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Vaccine trial on hold, DOJ seeks to defend Trump in lawsuit and wildfires spread beyond California

"More acres burned yesterday than in 12 of the last entire fire seasons in the state of Washington," Gov. Jay Inslee said on Tuesday.
Blood samples from coronavirus vaccine trials are handled inside the Jenner Institute in Oxford, England, in June.
Blood samples from coronavirus vaccine trials are handled inside the Jenner Institute in Oxford, England, in June.John Cairns / Oxford via AP file

Good morning, NBC News readers.

A major drug company put its COVID-19 vaccine trial on hold. The Department of Justice is trying to intervene on President Donald Trump's behalf in a controversial defamation case. And a group of Uighurs are accusing China of mass detention, torture and forced sterilization in a landmark complaint.

Here's what we're watching this Wednesday morning.

Drug maker halts vaccine trial over 'unexplained illness'

AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company leading one of the world's most advanced COVID-19 vaccine trials, announced Tuesday that it had put the trial on hold after a participant in the U.K. reported an illness. The drug maker said that it was reviewing safety data before continuing the trial.

"This is a routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials, while it is investigated, ensuring we maintain the integrity of the trials," the company said in a statement.

Meantime, as colleges and universities struggle with COVID-19 outbreaks some schools have put the blame on students. But public health experts say shaming students and zero-tolerance policies may be making the situation worse.

The schools should be taking harm-reduction approaches that focus on teaching students how to socialize safely — like encouraging outdoor gathering — rather than nixing them all together, say experts.

"If universities really want students to stop having indoor parties, they need to provide opportunities for students to stay socially connected that are lower-risk," said Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School.

Here are some other coronavirus developments:

DOJ moves to take over defamation case against Trump

The Justice Department, in a highly unusual move, filed court documents Tuesday seeking to represent President Trump in a lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll, who claimed he sexually assaulted her in the 1990s.

The department, which is supposed to act as an independent federal law enforcement agency, argued that under the Federal Tort Claims Act, DOJ lawyers can usurp Trump’s private legal team and change the venue from New York state court to U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Trump has denied the claim, saying "she’s not my type" and it "never happened."

Programming note: Justice Correspondent Pete Williams will have an exclusive interview with Attorney General William Barr on NBC's "Nightly News" at 6:30 p.m. ET tonight.

"BRING IT!" Carroll tweeted in response to the news that the DOJ was going to intervene in her case on behalf of the president.Eva Deitch / for The Washington Post via Getty Images file

2020: Biden leads Trump by 9 points in Pennsylvania, according to new poll

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leads President Trump by a 9-point margin among likely voters in Pennsylvania, a key swing state where Biden was born, according to a new NBC News/Marist poll.

The survey finds that Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, get the support of 53 percent of likely Pennsylvania voters, compared with 44 percent who back Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

In 2016, Trump barely bested Hillary Clinton in the battleground state by less than 1 percentage point.

Uighurs accuse China of mass detention, torture and forced sterilization in landmark complaint

The cries echoing off the walls of the jail frightened and weakened him in equal measure, Mamattursun Omer said.

"I didn't see, but I could hear the unbearable screams coming from both sides of the corridor," the former Uighur detainee said, recalling a period starting in 2017 that he says he spent in government custody inside the Xinjiang region of northwest China.

Parts of Omer’s account — together with that of roughly two dozen others so far — have been included in a complaint lodged at the International Criminal Court by two organizations of Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority group historically living in what is now northwest China.

The organizations accuse the Chinese government and specific senior officials of crimes against humanity, torture and genocide.

It is the first time members of the minority group have sought to use international law to hold Beijing accountable for their alleged mistreatment.

"They should be punished for the crime they have done to us," said Mammattursun Omer, now living in self-imposed exile in Istanbul, Turkey. "It is my responsibility to give my testimony."Danielle Villasana / for NBC News

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THINK about it

COVID-19 stress is spiking. But what is all this rage hiding? We need to stop burying our emotions, Dr. Juli Fraga and Hilary Jacobs Hendel write in an opinion piece.


Get in shape this fall with a simple 6-week walk-to-run plan.

Quote of the day

"Shoot all that you see and all that you hear."

Myanmar Pvt. Myo Win Tun testified that he was ordered to ordered to kill Rohingya by his military superiors in what U.N. and international prosecutors say was a genocidal campaign against the Muslim minority.

One amazing thing

Just a few years ago, Jocelynn James was just about as low as you could get.

"I didn't care about anything in life, who I wronged," she says about the period of her life when she was a heavy drug user. The crimes she committed then: "Robbery, theft, stolen property, everything but murder, pretty much."

She ended up on Alabama’s Most Wanted list and was arrested 16 times, often by Officer Terrell Potter.

After hitting rock bottom, James got sober and straightened out her life.

Then she came across Potter’s plea for a kidney while scrolling through Facebook. She turned out to be a perfect match.

Now they are both making the most of their second chances.

Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

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Thanks, Petra