Your Hiatus Briefing for May 7

Biden opens the U.S. to more refugees, hiring is slow for re-opening businesses, and Yahoo! and AOL get sold again.

Thanks for being a part of Hiatus. Here’s what’s new since last week…


President Biden increased the number of refugees who can be allowed to settle in the United States from 15,000 per year to 62,500. Earlier in his presidency, his staff had said he wouldn’t raise this year’s limit, but he’s now reversed that decision. Meanwhile, one family that was separated at the southern border under the Trump administration has been reunited, and the Biden administration says it plans to reunite more than 1,000 others.


Hiring is slowing down, even as more businesses re-open. Some employers are dramatically increasing compensation for lower-wage leisure and hospitality jobs, like a Pittsburgh ice cream shop that doubled wages and attracted thousands of new applicants. Here’s what the owner said prior to the wage boost:

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said owner Jacob Hanchar, referring to his difficulty finding employees, despite lingering high unemployment from the pandemic-related recession. “It’s an industrywide thing. By now, we should have five or six people hired, and we don’t have one. We usually staff up to 11-15 people by summer.” – Full story at TribLive, a Pennsylvania news site

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal’s analysis suggests that hiring is more difficult because many potential workers don’t have childcare since their kids aren’t in full-time school; that many fear contracting Covid; and that the extra $300 per week of unemployment benefits granted in response to the pandemic is making it more beneficial to stay on unemployment than to seek a lower-wage job. Here’s their full analysis, though it’s behind a paywall.


A judge ended the federal moratorium on evictions of renters, which was established under Trump in response to the pandemic and extended under Biden. Unless a higher court intervenes, that means landlords will soon be able to evict tenants who are behind on their rent.


Off the coast of the U.K., British naval vessels intervened when French fishing boats attempted to blockade a port city as part of a dispute over fishing rights after Brexit. All the ships eventually backed off without violence.


A new study shows promise for using the psychedelic drug MDMA (ecstasy) in combination with talk therapy for treating post-traumatic stress disorder. The New York Times reports that “two months after treatment, 67 percent of participants in the MDMA group no longer qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD, compared with 32 percent in the placebo group.”


Peloton recalled all its Tread+ treadmills after 29 incidents of children being injured, and one child dying, after being trapped under the treadmill’s roller.


Facebook’s “Oversight Board” endorsed the company’s decision to ban Donald Trump from the platform, but suggested the company needed to further explain its reasoning if it made the ban permanent. Although the Oversight Board was established to bring an air of public accountability to the company, it has no direct power over the decisions of CEO Mark Zuckerberg beyond what Zuckerberg voluntarily grants it.


Verizon, the owner of ‘90s Internet behemoths AOL and Yahoo!, sold the two properties to a private equity firm for $5 billion. For a bit of irony and contrast, check out this story about Yahoo! offering to buy Facebook for $1 billion in 2006. Facebook now has a market value of roughly $900 billion. On the other hand, no one has ever needed to take a hiatus from Yahoo! for their mental health.


A group of animal-rights activists is suing the Bronx Zoo on behalf of Happy, the elephant who’s lived there mostly alone for 19 years. The group is filing a novel habeas corpus claim, arguing that the zoo doesn’t have a right to hold Happy and that she should be moved to an elephant sanctuary where she’ll have company. Habeas corpus is generally used to argue that a government doesn’t have the right to detain a person, and was famously suspended by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, allowing the government greater leeway to detain people who were disrupting military operations.


Archaeologists released a new study about Cahokia, a large Native American city that existed near modern-day St. Louis from roughly 1100 to 1350. The city was more populous than Paris at the time, and archaeologists now say that the theory that it was evacuated due to deforestation doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. You can check out the study in The Times, or you can learn more about the huge cities of pre-Columbian North America by picking up the book 1491.


If you fly this summer, remember to be nice to your flight attendant. The FAA says reports of “unruly passengers” are about 13 times higher than usual in the past year – that’s a total of 1,300 cases when an average year has about 100.


Until next time, enjoy your Hiatus.