In our news wrap Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met their counterparts in Japan, where Blinken accused Beijing of undermining stability in Asia. Also, archaeologists in Israel have discovered dozens of new Dead Sea Scroll fragments, and Purdue Pharma filed a $10 billion plan to emerge from bankruptcy and resolve lawsuits over the opioid epidemic.
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In the day's other news: Sweden halted use of AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine, the latest European nation to do so, as regulators investigate an alleged blood clot risk.
But, in Amsterdam, the head of the European Medicines Agency said there is no evidence of a direct link.
While the investigation is ongoing, we are currently — we are still firmly convinced that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalization and death, outweigh the risks of these side effects.
AstraZeneca and the World Health Organization say that a few dozen cases of blood clots have been reported in the European Union and Britain. That is out of 17 million vaccinations.
And here in the United States, Mississippi today became the second state to expand vaccination eligibility to all adults.
U.S. intelligence agencies say that Russia and Iran tried to undermine the 2020 presidential election by spreading misinformation. That conclusion came in a new report released today by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. But it found no evidence that foreign actors changed votes or disrupted the voting process.
The United States has fired new criticism at China in the first trip abroad by top members of the Biden Cabinet. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met their counterparts in Japan today. Blinken accused Beijing of undermining stability in Asia.
Sec. Tony Blinken:
We're united in the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, where countries follow the rules, cooperate whenever they can, and resolve their differences peacefully. And, in particular, we will push back if necessary when China uses coercion or aggression to get its way.
Meanwhile, the sister of North Korea's leader issued a warning of her own. Kim Yo-jong said that the U.S. should not make trouble if — quote — "it wants to sleep in peace for the next four years."
Secretaries Blinken and Austin travel to South Korea tomorrow.
Gunmen in Niger have killed 58 civilians returning from a market. The assault happened yesterday in the Western Tillaberi region, where 100 people were killed in a series of attacks in January. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but extremists linked to the Islamic State are active in that area.
Archaeologists in Israel have discovered dozens of new Dead Sea Scroll fragments. They contain biblical text that dates to the first century. The fragments, displayed today, were found in a desert cave South of Jerusalem. It is believed that they were likely hidden during a Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire. The original Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1940s and '50s.
Back in this country, Purdue Pharma has filed a $10 billion plan to emerge from bankruptcy and resolve lawsuits over the opioid epidemic. Purdue's owners, the Sackler family, would contribute $4 billion over a decade. The settlement would also steer future profits to the plaintiffs. But multiple states say that suit does not go far enough.
The U.S. Senate confirmed another one of President Biden's nominees today. Isabel Guzman will oversee the Small Business Administration. She will play a major role in implementing the president's COVID relief bill.
Stocks were mixed on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 127 points to close at 32826. The Nasdaq rose 12 points, and the S&P 500 slipped six.
And Britain's Prince Philip returned to Windsor Castle today after being hospitalized for a month. The husband of Queen Elizabeth is 99 years old. He was treated for an infection and underwent a heart procedure.