The top 11 news, faith and culture headlines of 2017


 

 

 

 

Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, today is our last In Perspective of 2017. We look down through the years and it is history, or “His Story.” Today, I’d like to talk a look of “His Story” through 2017: I’m going to go through a series of headlines and get you to react. It’s going to be rapid fire.

First off, January 20th, Donald Trump is inaugurated.

1. TRUMP’S INAUGURATION

DR. REEDER: A populist presidency riding a populist wave and appeal. General Eisenhower was somewhat of a populist movement out of his military fame and then General Grant out of the Civil War, but most applicable would be Andrew Jackson that defies conservative and liberal definitions. It’s more or less a movement of the people and for the people by profession and promoted policies.

2. TERRORISM IN SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, another headline from this year is terrorism and how it came to schools and churches.

DR. REEDER: You not only have the ISIS terrorist threats, but you’ve also had the various terrorist activities against churches and schools and massacres. That, of course, is something that’s promoted by the tenor of the culture and what was considered, at one time, sacred places now become a killing field. However, God’s people must not be deterred. We will assemble to worship, and we will give praise to our God and we will confess our Savior to this world.

3. ISIS ON THE RUN

TOM LAMPRECHT:  If ISIS has not been defeated, they’re certainly on the run.

DR. REEDER: Clearly, what’s being done is much more effective than what’s been done in the past. All of their territory has been removed from them. They still have a means of communication and “lone-wolf,”  “strikes” – which really aren’t lone-wolf as they’re nurtured and developed through social media – but the “ISIS armies” have been pretty well destroyed and all the land has been retaken and that is both a strategic and tactical victory that civilization ought to applaud.

4. NORTH KOREA’S MISSILE LAUNCHES

TOM LAMPRECHT: The rogue regime in North Korea and their launching of missiles.

DR. REEDER: Yeah, this is a headache that has faced many presidents ever since the Korean Conflict that established North Korea and it has been a proxy state for communism, in general, but now is a rogue state on its own through the cult-like leadership of Kim Jung-Un. Tom, it remains to be seen whether this will lead to armed conflict or can the president’s initiatives with Russia and China be successful in choking off North Korea economically and relationally.

5. TRUMP-RUSSIA COLLUSION DEBUNKED

TOM LAMPRECHT: Perhaps the biggest story of the year: the accusations of Trump and Russian collusion leading to Clinton corruption, leading to the firing of Jim Comey.

DR. REEDER: My dad used to say, “The worm has turned a little bit,” in that most of the discussion now is the uncovering of Clinton collusion with governmental activity and Clinton collusion with Russia and other states that were giving to the “Clinton Foundation” and finding their way into the Clinton campaign. And, individuals in the Trump campaign, there were charges against them, but it was pretty much outside of campaign activity.

What’s been most enlightening is the uncovering of FBI politically motivated investigations and pronouncements that affected Andrew McCabe, who has led the FBI, and then, of course, the previous leader, Comey, who was fired and that move to fire him seems to be affirmed by the present discoveries, as well. However, what is really being seen here, Tom, is another big story for the year and that is the loss of confidence in government structures.

6. NEIL GORSUCH SWORN INTO SUPREME COURT

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Neil Gorsuch is sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice to replace Antonin Scalia.

DR. REEDER: Many people, of course, who had great difficulty in who they were going to vote for ended up voting for President Trump because of his stated list of nominees for Supreme Court justice and that was pretty much their only reason. Well, they were repaid this year as Neil Gorsuch replaced the empty seat of Justice Scalia and has proven to be an insightful originalist or strict constructionist as a justice.

7. NATURAL DISASTERS

TOM LAMPRECHT: California wildfires and three major hurricanes.

DR. REEDER: And famines and earthquakes – multiple disasters. Of course, we are reminded of what the Bible says that one of the things that we are to be aware of is that the birth pains of, “natural disasters” or, “acts of God” will continue alerting us to the final end of all things in the Judgement seat.

And we continue to both hear of these increasing climactic dynamics that are going on from weather, and earthquakes, and the famines, and the hurricanes and all of those situations that have brought tremendous challenges to nations, in general, and our own nation, in particular. We need to continue to pray for the people of Puerto Rico, whose infrastructure and its fragile nature was fully exposed in these disasters.

8. SOLAR ECLIPSE

TOM LAMPRECHT: Speaking of natural occurrences, the solar eclipse.

DR. REEDER: Where we were, it was 97 percent a solar eclipse and quite the experience for everyone, reminding ourselves of the intricacies of God’s creation and how there is no way that this that we enjoy and see can possibly have come into existence by chance, but the laws that govern us are so intricate throughout God’s creation in the heavens and the earth that, in fact, there must be a Lawgiver and that Lawgiver, praise the Lord, has revealed Himself in His Word and, praise the Lord, has made a way for us to be saved through His Son, Jesus Christ. Through Him, all things were created and, in Him, we can be redeemed.

9. SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND #METOO

TOM LAMPRECHT: One of the biggest stories of the year, sexual harassment, hashtag #metoo.

DR. REEDER: The very industries, such as the media, and such as news and such as politics and the government – that have promoted the sexual revolution – which is, in fact, sexual anarchy and it’s sexual devolution – are now having the result of it come back upon them with these power plays in the workplace, and in the media, and in the entertainment field and in the government and now women who have been harassed are speaking up and there are certain consequences. Of course, I’m reminded of what my mother used to tell us all the time: “Your sins are going to find you out.” I’m sure that’s in the Bible somewhere – if it’s not directly, of course, the Bible says, “What a man sows, he reaps.”

We have sown sexual anarchy and we are reaping its destructive effects in the lives of people, most notably, these women that have come out with the hashtag, #metoo, “I also was harassed.” You cannot have sexual deportment that is appropriate without sexual ethics that put sex within the boundaries of marriage between one man and one woman. And, by God’s grace, may the Gospel so move our hearts that we will embrace God’s great gift of sex in its proper place, which would lead to proper deportment, at least the restraint of sinful sexual advances would be again restored instead of the encouragement of it by our government, by our media and by our news agencies.

10. RELIGIOUS FREEDOM PROTECTIONS

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, we did see some positive movement when it came to religious freedom.

DR. REEDER: Yes. We’re very grateful for the protection of hospitals, of church ministries and also of various rulings that protected the First Amendment and the first affirmation of the First Amendment, which is the free practice of religion, even the repeal of the Obamacare mandate of participation and provision of abortifacients by this president.

11. 500TH ANNIVERSARY OF REFORMATION

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I started out this program by saying “History is His Story.” That was seen in our final subject that I want to cover for today’s broadcast, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

DR. REEDER: And, this year, we remember that glorious moment when Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses that erupted into the Reformation, which not only impacted the church, but became the basic underlying force to give us what today is known as western civilization with all of its inadequacies and its imperfections.

The advancement of the work of the Gospel, whereby men and women were saved, the Reformation of the church, the revival of the church, and the resulting Great Awakenings – Gospel Awakenings – and how many of us do labor and pray that God would circle back around and give us another Reformation and another Great Awakening in our own country today because, ultimately, that is our great need. As you go through all these stories, Tom, we actually had over 100 significant events. We’ve pared it down to a few of these to make comment upon and to remind our listeners of, but there is much more to be seen as well.

 

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

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

59 mins ago

Jerry Carl visits White House, gets endorsed by President Trump in AL-01

Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, the Republican nominee in Alabama’s First Congressional District, on Wednesday visited the White House and met in the Oval Office with President Donald J. Trump.

“It was an incredible honor to spend over half an hour in the Oval Office with President Trump and Vice President Pence today,” Carl said in a statement to Yellowhammer News.

After the visit, Trump in a tweet endorsed Carl for the Southwest Alabama congressional seat.

“He Loves our Veterans, Stands for Law & Order, and is Strong on Jobs and the Second Amendment. Jerry has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” Trump wrote.

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“The President is focused not only on his own race, but also on down ballot races nationwide,” Carl told Yellowhammer News. “He cares about the people of Alabama, and we had a good conversation about issues that are affecting Alabama’s 1st District.”

“I’m looking forward to working with President Trump to address some of these critical issues – stopping the spread of socialism, supporting our law enforcement, and getting our economy back on track,” he concluded. “Thank you, President Trump!”

Carl will face Democrat James Averhart on November 3.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Sara Evans is a 2020 Woman of Impact

One of country music’s most popular artists of the 21st century, Sara Evans, has adopted Alabama as her own, and she is not slowing down.

Earlier in 2020, Evans released a new album, “Copy That,” where she covers 13 classic songs, and published a new memoir, Born to Fly.

She came to the Yellowhammer State after marrying former University of Alabama quarterback Jay Barker in 2008. They now make their home in the Birmingham area along with their seven children.

The singer performs and releases music under the name Sara Evans, which is how Yellowhammer News is referring to her for the purposes of this article. Evans does not shy away from her married name; just in 2019, she released a six-track EP titled “The Barker Family Band” which featured herself, her son Avery and daughter Olivia.

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Evans was born and raised outside of a small town in Missouri and began her lifelong connection with music at age four. She had recorded her first CD and was attending country music events by the age of 9 or 10, according to a 2011 interview.

Aspiring to a career in music, she moved to Nashville in 1991 and worked as a waitress while trying to find her big break.

“Three Chords and The Truth” and “No Place That Far,” Evans’ first two albums, were released in 1997 and 1998 respectively. They earned the artist solid reviews from critics but did not make a big impact on the charts.

“If I’m going to have the career I came to Nashville to find,” she told a newspaper at the time. “I’ve got to get on the radio and give today’s fans what they want.”

“Born to Fly,” the album that resulted from this change in sound, achieved everything Evans aimed to accomplish. The Recording Industry Association of America has certified it as double platinum; meaning it has sold over 2 million copies. Singles “Born to Fly” and “I Could Not Ask for More” placed first and second on the U.S. Country charts.

After the breakthrough success, Evans never left the country charts for very long over the next decade; buoyed by singles like “Suds in the Bucket” and “A Little Bit Stronger.”

Evans’ albums “Restless,” “Real Fine Place,” and “A Little Bit Stronger” are certified platinum and five more albums by Evans are certified gold.

She won Top Female Vocalist at the Academy of Country Music Awards in 2006.

Her five most popular songs available on the music streaming service Spotify have been played a combined 101,997,937 times.

Jerry Sharpe, a music writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, described Evans as having a “a strong, spring-water clear voice, which she uses well.”

Evans met her now-husband when they were both in their 30s with kids. They were introduced by Joe Beam, a Christian speaker that focuses on love and marriage who knew them both previously.

“One defining moment was, I made the decision to walk into my office and email Jay Barker and say, ‘Hey, so-and-so told me that I should reach out to you. I want you to know that I’m praying for you, and I’m sorry for everything that you’ve been through,” Evans recounted to music website The Boot.

Barker was the starting quarterback on the Crimson Tide’s 1992 championship-winning team, and at the time when he and Evans connected they had both recently gone through painful divorces.

“He emailed me back within five minutes, and that was definitely a defining moment,” she added.

Evans brought three children to the new family, while Barker brought four.

“Our house is full of children and activities and chaos, but Jay is such a great support to me,” Evans told The Boot about her husband, who hosts a sports talk show in Birmingham.

Radio play by country music stations is dominated by male artists and programmed by male deejays, something that has frustrated Evans in recent years.

She has become an outspoken advocate for more women in country music and voices her opinions on the subject with regularity.

Evans has appeared at events and spoken up for the organization Change the Conversation that aims to gain more representation for women in country music.

“The lack of voices heard on country radio affect not only those who are making music, but those listening as well. Music plays a powerful role in shaping our popular culture. Today’s music does not reflect who we are as a country and sends the wrong message to our girls and women. Too often, country songs portray women as a pretty ornament on the passenger side. It is time to reclaim a woman’s place in the driver’s seat,” the organization says on its website.

Evans has remarked that for her most recent original studio work, the album “Words” released in 2017, she placed a greater emphasis on including female producers and songwriters to give their careers a boost.

At a Change the Conversation event in 2017, Evans said, “When I first got my record deal, women were dominating country radio. We had Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, Lee Ann Womack, LeAnn Rimes, Shania Twain, Patty Loveless and on and on. I was fortunate enough to join that group of amazing women.”

“[W]e need to change the conversation and figure out why it is not that way anymore. Why are there not enough women on country radio? Women artists are amazing and they have so much great music that we want to hear and we need to hear, so let’s change the conversation,” she urged.

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Sara Evans a 2020 Woman of Impact.

Editor’s note: Yellowhammer Multimedia recently announced the third annual Women of Impact Awards. Honorees are being featured on Yellowhammer News each weekday through October 1. We will tell their stories one-by-one, utilizing written and video formats. Check back daily for more of Alabama’s best and brightest.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

4 hours ago

Baldwin County residents throw parade for linemen amid recovery heroics

Southwest Alabama residents are celebrating the heroic linemen and support personnel who have traveled from across the country to restore utility services following Hurricane Sally last week.

WKRG reported that Fairhope residents on Tuesday night held a short parade downtown to express their appreciation for the power crews.

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The parade reportedly featured bucket trucks honking, with linemen inside waving, to those residents who took their time to line Section Street.

Alabama Power Company has restored power to its service area as of Sunday night, and Energy Institute of Alabama members continue to lead the charge restoring service to Baldwin County electric cooperative members, which was hardest hit by the slow-moving category 2 hurricane.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 hours ago

Shadowy web of 20 ‘news’ sites operating in Alabama, tied to national network that invented quotes, bylines

A shadowy group of websites masquerading as local news agencies has been launched ahead of November’s high-stakes general election.

