Saturday, December 31, 2011

End of the Year Appeal From Not Another New England Sports Blog!

I seldom go into my personal affairs on this blog because let's face it....isn't there enough of that crap going around on the social networking sites to begin with?

However, I lost my grandfather not too long ago. As it turns out, this past week was our family's first-ever Christmas without him.

The final few years of his long and rewarding life was spent in a retirement home like few other- the Firemen's Home of New York State. The facility- located in Hudson, NY- is designed to accommodate volunteer firefighters from throughout New York State as well as their spouses. The camaraderie that goes with their trade extends into well into retirement at this facility. Aside from some of the traditional nursing home activities like bingo, other activities include group visits to parades and local firehouses. Physical therapy for the FASNY Firemen's home members also includes working on structures and rolling stock for the N-Scale F&H Model Railroad Association (altho' I understand they recently upgraded to a bigger O-Scale layout).

In 2007, a brand new $25 million 126,000 square foot facility opened up adjacent to the original 1892 Home [which had beer on tap and accommodations for family members staying overnight- NANESB!]. Both the new and the old Firemen's home are adjacent to the FASNY Museum of Firefighting. The Museum houses vintage firefighting apparatus and exhibits from across the country and around the world while the Members of the Firemen's home serve as docents.

In 2009, less than two years after the new Firemen's home opened its doors, it was reported that a number of cost-cutting measures were undertaken to ensure the long-term viability of the facility. The FASNY Board of directors said they were looking at a number of measures to reduce operating costs throughout the organization, including the Home.

The home itself is reportedly funded through a combination of donations, Medicare reimbursement, resident fees upon admittance to the Home and fees paid by out-of-state insurance companies to local Fire Departments as well as fundraising activities on behalf of the Home throughout New York State.

Not surprisingly, donations have been off since the late 2008 economic crisis and subsequent recession.

And this is where I'm asking you, good reader, to pitch in. I have already donated multiple times this year and plan on continuing to do so at different points throughout 2012. If you're so inclined, you can donate online or even provide some items from the Administration's current 'Wish List'. Keep in mind that the FASNY Firemen's Home is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, meaning that donations are tax-deductible.

Many thanks in advance for your consideration of support to this organization that has meant so much to our family.

Today's Train of Thought- Rolling Into the New Year, December 31, 2011

Seems as though no matter where you were in the country, we've been in for a pretty mild winter ever since the calendar officially flipped over to wintertime some 10 days ago. Don't get me wrong, a nice mild winter is good to have every now and then, but there's also something to be said for having a white Christmas- not to mention some of us try and earn some extra cash this time of year by shovelling sidewalks or plowing driveways.

However, that doesn't seem to be a problem in the Dakotas. For instance, the forecast for Fargo, ND for New Year's Eve is for snow flurries and a low of 19°. By way of comparison, the forecast for Boston, MA on New Year's Eve calls for some fog and temperatures of no less than 36°.

Winter in the upper Midwest actually seems like winter more often than not. And this is effectively conveyed in the photography of contributor Lew Ableidinger.

Here, he snaps a pair of Dakota, Missouri Valley & Western SD45s- led by #7510- rounding a curve just outside of Oakes, ND heading east on former Soo Line trackage with a loaded grain train on December 6, 2010.

And with that vision of cold steel and high horsepower, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for visiting this humble blog and wish you a happy and prosperous 2012!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Veena Malik Found Alive and Well in Mumbai, Earns Fatwa

Shortly after being reported missing by her manager, Pakistani Bollywood actress Veena Malik checked in safe and sound from a Mumbai luxury hotel earlier this month.

The actress had gone missing amid a furor in her native Pakistan over her appearing nude on an Indian magazine cover with the acronym for Pakistan's spy agency (the ISI; or Interservices Intelligence Directorate) stenciled on her arm. Her father had reportedly disowned her shortly after the shoot and many in Pakistan were calling for her citicizenship to be revoked or worse.

Earlier this week, an Indian Muslim organization issued a fatwa against the Pakistani starlet for reportedly signing onto a contract to allow her upcoming wedding to be televised nationally in India.
Majlis-e-Shura , 70-member supreme body of the All India Muslim Tyohar Committee, in Bhopal was receiving complaints from all corners and was urged to take stringent action against her.

Talking to a daily, Ausaf Shahmiri Khurram, chairman of the Majlis-e-Shura said, “We were getting complaints from concerned community members who said that the activities of this Pakistani female actor was sending a wrong message to our teenagers, especially girls.”

“The complaints said that there were offensive photographs of this woman all over the internet and that she was going to have a `Swayamvar` on television. Islam has a certain procedure for a `Nikaah`. We do not have `Swayamvar`,” he added.

The members of the body sat for over two days to take a call on Veena Malik. At the end, a unanimous call was taken and a “fatwa” was issued on her, which means that she will be socially boycotted.
Although the fatwa from India doesn't involve any overt death threats, earlier this year a Taliban splinter group issued a death threat against her and her family in her native Pakistan.

Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson Won't Run For Re-Election in 2012

The Nebraska Senator who was seen by many as a pivotal vote in getting 0bamacare through the Senate two years ago announced that he will not be running for re-election in 2012.

Touted as a moderate Democrat, Senator Ben Nelson had previously served as was elected to two terms and had amassed a fairly conservative voting record prior to his 0bamacare vote.

There was considerable backlash for Nelson's support both inside the Beltway and at home. The GOP alleged a series of legislative concessions were made to the state of Nebraska in exchange for Nelson's 'Yes' vote (known as the 'Cornhusker Kickback') and Nelson was jeered and heckled out of an Omaha pizza parlor within days of his vote.

With that in mind, Nelson's re-election seemed like an uphill battle for the Democrats to begin with. Former US Senator Bob Kerrey and businessman Scott Kleeb had been named as potential Democrat candidates, but both indivduals denied any interest in running for Nelson's soon to be vacated seat.

On the GOP side, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, state senator Deb Fischer and state treasurer Don Stenburg were seeking to oust Nelson before he announced his retirement this week. The three members of the state's all-GOP House delegation (Representatives Lee, Fortneberry and Smith) and Republican governor Dave Heineman were also rumored to be among the potential candidates.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Today's Train Of Thought- Steaming Through A Winter Wonderland- December 24, 2011

Today's train of Thought has the look and feel of a blast from the past, but is actually not even 4 years old.

Pere Marquette #1225 is a 2-8-4 Berkshire class locomotive that was built by the Lima locomotive works as part of an order of eleven that was completed in 1941. The #1225 and its sisters spent the early part of their careers shuttling steel and wartime materiel between northern Indiana and Saginaw, MI.

By 1947, the Pere Marquette had merged with the Chesapeake & Ohio although the Berkshire locomotives would remain lettered for Pere Marquette until their retirement in the early 1950s. While most of them would fall to the scrappers torch, the 1225 and sister 1223 were preserved.

The 1225 wound up in East Lansing, MI on the campus of Michigan State where the boiler and whistle were eventually restored to working order. A few years later, the title was transferred to the newly-formed Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation and was moved to the former Ann Arbor Railroad shop complex in Owosso, MI in the early 1980s. In November 1985, the #1225 moved under its own power for the first time since its 1951 retirement.

Since 2007, the Michigan Steam Railroad Association has been operating excursions over the former Tuscola and Saginaw Bay line out of Owosso- now the Great Lakes Central Railroad. In early 2010, the PM #1225 went in for its required 15 year boiler inspection and now the Steam Railroad Association is raising funds for repairs and reassembly of the Berkshire- including a $100,000 receiving matching grant.

