Saturday, March 31, 2012

Iron Horse Roundup for March 2012



A pair of former Quebec, North Shore & Labrador SD40-2s are seen on the Wellsboro & Corning at Tioga Jct, PA hauling a cut of empty sand hoppers north to the Norfolk Southern interchange in Corning, NY in June 2010 Dave Seitzer photo
WELLSBORO & CORNING- Shortline operator Rail America [NYSE- RA] has joined the natural gas bonanza along Pennsylvania's northern tier with their purchase of a majority stake in the 38-mile Wellsboro & Corning railroad at the beginning of February.

The deal is worth an estimated $18 million and gives Jacksonville, FL-based Rail America a 70% stake in the northern Pennsylvania railroad. Previous owner Tom Myles and his family retain a 30% share of the railroad, which has benefited considerably from increased drilling and exploration for natural gas along the Marcellus shale- a formation that stretches from southern Tennessee to the Adirondack foothills in Upstate New York.


Formed in 1992 from an abandoned Conrail (nee New York Central) line, the Wellsboro & Corning operated with a single SW8 for the lines sparse traffic. The end-cab switcher was eventually sold to another Pennsylvania railroad and the WCOR would end up leasing power from the Norfolk Southern. While the first natural gas wells were being drilled in Northern Pennsylvania, Myles had just purchased the line and reportedly pinned the Wellsboro & Corning's future on shipping outbound wood chips and lumber from Tigoa County, PA. However, increased natural gas drilling in the area led to 60+ unit sand trains meant the Wellsboro, PA based shortline would need additional horsepower. In early 2010, that horsepower arrived in the form of four 3000HP SD40-2s that last saw service with Quebec ore hauler Quebec, North Shore & Labrador.



Pan Am GP9 #52 was released from the Waterville, ME shops as the second unit in Pan Am's 'Heritage' program towards the end of 2011. Painted in vintage Maine Central colors, the #52 is seen leading local SAPPI-3 freight back into the Waterville, ME yard in December 2011. Justin Franz photo
PAN AM RAILWAYS- Following up GP9 #77 being repainted in the Boston & Maine's maroon and gold 'Minuteman' paint scheme over the summer, Pan Am released a second 'heritage' unit from their former Maine Central Waterville, ME shops in December.

Pan-Am GP9 #52 was painted in a green and yellow paint scheme and lettered for Pan-Am/Guilford predecessor Maine Central. The unit was immediately put into service on Waterville-based local SAPPI-3.

There are unconfirmed reports that Pan Am may release an additional 'heritage' painted unit in Boston & Maine's McGinness-era paint scheme known as 'bluebirds'.


Marquette Rail SD40-2 #3001 is seen with two lease units idling at White Cloud, MI with a northbound freight from Grand Rapids to Baldwin awaiting a re-crew in August 2011. Michael Biehn photo
MARQUETTE RAIL- In a seperate transaction, Rail America announced in February that they had agreed to acquire 126-mile Michigan railroad Marquette Rail for $40 million- pending final adjustments for working capital.

The employee-owned Marquette Rail operates between Grand Rapids and Manistee, MI with a branch to Ludington, MI. Traffic include chemicals, paper and pulp. The company purchased the lines from CSX in late 2005.

Marquette Rail will become the 5th shortline or regional railroad in the Wolverine State to fall under the Rail America umbrella, joining Mid Michigan Railroad, Grand Rapids & Eastern, Michigan Shore and Huron & Eastern.


Norfolk Southern's Southern Railway-painted 'Heritage' GE ES44AC is seen leading Chattanooga, TN to Harrisburg, PA mixed freight 38Q north/east through Telford, TN on March 23rd. Tony King photo.
NORFOLK SOUTHERN- Not to be outdone by Pan Am or Union Pacific in the 'retro' department, Norfolk Southern recently announced an amibitous 'Heritage' program of their own.

The first three locomotives from the Norfolk Southern heritage program- painted for Conrail, Southern and the Nickel Plate- were unveiled earlier this month and put into revenue service.

The Class 1 carrier plans a total of 18 units being painted into 'Heritage' colors, including Erie, Norfolk & Western, Central New Jersey, Wabash, Lehigh Valley, Illinois Terminal, New York Central, Virginian, Savannah & Atlanta, Delaware, Lackawana & Western, the original Norfolk Southern, Interstate Railroad, Central of Georgia, Reading Railroad and`the Pennsylvania Railroad. The first three NS Heritage units were GE ES44AC GEVOs, but Norolk Southern anticipates applying the Heritage colors to nine brand new GE locomotives and nine new EMD SD70ACE locomotives.

Interestingly, Norfolk Southern has also set up their own account on railpictures.net to display pictures of the various heritage locomotives.

Interestingly, both Norfolk Southern and CSX still have a number of locomotives in service that are still in Conrail blue that were never repainted from their 1999 takeover of Conrail. Consolidated Rail Corp- better known as Conrail- was formed in 1976 by cobbling together struggling northeast and rust belt carriers Penn Central, Erie Lackawana, Lehigh Valley, Reading, Central New Jersey and the Lehigh and Hudson River.



New England Central GP38 #3857, Providence & Worcester GP38-2 #2008 and E9B #668 lead a joint NECR/P&W/CN office car special south across the White River in W. Hartford, VT on February 7th 2012. The train is approaching White River Jct and will continue south to Worcester, MA. Shaun McGinniss photo
NEW ENGLAND CENTRAL/PROVIDENCE & WORCESTER- The Providence & Worcester and Rail America's New England Central and operated an Office Car special between St Albans, VT and Worcester, MA in February. The special was to highlight the potential for officials from the Canadian National to utilize the two New England regional railroads to access shippers in the Boston area and operated on the NECR line south of Palmer, MA to P&W's Willamantic Branch before returning north to Worcester on P&W Rails. Officials from the three railroads are hoping the route can help them compete with CSX's former Boston & Albany mainline between Selkirk, NY and Beacon Hill yard in Boston, MA and Norfolk Southern and Pan Am Railway's joint Patriot Corridor between Mechanicville, NY and Ayer, MA.

Ironically, the St Albans, VT to New London, CT NECR mainline used to be operated by Central Vermont- a subsidiary of Canadian National- before the line was spun off to RailTex (later Rail America) in the mid 1990s. However, the Central Vermont didn't enjoy the close degree of cooperation with the Providence & Worcester that the NECR does today.

This would be the second Office Car Special with officials from a Canadian class 1 carrier to operate over the NECR and P&W in the last few months. An OCS between Whitehall, NY and Worcester, MA via Rutland VT and the Vermont Railway was supposed to take place over the 2011 Labor Day weekend, but serious damage to the Vermont Railway and NECR lines in the wake of Hurricane Irene meant that the OCS was postponed until October. That OCS also had officials from the Vermont Railway and Canadian Pacific to highlight the VTRR's Green Mountain Gateway between Whitehall, NY and Bellows Falls, VT. Canadian Pacific already sends unit ethanol trains from North Dakota to Providence, RI via the Green Mountain Gateway to the NECR and Providence & Worcester. Additional traffic could be sent through the Green Mountain Gateway as Pan Am is starting a project to improve clearence for double-stack containers at the 4.75 mile Hoosac Tunnel.

OTHER NEW ENGLAND CENTRAL NEWS- By late December 2011, all Florida East Coast GP40-2s and SD40-2s on NECR property had their FEC markings removed. The FEC 'Hurricane' nose logo was replaced by a New England Central herald and lettering on the sides of the units.


Soo Line 2-8-2 #1003 seen passing through Fairwater, WI with vintage freight cars in October 2010, about a month before being pulled from service for her FRA-mandated 15 year boiler inspection. Tom Binger photo
WISCONSIN- After being taken out of service for her 15 year boiler inspection in late 2010, the owners of Soo Line 2-8-2 #1003 have announced that the 1913-built Mikado will return to steam.

The announcement was made on the 1003's website and credits Wisconsin & Southern president William Gardner with a significant donation towards the #1003's eventual return to service- the #1003 would often haul excursions over rails operated by the WSOR while she was in service. The total cost of the neccesary boiler work is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $400,000.

