A Good Year To Be Queer

What a sweet little story to end the year on. I mean just look at these two old girls, one seventy six, t'other eighty four, bless 'em.

2011: An Extraordinary Year For Gay Rights

This year was an extraordinary one for many things — especially gay rights. In September, the end of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy allowed gay, lesbian and bisexual people to serve openly. And just this month, two female sailors became the first to share the Navy tradition of a "first kiss."

This summer, New York became the sixth and largest state yet — along with Washington, D.C. — to allow same-sex marriage. Phyllis Siegel, 76, and her partner of 23 years, 84-year-old Connie Kopelov, became the first same-sex couple in New York City to be legally married.

Siegel tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host Rebecca Sheir that saying "I do" was different from hearing it.

"I've heard those words before — [from] relatives, friends — but they never meant as much to me as that day," Siegel says. "What I did was feel a swelling inside of me. As corny as that sounds, that's what I felt."

It was Sunday, July 24, and each women wore white pants and a blue shirt — blue being the color of fidelity. Siegel says marriage has created a special bond.

"We call each other 'wife' and just laugh because it's so nice," Siegel says. But, she adds, they're like any other couple.

"We have our little spats, and then we make up, we tease each other," Siegel says. "It's just great. It's on a different level, I can tell you that. I can't define it anymore than that."

She says the biggest thing she was thinking at the moment she and Connie kissed for the first time as a married couple was how much she loved Connie.

"I didn't plan the kiss on the cheek and lightly on the lips," Siegel tells Sheir. "I didn't want to make a big deal out of it, but I wanted it to mean something ... Talking to you is making me feel it again, and I'm becoming a little breathless." more

Quit Smoking in 2012

As the New Year begins, resolve to make 2012 the year that you quitsmoking. The New Year is a symbol of renewal and can be a time to prepare for new beginnings. It is a time to set goals and make them public so that you can get support and encouragement from friends and family. Many smokers use the New Year's holiday as motivation to quit. For some, this is the first time they've tried to quit; for others, they may have tried before. Regardless, this may be the most important resolution a smoker ever makes.

Local help is available to help you quit for good this year through www.thequitlink.com or by calling 1-800-207-1230.

Other online cessation services and resources are also available:
  • www.smokefree.gov provides free, accurate, evidence-based information and professional assistance to help support the immediate and long-term needs of people trying to quit smoking.
  • women.smokefree.gov provides free, accurate, evidence-based information and professional assistance to help support the immediate and long-term needs of women trying to quit smoking.
  • www.ucanquit2.org is a U.S. Department of Defense-sponsored Web site for military personnel and their families.

The National Cancer Institute has launched SmokefreeTXT, a free text message cessation service that provides 24/7 encouragement, advice, and tips to teens trying to quit smoking. For more information: http://go.usa.gov/5Sd

Once they sign up, teens receive text messages timed according to their selected quit date. Following their quit date, they will continue receiving texts for up to six weeks — a critical piece of the SmokefreeTXT service, as research shows that cessation support continues to be important beyond the first few weeks of quitting. Teens can sign up online at teen.smokefree.gov or text QUIT to iQUIT (47848).

    Happy New Year

    Orthodox Judaism How Enchanting

    It's so nice to know that misogyny isn't exclusive to Islam, such delightful fellows.

    Happy new year ladies; know your worth, know your place.

    I thought about posting a photograph, but I didn't want to despoil my blog with images of men who are just as loathsome and vile as their Arab or Persian counterparts. You may Google image 'sikrikim' should you so wish.

    It will yet be the proud boast of women that they never contributed a line to the Bible. - George W. Foote

    Orthodox Judaism treats women like filthy little things

    If a man and a woman are drowning in a river, first they'll save the man, 'who is obligated to perform more commandments,' whereas a woman's 'wisdom is only in the spindle.' In fact, 'words of Torah should be burned rather than being given to women.'
    By Yossi Sarid

    If you would like to know the source from which your brothers derive their brazen behavior, go over to the study hall and open a page of Talmud. It's true that the Torah has 70 faces, but the trend of these faces is clear: The source of the pollution is in halakha (Jewish law ) itself. What is happening in Beit Shemesh and its satellites is not "contrary to halakha," it is mandated by halakha. And the rest will be told to the grandmothers, daughters and granddaughters.

    Anyone ignoramus knows that the Torah's "ways are ways of pleasantness," that "the honor of a king's daughter is within," and that "proper behavior comes before the Torah," but it's worth knowing more. It's worth knowing that a woman is unfit to be a judge, and is also unfit to give testimony. She is unfit for any public position with authority. "Thou shalt appoint a king over thee" - a king and not a queen.

    A daughter, commanded the sages, must not be taught Torah, because "the mind of woman is not suited to be taught, but [only] to words of nonsense." Women are light-minded and have little knowledge.

    And if a man and a woman are drowning in a river, first they'll save the man, "who is obligated to perform more commandments," whereas a woman's "wisdom is only in the spindle." In fact, "words of Torah should be burned rather than being given to women."

    A man must say three blessings every day during morning prayers: He thanks God "that He didn't make me a gentile, that He didn't make me a woman, that He didn't make me an ignoramus." And it's not proper to speak to a woman too much, since "all her conversation is nothing but words of adultery," and whoever talks to her too much "causes evil to himself and will end up inheriting hell." And let's not even talk about the fate of someone "who looks even at a woman's little finger."

    The extremists who spit at women, who call themselves Sikarikim, learned their lesson 101 times and learned it well: A husband would do well not to let his wife go outside, into the street, and should restrict her outings "to once or twice a month, as necessary, since a woman has no beauty except by sitting in the corner of her house."

    Because inside the house - very deep inside - her glorious honor awaits her: "Every woman washes her husband's face and feet and pours him a cup and prepares his bed and stands and serves her husband. And any woman who refrains from doing any of these tasks that she is obligated to perform - is forced to do them." Some recommend forcing her with a whip or by starvation "until she gives in."

    And needless to say, she is at her husband's disposal whenever he is overcome by a desire "to satisfy his urges with her." And if she continues to rebel, he always has the right "to divorce her without her consent."

    And there are many similar halakhot, only a few of which we have collected here. Nor have we cited everything in the name of the ones who said them, for lack of space. The readers are invited to find the references on Shabbat - and to browse around - on their own; this is a good opportunity for study. We will direct your attention to Tractate Shabbat, which does a good job of summing up halakha's attitude toward women: "a sack full of excrement" with a bleeding hole.

    Some people will seek to console themselves: It's true that this is the halakha both m'doraita (from the Torah ) and m'drabanan (from the rabbis ), but that is not what is taught nowadays. But it suffices to listen to the sermon the sage Rabbi Ohvadia Yosef delivered five years ago, based on the well-known halakhic work "Kitzur Shulchan Aruch": "A man must take care not to walk between two women or between two dogs or two pigs, and men should also not allow a woman or a dog or a pig to walk between them."

    Treating women as impure and filthy begins with halakha and continues with actions. As long as the religious and ultra-Orthodox parties - Shas, United Torah Judaism, Habayit Hayehudi and National Union, none of which have any women in the Knesset - are not disqualified, their nakedness will continue to sing out and the nakedness of the land will be revealed. Haaretz

    Previous: Watch Headbanging Jewish Extremists In Action Against Little Girls

    Not only are they despicable, they are insane.

