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.

Each month, Microsoft receives about 6,500 complaints from people who've been victims of tech support scams. But it's not just Microsoft's brand that the scammers leverage; fraudsters have pretended to be from a number of other reputable tech companies and service providers. These scams will remain an industry-wide challenge until sufficient people are educated about how they work and how to avoid them.

To measure the scope of this problem globally, Microsoft commissioned YouGov for a new 2021 survey across 16 countries. Results from the 2021 survey reveal that, globally, fewer consumers have been exposed to tech support scams as compared to the 2018 survey. However, those people who continued with the interaction were more likely to have lost money to the scammers than we saw in our previous survey. To read the highlights of the survey, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

Next week, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner who is ideologically and personally close to Iran's 82 year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will be inaugurated as Iran's president. This power transition comes as the country experiences a fresh wave of protests that started in Iran's southwest over water shortages earlier this month and has since spilled over into dozens of provinces.

Some close observers of Iranian society and politics say that popular discontent there is now more widespread than it has been in years, making the Iranian regime more vulnerable than ever.

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Tunisia, the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring, is now in the middle of its worst political crisis since it got rid of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, President Kais Saied responded to widespread protests over the ailing economy and COVID by firing embattled Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending parliament for 30 days. Troops have surrounded the legislature, where rival crowds faced off on Monday, with one side chanting in support of the move and the other denouncing it as a coup.

How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

As COVID-19 cases rise, are vaccine mandates coming?

Oh, you just want to get me in more trouble. Yeah, some mandates are coming, but they're not national mandates in the United States. In some cases, you're looking at federal and state employees, in some cases you're looking at lots of individual corporations, universities, and such. I mean I've already been to a number of events where vaccines have been mandated in New York. You've got this Excelsior Pass if you want to go to the Brooklyn Nets games, as I certainly do. You show it off and that gets you in with your vaccine. So I think it's really going to be a decentralized process. But clearly, given Delta variant and the number of people that are getting sick and dying because they're not vaccinated, you're going to see moves towards more mandates, as a consequence.

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Castillo takes over in Peru: After almost two months of protests, baseless allegations of fraud from his rival in the runoff election, and even rumblings of a coup, Pedro Castillo will be sworn in as president of Peru on Wednesday. A former rural school-teacher famous for riding on horseback, wearing a cowboy hat and waving a giant pencil to show how much he cares about education, Castillo has big plans to achieve big change. But he won by just a razor-thin margin in a deeply divided country, and Peru's dysfunctional political system will likely hobble his attempts to get major legislation passed. Moreover, despite having moderated his positions, half of the country still sees him as a communist who might turn Peru into another Venezuela. Castillo's most immediate task is dealing with the twin crises of a deadly pandemic and a COVID-fueled economic crisis that has hit poor Peruvians — his base — the hardest.

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13: The two Koreas have restored their communication hotline almost 13 months after Pyongyang abruptly cut it in response to Seoul not doing enough to prevent North Korean defectors from sending propaganda leaflets across the shared border. The hotline was established in 2018 following a historic meeting between North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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Now that the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, your Signal crew will be bringing you some intriguing, uplifting, and quirky facts about the Games that have many people on edge.

Today — what's the smallest country (by population) to win a gold medal in a summer Olympics?

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Political division, disinformation and, frankly, stupidity are costing lives. It is not authoritarian to mandate vaccines in America. In fact, there is historical precedent. Making vaccine uptake a requirement will save tens of thousands of lives and maybe many more than that. There really aren't two sides to this argument, there is just the science.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Hope you're having a good week. I wanted to kick it off by talking about vaccines. We all know the recent spike in cases and even hospitalizations that we have experienced in this country over the past couple of weeks. It looks like that's going to continue. It is overwhelmingly because of Delta variant. The hospitalizations and deaths are overwhelmingly because too many people are un-vaccinated.

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