Things are looking quite promising for steam in the upper Midwest. In addition to the Soo Line #1003's scheduled return to service, the nearby Mid Continent Railway Museum has announced plans to restore Chicago & Northwestern 4-6-0 #1385 to service and has already recieved a $250,000 challenge grant towards the full restoration of the 1907-built ten wheeler. Over in the Twin Cities, the Milwaukee Road #261 could return to service as soon as this fall and the Minnesota Transportation Museum is currently restoring Northern Pacific 4-6-2 #2156.



CEFX SD9043MAC is seen leading sister #130 and two dead-in-transit Vermont Railway EMDs past the entrance of Okemo ski resort outside of Ludlow, VT with Rutland-Bellows Falls train #263. Kevin Burkholder photo.

VERMONT RAILWAY- The Vermont Railway System is currently testing a pair of SD9043MACs on their Green Mountain route to evaluate their ability in hauling heavy freight trains over the Rutland-Bellows Falls Green Mountain line.

The Vermont Railway, New England Central and Providence & Worcester have been promoting the Green Mountain Gateway in recent years with some success, resulting in heavier unit coal and ethanol trains moving through the Green Mountains to and from the Canadian Pacific/Vermont Railway interchange in Whitehall, NY. However, the advent of unit ethanol trains from Canadian Pacific destined for Providence, RI in March 2010 highlighted the VTRR's need for bigger locomotives and additional power when the initial 80-car train required most of the Vermont Railway roster to clear the Green Mountains. Currently, the 80-car trains are split in two at Rutland and moved to the NECR interchange at Bellows Falls, VT in 40-car sets while the empties return to Canadian Pacific with 80 cars.

The SD9043MACs are rated at 4300 HP each and features AC Traction motors and radial steering trucks. CEFX #125 was previously in service with Four Rivers Transportation's Appalachian & Ohio and wears an A&O hearald on its long hood.

Interestingly, this is not the first time VTRR has tested CEFX SD9043MACs on the Green Mountain route. In 2000 CEFX #138 and #139 also underwent evaluation on the Green Mountain line, although it was 10 years before heavy unit trains would regularly appear on the VTRR.

Should the Vermont Railway purchase the new EMDs, they would join the Indiana Railroad and Montana Rail Link as shortlines or regionals who have purchased late model EMDs new from the manufacturer in recent years.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Happy National Cleavage Day From Not Another New England Sports Blog!

You know how some people grouse about how holidays like Valentines Day were merely concocted by Hallmark or FTD to sell flowers and cards?

Not surprisingly, you could accuse National Cleavage Day of being just such a contrived holiday and you would be 100% correct, although I think the purveyors of the March 30th holiday would gladly wear it on their sleeves- or perhaps another garment.


National Cleavage Day actually got its start 10 years ago in South Africa as a promotion by WonderBra and South African radio station 5FM [which I guess would make it INTERnational Cleavage Day- NANESB!]. Over the last 10 years, National Cleavage day was bumped from early April to late March.


For some reason, a holiday designed to sell women's undergarments by highlighting bosoms seemed to gain popularity outside of South Africa. In London, lingerie retailer Ann Summers marked the occasion with a parade of women parading down Oxford Street clad in nothing more than the retailers line of lingerie.


Jayne Mansfield- ahead of her time when it came to National Cleavage Day- Sophia Loren seems to agree.
The WonderBra promoted holiday quickly became one of the top trending topics on twitter on Friday. WonderBra is a subsidiary of Hanes Brands international [NYSE: HBI] although other retailers have managed to capitalize on the holiday as well, as demonstrated by the exhibitionist flash mob in London earlier today.


Given that we're so close to opening day for the Red Sox as well as the goregeous women who are frequently seen in the stands at Fenway, I figured I shouldn't overlook Red Sox Nation's contribution to National Cleavage Day.

Things Get Progressively Worse For Keith Olbermann as He's Abruptly Dismissed From Al Gore's Current TV

I don't mean to keep on picking on journeyman liberal pundit Keith Olbermann, but he seems to be setting himself up for further abuse more than usual lately.

On Friday afternoon, the network that aired Olbermann's Countdown show abruptly announced that he had been fired his show had cancelled. Current TV announced that they would be replacing Countdown with a new show called Viewpoint hosted by former New York governor Eliot Spitzer.
The left-leaning cable network announced just hours before airtime on Friday that Olbermann's show "Countdown" would be replaced with a new program called "Viewpoint" hosted by former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, beginning that night.

Shortly after, Current announced his hiring — reportedly with a five-year, $50-million contract — as the start of an effort to transform the network's prime-time slate into progressive talk. His official title was chief news officer, charged with providing editorial guidance for all of the network's political news, commentary and current events programming.

In a statement, Current TV founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt said the network was "founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it."
After being fired from MSNBC in January 2011, Olbermann arrived at Al Gore's Current TV in June 2011. Olbermann's firing from MSNBC occurred shortly after General Electric sold off its majority share of NBC Networks to Comcast Networks.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that Olbermann's MSNBC show was singled out for praise from members of Al Qaeda according to documents seized by US Navy SEALS during a raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Today's Train of Thought- Cold Turkey, March 29, 2012


Today's Train of Thought takes us to the White Mountain State and seems determined to show us that not all birds head south for the winter.

The turkey was said to have disappeared from New Hampshire back in the 19th century, but was reintroduced in the 1970s after a previous failed attempt. According to the New Hampshire Deparment of Fish and Game, the turkey population in the state is at an estimated 25,000 give or take a few toms that wander in front of freight trains.

Here, NE Rail Photo Archive Contributor Jerimiah F Cahill catches a rafter of wild turkeys waddling across the tracks ahead of Pan Am Southern local NA-1. GP40 #328 is in charge on a snowy February 17, 2009 at Merrimack, NH as future thanksgiving feasts try and clear the tracks.

Mic Check! Obama Promises Russian President More 'Flexibility' in Second Term For Scaling Back Missile Defense in Unguarded Moment

Nucance this all you want, Democrats and Obama 2012 Campaign, but sometimes the simplest explanation is the most likely.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — President Barack Obama told Russia's leader Monday that he would have more flexibility after the November election to deal with the contentious issue of missile defense, a candid assessment of political reality that was picked up by a microphone without either leader apparently knowing.

Obama's Republican opponents pounced on the comment, saying the president has a hidden agenda that could include concessions to the Russians if he is re-elected this fall.

"This is my last election," Obama is heard telling outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. "After my election, I have more flexibility."

Medvedev replied in English, according to ABC News: "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir," an apparent reference to incoming President Vladmir Putin.

Obama and Medvedev did not intend for their comments, made during a meeting in Seoul, South Korea, to be made public.
Not surprisingly, the GOP presidential candidates seized on Obama's unguarded moment with Medvedev and the White House has been attempting to spin or outright ignore Obama's statement caught on the open mike.

The thing that I find most disturbing is that Barack Obama would find himself more 'flexible' on a number of issues that aren't neccesarily limited to missile defense and concessions to Russians.

Even if the Republicans manage to maintain the majority in the House and win a majority in the Senate, keep in mind the Democrats have made it clear they intend to circumvent Congress whenever possible should Obama win a second term [he's already demonstrated a penchant for doing exactly that in his first term- NANESB!]. Since losing the Democrat supermajority after the 2010 midterms, President Obama seems content to use executive orders or regulatory fiat to impose further regulations.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sports Chowdah Update- Dodgers Under New Management Thanks To Some Magic; Rising Sun- A's & M's Begin Season in Japan; Lightning Round- B's Make it 3


MLB- A group of California investors including former LA Laker great Magic Johnson announced on Tuesday that they had won the rights to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers for $2 billion. Last year, the Dodgers had filed for bankruptcy and Commissioner Bud Selig appointed a trustee to oversee the day to day operations of the Dodgers. The team had been financially struggling since owner Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie filed for divorce in 2009. McCourt was reportedly close to reaching an agreement with MLB regarding ownership and day to day operations of the Dodgers when a restructed TV deal with FOX was struck down by Selig, negating the entire agreement.

