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Westlake Legal Group > News Media (Page 169)

Barclays C.E.O.’s Ties to Jeffrey Epstein Provoke U.K. Inquiry

Barclays said on Thursday that British financial regulators were investigating the relationship between James E. Staley, its chief executive, and Jeffrey Epstein, the financier who killed himself last August after facing new allegations of sex trafficking of underage girls.

Mr. Staley is one of a handful of prominent Wall Street financiers who have been linked to Mr. Epstein, who portrayed himself as indispensable to corporate executives and built up a small but powerful finance network. He had known Mr. Epstein since at least 1999, when the future Barclays chief was running the private banking business of the Wall Street bank JPMorgan.

“As has been widely reported, earlier in his career, Mr. Staley developed a professional relationship with Mr. Epstein,” Barclays said in a statement. It added that Mr. Staley, who is known as Jes, had told the bank that he had had no contact with Mr. Epstein after taking the top position at the lender in December 2015.

Barclays said regulators including the Financial Conduct Authority, the main overseer of banks in Britain, were examining how Mr. Staley characterized the relationship with Mr. Epstein to the company, as well as what the company subsequently told the financial conduct agency.

Barclays, the statement said, “believes that Mr. Staley has been sufficiently transparent with the company as regards the nature and extent of his relationship with Mr. Epstein.” It added that Mr. Staley retained the full confidence of the bank’s board.

The bank’s shares were trading about 1.6 percent lower on Thursday.

Over the years, Mr. Epstein referred dozens of wealthy clients to Mr. Staley and JPMorgan.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 13barclays2-articleLarge Barclays C.E.O.’s Ties to Jeffrey Epstein Provoke U.K. Inquiry Staley, James E Sex Crimes London Stock Exchange Financial Conduct Authority (Great Britain) Epstein, Jeffrey E (1953- ) Company Reports Barclays PLC

Jeffrey Epstein referred dozens of wealth clients to Mr. Staley and JPMorgan. Credit…New York State Sex Offender Registry, via Associated Press

The relationship was good enough that Mr. Staley visited Mr. Epstein about 10 years ago, while he was serving time in Florida for soliciting prostitution from a minor. The visit occurred at Mr. Epstein’s Palm Beach office, where he was allowed to serve part of his 13-month sentence.

Among others, Mr. Epstein connected Mr. Staley with Glenn Dubin, who ran Highbridge Capital Management, a hedge fund in which JPMorgan bought a majority stake in 2004. The deal elevated the asset management division that Mr. Staley ran at JPMorgan into a major player in the hedge-fund world.

Mr. Staley was named C.E.O. of Barclays in 2015, becoming the fifth chief executive in about seven years at a bank that had suffered from regulatory troubles and involvement in the Libor-rigging scandal.

He has reshaped the bank, cutting costs and bolstering the company’s commitment to investment banking. But his tenure has also been marked by a series of questions over his judgment.

In 2016, he tried to unmask a whistle-blower who had criticized one of his senior hires. That led to a fine of $15 million from New York’s banking regulator, which said that it had uncovered “shortcomings in governance, controls and corporate culture” at the bank. British bank regulators also fined Mr. Staley about $1.5 million and required the bank to submit reports on parts of its whistle-blowing program.

Mr. Staley also upset a big client, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, after trying to help his brother-in-law’s business interests. That and other stumbles have spurred some shareholders to demand his resignation along the way.

In August, Mr. Epstein killed himself while in a Manhattan jail, where he was being held awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. He had been charged by Manhattan prosecutors in July with sexually exploiting dozens of women and girls in New York and Florida.

Those accusations involved actions up to 2005. A lawsuit filed last month by Denise N. George, the attorney general of the Virgin Islands, cited further evidence that Mr. Epstein had sexually abused and trafficked hundreds of young women and girls on his private Caribbean island, some as recently as 2018.

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Tesla Faces a New S.E.C. Investigation

Westlake Legal Group 13tesla-facebookJumbo Tesla Faces a New S.E.C. Investigation Tesla Motors Inc subpoenas Stocks and Bonds Securities and Exchange Commission Musk, Elon Finances Company Reports

Tesla received a subpoena in December from the Securities and Exchange Commission asking the electric-car maker to turn over information about its financial data and contracts, the company said in a filing with the agency on Thursday.

In the filing, Tesla also said that the S.E.C. had closed a separate investigation into projections and statements the company made in 2017 about production rates of its Model 3 sedan.

It said the scope covered by the December subpoena included “Tesla’s regular financing arrangements.”

The S.E.C. had previously investigated statements from Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, about plans to take the company private. That investigation ended in 2018 with Tesla and Mr. Musk each paying a $20 million fine and Mr. Musk stepping down as chairman for three years.

The agency declined to comment, and Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tesla also announced on Thursday that it planned to issue about $2 billion in new common stock, just two weeks after Mr. Musk told investors on a call that it “doesn’t make sense to raise money.”

“We’re actually spending money as quickly as we can spend it sensibly,” he said at the time.

Mr. Musk plans to buy up to $10 million of stock from the new offering, the company said. Larry Ellison, a Tesla board member, plans to buy up to $1 million.

Since announcing its fourth-quarter earnings late last month, Tesla’s share price has risen by more than 30 percent, giving it a market value of about $137 billion. The stock’s price has risen about 80 percent since the beginning of the year.

After opening lower on Thursday, Tesla shares were up almost 3 percent in midday trading.

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Astros owner Jim Crane apologizes over cheating scandal, but insists sign-stealing ‘didn’t impact the game’

Westlake Legal Group Jim-Crane Astros owner Jim Crane apologizes over cheating scandal, but insists sign-stealing 'didn't impact the game' Ryan Gaydos fox-news/sports/mlb/houston-astros fox-news/sports/mlb fox-news/person/alex-cora fox-news/person/alex-bregman fox-news/person/a-j-hinch fox news fnc/sports fnc article ac216d9d-7138-57fe-b99a-22e72ff90f3e

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane and players Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman addressed the team’s sign-stealing scandal at their spring training facility Thursday.

The Astros used video equipment to relay opponents’ signs to batters during home games during the 2017 season – in which they won their only World Series. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred released the investigation’s findings last month and suspended A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow for a year. The Astros fired both men soon after the report was released.

SANCHEZ, BOONE NOT SURE THERE WAS NO SIGN STEALING IN 2019

While Crane apologized and vowed they would never cheat again, he told reporters that he didn’t feel like the cheating impacted the game and their World Series wasn’t tainted.

“Our opinion is that this didn’t impact the game. We had a good team. We won the World Series and we’ll leave it at that,” Crane said, according to ESPN.

EX-MLB PITCHER SUES ASTROS, CLAIMS CHEATING SCANDAL ALTERED CAREER PATH: REPORT

Crane was asked whether the Astros were actually cheating when they used video to steal signs, he told reporters: “We broke the rules. You can phrase that any way you want.”

