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[00:00:00]

This is the global news podcast from the BBC World Service. I'm Alex RedZone and 13 hours GMT on Friday, the 21st of August. These are our main stories. The wife of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who's in a coma with possible poisoning, has appealed to President Putin to let her husband be flown abroad for treatment.

[00:00:24]

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana taken off SKYA says the people will never accept President Lukashenko has disputed election victory and president takes no responsibility, refuses to leave, blames others, cozies up to dictators and fanned the flames of hate and division.

[00:00:43]

Joe Biden has made what's widely seen as the speech of his lifetime as he prepares to launch his campaign for the White House. Also in this podcast.

[00:00:54]

The blast has added to the cadastral. Three hospitals have been lost, so the capacity is limited and the situation has been difficult.

[00:01:03]

Lebanon has begun a new coronavirus lockdown as it struggles to recover from the devastating explosion in Beirut's harbor. Nigeria pledges reprisals against any country which bars its citizens because of coronavirus and the seaweed that tackles climate change by stopping cows from burping. As we record this podcast, the Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, remains in a coma after he collapsed on a flight on Thursday, his family believe he was intentionally poisoned, a fate that's apparently befallen many of Vladimir Putin's enemies in the past.

[00:01:43]

They want to take him to Germany to be treated and they've got an air ambulance waiting to take him there. But hospital staff in the city of Omsk have said they found no traces of poison in Mr. Navalny system. Speaking to reporters, Mr. Navalny, his wife, Yulia Nat'l Navalny, expressed her frustration that they refused to hand over Aleksi to be transported.

[00:02:07]

Certainly believe that's being done to make sure that a chemical substance which is in Alexi's body, will dissolve. That's why he's not being handed over to make sure that particles of this substance will dissolve.

[00:02:18]

He's not in a good shape and she's appealed to President Putin to let her husband be flown abroad for treatment. Our correspondent in Moscow is Sarah Rainsford. She told me Mr Navalny, his family, are furious over the hospital's decision.

[00:02:33]

They are alleging that there's some kind of cover up. They do believe that he's been poisoned deliberately. They don't believe the doctors when they say they found no traces of any poison. They are suggesting either they've not looked hard enough or that they're hiding information that they're getting. So they want Mr. Navalny to be transported out of Russia as soon as possible. They say that's partly to get proper treatment, better treatment, access to good equipment and good doctors, but also, of course, to get proper toxicology reports, independent ones, once they say they can trust.

[00:03:02]

So they've been responding and reacting very angrily to what's been happened. This the fact they've been denied access to this air ambulance. That standing by now in Omsk and they say this is all part of a cover up to hide what's happened to him.

[00:03:16]

There's been conflicting information about the cause of his illness. What do we know about what has happened to him?

[00:03:23]

Well, we know he fell very sick very suddenly on board a plane soon after takeoff. We know that he collapsed at the back of that plane. We've seen a video and we've heard his groans of agony. We know that shortly after the plane made an emergency landing, he was already unconscious when he was taken off the plane. He's been in a coma ever since. Now, the doctors said this morning that his condition had improved slightly, although it was still unstable.

[00:03:48]

And that's why they say he's not fit to travel as to the cause of it. Well, they're saying that so far they haven't found traces of any poison, but they said that that theory of poisoning does remain at the back of their minds as they continue their investigations into what's happened. But they say so far, urine and blood samples don't show traces of any poisonous substance. So they're still investigating. They're still still trying to figure out. They say they do have a diagnosis, but they haven't revealed it yet.

[00:04:14]

What does the Kremlin said? Well, the Kremlin has wished Mr. Navalny well. It's pointed out that the decision, as far as it's concerned about whether or not he takes an air ambulance is a decision to be made by the doctors who are treating him. Mr. Peskov, the spokesman for the Kremlin, has said that Mr. Navalny got sick soon after takeoff, that perhaps it's not safe for him to take a flight. He said it's not a political decision.

[00:04:38]

This is all about the doctors on the ground deciding what's safe. And he did say that the German doctors who'd flown in with this air ambulance to Siberia, they had been invited, he said, to the hospital to speak to the doctors treating Mr. Navalny and to see all the information that was available there. So those are things we're waiting to have confirmed from on the ground. But certainly the Kremlin saying there is no political aspect to this. It's all about a medical incident, which so far is unexplained.

