HURRICANE IRMA PUMMELS FLORIDA; ‘THIS ONE SCARES ME’

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MIAMI (AP) — A monster Hurricane Irma roared into Florida with 130 mph winds Sunday for what could be a sustained assault on nearly the entire Sunshine State, submerging streets, knocking out power to millions and snapping massive construction cranes over the Miami skyline.

The 400-mile-wide (640-kilometer-wide) storm blew ashore in the morning in the mostly cleared-out Florida Keys and then began a slow march up the state’s west coast. Forecasters said it could hit the heavily populated Tampa-St. Petersburg area early Monday.

“Pray, pray for everybody in Florida,” Gov. Rick Scott said on “Fox News Sunday” as more than 160,000 people statewide waited it out in shelters.

Irma struck as a Category 4 but by late afternoon had weakened to a Category 2 with 110 mph (177 kph) winds that whipped Florida’s palm trees with drenching squalls. A storm surge of over 10 feet (3 meters) was recorded in the Keys, and forecasters warned some places on the mainland could get up to 15 feet of water.

There were no immediate confirmed reports of any deaths in Florida, on top of the 24 people killed during Irma’s destructive trek across the Caribbean.

Many streets were flooded in downtown Miami and other cities. In the low-lying Keys, boats were reported sunk and appliances and furniture were seen floating away, but the full extent of Irma’s fury there was not clear.

A Miami woman who went into labor was guided through delivery by phone when authorities couldn’t reach her in high winds and street flooding. Firefighters later took her to the hospital.

An apparent tornado spun off by Irma destroyed six mobile homes in Palm Bay, hundreds of miles away along the state’s Atlantic coast. Flooding was reported along Interstate 4, which cuts across Florida’s midsection.

In downtown Miami, two of the two dozen construction cranes looming over the skyline collapsed in the wind. No injuries were reported. City officials said it would have taken about two weeks to move the massive equipment.

Curfews were imposed in Miami, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and much of the rest of South Florida, and some arrests of violators were reported. Miami Beach barred outsiders from the island.

Fort Lauderdale police arrested nine people they said were caught on TV cameras looting sneakers and other items from a sporting goods store and a pawn shop during the hurricane.

More than 2.7 million homes and businesses across the state lost power, and utility officials said it will take weeks to restore electricity to everyone.

While the projected track showed Irma raking the state’s Gulf Coast, forecasters warned that the entire state – including the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people – was in danger because of the sheer size of the storm.

Nearly 7 million people in the Southeast were warned to evacuate, including 6.4 million in Florida alone.

About 30,000 people heeded orders to leave the Keys as the storm closed in, but an untold number refused, in part because to many storm-hardened residents, staying behind in the face of danger is a point of pride.

John Huston, who stayed in his Key Largo home, watched his yard flood even before the arrival of high tide. “Small boats floating down the street next to furniture and refrigerators. Very noisy,” he said by text message. “Shingles are coming off.”

Irma made landfall just after 9 a.m. at Cudjoe Key, about 20 miles outside Key West, forecasters said. During the afternoon, it rounded Florida’s southwestern corner and hugged the coast closely as it pushed toward Naples, Sanibel, Fort Myers and, beyond that, Sarasota, at 14 mph (23 kph).

Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles (129 kilometers) from its center.

Meteorologist Ryan Maue of WeatherBell Analytics said the entire Florida peninsula will be raked by Irma’s right front quadrant – the part of a hurricane that usually brings the strongest winds, storm surge, rain and tornadoes.

The Tampa-St. Petersburg area, with a population of about 3 million, has not taken a direct hit from a major hurricane since 1921.

The wind began picking up in St. Petersburg, some 400 miles north of the Keys, and people started bracing for the onslaught.

“I’ve been here with other storms, other hurricanes. But this one scares me,” Sally Carlson said as she snapped photos of the waves crashing against boats. “Let’s just say a prayer we hope we make it through.”

Forecasters said a weakened Irma could push into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and beyond. A tropical storm warning was issued for the first time ever in Atlanta, some 200 miles from the sea.

