Feb 14, 2019

Why Amazon pulled the plug

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Amazon has spent the past two decades conquering the world, but today it beat a stunning retreat from the New York leg of its HQ2 expansion.

Why it matters: The optics are terrible for Amazon. It dangled 50,000 jobs as a life preserver for America's mid-sized cities, then picked the D.C. area and NYC for the bulk of the winnings, only to balk at the prospect of a local insurgency over its lucrative incentives package.

  • The NYC deal was built — with the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio — to avoid almost all scrutiny from other elected officials.
  • But it turns out one of the world's most valuable companies would rather fold than continue confronting the aggressive backlash from the city's community activists and municipal officials.
  • Amazon made no mention of the financial aspects of its deal in a blog post explaining its move, saying that a “number of state and local politicians have 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 with the project we and many others envisioned.”
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: "Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon's corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world."

Behind the scenes: A source familiar with Amazon’s deliberations told Axios that serious conversations about pulling back on its New York plans started in the last two weeks, sometime after a second contentious City Council hearing with its executives.

  • The source said that another key moment in the company’s decision came when New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris, a critic of the deal, was nominated to a board in early February that would have had to have approved the project.
  • News that its commitment to New York was wavering broke in the press last week.
  • Amazon’s leadership made the final call to back off the project on Wednesday night, the source said.
  • Jay Carney, a former White House press secretary and Amazon’s top policy executive, called Cuomo and de Blasio this morning to deliver the news. The company went public hours later.

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The novel coronavirus pandemic is having a huge impact on the lives of people around the world.

The big picture: The first known case outside China was in Thailand on Jan. 13. Since then, global infection numbers have surged, and governments around the world have responded with measures designed to curb the spread of the virus — ranging from lockdowns to physical distancing enforcement. There were more than 723,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections by early Monday, per Johns Hopkins data). However, life hasn’t stopped because of the pandemic, but it has changed. Here's how.

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World coronavirus updates: Global death toll surpasses 34,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 34,000 people and infected over 723,000 others globally, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy reported more than 10,700 deaths early Monday.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Sunday that his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30,

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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  3. Federal government latest: President Trump says his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
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