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Cuomo feared COVID ‘fire’ in nursing homes before notorious order: Kushner

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Then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said COVID-19 could burn through nursing homes “like fire through dry grass” 10 days before he issued an infamous March 2020 executive order that required nursing homes to take COVID-19-positive patients, former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner reveals in an upcoming memoir.

Relatives of nursing home residents who died following Cuomo’s order told The Post the disclosure heightens their outrage and underscores the need for accountability.

Kushner wrote that Cuomo specifically mentioned possible nursing home horrors in a 30-minute phone call as Kushner helped lead the early White House pandemic response as infections mounted in New York.

In the March 15 call, Cuomo allegedly told Kushner, “For nursing homes, this could be like fire through dry grass.”

Cuomo’s subsequent March 25 order said nursing homes weren’t allowed to turn away patients “solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19,” which the families of victims said was a death sentence to vulnerable elderly residents.

Kushner described a generally good working relationship with Cuomo while helping lead the White House coronavirus response, in part due to Cuomo’s supportive outreach to Kushner’s father after his 2004 arrest, when the governor told the disgraced billionaire, “I’ve had highs and lows as well. You’ll be back.”

Ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo reportedly said COVID-19 could burn through nursing homes “like fire through dry grass.”
Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Cuomo’s controversial nursing home policy remained in effect until May 10 and was intended to ease hospital crowding. Kushner does not go into detail on the nursing home scandal in his nearly 500-page tome “Breaking History,” which is due out Aug. 23.

The Cuomo administration went on to admittedly cover up the death statistics from nursing homes to impede a federal investigation.

Vivian Zayas, whose 78-year-old mother Ana Martinez died at the Our Lady of Consolation nursing home in West Islip, slammed Cuomo for ordering infected people into nursing homes despite his awareness about the possible toll.

Jared Kushner does a television interview at the White House on Oct. 26, 2020, in Washington.
Jared Kushner shared the details of his phone call with Cuomo in his upcoming memoir.
AP/Alex Brandon

“What I feel is heartbreak because our parents, our loved ones were still alive on March 15,” said Zayas, who founded with her sister the advocacy group Voices for Seniors.

“His deviation marked my mom for death. She was expendable. We will never know why he still decided to go forth.”

Zayas added, “There could’ve been more that could have been done. How many seniors who were still alive on March 15 would have lived if he had not done that order and if he had not instructed the nursing homes to take these people in?”

 Ana Martinez
Ana Martinez died in a West Islip nursing home after Cuomo’s directives.

It’s unclear why the Democratic governor proceeded to allow the state order to take effect given his concerns.

Fox News Senior Meteorologist Janice Dean, whose father-in-law and mother-in-law both died of nursing home-contracted COVID-19, said, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know putting 9,000 sick patients into places where our most frail and vulnerable lived would be a disaster. But someone gave him the idea, and he signed the order.”

“This is why it’s so important that we get to the bottom of the origins of where the March 25th mandate came from,” Dean said.

 Emergency Medical Service workers unload a patient out of their ambulance at the Cobble Hill Health Center on April 18, 2020 in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of the Brooklyn.
EMS workers unload a patient out of their ambulance at the Cobble Hill Health Center on April 18, 2020.
Justin Heiman/Getty Images

“This excerpt from Kushner’s memoir gives us more evidence that what Cuomo and the Department of Health did was criminal. They took away the rights of my husband’s parents and while the rest of the world was told to stay away from the virus, the state was literally piling the disease into nursing homes.”

Dean added: “There needs to be accountability for this, and I believe people should go to jail for it. Now more than ever, we need a bipartisan investigation with subpoena power into what happened inside nursing homes in the spring of 2020.  Anything less will not give us the answers our families deserve.”

Peter Arbeeny, whose father Norman Arbeeny, 89, died after catching the virus in a Brooklyn nursing home, agreed that Cuomo’s newly disclosed words underscore the need for a thorough investigation of the nursing home order.

Fox News, meteorologist Janice Dean, center, speaks as Families join Lawmakers to honor the lives of New York residents who died in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fox News meteorologist Janice Dean’s father-in-law and mother-in-law both died of nursing home-contracted COVID-19.
Hans Pennink

“It’s not only that he did the March 25th order — he defended it for 6 weeks. He not only defended the March 25th order, he lied and suppressed the true death toll within the nursing home environment!” Arbeeny said.

“This is why we need… an investigation with subpoena power. You need to get testimony.”

Arbeeny noted that Cuomo was preparing to write a glowing account of his own leadership as part of a $5 million book deal during the early phase of the pandemic.

“No one has testimony from anyone in the DOH, or even [then-health commissioner Howard] Zucker himself,” Arbeeny said. “We know that the executive narrative was to glorify Cuomo because he was already speaking to Penguin House representatives as early as March 19th. He was already in discussions about a book!”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi didn’t dispute Kushner’s account, but instead emphasized that “as [Kushner] wrote, we took COVID’s impacts on the vulnerable very seriously.”

Azzopardi added, “both the [attorney general] and the [state] Assembly investigated and concluded that no link was found between the DOH guidance and new cases. What we didn’t foresee was efforts to politicize the pain of those who lost loved ones and perpetuate the myth that it did.”

Cuomo’s administration covered up the death toll at nursing homes to impede Justice Department investigators, his aide Melissa DeRosa confessed last year to Democratic legislators, months before Cuomo resigned in disgrace in a sexual harassment scandal.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, in January 2021 revealed that the Cuomo administration underreported by about 50 percent the number of deaths linked to nursing homes.

Brothers Peter, left, and Daniel Arbeeny of Brooklyn, hold a death certificate of their father as they stand with Lawmakers to honor the lives of New York residents who died in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brothers Peter, left, and Daniel Arbeeny, hold a death certificate of their father as they honor the lives of New York residents who died in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hans Pennink

The report from James would mean almost one-third of New York’s more than 43,000 coronavirus deaths at the time were linked to nursing homes.

Cuomo on other occasions likened COVID-19 ravaging nursing homes to fire burning through dry grass. For example, Cuomo said on April 19, nearly one month after the order, that “nursing homes are still our number one concern.”

“Vulnerable people in a congregant facility, in a congregant setting where it can just spread like fire through dry grass,” Cuomo said at the time. “We have had really disturbing situations in nursing homes, and we’re still most concerned about the nursing homes.”

Attorney General Letitia James makes announcement .
Attorney General Letitia James revealed that the Cuomo administration underreported by about 50 percent the number of deaths linked to nursing homes.
Lev Radin/Pacific Press/Shutters

The Justice Department’s Civil Division in October 2020 launched an inquiry into all New York state nursing home deaths after an initial DOJ Civil Rights Division review of public nursing home data indicated a significant under-count. The Biden DOJ closed the civil rights probe last year without charges.

In addition to the nursing home anecdote, Kushner wrote in his memoir that part of his work with Cuomo involved mediating in the “dysfunctional relationship” between Cuomo and then-New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In early April 2020, for example, New York City was six days away from running out of ventilators, Kushner wrote.

“The previous week, we had shipped 4,400 ventilators from the stockpile to New York. I was told that Cuomo had funneled 2,000 of them to a state-run warehouse, where they were not being used, rather than sending all of them to New York City, which was the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States,” Kushner wrote.

Kushner wrote that he had to “confront” an “obstinate” Cuomo and say, “Please send the two thousand ventilators to New York City before people die.”

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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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