Saturday, August 31, 2013

Quickie Pre-Kickoff Sports Chowdah Update- Dempster Returns in Time For Some Sox on Sox Action; Tough Sledding for UConn As They Drop Home Opener to FCS Towson

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
RED SOX- After a California road trip, the Red Sox returned home to Fenway and managed to take two out of three from Baltimore to host the Chicago White Sox. Friday night's game featured Ryan Dempster's first start since intentionally hitting Alex Rodriguez on August 18th's nationally televised game on ESPN.

The Red Sox got out to the early lead thanks to Mike Napoli drawing a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 3rd. Boston then added to their 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 4th with a Shane Victorino RBI single and Big Papi's 2 RBI single to right center field on a 3-2 count and with 2 away to make it 4-0 Boston. This would be pivotal, since the White Sox would start to rally in the top of the 5th before Avisail Garcia homered and Alejandro De Aza belted and RBI triple to cut the Red Sox lead to 4-3. Once again, Koji Uehara was called up to make a 4 out save and did so for his 15th save of the season. Boston goes on to win by the 4-3 final and Dempster gets his first win since July 27th against Baltimore.

Saturday's game will have Jake Peavy getting the start against his former team. So far this season, Peavy has a 10-5 record with a 3.99 ERA- his record with Boston is 2-1 with a 3.31 ERA, including last week's complete game against the Dodgers. Peavy will be going up against former teammate John Danks [4-10; 4.15 ERA]. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 ET and the game will be televised on both NESN and Chicago superstation WGN.

NCAA FOOTBALL- The UConn Huskies put themselves in an early hole on their Thursday night home opener. Most likely playing with a chip on the shoulder after being left out of last year's FCS playoffs, the Towson Tigers stunned the Huskies by going on to win 33-18 before a crowd of 30,689 at East Hartford.

As most of the NCAA kicks off this weekend, the Huskies will have an additional week to lick their wounds before another home game, this time against the Maryland Terrapins on September 14th.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- That Loving Feeling, Aug 30th, 2013

Today's train of thought takes us to the Land of Enchantment [or AMC's Breaking Bad- NANESB!] and features a river that has wound its way through Western lore.

In the 19th century, 'West of the Pecos' became shorthand for the Wild West. The river ran some 900 miles from what is now San Miguel county, New Mexico to Seminole Canyon and the Rio Grande in Val Verde County, TX. Late 19th century saloon-keeper, boxing promoter and justice of the peace Roy Bean at one point deemed himself "the law west of the Pecos". Despite the moniker 'Hanging Judge Roy Bean', its believed that Bean had sentenced only two defendants to be hung- and one of them escaped before the sentence could be carried out.

The Pecos also wends its way through the Permian Basin in southwestern Texas and southeastern New Mexico, an oil-rich portion of the Mid Continent Oil Field that's seen renewed activity thanks to new drilling techniques. The area also contains substantial potash deposits, particularly in Eddy County, NM.

Two potash mines- one east of Carlsbad, NM and one east of the town of Loving, NM- are served by the 200-mile Carlsbad division of the Southwestern Railroad [just to make things even more confusing, the Southwest has a separate division out of Demming, NM in the southwestern corner of the state- NANESB!]. The Southwest began operation on the 182 mile line between Loving and Clovis, NM that leased from BNSF beginning in October 2004. This also included two twenty mile spurs serving the respective potash mines east of Loving and Carlsbad.

Here, contributor Fotaugrafee caught Southwestern SD50 #5103 crossing the dry riverbed of the Pecos with train R81 in March 2013 just outside of Loving, NM. The two burly six axle EMDs are still painted for WATCo's Austin & Western and started out life on the Chicago & Northwestern. Reportedly, more SD50s from WATCo, CSX and Union Pacific have also arrived on the Southwestern's Carlsbad Division since this photo was taken.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Amid Talk of Privatization, Mexico's State Owned Oil Company Will Start Oil Exploration in the USA

Mexico's state-run oil monopoly, Pemex, confirmed this week their plans to set up a new company to explore for oil and natural gas in the USA and in US territorial waters. Pemex's newly appointed CEO, Emilio Lozoya, said that the unconventional move would help the Mexican oil giant obtain further access to Mexico's domestic supply by introducing it new techniques for offshore drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

The proposal, outlined by Chief Executive Emilio Lozoya in an interview, would push Pemex into complicated drilling techniques where it has no experience. It is a bold move abroad for the inward-looking company, which is the world's fifth-largest crude producer but has never faced competition nor ventured far beyond its borders.

"Pemex will be starting a new company that will work on the shale-gas and shale-oil fields in the U.S. and in the deep-water side of the U.S.," said Mr. Lozoya, a 38-year-old former investment banker tapped last year by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to run the oil giant. "The geology is similar and we can benefit from numerous areas of collaboration with international oil companies."

Potential candidates for Pemex's US energy exploration venture would include Texas' Eagle Ford Shale or New Mexico's Permian Basin- both of which are fairly close to the Mexican border and share a similar topography to northern Mexico.

The announcement comes less than two weeks after Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto postponed a sweeping bill that would overhaul Pemex and allow foreign investment in the state-run monolith, although Nieto made it a point of stopping short of privatization. The 27th article of Mexico's 1917 Constitution states that all natural resources are deemed property of the state. While Nieto or Mexico's congress are unlikely to revise that part of Mexico's constitution, Pemex could offer foreign companies profit-sharing on various projects as an incentive for foreign investment. However, privatization of Pemex could be viewed as a third rail of Mexican politics.

Pemex was formed in 1938 when then-President Lazaro Cardenas expropriated the assets of all foreign oil and privately-held Mexican companies operating in Mexico. Since expropriation, Mexico has become the sixth largest oil producer in the world. Pemex also has a pension and healthcare system that is independent from the rest of Mexico.

However, in recent years Pemex has been plagued by a number of problems including declining output, theft and sabotage by organized crime, obsolete facilities, deadly accidents, little to no safeguards against pollution and overly generous salaries and benefits to redundant bureaucrats. The entity has traditionally invested in a bloated and heavily entrenched workforce instead of constructing new refineries or modernizing facilities. As recently as 2011, gasoline imports to Mexico were at an all-time high as Pemex sought to expand existing refineries instead of building new ones. Despite high revenues thanks to increased oil costs in recent years, Mexico's federal government traditionally collects between 60% and 70% in taxes and revenues from the oil giant.

Although any degree of privatization of Pemex seems unlikely for now, other state-run oil companies in Latin America have managed to partially privatize while the government remains the majority shareholder. In the mid 1990s, Brazil opened up their oil and natural gas deposits to foreign competition, meaning that the former oil monopoly PetroBras [NYSE- PBR; PBRA] would have to submit competitive bids to the government for subsequent leases while allowing PetroBras to form joint ventures with foreign companies. In 2007, Colombia's EcoPetrol [NYSE- EC] was also partially privatized and shares of the company began selling on the stock exchanges in both Bogota and New York.

Nor would Pemex be the first state-run assets in Mexico that were privatized. In the late 1990s, Mexico opened up their national rail network to privatization- Carols Slim's Grupo Mexico [BMV- GMEXICOB] began operation of FerroMex while Kansas City Southern [NYSE- KSU] entered into a joint venture with Grupo Tranportacion Maratimo Mexicano SAB [BVM- TMMA] to form Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana until the KCS bought out TMM's share in 2005. By 1998, Mexico's government had started to privatize their airport system, with publicly traded groups like Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro Norte, S.A.B. de C.V [NYSE- OMAB], Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico S.A.B. de CV [NYSE- PAC] and Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste, SAB de CV [NYSE- ACR] being awarded concessions to operate the airports throughout the country including those in Monterrey, Cancun and Guadalajara.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fort Hood Shooter Sentenced To Death

A military jury in Texas has sentenced former US Army Major Nidal Hasan to death for his role in the November 2009 Ft Hood shootings after a three week trial.
Hasan, who sat motionless as the jury president read the verdict, has said he acted to protect Islamic insurgents abroad from American aggression, never denied being the gunman. In opening statements, he acknowledged to the jury that he pulled the trigger in a crowded waiting room where troops were getting final medical checkups before deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hasan had one final chance Wednesday to give a closing argument before his case went to the jury, but he declined -- continuing an absent defense that he has used since his trial began three weeks ago.

