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U.S. Insists It Will Operate Around Taiwan, Despite China’s Pressure

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The Biden administration is vowing to continue sailing warships through the Taiwan Strait and to conduct air operations in the region in response to Chinese military drills that U.S. officials say are evolving into a long-term strategy of heightened military pressure on the island.

Administration officials said they did not want to escalate the tense confrontation, which China maintains was provoked by last week’s visit to the island by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But in interviews and public statements, American and Taiwanese officials made clear they now believe China used Ms. Pelosi’s visit as a pretext to step up its operations to intimidate Taiwan for months or years to come, and perhaps speed the timetable of its plans to establish control over the island’s 23 million people, much as it did in Hong Kong.

Within a few weeks, officials said, the U.S. Navy is planning to run ships through the Taiwan Strait, ignoring China’s recent claim that it controls the entire waterway. Officials said they would not send the Ronald Reagan, the Japan-based aircraft carrier, because it would be too provocative.

Colin H. Kahl, the under secretary of defense for policy, told reporters this week that China was trying to “coerce” Taiwan and the international community.

“And all I’ll say is we’re not going to take the bait, and it’s not going to work,” he said.

He insisted the United States would conduct business as usual: “What we’ll do instead, is to continue to fly, to sail and operate wherever international law allows us to do so, and that includes in the Taiwan Strait.”

Asked about the rising tensions, President Biden said Monday he was “concerned that they’re moving as much as they are,” an apparent reference to the Pentagon’s assessment that China has dispatched 20 destroyers and frigates to the waters surrounding Taiwan.

When asked whether it was a “wise move” for Ms. Pelosi to visit the island despite China’s warnings, Mr. Biden said simply: “That was her decision.”

Interviews with a variety of administration, intelligence and military officials, and outside experts, revealed a growing sense that China’s exercises were not just a reaction to the speaker’s brief visit, but a turning point in China’s strategy. Several officials said they believe President Xi Jinping is seeking to demonstrate a greater willingness to use force to accomplish reunification, if necessary.

In a white paper the Chinese government published on Wednesday, Beijing said that it would prefer unification by peaceful means but also made clear it was keeping all options on the table. And even as the Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command indicated that it had completed its drills, which had continued this week and included anti-submarine activity, it said it would organize regular combat patrols directed at the island.

On Tuesday, Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, said he suspected China was trying “to routinize its action in an attempt to wreck the long-term status quo across the Taiwan Strait,’’ and was using its missile tests “to deter other countries from interfering in its attempt to invade Taiwan.” Several American officials said they were designing responses to show that they would not be deterred from the defense of the island.

The exercises came only weeks after a new U.S. intelligence assessment concluded that Mr. Xi might try to move against the island in the next year and a half. The intelligence suggests Mr. Xi fears his military advantage may diminish as the United States moves to arm Taiwan more quickly, including with weapons that proved effective against Russian forces during the invasion of Ukraine.

Now, Taiwan has emerged as such a central feature of Mr. Xi’s agenda — and such a flashpoint with the United States — that it threatens to overwhelm Mr. Biden’s efforts to find a series of issues in which the world’s largest and second-largest economies can work together.

The White House portrayed a two-and-a-half-hour conversation on July 28 between the two leaders as focused largely on that agenda. But on Friday, when the live-fire exercises around Taiwan were near their peak, Beijing suspended all discussions on climate change, trade and counternarcotics operations and arms control.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said China “should not hold hostage cooperation on matters of global concern because of differences between our two countries.” But other administration officials said China clearly saw climate cooperation as a point of leverage in its dealings with the United States, Western allies and even its Pacific neighbors.

Adm. Scott H. Swift, a former U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, predicted that the past week will be viewed as pivotal in the relationship. China’s position will become “much more hardened,” he said, and Beijing would turn to “a playbook to draw much more timely, and perhaps pre-emptive responses” to efforts to support Taiwan.

Several officials have begun openly comparing Mr. Xi’s actions toward Taiwan to President Vladimir V. Putin’s efforts to seize Ukraine — a link that, even a few weeks ago, they hesitated to make. Speaking at the commemoration of the battle for the Solomon Islands 80 years ago, Wendy Sherman, the deputy secretary of state, denounced leaders who “believe that coercion, pressure and violence are tools to be used with impunity.” She did not name them but went on to say that they believed “the principles and institutions the world set up after the Second World War” can now be “ignored and undermined, diminished and destroyed.”

There are early indications that China alienated other powers with its show of force. The Group of 7 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations issued statements either condemning the action or urging China to back down, something that was missing from the last Taiwan crisis, in 1996, when the United States was largely alone in speaking out — and sending two carrier groups to the area.

Without question, the threats against Taiwan have hardened anti-China attitudes on Capitol Hill, where condemnation of Beijing is one of the few areas of bipartisan agreement. Several lawmakers have begun talking about China and Russia as common adversaries of the United States, even if there is little evidence that they are working together.

Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, termed the threats to Taiwan as “another reminder that we have entered a new era of authoritarian aggression led by the dictators Xi Jinping of China and Putin of Russia. They are increasingly isolated and dangerous, driven by historical grievances, paranoid about their democratic neighbors and willing to use military force and other aggressive actions to crush the citizens of such countries as we are seeing in the Taiwan Strait and Ukraine.”

At the Pentagon, officials said China’s exercises are much more complex than previous shows of force, demonstrating Beijing’s ability to deploy an armada of aircraft, warships and missile batteries on short notice.

How well China could sustain those kinds of operations for a campaign lasting weeks or months, like the war in Ukraine, is unclear and would be a pivotal test for Beijing’s military, the officials said. Even so, specific parts of the multiday exercises have impressed American analysts. China’s navy and air force have drawn public attention, and American analysts at the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies have taken particular note of China’s missile prowess.

“China has the most advanced and largest inventory of missiles in the world,” said Eric Sayers, a former senior adviser to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command who is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “They often test these capabilities, but to see them utilizing missile strikes across multiple maritime domains really speaks to how advanced their rocket force has become.”

The American reaction appeared to draw at least in part from the playbook of the 1996 crisis. At that time, President Bill Clinton ordered one carrier group to the opening of the Taiwan Strait and sent another steaming to the region from the Persian Gulf.

In the latest case, the Pentagon — after lengthy consultation with the White House — ordered the Ronald Reagan and its strike group to remain in the region, near the Philippines.

American officials said the exercises had given U.S. intelligence analysts an unusual opportunity to glean insights into the strengths and potential vulnerabilities of China’s ability to mobilize and deploy its forces. At the same time, analysts said, the exercises are for the first time testing China’s ability to carry out complicated military maneuvers in the midst of commercial air and maritime traffic, and ensure the accuracy and safety of missile launches near heavily populated areas.

“It’s clear from all the air and maritime platforms Seventh Fleet has in the area that they are closely monitoring this exercise to ensure it doesn’t become kinetic,” Mr. Sayers said.

In Japan, the surprise was that five Chinese missiles landed in what the Japanese consider its exclusive economic zone — launches that were widely considered a message to both Tokyo and Washington. The missiles were not far from American bases in Okinawa.

Still, Kunihiko Miyake, a former diplomat and research director at The Canon Institute for Global Studies, said China showed some restraint. “The immediate Chinese reaction is controlled,” Mr. Miyake said. “It’s reserved.”

He added that Mr. Xi “really wants to survive. He wants to be elected again for a third term. So he really doesn’t want to go to war against the U.S. at this moment.”

But the missile attacks only bolstered the moves in Japan to spend more on defense and loosen some of the constitutional interpretations that have kept Japanese forces close to their shores. “I think China might have sent the wrong message to the Japanese people,” Mr. Miyake said.

“For those who really wish to enhance Japan’s deterrent capability or defense capability, it’s a golden opportunity.”

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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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