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The Paper Trail: April 30, 2024

Faults Discovered in New F-35s; FDA Moves to Regulate Unreliable Tests; The Drowning South; and More.

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The Paper Trail

Top stories for April 30, 2024

McKinsey is under criminal investigation for its opioid work: The DOJ is investigating consulting firm McKinsey & Company for its role in helping drug companies maximize their sale of opioids, and whether McKinsey obstructed justice in its handling of records. (Glenn Thrush, Michael Forsythe, and Walt Bogdanich, New York Times)

🔎 See Also:Ex-McKinsey partner sues firm, claims he was made opioids “scapegoat” (Nate Raymond, Reuters)

TikTok owner has strong First Amendment case against U.S. ban, professors say: TikTok owner ByteDance is preparing to sue the U.S. government now that President Biden has signed into law a measure that will ban TikTok in the U.S. if ByteDance doesn’t sell the company within nine months. Legal experts believe the company has a strong First Amendment claim, as well as valid takings clause and bill of attainder arguments. (Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica)

Senators call on postal board to abandon DeJoy’s USPS reforms: The overhaul is harming the Postal Service, Democrats say, though postal leadership says it just needs more time. (Eric Katz, Government Executive)

The great unknown about conflicts of interest in Arizona’s abortion ban: Thanks to weak financial disclosure laws, many state supreme court judges don’t have to disclose gifts and perks that they or their spouses receive that could influence their decisions. (Katya Schwenk, The Lever)

The drowning South: Where seas are rising at alarming speed: One of the most rapid sea level surges on Earth is besieging the American South, forcing a reckoning for coastal communities across eight U.S. states. (Chris Mooney et al., Washington Post)

Israel-Hamas War

Some in State Department don’t believe Israel is using U.S. weapons in accordance with international law, source says: The State Department is divided over whether Israel is using American-provided weapons in accordance with international law ahead of a deadline next week for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to make a determination to Congress. (Jennifer Hansler and Jack Forrest, CNN)

🔎 See Also: Amnesty International says Biden must halt arms transfers to Israel (Missy Ryan, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also:U.S. determines 5 Israeli security units committed human rights violations before outbreak of Gaza war (Jennifer Hansler, CNN)

Democrats turn up the heat on Columbia University: Columbia’s board is facing new pressure from a group of House Democrats to “act decisively” and end an ongoing pro-Palestinian encampment on its campus or resign. (Andrew Solender, Axios)

Classified Documents

“So appalled”: What witnesses told special counsel about Trump’s handling of classified info while still president: While much of Jack Smith’s classified documents investigation has focused on how Trump handled classified materials after leaving the White House, former aides and advisers have provided Smith with firsthand accounts about how Trump handled and used intelligence while still in office. (Katherine Faulders, Mike Levine, and Alexander Mallin, ABC News)

Supreme Court Ethics

Supreme Court puppet master’s consulting firm clients exposed in leak: The consulting firm led by Leonard Leo, the architect of the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority, has worked for Eli Lilly, Chevron, the Charles Koch network, and other interests arguing or supporting cases before the court. (Andrew Perez and Adam Rawnsley, Rolling Stone)

Insurrection

Michigan AG executes search warrants on Google and X in ongoing 2020 fake electors probe: Google and X recently provided hundreds of files to Michigan prosecutors, complying with search warrants that investigators obtained after CNN reported pro-Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro had concealed some of his social media accounts from prosecutors during his cooperation session last year. Donald Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator in the case, which isn't expected to go to trial before the November election. (Marshall Cohen, CNN)

Arizona state senator indicted in fake electors scheme is tapped for RNC position: Senator Jake Hoffman, one of the so-called fake electors charged in the Arizona 2020 election subversion case last week, was elected as a Republican National Committee national committeeman for the state. (Rashard Rose, CNN)

🔎 See Also: Supreme Court rejects Peter Navarro's latest bid for release from prison during appeal (Melissa Quinn and Robert Legare, CBS News)

Russia-Ukraine War

Pentagon’s top watchdog has quiet but vital role in Ukraine: Pentagon Inspector General Robert Storch’s duties have grown considerably amid the U.S. support for Ukraine: The U.S. has sent more than $113 billion in aid to Kyiv since Russia invaded, and President Biden just approved another $61 billion. (Brad Dress, The Hill)

Police Misconduct

People who died after given sedatives during police encounters are disproportionately Black, study finds: Demetrio Jackson’s 2021 death illustrates an often-hidden way fatal U.S. police encounters end: not with the firing of the officer’s gun but with their use of a medical syringe. (Associated Press)

COVID-19

Office-loan defaults near historic levels with billions on the line: More than $38 billion of U.S. office buildings face loan defaults, foreclosures, or other forms of distress, the highest amount since 2012 due to high interest rates and low demand following the transition to remote work. (Peter Grant, Wall Street Journal)

