Rio Governor Says Franco Arrests Delayed to Help Bolsonaro Election – Boeing Whistleblower Files Released – Boston Univ. Using AI as Scabs

Former Rio Governor Witzel (left) poises with former Brazilian President Bolsonaro (right) (Photo: Twitter)


Greetings from Rio de Janeiro, where I am getting ready to wind down my filming on my documentary about the assassination of Marielle Franco and head to Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

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Rio Governor Says Arrests in Marielle Franco Assassination Delayed to Help Bolsonaro

Yesterday, former Rio de Janeiro State Governor Wilson Witzel said that the announcement of the initial arrest of the gunman who killed Marielle Franco was delayed to help the 2018 Presidential campaign of Jair Bolsonaro. 

In October of 2018, Witzel was elected Governor of Rio de Janeiro state as an ally of Jair Bolsonaro, although he later turned against Bolsonaro. Witzel would later be impeached for embezzlement and corruption as Rio’s Governor by members of both Lula and Bolsonaro’s parties.

However, Witzel had shown a special sensitivity to the family of Rio City Councilwoman Marielle Franco, who was assassinated in March of 2018. During his election in 2018, Witzel personally apologized to Franco’s family for offensive comments made about the slain Franco by members of his political party. 

Yesterday, in an interview with Metropole, Witzel accused Rio Civil Police Chief Rivaldo Barbosa of covering it up to help Bolsonaro’s election as President in October of 2018. Barbosa was arrested this week by federal police and accused of planning and covering up the assassination of Franco

During the transition period, Witzel was briefed on the investigation into the assassination of Rio City Councilwoman Marielle Franco. At the time, Barbosa told him that the police already knew, prior to Bolsonaro’s election, who the gunman was, but did not act because they were waiting to catch the people who planned the assassination. 

With evidence now that Rio Police Chief Barbosa planned the assassination, Witzel accused Barbosa of delaying the initial arrest of the gunman to help Bolsonaro’s election chances. 

The gunman, Ronnie Lessa, lived in the same apartment complex as Bolsonaro and socialized with him. The news of his arrest would have hurt Bolsonaro’s presidential run. 

The arrest of Lessa was ultimately delayed till March of 2019; helping Bolsonaro to avoid a potentially damaging scandal in the middle of his presidential campaign

Barbosa, who has been arrested this week for covering up the assassination, had been appointed Chief of the Rio de Janeiro Civil Police just a day before the assassination by General Walter Braga Neto, who was overseeing the Rio Civil Police as part of federal intervention. Neto previously served as Defense Minister under Bolsonaro and was Bolsonaro’s vice presidential candidate in the 2022 presidential election. 

Currently, Neto is under investigation for helping plot a coup with Bolsonaro and is considered Bolsonaro’s right-hand man.

Neto’s appointment of Rivaldo as Civil Police Chief a day before the assassination of Marielle Franco raises serious questions about what role Bolsonaro may have played in the assassination. Witzel implicated Neto for having motive to delay the initial arrests of the gunman. 

“Can you imagine if this information is released, if they are arrested on the eve of the election. Marielle’s killer is a resident and neighbor of the candidate. How would the information go at that moment?” Witzel told Metropoles. 

For more, check out the full interview with Metropoles (Portuguese)

Dead Boeing Whistleblower Documents Released 

Over at The American Prospect, Moe Tkacik got a hold of court documents in the case of dead Boeing whistleblower John “Swampy” Barnett. From The American Prospect

The bosses hit Swampy with a new initiative called “Multi-Function Process Performer,” through which quality inspectors were directed to outsource 90 percent of their duties to the mechanics they were supposed to be supervising. This was supposed to speed up production and save Boeing millions once it successfully shed the thousands of inspectors it intended to axe. 

Swampy believed relying on mechanics to self-inspect their work was not only insane but illegal under the Federal Aviation Administration charter, which explicitly required quality inspectors to document all defects detected, work performed, and parts installed on a commercial airplane in one centralized database. Swampy knew he was caught in a prisoner’s dilemma. If he went along, he was breaking the law; if he didn’t, whistleblowers who complained about unsafe practices were routinely terminated on grounds of violating the same safety protocols they had opposed violating.

