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Hurricane Laura, causing extensive damage in Louisiana

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At least six people have been killed as Hurricane Laura battered the US state of Louisiana.

Winds of up to 150mph (240km/h) caused severe damage, with power cuts to more than half a million homes and a chemical fire from an industrial plant.

But the feared 20ft (6m) storm surge was avoided as the hurricane, the state’s biggest, tracked further east.

Laura has now been downgraded to tropical storm status.

It has since crossed into Arkansas. At 19:00 local time (00:00 GMT) on Thursday the National Hurricane Center said the storm had weakened to maximum sustained winds of 40mph (65km/h), but was still bringing heavy rainfall.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said the state “did not sustain and suffer the absolute, catastrophic damage that we thought was likely,” but stressed they had still suffered “a tremendous amount of damage” and warned people to remain vigilant.

President Donald Trump was briefed at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) in Washington and said he would go to the area at the weekend.

He said he had been prepared to postpone his speech at the Republican National Convention later on Thursday to travel to the region but added: “We got a bit lucky. It was very big and very powerful but it passed quickly.” The president will visit the states affected at the weekend.

Laura and another storm, Marco, earlier swept across the Caribbean, killing 24 people.

At least six people are known to have died after the storm crashed into the US, Gov Edwards told reporters.

Of those, four were killed by falling trees. One man drowned in a boat that sank and another died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator in his home, authorities said.

There was more structural damage from winds than anticipated, but the water damage was less than feared.

Nearly 900,000 homes and businesses lost power as the storm hit the US.

A barge had collided with a bridge in the city of Lake Charles, quite close to where a suspected “chlorine chemical fire” at an industrial plant was being attended by emergency services.

Mr Edwards said people should stay off the roads where possible, as outer bands of the storm were still causing high water levels and winds.

Some 1,500 people, including National Guard troops, are being deployed in rescue and clean-up missions.

Vice-President Mike Pence, who joined Mr Trump at Fema, said: “While this was a major storm with devastating impact it was not as bad as it could have been.”

It was one of the strongest to ever hit the US Gulf Coast, striking as a category four with winds of up to 150mph (240km/h).

Governor Edwards said it was even more powerful than Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 storm that devastated New Orleans and killed more than 1,800 people.

It made landfall shortly after midnight local time (05:00 GMT) near the district of Cameron, in Louisiana. It tracked north, just east of the Texas-Louisiana border.

As yet, there have been no casualties confirmed in Texas. Governor Greg Abbott toured the area hit by the storm with the US Coast Guard on Thursday, and said the state was “ready to help communities rebuild”.

Lake Charles, a city of 78,000, and its surrounding areas were badly hit. Trees and electricity pylons have been ripped from the ground and vehicles overturned.

Part of the roof of the Golden Nugget Casino flew off, a CNN-affiliated reporter witnessed, and an NWS radar installation was destroyed.

In Sparks, just to the north, Rev Karl Smith rode out the storm in his cellar. He told Reuters: “We just had trees thrown everywhere. It’s a big mess.”Ahead of the hurricane’s arrival, more than 420,000 Texas residents were ordered to leave, while an additional 200,000 were told to evacuate Calcasieu Parish in south-western Louisiana.

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A 9-year-old boy who went hunting with his father has died.

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Nebraska: The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office said a 9-year-old Seward boy was killed in a hunting accident near Branched Oak Lake on Sunday morning.

The accident happened near NW 98th Street and West Davey road about 7:40 a.m.

LSO said the young boy accidentally shot himself while pheasant hunting with his father.

Authorities said Gunnar Holte, 9, was shooting at a bird, went to reload a shotgun, and the gun fired.

The father said he turned around and saw his son had fallen.

An off-duty Lincoln Police officer was also in the area hunting and tried to help the boy.

The child was taken to the hospital where life-saving measures were not successful, LSO said.

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Christian orgs in China drop ‘Jesus’ from book titles to circumvent internet censorship

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Internet censorship targeting Christians in China has become so severe that even official government-sanctioned Christian groups are now using the Chinese pinyin initials “JD” to replace Chinese characters for “Christ,” according to U.S.-based China Aid.

Two official government-sanctioned religious organizations — the Christian Council of China and the Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches of China — have updated titles and descriptions of all their books on “Tianfengshuyuan,” their official WeChat book store, reported China Aid, which exposes abuses and promotes religious freedom, human rights and the rule of law in China.

“In their official WeChat store, not only ‘Christ’ becomes ‘JD,’ ‘Jesus’ also becomes ‘YS,’ and ‘Bible’ becomes ‘SJ,’” wrote Fuzeng Xing, dean of Chung Chi Seminary of Chinese University of Hong Kong, on his Facebook page, the group noted.

On March 30, 2018, the “Holy Bible” was removed from all online booksellers across China, including Taobao, Jingdong, WeChat store, Dangdang, Amazon China, and other online platforms.

As a result, many online religious bookstores have shut down.

Bitter Winter, a publication that monitors religious liberty violations in China, reported earlier this month that Chinese Communist Party officials in Luoyang, a prefecture-level city in Henan’s central province, searched a local printing house for banned religious materials.

“Any religious content makes the issue political, not religious. Although banners on the streets say people are allowed religious beliefs, the only faith they can practice freely is that in the Communist Party,” a store manager told Bitter Winter.

Because inspections are “too rigorous,” the manager said he refuses to print religious materials. “They checked my storehouse, scrutinized all records, and even looked at paper sheets on the floor to see if they have prohibited content. If any such content is found, I’ll be fined, or worse, my business will be closed.”

Last month, a Chinese Christian online bookstore owner was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined nearly $30,000 for engaging in what the regime deems as “illegal business operations.”

Persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported at the time that in September 2019, Chen Yu, who operated his online bookstore in Zhejiang province’s Taizhou city, was detained for selling unapproved religious publications imported from Taiwan, the U.S., and other countries.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined 200,000 RMB ($29,450), according to a document from the People’s Court of Linhai City, shared by Father Francis Liu from the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness.

In 2018, the Chinese government banned the sale of Bibles at online bookstores across the country to comply with a “white paper” that dictated compliance with the “core values of socialism.”

Australia’s ABC News reported at the time that copies of the Gospels had been removed from online retailers following the release of a regime document, titled “China’s Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief.”

The white paper declared that Chinese faith communities “should adhere to the direction of localizing the religion, practice the core values of socialism, develop and expand the fine Chinese tradition and actively explore the religious thought which accords with China’s national circumstances.”

China is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List.

The communist regime’s crackdown on religious freedom has also led the U.S. State Department to label it as a “country of particular concern” for “continuing to engage in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

In a recent interview with The Christian Post, U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo said it is “certainly the case that the Chinese Communist Party [engages in] efforts to stamp out religious freedom every place that they find.”
Sources:Christian Post

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