8 ways to go out and stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic

Americans have gotten tired of staying inside. As the coronavirus pandemic has continued for months and summer has kicked off, the number of people consistently practicing social distancing has steadily declined, according to Gallup’s surveys. Especially with the July Fourth weekend approaching, people are bound to go out more to celebrate.

At the beginning of the pandemic, experts’ guidance was more absolute: As much as possible, stay home and avoid interacting with anyone you don’t live with. More recently, with a vaccine likely still months or years away, many experts have advocated for a new approach to get …

How to weigh the risk of going out in the coronavirus pandemic, in one chart

Since coronavirus lockdowns began in the US, most Americans have drastically changed their patterns: following instructions to stay home, limiting almost all contact with others, and venturing out only for essential trips and exercise.

As states have eased social distancing restrictions, and with the July Fourth weekend approaching, people are beginning to have more options. Between those wanting to patronize newly reopened businesses or socialize in person, and more employers calling people back to work, survey and cellphone data suggests people are already starting to trickle out of their homes.

But for many people, it’s really not clear which kinds …

The Supreme Court just handed down some truly awful news for voting rights

The Supreme Court handed down two brief, unsigned orders on Friday concerning what restrictions states may place on absentee voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Though neither order is a final judgment — one grants a temporary stay of a lower court decision, the other denies expedited review of an important voting rights case — the practical impact of both orders is that voters in Alabama and Texas will find it harder to cast a ballot during the pandemic.

The Texas order is particularly ominous because it suggests that Texas will be able to apply election rules that ensure that …

How to be alone

Many of us dread being alone. We find isolation uncomfortable or downright scary. If you want to know just how eager we are to avoid it, consider a scientific study that offered people a choice between giving themselves electric shocks or being alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes. Believe it or not, many chose the electric shocks.

But here’s the good news: Being alone is a skill. And, just like any other skill, you can get better at it with practice. I want to suggest that honing this skill now can help you get through the coronavirus pandemic. Instead …

The 7 best movies you can now watch at home

The July Fourth weekend is usually the biggest movie weekend of the summer, but this year it’s been muted by the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. And while drive-ins are having a moment, most movie theaters around the country are still closed.

But there are still new movies coming out. Each weekend since the pandemic began, on streaming services and through “virtual theatrical” releases, new and newly available movies have arrived to delight cinephiles of all stripes.

This weekend, seven movies are well worth your notice. There’s a family drama starring two pillars of French cinema, and a film …

Why Hamilton is as frustrating as it is brilliant — and impossible to pin down

The smash-hit Broadway musical Hamilton arrives in movie form on Disney+ this weekend, making it accessible to more people than ever before. And with this glossy composite recording of the show comes a long-standing public debate: Is Hamilton a brilliant, visionary reframing of the narrative of America; a revisionist apologetic paying undue worship to the founding fathers; or an unholy mix of both?

The timing of the film adaptation’s arrival helps to renew this argument. Disney+ is releasing Hamilton just in time for the Fourth of July, appropriate for the musical’s trappings of lavish patriotism. It also drops in …

How The Baby-Sitters Club raised a generation

I was raised by the Baby-Sitters Club. And if you were a girl growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, you probably were too.

The Baby-Sitters Club, Ann M. Martin’s book series about a group of middle-school girls who leverage their child care capabilities into their own small business, was foundational for a generation. From 1986 to 2000, Martin and a small army of ghostwriters wrote 213 volumes (131 in the main series and the other 82 in spinoffs), with 176 million copies printed.

Ostensibly the books were for kids ages 9 to 12, but I read them when …

How can we ban facial recognition when it’s already everywhere?

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Facial recognition is having a reckoning. Recent protests against racism and police brutality have shined a light on the surveillance tools available to law enforcement, and major tech companies are temporarily backing away from facial recognition and urging federal officials to step in and regulate.

Late last month, we learned of the first-known false arrest caused by a faulty facial recognition system, involving a Black man in Michigan identified by software that Detroit’s police chief later admitted had a 96 percent misidentification rate. And a policy group from the Association for Computing Machinery, a computing society with …

The Senate goes home for July Fourth recess as states wait on coronavirus stimulus

It’s now been more than six weeks since the House passed the HEROES Act, its latest take on additional stimulus as workers, businesses, and states continue to grapple with the economic fallout of the coronavirus. The Senate, however, wants to wait two more before considering a bill of its own.

Both chambers of Congress have officially left for a two-week July Fourth recess and Senate Republicans have said floor consideration of stimulus legislation won’t happen until they’re back. “A month from now we should be in the final stages of getting that bill together,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) told …

The radicalism of the American Revolution — and its lessons for today

My first conversation with Harvard political theorist Danielle Allen on The Ezra Klein Show in fall 2019 was one of my all-time favorites. I didn’t expect to have Allen on again so soon, but her work is unusually relevant to our current moment.

Allen has written an entire book about the deeper argument of the Declaration of Independence and the way our superficial reading and folk history of the document obscures its radicalism. (It’ll make you look at July Fourth in a whole new way.) Her most recent book, Cuz, is a searing indictment of the American criminal justice …