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Hunter Biden and the Hunt for a New “Hillary’s Emails”

With less than three weeks to go until the election, The New York Post published what it apparently thought would be a bombshell report. The tabloid newspaper claims it obtained a cache of emails by Hunter Biden, the Democratic nominee’s controversial son, including one that suggests the younger Biden arranged a meeting between his father…

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Hunter Biden and the Hunt for a New “Hillary’s Emails”

With less than three weeks to go until the election, The New York Post published what it apparently thought would be a bombshell report. The tabloid newspaper claims it obtained a cache of emails by Hunter Biden, the Democratic nominee’s controversial son, including one that suggests the younger Biden arranged a meeting between his father and a Ukrainian oligarch with whom Hunter had a business relationship. Biden has previously denied discussing his son’s business dealings while in office.

The story is less persuasive than its full-court-press treatment indicated. The sourcing trail for the emails in question is murky, at best; they also happen to run straight through some of President Donald Trump’s closest allies and fixers. The Biden campaign directly denied that any such meeting took place, citing official schedules from the time period in question. If nothing else, the Post story serves as a dry run for processing any other October surprises that the Trump campaign may try to launch out of desperation. Think of it as a trial balloon for a sequel to the follies of four years ago: a cursed laptop, a tranche of controversial emails that are apparently still giving off heat, and an altered path for the nation—except this time, the old adage about farce following tragedy seems to apply.

According to the Post, this new batch of emails is purported to have come from a copy of a laptop hard drive obtained by an unnamed Delaware computer-repair store in April 2019. The Post claims the laptop includes intimate photos and videos of Hunter Biden, in addition to the purported emails. (It published a photo of Hunter Biden smoking a cigarette that it attributes to the copy.) The Post also recounts that the store owner no longer has possession of the laptop because FBI agents confiscated it after he alerted them to its apparent existence.

It’s worth noting at this point, however, that the Post did not confirm whether the laptop belonged to Hunter Biden at all. “The customer who brought in the water-damaged MacBook Pro for repair never paid for the service or retrieved it or a hard drive on which its contents were stored, according to the shop owner, who said he tried repeatedly to contact the client,” the Post claims. “The shop owner couldn’t positively identify the customer as Hunter Biden but said the laptop bore a sticker from the Beau Biden Foundation, named after Hunter’s late brother and former Delaware attorney general.”

How did the Post learn about the laptop at all? According to its own report, the owner made a copy of the hard drive and gave it to Robert Costello, the attorney for Trump confidant Rudy Guiliani. “Steve Bannon, former adviser to President Trump, told the Post about the existence of the hard drive in late September and Giuliani provided the Post with a copy of it on Sunday,” the Post said. The report does not mention that federal agents arrested Bannon for his role in an alleged scheme to defraud Trump supporters in August.

In sum, the Post says it has a copy of a hard drive purportedly from a computer that may or may not have belonged to Hunter Biden. The Post says it learned about and obtained the hard drive copy from two of President Donald Trump’s closest political allies roughly three weeks before the November election. And the Post says the contents of that copy include what appear to be damaging emails about Joe Biden, who currently leads in the polls against Trump by a significant margin. Those purported emails conveniently seem to support a series of political attacks made by Trump, Giuliani, and their associates over the past two years.

If this was supposed to be some sort of October surprise, it failed. The Biden campaign, for its part, said that no such meeting between him and the oligarch took place. Mainstream news outlets shied away from the story, likely because of its murky sourcing and speculative assertions. And when The Daily Beast interviewed the store owner on Wednesday, after the Post’s report came out, the man gave a series of confused and contradictory answers about how he obtained the purported material. According to the Beast, he also claimed he couldn’t tell who dropped off the laptop in question because of an unspecified medical condition. (In the hours since the Post published its account, the original controversy had been subsumed within a meta-controversy: the decision of Facebook, and later Twitter, to throttle the dissemination of the story on the grounds that it was disinformation.)

We’ve been here before. Trump dispatched Giuliani to Europe last year in an effort to dig up dirt on the Bidens and Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine. At the same time, the president directly pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelinskiy to aid Giuliani’s efforts to smear his likely opponent in this year’s election. Among Trump’s coercive tools at the time was $400 million in congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine’s fight against Russian-backed insurgents in its eastern provinces. The White House quietly withheld the aid throughout last summer, while Trump and his allies pushed Zelinskiy to publicly accuse Biden of corruption.

By September, however, the scheme had fallen apart. A whistleblower alerted the intelligence community’s inspector general and the House Intelligence Committee about the plot, and the Trump administration quietly released the aid soon thereafter. The revelations led the House to impeach Trump in December for abuse of power and obstruction of justice, though the Senate acquitted him of both charges in February. As the coronavirus pandemic struck the United States in March, the entire Biden-Trump-Ukraine saga faded from immediate memory.

Republicans’ desperation for a game-changer from the Justice Department has grown as Trump’s poll numbers have sunk. But no such relief appears on the horizon. Attorney General Bill Barr reportedly told Republican senators that an investigation into the Russia investigation’s origins won’t become public before Election Day. An inquiry by federal prosecutors into the “unmasking” of Trump campaign officials in 2016 also recently wrapped up without charges. Conservative media figures and Republican lawmakers had hoped that one or both of the investigations would come to Trump’s political aid before voters could render their judgment next month.

Trump’s anger and frustration is also growing. In Fox interviews last week, he lashed out at Barr by name. “Unless Bill Barr indicts these people for crimes, the greatest political crime in the history of our country, then we’re going to get little satisfaction unless I win and we’ll just have to go, because I won’t forget it,” Trump claimed. “But these people should be indicted. This was the greatest political crime in the history of our country, and that includes Obama and it includes Biden.” There is no evidence that the former president and former vice president have committed any crimes, and Trump’s baseless call for their arrest is strikingly dictatorial. Over the past few days, Trump hinted that he might replace Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray after the election if he wins.

The president and his allies know on some level that he owes his narrow victory in 2016 at least in part to third-party efforts: the release of hacked Clinton-related emails in early October, as well as then–FBI Director James Comey’s eleventh-hour announcement, later that month, that the investigation had been reopened. As he faces an even more dire electoral map four years later, Trumpworld may be tempted to try to provoke a similar episode to undermine Biden’s chances. Against that backdrop, a healthy amount of skepticism is warranted about any mysterious damaging information that suddenly surfaces over the next few weeks.

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Release of PPP loan recipients reveal troubling patterns

Sweeping data released by the Small Business Administration on who benefited from pandemic relief programs raises questions about the equitability and distribution of loans intended for small businesses, an initial analysis by NBC News shows.The analysis found that properties owned by the Trump Organization as well as the Kushner Companies, owned by the family of…

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Release of PPP loan recipients reveal troubling patterns

Sweeping data released by the Small Business Administration on who benefited from pandemic relief programs raises questions about the equitability and distribution of loans intended for small businesses, an initial analysis by NBC News shows.

The analysis found that properties owned by the Trump Organization as well as the Kushner Companies, owned by the family of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, profited from the program.

After months of litigation, the SBA released the dataset Tuesday night on every small business that received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL) loan.

The data reveals the most complete accounting to date of the more than $700 billion in forgivable loans Congress and the Trump administration introduced in the spring for allowable expenses, including payroll, rent, utilities and mortgage interest payments.

The analysis by NBC News, one of 11 newsrooms that sued for the release of data, also shows:

  • Over 25 PPP loans worth more than $3.65 million were given to businesses with addresses at Trump and Kushner real estate properties, paying rent to those owners. Fifteen of the properties self-reported that they only kept one job, zero jobs or did not report a number at all.
  • The loans to Trump and Kushner properties included a $2,164,543 loan to the Triomphe Restaurant Corp., at the Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York City. The company reported the money didn’t go to keeping any jobs. It later closed.
  • A company called LB City Inc, which is at Kushner’s Bungalow Hotel in Long Branch, New Jersey, received a loan for $505,552.50 that it used to keep 155 jobs.
  • Two tenants at 725 5th Avenue, Trump Tower, received more than $100,000 and kept only three jobs.
  • Four tenants at the Kushner-owned 666 5th Avenue combined received more than $204,000, and retained only six jobs.

