The most convincing reason for being ‘sober-curious’

(CNN)“It’s so hard not to drink,” Charlotte Underwood told me. “Everyone I grew up with was part of that culture. Even visiting them now, it’s so hard not to drink because it’s a fundamental part of our community.” More than a quarter of British 16- to 24-year-olds classify themselves as non-drinkers. And the success of Brooklyn-based journalist Ruby Warrington’s 2018 book, “Sober Curious,” has reflected a rise in sober social clubs and social media accounts. The sober-curious are not necessarily alcoholics. They may not want to be teetotalers. But they want relief from the pressure to drink to excess. Heavy social drinking is so often treated as an obligation, rather than a pleasurable choice. Like the clingy friend who pesters …

Like Taylor Swift, every woman faces a Justin Bieber

(CNN)It’s easy to argue that, in 2019, women are more powerful than they’ve ever been in United States history. A record 117 women won office in the 2018 midterms. A record number of women are vying for the presidency in 2020. The youngest billionaire in history is a woman (Hi, Kylie Jenner!). The number of women CEOs in Fortune 500 companies hit a record high. But even at a time when “something is happening” with women, we’re constantly reminded that even the most powerful among us have to fight for what’s theirs, whether it be reproductive justice, a seat at the proverbial table, or creative license. And we cannot deny that, far too often, behind these powerful women are men… …

There is a rottenness at the heart of the Border Patrol

(CNN)As progressive members of the House of Representatives traveled to Texas to see immigrant holding facilities for themselves Monday, ProPublica published a news story about a highly offensive Facebook group made up of current and former Border Patrol agents. A slap on the wrist won’t do here. Any agent making comments this vile is a danger to migrants and should be fired immediately. Agents who are members of this group and failed to report coworkers, or simply observed and laughed along, should also face professional consequences. But beyond the surfacing of the social media account, it’s the culture of the entire agency that has been exposed here, and this was all predictable. This is an agency, after all, staffed by …

To spite Putin, come visit Georgia

(CNN)Dear travelers, wine drinkers, hikers and beachgoersDear epicureans, romantics and historiansDear anybody looking for an adventure or wanting to spite Russian President Vladimir Putin. The country of Georgia needs you. If you’ve ever considered visiting this small Black Sea nation nestled between Russia and Turkey, now is the time. For those of you who have already been, it is time to return. It was not. But because of Putin’s actions (and a previous Soviet strategy to divide and conquer the region) 20% of this country is occupied by Russian forces. The truth is complex, but it’s not hard to understand: Georgians want their country back. And they want to share it with visitors because they are proud of this land. …

‘Pose’ has a potent message: don’t wait, just live

(CNN)The second season of the groundbreaking FX drama “Pose” takes place in 1990, but too many of its themes are painfully familiar in 2019. Transgender women are still disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. Our community continues to face widespread employment discrimination, poverty and harassment. “Pose” continues to tackle these topics with sensitivity in its new slate of episodes. But what makes this series so powerful is its unapologetic depiction of transgender joy. Sign up for our new newsletter. Join us on Twitter and Facebook In the season two premiere of “Pose,” a supportive nurse tries to encourage Blanca, a de facto mother to a crew of young LGBTQ people of color who is struggling with her own survival, to take her …

What happens when women rule

(CNN)The Nevada legislature, which concluded its biennial session on Monday, is making history and not just statistically. At 52%, this state house is the first to become majority female, and what a difference that is proving to make, particularly when it comes to women’s reproductive rights. The penalties for having an abortion — or carrying one out — are worse. In Louisiana, a woman’s reward for being the victim of a sexual assault: bearing and raising her rapist’s child. In Alabama, abortion has been almost entirely banned, including in cases of rape and incest. In Georgia, once a fetal heartbeat is detected, the unborn child is considered a “natural person,” leaving women who get an abortion and doctors who perform …

Arya, Lady Gaga and Avengers: The great escape

(CNN)A glittering gala celebrating the campiest fashion, a superhero flick that shattered box-office records, a fierce and mythical TV world of ice and fire — and Meghan and Harry’s new arrival, Archie. As Rob Picheta wrote, “The internet reveled in dissecting and poking fun at the most eye-catching fashion statements — and no one received the social media treatment more than Lady Gaga,” who displayed four different looks. “Avengers,” which Internet Movie Database says has grossed $2.3 billion worldwide and could eclipse “Avatar” as the biggest film of all time, certainly falls in the escapism category. But “Avengers” — and the Marvel cinematic universe — also reflects a historical arc, wrote Aaron Freedman. (Warning: A film spoiler lurks below.) When “Iron …

Arya, Lady Gaga and Avengers: The great escape

(CNN)A glittering gala celebrating the campiest fashion, a superhero flick that shattered box-office records, a fierce and mythical TV world of ice and fire — and Meghan and Harry’s new arrival, Archie. As Rob Picheta wrote, “The internet reveled in dissecting and poking fun at the most eye-catching fashion statements — and no one received the social media treatment more than Lady Gaga,” who displayed four different looks. “Avengers,” which Internet Movie Database says has grossed $2.3 billion worldwide and could eclipse “Avatar” as the biggest film of all time, certainly falls in the escapism category. But “Avengers” — and the Marvel cinematic universe — also reflects a historical arc, wrote Aaron Freedman. (Warning: A film spoiler lurks below.) When “Iron …

