New Investigation:

How Lax EPA Oversight Enabled Jackson's Water Crisis.

Newsletter

The Paper Trail: October 13, 2023

Billionaire-Backed AI Network Takes Over D.C.; Army Losing Track of Excess Weapons; Federal Tax Gap Keeps Growing; and More. 

Delivered Tuesdays and Fridays, The Paper Trail is a curated collection of the government news you need to know. Sign up to get this newsletter delivered to your inbox.


The Paper Trail

Top stories for October 13, 2023

Law enforcement steps up patrols of Jewish houses of worship, businesses as calls for attacks in the U.S. intensify online: Local and federal law enforcement agencies across the U.S. are stepping up their patrols of synagogues, Jewish-owned businesses, and Israeli diplomatic buildings as calls for attacks on the Jewish community in the U.S. intensify. (Julia Ainsley et al., NBC News)

🔎 See Also: Hamas seeds violent videos on sites with little moderation (Sheera Frenkel and Steven Lee Myers, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: Israel war boosts Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, other defense stocks (Joe Toppe, Fox Business)

How a billionaire-backed network of AI advisers took over Washington: An organization backed by Silicon Valley billionaires and tied to leading artificial intelligence firms is funding the salaries of more than a dozen AI fellows in key congressional offices, federal agencies, and think tanks working to shape Washington's plans to regulate AI. (Brendan Bordelon, Politico)

Why is accurate data about Black farmers so hard to get? The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a history of racial discrimination. Legislators and advocates are pressing the agency to release more data that could show what progress it's making. (April Simpson, Center for Public Integrity)

Gap between U.S. income taxes owed and paid is set to keep growing, the IRS says: For tax years 2021 and 2020, the projected gross "tax gap" soared to $688 billion and $601 billion, respectively — a significant jump compared to years past. (NPR)

🔎 See Also: IRS consultant pleads guilty in massive leak of wealthy Americans' tax returns (Brian Faler, Politico)

🔎 See Also: The IRS says Microsoft may owe about $29 billion in back taxes. Microsoft disagrees (Associated Press)

USPS says mail theft is getting worse, but its plans are so far incomplete and yielding few results: The U.S. Postal Service acknowledges that mail theft is on the rise, but the agency's inspector general faulted the agency for taking incomplete steps and making insufficient plans to address the issue. (Eric Katz, Government Executive)

A watchdog group found a big flaw in a major environmental policy: For more than 35 years, the world has benefited from the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty that phased out gases damaging the ozone layer. But the Washington-based nonprofit group Environmental Investigation Agency found that an exemption to the protocol is allowing U.S. factories to emit gases that both damage the ozone layer and warm the Earth. (Maxine Joselow, Washington Post)

Dobbs Aftermath

Abortion bans complicate medical training, risk worsening OB/GYN shortages: Even before Roe was overturned last year, access to abortion training was uneven. Medical schools are not required to offer instruction on it, and students' experiences vary wildly based on the institution. But for med students in states where abortion has been banned or severely restricted, those training opportunities have gone from not great to nonexistent. (Sara Hutchinson, Washington Post)

Russia-Ukraine War

U.S. announces $200 million in Ukraine military aid: The Pentagon continues to dip into its Ukraine aid bag despite Congress excluding new aid in the stopgap spending bill passed last month. The U.S. has provided about $44 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the Russian invasion. (Carla Babb, Voice of America)

U.S. puts sanctions on shipping firms for violating Russian oil price cap: The Treasury Department placed sanctions on two shipping companies for violating a $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian oil, marking the first penalties intended to enforce what experts say is a widely flouted rule. (Aaron Gregg, Washington Post)

Police Misconduct

Justice Department won't charge Border Patrol agents who killed native man: Federal prosecutors will not bring charges against U.S. Border Patrol agents who shot and killed Raymond Mattia outside his home in southern Arizona earlier this year. (Ryan Devereaux, The Intercept)

Police resistance and politics undercut the authority of prosecutors trying to reform the justice system: In the last decade, prosecutors in several American cities campaigned on promises of systemic reform. They have faced resistance from the police and their unions, confronted political maneuvers aimed at derailing their initiatives, and have even been targeted by efforts to remove them from office. (Jeremy Kohler, ProPublica)

1 police officer convicted, 1 acquitted in death of Elijah McClain: Aurora, Colorado, police officer Randy Roedema was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain. A third officer and two paramedics are awaiting trial. (Colleen Slevin and Matthew Brown, PBS NewsHour)

COVID-19

1 percent of children had long COVID through last year, CDC says: By the end of last year, about 92% of those 17 and younger had antibodies indicating a previous COVID infection, but among youths, long COVID "remains rare, especially in children younger than 12," according to the CDC. (Linda Searing, Washington Post)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

"What am I here for?": Military families frustrated by delayed promotions, withheld raises and lives put on hold: For more than half a year, Sen. Tommy Tuberville has blocked the promotions of all general and flag officers over his disapproval of the Pentagon's policy regarding reproductive care for service members. It's having a cascading effect, impacting far more than the individuals whose promotions are being held up. (Mariel Padilla, Government Executive)

The Army doesn't know where a lot of its excess arms and gear are: The U.S. Army has warehouses packed with weapons it no longer needs. But the service doesn't know where they all are or what condition they're in. (Marcus Weisgerber, Government Executive)

Business and Finance

Beef jerky maker employed children who worked on "dangerous equipment," federal officials say: The investigation of a Minnesota snack food producer is part of a federal effort launched this year to combat child labor. The Department of Labor found a 69% spike in children employed illegally since 2018. In July, the government said nearly 4,500 children had been found working in violation of child labor laws during the prior 10 months. (Kate Gibson, CBS News)

🔎 See Also: Child influencers make big money. Who gets it? (Valeriya Safronova, New York Times)

Biden administration proposes rule to ban junk fees: "Americans are fed up": If there's one thing that unifies Americans, it's their hatred of so-called junk fees, or charges that are often hidden until payment is due on everything from food delivery to hotels and bank accounts. The FTC and CFPB are taking aim at the practice. (Aimee Picchi, CBS News)

Across U.S., Chinese Bitcoin mines draw national security scrutiny: A recent surge in Chinese Bitcoin mines across the U.S. is raising national security concerns. Aside from intelligence-gathering worries, the mines, which are large warehouses or containers packed with computers, put immense pressure on power grids. (Gabriel J.X. Dance and Michael Forsythe, New York Times)

Infrastructure

Black residents in rural Alabama demand sanitation equity, saying "it's a right": Lowndes County, Alabama, is at the forefront of a landmark federal environmental justice case that could establish sanitation access as a civil right. The DOJ and EPA are investigating alleged racial discrimination in Alabama's wastewater infrastructure. (Debbie Elliott, NPR)

Health Care

FDA bans sale of popular Vuse Alto menthol e-cigarettes: The industry says vape pens help adults kick the smoking habit by switching to products less damaging to their health. But the FDA says the risk to kids outweighs any potential benefits. (Kate Gibson, CBS News)

Hospitals that fail to reopen psychiatric wards risk fines, Kathy Hochul says: Many hospitals closed psychiatric wards early in the pandemic to make room for a crushing surge of COVID patients. Since then, only some of those units have reopened. (Joseph Goldstein, New York Times)

ICYMI

Immigration and Border Security:

U.S. reopening facility near southern border to house unaccompanied migrant children

Texas surpasses 50,000 migrants bused to major cities

How families fleeing violence won — then lost — the green card lottery

Other News:

We don't talk about Leonard: The man behind the right's Supreme Court supermajority

Menendez and wife face charges of plotting to make him a foreign agent

Rep. Santos faces new charges accusing him of lies and credit card fraud

Guns are seized in U.S. schools each day. The numbers are soaring

Because It’s Friday

This is how a mama bear won Fat Bear Week, Katmai National Park officials say: A "fierce queen" named 128 Grazer, estimated to weigh about 700 pounds, won the ninth-annual Fat Bear Week competition. (Julia Jacobo, ABC News)

Upcoming Events

📌 Protecting Beneficiaries from the Harm of Improper Payments: House Committee on Ways and Means; Subcommittee on Social Security. Wednesday, October 18, 2:00 p.m., 2020 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 Trust in Transparency: Holding VA Accountable and Protecting Whistleblowers. House Committee on Veterans' Affairs; Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Thursday, October 19, 10:00 a.m., 360 Canon House Office Building.