11 months ago

What is North Korea’s motivation?


Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:                

SHOULD TRUMP GET PEACE PRIZE FOR NORTH KOREAN TALKS?

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, Sky News is reporting that the president of South Korea, President Moon, has said President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize. “What we need is only peace,” Mr. Moon told a room of senior secretaries, according to an official who briefed the media.

Harry, we are now wondering what is the motivating factor behind North Korean president, Kim Jong Un, who now says he is all in favor of a denuclearized North and South Korea?

WHAT IS NORTH KOREA’S REAL MOTIVATION?

DR. REEDER: On the one hand, you find this movement by the deified dictator, a supreme ruler of North Korea, moving toward what seems to be a very generous desire for denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula of both North and South Korea without even demanding that United States Troops be taken off of the peninsula.

Is this an attempt to tweak the nose of China, saying, “Look, I can build a much more beneficial relationship with South Korea, and Japan and America and rescue my country economically”? And let’s face it, in North Korea, the people are literally starving.

Is it a shot across the bow to China or, as some have mentioned, none of this started until Kim Jong Un went to China and had these talks and, when he comes back, all of this begins to unfold? Yet, what he is offering is clearly not the line that China has always demanded and that is the removal of United States troops.

IN DECADES PAST, NORTH KOREA WAS HOTBED FOR CHRISTIAN REVIVAL

Tom, let me give you a little bit of a backstory. If you go over to Korea, there are over 19 seminaries with thousands of Koreans in the seminaries. And I’m particularly aware of them and I’m speaking of 19 theological seminaries that are committed to Presbyterian and reform theology and an evangelical approach to the Word of God and faithfulness to Christ.

I happen to be aware of them because, at one time, every single one of the presidents of these seminaries had been educated at my theological alma mater, Westminster Seminary, which has had a profound influence.

Well, all of that came out of great revivals in Korea. What people don’t know is the great revivals which preceded the Korean conflict took place in what today is called Northern Korea. The capital of Northern Korea, Pyongyang, was a hotbed of the revival.

Well, when the Communist revolution came and targeted Christianity, they all fled south and so many South Koreans actually have a North Korean root and these South Korean Christians who dearly love the Lord and who dearly love their homeland which is North Korea, if that door opens up and they flood back in, there’s going to be, again, quite a bit of either tension or accommodation in terms of religious freedom.

And that is actually one of the conversations that is actually taking place now — about the return of these Christians back to North Korea where their ancestral homes and families were and where the revival actually broke out that swept Korea so powerfully in the 20th century.

IS THIS A POLITICAL MOVE SIMILAR TO REAGAN AND GORBACHEV?

There are all kinds of factors that are happening here. The question that, when you’re looking at it in terms of statecraft, is this the wily move of this dictator cozying up to South Korea and, by doing that, making accommodations to the United States and to Japan because, economically, that’s going to be a much greater favor to him than it is to continue in the relationship with China which is making demands of him but is not able to really supply the kind of economic firepower that they need to get that country back on its feet?

However, in a sense, Tom, this is a Gorbachev moment. In the days of the presidency of Ronald Reagan when his policies forced the Soviet Union into a military buildup and to an economic competition that they could not stand and, as it began to unravel economically, then the political opportunities opened up and Gorbachev then opened the door for conversations with the United States, which ended up with the proverbial, “Tear the wall down,” and the wall got torn down.

And the Soviet Union, was we knew it when I was a kid, dissipated into a series of various countries as all of these countries that had been conquered and brought into what was called the Soviet Union now gravitated out to their own autonomous rule and then what was left in place was “Mother Russia” or, as we know it today, Russia. And, of course, we see the president/dictator of Russia, Putin, trying to again reestablish the Soviet Union empire with his aggressive movements to surrounding nations.

Back then, the economic unraveling opened the door and then came the famous talks whereby there was the denuclearization, there were the arms limitations that were placed in which the Gorbachev and Reagan negotiators came to an agreement that instituted a peace and an open door, politically, economically and culturally.

CAN THIS MIRROR HOW CHRISTIANITY SPREAD THROUGH RUSSIA?

And, by the way, I remember in those days an open door spiritually because a number of us were part of various organizations that flooded Russia with evangelicals who would bring the Gospel and also a Biblical world and life view into Russia. It was so vast, this movement, that Russia even had a kickback on it because it was almost overwhelming.

And you can’t help but wonder, is that this moment now with the economic unraveling of North Korea? Is a door opening up politically and, therefore, culturally and therefore now the open door to send the Gospel into North Korea may be around the corner just as it was back in the Gorbachev days and the opening up and tearing down of the wall and the “Iron Curtain.”

If it does happen, will we be in a position, as the church of our Lord, to take advantage of it? There are a number of seminaries that are positioning themselves to be supportive of any training of pastors and sending of pastors into North Korea, which many anticipate may be around the corner.