There were also some troubling signs of mismanagement revealed in the data. Over 100 loans were made to companies where no business name was listed, were listed as “no name available” or showed potential data entry errors, such as names that appeared to be dates or phone numbers. More than 300 companies appear to have each gotten more than $10 million in loans through their subsidiaries. Businesses were not supposed to receive more than $10 million per entity, except for those in the food, hospitality or hotels industries.

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The findings immediately raised concerns with government accountability groups.

“Many months and broken promises later, the court-ordered release of this crucial data while the Trump administration is one foot out the door is a shameful dereliction of duty and flagrant mismanagement of a program that millions of workers and small businesses needed to get through this pandemic,” Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US, an accountability watchdog, said in a statement.

Original intent

The PPP programs’ original stated intent by officials was to help with payroll for small businesses struggling under the effects of coronavirus lockdown measures. The loans aimed to provide a bridge through the summer for what was hoped to be an improved economic and health climate in the fall.

But almost from the start, the programs, particularly PPP, drew criticism for how they were administered and messaged, and whether it was equitable.

Large national banks initially gave loans only to customers with whom they had pre-existing lending relationships. Businesses owned by people of color without strong banking relationships found themselves with limited access and forced them to find other routes for funding. There was also the persistent question of what defined a “small business,” after lobbying by the hotel and restaurant industry ballooned the maximum number of employees allowable to 500, even though over 98 percent of the small businesses in America have fewer than 100 employees.

The administration tried to address the complaints, such as setting aside a day just for smaller community banks to apply for loans. But even that overwhelmed SBA computer systems. These controversies all increased the pressure for transparency.

But in contrast to previous government bailout programs, the agency previously released less detailed versions that it said for privacy reasons omitted the business names and addresses of borrowers who borrowed less than $150,000. And instead of specific loan amounts, loans were listed in ranges.

Mixed responses

The SBA defended its handling of the program when it released its data on Tuesday evening.

“SBA’s historically successful Covid relief loan programs have helped millions of small businesses and tens of millions of American workers when they needed it most,” an SBA spokesman said in a statement accompanying the release.

But as government accountability groups sifted through the data late into the night and uploaded them to publicly searchable databases like SearchPPP.com, they expressed regret about what has happened to so many small businesses partly from mismanagement of the loan program.

“Only now — after its hand has been forced, hundreds of thousands of small businesses have gone under, and millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted — has this administration pulled back the curtains to reveal the malpractice going on behind the scenes,” Herrig said. “Americans deserved an open, transparent small business aid program when this pandemic started, and any new small business relief program must take a lesson from the abject failures of this one.”

Ben Popken

Ben Popken is a senior business reporter for NBC News.

Andrew W. Lehren

Andrew W. Lehren is a senior editor with the NBC News Investigative Unit.

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‘Moonlighter’ Evaluation– Delve Dungeons, Develop a Company, and Discover History

Moonlighter ($11.99). A store, a story, a legacy, a game. First announced on mobile at GDC last year, it has finally been released. Part dungeon crawler, part shop manager, it is entirely fun. Players follow Will, proprieter of the Moonlighter, as he gathers materials for his shop, crafts weapons, potions and enchantments, and enters dungeons…

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Moonlighter($1199) A shop, a story, a legacy, a video game. First announced on mobile at GDC in 2015, it has actually lastly been launched. Part dungeon crawler, part shop supervisor, it is completely enjoyable. Gamers follow Will, proprieter of the Moonlighter, as he gathers products for his store, crafts weapons, potions and magics, and enters dungeons to discover popularity, fortune, and just perhaps find out a bit more about them.

While a store simulator and a dungeon spider are noticeably various, they are both RPGs, and it isn’t unexpected that they mix together well.