The new owners, known as Guggenheim Baseball Management also said they would form a joint venture with McCourt and certain affiliates of Guggenheim to purchase the real-estate in Chavez Ravine in a seperate transaction worth an estimated $150 Million.

The $2 billion transaction is reportedly the most any ownership group has paid for a professional sports club, surpassing the $1 billion paid by Steve Ross for the Miami Dolphins and C$1.3 billion Bell Canada and Rogers Communications paid for a 75% stake in the Toronto Maple Leafs in late 2011.


ELSEWHERE IN MLB- The regular season kicked off early Wednesday morning in the USA with an AL West matchup taking place a little further west than the Bay Area and Seattle.

Before a a sellout crowd of 44,000 at the Tokyo Dome, Felix Hernandez went 8 innings for the Mariners, allowing 5 hits and one run. Hernandez left with the game tied at 1-1 before 2B Dustin Ackley drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th and Ichiro Suzuki run gave the Mariners some insurance. Brandon League came on in the bottom of the 11th to preserve the win while Ichiro went 4 for 5 with an RBI.

The Mariners and A's will go at it again on Thursday for the second game in the Tokyo Dome before returning to the USA. Before Wednesday's game, players and managers from both teams toured the quake and tsunami-ravaged city of Ishinomaki and held a clinic for displaced students. MLB also reportedly donated $500,000 to the municipality.

RED SOX- After trading SS Marco Scutaro to the Colorado Rockies, manager Bobby Valentine named the starting shortstop for the 2012 Red Sox season as Mike Aviles. Although Aviles hasn't regularly played shortstop since 2008, but batted .333 during spring training so far. Aviles beats out 22 year old Cuban prospect Jose Iglesias for the starting position- Iglesias will start the season with AAA Pawtucket. So far, Iglesias has a career batting average of .261 on the minors.



NHL- The Bruins returned home to the Garden to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night after wrapping up their west coast road trip.

The Lightning got off to an early 1-0 lead thanks to a Steven Stamkos tally five minutes into the first before Shawn Thronton tied things up at 1-1 before the first intermission. The Bruins then took the 2-1 on a Dennis Seidenberg goal with 5 minutes to in the second.

Early in the 3rd, the Lightning tied the contest back up with a power play goal- once again from Stamkos- before the Bruins scored three unanswered goal from Benoit Pouliot, Brad Marchand and an empty-netter from Rich Peverly to seal Boston's 5-3 win over Tampa Bay.

Tim Thomas turned aside 16 of 18 shots while Dwayne Roloson stopped 33 of 37 shots faced for the Lightning. The Bruins went 0-5 on the power play while Tampa Bay was 1-4 with the man advantage. The win is the Bruins 3rd straight and puts some more distance between them and Ottawa Senators.

The Bruins will next host the Washington Capitals at the Garden. Washington is fighting for their playoff lives after their 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night. Buffalo leapfrogs past the Caps for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern conference. Thursday night's game will be televised on the NHL Network and gets underway at 7:00 PM.

NBA- Looks like good things come in threes for the Celtics as well. After back-to-back wins against the lowly Wizards and Bobcats, the C's hosted the Utah Jazz- winners of 7 of their last 8 games.

The C's nearly blew an 18 point lead late but managed to pull away and win by a 94-82 final. Kevin Garnett led the scoring for Boston with 23 points and 10 rebounds on the night.

With Tuesday night's win, the Celtics move into a tie with the 76ers for first place- although Philly owns the tiedbreakers by virtue of their wins against the Celtics in head-to-head contests this season.

The Celtics will next travel to the Twin Cities to take on Kevin Garnett's former team- the Minnesota Timberwolves- on Firday night.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Media That Dismissed Death Panels as 'Myth' Wonders if Former VP Dick Cheney Too Old For Heart Translplant


Former vice-president Dick Cheney was recuperating in northern Virginia after successfully undergoing a heart transplant operation over the weekend.

Interestingly, as arguments both for and against 0bamacare went before the Supreme Court, pundits and various media outlets questioned whether or not Cheney should've even undergone the procedure to begin with.
Some medical centers will not perform a heart transplant on patient over 65, but other major centers will perform transplants on patients who are as old as 72.

In any case, transplants at Cheney's age are not unheard of: Last year 332 heart transplants were performed on people over 65, and according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, 14 percent of recepients are over the age of 65.

"Patients from 18 all the way up to 71 years old, are on the same national list and you're listed on the basis of medical urgency and then how long you've been waiting," said Dr. Jonathan Chen, an adjunct associate professor of surgery at Columbia University in New York.
Cheney had been waiting for 20 months for the new heart, longer than the national average.

Maybe it's just me, but it doesn't seem that long ago that the notion of death panels were dismissed as a myth or politically driven hoax. Yet here we are, not quite three years later with the media and others seemingly wistful at the prospect of Cheney having to go before some sort of government panel that would arbitrarily decide whether or not he could recieve any kind of lifesaving treatment.

Cheney's only five or six years older than former President Bill Clinton, who had already undergone cardiac surgery in 2010. I'm curious to know if a 71 year old William Jefferson Clinton required a heart transplant, would we be hearing speculation from the media over whether or not Clinton was too old?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Documents Seized From Bin Laden's Compound Show Al Qaeda's Media Adviser Disappointed After Keith Olberman Fired From MSNBC

According to documents seized by US Navy SEALs during the raid of Osama Bin Laden's hideout in Abbotabad, Pakistan, Al Qaeda hates FOX news with a passion and was dismayed to learn of Keith Olbermann's dismissal from MSNBC last year.
When MSNBC discarded Keith Olbermann, al-Qaida mourned.

So reports David Ignatius, the Washington Post columnist who has gained exclusive access to some of the documents recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

In his Wednesday column in the Washington Post, Ignatius reported on the details of a 21-page letter to bin Laden written by al-Qaida media adviser Adam Gadahn. Though the letter was undated, Ignatius says that it was likely written sometime after November 2010.

Laying out the current media landscape for the now waterlogged terrorist kingpin, Gadahn, an American-born Jewish convert to Islam, lamented the “firing” of Olbermann from MSNBC.

“In the letter, the media adviser focuses on ‘how to exploit’ the 10th anniversary of 9/11 on television,” Ignatius writes.

“He worries that CNN ‘seems to be in cooperation with the government more than the others,’ though he praises its ‘good and detailed’ Arabic coverage. ‘I used to think that MSNBC channel may be good and neutral a bit,’ he continues, but then notes the firing of Olbermann.”
Olbermann was fired from MSNBC and his Countdown show was cancelled shortly after Comcast completed the purchase of a majority stake in MSNBC's parent company, NBC-Universal, from General Electric in early 2011. Since being ousted from MSNBC, Olbermann wound up with his own show on Current TV, a cable network that has the financial backing of former Vice President Al Gore.

California Dreamin' Sports Chowdah Update- B's Make Most of Southern California Road Trip; C's Return to Garden After Road Trip; Final, Frozen 4 Set


NHL- After Thursday night's road loss to San Jose, the Bruins faced off against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center in downtown LA on Saturday. The Bruins and Kings had already met at the Garden back in December and Boston was looking to complete a sweep of the season series.

The game remained scoreless after a first period where LA had managed to pressure and outshoot Boston. It looked as though the momentum would continue into the second period when the Kings would go on the power play about five minutes in. LA would then turn the puck over deep in their own end with Jonathan Quick making a sprawling save on Brad Marchand only for Patrice Bergeron to pick up the rebound and put it in the wide-open net to give Boston the early 1-0 lead. Before the 2nd period drew to a close, the Kings would get an equalizer off the stick of Colin Fraser to make it 1-1.

In the 3rd Period, the Bruins struck quickly with goals from Milan Lucic and Chris Kelly (both even strength) less than a minute and 20 seconds apart to take a 3-1 lead, but with about five minutes to go in regulation, LA's Slava Voynov made it a 1-goal game on an even strength tally. In the final minute, the Kings pulled Quick for the extra attacker, and although they were able to get a number of shots off, Thomas was able to turn them aside and clear the puck while Brad Marchand got a shot off from the neutral zone as time expired and lazily drifted into the empty net- it counted after further review. Boston beat LA by the final of 4-2 on Saturday night, further complicating an already-convoluted playoff picture for the Western Conference.