Here, contributor Micheal F Allen catches the #1225 heading out of Owosso with a consist of vintage freight cars at King Rd in February 2008. Out of the entire Pere Marquette fleet of steam locomotives, the only two that escaped the scrapper's torch were Berkshires #1225 and sister #1223, kept on static display in Grand Haven, MI.

Merry Christmas From Not Another New England Sports Blog!

Like so many other Americans, Christmastime is usually a time for me to hit the road and visit various relatives scatteres throughout the northeast.

Odds are that I'll be away from the internet for awhile, but I wanted to take this opportunity to wish my regular visitors a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year's.

You'll probably recognize the above image as Bettie Paige. Despite the classic imagery, almost timeless imagery, this is a fairly recent work from contemporary pin-up artist Olivia DeBerardinis. Besides a vast portfolio of images centering around Bettie Page, DeBerardinis works also appears regularly in Playboy and has gained something of a cult following both here in the USA and overseas in Europe and Japan.

Interestingly, Olivia's rendering of Paige is actually tamer then the real-life photo shoot with Paige (with Bunny Yeager on the other side of the lens) featuring the raven-tressed pin-up decorating a Christmas tree wearing not much more than a Santa Hat.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Blue State Graft Watch- 'Mountain of Evidence' Available for Grand Jury in Troy, NY Voter Fraud Case

Even as Eric Holder's Justice Department moved to block recently passed voter ID legislation in South Carolina, prosecutors in Rensselaer County, NY say they have 'mountains' of incriminating papers implicating the Rensselaer County elections commissioner, a number of Troy city councilmen and the city clerk in a scheme to forge signatures and excuses on absentee ballots in September 2009- all of them democrats.
According to the indictment, between Sept. 9 and 15, 2009, Campana allegedly had a hand in soliciting absentee ballots from seven voters, entered forged voters' signatures or other information on 24 ballots, filled in the votes on four ballots and helped deliver 28 ballots to the Rensselaer County Board of Elections.

Former Troy City Clerk William McInerney allegedly solicited 16 ballots and forged 26, according to the indictment.

Democratic Rensselaer County Elections Commissioner Edward McDonough allegedly forged 32 ballots, delivered 29 and forged fictitious information in the "Where will you be on election day" box on 42 ballots. Absentee ballot holders are required to reveal what prevents them from voting in person, according to the indictment.

Councilman Michael LoPorto is accused of soliciting four ballots, forging one, voting on four and delivering 28.

Councilman John Brown allegedly solicited two ballots, forged six and voted on 27.

Former Troy Housing Authority clerk Anthony DeFiglio is accused of soliciting 18 ballots and Democratic operative and city council employee Anthony Renna was accused of forging five ballots.

Brown, DeFiglio and Renna pleaded guilty Tuesday to one felony count each and received various sentences. The most severe punishment was for Brown, who will be sentenced to six months in county jail and five years' probation.

In January, McDonough and LoPorto were arraigned on several felony counts. They face trial next month. McInerney pleaded guilty and will cooperate with the prosecution. His sentence has not been determined.
LoPorto and McDonough were charged in January of 2011. One has to wonder if they systematically forged signatures and reasons for not voting in persion on the local ballot, what exactly would stop them from committing electoral fraud of this scope during elections for either the office of governor or President.

Also earlier this year, a former county prosecutor penned a letter to the Justice Department asking to reexamine the probe into allegations that Rensselaer County Democrat Party chairman Thomas Wade pressured county employees to contribute to a campaign fund committee or face termination from their jobs.

Happy Hanukkah From Not Another New England Sports Blog

This is one of those fortuitous years where Christmas and Hanaukkah overlap one another, so you have occasional menorahs and illuminated Stars of David thrown in with the various displays of Christmas lights amoid everything else.

As a semi-practicing Christian, my only encounter with the Jewish Festival of lights was while visiting a sibling in college whose housemates were practicing Jews. As guest, I was invited to light the menorah as they prayed in Hebrew. I'm pleased to say it went smoothly- no structure fires or anything.

Currently, the closest thing I have to a tradition for the Jewish holidays is to post some Rule 5-tastic images of women in uniform (tight, snug uniforms no less) of the Israeli defense forces persuasion.

So I figure I might as well keep a good thing going. Remember, Israel has near-universal consription for Jews over the age of 18, so its not unusual to see men and women from all walks of life serving the IDF in some capacity- even triplets.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Czech Dissident, Playwright and Former President Vaclav Havel Laid to Rest

Former anti-communist dissident and Czech President Vaclav Havel passed away this week at the age of 75. Active in writing and theater, Havel was with Radio Free Czechoslovakia for the reforms of the 1968 Prague Spring and the subsequent invasion from the Soviet Union. After the Soviet quelled the Prague spring, Havel was banned from theater- although his works were clandestinely distributed throughout Czechoslovakia in the 1970s and 1980s.

The 1989 Velvet Revolution saw the collapse of Czechoslovakia's one-party communist rule after days of mass demonstrations and a general strike by Czech and Slovak citizens. Within days, the Communist Part of Czechoslovakia announced that it would dissolve and open up the borders with West Germany and Austria. Elections were called for within a month, and Havel was voted in as president of Czechoslovakia while Alexander Dubček (the secretary of the Communist party who attempted reforms during the Prague Spring) was voted in as the nation's first post-communist speaker of Parliament.

One of Havel's first acts as President was to issue a general amnesty to political prisoners that had been detained by the Communist regime. When Slovakia split apart from the Czech Republic, Havel resigned the presidency claiming he did not want to preside over the nation's breakup (which was pretty amicable compared to elsewhere in Eastern Europe).

However, he stood for election again in early 1993 and won easily, remaining in office for another decade.

Havel passed away on December 18th. His successor- current Czech president Vaclav Klaus announced that a state funeral mass for Havel would be held at St. Vitus' Cathedral in Prague on Thursday.

Among the honors Havel received include the US Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Order of Canada.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Blue State Graft Watch: The Chicago Machine- It's Not As Bad As You Think....It's MUCH Worse

Does anybody remember the hue and cry from the press, the Obama campaign and various other groups after Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani derided 'community organizers' during separate speeches in the 2008 GOP convention?

Why do I bring this up? Because in many cities across the country, including Chicago, gang-bangers, thugs and felons often attempt to continue their criminal activities under the guise of do-godding and yes.....'community organizing'.

According to an article in the January 2012 issue of Chicago magazine, Chicagoland politicians have been forging an unholy alliance with gang members from the Vice Lords, Gangster Disciples or Latin Kings [its a long but very worthwhile read, I might add- NANESB!].
The former chieftains, several of them ex-convicts, represented some of the most notorious gangs on the South and West Sides, including the Vice Lords, Gangster Disciples, Black Disciples, Cobras, Black P Stones, and Black Gangsters. Before the election, the gangs agreed to set aside decades-old rivalries and bloody vendettas to operate as a unified political force, which they called Black United Voters of Chicago. “They realized that if they came together, they could get the politicians to come to them,” explains Baskin.

The gang representatives were interested in electing aldermen sympathetic to their interests and those of their impoverished wards. As for the politicians, says [former gang leader] Baskin, their interests essentially boiled down to getting elected or reelected. “All of [the political hopefuls] were aware of who they were meeting with,” he says. “They didn’t care. All they wanted to do was get the support.”
Politicians and organized crime working together is nothing new in the city that gave us Bugs Moran and Al Capone. Technically, there are no local or state ordinances to prevent politicians from meeting with gang or organized crime leaders. Still, the willingness of some aldermen and state lawmakers to forge an alliance with Chicago's gangs should raise all sorts of ethical questions- even in America's most ethically challenged city.

