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Hello, this is the global news podcast from the BBC World Service with reports and analysis from across the world. The latest news, seven days a week. BBC World Service podcasts are supported by advertising.


This is the Global News podcast from the BBC World Service. I'm Alex Ritson. And at 14 hours GMT on Friday, the 5th of February, these are our main stories.


Russian Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny faces fresh charges days after being jailed for failing to meet parole conditions due to his poisoning.


Joe Biden signals big changes in U.S. foreign policy that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia's aggressive actions, interfering with our elections, cyber attacks, poisoning its citizens are over.


And we have a report from Bulgaria where the pandemic has made life even harder for the Roma minority.


Also in this podcast, the impact of Hong Kong's new security law on the city's schoolchildren is the shadow of covid-19 lifting from the Australian Open and grayish brown and spackled. The mailman, a chameleon, is just 22 millimeters from nose to tail about the size of a sunflower seed.


Scientists discover the world's smallest chameleon. As we record this podcast, Russia's leading opposition figure is back in court just days after being jailed on a separate charge. Alexei Navalny, who returned to Russia this month after recovering from his poisoning by a nerve agent last year, is accused of slandering a 90 year old Second World War veteran. He denies the charge. Mr. Navalny, his lawyer, told a Moscow court that the aim of the criminal persecution, as he put it, was to prevent his client from standing in parliamentary and presidential elections.


Our Moscow correspondent Sarah Rainsford told me about the latest court case.


It's a really extraordinary court hearing because there's a war veteran in his 90s appearing via video link to the court. Mr Navalny himself in a glass cage inside the court room. And he's being accused of having defamed this veteran by a reference to a video that was made of promoting the changes to the Constitution back in the summer, which ultimately boiled down to allowing Vladimir Putin to remain president for another two terms. It was a controversial move at the time. And Mr Navalny, of course, is one of the biggest critics of these amendments.


He criticized this video, which the veteran appeared in, and he called all of those people involved in the video corrupt lackeys. He said they were traitors and a shame of the nation. And after that, somebody complained to investigators who then opened a case. So now this veteran is claiming to have been very upset and very offended at the words saying that it made him ill and that he wanted Mr Navalny punished, particularly offended. Apparently, I haven't been called a traitor.


Mr Advani says he doesn't know this man personally. He never knew him. It was never meant to be personal, but that he stands by his words about the constitutional amendments and about the video itself.


And could Mr Navalny see himself punished for this?


Well, his lawyers say the most he would get would be a fine or community service because the law has been changed to include a prison sentence as a potential punishment. But Mr Nirvanas alleged offence was committed before that change to the law. He is, of course, though already in jail. He was sentenced this week to two years and eight months behind bars for another case, in that case, a fraud case. So difficult for him doing extra prison time.


But certainly it's another case with a very high profile critic of Mr Putin up in court.


Sarah Rainsford speaking to me from Moscow. President Biden has turned his attention from the domestic crises facing the United States to his country's place in the world. And speaking at the State Department, he left little doubt that it's all change in Washington.


Yesterday, the United States and Russia agreed to extend the new START treaty for five years to preserve the only remaining treaty between our countries safeguarding nuclear stability. At the same time, I made it clear to President Putin in a manner very different from my predecessor, that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia's aggressive actions, interfering with our elections, cyber attacks, poisoning its citizens are over. We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests and our people.


Strong rhetoric from Mr Biden. So what is the world to make of his world view? A question for the veteran diplomatic commentator Jonathan Marcus.


Clearly, America's friends, America's allies around the world, liberal democracies will view the new president's vision with great anticipation, some unease, because they know how divided America is still. And they also know the scale of the problems facing President Biden. But that rather nice phrase to use the rebuilding the muscle of Democratic alliances that have atrophied over the past few years due to neglect and as he put it, abuse that will be seen very warmly in foreign ministries among friendly nations.


The difficulty, of course, is that there is a reticence because nobody knows what America is going to look like in four years. America's friends wish Mr Biden well, but there must always be that lingering desire to hedge their bets. That hesitation that perhaps the kind of Trump ism Mark two might return in four years time.


