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The Paper Trail: January 5, 2024

Shocking Findings in New Jan. 6 Poll; Social Security Clawbacks Impose Hardships; African Asylum Seekers Claim Severe Abuse; and More. 

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The Paper Trail

Top stories for January 5, 2024

Asian American officials cite unfair scrutiny and lost jobs in China spy tensions: Federal employees with ties to Asia, even distant ones, say they’re being unfairly scrutinized by counterintelligence and security officers and excluded from diplomatic missions, intelligence units, and other foreign policy and national security posts. (Edward Wong and Amy Qin, New York Times)

“I am just waiting to die”: Social Security clawbacks drive some into homelessness: Acting Social Security Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi told Congress in October that her agency notifies recipients when they have received overpayments and works to “help those who want to establish repayment plans or who seek waiver of the debt.” But relief is going to only a relatively small number of people: Many others, particularly Black and Hispanic people, face dire consequences. (Fred Clasen-Kelly, CBS News)

Trump received millions from foreign governments as president, report finds: House Democrats released evidence that the former president’s businesses took in at least $7.8 million from foreign governments while he was in office. China made the largest total payment — $5.5 million — to Trump’s business interests. (Luke Broadwater, New York Times)

Many agencies fail to meet tech accessibility mandates, report finds: The GSA found the government is not meeting the minimum standard or legal obligation to provide equal access to intranet and internet pages, electronic documents, and videos to the public and federal employees with disabilities. (Natalie Alms, Government Executive)

Asylum seekers faced severe abuse in ICE detention under Trump, suit says: Lawsuits filed against DHS and immigration authorities allege that African migrants seeking asylum faced racist abuse in U.S. detention facilities between 2018 and 2020, including hours-long confinement in a full-body restraint called the “WRAP.” (Osei Owusu Amankwaah and Justin Wm. Moyer, Washington Post)

Israel-Hamas War

The war in Gaza may widen. The Biden admin is getting ready for it: The administration is drawing up plans for the U.S. to respond to what could expand from a war in Gaza to a wider, protracted regional conflict. Plans include striking Houthi militant targets in Yemen and fending off attacks by Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria. (Erin Banco, Lara Seligman, and Alexander Ward, Politico)

U.S.-funded infrastructure in Gaza largely unscathed as death toll soars: Since October, at least five U.S.-funded community and youth projects in Gaza appear to have been damaged or destroyed. (Juliet Linderman, Martha Mendoza, and Cedar Attanasio, Associated Press)

Supreme Court Ethics

Supreme connections: This database tracks organizations and people that have paid the justices and their families, reimbursed them for travel, or given them gifts. (Sergio Hernandez et al., ProPublica)

Clarence Thomas’s clerks: An “extended family” with reach and power: Justice Thomas has built a network of former law clerks who share messages, meals, and a common vision — wielding influence at universities, law firms, and the highest levels of government. (Abbie VanSickle and Steve Eder, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: Billionaire gifts to Thomas: generosity or taxable income? (Freddy Brewster, Lucy Dean Stockton, and Katya Schwenk, The Lever)

Insurrection

The Jan. 6 riot inquiry so far: three years, hundreds of prison sentences: As of December: 1,240 people had been arrested (half of the total estimated number of people who will ultimately be charged); around 170 have been convicted at trial, and 2 have been acquitted; approximately 710 have pleaded guilty; more than 720 have been sentenced, and more than 450 were sentenced to periods of incarceration ranging from a few days to 22 years. (Alan Feuer and Molly Cook Escobar, New York Times)

A quarter of Americans believe FBI instigated Jan. 6, Post-UMD poll finds: According to a new poll, 25% of Americans say it’s “probably” or “definitely” true that the FBI instigated the insurrection. Among Republicans, 34% say the FBI organized and encouraged the attack, compared with 30% of independents and 13% of Democrats. (Tom Jackman et al., Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: Republican loyalty to Trump, rioters climbs in 3 years after Jan. 6 attack (Rachel Weiner, Scott Clement, and Emily Guskin, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: A right-wing tale of Michigan election fraud had it all – except proof (Sarah Ellison, Washington Post)

More Insurrection News:

Tracking efforts to remove Trump from the 2024 ballot

Trump asks Supreme Court to keep him on Colorado ballot

Trump appeals decision barring him from Maine primary ballot

Michigan Supreme Court will keep Trump on 2024 primary ballot

Recordings, emails show how Trump team flew fake elector ballots to DC in final push to overturn 2020 election

