TIME Aviation

What We Know So Far About the Germanwings Plane Crash

'I would say that if one person kills himself and also 149 people another word should be used, not suicide'

Officials said Thursday that the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 appears to be a deliberate act by a co-pilot who locked himself in the cockpit and flew the plane into a mountain. All 150 people aboard were killed when the jet crashed into the French Alps on Tuesday.

Here’s everything we know so far about the unfolding tragedy:

What exactly happened on the day of the flight?

Germanwings Flight 9525, an Airbus A320, departed Barcelona en route to Dusseldorf on Tuesday morning. Around 30 minutes into the flight, the plane had reached a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet when it began to descend rapidly at a rate of 3,000 feet per minute. Ten minutes later, the plane crashed in a remote area of the French Alps. Initially thought to be a tragic accident, investigators now suspect the crash was a “deliberate” act by the co-pilot.

How did investigators reach that conclusion?

The plane’s black box audio recording, recovered from the wreckage, documents the pilot knocking loudly on the cockpit door as the plane descended. The co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, can reportedly be heard breathing on the recording but did nothing to open the door. Screams can reportedly also be heard on the recording in the moments before the impact. Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin, who has played a key role in the investigation, said Thursday that the incident was due to the “voluntary action of the co-pilot.” It remains unclear whether the pilot tried to reenter the cockpit using a security code, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said at a news conference.

Who was the co-pilot?

Andreas Lubitz from Montabaur, Germany, had control of the plane at the time of the crash. The 27-year-old was a lifelong aviation enthusiast who joined a local flying club as a teenager, where he would eventually receive his flying license. He signed up with German carrier Lufthansa’s pilot program in 2008 and trained in Germany and Arizona. Spohr said Lubitz took a several-month-long break from training, but re-entered the program without issue. Germany’s Bild newspaper reported that Lubitz had spent the time in psychiatric treatment.

Lubitz joined Germanwings as a pilot in 2013 and temporarily worked as a flight attendant while waiting for an opening as a co-pilot. He had 630 flight hours on the A320 under his belt at the time of the crash, making him a relative rookie.

Was it suicide, terrorism or something else?

Investigators have said unambiguously that they believe the crash to be “deliberate,” but have declined to go much further — and have avoided calling an act that killed 149 others a suicide. Lubitz had no known link to terrorism, Robin said. None of the passengers had connections to terrorist organizations either, according German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière. Documents uncovered by German officials in a raid of Lubitz’s house suggest that he may have suffered from mental illness and hid it from his employer. Investigators found a sick note for the day of the crash that had been torn up. Another document indicated that aviation authorities required him to undergo regular medical checkups, though it’s not clear whether for mental or physical health issues.

Still, not everyone is holding the co-pilot responsible just yet; German pilots told TIME that it’s premature to blame Lubitz before a full inquiry has been completed. Even though the investigators said the crash was intentional, they admitted having no idea about a potential motive. “We have no indication what could have led the co-pilot to commit this terrible act,” Spohr said.

Do regulations exist to prevent a pilot doing this?

On U.S. airlines, a flight attendant must enter the cockpit when either the pilot or co-pilot leaves for whatever reason. Since Tuesday’s crash, at least five airlines—including Germanwings parent company Lufthansa—have announced they would adopt new rules for cockpits.

Does the airline have a decent safety record?

Germanwings, a low-cost carrier wholly owned by German airline Lufthansa, operates throughout Europe and has maintained a clean safety record since its founding in 1997. None of its airplanes had been involved in a crash prior to this week, the company said.

And what about the aircraft?

The A320 has a reputation as a workhorse for commercial airlines, carrying passengers around the world on medium-range routes. Crashes are not unknown; an A320 operated by AirAsia crashed into the Java Sea in January, and a U.S. Airways A320 made the famous “miracle on the Hudson” crash landing in 2009. But before you read too much into that, aviation experts say the A320 is among the safest planes in the sky. Only 11 of the model’s nearly 80 million flights since it entered service in the 1980s have been fatal, according to Air Safe. That’s six times fewer than the Boeing 747, for example.

Who was aboard?

The flight carried 144 passengers and 6 crew members. About half of the people aboard were German, and 25% of the passengers were Spanish. At least 13 other countries are represented in the remaining passengers, including three Americans—mother and daughter Yvonne and Emily Selke from Virginia, and Robert Oliver Calvo, an American citizen born in Barcelona. Also among the dead were 16 German high schoolers, a newlywed couple, and a pair of renowned opera singers. Death was instantaneous for the passengers aboard, Robin, the Marseille prosecutor, said on Thursday.

What might happen next?

There are still plenty of questions to be answered; it’s unclear whether the pilot locked outside the cockpit entered a code to get back in or whether Lubitz manually prevented him from entering. FBI investigators have joined the inquiry into the crash, alongside German, French and Spanish officials. Late Thursday night, a team of investigators searched the co-pilot’s Montabaur home and emerged with several bags, a large cardboard box and what appeared to be a computer. Meanwhile, the search goes on, high in the French Alps, for a second “black box” flight data recorder that might be able to reveal more about the plane’s final moments.

Read next: How Pilots Are Screened for Depression and Suicide

TIME National Security

National Guard Soldier Arrested For Trying To Join ISIS

His cousin, accused of plotting an attack on a U.S. military base, was also arrested Wednesday

A National Guard soldier and his cousin have been arrested in Illinois for attempting to join the Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria (ISIS), the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Hasan Edmonds, a 22-year-old member of the Army National Guard, had planned to travel to Egypt and team up with the Islamist militant group, according to a criminal complaint filed on Wednesday. Hasan’s cousin Jonas Edmonds, 29, is accused of intending to use information provided by his cousin to carry out an attack on the U.S. military facility in Illinois where Hasan had been training. The FBI said it learned of the plan when Jonas asked an uncover agent to help carry out the attack. Jonas allegedly told the agent he would provide uniforms and information about the base.

Hasan was arrested at Chicago Midway International Airport Wednesday evening where the FBI said he planned to begin the first leg his journey. Jonas Edmonds was arrested at his home in Aurora, Ill.

“We will pursue and prosecute with vigor those who support ISIL and its agenda of ruthless violence,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon in a press release, using an alternate abbreviation for ISIS. “Anyone who threatens to harm our citizens and allies, whether abroad or here at home, will face the full force of justice.”

The cousins had described their plans to an undercover FBI officer, the complaint says. Both were charged with conspiracy to provide support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization.

Read more: U.S. Intel Chief: Roughly 40 Americans Have Returned From Syria

 

TIME justice

U.S. Agents Attended ‘Sex Parties’ Funded by Colombian Drug Cartels, Report Says

Some of the DEA officers may have received expensive gifts from the drug cartel

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers participated in “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels while on assignment in Colombia, according to allegations in a new report.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) report, a review of sexual misconduct allegations at several law enforcement agencies, cited widespread missteps at the agencies, including the failure of supervisors to report misconduct, inadequate guidelines for handling some behavior and a resistance to cooperating with DOJ requests.

The “sex parties” in particular were listed as an example of weak security operations at the DEA. Some of the DEA officers may have received expensive gifts from the drug cartel, the report found. Ten DEA officers admitted that they had attended the parties and were suspended for a period that ranged from 2 to 10 days. Despite the punishment, the officers did not have to undergo a review of their security clearance, according to the report.

The report also said that agencies need to clarify rules on whether officers can patronize prostitutes in countries where the practice is legal or tolerated.

“When employees of law enforcement components commit sexual misconduct or sexual harassment…it affects the component’s reputation, undermines its credibility, and potentially compromises the government’s efforts in prosecutions,” the report reads.

The DEA referred questions on Thursday to the Justice Department.

DOJ commissioned the investigation in 2012 in response to allegations regarding DEA officers’ use of prostitutes. At the time, Secret Service officers were also under fire for similar behavior.

TIME Television

Watch Ricky Gervais as Derek in Trailer for Netflix Special

The British series ran for two full seasons

After two seasons on the show Derek, Ricky Gervais is bidding farewell to his role as a quirky retirement home employee in a Netflix special.

“It always seems to be two series and a special. I did it with The Office, Extras, Idiot Abroad and now Derek,” Gervais told The Hollywood Reporter. “The way I write and the way I develop characters and the overall arc, that seems to be the optimum length for me.”

The special, which has already aired in the United Kingdom, hits Netflix in the United States on April 3.

Read More: Here’s What’s Coming to Netflix in April

TIME Tech

More Messages Are Now Sent on Apps Than Through Text

The ten most popular messaging apps have a total of more than 3 billion accounts

More messages are now sent via messaging app WhatsApp than through SMS texts, according to data from The Economist. WhatsApp handles 30 billion messages each day, compared to 20 billion sent through SMS texts.

The data hints at the growing significance of messaging apps in the tech world. The ten most popular messaging apps have a total of more than 3 billion accounts. To guarantee a large share of the market, Facebook purchased WhatsApp for $22 billion last year.

WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app with more than 600 million users. Facebook messenger and WeChat follow, each with more than 400 million users.

Last year, WhatsApp users sent more than 7 trillion messages.