    The world holds two classes of men - intelligent men without religion, and religious men without intelligence. Abu Ala Al-Ma’arri

    Happy New Year!

    Happy New Year!

    Resolve to be Ready in 2012

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency has declared over 100 federal disasters in 2011 alone. This year we have seen the impact of tropical storms Maria and Lee, Hurricane Irene, wildfires in Texas, flooding, tornadoes, and even an earthquake that hit the nation’s capital. Even the media has put the threat of pandemics in the headlines with Warner Bros. Picture’s Contagion.

    FEMA has outlined ways to keep your family, home, and workplace prepared for any type of disaster. Emergency preparedness is a new year’s resolution that will be easy to maintain with three easy steps:

                 Make a family emergency plan
    The holidays are the perfect time to discuss a family emergency plan. Having an outline of what to do during a chaotic time such as an emergency is the best tool you can be equipped with. You may want to include emergency contact information and places to go during a time of emergency. Don’t know where to start? Visit the Ad council to create your own family plan.  

    Emergency supply kits are useful for both the home and the workplace. Making sure all the necessary items are in place PRIOR to a time of disaster puts you in the best position to combat the emergency. APHA’s Get Ready campaign offers a stockpile checklist in English (PDF) and Spanish (PDF).

    Location is a factor that determines the risk for disaster and emergency. It is important to know what disasters and emergencies threaten your area and community specifically. Not only is the environment a threat, but disease and sickness are too. Keeping up with vaccines is another preparedness strategy for the unknown. You can also call the closest chapter of the American Red Cross for emergency information that applies to your community. Knowledge is power: know what you’re up against and prepare yourself and your family for the best chance of survival during an emergency.

    Death to Gays and Batshit Crazy on the Ron Paul Campaign Trail

    When you listen to that nice Mr Paul talk foreign policy, you think what a nice sensible man.

    And when you listen to that nice Mr Paul talk about Jesus, you realise he's fucking insane.

    Major Ron Paul Supporter Favors Death Penalty for Gays

    Paul's endorsement from a pastor who wants the death penalty for gays exposes his links to radical Christian Reconstructionists.
    By Adele M. Stan
    December 29, 2011

    At first it seemed like the moment of triumph for the Ron Paul for President campaign. The Texas congressman had won the endorsement of Rev. Phillip G. Kayser, a prominent right-wing Nebraska pastor, just as momentum built toward a possible big win for Paul in next week's GOP caucuses in neighboring Iowa, where evangelicals comprise a majority of voters.

    The campaign issued a press release on Wednesday, lauding Kayser and trumpeting his endorsement, citing "the enlightening statements he makes on how Ron Paul's approach to government is consistent with Christian beliefs." Then came word of Kayser's "Christian belief" in applying the death penalty for gay male sex, and the Paulites got busy scrubbing their press release from the campaign Web site. (The text of the release and a screen shot can be seen on the Web site Outside the Beltway.)

    What reporters Pema Levy and Benjy Sarlin of TPM uncovered when they scrolled through Kayser's writings on his Web site, Biblical Blueprints, were not simply the rantings of a random fringe preacher, but a "blueprint" for the philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism, which seeks to make manifest biblical law as the law of the land. That would include the death penalty not only for the practice of sex between men, but also for adultery and insubordination by children.

    Coming on the heels of recent revelations by a former aide that Ron Paul would not use the bathroom in a gay man's home or shake the hand of a gay supporter, and the homophobic and racist utterances attributed to him in a series of newsletters published under his name in the 1980s and '90s, news of Kayser's death-to-the-gays theology was hardly a boon to the campaign.

    In one of the many pamphlets authored by Kayser, the TPM reporters unearthed this from a tract on the biblical validity of the death penalty:

    It is not just the sinfulness of homosexuality that is known, but also the justice of the death penalty for homosexuality. In verse 32 Paul says, "Who knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them."

    The mere threat of the death penalty for the sin of gay sex, Kayser wrote elsewhere, can be "restorative" to those so threatened. When questioned by reporters Sarlin and Levy, Kayser confirmed his beliefs.

    Paul's Long History with Christian Reconstructionists

    The campaign can scrub its embrace of the Christian Reconstructionist preacher, but it can't scrub Ron Paul's long ties to the Reconstructionist movement, from which the more broadly accepted dominionist strain in right-wing evangelical Christianity flows. As we reported, when Ron Paul exited the GOP presidential race in 2008, he chose to endorse neither Sen. John McCain, Ariz., the Republican nominee, nor former Rep. Bob Barr, Ga., the Libertarian Party nominee. No, Ron Paul threw his support to Pastor Chuck Baldwin, who ran on the ballot of the Constitution Party, sort of the political arm of the Christian Reconstructionists. (Baldwin parts company with Reconstructionists on his idea of how the end-times will go down, but is otherwise well-aligned with the Reconstructionist agenda.)

    Founded in 1992 by Howard Phillips, a follower of Christian Reconstructionism founder Rousas John Rushdoony, the Constitution Party offers this in the preamble to the party platform:

    The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.

    Hard-core Christian Reconstructionists like Kayser and Phillips (who is also a founder of the modern religious right and a close ally of Ron Paul) aren't easy to come by, despite the profound but often undetected influence of Reconstructionist thought on right-wing evangelical churches. One area of difference between Reconstructionists and more garden-variety evangelicals is toward Israel and the vision of the end-times. The more common position among evangelicals is premillennialist, meaning that Israel must be constituted as a nation before Jesus will return to rule the righteous. As we reported last August, Reconstructionists adhere to the view expressed by Ron Paul at a "Pastor's Forum" at Chuck Baldwin's Pensacola, Fla., church -- that Christians are the new "chosen people," and the righteous must rule for 1,000 years before Jesus will return. More, full story with links.

    Frankie Hughes American Icon

    I have done year end iconic photographs in the past, but it never really crossed my mind to do it again this year, until that is, I woke up to these images this morning.

    It wasn't the first image in this series of four that caught my eye and my admiration the way it did, I had to search out that one and the two others. Indeed it was the second one in the group that was first brought to my notice, and that for me, epitomised every thing that makes a photo iconic.

    A lone slip of a girl silently protesting, surrounded by the burly troopers of the American Police State. That alone would have been plenty; but the cable ties! Oh what a gift to any photograph of this genre, you couldn't ask for more.

    Little wonder her father is proud of her, as I would be too.

    Frankie Hughes, fourteen years old, bless you girl, bless you indeed.

    Update: Could someone please leave me a linkback to to the facebook site that is running this story. I would be interested in public opinion. Thank you.

    Fourteen Year-Old Girl Among Dozen 'Occupy the Caucus' Protesters in Iowa
    By Brett Smiley

    Police arrested a dozen Occupy the Caucus protesters who blocked the doors to the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters, including 14-year-old Frankie Hughes who wore tape over her mouth and a sandwich sign that identified her as “a child whose voice is not heard." This isn't the girl's first rodeo with police, either. She said she's been arrested three or four times before, once at the State Capitol, according to the Times.

    In this case, Frankie joined protesters who voiced concerns about Obama's ties to Wall Street, among other things. She was released to her father who said “I’m actually proud of her for standing up the way she did.” Better a serial protester than a problem child. NYmag.com

    Regarding Frankie Hughes being an icon? well, I've just made her mine. Will you join me and give the girl the recognition she so richly deserves? You can do that by clicking any of the share/tweet buttons that are available available immediately below. Thanks.

