We Tried Facebook’s New Portal Device (So You Don’t Have To)
Here’s what happened when two Times tech reporters installed Facebook’s new Portal video-calling gadgets in their bedrooms.
So we — Mike Isaac and Farhad Manjoo, two technology writers for The New York Times — took the $199 and $349 devices for a test run over the last week to see if they could make us feel more connected to each other.
We both installed the Portal, which starts shipping on Thursday, in our homes (our bedrooms, to be exact). The devices are video-calling machines that people can use to talk through a screen to other Facebook users. They have a 12-megapixel camera with high-definition video and artificial intelligence software; the camera follows people about as they move around.
Were we worried about what these always-on devices might collect on us? Here’s how it played out.
So I have to say, waking up next to you in my bedroom was, uh, quite an experience. I put my Portal Plus on the desk that sits bedside. The screen saver cycled through my photo albums on Facebook and Instagram — and also occasionally your face.
What was your experience like initially? The unboxing process was funny to me. It felt like an Apple design moment; every piece of plastic and “pull here” tab was carefully placed, with the intentionality that Apple usually saves for its device packaging, but with a very Facebook-y twist on things. There was an iconic Facebook thumb on my power cord holder, for example.
Setting up my Portal Plus was easy. Popped the thing out of the box, plopped it on my desk, plugged it in, connected to Wi-Fi and my Facebook account. From there, I think, I called you almost immediately.
The great thing about these devices is that they are stationary and always on. When you want to call someone, you just tell it to call the person — no looking for your phone, no holding the phone while you chat. It all just works with a single utterance. (Everything old is new: These devices are like landlines!)
The problem with Amazon’s Echo Show is its fixed viewing angle — if you don’t have it pointed exactly at you, it’s hard to have a conversation. My kids, who use the Show to call my parents, are always fighting with each other about who gets to stand right in front of the screen.
The Portal solves that problem in a neat way: It uses software to follow you around a room, always keeping the speaker in frame and cropped. I found this very useful.
I will also admit I loved the augmented reality lenses, a flourish Facebook is adding to pretty much all of its camera-based apps. Just like Snapchat, I can choose a filter that turns my face into a werewolf, or stick a (live) cat on my head as a hat. Cat-as-a-Hat: a goofy gimmick worthy of Dr. Seuss — but it works!
Facebook also went out of its way to let us know that all video chats are end-to-end encrypted, and the company does not store the contents of the calls, nor does it listen in on them.
But even that wasn’t enough for me! Whenever I wasn’t using the Portal, I unplugged it. I turned the camera around to face the window looking over the back yard. I would periodically check to make sure all lights or microphones were off when I took a phone call or text.
I don’t think he believes that anymore, and Facebook has been working to improve how users can manage their private data on the platform. Still, if you’re going to choose between a calling device made by Facebook and one made by Amazon or Apple, you wouldn’t be crazy to discount Facebook’s device because of its business model and history.
All that said, a lot of people are just fine with the level of insight Facebook has into their lives. If you already chat and call on Facebook Messenger on your phone, then chatting and calling from Portal isn’t putting you in any greater danger.
Portal is better than the Show at making calls, and for a first piece of hardware, it’s quite impressive. But it’s still a device of fairly limited functionality — a well-designed luxury at this point.
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November 08, 2018
Sources: New York Times
ritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes. </p><p>“Bulls &amp; Bears” panel on the Wall Street Journal report that employee morale at Facebook is declining and The New York Times report discussing how the social media giant has dealt with recent scandals.</p><p>Facebook, already under scrutiny over security and other mishaps, came under added fire on Wednesday over a report suggesting its private voice and  public actions are not in sync.</p><p>According to the report, Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm, Definers Public Affairs, to "discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, persuading a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.”</p><p>Soros has been a source of controversy for decades. Soros, who made his fortune in hedge funds, has donated heavily to liberal causes and is vilified on the right. He is also the subject of many unfounded conspiracy theories. Recently, conservative critics have, without evidence, accused him of secretly financing a caravan of Central American migrants to make their way north toward Mexico and the U.S. Others have falsely accused the 88-year-old of being a Nazi collaborator during World War II, when he was a child in Hungary. Activists frequently post the addresses of homes he owns in Westchester County, north of New York City, on social media sometimes accompanied by ill wishes.</p><p>Freedom From Facebook, which calls itself a diverse group of organizations sharing deep concerns about Facebook’s extraordinary power over our lives and democracy, was astonished by the Times report.