The Paper Trail: December 12, 2023

USPS Falsified Heat Safety Records; 15 Airmen Disciplined in Discord Leaks Probe; Unconscious Racial Bias in Health Care; and More. 

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Top stories for December 12, 2023

A deadly delivery highlights “falsified” heat records at USPS: The Postal Service allegedly ignored its own heat safety programs and falsified records to hide its actions amid an unrelenting summer of extreme heat that killed a mail carrier in Dallas, Texas. (Ariel Wittenberg, Politico)

Lawmakers push for federal prison oversight after reports of inadequate medical care: Sens. Dick Durbin and Chuck Grassley urged the Federal Bureau of Prisons to address prisoner health care after an investigation found federal prisoners dying from treatable conditions. (Meg Anderson, NPR)

The guns were said to be destroyed. Instead, they were reborn: Communities across the U.S. are fueling a secondary arms market by giving seized and surrendered guns to private disposal services that destroy one part and resell the rest. (Mike McIntire, Washington Post)

China’s cyber army is invading critical U.S. services: Experts say hackers affiliated with China’s military have burrowed into the computer systems of about two dozen critical U.S. infrastructure entities over the past year. (Ellen Nakashima and Joseph Menn, Washington Post)

Israel-Hamas War

State Department bypasses Congress to approve Israel’s order for tank ammunition: Invoking an emergency provision in the Arms Export Control Act, the State Department is moving ahead with a government sale to Israel of 13,000 rounds of tank ammunition, bypassing congressional review. (Edward Wong, New York Times)

U.S. raises concern over Israel’s possible use of U.S.-supplied white phosphorus: The Biden administration said that it is looking into reports that Israel used white phosphorus supplied by the U.S. in violation of international law. Israel denies allegations that it illegally deployed white phosphorus in October in civilian areas of southern Lebanon. (Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Ephrat Livni, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: Israel used U.S.-supplied white phosphorus in Lebanon attack (William Christou, Alex Horton, and Meg Kelly, Washington Post)

Classified Documents

Jack Teixeira got security clearance despite history of violent threats: The case of Jack Teixeira, the Massachusetts Air National Guardsman arrested in April for posting hundreds of top-secret documents online, exposes the Pentagon’s vulnerability to insider threats and the vast proliferation of top-secret information across the government. Teixeira’s history of violent, racist remarks didn’t keep him out of the service or prevent him from getting a security clearance, and he kept his job despite repeatedly being caught “nosing around in classified material.” (Shane Harris and Samuel Oakford, Washington Post)

Air Force disciplines 15 people in Discord leaks investigation: The Air Force disciplined 15 members of the Air National Guard, ranking from staff sergeant to colonel, after an internal investigation found that a “lack of supervision” and a “culture of complacency” enabled Jack Teixeira to mishandle classified material. (Dan Lamothe, Washington Post)


Supreme Court will consider fast-tracking Trump appeal in D.C. trial: The Supreme Court will consider special counsel Jack Smith’s request to fast-track consideration of Donald Trump’s claim he is immune from prosecution for alleged election obstruction in 2020, intensifying the legal jockeying over whether a trial in the case will stay on schedule for March next year. (Devlin Barrett et al., Washington Post)

Congress set to extinguish Pentagon's anti-domestic extremism working group created after Jan. 6: The working group established to provide recommendations for rooting out extremism in the military is set to be defunded in the defense policy bill Congress is expected to pass this week. The move comes as the Pentagon continues to struggle with extremists in the ranks. (Rebecca Kheel,

Police Misconduct

Pharmacies share medical data with police without a warrant, inquiry finds: Three of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains — CVS Health, Kroger, and Rite Aid — have handed over Americans’ prescription records to police and government investigators without a warrant, a congressional investigation found. (Drew Harwell, Washington Post)


Jury finds Google’s app store broke anti-monopoly laws: Google lost an antitrust lawsuit filed by video game maker Epic Games, with a jury finding that Google’s mobile-phone app store is an illegal monopoly. The verdict could open up other Big Tech companies to challenges on how they control pricing and payments on their online platforms. (Gerrit De Vynck and Eva Dou, Washington Post)

Tesla drivers run Autopilot where it’s not intended — with deadly consequences: At least eight fatal or serious Tesla crashes occurred on roads where the driver assistance software could not reliably operate. Even though the company has the ability to limit Autopilot’s availability by geography, it has taken few definitive steps to restrict use of the software. Nor have federal regulators taken action. (Trisha Thadani et al., Washington Post)

Health Care

On the streets, opioids sometimes more potent than fentanyl: nitazenes: Fentanyl remains by far the chief catalyst for overdose deaths in the U.S., but the increasing presence of nitazenes adds another layer of health concerns as users are often unaware they’re consuming these novel opioids, which can be dozens of times more potent than fentanyl. (David Ovalle, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: Millions in opioid settlement funds sit untouched as overdose deaths rise (Katherine Houghton and Aneri Pattani, CBS News)

How unconscious bias in health care puts pregnant Black women at higher risk: Black women, who die of pregnancy-related complications at two to three times the rate of white women, say medical staff don’t listen to them when they complain of symptoms and dismiss or downplay their concerns. Studies validate their experiences. (Roni Caryn Rabin, New York Times)

The increasing hazard of black lung disease facing coal miners: Coal mining has always been a dangerous job, but miners today are suffering from black lung at increasingly younger ages while federal enforcement lags. (Ted Koppel, CBS News)


Immigration and Border Security:

Smugglers are bringing migrants to a remote Arizona border crossing, overwhelming U.S. agents

To handle a surge of illegal crossings, border officials stop legal ones

Some states spurn migrants. The Rust Belt wants them

Private prison firms set to cash in on immigrant surveillance boom

Other News:

Supreme Court vacates ruling restricting president’s right to issue federal workforce mandates

House GOP impeachment inquiry reaches pivotal week

Civil rights groups appeal court ruling that threatens Voting Rights Act enforcement

Supreme Court rejects an appeal over bans on conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ children

Judge closes Flint water case against former Michigan governor

18 California children are suing the EPA over climate change

Upcoming Events

📌 F-35 Acquisition Program Update. House Committee on Armed Services; Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces. Tuesday, December 12, 2:00 p.m., 2118 Rayburn House Office Building.