Sunday, September 30, 2012

Borderline Psychosis Update- Mass Jailbreak in Coahuila; Brian Terry Murder Suspect in Custody? Spanish-Language Univision Airs New Information in Fast And Furious Investigative Report

COAHUILLA- More than 130 inmates charged with Federal crimes escaped from a prison in Piedras Negras earlier this month after constructing a tunnel and cutting through a chain link fence. The prison that the inmates escaped from is reportedly less than two miles from the border with Texas.
Authorities in Coahuila state discovered a seven-yard long tunnel, ropes and electric cables they believe were used in the break from the prison in Piedras Negras, according to state Attorney General Homero Ramos Gloria.

The prison's director and two other employees were detained for an investigation into the escape of 132 prisoners, Mr Ramos said. The prison houses roughly 730 inmates.

"The fugitives used the tunnel which had an entry and exit hole with a 4-foot diameter," he said. "They cut the chain-link material outside and one by one they got out to a piece of land."

Federal police units and Mexican army convoys were deployed to search for the inmates and authorities in Coahuila state offered rewards of up to $15,000 for information leading to the arrests of each prisoner. Visitors were kicked out of the prison but stayed outside waiting for news of relatives.

Mr Ramos said in a press conference that 86 of the inmates were serving sentences or pending trials for federal crimes, such as drug trafficking, and the rest faced state charges. He said police are investigating a deadly shoot-out 160 miles south of Piedras Negras after the prison break to determine if any of the four people killed were one of the fugitives.
The majority of the escapees were identified as members of the Zetas and reportedly coerced other inmates to aid them in the jailbreak to help replenish their ranks. Three women thought to be escapees were discovered in the visitor's area of the prison after the mass escape, claiming they were threatened by some of the escaping inmates.

Mass jailbreaks and collusion between incarcerated cartel members and their jailers has been problematic since President Calderon began a crackdown against Mexico's drug cartels in 2006. Some states that are supposed to incarcerate inmates convicted on Federal charges have complained there's a shortage of space in their prison systems as well as qualified corrections officers.

In July 2010, guards at a Durango prison were placed under arrest by Federal police officers after it was learned certian inmates were released from their cells and carried out contract killings using prison vehicles and rifles from the armoury.

In February of this year, the Zetas killed at least 40 members of the rival Gulf Cartel during a prison riot that was cover for the escape of some 30 high ranking members of Los Zetas. In December 2010, at least 141 inmates escaped from a Nuevo Leon prison. In 2009, a number of men dressed as police officers showed up at a prison in the state of Zacatecas and simply escorted 53 inmates- many of them high ranking cartel members- out the front door. Mass prison breaks have also taken place in the states of Tamaulipas and Veracruz in recent years.

UPDATE- 10/1: Mexico's Ministry of National Defense is reporting that seven more escapees were arrested in Nuevo Laredo on Sunday evening.

WASHINGTON DC- Not quite 10 days after the Department of Justice Inspector General's released its report on Operation Fast And Furious- which was basically the White House and Eric Holder stonewalling his own Justice Department- Spanish language TV network Univision has launched an investigative report on the ATF's gunwalking program. The Univison piece also has reportedly uncovered a number of murder victims and seized weapons overlooked by the House Oversight Committee investigation earlier this year.
In the report, Univision identifies a total of 57 more previously unreported firearms that were bought by straw purchasers monitored by ATF during Operation "Fast and Furious," and then recovered in Mexico in sites related to murders, kidnappings and other actions by Mexican hit men and drug cartels.

The report also reveals that the Obama administration may have indirectly played a role in the 2009 massacre, where 18 young men were killed at a rehabilitation center in the violent border city of Ciudad Juarez. The massacre was reportedly ordered and carried out by Mexican hit men.

According to a Mexican army document obtained by Univision, three of the high caliber weapons used in the attack were linked to a gun tracing operation run by the ATF. The partial transcript obtained by Fox News did not specify whether this was Operation "Fast and Furious," or another similar ATF operation.
A number of websites have made a 9 and a half minute portion of the Univision report available online with English subtitles [see above]. In addition to Fast and Furious guns turning up at scores of crime scenes in Mexico, two weapons traced back to Operation Fast And Furious were found at the scene of the December 2010 murder of US Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in southern Arizona.

Aside from some investigative journalism from CBS News' Sharyl Attkisson [the first reporter to get an ATF whistleblower to come forward on the record- NANESB!] and local coverage in Arizona, the only time Fast and Furious received any mention in the American press was to either question the credibility of ATF whistleblowers and deflect culpability away from high-ranking Justice Department officials or call for stricter gun control in the United States while citing the ongoing violence in Mexico.

SONORA- Mexican Federal Police announced that they had arrested a suspect in the December 2010 slaying of US Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. On September 7th, Jesus Leonel Sanchez Meza was taken into custody in the state of Sonora.
Jesus Leonel Sanchez Meza is one of the five men charged with killing Terry in December 2010 during a shootout in Arizona near the Mexico border. One is on trial in Arizona and the other three remain fugitives. Sanchez was arrested Thursday in Sonora state.

In July, U.S. authorities made a rare disclosure linked to the botched gun-smuggling probe, revealing identities and requesting the public's help in capturing the four fugitives accused in the shooting death of Terry.

The release of the suspects' identities in an unsealed indictment came with the offer of a $1 million reward for information leading to their capture.

The FBI said it was seeking information related to Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, 31, Ivan Soto-Barraza, 34, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes, 34, and a man identified as Lionel Portillo-Meza, which Mexican police said was an alias of the man arrested Thursday in Puerto Penasco, Sonora.

Portillo-Meza's age and birthplace were unavailable. The other three fugitives were born in Mexico, but their hometowns were not available.

All five men have been charged with murder. They also face charges of assaulting four federal agents.

FBI agents declined to discuss which fugitive is suspected of firing the shot that killed Terry. They also would not comment on whether the weapon was linked to an Operation Fast and Furious purchase.

The five men, plus another who faces lesser charges in the case, went to the U.S. from Mexico in order to rob marijuana smugglers, the indictment said.
Under the current extradition treaty with Mexico, despite being accused of a capital offense, Meza and the remaining fugitives cannot be extradited to the United States if any of them face the death penalty.

TEXAS- A Texas State University professor is accused of owning at least two houses that were purchased with laundered drug money, according to a lawsuit filed by the IRS in San Antionio this month.

Sindy Chapa, an assistant journalism professor at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX is also an ex-girlfriend of embattled former Tamaulipas governor Conrad Yarrington, who is accused by law enforcement on both sides of the border of laundering payoff money from the Gulf Cartel through real estate holdings in Texas.

Chapa reportedly owns a home in Kyle, TX worth an estimated $273,000 and another porterty in McAllen, TX worth $357,400. According to a public database, Chapa reportedly makes $58,000 a year as a professor. Although the IRS is seeking forefeiture of her two properties, she hasn't been formally accused of any crime.

The professor and former Yarrington beau did not show up for her Thurday night classes at the beginning of the semester, leaving a substitute to fill in.

SAN LUIS POTOSI- Mexico's Navy has taken advantage of  some infighting among the Zetas and captured a former high-ranking member nicknamed 'El Taliban' who had broken with the cartel in recent months.
Ivan Velázquez Caballero, 42, was dragged Wednesday evening from a safe house in a middle class neighborhood in the city of San Luis Potosi. Though accompanied by two bodyguards, Velázquez apparently was seized without a shot being fired. He and his two alleged accomplices were presented to the media early Thursday.

Mexico's government put a $2.5 million price on Velázquez's head last spring. He also faces a U.S. criminal indictment on drug-trafficking charges in the Houston-based Southern District of Texas.

Velázquez's arrest came hours after marines captured 18 alleged Zetas gunmen close to the border upriver from McAllen, an area that lately has been considered Gulf Cartel territory. But running battles also erupted later Wednesday between marines and gunmen in the center of Piedras Negras, which shares the Rio Grande with Eagle Pass and is considered to be under Treviño's sway.
Caballero had reportedly sought to work with the Knights Templar and Gulf Cartels- the latter being former benefactors for the Zetas until a very high profile and bloody split where the Zetas went into business for themselves around 2009. The Knights Templar is based primarily out of Michoacan and quickly stepped in to fill the void after the leaders of the cult-like La Familia Michoacana cartels were either killed or arrested by Federal Police last year.

