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Standing On The Right Side Of History: 16 Year Old Jack Andraka Is ‘The Edison Of Our Times’

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I first learned of Jack Andraka from the above photo posted on my Facebook page. It was captioned:

“This is Jack Andraka, he is 15 years old 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. “By the time you bring this to a physician, it’s too late,” Dr. Anirban Maitra, Professor of Pathology, Oncology and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine explained.  “The first point of entry would have to be a cheap blood test done with a simple prick…”

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 mom’s sewing needles for electrodes.

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He mailed his proposal to almost 200 researchers. Only Dr. Maitra responded. “It was a very unusual e-mail. I often don’t get e-mails like this from postdoctoral fellows, let alone high-school freshmen,” he told Abigail Tucker who wrote about the experience for Smithsonian when Jack won the 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.

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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 “openly gay.” Needing confirmation I emailed, tweeted and messaged him – no response; he was in London with his mom, the youngest speaker ever to address The Royal Society of Medicine.

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I gave it one more shot and emailed, “I’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.”

skitched-20130323-143732Moments after it was announced that Jack Andraka, then 15,
won the Gordon E. Moore Award, May, 2012
“There are millions more of me out there…”  — Jack Andraka

Jack’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.  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 ‘minimal rules’, but nothing that stifles creativity,” Jack’s father, Steve, told Forbes:

“Basically, you can sum it up simply: treat people with respect, do your homework, be honest and try to be safe.  Having too many rules burdens down the entire family and limits thinking.” He added, ”Teach your kids that most problems in this world are really opportunities in disguise, and innovation comes from discontent.”

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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 the 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:

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“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 his potential. For instance, I don’t 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.”

Untitled 2I 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 to 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 in their engineering program.

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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, 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.

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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.”

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Steve, Jack, Luke and Jane Andraka – a family Standing firmly on the Right Side of History 

 

You can follow Jack on Twitter and on Facebook.

All images are courtesy of the Andraka family.

 

 Stuart Wilber believes that living life openly as a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or 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, where he exhibited cutting edge work by leading artists; art that dealt with sexuality and gender identification. In the late 1980’s when they moved to San Clemente, CA in Orange County, life as an openly gay couple became a political act. They moved to Seattle 16 years ago and married in Canada a few weeks after British Columbia legalized same-​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 36th year together. Although legally married in some states and some countries, they are still treated as second class citizens by the federal government. Equality continues to elude him. (Photo by Mathew Ryan Williams)

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OPINION

‘You Just Don’t Do It’: Federal Judge Denounces Alito’s Flags as ‘Stop the Steal’ Stickers

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A senior U.S. district judge is denouncing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito‘s flying of two insurrection-related flags at his homes in Virginia and New Jersey, declaring the actions “improper. And dumb.”

Judge Michael Ponsor, 77, who has served on the federal bench since 1984, writes in a Friday New York Times op-ed that he has “known scores, possibly hundreds, of federal trial and appellate judges pretty well,” and “can’t think of a single one, no matter who appointed her or him, who has engaged or would engage in conduct like that.”

“You just don’t do that sort of thing, whether it may be considered over the line, or just edging up to the margin. Flying those flags was tantamount to sticking a ‘Stop the steal’ bumper sticker on your car. You just don’t do it.”

Justice Alito’s first flag scandal came late last week, when The New York Times reported an upside down U.S. flag had flown at his Virginia home jut days before Joe Biden was sworn in as President. That flag is associated with the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021. As of January, more than 1200 who were there that day have been arrested and charged with crimes.

Alito blamed his wife, claiming she made the decision to fly the flag upside down, which according to the U.S. flag code should only be done to signal distress. Martha-Ann Alito, her husband claimed, had gotten into an argument with a neighbor and manifested her anger by flying the “Stop the Steal” flag.

READ MORE: ‘Investigate Now’: As Alito Scandal Grows Pressure Mounts on ‘MIA’ and ‘AWOL’ Judiciary Chair

The second flag scandal came on Wednesday, when The Times again revealed an Alito insurrection-related flag, this time at his New Jersey home, where the Alitos were flying the “Appeal to Heaven” flag which has ties both to the insurrectionists, and to extreme right Christian nationalists.

Justice Alito has not made any public comment defending his second flag.

Judge Ponsor offered up a hypothetical to counter Justice Alito’s claim his wife was to blame, in this case, an example of him presiding over a death penalty case.

“Let’s say my wife was strongly opposed to the death penalty and wished to speak out publicly against it. I’m not saying this is true, but let’s imagine it. The primary emotional current in our marriage is, of course, deep and passionate love, but right next to that is equally deep and passionate respect. We would have had a problem, and we would have needed to talk,” Ponsor explained.

“In this hypothetical situation, I hope that my wife would have held off making any public statements about capital punishment, and restrained herself from talking about the issue with me, while the trial unfolded. On the other hand, if my wife had felt strongly that she needed to espouse her viewpoint publicly, I would have had to recuse myself from presiding over the case, based on the appearance of partiality.”

READ MORE: ‘Going for the Jugular’: Legal Scholar Warns ‘Trumpers’ Want to End Major Civil Right

Note he mentions as a sitting federal judge he would have applied the same standards that jurors are expected to observe: to not discuss the case with anyone, including their spouses.

And should there have been a discussion, or if she were to air her views publicly, he would be forced to recuse himself from the case.

Justice Alito has not recused from any 2020 presidential election cases, any Trump-related cases, any insurrection-related cases.

That includes the Trump “absolute immunity” case the Supreme Court heard in April, for which they have yet to rule.

The Supreme Court “recently adopted an ethics code to ‘guide the conduct’ of the justices,” Ponsor observes. “One of its canons states that a justice should ‘act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.’ That’s all very well. But basic ethical behavior should not rely on laws or regulations. It should be folded into a judge’s DNA. That didn’t happen here.”

READ MORE: Trump Adviser Scanned and Saved Contents of Box That Had Classified Docs: Report

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OPINION

Trump’s Bronx Rally Attendance Claim Fuels Mockery as Aerial Images Show a Different Story

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Once again the Trump campaign is claiming massive attendance at his latest rally, and once again internet users are making a mockery of those claims – as a local ABC reporter reveals a few facts about attendance and the attendees.

“Trump vows to ‘save’ deep-blue New York City in massive, historic Bronx rally,” Fox News‘s Brandon Gillespie, Paul Steinhauser, and Michael Ruiz reported Thursday evening. “25,000 supporters of the former president descended on Crotona Park, Trump’s campaign said.”

The Associated Press offered a different take.

“Former President Donald Trump campaigned Thursday in one of the most Democratic counties in the nation, holding a rally in the South Bronx as he tries to woo minority voters days before a Manhattan jury will begin deliberations on whether to convict him of felony charges in his criminal hush money trial.”

ABC 7 New York’s Jim Dolan, reporting from the Trump rally in the South Bronx Thursday, served up a reality check (video below).

READ MORE: Trump Adviser Scanned and Saved Contents of Box That Had Classified Docs: Report

“Donald Trump can now say he held a rally in the South Bronx, home to immigrants and minority communities, and that it was well attended. It’s just not clear that the people who attended were from the Bronx. The campaign controlled who got in and the campaign of course, picked only supporters,” Dolan revealed. “Trump’s motorcade arrived in Crotona Park tonight. The crowd surged to get a look at him, more like a pop star than a politician. Not everyone wants a pop star for President.”

One person in the park told ABC 7, Trump is “a big fat bigot. And he just doesn’t have any love in his heart, for anyone, anyone of color. Anyone who’s in the LGBTQ plus community.”

Another called Trump, “a crook, a liar, and he tries to make money off people. And that’s what he’s doing right now,” and claimed the attendees are “all from out of state.”

“Go out there and look at all them cars that are parked and check where they came from? Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Texas.”

U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), who represents the South Bronx, was also at the park and told ABC 7, “If you did a poll about who’s more popular, Donald Trump or lead paint. I suspect lead is more popular than Donald Trump in the Bronx.”

READ MORE: ‘Not an Accident’: Trump’s ‘Unified Reich’ Video Alarms Historians and Fascism Experts

Congressman Torres also posted this commentary to social media:

The Trump campaign’s claim of 25,000 in attendance was belied by ABC 7’s aerial photography (screenshot, above), which was from Dolan’s report:

Meanwhile, some internet users had a good time mocking the Trump campaign’s claims by posting images clearly not of Trump’s Bronx rally.

Watch the videos above or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Contemptuous’: Justice Alito’s Actions ‘Close to Treason’ Suggests Constitutional Scholar

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News

‘Will You Accept the Results?’: Cruz’s Election Denialism Shut Down in ‘Brutal’ Interview

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U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) promoted Donald Trump’s false election denialism and was challenged by a CNN anchor in an interview being praised by several media watchers.

