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Gone in a New York Minute: How the Amazon Deal Fell Apart

In early November, word began to leak that Amazon was serious about choosing New York to build a giant new campus. The city was eager to lure the company and its thousands of high-paying tech jobs, offering billions in tax incentives and lighting the Empire State Building in Amazon orange.

Even Governor Andrew Cuomo got in on the action: “I’ll change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that’s what it takes,” he joked at the time.

Then Amazon made it official: It chose the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens to build a $2.5 billion campus that could house 25,000 workers, in addition to new offices planned for northern Virginia. Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Democrats who have been political adversaries for years, trumpeted the decision as a major coup after edging out more than 230 other proposals.

But what they didn’t expect was the protests, the hostile public hearings and the disparaging tweets that would come in the next three months, eventually leading to Amazon’s dramatic Valentine’s Day breakup with New York.

Immediately after Amazon’s Nov. 12 announcement, criticism started to pour in. The deal included $1.5 billion in special tax breaks and grants for the company, but a closer look at the total package revealed it to be worth at least $2.8 billion. Some of the same politicians who had signed a letter to woo Amazon were now balking at the tax incentives.

“Offering massive corporate welfare from scarce public resources to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world at a time of great need in our state is just wrong,” said New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris and New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Democrats who represent the Long Island City area, in a joint statement.

The next day, CEO Jeff Bezos was on the cover of The New York Post in a cartoon-like illustration, hanging out of a helicopter, holding money bags in each hand, with cash billowing above the skyline. “QUEENS RANSOM,” the headline screamed. The New York Times editorial board, meanwhile, called the deal a “bad bargain” for the city: “We won’t know for 10 years whether the promised 25,000 jobs will materialize,” it said.

Anti-Amazon rallies were planned for the next week. Protesters stormed a New York Amazon bookstore on the day after Thanksgiving and then went to a rally on the steps of a courthouse near the site of the new headquarters in the pouring rain. Some held cardboard boxes with Amazon’s smile logo turned upside down.

In this Nov. 14, 2018 file photo, protesters hold up anti-Amazon signs during a coalition rally and press conference of elected officials, community organizations and unions opposing Amazon headquarters getting subsidies to locate in New York.

They had a long list of grievances: the deal was done secretively; Amazon, one of the world’s most valuable companies, didn’t need nearly $3 billion in tax incentives; rising rents could push people out of the neighborhood; and the company was opposed to unionization.

The helipad kept coming up, too: Amazon, in its deal with the city, was promised it could build a spot to land a helicopter on or near the new offices.

At the first public hearing in December, which turned into a hostile, three-hour interrogation of two Amazon executives by city lawmakers, the helipad was mentioned more than a dozen times. The image of high-paid executives buzzing by a nearby low-income housing project became a symbol of corporate greed.

Queens residents soon found postcards from Amazon in their mailboxes, trumpeting the benefits of the project. Gianaris sent his own version, calling the company “Scamazon” and urging people to call Bezos and tell him to stay in Seattle.

At a second city council hearing in January, Amazon’s vice president for public policy, Brian Huseman, subtly suggested that perhaps the company’s decision to come to New York could be reversed.

“We want to invest in a community that wants us,” he said.

Then came a sign that Amazon’s opponents might actually succeed in derailing the deal: In early February, Gianaris was tapped for a seat on a little-known state panel that often has to approve state funding for big economic development projects. That meant if Amazon’s deal went before the board, Gianaris could kill it.

“I’m not looking to negotiate a better deal,” Gianaris said at the time. “I am against the deal that has been proposed.”

Cuomo had the power to block Gianaris’ appointment, but he didn’t indicate whether he would take that step.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s own doubts about the project started to show. On Feb. 8, The Washington Post reported that the company was having second thoughts about the Queens location.

On Wednesday, Cuomo brokered a meeting with four top Amazon executives and the leaders of three unions critical of the deal. The union leaders walked away with the impression that the parties had an agreed upon framework for further negotiations, said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union.

“We had a good conversation. We talked about next steps. We shook hands,” Appelbaum said.

An Amazon representative did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

The final blow landed Thursday, when Amazon announced on a blog post that it was backing out, surprising the mayor, who had spoken to an Amazon executive Monday night and received “no indication” that the company would bail.

Amazon still expected the deal to be approved, according to a source familiar with Amazon’s thinking, but that the constant criticism from politicians didn’t make sense for the company to grow there.

“I was flabbergasted,” De Blasio said. “Why on earth after all of the effort we all put in would you simply walk away?”

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First Republican Takes Steps to Challenge Trump in Primaries

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld said Friday that he was launching a presidential exploratory committee, making him the first Republican to take steps to challenge U.S. President Donald Trump for the party’s nomination in 2020.

Trump’s popularity among Republicans remains high in his third year in office. While he is not expected to face significant hurdles in his bid for a second nomination, it is rare for an incumbent president to face a notable primary challenge, with the last being George H.W. Bush.

Weld, 73, is not well-known nationally but is well-respected among officials in the GOP establishment.

He was first elected governor of Massachusetts in 1990, defeating a conservative Democratic candidate. Weld became one of the state’s more popular governors, being elected twice by comfortable margins.

While in office, he followed traditional Republican fiscal policies of trying to keep taxes and government spending low, but embraced liberal positions on abortion and gay rights. 

Nation in ‘grave peril’

In announcing his presidential aspirations Friday in Bedford, N.H., Weld said the country was in “grave peril” and described Trump as a “schoolyard bully.”

“I encourage those of you who are watching the current administration nervously, but saying nothing, to stand up and speak out when lines are crossed in dangerous ways,” Weld said.

Weld said Trump was “a president whose priorities are skewed to the promotion of himself rather than toward the good of the country.”

Asked to comment on Weld’s campaign, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders responded: “Who?”

Weld tried to win a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts in 1996 but lost to John Kerry. He later moved to New York and unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor in 2005.

In 2016, Weld joined the Libertarian Party, serving as running mate to the party’s 2016 candidate, Gary Johnson. The duo received about 4.5 million votes, or a little more than 3 percent of the national popular vote. Weld returned to the Republican Party this year, saying it was the best place from which to challenge Trump.

Several other Republicans are also reportedly considering challenging Trump in the primaries, including former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. More than a dozen Democrats have already announced their intentions to run in the Democratic primaries or are reported to be considering candidacies.

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Payless ShoeSource to Close All Remaining US Stores 

Payless ShoeSource is shuttering all of its 2,100 remaining stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, joining a list of iconic names like Toys R Us and Bon-Ton that have closed down in the last year. 

 

The Topeka, Kan.-based chain said Friday that it will hold liquidation sales starting Sunday and wind down its e-commerce operations. All of the stores will remain open until at least the end of March and the majority will remain open until May. 

 

The debt-burdened chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2017, closing hundreds of stores as part of its reorganization. 

 

At the time, it had over 4,400 stores in more than 30 countries. It remerged from restructuring four months later with about 3,500 stores and eliminated more than $435 million in debt. 

 

The company said in an email that the liquidation did not affect its franchise operations or its Latin American stores, which remain open for business as usual. It lists 18,000 employees worldwide. 

 

Shoppers are increasingly shifting their buying online or heading to discount stores like T.J. Maxx to grab deals on name-brand shoes. That shift has hurt traditional retailers, even low-price outlets like Payless. Heavy debt loads have also handcuffed retailers, leaving them less flexible to invest in their businesses. 

 

But bankruptcies and store closures will continue through 2019, so there’s “no light at the end of the tunnel,” according to a report by Coresight Research. 

 

Before this announcement, there had been 2,187 U.S. store closing announcements this year, with Gymboree and Ascena Retail, the parent of Lane Bryant and other brands, accounting for more than half the total, according to the research firm. This year’s total is up 23 percent from the 1,776 announcements a year ago. Year-to-date, retailers have announced 1,411 store openings, offsetting 65 percent of store closures, it said. 

 

Payless was founded in 1956 by two cousins, Louis and Shaol Lee Pozez, to offer self-service stores selling affordable footwear. 

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump Declares Emergency With Faulty Claims

President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency at the southern border while acknowledging that rapid construction of a wall is not a necessity, but rather his preference. In justifying the extraordinary step, he brushed aside his administration’s conclusions that drugs come into the country primarily at official points of entry, not over remote territory that a barrier could seal off.

Trump invoked what his aides called the “common authority” of presidents to take unilateral action through the declaration of a national emergency. But there’s nothing common about a president taking command of billions of dollars without the approval of Congress to pay for a campaign promise.

“I could do the wall over a longer period of time,” Trump said, raising questions about why he sees an emergency unfolding today. “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”

At a Rose Garden news conference, Trump also claimed progress on wall construction that hasn’t occurred.

