Antony Blinken: US will respond to reckless Russian acts

A woman walks her dogs in front of a graffiti depicting jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny in Saint Petersburg, Russia April 28, 2021

The US secretary of state has told the BBC that the US will respond to reckless or aggressive acts by Russia.

Antony Blinken said the US was focused in US state actions – such as the treatment of opposition figure Alexei Navalny, the Solar Winds hack and election interference.

“We would prefer a more stable and predictable relationship,” he said.

Mr Blinken was in the UK for a meeting of foreign ministers of the G7 group of industrialised nations.

A communique issued after the two-day talks criticised Moscow for its “irresponsible and destabilising behaviour”, particularly against Ukraine, and for cyber-attacks.

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny is being held in a prison in Siberia

Back in February US President Joe Biden said, in more headline-grabbing terms, that he had made it clear to President Vladimir Putin “that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions… are over.”

His predecessor Donald Trump had at times seemed to avoid criticising the Russian leader.

Mr Blinken told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that the Biden administration was not trying to hold China back, stressing that the US was in favour of upholding a rules-based international system.

He said countries needed to look very carefully to see if China was investing in their strategic assets.

Afghan soldiers prepare for an operation to recapture a military base that Taliban had overrun, in Arezo village, Ghazni, Afghanistan, 02 May 2021.

The Afghan army is still battling Taliban attacks

The US has started formally withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan after almost 20 years. Mr Blinken said the US was “staying in the game” however, remaining engaged with the country.

He said Afghanistan’s neighbours might now have to “step up” and use their influence to try and keep it on a positive path.

What about Northern Ireland?

Asked about a possible trade deal with the UK and the situation in Northern Ireland, Mr Blinken said peace in Ireland remained something that the administration was very focused on.

The secretary of state said that for President Biden it was important that “whatever is done, whatever we do, the gains of the Good Friday Agreement are sustained and we have the political and economic well-being of Northern Ireland in mind”.

Joe Biden has previously said that Brexit must not endanger the Good Friday Agreement.

Post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland have led to tensions there and contributed to the recent resignation of First Minister Arlene Foster.

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Utah mom who gave birth on flight to Hawaii didn’t know she was pregnant

Utah mom who gave birth on flight to Hawaii didn’t know she was pregnant

Lavinia “Lavi” Mounga had no idea a baby was coming when she went into labor on a flight from her home in Utah to Honolulu last week.

“I just didn’t know I was pregnant, and then this guy just came out of nowhere,” Mounga said during a video interview with Hawaii Pacific Health.

The baby boy, Raymond Mounga, arrived early at just 29 weeks while mom was traveling to Hawaii for vacation with her family.

Dr. Dale Glenn, a Hawaii Pacific Health family medicine physician, along with Lani Bamfield, Amanda Beeding and Mimi Ho — neonatal intensive care unit nurses from North Kansas City Hospital — were also on the plane and helped the new mother and baby.

“Yeah, just overwhelming and just nice that there was three NICU nurses on the plane and a doctor that were able to help stabilize him and make sure that he was OK,” Mounga said.

When deciding on a name, Mounga’s father suggested “Glenn,” in honor of the doctor who helped her during the flight.

“Names are pretty important in our culture,” said Mounga, who is Tongan. “I didn’t really want to name him Glenn.”

Instead she asked Dr. Glenn, who gave his adopted children Hawaiian middle names, for a suggestion. He offered “Kaimana,” which is now one of the boy’s middle names.

The child will have to stay in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit he is full term, about another 10 weeks, Mounga said.

“The aloha spirit is definitely felt here,” she said about the care she has received in Hawaii.

“It’s very different from the mainland,” Mounga said. “It just feels comforting, and everyone is willing to help.”

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Captain allegedly behind deadly San Diego boat wreck involving illegal immigrants charged in federal court

Wreckage and debris from a capsized boat washes ashore at Cabrillo National Monument near where a boat capsized just off the San Diego coast Sunday, May 2, 2021, in San Diego.

A man who was the alleged pilot of a boat that was smuggling immigrants when it broke apart off San Diego’s coast, resulting in three deaths on Sunday, has been charged in federal court.  

Investigators say Antonio Hurtado, a U.S. citizen, was piloting the boat. He was arrested on suspicion of bringing in or harboring illegal immigrants and assaulting a U.S. Border Patrol agent, according to the affidavit obtained by Fox News. 

Wreckage and debris from a capsized boat washes ashore at Cabrillo National Monument near where a boat capsized just off the San Diego coast Sunday, May 2, 2021, in San Diego.

Investigators said in the affidavit filed Tuesday in federal court in San Diego that the agent was not seriously injured but a knee to his head left a red mark. 

A total of 33 people were pulled from the water after the 40-foot trawling-style boat smashed into rocks and broke apart Sunday, tossing people into the rough sea off Cabrillo National Monument. Besides the three who died, two others were hospitalized, including one in critical condition. 


Hurtado was treated in a hospital and turned over to immigration authorities. Twenty-one passengers identified Hurtado in a photo lineup as the captain of the vessel. His lawyer, Melissa Bobrow, was not available for comment on behalf of her client. 

The migrants told investigators they paid $15,000 to $18,000 each to be smuggled into the U.S. on the boat. All but one were Mexican citizens, including two 15-year-olds – a boy and a girl – who were traveling alone. A Guatemalan man remains hospitalized.


Maria Eugenia Chavez Segovia, 41; Maricela Hernandez Sanchez, 35; and Victor Perez Degollado, 29, drowned after suffering blunt-force injuries to their heads, according to the San Diego County medical examiner’s office. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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US birth rate falls 4% to its lowest point ever

Mother with her newborn baby in the hospital

The downward trend in birth rates in the US has been seen throughout the world

The American birth rate fell for the sixth consecutive year in 2020, with the lowest number of babies born since 1979, according to a new report.

Some 3.6 million babies were born in the US in 2020 – marking a 4% decline from the year before, found the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics.

The slump was seen across all recorded ethnicities and origins, according to the findings.

The national picture mirrors a decline in births seen worldwide, a trend some experts say has been accelerated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

What’s in the report?

In the CDC report, demographers examined the country’s general fertility rate, which compares the number of live births with the number of women considered to be of childbearing age – between 15 and 44 years old.

In 2020, the general fertility rate in the US was about 56 births per 1,000 women – the lowest rate on record and about half of what it was in the early 1960s.

The decline in birth rates was seen across all measured racial and ethnic groups. Births dropped by 4% among white, black and Latina women, 9% for Asian women, 3% for Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders and 7% for Native American and Alaska native women.

The report also analysed the total US fertility rate, which estimates how many babies a hypothetical group of 1,000 women would have over their lifetime based on actual birth rates. For a generation to exactly replace itself, this number must be at or above 2.1.

According to the CDC, this rate has generally been “below replacement” since 1971 and has consistently been below replacement since 2007. Today, the US total fertility rate sits at 1.6 – another record low.

What’s behind the drop?

Experts say the country’s tumbling birth rate is closely linked to the average age of American mothers. Women are becoming mothers later in life – a phenomenon tied to increases in educational attainment, growing labour force participation and delays in marriage, according to the Pew Research Center. The average age of mothers at first birth is 27, up from 23 in 2010, recent CDC data has found.

This changing picture of motherhood has been driven in part by declines in pregnancy among teenagers. The birth rates among teenagers aged 15-19 had the steepest decline of all age groups: down by 8% in 2020 to around 15 births per 1,000 females.

The National Center for Health Statistics has said it is too early to determine whether the pandemic had a significant effect on birth rates because this year’s data is in keeping with past trends. But initial research suggests that Covid-19 may have compounded existing patterns.

In a June 2020 study by the Guttmacher Institute, one in three US women said that because of Covid-19, they were likely to delay having children or have fewer children altogether. And researchers from the Brookings Institution – who predicted a “large, lasting baby bust” due to Covid-19 – have suggested that the anxiety and economic uncertainty wrought by the pandemic will further depress birth rates going forward.

Data from the CDC shows births falling most sharply toward the end of last year when babies conceived at the start of the pandemic would have been born.

What’s the global picture?

