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College move-in will be lonelier and weirder than ever this year

By Janet Lorin
College move-in will be lonelier and weirder than ever this year
A pedestrian walks through Harvard Yard on the closed Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Mass., on April 20, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Adam Glanzman.

The University of Notre Dame's president apologized for posing near students for a photo. Princeton canceled in-person classes just weeks before they begin. Canada's border patrol turned away a mother driving her daughter to McGill because of her U.S. citizenship.

The back-to school rituals of America's college-bound have always entailed some drama: long journeys, family squabbles and children away from home for the first time. But they're nothing compared with 2020, the year that covid-19 transformed higher education.

Until now, colleges moved in a kind of lock-step. The most selective ones charged similar $70,000-plus annual prices, bragged about small classes and doting professors and marketed life-long networks forged in dorms and dining halls.

Today, in Massachusetts alone, the variety is dizzying. Northeastern University has gone all in on in-person instruction. Long famed for promoting work experience, it is now trumpeting another specialty: an on-campus lab to process 5,000 covid-19 tests a day.

Or consider Tufts University. Colleges, eager to win over new donors, have long welcomed parents to help kids decorate or hear from administrators in orientation. Tufts said some students will have to move into their dorms without any help from parents or loved ones.

Harvard University, where all classes will be virtual, isn't requiring students to come at all. Only a quarter of undergraduates will be on campus, and they'll face a world where they'll be tested regularly and have to attest daily they are symptom free -- or, in its parlance, are "Crimson Clear." Some 20% of freshmen decided to defer enrolling -- postponing the hottest ticket in higher ed.

Meanwhile, Williams College is doing the unthinkable. Acknowledging the reality of a diminished, socially distant semester, it is offering a 15% discount.

"It's a tough time for students who dreamed of the college experience they saw in movies and TV," said Christopher Marsicano, an assistant professor who studies higher education at Davidson College in North Carolina.

Some will have it worse than others. At Duke University in North Carolina, junior Shrey Majmudar will be trading a dorm for his own room at the college-owned Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club. The school reserved lodgings there to provide more social distancing. Yet, there will be sacrifices, as well. In a school known for its spirit, Duke is restricting gatherings to 10 students or fewer.

A third of four-year nonprofit and public colleges are opening entirely or mostly in person, 27% are fully or primarily online and 21% are a hybrid, or a mix of the two, according to Davidson's College Crisis Initiative, which is tracking universities' responses. In the last week, 40 schools, or 3%, switched from partly in-person to fully online.

The about-faces can be tough. Princeton University student Juan Nova will drive 17 hours from his home near Orlando to New Jersey, so he can live in an off-campus apartment. As a sophomore, Nova wasn't due to return in-person until the spring but had wanted to take part in whatever campus life he could in the fall. He and his two roommates signed a lease before the school switched to entirely online. By then, they were locked in.

"It was an abrupt change," said Nova, 19. "I understand the decision to stay safe."

The $600 billion-plus higher education industry is doing what it can to stay solvent. About 60% to 80% of revenue comes from tuition and fees, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers. College communities rely on the institutions as engines of employment, tourism and economic innovation.

Normally, as students return, administrators like to schmooze with families. But, in perhaps a first, Notre Dame President John Jenkins had to issue a mea culpa for standing too close to students. The school has reported 19 Covid-19 cases.

"Even I was swept up in the excitement and celebration of your return. In a few instances, over recent days, I stopped for photos with some of you on the quad," Jenkins wrote last week.

Few can match the drop-off ordeal of Vivian Mamelak, whose 18-year-old daughter Leena Demers is starting her first year at McGill University in Montreal. She and her husband rented a house not far from the campus, so they could quarantine for the required two weeks. Mamelak, unlike her husband and daughter, isn't a Canadian citizen.

To make the case that the family should be together, Mamelek brought her marriage certificate, as Canadian officials had instructed her to do. No dice. Border agents turned her away, since Canada has restricted travel by Americans amid the coronavirus. The family had to drive back to Plattsburgh, New York, so Mamelak could rent a car to return home to New York City. Her daughter is scheduled to start later this month and will live in a dorm while taking class mostly online.

"I wanted to take my daughter to university and get her settled into her dorm room and have that whole rite of passage with her and I was sent away," Mamelak said. "It was very sad."

Jonathan Majors is your new American hero

By Helena Andrews-Dyer
Jonathan Majors is your new American hero
Actor Jonathan Majors is quickly becoming that guy you can't stop seeing in ... well, everything. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Mary Mathis

The hero's journey is a circuitous one. After setting out into the great unknown, battling monsters and men, our protagonist inevitably winds up at Point A again, ready to slay whatever Big Bad sent them packing in the first place.

That's a familiar road for Jonathan Majors, the 30-year-old actor who's quickly becoming that guy - the one you can't stop seeing in ... well, everything.

He started acting because of a fight in middle school; he had a bunch of big emotions and a blocked vent. Now, a decade and a half later, in his first leading role, Majors is playing the kind of hero his younger self (and the boys he used to "cut up with") could've used. Someone who's learned how to harness his hard-earned rage for good.

"As a boy, I was warring with my community. I was warring with myself," says Majors, who stars in HBO's new sci-fi drama "Lovecraft Country," a "Twilight Zone"-y road trip through the real and imagined horrors of the Jim Crow South and the South Side of 1950s Chicago.

Majors plays Atticus Freeman, a Korean War veteran returning "home" to a hostile America.

"The soldier (in me) was very real," the actor recalled of his youth, "and now at times the soldier is still there. But I began to love my community, love myself, love where I come from. And then the fight's different: You're now fighting for them." But the quest from Point A to Point B and back for Atticus - and Majors himself - is never free of potholes.

There are vengeful ghosts and good old boys waiting for Atticus, who has returned to Chicago to save the father who deserted him and the community that never understood him. He is the prodigal son, soon-to-be patriarch and political protester all in one.

"This role, presented to the world with dignity and honor and sincerity, will alter the hero's narrative in general," he says. "Heroes now can come in any shape and form. Of course there can be a Black James Bond, a female James Bond. Atticus Freeman exists. We have taken something that is so iconically White and male and pushed the scope."

Still, "Lovecraft Country" creator Misha Green says producers didn't have Majors specifically in mind for the lead role at first. But when he walked in the door to audition, "he was clearly our Atticus." The actor got the call that he was in two days before he started shooting "The Last Black Man in San Francisco."

"Jonathan has this presence that's vulnerable yet ferocious at the same time," Green says, pointing to Major's gift of embodying "all the little details and contradictions that make us human."

Courtney B. Vance, who stars opposite Majors in "Lovecraft Country," put it this way: "He has that look. I don't know what else to call it. A face that you could put any young Black man on to."

Vance plays Atticus's Uncle George, the uncle everyone wishes they had - the one who sees the good parts your own parents don't.

"I am so proud of him. He is like my son," says Vance of Majors. "I see in him a younger version of me because I know the journey, and it is one where he must be diligent and vigilant to stay on this path. He will be working nonstop for the rest of his life."

- - -

For anyone following Majors's stellar work in the past year alone, the role of Atticus is both culmination and coronation. In each of his three most recent roles, Majors codifies the Black male experience in America as the forgotten son who is still fighting to be seen.

In "The Last Black Man in San Francisco" - 2019's ode to the Bay Area and the actor's most lauded role to date - Majors plays Montgomery Allen, an impossibly talented street Shakespeare aggressively documenting the boys on the corner for a one-man play that is a masterpiece to watch on-screen and a master class in acting.

"He really wanted to feel the people around him because in doing that, he would understand them," Majors says of "Mont," referring to the character like an old friend. "He has the emotional aptitude to realize if you're understood, then I'm understood. For me, growing up, that was the place I had the most discomfort. I felt so misunderstood."

The film's director, Joe Talbot, called Majors "a quiet observer and a confident philosopher. He feels somehow young and old all at once." It was Majors who first coined the script as "quiet," according to Talbot, who used the actor's description as "a guiding light for how we all approached the material, and each other."

"He was also perhaps the only actor who came in for Montgomery that immediately understood the character. He didn't reach for the low-hanging fruit to make him into a prototypical nerd or goofball. He understood Montgomery was more than that - he was an eccentric empath," Talbot says.

If in "Last Black Man," Majors was grappling with the ancient Greek aphorism "know thyself," then in his next big project, Spike Lee's Vietnam reunion drama "Da 5 Bloods," the Yale-trained actor delved into the logical next step of self-help-ism: "Know thy father.

David, the character Major plays in the film, is the only actual young blood in the group, made up of a cadre of veteran Black actors. David follows his father - a MAGA hat-wearing Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD, played by Delroy Lindo - to Saigon, the root of it all.

"A son has to know his father because, irregardless of what the relationship is, you will ultimately become them," Majors says. "There is a deep satisfaction that comes when you know them."

Being misunderstood, a son finding his father and a soldier seeking his place in America: Those themes, those men, have all shown up in Majors's own life.

"With all my characters I try to track what it is they're getting out of the story and what it is I need," Majors says. "Lovecraft's" Atticus, in particular - gifted, earnest and angry - is all too familiar for the young actor on the cusp of becoming.

So, the beginning.

- - -

Our hero starts his journey in Texas, the middle son. His mother is a pastor. His father is in and out. Young Majors is a voracious reader who's bursting with emotions - rage, heartbreak, "deep, deep joy" - that he doesn't know how to handle. At 14, he's sent to an alternative school after losing his temper in a big way.

"When you're like 11, 12, and you get into a fight at school, it's not a big deal. But all of a sudden you got some weight to you and your ire is more adult. It was like 'Oh, that's young-man strength,' " Majors explains.

He spent his time outside of the school system with other "Black and Brown boys," doing physical training and learning about decorum. By the time Majors got back to the classroom, he had "shifted." A teacher steered the quiet kid toward the stage and he began to crack open.

"Everything I had held onto and was festering unbeknownst to me, would come out in language and other people's words," Majors says of his first theater classes. Acting became a lifeline. But the actor is quick to note the stage didn't save his life. "I got a good mama. She saved my life. But (acting) did give me a reason to live and showed me how to live," Majors says.

"I began to find out things about myself emotionally, like where my tears come from, and the fact that I had a great deal of empathy. ... That began to open up my emotional drain."

Still, like the classic hero's journey, the course wasn't free from obstacles.

Majors got into "a bit more trouble," and a bit more after that. Despite lettering in drama (yes, you can do that), he was suspended again in high school and threatened with permanent expulsion.

He remembers his mother picking him up after that particularly rough visit to the principal's office. "It put so much shame on me," he recalled. The image of his Letterman jacket, still in its plastic, thrown haphazardly in the back of his mother's car stands out in his mind. "Let's just go. Let's get out of here," he remembers telling her.

Majors transferred to another high school and was "safe" for a time. Then he started skipping class. A lot.

"I didn't know what it was. I just had my own way of thinking about things and trying to get things done." He had to appeal to the school district's superintendent - a man whose son Majors had coincidentally gotten into a fight with in elementary school - and ask to be reinstated. Majors, who was a senior at the time, was directing a school play.

"I walked in there and said, 'Listen, man, first off, yeah, I am the guy who slapped your son. Yeah, sorry about that. I know it may not seem like it, but I've really straightened out.'"

He was reinstated at school, and the path was straight from then on out. He attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and earned a graduate degree from the Yale School of Drama. During his last semester at Yale, director Gus Van Sant cast Majors in the LGBT miniseries "When We Rise." He finished his coursework in a trailer on set and hasn't stopped working since.

- - -

It's impossible to keep a straight face when up against Major's Cadillac-sized grin. Just before our Zoom interview, the actor finished a long call about a new film project, adding it to the growing pile. So, ask him how he's doing and Majors doesn't do the humblebrag Hollywood thing. He goes for the truth.

"Oh, man. Whoo! I'm good, I'm really good, you know, all things considered. I'm good," Majors says from the Santa Fe, N.M., home he's been living in since February, practically bouncing from the rounded Pueblo-inspired walls. He is waiting for production to resume on his next project, the Jay-Z backed Western "The Harder They Fall."

But that's on the horizon. For now, the actor is still steeped in the past of the "hella entertaining" "Lovecraft Country." Set to debut Sunday, the show is premiering to a country in the throes of a great reckoning with race and patriotism. It's fitting, though: As Atticus, Majors is playing a modern-day hero who proves that America's past is prologue.

"There are pieces (of art) that in one go encompass the past, future and the present," Majors says. "This is not a Black show; this is an American show. Our protagonists are heroes. They are Americans."

The show is seemingly yet another recent success story for the actor who spent too much his youth fighting - often literally - to be seen. But unlike then, Majors's trajectory is clear.

"I think it's gonna turn out all right," he says, still beaming about his next big thing.

Since 2016, 11 states and D.C. have expanded voting rights for the currently and formerly incarcerated

By Brittany Renee Mayes and Kate Rabinowitz
Since 2016, 11 states and D.C. have expanded voting rights for the currently and formerly incarcerated
Desmond Meade displays a copy of his voter registration form outside the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office in Orlando on Jan. 8, 2019, after registering to vote. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Phelan M. Ebenhack

Over a million currently and formerly incarcerated Americans have regained their right to vote since the last presidential election. Though many still face barriers to voting, like outstanding fines and fees, for some of these Americans, this November will be the first time they'll be able to cast a ballot.

"Being from the nation's capital and being able to come home and I still have the right to vote ... it's a blessing," said Shannon Battle, who was formerly incarcerated and is now the Congressman John Lewis Fellow at Free Minds. The fellowship pays a returning citizen to promote nonviolence and racial equity through poetry and storytelling. "Returning citizen" is the preferred term for formerly incarcerated people, and is used to de-stigmatize them while acknowledging their unique difficulties.

Battle was a juvenile when he was given a life sentence and incarcerated in 1993 for homicide. Twenty-five years later, on June 6, 2019, he was released under Washington, D.C's Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act (IRAA). Battle, now 44, was able to vote in the 2020 D.C. primary, and he is eager to cast a ballot in November in his first presidential election.

"I made a commitment to myself that if ... there's ever the opportunity (to vote) that I would take full advantage of that right," Battle said. "I'ma vote every time I get the chance."

In 2016, more than 6 million Americans were subject to felony disenfranchisement. Since then, thousands of people have reclaimed their right to vote through executive orders and changes to state law. Last month, D.C. passed legislation to join Maine and Vermont in allowing incarcerated Americans to cast ballots.

"There have been several reforms at the state level, changing laws or governors using their authority," said Nicole D. Porter, advocacy director at the Sentencing Project. "There are still millions of people who are disenfranchised because of felony voting rights exclusions ... including several states (that) have hundreds of thousands of people disenfranchised who live in the community on felony probation and parole."

Disenfranchisement policies have a disproportionate effect on communities of color. In particular, Black Americans older than 18 are about four times as likely to lose their voting rights than the rest of the adult population. Black citizens account for only 13 percent of the U.S. population, but make up 30 percent of parolees. In total, 2.2 million Black voters are disenfranchised.