“Once this system passes through, it’s going to be a race to save lives and sustain lives,” Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long said on “Fox News Sunday.”

With FEMA still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Irma could test the agency’s ability to handle two disasters at the same time.

President Donald Trump approved a disaster declaration for Florida, opening the way for federal aid.

Florida’s governor activated all 7,000 members of the Florida National Guard, and 10,000 guardsmen from elsewhere were being deployed.

For days, forecasters had warned that Irma was taking dead aim at the Miami metropolitan area and the rest of Florida’s Atlantic coast.

But then Irma made a more pronounced westward shift – the result of what meteorologists said was an atmospheric tug-of-war between weather systems that nudged Irma and determined when it made its crucial right turn into Florida.

Irma at one time was the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic, a Category 5 with a peak wind speed of 185 mph (300 kph). Given its size, strength and projected course, it could still prove one of the most devastating hurricanes ever to hit Florida.

The storm brought memories of Hurricane Charley, which blew ashore near Fort Myers in 2004 with winds near 149 mph (240 kph). It caused $15 billion in damage and was blamed for as many as 35 deaths in the U.S. (Click to Site)

Forecasters say Irma’s prime target is now Tampa, not Miami

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MIAMI (AP) — With the window closing fast for anyone wanting to escape, Irma hurtled toward Florida with 125 mph winds Saturday on a new projected track that could put the Tampa area — not Miami — in the crosshairs.

The Tampa area has not taken a direct hit from a major hurricane in nearly a century.

“You need to leave — not tonight, not in an hour, right now,” Gov. Rick Scott warned residents in the evacuation zones ahead of the storm’s predicted arrival on Sunday morning.

For days, the forecast had made it look as if the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people on Florida’s Atlantic coast could get hit head-on with the catastrophic and long-dreaded Big One.

The westward swing in the hurricane’s projected path overnight caught many on Florida’s Gulf coast off guard. By late morning, few businesses in St. Petersburg and its barrier islands had put plywood or hurricane shutters on their windows, and some locals groused about the change in the forecast.

“For five days, we were told it was going to be on the east coast, and then 24 hours before it hits, we’re now told it’s coming up the west coast,” said Jeff Beerbohm, a 52-year-old entrepreneur in St. Petersburg. “As usual, the weatherman, I don’t know why they’re paid.”

Tampa has not been struck by a major hurricane since 1921, when its population was about 10,000, National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said. Now the area has around 3 million people.

The new course threatened everything from Tampa Bay’s bustling twin cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg to Naples’ mansion- and yacht-lined canals, Sun City Center’s sprawling compound of modest retirement homes, and Sanibel Island’s shell-filled beaches.

Forecasters warned of storm surge as high as 15 feet along a swath of southwest Florida and beyond.

“This is going to sneak up on people,” said Jamie Rhome, head of the hurricane center’s storm surge unit.

With the new forecast, Pinellas County, home to St. Petersburg, ordered 260,000 people to leave, while Georgia scaled back evacuation orders for some coastal residents.

Irma has left more than 20 people dead in its wake across the Caribbean, ravaging such resort islands as St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Thomas, Barbuda and Antigua.

The storm weakened slightly in the morning but was expected to pick up strength again before hitting the Sunshine State.

Meteorologists predicted its center would blow ashore Sunday in the perilously low-lying Florida Keys, then hit southwestern Florida and move north, plowing into the Tampa Bay area. Though the center is expected to miss Miami, the metro area will still get pounded with life-threatening hurricane winds, Feltgen said.

On Saturday morning, the state was already beginning to feel Irma’s muscle. Nearly 30,000 people had lost power, mostly in and around Miami and Fort Lauderdale, as the wind began gusting.

In Key West, 60-year-old Carol Walterson Stroud sought refuge in a senior center with her husband, granddaughter and dog. The streets were nearly empty, shops were boarded up and the wind started to blow.

“Tonight, I’m sweating,” she said. “Tonight, I’m scared to death.”

