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The Paper Trail: March 26, 2024

Abortion Back at Supreme Court; FDA Clinical Inspections Are Plummeting; Radar Gaps Leave U.S. Vulnerable to Severe Weather; and More. 

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Better Prevention of Waste and Fraud in Emergency Spending: Lessons Learned from Pandemic Programs: POGO’s virtual training on how to work effectively with the media on oversight investigations will be Friday, April 5 at 12 noon. This event is only open to staff in Congress, GAO, and CRS. Register HERE.

Top stories for March 26, 2024

Radar gaps threaten millions as severe weather season ramps up in U.S.: The U.S. weather radar network is considered the most advanced in the world. But areas of poor radar coverage known as “radar gaps” have persisted for years, leaving millions of people vulnerable to severe weather. (Dan Stillman, New York Times)

FDA clinical inspections are plummeting due to staffing issues: According to the GAO, the FDA is inspecting far fewer pharmaceutical companies conducting clinical research as it adjusts to the post-pandemic world and a smaller workforce, leading to less informed drug approvals and less accountability for drug companies. (Eric Katz, Government Executive)

🔎 See Also: DNA test says it can predict opioid addiction risk. Skeptics aren’t so sure (David Ovalle, Washington Post)

House GOP members want info on IRS’ alleged AI “financial surveillance” of citizens: House Republicans increased their scrutiny of the IRS’ plans to deploy artificial intelligence to aid its enforcement efforts, sending letters to both the Treasury secretary and attorney general seeking more information about the IRS’s alleged coordination with other agencies to conduct “AI-powered warrantless financial surveillance.” (Carten Cordell, Government Executive)

With college decisions looming, students ask: What’s the cost, really?: While students across the country this spring confront one of the most momentous decisions of their lives, the federal government’s lifeline of college financial aid to low- and middle-income students has been mired in bureaucratic delays that have left students without crucial information. (Susan Svrluga and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Washington Post)


Biden is building a “superstructure” to stop Trump from stealing the election: President Biden and his inner circle have been drawing up plans and creating a legal network focused on wargaming a close election finish and attempts by Donald Trump and his supporters to launch a scorched-earth, conspiracy–fueled crusade to contest the results. (Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley, Rolling Stone)

Federal officials say 20 have been charged for threatening election workers: The DOJ said threats against officials running the 2020 and 2022 elections have resulted in charges against roughly 20 people, with more than a half dozen receiving prison sentences. An outsize number of prosecutions have involved Arizona. (Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Perry Stein, Washington Post)

Dobbs Aftermath

Abortions outside medical system increased sharply after Roe fell, study finds: The number of women using abortion pills to end their pregnancies rose sharply in the six months after the fall of Roe v. Wade. (Caroline Kitchener and N. Kirkpatrick, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: Wife of judge on mifepristone case was paid by anti-abortion group (Amanda Yen, Daily Beast)

🔎 See Also: Abortion is back at the Supreme Court. Here’s what to know (Alice Miranda Ollstein and Josh Gerstein, Politico)

Russia-Ukraine War

Two years after start of Ukraine war, Russian titanium keeps flowing to West: Russia continues to export oil and gas that eventually reaches the U.S. and its allies, and Russian firms are still able to sell everything from titanium to diamonds to uranium because the West needs these goods and allows carve-outs from sanctions. (Adam Taylor, Washington Post)

U.S. targets Russian fintech operators for Ukraine sanctions evasion work: The U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on Russian financial services and technology players, including blockchain firm Atomyze and fintech firm Lighthouse, for developing or offering services in virtual assets aimed at evading sanctions. (David Lawder, Reuters)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

More upheaval at Pentagon policy shop as top official steps down: The news comes as the Pentagon is struggling to confirm its remaining nominees for top civilian jobs. (Lara Seligman, Politico)

Fight over VA toxic exposure funds could stall other vets legislation: Lawmakers are sparring over proposed changes to a fund covering the costs of veterans’ toxic exposure benefits. (Leo Shane III, Military Times)

Business and Finance

Navy Federal says external review finds “non-race factors” explained mortgage approval disparities: Navy Federal Credit Unit said that an external review found it hadn’t considered race in mortgage underwriting, disputing previous reporting about racial gaps in its mortgage approval rates. The review was conducted by an attorney with the law firm that is defending Navy Federal in a class-action lawsuit alleging discrimination against Black and Latino mortgage applicants. (Casey Tolan and Rene Marsh, CNN)


Biden administration indicts and sanctions Chinese hackers accused of sweeping espionage campaign against U.S. targets: The alleged hacking effort in 2018 was vast, targeting senior U.S. officials and their advisers in the White House, Justice Department, and other agencies, and U.S. senators in several states. Monday’s announcement isn’t the first time the Chinese government’s cyber capabilities have been traced back to contractors working for front companies. (Sean Lyngaas and Evan Perez, CNN)

Elon Musk fought government surveillance — while profiting off government surveillance: Emails between the U.S. Secret Service and the surveillance firm Dataminr show X is in an awkward position: profiting from the sale of user data for government surveillance purposes at the same time it’s fighting secrecy around government surveillance. (Sam Biddle, The Intercept)

Health Care

Hospitals are adding billions in “facility” fees for routine care: Hospitals are adding billions of dollars in facility fees to medical bills for routine care in outpatient centers they own. Once an annoyance, the fees are now pervasive, and in some places they are becoming nearly impossible to avoid. (Melanie Evans, Wall Street Journal)

Eli Lilly warns of temporary short supply of two insulin products: A veteran drug industry executive said he thought insulin “demand and supply are pretty predictable, so when something like this happens, it really heightens the sense of insecurity amongst patients about the supply of their drug.” (Meg Tirrell, CNN)

More than half of chickenpox diagnoses are wrong, study finds: Thanks to the vaccination program that began in 1995, chickenpox is now relatively rare. But, while children have largely put the oatmeal baths and oven mitts behind them, doctors have apparently let their diagnostic skills slip. (Beth Mole, Ars Technica)


Immigration and Border Security:

Texas border law plagued by legal doubts

Other News:

Chevron will pay record fines for oil spills in California

How a pandemic malaise is shaping American politics

U.S. House Office of Diversity and Inclusion to be disbanded as part of government spending bill

White House vows to repeal GOP-led ban on Pride flags over U.S. embassies

Upcoming Events

📌 Zoom Webinar: The Pentagon Papers and the Ongoing Threats to Freedom of the Press. Ellsberg Initiative for Peace and Democracy. Wednesday, March 27, 7:00 p.m. ET.

Nominations & Appointments


  • Gina Kay Abercrombie-Winstanley - Member, National Security Education Board
  • Martin L. Adams - Member, National Infrastructure Advisory Council
  • Jeffrey L. Bleich - Member, National Security Education Board
  • Rory M. Brosius - Member, National Security Education Board
  • Karl Eikenberry - Member, National Security Education Board
  • David J. Grain - Member, National Infrastructure Advisory Council
  • Patrick Mendis - Member, National Security Education Board
  • Mark A. Milley - Member, National Infrastructure Advisory Council
  • M. Osman Siddique - Member, National Security Education Board
  • Kurt A. Summers, Jr. - Member, National Infrastructure Advisory Council