[The Economist]

TIME Kazakhstan

Doctors Can’t Explain Why People in Kazakhstan Are Falling Asleep For Days

A town's residents will fall asleep suddenly for a period lasting from two to six days and wake up with memory loss

Two years since a mysterious sleeping disorder in Siberia picked up steam, doctors appear to be no closer to figuring out why residents of a remote area in Kazakhstan are falling asleep without warning for days at a time, according to reports from the Siberian Times.

The ailment has affected hundreds people living nearby a uranium mine in the Kazakh village of Kalachi. The town’s residents will fall asleep suddenly for a period lasting from two to six days and wake up with memory loss.

Experts have conducted thousands of tests on patients as well as on local soil and water to determine the cause of the disorder but have come to few conclusions, according to the Siberian Times. Despite the location, tests have not found high radiation levels.

Sergei Lukashenko, the director of Kazakhstan’s National Nuclear Centre’s Radiation Safety and Ecology Institute, told the Siberian Times that he is “positive this is not radon” and speculated that carbon monoxide may contribute to the problem.

“We have some suspicions as the village has a peculiar location and weather patterns frequently force chimney smoke to go down instead of up,” he said. Carbon monoxide is a key contaminant in smoke.

Many of the town’s residents have left the village and officials say that it will be closed off in May. A Russian professor investigating the ailment told Newsweek earlier this month that it could spread.

Read next: Heavy Rains Wreak Havoc in Northern Chile, One of the Driest Places on Earth

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TIME Aging

Why NYC Wants to Put Old People to Work

'Many of the older adults that we speak with want and need to work'

A skilled-labor shortage has left small businesses across the country scrambling to fill positions and New York City health organizations say there’s a simple solution: hire older workers.

“Hiring, retaining and using older workers strategically can solve a variety of pressing problems that employers in our city face,” said Shauneequa Owusu, a health policy expert at the New York Academy of Medicine, which co-produced a new report with the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center at Columbia University and the Mayor’s office’s Age-Friendly New York City.

Read more: The New Age of Much Older Age

The report, published Wednesday, suggests that workers 55 or older can bring skill and expertise while only requiring minimal adjustment on the part of small businesses (technology training can get older workers up to speed quickly, the report found). At the same time, research suggests the workplace can benefit from age diversity, too. “There is evidence that mixed age teams in the workplace are more productive than teams of workers of the same age,” the authors write.

“Many of the older adults that we speak with want and need to work. Furthermore, there’s growing evidence that it’s helpful to their healthy aging and wellbeing to continue working,” said report author Ruth Finkelstein at Columbia’s aging center. Recent research points to a clear association between being employed and improved mental, physical and emotional health, she said.

The finding comes as more and more Americans want to avoid a traditional work-free retirement. According to the new research, 700,000 workers are older than 55 in New York City alone, and many say they do not plan to retire conventionally.

TIME Smoking

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Tobacco

cigarette pack smoking kills
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Smokers lit up more than 5.8 trillion cigarettes in 2014

Despite killing 6 million people each year, tobacco use is still rampant worldwide, according to the new edition of the Tobacco Atlas, a report from the American Cancer Society and the World Lung Foundation. Drawn from the report, here are five startling tobacco facts worth knowing.

Smokers lit up more than 5.8 trillion cigarettes in 2014.

People have consistently been smoking fewer and fewer cigarettes for the last several decades in Europe and the Americas, but that improvement has been offset by growth of cigarette consumption in China. The average adult there smoked more than 2,000 cigarettes in 2014.

Tobacco kills at least half of its users.

People tend to think that lung cancer is responsible for tobacco-related deaths. It’s true: the disease kills more than a million smokers around the world every year. But lung cancer is just one of many tobacco-related ailments that can kill. Stroke, heart attack, bronchitis and emphysema are other top killers. And even if a smoker doesn’t get a disease caused by tobacco, smoking reduces the chances of surviving other conditions.

The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars annually promoting itself.

From charitable donations to lobbying, the tobacco industry spends heavily to win over users and supporters. In the United States, for instance, the tobacco industry has more than 150 lobbyists in Washington at an annual cost of more than $26 million, the report notes, and companies also donate millions to charities to improve their public image. But all of that pales in comparison to the money spent on traditional marketing campaigns, like billboards and magazine advertisements. The tobacco industry spends $900,000 every hour on advertising in the U.S., the report says—so if you spend five minutes reading this article, the tobacco industry will have spent $75,000 on marketing.

Cigarette manufacturers target the already vulnerable.