The Army psychiatrist's behavior has only stoked suspicion that his ultimate goal is martyrdom, in the form of a death sentence that would allow him to fulfill what prosecutors have described as a "jihad duty" under his Islamic faith.

The lead prosecutor, Col. Mike Mulligan, told jurors Wednesday morning that history was full of instances of death in the name of religion. But he said it would be "wrong and unsupportive" to tie Hasan's actions to a wider cause
Hasan acted as his own defense counsel throughout the trial, and his strategy consisted solely of admitting that he was the shooter and not challenging the prosecution's claims. The Virginia-born Muslim claimed the shooting was in retaliation for what he claims is an ongoing American war against Islamic nations.

To add insult to injury, the government has classified the terrorist sympathizer Hasan's religiously motivated killing spree as "workplace violence" instead of terrorism- denying survivors and family members certain benefits and awards.

Even worse, the FBI had reportedly intercepted communications between Hasan and radical cleric Anwar Al-Alwaki in Yemen nearly a year before the attack.

Hasan first appeared on the bureau's radar in December of 2008—nearly a year before the Fort Hood massacre—when he emailed Awlaki to ask him whether serving in the US military was compatible with the Muslim faith. He also asked whether Awlaki considered those who died attacking their fellow soldiers "shaheeds," or martyrs.

The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in San Diego, which was tracking Awlaki, intercepted Hasan's December email, along with another sent in January. A search of the Pentagon's personnel database turned up a man named Nidal Hasan who was on active military duty and was listed as a "Comm Officer" at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC.

Normally, when the FBI unearths this kind of raw intelligence, it issues an Intelligence Information Report (IIR), which is shared with law enforcement agencies and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. (This system was designed to prevent the kind of information bottlenecks that allowed the 9/11 plot to go undetected.) But the San Diego agents misinterpreted the "Comm Officer" label in Hasan's file to mean "communications officer" (in fact, it meant "commissioned officer") and believed that a person in this role might have access to IIRs. To avoid tipping him off, they skipped the report and sent a detailed memo requesting an investigation directly to the Washington, DC, Joint Terrorism Task Force, a multiagency team overseen by the FBI that investigates terrorism cases in the capital. The message noted that Hasan's "contact with [Awlaki] would be of concern if the writer is actually the individual identified above."

The file languished for nearly two months before it was assigned to an agent for the Defense Criminal Investigative Services, who was on the task force. According to a 2011 report on the Fort Hood shootings by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, DCIS—a law enforcement agency within the Pentagon, which normally deals with fraud and cybercrime among military personnel and contractors—was ill-equipped to tackle a counterterrorism investigation.

Meanwhile, Hasan kept writing Awlaki. Between January and May 2009, he sent the radical cleric more than a dozen emails, and received two relatively benign responses. In one message, ostensibly about Palestinians firing unguided rockets into Israel, Hasan asked Awlaki whether "indiscriminately killing civilians" was acceptable. Two days later, he sent another message answering his own question: "Hamas and the Muslims hate to hurt the innocent but they have no choice if their going to have a chance to survive, flourish, and deter the zionist enemy. The recompense for an evil is an evil." (Hasan's emails contained a number of typos.)

The San Diego field office intercepted these missives, too. But the database where the FBI stored intercepted emails didn't automatically link messages from the same sender, so the staff didn't realize that Hasan's early 2009 emails were from the person who had set off alarms the previous December. Meanwhile, the Washington-based DCIS agent assigned to investigate Hasan put off his inquiry for another 90 days, the maximum allowed under joint task force rules, before conducting a cursory investigation. Over the course of four hours on May 27, 2009, he ran Hasan's name through several databases to see if the psychiatrist had been targeted in previous counterterrorism probes. He also reviewed Hasan's Pentagon personnel file. Hasan's officer evaluations were mostly positive, and the chair of psychiatry at Walter Reed had written that Hasan's research on Islamic beliefs regarding military service had "extraordinary potential to inform national policy and military strategy."

The Senate investigation later found these reports "bore no resemblance to the real Hasan, a barely competent psychiatrist whose radicalization toward violent Islamist extremism alarmed his colleagues and his superiors." Nevertheless, the DCIS investigator concluded, based on Hasan's file, that the Army psychiatrist had contacted Awlaki in connection with his academic research and "was not involved in terrorist activity." The DCIS investigator and a supervisory agent in the Washington field office debated interviewing Hasan or his superiors. They ultimately decided doing so could jeopardize the Awlaki investigation or harm Hasan's career.

Advocates for Fort Hood victims find this decision puzzling. "A US Army major is writing to this imam and essentially asking for religious sanction to kill American soldiers," said attorney Reed Rubinstein, who represents a group of victims who are suing the federal government. "And the FBI's Washington field office doesn't even interview the man or make a phone call to his superiors. It's utterly incomprehensible."

Hasan's superiors reportedly missed or ignored a number of red flags regarding Hasan's performance as an officer, including being overweight and stridently supporting Islamic law during his residency at Walter Reed Army hospital.

Should the Army follow through, this will be the first military execution since 1961.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

LA Story Sports Chowdah Update- Red Sox Escape From LA With Series Win; NCAA Football Set to Kick Off This Week

Mark J. Terrill- AP
RED SOX- In a matchup that some of the more hyperbole-prone broadcasters were dubbing a World Series Preview, the Red Sox dealt the Los Angeles Dodgers their first series loss in more than two months. The TV coverage seemed to reflect some of this hype, with two out of the three games in the weekend series getting national TV coverage.

Despite John Lackey pitching a complete game and allowing only three hits in Friday night's series opener, one of those hits was a 2-run Hanley Ramirez homer and Dodgers starter Ricky Nolasco managed shut out the Red Sox. LA took the series opener by a 2-0 final.

In Saturday afternoon's game, the Red Sox jumped all over Hyun-Jin Ryu in the first thanks to a Mike Napoli RBI single and Johnny Gomes 3-run homer to give the Red Sox a 4-0 lead. Ryu would settle down, and that would be all the Red Sox offense would get. However, Lester would go 7⅓ innings and giving up three hits, an earned run [that Junichi Tazawa inherited when he gave up a 2-RBI double to former Red Sox infielder Adrian Gonzalez in the bottom of the 8th- NANESB!]. After Craig Breslow struggled, Koji Uehara came on in the bottom of the 8th for a 4-out save, sealing the Red Sox 4-2 win.

Sunday's series finale was nationally televised on ESPN and had Jake Peavy go up against Springfield, MA native Chris Capuano. Mike Napoli got the Red Sox on the board in the first with a ground rule double, and despite loading the bases, Capuano was able to escape the first without any further damage. Another run came home in the 3rd on a Pedroia sac fly and in the top of the 4th, Xander Bogaerts was credited with his first big league RBI after doubling to right center to make it 3-0.

However, Gonzalez would get the Dodgers on the board with a solo homer, but that would be all LA was getting. Not only was Peavy Dealing, he was getting plenty of run support in his complete-game gem in Los Angeles.

Capuano left the game after five innings and the Red Sox batters would just tee off of Dodgers reliever Chris Withrow. Saltalamacchia would belt a 2-run homer in the 6th, followed by a solo homer from Victorino in the 7th to make it 6-1 Boston. For good measure, Mike Napoli tacked on a 2-run homer in the top of the 9th and Peavy decided to give the bullpen the night off and close out the Dodges himself in the bottom of the 9th.

So for the first time since mid-June, the torrid Dodgers have lost a series. Although Boston missed Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers didn't get to see Clay Buchholz, this series still had a number of sports commentators hinting that this was a 'World Series in August' matchup. Interestingly, Big Papi was only in one of this weekend's games, going 0-3 in Friday night's loss while playing first base.

