Nation and world news briefs

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AstraZeneca cleared by US regulators to resume vaccine trial

AstraZeneca Plc, the U.K. drugmaker developing a coronavirus vaccine with the University of Oxford, has been cleared by U.S. regulators to restart a trial halted in the country for more than a month on concerns about a volunteer who became ill, according to a person familiar with the decision.

The person asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

A decision to allow the study to resume would remove a significant impediment for AstraZeneca and Oxford as they try to get their coronavirus shot across the line. They are among the front-runners in the global quest for a vaccine, along with developers such as Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.

AstraZeneca declined to comment. A representative for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Operation Warp Speed head Moncef Slaoui said in an interview earlier this week that the AstraZeneca trial and another study of a Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate that had also been paused could resume in the coming days.

Questions have swirled around the AstraZeneca trials since an announcement in September that a participant in a U.K. study had developed an unexplained illness, and the partners have faced pressure to disclose more information about the episode. Although temporary halts are common, the interruption raised concerns about the prospects of one of the fastest-moving shots and highlighted the hurdles researchers face when developing a vaccine.

—Bloomberg News


Judge in Flynn case asks Justice Department to swear FBI records not further altered

WASHINGTON — The judge overseeing the prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn ordered the Justice Department to swear that FBI records weren’t altered beyond the accidental attachment of yellow sticky notes indicating estimated dates for the documents.

Attorney General William Barr’s Justice Department filed the documents in federal court in Washington in support of its request to drop the Flynn prosecution. The photocopies of hand-written notes by former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Peter Strzok, the onetime agent who started the 2016 probe into Russian election interference, accidentally included the attached post-its containing the dates.

After the notes were made public in the court docket, both McCabe and Strzok alerted the court that they hadn’t included the dates. The government has said the notes “were otherwise unaltered” but U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he wants assurances.

Sullivan on Friday gave the Justice Department until Oct. 26 to submit declarations “pursuant to penalty of perjury” affirming the authenticity of the evidence, noting that “the government has acknowledged that altered FBI records have been produced by the government and filed on the record in this case.”

Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador in 2016, but the Justice Department now argues the case against him was cooked up by FBI staff, including McCabe and Strzok, who sought to undermine President Donald Trump’s administration. The U.S. has pointed to the notes to support its argument as Sullivan weighs dismissal.

McCabe has argued the FBI is distorting his notes and taking them out of context.

—Bloomberg News


51 civilians killed in Nigerian protests, president says

LAGOS, Nigeria — Fifty-one civilians have been killed since the start of anti-police brutality protests in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari said Friday, the first time he has admitted there were deaths.

The president did not say whether security forces were responsible for the civilian deaths, but did note that 11 police officers and seven soldiers were “killed by rioters,” taking the total number of fatalities to 69.

“Throughout the disturbances, Security Agencies observed extreme restraint,” Buhari said in a virtual meeting with former Nigerian leaders on the security situation in the country, according to a transcript.

The United Nations and other members of the international community however, say that on Tuesday night security forces launched a bloody crackdown on protesters defying curfew in Lagos. Amnesty International says at least 12 protesters were killed that night alone.

Buhari noted that he had granted the protesters concessions, after the beginning of demonstrations about two weeks ago against a special police unit known for its brutality.

The government agreed to scrap the Special Anti Robbery Squad, or SARS, he said, but “protesters refused to call off the protest … Instead, they became emboldened and gradually turned violent.”

“It is unfortunate that the initial genuine … protest of the youths in parts of the country against SARS has been hijacked and misdirected,” the president added.

The transcript did not mention holding anyone accountable for the deaths, but said there had been widespread damage to property and that thousands of inmates had been freed from correctional centers during the unrest.

One of Nigeria’s main prisons was set on fire Thursday during the unrest.

The Lagos governor first denied there were any fatalities Tuesday night, later admitting one person died, while the Nigerian army called it “fake news.” Buhari appealed for calm but did not mention killings.