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Okonjo-Iweala announces four WTO deputy DGs

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Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Tuesday, announced the appointment of Angela Ellard of the United States, Anabel González of Costa Rica, Ambassador Jean-Marie Paugam of France and Ambassador Xiangchen Zhang of China as her four Deputy Directors-General.

This was contained in a statement titled, ‘DG Okonjo-Iweala announces her four Deputy Directors-General’.

“I am very pleased to announce the appointment of four new Deputy Directors-General at the WTO. It is the first time in the history of our Organisation that half of the DDGs are women. This underscores my commitment to strengthening our Organisation with talented leaders whilst at the same time achieving gender balance in senior positions. I look forward to welcoming them to the WTO,” said Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian Finance Minister, who broke the 26-year record of the global institution to emerge the first African and female DG.

Ellard, international expert on trade and international economic policy, has a distinguished career of service working at the US Congress as Majority and Minority Chief Trade Counsel and Staff Director.

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González, a renowned global expert on trade, investment and economic development, served as Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica; as Director-General for International Trade Negotiations; as Director-General of the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency; and as Special Ambassador and Chief negotiator of the US-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement.

Also, Paugam has held senior management positions in the French Government on trade, most recently as Permanent Representative of France to the WTO. He has also held a number of senior positions in the French Ministry of Economy and Finance, including as a member of the Executive Committee of the French Treasury.

Zhang currently serves as Vice Minister in the Ministry of Commerce of China. He has long and extensive experience on WTO issues, international negotiations, and policy research. Ambassador Zhang served until recently as China’s Permanent Representative to the WTO and previously as Deputy Permanent Representative.

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COVID-19

Six things you didn’t know about India COVID-19 variant

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The India COVID-19 variant has been detected in Nigeria, leading to a call for concern.

The PUNCH had earlier reported that the COVID-19 was detected by the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in the Redeemers University, Ede, Osun State nearly three weeks ago.

As this detection has been communicated to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, here are six things you didn’t know about the India COVID-19 variant:

1. The Indian COVID-19 variant is officially known as B.1.617.

2. The variant was first detected in India in October 2020.

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3.The variant has been classified by the World Health Organization as a “variant of global concern”.

4. Between January and March, the variant was detected in 220 out of 361 Covid samples from Maharashtra, a state in Western India.

5. Experts around the world believe that the variant is rapidly spreading and has an impact on the second wave of COVID-19 in India.

6. According to WHO, the variant has been discovered in 44 countries as it was detected in more than 4,500 samples that were uploaded from those countries.

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COVID-19

[BREAKING] COVID-19: FG returns curfew, restriction on mass gatherings

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The Federal Government has re-introduced a nationwide 12am to 4am curfew as part of efforts to curtail further spread of COVID-19.

The National Incident Manager, Mukhtar Mohammed, disclosed this at a press briefing of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 in Abuja.

Mohammed said the curfew would take effect from midnight on Monday, May 10.

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He also said with effect from Tuesday, night clubs, gyms, and others would remain closed till further notice.

He said gatherings of religious groups and weddings among others have been reduced to 50 percent attendance, while official engagements, meetings, and conferences should continue to hold virtually.

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Large Chinese rocket segment disintegrates over Indian Ocean

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A large segment of a Chinese rocket re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated over the Indian Ocean on Sunday, the Chinese space agency said, following fevered speculation over where the 18-tonne object would come down.

Officials in Beijing had said there was little risk from the freefalling segment of the Long March-5B rocket, which had launched the first module of China’s new space station into Earth orbit on April 29.

But the US space agency NASA and some experts said China had behaved irresponsibly, as an uncontrolled re-entry of such a large object risked damage and casualties.

“After monitoring and analysis, at 10:24 (0224 GMT) on May 9, 2021, the last-stage wreckage of the Long March 5B Yao-2 launch vehicle has re-entered the atmosphere,” the China Manned Space Engineering Office said in a statement, providing coordinates for a point in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives.

It added that most of the segment disintegrated and was destroyed during descent.

The US military’s Space Command said the rocket “re-entered over the Arabian Peninsula at approximately 10:15 pm EDT on May 8 (0215 GMT Sunday)”.

“It is unknown if the debris impacted land or water.”

Monitoring service Space-Track, which uses US military data, said that the location in Saudi Arabia was where American systems last recorded it.

“Operators confirm that the rocket actually went into the Indian Ocean north of the Maldives,” it tweeted.

The segment’s descent matched expert predictions that any debris would have splashed down into the ocean, given that 70 per cent of the planet is covered by water.

Because it was an uncontrolled descent, there was widespread public interest and speculation about where the debris would land.

American and European space authorities were among those tracking the rocket and trying to predict its re-entry.

– Accusations of negligence –

Objects generate immense amounts of heat and friction when they enter the atmosphere, which can cause them to burn up and disintegrate. But larger ones such as the Long March-5B may not be destroyed entirely.

Their wreckage can land on the surface of the planet and may cause damage and casualties, though that risk is low.

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Last year, debris from another Chinese Long March rocket fell on villages in the Ivory Coast, causing structural damage but no injuries or deaths.

That, and the one that came down Sunday, are tied for the fourth-biggest objects in history to undergo an uncontrolled re-entry, according to data from Harvard-based astronomer Jonathan McDowell.

The uncertainty and risks of such a re-entry sparked accusations that Beijing had behaved irresponsibly.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin suggested last week that China had been negligent, and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson echoed that after the re-entry on Sunday.

“Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations,” Nelson said in a statement.

“It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.”

– China’s space ambitions –

To avoid such scenarios, some experts have recommended a redesign of the Long March-5B rocket — which is not equipped for a controlled descent.

“An ocean reentry was always statistically the most likely,” McDowell tweeted.

“It appears China won its gamble (unless we get news of debris in the Maldives). But it was still reckless.”

Chinese authorities had downplayed the risk, however.

“The probability of causing harm to aviation activities or (on people and activities) on the ground is extremely low,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Friday.

Beijing has poured billions of dollars into space exploration to boost its global stature and technological might.

The launch of the first module of its space station — by the Long March rocket that came down Sunday — was a milestone in its ambitious plan to establish a permanent human presence in space.

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