As of Sunday night, Los Angeles had a tenuous grip on the 8th and final playoff spot in the west, 1 point behind the Phoenix Coyotes. However, the Sharks and Coyotes also went head-to-head Saturday night, with San Jose winning in the shootout and putting them in a three way tie with LA and Colorado (who had lost in OT to Vancouver on Saturday). Calgary had already lost to Dallas earlier on Saturday, but remain within 4 points of Phoenix for the #7 seed [so much more interesting than the Eastern Conference, where it's looking like it will be a two team race between Buffalo and Washington- NANESB].

Tim Thomas made 40 saves on 42 shots faced on Saturday while Jonathan Quick allowed 3 goals in 35 shots faced. The Kings went 0-4 on the power play while Boston was 0-1. The win snaps a 4-game road losing streak for the Bruins.

Saturday night's game in Los Angeles also marked captain Zdeno Chara's 1000th career NHL game.

On Sunday night, took their road trip a few miles down I-5. It was announced that the Bruins opted to rest Thomas and start Marty Turco at Anaheim's Honda Center. Reaction from Casa de Fenway was swift and unambiguous.




With Turco's disastrous start in Tampa Bay this month in mind, it was easy to overlook his 24 career wins against Anaheim with the Dallas Stars. But it was also folly.

After a scoreless first period, the Bruins got on board thanks to a Zdeno Chara shot from out near the blue line. Chara's goal was followed up 1:22 later by a tally from Benoit Pouliot to give Boston the 2-0 lead. However, about 5 minutes later, the Ducks would get on the board thanks to a power play goal from Teemu Selanne. Selanne's goal lifted him to 4th all-time for career power play goals in the NHL, surpassing Luc Robataille.

In the 3rd, Anaheim looked as though they tied things up at 2-2 with a Matt Beleskey tally, but the goal was waved off after Andrew Cogliano was ruled in the crease. Shortly after that, the Bruins would take a 3-1 lead on a goal from Brian Rolston [who is now riding a 6-game point streak- NANESB]. Anaheim would then pull to within a goal on a Lubomir Vishnovsky tally. Much like Saturday's game in Los Angeles, the Bruins were able to hold off a frantic last-minute attack after the Ducks pulled goalie Jonas Hiller for the extra skater.

With the goal that was waved off earlier in the 3rd, Boston holds on to win by a 3-2 final and goalie Marty Turco gets his first win in a Bruins jersey. Turco made 25 saves on 27 shots while Anaheim's Jonas Hiller stopped 22 of 25 shots faced. The Ducks were 1-3 on the power play while the Bruins went 0-2.

The productive weekend in southern California also puts some distance between the Bruins and the Ottawa Senators- who had briefly overtaken them for first place last week- in the Northeastern Conference. Boston returns home on Tuesday night to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night- the game will be televised on the NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) and gets under way at 7:30 ET.

RED SOX- Boston relief pitcher Bobby Jenks was arrested by police in Ft Meyers, FL for DUI and hit and run after striking a parked car outside a nightclub and getting pulled over.

Jenks told officers that he had taken some muscle relaxers before admitting "[I'll] be honest with you, I was just leaving Babes [nightclub] because I hit a car. I just had to get out of there."

Jenks appeared in just 19 games for the Red Sox, going 2-2 with a 6.32 ERA before being sidelined by back surgery. Last month, the Sox listed him as being on the 60-day DL.


NBA- The Celtic's 99-86 loss to the 76ers Friday night was an afterthought after Mickael Pietrus left the court on a stretcher after a collision late in the first half. Pietrus was rushed to the hospital, although he was able to leave later that evening. Although remaining on the DL, he was cleared to travel back to Boston to rejoin the team on Sunday.

Although Friday night's loss in Philly cost them a shot at first place, the Celtics made quick work of the Washington Wizards on Sunday, winning by an 88-76 final. The win still leaves them all of a ½ out of first place in the Northeast division once again.

On Monday night, the Celtics will travel to Charlotte to take on the 7-39 Charlotte Bobcats. The game gets underway at 7:00 ET and will be televised on CSNE.

OTHER CELTICS NEWS- Duke freshman Austin Rivers, son of Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, announced that he was leaving for the NBA after just one season. Austin averaged 15.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists this season. With the announcement, Rivers has reportedly signed an agent and has waived his eligibility for playing his sophomore year at Duke.

NCAA HOOPS- Although UConn, Harvard and Vermont all made early exits from the NCAA Tournament, the UMass Minutemen received a berth in the NIT tournament and have made it to the semifinals after beating Drexel by a 72-70 final last week. In the NIT semis, they will face the Stanford Cardinals on Tuesday. The winner will go on to face the winner of the Washington/Minnesota game in the west- also on Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, the Final Four has been set, with Kansas, Louisville, Ohio State and Kentucky. Ohio State will take on Kansas on Saturday while Louisville faces Kentucky for the right to advance to the Tournament championship.

NCAA HOCKEY- Speaking of the number four, the Frozen Four is set and will include Boston College after shutting out Minnesota-Duluth by a 4-0 final this weekend. They will face the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the semifinals on April 5th while Union College will take on Ferris State.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Today's Train of Thought- (Coast) Starlight, Star Bright, March 25, 2012.


Despite the name of Amtrak's marquee west coast train, today's Train of Thought actually takes us a little further inland in Southern Oregon. The name Coast Starlight is actually a combination of two Southern Pacific trains that once plied the California section of the route- the Coast Daylight and the Starlight. It's also worth noting that once north of San Luis Obispo, CA, the route is pretty much inland until it makes its way up to Olympia, WA and the southern reaches of Puget Sound- although it does run parallel to some bays and inlets between Oakland, CA and Sacramento, CA.

The big draw for many of the passengers is the dramatic coastal scenerey between Ventura, CA and San Luis Obispo as the track clings to cliffs over the Pacific Ocean and soars across high metal trestles- complete with a lounge car for passengers to enjoy the view.

Between Portland, OR and Sacramento, CA riders are treated to numerous views of the mountains and forests of northern California and western Oregon. Between Eugene, OR and Dunsmuir, CA the line traverses the former Southern Pacific Cascade Division and Black Butte Division, although the train often runs late enough to traverse that section of the route after dark.

Here, however, railpictures.net contributor Judkins645 managed to catch southbound train 14 (Amtrak and Union Pacific's designation for the Seattle-Los Angeles run of the Coast Starlight) charging up the 1.7% grade at Oakridge, OR on a snowy December 28, 2007. Amtrak GE P42DC #115 is in charge as it brings the southbound Coast Starlight across the 515-foot Salt Creek trestle- the longest on the Cascade division, according to Judkins645.

Bracketed by two big GE's is an Amtrak EMD F59PHI in the blue and silver Amtrak Surfliner paint scheme- the EMD normally sees service between San Diego and San Luis Obispo, CA but was likely pressed into service elsewhere due to increased ridership around the holidays (although the day after Thanksgiving usually remains Amtrak's single busiest day). The train shown here is running two hours late- a problem plaguing that particular route since the late 1990s- but Amtrak has reportedly addressed that and the Coast Starlight enjoyed an on time arrival rate of 86% since 2008

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Afghan President- American Troops are 'Demons'

I'm reasonably certain that I'm not the first one to ask this, but with 'allies' like Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai who needs the Taliban?


(NY Times) — The Americans in Afghanistan are “demons.”

They claim they burned Korans by mistake, but really those were “Satanic acts that will never be forgiven by apologies.”

The massacre of 16 Afghan children, women and men by an American soldier “was not the first incident, indeed it was the 100th, the 200th and 500th incident.”

Such harsh talk may sound as if it comes from the Taliban, but those are all remarks either made personally by the United States’ increasingly hostile ally here, President Hamid Karzai, or issued by his office in recent days and weeks.