A look at some of his comments:

TRUMP: “I’ve built a lot of wall. I have a lot of money, and I’ve built a lot of wall.”

THE FACTS: He’s built no new miles of wall, lacking the money. His new construction to date has replaced existing barriers.

This month marks the start of construction of 14 miles (22 kilometers) of fencing in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, the first lengthening of barrier in his presidency. That’s from money approved by Congress a year ago, most of which was for renovating existing barrier.

Money approved by Congress in the new deal to avert another government shutdown would cover about 55 more miles (88 km).

He has often portrayed his wall, falsely, as largely complete, to a point where “Finish the wall” has become his rallying cry, replacing “Build the wall.” That masks a distinct lack of progress in physically sealing the border — a frustration that is now prompting him to find money outside the normal channels of congressional appropriation. Trump inherited about 650 miles (1,050 km) of physical border barrier from previous administrations.

TRUMP, on past presidents declaring national emergencies: “There’s rarely been a problem. They sign it; nobody cares.I guess they weren’t very exciting.But nobody cares. … And the people that say we create precedent — well, what do you have? Fifty-six? There are a lot of times — well, that’s creating precedent.And many of those are far less important than having a border.”

THE FACTS: Those declarations were rarely as consequential, and that’s precisely why they were mostly uncontroversial. He’s roughly correct about the numbers. But past declarations did not involve the unilateral spending of substantial sums of money that Congress — which holds the power of the purse — did not approve.

Emergency declarations by Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were overwhelmingly for the purpose of addressing crises that emerged abroad. Many blocked foreign interests or terrorist-linked entities from access to funds. Some prohibited certain imports from or investments in countries associated with human rights abuses.

Trump’s number resembles findings from the Brennan Center for Justice, which has tracked 58 emergency declarations back to 1978.

“It’s extremely rare for a president to declare a national emergency in a bid to fund domestic construction projects, particularly one that Congress has explicitly refused to fund,” said Andrew Boyle, an attorney in the national security program at the center. “The ones that former presidents declared are of a different sort.”

Obama declared a national emergency in July 2011 to impose sanctions on transnational criminal groups, blocking any American property interests and freezing their assets, authorizing financial sanctions against anyone aiding them and barring their members from entering the United States. It authorized sanctions against criminal cartels in Mexico, Japan, Italy and Eastern Europe. It did not direct billions in spending by the U.S. treasury.

TRUMP: “And a big majority of the big drugs — the big drug loads — don’t go through ports of entry.They can’t go through ports of entry.You can’t take big loads because you have people — we have some very capable people; the Border Patrol, law enforcement — looking.

TRUMP: “We have tremendous amounts of drugs flowing into our country, much of it coming from the southern border.When you look and when you listen to politicians — in particular, certain Democrats — they say it all comes through the port of entry. It’s wrong.It’s wrong. It’s just a lie. It’s all a lie.”

THE FACTS: His own administration says illicit drugs come mainly through ports of entry. He has persistently contradicted his officials — never mind Democrats — on this point. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said in a 2018 report that the most common trafficking technique by transnational criminal organizations is to hide drugs in passenger vehicles or tractor-trailers as they drive into the U.S. at official crossings. They also use buses, cargo trains and tunnels, the report says, citing smuggling methods that would not be choked off by a border wall.

“Only a small percentage” of heroin seized by U.S. authorities comes across on territory between ports of entry, the agency says, and the same is true of drugs generally. The great majority of heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine and fentanyl is seized at ports of entry. Marijuana is one exception; significant quantities are seized between entry ports.

Even if a wall could stop all drugs from Mexico, America’s drug problem would be far from over. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 40 percent of opioid deaths in 2016 involved prescription painkillers. Those drugs are made by pharmaceutical companies. Some feed the addiction of people who have prescriptions; others are stolen and sold on the black market. Moreover, illicit versions of powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl have come to the U.S. from China, not Mexico.

TRUMP: “Take a look at our federal prison population. See how many of them, percentage-wise, are illegal aliens. Just see. Go ahead and see. ”

THE FACTS: About 40 percent of the people who entered federal prison in 2014 were foreigners, according to the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics. The vast majority of the foreigners (20,842 of 28,821) were being held for immigration violations, not violent or property crimes. It’s not clear how many were in the country illegally. The federal prison population is not a solid yardstick of immigrant crime because it represents only 10 percent of the overall prison population of the U.S. Most people convicted of crimes are in state prison.