In one of the biggest evacuations ever ordered in the U.S., about 6.4 million people in Florida — more than one-quarter of the state’s population — were warned to leave. Gas shortages and gridlock plagued the evacuations. Parts of interstates 75 and 95 north were bumper-to-bumper.

Some 54,000 people crowded 320 shelters across Florida. At Germain Arena not far from Fort Myers, on Florida’s southwestern corner, thousands waited in a snaking line for hours to gain a spot in the hockey venue-turned-shelter.

“We’ll never get in,” Jamilla Bartley lamented as she stood in the parking lot.

The governor activated all 7,000 members of the Florida National Guard, and 30,000 guardsmen from elsewhere were on standby.

Major tourist attractions, including Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World, all prepared to close Saturday. The Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports shut down, and those in Orlando and Tampa planned to do the same later in the day.

With winds that peaked at 185 mph (300 kph), Irma was once the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic. Given its mammoth size and strength and its projected course, it could still prove one of the most devastating hurricanes ever to hit Florida and inflict damage on a scale not seen here in 25 years.

It could also test the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s ability to handle two crises at the same time. FEMA is still dealing with aftermath of catastrophic Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area.

Ray Scarborough and girlfriend Leah Etmanczyk left their home in Big Pine Key and fled north with her parents and three big dogs to stay with relatives in Orlando. Scarborough was 12 when Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992 and remembers lying on the floor in a hall as the storm nearly ripped the roof off his house.

“They said this one is going to be bigger than Andrew. When they told me that, that’s all I needed to hear,” said Scarborough, now a 37-year-old boat captain. “That one tore everything apart.”

Andrew razed Miami’s suburbs with winds topping 165 mph (265 kph), damaging or blowing apart over 125,000 homes. The damage in Florida totaled $26 billion, and at least 40 people died. (Click to Site)

Hurricane Irma shifts away from Miami, taking aim at Tampa

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MIAMI — Hurricane Irma hurtled toward Florida with 125 mph winds Saturday on a shifting course that turned it away from Miami and instead threatened the first direct hit on the Tampa area from a major hurricane in nearly a century.

That represented a significant turn in the forecast, which for days had made it look as if the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people was going to get slammed head-on by the Big One.

“You don’t want to play with this thing,” Sen. Marco Rubio warned during a visit to the Miami-Dade Emergency Operations Center. “People will die from this.”

Forecasters predicted Irma’s center would blow ashore Sunday in the perilously low-lying Florida Keys, then hit southwestern Florida, move up the state’s Gulf Coast and plow into the Tampa Bay area.

The storm center itself is expected to miss Miami, but the metro area will still get pounded with life-threatening hurricane winds, National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.

Donna Tubbs, who lives in a mobile home park in Lakeland, says she’s packed her bags but she’s not leaving home. “All the families around here are planning to stay,” Tubbs told CBS affiliate WTSP-TV in Tampa. She said many in the area are retired nurses who intend on helping with recovery efforts.

Tampa has not been struck by a major hurricane since 1921, when its population was about 10,000, Feltgen said. Now the area has around 3 million people and encompasses two of Florida’s biggest cities: Tampa and St. Petersburg.

With the new forecast, Pinellas County, home to St. Petersburg, ordered 260,000 people to leave.

The overnight change in course was frustrating and frightening to Tampa Bay residents who awoke to the news, including Jeff Beerbohm, a 52-year-old entrepreneur who planned on riding out the storm in his high-rise condo in downtown St. Petersburg.

He groused about days of predictions that Irma would run up the state’s east coast, only to undone by a last-minute change.

“As usual, the weatherman, I don’t know why they’re paid,” he said.

As the storm closed in on the Sunshine State, it raked Cuba and left more than 20 people dead in its wake across the Caribbean after ravaging such resort islands as St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Thomas, Barbuda and Antigua.

Irma weakened slightly in the morning but was expected to pick up strength again before slamming Florida.

On Saturday morning, the hurricane’s outer bands blew into South Florida as residents scrambled to leave. Damaging winds were moving into areas including Key Biscayne and Coral Gables, and gusts up to 56 mph were reported off Miami.

