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Ted Cruz's vacation repercussions; Biden's bind on school reopening

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Why is everyone so interested in Ted Cruz's vacation?

Well, the junior Senator from Texas took a little trip down to Cancun with his family this week, which normally wouldn't be that big of a deal, except it was in the middle of historic snowstorm that froze the entire state, left millions without water or electricity.


While other prominent Texas politicians are out trying to help people get water, get access to food, get warm, Cruz took off for Cancun with his family. And this immediately broke on social media causing him to come home the next morning, under the excuse that he was just escorting them down there overnight. But Ted Cruz is officially Twitter's bad guy for the day, and this probably has lasting repercussions, forming popular opinion of him, while the rest of the state freezes.

What is the Biden administration doing to reopen the schools?

Well, the Biden administration is in a bit of a bind because they've been sending conflicting messages. Their CDC director said that it's probably safe for teachers to go back to the school, even without the vaccine. But their political operation has been a little bit more gun-shy in part because of their alliance with the US teachers' unions, who don't want to send their teachers back if there's even a remote possibility that they might get sick. Biden himself has been a little bit mixed in his messaging about when they want to get people back to school, but the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that we expect to pass in the next several weeks, includes tens of billions of dollars for school reopenings, on top of the hundreds of billions of dollars that have already been spent in the CARES Act and the December relief bill. So, money is not the problem getting kids back in school right now. It's the willingness of families and the willingness of teachers to take the risk.

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

Afghanistan frustrated nineteenth-century British imperialists for 40 years, and ejected the Soviet army in 1989 after a bloody decade there. And though American and NATO forces ousted the Taliban government in 2001 over its support for al-Qaeda, there's no good reason for confidence that nearly 20 years of occupation have brought lasting results for security and development across the country.

But… could China succeed where other outsiders have failed – and without a costly and risky military presence? Is the promise of lucrative trade and investment enough to ensure a power-sharing deal among Afghanistan's warring factions?

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Stockholm on Europe In 60 Seconds:

Is there a military coup ongoing in Armenia?

Well, it isn't a military coup as of yet, but it's not far from it either. This is the turmoil that is resulting from the war with Azerbaijan, which Armenia took a large death loss. What happened was that the head of the armed forces asked for the prime minister to resign. That was not quite a coup, but not very far from it. Now, the prime minister sacked the head of the armed forces, there's considerable uncertainty. Watch the space.

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In the fall of 2019, weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic would change the world, Ian Bremmer asked Dr. Fauci what kept him up at night and he described a "a pandemic-like respiratory infection." Fast-forward to late February 2021 and Dr. Fauci tells Ian, "I think we are living through much of that worst nightmare." Dr. Fauci returns to GZERO World to take stock of the nightmare year and to paint a picture of what the end of the pandemic could look like—and when it could finally arrive.

Catch the full episode of GZERO World, where Dr. Fauci discusses the latest in vaccine roll out, schools re-openings, and plenty more, on US public television stations nationwide, beginning Friday, February 26. Check local listings.

Egypt and Sudan want some dam help: Cairo and Khartoum have called on the US, EU, and UN to intervene in their ongoing dispute with neighboring Ethiopia over that country's construction of a massive hydroelectric dam on the Nile. Egypt and Sudan, which are downstream of Ethiopia and worry about their farmers losing water, want binding targets and dispute resolution mechanisms, while Ethiopia, which sees the dam as a critical piece of its economic future, wants more flexibility and has given little ground in talks. Efforts by the African Union to mediate have failed as Ethiopia presses ahead with filling the dam even after being sanctioned by the Trump administration last year for doing so. The dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, as it is called, has threatened to spill into military conflict at several points in recent years. Can the "international community" turn things around?

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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