TBR News June 1, 2017

Jun 01 2017

The Voice of the White House  

Washington, D.C. June 1, 2017:” It is always a pleasure to watch a skilled man at work, approve of his actions or not as may be. Vladimir Putin’s actions on the global chessboard are those of a skilled man. The CIA, which exerts far too much control over American foreign policy, does not like him because they cannot buy him as they did Beria and Yeltsin. Because the Russians have managed to gain access to the top-level American intelligence, and domestic, internet communications, a well-informed Putin is always many steps ahead of his opponents at Langley. Trump, devoid of diplomatic skills or knowledge of global politics, went to Saudi Arabia and sold them weapons. He rejoiced in this act, which will only further disrupt the Middle East but Putin made a deal with the Saudis on oil production which will benefit his country’s economy. It is a pity that the United States cannot find, somewhere, a leader who is as dedicated to his country’s welfare as Putin is for his Russia.”

Table of Contents

  • Germany seeks to block NATO summit in Turkey: report
  • ‘Axis of love’: Saudi-Russia detente heralds new oil order
  • US arming Syrian Kurds will lead to ‘big collision’ with Turkey
  • Even Elizabeth Warren Gets Harassed by Debt Collectors — And It’s About to Get Worse for Everyone
  • Faked paper Trails
  • Operation Car Wash: Is this the biggest corruption scandal in history? 
  • A huge crack across one of Antarctic’s largest ice shelves is reaching its breaking point
  • Sea level is rising—and at an accelerating rate—especially along the U.S. East Coast and Gulf of Mexico.

Germany seeks to block NATO summit in Turkey: report

Germany and other NATO allies have tried to prevent Turkey from hosting next year’s NATO summit, according to reports. Officials allegedly wanted to avoid the impression that NATO supports Turkey’s “internal policy.”

May 31, 2017

by Lewis Sanders IV


Germany, France, the Netherlands and Denmark have reportedly led a drive to block next year’s NATO leaders summit from taking place in Turkey, according to a report published by German daily Die Welt on Wednesday. The newspaper said that 18 EU nations and Canada agreed with the decision to prevent the meeting from taking place in Istanbul.

Turkey allegedly offered to host the summit slated for 2018 in Istanbul during the alliance’s 2016 meeting in Warsaw. However, NATO nations at that time agreed to postpone the decision to a later date, the German daily said.

NATO defense ministers are expected to make a final decision when they meet in June. According to the report, the favored proposal envisions the meeting at NATO’s new headquarters in Brussels.

Since a failed coup to overthrow the Turkish government, Ankara has launched a massive crackdown, targeting journalists, teachers, soldiers and judges.

“We do not want to enhance Turkey’s international credentials and we want to avoid the impression that NATO supports the Turkish government’s internal policy,” high-ranking NATO diplomats said, according to Die Welt.

However, NATO deputy spokesman Piers Cazalet told DW that member states have not yet taken a decision on the “venue or time of the 2018 NATO summit.”

“At the meeting of NATO leaders last week, Turkey made an offer to host one of our next summits, although not necessarily next year,” Cazalet said. “Having a full-fledged summit at the new headquarters in Brussels is also an option. These options are not mutually exclusive.

Worsening relations

The move effectively marks another twist in relations between Berlin and Ankara, which have seen a notable downturn over the past two years.

Earlier this month, Turkey blocked German lawmakers from visiting a Bundeswehr deployment stationed at Incirlik air base. Ankara said it was in response to Berlin’s decision to grant asylum to Turkish military personnel accused of participating in a failed coup to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Since then, Berlin has assessed alternative host countries for the deployment, including Jordan, Kuwait and Cyprus, according to German officials.

Ahead of a key meeting with Erdogan during last week’s NATO summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened to withdraw the German deployment at Incirlik if the two leaders were unable to find a way to move forward.

“I will make it very clear to the Turkish president during our talks that it is indispensable for our soldiers to be able to be visited by members of the German Bundestag, as ours is a parliamentary military,” Merkel said.

An eventual decision to withdraw troops was postponed on Wednesday when a parliamentary majority agreed to hold off on a committee vote, reported Christian Thiels, managing editor at German public broadcaster ARD.

More than 250 troops are currently stationed at Incirlik to aid in the US-led coalition against the “Islamic State” militant group, providing reconnaissance and support for the international operation.

Incirlik: Alternatives and the issue of withdrawal

Since the dispute kicked off last year, Berlin has assessed alternative host countries for the deployment, including Jordan, Kuwait and Cyprus, according to German officials.

Major Rayk Hähnlein, defense expert at the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs, told DW that Jordan’s Muwaffaq Salti air base offers the “best alternative” to Incirlik.

He said that several factors, such as the US military operating out of the base, its proximity to the main area of operations in northern Syria and Iraq, and Amman’s willingness to host the deployment, make it a suitable choice for the German division stationed at Incirlik.

Some analysts have warned about the potential fallout a withdrawal could have on NATO operations and the US-led coalition against the “Islamic State,” especially as the alliance has agreed to formally join the coalition.

But Hähnlein told DW that while a withdrawal would have a “short term impact,” especially due to preparations to recapture the “Islamic State” stronghold of Raqqa in Syria, it would not undermine the operation.

“From 2014 to December 2015, the coalition got along without German support as well, so it will overcome the situation,” Hähnlein said. “If prepared well and with full support from Jordan and US partners on the Jordanian base, Germany’s absence would only be felt for several days or weeks.”

Hähnlein warned, however, of withdrawing all German troops from the country, noting that removing the five soldiers stationed in Konya “would be a wrong signal to NATO” since they are key to the AWACS surveillance operation.

When asked about the reported attempts by Germany and other NATO nations to block a NATO leaders summit in Turkey, Hähnlein suggested that it may be too early to comment on the impact.

“But of course, one can question if it is the right signal that Turkey hosts a NATO summit under the current circumstances,” Hähnlein said.

NATO values at risk?

The fallout between the two military allies partly stems from concerns for democratic processes in Turkey. While NATO effectively forms a military alliance between its member states, it also forms a political one that seeks to “promote democratic values.”

In 2016, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told an audience of students in Georgia that part of what makes NATO stand out from other military alliances is that member states share common values.

“Democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the media, independence of the judiciary (and) protection of minorities: these are the values that unite us. They are the values NATO has defended since its foundation in 1949,” Stoltenberg said.

However, although member states have not used NATO as a medium through which to voice concerns over Turkey’s crackdown and its consolidation of power under the presidency, European institutions, including the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, have warned that the country is “on the road to an autocracy.”

Teri Schultz in Brussels contributed to this report.


‘Axis of love’: Saudi-Russia detente heralds new oil order

June 1, 2017

by Dmitry Zhdannikov and Vladimir Soldatkin | MOSCOW


A meeting between the two men who run Russia and Saudi Arabia’s oil empires spoke volumes about the new relationship between the energy superpowers.

It was the first time that Rosneft boss Igor Sechin and Saudi Aramco chief Amin Nasser had held a formal, scheduled meeting – going beyond the numerous times they had simply encountered each other at oil events around the world.