Earlier this month, Mexican Marines arrested a top member of the Gulf Cartel in the Tamaulipas city of Altamira.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Iron Horse Roundup for September 2012

Ontario Northland GP38-2 #1805 seen heading north at Huntsville, ON with The Northlander in March 2011 WD Shaw photo

CANADA- After announcing upcoming cutbacks in service earlier this year, Ontario Northland's Northalnder made its final scheduled run from Toronto to Cochrane, ON this week.
Critics predict 1,000 employees face layoffs in remote, economically strapped communities served by Ontario Northland, the provincial Crown-owned rail service.

As people wept and reminisced on the Northlander's last run, several regional mayors and MPPs vowed to maintain full-steam ahead lobbying of the province to restore rail service and stop undermining far north residents, industries and tourism.

At Cochrane's busy station -- where Polar Bear Express trains to the northernmost Moosonee terminus still operate for locals and tourists -- passengers joined Mayor Peter Politis on the last morning train after a protest rally. A similar afternoon rally was held in North Bay.

In a news release inviting final riders, Politis criticized the government for ignoring "all pleas for reasoning, all rationale on environmental impacts and all exclamations by Northerners for respect of their way of life and their right to determine their futures for themselves."

Some northerners rode converted one-level former GO Transit coaches south on business, to visit families and doctors in the centre of Ontario's universe. Trains were also popular with Toronto-area cottage-owners seeking to avoid traffic gridlock

Some northerners rode converted one-level former GO Transit coaches south on business, to visit families and doctors in the centre of Ontario's universe. Trains were also popular with Toronto-area cottage-owners seeking to avoid traffic gridlock.

This March, the government announced it would wind down its Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC), citing $100 million annual subsidizes plus stagnant ridership.
The province of Ontario, which owns the Ontario Northland, publicly announced 12 years ago that they were seeking to divest themselves of the railroad. Canadian National had reportedly expressed an interest in acquiring the line, but talks ultimately fell through. While the Northlander will be discontinued, the Cochrane-Moosonee Polar Bear Express shall continue operating.

The Ontario Northland Railway also operates rail freight service between Cohrane and Moosonee. The company also operates ferry and motorcoach service in the northern part of the Province as well as the telecommunications firm Ontera. The provincial government had also recently announced they were looking to sell off Ontera to a private bidder.

PAKISTAN- With Pakistan's rail network crumbling and in disarray Pakistan's Railway Minister has decided none of that is as important as weighing on on the Innocence of Muslims controversey by offering a $100,000 bounty on the head of the California filmmakerearlier this month.
Despite international condemnation, Pakistan's railways minister says he isn't backing down from his $100,000 bounty offer to anyone who kills the maker of the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims.

Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, the slight, silver-haired minister, says he was angry when he saw the video and that he's a man of great faith, passionately devoted to the Prophet Muhammad.

Bilour says he could not tolerate any insult to Muhammad and felt he had to do something about it. At a news conference last Saturday, he made the $100,000 bounty offer to anyone — including Taliban and al-Qaida members — who kills the maker of the video, who has been identified as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.

Nakoula was detained Thursday in California and is being held on charges that he violated his probation regulations

"I thought the U.S. and Europe would make some law prohibiting any insult to any prophet but that did not happen," Bilour says. "Since they did not make the law then I thought this is the way to stop it."

Pakistan's government and Bilour's own secular political party have distanced themselves from the Cabinet minister. Bilour says he doesn't care.

"I said it in my personal capacity, and not as a member of the government, and because of the fact that I have political vision and I think that was important," Bilour says.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani Taliban have embraced him. Bilour's bounty offer has also garnered support from some Islamist politicians in Pakistan, such as Hafiz Hussain Ahmed. Ahmed says he's a political opponent of Bilour's, but he agrees that if someone ridicules the prophet, the punishment is death.

But Muhammad Malik, senior editor of Dunya News, one of the leading news channels in Pakistan, sees things with a more jaundiced eye. He says Bilour's offer is a desperate attempt to get publicity, that as the minister of Pakistan's decrepit railway system, Bilour has been a failure.
Malik also points out that Bilour also owns a theater in his home district of Peshawar. Beside western diplomatic missions, cinemas in Pakistan were also reportedly subject to protests from angry mobs rioting over The Innocence of Muslims.

Newly acquired Montreal, Maine & Atlantic C39-8 #8202 leads Iowa, Chicago & Eastern SD40-2#6450 and MM&A B23-7 #2003 lead a westbound mixed freight and empty oil tank train through Brookport, Quebec on September 6, 2012. Frank Jolin photo
MONTREAL MAINE & ATLANTIC- Two years after laying off nearly half og its workforce and selling more than 230 miles of track to the state of Maine, the Montreal Maine & Atlantic is experiencing a rebound of traffic, hiring additional crews as well as purchasing and leasing locomotives.

In July, the Montreal Maine & Atlantic purchased a pair of former Norfolk Southern (nee Conrail) six-axle GE C39-8s- six axle equivalents to the B39-8s the MM&A already has on roster. The units were being stored in eastern Pennsylvania on the New Hope & Ivyland where they were to be refurbished for a proposed luxury train called the Greenbrier Express. However, plans for the service changed from operating an independent trainset to attaching a few luxury cars on already existing Amtrak trains out of Washington DC.

In addidtion to the newer, burly six-axle GE's, the MM&A has also been borrowing SD40-2s from the Canadian Pacific and Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern. The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic has also been posting openings for conductors and engineers on their website as well as the jobs board of the Railroad Retirement Bureau page.

Earlier this year, the JD Irving refinery in East St John, NB began refining crude oil from the Bakken oil shale in North Dakota and Saskatchewan. The lack of any significant east-west oil pipelines in the USA or Canada means that shipping the oil by rail was the next logical choice. From the Bakken shale, the line either moves by BNSF to Chicago or Canadian Pacific to Montreal- from Chicago, the oil is shipped via CSX as far east as Rotterdam Jct where it is handed off the Pan Am Railroad where it makes its way through New England to the New Brunswick Southern at Mattawamkeag, ME for the final leg of its journey to E. St Johns.

The other option is for the oil to travel as far east as Montreal on the Canadian Pacific where it's handed off to the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic where it travels across southern Quebec and the north woods of Maine before the MM&A hands the oil off to the NBSR. The empties are routed back via the MM&A or Pan-Am as well.

A trio of Gulf, Colorado and San Saba GP15-1s pass through Lometa, TX with a trainload of frac sand in January 2011. Ryan R/Jim R photo

TEXAS- The 68-mile central Texas shortline Gulf, Colorado and San Saba has filed for bankruptcy over the summer. Faced with a court-ordered liquidation of the railroad's assets, Gulf, Colorado & San Saba owner Richard McClure sought to avoid such a scenario by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a company is protected from its creditors while it continues operating under the supervision of a court appointed trustee.

The bankruptcy filing by the GCSR came just before the sale of the company was to take place on the steps of the San Saba Courthouse. The sale was the result of a $1.7 million court judgement against it by BNSF railroad.

GCSR owner, Richard McClure, told the Brady Standard Herald the bankruptcy filing was a strategic business decision that would allow them to reorganize and pay off debt.

Locally, customers of the railroad have met to to review how the bankruptcy potentially affects their businesses, and what steps they might need to take to ensure the continuation of rail service to the area.

McClure told the Brady Standard Herald there would be virtually no change in service to the area during the bankruptcy.
The GCSR started up in the 1992 after purchasing the former Santa Fe branchline between Brady and Lometa, TX. Although traffic was initially agricultiral products, in recent years drilling around the Eagle Ford Shale has picked up and the line has seen a dramatic increase in sand for use in hydrofracking.

Despite the increase in traffic, the line is reportedly suffering from deferred maintainence, a lack of capacity at their Brady, TX yard and problems paying the bills. One unsourced review on Yahoo dated May 2011 claimed the company was months behind on a $60,000 bill.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Quickie Sports Chowdah Update- Homer Delivers Bail of Goods; Astros Say Goodbye to National League, Hamilton; Refs Ready For Some Football

Gene J. Puskar/AP
MLB- Amidst a tightening wild card race, Cincinnati starter Homer Bailey stole the baseball spotlight on Friday night by throwing the Reds' first no-hitter in nearly 24 years.

Having clinched the NL Central pennant nearly a week ago, the Reds didn't have much to play for other than postseason positioning. Despite the torrid start earlier this season, the Pittsburgh Pirates were playing to finish above .500 for the first time in 20 seasons.

