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Vox Sentences: Trump’s pick for the FBI doesn’t agree with him about Russia

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Brazil's ex-president is sentenced on corruption charges; Trump's FBI nominee promises to be impartial; an iceberg the size of Delaware just broke off Antarctica.


Da Silva gets 10 years for corruption charges

Danilo Fernandes/Getty Images
  • The former president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison on corruption and money laundering charges today. [BBC]
  • Da Silva’s sentencing is the conclusion of a wide-ranging corruption scandal that engulfed members of his own political party, the Workers Party, including former president Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached last year. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • The scandal, known as Operation Car Wash, is literally the largest one of any democracy in history, financially speaking. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • It involves dozens of politicians from da Silva’s leftist party as well as the center-right party currently governing the country. These politicians all have something in common: They allegedly worked to profit off a huge scheme with the state-owned Petrobras oil company, overcharging for fuel and reaping billions. {The Guardian / Jonathan Watts]
  • The country’s current president, central-right politician Michel Temer, was hit with corruption charges involving Petrobras just a few weeks ago. [CNN / Paul LeBlanc]
  • The charges are stunning for da Silva, who remains one of the most popular politicians in Brazil.
  • But he’s not going to jail just yet; the judge who sentenced the former president wrote he believed it would be too “traumatic” to put a former president behind bars. Da Silva will be a free man while he appeals the decision. [NYT / Ernesto Londono]
  • And far from fading from the public eye, the leftist da Silva has made it very clear he wants to run for president again. [Reuters / Brad Brooks]
  • However, he would not be able to run again if his appeal is denied, which Brazilian experts say could create a huge vacuum for leftist politicians in the country. [Reuters / Brad Brooks]

Ice, ice, baby

USGS/Orbital Horizon/Gallo Images/Getty Images
  • A massive iceberg that weighs 1 trillion tons and is as large as the state of Delaware has finally broken off the Larsen Ice Shelf in Antarctica. [Project Midas / Adrian Luckman and Martin O’Leary]
  • The process of the iceberg breaking apart is known as “calving,” and it’s taken years to get to this point. The ice sheet started forming a huge crack around 2014, and it grew rapidly, about 33 feet per day. [NPR / Geoff Brumfiel]
  • The Larsen Ice Shelf is located on the pointed tip of western Antarctica. With now 12 percent of its mass now gone, the ice shelf was downgraded from fourth-largest to fifth-largest in the world. [NYT / Jugal Patel and Justin Gillis]
  • However, it’s not enough to put the entire ice shelf in danger of breaking, as much of it is still connected to land mass. [NYT / Jugal Patel and Justin Gillis]
  • While many people are pointing to global warming as the culprit for the ice sheet breaking apart, scientists say there’s no evidence yet to back that up and that the calving is due to natural causes. [Vox / Brian Resnick]
  • Icebergs are formed when they calve and separate from ice sheets, but the difference with this one is its sheer size. [CNN / Lauren Said-Moorhouse]
  • Even though the iceberg contains twice the volume of Lake Erie, there’s also no indication the break will contribute to sea level rise, because the huge chunk of ice was already floating in the ocean around it. [Vox / Brian Resnick]
  • Still, that’s not to say the development isn’t concerning. If more pieces keep breaking off the shelf, it could destabilize the entire thing and potentially contribute to some sea level rise. [The Guardian / Nicola Davis]
  • For now, geographers and mapmakers will have to start drawing up new maps of the Antarctic to reflect the change. [Washington Post / Chris Mooney]

"You're going to be the director of the FBI, pal!"

Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • President Trump’s pick to lead the FBI, Christopher Wray, testified in front of Congress today, promising to be impartial and continue the Russia investigation unimpeded. [Washington Post / Ellen Nakashima and Karoun Demirjian]
  • Wray is a former federal prosecutor who spent the early 2000s in the US Justice Department and has since worked as a private attorney. Trump settled on him after considering other candidates including acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and former Sen. Joe Lieberman. [PBS Newshour / Gretchen Frazee]
  • Given all the Russia news swirling around the White House this week, that investigation loomed very large during Wray’s confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee today.
  • Wray assured senators that no one from the Trump administration had asked him for loyalty (Trump famously told former FBI Director James Comey he expected such a trait). [CNN / Tom LoBianco]
  • If Trump was looking for a staunch ally in his FBI pick, he’s out of luck — Wray contradicted many of the things Trump has said publicly, telling senators he does not believe the Russia investigation is a witch hunt and agreeing with the US intelligence community’s assessment that the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 election. [Vox / Alex Ward]
  • If Trump tried to interfere in the FBI’s work, Wray promised to either try to change the president’s mind or — if that didn’t work — resign. [Washington Post / Ellen Nakashima and Karoun Demirjian]
  • Wray also clearly wanted to distance himself from the style of his predecessor James Comey, who — in a highly unusual move — held a press conference announcing he would not recommend charges for Hillary Clinton last summer. If confirmed, Wray said he did not plan to hold public press conference on people he was not going to charge. [NYT / Adam Goldman and Michael Schmidt]
  • That seemed to be good enough for both Democratic and Republicans senators, who said they were satisfied Wray would be an independent choice to lead the FBI. [Politico / Seung Min Kim, Darren Samuelsohn, and Josh Gerstein]

Miscellaneous

  • The MP3 player is not dead yet. Spotify is releasing its own iPod Shuffle look-alike so we can pretend it's 2005 again. [Wired / David Pierce]
  • The US Justice Department is preparing to make a string of arrests at fraudulent health care programs around the country — especially drug treatment facilities that accept federal funds and don’t do what they promised. [Bloomberg / Michael Smith, Anna Edney, Zachary Tracer, and Tom Schoenberg]
  • The last Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo made few headlines, because it hit one of the country’s most rural areas and was contained in a matter of 42 days. [The Atlantic / Ed Yong]
  • New York City is starting to see the return of humpback whales to its shores, because the Hudson River is now clean enough to support marine life. And just like in coastal states such as Maine and Massachusetts, you can actually whale-watch in the Big Apple. [The Ringer / Kate Knibbs]
  • India’s conservative culture disapproves of so much as a kiss or a swear word in films. American tech companies like Amazon and Netflix are not trying to mess with that, forgoing the sale of adult products and censoring nudity in films. [BuzzFeed / Pranav Dixit]

Verbatim


Watch this: Why Donald Trump Jr.’s emails change everything

What we know about his exchange with a Russian lawyer, and what it means. [YouTube / Ezra Klein and Liz Scheltens]


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