Monday was a travel day, but for Tuesday night, the Red sox will return home to face the Baltimore Orioles. Felix Doubront [9-6; 3.79 ERA] is scheduled to get the start against Baltimore's Wei Yin Chan [7-6; 3.19 ERA] with first pitch scheduled for 7:10. The game will be televised on NESN.

ELSEWHERE IN THE AL EAST- While the Red Sox were travelling on Monday afternoon, they got a little help from the Kansas City Royals. The Tampa Bay Rays had to fly out of Kauffman Stadium to play a game against the slumping Royals that was postponed in early May due to snowfall. Kansas City got off to an early 1-0 lead on a Billy Butler RBI single off of Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson in the first and broke it open in the 4th before going on to win by an 11-1 final. The win is only the Royal's second in 7 games, but put Tampa Bay an additional ½ game behind the Red Sox in a tight race for the AL East pennant.

NEW YORK METS- Mets phenom pitcher Matt Harvey is likely to miss the remainder of the season after being diagnosed with a partial ligament tear in his right shoulder. Harvey has a 9-5 record this season with a 2.27 ERA, although he was outduelled by Tigers starter Max Scherzer in his last start.

The struggling Mets are 58-71 and next to last in the NL East, meaning that even if Harvey's injury wasn't as serious as feared, he still would be sidelined as a precaution since the Mets are well out of any pennant or wild card chase.

NCAA FOOTBALL- College football in New England gets underway a little earlier than usual with UConn hosting FCS opponent Towson at East Hartford's Rentschler Field on Thursday night with a 7:30 kickoff

The other two New England FBS programs will kick off on Saturday, Aug 31st, with the UMASS season opener likely drawing the most national eyes as they open on the road against the #23 ranked Wisconsin Badgers in Madison's Camp Randall stadium.

Meanwhile, the BC Eagles will host Villanova from the FCS's Colonial Conference on Saturday at noon on Chestnut Hill.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hundreds of Civilians Reported Dead After Chemical Attack in Suburban Damascus

An international aid group operating in Syria reports that at least 355 people were killed and more than 3000 critically injured after purported nerve gas attacks on civilian neighborhoods in the Damascus area this week.

Doctors Without Borders said three hospitals it supports in the eastern Damascus region reported receiving roughly 3,600 patients with "neurotoxic symptoms" over less than three hours on Wednesday morning, when the attack in the eastern Ghouta area took place. Of those, 355 died, said the Paris-based group.

The report provides some of the clearest evidence yet by an independent organization that chemical weapons have been used in the conflict between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and rebels fighting to oust him.

Although Doctors Without Borders said in its statement that it could not definitively confirm that chemical weapons were used, and if so, by whom, its report raises the pressure on the international community to respond.

The patients in the three hospitals the organization supports near the reported attack were given atropine that it had supplied. Atropine is a drug used to treat neurotoxic symptoms, including exposure to chemical weapons. Doctors Without Borders said it is now trying to replenish the facilities' stocks of atropine.

"The reported symptoms of the patients, in addition to the epidemiological pattern of the events—characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first-aid workers—strongly indicate mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent," the organization said.
The attack came nearly a year to the day after the White House warned the Assad regime that the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction would constitute a 'red line' that would change its outlook on directly intervening in the 36-month civil war.

However, it remains unclear who actually launched the attack with Syria's military accusing Al Qaeda affiliated rebels and western governments convinced the Al-Assad regime carried out the attack. Both sides have been accused of using chemical weapons and nerve agent on each other earlier this year. The rebels, which include defectors from the Syrian Army and the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nursa Front reportedly seized a Saudi-owned chemical plant outside of Aleppo towards the end of 2012. In June, Iraqi officials raided an alleged Al Qaeda workshop that was manufacturing sarin and mustard gas outside of Baghdad. Although Syria officially denies that it has a WMD program, it's also a possibility that the rebels could have captured chemical weapons or precursors from a Syrian installation.

If this attack was indeed launched by the Assad regime, it not only comes nearly a year to the day from President Obama's 'red line' warning, but also just days before the arrival of UN weapons inspectors as Syrian ground forces makes considerable gains against the rebels. In short, while I wouldn't put it past Al-Assad to gas his own citizens, to do so soon just miles outside of his capital before a visit from UN weapons inspectors would benefit his regime very little.

Of course, if the Assad regime isn't to blame then this raises the even more disturbing possibility that Al Qaeda-linked Islamists now have access to chemical weapons and could be using Syrian neighborhoods as a proving ground as a test-run for future attacks.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Way to Go Ohio, Aug 24th 2013

Today's Train of Thought takes us to the verdant fields in the eastern corner of the Buckeye State.

Referred to in tourism literature as the 'Little Switzerland of Ohio', Sugarcreek, OH is known for its gently rolling hills, Amish and Swiss background and until a few years ago, the home of Ohio Central's steam program. The public excursions stopped with the Genesee & Wyoming acquisition of the Ohio Central. However the OHCR's previous owner, Jerry Jacobson, retained his considerable collection of former Ohio Central steam locomotives as part of the deal.

Not only did Jacobson retain his steam fleet, he also had a roundhouse constructed from scratch to house everything. Although he made it clear from the outset that he wouldn't be operating excursions out of Sugarcreek like before, the steam locomotives housed in what would be called the Age of Steam roundhouse would be made available to other scenic and tourist railroads in the region, including the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic outside of Cleveland.

Of course, as the Age of Steam roundhouse is being constructed, there's still a railroad for Genesee & Wyoming to run. The OHCR line through Sugarcreek runs north-south through the gently rolling hills (hence the 'Little Switzerland' moniker) between their Coshocton hub and the Wheeling & Lake Erie interchange in Brewster, OH. Commodities hauled include coal, steel, grain and aggregates- and with ongoing drilling and exploration of the Utica Shale, there's potential for additional traffic including pipe and fracking sand.

Here, contributor Richard Thompson caught Ohio Central B23S-7 #4093 and a trailing Super 7 trundling past a cornfield with a southbound mixed freight outside of Sugarcreek, OH on July 30th 2012. The two-unit lashup represents a sort of 'before and after' of the Ohio Central with the trailing unit in GWRR orange and black.

Friday, August 23, 2013

California Dreamin' Sports Chowdah Update- Red Sox West Coast Road Trip off to Giant Start; Detroit Motors Over New England in Preseason Matchup

RED SOX- Gotta say- actually going to some of the games makes it difficult to find some time to blog them after the fact.

After an explosive weekend versus the Yankees, the Red Sox kicked off their week-long California road trip on Monday night in San Francisco against the defending World Series champion Giants. John Lester threw 8⅓ innings of shutout baseball in Monday night's 7-0 win. However, the Red Sox allowed a golden opportunity to fall by the wayside and a bases-loaded walk off walk to Giants SS Marco Scutaro in the bottom of the 9th cost Boston the game.

Tuesday afternoon was the rubber game of the series- Felix Doubront was scheduled to go up against Chad Gaudin, but Gaudin was placed on the night before and Barry Zito got the start in his place. The Red Sox basically took batting practice off of Zito, with the Red Sox jumping out to a 6-1 lead before the Giants starter got the hook after 3⅔ innings. Meanwhile, Doubront allowed 5 hits- including a Joaquin Arias solo homer- in 8 complete innings of work as the Red Sox offense exploded for 6 more runs against the Giants bullpen- including a 3 run homer from Stephen Drew in the 7th and Koji Uehara had a 1-2-3 inning to close out the 12-1 Boston win.

The Red Sox take two out of three from the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Will Middlebrooks went 1-3 with a homer and two RBI while Stephen Drew went 1-3 with a homer and 3 RBI in Wednesday afternoon's rubber game.

David Ortiz left the 5th inning of Wednesday's game due to tightness in his lower back while shortstop phenom Xander Bogaerts went 0-3 in his MLB debut during Tuesday night's game after getting called up from Pawtucket.

The Red Sox California road trip will continue Friday night when they travel to LA to take on the scalding-hot Los Angeles Dodgers. LA has gone 18-3 in the month of August. John Lackey [8-10; 3.22 ERA] is scheduled to get the start against Ricky Nolasco [9-9; 3.60 ERA] with first pitche scheduled for 10:10 ET from Dodger Stadium. The game will be televised on NESN.