Lawsuit seeks to remove Rep. Scott Perry from Pennsylvania ballot using 14th amendment

Dobbs Aftermath

Emergency rooms not required to perform life-saving abortions, federal appeals court rules: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit found the Biden administration overstepped its authority when it notified hospitals of their obligation to perform life-saving abortions under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. (Eleanor Klibanoff, Texas Tribune)

More women who are not pregnant are ordering abortion pills just in case: According to a new study, tens of thousands of women who are not pregnant are ordering abortion pills just in case they might need them someday, especially in states where access is threatened. (Pam Belluck, New York Times)

Russia-Ukraine War

U.S. and Europe eye Russian assets to aid Ukraine as funds dwindle: The Biden administration is quietly signaling new support for seizing $300 billion in Russian central bank assets stashed in Western nations, and it began discussions with allies about using the funds to aid Ukraine’s war effort. The administration is pressing Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and Japan to come up with a strategy by February 24, the second anniversary of the invasion. (David E. Sanger and Alan Rappeport, New York Times)

U.S. imposes more Russian oil price cap sanctions and issues new compliance rules for shippers: The Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on alleged violators of a $60 per barrel price cap on Russian oil and tightened compliance rules for insurance firms and shippers. Firms across the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong were identified for economic sanctions. (Fatima Hussein, Associated Press)

Police Misconduct

Who investigates the sheriff? In Mississippi, often no one: State authorities are responsible for investigating shootings and in-custody deaths involving sheriffs and deputies. But they aren’t obligated to investigate other misconduct by sheriffs’ offices and may not even know about it. (Ilyssa Daly, Jerry Mitchell, and Rachel Axon, New York Times)

COVID-19

Four years on, long COVID still confounds us. Here’s what we now know: As many as 7% of Americans report having suffered from a slew of lingering symptoms after enduring COVID, including fatigue, difficulty breathing, brain fog, joint pain, and ongoing loss of taste and smell. But there is still no clearly defined cause of, or cure for, the syndrome. (Frances Stead Sellers, Washington Post)

Florida surgeon general calls for halt on mRNA COVID vaccines, citing debunked claim: Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo this week called for a halt to using mRNA COVID vaccines, contending that the shots could contaminate patients’ DNA — a claim that has been roundly debunked. CDC data shows that Florida lags far behind most states when it comes to the percentage of its population that has received an updated booster dose. (Dan Diamond, Lauren Weber, and Josh Dawsey, Washington Post)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

After USA Today investigation, military finally releases internal extremism report: The DOD published a report about extremism in the ranks — more than a year and a half after it was completed. The report offers scant new data on extremism in the military. It found 10 cases of extremism among court martial judgments, but court martials reveal only a tiny sliver of the problem. (Will Carless, USA Today)

New spin on a revolving door: Pentagon officials turned venture capitalists: At least 50 former Pentagon and national security officials are now working in defense-related venture capital or private equity firms as executives or advisers. Many continue to interact regularly with Pentagon officials or members of Congress to push policies that benefit their firms. (Eric Lipton, New York Times)

The Army said tank blasts don’t harm troops. His case raises doubts: Researchers say troops’ brains may be injured by blasts from firing M1 Abrams tank guns and other weapons, even if they measure below the Pentagon’s safety threshold. (Dave Philipps, New York Times)

Air Force audit says B-52 modernization undercut by failure to track spare parts needs: The Air Force risks undermining its $48.6 billion B-52 Stratofortress modernization plan by failing to track what spare parts are available for the bomber and where they continue to be manufactured. (Gary Warner, Stars and Stripes)

Senate committee wants VA to ensure providers work to prevent opioid abuse: After an inspector general report found that nearly 15,000 providers have been prescribing opioids despite not having completed training to help prevent potential abuse or overdoses, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee members want action. (Carten Cordell, Government Executive)

Business and Finance

They’re paid billions to root out child labor in the U.S. Why do they fail? Private audits have become the solution to public relations headaches for corporations. But a review of these audits shows they consistently fail to detect migrant children working for some of America’s largest product brands. (Hannah Dreier, New York Times)

Major studios’ pledges to hire more female filmmakers and people of color were “performative,” study finds: Despite the box office success of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Elizabeth Banks’ “Cocaine Bear,” female directors still aren’t getting the same opportunities in Hollywood as their male counterparts. At the same time, the major studios aren’t producing many films from people of color. (Brent Lang, Variety)

Tesla robot attacks an engineer at company’s Texas factory during violent malfunction: While no other robot-related injuries were reported to regulators by Tesla at the Texas factory in either 2021 or 2022, the incident comes amid years of heightened concerns over the risks of automated robots in the workplace. (Matthew Phelan, Daily Mail)

🔎 See Also: Tesla blamed drivers for failures of parts it long knew were defective (Hyunjoo Jin, Reuters)

Tech

U.S. agency tasked with curbing risks of AI lacks funding to do the job: An executive order on AI announced in October calls for the development of new standards for testing AI systems to uncover their biases, hidden threats, and rogue tendencies. But some say the agency tasked with setting these standards, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), lacks the budget needed to complete that work by the July 2024 deadline. (Will Knight, Ars Technica)

The Times sues OpenAI and Microsoft over AI use of copyrighted work: The New York Times is the first major American media company to sue OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement, alleging that millions of its articles were used to train automated chatbots that now compete with the news outlet. (Michael M. Grynbaum and Ryan Mac, New York Times)

U.S. regulators propose new online privacy safeguards for children: The FTC’s proposed changes would shift the burden of online safety from parents to apps and other digital services while curbing how platforms can use and monetize children’s data. (Natasha Singer, New York Times)

Pornhub’s parent company admits to profiting from sex trafficking: The company pleaded not guilty to engaging in unlawful monetary transactions involving sex trafficking proceeds. But through an agreement with prosecutors, it agreed to pay damages to women who said they were forced to appear in pornographic videos posted on the company’s websites without their consent. (Erin Nolan, New York Times)

Google settles lawsuit alleging Chrome’s “Incognito” mode tracks users: The plaintiffs alleged Google captured and tracked their data while in “Incognito” mode, a Chrome browser setting that is supposed to protect users’ privacy. The terms of the settlement were not made public. (Caroline O’Donovan, Washington Post)

Infrastructure

Could a pricey federal project worsen racial inequities in Mississippi? The Biden administration is pushing an Army Corps flood control project in the Mississippi Delta pitched as mitigating environmental injustice. Critics say it will disproportionately benefit white landowners. (Nick Schwellenbach, Project On Government Oversight)

Health Care

The case of the missing health care providers: Many health insurers’ online provider directories are inaccurate or out-of-date. These inaccuracies prevent patients from finding affordable in-network care, potentially leading to delayed treatments and worse health outcomes. (Helen Santoro, The Lever)

Serious medical errors rose after private equity firms bought hospitals: A study published in JAMA found the rate of serious medical complications increased in hospitals after they were purchased by private equity investment firms, although it also found a slight decrease in the rate of patients who died during their hospital stay. (Reed Abelson and Margot Sanger-Katz, New York Times)

Seattle hospital sues Texas AG who sought records of trans minors: State lawmakers have driven efforts in recent years to criminalize gender-affirming care with laws similar to ones that restrict abortion access. Texas AG Ken Paxton’s legal battle with Seattle Children’s Hospital marks a rare instance of an official reaching beyond their own borders. (Kim Bellware et al., Washington Post)

ICYMI

Immigration and Border Security:

African migration to the U.S. soars as Europe cracks down

Justice Department sues Texas to halt new state law targeting illegal immigration

“We are not equipped to deal with this”: Migrant surge overwhelms U.S. border

Where migrant children are living, and often working, in the U.S.

To avoid New York rules, hundreds of migrants dropped off in New Jersey

Immigrant workers are essential to Wisconsin’s dairy industry. But when they get injured, they’re often cast aside

Other News:

State government buildings face bomb threats for second consecutive day

Quick Camp Lejeune payout unlikely for most, claim data shows

You can now easily search through every executive in federal government

Sen. Menendez charged with receiving gifts from Qatar

Venezuela hands U.S. “Fat Leonard” and others in prisoner exchange

Senate confirms top military nominees, ending Tuberville’s hold over promotions

House dysfunction by the numbers: 724 votes, 27 laws enacted in 2023

In the scar of New Mexico’s largest wildfire, a legal battle is brewing: what is victims’ suffering worth?

Hot Docs

🔥📃 GAO - Legislative Branch: Options for Enhancing Congressional Oversight of Rulemaking and Establishing an Office of Legal Counsel. GAO-24-105870(PDF)

🔥📃 VA OIG: Without Effective Controls, Public Disability Benefits Questionnaires Continue to Pose a Significant Risk of Fraud to VA. 23-01690-31(PDF)

Nominations & Appointments

Nominations

  • Irving W. Bailey II - Member, Development Finance Corporation Board of Directors

Pardons and Commutations