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

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.


Another school kidnapping in Nigeria: Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has sent his security chiefs to coordinate the rescue of 42 people — including 27 children — abducted by gunmen from a school in the central state of Niger. Such kidnappings are a recurring tragedy in Nigeria: in 2014, Boko Haram militants abducted 276 schoolgirls, prompting the #BringBackOurGirls viral campaign, and just two months later they kidnapped close to 400 schoolchildren in northeastern Katsina state. This time, however, the kidnappers are reported to be not Islamist militants but an armed gang holding the hostages for ransom money. It's the first major test for the country's new military command, which Buhari reshuffled less than a month ago to better respond to Nigeria's multiple security crises, including a recent spike in... kidnappings. Will Buhari's top brass be up to the task of freeing the hostages without coughing up some cash?

"Super Mario" vs Italian red tape: Newly minted Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi announced on Wednesday a raft of ambitious reform proposals to help his country recover from its pandemic-induced economic crisis and attract fresh investment. His wish-list includes overhauling the income tax system, spending big on education and research, digitizing Italy's antiquated public administration systems, and speeding up the country's sluggish courts. But can he succeed where previous Italian PMs have failed? Draghi has two things going for him. First, unlike his predecessors who had to mop up the Italian debt crisis a decade ago, he won't be constrained by unpopular austerity restrictions when he starts spending Italy's share of the EU coronavirus relief fund. And second, Draghi poses no direct threat to any political party because he doesn't intend to stay on after his government's term expires in two years. Draghi is still hailed for saving the Eurozone a decade ago, but tackling Italy's entrenched and famously bloated bureaucracy may prove to be an even badder Bowser for the man known as "Super Mario."

Meet Zoe Marshall, grandmother, fishmonger, and thriving business owner.

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When Zoe Marshall decided to switch careers in her forties and become a fishmonger, she was scared. After leaving her job of 23 years, Zoe was forced to pivot in order to keep her family's home. Despite challenges, she forged ahead, opening Sea-Licious. Accepting Visa payments in her fishmonger shop, this access to commerce helps Zoe provide convenience to her customers and confidence in their transactions. Though she's one of the only women in the fish market each morning, her business and its place in the local community are flourishing with Visa's help.

Learn more about Zoe and her story.

The minutiae of supply chains makes for boring dinner table talk, but it's increasingly becoming a hot topic of conversation now that packages are taking much longer to arrive in the consumer-oriented US, while prices of goods soar.

With the issue unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, right-wing media have dubbed President Biden the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, conjuring images of sad Christmas trees surrounded by distraught children whose holiday gifts are stuck somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

It hasn't been a good run for Uncle Joe in recent months. What issues are tripping him up?

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Taking place on October 21 and 22, the Sustainability Leaders Summit will go beyond preexisting narratives and debate priorities for governments and industries ahead of COP26. Placing the spotlight on Asia's role in the global sustainability agenda, the event will address whether Asian countries and companies can achieve shared sustainability goals, and what is needed to help get them there. The summit will be co-hosted by Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings, and Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. We will address three key questions: How can Asian countries, with the help of the private sector, achieve shared Sustainability Goals? Why does this matter? And what are the policy changes needed to bring it about?

Attendance is free and open to the public. Register to attend.

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Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the NBA's latest rift with China, Brazil's Senate investigation, and COVID booster shots.

China wipes Boston Celtics from NBA broadcast after the "Free Tibet" speech from Enes Kanter. Is NBA boxing itself into a corner?

Nice mixed sports metaphor there. NBA has some challenges because they are of course the most progressive on political and social issues in the United States among sports leagues, but not when it comes to China, their most important international market. And you've seen that with LeBron James telling everyone about we need to learn better from the Communist Party on issues like Hong Kong and how Daryl Morey got hammered for taking his stance in favor of Hong Kong democracy. Well, Enes Kanter's doing the same thing and he's a second-string center. Didn't even play yesterday and still the Chinese said that they were not going to air any Boston Celtics games. Why? Because he criticized the Chinese government and had some "Free Tibet" sneakers. This is a real problem for a lot of corporations out there, but particularly publicly, the NBA. Watch for a bunch of American politicians to make it harder for the NBA going forward, saying how dare you kowtow to the Chinese when you're all about "Black Lives Matter" inside the United States. No fun.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

A Trump media platform? Is this for real?

This week, President Trump announced his potential return to social media through the creation of his own digital media platform that's going to merge with an existing publicly-traded company in a deal known as a SPAC. These deals are increasingly popular for getting access to capital, and it seems like that's where President Trump is headed.

The publicly-traded company's stock was up on the news, but it's really hard to see this coming together. The Trump media company claims it wants to go up against not only Facebook and Twitter, but companies like Amazon and cloud computing and even Disney providing a safe space for conservatives to share their points of view. The fact of the matter is, conservatives do quite well on existing social media platforms when they aren't being kicked off for violating the terms of service, and other conservative social media platforms that have attempted to launch this year haven't really gone off the ground.

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Protests in Sudan: Protests are again shaking the Sudanese capital, as supporters of rival wings of the transitional government take to the streets. Back in 2019, after popular demonstrations led to the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir, a deal was struck between civilian activists and the army, in which a joint civilian-military government would run the country until fresh elections could be held in 2023. But now supporters of the military wing are calling on it to dissolve the government entirely, while supporters of the civilian wing are counter-protesting. Making matters worse, a pro-military tribal leader in Eastern Sudan has set up a blockade which is interrupting the flow of goods and food to the capital. The US, which backs the civilian wing, has sent an envoy to Khartoum as tensions rise, while Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are all vying for a piece as well.

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1 billion: One billion Indians have now gotten at least one COVID vaccine shot. It's a big turnaround for the country, which stumbled with the initial rollout and then suspended vaccine exports for months to deal with a deadly wave in the spring. Still, only 30 percent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated in India, the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines.

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Listen: The nature of work had already been changing long before the global pandemic accelerated trends around flexible work, remote work technology, and the gig economy. While some industries and workers have benefitted from these changes, others have been left behind - including many women who dropped out of the workforce due to family concerns, or service-industry professionals whose jobs evaporated.

The latest episode of Living Beyond Borders, a special podcast series from GZERO brought to you by Citi Private Bank, looks in depth at the future of work and how the latest trends will change business, the economy, and the global political balance. Moderated by Caitlin Dean, Head of the Geostrategy Practice at Eurasia Group, this episode features Ida Liu, Global Head of Private Banking at Citi Global Wealth and Alexander Kazan, Chief Commercial Officer at Eurasia Group.

Ida Liu Global Head of Private Banking, Citi Global Wealth

Ida Liu

Global Head of Private Banking, Citi Global Wealth

Alexander Kazan, Chief Commercial Officer at Eurasia Group

Alexander Kazan

Chief Commercial Officer, Eurasia Group

Caitlin Dean, Practice Head, Geostrategy, Eurasia Group

Caitlin Dean

Practice Head, Geostrategy, Eurasia Group

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