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The Paper Trail: February 27, 2024

Boeing’s “Inadequate and Confusing” Safety Culture; Russian Meddling in ‘24 Election; End of Pandemic Policies Threatens Safety Net; and More.

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The Paper Trail

Top stories for February 27, 2024

Russia’s 2024 election interference has already begun: Russia is already spreading disinformation in advance of the 2024 election, using fake online accounts and bots to damage President Biden and the Democrats, according to former U.S. officials and cyber experts. (Dan De Luce and Kevin Collier, NBC News)

🔍 See Also: Feds preach vigilance amid multiple physical, cyber threats against election officials (Chris Teale, Government Executive)

Boeing’s safety culture faulted by FAA in new report: The report, written by a group of experts convened a year ago at Congress’s behest, found there was a “disconnect” between senior management and other employees at Boeing, and that the company has been “inadequate and confusing” in administering its safety culture. (Niraj Chokshi, New York Times)

Lead-tainted applesauce sailed through gaps in food-safety system: Cinnamon-flavored applesauce pouches sold in the U.S. last year poisoned hundreds of children with high doses of lead. Tainted cinnamon went untested and undiscovered, the result of an overstretched FDA and a lax food-safety law. (Christina Jewett and Will Fitzgibbon, New York Times)

Agencies need to beef up sexual harassment training for employees, GAO says: Selected federal agencies and components of the Defense Department have only partially implemented training practices aimed at preventing workplace sexual harassment and don't sufficiently evaluate the effectiveness of their existing training programs, the GAO found. (Erich Wagner, Government Executive)

The Senate has too many appointees to confirm, and it’s hurting agencies: Federal agencies are suffering from too many layers of political leadership, according to a new report that found the current process overwhelms the White House, overburdens the Senate, and ultimately leads to less oversight of the executive branch. (Eric Katz, Eric Katz)

A bureaucratic printer jam holds up a major Biden climate rule: The delay has stressed out environmental and public health advocates, who fear a broader bureaucratic bottleneck as the Biden administration hustles to roll out ambitious policies amid a looming threat of possible rollbacks from a second Trump administration. (Robin Bravender, Politico)

Fears of witch hunts over Utah ban on trans athletes in girls’ sports: Transgender rights advocates see a witch-hunt type atmosphere spreading as states enact a flurry of laws seeking to restrain trans people. (Karin Brulliard, Washington Post)

Insurrection

Key figure in fake electors plot concealed damning posts on secret Twitter account from investigators: Kenneth Chesebro concealed a secret Twitter account from Michigan prosecutors, hiding dozens of damning posts that undercut his statements to investigators about his role in the 2020 election subversion scheme. (Em Steck et al., CNN)

D.C. court backs Clark’s bid to block subpoena from bar investigators: The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that an attempt by D.C. bar authorities to force former Justice Department attorney Jeff Clark to hand over documents pertaining to his role in Trump’s effort to subvert the 2020 election would violate his Fifth Amendment rights. It’s the latest setback for bar authorities who have spent nearly two years attempting to discipline Clark. (Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Politico)

Dobbs Aftermath

Alabama embryo ruling may have devastating effect on cancer patients: The Alabama Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos are children has led to fears that other states could adopt similar rulings that would impede fertility medicine for cancer patients, for whom assisted reproductive technology may be their only way of having a family. (Sabrina Malhi, Washington Post)

Inside the internal debates of a hospital abortion committee: Without clarification from legislators and prosecutors on how to handle the real-life nuances that have emerged in hospitals across America, doctors in abortion ban states say they are unable to provide care to high-risk pregnant patients that meets medical standards. (Kavitha Surana, ProPublica)

Russia-Ukraine War

The spy war: How the CIA secretly helps Ukraine fight Putin: For more than a decade, the U.S. has nurtured a secret intelligence partnership with Ukraine that is now critical for both countries in countering Russia. A CIA-supported network of spy bases constructed in the past eight years includes 12 secret locations along the Russian border. (Adam Entous and Michael Schwirtz, New York Times)

Senate aide investigated over unofficial actions in Ukraine: Kyle Parker, the senior Senate adviser for the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (a.k.a. the Helsinki Commission), is under congressional investigation over his frequent trips to Ukraine’s war zones and providing $30,000 in sniper gear to Ukraine’s military. (Lara Jakes, Justin Scheck, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, New York Times)

Political Misbehavior

The prospect of a second Trump presidency has the intelligence community on edge: Former Trump administration officials warn that Trump is likely to use a second term to overhaul the nation’s spy agencies in a way that could lead to an unprecedented — and dangerous — level of politicization of intelligence. (Erin Banco and John Sakellariadis, Politico)

COVID-19

As Medicaid shrinks, clinics for the poor are trying to survive: The end of a pandemic-era policy that barred states from pushing people off Medicaid is threatening the financial stability of vital components of the American safety net. (Noah Weiland, New York Times)

With pandemic money gone, child care is an industry on the brink: Five months after the expiration of federal funds, running a child care business is more precarious than ever, and many parents are struggling to pay tuition. (Claire Cain Miller, New York Times)

