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Protest planned to save historic NYC hospital from wrecking ball

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The battle is on to dissuade — or prevent — Mt. Sinai Health System from closing the historic New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, which it’s likely to sell to a developer after it scatters the Infirmary’s units to the Manhattan winds.

A group of doctors, preservationists and elected officials have set a press conference for Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. at Village Preservation at 232 E. 11th St. to demand city action to block the plan.

The Post first reported on June 15 of Mt. Sinai’s apparent goal of breaking up the 200-year-old Infirmary’s departments, including its surgical and clinical units, and relocating them to other Mt. Sinai facilities around Manhattan. 

Infirmary insiders had told us that Mount Sinai was stealthily moving physicians, lab facilities and other departments out of the building so that it could clear the deck for a possible sale.

We reported that a sale of the historic, century-old building at 218 Second Ave. and a more modern one next door at 310 E. 14th St. which is also part of the Infirmary could fetch up to $70 million based on current values for residential development.

One doctor said at the time, “Mount Sinai is going to close this building and make whatever they can on it.”

The hospital was the setting for the memorable scene in “The Godfather” where Al Pacino rescues Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone character from assassination.
The hospital was the setting for the memorable scene in “The Godfather” where Al Pacino rescues Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone character from assassination.

Crain’s recently carried details of how Mt. Sinai would relocate Infirmary units, but the hospital system again declined to comment on its plans for 218 Second Ave. 

The weathered, old building was the setting for the memorable scene in “The Godfather” where Al Pacino rescues Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone character from assassination.

A city landmark designation would prevent a new owner from demolishing the structure.

Tuesday’s press conference will be attended by Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation director Andrew Berman, Infirmary doctors and staff members, District 74 state Assembly Member Harvey Epstein and other elected officials.

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Sam Bankman-Fried’s trading shop was given special treatment on FTX for years

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Alameda Research was allowed to exceed normal borrowing limits on the FTX exchange since its early days, Sam Bankman-Fried has said, in a concession that illustrates how the former billionaire’s trading shop enjoyed preferential treatment over clients years before the 2022 crypto crisis.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the 30-year-old described the outsized role Alameda played in launching the exchange in 2019 and how it had access to exceptionally high levels of borrowing from FTX from the beginning.

Bankman-Fried said that “when FTX was first started” Alameda “had fairly large limits” on its borrowing from the exchange but he “absolutely” wished he had subjected the trading firm to the same standards as other clients.

Asked if Alameda had continued to have larger limits than other clients, he said: “I think that may be true.” He did not specify how much larger Alameda’s limits were than those of other clients.

FTX and Alameda portrayed themselves publicly as distinct entities to avoid the perception of conflicts of interest between the exchange, which processed billions of dollars’ worth of client deals a month before its collapse, and Bankman-Fried’s proprietary trading firm.

Bankman-Fried’s comments shed light on longstanding special treatment for Alameda. The close links between the firms and the large amount of borrowing by Alameda from FTX played a key role in the spectacular collapse of the exchange, once one of the largest crypto venues and valued at $32bn by investors including Sequoia and BlackRock. 

Previously one of the most respected figures in the digital assets industry, Bankman-Fried has apologised for mistakes that left up 1mn creditors facing large losses on funds they entrusted to FTX, but has denied intentionally misusing clients’ assets.

Bankman-Fried said the origins of the large borrowing limits for Alameda came as a result of the trading shop’s early role as the main provider of liquidity on FTX before it attracted other financial groups.

FTX, like other big offshore trading venues, handled large volumes of derivatives that allowed traders to magnify their bets using borrowed funds — but professional firms are typically needed to make the market function smoothly.

“If you scroll back to 2019 when FTX was first started, at that point Alameda was 45 per cent of volume or something on the platform,” Bankman-Fried said. “It was basically a situation where if Alameda’s account ran out of capacity to take on new positions that would lead to risk issues for the platform because we didn’t have enough liquidity providers. I think it had fairly large limits because of that.”