And Jonathan, there's an inbuilt tension here, isn't there? On the one hand, he says he wants to challenge more authoritarian regimes, but at the same time, he says he wants to work collaboratively with other countries. Well, indeed.


Look, foreign policy is about interests. And I mean, clearly, countries as disparate as China, Russia and the United States have common interests. If you look at dealing with the pandemic, although the pandemic has hardly been a great rallying call among nations, clearly climate change, that's another huge issue at the top of President Biden's agenda. But it is going to be difficult. You heard there in that clip President Biden talking about the decision to extend the start arms.


Control treaty, that may well be the high point of relations between Russia and Mr. Biden's administration. It could be downhill from here on many of the bilateral issues, human rights and so on. And of course, with China, the relationship is even more complex. I mean, Russia is not really a rival to the United States. China is across a whole range of domains, technological, strategic, scientific thought, power and so on. And China is really the huge, multifaceted challenge facing President Biden's foreign policy.


Jonathan Marcus, the South Korean trade minister, you mean he has withdrawn her candidacy for the leadership of the World Trade Organization? It opens the way for Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to become its first woman leader. And first African Director General Andrew Walker reports.


The WTO member countries always try to make decisions, including the choice of a director general by consensus. There was strong support for the Nigerian candidate, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. But as a meeting in October, the United States, still led by Donald Trump, opposed her giving it support instead to the Korean. The selection process has, in effect been suspended during the US election and the subsequent transition, assuming he has now withdrawn, saying she has consulted other countries, including the US.


That leaves the Nigerian is the only remaining candidate, although the Biden administration has not indicated whether it would support her.


Andrew Walker. Roma communities are already some of the most marginalised in Europe. They often live in overcrowded, segregated settlements and face widespread discrimination. But now the pandemic has left many Roma completely cut off from society, unable to get work and struggling to access any government support. Europe correspondent Jean McKenzie has spent time in one Roma settlement in Bulgaria.


You can see from here the neighborhood myself points across a railway line to the shabby, isolated settlement where he's lived since he was born to get inside, we had under the tracks through a dark, dank tunnel.


This is the only one entrance and exit at the beginning of the pandemic.


The local authority locked up this tunnel and stop people from leaving.


When we talk about our problems, other people think that we're all over exaggerating things. But no, we really live in the jungle.


Musharraf is taking me into the heart of the settlement now.


It's the size of a small town. 25000 people live here, but it's more like a slum.


You don't have water. Usually we don't have electricity. We don't have infrastructure. We don't have roads.


As we get deeper into the settlements, the alleyways become narrow and the concrete ground gives way to thick mud. There are huge puddles of water and sewage.


A woman shouts atonce over a sea of sewage. Even dogs can't live like this, she bellows. We don't have toilets. People throw their waste outside.


At one point, the community was even blamed for an outbreak of the virus. And so that casual work has dried up and many are struggling to access any government support. I've come to meet Mitko and his two young sons. Their home is little more than a room with three beds.


My name is Hinako. My name is Jean. Their mother died last month. The grief is etched on their hungry faces. Because daughter. We can barely afford to eat, Mitko tells me we're in a very bad situation. No one is helping us. How do you plan to get by now? My plan, we don't have a plan.


He says if we eat, we live.


The Bulgarian government says it's working with communities to identify and support those in need, providing them with food parcels and additional teaching. There has been no discrimination, it says, but here they need convincing.


Still, the state is not considering us like citizens. I believe that the state is like a model for us. You know, she should think about us, should help us when we are in need and it's not happening.


Misha, a Bulgarian Roma, ending that report by Jean Mackenzie. The consultancy firm McKinsey has agreed to pay about 570 million dollars to settle claims by US states over its role in the country's opioid crisis and in particular, the advice it gave to pharmaceutical companies. The payments will be made over four years. James Copnall found out more on this story from journalist Chris McGreal, who's written a book called American Overdose The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts.


Over the past two decades, about 600000 Americans have been killed by opioids, and millions more become addicted, both to prescription narcotic painkillers and to illegal drugs such as heroin. The wave of addiction began with the prescription painkillers, largely because the drug companies were pushing out very powerful painkillers, narcotic drugs, opioids as a kind of easy pill to solve all kinds of pain problems. And it created a demand in America that you really didn't see in any other country, which is why this opioid epidemic there has been so damaging to the country is really a uniquely American phenomenon.