He added there would be no disciplinary actions taken toward the players.

Bregman and Altuve made separate statements.

“I am really sorry about the choices that were made by my team, by the organization and by me. I have learned from this and I hope to regain the trust of baseball fans,” Bregman said.

Altuve added that the entire situation was addressed in a team meeting Wednesday and the entire organization is remorseful over the scandal.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE SPORTS COVERAGE ON FOXNEWS.COM

Carlos Beltran and Alex Cora were the other two implicated in Manfred’s report. Beltran and Cora both lost their jobs as managers. Beltran was the only player from the 2017 team implicated.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group Jim-Crane Astros owner Jim Crane apologizes over cheating scandal, but insists sign-stealing 'didn't impact the game' Ryan Gaydos fox-news/sports/mlb/houston-astros fox-news/sports/mlb fox-news/person/alex-cora fox-news/person/alex-bregman fox-news/person/a-j-hinch fox news fnc/sports fnc article ac216d9d-7138-57fe-b99a-22e72ff90f3e   Westlake Legal Group Jim-Crane Astros owner Jim Crane apologizes over cheating scandal, but insists sign-stealing 'didn't impact the game' Ryan Gaydos fox-news/sports/mlb/houston-astros fox-news/sports/mlb fox-news/person/alex-cora fox-news/person/alex-bregman fox-news/person/a-j-hinch fox news fnc/sports fnc article ac216d9d-7138-57fe-b99a-22e72ff90f3e

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Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build

The City Council of Lafayette, Calif., met the public two Mondays a month, and Steve Falk liked to sit off by himself, near the fire exit of the auditorium, so that he could observe from the widest possible vantage. Trim, with a graying buzz cut, Mr. Falk was the city manager — basically the chief executive — of Lafayette, a wealthy suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area that is notoriously antagonistic to development.

With a population of just 25,000, Lafayette was wealthy because it was a small town next to a big town, and it maintained its status by keeping the big town out. Locals tended to react to new building projects with suspicion or even hostility, and over a series of Mondays in 2012 and 2013, Mr. Falk took his usual spot by the fire exit to watch several dozen of his fellow Lafayetters absolutely lose their minds.

A developer had proposed putting 315 apartments on a choice parcel along Deer Hill Road — close to a Bay Area Rapid Transit station, and smack in the view of a bunch of high-dollar properties. This wasn’t just big. The project, which the developer called the Terraces of Lafayette, would be the biggest development in the suburb’s history. Zoning rules allowed it, but neighbors seemed to feel that if their opposition was vehement enough, it could keep the Terraces unbuilt.

In letters to elected officials, and at the open microphone that Mr. Falk observed at the City Council meetings, residents said things like “too aggressive,” “not respectful,” “embarrassment,” “outraged,” “audacity,” “very urban,” “deeply upset,” “unsightly,” “monstrosity,” “inconceivable,” “simply outrageous,” “vehemently opposed,” “sheer scope,” “very wrong,” “blocking views,” “does not conform,” “property values will be destroyed,” and “will allow more crime to be committed.”

Mr. Falk could see where this was going. There would be years of hearings and design reviews and historical assessments and environmental reports. Voters would protest, the council would deny the project, the developer would sue. Lafayette would get mired in an expensive case that it would likely lose. As Mr. Falk saw it, anything he could do to prevent that fate would serve the public interest. So he called the developer, a man named Dennis O’Brien, and requested a meeting.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_168510876_718de01e-1614-45cd-bdc0-6513c77c7f2f-articleLarge Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Suburbs San Francisco Bay Area (Calif) San Francisco (Calif) Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Real Estate and Housing (Residential) Lafayette (Calif) Income Inequality Homeless Persons Brown, Edmund G Jr Area Planning and Renewal Affordable Housing

Steve Falk. “A city manager has a choice,” he said. “You can just sit there and be this kind of neutral policy implementer — or you can insert yourself.”Credit…Carlos Chavarría for The New York Times

Mr. Falk had once taken a course on negotiation at Harvard, where he learned that people are supposed to be more reasonable when they bargain over food. He went to a deli and bought baguettes, a wheel of Brie and bunches of red grapes. He laid the spread on a conference room table and cut the bread into slices and put down little cheese spreaders and surrounded it with the grapes.

Mr. O’Brien was roughly the color of those grapes when he walked in with some aides, and Mr. Falk accepted that for the next few hours he would be the recipient of the developer’s frustrations. But before it got to that, he told everyone, he wanted them to eat.

The room was silent. Mr. Falk explained the whole deal about his negotiation class. The room remained silent. Mr. Falk looked at Mr. O’Brien and said, Dennis, look, I don’t even know you, but you have to eat something, even if it’s one grape, before I’ll talk to you. That at least got people laughing, and pretty soon everyone acceded to the bread and cheese and grapes.

Westlake Legal Group web-LAFAYETTE-MAP-335 Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Suburbs San Francisco Bay Area (Calif) San Francisco (Calif) Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Real Estate and Housing (Residential) Lafayette (Calif) Income Inequality Homeless Persons Brown, Edmund G Jr Area Planning and Renewal Affordable Housing

Pleasant Hill Rd.

Deer Hill Rd.

BART station

Terraces of

Lafayette site

Mt. Diablo Blvd.

Lafayette

Reservoir

CALIFORNIA

San Francisco

By The New York Times

America has a housing crisis. The homeownership rate for young adults is at a multidecade low, and about a quarter of renters send more than half their income to the landlord. Homelessness is resurgent, eviction displaces a million households a year, and about four million people spend at least three hours driving to and from work.

One need only look out an airplane window to see that this has nothing to do with a lack of space. It’s the concentration of opportunity and the rising cost of being near it. It says much about today’s winner-take-all economy that many of the cities with the most glaring epidemics of homelessness are growing centers of technology and finance. There is, simply put, a dire shortage of housing in places where people and companies want to live — and reactionary local politics that fight every effort to add more homes.

Nearly all of the biggest challenges in America are, at some level, a housing problem. Rising home costs are a major driver of segregation, inequality, and racial and generational wealth gaps. You can’t talk about education or the shrinking middle class without talking about how much it costs to live near good schools and high-paying jobs. Transportation accounts for about a third of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, so there’s no serious plan for climate change that doesn’t begin with a conversation about how to alter the urban landscape so that people can live closer to work.

Nowhere is this more evident than California. It’s true that the state is addressing facets of the mess, with efforts on rent control, subsidized housing and homelessness. But the hardest remedy to implement, it turns out, is the most obvious: Build more housing.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the state needs to create 3.5 million homes by 2025 — more than triple the current pace — to even dent its affordability problems. Hitting that number will require building more everything: Subsidized housing. Market-rate housing. Homes, apartments, condos and co-ops. Three hundred and fifteen apartments on prime parcels of towns like Lafayette.

Legislation is important, but history suggests it can do only so much. In the early 1980s, during another housing crisis, California passed a host of bills designed to streamline housing production and punish cities that didn’t comply. But the housing gap has persisted, and more recent efforts have also failed. In late January, the Legislature rejected S.B. 50, a bill that would have pushed cities to accept four- to five-story buildings in amenity-laden areas.

What this suggests is that the real solution will have to be sociological. People have to realize that homelessness is connected to housing prices. They have to accept it’s hypocritical to say that you don’t like density but are worried about climate change. They have to internalize the lesson that if they want their children to have a stable financial future, they have to make space. They are going to have to change.

Steve Falk changed. When he first heard about Dennis O’Brien’s project, he thought it was stupid: a case study, in ugly stucco, of runaway development. He believed the Bay Area needed more housing, but he was also a dyed-in-the-wool localist who thought cities should decide where and how it was built. Then that belief started to unravel. Today, after eight years of struggle, his career with the city is over, the Deer Hill Road site is still just a mass of dirt and shrubs, and Mr. Falk has become an outspoken proponent of taking local control away from cities like the one he used to lead.

Although he didn’t know it at the time, Mr. Falk’s transformation began in 2015, with a phone call from a woman he’d never heard of, with a complaint he had never once fielded in his 25 years working for the city. Her name was Sonja Trauss, and she thought the Deer Hill Road project was too small.

Ms. Trauss was a lifelong rabble-rouser and former high school teacher, who’d recently become a full-time housing activist. She made her public debut a couple of years earlier, at a planning meeting at San Francisco City Hall. When it was time for public comment, she stepped to the microphone and addressed the commissioners, speaking in favor of a housing development. She returned to praise another one. And another. And another.

In backing every single project in the development pipeline that day, Ms. Trauss laid out a platform that would make her a celebrity of Bay Area politics: how expensive new housing today would become affordable old housing tomorrow, how San Francisco was blowing its chance to harness the energy of an economic boom to mass-build homes that generations of residents could enjoy. She didn’t care if a proposal was for apartments or condos or how much money its future residents had. It was a universal platform of more. Ms. Trauss was for anything and everything, so long as it was built tall and fast and had people living in it.

The data was on her side. From 2010 to 2015, Bay Area cities consistently added many more jobs than housing units — in some cases at a ratio of eight to one, way beyond the rate of one and a half jobs per housing unit that planners consider healthy. In essence, the policy was to enthusiastically encourage people to move there for work while equally enthusiastically discouraging developers from building places for those people to live, stoking a generational battle in which the rising cost of housing enriched people who already owned it and deterred anyone who wasn’t well paid or well off from showing up.

Ms. Trauss organized supporters into a group called the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, or SF BARF, which was amateur even by local activist standards. But amateur was the point, part of Ms. Trauss’s knack for getting attention. She drove a glittery orange Crown Victoria, showed up to municipal meetings in leggings and white cowboy boots, and spoke in pop philosophical monologues, like declaring that the reason people don’t like new buildings is that it reminds them that they’re going to die.

Her aims were explicitly revolutionary. She told people that her goal wasn’t to enact any particular housing policy, but to alter social mores such that neighbors who fought development ceased being regarded as stewards of good taste and instead came to be viewed as selfish hoarders.

Ms. Trauss started to attract the attention of wealthy donors like Jeremy Stoppelman, the co-founder of Yelp, who had started to worry about housing costs crimping economic growth. And her tactics got more sophisticated. With a friend, Brian Hanlon, who worked a desk job at the United States Forest Service, she co-founded a nonprofit called the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund, or CARLA. Its mission: “Sue the suburbs.” After reading about an obscure 1982 California law called the Housing Accountability Act, Ms. Trauss decided to try to use it to force Lafayette to build Dennis O’Brien’s 315 apartments.

By then — 2015 — Mr. Falk had been working on the Deer Hill Road project for years. Through dozens of meetings with Mr. O’Brien, he’d hammered out a deal for a more modest development of 44 single-family homes, as well as an agreement to build the city a soccer field and dog park. Mr. Falk was a frequent user of the analogy about sausage-making, and this was definitely some sausage, but he walked out of his talks with Mr. O’Brien feeling like an A‑plus public servant who might have a second career in conflict resolution. When Ms. Trauss phoned him to say the 44-home approach was entirely inadequate, Mr. Falk tried to persuade her otherwise. Of course, he never had a chance.

At a City Council meeting a week later, Mr. Falk noticed a gaggle of BARFers, throbbing with the conspiratorial energy of teenagers before a prank. The microphone was already going to be crowded. Neighbors had formed a vociferous nonprofit called Save Lafayette, which opposed both the 315-apartment idea and the 44-house compromise on grounds from view-ruination to carcinogenic construction dust. Mr. Falk sat by the fire exit and watched as BARF and Save Lafayette collided at the podium, one side arguing the project was too small, and the other arguing it was too big.

“I’m somewhat disturbed by all these parties from outside my neighborhood telling me that I should accept this degradation to my quality of life,” said one Lafayette resident, Ian Kallen.

“No human being is a degradation,” retorted an SF BARF member named Armand Domalewski. “Let’s talk about the economic benefits of adding people instead of simply treating them as costs.”

When it was Ms. Trauss’s turn to speak, she argued that the entire notion of public comment on new construction was inherently flawed, because the beneficiaries — the people who would eventually live in the buildings — couldn’t argue their side.

“An ordinary political process like a sales tax — both sides have an opportunity to show up and say whether they’re for or against it,” she said. “But when you have a new project like this, where are the 700-plus people who would initially move in, much less the tens of thousands of people who would live in it over the lifetime of the project? Those people don’t know who they are yet. Some of them are not even born.”

Ms. Trauss sued a few months later. The great irony was that nobody was more unhappy about it than Mr. O’Brien. He had spent years and millions of dollars proposing two completely different projects. Now some activist group he’d never heard of was suing the city, and him, on behalf of his original project — in essence, suing him on behalf of him.

CARLA’s lawyer had the impossible job of trying to convince a judge that Lafayette had unfairly forced Mr. O’Brien to build 44 houses instead of 315 apartments, while Mr. O’Brien sat on the other side more or less going, No they didn’t. CARLA lost, but after it threatened to appeal, Mr. O’Brien ended up agreeing to pay its legal fees. He had now argued, and paid for, both sides of the same case.

Other litigation continued. Members of Save Lafayette sued to force a referendum where residents could rescind the 44-home plan, and eventually, they succeeded. Ms. Trauss and her fellow insurrectionists moved on to other battles, filing more lawsuits for more housing until they started winning. Meanwhile, the movement she helped found — YIMBY, for Yes in My Back Yard — has become an international phenomenon, with supporters in dozens of housing-burdened regions including Seattle; Boulder, Colo.; Boston; Austin, Texas; London and Vancouver.

Development battles are fought hyperlocally, but the issues are resonating everywhere. In late 2018, Minneapolis became the first major city in America to effectively end single-family zoning. Oregon followed soon after. California and New York have significantly expanded protections for renters. And as more economists give credence to the notion that a housing crisis can materially harm G.D.P., by exacerbating inequality and reducing opportunity, all of the Democratic presidential candidates have put forth major housing proposals.

They run the gamut from tax breaks for renters, to calls for more affordable housing funds, to plans for bringing federal muscle to bear on zoning reform. These ideas share a central conflict: Can city leaders — who in theory know local conditions best — be trusted to build the housing we need? Or will they continue to pursue policies that pump up property values, perpetuate sprawl, and punish low-income renters?

Mr. Falk began his career on the local control side of that debate. But somewhere along the Deer Hill odyssey, he started to sympathize with his insurrectionist opponents. His son lived in San Francisco and paid a fortune to live with a pile of roommates. His daughter was a dancer in New York, where the housing crunch was just as bad. It was hard to watch his kids struggle with rent and not start to think that maybe Ms. Trauss had a point.

“I’m not sure individual cities, left to their own devices, are going to solve this,” he told me once. “They don’t have the incentive to do so, because local voters are always going to protect their own interests instead of looking out for people who don’t live there yet.”

So he started to rebel. When California’s governor at the time, Jerry Brown, threatened to override local control with a proposal to allow developers to build urban apartments “as of right” — bypassing most of the public process and hearings — Lafayette citizens were apoplectic. Mr. Falk, against his own interest, wrote a memo in favor of the idea.

“Cannot be trusted,” “ineptitude,” “disingenuously manipulating the City Council,” “should be publicly and explicitly reprimanded” — these were some of the things citizens said in response. His future was untenable. The City Council reprimanded him, and when it came time for his contract negotiation, members of Save Lafayette protested a clause that would guarantee him severance of 18 months of pay if he was ever fired; a few months later he forfeited the amount — close to half a million dollars — and resigned.

“A city manager has a choice: You can just sit there and be this kind of neutral policy implementer, or you can insert yourself,” Mr. Falk said. “Sitting in your office all day long, you have to ask the question, ‘Why am I here, why am I doing this work?’ At some point, I just think it’s natural that you start making recommendations that you think are in the best interest, not just for the community, but society.”

It’s hard to look at what happened in Lafayette and see a population that acted rationally. After the 44-home plan was derailed, Mr. O’Brien activated an insurance policy that few people knew about: The terms of his negotiation with Mr. Falk allowed him to return to his original plan for 315 apartments. When residents learned at a City Council meeting that their agitation might have brought them full circle, they got so angry that a sheriff offered to escort one of Mr. O’Brien’s employees to her car.

Mr. Falk, on the other hand, seems at peace. At the council meeting marking his departure, he sat, uncharacteristically, up front. The mayor gave him the honor of leading the room in the Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. Falk had a resignation letter in front of him, but told the audience that he was only going to read it in part.

The portion he read was polite. It was about how he loved the city and believed Lafayette was a model of civility and democratic engagement and had a brilliant and professional staff. Afterward, people said nice things and Mr. Falk nodded thank you. The paragraphs he didn’t read became public soon enough — and started making the rounds on Twitter.

“All cities — even small ones — have a responsibility to address the most significant challenges of our time: climate change, income inequality, and housing affordability,” Mr. Falk had written. “I believe that adding multifamily housing at the BART station is the best way for Lafayette to do its part, and it has therefore become increasingly difficult for me to support, advocate for, or implement policies that would thwart transit density. My conscience won’t allow it.”

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Sanders Says GOP Budget Chair Won’t Hold Hearing on Trump Plan Because It Would Expose President as ‘Fraud That He Is’

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Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build

The City Council of Lafayette, Calif., met the public two Mondays a month, and Steve Falk liked to sit off by himself, near the fire exit of the auditorium, so that he could observe from the widest possible vantage. Trim, with a graying buzz cut, Mr. Falk was the city manager — basically the chief executive — of Lafayette, a wealthy suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area that is notoriously antagonistic to development.

With a population of just 25,000, Lafayette was wealthy because it was a small town next to a big town, and it maintained its status by keeping the big town out. Locals tended to react to new building projects with suspicion or even hostility, and over a series of Mondays in 2012 and 2013, Mr. Falk took his usual spot by the fire exit to watch several dozen of his fellow Lafayetters absolutely lose their minds.

A developer had proposed putting 315 apartments on a choice parcel along Deer Hill Road — close to a Bay Area Rapid Transit station, and smack in the view of a bunch of high-dollar properties. This wasn’t just big. The project, which the developer called the Terraces of Lafayette, would be the biggest development in the suburb’s history. Zoning rules allowed it, but neighbors seemed to feel that if their opposition was vehement enough, it could keep the Terraces unbuilt.

In letters to elected officials, and at the open microphone that Mr. Falk observed at the City Council meetings, residents said things like “too aggressive,” “not respectful,” “embarrassment,” “outraged,” “audacity,” “very urban,” “deeply upset,” “unsightly,” “monstrosity,” “inconceivable,” “simply outrageous,” “vehemently opposed,” “sheer scope,” “very wrong,” “blocking views,” “does not conform,” “property values will be destroyed,” and “will allow more crime to be committed.”

Mr. Falk could see where this was going. There would be years of hearings and design reviews and historical assessments and environmental reports. Voters would protest, the council would deny the project, the developer would sue. Lafayette would get mired in an expensive case that it would likely lose. As Mr. Falk saw it, anything he could do to prevent that fate would serve the public interest. So he called the developer, a man named Dennis O’Brien, and requested a meeting.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_168510876_718de01e-1614-45cd-bdc0-6513c77c7f2f-articleLarge Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Suburbs San Francisco Bay Area (Calif) San Francisco (Calif) Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Real Estate and Housing (Residential) Lafayette (Calif) Income Inequality Homeless Persons Brown, Edmund G Jr Area Planning and Renewal Affordable Housing

Steve Falk. “A city manager has a choice,” he said. “You can just sit there and be this kind of neutral policy implementer — or you can insert yourself.”Credit…Carlos Chavarría for The New York Times

Mr. Falk had once taken a course on negotiation at Harvard, where he learned that people are supposed to be more reasonable when they bargain over food. He went to a deli and bought baguettes, a wheel of Brie and bunches of red grapes. He laid the spread on a conference room table and cut the bread into slices and put down little cheese spreaders and surrounded it with the grapes.

Mr. O’Brien was roughly the color of those grapes when he walked in with some aides, and Mr. Falk accepted that for the next few hours he would be the recipient of the developer’s frustrations. But before it got to that, he told everyone, he wanted them to eat.