By this year, he said, Alameda accounted for around 2 per cent of trading volume and was no longer the key liquidity provider on the exchange. Bankman-Fried said he regrets not revisiting the trading firm’s treatment to ensure that it was subject to the same limits on borrowing as other similar firms operating on the exchange. 

FTX lent to traders so they could make big bets on crypto with just a small initial outlay, known as trading on margin. FTX’s large exposure to Alameda was a key reason that weakness in the trading firm’s balance sheet caused a financial crisis that engulfed both companies.

Bankman-Fried has estimated Alameda’s liabilities to FTX at roughly $10bn by the time both companies filed for bankruptcy in November.

“From a volume, from a revenue, from a liquidity point of view, the exchange was effectively independent from Alameda. Obviously that did not turn out to be true in terms of positions or balances on the venue,” Bankman-Fried said.

John Ray, the veteran insolvency practitioner running FTX in bankruptcy, has criticised its former leadership for failing to keep Alameda and FTX separate. In court filings, he pointed to a “secret exemption of Alameda from certain aspects of FTX.com’s auto-liquidation protocol”. 

Automatic liquidation, or closing, of souring positions was a key tenet of FTX’s risk management procedures and a core part of its proposals to change parts of US financial regulation. When a typical client’s trade started to go underwater, FTX’s liquidation mechanism was meant to start draining the account’s margin to protect the venue from a single trade causing a loss for the exchange.

However, Bankman-Fried said there “may have been a liquidation delay” for Alameda and possibly other large traders. He said was “not confident” as to whether Alameda was subject to the same liquidation protocol as other traders on the exchange, and that the treatment of the trading firm’s account was “in flux”.

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Defaults Loom as Poor Countries Face an Economic Storm

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WASHINGTON — Developing nations are facing a catastrophic debt crisis in the coming months as rapid inflation, slowing growth, rising interest rates and a strengthening dollar coalesce into a perfect storm that could set off a wave of messy defaults that inflict economic pain on the world’s most vulnerable people.

Poor countries owe, by some calculations, as much as $200 billion to wealthy nations, multilateral development banks and private creditors. Rising interest rates have increased the value of the dollar, making it harder for foreign borrowers with debt denominated in U.S. currency to repay their loans.

Defaulting on a huge swath of loans would send borrowing costs for vulnerable nations even higher and could spawn financial crises when nearly 100 million people have already been pushed into poverty this year by the combined effects of the pandemic, inflation and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The danger poses another headwind for a world economy that has been sputtering toward a recession. The leaders of the world’s advanced economies have been grappling privately in recent weeks with how to avert financial crises in emerging markets such as Zambia, Sri Lanka and Ghana, but they have struggled to develop a plan to accelerate debt relief as they confront their own economic woes.

As rich countries brace for a global recession and try to cope with high food and energy prices, investment flows to the developing world have been abating and big creditors, particularly China, have been slow to restructure loans.

Mass defaults in low-income countries are unlikely to spur a global financial crisis given the relatively small size of their economies. But the potential is causing policymakers to rethink debt sustainability in an era of rising interest rates and increasingly opaque loan transactions. In part, that’s because defaults can make it harder for countries like the United States to export goods to indebted nations, further slowing the world economy and possibly leading to widespread hunger and social unrest. As Sri Lanka drew closer to its default this year, its central bank was forced to arrange a barter agreement to pay for Iranian oil with tea leaves.

“Finding ways to reduce the debt is important for these countries to get to the light at the end of the tunnel,” said David Malpass, the World Bank president, in an interview at the summit for the Group of 20 nations last month in Bali, Indonesia. “This burden on the developing countries is heavy, and if it goes on, they continue to get worse, which then has impacts on advanced economies in terms of increased migration flows and lost markets.”

The urgency follows lockdowns to contain the coronavirus in China and Russia’s war in Ukraine, which have stunted global output and sent food and energy prices soaring. The Federal Reserve has been rapidly raising interest rates in the United States, bolstering the strength of the dollar and making it more expensive for developing countries to import necessities for populations already struggling with rising prices.

