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According to documents reviewed by The New York Times, the fossil fuel industry is lobbying U.S. trade negotiations with Kenya to relax the country’s strict limits on plastics and to dump plastic waste on African nations.

In 2017, Kenya introduced one of the world’s most strict plastic bag ban with heavy penalties for those manufacturing, selling, importing, or using single-use plastics.

Kenyan plastic bans have been quite successful and other African nations have followed suit.

As the world moves away from fossil fuels in an attempt to fight climate change, oil and gas companies and chemical producers are scrambling to find new sources of profit. They have pivoted to plastics, spending more than $200 billion on chemical and manufacturing plants in the US over the past decade.

As the U.S and Kenya begin negotiations on what could be the first U.S. bilateral trade deal with a country in sub-Saharan Africa, the American Chemistry Council, representing the world’s largest chemical producers and fossil fuel companies, are trying to overturn Kenya’s strict plastic bag ban and allow shipments of plastic trash in poorer nations in Africa.

Environmentalists that worked to pass Kenya’s plastic bag ban worry Kenya is now under pressure to relax its commitment to ending plastic pollution as well as potentially become “a key transit point” to move plastic waste to other African countries.

If the lobbying succeeds, it would “inevitably mean more plastic and chemicals in the environment,” Griffins Ochieng, executive director for the Centre for Environmental Justice and Development, a nonprofit group working on the problem of plastic waste in Kenya, said to The New York Times. “It’s shocking.”

In 2019, 1 billion pounds of plastic waste from the US was shipped to 96 countries including Kenya, and much of it ended up in rivers and oceans. In May last year, 187 countries including Kenya signed on to a global agreement to stop richer countries from sending unwanted plastic waste to poorer nations, mitigating the harmful effects of plastic pollution. The U.S. did not sign the agreement.

The newest lobbying efforts from the American Chemistry Council is an attempt to undermine the global regulation on plastic waste imports in order to dump plastic from U.S. exporters in countries like Kenya.

An American lobby group representing oil and chemical companies wants to flood Kenya with plastic, and then sell recycling as a solution, 90% of that plastic is not recyclable. Kenya is not a dumping ground. #NoToAmericanPlasticTrash
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— James Wakibia (@JamesWakibia) September 1, 2020

If plastic pollution continues on current trends, the amount of plastic entering the oceans was likely to triple in the next 20 years according to a study by the Pew Trusts.

Read about how plastic harms humans, animals, and the planet.

Sign this petition to prevent further plastic pollution in Africa.

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Contra Costa DA will no longer charge people for possessing small amounts of drugs, with rare exception

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Drug companies work jointly to boost vaccine confidence

LONDON (AP) — Two firms developing COVID-19 vaccines say pharmaceutical companies are trying to give the public as much information as possible about their testing regimes as drugmakers and public health officials seek to boost confidence that any approved vaccine will be safe.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot and Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer of Johnson & Johnson, said Thursday that they recognize the coronavirus emergency demands increased transparency from vaccine developers to ensure the public has faith in the end product. They stressed however that there are limits to the information they can release because they must protect patient confidentiality and the integrity of their scientific research.

Ultimately, the public will have to trust regulators around the world and the independent experts that oversee drug trials, Soriot said during a panel discussion sponsored by the World Economic Forum.

“You’ve got to trust that the experts whose job it is to monitor these trials and these developments are doing a good job,″ Soriot said. “Medicine should not be practiced for the media, it should be practiced by experts.”

The comments come as scientists scramble to develop a vaccine that would protect the public from a pandemic that has killed nearly 1 million people worldwide and as numerous countries battle against a surge in cases. The United States and other countries have invested billions of dollars to develop a vaccine that would allow them to ease restrictions on social interactions that have devastated the global economy.

But public health experts have expressed concern that political pressure on regulators to quickly approve vaccines will undermine public confidence in their safety and effectiveness. U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly touted his belief that a vaccine will be approved before the presidential election on Nov. 3, calling scientists’ estimation of a longer timeline “confused.”

Public concern about a vaccine could be disastrous to its widespread acceptance and undermine efforts to vaccinate enough people to stop transmission of COVID-19.

Soriot pointed out that the vaccines being developed by his company and others must be approved by regulators around the world, not just the U.S.

“You really would have to love conspiracy theories to believe that all regulators around the world will all agree to approve a vaccine that is not safe and effective,” he said. “It’s hard to believe that every country would do that, so you’re going to have several sets of eyes from different countries looking at this data.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it would not approve any vaccine unless it meets a 50% efficacy threshold, while the European Medicines Agency said they do not have a minimum criteria and that potential coronavirus vaccines would be considered on a case-by-case basis. The World Health Organization said it hopes experimental vaccines will prove at least 70% effective, but acknowledged that first-generation shots may not reach that target.

Against this backdrop, drugmakers have come under pressure to release more incremental information on the progress of their vaccine trials – information that they normally wouldn’t release until the trials are complete.

The heat only increased after an AstraZeneca trial was put on hold while it investigated whether a British volunteer’s illness was a side effect or a coincidence. The trial remains on hold in the United States, but has resumed in other countries.

Soriot and Stoffels said drugmakers are looking at other how they can increase transparency given the “very special set of circumstances” surrounding the potential COVID-19 vaccines. AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and two other companies recently released the detailed protocols for their vaccine trials.

“We are discussing with other companies as an industry what kind of transparency could we offer without compromising patient privacy, of course, but also without compromising the trial itself,” Soriot said. “Because if you disclose … too much information you can actually compromise the clinical trial itself.”


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