Haemophilia trial’s ‘mind-blowing’ result

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Media captionFather-of-two Jake Omer was born with haemophilia A

British doctors say they have achieved “mind-blowing” results in an attempt to rid people of haemophilia A.

Patients are born with a genetic defect that means they do not produce a protein needed to stop bleeding.

Thirteen patients given the gene therapy at Barts Health NHS Trust are now off treatment with 11 producing near-normal levels of the protein.

Jake Omer, 29 from Billericay, Essex, was on the trial and says he feels like he has a new body.

Like 2,000 other people in the UK, his body could not make clotting factor VIII.

A minor injury used to cause severe bleeding. He remembers losing two front teeth as a child and bleeding for days afterwards.

Even the impact of walking would lead to bleeding in his joints and eventually cause arthritis.

Jake has needed at least three injections of factor VIII a week for most of his life.

But in February 2016, he had a single infusion of gene therapy.

Image copyright James Gallagher
Image caption Jake Omer: ‘Like a new body’

Jake told the BBC: “I feel like a new person now – I feel like a well-oiled robot.

“I feel I can do a lot more. I feel my body allows me to do more.

“I don’t think I would have been able to walk 500m without my joints flaring up, whereas now I think sort of two, three, four-mile walk – I could quite easily achieve that.”

The first time he knew it had worked was four months after the therapy when he dropped a gym weight and bashed his elbow.

He started to panic, but after icing the injury that evening, everything was normal the next day.

‘Transformational’

The therapy is a genetically engineered virus.

It contains the instructions for factor VIII that Jake was born without.

The virus is used like a postman to deliver the genetic instructions to the liver, which then starts producing factor VIII.

In the first trials, low doses of gene therapy had no effect.

Of the 13 patients given higher doses, all are off their haemophilia medication a year on and 11 are producing near-normal levels of factor VIII.

Prof John Pasi, who led the trials at Barts and Queen Mary University of London, said: “This is huge.

“It’s ground-breaking because the option to think about normalising levels in patients with severe haemophilia is absolutely mind-blowing.

“To offer people the potential of a normal life when they’ve had to inject themselves with factor VIII every other day to prevent bleeding is transformational.”

An analysis of the first nine patients on the trial was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Larger trials are now imminent to see if the therapy can truly transform the lives of patients.

It is also uncertain how long the gene therapy will be effective.

Liz Carroll, the chief executive of The Haemophilia Society, said: “Gene therapy is a potentially game-changing treatment.

“Despite world-leading treatment standards in the UK many still suffer painful bleeds leading to chronic joint damage.”

However, she warned there was a wide variation in who responded to therapy, which still needed to be explained.

Gene therapies are likely to be spectacularly expensive. However, the current cost of regular factor VIII injections is about £100,000 a patient per year for life.

Jake says the therapy should help him live a full life with his family: “It’s going to allow me as my boys grow up to be more active with them, to kick footballs about, to climb trees, to hopefully run around the park with them, not be someone who has to worry.”

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Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-42337396

Temperatures In Australia Hit 117 Degrees As Sydney Sees Hottest Day In 78 Years

A brutal heat wave in Australia skyrocketed temperatures in Sydney on Sunday to 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47.3 Celsius), making it the hottest weather New South Wales’ capital has seen in 78 years, weather officials said.

The bizarre forecast follows record low temperatures in other parts of the world.

The worst of the weekend’s heat was recorded in the Sydney suburb of Penrith where the triple-degree temperature was just slightly lower than a 118-degree (47.8 C) reading recorded in the town of Richmond in 1939, according to the New South Wales’ Bureau of Meteorology.

James D. Morgan via Getty Images
Crowds cool off in water at Yarra Bay in Sydney, Australia, on Sunday amid a heat wave.

Temperatures became so hot across southern Australia that police in the neighboring state of Victoria warned drivers on Twitter that a 6-mile freeway was “melting.”

Fire warnings and bans were also issued across Sydney in response to the high heat threat that has caused multiple wildfires. There was also an air quality warning issued by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage for higher than normal ozone levels, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Adding to some of the misery felt, a power outage left thousands of people in Sydney without electricity on Sunday evening as temperatures stayed between 91 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit, the local news site reported.

A spokeswoman for local electricity provider Ausgrid, speaking to Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service, partially blamed the outage on a surge in power use.

The bizarre weather isn’t just in Australia, however.

Across the Pacific, Alaska has experienced unusually warm temperatures in recent days, roughly 10 to 20 degrees above average, prompting concerns about ice levels, NPR reported.

Last week, temperatures in Anchorage were warmer than in northern Florida, which saw snow.

The U.S.′ northeast has also endured unseasonably cold temperatures, with the mercury dipping below zero in many places. At New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, the area saw an all-time low on Saturday of 8 degrees F, meteorologist Bob Oravec of the Weather Prediction Center, told Reuters.

Temperatures are expected to rise to above normal temperatures for much of the United States in the middle of January, the National Weather Service said on Sunday.

Meanwhile, World Meteorological Organization spokesperson Clare Nullis pointed out on Friday that Europe is also experiencing unusual temperatures.

“The French national average on Wednesday was 11.5 degrees Celsius [52.7 degrees Fahrenheit], so that’s about 6 degrees Celsius above the normal, so as I said, lots of extreme weather,” she said during a United Nations session, according to Newsweek.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sydney-sees-hottest-day-in-78-years_us_5a522adee4b089e14dbb94e0

Husband Posts Facebook Plea About Dying WifeThen a Man She Never Met Says “Id Do It”

35-year-old Coloradan Melinda Ray was quickly dying from a genetic disease destroying her liver.

With her health condition on the decline every day and little hope for finding a match for a transplant, the outlook for Melinda’s survival was looking rather grim.


Facebook

“We had just had candidate after candidate being ruled out, and symptoms were progressing. They were progressing fast,” said husband James Ray to ABC News, adding that “the days were getting harder.”

However, James was not ready to give up on his beloved wife and mother of their three children.