In states such as Georgia and Texas, hundreds of thousands of returning citizens on probation are excluded from voting. Most recently, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, signed an executive order to automatically restore voting rights for some felons upon completion of sentencing, re-enfranchising an estimated 40,000 Iowans.

In 2018, Florida passed Amendment 4, the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, by ballot measure, giving voting rights to most people with prior felony convictions who have completed their sentences, including parole and probation. An estimated 1.4 million voters regained their rights.

But even with these laws changing, the act of voting can still be blocked. Following the ballot initiative, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed a bill requiring that formerly convicted Americans pay all court-ordered fines before they can register to vote.

Florida is not alone in having financial roadblocks in place. In more than half of U.S. states, at least some formerly incarcerated Americans are disenfranchised because of outstanding fines, fees and restitution payments to victims. The fees vary from a $50 application fee for a public defender to thousands of dollars in restitution payments.

A study in the American Sociological Review found that the outcome of the highly-contested George W. Bush-Al Gore presidential election in 2000 probably would have been changed even if disenfranchised Americans with felony convictions in Florida had been allowed to vote.

"Watching the Gore versus Bush spectacle to have it down to Florida with the hanging chads. ... It kind of gave me an understanding of how important voting was," Battle said. "After that, I always said I wish I had the opportunity to vote."

In the 2016 presidential election, the race came down to just over 100,000 votes in a handful of states - most notably Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. At the time, more than 160,000 voters in those states were disenfranchised.

With the outbreak of the coronavirus in March, some state correction departments started taking steps to reduce the prison population by allowing early releases. In some states, including Michigan and Pennsylvania, the completion of a prison sentence re-enfranchises voters, making them eligible to cast their ballots in the upcoming election even if they are still on parole.

But Battle sees a lack of education as the biggest barrier to voting because enfranchisement laws vary from state to state, and there isn't a guarantee that currently or formerly incarcerated Americans know their rights. "Especially a lot of the younger guys that might have entered the system just think that they don't have that right no more," he said.

Battle, released just over a year ago, said he's now committed to being a part of as much of the democratic process as possible - including educating his peers on their rights and volunteering at the polls.

"It's a blessing especially (for) someone like me who always dreamed of one day voting," Battle said. "I never thought I would get the opportunity to vote. I thought that was impossible."

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Flip the Script: It's Harris who exposes the GOP's radicalism

By e.j. dionne jr.
Flip the Script: It's Harris who exposes the GOP's radicalism


Advance for release Sunday Aug. 16, 2020 and thereafter



It has been quite a show as President Donald Trump and the Republicans moved feverishly and at times hysterically from one attack line against Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., to another.

In one instant, former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate is a dangerous left-winger. Then, suddenly, she's a "top cop" and an unprincipled sell-out to the progressive cause. She is, as all women who oppose Trump are eventually labeled, "nasty."

And it was only a matter of time before we were treated to another round of tired, old, libelous birtherism. Hey, the American-born Harris is the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, so in the Trumpian worldview, there must be something wrong. The greatest hits of racism and nativism keep on coming.

But this manic incoherence speaks to a larger problem for a radicalized Republican Party: They have moved so far to the right that they see even moderation as socialist radicalism.

A party closer to what can fairly be called the political center would grasp that this moment of national crisis demands more aggressive and coherent action by government than the GOP's low-tax, free market wait-and-see bromides would admit.

Republicans briefly accepted this when they joined with Democrats earlier this year to send more than $2 trillion of relief into an ailing country. But although the economy continues to stagger, Republicans have lost their sense of urgency. Many in their ranks just can't accept how much support Americans facing hardship, and the economy as a whole, need.

So, they refuse to meet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in the middle.

Republicans are saying they can't accept much more than $1 trillion in new assistance. Pelosi and Schumer rightly think it will take something closer to $3 trillion to ward off personal and collective disaster. While the Senate was sleeping, Pelosi pushed her package through the House in May.

In the sort of middle ground compromise that Congress was once good at, Pelosi suggested the parties split the difference, agree on a $2 trillion package, and negotiate its content from there. No dice, said the Republicans. And Congress went home without a deal.

This failure of contemporary American conservatism to grasp the realities of the moment extends beyond the immediate crisis. Over the last four decades, the distribution of income and wealth in the country has become wildly unequal.

This is a social problem for the country, aggravating divisions of all kinds. It hits hardest at Black Americans and Latinos, but also undermines the living standards of working-class whites, many of whom gravitated to Trump in protest in 2016.

But it is also bad economics. In a consumer-driven economy, it makes good sense, as former President Barack Obama once said, to "spread the wealth around." Republicans assailed Obama for saying that. But his words were simply a description of how modestly more egalitarian policies in the decades after World War II produced widely shared income growth and a booming economy overall.

And this is where the Harris conundrum comes into focus. She is, at once, a pragmatist and a progressive - and, at the moment, those two dispositions make a good fit.

Supporters of Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., are not wrong in seeing Harris as less invested in attacks on corporate power than the candidates they championed. But Harris has been consistent in favoring policies that would take large steps to redress the country's economic imbalances.

The most innovative idea that emerged from her brief presidential campaign in 2019 was the "LIFT the Middle Class Act" to help lower and middle-income workers. It provided an income supplement of $250 a month for single people and $500 a month for married couples, phasing out at $50,000 a year in income for singles without children and at $100,000 for singles with kids and married couples.

As Vox's Dylan Matthews noted at the time Harris introduced the idea, it was "arguably the closest thing that any 2020 contender has proposed to a universal basic income." According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priories, it would lift 9 million people out of poverty.

Her response to the current downturn was consistent with this approach. With Sanders and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., she co-sponsored a bill in May that would provide $2,000 a month for every American in a family with an income of below $120,000.

It's unlikely that Biden will fully embrace these ideas. But they show that Harris is serious about inequality and in search of practical ways to push back against it. And unlike Trump and Senate Republicans, Harris acknowledges the extent of hardship in the country. No wonder they keep flailing away at her. Her pragmatism exposes their radicalism.

- - -

E.J. Dionne is on Twitter: @EJDionne.

Kamala Harris's story is an American story

By david ignatius
Kamala Harris's story is an American story


Advance for release Monday, Aug. 17 and thereafter


Repeats to add dateline

By David Ignatius

WASHINGTON -- The morning after Kamala Harris was announced as Joe Biden's running mate, I happened to be speaking to a webinar forum in Bangalore. The enthusiasm that Indians in the seminar felt for this daughter of immigrants was obvious-and a sign of the unusual strengths Harris will bring to the campaign.

Harris reminds the world why America is great. This is the land, not of carnage, as Donald Trump would have it, but of opportunity. People overseas, in India and nearly everywhere else I travel, still yearn to come to America for much the same reason that Harris's mother and father did. People can be free and prosperous here - and they can march in the streets in protest to demand their rights, as Harris and her parents did, too.

Harris's life story interweaves the two great positive themes that animate our national life now - the "Black Lives Matter" demand for equality and justice and the immigrant yearning for security, prosperity and freedom. She complements Biden, the genial if occasionally inarticulate septuagenarian, in an uncanny way. If he's sleepy, she's a jolt of caffeine.

The web audience in India was just digesting the Harris vice presidential news when I appeared with former Indian national security adviser Shivshankar Menon at an internet event sponsored by the Synergia Foundation. Attendees talked about the buzz of proud comments from Chennai, the birthplace of Harris's mother Shyamala Gopalan.

Harris provides a moving account of her experience as a black woman and an Indian American in her 2019 memoir, "The Truths We Hold: An American Journey." Where Barack Obama's "Dreams from My Father," was the story of a young man struggling to understand his mixed racial identity, Harris seems to have had less doubt.

By Harris's account, her mother embraced black culture when she married Donald Harris, a Jamaican immigrant who became an economist at Stanford, and she continued to hold that culture tight after she and her husband divorced five years later. Harris and her sister Maya grew up in Oakland, sang in the children's choir at a black church, attended a black cultural center called "Rainbow Sign," and dreamed as girls they would marry members of the Jackson Five. (Harris chose Tito.)

"My mother understood very well that she was raising two black daughters," Harris writes. She recalls that she would go to civil rights marches with her mother, and when Shyamala asked what she wanted, young Kamala would shout back "Fweedom!"

Harris's decision to attend Howard University was a powerful affirmation, not just of her father's identity, but of the racial milieu her mother had embraced as well. African American voters may rally to Harris for many reasons, but a big one is that she chose to attend this historically black college and become a member of its Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. "There are a lot of AKAs who will ring doorbells for their sister," one prominent African American businessman told me this week.

What powers Harris's memoir (and, the reader senses, her life) was her passionate, persistent and proudly unconventional mother. Nearly every chapter includes one of her mother's favorite sayings. "Don't let anyone tell you who you are. You tell them who you are." "Focus on what's in front of you and the rest will follow." "Hold fast to conviction." She remembers that when she and Maya went through customs to visit her relatives abroad, her mother would advise: "Stand up straight. Don't laugh. Don't fidget. Have all your stuff. Be prepared."

The book converges on the moving story of how Shyamala, a cancer researcher, succumbed to colon cancer in 2009. Harris, for all her budding ambition in California politics, was with her mother to the end. She's convincing when she writes near the conclusion of the book: "When I am stuck with a hard decision, I ask, 'What would Mommy think?'"

Harris's strength as a vice presidential candidate is often likened to her experience as prosecutor and attorney general in California-the intense debater who can perk up Biden's sometimes halting syntax. But really, her job is simpler: She needs to tell her story. Just as Biden likes to describe his father getting laid off in Scranton and reassuring his son, "Joey," Harris should find ways to share stories about Shyamala, and of her own unique experience as a black woman and an immigrant's daughter.

During the primary campaign, Harris came across to some people as hard-edged and anchored chiefly by ambition. Reading her memoir, you sense where that intensity comes from.

Harris's strength is that she knows who she is. She's not in search of an identity; it's fixed. Her test will be how to share that self-knowledge with voters.

Contact David Ignatius on Twitter @IgnatiusPost

The election is a choice between Donald Trump - and Kamala Harris

By kathleen parker
The election is a choice between Donald Trump - and Kamala Harris


Advance for release Sunday Aug. 16 and thereafter

(For Parker clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By Kathleen Parker

After months of carefully-choreographed suspense-building that produced more ennui than curiosity, Joe Biden finally made a decision: In November, voters will choose between Donald Trump and Kamala Harris.

Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, all but handed the presidency to his significantly younger and battle-ready running mate, at one time even saying the California senator is ready to lead the country.

Never mind that his own party found her insufficiently nominate-able when she was running against Biden and a throng of other candidates during the Democratic primary. Biden is painfully familiar with her courage -- or at least her audacity -- having served as her target during a debate last year when she came close to accusing him of once being a racist. Like millions of Americans in the 1970s, Biden had opposed government-mandated busing as a young senator from Delaware.

Harris, one of those children who was bused to school, took a big chance in attacking Biden, who throughout his public-service career has worked alongside African Americans, as well as women, in securing equal rights. It was a low blow that Biden has clearly forgiven. Or, perhaps, one that he has embraced in a gesture of restitution, if partly in the service of political advantage.

Or maybe it was just smart politics on both their parts. How, after all, can two old white guys, a.k.a. Republicans, compete with a stentorian senator holding hands with a tough, smart, telegenic woman who represents a full-house of firsts? Not only is Harris the first woman of Indian and Jamaican descent to take her place at the top of the ballot, but she's also the first Black woman to be tapped for vice president.

And, therefore, president, or at least a better-than-even shot at the big job. If he wins, Biden, at 78, would be older than Ronald Reagan was when he left the presidency. You can do the math. If 78 seems old for a grueling job known to turn younger men gray, imagine what it will feel like at the end of the first term, when he will be 82.

This is not a welcome exercise. Needless to say, no one wishes Biden ill. Nor is it satisfying to examine a candidate's age when being sensitive to age seems kinder. Besides, Biden deserves respect for his long service, whatever his missteps along the way, including his abysmal handling of the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991, when he was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But, of course, age matters a great deal when the presidency is at stake. Even if Biden serves out his full term, it is unlikely that he will run again, which means Harris will run for president in 2024 and, though it is impossible to know for sure, likely emerge in that circumstance as the frontrunner for the Democrats.

That prospect tees up a second, even more-interesting prospect - the first Black and Indian-American vice-president would be running against another Indian-American woman, Nikki Haley.

Two women running against each other for president? Can't you just feel the excitement from the National Organization for Women?

Although some have speculated that Trump would ditch Mike Pence and grab Haley's comet if things become desperate enough, the clock is winding down for that drama. Haley's too smart to risk her own presidential ambitions by involving herself any further with the Trump brand. Instead, she'll continue making speeches - and money - and cast her own lot in 2024.

It's almost worth electing Biden to ensure that we get the Kamala-Nikki showdown.

But not quite. Biden tapped Harris because she was the least risky choice. In doing so, he may have written the script for his party for the next decade, though nothing is assured. Polls indicating that Trump trails Biden, er, Harris may not be telling us much. Fence-sitters who watched the primary debates and came away disliking Harris' attack on Biden -- and recalling her attacks on now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing -- may be more comfortable with a known quantity than with Harris, whose policies would offend anyone to the right of Bernie Sanders.

Biden, though he has made some adjustments to accommodate the more-progressive wing of his party, isn't a natural radical in the way Harris appears to be. If he wants to win with Harris by his side, he'll need to bring her with him toward a less-radical, more-centrist position. And, if Harris wants to secure her presidential future, she would do well to pick her battles carefully going forward. Like or dislike Mike Pence as vice-president, he's a decent man who won't enjoy fighting a woman. And even these days, most Americans won't like watching it.

Kathleen Parker's email address is

Don't just look at covid-19 fatality rates. Look at people who survive - but don't entirely recover.

By megan mcardle
Don't just look at covid-19 fatality rates. Look at people who survive - but don't entirely recover.


Advance for release Monday, Aug. 17, 2020 and thereafter


By Megan McArdle

During the first few months of the pandemic, America became a nation of novice hermits and amateur epidemiologists. The former battened down the hatches; the latter frantically tried to assess just how much danger we were hiding from. Between sourdough seminars and Zoom meetings, Twitter PhD theses were composed and defended seeking to pin down the "infection fatality rate": the percentage of infected people, including the undiagnosed, who died from covid-19.

In those early innings, good-faith estimates ranged as high as 3% and as low as 0.1%. As we got more information, however, the plausible estimates narrowed, and is probably in the range of 0.5 to 1%.

But with more data, something else has become clear: We're focusing too much on fatality rates and not enough on the people who don't die, but don't entirely recover, either.

Anecdotal reports of these people abound. At least seven elite college athletes have developed myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that can have severe consequences, including sudden death. An Austrian doctor who treats scuba divers reported that six patients, who had only mild covid infections, seem to have significant and permanent lung damage. Social media communities sprang up of people who are still suffering, months after they were infected, with everything from chronic fatigue and "brain fog" to chest pain and recurrent fevers.