Although Cincinnati jumped out to an early 1-0 lead thanks to a sac-fly from outfielder Todd Frazier, that would be all the scoring Pirate's starter AJ Burnett would allow in the early going. However, on the strength of Bailey's no-hitter, it would be all the Reds would need.

Bailey would total a relatively efficient 115 pitches in the Friday night contest. The only baserunners allowed came on an error in the bottom of the 3rd where SS Clint Barmes reached 1st and a walk to Bucs outfielder Andrew McCutchen in the bottom of the 7th. In what would be the 7th no-hitter of the 2012 MLB season, Homer Bailey matched a career high 10 strikeouts in what would turn out to be only his third complete game in the majors. Curiously, Bailey's other two complete games were against the Pirates.

The last pitcher to throw a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates was St Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson on August 14, 1971. That took place back in the days when the Pirates played in the old Three Rivers Stadium- Bailey's no-hitter was the first ever to take place in PNC Park, which opened during the 2001 season.

The last Reds starter to throw a no-hitter was Tom Browning, who threw a perfect game against the Dodgers in September 1988. Prior to Friday night in Pittsburgh, the most recent no-hitter thrown in the majors was Seattle's Felix Hernandez in what would turn out to be another 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

ELSEWHERE IN THE NL CENTRAL- Wednesday night marked the end of an era on a couple of different levels in Houston. The 2-0 shutout win over the wild card-contending St Louis Cardinals marked not only the last home game that Astros announcer Milo Hamilton called before his retirement, but also the last home game before the Astros move over the the American League. Starter Bud Norris [6-13; 4.82 ERA] threw 7 and ⅓ shutout innings and had the honor of being the last pitcher to bat at Minute Maid Park barring some sort of League-wide rule change [Remember this- it will probably be a trivia question at some point in the future- NANESB!].

Meanwhile, the 85 year old Hamilton- who is best known for calling Hank Aaron's 715th career homer as an announcer for the Braves- will reportedly make a cameo via remote during the Astros regular season finale and appear on the weekly offseason 'Astroline' show this upcoming fall and winter.

NFL- Thursday night's game between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens marked the return of the regular NFL officiating crews to the field since the end of Superbowl XLVI- and perhaps the only time in NFL history that the officials took to the field to a standing ovation and thunderous applause.

AP Photo/Nick Wass

Unlike most of the game on Monday night in Seattle, Thursday night's game passed without incident until the 4th quarter. With the Ravens leading by 13 heading into the 4th, the Brown managed to cut the lead down to 23-13 with just over 12 minutes to go before another Browns drive into Baltimore territory netted another long FG to make it 23-16. With 1:05 remaining, the Browns got the ball back on their own 10 and managed to move the ball down the field pretty quickly, getting as far as the Ravens' 33 with 23 seconds remaining.

Although Browns QB Brandon Weeden couldn't convert on 4th down with 10 seconds to go, Baltimore drew a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with 2 seconds on the clock giving the Browns another shot from the Baltimore 18 and setting up a situation thst was eerily similar to Monday night's debacle in Seattle. However, instead of the Hail Mary pass being fought for in a scrum of defenders and receivers, Weeden's pass sailed unambiguously beyond the end zone and out of bounds to end the game and close out the Ravens' 23-16 win over the 0-4 Browns.

BC Women's Volleyball Vs Virginia Cavaliers at Power Gym Thursday Night- BC Athletics Facebook Page
For the first time since Aug 25th, the Boston College Volleyball team played a home game in Power Gym on Thursday night when they hosted the Virginia Cavaliers. While they played in the New England Challenge earlier this month, Northeastern acted as the host venue. This also marked the first home game against an ACC opponent in the 2012 season.

Virgnia Cavaliers Libero Emily Rottman

After a wild first (and third!) set that required overtime, the Eagles managed to sweep the Virginia Cavaliers 3-0 on Thursday night, winning 27-29, 25-15 and 25-27 respectively. Current ACC Freshman of the Week Katty Workman led the Eagles effort with 15 kills- her 14th match this season with 10 or more kills- while captain Krystle Higgins contributed with 10 and Melissa McTighe chipped in with 7.

Defensively, Lauren Fields had 10 digs while Courtney Castle had 7 of her own in the back-and-forth match with the Cavs. The hard-fought win brings the Lady Eagles back to .500 with an overall 8-8 record and 2-2 record against ACC opponents.

Their next match will be on Sunday at noontime in Power Gym against the 10-4 Virginia Tech Hokies.

Massachusetts State Police Lab Technician Who Admitted Faking Results Taken Into Custody

Annie Dookhan- the Massachusetts crime lab technician who's fradulent test results have thrown thousands of convictions into question.
A lab chemist at Massachusetts' William A Hinton State Laboratory was arrested by State Police on charges of witness intimidation earlier on Friday after she confessed to improperly handling evidence turned over for testing and forging supervisors signatures on paperwork.
State police say Dookhan tested more than 60,000 drug samples involving 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the lab. Defense lawyers and prosecutors are scrambling to figure out how to deal with the fallout.

Since the lab closed, more than a dozen drug defendants are back on the street while their attorneys challenge the charges based on Dookhan's misconduct.

Many more defendants are expected to be released. Authorities say more than 1,100 inmates are currently serving time in cases in which Dookhan was the primary or secondary chemist.

The scandal prompted the resignation of the state's public health commissioner and the resignations of two others.

Dookhan is charged with witness intimidation, a crime punishable by as many as 10 years in prison, and pretending to hold a degree, punishable by as much as a year in jail.

Dookhan had once testified under oath that she holds a master's degree in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts, but school officials have said they have no record of her receiving an advanced degree or taking graduate courses there.
In a police interview, Dookhan admitted to faking results of drug tests for at least two years as well as forging colleagues and supervisors initials on paperwork and signing off on negative drug samples she knew were negative as positive.

In July of 2011, Dookhan was suspended after she was caught forging a colleague's initials on a lab report. She resigned in March 2012 as the Commonwealth's Department of Public Health investigated her caseload. The lab was run by the agency until July of this year when the State Police took control.

So not only does Dookhan's conduct allow an opening for some guilty parties to get out of prison, questions about whether or not any innocent people remain locked up due to her negligence and mishandling of potentially exculpatory evidence.

If that is the case, I think it should only be fair to allow some of the wrongly convicted individuals to crash at her residence in Franklin, know, until they can get back on their feet.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Benghazi Update: As Obama Addresses UN, White House And State Department Change Stories on Benghazi Attacks; Brazilian Court Orders Anti-Islam Video Removed From You Tube

One day after President Obama delivered a harsh rebuke of those who would insult Islam while offering a tepid- if nonexistent- defense of free speech, The Daily Beast published an in-depth article detailing how within a day of the September 11th, 2012 attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed the Ambassador and three diplomatic and security staff, US intelligence officials knew that Al Qaeda affiliated operatives in Eastern Libya were behind the attacks.
The intelligence officials who spoke to The Daily Beast did so anonymously because they weren’t authorized to speak to the press. They said U.S. intelligence agencies developed leads on four of the participants of the attacks within 24 hours of the fire fight that took place mainly at an annex near the Benghazi consulate. For one of those individuals, the U.S. agencies were able to find his location after his use of social media. “We had two kinds of intelligence on one guy,” this official said. “We believe we had enough to target him.”

Another U.S. intelligence official said, “There was very good information on this in the first 24 hours. These guys have a return address. There are camps of people and a wide variety of things we could do.”

A spokesman for the National Security Council declined to comment for the story. But another U.S. intelligence official said, “I can’t get into specific numbers but soon after the attack we had a pretty good bead on some individuals involved in the attack.”

It’s unclear whether any of these suspected attackers have been targeted or arrested, and intelligence experts caution that these are still early days in a complex investigation.
The Daily Beast article was published days after an unnamed Libyan source claimed that there was no protest in front of the US Consulate just prior to the bloody assault.
An intelligence source on the ground in Libya told Fox News that there was no demonstration outside the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi prior to last week's attack -- challenging the Obama administration's claims that the assault grew out of a "spontaneous" protest against an anti-Islam film.

"There was no protest and the attacks were not spontaneous," the source said, adding the attack "was planned and had nothing to do with the movie."

The source said the assault came with no warning at about 9:35 p.m. local time, and included fire from more than two locations. The assault included RPG's and mortar fire, the source said, and consisted of two waves.

The account that the attack started suddenly backs up claims by a purported Libyan security guard who told McClatchy Newspapers late last week that the area was quiet before the attack.