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Anti-Semitic Tweet Highlights Fissures Within the Democratic Party  

The Democratic party is not a monolith or a rubber stamp for any idea or policy position. That’s House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s oft-repeated way of describing the party she leads. But lately, a handful of House Democratic freshman have tested that approach to its limits, revealing cracks between the party’s traditional support of Israel and progressives’ vocal advocacy for Palestinians. 

Newcomer Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a Somali-American, drew widespread condemnation for a tweet last Sunday implying Congressional support for Israel has been bought by money from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a lobbying group that supports the U.S.-Israel relationship. 

“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” Omar tweeted late Sunday, asserting that politicians’ support of Israel is driven by money.

She touched off a firestorm of complaints from Democratic and Republican leaders alike, including Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland. Omar’s comment invoked offensive tropes about money or “Benjamins”  a reference to $100 bills — that are often used against Jewish people. Her remark was magnified because the freshman holds a coveted seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“It’s shocking to hear a member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of ‘Jewish money.’ I fully expect that when we disagree on the Foreign Affairs Committee, we will debate policy on the merits and never question members’ motives or resort to personal attacks,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel of New York said in a statement this week that reflects many of his colleagues’ reactions to the tweet.

“Criticism of American policy toward any country is fair game, but this must be done on policy grounds.” 

Omar apologized for her remarks Monday, tweeting “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.” But she went on to say that AIPAC continues to be an issue of concern, although the highly influential  organization does not make campaign contributions. 

During a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump dismissed Omar’s apology as “lame” and called on her to resign. Omar replied by calling the president a hypocrite who has “trafficked in hate your whole life  against Jews, Muslims, Indigenous, immigrants, black people and more.”

The weeklong dust-up underscored growing divisions within a Democratic Party that for decades provided unalloyed support to the state of Israel but that now must adjust to skepticism within its ranks about the Israeli government and that country’s policies towards the Palestinians. Trump and other Republican leaders are attempting to use their insistence on unqualified support for Israel as a litmus test to drive a wedge through the Democrats, according to media reports.

Omar, 37, was born in Mogadishu and spent her formative years in Somalia. She and her family were resettled as refugees in the United States in 1995, after the start of the Somalia civil war, and subsequently moved to Minneapolis, where she learned English and went to school. She studied political science and international affairs at North Dakota State University, before launching a career in politics. She won a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2016 — which made her the first Somali-American elected to legislative office in the U.S. Then last November, she won an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Omar and Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, became the first two Muslim-American women elected to Congress.

Omar has been accused of anti-Semitic language in previous tweets expressing support for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), a movement that aims to end international support for Israel because of what the group calls “oppression of Palestinians.” Each time, Omar has apologized and said the controversy was an opportunity for her to learn. 

This week, Omar declined requests to speak with the media following her apology on social media for her “Benjamins” comment. But she showed no signs of backing down from courting controversy on Wednesday, when she challenged U.S. Special Representative to Venezuela Elliott Abrams on his human rights record during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. 

During the contentious exchange, Omar mistakenly referred to Abrams as “Mr. Adams” and told him she did not understand why “this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful.” 

Omar is one of several high-profile Democratic freshman members of Congress who have publicly voiced their support for the BDS.

​Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from a heavily Democratic district in New York, has condemned “the occupation of Palestine.” Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress, is currently seeking support for a congressional delegation trip or CODEL to Palestine later this year. AIPAC has a long history of organizing yearly congressional CODELs to Israel so that members can learn more about the situation on the ground. 

Rep. Brian Babin, a Republican from Texas, urged Democratic leaders in a letter sent Thursday to “please deny Rep. Tlaib’s request to sponsor and lead a CODEL to Palestinian territories and exercise your authority as chair to deny your consent to any member of your committee who seeks your approval to participate in such a misadventure.” 

Last month, 22 Senate Democrats voted against legislation that would facilitate penalties against American companies that boycott Israel. Six of those votes were from Senate Democrats who are running for president.  

Republicans see the growing support for Palestine on the part of younger, more progressive members of Congress as a possible opportunity to divide Democratic voters ahead of next year’s presidential nomination contest. 

A January 2018 Pew Research Center poll shows the partisan divide over Israel is at its widest point in four decades and that Democrats who sympathize more with Israel than with Palestinians has dropped from 38 percent to 27 percent since 2001. 

