Thursday Reads: A Little Bit Of This, A Little Bit Of That

Boris Karloff reads with friend

Boris Karloff reads with friend

Good Morning!!

Now that Congressional Republicans have successfully shot down President Obama’s rumored first choice for Secretary of State–Susan Rice–they are working on nixing the president’s possible pick for Secretary of Defense, Republican Chuck Hagel. Aaron Blake at The Fix:

Former senator Chuck Hagel’s (R-Neb.) potential/likely nomination as Secretary of Defense looms this week amid a growing chorus of criticism over his past comments about Israel and his policy positions on issues including the defense budget.

It seems some are bent on defeating Hagel’s nomination before it can even become official — much as Republican senators did with potential Secretary of State pick Susan Rice just last week. In fact, the same GOP senators who scuttled the Rice pick are now expressing doubts about Hagel.

A battle over Hagel would be highly unusual — both because we just had one over Rice and because both senators nominated to Cabinet posts and Secretary of Defense nominees generally sail to confirmation.

Obama should have stuck with Rice and fought it out. Senate Republicans smell blood now. The only reason John Kerry may be approved for State is that Republicans fantasize that Massachusetts voters will repeat their past mistake of electing Scott Brown to fill an open Senate seat. This president is the worst negotiator ever. He really needs to get someone else to make deals for him. He just can’t accept the reality that Republicans hate his guts and will never give him a break, ever.

Meanwhile Rep. Darrell Issa must be drooling over the “scathing report” on the Benghazi attacks

Four State Department officials were removed from their posts on Wednesday after an independent panel criticized the “grossly inadequate” security at a diplomatic compound in Benghazi that was attacked on Sept. 11, leading to the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, resigned. Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, and another official in the diplomatic security office whom officials would not identify were relieved of their duties. So was Raymond Maxwell, a deputy assistant secretary who had responsibility for the North Africa region. The four officials, a State Department spokeswoman said, “have been placed on administrative leave pending further action.”

The report by the independent panel has criticized officials in State’s bureau for Diplomatic Security displaying a “lack of proactive leadership.” It also said that some in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs “showed a lack of ownership of Benghazi’s security issues.”

The report did not criticize more senior officials, including Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary for management, who has vigorously defended the State Department’s decision-making on Benghazi to the Congress and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

At a news conference at the State Department on Wednesday, Thomas R. Pickering, a former ambassador who led the independent review, said that most of the blame should fall on officials in the two bureaus.

But that isn’t going to stop Republicans from trying to hang the blame around Hillary Clinton’s neck.

Sen. Bob Corker, R- Tenn., slated to be the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee in 2013, told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell Wednesday that Clinton “has to come before us. I think it’s imperative.” ‘

Corker and other members of Congress were given a classified briefing on the report and afterwards he insisted that Clinton must testify before she leaves her post and the Senate votes on confirmation of her successor.

The secretary was slated to attend briefings on the Hill this week but has been recovering from the flu and a concussion she suffered in a recent fainting episode.

Of course the right wing conspiracy nuts are accusing Clinton of faking her illness. And in the House:

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the unclassified version of the report “omits important information the public has a right to know. This includes details about the perpetrators of the attack in Libya as well as the less-than-noble reasons contributing to State Department decisions to deny security resources.”

He also said, “In light of the report, I am concerned that the carefully vetted testimony of senior State Department officials at the October hearing was part of an intentional effort to mislead the American people.”

Hey Darrell, have you hot-wired any cars or burned down any businesses lately?

While Pentagon officials struggle to figure out how to protect foreign outposts without using Blackwater-type hired guns, they are dealing with a worldwide Military day care abuse scandal.

The Defense Department has launched a worldwide investigation into hiring practices at military child-care centers after a criminal probe of employees at an Army base near the Pentagon sparked a review that found more than 30 staffers who officials say should have been barred from contact with children.

Two civilian employees at the Child Development Center at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall appeared in federal court Wednesday in Alexandria to face charges of assaulting 2-year-olds in their care.

The president immediately urged a thorough investigation and a “zero tolerance policy when it comes to protecting the children of service members from abuse.”