Store management games, on the other hand, have to get their product someplace. Most of the time basic materials are just … conjured up from the base code to be turned into beneficial products. Once in a while, however, you can purchase rare or fascinating components from travelers for a lot more expensive products. The question, nevertheless, is what if you integrated these two categories? What if you could crawl dungeons for materials to craft, therefore have a little action; then, when you go back to town, what if you could create the helpful items– weapons, armour, potions, magics and such– and offer the scrap? Well, then you would have Moonlighter

While the video game is called after the store, the balance in between handling the Moonlighter and trawling dungeons for loot and boss fights is quite reasonable. That stated … it is simple to spend excessive time doing one thing, focusing on one part of the video game, that makes the unavoidable return to doing whatever you were avoiding a lot more uncomfortable. Battering monsters is fun, for instance, but if you aren’t aware of which materials are worth selling later, which ones are required for much better devices, and which ones can safely be consumed for gold to leave the dungeon, sorting everything later when customers are piling through your front door can be rather stressful. If all you want to do is offer loot, you’re going to run out quite quickly. Balance is essential.

Disregarding all that, though, the dungeon crawling is rather fun, if easy. There are only so lots of enemy types in each dungeon, and it doesn’t take a strategic genius to figure out how to securely clear a space without taking damage.

After you’ve tired of beating up on mobs, or after a guardian has connected your sword in knots and tossed you out, it’s time to offer all the stuff accumulating in your backpack. Too far above the ideal variety, however, and not only will the product not offer, anyone who takes an appearance at the item will get upset, leave early, and considerably hurt the Moonlighter’s track record.

While the story isn’t exactly a heartrending tale of loss and love, betrayal and found friendships … it isn’t boring either. Other than a quick intro and routine chats with Zenon, your old mentor, narrative is delivered via notes discovered on dungeon floors and journal entries from Crazy Pete, an adventurer obsessed with finding a much deeper meaning in the depths.

A lot more excellent is the art and music. Creatively, Moonlighter utilizes a mix of colourful pixel art for gameplay and something a bit more stylish for cutscenes and such. Each dungeon provides a distinct visual, with a special soundtrack for that little extra something. The mix is delightful, and I completely enjoy it. I do, nevertheless, have but one problem: The caution animation on opponents. You see, it isn’t constant. Sometimes attacks trigger prior to the yellow flash, other times during it, and still others instantly after. It doesn’t even always seem to be consistent amongst enemies of the same type– I’ve been hit by attacks that I had simply dodged due to the fact that the timing had actually changed! It’s really rather frustrating, and I can’t help however believe it’s a bug.

Despite that, it is extremely enjoyable to play. In addition, there are buttons to switch weapons, an unique attack, potions, stock, a map, and a pendant to escape the dungeon spread along the edges of the screen.

I said it in the past, and I meant it: Moonlighter is a great game. It is a fascinating blend of dungeon crawler and shopkeep simulator, something not really delivered by other games that I have discovered.

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Business closures, partial reopenings due to COVID-19 might cost the United States $3-5 trillion in GDP over 2 years

Credit: CC0 Public Domain The COVID-19 pandemic could result in net losses from $3.2 trillion and up to $4.8 trillion in U.S. Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the course of two years, a new USC study finds. The pandemic’s economic impact depends on factors such as the duration and extent of the business closures,…

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Business closures, partial reopenings due to COVID-19 might cost the United States $3-5 trillion in GDP over 2 years
economy
Credit: CC0 Public Domain.

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The COVID-19 pandemic could result in bottom lines from $3.2 trillion and approximately $4.8 trillion in U.S. Genuine Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the course of 2 years, a brand-new USC research study discovers.

The pandemic’s financial impact depends on elements such as the period and level of business closures, the progressive resuming process, infection rates and casualties, avoiding public places, and suppressed customer need, according to the research study by the USC Center for Threat and Financial Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE).

Genuine GDP is a step, adjusted for inflation, that shows the value and the amount of last goods and services produced by a country’s economy in a given year.

