This video makes a strong statement about diversity and acceptance without using words.
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Absolut

An old man walks into a bar, where he sees a young couple kissing.

He approaches them with an intimidating look on his face. Our hearts drop as we're led to think that this might not end well.


That's when something unexpected happens. Instead of confronting the couple, he starts kissing one of them. A third character starts kissing him, and on it goes as a lineup of colorful characters carry the kiss-train through city streets, into a cop car, and finally to a hotel pool.

More than just a make-out session, the short film has a strong message to convey about love, equality, and acceptance.

"Equal Love" was created as a way to communicate a vision: a world free from judgment, where gender, sexuality, and age are no longer the lines that divide us, but the notes that turn us into a symphony.

What you don't see in the video is the personal story that led each cast member to the project.

"I was cast through a street-casting, so it sort of took me by surprise," says Cairo, the actor in the first scene who kisses the old man. Cairo, a transgender man, had taken a yearlong break from acting to begin his transition.

"My biggest fear was that I wouldn't be able to work as an actor," Cairo says. "And I kind of proved myself wrong."

Everyone involved in the film knew right away they were stepping into something powerful.

Pete Mynch, another actor who appears in the film, was immediately excited by its celebration of expression and individuality.

"Expressing freedom as well as expressing yourself as an individual ... it's a good message, isn't it?" Mynch says. "This story is asking people, maybe in some way, to look at their own belief system."

Absolut Vodka deliberately hired diverse actors to make a statement about acceptance — one they've been making for years.

They began advertising directly to their LGBTQ customers in 1981, a time when being gay was heavily stigmatized and supporting the LGBTQ community might earn you more protest than praise.

In 1986, Absolut collaborated with openly gay artists Andy Warhol and Keith Haring to create art that supported LGBTQ causes. In 2003, they partnered with Gilbert Baker, creator of the Pride flag, to create the world’s largest pride flag that extended from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.

"Equal Love" is the continuation of that work and its evolution into a celebration of even more kinds of diversity.

"All the characters are different," says Sid Ouared, another actor in the film. "You have the police officer, you have the grumpy old man. … There's someone representing all of us."

At a time when the world feels divided and brands have tried and failed to capitalize on healing that divide, Absolut seems to know what they're doing a little more than most.

The film's timing is no accident either. It's being released right after Pride Month.

"I think this advert is much more open-minded," Cairo says. "I’d spoken to the producer and director, and they seemed really up to date and really positive. I felt like they’d done their research."

"It will get people talking," Ouared says. "It will get people's attention, and it will spread a positive message and raise awareness to diversity."

"Equal Love" may not heal the world's divides, but it's still doing something pretty important.

It's portraying a world where kissing is an expression of the soul as much as the heart — a world where love is, quite simply, love.

"I think it’s so good to be a part of something that says — behind everything — it just doesn’t really matter about your gender or your sexuality. We’re just all equal and human," Cairo says. "It just makes me proud."

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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