Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday News Dump (Labor Day Weekend Edition): Fort Hood shooter writes to ISIS leader, asks to become 'citizen' of Islamic State


Nidal Hasan is the Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage.

The convicted shooter in the Fort Hood massacre has written a letter to the leader of the Islamic State saying he wants to become a "citizen" of the caliphate, in the latest example of the terror group's reach inside the U.S.

The letter from Nidal Hasan, obtained by Fox News, comes after two Americans reportedly died fighting for ISIS in Syria. Sources late Wednesday identified the second as Abdirahmaan Muhumed, of Minneapolis. Fox affiliate KMSP-TV in Minneapolis reported that Muhumed was killed in the same battle as Douglas McArthur McCain, who grew up outside Minneapolis in the town of New Hope and most recently lived in San Diego.

The State Department said Thursday it could not confirm Muhumed’s death and efforts to reach his family were unsuccessful.

In the undated letter, Hasan -- who fatally shot 13 people and injured more than 30 at Fort Hood in 2009 in what the Defense Department called “workplace violence”-- tells ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that he wants to join the caliphate.

"I formally and humbly request to be made a citizen of the Islamic State,”Hasan says in the handwritten document addressed to “Ameer, Mujahid Dr. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

"It would be an honor for any believer to be an obedient citizen soldier to a people and its leader who don't compromise the religion of All-Mighty Allah to get along with the disbelievers."

The two-page letter includes Hasan’s signature and the abbreviation SoA for Soldier of Allah.

Hasan's attorney, John Galligan, said the letter “underscores how much of his life, actions and mental thought process are driven by religious zeal.

And it also reinforces my belief that the military judge committed reversible error by prohibiting Major Hasan from both testifying and arguing…how his religious beliefs” motivated his actions during the shooting.

In the last year, the Department of Justice has brought at least five prosecutions against Americans -- in Florida, California, Virginia and North Carolina - for trying to help terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

Omar Jamal, who is well known in Minneapolis’ Somali community, said at least 10 young men from there have been recruited to travel to Syria for ISIS.

"Douglas McCain wasn't the first one and unfortunately he won't be the last,"Jamal told KMSP-TV.

The former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee that investigated radicalization in a series of congressional hearings said there is a pattern.

“It was clear and convincing evidence then, that there was a pipeline from Minneapolis to Islamic jihad overseas,” said Peter King, R-N.Y. “And that people in the community knew about it and that people in the community were covering it up.”


Teacher fired over sex in Pa. classroom rehired


MCKEESPORT, Pa. —A western Pennsylvania schoolteacher fired after she admitted having had sex with another teacher inside a classroom a decade ago is back on the job following an appeals court decision overturning her firing.

Angela DiBattista's attorney, Philip Fabiano, says she has been rehired by the McKeesport Area School District after a long legal battle and reported for work Monday as a math teacher.

A Commonwealth Court ruling a year ago said the former Cornell Intermediate School fourth-grade teacher had an "implied" immunity agreement when she testified during a 2005 hearing on the other teacher.

The opinion did not specifically order that she be rehired. The state Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in March.

A district spokeswoman declined comment on DiBattista's status, saying it was a personnel matter.


Who is Lady Al Qaeda? ISIS wants her released from Texas prison


ISIS is upping the pressure on the U.S. to release a woman known as Lady Al Qaeda.  / CNN
ISIS is upping the pressure on the U.S. to release a woman known as Lady Al Qaeda.

She's a Pakistani neuroscientist with a world class education. She has degress from MIT and Brandeis.
ISIS is offering to set hostages free if the U.S. releases Dr. Aafia Siddiqui -- aka Lady Al Qaeda -- from a Texas prison.
In fact, her release from prison was one of the demands made by ISIS in exchange for American journalist James Foley...before he was beheaded by his captors.
In an email sent to Foley's family on Aug. 12, ISIS wrote, "We have also offered prisoner exchanges to free the Muslims currently in your detention, like our sister Dr. Aafia Siddiqui."
"She is an icon," said Deborah Scroggins, author of 'Wanted Women'. "She is the poster girl for jihad, and in that way she serves as a rallying point. She is the premier symbol of the Muslim woman in distress."
Siddiqui earned degrees from MIT and Brandeis University outside of Boston. This petite 44-year-old, neuroscientist and mother of three lived in the U.S. for more than a decade.
In 2003, she disappeared. And in 2004, was put on an FBI alert list considered a clear and present danger.
In 2008, Siddiqui was stopped by Afghanistan National Police for acting suspiciously outside a government building.
According to court documents, "Officers searched her handbag and found numerous documents describing the creation of explosives, chemical weapons, and other weapons involving biological material and radiological agents."
Handwritten notes by Siddiqui referred to a "mass casualty attack", listing various locations in the U.S. including the Empire State Building, Wall Street, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
When American authorities came to question her the next day, she grabbed one of their rifles and started shooting.
Siddiqui was flown to the U.S., where she was never charged with terrorism, but convicted of attempted murder.
Siddiqui claimed she was framed.
"She interrupted her trial repeatedly with heated outbursts, anti-Semitic outbursts about Jews and all kinds of things," said Scroggins. "The judge found that she was mentally capable of standing trial, but that she needed some sort of treatment and that's why he sentenced her to a prison in Texas where she was able to receive psychiatric care."
She also has a notorious in-law. Siddiqui is married to the nephew of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks.
When a CNN reporter asked Scoggins if she considered her a scientist or terrorist,  Scoggins replied, "She's definitely a terrorist sympathizer, there's no doubt about that. She was helping terrorists. But she's never been accused of actually committing a terrorist act herself."
Whether she's committed a terrorist act or not, ISIS clearly considers her to be of great value.


Mother Of The Year: 4 year old found wandering streets at 2:30am, mom attempts to file missing persons report 10 hours later


Maybe someone should investigate why they all sleep in the same bed...

Mother of wandering toddler facing child endangerment charge

Yards from the busiest street in Weslaco a resident going out for a smoke spots a little girl wearing a pink dress with no shoes.
It was 2:30 a.m. and she was alone.
"He thought it was kind of weird approached the child and called us, we showed up," Officer David Barbosa, Weslaco Police Department, said.
Police immediately started going door to door in the neighborhood hoping to find the parents of the three year-old girl.
"We spent an hour to an hour and a half trying to locate the parents,” Officer Barbosa said.
Marlene Garcia was one of the neighbors who got a knock on her door.
"I saw the little girl but I don’t recognize her as being one of the children being around here," she said.
Police continued searching for the parents well into Thursday morning.
Finally nearly 10 hours after the toddler is found her mother and step-father show up at the police department to file a missing persons report.
She was questioned then arrested and now facing a child endangerment charge.
Her daughter now in the custody of child protective services.
Neighbors say this area is no place for a child to be left alone after dark.
"She could have gotten run over or gotten in bad hands, because there are alot of drug addicts around here that would do anything get their dope and sell a kid that would be easy,” Garcia said. “I don't see
why a parent would do that.”
The mother told police the little girl was in the families bed last night when they went to bed and she is unsure how she got out of their house.
Police say although the mother is now behind bars the most important this is that the child is safe.
"There’s are thousands of possibilities that could have gone wrong, good thing that everything turned out well that a Good Samaritan reported this," Officer Barbosa said.
Right now police are not releasing the mothers name until she goes before a judge which is expected to happen sometime tomorrow.


Pansy-Ass Teamsters Threaten ‘Top Chef’ Star: “We’re gonna bash that pretty face in, you f*cking whore!”



Some things never change. After nearly 15 years of trying to clean up a reputation marred with corruptionshake-downs of the film industry, as well as violence, Boston’s famous Teamsters Local 25′s public face turned very ugly earlier this summer when the popular Bravo network show Top Chef rolled into Beantown using non-union production assistants and drivers.
Although it was only briefly reported on in June, the incident received wider coverage yesterday when covered it in some more detail.
In summary, when Bravo’s Top Chef began taping at Boston’s Steel & Rye in June, Teamster members from Local 25 greeted the crew and stars with picket signs, verbal abuse, alleged vandalism and even death threats.
When cookbook author, actress, model and ‘Top Chef‘ host Padma Lakshmi appeared at Boston’s Steak & Rye, according to, Teamster picketers got even uglier by threatening the famous host.
The Teamsters picketers were already mad. By the time Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi’s car pulled up to the Steel & Rye restaurant in the picturesque New England town of Milton just outside Boston, one of them ran up to her car and screamed, “We’re gonna bash that pretty face in, you f*cking whore!
The Teamsters’ threats didn’t just stop with threats at the show’s host, according to Deadline Hollywood’s report.
Jenn Levy, Bravo’s SVP Production, wasn’t spared. Arriving at the restaurant in her black SUV, she soon found herself running a gauntlet of vitriol. “She got of her car in front of the location and quickly ran through the picket line,” a source said. “They were yelling, ‘You bitch! You slut! We’re gonna get you!’ It went on like that all day.”
One report, dated back in June, states that, in addition to verbal assaults, there were “just under a dozen cars” that had their tires slashed.
There was a large film crew at Steel & Rye today filming a television program. During the course of the taping union picketers arrived and hassled members of the crew, pedestrians and a police officer who had been hired as safety detail. One passer by said the picketers were “aggressive”. Deputy Chief King stated that just under a dozen cars had their tires slashed at some point.
A ‘Top Chef’ crew member told Deadline that, in addition to the threats, there were racial, sexual and other verbal assaults on the crew.
As any employee of our show walked on or off set, the picketers verbally attacked us, calling the gays ‘fags,’ the blacks ‘niggers’ and most of the women ‘sluts and whores,’ ” the crewmember said. “It got worse as the day went on. They chased us down the sidewalk when we had to run from one end of the location to the next in the middle of our busy work day.They threatened to kill us, beat us, and said that they would find us and force us out of the city. Needless to say, we were terrified. I’m a strong person, but being called names and yelled at and harassed for 12 hours while working, I started to crumble. I was scared and worried for my safety.
This is hardly the first time Teamsters Local 25 has been accused of shaking down and abusing people in the film industry.
In 2000, when the Teamsters wanted a concessions contract on a movie set that a member of another union had, rather than having her killed, the president of Local 25 (who, ultimately, went to prisonreportedly agreed instead to have the woman who had the contract beaten “to send [her] a message.”
In fact, in the early 2000s, the movie-industry shakedowns became so bad that “most major studio heads vowed to never again do business in Boston.”
Although Hollywood’s reluctance to film in Boston has changed to some degree in recent years, based on the threats and abuse aimed at the stars and crew of ‘Top Chef,’ it appears the Teamsters may not have changed at all.


Havana Says U.S. Embargo Over Cuba's Crimes Against Humanity Hurts Cancer Patients


Havana Says U.S. Embargo Hurts Cuban Cancer Patients

HAVANA – Cuba is facing difficulties getting medications and technology to treat children with cancer due to the U.S. economic embargo, state-run media said Thursday, citing an official with the pediatric service of the National Oncology and Radiobiology Institute.

The country’s costs have been higher than they should have been because it cannot purchase medications or radioactive products in the United States and has to do so in third countries, Dr. Glenda Gomez said.

She also mentioned difficulties in obtaining equipment for anti-tumoral therapy, a situation that has forced Cuban doctors to “transfer patients from one province to another to receive treatment.”

The Cuban health system currently has nine pediatric cancer treatment centers spread around the country.

The problems caused by the embargo for pediatric and cancer care are one of the most sensitive issues denounced by the Cuban government each year in its traditional report to the UN General Assembly regarding the consequences stemming from the U.S. sanctions.

Cuban authorities estimate that the country has lost more than $10 million in the oncological sector due to the blockade in recent years. Cancer is the No. 1 cause of death on the communist-ruled island.

The U.S. embargo put in place against the island in 1962 is one of the main issues of bilateral disagreement and, Havana says, it has caused economic damage to the Cuban economy calculated at more than $1 trillion.


Volunteers Needed: U.S. to Begin Human Clinical Trials of Ebola Vaccine


So how bad do you want that citizenship Julio?

WASHINGTON – Human clinical trials of a vaccine against the Ebola virus that has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa will begin next week, the U.S. National Institutes of Health said on Thursday.

The tests will be performed at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on 20 healthy adults, all volunteers, Dr. Anthony Fauci told a press conference.

This will be the first of a series of clinical trials in which British physicians are collaborating, and the vaccine will also be tested in Britain, Gambia and Mali, and possibly also in Nigeria, one of the countries affected by the current outbreak.

“There is an urgent need for a protective Ebola vaccine, and it is important to establish that a vaccine is safe and spurs the immune system to react in a way necessary to protect against infection,” Fauci said.

The World Health Organization said Thursday that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is one of the most difficult health emergencies in recent years and that at least $490 million will be needed to try and contain the epidemic, which has been expanding exponentially.

Forty percent of the roughly 3,000 reported cases have occurred in the last three weeks, according to the WHO.


Delusional Yuppie Organization "Medical World Congress" Rejects Nuclear Weapons Containment Factor


CoExist, Baby!

ASTANA – The 21st World Congress of Physicians Against Nuclear War (IPPNW) on Thursday rejected the superpowers’ argument that the possession of atomic weapons is justified as a way to contain potential enemies.

“We have to help them (the politicians) realize that if nuclear weapons have not been used (in wars), it is only because we have been very lucky,” said Ira Helfand, president of IPPNW USA, during the second day of the congress being held in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan.

Helfand warned that frequent arguments about the need for nuclear weapons to prevent major wars would, ironically, eventually thrust the planet “into a nuclear war.”

“It’s just a matter of time,” he said.

In the same tone, Bayguenzhin Abai, President of the IPPNW World Congress, told Efe that “it is only an illusion that nuclear weapons are a containment factor.”

He reiterated the willingness of his country, as expressed repeatedly by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, to “sign any document that seeks to ban nuclear weapons or halt their proliferation.”

Over 500 delegates from 50 countries are attending the congress that ends Aug. 30.

“The purpose of this meeting is to draw attention to the nature and threat of nuclear weapons from the perspective of doctors,” UK delegate Frank Boulton said.

He added that “the main goal is to reach an agreement on a ban signed by all nations of the world as soon as possible.”

“I feel that as long as there are countries whose people and whose leaders feel secure without nuclear weapons, then it is progress, progress to which we should aspire,” he said.

On the contrary, “as long as there are people and leaders who feel safe only if they have (weapons), then we have a problem.”


Chinese Male Actors Can No Longer Advertise Female Products


BEIJING – Actors and other male celebrities in China will not be able to endorse female sanitary napkins under a new draft law which requires the person promoting the product to test it first.

The South China Morning Post said the revised draft of the advertising law submitted to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (Chinese Parliament) includes new guidelines for adverts and demands celebrities to try products before promoting them or risk fines.

The proposal immediately prompted humorous limericks about the recent trend of male actors and singers endorsing female products.

Popular Taiwanese actor Jiro Wang advertised sanitary napkins in 2013, although he has also promoted bulldozers.

The newspaper also mentioned other famous men who have advertised lingerie and female intimate hygiene products in the past.

In 2007 the Beijing Consumers’ Association sent an open letter to celebrities warning them against their participation in exaggerated advertising campaigns.

The daily mentioned that actor Jackie Chan was caught endorsing products with overblown claims, such as a “chemical-free shampoo” that turned out to have carcinogenic ingredients.


Jihadists Set Three Oilfields Ablaze in Northern Iraq


BAGHDAD – Jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) set fire on Thursday to three oilfields in the town of Zemar, located in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh, after fighting with the Kurdish troops, or Peshmerga.

Kurdish sources told Efe the “terrorists” burned the oilfields in retaliation for losses suffered at the hands of the Peshmerga.

The Peshmerga forces attacked IS fighters in Zemar and managed to regain five villages, leaving at least 13 rebels dead and several vehicles destroyed.

Among the Kurdish gains was Mount Batan, a strategic location between the villages of Zemar and Rabi’a.

Iraq has been the scene of a sectarian war since last June, when the Sunni insurgents launched an offensive in the northern half of the country.

The IS extremist group, which takes a radical interpretation of Islam, late June proclaimed an Islamic Caliphate in the area it controls in Iraq and Syria.


Geneva group seeks ways to govern internet


The Geneva-based World Economic Forum unveiled a project on Thursday aimed at connecting governments, businesses, academia, technicians and civil society worldwide to brainstorm the best ways to govern the internet.
Geneva group seeks ways to govern internet
WEF's Klaus Schwab: avoiding "fragmenting" the internet. Photo: AFP/File

WEF, which each year gathers the global elite in the plush Swiss ski resort of Davos, launched its NETmundial Initiative in a bid to build on the outcome of a large conference in Brazil in April that called for a transparent, multi-stakeholder approach to running the Web.
The participants at that conference balked at a push by some countries, including China and Russia, for governments to move into a leading role in overseeing the internet, amid fears of the impact this could have on the unity of the Web and on online dissent and freedom of expression.
The WEF project aims to put the goals decided upon in Brazil into action by bringing as many voices as possible into the growing global debate over how to govern the Internet without jeopardizing its diversity.
The platform will basically enable "crowdsourcing with the best experts in the world" to help determine the path forward on a wide range of issues, enthused Pierre Nanterme, a member of the WEF steering board and chief executive of management consultancy giant Accenture.
"We have to find global solutions, global standards for the Internet, because the beast is global," he told AFP.
Through a series of "open and transparent" dialogues with political decision makers, technical experts, business leaders and online privacy and rights advocates and others, WEF aims in coming months to help pinpoint the main issues and problems surrounding internet governance globally and to begin creating a bank of expertise that policy makers can draw from.
The process will culminate in a summit on the issue during the organization's annual Davos meeting next January, WEF chairman Klaus Schwab told reporters.
The goal is not to create an organization to oversee the Web, but to "make sure that the internet does not become fragmented," he said.
The discussions kicked off on Thursday with a meeting at WEF's global headquarters in Geneva of more than 70 top movers and shakers from different sectors.
President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the creator of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee, the head of US-linked global internet regulator ICANN, and a wide range of diplomats figured among the participants.
More than 20,000 others followed their discussions online with many weighing in on the debate on Twitter.


Police mistake Morocco's king for people smuggler


Spanish authorities have apologized to King Mohammed VI of Morocco after Civil Guards apprehended him while travelling by boat with his entourage in waters commonly used by human traffickers and drug smugglers.
Police mistake Morocco's king for people smuggler
King Mohamed was quick to call his Spanish counterpart, the newly proclaimed King Felipe, to express
his anger over the matter. Photo: Fadel Senna/AFP

In early August, King Mohamed was enjoying a summer break off the coast of Spain’s African enclave of Ceuta when Spanish Civil Guard sighted his two speed boats and three jet skis.

In recent years, human trafficking mafias and drug smugglers have employed both types of vessels to carry out their illegal trade without being caught, spurring the coastal guard to take action.
According to Spanish national daily El Mundo, officers ordered the vessels to stop and then proceeded to ask their occupants to identify themselves.
“Do you not know who I am?” shouted out Mohamed VI while sporting a cap and sunglasses.
The officers’ initial response was “no” but as soon as he removed his head gear one of them was able to recognize him.
No more questions were asked by the men but King Mohammed was quick to call his Spanish counterpart, the newly proclaimed King Felipe, to express his anger over the matter.
The Spanish royal, who according to the country’s Royal House “has a very good relationship with Mohammed VI”, then contacted Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz to come up with a suitable apology.
Fernández ordered his government delegate in Ceuta to send three high-command Civil Guards to head out to the royal speed boat as quickly as possible.
They apologized profusely to the Moroccan monarch, who shook their hands and stated the officers “had done their job perfectly” but that he “hadn't been respected”.  
El Mundo quoted diplomatic sources as saying the massive influx in clandestine immigration in the days following the incident (over 1,000 sub-Saharan Africans arriving in neighbouring Melilla in just two days) may have been a direct result of relaxed border control while King Mohammed was still at sea.   


Norwegian brewery pulls 'fart-smelling' beer


A Norwegian brewery has removed all stock of one of its beers on Thursday after drinkers complained of its foul-smelling aroma.
Norwegian brewery pulls 'fart-smelling' beer
Mack brewers of Tromso, makers of the offending ale. Photo: Still Life with a keg of beer and beer in the mug . 

Mack brewers, based in Tromsø, produced the “Isbjørn” (“Polar beer”), but a flaw in the manufacturing process created a drink with stomach-churning properties.
It was found that contamination in the bottling system led to a bad odour in many of the beer cans. A build-up of lactic acid in cans led to an unpleasant smell of sulphur and rotten eggs. The contamination was particularly rife when the weather was at its warmest this summer.
Local newspaper Harstad Tidende reported on Thursday that Mack had sold tens of thousands of cans of the "fart-smelling" drink.
In reaction to complaints, Mack has over the last few weeks tried to withdraw all “Isbjørns” produced on July 21st and 22nd this year.
Roger Karlsen, Mack's director, said to Harstad Tidende: “These bacteria are not dangerous. They are normally used in acidic milk products, such as yoghurt, but can give an unpleasant smell and taste in beer. The smell can be like anything from lemon and vinegar to rotten fish. It is something caused by, among other things, decomposition of the proteins in the beer.”
The last time Mack brewery had a similar incident was in 2013, but Karlsen assured customers incidents like this happen very rarely.

Any customers who purchased 12-packs of the “Isbjørn” beer could have received cans of foul-smelling liquid. The brewery has attempted to retrieve all cans, but has not got them all back yet. The affected beer has an expiration date of October 22nd and 23rd. Customers who have bought the beer will get their money back from the brewery, Mack said.


Iraqi Jihadist Group Swears Alleigance to Islamic State


Ansar al-Islam further strengthens the extremist group conquering Syria and Iraq by adding its manpower to IS ranks.

Islamic State terrorists (file)
Islamic State terrorists (file)

The jihadist Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) movement that has captured large portions of Iraq and Syria continues to gain strength, as yet another extremist Islamist group has pledged loyalty to the IS caliphate.

Last week Ansar al-Islam, a Salafist group identified with Al Qaeda that is active in Iraq, announced that it is joining forces with IS.

That coalition was sealed in a formal ceremony, in which dozens of Ansar al-Islam terrorists swore allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and which included joint Muslim prayer.

The IS leader Baghdadi early last month declared himself caliph after establishing an Islamic state in the regions under his control.

Ansar al-Islam brings to IS a boost in skilled manpower, as those joining include the commander of a brigade carrying out suicide runs with explosive-rigged cars, as well as those managing the administrative and religious aspects of the group, drivers and human resource managers.

After declaring itself a caliphate early last month, IS called on Muslims worldwide to join it. For those living in the large areas of northern and eastern Syria, as well as vast swathes of northern Iraq that are under the group's control, refusal to do so carries a death penalty for "heresy."

In addition, IS has been conducting large-scale massacres and systematic rape, particularly against Yazidi minorities, drawing concerns of an impending genocide if rapid action is not taken.

US President Barack Obama announced Thursday that he would be sending US Secretary of State John Kerry to the Middle East to try and establish a coalition against the IS threat, while admitting he doesn't have a strategy to combat the jihadist group in Syria.


State teacher's union pushes lawsuit over school vouchers


Public school supporters are taking their case against state private school funding to court.
The Florida Education Association is trying to drop the hammer on the state’s tax credit scholarship program. The teacher’s union, joined by other public school advocates, says the program is unconstitutional.
Gov. Rick Scott came out against the lawsuit. Scott, a school choice supporter, released a statement saying that the lawsuit was “unconscionable,” and the coalition was using children as a political ploy.
A similar state voucher program was struck down in 2006. The state gives dollar for dollar tax breaks to corporations for providing the private school scholarships.
“It is the Florida legislature’s paramount duty to fund public schools adequately so they make sure all students can achieve the American dream,” said Joanne McCall.
Shortly after the lawsuit was announced, school choice supporters made sure their voices were heard right outside of FEA’s building.
Abigail Rodriguez is one of the nearly 70,000 children in the state receiving a private school voucher.
“The education in private school is so much more advanced, and not only that, we have the opportunity in private schools that we can learn more about God,” said Rodriguez, a student at Potter's House Academy.
Faith-based learning as well as a lack of accountability are main issues that opponents have with the program.
“We support faith-based schools entirely, but they should do like everyone else, pay their own way,” said Rabbi Merrill Shapiro a separation of church and state advocate.
But Pinellas County Pastor Robert Ward said the bottom line is that the scholarships help kids.
“There’s some parts of our community that we need an alternative for,” said Ward of Mount Moriah Baptist Church.
More than $440 million from the state will be available for the program next year.


4-year-old expelled from preschool for mom's Facebook post


Facebook comment gets 4-year-old expelled
A local mother is outraged after her 4-year-old son was expelled from the private Christian preschool he attended because of a Facebook post on her personal page.
Ashley Habat said she was upset the school didn't give parents more time to get ready for picture day, and so she vented about it on Facebook.
The next day, the school told Habat that her son, Will, could no longer attend.
Habat said she doesn't regret expressing her opinion, which she said was posted to her private page for only her friends to see. Regardless, she doesn't believe her son should be punished for something she wrote, she said. And she wishes the school had tried to work with her before expelling him.
Habat said she and her son ran late for school on picture day at Sonshine Christian Academy in Callahan, and she mentioned to the administrator checking Will in that she thought the school didn't give enough notice of picture day. The administrator said they put a note in Will's folder the week before.
Habat said she took to Facebook to vent her frustrations and never expected the school to see her post.
The post read, “Why is it that every single day there is something new I dislike about Will's School? Are my standards really too high or are people working in the education field really just that ignorant.”
She tagged the school in the post, and the next morning, she received a call, asking her to stop by the office when she dropped her son off.
“They just felt like we weren't the right fit, parent relationship with the school, and that they didn't want him as a student anymore,” Habat said. “He had done nothing wrong.”
According to the letter of dismissal, Habat's “relationship with Sonshine did not get off to a very good start the first day of school. … You utilized social media to call into question not only the integrity but the intelligence of our staff. ... These actions are also consistent with sowing discord, which is spoken of in the handbook you signed.”
“I was in shock,” Habat said. “Why would you expel a 4-year-old over something his mom posts on her private Facebook page only people on her friends list can see?”
The principal of Sonshine Christian Academy sent News4JAX a response saying, "This is private matter involving the school and a parent." also saying "Due to my concern for families, I am unable to comment on specifics of this situation."