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This week:

Michelle Obama opens up about her struggle with infertility, tech giants change their policies, and what’s next for U.S. politics.

At least 25 dead in California fires

Fires in California raged over the weekend and proved to be the most destructive in the state’s history: They have killed at least 25 people and forced evacuations of 200,000. In Southern California, the Woolsey Fire ripped through Los Angeles County; in the Sierra Nevada foothills north of Sacramento, the Camp Fire has destroyed nearly 7,000 structures in and around the town of Paradise.

Nichole Jolly experienced the devastation of the Camp Fire firsthand. Jolly, a surgical nurse, helped evacuate patients from Paradise’s only hospital Friday. After it had been cleared, she tried to leave the area but was trapped by flames — and her car caught fire. On the phone with her husband, she “told him I wasn’t sure I was going to make it out,” she recalled in an interview with The Washington Post. “I told him I loved him and told him to give the kids a kiss. He told me to get out of the car and run, that if you’re going to die, die fighting.” Jolly ran from the car and was picked up by a bulldozer operator, who took her back to the Feather River Hospital.

The tragic fires come as Californians continue to reel from a mass shooting that took place late Wednesday in a bar in Thousand Oaks. Twelve people were killed after a gunman opened fire inside the Borderline Bar & Grill, where people were line dancing during the venue’s “College Country Night.” Authorities have identified the gunman as Ian David Long, a 28-year-old Marine veteran. Many of the people who were killed were young; they include 18-year-old Alaina Housley, a Pepperdine University student, 20-year-old Kristina Morisette and 21-year-old Noel Sparks.

Michelle Obama opens up about struggling with infertility in ‘Becoming’

Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” is available to the public Nov. 13. (Crown; iStock; Lily illustration)
Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” is available to the public Nov. 13. (Crown; iStock; Lily illustration)

Former first lady Michelle Obama’s highly anticipated memoir, “Becoming,” is available to the public starting Tuesday. The book is broken into three parts: Becoming Me, which takes a deep exploration of Chicago, Becoming Us, which charts her romance with Barack Obama, and Becoming More, which traverses their lives as public figures. In it, Obama is more candid than ever before about her disdain for President Trump, who she says put her family’s safety at risk with his false birther conspiracy theory.

In an interview with “Good Morning America” promoting the memoir Friday, Obama talked about another secret she discloses in the book: She and Barack Obama struggled with infertility, had a miscarriage and used in vitro fertilization (IVF) to have their two daughters, Malia and Sasha.

Japanese medical school walks back policy of lowering women’s test scores

Earlier this year, Tokyo Medical University, one of Japan’s top medical schools, acknowledged lowering exam grades of female applicants and inflating men’s results in order to keep the percentage of female students lower: a practice to combat a doctor shortage in Japan, as some female doctors left the profession once they became mothers, the school said. This week, the university’s administration said it would walk back its policy and offer spots to 101 people who were wrongly denied entrance in the past two years, Japanese news outlets reported.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg discharged from hospital after fall

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Nikki Khan/The Washington Post)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Nikki Khan/The Washington Post)

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85, was discharged from the hospital Friday, a day after being admitted with three fractured ribs. A statement from the court said Ginsburg fell in her office Wednesday night but returned home; she was admitted to the hospital early Thursday morning after “experiencing discomfort overnight.” Ginsburg has dealt with various health issues on the bench, and has broken ribs on at least two previous occasions. In 2012, Ginsburg told a reporter that she had cracked two ribs in a fall but didn’t take time off due to the court’s heavy workload.

After the news broke, Twitter lit up with well-wishes for the justice.

Google and Facebook announce changes to their harassment policies

On Thursday, a week after 20,000 employees walked out in protest of Google’s sexual harassment policies, the tech giant announced it will end forced arbitration and increase transparency on reported incidents of sexual misconduct. On Friday, Facebook followed suit and announced that it, too, will drop forced arbitration. Previously, these policies had required employees to submit private arbitration, which kept allegations secret and sometimes allowed abusers to continue their behavior.

Meredith Whittaker, an organizer of the Google walkouts and co-director of the AI Now Institute, tweeted: “Collective action works. It will continue working.”

The female veterans who are changing the landscape of Congress

Mikie Sherrill, Chrissy Houlahan and Elaine Luria. (Justin Lane/EPA/EFE; Bastiaan Slabbers/EPA/EFE; Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian-Pilot/AP; Lily illustration)
Mikie Sherrill, Chrissy Houlahan and Elaine Luria. (Justin Lane/EPA/EFE; Bastiaan Slabbers/EPA/EFE; Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian-Pilot/AP; Lily illustration)

Veterans Day, observed on Nov. 11, landed just days after veterans won big in the midterm elections. At least 76 veterans won elections, but female veteran candidates stood out: They doubled their congressional numbers. Former Navy helicopter pilot Mikie Sherrill (D), former Navy commander Elaine Luria (D) and Air Force Reserve alum Chrissy Houlahan (D) all won their respective U.S. House races; they will join Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) in Congress.

Republican Rep. Martha McSally (R), who was the first woman in U.S. history to fly in combat, is also still in the running for Arizona’s Senate seat. As of Sunday morning, Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic candidate, held a narrow lead over McSally. The race has not yet been called, but either McSally or Sinema will make history as the state’s first female U.S. senator.

Left to right: Marsha Blackburn, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley. (Photos by AP/Getty/Reuters)
Left to right: Marsha Blackburn, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley. (Photos by AP/Getty/Reuters)

As the dust settles after the 2018 midterms, many women say they feel hopeful: More women than ever before have been elected to Congress, and more than a dozen made history. In the House, at least 101 seats have been won by women; the previous record for women in the House was 84. Women voters were largely responsible for Democrats taking the House, too.

