Greg Mortenson Three Cups of Tea Books

Greg Mortenson signing books in a bookstore. In 2011, 60 Minutes and Jon Krakauer aired and published reports showing that Three Cups of Tea contained numerous fabrications.     Photo: Paulsims/Flickr

Greg Mortenson Fraud Claim Rejected

Appeals court upholds ruling that evidence is “flimsy and speculative”

A federal appeals court panel has rejected a claim that fabrications in Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools constituted fraud against purchasers of the books and against people who donated money to the charitable organization Mortenson founded, the Central Asia Institute, the Associated Press reports.

The ruling, made on October 9, upheld an earlier ruling by Sam E. Haddon, a federal judge in Montana who had reviewed the claim and called the charges “flimsy and speculative.” The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Haddon on all points, citing plaintiffs’ failure “to specify with requisite particularity the Defendants’ individual roles in the alleged racketeering scheme.”

The suit was directed at Mortenson, his late co-author David Oliver Relin (who comitted suicide last year in Oregon), CAI, and Penguin Publishing. 


Annapurna's south face.     Photo:

Ueli Steck Solos Annapurna's South Face

First to summit route alone.

“Summit, alone, South Face,” was the text that Ueli Steck sent from base camp at 10:00 p.m. on October 9. He was referring to his solo ascent—the first ever—of the south face of Nepal’s 26,545-foot Annapurna.

The Swiss alpinist was joined by Canadian Don Bowie for acclimatization trips up the mountain, and they climbed together to at least 20,000 feet (6,100 meters). According to, British climber Jon Griffith confirmed the ascent after contacting Steck’s base camp.

Steck had attempted the south face route twice before. His 2007 attempt ended when he was hit by a rockfall and fell about 1,000 feet; in 2008 he and partner Simon Anthamatten abandoned their climb to rescue Spanish climber Iñaki Ochoa de Olza.

Steck explained his persistence in his blog on September 15:

Adventures stand out because you can never calculate in advance what all could happen ... nothing is for sure. To walk through life in a comfortable way is still not my goal. This is why I want to try to climb Annapurna a third time. I would like to implement my dreams and visions into reality. Annapurna is one of them.


New York City Bike Cops pakred

New York City police car pars in bike lane on Sept. 6, 2012. The blog Cops in BIke Lanes is raising awareness of the problem by documenting each occurence in the city.     Photo: Mlcastle/Flickr

Tumblr Justice: Cops in Bike Lanes

New blog holds cops responsible

For New York City’s police officers, the rules say, “No parking, standing or stopping vehicles within or otherwise obstructing bike lanes.” But a new Tumblr catalogues just that. Titled "Cops in Bike Lanes," the blog has currently documented more than 40 instances of cops in bike lines since it started less than a month ago.

“There are certain hotspots (usually near precincts) where there are NYPD vehicles parked in bike lanes regularly,” the blog’s founder, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Salon. “Bikes are an afterthought on our streets. If the NYPD, who are supposed to be there to protect all New Yorkers, show such disregard for bike lanes and the safety of cyclists then how can we expect any more from the general population?”

Cyclist and New York police officers have long been at odds. In 2010, a rookie New York City police officer was caught pushing a Critical Mass rider from his bike. NYC's cycling community was outraged when the officer was let off without serving any time in jail or performing community service.

In 2011, cyclist Casey Neistat made a short film about an NYC police officer giving him a ticket for not riding in the bike lane:


Witnesses lost sight of Kovats after his parachute appeared to fail.     Photo: Evgeniya Moroz /Shutterstock

BASE Jumper Dies Preparing for Championships

Victor Kovats was an experience wingsuit flier

Three-time Hungarian national wingsuit champion Victor Kovats died Tuesday when his jump into a central China gorge went awry, the Associated Press reports.

After a search involving more than 200 people, Kovats's body was recovered Wednesday from the valley floor in Tianmen National Forest Park in Hunan province. Kovats had made the 700-meter jump into the gorge in preparation for the Second World Wingsuit Championship, held this weekend, when either sudden winds or a failed parachute caused him to crash head-first into a cliff.

The Red Bull World Wingsuit League, host of the championship, made a statement on its website: "We are deeply saddened by Victor Kovats's passing and our thoughts and prayers go out to his parents and friends during these difficult times," said 

Kovats had completed 700 jumps and was an experienced skydiver and base jumper. His death is the latest in a string of wingsuit fatalities, reports CNN, that includes Mark Sutton, the James Bond stuntman who parachuted from a helicopter during the 2012 London Olympics, who died in August during a jump in Switzerland.

Following the death of Kovats, organizers of the Second World Wingsuit Championship have not stated whether the competition will go forward.

Video of the flight before the crash was published on YouTube:


The Greenpeace ship approaching the Arctic Sea oil rig.     Photo: Denis Sinyakov(Greenpeace)/Flick

Drugs Reportedly Found on Greenpeace Ship

Russia reports 'hard drugs' on seized vessel

During a search of the seized Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, Russian authorities claim to have found hard drugs including poppy straw and morphine. Greenpeace immediately fired back in a statement suggesting that the Russian findings were a "smear" reports BBC News.

The Greenpeace International ship and crew were seized during a protest surrounding an Arctic Sea oil platform on September 17. Thirty crew members continue to be held in the Russian port town of Murmansk under charges of "piracy".

Greenpeace and the Netherlands (the Artic Sunrise sails under the Dutch flag) say they are furious about the Russian claims and demand the immediate release of the crew and its ship. However, according to BBC News, the charges against some of the thirty crewmembers may change with the new drug evidence.

In addition to the drug findings, Russian authorities are claiming Greenpeace crewmembers were "deliberately ramming" Russian border guard boats and endangering their lives during the September protest. Greenpeace's statement responded to those claims as "bogus" and the organization released a slow-motion video of the incident on YouTube.

Greenpeace International's executive director, Kumi Naidoo, released a letter yesterday imploring the Russians for the release of the Arctic Sunrise and its crew. A section of that letter read "I am willing to move my life to Russia for the duration of this affair. I would offer myself as a guarantor for the good conduct of the Greenpeace activists, were they to be released on bail."


Purchasing the Everglades

Exclusive deal for Florida expires this week.

What ever happened to the deal to save the Everglades wetlands?

Five years ago, Florida announced that it would purchase almost 300 square miles of sugarcane land from U.S. Sugar for $1.75 billion. That deal expires this week. 

Recently, 38 state environmental groups have called on the state's current governor to finish the deal announced by his predecessor, NPR reports.

“What we want to do is have more water come south, be stored and cleaned up so it can be sent south to the Everglades,” Jonathan Ullman of the Sierra Club told NPR.

In 2008, Florida announced the largest land purchase in the state’s history to preserve the Everglades. But when the recession hit Florida in 2010, the economy worsened, and opposition to the purchase grew. The state settled and purchased just one-seventh of the original offer. However, Florida retained the exclusive option to purchase the remaining land for the next three years.

Environmentalists are hopeful that the current governor will purchase some of the land this week, but they also have their eyes set on 2020. Florida still has a non-exclusive option to buy the land for the next seven years, a deadline that comes after another election for state governor.