"There wasn't a single ant outside," the unnamed guard, who was being treated in a hospital, said in the interview.
A spokesman for Libya's nascent post-Ghdaffi government said local eyewitnesses claimed that the attack came in two waves- RPG and machine gun fire directed at the consulate followed by mortar fire directed at one of the safehouses. The eyewitness accounts directly contradict statements from the Obama Administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the consulate was torched as a result of a spontaneous protest or heavily-armed Al Qaeda operatives blending in among a massive demonstration in front of the US consulate.

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice had made the Sunday morning talk-show circuit repeating the White House claim that there was a spontaneous demonstration- directly contradicting a number of reports to the contrary.

Despite sending FBI agents and forensic teams to Libya to examine the crime scene and interview local witnesses, the FBI agents still hadn't reached the city of Benghazi more than 2 weeks after the consulate attacks took place- meaning that the scene of the assault has been compromised and even if forensic teams were arrived today, there would be little evidence of value remaining. In fact, a stringer for CNN reportedly discovered Ambassador Stevens' diary in a charred hallway in the Benghazi consulate- CNN subsequently came under harsh criticism for not mentioning their find earlier and using the journal as a source without notifying the ambassador's family or the State Department, although they eventually returned the diary to the Stevens family after transcribing information they thought was pertinent.

Since June of this year, there had been at least four previous attacks targeting foreign diplomats or NGOs in Benghzai, including an IED targetting the US Consulate and an RPG fired at a British diplomatic convoy. Ambassador Stevens reportedly expressed a growing concern in his journal about the deteriorating security situation in the eastern part of Libya.

Another indicator that the attack in Libya required a considerable amount of advanced planning was the fact that CIA documents regarding post-Ghdaffi contacts in Libya and detailed dossiers on Islamist militias were missing from the consulate after the attack. As one analyst put it "We got our eyes poked out".

The missing intelligence along with the timing of the attack and use of heavy weapons- as well as reports from local eyewitnesses that there were no massive protests leading up to the attack- would give even the most casual observer every indication that the murder of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans were the result of a calculated, well planned raid- not a random gaggle of Muslims irate over a YouTube clip who just happened to have heavy weapons on them when they decided to lash out at the USA.

ELSEWHERE- The Obama Administration's insistence that a YouTube trailer somehow provoked the violence that led to Ambassador Steven's has spread to Brazil, apparently. Not only that, it reportedly has the weight of a Brazilian court ruling behind it.
Sao Paulo-based judge Gilson Delgado Miranda gave the site 10 days to remove video clips from "Innocence of Muslims," which has angered many Muslims around the world by its depiction of the Prophet Mohammed and his followers as thugs. After the 10-day window, Google will face fines of $5,000 a day for every day the clips remain accessible in Brazil, according to the statement on the court's website.

The company did not respond to requests Wednesday for comment about the case.

The "Innocence of Muslims" ruling resulted from a lawsuit by a group representing Brazil's Muslim community, the National Union of Islamic Entities, which claimed the film violates the country's constitutional guarantee of religious freedom for all faiths.

In a statement on the group's website, Mohamad al Bukai, the head of religious matters for the Sao Paulo-based organization, hailed the ruling.

"Freedom of expression must not be confused with giving disproportionate and irresponsible offence, which can provoke serious consequences for society," al Bukai said.

Attempts by courts and officials in several countries to remove the clips have revived the debate over freedom of expression.

The judge in the Brazilian case acknowledged that banning content from sites like YouTube is a thorny issue, according to excerpts of the ruling cited in the National Union of Islamic Entities' statement.

"This type of jurisprudence cannot be confused with censorship," Miranda is quoted as writing. In the excerpts, the judge defines censorship as "the undue restriction of the civic consciousness."

YouTube routinely blocks video in specific countries if it violates laws there. It also removes video deemed to infringe copyrights, show pornography, contain hate speech or violate other guidelines. However, none of those restrictions had been applied in Brazil to the "Innocence of Muslims."

Google is now selectively blocking the video clips in countries that include Libya and Egypt. Google has said it made the decision to block the video in such places due to "the sensitive situations" there.

Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation questioned whether a ban was really necessary in Brazil, which has seen no protests or rioting that have swept the Muslim world in recent weeks.

"The notion that there's a need to take it down to prevent violence is ludicrous," she said.

Miranda's ruling came on the same day that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff addressed the United Nations and urged an end to prejudice against Muslims.
In a separate ruling, a top official for Google Brazil was ordered detained and fined due to a breach of Brazilian electoral law. The arrest of Fabio Jose Silva Coehlo by federal police in Brazil was initially reported as stemming from the Innocence of Muslims short film.

Earlier this month, the White House had requested Google remove the movie.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sports Chowdah Update, Intercep-ticon Edition- Last Second Calls in Seattle, Baltimore Cause Stir; Mighty MAC has 'Big' Weekend; Northeastern Sweeps All New England V-Ball Tourney Photo

NFL- Three weeks into the regular NFL season and I've apparently made little to no mention to the fact that the league is operating with replacement referees due to an NFL lockout. Rather naiively, I thought it was a non-issue that would be quietly resolved before anything substantial could take place.

However, after Monday night's game it looks as though I was wrong on both counts. The nationally televised game from the Emerald City pitted the host Seattle Seahawks against the Green Bay Packers.

It was a low-scoring affair, and Seattle's defense punished Green Bay QB Aaron Walker by saking him 8 times in the first half. Despite the relentless harrassment of Rogers, the Packers were leading 12-7 late in the 4th and pinned deep in their own territory with less to two minutes to go. After going three and out, Green Bay was forced to punt from their own 4 yard line. The ensuing kick gave the Seahawks the ball at mid-field with 46 seconds to go in the 4th quarter.

Seahawks rookie QB Russel Wilson got the ball as far as the Packers 24 yard line as the clock ticked down. As time expired, Wilson threw a Hail Mary pass to WR Golden Tate in the end zone where the ball was momentrally lost among a sea of defenders and when everybody hit the ground, one official was signalling touchdown while another had signalled interception & touchback [shown above- NANESB!].

A further review of the replay showed that Packer's safety MD Jennings had snatched the ball out of the air as Tate was pushing off, but the touchdown call was upheld and after 10 minutes, the Packers were summoned out of the locker room for the point-after attempt to seal the Seahawk's controversial 14-12 win over Green Bay.

Before the game had even technically ended, the replacement officials game-deciding call had prompted fans, coaches, players and sports columnists to demand the NFL bring the ongoing lockout with the original officials to a close. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach John Gruden and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young- both working as commentators for ESPN- voiced their displeasure with the in-game officiating right away both in-game and on the Monday Night Football postgame shows.

There is still a considerable gap between the NFL and the locked out referees over the issue of salary, but the call to close out Monday Night's game could prove to be the catalyst to take it off the back burner. Reportedly some of the replacement officials used by the NFL this season had been dismissed by the Lingerie Football League [a league which by rights I should probably know more about but am only marginally aware that it even exists- NANESB!] earlier this year.

It's also worth pointing out that the call on the field by the replacement referees was subject to review by NFL replay officials who weren't replacements. Earlier in the game there had been a number of penalties that kept what would turn out to be scoring drives alive.

The replacement officials issue will no doubt be revisited countless times before Thursday night's game between the Browns and Ravens.

Nick Wass/ AP Photo

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS- Should Monday Night's game proved to have been uneventful, the sports media would no doubt still be discussing New England's Sunday Night Game against the Baltimore Ravens and the officiating that was done there.

Sunday night's game between two perennial division leaders would be the Patriots' first prime-time contest of the 2012 campaign. After the Patriors got out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, the Ravens came back to briefly take the lead in the 2nd thanks to two lengthy, sustained drives led by QB Joe Flacco to give Baltimore a 14-13 lead with less than two minutes to go in the opening half. However, after getting the ball back on their own 19 with 1:41 left in the 2nd quarter, New England hit paydirt on a short Brady pass to WR Julian Edelman with 2 seconds left to make it 20-14 at the half.

The Ravens opened up the second half by re-taking the lead on a three and a half minute drive that was capped by a short TD rub by RB Ray Rice to make it 21-20. The Patriots replied in kind, taking nearly 5 minutes off the clock as they marched down the field thanks mostly to relatively short passes by Brady or short runs by RB Danny Woodhead who was finally able to punch it in from the Ravens three yard line and give the Patriots the 27-21 lead. Although the Patriots would make a return trip to the Ravens end zone on their next posession, they would have to settle for a short Gostkowski FG to make it 30-21. The score would remain that way until the 4:01 mark of the 4th when the Ravens managed to punch it in for a TD after starting off on their own 8 yard line, making it a 28-30 Patriots lead.

