October 23, 2014

Armstrong would have ridden alongside fellow members of the 1999 Tour de France-winning U.S. Postal Service team at the charity event.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Lance Armstrong Can't Ride With Hincapie

Cyclist prevented from riding in noncompetitive event

A reunion of Lance Armstrong and several former teammates scheduled for this weekend at Saturday’s Hincapie Gran Fondo in Greenville, South Carolina, has been scuttled by USA Cycling.

Lance Armstrong was set to ride in the event with George Hincapie, the event’s host and Armstrong’s teammate during his seven Tour de France wins, according to VeloNews. He would have joined former teammates Michael Barry, Kevin Livingston, Christian Vande Velde, and Tom Danielson.

But as VeloNews later reported, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency was investigating Armstrong’s participation. The event is sanctioned by USA Cycling, and Armstrong’s ban disqualifies him from any event sanctioned by a signatory of the World Anti-Doping Code. On Thursday, USA Cycling clarified to VeloNews that Armstrong was banned from participating.

Armstrong is unique among disgraced American pros for receiving a lifetime ban for using performance-enhancing drugs. Hincapie, who admitted to doping in 2012 during the course of the Armstrong investigation, received a six-month ban, which he served in retirement. “I’ve made mistakes, along with some of the other riders in attendance, but I believe in, and hope for, second chances for everyone,” Hincapie told VeloNews.

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Pyongyang Sunan International Airport will not be receiving international visitors.     Photo: Roman Harak/Flickr

North Korea Closes Borders over Ebola Fears

Foreign tourism halted indefinitely

A Beijing-based travel agency received a “panicked” phone call Thursday from its partners in North Korea, claiming “all borders will be completely sealed,” the South China Morning Post reports. The North Korean government’s apparent motive is to prevent Ebola from entering the country.

Currently, no cases of Ebola have been reported in North Korea, nor in Beijing, the main gateway to North Korea. The ban on tourism arose unexpectedly, without any official announcement: “Three days ago, they said that anybody who’s been to West Africa would have to provide a doctor’s certificate stating that they don’t have Ebola,” a travel operator told the New York Times. “And then today, they just said no foreign tourists at all.”

North Korean tourism has grown rapidly of late. The state continues to develop luxury resorts, including a $35 million ski resort outside Wonsan City, largely to stimulate an inflow of hard currency. Roughly 6,000 Western tourists visit the country per year, an eightfold increase over the past decade.

No details are available concerning the duration or exclusivity of the ban, which begins Friday. In response to the 2003 SARS epidemic, North Korea completely sealed its borders for a four-month period.

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Casey Nocket has deleted her Instagram account, but Modern Hiker published screenshots of her vandalism posts.     Photo: Modern Hiker

NPS Investigating Vandalism in Western Parks

Graffiti tagger posted photos to social media

The National Park Service announced Wednesday that it’s investigating reports of vandalism in at least 10 national parks in five western states. The news arose after photos of the “art” were uploaded to Instagram.

The graffiti appears in parks in Arizona, Utah, Oregon, California, and Colorado, including Yosemite, Zion, and Death Valley, among others. According to Modern Hiker, Casey Nocket, operating under the Instagram handle “creepytings” and signing her handiwork with the same name, was on a trip out West from New York when she allegedly decided to leave her mark on several parks in acrylic paint. The Instagram photos show a bald-headed face with a snake tongue near Yosemite’s Mist Trail, a blue-haired face on an outcropping above Crater Lake, and a faux-prehistoric-art face on a rock atop Death Valley’s Telescope Peak.

“My first reaction was, ‘This is awful, and this person needs to be stopped,’” Modern Hiker editor Casey Schreiner told USA Today.

The images began circulating after someone posted one of the photos on Reddit. A Yosemite ranger saw the post, and then asked people to email him with any other sightings or information.

Nocket’s Instagram account has since been deleted, but the National Park Service is investigating, and she could face federal misdemeanor charges, according to USA Today. Inquisitr reports that Nocket could also have to pay severe fines to cover the cost of removing the acrylic.

“We take the issue of vandalism seriously,” NPS said in its statement. “National parks exist to preserve and protect our nation’s natural, cultural, and historic heritage for both current and future generations. Vandalism is a violation of the law and it also damages and sometimes destroys often irreplaceable treasures that belong to all Americans.”

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