</p><p>“If anyone knows about spreading vile propaganda it’s Facebook and if they are hiring Republican political operatives to launch false attacks against the Freedom From Facebook coalition, clearly they are concerned about us and, judging by their stock price and employee morale, they should be,” Freedom From Facebook co-chair Sarah Miller said to Fox News in a statement following the Times report. “But nothing more perfectly summarizes our policy case — that nothing will change at Facebook unless the FTC and Congress act — than everything Facebook has done over the past year, as laid out in this New York Times piece.”</p><p>Social media companies have been under scrutiny following allegations that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica used data from tens of millions of Facebook accounts to profile voters and help President Trump's 2016 election campaign. News that the consultancy had used data from tens of millions of Facebook accounts to profile voters ignited a global scandal on data rights.</p><p>These bombshells have created a broad inquiry into how political parties, data companies and social media platforms use personal information to target voters during political campaigns.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>
ntered astronaut training: Doctor, engineer, Peace Corps medical officer in Sierra Leone and Liberia.</p><p>"By the time I got to NASA, I’d been around a block a bunch of times and been in some very difficult circumstances," said Jemison, the first black woman to travel into space.</p><p>The military trainers who took her through wilderness survival probably wish they had looked up that background.</p><p>"For some reason, they decided they wanted to pick on me, which I'm probably the worst person to pick on," she said. "I used to hunt with my dad. I'm a doctor. You can't gross me out. I've worked in Africa. I've worked with all kinds of diseases."</p><p>After killing a bird, they chose Jemison to clean it. </p><p>"I know that they thought I was going to be 'uhhh,'" she said. "I remember plucking (the bird) and they said, 'OK now you have to take the insides out,' and I said, 'They're already out' and I had them in my hand."</p><p>Jemison's classmates also displayed a wide range of expertise, with backgrounds as test pilots, neurologists and astrophysicists. "What was really exciting about it was there were so many things you had to learn," she said about astronaut training. "And then getting to learn a lot about the work that other folks did."</p><p>"It’s a big fire hydrant of information and that’s really exciting," said Jemison, who today leads the 100 Year Starship Project, a nonprofit initiative with the goal of ensuring the capabilities exist for human beings to travel to another star by 2112. </p><p>The training was so comprehensive that actually going into space didn't phase Jemison, who also helped actors get into the mindset of an astronaut on National Geographic Channel's series "MARS." </p><p>"Of course it's different because what you can't train for is the consistent zero-g but you start to get used to it," she said. "The human body is remarkable for its resiliency."</p><p>Leland Melvin, another former NASA astronaut, had a similar experience. When he went into space for the first time, Melvin was in charge of robotics. His job centered around the installation of another module to the International Space Station.</p><p>"I'd never done that before. I'd only done it in the equivalent of a video game," he said. "All of our training is basically screens and hand controllers, just like a video game." </p><p>"When it came to the day that you've got to show that you've got the right stuff ... I realized that the training was exactly like what I felt in space. The dynamics of the arm moved the same way that they did on the ground in this virtual space," Melvin said.</p><p>By the time he came to NASA, Melvin also carried an impressive list of accomplishments. As a NFL player, he was well versed in the mental discipline and physical aptitude needed to pass the rigorous tests. "Land survival, water survival – those weren't too difficult for me," he said. </p><p>The hardest – and what ended up being his favorite – part of training? Flying. "You're just holding off going Mach 1 because you would blow out all the windows," he said. "You're deploying these speed breaks to keep you below Mach so you can come in safely."</p><p>Melvin enjoyed the aerobatics of rolls, loops and turns involved in flying, even when the pilot was trying to pull a multiple G-force turn. They're "trying to knock you unconscious," he said. "You're trying to force the blood to stay inside your head so that you don't pass out."</p><p>As for how long training takes to complete? That's an open-ended question. Melvin first traveled into space in 2007, nine years after he entered the astronaut training program in 1998.</p><p>Even when astronauts go into orbit more quickly, the training never stops, Jemison said.</p><p>"You're always training," she said. "Even when you come back from a mission you're still training."</p>
cactuses to entice the company into setting up shop. </p><p>Company executives flew to New York just to establish that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio could put aside their longstanding differences. </p><p>Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, will be able to come to work by flying over the East River — where kayakers now bob. Office buildings will rise and make room for 25,000 workers. How can this happen so fast? The state and city will bypass City Council, which has the power to block rezoning and land use measures.</p><p>It will rejuvenate a place filled with dated office buildings developed in the 1970s for military contractors. Some of that space has been sitting empty since the Pentagon reorganized after the Sept. 11 attacks. </p><p>The rebranding has already sparked conversation on social media.</p><p>Mr. Cuomo said he was doing everything that he could to lure Amazon in. </p><p>New companies in Long Island City have already transforming the semi-industrial waterfront area and are drawing in moneyed professionals, raising concerns that more intense gentrification will drive up costs.</p>