The room was silent. Mr. Falk explained the whole deal about his negotiation class. The room remained silent. Mr. Falk looked at Mr. O’Brien and said, Dennis, look, I don’t even know you, but you have to eat something, even if it’s one grape, before I’ll talk to you. That at least got people laughing, and pretty soon everyone acceded to the bread and cheese and grapes.

Westlake Legal Group web-LAFAYETTE-MAP-335 Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Suburbs San Francisco Bay Area (Calif) San Francisco (Calif) Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Real Estate and Housing (Residential) Lafayette (Calif) Income Inequality Homeless Persons Brown, Edmund G Jr Area Planning and Renewal Affordable Housing

Pleasant Hill Rd.

Deer Hill Rd.

BART station

Terraces of

Lafayette site

Mt. Diablo Blvd.

Lafayette

Reservoir

CALIFORNIA

San Francisco

By The New York Times

America has a housing crisis. The homeownership rate for young adults is at a multidecade low, and about a quarter of renters send more than half their income to the landlord. Homelessness is resurgent, eviction displaces a million households a year, and about four million people spend at least three hours driving to and from work.

One need only look out an airplane window to see that this has nothing to do with a lack of space. It’s the concentration of opportunity and the rising cost of being near it. It says much about today’s winner-take-all economy that many of the cities with the most glaring epidemics of homelessness are growing centers of technology and finance. There is, simply put, a dire shortage of housing in places where people and companies want to live — and reactionary local politics that fight every effort to add more homes.

Nearly all of the biggest challenges in America are, at some level, a housing problem. Rising home costs are a major driver of segregation, inequality, and racial and generational wealth gaps. You can’t talk about education or the shrinking middle class without talking about how much it costs to live near good schools and high-paying jobs. Transportation accounts for about a third of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, so there’s no serious plan for climate change that doesn’t begin with a conversation about how to alter the urban landscape so that people can live closer to work.

Nowhere is this more evident than California. It’s true that the state is addressing facets of the mess, with efforts on rent control, subsidized housing and homelessness. But the hardest remedy to implement, it turns out, is the most obvious: Build more housing.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the state needs to create 3.5 million homes by 2025 — more than triple the current pace — to even dent its affordability problems. Hitting that number will require building more everything: Subsidized housing. Market-rate housing. Homes, apartments, condos and co-ops. Three hundred and fifteen apartments on prime parcels of towns like Lafayette.

Legislation is important, but history suggests it can do only so much. In the early 1980s, during another housing crisis, California passed a host of bills designed to streamline housing production and punish cities that didn’t comply. But the housing gap has persisted, and more recent efforts have also failed. In late January, the Legislature rejected S.B. 50, a bill that would have pushed cities to accept four- to five-story buildings in amenity-laden areas.

What this suggests is that the real solution will have to be sociological. People have to realize that homelessness is connected to housing prices. They have to accept it’s hypocritical to say that you don’t like density but are worried about climate change. They have to internalize the lesson that if they want their children to have a stable financial future, they have to make space. They are going to have to change.

Steve Falk changed. When he first heard about Dennis O’Brien’s project, he thought it was stupid: a case study, in ugly stucco, of runaway development. He believed the Bay Area needed more housing, but he was also a dyed-in-the-wool localist who thought cities should decide where and how it was built. Then that belief started to unravel. Today, after eight years of struggle, his career with the city is over, the Deer Hill Road site is still just a mass of dirt and shrubs, and Mr. Falk has become an outspoken proponent of taking local control away from cities like the one he used to lead.

Although he didn’t know it at the time, Mr. Falk’s transformation began in 2015, with a phone call from a woman he’d never heard of, with a complaint he had never once fielded in his 25 years working for the city. Her name was Sonja Trauss, and she thought the Deer Hill Road project was too small.

Ms. Trauss was a lifelong rabble-rouser and former high school teacher, who’d recently become a full-time housing activist. She made her public debut a couple of years earlier, at a planning meeting at San Francisco City Hall. When it was time for public comment, she stepped to the microphone and addressed the commissioners, speaking in favor of a housing development. She returned to praise another one. And another. And another.

In backing every single project in the development pipeline that day, Ms. Trauss laid out a platform that would make her a celebrity of Bay Area politics: how expensive new housing today would become affordable old housing tomorrow, how San Francisco was blowing its chance to harness the energy of an economic boom to mass-build homes that generations of residents could enjoy. She didn’t care if a proposal was for apartments or condos or how much money its future residents had. It was a universal platform of more. Ms. Trauss was for anything and everything, so long as it was built tall and fast and had people living in it.

The data was on her side. From 2010 to 2015, Bay Area cities consistently added many more jobs than housing units — in some cases at a ratio of eight to one, way beyond the rate of one and a half jobs per housing unit that planners consider healthy. In essence, the policy was to enthusiastically encourage people to move there for work while equally enthusiastically discouraging developers from building places for those people to live, stoking a generational battle in which the rising cost of housing enriched people who already owned it and deterred anyone who wasn’t well paid or well off from showing up.

Ms. Trauss organized supporters into a group called the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, or SF BARF, which was amateur even by local activist standards. But amateur was the point, part of Ms. Trauss’s knack for getting attention. She drove a glittery orange Crown Victoria, showed up to municipal meetings in leggings and white cowboy boots, and spoke in pop philosophical monologues, like declaring that the reason people don’t like new buildings is that it reminds them that they’re going to die.

Her aims were explicitly revolutionary. She told people that her goal wasn’t to enact any particular housing policy, but to alter social mores such that neighbors who fought development ceased being regarded as stewards of good taste and instead came to be viewed as selfish hoarders.

Ms. Trauss started to attract the attention of wealthy donors like Jeremy Stoppelman, the co-founder of Yelp, who had started to worry about housing costs crimping economic growth. And her tactics got more sophisticated. With a friend, Brian Hanlon, who worked a desk job at the United States Forest Service, she co-founded a nonprofit called the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund, or CARLA. Its mission: “Sue the suburbs.” After reading about an obscure 1982 California law called the Housing Accountability Act, Ms. Trauss decided to try to use it to force Lafayette to build Dennis O’Brien’s 315 apartments.

By then — 2015 — Mr. Falk had been working on the Deer Hill Road project for years. Through dozens of meetings with Mr. O’Brien, he’d hammered out a deal for a more modest development of 44 single-family homes, as well as an agreement to build the city a soccer field and dog park. Mr. Falk was a frequent user of the analogy about sausage-making, and this was definitely some sausage, but he walked out of his talks with Mr. O’Brien feeling like an A‑plus public servant who might have a second career in conflict resolution. When Ms. Trauss phoned him to say the 44-home approach was entirely inadequate, Mr. Falk tried to persuade her otherwise. Of course, he never had a chance.