Economists and global financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have been raising alarm about the gravity of the crisis. The World Bank projected this year that about a dozen countries could face default in the next year, and the I.M.F. calculated that 60 percent of low-income developing countries were in debt distress or at high risk of it.

Since then, the finances of developing countries have continued to deteriorate. The Council on Foreign Relations said this past week that 12 countries now had its highest default rating, up from three 18 months ago.

Brad Setser, a senior fellow at council, estimates that $200 billion of sovereign debt in emerging markets needs to be restructured.

“It is certainly a systemic problem for the countries that are affected,” Mr. Setser said. “Because an unusually large number of countries borrowed from the market and borrowed from China between 2012 and 2020, there’s an unusually large number of countries that are in default or at risk of default.”

Restructuring debt can include providing grace periods for repayment, lowering interest rates and forgiving some of the principal amount that is owed. The United States has traditionally led broad debt-relief initiatives such as the “Brady Bond” plan for Latin America in the 1990s. However, the emergence of commercial creditors that lend at high rates and prolific loans from China — which has been loath to take losses — has complicated international debt relief efforts.

Fitch, the credit rating firm, warned in a report last month that “more defaults are probable” in emerging markets next year and lamented that the so-called Common Framework that the Group of 20 established in 2020 to facilitate debt restructuring “is not proving effective in resolving crises quickly.”

Since the framework was established, only Zambia, Chad and Ethiopia have sought debt relief. It has been a grinding process, involving creditor committees, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, all of which must negotiate and agree upon how to restructure loans that the countries owe. After two years, Zambia is finally on the verge of restructuring its debts to China’s state banks, and Chad reached an agreement last month with private creditors, including Glencore, to restructure its debt.

Bruno LeMaire, the French finance minister, said that the progress with Zambia and Chad was a positive step, but that there was much more work to be done with other countries.

“Now we should accelerate,” Mr. Le Maire said on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit.

China, which has become one of the world’s largest creditors, remains an obstacle to relief. Development experts have accused it of setting “debt traps” for developing countries with its lending program of more than $500 billion, which has been described as predatory.

“This is really about China being unwilling to admit its lending has been unsustainable and China dragging its feet in getting to deals,” said Mark Sobel, a former Treasury Department official and the U.S. chairman of the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum.

The United States has regularly urged China to be more accommodating and complained that Chinese loans are difficult to restructure because of the opaque terms of the contracts. It has described China’s lending practices as “unconventional.”

“China is not the only creditor holding back quick and effective implementation of the typical playbook,” said Brent Neiman, a counselor to Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, in a speech in Washington in September. “But across the international lending landscape, China’s lack of participation in coordinated debt relief is the most common and the most consequential.”

China has accused Western commercial creditors and multilateral institutions of failing to do enough to restructure debts and denied that it has engaged in predatory lending.

“These are not ‘debt traps,’ but monuments of cooperation,” Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, said this year.

China’s own economy is slowing because of its strick “zero Covid” policy, which has included mass testing, quarantines and lockdowns of its population. A domestic real estate crisis has also made it more difficult for China to accept losses on loans that it has made to other countries.

I.M.F. officials will travel to Beijing this coming week for a “1+6” roundtable with the leaders of major international economic institutions. During those meetings, they will help China better understand the process of debt restructuring through the common framework.

Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, the director of the strategy, policy and review department at the I.M.F., acknowledged that agreeing to terms on debt relief could take time, but said she would convey the urgency to Chinese officials

“The problem we have is that we don’t have the time right now because countries are very fragile in dealing with debt vulnerability,” Ms. Pazarbasioglu, who will travel to China, told reporters at the I.M.F. this past week.

At the annual meetings of the I.M.F. and World Bank in Washington in October, policymakers said the pace of debt restructuring was too slow and called for coordinated action among creditors and borrowers to find solutions before it was too late.