    In fact, I have just given Frankie Hughes her own tag, something tells me this isn't going to be the last we shall hear about this remarkable girl.

    h/t YourAnonNews

    Influenza Update 12/29/11

    The first laboratory-confirmed case of seasonal flu was reported to Maine CDC on December 23.  Influenza A (2009 H1N1), influenza A (H3), and influenza B are all circulating nationally. For more information, see the Health Alert issued Dec. 27.  
    Maine CDC reminds everyone to take everyday preventive measures against the flu:

    Weekly updates on flu activity are available online:

    Influenza A(H3N2)v

    Maine CDC investigated two cases of influenza A(H3N2)v in October. For more information about this investigation, see the Health Alert issued Oct. 19

    For current guidance and information from US CDC:
    • Interim guidance for influenza surveillance: http://go.usa.gov/Non
    • Interim guidance on case definitions to be used for investigations of influenza A(H3N2)v virus cases: http://go.usa.gov/NoU
    • Interim guidance on specimen collection, processing, and testing for patients with suspect influenza A(H3N2)v virus infection: http://go.usa.gov/NoP
    • Prevention strategies for seasonal and influenza A(H3N2) in health care settings: http://go.usa.gov/NoE


    Maine CDC recommends that Health Care Providers continue vaccinating to protect against influenza this year according to the following guidelines:

    Health Care Providers should use state-supplied vaccine for patients in the following circumstances:
    • The patient is a child ages 6 months through 18 years;
    • The patient is pregnant or the partner of a pregnant patient;
    • The patient’s insurance does not cover vaccinations;
    • The patient is uninsured.

    Health Care Providers may use state-supplied vaccine for other patients only if:
    • The Health Care Provider has already vaccinated all eligible patients listed above and has excess state-supplied vaccine; and
    • Privately purchased vaccine is not available.

    Providers may not charge for state-supplied vaccine. It is reasonable and allowable to charge an administration fee in some circumstances, provided that:
    1. MaineCare-eligible children are not charged an out of pocket administration fee;
    2. administration fees do not exceed the regional Medicare maximum ($14.37/vaccine administration); and 
    3. no one is denied vaccine because of their inability to pay an administration fee.

    Salmonella update

     The US Department of Agriculture'sFood Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), working with US CDC and its state health partners, determined that there is a link between recalled Hannaford ground beef products and an outbreak of salmonellosis in several northeastern states. Four cases were identified in Maine. FSIS is continuing to work with US CDC, public health partners in the affected states, and the company on the investigation.

    Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, especially to those with weak immune systems, such as infants, the elderly, and persons with HIV infection or those undergoing chemotherapy. The most common manifestations of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea and vomiting that can last up to seven days. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact a health care provider.

    This outbreak strain of Salmonella is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics and its resistance can increase the risk of hospitalization or possible treatment failure in infected individuals.

    To prevent foodborne illness, take the following precautions:
    • Wash hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry. Also wash cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot soapy water. Clean up spills right away.
    • Keep raw meat, fish and poultry away from other food that will not be cooked. Use separate cutting boards for raw meat, poultry and egg products and cooked foods.
    • Cook raw meat and poultry to safe internal temperatures before eating. The safe internal temperature for meat such as beef and pork is 160° F, and 165° F for poultry, as determined with a food thermometer.
    • Refrigerate raw meat and poultry within two hours after purchase (one hour if temperatures exceed 90° F). Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within two hours after cooking.

    For more information: http://go.usa.gov/Nov 

    Arnie Gunderson Discusses China Syndrome & The Impact of Fukushima on World's Oceans

    I can't give you a review of the effect on the oceans video just yet, it's an hour long and I'm just now about to watch it myself. Later then. Update: I watched half an hour of it, it was a bit too web-cammy to sit through more.

    Fukushima - Could it Have a China Syndrome? from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

    Fairewinds' chief engineer Arnie Gundersen discusses whether the accidents at Fukushima were a meltdown, a melt-through, or a China Syndrome. Whatever the accidents are named, thousands of tons of water contaminated with plutonium, uranium, and other very toxic radioactive isotopes are flooding the site, the surrounding water table, and the ocean.

    Gundersen on EcoReview: Fukushima's Impact on the Oceans from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

    Arnie Gundersen appears on EcoReview to speak about the impact that the Fukushima nuclear disaster will have on the world's oceans. Fairewinds

    The Manning Assange Connection: We're Off!

    Well the Pentagon is, but that will hardly come as a surprise, the owners of the world want Julian Assange's ass in a sling no matter the means, no matter the method.

    I wouldn't put it past the US to even snatch the man, and who in this country would say boo, if they did just that? We have witnessed very recently what kind of backbone this country displays when dealing with its masters. The Wail or the Telegraph

    And there is no little danger in the details:

    ...The Army is seeking to establish a precedent with the Manning case that will effectively militarize the Internet and media because “terrorists” may learn about US government secrets. Under such conditions, whistleblowers who divulge covert activities of the US government, as well as journalists who report them, could be accused of aiding terrorists, detained by the military or tried for espionage.

    Manning prosecution lays basis for terror charge against WikiLeaks founder Assange

    By Naomi Spencer
    December 26, 2011

    In pre-trial proceedings against Army Private Bradley Manning at Fort Meade, Maryland this week, the Army’s lead prosecutor presented evidence purportedly linking Manning directly to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and alleged that by publishing documents leaked by Manning, WikiLeaks and Assange had aided terrorists, including Al Qaeda.

    The proceedings concluded Thursday after less than a week of hearings. Manning is charged with leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents, including evidence of US war crimes, to WikiLeaks.

    The closing arguments of Captain Ashden Fein make clear that the United States government is seeking to use its prosecution of Manning, a 24-year-old soldier and former intelligence analyst, to lay the basis for extraditing Assange to the US and either prosecuting him as a terrorist or locking him away indefinitely in a military prison without any recourse to the courts or due process.

    The attempt of the prosecution in the Manning case to make an amalgam between Manning, Assange and Al Qaeda is particularly ominous given the passage last week of the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes authorization for the US president to order the indefinite military detention without trial of anyone, citizen or non-citizen, whom the president names as a terrorist.

    Assange is currently in Britain, appealing to Britain’s Supreme Court an extradition order to Sweden on the basis of trumped-up sex charges. If extradited to Sweden, Assange will likely face extradition to the US.

    By alleging as well that Manning aided Al Qaeda, the prosecution is escalating a strategy aimed at coercing Manning to implicate Assange. Without having even been formally charged, Manning was held in solitary confinement for months on end and subjected to forced nakedness and sleep deprivation among other forms of torture.

    The central purpose of his treatment from the time he was detained 19 months ago has been to “strong-arm” the young man into a plea bargain in which he is called to testify against Assange.

    The presiding officer in the Article 32 hearing, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Almanza, will issue a recommendation by January 16 as to whether Manning will face court martial.

    He faces 22 charges under the Espionage Act, including “aiding the enemy,” which carries a maximum sentence of death. Prosecutors have stated that the military will instead pursue a sentence of life in prison, although under court martial Manning may still be subject to capital punishment.

    The military prosecutor, Captain Fein, told the court that Manning had been “trained and trusted to use multiple intelligence systems.” Fein continued: “He used that training to defy that trust. He abused our trust. Ultimately, he aided the enemies of the United States by indirectly giving them intelligence through WikiLeaks.”

    Fein exhibited excerpts of an alleged Internet chat between Manning and Assange. In the alleged exchange, Assange assists Manning in obtaining a password to access classified material.

    Baher Azmy, an attorney for Assange with the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the government’s evidence is not verifiable. “We have no access to and cannot review or see the government’s evidence,” he told the Washington Post. “We do not know if it is reliable.”

    The prosecution also played a video purportedly showing a member of Al Qaeda urging militants to study WikiLeaks material. “The solution for Jihadis is to head to the free Internet,” the narrator declares.

    “Manning was a trained analyst,” Fein said. “He knew Al Qaeda was an enemy of the United States. He knew they collected information from the Internet. He knowingly gave information through WikiLeaks to them.”

    “Manning gave the enemy of the United States unfettered access to classified documents,” Fein concluded.

    Through such an argument, the military and the Obama administration are seeking to define WikiLeaks as an organization that aids terrorism. The Army is seeking to establish a precedent with the Manning case that will effectively militarize the Internet and media because “terrorists” may learn about US government secrets. Under such conditions, whistleblowers who divulge covert activities of the US government, as well as journalists who report them, could be accused of aiding terrorists, detained by the military or tried for espionage.

    In response to this aggressive and anti-democratic argument, Manning’s lawyers did not counterpose a political defense based on an opposition to war crimes, censorship, or the attack on democratic rights. Instead, in his closing argument, Manning’s civilian attorney David Coombs focused on having charges against the private reduced to three counts carrying a total of 30 years in military prison.

    Much of Coombs’ closing statement concentrated on pointing out lax security at the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility in Baghdad, where Manning worked. He asserted that the military itself was responsible for instances where Manning and fellow soldiers committed chargeable offenses, including using unauthorized software and bypassing security. “It was a lawless unit when it came to information assurance,” Coombs said. “They did not follow rules, they did not follow standards.”

    Coombs also argued that because Manning was forced to hide his sexual orientation under military discipline, he suffered from a gender identity disorder that expressed itself in emotional outbursts against his colleagues and the creation of an online female alter-ego.

    The Army knew of his psychological distress but did nothing, the defense asserted, even after Manning himself wrote a letter to a sergeant in his unit about his troubles. “Everyone is concerned about me,” Manning had written. “Everyone is afraid of me and I’m sorry… I joined the military hoping the problem would go away and it did for a while.” Manning’s anguish was by all accounts ignored, even after a superior officer suggested the private required regular psychiatric consultation.

    Describing Manning as “young and idealistic” with a “strong moral compass,” Coombs said, “History will ultimately judge my client.”

    “The government overcharged in this case in order to strong-arm a plea from my client,” he added.

    After the close of proceedings Thursday afternoon, the Guardian interviewed Daniel Ellsberg, who was among a group of supporters outside the gates of Fort Meade. In 1973, Ellsberg was cleared of espionage charges for being the whistleblower behind the leak of the Pentagon Papers, exposing US crimes in Vietnam.

    “This process should not have had to take place,” Ellsberg said. “And the proceedings in this case should be ended in the same way that my trial was ended nearly 40 years ago” when the judge concluded that the government’s misconduct in the case went so far as to “offend a sense of justice.”

    Ellsberg noted that President Obama had exerted “improper command influence” when he told reporters earlier this year that Manning “broke the law.”

    Ellsberg warned, “What the defense lawyer today suggested is to get a plea bargain that would incriminate Assange.”

    Also present at Fort Meade was Jennifer Robinson, a legal advisor who has assisted Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Robinson told the Guardian December 21 that the proceedings were more restricted on reporting than those involving Guantanamo Bay detainees.

    Robinson spoke against the Justice Department’s vendetta against Assange. “This has confirmed what we knew already, that the US is still very serious about pursuing Julian Asssange and it only confirms our fears about extradition to the US are warranted.” wsws.org

    Bradley Manning: Traitor or Hero?

    Bradley Manning: Traitor or Hero?
    By Marjorie Cohn
    December 26, 2011

    The end of U.S. military involvement in Iraq coincided with Bradley Manning’s military hearing to determine whether he will face court-martial for exposing U.S. war crimes by leaking hundreds of thousands of pages of classified documents to Wikileaks. In fact, there is a connection between the leaks and U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq.

    When he announced that the last U.S. troops would leave Iraq by year’s end, President Barack Obama declared the nine-year war a “success” and “an extraordinary achievement.” He failed to mention why he opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. He didn’t say that it was built on lies about mushroom clouds and non-existent ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Obama didn’t cite the Bush administration’s “Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq,” drawn up months before 9/11, about which Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill reported that actual plans “were already being discussed to take over Iraq and occupy it – complete with disposition of oil fields, peacekeeping forces, and war crimes tribunals – carrying forward an unspoken doctrine of preemptive war.”

    Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also defended the war in Iraq, making the preposterous claim that, “As difficult as [the Iraq war] was,” including the loss of American and Iraqi lives, “I think the price has been worth it, to establish a stable government in a very important region of the world.”

    The price that Panetta claims is worth it includes the deaths of nearly 4,500 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. It includes untold numbers wounded - with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – and suicides, as well as nearly $1 trillion that could have prevented the economic disaster at home.

    The price of the Iraq war also includes thousands of men who have been subjected to torture and abuse in places like Abu Ghraib prison. It includes the 2005 Haditha Massacre, in which U.S. Marines killed 24 unarmed civilians execution-style. It includes the Fallujah Massacre, in which U.S. forces killed 736 people, at least 60% of them women and children. It includes other war crimes committed by American troops in Qaim, Taal Al Jal, Mukaradeeb, Mahmudiya, Hamdaniyah, Samarra, Salahuddin, and Ishaqi.

    The price of that war includes two men killed by the Army’s Lethal Warriors in Al Doura, Iraq, with no evidence that they were insurgents or posed a threat. One man’s brains were removed from his head and another man’s face was skinned after he was killed by Lethal Warriors. U.S. Army Ranger John Needham, who was awarded two purple hearts and three medals for heroism, wrote to military authorities in 2007 reporting war crimes that he witnessed being committed by his own command and fellow Lethal Warriors in Al Doura. His charges were supported by atrocity photos which have been released by Pulse TV and Maverick Media in the new video by Cindy Piester, “On the Dark Side in Al Doura – A Soldier in the Shadows.” [ http://vimeo.com/33755968 ]. CBS reported obtaining an Army document from the Criminal Investigation Command suggestive of an investigation into these war crimes allegations. The Army's conclusion was that the "offense of War Crimes did not occur."

    One of the things Manning is alleged to have leaked is the “Collateral Murder” video which depicts U.S. forces in an Apache helicopter killing 12 unarmed civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and wounding two children. People trying to rescue the wounded were also fired upon and killed. A U.S. tank drove over one body, cutting the man in half.

    The actions of American soldiers shown in that video amount to war crimes under the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit targeting civilians, preventing the rescue of the wounded, and defacing dead bodies.