The strongest such outburst came Friday. “Let’s pray for God to rescue us from these two demons,” Mr. Karzai said, apparently holding back tears at a meeting with relatives of the massacre victims, and clearly referring to the United States and the Taliban in the same breath. “There are two demons in our country now.”
Karzai's comments come after no less than six American troops in the last month and 13 NATO soldiers in 2012 have been killed by members of Afghanistan's police and military. Afghan soldiers from Kharzai's regime have turned their weapons on their US and NATO counterparts a number of times in recent years- acts that the ISAF refers to as 'green on blue'.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Obama Campaign Marks 2-Year Anniversary of 0bamacare's Passage With Twitter Campaign That Gets Quickly Co-Opted by Conservatives

Although the Administration was largely quiet about the two year anniversary of Congress passing 0bamacare [labelled as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act- NANESB!], President Obama's 2012 Campaign manager Jim Messina left a message on the campaign website encouraging supporters to embrace the term 'Obamacare'. The 0bamacare monicker was decried by Democrats as uneccesarily divisive as recently as 2011.

In an effort to promote the second anniversary, the Obama campaign attempted to start a twitter campaign using the hashtag #ILikeObamacare. However, it did not long for conservatives pundits and bloggers on twitter to get wind of the hashtag [basically a feature on twitter where a certain topic or phrase is preceeded with '#' which allows more people to view your individual tweet- NANESB!] and quickly co-opt it at which point the messages in support of 0bamacare were seemingly buried in an avalanche of sarcastic tweets pointing out the law's increasing unpopularity, the fact that it was passed in the face of public opposition and it's high cost.

Here are some of my favorites from Friday afternoon.











Naturally, I couldn't help but join in on the fun.




This would not be the first time conservative bloggers and social media users would manage to ju-jitsu a message from the Democrat party or left wing activists. A few days prior, the Democrats attempted to solicit message of support from Twitter users with the hashtag #WhyImIn.

Despite being passed by a narrow margin two years ago, 0bamacare has a date with the Supreme Court later on this month in which the justices will weight the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, particularly the individual insurance mandate.

Since being passed, the Department of Health and Human Services has issued a number of waivers exempting groups from complying with the legislation. Many of the organizations and employers who recieved the HHS waivers were labor unions that had lobbied Congress in favor of the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act.

In February, the Obama administration and the Department of Health and Human Services decided not to exempt the hospitals and schools run by the Catholic Church from providing coverage for employees that would include contraception and 'morning after' pills, despite the objections of a number of bishops.

Ealier this month, the Congressional Budget Office had revised their cost estimates to implement the first 10 years of 0bamacare from $940 billion to $1.76 trillion.

Sports Chowdah Update- We're No Saints, NFL Hands Down Sanctions to New Orleans Over Bounties; C's Buck Milwaukee's Win Streak; B's Tank in San Jose


NFL- The league announced this week that Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down a 1-year suspension for New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton as a result of a 'bounty' program among the team's defensive players and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams between 2009 and 2011.

Williams has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL while Saints GM Mickey Loomis received an 8-game suspension and assistant coach Joe Vitt was suspended for 6 games.

Goodell also fined the Saints organization $500,000 and the team forfeits their 2-nd round draft picks for this year and 2013.

The bounty program dates back to their 2009 championship season where defensive players and Williams would award players cash prizes for hits on opposing players from a pool that was said to be as much as $50,000. Knocking an opposing player out of the game or injuring him to the point where they had to be carted off the field was reportedly worth $1000 to $1500. The first year New Orleans was thought to have the bounty program the Saints faced QBs Kurt Warner, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning in the postseason as well as Tom Brady in the regular season.


OTHER NFL NEWS- Shortly after Peyton Manning was introduced as the Broncos newest quarterback in a press conference on Wednesday, Denver announced a trade that sent Broncos QB Tim Tebow to New York Jets in exchange for a 4th round draft pick. For a few hours on Thursday, reports were circulating that the deal between the Broncos and Jets had hit a contractual snag and Denver was instead negotiating with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the announcement was made official later on that day.

Tebow's arrival in New Jersey [seriously- the Jets and Giants should drop their 'New York' prefixes if they keep playing their home games in New Jersey. Right now, the Buffalo Bills are the ONLY NFL team that plays their home games in the state of New York- NANESB!] has fuelled speculation over the future of Jets QB Mark Sanchez. However, New York Jets head toe sucker coach Rex Ryan issued a statement on Friday reiterating that Sanchez would remain the Jets starter heading into the 2012 season.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS- Free agent RB Ben Javus Green-Ellis signed a 3-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday. Green-Ellis appeared in all 19 games of the Patriot's season last year and had 11 TDs and 667 rushing yards for the 2011 season.

As the law offices of Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis leave, the Patriots have signed free agent WRs Brandon Lloyd and Donte Stallworth while agreeing to a 1-year contract extension with Deion Branch.

Stallworth arrives from the Washington Redskins with 309 yards and 15 TDs in 11 games for the 2011 season while Brandon Lloyd split time between the Denver Broncos and St Louis Rams last year. Between the two clubs, Lloyd appeared in 15 games with 70 catches and 966 yards.


OTHER PATRIOTS NEWS- Former New England Patriots and New York Giants head coach Ron Erhardt passed away at the ago of 80 at his home in Boca Raton, FL on Wednesday.

Born and raised in North Dakota, Erhardt was North Dakota State's head coach, winning a number of NCAA Division II titles before he started out in the NFL with New England as a backfield coach in 1973. Erhardt retained that position until 1978 when he was promoted to head coach by then-owner Bill Sullivan after then-head coach Chuck Fairbanks was suspended by management for breach of contract after he agreed to serve as head coach at the University of Colorado.

Ernardt led the Patriots to a 9-7 record in 1979 and a 10-6 record in 1n the 1980 season, but missed the playoffs both years. Erhardt was dismissed after a dismal 2-14 campaign in 1981. The following season, he was hired as the Giant's offensive coordinator. He remained in that position with the Giants during their championship Run in Super Bowl XXI and Superbowl XXV.

After Giants Head Coach Bill Parcells retired [the first retirement of many, as it turned out- NANESB!] from the Giants in 1990, Erhardt left New York for Pittsburgh to become the Steelers offensive coordinator through 1996. He then briefly returned to the Meadowlands in 1998 for a 1 year stint as head co-ordinator during the Jets disastrous 1996 campaign where they had a 1-15 season before announcing his retirement.

NBA- The Celtics have won their second straight game on Thursday night, beating the Milwaukee Bucks by a 100-91 final. Paul Pierce led the scoring for Boston on Thursday with 25 points along with 9 rebounds and 2 assists. Kevin Garnett had 16 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists while Mickael Pietrus came off the bench for 13 points.

Boston's win snaps a 6-game win streak by the Milwaukee Bucks and puts the C's in good position for their Friday night matchup against the division-leading 76ers. Currently Boston is a half game behind Philadelphia for first place in the Atlantic conference.

Friday night's game gets underway in Philly at 8:00 PM ET and will be nationally televised on ESPN.

BOSTON BRUINS- The San Jose Sharks jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first of last night's game against the Boston Bruins thanks to a Joel Pavelski tally less than 4 minutes into the first. San Jose's Daniel Winnik made it a 2-0 game early in the third before Zdeno Chara got the Bruins on the board with just under five minutes remaining in regulation. However, Boston wasn't able to get anything else past netminder Antti Niemi and the Sharks hang on to win by a 2-1 final.

Tim Thomas stopped 25 of 27 shots faced and Niemi turned aside all but one of the 17 shots he faced. Neither team capitalized on their lone power play opportunity in Thursday night's game.

The Bruins West Coast road trip continues through Southern California this weekend as they play back-to-back games in Los Angeles and Anaheim. On Saturday night, the Bruins will take on the Kings at LA's Staples Center at 9:00 PM ET, 6:00 Pacific in a game that will be televised on NESN and the NHL Network.

For Sunday, the Bruins will travel down the I-5 to Anaheim to take on the Ducks at 8:00 ET, 5:00 Pacific. That game will be televised on NESN as well.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Toulouse School Shooter Killed By French Authorities After 32-Hour Standoff, Had More Shooting Attacks Planned


After more than a full day of negotiations, French police stormed the residence of 24 year old Mohmamed Merah on Thursday morninng. Merah was holed up in the bathroom with an AK-47, Uzi, .45 pistol and grenades, then emerging and firing wildly at officers before reportedly jumping out a window to his death- although the BBC is reporting that Merah's plunge may have been assisted by a police sniper [which is too bad- I figured we should call him "The Splatty Jihadi" from here on out. Ah well....bon voyage, cocksucker- NANESB!].