New England would get the ball back and advance as far as midfield before Brady was sacked and the Patriots had to punt right around the 2 minute warning. With just under a minute to go in the game, Patriots CB Devin McCourty was called for a pass-interference penalty, giving the Ravens the ball inside the Patriots 10 yard line with the clock ticking. After calling one timeout in an attempt to freeze Ravens rookie kicker Justin Tucker [his first kick DID unambiguously split the uprights, too- NANESB!], Tucker's next kick soared over the right upright and was ruled good, giving Baltimore the 31-30 win as time expired.

Unsurprisingly, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was unsatisfied with both the officiating and result of the game, leading him to track down an official and grab him while asking for a review of whether or not Tucker's kick was good. Much was made of the on-field confrontation until Monday Night's 'Touchdeception' in Seattle. Both Belichick or Ravens head coach John Harbaugh had made clear their displeasure with the officiating from the replacement referees during Sunday night's game as well. Belichick can reportedly expect a fine and some sort of reprimand from the league this week.

Sporting a rare losing record, the Pats will travel to Orchard Park, NY next Sunday to take on the 2-1 Buffalo Bills- their first AFC East matchup of the 2012 season. The game gets underway at 1:00 PM ET and will be televised on CBS.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL- Although there was one overtime game in week 1, Week 3 of the NFL season featured no less than three contests that went to overtime. The Tennesee Titans made a key stop on 4th and 1 to get their first win of the season- a 44-41 victory over the Detroit Lions at Nashville on Sunday. The Miami Dolphins scored late in the 4th to tie the game up at 20-20 before the Jets would get the Game winning FG with just over 6 minutes remaining in OT. And the Kansas City Chiefs stunned New Orleans by scoring 11 unanswered points in the 4th quarter to climb out of a 24-13 hole to beat the Saints on a 31 yard Ryan Succop FG with 6 and a half minutes to go.

This has been the first time there has been two or more overtimes since the NFL modified the rules for OT. Beginning this season, there will be no more sudden death overtime- each team will have at least one posession. If a team scores on their opening posession, the other team will have the opportunity to match or beat that score. If neither team has managed to score, then the next team to score will win [unless the clock runs out, meaning the game will end in a tie- NANESB!] making it 'sudden death' of sorts.

Charlie Niebergall/AP Photo
NCAA FOOTBALL- Saturday turned out to be a good day for much of the supposedly lowly Mid America Conference. The Central Michigan Chippewas pulled off what was easily the biggest upset of the day. Trailing the Iowa Hawkeyes 23-31 with less than a minute to go at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, the Chippewas managed to score nine unanswered points in the final 50 seconds- including a 13 yard TD pass from QB Ryan Radcliff to WR Titus Davis followed by a 47 yard FG from David Harman with 3 seconds left to give Central Michigan the narrow win over the Hawkeyes. Prior to the game, the Hawkeyes had been favored to win by as much as two touchdowns.

The Chippewas wouldn't be the only MAC team from Michigan to take down a favored oppoenent on Saturday. The narrowly-favored UConn Huskies fell to the Western Michigan Broncos thanks to a 4th quarter sack and strip of Huskies QB Chandler Whitmer. The loose ball was picked up by Broncos LB Desmond Bozeman and returned all the way for a TD to make it a 30-17 lead for Western Michigan.

The visiting Huskies would score a late TD with just 1:15 left in regulation, but UConn would fall to Western Michigan by a 30-24 final.

Over in DeKalb County, IL the Northern Illinois Huskies staged a come-from-behind win over the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas opened up the 4th quarter by running back a Jordan Lynch interception for 54 yards for a touchdown and a 23-13 lead over the Huskies. However, Northern Illinois would go on to score 17 unanswered points and pin the Jayhawks deep in their own end to close out the game and 30-23 win.

Of course, not all the games went so swimmingly for teams in the MAC on Saturday. While Eastern Michigan managed to keep the Michigan State Spartans out of the end zone for the first half and headed into the locker room with a 7-3 lead, the Spartnas scored 20 unanswered points in the second half to cruise to a 23-7 win over the Eagles. Meanwhile, in Knoxville, TN, the Akron Zips looked like they were too much for the Tennesee Volunteers to handle for most of Saturday night's contest, heading into the locker rooms tied 23-23 at the half before the Vols pulled away in the 4th quarter to make it a 47-26 final.

The UMass Minutemen's debut in MAC intraconference play was a little less noteworthy. They travelled to Oxford, OH to take on the Miami of Ohio Redhawks. While the final score was a bit more respectable than losing their first three games by a composite 145-19, the Minutemen still remain winless after their latest trip to the Midwest, falling to the Redhawks by a final of 16-27. This upcoming weekend, the Minutemen will host the undefeated Ohio Bobcats at Foxbourough. The Bobcats are currently favored in by as much as 24 points.

In fact, all three New England FBS teams will be playing at home this upcoming weekend. 2-2 UConn will host the 1-2 Buffalo Bulls at noon eastern time in East Hartford while Boston College comes off their weekend off to host the Clemson Tigers in ACC play. Kickoff in Chestnut Hill gets underway at 3:30 ET.

Georgia Tech Yellowjackets Librero/Defensive Specialist Nicki Meyer- Photo via Georgia Tech Volleyball on Facebook
NCAA VOLLEYBALL- After an all-New England tournament hosted at Northeastern earlier this month, most of the participating schools- UConn, Boston College, Northeastern and Harvard- began intraconference play in earnest [altho BC already has a win over Maryland from the Spring Hill Suites at Arundel Mills Invitational earlier this month- NANESB!].

Although Boston College dropped the first two contests to Northeastern and UConn, they managed to salvage a win in the New England Volleyball Challenge Tournament over Harvard on the final day.

The Eagles opened up ACC play against the Georgia Tech in Atlanta last Friday, challenging the Yellowjackets early but ultimately getting swept in 3 straight sets. BC Outisde Hitter Katty Workman- who had already garnered Freshman of the Week honors from the ACC had 13 kills in the losing effort for Boston while Ramblin' Wreck Librero Nicki Meyer (daughter of Ohio State Buckeyes head football coach Urban Meyer) was uncharachteristically quiet as Senior Bailey Hunter had 9 kills, leading the Yellowjackets. The Eagles then travelled to Clemson the following day, only to once again get swept, leaving them with a 7-8 record and 1-2 in ACC play.

This weekend, the lady Eagles will play host to Virginia (5-8) and Virginia Tech (9-4)at Chestnut Hill.

Meanwhile, the Northeastern Huskies managed to sweep the New England Volleyball Challenge Tournament defeating Harvard, Boston College and UConn before going on to face opponents from the Colonial Athletic Association. The 12-3 Huskies are 1-0 in CAA play (defeating Hofstra immediately after the New England Challenge Tournament) and will host UNC Wilmington and William & Mary at Solomon Court in Boston this upcoming weekend. Currently, only the 14-3 Towson Tigers sport a better record in CAA Volleyball.

UConn came away from the New England Classic with a 2-1 record and has gone 3-0 since then, defeating Sacred Heart, Villanova and Georgetown. Their overall record is 11-6, good for 3rd overall in the Big East behind Seton Hall and St John's- their upcoming opponent this weekend, as it turns out.

MLB- While nobody in the American League has clinched a playoff berth yet, at least two Division pennant winners came through this weekend.

Over on the West Coast, the San Francisco Giants secured the NL West pennant after taking two out of three from the San Diego Padres while the Cincinnati Reds secured the NL Central title after shutting out the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-0 at the Great American Ballpark- their only win in the 3 game weekend series against LA.

There will be no less than two playoff teams coming from the NL East as the Washington Nationals- sporting the best record in the league with 93 wins- are four games up on the Atlanta Braves who still aren't mathematically eliminated frmo winning the NL East pennant. The worst case scenario for the Braves currently is thet they'll secure the next-to-last playoff spot.