[00:05:04]

Our correspondent in Moscow, Sarah Rainsford.

[00:05:08]

There's been a defiant call from the Belarusian opposition politician, Svetlana Chicken, Oscar, for protests against President Alexander Lukashenko to continue in a news conference from neighboring Lithuania. She issued a demand for change in Belarus. Here is some of her address voiced by a translator.

[00:05:28]

Masha overshared superstar. Our common goal is simple to sit with. Every person in the world is entitled to our right to live with them. Now we have a right to receive their right, if not to be imprisoned without trial and the right fair, free and transparent elections.

[00:05:51]

Belarus has been in political crisis after Mr. Lukashenko was re-elected in a poll which was widely dismissed as fraudulent. Mr. Lukashenko has dismissed the allegations and the authorities in Belarus are questioning two members of the opposition. Our correspondent Joanna Fischer is in Minsk. And I asked him what more Mr. Kanaskie skier had to say.

[00:06:14]

Yeah, this is really Svetlana Tikhonov. Skiers attempt to breathe fresh life, fresh momentum into the protest movement here in Minsk. She is, of course, in Lithuania having. Let their last Monday because of fears for her safety, but yes, the key demands you heard there that the violence stop that political prisoners be released. They include, of course, mistaken enough Schiavo's husband and that free, fair and transparent elections be held. She warned President Lukashenko in that address.

[00:06:42]

Anyone who thinks we are lacking in determination is sorely mistaken. Today, Belarus has woken up. Now, that comes ahead of what the opposition is hoping will be a big rally this weekend. You may remember that last Sunday there was an enormous demonstration right here in the center of Minsk. Several hundred thousand people marched through the center. And I think they will be hoping once again this weekend to get similar numbers out and to boost a demonstration movement here that over the last couple of days has plateaued a little bit.

[00:07:14]

Joanna, what more do we know about leading opposition members in Belarus being questioned?

[00:07:19]

Yeah, this is linked to the formation by Mr. Karnofsky of what they call a coordination council, which effectively is a group of writers, journalists, civil society figures, some politicians who are opposition connected. And that has been formed with the the stated desire to negotiate a transition of power from President Lukashenko to the opposition. Yesterday, the authorities here came out and said that they were hoping a criminal case against this council, that it amounted to an illegal attempt to seize power.

[00:07:53]

And today, they're increasing pressure on some of the members of that council by bringing them in for questioning.

[00:07:58]

Jonah Fisher speaking from Minsk.

[00:08:02]

Joe Biden stood on the podium for the fourth and final night of the virtual convention of the US Democratic Party in his acceptance speech as the party's presidential nominee. He criticized Donald Trump and vowed to unite an America torn by crisis and contempt. At 77 years old, Mr. Biden is America's oldest presidential nominee for a major party. And Thursday night's keynote address was the speech of a lifetime for him.

[00:08:32]

As our North America correspondent Nick Bryant reports.

[00:08:37]

This time, this time next year, time next year, I hope that this country realizes that we have, in fact, reclaim the soul of America.

[00:08:44]

This will be remembered as the covid convention featuring the now familiar trappings of virtual life, lots of faces and computerized boxes, the occasional technical hitch.

[00:08:56]

But politically, this week has gone smoothly for the Democrats. In the absence of delegates, it's been easy to project unity.

[00:09:03]

You know, when Donald Trump spoke at his inauguration about American carnage. I assumed that was something he was against, not a campaign promise.

[00:09:12]

Last night's host was the actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who hammered home the Democrats theme of the week, what they see as the total contrast between the character of Joe Biden and the character of Donald Trump.

[00:09:24]

A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer and I was absolutely terrified. One of the first people who called me was Joe, his real warmth and kindness on that call. Man, I got to say, it made me cry.

[00:09:43]

They've been turning this into the empathy election.

[00:09:46]

Joe Biden's empathy is genuine. You can feel it. Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy, they're all on the ballot.

[00:09:57]

Joe Biden is not famed for his oratory when he departs from a teleprompter. He can be rambling, even muddled. But last night, he delivered what's widely being seen as the speech of his long political life.

[00:10:10]

President takes no responsibility, refuses to lead, blames others, cozies up to dictators and fanned the flames of hate and division.

[00:10:21]

He'll wake up every day believing the job is all about him, never about you. Is that the American you want for you, your family, your children?

[00:10:32]

I see a different America in this season of darkness, he claimed to be an ally of the light, we can choose a path to becoming angrier, less hopeful, more divided, a path of shadow and suspicion, or or we can choose a different path. And together, take this chance to heal, to reform, to unite a path of hope and light.

[00:10:56]

Some presidential candidates have offered personal narratives of wartime heroism or immigrant success. But at this time of so much bereavements, Joe Biden tells his story of personal grief.

[00:11:09]

I have some idea how it feels to lose someone you love. I know that deep black hole that opens up in the middle of your chest and you feel like you're being sucked into it. I found the best way through pain and loss and grief is to find purpose.

[00:11:23]

And his purpose right now is to heal this fractured nation history.

[00:11:28]

Be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here tonight. As love and hope and light join in the battle for the soul of the nation, Joe Biden stopped short of framing this election as a battle of good versus evil. But his theme of light and darkness came pretty close at the age of 77. He's not portraying himself as a restless reformer, but rather as a figure of reassurance and redemption.

[00:11:58]

Thank you and may God bless you and may God protect our troops.

[00:12:04]

Our North America correspondent Nick Bryant compiled that report. Lebanon has reimposed a lockdown as it tries to limit a new surge in coronavirus infections. This comes just two weeks after an enormous explosion in Beirut's port which devastated the capital and destroyed vital medical facilities. Abdullah, our ward out as the country director of the United Nations World Food Program in Lebanon before the blast of Beirut airport.

[00:12:35]

And the situation already in Lebanon was really deteriorating in terms of economic and coupled with the covid 19. The blast has added to that to that catastrophe. Three hospitals have been lost. So that capacity is limited. The situation has been difficult.

[00:12:55]

Our correspondent in Beirut, Karin Taulbee, told us more about the lockdown.

[00:13:00]

Most businesses are closed. Some restaurants will remain open only for limited hours. And there is no kind of social activities whatsoever in the country, although there is a curfew imposed from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. the morning. But also the authorities here are really emphasizing on the fact that people have to really show commitment to this, to wearing masks, to social distancing, basically since August four. So August 18, the number the overall number of cases doubled. So in a matter of 15 days, the country registered as many numbers as it has been registering since February when it first detected the first case of coronavirus.

[00:13:44]

So at this rate, the authorities here say things are really spiraling out of control. Second, it's the fact that many, many patients had to be admitted to the ICU because of the injuries sustained because of the blast two weeks ago at the port.

[00:14:00]

Third, there are four main hospitals that were completely damaged once, some of them completely destroyed. So this means we have already less capacity. One of those four hospitals was already the biggest private covid treatment center.

[00:14:16]

Karin Taulbee in Beirut, Lebanon. Human rights officials from the United Nations have met Mali's former president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, and other officials arrested earlier this week after military rebels seized power from the government. A spokesman for the country's opposition said Mr. Kato's fate should be decided by the Malian people. West Africa correspondent is Endou has more.

[00:14:43]

Ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was last seen in a televised video broadcast on Tuesday where he dissolved parliament and resigned after being arrested and taken to the military barracks outside Bamako. The human rights team was given access to Carter and several other officials, although the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as M.A, gave no further information on the condition of those being held yesterday. West African leaders called for the former president to be reinstated. A rally in support of this week's action is expected to take place in Bamako later today.

[00:15:18]

Our West Africa correspondent Chiki is Endou with that report. Still to come in this podcast, in the first half of June, it seemed as though Pakistan's hospitals would be overwhelmed.

[00:15:33]

But instead, after a few weeks, the number of admissions fell dramatically.

[00:15:39]

Now Pakistan appears to be suffering much less than expected from the coronavirus. Northern and central California remain in the grip of multiple wildfires following a record breaking heat wave and subsequent thunderstorms. As Jonathan Savidge reports, thousands of lives and homes are at risk.

[00:16:05]

It's a haunting sound, the crackle of wildfire. What you can't see is the burning brush, motor vehicle skeletons silhouetted in orange and black. These are the Santa Cruz Mountains to the south of San Francisco. The fire here is widespread. It is not under control.

[00:16:22]

The fire is now at 40000 acres. There is still zero percent containment on the fire.

[00:16:28]

Deputy Fire Chief Jonathan Cox outlined the threat from 8600 structures that are actively threatened by this by the fire. We believe we have over 20000 people that have been evacuated or in the evacuation area of the fire.

[00:16:42]

They're calling it the CSU lightning complex, a reference to the incendiary thunderstorms that set much of the region ablaze. Chris Clark is the chief deputy at the Santa Cruz sheriff's office.

[00:16:54]

I couldn't stress more the importance of leaving when those orders come out. I really can't. There are people that are unaccounted for that we are looking to try to determine where they are. And so I stress that because with this fire, you just don't know how things are going to go. You know, if an order goes out again, it's for it's for a good reason and you need to leave.

[00:17:18]

California knows all about wildfires. Last year, over 100000 hectares were affected. This time, more than 60000 people have been forced from their homes and four are known to have died. They include a utility worker helping clear electrical hazards for first responders and the pilot of a firefighting helicopter killed in a crash during a water dropping mission in Fresno County. Collectively, an area twice the size of New York City has been scorched so far. The effort to silence the outbreak goes on.

[00:17:51]

Jonathan Savidge with that report.

[00:17:54]

The Nigerian government has said that in an act of reciprocity, it will bar entry to citizens of countries that have barred Nigerians due to coronavirus restrictions.

[00:18:05]

The European Union is among those who've stopped entry of people from the West African nation. Nigeria has said it will resume international flights on the 29th of August. Chris Ishioka reports from Abuja.

[00:18:18]

A spokesman for the Aviation Ministry, Mr. James Daouda, told the BBC that the position of the government is that only airlines from countries that allow flights from Nigeria would be allowed to fly into and out of the country. He explained that the government has taken note of the ban by some countries on flights from Nigeria. Therefore, the tit for tat policy would be enforced and interest of its citizens. Nigeria is a major route and destination for countries across the world.

[00:18:47]

However, it is not clear yet which countries will be affected. It's also uncertain how the decision would make such countries rescind their ban of Nigerian flights. Meanwhile, the head of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority said when international flights resume next week, only a few flights a day would be permitted as a test run for the protocols put in place to ensure a safe return to international operations.

[00:19:14]

Chris Walker in Abuja.

[00:19:17]

In Pakistan, initial fears that the country's overcrowded cities would see high numbers of coronavirus deaths don't appear to have materialized.

[00:19:26]

It's left public health experts surprised and trying to establish why even the government hadn't predicted cases would fall so quickly.

[00:19:35]

But as the country opens up its economy further, there are warnings new spikes could still occur. Secunda Kermani reports.

[00:19:47]

Diners at a streetside restaurant in Islamabad look relaxed as they enjoy one of their first meals out four months when a partial lockdown began in March. Customers were only allowed to collect food to take away. But now nearly all of the country's coronavirus restrictions have been lifted as new cases and deaths have dropped significantly.

[00:20:12]

In the first half of June, it seemed as though Pakistan's hospitals would be overwhelmed, but instead, after a few weeks, the number of admissions fell dramatically.

[00:20:24]

Dr. Nassir Mukta has been leading the coronavirus response at one of Islamabad's largest hospitals, the number of cases who are hospitalized because they have dramatically reduced so many beds, that language previously they used to have no bed available.

[00:20:40]

So could this country, despite its weak health care system, have escaped the worst of coronavirus per million of the population?

[00:20:49]

Pakistan has had far fewer covid-19 deaths and cases than the UK and other Western countries, and it seems its major cities have even fared better than those in neighboring India. That's despite Prime Minister Imran Khan reluctance to order a strict lockdown.