Now data is coming in behind the anecdotes, and while it's preliminary, it's also "concerning," says Clyde Yancy, chief of cardiology at Northwestern. A recent study from Germany followed up with 100 recovered patients, two-thirds of whom were never sick enough to be hospitalized. Seventy-eight showed signs of cardiac involvement, and MRIs indicated that 60 of them had ongoing cardiac inflammation, even though it had been at least two months since their diagnosis.

If these results turned out to be representative, they would utterly change the way we think about covid: not as a disease that kills a tiny percentage of patients, mostly the elderly or the obese, the hypertensive or diabetic, but one that attacks the heart in most of the people who get it, even if they don't feel very sick. And maybe their lungs, kidneys or brains, too.

It's too early to say what the long-term prognosis of those attacks would be; with other viruses that infect the heart, most acute, symptomatic myocarditis cases eventually resolve without long-term clinical complications. Though Leslie Cooper, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, estimates that 20 to 30% of patients who experience acute viral myocarditis end up with some sort of long-term heart disease including recurrent chest pain or shortness of breath, which can be progressive and debilitating. When I asked him whether the risk of long-term disability from covid-19 could potentially end up being greater than the risk of death, he said: "Yes, absolutely."

Those patients would on average be much younger than the ones who are dying; the median age in the German study was 49. These are patients with many years of life to lose, to disability or early death. And there are disturbing findings from much younger patients; a study of 126 children who had MIS-C, the (thankfully rare) inflammatory syndrome that can occur with pediatric covid, showed 15 had developed cardiac aneurysms.

But you can't generalize from such small studies, especially since covid is rapidly becoming the most-studied disease in human history; if we regularly put patients with other viral infections through cardiac MRIs, what might their hearts look like a few months in?

We desperately need larger, more comprehensive studies, and, thankfully, they're being announced -- one of the largest and the best will follow 10,000 British patients. But these take time to set up, and as Louise Wain, a researcher on the British study, told me ruefully, "No one warned us a year ago that we were going to have a pandemic." She hopes to have the thousandth patient enrolled by September, which is amazingly fast, but still not quick enough for policymakers and individuals who have to decide whether to leave our hermitages.

"All of us, me included, have tired," says Yancy. And in recent months, our laser focus on fatality rates has offered at least the young and healthy what seems like a beacon of hope. Without hard data, it has been easy to dismiss reports of longer-term complications as anecdote, hysteria or media hype. But at this stage, neither is the absense of data proof that those effects aren't real.

Of course, even if the risks are higher than we thought, we still have to make tradeoffs -- crops must be picked and kids educated, pandemic or no. But whatever your personal cost-benefit analysis was, it should be more conservative with those long-term complications factored in. At the very least, says Yancy, "Wear the mask. When you think about all these ramifications, wear the mask."

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Follow Megan McArdle on Twitter, @asymmetricinfo.

The convention that could bend history

By e.j. dionne jr.
The convention that could bend history


Advance for release Monday, Aug. 17, 2020 and thereafter



Democrats will gather for their convention this week with dreams of another New Deal dancing in their heads.

"Gather" is a polite fiction, of course, since nearly everything will occur remotely in the purest media event ever. But the format will not stop party loyalists from savoring the possibility of a sweeping victory akin to Franklin D. Roosevelt's triumph over Herbert Hoover in 1932.

Their hopes are not fanciful. President Donald Trump's catastrophic fumbling in the face of a pandemic and economic collapse invites comparison to Hoover's haplessness, even if the 31st president was as morally upright as the 45th is not.

Every second of the gathering will be an advertisement of Trump's failure: The convention that could not meet because of the health crisis the incumbent could not manage.

And a New Deal-style commitment to active, fact-based, problem-solving government really does match the mood of a country that wants a virus conquered, jobs and incomes on the rise again, and fairness enshrined in the economic system.

When FDR broke with tradition by appearing in person at the 1932 Democratic National Convention in Chicago -- a move he called, "unprecedented and unusual, but these are unprecedented and unusual times" -- he gave a phrase to history: "I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people."

But he also spoke of "two ways of viewing the Government's duty in matters affecting economic and social life."

"The first," he said, "sees to it that a favored few are helped and hopes that some of their prosperity will leak through, sift through, to labor, to the farmer, to the small business man. That theory belongs to the party of Toryism, and I had hoped that most of the Tories left this country in 1776. But it is not and never will be the theory of the Democratic Party."

It's not hard to imagine Joe Biden or Kamala Harris saying the same. And it would be one of those tricks history sometimes plays if Biden, whose national career began the year the original New Deal coalition collapsed for good, were to re-inaugurate a New-Deal-inspired approach to politics.

The old alliance was shattered in 1972 when Richard Nixon crushed Democrat George McGovern in a landslide that encompassed Biden's Delaware, where Nixon won by 20 points. In an early sign of his political savvy, a 29-year-old Biden -- he turned the Constitutionally required age of 30 after the election -- battled the Nixon tide to upset an incumbent Republican and launch a 36-year Senate career.

If the 2020 Democratic Party is different from its 1972 version, the contrast with Roosevelt's 1932 party is even more stark.