At a City Council meeting a week later, Mr. Falk noticed a gaggle of BARFers, throbbing with the conspiratorial energy of teenagers before a prank. The microphone was already going to be crowded. Neighbors had formed a vociferous nonprofit called Save Lafayette, which opposed both the 315-apartment idea and the 44-house compromise on grounds from view-ruination to carcinogenic construction dust. Mr. Falk sat by the fire exit and watched as BARF and Save Lafayette collided at the podium, one side arguing the project was too small, and the other arguing it was too big.

“I’m somewhat disturbed by all these parties from outside my neighborhood telling me that I should accept this degradation to my quality of life,” said one Lafayette resident, Ian Kallen.

“No human being is a degradation,” retorted an SF BARF member named Armand Domalewski. “Let’s talk about the economic benefits of adding people instead of simply treating them as costs.”

When it was Ms. Trauss’s turn to speak, she argued that the entire notion of public comment on new construction was inherently flawed, because the beneficiaries — the people who would eventually live in the buildings — couldn’t argue their side.

“An ordinary political process like a sales tax — both sides have an opportunity to show up and say whether they’re for or against it,” she said. “But when you have a new project like this, where are the 700-plus people who would initially move in, much less the tens of thousands of people who would live in it over the lifetime of the project? Those people don’t know who they are yet. Some of them are not even born.”

Ms. Trauss sued a few months later. The great irony was that nobody was more unhappy about it than Mr. O’Brien. He had spent years and millions of dollars proposing two completely different projects. Now some activist group he’d never heard of was suing the city, and him, on behalf of his original project — in essence, suing him on behalf of him.

CARLA’s lawyer had the impossible job of trying to convince a judge that Lafayette had unfairly forced Mr. O’Brien to build 44 houses instead of 315 apartments, while Mr. O’Brien sat on the other side more or less going, No they didn’t. CARLA lost, but after it threatened to appeal, Mr. O’Brien ended up agreeing to pay its legal fees. He had now argued, and paid for, both sides of the same case.

Other litigation continued. Members of Save Lafayette sued to force a referendum where residents could rescind the 44-home plan, and eventually, they succeeded. Ms. Trauss and her fellow insurrectionists moved on to other battles, filing more lawsuits for more housing until they started winning. Meanwhile, the movement she helped found — YIMBY, for Yes in My Back Yard — has become an international phenomenon, with supporters in dozens of housing-burdened regions including Seattle; Boulder, Colo.; Boston; Austin, Texas; London and Vancouver.

Development battles are fought hyperlocally, but the issues are resonating everywhere. In late 2018, Minneapolis became the first major city in America to effectively end single-family zoning. Oregon followed soon after. California and New York have significantly expanded protections for renters. And as more economists give credence to the notion that a housing crisis can materially harm G.D.P., by exacerbating inequality and reducing opportunity, all of the Democratic presidential candidates have put forth major housing proposals.

They run the gamut from tax breaks for renters, to calls for more affordable housing funds, to plans for bringing federal muscle to bear on zoning reform. These ideas share a central conflict: Can city leaders — who in theory know local conditions best — be trusted to build the housing we need? Or will they continue to pursue policies that pump up property values, perpetuate sprawl, and punish low-income renters?

Mr. Falk began his career on the local control side of that debate. But somewhere along the Deer Hill odyssey, he started to sympathize with his insurrectionist opponents. His son lived in San Francisco and paid a fortune to live with a pile of roommates. His daughter was a dancer in New York, where the housing crunch was just as bad. It was hard to watch his kids struggle with rent and not start to think that maybe Ms. Trauss had a point.

“I’m not sure individual cities, left to their own devices, are going to solve this,” he told me once. “They don’t have the incentive to do so, because local voters are always going to protect their own interests instead of looking out for people who don’t live there yet.”

So he started to rebel. When California’s governor at the time, Jerry Brown, threatened to override local control with a proposal to allow developers to build urban apartments “as of right” — bypassing most of the public process and hearings — Lafayette citizens were apoplectic. Mr. Falk, against his own interest, wrote a memo in favor of the idea.

“Cannot be trusted,” “ineptitude,” “disingenuously manipulating the City Council,” “should be publicly and explicitly reprimanded” — these were some of the things citizens said in response. His future was untenable. The City Council reprimanded him, and when it came time for his contract negotiation, members of Save Lafayette protested a clause that would guarantee him severance of 18 months of pay if he was ever fired; a few months later he forfeited the amount — close to half a million dollars — and resigned.

“A city manager has a choice: You can just sit there and be this kind of neutral policy implementer, or you can insert yourself,” Mr. Falk said. “Sitting in your office all day long, you have to ask the question, ‘Why am I here, why am I doing this work?’ At some point, I just think it’s natural that you start making recommendations that you think are in the best interest, not just for the community, but society.”

It’s hard to look at what happened in Lafayette and see a population that acted rationally. After the 44-home plan was derailed, Mr. O’Brien activated an insurance policy that few people knew about: The terms of his negotiation with Mr. Falk allowed him to return to his original plan for 315 apartments. When residents learned at a City Council meeting that their agitation might have brought them full circle, they got so angry that a sheriff offered to escort one of Mr. O’Brien’s employees to her car.

Mr. Falk, on the other hand, seems at peace. At the council meeting marking his departure, he sat, uncharacteristically, up front. The mayor gave him the honor of leading the room in the Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. Falk had a resignation letter in front of him, but told the audience that he was only going to read it in part.

The portion he read was polite. It was about how he loved the city and believed Lafayette was a model of civility and democratic engagement and had a brilliant and professional staff. Afterward, people said nice things and Mr. Falk nodded thank you. The paragraphs he didn’t read became public soon enough — and started making the rounds on Twitter.

“All cities — even small ones — have a responsibility to address the most significant challenges of our time: climate change, income inequality, and housing affordability,” Mr. Falk had written. “I believe that adding multifamily housing at the BART station is the best way for Lafayette to do its part, and it has therefore become increasingly difficult for me to support, advocate for, or implement policies that would thwart transit density. My conscience won’t allow it.”

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Sanders Says GOP Budget Chair Won’t Hold Hearing on Trump Plan Because It Would Expose President as ‘Fraud That He Is’

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Conservative group estimates ‘devastating’ Green New Deal would drive up energy costs, kill jobs

Westlake Legal Group image Conservative group estimates ‘devastating’ Green New Deal would drive up energy costs, kill jobs fox-news/politics/socialism fox-news/politics/elections fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/bernie-sanders fox-news/person/alexandria-ocasio-cortez fox news fnc/politics fnc article Adam Shaw 12e592dd-8378-5274-944a-980a6c5f6a86

A conservative group on Wednesday launched a website highlighting the “devastating” impact of the Green New Deal — the sweeping environmental and economic agenda being pushed by a number of Democratic presidential hopefuls.

GreenNewDealStats.com, set up by America Rising Squared, includes an interactive map of the U.S., which allows readers to see the alleged impact on their state, such as the number of jobs at risk and the expected increased energy cost from the policy.

SANDERS RELEASES $16 TRILLION ‘GREEN NEW DEAL’ PLAN, PROMISES IT WILL ‘PAY FOR ITSELF’

In the state of Pennsylvania, for instance, the website estimates that 322,600 jobs would be put at risk, and energy costs would increase by up to $327 per month. In Ohio, 262,800 jobs are estimated to be at risk along with an average energy cost increase of $303 a month.

“The Green New Deal is the most radical proposal ever embraced by liberal politicians,” AR2’s communications director Chris Martin said in a statement. “Every American deserves to know how many jobs it could destroy in their state and how much their energy costs could increase should this liberal pipe dream ever be implemented.”

The Green New Deal, an idea once popular only at the fringes of the Democratic Party, entered the party mainstream in 2018 when it was pushed in a non-binding resolution in Congress by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. It was signed onto by a number of presidential hopefuls.

One of those, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has been promoting a Green New Deal for much longer. His own plan demands the U.S. hit 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, and $16.3 trillion in investment toward creating 20 million jobs in areas including construction, energy efficiency retrofitting and a Civilian Conservation Corps.

The plan would support “small family farms by investing in ecologically regenerative and sustainable agriculture,” weatherize homes, expand a “climate justice movement” and throw $200 billion at the international Green Climate Fund.

His plan would also replace all shipping trucks with electric ones, “decarbonize” the transport sector — including the aviation industry — and provide a $40 billion Climate Justice Resiliency Fund.

OUTSIDE GROUP FINDS ‘GREEN NEW DEAL’ EMISSIONS TARGET CRASHES GOVERNMENT MODEL

In a nod to the social justice part of the plan, he says that the deal is an “opportunity to uproot historical injustices and inequities to advance social, racial, and economic justice, including redressing the exclusion of black, brown, Native American and other vulnerable communities from the programs that made up the original New Deal.”

The GreenNewDealStats.com website includes a video that shows criticism of the plan by Democrats, analysts and even environmentalists. It also cites estimates that the plan could cost as much as $93 trillion.

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It also points to wilder details that came in an accompanying FAQ from Ocasio-Cortez’s office that accompanied the rollout of the resolution that said the plan would provide “economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work.” Her office later distanced itself from the FAQ, saying it was only a draft.

The new website comes after Sanders won the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary, moving him to frontrunner status for the Democratic nomination. As he was speaking, his supporters could be heard chanting: “Green New Deal, Green New Deal.”

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U.S. Faces Tough ‘Great Game’ Against China in Central Asia and Beyond

Westlake Legal Group 13dc-greatgame1-facebookJumbo U.S. Faces Tough ‘Great Game’ Against China in Central Asia and Beyond Uzbekistan United States International Relations Trump, Donald J State Department Pompeo, Mike Muslims and Islam Mirziyoyev, Shavkat Defense Department China Central Asia Belt and Road Initiative (China)

KHIVA, Uzbekistan — Inside the ancient walls of the Silk Road oasis town of Khiva, China has put down a marker of its geopolitical ambitions. A sign promotes a Chinese aid project to renovate a once-crumbling mosque and a faded madrasa.

Outside the town’s northern gate, a billboard-size video screen shows clips of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan meeting with world leaders. President Xi Jinping of China features prominently, but there are no shots of President Trump.

That China is advertising its aid efforts so boldly in this remote outpost linking Asia and Europe — where camel caravans once arrived after crossing the Kyzylkum and Karakum Deserts — is the kind of action these days that sets off alarm bells among American officials. The Trump administration is trying with greater force to insert itself into the political and economic life of Central Asia to counter China’s presence. American officials see the countries in the heart of the continent’s vast, arid steppe as critical battlegrounds in the struggle with China over global influence.

“Whenever we speak to countries around the world, we want to make sure that we’re doing what the people of those countries want,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week at a news conference in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.

The Uzbeks want a “good, balanced relationship,” he said.

“They have long borders,” he added. “They sit in a region where China and Russia are both present.”

Leaders of the five Central Asian nations that became independent republics after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 — Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan — are used to walking a regional tightrope. The area was contested during the so-called Great Game of the 19th century, when the British and Russian empires competed to establish influence and control.

Now a new game is underway. And officials in Central Asia, like many of their counterparts around the world, are hedging their bets when it comes to aligning with Washington or Beijing.

“I’d like to once again note that we want to see Central Asia as a region of stable development, prosperity and cooperation,” said Abdulaziz Kamilov, the foreign minister of Uzbekistan. “And we would really not like to feel on ourselves unfavorable political consequences in relation to some competition in our region between large powers.”

The State Department released a Central Asia strategy document on Feb. 5 that said the top priority was to “support and strengthen the sovereignty and independence of the Central Asian states” — a reference to warding off the influence of China and Russia.

It is a tough mission for the United States. The nations are in China’s and Russia’s backyards, and there have been decades of close interactions among them. Mr. Xi has made multiple state visits to the countries since he took power in 2012, most recently last year.

The Trump administration has hit major setbacks in its attempts to build a global coalition against projects by the Chinese government and by Chinese companies. In fact, Britain said on Jan. 28 that it would not ban technology made by Huawei, a Chinese telecom giant, from its high-speed 5G wireless network, despite intense pressure from American officials.

Mr. Pompeo made London his first stop on a recent six-day trip to Europe and Central Asia, and he said there on Jan. 30 that the Chinese Communist Party was “the central threat of our times.” The next day, he spoke about China with leaders in Ukraine.

But words go only so far. The Americans fail to present an economical alternative to Huawei. And the Trump administration is discovering that its belligerent approach toward allies has a cost when it comes to China strategy. Withdrawing from the global Paris climate agreement and the landmark Iran nuclear deal, starting trade conflicts with friendly governments and berating members of NATO make those nations less likely to listen to Washington’s entreaties on China.

A recent policy report on China by the Center for a New American Security said “critical areas of U.S. policy remain inconsistent, uncoordinated, underresourced and — to be blunt — uncompetitive and counterproductive to advancing U.S. values and interests.”

Some analysts say the constant hawkish talk on China by Mr. Pompeo and other American officials paradoxically makes the United States look weak.

“And that last point is just the core of it for me. A central problem of US foreign policy today, not just in Central Asia, is that it feels increasingly reactive to me — back footed and on defense, not least in the face of Chinese initiatives,” Evan A. Feigenbaum, a deputy assistant secretary of state on Central Asia and South Asia in the George W. Bush administration who is now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote on Twitter.

“To wit, the secretary of state just made the first visit by America’s top diplomat to Central Asia in five years — five! — but spent a hefty chunk of it talking about China,” he wrote. “The challenge for the US is to get off its reactive back foot and be proactive and on offense.”

The United States did not pursue serious partnerships in Central Asia until after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when the Pentagon needed regional bases for the war in Afghanistan.

