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New York’s governor says legislation that would end the ability of parents to object to vaccinations for their children on religious grounds is “legally questionable.”

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo during interviews this week called the recent surge in measles cases a serious public health concern but said eliminating the religious exemption to school vaccine requirements could face a First Amendment challenge.

The bill hasn’t been scheduled for a vote in the Democrat-controlled state Legislature. Current law also allows parents to exempt their children for medical reasons, such as a weakened immune system.

Supporters of the bill to eliminate the religious exemption note that California successfully repealed its exemption for personal or philosophical reasons in 2015.

Lawmakers in other states are considering similar moves following increases in measles cases.

Source: Fox News National

Lebanon’s president has told a visiting American delegation that Beirut rejects the U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights because it includes Lebanese areas annexed by Israel.

Michel Aoun told the delegation that included Republican U.S. Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Vicente Gonzalez that Lebanon has the right to work on regaining this lined “by all available means.”

Arab countries unanimously rejected the recent U.S. recognition of Israeli control over the Golan, seized from Syria in 1967 and annexed in 1981, calling the Trump administration’s policies unfairly biased toward Israel.

Lebanon fears for its claim to the Chebaa Farms and adjacent Kfar Chouba hills, which Israel occupied alongside Golan.

Israel had occupied south Lebanon, but despite withdrawing in 2000, remained in these strategic areas.

Source: Fox News World

It’s a mashed Mississippi mystery.

Jackson residents were mystified after bowls of mashed potatoes suddenly appeared on their cars, porches and mailboxes.

Jordan Lewis described the Belhaven neighborhood as a quirky one, with residents decorating road signs and putting Christmas trees in potholes.

But the probe into the puzzling potato problem is even new for them.

Lewis told WLBT-TV she spotted her first bowl of mashed potatoes on her car’s windshield.


“I walked outside yesterday morning at 7 a.m. and I got in my car and that’s when I noticed a white bowl on my windshield. It was full of rainwater. I threw it away and I was grossed out by it,” she said. “I just thought this is a harmless prank by some kids or college students in the area.”

Michaela Lin said she found a bowl of mashed potatoes on her mailbox. She said some of the potato-finders have connections to Belhaven University, a local private Christian university, which may be a clue.

“So far I have realized some of the ‘victims’ of the mashed potatoes are actually staff or Belhaven students or alumni. I feel like there has to be a connection there!” Lin told WLBT-TV.


However, Sebastian Bjernegard said some residents fear there’s a more sinister message behind the potatoes.

“Some people were thinking maybe the mashed potatoes were poisoned to kill animals,” he told WJTV, noting he almost stepped into a bowl of potatoes Tuesday. “I didn’t taste it. I have a three-second rule, so I didn’t touch it. But some people were worried.”

It was not immediately clear if anyone has eaten the potatoes. News outlets reported residents have not alerted law enforcement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News National

Michael Avenatti, the former Stormy Daniels attorney and once-rumored 2020 presidential candidate, is now facing up to 335 years in prison after being slapped with three dozen new federal charges alleging he stole millions of dollars from his clients, failed to pay taxes and lied in bankruptcy cases, amongst other accusations.

The 48-year-old was indicted late Wednesday by a Southern California grand jury following his arrest last month in New York for allegedly trying to shake down Nike for up to $25 million.

“I intend to fully fight all charges and plead NOT GUILTY,” Avenatti posted on Twitter Thursday after being freed on a $300,000 bond. “I look forward to the entire truth being known as opposed to a one-sided version meant to sideline me.”

If convicted on all of the new charges, Avenatti would face 335 years in prison, federal investigators say. He is scheduled to be arraigned on April 29 in United States District Court in Santa Ana. The Los Angeles Times says Avenatti already faces up to 47 more years if convicted in the Nike case.

“These four areas of criminal conduct alleged in the indictment are all linked to one another because money generated from one set of crimes appears in other sets – typically in the form of payments to lull victims and to prevent Mr. Avenatti’s financial house of cards from collapsing,” United States Attorney Nick Hanna said Thursday.


A U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman, Thom Mrozek, confirmed to Fox News that federal agents seized a Honda HA-420 twin-engine jet from Santa Barbara Airport about 10 a.m. after a federal judge issued a warrant. (William La Jeunesse/Lee Ross)

A U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman, Thom Mrozek, confirmed to Fox News that federal agents seized a Honda HA-420 twin-engine jet from Santa Barbara Airport about 10 a.m. after a federal judge issued a warrant. (William La Jeunesse/Lee Ross)

The 61-page indictment alleges Avenatti embezzled from a paraplegic man and four other clients and deceived them by shuffling money between accounts to pay off small portions of what they were due to lull them into thinking they were getting paid.

Avenatti is also charged with not paying personal income taxes, not paying taxes for his various businesses, including two law firms, and pocketing payroll taxes from the Tully’s Coffee chain that he owned, the indictment said.

Between September 2015 and January 2018, Global Baristas US, the company that operated Tully’s, failed to pay the Internal Revenue Service $3.2 million in payroll taxes, including nearly $2.4 million withheld from employees, the indictment said.

When the IRS put tax levies on coffee company bank accounts to collect more than $5 million, Avenatti had Tully’s employees deposit cash receipts in a little-known account, the indictment said.

Avenatti was also charged with submitting fraudulent tax returns to get more than $4 million in loans from The Peoples Bank in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 2014. The tax returns he presented to the bank were never filed to the IRS, prosecutors have said.

“For 20 years, I have represented Davids vs. Goliaths and relied on due process and our system of justice,” Avenatti tweeted Thursday. “Along the way, I have made many powerful enemies. I am entitled to a FULL presumption of innocence and am confident that justice will be done once ALL of the facts are known.”


The charges are the latest major blow to a career that took off last year when Avenatti represented Daniels in her lawsuit to break a confidentiality agreement with Trump to stay quiet about an affair they allegedly had.

Avenatti became one of Trump’s leading adversaries, attacking him on cable news programs and Twitter. At one point, Avenatti even considered challenging Trump for the White House in 2020.

But back home, his business practices had come under scrutiny from the IRS and a former law partner who was owed $14 million by Avenatti and the Eagan Avenatti firm, which filed for bankruptcy.

And now the tables have turned in part on Twitter, with Avenatti getting ripped by the same figures he has gone after, like Donald Trump Jr.

“Good news for my friend @MichaelAvenatti, if you plead fast enough, you might just get to share a cell with Michael Cohen!” the president’s son quipped in late March following the emergence of the Avenatti-Nike allegations.


The new indictment also says Avenatti made false statements in bankruptcy proceedings by submitting forms under penalty of perjury that under reported income his firm received.

The most glaring example of deception and fraud was described in the indictment as scheming Avenatti allegedly did to deprive clients of money they were due from legal settlements or sales of stock and the actions he took to cover his tracks.

In a case involving one client, Avenatti allegedly funneled a $2.75 million settlement into his bank accounts and spent $2.5 million on a private airplane, the indictment said.

Although Avenatti was due a portion of settlement funds for his work, the charges said he paid only a fraction of the money clients were due in some cases and strung them along while they waited to be paid.

Avenatti allegedly drained a $4 million settlement he negotiated in 2015 on behalf of Geoffrey Johnson, who was paralyzed after trying to kill himself in the Los Angeles County jail, the indictment said. Johnson was referred to as “Client 1” in the indictment, but was named at a recent court hearing involving the money Avenatti was ordered to pay his former partner.

Until last month, Avenatti had only provided $124,000 over 69 payments to Johnson, the indictment said.


Two years after the settlement was reached, Avenatti allegedly helped Johnson find a real estate agent to buy a house. But when Johnson was in escrow to purchase the property, Avenatti falsely said he had not received the settlement funds, the indictment said.

In November, when the U.S. Social Security Administration requested information to determine if Johnson should continue to receive disability benefits, Avenatti said he would respond, but didn’t because he knew it could lead to the discovery of his embezzlement, the indictment said. The failure to respond led to Johnson’s disability benefits being cut off in February.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News National

German police say a high-speed train appears to have been hit by shots fired from an air pistol and which damaged windows and doors. No one was hurt.

Federal police said railway operator Deutsche Bahn told them the ICE train traveling from Berlin to Saarbruecken was hit by unidentified projectiles late Thursday evening near Mannheim in southwestern Germany. They said Friday that only the outer panes of double-glazed windows were damaged but that none of the projectiles got inside the train.

Investigators found nine points of impact on four cars of the train and said an object such as an air pistol appeared to be responsible. Police said they believe several people shot at the moving train.

Some 150 people were on board the train at the time.

Source: Fox News World

The Swiss will get their say on whether to allow animal and human testing of products sold in the rich Alpine country, amid howls of concern from those who insist it’s inhumane.

The federal government says petitioners have successfully collected the minimum 100,000 signatures required to put their push for a “ban on human and animal experimentation” on the ballot.

The measure, if passed, would limit use of such testing to the “overwhelming interest” of the specific animal or human subject, bar import or export of products developed through animal testing, and provide for public financing of alternative testing.

No date has been set for the balloting, which is part of Switzerland’s system of regular referendums giving voters a direct say in policymaking. It is likely to take many months.

Source: Fox News World

The first palace built by Rome’s most notorious emperor, Nero, has reopened to the public after an extensive renovation.

Visitors to Nero’s Domus Transitoria (or Transit House), which opened Friday after a decade of structural work and renovations, must descend underground to view the rooms and gardens of the residence, covered over the centuries by other buildings and debris.

Domus Transitoria was criticized even by Nero’s contemporaries for its opulence, with inlaid marble, frescoed walls and ceilings, and trimmings of gold and precious gems. Built on the Palatine Hill almost 2,000 years ago, it predated the more famous Domus Aurea (Golden Palace.)

Alfonsina Russo, general manager of the Colosseum archaeological park, said that “Nero wanted an atmosphere that expressed his ideology, that of an absolute ruler, an absolute monarch.”

Source: Fox News World

Absence of God, the sexual revolution of the swinging ‘60s and the formation of “homosexual cliques” in seminaries are to blame for the Catholic Church’s rampant sex abuse scandals, retired Pope Benedict XVI has said.

In 6,000-word essay – published Thursday in the German monthly Klerusblatt, the Catholic News Agency and in other conservative media – the former pontiff tranced the start of the clergy abuse to when sex began to appear in films in his native Bavaria.

He also blamed the crisis on failures of moral theology in that era and slammed church laws in place that gave protection to priests accused of abuse.


“Why did pedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimate, the reason is the absence of God,” Benedict wrote. “Perhaps it is worth mentioning that in not a few seminaries, students caught reading my books were considered unsuitable for the priesthood. My books were hidden away, like bad literature, and only read under the desk.”

The conservative theologian said that during the 1980s and 1990s, “the right to a defense [for priests] was so broad as to make a conviction nearly impossible.”

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict spearheaded reforms of those laws in 2001 to make it easier to remove priests who abused children. Benedict took a hard line against clerical sex abuse as the Vatican’s conservative doctrine chief, and later as pope, defrocking hundreds of priests accused of raping and molesting children.


Benedict’s essay was immediately criticized as “catastrophically irresponsible” because it conflicts with efforts by his successor, Pope Francis, to lead the church out of the sex abuse crisis.

Benedict, who retired in 2013 and turns 92 next week, also blamed the scandal on a clerical culture in the church that raises priests above worshippers.

The essay was criticized by church historians including Christopher Bellitto, who questioned if Benedict was being manipulated by others. He said the essay omitted the critical conclusions that arose from the pope’s February sex abuse summit in Rome, including that “abusers were priests along the ideological spectrum, that the abuse predated the 1960s, that it is a global and not simply Western problem, that homosexuality is not the issue in pedophilia.”

“It is catastrophically irresponsible, because it creates a counter-narrative to how Francis is trying to move ahead based on the 2019 summit,” Bellitto told The Associated Press in an email. “The essay essentially ignores what we learned there.”


Villanova University theologian Massimo Faggioli called the essay a thin analysis that omitted key cases that began well before the 1960s.

“If a pope emeritus decides to stay silent, it’s one thing and can be defended. But speaking and telling a tiny part and a very personal version of the story, it’s hard to defend,” he said on Twitter. “Everything we know in the global history of the Catholic abuse crisis makes Benedict XVI’s take published yesterday very thin or worse: a caricature of what happened during in the Catholic Church during the post-Vatican II period — with all its ingenuities and some tragic mistakes.”

Meanwhile, the essay was applauded by some on the right. Writing in The Catholic Herald, Chat Pecknold praised the intervention as a necessary word from “the voice of a father” that accurately identified an absence of God as the reason for the crisis.


“I suspect that after all the studies are done after the review boards are formed, cases heard, after new protocols and safeguards are in place, Benedict’s answer will be the one which endures,” he wrote. “What will be remembered as the seed of renewal, as the root of restoration, is precisely Benedict’s counsel that we turn our faces back to Christ who is the perfect image of the Father’s love.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News World

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