In FDR's day, southern Democrats openly advocated white supremacy and could not have imagined being part of a party that would make Barack Obama the first Black president. It would have astonished the crowd at Roosevelt's convention that Biden's selection of a Black woman, the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, would be widely viewed as the obvious, safest choice for a vice presidential running mate.

The Democrats' move from being the party of segregation to the party of inclusion was the product of a long struggle and remains a source of pride. But the ensuing backlash that began in the late 1960s undid the New Deal alliance, moving most of the states of the Old Confederacy and a fair share of former Democratic voters elsewhere into the GOP column. Nixon's victory over McGovern was, in part, the fruit of his Southern Strategy, which has morphed under Trump into outright racism.

Voters will be rendering a judgement on that history this year, but they are also being called upon to ratify Roosevelt's own contribution to the politics of inclusion. Timid on race, Roosevelt rejected nativism and built an alliance with northern working-class immigrants -- among them Italians, Eastern European Jews, Poles and Irish. He reminded old stock White Americans (like himself) that they, too, were "descended from immigrants and revolutionists."

Thus, if Biden's choice of Harris reaffirms his party's more recent embrace of racial equality, it is also a latter-day version of Roosevelt's bet: that a new generation of immigrants -- this time from Asia and the Caribbean, from Latin America and Africa -- would, in alliance with other Americans fed up with incompetence and divisiveness, drive a transformation of our politics.

Much of the week's speech-making will focus on the calamity that is Trump's presidency. But the historic task of this "unprecedented and unusual" convention is clear: To help Biden prove that a 21st Century New Deal alignment can be assembled from more diverse building blocks by embracing both racial and economic justice.

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E.J. Dionne is on Twitter: @EJDionne.

The rise of the upper-middle class

By robert j. samuelson
The rise of the upper-middle class


Advance for release Monday, Aug. 17, 2020 and thereafter


By Robert J. Samuelson

WASHINGTON -- We all know that economic inequality has increased in recent decades -- but just who has won and who has lost are harder questions to answer. A new study suggests that, even before the coronavirus pandemic, much of the increase of inequality was generational. People born earlier in the post-World War II decades experienced faster income growth than people born later.

The study, published by the Brookings Institution, compared people in two 15-year stretches -- 1967-1981 and 2002-2016 -- when they were generally in their prime working years. The oldest members of the first group are mostly baby boomers. They achieved a 27% gain in their median incomes during the 15-year span, adjusted for inflation. By contrast, the oldest members of the second group were mostly millennials. Their inflation-adjusted gain was only 8%.

Just what has caused this skewing of incomes is a controversial subject, but the report's findings generally agree with many other studies. College graduates do relatively well, and labor markets have become more turbulent. In the second 15-year period, 12% of people suffered at least one 25% drop of income. In the earlier period, the comparable figure was 4%.

To be sure, there's some good news. The share of Black families that are upper-middle-class has increased from 1% in 1967 to 14% in 2016. That's a major gain, although it still lags the White rate of 39%.

The report was written by Stephen Rose, a research professor at George Washington University and a non-resident fellow at the Urban Institute. What distinguishes Rose's report from many others is that he uses longitudinal data, which follow the same subjects -- actual people, though their identities are disguised -- over a long time period.

The "longitudinal data," Rose says, "provide a picture of what is really happening to people because they have data on each specific person for many years." By contrast, many other surveys simply take periodic snapshots of the same data point. For example: Every month the government surveys a sample of people to see who has a job and who doesn't.

Rose sought to show how incomes had changed over the postwar period. To do this, he created five different income categories. The lowest was the "poor and near poor" -- anyone with income below $32,500; the highest was "rich" -- anyone with an income exceeding $380,500. (All the figures are corrected for inflation.) He then sorted people in the Panel Study on Income Dynamics (PSID), a well-known database, by these income groups. Started in 1968, the PSID followed the same people until they died or withdrew from the survey. Recently, many children of the original PSID have taken their parents' places.

The table below shows what he found.


As the table shows, there's been plenty of action on the income front. The biggest change has been the rise of the upper middle class. By Rose's accounting, it now represents about a third of the population, up from only 6% in 1967. The shrinkage of the traditional middle class will be mourned by some, but the reality is that most of those who have left the middle class have moved up, not down.

One important point: The poor and near-poor do better than the table indicates. Their share of the nation's income has been relatively stable over time. But this overlooks the impact of many government programs that serve the poor -- food stamps, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and others -- and aren't included in the survey. If they were, the incomes of the poor and near-poor would be higher.

The story is similar for the role played by employer-paid health insurance. To workers, these payments for medical care are a form of income, but they're not counted as income in workers' paychecks. This means that the true incomes of these workers are understated.

The young inherit a system where incomes are high but not growing very rapidly or not growing at all. They had expected -- and were taught to expect -- that rapid growth was their birthright, as it seemed to be for their parents and grandparents. Even before the coronavirus, the economy was slowing.

Generations are set against each other. The upper middle class wants its entitlements. The poor and near-poor want theirs. Falling behind is the lower middle class, once called the working class. Success has spawned discontent.

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