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 …

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 …

Why we’re celebrating a three-month-old law

(CNN)You don’t have to be a hardcore sports fan to understand that no team should be celebrating victory after only the first quarter of a game. Reasonable people might ask, then, at this early stage, why did the Trump administration host a First Step Act celebration just three months after passing the landmark criminal justice bill? We formed an unlikely bipartisan coalition — made up of formerly incarcerated people, celebrities, corporate executives, pastors and grassroots leaders — and found ourselves working alongside Jared Kushner, whose father had been to prison. Together, we helped pass one of the most significant rewrites of federal prison and sentencing reform laws in decades. And in a move that surprised many, President Donald Trump endorsed …

College cheating scandal is the tip of the iceberg

(CNN)“We’re not talking about donating a building, we’re talking about fraud,” said Andrew Lelling, the US Attorney for Massachusetts, as he announced indictments in a massive scheme alleging that celebrities and other wealthy individuals used cheating, bribes, and lies to get their kids into elite colleges. The behavior described in this alleged fraud should be punished. But on a broader and more basic level, the case also sheds light on deep inequities in our college admissions system. Because if someone can get their kid into Harvard by buying a building, let alone by committing any of the alleged acts emerging from this case, the scandal isn’t just what’s illegal, but what’s legal as well. When it came to athletics, the …

Flint water crisis shows the danger of a scientific dark age

(CNN)After comedian Michelle Wolf ended her monologue at the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner with the resounding mic drop: “Flint still doesn’t have clean water,” a parade of celebrities, including Alyssa Milano, Susan Sarandon, Michael Moore and Omarosa Manigault, shared similar proclamations. For starters, there is no such thing as completely safe drinking water. Even bottled water has some risks, ranging from bacteria to microplastics. Meanwhile, Flint still has extremely high water costs, according to a Michigan Radio analysis, and an oversized antiquated water system, which contributed to the initial water crisis in Flint. However, this kind of system also exists and endangers public health in thousands of other American towns and cities. In other words, claiming Flint water is …

Ex-Yale Law admissions dean: These are the victims of cheating scandal I worry about

(CNN)The FBI’s arrest of more than 50 people associated with what may be the largest college admissions cheating scandal in history has exposed how access to resources and connections can distort the admissions process — to an allegedly illegal extreme — and hurt ordinary applicants. As a former admissions dean at Yale Law School, I worry about another group of victims: future talented college applicants from underprivileged backgrounds who may opt out of reaching for the most selective schools, believing that the deck is already stacked against them. Join us on Twitter and Facebook Unfortunately, the case also magnifies applicants’ worst fears about the process and provides fodder for naysayers, such as cynical parents or counselors, to tell students — …

Why did Trump need to employ a professional liar?

(CNN)Michael Cohen brought a series of bombshell allegations to his appearance Wednesday before the House Oversight and Reform Committee — and touched off a bizarre partisan battle in the room. CNN’s commentators weigh in on the hearing. The opinions expressed here are their own. The viewers will have to judge how much, if any, of Cohen’s testimony about President Donald Trump they accept. But I found the frantic efforts of Trump’s rabid defenders to dismiss Cohen as a “pathological criminal” curious in one major respect: This is the same man Donald Trump kept by his side for a decade, to handle his most sensitive assignments — to handle clandestine deals and make bad stories go away. Cohen was Trump’s fixer. …

Get ready for a wild week

(CNN)If you thought this past week’s news cycle — dominated by President Donald Trump’s “Saturday Night Live” Twitter rant, former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s media blitz and court appearances by Jussie Smollett and Roger Stone — was a whirlwind, just wait for this coming week. While Trump wished Sanders well as a fellow rival of Hillary Clinton’s in his 2016 run, it’s unlikely the President will have too much time to focus on the Democratic candidates this week, as he heads to Vietnam for a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. David Reynolds, Professor of International History at Cambridge University, saidin an exchange with CNN military and diplomatic analyst John Kirby that there are pros and …