An investigation by Yellowhammer News uncovered the existence of “Yellowhammer Times,” which purports to be a statewide news organization intended “to provide objective, data-driven information without political bias.” The site’s “people” section, where one would expect its employees to be listed, is blank.

“We provide 100% original reporting, including to share as much data as possible from government and other publicly available sources,” the site claims. “We also provide a platform for all citizens whose views on issues are rarely heard. If you want a voice in your community, we want to hear from you.”

The website is admittedly owned and operated by Metric Media LLC and its parent Metric Media Foundation, a Missouri-based entity just granted 501(c)(3) nonprofit status last year. Publicly available data shows that Metric Media has not yet revealed having any assets, income or revenue through mandatory IRS filings. This means that at this point in time, the organization is effectively operating as a dark money group.

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Metric Media has a glitzy website that asserts, “Metric Media is funded by donations and grants from contributors who care about restoring local news in their communities.”

The website does list a three-person board of directors, which is reportedly chaired by San Francisco-based Rakesh Donthineni. The other named directors are Victor Chen of Los Angeles and Brent Southwell of Houston. Chen formerly worked for then-Beijing TV China, an entity of Beijing Media Network — which is owned and operated by the Chinese government, otherwise known as the Chinese Communist Party.

Metric Media’s explicit presence in Alabama does not stop at the statewide Yellowhammer Times. The bottom of this website links to 18 more sites, all appearing to be local or regional news agencies across the state. These publications are identical in format to Yellowhammer Times and are as follows: Auburn Times, Baldwin Times, Decatur Times, East Central Alabama News, Gadsden Today, Huntsville Leader, Jefferson Reporter, Mobile Courant, NE Alabama News, NW Alabama News, North Birmingham Times, River Region Times, Shoals Today, South Alabama Times, South Birmingham Times, Tuscaloosa Leader, West Central Alabama News and Wiregrass Times.

Publicly available domain information shows that these sites were all registered in May of this year.

That same month, Yellowhammer Times published its first “original story,” which was about COVID-19 related liability issues. The author is listed as a “T.H. Lawrence.”

Almost every story posted since then has been a completely automated story, mainly using RSS feeds to populate the stories on the site. This includes republishing press releases from Governor Kay Ivey, Alabama State University and the University of Alabama. The automated stories also include a lot of identical templates that simply display federal government-released data.

In all, Yellowhammer Times as of Wednesday at noon hosted more than 2,300 stories on the site — with only two listing a human author. The automated stories name “Metric Media News Service” or other entities such as “Locality Labs News Service” as the author.

One short story about lost Alabama tax revenue related to the pandemic simply does not list an author.

The second story to actually list an author, Juliette Fairley, advocated in July to fully reopen the economy and return students to school in the fall. This story was based on exclusive quotes from Alabama-based John Chamberlain, board chairman for Citizen Health. Citizen Health advocates for subscription-based medical services and disrupting the healthcare industry.

Yellowhammer News dug into the two authors listed on the site. Fairley is a national freelance author specializing in finance, while T.H. Lawrence’s name popped up across several sites in Metric Media’s network of more than 1,000 sites nationwide.

Yellowhammer News’ investigation also uncovered that T.H. Lawrence is indeed Tom Lawrence, a career journalist from South Dakota who was once executive editor of the state’s Black Hills Pioneer. He is now a freelance writer and blogger, appearing in local publications (under his real name) such as the Dakota Free Press, American News and South Dakota Standard. He also has his own blog, the Prairie Perspective. It should be noted that American News is owned by national conglomerate Gannett.

Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) in December 2019 published an in-depth investigative report that revealed some disturbing findings about Metric Media and its related entities, including Locality Labs. The investigation concluded that the network can be traced back to Illinois-based businessman and conservative activist Brian Timpone.

CJR was able to find at least 450 sites, all linked, operating under the banners of Metric Media, Locality Labs, Franklin Archer, the Record Inc. and Local Government Information Services. The entities at times — while being aimed at different states — shared IP addresses, Google Analytics IDs and other technical identifiers. Since December, the network has more than doubled in size, according to Metric Media’s own website.

CJR further traced Locality Lab’s origin story. The entity was once known as Timpone’s company “Journatic.” Journatic had to rebrand in 2013 following a national scandal over “faking bylines and quotes, and for plagiarism,” per CJR.

The CJR report followed a story published in October 2019 by a Michigan paper about Metric Media’s network that had popped up in that state. More local and national reporting followed, including by the New York Times and Guardian.

