For Former Rebel in West Africa, Her Allegiance Still Lies With Russia | Big Indy News
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For Former Rebel in West Africa, Her Allegiance Still Lies With Russia



BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau — When her country needed arms to fight its bitter liberation war against its colonizer, it was the Soviet Union that provided them.

When her country needed medical workers to tend to the war’s wounded, it sent her to train as a nurse — in the Soviet Union.

So when Joana Gomes, now a lawmaker in the West African country of Guinea-Bissau, heard about the war between Russia and Ukraine, her allegiance was clear from the start: It would be with Russia, although she sometimes slips and still calls it the Soviet Union.

“It was with their arms that we won our independence,” Ms. Gomes, 72, said on a recent rainy afternoon, cooking lunch at home in the capital, Bissau. “If not for them, even today we would not have our independence.”

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, some voices were absent from the global concert of condemnation, many of them African. Sixteen of the 35 countries that abstained from the United Nations vote to condemn Russia’s actions were in Africa, as was one of the five that voted no, Eritrea.

For many African countries, ties with Moscow run deep. The Soviet Union supported many African liberation wars, supplying training, education and weapons to freedom fighters like Ms. Gomes. Nearly six decades later, she hasn’t forgotten.

In 1964, when she stepped off a plane in the U.S.S.R., the first thing Ms. Gomes’s sponsors did was hand her gloves, a hat and a heavy coat.

She was 14. Until that point, she had never left Guinea-Bissau, a small West African country that won independence from Portugal in 1974 after a decade-long war.

But her young life had already been filled with drama, violence and tragedy. Her father, an outspoken proponent of the liberation fight, was murdered by one of his comrades when Ms. Gomes was 13.

Heartbroken, she set out for the forested front lines of the war. She had decided that the only man who could help her obtain justice for her father was Amilcar Cabral, the leader of the liberation movement and one of Africa’s most iconic anticolonial philosophers and military leaders.

Her three-day march to meet Mr. Cabral in the hide-out used by him and his guerrilla fighters paid off. The accused assassin was arrested.

But the fight against the Portuguese was just beginning, and Ms. Gomes was thrust into one of the continent’s most brutal independence wars.

When Mr. Cabral, a founder of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, or P.A.I.G.C., sent hundreds of Guinean youth for training in the U.S.S.R., Ms. Gomes was among them. When she returned five years later, a skilled nurse fluent in Russian, the war had intensified.

She worked long days on the front lines at makeshift clinics, alongside her comrades and doctors from Cuba, binding soldiers’ wounds and saving the lives of civilians caught in the crossfire. On one occasion, she pulled shrapnel from the chest of a woman who was eight months pregnant, saving both mother and child.

One of her most unforgettable moments came on New Year’s Eve day, as 1972 was ending.

That morning she wore a pink dress instead of military fatigues, as she anticipated a small party to celebrate. She was in a village a few miles from her base camp, ordered to retrieve a fellow soldier recuperating from a chest infection.

But just as the morning’s coffee was beginning to boil on an open fire, Ms. Gomes heard enemy gunfire, and she ran for the cover of the forest. “Maybe this is the time I die,” she recalls thinking to herself. But just then, she tripped, and a small bazooka rocket zoomed above where her head had just been. She did not make it to the New Year’s party, but she did make it out of that ambush alive.

Stephanie J. Urdang, a journalist born in South Africa, spent two months reporting from the front lines of Guinea-Bissau’s liberation war and wrote “Fighting Two Colonialisms: The Women’s Struggle in Guinea-Bissau” about the contributions women like Ms. Gomes made in the fight for independence.

Assigned as nurses, teachers and transporters of food and weapons, the women were trusted to ensure that guerrilla fighters had places to live and food to eat, Ms. Urdang said. But their roles in garnering popular support in the countryside were perhaps even more important.

“People in the villages knew what the Portuguese were doing to them. They knew it through their inability to sell their crops at a just price, they knew it in the way they were taken for forced labor,” Ms. Urdang said.

“So when the P.A.I.G.C. came in and were going to get rid of these oppressors, and then when they saw schools being built, health centers being built and literacy campaigns for people, just a whole lot of services were provided that weren’t there before — there was serious mobilization,” Ms. Urdang said.

After the war was won, thanks in part to that mobilization, Ms. Gomes went back to the Soviet Union, where she trained as a doctor before returning to Guinea-Bissau in 1987 to work in local hospitals.

She became director of the national physical rehabilitation center and later worked as an inspector of health facilities for the Ministry of Health, a start to her government experience.

Then, a few years ago, she decided to once again deploy her medical knowledge on the front lines — of politics, this time, not war.

In 2019 in the country’s rural southwest, during her campaign for a seat in Parliament, Ms. Gomes oversaw an effort to deliver dozens of new beds to a small hospital. She wanted to show she was determined to do something about the dire health care system in Guinea-Bissau, whose citizens have an average life expectancy of 58.

Ms. Gomes won her election, but her efforts to improve a health care system that sits near the bottom in global rankings have run into endemic obstacles.

Since independence, Guinea-Bissau has struggled to find its footing amid both internal fighting and foreign pressures. There have been four coups and many more attempted.

In this country so dominated by water, mangroves swamps and islands, it can seem as if citizens are always waiting for the tide to change so they can get somewhere — the physical tide or the political one.

Ms. Gomes’s small concrete home in Bissau is in a constant state of destruction and reconstruction. So is her country, where citizens have to deal with unreliable hospitals, schools and infrastructure.

Then in May, the president, Umaro Sissoco Embaló, dissolved the National Assembly, deepening the country’s cycle of political instability.

With her parliamentary work trying to improve the country’s health care system now on hold, Ms. Gomes has had more time to reflect on the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Her nurse training was in Kyiv, then part of the Soviet Union, and she said she is sympathetic to both sides.

“I spent my youth in Ukraine, I have friends there, I do not want people to suffer. I wish there could be an understanding between Ukraine and Putin,” she said. “I was in a war, I know what war is, I know what it is to suffer in a war.”

But for all the daily struggles that are still part of life in Guinea-Bissau, one hard-fought achievement is still intact: independence.

And the Kremlin’s role in that is still gratefully remembered, and she disagrees with the many who consider the war an act of unjustified Russian aggression.

“Ukraine, why did they want to join NATO?” Ms. Gomes asked. “Russia does not accept that.”

NATO, she noted, “is an enemy of the Soviet Union. If someone is my enemy and I tell my father I am going to their house — to my enemy’s house — is that good?”

In her support of Russia, she is far from alone in Guinea-Bissau, or indeed the wider region, where a whole generation won liberation from colonial oppressors with Soviet aid.

Manuel dos Santos, a former freedom fighter in Guinea-Bissau who has served in various ministerial posts, was also clear about his support. “If I had to take sides in this moment — and I don’t have to — but let’s say I had to, I would say that Russia had been provoked in every way,” he said.

Not far from the National Assembly building in downtown Bissau, at the Guinea-Bissau National Liberation Museum, many Soviet-supplied weapons are displayed.

“I used to have a Kalashnikov. The Portuguese had American weapons,” Mr. Dos Santos said. “It’s as simple as that.”

“I understand the sense of commitment because of what the Soviet Union did,” said Ms. Urdang, the writer. “But that was the Soviet Union. Russia is different now.”

Whichever side they’re on, people in Guinea-Bissau have felt the war’s effects firsthand.

Lines at gas stations were worst this spring, when fuel shortages meant drivers spent hours waiting to fill up. But just recently, prices for buses and taxis increased because of higher energy costs.

Despite her appreciation for the U.S.S.R., Ms. Gomes didn’t embrace its atheism. On a recent Sunday, she got ready to attend one of the three evangelical churches where she worships.

While there, she planned to pray for an end to Guinea-Bissau’s political crises.

She noted she had been fighting for her country since she was a teenager. But now, it felt like all she could do was wait for the tide to change.

“I feel pain, as a former liberation fighter. What did we fight for?” she asked. “Guinea-Bissau, it’s without a government, without anything right now.”

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



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



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.

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.’



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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