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The Paper Trail: December 8, 2023

Tuberville Backs Down; FDA Failed to Protect CPAP Users; Ethics Woes Plague State High Courts; and More. 

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The Paper Trail

Top stories for December 8, 2023

Students and advocates “frustrated” with the Biden administration’s slow response to finalize Title IX changes: Democrats in Congress, students, and LGBTQ+ advocacy groups are growing frustrated with the Education Department’s slow pace to finalize proposed updates to Title IX, the federal civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination in schools. (Orion Rummler, Government Executive)

Coast Guard reckons with a years-long coverup of sexual abuse: An extensive, years-long coverup of sexual abuse allegations at the prestigious U.S. Coast Guard Academy underscores that “change is necessary,” officials determined after an internal review, released Wednesday, affirmed that senior leaders worked to downplay the prevalence of such crimes and shield the institution from public scrutiny. (Dan Lamothe, Washington Post)

Social Security clawbacks hit a million more people than agency chief told Congress: The Social Security Administration has demanded money back from more than 2 million people a year — more than twice as many people as the head of the agency disclosed at an October congressional hearing. (David Hilzenrath and Jodie Fleischer, KFF Health News)

House Oversight members take aim at former GSA official in request for FBI headquarters investigation: Reps. James Comer and Gerry Connolly called on the GSA’s acting inspector general to investigate possible improper influence in the agency’s decision to select Greenbelt, Maryland, for the FBI’s headquarters. (Carten Cordell, Government Executive)

Millions of people used tainted breathing machines. The FDA failed to use its power to protect them: The FDA’s complaint-tracking system for medical devices allowed Philips to obscure when it knew about its dangerous CPAPs. These regulatory lapses extend to many devices and companies. (Debbie Cenziper, Michael D. Sallah, and Michael Korsh, ProPublica)

NTSB head: “Culture of silence” on mental health “is affecting safety” in aviation: NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said pilots, mechanics, and air traffic controllers are known to underreport their use of mental health care and medication, and this fear to disclose is compounded by concerns that disclosure will lead to a loss of their jobs and expose them to stigma. (Miranda Nazzaro, The Hill)

Not just the Supreme Court: Ethics troubles plague state high courts, too: Judicial ethics at state high courts don’t receive the scrutiny they deserve. Experts say that’s a mistake because potential conflicts of interest are widespread. (Aaron Mendelson, Center for Public Integrity)

Israel-Hamas War

Suspicious short-selling occurred days before Hamas attack that sparked Israel-Gaza war: Unknown stock traders were betting against Israeli companies just days before the October 7 attack by Hamas, according to new financial research. Researchers found suspicious trading took place not only ahead of October 7, but also ahead of an earlier date planned for the attack back in April. (Tobias Burns, The Hill)

Insurrection

Speaker Mike Johnson says he’s blurring Jan. 6 footage so rioters don’t get charged: When asked a question this week about releasing more January 6 security footage, House Speaker Johnson said, “we have to blur some of the faces” of people in the footage “because we don’t want them to be retaliated against and to be charged by the DOJ.” (Ryan J. Reilly, NBC News)

🔎 See Also:Candidate for Santos’ old seat is convicted on Jan. 6 charges after testifying he had “no idea” Congress met in the Capitol (Megan Lebowitz, NBC News)

Wisconsin Trump electors settle lawsuit, agree Biden won in 2020: In a legal settlement, the 10 Republicans who signed paperwork falsely purporting Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2020 agreed to withdraw their inaccurate filings, acknowledge Joe Biden won the election, and not serve as presidential electors in 2024 or in any election where Trump is on the ballot. (Patrick Marley, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also:Nevada grand jury indicts six pro-Trump fake electors (Kyung Lah and Zachary Cohen, CNN)

Russia-Ukraine War

U.S. to announce fresh weapons aid for Ukraine as Congress is stalled: The Pentagon said there is about $1.1 billion left in funding to replenish U.S. military stockpiles for weapons and equipment sent to Ukraine, and there is roughly $4.8 billion in drawdown authority still available. (Lolita C. Baldor and Matthew Lee, Military Times)

U.S. charges Russian soldiers with war crimes against an American in Ukraine: Four Russian soldiers were indicted in Virginia federal court for allegedly committing war crimes against an American citizen who was living in Ukraine during the Russian invasion. (Holmes Lybrand, Hannah Rabinowitz, and Evan Perez, CNN)

Police Misconduct

Defying presidents and Congress, the ATF, DEA, FBI and U.S. Marshals shroud their shootings in secrecy: Despite nearly 30 years of demands for transparency, the DOJ’s law enforcement agencies release little data about their use of deadly force, and they rarely use body cameras. (Simone Weichselbaum et al., NBC News)

Uvalde school shooting: “Someone tell me what to do”: Across the country, states require more training to prepare students and teachers for mass shootings than for the law enforcement officers expected to protect them. (Lomi Kriel, Lexi Churchill, and Jinitzail Hernández, Texas Tribune)

Police trainers used sexist language and glorified violence, videos show: The growing number of private companies hired by law enforcement agencies around the country to provide police training are largely unregulated. Some instructors promote views and tactics that are inappropriate, offensive, and possibly illegal. (Tracey Tully, New York Times)

COVID-19

COVID is still killing 1,000 Americans per week while hospitalizations rise, CDC reports: Almost all metrics related to COVID (test positivity, ER visits, hospitalizations, and wastewater signal) have been steadily rising for weeks. Despite these warning signs, a recent poll found that 57% of respondents in 22 states don’t plan to get vaccinated. (Matthew Rozsa, Salon)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

As U.S.-funded wars rage in Israel and Ukraine, Pentagon watchdog warns of military failures: A new inspector general report details widespread failures in the Pentagon’s operations, including a breakdown in the process to provide care for sexual assault survivors, damaged artillery earmarked for Ukraine, and continued failures to monitor the F-35 program. (Daniel Boguslaw, The Intercept)

Tommy Tuberville backs down in fight over military promotions: Sen. Tuberville ended his nine-month hold on military promotions, clearing the way for hundreds of officers to move forward immediately but still demanding individual votes for 11 four-star generals and admirals. (Lindsay Wise and Nancy A. Youssef, Wall Street Journal)

U.S. military grounds entire fleet of Osprey aircraft following a deadly crash off the coast of Japan: The Air Force, Navy, and Marines took the extraordinary step after a preliminary investigation of last week’s crash indicated that a materiel failure — and not a mistake by the crew — caused the crash. (Tara Copp, Associated Press)

VA is putting veterans at risk by improperly screening employees, watchdogs warn: After years of warnings, the VA is still not properly screening many of its employees, the agency and auditors told Congress on Wednesday, putting veterans at increased risk of harm. (Eric Katz, Government Executive)

Analysis:Pentagon can’t account for 63% of nearly $4 trillion in assets: The Pentagon regularly buys parts and equipment it doesn’t need, because it can’t keep track of the parts and equipment it already owns. (Julia Gledhill, Responsible Statecraft)

Business and Finance

U.S. retail lobbyists retract key claim on “organized” retail crime: The main lobbying group for U.S. retailers retracted its widely publicized claim that nearly half of the $94.5 billion in inventory losses retailers reported in 2021 was attributable to organized retail crime. (Katherine Masters, Reuters)

Federal agencies can disable employer debt TRAPs: Advocacy groups urged the Biden administration to ban the growing practice of “stay-or-pay” contracts, which force workers to compensate employers — sometimes tens of thousands of dollars — if they leave their job before a set time period. (David Dayen, American Prospect)

The racial homeownership gap is widening. New rules might make it worse: Banks are facing tougher capital requirements, which will probably make mortgages pricier for minority borrowers. (Tory Newmyer, Washington Post)

Tech

Facebook and Instagram steer predators to children, New Mexico attorney general alleges in lawsuit: The state alleges that Facebook and Instagram recommend sexual content to underage users and promote minors’ accounts to apparent child predators. (Katherine Blunt and Jeff Horwitz, Wall Street Journal)

Hackers access profiles of nearly 7 million 23andMe customers: The hack of the genetic testing firm is the latest involving a major U.S. corporation that has impacted far more people than initial news reports suggested. (Sean Lyngaas, CNN)

QR codes may be a gateway to identity theft, FTC warns: Scammers use the digital codes to steal personal information. (Greg Iacurci, CNBC)

Health Care

Targeting costly meds, Biden admin asserts authority to seize certain drug patents: The administration will not endorse the widespread use of these “march-in rights” and is not expected to take action against any individual medicines. Instead, the Commerce Department will issue a new framework spelling out factors that federal agencies should weigh in determining whether to take action against expensive drugs or other products that were created with public funds. (Adam Cancryn, Politico)

White House delays a decision on banning menthol cigarettes: The plan to eliminate menthol cigarettes has been years in the making. An estimated 85% of Black smokers prefer menthol brands. (Christina Jewett, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, and David A. Fahrenthold, New York Times)

ICYMI

Immigration and Border Security:

Top border officials say releases attract more migrants

Texas congressional Democrats vent frustration on tepid DOJ response to Operation Lone Star

When the Coast Guard intercepts unaccompanied kids

Other News:

A new Trump administration will “come after” the media, says Kash Patel

Trump says he wouldn’t be a dictator “except for Day One”

House Education committee to launch probe into Harvard, MIT and Penn over antisemitism

Architect of Capitol calls its watchdog back to the office

Idle oil wells are a problem for health and climate. Who should pay for cleaning them up?

The Hill’s top lobbyists 2023

Because It’s Friday

Romeo and Juliet, two elderly manatees, get a happy ending: After their living conditions at the Miami Seaquarium came under scrutiny from federal officials and animal welfare advocates, a team of veterinarians and animal care specialists, under the direction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, transported three manatees to new homes this week. (Maggie Penman, Washington Post)

Upcoming Events

📌 Coast Guard Academy Whistleblowers: Stories of Sexual Assault and Harassment. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; Subcommittee on Investigations. Tuesday, December 12, 10:00 a.m., 562 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

📌 Cleaning Up the C-Suite: Ensuring Accountability for Corporate Criminals. Senate Judiciary Committee. Tuesday, December 12, 10:00 a.m., 216 Hart Senate Office Building.

📌 Ensuring Transparency in the Federal Government: An Examination of GSA’s Site Selection for the FBI Headquarters. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management. Tuesday, December 12, 10:00 a.m., 2167 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 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.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 GAO - Improper Payments and Fraud: How They Are Related but Different. GAO-24-106608(PDF)

🔥📃 House Office of the Whistleblower Ombuds: Whistleblowing 101. December 6, 2023(PDF)