OTHER RED SOX NEWS- Red Sox starter Ryan Dempster received a 5-game suspension and was fined an undisclosed amount after intentionally hitting Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez with a pitch in Sunday night's nationally televised game. Surprisingly, Dempster wasn't ejected from the game, which prompted irate Yankees manager Joe Girardi to come out of the dugout and argue with one of the umpires before getting thrown out of the Sunday night game.

With two off days within a week, Dempster will miss- at most- one start as a result of the suspension.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS- The Dodgers have activated former San Francisco Giants pitcher and Londonderry, NH native Brian Wilson from the DL earlier this week. Wilson was signed to a one year contract by LA back in July after undergoing a second Tommy John surgery.

OTHER DODGERS NEWS- Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully announced that he will return to the Dodgers' broadcast booth for a 65th season in 2014. There was speculation that Scully might retire at the end of the 2012 season, but the veteran announcer who cut his teeth with the Dodgers in Brooklyn announced his plans to return for the 2013 season on a limited basis, citing his enthusiasm for the new ownership group spearheaded by LA Lakers Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson.

In recent years, Scully limited himself to calling home games at Dodgers Stadium as well as road games against the San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels or Arizona Diamondbacks- this is expected to be the case for 2014 as well.

MLB- Major League Baseball announced a proposal that would dramatically expand the use of instant replay in baseball, including a 'challenge' system similar to the NFL where managers could contest the umpire's ruling on a certain play. Currently, the league uses instant replay to determine whether a home-run ball is fair, foul or is still in play.

The expanded replay and challenge system would include:

• A review will be initiated when a manager informs the umpire that he wants to challenge a play. He will be allowed one challenge in the first six innings and two more from the seventh through the end of the game.

• If the manager wins his appeal, he retains the challenge. The challenge from the first six innings does not carry over.

• Not all plays are reviewable.

• If a manager disagrees with a reviewable call, his only recourse would be to use a challenge. Managers would not be able to argue a reviewable call in a bid to get it overturned without the use of replay. A manager could still argue in situations not open to review, such as when defending a player or questioning an improper substitution.

MLB owners are expected to vote on the revised rules at the upcoming meetings in November.

PATRIOTS- Well, about the only positive from last night's preseason game against Detroit was that it was a preseason game and, thus, didn't count in the standings.

The Lions forced no less than four turnovers in the first half in their 40-9 rout of New England and Tim Tebow spent then entire game on the bench, speculating that the Heisman winning QBs days in New England and the NFL are coming to an end. In fact, up until a Ryan Mallet TD with 32 seconds remaining in the game, the only ponts for New England came off the foot of Stephen Gostkowski in the second quarter.

The final preseason game is set to take place next Thursday at Foxboro against the New York Giants.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner to Resign As Part of Settlement

How odd- I mean the mayor went to a counselor and even finished his therapy a week ahead of time and everything.

After weeks of steadfastly resisting calls to step down (including from some within his own party) reports are circulating in southern California that the embattled first-term Democrat mayor of San Diego will resign as part of a settlement with the city and at least 18 women accusing Filner of harassing them.

Filner's decision to resign comes after three days of closed-door mediation and after six weeks of scandal in the city. At least 18 women have publicly accused Filner of sexual harassment, including one former aide who filed the lawsuit.

In exchange for his resignation, the city will pay some, if not all, of Filner’s share of any damages awarded in the lawsuit, said the sources, who spoke on the condition anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. The City Council is set to vote on the settlement in a closed session Friday.

Filner, a Democrat, was seen Wednesday night loading boxes into an SUV parked outside City Hall -- and driven by a San Diego police officer, part of the mayor's security detail -- after saying farewell to his staff and cleaning out his office.

All nine council members and numerous other officials had called for Filner's resignation.

City Atty. Jan Goldsmith had said last week that he was working on “exit plans” for Filner. His office was preparing, “as a last resort,” to seek a restraining order against Filner to bar him from City Hall on grounds that he created a hostile working environment for women.

With Filner's resignation, San Diego's City Council President- Democrat Todd Gloria- will become acting mayor. According to the city's municipal code, a special election will take place within 90 days of Filner's resignation.

After serving in Congress for more than 20 years, Filner announced that he wouldn't run for re-election to the House of Representatives after California lost a seat due to redistricting in 2012 and instead run for mayor of San Diego. After securing endorsements from prominent Democrats such as former president Bill Clinton, Filner narrowly defeated former City Councilman Carl DeMaio in the 2012 mayoral race. While Filner is a Democrat and DeMaio is a Republican, county and municipal elections in California are theoretically non-partisan.

At least 18 women- some of them military veterans and survivors of sexual assault- came forward to accuse Filner of groping or fondling them as mayor or promising to help constituents as congressman, but only if they'd agree to go on a date with him.

The sheer number of accusers and relative silence of the media and local politicians raise the question of how long the local and state Democrat party had known about Filner's misconduct and what was done about it aside from sweeping it under the rug come election time.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Boston Mob Boss Whitey Bulger Found Guilty of 11 Murders, Racketeering,

Elise Amendola; U.S. Marshals Service/AP Photo

A jury at the Federal Courthouse in Boston, MA found captured fugitive mob boss James 'Whitey' Bulger guilty of racketeering and 11 counts of murder last week.

The elusive Bulger was captured with girlfriend Catherine Greig at a luxury apartment complex in Santa Monica, CA in June 2011 after more than 16 years on the run. Bulger was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list for most of those 16 years, was also a source of embarrassment for the agency when it was made public that the Boston office of the FBI allowed Bulger's Winter Hill Gang to continue their criminal activities unimpeded in exchange for information on rival gangs, including the Providence, RI based Patriarcha crime family.

Bulger and his associates in the Winter Hill Gang were hired by former World Jai Alai president and Boston businessman John B Callahan to kill Oklahoma businessman Roger Wheeler- Callahan's successor at World Jai Alai. Callahan was reportedly worried that Wheeler would discover his embezzlement from the organization and report it to the FBI. One of Bulger's FBI handlers had retired and became head of World Jai Alai security, but would instead report on Wheeler's whereabouts to Bulger and the Winter Hill gang. Wheeler was shot and killed in his car outside a Tulsa, OK country club in May 1981.

Another FBI handler warned Bulger that Callahan was unlikely to hold up under questioning and one of the triggermen in Wheeler's killing was offering information to the Feds to try and get out of a separate murder charge. In July 1982, Callahan's bullet-riddled body was found stuffed in the trunk of his Cadillac at Miami International Airport. Two months earlier, Bulger and associate Stephen 'the Rifleman' Flemmi shot and killed suspected FBI informant Brian Halloran and a bystander named Michael Donahue in South Boston.

In addition to tipping off Bulger on the whereabouts of potential witnesses or other Winter Hill gang members ready to turn informant, agents from the Boston office of the FBI has been accused of lying to detectives in Oklahoma and Florida investigating the Jai Alai slayings and pressured an eyewitness in the Halloran and Donahue murders to identify the wrong man.

Bulger and Flemmi also extorted Southie liquor store owner Stephen Rakes into selling his business to them and then intimidated him into changing his story when the matter initially went to court in the early 1990s. The 2013 trial of Whitey Bulger took a dramatic turn when  Rakes turned up dead in Lincoln, MA last month. An autopsy showed that Rakes was poisoned and the Middlesex County DA charged a 69 year old man who reportedly owed Rakes a large sum of money with the murder.

Bulger and his girlfriend went into hiding in 1995 after FBI Agent John Connoly Jr tipped him off that a racketeering indictment was coming down. The FBI made hardly any headway until they ran a series of public service announcements focusing on Greig on daytime women's talk shows- within days, a tipster in southern California recognized Greig and Bulger as their neighbors, leading to their arrests.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Muslim Brotherhood Supporters Torch Christian Churches Throughout Egypt Amid Deadly Clashes With the Army

Coptic Pope Tawadros II seen on a visit to the Vatican with Pope Francis in May

Human rights officials in Egypt say that at least 25 churches throughout the country have been torched by supporters of ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi, although the unofficial count may be more than double that number. Numerous eyewitnesses described the attackers as chanting slogans in support of Morsi as they attacked the churches as well as businesses and homes owned by Christians.

