The Paper Trail: November 28, 2023

Social Security’s Overpayment Problem; U.S. Troops Risk Brain Injury from Weapons; Puerto Rico’s Crumbling Health Care System; and More. 

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The Paper Trail

Top stories for November 28, 2023

New Social Security report shows growing overpayment problem tops $23B: A new Social Security Administration report shows that the amount of money the agency mistakenly paid to beneficiaries but hasn’t been able to claw back continues to grow. (Jodie Fleischer, KFF Health News)

U.S. troops still train on weapons with known risk of brain injury: Pentagon researchers say shoulder-fired rocket launchers expose troops who fire them to serious and lasting harm, but the military is failing to take practical steps to ensure safety. (Dave Philipps, New York Times)

Reports of FDIC’s toxic workplace and widespread harassment lead to bipartisan calls for investigations: The federal government’s bank regulator and its leadership are under fire for fostering an abusive culture rife with harassment and discrimination, with Republican and Democratic lawmakers both starting or seeking probes into the alleged wrongdoing. (Eric Katz, Government Executive)

More people are dying in Puerto Rico as its health-care system crumbles: Health services across Puerto Rico have been deteriorating for years, contributing to a surge in deaths that reached historic proportions in 2022. (Omaya Sosa Pascual et al., Washington Post)

Analysis: The 10 worst lines from the Supreme Court’s new code of conduct: The code is a missed opportunity of massive proportions, and it should spur everyone who cares about an ethical Supreme Court to redouble their efforts. (David Janovsky and Sarah Turberville, The Constitution Project at the Project On Government Oversight)

Israel-Hamas War

Biden moves to lift nearly every restriction on Israel’s access to U.S. weapons stockpile: The White House has requested the removal of restrictions on all categories of weapons and ammunition Israel is allowed to access from U.S. weapons stockpiles stored in Israel. Experts say the request could undermine oversight and accountability and diminish U.S. preparedness for its own conflicts in the region. (Ken Klippenstein, The Intercept)


Johnson’s release of Jan. 6 video feeds right-wing conspiracy theories: House Speaker Mike Johnson’s decision to publicly release thousands of hours of Capitol security footage from January 6 has fueled a renewed effort by Republican lawmakers and far-right activists to rewrite the history of the attack and exonerate the pro-Trump participants. (Luke Broadwater, Alan Feuer, and Angelo Fichera, New York Times)

Bid to hold Trump accountable for Jan. 6 violence stalls at appeals court: Three civil lawsuits seeking to hold Donald Trump accountable for January 6 violence have been pending in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for nearly a year. The court’s ruling will likely be a significant milestone in the decades-long constitutional debate about presidential immunity. (Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Politico)

🔎 See Also: Pence told Jan. 6 special counsel harrowing details about 2020 aftermath, warnings to Trump (Katherine Faulders, Mike Levine, and Alexander Mallin, ABC News)

Dobbs Aftermath

Miles from treatment and pregnant: How women in maternity care deserts are coping as health care options dwindle: Hospital closures and a shortage of providers are among the factors worsening maternity care across the U.S., where more than one-third of counties don’t have a hospital or birth center offering obstetric care. (Sarah Maddox, CBS News)

How many abortions did the post-Roe bans prevent? A new study found that, in the first six months of 2023, between one-fifth and one-fourth of women living in states with abortion bans who may have otherwise sought an abortion did not get one. (Margot Sanger-Katz and Claire Cain Miller, New York Times)

Some Republicans were willing to compromise on abortion ban exceptions. Activists made sure they didn’t: Over the past year, activists who oppose exceptions for rape, incest, and health have largely held on to their gains in states with the strictest abortion bans. (Kavitha Surana, ProPublica)

Russia-Ukraine War

U.S. defense chief visits Kyiv, announces $100m military aid package: Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the U.S. has provided more than $44 billion in security support. (Al Jazeera)

Police Misconduct

Secretive White House surveillance program gives cops access to trillions of U.S. phone records: The Data Analytical Services (DAS) program tracks more than a trillion domestic U.S. phone records each year and allows federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to mine the records of countless people who are not suspected of any crime. The program, formerly known as Hemisphere, is run in coordination with AT&T. (Dell Cameron, Wired)

