Here’s what you need to know
Square is now Block. Days after resigning as Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey renamed his other startup to ready it for a future beyond payments. The new name is a hat-tip to blockchain as Block gets into crypto.
The WHO wants to establish an international treaty for future pandemic responses. But the US, Brazil, and other countries have shied away from pushing for a legally binding agreement. Meanwhile, the omicron variant has been detected in at least 23 countries, including the US.
The US Supreme Court could curtail abortion rights. Conservative justices hinted at upholding a Mississippi law that bars abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy—nine weeks before the current law permits—even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling is still months away.
Exxon Mobil earmarked $15 billion to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The energy giant also expects to meet its 2025 emission reduction targets by the end of this year.
The Women’s Tennis Association suspended all tournaments in China. The organization’s chief has “serious doubts” that Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai is “free, safe and not subject to intimidation.”
China is closing a loophole used by tech companies for overseas IPOs. A planned ban would keep firms from going public through variable interest entities, which, for example, allow Chinese companies to get outside investors using shell companies outside of the country.
Markets haiku: Grab’s debut was a downhill ride
Biggest SPAC deal yet
Just didn’t grab investors.
Will they ride it out?
After raising $4.5 billion at a valuation of more than $37 billion—the biggest SPAC deal yet—southeast Asia-based ride-hailing company Grab closed down 20% on Thursday, the first day of trading.
What to watch for
When the omicron variant was first identified on Nov. 26, oil traders briefly panicked. By the end of the day, oil prices had fallen more than $10 per barrel, the biggest one-day drop since mid-April 2020. Oil traders have seen the havoc new coronavirus variants can wreak on the global economy, and were keen to sell off their holdings before demand starts to evaporate.
On Thursday, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will decide whether to forge ahead with a planned modest increase in its oil production quota, or pump the brakes. The emergence of omicron, plus the recent decision by US officials to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, means that the price per barrel will likely continue to fall if OPEC stays its course. Either way, prices are still riding above pre-pandemic levels, and member nations are keen to get pumping.
Vaccinating the world would be cheap, but not easy
One way to keep oil demand from cratering would be to expand covid-19 vaccination to the global population. The OECD estimates doing so would cost just 0.5% of what the world’s wealthiest countries have spent to weather the economic impact of the pandemic. But the ad hoc manner in which countries have donated vaccines to Africa, with little notice and with doses that have short shelf lives, shows money alone won’t be enough to get it done.
$50 billion: OECD’s cost estimate to vaccinate the entire world
$10 trillion: Amount G20 countries have spent to prop up their economies
<8%: Percentage of people from poor countries who have received at least one dose of a covid-19 vaccine
944.7 million: Vaccine doses that have been pledged to Covax, most of which will go to Africa
90 million: Doses that have been delivered to Africa so far through Covax and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust
What’s behind the WTA’s latest play
Typically, when a company or athlete expresses a view on Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, or another topic that doesn’t toe China’s line, the ensuing backlash prompts a swift apology by the offending party. But the Women’s Tennis Association’s combative approach could be a tipping point for other organizations that have long taken a more deferential stance.
It’s also possible the WTA is being both idealistic and pragmatic. Francesca Chiu, a former Hong Kong-based civil society researcher, notes that because of China’s covid-zero restrictions, at least 10 tournaments due to take place there this year were canceled, forcing the WTA to expand elsewhere and move its final to Mexico. As a result, perhaps the organization has realized it doesn’t need China as much as it thought.
We’ve got the backstory on Peng Shuai and what it all means for China in our latest Weekend Brief, an exclusive email for Quartz members that hits inboxes on Saturdays.
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