According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), at least 25 churches across Egypt were attacked by arsonists on Wednesday and Thursday, following the violence in the capital, Cairo, between security forces and supporters of Mr Morsi.

Christian schools, shops and homes were also targeted, it said.

The Mar Gergiss church in Sohag, a city about 390km (240 miles) south of Cairo, with a large community of Coptic Christians, was one target.

Witnesses likened the area to a ghost town, with residents hiding indoors.

Patriarch Louis Sako, the head of the Chaldean Catholic church which is based in Iraq, said churches belonging to his community in Egypt were among those targeted on Wednesday.

"This is a real disaster," he told the AFP news agency, saying the region was a "dangerous volcano".
The Coptic Church is Egypt's largest and oldest Christian denomination, dating back to 42 AD. Other denominations include Greek Orthodox and Protestant.

Last month, the Coptic Church's Pope Tawadros II expressed his support for the massive demonstrations throughout Egypt calling for the removal of Mohammed Morsi from office. Many Christians said the rights of Egypt's 12 million Copts were eroded by a constitution written by the formerly outlawed Islamist party while Morsi's supporters say that the church was inviting attack by supporting the massive demonstrations that led to the Egyptian military ousting the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to Egypt's Health Ministry, at least 638 people were killed in clashes this week when security forces moved in to clear out an encampment of pro-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators. Defense Minister and interim president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has also promised to rebuild the damaged churches in a statement on Egyptian state TV shortly after the coordinated attacks.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sports Chowdah Update- Sox Alive, Red Sox Bats Wake Up As Lackey Outduels Kuroda At Fenway; Manuel Labor, Phillies Dismiss Manager Charlie Manuel

Michael Dwyer- AP

RED SOX- I wouldn't call this most recent road trip for the Red Sox a disaster, but with the team managed only four wins in 10 games while missing out on an opportunity to but some distance between themselves and Tampa Bay.

And for those of us who thought things might start to turn around with some home cookin' were in for a rude awakening on Friday night when the Yankees thumped the Red Sox by a score that would seem more at home in a football game featuring strong defense (10-3). And just to make things even more interesting, Tampa Bay beat Toronto with a walkoff triple in the bottom of the 9th to pull within one game of the Red Sox in the AL East.

What the Red Sox needed on Saturday afternoon was a strong outing from John Lackey, who was searching for his first win since July 12th. Lackey managed to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the 2nd before getting some run support in the bottom of the 4th. Big Papi led off the bottom half of the inning with a ground-rule double. Carp then singled to move Papi over to third with nobody out before Daniel Nava struck out looking. Stephen Drew hit into what looked like would surely be an inning ending double play, but Yankees 1B Lyle Overbay overthrew the ball to second and the ball was then air-mailed into the Yankees dugout, bringing Big Papi home to make it 1-0. With two away, Middlebrooks and Ellsbury hit back to back RBI singles to give Boston a 3-0 lead.

The Yankees got a run back with an Ichiro Suzuki RBI groundout in the top of the 5th to make it 3-1. However, that would be all the Yankees would get as the Red Sox started to break the game open in the bottom of the 6th with an RBI single from Jarrod Saltalamacchia and an RBI double from Ellsbury. Big Papi tacked on another run with a 1-out solo homer to deep center in the bottom of the 7th to make it 6-1 in Boston's favor. Breslow, Tazawa and Uehara would come out of the pen to relieve Lackey and give Boston the 6-1 win.

Lackey goes 6⅔ innings and gets his first win since the All Star break, allowing just the one earned run, walking three and striking out one. Jacoby Ellsbury led the Red Sox batters by going 3 for 5 with 2 RBI while Big Papi went 2 for 4 with the homer. A-Rod was a conspicuous non-factor for the Yankees by going 0-3- including Lackey's only K of the game.

Tomorrow night's Yankees/Red Sox game will be nationally televised on ESPN before the Red Sox embark on an inter-league road trip on the West Coast. Ryan Dempster [6-8; 4.50 ERA] will get the start against New York's CC Sabathia [10-10; 4.66 ERA] with a first pitch scheduled for 8:05 ET.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES- The Philadelphia Phillies announced that they had fired manager Charlie Manuel on Friday after managing the team since 2005. Manuel, who led the team to their first World Series title 28 years in 2008, was replaced with third base coach Ryne Sandberg.

Sandberg, a Hall of Fame second baseman with the Cubs in the 1980s, has managed the minor league Peoria Chiefs and Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. The interim appointment as Phillies manager is Sandberg's first to an MLB club.

Manuel's record with the Phillies was 780-636 and the team won five consecutive NL East pennants between 2007 and 2011. However, since the All Star break, Philadelphia has lost 21 of their last 26 games. This was the final year of Manuel's contract with the Phillies and in a press conference on Friday, Manuel made it clear he was still interested in managing.

Charlie Manuel is the winningest manager in the history of the Phillies organization.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS- MLB has announced the suspension of Kansas City Royals veteran infielder Miguel Tejada on Saturday. Although the announcement came shortly after the league announced a dozen suspensions of MLB players as a result of the Biogenesis Clinic HGH investigation, the league cited multiple violations of MLB's methamphetamine policy. In 53 games with Kansas City this season, Tejada has hit .288 with 3 homers and 20 RBI.

Tejada came up through the Oakland system in the 1990s and parlayed his 2002 AL MVP award into a lucrative $72 million six year deal with the Baltimore Orioles by 2004. Since 2007, Tejada has also played with Houston, San Diego, San Francisco and Kansas City.

PATRIOTS- Just days after a scare regarding Tom Brady's knee in training camp, the New England QB went 11 for 12 with 107 yards and a TD against Tampa Bay in the Patriot's 25-21 win on Friday. Brady showed no apparent signs of distress, but it was mostly Ryan Mallet who got the attention as he stayed in longer and went 12-20 with 137 yards and a TD.

The Patriots will next take on take on the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Aug 22nd with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 ET.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Geeps and Juice, August 16th 2013

Today's train of thought takes us to the Sunshine State and upon closer examination seems to involve things that are immediately evocative of Florida, such as orange juice, water and things coming down to Florida after having spent much of their lives in the northeastern USA.

Here, contributor Barney Rebel caught CSX GP39-2s #4303 and #4301 trundling across the Manatee River in Bradenton, FL in February 2008 with a cut of general freight and refrigerator cars for Tropicana's Bradenton plant bringing up the rear. On one side of the lowered drawbridge is the older wooden pilings for the trestle while further back and on the other side is the newer, concrete portion of the former Seaboard Air Line span.

Bradenton is also the spring training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates- although many other teams make their home in the Grapefruit league in nearby towns. Meanwhile the Manatee River does in fact boast a manatee population, although depending on the time of the year, they're usually found further upstream.

The white refrigerated boxcars towards the very rear of the train are part of the Tropicana fleet. For 40 years, the company has been shipping juice and concentrate some 1200 miles from the Bradenton area to New Jersey [with unit trains to Cincinnati also eventually added- NANESB!].

The two units actually started out life on Pennsylvania's Reading railroad in the mid 1970s, and while the line was folded into Conrail by 1976, the Reading's fleet of GP39-2s were sent to the Delaware & Hudson along with a handful of former Lehigh Valley GP38-2s in addition to being awarded trackage rights to Buffalo, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Washington DC. CSX predecessor Chessie System had apparently financed the Reading's purchase of the GP39-2s and when their lease came up shortly after the Canadian Pacific purchase of the D&H in the early 1990s, the former Reading units were turned over to CSX where they traversed the system in a motley assortment of colors ranging from Reading green to Guilford charcoal grey to D&H's classic 'Lightning Stripe' scheme before eventually being repainted into CSX colors.

After nearly 20 years of service, the former Reading units seem to generally congregate around the Tampa, FL area hauling aggregates, orange juice, phosphate or general freight. I would make the 'Northeast-retiree-moves-down-to-Florida' comparison, but it isn't analogous- the former Reading GP39-2s are still working on a daily basis [plus its entirely possible that CSX may end up selling them to an out-of-state shortline or regional- NANESB!].

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fears of a Clown- Rodeo Clown Recieves Lifetime Ban From Missouri State Fair For Mocking Obama

Several days after the fact, I have a hard time believing this is even a story.

The antics of a rodeo clown who donned an Obama mask at the Missouri State Fair this past weekend has left state officials scrambling to issue apologies and the progressive blogosphere fuming and comparing the scene to a latter-day minstrel show.
A clown wearing a President Barack Obama mask appeared at a Missouri State Fair rodeo this weekend and the announcer asked the enthusiastic spectators if they wanted to see "Obama run down by a bull."

The antics led the state's second highest-ranking official, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, to denounce the performance in a tweet Sunday. He said it was "disrespectful" to the president.

"We are better than this," the Republican tweeted.

State Fair officials said the show in Sedalia was "inappropriate" and "does not reflect the opinions or standards" of the fair. "We strive to be a family friendly event and regret that Saturday's rodeo badly missed that mark," they said in a statement Sunday.

The furor started when fairgoer Perry Beam posted video of the clown in the Obama mask on Facebook and claimed that the crowd was little different from a Ku Klux Klan rally [which naturally begs the question of how many KKK rallies Beam has attended for his informed comparison- NANESB!].
Fairgoer Perry Beam of Higginsville, Missouri attended and snapped photos of the incident, which have spread rapidly via political blogs statewide.

Beam claims the announcer "whipped the audience into a lather" by repeatedly asking attendees if they wanted to see "Obama run down by a bull." Beam says another clown ran up and "started bobbling the lips on the mask and the people went crazy."

In an interview with NewsChannel 5, Beam called it a "racist" display.

Naturally, the 'political blogs' alluded to include far left forums such as Show Me Progress and the Daily Kos. The story gained further attention when AP writer and contributor Maria Sudekum picked up on it and both Beam's account and the reactions of officials like Missouri governor Jay Nixon and Sen Claire McCaskill (both Democrats) were front page news for The Kansas City Star. Comments and op-eds in the Star's online edition drew thousands of remarks from across the region and country before the publication decided to suspend comments for the articles- this included a few pithy observations from yours truly that were reiterated in the Twitter format.

No long after, an op-ed where columnist Yael T Abouhalkah implied that the rodeo clown's antics warranted a Secret Service investigation [coz remember when John Hinkley tried trampling President Reagan with a rodeo bull to impress Jodie Foster? NANESB!].
It’s also borderline illegal; the U.S. Secret Service takes threats against the president seriously. While the president himself was in no danger here, it’s the kind of stupid activity that could give nuts ideas about harming the president.
Using Abouhalkah's logic, I suppose opposing Obamacare, gun control, amnesty, various 'green energy' boondoggles or Card Check could 'give nuts ideas about harming the President', so perhaps its best we stay quiet- otherwise President Obama might find himself on the wrong end of an irate bull someday. The Missouri chapter of the NAACP doubled down on the hand-wringing and have reportedly called for a federal investigation into rodeo clowns inciting violence against the President. Also continuing to use the 'logic' of Abouhalkah, the NAACP and those who comment on Show Me Progress or Daily Kos, the Occupy movement must be overtly racist for their practice of wearing Obama masks at various rallies as well.

In reaction to all of the hyperventilating, Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association Mark Ficken stepped down. The clown- identified as Tuffy Gessling- has been hit with a lifetime ban from the Missouri State Fair on Monday. In the future, rodeo clowns who perform at the fair will be [I shit you not- NANESB!] required to undergo sensitivity training as well.

Meanwhile, in what's considered a mostly symbolic gesture, congressman Steve Stockman [R- TX 36] invited the clown to perform in Texas, adding that he'd be welcome any time.

Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of the articles describing events at the state fair rodeo rely heavily on quotes exclusively from Beam's perspective- although the Washington Post thoughtfully was able to track down other State Fair attendees who could vouch for the alleged racism of the mostly white crowd present at the time.

I must admit that I shrugged this off as a non-story when I heard it at first. However, the rebukes directed at the rural, blue-collar crowd from the media, coastal elitists and state party officials comes off as nothing less than tone-deaf, patronizing, thin-skinned hypersensitivity in their defense of a man who has been President for five years- yet anything bad that's happened on his watch is magically somebody else's fault. Seriously- look at the issues President Obama has made a priority and his accomplishments- how well do you think gun control, the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and the Obamacare individual mandate would go over in swing states like Virginia or Colorado- let alone the crowd in a darker red state like Missouri?

The same people who are wagging their fingers at the uneducated rubes and hillbillies in flyover land for guffawing at the antics of a rodeo clown in a President Obama mask raised were eerily quiet when novels and mockumentaries detailing a fictitious assassination of then-President George W Bush were published. They feel that Americans have an unspoken obligation to mock those in power- until they're the ones in power. Then talking about insensitive rodeo clowns becomes much more important than discussing the continuing turmoil in the middle east, the stagnant economy or those in charge using supposedly nonpartisan government agencies to harass political opponents.

I'm sure this could lead to renewed calls for a national 'dialogue' about race in this country, but to a liberal "dialogue" means you're supposed to quietly sit there and nod politely as they are informing you of how ignorant and racist you are. The 'dialogue' is also based on the somewhat laughable premise that folks in flyover country would be OK with higher taxes, gun control, gay marriage, abortion and shutting down the coal industry if it was a white liberal speaking in favor of all these things.

UPDATE- 6/16: Parson the pun, but when it comes to protecting Barack Obama from criticism, this isn't the Missouri Democrats' first rodeo. St Louis radio hostess Dana Loesch details Missouri's recent history of using the mechanisms of state to stifle dissent- starting with 'truth squads' comprised of sheriff's and prosecutors who were acting on behalf of then-candidate Obama in 2008.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Friends of Tsarnaev Brother Plead Not Guilty to Obstruction

Two 19 year old UMass Dartmouth students who were friends with surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice after being arrested in early May.

Prosecutors say they tried to thwart the investigation of the deadly April explosions by throwing away fireworks and other items they found in Tsarnaev's dorm room the day before his capture.

Authorities say they found the fireworks in a New Bedford, Mass. landfill.

If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison. Family members of both attended the hearing. According to CBS Boston, federal prosecutors said Tuesday that 15-to-20 witnesses may be called during the trial.

Lawyers for Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov- both exchange students from the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan- denied their clients did anything wrong and fully cooperated with the FBI investigation. The two 19 year olds were in the country on a student visa and were taken into custody on charges they had overstayed their visas.

Another acquaintance of the younger Tsarnaev brother arrested around the same time as Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov was scheduled to appear in US District court in Boston last month, but the hearing for 19 year old Robel Phillipos had been postponed and he remains free on $100,000 bond.

Several weeks after the arrest of Phillipos, Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev, FBI agents were interviewing a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev in his Orlando, FL-area condo when he allegedly became combative and was shot and killed after attacking one of the agents. Massachusetts State Police believed that Ibragim Todashev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were suspected of a grisly 2011 triple homicide in Waltham, MA.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Quickie Sports Chowdah Update- Red Sox Rebound After Some Northern Exposure; Pats Clip Eagles' Wings in Preseason Opener

Tom Szczerbowski- Getty Images
RED SOX- Well, this weekend's series against Kansas City sure sucked. I should probably write a thank-you note to all the teams in the NL West for their part in keeping Boston in 1st place in the AL East despite the Red Sox spending much of the weekend spinning their wheels against a game Royals club at Kauffman Stadium- Tampa Bay was swept by the surging Dodgers while the Diamondbacks have taken two of their first three games against the Orioles.

After Monday's travel day, the Red Sox returned to the AL East with the first of a three game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Ontario's Rogers Centre. The last time Boston faced the Jays, they had won 17 of their last 22 games and were within striking distance of the AL East lead [although still dead last at the time- NANESB!].

Tuesday night's pitching matchup pitted Ryan Dempster against Todd Redmond and both starters took shutouts fairly deep into the game, with Toronto finally getting on the board thanks to a 2-out J.P. Arencibia RBI single in the bottom of the 5th to make it 1-0 Toronto. The Jays tried adding to that lead with Reyes on base and two out in the bottom of the 6th, but Victorino gunned down the Jays shortstop with a throw from right field after Edwin Encarnacion singled.

Redmond would last 5⅓ shutout innings, but the Red Sox would touch up the Jays bullpen for two runs- RBI singles from Ellsbury and Pedroia in the top of the 7th- before Arencibia would again knot up the score; this time with a solo homer off of Junichi Tazawa to lead off the bottom of the 8th to make it 2-2.

The game would go into extras and Loup would come out of the bullpen for Toronto in the 11th and get Stephen Drew to fly out to left field. Saltalamacchia would then draw a walk and Middlebrooks would hit a single. More importantly, when Ellsbury hit into what looked like a surefire inning-ending double play at short, Middlebrooks broke it up cleanly on a slide into second to keep the inning alive- Ellsbury would reach on what was scored a fielder's choice while Saltalamacchia went to 3rd. Ellsbury also immediately stole 2nd as Victorino was in the batter's box.

With two runners now in scoring position, Victorino hit a 1-2 pitch right up the middle to give Boston a 4-2 lead and after getting the final out in the bottom of the 10th, Koji Uehara would come back on to close out the game with a 1-2-3 bottom of the 11th. Uehara would get all four batters he faced out as well as the W.

Wednesday's game will feature Jon Lester [10-7; 4.37 ERA] going up against Esmil Rogers [3-7; 5.12 ERA], although Lester's record against Toronto this season is a somewhat more impressive 3-0 with a 2.79 ERA. The game will get started a 7:07 and be televised on both NESN and Rogers Sports Net.

TEXAS RANGERS- I had to double check and make sure somebody wasn't recycling headlines from April, but on Monday night, Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish took a no-hitter against the Houston Astros into the 8th inning. Just like in April, Darvish was denied the no-no, but he struck out a career high 15 batters in the Rangers' 2-1 win over Houston.

The Rangers currently have a 1 game lead over Oakland in the AL West.

OTHER RANGERS NEWS- In a deal that the Rangers front office was no doubt hoping they could've completed before the July 31st trade deadline, the Rangers acquired outfielder Alex Rios from the Chicago White Sox for a player to be named later. Rios is hitting .279 with 12 homers and 57 RBI this season.

The Rangers were hoping to acquire Rios earlier after learning that outfielder Nelson Cruz would be suspended by MLB for the remainder of the season in the wake of the BioGenesis scandal. By way of comparison, Cruz was batting .269 with 27 homers and 76 RBIs before his suspension.

The acquisition of Rios from the White Sox has also meant that the Rangers organization has released former Red Sox and Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez from AAA Round Rock. Manny was signed as a low-to-no-risk gambit by the Rangers organization and was batting .259 with 3 homers and 13 RBI in his 30 game stint with the Round Rock Express.

NHL- The new owners of the Phoenix Coyotes were introduced at a press conference in Glendale, AZ on Monday. Alberta businessman George Gosbee and Ice Edge Holdings CEO Anthony LeBlanc were named as the new owners. After bankruptcy and being managed by the NHL since their 2009 bankruptcy, the new ownership announced that the team was 'here to stay' and that they'd pursue a bid to host the All Star game after the organization missed out in 2006 due to the lockout.

It was also announced that the team would be renamed the Arizona Coyotes starting with the 2014 season.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS- All three Patriots QBs got to see playing time in last week's preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles while RB LeGarrette Blount led the Pats in scoring in Friday's 31-22 win.

Brady went 7-8 with 65 yards and 1 TD while Ryan Mallet went 9-18 with 97 yards on the night. Tim Tebow was sacked three times, but had 31 rushing yards in the preseason effort. Meanwhile, Blount raised some eyebrows with his performance, getting 101 yards and 2 TDs on 11 rushes/

The next Patriots preseason game is set to take place at Foxborough when the Patriots will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday night.

NCAA FOOTBALL- New questions about Texas A&M's Heisman-winning QB Johnny Manziel's eligibility are being raised after a number of media reports claimed that he had been paid to sign autographs for sports memorabilia dealers in violations of NCAA rules.

Interestingly, Texas A&M has decided to retain the services of Birmingham, AL law firm Lightfoot Franklin & White as legal counsel- the same firm that Auburn university had retained when QB Cam Newton's father reportedly sought large sums of money in exchange for his son playing for a major NCAA program. In November 2010, Newton was declared ineligible by Auburn after Mississippi State boosters revealed that Newton's father told them it would take 'more than a scholarship' to get him to persuade his son to play for the Bulldogs and kicking around an $80,000 pricetag.

Last month, video of Manziel getting kicked out of a frathouse at the rival University of Texas went viral. The Texas and Texas A&M football programs had a rivalry dating back to 1894 until the end of the 2011 regular season before A&M moved over to the SEC conference.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Obama Warns Disabled Veterans That Sequester Cuts Could Endanger Their Benefits Before Having His Dog Flown to Martha's Vineyard

Before flying off to Martha's Vineyard for vacation, President Obama addressed the Disabled American Veteran's convention in Orlando, FL this weekend and warned attendees that veteran's benefits would be jeopardized by a prolonged fight between the White House and GOP led House of Representatives over budget sequestration.

President Obama took his case for ending the sequester to hundreds of disabled veterans Saturday, saying he protected their benefits from the “reckless” cuts to the federal budget but suggesting next year might be different.

“It’s hurting our military. I made it clear that your veteran’s benefits are exempt from this year’s sequester,” the president said to the applause of hundreds at the Disabled American Veterans' convention in Orlando, Fla. “But I want to tell you going forward the best way to protect the VA care you have earned is to get rid of this sequester altogether.”

The president but the blame squarely on Congress, which returns in about four weeks to work on a new federal budget and increasing the federal debt limit.

“We’ve got these reckless, across-the-board budget cuts called the sequester that are hitting a lot of folks hard,” Obama said. “Congress needs to come together and agree on a responsible plan that reduces our deficit and keeps our promises to our veterans and keeps our promises to future generations.”

The cuts went into effect in March after Congress and the White House failed to agree on a more balanced plan to cut government spending.

Some Republicans have meanwhile said the president shares in the responsibility, considering he signed the 2011 Budget Control Act that raised the debt ceiling and led to sequester.

The remarks to the DAV were made the same day President Obama flew to Martha's Vineyard. The First Family will be staying at a $7.6 million property owned by Chicago corporate financier and Democrat donor David Schulte until Aug 18th.

However, not everybody in the First Family was able to make it up on the same Air Force One flight. Bo, the President's dog, was apparently flown up from Washington DC separately on a V-22 Osprey along with equipment and additional White House staff. According to the UK's Telegraph this is the first time that the Osprey's have been used for a Presidential vacation of any kind.

Apparently the progressive blogosphere has been patting themselves on the back over how they 'debunked' the Telegraph's story about Bo being flown up when in fact Bo WAS flown up to Martha's Vineyard along with equipment and personnel. Still, the defenders of this Administration seem all to willing to overlook the fact that the President basically told a convention hall full of disabled US veterans that they'll lose their benefits if he doesn't get his way with the upcoming budget before jetting off to Martha's Vineyard where his wealthy donors will roll out the red carpet for him.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Keep Watching Those Skies- Summertime Perseid Meteor Shower Close To Its Peak

Jeff Rose- Jeka photography

Between baseball on the radio, the occasional thunderstorms, road trips, county fairs and fireworks, there's a lot for me to love about this time of year.

But I'd have to say that one of the most underrated events of summertime is actually the Perseid meteor shower, which usually slashes luminescent stitches across the night sky in mid-August. The peak for this year's meteor shower will be Monday, Aug 12th. All one needs to take advantage of the nocturnal light show is about an hour or so of spare time to gaze skyward in a fairly sparsely populated location.

