August 31, 2015

La’crss Playr Andrew Goldstein with Scott Braeden ‘goalies W/ balls to score NCAA tournament’ and Come Out

"Nothing could prepare me for the numerous text messages I read going to bed one night this past February. My twelve-year-old son’s texts come to my iPad, but I rarely read them. This night, the sheer quantity of them led me to read. They all said the same thing: “Braeden, are you really gay?” Trying to keep calm, I started reading them to my husband, Scott. It was almost midnight and Braeden was fast asleep, but Scott insisted we wake him up and ask him if it was true. When we got him awake enough to ask and he nodded his head in what felt like resignation, pride was the most overwhelming feeling I felt. Fear was what my husband felt. Scott started asking all the wrong questions and when I felt it had gone on long enough, I asked him to leave the room. All I needed to know was that Braeden was okay. He told me that he had known for a few months and didn’t feel like hiding it anymore. I have never felt prouder as a mom. Scott’s pride would come. He just needed time. A My husband, who played lacrosse his whole life, now coached Braeden. The bond this sport gave them was one that Scott had shared with his dad, before he passed away when Scott was 24. Lacrosse is everything to these two guys in my life and Scott thought that his son being gay was going to make that difficult. He thought that Braeden wouldn’t be accepted into the fraternity that had been such a big part of his life” 
Braeden along with Courage Game co-founders Andrew Goldstein and Nick Welton(ESPN)

A DOZEN YEARS AGO, at the age of 20, Andrew Goldstein came out to his Dartmouth College lacrosse teammates. The All-American goalie had struggled with his sexuality since he was 7, and like so many gay and transgender kids, had contemplated suicide.

"I would lie awake thinking, like, 'God, I can't live that life,'" Goldstein says. "'I could hide, I could do this, or I could just end it and no one would ever know.'"

Earlier this year, another young lacrosse player realized that he was gay. Braeden Lange, a 12-year-old from outside Philadelphia, was in a group chat with about 15 people back in February when a friend started making jokes.

"There's nothing wrong with being gay," Braeden responded, "because I am gay."

Later, he explained, "I couldn't hide from the fake me anymore."

Things eventually got so bad that Braeden, too, began talking openly about suicide.

Goldstein's many and varied accomplishments -- on the athletic field, as an eye-opening trailblazer and in the laboratory as Dr. Goldstein -- are extraordinary by any calculus. But his greatest triumph may well have been reaching out, comforting and ultimately saving a desperate 12-year-old boy whom he recognized in himself.

"This is the greatest gift," Goldstein says. "I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world, because I get to have that conversation with the 12-year-old version of myself. I get to see the impact that my story had on someone."

The Lange family has come to a consensus.

"If Andrew hadn't come," Braeden says, "then I probably wouldn't have made it."

Says his father, Scott, "Unequivocally, yes. Andrew saved Braeden's life."

The story begins, as it should, on the field:

Even given the perpetual motion of YouTube, Andrew Goldstein's legs seem to be moving too quickly.

Playing in the cruelest of crucibles, the Syracuse Carrier Dome, before 25,000 fans, Dartmouth College's sophomore lacrosse goalie somehow has plucked Michael Springer's point-blank shot out of the air and starts sprinting up the curiously open left sideline. He veers left to avoid two converging Orangemen and nearly steps out of bounds at midfield before regaining his equilibrium and floating in on disbelieving Syracuse goalie Jay Pfeifer. When a defender hesitates, Goldstein takes two more strides and fires the ball into the far low corner, the toughest spot for the other goalie, who is also a lefty. Pfeifer never moves. Seventy-five yards in 12 seconds.

It's May 11, 2003, and Dartmouth, in the only NCAA men's lacrosse tournament game in school history, has tied the score at 5-5 late in the second quarter. It is the first NCAA tourney goal scored by a goalie in nearly three decades.

Among the 4,000 spectators in the stands, sitting not far from Goldstein's parents, is his new boyfriend, Ethan. Two months later, in something of an epiphany, Goldstein, 20, will come out to his teammates.

The two events, Goldstein says today, were connected.

"A week later I was named All-Ivy League and two weeks after that, All-American and team MVP," Goldstein explained recently in an email. "So I started the summer with a surge of momentum and confidence. It would have almost seemed crazy to not come out after all of that.

"I'm sure scoring the goal helped me have the confidence to come out, just as having a boyfriend for the first time gave me the confidence to score the goal. It was a pretty unbelievable time for someone who had always wanted to be great at sports and had been holding a secret inside for a decade."

As Goldstein would say later, "I guess it takes a gay goalie to have enough balls to score in the NCAA tournament."

Breaking barriers

When the Playboy Magazines came out at summer camp, Goldstein knew he was supposed to feel something. But he didn't. When his friends began having relationships with girls in middle school, he wasn't interested.

"You're trying to fall asleep and you start thinking, 'I'm not like everyone else,'" Goldstein says. "I always imagined that lies and hiding would be a large part of getting through the day."

He did his best to fit in, pretended to be straight, even had a date with a girl. But early in his sophomore year at Milton Academy, in his Massachusetts hometown, he told a friend, Christina.

It was liberating, even thrilling, but Goldstein's secret stayed between the two until July 2003, two months after he scored that groundbreaking goal at Syracuse. On the first day of weight lifting during the summer term, he told defender Matt Nicholson he had a boyfriend.

"Wow, man," Nicholson, who knew Ethan, had the grace to say. "He's hot."

Encouraged, Goldstein asked Nicholson to tell the rest of the team. There were several weeks of awkward uncertainty; initially, Goldstein wouldn't shower with the team after practices and games. He worried that on the team's first road trip that the "unlucky guys who had to be my roommates would complain about sleeping in the same room as the homo." He wondered if anybody would sit next to him on the team bus.

Soon, however, several teammates approached him to apologize for homophobic language and off-color-jokes from the past. They appreciated his toughness in a physically difficult sport and gradually came to accept his sexuality.

In the spring of 2005, two weeks before he graduated from Dartmouth with degrees in biology and biochemistry, ESPN dispatched a crew to Hanover, New Hampshire, to chronicle his story. A handful of notable professional team-sport athletes had come out after their careers ended and, to be sure, there were a number of openly gay athletes in individual sports at the Division I, II and III levels. Still, the 5-foot-10, 170-pound goalie was, the sports network concluded after researching the context, the most accomplished male, team-sport athlete in North America to be openly gay during his playing career.

Later that year he was drafted by the Boston Canons of Major League Lacrosse and eventually played for the Long Island Lizards.

Nearly a decade before American soccer player Robbie Rogers played for the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer, prior to Jason Collins stepping on the court for the NBA's Brooklyn Nets, before Michael Sam, a Missouri defensive end, came out in advance of the 2014 NFL draft, there was Andrew Goldstein.

"Andrew was the first openly gay male athlete to be drafted by a professional sports league in the United States," said Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of "And then he became the first to play in a professional sports league. So he broke two incredible barriers that years later we attribute to Robbie Rogers and Michael Sam.

"In 2005, the gay community didn't want to talk about sports and the sports community didn't want to talk about gay people. Andrew, being an active athlete at the very top of his game, helped change that. You can no longer say that gay men all just want to listen to show tunes. They can be strong powerful men who play sports as well."

The ESPN profile won a television journalism award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. In March 2006, after a clip of his goal was shown to the audience of several thousand at the Marquee Marriott in Times Square, Goldstein was greeted with a rousing standing ovation -- one that ran longer than the reception for winning director Ang Lee in the wake of his opus "Brokeback Mountain."

In 2013 Goldstein was enshrined in the inaugural class of National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame, joined by, among others, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and Greg Louganis.

Duneier and Goldstein

Today, at 32, Goldstein seems comfortable in his own skin.

A few months ago at a vegan restaurant, Phillip Frankland Lee's Gadarene Swine in Studio City, California, Goldstein delicately leaned back into the arms of his husband, Jamie Duneier, in the process of ordering a half-dozen small plates for the table. The cauliflower, the crisp yucca and the olive stuffed olives -- and two bottles of a crisp Chablis -- were all memorable, but that small, unconscious gesture was the one that confirmed he is happy.

Professionally, Goldstein already has made headlines. His groundbreaking laboratory at UCLA is making startling progress toward a cure of prostate cancer. After interning and working at two of the world's finest institutions in cancer treatment -- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute -- Goldstein moved to UCLA. As a molecular biology Ph.D. student under immunologist Owen Witte, Goldstein was the lead author of a July 2010 paper published in "Science Magazine" that identified a surprising source of prostate cancer.

"When a cell divides, it has to replicate all of its DNA," Goldstein wrote in a lengthy email designed, impossibly, to put his advances in layman's terms. "Sometimes the cell can make a mistake."

In cases of chronic inflammation and the unhealthy state, often caused by obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise, the immune system can miss some of those mistakes, leading to the production of more cells and, with that, more mistakes. When those mistakes reach a critical mass, cancer can develop.

Previously, conventional wisdom held that prostate tumors originated in luminal cells because tumor cells look similar to luminal cells. Under Witte's supervision, Goldstein isolated both luminal and basal cells from healthy human prostate tissue and engineered them to express cancer-promoting genes, called oncogenes. Then the cells were introduced into mice and allowed to grow for several months. Surprisingly, the malignancies did not appear in the expected luminal cells, but in the basal cells. When examined by a pathologist, the tumors that originated in basal cells were similar to those found in male humans, made up of tumor cells that looked like luminal cells.

"It was a simple result but had profound implications for how we think about the development of not just prostate cancer, but cancer in general," Goldstein wrote. "It says that what we see under the microscope doesn't tell us the history of that tumor because cells can change what they look like from one type of cell to another."

The Los Angeles Times and numerous other media outlets lauded the discovery. Goldstein, a rare "first author" as a graduate student, was the "senior author" in another groundbreaking paper published three years later in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This time, Goldstein's lab outlined the discovery that tumors that originated with basal cells could evolve to live without them, which should help researchers in their search for a cure.

None of this surprised his parents, Sue and Irwin Goldstein, who founded San Diego Sexual Medicine in 2007.

Irwin, a respected urologist, was a principal researcher in the early Viagra trials. Sue was a schoolteacher who supported her husband in his dreams of solving people's sexual problems before those dreams became hers, too.

"Taking normal prostate cells and manipulating them, well, that's pretty cool," Irwin said recently. "No one has ever played with the stem cell before, but that doesn't guarantee that doors are going to open."

Still, that story published in "Science" is displayed on the door of his office, Irwin said, "so every human being gets to see it."

Today, with the help of Sue, who is the program coordinator at SDSM and a certified sexuality educator, the two are collaborating in the pioneering trials of flibanserin, the so-called Viagra for women.

Goldstein has inherited his scientific curiosity and virtuosity from his father, as well as his mother's infectious personality and desire to help others.

"He has always been the good boy, the helpful boy," Sue says. "When he came out, he got calls from Oprah and Out Magazine around the same time. Andrew turned down Oprah, telling me he didn't want to be the token regular person next to all those movie stars. He knew he could be a role model to people in the right context. He did the Out interview.

"He got his message out there. He wanted to make a difference."

Coming out at 12

The Lange house, on a leafy street in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania, about 40 miles west of Philadelphia, is a high-energy venue. Scott and Mandy live there with four children: boys Blake, 14, and Braeden, 12; girls Kendall, 10, and Abby, 7; dogs Lucy and Buster; a cat, Duce (named after former Eagles' legend Duce Staley); and two rabbits, Piper and Ziggy.