Where then does a consultancy firm, McKinsey, come into this? So they came in as advisers to some of the biggest of the drug manufacturers, principally Purdue Pharma, which really began the whole opioid wave with a drug called OxyContin, a very, very powerful narcotic that was mis sold to the public as a very safe drug that you couldn't become addicted to and more effective than other opioids. And they back in 2007, Purdue Pharma paid six hundred million dollar fine for selling that drug.


But by then it was too late as the narcotics industry, so to speak, the painkiller industry took hold. And as the alarm bells began to ring about it, Purdue Pharma and another big drug maker, Johnson Johnson, turned to McKinsey for advice on how to target the sales without getting into trouble and actually how to compete with each other. This company, McKinsey, was in effect advising two rivals, and that's where it steps in. He goes for a much more targeted operation to, in the words of one of their sales advice programs, McKinsey promised to turbo charge the sales of OxyContin, which it duly did.


The company hasn't admitted responsibility, but it has agreed to pay well, close to 600 million dollars, which is a huge amount of money for almost everybody. Is it for a company? A huge amount of money for a company like McKinsey? No, I think it isn't.


I think lots of people regard it as the cost of doing business. We've seen very large payouts by all kinds of companies involved in this epidemic. And there's going to be a lot more. And I think that they will regard this as as a way of kind of putting the matter to rest and moving on, which is in essence what a lot of the industry involved in this has done, whether it's the drug manufacturers or the distributors who at this moment are trying to negotiate similar deals.


But it is a lot of money for the states involved. This is going to every state except Nevada, and they're dealing with the consequences of of overdose addiction. When you have a crisis like this, an epidemic like this, the biggest drug epidemic in American history, the consequences aren't just dead bodies. They are abandoned children. The pressure on social services is enormous. And this costs states a lot of money and they're desperate for the money.


Author and journalist Chris McGreal speaking to James Copnall.


Still to come in this edition of our podcast, even the slightest change in air pollution is going to affect our lungs and how we feel when we're racing and training. It would be a big concern for me.


Fears over air quality add to human rights concerns ahead of next year's Winter Olympics in Beijing. Teachers and children as young as six are about to find themselves on the frontline of China's tough new security policy in Hong Kong. That's the upshot of new education guidelines issued by the authorities in the former British colony. This sounds, on the face of it, draconian. So what does it involve? I found out from our Asia Pacific regional editor, Celia Hatton.


This is really to address concerns by the authorities, fuelled by Beijing, that young people have really been at the forefront of pro-democracy protests that have swept Hong Kong in recent years. And so, yes, these new education guidelines have two main goals. First, they want to teach the law and really instill the focus of this new national security law in children as young as six who will be taught to list the four crimes that go into the that that constitute the law from terrorism to collusion with foreign forces all the way up to teenagers who will be told to use real world examples to focus on exactly what constitutes an offence under the law at the law is also going to focus on teachers and it's going to turn teachers into monitors.


They're going to be told to monitor students and they're going to be forced to report any behaviour that they see that really is considered to be a dissent.


Now, under the new law, any signs of support for the pro-democracy movement, which has been outlawed away from what these changes will mean for children and teachers, how big an impact is this going to have on what remains of Hong Kong's autonomous cultural identity?


Well, it really is attacking one of the things that people in Hong Kong are most proud of their education system. It's rated consistently as being one of the best in the world. After Hong Kong was handed back to China by the British, Hong Kong really sought to to to make its education system very, very special. It took away a lot of the exams instituted by the British and tried to get children to use real world examples in order to broaden their learning.


And that's resulted in one of the most high profile education systems in the world. So now that these guidelines are being imposed on these schools, critics say that's going to breed fear in Hong Kong schools and it's really going to wipe out what makes them special.


Our Asia Pacific regional editor, Celia Hatton. All the attention has been on the delayed Olympics in Tokyo, but this time next year, the Winter Games in Beijing will be underway. Preparations have been going well. Despite the pandemic, however, new research from the Chinese capital has shown dangerously high levels of air pollution during the month of February. Human rights groups, meanwhile, have called for a boycott. The world we could. Congress has described Beijing 2022 as the genocide games.