Typically, candidates backed by gangs such as the Vice Lords or Gangster Disciples can expect manpower for a get-out-the-vote effort on election day as well as campaign contributions of ambiguous and opaque origins. In exchange, the gangs typically expect to have jobs steered to friends and family, lucrative contracts to be awarded to shell companies controlled by them as well as government grants directed to non-profits started by members who insist the thug life is behind them [i.e. 'community organizers'].

Without naming names, some incarcerated gang members also claimed they and their associates routinely provided narcotics and prostitutes to either aldermen or members of their staff.

In 2007, the Feds arrested alderwoman Arenda Troutman on charges of corruption and bribery after accepting $5000 in bribe money from a fictitious developer. Troutman was also romantically involved with the Black Disciples second-in-command in Chicago and her nephew and ex-husband were linked to the Windy City's scandal-plagued Hired Truck program.

Perhaps most disturbingly, the candidates and officeholders who actively solicit support from various gangs will either turn a blind eye or actually aid their ongoing criminal activities, tipping them off about impending raids or ongoing police surveillance while balking at passing any significant ordinances meant to curtail gang activity in their districts.

And just think- currently in the White House is somebody who began their political career in just such an amoral setting!

Today's Train of Thought- Pushing off Into Winter, December 21st, 2011

Today's train of thought for the final day of fall takes us to the Buckeye State.

Here, contributor Tom Habak caught two-tone grey GP40-3 #300 heading westbound on the point of Toledo-bound train 223 through Norwalk, OH in October 2009. Well out of sight, a rebuilt SD40-3 is pushing on the rear.

The #300 arrived on W&LE property from the Union Pacific in armour yellow paint, but after undergoing a rebuild, the yellow portion was replaced with a darker grey (the lighter grey along the top is still from the UP). The locomotive was originally built for the New York Central before being sold to the Chicago & Northwestern. The C&NW was acquired by the Union Pacific in 1995.

The W&LE has demonstrated a penchant for painting their locomotives in colors reminiscent of the Denver, Rio Grande & Western railway (black w/bright orange lettering and stripes) to the point where some of the lcomotives they purchased from Union Pacific still in Rio Grande paint and lettering had been restored to their original DRG&W pain and road numbers. The #300 so far hasn't recieved such tratment because it never logged any time with the Rio Grande.

Interestingly, the towns around Norwalk- such as Danbury, New Haven and Groton- are named after towns and cities in Connecticut as settlers from that state made their way west starting in 1800.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Race Card- Never Leave the Beltway Without It

Attorney General Eric Holder attributed growing calls for his resignation over the Fast & Furious debacle to a "more extreme segment" that is motivated by racism in an interview with the New York Times that was published over the weekend.
In his Times interview, Holder again attacked the media who are covering the scandal. “Mr. Holder contended that many of his other critics — not only elected Republicans but also a broader universe of conservative commentators and bloggers — were instead playing ‘Washington gotcha’ games, portraying them as frequently ‘conflating things, conveniently leaving some stuff out, construing things to make it seem not quite what it was’ to paint him and other department figures in the worst possible light,” Times reporter Charlie Savage wrote in the front page Sunday Times story.
Holder has told the House Oversight Committee that he was unaware of the ATF's Operation Fast & Furious until earlier this year, despite e-mail records showing that his office was regularly briefed about the operation on an ongoing basis.

Fast & Furious allowed suspected straw purchasers to buy quantities of long guns legally on the American side of the border before smuggling them across the border into Mexico where they ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Field-level ATF agents in Arizona were ordered by their superiors to allow the guns to 'walk' across the border, where at least 300 of them have shown up at murder scenes- including the death of US Border Patrol agent Brian Terry last year.

Well....lesser men would've no doubt copped to either incompetence or perjury, Eric "America is a nation of cowards on race" Holder decided to use his skin color to try and get himself one 'Get out of colossal fuckup free' cards, as though Holder and Obama's critics would be fine if it were a white Attorney General facilitating the transfer of American guns to the most dangerous criminal organizations in the Western hemisphere.

Holder's Justice Department has also taken the state of Arizona to Federal court last year over their statewide SB 1070 bill designed to curb illegal immigration, despite never having read the bill himself.

More recently, Holder's Justice Department has reportedly partnered up with the supposedly moribund ACORN to mount a series of legal challenges to the latest round of redistricting and recently passed voter ID legislation in Wisconsin or Texas.

Curiously, Holder and the DoJ didn't seem anywhere near as concerned about New York or Illinois' inability to send off absentee ballots to military personnel in time for last year's midterm elections.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mile High Sports Chowdah Update- Cure For Tebowmania Found; Parlez Vous Perdant? B's Knock off Habs for 5th Straight Win; UL-Lafayette all the Rage

NFL: Q- What's the difference between Tim Tebow and Barack Obama?

A- One is a phony Messiah who fooled a bunch of people after some convincing performances in Denver. The other plays football for the Broncos.

Marc Piscotty/Getty Images
New England came into Mile High Stadium this week looking to clinch the AFC East and snap the Broncos 6-game winning streak on Sunday, which for awhile was looking like a tall order after barely holding off the Washington Redskins last week. Even before Tebow-mania, recent history hadn't been particularly kind to the Patriots at Mile High.

Starting at their own 20, the Broncos methodically marched down the field on the game's opening possession and hit paydirt when QB Tim Tebow rushed into the end zone from the Pats 9 yard line, although the point-after was blocked and returned as far as mid field before the play was blown dead- making it a 6-0 contest.

New England responded in kind, with a quick drive that saw Pats QB Tom Brady connect with TE Aaron Hernandez for a 46 yard catch and carry (most of those yards coming after Hernandez shed some tacklers and started running laterally to pick up some blockers) before Brady completed a 33 yard pass to WR Chad Ochocinco for #85's first TD pass of the season. Gostkowski's PAT was good and New England took a 7-6 lead.

Denver responded to New England's quick, efficient 2:25 scoring drive with an even quicker one of their own, starting from their own 18. Two minutes and 18 seconds later, Broncos RB Lance Ball rushed 32 yards for paydirt and the Broncos went for the pont-after to make it a 13-7 contest. The Patriots would do nothing when they got the ball back (they did get a 1st down thanks to a Denver penalty, but nothing came of it).

The Broncos started on their own 29 and get the ball as far as the Patriots 8 yard line before settling for a short Matt Prater FG to take a 16-7 lead. Curiously, after scoring so swiftly and with such ease to open up the game, that would be the last time the Broncos would find the end zone or split the uprights until the 4th quarter. New England would close the gap to 14-16 on the following drive after Wes Welker was ruled down at the 1 instead of in the end zone on a 19 yard pass from Brady, but Brady was able to connect with Hernandez for paydirt.

On the Broncos next possession, Lance Ball fumbled on the first play and Pats LB Rob Ninkovitch recovered it at the Denver 19 yard line. Althought they got the ball as tantalizingly close as the Broncos 3, they decided to play it relatively safe and opted for a short Gostkowski FG instead of trying to punch it in on 4th down, with New England taking the lead for the first time on Sunday by a 17-16 score.

Denver's next possession would be even more disastrous after Tebow was sacked and Pats DE Mark Anderson came up with the ball. With the short field, New England was able to move inside the Denver red zone and punch it in to make it a 24-16 New England lead.

After Denver's first three and out of the day, New England got the ball back with 40 seconds left in the half. That also turned out to be a 3 and out and with 14 seconds left in the half, Zoltan Mesko punted to Broncos return man Quan Cosby, who fumbled the punt with Dance Fletcher recovering for New England at the Broncos own 17 yard line with 3 seconds remaining. With no time to run a play, the Pats trotted out Gostkowski for a fairly short FG attempt which split the uprights as time expired in the first half, making it a 27-16 game at halftime.

After a halftime show that included a monkey riding a border collie (no- seriously!)the second half was seemingly all New England, with Tebow getting sacked and the Pats adding to their lead on a Danny Woodhead TD run to pad the lead to 34-16. Although Tebow would rush for another TD in the 4th, it was a case of too little too late. New England would get a 4th quarter TD of their own when Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis punched it in on 3rd and goal with 4 minutes and 10 seconds left to put the game away 41-23.

The Broncos haven't lost since October 30th against the Detroit Lions, but even with Sunday's loss, still retain first place in the AFC West.

Their sixth consecutive win, coupled with the New York Jets loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, means that New England clinches their 3rd straight AFC East title and ninth since the 2001 season.

New England will next host Miami on Christmas Eve (day) at 1:00 PM on CBS.

OTHER PATRIOTS NEWS: DE Aaron Carter will require season-ending surgery on his leg. Carter injured his leg in Sunday's contest against the Broncos and had to leave the field on a cart.

OTHER NFL NEWS: In a fairly surprising development that had members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins popping corks, the defending Superbowl Champion Green Bay Packers were handed their first loss of the season by the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

This loss was Green Bay's first regular season (or postseason) loss since December 19, 2010 in Foxborough, MA against the Patriots- nearly a year ago to the day [Altho' there was no Aaron Rogers starting for the Packers that night- NANESB!].

Sunday also marked Romeo Crennel's coaching debut in Kansas City after the Chiefs fired head coach Todd Haley.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: On the flip side of the win/loss ratio, the Indianapolis Colts won their first game of the season on Sunday, defeating the Tennessee Titans by a final of 13-27.

The win actually would put them in jeopardy of losing out on what many are calling 'The Andrew Luck Sweepstakes' [Assuming the #1 overall draft spot in the NFL goes to the Stanford QB- NANESB!], as they are now only a game behind the St Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings.

NHL: What was billed as a clash of the titans for first place on Saturday in the Eastern Conference it turned out it wasn't much of a battle.

The Bruins jumped all over Philly early and often, roughing up the Atlantic Conference-leading Flyers 4-0 by the first intermission before adding two more- one in the 2nd and one in the 3rd. Tim Thomas turned aside all 31 shots he faced on Saturday afternoon in Boston's very convincing 6-0 win.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
For Monday night's game, the Bruins returned to the Garden to face Original 6 archrival Montreal. Over the weekend, the Canadiens fired head coach Jacques Martin and replaced him with interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth. Even though its on an interim basis, the decision to hire a coach who doesn't speak French has met with some backlash from some sectors in Quebec, including the provincial Minister of Culture.

However, on Monday night the Bruins opened up the scoring with a goal from Benoit Pouliot at the 12:13 mark of the 1st before the Habs got the equalizer off the stick of Tomas Plekanec not even a minute later to make it 1-1 heading into the 1st intermission.

Early in the second, David Krejci would break the deadlock to make it 2-1 and later in the 3rd, the Bruins would get the insurance goal from Brad Marchand to make the score 3-1. As it turns out, the Bruins would need that insurance goal as Erik Cole got a late tally for the Habs with less than 3 minutes to go to make it a 1-goal game. However, the Bruins would hold on to win their 5th in a row, with two out of their last three wins coming against opponents in the Northeast Division.

Tim Thomas stopped 33 of 35 shots faced while Montreal's Carey Price made 28 saves on the 31 shots he faced Monday Night. Neither team scored on the power play, with the Bruins failing to capitalize on a double-minor earlier in the game.

Boston will have most of the week off, not playing again until December 23rd [Christmas eve eve? NANESB!] at home against the Florida Panthers. The puck drops at 7 PM and the game will be televised on NESN.

OTHER BRUINS NEWS: Bruins F Milan Lucic received a 1-game suspension for his hit on Philadelphia Flyers C Zac Rinaldo, despite reports citing Rinaldo himself as saying the hit wasn't deserving of additional punishment. Lucic also forfeits more than $22,000 in wages for the hit.

NCAA FOOTBALL: The Bowl season got underway Saturday starting with the 2011 Gildan New Mexico Bowl, where Temple rolled over Wyoming by a 37-15 final [reportedly ratings were down on that one and the organizers were trying to line up a new sponsor from the area- NANESB!].

Later on in the day was the Famous Idaho Potatoes Bowl from Boise, ID. The Utah State Aggies led for most of the game in that one, but trailing 17-23 and with less than 20 seconds to go, Ohio Bobcats QB Tyler Tettleton ran the ball in for the game-tying TD and the point-after attempt was good (not always a given, particularly in the NCAA) to give the Bobcats the 24-23 victory and their first-ever Bowl win.

To cap off Saturday's slate of bowl games was the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl from the Superdome between the San Diego State Aztecs and Louisiana-Lafayette in what was almost literally a home game for the Ragin' Cajuns.

This was Lafayette's first bowl appearance since getting promoted to Division 1 football (now FBS). After entering the 4th quarter trailing 17-26, the Aztecs managed to put together some consistent drives and keep the Ragin' Cajuns out of the end zone before taking a 30-29 lead thanks to an 11 yard reception by Colin Lockett with 53 seconds remaining in the game.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Starting from their own 18 and with 35 seconds remaining, the Ragin' Cajuns got the ball as far as the Aztecs 38 yard line before San Diego State committed a 5 yard offsides penalty with 4 seconds left on the clock. This would put the Ragin' Cajuns a 1st down and more importantly 5 more yards for Lafayette Kicker Brett Baer to split the uprights and give the Ragin' Cajuns their first ever FBS Bowl win by a final of 32-30.

Bowl Week continues with the Beef O'Brady Bowl from St Petersburg, FL featuring Florida International and Marshall on Tuesday night, the Poinsettia Bowl from San Diego between Louisiana Tech and #16 Texas Christian on Wednesday followed by the MAACO bowl from Las Vegas which pits 6-6 Arizona State against #8 Boise State Thursday night.

Photo: San Antonio Express-News, MICHAEL MILLER
NCAA VOLLEYBALL: First of all, I have to thank the NBA owners and players association for their labor dispute.

Why is that, Fenway? you might be asking- and with good reason. Under normal circumstances, the NBA season would've gotten underway in late October. Instead, with the protracted labor dispute there were no games for various regional sports networks such as Fox Sports West or Comcast New England to televise. So what other sport played on the hardwood was televised instead? NCAA Women's volleyball.

Although I've long considered volleyball a fast-paced and involving sport, the fact that there are so many attractive young women playing the game for any number of schools is further incentive to watch- not just the proverbial cherry on top- more like another sundae on top. [Let's see.....if given the choice of professional floppers, loudmouths and thugs versus fit, attractive college-aged women nimbly jumping around in short-shorts patting each other on the tucchus every five minutes- guess which one I'll be dedicating the majority of my time to?- NANESB!]

Sad to say, despite volleyball being invented in New England, schools from New England don't really fare too well in the NCAA Division 1 Volleyball tournament. This year, out of all the schools in New England, only Sacred Heart and Yale qualified for the 2011 Volleyball tournament and neither one of them advanced very far.

This is not due to cold weather neccesarily- Penn State and a number of schools from the midwest show up in the NCAA Finals on a fairly regular basis. In fact, Penn State holds the most Women's Volleyball Titles in the NCAA.

