The federal government made roughly $100 billion in payments to people who might not have been entitled to them, according to a new report in The Associated Press.
Some of the improper payments made in 2013 include unqualified tax credits, unemployment benefits given to employed citizens, and payments for unnecessary medical treatments. The Government Accountability Office suggests the actual amount may be even higher.
The vast majority of the improper payments were overpayments, which accounted for $97 billion, while $9 billion in underpayments also occurred.
Improper payments peaked at $121 billion in 2010, and the Obama administration has reduced the number of improper payments since then. Still, the estimates show how much money government departments are wasting when the country is trying to lower its spending.
"The amounts here are absolutely staggering," Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., told the AP. "It's over $100 billion each of the last five years. That's a staggering half a trillion dollars in improper payments." Meghan DeMaria
When George W. Bush moved into the White House in 2001, there was a letter waiting for him from Bill Clinton, and eight years later, he wrote his own missive to Barack Obama. Today, those notes were made public for the first time.
Letter Bill Clinton left for George W Bush and the letter he left for Barack Obama. pic.twitter.com/bjwueznABA
— Yashar (@yashar) January 19, 2017
The letters were released by the National Archives and Records Administration, and include words of encouragement and reminders of the great responsibility that comes along with being president of the United States. Bush told Obama that there would be "trying moments. The critics will rage. Your 'friends' will disappoint you. But, you will have an Almighty God to comfort you, a family who loves you, and a country that is pulling for you, including me. No matter what comes, you will be inspired by the character and compassion of the people you now lead."
In his letter, Clinton told Bush that the "burdens you now shoulder are great but often exaggerated," and the "sheer joy of doing what you believe is right is inexpressible." He called Bush "fortunate" to lead the United States "in a time of profound and largely positive change, when old questions, not just about the role of government, but about the very nature of our nation, must be answered anew," and said his prayers were with Bush and his family. Catherine Garcia
Actor Miguel Ferrer, best known for his roles on NCIS: Los Angeles and Twin Peaks, died in his home Thursday of cancer. He was 61.
The son of singer Rosemary Clooney and actor Jose Ferrer, he also starred in RoboCop and Crossing Jordan, and voiced characters in Mulan, Rio 2, and Robot Chicken. Prior to his death, Ferrer completed voice work for the villain Deathstroke in the movie Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. "Miguel made the world brighter and funnier and his passing is felt so deeply in our family that events of the day, monumental events, pale in comparison," his cousin, George Clooney, told The Hollywood Reporter. "We love you Miguel. We always will."
NCIS: Los Angeles showrunner R. Scott Gemmill said in a statement he will remember Ferrer as a "man of tremendous talent who had a powerful dramatic presence on screen, a wicked sense of humor, and a huge heart," and his Crossing Jordan co-star Jill Hennessy called his death "unreal." He is survived by his wife, Lori; sons Lukas and Rafi; and brother Rafael Ferrer. Catherine Garcia
The Mexican government announced Thursday that drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has been extradited to the United States, where he is wanted in several jurisdictions on federal drug trafficking charges.
The former leader of the Sinaloa cartel, Guzman has been in a prison near Ciudad Juarez; last January, he was recaptured nearly six months after he escaped from a maximum-security prison in Mexico. Catherine Garcia
President-elect Donald Trump's impending inauguration prompted the bands the Gorillaz and Arcade Fire to release new songs Thursday, the day before Trump is officially sworn into office. The Gorillaz song, "Hallelujah Money," was the band's first release in six years and was released alongside a video depicting singer Benjamin Clementine inside a cartoon rendition of the Trump Tower elevator:
Arcade Fire, meanwhile, teamed up with gospel singer Mavis Staples for their new song, "I Give You Power." The lyrics, "I give you power / I can take it away," seem to send a clear message to both Trump and any elected official. The song is only available for streaming on Tidal. Becca Stanek
President-elect Donald Trump reportedly plans to make a trip down to Langley, Virginia, home of the CIA's headquarters, on Saturday, his first full day in office. A senior official told NBC News that Trump is planning to attend the swearing-in of CIA director nominee Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), an event that hinges upon whether Pompeo's nomination is confirmed by the Senate on Friday.
Trump's visit could also be seen "as a conciliatory gesture," NBC noted. Trump has repeatedly questioned the capabilities of U.S. intelligence, most notably hesitating to accept their reports about Russian cyberattacks ahead of the U.S. presidential election.
Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer refused to confirm Trump's visit, only saying he was sure "at some point, shortly, [Trump] will visit not just the CIA but a lot of the departments." Becca Stanek
TV show reboots are dropping left and right, and NBC just hopped on the bandwagon.
Will and Grace will return for a 10-episode limited run in the 2017-18 season, NBC announced Wednesday. The show's four stars — Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes, and Megan Mullally — will reprise their original roles. Director James Burrows and creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan will also return, per The New York Times.
Will and Grace joins a growing number of 1990s and 2000s TV favorites getting a new life, including recent reboots of Full House and Gilmore Girls. But unlike a lot of other shows revived on Netflix and other networks, Will and Grace will return to its original home on NBC.
Reboot rumors started in late 2016, when the original cast reunited to film a scene about the 2016 election. For a flashback to the show's eight-season run, check out the video from NBC below. Kathryn Krawczyk
Inauguration weekend kicked off Thursday afternoon with the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. As their families looked on, President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument dedicated to American service members who have died without being officially identified.
Pres.-elect Trump, Vice Pres.-elect Pence lay wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. pic.twitter.com/Oq7ThPL8B2
— ABC News (@ABC) January 19, 2017
The ceremony, which was slated to last roughly 20 minutes, instead wrapped up in just a few minutes as Trump and Pence placed the wreath. Hours earlier, Trump and his family arrived in Washington, D.C., from New York City.
Trump's first order of business in the nation's capital was a luncheon meeting at his D.C. hotel, which was attended by transition officials and incoming White House staff. Later Thursday, Trump will stop by a celebratory concert at the Lincoln Memorial and attend a reception and dinner at Union Station.
Trump's official inaugural ceremony begins Friday at 11:30 a.m. ET. Becca Stanek