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
On Monday morning at about 6 a.m., 11 passengers walked through a Transportation Security Administration security lane at New York JFK airport's Terminal 5 without being screened by TSA agents, law enforcement officials said. The TSA waited two hours to inform Port Authority police, and in that time, the 11 passengers boarded their planes and flew off. Three of the passengers were apparently not screened even after they set off the metal detector, though the Port Authority police say three of the 11 people were identified through security camera footage and checked when they landed in California. The other eight passengers have not yet been identified.
The TSA said it is reviewing the security lapse, but is "confident" that the breach "presents minimal risk to the aviation transportation system," in part because the passengers' bags were screened and they passed by a K9 team. Other people are less sanguine about 11 people boarding airplanes without being checked for weapons. Those critics include the New York Daily News:
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) February 21, 2017
You can learn more about the incident in the NBC Nightly News report below. Peter Weber
On Tuesday, an Israeli military court handed Sgt. Elor Azaria an 18-month prison sentence for fatally shooting a wounded Palestinian knife attacker in Hebron last March, less than the 3-5 years sought by prosecutors. The shooting of the 21-year-old Palestinian man, captured on video, split opinion in Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right allies calling for Azaria to be pardoned and military officials arguing that a soldier shooting a disarmed, immobilized prisoner is contrary to Israeli military values. A three-judge military judicial panel had convicted Azaria of manslaughter in January. Peter Weber
Thousands of people celebrated Presidents Day on Monday by gathering in streets nationwide for "Not My Presidents Day" rallies. Stephen Colbert was having none of it. "Sorry, but yeah: your president," he said on Monday's Late Show. "Deal with it. George Washington was not more president than Donald Trump, okay? Abraham Lincoln: exactly the same amount of commander in chief as Donald Trump. So no marching off to your fantasy world — do not leave me alone with this guy!"
America's president, Colbert noted, declared the press the "enemy of the American people" on Friday, and Colbert managed a mockery twofer: "You know who I feel bad for? ISIS. They try so hard. Sorry, ISIS — if you want to get on the list, you've got to publish photos of Trump's inauguration crowd, then he'll be really, really angry at you." He played a clip of Sen. John McCain standing up for the media, saying abolishing a free press is how dictatorships begin. McCain wasn't calling Trump a dictator, Colbert noted, or at least not "a full dictator. He's more bite-sized, okay? He's a dictator-tot."
Colbert had a short riff on Trump's new national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster — "He chose McMaster, I assume, because he had the strongest-sounding name — 'Is Gen. Thrust McPowerhouse not available? Let's go with McMaster instead'" — and ended with Trump's rally in Florida on Saturday. "Over 9,000 showed up," Colbert said. "It is the biggest crowd Trump has drawn to an airport without detaining anyone." Trump was there to talk to the people, and he called one person he'd seen on TV up to the stage, telling him to just jump the security fence. Colbert let that sink in for a second, finally deadpanning: "Yes, nothing screams secure borders and extreme vetting like 'Hop over the fence!'" Watch below. Peter Weber
On Tuesday morning, four American tourists and their Australian pilot were killed when their twin-engine Beechcraft Super King airplane crashed into a shopping mall in suburban Melbourne, right after takeoff. The Direct Factory Outlet mall, adjacent to the airport, was not yet open, and nobody else was injured in the crash, said Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane. "Looking at the fireball, it is incredibly lucky that no one was at the back of those stores or in the car park of the stores, that no one was even hurt."
The four Americans were on their way to a golfing vacation on King Island, 160 miles away. Family members have identified two of the American victims — Greg Reynolds De Haven and Russell Munsch, both from Texas — and the pilot was Max Quartermain, owner of the charter company. Quartermain reported "catastrophic engine failure" right after takeoff, police said. You can view the wreckage in the raw video from The Associated Press below. Peter Weber
On Monday, 11 Jewish community centers (JCCs) across the U.S. received bomb threats, the latest in a wave of 69 coordinated threats against 54 JCCs in 27 states and one Canadian province since early January, according to the JCCA, an association of JCCs. The community centers are a place for Jewish people of all religious and political beliefs to gather, as well as child care centers for children of all faiths. In one recorded bomb threat, the caller, voice disguised, says "a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered" by an explosive device. No bombs have been found yet, but each time a threat is phoned in, teachers have to evacuate babies and young children, and some parents are pulling their kids from local JCCs.