Sports news correspondent Alex Capstick has the details.


The grandiose opening ceremony in 2008, and in 12 months time, Beijing will be doing it all over again to become the first city to host both the summer and Winter Olympics.


And some of the issues in staging such a high profile sports event in and around the Chinese capital will sound familiar.


The higher you look, the worse it gets. This is the air that Beijing woke up to this morning, just one month before the games begin.


This report was during the buildup 13 years ago, and Beijing's dirty air is once again causing problems.


I'm very concerned about the air quality in Beijing, to be frank.


If I were Dr. Madelin or is the co-author of a study due to be published in the academic journal Sport and Society, in the last few years, we've seen between seven to 15 days in the month of February of what we would call poor or up to hazardous air quality.


The challenge for athletes with air quality is they are at higher risk.


It's especially concerning for endurance athletes like these skiers sliding across the snow in the biathlon, a mix of cross-country and shooting. Among them, the US Olympian Maddy Phaneuf, who hopes to compete in Beijing next year. She also represents an organization called Protect Our Winters.


Obviously, we're an endurance sport and we're breathing pretty heavily during our competitions. It's enough where even the slightest change in the air pollution is going to affect our lungs and how we feel when we're racing and training. Yeah, it is challenging and it would be a big concern for me if they didn't clean up.


There have also been long standing concerns around Beijing's suitability for winter sports, basically that there's not very much snow and that will have a big environmental impact.


Yes, I was honestly shocked when I heard that Beijing was going to be hosting the Winter Olympics because they typically don't have a lot of snow. It is concerning because that means that they'll have to be using a lot of energy to create. So we don't want that.


Hi, everyone, so nice to meet you online. I'm 22 from Beijing.


Organizing at a recent global sports conference, Tony Liu, the head of legacy on the organizing committee, told his audience that environmental issues are a priority for the air. And the water, he said, will be cleaner. The city more beautiful efforts to both reduce pollution levels and ensure there's enough snow will be closely monitored. But it's not the only controversy ahead of these games.


Now, over the past few years, more than a million viegas are thought to have been detained in so-called reeducation camps.


China's also under scrutiny is China's record on human rights. A coalition of campaign groups have called for a diplomatic boycott. They claim that since 2008, the situation has got worse. Receiving most attention have been allegations of the systematic persecution of the wigger community, which Beijing has denied. Gilberto Arkin is from the world.


We got Congress because China isn't doing anything about this, because the IOC isn't doing anything about this. We have to now depend on governments to not give China to use this opportunity as a propaganda show.


Are you saying it's a diplomatic boycott that you want? So that means you're not asking for athletes to boycott the games?


No, we're not asking for this. If athletes are willing to do it on their own, on their own, we, of course, welcome this initiative.


The IOC says it can't get involved in politics. Its longest serving member, Dick Pound, dismissed criticism that the Olympic movement should exert more pressure on the Chinese authorities.


That report by Alex Capstick. Staying with sport or tennis players and officials who were tested for covid-19 after a coronavirus scare ahead of next week's Australian Open have returned negative results. They'd been forced into isolation after a worker at one of the events, quarantine hotels, tested positive. Our correspondent in Melbourne show Carlisle, says the news has dramatically changed the mood ahead of Monday's first round matches.


It does feel like a very different place today than just 24 hours ago. There is a bit of a buzz about it. I don't know if you can hear, but we're looking at the big screen and already you can hear the umpires there. The warm up games have resumed, much to the delight and the relief of the Australian Open organisers. Players are back on court getting that much needed practice ahead of the opening on Monday. And of course, none of that was happening yesterday.


Everything was cancelled because of that covid-19 positive case of one of the workers in a hotel that is connected to the tournament. The 26 year old man is now confirmed to have contracted the UK strain of the virus, but no other case is connected to him. And more than 500 players, officials and coaches have now tested negative and are back. We're hearing Serena Williams today speaking about how happy she was that she was back on the course that she was playing in front of people.


But how different everything feels and of course, it will feel different with all the covid-19 restrictions. Remember, Australia is in a very good position to hold this event. They've done really, really well in controlling the virus. They're very quick to be in control of any cases that come up like we've seen. But yet we do see the fallout. You see the challenges of holding a big international event in the midst of a pandemic play out here in Melbourne Park in the Australian Open.