I gotta admit, a tiny sliver of me is sorry that this piece of shit wasn't taken alive, if for no other reason than he could be renditioned to some 3rd world shithole/former French colony than makes Waziristan look like a Sandals resort- such as the Central African Republic- and undergo much more comprehensive questioning in some dank, filthy dungeon from interrogators for months at a time.

The 24 year old Algerian muslim was cornered by police after investigators traced e-mail corresponence with one of the victims and the motorbike used as a getaway vehicle in Monday's shooting outside of the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse and after three French paratroopers gunned down while in line at an ATM in the nearby town of Montauban earlier this month. The case was reportedly broken open when police interviewed a mechanic who said that Merah had recently approached him and asked him to disable the GPS and antitheft systesm on his motorbike.

During the standoff, Merah told investigators he planned on continuing his killing spree before police caught up with him.

Before this month's killing spree, Merah had reportedly travelled to Afghanistan and the border region of Pakistan to fight alongside the Taliban. He was reportedly known to have travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan by French and US intelligence and was placed on the no-fly list in the USA.

His erratic behavior drew attention from those around him, reporedly even before Merah left for Afghanistan. In 2010, one of Merah's neighbors filed a police report against him after luring her 15 year old son into his apartment to watch jihadi videos of beheadings and executions. According to the neighbor, police failed to take the warnings seriously and didn't follow up her complaints; meanwhile Merah threatened the neighbor and her children, saying they would die 'like all the atheists in France'.

Officials in France are coming under pressure for overlooking sorts of warning signs and red flags about Merah's background before his murder spree. French police and intelligence officials say that although Merah was known to them, they could not take him into custody since he hadn't committed any crimes prior to his rampage.

Officials still have Merah's brother in custody along with his mother and his brother's girlfriend. The online ad for a scooter that the first known victim was responding to was reportedly sent from Merah's brother's computer.


French soldiers killed or wounded in Mohammed Merah's weeklong killing spree include (left to right) Sgt Imad Ibn Zaiten, Cpl Abel Chennouf and Pvt Mohamed Legouad. Zaiten and Chennouf were gunned down at an ATM in Montauban on March 15th while Legouad was shot and killed in a residential area of Toulouse after responding to an online ad about a scooter for sale. Police believe the ad was likely set up by Merah to lure Legouad into an ambush.

Corporal Lolic Liber (above) was wounded in the March 15th attack and remains in a coma. His parents and sister were flown out from his native Guadeloupe to be by his side.

The murder victims from the Ozar Hetorah shootings have been identified as Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, and his sons Gabriel, 3, and Aryeh, 6 and Miryam Mosonego, 8.

Earlier this week, the bodies of all four victims were flown out to Jerusalem to be buried in Gavit Shaul cemetary west of the city.

Curiously, the media seemed determined to continue with the neo-nazi/Anders Brevik 2.0 narrative even when it was becoming apparent that the shooter was an Islamist. While it probably would've been irresponsible for police to completely overlook the neo-nazi angle altogether during the investigation, the media seemed intent to blame the bloodshed in France on ultra right-wing zealotry even as the Gendarmerie were exchanging gunfire with a guy named Mohammed.

The paratroopers knew they were signing up for a dangerous vocation, but much like the GIs at Ft Hood in 2009, I doubt they anticipated eating a bullet from some derganged jihadi shithead once they returned to their homeland where they were presumably safe and sound.

I really don't have anything to say after seeing the tiny bundles that were once Rabbi Sandler's children. Somebody from the school was being interviewed this week and saying they couldn't find small enough caskets for them...they had to be custom ordered.

Anywhoo, this sick fuck Merah's face is no doubt gonna be plastered all over the news for awhile...I thought I'd try to offset that with images of 7 people who were better human beings than he could ever have been even if he lived to 1000.

Los Angeles City Council Decides They're Not Big Fans of Freedom of Speech

Having apparently solved all of the problems facing the city of Angels, the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution on Thursday calling for more 'diversity' in talk radio and calling on management of local TV and radio stations to limit any comments construed as racist or sexist on public airwaves.
The City Council has approved a resolution calling on local TV and radio stations to limit any “racist” and “sexist” comments on their broadcasts.

The City Council voted 13-2 to pass the resolution with a motion urging “the management of radio and television stations in Los Angeles to do everything in their power to ensure that their on-air hosts do not use and promote racist and sexist slurs over public airwaves in the City of Los Angeles”.
The resolution was introduced earlier this month by councilwoman Jan Perry after local talk-show hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou referred to Whitney Houston as a 'crack ho' during a February show on KFI 640 AM.

The resolution- which is largely nonbinding- reportedly gained momentum after nationally syndicated talk show host Rush Limbaugh referred to a Georgetown coed who testified before a February hearing in the House of Representatives that she spent thousands of dollars anually on birth control as a 'slut'. Limbaugh's comments led to calls of a boycott of his show's sponsors, primarily from well funded left wing groups branding themselves as 'media watchdogs'. Limbaugh's show also airs in Los Angeles on KFI.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wisconsin Democrats Kill Union-Backed Mining Legislation That Would Allow Iron-Ore Mining in Badger State


One year after fleeing the state to prevent Governor Scott Walker's bill that would curtail the collective bargaining ability of public employee unions from being voted on in the state Senate, Badger State Democrats have dealt a blow to private-sector unions.

Assembly Bill 426, which would've overhauled the regulatory and permitting for the mining of ferrous minerals in Wisconsin, was narrowly defeated by a 17-16 margin in the State Senate- 16 Democrat state Senators and GOP State Senator Dale Schultz, who represents the 17th District in Southwestern Wisconsin, voted against the measure.
Wisconsin’s mining laws were developed to regulate sulfide mining, which utilizes chemicals in its mining and refining processes. The ore deposit in Iron County is a ferrous (i.e., iron) deposit, not a sulfide deposit. The process relies on water and magnets rather than chemicals. Additionally, the Department of Natural Resources would have issued a permit for the mine only after it had confirmed that the mine would operate in an environmentally responsible manner.
The bill not only had support from Governor Walker, the Wisconsin GOP and businesses, but also labor unions including the International Union of Operating Engineers, Iron Workers District Council of the North Central States, the Wisconsin Pipe Trades Association, North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters; and the Wisconsin Laborer’s District Council.

Florida-based Gogebic Taconite had reached a Memorandum of Understanding with the unions that the company would use union labor and Wisconsin-based contractors while the mine was under construction and continue using labor once the mine was up and running. Gogebic had begun the exploratory process in Iron and Ashland counties in northwestern Wisconsin [see map above- NANESB!]. Once the anticipated deposits of taconite iron-ore were located, Gogebic estimated the mines and processing facilities could be operating for up to 35 years and create as many as 3000 jobs once the mine was up and running.

The anticipated job growth would not have been limited to northwestern Wisconsin. Two large mining equipment manufacturers- Joy Global [NYSE- JOY] and recently-acquired Caterpillar [NYSE- CAT] subsidiary Bucyrus International both operate out of the Milwaukee area and also employ union labor.

However, after the State Senate killed AB 426, Gogebic announced that they would be pulling out of Wisconsin altogether. Other mining companies are unikely to step in and fill the void unless the issue of overhauling regulations for mining ferrous minerals in the Badger State is revisited.

Since Gov Walker is facing a recall election this year, there is a school of thought that public employee unions like the AFSCME and SEIU pressured the Democrats to vote unanimously against AB 426 to deny Walker any sort of victory or good publicity heading into the recall campaign.

While some green activists claimed concern about environmental degradation or harm to adjacent wetlands, similar mining operations have been taking place for over a century just to the west in Minnesota's Mesabi range without the widespread environmental devestation activists claim is inevitable.