The slowing US birth rate is echoed by worldwide trends.

While wealthy countries like Germany and Japan have seen slowing birth rates for some time, the same is now happening in middle-income countries as well, including Thailand and Brazil. Globally, the fertility rate is expected to fall below replacement levels – 2.1 births per woman – by 2070, according to a 2019 report from the UN.

By the end of this century, the report found, the world’s population is projected to virtually stop growing for the first time in history. And a widely cited study published in the Lancet last year suggested this population peak would come even earlier – in 2064.

Between 2020 and 2100, 90 countries are expected to lose population, including two-thirds of all countries and territories in Europe. According to the UN numbers, Africa is the only region in the world projected to have strong population growth for the rest of the 21st Century – mostly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa.

Similar to trends in the US, the UN has linked falling fertility rates and population growth to gradual delays in childbearing among women. Though the mean age of childbearing varies widely throughout the world, overall increases will continue to lower fertility rates and global population growth in turn.

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2 Bay Area men sentenced to life in prison for slaying of Italian police officer

2 Bay Area men sentenced to life in prison for slaying of Italian police officer

A jury in Rome on Wednesday convicted two American friends in the 2019 slaying of a police officer in a tragic unraveling of a small time drug deal gone bad, sentencing them to life in prison.

The jury deliberated more than 12 hours before delivering the verdicts against Finnegan Lee Elder, 21, and Gabriel Natale Hjorth, 20, handing them Italy’s stiffest sentence.

Elder and Natale-Hjorth were indicted on charges of homicide, attempted extortion, assault, resisting a public official and carrying an attack-style knife without just cause. They were found guilty of all counts.

The slain officer’s widow, who held a photo of her dead husband while waiting for the verdict, sobbed and hugged his brother, Paolo.

The defendants were led immediately out of the courtroom after the verdicts were read. As Elder was being walked out, his father Ethan Elder called out, “Finnegan, I love you.”

  • Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, right, talks to his co-defendant Finnegan Lee Elder, before a jury began deliberating their fate as they are on trial for the slaying of an Italian plainclothes police officer on a street near the hotel where they were staying while on vacation in summer 2019, in Rome, on May 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Prosecutors alleged that Elder stabbed Vice Bridgadier Mario Cerciello Rega 11 times with a knife that he brought with him on his trip to Europe from California and that Natale-Hjorth helped him hide the knife in their hotel room.

The July 26, 2019, killing of the officer from the storied Carabinieri paramilitary police corps shocked Italy. Cerciello Rega, 35, was mourned as a national hero. His widow, brother and partner were in the courtroom as the jury went into deliberations.

The two Californians were allowed out of steel-barred defendant cages inside the courtroom to sit with their lawyers before the case went to the jury, which consisted of presiding judge Finiti, a second judge and six civilian jurors.

“I’m stressed,” Elder said to one of his lawyers. Just before the brief court appearance, Elder took a crucifix he wears on a chain around his neck and kissed it. He also turned to his codefendant, Natale-Hjorth, and held out the crucifix toward him through a glass partition, motioning heavenward.

Elder was joined in the courtroom by his parents. He and his father crossed their fingers toward each other for good luck after the jury went to deliberate. Natale-Hjorth was greeted by his Italian uncle, who lives in Italy.

Cerciello Rega had recently returned from a honeymoon when he was assigned along with a plainclothes police partner, officer Andrea Varriale, to follow up on a reported extortion attempt.

Prosecutors contend the young Americans concocted a plot involving a stolen bag and cellphone after their failed attempt to buy cocaine with 80 euros ($96) in Rome’s Trastevere nightlife district. Natale-Hjorth and Elder testified they had paid for the cocaine but didn’t receive it.

Both defendants contended they acted in self-defense.

During the trial, which began on Feb. 26, 2020, the Americans told the court they thought that Cerciello Rega and Varriale were thugs or mobsters out to assault them on a dark, deserted street. The officers wore casual summer clothes and not uniforms, and the defendants insisted the officers never showed police badges.

Under Italian law, an accomplice in an alleged murder can also be charged with murder even without materially doing the slaying. Prosecutor Maria Sabina Calabretta has demanded life imprisonment for both defendants.