With the decline in youth mental health comes another concerning trend, study finds: The number of young people between the ages 12 and 25 receiving antidepressants was already growing before the pandemic. But since COVID, the dispensing rate in the U.S. has spiked, especially for female adolescents. (Kristen Rogers, CNN)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

Internal Pentagon review finds no “ill intent” during Austin’s hospitalization: A review found processes could be improved, but it found no “ill intent or an attempt to obfuscate” in the DOD’s handling of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s hospitalizations in December and January. (Ellen Mitchell, The Hill)

Lawmakers urge DOD to play larger role in scrutinizing mergers: Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. John Garamendi urged the Pentagon to take a more “robust” approach to reviewing potential defense company mergers as the number of military contractors continues to shrink. (Briana Reilly, Roll Call)

Navy to unify oversight of base water systems in wake of Red Hill: The new policy follows recent controversy over the safety of drinking water at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, which contained petroleum products that had leaked from a fuel storage facility. (Zamone Perez, Navy Times)

Severe complications for pregnant veterans nearly doubled in the last decade, a GAO report finds: Over the past decade, the rate of veterans suffering severe pregnancy complications has risen dramatically. Black veterans have the highest rates. (Cassandra Jaramillo, ProPublica)

VA again delays decision on transgender surgery options: In June 2021, VA Secretary Denis McDonough announced plans to offer gender reassignment surgeries at some department medical centers. But no surgeries have been performed, and the issue remains stalled in the rulemaking process. (Leo Shane III, Military Times)

Analysis: Biden wants to put the U.S. on permanent war footing: The Biden administration is steering the U.S. into a budgetary ditch it may not be able to get out of by supersizing the defense industry to meet foreign arms obligations instead of making needed tradeoffs. Its new National Defense Industrial Strategy is a boon for an arms industry that consistently fails to meet cost, schedule, and performance standards. (Julia Gledhill, Responsible Statecraft)

Analysis: F-35: the part-time fighter jet: The F-35 program officially began in October 2001. Since then, costs have risen $1.7 trillion for a program in which less than a third of the jets are capable of performing their combat role. (Dan Grazier, Center for Defense information at the Project On Government Oversight)

Business and Finance

“They lied”: Plastics producers deceived public about recycling, report reveals: Plastic producers have known for more than 30 years that recycling is not an economically or technically feasible plastic waste management solution. That hasn’t stopped them from promoting it. (Dharna Noor, The Guardian)

U.S. government may sue PacifiCorp, a Warren Buffett utility, for nearly $1B in wildfire costs: In its annual report, Berkshire Hathaway Energy said the Justice Department is seeking $625 million in firefighting and cleanup costs related to the 2020 wildfires in southern Oregon and northern California. In addition, the U.S. Forest Service asked PacfiCorp to pay $356 million for firefighting costs and damages. (Josh Funk, Associated Press)

Tech

How your sensitive data can be sold after a data broker goes bankrupt: When a data broker goes bankrupt, its trove of sensitive data can be sold off to whoever purchases that company’s assets. (John Keegan, Ars Technica)

Health Care

U.S. launches probe into possible fraud by organ collection groups: Federal authorities have launched a wide-ranging investigation of the nonprofit organizations that collect organs for transplant in the U.S. The probe is seeking to determine whether these groups have been overbilling the government. (Lenny Bernstein, Mark Johnson, and Lisa Rein, Washington Post)

🔍 See Also: America’s transformative new organ donation rule goes into effect over objections from monopolistic contractors (Adam Zagorin, Project On Government Oversight)

ICYMI

Immigration and Border Security:

When migrant children disappear, many cases remain unsolved

Biden to visit southern border Thursday — the same day as Trump

Republicans call for immigration crackdown after college student’s death

Other News:

House China committee demands Elon Musk open SpaceX Starshield internet to U.S. troops in Taiwan

Justice Thomas hires law clerk accused of sending racist text messages

Wisconsin ethics commission refers Trump fundraising arm for prosecution

Lost witnesses and faded memories impede progress in Sept. 11 case

FTC, states challenge Kroger’s $25 billion grocery merger with Albertsons

Family Dollar Stores agrees to pay $41.6M for rodent-infested warehouse in Arkansas

Upcoming Events

📌 Examining and Preventing Deaths of Incarcerated Individuals in Federal Prisons. Senate Judiciary Committee. Wednesday, February 28, 10:00 a.m., G50 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

📌 Reducing Mismanagement: GAO Recommendations for Improving the SBA. House Committee on Small Business. Wednesday, March 6, 10 a.m., 2360 Rayburn House Office Building.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 GAO - Sexual Harassment: Actions Needed to Improve Prevention Training for Federal Civilian Employees. GAO-24-106589(PDF)

🔥📃 The Sentencing Project: Private Prisons in the United States. February 21, 2024

Nominations & Appointments

Appointments

  • Mitchell W. Berger - Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations
  • J. Michael Bowman - Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations
  • Amy Bircher Bruyn - Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations
  • Paige Gebhardt Cognetti - Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations
  • Chris James - Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations
  • Omar Khan - Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations
  • Rob Larew - Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations
  • Nimish Patel - Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations
  • Mark A. Turner - Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations