Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Anti-Social Club Episode of Borderline Psychosis- 53 Killed After Gunmen Torch Monterrey Casino; NM Police Chief Admits Cartel Ties; Iraqi Connection?

UPDATE 8/31: Acting ATF director Kenneth Melson was reassigned to a lesser post in the Justice Department on Tuesday in the wake of further fallout from the Fast & Furious investigation. US Attorney for Minnesota B. Todd Jones was named as acting director after Melson's departure- a permanent head for the ATF would need to be confirmed by the US Senate.

Also on Tuesday, the US Attorney for Arizona resigned effective immediately. US Attorney Dennis Burke stepped down two weeks after testifying before a House Oversight Committee regarding Fast & Furious, which Burke was in charge of as the state's US Attorney.

NUEVO LEON: At least 53 people were killed when eight gunmen burst into a casino in the northern industrial center of Monterrey, doused the place with gasoline and ignited a fire that trapped dozens of patrons and gamblers.
With shouts and profanities, the attackers told the customers and employees to get out. But many terrified customers and employees fled further inside the building, where they died trapped amid the flames and thick smoke that soon billowed out of the building.

Video footage showed workers continuing to remove bodies well into the night.

Monterrey Mayor Fernando Larrazabal said many of the bodies were found inside the casino's bathrooms, where employees and customers had locked themselves to escape the gunmen.

In an act of desperation, authorities commandeered backhoes from a nearby construction site to break into the casino's walls to try to reach the people trapped inside.
The attack took place on August 25th. The following day, Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared three days of mourning and the Mexican government offered a reward of 30 million pesos ($2.4 million) for information leading to any of the assailants in the Casino Royale attack.

On Monday night, Federal Police in Monterrey announced that they had arrested five suspects and were still seeking the whereabouts of two more. Authorities believe a likely motive in the casino attack is nonpayment of extortion money and the five detained suspects are said to be members of the Zetas. Surveillance footage of the suspects filling up five gallon canisters of gasoline at a gas station not too far from the Casino Royale was shown at the conference announcing the arrests Monday.

The attack shocked and angered many Mexicans because instead of career criminals, the victims were mostly middle aged women who frequently visited the casino to play bingo.

MEXICO CITY: 21 of Mexico's 31 senior federal prosecutors abruptly quit earlier this month. Mexican press outlets report this as being the single biggest mass resignation of federal officials in recent history.
The office announced late last month that in Morales' first 100 days on the job, 462 prosecutors and other officials had been dismissed and 111 more were facing criminal charges involving a range of infractions, including fraud, theft, abuse of power and falsification of documents. An additional 386 employees were in the process of being dismissed.

Rosa Elena Torres Davila, a senior official in the attorney general's office, made Monday's announcement and said the resignations were tendered on Friday. They included the top federal prosecutors in some of Mexico's most violent states where drug traffickers have intimidated local authorities and killed thousands of people in cases that have largely gone unprosecuted. They also included the top federal prosecutor in the capital, Mexico City, which is a federal district with a status similar to that of a state.
Attorney General Marisela Morales declined to cite specific reasons behind the mass departures

CALIFORNIA: Local, state and federal law enforcement officers raided an Iraqi-Chaldean social club in San Diego County and arrested 60 men in a multi-agency investigation dubbed 'Operation Shadowbox'. The social club had been a source of complaints from both neighboring businesses claiming drug dealing and prostitution were rampant and wives of some patrons said that their life savings was being gambled away at the club.

More ominously, members of the club were alleged to have purchased drugs and explosives from the Sinaloa cartel. Marijuana was sold out of the club while methamphetamine smuggled in from Mexico would be forwarded to a sister organization in Detroit.
Since January, the DEA and El Cajon police have purchased narcotics, firearms, improvised explosive devices and pharmaceuticals from people at the club, Sprecco said. In April, an undercover operative was shown a hand grenade and was told more were available from a Mexican military source. Suspects in the investigation reportedly arranged narcotics shipments from El Cajon to Detroit.

During the course of the investigation, operatives discovered a suspected association with the Sinaloa Cartel, a Mexico-based drug trafficking organization, and the Chaldean Organized Crime Syndicate, which began in Detroit in the early 80s and has been linked numerous crimes, including murder, arson and kidnapping, Sprecco said.

The investigation resulted in the seizure of drugs including more than 13 pounds of methamphetamine, more than four pounds of ecstasy and pharmaceuticals and about 3,500 pounds of marijuana, Sprecco said. Authorities confiscated more than $630,000 and three luxury cars.

Officers seized 34 firearms, including semi-automatic rifles and four explosive devices, which were processed with the help of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department's Bomb Squad and the FBI, Sprecco said.
The city of El Cajon has the second-highest Chaldean population in the United States after Detroit- the San Diego suburb is home to about 47,000 Iraqi Chaldeans, many of them having immigrated there before the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in their native Iraq.

NEW MEXICO: The former police chief of the small New Mexico border town of Columbus has pleaded guilty to trafficking firearms and tactical gear across the border into Mexico on behalf of enforcers for 'La Linea'- a gang of enforcers for the Juarez cartel.
As a participant in the conspiracy, Vega conducted counter-surveillance, used a village-owned Ford F150 truck to transport firearms from the country, pulled over a car of ATF agents at La Linea's request, and tried to get ATF agents to return firearms to Gutierrez after they were seized, Spitzer told the court.

And on Feb. 10, Vega purchased thousands of dollars in body armor, boots, helmets and clothing, including a bulletproof vest for a La Linea leader, whose name was not mentioned in court.

Vega had previously pleaded not guilty to taking part in the conspiracy, in which he and his co-defendants allegedly purchased about 200 firearms - including AK-47-type pistols, weapons resembling AK-47 rifles, but with shorter barrels and without rear stocks, and American Tactical 9 mm caliber pistols - from Chaparral Guns in Chaparral and smuggled them to members of the Juárez-based La Linea cartel between January 2010 and March 2011.

In raids, law enforcement seized 40 of the AK-47 type pistols, more than 1,500 rounds of ammunition and 30 high-capacity magazines before they crossed the border, and found another 12 firearms in Mexico that were traced back to the defendants. Three others were found on three dead individuals in an SUV in Juárez, and others were found at a narcotics bust there, according to federal prosecutors
Former police chief Angelo Vega faces up to 35 years in prison and a $750,000 fine. The village's former mayor- Eddie Espinoza- and village trustee- Blas Gutierrez- have already pleaded guilty for their role in the weapons smuggling case.

Since the arrests, the small 4-man police department has been disbanded and the area is patrolled now by the Luna County Sheriff's Department.

Something to Fret Over: Feds Raid and Shut Down Gibson Guitars Over Imported Wood- Rival Company & Democrat Donors Untouched

Country singer Kellie Pickler flaunting contraband Gibson acoustic guitar at 42nd CMA awards in Nashville- Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images Entertainment
On Thursday, Aug 24th, agents from the US Fish & Wildlife Service raided Gibson Guitar corporation's Nashville, TN facilities, seizing massive quantities of wood and unfinished guitars. This is the second such raid on Gibson's Tennessee facilities in less than two years- in November 2009 federal agents seized files, documents and Madagascar rosewood used in the fabrication of guitars.

At first blush, this appeared to be a case of regulatory busybodies arbitrarily singling out a particular business for scrutiny. Like the 2009 raid, Gibson CEO Henry E. Juszkiewicz insisted his company was in compliance with both US and international laws regarding the harvesting and importing of rosewood.

The most recent raid apparently centers around the Department of Justice's interpretation of an Indian law (reportedly if the wood was finished by Indian workers are required in order for it to be legal).

However, last week enterprising bloggers took a look at the political contributions Gibson CEO Henry E. Juszkiewicz made over the last few election cycles on watchdog site The guitar company's CEO gave over $12,000 in contributions to GOP candidates as well as the Consumer Electronics Association, a PAC that contributed $92,000 to Republicans (Although the CEA also gave more than $70,000 to Democrats).
When warrants as ridiculous such as these are issued and executed, there appears no other reason than because the company or individual at hand is being targeted, not because there is any sort of wrongdoing. As a company, Gibson is a legendary. They’ve done nothing wrong, except, apparently, deigning to have a Republican CEO.

The plot thickens, however.

One of Gibson’s leading competitors is C.F. Martin & Company. The C.E.O., Chris Martin IV, is a long-time Democratic supporter, with $35,400 in contributions to Democratic candidates and the DNC over the past couple of election cycles. According to C.F. Martin’s catalog, several of their guitars contain “East Indian Rosewood.” In case you were wondering, that is the exact same wood in at least ten of Gibson’s guitars.

The Gibson facility wasn’t raided over allegations of tax evasion, charges of embezzlement, or even something as drab as child labor. Not even close. It was raided over what the DOJ deems an inability to follow a vague domestic trade law in India (one that apparently the Indian government didn’t seem too concerned about enforcing) regarding a specific type of wood. Not illegal wood, just wood with obscenely specific procedural guidelines.
It's worth noting that C.F. Martin & Co has not had the same visit from the Feds that their GOP-donating competitors at Gibson have received twice in less than two years.

Keep in mind this is the same Justice Department that allowed American guns to be smuggled to Mexican cartels, decided to sue Arizona after their state legislature passed SB1070 and declined to pursue a voter intimidation and civil rights violation case against the New Black Panther Party after members were videotaped wielding truncheons outside a Philadelphia polling station in the 2008 elections.

With any other Attorney General aside from Eric Holder, I would simply assume this was a case of anal-retentive bureaucrats and regulatory busybodies attempting to prove their relevance. However, this is the Department of Justice under Holder, so it's very difficult to see anything aside from Chicago-style politics in play as far as Gibons and C.F. Martin & Co are concerned.

UPDATE 8/30: In an even more curious development, Doug Ross' Director Blue blog was among the first to detail the political donations from CF Martin & Co. For a few hours on Tuesday afternoon, the blog had disappeared altogether before reappearing later on. Not just the post on the Gibson raid, but the entire blog.

UPDATE 8/31: In an interview on KMJ radio on Wednesday, CEO Henry Juszkiewicz said that he was told by government officials that his company's legal troubles would go away if he used Madagascar labor instead of US Labor at his factory.

[Hat tip: Dana Loesch; Director Blue; All American Blogger]

Another Day, Another Heavily Subsidized 'Green Energy' Plant Shuts Down

This time it's in California by the San Francisco Bay area. Employees working the evening shift at Solyndra's Fremont, CA plant were met by the CEO who gave them the news as they were coming off of their shift Wednesday morning.
Solar-cell maker Solyndra announced Wednesday that it will close its remaining Fremont factory, lay off its 1,100 employees and file for bankruptcy.

The news marked an abrupt end for a company once considered among the most innovative in a fast-changing industry. The bankruptcy also represents a high-profile failure for a federal stimulus program that gives loan guarantees to green-tech manufacturers.

Solyndra was the first company to win one of the guarantees, receiving $535 million in 2009 to build its second factory in Fremont less than a mile from the company's original plant. Both President Obama and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger toured the new plant, citing it as a symbol of the nation's economic recovery and commitment to a green economy.

But Solyndra, whose solar modules are thin tubes rather than flat panels, struggled to compete against a flood of low-priced solar cells pouring out of heavily subsidized factories in China
Solyndria had backed out of a proposed IPO on 2010 as well. As far back as February, Congress had been probing into how exactly Solyndria secured the $535 million in financeial aid.

Earlier this month, Evergreen Solar- which had recieved more than $58 million in financial aid from the State of Massachusetts- filed for bankruptcy.

Today's Train of Thought- All Clear(Water), Aug 31 2011

Today's Train of Thought takes us down to the Sunshine State right outside of Tampa.

Like so many individuals in Florida, CSX GP39-2 #4301 had started out life elsewhere. In this case, the four axle geep was part of an order delivered to the Reading railroad not too long before the formation of Conrail. The 20 units wound up on the Delaware and Hudson after 1976 and made their way into New England when D&H was brought into the Guilford Transportation fold, meandering anywhere from Northern Maine to Potomac Yard just outside of Washington DC.

However, that was not to last and in 1988, Guilford divested themselves of the D&H. The New York, Susquehanna & Western was appointed the designated operator until Canadian Pacific took over in 1991. Since the GP39-2s were something of oddballs as far as CP was concerned, they were sent to the CSX (CSX predecessor Chessie system helped the bankroll the Reading's purchase in the 1970s), so in a sense, the former Reading units were heading 'home'.

One key difference between CSX #4301 and the numerous people who move to Florida after a long and productive career in the Northeast is that the 4301 is still working. Here, she is seen heading down the street running trackage in the middle of East Street and past the former Seaboard Air Line Clearwater, FL depot with 30 stone hoppers on local frieght O701 in June 2003. According to photographer Mike Woodruff, the depot has since been razed.

To this day, a number of the former D&H/Reading GP39-2s have wound up in service for CSX in the Tampa area.

How President Obama Spent The Summer- Not to Mention Our Precious Money and TIme

After the unprecedented sovereign credit rating downgrade from Standard & Poors earlier this month, President Obama took it upon himself to allay concerns over the economy and high unemployment rate by embarking upon a multi-state 100% NOT-a-campaign-tour "listening tour" through the Midwest.

Eager to demonstrate to midwestrners that he was no out-of-touch limousine liberal, Obama left the Presidential limo back in Washington D.C. and instead embarked upon his midwest road trip with two new motorcoaches that the Secret Service ordered in July 2010 for $1.1 million apiece.

And what better way to show the people of the midwest that you are serious about the economy, American job creation and living within your means than by pulling into town in a brand new, armoured Canadian made motorcoach escorted by a 40+ vehicle motorcade?

After a terse exchange with a local Tea Part activist in Decorah, IA and botching the name of one of the companies that was hosting a town hall, it was off to Martha's Vineyard- that summertime playground of the wealthy and powerful- for some well deserved R&R! But not to worry, as President Obama would manage to find time between golf games to issue two executive orders- one was regarding diversity in the federal workplace while the other would reportedly allow nearly 300,000 illegal immigrants to avoid deportation and receive work permits- not word on whether or not this amnesty-through-executive-order will include his uncle. He also hinted at announcing a new jobs plan when Congress returned from summer recess.

When he wasn't spending time with his family or golfing on Martha's Vineyard, the President managed to work in visits to wealthy donors on the island. Alas, with Hurricane Irene's approach, the President and First Family had to cut their vacation short by about 12 hours so that Obama could swoop in and take charge at the National Hurricane Center.

Despite the strong Democrat voting bloc in the Northeastern states struck by Irene, the President has made no plans to visit those states to view the damage firsthand or meet survivors, despite Democrat lawmakers in New Jersey urging the President to visit the stricken areas. Instead, Obama will be travelling out to California for more fundraising in Hollywood and silicone valley next month.

As for that highly anticipated jobs speech that President Obama had been promising since his Midwest road trip, the Administration attempted to schedule it before both the senate and House the same night as the GOP Presidential debates next week. Speaker of the House John Boehner declined the President's initial September 7 deadline pointing out that it would be their first day back from the summer recess and offered Sept 8th as an alternative. Although the White House seems receptive to that date, that Thursday is also supposed to have the season opener for the NFL with the Saints taking on the Packers.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Roads Crumble, Bridges Collapse and Towns Cut Off As Vermont, Upstate New York Lashed by Remnants of Hurricane Irene

Andre Malebra- Burlington Free Press
After making a second landfall on Sunday outside of Egg Harbor Township just outside of Atlantic City, NJ, Hurricane Irene churned north and was downgraded to a tropical storm around the same time she made a third and final landfall near Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY.

However, the storm would continue wreaking havoc with torrential rains and inland flooding as it continued north through the mountain ranges on either side of the Hudson River.

Southwest of Albany, Scoharie County was hit particularly hard by heavy rains and flooding. The rains sent water over the banks and through the main streets of towns like Prattsville and Windham.

Irene did not let up when she crossed over into the Green Mountain state, dumping as much as 11 inches of rain in just under 48 hours, turning placid rivers into swollen torrents of water sweeping away cars, homes, railroads, chunks of highways and even the region's iconic covered bridges.

Portions of roadways and bridges throughout Vermont have been washed out, leaving entire towns severed from the rest of the state. Route 9, a two lane thoroughfare that crosses the southern portion of Vermont linking Bennington with Brattleboro has been closed indefinitely according to the Vermont Agency of Transportation. At least 30 bridges on state highways- from covered to modern- remained closed as well as any number of bridges on county or municipal roads.

The Vermont National Guard was activated to airlift food, clean water and supplies to towns by helicopter where the road links to the rest of the state had been severed. With 55 Vermont National Guard soldiers and 6 Blackhawk helicopters deployed in Iraq, the National Guard from New Hampshire and Illinois sent additional craft and personnel to assist while high-wheeled vehicles were used to traverse stretches of road that had been washed away.

So far the death toll from Irene is 41 throughout 11 states. The storm is also responsible for an estimated $7 billion in property damage from North Carolina's Outer Banks to northern Vermont.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tempest Sports Chowdah in a Tea Cup, Come on Irene Edition- Aug 29, 2011

RED SOX: After dealing with 104° heat in Arlington, TX for their four-game series against the Rangers (which the Red Sox won the final three in convincing fashion), the Red Sox headed back to Boston just in time for the approach of Hurricane Irene.

Upon returning to Fenway, not only did they have to deal with forces of nature, but an Oakland A's team that was still smarting from allowing an unprecedented three grand slams in one game to the New York Yankees in last Thursday's 22-9 spanking of Oakland (although the A's took the first two to win the series).

Tim Wakefield continued his futile, almost Groundhog Day-esque quest for 200 wins on Friday night- it did not end well, with A's starter Gio Gonzalez getting plenty of run support in Oakland's 15-5 win.

As bad as that was, Hurricane Irene's approach was of more concern. Although the worst of the storm was expected to move out of the region by Monday and the Red Sox had the day off, Oakland was supposed to play Cleveland that day. With the storm expected to arrive on Sunday, it was decided to play Sunday's game as part of a doubleheader on Saturday.

Jon Lester had to wait out two rain delays in Game 1 to get the 9-3 win, including a 2 hour and 15 min dealy in the 7th. Apparently Game 1 couldn't have been made official after 7 innings because that would've effectively cancelled game 2 according to MLB rules.

For Game 2 of the doubleheader, Erik Bedard gave up his second single of the day before nature once again intervened in the top of the 5th. After another rain delay (the 3rd on the day) play resumed with Alfredo Aceves on the mound going three hitless innings to get credit for the win.

After riding out the remnants of Irene and an off day on Monday, the Red Sox will host the Yankees beginning Tuesday night. The Yankees took two out of three games played against Baltimore in a series that also required some shuffling and rescheduling thanks to Hurricane Irene. Game 1 will feature CC Sabathia (17-7; 2.99 ERA) going up against John Lackey (12-9; 5.98 ERA). First pitch will be at 7:10 ET and the game will be televised on NESN and the MLB Network.

OTHER RED SOX NEWS: The Red Sox sent Ryan Lavarnaway down to Pawtucket this week. The catcher filled in for Big Papi while he missed a week with bursitis, batting .303 and with 3 RBIs over 7 games with Boston. Boston then very briefly called up RHP Scott Atcheson before sending him down to Pawtucket for RHP Micheal Bowden over the weekend. Bowden is 3-3 with a 2.73 ERA for the Paw Sox this season.

Brownwood, TX firefighter Shannon Stone w/son Cooper at fire station- Heather Klein Photo
OTHER MLB NEWS- TEXAS: The Texas Rangers announced plans to erect a statue in honor of Brownwood, TX fireman Shannon Stone who was killed in a fall at Rangers ballpark in Arlington, TX earlier this season while trying to catch a ball tossed up from the field.
The statue will depict Mr. Stone and his six-year-old son Cooper attending a Rangers game. The full-size bronze statue is likely to be located outside the home plate gate of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

“We feel that this statue will be a most fitting tribute,” commented Rangers CEO and President Nolan Ryan. “It will not only serve to honor Mr. Stone’s memory but also to recognize Rangers fans and baseball fans everywhere.

“I have discussed the project with Jenny Stone, and she and the Stone family will be involved in the design and creation of the statue.”

Jenny Stone issued the following statement:

“We continue to be appreciative of Nolan Ryan and the Texas Rangers as we deal with the loss of Shannon. Shannon and Cooper had a special relationship, and we are touched and grateful that it will be memorialized at one of their favorite places. Our hope is that this statue will not be a symbol of our family tragedy but rather a reminder of the importance of a family's love - love of each other, love of spending time together, and love of the game.”

The Rangers, who will fund the project, are in the early stages of considering sculptors to design and create the statue.
The statue is tentatively titled 'Rangers Fans' and is expected to be completed in time for the 2012 season.

CLEVELAND: Jim Thome arrived back in Cleveland after being placed on waivers by the Minnesota Twins last week. With Tribe DH Travis Hafner out for the season and possibly needing foot surgery, Thome was acquired by the Indians after the Twins went 20 games under .500 and were 16 games out of 1st place before Thome was dealt.

Thome was initially drafted in the 13th round of the 1989 MLB draft and made his debut as a third baseman towards the end of the 1991 season. Thome left for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2003 and has since logged time with the White Sox and Dodgers before the Twins signed him to a 1-year deal in 2010.

Earlier this summer, Thome hit career home run #600 with the Twins- that number is now 602. The veteran DH has a .277 batting average in his 20 year MLB career.

BALTIMORE: UMass alum and Cy Young winner Mike Flannigan was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head on his Maryland property last week. The Maryland state medical examiner ruled his death a suicide and friends and family said he had seemed despondent over financial issues.

Flannigan started out with Baltimore in the 1975 season winning a Cy Young in 1979 and the World Series in 1983. In 1987, he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays where before returning to the O's for the 1991 and 1992 season. The left-hander had a career record of 167-143 and a 3.90 ERA. After retiring, Flannigan worked in the front office in Baltimore before becoming a color commentator on the team's TV network.

NFL: The Patriots might've missed Hurricane Irene with their preseason trip to the Motor City, but they came up empty against the Lions. In a game that was actually less exciting than any of the three rain delays at Fenway, Lions QB Matthew Stafford wetn 12-14 with 200 yards and 2 TDs in Detroit's 34-10 preseason win over New England.

A final preseason game is scheduled for Thursday night this week in which the Pats will take on the NY Giants at Foxboro.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Irene Makes Landfall, Spawns Tornadoes as it Churns Its Way Up East Coast

Hurricane Irene made landfall outside of Nags Head, NC at around 7:30 AM ET today, bringing with it storm surges and winds of 85 MPH. So far, Irene is blamed for at least six deaths in the region since Friday and has left millions without electrical power in the Carolinas and Virgina. The storm also spawned a series of tornadoes that struck parts of an already evacuated Virginia Beach, VA.

In Washington D.C., the District's Department of Public works was giving out sandbags to DC residents in the parking lot of RFK stadium, while Philadephia's mayor declared a state of emergency- the city's first such delcaration since 1986.

New York City took the unprecedented step of shutting down the subway and bus system while issuing a mandatory evacuation order for the lower-lying parts of the city, including the area around Battery Park and Wall Street.

After cancelling trains south of Washington DC, Amtrak announced that they would be cancelling all trains north of Washington DC this weekend, including the Northeast Corridor, Keystone Corridor and Empire service.

In Boston, while fishermen and lobstermen north of the hub were bringing in their vessels and gear ahead of Irene's arrival, airlines are expected to cancel their flights into and out of Logan Airport and MBTA is suspending bus, subway, ferry and commuter rail service on Sunday.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lisa Kelly: With the Angels

And by "With the Angels", I don't mean there was some sort of unfortunate mishap on Atigun Pass- think more like the US Navy's Blue Angels.

Wasilla, AK native and Ice Road Truckers star Lisa Kelly was able to fulfill a lifelong dream of flying with the US Navy's Blue Angels Precision flying team at an Air Show in Fargo, ND this month.
She says she has always wanted to fly in an F-18. In Kelly's line of work, she faces danger daily, but she says that's nothing compared to what the US Navy faces.

She says chasing this dream was a great experience. Kelly says, “We flew upside down, and I’m like hanging from my seatbelt dangling upside down looking at the canopy. We would go straight up and spin and it looks like the sun is just going around the nose of it.
The flight took place immediately prior to Fargo's AirSho between Aug 13th and 14th.

Both Lisa Kelly and Canadian ice road trucker Alex Debogorski will be making an appearence at England's Truckfest in a few weeks.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Man's Best Friend Until the Very End

Tumilson and Hawkeye in happier times
In the same vein as Hachiko in Japan or Greyfriars Bobby in Scotland, a photo taken at the funeral of one of the Navy SEALs killed when their Chinook helicopter was shot down by an RPG shows a dog laying quitely by the SEAL's casket.

Lisa Pembleton, a cousin of SEAL Jon Tumilson photographed the Petty Officer's loyal Labrador retriever Buckeye at his master's side one last time as the dog lay motionless next to the casket at Tumilson's funeral throughout the service. The funeral was held in Tumilson's hometown of Rockford, IA.

Pembleton wrote on Facebook that Hawkeye was Tumilson’s loyal pet who wouldn't leave his master’s side during the funeral in Rockford, Iowa.

“I felt compelled to take one photo to share with family members that couldn't make it or couldn't see what I could from the aisle,” Pembleton wrote.

Tumilson lived in San Diego for eight years before becoming a member of SEAL Team 6. A memorial fund has been set up in his honor and donations can be sent to Frogman 238 Memorial Fund at:

First Security Bank and Trust
201 West Main Ave.
Rockford, IA 50468

Buckeye will remain with friends of Tumilson's in Nebraska who had watched after the lab during the SEAL's previous deployments.

East Coast Braces for Hurricane Irene's Approach

Tourists and truck drivers evacuating North Carolina's Outer Banks by ferry. Photo: Chuck Beckley- New Bern Sun Journal
A mandatory evacuation order for the outer banks of North Carolina is expected to go into effect Friday as Hurricane Irene gained strength while approaching from the south.

Workers from the North Carolina DOT were inspecting the aging Bonner Bridge after Tuesday's magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Virginia- the bridge links North Carolina Route 12 from Cape Hatteras to the mainland and is a key evacuation route. Further inland, residents jammed the aisles of local stores and markets in order to stock up on food, fuel, water, generators and other supplies.

At least 180 flights to and from major east coast airports have been cancelled with Irene's expected arrival. Amtrak trains south of Washington D.C., already hobbled by slow orders from host railroads Norfolk Southern and CSX after Tuesday's earthquake in Virginia, were cancelled while travellers were awaiting word on any possible service disruptions on the busy Northeast Corridor.

To the north, the governors of Virginia, Maryland, New York and New Jersey have declared states of emergency in advance of Irene's landfall. The US Navy sortied more than two dozen vessels from the huge Norfolk Naval station, including the aircraft carrier Dwight D Eisenhower, while further north, four attack submarines were dispatched from their Groton, CT base to ride out the storm in deep water. Naval aircraft was being flown further inland to ride out the storm.

Officials in New York City are considering evacuations of low-lying areas in a worst-case scenario among other preparations.
The city is making preparations to open 65 evacuation centers, seven special medical needs shelters and 75 general population shelters. These facilities can hold roughly 71,000 people; there are about 272,000 people living in the area most likely to be affected.

Officials recommended residents put together a supply kit, including drinking water, a flashlight, a battery-operated radio and a whistle
The Philadelphia Phillies have rescheduled Sundays game against the Florida Marlins to be played on Sat. In Boston, Sunday's scheduled game against the Oakland A's will likely also be moved to a Saturday doubleheader. Aug 27th as a doubleheader and the Orioles are discussing doing the same with their weekend series against the Yankees. In Maine, the Maine Eastern Railway announced that they were cancelling trains for Sunday, Aug 28th.

All these precautions and preparations are underway despite the uncertainty of where exactly Irene is supposed to make landfall. Numerous projections show her coming ashore anywhere from North Carolina's Outer Banks to Cape Cod while possibly increasing to Category 3 in the process.

Even if the eye of the storm misses the most densely populated areas, there could still be extensive damage to metropolitan areas thanks to heavy rains and winds in the storm's outer bands. If Irene does strike New England, she will likely be the first significant hurricane to strike since Hurricane Gloria in 1985. Like Gloria, it's also entirely possible that Irene could make landfall multiple times.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Today's Train of Thought- It's a Gas Gas Gas, Aug 24, 2011

Today's train of thought shows us what can be best described as a pipeline on wheels out in Big Sky Country.

Once upon a time, Conoco Philip's [NYSE: COP] Yellowstone pipeline carried gasoline all the way from Billings, MT to Spokanne, WA. However, after a 3000 barrel spill in 1993 on the Flathead Indian Reservation, the tribal council there revoked the pipeline easement. This left a 56-mile gap through the reservation and there was no talk of relocating that portion

Into the breech stepped Montana Rail Link, offering to have the gas offloaded from the pipeline in Missoula into tank cars for a 129-mile trek into Thompson Falls, MT where it is placed back into the western end of the Yellowstone pipeline to complete its westward journey to Spokane. At Thompson Falls, the locomotives, empty tank cars and spacer car on each end are turned around for the return trip. The outbound train is usually referred to as 'The Gas Local' while the returning cars are sometimes referred to as 'Gas Cans'. contributor Amy Miller caught an outbound Gas Local in August 2010 with SD45-2 #332 leading SD70ACE #4308 at Arlee, MT. The two locomotives represent two dramatically different epochs in EMD's manufacturing- the #332 started out life as an SDP45 for the Erie Lackawana nearly 40 years ago before the E-L became a part of Conrail. At some point in its career, #332 got into a wreck and her rear hood was rebuilt before being pressed into service as a leaser with Motive Power International and sold to the Montana Rail Link [Occasionally even older locomotives will hitch a ride with the Gas Local, as MRL's GP9s shuttle between their Paradise, MT assignment and Missoula- NANESB!].

By contrast, the #4308 was built new for the MRL in 2005 by EMD and has been in service since then in a variety of duties ever since.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quickie Lone Star Sports Chowdah Update for Aug 23rd: Texas-sized Innings Help Sox Stay Ahead of Rangers

Didn't seem that long ago, word of John Lackey starting would make any Red Sox fan worth their salt cringe.

After getting shut out by the Rangers by a 4-0 final Monday night, Lackey got the start for Boston Tuesday going opposite Colby Lewis. And Boston would have to find a way to win without Youkilis or Big Papi (although Ellsbury returned to the lineup for the 1st time in 3 games).

Things started pretty badly for Lewis when Ellsbury got on board with a single to open up the game and then came home on 1B Adrian Gonzalez's 1-out 2-run homer. Boston would then double their lead with an RBI double from former Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and a Marco Scutaro sac fly in the 2nd. From there, the Red Sox got 2 more as Carl Crawford brought home Josh Reddick and an RBI-double from Ryan Lavarnway to make it 6-0 in the top of the 3rd.

The Rangers were persistent and after giving up three straight singles, Lackey gave up his first run of the night thanks to a bases loaded walk to Elvis Andrus in the bottom half of the inning. The Rangers would go on to cut the lead in half after Josh Hamilton and Micheal Young had back-to-back RBI sac flies to make it a 6-3 game.

However, the Red Sox would start to pull away once again with a 2-out solo homer to Adrian Gonzalez in the top of the 4th. Although Josh Hamilton would get a home run off of Lackey in the bottom of the 5th, the damage was limited to one run after Jacoby Ellsbury ran down a fly ball from 2B Ian Kinsler and Marco Scutaro made a close play at short to get SS Elvis Andrus out at 1st base before Hamilton's at-bat.

Lackey would last 6 and ⅔ innings and depart with a 7-4 lead over the Rangers. Closing the game out wasn't so much a job for the bullpen as it was for the bats on Tuesday night as Marco Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia each had 2-RBI doubles in the top of the 8th.

Boston would go on to win by an 11-5 final (Ian Kinsler would get a solo homer off of Dan Wheeler in the bottom of the 9th). Adrian Gonzalez went 3 for 4 with 2 home runs and 3 RBI on the evening and after a frequently awful start to the season, Lackey is 12-9 with a 5.98 ERA.

The win sets up a rubber game tomorrow where Josh Beckett (10-5; 2.46 ERA) goes on the bump against Matt Harrison (10-8; 3.28 ERA). After missing nearly a week with bursitis in his right heel, it's possible that DH David Ortiz could rejoin the team's lineup on Wednesday.

Virginia, East Coast Rocked By Magnitude 5.8 Quake

Tremors from a magnitude 5.9 earthquake on Tuesday afternoon in Virginia prompted evacuations in the Pentagon and Capitol building and was felt as far away as Ohio and Toronto.
The quake rocked Virginia just before 1:55 p.m. [E.T.], and authorities said the epicenter appeared to be in Louisa County, about 40 miles northwest of Richmond. The epicenter is not far from Dominion Virginia Power's North Anna nuclear plant, where the earthquake knocked out power, but the utility manually shut down both nuclear units without incident.

"We did lose on-site power, but all the diesel generators are up and running," Dominion spokesman Richard Zuercher said 30 minutes after the quake. "Everything appears to be operating just fine."

The quake- the largest in Virginia since May 5, 1897, according to the U.S. Geological Survey- shook buildings and employees were ordered outside across Richmond and other cities in Virginia. Within minutes, Richmond police began receiving calls about possible property damage.
So far, there have been no reports of any casualties or injuries, but there are scattered reports of some structural damage around Mineral, VA and 90 miles to the north in the Washington D.C. area.

The town of Culpepper, VA was placed under a state of emergency and the local jail evacuated immediately after the Tuesday afternoon quake.

To the north, the National Parks Service began shutting down monuments across Washington D.C. as a precaution.

The central spire on Washington D.C.'s National Cathedral- the highest point in the District of Columbia- was damaged in the quake, with cross shaped finial stones being knocked off the top of three out of the four spires and one leaning inward.

Both the Pentagon and US Capitol Building were briefly evacuated- Congress is in recess for the summer, but staffers were still present at the Capitol building.

In Washington D.C.'s Union Station, the quake reportedly knocked down some ceiling tiles in the main concourse, although there was no reports of any injuries. Amtrak was operating trains between Baltimore and Washington D.C. at a restricted speed while commuter railways MARC and Virginia Railway Express briefly suspended operations as track, structures and wiring leading in and out of Union Station were inspected for damage.

Further south, the two main rail carriers operating closer to the epicenter- CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern- restricted freight trains to operating speeds of 10-15 MPH while tracks, bridges, tunnels and signals were being inspected for damage by Maintenance of Way personnel.

Airports throughout the Mid Atlantic region suspended flights on Tuesday afternoon. Dulles Airport, Reagan National, BWI, Atlantic City, Newark, Philadelphia and New York's JFK were among the international airports that had suspended flights with flights resuming by Tuesday night in the New York area. The quake reportedly registered as strong as 5.4 on the Richter scale in New York state.

The Mineral quake comes not even 24 hours after the USGS reported a magnitude 5.3 earthquake at 11:46 PM Mountain Time outside of Trinidad, CO on Monday night. Records indicate it was the strongest quake in Colorado in over a century, although there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. Geologists have indicated that the Colorado and Virginia quakes are unrelated.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Libya Endgame? Reports of Ghdaffi's Death Circulate As Rebles Encircle Tripoli

Rebels seeking to oust Libyan leader Mummar Ghdaffi have advanced to the outskirts of the capitol city of Tripoli while managing to cut off fuel and supplies not even a week after seizing the Western coastal city of Zawiyah.

Aided by NATO airstrikes and ferrying in weapons and supplies by tugboat, rebels surrounded the capital and began an assault on Ghdaffi's remaining stronghold on Sunday. Amid reports circulating that he had been killed, the defiant Libyan leader made a brief audio statement in state-run TV claiming that the rebel 'rats and vermin' in Tripoli 'have been eliminated'.

Rebel forces announced that they had captured one of Ghdaffi's sons, Seif al Islam Ghdaffi, in a raid that thrust into downtown Tripoli. The rebels had also been arming themselves after forces loyal to Ghdaffi abandoned checkpoints and arms depots in the suburbs around the city.

The rebel assault on the capital began on Saturday night at the Ben Nabi mosque near the heart of the city. As worshippers inside the mosque barricaded themselves and used the loudspeaker system to chant antigovernment slogans, loyalist troops converged and opened fire on the building. Rebels and local residents then moved in and attacked the Ghdaffi loyalists with machine guns and molotov cocktails, driving them back. From there, the rebels moved into Green Square and in a largely symbolic maneuver, raised the pre-Ghdaffi royal flag of Libya (below) that the rebels have adopted during the months-long uprising.

Green Square is where Ghdaffi held military parades and state-sponsored rallies throughout his rule.

From there, the rebels reportedly withdrew- but not before sending text messages and using mosque loudspeakers to call for a general uprising against the Ghdaffi regime. One rebel spokesman said that a small number of fighters and several caches of arms on the roads into and out of Tripoli were smuggled into the city in the days and weeks before the uprising.

Both the rebels and many international observes note that the rebel encirlcement of Libya represents an unprecedented challenge to Ghdaffi's 41 year rule, and that the collapse of his regime is only a matter of days if not hours.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

ATF Awarding Promotions to Fast and Furious Architects?

Earlier this week, the Los Angles Times had reported that three supervisor level ATF officials from the agency's Phoenix office were promoted and transferred to Washington D.C.
The three supervisors have been given new management positions at the agency's headquarters in Washington. They are William G. McMahon, who was the ATF's deputy director of operations in the West, where the illegal trafficking program was focused, and William D. Newell and David Voth, both field supervisors who oversaw the program out of the agency's Phoenix office.
McMahon and Newell have acknowledged making serious mistakes in the program, which was dubbed Operation Fast and Furious.

"I share responsibility for mistakes that were made," McMahon testified to a House committee three weeks ago. "The advantage of hindsight, the benefit of a thorough review of the case, clearly points me to things that I would have done differently."

Three Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesmen did not return phone calls Monday asking about the promotions. But several agents said they found the timing of the promotions surprising, given the turmoil at the agency over the failed program.

McMahon was promoted Sunday to deputy assistant director of the ATF's Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations — the division that investigates misconduct by employees and other problems.

Kenneth E. Melson, the ATF's acting director, said in an agency-wide confidential email announcing the promotion that McMahon was among ATF employees being rewarded because of "the skills and abilities they have demonstrated throughout their careers."

Newell was the special agent in charge of the field office for Arizona and New Mexico, where Fast and Furious was conducted. On Aug. 1, the ATF announced he would become special assistant to the assistant director of the agency's Office of Management in Washington.

Voth was an on-the-ground team supervisor for the operation, and last month he was moved to Washington to become branch chief for the ATF's tobacco division.
Shortly after the Los Angeles Times article, the Justice department confirmed that the three had been transferred to D.C. but defined the move as a 'lateral transfer' to 'adminstrative duties'.

The ill-fated Operation Fast and Furious involved the agency allowing weapons purchased on the American side of the border to 'walk' into Mexico- in many cases against the wishes of ATF field agents- where they would supposedly be tracked to leaders of the different Mexican cartels. No cartel leaders were arrested as a result of Fast and Furous- the weapons instead turned up at the scene of the December 2010 shooting death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in Arizona and at several crime scenes south of the border.

Additional House Oversight Committee hearings on Operation Fast & Furious are scheduled for later on this year.

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) sent a letter to the Justice Department demanding answers to reports that there were similar ATF "gun-walking" programs operated out of Texas.
“Until Attorney General (Eric) Holder and Justice Department officials come clean on all alleged gun-walking operations, including a detailed response to allegations of a Texas-based scheme, it is inconceivable to reward those who spearheaded this disastrous operation with cushy desks in Washington,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Last month, acting Director Kenneth Melson admitted to congressional investigators that his agency, in at least one instance, allowed sales of high-powered weapons without intercepting them. Melson accuses his superiors at the Justice Department of stonewalling Congress to protect political appointees in the scandal over those decisions.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Salty Sports Chowdah Update- Sox Royal Pains in Midwest; Things Get Uggla; Pats Keelhaul Bucs; Some Goodwill, Danica Leaving IndyCar?

RED SOX: After finishing their road trip with a whimper by dropping 2 out of 3 games to the Mariners, the Red Sox travelled home for a quick 3-game series against Tampa Bay (again, dropping two out of three) before heading to the heartland for a 4-game series in Kansas City.

Not unlike his start against Seattle, game one got off to a little bit of a choppy start with Josh Beckett on the mound as he gave up a leadoff double in the top of the 1st to 3B Alex Gordon. Gordon was brought home thanks to a sac bunt that moved him to third and a Billy Butler sac-fly to put KC in front 1-0.

The Sox got the equalizer in the top of the 2nd when Jason Varitek drove home Josh Reddick with an RBI single, although he was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. The Red Sox then took the lead on a 2-RBI single from Dustin Pedroia in the 3rd before KC got it right back with a 2-run Alex Gordon homer in the bottom half of the inning. Pedroia would come to bat with Ellsbury on 2nd and two away in the top of the 5th and get what would be the game winning RBI with a single (that like Varitek, he was thrown out trying to stretch into a double).

Daniel Bard would come on in the 8th and Papelbon would close out the game in the 9th to preserve the 4-3 Boston lead. The 7 innings thrown by Beckett puts him at 10-5 while Papelbon's save was his 29th of the season.

On Friday night, KC got out to the early 1-0 lead on an RBI sac fly hit by Alex Gordon off of Andrew Miller, but that's all Miller and the bullpen would allow as they managed to tie the game up on a Darnell McDonald RBI triple before taking the lead on a Jacoby Ellsbury sac fly in the top of the 4th.

In the top of the 5th and with two out and two away, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia belted a 3-run homer to give the Red Sox plenty of insurance at 5-1. The Sox would get two more to make it a 7-1 final. Miller gets the win after giving up a run and 3 hits in 5 and ⅓ innings of work while Alfredo Aceves worked 3 and ⅔ scoreless innings allowing one hit and striking out 3 to preserve the 7-1 lead.

Boston takes the first two in KC, setting up a matchup tomorrow between Tim Wakefield (6-5; 4.90 ERA) who has gone winless in his last four starts and Kansas City's Felipe Paulino (1-9; 4.30 ERA).

OTHER SOX NEWS:: David Ortiz is expected to miss up to a week with bursitis in his right heel. He was scratched from the lineup right before the start of the day/night doubleheader with Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Ryan Lavarnaway was called up from Pawtucket and replaced Big Papi in the lineup on Thursday night's game at DH, going 0-4.

Kevin Youkilis was placed on the DL this week as well with back problems and is also expected to miss a week.

ELSEWHERE IN MLB- MINNESOTA: On Monday night's game against Detroit in Comerica park, Minnesota slugger Jim Thome managed to belt career home runs #599 and #600 as the Twins out dueled the Tigers by a 9-6 final. On the landmark knight for the veteran slugger, Thome went 3-4 with 5 RBI, accounting for most of the Twin's offensive output that evening.

Thome's 3-run shot off of Daniel Schelerth in the top of the 7th made him the 8th major leaguer to enter the 600 Home Run club.

ATLANTA: Braves 2B Dan Uggla's hitting streak stopped at 33 games over the weekend. The Chicago Cunbs kept the red hot Uggla hitless for the first time in a month. Uggla's hit streak in July/August stopped just shy of the 1949 hit streak mark set by Red Sox outfielder Dom DiMaggio (or more recently, Benito Santiago's 34-game hit streak with the San Diego Padres in 1987). Uggla's hit streak now stand as the longest in Braves history, surpassing outfielder Rico Carty's 31-game hit streak in 1970.

CHICAGO CUBS: Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano (9-7; 4.82 ERA) abruptly announced his retirement after getting shelled by the Braves a week ago. Zambrano didn't even last 5 innings and gave up 8 earned runs as well as a career worst 5 homers. Zambrano was ejected after throwing inside on consecutive pitches to Atlanta 3B Chipper Jones.

Within days, the Cubs placed Zambrano on the disqualified list when it became clear he wasn't going to walk back his comments about retiring. The Players Association is protesting the actions the Cubs have taken against the hotheaded hurler in an effort to reduce any sanctions or fines that might be forthcoming.

After the Zambrano fiasco, the Cubs also announced that General manager Jim Hendry was terminated on Friday afternoon. Curiously, owner Tom Ricketts claimed he reached the decision on July 22 and told Hendry that day, but for whatever reason both parties didn't make any public announcement until nearly 3 weeks later- after the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline as well as the August 15 deadline to sign this year's draft picks.

NFL: QB Tom Brady went 11 for 19 including two TD passes in Thursday night's preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brady worked for the first half and connected with TE Aaron Hernandez for a 16 yard TD pass and then WR Chad Ochocinco for TD pass #2. Ben Jarvus Green Ellis had two rushing TDs of his own, including one to close out the first half in New England's 31-14 preseason win over Tampa Bay.

The next preseason game for New England will be at Ford Field against the Detroit Tigers on Sat. Aug 27th. at 8PM ET.

NCAA FOOTBALL: One time Miami Hurricanes booster and convicted money launderer Nevin Shapiro made good on a jailhouse threat to disclose to the NCAA and the press improper benefits he gave to Hurricanes players while they were still with the university including cash, merchandise and parties on a yacht he owned that featured prostitutes.

Shapiro pleaded guilty to securities fraud and money laundering in September 2010 and was sentenced to a 20 year sentence in June. In a jailhouse interview, Shapiro detailed how he used funds from an ongoing Ponzi scheme going as far back as 2002 to finance donations to the University of Miami football and men's basketball programs in addition to giving out cash and favors to Hurricanes players.
The NCAA has notified University of Miami administrators that it's considering invoking a 'willful violators' clause to circumvent a 4 year statute of limitations on any investigation into the Miami athletic program. Traditionally, the NCAA’s bylaws would only allow it to sanction the Hurricanes for infractions that occurred during the four years prior to receiving a letter of inquiry from investigators. For example, if Miami received a letter of inquiry for a case on Sept. 1, 2011, the NCAA could only sanction the school for applicable violations dating back to Sept. 1, 2007. But the clause – reserved for “a pattern of willful violations” – can spin a probe back to the earliest applicable infractions.

Applied to the Shapiro allegations, it means the NCAA could reach as far back to early 2002, when the booster said he began funneling benefits to Hurricanes players. And if the probe stretched back to 2002, it would overlap with Miami’s two-year probationary period from the baseball program, which was leveled from February 2003 to February 2005. That could potentially tag the Hurricanes athletic program with a “repeat violator” label and make the school further susceptible to the NCAA’s so-called death penalty.
Only one Division one NCAA football program has been given the 'death penalty' before- the Southern Methodist University Mustangs in 1988. The NCAA banned the football team from taking the field in the 1987 season, and although away games were technically permitted the following season, SMU administrators decided it wasn't feasible to field a team for seven scheduled Away games that were already scheduled.

In 2003, the Miami Hurricanes baseball program was on probation from the NCAA for violations during the 1998-1999 seasons. If Shapiro's claims are true and the timeline match up, then he was funneling money to Miami players before the university even started probation.

NCAA HOOPS: Wow- if this is a 'Goodwill tour', I'd hate to see what the Georgetown Hoyas Malice Tour to China would look like.

The video above is from an altercation on Friday in Beijing between the Hoyas basketball team and the Shanghai Bayi Rockets- a squad that reportedly has ties to China's People's Liberation Army. The bench-clearing brawl erupted with less than 10 minutes to go in the game and the crowd threw plastic water bottles at the Hoyas as they left the court.

MOTORSPORTS: ESPN is reporting that Indy Car driver Danica Patrick is expected to announce a full-time move to NASCAR beginning next season. While the full details and terms of her contract have yet to be finalized, Patrick is expected to race primarily in the Nationwide series (something she's already appeared in) and make appearences in select Sprint Cup races.

Today's Train of Thought- Smoke and Thunder, Aug 19, 2011

For the last 20 years, the Georgia Central has earned its living hauling clay, kaolin, chemicals, forestry products, and coal throughout Southern and Central Georgia. The 175-plus mile regional railway began operations in November 1990 on the former Seaboard Air Line route between Savannah and Macon, GA by way of Vidalia and Dublin, GA.

One of the things that separates the Georgia Central from other railroads is its penchant for some of the older GE products. Shortly after acquiring the line from CSX, the Georgia Central began operations with a small fleet of U30Bs- also from CSX. In the mid-1990s, the U30Bs gave way to more than a dozen high-hood former Norfolk Southern (nee Southern) U23Bs. In 2005, the Georgia Central was acquired by Genesee & Wyoming, although five years in there has been no sign of the trademark G&W orange and black showing up on the Georgia Central.

Some 15 years later, the high hood GE's are still soldiering on for the Georgia Central with a minimally modified Norfolk Southern paint scheme. Here, contributor Nikos Kavoori caught GC U23B #3959 leading a quartet of u-boats with an 80-car coal train during a break in a Georgia thunderstorm outside in Manassas, GA in July 2011. Tucked into the very end of the lashup is an SW1500 from nearby Genesee & Wyoming shortline Chatachoochee Industrial.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Magnitude 6.8 Earthquake Strikes Off Shore of Northeastern Japan; Money Continues Washing Ashore After Deadly March Tsunami

Japan's Meteorological Agency is reporting a quake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 struck the northeast coast of Japan.

A tsunami warning was issued by the agency for the Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures on Friday morning, but the advisory was lifted about a half hour later.

Tokyo Electric Power Co reported that there were no abnormalities and that key equipment in the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continued operating normally while key employees positioned outside were evacuated as a precaution.

Interestingly, nearly 6 months after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami which is thought to have killed at least 20,000 people in Northeastern Japan, survivors and volunteers have turned over to the authorities the equivalent of nearly US$80 million in cash that has washed up on shore or in the ruins of homes and apartments.
In the five months since the disaster struck, people have turned in thousands of wallets found in the debris, containing $48 million in cash.

More than 5,700 safes that washed ashore along Japan's tsunami-ravaged coast have also been hauled to police centers by volunteers and search and rescue crews. Inside those safes officials found $30 million in cash. One safe alone, contained the equivalent of $1 million.

The National Police Agency says nearly all the valuables found in the three hardest hit prefectures, have been returned to their owners.

"In most cases, the keyholes on these safes were filled with mud," said Koetsu Saiki with the Miyagi Prefectural Police. "We had to start by cutting apart the metal doors with grinders and other tools."

Determining who the safes belonged to, proved to be the easy part. Saiki says most kept bankbooks or land rights documents inside the boxes, containing their names and address. Tracking the owners down, was much more challenging.
With some police stations running out of room in their lost property areas, police are attempting to cross reference names and phone numbers documents found in safes and lockboxes with survivors of the quake and hoping to track down what shelter they were staying in.

Keeping cash at hand is fairly common practice in Japan, as many Japanese prefer to keep their money at home. A police spokesman explained that the number of boxes and safes that have been recovered seems especially high because many fishing companies in northeastern Japan also prefer to do business and pay employees in cash.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pennsylvania Democrat Policy Committee Chairman- Marcellus Shale Workers Are STD-Ridden Drunks Who Will Probably Kill Your Kids

The debate over drilling for Natural Gas in the Marcellus Shale took a nasty and downright odd turn this week when replying to am e-mail query about the impact of exploration and drilling on local communities from, Pennsylvania House Democrat Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster) offered the following reply:
“Also, aside from building roads so their trucks can get to drill sites and doing a little stream work to mitigate damage from their road building, exactly what are all those things the drillers are doing for the local communities? Patronizing the bars at night? Driving up the cost of rental housing? Spreading sexually transmitted disease amongst the womenfolk? Causing school districts to ask local governments to ban truck traffic on local roads during school bus pick-up and drop-off times so kids don't get killed? Upgrading emergency preparedness equipment to handle a well blow out? Running compressor stations that have decibel levels equal to a jet engine?...Really community-oriented stuff...”
Not surprisingly, the state Representative's archaic comments about the STD riddled workers and promiscuous 'womenfolk' has drawn the ire of Rep Sturla's GOP counterparts in the Pennsylvania state house- many of them representing districts where natural gas drilling and exploration are taking place.
“Talk about wrong-headed, misinformed, archaic, and just shocking,” said Rep. Sandra Major (R-Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming), the House Republican Caucus Chair. “The House Democrat leadership attitude, after studying the impacts of the Marcellus Shale industry in Pennsylvania, is insulting.”

“Drunks and promiscuous ‘womenfolk’ – that is what the House Democrat leaders are calling the hard-working men and women living within the Marcellus Shale region,” Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland County) said. “Who can really support such notions from leaders who think so little of those working in a growing industry?”
However, Representative Sturla stood by his comments on Wednesday.

Keep in mind that Sturla is from a political party that claims to have the monopoly on concern for the American blue-collar worker, yet his comments about the drunken and diseased Marcellus Shale workers and promiscuous womenfolk exhibit a contempt towards blue collar, rural Americans more typical of Manhattan or inside the Beltway. By and large it seems to be reserved for those doing the hard work in the energy sector, but not necessarily limited to those along the Marcellus Shale.

No less than 10 oil rigs have departed the Gulf of Mexico since the Obama Administration imposed a moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after last year's Deepwater Horizon spill.
Earlier this year, the EPA and US Fish and Wildlife Service had proposed moving the dune sagebrush lizard onto the endangered species list, which would severely impact drilling and other activity along its habitat in the Permian Basin along the Texas-New Mexico border.

Obstructionist environmental groups have undertaken a publicity blitz including billboards as far away as Chicago urging public opposition to Trans Canada's proposed Keystone KL pipeline that would send oil from Alberta's Athabasca oil fields to a refinery in Texas.

Exit question- If I were an environmentalist or leftist who held Americans that worked in the coal, oil or natural gas sectors in the utmost contempt, what would I do differently to express my disdain than what any number of Democrats from President Obama all the way down to state Representative Sturla have already done in terms of policy?

[Hat tip- Unlikely Hospitalist]

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Standing Up: A Tale of Two Riots and Steps Merchants Took To Protect Their Businesses

It seems almost inevitable that this month's rioting and looting in London would draw comparisons to the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

To be fair, there are some very valid comparisons to be made. One could argue that in both instances, an evaporating police presence and hypersensitivity to the perception of police brutality only served to fuel the rioters brazen aggression in the early going.

Before the first pane of glass was broken in Tottenham, it seemed as though enablers such as Ken Livingstone were prepared to make any number of excuses for the socioeconomic reasons leading up to the unrest while very conveniently ignoring the more immediate consequences of the rioters widespread looting, arson and assaults [one wonders if these same politicians would have such a forgiving outlook if it was their home or business that was picked clean by looters and firebombed- NANESB!].

Growing up in Western New England, I saw televised coverage of the LA riots unfolding pretty close to real time, including the brutal, unprovoked and near-fatal beating of truck driver Reginald Denny.

At the time, I couldn't help but wonder how much further things would spiral out of control. But in the second day of the LA riots, I saw something that was strangely reassuring. Abandoned by the LAPD and with the California National Guard still at least a day away from showing up, Korean merchants armed with pistols, rifles and shotguns began fortifying their shops and exchanging gunfire with approaching looters and roving gang members.

Not surprisingly, the gun-phobic Northeastern press was aghast and horrified at the armed Korean 'vigilantes' defending their livelihoods taking the law into their own hands. A contemporary account from the New York Times reads:
One of the most gripping and, increasingly, controversial television images of the violence was a scene of two Korean merchants firing pistols repeatedly from a military stance. The image seemed to speak of race war, and of vigilantes taking the law into their own hands.
I'll admit that I found it fascinating but not for the inflammatory and just plain wrong reasons the New York Times cited. Having grown up in a fairly liberal state, I was told that keeping a firearm for self-defense was a fallacy and if I did so, I was far more likely to injure or kill a member of the household than an intruder. Yet that particularly dubious statistic unravelled pretty quickly for all the world to see on live TV.

From the looks of it, there were two clear choices of what to do in such a dire situation. Find yourself at the mercy of unchecked thugs and criminals like Reginald Denny and others found themselves, or protect yourself, your business and your family by taking up arms like the Koreans did. Granted some businesses were lost to arson and looting, but by day two of the riots the armed merchants made it clear that rioters bound and determined to burn or loot their businesses would pay a heavy toll.

Fast forward nearly 20 years and on the other side of the Atlantic, the closest thing you have to the defiant Koreans fending off a murderous, rampaging mob are Turkish and Kurdish shopkeepers armed with baseball bats, knives and pool cues greeting the looters in England. Granted it had the desired effect this time around, but one has to wonder what the presence of even an old Lee-Enfield .303 rifle or over-under shotgun might've done to disperse the marauding crowd.

However, the United Kingdom has among the strictest gun control laws in the world- something many gun control advocates were hoping the USA would emulate some day. Yet since the UK's 1997 prohibition on private ownership of handguns, crime has only increased.

Even more problematic, without any debate or consultation the legal standard for what constitutes self-defense in England, hinging on a magistrate or prosecutor's definition of 'reasonable force' ex post facto. Yet many Britons feel that the people who have been engaging in a week-long spree of arson, assault and robbery will get off with a light sentence- if they're ever caught.

For all the complaints about America's supposedly lax gun laws, I'll take my chances with that versus a disarmed society where you're on your own once the police decide they can no longer protect you.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Heavily Subsidised Solar Company Bails on Massachusetts, Files for Bankruptcy

A solar panel factory in Devens, MA which was held up by the Patrick Adminsitration as a model 'green business' and recieved $58 million in financial aid from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has filed for bankruptcy on Monday.

Evergreen Solar [NASDAQ: ESLR] announced earlier this year that they were closing their Devens facility and shifting production to Wuhan China.
In January, after Evergreen announced it would close the Devens factory, Patrick told the Herald he was disappointed in the job losses but did not regret making the investment.

“I think we did what we could have and should have,” he told the Herald.

In March, during a state Senate hearing that explored the value of tax incentives for Bay State businesses, Evergreen CEO Michael El-Hillow said the company had “earned” 85 percent of the taxpayer benefits it received because of the jobs it originally created.

Evergreen warned investors back in April that it was burning through cash because of slow sales, falling solar-panel prices and weak proceeds from the sale of Devens factory assets.

“Chapter 11 will provide Evergreen Solar with the ability to maximize returns for our stakeholders through the proposed sale process,” El-Hillow said in a statement. “Importantly, we expect to continue our technology development without interruption during Chapter 11 and the sale process.”
Shares of Evergreen have been trading so low this year that they're in danger of being de-listed from the NASDAQ.

The quasi-public state run MassDevelopment is among the top creditors and is owed $1.5 million by Evergreen.

August 14- Navajo Code Talkers Day

Navajo Code Talker Joe Morris Sr in 2007 photo
Twenty nine years ago yesterday, President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation that August 14 be known as Navajo Code Talkers Day. This was among the first official acts of recognition since the program was declassified in 1968.
"Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate August 14, 1982, as National Navaho Code Talkers Day, a day dedicated to all members of the Navaho Nation and to all Native Americans who gave of their special talents and their lives so that others might live. I ask the American people to join me in this tribute, and I call upon Federal, State and local officials to commemorate this day with appropriate activities."
[Sorry I'm a day behind with this, by the way- NANESB!]

At the outbreak of WWII, it was believed that there were no more than 30 non-Navajo people in the world familiar with the language- none of them Japanese.

Sensing an opportunity to confound Japanese eavesdroppers, in 1942 Marine Corps brass began gathering and training Navajo recruits to create and communicate a code in their native Navajo tongue. Throughout the war, Imperial Japanese military cryptographers were never able to decipher the Navajo's code. However, after the war, the program remained secret and the departing Navajo recruits were sworn to secrecy until the Code Talker project was declassified in 1968.

The Code Talkers participated in nearly every Marine assault in the pacific theater between 1942 and 1945. To this day, the Navajo Code Talkers proved to be the most effective known means of encrypted communication in modern warfare.

On Sunday, July 17th Code Talker Joe Morris Sr passed away at age 85 from complications due to a stroke at the VA Medical Center in Loma Linda, CA.

Morris had just turned 17 and was working in an Arizona mine when he was drafted in 1943. He credited a Navajo medicine man that also worked in the mine with keeping him safe throughout the war, saying that the shaman prayed a day and a half for his safety. After the war, Morris married and settled in Dagget, CA where he had a civilian job with a Marine supply center until he retired in 1984.

Joe Morris Sr is survived by his wife of 61 years, two sons, a daughter, three brothers and three grandchildren.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Today's Train of Thought- This Ain't No Polar Express, Aug 14, 2010

With a name like Hudson Bay Railway, you'd think that today's rather convoluted train of thought might be the next best thing to The Polar Express. However, you would be off by more than 1500 miles.

In 1997, Colorado-based Omnitrax reached an agreement with the Canadian National to purchase and operate more than 800 miles of track in northern Manitoba between The Pas and the Hudson Bay port of Churchill. At the same time and about 1600 miles to the south, the newly-formed Burlington Northern-Santa Fe began divesting itself of some lesser-used branchlines in Illinois. North American RailNet would end up picking up four disconnected former BNSF lines in the Land of Lincoln. By 2005, the North American RailNet would sell their remaining American railroad properties to Omnitrax, including the Illinois Railway (formerly Illinois Railnet).

In recent years, Omnitrax has taken steps to improve capacity at the port of Churchill, including incrementally rebuilding the track between The Pas and Churchill and purchasing newer locomotives to operate over the line. Included as part of the new power is at least 10 former Union Pacific (nee Missouri Pacific) SD50s.

While the Hudson Bay SD50s were probably assigned to the Illinois Railway for test runs after being rebuilt and repainted in HBRY colors, the Omnitrax Illinois affiliate seems to have taken a liking to at least two of the 6-axle beasts as some of them have been on the property since at least late 2008.

Here, contributor Steve Smedley caught the matched pair of Hudson Bay SD50s #5009 and #5008 and a leased Helm GP38-2 as they crossed the Fox River in Montgomery, IL with more than 50 empty cars on their way back from BNSF's Eola yard in Aurora, IL on Mother's Day 2010.

The train is heading back to Ottawa, IL on home rails after traversing BNSF via trackage rights between Aurora and Montgomery and the cars are bound for US Silica's Ottawa plant. At Ottawa, the Illinois Railway interchanges with the CSX and Iowa Interstate while heading furhter south to Streator, IL where it interchanges with the Norfolk Southern and BNSF.

However out of place the two six axle beasts may be, they certainly do look sharp with their new green/white/gold paint scheme.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pentagon Releases Names of US Servicemen Killed in Afghanistan Helicopter Crash

Funeral service for SEAL Team member Rob Reeves at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Shreveport, LA on Saturday August 14- Henrietta Wildsmith/Shreveport Times
On Thursday, the Pentagon released the name of all 30 American servicemen killed when their CH-47 Chinook was shot down by Taliban fire during a nighttime mission over Wardak province on Aug 6th.

The following SEALS have been identified as among the dead:

*Lt. Cmdr. Jonas B. Kelsall, 32, of Shreveport, La.
*Special Warfare Operator Master Chief Petty Officer Louis J. Langlais, 44, of Santa Barbara, Calif.
Special Warfare Operator Senior Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Thomas A. Ratzlaff, 34, of Green Forest, Ark.,
*Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer Brian R. Bill, 31, of Stamford, Conn.
*Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer John W. Faas, 31, of Minneapolis, Minn.
*Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer Kevin A. Houston, 35, of West Hyannisport, Mass.
*Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer Matthew D. Mason, 37, of Kansas City, Mo.
*Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer Stephen M. Mills, 35, of Fort Worth, Texas.
*Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer Robert J. Reeves, 32, of Shreveport, La.
*Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer Heath M. Robinson, 34, of Detroit, Mich.
*Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class Darrik C. Benson, 28, of Angwin, Calif.
*Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher G. Campbell, 36, of Jacksonville, N.C.
*Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class Jon T. Tumilson, 35, of Rockford, Iowa.
*Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class Aaron C. Vaughn, 30, of Stuart, Fla.
*Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class Jason R. Workman, 32, of Blanding, Utah.
*Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class Jesse D. Pittman, 27, of Ukiah, Calif.
*Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas P. Spehar, 24, of Saint Paul, Minn.

The five Navy special operations troops were:

*Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior Chief Petty Officer Kraig M. Vickers 36, of Kokomo, Hawaii.
*Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Chief Petty Officer Nicholas H. Null, 30, of Washington, W. Va.
*Information Systems Technician Petty Officer 1st Class Jared W. Day, 28, of Taylorsville, Utah.
*Master-at-Arms Petty Officer 1st Class John Douangdara, 26, of South Sioux City, Neb.
*Cryptologist Technician Petty Officer 1st Class Michael J. Strange, 25, of Philadelphia, Pa.

The five soldiers killed were identified as:

*Chief Warrant Officer David R. Carter, 47, of Centennial, Colo., who was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment in Aurora, Colo.;
*Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Nichols, 31, of Hays, Kan., who was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment in New Century, Kan.
*Sgt. Patrick D. Hamburger, 30, of Lincoln, Neb., who was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment in Grand Island, Neb.
*Sgt. Alexander J. Bennett, 24, of Tacoma, Wash., who was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, New Century, Kan.
*Spc. Spencer C. Duncan, 21, of Olathe, Kan., who was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment in New Century, Kan.

The three airmen who died were:

*Tech. Sgt. John W. Brown, 33, of Tallahassee, Fla., who was assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Field, N.C.
*Staff Sgt. Andrew W. Harvell, 26, of Long Beach, Calif., who was assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Field, N.C.
*Tech. Sgt. Daniel L. Zerbe, 28, of York, Pa. who was assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Field, N.C.

[Hat tip: And So It Goes in Shreveport]