Lacrosse is the spine of their sporting lives, which is to say their lives in general. Scott's dad, Dick, who grew up on Long Island and went on to score more than 100 goals at Cortland State, coached Scott in youth lacrosse. The son scored 100 goals at West Chester University. Both played attack and wore No. 4. So does Braeden, who is coached by his father and joined in lacrosse by all three siblings. A typical spring week features about 15 practices and games for the entire group. Braeden, who already has a decent command of both hands -- unusual for a kid so young -- plays for three different teams. His goal is to play at Cornell, like his hero, Rob Pannell.

Last fall, Braeden began sixth grade in a new school.

""There are 3,000 men in the four major men's sports in the United States, and right now none of them are out of the closet.""
Brian Sims
"I would notice that a lot of people would make, like, homosexual jokes," he explains. "At the time I didn't know why, but it would offend me, really get to me. And then I realized that I was gay."

He had a girlfriend by the end of 2014, but it didn't feel right. When she texted him, asking when he was going to kiss her, he said he'd do it in March. In retrospect, he seems to have had a plan.

On the night of Feb. 9, his parents were lying in bed upstairs around 11, reviewing Braeden's texts on Mandy's iPad, when they found out.

"They all say the same thing -- are you gay?" Mandy says. "So we go into Braeden's room and ask him, 'Are you gay?' And he nodded his head.

"For me, it was probably the proudest moment of my life as a mother. I can't even put into words how brave it was of him. I mean, he's 12. I was like, 'Cool.' The next day I had my big cry in the laundry room, kind of saying goodbye to the life I thought my son would have."

Scott, on the other hand, says he felt like he had been punched in the gut. There is a list of things that you're not supposed to say in that situation -- and he managed to raise just about every one.

"Hey, maybe this is because of some attention you want to get?"

"You may not want to tell anybody yet because you never know."

"Maybe this is just a phase."

"How can a 12-year-old know?"

"It's pretty simple," Scott says now. "The age that you know that you are interested in girls is the same age that you know you can be interested in boys."

A dark spot

Scott came around pretty quickly and, frankly, the rest of the family wasn't too excited about Braeden's news.

"That's OK," said his older brother Blake after his parents told him. "He's still stupid."

The first few weeks went well enough, but soon those jokes began creeping back into the sixth-grade conversations. One boy at his school told Braeden he was going to hell because being gay wasn't mentioned in the Bible. And then there was the cyber-bullying on the app, It allows Instagram followers to ask and answer questions anonymously and, with that cloak of invisibility, the comments were brutal.

They said they didn't want to have sleepovers with him anymore because he might have a crush on them. He was called names. One kid wanted to fight him, but said he was afraid of touching him.

"He was just kind of devastated," Mandy says. "He didn't know who he could trust anymore. He went from being cautiously optimistic to, just, Braeden was gone.

"From there he would start talking about suicide, and I knew he wasn't just saying it. My mother committed suicide, so I'd been down that path before."

Scott, too, was terrified.

"He was about as withdrawn as a kid can get," Scott says. "Not leaving his room, crying himself to sleep almost every night. Saying things like, 'I wish I was normal. Why do people treat me differently?' Then he would go on to say he just didn't want to be here anymore. He wanted to kill himself."

Scott had found the statistics on-line: The suicide rate for gay teens is thought to be four times the national average.
"I felt like I was in a corner and I was all alone, even though I was the one pushing people away," Braeden says. "It was, like, a really dark spot for me."

Making a connection

Five weeks after Braeden came out, on March 16, the Langes found Andrew Goldstein.

Mandy remembered seeing a television piece on a gay lacrosse player and within a few minutes she had Googled the ESPN feature. Watching it with Scott, she immediately felt better. Scott, doing further research, discovered Goldstein was a doctor at UCLA. He quickly tracked down his email address.

Goldstein was eating lunch in his laboratory when he opened the email.

"I read just a few sentences," he says, "and it just broke my heart. These parents were watching their kid struggle, progressively watching them lose him, essentially."

When he returned to their then-Topanga home, Goldstein and his husband, Duneier, shot a video out on the back deck for Braeden.

Scott and Mandy showed Braeden the feature when he got home from school and, for the first time in weeks, he smiled.

The video arrived via email after supper.

"You're the bravest kid I've ever heard of," Goldstein told him. "It's a tough road, not every day will be easy. But it's all going to work out, it's going to be all good in the end. I look forward to going to Philly and meeting you."

Braeden, tears in his eyes, was awed.

"It was me saying to myself, 'I'm not alone, because there's other people like me,'" he says. "It really, like, gave me some hope knowing that if he could do it, I could probably do it, too."

Says Mandy: "He got that video, and everything was different. Braeden was back to being Braeden."

Seven days later, a package for Braeden came in the mail. When he opened it, surrounded by the family in the front foyer, it felt like Christmas. It was Goldstein's Long Island Lizards helmet.

The Courage Game

Thank-you notes are often a sign of good parenting, even if they are sometimes written under duress.

A flurry of emails, videos and calls had led to a meeting between the Lange family and Goldstein and Duneier, who were visiting New York City to be with Jamie's family on the upper east side for Passover. A few days before, Scott asked him to write a thank-you note to Goldstein, who also would be celebrating his 32nd birthday. No response. Five minutes later, Scott handed his son a piece of paper and made the request again. Fifteen minutes later, Braeden dropped a full-page, 8½-by-11-inch note in clean, earnest handwriting on Scott's chest and walked out of the room.

"Braeden is not one who has always gone above and beyond -- that's not Braeden's gig," Scott says. "I read his letter and was absolutely blown away."

The end went like this:

Thank you for making me realize that I'm not alone. Your video touched my heart and the day I got that video was the best day of my life. Your video and all of the other ones boosted my confidence to where I felt like I was unstoppable. ... So I wanted to thank you for not only being my role model but for being my friend."