US Army Names Suspect in Massacre of Afghanistan Villagers

US officials have identified a US Army sargeant from Joint Base Lewis McChord who turned himself in after allegedly massacring nearby Afghan villagers in the early morning hours of March 11.
The shooting took place at 3 a.m. in two villages in the Panjwai district of southern Kandahar province, a hotbed for the Taliban insurgency against U.S. forces. The two villages are a short walk away from the U.S. base where the soldier was stationed.

Photos from the scene show blood-splattered floors and walls inside a villager's home, one of three believed to have been attacked, and blood-soaked bodies of victims, including the elderly and young children, wrapped in blankets and placed in the backseat of a van.

Some of the bodies appear to have been burned, and some witnesses said the soldier set fire to some of his victims after shooting them.
The shooter reportedly left the base heavily armed and with night-vision equipment while dressed up in traditional Afghan clothing over his US Army battle dress uniform. A headcount was taken and the assailant was discovered missing at that time. While other soldiers from the outpost were searching nearby for the AWOL assailant, he had returned to the base to turn himself in.

Although some Afghan officials insist that the shooter couldn't have possibly acted alone, a number of witnesses that night reported seeing just one assailant.

A few days later the shooter was flown out of Afghanistan to Ft. Leavenworth, KS by way of Kuwait last week Army officials identified him as Staff Sgt Robert Bales.

In addition to military attorneys, Bales will reportedly be represented by Seattle-based defense attorney John Henry Browne, who's previous clients have included Ted Bundy.

Toulouse Massacre Update- Neo-Nazi Former Soldiers Cleared; French Authorities Corner Algerian al Qaeda Operative


In the hours after yesterday's killing spree in front of a Jewish school in southwestern French city of Toulouse, investigators had focused their attention on three former soldiers in the French Army who were neo-Nazis and had also served in the same unit as the three soldiers who were gunned down at an ATM earlier this month.
According to reports published Monday, French police investigating the fatal shootings of a teacher and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse were searching for the three soldiers, who were dismissed from the army a few years ago after being photographed while giving Nazi salutes in front of a Swastika flag.

Monday's deadly shooting came just days after three soldiers — from the same 17th Parachute Engineer Regiment with which the dismissed trio served — were shot dead in broad daylight in Montauban 30 miles away last Thursday. Two of the murdered soldiers were Muslim.

But France Info's report, published Tuesday, said the three neo-Nazis were located by police and cleared of any suspicion. A police official told the website that two of the former troops were interrogated after the shooting attack on the Jewish school, while the third was questioned after the attack in Montauban.

Ynet's correspondent in Toulouse added that according to reports in France, one of the three neo-Nazis voluntarily reported to a police station to be interrogated.
Investigators from the DRCI (Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence) were focusing on 24 year old Mohammed Mera, a French national of Algerian descent who had reportedly travelled to the tribal area in Pakistan's North West Frontier province to fight alongside the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Merah was reportedly arrested by authorities in Afghanistan for planting bombs and sentenced to 3 years in prison, but was part of a massive April 2011 jailbreak that freed hundreds of inmates and captured Taliban fighters.

The DRCI had reportedly found Mera after checking e-mail correspondence from the first known victim. Mera was reportedly exchanging e-mails under a false account with a French soldier who was gunned down in a residential area of Toulouse earlier this month. Investigators traced the e-mails to a computer using the IP address of Mera's brother. Ballistics experts also conclusively matched bullets used in the school shooting as coming from the same one used to shoot the paratroopers.

On Wednesday morning, Mera exchanged gunfire with heavily armed police officers as they moved in to raid his Toulouse home- which was near the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school. Three officers were wounded and Mera barricaded himself inside his residence as he attempted to negotiate his surrender as the neighborhood was cordoned off.

CCTV footage from the schoolyard massacre also showed the shooter appeared to have some sort of digital camera around his neck to film the attack as it took place. DRCI investigators believe that Mera was ultimately going to post the footage of his attacks online at a jihad website.

Also on Wednesday morning, funeral services were held in Jerusalem for the four victims slain at the school. Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, his sons Arieh, 5, and Gabriel, 4, and 7 year old Miriam Monsonego were laid to rest with at least 2000 mourners present at the massive Gavit Shaul cemetary west of Jerusalem.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sports Chowdah Update- Manning Lands in Mile High City; 8 is Enough, Leafs on Losing End of Beantown Beatdown; Valentine Announces Opening Day Starter


NFL- After less than 2 weeks as a free agent and being courted by a number of teams, former Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning has decided on the Denver Broncos.

Reports of Manning's decision circulated throughout sports media on Monday, and on Tuesday, the Broncos announced that they have reached a five year deal with the former Colts QB that guarantees $18 million for next season and could be worth $96 million.

The deal ends the idle guesswork on where Manning was likely to wind up, but immediately triggers all sorts of speculation on the future of Broncos starting QB Tim Tebow. Many observeers are fully anticipating Tebow to be traded after being named starter in Week 7 and leading the Broncos to an AFC West title and getting them past the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime in the first round of the playoffs before losing to the Patriots in the Divisional round.

Early talk lists the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins or Jacksonville Jaguars as potential destinations for Tebow. However, there is the remote possibility that he not even leaves Denver.


NHL- The Bruins wrapped up their short two-game homestand as well as the season series against Toronto on Monday night.

It was all Bruins all the time from the very beginning, as Chris Kelly beat James Reimer to get out to the early 1-0 lead. Reimer allowed four goals altogether [the other three from Campbell, Pouliot and Marchand- NANESB!] on nine shots in the first period before being pulled for Jonas Gustavsson.

After Gustavsson was put in net, the Leafs allowed four more goals- comeing from Pouliot, Chara, Rolston and Seguin to give Boston the 8-0 win and sweep of the season series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Between the two of them, Reimer and Gutavsson allowed eight goals on 24 shots faced. Thomas hardly broke a sweat, facing all of 13 shots on Monday night and getting his fifth shutout of the season.

Unfortunately, unlike the last couple of years, there is not a top-tier draft pick riding on Boston beating the ever-loving shit out of the Maple Leafs and making sure they finish at the bottom of the conference. Still, the Bruins have outscored the Maple Leafs 36-10 in their 6 meetings this season.

Boston begins a 3-game West Coast road trip this week that starts off in San Jose on Thursday night. The game gets under way at 10:30 PM ET, 7:30 Pacific.

NBA- The Celtics managed to hold off a late rally from the Atlanta Hawks in the first meeting between the two teams this season as Boston's road trip continued on Monday night.

Although the Celtics trailed early, they took the lead in the second half and were up by as much as 15 in the 4th before the Hawks began to close the gap. Still, the C's managed to hold on for the 79-76 win. Ray Allen had 19 points and 3 rebounds while Kevin Garnett had 16 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists. The Celtics going 15-17 from the free throw line also helped them out on Monday's low-scoring game. The win leaves the still a game and a half behind Philly for 1st place in the division.

The C's will next travel to Milwaukee on Thrusday night to take on the Bucks- who are currently riding a 6-game winning streak. The game gets underway at 8PM ET and will be televised on Comcast Sports New England and NBA TV.

MLB- Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine announced the opening day starters this week, with Jon Lester slated to take the mound for opening day in Detroit on April 5th and Josh Beckett starting against Tampa Bay in the April 13th home opener against Tampa Bay.

Blue State Graft Watch Update- Mistrial Declared in Troy, NY Ballot Fraud Case

The judge presiding over a ballot fraud case in which Troy, NY city councilman Michael LoPorto and Rensselaer County Election Commissioner Edward McDonough has declared a mistrial after the jury was deadlocked.

According to one juror, who asked that her name not be published, the jury was ready to convene on Tuesday morning last week and up until then had seemed willing to find LoPorto and McDonough guilty of 8 felony counts. However, there was a holdout on the jury and the deliberations reportedly turned into a shouting match, before a note adressed to Acting state Supreme Court Justice George Pulverwas written asked that he meet privately with four of the jurors. The note was reportedly the basis for Pulverwas declaring the mistrial.
The juror said that jurors' relationships were friendly and cordial up until deliberations began in earnest.

"There were some pretty bad shouting matches," the juror said. "Things got really ugly and personal attacks started. It was terrible. There were a couple of us who would go out for smoke breaks together and after a while I was not welcome anymore."