and counts Barack Obama as a fan. </p><p>In 2011, he was spotted checking out books by a designer from Google, who offered Mr. Sandu the opportunity to shadow him at his company’s headquarters. “After going to the library pretty much every day for a year and half, I think it showed my dedication,” Mr. Sandu said.</p><p>Billed as a “smart store,” it offers exclusive music and other content to customers who have downloaded an app. “I realized, especially for people of color, I need to create scenarios to show I am just like them,” Mr. Sandu said. </p>
most emotionally resonant pieces of technology today. It is also shaping our narratives along the way.</p><p>The first time Google Photos made me cry, it was with a sucker punch. </p><p>Google’s computers can recognize faces, even as they age over time. Photos also seems to understand the tone and emotional valence of human interaction, things like smiles, giggles, frowns, tantrums, dances of joy and even snippets of dialogue like “happy birthday!” or “good job!” The resulting montage, synced to a swelling Hollywood score, mixed obvious highlights — birthdays, school plays — with dozens of ordinary moments of childhood bliss. </p><p>This is what I mean about a sucker punch: Who expects software to make them cry? Images on Instagram and Snapchat may move you regularly, but Google Photos is not social media; it is personal media, a service begun three years ago primarily as a database to house our growing collections of private snaps — and a service run mostly by machines, not by other humans posting and Liking stuff.</p><p>With its heavy focus on artificially intelligent curation, Google Photos suggests the dawning of a new age of personalized robot historian. The trillions of images we are all snapping will become the raw material for algorithms that will curate memories and construct narratives about our most intimate human experiences. In the future, the robots will know everything about us — and they will tell our stories.</p><p>But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before fretting about the sci-fi tomorrow, it’s worth marveling at the basic utility of Google Photos today. Tech companies have been trying to create ways to manage digital photos ever since we began ditching film. Most efforts have failed; the better our portable cameras get, the more photos we take, and the more photos we take, the less able we all are to make sense of the stash.</p><p>“With the invention of the smartphone, there was nothing that humans did, absolutely nothing, that they didn’t also make an image of,” said Martin Hand, a sociologist at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and the author of “Ubiquitous Photography,” an academic inquiry into the blessed problem of too many photos. “But that brought about its own problems — it started to get overwhelming.”</p><p>More than a decade ago, the tech world hit on one partial solution to picture overload: Make images social. Through services like Flickr, then Facebook and Instagram, we tried to curate our images by getting others to do it for us. The best photos of you were the ones that were ranked highly in your social feed; the worst were the ones you didn’t post. </p><p>But social media created another set of problems — there was a fear-of-missing out, a sense of performative anxiety, loneliness and an erosion of privacy. “There was a sense in which because everything was public, young people had to constantly curate the idea of themselves in public,” said Mr. Hand.</p><p>Its reimagined service would do three things: Offer nearly limitless storage for your photos essentially free (you can pay more to have your images stored in higher-resolution sizes). It put them in the cloud, so they could be accessed anywhere. And, crucially, Photos would lean on Google’s famed A.I. to address what it saw as the key problem of the smartphone era — the fact that we all take photos but rarely look at them.</p><p>“We noticed that you would never relive or reminisce about any of these moments,” said Anil Sabharwal, the Google vice president who led the team that built Photos, and still runs it. “You would go on this beautiful vacation, you’d take hundreds of beautiful photos, years would pass, and you would never look at any of them.”</p><p>When it started in 2015, Google Photos brought immediate relief. For instance, face recognition made sharing pictures automatic. Now, when I take a photo of my kids, Google recognizes them and shares those photos with my wife; her photos are shared with me. Incredibly, instantly, without thinking, we each have a complete collection of the children’s photos, and any anxiety about keeping them secure has vanished.</p><p>Then there are Google’s daily prompts to reminisce. It’s difficult to overstate how good Google’s machines are at mining your collection to find new stuff to awe you. In one series, called Then and Now, it will find pictures of the same person, or groups of people, in similar poses at two different time periods: Your children on the first day of school this year versus last year, or you in front of the Empire State Building 10 years ago and today.</p><p>I worry, given all this, about how A.I.-curated memories are shaping our narratives about ourselves. I think of Samara and children like her: how she will one day watch videos like the one Google produced of her, and she will come to certain conclusions about her childhood only because a for-profit, ad-supported tech company’s machines made choices about what sort of scenes to show and what to hide.</p><p>At the moment, there is no calamity here: Google Photos’ videos are sunny and bright. But if history is about who tells your story, Photos pushes us into a new realm.</p><p>The machines, now, are increasingly making sense of our human world — shaping our reality in the deepest way possible, and like cameras themselves, they’re inescapable.</p>
