September 3, 2020

This is VOA news. Via remote, I'm Diane Roberts.

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to the Midwestern U.S. state of Wisconsin Thursday just two days after President Donald Trump toured the damage left by civilian unrest in the city of Kenosha.

Wednesday, Biden is accusing President Trump of turning his back on the coronavirus pandemic and instead focusing on stoking passions in America's cities.

AP correspondent Sagar Meghani reports.

At an event in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden focused on reopening America's schools safely.

"This is a national emergency," but says the Trump administration has no plan.

"Mr. president, where are you?"

He was in another Wilmington, North Carolina, where he barely mentioned the virus but instead talked about protests featuring violent mobs whom he says must be met with force.

"These people only know one thing and that's strength."

A day after the president visited Kenosha, Wisconsin, which is reeling after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, Biden says he'll visit tomorrow and unlike the president, his campaign says Biden plans to meet with Blake's family.

Sagar Meghani, Washington.

Germany says prominent Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a Soviet-style nerve agent.

Navalny, a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was transferred to Germany after falling ill from suspected poisoning. He is in intensive care in a Berlin hospital.

A German government spokesperson said Wednesday blood sample test produced (quote) "unequivocal evidence" (end quote) that [Navaly had been] Navalny had been poisoned with Novichok, the same agent used two years ago to poison a Russian defector living in Britain.

European leaders searched for the strongest possible terms to denounce the attack, with French Foreign Minister [Y...] Jean-Yves Le Drian saying it was (quote) "shocking and irresponsible."

This is VOA news.

French President Emmanuel Macron voiced support Wednesday for a sovereign Iraq and said its main challenges are Islamic State militants and foreign interference in its affairs.

France also backs Prime Minister Mustafa [Kadhinimi] Kadhimi('s) efforts to "normalize" all armed forces, Macron said during a visit to Baghdad, referring to mostly Iran-backed Shiite militia groups.

(quote) "We will remain committed because the battle against Islamic State is ongoing but this has to be in the context of an agreement and protocol that respects Iraq's sovereignty," he said at a joint news conference with Kadhimi.

Macron's visit was the first by a Western leader to Iraq since Kadhimi took office in May as the third head of government in a chaotic 10-week period that followed months of unrest in a country exhausted by war with Islamist militants, corruption and economic decay.

The U.S. will not take part in the World Health Organization's global initiative to manufacture and equally distribute a vaccine for COVID-19.

A White House spokesperson said the U.S. will continue to engage the international community to make sure the virus is defeated. However, the country won't be (quote) "constrained by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China." (end quote)

Meanwhile, health officials are [contern...] concerned the U.S. is not ready for a massive COVID-19 vaccine effort. AP's Jennifer King reports.

Doctors, nurses and health officials interviewed by the AP and Kaiser Health News expressed concern about the country's readiness to conduct mass vaccinations and frustration after months of inconsistent information from the federal government.

In a memo released this summer, the CDC told health departments to draft vaccination plans by October 1. But local health departments say they are worried they lack the staff, money and tools to distribute, administer and track millions of vaccinations most of which will require two doses.

To reach herd immunity against the coronavirus, experts say the nation would need to vaccinate roughly 70 percent of Americans.

Jennifer King, Washington.

Even so, the Trump administration has urged U.S. states to get ready to distribute a potential COVID-19 vaccine by November 1, the latest sign of the accelerating race to deliver a vaccine by year's end.

Dallas-based wholesaler McKesson Corporation has a deal with the federal government to set up centers to distribute a coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available.

Former Italian prime minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi has tested positive for the coronavirus. Media reported Wednesday citing sources in his Forza Italia party.

Berlusconi, who will turn 84 at the end of September, had two tests come back positive.

An Italian newspaper quoted his doctor as saying, "He is asymptomatic."

Via remote, I'm Diane Roberts, VOA news.