    Obama proudly took credit for ending U.S. military involvement in Iraq. But he had tried for months to extend it beyond the December 31, 2011 deadline his predecessor negotiated with the Iraqi government. Negotiations between Obama and the Iraqi government broke down when Iraq refused to grant criminal and civil immunity to U.S. troops.

    It was after seeing evidence of war crimes such as those depicted in “Collateral Murder” and the “Iraq War Logs,” also allegedly leaked by Manning, that the Iraqis refused to immunize U.S. forces from prosecution for their future crimes. When I spoke with Tariq Aqrawi, Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations, at a recent international human rights film festival in Vienna, he told me that if they granted immunity to Americans, they would have to do the same for other countries as well.
    Manning faces more than 30 charges, including “aiding the enemy” and violations of the Espionage Act, which carry the death penalty. After a seven day hearing, during which the prosecution presented evidence that Manning leaked cables and documents, there was no evidence that leaked information imperiled national security or that Manning intended to aid the enemy with his actions.
    On the contrary, in an online chat attributed to Manning, he wrote, “If you had free reign over classified networks… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do?”

    He went on to say, “God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms… I want people to see the truth… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.“

    Manning has been held for 19 months in military custody. During the first nine months, he was kept in solitary confinement, which is considered torture as it can lead to hallucinations, catatonia and suicide. He was humiliated by being stripped naked and paraded before other inmates.

    The U.S. government considers Manning one of America’s most dangerous traitors. Months ago, Obama spoke of Manning as if he had been proved guilty, saying, “he broke the law.” But Manning has not been tried, and is presumed innocent in the eyes of the law. If Manning had committed war crimes instead of exposing them, he would be a free man today. If he had murdered civilians and skinned them alive, he would not be facing the death penalty.

    Besides helping to end the Iraq war, the leaked cables helped spark the Arab Spring. When people in Tunisia read cables revealing corruption by the ruling family there, they took to the streets.

    If Manning did what he is accused of doing, he should not be tried as a criminal. He should be hailed as a national hero, much like Daniel Ellsberg, whose release of the Pentagon Papers helped to expose the government’s lies and end the Vietnam War. ICH

    GoDaddy Accused of Interfering with Anti-SOPA Exodus

    I've been watching this story unfold all week. 70,000 accounts moved, as a result of a net/twitter campaign targeting GoDaddy.

    GoDaddy accused of interfering with anti-SOPA exodus
    by Declan McCullagh
    December 26, 2011

    An effort by GoDaddy customers to boycott the domain registrar over its support for Hollywood-backed copyright legislation has sparked allegations of foul play.

    NameCheap, whose chief executive last week likened the Stop Online Piracy Act to "detonating a nuclear bomb" on the Internet, said today that GoDaddy has intentionally thrown up technical barriers to prevent its customers from leaving. It lost over 70,000 domains last week.
    NameCheap has seized on a dispute over the Stop Online Piracy Act as a way to lure new customers.

    NameCheap has seized on a dispute over the Stop Online Piracy Act as a way to lure new customers.

    It's not alone: at least half a dozen GoDaddy rivals have seized on their competitor's pro-SOPA lobbying to lure its customers away. NameCheap dubbed December 29 "move your domain" day, offering below-cost transfers with the coupon "SOPASUCKS" plus a $1 donation to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Other registrars such as Dreamhost, HostGator, and Hover.com, and Name.com have offered similar SOPA-related promotions.

    "GoDaddy appears to be returning incomplete Whois information to Namecheap, delaying the transfer process" in violation of rules established by ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, NameCheap wrote in a blog post today. By this afternoon, the company said that GoDaddy had "finally unblocked our queries" and that transfers should now "go smoothly."

    For its part, GoDaddy, which has reportedly called customers to ask them to return, denies any wrongdoing. In a statement sent to CNET this afternoon, the company said:

    Namecheap refused to say who at GoDaddy was contacted or when. Instead, chief executive Richard Kirkendall sent CNET a prepared statement saying "all we know on our side is that GoDaddy was preventing us from conducting normal business with our clients, and in turn causing harm to our reputation and at the same time overloading our support channels."

    "We were quite confident after significant analysis that this issue was not on our end, and after the issue had persisted for more than 24 hours with no response from the other party, we made a blog post clarifying what we felt was causing the issue," the statement said. In a separate forum post, a Namecheap community manager said, without providing any additional information, the company tried "reaching out to GoDaddy" but received "no response."

    Criticism of GoDaddy coalesced around a protest thread on Reddit and was aided by Jimmy Wales' announcement last week that "Wikipedia domain names will move away from GoDaddy." It inspired GoDaddyBoycott.org, which urged Internet users and companies to "boycott GoDaddy until they send a letter to Congress taking back any and all support of the House and Senate versions of the Internet censorship bill, both SOPA and PIPA." The Protect IP Act, or PIPA, is the Senate version of SOPA.

    On December 23, GoDaddy partially caved, announcing that it was no longer backing SOPA, but stopping short of saying it will oppose the legislation. And not until today did it post a clarification saying GoDaddy "does not support" Protect IP, either. (The GoDaddyBoycott.org site, which hasn't been updated, continues to say that GoDaddy endorses the Senate bill.)

    A GoDaddy representative did not respond to a question from CNET this afternoon asking whether the company now opposes SOPA and Protect IP.

    SOPA, of course, represents the latest effort from the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and their allies to counter what they view as rampant piracy on the Internet, especially offshore sites such as ThePirateBay.org.

    It would allow the Justice Department to obtain an order to be served on search engines, Internet providers, and other companies forcing them to make a suspected piratical Web site effectively vanish, a kind of Internet death penalty. It's opposed (PDF) by many Internet companies and Internet users. (See CNET's FAQ on SOPA.)

    Accusations of hypocrisy help any boycott, and, as TechDirt helpfully noted, GoDaddy condemns intellectual property theft while encouraging customers to buy domains "that are perfect for infringing sites." If you try to buy the domain Chanel.com, for instance, you'll get offered "RealChanel.com" as an option.

    Prior to its current public relations debacle, GoDaddy had been an enthusiastic supporter of expanding copyright law to deal with "parasite" Web sites. In testimony (PDF) before a House of Representatives hearing this spring, GoDaddy general counsel Christine Jones endorsed Domain Name System (DNS) blocking as a way to prevent Americans from accessing suspected piratical Web sites.

    Jones said that DNS blocking is an "effective strategy for disabling access to illegal" Web sites. It can "be done by the registrar (which provides the authoritative DNS response), or, in cases where the registrar is unable or unwilling to comply, by the registry (which provides the Root zone file records -- the database -- for the entire TLD)," she said. Cnet story with links

    Fukushima Intrim Report: - SNAFU

    Eight NISA officials: Fuck this were gone.

    Fukushima Probe Focus on Regulator in Multiple Response Failure
    Dec. 27 2011

    When engineering professor Yotaro Hatamura took the job of heading the independent investigation into the Fukushima disaster, he said he was looking for lessons rather than culprits. He may have changed his mind.

    In a 507-page report published yesterday after a six-month investigation, Hatamura reserves some of his strongest criticism for Japan's atomic power regulator, the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency, known as NISA.

    NISA officials left the Dai-Ichi nuclear plant after the March 11 earthquake and when ordered to return by the government provided little assistance to Tokyo Electric Power Co. staff struggling to gain control of three melting reactors, according to the report.

    “Monitoring the plant's status was the most important action at that time, so to evacuate was very questionable,” the report by Hatamura's 10-member team concluded. The committee found “no evidence that the NISA officials provided necessary assistance or advice.” Even though NISA's manual said to stay at the plant, their manager gave the officials permission to evacuate, according to the report, which doesn't name the manager.

    The preliminary conclusions by Hatamura, who specializes in studies of industrial accidents caused by design flaws and human error, includes a slew of planning failures, breakdown in communication and operational mistakes by Tokyo Electric and the government before and after the earthquake and tsunami.

    No Power

    While the utility supplied the electricity that kept homes, factories and offices running in metropolitan Tokyo, the world's biggest city, lack of preparation for power failure in the Fukushima station left workers reduced to flashlights at the 864-acre plant site, the size of about 490 soccer fields.

    Batteries in cell phones at the Fukushima plant started running out on March 11 and with the failure of mains power couldn't be recharged, preventing communication with the on-site emergency headquarters, according to the report.

    Because the utility known as Tepco hadn't considered a tsunami overwhelming the Fukushima plant, no preparation was made for “simultaneous and multiple losses of power” causing station blackout, the document says. The blackout caused the failure of all personal handyphone system units in the plant, seriously disrupting communications among staff.

    Fractured Communications

    Communications became so fractured that plant manager Masao Yoshida, stationed in the emergency bunker, didn't know what some workers were doing. The high pressure coolant injection system at the No. 3 reactor was stopped by a worker without authority from plant managers, according to the report. The reactor was one of the three that melted down.

    In Tokyo, the central government's response was muddled by miscommunication between two teams working on different floors of the same building, the report said.

    The report also criticized the government for failing to use its system for monitoring the spread of radiation in calculating evacuation areas. While the monitoring tool lacked sufficient data for an accurate assessment because of communication failures, its predictive functions should have been used, the report said.

    Withholding Information

    The government also erred in keeping data on the spread of radiation from the public. “Information on urgent matters was delayed, press releases were withheld, and explanations were kept ambiguous,” the report concluded.

    The report by Hatamura, professor emeritus at University of Tokyo, serves as a time line for the chaos that ensued when the record magnitude-9 earthquake knocked out power and buckled roads before the tsunami flooded backup generators. Radiation fallout from the reactors forced the evacuation of about 160,000 people. The government has yet to say how many can return and when.

    Jun Oshima, a spokesman for Tepco, declined to comment on the report as the utility is checking the contents, he said.

    Hotlines between the central control room and the reactor buildings worked following the quake, while workers outside the buildings could use a total of nine transceivers, spokesman Masato Yamaguchi said yesterday. The company added 29 transceivers on March 13 and 80 more on March 15, Yamaguchi said.

    Failed Procedures More

    Ten Years For Chinese Blogger

    China jails dissident Chen Xi for 10 years
    Mary Hennock
    26 December 2011

    A Chinese court has handed down a 10-year jail sentence to Chen Xi, the second dissident in four days to be convicted of inciting subversion through online essays.

    Another democracy campaigner, Chen Wei, was sentenced to nine years on 23 December. The two men are not related.

    It is one of the heaviest sentences for inciting subversion since the Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo was jailed for 11 years on Christmas Day 2009.

    Arrests and detentions have gathered pace this year as the Communist party reacted to online calls for protests like those that have toppled dictators across the Middle East. The calls, however, have drawn little response and no large-scale protests have taken place in China. more

    Cameron: Convenient Christian

    Aye, I've come across one or two of those in my time, some quite recently in fact.

    Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Christianity deserves better worshippers

    Too many are like Cameron, part-time Christians of convenience who use religion as a weapon
    26 December 2011

    When politicians grab and wave the chalice of religion, they tarnish its beauty and purpose, turning its gold to nickel. Or let me put it another way. They sully and invade the privacy of faith and misuse God for propaganda and political games. The master of this dark art was the Ayatollah Khomeini, who swept into power in Iran in 1979. His political takeover was disguised as religious salvation and we know what happened next.

    Saudi Arabia is the most loathsome, extreme theocratic state. In India, the Hindu fundamentalist BJP party has successfully sold itself to countless supporters and the apartheid regime in South Africa cited the Bible to justify its racism. Nearer home, Tony Blair called upon his Catholic deity to vouch for his motives when accused of lying about Iraq. The Pope gave him special blessings. These are the more dramatic examples of politicking with God. Just as common and corrosive is the everyday manipulation of religion by politicians.

    Recently, David Cameron did just that. The state should be secular, religiously neutral. Yet our PM, once a spin doctor, appropriated divinity efficiently and timed his message precisely. He chose this season of peace and goodwill to rouse muscular, Anglican jingoism, partly to pick a fight again with "multiculturalism" but mostly, I think, to cleanse the many sins of his government. This is a Christian country, with Christian values, he decreed, and "we should not be afraid to say so". Only it isn't. When you consider our domestic and foreign policy or how people behave, Britain cannot be called Christian. And I wish it was. Truly I do, even though I am a Muslim. For at its best, Christianity is one of the world's most humane and tender of religions and deserves a better class of worshipper than many of those who lay claim to it. blah blah

    Magical Story of Parents and Transgendered Twin

    Not too magical for the twin in the first place, but how different this story could have read, had the parents not displayed such understanding.

    Identical twin boys, one transgendered, become brother and sister

    The twin boys were identical in every way but one. Wyatt was a girl to the core, and now lives as one, with the help of a brave, loving family and a path-breaking doctor’s care.

    By Bella English
    December 11, 2011|

    Jonas and Wyatt Maines were born identical twins, but from the start each had a distinct personality.

    Jonas was all boy. He loved Spiderman, action figures, pirates, and swords.

    Wyatt favored pink tutus and beads. At 4, he insisted on a Barbie birthday cake and had a thing for mermaids. On Halloween, Jonas was Buzz Lightyear. Wyatt wanted to be a princess; his mother compromised on a prince costume.

    Once, when Wyatt appeared in a sequin shirt and his mother’s heels, his father said: “You don’t want to wear that.’’

    “Yes, I do,’’ Wyatt replied.

    “Dad, you might as well face it,’’ Wayne recalls Jonas saying. “You have a son and a daughter.’’

    That early declaration marked, as much as any one moment could, the beginning of a journey that few have taken, one the Maineses themselves couldn’t have imagined until it was theirs. The process of remaking a family of identical twin boys into a family with one boy and one girl has been heartbreaking and harrowing and, in the end, inspiring - a lesson in the courage of a child, a child who led them, and in the transformational power of love.

    Wayne and Kelly Maines have struggled to know whether they are doing the right things for their children, especially for Wyatt, who now goes by the name Nicole. Was he merely expressing a softer side of his personality, or was he really what he kept saying: a girl in a boy’s body? Was he exhibiting early signs that he might be gay?Was it even possible, at such a young age, to determine what exactly was going on?

    Until recently, there was little help for children in such situations.But now a groundbreaking clinic at Children’s Hospital in Boston - one of the few of its kind in the world - helps families deal with the issues, both emotional and medical, that arise from having a transgender child - one who doesn’t identify with the gender he or she was born into.

    The Children’s Hospital Gender Management Services Clinic can, using hormone therapies, halt puberty in transgender children, blocking the development of secondary sexual characteristics - a beard, say, or breasts - that can make the eventual transition to the other gender more difficult, painful, and costly.

    Founded in 2007 by endocrinologist Norman Spack and urologist David Diamond, the clinic - known as GeMS and modeled on a Dutch program - is the first pediatric academic program in the Western Hemisphere that evaluates and treats pubescent transgenders. A handful of other pediatric centers in the United States are developing similar programs, some started by former staffers at GeMS.

    It was in that clinic, under Spack’s care, that Nicole and her family finally began to have hope for her future. boston.com

    Christmas Cheer with William Tapley, Third Eagle of the Apocalypse and Co-Prophet of the End Times

    On the batshit crazy list William, you're still at the top. As a singer songwriter, you're not.


    The annual Clinical Cancer Advances 2011 report from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), now in its seventh year, highlights 12 major advances made in 2011 and 42 advances that it considers "notable."
    The report was compiled by 18 prominent oncologists, and covers the period from October 2010 to September 2011. The research highlighted in this report is considered by the experts to have had a significant impact on the way a cancer is understood or to have had a direct effect on patient care. Most of the advances were covered by Medscape Medical News.
    Major Clinical Advances
    Lung cancer deaths reduced by low-dose computed tomography (CT) scanning of people at high risk. These results come from the landmark National Lung Screening Trial, which was halted early because of benefit. The study followed 53,454 people at high risk for lung cancer (they had smoked the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years), and showed that anannual CT scan reduced the risk of dying from lung cancer by 20%, compared with an annual chest x-ray, over the course of 3 years (N Engl J Med. 2011:365:395-409). "This was the first randomized trial to find a definitive reduction in lung cancer deaths with screening," according to the report.
    Crizotinib (Xalkori) approved for rare type of lung cancer in August 2011 by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This drug, indicated for use in patients with advanced nonsmall-cell lung cancer who harbor a specific type of alternation in the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene, is "one of the latest examples of a successful personalized medicine approach," says the report.
    Exemestane (Aromasin) reduced risk for breast cancer in high-risk postmenopausal women in the MAP.3 (Mammary Prevention Trial). The trial followed 4560 women 60 years and or older who were at high risk for breast cancer, and 3-year results showed that exemestane reduced the risk for invasive breast cancer by 65% (N Engl J Med. 2011:364:2381-2391). "This is the first conclusive evidence that an aromatase inhibitor reduced the risk of a first breast cancer," the report notes, adding that exemestane now offers an alternative to tamoxifen and raloxifene, which are approved for chemoprevention but not widely used because of concerns about toxicity.
    In early breast cancer, adding regional nodal irradiation decreases recurrences. In women with early-stage breast cancer who have 1 to 3 positive lymph nodes or who are node-negative but at high risk, the addition of regional nodal irradiation reduces the risk for both local recurrence and distant metastases. These results should encourage radiation oncologists to discuss with their patients a more extended radiotherapy field to reduce the risk for recurrences, the report notes.
    Vemurafenib (Zelboraf) improves survival in advanced melanoma in patients with BRAFmutations, compared with standard chemotherapy (New Engl J Med. 2011;364:2507-2516).The drug was approved by the FDA in August, and the report notes that it is "a new standard treatment" for patients with melanoma and BRAF mutations (about half of all patients with melanoma).
    First-line ipilimumab (Yervoy) plus chemotherapy improves survival in metastatic melanoma in a phase 3 study (N Engl J Med. 2011;364:2517-2526). The new drug is an immunotherapeutic that activates T cells, and was approved by the FDA in March. "This is the first study showing the benefit in prolonging life by combining chemotherapy and immunotherapy in patients with advanced melanoma," the report notes.
    Bevacizumab (Avastin) has been shown to delay progression in both recurrent and newly diagnosed ovarian cancer in 2 separate phase 3 trials. The report considers this to be 2 separate major clinical advances. The data in recurrent ovarian cancer come from the phase 3 OCEANS trial, and show a 52% reduction in the risk for disease progression when bevacizumab is added to chemotherapy, compared with chemotherapy alone. The other study, known as ICON 7, found an improvement in overall survival in some women with newly diagnosed ovarian cancer. The report notes that researchers are waiting for longer-term data from both of these trials.
    A new high-dose chemotherapy regimen improves survival in neuroblastoma. In children with high-risk metastatic neuroblastoma, an intense dosing with busulphan plus melphalan improved the event-free survival rate to 49% at 3 years, compared with 33% with the standard regimen of carboplatin, etoposide, and melphalan. These findings establish a new standard of care, the report notes.
    A new chemotherapy regimen boosts event-free survival in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The results from a phase 3 study of nearly 2500 children and young adults showed that giving methotrexate in large consistent doses, rather than gradually increasing the dose (as happens in the standard regimen) is more effective at preventing relapses and extended survival. These findings set a new standard of care and push cure rates for pediatric patients with ALL up to more than 80%, the report notes, adding that "this disease was once considered one of the most deadly pediatric cancers, but today is seen as one of the most curable."
    Imatanib (Gleevec) for 3 years improves survival in patients with high-risk gastrointestinal stromal tumors. After surgery, patients who took imatanib for 3 years had significantlyimproved overall and recurrence-free survival, compared with those who took the drug for 1 year.
    Abiraterone acetate (Zytiga) was approved for prostate cancer in April by the FDA. The drug is used in combination with prednisolone in patients with metastatic prostate cancer who have previously been treated with docetaxel. According to the report, it offers a much-needed new option for these patients.
    Notable Advances
    Brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris) shows tumor shrinkage in lymphomas. This novel antibody–drug combination was granted accelerated approval by the FDA in August for use in refractory Hodgkin's lymphoma and anaplastic large-cell lymphoma. This is the first drug for Hodgkin's lymphoma to be approved by the FDA in more than 30 years, the report notes.
    Ruxolitinib (Jakafi) used for high-risk myelofibrosis. The drug showed increased response rates, decreased spleen size, and improved symptoms such as fatigue, night sweats, weight loss, and bone pain in the COMFORT I and II studies (2011 ASCO annual meeting, abstract 6500 andabstract LBA6501). These are the first-ever randomized trials conducted in patients with myelofibrosis, and the findings promise to change the standard of care, the report notes. Ruxolitinib, a JAK inhibitor, was recently approved by the FDA for myelofibrosis.
    Treating HER2 breast cancer with drug combinations is more effective than treating with single agents. Although trastuzumab (Herceptin) is effective in treating HER2-positive breast cancer, a significant number of tumors do not respond or become resistant. Two studies have shown that adding another agent improves or extends treatment response — trastuzumab was used with lapatinib (Tykerb) in the CHER-LOB study (2011 ASCO annual meeting, abstract 507) and with docetaxel and pertuzumab (Omnitarg) in the NeoSphere study (2010 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, abstract S3-2). The report notes that larger, longer-term trials (ALTTO and Neo-ALTTO) are currently evaluating whether this approach ultimately extends survival.
    PARP inhibitor did not improve survival in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. The investigational drug iniparib, which acts as an inhibitor of the PARP enzyme that is involved in tumor cell DNA repair, showed promising activity in a randomized phase 2 study (n = 123) when it was added to gemcitabine and carboplatin, increasing overall survival from 8 to 12 months. However, a larger phase 3 study (n = 519) with the same drug combination failed to show any improvement in survival (2011 ASCO annual meeting, abstract 1007). The contrasting results underscore the need to conduct carefully controlled, adequately powered studies to clarify promising results in a preliminary study, the report noted.
