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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."

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.

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele is an unusual politician. The 39-year old political outsider boasts of his political triumphs on TikTok, dons a suave casual uniform (backwards-facing cap; leather jacket; tieless ), and refuses to abide by Supreme Court rulings.

Bukele also enjoys one of the world's highest approval ratings, and that's what helped his New Ideas party clinch a decisive victory in legislative elections on February 28, securing a close to two-third's supermajority (75 percent of the vote had been counted at the time of this writing).

His triumph will resonate far beyond the borders of El Salvador, Central America's smallest country, home to 6.5 million people. Now that Bukele has consolidated power in a big way, here are a few key developments to keep an eye on.

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Now that millions of high-priority Americans have been vaccinated, many people in low-risk groups are starting to ask the same question: when's my turn? Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious diseases expert, has an answer, but probably not the one they're hoping for: "It probably won't be until May or June before we can at least start to get the normal non-prioritized person vaccinated." On GZERO World, Dr. Fauci also addresses another burning question: why aren't schools reopening faster? And while Dr. Fauci acknowledges that reopening schools must be a top priority, he has no quick fixes there, either. In fact, that's kind of a theme of the interview.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Dr. Fauci's Pandemic Prognosis

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

I thought I would talk today, I haven't spoken much about former President Trump since he's no longer president and I intend to continue that practice. But given this weekend and the big speech at CPAC and the fact that in the straw poll, Trump won and won by a long margin. I mean, DeSantis came in number two, but he's the Governor of Florida, CPAC was in Orlando, so that's a home court bias. In reality, it's Trump's party. And I think given all of that, it's worth spending a little bit of time reflecting on what that means, how I think about these things.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


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