A few of the most closely watched races have yet to be decided. In addition to Arizona’s Senate race between Rep. Martha McSally (R) against Kyrsten Sinema (D), the Associated Press still has not called the gubernatorial race in Georgia between Stacey Abrams, who could become the nation’s first black female governor, and Republican Brian Kemp. Kemp held 50.3 percent of the vote — enough to win the race — Sunday, and urged Abrams to concede. Abrams’s campaign, meanwhile, has said that thousands were blocked from the polls Tuesday and that ballots remain uncounted. “There are voices that are waiting to be heard,” Abrams told supporters in a speech on election night. The AP will reassess the race Tuesday.

Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams. (Getty; Melina Mara/The Washington Post; Lily illustration)
Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams. (Getty; Melina Mara/The Washington Post; Lily illustration)

Which women made history?

More than a dozen women made history Tuesday night. Here are a few:

• Ilhan Omar (D) and Rashida Tlaib (D), elected in Minnesota and Michigan respectively, became America’s first Muslim women in Congress.

Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. (AP/Reuters/Lily illustration)
Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. (AP/Reuters/Lily illustration)

• Marsha Blackburn (R) became the first woman elected to the Senate from Tennessee.

• Deb Haaland (D), from New Mexico, and Sharice Davids (D), from Kansas, became the first Native American women elected to Congress. Davids is also Kansas’ first openly gay member of Congress.

Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids. (Getty/Reuters/Lily illustration)
Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids. (Getty/Reuters/Lily illustration)

• At 29, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D), who won in New York’s 14th District, has become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

• Kristi L. Noem (R) was elected as South Dakota’s first female governor; Janet Mills (D) was elected as Maine’s first female governor.

• Ayanna Pressley (D) became Massachusetts’ first black woman in Congress; Jahana Hayes (D) became Connecticut’s first. Together, they are the first black women to be elected to the House from any New England state.

Notable state-specific initiatives

As the future of Roe v. Wade hangs in the balance following Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, many people were watching state-specific initiatives this cycle. In West Virginia and Alabama, voters passed antiabortion measures; in Colorado, a similar measure was struck down.

Abortion rights activists touted Democratic flips in seven state legislative chambers, including Connecticut, Minnesota, Maine, New York and New Hampshire, where the states’ governing bodies now have pro-abortion-rights majorities.

In Nevada, voters eliminated the “tampon tax,” exempting menstrual products from state sales taxes. It became the 10th state to do so in a movement to ensure that everyone who menstruates has equal access to the products they need.

What’s next?

What do these historic wins mean for the future of U.S. politics? Writing for The Lily, Torey Van Oot says that we can expect some of the new female members of Congress to be leaders in the progressive movement. Many people also argue that more women in office leads to more attention to issues that affect women directly — think child care, maternal health and violence against women.

When it comes to future campaigns, the surge in the number of female representatives could have a ripple effect; advocates for gender parity are focusing on how to elect even more women in the years to come. There’s still much work to be done. Despite the gains, female lawmakers still remain below 25 percent in most places.

Now, the big question turns to 2020: The field of possible Democratic candidates remains as crowded as ever, with the midterms not yet offering insights regarding a clear path forward. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has been building a national fundraising and political network, while Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) is about to embark on a high-profile book tour. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has also said she’s considering a presidential bid.

Aretha Franklin concert film, stuck for years in limbo, premieres today

Aretha Franklin. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)
Aretha Franklin. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

“Amazing Grace,” which chronicles a landmark performance Aretha Franklin gave at a Los Angeles church in 1972, has been stuck in limbo for nearly 50 years. But the public will soon be able to watch it: Producer Alan Elliott and the Franklin estate struck ended a three-year dispute, enabling the movie to be shown at festivals and sold to distributors, Elliott told The Washington Post.

The concert film, which many scholars believe is a lost treasure of the documentary and music worlds, premieres at DOC NYC Monday. In it, Franklin performs Marvin Gaye’s “Wholy Holy” and gives a religious spin to pop hits like Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.” It contains “an intimacy rare for a movie about an icon and also showcases its subject’s incipient talent, all taking place in a church,” The Post’s Steven Zeitchik writes.

On Saturday, journalist April Ryan published an opinion piece in The Post addressing instances last week in which President Trump responded angrily to three black female journalists, including herself. At a press gaggle Friday, Trump called Ryan “nasty” and a “loser.” He also told CNN’s Abby Phillip she had asked a “stupid question” Friday and dismissed a question from PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor Wednesday — Alcindor asked if his campaign rhetoric was “emboldening white nationalists” — by saying it was “racist.” “We shouldn’t have to put up with the kind of treatment we received this week: Not only has the president given cover to people who want to harass us, but he’s left the American people with a twisted understanding of how press freedoms work,” Ryan writes.

Being from California, I joke that I’m averse to carbs. In reality, I just really love vegetables. When I first started with a cheaper spiralizer, I began to associate making zoodles with putting my fingers in danger. I’ve learned it’s worth spending extra for the non-slip suction cup. This one is also dishwasher-safe. I make zucchini noodles with homemade pesto, and I spiralize cucumbers and make a peanut sauce for a cold dish. Check out @inspiralized on Instagram for recipe ideas.

—Maya Sugarman, Lily video editor

*Have an idea for a news-inspired baiku? Send us your creation at lily [at] washpost [dot] com, and you might see it in the next Lily Lines. We follow 5-7-5.

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*Editor’s Note: This article originally misstated that Sen. Joni Ernst is a Democrat; she is a Republican. We regret the error.

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