The House Republican leadership unexpectedly added a provision to unrelated legislation Wednesday condemning anti-Semitic language, forcing Democrats to go on the record against Omar’s remarks. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California called the vote a defining moment in Congress and for the country. 

“Amid the troubling rise of anti-Semitism, including attacks on synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, it is our duty as a nation to stand firmly against intolerance and division,” McCarthy said in a statement. The provision passed unanimously, 424 to 0 vote. 

McCarthy has also faced criticism about comments invoking stereotypes about Jews. In a now deleted tweet just before the 2018 midterm elections, McCarthy accused three leading Jewish Democratic donors of trying “to buy this election.” 

Leadership in both parties will have to step carefully in the coming months, as a high-stakes 2020 presidential race heats up. Both sides will be looking for divisive tweets and off-the cuff remarks to run in campaign ads, firing up the more committed voters at the extreme ends of the parties who tend to show up at polls in early primary contests. 

Pelosi faces a tough dilemma. For the first time in decades of polling, the majority of Democrats identify themselves as liberal. The handful of progressive new House members are forcing policy discussions on a range of issues  from U.S. support of Israel to climate change to taxation rates  that is commanding media attention in a new way.

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US Judge Issues Gag Order in Trial of Former Trump Adviser Roger Stone

A U.S. judge on Friday limited the ability of people involved in the trial of Roger

Stone, a former adviser to President Donald Trump, from speaking publicly about the case in a way that may influence the outcome.

The order by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman prohibits lawyers involved in the case from speaking with news media, and prohibits other participants, like Stone himself, from making statements that may affect the case when they are near the courthouse.

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Amazon’s Exit Could Scare Off Tech Companies From New York

Amazon jilted New York City on Valentine’s Day, scrapping plans to build a massive headquarters campus in Queens amid fierce opposition from politicians angry about nearly $3 billion in tax breaks and the company’s anti-union stance.

With millions of jobs and a bustling economy, New York can withstand the blow, but experts say the decision by the e-commerce giant to walk away and take with it 25,000 promised jobs could scare off other companies considering moving to or expanding in the city, which wants to be seen as the Silicon Valley of the East Coast.

“One of the real risks here is the message we send to companies that want to come to New York and expand to New York,” said Julie Samuels, the executive director of industry group Tech: NYC. “We’re really playing with fire right now.”

In November, Amazon selected New York City and Crystal City, Virginia, as the winners of a secretive, yearlong process in which more than 230 North American cities bid to become the home of the Seattle-based company’s second headquarters.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo heralded the city’s selection at the time as the biggest boon yet to its burgeoning tech economy and underscored that the deal would generate billions of dollars for improving transit, schools and housing.

Opposition came swiftly though, as details started to emerge.

Critics complained about public subsidies that were offered to Amazon and chafed at some of the conditions of the deal, such as the company’s demand for access to a helipad. Some pleaded for the deal to be renegotiated or scrapped altogether.

“We knew this was going south from the moment it was announced,” said Thomas Stringer, a site selection adviser for big companies. “If this was done right, all the elected officials would have been out there touting how great it was. When you didn’t see that happen, you knew something was wrong.”

Stringer, a managing director of the consulting firm BDO USA LLP, said city and state officials need to rethink the secrecy with which they approached the negotiations. Community leaders and potential critics were kept in the dark, only to be blindsided when details became public.

“It’s time to hit the reset button and say, “What did we do wrong?”‘ Stringer said. “This is fumbling at the 1-yard line.”

Amazon said in a statement Thursday its commitment to New York City required “positive, collaborative relationships” with state and local officials and that a number of them had “made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward.”

Not that Amazon is blameless, experts say.

Joe Parilla, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, said the company’s high-profile bidding process may have stoked the backlash. Companies usually search for new locations quietly, in part to avoid the kind of opposition Amazon received.

“They had this huge competition, and the media covered it really aggressively, and a bunch of cities responded,” Parilla said. “What did you expect? It gave the opposition a much bigger platform.”

Richard Florida, an urban studies professor and critic of Amazon’s initial search process, said the company should have expected to feel the heat when it selected New York, a city known for its neighborhood activism.

“At the end of the day, this is going to hurt Amazon,” said Florida, head of the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute. “This is going to embolden people who don’t like corporate welfare across the country.”

Other tech companies have been keeping New York City’s tech economy churning without making much of a fuss.