Facebook

In his desperate search for the right match, he decided to post a plea on Facebook in hopes the right pair of eyes may fall upon his message.

But of the hundreds of friends and family members who saw his post, it turned out to be a total stranger that would be his wife’s saving grace.

When Robin Ihnfeldt heard about Melinda’s situation through her sister, she told her husband, Jeff, about their search for a match.

Upon hearing about the woman’s failing liver and dire need for a transplant, he responded without hesitation: “I’d do it.”

“He’s always been an amazing man,” says Jeff’s wife, Robin, of the former Navy SEAL. “He hears bullets and he runs into these situations.”

Doctors warned Jeff that the process could be risky, and even fatal, but that didn’t stop the San Diegan from flying all the way out to Colorado to the rescue.

As a skydying instructor and Hollywood stuntman for movies like “Deepwater Horizon” and “Iron Man,” this man is no stranger to danger.

“I think I probably considered it for all of half a second before I said, ‘I’m up let’s do this,’” he told ABC.

Besides, he just couldn’t stand the idea of people standing around doing nothing while a good-hearted soul like Melinda was on her deathbed. 

“I think the majority of it is it’s just not okay with me that someone would die if people just sit around on their hands,” said Jeff. “I’m kind of a do-something type of person.”

“You’re going to change someone’s life,” he added. “It could be the difference between life and death for somebody.”

Jeff ended up donating 60 percent of his liver to Melinda, and both of them are recovering well after the successful surgery.

“I feel that I have a little sister now. We literally share DNA at this point,” said Jeff. “She gets extended years, she gets to raise her kids, to be the mother that she’s always wanted to be and live out life with her husband.”

As for Melinda, she’s just grateful that such a kind stranger would risk his own life so that she may have a second shot at hers.

“It gave me really great hope, and humanity, and hope that I could be a mom and a wife, because that’s something I wasn’t sure was going to happen through the year,” said Melinda.

“And just the fact that someone would put their life on hold for me and stop their life and save mine, you know, it meant everything to me.”

Read more: https://faithit.com/husband-posts-facebook-plea-about-dying-wife-then-a-man-she-never-met-says-id-do-it/

Three Months After Hurricane Maria, 45 Percent Of Puerto Rico Is STILL Without Power

Are you listening,

It’s been three full months since the hurricane made landfall on the American island, and now, officials are saying 45 percent of the nearly 1.5 million customers there STILL don’t have any power.

How is that possible in this day and age, and in THIS country???

A woman named Susan Tierney, an expert on this type of thing who testified before a U.S. Senate committee on restoration efforts in Puerto Rico recently, put it best in a new

But, like, seriously… he has time to whine about mid-term elections (of which he’s not involved) and try to slam-dunk on

And we need to be mindful of it ourselves. Puerto Rico still desperately, badly needs help.

Go HERE and HERE if you’re interested in some more new, good journalism coming out of the island today.

This problem will not just go away in time.

[Image via Getty Images.]

Read more: http://perezhilton.com/2017-12-31-puerto-rico-hurricane-maria-island-electricity-power-donald-trump-leadership-failure

This Is The Heartbreaking Thing Animal Shelters See Each Year After The Holidays

As another holiday season comes to a close, the parking lots and customer service desks at many of your favorite retailers will become flooded with dissatisfied people of all ages anxiously awaiting to return the Christmas gifts that don’t fit, they don’t like, or simply weren’t on their wish lists.

While most unwanted gifts can be returned with a receipt for cash or store credit, not everything under the tree is so lucky. On many Christmas lists each and every year is a new pet. Perhaps it’s the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but what many parents and children fail to realize is that getting a new pet for Christmas is a life-long commitment, which involves more planning and consideration than most people are willing to commit. And while a new kitten or puppy may make the cutest Christmas gift under the tree, it can lead to a disturbing spike that most animal shelters have come to see as a yearly ritual.

It may seem like a picture-perfect scene from a Hallmark movie, but unwrapping a new pet on Christmas morning can lead to skyrocketing animal abandonment numbers.

It’s in the weeks after the holiday festivities are said and done that shelters become swamped with abandoned animals that people simply decide they no longer want or can no longer care for.

People return their Christmas pets to a shelter for a variety of reasons. Maybe it was the wrong shape, color, or size, or it simply wasn’t what the new owner had in mind when they asked for a new pet. What often happens is that people think, “Oh, my new pup will find a new home quickly!” Sadly, that’s simply not the case. For many animals, their lives come to untimely ends in jam-packed animal shelters.

Many give up their new animals because they just don’t have the time or resources to train them, which they should have considered first.

People sometimes forget that taking care of a pet is similar to raising a child, in that it’s basically a full-time job. This realization can be even more disheartening if your animal gift is meant for a kid. Kids just want to be kids, without the stress and pressure of taking care of another life. That’s when parents start getting frustrated.

When thinking about gifting a new pet for Christmas, people often overlook the yearly price of food, toys, and routine vet visits. Most people expect to maybe spend just a few thousand dollars over the lifespan of their pet, but in actuality, the numbers can sometimes be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Another horrifying realization about pets as presents is that in order to ring in the new, some owners take their aging pets to the shelters and trade them in for “younger models.” For some people, as their pet’s health begins to deteriorate, it becomes too much work for them and rather than getting them the care and attention they need, it’s much easier to ship them off to their local shelter. Heartbreakingly, sending a senior dog or cat to a shelter is almost always a death sentence.

Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/pets-as-presents/

9 Terrifying Things Doctors Pulled Out Of Living People

Cracked has already brought you the 7 Most Baffling Things Ever Discovered in a Human Body and the 7 Most Horrifying Things Ever Discovered in a Human Body, so you may have thought we’d run out of upsetting things that have been yanked out of people by doctors. You fool. You poor, soon-to-be-disgusted fool. Don’t you know the body is but a nightmarish junkyard waiting to be excavated by the unluckiest surgeons and proctologists?

9

The Lost City Of Contact Lenses Found In One Woman’s Eye

Think carefully about this question: What is the most number of objects you can jam under your eyelid and forget about? It’s zero, right? No. Not even close. Not even close.

An anesthetist in the UK was preparing a 67-year-old woman for routine cataract surgery when he noticed a blue lump under her eyelid. On closer inspection, it turned out to be 17 contact lenses bunched together into a single mass. Here’s what it looked like.

The BMJ“Oh, so that’s why the left side of my face felt so heavy and I had a stabbing pain in my eye every waking and sleeping second!”

You’re probably saying, “17? Ha. That’s barely 17 more than my record.” Well, they later found another 10 lenses stuck even further in there. Seriously, she was more contact lens than woman. She had been wearing contacts for 35 years, and never noticed that they were occasionally vanishing into her head. That’s troubling on a number of levels. What else did she not notice? Are there 70 cat skeletons in her guest room?

Surgeons removed the contacts, presumably while also finding several lost socks and $87.32 in change. And remarkably, the woman didn’t experience any negative effects. Doctors say she was lucky the lenses didn’t suck up bacteria and cause an infection, but is anyone really “lucky” when they have an action figure’s worth of plastic stuck to their eyeball?

8

The Snail That Hatched From A Knee

Look, not everything found growing in your body has to be horrifying. For instance, this entry is about an adorable baby snail found living inside a child’s knee. Oh, that’s still quite horrifying? It makes you think that you yourself might be filled with tiny hatching gastropods? YOU ARE! EVERY ONE OF YOU!

The story begins with young Paul Franklin playing at the beach, where he scraped his knee against a rock. Since mildly injuring themselves is what four-year-olds do, his parents slapped on a Band-Aid and forgot about it. Little did they know they had just stumbled into a low-stakes version of the chestburster scene from Alien.

Jebb Harris/The Orange County Register

Jebb Harris/The Orange County RegisterThe snail, with a quarter from the Knee Fairy.

Within weeks, Paul’s knee had swelled until it was the size of an orange. Knee doctors never expect sudden hatching snails, so they diagnosed it as a staph infection. But antibiotics had no effect, and the lump started turning black and oozing pus. With no other options, Paul’s mother knew what she had to do: squeeze that swelling pus pod until it burst. Out popped a live sea snail that had been growing inside the boy. “AAAAHHH!” she probably said.

The snail was identified as Littorina scutulata, an extremely hardy species known for being able to survive in all sorts of environments, though this one will definitely go down in snail hero history. Paul’s family think that he fell on an egg, which entered the scrape on his knee and hatched inside his body. The abomination was adopted by young Paul and he named it Turbo. They are both still at large.

Jebb Harris/The Orange County Register“Turbo. You are from my flesh! HALF SNAIL, HALF HUMAN! A SLIMY FOOT IN BOTH WORLDS! TURRRRBOOOOOOO!”

7

The Mystery Of The Man Who Coughed Up A Nail

MRI scans involve incredibly powerful magnetic fields, to the point where they’ve been known to send oxygen tanks and gurneys flying across a room like Magneto in a retirement home. So you’re obviously not supposed to have any metal on you when you’re getting one. But awesomely named Colorado man Prax Sanchez didn’t have iron on him — he had iron in him.

Some time back in the ’80s, Sanchez got an inch-long nail jammed up his nose. This was long enough for a membrane to form around it. Weirdly, he had no idea how it got up there, even though a goddamned nail flying up your nose seems like the kind of thing you’d remember. Or maybe not, if it went deep enough to poke the part of your brain that remembers this sort of thing. The point is, he was having hearing problems and needed to get an MRI, and nobody knew about the nail in his head before he was sealed inside a tube of very powerful magnets.

KOAA-TV

KOAA-TVAbove: something you wouldn’t notice in your face, apparently.

The machine yanked the nail loose, and Prax coughed it up on his way home. He later said, “I felt something in my throat and spit it out. It was a nail. It didn’t hurt at all.” This elderly man had an iron nail jammed in his face and yanked through his sinuses by magnets, and he didn’t know either of those things before he hacked it out. That’s not tough, that’s Prax Sanchez tough. By the time you shake Prax Sanchez’s hand, he’s already forgotten he kicked your ass.

6

The Man Who Found His Own Car Inside Himself

If you’re like most people, your first car is like your first kiss — it might not have been perfect, maybe it smelled like gym clothes, but you’ll never, ever forget it. In the case of 77-year-old Arthur Lampitt, his Ford Thunderbird became a part of him, and unfortunately, we mean this literally.

Back in 1963, Lampitt was driving his beloved Thunderbird in the rain when he had an impromptu get-together with a semi.

The Lampitt familyT-Bird T-Boned

The car was totaled, and Lampitt spent ten days in traction before surgeons could repair his assorted broken bones and other injuries. Suffice it to say it was some Final Destination stuff, and Lampitt was lucky to be alive.

Skip ahead 35 years, and Lampitt had his first inkling that something wasn’t quite right when his bare arm set off a courthouse metal detector. Since the arm wasn’t painful and had no trouble with arm-related tasks, doctors gave Lampitt some groundbreaking advice: Leave it alone. Fast-forward another 16 years to 2015, when the then 75-year-old Lampitt was moving some concrete blocks and a large piece of metal popped through the skin on his arm. It was the goddamn turn signal lever from his car that died over 50 years ago.

Jesse Bogan/The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Jesse Bogan/The St. Louis Post-Dispatch“Wait till you … *cough* … see where the tailpipe ended up …”

5

The Man Who Held On To A Piece Of His Childhood Too Hard

Earlier this year, British postal worker Paul Baxter went to see a doctor about his persistent cough. A longtime smoker, the 47-year-old had been coughing up yellow mucus for over a year and was feeling generally “unwell.” A pneumonia treatment and several x-rays later, he received the sort of news that would make even the best of us break bad: He had lung cancer.