Already, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said 19,000 homes in the county were without power before midday, including his own.

In Key West, 60-year-old Carol Walterson Stroud sought refuge in a senior center with her husband, granddaughter and dog. The streets were nearly empty, shops were boarded up and the wind began to gust.

“Tonight, I’m sweating,” she said. “Tonight, I’m scared to death.”

In one of the biggest evacuations ever ordered in the U.S., about 6.3 million people in Florida – more than one-quarter of the state’s population – were warned to leave, and 540,000 were directed to clear out from the Georgia coast. Authorities opened hundreds of shelters for people who did not leave. Hotels as far away as Atlanta filled up with evacuees.

Gas shortages and gridlock plagued the evacuations, turning normally simple trips into tests of will. Parts of interstates 75 and 95 north were bumper-to-bumper, while very few cars drove in the southbound lanes.

“If you are planning to leave and do not leave tonight, you will have to ride out this extremely dangerous storm at your own risk,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Friday. He urged everybody in the Keys to get out.

Major tourist attractions, including the Disney World parks, Universal Studios and Sea World, all prepared to close Saturday. The Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports shut down, and those in Orlando and Tampa planned to do the same later in the day.

With winds that peaked at 185 mph, Irma was once the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic. But given its mammoth size and strength and its projected course, it could still prove one of the most devastating hurricanes ever to hit Florida and could inflict damage on a scale not seen here in 25 years.

It could also test the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s ability to handle two crises at the same time. FEMA is still dealing with aftermath of catastrophic Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area.

Ray Scarborough and girlfriend Leah Etmanczyk left their home in Big Pine Key and fled north with her parents and three big dogs to stay with relatives in Orlando. Scarborough was 12 when Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992 and remembers lying on the floor in a hallway as the storm nearly ripped the roof off his house.

“They said this one is going to be bigger than Andrew. When they told me that, that’s all I needed to hear,” said Scarborough, now a 37-year-old boat captain. “That one tore everything apart.”

Andrew razed Miami’s suburbs with winds topping 165 mph, damaging or blowing apart over 125,000 homes. Almost all mobile homes in its path were obliterated. The damage in Florida totaled $26 billion, and at least 40 people died. (Click to Site)

As Florida residents empty shelves, more supplies coming

Target, Home Depot, Walmart restocking before Hurricane Irma

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ORLANDO, Fla. – People around Central Florida were already experiencing a shortage of supplies at grocery stores on Monday, but the managers of some big-box stores said they have reenforcements on the way.

Although Hurricane Irma is days away from potential impact, the current projected path shows it possibly hitting Florida as a Category 5 storm.

On Tuesday, shoppers lined up outside several stores, including Costco in Altamonte Springs, for a chance to get supplies, including water, batteries and food. (See video below.)

“(It was) a little bit of a pandemonium,” shopper Diane Williams said. “Getting here was worse than being inside. It’s just that everybody is panicked, so they are preparing, which is wise, but it’s just, like, crazy.”

Patrick Sutton, the assistant manager at the Home Depot in Altamonte Springs, said the store ran out of generators on Monday and water and flashlights by Tuesday afternoon.

“I think everyone is more aware of what’s going on because of what happened with Harvey in Texas,” he said. “I was here in 2004 for Charley and it was not taken so seriously back then. Now, everybody is taking it more seriously, which allows them to get the supplies they need and gives us time to get the supplies soon enough.”

Home Depot Corporate launched its Rapid Response Team, sending trucks from Atlanta to Florida on Tuesday to restock the shelves across the state.

“My trucks are on the road right now and will be coming in the next days. We have a couple of more days before the storm hits, so we have more time,” Sutton said. “By the end of the week, they will have everything they need.”

On Monday night, shoppers said, Publix in College Park was out of bottled water. A viewer also gave News 6 a picture showing empty water shelves at the Walmart on Alafaya Trail near the University of Central Florida.

Micah Kropp stopped by Publix in College Park and bought water by the gallon since that was the only option. He’s also stocking up on canned food, crackers and diapers.

“I got a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old, so (I’ve) got to think a little differently with them at the helm, and then will be traveling this week for work, so not sure when I will have the time. It will be kind of hectic,” Kropp said.

A spokesperson with Target headquarters said Florida stores will be getting additional supplies and resources ahead of the storm.

“We’re providing stores with additional supplies that we know our guests need to stock up, including water, batteries, flashlights, toiletries, camping supplies, cleaning supplies and nonperishable food,” Target spokeswoman Jenna Reck said. “We’ll continue to push as many products to our stores as we safely can before the hurricane hits.”

News 6 picked up supplies at the Walmart located on the corner of Princeton Street and John Young Parkway. Supplies there were plentiful, with employees steadily restocking the water aisle.

Walmart management told News 6 Walmart has opened its emergency operations center at its headquarters in Arkansas for distribution.

Walmart spokesperson Ragan Dickens said the company is working with store managers to see where the needs are greatest. Dickens also said 800 trucks full of only water are on their way to Florida and other trucks full of hurricane supplies are also en route.

Pictures on social media showed empty water and bread shelves at other stores, including the Walmart on Alafaya Trail near UCF.

Min Cho said he’s preparing for his electricity to go out.

“(I) ordered a generator on Amazon. Should be coming on Friday. Also, some dry foods and stuff like that,” Cho said.

People are urged to fill their gas tanks before gas stations could see long lines and a supply shortage.

Cash will also be essential in the case of a power outage since ATMs would not be able to operate and businesses would not be able to process credit cards.  (Click to Site)

 

Panic Prepping Begins In Florida As Irma Looms

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Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

On Monday, Hurricane Irma strengthened into a category 4 hurricane, and today became an “extremely dangerous” category 5 hurricane,with some meteorologists are projecting that it will remain so until it eventually makes landfall in the United States.  And since a “category 6” has not been created yet, category 5 is as high as the scale goes at the moment.

Over the past couple of days, the track of the storm has shifted “a lot further to the west”, and at this point it appears that Miami is the most likely to take the full force of the hurricane.  But as we have seen, trying to forecast the behavior of hurricanes is not an exact science.  Irma may never become a category 5 storm, and it may never hit the U.S. at all.  Or it may zip past Florida to the south and end up making landfall in the Gulf of Mexico.  The truth is that we just don’t know.  (Click to Site)

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Slaughtered Christians “A Viable Target”?

Muslim Persecution of Christians, March 2017

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  • According to a report in the Christian Post, Christians displaced by Islamic attacks at the hands of Boko Haram terrorists are being denied food and vital assistance at camps run by local Muslim organizations. As many as 1.8 million people in Nigeria are currently facing starvation. “They will give food to the refugees, but if you are a Christian they will not give you food. They will openly tell you that the relief is not for Christians.” — Bishop William Naga, who fled his home in the Borno state, Nigeria.
  • A Pakistani government want-ad for street sweepers states that applicants must be Hindu, Christian or Shia — anyone but the dominant Sunni Muslim population – illustrates the way in which minorities are prevented from earning a living wage.
  • A sophomore at Rollins College in Florida was suspended for challenging a Muslim professor’s assertion that the crucifixion of Jesus never took place, and that his disciples never believed he was God. After the incident, during a Middle East Humanities class, the straight-A student was graded an “F” on a major essay.

The uptick in often lethal persecution of Christians in Muslim regions has caused many Christian leaders to appeal for aid. Canon Andrew White, the prominent minister known as the “Vicar of Baghdad” told Fox News in March, “If there is anything I can tell Americans it is that your fellow brothers and sisters are suffering, they are desperate for help,” he said. “And it is not just a matter of praying for peace. They need a lot – food, resources, clothes, everything. They need everything.”

White also went as far as to say that Christianity in Iraq, where it has been since the times of the apostles, is finished.

As Fox News reported:

“Thirty years ago, there were approximately 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. The number dwindled to around 1 million after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and a year ago it was estimated that there were less than 250,000 left. Numbers have continued to decline as families flee, and today even approximate figures are difficult to obtain.”

