this is terrifying
March 13, 2019

Deadly crashes were far from the first time federal aviation officials heard concerns with Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes.

The airplane model has been the subject of investigations and country-wide bans after a second plane crashed Sunday, killing everyone onboard. But in the months prior, at least five pilots reported serious safety issues with the MAX 8 to a federal database, The Dallas Morning News first reported.

A new Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed in October shortly after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia, killing all 189 people onboard, and a preliminary probe suggested the plane's anti-stall technology may had led to the crash. The Federal Aviation Administration issued a warning about the system, but one scathing report from a pilot said that wasn't enough.

In the report submitted to the federal database, the pilot characterized the 737 MAX 8's flight mechanisms as "jury rigging," and said it was "unconscionable that a manufacturer, the FAA, and the airlines" would let pilots fly such a "highly complex" plane without extensive training, Politico details. The flight manual provided "criminally insufficient" information, the anonymous pilot also said. Other pilots detailed issues with the plane's autopilot system, all occurring right as the plane climbed after takeoff.

The second Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday involved a brand new plane and a pilot with an "excellent flying record." It also crashed right after takeoff, killing all 157 passengers and crew members. An FAA spokesperson told The Dallas Morning News that "thus far, our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft." Boeing has similarly defended the model's safety. Read more about what was in the complaints at The Dallas Morning News. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 17, 2018

Police across the country are on the lookout for Lois Riess, accused of murdering her husband in Minnesota and a woman who looked like her in Florida.

The 56-year-old grandmother allegedly shot and killed her husband, David, last month, and then went on the lam, eventually winding up in Fort Myers, Florida. There, she met 59-year-old Pamela Hutchinson, and after befriending Hutchinson, she allegedly killed her and then stole her credit cards, driver's license, and white Acura, which has been seen in Texas and Louisiana. "This is the first time in my career that I've seen someone steal someone's identity and target them for the way they look, in order to murder them," Lee County, Florida, Undersheriff Carmine Marceno told NBC News.

Authorities consider Riess armed and dangerous, and Marceno said he believes she will eventually "have no resources, and she will become more desperate and may kill again." Police describe Riess as being 5-foot-5, 165 pounds, with brown eyes, blonde hair, and a history of gambling problems. "She smiles and looks like anyone's mother or grandmother," Marceno said. "And yet she's calculated, she's targeted, and an absolute cold-blooded killer." Catherine Garcia

November 7, 2014

Add this to the list of maladies that will keep you up at night: Chagas — also known as the "kissing bug" disease — is a parasitic infection that researchers say is easier to get in the United States than originally believed.

Chagas can be difficult to detect in its early stages, but if left untreated can cause cardiac and intestinal trouble, or even death. To add to the nightmare, it's spread by kissing bugs finding victims at night and sucking blood from their faces.

It was thought that most people in the U.S. who caught the disease were infected while traveling abroad — likely in Mexico, Central America, or South America. Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston followed 17 area residents who had Chagas, and found that at least six were most likely infected locally. Most of the patients lived in rural areas or spent a lot of time outside, and of the 40 kissing bugs collected in central-southern Texas, half had fed on human blood.

The researchers also studied blood donations between 2008 and 2012, and found 1 in every 6,500 samples tested positive for exposure to the parasite, a number 50 times higher than what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention thought. Epidemiologist Melissa Nolan Garcia said she and her fellow Baylor researchers "were astonished to not only find such a high rate of individuals testing positive for Chagas in their blood, but also high rates of heart disease that appear to be Chagas-related." Catherine Garcia

October 9, 2014

The Wildnispark Zurich is on the fast track to becoming Switzerland's most infamous zoo.

The zoo promises a "primordial nature experience" with "fascinating nature adventures." Those adventures could be a little too fascinating, though — Swiss newspaper Der Landbote discovered that if the zoo becomes "too crowded," its animals could "end up on the plates of restaurant customers."

A park spokesperson tried to put a positive spin on the scandal, saying the zoo's policy was "very ecological." Roughly 100 animals are born at the zoo each year, but because of space restrictions, not all of them can stay at the zoo. Animals that can't be placed elsewhere are killed — and oftentimes, their meat is used at the park's restaurant: 49 deer and 10 wild boar were shot in the park in 2012 and "'recycled' for human consumption," The Local reports.

Unsurprisingly, Swiss animal rights activists were "shocked" at the news and are asking the park to remove its animals from the menu. Meghan DeMaria

August 20, 2014

ISIS killings have dramatically increased in 2014 — and new charts from Vocativ show how scary the spikes are. In 2011's first quarter, ISIS reported 94 executions. In 2014's first quarter, the Islamic militant group recorded 399.

Vocativ used ISIS-affiliated web forums to find the data on ISIS killings, and the results are shocking. The charts begin in 2011, when ISIS began tracking its own killings. As seen in the chart below, all of ISIS's forms of killing are up in 2014:


See more at Vocativ. Meghan DeMaria

July 28, 2014

Liberia closed most of its border crossings on Sunday as part of a campaign to impede the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. Ebola has killed at least 660 people — including two Americans — in West Africa. Only Liberia's main entry points will remain open, and people there will be subject to inspections and testing. Ebola can kill 90 percent of those it strikes, but the current outbreak has killed about 60 percent. Read more about Liberia's response at Reuters. Harold Maass

July 23, 2014

This year's mayfly hatch in the Mississippi River reached Biblical proportions.

The mayfly emergence is an annual event in which mayflies leave the Mississippi River after one or two years of incubation. The flies live for up to 36 hours before they return to the water, lay a new crop of eggs, and die.

The La Crosse, Wisconsin branch of the National Weather Service (NWS) reports that the mayflies caused a three-vehicle car crash as they descended over the town. The flies caused a bow echo on the NWS radar, which normally occurs during heavy rains, and proceeded to make a Wisconsin road slick, causing a driver to lose control of her car. Two people were injured in the crash, and one was treated at a local hospital.

Wisconsin residents captured some stunning — read: horrifying — images of the mayfly emergence, which happened on Sunday night. Check out the swarm below. --Meghan DeMaria

July 8, 2014

Prepare to get the schlitt scared out of you. Kansas City's Schlitterbahn water park will soon start operating The Verrückt, billed as the world's tallest water slide at 17 stories high.

The aptly named Verrückt (it's the German word for "crazy") stands 168 feet, 7 inches tall, and riders will have to climb up 264 steps to get to the top. After that strenuous trek, they will get strapped into a large raft and sent hurtling down the slide (which does have a net covering it) at speeds of up to 65 mph.

On Twitter Tuesday, Schlitterbahn announced that the slide will open on Thursday. Until then, (try to) enjoy the video below, which shows water park designer Jeff Henry and ride engineer John Schooley going for a test run. --Catherine Garcia

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