steps.’”

Harrison has a long history with SchoolFest. He saw stage productions at ASF when he was in school. His experience echoes that of many Alabamians. Were you to poll the state, you’d likely be amazed at the number of people of all ages who’ve shared the marvel of live performance in a theater at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

In Alabama, it’s a generational thing. When it comes to the art imitating life vs. life imitating art question, perhaps Shakespeare got it right when, in the second act of “As You Like It,” the character Jaques said, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.”

The parts being played by the men and women of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival are a rich and vital service to the people of our state. These are the people who transform our children, who show them a new and lively way to understand stories, and life – its comedies and tragedies. These are the “players” who expand the minds of our young people, and show them a world that lives within their own ability to imagine.

For more information on the Alabama Power Foundation and its annual report, visit here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

Aderholt’s advice for Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate candidates: ‘Make it very clear that they’re supportive of the president’

Although it is still the early going of the 2020 U.S. Senate Republican primary election campaign, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) has some advice for the handful of candidates seeking the GOP nod.

When asked what he saw as important to him and his constituents in Alabama’s fourth congressional district, he said it was support for President Donald Trump.

In the 2016 presidential election, Trump dominated Aderholt’s district by winning more than 80% of the vote and was the only district in the country to break the 80% threshold.

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“They’ve clearly got to make sure that they make it very clear that they’re supportive of the president,” Aderholt said. “I mean, this president has as much support of any since I have been in office. I have never seen a president that has the support this president has. He has, everywhere I go, people are very optimistic that they are very positive about what he is doing. And they’re optimistic about the future. So I would first of all — they need to let their constituents, future constituents that are voters, know that they’re someone who would stand with the president.”

“As someone who is in another branch of government, we always want to make sure we don’t do just exactly like the executive or the president wants to do regardless of who it is,” he continued. “The Founding Fathers wanted the different branches to be a watchdog on each other. But, as I have seen from this president, the things that he is doing is consistent with what the voters want and what has been good for America. I’m fully supportive of this president. I think they need to communicate they’re supporting the president. I think that is probably the biggest thing right now. Alabama is a very pro-life state, and I think they need to communicate that, which again is consistent with the president’s message.”

Aderholt also suggested the Senate candidates should be supportive of Trump’s efforts to renegotiate NAFTA.

“I am also getting the feedback that the Mexican-Canadian trade agreement that the president is trying to negotiate — to redo NAFTA, people are very supportive of that,” Aderholt added. “But again, the president has been very supportive of these issues. What the president is doing, I’m very supportive of. I don’t see any issue as far as supporting what the president’s issue is.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

5 hours ago

Georgia-based Colonial sues contractor over Alabama spill

Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline Co. has sued an Alabama contractor over a spill that threatened gasoline supplies along the East Coast three years ago.

The pipeline operator contends faulty work by the Birmingham-based Ceco Pipeline Services caused a crack that spilled at least 250,000 gallons of gasoline in rural Shelby County in September 2016.

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The spill shut down a major pipeline for weeks, tightening gasoline supplies along the Eastern Seaboard.

The pipeline carries fuel from Houston to metropolitan New York.

With headquarters near Atlanta in Alpharetta, Colonial Pipeline filed the federal lawsuit Friday seeking an unspecified amount of money.

Ceco Pipeline Services has not filed a response in court, and general manager Luke Hotze declined comment Monday, citing the lawsuit.

Hired to replace coatings that protect the pipeline’s exterior, the contractor failed to adequately replace dirt around the pipeline after maintenance work, the suit said.

The failure left a void beneath the pipe, which bent as it sagged.

The bend caused cracks that led to the breach, according to the suit.

The failure cost Colonial Pipeline lost income, plus money spent on repairs and cleanup, the lawsuit said without specifying an amount.

The lawsuit said Colonial Pipeline transports an average of 100 million gallons (378 million liters) of refined petroleum products daily through a system that includes more than 5,500 miles (8,850 kilometers) of pipeline.
(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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‘School choice’ also means ‘tax choice’ in Alabama

It’s back-to-school season and for some parents, this is a happy time.

But for those whose children are stuck in underperforming schools, or schools where they are bullied or are in danger, this is a heartbreaking time, especially if they cannot afford to move or go to private school.

“There was fighting every day. People wanted to shoot me, kill me, and everything,” said Calvin Coleman in a speech about his experiences at his Mobile public high school.

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Did you know that you, or your company, can help students like Calvin by donating a portion of what you already owe in state income taxes to a program that funds scholarships for low-income families in Alabama?

“When my son Carlos was in the fifth grade, he was constantly bullied and I wanted to desperately put him into a private school,” wrote Nyenya Webster of Montgomery in Alabama Daily News. Every day was a struggle, she added. “I was at a loss as to what to do to help my son.”

Then Webster learned about the tax-credit scholarship program created in 2013 by the Alabama Accountability Act that serves roughly 4,000 low-income, mostly minority Alabama students.

She applied, and Carlos received a scholarship to attend Success Unlimited Academy in Montgomery.

“Success Unlimited has been a lifesaver for my son,” Webster wrote. “He … is now considering college. My son never talked about going to college before Success.”

For those who want to help other Alabama families break the cycle of poverty through education, it’s a no-brainer.

“For a donor, it doesn’t cost them anything,” said Warren Callaway, executive director of Scholarships For Kids, one of the scholarship granting organizations funded by the program.

That’s because a tax credit is different from a charitable contribution. When you make a charitable contribution to a non-profit organization, you deduct a portion of that on your income tax. However, a tax credit allows you to take a dollar for dollar reduction in your state income tax.

“Basically, donors are redirecting some of their state income tax liability to a [scholarship granting organization],” Callaway said. “So, if you give $100 to us, you can reduce your state income tax by $100.”

Who benefits from the donation?

“The average household income for these students is under $30,000 so these are families that would have no other way of choosing the school that is best for their child,” said Ryan Cantrell, director of state strategy and political affairs for the American Federation for Children, during an interview of the 1819 podcast.

Higher-income families have always had school choice, Cantrell said, but “it’s the low-income families who get stuck with no options in under-performing schools or schools that don’t work for their child.”

There are $30 million in tax credits available and, so far, only about a third have been claimed, according to the Department of Revenue’s My Alabama Taxes website.

Here’s how you can reserve your tax credit before the December 31, 2019, deadline:

Step 1: Estimate how much income tax you or your business will owe Alabama next year by checking how much you paid last year. Individuals and corporations can donate up to 50 percent of their tax bill, and while individuals are limited to $50,000, corporations are unlimited.

Step 2: Visit the My Alabama Taxes website and follow instructions for reserving an Alabama Accountability Act tax credit.

Step 3: Send a check to one of the seven scholarship granting organizations in Alabama within 30 days.

Step 4: When you do your taxes next year, fill out an Alabama Department of Revenue Schedule AATC form to reduce your income tax bill by the amount you donated.

For more help, individuals may call the Alabama Department of Revenue at 334-353-0602 or 334-353-9770, and corporations may call 334-242-1200.

You’re already going to have to write a check for your state income taxes. Why not control where some of that money goes, especially when it has the power to change lives?

“It was a relief that nobody would understand,” said mother-of-five Alleane West in an Alabama Opportunity Scholarship video about the program’s impact on her family. “You know, you’re a single mom with boys trying to not make them a statistic.”

Watch:

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Connect with her at rachel@alabamapolicy.org or on Instagram @RachelBlackmonBryars.