Doctors conducted a bronchoscopy, a procedure that involves sticking a camera into a patient’s lung and exploring. While poking around in Baxter’s chest, they found a “mustard coloured foreign body” and pulled it out so they could have a closer look. The “tumor” they diagnosed turned out to be a tiny plastic traffic cone from a Playmobil toy set.

The BMJ, Playmobil“OUR WORLD IS MADE OF TUMORS. COME PLAY WITH US.”

Baxter recalls that once the doctors figured out what they were looking at, “everybody just fell about laughing.” He remembered getting a Playmobil set for his seventh birthday, and though he doesn’t remember specifically inhaling its parts, he says he “regularly played with and even swallowed” his toys as a child. He’s otherwise in good health, and doctors report that Baxter’s symptoms have almost disappeared since they removed the toy from his lung. Unfortunately, since the traffic cone’s disappearance, 43 Playmobil children have died in easily preventable car accidents.

4

The Invincible King Of All Kidney Stones

Some people enter the record books through an outstanding achievement or sheer force of will. Other people, like Sandor Sarkadi, owner of one of the world’s largest kidney stones, are immortalized by terrifyingly lousy luck. And Sarkadi had a kidney stone that will never be defeated.

Doctors discovered the mothership of anomalies inside Sarkadi’s abdomen during an x-ray, taken after the Hungarian complained of severe constipation. And holy crap, his x-ray looked like he got caught being a pregnant ostrich in disguise.

via The TelegraphAgain, holy crap.

Kidney stones, at worst, rarely grow larger than a few inches. They usually look like small, sharp wads of gum, and are eventually passed through the urethra. Make no mistake, any size larger than zero translates to size “OHGODNOAAAAHHHGGG” in urethra measurements, but Sarkadi’s was several magnitudes larger than even the most elastic of pee holes. It was like a loaf of bread baked inside his pelvis by the Devil, and had to be removed surgically.

via The Telegraph“As you can see here, Mr. Sarkadi, there is no God, and if there is, this is a manifestation of His hate.”

3

The Tumor That Had Its Own Brain

Human cells are autonomous, which is excellent for keeping you alive. But sometimes they go rogue cop, dividing uncontrollably for no reason and forming a tumor. Ovarian tumors are among the gnarliest because about 20 percent of them include other … things, like teeth, fat, hair, or on spectacularly horrifying occasions: a motherfucking little brain.

These types of tumors are called teratomas, and contain germ cells which can differentiate into other body parts or tissues. Japanese doctors found this particularly gruesome biological Easter egg while performing a routine appendectomy on a 16-year-old girl. It’s a skull-like wad of cancer cells with hair and enough of a brain that she may have technically been cheating on her math tests. Behold this … thing:

Masayuki Shintaku et. al.

Masayuki Shintaku et. al.Above: the tiny monster head found in a teenage girl and all your future nightmares.

When they cracked into a hair-covered, 10-centimeter-wide tumor growing on the girl’s ovary, they discovered the skull-like plate and a brain consisting of a primitive cerebellum and brain stem. They removed it without complication, unless you count birthing Fleshlord Ovarior into our world a complication.

2

The Secret Of The Turkish Headaches

A Turkish man charged into the doctor’s office, screaming for treatment. He had been plagued by headaches since he was five, and by the time he reached 20, the headaches lasted more than five hours a day. The pain was crippling. Imagine being inside an air horn, but also you’re the spouse of an E! Network producer who’s explaining the top 20 pitches Kylie Jenner brought to his office that day.

Because his family was poor, the man turned down all hospitalization offers as a child. Instead, he treated his problem with pain relievers that made various degrees of no dent. It got so bad that he was nauseous and vomiting with each headache. When he finally went to the doctor, they performed a CT scan on him to reveal the source of his troubles: two needles rusting away inside his damn head.

National Center for Biotechnology InformationYeah, that would probably do it.

The medical examiners postulated that some asshole ninja-ed the sewing needles through the top of the head, penetrating the anterior fontanelle when it was still soft — let’s say 7-19 months after his birth. Which suggests either that he was a very accident-prone craft enthusiast in his crib, or that someone tried to murder him as a toddler.

The needles were not removed because cracking the head posed too high of a risk, so this man is still out there, keeping searing headaches at bay with pills. The only thing the doctors gave him was purpose. Because now that he knows what happened to him, he can hunt for the seamstress who tried to kill him as a baby with their murder weapon still lodged in his skull. And with the help of his magic talking skateboard, you can bet Headache Hunter And Wheels will be rolling its way to ratings success this fall on Turkish TV.

1

The Spookiest Pregnancy Ever

There’s no cute way to set this one up. A woman named Kantabai Thakre found a baby skeleton inside herself 36 years after she thought she had a miscarriage. Think about that. For 36 years, tiny skeletal remains had been clawing at her organs as she drove, shopped, and slept. Learning something like that isn’t a “surprise” — it’s more like discovering “everything behind you is spiders.”

Thakre became pregnant when she was 24, but suffered from a complication whereby the embryo attaches outside of the uterus. This usually produces symptoms such as sharp pain, dull pain, or crampy pain. So basically all of the pains. She did her best to treat it, and a few months later it stopped with what everyone presumed was a loss of the pregnancy. 36 years later, the pain came back, revealing that she was right about being cured of her pain, but wrong about being cured of her baby, whose skeleton had never left.

What’s so “special” about this tiny monstrosity is that when it was found, it didn’t look like a calcinated fetal mass like a “normal” floating skeletal baby. Instead it looked like the remains of someone who died in a giant can of baked beans.

City Hospital“Oh, HELL NO, I quit,” said the x-ray machine.

It’s hard to really tell what’s going on in that picture if you’re not an x-ray tech or a serial killer, so here is what it looked like after they removed all the bones and assembled them.

City HospitalNOW HIRING X-RAY TECH ASSISTANT: Must be good at puzzles and filled with an unspeakable darkness.

Snails are adorable, and you can even paint their shells!

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Read more: http://www.cracked.com/article_25190_9-terrifying-things-doctors-pulled-out-living-people.html

Voucher Schools Championed By Betsy DeVos Can Teach What They Want. Turns Out They Teach Lies.

PORTLAND, Ore. ― It was late morning in an artsy cafe, the smell of coffee and baked goods sweetening the air, and Ashley Bishop sat at a table, recalling a time when she was taught that most of secular American society was worthy of contempt.

Growing up in private evangelical Christian schools, Bishop saw the world in extremes, good and evil, heaven and hell. She was taught that to dance was to sin, that gay people were child molesters and that mental illness was a function of satanic influence. Teachers at her schools talked about slavery as black immigration, and instructors called environmentalists “hippie witches.”

Bishop’s family moved around a lot when she was a child, but her family always enrolled her in evangelical schools.

So when Bishop left school in 2003 and entered the real world at 17, she felt like she was an alien landing on Planet Earth for the first time. Having been cut off from mainstream society, she felt unequipped to handle the job market and develop secular friendships. Lacking shared cultural and historical references, she spent most of her 20s holed up in her bedroom, suffering from crippling social anxiety.

Now, at 31, she has become everything that she was once taught to hate. She shares an apartment with her girlfriend of two years. She sees a therapist and takes medication for depression, a condition born, in part, of her stifling education.  

Years later, some of the schools Bishop attended are largely the same, but some have changed in a significant way: Unlike when Bishop was a student, parents are not the only ones paying tuition for these fundamentalist religious schools – so are taxpayers. 

Amanda Lucier for HuffPost
Ashley Bishop didn’t find out until after she graduated from Christian schools that she was unprepared for a wider world of education.

These schools are among thousands in the United States that participate in private school choice programs, which most often come in the form of state-level voucher or tax credit scholarships. Voucher programs offer publicly funded financial aid to parents for private schools. Tax credit programs usually offer individuals or corporations tax credits if they donate to a scholarship granting organization, which in turn offers private school scholarships based on various criteria, including income.

President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have openly championed such programs and have encouraged states to embrace school choice, arguing that voucher programs give parents an alternative to low-performing public schools. Currently 14 states and the District of Columbia have voucher programs, and 17 have tax credit programs. DeVos has made it a top priority to push a federal school choice initiative.

Many of the private schools that participate in these state-led programs are run by evangelical Christian churches. They are sometimes unaccredited and can teach a curriculum similar to the one Bishop studied ― all with the help of taxpayer dollars.   

The textbooks used at all of Bishop’s schools were published by three of the most popular, and most ideologically extreme, Christian textbook companies: Abeka, Bob Jones University Press and Accelerated Christian Education. The ideas in these textbooks often flout widely accepted science and historical fact.

But the number of schools using these resources is largely unknown, even in states where they receive support from publicly funded scholarships. No state or federal organization tracks the curriculum being used in private school choice programs. The religious affiliations of schools that participate in these programs are also not always tracked.   

That means there are thousands of kids receiving an extremist and ultraconservative education at the expense of taxpayers.

Several months ago, HuffPost set out to create a database of every private school in the country that receives taxpayer funding. We also tracked the religious affiliation of each school and looked at how many taught from these evangelical Christian textbooks.

HuffPost obtained lists of schools that participate in private school choice programs around the country. We searched for the most up-to-date lists on either a state’s education or revenue department’s website.

Several states did not keep a list of which schools participate in choice programs. In those instances, we went directly to the individual scholarship granting organizations in each state. 

Our list totaled nearly 8,000 schools across the 25 of 27 states that offer private school choice along with the District of Columbia. (Two states that do not allow religious schools to participate in private school choice programs were excluded from our analysis.)

Then we researched the religious affiliations of each school by scouring each school’s website. If a school did not maintain a website, we emailed school representatives and often followed up with a phone call.  

Our analysis found that about 75 percent of voucher schools across the country are religious ― usually Christian or Catholic, with about 2 percent identifying as Jewish and 1 percent identifying as Muslim. There were gray areas: At least six schools identified as non-religious but used a curriculum created by the founder of the Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard.

Since a plurality of schools in these programs (42 percent) are non-Catholic Christian schools, we dove deeply into researching the curriculum of those schools. We searched their websites for information on curriculum sources and sent out emails to school leaders if they did not make their academic plan public.

We did not assess Catholic schools, which made up 29 percent of Christian schools, since there is already a large body of research on the outcomes of students who go to these schools. Evangelical Christian schools are newer ― many popped up only a few decades ago – and remain less scrutinized.

Indeed, we found many of the non-Catholic Christian schools (32 percent) were using Abeka, Bob Jones or ACE textbooks in at least one subject or grade.

We found that Abeka was the most popular textbook source ― used in about 27 percent of non-Catholic Christian schools ― and Accelerated Christian Education was the least popular ― used in about 5 percent of these schools. We could not definitively ascertain the curriculum used by about 2,000 Christian schools, because they did not respond to requests for information. Around 200 Christian schools told us they did not use these three textbook sources.  

With taxpayers footing the bill for religious private schools, the separation of church and state, a cornerstone of American democracy, becomes a murky line. So how did it come to be that taxpayers are footing the bill for an evangelical education?

Most states have little oversight on the curriculum used in schools that participate in private school choice programs. Some states have zero regulations on the topic. Others require private schools to follow the state’s broad-based content standards but specify little else. (Rhode Island’s stipulations appear the most strict: Curricula in private schools must be submitted and largely equivalent to what is taught in public schools.)

Additionally, private schools that participate in these programs are not typically subject to the same accountability and transparency rules as public schools, although rules vary on a state-by-state basis.

It is difficult to ascertain exactly how many students use taxpayer funds to attend schools with evangelical curricula, but we do know that over 400,000 students nationwide currently attend school using money from a voucher or tax credit program, according to the education reform group EdChoice.

Some states are more transparent than others. In Indiana, about 4,240 students received over $16 million in scholarships to attend schools that use the Abeka or Bob Jones curriculum, according to 2016-2017 figures from the Indiana Department of Education.

These numbers could soon grow. DeVos is an advocate of school choice and religious education. While she failed in her first attempt to push a federal private school choice program via the Education Department budget, she has repeatedly said she will not stop trying. 

Joshua Roberts / Reuters
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has pushed for a federal school voucher program and tax funding of religious schools.

The prospect of giving kids more access to these schools with public money is deeply upsetting to Bishop, who was recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of bullying and corporal punishment she experienced as a child. After leaving high school and getting a taste of the outside world, Bishop fell into a deep depression. When she went to job interviews, she had no idea what to say about the education she had received.

What They Learned

HuffPost spoke to nearly a dozen former students and teachers at schools that relied on Abeka, Bob Jones and Accelerated Christian Education curricula. Many of these students, who consider themselves no longer religious, reported feeling traumatized by their educational experiences. A number of them communicate with each other via online support groups for survivors of fundamentalist schools, including Bishop.

Some say these curriculum sources left them woefully ill-equipped to thrive in a diverse society while instilling in them racist, sexist and intolerant views of the world. Bishop said her fundamentalist education made her wary of people from other religious groups whom her teachers and textbooks had demonized.

“Anything that wasn’t Christianity was a strange religion,” said Bishop, who made it a priority to study other religious practices after high school and even spent time with the Hare Krishna. “But even other denominations were evil. Catholicism especially.”

Another former student who spoke to HuffPost under the pseudonym Natasha Balzak, was taught at home that all Muslims hate America, she said. Teachers at her Florida school reinforced this idea, telling students to pray for Muslims and other non-believers, like atheists and gay people.

“When it comes to hateful ideology and rhetoric, I was taught a lot of things to skew my mind into believing ― I guess you could call it brainwashing,” said Balzak, 27, who is using a pseudonym to protect the identity of family members who are still deeply involved in their church.

Balzak recalled that her school, Coral Springs Christian Academy, used a mix of ACE and Abeka materials, but the head of the school said they were not aware of the school ever using ACE and that they currently used only Abeka in lower grades for phonics.

The school participates in Florida’s three private-school choice programs and currently enrolls 172 students on these scholarships. It received $554,418 in taxpayer-funded scholarships this year, according to a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education.

A HuffPost analysis of Abeka, Bob Jones and ACE textbooks confirms the recollections of these students. These materials inaccurately portray events in Muslim and Catholic history while perpetuating anti-Semitic stereotypes. The materials speak disparagingly of Native Americans and Native culture.

The chart below details some of the inaccurate and biased perspectives in these textbooks compared with the perspective of an academic who studies these issues.

See all the schools we could confirm use one of these curriculums in our full dataset.

A Bob Jones high school world history textbook portrays Islam as a violent religion and contains a title “Islam and Murder.” In the same textbook, when describing the Catholic Reformation, Catholic leaders are described as failing “to see that the root of their problems was doctrinal error.”

When describing the concept of Manifest Destiny, the term used to describe America’s 19th century expansion westward, an ACE textbook referred to the movement essentially as spreading the gospel: “It was considered God’s will that this vastly superior American culture should spread to all corners of the North American continent,” the passage reads. “The benighted Indians would be among the many beneficiaries of God’s provision.”

David Brockman, an expert on world religions, was presented with passages from the Bob Jones and ACE textbooks. Most Protestants would likely disagree with the theological and historical narratives portrayed in the books, he said.

“The textbook simply distorts history,” wrote Brockman, a non-resident scholar at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, after examining the selections. “And given the biblical command not to bear false witness, I would question whether a distorted history is consistent with Christian teaching.”

When Balzak attended a secular college in 2009, it was a shock to the system, she said. In her first environmental science class, she learned about climate change ― a concept she had been taught was a hoax.

“When I took my first real science class, a million light bulbs went off,” said Balzak, who had only been taught creationism in school. “Everything finally made sense.”

The experience made Balzak feel robbed of a fact-based education.

Indeed, Balzak’s former school, Coral Springs Christian Academy, includes a statement of faith in its parent-student handbook, which is posted on its website: “We believe God created the entire universe out of nothing.”

The handbook also describes the school’s attitude toward LGBTQ students. It says administrators will reject applicants or expel current students if they are caught “living in, or condoning, or supporting any form of sexual immorality; practicing or promoting a homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity.” 

Coral Springs’ head of school noted that the institution had likely changed a lot since Balzak attended some years ago, although he has worked at the school for only a few years. He said that staff members do not recall the school ever relying significantly on Abeka materials, and says that the student body has become significantly more diverse,

“It’s a very different education I’m sure than 20 years ago,” said head of school Joseph Sanelli. 

But in some ways, Balzak considered herself lucky. She said her childhood wasn’t traumatic, just deeply imperfect.

Bishop didn’t have such luck.

Some of the schools Bishop attended were worse than others. She faced the greatest difficulty from ages 11 to 13, when she attended Franklin Christian Academy in Georgia.

The school appears to no longer be open, according to the Georgia Department of Education list of private schools, and a series of calls to what Bishop said was an affiliated church were not returned.

The school consisted of three rooms, Bishop recalled, with most of the school’s 30-something kids spending all day in the same classroom. The school relied on an Accelerated Christian Education curriculum currently used by at least nine private schools in Georgia that are eligible for taxpayer funds.

ACE classrooms are uniquely designed. Students sit in cubicle-like offices, with barriers separating their desks. Teachers do not lead students in lessons or discussions. Instead, students spend all day silently sifting through a succession of readings and fill-in-the-blank worksheets. When students have a question, they raise either an American or Christian flag to get the attention of a class supervisor.

A 2012 training manual for administrators obtained by HuffPost lists an education degree as a “detriment” for the job. Indeed these supervisors’ lack of qualifications was once the topic of a “Judge Judy” episode about a decade ago. 

At Bishop’s school, she dealt with intense physical bullying and verbal harassment. When she would complain about the harassment, school authorities told her to ignore it. They sometimes implied she was at fault and needed to get closer to Jesus, she said. The school did not employ professionals trained to deal with mental health issues, she added.

As a teenager she went nearly mute and thought about killing herself.

“I didn’t want to get out of bed. I did self-harm,” she said, speaking slowly and deliberately over coffee. “I just hated myself and I didn’t know what to do about it.”

It was also around that time that Bishop realized she was attracted to other girls. She repressed her feelings for decades, even spending most of her 20s married to a man.

An examination of ACE textbooks shows that its materials push strict ideas about gender roles and sexuality. Even now Bishop still sometimes finds herself shrinking in the presence of men, saying that it’s almost like “muscle memory.”

Balzak echoes these sentiments, saying that even her female teachers reinforced the idea that women are secondary to men. When describing the 1920s, a high school ACE textbook criticizes women for wearing short skirts and cutting their hair, calling it a violation of Scripture. Before the 1920s, when women were less likely to work outside the home, they “were comfortable to be discreet, chaste, keepers at house, good, obedient to their own husbands,” says the material.

School, Bishop said, made her want to give up on education. She spent some time being home-schooled, then at another Georgia school before moving to Roxboro Christian School in North Carolina. After less than two years there ― in which she spent much of her time hiding in the bathroom ― she dropped out and got her GED.

Roxboro currently participates in North Carolina’s voucher program, and representatives there confirmed that Bishop was once enrolled. The school also confirmed that they use Abeka, Bob Jones and ACE. Roxboro has received over $8,000 this year in voucher program and currently enrolls four scholarship recipients, per a report from the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority.

Two other schools Bishop attended are also eligible to receive monetary assistance via school voucher or tax credit programs. Bishop attended Beaufort Christian School in South Carolina and Neuse Christian Academy in North Carolina as a child. Beaufort Christian Academy uses materials from Abeka and ACE, per its website. A representative from the school confirmed that Bishop was once enrolled.

Neuse Christian Academy uses materials from Abeka and Bob Jones University, and it received $37,368 in scholarship money for 18 students, per the North Carolina Education Assistance Authority. The school was not able to confirm Bishop’s enrollment because it does not still have its records from that time.

How Did These Textbooks Come To Be?

Abeka, Bob Jones University Press and Accelerated Christian Education started selling textbooks in the early 1970s, a few decades before Wisconsin enacted the nation’s first voucher program. At the time, enrollment in fundamentalist Christian schools was booming. For one, recent Supreme Court decisions had banned school Bible readings and official school prayer. Groups of evangelical Protestants were alarmed.

The founders of these textbook companies dedicated their lives to pushing fundamentalist viewpoints. Abeka leaders Arlin and Beka Horton also founded Pensacola Christian College in Florida, which outlaws dancing and other “satanic practices.” They also founded Pensacola Christian Academy, a K-12 school that currently receives public funding for student scholarships via Florida’s tax credit program.

Bob Jones University Press is affiliated with Bob Jones University, which famously lost its tax-exempt status in 1983 after banning interracial dating, a policy it didn’t reverse until 2000.

Accelerated Christian Education was founded by Donald Howard, a Texas pastor. In his 1988 book, “World Awakening,” Howard describes AIDS as a plague sent down by God intended to punish gay people and other idol worshippers, like “feminists, prochoice, and Planned Parenthood advocates.”

ACE, Abeka and Bob Jones University Press leaders have largely similar educational philosophies, with a few subtle differences. The leaders of all three companies subscribe to an authoritarian vision of education in which students are taught not to question their elders. While ACE’s curriculum barely involves a teacher, Abeka’s promotes the educator as an absolute authority, per research from Binghamton University professor Adam Laats. They all have come under fire for providing children with an inadequate education. 

Amanda Lucier for HuffPost
Ashley Bishop says the evangelical Christian schools’ curricula kept her from going in directions she might have been interested in.

Eleven separate reviews of the ACE program by experts and academics have repudiated the curriculum, according to research conducted by Jonny Scaramanga at University College London.

A representative of ACE responded to one of these reviews from 1987.

“Our material is not written with conventional viewpoints in mind. We do not believe that education should be nondirective or speculative, or that the final interpretation of facts and events should be left up to immature inexperienced minds as mainline secular curricula do,” wrote a former ACE vice president at the time.

The University of California system refuses to accept certain high school courses that rely on BJU and Abeka materials for credit. The Association of Christian Schools International sued the University of California System over this issue in 2005. A judge eventually ruled in favor of the UC System.

Still, American taxpayers continue to indirectly prop up these curricula through voucher programs.

It is unclear how the proliferation of private school choice programs has affected the bottom line for these textbook companies.

Representatives of Bob Jones University Press did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Representatives of ACE did not respond to requests for comment either, however its website claims they are in 6,000 schools around the globe, although a number of experts told HuffPost that they are skeptical of this number.

A spokesperson for Abeka noted that, while the company is aware its materials are used in private schools that receive public funding, “Abeka does not advocate or encourage the use of state or federal funding for private, Christian schools.” 

“We recognize that academic scholars have differing opinions on historical/scientific content and that this frequently occurs in both public and private educational institutions as reported in the media. We are confident that our content is accurate, age appropriate, and academically rigorous,” wrote Brent Phillips, assistant to the president for business affairs, via email.

Educators Sound Off

Educators who use or are familiar with these resources told HuffPost that not all schools who use them have a fundamentalist approach. Indeed, not all schools who use these curricula are deeply religious, and they are used in a range of Christian schools.  They emphasize that the quality of these publishers’ resources differ based on subject and grade level.

Bishop said that, while her “education did not equip me to get the most basic of jobs,” she praised the rigor of Abeka and Bob Jones vocabulary and reading comprehension lessons.

(Below, a passage on slavery from an Accelerated Christian Education textbook)

Dave Moore, executive director of Pittsburgh Urban Christian School in Pennsylvania, said that he does not use any materials provided by these sources but that “Abeka has excellent elementary grammar resources.” Pittsburgh Urban Christian receives scholarship money through Pennsylvania’s school tax credit program.

“I would still use it if we didn’t already develop our own curriculum. It does such a good job of it,” said Moore of Abeka’s elementary phonics and math resources.

If his school decided to use Abeka materials, he would direct teachers to be on alert for propaganda, he said.

“We do the same thing with secular textbooks,” Moore said.

Some educators told HuffPost they are happy with the education students receive with these resources. Stephen Lindahl, assistant director of Calumet Christian School in Griffith, Indiana, disagreed with characterizations of Abeka and Bob Jones University Press as pushing a far-right worldview. His school uses Abeka materials almost exclusively for elementary school and then a mix of Abeka and Bob Jones in some later grades.

“Abeka and Bob Jones and other biblically based curriculum try to approach academics from a biblical standpoint and from a moral, ethical view, which does not necessarily push any agenda outside of an understanding of God and who Christ is,” Lindahl said.

He noted that secular textbooks, too, often come with a specific point of view.

HuffPost also reached out to multiple national school-choice advocacy groups for their responses on our findings. None of them responded, even sometimes with weeks’ notice. 

However, professors who have studied the curricula say they are dangerous tools for schools to wield.

“I want parents to know their children might be coming home with a book that looks like an ordinary textbook but the messages are not what people would ordinarily learn,” said Kathleen Wellman, a professor of history at Southern Methodist University who is working on a book about these publications. “Many universities don’t require history education, so for many Americans this will be their last exposure to history. And many students say they didn’t realize at the time how thoroughly indoctrinated they were being.”

Sometimes Bishop wonders what her life would have been like had she not attended evangelical schools. She tried taking online university courses once but dropped out after having trouble balancing academics with her job. She still thinks about trying college again from time to time but worries about the financial feasibility. 

(Below, a passage on evolution from an Accelerated Christian Education textbook)

Growing up, her schools had never offered outlets for her interest in art or dance ― things that she maybe would have wanted to explore. The only thing she ever remembers wanting to do was perform, a far cry from her current job, working in the produce department of a grocery store. The only career paths presented to her revolved around the church.

“It would be kind of different if I was at a school that allowed me to head in a direction I wanted to go,” said Bishop, who lights up when talking about the dance classes she has taken as an adult. “I didn’t really get that chance.”

Kaeli Subberwal contributed to this report. Data and graphics by Alissa Scheller. Animation by Isabella Carapella. 

This is the first piece in a HuffPost investigation on the policies and curriculum of schools that participate in private school choice programs.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/school-voucher-evangelical-education-betsy-devos_us_5a021962e4b04e96f0c6093c

Passenger who lost seat to Rep. @JacksonLeeTX18 to United: ‘show me proof!’; Lee plays the race card

It’s a slow news week and it looks like this story of a passenger accusing United Airlines of giving away her first class seat to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas isn’t going away anytime fast.

As we told you yesterday, United claims that the passenger, Jean-Marie Simon, cancelled her reservation using an app on her phone. Simon responded yesterday with, “show me proof!”:

Read more: https://twitchy.com/gregp-3534/2017/12/27/passenger-who-lost-seat-to-rep-jacksonleetx18-to-united-show-me-proof-lee-plays-the-race-card/

Lil Peep Died From An Overdose Of Fentanyl And Xanax, His Toxicology Report Confirms

Investigators have

And more importantly, investigators can now confirm that the cause of death came from “the combined toxic effects of fentanyl and alprazolam,” according to reports out first this afternoon in TMZ.

Alprazolam is a generic form of Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug.

Toxicology also found that there were a LOT of other drugs in Lil Peep’s system, too. In all, he tested positive for cocaine, marijuana, and the painkiller Tramadol in his blood, with his urine testing positive for all of those drugs plus a few opiates, including Hydrocodone, Dilaudid, and Oxycodone among others.

Related: AC/DC Guitarist Malcolm Young Has Died At 64

Wow.

Interestingly, there was no alcohol in Lil Peep’s system at the time of his death.

Sad, scary stuff to cap what is still such a devastating story.

[Image via Instagram.]

Read more: http://perezhilton.com/2017-12-08-lil-peep-cause-of-death-overdose-accidental-fentanyl-xanax-drugs-system-toxicology

They Abandoned Their Dog when He Needed Them Most, But He Just Got A New Lease On Life

When we accept pets into our lives, it’s supposed to be for better or for worse.

Whether it’s behavioral issues or health problems, once you’ve committed to an animal, you’re supposed to follow through on that commitment. It’s not something that should be thrown out the window lightly.

Unfortunately, there are people out there who don’t take pet ownership seriously enough, and that can lead to issues when a pup is injured. It seems crazy that someone would abandon a dog in their time of need, but shelters see this kind of cruelty all the time. That’s how they found themselves with Tiger, a chihuahua mix with a heck of a story.

Tiger had a slipped disc in his spine, and he underwent a difficult and expensive surgery called a hemilaminectomy while under the care of his previous owners. The doctor warned them that Tiger would need some time to recover, but they soon abandoned Tiger.

After just nine days, the owners wanted Tiger to be euthanized because he still couldn’t walk and needed to be assisted when urinating and defecating. The surgeon insisted that he just needed more recovery time and created a temporary wheelchair out of PVC pipe, but the owners insisted he be put to sleep. They had a newborn on the way and didn’t have the resources to deal with a handicapped dog.

The veterinary hospital contacted The Fuzzy Pet Foundation, begging them to help, and they were able to get the owners to sign over Tiger to the rescue group. Tiger was going to be safe and cared for!

The Fuzzy Pet Foundation has been raising money on GoFundMe for Tiger’s permanent wheelchair. His prognosis is good. He’s no longer in pain, and he’s living a happy and healthy life. He may even walk on his own again, but only time will tell.

Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/wheelchair-chihuahua/