The families had dinner in Times Square, bonding in almost madcap fashion, and Andrew and Braeden had a memorable lacrosse catch in Central Park.

On Memorial Day weekend, Andrew threw Braeden an entire game. On the day before the 2015 Division I lacrosse championship game between Denver and Maryland at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, a few miles away on the campus of Pennsylvania University, several hundred people, gay lacrosse players and their allies, gathered for The Courage Game.

"You want to know how much courage it takes for a 12-year-old boy?" asks Brian Sims. "There are 3,000 men in the four major men's sports in the United States, and right now none of them are out of the closet."

An enduring friendship

The Lange's black refrigerator is an impressionistic montage of their riotous life:

In the upper-right corner there is a picture of Scott -- he says Kevin James, to whom he bears an uncanny resemblance, will play him in the movie -- with Blake, then aged 11, and the trophy he won after he placed third at 95 pounds in his first wrestling tournament. You can see the happy tears in Scott's eyes. Slightly above, framed by a purple puzzle-piece frame, Mandy holds a then-6-month-old Kendall. To the left, Scott proudly holds the championship trophy won by his Gen3 marketing team -- after he scored a behind-the-back goal in overtime in the title game. To the right is a newspaper advertisement for Valotta Studios' summer camps, where Kendall learned to play the guitar. Just above is a photo of Andrew and Jamie, side by side, smiling broadly.

At their new place in Westwood, there is a picture of Braeden and Andrew taken at The Courage Game on a wall in the den. Braeden's framed letter is on a nearby wall and the quilt that Mandy had made of Braeden's lacrosse jerseys hangs on the wall of their bedroom. When Andrew feels a chill in the air, the Freedom Lacrosse sweatshirt, representing Braeden's Pennsylvania club team, comes out of the closet.

Goldstein used to fear that he would never be able to get married and have children, but society has changed appreciably in the past decade or two.

He and Jamie are planning to have a child; there is an extra room in their home for just that reason. Andrew's older sister, Lauren, donated an egg and Jamie provided the sperm. It's already an embryo sitting in a southern California fertility clinic freezer.

A few months ago, not long after the television cameras had left the house, Mandy sat on her living room couch, legs tucked beneath her, and talked about the growing relationship between the Lange family and Andrew and Jamie's and about her plans to visit them this summer in Los Angeles. She had offered, she said, to carry their baby.

"I feel like I owe them one."

The visit occurred earlier this month and, after a number of emotional discussions, “We all agreed it's probably best for our long-term friendship to keep things clean," Goldstein explained*, "and instead hire a surrogate we aren't friends with to carry the baby when we are ready. We thanked them deeply for the incredibly generous offer, but we assured Mandy that she doesn't need to carry our child in order to show her gratitude.

“Our friendship means everything."

  • Greg Garber, Writer, Reporter

    This story appeared today on ESPN adamfoxie intro.

The Conservative math on Latinos does not add up…and Trump Can’t count


The author is an associate professor of history and Latino studies at Northwestern University, and the author of Standing on Common Ground: The Making of a Sunbelt Borderland.

“Go back to Univision,” Donald Trump said this week as he booted influential Latino journalist Jorge Ramos from a press conference. Then Trump invited Ramos back — only to say that in his administration, undocumented immigrants would “be out so fast your head will spin.” The testy exchange probably just galvanized his “passionate” base, as Trump called his followers after they beat a homeless man in Boston while spouting Trump-inspired, anti-immigrant venom.

But Trump, of course, is just the ringleader of a Republican race to the right on immigration, one that involves almost the whole presidential slate minus Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. Having studied immigration and the border for more than a decade, I take for granted that many of the anti-immigration proposals they’re espousing — repealing birthright citizenship, mass deportations, forcing Mexico to build and pay for a wall — make for bad policy. But they’re bad politics too: They lead to exclusion and enmity, and will alienate the Latinos whose votes they seek.

For starters, if today’s Republicans hope to tack right to win the nomination, and then shift back to the center during the general election, they’ll be foiled by attack ads and blog posts. Media saturation creates long memories. Just look at the example of Mitt Romney in 2012: His comment during a primary debate that he supported “self-deportation” dogged him throughout the general election. After Romney lost, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus vowed to improve the GOP’s standing among Latinos. But today’s Republican slates seem to not have learned the lessons of 2012.

Conservative Latinos know that they are just a traffic stop or mispronounced English word away from being called “illegals.”

Of course, they just might not care. Perhaps Republican candidates know exactly what they’re doing and don’t mind risking the Latino vote in the general election. There is some math to support this: Since the late 1970s, conservative strategists, including leaders of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, have conceded that the GOP nominee needs to capture only a third or 35 percent of the Latino vote. (Reagan and George W. Bush, who each won between 35 and 40 percent of the Latino vote in their presidential elections, are the polestars here.) And if nominees don’t win enough of the Latino vote, they might widen their margin among white voters. Even as he alienated Latinos, after all, Romney captured almost 60 percent of the white vote.

Republican candidates are also relying on the oft-cited fact that immigration does not top the list of issues Latinos say they care about most. Indeed, according to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, 50 percent or more of Latinos said they considered education, jobs and the economy “extremely important issues.” Only 34 percent said the same of immigration. Many Republicans insist that the figures bolster the idea that immigration and the border are merely divisive distractions used by Democrats to silo minority voters who cast their votes based on grievances and false charges of racism. Latinos, they say, are natural conservatives — Republicans who just don’t know it yet, as Reagan famously put it. Even Trump, astonishingly, maintains that he’ll win the Latino vote because Latinos know he will put them to work; this despite the recent Gallup poll result that only 14 percent of Hispanics view Trump favorably, while 65 percent view him unfavorably.

But figures suggesting that immigration isn’t all that important to Latinos are misleading. A candidate’s position on these issues can change their minds. As Trump’s adversary Ramos explained earlier this year, “the immigration issue is the most pressing symbolically and emotionally, and the stance a politician takes on this defines whether his is with us or against us.” The idea of Trump, or any one of this campaign’s immigration hardliners, winning even 30 percent of the Latino vote is a stretch.

Indeed, compared to the proposals of this year’s slate of candidates, Romney’s “self-deportation” idea seems almost compassionate. Consider some of Trump’s more inflammatory remarks. Latino and other business associates abandoned him in droves after his rapists-and-murderers rant. The reason is that bad immigration politics are bad business. Even conservative Latinos don’t want border walls or mass deportations or the end of birthright citizenship. Such measures would dehumanize U.S. residents, damage relationships with Latin American countries and diminish inter-American business opportunities that made them believers in American capitalism to begin with. Moreover, in an atmosphere of violent political rhetoric, conservative Latinos know that they, too, are just a traffic stop or mispronounced English word away from being called “illegals” or becoming victims of hate crimes like the one in Boston.

If history is a guide, between 20 and 40 percent of Latinos will vote for a Republican candidate no matter how draconian his or her immigration and border policy. To be sure, not all candidates are alike. Rubio and Bush strike a more moderate tone, although they, too, have been forced to stick with the pack while quietly asserting their differences. If one of them wins the nomination, Latino support could tick upwards of 30 percent. But before Latinos and all Americans decide which candidate to support, they should consider what kind of party provides a refuge for candidates proposing measures motivated by anger and fear rather than a vision of national inclusiveness and international friendship.


August 29, 2015

Pope Francis Backs Opposed LGBT Children’s Book Writer in Italy

Pope Francis has expressed solidarity to an Italian author and LGBT activist whose work
was recently banned by the conservative mayor of Venice over its purported seditious
content in favour of gay rights. Francesca Pardi said she has received a written reply
from the pontiff
to a letter she sent earlier this summer, complaining about the continuous attacks she
received from hard-line Catholics. The writer had become a target of campaigners
against same-sex-marriage, after she created an independent publishing house
 printing children's books that also depict gay couples.
Earlier this summer, several of her titles – including the award-winning book Piccolo Uovo (Little Egg), the tale of a lonely egg who meets straight and gay animal couples in its quest for a family – were listed among 49 publications ordered for removal from public libraries by Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro, who said they corrupted the local youth. After an international outcry the list was reduced to two books, the subversive Piccolo Uovo being one of them.

In June, Pardi – who has four children with her partner, Maria Silvia Fiengo – wrote to the Pope to denounce what she said was a hate campaign launched against her family by Catholic associations. She also attached a copy of Piccolo Uovo, inviting Francis to read it. The Argentinian pontiff replied with a letter in his named written by Peter B Wells, the assessor for general affairs at the Vatican secretariat of state.

"His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings that prompted it, hoping for an always more productive activity in the service of young generations and the spread of true human and Christian values," the letter read. It also contained Francis' personal blessing to Pardi and her partner. Pardi published its contents on Facebook, causing a stir in Italy.

"I was very touched by it," Pardi told IBTimes UK. She explained that the letter was not supportive of gay rights but nevertheless marked an important change in the Church attitude towards homosexuals. "Obviously he [Francis] doesn't agree with homosexuality and if he ever was to make such an opening he would never do so in a private letter to me!" she said. "However, only to consider me as an interlocutor worth respect is a tremendous step forward. I read it as an opening towards people and dialogue, a message of tolerance.”

Later, the Vatican said the Pontiff's secretariat routinely replied to mail, adding that under no circumstances was the letter received by Pardi intended to endorse behaviours inconsistent with Catholic teachings.

Piccolo Uovo
The cover of award-winning children's book Piccolo Uovo, by Francesca Pardi

The letter came as the Pope faces a revolt from the conservative fringes of the Catholic Church over his open stance towards gay people. Five cardinals and more than 100 bishops were among the signatories of a worldwide petition urging the pontiff to clearly voice his and the Vatican’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

Pope Francis letter to LGBT author
The envelope of a letter sent by Pope Francis to writer Francesc
“This prayerful petition asks Pope Francis to clear up the moral confusion that’s been spreading against Natural and Divine Law,” said John Ritchie, director of Tradition Family Property Student Action group.

  Francis expressed approval for gay marriage but has steered the Holy See in the direction of a more tolerant position, maintaining that homosexuals should be integrated and not marginalized with his famous "who am I to judge?"
The letter also fueled Italy's heated debate over gay rights ignited by a recent
government pledge to introduce a law on civil unions. The Mediterranean country
is currently the only
one in western Europe not to have any such regulation and thus considering same-sex marriage illegal. 
Umberto Bacchi

I hate to Defend but ‘Homeland Sec.’ Dons’t have real Crime to Pursue?

 I don’t think Homeland Security was formed to pursue male prostitution. There is something a lot more important to do or is it they don’t know where the real criminals are? Slow times at Justice Dept.? This is the Justice dept. headed by the appointee of the President? Is this a GOP administration already, did the elections come and go already and I forgot to vote? I hate I have to defend these millionaires scum bags but on this issue they should be left alone!  (Adam Gonzalez)                                                                
 Male Model
Who could have seen this coming? President Obama sent out the enforcers from the Department of Homeland Security to crack down on adult, consensual sodomy! (quote: Bryan Fischer)
Homeland Security must be itching for action—so to speak—because instead of monitoring terrorists or, like, keeping our borders safe, they instead decided to shut down a niche gay escort website.

On August 25th, federal authorities raided and froze bank accounts associated with, a nearly 20-year-old website that offered sex workers a platform to safely promote their work. Seven current or former employees were arrested and charged with the promotion of prostitution, including the chief executive, Jeffrey Hurant, 50.

“As alleged, attempted to present a veneer of legality, when in fact this Internet brothel made millions of dollars from the promotion of illegal prostitution,” said Kelly T. Currie, acting United States attorney for New York’s Eastern District, in a statement.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I did watch Julia Roberts and Mel Gibson in ‘Conspiracy Theory,’ so I know a shady move when I see one.
The thing is, nothing in the federal authorities statement says anything about protecting the workers of the “brothel.” Where are the victims here? Just whom are the feds protecting, besides upholding archaic laws that they can choose to not enforce? In fact, it appears that’s exactly what they’ve been doing. The FBI reported data that showed a 50 percent drop in prostitution related arrests between 2004 and 2011, even though it continues to be a billion-dollar industry. It’s not as if these sex workers all suddenly got jobs at Starbucks.

So why now? Why, when just last week it announced a scholarship program to help escorts get an education? And why, when leading health organizations and first world countries across the globe are advancing the decriminalization of prostitution, is the United States still focusing their attention on the purveyors of sex and not the system that forces the victims of illegal sex work into the shadows, or sometimes caskets?

Let’s put the actual sex workers into perspective.

The men that advertised their services on did so on their own free will, working as free agents on a public platform that offered them guidance, respectability, and a community. Without and other sites like it, these men are forced onto the streets or into the shadows, on their own. Statistics show that street workers suffer more violence, often turning to pimps for protection, only leading to more violence and possible sex trafficking. The visibility of their profile on freed these sex workers from the violence of pimps and the sex trade.
This isn’t about a website or even money, this is about sex phobia and shame.
Just what about two consenting adults making an agreement to have sex where one party receives compensation is so wrong? We pay our dog walkers, our massage therapists, hell, I even once bought dinner for a friend in return for him shaving my back. Prostitution laws have a long and sordid history, too much to get into here, but just like our thinking on LGBT rights, marijuana laws, abortion, assisted suicide, and many more have all evolved, why are we still so focused on outlawing sex for money?

Because we’re a patriarchal culture that refuses to think of sex in a secular way. Our Judaic-Christian background won’t let us want sex, need sex, just for the fun of it. Guess what? In case you’ve never had it, sex is really, really fun, and even therapeutic (as I experienced during chemo).

Adam Ramzi, an adult film performer with a masters degree in clinical LGBT psychology, says, “In fact, it’s often therapeutic and healthy for its customers and clients. It’s a transaction that benefits both the buyer and the seller in ways that most people don’t see… Raiding a service that provides its clients with sexual and emotional relief they otherwise would not have is an unnecessary use of resources and security.”

Decriminalization of prostitution is a workers’ rights issue.

“Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse,” said Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International, in a statement.

When sex workers are able to legally disclose their work, as they can in Germany and a number of other countries, they are allowed to receive government services that all workers are afforded: police protection when something goes wrong, health services, taxation benefits, even union representation. And because prostitution is legal, customers can use credit cards, lowering the chance of violence with an anonymous illegal encounter. was the closest thing male sex workers had to legalization and protection, and now the feds have made the decision to take away that protection, and potentially thrust these workers into violent encounters or incarceration that could impact their lives for years to come.

“Arresting people who are taking agency over their own bodies and earning a living only creates this cycle of violence in which they find it harder to leave sex work when they need/want to,” says Danny Cruz, 30, a sex worker and activist. “Having a prostitution charge on a criminal record is a huge barrier to mainstream employment and sex workers who were previously arrested for this end up turning to sex work to pay fines, court fees, etc. it’s a vicious cycle built by people who think they are “rescuing” us by arresting us. I’d rather skip that rescue.”

Could this be because of the Ashley Madison leak? Or maybe a gay bias?
Let’s get real, never tried very hard at hiding what it really was doing. Advertising that escorts exchange money for time spent together, and if sex happens that’s between the escort and the client, is a thinly veiled way of promoting sex for money. Or could it have been an awesome, in-your-face, statement of independence on the current state of legalized sex shame from state and federal officials? Regardless, it’s surprising that after nearly 20 years of basically blatant promotion of prostitution, the feds decide to raid now, just mere weeks after the Ashley Madison leak.

Coincidence or not, there’s a renewed focus on sex shaming, and the feds are joining the shame bandwagon. And because targeted a niche and largely marginalized clientele, gay men, with profile langage detailing everything from penis size to personal fetishes, what better way to steer attention away from federal officials emails contained within the Ashley Madison leak? Just like George W. Bush used the issue of a federal amendment banning gay marriage during the 2004 presidential campaign, could people within the federal government be using the raid to sensationalize the news away from other distracting Ashley Madison related nuggets of news?

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I did watch Julia Roberts and Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory, so I know a shady move when I see one.

Many in the LGBT community are feeling a deep sense of personal bias. Performer Justin Bond posted on Facebook, “I think that to many in our community this feels like a throwback to when the police raided gay bars in the 50s and 60s….This invasion of a consensual hook-up site which is run for and by members of the LGBT community feels like a real slap in the face after gentrification…”

In a perfect world…

Prostitution would not only be legalized, but it would be regulated and taxed, guaranteeing the workers and the purveyors security, safety, and accountability. It’s really that simple.

The reality is it is not. The feds can shut down, but that’s not going to solve anything. Another website, or app, will be created and the oldest profession in the world will grow older. Instead of focusing on sites like, the feds should look to the ever growing international sex trade that’s happening all around us, in addition to the exorbitant number of trans men and women forced into sex work because of discrimination elsewhere, many of which are getting murdered. Because targeting a young man with a nice body using it to make a dime in a legit and safe way on a harmless website is like arresting the mother of a little girl selling lemonade on the corner for child slave labor.

Story appeared on Fusion
H Alan ScottH Alan Scott

August 28, 2015

NEW Automated Speech Analysis Can Identify Risks for Psychosis i.e.Schizophrenia


An automated speech analysis program correctly differentiated between at-risk young people who developed psychosis over a two-and-a-half year period and those who did not. In a proof-of-principle study, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, New York State Psychiatric Institute, and the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center found that the computerized analysis provided a more accurate classification than clinical ratings. The study, “Automated Analysis of Free Speech Predicts Psychosis Onset in High-Risk Youths,” was published today in NPJ-Schizophrenia.
About one percent of the population between the age of 14 and 27 is considered to be at clinical high risk (CHR) for psychosis. CHR individuals have symptoms such as unusual or tangential thinking, perceptual changes, and suspiciousness. About 20% will go on to experience a full-blown psychotic episode. Identifying who falls in that 20% category before psychosis occurs has been an elusive goal. Early identification could lead to intervention and support that could delay, mitigate or even prevent the onset of serious mental illness.
Speech provides a unique window into the mind, giving important clues about what people are thinking and feeling. Participants in the study took part in an open-ended, narrative interview in which they described their subjective experiences. These interviews were transcribed and then analyzed by computer for patterns of speech, including semantics (meaning) and syntax (structure).
The analysis established each patient’s semantic coherence (how well he or she stayed on topic), and syntactic structure, such as phrase length and use of determiner words that link the phrases. A clinical psychiatrist may intuitively recognize these signs of disorganized thoughts in a traditional interview, but a machine can augment what is heard by precisely measuring the variables. The participants were then followed for two and a half years.
The speech features that predicted psychosis onset included breaks in the flow of meaning from one sentence to the next, and speech that was characterized by shorter phrases with less elaboration. The speech classifier tool developed in this study to mechanically sort these specific, symptom-related features is striking for achieving 100% accuracy. The computer analysis correctly differentiated between the five individuals who later experienced a psychotic episode and the 29 who did not. These results suggest that this method may be able to identify thought disorder in its earliest, most subtle form, years before the onset of psychosis. Thought disorder is a key component of schizophrenia, but quantifying it has proved difficult.
This shows a “convex hull” polyhedron.
 For the field of schizophrenia research, and for psychiatry more broadly, this opens the possibility that new technology can aid in prognosis and diagnosis of severe mental disorders, and track treatment response. Automated speech analysis is inexpensive, portable, fast, and non-invasive. It has the potential to be a powerful tool that can complement clinical interviews and ratings.
Further research with a second, larger group of at-risk individuals is needed to see if this automated capacity to predict psychosis onset is both robust and reliable. Automated speech analysis used in conjunction with neuroimaging may also be useful in reaching a better understanding of early thought disorder, and the paths to develop treatments for it.
The authors are Gillinder Bedi, Facundo Carrillo, Guillermo Cecchi, Diego Fernández Slezak, Mariano Sigman, Natália B. Mota, Sidarta Ribeiro, Daniel C. Javitt, Mauro Copelli, and Cheryl M. Corcoran.
Funding: This research was supported by NIMH (K23MH066279; R21MH086125, R01MH049334), The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NIHUL1402 TR000040), the New York State Office of Mental Hygiene, NIDA (K23DA034877), and 403 FAPESP Research, Innovation and Dissemination Center for Neuromathematics (grant 404 # 2013/07699-0, S. Paolo Research Foundation).
The authors have declared no conflicts of interest.
Source: Rachel Yarmolinsky – Columbia University Medical Center
Image Credit: The image is credited to IBM/Columbia University Medical Center
Original Research: Full open access research for “Automated speech analysis predicts later psychosis” by Gillinder Bedi, Facundo Carrillo, Guillermo A Cecchi, Diego Fernández Slezak, Mariano Sigman, Natália B Mota, Sidarta Ribeiro, Daniel C Javitt, Mauro Copelli and Cheryl M Corcoran in NPJ-Schizophrenia. Published online August 26 2015 doi:10.1038/npjschz.2015.30

Automated analysis of free speech predicts psychosis onset in high-risk youths
Psychiatry lacks the objective clinical tests routinely used in other specializations. Novel computerized methods to characterize complex behaviors such as speech could be used to identify and predict psychiatric illness in individuals.
In this proof-of-principle study, our aim was to test automated speech analyses combined with Machine Learning to predict later psychosis onset in youths at clinical high-risk (CHR) for psychosis.
Thirty-four CHR youths (11 females) had baseline interviews and were assessed quarterly for up to 2.5 years; five transitioned to psychosis. Using automated analysis, transcripts of interviews were evaluated for semantic and syntactic features predicting later psychosis onset. Speech features were fed into a convex hull classification algorithm with leave-one-subject-out cross-validation to assess their predictive value for psychosis outcome. The canonical correlation between the speech features and prodromal symptom ratings was computed.
Derived speech features included a Latent Semantic Analysis measure of semantic coherence and two syntactic markers of speech complexity: maximum phrase length and use of determiners (e.g., which). These speech features predicted later psychosis development with 100% accuracy, outperforming classification from clinical interviews. Speech features were significantly correlated with prodromal symptoms.
Findings support the utility of automated speech analysis to measure subtle, clinically relevant mental state changes in emergent psychosis. Recent developments in computer science, including natural language processing, could provide the foundation for future development of objective clinical tests for psychiatry.
“Automated speech analysis predicts later psychosis” by Gillinder Bedi, Facundo Carrillo, Guillermo A Cecchi, Diego Fernández Slezak, Mariano Sigman, Natália B Mota, Sidarta Ribeiro, Daniel C Javitt, Mauro Copelli and Cheryl M Corcoran in NPJ-Schizophrenia. Published online August 26 2015 doi:10.1038/npjschz.2015.30

Imagine if Wars were fought like Spain fights “La Tomatina” A Tomato Food Fight


Buñol, near Valencia in southern Spain, has held the hot mess of a festival 'La Tomatina' for the last 70 years.
The festival began on a hot August day in 1945, when locals gathered to watch a traditional Catalan 'Giants and Big-Heads' fairytale parade. 
There were some sharp elbows involved to bag the best viewing spots, which led one frustrated member of the crowd to pick up the nearest projectile - the tomatoes outside a grocery - and fling them at the crowd.
And thus, a noble tradition was born:
The world's biggest food fight attracts 20,000 revellers every year - but Buñol's biggest secret is probably that it doesn't actually grow any tomatoes. More than 54 tonnes are imported to the village for the festival annually, and even if Buñolians wanted to grow their own, they'd never be able to meet demand.
While some question whether the hassle and expense is worth it, one side-effect is that the village is left spotless once it's been hosed down because the acidity in the fruit is a cleaning agent. 
And let's face it: could you have this much fun not bathing in a street full of squashed tomatoes?

August 27, 2015

Do You Like Horses and Beavers? You will find them on your Burgers


 If you’re a health-conscious carnivore browsing for bison brisket online—or maybe you're a new Paleo diet devotee trolling the grocery store for a package of ground beef—you probably pay close attention to what's on the label. Was the animal organically raised? Was it grass-fed and not treated with antibiotics, or was it fattened up with feed dosed with pesticides? Like most folks you probably assume that what you’re purchasing is what the package claims it is. But according to the results of a pair of new studies, you might be buying ground horse or a fancy slab of American beaver instead.

That’s the finding of two studies produced by Chapman University’s Food Science Program that will be published in the January 2016 Food Control journal. The researchers conducted DNA testing and other scientific analyses on samples of ground meat (such as turkey, pork, chicken, and beef) found in brick-and-mortar grocery stores and on samples of specialty game meat (including bison, pheasant, and bear) sold online. About 20 percent of the time, the label on the package didn’t line up with what was inside.  

Of the 48 fresh and frozen samples of ground meat found in traditional markets, 10 were mislabeled. Nine of those 10 packages contained a mix of meat species—partially what the label indicated and partially some other animal. The tenth sample was meat from a completely different creature than what the label suggested.

Unintentional contamination at meatpacking plants may account for some of this, according to the study’s authors. If a processor handles pork, beef, and turkey, for example, and doesn’t fully clean the equipment, DNA of one animal can, in varying degrees, end up in the packaging for another. 

The researchers also speculated that “lower-cost species [are] being intentionally mixed in with higher-cost species for economic gain.” In particular, that raises a concern about the ethics of the $39 billion specialty game meat market in the U.S. 

Indeed, the second study tested 54 samples from that lucrative online market and found 10 packages were mislabeled. One bundle of black bear burgers was actually beaver, two packages of pricey bison burgers and one package of expensive yak burgers were plain old domestic cattle, and a container labeled as pheasant was helmeted guinea fowl. The retailer, of course, pockets the difference.

That's troubling enough, but the researchers also found that two of the ground meat samples contained horsemeat, which is illegal to sell in the United States.

“Although extensive meat species testing has been carried out in Europe in light of the 2013 horsemeat scandal, there has been limited research carried out on this topic in the United States,” Rosalee Hellberg, an assistant professor at Chapman University and coauthor of both studies, said in a statement.

It's not hard to imagine all the vegetarians out there breathing a sigh of relief—after all, kale is undoubtedly kale. Sure, we’re more than a century removed from the filthy descriptions of meatpacking plants in Upton Sinclair’s classic, The Jungle, but these studies might be another red flag about the overall cleanliness and safety of meat producers in the United States.

Staff Writer Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Gay Teenagers are Not Getting HIV tested


Teens fear being recognized and don’t know where to get tested
Young men who have sex with men have the highest risk for HIV infection, but only one in five has ever been tested for HIV, a much lower rate than testing for non-adolescents, reports a new national Northwestern Medicine study conducted in partnership with the Center for Innovative Public Health Research.

The greatest barriers to these teenage males getting tested are not knowing where to go to get an HIV test, worries about being recognized at a testing site and — to a lesser degree -- thinking they are invincible and won’t get infected. 

“Understanding the barriers to testing provides critical information for intervening, so we can help young men get tested,” said study first author Gregory Phillips II, a research assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and an investigator for the IMPACT LGBT Health and Development Program at Feinberg. 

“Rates of new HIV infections continue to increase among young gay and bisexual men,” said Brian Mustanski, principal investigator of the study, an associate professor of medical social sciences at Feinberg and director of IMPACT. “Testing is critical because it can help those who are positive receive lifesaving medical care. Effective treatment can also help prevent them from transmitting the virus to others.”

The study on low HIV testing rates for gay young men was published Aug. 26 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The findings suggest testing can be increased by providing young men with an easy way to find nearby testing sites via text messaging or online programs and by opening testing sites in high schools. 

“Providing in-school testing would normalize the process,” Phillips said. “If there is a constant presence of on-site testing at schools, testing would seem less stigmatized. It would also increase knowledge about the testing process and make it less scary.”

Online information explaining the testing procedure also can calm young men’s fears. Finger stick or cheek swabs are both options for testing, which teens may not realize.  The IMPACT Program at Feinberg created a video that shows young people what it’s like to get an HIV test.

Between June and November 2014, the study enrolled a national sample of 302 gay, bisexual and queer males ages 14 to 18 years into a text messaging-based HIV prevention program (Guy2Guy). Questions about their HIV-testing behaviors were included in the study. The researchers found only 20 percent of the teenage boys had ever been tested for HIV, a rate that is much lower than what other studies have found with adult gay and bisexual men. A 2008 national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-sponsored study of men who have sex with men found 75 percent of men ages 18 to 19 reported they had been tested for HIV, for example. 

Michele Ybarra, an investigator at the Center for Innovative Public Health Research, was the co-principal investigator on the study.
The article is titled “Low Rates of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Testing Among Adolescent Gay, Bisexual, and Queer.”
This study was supported by grant R01MH096660 from the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health.

Marla Paul

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