[00:21:07]

We still have to be careful about the spread of the virus. But on the other hand, unless we open up our economy, we we have millions facing starvation.

[00:21:20]

But can we trust the data on the impact of coronavirus in Pakistan?

[00:21:26]

Graveyards in major cities have seen significant rises in burials that can't be explained by recorded coronavirus death alone. But even accounting for them by international standards, Pakistan's death rate seems low. And while testing has been limited, the number of tests which come back positive has also been decreasing, suggesting there's definitely been a drop in cases. Dr Rana Jawad, USCA, is a leading epidemiologist.

[00:21:56]

Pakistan has a much younger population, the younger age group, 65 years and above, which is the most vulnerable group for complications of coronavirus. Pakistan has just less than four percent of that population growth compared to the US and other countries. They have this group of around 20 to 25 percent wider in outbreaks also has an important factor, which is how big is the social circle of the population? It is impacting our social circles. How many people we see on a daily basis is very limited in Pakistan or in developing countries.

[00:22:36]

There's still much we don't know about the virus. And as Pakistan reopens with restaurants filling up domestic tourists surging towards more rural beauty spots, the possibility of new outbreaks is very real.

[00:22:50]

Secunda comany with that report. Australia's National Science Agency is joining a new commercial venture to feed livestock with a type of seaweed said to cut animal greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 percent. The country's science minister called the feed additive an environmental game changer.

[00:23:12]

I got more details from Phil Mercer, who's in Sydney.

[00:23:16]

This discovery was made quite a long time ago by a farmer in Canada. He noticed that his cattle, who were in a field bordered by the sea, were more productive than others. They grew faster and were healthier. And Australian researchers eventually got involved and investigated the impact of seaweeds and what they found. The results, they say, were so impressive that they thought their equipment was broken. So that was quite a few years ago, leading to many years of research and today's announcement that this particular product could be on its way to Australian dairy and beef producers by the middle of next year.

[00:23:57]

So to put it crudely, then, the cow is far less.

[00:24:01]

Well, therein lies one of the misconceptions, according to Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the CSIRO, they say that most methane from cows, about 90 per cent, actually comes from burps, the rest from flatulence. What it means is that methane, according to government researchers here, is a greenhouse gas that is 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. And it's estimated that a fifth of all of the world's entire greenhouse gases come from livestock production.

[00:24:37]

So the hope is that if this particular product is used by just 10 percent of the world's beef and dairy producers, it would have the same impact on the climate as taking 50 million cars off the roads or 120 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions a year. So they are pretty significant figures.

[00:25:00]

Phil Mercer speaking to me from Sydney. Finally, we heard earlier in this podcast about the sufferings of the people of Lebanon following the massive explosion in Beirut harbour. Members of the global Lebanese diaspora have snapped into action to help their homeland.

[00:25:19]

Among them, the pop star Mika, whose planned a benefit concert next month to be streamed live online.

[00:25:27]

Mika told the BBC what he felt when he saw the devastation.

[00:25:31]

Seeing those, quite frankly, apocalyptic explosions on Twitter, on Instagram and circulating, everyone was just kind of horrifying. It brought back so much imagery from all those years of civil war. What made it so much more difficult is that over the past few months, we've all been hearing about how bad the situation was getting in Lebanon economically, political strife, poverty levels going up. So this was really the last thing anyone expected. It's quite devastating, quite reads this rush of sadness that went around the world.

[00:26:05]

And so many people remember how much suffering happened during that civil war and it just brought it all back. I was born in Beirut. My mother is Lebanese, Syrian. I was born in 1983, and we left two years later and we ended up in Paris, then London, where I grew up. All these Lebanese immigrants, myself included, we our families took with us parts of Lebanon. And even though I never went back to live there, it's still so much a part of our household.

[00:26:31]

The singer maker and his I Love Beirut benefit concert will be live streamed on YouTube on the 19th of September.

[00:26:42]

And that's all from us for now. But there'll be an updated version of the Global News podcast later. If you want to comment on this edition or any of the topics we've covered in it, send us an email. The address is Global Podcast at BBC, Dot Siao Dot UK. I'm Alex Ritson and until next time, goodbye.