Their conversation also broke new ground, according to two sources familiar with the talks in the Saudi city of Dhahran last week who said the CEOs discussed possible ways of cooperating in Asia, such as Indonesia and India, as well as in other markets.

The sources did not disclose further details, but any cooperation in Asia between Russia and Saudi Arabia – the world’s two biggest oil exporters – would be unprecedented.

State oil giant Aramco confirmed the meeting took place but declined to give details of the closed-door talks, which took place on the same day as OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC Russia led a global pact to extend a crude output cut to prop up prices. Kremlin oil major Rosneft declined to comment.

The meeting – which also saw Nasser give Sechin a tour of Aramco’s HQ, according to the sources – gives an insight into the newfound, unexpected and fast-deepening partnership between the two countries. It is one that will be closely watched by big oil consumers around the world which have long relied on the hot rivalry between their top suppliers to secure better deals.

Such a detente between Moscow and Riyadh would have been almost unthinkable in the past.

Up until a year ago, the two sides had virtually no dialogue at all, even in the face of a spike in U.S. shale oil production that had led to a collapse in global prices from mid-2014. Sechin was strongly opposed to Russia cutting output in tandem with OPEC.

In a sign of their white-hot Asian rivalry, Rosneft outbid Aramco to buy India’s refiner Essar last year and boost its share in the world’s fastest growing fuel market.

Fast forward a matter of months, and Moscow and Riyadh have become the main protagonists of the pact to cut output – agreed in December and extended last week – and are even discussing possible cooperation in their core Asian markets.

“It is a new ‘axis of love’,” one senior Gulf official said of the relationship.

On Tuesday, Putin welcomed Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Kremlin and both men said they would deepen cooperation in oil and work on narrowing their differences over Syria, where Moscow and Riyadh are backing opposing sides in a civil war.

“The most important thing is that we are succeeding in building a solid foundation to stabilize oil markets and energy prices,” said Prince Mohammed.

Putin said the countries would work together to resolve a “difficult situation”.


The first attempt at cooperation between the two countries failed spectacularly with both sides unable to agree joint actions at an OPEC meeting in December 2014, six months after oil prices began tumbling from above $100 a barrel.

To add insult to injury, Sechin pledged to keep pushing output higher, even if prices fell to $20 per barrel. Saudi’s then oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, retaliated by saying the Russian oil output would collapse as a result of low prices, a prediction that turned out to be wrong.

Much has changed since then, however, economically and politically – and the unlikely partnership between Moscow and Riyadh has been born out of necessity.

When oil prices collapsed, both economies were driven into deficit after years of high spending and are only now slowly recovering. With Russia heading for a presidential election in early 2018, and Prince Mohammed having pledged to reform the Saudi economy and publicly list Aramco, neither country can afford another oil price shock.

The ousting of veteran minister Naimi and his replacement with the more pragmatic Khalid al-Falih last year also appeared to have helped, with their dialogue facilitated by OPEC’s new secretary general Mohammad Barkindo.

“If minister Falih says something, I know it will be done,” Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said last week in Vienna after Russia and OPEC agreed to extend output cuts.

Novak is looking to organize a trip for Falih to a Russian Arctic field, having visited Aramco’s facilities in the Empty Quarter desert himself last October. “Last year, minister Falih took us to a desert – we want to show him an ice desert,” Novak joked last week.

Barkindo told Reuters: “They (Saudi Arabia and Russia) are the leading lights of the Declaration of Cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC which has opened a new chapter in the history of oil.”


On Tuesday, Novak and Falih reiterated in Moscow they would do “whatever it takes” to stabilize oil markets, borrowing a famous phrase used by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi five years ago to defend the euro.

They also discussed the outlook for non-OPEC production including U.S. shale output, which has resumed growing over the past year as private American producers have cut costs and adapted to lower prices.

U.S. crude is now being exported all over the world and the chances of private producers agreeing to cooperate with OPEC are minimal because of tough U.S. anti-monopoly legislation.

“Both Russia and the Gulf countries are interested in some type of oil price stabilization and they hope that they can achieve this without undertaking a sort of massive cuts which they had to do back in the 1980s,” said Paul Simons, a former U.S. diplomat now serving as deputy executive director of the International Energy Agency.

Saudi Arabia and Russia say they will remain in partnership long after the current output reduction deal expires.

“It is necessary to work out new framework principles for continued cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC even after the expiration of the Vienna agreements,” Novak said on Wednesday.

Falih, for his part, ended his speech by thanking Novak in Russian: “Spasibo.”

(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal, Reem Shamseddine, Nerijus Adomaitis and Olesya Astakhova; Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Pravin Char)


US arming Syrian Kurds will lead to ‘big collision’ with Turkey

May 31, 2017


The US decision to arm the Kurds could have repercussions in Syria, says Michael Maloof, a former Pentagon official. For Turkey’s President Erdogan, this means that the US supports the civil war against his government, analyst Gregory Copley added.

The US government has confirmed it is now sending arms to Kurdish militia groups, fighting against ISIS in Syria.

RT: Is the US potentially putting itself on a collision course with Turkey, by arming the Kurds in Syria?

Michael Maloof: Yes, this collision course has been set up for months. Turkey knew about that for quite some time. Politically, the US has told Turkey and even told President Erdogan, when he was visiting, that [Trump] was going to be arming the Kurds. Erdogan was very, very unhappy about that. This could have repercussions. They can have repercussions on the ground in Syria, as far as Turkey is concerned. They are not going to tolerate that. In fact, Turkey still regards the Kurds as a greater threat to Turkey then ISIS itself.

The fact is that the whole argument of Turkey is that those weapons would be taken by the Kurds, used, and sent to the PKK in Turkey – for potential civil war. Now, the US claims that it is going to bring all these weapons back, which – we’ve seen this movie before – it never happens. I think there is a collision course that has been set up, and I think it is going to be a big collision. It could have a major impact on US-Turkish relations, on the one hand, and I think it could have an effect on [US chances of posting air forces at the Incirlik airbase], just like with the Germans now…

RT: Is this just the first step? Will we see more such weapon deployments?

MM: Absolutely. There has got to be. Especially [since] they are going to be taking on Raqqa. Erdogan was hoping that perhaps the Free Syrian Army, the element that he supports, would be allowed in the vanguard of [those forces] going into Raqqa. The US said: “No, the fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces, [which is] comprised mostly of Kurds and some Arabs, would be in the vanguard.” And then the argument was: “Well, maybe the Arab contingent within the Syrian Democratic Forces would be allowed to go, but not the Kurds.” And the US said, “No,” again, because the Kurds have the fighting experience [that can] defeat ISIS, whereas the FSA [Free Syrian Army] and its Turkish backers have not been able to do that. Yes, it is going to create a problem.

Showdown in Turkish-US relations

Gregory Copley, editor of Defense and Foreign Affairs publications, agrees that the US are Turkey are on a collision course.

RT: Turkey considers the YPG in Syria to be a terrorist group, and now the US is arming them. What could this mean for US-Turkey relations?

Gregory Copley: This is a clear signal from the Trump administration, as we saw when President Erdogan was on his very ill-fated mission to Washington this month, that Turkey and the US are on a collision course. The US made it clear that it would not back down on its support for the YPG, which does indeed have relations with the PKK, the Kurdish Workers’ Party, and it will continue to support YPG in this regard. To Turkey’s mind, or to President Erdogan’s mind, this means that the US is supporting the civil war in Turkey with the Kurds against the Turkish government. So, we’re looking at a showdown in Turkish-US relations. Neither side, however, wishes to bring this to a head. Turkey wishes to maintain its NATO relationship for as long as possible, [while] the US is not going to be the one that dismisses Turkey from NATO. But the reality is that Turkey is no longer a NATO ally.

RT: Do you think the US decision to arm the Kurdish fighters will significantly help the fight against ISIS?

CC: No question about it. Turkey is not committed to the fight against ISIS [Islamic State, or IS, also formerly known as ISIL). It basically was the father, the sponsor, of the creation of ISIS in its origins. Similarly, its support for ISIS has backfired and ISIS is now at war with Turkey, as well as with the West. But basically, ISIS is the creature of Ankara and the US is opposed to ISIS. So, the US is at war with Ankara in that regard.

Even Elizabeth Warren Gets Harassed by Debt Collectors — And It’s About to Get Worse for Everyone

June 1, 2017

by Ryan Grim

The Intercept

The calls started two or three months after Elizabeth Warren got a new cellphone number many years ago. They were looking for Gus.

“I’d get them in spurts. I’d get maybe 10 calls in the space of three or four days. And I’d say ‘no, no, no’ every time. And then I wouldn’t hear anything more for several months and I’d say, ‘OK, that problem’s gone away,’” Warren said in an interview with The Intercept.

“And then it would start again — and I’d get calls for Gus.”

Even Washington’s most powerful denizens aren’t immune from the signature annoyance purveyed by the multibillion-dollar debt collection industry — and it could be about to get worse. President Trump’s Federal Communications Commission is fielding petitions from industry groups to allow them to increase the frequency of such calls, and to reach out to friends and family of Gus, too. The current FCC commissioner, Ajit Pai, has previously voted against efforts to limit debt collection calls.

Warren, a senator from Massachusetts, made her name as an academic through her work on bankruptcy and later went on to dream up, then push through Congress, then run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Despite her steady rise to influence and power, she couldn’t make the calls stop.

“This went on for maybe four or five years [before] I finally thought, I’m gonna track this down and make this stop,” the former Harvard law professor said. “So I tried — and I could never figure out who I was talking to and each time they’d assure me it was going to be fixed. And each time I’d get another collection call within the space of a few hours.”

Warren never played the senatorial card — What good would it do? — but she did try a few different approaches, she said. “I told them I was a lawyer and that I did debt collection law and that they could not still be calling on a debt that was this old. And I would try to throw out a few legal phrases and they did absolutely no good. Zero, none,” she said.

The calls weren’t all intimidating or rude, she said. “Some of them called and were very friendly. ‘Hey, Gus! How’s it going?’ And I’d say, ‘I’m not Gus.’ ‘Yeah, well, Gus — When’s Gus gonna be there?’ And I’d say, ‘Gus has not had this number for six years at least.’ And the answer was, ‘Ah, Gus, my man!’” she said.

“Sometimes over the years they’d be robocalls; sometimes the kind where you answer the phone and there’s a pause — so you can tell it’s being dialed somewhere else — and then someone comes on and starts reading from a script; sometimes they’d leave voicemails for me to tell me where I can call back.”

Warren first relayed the story of Gus to me a little more than a year ago. I had been moderating a panel on the fifth anniversary of the report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which explored the deep fraud and abuse that had precipitated the crisis. I had forgotten to silence my phone, and during the panel, it rang — with a call from a debt collector. I can’t remember what unpaid bill they were after, but I told former FDIC Chair Sheila Bair, seated to my left, who the caller had been. Bair responded with what she recalled Wednesday as an “experience from hell with credit reporting agencies.”

At a department store, she broke her cardinal rule of having just one credit card, going for a big discount on offer. When the bill came, she paid it, but she was off by $2 and so got hit with a late fee of 10 bucks. She ignored it, and the department store reported her to the credit reporting agencies, ultimately knocking her score down a full 100 points. It took her six months and an extraordinary amount of effort to clean up.

Her husband, meanwhile, who has a fairly common name, had spent years getting debt collection calls intended for somebody else. “They don’t pay them well, they don’t train them well,” said Bair of the staff at the various companies, analogizing it to the financial crisis. “We certainly saw that during the mortgage crisis, with the servicers who didn’t have real training. It just complicated a really dysfunctional system.”

I told Warren, too, and she responded with her tale of Gus. Interviewed about it again this week, she said she made one final effort last spring to make the calls stop, but failed. Later in the year, as part of the John Podesta email dump by WikiLeaks, her number was posted online. So she got rid of it. “That’s the only way I finally solved the problem … I got rid of the phone number,” Warren said. “As far as I know, there’s still debt collectors calling that number.” (If they’re still calling, they’re hitting a dead end. The number is currently not in service.)

For Bair and Warren, who are financially stable, the calls were a nuisance rather than a major threat to their well-being. But if the founder of the CFPB and one of the most powerful FDIC chairs in American history can’t make debt collection calls stop, what chance does anybody else have?

“There’s no rationality on the other end,” Warren said. “Actually, I shouldn’t say that, because it was perfectly rational. They were doing what made sense to them, and that is, they’d buy up these debts, they had a phone number attached to it, at least the one for Gus, and they’d just work ’em over, and keep working ’em over and working ’em over. And I thought about what it must’ve been like for Gus, because they never gave up, not ever.”

It made her think back to her seminal study on bankruptcy. In their survey of people who’d gone through bankruptcy, Warren and her colleagues asked what the factor was that had pushed them toward filing. “A huge number of people responded, ‘To stop the collection calls. They call in the morning, they call at night, they call day long, they call my cell, they call my office, and I can’t live like this anymore.’ I got just a little taste of that personally.”

I asked if there was anything she had learned through the experience that she didn’t pick up in her academic, legal, or political work. She paused and concluded, “Debt collection calls suck.”

Faked paper Trails

June 1, 2017

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

Whenever documents of the historical importance as these intercepts appear, it is necessary to take certain steps to ascertain their authenticity. Given the habit of governments to forge papers to prove a point or, more often, to attack another government or individual, it is vital that significant material be thoroughly checked.

Firstly, historians insist on provenance or the trail of the document. They want to know where it came from and where it has been at different points in time. This is certainly valid assuming the document was not planted as so many were at the end of the war. A number of important documents submitted as evidence at Nuremberg were forgeries, prepared by German-speaking individuals on original captured official paper and using original typewriters. A number of these spurious exhibits were all typed on the same machine and since some of them purported to be SS reports from France and Foreign Office reports from Bulgaria, the idea of couriers rushing one typewriter back and forth across Europe is idiotic of contemplation. Provenience is certainly important, however, but not in and of itself determinant.