Two workers at the day-care center at the base known as Fort Myer were recorded by surveillance cameras dragging, pinching, kneeing and taunting toddlers, according to federal court records. The center is the military’s largest day-care center, with more than 400 children ranging from 6 weeks to 12 years old. It is used by Pentagon employees and other service members in the Washington area.

A personnel review at Fort Myer began in the fall after a parent complained about an allegedly abusive caregiver.

The inquiry turned up evidence that at least 31 staffers had potentially disqualifying factors in their records, including history of drug use and past allegations of assault, a U.S. official familiar with the investigation said. The staffers have been suspended.

“This is not just one or two or three people,” the official said Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of an ongoing inquiry. “This is a severe lapse in the background checks system.”

In police state news, two women in Texas are suing the Texas State Police for subjecting them to an “illegal roadside cavity search.”

A federal lawsuit filed by two Irving women claims that Texas State Troopers humiliated them by performing illegal cavity searches on the side of the road after a cigarette butt was thrown out of their car window.

State Trooper David Farrell called in a female trooper to perform cavity searches of Angel Dobbs, 38, and her 24-year-old niece, Ashley Dobbs, because he said that he smelled marijuana and the women were “acting weird,” attorney Scott Palmer told KTVT on Tuesday.

Angel Dobbs recalled that the female trooper, Kelley Helleson, asked for her permission to perform the search and then told her to “shut up and just listen.”

Unbelievable.

Dashcam video shows Helleson searching the anuses and vaginas of both women with the same latex gloves in full view of other passing cars.

“At this point, I’m in clear shock. I can’t even believe this is happening,” Angel Dobbs explained. Turns me around goes down into the front of my pants into my inner thigh and at which point she goes up with two fingers. I just look at her and say ‘oh my God, I’ve just been violated.’”

And then the trooper performed the same procedure on Ashley Dobbs without changing her gloves.

“She went down, then turned me around, and went down my front and then she actually dug,” Ashley Dobbs said. “I didn’t know what I could say, what I could do. I felt hopeless.”

Is it time for Texas to secede from the union and become part of Mexico (except for Austin, Ralph)? Nah, Mexico probably wouldn’t want to get involved.

The TSA is “Finally Investigating Cancer Risk of X-Ray Body Scanners” now that millions of Americans have been used as guinea pigs in the nation’s airports.

Following months of congressional pressure, the Transportation Security Administration has agreed to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to study the health effects of the agency’s X-ray body scanners. But it is unclear if the academy will conduct its own tests of the scanners or merely review previous studies.

The machines, known as backscatters, were installed in airports nationwide after the failed underwear bombing on Christmas Day 2009 to screen passengers for explosives and other nonmetallic weapons. But they have been criticized by some prominent scientists because they expose the public to a small amount of ionizing radiation, a form of energy that can cause cancer.

The scanners were the subject of a 2011 ProPublica series, which found that the TSA had glossed over the small cancer risk posed by even low doses of radiation. The stories also showed that the United States was almost alone in the world in X-raying passengers and that the Food and Drug Administration had gone against its own advisory panel, which recommended the agency set a federal safety standard for security X-rays.

The TSA maintains that the backscatters are safe and that they emit a low dose of X-rays equivalent to the radiation a passenger would receive in two minutes of flying at typical cruising altitude.

Winter has arrived in the Midwest: Outages in Iowa as season’s first blizzard starts journey in the Plains.

(CNN) — Tens of thousands of people lost power in Iowa on Thursday as the first major storm of the season swept in, bringing blizzards, high winds and severe thunderstorms to the central United States.

The storm prompted the National Weather Service to issue a blizzard warning for a huge swath of the Midwest stretching from eastern Colorado to Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan shoreline, including virtually all of Iowa.

The declaration warned of snow accumulations of up to 12 inches, complemented by 25- to 35-mph winds that will occasionally gust to 45 to 50 mph.

Oh goody.

The storm will race into western Illinois, the weather service said. Rain will quickly change to snow as the storm advances northeast, with the heaviest snow occurring overnight.

“Snow drifts several feet deep will be possible given the strong winds,” the blizzard warning states.
Wrapping around the blizzard warning on the north, south and east is a winter storm warning, which will be no picnic either. The winds won’t be quite as strong, but residents should expect a strong dose of rain, sleet and snow, with a few hail-packing thunderstorms thrown in for good measure.

Hmmm…what about my neck of the woods?

The “intense cyclone” will crawl across the Great Lakes region Thursday and slog into northern New England by Friday evening, the National Weather Service predicted.

Ugh…just what I needed.

I have three longer reads for you on the possible motivations behind mass shootings. I haven’t read any of these carefully yet, so I’m not sure if I’ll agree with the conclusions.

Scientific American is highlighting an article from 2007: Deadly Dreams: What Motivates School Shootings? The article focuses on the revenge fantasies of young shooters.

A Time article from July (written after the Aurora theater shootings) asks about “The Overwhelming Maleness of Mass Homicide.”

At Alternet: “What Is it About Men That They’re Committing These Horrible Massacres?”

I’ll be reading these articles after I publish this post. Let me know what you think.

Finally, Senators Diane Feinstein and John McCain are “condemning” the new movie about the killing of Osama bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty for falsely suggesting that torture led investigators to bin Laden’s hideout.

Now what are you reading and blogging about today?


Wednesday Morning Reads: Gala, Jobs, Plastic and an American Priest

Good Morning

You can also add a sunspot to that title, because today I am going to share a variety of links with you.

News out of DC? Well…I don’t quite know what to make of this: Obama unveils jobs plan on a virtual ‘post-it’ note, urging Congress to act

A post-it note? As if that is going to get the job done in Congress…

President Barack Obama pressed Congress on Tuesday to act on a modest five-item “to-do list” to fight unemployment, showcasing the tasks on a virtual Post-It note he mockingly said would not “overload” lawmakers.

“I know this is an election year,” Obama said in a speech at the SUNY-Albany Nano-Tech Complex, a science research facility. “But it’s not an excuse for inaction. Six months is plenty of time for Democrats and Republicans to get together and do the right thing.”

Obama’s list included items he’s already unsuccessfully pushed Congress to adopt, such as cutting tax incentives for businesses that ship jobs overseas, enacting new hire tax credits, promoting clean energy and helping homeowners struggling with their mortgages to refinance.

“It’s about the size of a Post-It note, so every member of Congress should have time to read it and they can glance at it every so often,” said the president, who referred to the virtual memo as “a handy little ‘to-do’ list.”

How cute…

With his reelection hopes weighed down by the weak economy, Obama also seemed to lay the blame on Congress if job growth remains sluggish from now to November. New figures showed lackluster employment figures in April and a national jobless rate that ticked down to 8.1 percent mostly because of unemployed Americans giving up on looking for work.

“The truth is, the only way we can accelerate the job creation that takes place on a scale that is needed is bold action from Congress,” he said. “Just saying no to ideas that we know will help our economy isn’t an option. There’s too much at stake. We’ve all got to pull in the same direction,” Obama said.

You know, when I think of all the suggestions from economist like Dr. Dakinikat have shouted out to anyone who would listen…why, won’t they (both Dems and Repubs) do something that will be beneficial to the economy?

This next link is on the topic of health, specifically cancer. ‘One in six cancers worldwide are caused by infection’

One in six cancers – two million a year globally – are caused by largely treatable or preventable infections, new estimates suggest.

The Lancet Infectious Diseases review, which looked at incidence rates for 27 cancers in 184 countries, found four main infections are responsible.

These four – human papillomaviruses, Helicobacter pylori and hepatitis B and C viruses – account for 1.9m cases of cervical, gut and liver cancers.

Most cases are in the developing world.

The team from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France says more efforts are needed to tackle these avoidable cases and recognise cancer as a communicable disease.

The proportion of cancers related to infection is about three times higher in parts of the developing world, such as east Asia, than in developed countries like the UK – 22.9% versus 7.4%, respectively.

Nearly a third of cases occur in people younger than 50 years.

Among women, cancer of the cervix accounted for about half of the infection-related cancers. In men, more than 80% were liver and gastric cancers.

Remember the HPV vaccine?

Drs Catherine de Martel and Martyn Plummer, who led the research, said: “Infections with certain viruses, bacteria, and parasites are some of the biggest and preventable causes of cancer worldwide
“Application of existing public-health methods for infection prevention, such as vaccination, safer injection practice, or antimicrobial treatments, could have a substantial effect on the future burden of cancer worldwide.”
Vaccines are available to protect against human papillomavirus (HPV) – which is linked to cancer of the cervix – and hepatitis B virus – an established cause of liver cancer.
And experts know that stomach cancer can be avoided by clearing the bacterial infection H. pylori from the gut using a course of antibiotics.

I wonder if other cancers can be triggered from infection. I seems a lot of new information on cancer treatment is coming out of Europe these days. Which is a good thing since science is being trampled here in the US by religious conservative politicians.

Moving on to something troubling in the Pacific Ocean…Scientists find hundredfold increase in plastic trash in Pacific Ocean since 1970s

The amount of plastic in the ocean area known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” has increased a hundredfold since the early 1970s, according to a new study, and the alarming findings could pressure California and other coastal states to do more to reduce plastic trash.

“We were really surprised. It is a very large increase,” said Miriam Goldstein, a Ph.D. graduate student in biological oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and lead author of the study.

“Plastic had been detected in the open ocean in the early 1970s,” she said. “People were raising the alarm then. The fact it has gotten so much worse is really disappointing.”

During an expedition in 2009, Scripps researchers took extensive water samples 1,000 miles west of California, then compared the amount of plastic they found with samples taken by other researchers dating back to 1972.

While many of the samples 40 years ago found little or no plastic, vast stretches of the North Pacific are now polluted with billions of tiny pieces of confetti-like trash that comes from garbage that floats out to sea and breaks down in wind and waves.

The tiny bits sit on or near the surface, where they are eaten by fish, sea turtles and other marine animals that confuse them for food. The latest samples show that the garbage patch has grown not in size but in density: There are roughly 100 times more pieces per cubic meter of water than were in samples during the 1970s.

Read more at the link above, and here is a graphic that explains the currents effect on garbage. Larger graphic found here:  Image Viewer

Another big solar storm is heading our way…Monster Sunspot To Unleash Powerful Solar Flares Check out the size of this mother:

An enormous sunspot group has taken shape on the surface of the sun, hinting that our star may soon start spouting off some powerful storms.

The huge sunspot complex, known as AR 1476, rotated into Earth’s view over the weekend. It measures more than 60,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) across, researchers said. Scientists with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory mission, a space-based telescope watching the sun, dubbed the solar structure a “monster sunspot” in a Twitter announcement.

THE GIST

  • AR 1476 is big enough for amateur astronomers with decent equipment to spot from their backyards, weather permitting.
  • Monday evening’s eruption generated an Earth-directed CME, which should hit Earth sometime Wednesday morning (May 9).
  • Sunspots are temporary dark patches on the surface of the sun that are caused by intense magnetic activity.

The sun’s active stage should peak around 2013, in part of its 11–year cycle.

In other hot news, I should say biblical hot…burning fire hot…much like the kind of fire the priests in this next link should find themselves burning…in HELL.

Bernard Law Hid Pedophiles, Behind Push To Punish Nuns

Last month the Vatican announced it was cracking down on American nuns for not sufficiently pushing the Catholic Bishops anti-gay, anti-woman agenda. Who was behind this sudden and aggressive push-back against women many American Catholics deeply respect? The same shamed men behind the church’s sex abuse cover-up and complicity.

David Gibson reports that conservative American churchmen living in Rome, among them the disgraced former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, were key figures pushing the hostile takeover the the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, or LCWR. Law and other hard-right Catholic leaders don’t like the group because of its emphasis of social justice work over loyalty to church hierarchy and issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Law was joined by a former archbishop of St. Louis, Cardinal Raymond Burke in his efforts to aggressive investigate the LCWR. Burke was named to a top Vatican judicial post in 2008 because his hard-right views made Burke a lightning rod in the U.S.– a move familiar within the Catholic Church’s leadership structure and one knowing as getting “kicked upstairs.”

However the actual investigation was conducted by Cardinal William Levada, a former archbishop of San Francisco who succeeded Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s powerful doctrinal watchdog, when Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. Needless to say, these are all men very close to Ratzinger and two of them, Burke and Law, were ushered to Rome and given refuge to escape political, and in Law’s case, criminal pressure related to the sex abuse scandal in the early 2000′s.

Now we know that it is the same men who enabled, lied, and covered-up decades of criminal sexual abuse of minors pushing to punish American nuns for social justice work at the expense of Law and the Vatican’s hateful and dangerous agenda. But is anybody really surprised?

This was not a surprise to me, at all! When all the crap came down on the nuns from the Vatican, I knew something was up.

From the Religion News Service written by David Gibson, which was mentioned in the Care 2 article above:

When the Vatican last month announced a doctrinal crackdown on the leadership organization representing most of the 57,000 nuns in the U.S., the sisters said they were “stunned” by the move. Many American Catholics, meanwhile, were angry at what they saw as Rome bullying women whose lives of service have endeared them to the public.

[…]

Now it turns out that conservative American churchmen living in Rome — including disgraced former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law — were key players in pushing the hostile takeover of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, or LCWR, which they have long viewed with suspicion for emphasizing social justice work over loyalty to the hierarchy and issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Vatican observers in Rome and church sources in the U.S. say Law was “the person in Rome most forcefully supporting” the LCWR investigation, as Rome correspondent Robert Mickens wrote in The Tablet, a London-based Catholic weekly. Law was the “prime instigator,” in the words of one American churchman, of the investigation that began in 2009 and ended in 2011. The actual crackdown was only launched in April.
Gibson continues…

Law was joined by a former archbishop of St. Louis, Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was named to a top Vatican judicial post in 2008 – a move that was seen as a case of being “kicked upstairs” because Burke’s hard-line views made him so controversial in the U.S. Also reportedly backing the probe was Cardinal James Stafford, a former Denver archbishop who has held jobs in the Roman curia since 1996.

[…]

The fact that prelates like Burke and Law, who was given a Roman refuge in 2002 after the sexual abuse scandal exploded in Boston, played such a key role in the investigation of the American women has been like salt in the wound for those who support the nuns.

This Gibson article has been picked up in newspapers and news outlets online here in the US.  I hope that sparks some discussion on the cable news shows.

If you need a refresher on Bernard Law:

Why isn’t Boston’s Cardinal Law in jail? – Slate Magazine

But why isn’t Bernard Law in jail? (Part 2) – Slate Magazine

Disgraced US cardinal Bernard Law quits Rome post | World news | The Guardian

It is enough to make you scream isn’t it?

I really don’t want to end on such a sour note, so I am going to post a link to the Met Gala 2012 red carpet gallery. There are some beautiful gowns in this series of photos, and then there is Maude. (Well, take a look and you will see what I mean.) Met Gala 2012: Red Carpet Fashion From All The Stars! (PHOTOS)

Met Gala 2012

The Met Gala is often called fashion’s Oscars, but honestly, we think it’s bigger than that. Where else do you get every major Oscar star and fashion’s most powerful names all together on one red carpet?

[…]

…and check out Stylelist’s picks for best-dressed of the night here and worst-dressed here.

So, what are you all reading about today? Please share your thoughts with us…


Tuesday Reads: Goolsbee Gone, Hotel Workers Heckle Strauss-Kahn, Cancer Drugs, and a Confession

Good Morning!!

White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee will soon resign to return to teaching at Milton Friedman Institute the University of Chicago.

“Since I first ran for the U.S. Senate, Austan has been a close friend and one of my most trusted advisers,” President Obama said….”Over the past several years, he has helped steer our country out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and although there is still much work ahead, his insights and counsel have helped lead us toward an economy that is growing and creating millions of jobs. — He is one of America’s great economic thinkers.”

Maybe … if you favor NAFTA and cutting Social Security. And where are those “millions of jobs” Obama is talking about–China?

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who has been accused of sexual assault on a hotel maid was jeered by NYC hotel workers yesterday outside a Manhattan courthouse.

Lawyers for the maid who has accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of criminal sexual assault in a New York hotel room served notice yesterday that she will testify at his trial and “tell the world” what he inflicted upon her, as the former IMF chief was met with a chorus of heckling from hotel workers outside a Manhattan courthouse.

The warning, delivered minutes after Mr Strauss-Kahn entered a ‘not guilty’ plea to the seven charges filed against him, is the latest indication of how ferocious the trial is likely to be with the defence, the prosecution and now lawyers for the accuser all aggressively preparing to engage in battle.

[….]

Theatrics outside the court yesterday were further stoked by hotel maids pushing against police barriers jeering Mr Strauss-Kahn as he, accompanied by his defence team and his wife, Anne Sinclair, arrived for his formal arraignment. The hotel employees, bussed in by their union and most dressed in uniforms they usually wear to work, cried “shame” as he walked past. Wendy Baranello, a hotel union organiser, called the charges “outrageous” and said the accuser “is a hard-working woman… just doing her job.”

As Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) left the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference this past weekend, he was approached by a young Catholic man who asked Ryan:

“Why did you choose to model your budget off the extreme ideology of Ayn Rand rather than values of basic economic justice in the Bible?” James Salt of Faithful America asked Ryan, the author of the Republican budget, before offering him a Bible to read.

Ryan ignored Salt’s questions and briskly walked away.

Faithful America has launched a campaign to encourage Ryan to put down the conservative writer Ayn Rand, who advocated selfishness, and pick up the Bible. The group said his budget plan “reflects Ayn Rand’s love of greed and contempt for the weak by giving huge tax breaks to millionaires while making deep and harmful cuts to programs that protect seniors, struggling families and the middle class.”

Finally the U.S. Supreme Court has done something we can cheer. From Raw Story:

The US Supreme Court gave the green light Monday to a group seeking to bring a class-action lawsuit against US oil services firm Halliburton for alleged fraud.

The nine judges unanimously decided that the plaintiffs, a group of investors, do not need to prove a direct relationship between Halliburton’s alleged fraudulent statements and the investors’ financial losses in order to pursue the lawsuit.

Halliburton is accused of making a series of false statements about its business dealings that artificially inflated its stock price.

Afterward, Halliburton disclosed corrections that then caused stock prices to drop at the loss of investors.

The suit is on behalf of all investors who purchased Halliburton stock between June 3, 1999 and December 7, 2001.

During that time Dick Cheney was Halliburton’s CEO.

There is some “big news in the fight against cancer.”

Two new studies report dramatic progress in treating advanced melanoma and lung cancer.

Both of these treatments use an approach that is creating a lot of excitement among doctors –tailoring drugs to the genetic makeup of individual patients, and the results can be remarkable

A few years ago, Bill Schuette was preparing for the end.

But then he heard about something new: an experimental drug that targets a certain type of lung cancer based on its genetic makeup. Tests showed he was a candidate.

His rare form of non-small-cell lung cancer has a genetic mutation called ALK that fuels cancer growth. The new drug, Crizotinib, works by blocking this abnormal gene, causing tumors to shrink.

Skin cancer treatment: Biggest breakthrough in 30 years – The New Scientist

Two new drugs for metastatic melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – are being hailed as the biggest breakthrough therapies for cancer in the last 30 years. The drugs reduce tumour size, significantly increasing survival rates.

Although melanoma can be cured if caught early enough, individuals in the late stages of the disease are only expected to survive for an average of six months. One of the two drugs – vemurafenib – works by inhibiting the effects of a mutated form of the BRAF gene, which is thought to accompany around half of the cases of malignant skin tumours.

[….]

In a study presented this week at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Chapman’s team compared both drugs on 672 patients with late stage, inoperable melanoma and a mutation in the BRAF gene.

The group found that 48 per cent of those receiving vemurafenib responded to the treatment, while only 5 per cent of patients responded to dacarbazine. At 6 months, survival was 84 per cent in the group taking vemurafenib compared to 64 per cent in those taking dacarbazine.

A new drug for breast cancer: Aromasin a major breakthrough in fight against breast cancer, cutting risk by 65 percent

Doctor Harvey Greenberg is the director of University Community Hospital’s Cancer Program. He said, “There’s been some suggestion that women are reluctant to take Tamoxifen due to the potential side effects,” which reportedly include developing blood clots, or developing uterine cancer.

A study was conducted to see if a different class of medicines could be used for the prevention of breast cancer. Study results just released show the estrogen blocker Aromasin reduced the chance of developing breast cancer by 65 percent in post menopausal women at high risk.

The study, which was sponsored by Pfizer — the company that makes this drug — broke the participants into two groups: one that got the drug and one that got the placebo. There were 11 invasive breast cancers reported in the group that got the drug compared to 32 cases in the group that got the placebo.

Doctor Greenberg says, “The most important take away is that there is now another class of medicines that can be helpful in preventing breast cancer in high-risk women. The second take away is if there are women who have been identified as possibly benefiting from Tamoxifen but they won’t take it, here’s a substitute.”

For those of you who have read this far, I’m going to make a confession. I’ve been horribly depressed by the political news lately, and for the past couple of weeks I’ve been watching the trial of Casey Anthony, a young woman accused of murdering her 2-1/2 year-old daughter.

I know, I know … tabloid stuff. But I’m telling you, it’s more interesting than watching Law & Order, CSI, and Criminal Minds all rolled into one. Yesterday, there was testimony from an researcher on human decomposition from the “Body Farm” at Oak Ridge National laboratory.

Dr. Arpad Vass testified that he detected human decomposition in the air from the trunk of Casey’s car. It’s the first time a jury has heard testimony about the controversial air tests. The evidence has never been used in a criminal case before.

Prosecutors say the tests prove Caylee’s [Casey’s daughter] body was in the trunk of Casey’s car.

“I can find no other plausible explanation other than that to explain all the results we found,” said Vass.

Vass testified that a machine called a “gas chromatograph” can identify chemicals that are unique to human decomposition.

“Those are the chemicals that a cadaver-locating dog could smell,” Vass said.

Yesterday there was testimony from an FBI forensic expert about a hair found in the truck of Anthony’s car that showed signs of human decomposition.

In addition to the opportunity to learn about the latest methods in forensic science, the trial offers a chance to observe Casey Anthony’s amazing lack of affect as she listens to testimony about her allegedly killing her child. She has to be one of the most evil human beings I’ve ever encountered. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, you can watch the trial streamed live on-line at a number of sites. Here’s one. Frankly, I find it much less depressing than observing American political culture.

So … what are you reading and blogging about today?


Expert Tells Guardian UK: “Japan may have lost race to save nuclear reactor”

Google photo of Fukushima Nuclear Plant

Ian Sample, science correspondent for the Guardian, writes:

Richard Lahey, who was head of safety research for boiling-water reactors at General Electric when the company installed the units at Fukushima, told the Guardian workers at the site appeared to have “lost the race” to save the reactor, but said there was no danger of a Chernobyl-style catastrophe….

“The indications we have, from the reactor to radiation readings and the materials they are seeing, suggest that the core has melted through the bottom of the pressure vessel in unit two, and at least some of it is down on the floor of the drywell,” Lahey said. “I hope I am wrong, but that is certainly what the evidence is pointing towards.”

The major concern when molten fuel breaches a containment vessel is that it reacts with the concrete floor of the drywell underneath, releasing radioactive gases into the surrounding area. At Fukushima, the drywell has been flooded with seawater, which will cool any molten fuel that escapes from the reactor and reduce the amount of radioactive gas released.

Lahey said: “It won’t come out as one big glob; it’ll come out like lava, and that is good because it’s easier to cool.”….

“The reason we are concerned is that they are detecting water outside the containment area that is highly radioactive and it can only have come from the reactor core,” Lahey added. “It’s not going to be anything like Chernobyl, where it went up with a big fire and steam explosion, but it’s not going to be good news for the environment.”

Last night, ABC News talked to physicist Michio Kaku.

“Apparently, there is a crack, a crack in the vessel by which radiation is escaping,” U.S. physicist Michio Kaku said. “This could mean that if the core begins to melt, we could have a steam explosion, a hydrogen gas explosion like Chernobyl.”

So the nuke guy says it won’t be like Chernobyl, Kaku says it will. I guess we have no choice except to just wait and see.

FYI, here is an earlier interview with Kaku at KATU, Portland, Oregon.

Michio Kaku’s comments came after news that Japanese nuclear experts said they suspect there has been a possible breach at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex.

“This is huge. For the first time, they’re using that dreaded word, ‘breach,’ Kaku said during an interview at KATU’s studios. “Plutonium is the most toxic chemical known to science. A speck of plutonium, a millionth of a gram, could cause cancer.”

No matter how much Tepco and pro-nuke “experts” insist there is no danger to humans from the material that has escaped the plant, there simply is no safe level of plutonium.