    Gene biomarkers linked to glioblastoma survival. Analysis of data collected during a phase 3 trial of temozolomide with radiation in patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma showed that patients with tumors that carried the "silenced" gene for methyl guanine methyltransferase (MGMT) had better overall survival. Further study revealed several more biomarkers or groups of biomarkers that could predict clinical outcome (2011 ASCO annual meeting, abstract LBA2000).
    Gene deletion linked to poor glioblastoma survival. Previous studies have shown that nearly all glioblastomas have alterations in the epidermal growth-factor receptor (EGFR) gene, but drugs targeting this pathway have not been effective. One study has shown that the deletion ofNFKBIA, a gene that inhibits the EGFR signaling pathway, affects tumor formation, increases chemotherapy resistance, and worsens survival. It might provide a new target for treatment (N Engl J Med 2011; 364:627-637).
    New mutation patterns were found in medulloblastoma. Researchers characterized the most common genetic alterations in medulloblastoma, making it the first pediatric solid tumor to be genetically sequenced (Science 2011;331:435-439). This might allow for better molecular classification of the disease and better prognosis, and might lead to the identification of new drug targets, the report notes.
    Trastuzumab was approved for HER2-positive gastric cancer by the FDA in late 2010. The drug is indicated for use in patients with metastatic gastric cancer with tumors that express high levels of HER2 (about 15% to 18% of patients). Adding trastuzumab to chemotherapy (cisplatin and either capecitabine or 5-fluorouracil) was shown to improve survival in the ToGA trial(Lancet 2010;376:687-697). This trial was the first to show a median survival of more than 1 year in this patient population, the report notes.
    Sunitinib (Sutent) and everolimus (Afinitor) were approved for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors in patients with unresectable or metastatic disease. Both drugs were shown to more than double the time it took for the cancer to progress, compared with placebo, the report notes, and they offer new options for the treatment of this cancer, which previously was treated with interferon and chemotherapy. The indication for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors was approved for sunitinib and everolimus within weeks of each another in May 2010.
    Cabozantinib shows benefit in advanced prostate cancer in a phase 2 trial. This investigational drug showed impressive activity in a phase 2 trial in patients with progressive metastatic hormone-refractory prostate cancer (2011 ASCO annual meeting, abstract 4516). Results from 100 evaluable patients showed tumor shrinkage in 84% and disease control in 71% of patients. In addition, the researchers reported that 56 of 65 patients (86%) with bone metastases experienced either partial or complete disappearance of the bone metastases on scans, often with a drop in blood biomarkers that are indicative of bone damage, leading to significant pain relief.
    Cabozantinib shows significant effect in melanoma and other cancers. The same investigational agent showed impressive activity in another phase 2 trial — this time in patients with a variety of advanced solid tumors (including liver, ovarian, and prostate cancer) and in melanoma (2011 ASCO annual meeting, abstract 3010). Cabozantinib, which also showed suppression of bone metastases, is a novel multitargeted agent, with activity against MET, VEGFR2, RET, KIT — protein kinases that are involved in the development and progression of many cancers, the report notes.
    Axitinib (Inlyta) used as second-line therapy for advanced kidney cancer. Results from the phase 3 AXIS trial of 723 patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma in whom previous treatment had failed showed that axitinib improved progression-free survival to 7 months, compared with 5 months with sorafenib (Nexavar) (2011 ASCO annual meeting, abstract 4503). Axitinib is not marketed yet, but an FDA Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee recently voted unanimously to recommend its approval for second-line treatment in renal cell carcinoma.
    Denosumab (Xgeva) prevents skeletal-related events in metastatic cancer patients. This novel bone drug, a monoclonal antibody that targets a protein (RANK ligand) involved in cancer-related bone destruction, was approved by the FDA in November 2010 for preventing skeletal-related events in cancer patients with solid tumors and bone metastases. In 2 clinical trials, denosumab was significantly better at reducing skeletal-related events in patients with advanced breast and prostate cancer than the bisphosphonate zoledronic acid (Zometa).
    The Cancer Genome Atlas provides details on ovarian cancer and points to potential drug targets. The first comprehensive effort to map the genome of ovarian cancer focused on serous ovarian adenocarcinoma (which accounts for about 70% of deaths), and found several molecular features: TP53 mutations in 96% of cases, BRCA mutations in 22%, and defects that interfere with DNA repair (which could be susceptible to PARP inhibitors) in about 50% of tumors (Nature. 2011;474:609-615). These findings reinforce the promise of ongoing research on PARP inhibitors, which are being evaluated in late-stage clinical trials in ovarian cancer, the report notes.
    PARP inhibitors and maintenance therapy used in ovarian cancer. A phase 2 study of 265 women with relapsed high-grade serous ovarian cancer showed that the investigational PARP inhibitor olaparib used after standard chemotherapy improved progression-free survival to 8 months, compared with 5 months for placebo (2011 ASCO annual meeting, abstract 5003). If these results are confirmed in larger trials, which are underway, olaparib could become an important treatment for women with advanced or high-risk ovarian cancer, the report notes.
    The Lung Cancer Mutation Consortium matched tumor mutation to drug selection. Aprospective study identified at least 1 of 10 recognized "driver" mutations in tumors of nearly two thirds of patients with adenocarcinoma, many of which are targeted with drugs that are already marketed or in clinical trials. As a result of this program, "multiplex testing" for many tumor mutations at the same time is now routine at some of the 14 American centers that took part, and is also applicable to other cancers, the report notes.
    Maintenance pemetrexed extends survival in advanced lung cancer. The phase 3 PARAMOUNT study showed that after initial treatment with pemetrexed and cisplatin, patients who continued on maintenance pemetrexed had a longer progression-free survival than those who did not (4 vs 3 months). This is the first trial to show that longer-term maintenance with one of the drugs used in the initial treatment can improve outcomes, the report notes. Pemetrexed maintenance was recently approved in Europe and has been approved in the United States since 2009, after a previous trial showed benefit.
    Combination of investigational oral therapies used in melanoma. A phase 1/2 trial showed that a combination of 2 oral targeted therapies — the MEK inhibitor GSK1120212 and the BRAF inhibitor GSK2118436 — appears to have substantial antitumor activity in advanced melanoma. The results suggested promising synergistic anticancer activity (2011 ASCO annual meeting,abstract CRA8503).
    Pazopanib (Votrient) and brivanib show benefit in advanced sarcoma. Pazopanib is already marketed for advanced kidney cancer, but has also shown benefit in patients with metastatic soft-tissue sarcoma in the phase 3 PALETTE trial. Second-line pazopanib improved progression-free survival, compared with placebo (5 vs 2 months) (2011 ASCO annual meeting,abstract LBA10002). The investigational drug brivanib, which blocks both vascular endothelial growth factor and the fibroblast growth factor, significantly improved progression-free survival, compared with placebo, in a phase 2 discontinuation study (2011 ASCO annual meeting,abstract 10000).
    Other Notable Advances
    Other notable advances covered in the report are related to strides that have been made in advanced cancer care, in patient and survivor care, and in prevention and screening.