Secondly, the material must be forensically checked. The typewriters used (if the paper is typed) must be of the period and not show exceptional wear to the typefaces. A heavily worn typeface would indicate the use of an original machine that had been in use since 1945.

Thirdly, if the original paper exists, it can be checked for manufacture. Paper manufactured during the war was made of pulp or rag. At that time, no paper whiteners were used in the manufacture of paper. These optical whiteners appeared after 1945…in some cases around 1948…and such whiteners react to an ultraviolet light by emitting a bright fluorescence. The paper itself can be tested as to content but the initial test should be the use of the ultraviolet light. If whiteners are present, the document is not pre-1945 but modern. If whiteners are not present, the paper, especially pulp paper, can be tested for wood pulp content. A paper that shows wood used in its manufacture as having originated in Japan, the United States or South America would not, in all probability, have been made in Europe at the time period in question.

Fourthly, the internal contents of the document must be correct to the period. For example, a contemporary newspaper account of an incident is often full of rumor and error, based on knowledge available at the time but later recognized as incorrect.

In 1948 it was believed that Russia was about to attack Europe. This was widely accepted and acted upon although it was an error. Therefore, a writer from that period would speak about a probable Soviet invasion while a writer from another period, knowing that such actions had not happened, would write about the period with the benefit of hindsight.

Painters who forge pictures use techniques and styles of their own period, not those of the earlier artist. Their works are often accepted precisely because the style is current and accepted. Fifty years later, after styles have changed, the fake is at once recognizable as having been done, for example, in the 1850s and not in the 1650s.

These are the basic rules of thumb in considering the authenticity of a document. The same rules, with modifications, apply to detecting fake art.

It is a great error to seek the opinion of historians or art experts in making honest determinations because of the mind sets of individuals. A devout Roosevelt or Churchill supporter, for example, would tend to reject anything that denigrated their idols while a historian who detested these men would rush to accept anything that supported his views.

A dedicated Communist would be bitter in their denunciation of any historian attacking Josef Stalin. An art expert who has made a career of assisting dealers to sell pieces they would never own or hang in the lavatory if they did, could not reasonably be expected to foul their own nest by agreeing that most of their authentications were based on bribery.

No government or other entrenched entity will readily assist in undermining their own heritage and creditability. No art gallery head will support the thesis that one of their most valuable acquisitions is a fake. Establishments do whatever they can to defend themselves against attack and will go to great lengths to defend a position or opinion that they privately recognize as untenable.

A wealthy and socially prominent family whose members have political ambitions would hardly be expected to support a historian who claimed that the founder of their house was a whoremonger, prostitute or other species of moral leper. They might well be expected to hire someone to run over the unfortunate scholar and destroy his notes.

In the main, governments dislike resorting to such methods but have certainly been known to do so when the necessity was felt.

Generally, institutions prefer benign neglect to overt violence. Archives have nothing the iconoclastic writer is looking for, public officials have no comments on dangerous subjects, publishers develop a sudden disinterest in manuscripts, bookstores never stock what their corporate owners dislike and, in the final analysis, there are always the chained dogs of the Internal Revenue to loose upon their enemies.

The assassin’s dagger has been replaced by the pocket calculator but with the same effect


Operation Car Wash: Is this the biggest corruption scandal in history?

What began as an investigation into money laundering quickly turned into something much greater, uncovering a vast and intricate web of political and corporate racketeering.

May 31, 2017

by Jonathan Watts

The Guardian

On 14 January 2015, police agent Newton Ishii was waiting in Rio de Janeiro’s Galeão airport to meet the midnight flight from London. His mission was simple. A former executive of Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras, was on the plane. Ishii was to arrest him as soon as he set foot in Brazil and take him for questioning by detectives.

No big deal, the veteran cop thought as he ticked off the hours in the shabby Terminal One lounge. This was just one of many anti-bribery operations he had worked on. Usually they made a few headlines, then faded away, leaving the perpetrators to carry on as if nothing had happened. There was a popular expression for this: acabou em pizza (to end up with pizza), which suggested that there was no political row that could not be settled over a meal and a few beers.

When the plane finally landed, Ishii’s target was easy to identify among the passengers in the arrivals hall. Nestor Cerveró has a strikingly asymmetrical face, with his left eye set lower than the right. “He couldn’t believe it. He said I had made a mistake,” Ishii recalled later. “I told him I was just doing my job and that he could take up his complaints with the judge.”

Cerveró called his brother and a lawyer. He expected to be free before morning. Ishii, too, had few illusions that his suspect would be locked up for long. Decades on the force had taught him how quickly the rich and powerful could wriggle off the hook. There was little reason to think this case would be any different.

As it turned out, both men were wrong.

The investigation that led to Cerveró’s arrest – codenamed Lava Jato (Car Wash) – was about to uncover an unprecedented web of corruption. At first, the press described it as the biggest corruption scandal in the history of Brazil; then, as other countries and foreign firms were dragged in, the world. The case would go on to discover illegal payments of more than $5bn to company executives and political parties, put billionaires in jail, drag a president into court and cause irreparable damage to the finances and reputations of some of the world’s biggest companies. It would also expose a culture of systemic graft in Brazilian politics, and provoke a backlash from the establishment fierce enough to bring down one government and leave another on the brink of collapse.

Lauched in March 2014, the operation had initially focused on agents known as doleiros (black market money dealers), who used small businesses, such as petrol stations and car washes, to launder the profits of crime. But police soon realised they were on to something bigger when they discovered that the doleiros were working on behalf of an executive at Petrobras, Paulo Roberto Costa, the director of refining and supply. This link led prosecutors to uncover a vast and extraordinarily intricate web of corruption. Under questioning, Costa described how he, Cerveró and other Petrobras directors had been deliberately overpaying on contracts with various companies for office construction, drilling rigs, refineries and exploration vessels. The contractors they were paying had formed an agreement to ensure they were guaranteed business on excessively lucrative terms if they agreed to channel a share of between 1% and 5% of every deal into secret slush funds.

After diverting millions of dollars into those funds, Petrobras directors then used them to funnel money to the politicians who had appointed them in the first place, and to the political parties they represented. The main objective of the racket – which fleeced taxpayers and shareholders out of billions of dollars – was to fund election campaigns to keep the governing coalition in power. But it wasn’t just politicians who benefited. Everyone connected to the deals received a bribe, in cash, or sometimes in the form of luxury cars, expensive art works, Rolex watches, $3,000 bottles of wine, yachts and helicopters. Huge sums were deposited in Swiss bank accounts, or laundered via overseas property deals or smaller companies. The means of transfer were deliberately complicated, in order to hide the money’s origins, or low-tech, to keep it off the books. Prosecutors discovered that elderly mules were flying from city to city with shrink-wrapped bricks of cash strapped to their bodies.