With just under a week to go in the regular season, the St Louis Cardinals currently hold the lead for the final NL Wild Card berth. With eight games to go for each team, the LA Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers are 4 and a half games behind St Louis.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Today's Train of Thought- Range Rovers, September 24, 2012

Today's Train of thought takes us to the coastal range of western Oregon and Genesee & Wyoming's Portland & Western and their 75-mile Toledo district between Toledo and Albany, OR. It's safe to say that the 520-mile Portland & Western is perhaps the most diverse line in the Genesee & Wyoming family, featuring everything from scrap metal, brick, grain, chemical, aggregates and forestry products to steam-powered excursion trains and Portland's TriMet Westside Express commuter trains.

The remote, rugged former Southern Pacific branch in Western Oregon features dense forests, sharp curves and an average running speed of 10-12 MPH. Despite the sluggish economy and downturn in the timber industry, Portland and Western's Toledo Hauler keeps busy serving the Port of Toledo as well as the large Georgia Pacific mill in town. Train length out of Albany can usually range anywhere from 30-50 cars- the respectable size requires alot of horsepower, so six locomotives- including cabless slugs- aren't unusual.

Here, contributor Charles Bonville catches the eastbound Toledo Hauler crossing the secluded trestle over the Marys River outside of Philomath, OR in October 2009. Although it apprears as though GP39-2 #2301 is leading, the former Santa Fe locomotive is actually the trailing unit on today's consist- power is a mix of rebuilt GP40s, road slugs and GP39-2s- all in GWI industries orange and black.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

US Army Debuts His And Hers Body Armour

US Army Corporal Kristine Tejada keeps watch while securing the site of the ancient Sumerian Ziggeraut in Ur, Iraq. SSgt. Jeremy J. Fowler photo
Ladies of the Unites States Army- Tired of trying to stop bullets and shrapnel with a 40 year old flack jacket that was clearly made with somebody a foot taller and 80 lbs heavier than you in mind?

The you're in luck! The US Army is getting ready to begin field testing of body armour specifically designed for female soldiers this month. The GIs in question are part of the Ft Campbell, KY based 101st Airborne Division.Think of it as the 'Secret' of body armour- Stong enough for a man, but made for a woman.
"Most females tend to have a narrow or thinner waist as it relates to the chest area, so we pulled the waist area in," said Lt. Col. Frank J. Lozano, the product manager for Soldier Protective Equipment.

"Some women will want more room in the waist area, so we allowed for adjustability in the cummerbund in the back, which can be pulled in tighter or let out more than on the standard [Improved Outer Tactical Vest]."

Bringing the shoulder area closer to the neck helped accommodate narrow female shoulders and opens the area around the armpits. That opens up the mobility for the shoulders and upper arms so that female soldiers can properly hold their weapons against the shoulder

The female body armor also has a shorter bottom for a better fit, since the average torso length of women is shorter than that of men. That shorter length prevents the armor from chafing the hips female soldiers as they walk, and also avoids the blood circulation issue caused by the front armor plate.

A group of 30 female soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division will get 100 prototypes to try out in September or October. Their suggestions will then help finalize the body armor that deploys more broadly by next summer.

Another satisfied customer!
According to the US Army's own estimates, women currently make up 14% of all active-duty personnel. While women aren't technically allowed to serve in any combat arms fields (i.e. infantry, armour, artillery) there are a number of support MOS's where female soldiers do serve and are considered high-risk; such as Military Police or Combat Medic.

The female-only body armor is not to be confused with 'tactical corsets' which purportedly seeks to combine the practicality and convenience of a modern-day Load Carrying Equipment (LCE) harness with the Victorian era grace and elegance of a corset.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bloomberg: South Dakota Mining College Grads Can Expect to Earn More than Harvard Grads

The massive Freeport McMoran open pit copper mine at Morenci, AZ. A run on commodities in recent years has created shortages of qualified workers and higher wages for those entering the mining industry. Kresge86 photo
After a nearly decade long bull market for commodities, mining companies throughout the United States have found themselves short of qualified personnel while attempting to keep up with market demand. This has translated to recent graduates from smaller mining colleges earning more than their Ivy-League counterparts right out of school.

A study tracking employee compensation data determined that recent graduates of the 2300 student South Dakota School of Mines and Technology made an annual salary of nearly $57,000.
Those leaving the college of 2,300 students this year got paid a median salary of $56,700, according to PayScale Inc., which tracks employee compensation data from surveys. At Harvard, where tuition fees are almost four times higher, they got $54,100. Those scheduled to leave the campus in Rapid City, South Dakota, in May are already getting offers, at a time when about one in 10 recent U.S. college graduates is out of work.

“It doesn’t seem to be too hard to get a job in mining,” said Jaymie Trask, a 22-year-old chemical-engineering major who was offered a post paying more than $60,000 a year at Freeport- McMoRan (FCX) Copper & Gold Inc. “If you work hard in school for four or five years, you’re pretty much set.”

A fourfold gain in commodities in the past decade reflects both surging demand and the industry’s failure to keep up. While new mineral deposits are getting harder to find, companies also are struggling to add enough skilled workers. That’s partly a legacy of U.S. colleges cutting back on mining programs. There were fewer than 28,000 people employed in U.S. metals mining in 2004, from 58,000 in 1993, the National Mining Association estimates. By 2011, it had rebounded to 40,000.

As many as 78,000 additional U.S. workers will be needed by 2019 to replace retirees, the Society of Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration said in a report in January. In Australia, the largest shipper of coal and iron ore, there will be a shortfall of 1,700 mine engineers, 3,000 geoscientists and 36,000 other workers in the five years ending in 2015, the report said.

Demand for mining-school graduates is exceptional in the U.S., where the unemployment rate for 20-to-24 year olds with Bachelor’s degrees was 11.8 percent in July. The jobless rate across the economy held above 8 percent for a 43rd month in August, government data show.
The total number of schools in the United States that offered mining degrees in 1982 was thirty- today that number is down to fourteen. Tuition for South Dakota School of Mines and Technology runs between $8400 and $13,000. By contrast, with a student body of nearly 27,000 tuition for Harvard averages in the neighborhood of $40,000.

This week also marks the one year of the anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. One of several reasons cited for the protests was the rising costs of college tuition. In fact, Harvard professor, Massachusetts Democrat senate candidate and faux Native American Elizabeth Warren claimed to have been the intellectual brainchild behind the Occupy movement in an interview last year, but has had little if anything to say about the movement since then.

Yet, it somehow turns out the nation needs more mining engineers than it does unemployable Ivy-league Philosophy or Gay, Lesbian and Transsexual Studies Degree holders camped out in parks wondering why tuition for their diplomas are so high.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Blue State Graft Watch- Feds Arrest Trenton, NJ Mayor on Corruption Charges

After July's FBI raids on City Hall and the Mayor's residence in Trenton, NJ, many observers figured it would be only a matter of time before the Feds pressed charges against Democrat Trenton mayor Tony Mack and arrested him.

And they would be correct.

On September 10th, Mack was arrested by federal agents at his home on corruption charges linked to a city development project. Also taken into custody were Mack's brother Ralphiel and a prominent Mack campaign donor, Joseph "JoJo" Giorgianni.
"The investigation revealed evidence of a conspiracy among the defendants and other to corrupt certain functions of Trenton City government in favor of a purported developer seeking to building a parking garage on City-owned property in exchange for cash payments totaling approximate $119,000, a total of $54,000 that the defendants actually accepted in one way or another and another $65,000 that they anticipated accepting," according to the criminal complaint filed today.

The complaint indicates the FBI had been investigating Mack since September 2010, just a few months after he took office. At least two cooperating witnesses are cited in the complaint and the FBI made extensive use of wire taps on the phones of Mack, Giorgianni and the cooperating witnesses.

An informant working with the FBI, identified in the complaint as "CW-1," first met with Giorgianni on Sept. 14, 2010 claiming to represent a developer who wanted to build a parking garage on East State Street in the city. The confidential witness asked for Mack's help in securing the property in exchange for cash and Giorgianni agreed to broker the deal, the complaint states.

That conversation, which occurred two months after Mack's election, was recorded by the witness, according to the complaint.

"We want this," Giorgianni said, according to the complaint. "What do you think we did all this for? I like to make money for my friends. I like to do it like the Boss Tweed way. You know Boss Tweed ran Tamany Hall?"

Numerous meetings and conversations followed regarding the parking garage, but the project discussions slowed last year when a citizen's group mounted an effort to recall Mayor Mack. The recall fell short of the signatures needed.

"On April 18, 2011 at JoJo's Steakhouse, Giorgianni stated that Tony F. Mack was interested in engaging in the corrupt transaction previously discussed 'once this July thing's over,' referring to the efforts by certain Trenton citizens to recall Tony F. Mack," the complaint states. "Giorgianni stated 'Once that's over, we're ready to roll."

The bribes started to flow on Oct. 27, 2011 when Giorgianni accepted two envelopes with $1,500 each from the cooperating witness "with the express understanding that Giorgianni would give one of the envelopes to Tony F. Mack in exchange for Tony F. Mack's support of the development of the East State Street lot."
The July raids on City Hall, the mayor's home and Giorgianni's steakhouse reportedly stemmed from a phantom parking garage which was actually a paid parking lot in downtown Trenton that was sold to the city for $1 in 2000. The informant at Giorgianni's steakhouse had reportedly offered cash to both Giorgiani and Mack to arrange a meeting and help expedite the permit process for converting the current lot into a garage.

So far, Tony Mack faces just the single corruption charge, but more charges could be pending depending on what subsequent searches of City Hall, Mack's residence and Griogriani's steakhouse turn up.

Since taking office in 2010, Mack has been accused of using the city payroll as how own personal piggybank as well as steering larded up city contracts to friends, hiring and promoting unqualified relatives into various municipal positions. Earlier this year, Mack's half-brother who was appointed supervisor of Trenton's water utility pleaded guilty to using city employees and city owned equipment to carry out private work at the city's expense. A Mercer County judge had decided to revoke Mack's half brother's bail at the end of August.

It should also be worth pointing out that Mack is also a member of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's 'Mayors against illegal guns' coalition.

Trenton is New Jersey's state capitol and 10th largest city.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sports Chowdah Update For September 20th- Cardinals Have Pats Seeing Red; UMass Gets Rolled Big Time in the Big House; Fading Rays? Sox Show Signs of Life vs Tampa

AP Photo/Tony Ding
NCAA FOOTBALL- To hardly anybody's surprise, the UMass Minutemen walked into the Big House at Ann Arbor last weekend and got slaughtered by #17 Michigan. The Wolverines jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter before UMass got on the board thanks to a Brendon Levengood FG to make it 14-3. After the Wolverines made it a 21-3 game, Minutemen Freshamn DB Christian Brit picked off Michicgan QB Denard Robinson and ran the ball back for 32 yards for what would be the Minutemen's only TD of the game.

Although Levengood would get another FG before the half, there was just no stopping the Wolverines offense and that would be all the scoring UMass could muster as the Wolverines cruised to an easy 63-13 win.

I seem to remember not too long ago that UMass was capable of putting up a much more spirited game in the face of overwhelming odds at Ann Arbor while the Minutemen were still in the Colonial Athletic Association. For now, however, their promotion to the FBS and the Mid-America Conference has gotten them an 0-3 record and 'home' games on the opposite end of the Bay State from the Amherst campus. In their first three games as an NCAA FBS program, the Minutemen have been outscored 145-19.

This upcoming weekend, UMass will play yet another road game in the Midwest as they travel to Oxford, OH to take on the 1-3 Miami Redhawks. Kickoff will be at noon eastern and the game will be streaming on ESPN3. Saturday's game also marks the Minutemen's Mid-America Conference debut.

ELSEWHERE IN NCAA FOOTBALL: BOSTON COLLEGE- Turns out UMass wasn't the only FBS team from the Bay State that could only muster 13 points against an opponent in the Midwest last weekend. Althought the Boston College Eagles briefly took the 10-9 lead against the Northwestern Wildcats in the 2nd quarter of Saturday's game at Evanston, IL, Wildcats special teams kept the Eagles pinned deep in their own end late in the game. With Boston College trailing late in the 4th by a score of 15-13 and after a three and out with the ball on their own 1 yard line, Northwestern got the ball back on the Eagle's 44 and managed to capitalize on their excellent field position thanks to a Mike Trumpy 27 yard TD rush with less than two minutes to go in the 4th to make it 22-13. That was actually the only touchdown on the day for Northwestern as they go on to sport a 3-0 record. The Eagle's only TD came late in the first half when QN Chase Rettig connected with Jonathan Coleman for a 31 yard pass and run.

The 1-2 Eagles have this upcoming weekend off before hosting the (currently) undefeated Clemson Tigers on Chestnut Hill on September 29th.

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
UCONN HUSKIES- So out of all the FBS teams in New England, currently the UConn Huskies are the only ones with a winning record after their weekend trip to College Park, MD.

The Huskies Scott McCummings and Lyle McCombs each rushed for a TD, while Nick Williams returned a punt for a TD and Chad Christen's 34 yard FG would prove to be decisive in Connecticut's 24-21 road win over Maryland on Saturday. The Terrapins had closed to within a FG and got the ball back on their own 42 yard line with 3:37 to go, but the drive fizzled on the UConn 40 when Terps QB Perry Hills was unable to convert on 4th and 18.

Next week, the Huskies will travel to Kalamazoo, MI to take on the 1-2 Western Michigan Broncos- their second Mid-America conference opponent of the young season. Kickoff is at 2:00 PM Eastern time.

OTHER UCONN HUSKIES NEWS- The Boston Globe and the New London, CT The Day are reporting that officials from both UConn and the University of Notre Dame may be interested in playing a regular season game at Fenway Park during the 2014 season [might as well, since its not as though they're currently playing baseball at Fenway- am I right? NANESB!].
The Day has learned that the schools are in negotiations to play again in 2014, but this time at Fenway Park in Boston.

Discussions between both schools could produce a football game between the University of Connecticut and Notre Dame at Fenway Park in Boston in 2014, two UConn sources said told The Day on Monday.

The sources said that personnel changes in both athletic departments have slowed talks somewhat, but that "there's definitely some traction there," alluding to a potential Notre Dame-UConn game.

Red Sox general manager Larry Lucchino told the Boston Globe the Red Sox are "actively" looking for a game at Fenway as early as 2013. Lucchino said he wasn't aware of specific talks with either UConn or Notre Dame, but that's the type of game in which they are interested.
Sources from both schools reportedly agreed that if it happens, this would be considered a 'home' game for Notre Dame. A number of Notre Dame 'home' games have taken place away from South Bend, including this year's season opener against Navy at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland.

In recent years, Fenway Park has played host to concerts, English Premier League soccer, the 2010 NHL Winter Classic and NCAA Hockey matches. Throughout its 100 year history, Fenway has also played host to football games from the Patriots, Redskins, Boston College, Boston University, Dartmouth and Holy Cross. The last time Fenway Park hosted football was the 1968 regular season finale of the then-Boston Patriots where they beat the Cincinnati Bengals by a 33-14 final- one of only four wins that season.

If UConn and Notre Dame do agree to play on Yawkey Way, this would not be the first time a purpose-built ballpark hosted a college football contest. In 2010, the University of Illinois and Northwestern Wildcats played at Wrigley Field. In the Bronx, Yankee Stadium played host to a regular season game between Notre Dame and the Army Black Knights- this is in addition to hosting the Pinstripe Bowl at the end of December. On the West Coast, San Francisco's AT&T Park was home to the Cal Golden Bears during the 2012 season as the on-campus stadium was undergoing rennovations and also hosts the Kraft Foods Fight Hunger Bowl at the end of December.

MLB- On the major-league level, there really hasn't been alot taking place since the Red Sox had their disastrous 1-8 road trip that effectively ended any lingering notion of sneaking into the playoffs- despite the expanded format this year. The subsequent homestand was just as unkind, with the Blue Jays coming in and sweeping Boston and the Yankees taking two out of three. Despite standing on the bottom rung of the ladder to the AL East cellar, the Sox seemed to snap out of life over the last week, taking two out of three from the Blue Jays at Toronto's Rogers Centre and winning the first two of a four game set with the struggling Tampa Bay Rays. However, after shellacking Boston by a 13-3 final on Wednesday, the Rays have a shot at salvaging a splot of the series and reviving their rapidly wilting playoff aspirations- currently the Yankees and Orioles are within a half game of each other for the AL East lead while Tampa Bay trails by 6 and a half games.

Thursday night's contest will see Clay Buchholz [11-6; 4.33 ERA] against David Price [18-5; 2.54 ERA]. The Game gets underway at 7:10 ET and will be televised on NESN.

NFL- It's not often that New England loses early in the season, let alone at Gilette stadium, but that's exactly what happened at Foxbourough in Week two when the Pats plaed host to the Cardinals.