TOM REEL/©2011 San Antonio Express-News
This year was no different, as the Illini advanced to their first ever Divison 1 Women's Volleyball match, pitted against UCLA for the title at San Antionio's Alamodome. For it's part, UCLA hasn't won a title in 20 years, although it did make a few Finals appearences in in the 1990s.

After getting off to a 1-0 lead, the Bruins found themselves knotted up 1-1 after the Illini went on a tear in the second set, but UCLA rallied late to take the 2-1 lead and went on to win the final set from there by a 3-1 final.

The win is UCLA's fourth volleyball title, putting them third all-time behind Penn State (5 titles) and Stamford (six titles). Interestingly, UCLA upended Penn State in this year's semifinals.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Report: North Korean Communist Dictator Kim Il Jong Dead

Kim Jong Il (left) with heir apparent Kim Jong Un (right) in 2010
North Korea's State TV is reporting that 69 year old strongman Kim Il Jong passed away over the weekend. The reports indicate he suffered a fatal heart attack while travelling by train on Saturday.

Kim Il Jong assumed power in 1994 after his father, North Korean founding father Kim Il Sung, passed away at the age of 82. Both Kim Il Sung and Kim Il Jong maintained a belligerent and acrimonious relationship with South Korea, the United States and Japan since the 1953 ceasefire in the Korean War. Kim Il Jong continued his father's legacy of isolating the country from the rest of the world and restricting the individual rights of North Koreans, subjecting them to arbitrary imprisonment or execution.

However, these abuses under Kim Il Jong's were compounded by widespread famine and his ambitions to see North Korea a nuclear state. It's thought that anywhere from 200,000 to 800,000 North Koreans perished annually during the famine that struck the country in the late 1990s.
North Korea at night as seen from space, standing in stark contrast to free-market and much more technologically advanced South Korea

While outside observers such as the United Nations and the CIA noted that North Korea became a nuclear power in 2009, the nation's infrastructure is crumbling, media and telecommunications remain strictly under state control and to this day isn't self-sufficient in providing food for its people.

In South Korea, President Lee Myung-Back convened an emergency national security council meeting and the South Korean military was placed on alert as a precaution, increasing border and maritime patrols.

In March 2010, South Korean Navy Corvette Cheonan was torpedoed by a submarine from the North, killing 46 sailors. Then in November 2010, North Korea shelled a populated island off the coast of South Korea.

According to South Korea's spy agency, Kim Il Jong's ailing health prompted him to prepare an heir apparent to assume power that much quicker. It appears likely that Kim Il Jong's youngest son, Kim Jong-Un will assume power after having been promoted to 4-star general in the North Korean military and was awarded senior level posts in the ruling party.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Today's Train of Though- Coming Soon; Snow.....and More Snow, December 17, 2011

Today's train of thought takes us to a fairly lightly travelled section of the CSX in upstate New York.

Besides being home of the US Army's 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum, Jefferson County, NY gets more than its fair share of snowfall due to the lake effect snow each winter due to its location along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario.

The former New York Central St Lawrence division between Syracuse, NY and Montreal, Quebec was awarded to CSX during the 1999 breakup of Conrail. In addition to through traffic to and from Montreal, traffic along the line also includes military equipment in and out of Ft Drum and interchange with shortlines like the Massena Terminal, Mohawk Adirondack & Northern and New York & Ogdensburg.

In 2010, CSX and Canadian Pacific reached an agreement where CSX shifted traffic off the St Lawrence Subdivision and onto the Delaware & Hudson between Albany, NY and Montreal in exchange for greater access for CP to the New York metropolitan area using trackage rights from CSX and Metro North. This move had led to speculation that CSX is looking to divest itself of the St Lawrence subdivison. A wikipedia entry claimed that the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic was seeking to acquire the line, giving it one contiguous route between Syracuse NY and Eastern Maine via Montreal.

Here, contributor Joe Hance catches CSX Road Slug #2270 (rebuilt from a retired GP30) heading south with a local past the Depot Cafe in Adams Center, NY on October 13, 2008. It's not unusual for the area to already be blanketed by a few inches of snow by this point.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Playing With Fire- Pakistani Firecracker Veena Malik in Hot Water (Again) Over Provacative Magazine Cover

Lollywood actress Veena Malik was once again in the eye of a firestorm of controversy after a racy photo shoot for the cover of the December 2011 issue of FHM India magazine. The pictures show a nude or semi-nude Malik with her arms strategically crossed and the initials 'ISI' stenciled on one of them. The ISI- or Interservices Intelligence Directorate- is Pakistan's national intelligence agency. The text adjacent to the stencil says 'Hand in the end of the world, too?'
Indian newsstand displaying one version of the FHM magazine cover featuring Malik
Granted it doesn't take much to provoke outrage in Pakistan these days, but Malik's photo shoot and the FHM cover have done just that.

For her part, Malik has filed a £3m million defamation suit against the publisher, Maxposure Media Group, claiming the final images used by FHM on the cover were doctored [not sure if she means the nudity, the ISI stencil or both- NANESB!]. FHM and the publisher are reportedly filing a counter suit.

Another version of the FHM India cover features a semi-nude Malik clad only in an ammo belt and clenching the pin of a grenade in her teeth. Both version feature an ISI tattoo on Malik's arm, provoking outrage in her native Pakistan
I think this is the part where I tell you that Malik is no stranger to controversy.

In 2010, the actress testified before cricket's international governing body against her ex-boyfriend- Mohammed Asif from the Pakistani national team- in a match-fixing scandal.

Later that year, she appeared on the Indian version of Big Brother- called Bigg Boss- and raised hackles in her native Pakistan after she was filmed cuddling with one of her housemates on the reality show.

What really put the Pakistani bombshell on the map was her January 2011 on-air confrontation with an Islamic mufti critical her conduct while on the reality show and preforming in Bollywood.

Earlier this year, she was unscathed after her car was totalled in a hit and run collision on an expressway between Lahore and Islamabad, leading some to speculate the accident was an attempt on her life.

Of the uproar in her homeland, Malik said in an interview with the UK's Guardian "This attitude, I'm sorry, is in the society. When they say they have become modern, grown up, that's wrong. They still live in the stone age."

However, shortly after the FHM India magazine hit the newsstands her father disowned her, saying her actions on Indian soil was "the height of humiliation for Pakistan" [Really? The most wanted terrorist leader in the world getting shot dead by US Navy SEALS a few hundred yards from the front gate of Pakistan's equivalent of West Point doesn't rate? NANESB!].

I actually first heard of the FHM cover flap from Weasel Zippers earlier this month, but took my own sweet time updating it despite older articles about Malik drawing increased traffic.

When I finally got around to doing some online searches earlier tonight, Google's auto-suggest hinted at an ominous development when I began typing in 'Veena Malik' and it suggested 'Veena Malik missing'.

Sure enough, the Times of India is reporting that Ms. Malik has gone missing after wrapping up work on her latest film Mumbai 125 Km in Gorageon. The film's director said he received a text message where she apologized for seeming distracted on the set. Her manager has also been unable to get in contact with her.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

One Year Ago Today- Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry Killed in the Line of Duty

Today marks the one year anniversary of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry's death following a shootout with cross-border bandits in Rio Rico, AZ.

While law enforcement is an inherently dangerous profession in and of itself, perhaps the most infuriating aspect of Terry's murder was in how preventable it could've been.

The facts of the case are that during the overnight hours of December 14 and 15, armed Mexican nationals illegally crossed into the USA via a remote section of the US/Mexico border, reportedly to ambush and rip off other illegal border crossers and drug mules- although more recent reports indicate that the raiders were also looking for a confrontation with the Border Patrol as well.

Although records concerning Agent Terry's murder have been sealed, it has been established that two AK-variant guns recovered from the crime scene were from the ATF's 'Operation Fast & Furious' in which over the objections of gun stores and field-level ATF agents, guns purchased by straw buyers were allowed to 'walk'- to cross the US/Mexican border without further survaillance or notifying Mexican law enforcement where they ended up in the hands of cartels and other criminal gangs.

Not surprisingly, the family of Agent Terry is livid and wants to see heads roll at the Justice Department over what's being called a 'botched gunrunning sting'. There has been a number of Congressional hearings in the aftermath of Fast & Furious, but testimony from senior Justice Department officials has often been evasive and contradictory. Moreover, Attorney General Holder has complained that the hearings are politically motivated. During the most recent House Oversight hearings, Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D; TX-18) gushed praise for Holder, called for stricter gun control laws obstensibly to protect law enforcement and couldn't even remember Agent Terry's name while reading her boilerplate 'condolances' off of a rambling script.

Earlier this week, the Brian Terry Memorial Act passed unanimously in the House of Representatives and is awaiting action from the Senate. The act would rename the Border Crossing station in Bisbee, AZ in honor of Agent Terry.

Dispatches from The Wonder Years

While growing up in the hinterlands of Western New England, the rabbit ears would catch the signal from the nearest ABC affiliate often enough for me to see The Wonder Years on a pretty regular basis.

The story centered around the day-to-day exploits of adolescent Kevin Arnold (played by Fred Savage) and his family growing up in the suburbs- presumably in an unnamed California municipality- during the tumultuous late 1960s while his older self was often narrating events off screen with the benefit of some introspection and hindsight 20 years later.

And what TV or cinematic depiction of adolescent slice-of-life would be complete without a first crush? In the Wonder Years, that was the button-cute Winnie Cooper (played by Danica McKellar) who would have an on-again, off-again relationship with protagonist Kevin as the series progressed. Interestingly, the recurring role of Kevin Arnold's antagonistic classmate Becky Slater went to Danica's younger sister Crystal.

The series remained on the air until the 1990s and has since been airing in Syndication on the Nickelodeon networks. I'm not 100% sure what the appeal was for me at the time- while there were a few similarities, it wasn't as though the protagonist's life and mine followed similar trajectories [altho we both ended up working for a Chinese restaurant in high school; there was no Wonder Years episode that centered around heavy snowfall or moving out of state, things didn't go nearly as well with my 1st crush and I don't recall Kevin Arnold spending two weeks at Volleyball camp where he was the only male out of 20 or so people. I'm just sayin'- NANESB!].

After the Wonder Years run, Savage would go on to act in some films and other TV Series, including Working and direct episodes of Ugly Betty, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Modern Family and Two Broke Girls.

Danica McKellar, on the other hand, hasn't been quite as visible in TV or film since the Wonder Years wrapped up. 'Why is that?' you might be asking 'What has she been up to since then? Shoplifting? DUI? Drug Possession? Assault conviction? Rehab?'.

Worse than any of those.

She's on Twitter.

Wonder Years star McKellar (in yellow) on USO Tour with Salma Hayek, Garrett Morris and Johnny Grant in 1999- Life Magazine photo
Actually, before the advent of either Twitter or social networking, McKellar earned my gratitude as an infantryman in the United States Army when she toured with Salma Hayek, Saturday Night Live's Garrett Morris and radio personality (and USO ambassador) Johnny Grant with the USO in the late 1990s, visiting the troops in Kosovo.

Usually when I use the phrase MENSA, I typically do so in the snarkiest and most ironic manner possible, but McKellar has demonstrated a MENSA-caliber intellect when it comes to mathematics. While she has managed to land a few roles post Wonder Years, McKellar graduated from UCLA Summa Cum Laude in 1998 and its safe to say is the only child star out there who has a mathematical theorem bearing her name; the Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theorem.

Danica has also gone on to write a pair of books designed to make mathematics studies more appealing to teenage girls- Math Doesn't Suck and Kiss My Math. She also was kind enough to strip down to her lingerie and do some photo shoots for Stuff and Maxim in 2005 and 2010.

While on Twitter the other night, somebody in my timeline had less-than-kind things to say about McKellar's Winnie Cooper character. I replied that she gets a pass as far as I'm concerned because A) She toured with the USO while I was still serving and B) when all is said and done, it's just a TV show.

While checking my account a few hours later, I was pleasantly surprised to receive this message from 'Winnie Cooper' herself.

I have to say, that made my evening. I wasn't really expecting to hear from her at all, and I'm glad to hear from Danica herself that touring with the USO left an impression on her.

These days, McKellar is keeping busy by raising a family, getting ready to release a 3rd math-centric book and has landed some leading roles in a few SyFy Network movies as well as some guest appearances on CBS's The Big Bang Theory [which given the premise of the show, would seem to be right up her alley. Not sure if they have her typecast as 'hot mathematician' yet- NANESB!]. Her son Draco, who just turned 1 in September, had already been to his first Dodgers game.

So just in case there was any question, yes- girl-next-door Winnie Cooper is all grown up.

Although she's spoken for, if that seemingly all-to-rare combination of beauty and brains holds any appeal to you, in addition to her twitter feed, you can also see what Danica's been up to lately at her official website as well as her Facebook page.

Just don't quiz her on the Wonder Years- she may not do as well as you'd expect.

Say- did I mention that McKellar was on the same USO tour as Salma Hayek? Ah, to be driving the Humvee carrying the both of them....

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Todays Train of Thought- Iron Range Rollers, December 14, 2011

Today's train of thought takes us to Northern Minnesota's Iron Range and is something of a blast from the past.

While many people have no doubt associated Minnesota with terrible football, Garrison Keilor and seemingly endless, flat farmland, the northeastern corner along Duluth and the western and northern shore of Lake Superior is both hilly, forested and home to iron ore and taconite mines.

Throughout most of its history, the Duluth Missabe and Iron Range has essentially acted as a conveyor belt for hauling ore and limestone from the mines to the west of Duluth, MN and Superior, WI to the massive loading docks along Lake Superior in Two Harbors, MN.

After Canadian National's 2001 purchase of the Wisconsin Central, a short 10-mile gap existed in the Twin Harbors area between the former WC line between Superior, WI and Chicago and CN's Duluth Winnipeg & Pacific between the Twin Harbors and Winnipeg, MB. In May 2004, Canadian National purchased the DM&IR as well as Pennsylvania's Bessemer & Lake Erie from Great Lakes Transportation, closing the 10-mile gap between Winnipeg & Chicago (while still continuing to operate ore trains between the mines and docks).

Here, contributor Dave Schauer caught DM&IR SD38-2 #213 and a pair of maroon SD40T-2s trailing while coasting down Proctor Hill in Duluth, MN with a loaded ore train bound for one of the docks amid peak fall colors in October 2004, a few months after the CN takeover.

Such scenes are impossible to repeat today, as the SD38s have been sold, retired or scrapped and although some of the SD40T-2 Tunnel Motors remain, they gave since been repainted into CN colors.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sports Chowdah Fit For A King- Mr. Gronkowski Goes To Washington; Royal Flush- Kings Quickly Find Themselves Blanked; O Romeo, O Romeo; MVP on PEDs?

For awhile, the cheerleaders for the 4-8 Redskins had something to cheer about in Sunday's close contest with the New England Patriots. Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

NFL: The New England patriots managed to win their 5th game in a row on Sunday, holding off the Washington Redskins late in the 4th quarter at FedEx field in Landover, MD.

