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Germany’s Stony-Faced Chancellor Faces Critics on Nearly Every Side



BERLIN — First, he failed to immediately contradict the Palestinian leader who accused Israel of “50 Holocausts” as they stood together in Berlin. Then he was heckled by discontented voters calling him a “liar” and “traitor.” And on Friday, he was summoned to testify in the case of a major tax scam that took place when he was mayor of Hamburg.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany has had better days.

“Shame in the chancellery,” screamed one headline in the tabloid Bild this week, while the newsmagazine Spiegel ran an exasperated column about the chancellor’s hesitant communication style: “Scholz is silent.” Germany’s chancellor, the prominent podcast The Pioneer concluded, has had “a horrific week.”

Mr. Scholz’s most recent travails come on top of a rocky start to his chancellorship. Since coming into office last December, he has struggled to find his footing as the head of Europe’s biggest democracy and as the successor of Angela Merkel, his former boss, Germany’s iconic chancellor for 16 years, a leader he likes to emulate.

His problems are not Germany’s alone. Given Germany’s economic and political power in Europe, weak leadership in Berlin has implications for leadership in the European Union as well, at a time when no other country could easily step into a vacuum. In neighboring France, the second-richest member state, President Emmanuel Macron recently lost his majority in Parliament.

Accused of being too aloof and passive in his communication, Mr. Scholz, a Social Democrat, has slumped in opinion polls since the election, falling far behind his popular vice chancellor and foreign minister, both from the Green party.

Abroad, too, his dithering has not gone unnoticed.

In February, Mr. Scholz surprised the world, and his own country, when he responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with a 100-billion-euro plan to rearm Germany, send weapons to Ukraine and end his nation’s deep dependence on Russian energy.

It was Germany’s biggest foreign policy shift since the Cold War, what Mr. Scholz called a “Zeitenwende” — an epochal change — in a speech to Parliament that won applause for his leadership at home and abroad.

But in the nearly six months since the invasion of Ukraine by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Mr. Scholz has ruled out a gas embargo, saying it would be too costly. He is still dragging his feet on weapons deliveries to Ukraine. And according to a new report by the German Economic Institute, a Cologne-based think tank, Germany might fail — again — to meet the target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense agreed by N.A.T.O. members.

“Ever since the Zeitenwende speech it has just been a series of mishaps,” said Sudha David-Wilp, deputy director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund. “Lots has been promised but when you look at what has actually been delivered it is underwhelming and we’re coming up to the six-month-anniversary of the war.”

“There is a lack of communication skills and a lot of hesitancy,” she added.

That hesitancy was on stark display on Tuesday when Mr. Scholz held a joint news conference with the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Asked whether he was ready to apologize for the Palestinian terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich that killed 11 Israeli athletes, Mr. Abbas launched into a tirade against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

“Between 1947 and today Israel has committed 50 massacres in 50 Palestinian locations,” he said, before adding, “50 massacres, 50 Holocausts.”

A stony-faced Mr. Scholz listened but did not verbally respond. He shook Mr. Abbas’ hand when his spokesman wrapped up the news conference immediately after.

Criticisms of Mr. Scholz came swiftly.

“Such remarks cannot be allowed to stand,” said Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. “It is scandalous that a relativization of the Holocaust is not contradicted, especially in Germany, during a news conference in the federal chancellery.”

Prime Minister Yair Lapid of Israel, the son of a Holocaust survivor, called it “a moral shame” that the comments were made on German soil. Friedrich Merz, the leader of Germany’s conservative opposition, called Mr. Scholz’s failure to speak up “beyond belief.”

“The chancellor should have clearly contradicted the Palestinian president and asked him to leave,” Mr. Merz said.

Mr. Scholz did eventually react, telling the tabloid Bild later that evening that “any relativization of the Holocaust is insufferable and unacceptable.” But it was not until the next morning that he sent out a tweet from his own account.

“I am deeply outraged about the unspeakable comments of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,” he wrote. “I condemn any attempt to deny the crimes of the Holocaust.”

Mr. Scholz’s spokesman, Steffen Hebestreit, tried to take the blame for wrapping up the news conference too quickly. But he failed to convince German media, which spied another reason for Mr. Scholz’s lack of responsiveness.

“The apathetic figure he cut alongside Mahmoud Abbas was unworthy of a German Chancellor,” an editorial on the news website T-Online said. “ The public needs a chancellor able to focus 100 percent on navigating the country through some exceedingly choppy waters. But a story from Scholz’s past is refusing to go away and that is currently preoccupying his mind.”

Mr. Scholz has come under increasing pressure over allegations that he helped a private bank evade a 47 million-euro tax payment to the city of Hamburg in 2016, when he was mayor. After initially denying that he met privately with one of the co-owners of the M.M. Warburg Bank, Mr. Scholz was forced to admit that they did meet after the banker’s personal calendar indicated a much.

Summoned by Hamburg lawmakers for the second time on Friday, Mr. Scholz reiterated that he did not recall what he and a bank executive talked about but insisted that there had been “no political influencing” of the tax procedure.

“There was nothing,” he said.

“I don’t believe a word the chancellor says,” Friedrich Merz, the leader of the opposition conservatives, told a newspaper on Friday. “There is hardly anyone in Germany that buys his many memory lapses.”

Along with the challenges of rising inflation, slowing economic growth and potential gas shortages — Russia’s state-owned gas company Gazprom announced Friday that gas flows to Germany would temporarily stop again at the end of the month — the accumulation of problems big and small haunting the German chancellor have weighed on his popularity.

Earlier this week he was heckled and booed by a mix of left-wing and right-wing protesters, whose angry slogans drowned out his promise of tax relief on higher gas payments during a visit in an eastern German town. Several political observers warn of a winter of protests, as Germans feel the pain of higher heating costs.

Less than one in five Germans would now vote for Mr. Scholz’s Social Democrats, according to a poll released Friday. Instead, if an election were held today, the conservatives would beat them.

“Most Germans thought he was the man who was best prepared for the job, but it seems he wasn’t really ready,” Ms. David-Wilp said of Mr. Scholz. “He may be a great bureaucrat and a responsible politician, but he hasn’t really shown the communication skills and nuances needed to be the leader of Europe’s biggest economy.”

Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting.

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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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