TIME Aviation

Air France Flight Had a Close Call With a Volcano

Passengers were said to be unaware of the incident

An Air France flight flew a little too close to an African volcano earlier this month.

Flight AF 953 was traveling on May 2 from Malabo in Equatorial Guinea to Douala, Cameroon, and according to Air France the pilots aimed to avoid a storm by taking a route close to Mount Cameroon. The plane’s proximity to the active volcano set off an alarm, and according to CNN, the pilots quickly responded by flying from 9,000 feet to 13,000 feet. The passengers were said to be unaware of the incident.

Air France says its pilots undergo regular training for this type of scenario. The company is conducting an internal investigation, and is supplying its crews with more specifics on how to land near Douala.

“Air France’s priority is to ensure the highest safety standards in all circumstances,” the company said in a statement. “Air France has always chosen the best equipment for flight safety and places great importance on the monitoring of its crews.”

TIME animals

Cow Bolts From Slaughterhouse Only to Be Killed Near McDonald’s

Cincinnati police won't be investigating the matter

A cow that had apparently broken out of a slaughterhouse on Wednesday morning has met its death, authorities in Cincinnati said.

The animal escaped the Tri State Beef Co, causing at least one passerby to document its freedom on social media.

The meat wholesaler followed the cow, which police described to Cincinnati.com as “confused” and “nervous,” eventually killing it near a McDonald’s.

Police said there were no injuries as a result of the incident and that there would be no investigation into the matter.

TIME Research

How to Know If Your Birth Control Pill Is a Risk for Blood Clots

TIME.com stock photos Birth Control Pills
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

See which brands contain ingredients that may be more harmful than not

It’s been known for quite some time that the Pill may increase a woman’s risk for blood clots, but the risk is thought to be low. As TIME reported on Tuesday, the study showed that women on the Pill had around a three times higher risk of blood clots compared to women who weren’t using the oral contraceptives. The risk appeared to be greater for women taking newer versions of the hormone progestogen, including drospirenone, desogestrel, gestodene and cyproterone. Older versions of the hormone, including levonorgestrel and norethisterone, had better results. You can read more here about why these versions may have a higher risk.

So, how do you know if your birth control pills contain ingredients that might be more harmful than not? Drospirenone and desogestrel are both approved for use in the U.S., and can be used in combination with other ingredients. We broke down which birth control brands contain them, according to approval data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Gestodene and cyproterone are currently not approved for use in contraceptives in the states. There may also be other brands of the contraceptives that contain these ingredients available in other countries.

Drospirenone
Angeliq
Beyaz
Loryna
Nikki
Safyral
Syeda
Yaela
Yasmin
Yaz

Desogestrel
Cyclessa
Desogen
Emoquette
Enskyce
Kariva
Kimidess
Mircette
Ortho-Cept
Pimtrea
Velivet
Viorele

Read next: Why the Best Form of Birth Control Is the One No One Uses

TIME Infectious Disease

Pentagon Accidentally Sends Live Anthrax to Multiple Labs

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Getty Images Anthrax bacteria. Light micrograph of a section through tissue infected with anthrax bacteria (Bacillus anthracis). These Gram-positive bacteria (small red rods) are seen with cells (blue) with oval red nuclei. Commonly a livestock infection, B. anthracis

Officials say there is no risk to the public

The Pentagon acknowledged Wednesday that samples of live anthrax were unintentionally mailed to labs in nine states and South Korea, as officials had believed that the samples were dead.

Col. Steve Warren, the Pentagon’s acting press secretary, told reporters there were no suspected or confirmed cases of infection and no risk to the public, according to ABC News. Anthrax can cause severe illness and even death among people who come in contact with it; dead anthrax samples can be used for research.

The samples were apparently shipped from Dugway Proving Ground in Utah on April 30 to a military lab in Maryland, then distributed to labs in nine states. After a lab in Maryland found out their package included live samples, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was alerted.

The CDC and the Department of Defense are working together to investigate the matter.

[ABC News]

TIME Research

FAA Will Study Pilots’ Mental Health

A committee will provide recommendations within six months

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Wednesday it would study the mental and emotional health of pilots, a move that comes more than two months after investigators say a German pilot flew a commercial jet into the French Alps, killing all 150 people aboard.

While pilots are required to undergo medical screenings with agency-approved physicians once or twice a year, the study was recommended in the wake of tragedies like the crash Germanwings Flight 9525 in March and the early 2014 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the Indian Ocean.

The FAA said in a statement that the Pilot Fitness Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC)—to be comprised of government members and aviation experts, as well as medical professionals whose specialty is aerospace medicine—will look into awareness and reporting practices for emotional and mental issues among pilots. The committee, which will also probe the procedures used to evaluate mental health issues and any barriers to reporting them, will provide the FAA with recommendations within six months.

“Based on the group’s recommendations,” according to the statement, “the FAA may consider changes to medical methods, aircraft design, policies and procedures, pilot training and testing, training for Aerospace Medical Examiners, or potential actions that may be taken by professional, airline, or union groups.”

