New Investigation:

How Lax EPA Oversight Enabled Jackson's Water Crisis.


The Paper Trail: September 26, 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.

Top stories for September 26, 2023

All eyes on ethics as Supreme Court justices return to Washington: Among the roughly 950 cases the court will decide whether to hear is one involving the company of a hedge fund manager who treated Justice Alito to a luxury fishing vacation in Alaska in 2008. (Zach Schonfeld, The Hill)

Uninvited and unaccountable: How CBP policed George Floyd protests: Newly uncovered documents reveal the extent of CBP’s involvement in the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, conducting arrests and barraging protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets — sometimes without the knowledge of other agencies, city and state leaders, or even CBP officials. (Prem Thakker, The Intercept)

Misinformation research is buckling under GOP legal attacks: Academics, universities, and government agencies are overhauling or ending research programs designed to counter the spread of online political and medical misinformation amid a legal campaign from conservative politicians and activists who accuse them of colluding with tech companies to censor right-wing speech. (Naomi Nix, Cat Zakrzewski, and Joseph Menn, Washington Post)

In hospitals, viruses are everywhere. Masks are not: Facing a potential wave of COVID infections, relatively few hospitals — mostly in New York, Massachusetts, and California — have restored mask mandates for patients and staff members. The vast majority have not, and almost none require them for visitors. (Apoorva Mandavilli, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: Anti-vaxxers are now a modern political force (Jessica Piper, Politico)

Tyson and Perdue are facing child labor investigations: The Labor Department opened inquiries into reports of migrant children working at slaughterhouses owned by poultry-processing giants Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms. (Hannah Dreier, New York Times)


As Trump prosecutions move forward, threats and concerns increase: As the prosecutions of Trump accelerate, so too have threats against law enforcement authorities, judges, and elected officials. The threats, in turn, are prompting protective measures, a legal effort to curb Trump’s incendiary public statements, and concern about the 2024 election campaign. (Michael S. Schmidt et al., New York Times)

🔎 See Also: Trump urges judge to reject proposed gag order in federal election case (Kyle Cheney, Politico)

Dobbs Aftermath

A new border crossing: Americans turn to Mexico for abortion: Clinics in Tijuana and Mexico City and activists in the city of Hermosillo say they've seen women crossing the border from Texas, Louisiana, and Arizona seeking access to abortion. (Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Edyra Espriella, New York Times)

Russia-Ukraine War

In Ukraine, U.S. tax dollars are funding more than just military aid: The U.S. has pumped nearly $25 billion of non-military aid into Ukraine since the invasion began, buying seeds and fertilizer for farmers, paying the salaries of first responders, and subsidizing small businesses. (Aliza Chasan, 60 Minutes)

Police Misconduct

FBI investigating charges of abuse by Baton Rouge police in “Brave Cave”: The FBI opened a civil rights investigation into allegations that the Baton Rouge police interrogated and humiliated people in a secret warehouse. (Livia Albeck-Ripka, New York Times)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

911 call in freak F-35 crash ejection: “I guess he landed in my backyard”: While much of the focus has been on the aircraft’s day-long disappearance, the problem that led to the pilot’s ejection and why it kept flying after the ejection are far more important. (Kim Bellware and Kyle Rempfer, Washington Post)

🔎 See Also: GAO blasts contractor-led F-35 maintenance as costly, slow (Stephen Losey, Defense News)

VA officials sound alarm on uptick in veterans benefits scams: VA officials fear the rapid expansion of toxic exposure assistance in the last year could invite more scammers to prey on veterans and their families. (Leo Shane III, Military Times)

Soldiers’ attempt to sue Army for negligence may end before it begins: Two soldiers who are seeking damages for an Army doctor’s alleged sexual abuse are up against the Feres Doctrine, which essentially creates two sets of rules when it comes to negligence lawsuits: one for civilians, and one for service members. (Zamone Perez, Military Times)

Navy fires commanding officer of ballistic missile submarine Alabama: Cmdr. Michael Lyle is one of at least eight Navy commanding officers relieved this year. (Diana Stancy Correll, Navy Times)

