Saturday, April 30, 2011

Happy Bettie Page Day from Not Another New England Sports Blog!

*BUMPED 4/30- If the hippies continue to insist on monopolizing April 22nd as 'Earth Day', then perhaps April should simply be 'Bettie Page Month'*
Think of it as Good Friday and the original 'Bad Girl'.
So does the iconic raven-tressed pin-up have her own holiday yet? If not, then why the hell not? I for one think it would be a much more worthwhile holiday than Earth Day. Lord knows I can only stand so much sanctimonious focus group-tested drivel about how I should be 'living green' from a tax dodging, outsourcing corporation.
Uh-oh! Looks like Bettie needs bumper AAA
While probably relatively tame by today's standards, some of the photos of Bettie at the time were quite controversial and risque. Some of my all-time favorites are of Bettie at a tropical beach or safari park in a leopard print bikini snapped by Bunny Yeager- herself a model turned photographer.

As a bonus I thought I'd include a still of actress and model Gretchen Mol portraying Page in the 2006 film The Notorious Betty Page, Pretty good likeness, huh?

Today's Train of Thought- Be Deviled in the Badger State, April 30 2011

Today's Train of Thought comes to us from a corner of Wisconsin that's probably not what most people envision when America's Dairyland comes up.

Located just outside of Baraboo WI, Devil's Lake State Park turns 100 this year. The namesake lake was created by a retreating glacier an estimated 10,000 years ago, along with 500 ft sheer quartzite bluffs eroded from the surrounding hillsides.

The park, which is just northwest of the state capital at Madison also has Wisconsin Southern's branch between Madison and Reedsburg, WI running through it beneath the cliffs and along the lake's shore. This used to be part of the former Chicago & Northwestern line linking Madison, WI with the Twin Cities and besides online customers for the WSOR, the Mid Continent Railway Museum is located in nearby North Freedom.

Here, contributor Micheal Quagliano has caught WSOR SD20# 2054 with Madison-Reedsburg Local freigh M3 moving north beneath the sheer rock face along the shores of Devil's Lake State Park the day after Independence Day in July 2007. The SD20s were rebuilds created from the hulks of retired SD24s and cabless SD24Bs by the Illinois Central Gulf's Paducah, KY shops in the late 1970s/early 1980s. They were retired by the Illinois Central in the late 1990s and sold off to a number of reigonals and shortlines including the Wisconsin Southern.

Since then, a number of shortline operators have taken advantage of the proliferation of the more standardized GP38-2 or SD40-2 models in the secondhand market and retires, scrapped or re-sold the SD20s. WSOR #2054 was retired and since sold to a biofuel plant in Fairmont, MN where it works as the plant switcher.

Cyborgs, Magical Schoolgirls Suffer Setback in Aftermath of Japanese Quake

Ghost in the Shell: SAC- Production IG Studios
Along with consumer electronics, semiconductors and a range of vehicles, one of Japan's best known exports lately has been anime. The term can usually be applied to just about any animated work from Japan ranging from marketing juggernauts like Yu Gi Oh to complex, dystopian and futuristic stories like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

But like so many other aspects of Japanese life, the industry was thrown into turmoil in the immediate aftermath of the deadly earthquake and the massive tsunami and radiation leak at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that followed.

"The whole thing is having a pretty significant effect right now," says Christopher Macdonald, CEO and publisher of Anime News Network. "70% of Japan's animation studios are in the suburbs of Tokyo, and those are . . . the areas being affected by the rolling blackouts. That means it's very hard for people to do work. They don't know when their electricity is going to be turned off for three to six hours; the offices start shaking every 15 minutes [from aftershocks]. For the most part, most of those studios are at a standstill when it comes to their animation work."

Macdonald says some popular anime programs may end up having shortened seasons in Japan due to the disaster, but a lot of that programming has already made its way to international markets. "At this time we don't foresee any production delays for our series," says Jane Lui, publicity and events manager for San Francisco-based VIZ Media -- the largest North American distributor of anime -- in an email. "That fact . . . of itself is a testament to the incredible work ethic of our partners in Japan."

That being said, the situation at the anime studios remains in crisis. "Our parent companies, Shogakukan, Shueisha, and ShoPro (all based in Tokyo) and the studios . . . are extremely supportive of their staff," says Lui, "many of whom may be searching for missing loved ones, or taking care of those displaced or affected by the disaster. It will take a while for normal day-to-day business to stabilize."
Although in recent years the industry has suffered losses thanks to bootlegging, competition from China, oversaturation in Japan's domestic market and outsourcing of some studio work to Vietnam, India or South Korea, anime is thought to bring an estimated $2.5 billion into the Japanese economy.

Cowboy Bebop- Sunrise Studios
Aside from the numerous card-themed anime titles out there, Disney [NYSE- DIS] has released a number of anime films from director Hayo Miyazaki in theaters and on DVD in North America over the last decade while Time-Warner [NYSE- TW] subsidiary Cartoon Network regularly features various anime titles in their Adult Swim block of programming.

Days of Rage- Clashes, Assad Regime Crackdown Continues in Syria

Image from amateur video aired on Shaam News Network
Syrian tanks and infantry moved into the restive southern city of Daraa this week in a bid to quell continuing anti-government protests.

Water, electricity and lines of communication out of Daraa were cut as tanks and armoured vehicles opened fire on residential buildings. Prior to the Assad regime deploying soldiers and secret police to Daraa, the border with Jordan was shut down both south of Daraa and the border town of Naseeb. Bodies of residents were said to have remained in the streets or in vehicles after clashes with soldiers and secret policemen in plainclothes. Rights groups say that at least 60 of those took place on Friday's 'Day of Rage' protest

In the western part of Syria, Syrian troops have managed to wrest control of the city of Homs back from the protesters.

An exact body count was difficult to determine due to the ruling Ba'ath party's ban on foreign media, but observers and human rights groups have claimed that at least 450 civilians were killed nationwide in clashes with the military and police loyal to the Assad regime- and at least 60 of those in 'Day of Rage' protests after Friday prayers this week.

In Damascus, some 200 members of the ruling Ba'ath party have reportedly resigned en masse to protest the regime's handling of the current crisis [although this could be a self-serving move to distance themselves from the Assad regime should it eventually fall- NANESB!]

Here is Bashr al-Assad in happier and more serene days, meeting with then speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, not even two years after the Syrian-backed Hezbollah terrorist group assassinated outspoken anti-Syrian Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri with a car bomb in Beirut.

Friday, April 29, 2011

BipolarNational Borderline Psychosis Update- Cartels Going For Gold? Massacre Suspect Nabbed by Mexican Military; More Mass Graves Unearthed

I'm not sure how many people still buy the notion that firearms legally purchased in the USA at Wal Mart or Cabellas are single-handedly responsible for the narco-violence down in Mexico, but a couple of stories that broke this month can effectively bury that tired and dishonest talking point.

Mexican cartels and other criminal groups have been helping themselves to weapons caches left over from the numerous civil wars in Central America in the 1980s as well as military arsenals throughout the region.
The weapons run the gamut from assault rifles to anti-tank missiles, some of which the U.S. supplied during regional conflicts more than two decades ago. The slippage from military armories occurs regularly.

The feared Mexican organized crime group known as Los Zetas has stolen weapons from military depots in Guatemala three times in recent years, Guatemalan Deputy Security Minister Mario Castaneda told an anti-narcotics conference in early April in Cancun, Mexico.

In February, U.S. prosecutors unsealed a five-count indictment against a retired army captain from El Salvador for allegedly selling or offering C-4 plastic explosives, assault rifles, grenades and blasting caps to undercover agents.

U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and passed to McClatchy Newspapers show that American envoys have repeatedly voiced concern over lax controls on military weapons depots in Guatemala and Honduras.

One cable from June 2009 carries a simple message line: "Rogue elements of Guatemalan military selling weapons to narcos."

The cable was sent after a narcotics raid on a warehouse south of Guatemala City on April 24, 2009, when agents clashed with "a number of heavily armed Zetas," leaving five agents dead. Inside the warehouse, the unit found 11 machine guns, a light antitank weapon, 563 rocket-propelled grenades, 32 hand grenades, eight landmines and abundant ammunition in crates with the seal of a Guatemalan military industrial facility.

U.S. defense analysts determined "with a high degree of confidence that many of these weapons and munitions came from Guatemalan military stocks," the cable said.

"The involvement of Guatemalan military officers in the sale of weapons to narco-traffickers raises serious concerns about the Guatemalan military's ability to secure its arms and ammunition," it added.

Moreover, it puts police tasked with confronting the cartels at a sharp disadvantage, the cable said, because they "now have to go up against weapons from Guatemala's own military."

Further piquing U.S. officials, Washington furnished some of the munitions.

That turned out to be the case in Honduras, where U.S.-supplied grenades and light anti-tank weapons turned up as far away as Ciudad Juarez, the narco-infested Mexican city on the border with Texas, and on Colombia's San Andres Island, an entry point for weapons going to drug-trafficking guerrillas
According to State Department documents, Mexico accounted for $177 million in sales of American-made weapons in 2009- exceeding Iraq or Afghanistan. Many of these sales were tracked by the state department as 'Direct Commercial sales' to the Mexican government.

To make things even more interesting, narco-watchdog blog Borderland Beat points out that the sale, storage and transportation of legally purchased firearms in Mexico is monopolized by the SEDENA- Mexico's Secretariat for National Defense. Yet despite this apparent monopoly, a substantial number of M-16 style rifles ordered from America in transactions brokered by Mexico's SEDENA and supposedly destined for state and municipal police agencies in Mexico simply 'disappear' only to turn up later at crime scenes in Mexico.

This, of course, is in addition to the privately purchased firearms on the US side of the border that the ATF had intentionally allowed to be illegally exported to Mexico by smugglers and straw purchasers. As far back as 2009, equipment from US Government inventory ranging from MRE's and night vision equipment to automatic rifles and jet engine parts were reported missing and turned up in places as far afield as Ciudad Juarez, Colombia and Iran.

Always looking for additional sources of revenue, Mexico's cartels have reportedly set their sights on that nations vast mineral deposits and the domestic and foreign mining companies tasked with unearthing those deposits.
As international metals prices surge, gunmen are attacking workers to steal valuable ores and equipment at often remote mining sites that have fallen under the gaze of drug gangs extending their reach into new criminal rackets.

Canadian miner Torex Gold Resources Inc halted drilling at its exploration property in the western state of Guerrero last month after assailants stole trucks. Mexican authorities blamed a drug cartel for illegally extracting iron ore at another site and exporting it to China.
Mexico is the 2nd largest producer of silver in the world and also has substantial deposits of gold, copper, iron ore, zinc and lead. Entering Friday morning, silver was trading at over $48 an ounce while gold was trading at record highs of $1534 an ounce.

Aside from Torex [TSX: TXG], International mining companies like New Gold [TSX: NGD] or Ternium [NYSE: TX] have operations in troubled areas like Michoacan, Guerrero or Durango.
Steel producers say they lost $240 million to thefts in 2010 and have seen the pace of robberies double so far this year, according to a Mexican industry association.

"They are robbing from companies' (iron ore) deposits or they are taking over the deposits completely," said Raul Gutierrez, head of the national steel chamber. "It makes it impossible to work there."

The wave of thefts has spilled out of an escalating drug war in Mexico, which pits an increasingly stretched military against brutal gangs warring over smuggling routes to the United States and other lucrative illicit businesses.

Deteriorating security is a mounting concern for investors, industry surveys show.

The lawlessness led to a slip in Mexico's ranking in the Fraser Institute's annual study of the top global mining destinations. Some 39 percent of companies surveyed this year counted violence as a "strong deterrent" for investment, versus 33 percent in Colombia, where a U.S.-backed offensive has in recent years quelled a cocaine-funded guerrilla conflict.

Iron ore mines in Mexico's western state of Michoacan have been besieged by the powerful La Familia (The Family) drug cartel that operates in large swathes of the state, extorting businesses and illegally mining material for export.

A captured money launderer belonging to La Familia confessed to exporting 1.1 million tones of iron ore last year to China through three established companies in Mexico, netting $42 million, according to the attorney general's office.

Companies are being forced to hire more guards or change the way they transport goods, with some shipping valuable metals by air instead of on dangerous highways.

"We spent 20 percent more on security last year," said Armando Ortega, vice president for Latin America at New Gold Inc, which owns the Cerro San Pedro gold mine in San Luis Potosi state. "There are miners that have suffered robberies of gold-silver dore bars or concentrates. The high prices make gold an attractive target for organized crime.
I was made tangentially aware of the various cartels interest in mining last year after investigators said a deadly car bombing in Juarez used the water gel based explosive Tovex, a popular replacement for dynamite with mining companies.

I've also been entertaining another theory regarding the cartels and mining. Aside from their lucrative drug smuggling and human trafficking activities, groups like La Familia Michoacana also reportedly engage in the extortion of already-existing businesses in territory they control, so who's to say this wouldn't include extortion against the various mining companies for continuing to operate in what the cartels consider 'their' territory?

Also, even though they would be making money hand over fist from both their criminal pursuits and their newfound interest in metallurgy, I'm wondering if stock manipulation of the various publicly-traded mining companies could be another source of revenue for them.

Think about it- how difficult would it be for the cartels to round up some hired guns to attack the miners, destroy equipment, rob the mines of concentrated ore, bullion or dore bars or cut off power and water to some of the more isolated facilities? And basically keep it up until the feasibility of operating that mine is in doubt? Even if they fail in closing down the mines outright, the cost of stepped up security precautions would eat into that company's profit margin pretty quickly, and by extension, their share price (at least if they're heavily invested in Mexico).

Shares of Torex slid in March when the company announced that it was temporarily suspending operations after company employees were attacked and company vehicles were robbed in Morelos. Since then, shares of the company on the Toronto Stock Exchange have levelled off as Torex resumed operations amid stepped-up security.

Exit question (however hypothetical): Who's to say that somebody with inside knowledge of the activities directed against the mining companies wasn't buying up shares when they were plummeting in value and will sell them once production resumes and the share prices bounce back?

TEXAS: Police in the border town of Brownsville are trying to determine who set up an IED along a stretch of US Highway 77 over the weekend. A passing motorist noticed the device and called police on Sunday afternoon. Authorities shut down the southbound lane of the highway for just under two hours while searching the area for any additional devices and disarmed the device using a remote controlled robot.

NEW MEXICO: A small aircraft believed to be smuggling narcotics crashed into Heron Lake, NM on Sunday morning. Aside from the pilot, there was no indication of whether or not there was anybody else on board due to the plane sinking to depths greater than 100 feet. However, within hours of police and searchers arriving, small packages of cocaine started to make their way to the surface.

The lake is located in a state park in Rio Arriba County, NM which abuts the Colorado state line.

ARIZONA: An Arizona gun dealer reportedly approached the ATF with concerns that firearms from his store were being funneled to criminals through straw purchasers. A Congressional investigation into the ATF's ill-advised 'Operation Fast & Furious' shows that agents encouraged him to continue the sales, despite the red flags raised.
The investigation into a federal operation that allowed Mexican drug cartels to acquire U.S. weapons escalated Thursday with new revelations that an Arizona gun dealer repeatedly expressed fears that his guns were falling into the "hands of the bad guys" but was encouraged by federal agents to continue the sales.

A series of emails released by congressional investigators showed that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives encouraged the gun dealer against his better judgment to sell high-powered weapons to buyers he believed were agents for the drug cartels.

Employees of the dealer videotaped gun buyers — suspected "straw purchasers" who could legally buy the guns, though cartel members could not — exchanging money with other individuals on the dealer's premises.

In an eerie case of premonition, the gun dealer expressed fears that the guns he was selling could be used against U.S. border agents.

"I wanted to make sure that none of the firearms that were sold per our conversation with you and various ATF agents could or would ever end up south of the border or in the hands of the bad guys," the dealer, who has not been named, wrote in June 2010 to David Voth, the lead ATF case agent in Phoenix. "I want to help ATF with its investigation but not at the risk of agents' safety, because I have some very close friends that are U.S. Border Patrol agents in southern AZ."

Three guns sold to suspects who were part of Project Gunrunner have since turned up at the scenes of the deaths of two U.S. agents — in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi and near the Mexican border in Arizona.

"Not only were the ATF agents who later blew the whistle [on the investigation] predicting that this operation would end in tragedy, so were the gun dealers — even as ATF urged them to make the sales," Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a letter with the new emails to Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr.

The Justice Department in its only official response to the congressional inquiry denied that the ATF "sanctioned" or "otherwise knowingly allowed" the sale of assault weapons to straw purchasers, who then transported them to Mexico.

The new emails suggest that the Arizona gun dealer was seeking assurances from the ATF and the U.S. attorney's office that the company would not be held responsible if someone got hurt with guns that ended up in the hands of gunrunners.

Voth, the ATF agent, wrote to the dealer: "I understand that the frequency with which some individuals under investigation by our office have been purchasing firearms from your business has caused concerns for you. … However, if it helps put you at ease we (ATF) are continually monitoring these suspects using a variety of investigative techniques which I cannot go into [in] detail."

News reports in June 2010 that guns purchased in the U.S. were being found at Mexican crime scenes prompted the dealer to again express concerns.

"I shared my concerns with you guys that I wanted to make sure that none of the firearms that were sold per our conversation with you and various ATF agents could or would ever end up south of the border or in the hands of the bad guys," the dealer wrote, adding that the reports are "disturbing."

On "one or two" occasions when the dealer's employees videotaped a suspected straw purchaser exchanging money with another person, the ATF urged that the sale go forward, but the employees refused, Grassley said in his letter.

"In light of this new evidence, the Justice Department's claim that the ATF never knowingly sanctioned or allowed the sale of assault weapons to straw purchasers is simply not credible," Grassley wrote.
Congressman Darrel Issa (R- CA49), House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman has threatened ATF and Justice Department officials with contempt proceedings for not replying to subpoenas issued at the end of March.

ELSEWHERE IN ARIZONA: An Arizona Sheriff has alleged this month that the US Border Patrol is acting under a 'No Apprehension' policy in the Tuscon sector.

Cochise County Sherriff Larry Dever said that he had received hundreds of supportive e-mails from active and retired former Border Patrol agents confirming the policy, apparently implemented at times to keep apprehension number artificially low. Homeland Security secretary Janet Naploitano had recently cited lower border apprehension as proof the border was more secure under her watch.
“This is nothing new, during my career with the border patrol, this was done regularly,” said another email to Dever reviewed by

“By assigning agents to different tasks, locations, etc., the apprehensions can be increased or decreased dramatically,” wrote Dan McCaskill Jr., a retired Border Patrol agent who worked in the Anti-Smuggling Unit.

McCaskill went on to describe how, he said, apprehension numbers were regularly
manipulated to achieve various budget, equipment or manpower goals.
A second Arizona Sheriff, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeau, had also testified before a
Senate Homeland Security Committee in support of Dever's claims.

The Tucson local of the National Border Patrol Council union also came out in support of Dever, and posted this message on their website after the report.
“Sheriff Dever is right. We have seen so many slick shenanigans pulled in regards to 'got-aways' and entry numbers that at times it seems David Copperfield is running the Border Patrol. Creating the illusion that all is well and you can start having family picnics in the areas where we work has been going on far too long. Has there been improvement in some areas? Absolutely. Is the border anywhere near 'under control'? Absolutely not. Do some in management play games with numbers and cater to the wishes of politicians like Janet Napolitano and David Aguilar? Resoundingly, yes. Time for the foolish political games to stop.”
Instead of apprehending illegal border crossers, agents are reportedly advised from on high to 'TBS' (or 'Turn Back South') any illegal border crossers they detect, despite the same people attempting to cross as soon as 10 minutes later.

AUSTRALIA: A report from Australia's leading criminal intelligence body issued earlier this month has indicated that Mexican cartels are gaining a foothold Down Under.

The Australian Crime Commission report suggested that the Mexican cartels could account for as much as 50% of the cocaine imported to Australia and expressed concerns that the drug traffickers could resort to the same violent and brutal tactics used in Mexico to try and expand their influence.

Bordered by nothing but coastline and with cocaine fetching a higher price than in the USA (US$ 200 an ounce vs as little as US$30 an ounce in the USA), Australia is considered a lucrative growing market by the cartels. To that end, some organizations like the Sinaloa cartel have partnered with Australian branches of the 'Ndrangheta (Calabrian mafia) in Sydney and Melbourne to aid in smuggling, distribution and sales.

GUATEMALA: Police in Guatemala this week have arrested a suspected drug trafficker nicknamed 'The Patriarch' with suspected ties to the Sinaloa cartel.

71 year old Waldemar Lorenzana was arrested by local police and DEA agents outside of Guatemala City, although his three sons- all thought to be active in drug trafficking- are said to be still at large.

Lorenzana had been sought by the DEA since 2009 and a $500,000 reward was offered for information leading to his capture. The State Department is likely to request 'The Patriarch's' extradition to the USA.

Mexican cartels have stepped up recent efforts to set up shop in Central America where law enforcement is even less reliable. Los Zetas has reportedly successfully recruited members of the Kabiles special operations forces from Guatemala's military.

TAMAULIPAS: Forensic experts and Mexican soldiers are sifting through mass graves in northern Mexico, a month after armed men set up roadblocks and boarded buses travelling along National Highway 101 along the Gulf coast of Tamaulipas for the last several months, pulling off mostly young men. The abductions and carnage had left the normally busy highway in the norteastern corner of Mexico virtually deserted during the week before Easter when many American living across the border in Texas would be vacationing or visiting relatives.

So far, authorities have pulled 177 bodies out from mass graves outside of San Fernando- not far from where 72 migrants were massacred at a isolated ranch last summer. More disturbingly, hardly any of the bodies examined have shown indications that the victims were shot. Instead, Mexican investigators say it appears as though most of the victims were killed by blunt-force trauma and a sledgehammer was found at the crime scene.

The territory in which the slayings took place is being fought over by the Zetas and one theory is that the one of the cartels abducted bus passengers and attempted to press them into service as drug mules of sicarros (low-level gunmen), murdering those who refused.

Mexico's Navy issued a statement saying they had captured the suspected mastermind of the massacres of the immigrants in San Fernando as well as the more recent abductions from intercity buses earlier this month.

Omar Martin Estradad flanked by Mexican Marines- Marco Ugarte/AP Photo
34 year old Martin Omar Estrada Luna is thought to be the head of a northern Mexico branch of Los Zetas. Luna, aka 'El Kilo' grew up on the American side of the border in the Yakima Valley region of Washington state. Authorities in Tieton, WA remember Luna as a dropout who racked up a juevenile record before moving on adult felony charges of burglary and drug dealing. Luna was reportedly last deported in 2009, but those who knew him from his time in Tieton question whether or not he was competent enough to have risen through the hierarchy of one of the world's most notorious and ruthless criminal organizations so quickly.

Other members of a San Fernando based Zetas cell were detained by Mexican Marines and paraded before the media last weekend as well. In addition, at least 17 members of San Fernando's municipal police department were detained and charged by Mexico's federal attourney general's office for charges of protecting Luna and other Zetas, covering up the kindappings and in some instances directly participating in the murders.

ELSEWHERE IN TAMAULIPAS: Mexican soldiers reportedly acting on a tip freed at least 52 migrants from Central America who were being held captive in the border city of Reynosa. The cartels and other Mexican gangs will sometimes adbuct migrants heading to the USA transiting through Mexico and demand ransom from their families in America or the country of origin.

-A convoy of gunmen in SUVs went on a rampage last week in the border town or Miguel Aleman, opening fire on the Tamaulipas State Police and local transit police headquarters and torching them before being driven out of the town in a running firefight with the Mexican Army. One civilian and an unpecified number of gunmen were killed in the attack according to local police.
According to the 8th Military Zone in Reynosa, the Zetas also attacked a military patrol along the Riberena highway prior to the attack in Miguel Aleman which prompted the mobilization of army troops toward the area.

Also prior to the arrival of the military, when Zetas arrived in town, they began shooting at the law enforcement headquarters and shot at the buildings and patrol cars as well as causing other damage, the Mexican law enforcement official stated.

The group then went around town shooting at and setting fire to a number of high-profile buildings along the city’s main avenue, including the Ford and Nissan dealerships, an Auto Zone store, a Stripes convenience store, a large furniture store and a used car lot.

During the rampage, one employee of the local Coca-Cola Co. bottling plant was killed as he drove to work. His name was not released pending notification of next of kin, the law enforcement official said. When military forces arrived toward the end of the rampage, a shootout ensued that left several gunmen dead on the street.
On Thursday, the Mexican Army was involved in a 3-way shootout when a patrol was resonding to sounds of gunfire from a shootout between gunmen from the Zetas and Gulf cartel. The shootout, involving Gulf and Zetas enforcers wearing body armour and travelling in a SUV, began in the early morning hours of the middle of the farming town of Arbacuz with six dead gunmen and an unknown number in custody.

DURANGO: In the northwestern corner of Mexico, Federal police and soldiers are exhuming another series of mass graves in the capital city of Durango (which happens to be named Durango). 87 bodies were pulled from a grave under a repair shop while 17 other decomposing bodies were found at a nearby hacienda.

GUERRERO: Four women and a teenage girl were found stripped, bound and with their throats slit in the popular resort city of Acapulco. Two of the bodies were discovered in a beauty salon located adjacent to an area known for drug dealing and prostitution while another body was discovered in a parked car and the 4th body was dumped in a street behind a church.

Investigators have not ruled out a possible connection with organized crime and prostitution in the murders. Some brothels or massage parlors in that part of the country sometimes operate under the guise of beauty salons.

[hat tip- Friends of Ours; Borderland Beat]

Thursday, April 28, 2011

At Least 269 Killed As Second Round of Deadly Storms, Tornadoes Rake Southeastern US

At least 269 people were killed in 6 states after another storm system moving through the southeastern USA spawned deadly tornadoes on Wednesday.
Dozens of tornadoes roared through north-central Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia on Wednesday, splintering towns and families in one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history. The worst of it fell along a path that began in Tuscaloosa and stretched eastward through Birmingham, where 100-mph winds crushed houses, schools and businesses.

"There is massive devastation out there," a grim Gov. Robert Bentley said during an appearance today on Good Morning America.

Bentley, a Tuscaloosa native, declared a state of emergency and mobilized about 2,000 Alabama National Guardsmen. He said emergency responders were still trying to locate survivors and identify the bodies of the deceased.

Across the Southeast, more than 200 were confirmed dead in one of the deadliest outbreaks in nearly 40 years. Dave Imy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the number of deaths was the most in a tornado outbreak since 1974, when 315 people died.
The 1974 'Super Outbreak' was through to have generated 148 tornadoes from Laurel, MS to as far north as Windsor, ON, Canada. The Southwestern Ohio town of Xenia bore the brunt of a ½ mile wide funnel cloud that killed more than 30 people.

Wednesday's storms had nearly matched the 1974 outbreak in terms of scope and casualties.
The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said it received 137 tornado reports into Wednesday night. The storms forced authorities in some places into makeshift command posts after their headquarters lost power or were damaged, and an Alabama nuclear plant was using backup generators to cool units that were shut down.

A tornado expert at the Oklahoma center said it appears some of the tornadoes were as wide as a mile and likely packed a wallop that only 1 in 100 twisters ever reach. It could be days, however, before scientists make an official determination.
Footage from storms chasers north of Philadelphia, MS on Apr. 27, 2011
The storm killed at least 33 people in Mississippi prompting Gov. Haley Barbour to declare a state of emergency for 39 Mississippi counties.

Quicke Cuppa Game 7 Sports Chowdah- B's Require OT to Get Past Persistent Habs

Wednesday was one hell of a busy day for me (for alot of very good reasons) but I was able to catch most of Game 7 between the Bruins and Canadiens.

Montreal was able to force the series to a deciding 7th game after their 2-1 win over the Bruins at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night.

Despite getting early goals from Johnny Boychuck and Mark Recchi early in the 1st period of Game 7, Montreal was able to cut the lead in half with a power play goal from Yannick Weber late in the 1st and a shorthanded tally by Tomas Plekanec early in the 2nd knotted things up at 2 goals apiece.

Boston was able to re-take the lead halfway through the 3rd on an even strength Chris Kelly tally, but Montreal would get a power play in the final few minutes of regulation. P K Subban took full advantage, getting one past Thomas to tie the contest up at 3-3 with 1:57 remaining in regulation.

As both teams started out OT with quality scoring chances, I began mentally composing a profanity-laced missive for this blog in the event Montreal would get the game series winning goal. However, Nathan Horton saw to it that a change of plans would be neccesary on my part.

Tim Thomas stopped 34 of 37 shots faced while Montreal's Carey Price turned aside 30 of 34 faced. Interesting, Boston went 0-21 on the power play throughout the series- the first time a team failed to score on the power play but still managed to advance in a 7 game playoff series.

The win at the Garden has earned the B's a trip to Philadelphia on Sat, April 30 to take on the Flyers at 3PM ET on NBC. Philly has just come off a 7 game sereis themselves, closing out the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night by a 5-2 final.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

9 Americans Killed After Afghan Air Force Officer Opens Fire at Kabul Airport

A veteran officer in Afghanistan's Air Force opened fire on American and Afghan troops during a meeting at Kabul's airport on Wednesday, killing 8 US troops and an American contractor.
The Afghan officer, who was a veteran military pilot, fired on the Americans after an argument, the Afghan Defense Ministry said.

All nine killed were American, according to a senior U.S. defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information has not yet been made public.

The shooting occurred in an operations room of the Afghan Air Corps at Kabul airport.

"Suddenly, in the middle of the meeting, shooting started," said Afghan Air Corps spokesman Col. Bahader, who uses only one name. "After the shooting started, we saw a number of Afghan army officers and soldiers running out of the building. Some were even throwing themselves out of the windows to get away."

It was the seventh time so far this year that members of the Afghan security forces, or insurgents impersonating them, have killed coalition soldiers or members of the Afghan security forces.

Before the airport shooting, the coalition had recorded 20 incidents since March 2009 where a member of the Afghan security forces or someone wearing a uniform used by them attacked coalition forces, killing a total of 36. It is not known how many of the 282,000 members of the Afghan security forces have been killed in these type of incidents.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Palestinian Policeman Opens Fire on Jewish Pilgrims at Joseph's Tomb, Israeli Teen From Missile Attack on School Bus Dies From Wounds

One Israeli worshipper was killed and four others were wounded over the weekend when a uniformed policeman from the Palestinian Authority opened fire on them as they were leaving the West Bank town of Nablus after prayer services at Joseph's Tomb.
According to an IDF initial investigation, three vehicles containing Braslev worshipers entered the tomb in violation of a decree by the IDF's Central Command prohibiting entry of Israelis into Area A without prior coordination. A verbal confrontation ensued between the worshipers and the Palestinian policemen, who called on them to leave the area. The Breslev vehicles failed to stop at a checkpoint outside of the religious site, the investigation found. The policemen then fired shots in the air. The worshipers tried to flee the area, and their vehicles came under fire, killing Ben Yosef Livnat, 24, father of four, and wounding four others.

Following its own initial investigation, The IDF believes the PA policemen were fully aware that the men they fired on were Israeli worshipers who were unarmed and posed no threat despite entering the area without proper security coordination.

The Palestinian police officer who opened fire told investigators in the Palestinian security forces that he identified "suspicious" individuals and fired at them, the IDF said. The shooting took place in an area of Palestinian Authority security jurisdiction. The PA policeman was being interrogated by Palestinian security officers. Several hours after the incident, dozens of Palestinians rioted near Joseph's Tomb and set tires on fire, Israel Radio reported.
The shooting in Nablus comes a few days after the critically injured 16 year old passenger on a school bus hit by an anti-tank died from his wounds.
16-year-old Daniel Viflic died in the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva after his condition seriously deteriorated last week.

The missile hit the bus traveling near Kibbutz Sa'ad just moments after it had dropped off the rest of the school children, wounding Viflic and the bus driver, who was moderately wounded by shrapnel wounds in his leg.

Yitzhak Viflic, Daniel's father, thanked the doctors and the supporters of his family. "Daniel fought but passed away calmly. I am positive he is in a good place now."

Viflic was a resident of Beit Shemesh and studied in a yeshiva there. When he was wounded, he was on his way to the western Negev to visit his grandmother.
About a month before the attack on the Israeli school bus, five Israelis from the same family in the settlement of Itamar, including children aged11, 3 and a baby, were murdered by two Palestinians who broke into the home in the middle of the night. The Palestinian residents in the nearby Gaza strip town of Rafah reacted to news of the murders by celebrating and passing out sweets.

Spring Cleaning Sports Chowdah- Orange (County) Crushed, Sox Sweep Halos in 4; B's Negotiate Way Past Price in 2OT; C's Send Spike Lee Home Unhappy

MLB: After taking the first two games from the Angels, the Red Sox went for the 4 game sweep in Orange county. Not only did they manage to win the final 2 games of the series against the Angels, they got back-to-back shutouts from what many had considered the weakest part of Boston's 5-man rotation.

On Saturday night, Daisuke Matsuzaka brought down his ERA even further by throwing eight innings of one-hit shutout baseball and got run support from a Kevin Youkilis 2-run homer and RBI's from Varitek, Adrian Gonzalez and even Carl Crawford. After giving up a leadoff single to Erick Aybar in the bottom of the 9th (the Angels 2nd hit of the game), Daniel Bard got the next three batters in order to close out the 5-0 Red Sox win.

On Sunday, John Lackey went up against his former team and allowed 6 hits and a walk scattered throughout 8 innings of work while the Red Sox gave him some run support right out of the gate with RBI hits from Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz in the top of the first as well as another run coming in on a fielder's choice off the bat of Mike Cameron to jump out to a 3-0 lead.

The Red Sox would add to that lead on a Pedroia sac-fly, 2-run Carl Crawford homer and Adrian Gonzalez single to make it 7-0, and Dan Wheeler would come out in the bottom of the 9th for a 1-2-3 inning to close out the 7-0 win and sweep the long weekend series in Orange County, winning the final 2 games by a composite score of 12-0.

Boston is 5-1 on the Left Coast jaunt of their road trip and 8-2 in their last 10 games. Their road trip will bring them back a little closer to Boston on Tuesday night when they take on the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. Clay Buccholz (1-2; 5.31 ERA) is scheduled to get the start against Baltimore's Zach Britton (3-1; 3.16 ERA) with first pitch at 7:05 ET.

NHL: Both Tim Thomas and Carey Price were outstanding in net on for Saturday night's game in the Garden. The Bruins were unable to get anything by Price in the first two periods, but managed to take a 1-0 lead 4 and a half minutes into the 3rd on a Brad Marchand goal. With just under 6 minutes remaining in regulation, Montreal came back and found the back of the net on an even strength Jeff Halpern goal, tying the game and eventually forcing sudden death overtime.

The score would remain knotted at 1-1 through the first overtime, but with just under 11 minutes remaining in the 2nd OT, Nathan Horton would break the deadlock.
Tim Thomas stopped 44 of 45 shots faced in both regulation and OT while Carey Price faced 51 shots on Saturday, turning aside 49 of them.

The Bruins take the series lead for the first time by a margin of 3-2 and have the opportunity to close out the series on Tuesday night in Montreal. Game 6 from the Bell center will be braodcast live on NESN, the NHL Network and CBC with the puck dropping at 7:00 PM ET.

NBA: Despite the first two games not being decided until the final 20 seconds of so of regulation, the Celtics dispatched the Knicks in a particularly brutal and efficient fashion on Easter Sunday.

Even after Spike Lee's apperance in One Day at Fenway, I'm enjoying the schadenfreude. Or perhaps because of it. Either way...
The Celtics pretty handily won Game 4 by a final of 101-89 and swept the series with the Knicks.

Kevin Garnett had 26 points and 10 rebounds while Rajon Rondo had 21 points and 12 assists in Sunday afternoon's romp. Big Baby came off the bench for 14 points while Carmello Anthony led the Knick's scoring with 32 points in the losing effort.

After having taken care of New York so swiftly, the C's will now have to play the waiting game (unless they decide the waiting game sucks and play Hungry Hungry Hippos instead), awaiting the outcome of the Miami Heat/Philadelphia 76ers series to find out who their next opponent will be.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Today's Train of Thought- Favorite Trestles in Ohio State, April 25, 2011

And I'm not talking about the embattled Ohio State Buckeye football coach.

I get the feeling that Respondek Rail Corp is what we would wind up with if a railfan decided to own and operate a series of shortlines and a contract switching service. With a small fleet of 1st generation EMDs painted in colors reminiscent of fallen flag Illinois Terminal, owner Terry Respondek expanded operations in 2005 by leasing from CSX the 42 mile former Chesapeake & Ohio line between Richmond, IN and Fernald, OH.

In 2007, Norfolk Southern acquired the remaining 50% stake of the nearby shortline Algers, Winslow & Western. In a way, the AW&W's fleet of unmodified SD9s went full circle- with the southern Indiana shortline acquiring the six axle roadswitchers from Norfolk Southern predecessor Southern Railroad (nee Central of Georgia- old enough that they likely replaced steam locomotives on the C of G) before the coal-hauling shortline was acquired by the Norfolk Southern.

Since the NS has a much larger fleet of higher horsepower and much newer diesels at their disposal, the red white and black SD9s of the AW&W became surplus. Instead, Respondek purchased all 4 the former AW&W diesels for operation on their new Indiana Eastern (IERR), where two of them continue to work in the red white and black of the fallen flag (likely by design on Respondek's Part). Two of the other former AW&W SD9s are painted in the green with yellow trim paint scheme of sister railroad Squaw Creek Southern.

Here, contributor Michael Biehn caught IERR SD9s #205 and #206 trundling westbound across the former C&O trestle on September 17, 2008 in Okeana, OH- just east of the Indiana State Line and northwest of Cincinnati. The train has stalled while climbing the grade between Fernald, OH and Cottage Grove, IN and the two vintage SD9s are doubling the hill after splitting their train in half.

Nearly 500 Taliban Captued Taliban Freed in Afghan Jailbreak

Afghan Police on Scene of 2008 Jailbreak Attempt in Kandahar- File Photo
Taliban militants managed to spring at least 480 inmates from a Kandahar prison Sunday night after digging a 1,000 foot tunnel from a residence within sight of the prison's guard towers.

Officials at Saraposa prison in the city of Kandahar only discovered the breach about 4 a.m., about a half hour after the Taliban said they had gotten all the prisoners out.

The militants began digging the tunnel about five months ago from a house within shooting distance of the prison guard towers. It was not immediately clear whether they lived in the house while they dug. They meticulously plotted the tunnel's course around police checkpoints and major roads, the insurgent group said in a brazen statement.

The diggers finally broke through to the prison cells around 11 p.m. Sunday night, and a handful of inmates who knew of the plan unlocked cells and ushered hundreds of inmates to freedom without a shot being fired.

The city's police mounted a massive search operation for the escaped convicts. They shot dead two inmates who tried to evade capture and re-arrested another 26, said Tooryalai Wesa, the provincial governor.

But there was no ignoring that the Taliban had pulled off a daring success under the noses of Afghan and NATO officials.
A man who claimed to have taken part in the jailbreak told the Associated Press via telephone that inmates were able to obtain copies of keys to some of the inmate's cells ahead of their cohorts outside tunneling through and inferred that there was complicity on the part of some of the prison guards.

Exit question for those of you in favor of closing down Guantanamo Bay- still think it's a good idea for a civilian trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed while transferring inmates from Guantanamo to prisons in the continental United States?

[Hat Tip: Pundit Press]

Report: 81 Year Old Fugitive Whitey Bulger Dead, Cremated in Central America

Reports are circulating over the weekend that fugitive octigenarian extortionist, murderer and drug trafficker James J. 'Whitey' Bulger had recently died of a heart attack in Costa Rica and his girlfriend had the remains cremated.

A fugutive since December 1994 and on the FBI's 10 most wanted list since 1999, Bulger is wanted by the Justice Department and prosecutors in Boston for multiple counts of murder, drug trafficking, extortion and RICO viloations.

Throughout the 1980s, Bulger leveraged his relationship with FBI agent John Connolly and Massachusetts State Police Lt. Richard Schneiderhan as well as his own status as an informant to eliminate rivals or informants and consolidate power as his Providence, RI-based rivals in the Patriarca crime family were left reeling after a series of Federal indictments.

A year ago, FBI agents and police in British Columbia, Canada were canvassing bookstores around the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island in search of Bulger. So far, the FBI has remained skeptical regarding the latest rumor about Bulger's death and cremation in Central America.

Here is the official statement from the Boston FBI office, as delivered by Special Agent Gregory Comcowich:

“The FBI has no credible information to indicate that Bulger is deceased. Until the FBI receives credible verified information that he has died, the FBI will continue its fugitive investigation.”
As one of Whitey's victims put it: “If I were Whitey, this is exactly the story I’d want out there. Not only is he dead, but the body is gone.” But then again, considering that it was almost a year ago to the day that the Feds were looking for Bulger in Canada, this latest rumor could be a hoax pulled off by the remnants of the Winter Hill gang or Bulger himself.

[Hat Tip: Howie Carr; Friends of Ours]

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Epic FAA-IL Update- First Lady's Plane Involved in Near Miss

A Boeing 737 carrying First Lady Michelle Obama had a closer call than intially reported with a military cargo flight approaching Andrews AFB earlier this week.
The close call on Monday night left 2.94 miles of distance between the Obama plane and the 200-ton C-17 jet as they both approached landing at Andrews Air Force base just outside of Washington. Air traffic controllers at Andrews directed Obama's plane to abort a landing, the board said in a statement Friday.

Obama's plane, a Boeing 737, was considerably smaller than the 200-ton C17 ahead of it. Federal regulations require five miles between planes to avoid dangerous wake turbulence when the plane in the lead is significantly larger than the one trailing.

The Andrews controllers immediately ordered the 737 pilot to execute a series of turns to increase its distance from the cargo plane. When the distance continued to narrow, the controllers directed the 737 pilot to abort the landing and circle the airport until the cargo jet cleared the runway.
The incident involving the First Lady came a few days after a controller at the Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center in Oberlin, OH inadvertently left his mic open, transmitting the soundtrack to a movie he was watching on a portable DVD player over the assigned frequency for that airspace.

The FAA said that the controller and a manager have been suspended in the wake of the most recent incident [but, hey! At least he was staying awake! -NANESB!]. Reportedly the movie in question was Cleaner (2007) Starring Samuel L Jackson and Ed Harris.

But what can I say that this Taiwanese animation hasn't already said?
[Hat tip- Death by 1000 Papercuts; Next Media (Taiwan)]

Saturday, April 23, 2011

National Labor Relations Board Rules South Carolina Boeing Plant Violation of Federal Law

The National Labor Relations Board ruled this week that aircraft manufacturer Boeing was in violation of Federal labor laws by constructing a second non-union facility in South Carolina to facilitate production of its 787 Dreamlier.
The Chicago company called the NLRB's complaint "legally frivolous" and a "radical departure" from precedents. It said it will fight the complaint, which was sought by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union.

The NLRB's action comes amid a broad conflict over the role of unions in the economy. Unions have responded to setbacks in the 2010 elections, which put Republicans in charge of the U.S. House of Representatives and in state houses around the country, by pressing the Obama administration and the majority Democrat NLRB to favor union positions.
Boeing [NYSE: BA] had been plagued by strikes and work stoppages in recent years at it's facilities in Everett, WA. The Washington state Boeing plant was represented by Local 751 of the Internationa Association of Machinists, which brought an unfair labor practices grievance against Boeing before the NLRB in March 2010. The complaint alleges that Boeing was using the Charleston, SC plant to threaten IAM workers if the opted to go on strike.

Boeing acquired the South Carolina facility from troubled supplier Vought in July 2009, reportedly citing the risk of strike among the reasons for the 2nd facility in South Carolina. However, Boeing has also recently expanded production in the Puget Sound area.

From all outward appearences, this appears to be the unions using a NLRB stacked with pro Big Labor appointees to do an end-run around right to work states like Souht Carolina or Texas. Boeing has announced that they plan on fighting the ruling.

Exit question: if the NRLB decides to insert itself into a company's decision on where to set up shop, then what really is there to prevent it from imposing Card Check on individual businesses?

Make Believe Leader Travels to Land of Make Believe, Asks for More Money

Concerned about his plummeting poll numbers and the perception that he's losing touch with the average American, President Obama flew off to a series of fundraisers in California this week, culminating in a meeting with the blue collar John Q. Publics and workaday Joe Lunchpails of the obscure, low profile burgh of Beverly Hills.

Speaking in a tiny room of the Italian restaurant Tavern to a an audience of 60 that included Steven Spielberg, Will Ferrell, Tom Hanks and George Clooney, Obama said he understood frustration with his compromises with centrist Democrats and Republicans on healthcare, ending the Bush tax rates for the wealthy and other issues.

Over the past two and a half years, Obama said, he was sure there were times "where you're reading the papers or you're watching TV and you're saying, 'Ah, Obama, you know, why's he compromising with the Republicans?' Or 'Aw, why did healthcare take so long? and I want single-payer plan anyway.' "

Obama, who returns to Washington from California on Friday, has held a series of fundraisers in the Golden State over the past two days as he completes a week of barnstorming across the country that foreshadows the presidential campaign.

The president has spoken to liberal supporters in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Palo Alto whose continued support will be critical if Obama's campaign is to meet a goal of raising $1 billion in campaign funds for 2012.

A big part of Obama's message on the West Coast has been that the White House has accomplished much, but that the president needs another four years to continue his work.
Fresh after addressing the audience of average Joes in Beverly Hills that were directly feeling the sting of inflation and rising gas prices and just struggling to get by, President Obama returned to Washington D.C. where he sprang into action regarding the escalating conflict in Libya, deadly West Texas wildfires and devastating tornadoes in North Carolina and Missouri.

Oh no- wait....I take that back, he went and played a round of golf at Andrews AFB. Close enough.

Good Friday Indeed Sports Chowdah Update- Sox, B's Working Overtime on the Road; C's Take 3-0 Series Lead on Knicks

MLB: As painful as it was to see some of the missed opportunities and stranded runners, the Red Sox have taken the first two games in a 4-game weekend series against the Angels out in Orange County. This makes it 3 straight road wins for Boston, who have won six out of their last seven after an atrocious 0-6 start.

Thursday night's series opener featured Josh Beckett on the bump throwing 5 innings of no-hit baseball (the bid for a no-no was broken up by an Erick Aybar infield single to lead off the bottom of the 6th). Beckett was working with a 2-0 lead courtesy of a 2-out, 2 RBI Jacoby Ellsbury single in the top half of the 6th. However, leading up to that point, the Sox had stranded 8 baserunners and the lack of production with runners on the bags came back to haunt them when Angels outfielder Torii Hunter belted a 2-run homer to center field off of Beckett in the bottom of the 7th.

Beckett went 8 full innings and threw 125 pitches- just under his career high- and got no decision in the Thursday night game. The game would remain deadlocked at 2-2 until the top of the 11th when Adrian Gonzalez had an RBI double and Jed Lowrie brought Dustin Pedroia home on a sac-fly to make it 4-2 Red Sox. Angels outfielder Pete Bourjos managed a 1-out bunt single off of Papelbon in the bottom of the 11th, but Papelbon managed to get the next 2 batters out to close out the 4-2 win in Anaheim on Thursday night- Bobby Jenks was credited with the win.

Friday night's game was a slightly different story, although Jacoby Ellsbury would start off the scoring in the 3rd by driving in Saltalamacchia. That was added to when a struggling Carl Crawford hit a fly ball to the 'Bermuda triangle' in medium center field that hit the grass as three Angels converged (the error was ultimately charged to Angels OF Pete Bourjos) while Jed Lowrie and JD Drew scored to make it a 3-0 game.

In the top of the 6th Jed Lowrie led off the inning with a double, but made it to 3rd on OF Vernon Well's fielding error. JD Drew then singled off of starter Dan Haren to make it a 4-0 game.

Jon Lester threw 6 innings and 11 pitches of shutout baseball, allowing 4 hits and walking two while striking out 8. The bullpen came precariously close to coughing up the lead, giving up a Jeff Mathis RBI single in the 7th followed by a Bobby Abreu RBI single (and then Abreu reaching home on a passed ball) in the bottom of the 8th.

Papelbon came on in the bottom of the 9th and after giving up a 1 out single to pinch-hiter Hank Conger, got the next two batters to fly out and strike out to close out the game in a paltry 9 innings. Boston hangs on to win by a 4-3 final, with the Sox winning 6 out of their last 7 games (and three straight on their West Coast road trip).

Saturady's game will feature Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-2; 6.43 ERA- and believe me, it was almost TWICE that before his Patriot's day outing against the Blue Jays) against Ervin Santana (0-2; 5.26 ERA). First pitch will be at 6:05 PM Pacific, 9:05 ET.

OTHER RED SOX NEWS: 3B Kevin Youkilis left Thursday night's game after fouling a pitch off of his left shin. He missed Friday night's game but is expected to be in the lineup Saturday night.

NHL: Not only are the Bruins still alive after falling into an 0-2 hole to start off the series, but they managed to pull even with the Canadiens after winning two in a row in Montreal.

The Canadiens started off the scoring in the 1st with an even-strength goal from Brent Sopel. Early in the 2nd, the Bruins would pull even with a tally from Micheal Ryder.

Frustratingly, the B's would then go on to allow 2 goals in less than a minute from Micheal Cammaleri and Kostitsyn (both even strength) towards the middle of the 2nd to give Montreal a 3-1 advantage. However, the Bruins would claw back in the latter half of the 2nd period and get goals from Andrew Ference and Patrice Bergeron to tie things at 3-3 before the 2nd intermission.

Early in the 3rd, the Habs would re-take the lead with a power-play goal from PK Subban (the only power play goal for either side Thursday night), but Chris Kelly (who rejoined from Boston the team after undergoing examination for facial injuries sustained in Game 3) tallies the game-tying goal at the 13:42 mark of the 3rd. neither side was able to break the 4-4 tie in regulation, so the game went to OT- where Micheal Ryder quieted the crowd with a little something like this:

With two goals and an assist on the night, Micheal Ryder was named Thursday Night's Star of the Game (which I find pretty subjective most of the time, but appropriate in this case).

Tim Thomas stopped 34 of 38 shots faced while Montreal's Carey Price stopped 30 of 35 faced. Surprisingly, there was a grand total of 6 penalty minutes in Saturday night's game, with the B's going 0-1 on the Power play and the Habs going 1-2.

Game 5 is set to take place at the Garden on Saturday night- 7PM Eastern Time, 4PM Pacific. The game will be broadcast on both VS and the CBC [and if it isn't too late, then may I make the bold prediction of 'Whoever wins at home first wins the series?'- NANESB!]

OTHER BRUINS NEWS: Defenseman Andrew Ference was fined $2500 by the NHL for making an obscene gesture towards Montreal fans during Thursday night's games [in all honesty, I'm surprised the Montreal fans didn't call the Sûreté du Québec after said obscene gesture- NANESB!].

Ference, for his part, said the gesture was unintentional and that he was merely celebrating his 2nd period goal on Thursday night. I find that hard to buy because...well....have you ever met any Montreal fans? Now....imagine a whole building full of them. Yeah....middle finger is the kindest thing I can think of.

NBA: No last second heroics required for the C's on Friday night at Madison Square Garden- things were pretty much taken care of by the 3rd quarter.

Paul Pierce led the C's scoring with 38 points, followed by Ray Allen's 32 points while Rajon Rondo had 15 points and 11 rebounds in Boston's 113-96 win over the Knicks.

The C's have a pretty commanding 3-0 lead in the series and can close things out on game 4 Sunday afternoon at 3:30 PM ET, 12:30 PM Pacific. The Easter Sunday game will be broadcast on ABC Sports.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Senator John Ensign (R-NV) Stepping Down

In a statement dated Friday, embattled Republican Senator John Ensign announced that he would be resigning from office effective May 5th. Ensign had been plagued by scandal since 2009 stemming from an affair he had with the wife of a senior aide as well as his parents attempting to pay the mistress and her husband $96,000 in hush money.

Earlier, Ensign had announced that he wouldn't run for re-election in 2012 when his seat came up. Congressman Dean Heller (R, NV-2), Tea Party-backed Sharron Angle and Democrat Shelley Berkely have all expressed an interest in running for Ensign's senate seat next year.

Nevada law calls for Gov. Brian Sandoval to appoint a placeholder to fill out the remainder of Ensign's term in the Senate. Speculation has been that Sandoval will name Congressman Heller to Ensign's vacant seat. If that is the case, that would mean that he would also have to call for a special election for the Congressional seat vacated by a Heller appointment to Senate.

Unlike New York state, special Congressional elections are unheard of in the Silver State- no prior appointment by the governor has left an opening in the state's national delegation.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Civil War Quiz Now Closed

Thanks to those who participated.

Although Williamsport, PA sounds like the most logical answer (45% of you guessed that), the real answer is St. Albans, VT.

Staying in a local hotel and checking in two or three at a time in the days leading up to what's known as the St. Albans Raid, Confederate Lt Bennett H. Young and 20 Confederate Cavalrymen (identifying themselves as sportsmen from Canada), the men struck on the afternoon of October 19, 1864. While eight or nine Confederate soldiers rounded up the townspeople and held them at gunpoint in the town common, Young and his men proceeded to rob the town's three banks before stealing horses from the townspeople and fleeing back across the Canadian border with his men and with more than $200,000. They intended to torch the village as well, but the incendiary devices that Young's men failed to go off properly, and only a woodshed was burnt down that day.

Young- a former Union POW- had managed to escape to neutral Canada and suggested the raid as a means of sowing panic and diverting resources among the Union, linking up with other Confederate escapees to carry out the raid. Most of the men were arrested in Montreal shortly after the raid, but at the time the Canadian courts decided the men were belligerents in a war they were officially neutral in and would not be extradited to the Union- although some $80,000 found on the men at the time of their arrest was ordered returned to St Albans.

Some 36% of you correctly guessed St Albans, so assuming you didn't look it up on Google or Wikipedia, congratulations! You really know your Civil War (and New England) history!

Pre Good Friday Sports Chowdah- Red Sox Bats Looking A-OK in 1st Road Win; Price is Wrong for Habs in Game 2; C's Survive Another Close Shave w/Knicks

RED SOX: After an impressive Patriot's Day rebound by Daisuke Matsuzaka in which he cut his ERA in half by going 7 innings & giving up one hit in Boston's 9-1 win against the Blue Jays, the Red Sox headed out west to Oakland.

The first game ended up with the Sox getting shut out 5-0 with Lackey allowing 1 run in six innings of work and the A's exploding for 4 more in the bottom of the 8th.

However, the Sox bounced back on the Wednesday day game. Although former Sox outfielder Coco Crisp put Oakland on the board first with a solo homer right out of the gate off of Clay Buchholz. Carl Crawford put the Sox on the board with a 2-out RBI single in the 2nd inning and Youkilis, JD Drew and Jed Lowrie homered to pad the Red Sox lead by a 5-1 margin. The A's would get a one back in the bottom of the 8th, but after giving up a 1-out Landon Powell RBI single in the bottom of the 9th Papelbon managed to get the next 2 batters to pop out for a 5-3 Boston win.

After the atrocious start, the Red Sox have won four out of their last five games- yesterday's win against the A's is their first road win of the season.

The Red Sox will head south to Orange County to take on the Angels tonight, with Josh Beckett (1.80 ERA; 2-1) going up against Tyler Chatwood (3.75 ERA; 1-1). First pitch is at 10:05 Eastern, 7:05 Pacific.

OTHER MLB NEWS: Commissioner Bud Selig announced that the league was stepping in to take control of the day to day operations of the LA Dodgers, citing uncertainty over owner Frank McCourt's uncertain financial situation and ongoing divorce proceedings.

McCourt released a statement saying that the Dodgers were in compliance with MLB financial guidelines.

MacCallum/Getty images
NHL: Unable to win at home, the Bruins instead got one on the road in Montreal Monday night. The Bruins got off to a 2-0 lead with goals from David Krejci and Nathan Horton in the first period, and after a Rich Peverly tally two minutes into the second, Montreal's Andrei Kostitsyn would get one past Tim Thomas to make it a 3-1 game heading into the 2nd intermission.

Montreal would make it a one goal game early in the 3rd with a Tomas Plekanec goal about 7 minutes in. However, after the Habs pulled netminder Carey Price with time running out in regulation, Boston's Chris Kelly would get an empty-netter to ice the game for the B's by a 4-2 final.

Kelly's empty-netter came after he was knocked down and hit his face on the goalpost earlier. He remained down for several minutes, but was kept in the game. While the team was staying in Lake Placid, NY prior to Game 4, Kelly was sent back to Boston to be examined for any facial fractures (although he is expected to be on the ice for Game 4 tonight).

Montreal still holds a 2-1 series lead, but the Bruins have the chance to even things up on Thursday night at 7PM ET, 4 PT.

Getty Images
NBA: A little closer than I would've liked, but the Celtics presently hold a 2-0 series lead over the NY Knicks after Tuesday night's game at the Garden. The win comes despite a 40 point effort for the Knick's Carmello Anthony- although Rajon Rondo was no slouch himself with 30 points and 4 rebounds.

Kevin Garnett sank the go-ahead basket with all of 14 seconds remaining in regulation, then managed to steal the ball back from the Knicks with 4 seconds on the clock in the Celtic's 96-93 win over the Knicks.

The series resumes Friday night at Madison Square Garden 7PM ET (4 Pacific) and will be broadcast on ESPN.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Today's Train of Thought- Harper's Ferry PTA, April 20, 2011

With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War taking place this month, today's train of thought takes us to one of the most pivotal towns throughout the whole conflict- Harper's Ferry, WV.

Located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, by the mid 19th century the town was home to a US Military Armory and was linked to the rest of the country by the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. In 1859, the Armory was targeted by abolitionist John Brown and 21 men (mostly escaped or freed slaves) in a nighttime raid that killed 11. Brown and most of his surviving men were captured and the fiery abolitionist was sentenced to hang in December 1859. As much as the first shots fired at Ft Sumter marked the official start of the Civil War, Brown's uprising in what was then a Virginia town and execution was thought to be the catalyst for the conflict.

The town of Harper's Ferry itself changed hands no less than 8 times during the Civil War, with retreating Union forces destroying the Armory to prevent it from falling into Confederate hands. The Union then annexed the two counties that make up the eastern panhandle of West Virginia from Virginia (West Virgina was the only state to secede from the Confederacy) in 1863. With the railroads and canals, Harper's Ferry was a sought after prize for Robert E. Lee who could not resupply his Army on their way to Gettysburg.

After the war, the B&O line remained, with the line through Harper's Ferry hosting trains between Baltimore and Washington D.C. to the east and Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, St Louis and the coal fields of West Virginia to the west. In the 1970s, the line was merged into the Chessie System and in the late 1980s, the line became part of the CSX system. The Harper's Ferry Train station is still open and hosts both east and westbound versions of Amtrak's Washington D.C.-Chicago Capitol Limited but is also the westernmost station stop for the MARC commuter rail.

Here, contributor trainmasterrob caught CSX SD50 #8637 leading Cumberland, MD-bound general freight Q414 crossing the Potomac and heading into Harper's Ferry from Maryland Heights on the last day of 2007. The portal of the tunnel is on the Maryland side of the river and was part of a realignment dating back to 1931, which is fairly recent given the West Virginia town's eventful past.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Turkish Delight- Muslima Poses for Cover of German Edition of Playboy

A 25 year old Turkish actress living in Berlin has turned heads and raised the ire of islamists and much of her own family for appearing in the German Edition of Playboy this month.

Sila Sahin, a 25-year-old Turkish German living in Berlin, had until now been regarded as a glowing example of how a modern Muslim girl should behave in a multicultural society.

A successful actress starring in German television soap opera Good Times, Bad Times, she pleased her many fans and made her Turkish family proud.

But her latest move has shocked some of those fans, and enraged those closest to her.

Posing provocatively on the cover of German Playboy magazine with one breast exposed, Sila Sahin seems to be sending a clear and deliberate message to her conservative Turkish family.

'I did it because I wanted to be free at last,' she said. 'These photographs are a liberation from the restrictions of my childhood.'
Her family have, unsurprisingly, reacted with horror, and her mother has cut off all contact with the actress.

'My mother is still angry. It will be even more difficult with my grandparents, my aunts and my uncles,' she said on the website devoted to her television soap.

She has, however, managed to talk to her actor father, who expressed concern over the pressure she will inevitably face from those not only within the Turkish community in Germany, but from the wider Muslim community as a whole.

Ms Sahin's declared intention was to used the controversial Playboy photoshoot as a call to action for other Turkish girls who suffer the effects of their strict backgrounds, where women's choices are often limited, husbands are chosen for the girls and chastity closely controlled.

Salih (center) with cast members from German soap opera 'Good Times, Bad Times' in earlier photo shoot
Now granted some may question the wisdom of posing nude because you thought your parents might've been too strict, but Muslim women have been known to pay for much less with their lives at the hands of their own family- even in America.

Warning! The preceding image may be NSFW!
All that's missing is a verbal beatdown of some stupid mullah. On the plus side, her Turkish father is an actor himself and while probably not thrilled with her decision, isn't ready to write her out of the will or run her over yet.

Aside from the possible Rule 5 implications, I'm in favor of Ms. Sahin's decision for no other reason than I'm glad to see Muslimahs who aren't coerced into wearing what amounts to a Hefty bag with eye slits to appease some of their violent and backwards 7th century relatives.

They don't necessarily have to take everything off, either [altho' who am I to stop their exhibitionist displays? NANESB!] but I think an attractive Muslima not afraid to show off her beauty would be an even more effective emissary than any representative from the various crumbling authoritarian regimes in the Middle East.

[Hat Tip- Jammie Wearing Fool]