The Paper Trail: October 24, 2023

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Top stories for October 24, 2023

Drugstore closures are leaving millions without easy access to a pharmacy: National drugstore chains are closing hundreds of stores as they reorient their operations amid rising competition, a crush of opioid lawsuits, and other forces — turning many predominantly Black, Latinx, and low-income communities into “pharmacy deserts” (Aaron Gregg and Jaclyn Peiser, Washington Post)

Military families battle rigged housing dispute process: The process for resolving disputes involving U.S. military family housing favors the interests of housing companies and silences military families. (René Kladzyk, Project On Government Oversight)

New SAT data highlights the deep inequality at the heart of American education: Children from very rich families are overrepresented at elite colleges for many reasons, including that admissions offices give them preference. But the test score data highlights a more fundamental reason: When it comes to the types of achievement colleges assess, the children of the rich are simply better prepared. (Claire Cain Miller, New York Times)

Israel-Hamas War

7 influential accounts are warping Israel-Hamas news on X, researchers find: A handful of unreliable accounts, some of which were promoted by Elon Musk, are dominating the flow of news on X about the Israel-Hamas war. Researchers concluded that news in general on the platform is now “faster, more disorienting, and potentially more shaped by Musk himself.” (Brandy Zadrozny, NBC News)

Classified Documents

A president, a billionaire and questions about access and national security: Anthony Pratt, one of Australia’s richest men, made his way into Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago inner circle with money and flattery. What he heard there is of great interest to prosecutors in the classified documents case. (Ben Protess et al., New York Times)


Kenneth Chesebro pleads guilty in Georgia after Sidney Powell plea: Three of Donald Trump’s 18 co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case have now pleaded guilty; Chesebro is the first to plead to a felony. (Jordan Rubin, MSNBC)

Chief prosecutor of Jan. 6 rioters describes “pervasive” threats to his office: Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., told Congress that the prosecutors who are bringing charges against the Capitol rioters are seeing an uptick in violent threats and harassment. (Betsy Woodruff Swan, Politico)

🔎 See Also: Analysis: Threats couldn’t save Jim Jordan. But Trump-era intimidation has had an impact (Aaron Blake, Washington Post)

Dobbs Aftermath

Voters in at least 10 states are trying to protect abortion rights. GOP officials are throwing up roadblocks: To protect access to reproductive care, coalitions across the country are organizing ballot initiatives. But their opponents are increasingly matching their efforts with an assortment of legal and political challenges that have stalled or even blocked these initiatives. (Cassandra Jaramillo, ProPublica)

Russia-Ukraine War

Ukrainian spies with deep ties to CIA wage shadow war against Russia: The CIA has spent millions of dollars building up Ukraine’s espionage capabilities, but U.S. officials stress that the agency has no involvement in targeted killing operations by Kyiv. (Greg Miller and Isabelle Khurshudyan, Washington Post)

Police Misconduct

Chicago police with extremist ties have troubling records: At least 27 Chicago police officials appeared in leaked rosters of Oath Keepers members. Some of them have troubling backgrounds that include allegations of misconduct. Nine of them remain on the force. (Dan Mihalopoulos, Tom Schuba, and Kevin G. Hall, Chicago Sun-Times)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

2 years after fuel leak at Hawaiian naval base, symptoms and fears persist: Even as ongoing water tests indicate a low but persistent presence of chemicals and residents experience ongoing health issues, state and federal officials have declared the water at Pearl Harbor-Hickam Air Force Base safe for use and consumption. (Adam Yamaguchi and Kerry Breen, CBS News)

How the DC Metro is a tool for the military industrial complex: The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which operates the D.C. metro system, forbids advertisements that “are intended to influence public policy.” But government contractors are nonetheless able to promote their brands and products in metro stations. (Brett Heinz, Responsible Statecraft)

Business and Finance

Russian tycoon claims he is behind Forbes purchase, audiotapes show: Magomed Musaev, a Kremlin-connected businessman, claims in audio and video recordings from earlier this year that he bought the Forbes Media Group. But both he and American tech entrepreneur Austin Russell, who led the $800 million acquisition, deny any involvement by Musaev or any “Chinese or Russian citizen or entity” in the deal. (Catherine Belton, Todd C. Frankel, and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Washington Post)

Inside Poland Spring’s hidden attack on water rules it didn’t like: When Maine lawmakers tried to rein in large-scale access to the state’s freshwater this year, the effort initially gained momentum. Then BlueTriton, the parent company of several bottled water companies, stepped in. BlueTriton is similarly fighting for access to water sources in several other states. (Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times)

Retail credit card interest rates rise to record highs, topping 30% APR: Swipe-happy shoppers beware: Those enticing retail credit cards from your favorite merchants may put a bigger dent in your wallet than ever before. (Elizabeth Napolitano, CBS News)

Health Care

Rural emergency hospitals try to find their footing: Financially strapped rural hospitals have been grappling with a major decision this year: Whether to give up their inpatient services in exchange for more cash from the federal government. (McKenzie Beard, Washington Post)

Biden administration looks to ban menthol cigarettes: “There’s no going back”: Public health and civil rights groups have long argued that Black Americans have been disproportionately harmed by menthol cigarettes, as the tobacco industry deliberately targeted Black communities for decades. (Nathaniel Weixel, The Hill)

Quick genetic test offers hope for sick, undiagnosed kids. But few insurers offer to pay: Many health insurers won’t cover the cost of a diagnostic tool that allows scientists to quickly identify genetic disorders and guide treatment decisions by analyzing a patient’s DNA makeup. (Phil Galewitz, CBS News)


Immigration and Border Security:

DHS proposes changes to H-1B work visas

Venezuelans become the largest nationality for illegal U.S. border crossings

Other News:

SCOTUS blocks order that said Biden admin can’t “coerce” social media firms

Middle East war adds to surge in international arms sales

Trump’s court whisperer had a state judicial strategy. Its full extent only became clear years later

Upcoming Events

📌 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.

📌 Free Speech: What Everyone Needs to Know. Cato Institute. Monday, November 6, 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m., 1000 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington DC.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 GAO - Federal Law Enforcement Officers: Criminal Sexual Acts while Acting in Official Capacity. GAO-24-106723(PDF)

🔥📃 Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy: Portrait in Oversight: Congress Investigates the Titanic Disaster. October 23, 2023

Nominations & Appointments


  • Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir - Ambassador, Indonesia
  • John W. McIntyre - Ambassador, Eswatini