This was a constest that was largely won and lost on FGs, with the Cards getting on the board early on a 38 yard Jay Feeley FG. Brady's first pass of the game was picked off at the 36 and although the Pats kept them out of the red zone, Feely was able to nail another long FG to make it 6-0 Arizona. Gostkowski was able to put New England on the board with a 46 yard FG of his own late in the 1st and then tie things up at 6-6 with a 34 yard FG in the 2nd. While the Pats took a 9-6 lead on a 51 yard Gostkowski FG to open up the second half, the Cardinals were able to take advatage of a blocked punt on the Pats 11 yard line and punch it in from there for the game's first TD. The Cardinals then closed out the 3rd quarter marching the ball down a much longer field where QB kevin Kolb rushed up the middle for another Cards TD to make it a 20-9 game. With just under 8 minutes to go and good field position, the Pats got as far as the Arizona 35 yard line before Gostkowski made good on a 53 yard FG attempt to make it 20-12.

After forcing Arizona to go three and out on the next posession, one almost had the feeling that Brady and the Patriots offense had something special in the works as the methodically marched down the field from their own 18 and hit paydirt with a pass from brady to Gronkowski with just over 2 minutes remaining- although the 2 point conversion failed, it was still a two point game.

Still, what are the odds New England would get the ball back? I mean, one first down frmo Arizona and it was all over- right? Except big Vince Wilfork recovered a fumble from Cards RB Ryan Williams. With a little over a minute to go and the ball on the Cardinals own 30, the Patriots ran a couple of plays to pick up 6 yards. That brought in Gostkowski once again- who had already made FG's from 51 and 53 yards- to try and give the Pats a 1-point edge with just one second left. However, his 42 yard FG attempt sailed wide left and the Cards- who had led the NFL in blocked FG attempts in the last three seasons- came away with the 18-20 win.

New England will next travel down to Baltimore to take on the Ravens for this weekend's Sunday night game. Both teams head into the contest sporting an identical 1-1 record after the Ravens' Sunday afternoon loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The game kicks off at 8:20 ET Sunday night and will be televised on NBC.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL NFL Films producer Steve Sabol passed away from terminal brain cancer on Tuesday at the age of 69. Steve and his father Ed were both New Jersey natives who started out as cameramen for the National Football League. The father and son duo got their break in 1962 when they secured the rights to the NFL Championship Game between the Packers and the Giants. In his college years, Sabol was an all Rocky Mountain Conference running back who majored in Art History. An avid film buff who studied cinematography and art history and wanted to portray the best values represented in the game, Ed says his son was 'uniquely qualified' to helm what would eventually become NFL films. In the early years of NFL Films, Steve would serve as camerman, editor, head writer and narrarator [I own a couple of the Patriots Super Bowl DVDs and I must tell you the production values are top notch- doesn't hurt that they're narrarated by the late Harry Kalas, too- NANESB!].

Featuring montage editing, dramatic soundtracks and slow-motion film or video, Sabol's NFL Films Presents productions were sometimes more compelling than the actual games they highlighted. Sabol's NFL films also pioneered wiring coache sand players for in-game audio, the best of which would be featured in an NFL Films Presents production. These were some of the innovations that helped Sabol win more than 30 Emmys throughout his career at NFL Films. At the very beginning, ESPN signed a contract with NFL films to gain access to their archives while Steve Sabol himself played a role in the 2003 founding of the NFL Network.

The NFL announced that each stadium in the league will play a brief tribute to Steve Sabol before kickoff in Week three.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

President Obama's Latest Victory in the War on Coal: Virginia-Based Coal Miner Alpha Natural Resources Announces It's Laying Off Nearly 10% Of Its Workforce

Norfolk Southern train seen backing up the Gilbert branch in Wharncliffe, WV to serve the Alpha Natural Resources Premium highwall mine in July 2008. JB Lockard photo
Bristol, VA-based Alpha Natural Resources [NYSE- ANR] announced on Tuesday that they would be shuttering at least eight mines and laying off approximately 1200 employees- nearly 10% of the company's workforce.

Alpha CEO Kevin Critchfield cited a lack of coal-fired power plants being built in the country and increased regulatory burdens from the EPA on both mining companies and utilities that use coal as contributing to the announced layoffs.

During a 2008 video interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, then-candidate Barack Obama promised to bankrupt anybody who built a coal-fired power plant in the United States. He also promised that energy prices would 'neccesarily skyrocket' under a cap and trade system that he was in favor of.

In June 2009, the Waxman-Markey Cap And Trade act passed the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, but never made it to the Senate as both the House and Senate focused on getting 0bamacare passed. However, the White House was able to impose a number of restrictions on utilities and coal-fired power plants by way of regulatory fiat through using the Environmental Protection Agency as its enforcement arm.

The impending Alpha closures will affect at least eight mines in three different states- Virginia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Work at those facilities will continue until current contracts are fulfilled.
Spokesman Ted Pile says the affected West Virginia operations are the Alloy deep mine near Powellton, the Alloy surface mine near Boomer, the Premium highwall mine near Gilbert and the White Flame Surface Mine near Wharncliffe.

The Virginia mines are Guest Mountain deep mines No. 8 and No. 9 near Norton, and Twin Star Surface Mine near Hurley.

In Pennsylvania, Alpha will close its Dora deep mine in Jefferson County.
With the EPA regulations in place and no new coal-fired power plants being built, many companies have shifted from mining thermal coal typically burned at power plants to produce electricity to metallurgic coal which is in demand for steelmaking overseas.

In June of 2011, Alpha had acquired competitor Massey Energy in a deal worth $7.1 billion. Some of the facilities being closed down include former Massey properties.

Alpha isn't the only coal mining company that has been struggling in the current economic and regulatory environment. In July of this year, Patriot Coal had filed for bankruptcy protection thanks in part to a weaker economy, cancelled contracts as well as the same hostile regulatory environment. Out west, environmentalists have rallied and attempted to obstruct coal trains and export terminals from even passing through their cities- even filing nuisance lawsuits against railroads over diesel exhaust and coal dust.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Massachusetts Democrat Calls Cops on GOP Rival With Bogus Drug Buy Story

Consider this reason #774 I don't trust the Democrats anywhere near the levers of power.

A Democratic state representative in Massachusetts who narrowly survived a 4-way primary earlier this month is now facing questions after sending police to her Republican opponent's home, reportedly relaying concerns from an anonymous constituent to the local police chief about a possible drug buy.

Massachusetts State Representative Denise Andrews [D- Orange] had contacted Athol, MA police chief Timothy C Andrews- purportedly to follow through on an unnamed constituent's bizarre story that her GOP rival and Athol Board of Selectmen chair, Susanna Whipps Lee, had purchased cocaine from them.
Ms. Andrews contacted police and said she was told by an informant in the Police Department, whom she called a constituent, that Susannah M. Whipps Lee, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, had allegedly purchased cocaine and a police officer went to her home on Aug. 10 and took the drugs from her after police received a call from a person who claimed to have sold the drugs to Ms. Lee.

After an investigation, the chief said the allegations were false.

Ms. Lee, a Republican challenging Ms. Andrews in the November election, denied the allegations and called them “disgraceful and dishonest.”
Representative Andrews is named as a confidential informant in an Athol police report that was leaked to the public.
Artists rendering of Massachusetts State Representative Denise Andrews' confidential source.
Citing confidentiality, Andrews declined to name the source of the allegations against her opponent. A number of inconsistencies became apparent in the story she told the Athol police chief. Lee was out of state on the day the alleged drug buy took place and Athol's only narcotics officer was off-duty the day of the alleged bust. The story crumbled altogether when Chief Anderson compared dates and times on the department's radio logs and sign in sheets with those provided by Andrews' alleged informant.
Chief Anderson said “the false report of a crime to police” matter is under investigation. He said it would be a grave situation “if it is a member of our department.”

Asked if anyone from the Athol Police Department is under scrutiny, the chief said, “I am not going to comment at this point.”

On whether there may be a coverup, Chief Anderson said: “We have policies about chain of command; that means a member of our Police Department has to follow our chain of command; when they come across information of this nature, they are required, if they have information there is a violation of department policy ... to notify their supervisor.”

The chief also said the rank and file “are not allowed to release records of a confidential or sensitive nature.”
The boundaries for Andrews' District- the 2nd Franklin District- was recently re-drawn and includes the towns of Athol, Orange, Royalston, Erving and Gill in Franklin County in the north-central part of the Bay State as well as parts of Belchertown in Hampshire.