According to a Vatican Radio report, Nigerian Catholic Bishop Joseph Bagobiri responded to “the recent atrocities of Fulani [Muslim] Cattle herdsmen…, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Christians and the destruction of property worth millions of Naira,” by calling on all Christian denominations to implement counter measures against the “systematic elimination of Christianity in the northern part of Nigeria.”

One source said that in one of these assaults, two of the victims “had their eyes plucked out.” A survivor of another said, “The sad thing is that these Fulanis have been attacking our communities, and no one is doing anything about it.”

Commenting on the “horrific attacks” on Coptic Christians in Egypt between December 2016 and March 2017 — during which 40 “innocent children, women and men had their lives brutally and tragically ended for no other reason except that they are Christians” — Coptic Bishop Anba Angaelos of the United Kingdom said the slaughter has “gone largely unnoticed by the international community.” He continued:

“In our fast moving world that is filled with so much news of tragedy, war and death, it is all too easy for atrocities to become ‘incidents,’ and for individuals suffering them to become mere statistics, very quickly pushed aside by the next item of news. In the eyes of the perpetrators they are a viable target, and in the eyes of the world they become a regrettable phenomenon; yet what is actually left behind is traumatized individuals, families and communities that have lost loved ones, living the reality of themselves being targeted.”

report released in early 2017 by Open Doors — a non-denominational mission supporting persecuted Christians in over 60 countries — reveals:

  • “Islamic extremism” remains the dominant force responsible for the persecution of Christians in 40 of the 50 worst nations;
  • Nine out of the 10 worst nations for Christians have a Muslim majority (with North Korea being the only non-Islamic exception);
  • In the 21 (18 of which are Muslim-majority) worst nations for Christians, “100 percent of Christians experience persecution”;
  • 1,329 churches have been attacked, damaged, or destroyed, mostly in Muslim-majority nations;
  • Muslim Somalia is now the second worst nation for Christians, who are executed instantly if their faith is discovered, or even rumored;
  • In Nigeria — where more Christians have been slaughtered by Muslims than possibly in any other nation — the killing of Christians went up by 62 percent;
  • The nation where the most violent and sexual attacks on Christians take place – Muslim-majority Pakistan — rose to the number four spot on the list of the worst countries for Christians.

Accounts of widespread Muslim persecution of Christians to surface in the month of March include, but are not limited to, the following: (Click to Site)

‘Killer Clowns’: Inside the Terrifying Hoax Sweeping America

Clowns have been spotted lurking in woods from South Carolina to upstate New York

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Arriving home from work one day, a mother is greeted by her son who’s been anxiously waiting to tell her about the clowns he heard whispering in the woods near their apartment complex. Initially she assumes his mind is running wild in the summer heat, until her eldest son confirms the report, saying he heard chains rattling and banging on the front door.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an installment of Are Your Afraid of the Dark? but part of our new reality, as creepy clown sightings are cropping up across the country without explanation. On August 21st, reports of clown sightings surfacednear the Fleetwood Manor apartment complex in Greenville County, South Carolina. Officials took the strange reports seriously but were unable to uncover any real evidence or suspicious persons. The reports stretched beyond children hearing noises and seeing people with clown face paint: One resident said she saw a clown with a blinking nose standing beside a dumpster at 2:30 a.m. Other children came forward claiming clowns attempted to lure them into the woods with money and that the clowns “live in a house by a pond deep in the woods.” After hearing gunshots, police learned two residents fired in the direction of the wooded area where the sightings had supposedly taken place. A week later, more reports surfaced of clowns simply staring at Greenville residents near laundromats and, again, next to the woods. (Click to Article)

Chemtrail Blanketing To Be Used As Zika Warfare Is Known To Cause Autism

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Florida’s Zika scare has reached new heights, literally. Florida now intends to fight Zika in the air by mass spraying communities in and around the Miami area. This means if you live near Miami, the buzzing you hear from above you is likely the presence of falling insecticides. According toReuters, the chemtrail zone is a 10-mile area.

