September 8, 2020

This is VOA news. Via remote, I'm Marissa Melton.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been taken out of an induced coma and is responsive, according to the German hospital treating him.

A hospital statement said Navalny was responding to speech, but that "long-term consequences of serious poisoning can still not be ruled out."

Navalny is a sharp critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He was flown to Berlin on [October] August 22, rather, two days after falling ill on a domestic flight in Russia.

German experts on chemical weapons said tests showed proof without doubt that he had been poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent known as Novichok. Russia has rejected that claim.

British authorities [in] identified Novichok as the poison used on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in 2018.

As the Navalny case plays out, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's office indicated Monday she might be willing to reconsider her support for a controversial Russian-German gas pipeline project which would bring Russian gas to Germany under the [balsic] Baltic Sea bypassing Ukraine.

U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters Monday that experts are hard at work on a vaccine for COVID-19. He said it might even be ready, in his words, "before a very special date," without specifying the exact date. "You what date I'm talking about," he said.

In an afternoon news conference at the White House, the president admitted he'd never liked his political rival and decorated Vietnam veteran John McCain but he denied he'd ever made disrespectful remarks about members of the military as reported recently in The Atlantic weekly.

The president also said when questioned that [he would repo...] he would support an investigation into Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who's been accused of breaking campaign finance laws.

From Washington, you're listening to VOA news.

Four Somali soldiers were killed and a U.S. service member was injured Monday in an al-Shabab attack on an outpost 60 kilometers west of the Somali port town of Kismayo.

A senior leader in the Jubaland regional administration told VOA Somali that the soldiers died when a vehicle-borne explosive device hit their camp early Monday.

A spokesman for the United States Africa Command confirmed that a U.S. soldier was injured in the attack. Colonel Chris Karns told VOA that the militants used a vehicle employed as an improvised explosive device and mortar fire. At least one al-Shabab fighter was killed in the attack, he said.

Somali and U.S. forces seized the area from al-Shabab on Saturday. Regional officials said the area is a strategic economic hub for al-Shabab, which uses it to collect tax and other extortion from commercial vehicles and goods traveling within Somalia and to Kenya.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan recently directed authorities to release hundreds of female prisoners who are awaiting trial for minor offenses or who have served most of their prison terms.

Rights advocates have hailed the move, hoping it will help ease the plight of the country's female prison population.

Khan's directive last week stemmed from a new official study that found women's jails are rife with poor conditions and that authorities often ignore laws meant to protect female inmates.

The report by the federal Human Rights Ministry said that of the 1,121 women in prison as of mid-2020, nearly 67 percent had not been convicted of any offense and were detained while awaiting conclusion of their trial.

The government has pledged to pay the financial penalties outstanding against female prisoners whose remaining sentences are less than three years so they could be released immediately.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday granted an absolute pardon to a U.S. Marine convicted in the [four...] 2014 killing of a transgender woman days after his office blocked a court order for the Marine's early release.

Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was convicted of homicide in December 2015. It was a year after he met a woman in a bar and went with her to a motel. Soon afterward, hotel staff members found the woman dead in the bathroom.

Duterte's spokesman, Harry Roque, said that the pardon didn't wipe out Pemberton's conviction. He said President Duterte still considers Pemberton "a killer."

Human rights advocates and lawyers for the victim's family have criticized the mover as an effort to curry favor with the United States.

And the World Food Program says an estimated 45 million people in southern Africa are food insecure that is exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Via remote, I'm Marissa Melton. From Washington, this is VOA news.