New England would take a 34-27 lead late in the 3rd on a Brady to Welker TD catch and run. After Redskins CB Josh Wilson picked off Brady in the end zone late in the 4th, the Redskins started out on their own 20 for their final possession, managing to march down inside Patriots 10 yard line on 10 plays in the span of 4 and a half minutes. However, just when the Redskins looked like they were going to punch it in the tie the contest up at 34-34, Washington QB Rex Grossman was picked off by LB Jerod Mayo with 22 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter, bringing Brady and the offense out to take a knee and preserve the 34-27 win.

Brady went 22-37 with 357 yards, 3 TDs and the late pick while the Redskins' Grossman was 19-32 with 2 TDs and an interception.

Rob Gronkowski had 6 catches for 160 yards and 2 TDs while Wes Welker caught 7 for 86 yards and 1 TD. Perhaps somewhat alarmingly, the Patriots allowed 463 total yards to the NFC East cellar-dwelling Redskins on Sunday, an clear indication they need to start getting their proverbial shit together ahead of Sunday's game at Mile High in Denver.

In a development that has no doubt shifted attention from why exactly the Bruins benched Tyler Seguin in Winnipeg last week, Tom Brady and offensive coordinator got into a shouting match over the late pick, although both parties insist that's behind them and they're focused on the Denver game coming up this weekend during separate press conference earlier this week.

We're at the flex-schedule portion of the NFL season, where they can slot a Sunday afternoon game into the Sunday Night Football slot on NBC if they feel the matchup would've been a bigger draw. With that in mind, I'm a little surprised that the Patriots and Broncos weren't bumped up to the prime-time Sunday night matchup [NBC had opted to stick with the originally scheduled Chargers vs Ravens game, which while decent, isn't as compelling as Brady and Tebow going head-to-head for the 1st time- even if you aren't a Broncos or Pats fan- NANESB!].

The game will kick off at 4:15 PM ET, 1:15 PM Pacific on CBS.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL: With the Broncos come-from-behind performance against the Chicago Bears, I'm honestly a little surprised there isn't more buzz nationwide for this upcoming New England/Denver game.

After taking a 10-0 lead early in the 4th quarter thanks to a 57 yard Robbie Gould FG, the Bears would then go on to give up a TD and a 59-yard Matt Prater FG in the last two minutes and eight seconds of regulation to knot the contest up at 10-10 and force OT. Although the Bears would get the ball first in the OT, RB Marion Barber would fumble on the Broncos 38 yard line.

QB Tim Tebow would move the ball as far as the bears 34 yard line before kicker Matt Prater would split the uprights with a 51 yard FG to give Denver the 13-10 win in OT, good for their 6th straight and the AFC West lead.

KANSAS CITY: Former Patriots defensive coordinator and Cleveland Brown head coach Romeo Crennell has been named interim head coach of the Kansas City after the Chiefs fired head coach Todd Haley. Crennell had been the Chiefs defensive coordinator this season.
AP Photo
NCAA FOOTBALL: With nothing on the line other than bragging rights or pride, the NCAA regular season wrapped up on Saturday with the 112th Army-Navy game. Typically the teams meet in Philadelphia, but this season the game was played at FedEx Field in Landover, MD.

This year's game had a much more brisk pace to it and both offenses seemed to click, unlike in recent years where it was either a lopsided blowout or a defensive slog that could decided by a pivotal turnover or goal-line stand. Although Navy got out to a 14-0 lead before Army got on the board thanks to a 34 yard TD run by Black Knights QB Trent Steelman with 4 and a half minutes to go before the half before tying the contest up at 14-14 with 55 seconds to go in the half.

However, after tying the contest up in the 3rd at 21-21, Navy began to pull away with a pair of FG's in the 4th that were the difference makers. Although much closer than the previous couple of Army-Navy games, the end result is still the same. Navy goes on to win the Army-Navy game for the 10th year in a row by a final of 27-21. A side note of interest is that this is the last game before Navy QB Alexander Teich goes on to Navy SEAL training.

ELSEWHERE IN NCAAF: Coming off an impressive 5-game win streak, including upending the #5 Oklahoma Sooners, Baylor Bears QB Robert Griffin III was awarded the Heisman trophy this weekend. Griffin beat out early favorite Andrew Luck from Stanford for the honor. The 6ft 2 Junior had 3,998 yards and 36 TDs for the Bears this season, good enough for a 9-3 record and an invite to the Alamo Bowl where they will face the Washington Huskies on 12/29.

FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SUBDIVISION: Maine's Warren Smith threw for 2 TDs and 229 yards on Saturday against Georgia Southern in Statesboro, GA, but was picked off in the Black Bears 35-23 loss to Georgia Southern in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

This sets up a semifinal where Georgia Southern faces North Dakota State while Sam Houston State will face Montana to see who advances to the FCS title game in Frisco, TX on January 7th.

NHL: After snapping a 2-game losing streak in Columbus in a contest that saw Zdeno Chara leave with a lower body injury and Claude Julien pull Thomas for Rask after falling behind 2-0, the Bruins managed to go on and win (thanks in no small part to Joe Corvo) by a 5-3 final before returning to the garden to face the Los Angeles Kings Tuesday night.

The Kings, with issues of their own, had fired head coach Terry Murray and were coming into Boston riding a 4 game losing streak.

Tuesday night's game was mostly Tukka Rask and Brad Marchand. Rich Peverly got the B's on the board in the 1st, beating Kings goali Jonathan Quick with 6:32 to go in the opening period before Marchand would thoughtfully add two more of his own- one in the 2nd and one in the 3rd- while Tukka Rask would stop all 41 shots he faced. Neither team converted on the power play and Quick would allow in 3 goals on 22 shots faced on the night.

So after losing two in a row, the Bruins have a modest 2-game win streak that they'll hoping they can add on to when they hit the road in Ottawa on Wednesday night.

OTHER BRUINS NEWS: Zdeno Chara is listed as day-to-day and may be out until Christmas with some sort of left knee injury. He's reportedly not travelling with the team to Ottawa, but is listed as day-to-day.

Center Zach Hammill was called up from the Providence Bruins on an emergency basis and was put into the 4th line, netting an assist in Tuesday night's shutout of LA.

OTHER NHL NEWS: Rival Canadian Telecom providers Bell [TSX: BCE/NYSE: BCE] and Rogers Communications [TSX: RCI-A' RCI-B/NYSE: RCI] have paired up to purchase a 75% stake in the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund have sold their majority stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to Rogers Sportsnet and Bell Canada for a whopping $1.3 billion. The partnership is an awkward one as Bell and Rogers are competitors in communications. Bell also owns a small part of the Montreal Canadiens on top of it all.
The recent lack of activity from Wayne Gretzky's loquacious (and hot) daughter's twitter account led to speculation that the Great One was forming a group to purchase the OTPPF's stake of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment and was trying to pre-empt any social-media meltdowns that would end up reflecting poorly on #99.

PITTSBURGH: Penguins star Center Sidney Crosby will reportedly miss additional time due to what's described as 'concussion-like symptoms'. Crosby hasn't seen ice-time since last weeks 3-1 home loss to the Bruins and reports are circulating that he may be out indefinitely.

NCAA HOOPS: With 9.4 seconds left to go in Saturday's #8Xavier/Cincinnati game, a melee followed when Xavier senior guard Tu Halloway taunted the Cincinnati bench. That led to a bench clearing brawl in which players from both teams punched, kicked, elbowed and stomped each other, some of them coming away with open gashes on their faces.

