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The Paper Trail: October 20, 2023

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

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POGO’s Government Affairs team is looking for a talented Government Affairs Manager to help advance POGO’s policy priorities by executing and organizing legislative and executive branch focused advocacy campaigns. The application deadline is Thursday, November 2. Go to this link for more information.

Top stories for October 20, 2023

COVID relief payments triggered Feds to demand money back from Social Security recipients: Federal COVID stimulus payments jeopardized some recipients’ Social Security benefits. These COVID clawbacks show the trauma the Social Security Administration can cause when it claims to have overpaid beneficiaries and then demands they pay the money back. (David Hilzenrath and Jodie Fleischer, KFF Health News)

🔎 See Also: Under fire, Social Security chief vows “top-to-bottom” review of payment clawbacks (David Hilzenrath and Jodie Fleischer, KFF Health News)

Nonprofit hospitals skimp on charity while CEOs reap millions, report finds: Nonprofit hospitals are under increasing scrutiny for skimping on charity care, relentlessly pursuing payments from low-income patients, and paying executives massive salaries — all while earning billions in tax breaks. (Beth Mole, Ars Technica)

Visions of a new national security paradigm: Twenty-two years after 9/11, Muslim Americans continue to face discrimination at U.S. airports and banks and in the security-clearance process, even though more than three-quarters of racially or ethnically motivated violent incidents in the U.S. in recent years were committed by people who identified as white supremacists. (Melissa Hellmann, Center for Public Integrity)

A prominent museum obtained items from a massacre of Native Americans in 1895. The survivors’ descendants want them back: A 1990 law requires federally funded institutions to notify descendant tribes about Native American human remains they hold, but its rules and procedures are so lax that it often takes tribes decades to reclaim objects that are rightfully theirs. (Nicole Santa Cruz, ProPublica)

Analysis: The federal government can’t keep ignoring Operation Lone Star: For over two years, the state of Texas has been implementing its own immigration policy through the sprawling, $4.5 billion Operation Lone Star. Despite the federal government’s clear authority over immigration, the Biden administration has responded to the operation with a combination of indifference, collaboration, and half-hearted attempts at pushback. (Katherine Hawkins, Project On Government Oversight)

Israel-Hamas War

“Mutiny brewing” inside State Department over Israel-Palestine policy: President Biden’s approach to the ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine is fueling mounting tensions at the State Department. Some department staff said they feel as if Secretary of State Blinken is ignoring their advice. (Akbar Shahid Ahmed, HuffPost)

🔎 See Also: State Department official resigns over arms transfers to Israel (John Ismay, New York Times)

War in Mideast inflames college campuses and raises fears of antisemitism: For decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has stoked passions and divisions. But the outbreak of war has elevated those tensions even further in recent days and raised new alarms about intimidation and antisemitism on campus. (Nick Anderson, Washington Post)

Insurrection

Trump lawyer acknowledged political agenda in election suit, emails show: Kenneth Chesebro stated in emails that litigation challenging the 2020 election results had a slim chance of succeeding but would provide political ammunition, undercutting claims by former President Trump’s lawyers that they were simply providing legal advice. (Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: Sidney Powell, attorney who aided Trump’s bid to subvert election, pleads guilty (Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, Politico)

Police Misconduct

NYPD cops sued for misconduct cost city millions in settlements — then get promotions: New York City is on track to fork over more than $100 million this year in payouts for lawsuits alleging police misconduct. Twenty officers stand out for being named in the most suits or being named in suits with the highest payouts. Of the 20, the department has promoted at least 16 of them, some more than once. (Akela Lacy, The Intercept)

COVID-19

U.S. halts collection on some past-due COVID loans, sparking federal probes: The SBA halted some efforts to collect an estimated $62 billion in past-due pandemic loans made to small businesses, concluding that further attempts to recover the money will cost more than simply writing off the debt. (Tony Romm, Washington Post)

Pfizer hikes price of COVID antiviral Paxlovid from $530 to nearly $1,400: Pfizer raised the list price of a course of Paxlovid — its lifesaving antiviral drug used to reduce the risk of severe COVID in those most vulnerable — to nearly $1,400, more than double what the federal government paid for the treatment during the pandemic. (Beth Mole, Ars Technica)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

$1.3B in Army vehicle parts were stored outside or in other risky ways, report finds: The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) improperly stored $1.8 billion worth of repair parts for Army tanks and armored vehicles, including storing hundreds of thousands of parts outdoors. The review also found numerous safety hazards in DLA warehouses. (Sam Skove, Defense One)

GAO: Army Corps’ cleanup of Manhattan Project-era sites suffers from management, cost uncertainties: The GAO found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could do more to improve cost estimates and management of the cleanup of locations associated with the early development and manufacture of nuclear weapons. (Erich Wagner, Government Executive)

Tech

Researchers say guardrails built around AI systems are not so sturdy: Before it released ChatGPT last year, OpenAI added digital guardrails meant to prevent its system from doing things like generating hate speech and disinformation. Google did something similar with its Bard chatbot. But new research found those guardrails aren’t as sturdy as the developers seem to believe. (Cade Metz, New York Times)

ICYMI

Immigration and Border Security:

U.S. to create new immigration program for Ecuadorians aimed at discouraging border crossings

U.S. starts deportation flights to Venezuela, aiming to curb migration

Texas installs barrier at New Mexico border to deter migrants

Other News:

Federal agency accused of tolerating employees who distributed Nazi propaganda and harassed colleagues

Tech billionaire Peter Thiel was an FBI informant

Russian sources disappeared after Trump declassified ex-spy’s evidence, UK court told

Dozens of parking lots have opened across the country for working people who can afford a car but not rent

Upcoming Events

📌 What Zombies Can Teach Us About Surviving the Apocalypse. Future Tense / Arizona State University Center for Science and the Imagination. Monday, October 23, 4:00 p.m.

📌 Policy Forum: Government Censorship by Proxy. Cato Institute. Thursday, November 2, 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m., 1000 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington DC.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 GAO - Defense Management: Action Needed to Advance Progress on Reform Efforts. GAO-24-105793(PDF)

🔥📃 GAO - Defense Industrial Base: DOD Needs Better Insight into Risks from Mergers and Acquisitions. GAO-24-106129(PDF)

🔥📃 GAO - COVID-19: Key Elements of Fraud Schemes and Actions to Better Prevent Fraud. GAO-24-107122(PDF)

🔥📃 GAO - Aviation Security: TSA Could Better Ensure Detection and Assess the Potential for Discrimination in Its Screening Technologies. GAO-24-107094(PDF)

Nominations & Appointments

Nominations

  • Claria Horn Boom - Commissioner, United States Sentencing Commission
  • Clinton J. Fuchs - United States Marshal for the District of Maryland
  • John Gleeson - Commissioner, United States Sentencing Commission
  • Johnny C. Gogo - United States Attorney for the Districts of Guam and Northern Mariana Islands
  • Sara E. Hill - Judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma
  • David L. Lemmon II - United States Marshal for the Southern District of West Virginia
  • Joshua S. Levy - United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts
  • John D. Russell - Judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma