August 22, 2020

This is VOA news. Reporting by remote, I'm David Byrd.

The World Health Organization said Friday it hopes the planet will be rid of the coronavirus pandemic in less than two years, faster than it took for the 1918 Spanish flu.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at the WHO's headquarters in Geneva that it should be possible to tame the novel coronavirus faster than the deadly 1918 pandemic.

"We hope to finish this pandemic before less than two years. Especially if we can pool our efforts together and with national unity, global solidarity - that's really key ...."

WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan told journalists the 1918 flu came in three waves and then later settled down into a less deadly seasonal infection. However, Ryan said the current coronavirus outbreak is not displaying a wave pattern similar to the 1918 flu.

A new analysis of CDC data suggests as many as 215,000 more people than might have been expected died in the United States during the first seven months of 2020.

As AP's Ben Thomas reports, half of them were people of color.

Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian Americans make up just under 40 percent of the U.S. population. But they accounted for more than half of all the deaths above normal through July. That's according to an analysis by the Associated Press on the Marshall Project.

Earlier data revealed the especially heavy toll on Black, Hispanic and Native Americans. But the latest numbers also revealed a disproportionate burden on Asian Americans. Deaths in each group are up at least 30 percent this year compared with the last five years.

Ben Thomas, Washington.

For more, visit our website voanews.com. This is VOA news.

Doctors at a Siberian hospital where Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny lies in a coma after a suspected poisoning have agreed to allow his family to transport him to a top German medical facility.

Doctors at the intensive care unit in the Siberian city of Omsk had said Navalny was too sick to move. But late Friday, the deputy chief doctor at the hospital said the politician would be allowed to leave for Germany.

A German plane carrying specialists and advanced medical equipment has arrived in Omsk.

Russia's RIA Novosti news agency reported that Navalny is expected be flown to Berlin on Saturday morning.

The 44-year-old politician and corruption investigator is a leading opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Navalny became seriously ill on a flight and later lapsed into a coma Thursday. His family and supporters alleged that he was poisoned and that the Kremlin is behind it.

There are fresh questions about how the U.S. Postal Service will ensure ballots mail before November's election arrive on time after Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified before a Senate panel Friday. AP's Sagar Meghani reports.

DeJoy says he did not know about recent operations changes until a public outcry over the removal of blue collection boxes and sorting machines.

"... of "which I had no idea ...."

But DeJoy says there are no plans to restore them or end a new rule limiting late delivery trips which several postal workers say is a big reason for delays.

Still DeJoy tells lawmakers mailed-in ballots will arrive on time.

"extremely highly conf(ident)"

Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan wants to know why.

"Do you have a detailed plan about how you're going to ensure the kind of delivery that Americans count on ...?"

DeJoy says it's still in the works but ballots will be prioritized like in past years.

Sagar Meghani, Washington

A celebrity couple has been sentenced to prison for participating in a college admissions bribery scheme. AP's Jennifer King reports.

Actress Lori Loughlin who played Aunt Becky on "Full House" has been sentenced to two months behind bars while her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, received a five-month sentence.

They were among dozens of prominent parents who plead guilty in what federal prosecutors dubbed "Operation Varsity Blues."

In May, the couple admitted paying half a million dollars in bribes, funneling money through a sham charity operated by Rick Singer to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as crew recruits even though neither of them was a rower.

U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton expressed outrage at the couple's greed. Fighting back tears, Loughlin told the judge she made an awful decision and allowed herself to be swayed from her moral compass.

I'm Jennifer King.

Reporting by remote, I'm David Byrd.