Each team has suspended 4 players and some are questioning the future of the crosstown rivalry.

SYRACUSE: A New York state prosecutor who interviewed two of assistant coach Bernie Fine's accusers says he found the men to be credible, but no action could be taken because the statute of limitations had passed. Two former ballboys for the Orangemen have accused Fine of molelsting them over an ongoing period and have recently filed suit against the University

MLB: National League MVP Ryan Braun has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and could face a fine and 50-game suspension if the initial findings are upheld, ESPN reports.

Braun is disputing the findings through arbitration and a spokesman said that 'Highly unusual cirumstances' surrounding his case will eventually prove his innocence.

Canada Announces Withdrawl From Kyoto Climate Change Treaty

In a continuing trend of showing better judgement than their American counterparts, the Conservative government of Canadian PM Stephen Harper announced this week at a United Nations climate conference announced that they were invoking their right to no longer participate in the 1997 Kyoto protocols which were purportedly designed to reduce greenhouse emissions among industrialized nations.

The previous ruling government had initially signed onto the treaty, but Harper's Environment minister Peter Kent said that the Kyoto treaty as it's structured did nothing to address pollution from growing economies such as Brazil and China while putting an onerous economic burden on Canada if it were to comply with Kyoto.
Kent's announcement comes a day after marathon climate talks wrapped up in the South African port city of Durban.

Canada faced international criticism at the recent climate talks in South Africa amid reports it would pull out of Kyoto.

Harper's Conservative government is reluctant to hurt Canada's booming oil sands sector, which is the country's fastest growing source of greenhouse gases and a reason it has reneged on its Kyoto commitments.

Canada has the world's third largest oil reserves, more than 170 billion barrels. Daily production of 1.5 million barrels from the oil sands is expected to increase to 3.7 million in 2025. Only Saudi Arabia and Venezuela have more reserves. But critics say the enormous amount of energy and water needed in the extraction process increases greenhouse gas emissions.
Among the proposals floated around the Durban conference was a punitive 'climate tax' on American goods exported and the establishment of an international 'climate court' designed to redistribute wealth from industrialized nations to developing countries.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lowe Blow- 'Hip Hop Mogul' and CA State Senator Blast Home Improvement Retailer Lowe's For Pulling Ads From TLC's 'All American Muslim'

Def Jam records founder Russel Simmons has condemned home improvement retail chain Lowe's [NYSE: LOW] for their recent announcement that they were pulling their ads from the TLC Channel's All-American Muslim program.

The man who made his fortune from gangsta' rap and promoting the thug lifestyle before moving on to throw his lot in with Occupy Wall Street has accused the North Carolina-based chain of bigotry and Islamophobia after Lowe's announced they were pulling their advertisements on the show.

The reality show, which is filmed in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, MI, showcases the day to day goings-on of five Lebanese shi'a families in America's largest Muslim community and airs on Silver Springs, MD based Discovery Communications [NASDAQ: DISCA, DISCB & DISCK] TLC Channel.

Lowe's was one of dozens of companies to pull their advertising from the show amid declining ratings and letters from groups like Florida Family Association urging them to withdraw their ads.

For some unknown reason, California State Senator Ted Leiu (D- Torrance) decided to jump into the fray, issuing a shrill press release calling for a boycott of Lowe's as well as 'legislative remedies'. What 'legislative remedy' a state senator from California thinks he can impose on a North Carolina-based company that withdrew its ads from a TV show filmed in the Detroit area and airing Maryland-based TV network, I have no idea. It's also worth noting that State Senators in California are limited to two terms, so I suspect that that Leiu has his eyes on running for another office once he's finished with the State senate in Sacramento, and his threatening Lowe's with some unspecified legislative action for a fairly routine and legal business decision is an attempt to further gain status among liberal voters in his Los Angeles County district [WHEW! Good thing California doesn't have things like 12% unemployment or a $265 Billion debt to worry about! On second thought, maybe its best progressive Democrats like Leiu are distracted by his dog and pony show targeting Lowe's and kept away from the levers of power- NANESB!]

Of course, there could be a staggeringly obvious reason behind the furor of Lowe's dropping their ads from All American Muslim that everybody seems to be overlooking, and that would simply be an attempt to boost the shows ratings, which have been sliding after a strong start.
All-American Muslim started out strong with 1.7 million viewers and a 0.9 share of adults 18-49, the demographic most coveted by advertisers. Advertisers will pay money for low-rated shows so long as they have a high 18-49 share. But by the second episode it had lost 600,000 viewers and its 18-49 share was down to 0.5. The week after that it was the lowest rated cable show on the top 100 for the night. And last week’s episode was bad enough that it appears to have fallen out of the top 100 completely.
If it were a reality show centered around a less sensitive subject, then nobody could fault Lowe's or other sponsors for yanking their ads.

Full disclosure- I have not seen an episode of All American Muslim for myself. I did see an ad for it during one of the NFL games a few weeks ago, and while I thought the premise was intriguing for all of 5 seconds, I lost interest when one of the women on the show reassures viewers "I don't have a camel in my backyard". My only reaction to that was Lady- given the actions of Nidal Hasan, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, Hasan Akhbar and Faisal Shahzahd, whether or not you have a camel in your backyard is the LEAST of my concerns.
For the record, the lovely young woman above is Noor Al Maleki- the daughter of Iraqi immigrants and what some might consider an 'All American Muslim'. Unfortunately, Noor was run down by her father in a Peoria, AZ parking lot in October 2009 and died of her injuries a few weeks later. Her father fled the country but was later arrested and sentenced to 34 years in prison.

Noor's father was upset at her for becoming too Westernized and reportedly rejected an arranged marriage to an Iraqi groom when she was 17. She moved into her own apartment at age 19, but was reportedly harassed by her father at work, insisting she return home to her parents in the months leading up to her murder and the attempted murder of her boyfriend's mother.

It's not as though I think the families depicted in 'All-American Muslim' are phonies or bad people [again, I haven't actually seen the show, so I'm withholding judgement- NANESB!] it's just that people should be wary of murderous acts like this getting whitewashed, minimized or omitted altogether in both the promotion of TLC's 'All American Muslim' and the shrill accusations of bigotry and islamophobia from Simmons or Leiu.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Islamic Cleric Issues Edict Prohibiting Muslim Women From Handling Cucumbers & Other Produce

Harmless cartoon charchter or unstoppable corrupter of unsuspecting Muslimahs? You decide.
A European-based Islamic cleric has reportedly issued an edict that would prevent women from handling cucumbers, zucchini, bananas or carrots to avoid impure thoughts.
An Islamic cleric living in Europe reportedly has warned Muslim women not to get too close to bananas, cucumbers or other produce -- to avoid having “sexual thoughts.”

The unnamed cleric, whose directive was featured in an article in el-Senousa, a religious publication, purportedly said that if women wanted to eat these foods, a third party -- preferably a male related to them, such as their father or husband -- should cut the items into small pieces before serving, the Egyptian website Bikya Masr reported. said the cleric, identified only as a sheikh, was asked in the interview how to “control” women when they are shopping for groceries, and whether holding these items at the market would be bad, to which he replied that the matter was between them and God
Apparently there's some doubt about the cleric or whether or not there was even an edict that was issued in the first place, as the only source of the El Sanousa article was Bikya Masr.
But the mere suggestion of a strict order for Muslim women handling food has been enough to send people to website forums and Twitter to air their indignation.

Danish/Lebanese journalist Helen Hajjij tweeted on Wednesday: “So if Muslim women should stay away from cucumbers and bananas, should men stay away from melons?”