May 15, 2014

Years ago, engineers figured out how to make a parachute that could support a whole small plane. It's a tough problem, because even a small plane is quite heavy, and thus you need a large, bulky chute that is hard to deploy in time — so they use a solid-fuel rocket to pull the thing out.

I had heard of this before, but hadn't quite appreciated what it would mean in practice, until I saw the calmest plane crash video of all time. Watch this small plane drift gently to the ground instead of ramming into it at a hundred miles an hour. It makes small planes look a lot less risky. --Ryan Cooper

October 25, 2016

Donald Trump has a message for Vice President Joe Biden: You. Me. Behind the barn. Be there.

Last week during a Hillary Clinton rally in Pennsylvania, Biden said he was often asked by reporters if he wished he were the one debating Trump. "No," he said. "I wish we were in high school. I could take him behind the gym. That's what I wish." During a rally Tuesday night in Tallahassee, Trump mangled Biden's dream — "did you see Biden wants to take me to the back of the barn?" he asked the crowd — but agreed that he would be down to brawl. "I'd love that," he said. "Oh, some things in life you could really love doing." (It should be noted that Trump is 70 and the vice president is 73.) Trump also called Biden "Mr. Tough Guy when he's standing behind a microphone by himself."

If he's looking for a rumpus, should he lose the election, Trump could always make like the last Republican presidential nominee and hop into the boxing ring. Catherine Garcia

October 25, 2016
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As outrage over current and retired National Guard soldiers being told they must pay back re-enlistment bonuses they received erroneously continues to grow, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced he has put a top Pentagon official in charge of fixing the problem.

Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times revealed that in the mid-2000s, at the height of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, soldiers in California were told if they re-enlisted, they would receive bonuses of more than $15,000. An audit found that many of these soldiers were not eligible for the bonuses or overpaid, and a former official was sentenced in 2012 to 30 months in federal prison after being convicted of submitting more than $15 million in false claims to the Department of Defense. The audit was finally completed last month, and the Pentagon told the affected soldiers if they didn't pay the money back immediately, they could face interest charges, wage garnishments, and tax liens. Many told the Times they were struggling to come up with the money, with some talking about selling their homes.

During a press conference in Paris on Tuesday, Carter said he was aware of the issue, and while it has "complexities to it," he has asked Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work to resolve the matter. Any person who "volunteers to serve in the armed forces of the United States deserves our gratitude and respect," Carter said. "Period." Catherine Garcia

October 25, 2016

She's called him a "pathetic coward," a "thin-skinned racist bully," and a "chicken," and on Tuesday during a Hillary Clinton rally in North Carolina, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) came up with a new way to insult Donald Trump.

"I hope you heard Donald Trump in the debate, when he said he was smart not to pay any taxes," she told the crowd. "He is smart, and all of you who pay taxes are dumb. Everyone who pays taxes to keep our roads and bridges working is dumb. Everyone who pays taxes to support our world-class military is dumb. Everyone who pays taxes to support medical research and scientific research is dumb, dumb because Donald Trump doesn't plan to pay, he just plans to use all those things you pay for." So, Warren asked, "what kind of man does that? A selfish little sleazeball, a man who will never be president of the United States."

Warren then set her sights on Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, who is seeking a third term. Trump "hasn't been hiding who he is," Warren said, and Burr is "like a puppy on a leash, sticking right there with Donald Trump. If Richard Burr is just going to be Donald Trump's lap dog, then let him go off and do that, but the people of North Carolina need a strong, independent voice to fight for the families of North Carolina, and that is Deborah Ross," the Democratic nominee. Trump has yet to respond, but it's easy to imagine him high up in Trump Tower muttering, "That nasty woman!" Catherine Garcia

October 25, 2016
Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), is investing $25 million in six key races, with the fund's president saying they'll "go out guns blazing."

Steven Law told Politico Tuesday that Republicans won't have an easy time keeping their majority, and in many close races, Democrats are outspending GOP candidates by millions of dollars. "Democrats feel like the presidential race is in the bag for them and are looking for fresh game in the Senate," he said. The fund will send $7.5 million to Nevada, where Republican candidate Joe Heck recently announced he is no longer supporting Donald Trump. More than $5 million will be spent in Pennsylvania, $4 million in Indiana, $3 million in North Carolina, and $2 million in New Hampshire and Missouri. Most of the money will go to purchase commercials, which are very expensive this late in the campaign season. "This isn't a cheap date," Law said.

