May 25th, 2012
02:08 PM ET

Geographer reaches Mount Everest summit

[Updated at 10:07 a.m. ET] According to Chris Tomer, meteorologist and best friend of Mount Everest climber Jon Kedrowski, the climber has successfully reached the summit of Mount Everest.

At 3:30 a.m. in Nepal, Kedrowski's ascent ended well, amidst a "perfect weather window." Tomer posted an entry on the climber's Everest blog to let those following Kedrowski's journey know on the morning of May 26. Saturday marks the official end of the Everest climbing season.

Since beginning his ascent of Mount Everest in April, geographer and professor Jon Kedrowski has celebrated a birthday, used a constant stream of basketball metaphors to fuel his journey and witnessed tragedy that still gives him "demons."

He has also endured an attack from a yak that got out of line on April 13, and continues to carry a little red toy car to the summit, in honor of a young girl, Ryan Marie, who died too soon. The mini car was her favorite.

With help on the ground from his best friend, Denver meteorologist Chris Tomer, Kedrowski has been blogging his ascent.

His live blog, "No Off Days," reveals details both cheerful and chilling, from forming new friendships with fellow adventurers to trying to aid and rescue fallen climbers during Monday's tragedy on the mountain. Four people died due to a combination of bad weather and overcrowding on Everest.

Overheard on Is Mount Everest like 'a morgue'?

The assistant professor in Central Washington University's geography department has climbed countless mountains, and in 2011, he became the first person to camp overnight on the top of Colorado's 55 "Official 14ers," - peaks over 14,000 feet.

But Kedrowski, true to his profession, isn't climbing Everest just for fun. He regards his expedition as having a three-pronged approach.

Kedrowski wants to scale Everest in an eco-friendly manner, work with the Mount Everest Biogas project to test and study water quality from the melting ice, and give back to the Nepalese people through humanitarian initiatives, according to his website.

Because of the high amount of waste left by climbers, concerns over the water and ice quality have increased in recent years.

On April 17, Kedrowski posted on his blog that he and his climbing team had reached the Mount Everest Memorials. He was especially saddened to see Scott Fischer's memorial. The American died in 1996, Everest's worst year to date.

In the days that followed, he described seeing a trail of dried blood down the side of a crevasse, where a Sherpa didn't clip onto the line and lost his life. A constant stream of falling rocks and rough weather also halted his climbing team, and those ascending and descending the Lhotse Face.

"If anything, seeing this further focused my attention. I’ve had many wake-up calls throughout my career in the mountains, and this was no different. You never decide that you want to die up there in the mountains, but you do get to control certain things," he wrote.

At the beginning of May, Kedrowski began to describe the "deadly traffic jam" that others have blamed for the recent Everest tragedies. Slow-moving crews of climbers and even cameramen clogged both routes for those ascending and descending.

He showed an increasing frustration at not being allowed to begin his climbs earlier in the morning to avoid the snarl of traffic and bad weather.

Before May 21's tragedy, Kedrowski described seeing 300 climbers trying to summit, with high winds and brutal weather conditions that made frostbite inevitable. The bad weather only served to trap the surplus of climbers.

Tomer jumped into the blog's narrative when communications from Kedrowski became sparse. He detailed that Kedrowski was still "battling demons" from trying to rescue climbers that "were disoriented, frostbitten, sick and totally exhausted."

Tomer said the tragedy occurred because the jet stream, which Everest pierces because of its elevation, backed itself over the summit, leaving climbers caught in 80 mph winds.

This caused Kedrowski to change his tactics, moving lightly and quickly while skipping two camps in the ascent to the summit, which is rarely ever done, according to Tomer.

Tomer expected a "24-hour weather window" that should allow Kedrowski to summit safely Friday night or Saturday. The winds are forecast to return Sunday.

Kedrowski responded to Tomer's warnings that he expected 100 climbers to attempt to summit at the same time. Many of the others have left after Monday's tragedy and "the sound of helicopter rotor-chop is constant," he said.

Kedrowski remains determined and optimistic about reaching the summit. Because of his background as a basketball coach for kids, the metaphors of progressing from the "sweet 16" to the "elite 8" part of his journey are present in nearly every post.

"I’ve been climbing mountains since I was a kid, and I’ve become only as good as the mountains have let me become," he wrote. "Its [sic] time for the mountain to decide, but I’m gonna give it my all. Every mountain I’ve ever climbed, [...] I’ve always played “Everest” in my head, I’ve always rehearsed what I’d do on each day.  Then comes Summit Day. It’s gonna be the greatest game I’ve been able to play."

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Filed under: Mount Everest • Nepal
May 25th, 2012
11:30 AM ET

American Airlines passenger held in Miami

An American Airlines passenger was restrained Friday after his flight landed in Miami, a spokeswoman for the Miami International Airport said.

Authorities were called to the scene of American Airlines Flight 320, which had departed from Montego Bay, Jamaica, spokeswoman Maria Levrant said.

CNN affiliate WSVN reported that the passenger tried to rush the cockpit, and was restrained by two other passengers before authorities arrived at the scene.

Read the full story here.

Battleship USS Iowa begins journey down California coast
The USS Iowa makes its way under the Golden Gate Bridge at the start of its 400-mile journey to Los Angeles.
May 25th, 2012
10:00 AM ET

Battleship USS Iowa begins journey down California coast

Decades after transporting President Franklin Roosevelt across the Atlantic and fending off kamikazes in the Pacific during World War II, the USS Iowa passed Saturday under the Golden Gate Bridge en route to its final home and duty as a living museum.

Fireboats shot water into the air to salute the battleship around 3 p.m. Saturday, as it was towed through San Francisco Bay and into the Pacific Ocean. Scores of people watched from nearby - some on ferries, others from onshore and on the iconic bridge - under blue skies dotted with puffs of clouds.

The USS Iowa fired nearly 12,000 rounds over its more than 50 years in service for the U.S. Navy before being decommissioned for a third and final time in 1990.

After more than a decade docked in the Port of Richmond near San Francisco, the ship is heading south to the Port of Los Angeles in the care of the Pacific Battleship Center, which plans to transform the ship into a museum by July, according to the nonprofit group's website.


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Filed under: California • Los Angeles • Military • San Francisco • U.S. Navy • Veterans
Former Navy SEAL makes 1,700-mile journey to honor veterans
Maj. Doug Zembiec and his wife, Pam, attend the Marine Corps Ball in 2003. He was killed in 2007.
May 25th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Former Navy SEAL makes 1,700-mile journey to honor veterans

When many Americans kick off the start of summer with burgers and beers for Memorial Day, one former Navy SEAL will be in the final stretch of a 1,700-mile, month-long cross-country journey.

Coleman Ruiz, executive director of Carry The Load, is just one of many veterans making the hike to drive attention and resources to organizations that help surviving military families. They hope it will remind communities of the true meaning of Memorial Day.

In 2011, Clint Bruce, former Navy SEAL, co-founded Carry The Load as a way to honor fallen service members and to remember surviving military families. In its second year, Carry The Load is taking a two-fold approach to fundraising.

Beginning in West Point, New York, communities were invited to participate in the 1,700-mile national relay, which was divided into 5-mile segments. On top of that, the national trek will conclude in Dallas with a nonstop 20-hour, 12-minute walk on Memorial Day.

"It's about putting one foot in front of the other," said Ruiz, who invites individuals from local communities to participate by walking as much or as little as they can. "Walk a mile or walk 50 miles. But just come out and do what every single family across the country who has lost an American service member does. All those families get up every day and put one foot in front of the other. It's the least we can do to show them that we care."

Ruiz knows personally the pain of losing a loved one. In 2007, one of his best friends, Maj. Doug Zembiec, was killed in Baghdad while leading a combat operation.

"There isn't another human being that I've met who can lead men the way Doug could," Ruiz said.


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Filed under: Military • U.S.
Japan's fugitive penguin captured
Tokyo Sea Life Park's fugitive penguin has finally been caught.
May 25th, 2012
07:52 AM ET

Japan's fugitive penguin captured

When a 1-year-old Humboldt penguin that escaped from a Tokyo aquarium three months ago dared to set foot on land in Ichikawa on Thursday night, it was captured by hand and finally collared, The Japan Times reported.

An aquarium employee was walking alongside the Edogawa River in Chiba Prefecture at 5:30 p.m. and spotted the fugitive penguin, which escaped in March.

The penguin was seen swimming in the river near the Kanamachi water purification plant in Katsushika Ward earlier in the week. Last week, people also saw it thriving and snacking on small fish in Tokyo Bay. It was assumed that the bird was finding some place to rest onshore at night.

The fugitive bird, known as Penguin 337, somehow scaled a 13-foot wall and got through a barbed-wire fence to get into the bay. Aquarium officials believe it escaped through small gaps that cats and frogs can pass through.

Officials from Tokyo Sea Life Park feared the penguin would not survive in the waters of the bay, busy with marine traffic headed for densely populated Tokyo.

"It didn't look like it has gotten thinner over the past two months, or been without food. It doesn't seem to be any weaker. So it looks as if it's been living quite happily in the middle of Tokyo Bay," Kazuhiro Sakamoto, deputy director of the park, told Reuters.

The penguin was filmed by a Japanese coast guard patrol craft on May 7, but the crew was unable to catch it then.

Penguin 337 is one of 135 penguins at Tokyo Sea Life Park.

See the latest photo of the penguin on Reuters AlertNet.

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Filed under: Animals • Japan • Penguins
May 25th, 2012
07:48 AM ET

Friday's live events

The race to the presidency now turns toward the general election in November. Live is your home for all the latest news and views from the campaign trail.

Today's programming highlights...

1:00 pm ET - SpaceX Dragon status briefing - The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft has a rendezvous with the international space station today.  NASA and SpaceX officials discuss the mission this afternoon. Live is your home for breaking news as it happens.

Filed under: Crime • Justice • On today • Space
May 25th, 2012
06:34 AM ET

Private spacecraft prepares for historic link to space station

NASA said it has given the go ahead for the first private spacecraft to proceed toward a rendezvous with the International Space Station on Friday.

The unmanned SpaceX Dragon that launched Tuesday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, has successfully completed all tests so far in preparation for a docking, the space agency said.

"The International Space Station mission management team completed a thorough review of the progress ... and ... unanimously authorized the International Space Station and Dragon flight control teams to proceed toward rendezvous and berthing about 11:20 a.m. ET Friday," the NASA website said.

The Dragon capsule is carrying food, clothing and scientific experiments.


Filed under: U.S.
May 25th, 2012
04:07 AM ET

Syrians protest after morning prayers, opposition activists say

Syrian protesters spilled out into the streets after morning prayers Friday as regime forces shelled various opposition neighborhoods, activists said.

Planned protests were under way in various neighborhoods including the capital Damascus and the provinces of Homs, Hama, Aleppo and Deir Ezzor.

As the protesters gathered, regime forces shelled the Homs neighborhoods of Sultanieh and Jobar, opposition activists said.

Security forces killed at least eight people in Syria on Friday, including seven in Hama province, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria.

One more person was killed in Qusair town in Homs province, the group said.


Filed under: World
May 25th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood predicts run-off presence as votes are counted

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood predicted Friday that its presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi will contest a run-off vote with former regime figure Ahmed Shafik, as counting in the country's landmark election got under way.

A statement on the official Facebook page of the Freedom and Justice party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, indicated that Morsi had received 30.8% of the votes cast to 22.3% for Shafik.

The Muslim Brotherhood said it had observed the counting of 51% of the vote.

If no candidate gets a majority of the vote in the first round, a second round will be held June 16-17. There were 13 candidates on the ballot, although two withdrew from the race after ballots were printed.


Filed under: World
May 25th, 2012
03:41 AM ET

New French president visits Afghanistan to meet troops and Karzai

The new French president, François Hollande, arrived in Kabul on Friday to meet with French troops stationed in the country and hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

This visit follows Hollande's announcement at the NATO conference in Chicago that French combat troops would withdraw from Afghanistan by the year end of the year.

As part of the the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, French trainers will remain in the country longer.

NATO countries are trying to figure out how to meet a 2014 deadline to withdraw from an unpopular war in Afghanistan while shoring up that nation's security forces.


Filed under: World
May 25th, 2012
02:07 AM ET

Bud becomes a major hurricane

Bud flexed its muscles as it closed on the southwestern coast of Mexico late Thursday, becoming a major hurricane with winds of 115 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.

The Category 3 storm was about 170 miles (270 km) southwest of Manzanillo and about 230 miles (370 km) south of Cabo Corrientes at 8 p.m. (11 p.m. ET) It was moving north-northeast at a rate of about 10 mph.

"Some fluctuations in strength are possible tonight and Friday morning before gradual weakening begins by Friday afternoon," the hurricane center said. "However, Bud is still expected to reach the coast of Mexico as a hurricane" late Friday.

A hurricane warning has been issued for Manzanillo northwest to Cabo Corrientes, where winds are expected to exceed 39 mph within the next 36 hours and eventually top 74 mph.


Filed under: U.S. • Weather • World