Petrobras was no ordinary company. As well as having the highest market valuation (and the largest debts) of any corporation in Latin America, it was a flagship for an emerging economy that was trying to tap the biggest oil discovery of the 21st century – huge new oil fields in deep waters off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. Petrobras accounted for more than an eighth of all investments in Brazil, providing hundreds of thousands of jobs in construction firms, shipyards and refineries, and forming business ties with international suppliers including Rolls-Royce and Samsung Heavy Indust

Petrobras was also at the centre of Brazil’s politics. During the 2003-2010 presidency of the Workers’ Party leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (known as Lula), executive posts in Petrobras were offered to Lula’s political allies, to help build support in Congress. Petrobras’s commercial and strategic importance was such that the US National Security Agency made it a target for surveillance. As the Car Wash investigation was to prove, if you could unravel the secrets of this company, you would unravel the secrets of the state.

First, though, investigators had to get executives to talk. Until very recently, that would have been unthinkable. A culture of impunity had long reigned in Brazil. But times were changing, as Petrobras executive Nestor Cerverò was about to find out. When he saw the state of the mattress in the airport detention centre, he threw a tantrum. “How am I going to lie on this?” he said.

“It’s either that or sleep standing up,” Ishii replied. Within an hour, Cerverò had dozed off, only to be shaken out of his slumber at 6am.

“Where’s my breakfast?” he demanded.

“You’re not getting one,” Ishii answered. “I’m taking you to Curitiba.”

Curitiba, the heart of the Car Wash investigation, is the capital of the southern state of Paraná. By Brazilian standards, at 845km it is not far from Rio, but culturally, they are worlds apart. Curitiba is known as the “London of Brazil” because its people are considered more inclined to be sticklers for the rules than residents of the bigger cities in the north. In recent years, it has won international praise for its pioneering public transport system, environmental policies and hipster scene. Thanks to Operation Car Wash, however, it is now best known for its judges, prosecutors and police.

Without one simple reform, however, the investigation might never have taken off. Dilma Rousseff took over from Lula as leader of the Workers’ Party and became president of a coalition government after the 2010 election. In the wake of nationwide anti-corruption demonstrations in 2013, Rousseff had tried to placate an angry public by fast-tracking laws aimed at rooting out systemic fraud. New measures included, for the first time in Brazil, plea bargaining: prosecutors could now make deals with suspects, reducing their sentences in return for information that could lead to the arrest of more important figures.

Overseeing the case in Curitiba was Sérgio Moro, an ambitious young judge who helped prosecutors put pressure on suspects by approving lengthy “preventive detentions”. In the overwhelming majority of cases, Brazilian prisoners remanded in custody before trial are poor. Moro took the unusual step of also denying bail to the rich. Ostensibly, he did so to stop them using economic or political influence to escape any charges against them. However, the pressure was on them: make a deal or stay in jail.

Cerveró was not the first to face this choice. He joined a parade of VIP Car Wash suspects – corporate executives, wealthy entrepreneurs and, later, even one or two powerful politicians – who spent months inside the Curitiba detention centre. They had to be kept separate from other inmates for their own safety, which meant their side of the jail quickly became overcrowded. Having lived in luxury, these super-rich prisoners were squeezed three to a one-man cell. Their new circumstances came as a shock. “One guy did not know how to shave because he had always had it done for him,” said a guard, who asked to remain anonymous. Cerveró apparently had serious problems adapting. His cellmates complained that he urinated on them in the night and washed his backside in the sink.

If inmates refused to cooperate with the prosecution, privileges such as TV and exercise were withdrawn. “Many suspects made deals after a visit from their loved ones,” said the guard. “I think it was because they smelled the perfume and soap of the lives they had left behind.” Some resisted for months, others just days. But almost all of them broke in the end.

Defence lawyers complained, with some justification, that these tactics were legally dubious and unethical, because defendants would say or do anything to get out of jail. But polls indicated the public was delighted that the age-old problem of corruption was finally being exposed in a major nationwide operation. Almost every day, details of a dawn raid by police or another shocking allegation were splashed across the front pages: more than $2bn siphoned off Petrobras in bribes and secret payments for contract work, $3.3bn paid in bribes by the construction firm Odebrecht, more than 1,000 politicians on the take from the meat-packing firm JBS, 16 companies implicated, at least 50 congressmen accused, four former presidents under investigation.

As the staggering scale of the skulduggery emerged, many Brazilians focused their fury on politicians – initially Lula, Rousseff and others in the Workers’ Party. The newspapers trumpeted the message that the dirty socialists in Brasilia were wholly responsible for the problem. The reality was considerably less clear-cut. Just about every major party was involved in multiple, interconnected trails of corruption going back to earlier governments. And it was the Workers’ Party that had put in place the judicial reforms that allowed the investigation to go ahead. There would have been no Car Wash if the government had not appointed, in September 2013, an independent attorney general.

Newspaper columnists contrasted the dirty world of politics with the high-minded work of the judiciary in the “Republic of Curitiba”. When Judge Moro walked into a restaurant, people would stand up and applaud. Graffiti on walls and banners draped from apartment balconies declared “God save Moro”. Protesters in the streets held up placards declaring “Moro for president”. The federal police also won praise. Ishii became the public face of the investigation: as the officer charged with taking suspects from the airport to the detention centre and the courthouse, he was in almost every picture and video related to the case. On social networks and in headlines, he was nicknamed Japones Bonzinho (the Good Japanese). At carnival, he was honoured with a six-metre-high doll and a samba tribute song, with lyrics imagining a suspect who wakes to find he is the latest target of Operation Car Wash: “Oh my God, I am politically dead! Knocking at my door is the Japanese fed.”

In person, Ishii is circumspect and austere. When I visited him at his modest apartment in Curitiba, he was careful to downplay his role. He explained that his celebrity had reached the point where he felt trapped. At one public event, he was mobbed by adoring members of the public and had to be escorted out by security guards. A traffic cop pulled him over to ask for his autograph. Bizarrely, even the relatives of the Car Wash prisoners would ask him to share selfies and say how much they admired his work.

Ishii said he realised Car Wash was something special when he saw wealthy businessmen not just go to jail, but stay there. “That’s when the penny dropped. I began to think, hey, I’m in a country where there is an expression, ‘Only the poor get arrested’ – but here are these millionaires getting thrown in prison.”

More was to come. From corporate executives, Car Wash investigators turned their attention to politicians. Dishonest and venal senators and congressmen had long been protected by the immunity of office. But a window for prosecution was opening. The judiciary was in the ascendant, the electorate was mad as hell, and old loyalties were starting to crack. All the prosecutors needed was a little leverage.

To lure one of Brazil’s most powerful politicians out into the open, prosecutors planned a sting operation, using Petrobras’s Nestor Cerveró as bait. Senator Delcídio do Amaral, the Workers’ Party leader in the upper house, was an old associate of Cerveró. They had worked together at Petrobras between 2000 and 2001. After that, Cerveró had become Amaral’s faithful servant, raising illegal contributions for whichever party the fickle senator was aligned with. After Cerveró’s arrest, Amaral knew he was at risk of exposure. Desperate to find a way to discourage him from talking, Amaral arranged to meet Cerveró’s son, Bernardo, in Brasilia.