During a panel discussion about debt restructuring, Gita Gopinath, the first deputy managing director of the I.M.F., said countries and creditors needed to avoid the kind of wishful thinking that led to defaults.

“There is very much the tendency to gamble for redemption,” Ms. Gopinath said. “There’s very much a tendency for creditors to hope there will be gambling for redemption, and then nothing gets solved.”

But at the conclusion of the Group of 20 meeting in November, it appeared that little progress had been made. In a joint declaration, the leaders expressed their concern about the “deteriorating debt situation” in some vulnerable middle-income countries. However, they offered few concrete solutions.

“We reaffirm the importance of joint efforts by all actors, including private creditors, to continue working toward enhancing debt transparency,” the statement read.

The statement included a footnote saying that “one member has divergent views on debt issues.” That country, according to people familiar with the matter, was China.

In the interview, Mr. Malpass said that China had been willing to discuss debt relief, but that the “devil is in the details” when it comes to restructuring loans to reduce debt burdens.

The World Bank president predicted that the fiscal problems facing developing countries were unlikely to become a global debt crisis of the kind that occurred in the 1980s when many Latin American countries could not service their foreign debt. He suggested, however, that there was a moral imperative to do more to help poor countries and populations that had been pushed deeper into poverty during the pandemic.

“There would be continued reversals in development in terms of poverty, in terms of hunger and malnutrition, which are already going up,” Mr. Malpass said. “And it’s coming at a time when countries need more resources, not less.”

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Russia’s deportations of Ukrainian children stir accusations of genocide

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This article is an onsite version of our Europe Express newsletter. Sign up here to get the newsletter sent straight to your inbox every weekday and Saturday morning

Welcome back. The Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, on Wednesday recognised the Holodomor — the deaths of millions of Ukrainians in a 1932-1933 famine induced by the Soviet collectivisation of farms — as an act of genocide. Now Russia’s abductions and deportations of Ukrainian civilians, including thousands of children, raise the question of whether a new form of genocide is unfolding in Europe. I’m at tony.barber@ft.com.

For many Ukrainians, the Holodomor is the most horrific national tragedy of a 20th century scarred by war, state violence and mass repressions. Most of this happened after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and, in particular, under Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, the authorities in Kyiv, along with western governments, human rights groups and the UN, have drawn attention to another ugly phenomenon: the “disappearance” of numerous Ukrainians in Russian-occupied areas and their transfer to Russia proper. I will focus on Ukrainian children who have suffered this fate. Is it a war crime? Is it genocide?

The Ukrainian government has a website, Children of War, on which it regularly updates the number of children killed, wounded, missing and deported to Russia. As of yesterday, it estimated those deported at 12,572.

To judge from some Russian reports, the number of child evacuees — a different measure, covering those supposedly moved for their own safety from war zones — may be far higher, at about 200,000.

Investigative news organisations have done some fine work on this topic. One of the best pieces, in my view, is this in-depth report by the Associated Press.

As the AP points out, officials in Moscow defend the transfer of children to Russia on the grounds that they don’t have parents or guardians. Some were moved from orphanages in the Russian-backed separatist area of Donbas, and others from war-ruined, captured cities such as Mariupol.

However, the AP’s reporters also discovered that “officials have deported Ukrainian children to Russia or Russian-held territories without consent, lied to them that they weren’t wanted by their parents, used them for propaganda and given them Russian families and citizenship”.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has reached much the same conclusion. In September it reported: “There have been credible allegations of forced transfers of unaccompanied children to Russian occupied territory, or to the Russian Federation itself.

“We are concerned that the Russian authorities have adopted a simplified procedure to grant Russian citizenship to children without parental care, and that these children would be eligible for adoption by Russian families.”

Indeed, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree in May that simplified the procedure for turning Ukrainian orphans into Russian citizens. Among those who have adopted a Ukrainian teenager is none other than Maria Lvova-Belova, Putin’s commissioner for children’s rights.

