Hey Hey! Ho Ho! These Climate Activists Get Paid to Go. | Big Indy News
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Hey Hey! Ho Ho! These Climate Activists Get Paid to Go.



They’ve taken hammers to gas pumps and glued themselves to museum masterpieces and busy roadways. They’ve chained themselves to banks, rushed onto a Grand
Prix racetrack and tethered themselves to goal posts as tens of thousands of British soccer fans jeered.

The activists who undertook these worldwide acts of disruption during the last year said that they were desperate to convey the urgency of the climate crisis and that the most effective way to do so was in public, blockading oil terminals and upsetting normal activities.

They also share a surprising financial lifeline: heirs to two American families that became fabulously rich from oil.

Two relatively new nonprofit organizations, which the oil scions helped found, are funding dozens of protest groups dedicated to interrupting business as usual through civil disobedience, mostly in the United States, Canada and Europe. While volunteers with established environmental groups like Greenpeace International have long used disruptive tactics to call attention to ecological threats, the new organizations are funding grass-roots activists.

The California-based Climate Emergency Fund was founded in 2019 on the ethos that civil resistance is integral to achieving the rapid widespread social and political changes needed to tackle the climate crisis.

Margaret Klein Salamon, the fund’s executive director, pointed to social movements of the past — suffragists, civil rights and gay rights activists — that achieved success after protesters took nonviolent demonstrations to the streets.

“Action moves public opinion and what the media covers, and moves the realm of what’s politically possible,” Ms. Salamon said. “The normal systems have failed. It’s time for every person to realize that we need to take this on.”

So far, the fund has given away just over $7 million, with the goal of pushing society into emergency mode, she said. Even though the United States is on the cusp of enacting historic climate legislation, the bill allows more oil and gas expansion, which scientists say needs to stop immediately to avert planetary catastrophe.

Sharing these goals with the Climate Emergency Fund is the Equation Campaign. Founded in 2020, it provides financial support and legal defense to people living near pipelines and refineries who are trying to stop fossil fuel expansion, through methods including civil disobedience.

Strikingly, both organizations are backed by oil-fortune families whose descendants feel a responsibility to reverse the harms done by fossil fuels. Aileen Getty, whose grandfather created Getty Oil, helped found the Climate Emergency Fund and has given it $1 million so far. The Equation Campaign started in 2020 with $30 million from two members of the Rockefeller family, Rebecca Rockefeller Lambert and Peter Gill Case. John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil in 1870 and became the country’s first billionaire.

“It’s time to put the genie back in the bottle,” Mr. Case wrote in an email. “I feel a moral obligation to do my part. Wouldn’t you?”

Belief in the transformative power of extreme civil disobedience is not universal, and some actions by the groups, particularly those backed by the Climate Emergency Fund, have irritated the public.

Protesters have been screamed at, threatened, labeled eco-zealots and dragged off by angry commuters. Research from the University of Toronto and Stanford University also found that while more disruptive protests attracted publicity, they could undermine a movement’s credibility and alienate potential support.

But Ms. Salamon and activists backed by the Climate Emergency Fund said pushback was inevitable. They pointed to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who, according to a Gallup Poll, had a 63 percent disapproval rating in the years leading up to his death.

“We’re not trying to be popular,” said Zain Haq, a co-founder of the Canadian group Save Old Growth, which blocks roads to thwart the logging of ancient forests in British Columbia and received $170,000 from the Climate Emergency Fund. “Civil disobedience historically is about challenging a way of life.”

There is some evidence that newer climate protest groups have gotten traction. Researchers found that Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise Movement had played an outsize role in increasing awareness and driving climate policy. In terms of cost effectiveness, the protest groups often bested traditional “Big Green” nonprofit environmental groups in helping drive down greenhouse gas emissions, according to the findings.

For the Equation Campaign, stopping further oil and gas expansion has a quantifiable impact. The cancellation of an extension of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, following years of resistance from tribes, farmers and local ranchers, prevented the release of as much as 180 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year, by one estimate. The Equation Campaign is funding campaigns against a host of other fossil fuel projects and helps activists who are often targeted with what the group’s executive director, Katie Redford, described as exaggerated charges and false arrests.

“For the climate and literally for humanity to win, we need them to win, and to stop the industry from building more stuff that puts greenhouse gases into the environment,” Ms. Redford said.

Climate activists receive far less funding than major environmental groups, particularly from philanthropic interests, which give just a fraction of their spending for climate issues worldwide. According to the ClimateWorks Foundation, less than 2 percent of global philanthropy funds in 2020 went to mitigating climate change (though its share is growing), a sliver of which was dedicated to grass-roots activity and movement building.

Both Ms. Redford and Ms. Salamon said their groups had financed only legal activities, such as training, education, travel and printing and recruitment costs. Grant recipients must confirm that the money has not been spent on activities prohibited by law.

They also contested any suggestion that paying activists made their actions less authentic, noting that recipients had already been working around the clock as volunteers, often draining their bank accounts in the process. “This is their passion,” Ms. Salamon said.

“It’s not fair to continue to ask Indigenous people, Black, brown and poor people who live on the front lines to do this work for free simply because they have been doing it in their ‘spare time,’” Ms. Redford said.

Activists on the receiving end described the money as a godsend. Some had dropped out of classes to devote themselves to full-time climate activism, driven by a sense of urgency and moral duty. Others juggled several jobs to pay the bills.

Miranda Whelehan, of the British group Just Stop Oil, said members had been overworked and stressed until the Climate Emergency Fund gave them close to $1 million and helped cover salaries for 40 organizers and activists.

“Obviously, you can only do so much as volunteers,” Ms. Whelehan said. “Huge oil companies have millions, if not billions.”

Over and over, the activists said that they didn’t want to engage in civil disobedience but that more traditional efforts had yet to stave off widespread climate disaster. “We’ve tried everything else,” said Louis McKechnie, a Just Stop Oil member who has been arrested about 20 times.

Winona LaDuke, the executive director of the Native environmental nonprofit group Honor the Earth, said her organization had spent seven years fighting the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota, attending every regulatory meeting and hearing, and for naught.

She said she had been arrested and charged with trespassing despite being on public property and was endlessly grateful that the Equation Campaign, which has given her group more than $400,000, had held firm in its support.

“We put our bodies on the line because we had no other legal recourse — we had nothing,” Ms. LaDuke said. “We knew we were going to get arrested.”

For some activists, civil disobedience has proved to be unexpectedly gratifying.

Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist who works for NASA, said he had spent 16 years trying to compel corporate executives, government leaders and the public to act on the climate emergency. Ultimately, he concluded that he and the environmental movement were losing badly.

In April, Mr. Kalmus was one of roughly 1,000 scientists in 25 countries who blocked traffic and chained themselves to, among other targets, the gates of the White House and doors of bank branches as part of the Scientist Rebellion. The participants weren’t paid, but the group received $100,000 from the Climate Emergency Fund for organizer and consultant wages, space rental and travel costs.

Afterward, Dr. Kalmus — who noted he was not speaking for NASA — said feedback had poured in from around the world saying that he had made a difference and had left people inspired.

“I get messages every day from people who said it had given them hope,” Dr. Kalmus said. “It seemed to communicate that urgency far more than anything else.”

For others, protesting has come at a personal cost. Mr. McKechnie said he had been kicked out of Bournemouth University because of his climate activism. In March, he embarked on perhaps his most public action yet, using a zip tie threaded with metal to tether himself to a goal post during a Premiere League football match. He said he had felt the “hate and menace” of everyone in the crowd and had been kicked and lunged at as he was being escorted out. Mr. McKechnie was arrested, and he said he had received so many death threats that he had deleted his social media accounts.

But he was also unmoved in his resolve. “Even if 1 percent of the crowd looked up who we are and what we’re doing, it would’ve been a massive win,” he said.

Not long afterward, Mr. McKechnie was at a Just Stop Oil meeting, where everyone in attendance was asked what had brought them there. One fellow raised his hand, Mr. McKechnie said, and “he said, ‘Well, I was at a football game, and a wanker locked himself to the pitch.’”

“I hate having to do any of this,” Mr. McKechnie continued. “But the only way to get them to listen and to protect the future of my own generation is to make an annoyance so loud that even with their heads buried in the sand, it will drown it out.”

Mr. Case said that it was too early to tell whether the Equation Campaign had achieved its aims but that he and Ms. Lambert were committed to spending “at a high rate” until 2030.

The next few years are crucial. Climate scientists say nations must cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 50 percent by the end of this decade to avoid the most severe effects of a warming planet.

In an email, Ms. Getty said her belief in the effectiveness of activism was unshaken, especially with time running out. Civil disobedience was meant to serve as an alarm, she said, and discomfort caused by disruptive protests paled in comparison to what might well lie in store.

“Let’s not forget that we’re talking about extinction,” Ms. Getty wrote in an email. “Don’t we have a responsibility to take every means of trying to protect life on Earth?”

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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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