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Bits n’ pieces from east, west and beyond

| April 5, 2024 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. 

A recent sampling:

Nearly half of senior Congressional staffers contemplate leaving, primarily due to safety concerns.

Republican staffers -- 59% as compared to 16% of Dems -- cited “heated rhetoric from my party” as prompting them to think about a job exit. Only 20% of staffers think Congress is “functioning as a democratic legislature should.”

Data is from a recent Congressional Management Foundation survey.

A human rights official at the State Dept. is the second to resign over the Biden Administration’s actions regarding Israel and Gaza. Annelle Sheline told media she saw no way she could influence the concerning flow of arms to Israel, and said many colleagues would prefer to resign, but can’t afford the job loss. 

A new Gallup poll shows American support for Israel’s conduct of the war has dropped to 36%.

Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk says Europe is entering a “pre-war” era, is not prepared and should increase defense investments. He’s been urging better support for Ukraine’s defense against Russia. In The Guardian, Tusk said the next two years of the Ukraine war will decide everything, and “we are living in the most critical moment since the end of the second world war.”

After Elon Musk filed suit against the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a federal judge rejected it, saying it was purely punitive, did not protect X's security and legal rights, or demonstrate any defamation, CNN reported. The CCDH research documented increases in hate speech on X, formerly Twitter, after Musk purchased it. Musk plans to appeal.

A former Tesla director has resigned, in part, due to “concerns about” Elon Musk’s drug use. Witnesses claim Musk’s usage includes LSD, cocaine and ecstasy, according to The Wall Street Journal.

A planned ban on toxic PFAS chemicals used in containers, cleaners, cosmetics and pesticides has been nixed by a conservative fifth circuit court, The Guardian reported. The judges said the EPA could not regulate under the statute it had used. PFAS do not naturally breakdown and are linked to cancer, high cholesterol, liver disease, kidney disease, fetal complications and “other serious health problems.”

The Lever has closely investigated events leading to a mega-cargo ship that recently collapsed Maryland’s Francis Scott Key Bridge. Although only going 7.8 mph, it was so heavy the impact was that of a “rocket launch,” The New York Times estimated. The bridge loss disrupted a main trade route, and is expected to impact delivery of items to supply chains. Six people died. 

An insurance firm had warned about the hazards of larger cargo ships and the International Trade Forum had warned against using public money to retrofit ports for larger mega-container ships. (Large cargo vessel mishaps include the 2020 Suez Canal ship incident that cost the global economy up to $60 billion.) 

The larger ships are prized for needing less fuel per container hauled, but environmental issues remain due to ship exhaust and associated toxic dust from cargo. The Key bridge, which took five years to build, had survived a collision decades ago, when ships were smaller. 

In 1980 a ship hit a bridge in Florida, killing 35; a top Maryland state engineer warned at that time that the Key Bridge would not survive a similar crash. As Maryland’s then-governor, (and now U.S. Senate candidate) Larry Hogan had said, the larger ships would strengthen the economy and improve safety; he now wants the federal government to foot the bill for rebuilding the bridge. 

Insurer Lloyds of London says the bridge’s collapse is likely to result in the largest single marine insurance loss ever. Damages include wrongful deaths, business disruption and bridge rebuilding, The Guardian reported. The company that chartered the ship had recently been sanctioned for blocking employees from reporting concerns to the Coast Guard. 

Since 2021, $2.7 million was spent lobbying Congress and federal regulators on various business issues by the company that chartered the cargo ship. That entity went to court early this week in a bid to cap their damages at $43 million.

Blast from the past: Donald Trump said he aced a “difficult” Montreal Cognitive Assessment in 2020 that had “advanced” math: “multiply 3,293 times 4, divide by 3.” CNN fact-checked Trump’s claim: the test does not have that math challenge. Trump claimed only 2% of his followers could pass the test.