Also on Monday, police in St. Louis said that over the weekend, vandals had damaged dozens of headstones at a Jewish cemetery in the city's University City neighborhood. Anita Feigenbaum, director of the Chesed Shel Emeth Society, told The Washington Post that more than 170 graves were vandalized in the cemetery's oldest section, a "horrific act of cowardice" unlike the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery had seen in its 125-year history.
The FBI said it and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division "are investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with threats to Jewish community centers across the country." The FBI recorded more than 1,270 hate crime incidents against Jews in 2014 and 2015 — far more than any other religious group — and the problem has gotten worse since. "I've been in the business for 20-plus years, and this is unprecedented," security consultant Paul Goldenberg tells CNN. "It's more methodical than meets the eye."
Jewish reporters asked President Trump last week about the apparent rise in anti-Semitic attacks and incidents, and Trump responded by talking about his electoral victory, claiming he is the "least anti-Semitic person you have ever seen in your entire life," and noting that his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism. On Monday evening, Ivanka Trump became the first member of the Trump family to comment on the wave of bomb threats, tweeting: "America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance. We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers. #JCC." The White House, when asked for comment by NBC News, said "hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom," but did not mention threats against Jewish targets. Peter Weber
For the past three years, Bao Bao has been delighting crowds at the Smithsonian National Zoo, where she frolicked in the snow, climbed on rocks, and ate as much bamboo as possible. Now, she's off to a new adventure in China.
Bao Bao was born in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 23, 2013, to parents born in China: Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. As part of an agreement between the National Zoo and the China Wildlife Conservation Association, all giant pandas born at the zoo must be sent to live in China before they turn 4. "We like to send them back about this age because in a couple of years she'll actually reach breeding age," Marty Dearie, one of her keepers, told ABC News. "It's good to get them back a little early so they have time to settle into their new environment."
Over the past several weeks, zoo visitors waited for up to an hour to see Bao Bao in the panda enclosure, and she was celebrated with a dumpling ceremony and an ice cake party. When she leaves D.C. on Tuesday for Chengdu, China, it will be in luxury — Bao Bao will spend her 19-hour flight on a personalized FedEx jet alongside Dearie, a veterinarian, and all of her flying essentials, including nearly 60 pounds of bamboo. Catherine Garcia
In his first four weeks in office, President Trump has visited two of his golf courses near his Mar-a-Lago private club in Florida a combined six times, or an average of 1.5 golf outings per weekend. Trump has not been very open about his golfing, with aides appearing to downplay the president's time on the links and keeping mum on whom he golfed with — though social media often fills in the blanks.
On Sunday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that after "a couple" of holes on Saturday, Trump "played a couple of holes this morning, but I am not going to disclose any of the others that were there." Then Clear Sports tweeted a photo of Trump standing on the golf course Sunday next to its CEO, former Yankee star Paul O'Neill, and top-ranked pro golfer Rory McIlroy. After McIlroy told the golfing site No Laying Up that he and Trump played a full 18 holes, Sanders clarified that Trump had "intended to play a few holes and decided to play longer."
At CNN, Dan Merica speculates that the Trump White House is being secretive about the president's golfing because Trump frequently criticized former President Barack Obama's time on the golf course, typically at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, D.C. (Obama's first round of golf as president, Merica noted, was April 26, 2009.) Erin Burnett played several clips of Trump bashing Obama's golfing on Monday night's OutFront, then asked former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) about Trump's "golf habit": "Senator, is he realizing that it's a lot different when you actually have the job?"
"I don't think anyone's going to be critical of Donald Trump that he hasn't been engaged as president over the last month," Santorum replied, noting the frenetic activity at Trump's White House. Trump's critique of Obama was that he "wasn't engaged and involved as the president," he explained. "I don't think anyone's going to make that claim of Trump. And you're right — is it a cheap shot to hit the president on playing golf? It was, and I think he's realizing that getting out of the White House and swinging that golf ball is probably a good thing for his head." Watch below. Peter Weber