at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which gives grants and makes industry introductions. A 2014 grant recipient, Mr. Strachan worked with SpaceX’s president, Gwynne Shotwell.</p><p>Interested in expanding access to science and technology, he has also built educational outreach into the project. He is installing “beacons” on the tops of school buildings in different countries, designed to light up whenever the satellite passes overhead.</p><p>“I love books and working with kids in the classroom, but it’s nice to give them something more experiential and visual,” he said.</p>
and the possibility of changing their fortunes. So the 20 finalists dangled tax incentives, showcased their workforce and even signed nondisclosure agreements to keep the process secret — doing whatever it would take to woo the company.</p><p> In the end, Amazon decided to go with a safe bet. On Tuesday, it announced that it had picked for its new East Coast headquarters the buzzy New York neighborhood of Long Island City, Queens as well as a suburb of Washington, in Arlington, Virginia.</p><p> Amazon could have chosen a city looking to be revitalized, like Newark, New Jersey. Instead, it opted to be close to two of the nation's centers of power. Both are waterfront communities away from overcrowded business districts, giving Amazon space to grow.</p><p> The reason Amazon gave: they are best suited to attract the high-skilled workers the company wants. The two sites will each get 25,000 jobs that Amazon said will pay an average of $150,000 a year.</p><p> The company will receive more than $2 billion in tax credits and other incentives. New York is forking over more than $1.5 billion, while Virginia and Arlington are offering about a third of that — $573 million. The hope is that Amazon will attract other companies and ultimately boost the local economies. But while many see it as an opportunity, not everyone is sold on the idea.</p><p> "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.</p><p> Amazon, which started as an online bookstore two decades ago, has grown to a behemoth that had nearly $180 billion in revenue last year. It now owns well-known brands, including grocer Whole Foods and online shoe-seller Zappos. It also makes movies and TV shows, runs an advertising business and offers cloud computing services to corporations and government agencies.</p><p> The company has more than 610,000 employees worldwide, making it the second largest U.S.-based, publicly-traded employer behind Walmart.</p><p> But it was the prospect of 50,000 jobs that led 238 communities across North America to pitch Amazon on why they should be home to the next headquarters.</p><p> New York is the nation's financial and media powerhouse and has been working to attract technology companies. Google already has more than 7,000 workers in the city and, according to media reports, is looking to add 12,000 more in coming years.</p><p> Arlington is directly across the Potomac River from Washington. Large government contractors have offices and lobbying operations there. However, many of its 1980s-era office buildings have vacancies after thousands of federal employees moved elsewhere. Being near the nation's capital could help Amazon with lobbying efforts as the company faces rising scrutiny from politicians.</p><p> Amazon said it will spend $5 billion between both locations on construction and other projects.</p><p> The new outposts won't appear overnight. Amazon said hiring at the two headquarters will start next year, but it could take a decade or more to build out its offices.</p><p> Its New York location will be in a neighborhood of Queens that sits directly across from midtown Manhattan. Once a bustling factory and freight-moving area, many of Long Island City's plants and warehouses closed as manufacturing left New York. The empty warehouses drew artists looking for affordable rents and businesses followed. Today, the neighborhood is made up of expensive, high-rise condos, with many more under construction.</p><p> Amazon's Virginia offices will be in a part of Arlington that local politicians and Amazon are calling National Landing, an area around Reagan National Airport that encompasses Crystal City and Potomac Yard. Large parts are made up of vacant '70s and '80s-era office buildings. Among other challenges, Crystal City has fought to overcome a reputation for outdated architecture.</p><p> Virginia state Sen. Adam Ebbin, a Democrat who represents the area where Amazon's new headquarters will be located, said that affordable housing may become an issue, but the announcement is a welcome development that will help increase the area's tax base to help ease overcrowding in schools and address other pressing needs.</p><p> "I would say it's a double-edged sword," said Margo Williams, who lives in nearby Alexandria, Virginia. She said more workers in the area would increase tax revenues and bring better services for the community, but she worries traffic could get worse and the Metro more crowded.</p><p> Amazon said it will refer to the new locations as headquarters, even though with 25,000 jobs each, they would have fewer workers than its Seattle hometown , which houses more than 45,000 employees.</p><p> Seattle will remain one of Amazon's three headquarters, and the company said that senior executives will also be based in the two new locations. It plans to hold company-wide events at the new locations, including shareholder meetings.</p><p> There were early signs that Amazon had its sights set on New York and northern Virginia. Among its 20 finalists, the company had selected two locations in the New York metro area and three in the D.C. area. Plus, CEO and founder Jeff Bezos has a home in Washington D.C., and he personally owns The Washington Post newspaper.</p><p> While it didn't win the main prize, Nashville, Tennessee, won't go empty handed. Amazon said the finalist city will be home to a new Amazon office with 5,000 jobs, focused on customer delivery and supply chain. Those jobs will also be paid an average of $150,000 a year, Amazon said.</p><p> "You know, this is a huge win," said Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. "When we got this news, I think all of us were really, really excited about it."</p><p> Alan Suderman in Richmond, Virginia, Matthew Barakat in Arlington County, Virginia, Jonathan Mattise in Nashville, Tennessee, and Karen Matthews in New York contributed to this report.</p>
