Your Hiatus Briefing for May 2

Covid surges in India and South America. Biden announces the American Families Plan. Florida citizens sue on behalf of rivers and streams.

I hope you’re enjoying your Hiatus! Here’s what’s new in the world since last week.

Covid cases continue to surge in India and South America. In the United States, about 44 percent of people have received at least one dose of a vaccine. Cases are falling nationally, though they’re trending up in the West (in Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming and Arizona). Cases are trending down in Michigan, though it remains the state with the highest per-capita number of cases.

Here’s an updated look at per-capita case numbers, comparing the United States, India and five countries in South America.

In his first major address to Congress, President Biden announced his American Families Plan, which, if passed, will increase spending on childcare, paid leave and education, including a goal of providing universal pre-K and free community college.

Earlier this year, Congress passed the American Recovery Plan with 50 votes in the Senate (with Vice President Harris as the tie-breaker). The Senate is expected to be allowed to pass one more bill this year through the “budget reconciliation” process with 50 votes (details from Wikipedia). All other bills will require 60 votes (which means 10 Republicans) unless all 50 Democrats agree to change the “filibuster” rule. The filibuster has been modified several times since 2007, including by Republicans, to make it easier to confirm judges.

The European Union charged Apple with antitrust violations in a case challenging its handling of in-app purchases for Spotify subscriptions. Spotify says Apple’s rules unfairly prevented it from showcasing cheaper ways to subscribe outside of the in-app purchase system. Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, is bringing a similar suit against Apple in the United States.

Google and Amazon reported record profits in the first quarter of 2021, capitalizing on increased online ad sales and shopping as the pandemic forces more commerce online. Amazon said it plans to increase wages for 500,000 hourly workers by amounts between 50 cents per hour and $3 per hour.

New York closed a major nuclear power plant, which has operated since the ‘60s and which raised fears among residents of accidents and dangerous waste. Although the state hopes to replace the plant – which generated 13 percent of New York state’s power in 2019 – with solar and wind energy someday, for now it will be replaced by two greenhouse-gas-emitting gas plants.

For a deeper dive on nuclear power, check out this book review on “Why Nuclear Power Has Been a Flop.” And for a tech angle on energy generation, check out “Why Bitcoin is Bad for the Environment” in The New Yorker.

The three men who’ve been charged with murder in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was killed while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood, have now been charged with federal hate crimes in addition to state murder charges.

The FBI searched Rudy Giuliani’s home and office in Manhattan, executing a warrant as part of an investigation into whether the former New York mayor and Trump attorney violated lobbying laws during his work with Trump. Agents confiscated electronic devices as potential evidence in the investigation.

An employee of Dominion Voting Systems settled a defamation lawsuit against Newsmax, a media company that had spread claims about election fraud. Newsmax has now retracted those claims.

Michael Collins, the third astronaut on the historic Apollo 11 moon mission, passed away at age 90.

In Florida, Orange County sued the state under a new “rights of nature” law. The law protects “the rights of its waterways to exist, to flow, to be protected against pollution and to maintain a healthy ecosystem. It also recognizes the authority of citizens to file enforcement actions on their behalf,” as described by The Guardian. Citizens are using the law to attempt to block a 1,900-acre housing development planned for a region with marshlands and streams.

Until next time, enjoy your Hiatus.