” In a best-case situation, we would see containment steps, such as masks and social distancing end up being more prevalent, and possibly even a vaccine by next year, and after that services and institutions would be able to reopen at a sped up speed,” said Adam Rose, research study group leader who is the director of CREATE and a research study teacher at the USC Price School of Public Law.

” However in a worst-case situation, these countermeasures would not materialize, and reopenings would occur gradually, especially since we would continue to see waves of infection,” he said. More people would likely lose their jobs, and the impacts of this catastrophe would continue to install.”

The researchers discovered that the necessary closures and partial reopenings alone might lead to a 22%loss of U.S. GDP in just one year and an even higher loss of GDP over 2 years. Other crucial factors, however, will influence how dreadful the losses may be, they noted.

The research study team kept in mind that China has not continual such losses due to aggressive containment measures resulting in a shorter lockdown period. They predict that in a worst-case scenario, the U.S. GDP loss due to COVID will more than quadruple that of China.

The study was published on Nov. 30 in the journal Economics of Catastrophes and Climate Modification

In early March, numerous states responded to a rise in COVID-19 cases by buying the closures of non-essential companies such as dining establishments, bars, salons and retailers. Many likewise stopped or decreased civil services to restrict the spread.

Scientists at CREATE who are specialists on modeling financial repercussions of disasters evaluated the capacity economic effect in three situations ranging from moderate to disastrous.

Using a computerized economic model, the scientists represented these other factors in the 3 circumstances. They differed the decrease in the workforce due to workers becoming ill with or passing away of the virus, workers adopting new behaviors like staying at home to prevent infection, increased demand for COVID healthcare, prospective resilience through telework, increased need for communication services, and increased bottled-up consumer demand

The scientists conducted a synthesis of the literature of projections on the severity and possible duration of the pandemic.

Anywhere from 365,000 to as numerous as 2.5 million COVID patients might end up in the ICU, while another 860,000 to nearly 6 million clients may be hospitalized however not dealt with in the ICU. The forecasted number of individuals who will be dealt with for COVID as outpatients might differ from about 2.6 million to 18 million.

To name a few highlights of the research study, the scientists projected:

  • 54 million to 367 million work days would be lost due to individuals getting ill or die from COVID
  • 2 million to almost 15 million work days would be lost due to employees staying home to care for sick enjoyed ones.
  • Job losses might vary from 14.7%to 23.8%, and in the worst case affect an estimated 36.5 million employees.
  • A loss in need for some services– such as the use of public transit and school presence, dining establishment dining and travel– as individuals prevent public places and services to minimize their threat of exposure.

    A boost in pent-up need will occur since customers are unable to invest cash on big-ticket items such as vehicles, along with on travel, restaurants, hotels, product, fitness, sporting events and shows throughout the closures, and, to a lower extent, throughout the phased reopenings.

    While the scientists have actually discovered that the necessary closures and re-openings are the most prominent consider the economy’s decline, customer avoidance habits also has a significant result.

    For the research study, the scientists presumed that various individuals prevented work, did not go to in-person classes at schools, and stopped going to dining establishments, activities and social gatherings to lower their risk of infection.

    ” Due to the fact that people have actually had to prevent activities, this has had a significant effect on economic losses,” said Dan Wei, a CREATE research fellow and research associate professor at the USC Cost School for Public Policy.

    The economic losses from closures and avoidance behavior could be partially balanced out by increased customer costs after reopening, the researchers stated.

    ” Bottled-up need is one of the most influential aspects for the economy in this pandemic. While the obligatory closures and partial reopenings drive the majority of the economic decrease, the degree to which pent-up demand results in an increase in consumption after resuming, can be crucial to the economic recovery,” said Terrie Walmsley, a USC CREATE research study fellow and an adjunct assistant professor of practice in economics at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

    ” The crucial question is: When will we see a total reopening throughout this country? We simply can not predict that, particularly due to the fact that we have actually not acquired control of the spread of the disease,” Rose said.



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