Read next: German Privacy Laws Let Pilot ‘Hide’ His Illness From Employers

TIME Infectious Disease

Hookup Apps May Be to Blame for Rhode Island’s Spike in STDs

Social media and hookup sites are contributing to the "epidemic"

Rhode Island is currently experiencing what health experts are calling an “epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases”—and hookup apps may be partially to blame, officials said.

From 2013 to 2014, infections of syphilis increased 79%, gonorrhea cases went up 30% and new HIV cases increased by about 33%, according to data released by the Rhode Island Department of Health.

The agency noted that the uptick could be sparked by better medical testing and more people having their STDs checked out and reported. However, the agency also acknowledged the role of high-risk behaviors, including “using social media to arrange casual and often anonymous sexual encounters, having sex without a condom, having multiple sex partners, and having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” the agency wrote in a health alert.

Overall, the rates of HIV/AIDS and syphilis transmission were greater among populations of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. The rates of all STDs in the state were also higher among African-American, Hispanic, and young adult populations, the agency reported.

The health department said the uptick is indicative of a national increase in STDs.

TIME ebola

Did Authorities Use the Wrong Approach to Stop Ebola?

A health worker takes the temperature of a travelers at a highway checkpoint in Liberia on on Jan. 29, 2015.
John Moore—Getty Images A health worker takes the temperature of a travelers at a highway checkpoint in Liberia on on Jan. 29, 2015.

A new study suggests there was a better way to respond to the Ebola outbreak

It’s known that the response to the most recent Ebola outbreak, which as of Tuesday had infected more than 27,000 people and killed 11,130, was far too slow. Now, a new study suggests that even once they got started, their approach to curbing the spread wasn’t the most efficient or effective.

One of the staples of infectious disease outbreak responses was contact tracing: finding everyone who comes in direct contact with a sick person. And it makes sense that health authorities would employ that in this outbreak, since it’s proven in the past to be an effective way to contain the spread of a virus. However, experts at the New England Complex Systems Institute released new research Tuesday that argues contact tracing wasn’t the best approach.

Yaneer Bar-Yam, founding president of the Institute, and his colleagues conducted in-depth mathematical simulations that found that a community-wide response that monitors entire groups of people—rather than tracking down individuals who may or may not have been exposed to the virus via an infected person they had contact with—could have been more efficient.

In the simulations, the researchers accounted for a wide variety of factors and ultimately concluded that a response that focused on community-wide monitoring—for instance, going door-to-door to check on people in a given area as well implementing travel restrictions—would have been more effective than tracking down contacts of infected people one by one. The objective of a community response, they write, is to progressively limit the disease to smaller and smaller geographical areas, while simultaneously sending in resources.

“You treat the whole community as if it might have been in contact with someone,” says Bar-Yam. “Trying to figure out who [an infected person] was in contact with doesn’t make as much sense—and it’s not as cost effective as saying, ‘Well, everyone may have been in contact with these people, so we better check all of them.'”

One of the most telling parts of Bar-Yam’s study was when the researchers looked at what happens when people do not comply with the health guidelines that are put in place to curb an outbreak. After all, no matter how many times people are told what to do, it’s hard to persuade them to stay away from public areas, for instance, or to avoid travel to at-risk places. They found that community-wide monitoring is successful at ending the outbreak even if there’s only 40% compliance.

“You will save more lives if you have higher conformity,” says Bar-Yam of community monitoring, adding that, “from the macro picture you’re stopping the epidemic very rapidly.”

NECSI

The Key to Liberia Being Ebola Free?

In mid-September 2014 in Liberia, cases of Ebola started to drop significantly. It’s unclear why, but the authors note that around that time, a community-wide approach to stopping the spread of Ebola was taken in Liberia.

Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report on how it controlled the final cluster, and noted that the response included community-based approaches. And in a report on how Liberia got to zero cases, the WHO writes:

One of the first signs that the outbreak might be turned around appeared in September 2014, when cases in Lofa county, Ebola’s initial epicentre, began to decline after a peak of more than 150 cases a week in mid-August. Epidemiologists would later link that decline to a package of interventions, with community engagement playing a critical role.

In Lofa, staff from the WHO country office moved from village to village, challenging chiefs and religious leaders to take charge of the response. Community task forces were formed to create house-to-house awareness, report suspected cases, call health teams for support, and conduct contact tracing.

“I don’t know how difficult it would have been to implement it earlier,” says Bar-Yam. “Everyone kept saying, ‘Contact tracing is the tried-and-true right way to do this.'” Indeed, since contact tracing has been shown in numerous outbreaks in the past to be effective means of disease containment, that was the de facto strategy in west Africa during this Ebola outbreak.

This study alone cannot prove that health authorities and volunteers were misguided in their use of contact tracing.

Is It Either/Or?

The CDC declined to comment about the paper specifically, but spoke to TIME about the agency’s use of contact tracing and community monitoring. “When you are able to understand the connections [between people], while imperfect, you understand who is most likely to be infected and you are able to follow them,” says Jonathan Yoder, an epidemiologist with the CDC who responded to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. “At the end, it was really important that nothing was missed. One contact can start a whole other outbreak. I don’t know that it’s one or the other. I think the approach of engaging communities is really important.”

Bar-Yam says his work shows that there is an alternative approach to contact tracing alone, and that it appears to work—possibly more quickly than contact tracing, if done early enough.

The paper also underlines the importance of being nimble when it comes to dealing with outbreaks of infectious diseases like Ebola. “Everyone thinks in terms of statistics of prior events. Everyone looks at prior history and says ‘What are we going to be able to expect in the future based on what happened in the past?’” says Bar-Yam.

TIME Research

Do LSD and Magic Mushrooms Have a Place In Medicine?

97358355
Getty Images

Experts say it's hard to do research on the drugs under their current status

LSD and magic mushrooms are illegal for recreational use, but some medical experts see major benefits from the drugs. In a commentary published in the journal The BMJ on Tuesday, a London-based psychiatrist argues in favor of legally reclassifying the drugs so that they can more easily be used in medical research.

In his paper, James Rucker, a psychiatrist and honorary lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, argues that psychedelic drugs like LSD are less harmful and addictive than other controlled drugs like cocaine or heroin. But strict restrictions on the drugs make it difficult to conduct medical trials, he says.

Rucker writes that psychedelic drugs were frequently used in clinical research until they became classified as schedule 1 drugs—considered the most dangerous, and which aren’t used medically—in the UK in the late 1960s. “Hundreds of papers, involving tens of thousands of patients, presented evidence for their use as psychotherapeutic catalysts of mentally beneficial change in many psychiatric disorders, problems of personality development, recidivistic behavior, and existential anxiety,” Rucker writes.

It’s now challenging for researchers to conduct research on the drugs, largely due to stigma, cost and reluctance of funders to back such research. “These restrictions, and the accompanying bureaucracy, mean that the cost of clinical research using psychedelics is 5-10 times that of research into less restricted (but more harmful) drugs such as heroin—with no prospect that the benefits can be translated into wider medical practice,” argues Rucker.

Though Rucker is based in the UK, the United States has similar restrictions. According to the Atlantic, the world of research has in recent years seen a revival of interest in studying these drugs, but there’s currently no legislation to reclassify LSD and psilocybin, the main ingredient in magic mushrooms, for medical purposes.

Rucker says that in controlled settings like research laboratories, there’s little evidence to suggest that these can be harmful. But such drugs can be abused, and there’s some evidence to suggest that they can lead to health consequences that range from increased heart rate and nausea to memory loss among people who have abused the drugs for a long time.

“Importantly, and unlike most other drugs, the effects of hallucinogens are highly variable and unreliable, producing different effects in different people at different times,” the National Institutes of Health writes on its website. “Because of their unpredictable nature, the use of hallucinogens can be particularly dangerous.”

More research is needed to determine the safety and medical potential of psychedelic drugs —but in the UK, only four hospitals hold the expensive license necessary to conduct research on schedule 1 drugs, Rucker says.

TIME Research

Living at High Altitudes May Increase SIDS Risk, Study Says

A new study looks at how residential altitude affects newborns

A new study suggests babies that live at high altitudes may be at a greater risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) compared to infants living at lower altitudes.

Each year, around 3,500 infants under age one die unexpectedly in the United States. Still, public health experts remain uncertain for why SIDS occurs.

In a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers sought to determine whether altitude might play a role in SIDS risk. The researchers looked at residential altitude of over 393,000 Colorado infants, as well as their birth and death certificate data between 2007 and 2012.

After accouting for a variety of complicating factors, the researchers found that babies that lived above 8,000 feet had slightly over double the risk of experiencing SIDS compared to infants that lived under 6,000 feet.

The study did not determine why higher altitudes might increase the risk, but others have suggested that hypoxia, not having enough oxygen, may play a role in SIDS. Researchers suggest the findings should be kept in mind when coaching new parents.

TIME movies

Chris Pratt Preemptively Apologizes For Offending You in the Future

'I'm just dumb. Plan and simple,' the actor wrote in a note to fans ahead of a promotional tour for his forhcoming Jurassic Park reboot

Actor Chris Pratt posted an apology to Facebook this weekend to apologize in advance for any offensive comments he may unintentionally make on his Jurassic Park press tour.

“I hope you understand it was never my intention to offend anyone and I am truly sorry. I swear. I’m the nicest guy in the world. And I fully regret what I (accidentally will have) said in (the upcoming foreign and domestic) interview(s),” he said in the post.

Pratt says he isn’t making excuses. “I am just dumb. Plain and simple.” he writes.

“To those I (will have) offended please understand how truly sorry I already am. I am fully aware that the subject matter of my imminent forthcoming mistake, a blunder (possibly to be) dubbed “JurassicGate” is (most likely) in no way a laughing matter,” Pratt wrote.

Early this month, Avengers: Age of Ultron stars Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans made unwanted headlines during this press tour when they called their co-star Scarlett Johansson‘s character Black Widow a “slut” in an interview.

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