And I think organisers for international events at the Olympics, of course, as you mentioned, are going to be looking here to see what works and what doesn't. So things are looking quite positive. They're looking like they're back on track for that main event on Monday where we're expecting up to 30000 spectators here in Melbourne Park.


Shaimaa Khalil reporting. It's always a surprise to learn that scientists have found a species of animal that's never been identified before.


But it's no wonder the newly discovered. No chameleon hasn't been seen before. After all, it's incredibly small. Peter Goffin reports you there in Madagascar. Watch your step behind that blade of grass under that fallen leaf could be the world's tiniest lizard, grayish brown and speckled. The male nano chameleon is just 22 millimeters from nose to tail about the size of a sunflower seed. The female is bigger, a whopping 29 millimeters. But either one could fit on the tip of your finger, something that a researcher demonstrated in an adorable photo op.


The Bavarian state collection of zoology in Munich says there were around 1500 known species of reptile. And so far the man or chameleon is the smallest. It's also one of the hardest to find. German and Madagascan scientists have scoured northern Madagascar and could only turn up this one pair of nano chameleons. And it's not just because they're miniscule experts and camouflage. Researchers say their habitat on this island off East Africa has shrunk because of deforestation.


But the area has recently been protected, raising hopes that its inhabitants, big and small, can thrive for years to come.


Who knows how many species could be out there, like the nano chameleon, unseen and unknown, just waiting to be discovered.


The lesser spotted Peter Dolphin with that report. And before we go, it's time for news from elsewhere.


Our weekly look at some of the less reported stories from around the world. And with me now on the line is Cracy Twigg from our monitoring team, which tracks news media in many different languages. Firstly, craftsy and talking about languages. A Japanese study has suggested that singing in different languages carries a different risk of spreading covid-19. Tell us more about this.


Well, Japanese researchers were curious about this because choir practices in the West have proven to be super spreader events over the past year. So they wanted to see if it makes a difference in what language you sing. So they put three Sopranos in a lab and got them to sing short solos, Beethoven in German, Verdine Italian and a children's song in Japanese. And the result was that singing in German and Italian produced twice as many aerosols, then singing in Japanese.


There was actually a similar study that found that speaking different languages might have an effect on the risk of spreading the virus. And it's got something to do with the aspirated consonants of languages like German and English, whereas the softer vowels of Japanese mean fewer droplets being emitted. And that could be one reason why Japan has been doing better than others in this covid crisis. So the Japan Choral Association advised its members to stand at a longer distance from each other when singing in German and Italian.


And they say the pandemic shouldn't stop choir singing altogether as long as the right precautions are taken.


These are definitely tough times for performance art. One young artist in Russia, though, has found a way to reach new audiences by taking his art to the outdoors, earning himself the nickname The Snow Banksy. Which gives you a clue about his creations, doesn't it?


Yes, it does. Even Volkov has been melting hearts with his snow arts. And what's remarkable about this is the sheer size of his work. So he paints these massive figures on the snow using acrylic spray paint. And some of these figures are as big as a 10 story building. So this is quite an undertaking, considering that the result is so fragile. It's so not very long lasting. And maybe that's one reason why they've caused so much delight among local residents.


But it's also resonated with people because of how much of the moments they are in other ways. For example, one of the paintings that's attracted a lot of admiration and social media depicts a doctor wearing a mask face mask with his eyes shut, holding the globe in his hands. And people say this is a very powerful image. Another recent piece shows a man lying on a float in the sea. And that piece is called a waiting, awaiting, I imagine, a return to normality for doing all the things we normally do, returning to favorite holiday spots, you know, a dream many of us are sharing at the moment, I'm sure.


Yeah, indeed.


I certainly am. Thank you very much. There to cross the twig of BBC Monitoring for bringing us this week's news from elsewhere.


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 the topics we've covered. Send us an email. The address is Global Podcast at BBC, Dot Seo Dot UK. This podcast was mixed by Nick Jones, the producer surplus Rahul Sonoike. And the editor is Karen Martin. I'm Alex Ritson. Until next time. Goodbye.