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No honeymoon for Joe Biden

Art featuring the following copy in bold: Divided government?; COVID; Lame-duck presidency?

The US presidential election has yet to be called, but as things currently stand, Joe Biden is on track to win the 270 electoral college votes needed to clinch the US presidency. The horse race is still being closely monitored, and questions about why certain states and counties went for Trump or Biden will be addressed in the days ahead. But when all is done and dusted and the next president (likely Biden based on current projections) assumes his place in the White House on January 20, 2021, the issues he will have to tackle on day one will be as varied as they are challenging


Lame-duck shenanigans. The lame-duck interval — the 11-week period before a sitting president is replaced by a successor — is often chaotic and unproductive. In previous lame-duck periods, Congressional leaders have ignored requests from outgoing presidents, while the chief executive has issued 11th-hour executive orders and occasionally controversial pardons for some accused or convicted of crimes. (FiveThirtyEight has recorded a spike in presidential pardons towards the end of lame-duck terms.)

But if Biden wins, the upcoming lame-duck session could be more tumultuous than ever. Facing a string of legal troubles, Trump could opt to self-pardon, a move with no precedent in American history that could further inflame tensions within a deeply divided nation. He could also resign and ask acting president Mike Pence to pardon him. (There is no pardon that covers state and local tax fraud charges Trump might face in New York.)

Additionally, funding for the federal government is set to expire on December 11, requiring the Trump administration and Congress to work together to avoid a government shutdown like the one seen in 2018 when the government shuttered for 35 days. An aggrieved (and outgoing) President Trump may not be in a very cooperative mood, resulting in a shutdown-standoff that could bruise an already ailing US economy burdened with an ongoing pandemic.

A government divided. If Joe Biden wins, he will be the first president in almost four decades to take the helm without his party controlling both chambers of Congress — the House of Representatives and the Senate. (In case things don't appear complicated enough, it's worth noting that two tight Senate races in Georgia — a traditionally red state — are likely headed to run-off elections in January that could determine which party holds a Senate majority.)

As vice president, Biden saw up close the perils of divided government when the Republican-controlled Senate obstructed his boss, Barack Obama, from confirming judicial appointments and passing key legislation.

Biden's plans on tax reform (including an overhaul of Trump's tax cuts for high-earning Americans), as well as his ambitious agenda for tackling climate change, would be dead in the water under a (very likely) Republican-controlled Senate led by majority leader Mitch McConnell.

That would also undermine his ability to deliver financial aid to Americans whose pocketbooks have been hit hard by the pandemic. If Biden wins but Republicans retain Senate control, a new stimulus package is likely, analysts say, but the amount of cash doled out would be significantly less than the $3 trillion Democrats in the lower house have been pushing for.

Remember COVID? Over the past 48 hours, Americans — and non-Americans — have been fixated on vote tallies in Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. But while we were distracted, the US passed a grim milestone Wednesday, recording 100,000 new cases of COVID-19, the biggest single-day count since the pandemic started. States including Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota (mainly in rural areas) are grappling with ballooning outbreaks as the US surpassed 9 million total coronavirus cases, the most of any country in the world.

Biden has campaigned largely on Trump's failure to contain the virus and his own promise to defer to health officials on issues like how and when to reopen schools safely. But those decisions are largely made at a local level. Biden has also said that he would consider a nationwide mask mandate, but he would need to convince all 50 governors to enforce mask-wearing in their respective states — a very difficult feat at this hyper-partisan time.

In sum: Once all the votes are counted, we'll see that more than 70 million Americans voted to keep Donald Trump in the White House. The United States is more politically polarized than at any time in decades, and even as president, Joe Biden will have to negotiate and compromise to advance any of his agenda.

Knowing the secrets of the Earth requires a great deal of exploration and intellectual curiosity. Fit for this job is geologist Giuseppe Valenti, Eni's Senior Vice President, whose role is to explore below the Earth's surface and understand the history, movements and age of each single grain of sand. Today, he is able to go underground without leaving the office thanks to new technologies and advanced x-rays that relay real-time data. Though working in the lab is distinctly different from his past adventures traveling the world, Giuseppe is not nostalgic for the past. He says he will always be Indiana Jones in spirit.

Watch the latest Faces of Eni episode to learn more about Giuseppe's inspirational life.

The person a US president taps to assume the coveted role of secretary of state, the nation's top diplomat, says a lot about that president's foreign policy ambitions and global vision.

Indeed, the selection of Henry Kissinger (Nixon and Ford), James Baker (George H.W. Bush), Hillary Clinton (Obama) and Rex Tillerson (Trump) to head the State Department, provided an early window into the foreign policy priorities — or lack thereof — of their respective bosses.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, happy Monday, Thanksgiving week. Things starting to look increasingly normal in terms of outlook, in terms of having all of these vaccines. I understand that the next few months in the United States are going to be incredibly challenging, but so much easier when you see that there's light at the end of the tunnel and you know where that's coming. Most recently, the AstraZeneca announcement, which for me, in some ways is a bigger deal globally, even than what we've seen from Moderna and Pfizer, because it doesn't require freezing, it's just refrigeration, which means that countries around the world that don't have the infrastructure to deal with this cold chain requirements of these vaccines will be able to use another set of vaccines with different technology. That's not just AstraZeneca, it will be Johnson and Johnson. It's the Russians. It's the Chinese.

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Although the United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, until recently the trajectories of their COVID-19 outbreaks have been vastly different, with the EU seeming to have kept the pandemic mostly in check during the summer months. The US has now surpassed twelve million total infections as most states, particularly in the Midwest, are fighting massive outbreaks. But now Europe is doing even worse: states across the continent are seeing an uptick in average infection and mortality rates that dwarf those of the US, leading several European countries to implement fresh national lockdowns. Here's a look at the seven-day rolling average of new COVID-19 cases, and three-day rolling averages of new deaths and new deaths per capita in the EU vs the US since March.

Guatemala in crisis: In the latest unrest to hit the streets of a Latin American capital, a group of demonstrators — angry about a controversial new budget — set fire to the Guatemalan parliament building over the weekend. The budget, negotiated largely in secret while the country reels from the impact of the pandemic and back-to-back hurricanes, cuts funding for healthcare, education, and human rights organizations while boosting money for infrastructure and — get this — adds more than $50,000 for lawmakers' meal stipends. The mostly peaceful protesters, along with the Catholic Church, are demanding at a minimum that President Alejandro Giammattei veto the budget, but some on the streets are calling for him and his whole government to step down entirely. Vice President Guillermo Castillo has offered to do just that, but only if the president jumps ship with him. Can Giammattei find a solution or is this a rerun of 2015, when mass protests unseated the government of then-President Otto Perez Molina? With its economy battered by the pandemic and natural disasters, Guatemala can ill afford a prolonged crisis.

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The 2020 US Election

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