I first learned of Jack Andraka from the above photo posted on my Facebook page. It was captioned:
â€œThis is Jack Andraka, he is 15 years oldÂ and openly gay. He’ll be sitting with Michelle Obama tonight at the State of the Union. Jack has invented an inexpensive way for early detection of pancreatic cancer.”
Pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of 5.5 percent, and 40,000 people die of it each year. The diagnosis is often delivered after the cancer has spread. â€œBy the time you bring this to a physician, itâ€™s too late,â€ Dr. Anirban Maitra, Professor of Pathology, Oncology and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine explained.Â â€œThe first point of entry would have to be a cheap blood test done with a simple prick…â€
Jack used ordinary inexpensive filter paper for his test strips. He bought a $50 ohmmeter at Home Depot. He and his dad built a Plexiglas testing apparatus to hold the strips while the current is read. He used a pair of his momâ€™s sewing needles for electrodes.
He mailed his proposal to almost 200 researchers. Only Dr. Maitra responded. â€œIt was a very unusual e-mail. I often donâ€™t get e-mails like this from postdoctoral fellows, let alone high-school freshmen,â€ he told Abigail Tucker who wrote about the experience for Smithsonian when Jack won theÂ Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award:
He decided to invite Andraka to his lab. To oversee the project, he appointed a gentle postdoctoral chemist, who took the baby-sitting assignment in stride. They expected to see Andraka for perhaps a few weeks over the summer. Instead, the young scientist worked for seven months, every day after school and often on Saturdays until after midnight, subsisting on hard-boiled eggs and Twix as his mother dozed in the car in a nearby parking garage. He labored through Thanksgiving and Christmas. He spent his 15th birthday in the lab.
Jack’s TED Talk at TED 2013 – The Young. The Wise. The Undiscovered.
February 25 – March 1, 2013
No articles I could find mentioned that Jack was â€œopenly gay.â€ Needing confirmation I emailed, tweeted and messaged him â€“ no response; he was in London with his mom, the youngest speaker ever to address The Royal Society of Medicine.
I gave it one more shot and emailed, â€œIâ€™d like to do a story about you. Are you gay? Are you out?”
This time the response was immediate:
“That sounds awesome! I’m openly gay and one of my biggest hopes is that I can help inspire other LGBT youth to get involved in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.] I didn’t have many [gay] role models [in science] besides Alan Turing.”
Jackâ€™s Wikipedia entry is remarkable even if you do not compute that having been born in 1997 means he is now only 16.
Jack Thomas Andraka (born in 1997) is an inventor, scientist and cancer researcher. He is the 2012 Intel Science Fair grand prize winner. Andraka was awarded the Gordon E. Moore Award for his work in developing a new method to detect pancreatic cancer. Â The Gordon E. Moore Award, named in honor of the co-founder of Intel, is for $75,000. He also won other prizes in smaller individual categories for a total award of $100,500.
Jack told me that he realized he was gay when he was 11 or 12-years old — in sixth grade. But afraid “no one’s going to like me if they know,” he didn’t come out until two years later. In September when he was in eighth grade, Jack sent a text to his best friend. At his request, she contacted other friends. And unbeknown to Jack, his friends told their parents. And one of the parents called his mother.
“We have â€˜minimal rulesâ€™, but nothing thatÂ stifles creativity,” Jack’s father, Steve, toldÂ Forbes:
“Basically, you can sum it up simply: treat people with respect, do your homework, be honest andÂ tryÂ to be safe. Â Having too many rules burdens down the entire family and limits thinking.” He added, â€Teach your kids that most problems in this world are really opportunities inÂ disguise, and innovation comes from discontent.â€
And last May, after Jack — then a 15-year old freshman at North County High School — won the Grand Prize at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF,) his mother, Jane, told Joe Burris of theÂ Baltimore Sun:
“For some reason, we’re not a super-athletic family. We don’t go to much football or baseball. Instead we have a million [science] magazines,” Jane said, “so we sit around the table and talk about how people came up with their ideas and what we would do differently.”
But at the dinner table, one September evening, the conversation turned to a different topic when Jack’s mom surprised him and the rest of the family, by asking eighth grader Jack why he hadn’t told them he was gay.
I asked Jane Andraka how she recalled that conversation and she told me:
“After Jack told his school friends he was gay, one of the moms called me and told me there were rumors of Jack being gay. At dinner that night we talked and I mentioned that I had a phone call from a lady who said Jack was gay. Jack told us that it wasn’t a rumor and that he was telling his friends that he felt that he is gay. So my husband and I discussed this and shared that we believe that a person is born gay and that is the way he is and it’s better to be open about who you are rather than force yourself into a mold that isn’t you. We also told him that people are more than their sexuality and the important thing is to be an honest and caring person who makes the most of hisÂ potential. ForÂ instance, IÂ don’tÂ introduce myself as Jane the straight woman but as Jane the kayaker/anesthetist/mom. Later people can find out I’m married to a man.”
“We told Jack he should be himself and if gay is part of who he is, then he should be proud he can figure that out early so he can love all the parts that make him Jack. We also discussed how some people may not support him because he is gay but he can be a good role model for teens who are wondering if it’s OK and he can demonstrate to non-supporters that gay people can contribute to society in major ways. His brother was more surprised, but after talking to a wonderful teacher who had a gay roommate in college, he became very supportive and an advocate for gay students at his school.”
Jack told me everyone in his immediate family has encouraged him to be himself. And he added that some of his relatives, although they have no problem with Jack’s being gay, think he should keep it a secret because if word gets out it might hurt his career. But Jack disagrees. He told me, “In science you [LGBT youth] shouldn’t hide who you are. What matters in science are your ideas and the quality of your work. It is important to be true to yourself.”
I wondered if being the smartest kid in the classroom had caused him any grief. “I didn’t get made fun of going to the cancer research lab every single Friday night and during my breaks,” said Jack. “I was actually celebrated for doing that. People were actually fascinated that I was doing this research. That was what was super-cool about this entire experience.” And being openly gay hasn’t been a problem either for Jack at his school which hosts a Gay Straight Alliance. Out of a student body of 2400, it only has five members; Jack isn’t one of them. “None of my friends are members so I haven’t joined.”
Jack told me how excited he was to be sitting next toÂ Apple CEO Timothy D. Cook at the State of the Union address. “You know he’s gay?” I asked. “did you talk about it?” No, ” Jack replied. ” We talked about pancreatic cancer. He had a friend [Steve Jobs] who died of it.”
If reading this makes you wonder as I did how Luke, Jack’s brother, deals with Jack’s achievements, not to worry. Luke was the fourth-place national winner of the Society for Science & the Public Middle School Science Competition, winner of an MIT Think Award, twice an ISEF finalist and winner of its $96,000 Sierra Nevada Scholarship for his method of treating acid mine drainage. Now a senior in high school, he’s been accepted by Virginia Tech inÂ theirÂ engineering program.
Jack and Luke working on a project at at North County High School
And if you’re concerned that the proverb, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” applies to this Jack, forget it. Jack kayaks, he is a member of the National Junior Wildwater Kayak team, likes to watch Glee,Â plays with his dog, folds origami, has read all the Harry Potter books at least five times — J.K. Rowling is his favorite author — and was dating someone for a while, but they broke up in February.
An Andraka family outing
Dr. Maitra told the Baltimore Sun, “Keep that last name in mind. You’re going to read about him a lot in the years to come, What I tell my lab is, ‘Think of Thomas Edison and the light bulb.’ This kid is the Edison of our times. There are going to be a lot of light bulbs coming from him.”
Steve, Jack, Luke and Jane Andraka – a family Standing firmly on the Right Side of HistoryÂ
All images are courtesy of the Andraka family.
Â Stuart WilberÂ believes that living life openly as a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer orÂ Allied person is the most powerful kind of activism. Shortly after meeting his husband in Chicago in 1977, he opened a gallery named In a Plain Brown Wrapper,Â where he exhibited cutting edge work by leading artists; art that dealt withÂ sexuality and gender identification. In the late 1980â€™s when they moved to SanÂ Clemente, CAÂ in Orange County, life as an openly gay couple became a political act. TheyÂ moved to Seattle 16 years ago and married in Canada a few weeks after BritishÂ Columbia legalized same-â€‹sex marriage. When Marriage Equality became the law in Washington State, they married on the first possible day permitted which was the first day of their 36thÂ year together. Although legally married in someÂ states and some countries, they are still treated as second class citizens by the federal government.Â Equality continues to elude him. (Photo by Mathew Ryan Williams)
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‘Vulgar and Lewd’: Trump Judge Cites Extremist Group to Allow Drag Show Ban
A federal judge in Texas known for a ruling that attempted to ban a widely-used abortion drug is citing an extremist anti-LGBTQ group in his ruling allowing a ban on drag shows to stay in place.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a former attorney for an anti-LGBTQ conservative Christian legal organization, and a member of the Federalist Society, in his 26-page ruling dated Thursday cited the “About” page of Gays Against Groomers to claim, “it’s unclear how drag shows unmistakably communicate advocacy for LGBT rights.”