Karl Rove, a former adviser to George W. Bush, assisted the Senate Leadership Fund with its fundraising efforts. Law would not reveal the names of any donors to Politico, but did say they are aware "we're going to take casualties but we're going to go out guns blazing." Catherine Garcia

October 25, 2016
Eric Thayer/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Apple announced that annual sales fell to $216 billion in the 2016 fiscal year ending Sept. 30, the company's first annual sales decline since 2001, the year the iPod was introduced.

Apple had a record $234 billion in sales in 2015. The company's largest source of revenue is the iPhone, CNN Money reports, and only 45.5 million were sold in the September quarter, down from 48 million during the same time in 2015. Analysts say because the newest iPhone is very similar to the previous two models, customers are not clamoring to upgrade. The company says it is projecting it will have sales of $76 to $78 billion in the upcoming quarter, up from $74.8 billion last year. Catherine Garcia

October 25, 2016
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The 2016-2017 NBA season is upon us, with the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers kicking things off Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena in Ohio. Later Thursday, the Utah Jazz face off against the Portland Trail Blazers in Oregon, while a matchup of Western Conference heavyweights rounds out Opening Night as the San Antonio Spurs take on the Golden State Warriors in Oakland.

It's been four long months since LeBron James tearfully hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy, and lots of big names have changed jerseys this offseason. So what should you be looking out for as NBA basketball finally tips off? Below, four stories to watch for. Kimberly Alters

1. Can we just fast forward to the Cavaliers-Warriors Finals rematch?
You may have heard that a young man named Kevin Durant moved from Okahoma to California this summer. So you might be wondering: Can't we just skip the 82 games of regular season melodrama and get to the inevitable, which is a Finals reprise? While, yes, a supercharged Warriors team looks like the prohibitive favorite — especially when you swap the underwhelming Harrison Barnes for four-time scoring champion Durant — and LeBron James seems as dominant as ever, there's plenty of fun to be had in among the other 28 teams. Like:

2. Will the New York Knicks surge to relevance as "super-team," as their new legally-challenged point guard predicted?
The short answer here is: No. When your franchise cornerstone starts the offseason saying it's totally cool if he never wins an NBA championship, you know things are dicey. But the great Phil Jackson experiment continues, and this latest version involves betting on Derrick Rose's famously unreliable knees and Joakim Noah's aging defensive chops. But they still have this guy.

3. Is where the heart is also where the fun is?
Both Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard made high-profile moves home this season. Wade joins the jammed Chicago Bulls backcourt of Jimmy Butler and fellow new addition Rajon Rondo, while Howard follows a string of tumultuous temporary stays by parking himself with the Atlanta Hawks. Just two years ago the Hawks topped the Eastern Conference, but they sputtered last season, leading them to significant roster changes this summer. Home may be where the heart is, but will it be where Wade and Howard find peace for the rest of their careers?

4. Will the Los Angeles Lakers win the championship?
Yes. Absolutely yes. Kimberly Alters

October 25, 2016

Writer Paul Beatty became the first U.S. author to win the Man Booker Prize on Tuesday, in recognition of his critically acclaimed 2015 novel, The Sellout. The novel is set in Beatty's hometown of Los Angeles, and, per BBC's recap, "tells the story of a young black man who tries to reinstate slavery and racial segregation." The five judges unanimously chose Beatty's book as the winner ahead of five other finalists.

The chair of the judges, Amanda Foreman, hailed Beatty's racial satire for managing to "eviscerate every social taboo" and displaying "an absolutely savage wit" akin to that of Jonathan Swift or Mark Twain. "This is a book that nails the reader to the cross with cheerful abandon," she said. "But while you are being nailed you are being tickled."

Though the award was first given out in 1969, it wasn't until 2014 that it was opened to authors outside of Britain, Ireland, and the Commonwealth nations. The winner gets £50,000 — nearly $61,000. Becca Stanek

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