Trump's last 4 weeks in office: vetoed coronavirus relief bill, controversial pardons

Watch Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, lend perspective to the big developments in Trump's final weeks in office:

What's going on with the coronavirus relief bill? Will Trump really not sign it?

It's possible. This week he did veto the National Defense Authorization Act, suggesting that he's willing to break some china on his way out the door. And Trump is demanding now that Congress do much more generous stimulus checks to individual American households. That probably can't pass either the House or the Senate because Republicans don't support it. But now Trump is aligned with the Democrats and he's threatening to take down this massive spending bill in order to get what he wants. A little bit of drama around Christmas time. We'll see what happens.


What else is in the bill besides cash payments to Americans?

The bill is really a continuation of what was done inside the Cares Act. And the Cares Act included money for small businesses, forgivable loans that was a lifeline to millions of small businesses in the spring, and it includes $300 cash payments to Americans who are unemployed, plus an extension of federally funded unemployment benefits that will last until about April. There's money for testing and tracing, there's money for vaccine distribution, and there's money to get schools back open. Plus, there's specific targeted money for theater venues and airlines and other industries that are suffering because of the pandemic. All told, it's about $900 billion with money going to everywhere, designed to get us through the winter.

Any controversial Trump Christmas pardons?

Yes, there were a few. Trump pardoned four Blackwater contractors who were convicted of murdering Iraqi citizens during the American occupation there. He's also pardoned two members of Congress who were convicted for crimes that had nothing to do with Trump, or the campaign, or their official duties. And he had pardoned a former aide who was involved in the Russian investigation. So, these aren't the last we're going to see, I think that you're going to see some targeted pardons going out to Trump allies and also potentially broader pardons going out to advance Trump's post-presidency political career.

A sector that's rapidly expanding, domotics - domus (home) plus robotics - are smart houses that manage temperature and lighting to minimize wasted electricity. For example, smart thermostats sense your presence and set the temperature according to your needs, saving 20% a year on heating bills. Watch this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series to learn how domotics save money and increase a home's value.

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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Listen: In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer, Pulitzer Prize-winning climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert assesses the current state of the climate crisis and answers a simple question: how screwed are we? And as the climate continues to warm at a record pace, she unpacks some of the more extreme climate solutions that some increasingly desperate nations are starting to consider. Such measures may sound like stuff of science fiction (see: injecting sulfur particles into the atmosphere or shooting millions of tiny orbital mirrors into outer space) as times become more desperate, their appeal is growing. Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

China is making its neighbors nervous these days. Chinese fighter jets are screaming into Taiwan's airspace. Hundreds of armed Chinese "fishing boats" are plying the disputed waters of the South China Sea. And Beijing is slashing imports from some trading partners because of disputes over political issues.

To push back against this increasingly aggressive behavior, regional powers Japan, India, and Australia, together with the US, are boosting cooperation via a 17-year-old grouping called the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or simply "The Quad." But how effectively can these four countries really work together to counter China? Eurasia Group's Peter Mumford discusses the Quad's future.

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Want to tackle climate change? If so you'll have to reach out to China, which is currently responsible for over a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions. Beijing will certainly take your call, as climate is a huge priority for President Xi Jinping.

Xi has promised that China will go "net zero" — meaning its carbon emissions will be offset by equal amounts of either natural or tech-driven carbon capture — by 2060. Is a decade later than most of the top 10 polluting countries fast enough for the rest of the world? It is for the Chinese, who want to help but have their own ideas about how.

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When will it be safe for the world's children to be vaccinated against COVID-19? The World Health Organization's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, says that vaccines are being tested in children down to the age of six or even lower, and promises that data on children will be shared as soon as it's available. She also notes that there are not enough studies on transmission in schools, and the WHO has advised governments to prioritize schools "over other things like shopping malls or cinema halls or pubs." Dr. Swaminathan spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Over the past half century, climate change has had an immense impact on the farmers who produce the food we eat. A new study by Cornell University shows that global warming has knocked 21 percent off of global agriculture productivity growth since 1965, equivalent to seven years of normal growth if humans had not polluted the planet. But not all countries have been affected in the same say. Farmers in warmer parts of the world have been hit hard as conditions grow more arid, but sub-polar regions in Canada or Siberia are now actually better for agriculture because they are not as cold as they used to be. Here we take a look at how climate has affected farming productivity growth around the world.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

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Can "the Quad" constrain China?

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