NYPD paid out $30 million in misconduct cases before litigation in first nine months of 2023: The figure is on track to exceed $100 million by the end of the year, but even that total doesn’t capture how much the city has to spend in cases where its cops are accused of everything from causing car accidents to beating innocent people. (Akela Lacy, The Intercept)


COVID variant BA.2.86 triples in new CDC estimates, now 8.8% of cases: After weeks of largely slowing or flat trends, the CDC said figures like COVID emergency department visits are starting to increase nationwide, particularly in the Midwest. (Alexander Tin, CBS News)

New bidder aims to save bankrupt trucking firm, if Treasury goes along: A plan to bail trucking company Yellow out of bankruptcy rests on getting the Treasury Department to allow Yellow to postpone repayment of a $700 million pandemic loan. The loan drew scrutiny because of links between the company and the Trump administration, and because the company had been accused of overcharging the Pentagon. (Peter Eavis, New York Times)

Business and Finance

A 20-year-old Amazon employee died at work. Indiana issued a $7,000 fine: Amazon’s safety record is under unprecedented scrutiny, but state and federal regulators often have limited ability to enforce safety policies at its warehouses. (Caroline O'Donovan, Washington Post)

Senators accuse major anesthesiology firm of anticompetitive practices: Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Richard Blumenthal accused USAP, one of the nation’s largest anesthesiology firms, of unfair business practices. “USAP is emblematic of the long-standing problems associated with [private equity’s] involvement in our health care system,” they wrote. (Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post)


How your child’s online mistake can ruin your digital life: Google’s zero-tolerance policy for child abuse content can sometimes tar innocent individuals as abusers. (Kashmir Hill, New York Times)

“Zoom fatigue” may take toll on the brain and the heart, researchers say: A new brain-monitoring study found a connection between videoconferencing and physical symptoms linked to exhaustion and fatigue. (Erin Blakemore, Washington Post)

At Meta, millions of underage users were an “open secret,” states say: A lawsuit filed by dozens of state attorneys general alleges Meta has received more than a million reports of users under the age of 13 on its Instagram platform since early 2019 yet has “disabled only a fraction” of those accounts and has “routinely continued to collect” children’s personal information. (Natasha Singer, New York Times)


As groundwater dwindles, powerful players block change: Across the U.S., groundwater levels are falling, often the result of overpumping and underregulation, made worse by climate change. But solutions are being actively resisted by powerful agribusinesses, multinational companies, and big landowners. (Christopher Flavelle and Mira Rojanasakul, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: Colorado River deal opens cash spigot for big farms (Annie Snider, Politico)

Health Care

Medicaid’s “unwinding” can be especially perilous for disabled people: States are reviewing the eligibility of millions of Americans who remained enrolled in Medicaid through the pandemic, but the process has been messy and chaotic. (Rachana Pradhan and McKenzie Beard, Washington Post)

Cyberattack on U.S. hospital owner diverts ambulances from emergency rooms in multiple states: A cyberattack that diverted ambulances from hospitals in Texas on Thanksgiving also forced hospitals in New Jersey, New Mexico, and Oklahoma to reroute ambulances. It’s the latest example of ransomware disrupting health care services in the U.S. (Sean Lyngaas, CNN)

UnitedHealth uses AI model with 90% error rate to deny care, lawsuit alleges: A lawsuit claims UnitedHealthcare uses a flawed AI algorithm to override doctors’ judgments and wrongfully deny health coverage to Medicare Advantage Plan enrollees. (Beth Mole, Ars Technica)


Immigration and Border Security:

Asylum in America, by the numbers

Border wall-related falls are increasing in California

U.S. suspends, reduces vehicle processing along southern border at select Texas and Arizona ports of entry

A doctor tried to renew his passport. Now he’s no longer a citizen

Other News:

A troubling Trump pardon and a link to the Kushners

Federal appeals court ruling threatens enforcement of the Voting Rights Act

Businessman accused of bribing Sen. Menendez had deep ties to Egypt

How a Maine businessman made the AR-15 into America’s best-selling rifle

Opinion: Schools should ban smartphones. Parents should help

Upcoming Events

📌 Oversight of President Biden’s Broadband Takeover. House Committee on Energy and Commerce; Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. Thursday, November 30, 10:30 a.m., 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.

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