China has taken a different approach. Beijing says it will help build up the region under what it calls the Silk Road Economic Belt, which is part of the larger Belt and Road Initiative, a blanket term for global infrastructure projects that, according to Beijing, amount to $1 trillion of investment. The Trump administration says the projects are potential debt traps, but many countries have embraced them.

The economic liberalization of Uzbekistan under Mr. Mirziyoyev, who took power in 2016 after the death of a longtime dictator, has resulted in greater trade with China.

China is Uzbekistan’s largest trading partner, and trade totaled almost $6.3 billion in 2018, a nearly 50 percent increase from 2017, according to Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency. Chinese goods, including Huawei devices, are everywhere in Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent and other Uzbek cities.

Uzbekistan is also committing to being part of rail and road networks that China is building across Central Asia.

Since 2001, China has worked with Central and South Asian nations as well as Russia in a multilateral group, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to address security issues.

China’s People’s Liberation Army has gained a new foothold in the region, in the form of a base in Tajikistan’s Pamir Mountains. For at least three years, Chinese troops have quietly kept watch from two dozen buildings and lookout towers near the Tajik-Chinese border and the remote Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan. The Afghan corridor is a strategic strip of land whose borders were drawn by Britain and Russia during the original Great Game as a buffer zone.

The United States has hundreds of troops at an air base in Uzbekistan that it operates with the Uzbeks. But it wants to move the relationship well beyond the military.

“We want private investment, American private investment sector, to flow between our two nations,” Mr. Pompeo said.

He added that the United States had committed $100 million to programs in Uzbekistan last year, and that it would give $1 million to help develop financial markets and another $1 million to increase trade and “connectivity” between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

On his trip, Mr. Pompeo also made a demand regarding human rights in China as he met with officials in Tashkent and Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan. He raised the issue of China’s internment camps that hold one million or more Muslims and urged the Central Asian nations, which are predominantly Muslim, to speak out against the camps. In Nur-Sultan, he met with Kazakhs who have had family members detained in the camps.

Yet, as in other predominantly Muslim nations, Central Asian leaders have remained silent on this. (Mr. Trump himself has said nothing, and Mr. Pompeo has been accused of hypocrisy by excluding Taiwan, the democratic island that China threatens, from a religious freedom alliance.)

In December, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, denounced Washington’s prodding of Central Asian nations on the Muslim issue: “If the United States once again tries to get up to its old tricks, it will certainly still be futile for them.”

Trump administration policies perceived as anti-Muslim undermine trust in Washington. On Jan. 31, Mr. Trump added Kyrgyzstan and five other nations, all with substantial Muslim populations, to a list of countries whose citizens are restricted in traveling to the United States. In an interview in Nur-Sultan, a Kazakh television journalist, Lyazzat Shatayeva, asked Mr. Pompeo, “What do you think that signals to the other countries and other governments in Central Asia on why it happened?”

Mr. Pompeo said Kyrgyzstan must “fix” certain things: “passport issues, visa issues, visa overstays.”

“When the country fixes those things,” he said, “we’ll get them right back in where they can come travel to America.”

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Fashion Week events in China postponed amid coronavirus fears

These fashion weeks have become fashion victims.

Two major fashion industry events in China have been postponed as a precaution amid fears surrounding the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, previously referred to as the novel coronavirus.

MEN APPEAR TO BE MORE VULNERABLE TO THE CORONAVIRUS: REPORT

Productions for Shanghai Fashion Week and China Fashion Week in Beijing have been temporarily halted as the number of coronavirus cases in China continues to rise. As of Thursday, over 50,000 people in the country had been reportedly infected with the virus, while the death toll had reached 1,300 worldwide.

Westlake Legal Group GettyImages-1141444079 Fashion Week events in China postponed amid coronavirus fears Janine Puhak fox-news/world/world-regions/china fox-news/style-and-beauty fox-news/lifestyle fox-news/health/infectious-disease/coronavirus fox news fnc/lifestyle fnc article 746a1cc6-6079-5873-9c1b-efc9875c3958

Productions for Shanghai Fashion Week and China Fashion Week in Beijing have been temporarily halted as the number of coronavirus cases in China continues to rise. (Visual China Group via Getty Images)

Both Fashion Weeks were slated to begin on March 26, and have been deferred for the foreseeable future, the South China Morning Post reports. No information has yet been released regarding when events might be rescheduled, as “designers, trade show owners, fashion week committees and the local governments have not yet been able to agree on a time slot” that is both viable for brands and be deemed “safe” by the government, reports Women’s Wear Daily.

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In partnership with Beijing’s Central Committee, State Council and Shanghai’s local government, Shanghai Fashion Week officials announced the news on Monday, postponing what the Business of Fashion calls “the country’s most important fashion moment of the year.” The event has been called off for now as a “precautionary measure” against the COVID-19 virus.

“We hope that everyone will stay vigilant and pay attention to the government’s advice,” said Shanghai Fashion Week executive Lv Xiaolei. “The organization will focus on keeping up trade, communicating with all parties and find a solution to the situation.”

Westlake Legal Group GettyImages-1141453364 Fashion Week events in China postponed amid coronavirus fears Janine Puhak fox-news/world/world-regions/china fox-news/style-and-beauty fox-news/lifestyle fox-news/health/infectious-disease/coronavirus fox news fnc/lifestyle fnc article 746a1cc6-6079-5873-9c1b-efc9875c3958

A model walks the runway during the Jasmine Collection show on day 13 of Shanghai Fashion Week 2019 A/W at Minsheng Art Wharf on April 8, 2019 in Shanghai, China.  (Visual China Group via Getty Images)

Reps for China Fashion Week also suspended their plans soon after, according to the Morning Post.

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Chinese consumers fuel the world’s largest luxury market, spending over $100 billion annually both at home and abroad, CBS reports.  As brands like Balenciaga, Burberry and Gucci limit their store hours of operation or even shutter their doors altogether in mainland China, it remains to be determined how the ongoing COVD-19 outbreak will ultimately affect luxury brands’ bottom lines.

China has locked down an unprecedented 60 million people in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, which has hit hardest in the city of Wuhan and surrounding towns in the Hubei province.

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Fox News’ Edmund DeMarche contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group GettyImages-1141444079 Fashion Week events in China postponed amid coronavirus fears Janine Puhak fox-news/world/world-regions/china fox-news/style-and-beauty fox-news/lifestyle fox-news/health/infectious-disease/coronavirus fox news fnc/lifestyle fnc article 746a1cc6-6079-5873-9c1b-efc9875c3958   Westlake Legal Group GettyImages-1141444079 Fashion Week events in China postponed amid coronavirus fears Janine Puhak fox-news/world/world-regions/china fox-news/style-and-beauty fox-news/lifestyle fox-news/health/infectious-disease/coronavirus fox news fnc/lifestyle fnc article 746a1cc6-6079-5873-9c1b-efc9875c3958

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