Seller of fraudulent N95 face masks to refund $1.1 million to customers: Razer sold the Zephur mask as N-95 grade despite never submitting it for approval with the FDA and NIOSH, and now must reimburse customers. (Kate Gibson, CBS News)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

Exposed to Agent Orange at U.S. bases, veterans face cancer without VA compensation: While the U.S. military used the herbicide to defoliate the jungles of Vietnam, it was contaminating the land and waters of coastal California with the same chemicals. According to the GAO, however, the Pentagon’s list of sites where Agent Orange was used is “inaccurate and incomplete.” (Hannah Norman and Patricia Kime, KFF Health News)

Marine unit found metal shavings in F-35 fuel, plastic tool in wing: Metal shavings in contaminated fuel, incorrectly assembled parts, and a plastic scraper protruding from a wing fold were among the faults discovered in five new F-35C Joint Strike Fighters delivered to a U.S. Marine Corps fighter squadron in California in 2023. (Stephen Losey, Marine Times)

Biden says he told Nigeria to kill fewer civilians — but Nigeria keeps killing lots of civilians: Nigeria has gotten billions in U.S. weapons and military assistance, even as its counterterrorism campaign racks up a massive civilian death toll. (Nick Turse, The Intercept)

Business and Finance

UnitedHealth grew very big. Now, some lawmakers want to chop it down: In health care, no one is bigger than UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest private health insurer and largest employer of physicians. But lawmakers and regulators are beginning to frame UnitedHealth’s sweeping operations as an economic and national security concern. (Dan Diamond, Christopher Rowland, and Daniel Gilbert, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also:VA is warning veterans about Change Healthcare cyberattack, secretary says (Edward Graham, Nextgov/FCW)

FCC fines wireless carriers millions for sharing user locations without consent: For years, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon improperly shared users’ geolocation histories to third parties, including to prisons, as part of their commercial programs. (Brian Fung, CNN)

Tech

DHS launches new AI safety and security board: The board will be made up of 22 representatives from private sector, government, and academia and will advise Secretary Mayorkas on risk mitigation for AI systems in critical infrastructure. (Alexandra Kelley, Government Executive)

Meta’s oversight body prepares to lay off workers: Meta’s company-funded oversight body is planning to trim its workforce, a downsizing effort that could affect the board’s ability to oversee the social media giant’s contentious content decisions. (Naomi Nix, Washington Post)

Health Care

FDA moves to regulate some tests it says may be unreliable: The FDA finalized a plan to regulate laboratory medical tests — including some used to diagnose cancer and Alzheimer’s disease — over concerns about reliability and risks to patients. Federal officials maintain that granting the FDA greater oversight will help ensure the tests are safe and effective, but critics contend the move will stifle the quick development of new tests. (Rachel Roubein and Daniel Gilbert, Washington Post)

Court says state health-care plans can’t exclude gender-affirming surgery: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit became the first appellate court in the country to rule that state health-care plans must pay for gender-affirming surgeries. (Rachel Weiner, Washington Post)

A doctor at Cigna said her bosses pressured her to review patients’ cases too quickly. Cigna threatened to fire her: Cigna medical director Dr. Debby Day claims the company cares more about being fast than being right when it comes to deciding whether to pay for health care. (Patrick Rucker and David Armstrong, ProPublica)

Three women contract HIV from dirty “vampire facials” at unlicensed spa: Trendy, unproven “vampire facials” performed at an unlicensed spa in New Mexico left at least three women with HIV infections. The procedure involves injecting platelet-rich plasma into the face with microneedles, supposedly to rejuvenate the skin. (Beth Mole, Ars Technica)

ICYMI

Other News:

Updated federal workplace guidelines protect pronouns, bathrooms and abortion

U.S. military pier for Gaza costs $320 million, Pentagon says

Connecticut company allegedly source of lethal drug Trump administration used to restart federal executions

How to fix the country’s $34 trillion debt problem — and why it’s so hard

The exit interviews: Twelve departing lawmakers tell us what Congress is really like

Philips will pay $1.1 billion to settle breathing machine lawsuits

An assassination plot on American soil reveals a darker side of Modi’s India

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Nominations & Appointments

NOMINATIONS

  • Michelle Williams Court - Judge, United States District Court for the Central District of California
  • Cynthia Valenzuela Dixon - Judge, United States District Court for the Central District of California
  • Anne Hwang - Judge, United States District Court for the Central District of California
  • Danna Jackson - Judge, United States District Court for the District of Montana
  • Sarah Netburn - Judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
  • Stacey D. Neumann - Judge, United States District Court for the District of Maine
  • April Perry - Judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois