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.

And so, all of these people that recently have said it's because of renewables, and you can't rely on renewables and that's why you've got all of these shutdowns in Texas. No, it's because you haven't invested properly in infrastructure resilience. First of all, there's a lot more gas shut down then there is wind shutdown, and you've got temperatures like this in Northern Europe all the time and worse and they don't have this kind of wind shut down because they invest properly in their infrastructure. So, you know, you go to LaGuardia, and we're finally fixing it in New York, but for quite a while a lot of people including Joe Biden said it was like going to a developing country, they said third world country when you look at LaGuardia. Well, when you look at a lot of infrastructure in the US it feels that way and one of the reasons why I strongly support a trillion dollar plus spend after the $1.9 trillion for relief on infrastructure because that's a good investment that will actually return more than the dollars you put in over the long-term. And that's the way you should think about the deficit of whether or not you're getting a better return on your investment. Just like you do for corporations, you do for sovereigns.

The World Trade Organization, WTO, has a new leader. Who is she and what challenges lie ahead?

She is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. And I mean, she's a fixture. I've known her, I've seen her at events for well over a decade. She was the minister of finance for Nigeria. She was the number two at the World Bank. And I mean whether you're talking about Davos or IMF annual meetings, any big multilaterals, her presence there as a technocrat, as a plain smoking, really smart pro-globalization force, is kind of legion. It would be really surprising if she hadn't gotten a major, additional position at some point in her career. WTO was an obvious place for her. Not going to be easy, first of all because big decisions have to be taken unanimously and you've got 160, 170 members of WTO so it's hard to do. Secondly, the WTO needs reform, it needs to be focused much more on digital exchange and trade. It needs to be modernized the way trade agreements, multilateral and bilateral do and that's going to be very hard to do. And of course, the Chinese government, the second most powerful economy in the world routinely abrogates the outcomes that are forced upon it by World Trade Organization judges. So do the Americans not least of which in terms of the US-China trade conflict itself. So, it's not an easy role but I do think that she's going to be seen as very active in it, kind of like Christine Lagarde at the ECB when she got that appointment. I mean, this was completely uncontroversial that she would get this position.

Okay, what's happening between Iran and the US over sanctions?

Not very much. The United States certainly wants to rejoin the old Iranian nuclear deal, but they understand there's a lot of domestic pushback unless it is made tougher or at least broader in terms of how long it lasts as well as involving things like ballistic missile development where the Iranians are in abrogation of the UN security council resolutions. The Iranians are saying, "We'll come back to the JCPO as it was but nothing more." These are hard people to negotiate with. It's a hard government to negotiate with, the bureaucrats there. It took years on the final points under Obama and Kerry and that was when the secretary of state was personally involved. There is no cabinet member in the Biden administration that is personally anywhere close to as invested in getting this Iranian deal done if it's hard as Kerry was five years ago. And so, as a consequence, I think there'll be forward momentum, but I think it's going to be much slower than people expect. Now, there is a point that once you start engaging in negotiations a whole bunch of third countries that were concerned about doing anything that might be seen as gray area in terms of busting sanctions like buying Iranian crude and other sorts of goods will suddenly, you'll see more leakage. And so, the Iranians just by virtue of moving back towards the United States and people getting confident about JCPOA, they won't have another million barrels a day on the market, but you'll start to see slippage, leakage in that and that means that energy prices will start going down a bit.

And Rush Limbaugh at 70 no longer, passed away today. What do I think?

I think that Rush Limbaugh is like a precursor to Mark Zuckerberg. He's someone that became an iconic figure by giving people what they wanted, not what they admitted they wanted but what they actually wanted, figuring out what that was and maximizing his reach and his influence as a consequence of that. Talk radio really became the force that it was in the United States because of Rush and his connection with his audience, his understanding of how the medium worked, his ability to raise extraordinary amounts of advertising revenue that had never been done in radio in a news format before that. All things that he became a unique figure and of course an entire field developed around him. And after talk radio we get cable news; we get Lou Dobbs on CNN even talking about a presidential run at some point. And then of course you get social media and now you have Mark Zuckerberg. And I think that you can draw a line directly between those two men. And I think they both caused a lot of damage internationally and certainly in terms of civil society in the United States but also on this day of Rush's passing to recognize just how well he understood the opportunity that was in front of him and how much he was able to maximize it, kind of a force for capitalism in a country that is most interested in unleashing animal spirits. And there you have it, RIP Rush Limbaugh.

Emily Ademola lives in an area of Nigeria that has been attacked by Boko Haram militants in the past. Looking for water was very risky, and without access to water, the community – especially children – were at risk of waterborne diseases. Eni, in partnership with FAO, built a water well in Emily's community in 2019.

Watch Emily's first-hand account about how access to water "close to our doorsteps" has improved the quality of life for her community and her family.

There's never a great time to impose higher taxes on funeral services — but doing it in the middle of a raging pandemic is an especially bad move. Yet that was one of a number of measures that the Colombian government proposed last week in a controversial new tax bill that has provoked the country's largest and most violent protests in decades.

In the days since, the finance minister has resigned, the tax reform has been pulled, and President Iván Duque has called for fresh dialogue with activists, union leaders, and opposition politicians.

But demonstrations, vandalism, and deadly clashes with police have only intensified. Two dozen people are dead, 40 are missing, and the UN has criticized Colombian police for their heavy-handed response.

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While residents of wealthy countries are getting ready for hot vaxxed summer — COVID is still ravaging many low- and middle-income countries. The horrifying scenes coming out of India in recent weeks have gripped the world, causing governments and civil society to quickly mobilize and pledge support.

But on the other side of the globe, Brazil is also being pummeled by the pandemic — and has been for a year now. Yet thus far, the outpouring of aid and (solidarity) hasn't been as large.

What explains the global alarm at India's situation, and seeming passivity towards Brazil's plight? What are the politics of compassion?

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Paris-London face-off at sea: France and the UK are at loggerheads in the high seas this week over post-Brexit fishing access in Jersey, an island off the English Channel. Furious at regulations that they say makes it harder to fish in these lucrative waters, dozens of French fishing boats amassed near the Channel Island, threatening to block access to the port. In response, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson deployed two naval vessels — a move critics say was an unnecessary escalation, and an attempt by the PM to flex his muscles and bolster the Tory vote ahead of Thursday's regional election. France, for its part, sent its own naval ship and threatened to cut off Jersey's electricity supply, 90 percent of which comes from French underwater cables. Fishing rights was one of the final sticking points of Brexit trade negotiations, an emotive political issue for many Britons who say that they got a subpar deal when the UK joined the European Economic Community in the 1970s. Though an UK-EU Brexit agreement was finally reached in December 2020, it's clear that there are still thorny issues that need to be resolved.

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10: Joshua Wong was sentenced along with other Hong Kong democracy activists to 10 months in prison for participating in a vigil last year marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. Wong is currently behind bars for participating in separate pro-democracy protests, and will only start this new sentence after that term concludes in November.

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What's the biggest foreign policy misconception that Americans have about the US's role in the world? According to international relations expert Tom Nichols, too few Americans believe that the US, in fact, has a critical role in the world, and that the things Americans enjoy, from cheap goods to safe streets, are made possible because of American global leadership. "Americans have become so spoiled and inured to the idea that the world is a dangerous place that they don't understand that the seas are navigable because someone makes them that way. They don't understand that peace between the great powers is not simply like the weather, that just happens," Nichols tells Ian Bremmer. Their conversation is featured on an episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television – check local listings.

Watch the episode: Make politics "boring" again: Joe Biden's first 100 Days

The cover story of The Economist declares that Taiwan is "The most dangerous place on Earth," because China might finally be ready to plan an invasion of the island. But are the consequences of such a move worth the many risks to China and its President Xi Jinping? Ian Bremmer breaks out the Red Pen to to explain why a US-China war over Taiwan is unlikely.

We are taking our red pen to a recent article from The Economist. The Economist, you ask, how could I? I love The Economist, I know, I know. But you'd lose respect if I give this piece a pass. In fact, it was the magazine's cover story this week, so I had no choice. The image and headline say it all. Here it is, Taiwan is now "the most dangerous place on earth" as US/China relations continue to sour in the opening months of President Biden's administration.

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Delhi-based reporter Barkha Dutt's decades of journalism couldn't prepare her for the horrific experience of covering the death of one specific COVID-19 victim: her own father. In a conversation with Ian Bremmer, Dutt recounts her desperate struggle to find an ambulance to take her father through Delhi traffic to reach the hospital, only for him to die in the ICU. Their in-depth discussion looks at India's struggle with the world's worst COVID crisis in the upcoming episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television Friday, May 7. Check local listings.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


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Would China really invade Taiwan?

The Red Pen

India’s COVID crisis hits home

GZERO World Clips
The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal