Thursday, December 30, 2010

End of Decade Sports Chowdah Update- Whack A Bowl; Pats Rout Bills, Secure 1st Round Bison; C's Winning Streak Snapped? Must be Magic; B's Head South

NEW POLL UP: What a decade, huh? For those of you so inclined, I'm wondering what your thoughts are regarding the defining moment in New England sports between 2000 and the end of 2010. The best part is that there's just so much to choose from (I'm even leaving a few out for the sake of brevity). C'mon people! Celebrate diversity!

But with that said, I have some catching up to do. Between my shuttling around between Cape Cod and the southern tier of New York state as well as waiting out the blizzard this week, I was able to follow some of the NFL action on the radio (not so much the NHL, NBA or many of the Bowl games).

NFL: To hardly anybody's surprise, the Patriots came into Sunday's game at Orchard Park and routed the Buffalo Bills. The 34-3 win came thanks in part to two TD receptions by Buffalo native son and Pats TE Ron Gronkowski. New England was helped considerably by seven Bills turnovers, including five from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Brady was 15 for 27 with 3 TDs on the day while Gronkowski had 54 yards on 4 receptions, including two TDs.

New England will close out the regular season with a home game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at 1PM ET.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL: The NFL commissioner decided to postpone Sunday night's game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings at Philly's Lincoln Financial Field as the region was in the teeth of a massive snowstorm.

The game was rescheduled to Tuesday night as many cities across the Northeast were digging themselves out from the global warming blizzard [OK...what is it about the Vikings- an indoor team, no less- and snowfall this season? You know those cartoon characters that are sometimes walking around with a rain cloud over their head? Substitute the solitary cloud for a blizzard dumping 3 feet of snow overnight and that would be the 2010 Vikings- NANESB!].

Last week's Sunday night game featured the nationally televised Sunday Night debut of one surprising NFC North QB in Green Bay's Matt Flynn. But there would be no Sunday Night game. There would be no Brett Favre on Tuesday.....or Tavares Jackson for that matter. Instead, the Vikings 6th round draft pick from the University of Alabama-Birmingham- Joe Webb- got the start for the beleaguered and depleted Vikings on Tuesday.

You'd think that even with most of their starters healthy, the Vikings wouldn't have stood a chance against the NFC East leading Eagles. Lord knows I did, but I watched anyways. As it turns out, I was glad I did as Minnesota staged a stunning come-from behind rally thanks to RB Adrian Peterson and the rookie Joe Webb.

The Eagles got out to the early 7-0 lead, but with less than a minute to go before halftime, Philly QB Micheal Vick fumbled as he was sacked by Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield. Winifield then scooped up the loose ball and returned it 45 yards to paydirt to tie the game at 7-7. The Vikings would then score on their first 2 posessions of the 2nd half, getting a FG off the foot of Ryan Longwell and a rushing TD from Joe Webb to take a 17-7 lead. The Eagles would take about five minutes to march down from their own 47 to score a TD of their own and close the gap to 14-17. But that would be it for the Eagles while the Vikings got another TD from Adrian Peterson to put them up 24-14, in what could only be described as a stunning upset given the way how easily the Eagles handled other (and better) NFC teams this season.

That would be the final from a snowy Philadelphia, and as the Brett Favre era no doubt comes to an end in Minnesota, I'm sure the Vikings fans had to have liked what they saw in QB Joe Webb who went 17-26 with 195 yards (as well as 6 rushes for 31 yards and a TD)

NCAA HOOPS: I normally leave the NCAA Basketball coverage to others, but I couldn't let the UConn Women's Basketball team breaking the all-time NCAA Hoops record for regular consecutive wins (either men's or women's) set by the late John Wooden's UCLA Bruins Men's Basketball between 1971-74 pass without mention. The Huskies 89th straight win came against #22 Florida State on December 21st at Hartford's XL Center, with UConn downing the Gators by a 93-62 final to break the 88 straight win mark set by Wooden's Bruins (Wooden's Grandson was present at the game).

The Huskies women's team is in the midst of a west coast road trip where they handled the University of the Pacific Tigers for win #90 by an 85-42 margin in Stockton, CA. Their next game will be a rematch of the 2010 NCAA Women's Championship between UConn and the #8 Stanford Cardinals on Thursday night. Stanford's lady Cardinals currently have a streak of their own going- 51 straight home wins- and was actually the last team to defeat UConn- an 82-73 win in the NCAA semifinals in April 2008.

NHL: Well, while I was away the Boston Bruins clawed their way back to the top of the Northeast Division and are working on a win streak of their own. Apparently getting out of town ahead of blizzard and heading to Florida was just what the B's needed (although they have been burned by Southeast Division opponents before).

One night after Blake Wheeler scored the only shootout goal (and a flukey one at that) to beat the Florida Panthers by a 3-2 final, the B's travelled to Tampa to take on the Lightning. Tim Thomas turned aside 31 shots and the venerable Mark Recchi got the game-winning goal on a power play with 20 seconds remaining in the 3rd. Micheal Ryder, Brad Marchand and Steve Kampfer also tallied goals for Boston in Tuesday night's 4-3 win (Ryder's also coming on the power play).

The Bruins trip through the Southeast will continue Thursday night as they travel to Atlanta to play the Thrashers for the second time in a week- Boston beat Atlanta 4-1 on Dec 23rd at the TD Banknorth Garden.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NHL: Preparations have been well underway for the 2011 NHL Winter Classic at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field on New Year's Day. There are some concerns about the integrity of the ice surface as the weather forecast for the Pittsburgh area is calling for temperatures in the high 40s/low 50s and rain showers for New Years Day.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to take on the Washington Capitals on Saturday at 1PM ET, although both the league and NBC has said they'd be willing to delay the start of the game.

NCAA FOOTBALL: I have some catching up to do as far as this is concerned. As I'm writing this, it looks as though the Army Black Knights are going to hold off a 2nd half rally by the Southern Methodist Mustangs to win by a 16-14 final for their first Bowl win since I was in the Army.

As disappointing as the first trio of Bowl games were, there were some good ones to follow those up. Interestingly, this included some of the bowl games whose corporate names lent themselves to easy ridicule and derision (i.e the Beef O'Brady Bowl, Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl).

Here are some of the finals:

12/21- Beef O'Brady Bowl:
Southern Mississippi 28- Louisville 31

12/22- MAACO Bowl:
#20 Utah 3- #10 Boise State 26

12/23- SD County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl:
Navy 14- San Diego State 35

12/24- Hawaii Bowl
#24 Hawaii 35- Tulsa 62

12/26- Little Cesar's Pizza Bowl
Florida International 34- Toledo 32

12/27 Independence Bowl
Air Force 14- Georgia Tech 7

12/28 Champs Sports Bowl
#22 West Virginia 7- North Carolina State 23

Insight Bowl
#14 Missouri 24- Iowa 27

12/29 Military Bowl
East Carolina 20- Maryland 51

Texas Bowl
Illinois 31- Baylor 14

Alamo Bowl
#16 Oklahoma State 36- Arizona 10

12/30 Armed Forces Bowl
Army 16- Southern Methodist 14.

Pinstripe Bowl
Kansas State 34- Syracuse 36

A couple of random notes- Thursday's win for the Black Knights was their first bowl appearence since 1996.

The Little Cesar Bowl was the first ever appearance (and win!) for Florida International.

The SDSU Aztecs appeared in their first bowl game since 1998 and the win over Navy was their first Bowl win since the 1969 Pasadena Bowl (against Boston University).

The rest of the games for Thursday include the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl (Kansas State vs Syracuse), the Music City Bowl (North Carolina vs Tennessee) and the Holiday Bowl (#17 Nebraska vs Washington).

Friday's slate of games include the Meineke Bowl (South Florida vs Clemson), the Sun Bowl (Notre Dame vs Miami-FL), the Liberty Bowl (Central Florida vs Georgia) and the Chick Fil-A Bowl (#19 South Carolina vs #23 Florida State).

NBA: Humbug! The Celtic's winning streak was snapped on Christmas day at Orlando by an 86-78 final. The C's then swung through the Midwest where they beat the Pacers 95-83 before losing to the Detroit Pistons by a 104-92 final.

OTHER CELTICS NEWS: GM Danny Ainge announced Thursday that Kevin Garnett could be out for up to two weeks with a strained right calf after undergoing an MRI.

Shaquille O'Neal was fined $35,000 by the NBA this week after comments questioning NBA officiating and calling the referees 'control freaks'.

Point Guard Rajon Rondo is listed as day-to-day with a sprained ankle and has been out since the December 15 game against the NY Knicks. Doc Rivers said there was some swelling on the ankle that would make his return to Friday night's home game against the New Orleans Hornets questionable.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Today's Train of Though- Wedge Strategy, Dec, 29, 2010

Today's train of thought comes to us with plenty of ice to go around, between the frozen West Fork of the Des Moines River and the reporting marks on equipment from the Illinois, Chicago & Eastern.

The IC&E Predecessor was the I&M Rail Link- a sister company of the Montana Rail Link which purchased the former Soo Line trackage between the Twin Cities and Kansas City and the former Milwaukee line across Northern Iowa and on into Chicago back in 1997. In 2002, the line was purchased by the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern and renamed the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern before both the DM&E and IC&E themselves were acquired by Canadian Pacific in 2008.

However, one would be hard pressed to tell that CP was running the show for over a year in this shot taken by contributor Scott Marsh. Here, IC&E SD40-3 #6442 is in charge of a plow extra as it cautiously treads its way over the West Fork of the Des Moines River at Emmetsburg, IA on Dec 27, 2009. The train was sent out to clear the line and retrieve any cars along the Mason City line that were left out in the snow. It's slow going on the 90 pound rail, and the crews must also clear any highway crossing they come to by hand, as the accumulated snow there is packed down by passing cars and could cause the plow to derail.

Democrats Starting to Remind NYC's Russian Immigrants of Bad Old Days Back in Old Country

Fresh off of electoral wins in which the borough will be represented in Albany and Washington D.C. by the GOP, Republicans in Staten Island are finding themselves embraced by a growing number of the city's Russian community.

Some of the Russian immigrants are expressing concerns that the increasingly burdensome regulation and micro-management faced by businesses from the city and federal officials is becoming reminiscent of the Soviet era in which they fled.

"We decided we had to support this club," said Fridman, a former Soviet Army officer who came to the United States in 1992. "They are very close to our political and business vision."

In the wake of the national GOP's big wins this year, when the party took back control of the House, Republicans everywhere are more confident that their bedrock message of smaller government and lower taxes will resonate with American voters.

Fridman said that the Democrats "are going in an absolutely different direction," focusing on "income redistribution" and rich-versus-poor "class war."

"It's too socialistic," said Fridman, head of the non-profit Staten Island Community Center and president of Citizens Magazine, a public affairs publication. "It's very painful for us to see."
The Democratic state senator from across the way in Brooklyn is trying to convince them it's all in their heads, however.
State Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn) said she understands the Russian aversion to anything that looks like big government, but thinks the criticism of the Democratic Party is off-base.

"You can't ignore the fact that the Russian population here came of age during the Soviet era," said Ms. Savino, who counts many Russians among her Brooklyn constituents.

"They have different thoughts on what communism and socialism mean. They are a little more sensitive to it.

"But, that being said," she added, "you can't compare the policies of the Democratic Party with communism. It's absurd."
Of course! State Senator Savino's absolutely right! I mean, under communism you had the government trying to control every aspect of your day-to-day life such as whether or not you could travel or worship freely and ration provisions such as meat, diary products or vegetables. Democrats simply want to warm up by dictating to us what kind of light bulbs we must use, what kind of car we must drive, whether or not McDonalds can sell Happy Meals and mandate that every American purchase health insurance. Once Americans cede control of those seemingly mundane things to an ever-expanding government, then they can step up to the old Soviet style controls on the economy or freedom of expression.

Kind of interesting that another ethnic group in another American metropolitan area tends to be solidly conservative- the Cubans down in Miami. Between the Russians and the Cubans, it's almost like they know firsthand something about the dire consequences of big government that the rest of us don't.

[Hat Tip: Pundit Press; Lonely Conservative]

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pakistani Suicide Bomber Targets Refugees Awaiting Food

A bhurka-clad suicide bomber hurled grenades into a crowd that was gathered to receive rations from the UN's World Food Program before blowing herself up in northern Pakistan on Sunday. The Taliban took credit for the attack, which killed 46 people, injured 76 more and was thought to be the first suicide bombing carried out by a female in Pakistan.

The blast had taken place in the northern town of Khar in the Bajaur reigon along the Afghan border. Many of the people awaiting rations from the WFP had been displaced earlier by fighting between the Taliban and Pakistan's military or flooding earlier this year.

The BBC reported that Pakistan's Army had begun attacking Taliban and militant positions in the neighboring Mohmand region. This would not be the first time the UN's WFP was targeted in Pakistan- last October, a suicide bomber killed six employees when he attacked the WFP offices in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Today's Train of Thought- Frosty the Flagman; Dec 24, 2010

What is it about the unassuming western Michigan shortline Marquette Rail that seems to draw photographers to it? Especially in the wintertime.....

For the last few years, Marquette rail has operated an annual Santa Train over its line making stops in Manistee, Sparta, Comstock Park and Baldwin among other towns. The train will stop with Santa on board to help distribute candy and even Christmas trees to children and a few families along the line.

Here, contributor John Ryan caught the Santa Train- powered by GP38-2 #2635- approaching a snowman in the tiny village of Fountain, MI on the night of Dec. 11th 2010 after the sunset hours.

If Frosty the Flagman could talk, I'm sure he'd be saying 'Merry Christmas!'

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Fire Inside is So Delightful.....

I'll be going away for Christmastime- and while unlike last year, I have my own laptop- I suspect the availability of connections to the web will be something of an issue out in the.

Before I ship off, I thought I'd let NANESB! visitors savor some sweet vintage eye candy. While the late, great Gil Elvgren has traditionally been my go-to guy in that department, I thought this undated Freeman Elliot work entitled 'I Hope Santa Won't Overlook These' was fitting for the season.

Elliot was active with Brown and Bigelow in the early 1950s- the same Minneapolis-based firm that also has works from Gil Elvgren, Norman Rockwell and Fredrick Remington in their company catalogue.

Lame Duck Chronicles

Well, prior to my Christmastime departure, I'm getting an earful from the mainstream media of just how gosh-darn wonderful and productive this lame-duck session of Congress has been, with passage of the START treaty and repeal of the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy among other things.

Don't know that much about START other than it's apparently structured on a Cold War-era dynamic between the USA and Russia and doesn't address the proliferation of nukes in unstable or hostile states like Pakistan, North Korea or Iran.

The one that really grinds my gears is the repeal of DADT- decided in large part by a bunch of hacks who will be out of a job come Jan 1st. I'm not sure whats worse, the fact that the United States Armed Forces could get a few thousand more whiney, treasonous drama queens along the lines of PFC Bradley Manning signing up or the proponents of its repeal crowing about how they were really serving the will of the people barely a month after getting their asses stomped at the polls.

Never mind the situations in Afghanistan, Iraq or the Korean peninsula- apparently at this point in 2010, the most pressing matter for the US Military is the lack of openly gay recruits. I also find it quite telling that the people shouting from the rooftops (i.e. Obama, Pelosi, Frank) the loudest about this wonderful accomplishment of theirs HAVEN'T EVEN SERVED ONE DAY OF THEIR LIVES IN THE U.S. MILITARY.

Of course, this means that the left and academia will have to find new excuses to try and block military recruiters from high school and college campuses. This was not done to better the Armed Forces by any stretch of the imagination- this was done soley for the benefit of Obama's hard left base.

Hopefully the Pentagon could throw up some roadblock impeding a full repeal of DADT in the next few months. And for those of you who think I'm wrong in my assessment of the DADT repeal, I challenge you to show me where I'm factually inaccurate.

The attempt at Amnesty for illegal aliens thinly disguised as the 'Dream Act' dies in the Senate during the lame-duck sessions, although by rights that thing should've been bludgeoned, stabbed and kicked to death before it went to the House floor. Perhaps the Dream Act was a sacrificial lamb or pehaps even some of the worthless and clueless progressive hacks in the Senate realized that rewarding breaking the law and providing further incentive for more illegal immigrants to come here immediately in the wake of a Border Patrol agent being shot to death by Mexican criminals just wouldn't fly.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

UK Raids Disrupt Suspected Terrorist Plot Targetting London

Twelve men were arrested in pre-dawn raids across England after intelligence indicated they were in the advanced stages of a suspected Christmastime attack that was believed to target shoppers and tourists in shops, banks and other landmarks throughout London.

The 12 men were arrested in London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent range from 17 to 28 years of age and are believed to be of UK residents of Bangladeshi origin. They were reportedly inspired in part by Yemeni-based preacher Anwar al-Awlaki.

According to UK investigators, the most recent London plot was unrelated to an earlier suicide bombing in Stockholm or a Yemeni-based plot using explosives concealed in printers and then shipped by airfreight.

The early morning raids came after months of surveillance by MI5. Intercepted communications indicated that the plotters were close to carrying out their attacks.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Today's Train of Though- Either Ore, Dec, 20, 2010

Today's Train of Though takes us to the nothern reaches of Minnesota and iron ore country in the grip of one of their notoriously frigid winters.

For nearly 70 years, the Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range earned its keep hauling iron ore and later taconite from the mines to the north and west of Duluth, MN to the massive ore hauling ships waiting at the Twin Harbors. There also has been significant limestone traffic on the DM&IR as well.

The Canadian National reached the Twin Harbors from the west by way of its Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific subsidiary. In the 1990s, both Canadian railroads were looking to expedite traffic from Western Canada to Chicago. The CP had an advantage in that it had a wholly owned subsidiary in the Soo Line, which ran from the US/Canadian border at Portal, ND to Chicago by way of the twin cities.

Until 2001, Canadian National had to rely on agreements with American railroads to compete with Chicago-bound traffic from CP. In October of that year, the now privately-held Canadian National purchased super-reigonal Wisconsin Central, giving CN nearly direct access to Chicago from the Duluth-Superior area. The only hinderance at the time was a gap of roughly 10 miles on the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range between the end of the DW&P trackage and beginning of the former Wisconsin Central rails.

For CN, this problem was resolved nearly three years later with the May 2004 Purchase of the Duluth Missabe & Iron Range's parent company, Great Lakes Transportation (itself a spinoff from US Steel). The Canadian National's acquisition of Great Lakes Transportation not only gave them the DM&IR, but also the Elgin Joliet & Eastern in Chicago and western Pennsylvania's Bessemer & Lake Erie.

The CN still serviced the mines, ore docks and steel mills on its respective former Great Lakes Transportation property, but it was becoming increasingly interested in increasing capacity on the DM&IR and EJ&E.

And like other railroads purchased by Canadian National, the locomotives and rolling stock bearing the DM&IR colors would be on their way out, either sold off or repainted into Canadaian National colors (see Wisconsin Central, BC Rail). However, contributor Scott Carney snapped Iron Range SD38 #205 leads two bretheren dutifully charging uphill and around Spirit Mtn Curve (featuring a commanding view of Superior, WI) with a load of empty ore cars heading back to the mines on a snowy March 2007 day.

Most of the SD38s would be gone from Iron Range property by the end of 2009, replaced by power from elsewhere on the CN system.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Today's Train of Thought- What Global Warming? Febuary 2nd, 2010 contributor raylewis braved the elements for this shot of Union Pacific GP38-2 #600 traversing the former Southen Pacific main line through the Sierra Nevadas on a snowy April 2006 day. Here, the 600 and another GP38-2 have a flanger with them to clear up any snowdrifts that have accumulated along the line. The two locomotives and snow-clearing equipment are seen passing through Soda Spring, CA.

Clearing snow from the Donner Pass line can be a full-time undertaking. More than a half-century earlier, this section of the Southern Pacific line played host to a snowbound City of San Francisco streamliner with 226 passengers and crew in January 1952.

Sports Nog Chowdah Update- Pats Leader of the Pack; Snap Caps- B's Skid Halts vs Washington; C's Pick up Pace vs Indy

NFL: On some weekends, there's a noticeable lack of competitive games and fans, bloggers and sports media types are left struggling to try and find ways to make a tepid batch of games otherwise sound appealing.

This has not been one of those weekends, however.

Sunday night's game between the Patriots and Green Bay Packers in Foxboro- which seemed to have a little bit of everything- is as good a place as any to start.

Although New England won their last two games by convincing margins, the Packers would prove to be anything but easy or predictable from the opening kickoff....which happened to be an onside kick that Green Bay booted and promptly recovered and got on the board with a Mason Crosby FG from the Pats 31 yard line.

On the next posession the Pats would get the ball back on their own 27 yard line. Although Brady would get sacked for a 7 yard loss when they made it to Green Bay's half of the field, the Pats were able to convert on 3rd and 17 thanks to a Brady pass to Deion Branch. This would be followed by a 33 yard Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis TD run to make it 7-3 New England.

Now....they way it's gone for the past few weeks, you'd think that would be it for the Packers, but not so fast. Without starting QB Aaron Rogers, Matt Flynn was going a capable job of filling in and before you knew it, the Pack had taken the lead on a 66 yard Flynn to James Jones catch and TD run followed by a more sustained drive that was kept alive by New England penalties later on in the second to make it a 17-7 Green Bay lead.

Reeling from this stunning turn of events and with their backs to the wall right before halftime, the Patriots would deploy their secret weapon- 313 lb Guard Return Specialist Dan Connoly.
Shaking off tackles and picking up key blocks, Connoly returned the Packers kickoff 71 yards to Green Bay's 4 yard line and the Patriots cashed in on 3rd and goal to cut the Green Bay lead to 17-14 at halftime.

The momentum would continue to swing New England's direction with the start of the second half when CB Kyle Arrington would return Matt Flynn interception 36 yards to paydirt and the Patriots would take the lead 21-17.

The Packers would re-take the lead on a 7 minute drive- again kept alive by penalties on the Pats defense- to make it 21-24. After a 3 and out in which Brady was sacked (again) deep in their own territory, the Packers would get the ball back midfield and once again drive it down inside New England's 10 yard line. This time the defense held firm and the Packers were limited to a FG attempt, although the Packers built their lead to 27-21. The Pats would get a Shayne Graham FG on their next possession to close within 3.

With 11 minutes to go in regulation, Flynn was sacked by Devin McCourty to open up Green Bay's next possession. The Packers would then go three and out before kicking ot off to give NE the ball on their own 31 yard line after a 4 yard Julian Ettleman return. The following drive would see Woodhead with four carries and one catch for 37 total yards, capped off by a 10 yard TD pass to Aaron Hernandez from Brady to put New England up 31-27 with just over 7 minutes left.

Although Green Bay got a 45 yard return from Sam Shields before the drive sputtered at the New England 40. However, they were able to keep the Patriots pinned deep in their own territory. The Pats would go 3 and out and give Green Bay good field position on the ensuing kickoff with just over 4 minutes left.

Right away, Matt Flynn threw a pick but that was negated by a 5 yard penalty on the Patriots defense. The Packers got as far as the New England 15 yard line with less than 10 seconds left when the of experience on Flynn's part would come back to haunt the Packers on 4th and 1. A confused looking Flynn looked as though he was waiting for some sort of cue on which play to run with the clock ticking (an no timeouts remaining) and instead got sacked by Tully Banta-Cain as time expired, with New England holding off Green Bay by a final of 31-27.

Tom Brady actually had a pretty quiet night by Brady standards, going 15-24 with 163 yards, 2 TDs and getting sacked 3 times. Matt Flynn acquitted himself reasonably well in a high-pressure situation, going 24-37 with 251 yards and 4 TDs (unfortunately for Green Bay, this includes the pick-6 to Arrington) and 5 sacks.

The ball was thrown about pretty evenly by Brady on Sunday, with Woodhead getting the most yards (71 total, all but 12 of them rushing). The Pats now have a 12-2 record and will travel to Orchard Park, NY the day after Christmas to take on the Buffalo Bills.

Interestingly this marks the 6th consecutive week that the Patriots scored 30 or more points- all wins (although unlike the last few weeks, they needed every one of those points).

ELSEWHERE IN THE AFC EAST: In a 'Why can't both teams lose?' match up, the New York Jets (i.e. Jerkass Cheaters) survived a late drive from Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers to hang on and win by the final on 22-17 on Sunday afternoon in the steel city. This brings the Jets record to 10-4 (presently tied with the Baltimore Ravens, who had beaten the New Orleans Saints 24-30 at home on Sunday) although Baltimore does own a tiebreaker in by virtue of beating the Jets in the season opener.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL: Holy Crap! Did you see this one out of the Meadowlands? Just to set the scene a little, do not think that this was a toght game finishing up- hell no! The Giants led the Philadelphia Eagles by a margin of 31-10 with just over 8 minutes left in regulation. The Eagles quickly countered to make it 31-17 and got the ball back after the Giants turned it over on the ensuing kickoff. Next thing you know, a couple of quick strkes from Eagles QB Micheal Vick (including a TD run of his own) and the game is suddenly tied at 31-31. After a 3 and out with just over a minute left in regulation where Giants QB Eli Manning got sacked with 14 seconds left in the game, which leads us to this 'Holy Crap!' moment:

In case the embedded video doesn't work, the Eagles win it on a DeSean Jackson kickoff return (that he fumbled and then recovered no less) as time expired at the Meadowlands with the final score Philly 38, New York 31.

NFC NORTH: With additional panels collapsing at the Metrodome during last week's blizzard, the Monday night game between the Bears and Vikings has been moved outdoors to the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank stadium. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay offered the Colts' Lucas Oil Field for use on Monday night, but the league went ahead with the decision to keep the game in the twin cities. TCF seats roughly 14,000 less than the Metrodome (admission will be on a 1st come, 1st served basis) and no alcohol will be served on Monday night during the game.

NHL: The Boston Bruins snapped their 3 game losing streak on Saturday night against the Washington Capitals, who came into the Garden riding a 7-game skid.

The Bruins got on the board early with goals from Bergeron, Ference and Wheeler. The Caps would get on the board in the 2nd to make it a 3-1 game and adding to it in the 3rd to make it a 1 goal game. Tim Thomas stopped 39 of 41 shots faced on the night, giving the B's their first win in nearly week.

The B's will next take on the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night at the Garden. The Ducks come into Monday night's game riding a 2-game losing streak.

NBA: Totally missed this one- I'm not sure if this was rescheduled so that it wouldn't conflict with the New England/Green Bay game on Sunday night (but with the rest of the NFL schedule) or if it was supposed to be an afternoon game all along, but the Celtics took care of the Indiana Pacers on Sunday by a final of 99-88 for their 13th straight win.

Their next game will be on Wednesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers as they'll try and go for 14 straight.

NCAA FOOTBALL: Not necessarily a good weekend for anybody trying to convince skeptics that there's no such thing as too many Bowl Games, a the closest Bowl game this week was decided by 23 points.

New Mexico Bowl: BYU 52-UTEP 24
Humanitarian Bowl: Northern Illinois 40- Fresno State 17
New Orleans Bowl: Ohio 21-Troy 48

Perhaps the most noteworthy development is that the New Mexico Bowl is Brigham Young's final game as a member of the Mountain West Conference, as the Cougars will be striking out as an independent team effective next season.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Stuck for Gift Ideas for That Person Who Has Everything? Try Getting 'Em Their Own Town!

Maybe that special somebody in your life has recently been dropping subtle little hints like 'Wouldn't it be nice to find somewhere to get away from it all?' or 'Hey- just get me a remote and sparsely populated municipality for Christmas this year'.

Well you're in luck, friends. There just happens to be a few such towns out there for sale on the open market. Naturally, I wouldn't even bother mentioning them unless there were some sort of railways involved. photo- Darryl Bond

The first such locale is down in the mountainous West Coast region on New Zealand's South Island and is called Otira. Otira has a population of roughly 44 and features a pub, fire station, 18 homes (14 of them occupied by tenants), a school and of course, a railway depot. Otira started out on a stop on the trans-Alpine stagecoach route in the 1860s, but served as railhead to the west coast until the Otira tunnel was completed in 1923.

The town is situated along KiwiRail's busy Midland line between Christchurch and Greymouth, which crests New Zealand's Southern Alps. Aside from the daily TranzAlpine Express, the line sees regular freight in the form of coal, dairy products and lumber from the West Coast to the rest of New Zealand or the port of Lyttleton for export. The western end of the 5 mile Otira Tunnel is just outside of Otira proper as well.
Otira is also located along NZ Highway 73 and flanked by Arthur's Pass National Park on three sides. This stretch of Highway 73 also boasts the 1999-built 440 meter Otira Viaduct (above), which replaced a winding, treacherous and landslide-prone stretch of highway.

But as of June 2010 it's all up for sale with the asking price of NZ$1.5 million ($1.1 million US). The current owners have put the town on the market after purchasing it for NZ$80,000 in the late 1990s. By comparison, NZ$1.5 million could get you a good-sized upscale home in suburban Auckland.

Assuming that Otira goes for anywhere near its asking price while factoring in a kiwi property boom and increase in value of the New Zealand dollar to the equation and the couple- Bill and Christine Hennah- will have gotten quite the return on their initial investment.

Although Bill and Christine had invested alot of TLC into the town over the last decade or so, Bill's sore shoulder and Christine's arthritis are slowing them down, leading them to put it on the market. The couple purchased the schoolhouse to move into once they 'retire' from owning Otira and a buyer for the town is found. The couple says they've been entertaining offers from as far afield as Canada, Malaysia, the UK and Norway.

For those of you in North America who want a town of your own but without the lengthy trans-Pacific flight, the northeastern Nevada town of Currie could be just what you're looking for.
Currie is located along US Highway 93 and the dormant Nevada Northern Railroad right of way in southern Elko county, NV. The unincorporated town got its name from the nearby ranch of Joseph Currie, who settled in the area in the 1880s. Currie started out as a stagecoach and freight stop, but with the discovery of copper in nearby Ely, NV the Nevada Northern Railroad was constructed between Ely and the Southern Pacific Junction at Cobre, NV (some 140 miles). The railway was completed in 1906 and a railway station and telegraph office opened up in Currie that same year.

Passenger service along the Nevada Northern halted in 1941 (by which point the NN had become a subsidiary of Kennecott Copper) and freight service continued until the closure of the mines in the Ely area in 1983. The line was then acquired by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in 1987 in anticipation of servicing a coal-fired power plant that was never built. However, the line saw a revival in the late 1990s when Australian mining company BHP leased the line to ship copper ore concentrate from Rieptown, NV to the Union Pacific interchange at Shafter. The line was abandoned in 1999 and although copper mining resumed around 2004, the ore was hauled by truck and the line through Currie remained dormant.

In 2007, the LA Department of Water and Power sold the line to the City of Ely and White Pine County to the south despite efforts of some salvage outfits to seize the line, rip up the rails and sell them for scrap. Although it was hoped that the revived mine traffic could make its way to rails along with coal, more recent plans to construct a coal burning power plant outside of Ely were thwarted last year.

So while there may not be the rumble of freight trains rolling past the Currie depot (above), there's still the matter of a lonely stretch of US 93 making its way north from Las Vegas to Idaho and points north.

According to this site, the town includes an RV park, the Goshute Mercantile (below), a schoolhouse, the old Currie hotel and the Nevada Northern depot. There's also a Nevada Highway Department Maintenance yard in town, but that's not included in the sale.

Although classified as a ghost town, Currie is thought to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 residents. The Currie school only taught up through grade 8 before shutting down in 2001, and the nearest bus stop was 35 miles away. Any children remaining in Currie would have to be homeschooled or boarded in Ely.

The town has apparently been on the market for a decade, although a cursory search indicates there has been no mention of a buyer since notice went up of Currie being for sale.

But with that in mind, good NANESB! reader, think of how that special somebody's eyes will light up when they see one of these remote and sparsely populated (but scenic!) towns under the Christmas tree this year.

Food for thought.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Really Quick Sports Chowdah Update- C's Make it Cheaper by the Dozen; B's Drop 3rd Straight; Chargers Trample 49ers

Well, I missed out on both the Celtics and Bruins games on Thursday night, but figured with the busy weekend coming up that another update was in order.

NBA: For the second straight week in a row, the C's were nationally televised on TNT. And while this one wasn't as close as last week's game against the 76ers, Boston still came out on top.

Although the Hawks got out to an early lead, the C's came back thanks in large part to double doubles from Kevin Garnett, Glen 'Big Baby' Davis and Paul Pierce to go on and win by the final of 102-90 on Thursday night. This brings the Celtics current win streak to a dozen games.

Missing from the lineup on Thursday was Rajon Rondo, who is expected to miss at least a week after spraining his left ankle in Wednesday night's game against the Knicks.

The C's next home game will be at 1 PM ET on Sunday afternoon against the Indiana Pacers.

NHL: The Bruins lost their third consecutive game on Thursday night against Montreal. Marc Savard got his first goal since coming back in the losing effort. Tim Thomas stopped 37 of 41 shots faced on the night, and while Milan Lucic's power play goal late in the third would pull the B's to within one, Montreal hangs on to win by a final of 4-3.

The Habs victory snaps a 3 game skid of their own and puts them 4 points ahead of Boston for 1st in the Northeast division.

The Bruins will try and snap their losing streak on Saturday night at the Garden when they host the Washington Capitals. The Caps are somewhat worse off, coming into the Garden riding a 7 game skid.

NFL: Wow.....the Thursday night game this week was a laugher, to put it modestly.

The San Diego Chargers helped themselves out considerably in their push for the playoffs by manhandling the San Francisco 49ers by a final of 34-7 on Thursday.

QB Phillip Rivers connected with WR Vincent Jackson for three TDs against the hapless niners. This was first game back for Jackson since the road win against the Colts on Nov 28th.

More Borderline Psychosis- Another Mass Jailbreak; Border Patrol Agent Killed; La Familia Michoacan Leader Dead? Not the Drone you're Looking For

TAMAULIPAS: At least 159 inmates in a Nuevo Laredo prison walked out of a service entrance overnight on Thursday in what's being described as the largest jailbreak in Mexico in recent years. Earlier this year, 85 inmates escaped from a prison in Reynosa, Tamaulipas- across the Rio Grande from McAllen, TX. This brings the total number of prison escapees this year to more than 200 just for the state of Tamaulipas.

One police official said that there are indications of complicity on the part of the prison guards and the chief warden for the facility is reportedly missing as well.

Federal police and soldiers were brought in to patrol the area and search for the escapees.

AP Photo- Gustavo Ruiz
MICHOACAN: Nazario 'El Mas Loco' Moreno, the head of the cultlike la familia Michoacan cartel, was reportedly killed in a clash with Mexican Marines and Federal police last week.

Police and military stormed into the town of Apatzingan, near the state capital of Morelia, where Moreno was believed to be hiding. In the ensuing firefight, Moreno and three other La Familia gunmen were killed along with five officers and three civilians. A spokesman for the Federal Police said that the death toll could be higher since some fleeing La Familia gunmen were seen taking their dead and wounded with them.
In response to the raid, La Familia gunmen blocked most of the exits around Morelia with stolen vehicles that were then torched (see above photo).

Although relatively new, La Familia Michoacan is unlike most other criminal organizations in that they have been known to recruit from drug rehabilitation centers throughout Mexico, portrays themselves as Robin Hood-esque defenders of the downtrodden and keeps their members in line with quasi religous indoctrination. This fervor does not prevent them from carrying out brutal murders or torturing opponents, but rather it classifies such activities as 'divine justice'. However, like other cartels, La Familia has been known to engage in human trafficking, extortion and mass production of synthetic drugs like methamphetimines.

NUEVO LEON: A car bomb exploded outside a minicipal police station in suburban Monterrey.
Authorities say that three people were hurt and there was some damage done to the police building and nearby vehicles. This is the second car bombing south of the border this year and is believed to be a warning from one of the cartels.

TEXAS: A Mexican drone crashed into the backyard of an El Paso, TX residence on Tuesday, raising questions about what it was doing in US airspace or which government agency controlled it.

Officials from the Department of Homeland Security returned the downed craft to Mexican officials before the National Transportation Safety Board could inspect it. Depending on the point of impact, the UAV was anywhere from ⅓ to ½ a mile within US airspace when it went down.

ARIZONA: US Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed in a shootout with Mexican bandits in a mountainous area Northwest of Nogales, AZ on Wednesday. Terry was part of a 'BorTac' unit, shorthand for 'Border Tactical'- the Border Patrol's equivalent of a SWAT team charged with interdiction of smugglers and cross-border bandits.

Four suspects were taken into custody at the scene while a manhunt was underway for a fifth. FBI Agents and Santa Cruz County sherriff's deputies were combing the scene for further evidence after the shootout took place.

A Marine Corps veteran and born and raised in Michigan, Agent Terry's fuenral will be held in Detroit.

CHICAGO: The DEA announced the arrests of 7 people and the seizure of 11 tons of marijuana that was smuggled into the USA in six boxcars from Mexico.

Drug sniffing dogs from the Border Patrol first detected the contraband when it crossed the border from Piedras Negras, Coahuila to Eagle Pass, TX in mid-November. From there, it moved to Chicago over Union Pacific rails.

According to the manifest, the shipment consisted of titanium pigments from Jalisco, and the pot was indeed concealed inside industrial 'super sacks'. Law enforcement kept the Chicagoland warehouse listed as the destination under survaillence before making any arrests and seizing the marijuana.

[hat tip- Weasel Zippers, Friends of Ours]

Thursday, December 16, 2010

BBC: Millions of Euros for 'Green' Energy Subsidies Siphoned by Italian Mafia

Several shell companies controlled by the Sicilian and Calabrian mafia are fraudulently obtaining grants from the European Union and using 'green' energy projects to launder money, according to Italian officials and EU auditors.

Sicilian mafia turncoat Anthony Birrittella said that he and other organized crime figures viewed the EU funds as 'A gift to the mafia' and easy pickings.

"First the Mafia had an interest in many of the companies which obtained public funds, and they owned many of the companies which won the contracts to build wind farms, and finally they claimed fake transactions and issued double payment invoices."

He says the organisation used intimidation to obtain the plots of land it needed to build the wind farms, and threatened any construction firms who refused to pay its extortion fees.

"It started with arson on their premises or building sites, burning their trucks and machinery. That was followed up with threatening phone calls. At that point they usually got what they wanted."
Among the assets seized in what Italian autorities called a 'record' anti-mafia sweep in September were more than 40 wind and solar energy companies registered in Sicily and Calabria. The rapid growth of wind power in southern Italy has been fuelled in large part by generous government subsidies.

The seizure of the mob-controlled 'green' energy companies confirms to Italian officals that the Cosa Nostra and 'Ndrangheta crime syndicates breaking into the new 'green' economy as a means of laundering the profits from their other criminal enterprises.

[Hat tip: Friends of Ours]

Today's Train of Thought- Walkin' in a Windsor Wonderland, December 16, 2010

Today's rather snowy Train of Though comes to us from North of the Border in the province that's been sending the city of Boston a Christmas tree each year.

Established in 1994, the 55-mile Windsor and Hantsport is one of Nova Scotia's newest shortlines. Operating trackage formerly belonging to Canadian Pacific subsidiary Dominion Atlantic, the Windsor & Hantsport immediately went to work hauling carloads of gypsum behind a small fleet of former Canadian Pacific MLW RS23s.

The unique, high-hooded former Canadian Pacific RS23s operated until just a few years ago when they were replaced by chopnose former Canadian National GP9s. Here, contributor Rod Bushway braved a snowstorm to catch RS23s #8036, #8038 and #8047 hauling a string of empty gypsum hoppers through a snowy Hantsport, NS in January 2002.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Quickie Cuppa Sports Chowdah- Free Agent Cliff Hanger; Ocean's River's Eleven; B's Hit w/Stafford Infection; WWII Vet, HOFer Feller Passes Away

Image: USA Today
MLB: WWII Navy Veteran and Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller passed away in a Cleveland area hospice on Wednesday night. The 92 year old was suffering from acute leukemia and pneumonia.

Feller, a first ballot hall of famer, first appeared with the Indians at the age of 17 in 1936 and stayed with the Indians his whole career. His career totals of 266 wins, 3,827 innings pitched, 2,581 strikeouts and 279 complete games remain a franchise record to this day.

The day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Feller enlisted in the United States Navy and ended up as a Gun captain serving on the USS Alabama until 1945.
"I'm proud of that decision to enlist," Feller said. "It was important to serve your country. I didn't worry about losing my baseball career. We needed to win the war. I wanted to do my part."

Feller never considered himself a war hero: "The soldiers that didn't come back were the heroes. It's a roll of the dice. If a bullet has your name on it, you're a hero. If you hear a bullet go by, you're a survivor."
Feller also was on the last Indians team to win a World Series title. Although he went 0-2 in the 1948 World Series against the Boston Braves of the NL, Cleveland would go on to win the series 4 games to 2.

Feller would retire in 1956 and go on be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. In 1995, a museum in his hometown of Van Meter, IA opened up and in retirement, 'Bullet Bob' or 'The Heater from Van Meter'- as Feller was sometimes referred to in his playing days- was a regular fixture around Cleveland's Jacobs Field.

ELSEWHERE IN MLB: Just when it was looking like highly prized free agent pitcher Cliff Lee had to choose between the Yankees or Rangers, the Philadelphia Phillies swooped in- seemingly from out of nowhere- and signed Lee to a 5 year $120 million deal.

In taking the Phillies offer, Lee leaves an estimated $30 million on the table that the Yankees were offering and leaves the Bronx Bombers scrambling to try and find any big-name free agent they could sign this offseason. I imagine this signing is a particularly bitter pill to swallow in the Big Apple, not only for the blow to the Yankees, but also the fact that the NY Mets are on the same division against a team that features a starting rotation of Roy Halliday, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee Blanton? gotta admit the first four are pretty formidable.

*The Washington Nationals have signed free agent right-fielder Jayson Werth to a 7 year, $126 million contract this week. In his final season with the Phillies, Werth had a .296 batting average with 27 homers and 85 RBI

NFL: Brett Favre's streak of consecutive regular-season starts was snapped Monday night in Detroit when the Vikings home field was moved from the collapsed roof of the Metrodome to Detroit's Ford Field. The streak that began on September 13, 1992 on the road against Tampa Bay unceremoniously came to and end as backup QB Tavaris Jackson and the Vikings offense sputtered in their 21-3 loss to the NY Giants.

That was actually Game 1 of a rare late-season Monday Night doubleheader (although unless you had DirecTV or Sirius/XM, the Vikings/Giants game was only broadcast in NY and the Twin Cities). The regularly scheduled Monday Night game got underway in Houston's Reliant Stadium shortly after Favre's streak was snapped

And while I have not rooting interest in either team, the nationally televised Monday Night Football game between the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans got very interesting very late.

The Ravens took a 21-7 lead into halftime and almost immediately added to that with a 103 yard kickoff return by Baltimore's David Reed to make it a 28-7 game. At this point, the casual observer would've figured it was over, shut off the TV and found something else to do.....clean up around their place, go to a Christmas party, update their crappy blog.....anything but continue to watch this one-sided ass kicking.

In all honesty, I didn't tune in until the score was 28-13 Baltimore, but wouldn't you know it? That Reed kickoff return was it for the scoring for Baltimore in the second half. Texans QB Matt Schaub engineered two drives in the 4th quarter- including one from their own 5 yard line with 2:42 remaining in regulation- to tie the game with a successful 2 point conversion attempt with 21 seconds left in the 4th.

So on to overtime- Baltimore's offense gets the ball to start off the OT, but the drive sputters when Ravens QB Joe Flacco [who just happens to be a Colonial Athletic Association alumnus- NANESB!] was sacked for an 11 yard loss on 3rd and 10 from Baltimore's own 41 yard line. Texans get the ball back, but thanks to a pretty good punt and shoddy return by Texans special teams, they're pinned inside their own 10 yard line. Schaub's first pass attempt falls incomplete. His next pass attempt is complete to Ravens CB Josh Wilson, who runs the interception back 12 yards for the Ravens TD in a 34-28 OT win.

NHL: The only Sabre to get on the board against the Bruins on Wednesday night was returning RW Drew Stafford, but that's all Buffalo would need. Stafford injured his shoulder in a November game against Montreal, and while returning in a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Stafford re-aggravated the injury. The Wednesday night game would mark his first time back on the ice since Dec 3rd.

And apparently he decided to celebrate with a hat trick. David Krejci would open up the scoring in the first with a goal just two and a half minutes in, but Stafford got Buffalo on the board with a power-play goal to tie the contest up at 1-1 with less than 90 seconds left in the 1st. After a scoreless 2nd period, the Bruins briefly took the lead in the 3rd on a Micheal Ryder power play goal. Stafford would knot the contest back up with an even strength goal to make it 2-2 30 seconds after Ryder's tally and then put the Sabres up for good on his 2nd power play goal of the night midway through the 3rd with what would prove to be the game-winner.

Stafford scored his 3rd career hat trick and the Sabres win by a final of 3-2 at the HSBC arena on Wednesday night. Tukka Rask stopped 32 of 35 shots faced while Buffalo's Ryan Miller let in two on 34 shots faced.

This is the second straight loss for Boston, although they're still only two points behind Montreal for 1st place in the Northeastern division.

Speaking of Montreal, the Bruins will travel there for Thursday night's game. Puck drops at 7 PM Eastern time.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NHL: The Glendale, AZ City Council approved a 30 lease agreement with new Coyotes owner, Chicago financier Matt Hulsizer.

The City council's decision comes a few weeks before a December 31st deadline to find a new owner for the team or have it relocated. The city also asked the council to authorize the sale of up to $125 million in municipal bonds to accommodate the terms of the lease.

NBA: Yikes...they don't come much tighter than that.

Instead of rolling over as they had done so many times before for so many teams, The New York Knicks put up an uncharacteristically tenacious fight on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

And since I missed most of the game, might as well fast forward to where it really counts, with Paul Pierce hitting what he thought would be the game winning with all of 0.4 seconds left in the 4th. However, the Knicks Amare Stoudemire immediately heaved a 3 pointer that was good, but after the referees reviewed the videotape, they determined that the ball left Stoudemire's hands after the final buzzer had sounded.

Boston hangs on to win this one by a final of 118-116 for their 11th straight win. The Wednesday night win brings to an end the Knicks own, respectable win streak of 8 games.

The Celtics will next take on the Atlanta Hawks at home on Thursday night. For the 2nd week in a row, the C's will be broadcast nationally on TNT at 8 PM Eastern, 5 Pacific.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Boston's Christmas Tree Arrives from Nova Scotia

I had been pretty busy the last couple of weeks and was starting to feel pretty 'humbug' before I realized that I had completely forgotten about Boston's Christmas Tree arriving from Nova Scotia this month.

For a little background on this tradition between the province of Nova Scotia and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, click here.

The tradition was dormant for several years before being revived by the province and a local association of Christmas Tree growers in 1971.

For 2010, the honors went to a 50ft tall white spruce from the property of Gary Misner of North Alton, NS. Concerned the tree could topple onto his house, Misner offered the tree to Nova Scotia for exactly such an occasion.
BU Daily Free Press
The tree was lit in a ceremony with a concert and fireworks on the night of December 2nd at the Boston Common.

Monday, December 13, 2010

BREAKING- Federal Judge in Virginia Rules 0bamacare Unconstitutional

A Federal Judge in Virginia's 4th Circut Court has struck down a key mandate in the healthcare legislation signed by President Obama back in March of this year.

Judge Henry E. Hudson stated on Monday that the provision that every American must purchase healthcare by 2014 or face a federally imposed fine exceeded Congressional authority under the Commerce or General Welfare Clauses.

"It is not the effect on individuals that is presently at issue -- it is the authority of Congress to compel anyone to purchase health insurance," wrote Hudson, who was appointed to the federal bench in 2002 by President George W. Bush.

"Every application of Commerce Clause power found to be constitutionally sound by the Supreme Court involved some form of action, transaction or deed placed in motion by an individual or legal entity. The constitutional viability of the minimum essential coverage provision in this case turns on whether or not a person's decision to refuse to purchase health care insurance is such an activity," he wrote.

Hudson's eagerly awaited decision invalidates the requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance by 2014 or face a federal fine. Hudson's decision is the first striking down part of the controversial legislation.

The lawsuit is just one of nearly two dozen challenges filed in federal courts across the country. Another high-profile suit filed in Florida and joined by 20 states and the National Federation of Independent Businesses will go before Judge Roger Vinson on Thursday.
The Obama Administration is expected to appeal Hudson's ruling.

Earlier in the year, the states of Oklahoma, Arizona and Missouri had passed ballot measures challenging 0bamacare as well.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sports Chowdah w/A Blizzard Update- Bears Mauled By Pats O; Raise Raze the Roof; C's De-Claw Bobcats; New Outdoor Record Set

NFL: These guys must be on suicide watch after Sunday.

Coming into Sunday's game at Soldier Field, the Pats were favored by 3 points. Seems a little understated in hindsight.

In the driving snow, Tom Brady went 27-40 with 369 yards and two TDs- including connecting with Deion Branch for 59 yards to find the Bears end zone as time expired in the first half.

And that was just an exclamation point on a half in which the Bears were outscored 33-0. Brady connected with TE Ron Gronkowski for a 7 yard TD Pass on their second drive to open up the scoring, capping off a 6+ minute drive that started on their own 15 yard line. In the 2nd quarter, Danny Woodhead put the Pats up 14-0 on a 3 yard TD run and on the Bear's next possession, a lateral from Jay Cutler to WR Johnny Knox was fumbled and Pats LB Gary Guyton returned it for a TD. Shayne Graham added to the scoring with two chip-shot FGs in the 2nd period as well (although he missed the PAT after Branch's TD as time expired in the first half).

The Bears only socred once- a one yard TD run from Chester Taylor in the 3rd- while the Pats 2nd half scoring was limited to a 29 yard Graham FG.

New England wins this one by a final of 36-7, with the Patriots outscoring their last two opponents by a 81-10 margin and scoring more than 30 points for the 6th straight week. The win clinches a playoff berth for New England as well.

Next Sunday's game will be a nocturnal affair as the Pats host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football.

ELSEWHERE IN THE AFC EAST: Apparently the Patriots broke the Jets. This time, the Miami Dolphins were able to successfully keep the Jets out of the end zone in their 10-6 win over New York on Sunday afternoon (this would mean the Jets lost their last 2 games by a combined total of 55-9).

Even so, that wasn't the most noteworthy event to take place on Sunday in the Meadowlands. Jet's strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi tripped Miami CB Nolan Carroll from the sidelines as the Dolphins rookie as he was running along the sideline to cover a punt. Alosi issued an apology a few hours after the game but will likely face some sort of fine or disciplinary action.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL: There was already talk of moving Sunday afternoon's Vikings/Giants game to Monday night in the wake of a massive blizzard that struck the upper Midwest this weekend.

With the collapse of the Metrodome roof, the NFL announced the game is being moved to Detroit for Monday night. The delay might've given the Viking's Brett Favre enough time to add to his NFL-record 297 consecutive regular season starts streak although the QB appeared doubtful.

The Lions will start giving away free general admission tickets on Monday morning at 9AM Central Time while repair work begins on the roof of the Metrodome. The inflatable roof is expected to be open in time for next week's Monday Night Football game between the Bears and Vikings.

NCAA FOOTBALL: The Army and Naval Academy football teams clashed in Philly on Saturday, with the Midshipmen coming out on top 31-17. This the 9th season in a row that Navy has topped Army. Navy leads the series all time at 55-49-7.

With that said, both teams will be playing one more game this year. The Midshipmen will be taking on the San Diego State Aztecs in the SD County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23rd while Army goes up against the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl on December 30th.

FCS: Not only was I wrong about the number of remaining teams in the FCS playoff, but there are now no more New England teams competing with the UNH Wildcat's 16-3 loss to Delaware.

I completely overlooked two separate FCS playoff games this weekend- Eastern Washington's 38-31OT win against North Dakota State and Georgia Southern holding off Wofford by a final of 23-20.

That said, the Colonial Athletic Association is still going to be well represented in the semifinals, as Villanova handled Appalachian State 42-24 to take on Eastern Washington while Delaware's win over New Hampshire earns them a date with Georgia Southern. The winners of each game will play each other for the FCS Championship on Jan 7th at Frisco, TX.

HEISMAN: Perhaps not surprisingly, Auburn's Cam newton won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide on Saturday. It barely took 5 years for USC's Reggie Bush to be stripped of his Heisman.

SEC: Former Texas Longhorns defensive coordinator Will Muschamp was named as the new Gators head coach according to a UF statement released Saturday night.

NHL: So close to a shootout, but it just wasn't gonna happen on Saturday night.

Philly jumped out to the 1-0 lead against Boston at the Garden early in the second period of Saturday night's game. Nathan Horton managed to tie the game with his goal about 10 minutes into the third. From then on, neither Tim Thomas or Philly's Brian Boucher let anything by them for the rest of regulation and overtime. Well....most of overtime.

The Flyer's Mike Richards managed to tally an unassisted goal against Thomas with all of 3 seconds remaining in sudden death OT, thus ending the game before the shootout was necessary. Although the way Boucher was turning away the puck on Saturday night, one had to wonder if a shootout would have more work to get to the same net result.

Boucher stopped 35 of 36 shots faced, while in the Bruins net Thomas stops 31 of 33 shots faced. The Bruins have to settle for the one point and Horton gets the only Boston goal of the night.

The Bruins next game won't be until Wednesday at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, NY. The Sabres are coming off of a 5-2 loss to the Penguins on Saturday night.

OTHER BRUINS NEWS: The Bruins sent Marco Sturm to the LA Kings before Saturday's game against Philly. Technically the Bruins would be getting 'future considerations' from LA, but GM Peter Chiarelli admitted in a statement that the future considerations 'meant nothing'. The Bruins GM admitted the trade was done to make more room under the current salary cap. Currently the Kings have close to a $6 million salary cap and could absorb the cost of Sturm's contract for the rest of the season.

NBA In what could be considered the least shocking outcome of the NBA this weekend, the Celtics continued their win streak at 10 with a 93-62 rout of the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday.

Nothing like the Thursday Night cliffhanger against the 76ers, but it's not like these games are being decided by style points.

The C's will next take on the NY Knicks in a game that's scheduled to be televised on ESPN at 7PM ET on Wednesday night.

MLB: Perhaps lost in the news surrounding the signings of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez is the fact that the Red Sox have signed catcher and team captian Jason Varitek to a one year extension worth an estimated $2 million plus another $300,000 in incentives should he start 80 or more games as catcher.

NCAA HOCKEY A new NCAA Hockey attendance record was set this weekend when 113,411 fans came to Michigan's Big House to see the outdoor contest between the Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Spartans.

The Wolverines won by a final of 5-0.

[H/T Eat it or Wear It on Metrodome footage]

NZ Police: All 29 Trapped Miners Feared Dead

Image- NZHerald

A second, more powerful blast rocked the Pike River Coal mine on New Zealand's South Island on Nov. 24th where 29 miners had been trapped since an initial blast on the afternoon of November 19. Police superintendent Gary Knowles said that there was no chance any of the trapped men could've survived the second blast, which lasted for as long as 30 seconds.

A third and fourth blast a few days later was strong enough to ignite the coal in the mine, further damaging the mine's already crippled ventilation system and setting some of the nearby vegetation above-ground on fire. The most recent development is that the damaged ventialtion system has been capped, which will allow the GAG unit brought in from Australia (basically a jet engine designed to supress underground coal fires) to work more efficiently.

With the well-deserved jubilation surrounding the successful rescue of the 33 miners in Chile, this comes as a particularly harsh kick in the gut. Perhaps most tragic was the story of 17 year old Joseph Dunbar, who was eager to start his new job at Pike River and was among those trapped in the intial blast on his first day.

The 29 miners have been identified as:
Conrad Adams, 43 (Greymouth)
Malcolm Campbell, 25 (Greymouth - Scottish)
Glen Cruse, 35 (Cobden)
Allan Dixon, 59 (Runanga)
Zen Drew, 21 (Greymouth)
Christopher Duggan, 31 (Greymouth)
Joseph Dunbar, 17 (Greymouth)
John Hale, 45 (Ruatapu)
Daniel Herk, 36 (Runanga)
David Hoggart, 33 (Foxton)
Richard Holling, 41 (Blackball)
Andrew Hurren, 32 (Greymouth)
Jacobus 'Koos' Jonker, 47 (Coben - South African)
William Joynson, 49 (Dunollie - Australian)
Riki Keane, 28 (Greymouth)
Terry Kitchin, 41 (Runanga)
Samuel Mackie, 26 (Greymouth)
Francis Marden, 42 (Runanga)
Michael Monk, 23 (Greymouth)
Stuart Mudge, 31 (Runanga)
Kane Nieper, 33 (Greymouth)
Peter O'Neill, 55 (Runanga)
Milton Osborne, 54 (Ngahere)
Brendon Palmer, 27 (Cobden)
Benjamin Rockhouse, 21 (Greymouth)
Peter Rodger, 40 (Greymouth - British)
Blair Sims, 28 (Greymouth)
Joshua Ufer 25 (Australia)
Keith Valli, 62 (Winton)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Suspected Suicide Bomber Dead in Stockholm Blasts

The Telegraph (UK)
A car bomb followed by a suspected suicide bombing left two injured and the apparent bomber dead in Stockholm on Saturday night.
A spokeswoman for the Stockholm Police said that a car exploded near Drottninggatan- a busy shopping district in the city center- which was followed by a second explosion further up the street. An injured man who later died from his injuries was found at the scene of the second blast.
Approximately 10 minutes before the first blast, police and Swedish news agency TT received an e-mail denouncing the presence of 500 Swedish military personnel in Afghanistan and cartoonist Lars Vilk's drawings depicting Muhamed. The e-mail also warned of unspecified 'actions' that were imminent and contained sound files in Swedish and Arabic.
Sweden had raised it's terror threat level from 'low' to 'elevated' as far back as October due to an increase in activity from Scandinavian-based groups. Still, the threat of a terrorist attack in Sweden remained relatively low compared to other European nations.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sports Chowdah on a Roll- Crawford Lands Deal w/Sox; B's Set Islanders Adrift; C's Get By 76ers on KG Move; Army/Navy Set to Clash; Feller in Hospice

This has been one of those weeks that I simply gotta savor as a New England sports fan, and the biggest news being made so far is by a team that won't play a regular season game for another five months.

RED SOX: Good Lord- Why stop with Adrian Gonzalez?

Wondering of the Red Sox had any more tricks up their sleeve for the MLB Winter Meetings in Orlando, I headed off to bed assuming that Carl Crawford and the Angels were close to a terms on a contract. Then I woke up this morning to learn that free agent outfielder Carl Crawford signed a huge deal with the Red Sox.

The former Tampa Bay left fielder and the Red Sox had reportedly agreed to a preliminary deal for 7 years and reportedly worth $142 million. Crawford had a .307 BA last year while driving in 90 runs (and scoring another 110 himself) with 19 home runs and 47 stolen bases.

With 8 stolen bases and a .324 batting average against Boston, I would've been reasonably satisfied if Crawford was on his way out to the West Coast to face a team the Red Sox only face a few times in the regular season. Thanks to Theo playing it close to the vest, I wasn't even aware of the Red Sox and the extent of their interest in the speedy outfielder. Apparently this caught the rest of the league as well as the sports media off guard.

OTHER MLB NEWS: 92 year old Hall of Fame pitcher and former Cleveland Indian Bob Feller has been moved from the Cleveland Clinic to a hospice in the Cleveland area. Feller made his debut with the Indians in July 1936 and joined the US Navy the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. After serving on the USS Alabama until 1944, Feller rejoined the Indians in 1945.

Feller retired in 1956 with 266 career wins, a career ERA of 3.25 and a total of 2,581 strikeouts. Six years later, Feller was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first year of eligibility and in 1995 the Bob Feller Museum opened up in the Hall of Famer's hometown of Van Meter, IA. Earlier this year, Feller was diagnosed with leukemia.

NFL: The Indianapolis Colts travelled to Nashville, TN to take on the struggling Tennessee Titans for this week's Thursday night game. The injury-depleted Colts had dropped three straight games against the Patriots, Chargers and Cowboys coming into the Thursday game, leading to all sorts of questions about the health of QB Peyton Manning as well as Indy's dimming playoff prospects with their 6-6 record.

The Titans were worse off, coming into Thursday night's game losing five in a row and roiled by injuries and very public infighting between QB Vince Young (now on the DL) and coach Jeff Fischer.

After going 25-35 with 319 yards and 2 TDs, including a 46 yard TD pass to WR Reggie Wayne, Manning demonstrated that the Colts weren't quite finished for the season in Indy's 30-28 win (it wasn't quite that close, as Titans QB Kerry Collins managed to find the end zone for a 3rd time as regulation expired). Presently, the Colts are a half game behind the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South while the loss pretty much stuck a dagger in the Titan's season.

NHL: Sad to say, I completely missed Thursday night's Bruins home win against the NY Islanders- although I understand there was a Tukka Rask sighting.

The Bruins held off a 2nd period surge from the Islanders where they were outshot 17-9, but still managed to get a shorthanded goal off the stick of Brad Marchand and held on to a 2-1 lead heading to the second intermission.

In the 3rd, Micheal Ryder got what would prove to be the game-winner on a power play goal with about 5 minutes remaining, and while the Islanders would come right back to make it a 1-goal game less than 2 minutes later, Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron would put the game out of reach with two empty-netters of their own with less than two minutes left in the 3rd to give Boston the 5-2 win over the Islanders.

Tukka Rask and Rick DePietro each faced 35 shots on the night, with Rask stopping 33 (but not a penalty shot from Frans Nielsen, incidentally) and Lucic had two goals on the night.

I did catch the pretty awesome Tuesday night game against the Buffalo Sabres, including the extra 50 seconds of sudden death overtime after Mark Recchi scored the game-winning goal [seen at the 4:55 mark below].

Recchi's shot came in and out of the net so quickly, it's possible the officials assumed it had simply hit a crossbar, but it was reviewed during the next stoppage of play, which came some 49 seconds later. Recchi's power-play goal was made official and the Bruins won by a final of 3-2 in OT. Tim Thomas stopped 28 of 30 shots faced while Ryan Miller blocked 33 of 36 shots on the night.

The Bruins will next play host to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday Night at the Garden. The puck drops at 7PM ET, 4PM Pacific.

NBA: Well, much like tonight's Bruins game, I wasn't able to catch any of tonight's C's game either [TWO nationally televised Celtics games back to back? What are the odds!?- NANESB]. Looks like this one peaked late, though.

If the embedded video isn't working, you're missing Kevin Garnett bank in an alley-oop pass with only 1.4 seconds left in regulation to give the Celtics the 102-101 win over the 76ers for their 9th straight win on Thursday night.

I DID catch most of Wednesday Night's home game against the Denver Nuggets. They didn't bother playing Carmello Anthony, even though he appeared to be healthy, which no doubt fuelled more speculation that a trade from Denver was imminent.

The C's were up by as much as 19 in the first half, but the Mello-less Nuggets managed to chip away into the Boston lead, coming within one point of them before heading into the half trailing 52-59.

In the second half, Boston really began to pull away and win by a final of 105-89 and Denver head coach George Karl is still looking for career win #1,000.

The Celtics' road trip continues into the weekend with a swing through Charlotte, NC against the Bobcats on Saturday night- also at 7PM Eastern.

NCAA FOOTBALL: Well, we're down to one last regular season game this weekend, and that's the Army/Navy game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia this Saturday at 2:30 PM ET. Interestingly, both teams head into Saturday's game already accepting invitations to Bowl Games. The Army Black Knights have a 6-5 record and will be taking on the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Ft. Worth, TX on December 30 while the Navy Midshipmen sport an 8-3 record and will go up against the San Diego State Aztecs in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on December 23rd.

ELSEWHERE IN NCAA FOOTBALL: Florida head coach Urban Meyer, citing family concerns, announced his resignation on Wednesday afternoon. This comes after a fairly disappointing 7-5 season fir the Florida Gators. Meyer was hospitalized with chest pains after last year's SEC championship game against Alabama, but eventually decided to stay on through the 2010 season. There had been speculation that Florida was interested in Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, but Mullen said he had no immediate plans to leave Mississippi State.

ACC: Nebraska's athletic director has denied reports that head coach Bo Pelini is a candidate to fill the coaching vacancy for the Miami Hurricanes. He told a Lincoln, NE newspaper that he neither gave Pelini permission to interview with Miami, nor had Pelini sought permission.

BOWL SCHEDULE: And here is the lineup of Bowl games for the next few weeks-

NEW MEXICO BOWL, Albuquerque, NM- BYU Cougars vs UTEP Miners; 2PM ET ESPN

HUMANITARIAN BOWL, Boise, ID- Northern Illinois Huskies vs Fresno State Buldogs; 5:30 PM ET ESPN

NEW ORLEANS BOWL, New Orleans, LA- Ohio Bobcats vs Troy Trojans; 9PM ET, ESPN

BEEF O'BRADY BOWL, St. Petersburgh, FL- Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles vs Louisville Cardinals; 8PM ET, ESPN

MAACO BOWL, Las Vegas, NV- #20 Utah Utes vs #10 Boise St. Broncos; 8PM ET, ESPN

POINSETTIA BOWL, San Diego, CA- San Diego St. Aztecs vs Navy Midshipmen; 8PM ET, ESPN

HAWAII BOWL, Honolulu, HI- #24 Hawaii Warriors vs Tulsa Golden Hurricanes; 8PM ET, ESPN

LITTLE CAESAR'S BOWL, Detroit, MI- Toledo Rockets vs Florida Int'l Golden Panthers; 8:30 PM ET, ESPN

INDEPENDENCE BOWL, Shreveport, LA- Air Force Falcons vs Georgia Tech Yellowjackets; 5PM ET, ESPN2

CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL, Orlando, FL- #22 West Virginia Mountaineers vs NC State Wolfpack; 6:30 PM ET, ESPN

INSIGHT BOWL, Tempe, AZ- #14 Missouri Tigers vs Iowa Hawkeyes; 10PM ET, ESPN

MILITARY BOWL, Washington DC- East Carolina Pirates vs Maryland Terrapins; 2:30PM ET, ESPN

TEXAS BOWL, Houston, TX- Illinois Illini vs Baylor Bears; 6PM ET, ESPN

VALERO ALAMO BOWL, San Antonio, TX- #16 Oklahoma St Cowbowys vs Arizona Wildcats; 9:15PM ET, ESPN

BELL ARMED FORCES BOWL, Ft. Worth, TX- Army Black Knights vs SMU Mustangs; 12:00PM ET, ESPN

NEW ERA PINSTRIPE BOWL, New York, NY- Kansas State Wildcats vs Syracuse Orangemen; 3:30PM ET, ESPN

MUSIC CITY BOWL, Nashville, TN- North Carolina Tarheels vs Tennessee Volunteers; 6:40PM ET, ESPN

HOLIDAY BOWL, San Diego, CA- #17 Nebraska Corhuskers vs Washington Huskies; 10:00PM ET, ESPN

MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL, Charlotte, NC- USF Bulls vs Clemson Tigers- 12:00PM ET, ESPN

SUN BOWL, El Paso, TX- Miami Hurricanes vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish; 2PM ET, CBS

LIBERTY BOWL, Memphis, TN- Georgia Bulldogs vs UCF Golden Knights; 3:30 PM ET, ESPN

CHICK FIL A BOWL, Atlanta, GA- #19 South Carolina Gamecocks vs #23 FSU Seminoles; 7:30 PM ET, ESPN

TICKET CITY BOWL, Dallas, TX- Northwestern Wildcats vs Texas Tech Red Raiders; 11:59AM ET, ESPNU

OUTBACK BOWL, Tampa, FL- Florida Gators vs Penn St Nittany Lions; 1PM ET, ESPN/ABC

CAPITAL ONE BOWL, Orlando, FL- #15 Alabama Crimson Tide vs #7 Michigan State Spartans; 1 PM ET, ESPN/ABC

GATOR BOWL, Jacksonville, FL- #21 Mississippi State Bulldogs vs Michigan Wolverines; 1:30PM ET, ESPN2

ROSE BOWL, Pasadena, CA- #4 Wisconsin Badgers vs #3 TCU Horned Frogs; 5PM ET, ESPN/ABC

FIESTA BOWL, Tempe, AZ- #25 UConn Huskies vs #9 Oklahoma Sooners; 8:30PM ET, ESPN

ORANGE BOWL, Miami Gardens, FL- #5 Stanford Cardinals vs #12 Virginia Tech Hokies; 8:30 PM ET, ESPN

SUGAR BOWL, New Orleans, LA- #6 Ohio State Buckeyes vs #8 Arkansas Razorbacks; 8:30PM ET, ESPN

GODADDY.COM BOWL, Mobile, AL- Middle Tenn St. Blue Raiders vs Miami (OH) Redhawks; 8PM ET, ESPN

COTTON BOWL, Arlington, TX- #11 LSU Tigers vs #18 Texas A&M Aggies; 8PM ET, FOX

BBVA COMPASS BOWL, Birmingham, AL- Pitt Panthers vs Kentucky Wildcats; 12PM ET, ESPN

KRAFT FIGHT HUNGER BOWL, San Francisco, CA- BC Eagles vs #13 Nevada Wolfpack; 9PM ET, ESPN


BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, Glendale, AZ- #1 Auburn Tigers vs #2 Oregon Ducks; 8:30PM ET, ESPN