During the Wednesday interview Cruz suggested to host Kaitlan Collins that Democrats or Hillary Clinton criticizing election results was equivalent to Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” campaign, which included over 60 legal challenges and countless false allegations of massive fraud. He also insisted there was a “peaceful transfer of power” after the 2020 presidential election despite the violent and deadly January 6 insurrection for which more than 1200 people have been criminally charged and for which the ex-president is facing several indictments. In the end, Collins appeared to cut the interview short.

“Will you certify the election results?” in the November election, Collins asked the Texas Republican on Wednesday, noting he was the first in the Senate to say he would not certify the 2020 election results. “Do you plan to object or will you accept the results regardless of who wins the election?”

“So Kaitlan,” Cruz replied, “I gotta say, I think that’s actually a ridiculous question.”

“It’s a yes or no question,” Collins replied.

“No it’s not that let me explain why it’s a ridiculous question,” Cruz alleged combatively. “It’s not a question – have you ever asked Democrat that?”

READ MORE: ‘Investigate Now’: As Alito Scandal Grows Pressure Mounts on ‘MIA’ and ‘AWOL’ Judiciary Chair

“Of course,” Collins replied.

“What Democrat?” Cruz demanded to know.

After a short back-and-forth, Collins said, “I know, I know, I’ve been on this road many, many times, but no Democrat – you can not compare the two situations. We have talked about that, we’ve seen the audio of that when they protested,” Collins said,  appearing to refer to Hillary Clinton having called the 2016 presidential election “stolen,” which she did three years after the election, in 2019.

“Have you ever had a sitting president who refused to facilitate the peaceful transition of power refused to acknowledge that his successor won the presidency?” Collins asked Cruz.

“So, A, we did have a peaceful transfer of power. I was there on January 20. I was there on the swearing in,” Cruz insisted, ignoring the January 6 insurrection.

“Barely,” Collins replied..

Cruz continued to refer to individual “objections” Democrats have made about results of elections – not formal, legal objections (except Al Gore in 2000) but comments or remarks, or individual objections to one state elections – not organized campaigns.

So you’re asking, ‘Will you promise no matter what to agree an election is illegitimate regardless of what happens?’ and that would be an absurd thing to claim,” Cruz said.

Again, after some back-and forth, Collins said, “This isn’t a game. There was no widespread voter fraud.”

“It is a game,” Cruz responded. “You only ask Republicans that.”

It November of 2022, the right-wing Cato Institute published an opinion piece titled, “Yes, Democrats Have Called Some Elections Illegitimate. GOP Election Denialism Is Far Worse,” and added: “It’s not even close.”

READ MORE: ‘Contemptuous’: Justice Alito’s Actions ‘Close to Treason’ Suggests Constitutional Scholar

Collins later pointed out that it is only Republicans who have “tried to block the transition of power. You have to acknowledge that.”

“So my question for you again: free and fair election. Will you accept the results regardless of who wins?” Collins again asked.

“Look, if the Democrats win, I will accept the result, but I’m not going to ignore fraud regardless of what happens.”

“Was there fraud in 202o?” Collins pressed.

“Of course there was fraud,” Cruz insisted.

“No, that wasn’t and you still objected,” Collins pointed out.

“Oh, you know, for a fact there was zero voter fraud really? What’s your basis for that? Show me your evidence,” Cruz demanded, inserting “zero” when Collins meant fraud “that would have changed the outcome,” as she noted later.

Commenting on the interview, writer Charlotte Clymer, a former press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign said, “This is brilliant.”

“I seriously cannot remember the last time any journalist on cable news confronted the bad faith of a MAGA politician this insistently,” Clymer remarked. “For five minutes (!), Kaitlin Collins pressed Ted Cruz and demanded a good faith answer.”

Democratic strategist and former DNC official Adam Parkhomenko commented, “this is just brutal.” He added Cruz was “being humiliated.”

Calling it, “Well done,” journalist Ahmed Baba wrote: “Kaitlan Collins interjecting with fact-checks multiple times and ending the interview after Ted Cruz refused to engage in the facts and continued to spread his propaganda.”

Watch below or at this link.

READ MORE: Trump Adviser Scanned and Saved Contents of Box That Had Classified Docs: Report

 

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