Yellowhammer Times republishes stories from other named entities in this Metric Media web, as well. For example, the publication ran a story from Empire State Today of New York.

This also includes another Alabama-focused site not directly linked at the bottom of Yellowhammer Times. Alabama Business Daily stories are republished on the site, and CJR previously reported there is an identical entity curated by Metric Media in each state. Yellowhammer News found that Alabama Business Daily’s domain was registered in February 2018.

With the 2020 election rapidly approaching, the existence of this network of sites in Alabama should raise alarm bells across the state.

Alabama was already besieged in the 2017 special election cycle by “Project Birmingham,” which utilized “Russian tactics” by Democratic operatives to aid the campaign of then-Democratic nominee Doug Jones.

Alabamians will hope that this type of disinformation campaign is not repeated this time around through Metric Media or its sister entities.

Secretary of State John H. Merrill has previously warned residents to arm themselves with the truth and to be wary of unknown sources spread on social media, especially.

“It is of paramount importance that the 4.8 million people who make up our state are informed with up-to-date, complete, and accurate information,” Merill has said in a statement. “All election-related information should come directly from our website or from your local election official. We are your trusted source for information related to the elections process.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

7 hours ago

Ivey, Orr and Battle team up for virtual groundbreaking for School of Cyber Technology and Engineering campus

Ground was broken on the new campus for the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering (ASCTE) on Wednesday, and prominent officials in Alabama delivered virtual addresses about the importance of the new institution.

The ASCTE is a magnet high school open to students from any of Alabama’s 137 public school districts. Located in Alabama’s cyber capital of Huntsville, attendees live on campus in a boarding environment.

Governor Kay Ivey, State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, the three public officials most involved in making ASCTE happen, spoke at the groundbreaking for the new campus.

ASCTE’s first crop of students enrolled this fall. They are currently taking classes in facilities on the campus of Oakwood University. The cyber school will move to the permanent campus that began construction on Wednesday upon its completion.

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(Huntsville Chamber of Commerce/Contributed)

According to materials provided by the school, ASCTE is the first cyber-focused school of its type in the country.

Orr sponsored the legislation to create ASCTE and now chairs its board of trustees.

The lawmaker from Decatur recounted that soon after he embraced the idea of a cyber-focused magnet school, he approached the governor and “she immediately saw the value.” Orr also praised the “support we got from the mayor’s office” as he and a team were putting together the project.

Ivey, who has made education a priority of her administration and in the last week created a STEM council, joined the virtual groundbreaking from her office in Montgomery.

“We must provide our state’s children with meaningful opportunities to pursue careers in STEM fields to ensure a prosperous Alabama of tomorrow,” Ivey remarked during her speech.

Battle was thanked in his introduction by Alicia Ryan, ASCTE Board of Trustees vice-chair, for creating the Cyber Huntsville initiative in 2010 and for his general support of the atmosphere that made the Rocket City fitting for a technology-focused school.

“Today begins a new chapter for Huntsville,” began Battle, who praised the “collaborative effort” that brought ASCTE into being and thanked Orr and Ivey by name.

“Welcome to Huntsville,” he told the assembled students who were watching via telecast.

Raytheon Technologies, a defense contractor with a strong presence in the Rocket City, is ASCTE’s most supportive corporate partner. The company donated $4 million to help get the school off the ground and was a partner in Wednesday’s groundbreaking. All public officials who spoke thanked the business multiple times.

“Our nation has a significant cyber talent gap,” remarked Wes Kramer, president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense, in talking about why investing in ASCTE was good for his company and the nation.

Matt Massey, a former superintendent of the Madison County School System, is the president of ASCTE and tasked with both leading the current iteration of the school and preparing it for the future.

ASCTE plans to go from the 72 students currently enrolled to over 350 by 2024.

Phillip Thomas (left) speaks on ASCTE groundbreaking (ASCTE/Screenshot)

One of those students currently enrolled, Phillip Thomas, spoke at the groundbreaking on Wednesday.

“Coming to this school was the best decision I have ever made,” he began.

Thomas assured those listening that the residential staff was top-notch and the boarding environment was welcoming and comfortable.

“I came here to further advance my path to engineering and cyber career opportunities, and this school is one of a kind in that regard,” he continued.

The freshman said his plan was to eventually earn advanced degrees in the fields in which ASCTE is giving him a robust primary education.

“The future of this world relies on technological advances, and I am excited to play a role in that innovation. Thanks to ASCTE, I will achieve these goals,” Thomas concluded.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95