Business and Finance

Why many business owners would love it if you stopped using your credit card: U.S. retailers have long complained about the “swipe fees” they have to pay for accepting credit cards, and lower-income cash customers are essentially subsidizing the rewards that go to wealthier card-users — a $15 billion-a-year transfer some call “Robin Hood in reverse.” (Scott Horsley, NPR)

🔎 See Also: Marshall, Durbin raked in donations from supporters of swipe fee crackdown (Caitlin Oprysko, Politico)

Hundreds of colleges agree to make financial aid offers more transparent: There’s a lot of variation in the financial aid letters colleges use to inform students of the cost of attending and the grants and loans are available to them. The inconsistency can make it difficult for families to figure out how much they owe and compare the cost of one college to another. (Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Washington Post)


Rising cyberattacks on schools put students at risk: Education has become the fifth most targeted industry for data breaches, with U.S. schools experiencing a sharp increase in hacks in recent years. (Lexi Lonas, The Hill)

Your Wyze webcam might have let other owners peek into your house: Some Wyze security camera owners say they were unexpectedly able to see inside other people’s homes. (Jay Peters, The Verge)


“Monster fracks” are getting far bigger. And far thirstier: Giant new oil and gas wells that require astonishing volumes of water to fracture bedrock are threatening America’s fragile aquifers. (Hiroko Tabuchi and Blacki Migliozzi, New York Times)

Health Care

FDNY deaths from 9/11-related illnesses now equal the number killed on Sept. 11: About 11,000 former and current FDNY employees suffer from World Trade Center-related illnesses, including some 3,500 with cancer. In total, nearly 80,000 people have physical or mental health conditions stemming from 9/11. (Becky Sullivan, NPR)

Uncle Sam wants you—to fight high drug prices: Under last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, the federal government gained the power to square off with drugmakers over how much Medicare pays for medicines. That’s why Uncle Sam is looking to hire economists, data scientists, and pharmacists to staff the Medicare Drug Rebate and Negotiations Group. (Joseph Walker, Wall Street Journal)

The world needs new antibiotics, but the business model is broken: Six startups have won FDA approval for new antibiotics since 2017. All have filed for bankruptcy, been acquired, or are shutting down because they’re not as profitable as new treatments for cancer and Alzheimer’s. (Dominique Mosbergen, Wall Street Journal)

Worm that jumps from rats to slugs to human brains has invaded Southeast U.S.: The dreaded rat lungworm — a parasite with a penchant for rats and slugs and occasionally human brains — has firmly established itself in the southeastern U.S. and will likely continue its rapid invasion. (Beth Mole, Ars Technica)


Immigration and Border Security:

Biden administration plans to keep refugee cap at 125,000

What’s behind the latest migrant surge? For many, impatience with a government app

Mexico makes agreement with U.S. to deport migrants from its border cities as one mayor warns his city is at “a breaking point”

Other News:

A history of government shutdowns: The 14 times funding has lapsed since 1980

In some states, more than half of the local election officials have left since 2020

Hunter Biden in GOP’s crosshairs again as tax panel sets vote on disclosing more secrets

Trump tells gun store he’d like to buy a Glock, raising legal questions

The earmarks Adam Schiff delivered for donors

Upcoming Events

📌 Webinar: Dollars and Demographics - How Census Data Shapes Federal Funding Distribution. Project On Government Oversight / Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Tuesday, September 26, 2 p.m.

📌 Oversight of the Securities and Exchange Commission. House Committee on Financial Services. Wednesday, September 27, 10:00 a.m., 2128 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 Bankers & Bombs: How Venture Capital and Private Equity are Feeding the Military Industrial Complex. Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Wednesday, September 27, 11:00 a.m.

📌 How the Supreme Court’s Decision in CFPB v. CFSA Could Harm Consumers. Center for American Progress. Thursday, September 28, 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m., 1333 H St. NW, Washington, D.C.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 DHS OIG: DHS Needs to Update Its Strategy to Better Manage Its Biometric Capability Needs. OIG-23-58(PDF)