In September the US Treasury placed sanctions on Lvova-Belova, saying her efforts “specifically include the forced adoption of Ukrainian children into Russian families, the so-called ‘patriotic education’ of Ukrainian children, legislative changes to expedite the provision of Russian Federation citizenship to Ukrainian children, and the deliberate removal of Ukrainian children by Russia’s forces”.

Does all this amount to genocide under international law? Timothy Snyder, an eminent American historian of eastern Europe, thinks so. He and others cite the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Article II of this convention is unambiguous on the subject. Section (e) defines one type of genocide against a national, racial, ethnic, racial or religious group as “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”.

But what precisely is the purpose of the Russian authorities in moving children from Ukraine and, in some cases, giving them Russian citizenship? A recent New York Times article made the point that the authorities are hardly concealing their actions. On the contrary, their actions are broadcast on state television “with patriotic fanfare”.

The aim, it appears to me, is partly to demoralise and intimidate the people of Ukraine, and partly to put on a propaganda show to the people of Russia. The message to Russians is: see, our “special military operation” is not a war at all, it’s bursting with humanitarian goodness.

All that said, it’s necessary to keep in mind that mass deportations have a long history in Russia, both in Soviet and in tsarist times.

In 2007 Sciences Po, the Paris-based university, compiled a chronology of deportations under Stalin from the mid-1930s onwards. Finns, Poles, Koreans, Balts, the peoples of the north Caucasus, Crimean Tatars, Germans, Greeks, Armenians, Moldovans — on and on the list goes.

In the tsarist era, one of the largest deportations occurred in 1864: the ethnic cleansing of Circassians in the north Caucasus.

On several occasions in the 18th and 19th centuries, Poles were deported en masse to Siberia. They suffered a similar fate, in even larger numbers, after Stalin’s invasion of Poland in 1939. The definitive study is the late British historian Keith Sword’s Deportation and Exile: Poles in the Soviet Union 1939-1948.

In our times, Russia’s 1999-2000 war in Chechnya led to the “enforced disappearance” of thousands of Chechens, according to Human Rights Watch. Similar actions against Crimean Tatars followed Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

In other words, Russia’s deportations of Ukrainians, including children, fit a well-established historical pattern of behaviour. It is another question whether the Russian authorities will ever be held to account.

What do you think? Does Russia’s treatment of Ukrainian children qualify as genocide? Vote here.

More on this topic

Vladimir Putin’s Telegram hawks — Andrey Pertsev explains on the Riddle website how a messenger app became a platform for pro-war Russian nationalists.

Notable, quotable

“This case reaffirms the strength of our democracy and the institutions that protect and preserve it, including our criminal justice system” — Matthew Graves, US attorney for the District of Columbia, speaks after Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, a rightwing militia, was convicted of seditious conspiracy in connection with the January 2021 assault on the US Capitol

Tony’s picks of the week

  • Youth unemployment in China is stoking student protests against the Communist party’s zero-Covid policies, the FT’s Thomas Hale in Shanghai and Arjun Neil Alim in London report.

  • Ten years after the EU embarked on the project of a banking union to complement its single currency, the task remains unfulfilled in important respects, but there are opportunities for progress. The Brussels-based Bruegel think-tank analyses what needs to be done.

In case you missed it, for the FT’s Best Books of the Year series, I selected 10 history books which stand out from 2022 — you can read my list here, and see the rest of the annual round-up here.

Britain after Brexit — Keep up to date with the latest developments as the UK economy adjusts to life outside the EU. Sign up here

Working it — Discover the big ideas shaping today’s workplaces with a weekly newsletter from work & careers editor Isabel Berwick. Sign up here

Are you enjoying Europe Express? Sign up here to have it delivered straight to your inbox every workday at 7am CET and on Saturdays at noon CET. Do tell us what you think, we love to hear from you: europe.express@ft.com. Keep up with the latest European stories @FT Europe



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