U.S. Birthrate Falls to Record Low

The U.S. birthrate has fallen to the lowest level since the federal government began compiling statistics in 1909, according to statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday.

In 2019, the U.S. saw a rate of 58.2 births per 1,000 women ages 15–44, according to statistics from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. The number of births in 2019 was about 3.75 million, the lowest number of total births in 35 years.

“There are a lot of people out there who would like to have two children, a larger family, and there’s something going on out there that makes people feel like they can’t do that,” Melanie Brasher, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Rhode Island, told the Wall Street Journal.

The only age group that saw an increase in births was for women in their 40s.

“Women are still having children,” said Brady Hamilton, a statistician who helped write the new CDC report. “They’re just holding off until a later point in time until they establish their education and establish their career.”

The current trend may appear unusual. While birthrates generally drop following economic crises, birthrates have continued to fall after the 2008 recession despite the economic recovery. With the added pressure brought on by the pandemic, birthrates could fall even further.

“People that were products of the Great Depression, the birthrates were much lower for that cohort than they were for people born after World War II,” Brasher commented.

But the U.S. is not the only country currently experiencing a declining birthrate. Many advanced democracies in Europe and East Asia are also seeing a decline or leveling-off in birth rates, with lower absolute levels than the U.S. Meanwhile, total fertility rates — the number of children a woman is expected to have during her lifetime — are declining globally, while birthrates remain high across the developing world.


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Poll: Americans Increasingly View China as an ‘Enemy’ amid Coronavirus

More U.S. voters see China as an “enemy” than as a friend or ally amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll.

The data shows that the percentage of U.S. voters who see China as hostile has risen 11 percentage points since January to 31 percent, while the number of respondents who view China as a friend or an ally has fallen by nine points in the same timeframe to a combined 23 percent. Those who view China as unfriendly but not an enemy remains at around 30 percent — a number that has stayed constant over the past five months.

Ahead of the November presidential election, the poll found that President Trump and former vice president Biden are essentially tied with voters on the China issue, with 40 percent trusting Biden more, 38 percent favoring Trump, and 21 percent undecided. While both candidates have fielded dueling ads over who has been tougher on the Chinese Communist Party, voters prefer working with China to solve the pandemic over holding China accountable at the expense of cooperation by a 28 point margin — 50 to 38 percent.

While the majority of respondents view both Biden and Trump unfavorably, Trump is underwater by 14 points compared to Biden’s four points. Voters also trust Biden more than Trump in handling the pandemic, while the president is viewed more favorably in restarting the economy.

China hawkishness has been on the rise since the pandemic began, with Pew Research Center finding in a poll last month that Americans who view China unfavorably outnumber those who view China favorably by more than a 2-to-1 margin, 66 to 26 percent.


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The recent seizure by Cuban police of hundreds of sacks of onions was a big news in Cuba

HAVANA (AP) — The recent seizure by Cuban police of hundreds of sacks of onions was a big news item on state television, a warning to suspected hoarders and speculators who seek to benefit from harsher economic conditions during the pandemic.

The broadcast was also highly unusual because government-controlled media in Cuba rarely report on police raids and other operations. Instead, in the last two weeks, state media have embarked on a campaign to show that there is zero tolerance for anyone attempting to cash in on the fallout from the spread of the new coronavirus.

The publicity campaign has also drawn criticism that suspects are not given due process, and highlighted problems with Cuba’s state production of essential goods and mixed messaging on private enterprise. It comes as the pandemic imposes even more distress and hardship on Cubans who were already used to shortages and long lines in their efforts to find basic necessities.

The onions were confiscated in Mayabeque province, and police said they acted against the suspected hoarders following tip-offs from residents.

“We we were able to learn that these people were engaged in receiving large volumes of onions,” police Capt. Arley Tortoza told state television during the operation.

There have been numerous other media reports about similar raids by Cuban police. There was a raid on a house in Villa Clara where boxes of oil and tomatoes were confiscated; the dismantling of a stall selling pork at inflated prices; the foiling of the theft of sugar from a train; and the discovery of an attempt to steal chicken from a facility for COVID-19 patients.

The media spotlight on such police operations “is intended to show that there is a daily confrontation with crimes affecting the supply of basic necessities,” lawyer Raudiel Peña told The Associated Press. “It also sets an example, especially with respect to hoarders and merchants who operate on the Cuban black market.”

Long lines, and the informal or underground market, are nothing new in Cuba.

Shortages and long waits to acquire basic necessities had almost disappeared in the past decade, but they restarted last year, largely because of sanctions imposed by the United States in its attempt to force political change in Cuba.

But what never ended was the theft of goods from government centers, where some workers siphon off items to private businesses to make some money on the side. Sometimes, people hoarded prized goods so as to resell them when the price went up during times of scarcity.

“The confrontation is not only against COVID-19, it is also against those who seek to profit in hard times,” a Cuban, César González, wrote on Facebook.

Still, there is also criticism of people who inform on suspected hoarders and speculators. The critics say the Cuban government is to blame because it still places restrictions on private enterprise and many goods are legitimately purchased, albeit in large quantities.

“Legalizing these activities so that they are totally legal is an option,” wrote another Facebook user, Orestes Rodríguez. “They are high demand products, they are not prohibited substances, what is illegal is the clandestine way in which they are obtained, distributed, sold and bought.

The state news reports have been criticized for the way in which suspects are allegedly demonized, without having the chance to defend themselves in front of a camera.

Peña, the lawyer, said the Cuban Constitution, approved last year, recognizes the right to truthful, objective and timely information that could justify the state broadcasts, but it also provides for the privacy of those who have yet to be convicted of any crime.

Furthermore, while hoarding is listed as a crime in the Cuban penal code, no one is sure how much of any particular item constitutes hoarding.

Because of shortages, authorities have had to restrict the sale of some products, including chicken, toilet paper, rice, detergent and coffee, and people line up for hours to buy such items. The government also has a subsidy program designed to ensure that goods are accessible to most Cubans.

Even so, some experts say Cuba should do more than just crack down on speculation and hoarding, for example by increasing the national production of goods in order to improve supply.

“The seizure of hundreds of tons of onions in Mayabeque offers two lessons: speculation over the price of food during a health emergency is unacceptable, and state policy on agriculture is dysfunctional and must be changed,” economist Pedro Monreal said.

Trump Admin. Implements Indefinite Border Restrictions for Duration of Pandemic

The Trump administration on Tuesday finalized a rule that imposes indefinite restrictions on the land borders of the U.S.

The rule gives Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Robert Redfield the authority to reopen U.S. borders to tourist and other non-commercial travel. Redfield would need to confirm that the coronavirus does not present a threat to the U.S. in order to reopen the borders.

“This order has been one of the most critical tools the Department has used to prevent the further spread of the virus and to protect the American people, [Department of Homeland Security] frontline officers, and those in their care and custody from COVID-19,” Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement.

The order states that “the danger” of coronavirus brought across U.S. borders is such “that a temporary suspension is necessary to protect the public health.”

The order, which has been in force since March, has effectively halted the intake of asylum seekers into the U.S. Border patrol officers at the U.S.-Mexico border have been immediately returning asylum seekers to Mexico, with immigration officials fearing outbreaks of coronavirus in detention facilities. U.S. Immigration, Customs and Enforcement has released hundreds of illegal immigrants from detention facilities to mitigate potential outbreaks, and ICE has suspended operations to arrest illegal immigrants who seek medical care.

Mexico has seen at least 51,000 coronavirus infections and 5,000 deaths as of Tuesday, although various reports claim the country’s death toll is being undercounted. The U.S. has reported 1,500,000 infections and almost 92,000 deaths.


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UK scientists deny conspiracy theories about Covid-19 disease


London, May 19 (Prensa Latina) UK virologists rejected this Tuesday the conspiracy theories encouraged by US President Donald Trump suggesting that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus was created in a Chinese laboratory of Wuhan.

Actually, there is no evidence to prove so. We may all like conspiracy theories, but pieces of evidence are needed, assured Professor David Robertson speaking on Tuesday via video conference to the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Lords of the British Parliament.

According to the virology and bioinformatics expert at the University of Glasgow, the novel coronavirus was most likely transmitted to humans from a wild animal that is abundant in China’s markets.

We have a virus believed to come from an exotic species, and we have a wild animal market – that seems to be the most plausible theory, added Robertson, who further doubts that SARS-CoV-2 could have been created in a laboratory due to its unique nature.

In that regard, he explained that it is such a successful virus and with such a high level of transmissibility that it will be practically impossible to control it, much less eradicate it.

His colleague from the University of Nottingham, John Ball, who is an expert in molecular virology, also supported Robertson’s statement regarding the natural origin of the novel coronavirus, and its transmission to humans from a mutation.

‘When you have a large mix of different live wild animals caged in close proximity to each other, there is always a chance that a virus will mutate among them, and then be able to infect humans and spread,’ Ball told members of the Upper Chamber.


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