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Futile?
Futile?
Stuart Richardson

-Analysis-

The headlines echo of the not-so-distant past this morning. Yesterday, media outlets around the globe began to report on the Paradise Papers, a massive leak of documents detailing the offshore investments of politicians, business tycoons, and corporations. Le Monde, which dedicated 12 journalists over the past year to the multi-outlet investigation, writes that the probe "shines a new light on the black holes of global finance."

This is the second time in less than two years that the financial details of some of the world's richest and most powerful individuals have been released to the public. In April 2016, the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung first reported on the 11.5 million leaked documents known as the Panama Papers. The same publication is again at the center of the latest reporting effort with the assistance of more than 380 journalists working at some 90 media outlets in 67 countries.

The Paradise Papers are yet another coup for investigative journalism. Like the Panama Papers, these documents single out key figures in global politics and business, including U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and even the Queen of England. There is also a new focus on the fiscal and investment strategies of some of the world's top corporations, including Apple and Facebook.

What is the perfect chemical mix necessary for current events to provoke a watershed moment?

As with the Panama Papers, the ensuing scandal following the Paradise Papers' release will impugn a fair share of politicians and business leaders. But whether the revelations will undo careers is another story. In 2016, for example, Australian Prime Minister Michael Turnbull, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Argentinian President Mauricio Macri appeared in the Panama Papers. All three still remain in office.

Though of a wholly different nature, yesterday's mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, also awakens a feeling of having been there before. With 26 killed and some 20 more wounded, this was the worst mass shooting in the history of Texas. The shooter, identified as Devin Patrick Kelley, a 26-year-old who was discharged from the U.S. Air Force in 2012 for allegedly assaulting his wife and child, was pursued by two locals and appears to have been killed in the chase.

The age of the victims, between 5 and 72, as well as the fact that eight members of the same family, including a pregnant woman, were among those killed, underlines the horror described by witnesses' accounts. "People covered in blood and screaming. It was pandemonium everywhere," one witness told CNN. But these horrific scenes keep repeating themselves across the U.S., from Columbine to Newtown, from Orlando to Las Vegas, without ever leading to changes in policy that might help prevent others, most notably of the evident need for stricter gun control laws.

Whether it is a new report of mass inequalities in wealth and fairness or real-time coverage of the latest mass shooting, we read (and write) articles these days with a bitter aftertaste of futility. Each leak and each shooting reinforce the public's perception that the status quo is simply too entrenched to budge.

Besides such basic elements as bloodshed and hypocrisy and a first blast of public outrage, what is the perfect chemical mix necessary for current events to provoke a watershed moment? Perhaps we are seeing it play out in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Four weeks after the first report was published about the Hollywood producer, a rolling series of revelations of similar accusations has kept the questions of workplace harassment and sexual assault still very much in the news. But even here, it remains to be seen if the outrage will be enough: Inscribing lasting change in society is always harder than writing tomorrow's headline.

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Geopolitics

New Probe Finds Pro-Bolsonaro Fake News Dominated Social Media Through Campaign

Ahead of Brazil's national elections Sunday, the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.

Jair Bolsonaro bogus claims perform well online

Cris Faga/ZUMA
Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino

SÂO PAULO — If you only got your news from social media, you might be mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, which will take place this Sunday. Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes registered with the Superior Electoral Court indicate.

An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.

Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.

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