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Former VP Biden mulling another run for presidency

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Former Vice President Joe Biden is tiptoeing toward a potential presidential run in 2020, even broaching the possibility during a recent gathering of longtime foreign policy aides.

Huddled in his newly opened office steps from the U.S. Capitol, Biden began a planning meeting for his new diplomacy center by addressing the elephant in the room. He said he was keeping his 2020 options open, considering it a real possibility. He insisted he had made no decision, and didn’t need to yet, according to five people who either attended the meeting or were briefed on it by those who did.

Biden also expressed interest in bringing those in the room onto his team if he decides to launch a campaign. At the same time, he gave them an out: There would be no hard feelings if they decided they were content in their current roles outside of government, said the people, who demanded anonymity to discuss a private meeting.

The political world has long tried to game out Biden’s plans for 2020. After all, he came close to running last time only to see President Donald Trump pull off a victory that many Democrats openly suggest wouldn’t have happened had he, not Hillary Clinton, been their nominee. Several people came away from the meeting with the impression that if no strong Democratic candidate emerges in the next year or so, Biden would feel strongly compelled to run.

A presidential candidate twice before, Biden would be 78 on Inauguration Day if elected in 2020, a concerning prospect for some Democrats even though he’s only a few years older than Trump. One possibility that Biden’s longtime advisers have discussed privately is that he could announce his intention to serve only one term, clearing the path for his running mate to take over in 2024 and potentially setting up Democrats for a 12-year White House stretch.

Biden’s brief discussion about his 2020 deliberations came as he brought foreign policy staffers together to set the 2018 agenda for the newly opened Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement — where many of them are now working, including Colin Kahl, his vice presidential national security adviser, and Steve Ricchetti, his former chief of staff. Eli Ratner, his former deputy national security adviser, and Mike Carpenter, the former Pentagon and State Department official who’s now the center’s senior director, also attended, as did Julianne Smith, a Biden adviser in the Obama administration’s first term who now works at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank.

A Biden spokesman declined to comment. But in a recent NBC News interview, Biden said he’d decide on running in 2020 based on whether it was “the right thing to do.”

“I’m focused on one thing: electing a Democratic Congress to stop this erosion of the core of who we are,” Biden said. “I’ll look at that a year from now. I have plenty of time to consider whether or not to run.”

The meeting was one of several signs that Biden is beginning to position himself as an alternative to Trump. Biden has started denouncing the current president’s leadership more frequently in public, as he crisscrosses the United States and beyond to promote his new book, his cancer initiative, his new domestic policy institute in Delaware, the diplomacy center and his new political action committee, American Possibilities.

He’s also been gearing up to play a major role campaigning for Democrats seeking to retake the House and Senate in the 2018 midterms.

“Donald Trump’s looking out for Donald Trump. Republicans are looking out for Donald Trump. Who’s looking out for everyone else? Democrats,” Biden wrote in a recent fundraising pitch to the PAC’s supporters. He said in 2018, he would “beat a path all across this country to stand up for leaders who will stand up for all of us.”

In 2015, Biden’s face was plastered across cable news channels and newspaper front pages for months as he carried out a lengthy deliberation about whether to challenge Clinton for the nomination. Ultimately, he decided he and his family weren’t in position to run so soon after his son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, died from brain cancer earlier that year. Yet many Democrats have argued that his “everyman” brand and blue-collar appeal would make him particularly well-suited to challenge Trump.

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Bitcoin (BTC) price slides as US seizes most of Colonial ransom

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A banner with the logo of bitcoin is seen during the crypto-currency conference Bitcoin 2021 Convention at the Mana Convention Center in Miami, Florida, on June 4, 2021.

Marco Bello | AFP | Getty Images

Bitcoin’s price slipped again Tuesday. The reason for the move was unclear, however it may be related to concerns over security of the cryptocurrency after U.S. officials managed to recover most of the ransom paid to hackers that targeted Colonial Pipeline.

Court documents said investigators were able to access the password for one of the hackers’ bitcoin wallets. The money was recovered by a recently launched task force in Washington created as part of the government’s response to a rise in cyberattacks.

The world’s largest cryptocurrency slid over 7% at 5 a.m. ET to a price of $32,952, according to Coin Metrics data. Smaller digital coins also slumped, with ether falling 7% to $2,524 and XRP losing around 6%.

In April, 2021 was looking to be a banner year for digital assets, with bitcoin having topped $60,000 for the first time ever. But a recent plunge in crypto prices has shaken confidence in the market. Bitcoin sank to nearly $30,000 last month, and is currently down almost 50% from its all-time high.

The digital currency is now up only 14% since the start of the year, though it’s still more than tripled in price from a year ago.

U.S. recovers most of Colonial ransom

On Monday, U.S. law enforcement officials said they had seized $2.3 million in bitcoin paid to DarkSide, the cybercriminal gang behind a crippling cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline.

According to a court document, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was able to access the “private key,” or password, for one of the hackers’ bitcoin wallets. Bitcoin has often been the currency of choice for hackers demanding ransom payments to decrypt data locked by malware known as “ransomware.”

Crypto media outlet Decrypt reported there were unfounded rumors that the attackers’ bitcoin wallet had been “hacked,” an unlikely scenario.

DarkSide, which reportedly received $90 million in bitcoin ransom payments before shutting down, operated a so-called “ransomware as a service” business model, where hackers develop and market ransomware tools and sell them to affiliates who then carry out attacks.

According to blockchain analytics firm Elliptic, the seized funds represented the bulk of the DarkSide affiliate’s share of the ransom paid out by Colonial.

John Hultquist, vice president of analysis at Mandiant Threat Intelligence, called the move a “welcome development.”

“It has become clear that we need to use several tools to stem the tide of this serious problem, and even law enforcement agencies need to broaden their approach beyond building cases against criminals who may be beyond the grasp of the law,” said Hultquist.

“In addition to the immediate benefits of this approach, a stronger focus on disruption may disincentivize this behavior, which is growing in a vicious cycle,” he added.

Crypto crackdown

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Alibaba expands cloud products with livestream shopping in its battle against Amazon

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Alibaba trails Amazon and Microsoft in the global cloud computing market and hopes new products such as livestreaming e-commerce can help it stand out.

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Industry has to remain competitive as it goes green: RWE Krebber

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Electricity pylons and wind turbines stand beside the RWE Niederaussem coal-fired power plant while Steam rises from cooling towers on February 16, 2016 near Bergheim, Germany.

Volker Hartmann | Getty Images News | Getty Images

A transition to greener industry has become a priority in Europe but the head of a major German energy producer said there needs to be a “level playing field” so the region’s companies can compete globally.

“What we need is a global level playing field,” Markus Krebber, chief executive of RWE, the biggest producer of energy in Germany, told CNBC on Monday. “[Otherwise] it will be very difficult to compete with CO2-intensive imports when you are forced, in Europe, to decarbonize your industries.”

“It needs to be clear that, whatever politicians come up with [in terms of] a regulatory framework, we need to keep that level playing field otherwise we risk not only losing jobs but also risk losing the acceptance of our societies,” he added.

Germany’s government has recently increased its carbon emission cutting targets, with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approving draft legislation in May that aims to see carbon emissions cut by 65% from 1990 levels by 2030. The country is also aiming to be carbon neutral by 2045.

Germany’s emission levels are already 40% lower than they were in 1990, according to the country’s environment minister.

The more ambitious government targets have been set amid an upswing in support for Germany’s Green Party, which polls suggest is likely to become a partner in a coalition government following a federal election in September.

RWE’s Krebber said that, in the long-term, he was not concerned by government policies aiming at “greening” industry because the public supported the transition.

“If it’s wanted by the consumer and he pays for it you don’t need a support scheme, you just need a regulatory framework. But that will not happen overnight,” he noted.

“So I think that, in the beginning, we need support. But I would really urge everybody to think about market-based systems and not direct subsidies, which are not based on a competitive process, because we cannot risk to implement very expensive technologies in Germany. We currently have the highest power prices across Europe.”

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