Officials have warned pregnant women to stay away from parts of South Florida. Residents have been living in complete fear ever since the warnings of an “outbreak” were made public. Businesses are suffering. And now, to make things worse, people and their children will be exposed to poisons and carcinogens from above. Here are actual shots that residents saw above them last night. (Click to Article)

Watch out: Florida residents being fined for growing vegetables on their own property

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(NaturalNews) Florida may be known for its tropical climate and spicy Latin-American culture, but what it’s not known for is the freedom to garden. The southeastern state continues to make headlines over the state government’s contempt for front yard gardens.

Tom Carroll and Hermine Ricketts had been cultivating their garden for 17 years when their hometown, Miami Shores, passed a new ordinance restricting vegetable growing to the backyard. The couple begrudgingly dug up their lush garden in August 2013, after local officials threatened them with a daily fine of $50, according to reporting by Fox News. (Click to Article)

Atheist Group Challenges Bible Display at Fla. City Hall, Calls It a Violation of the US Constitution

An atheist organization has taken up the cause of a Florida man who has complained for several years that the display of a Bible in one city council’s chambers is a violation of the Constitution.

Randy Heine, the owner of Rockin Cards and Gifts in Pinellas Park, Fla., told The Christian Post he was “stonewalled” by city officials when he tried to have the Bible removed from the dais in the city council chambers back in 2005. He could not afford to take legal action against the city, he says, so his mission was put on hold.

In June 2013 he reached out to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an organization that promotes the separation of church and state of which he is also a member, to share his concern.

An FFRF staff attorney sent a letter to Pinellas Park Mayor Sandra Bradbury shortly after claiming that, among other things, displaying the Bible is a government endorsement of religion and is therefore unconstitutional.

“No legitimate purpose is served by having a bible [sic] on the dais. Its presence…only appears to express approval of its contents and of Christianity,” wrote FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel.

Seidel told CP his organization sent several follow-up letters to the city, including one sent earlier this week, but city officials have not yet responded. The city has, however, worked with FFRF on an open records request that was included with the first letter.

Several federal courts have declared that displaying the Bible on government property is a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, he says. He also says he hopes city leaders will see that they can still exercise their beliefs privately and that FFRF is concerned with protecting the First Amendment.

“They’re free to go to church on their own as often as they want. They’re free to read the Bible on their own as often as they want. They’re free to display the Bible in their homes. They just don’t get to co-opt their government office to advance their religion,” said Seidel.

Doug Lewis, the former fire chief of Pinellas Park who will become city manager next week, told FOX 13 that the city’s attorney is reviewing FFRF’s most recent letter.

“The Bible was given to the city by the Kiwanis Club, I believe when the building was dedicated,” Lewis told the station. “They feel it’s part of City Hall, as being part of the dedication ceremony, and it’s become part of the history of the building.”

Jeremy Dys, senior counsel with Liberty Institute, an organization that advocates for religious freedom, says the Bible has some characteristics of a historical marker, though he could not say for certain if it is being displayed legally based on limited available information.

Liberty Institute reached out to Pinellas Park on Wednesday, Dys says, and offered to help the city evaluate the legality of displaying the Bible. He also says FFRF wants to rid the government of all religious references, and that the city needs to evaluate the situation carefully and not merely bend to the organization’s request.

“I know that the Pinellas Park folks are going to want to follow the law like everybody else is, and so if we’ve got to help them figure out how to abide by the law we’ll do that. But that does not mean that they have to automatically whitewash the entire city of any religious reference whatsoever,” he said.

Tim Caddell, the city’s government relations administrator, told CP that the Bible’s place in the council chambers gets questioned from time to time, though the mayor and council members have not felt the need to remove it.

In addition to the Bible, FFRF has also expressed concern over several other issues in Pinellas Park. These include the prayers said at the beginning of city council meetings, literature about a Catholic Church’s upcoming events that have been included in local water bills and concerns over whether or not a Christian school that is renting from the city is receiving preferential treatment.

Click to http://www.christianpost.com/news/atheist-group-challenges-bible-display-at-fla-city-hall-calls-it-a-violation-of-the-us-constitution-112745/