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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.

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Texas grid shows need to fix infrastructure in US; RIP Rush Limbaugh

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

What's happening in Texas?

Speaking of weird weather, my goodness yeah, I didn't know this was coming up here. Yeah, it's cold, right? There's snow. It looks horrible and millions of people without energy and of course that is because the level of infrastructure investment into the Texas grid is well below what it needs to be. There's a lack of integration. Texas' grid largely stands by itself. It is not under the authority of or coordinated multilaterally with broader energy infrastructure. And there has been a lot of investment into renewables in Texas. It is certainly true. They've been very interested in that. Sped up under former Governor Perry but still the vast majority of electricity is coming from fossil fuels. It's coming from coal and mostly oil and gas.

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What We're Watching: Frozen Texas, another Nigerian kidnapping, Super Mario's next level

Texas on ice: Winter storms and uncharacteristically freezing weather have plunged the normally toasty US state of Texas into a severe crisis, as power grids knocked offline by the cold had left nearly 3 million people without electricity by Wednesday morning. The state's 29 million residents are now subject to rolling blackouts. Like everything else in America, the situation in Texas has already become a partisan football. Republicans skeptical of renewable energy seized on a handful of frozen wind turbines to argue that the failure of clean energy sources was responsible for the crisis, but data show the collapse in energy supply is overwhelmingly the result of natural gas infrastructure being knocked offline by the cold (pipelines in Texas generally aren't insulated.) In addition, because of resistance to federal regulation, Texas' grid runs with lower reserve power margins and no connection to surrounding state grids, meaning that no power can be imported when a crisis strikes. The sustainability of that model is likely to be the subject of fierce political wrangling in coming months, and will likely spill over into debates on Capitol Hill about "Green Stimulus." For now, millions of Texans are shivering, and not happy about it.

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The Graphic Truth: COVID deaths — US states vs countries

Back in March and April, the most severe COVID-19 outbreaks were in Europe — specifically Italy, Spain, and France — as well as the Northeastern United States. In the months since, these areas have managed to flatten their curves through strict social distancing policies, but now the epicenter of the coronavirus in the US has shifted to some Southern states that resisted lockdown measures. Consider that the United States recorded an average of 744 COVID deaths in the seven days leading up to July 16, compared to 74 in the UK and 13 in Italy during that same period. Meanwhile, Latin American countries are now also facing some of the biggest outbreaks in the world. Here's a look at where COVID-19 deaths are rising fastest, broken out as a comparison between US states and other hard-hit countries.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this graphic mistakenly labeled the y-axis as rolling 7-day average of deaths per 100,000 people. In fact, the y-axis refers to the rolling 7-day average in deaths from the coronavirus (not per 100,000 people). We regret the error.

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