On 4 November 2015, Amaral met with Bernardo Cerveró at the Royal Tulip Hotel. Unaware that Bernardo was secretly recording the conversation, the senator made a number of incriminating statements, which were later leaked to the press. Amaral offered to pay $1m upfront, plus a further $13,000 a month, in exchange for Nestor Cerveró’s silence. When this was rebuffed, he said he could arrange Bernardo’s father’s escape from prison.

“How?” Bernardo asked.

First, Amaral explained, he would use his influence on a particular judge to arrange for Cerveró to be moved from his prison cell and placed under house arrest. Then, he described in detail how the prisoner’s electronic tag could be deactivated, so he could flee undetected. Cerveró could then charter a private plane to neighbouring Paraguay. Amaral would arrange the whole thing.

As soon as the judges heard the recording, they ordered the senator to be detained on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice. It was a momentous decision. No sitting senator had been arrested in 30 years.

Amaral was taken into custody on the morning of 26 November 2015. He immediately agreed to co-operate with investigators and tell them everything he knew about the illegal activities of his fellow politicians, including the then president Rousseff, who he accused of conspiring to obstruct justice. He singled out former president Lula as the mastermind of the Petrobras corruption scheme.

The senator claimed it was Lula who had organised the payoffs and urged him to get Cerveró out of the country, because he wanted to protect a close friend who had been involved in negotiations between politicians and oil company officials. Lula and Rousseff denied the allegations and accused Amaral of lying to save himself. “I never imagined he was such a scrotum,” Jaques Wagner, Rousseff’s former chief of staff, told Lula in a phone call recorded by police. But while his critics accused him of spectacular betrayal, Amaral painted his testimony in a heroic light, saying he was doing the nation a favour by exposing the powerful to justice.

“Because I was someone who was talking to the government, talking to parliament, talking with leading Brazilian businessmen, talking to Petrobras, with Eletrobras, with all the state, I had no doubt that my collaboration would be a watershed in the investigation,” Amaral told me in an interview last summer.

Thanks to his cooperation, Amaral was living under house arrest in his brother’s luxurious mansion in one of São Paulo’s swankiest neighbourhoods. When I arrived to meet him, a maid answered the door and led me past a pool and an outdoor jacuzzi to a private bar decorated with neon signs for Coors and Miller beer, a Wurlitzer jukebox and celebrity memorabilia: Ayrton Senna’s F1 racing helmet, Mike Tyson’s boxing glove, Buzz Aldrin’s framed autograph and Eric Clapton’s guitar.

Amaral left open the possibility that he would make a return to politics. The system needed to change, he argued, because corruption had become ingrained from long before the Workers’ Party took power.

Brazil’s political scene is highly vulnerable to corruption. With dozens of parties and elections at three levels (federal, state and city) across one of the world’s largest countries, campaigns are extremely expensive and it is almost impossible for any single political group to secure a majority. Gaining power involves winning elections and paying other parties to form coalitions, both of which require huge sums of money. As a result, one of the greatest prizes in Brazilian politics has long been the power to appoint senior executives at state-run companies, because each executive could expect to receive millions in kickbacks from contractors, much of which could be siphoned off into campaign coffers.

The Workers’ Party was supposed to be different. It had been elected on a promise to clean up corruption, but it soon got sucked in. After winning the presidency on his fourth attempt, in 2002, Lula had been stuck with a minority in Congress. His chief of staff bought the support of minor parties by arranging monthly payments, known as mensalão, mostly paid by construction firms in exchange for building contracts. Although illegal, this allowed the Workers’ Party to get things done. Lula’s first term delivered impressive progress on alleviating poverty, social spending and environmental controls. None of the subsequent three Workers’ Party administrations came close to achieving as much. Unfortunately, because Lula’s reforms had only got through parliament with the aid of bribery, those achievements were built on ethical quicksand.

When the mensalão scandal was revealed in 2004, the Workers’ Party had no choice but to stop paying its coalition partners, and Lula was again stuck with a minority in Congress. Worse, he now faced the danger of being impeached. To prevent this, he reached out to one of his party’s biggest rivals: the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), led by Michel Temer. This marriage of convenience was doomed from the start.

The PMDB is Brazil’s biggest political party, but has never taken an ideological stance or a leadership role, preferring to do deals to shore up governments. It is a mishmash of factions, ranging from conservative rural landowners and urban social democrats to evangelical nationalists and former guerrillas, whose only common ground is a desire to secure the patronage, prestige and bribes that come with government posts. The party has been involved in every corruption scandal in modern Brazilian history. But Lula was desperate, so he struck a deal. In return for support in Congress, the Workers’ Party gave Temer’s PMDB control of the international division of Petrobras and the funds that flowed from it. Cerveró, then the director of that division, was required to deliver payoffs to different masters. It was a gruelling task. In 2008, Cerveró failed to deliver sufficient funds and he was forced to stand down.

Temer has been named countless times in Car Wash testimonies. Julio Camargo, a consultant for the Toyo Setal construction and engineering company, said money was channelled from Petrobras to a lobbyist representing senior PMDB figures, including Temer. One industrialist testified that Temer had arranged illicit payments into the party’s campaign coffers, and had taken leadership of the PMDB in order to control who got the millions of dollars that were being siphoned off from Petrobras, Odebrecht and their suppliers. A former Odebrecht vice president, Cláudio Melo Filho, testified that in 2014, he secretly donated 10m reais (£2.3m) to Temer’s political campaign.

“This bomb could end in his lap in a more serious way than for Rousseff. He’s more involved than her,” a source said.

Temer – a constitutional lawyer – publicly denied the allegations, saying suggestions of illegality were “frivolous” and “untruthful”. Despite the long list of accusations, almost none stuck. Other testimonies against him were withdrawn. No charges were filed. Prosecutors said there was not enough evidence. Temer seemed untouchable.

By the start of 2016, the economy had plunged into recession. The main cause was a collapse in global commodity prices, but the Car Wash investigation made a bad problem worse. Prosecutors had ordered Petrobras to suspend business with many of its contractors, including Odebrecht, the biggest building firm in Latin America. Projects were paralysed, workers were laid off and the unemployment rate almost doubled in the space of two years. Political activity was also paralysed. The arrest of Amaral had shaken congressmen out of the assumption that they could rely on their positions to avoid prosecution, and relations between parties became more hostile.

Senator Amaral told me he had warned President Rousseff repeatedly of the dangers of pushing too far with the Car Wash investigation, but she would not listen. “She always underestimated Car Wash, because she thought it would reach everyone but her,” he recalled. “She thought it would make her stronger.”

A majority of the public blamed the economic misery and political gridlock on the Workers’ Party, which had been in power for 13 years. Rousseff’s approval ratings slipped into single digits. She was even more unpopular in Congress, owing to her woeful communication skills, secretiveness and stubbornness. Several powerful senators and deputies – the Brazilian Congress has two houses, the upper Federal Senate and the lower Chamber of Deputies – were also furious that the president refused to halt the corruption investigation, or to protect senior members of her ruling coalition.

