How a Kenyan Power Broker Lost His Stronghold, Then the Presidency | Big Indy News
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How a Kenyan Power Broker Lost His Stronghold, Then the Presidency



KISUMU, Kenya — For decades, Kenya’s veteran opposition politician Raila Odinga has been the chief political power broker in the western counties around Lake Victoria, relying on his fellow Luo ethnic voters to back him in five successive elections for president.

They stuck with the man they affectionately call “Baba,” or “father,” as he challenged entrenched corruption and fell short of the presidency four times — twice in contested votes too close to call.

But the loyalty of his Luo stronghold came into question last week, as Mr. Odinga, 77, was pronounced the loser of his fifth, and possibly last, bid for the presidency. In an election with over 14 million voters, the tally — which he said he plans to challenge in court — showed him only about 233,000 votes short of his rival, William Ruto, the current vice president.

But he almost certainly would have clinched the prize if over 600,000 registered voters in four Luo-dominated counties had not failed to turn out. Many residents said in interviews that he had lost their support because he and his party endorsed wealthy party cronies and his own relatives — rather than young aspirants — for seats in governorship, Parliament and county assembly, suggesting that he had succumbed to the corrupt machine politics he had long opposed.

“Raila was once the man of the people,” said John Okello, 38, a community organizer who lives in the low-income Obunga area in Kisumu, a city of 1.1 million that hugs the lake. “But that’s no more.”

Ethnicity has shaped Kenyan politics for decades, leading to rampant corruption and disenfranchisement and, sometimes around elections, full-blown violence. But for the first time this year, millions of voters crossed ethnic lines, shifting the political dynamics in a nail-bitter election that ended with four of the seven national election commissioners walking out and declaring they could not stand by the final tally, only minutes before the head of the election commission pronounced the results.

The ethnic shift was particularly evident in Central Kenya, where voters from the Kikuyu community — Kenya’s largest ethnic group — did not heed the guidance of President Uhuru Kenyatta, a fellow Kikuyu, who had anointed Mr. Odinga as his successor. Instead, voters in Central Kenya overwhelmingly cast their ballots for Mr. Ruto, an ethnic Kalenjin.

“The presumption that many people have always made is that voters from one community will sway a certain way,” said Ken O. Opalo, a political scientist at Georgetown University, in Washington, who studies Kenya’s politics and traveled there during election season. “But there was both fatigue and dissatisfaction with Kenyatta’s performance, and William Ruto’s message resonated with many among the Kikuyu, which partly helped break the cycle of ethnic voting.”

For Mr. Odinga, the failure to elicit excitement in his own region began before Election Day. During the primaries, his party, the Orange Democratic Movement, or O.D.M., installed party stalwarts as candidates, passing over up-and-comers.

During the primary elections, when party members were voting, allegations of corruption, rigging and bullying marred the process, according to several party members, officials and candidates who vied for positions.

Some of those who felt cheated decided to run as independent candidates, only to be pressured to withdraw. When they declined, they said they were ostracized, harassed and attacked.

“We were accused of being anti-Baba or being the enemies of the party,” said Sospeter Obungu Owich, an ethnic Luo who said he ran as an independent candidate for a county assembly seat in Kisumu after party officials shunted him aside. He said he was attacked twice by “goons” while campaigning, and that two staff members were injured.

Patrick Ayiecho Olweny, the chairman of Mr. Odinga’s party in Kisumu County, acknowledged the “harassment and the political violence” directed at Mr. Owich and others, and blamed it on “a generation of hostile youth” whom the party cannot control.

He also admitted that the primary process had been fraught with political patronage and vote buying, but he blamed the party’s top brass in the capital, Nairobi, for mismanaging the whole process, saying, “It’s a total mess.”

Nic Cheeseman, a professor of democracy at the University of Birmingham who has written extensively about politics in Kenya, said that for Mr. Odinga, “the claim to be a kind of pro-democratic opposition leader promoting change was undermined by not being able to organize his own party in a democratic way.”

“Some of those disgruntled voters were less likely to come to the polls to vote for him as a presidential candidate,” said Mr. Cheeseman, who came to Nairobi to observe the election.

By contrast, Mr. Ruto’s party, the United Democratic Alliance, managed its primaries better, with Mr. Ruto himself interceding to appease some disgruntled candidates, Mr. Cheeseman said.

In the presidential election, turnout in the four Luo-dominated counties — Kisumu, Homa Bay, Siaya and Migori — was 72 percent — around 20 percent lower than the election in 2013. Turnout was also lower on the coast in Mombasa County, another major Odinga stronghold, where just 44 percent of voters turned out, compared to 66 percent in 2013.

Mr. Ruto, 55, not only swept the Central Kenya vote — he even won at the president’s own polling station — but also managed to bring out almost 80 percent of voters in many counties in his stronghold in the Rift Valley. The four counties with the highest turnout in the August vote — Bomet, Kericho, West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet — all went to Mr. Ruto.

Besides the bruising primary process and depressed turnout, Mr. Odinga’s campaign was also hobbled by a lack of clear messaging, experts say. Mr. Odinga had surprised his followers when in 2018 he made a pact with his long-term nemesis, President Kenyatta — an alliance famously known as “the handshake.” Critics labeled Mr. Odinga a “project” of the establishment, and he lost his claim to outsider status.

In contrast, Mr. Ruto, a wealthy businessman and the country’s vice-president, cast himself as an ally of the country’s poorest, or what he called “hustler nation,” employing a wheelbarrow as his party’s symbol.

Some of Mr. Odinga’s supporters lamented in interviews that after his alliance with President Kenyatta in 2018, he did not return to his home base to engage young people on their concerns, including unemployment, or assist families that suffered from police brutality.

After Mr. Odinga announced he would challenge the vote in court, initial protests in Kisumu quickly subsided and in the days since, many said in interviews that he should concede to Mr. Ruto and work with him.

“Now that he’s lost the presidency, he should also get on the wheelbarrow movement and we move on together,” Alphonse Onyango, a 30-year-old security guard, said.

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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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