TRUMP’S STRATEGY SEEMS TO BE WORKING … FOR NOW

Now what does this mean for President Trump? Well, clearly, his approach to this has been, in terms of statecraft, very unorthodox. When you had the calling of these derogatory names, we can unleash fire and fury upon North Korea as they were testing all these rockets but, at the same time, President Trump had sent Mike Pompeo on a backchannel mission that seems to have borne fruit and be directly related to these recent talks between the leadership of North and South Korea and the profound statements of unreserved commitment to denuclearize the entire peninsula, yet leaving American troops there at least for the initial time while this process takes place.

And would that lead to the reunification of North and South Korea? All of that seems to be up in the air and these are exciting times to see what happens. It may open up significant doors for the work of the Gospel moving back into North Korea where it once flourished and overflowed into South Korea. Now it may reverse the flow back into North Korea and great missionary opportunities may be just around the corner.

IT’S TIME TO GET THE GOSPEL BACK INTO NORTH KOREA

I’ll end up with this: from a Christian world and life view, I am praying diligently that these talks move ahead, the arms control will be established, the denuclearization of the entire peninsula will take place, conversations that may even lead to reunification but, most of all, the removal of borders and policies that have prevented Christianity from going into North Korea except for those willing to be martyred.

We have this wonderful missions pastor, Brian Wintersteen, doing a great job of leading us and building on the wonderful foundation of our legendary missions pastor, Tom Cheely, and many times he and I sat in Asia when we were there to do preaching and he would say, “Harry, I am praying that God would let me get the Gospel into North Korea in my lifetime.”

Tom, it looks like you were prophetic but you had the timing wrong. You went to be with the Lord, but I almost have to believe that, somehow, in the presence of the Lord, he is still interceding.

Lord, let’s get the Gospel to North Korea, into what once was an unbelievably dark area. They have satellite pictures — there is all kinds of lights in the south but, in North Korea, it is pitch black. What a metaphor. May we send the light of the Gospel into the darkness.

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.

19 mins ago

Ex-Auburn assistant basketball coach Chuck Person pleads guilty

Former Auburn University assistant coach and 13-year NBA veteran Chuck Person pleaded guilty Tuesday to a bribery conspiracy charge in the widespread college basketball bribery scandal, ensuring that none of the four coaches charged in the probe will go to trial.

Person, 54, of Auburn, Alabama, entered the plea in Manhattan federal court, averting a June trial.

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He and his lawyer declined to speak afterward and made a quick exit from the courthouse.

Prosecutors said Person accepted $91,500 in bribes to steer players with NBA potential to a Pittsburgh-based financial adviser.

As part of the plea, he agreed to forfeit that amount.

Person said he committed his crime in late 2016 and early 2017.

The plea deal has a recommended sentencing guideline range of two to 2½ years in prison, though the sentence will be left up to Judge Loretta A. Preska.

The sentencing is scheduled for July 9.

In a release, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said Person “abused his position as a coach and mentor to student-athletes in exchange for personal gain.”

“In taking tens of thousands of dollars in cash bribes, Person not only placed personal financial gain above his obligations to his employer and the student-athletes he coached, but he broke the law,” he said.

Person’s plea falls in line with those recently entered by three other former assistant coaches at major college basketball schools.

Tony Bland, a former Southern California assistant coach; ex-Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson; and former Oklahoma State assistant coach Lamont Evans are awaiting sentencing.

Their prison terms are likely to be measured in months rather than years.

Person, former associate head coach at Auburn, was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 1986 and played for five NBA teams over 13 seasons.

In court papers, prosecutors said Person arranged multiple meetings between the financial adviser and Auburn players or their family members.

Prosecutors said he failed to tell families and players that he was being bribed to recommend the financial adviser.

In one recorded conversation, the prosecutor said, Person warned an Auburn player to keep his relationship with the financial adviser a secret.

According to prosecutors, Person said: “Don’t say nothing to anybody. … Don’t share with your sisters, don’t share with any of the teammates, that’s very important cause this is a violation … of rules, but this is how the NBA players get it done, they get early relationships, and they form partnerships.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 hour ago

Marsh bill to repeal Common Core approved by Senate committee

MONTGOMERY — Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) bill to eliminate Common Core in the state of Alabama was given a unanimous favorable recommendation by the Senate’s Education Policy Committee on Wednesday.

The bill, SB 119, is now set to be debated and considered on the Senate floor Thursday.

Marsh spoke about this bill during Yellowhammer Multimedia’s “News Shaper” event in Montgomery Tuesday evening after he filed the bill earlier that day.

He acknowledged that he has been a proponent of letting the state school board set education curriculum and standards policy in the past and even stopped an effort to repeal Common Core a few years ago. However, in Marsh’s view, Common Core has been given a chance now and it is time for the legislature to step in.

“It’s not working. I think we have to have some radical change with education policy in this state. And y’all know me, I’ve pushed a lot of things –  public charter schools, the Accountability Act. We’ve got to address this issue and it’s critical for this state,” Marsh said.

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He said eliminating Common Core would “clear the field” so the state could then move forward to better education outcomes.

Alabama would come up with its own high standards, premised on local control, under Marsh’s proposal.

He said his bill is cosponsored by all 27 of his Republican Senate colleagues and he expects SB 119 to pass the chamber and then receive similarly strong support in the House.

“I am committed to moving to a different standard that’s right for Alabama and moves us forward,” Marsh emphasized.

He also advised that there is a high level of politics involved in education decisions in the state but that sound policy must come first.

“[T]he education community, who I’ve asked to get this fixed, who have not addressed this, quite honestly I don’t think has put us in shape to move forward to address the problem at present. But I’m going to do all I can to see that it happens,” Marsh added.

Democrats on the Senate Education Policy Committee spoke in favor of keeping Common Core on Wednesday.

A career public school teacher from Lee County spoke in favor of eliminating Common Core at the hearing, while representatives from the state school superintendents association and the school boards association had concerns about the implementation of new standards.

Marsh said his bill will be amended before final passage to allow another national standard to be used if found to be best for Alabama, as the current language in his bill would ban any national standard from being adopted by the state school board.

Update, 11:35 a.m.:

State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) released a statement in support of Marsh’s bill.

“I strongly support Senator Marsh’s bill,” Givhan said. “The Common Core standards just haven’t worked for Alabama’s students, and the proof is evident in the data. In 2017, Alabama’s 8th grade math scores ranked 49th among the 50 states, and math scores for 4th grade students were 45th in the nation, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Common Core’s curriculum standards and guidelines have been in place for nine years, and they have failed Alabama’s students. It’s clear we need to look at alternative educational methods, with an emphasis on returning as much control as possible back to the local school districts.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Marsh, McCutcheon talk lottery, ethics clarifications at Yellowhammer ‘News Shaper’ event

MONTGOMERY — Speaking Tuesday evening at Yellowhammer Multimedia’s first “News Shaper” event of 2019, Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) provided their insight on some of the hot-button topics expected to be debated during the legislature’s ongoing regular session.

Yellowhammer owner and editor Tim Howe, who moderated the discussion, outlined uncertainty in the state’s ethics laws brought on by recent court and ethics commission decisions. Howe then asked the two leaders how they think the legislature can provide certainty and codified clarification moving forward, especially when it comes to defining a “principal.”

“There is no doubt that there’s a lot of uncertainty in the ethics legislation,” Marsh said. “The [Alabama Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission] was set up to look over this, but in addition to that, both the Senate and the House – in the Senate you have Greg Albritton and in the House [you have] Mike Jones – working throughout the entire break on how we address this.”

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“And remember,” Marsh continued, “it’s not about 140 legislators, there are 50,000 people in the state of Alabama affected by the ethics law. I’m going to make a plea to my colleagues, some of whom are in this room tonight: If it’s going to be fixed, we’ve got to fix it.”

He emphasized, “[I]t’s not going to get any easier. You’ve got to face the issues. You’ve got to address it and realize this is about much [more] than the legislature. So, I’m hopeful.

Marsh also noted that the uncertainty in the ethics law has “affected economic development.”

“There’s a section there where the economic developers are having problems keeping the [confidentiality] in the process of recruiting industries. We’ve got to address this,” he advised. “And I’m hopeful that we will address it this year.”

Marsh added, “I know that both Senator Albritton and Representative Jones have been in conversation with the attorney general and the ethics commission, as well. So we’re going down a path to try and get everybody on the same page. But we have got to -trust me, ladies and gentleman – we have best fix this. It’s got to be done.”

Howe then asked Marsh to articulate why certainty in the ethics law for economic development professionals is important not just for them, but for the entire state and each of its residents.

“[I]t’s important for the state, because we’re competing with all of the other states,” Marsh said.

He used the example of a piece of legislation passed out of committee that very day largely dealing with Polaris vehicles built in north Alabama and explained that the site selection process requires confidentiality, with most economic development recruitment projects being given code names.

“Because we’re competing against other states. And if we’re not able to keep that degree of secrecy at that stage of the game, we’re at a disadvantage to our neighbors,” Marsh explained.

He concluded, “So this is something that we have got to address. But I’m going to say this: that’s [only] a piece of it. And there’s going to be an attempt by the business community and economic developers to pass the piece. But I think it’s [incumbent] upon us to pass the big picture, solve all the problems, because you want as many people with you, supporting you, to make the changes. Every time you carve off a little piece, you lose some support. So, as I said, I want to help everybody, but I’m committed to the big picture.”

Lottery

Howe later asked the speaker if the time has come for a lottery proposal to pass the legislature and reach a referendum of the people.

“I think so,” McCutcheon responded. “I think it’s been coming for several years. I know that the districts, House districts, that are [bordering other states], most of those districts have seen a significant shift over the last seven or eight years because they see Alabamians driving across the state line to buy lottery tickets.”

He continued, “And people are starting to talk about it, and they’re starting to make it part of their discussion around the dinner table. … At the end of the day, there’s a good push from the people.”

McCutcheon did emphasize what he viewed as key to a successful lottery discussion.

“If we’re going to put this to a vote of the people, and I think it has a good chance of passing, we need to make sure that people understand what they’re voting on,” he outlined. “That’s very, very important. We don’t want to cloud the issue with the definition of a ‘lottery’ and try to sneak something in the back door. Let’s make sure the people understand in their minds what a lottery is and we define it in such a way that they know what they’re voting on.”

“Then, I think the next big debate will be, ‘Where’s the money [lottery revenue] going to go?’ And that will be something that we’ll have to contend with,” McCutcheon concluded.

This came the same day that Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) filed a lottery proposal that was soon after called not “clean” by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who said McClendon’s legislation would legalize slot machines in a select few places in the state.

Watch the entire discussion:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

After 133 launches, Alabama built rockets boast 100% mission success

Thank you to the United Launch Alliance team and the entire workforce surrounding another successful launch.  Alabama’s Decatur based facility brings the utmost precision, passion and purpose to one of the most technically complex, critical American needs: affordable, reliable access to space.

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3 hours ago

Bipartisan bill to regulate vaping set for House committee hearing

MONTGOMERY — Alabama is currently one of only three states to not regulate vaping, but that could soon change.

HB 41, sponsored by Republican Rep. Shane Stringer and Democrat Rep. Barbara Drummond, both of Mobile County, is on the House Judiciary Committee’s agenda for Wednesday afternoon.

The bill would regulate the sale, use and advertisement of vaping – or “alternative nicotine products” – in the state.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News, both Drummond and Stringer emphasized that their bill is intended to protect the health and wellbeing of Alabama minors.

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“The motivation is simple,” Drummond emphasized. “We are trying to safeguard the teens in the state of Alabama.”

She outlined, “Vape shops, as it stands right now, are not regulated at all… And the bill came about because our drug education council locally brought it to our attention, but [Stringer and I] have both seen ourselves, as well as throughout the whole state, the rise of vape shops. They’re popping up everywhere in the state of Alabama.”

While it is too early to tell what vaping is directly doing to users’ health, Stringer and Drummond emphasized there is an objective gateway effect from vaping use and to smoking traditional cigarettes.

“Right now, there is no data that says what is the [direct] effect that these products are having on our young people. What we are seeing, and this is a national trend, is that you’re seeing smoking not going down, but increasing, among young people,” Drummond explained.

Stringer, a career law enforcement officer with stints as chief of multiple local police departments, said educators from every corner of Mobile County have voiced their concerns with the lack of state oversight on vape products and retailers “saying this is an epidemic and a problem what we need to address.”

“The products haven’t been out long enough to know the problems we could face in five, ten, 15 years from now,” he said. “It’s pretty similar to when smoking came out. There was basically no risk at that time, according to everyone. Now, look at all the data that we have to go with smoking… this is a new product we’re learning every day about.”

Stringer said statistics they were shown from the drug education council show an approximately 34 percent increase in children under 19-years-old that tried smoking after vaping.

“In Alabama, we don’t want to wake up one day and see the effects, negative effects on our kids,” Drummond added. “Right now, we’re trying to be responsible legislators to make sure that we look out for the welfare of our children.”

The two lawmakers also stressed that not only do vape shop operators have no restrictions on them, but the state has no way to even keep track of them currently.

Their bill would make it illegal to sell or give vape products to anyone under 19-years-old. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board would regulate retail sales of the products, just as they do tobacco products. Retailers would have to obtain an annual permit, which includes an application fee of $300. Retailers would also have to comply with relevant FDA regulations and post signage warning of the dangers of nicotine usage.

Using vape products in certain places, including schools and child care facilities, would be prohibited.

‘This is something that is nonpartisan, it’s not anything that is about Republican or Democrat. This is something about our young people,” Drummond said. “Because if you look at the amount of nicotine that is showing up in these products, when they first hit the market, the nicotine levels were very low – like five percent. Now, it’s gone up to about ten percent. They’ve got other chemicals in there, like formaldehyde. What is the effect of that upon the brains of our kids? So, this is more of a public wellbeing bill for us.”

Stringer advised that he foresees widespread support in the legislature for the bill.

“Everyone agrees that there has to be some checks and balances [oversight] in place,” he concluded.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn