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No art in finance as climate activists stage ‘intervention’ targeting Europe’s biggest fossil fuel-funder

Planet Business: Paris 2024′s revolutionary mascots, peak population and the wild story of FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried

Image of the week: Barclays in the red

“Stop funding death,” read the blunt sign outside Barclays bank at Castle Place in Belfast, as two climate activists from Extinction Rebellion were arrested after spattering the building with red paint and sticking fake Barclays-issued banknotes to the smeared walls.

The protest was part of a co-ordinated action targeting more than 100 branches of the bank, which is Europe’s largest financier of fossil fuels.

Since 2021, when the International Energy Agency concluded there could be no new oil, gas and coal development if the world is to reach net zero by 2050, the highly profitable Barclays has made an estimated $19.6 billion (€18.8 billion) investment in fossil fuels.

With windows smashed in Glasgow, the Belfast branch got off relatively lightly in a “peaceful but dramatic” protest, though the entire endeavour received less media coverage than Just Stop Oil’s recent art museum exploits — a fact that explains why the latter will likely continue to happen.


In numbers: All the people

8 billion

The population of Earth exceeded this number last Tuesday, according to the United Nations, although these things are hard to count so it cautions that its timing could be out by a year or two.


Years since the global population first surpassed seven billion. But growth has now slowed down a little and the UN expects it to take 15 years to reach nine billion, before peaking at about 10.4 billion sometime during the 2080s. On your marks, get set …

22 million

On average, humans share their birthday with almost this number of fellow humans. Cake?

Getting to know: the Phryges

Hats off to the French. For the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, organisers have eschewed the traditional animal or creature approach for their mascots and opted instead for the lesser-seen marriage of anthropomorphism and millinery.

“What could be better than little Phrygian caps to lead this revolution through sport with Paris 2024?” read the email introducing the Olympic Phryge and the Paralympic Phryge — representations of the red cap that became a symbol of liberty and freedom during the French Revolution. What indeed?

The Phryges, likened by French newspaper Libération to a “clitoris in trainers”, are “courageous, playful and ready to do anything to get France moving”, the Paris 2024 organisers said, inviting consumers to please visit their online shop where stuffed versions of the smiling, big-eyed triangles are on sale from €20 a pop. Vive la revolution!

The list: FTX WTF

The world’s second-largest cryptocurrency exchange until recently, FTX has gone bankrupt after a severe liquidity crisis, leaving more than one million people owed money, according to a court filing. Here are just some of the wild facts to know about this crypto disaster.

1. Clue is in the name: Until its implosion, FTX was led by its co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried (30), a man once seen playing battle video game League of Legends during an investment pitch meeting. He got the money. His League of Legends performance is unknown.

2. Dodgy maths: “I f***ed up twice,” Bankman-Fried wrote in a tweeted mea culpa, admitting that he “was substantially off” in his calculations of the sums the exchange had lent out to users to allow them to make leveraged bets, meaning it did not have enough money to pay out withdrawals during a run on the exchange.

3. Research purposes: The flood of withdrawals came after leaked documents suggested a related company owned by Bankman-Fried, Alameda Research — led by Caroline Ellison, his rumoured girlfriend — was insolvent.

4. Bahamian bliss: Bankman-Fried moved FTX’s headquarters to the Bahamas last year, claiming it was “one of the few places to set up a comprehensive framework for crypto”. A “gang of kids” (twentysomethings) reportedly lived in his Nassau penthouse and, in between dating one another, “ran” FTX. Authorities in the Bahamas are now investigating the company for potential criminal misconduct.

5. Nothing ventured: As the liquidity crisis unfolded, one of FTX’s largest external investors, the once-enamoured venture capital firm Sequoia, wrote down its $150 million investment to a big fat zero. Sequoia had previously declared that Bankman-Fried was “obviously a genius”.