Days after COP26, Biden administration auctioning record oil and gas leases in Gulf – National & International News – WED 17Nov



Days after COP26, U.S. to auction record oil and gas leases. New trial for nasal Alzheimer’s vaccine. U.S. tops 100k yearly drug overdose deaths. Austria locks down unvaxxed.


Days after COP26, Biden administration auctioning record oil and gas leases in Gulf

Just two weeks ago at the COP26 international climate conference in Glasgow, President Biden affirmed that the U.S. was “back” to lead the fight against climate change. In a stunning reversal of that stance, his administration is moving ahead with one of the largest auctions of oil and gas leases in American history.

The U.S. is auctioning more than 80 million acres of its maritime real estate in the Gulf of Mexico- about twice the size of the state of Florida. The 44-year leases could yield as much as 1.12 billion barrels of oil and 4.2tn cubic ft of gas. This will emit about 536 million metric tons of carbon over the life of the leases.

Climate fight goes to court

Climate watchers are baffled by the administration’s decision to go ahead with the sale. Kristen Monsell, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, called the sale “extremely reckless” and possibly illegal. “Coming in the aftermath of the climate summit, this is just mind boggling. It’s hard to imagine a more hypocritical and dangerous thing for the administration to do,” Monsell said.

Several green groups have filed legal challenges to the sale on the basis that there hasn’t been a proper environmental assessment. One of these groups, Earthjustice, calls the sale “a climate bomb”.

The Department of the Interior claims its hands are tied and that a recent court decision is compelling the sale. A department spokesman claims they are appealing that decision. But independent legal experts say that the decision doesn’t constrain the department from stopping, delaying or scaling back the sale.

Since taking office, Biden’s administration has handed out about 300 drilling permits a day. That’s a faster rate than even the Trump administration.

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First human trial of nasal Alzheimer’s vaccine to begin

Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston has announced that it will soon begin Phase 1 human trials of a nasal vaccine for Alzheimer’s. Researchers hope that the vaccine will help to prevent or slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Howard L. Weiner, co-director of the hospital’s center for neurological diseases, has led research and development of the vaccine for 20 years.

The trial group will consist of 16 people between 60 and 85 who have early signs of Alzheimer’s. Test subjects will receive two doses of the vaccine one week apart.

The vaccine’s key ingredient is a substance called Protollin. Protollin stimulates the immune system and can theoretically help clear beta amyloid plaques from the brain.

The Phase 1 trial will test the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. If the results are positive, a larger trial will follow.

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U.S. tops 100k yearly drug overdose deaths for first time

Over 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses between April 2020 to April 2021. This is a 29% increase over the same period the previous year, a rise experts call “staggering”. Even during the 2010s, the height of the opioid epidemic, yearly overdose deaths never surpassed 100,000.

Vermont, West Virginia and Kentucky saw the biggest year-on-year increases, with rises of 70%, 62% and 55% respectively. Just four states saw decreases in overdose deaths, namely Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey and South Dakota.

The synthetic opioid fentanyl seems to be the biggest culprit. This is because users and dealers sometimes combine fentanyl with other street drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine and heroine. Fentanyl is a cheap way to intensify the high of these drugs, but also increases their lethal potential.

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Austria locks down unvaxxed citizens

Earlier this week, Austria initiated a 10-day lockdown, applied only to unvaccinated citizens. Like many European countries, Austria is currently experiencing its highest daily caseload since the pandemic began. Only about 68% of Austrians are fully vaccinated (more or less on par with the U.S.).

For the duration of the new lockdown, unvaccinated Austrians are only allowed to leave their homes for necessary activities, like shopping for food or going to work. They cannot shop for non-essentials or enter any cafe, bar or restaurant. They can exercise in parks or other open spaces, but cannot congregate with others.

Austria’s health authorities hope that keeping unvaccinated people at home will limit the spread of COVID to other unvaccinated people or vulnerable vaccinated people. Other European countries with relatively low vaccination rates are considering similar unvaxxed-only lockdowns to coincide with upcoming holiday seasons. Hospitals across the continent are already struggling with their caseloads and worker burnout.

Some right-wing Austrian groups are planning protests and legal challenges to the unvaxxed only lockdowns. However, vaccinated Austrians say they are tired of having to pay the price of continued lockdowns due to the high percentage of vaccine holdouts in their country.

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