As people in developed nations like the U.S. increasingly realize the risks of smoking, the tobacco industry has invested resources in getting people in the developing world to adopt the habit. Faced with less regulation, the report says, marketing feeds the perception that smoking is not only “cool” but also provides health benefits. Smokers often ignore essentials to pay for their cigarette habit, finds the report. In high-income countries like Canada and France, nearly a third of male smokers are spending money on cigarettes and skimping on essentials like food. Nearly three-quarters of male smokers do the same in middle-income countries like Brazil and Thailand.

Regulation and public awareness campaigns have worked.

The report found some good news, too: a combination of regulation and public awareness can decrease the prevalence of smoking. Cigarette tax increases, for example, have been shown to improve the odds that smokers will quit and discourage people from picking up the practice in the first place. Other efforts like public smoking bans and restrictions on advertising have also had success, the authors say. In New York City, where these practices have been adopted, the prevalence of smoking has declined by a third.

Read next: Watch John Oliver Burn Big Tobacco

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TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Why Loneliness May Be the Next Big Public-Health Issue

Loneliness solitude
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Living alone is linked with increased chance of mortality

Loneliness kills. That’s the conclusion of a new study by Brigham Young University researchers who say they are sounding the alarm on what could be the next big public-health issue, on par with obesity and substance abuse.

The subjective feeling of loneliness increases risk of death by 26%, according to the new study in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Social isolation — or lacking social connection — and living alone were found to be even more devastating to a person’s health than feeling lonely, respectively increasing mortality risk by 29% and 32%.

“This is something that we need to take seriously for our health,” says Brigham Young University researcher Julianne Holt-Lunstad, an author of the study. “This should become a public-health issue.”

The researchers emphasized the difference between the subjective, self-reported feeling of loneliness and the objective state of being socially isolated. Both are potentially damaging, the study found. People who say they are alone but feel happy are at increased risk of death, as are those who have many social connections but say they are lonely. People who are both objectively isolated and subjectively lonely may be at the greatest risk of death, says Holt-Lunstad, though she notes that more data would be needed to know with certainty.

“If we just tell people to interact with more people, that might solve the social-isolation issue, but it might not solve the loneliness issue,” she said. “I think we need to acknowledge that both of these components are important.”

MORE: You Asked: How Many Friends Do I Need?

Many social scientists say technology and housing trends are increasing the risk of loneliness. More Americans are living alone than ever before, and technology like texting and social media has made it easier to avoid forming substantive relationships in the flesh and blood. Yet research shows that relationships can improve health in a variety of ways, by helping us manage stress, improving the functioning of the immune system and giving meaning to people’s lives.

Holt-Lunstad says that maintaining meaningful and close relationships, as well as a “diverse set of social connections” is key. Policy interventions for loneliness may be more difficult to imagine but could range from encouraging doctors to identify at-risk patients to rethinking the way neighborhoods are designed, Holt-Lunstad says.

“People’s response is oftentimes to say, ‘What are you going to do, tell everybody to give someone a hug?'” she says. “But there are many potential ways in which this could be implemented.”

Read next: 7 Timeless Ways to Be Happy at Any Age

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TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Workplace Suicide Is a Small But Growing Issue: Study

40,000 Americans die of suicide in the U.S. every year

People with protective services job, like police and firemen, are at more than three times great a risk of workplace suicide than people in the general population, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Workplace suicide represents a small fraction of the total number of U.S. suicide deaths—more than 40,000 Americans died of suicide in the U.S. in 2013, on par with traffic accidents deaths. Still, the rate of work place suicide is rising across the board, the study found.

“Occupation can largely define a person’s identity, and psychological risk factors for suicide, such as depression and stress, can be affected by the workplace,” said Hope M. Tiesman, an epidemiologist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, in a statement. The paper, which evaluated 2003-2010 data from a occupational injury database, found that more than 1,700 people died while on the job during the eight-year period. The study did not include data from active military personnel.

Farming and related professions fall directly behind protective service workers in workplace suicide risk, followed by maintenance workers and transportation laborers like truck drivers.

Access to the means to commit suicide at work was among the most important factors that explain the disparate suicide risk, researchers said. Firearms were involved in 84% of workplace suicides of protective service workers. Firearms are used in about half of overall suicides. Frequent exposure to high-stress situations may also contribute to the high rate of workplace suicide for these particular professions, researchers said.

Read More: This Bill Could Help Reduce the Risk of Veteran Suicide

The results suggest that policymakers should pay closer attention to addressing mental health issues in the workplace, researchers said. “Suicide is a multifactorial outcome and therefore multiple opportunities to intervene in an individual’s life—including the workplace—should be considered,” said Tiesman.

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