ing. But for taxpayers, its new headquarters didn’t come cheap.</p><p>New York and Virginia collectively offered more than $2 billion in tax credits, rebates and other incentives to attract the company. That figure doesn’t include what could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure spending, worker training and other government assistance.</p><p>Economists have long criticized tax incentives as inefficient and unnecessary, arguing that they pit cities or states against each other and leave less money for education and public works that ultimately do more to lift local economies and improve livelihoods. Research has shown that incentives play at most a small role in corporate decisions, meaning governments often end up paying businesses to do what they would have done anyway.</p><p>Indeed, in selecting New York and Virginia for its new locations, Amazon turned down seemingly richer offers just next door. Maryland and New Jersey each offered multibillion-dollar incentive packages that dwarfed the ones Amazon accepted.</p><p>“An additional $7.5 billion in subsidies wasn’t enough to get Amazon to move across the river,” said Michael Farren, an economist at the Mercatus Center, a libertarian think tank, referring to the difference between Maryland’s offer of $8.5 billion and Virginia’s of less than $1 billion. “That just says that subsidies were never what mattered in the first place.”</p><p>New York’s incentive package is much larger than Virginia’s. Amazon promised to create about 25,000 jobs at each location, but New York offered twice as much as Virginia did.</p><p>“That’s the first thing we said,” said Maria Doulis, vice president of the nonpartisan Citizens Budget Commission, which has offices in New York City and Albany. “We’re like, ‘Wait, you’re splitting this down the middle — why does it look like we’re paying so much?’ ”</p><p>Virginia promised Amazon an incentive package worth $573 million, including $550 million in cash grants — $22,000 per job. The state also pledged $250 million to help Virginia Tech build a campus in Alexandria, near the Amazon site in Arlington, offering degrees in computer science and software engineering. (Virginia, too, offered to help the company get a helipad.)</p><p>On a per-job basis, New York’s offer to Amazon is about typical for the state but well above the national average for such deals, said Timothy J. Bartik, an economist for the Upjohn Institute in Kalamazoo, Mich., who has studied tax incentives.</p><p>“New York’s following its usual practices,” Mr. Bartik said. “It hands out a lot of hefty incentives, a lot of long-term incentives.”</p><p>Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended the deal, arguing that New York has to offer incentives because of its comparatively high taxes. At 6.5 percent, New York’s corporate income-tax rate is only modestly higher than Virginia’s 6 percent, according to the Tax Foundation. But other business and individual taxes are higher in New York.</p><p>“It’s not a level playing field to begin with,” Mr. Cuomo said in an interview Tuesday. “All things being equal, if we do nothing, they’re going to Texas.”</p><p>New York City did not offer any special tax breaks to Amazon as part of the deal. But the company will be able to take advantage of existing city tax credits, including a program designed to encourage companies to create jobs outside the busiest parts of Manhattan. The program, open to all companies, could be worth as much as $900 million to Amazon over 12 years, on top of the state incentives.</p><p>Ms. Doulis, of the Citizens Budget Commission, said that credit and similar ones might have outlived their usefulness. In the 1980s and ’90s, she said, companies were taking a risk by expanding in Queens or Brooklyn, and tax breaks provided an important inducement. But today, Long Island City is a rapidly developing neighborhood full of hip bars and luxury apartment complexes.</p><p>“That neighborhood was very different 25 years ago,” she said. “We’re in a very different world now.”</p><p>Still, Ms. Doulis said Amazon’s arrival was a major coup for the city, which has been trying to establish itself as a tech hub to rival Boston, Seattle and even Silicon Valley. Mr. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday said Amazon’s decision was a vindication of that strategy, which the mayor said would benefit all New Yorkers.</p><p>Tom Stringer, who advises companies on site-selection decisions for the consulting firm BDO, said high-cost places like New York and Virginia needed to offer incentives to compete with cheaper areas. And he said the deals would pay off in the long run in jobs and tax revenues.</p><p>“Incentives are not subsidies,” Mr. Stringer said. “They are investments.”</p><p>That could be a particularly bitter pill for local retailers, many already struggling to compete with Amazon, said Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, an advocacy group long critical of Amazon.</p><p>“If you’re a local retailer or small manufacturer or artist or writer or publisher, you’re watching as your city and state hands your tax dollars to your most ferocious antagonist,” she said.</p><p>Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat who will represent parts of Queens in the House of Representatives starting in January, was one of several elected officials to criticize the deal. In a series of posts on Twitter, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said a company of Amazon’s size shouldn’t “receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment.”</p><p>But even many critics of tax incentives said the packages offered to Amazon were less egregious than some past examples. The New York and Virginia tax credits are tied to the number of jobs the company actually creates.</p><p>On a per-job basis, the packages offered to Amazon are smaller than some previous megadeals. For example, Wisconsin last year offered the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn $3 billion in incentives for a project meant to employ 13,000 workers, at wages far lower than those promised by Amazon. The Foxconn deal, which has since grown even more expensive, has produced a public backlash in Wisconsin.</p><p>There are signs that Amazon may have been concerned about a similar reaction. The company didn’t choose the biggest incentive packages on offer, and in an unusual move, it included details of the tax breaks in its news release. And Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, noted that Amazon conducted the final stages of its search behind closed doors after a much more public search earlier in the process.</p><p>“They would have had another whole wave of blowback if they’d had another hunger games,” Mr. LeRoy said.</p>
to answer a final question before they committed to opening a massive technology center in Queens: Could Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio stop bickering long enough to see the project through?</p><p>“They wanted to just trust — but verify — that everybody was on the same page,” said Alicia Glen, a deputy mayor who was at the meeting with Mr. de Blasio.</p><p>After meeting with both men separately that day, the Amazon officials decided the two Democrats could put aside their longstanding differences. Soon after, documents were exchanged, and re-exchanged, ironing out details of a package worth more than a billion dollars in tax incentives and state grants. The politicians even agreed to a plan to circumvent the City Council to prevent future roadblocks.</p><p>The deal for the Queens development, in Long Island City, was announced on Tuesday, after Amazon concluded a 14-month, countrywide search for a location for a second headquarters for some 50,000 well-paid tech workers. The company, which ended up picking two sites and dividing the new workers between them, is also opening a huge corporate site in Arlington, Va., in an area across the Potomac River from Washington. Amazon said the new developments, both to be called headquarters, would require $5 billion in construction and other investments.</p><p>The company also said it would develop a much smaller operations and logistics facility in Nashville, creating 5,000 jobs.</p><p>The announcement capped a frenzied competition among nearly 240 communities across the country. Many politicians saw it as an opportunity to remake their city or a neighborhood for the tech era. Some economists and policymakers warned against using public money to help one of the most valuable companies in the world, and of the potential for escalating housing costs and traffic.</p><p>Amazon said that the size and quality of the winners’ labor pools decided the competition. Amazon was also offered more than $2 billion in tax incentives from New York and Virginia. Up to $1.2 billion of that will come from New York state’s Excelsior program, a discretionary tax credit. In Virginia, the company could receive up to $550 million in cash incentives from the state by 2030, and $200 million more after that if it continues to hire. Both state programs are tied to the number of jobs the company creates — if Amazon’s hiring falls short of projections, the incentive payments will be smaller.</p><p>Both states have pledged to help Amazon with infrastructure upgrades, job-training programs and, in the case of New York, assistance “securing access to a helipad” — some of which did not come with a price tag.</p><p>Still, in New York and Virginia, most top politicians hailed the Amazon news as a major victory, and the culmination of an aggressive sales job.</p><p>“We had an unprecedented opportunity to add to the number of jobs,” Mr. de Blasio said on Tuesday.</p><p>The project is a “transformational opportunity to diversify the economy” of Northern Virginia, which is heavily dependent on government contracting, said Stephen Moret, president and chief executive of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.</p><p>New York’s sales pitch began in September 2017, immediately after Amazon began its search for a second headquarters that Mr. Bezos promised would be a “full equal to our Seattle headquarters.”</p><p>Amazon executives had realized that if its projections were right, the company needed a plan for its fast growth, said Jay Carney, a senior vice president at Amazon. It made the search public because “you can’t quietly talk to cities about investing $5 billion and creating 50,000 jobs,” he said.</p><p>Shortly after the announcement, a group of Long Island City leaders, including Elizabeth Lusskin, the president of the Long Island City Partnership, a business group, and Alan Suna, the chief executive of Silvercup Studios, a film and television studio there, were meeting to discuss their plans to bring biotech and life science companies to the neighborhood. But they quickly began talking about Amazon, according to Mr. Suna.</p><p>Within a month, about 16 sites in the neighborhood had been identified, including the parcels along the waterfront eventually chosen by Amazon. The area is now a combination of public and private land that includes a distribution center for city school lunches, warehouses, studios and an outdoor bar and grill.</p><p>When New York City submitted its bid to the company, just a few weeks later, Long Island City was one of four spots proposed, along with Lower Manhattan, Midtown Manhattan’s West Side and an area in central Brooklyn.</p><p>By January, Amazon narrowed the list to 20 locations, including New York. Amazon visited in April, July and September, said a person familiar with the meetings. The executives narrowed their search to sites on the West Side of Manhattan and in Long Island City before finally settling on the Queens neighborhood.</p><p>Mr. Carney said Mr. Bezos did not tour any of the sites. The process was run by Holly Sullivan, who leads the company’s worldwide economic development. John Schoettler, the executive who oversees Amazon’s real estate, negotiated with the private developers.</p><p>During one visit, the Amazon executives visited the Cornell Tech campus, a new high-tech school on Roosevelt Island, and took the ferry from there to Long Island City. They rode Citi Bikes as city officials and local Queens representatives showed off the area. On another occasion, they took the ferry at sunset.</p><p>It wasn’t until the past few weeks that things really took off.</p><p>Gov. Cuomo met Amazon executives, including Jeff Wilke, who runs the company’s retail business, in his offices on Third Avenue. From the window, he said, they could see the site along the waterfront Amazon would eventually select.</p><p>“I showed them the pictures of the progress of LaGuardia, of J.F.K., Penn Station, Kosciuszko Bridge — I explained what doubling the span means,” he said, referring to building projects. He said Amazon executives were interested in having a pipeline of educated employees, not just from the top universities, but from other places such as Queens College and the nearby LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.</p><p>Amazon expressed concern about the city’s planning process, which is slow and allows for local officials and the City Council to veto projects. The company’s lawyers appeared to know about those pitfalls and wanted to avoid them. So Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Cuomo agreed to let the state control the approval, meaning there could be local input but no local veto. Mr. Cuomo said it was a “friendly condemnation” of the city-controlled land by the state, not a source of tension.</p><p>Though the mayor and governor met separately with Amazon, they were in close contact, comparing notes and strategizing over the phone, according to a person briefed on the talks.</p><p>“I know him so well, it’s just more open and verbal,” Mr. Cuomo said in an interview. “Whether it’s good or bad.”</p><p>Mr. de Blasio said, “I’m very comfortable that we made the right move.”</p><p>In Virginia, the initial HQ2 announcement came as the state was wrapping up a planning process to focus its economic development on tech, as well as diversifying away from government work. The request for proposal from the company “hit right in the bull’s-eye,” said Mr. Moret of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.</p><p>The proposal for Northern Virginia, one of three regions presented by Virginia, stressed regional cooperation. The Arlington neighborhoods of Crystal City and Pentagon City, as well as the adjacent Potomac Yards neighborhood in Alexandria, were rebranded into a new area, National Landing, as part of the proposal. That is the name Amazon used in its announcement on Tuesday.</p><p>Then after Virginia officials submitted the proposals in October 2017, things went quiet.</p><p>A few months later, Victor Hoskins, the director of Arlington Economic Development, was walking up to the stage at a conference with other development officials when their phones started buzzing with news reports that Virginia, Washington and Maryland were among Amazon’s 20 finalists.</p><p>“It quickly became, ‘Hey, we got three locations in that list of 20, we’ve got a good chance here,’” Mr. Hoskins said.</p><p>Amazon visited several times, at one point going up to the top of a tower, near Reagan National Airport, for a bird’s-eye view of Crystal City. But is was more down to business than New York. Catering was ordered in.</p><p>“Talent was at the core of a tremendous amount of our conversations,” Mr. Hoskins said. He said Amazon never discussed the incentives or proposals other locales offered.</p><p>Mr. Carney said inside Amazon, the team running the search decided at a meeting in August that it would be easier to hire the number of workers they wanted if they split the headquarters into two. (An Amazon spokesman later said the meeting happened the first week of September.) “We also think that 25,000 as a floor is easier for the communities to absorb,” Mr. Carney said.</p><p>The company did not tell the cities about the split immediately. When Mr. Hoskins first heard about it, he was conflicted. “You want the 50,000, but you know what, hey, 25,000 is a huge number,” he said.</p><p>By early November, local officials were feeling good. A small stage went up on an empty lot in Crystal City for the announcement, only to take be taken down quickly. It was premature.</p><p>After a final round to address the last details, on Monday, Mr. Moret was driving through rural Virginia when he signed the final state agreements digitally, his cell reception cutting in and out along the road.</p><p>“We had a call from them just an hour after we executed it saying we won,” he said.</p><p>The company said it would start hiring in New York, Virginia and Tennessee next year.</p>
represents a setback for a university that has made progress on how it handles sexual misconduct. In recent years, the university has dealt with a series of sexual assault and harassment episodes involving students and faculty members, which have prompted a state audit and new campus policies. Now, the university is once again in the national conversation, and the focus this time is on a relatively new and lucrative academic program.</p><p>Mr. Liu, who has denied wrongdoing, was in Minnesota for a global business program, aimed at Asian executives, that is on track to generate over $10 million for the school in tuition since starting last year. His accuser, who has not been publicly identified, is a young Chinese student at the university who volunteered for the program.</p><p>The case “puts the university administration in an impossible situation” as it tries to simultaneously protect its students and its reputation, said Kristen Houlton Shaw, the executive director of the nonprofit Sexual Violence Center in Minneapolis.</p><p>“The program he’s participating in is a major moneymaker — it brings in these highfliers and heavy hitters from around the world,” she said. “Their prospective students are watching.”</p><p>The police conducted an initial investigation into the rape accusation and passed along the findings to the Hennepin County Attorney’s office, which says it has no deadline for deciding whether to press charges.</p><p>Mr. Liu was released less than a day after his arrest, and he returned to China. His company, JD.com, which takes in more revenue each year than any e-commerce competitor but Amazon, says he was falsely accused.</p><p>The university has not publicly spoken about the episode, and would not say whether it had started its own investigation. The university declined to say whether Mr. Liu was still enrolled in the program or eligible for a degree.</p><p>“The University of Minnesota cannot comment, per federal law, on matters related to any specific allegations involving any student at the university,” said Caitlin Hurley, a spokeswoman for the school.</p><p>Like similar programs at other schools, the university’s global doctor of business administration program caters to wealthy professionals like Mr. Liu who seek the cachet of an advanced degree. Some 236 students were enrolled as of early October.</p><p>The program, in conjunction with the elite Tsinghua University in Beijing, currently charges each student hundreds of thousands of dollars. The University of Minnesota plans to keep as much as $85,000.</p><p>The majority of the coursework is completed in China, but one week of the students’ second year is spent in Minnesota. For Mr. Liu’s class, the school arranged for lectures as well as entertainment, including dinner cruises and a football game.</p><p>The university’s Carlson School of Management, which runs the program, has declined to discuss Mr. Liu’s arrest.</p><p>Sri Zaheer, Carlson’s dean, called the program “extremely selective.” It appeals to business leaders who “want to reflect on their own careers, who want to figure out what it is that made them successful,” she said.</p><p>Advocacy groups say the uptick at many schools is the result of women becoming more comfortable reporting assaults, a trend that is likely to continue in the #MeToo era. The number of rape cases reported by the University of Minnesota to federal regulators in 2016 — 0.39 incidents per 1,000 students — is in line with four-year public schools of comparable size, according to an analysis of data from the Department of Education.</p><p>This summer, Mr. Liu and other executives in the Carlson program took classes on topics like family wealth management and global branding, and visited local companies like 3M and General Mills. The evenings were for entertainment, including cruises on the Mississippi River and Lake Minnetonka.</p><p>On Aug. 30, a group, including Mr. Liu and his accuser, dined at a Japanese restaurant called Origami, according to a restaurant employee who was working that night and text messages exchanged between the accuser and the assistant of an executive who invited her to dinner. The messages were exchanged over WeChat, a Chinese messaging app. The New York Times reviewed screenshots of the messages.</p><p>Dozens of bottles of wine were brought in from a nearby liquor store, Lake Wine & Spirits. Two store employees confirmed receipts showing wine purchases totaling thousands of dollars.</p><p>Mr. Liu’s accuser had been invited to the dinner by another executive in the Carlson program, whom she had met while serving as a program volunteer, according to the statements she made to police and WeChat messages sent to her by the executive’s assistant. The executive asked her to sit next to Mr. Liu, she told police.</p><p>The following day, the woman sent WeChat messages to friends saying that Mr. Liu had raped her after the dinner. She told them that she had been “way too drunk” and unable to stop Mr. Liu from touching her while they were in the back seat of a limo, which she also recounted to the police.</p><p>When she was driven to a house she did not recognize, she asked to be taken back to her apartment, according to her statement to police. There, Mr. Liu forced himself on her, she told police. She told him “no” several times, she said.</p><p>A Carlson School administrator, Mandy Xue Bai, called the police in the morning after hearing about the alleged rape, according to the statements to police. Ms. Bai also encouraged the woman to report the incident to the police. Ms. Bai declined to comment.</p><p>“I am so very proud of our client’s courage, in coming forward and placing all of her trust and faith in the American justice system,” said Wil Florin, one of the lawyers representing Mr. Liu’s accuser.</p><p>Jill Brisbois, one of Mr. Liu’s lawyers, said that he was “unable to defend himself” because he “does not want to interfere with the process” while county attorneys decide whether to file charges.</p><p>“It is unfair to publish a one-sided story when once a determination has been made, all evidence will be disclosed to the public that will tell the complete story and we believe his innocence will be apparent,” she said in a statement.</p><p>A week after the accusations against Mr. Liu surfaced, a new group of executives with the Carlson program started classes in China.</p><p>Tiffany Hsu and Carolyn Zhang reported from Minneapolis, and Raymond Zhong from Beijing. Matt Furber and Christina Capecchi contributed reporting from Minneapolis.</p>