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The Paper Trail: June 11, 2024

Medicare Privatization: Delays, Denials, Debt; A Candid Talk with Justice Alito; Is Government Ready for the “Silver Tsunami”?; and More. 

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The Paper Trail

Top stories for June 11, 2024

Clarence Thomas formally discloses trips with GOP donor as Supreme Court justices file new financial reports: Justice Thomas reported vacations in 2019 to Bali and an exclusive club in California paid for by Texas billionaire Harlan Crow. The financial disclosure reports for eight of the nine justices were released to the public Friday. Justice Samuel Alito received a 90-day filing extension. (Melissa Quinn, CBS News)

“Grudges” and whistleblower reprisal at a development agency: An inspector general review found that a high-level official at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation retaliated against an employee who raised concerns about the official. The IG found the head of the agency, CEO Scott Nathan, failed to stop the reprisal. (Nick Schwellenbach, Project On Government Oversight)

Why this summer’s forecast is bad news for the U.S. after an exceptionally disastrous start to the year: The U.S. has been thrashed with 11 extreme weather disasters with costs exceeding $1 billion so far this year, with a total price tag of $25 billion. That’s worrying news for FEMA, whose major disaster relief fund could slip into the red by the end of summer. (Ella Nilsen and Mary Gilbert, CNN)

Delays, denials, debt and the growing privatization of Medicare: With monthly premiums of $18.50 per month on average, Medicare Advantage often looks like a frugal alternative. However, private insurers keep premiums low by limiting providers and using byzantine cost containment tools. (Michael Sainato, The Guardian)

$800,000 wire transfer from billionaire donor to U.S. Chamber raises curtain on dark money: While unprecedented sums of dark money poured into the 2022 election, the 2024 election is on track to set a new record. Campaign finance experts argue the status quo of dark money disclosure hurts citizens who are unable to see the people behind the massive campaigns or see evidence about their motives. (Taylor Giorno, The Hill)

🔎 See Also: A Democrat, siding with the GOP, is removing limits on political cash at “breathtaking” speed (Shane Goldmacher, New York Times)

Israel-Hamas War

CIA assessment concludes Netanyahu is likely to defy U.S. pressure to set a post-war plan for Gaza: The assessment — one of the most up to date intelligence assessments about Netanyahu’s mindset that has been circulated among senior U.S. officials — comes amid a clear shift in how the Biden administration views Israel: less as a trusted partner and more as an unpredictable foreign government. (Zachary Cohen and Katie Bo Lillis, CNN)

U.N. food agency pauses its aid work at U.S. pier in Gaza over security concerns: The U.S.-built pier off Gaza was operational again on Saturday after receiving repairs, but it was closed again after just one day due to concerns about the safety of aid workers. (Courtney Kube and Mosheh Gains, NBC News)

Classified Documents

Judge Cannon strikes paragraph in Trump classified document indictment: Judge Aileen Cannon said prosecutors’ inclusion of a paragraph that alleges in 2021 Trump showed a classified map to someone without a security clearance is inappropriate because it’s not connected to a specific crime Trump is accused of committing. Cannon rejected a request by Trump and his co-defendants to dismiss obstruction-related charges. (Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett, Washington Post)

Supreme Court Ethics

Justice Alito caught on tape discussing how battle for America “can’t be compromised”: Justice Samuel Alito’s unguarded comments highlight the degree to which he considers himself a partisan member of a hard-right faction rather than an impartial jurist. (Tessa Stuart and Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone)

🔎 See Also: Justice Alito’s wife, in secretly recorded conversation, complains about Pride flag (Abbie VanSickle, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: Democrats see Supreme Court leverage in spending bills (Alexander Bolton, The Hill)

Nonprofit connected to Leonard Leo sent millions to his firm: A key advocacy group in conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo’s network paid millions to his consulting firm, the latest example of Leo’s web of nonprofits sending money to his business. Leo is being investigated for possible violations of tax laws governing nonprofits. (Hailey Fuchs, Politico)

Insurrection

Unaired footage shows chaos, anger of congressional leaders amid Jan. 6 evacuation: The roughly 45 minutes of video footage shot by documentarian Alexandra Pelosi captures conversations among congressional leaders as they struggled to comprehend their rushed evacuation from the Capitol and deal with the immediate fallout. (Jordain Carney and Kyle Cheney, Politico)

He said he was ashamed of storming the Capitol. Now he’s running for office: A poll found that the percentage of Republicans who approve of the insurrectionists rose from 21% in 2021 to 30% in 2024, although a number of January 6 participants who ran for office this year have lost. (Richard Fausset, New York Times)

Analysis: A year of preparation under the specter of conspiracy: Extremists and those opposing democracy have used the past year to legitimize insurrection, paint hate as virtuous, and transform conspiracy theories into truth. In 2023, the SPLC documented the highest number of active anti-LGBTQ+ and white nationalist groups, along with increases in direct actions against minoritized groups. (R.G. Cravens, Alon Milwicki, and Joseph Wiinikka-Lydon, Southern Poverty Law Center)

Dobbs Aftermath

Abortion groups say tech companies suppress posts and accounts: Abortion groups and women’s health advocates are increasingly confused and frustrated by how major technology platforms moderate posts about abortion services. They say the platforms have become more aggressive about removing or suppressing posts that share information about how to obtain safe and legal procedures. (Emily Schmall and Sapna Maheshwari, New York Times)

Russia-Ukraine War

U.S. lifts weapons ban on Ukrainian military unit: The Azov Brigade is regarded as an effective fighting force. But it was barred from using American arms because some of its founders espoused racist, xenophobic, and ultranationalist views, and U.N. human rights officials accused the group of humanitarian violations. (Michael Birnbaum, Siobhán O’Grady, and Alex Horton, Washington Post)

Russia taps unlikely allies to help ship sanctioned oil: An armada of old tanker ships has sprung up to move sanctioned Russian and Iranian oil, putting sailors in peril and threatening environmental catastrophes. At the center of this trade is a surprising new player in global shipping: Gabon. (Costas Paris and Joe Wallace, Wall Street Journal)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

Frontline VA health jobs cut despite officials saying they’d largely be protected: Positions for psychologists, clinical social workers, and others have been cut as the agency seeks to address a budgetary shortfall and cut its workforce by 10,000. The job reductions come at a time when veterans continue to face extended wait times for service and as suicides among veterans remain disproportionately high. (Curt Devine and Audrey Ash, CNN)

Coast Guard Academy official resigns, says she was directed to lie to Congress as part of “cruel” sexual assault coverup: In announcing her resignation from her role as the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s head of sexual assault prevention, Shannon Norenberg said top leaders directed her to lie to sexual assault victims and Congress and made her an unwitting accomplice in a coverup of decades of abuse. (Blake Ellis, Melanie Hicken, and Audrey Ash, CNN)

Analysis: Navy Admiral’s bribery charges expose greater rot in the system: The bribery indictment last month of a four-star Navy admiral and the Fat Leonard scandal are both part of a pernicious system of corrupt dealings and profiteering in Pentagon procurement practices, much of which is completely legal. (William Hartung and Ben Freeman, Responsible Statecraft)

Business and Finance

Senators allege that Amazon lied to them about delivery drivers: A bipartisan Senate letter accused Amazon CEO Andy Jassy of submitting misleading and “self-contradictory” information regarding the company’s use of third-party contractors, known as Delivery Service Partners (DSPs). (Luke Goldstein, The American Prospect)

“Very unpredictable”: Colleges fear FAFSA fiasco will hurt enrollment: The disastrous debut of the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a process plagued by delays, miscalculations, and errors, threatens college enrollment just as schools recover from the declines brought on by the pandemic. (Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Washington Post)

Forever chemicals are poisoning your insurance: As concerns about the dangers of forever chemicals rise and lawyers warn of a deluge of lawsuits, commercial insurers are quietly eliminating liability coverage for these chemicals’ health and ecological consequences. (Helen Santoro, The Lever)

Tech

Is your driving being secretly scored? For the last two decades, auto insurers have been trying to get people to enroll in plans that monitor their day-to-day driving so rates better reflect the actual risk. Privacy-minded consumers have been reluctant to sign up, so the industry has taken a different tack, getting data about how people drive from automakers or smartphone apps. (Kashmir Hill, New York Times)

The plastics we breathe: For years, scientists have been finding microplastics almost everywhere, including soft drinks, tap water, vegetables, and fruits. Now, researchers are discovering that microplastics are floating around us. Scientists don’t yet know the health effects of all those plastic particles, but they’re getting increasingly worried. (Simon Ducroquet and Shannon Osaka, Washington Post)

Federal agreement paves way for closer scrutiny of burgeoning AI industry: The FTC and DOJ will split oversight of companies in the AI sector, with the FTC regulating the business practices and conduct of OpenAI and Microsoft and the DOJ’s antitrust division overseeing chipmaker Nvidia. Federal officials have indicated for more than a year that they are looking out for monopolistic behavior as AI products produce human-like text, illustrations, and sound. (Kate Gibson, Jo Ling Kent, and Robert Legare, CBS News)

Infrastructure

Anatomy of a flood: Even on days without major storms, rising waters are compromising stormwater infrastructure, overtopping shorelines, elevating groundwater, and combining with rain to make flooding more persistent and more insidious. Local efforts to cope with this growing problem are falling short in communities where seas are rising the fastest. (Brady Dennis, Niko Kommenda, and Emily Wright, Washington Post)

Health Care

Doctors couldn’t help. They turned to a shadow system of DIY medical tests: Doctors warn DIY testing can lead to questionable remedies, misdiagnosis, and delayed medical care. (Elizabeth Dwoskin, Daniel Gilbert, and Tatum Hunter, Washington Post)

OB/GYNs routinely experience sexual harassment, study suggests: Although the field is increasingly female-dominated, medical students, residents, fellows, and attending physicians in obstetrics and gynecology regularly experience sexual harassment and gender bias on the job. (Erin Blakemore, Washington Post)

Personal conflicts, even violence, are not uncommon in long-term care: Arguments, verbal abuse, and aggression are not unusual in elder care facilities. Experts say better staffing and training would ease the tensions. (Paula Span, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: Congress takes aim at White House nursing home staffing quotas (Nathaniel Weixel, The Hill)

🔎 See Also: The “silver tsunami” is here. Is government ready? (Susan Miller, Government Executive)

ICYMI

Immigration and Border Security:

Days after border closes for most migrants, manageable crowds but more anxiety

Administration considers protection for undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens

Other News:

Court rules for DHS employees alleging their division was disbanded in retaliation to their whistleblowing

What American fascism would look like

Merrick Garland: Unfounded attacks on the Justice Department must end

Why oil companies are raking in record profits under Joe Biden

Violent crime is down and the U.S. murder rate is plunging, FBI statistics show

Tens of millions of acres of cropland lie abandoned, study shows

Upcoming Events

📌 Coast Guard Oversight: Sexual Assault and Harassment. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; Subcommittee on Investigations. Tuesday, June 11, 3:30 p.m., 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

📌 Oversight of the FDIC’s Failed Leadership and Toxic Workplace Culture. House Committee on Financial Services. Wednesday, June 12, 10:00 a.m., 2128 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 Addressing Oversight and Safety Concerns in the Department of Defense’s V-22 Osprey Program. House Committee on Oversight and Accountability; Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs. Wednesday, June 12, 10:30 a.m., 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 Crossing the Line: Abortion Bans and Interstate Travel for Care After Dobbs. Senate Judiciary Committee. Wednesday, June 12, 2:00 p.m., 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

📌 Oversight of the Bureau of Land Management. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Thursday, June 13, 9:30 a.m., 366 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 GAO - Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Housing and Urban Development | Department of Veterans Affairs | Small Business Administration