What is North Korea’s motivation?


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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.

13 hours ago

VIDEO: Prisons could be built with COVID-19 funds, Shelby endorses Katie Britt for Senate, Brooks battles with Swalwell as a new poll shows big lead and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and political consultant Mecca Musick take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Will Alabama really use COVID-19 relief funds to build prisons?

— Does Katie Britt’s entering of the U.S. Senate race shake things up, or has U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) already won this race?

— Can U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) keep the more radical members of the Democratic Party at bay?

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Jackson and Musick are joined by former U.S. Attorney Jay Town to discuss the issues facing the state of Alabama this week.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” directed at those who want to use the illegally acquired tax returns of the uber-wealthy to push for higher taxes. He argues the released returns show that we should implement a flat tax and do away with all deductions.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

16 hours ago

Auburn’s David Housel tackles more than sports in ‘From the Backbooth at Chappy’s’

When David Housel retired from Auburn University in 2006, after a legendary career as athletics director for the Tigers, it wasn’t long before his wife urged him to get busy again – and a deli on Glenn Avenue in Auburn was the beneficiary.

“Susan wanted me to do something to get out of the house,” Housel recalls. “I started going to Chappy’s to drink coffee, read the paper. Pretty soon, Kenny Howard would meet me there, and it just kind of grew from there.”

In short order, friends of Housel began to gather, first a few one day a week and then, just prior to the pandemic, 12-16 people nearly every day of the week.

They meet at Chappy’s, where a plaque commemorates Housel’s booth, and they talk – about sports, of course, but about pretty much anything that’s on their minds.

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Housel began to write essays about those mornings, posting them to Facebook. He’s now compiled more than 100 of those pieces into a new book, “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s: Stories of the South: Football, Politics, Religion, and More.” It’s officially released next week at a series of book signings at Chappy’s in the Auburn area from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. each day: Tuesday in Auburn, Wednesday in Montgomery and Thursday in Prattville.

“Consider this Housel unleashed,” the author says. “Most of the stuff I’ve written in my life has been about Auburn on an Auburn platform. Even after I retired, I was a representative of Auburn, even though I wasn’t working there. This is not an Auburn book. It’s about football, politics, religion and more.”

“From the Backbooth at Chappy’s,” with a foreword by Auburn graduate and acclaimed journalist Rheta Grimsley Johnson, evolved as Housel’s morning gatherings at Chappy’s evolved, though he began writing the essays fairly early in the process.

“When something is in your mind, in your heart, in your head, if you’re a writer, it just has to come out, and it just comes through your fingers,” Housel says. “Turns out people like to read it, so I got the Facebook page. I shared thoughts and essays and that kind of thing. It was not a planned thing.”

When COVID-19 came along, Housel decided to listen to a few folks who told him his musings would make a good book.

“I had been thinking a lot about it, and it was time to do it,” Housel says.

Housel has written six other books. Most have to do with Auburn sports history, but one, “From the Desk of David Housel,” is similar to “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s.”

“That one was primarily sports, but it had some other things in it,” Housel says. “This one is about the other stuff, but it has some sports in it.”

Though the three topics in his book’s title – football, politics and religion  – are often the subjects people are warned not to bring up if they want to keep the peace, Housel and his friends don’t shy away from any of them. Housel especially gravitates toward religious topics.

“I like the ones that I hope make people think,” he says of his essays. “The good Lord gave us a mind, and we’re supposed to use it. Too few people who call themselves Christians do what the Lord said and use their minds. … Faith has got to be built not on challenging God but questioning God. I think God likes that, because it shows we’re engaged and that we care.”

Now that the pandemic is ending, the Backbooth at Chappy’s events are slowly but surely returning to normal. On Mondays, Housel eats two eggs scrambled, lean bacon and a helium biscuit; on Tuesdays maybe a parfait with granola; on Wednesdays, it’s blueberry pancakes, and Fridays a waffle.

What remains constant is the conversation. And the writing.

“I’m still writing the Backbooth, and since the first of the year, I’ve written a couple I think are book-worthy,” Housel says. “I started out doing maybe one a week, but I’m old enough that I don’t have to meet a self-imposed deadline. When the spirit moves me, I write.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

18 hours ago

State Rep. Pringle pushes to ban critical race theory in public schools — ‘Woke culture indoctrination,’ ‘Needs to be stopped in its tracks’

Last week, Florida’s Board of Education banned so-called “critical race theory” from its public schools, and it is a move State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) hopes to follow in Alabama.

Critical race theory, a belief that racism is ingrained in some of America’s sacred institutions, is widely panned by critics because it distorts and weaponizes history for political gain.

Friday, Pringle discussed his prefiled bill for the Alabama Legislature’s 2022 regular session to prohibit critical race theory from being taught in Alabama’s public schools.

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“It’s simply a bill that says in public education, you can’t teach or indoctrinate our children with critical race theory,” he said. “People are waking up all around the nation to how bad this stuff is. I mean, this is woke cancel culture gone completely amuck. They want to completely disregard our 14th and 15th Amendment rights, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act. If you don’t agree with them — here’s what’s crazy: They want to send you to a reeducation camp. Think about that, a reeducation camp. Don’t they do that in China, Russia and North Korea?  That’s how bad this stuff is. Either you agree with them or you have to be sent off to a reeducation camp.”

“This is just indoctrination — the woke culture indoctrination of our children,” Pringle continued. “That’s all it is and it needs to be stopped in its tracks. I mean, our children need to learn history and we ought to open a frank discussion about history — the good, the bad. But this is not about good or bad. This is teaching our children that our nation is a bad nation, is an evil nation and is not the great country that we live in. We are the safest, freest people in the world and that’s what our children need to learn.”

“Do we have problems? Yeah,” he added. “Have we done bad things? Yeah. But we’re still the greatest nation in the history of the world.”

According to the Mobile County Republican lawmaker, the response to the effort thus far has been positive and supportive.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

21 hours ago

Why Sylacauga marble is known around the world

If you’ve ever visited the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and stared up at the translucent marble ceiling, you’ve witnessed a piece of Alabama history. The ceiling is made of white marble mined in Talladega County’s Sylacauga (appropriately known as the Marble City).

In addition to lending its natural treasure to some of the nation’s most notable buildings, Sylacauga also holds the title for having the longest deposit of marble in the world. The bed of stone runs 32 miles long, a mile and a half wide, and more than 600 feet deep. The marble found in this quarry is especially desirable for two key characteristics: its purity and its durability. When paired together, these distinct qualities make Alabama marble some of the most desired in the world for large-scale buildings and monuments, as well as homes and sculptures.

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The History of Alabama Marble

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The Sylacauga Quarry (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

Marble is formed when limestone is subjected to extreme pressure and heat. In Sylacauga, the conditions are perfect for the formation of metamorphic marble. Sylacauga’s massive deposit was first discovered by Native Americans, but it wasn’t quarried until 1834, 20 years after army surgeon Dr. Edward Gantt stumbled upon the vein while passing through with General Andrew Jackson’s army.

In the years that followed Gantt’s discovery, Sylacauga’s marble business thrived. More quarries popped up, mining the marble for everything from funerary monuments to building projects to sculptures. By the 1960s, the use of the quarried marble shifted toward the utilitarian. Rather than being mined in huge chunks for building material, the marble was being ground down for use in products like cosmetics, diapers, magazine paper, fertilizer, fiberglass, toothpaste, and chewing gum. In 1969, marble was named Alabama’s state rock.

A Timeless Treasure

Sylacauga Quarry (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

Today the charge for Alabama marble is being led by the Swindal family, who own Alabama Marble Mineral & Mining Co. (AM3). AM3’s 50-acre quarry in Sylacauga is the world’s only supplier and leading distributor of Alabama marble. Owner Roy Swindal’s goal is to reintroduce the world to Alabama marble, once again marketing it as a prized material for both commercial and consumer construction. According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History, around 30 million tons of marble have been pulled from the ground in Sylacauga since 1900. The Swindals hope to add to that number by continuing and improving upon the state’s tradition for many years to come.

Marble Mania

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Sculptor Enzo Torcoletti at the Sylacauga Marble Festival (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

It’s only fitting that a town built on marble pay tribute to the stone that brought its success. For the past 13 years, the city has celebrated its marble mining heritage with the 12-day Magic of Marble Festival. The festival, typically held in April, features several activities and events that are all free and fun for the whole family. Festival participants can take a tour of operational quarries and visit the Gantts/IMERYS Observation Point that overlooks the town’s historic first quarry. The creative side of marble is put on display at Blue Bell Park, where 25 sculptors create original pieces made entirely of marble. On the final day of the festival, the finished pieces are displayed and sold at nearby B.B. Comer Library. Other activities include a 5K run and a scavenger hunt.

If you can’t wait for next year’s festival and you want to see Alabama’s famous white marble in action now, there are several locations around the state to see it put to good use. In Birmingham, try the John Hand Building, Wells Fargo headquarters, City Federal building, or the Chamber of Commerce. If you’re in Montgomery, don’t miss the “Head of Christ” sculpture at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. It was created by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti, who also happens to be the artist behind Birmingham’s Vulcan.

(Courtesy of SoulGrown)

22 hours ago

The economics of paying ransom

The cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline by the hacker group DarkSide disrupted gasoline supplies across the Southeast. The company caused a stir by paying a 75 Bitcoin ransom to DarkSide. America historically has been opposed to paying evildoers, as reflected in the slogan, “Millions for defense, but not one cent in tribute,” and President Jefferson sending the Navy and Marines to fight the Barbary Pirates.

Ransomware raises many economic issues. A first question is, do hackers ever give the data back if paid? DarkSide provided Colonial Pipeline a key to decrypt their data. According to Proofpoint, this is the norm: 70% of ransom payers got their data back, 20% never got their data back and 10% received a second ransom demand.

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From an economic perspective, this is not surprising. About two dozen groups, identifying themselves by name and known to insurance companies, carry out most of the sophisticated attacks. Insurers would never recommend payment in the future to a group which has reneged. The hackers must deliver as promised to make money.

Some have suggested making payment of ransom for cyberattacks illegal. If no one ever paid ransom, the hackers could not make money. Refusing to pay ransom though faces two significant economic challenges.

The first is time consistency. Kidnapping illustrates this concept. Before an event, the incentive exists to say, “We will never pay ransom.” If the bad guys believe this, they will never invest the time, effort and expense to stage a kidnapping. Once they hold hostages, however, our incentive changes; negotiating just this one time now makes sense. Our policy to never pay ransom is not credible.

Collective action poses the second challenge. Businesses collectively have an interest in not rewarding cybercrime, yet individual businesses suffer these attacks. A business which does not pay ransom benefits other businesses, creating the challenge. Why should Continental Pipeline suffer losses to make other businesses less likely to be attacked?

Why do businesses pay ransom? Reports mention several factors. A business may face a closure of unknown length and cost. Customers’ personal information will be sold if ransom is not paid, leading to fines and bad publicity. And the hackers might sell proprietary information to competitors.

Good economists know better than to second guess business managers’ decisions. Decisions to pay ransom often involve the business’ executives, its insurance carrier and tech security experts. They know the options and likely costs and should make a good decision, despite the pressure of a crisis.

Insurance companies and government regulations reduce organizations’ vulnerability to hackers, which is good. But what about channeling President Jefferson and going after the hackers? Most of the hacker groups operate in Russia, which provides Safe Haven as long as the hackers do not target Russian companies. Some law enforcement options may exist. Federal prosecutors apparently recovered most of the Bitcoins paid to DarkSide.

Crime is a very costly way to transfer wealth. Stolen merchandise typically sells for one-third (or less) of market value. A criminal might have to steal thousands in property to net $1,000. Ransomware appears much more wasteful than traditional theft. Consider just the value of the time Americans spent searching for gas during the disruption. Remember then that the ransom was about $4.4 million.

Cybercrime makes us poorer. The hackers and defenders at tech security companies are highly skilled computer programmers. But instead of making new apps or games, they are hacking or defending existing computer systems. Add to this the service disruption during cyberattacks, the reduced use of technology for fear of being hacked and the time spent on security training. The costs may be $1 trillion annually, or one percent of global GDP.

We must guard here against comparing the real world to an imagined utopia. We cannot costlessly protect our property from thieves or our computers from malware, or make people no longer willing to steal from others. Economics teaches that there are no perfect solutions in life, only tradeoffs. Vigilance, antivirus programs and backup are the tradeoffs we face with cybercrime.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.