Varriale, who suffered a back injury in a scuffle with Natale-Hjorth while his partner was grappling with Elder, testified that the officers did identify themselves as Carabinieri.

At the time of the slaying, Elder was 19 and traveling through Europe without his family, while Natale-Hjorth, then 18, was spending the summer vacation with his Italian grandparents, who live near Rome. Former schoolmates from the San Francisco Bay area, the two had met up in Rome for what was supposed to be couple of days of sightseeing and nights out.

Prosecutors alleged that Elder thrust a seven-inch (18-centimeter) military-style attack knife repeatedly into Cerciello Rega, who bled profusely, like a “fountain,” Varriale had testified, and died shortly after in hospital.

Elder told the court that the heavy-set Cerciello Rega, scuffling with him, was on top of him on the ground, and he feared that he was being strangled. Elder said he pulled out the knife and stabbed him to avoid being killed, and when the officer didn’t immediately let him go, he stabbed again.

After the stabbing, the Americans ran to their hotel room, where, according to Natale-Hjorth, Elder cleaned the knife and then asked him to hide it. Natale-Hjorth testified that he hid the knife behind a ceiling panel in their room, where it was discovered hours later by police.

The defendants had told the court that several hours before the stabbing, they attempted to buy cocaine in the Trastevere nightlife district of Rome. With the intervention of a go-between, they paid a dealer, but instead of cocaine they received an aspirin-like tablet.

Before Natale-Hjorth could confront the dealer, a separate Carabinieri patrol in the neighborhood intervened, and all scattered. The Americans snatched the go-between’s knapsack in reprisal, and used a cellphone that was inside to set up a meeting with the goal of exchanging the bag and the phone for the cash they had lost in the bad drug deal.

Meanwhile, Cerciello Rega, wearing a T-shirt and long shorts, and Varriale, in a polo shirt and jeans, headed out to follow up on what was described as a small-scale extortion attempt. They didn’t carry their service pistols.

From practically its start, the trial largely boiled down to the word of Varriale against that of the young American visitors. The victim’s widow, Rosa Maria Esilio, would sit in the front row, often clutching a photo of her husband. Photos of the newlyweds, with Cerciello Rega in his dress uniform, after their wedding, were widely displayed in Italian media after the slaying.

As the trial neared its end, one of Elder’s defense lawyers, Renato Borzone, argued in court that deep-set psychiatric problems, including a constant fear of being attacked, figured in the fatal stabbing. Borzone told the court his client saw a world filled with enemies due to psychiatric problems and that something “short-circuited” when Elder was confronted by the officer.

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Ex-NBA player Jay Williams on LeBron James saying he won’t get back to 100%: ‘Never heard MJ say’ that

Ex-NBA player Jay Williams on LeBron James saying he won't get back to 100%: 'Never heard MJ say' that

Former NBA player and ESPN analyst Jay Williams took aim at Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James this week over comments he made about not ever returning to “100%” after his injury, saying it’s not something NBA great Michal Jordan would have ever said. 

Williams said on ESPN radio Wednesday that while he still believes James is the greatest of all time, he’s conflicted after hearing him say in his first game back since suffering a high-ankle sprain six weeks ago that “it’s impossible” to get back to where he was, health-wise. 


“I think that LeBron James is the greatest player of all time. I’ve said it, I still stand by it but hearing LeBron talk about this the other day … as a guy who played for the (Chicago) Bulls, who’s watched Michael Jordan for a long time, I’ve never heard MJ say something like that,” Williams said.

“MJ just wouldn’t say anything at all.”


James returned Friday after injuring his right leg, an injury that sidelined him for 20 games over six weeks, which is by far the most time he has missed in his career due to an injury.

James said he felt “OK” after the game, but added that he felt a little tightness and that’s when he said he may never be 100% healthy again.

“I knew I wasn’t going to get back to 100%. It’s impossible,” James said via ESPN. “I don’t think I will ever get back to 100% in my career.”


LeBron James did not play against the Denver Nuggets on Monday after he left due to ankle soreness during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Fox News’ Daniel Canova contributed to this report.

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