Judge Kacsmaryk, appointed by Donald Trump twice before finally assuming office in 2019, suggests the First Amendment does not provide for freedom of expression for drag shows, calls drag “sexualized conduct,” and says it is “more regulable” because “children are in the audience.”
Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern adds, “Kacsmaryk’s conclusion that drag is probably NOT protected by the First Amendment conflicts with decisions from Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and Montana which held that drag is constitutionally protected expression. It also bristles with undisguised hostility toward LGBTQ people.”
Calling the judge “a proud Christian nationalist who flatly refuses to apply binding Supreme Court precedent when it conflicts with his extremist far-right beliefs,” Stern at Slate writes that Kacsmaryk ruled drag “may be outlawed to protect ‘the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.’ In short, he concluded that drag fails to convey a message, while explaining all the reasons why he’s offended by the message it conveys.”
Stern does not let Kacsmaryk off the hook there.
“From almost any other judge, the ruling in Spectrum WT v. Wendler would be a shocking rejection of basic free speech principles; from Kacsmaryk, it’s par for the course. This is, after all, the judge who sought to ban medication abortion nationwide, restricted minors’ access to birth control, seize control over border policy to exclude asylum-seekers, and flouted recent precedent protecting LGBTQ+ equality,” Stern says.
“He is also poised to bankrupt Planned Parenthood by compelling them to pay a $1.8 billion penalty on truly ludicrous grounds. And he is not the only Trump-appointed judge substituting his reactionary beliefs for legal analysis. We have reached a point where these lawless decisions are not only predictable but inevitable, and they show no sign of stopping: Their authors are still just settling into a decadeslong service in the federal judiciary.”
West Texas A&M University President Walter V. Wendler penned the letter that sparked the lawsuit.
Titled, “A Harmless Drag Show? No Such Thing,” Wendler wrote: “I believe every human being is created in the image of God and, therefore, a person of dignity. Being created in God’s image is the basis of Natural Law. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, prisoners of the culture of their time as are we, declared the Creator’s origin as the foundational fiber in the fabric of our nation as they breathed life into it. Does a drag show preserve a single thread of human dignity? I think not.”
Journalist Chris Geidner concludes, “It’s an extremely biased ruling by a judge who has established that he does not care about being overturned — even by the most conservative appeals court in the nation.”
Gaetz Praises GOP Congressman Who Echoes His Call for Change ‘Through Force’
U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL). largely seen as pushing Speaker Kevin McCarthy‘s Republican-majority House of Representatives toward shutting down the federal government, is praising and promoting remarks made by a freshman GOP lawmaker that appear to suggest the use of violence. U.S. Rep. Eli Crane‘s comments, posted Friday (below), call for change “through force,” remarks echoing Congressman Gaetz’s recent comments which were denounced by an expert on authoritarianism as fascistic.
“The only way we’re going to see meaningful change in this town is through force,” wrote Congressman Crane, Republican of Arizona atop a three-minute video in which he frames what is now an almost guaranteed government shutdown as a “spending fight.” In his video he says, “the only way you’re gonna get any change in this town is through force.” Gaetz in August had said, “we know that only through force do we make any change in a corrupt town like Washington, D.C.”
Congressman Crane is a former Navy SEAL. He has promoted the false “Big Lie” conspiracy theory that there was massive fraud in the election President Joe Biden won, and called “on the state legislature to decertify the 2020 election.” He is one of six House Republicans who voted against McCarthy’s speakership all 15 times in January.
“Congressman Eli Crane is a fountainhead of political courage,” said Rep. Gaetz Friday afternoon. “He holds the line.”
Crane recently came under fire for calling Black people “colored,” during debate on his legislation that would force the U.S. Armed Forces to not use any diversity requirements in its hiring practices.
Just days before he won his House seat last year, The Washington Post reported Crane had urged an “audience to look up an antisemitic sermon at a recent campaign stop.”
“Crane said that he was motivated to run because of ‘radical ideologies that are destroying this country’ and that he was most concerned about ‘Cultural Marxism,’ which the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as an antisemitic baseless claim gaining traction on the American right.”
“He encouraged the audience to watch a speech by a right-wing pastor who blamed cultural change on a group of German Jewish philosophers and condemned Barack Obama for having a ‘homosexual agenda.'”
“If we don’t wake up,” Crane said, according to the Post, “if we don’t study what they’re doing, and if we don’t put people in influential positions that understand what this war is all about, what they’re trying to do and have and have the courage to call it out, we’re going to lose this country.”
In August, while standing next to Donald Trump at a campaign rally, Congressman Gaetz said, “Mr. President, I cannot stand these people that are destroying our country. They are opening our borders. They are weaponizing our federal law enforcement against patriotic Americans who love this nation as we should.”
“But we know that only through force do we make any change in a corrupt town like Washington, D.C. And so to all my friends here in Iowa, when you see them come for this man, know that they are coming for our movement and they are coming for all of us.”
At the time, Raw Story reported, “historian and author Ruth Ben-Ghiat called Gaetz comments alarming.”
“What he is saying is that they are not going to have change through elections or through legislation or through reform. They are going to have change through violence,” she warned.
“And that’s how fascists talk,” Ben-Ghiat added. “So, even if Trump is out of the picture, these are people who have adopted methods very familiar to me as a historian of fascism, that violence and corruption and lying that’s what the party is today.”
Image via Shutterstock
‘See How Easy That Is to Say?’: GOP Mocked for ‘Weaponization’ of DOJ Claims as Democratic Senator Gets Indicted
The U.S. Dept. of Justice unsealed an indictment against U.S. Senator Bob Menendez late Friday morning, accusing the New Jersey Democratic lawmaker of bribery as prosecutors showed photos of gold bars and nearly half-a-million dollars in cash stuffed into a jacket that bears his name and the seal of the U.S. Senate.
Many on the left immediately demanded Senator Menendez resign, a demand he is refusing. He will step down as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, which Senate Democrats require when a chair is criminally charged.
It took little time for liberals to mock Republicans who have been claiming President Joe Biden and Democrats in general, along with the “deep state,” have “weaponized” the Dept. of Justice against conservatives, especially after Donald Trump’s four indictments on a total of 91 criminal felonies.
“Let me get this straight,” wrote journalist and progressive SiriusXM host Dean Obeidallah. “To the GOP, when DOJ indicts President Biden’s son and a senior Democratic US Senator that is great. But when DOJ indicts Donald Trump for attempting a coup and for 32 counts of Espionage that is DOJ’s ‘weaponization’ of criminal justice?!”
“This is the second time that Sen. Bob Menendez has been indicted for corruption. He needs to resign and allow Gov. Murphy to fill that vacancy with someone who does right by the people of New Jersey,” wrote former Human Rights Campaign press secretary Charlotte Clymer. “See how easy that is to say, GOP?”
Journalist, author, and former Clinton White House aide Keith Boykin posted video of the prosecutor announcing the indictment.
US Attorney Damian Williams shows photos of the Mercedes Benz, gold bars, and cash the government alleges Senator Robert Menendez received in bribes. pic.twitter.com/h4hYYwzKVQ
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) September 22, 2023
Boykin later sarcastically commented, “There goes Biden again weaponizing the Justice Department to prosecute political leaders in his own party.”
“President Joe Biden’s weaponized Department of Justice has now indicted Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and *checks notes* Joe Biden’s son,” observed veteran intelligence officer, activist, and social media personality Travis Akers.
Attorney and former Republican George Conway quickly responded, saying, “senile sleepy Joe is playing 65-dimensional chess again.”
“Menendez should resign. Today,” demanded historian and author Kevin M. Kruse.
“One of the nice things about rule of law is that truly believing in it ensures that you don’t end up as a partisan hypocrite,” observed The Atlantic’s Brian Klaas, an associate professor in global politics at University College London. “If Menendez is guilty, he should go to prison as anyone else would. (And it would be prudent to resign swiftly).”
Meanwhile, some used Friday’s indictment of Sen. Menendez to focus on other political figures.
Foreign policy, national security and political affairs analyst and commentator David Rothkopf, warned, “The Memendez case should have Jared [Kushner] and Clarence [Thomas] ordering extra strength Tums today.”
Rachel Bitecofer, the political strategist and analyst also appeared to point the finger at Justice Thomas and his wife, Ginni.
You know who else hid money from the IRS and ran his bribes through his wife?! pic.twitter.com/kWJuAPCtbJ
— Rachel Bitecofer 📈🔭🇺🇲🇺🇦 (@RachelBitecofer) September 22, 2023
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