A big problem for jurors was the 103 charges they had to go through and unanimously agree on.

"It was just too many charges and no one could keep track of them," the juror said. "If they do have another trial they may want to think about that."
Acting Supreme Court Judge George C Pulver ordered a new trial and Special Prosecutor Trey Smith filed a motion to have seperate trials for LoPorto and McDonough on Tuesday.

LoPorto and McDonough are accused of forging signatures and excuses on absentee ballots during the 2009 Working Families primary without the knowledge of the individual voters whose names appeared on the ballot.

Stemming from the same absentee ballot fraud investigation, Troy city councilman John Brown and former City Clerk William McInerney pleaded guilty to felony charges of forgery, falsifying business records and criminal posession of a forged insturment in December 2011.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Gunman Opens Fire on Crowd Outside of Jewish School in Toulouse, Killing Four


A gunman on a motorbike opened fire on a Jewish school in southwestern France, killing four people- including three children- on Monday morning.

The massacre took place shortly after 8 AM when the shooter pulled up in front of the Ozar Hatorah Jewish School near the start of the school day, dismounted from his bike and opened fire on children, teachers and parents. Among the victims were 8 year old Miriam Monsonego, who was reportedly chased down and shot execution-style by the gunman.

Eyewitness accounts claim that the gun the assailant used had jammed before switching to a .45 and continuing his rampage before fleeing on the motorbike he arrived on.

The Ozar Hatorah Jewish school shooting came less than a week after three uniformed French soldiers in nearby Montauban were shot while waiting in line at an ATM.
Two of the soldiers were killed while the third remains in a coma. The shooting of the uniformed soldiers occurred at around 2:10 p.m. local time, on a street close to the 17th Parachute Engineer Regiment base.

A locally-based official said that the perpetrator of the rive-by was riding a scooter and wearing a helmet with a visor. The rider opened fire on the soldiers while they attempted to withdraw money from an ATM.

The shooting follows a similar incident on Sunday, when a 30-year-old soldier was shot dead by a motorcycle-rider in a residential area of Toulouse, 29 miles south of Montauban
Witnesses report that the assailant in both attacks also arrived and fled on a black motorbike, wore a motorcycle helmet while shooting and one of the victims in the Montauban was shot execution-style. Three of the slain French soldiers are reportedly of Arab descent.

Much of Toulouse is made up of centuries-old buildings and narrow streets and alleys, making it easier for the gunman to evade police. The motorbike used by the assailant was reported stolen last month.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy said that it was obvious that the attack was anti-Semitic and stepped up security measures throughout the country, posting police officers and Gendarmerie outside of schools. President Sarkozy promised that 'exceptional' security measures would be taken in the mid Pyrenees region and suspended his re-election campaign.

With 400,000 to 500,000 Jews living in the country, France is home to western Europe's largest Jewish community. Over the last decade, France has seen a rise in anti-semitism- increasingly from Muslim immigrants- with Jewish cemetaries and schools being vandalised or torched as well as Jews wearing yarmulkes being assaulted by Arab gangs.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Luck O'The Irish Sports Chowdah Update- C's Not So Lucky @ West Coast Tilt; B's Blow Late Lead, Get Past Philly; March Madness Brackets Busted Already


NHL- After a forgettable road trip and briefly being overtaken in the standings by the Ottawa Senators on Friday night, the Boston Bruins were hoping to snap a 4-game losing streak at home on St Patrick's Day.

For whatever reason, the day games have not been kind to the Bruins this season- last weekend's back to back losses to Washington and Pittsburgh were both matinees. And despite the promising start, Saturday's game seemed to be headed the same direction. Although the Bruins got out to the 2-0 lead in the first thanks to tallies by Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin, the visiting Flyers were able to chip away at that lead, getting on the board thanks to a Matt Read power play goal in the 2nd and knotting the contest up at 2-2 after a Jakub Voracek goal late in the 3rd.

Nothing was resolved in OT, so the game headed for a shootout. It was starting to appear as though the shootout wouldn't resolve anything either, with both Thomas and Bryzgalov allowing goals from the first two shooters each of them faced. Listening to the shootout on the radio, I had the feeling that whoever stopped a shot first would win, and while Patrice Bergeron was able to get the puck past Bryzgalov for the 3rd goal of the shootout, Thomas was able to stop Danny Briere's attempt to seal the Bruins win.

Through regulation and OT, Thomas stopped 27 of 29 shots faced while Bryzgalov turned aside 31 of 33 shots faced. The Bruins went 0-2 on the power play while the Flyers were 1 for 4 with the man advantage on Saturday.

The win- coupled with an Ottawa loss to Toronto on Saturday night- puts the Bruins back into first place in the Northeastern division. As of Sunday night, the Senators and Bruins are separated by a point.

The Bruins will next host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night. So far, the B's have a clean sweep of the season series. The game will be televised on NESN and gets underway at 7:00 PM ET Monday.

OTHER BRUINS NEWS- The Bruins have signed LW Shawn Thornton to a two year extention. Thornton was slated to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. THe extension is reportedly worth $1.1 million per season.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NHL- The St Louis Blues are the first NHL team in either conference to clinch a playoff berth this season. The Blues 3-1 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday sealed the deal. Currently the Blues have 100 points, which is 8 more than the next closest team in the Central Division- the Nashville Predators.

NCAA HOCKEY- Boston College won the Hockey East tournament with a 4-1 win over the Maine Black Bears on Saturday night. Eagles netminder Parker Milner made 41 saves against Maine and Eagles freshman Johnny Guardeau had two goals and an assist to garner the tournament MVP honors.

Saturday's win would be Boston College's 3rd consecutive Hockey East Championship. The Eagles draw The US Air Force Academy in the first round of the NCAA Men's Hockey tournament next week. The matchup will take place this upcoming Saturday afternoon at Worcester at 4:00 PM ET.

NCAA HOOPS- If you filled out your brackets last week, chances are you probably wanted to rip them up, throw them out and start over again after a couple of first-round upsets knocked out some heavily favored schools in March Madness.

Most noteworthy was the #15 seeded Norfolk State Spartans took down #2 seed Missouri by an 86-84 final. This was Norfolk State's first trip to the NCAA tournament, but their run came to an end when they were blown out by Florida by an 84-50 final.

Not to be outdone, another #15 seed took down a heavily favored program when Lehigh beat Duke 75-70 on Friday afternoon, although Xavier would end Lehigh's run with a 58-70 loss on Sunday night.

UConn, Harvard and Vermont would all qualify for the NCAA tourney [with the Catamounts getting by Lamar 59-71 to get into the tournament- NANESB!] but all three New England schools wouldn't advance past the first round. UConn lost to Iowa State, Vermont lost to North Carolina and Harvard would lose to Venderbilt.

While the UMass Minutemen had to settle for an invite to the NIT tournament, they have managed to advance to the quarterfinals after beating Mississippi State in OT in the first round and Seton Hall in the 2nd round. They will next face Drexel at 7:00 PM Tuesday night in a game that will be televised on ESPN.

NFL- NFL's free-agency began last week with the Buffalo Bills having signed free-agent defensive end Mario Williams. Williams was the Texans #1 draft pick in the 2006 NFL draft. The contract is reportedly for 6 years and could be worth upwards of $100 million.

OTHER NFL NEWS- The Washington Redskins have spurred talk that they have their sights on former Baylor QB and last year's Heisman winner Robert Griffin III after trading with the St Louis Rams to get the #2 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft.

The Redskins get the second overall pick in exchange for giving St Louis three 1st round picks and a second round pick.

NBA- Although the second half of the season has been much kinder to the Celtics than it has been the Bruins, the C's are still running into some trouble on their West Coast road trip.

While they did manage back-to-back wins against the LA Clippers and Golden State Warriors, their western tilt started off with a 97-94 loss to the Lakers at the Staples Center and back-to-back losses against Sacramento and Denver.

The C's are still in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, only a game and a half behind the 76ers. Their road trip continues on Monday- although it will be alot less western- when they travel to Atlanta to take on the 26-19 Hawks for the first time this season.

Monday night's game gets underway at 7:30 ET and will be televised on Comcast Sports New England.