The bid to oust Rousseff as head of state was initiated in November 2015 by one of the most corrupt politicians in the country, Eduardo Cunha, in an attempt to stop or divert Car Wash. Cunha, the speaker of Brazil’s lower house, was an ally of Temer in the PMDB, with a reputation for scheming and underhand tactics. He was also a chief target of the Car Wash prosecutors. As evidence piled up through 2015, they accused him of corruption and perjury after uncovering his secret Swiss bank accounts, which contained more than $5m dollars and credit card bills bearing witness to a lavish lifestyle far beyond his declared income of $120,000. The Workers’ Party refused to protect Cunha against charges brought by the lower house ethics committee. Cunha hit back by granting one of the many impeachment requests against Rousseff. It accused Rousseff of false accounting – shifting significant funds between accounts to make government finances look better than they were. Many previous administrations had done the same thing with impunity, albeit not on such a great scale. But that was not the point. The targets of Car Wash needed a pretext on which to strike back.

On 4 March 2016, prosecutors briefly detained Lula for questioning about the Petrobras kickback scheme. There were additional allegations of influence peddling, including deals secured for Odebrecht in return for generous payments to companies owned by Lula’s relatives. Millions of anti-government protesters took to the streets a week later, on 13 March, bearing inflatable dolls of Lula in prison clothing, chanting “Fora Dilma” (Rousseff Out!), carrying banners and shaking brooms to symbolise the need for a clean sweep.

Lula and Rousseff had undoubtedly benefited from the corruption politically, but it is less clear – particularly in Rousseff’s case – that they had gained personally. By contrast, the hypocrisy of many of their accusers was staggering. At a parliamentary impeachment session in April, many of those who voted to eject Rousseff from office had themselves either been charged or were under investigation for far more serious crimes.

In May, as impeachment proceedings against Rousseff continued, Michel Temer became interim president, even though he was mentioned multiple times in the Car Wash investigation, along with seven members of his cabinet. Critics speculated that Temer was being protected to ensure a degree of stability during a period of turbulence. Even when Temer was found guilty in June 2016 of election violations and disqualified from running for office for eight years by a lower court judge in São Paulo, it made no difference. As interim president, he was shielded by the immunity of office. Car Wash, which had been launched to clean up corruption in the system, had ended up helping the leader of Brazil’s most notoriously self-serving party to reach the pinnacle of power.

Rousseff’s supporters called it a coup, though the impeachment had been approved by the largely Workers’ Party-appointed supreme court, as well as large majorities in both houses. Temer insisted the letter of the law had been followed. “Brazil has gone through a difficult period of political disputes, but the Constitution has been honoured,” the new president insisted. Soon after, however, it became clear that many of his supporters had been motivated by self-preservation rather than national salvation.

In Temer’s first month as president, three more of his ministers were forced to resign as a result of secretly recorded phone conversations, which confirmed Rousseff had been ousted because she would not call off the Car Wash investigation.

“We have to stop this shit … We have to change the government to be able to stop this bleeding,” one of the chief plotters, Romero Jucá – the PMDB leader in the upper house – told Sérgio Machado, the former president of Transpetro, Brazil’s largest oil and gas transportation company. Unknown to Jucá, the conversation was being recorded. In that call, in March 2016, Jucá revealed that he had discussed the plan with supreme court justices and military commanders: the aim was to usurp Rousseff and replace her with Temer. Jucá maintains that his words were taken out of context.

But getting the Workers’ Party out of government was only the first step in stopping Car Wash. The conspirators had another problem: Teori Zavascki, the supreme court justice overseeing the investigation, who had proved to be incorruptible.

“One way (to halt the operation) is to find someone who has access to Teori, but it seems there is no one,” says Machado in the recording.

“He’s closed off,” Jucá agrees.

This obstacle did not stay in place for long.

During a thunderstorm on 19 January 2017, a Hawker Beechcraft twin-prop aircraft crashed into the ocean near Paraty, 150 miles west of Rio de Janeiro, killing all four people on board. The plane was on its way from São Paulo to Rio. It might have been seen as just another aviation accident, were it not for the fact that one of the victims was judge Teori Zavascki.

The timing and nature of the crash inevitably raised suspicions. Zavascki was in the process of reviewing numerous Car Wash testimonies that were expected to further implicate politicians in Brazil and other countries in Latin America. His family said he had received threats the previous year.

Initial findings from the plane’s wreckage and the cockpit voice recorder suggested there was no mechanical failure. The pilot was experienced and had given lessons to other aircrews on how to land on the small airstrip at Paraty. But small planes have a terrible safety record in Brazil. Speculation in the media suggested that either the pilot had made a fatal misjudgment of altitude or the plane and its passengers were victims of foul play.

Whatever its causes, the consequences of the crash were far-reaching. Zavascki had maintained the investigation’s credibility in the face of fierce political opposition, and he had ruled on some of its most contentious cases. On hearing news of the judge’s death, Moro said: “Without him, there would be no Operation Car Wash.”

Zavascki exemplified the idealistic and ultimately self-sabotaging stance of the Workers’ Party in its relationship to the justice system. After the party took power, judges, prosecutors and police were given far more scope to act. Under the previous conservative administration, the attorney general had filed away so many incomplete investigations that he was nicknamed the engavetador general (shelver-in-chief). Lula, by contrast, let prosecutors elect a new attorney general – Rodrigo Janot – who was so independent that he approved the charges against Lula, the Workers’ Party founder.

“Before Lula took power, we were toothless,” said Luis Humberto, of the Federal Police union. “The Workers’ Party increased our budget, upgraded our equipment and gave us more authority. It is ironic. They lost power because they did the right thing.”

Temer chose one of his close allies to replace Zavascki. Alexandre de Moraes, who was justice minister, went straight from the cabinet to the highest court. It was a clear violation of the constitutional principle of a separation of powers. Several of the senators who confirmed his appointment were ministerial colleagues – including Jucá, and the head of the upper house, Renan Calheiros – who have been charged in the Car Wash case. When a supreme court judge ordered Calheiros to step down while he was awaiting trial, Calheiros simply ignored him. Moraes, who lacked any experience as a judge, is now one of 11 supreme court justices who will hear his case.

In Congress, meanwhile, the PMDB-led ruling bloc have repeatedly attempted – so far unsuccessfully – to change the law so that testimonies resulting from plea bargains are no longer admissible in court. This would enable dozens of politicians to escape possible conviction.

So far, Car Wash investigators have resisted political pressure and expanded their list of targets. After shifting focus from Petrobras to Odebrecht, in April 2017 prosecutors opened new probes into dozens more politicians from all sides of the political spectrum, including eight members of Temer’s cabinet. They then widened their net to include JBS, one of the world’s biggest meat-packing firms. A plea bargain made on 18 May by the two brothers who own the company – Joesley and Wesley Batista – includes secret recordings allegedly made in March, in which Temer allegedly discusses hush-money payments to Cunha, and details of bribery by one of the president’s aides. The attorney general has now formally accused Temer of conspiring to obstruct Car Wash, setting the stage for a constitutional battle between the judiciary and the government and prompting calls in Congress for the impeachment of a second president in a year. Temer denies the charges.

