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Chuck Schumer, the ‘Happy Worrier,’ Delivers

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WASHINGTON — Senator Chuck Schumer was huddled in his Capitol office on Thursday evening awaiting a climactic meeting with Kyrsten Sinema, a critical holdout on his painstakingly negotiated climate change, tax and health care deal, when the loud booms and flashes of a powerful thunderstorm shook Washington, setting the lights flickering.

Mr. Schumer and his aides, so close to a signature legislative achievement to top off a surprise string of victories, glanced anxiously at one another and wondered if it was a bad omen. A 50-50 Senate, a pandemic that kept Democrats constantly guessing about who would be available to vote and the sheer difficulty of managing the nearly unmanageable chamber had left them superstitious.

“I’ve been a worrier all my life, but a happy worrier,” said Mr. Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader.

It was a head-snapping change in fortune. Just a few weeks earlier, Mr. Schumer, the Democratic agenda and the party’s chances of retaining its bare Senate majority all seemed in sorry shape as last-gasp negotiations over the broad legislation appeared to collapse for good under the weight of resistance from Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia.

Instead, Democrats not only landed their biggest prize — the party-line climate and tax legislation — but also capped off an extraordinarily productive run for a Congress better known for its paralysis. It included passage of the first bipartisan gun safety legislation in a generation, a huge microchip production and scientific research bill to bolster American competitiveness with China, and a major veterans health care measure.

The series of successes was all the more sweet for Democrats because it came with the political benefit of Republicans making themselves look bad by switching their position and temporarily blocking the bill to help sick veterans, in what appeared to be a temper tantrum over the abrupt resurrection of the climate deal.

“We’ve had an extraordinary six weeks,” Mr. Schumer said in an interview, calling the climate, health and tax measure “the most comprehensive piece of legislation affecting the American people in decades.”

It was far from certain he could attain this result. Mr. Schumer, who unlike his predecessors is not known as a master tactician or gifted legislator, has struggled to produce for long stretches, needing every single vote from an ideologically mixed Democratic membership. Even his allies wondered whether he was too driven by a need to be liked or his own personal political considerations in warding off a potential primary challenge from his left to be capable of the kind of ruthlessness that would be needed.

Mr. Schumer said it was stamina, not bare knuckles, that had been the main requirement.

“This is the hardest job I’ve ever had, with a 50-50 Senate, a big agenda and intransigent Republicans,” Mr. Schumer said. He cited a persistence instilled in him by his father, who ran an exterminating company and died last year, as a motivating factor. “Keep at it, keep at it. Look at all the pitfalls we have faced to get this done.”

The swing on Capitol Hill was palpable as Democrats allowed themselves to hope that their legislative victories, coupled with a national abortion fight they felt was jolting the political landscape in their favor, might keep them in control of the Senate. And for once, they thought they had outfoxed Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, who has a history of successfully confounding the Democrats.

“The mood is exuberant, expectant and really ecstatic with the progress we’ve made over the past weeks,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut.

Mr. Schumer notched the wins without deep involvement from the White House. President Biden, who had campaigned for the presidency citing his deep experience cutting bipartisan deals in the Senate, ceded to him much of the responsibility for nailing down the details. The final negotiations with Mr. Manchin proceeded one on one in near-total secrecy.

Republicans licked their wounds as they watched the Schumer-led Democrats push through legislation the G.O.P. was powerless to stop under special budgetary rules. They weren’t sold on the notion that Democrats had dug themselves out of a political hole with a bill they named the Inflation Reduction Act, given that Mr. Biden’s popularity is still sagging and the cost of consumer goods is up.

“The highest inflation in 40 years, 9.1 percent, families are hurting, they can’t afford a full tank of gas,” said Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 Senate Republican. “The end of the month just came, and they ran out of money before they ran out of month.”

But Democrats pointed to approval of long-sought authority for Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices as something that would appeal to voters, along with the general sense that Democrats were finally getting things done on Capitol Hill. They relished the prospect of reminding voters that Republicans had voted against the drug-pricing measure, and forced Democrats to drop a proposal that would have capped the monthly cost of insulin at $35 for private insurers.

They also pointed to the climate change provisions as a huge leap forward, though not as extensive as Democrats had initially hoped to achieve before Mr. Manchin forced the party to pare back its goals.

“It’s a historic climate bill, and it wasn’t on the scoreboard one month ago,” said Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts and a leader on climate issues. “Senator Schumer, working with Manchin, has been able to pull out the key climate provisions that we need. It is not all that we wanted, but it was what we need to begin this effort to lead the rest of the world.”

Democrats also got some help from Republicans. Not only did the blunder on the veterans bill play into their hands, but Democrats said a threat by Mr. McConnell to block the microchip bill should Democrats proceed with the climate and tax bill backfired by motivating Mr. Manchin to pursue a compromise.

“Any time you threaten a bill you support because you are not getting your way on something else, you are in a bad spot,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland. “It just looks bad. It was so crassly political.”

While he was getting hammered from the left, Mr. McConnell was also getting pounded from the right for being too accommodating of Democrats on bills such as the microchip measure and the gun measure. But Mr. McConnell has his eye on the midterms as well, and he knows Republicans need suburban voters who might be turned off by knee-jerk obstructionism.

“Just because you have closely divided government doesn’t mean you do nothing,” Mr. McConnell said on Fox News last week. “Just because there is a Democrat in the White House, I don’t think means Republicans should do nothing that is good for the country in the meantime.”

That approach has bolstered Democrats at a crucial moment, entering the heart of the campaign season.

“There is a clear momentum change,” said Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan and the head of the party’s Senate campaign arm. “I feel like we are in a really good place. Here we are going into August coming into Labor Day, and you look at where the numbers are, and our candidates are all doing really well in a tough environment.”

After the recess, Mr. Schumer and fellow Democrats intend to try to press their success, scheduling politically charged votes on same-sex marriage, oil pricing and other issues they think can showcase their strengths and put Republicans on the spot.

But even as he was about to record a major accomplishment, Mr. Schumer was taking no chances. When the leader of an environmental advocacy group heralded him as a hero after an event outside the Capitol on Thursday, Mr. Schumer cautioned him, “Not yet, not yet.”

Mr. Schumer said the outcome underscored a key difference between him and Mr. McConnell, known more for his blockades and killing legislation than passing bills.

“He brags about the graveyard,” Mr. Schumer said. “I’d like to be proud of the achievements, of getting things done — not not getting things done.”

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The F.D.A. Now Says It Plainly: Morning-After Pills Are Not Abortion Pills

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The F.D.A. said it made the change now because it had completed a review of a 2018 application to alter the label that was submitted by Foundation Consumer Healthcare, a company that in 2017 bought the Plan B brand from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. Agency officials said the pandemic delayed the review process and that the timing was not motivated by political considerations.

A spokeswoman for the company, Dani Hirsch, said in an interview that for its 2018 application, the company had not conducted any new studies but had submitted “what was already out there.”

In a statement, the company’s marketing director, Tara Evans, said “the misconception that Plan B works by interfering with implantation can present barriers to broader emergency contraception access. The Plan B labeling correction will help protect continued over-the-counter emergency contraception access and reduce confusion about how Plan B works and further clarify that Plan B does not affect implantation.”

Plan B One-Step and its generic versions — including brands like Take Action, My Way and Option 2 — contain levonorgestrel, one of a class of hormones called progestins that are also found at lower doses in birth control pills and intrauterine devices. The pills are most effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, although they can sometimes work if taken within five days.

Another type of morning-after pill, marketed as Ella and containing a compound called ulipristal acetate, is only available by prescription and is not affected by the F.D.A.’s label change. There has been less research on this type of pill, but studies suggest that it is highly unlikely to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. In 2009, after months of scrutiny, Ella was approved for sale in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy, where laws would have barred it if it had been considered to induce abortions.

According to data published in 2021 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-quarter of women of reproductive age who have sex with men answered yes to the question: “Have you ever used emergency contraception, also known as ‘Plan B,’ ‘Preven,’ ‘Ella,’ ‘Next Choice,’ or ‘Morning after’ pills?” The agency did not break down the data by the type of pills taken.

As far back as the 1999 approval process, the maker of Plan B — Barr Pharmaceuticals, later acquired by Teva — asked the F.D.A. not to list an implantation effect on the label, The Times reported in 2012.

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Who are Caroline Ellison’s parents? Fraudster’s mom and dad are MIT economists

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This apple fell far from the tree.

Caroline Ellison — who pleaded guilty to fraud charges related to her role in the FTX cryptocurrency scandal, which led to the extradition of Sam Bankman-Fried this week — is the daughter of high-profile economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

According to his curriculum vitae, Ellison’s father, Glenn Ellison, was educated at Harvard, Cambridge and MIT before becoming the Gregory K. Palm (1970) Professor of Economics at the latter. 

In addition to coaching youth softball and his daughters’ middle school math teams, he writes “Hard Math,” a series of textbooks and workbooks about teaching arithmetic to younger students.

Glenn Ellison is also an Elected Fellow of the Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory and American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Caroline Ellison’s parents, Glenn and Sara Ellison, outside their Newton, Mass., home in early December.
Robert Miller

Ellison’s mother, Sara Ellison, is also an accomplished academic. Armed with an undergraduate degree from Purdue University and a mathematical statistics diploma from Cambridge University, her profile shows she completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993. 

Sara Ellison is currently a senior lecturer in the department alongside her husband.

“We were definitely exposed to a lot of economics [growing up],” Ellison, 28, once told Forbes.

Ellison, 28, plead guilty to fraud this week.
Ellison, 28, pleaded guilty to fraud this week.
Twitter / @AlamedaResearch
Caroline Ellison's sister, Anna, now lives in the West Village.
Caroline Ellison’s sister, Anna, now lives in the West Village.
BRIGITTE STELZER

Glenn and Sara Ellison were photographed by The Post outside their home in Newton, an affluent Boston suburb, earlier this month. Armed with several bags, they told reporters they were too “busy” to comment on the FTX scandal.

The eldest of three sisters — including Anna, 25, who now lives in Manhattan’s West Village — Ellison distinguished herself as a precocious math whiz at a young age. 

When she was just 8 years old, she reportedly presented her father with a paper analyzing stuffed animal prices at Toys ‘R’ Us.

Sam Bankman-Fried leaving Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday.
Sam Bankman-Fried leaving Manhattan federal court on Thursday.
Matthew McDermott
Both Glenn and Sara Ellison are economists at MIT.
Both Glenn and Sara Ellison are economists at MIT.
Robert Miller

She went on to compete in the Math Prize for Girls while at Newton North High School before studying mathematics at Stanford University, where former professor Ruth Stackman described her to Forbes as “bright, focused, [and] very mathy.”

Ellison and Bankman-Fried, 30, crossed paths at the Wall Street trading firm Jane Street. Bankman-Fried’s parents are also both university lecturers, at Stanford in California. They became good friends and she joined Alameda Research, the hedge fund arm of the FTX crypto exchange, in 2018. She then became CEO in 2021. However, the company remained owned 90% by Bankman-Fried and 10% by another member of his circle.

In addition to documenting her supposed foray into polyamory on Tumblr, Ellison once boasted about drug use on social media.

Sara Ellison completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993.
Sara Ellison completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993.
Robert Miller

“Nothing like regular amphetamine use to make you appreciate how dumb a lot of normal, non-medicated human experience is,” she tweeted in 2021.

Ellison reportedly admitted to Alameda employees that FTX had used client funds to bail out the fledgeling hedge fund during a video call in November. She was eventually terminated as CEO by insolvency professional and current FTX CEO John J. Ray III after FTX and Alameda filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

She pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges on Monday, and has subsequently been released on $250,000 bail.

Ellison was spotted getting coffee in New York City on Dec. 4.
Ellison was spotted getting coffee in New York City on Dec. 4.
Twitter / @AutismCapital

Although she could be sent to jail for up to 110 years for her part in the FTX-Alameda scandal — which has been said by federal prosecutors to have lost between $1 billion and $2 billion of customers’ cash — she is thought to have struck a deal with the feds for a much lighter sentence in return for her cooperation.

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Iran condemns Zelensky’s remarks to Congress as ‘baseless.’

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Iran has condemned President Volodymyr Zelensky’s remarks to the U.S. Congress, warning the Ukrainian leader against further accusing Tehran of supplying weapons to Russia for use in the war.

Mr. Zelensky told Congress on Wednesday that Iranian-made drones “sent to Russia in hundreds” had been threatening Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, a view shared by American and European officials. In Iran, he said, Russia had found an “ally in its genocidal policy.”

A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, Nasser Kanaani, called Mr. Zelensky’s comments “rude” and “baseless.”

“Mr. Zelensky had better know that Iran’s strategic patience over such unfounded accusations is not endless,” Mr. Kanaani said in a statement on Thursday.

Although Iran has officially denied supplying Russia with the weapons since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, U.S. officials have said that the first shipment was delivered in August.

Mr. Zelensky has said that drones used in Monday’s wave of predawn attacks on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities were from a batch recently delivered to Russia by Iran. The strikes came after Biden administration officials said that Russia and Iran were strengthening their military ties into a “full-fledged defense partnership.”

The European Union last week condemned Iran’s military partnership with Russia as a gross violation of international law and announced new sanctions against Iranian individuals and entities over their roles in supplying the drones that Moscow has used to attack Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure. That followed a round of sanctions on Iranians over the drone deliveries in October.

Mr. Kanaani “once again emphasizes” that Iran has not supplied military equipment for use in Ukraine, the statement issued on Thursday added, and urged Mr. Zelensky to learn “the fate of some other political leaders” who were happy with U.S. support. It was not clear which other leaders the statement was referring to.

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