Google is spending $2.4 billion to build up its Manhattan campus. Cloud-computing company Salesforce has plastered its name on Verizon’s former headquarters in midtown, and music streaming service Spotify is gobbling up space at the World Trade Center complex.

Despite higher costs, New York City remains attractive to tech companies because of its vast, diverse talent pool, world-class educational and cultural institutions and access to other industries, such as Wall Street capital and Madison Avenue ad dollars.

No other metropolitan area in the U.S. has as many computer-related jobs as New York City, which has 225,600, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Washington, Boston, Atlanta and Dallas each have a greater concentration of their workers in tech.

In the New York area, the average computer-related job pays roughly $104,000 a year, about $15,000 above the national average. Still, that’s about $20,000 less than in San Francisco.

Even after cancelling its headquarters project, Amazon still has 5,000 employees in New York City, not counting Whole Foods.

“New York has actually done a really great job of growing and supporting its tech ecosystem, and I’m confident that will continue,” Samuels said. “Today we took a step back, but I would not put the nail in the coffin of tech in New York City.”

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Chinese Leader Meets with US Trade Delegation in Beijing

Chinese President Xi Jinping met Friday with members of the U.S. trade delegation in Beijing where China and the U.S. are attempting to hammer out a trade deal.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin posted on Twitter Friday that he and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had “productive meetings with China’s Vice Premier Liu He.”

Another round of negotiations between the two countries will continue next week in Wahington, Chinese state media reported.

Earlier, a top White House economic adviser expressed confidence in the U.S. – China trade negotiations in Beijing.

“The vibe in Beijing is good,” National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters at the White House Thursday.

Kudlow provided few details but said the U.S. delegation led by Lighthizer was “covering all ground.”

“That’s a very good sign and they’re just soldiering on, so I like that story,” Kudlow said, “And I will stay with the phrase, the vibe is good.”

Negotiators are working to strike a deal by March 1, to avoid a rise in U.S. tariffs on $200 million worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent. President Donald Trump suggested earlier this week that if talks are seeing signs of progress, that deadline could be pushed back.

When asked Thursday if there would be an extension, Kudlow said, “No such decision has been made so far.”

Analysts such as William Reinsch, a former president of the National Foreign trade Council and senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, say the talks are complicated by the three main areas under negotiation.

“Market access, which I think is well on the way to completion. Some Chinese offers on intellectual property, which I think they are not going to offer what we want…And some compliance in enforcement matters.”

Reinsch told VOA’s Mandarin service that U.S. negotiators are specifically seeking ways to hold China accountable for the commitments it makes in any deal.

Munich security conference

 

While American and Chinese negotiators continue talks in Beijing, both countries are setting up for another potential face-off in Europe.

 

The U.S. and China are sending large delegations to Friday’s Munich Security Conference in Germany, a high-level conference on international security policy. Vice President Mike Pence leads the U.S. delegation while Politburo member Yang Jiechi will be the most senior Chinese official.

Yang Jiechi is heading the largest-ever Chinese delegation to the conference traditionally attended by the U.S. and its European allies. He is pushing back against Washington’s campaign pressing Europe to exclude Chinese tech giant Huawei from taking part in constructing 5G mobile networks in the region.

U.S. officials say allowing the Chinese company to build the next generation of wireless communications in Europe will enhance the Chinese government’s surveillance powers, threatening European security.

Although the technology behind 5G is complex, Brad Setser, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Treasury Department, said the decisions for European countries is simple.

“Given the nature of modern telecommunication, countries do have to make a choice about whether or not they believe that Huawei, given its relationship, not an ownership relationship, with Chinese government, can be trusted to provide the backbone of their future telecommunication system.”

Both Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned allies in Poland and other Central European countries this week on the dangers of closer ties with Beijing and collaboration with Chinese firms. In Budapest, Hungary on Monday, Pompeo said American companies might scale back European operations if countries continue to do business with Huawei.

Huawei has repeatedly denied its products could be used for espionage.

U.S. prosecutors have filed charges against Huawei including bank fraud, violating sanctions against Iran, and stealing trade secrets. The company refuted these accusations and rejected charges against its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who is currently on bail in Canada following her arrest in December.

This year’s Munich Security Conference topics include the “great power competition” between the United States, China, and Russia. Conference organizers have listed US-China tensions as one of their top 10 security issues of 2019.

VOA’s Mandarin Service reporter Jingxun Li contributed to this report

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