Swampy calculated that it would be a bigger pain for Boeing to fire him for doing the right thing than following orders, so he kept his head down and continued managing his inspectors as though he were back in Everett, taking special care to meticulously record every episode of noncompliance (and nonconformance, which is similar but not identical) he encountered. He documented his discovery that machinists installing floor panels had been littering long titanium slivers into wire bundles and electrical boxes between the floorboards and the cargo compartment ceiling panels, where they risked causing an electrical short. A series of mysterious battery fires had already caused the FAA to ground the 787 for a few months just over a year after the first plane had been delivered. He wrote that 75 out of a package of 300 oxygen masks slated for installation on a plane did not actually pump oxygen. His team compiled a list of 300 defects on a fuselage scheduled for delivery, and he discovered that more than 400 nonconforming aircraft parts had gone missing from the defective parts cage and likely been installed on planes illegally and without documentation, by managers and mechanics desperate to get them out the door.

Few quality managers were as stubborn as Swampy. A Seattle Times story detailed an internal Boeing document boasting that the incidence of manufacturing defects on the 787 had plunged 20 percent in a single year, which inspectors anonymously attributed to the “bullying environment” in which defects had systematically “stopped being documented” by inspectors. 

They weren’t fooling customers: Qatar Airways had become so disgusted with the state of the planes it received from Charleston that it refused to accept them, and even inspired the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera to produce a withering documentary called Broken Dreams, in which an employee outfitted with a hidden camera chitchatted with mechanics and inspectors about the planes they were producing. “They hire these people off the street, dude … fucking flipping burgers for a living, making sandwiches at Subway,” one mechanic marveled of his colleagues; another regaled the narrator with tales of co-workers who came to work high on “coke and painkillers and weed” because no one had ever had a urine test. Asked if they would fly the 787 Dreamliner; just five of 15 answered yes, and even the positive responses did Boeing no favors: “I probably would, but I have kind of a death wish, too.”

The day after Broken Dreams premiered, Swampy got an email informing him that he’d been put on a 60-day corrective action plan four weeks earlier. His alleged offense constituted using email to communicate about process violations; the HR file noted, fictitiously, that his boss had discussed his “infraction” with him earlier.

For more, check out the American Prospect. 

Boston University Might Use AI to Replace Striking Graduate Employees

As Boston University graduate employees enter into a strike, the university administration is suggesting that faculty use AI to replace them. 

In an email obtained by Daily Beast, the BU Dean of Arts & Sciences Stan Sclaroff suggested that faculty “engage generative AI tools to give feedback or facilitate ‘discussion’ on readings or assignments.”

For more, check out the Daily Beast. 

Canadian High School Students Walk Out in Saskatchewan in Solidarity with Rotating Strikes  

For the first time in 40 years, teachers in Saskatchewan have been involved in a series of rotating province-wide strikes that have caused major headaches for the government. With teachers unable to strike everyday, students are now beginning to walk out to show their solidarity with the teachers. 

“None of us are getting the education or the funding we need for things that we want to do, and I find this more important than my education right now,” high school student Danica Epps told the Saskatoon Times. “They need to fund our education.”

For more, check out the Saskatoon Times

Finnish Transport Unions Extend General Strike Another Week 

In Finland, the transport unions have extended their nearly month-long general strike by another week. 

“The strikes will continue from Monday morning onwards for a week,” SAK (Central Organization of Finnish Unions) President Jarkko Eloranta told Reuters. “We are trying to negotiate and compromise with the government but unfortunately there has been no response to these efforts.”

For more, check out Reuters. 

A Portrait of 6 Latino Construction Workers Killed in Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse 

Finally, the Baltimore Banner has a moving portrait of the 6 Latino immigrant construction workers killed in the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. From the Baltimore Banner:

Maynor was like a brother to Hector Suazo, his 34-year-old nephew. Hector, who talked to The Baltimore Banner from Honduras, described Maynor as a pillar of the family who was extroverted and always full of joy. He had an entrepreneurial mind and wanted to open a small business in Owings Mills, where he lived.

He was originally from the small municipality of Azacualpa. The town’s people live mostly in poverty and there aren’t a lot of jobs, Hector said. Many in the community saw migrating to the United States as one of the few ways to secure a better life. Maynor helped his family financially after coming to the U.S., sending $600 to $800 each month enabling the family to run a small hotel.

The family was able to rise from poverty because of him, Hector said.

He also helped care for his twelve nephews and nieces, Hector said. It’s because of Maynor that they were able to go to school rather than work. Maynor made sure they had what they needed, that they had food at their table.

The rest of Maynor’s salary supported him, his wife and two children.

For more, check out the Baltimore Banner. 

Alright yinz, that’s all for today. Keep sending tips, story ideas, comments and complaints to [email protected] 

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Love & Solidarity, 


About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]