Nation and world news briefs

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US births fall for fifth consecutive year to 35-year low

U.S. births dropped to the lowest level in 35 years.

About 3.75 million babies were born in the U.S. in 2019, down 1% from 2018, according to provisional data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The total fertility rate in 2019 was 1,705 births per 1,000 women — well below the level at which a given generation can exactly replace itself (2,100 births per 1,000 women). The total fertility rate has been below the replacement since 2007.

“In the long run low fertility might mean the population will grow smaller, but it takes a generation or two,” said Philip Cohen, professor at the University of Maryland. “During the pandemic, I would expect pregnancy rates, and then birth rates, to fall as people interact less and postpone making long-term commitments and investments.”

“Financial constraints are a factor in the continuing low levels of fertility,” according to Ken Johnson, professor at the University of New Hampshire. “In addition, these fertility declines have been greatest most among younger women (under age 30) and it is unclear whether these births have been delayed or will be foregone.”

“In the short term, there is little likelihood of an upturn in fertility in the shadow of the pandemic. In fact, I have every expectation that the number of births will diminish in 2021, said Johnson.”

—Bloomberg News


Cuomo says decision to send coronavirus patients to nursing homes is on Trump

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said critics of the state’s handling of coronavirus cases in nursing homes need to talk to President Donald Trump.

The governor defended New York’s response as the pandemic has killed more than 5,000 nursing home residents over the past two months, saying Wednesday the state’s recently reversed directive sending coronavirus patients back to elder care facilities was based on directives from the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Anyone who wants to ask why did the state do that with COVID patients in nursing homes, it’s because the state followed President Trump’s CDC guidance,” Cuomo said during a press briefing in Albany. “So they should ask President Trump.

“I think that will stop the conversation,” he added.

In recent days, Republicans led by Rep. Elise Stefanik have called for a federal investigation into the state’s regulations regarding nursing homes and long-term care facilities in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.

At issue is a March 25 guidance from the state Health Department instructing nursing homes to accept coronavirus-positive residents back into facilities, potentially exposing other elderly residents and staff to the deadly virus.

Earlier this month a new regulation was enacted that says patients can’t be discharged to nursing homes unless they first test negative for the coronavirus.

“The governor took executive action, forcing positive COVID cases back into nursing homes,” Stefanik said during a Fox News interview Tuesday. “There was zero transparency in terms of informing the seniors, the workers, or the family members whether there were positive cases.”

Cuomo said the state was doing all that it could do to ensure hospitals were not overburdened at the height of the outbreak and has said repeatedly in recent weeks that if a nursing home was incapable of treating a COVID-19 patient they could contact the state and work something out.

In addition to reversing the earlier directive, Cuomo mandated that all nursing homes in the state must test staff twice a week for the virus.

New York also sent out 320,000 test kits to nursing homes across the state on Monday to assist with the rule.

—New York Daily News


Kentucky couple charged after child porn found on cellphone left behind at store

LEXINGTON, Ky. — A Muhlenberg County couple faces child sexual exploitation charges after police recovered a lost cellphone with child pornography on it, according to Kentucky State Police.

William D. Zguro Jr., 51, and Roseanne L. Zguro, 50, have been charged after William Zguro’s phone was found at Rural King, a farm equipment store in Powderly, according to an arrest citation. The manager of the store who found the phone May 9 opened it to try to identify the owner, according to the citation. When he opened it, he found what “appeared to be child sexual abuse material.”

The manager called the Powderly Police Department, which came and took the phone for evidence, according to the arrest citation and Kentucky State Police. At that point, the state police stepped in, according to the arrest citation.

The findings caused an undercover investigation led by the Kentucky Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. After obtaining a warrant, authorities searched the Zguros’ home Tuesday and seized electronic devices that had child pornography on them, according to KSP and the arrest citation.

Will Zguro told police his wife was aware that he had the material, according to the arrest citation.

Roseanne Zguro admitted that she was aware of the child pornography and that she had watched and looked at it with her husband, according to the arrest citation.

William Zguro was charged with 10 counts of possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 50 years in prison. Roseanne Zguro was charged with one count of the same offense. Both were also charged with unrelated drug possession after police found meth at their home, according to the arrest citation.

—Lexington Herald-Leader


Florida woman stole 113 IDs working at clinics, gets 2 years in prison

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Lake County woman who federal authorities say stole IDs while working at several Florida medical clinics was sentenced to 48 months in prison, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Stacey Lavette Hendricks, 49, of Leesburg pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft and wire fraud charges on Jan. 30.

Federal prosecutors said Hendricks worked administrative jobs at the clinics to gain access to medical records, patient birthdates and Social Security numbers. They said she then sold the stolen identities for cash or used them for herself to defraud businesses.

Hendricks sold stolen patient IDs to an undercover officer in May 2019, the U.S. attorney’s office said, which led to a search of her home and car where authorities found 113 sets of stolen identities.

The case was investigated by United States Secret Service and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney William S. Hamilton with the U.S. Attorney’s Office Middle District of Florida. Hendricks was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore and will serve her time in a federal prison.

—Orlando Sentinel