The Tokyo Electric Company confirmed that AREVA-manufactured fuel assemblies containing plutonium have at least partially melted down when they said that plutonium was found on five separate sites on the reactor grounds, and they had matched the plutonium signature of fuel produced at AREVA’s La Hague facility. The fuel assemblies were first loaded in the reactor at Fukushima last September and were in Reactor 3 when the 14 meter tsunami overwhelmed the nuclear plant.

Despite the fact that plutonium is one of the most deadly substances in existence, TEPCO has insisted there is no health danger from the plutonium found on site. According to health experts, plutonium particles absorbed in the human body vastly increases the chance of dying from a fatal form of cancer.

The former DOE official said, “NNSA was warned this kind of event could happen and they chose to build the MOX plant anyway. Maybe what Japan is going through will wake up people who can call a halt to this.”


Elizabeth Edwards: Mother, Lawyer, Advocate

Elizabeth Edwards has died after her long struggle with breast cancer.

Elizabeth Edwards, the political wife whose public battle with breast cancer, coping with marital infidelity and continued advocacy for the downtrodden raised her profile above that of her husband, died Tuesday, WRAL News has learned.

Edwards, 61, died at her Chapel Hill home, where family and friends had gathered in recent days after doctors informed her that her cancer had spread and recommended that she not undergo further treatment.

Edwards was first diagnosed with cancer in the waning days of the 2004 presidential campaign, when her husband, then-U.S. Sen. John Edwards, was the Democratic nominee for vice president. The couple didn’t disclose her illness until after the election.

The cancer went into remission after surgery and months of treatment, but it resurfaced in early 2007, as John Edwards was mounting a second run at the White House. The Edwardses agreed at the time that they wouldn’t allow the cancer to derail his candidacy.

Because the cancer had moved into her bones, her doctors said at that time that it was no longer curable but could be treated.

Notable Tweets:

marcambinder Marc Ambinder

Edwards family asking for donations to be made to Wade Edwards Learning Lab http://www.wade.org/

nytimes The New York Times

We just published the full obituary of Elizabeth Edwards. http://nyti.ms/gCmsBq

TheFix The Fix

Elizabeth Edwards’ obits (all worth the read): Times http://ht.ly/3lxQz, Raleigh N&O http://ht.ly/3lxRL, Politico http://ht.ly/3lxSj

thedailybeast The Daily Beast

Elizabeth Edwards Dies at 61: Jonathan Alter remembers her quiet nobility. http://thebea.st/fbbRJ0

Slate Slate

Elizabeth Edwards should have been the politician — a true missed opportunity. RIP http://slate.me/gKMETY

ThinkProgress has a thread up on ‘The Legacy of Elizabeth Edwards’ and her tireless advocacy of health care access for the poor.

ThinkProgress is devastated and heartbroken to hear that the health of our dear friend and colleague Elizabeth Edwards has deteriorated, as she wages her courageous battle against breast cancer. A long-time advocate of universal health care, Elizabeth transformed a personal medical tragedy into an instrument for social and political change after her initial diagnosis in November 2004. In the process, she gave voice to the millions of Americans who were left behind by our health system.

With her trademark courage, activism, and strong sense of justice, Elizabeth directly confronted the inequalities of the American health care system and the politicians who perpetuated them. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Elizabeth — a regular contributor to the Wonk Room throughout the health care reform debate and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress — took to our blog and challenged conservatives for releasing a health care plan that would have excluded millions of Americans who suffered from pre-existing or chronic conditions. “Why are people like me left out of your health care proposal,” Elizabeth asked Republicans, pointing out that market-based proposals would leave millions of Americans “outside the clinic doors” and allow insurance companies free reign to continue excluding sicker beneficiaries.

Update: We now have more statements and reactions to Elizabeth Edwards’ Death including ones from the President former President Bill Clinton, and SOS Hillary Clinton.

Statement from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Elizabeth Edwards. America has lost a passionate advocate for building a more humane and just society, for reforming our health care system, and for finding a cure for cancer once and for all. But the Edwards family and her legion of friends have lost so much more — a loving mother, constant guardian, and wise counselor. Our thoughts are with the Edwards family at this time, and with all those people across the country who met Elizabeth over the years and found an instant friend–someone who shared their experiences and offered empathy, understanding and hope. She made her mark on America, and she will not be forgotten.”