Sunday, July 31, 2011

Trade Deadline Sports Chowdah Update- Sox To Be You, Sox on Sox Action in Chicago's South Side; Lets Get Bedarded

RED SOX: This weekend saw the Red Sox head off to Chicago's South Side for a quickie 3-game road trip against the Pale Hose. Friday night saw the series get off on the wrong foot for Boston, with Gavin Floyd outlasting Tim Wakefield in Friday night's 3-1 win. ChiSox catcher AJ Pierzynski's 2-run homer in the bottom of the 7th proved to be the game winner while BoSox 2B Dustin Pedroia's hit streak came to an end at 25 games.

On Saturday, the Red Sox finally broke a scoreless deadlock in the top of the 4th with an Saltalamacchia RBI double, RBI sac flies from Pedroia and Marco Scutaro and an RBI single from Youkilis to make it a 4-0 game. That really would be all they needed, although they got another RBI from Scutaro in the top of the 8th before breaking it open with a 5-run 9th inning. Jon Lester would go 8 complete innings, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits (two solo homers- one from Paul Konerko and the other from Gordon Beckham) while striking out 8 and walking two for Saturday's 10-2 win.

That set up a rubber game for Sunday with Andrew Miller getting the start against Mark Buehrle against Boston's Andrew Miller. Miller would last 5 and two thirds innings, but would leave trailing 3-2 before Boston rallied thanks to a 2-RBI single from Dustin Pedroia after Buehrle left in the top of the 7th to put the Sox up 4-3. The Red Sox would then get some insurance thanks to a 1-out Adrian Gonzalez RBI single to make it a 5-3 game. Papelbon was able to come in from the pen and strike out all three batters he faced to preserve the Red Sox 5-3 win and Alfredo Aceves gets credited with the victory pitching in relief. Boston takes two out of three in the South Side and manages to maintain a 2-game lead over the Yankees in the AL East standings (not to mention the best record in the AL).

The Red Sox will next head home to take on the Cleveland Indians for a Monday night game that will be televised on ESPN. John Lackey (9-8; 6.20 ERA) will get the start against Josh Tomlin (11-5; 4.01 ERA). First pitch is at 7:10 PM.

OTHER RED SOX NEWS: The Red Sox have acquired starting pitcher Erik Bedard from the Seattle Mariners in a 3-team trade at the Sunday deadline. For Bedard, the Mariners get minor league outfielder Trayvon Robinson from the Dodgers and Taiwanese outfielder Chih Hsien Chang from Boston while the Red Sox send righties Stephen Fife and Juan Rodriguez along with catcher Tim Federowicz to LA.

The trade took place less than a day after a tenative deal with the Oakland A's for starter Rich Harden fell apart after closer scrutiny of his medical records by the Red Sox led to doubts about his ability to complete the season.

Bedard (4-7; 3.45 ERA with Seattle this season) didn't even last 2 innings in Friday night's 8-0 Mariner's loss to Tampa at SafeCo field on Friday night. It was his first start in nearly a month after spending time on the DL.

ELSEWHERE IN MLB: Although Boston may not get to see him this week, the Tribe made some waves in the AL Central with their acquisition of starter Ubaldo Jimenez (6-9; 4.46 ERA)from Colorado shortly after acquiring outfielder Kosuke Fukudome from the Chicago Cubs.

The Astros dealt most of their outfielders to the NL East, sending Hunter Pence to Philly and Michael Bourne to Atlanta.

The Cardinals acquired SS Rafael Furcal from the Dodgers while the Diamondbacks obtained Jason Marquis (8-5; 3.95 ERA) from the Nationals.

Curiously, the Yankees did hardly anything before the deadline- a time in which the organization is usually looking to make a move. Reportedly their scouts were present in Seattle when Bedard had his meltdown.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

27 Automatic Rifles Go Missing From California Army Base

Twenty six AK-74 Automatic rifles and a SVD Dragunov SVD sniper rifle were reportedly stolen from from a warehouse in Southern California's Fort Irwin this month.

ATF and military officials say that one of the missing rifles has been recovered and one arrest has been made, but the agency is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to additional arrests and the recovery of the remaining weapons.

The weapons were reported missing on July 15th, although ATF and Army officials declined to clarify why it took 2 weeks for word of the missing weapons to be made public. Military and federal officials also declined to say whether or not the suspect in custody was military or civilian.

Both the AK-74 and Dragunov rifles and variants are common in former Soviet Bloc countries as well as the middle east. The Army base in the Mojave desert is home to the National Training Center, which has a dedicated OPFOR (Opposing Force) unit- the 11th Armoured Cavalry Regiment. Using weapons and equipment typically found elsewhere, the OPFOR is designed to mimic tactics that regular the Army units rotating through the NTC would encounter in combat zones elsewhere.

Two years ago, theives in northern California broke into locked parking lots at police stations in Contra Costa county and stole law enforcement-issue shotguns and AR-15 rifles from the California Highway Patrol and Contra Costa County Sheriff's Dept. patrol cars.

Fort Irwin is located between the Los Angeles area and Las Vegas. The nearest town would be Barstow, which is located about a 3 hour drive from the Mexican border. Numerous media reports claim that the Mexican cartels have a preference for the AK variant rifles, hinting at a likely destination for the pilfered weapons.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Today's Train of Thought- Electric Orange: July 29, 2011

Today's train of thought brings us to the side of the street at a quiet residential neighborhood in Oregon's Willamette Valley.

Genesee and Wyoming's Portland & Western features a cluster of secondary and branch lines of Southern Pacific, Spokane Portland & Seattle, Northern Pacific and Oregon Electric Railway lineage that were systematically acquired in Western Oregon via lease or purchase throughout the 1990s.

The Oregon Electric started out life a little over a century ago as an interurban running between Portland and Salem, OR. Not even three years after it began operations, the OER was purchased by the Spokane, Portland & Seattle and extended further south to Eugene, OR to compete with the parallel Southern Pacific line. Like many of the interurbans that sprouted up throughout the country in the early part of the 20th century, they went into decline shortly after WWII. Although most of the electric equipment was retired, the SP&S continued freight and passenger operations on the line until rail travel was eclipsed by the advent of commercial flights and the opening of interstate 5 parallel to both the Southern Pacific and Oregon Electric lines.

Along with the Northern Pacific, Great Northern and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, the SP&S was merged into the Burlington Northern in 1970. About 25 years later- just before the merger with Santa Fe formed BNSF- the Burlington Northern divested itself of the remaining OER line between the Portland area on south to Eugene- The new operator would be G&W's Portland & Western Railroad.

Even though entire interurban and trolley systems were abandoned, torn up and dismantled throughout the country, a surprising amount of the Oregon Electric remains intact. In fact, the 100-mile stretch of track between suburban Portland and Eugene is referred to as the 'Oregon Electric Division' by Portland & Western. In and around Portland itself, the Tri Met's MAX Blue line between Portland and Hillsboro uses what was once OER right of way, the line having gone full circle back to a people-mover.

To the south, the Portland & Western's OE Division still provides the regional with all sorts of online traffic- mostly lumber and paper products. Here, contributor Kyle Weismann-Yee caught Portland & Western GP9 #1803 trundling down 4th St in Harrisburg, OR with a few cars it's picked up after switching local industries on its way back to Eugene in Feb 2006. Towns along the old OE line such as Harrisburg, Junction City, Albany, Hillsboro, Salem and Independence still feature street running trackage.

And what would a post featuring 1st generation motive power be without a gratuitous mention and image of actress/poker player Jennifer Tilly? Again, both are products of the 1950s and both are still looking pretty damn good to this day.

The #1803 came over from sister Genesee & Wyoming railroad Louisiana Delta in the late 1990s and was purchased secondhand from the Southern Pacific shortly after the GWRR venture in that state started up. Although bigger power such as SD45s or GP39-2s are the go-to power for Portland & Western's bigger freights, the Portland & Western still roster a number of largely unmodified GP9s and SD9s- a few of them even repainted into Southern Pacific's 1950's vintage 'black widow' paint scheme.

Rhode Island Gov. Chafee Initiates Legal Proceedings to Protect Slaying Suspect from Feds, Possible Death Penalty

Arguments are underway in the First Circuit court of appeals in Boston in which the state of Rhode Island is outlining its case for refusing to surrender a jailed murder suspect to the Feds.
“Governor [Lincoln D. Chaffee] exercised his discretion on a public policy basis, and refused the request,” Claire Richards, Chafee’s chief legal officer, told the three-member panel of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

“The governor has a right. … The state has a sovereignty right,” she said.

But Donald Lockhart, a lawyer for Rhode Island US Attorney Peter Neronha, argued that the governor’s office has no standing in the case -- and that the federal government was exercising its right to prosecute a murder that occurred under its jurisdiction.
Jason Wayne Pleau allegedly shot and killed 49 year old gas station clerk Jason Main when he went to deposit more than $12,000 in receipts at a Citizen's Bank branch in Woonsocket, RI in September 2010. Since the bank is federally insured, this gives the US Attorney for Rhode Island jurisdiction.

Pleau had a lengthy criminal background including robbery, burglary and assault. Earlier, he had offered to plead guilty to killing Main and accept a sentence of life without parole- the toughest penalty under Rhode Island law.

Chafee, however, refused to turn Pleau over to the Feds while citing his opposition to the death penalty. Neronha's office sought a court order to have Rhode Island turn over Pleau to their custody, but Pleau's legal team took the case to higher courts, citing Chafee's opposition.

With an unemployment rate of 11%, you would think Gov. Chafee might have better uses for state resources and time than protecting a career criminal from the Feds. Chafee- a former Republican Senator whose voting record and policy statements were more in line with left-wing progressive Democrats- ran as in independent for governor of Rhode Island and won last year.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

AWOL Soldier Arrested With Bombmaking Materiels and Ammuntion in Texas, Confesses to Plotting 2nd Ft. Hood Attack

Police in Killeen, TX arrested a 21 year old Army private who went AWOL from Ft. Campbell, KY earlier this month and was reportedly plotting to carry out an attack on Ft. Hood similar to Nidal Hasan's November 2009 shooting spree.
An AWOL infantry soldier caught with weapons and a bomb inside a backpack admitted planning what would have been Fort Hood's second terrorist attack in less than two years, the Army said Thursday. He might have succeeded at carrying it out, police said, if a gun-store clerk hadn't alerted them to the man's suspicious activity.

The 21-year-old suspect, Pfc. Naser Abdo, was arrested Wednesday at a motel about three miles from Fort Hood's main gate. He had spoken out against the 2009 Fort Hood shootings last year as he made a public plea to be granted conscientious objector status to avoid serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Like the soldier charged with killing 13 people in the shootings, Abdo is Muslim, but he said in an essay obtained by The Associated Press the attacks ran against his beliefs and were "an act of aggression by a man and not by Islam."

Abdo was approved as a conscientious objector this year, but that status was put on hold after he was charged with possessing child pornography. He went absent without leave from Fort Campbell, Ky., during the July 4 weekend.

On July 3, he tried to purchase a gun at a store near the Kentucky post, according to the company that owns the store. Abdo told an AP reporter a week later that he was concerned about his safety and had considered purchasing a gun for protection, but had not yet done so.

Police in Killeen said their break in the case came from Guns Galore LLC — the same gun store where Maj. Nidal Hasan bought a pistol used in the 2009 attack. Store clerk Greg Ebert said the man arrived by taxi Tuesday and bought 6 pounds of smokeless gunpowder, three boxes of shotgun ammunition and a magazine for a semi-automatic pistol.

Ebert said he called authorities because he and his co-workers "felt uncomfortable with his overall demeanor and the fact he didn't know what the hell he was buying."

According to an Army alert sent via email and obtained by The Associated Press, Killeen police learned from the taxi company that Abdo had been picked up from a local motel and had also visited an Army surplus store where he paid cash for a uniform bearing Fort Hood unit patches.

Agents found firearms and "items that could be identified as bomb-making components, including gunpowder," in Abdo's motel room, FBI spokesman Erik Vasys said.

The Army alert said Abdo "was in possession of a large quantity of ammunition, weapons and a bomb inside a backpack," and upon questioning admitted planning an attack on Fort Hood. Officials have not offered details about a possible motive.

Baldwin, the police chief, said Abdo "was taken down rather quickly without incident."

Vasys said the FBI would charge Abdo with possessing bomb-making components and he would be transferred from Killeen police into federal custody. Vasys said there was nothing to indicate Abdo was working with others.
Abdo had gained a number of progressive admirers thanks to his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and his applying for Conscientious Objector status with the Army last year. The 21 year old PFC grew up in the Fort Worth suburb of Garland and was most recently stationed at Ft. Campbell, KY.

Although his request to become a Conscientious Objector (CO) was ultimately approved by the US Army, he was arrested in May of this year for having images of child pornography on his computer. A hearing held under Article 32 of the UCMJ recommended that he be court-martialed from the Army on those charges- Abdo went AWOL shortly after the hearing.

[Hat tip: Support Your Local Gunfighter; Weasel Zippers; Lonely Conservative]

Sports Chowdah Update- Are You Ready For Some Football? So Is the NFL; Ain't it Grand? Lucky #1000 For Papi, Francona

PATRIOTS: The philanthropist wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft passed away last week. Myra Kraft, 68, had been fighting cancer for an extended period of time.

The daughter of Lithuanian immigrants who settled in Worcester in the 1930s, Myra Kraft was active in the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston and Boys & Girls Club of Boston and managed the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation and Kraft Family Foundation. For the past two years, Myra had served as chair of the board of directors for the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.

In leiu of flowers, the Kraft family has asked that donations be made to the Myra & Robert Kraft Giving Back scholarship fund for the Boys & Girls Club of Boston.

NFL: Almost as an afterthought, the NFL lockout has come to an end. The final major obstacle appeared to be the implementation of a wage system for rookie players, which was cleared last week and approved by the NFL player's association.

Since then, this has set off a flurry of trades, free agent signings and transactions that had been building for months, since free agents couldn't be signed while the lockout was still in effect.

The New England Patriots acquired Defensive Tackle Albert Haynesworth from the Washington Redskins in exchange for a 5th round pick in the 2013 draft. The Redskins signed Haynesworth to a big money contract in 2008 that included a then-NFL record $41 million in guaranteed money.

The Pats also signed flamboyant former Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco to a 3 year deal, although it wasn't immdiately disclosed what the Bengals got in return [aside from peace & quiet- NANESB!]

Other noteworthy transactions in the past couple of days include the Miami Dolphins reportedly finalizing a trade deal that would New Orleans Saints RB Reggie Bush to South Beach. Free agent quarterback Matt Hasselbeck left Seattle after signing a multi-year deal with the Tennessee Titans after they cut Vince Young.

MLB: Red Sox Manager Terry Francona notched career managerial win #1000 in Saturday's 3-1 win over the Seattle Mariners. True to form, the understated manager downplayed the milestone in the postgame press conference.

[On a personal note, I sometimes shudder to think where the Red Sox might've ended up without Francona. Not just the 2004 and 2007 World Series, but bouncing back from that atrocious 2-12 start this season- NANESB!]

The Red Sox managed to sweep the Mariners over the weekend before playing host to the Kansas City Royals. During that series, another milestone was reached.

On Wednesday's game against the Royals, David Ortiz scored his 1000th RBI with Boston in memorable fashion as he belted a Bruce Chen offering into the bullpen with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 5th to break the game wide open for Boston. The grand slam ties Papi with SS Rico Petrocelli (1963-1976) for 2nd all time in Red Sox history- Ted Williams has 17 to his name.

Dustin Pedroia also extended a career-best hitting streak to 24 games and John Lackey didn't have to worry about much in the way of run support in Wednesday night's 12-5 win over the Royals.

However, the series was bookended by close losses to Kansas City, with Monday night's 14-inning 3-1 loss and Thursday's 4-3 loss. Josh Beckett Gave up a 3-run homer to KC DH Billy Butler and an RBI double by 3B Mike Moustakas to give KC the 4-2 lead in the top of the 4th during Thursday's day game that would turn out to be the game-winner. Dustin Pedroia made it a 1-run game and kept his hitting streak alive with a solo homer in the bottom of the 8th, but Joakim Soria was able to close out the game for KC in the bottom of the 9th after giving up a 1-out single, preserving the Royal's 4-3 win.

The Red Sox will next travel to Chicago from some Sox on Sox action when they take on the White Sox Friday night. Tim Wakefield (6-3; 5.15 ERA) gets the start against Gavin Floyd (8-9; 4.11 ERA) and the game will start at 8:10 PM ET, 7:10 Central.

ELSEWHERE IN MLB: Former Yankees and Expos pitcher Hideki Irabu was found dead in his Southern California home on Wednesday afternoon. Irabu was billed as 'Japan's Nolan Ryan' when he signed with the Yankees in 1997. The San Diego Padres had originally purchased his contract from the Chiba Lotte Marines, but he refused to join San Diego, insisting he would only play for the Yankees.

Irabu had been playing in Japan and for Long Beach in the independent Western League after falling well short of the high expectations for him in New York. Between 2008 and 2010, Irabu was also arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct and suspicion of DUI by police in both California and Japan.

ANGELS: After giving up an unearned run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 1st inning, the Angel's Ervin Santana threw a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on Wednesday afternoon. Santana struck out 10 and walked one (the batter in the 1st inning reached on an error) in nine no-hit innings of work. Santana pitched the 1st complete game no-hitter for the Angels since 1984 behind Mike Witt and their first no-hitter since 1990- 7 no-hit innings from Mark Langston and the final two hitless innings from Mike Witt, again.

The win was Santana's first against the Tribe in 11 starts and the first no-hitter thrown at Jacobs/Progressive Field.

NATIONAL LEAGUE: The San Francisco Giants have acquired Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran for righty prospect Zach Wheeler. Boston, Texas, Atlanta and Philadelphia were among the rumored destinations where Beltran would end up by the trade deadline, but Wednesday's trade ended that speculation.

On Thursday, the Chicago Cubs dealt outfielder Kosuke Fukudome to the Cleveland Indians for minor leaguers Abner Abreu and Carlos Smith. This season, Fukudome had a .279 batting average with three homers and 13 RBI in 87 games with the Cubs.

NCAA FOOTBALL: Former Boston College linebacker and cancer survivor Mark Herzlich was signed as an undrafted free agent by the NY Giants last week.

He was cleared to play after a routine checkup on Monday. Interestingly, Herzlich is one of 14 players to have an NFL Flims camera crew follow him as the league is documenting their transition from pre-draft workout to their first NFL game.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Today's Train of Thought- Hoosier Home Cookin', July 27 2011

Today's appetizing train of thought takes us to the Hoosier state and the Anacostia Pacific-run Louisville & Indiana shortline.

The LIRC began operation of the former Pennsylvania Railroad line between Louisville and Indianapolis in 1994 and has served as a regional bridge line between the Midwest and the Bluegrass state. Online traffic includes potash, cement, scrap metal and plastic products, but in recent years it's role as a bridge line has become increasingly prominent with the CSX and Indiana Railroad shifting traffic off the former Monon Hoosier subdivision between Chicago and Louisville in late 2009- each of them opting instead to use trackage or haulage rights over the LIRC between Indianapolis and Louisville.

Here, contributor Micheal Biehn caught Louisville & Indiana GP39-2 #2376 heading south with northbound the Columbus, IN- Jefferson, IN symbol freight CJ as it passes by the front steps of Lucille's Home Cookin' in Crothersville, IN on April 22, 2009.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mexicana Calendar Girls Make Playboy Debut as Former Co-Workers File Suit Against Equity Firm

Within a few months of their wildly popular 2011 calendar, the stewardesses from defunct carrier Mexicana took it off for their debut in the April 2011 edition of the Mexican version of Playboy. At present, there is no word whether or not a 2012 calendar is in the works.

Meanwhile, the 'Aeromozas' former coworkers have filed a lawsuit against Mexican equity firm PC Capital. Some 8000 former Mexicana Airlines employees filed suit against PC Capital after the firm was unable to come up with the US$200 Million it offered for the bankrupt carrier in March. The suit alleges that PC Capital delayed the sale by overstating the funds available and making an offer that wasn't backed up by available economic resources.

Mexicana ceased all flights a just under a year ago, with some of the routes being taken over by low-cost competitors Volaris and Viva Aerobus. Since late 2010, there has been talk among Mexicana's creditors and the government to restore limited service.

Congressman Wu Announces Resignation After Admitting to Sexual Encounter W/ Donor's Teenage Daughter

Congressman David Wu (D- OR 1) announced on Tuesday his resignation pending a resolution of the current debt crisis after the teenage daughter of one of his donors accused him of an unwanted sexual encounter.
A distraught young woman called U.S. Rep. David Wu's Portland office this spring, accusing him of an unwanted sexual encounter, according to multiple sources.

When confronted, the Oregon Democrat acknowledged a sexual encounter to his senior aides but insisted it was consensual, the sources said.

The woman is the daughter of a longtime friend and campaign donor. She apparently did not contact police at the time.

One person who heard the voice mail described the woman as upset, breathing heavily and "distraught."

In the voice mail, the young woman accused Wu of aggressive and unwanted sexual behavior, according to sources with direct knowledge of the message and its contents.

Reporters could not verify the young woman's age. Notes on Facebook over the past 18 months indicate she graduated from high school in 2010. California records show she registered to vote in August.
Wu, like Anthony Weiner last month, was facing increasingly tough re-election prospects and diminishing support from his own party, leading to Tuesday's announcement.

The sexual misconduct allegations come a few months after campaign and Congressional staffers resigned from Wu's office after the Portland congressman displayed increasingly erratic behavior.

Friday, July 22, 2011

At Least 87 Reported Dead in Norway Bombing, Mass Shooting

Officials in Norway are saying the death toll is expected to top 80 after twin attacks in downtown Oslo and an island just outside the capital on Friday.

Seven people were killed when a bomb detonated outside of buildings housing the prime minister's office and several media outlets in Oslo. The blast was followed by two hours later by a horrific mass shooting by a gunmen disguised as a police officer at a summer youth camp on an island northwest of Oslo.

According to eyewitnesses, the gunman arrived on the island by boat and waited for the kids to assemble before opening fire with a pistol and an automatic rifle. Some of the children at the camp heard the gunfire, and were coaxed out of hiding by the uniformed shooter before being killed.

A government spokesman had initially said that the death toll was at 17, but according to eyewitnesses and investigators, there are dozens of bodies on the island of Utoeya as well as in the water and along the beaches. Rescue workers and volunteers moving to evacuate the island reported seeing as many as 20 bodies in the water.

In both instances, the target of the attacks was the ruling Labor party in Norway. The bomb heavily damaged Prime Minister Jans Stoltenberg's offices, the headquarters of state news agency NRK, Norwegian tabloid VK and the headquarters of the oil ministry. The island youth camp was run by the youth wing of the Labor party and the Prime Minister was reportedly scheduled to visit on Saturday.

Norway's justice ministry named a suspect they had in custody in the mass killings- a 32 year old farmer named Anders Behrin Bervik. Bervik is reportedly a Norwegian national and is also the prime suspect in the Oslo bombing, although investigators have not ruled out the possibility of accomplices.

Today's Train of Thought: Is this Heaven? No, It's Iowa- July 21, 2011

While no ghosts of baseball legends were able to appear for Today's Train of Thought, there's still plenty of rail traffic originating in Iowa thanks to the various ventures in ethanol in addition to the more traditional application of corn.

In the northwestern corner of the state, the Dakota & Iowa has earned its keep hauling gravel, ballast and aggregates from the LG Everist quarry in Dell Rapids, SD to interchange with the BNSF in Sioux Falls, SD and Canadian National and the Union Pacific in Sioux City, IA while operating on ex-Milwaukee Road tracks owned by the state of South Dakota and tracakge rights on BNSF south of Sioux Falls. The D&I has gotten by with chopnose GP9s and GP7s until fairly recently, when the ethanol boom and longer trains from the Dell Rapids quarry called for bigger power. Unlike many other railroads, the D&I retained many of their 1st generation Geeps, using them for switching the yards in Dell Rapids or Sioux Falls. With that in mind, though, the newer power seems to be the norm out on the road.

Here, contributor John Leopard caught D&I SD39 #4028 leading GP50 #2512 northbound through Westfield, IA with a load of tank cars bound the the ethanol plat at Hawarden, IA at the end of June 2009.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bite Sized Cuppa Sports Chowdah- O Really? Sox Take Rubber Game of Baltimore Series

RED SOX- After technically winning two games in two cities on the same day on Monday (thanks to an 8-run rally in in Baltimore to put away the second game of the day), Boston dropped Game 2 on Tuesday by a 6-2 final. This set up a deciding game 3 on Wednesday afternoon in a sweltering Camden Yards.

After getting into a 1-out bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the second, Red Sox starter Andrew Miller managed to escape by getting O's catcher Craig Tatum to ground into a double-play.

Miller would soon get some run support thanks to a Jacoby Ellsbury solo homer in the top of the 3rd. That was actually all the Red Sox would need, although Ellsbury had another solo homer to his credit in the 7th inning. A bases-loaded walk to Carl Crawford and Jason Varitek grounding into a fielder's choice with Josh Reddick at third rounded out scoring in Boston's 4-0 shutout of the Orioles.

Miller went 5 and two-thirds, allowing two hits, giving up 6 walks and striking out 3 batters. The bullpen came on and didn't allow a baserunner for Baltimore, with Papelbon closing out the game on a 1-2-3 bottom of the 9th.

Boston has now won a second consecutive 3-game series with an AL East opponent since coming back from the All Star game. The Red Sox will be returning to Fenway on Friday night to take on the Seattle Mariners. Seattle ace Feliz Hernandez (8-8; 3.26 ERA) is scheduled to go up against John Lackey (7-8; 6.70 ERA) with a first pitch at 7:10.

OTHER MLB NEWS: With the non-waiver trade deadline coming up at the end of the month, the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox are reportedly top among the likely destinations for Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran.

While the Red Sox have expressed an interest in Beltran to the struggling Mets, Boston's front office feels that the Mets may be asking too much in terms of prospects, especially after the offseason trade that brought Gonzalez over from San Diego. Beltran has been batting .293 this season with 15 homers and 61 RBI.

Reports from the west coast indicate that Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier has also publicly expressed an interest in playing for Boston. Ethier has been batting .299 with 9 home runs and 44 RBI.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Borderline Psychosis Update- Fast & Furious Twin in Fla?; PEMEX Files Suit Over Stolen Oil; If a Tree Falls in the Woods, did the Zetas Cut it Down?

NEW MEXICO The former mayor of the small border town of Columbus, NM pled guilty to multiple counts of weapons smuggling four months after his arrest.

Eddie Espinoza, 51, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, three counts of smuggling firearms from the United States and three counts of making false statements.

Federal documents state the group smuggled more than 200 guns from New Mexico to the streets of Cíudad Juárez and Palomas, Chihuahua. The documents further state that at times the group used unmarked police cars registered toColumbus to smuggle the guns across the border. Agents had been following the illegal operation for more than a year.
Espinoza is the fourth person to plead guilty in this case so far. Earlier this month, the village board voted to eliminate the four-man police department as a cost-cutting measure. The Luna County Sheriff's Department will be responsible for patrolling the area now. In another development on the Columbus case, the El Paso US Attorney's office recently took over the case from the New Mexico US Attorney, although the Justice department has been tight lipped about the reasons behind the switch.

  ARIZONA: Recently leaked memos from the Arizona Deparment of Public Safety confirm that Hezbollah has established ties with some of the Mexican cartels in establishing smuggling routes and warn that the terrorist organization may be stockpiling heavy weaponry south of the border.
As evidence, it points to the 2010 Tijuana arrest of Hezbollah militant Jameel Nasr, who was allegedly tasked with establishing a Hezbollah network in Mexico and South America. The memo also recalls the April 2009 arrest of Jamal Yousef in New York, which exposed a huge cache of assault rifles, hand grenades, explosives and anti-tank munitions. According to Yousef, the weapons were stored in Mexico after being smuggled from Iraq by members of Hezbollah. The memo warns that consequences of partnerships between Hezbollah and Mexico's drug partnerships could be disastrous for Mexico's drug war, given Hezbollah's advanced weapons capabilities — specifically their expertise with improvised explosive devices (IEDs). It notes that some Mexican criminal organizations have started using small IEDs and car bombs, a marked change in tactics that indicates a relationship with Islamic militants
Hezbollah is already active in the tri-border/Iguazu region of South America where the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet. Some experts, while aware of Hezbollah's presence in Mexico, claim that while the organization may have no immediate plans for attacking the USA, the terrorist organization raises funds through criminal activity in Mexico and the USA. FLORIDA: A possible counterpart to the ATF's Phoenix-based Fast & Furious has come to light in Florida in recent weeks. Guns from a suspected trafficker in Florida under surveillance by the ATF had begun turning up in Puerto Rico, Honduras and Colombia in 2010.
At the center of the operation is 63-year-old Hugh Crumpler III, a well-known Central Florida bass fishing guide and tournament pro. He and 10 others have been charged -- six of whom were in the country illegally. Nine, including Crumpler, are scheduled for sentencing next month in federal court in Orlando. The other two are fugitives and are believed to have fled the country. Crumpler, who lives in Palm Bay, has admitted to selling the guns and knowing most of them were going out of the country to places such as Honduras, according to court documents. Records show three guns Crumpler bought were used in crimes in Puerto Rico, one just nine days after he bought it. Another gun was used in a homicide in Colombia 66 days after he bought it.
The reports prompted a letter from Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R- FL9) to the ATF enquiring about the scope of Operation Castaway and whether or not the agency allowed any weapons to be 'walked' to Central America or Colombia.

NUEVO LEON: A few weeks ago, Reuters ran a special report titled If Monterrey Falls, Mexico Falls highlighting how the northern industrial center has largely been spared the bloody narco-violence spasming the rest of the country so far, but how that is changing. If there's any merit to using Mexico's main industrial center as a barometer, then Mexico's problems have only just begun, as the violence in the city has escalated with gunmen massacring 17 people at a bar in the city last weekend.
Monterrey, a major industrial hub, has seen a spike of violence since the Gulf and Zeta cartels began fighting for control of drug traffic there two years ago. The medical examiner's official said his office has recovered 17 bodies, including those of women, from the crime scene. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record. Police sources would not confirm the number of dead people with The Associated Press and referred the AP to local prosecutors, who are not giving an official account of the shooting. Federal police spokesman Jose Ramon Salinas said that high-powered weapons used in the shooting indicated it might have been a drug cartel confrontation.
The uptick in violence in Nuevo Leon could be attributed to violence from neighboring Tamaulipas spilling over. MICHOACAN: As the cartels have begun expanding their operations into illegal logging, one mountain village is barricading itself in an attempt to preserve the nearby old growth forests.
Masked and wielding rifles, the men of this mountain town stand guard at blockades of tires and sandbags to stop illegal loggers backed by drug traffickers. Their defiance isn’t just about defending their way of life; it’s one of the first major challenges to the reign of terror unleashed by Mexico’s drug cartels. The indigenous Purepecha people of this town surrounded by mountains of pine forests and neat farmland took security into their own hands last month after loggers, who residents say are backed by cartel henchmen and local police, killed two residents and wounded several others. “There is no fear here,” said one young man, defiantly peering out between a red handkerchief pulled up to his dark eyes and a camouflage baseball cap riding low over his brow. “Here we are fighting a David-and-Goliath battle because we are standing up to organized crime, which is no small adversary.” Nearly all residents in the town of 16,000 in the southwestern state of Michoacan spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns. The Cheran rebellion is one of the few examples of a town standing up to drug cartels since President Felipe Calderon launched his crackdown on organized crime in late 2006, sparking a national wave of violence that has killed at least 35,000 people. Most Mexicans are too frightened to openly fight back against gangs that have terrorized the country with beheadings and massacres. Some towns in northern Mexico have emptied as cartels move in. The rebellion in Cheran caught the attention of the federal government, which deployed troops and federal police last week to patrol the outskirts of the town. “La Familia has the heaviest presence in the zone. Everything indicates that it’s them because they have the biggest presence, but we can’t say for sure,” said David Pena, a lawyer who has been representing the community in negotiations for protection with the federal government. Disputes over communal woods — between those who want to log indiscriminately and those who subsist on forest products — has long been a source of conflict in southwestern Mexico. The federal government has stepped up efforts against deforestation, conducting raids and shutting down illegal sawmills. But rogue loggers have become more violent as they align themselves with drug cartels, said Rupert Knox, a Mexico researcher at London-based Amnesty International, which has investigated the crisis in Cheran. “Illegal logging has gone hand-in-glove with criminal gangs. They have moved into that sphere and controlled it with extreme brutality and corruption of local officials,” Knox said. The animosity came to a head in Cheran when residents captured five illegal loggers on April 15 as their truck attempted to smuggle out illegally harvested wood. Two hours later, a convoy of armed men rumbled into the town to free the detained loggers, accompanied by local police, according to Pena and Amnesty International. One Cheran man was shot in the head and remains in a coma. But the townspeople, through force of numbers, managed to drive out the gunmen. In apparent reprisal, loggers shot and killed two Cheran men and wounded four others who were patrolling the woods on April 27. Angry Cheran residents stormed the local police headquarters, seizing 18 guns. They swiftly barricaded the town, piling sandbags and tires beneath plastic tents at several checkpoints along the main road. Young men with rifles keep track of residents venturing out and question anyone trying to get in. Classes have been suspended at the town’s more than 20 schools, which draw students from neighboring communities because both Spanish and the Purepecha language are taught. Instead, young boys hang out at the barricades, covering their faces with handkerchiefs and pretending to patrol with plastic toy guns. “Everything is paralyzed out of fear that this gang might attack the children,” said a soft-spoken man wearing a white bandana and a black wool cap at a checkpoint. The municipal police dissolved itself. Mayor Roberto Bautista Chapina reported the guns stolen but has otherwise stayed out of the dispute, trying not to inflame tensions. He said the Cheran men attacked the police chief and grabbed his gun. Community leaders and Interior Department representatives met Tuesday in the state capital of Morelia and agreed on a long-term security plan, Pena said. The government promised to set up two bases outside the town for army troops and federal and state police, who will patrol the hills and forests and meet weekly with Cheran leaders. Residents will be allowed to keep protecting the town on their own.
Among many observers, this is thought to be the most direct challenge to the cartels since the reported last stand of rancher and businessman Don Alejo Garza last year. It's also worth noting that as an organization, La Familia is pretty much finished thanks to infighting and it's leadership on the run or imprisoned with the rest of the organization reconstituting themselves into the Knights Templar. ELSEWHERE IN MICHOACAN: Speaking of the Knights Templar, Mexican Federal Police have arrested the man they claim oversees killings for the young organization. Javier Beltran Arco- aka 'El Chivo'- was arrested along with two lookouts in Michoacan this month. Also seized were two pounds of methamphetamine and three automatic rifles. At the Lazaro Cardenas seaport, officials also intercepted containers from Shanghai, China carrying 44 metric tons worth of chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine. TEXAS: PEMEX, Mexico's state run oil company, has filed a lawsuit against nine companies in the US District Court in Houston, TX last month. The suit alleges that the nine companies and two individuals named in the suit have either willingly or unknowingly received oil stolen from PEMEX pipelines.
Pemex said the suit is intended to "combat the theft and smuggling of gas condensate from its facilities in northern Mexico," including tanker trucks hijacked at gunpoint in northern Mexico. The thefts involved dozens of tanker-truck loads. The suit does not claim any of the U.S. firms participated in the actual robberies, but says some knowingly conspired to ship the stolen goods, while others unwittingly handled them. "All of the defendants have participated and profited, knowingly or unwittingly, in the trafficking of stolen condensate in the United States," the suit says, referring to a mix of oil liquids produced as a byproduct of natural gas wells. "Some of the defendants knew, or at least should have known, they were trading in, or transporting, stolen condensate," the suit says. "Others were ignorant that they were purchasing stolen goods. In either case, however, the defendants took possession of Mexico's sovereign property without right or title. All defendants are therefore liable for their individual usurpation of Mexico's patrimony." The lawsuit does not name a specific amount of damages being sought, but argues that the sued companies are liable for part or all of the $300 million in oil stolen since 2006. Pemex has "lost large amounts of its condensate, at times approaching 40 percent of the production of condensate from the Burgos Field," the suit says. A joint U.S.-Mexico investigation in 2010 found that smuggled oil stolen from Pemex was being transported across the border and sold to U.S. refineries. The Mexican government has said drug cartel members and other criminals are responsible for many of the oil thefts.
This would not be the first time organized crime in Mexico branched out into the theft and resale of stolen natural resources as the value of said resources went up. PEMEX, for its part, has claimed that a crackdown earlier this year has led to a decline in the amount of oil stolen from the national oil company's pipelines, but the thieves have been switching tactics as well as allegedly employing the cartels to help them smuggle and sell off the stolen product.
Gangs are still believed to earn hundreds of millions of dollars a year tapping Mexico's vast, but largely unprotected, pipeline network We're seeing changes. They are tapping into (propane) pipelines. We've also found some double taps that the criminals use to inject water into the pipes to stop the detection of a loss of pressure," Pemex Chief Executive Juan Jose Suarez said during testimony before a congressional panel last week. Fuel thieves traditionally focused on stealing gasoline and diesel for sale on the local black market, but gangs increasingly have set their sights on crude oil. Pemex found 712 connections to its network last year, nearly double the number found the year before and five times the amount detected in 2005. Two crude pipelines were the most tapped nationwide last year with 191 illegal connections, up from only five in 2005. Pemex believes thieves siphoned off about 10,000 barrels of crude worth more than $700,000 every day last year. Officials say the crude most likely ends up with brickmakers and other industrial customers who use it as a substitute for boiler fuel. Privately they admit criminals may be smuggling the oil out of Mexico, given the relatively small size of the domestic market for industrial boiler fuel. Drug cartels, which extort protection money from fuel theft gangs who are often made up of current and former oil industry workers, are believed to provide the expertise to smuggle siphoned oil into the United States. Court papers indicate that Mexican and U.S. authorities believe the Zetas cartel helped one gang move up to $300 million in condensate -- a liquid byproduct of natural gas used to make plastics -- into Texas by bribing customs officials, using false transit documents and hiring middlemen to sell it to some of the world's largest chemical companies. A similar scheme with crude would be easy to replicate and hard to detect due to the huge size of the oil market. Pemex officials say the origin of the smuggled crude can be easily concealed by blending it with legitimately-obtained oil.
The companies named in the suit include Big Star Gathering LTD, F&M Transportation Inc., Western Refining Company LP, Joplin Energy LLC, Superior Crude Gathering Inc., Plains All-American [NYSE- PAA], TransMontaigne Partners LP of Denver, Colorado [NYSE- TLP], SemCrude LP of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Saint James Oil Inc. of Sandy, Utah. MEXICO CITY: Another seemingly mundane avenue that various cartels have muscled into include movie piracy.
Led by the notorious La Familia and Los Zetas drug mafias, Mexican cartels now take a big cut of the hundreds of millions of dollars in bootleg disks sold in Mexico each year, according to U.S. officials and representatives of film studios and software manufacturers. “This is no longer a victimless crime. There is blood on the product,” said Federico de la Garza, managing director of the Motion Picture Association in Mexico City, whose own investigators work closely with the Mexican attorney general. Disk piracy and U.S. copyright violations are a challenge around the world, but in Mexico the sale of bootleg copies of “Toy Story 3” and Microsoft Windows XP are funding the powerful mafias whose relentless violence has left more than 35,000 Mexicans dead in the past four years. Mexico has become the pirate capital of Latin America, exporting so many bootleg movies to Central America, for example, that the major studios no longer bother to sell their products on the shelves there, according to industry watchdogs. And in Cancun or Monterrey or Tijuana, when you buy a bootleg Disney movie for the kids, it is as likely as not to bare a stamp that shows it was distributed by the Zetas (a stallion) or La Familia (a butterfly). Video piracy is ubiquitous in Mexico, where more than nine of 10 movie DVDs sold are counterfeits. Mexican authorities rarely seize products from street dealers or market stalls. U.S. officials in Mexico suspect many vendors give kickbacks to local authorities to allow them to operate.
While its likely that they aren't producing the bootleg DVDs themselves, the cartels usually make their money through taking over distribution routes and demanding protection money from vendors operating in territory they've taken over. BAJA CALIFORNIA: Mexican soldiers detained 58 people and seized an estimated US$160 billion worth of pot after stumbling across a massive 300 acre marijuana plantation in the northern part of the state last month. Mexican officials call it the largest seizure of marijuana on record and claim that the plantation had been operational for less than four months. Army officers said that the crop was discovered under canopies less than two miles off of Route 1, the main highway that traverses the Baja Peninsula. Although 58 people were taken into custody at the time of the raid, it appears that nearly twice as many people were working there. Although the territory was controlled by the Tijuana-based Arellano Felix cartel, that organization was one of the first organizations to have been undermined by President Calderon's stepped up attacks against the narcos. A spokesman for the Mexican Army's second region believes that Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman's Sinaloa cartel had a hand in setting up the massive plantation. TAMAULIPAS: At least 60 inmates managed to escape a state prison in Nuevo Laredo in a jailbreak that was thought to be orchestrated by Los Zetas, across the Rio Grande from Laredo, TX.
Seven prisoners were also killed during the escape, which the government said was preceded by a large-scale fight between inmates. Five employees of the prison, the Centro de Ejecución de Sanciones (CEDES), also deserted their posts. Thirty-five of the inmates were being jailed on federal charges. The escape marks the second time in eight months the city has seen a mass exodus of criminals from the prison. In December about 140 inmates escaped, which Cuellar attributed to a plan orchestrated by the Zetas to swell its ranks after suffering heavy losses throughout its ongoing battles against rival gangs and law enforcement. The sheriff could not confirm that today’s escape was part of a similar plan.
Between January 2010 and March 2011, more than 400 inmates have escaped from five prisons operated under the state's authority in Tamaulipas. [Hat tip: Correspondence Committee; Borderland Beat; Friends of Ours]

Subsidized California Electric Car Company Folds, Leaves City of Salinas on the Hook for $500,000

A Salinas car manufacturing company that was expected to build environmentally friendly electric cars and create new jobs folded before almost any vehicles could run off the assembly line.

The city of Salinas had invested more than half a million dollars in Green Vehicles, an electric car start-up company.

All of that money is now gone, according to Green Vehicles President and Co-Founder Mike Ryan.

The start-up company set up shop in Salinas in the summer of 2009, after the city gave Ryan a $300,000 community development grant.

When the company still ran into financial trouble last year, the city of Salinas handed Ryan an additional $240,000. Green Vehicles also received $187,000 from the California Energy Commission.

Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue said he was "surprised and disappointed" by the news. City officials were equally irked that Ryan notified them through an email that his company had crashed and burned.
I suppose I shouldn't laugh, but as the ruling party is attempting to shut down oil platforms, coal-fired power plants or natural gas drilling through regulatory fiat or executive orders, they continue doling out subsidies and grants for electric cars or 56 MPG vehicles all in the name of 'green jobs'.

And poorly thought-out ventures like Green Vehicles, heavily subsidized by governments in the name of 'going green', will continue to fall flat on their face as long as the ruling party assumes that they can pick winners and losers in the private sector.

[Hat tip: Labor Union Report; The Lonely Conservative]

Monday, July 18, 2011

Up All Night Sports Chowdah Update: Sweet 16- Sox Score Late, But Not Often; Ain't that a Kick in the Head? Japan Rallies Late

RED SOX: It took awhile, but the Red Sox managed to push a run across home plate in Tampa Bay on Sunday night's Monday mornings game at Tampa Bay to win their first series coming out of the all-star break.

The last time Josh Beckett started at Tropicana field, all eyes in Boston were elsewhere watching the Bruins in Vancouver for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. They missed a gem, too, with Beckett allowing one hit in a complete game shutout of the Rays.

Of course, Beckett had some run support last time around. On Sunday night, he allowed one hit over eight shutout innings and striking out six. Tampa's Jeff Neimann had similar sucess against Boston batters, allowing two hits, two walks and striking out 10 batters, so it was no surprise that the game would head to extra innings.

Frustratingly, the Red Sox left the bases loaded in the top of the 9th and 11th innings while Tampa was able to get a couple of speedy leadoff runners on in extra innings, only to leave them stranded as well.

Heading into the top of the 16th inning, it looked as though it would amount to nothing more than another blow opportunity as Josh Reddick led off the inning with a walk and got as far as third after Varitek got him over to second on a sac bunt and then to 3rd after Marco Scutaro reached on what was ruled a single. However, Ellsbury flew out to shallow left- to shallow to bring home Reddick.

With 2 away, Dustin Pedroia finally managed to beak the scoreless deadlock with an RBI single to right field before Adrian Gonzalez gave the ball a ride to deep right for the 3rd and final out. Papelbon came on for a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth sixteenth to nail down the 1-0 win. Alfredo Aceves went 3 innings and struck out two (although he hit back to back batters in the bottom of the 15th) for the win.

Monday night's game is set to get underway at Camden Yards and will have Tim Wakefield (5-3; 4.74 ERA) starting against Baltimore's Brad Bergesen (1-6; 5.65 ERA) at 7:05 PM ET.

OTHER RED SOX NEWS:David Ortiz will begin a 3-game suspension on Monday night after last week's whiff-tastic brawl with Baltimore pitcher Kevin Gregg at Fenway Park. Both Ortiz and Gregg were initially suspended for four games, but each of them had one game shaved off after their appeals and will begin their respective suspensions on Monday in time for the 3-game series between Baltimore and Boston.

Carl Crawford is expected to return from the DL for Monday night's game against the O's as well.

WORLD CUP: Japan rallied late twice against Team USA- including a goal in the 117th minute by Homare Sawa in Sunday's World Cup final on Sunday in Frankfurt, Germany to force the match to be settled by penalty kicks.

Japan goaltender Ayumi Kaihori made in impressive quasi-bicycle kick-save on the first penalty shot she faced and a two handed save on the next, Team USA missed on Cali Lloyd's attempt- altho Abby Wambach was able to bury her attempt. However, Saki Kumagi was able to beat hope-solo for the tournament-deciding shot and the win to the Japanese.

Tournaments like these aren't always about what country 'deserves' the championship, but in light of recent events in Japan, I'd say Japan certainly could use a transcendent, unifying moment like this to boost their morale after the 1-2 punch dealt by mother nature and Marie Curie in March

Friday, July 15, 2011

Today's Train of Thought- A (Gypsy) Rose by Any Other Name; July 15 2011

With a name like Lancaster & Chester, you would expect today's Train of Thought to highlight a bucolic shortline running through Pennsylvania Dutch Country. While the countryside the L&C runs through can be described as bucolic the railway actually runs through the northern reaches of the Palmetto State.

The L&C, also known as the Springmaid Line, started up from an 1877 charter to build a 29-mile rail line connecting Chesterfield and Chester counties. Given the inevitable changes that the larger carriers the L&C interchanged with over the last century, operations along the Springmaid Line itself was relatively unchanged until the last decade or so.

However, under the tenure of Elliot White Springs in the 1950s, the shortline embarked on a series of flamboyant and tongue-in-cheek promotions including appointing 29 different Vice Presidents- one for each mile of track.

Perhaps the most memorable was when striptease artist and burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee (above) was named Lancaster & Chester's 'Vice President of Unveiling'. The railroad also offered a fictitious menu for a number of entrees served on their nonexistent passenger trains, including items like 'Split Dixiecrats with Frozen Assets' or 'Back Bay Trollops with Harvard Accent'- despite the fact that the L&C didn't even own a dining car.

Over the years, traffic has consisted of coal, textile products, aggregates, fertilizer, wood products, sand and fiberglass, with a stable of powder-blue EMD end cab switchers doing most of the heavy lifting throughout much of the L&C's diesel era.

In the late 1990s, JP Henderson Inc set up shop on L&C property and began extensively refurbishing and restoring passenger cars. In 2001, the L&C entered into a lease agreement with the Norfolk Southern to begin operating additional trackage in Lancaster County between Catawba Jct and Kershaw. The expansion meant additional motive power for the L&C- first a pair of SW1200s followed by a pair of SW1500s.

However, in addition to borrowing some LLPX loaners the L&C made their first ever purchase of EMD roadswitchers with the purchase of a couple of ex Norfolk Southern (nee Conrail) GP38-2s that were eventually painted in Lancaster & Chester's powder blue scheme and lettered for the Springmaid Line.

In late 2010, the it was announced that Tenessee-based Gulf & Ohio railways would acquire the L&C. The Gulf & Ohio operates the Yadkin Valley and Laurinburg Southern just up the road in North Carolina. In June of this year, the G&O began sending motive power to the L&C starting with a former Kansas City Southern GP38-3. Apparently the plan is to replace the LLPX locomotives with power from other G&O operations as their leases expire.

Bringing us to the very top of the page, contributor Joe Hinson caught a trio of L&C GP38s working the Norfolk Southern interchange at Chester, SC in May 2011. The third unit in the consist is apparently one of the LLPX loaners still on property, although it's difficult to say if it was obscured by design on the photographer's part.

California Pulled Back From the Brink As Gov. Brown Signs Law Mandating LGBT Education in State Classrooms

Having apparently long ago solved problems like the state's 11.7% unemployment rate and more than $40 billion in debt, California got down to the really important matters like signing legislation that requires gay and lesbian history be taught in Golden state classrooms.

The bill known as the FAIR Education act or SB48 authored by state Senator Mark Leno (D- San Francisco), was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on Thursday. Interestingly, in 2008 voters in California approved Proposition 8- which would define marriage in the state constitution as being between a man and a woman- by a 52% margin. Prop 8 was then struck down by a gay federal judge in 2010.

At first, I thought the silver lining to this would be that the kids in California would finally learn about Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank's role in the subprime lending crisis or using his position to give an ex-boyfriend a job at Fannie Mae.

However, Sen. Leno has thought ahead and apparently the language in SB48 prohibits any materiel that 'reflects adversely' on homosexuals from being taught [call it the 'special little snowflake' provision, I guess- NANESB!]. Full implementation is not expected until at least 2013, when the revised and updated versions of California's textbooks are scheduled to come out.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

M-O-O-N, That Spells Sports Chowdah Update- Sox Cap 4-Game Sweep of O's; Jeter Becomes Baseball's Latest Mr 3000, USA Women Advance to World Cup Final

Parting contestants on Sox Appeal will recieve these 2011 American League All-Star Jerseys from Russel Athletic- AP Photo
RED SOX: Boston headed into the All Star break with a 1-game lead over the Yankees after finishing up a sweep of the Baltimore Orioles in a 4-game series that could be described as confrontational.

A source of concern given his last couple of starts, John Lackey threw 6⅔ innings of shutout baseball on Saturday's 4-0 win against Baltimore. Sunday's game wasn't quite the same story, with PawSox callup Kyle Weiland only lasting 4 innings and giving up 6 runs in the top of the 2nd. The Sox were able to surge ahead and win by an 8-6 final for the final game of the first half.

Although the Red Sox have yet to play a game in the second half, they made some headlines today when MLB handed down four game suspensions to both David Ortiz and Kevin Gregg for their brawl (or attempted brawl) Friday night. The league also handed down one game suspensions to O's Pitcher Mike Gonzalez and manager Buck Showalter after the pitcher threw at Ortiz on Sunday's game. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and John Lackey also recieved fines for their role when the benches cleared Friday night.

No word yet on whether Gregg or Ortiz plan on appealing their suspensions.

On a side note, the Red Sox have yet to play an inning in the second half of the 2011 season, but have already gained an additional half game on the Yankees after the Blue Jays thumped the Bronx Bombers by a 16-7 final at the Rogers Centre Thursday night. MLB network is reporting that this is the most number of runs scored in Blue Jays history without hitting a home run.

ALL STAR GAME: The All Star festitivities in Phoenix got underway with the Yankee's Robinson Cano besting Boston's Adiran Gonzalez in the Home Run Derby on Monday.

On Tuesday night, Gonzalez would provide the AL with their only run on the evening with a solo shot off of Philly's Cliff Lee in the top of the 4th inning to briefly put the AL on top 1-0. Beckett never made his scheduled appearence after being scratched from the midsummer classic after experienceing lingering soreness in his knee.

The NL would take the lead for good in the bottom of the 4th thanks to a 3-run shot off the bat of Milwaukee's Prince Fielder (who could very well have out Brian Wilson-ed Brian Wilson in the facial hair category). The NL would go on to win by a final of 5-1 and secure home field advantage for the World Series this year.

ELSEWHERE IN MLB: Between the weather and the matchup against Tampa Bay, I was having my doubts whether or not it would happen before the All-Star break, but Yankees captain Derek Jeter had reached the 3000 hit milestone. Firday night's game in the Bronx was rained out and wouldn't be made up until September and there was some doubts that the weather would hold for Saturday's game. However, the weather cooperated and Jeter was batting leadoff, getting hit #2999 in the bottom of the first.

Hit #3000 would come in the form of a game-tying solo homer in the bottom of the 3rd, making Jeter the first Yankees player to reach the 3000 hits milestone [kind of surprising, given the Hall of Famers that have put on pinstripes in the past- NANESB!]. Jeter went 5 for 5 with 2 RBI on the day in New York's 5-4 win over Tampa.

Heading into the All-Star Break, the Yankees captain surpassed the late Roberto Clemente for career hits and is closing in on Detroit's Al Kaline and his mark of 3007.

A rather disturbing side note to all this (which the NY media is treating as rather whimsical) is that the fan who caught Jeter's 3000th hit ball might have the IRS after him now that the Yankees have lavished luxury box seats and autographed memorobilia on him in exchange for the ball.

Yankees fan Christian Lopez, a 23 year old Verizon salesman from Highland Mills, NY was willing to return the ball to the team for free, but the Yankees decided to treat him and his family to luxury box seats for the remaining home games this season as well as autographed bats, balls and jerseys- all with an estimated value in excess of $30,000. While the Jeter ball would've easily fetched six figures on the open market, some say the IRS may view the seats given to Lopez as income, citing contestants on The Price is Right being taxed for some of their prizes as precedent [which makes no sense- there's some reasonable expectation you could walk away from a game show with thousands of dollars. No so much an afternoon at the ballpark. Trust me- NANESB!]

FIFA WOMEN'S WORLD CUP- What did I miss? Just about everything, it turns out. The USA Women's team has been doing quite well in the FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany this week (minus vuvuzelas, hopefully). The USA's Alex Kreiger helped the USA advance past Brazil in the quarterfinals in the penalty shot phase of the game to break a 2-2 deadlock on Saturday.

On Wednesday, they knocked out France in the semifinals by a 3-1 final. The win earns them a trip to the finals where they take on Japan for the title, after the Japanese team downed Sweden- also by a 3-1 margin- to advance.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mumbai Rocked By Trio of Deadly Blasts

Three separate blasts tore through a commercial district in India's largest city of Mumbai earlier Wednesday, killing at least 17 and injuring 141.
Although no group claimed responsibility, the explosions hit locations where a terror siege nearly three years ago killed 166 people. Wednesday also coincided with the birthday of the lone surviving gunman of the 2008 attack.

Arup Patnaik, a top police officer, said the attackers used improvised explosive devices in the attack, hidden in an umbrella in the Jhaveri Bazaar jewelry market and kept in a car in the business district of Opera House.

Indian officials say they believe the responsibility of Wednesday's attack rests with the Indian Mujahideen, a group that works closely with Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Lashkar-e-Taiba is the group suspected to be behind the 2008 attack.

All three blasts happened from 6:50 p.m. to 7 p.m., when all the neighborhoods would have been packed with office workers and commuters.

The blasts hit the crowded Dadar neighborhood at rush hour, the famed jewelry market Jhaveri Bazaar and the busy business district of Opera House, an official at the city's Police Control Room said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of office policy.

The explosions happened around 7 p.m., when all the neighborhoods would have been packed with office workers and commuters.

Authorities say an early indicator of a terror strike was the close timing of the string of explosions.
The November 2008 attacks targeted a pair of landmark luxury hotels, a train station, a hospital and a Chabad house. According to diplomatic cables released via wikileaks, and testimony from a Chicago trial of a US citizen accused of scouting locations for the Mumbai attack, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) provided training and support to Lashkar-e-Taiba members prior to the Mumbai attacks.

Indian authorities have not yet identified any suspects, although the locations of the targets and the timing of the blasts to coincide with the lone surviving Mumbai gunman's birthday hardly seem coincidental.

India's Home Affairs Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram confirmed that the explosive devices were made from ammonium nitrate and investigators believe that the devices weren't set off remotely.

Monday, July 11, 2011

US, French Embassies in Damascus Stormed By Assad Loyalists

Nancy Pelosi visiting Bashr Al-Assad in 2007. Know them by the company they keep
An angry mob of Syrians loyal to president Bashr Al-Assad attacked the US Embassy on Monday, breaking windows, spray painting graffiti and raising a Syrian flag on US grounds. No embassy personnel were injured in the incident.

The State Department criticized Syrian authorities for their slow response to the incident and accused a Syrian TV station influenced by senior Ba'ath party officials of inciting the attack.

A French Foreign ministry reported that the France's Embassy in Damascus was attacked by a mob of Assad loyalists that forced their way onto the compound using a battering ram as Syrian security forces looked on. The crowd smashed windows on one of diplomatic vehicles and only dispersed after French guards fired warning shots in the air. Three embassy workers were reportedly injured in that assault.

AFP Photo
The attacks against the US and French embassies come a week after US Ambassador Robert Ford and French Ambassador Eric Chevallier visited Syrian opposition leaders in the restive city of Hama.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Iron Horse Roundup for June 2011

photo Brock Hansen
NEVADA: As the death toll from the June 24th collision between a gravel truck and Amtrak's California Zephyr was revised upwards to 6, investigators are focusing their attention on the truck driver, identified as 43 year old Lawrence Reuben Valli of Winnmeucca, NV, and a number of traffic citations and moving violations he accumulated in recent years.

Investigators from the NTSB are also looking into the safety records of John Davis Trucking of Battle Mountain, NV as well as Valli's medical history. The company has has two accidents in the last two years and an January 2011 inspection showed tired so bald on one trailer that it had to be taken off the road. Officials refused to speculate whether or not such a record was typical for a company the size of Davis Trucking (currently with over 100 drivers on its payroll).

The rig in the California Zephyr collision was longer and heavier than the law allowed, but the trucking company was able to obtain a waiver prior to the accident. Investigators also believe that the fireball after the collision was caused by the two sidesaddle tanks, each with a capacity of 110 gallons.

According to a Nevada Highway patrol spokesman, the speed limit on that stretch of highway 95 is 70 MPH and visibility to the crossing was half a mile that day. The gates were also working and should've been activated at least 25 seconds before the train approached the crossing in Churchill County.

AP Photo
INDIA: The death toll has risen to at least 60 in India and is expected to climb as many more passengers are trapped after a passenger train crashed into a bus carrying a wedding party and derailed in the northern Indian state of Uttar Predesh. Initial reports indicate that the bus with about 80 wedding guests got caught on an unguarded rural crossing when the rear axle broke. Upon colliding with the train, the mangled bus was dragged another 1000 feet before the Kalka Mail was able to come to a stop.

Another 200 people were injured, with some being treated at the scene or in nearby hospitals in clinics.

Railway officials estimate that the express train was travelling 108 Km PH at the time of its impact, close to it's maximum speed limit along the route.

Last BNSF train makes its way through Minot, ND as the Souris River tops the levees on June 23rd
NORTH DAKOTA: Traffic levels for the BNSF mainline through North Dakota began returning this week as record flooding of the Souris River in and around Minot, ND severed both the BNSF's former Northern Pacific's Northern Transon line and Canadian Pacific's former Soo Line track between Portal, ND and the Twin Cities.

An official for the North Dakota National Guard said that an estimated 4000 homes in Minot and Ward county have been damaged by floodwaters that have reached anywhere from 6 to 10 feet. Unofficial estimates say that as many as 800 homes may have to be demolished as the floodwaters recede.

A pair of BNSF GE's lead a ballast train through Minot as the floodwaters begin to recede on July 4- Stephen M Welch photos
The BNSF line through Minot reopened to work trains on the 4th of July and saw some of the detoured traffic return gradually throughout the week. Amtrak's Empire Builder- operating on BNSF's Northern Tanscon- was suspended between Havre, MT and St Paul, MN. While it's not unusual for BNSF or Canadian Pacific to divert traffic over each other's lines in the event one line is shut down, the two lines intersected at Minot, necessitating even longer detours for the carriers. The BNSF rerouted trains south across its former Milwaukee Road line through South Dakota while Canadian Pacific detoured trains through Manitoba and on south through Glenwood and Thief River Falls, MN for its Chicago to Vancouver traffic while repositioning motive power and Maintenance of Way equipment over the Dakota, Missouri Valley & Western south of Minot.

A leased Willamette Valley GP35 leads a work train through on the North Western Pacific line in Penngrove, CA in July 2009: Photo- Kevin Sheridan

CALIFORNIA: Final preparations are underway for limited freight service to resume on a 62-mile stretch of former Northwestern Pacific trackage in Northern California this month after the line's operator ran a series of test trains on the rebuilt trackage.

In late June, a single NWP Co locomotive and a pair of loaded freight cars traversed the tracks between Napa Jct and Petaluma, CA to gauge the status of different trestles and crossing signals along the line with further test trains scheduled to run to the current end of the operable track at Windsor, CA.

A number of shippers in communities along the dormant line have expressed an interest in shipping by rail once the line is reactivated. Traffic is expected to include grain, feed, aggregates, lumber and wine.

Multiple environmental agencies in the area have threatened to sue the North Coast Rail Authority- the line's owner- if the NWP resumes operations without addressing their concerns, claiming that re-opening the line would endanger the Eel River if the former NWP line between Willits and Eureka, CA reopened [inquiring minds want to know- did the Natural Resources Defense Council put them up to it, or are environmentalists naturally inclined to be insufferable douchewaffles who savor keeping more trucks on already crowded highways and even more people out of work? -NANESB!]
John Sesonske photo
NEW YORK: New York's newest railway is expected to begin operating in a few days as crews familiarized themselves with new motive power along the former Delaware & Hudson North Creek branch between Saratoga Springs and North Creek, NY. Over the winter, Wayne County and the town of Corinth- the line's owners- announced that Chicago-based Iowa Pacific Holdings would be the new operator of the line. The new railroad will operate as the Saratoga & North Creek and power will be a pair of GE B39-8s and a rare EMD BL2 painted in a scheme reminiscent of the D&H 'Lightning Stripe' colors.

Previously, the limited excursion service over the line was operated by the Upper Hudson Railroad. Iowa Pacific presently operates a number of shortline railroads in the western USA- a number of them, such as the Arizona Eastern or San Luis and Rio Grande, also operate excursion trains.

An invitation-only VIP train is scheduled to operate on July 12th while regular excursions will begin on July 14. By re-opening the line to Saratoga Springs, the line is not only able to connect with Amtrak passenger trains, but also the national rail freight network by interchanging with CP Rail's former D&H Montreal-Albany line. Iowa Pacific is hoping to court Barton Mines, LLC as a shipper while the town of Corinth is hoping that a rail connection could attract a potential tenant to the dormant International Paper mill in town.

Bob Lyndall photo
WISCONSIN: For the first time in over a decade, the Mid-Continent Railway Muesum in North Freedom, WI will have trains powered by steam. Diminutive 1930-built Porter 0-4-0 #75, built for Flagg Coal, will be trucked into the museum in August by the family-operated, family-run Gramling Locomotive Works. The Museum plans on operating an extended schedule for August, anticipating additional riders with the arrival of the old Porter.

However, that is not the biggest news for the Mid-Continent Railway Museum, as a local foundation offered a $250,000 challenge grant to go towards the full restoration of the MCRM's last operating steam locomotive- 1907 built Chicago & North Western ALCo 4-6-0 #1385. The old C&NW Ten Wheeler routinely saw service hauling not only the museum's excursions, but also the Baraboo Circus Train based out of the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, WI until the flatcars used to haul the wagons were deemed too old to operate on a common carrier after 2000.

In order for the MCRM to obtain the $250,000 grant, the museum must raise an additional $250,000 on its own.

"We have supported the museum over the past few years and have been impressed with their programs, their popularity with young families and their determination to recover from the destruction of 2008's flooding," said Dick Wagner, president of the Wagner Foundation. "We couldn't think of any more important way to support the museum further than to help it get its steam program going again."

When the restoration project begins, it could take as long as 18 months to put the engine back into service. But museum officials hope to get the ball rolling soon, and have named Tom Diehl, president of the Tommy Bartlett Shows and Exploratory World in Wisconsin Dells, honorary chairman of the fundraising campaign to match the grant.
The 1385 has been out of service since 1998- the locomotive was awaiting boiler work when the FRA revised the guidelines for steam boiler operations, nearly tripling the costs of restoring the disassembled steam locomotive.