The word that made history this week

(CNN)Every presidential investigation gives us new phrases that stick. “What did the President know, and when did he know it,” Sen. Howard Baker asked during the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon. “Snitty” turned out to be an apt word for much of the reaction to this week’s events. Our legal analysts couldn’t have differed more strongly on what it all meant. Paul Callan wrote, “Barr did not deserve Mueller’s snit nor any of the snitty abuse heaped on him for doing his job. His interpretations were a defensible analysis of a report that was poorly written.” Elie Honig painted a much different picture. He called Barr’s testimony before a Senate committee “a master class in obfuscation, backtracking …

NRA has a huge mess on its hands

(CNN)Think you had a busy weekend? At the same time, the New York Attorney General’s Office announced it was investigating the gun rights group, while a gun safety group said it filed a complaint about the NRA’s tax-exempt status. And all on the same weekend that a 19-year-old used an AR-type weapon to attack worshippers at a synagogue outside San Diego. Got all that? Let’s take a step back. Since its founding by two union officers after the Civil War, the NRA has morphed from its mission to teach marksmanship and gun safety to becoming a political powerhouse, fundraising off fears about gun control and enflaming the culture wars. In recent years, the NRA has been credited with stopping legislation …

Arya Stark’s sexual awakening on ‘Game of Thrones’ is a big deal

(CNN)A sex scene on “Game of Thrones” doesn’t normally constitute news. Sex is practically punctuation for the HBO series — more noticeable in its absence than its presence. And still others expressed surprise that the keen assassin even wanted to have sex at all — isn’t she satisfied by all that killing she seems to enjoy so much? Arya, HBO assures us, is now 18. She’s spent most of her time in Westeros until now taking brattish, bloody vengeance on her enemies. Were she male, the audience might assume that a virile young warrior would want to kick back and indulge between executions. It shouldn’t be surprising that Arya can contain more than one urge in her human body. But …

Silencing Kate Smith is not the answer

(CNN)Oh for the love of James Weldon Johnson! So now they’re dragging out the corpse of singer Kate Smith to be pilloried because nobody in the upper reaches of popular culture had the humanity and common sense more than 80 years ago to acknowledge African Americans as anything but “darkies” and “pickaninnies.” To review: It was disclosed last week that two of the songs from the 1930s heyday of the Virginia-born Ms. Smith, who died in 1986 at age 79, contained racist imagery — even in their title: 1931’s “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” and 1933’s “Pickaninny Heaven.” (Trust me. The lyrics are even worse, and no amount of retrospective irony can shave off such an accumulation of sticky, rotten …

Notre Dame fire strikes at the soul of France

(CNN)The vast fire that ripped through Paris’ venerable Notre Dame cathedral has struck directly at the soul of France. Indeed, the very name of the cathedral translates to “Our lady of Paris.” And for centuries it has been just that — a symbol of all that is good and nurturing, both for its faithful and for the millions of tourists who pour through its doors every year from every corner of the world. The present structure dates to the 12th century of medieval France, but its religious roots date far further into France’s past. The cathedral itself is located in Paris’ fourth arrondissement, at the eastern end of the Ile de la Cité, one of two islands where the Seine …

I fell in love with this language…on ‘Sesame Street’

(CNN)“I sometimes dream in Spanish,” wrote Bakir Brown. “I was first introduced and fell in love with the language by watching ‘Sesame Street.’ I just loved how the words just literally rolled off the tongue. It was beautiful. I still remember (how) the skit from so long ago taught me my first Spanish words, “abierto” and “cerrado” — “open” and “closed.” Bakir Brown, Richmond, Virginia The melting pot exists only on the surface I came here from Italy in 1991, and besides a few vacation trips and one nine months’ stretch in 2007, I have been living in Central Texas for the last 28 years. Yes, I still have my Italian accent, and still struggle to some extent. Even though …

A look back at Clinton’s impeachment reveals the GOP’s searing hypocrisy

(CNN)There’s an old saying in American politics that a Democratic crook is just as bad as a Republican crook. It’s a good, solid principle. And it seems almost impossibly quaint, because the search for the truth in the Trump investigations is breaking down along partisan lines. Sign up for our new newsletter. Join us on Twitter and Facebook There’s precious little evidence of that now. One of the first Senate Democrats to publicly condemn Clinton’s behavior — although he did not vote for his removal from office — was Joe Lieberman, and his independence earned him a spot on the Democratic ticket as Al Gore’s running mate in 2000. Looking at the GOP’s approach to Clinton’s impeachment trial 20 years …

I pray Chris Pratt will be an ally to LGBTQ Christians

(CNN)In response to criticism from actress Ellen Page for attending what she called an “infamously anti-LGBTQ” church, Chris Pratt, who spoke in a recent TV appearance about being a member of Zoe Church in Los Angeles, defended himself and his church. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he posted on Instagram. “I go to a church that opens their doors to absolutely everyone.” Zoe Church, which Pratt attends, does not state its views on homosexuality on its website. (By contrast, a growing number of churches across the country explicitly affirm LGBTQ people.) While Pratt’s church instead has no public stance on LGBTQ equality, there are strong signals that raise questions about whether Zoe Church is fully inclusive. Sign up …