The web of corruption has been traced far beyond Brazil’s borders. Odebrecht had a department dedicated to bribes, known as the Division of Structured Operations, which laid out close to $800m in illicit pay-offs for more than 100 contracts in a dozen countries over 15 years. Dozens of foreign corporate suppliers (of engineering equipment, power lines, drilling rigs and so forth) also face regulatory and shareholder inquiries about the bribes they paid to secure contracts with Petrobras. Among them was Rolls-Royce, which posted hefty losses as a result of penalties imposed in January this year by Brazilian, UK and US authorities. The World Cup and Olympics have also been sucked into the mire with fraud investigations now focused on six out of the 12 stadiums used in 2014 and 2016.

The investigation has shaken political and economic life and raised hopes that, for once, justice will be applied to the rich and powerful. There was a genius in the way Ishii’s arrest of Cerveró paved the way for trials of politicians. Several previously untouchable senators, congressmen and governors are now in jail, including Cunha. Powerful businessmen have also been put behind bars, including Marcelo Odebrecht, the head of the vast construction firm. Even the celebrity cop Ishii was suspended from the Car Wash investigation after he lost an appeal against an old bribery charge. More than at any time in Brazil’s recent history, there is a genuine sense that nobody is above the law, that scandals do not always have to “end in pizza”.

The story is by no means over. Attorney general Rodrigo Janot, who is due to leave office in September, is under pressure. Mainstream parties from the left and right are lined up against the investigation. The government is trying to hamper Operation Car Wash by slashing the federal police budget by 44% and reducing the number of agents working on it. Moro must keep the public on his side as he begins a series of trials of Lula, who plans to run for president again in 2018 if he is not jailed.

Brazil certainly needed to tackle corruption, which has exacerbated inequality and held back economic growth. But was Operation Car Wash worth the pain? It helped to lever the Workers’ Party out of office, and ushered in an administration that appears just as tainted, but far less willing to promote transparency and judicial independence. So many allegations are now stacked up against Temer and his allies that he will struggle to hold on to his presidency until the end of his term in 2018. Petrobras – the national champion of the Lula era – has been brought to its knees, with foreign companies allowed to control production from the new oil fields. Major companies and mainstream politicians have been utterly discredited. Voters struggle to find anyone to believe in. It is not just the establishment that is reeling, but the entire republic.

In the long term, many still hope Car Wash will ultimately make Brazil a fairer, more efficient nation, run by cleaner, law-abiding politicians. But there is also a risk that the operation will shake the country’s fragile democracy to the ground and clear the way for a rightwing evangelical theocracy or a return to rule by dictators. Whether or not this purge proves a cure for Brazil will depend not just on who falls, but on who follows.

Additional research by Shanna Hanbury and Gareth Chetwynd. Main illustration by Suzanne Lemon.

 A huge crack across one of Antarctic’s largest ice shelves is reaching its breaking point

May 31, 2017

by Chris Mooney

The Washington Post

A long-growing crack in the Larsen C ice shelf, one of Antarctica’s largest floating platforms of ice, appears to be nearing its endgame.

Researchers with Project MIDAS, working out of  Swansea University and Aberystwyth University in Wales and studying the shelf by satellites and through other techniques, have released a new update showing that the crack grew a stunning 11 miles in the space of just one week between May 25 and May 31. It now has just 8 miles to go before an iceberg roughly the size of Delaware breaks free into the Southern Ocean.

“There appears to be very little to prevent the iceberg from breaking away completely,” the researchers write.

Elsewhere in their post, they note that the crack has now curved towards the front of the ice shelf and the ocean, meaning that the time when a major break could occur “is probably very close.

The researchers have estimated that the section of ice set to break off could be around 2,000 square miles in area. The U.S. state of Delaware isn’t much larger than that.

“When it calves, the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10% of its area to leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded; this event will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula,” write the Project MIDAS team. “We have previously shown that the new configuration will be less stable than it was prior to the rift, and that Larsen C may eventually follow the example of its neighbour Larsen B, which disintegrated in 2002 following a similar rift-induced calving event.”

The prospect of an enormous iceberg afloat in the seas around Antarctica could draw further attention to the threat of climate change at a time when President Trump’s is considering whether to exit the Paris agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

An ice shelf is the floating extension of a glacier that itself grows from the land out into the ocean. The loss of a large iceberg from Larsen C would not raise the sea level, since the ice is already afloat. However, the thinning and loss of ice shelves leads glaciers to flow more rapidly into the sea, and as ice is transferred from atop the land into the water, sea levels will rise somewhat.

However, there is not nearly as much ice held behind Larsen C as there is behind other glaciers in East and West Antarctica, which have also begun to lose mass in recent decades.

Sea level is rising—and at an accelerating rate—especially along the U.S. East Coast and Gulf of Mexico.

May 31, 2017


Why are the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico hotspots of sea level rise?

Global average sea level has increased 8 inches since 1880. Several locations along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico have experienced more than 8 inches of local sea level rise in only the past 50 years.

The rate of local sea level rise is affected by global, regional, and local factors.

Along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico, changes in the path and strength of ocean currents are contributing to faster-than-average sea level rise.

In parts of the East Coast and Gulf regions, land is subsiding, which allows the ocean to penetrate farther inland.

How quickly is land ice melting?

Shrinking land ice — glaciers, ice caps, and ice sheets — contributed about half of the total global sea level rise between 1972 and 2008, but its contribution has been increasing since the early 1990s as the pace of ice loss has accelerated.

Recent studies suggest that land ice loss added nearly half an inch to global sea level from 2003 to 2007, contributing 75 to 80 percent of the total increase during that period.

Why is there such a large range in sea level rise projections?

The long-term rate of global sea level rise will depend on the amount of future heat-trapping emissions and on how quickly land ice responds to rising temperatures.

Scientists have developed a range of scenarios for future sea level rise based on estimates of growth in heat-trapping emissions and the potential responses of oceans and ice. The estimates used for these two variables result in the wide range of potential sea level rise scenarios.

How high and how quickly will sea level rise in the future?

Our past emissions of heat-trapping gases will largely dictate sea level rise through 2050, but our present and future emissions will have great bearing on sea level rise from 2050 to 2100 and beyond.

Even if global warming emissions were to drop to zero by 2016, sea level will continue to rise in the coming decades as oceans and land ice adjust to the changes we have already made to the atmosphere.

The greatest effect on long-term sea level rise will be the rate and magnitude of the loss of ice sheets, primarily in Greenland and West Antarctica, as they respond to rising temperatures caused by heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere.


The Sea Level Rise and Global Warming infographic is based on careful evaluations of published scientific observations and projections of sea level rise, as well as material in the UCS short report, Causes of Sea Level Rise: What the Science Tells Us.




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