Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Becomes WTO Leader Making History & Global News

by Debra Brown

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Each Wednesday, we recap the most important headlines from our global community to keep you up to speed on world news. 


Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Becomes WTO Leader Making History

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former two-time Nigerian finance minister, was appointed to be the next director-general of the World Trade Organization. She is the first African and the first woman to lead the body, which governs trade rules between nations.

Okonjo-Iweala, an economist whose background is in international development, rose to become managing director of the World Bank. She also holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Nigeria.

Okonjo-Iweala said she was “honoured” to be selected to lead the organization, and vowed to take on global economic and health challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Okonjo-Iweala’s ascension to the top of the WTO comes just months after the Trump administration moved to block her candidacy and instead throw its support behind another candidate, South Korea Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee. She withdrew her candidacy earlier this month.

The World Trade Organization’s incoming chief warned against “vaccine nationalism” that would slow progress in ending the COVID-19 pandemic and could erode economic growth for all countries – rich and poor.

Okonjo-Iweala said studies showed that the global economy would lose $9 trillion in potential output if poor countries were unable to get their populations vaccinated quickly, and about half of the impact would be borne by rich countries.


Millions Suffer Record Cold Without Power with 20 Deaths

A massive Arctic air mass settled over the central United States, spawning deadly accidents, leaving millions without power and breaking records for snowfall and low temperatures from Nebraska to Oklahoma to Texas. In Houston, 1.4 million people remained without electricity for a second straight day after the city recorded an all-time record low of just 17 degrees.

Harris County, home to Houston, reported hundreds of cases of carbon monoxide poisoning as people tried to stay warm by using portable generators or running their cars indoors.

At certain levels, just five minutes of carbon monoxide exposure is enough to be fatal. The colorless, odorless gas is produced wherever fuel is burned and can build to deadly levels especially quickly in enclosed spaces. 

At least 20 people were reported dead in storm-related incidents in the eastern half of the country, including several in Texas.

Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more severe as the climate crisis worsens. Rising global temperatures are the best-known consequence of burning fossil fuels, there’s also a growing body of scientific evidence linking this kind of cold spell across the middle of the country to rapidly warming conditions in the Arctic.

State officials also blamed their own poor planning, including a failure to compel utilities to build enough clean energy infrastructure that can power the grid when solar panels stop generating each evening, such as lithium-ion batteries or geothermal power plants. Texas has no requirements to phase out fossil fuels.

The outages can be tied to deregulation, as well as Texas being unique in having a power grid contained in the state, cutting it off from help from other parts of the country when there is a power shortage or outage. In addition, many power plants are not equipped to operate in temperatures this cold.

What has sent Texas reeling is not an engineering problem, nor is it the frozen wind turbines blamed by prominent Republicans. It is a financial structure for power generation that offers no incentives to power plant operators to prepare for winter. In the name of deregulation and free markets, critics say, Texas has created an electric grid that puts an emphasis on cheap prices over reliable service.

Activists have also been working around the clock to find food, supplies, and shelter for Texans currently experiencing homelessness. 

Here’s how to help.


Trump Acquitted in Senate Impeachment Trial After Lawmakers Refuse to Call Witnesses

The Senate voted 57 to 43 to convict Donald Trump for inciting the January 6 insurrection, but the vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to find the former president guilty. Seven Republicans voted with Democrats to convict, making it the most bipartisan impeachment trial verdict ever. House impeachment managers did not include any witnesses, after Republicans threatened to prolong the trial for weeks or even months and grind other congressional business to a halt if witnesses were called to testify. Instead, a single statement by Congressmember Jaime Herrera Beutler was entered into the record before the final vote on conviction.


LAPD Probes ‘Cruel’ George Floyd Photo

A report that Los Angeles Police Department officers circulated a photo of George Floyd with the words “you take my breath away” in a Valentine-like format has prompted an internal investigation and drawn blistering condemnation as authorities in Minnesota prepare for the trial of the police officer charged for Floyd’s murder.

LAPD chief Michel Moore said that investigators will try to determine how the image may have come into the workplace and who may have been involved, the Los Angeles Times reported. Moore said the officer who made the complaint would be interviewed.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon condemned the image, saying he would investigate the matter to see if any of his cases “may have been compromised by biased police work”.


Google Announces Initiative to Train 100,000 Black Women In Digital Skills by 2022

The Grow With Google partnership will team Google with six organizations including four National Panhellenic Sororities: Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Sigma Gamma Rho, and Zeta Phi Beta.

Google will work with the sororities as well as Dress For Success and The Links to offer leadership development and digital skills training to support Black women.

The effort comes as many American women are feeling the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic. especially occupationally. In December alone, Black women lost 154,000 jobs. Today, one in six Black women are unemployed.

The initiative will assist Black women with resume building, interview training and fundamentals of online marketing. Dress for Success will support the effort with interview preparation, mentorship and networking to women in the program.


Mumbai Court Stops Arrest of Associate of 22-Year-Old Climate Activist

A Mumbai court granted bail to an associate of a 22-year-old climate activist whose arrest for promoting an action plan for farmers’ protests has caused outrage across the country.

Police had sought the arrest of Nikita Jacob, a Mumbai-based lawyer, for allegedly working together with activist Disha Ravi on a “tool-kit” or a document that it said was used to foment violence during a mass protest by farmers in Delhi last month.

Ravi, an activist linked to Swedish climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg, was arrested on charges of sedition and remains in police custody.

Politicians, students and activists have held protests against the arrest of Ravi, a founding member of the local arm of Thunberg’s Fridays for Future climate change movement. The student wing of the main opposition Congress party staged a protest in Delhi demanding her release.


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