This is nothing new- the Perseids have been observed by mankind for nearly 2000 years. The display is said to be caused by debris from the passing Swift-Tuttle comet breaking off and burning up high in the earth's atmosphere as the comet makes its way through our solar system. Many of these meteors are bright enough to be visible to the naked eye as they streak across the sky.

Lack of ambient lighting is key, which is why skywatchers highly recommend that anybody in densely populated urban centers head out to a state or National Park for less light and more open terrain. The National Parks out in the Western USA are ideal and are expecting an increase in visitors, with plenty of wide open spaces and miles away from many population centers.

The Perseids actually began a couple of weeks ago in mid-July and will continue for several days past Monday. I actually went for a fairly short 2 mile hike this weekend and literally lost track of how many shooting stars I saw while scanning the skies on the hike.

Moonlight will also be a minimal factor, as the moon will be at a waxing crescent (and setting relatively early) when the Perseids is at its peak.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Quickie Sports Chowdah Update- Royal Flush, Red Sox Find Way Past Kansas City

John Rieger-USA Today
RED SOX- After dropping the first two games at Kauffman Stadium- including a disappointing start by Jake Peavy where the Red Sox gave up 6 runs in the bottom of the 6th- the Red Sox needed Felix Doubront to stem the damage on Saturday night.

The Red Sox gave Doubront an early lead thanks to an RBI double from Stephen Drew in the top of the 4th, followed by an RBI single from Will Middlebrooks and a Jacoby Ellsbury double that brought home Middlebrooks to get Boston out to a 4-0 lead.

Kansas City came back in the bottom of the 5th with a leadoff walk to Alcides Escobar, followed by back to back RBI doubles from Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler before  Alex Gordon got on board with a single, chasing Doubront from the mound with nobody out and bringing in Workman from the bullpen. Workman got the next batter to strike out before allowing an RBI single to center to make it a 4-3 game. Mike Moustakas then popped out to short and Workman got Brett Hayes to strike out swinging to escape the 5th inning still hanging on to a 4-3 lead.

However, given how adept the Royals had been at scoring off of Red Sox pitching in this series, the 1-run lead hardly seemed secure for Boston. In the top of the 6th, Kansas City starter Jeremy Guthrie got two quick outs from Drew and Saltalamacchia before Middlebrooks beat a throw to first from Royals 3B Moutsakas with two away. That brought up Ellsbury, who managed to find a gap in left center field to bring home Middlebrooks for an insurance run, although Ellsbury was thrown out trying to take third on the throw home. Boston headed into the bottom of the 6th with a 5-3 lead.

Breslow and Tazawa would come out of the bullpen and help shut out the Royals, despite each of them allowing doubles with less than two away. Koji Uehara would come on in the bottom of the 9th to close out the game with a 1-2-3 inning to preserve the 5-3 win and give the Red Sox their first win in Kauffman Stadium this season. Felix Doubront didn't last long enough to factor into the win, with Brandon Workman getting credit for the W. Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury had an outstanding night at the plate, going 4-5 with 2 RBI. The win is only the third so far in Boston's 10-game road trip that's seen them go up against the Astros and will see them head to Toronto next.

Sunday's game should wrap up the season series between Kansas City and Boston with John Lackey [7-9; 3.21 ERA] going up against James Shields [6-8; 3.36 ERA]- although Lackey is a career 2-1 with en ERA right around 2.00 in his last five starts against the Royals, his most recent start at Kauffman stadium dates back to 2009, when he was still with the Angels. First pitch is at 2:10 PM ET and the game will be televised on NESN.

OTHER RED SOX NEWS- Red Sox catcher David Ross has begun a rehab assignment with the Portland Sea Dogs  this weekend. Ross had been batting .185 with the Red Sox this season with 4 HR and 6 RBI altogether. The last game Ross appeared in was June 14th against the Orioles where he went 0-3 with two strikeouts.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Iron Horse Roundup For July/August 2013

AFP Photo
MONTREAL, MAINE & ATLANTIC- In the wake of last month's deadly runaway train wreck that devastated the southern Quebec town of Lac Megantic, Hermon, ME-based Montreal, Maine & Atlantic filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal bankruptcy court in Bangor, ME.
The MM&A has also petitioned Canadian civil courts for relief under that country's Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. The company appears to have set aside nearly $786,000 as “indemnification and/or contribution in connection with wrongful death litigation and other claims,” according to a listing of the company’s 20 largest creditors.

MMA still owes $27.5 million of a $35 million loan it received from the Federal Rail Administration in 2005, according to Gardner’s affidavit. The railroad also has a $6 million line of credit with the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co. issued in June 2009. That company has sought to protect its security interest, the affidavit said.
Other creditors include JD Irving subsidiary New Brunswick Southern, a subsidiary of San Antonio, TX-based Valero energy [NYSE- VLO], Minneapolis, MN-based Flex Leasing LLC and the Canadian Pacific railroad [NYSE- CP; TSX- CP].

Although a federal bankruptcy judge ruled that the MM&A could continue to operate under Chapter 11 reorganization, the line through Lac Megantic is still closed, effectively severing the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic in two. At the end of July, Maine state officials had entered into talks with four other unnamed railways to continue service in anticipation of the MM&A shutting down.

The MM&A laid off 79 workers in the wake of the Lac Megantic disaster. Meanwhile, Canadian officials have raised the death toll in Lac Megantic to 47 during the July 6th derailment.

Xoan Soler- La Voz de Galicia

SPAIN- The driver of a train that derailed and killed 78 passengers in northwestern Spain has been provisionally charged with multiple counts of negligent homicide, although he wasn't required to post bond or sent to jail because he wasn't considered a flight risk.
Garzon was questioned for almost two hours at the court in Santiago de Compostela, the northwestern town near where the accident occurred.

Garzon was driving the train carrying 218 passenger in eight cars that hurtled far over the 80-kph (50-mph) speed limit into a high-risk curve on Wednesday evening, tumbling off the tracks and slamming into a concrete wall, with some of the cars catching fire.

The Spanish rail agency has said the brakes should have been applied four kilometers (2.5 miles) before the train hit the curve

However, a local resident who rushed to the scene of the accident said in an interview broadcast Sunday that minutes after the crash Garzon had told him he had been going fast and couldn’t brake.

The resident, Evaristo Iglesias, said he and another person accompanied the blood-soaked Garzon to flat ground where other injured people were being laid out, waiting for emergency services to arrive.

“He told us that he wanted to die,” Iglesias told Antena 3 television. “He said he had needed to brake but couldn’t,” Iglesias said. He added that Garzon said “he had been going fast.”

In its report about the accident, Antena 3 television showed a photograph of Iglesias in a pink shirt and cap helping to carry the driver after the train accident. The station also aired television footage of Iglesias working beside the wrecked train to help other survivors.

Garzon was reportedly on the phone with an agent at the next station to determine which track his train was to come in on. While in the USA, train crews are now prohibited from talking on the phone while operating the train, Spain's state-run RENFE uses what's referred to as 'tren-tierra' or train to land lines to communicate between stations and crew. Shortly before the accident, the train passed from an area where computers control most of the train's functions to one where the driver has to brake and accelerate accordingly. It's believed that Garzon may have missed this transition point while he was on the phone.

ARGENTINA- Transportation officials in Argentina's capital of Buenos Aires have released in-cab CCTV footage of engineers reading, napping or playing on their phones while the train is in motion.
In one clip, the driver is seen stepping up to the camera in his train cabin, attempting to obscure the lens so his activities cannot be seen. Other drivers are more overtly distracted, with some taking a nap, reading a book or playing on their mobile phone.

Argentina's Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo has since vowed to lead a crackdown on dangerous train drivers.

He plans to ban phone calls and unauthorised people in the cab

Mr Randazzo has introduced daily medical checks on all drivers to gauge their fitness to drive and to reduce the risk of them falling asleep at the controls.

Under the new system, all those caught distracted on camera will either be disciplined or fired.
The release of the footage comes more than a year after a commuter train plowed into a terminal in Buenos Aires, killing 49 and injuring hundreds.

FRANCE- Investigators in France believe a faulty switch system was to blame in a deadly derailment that killed six passengers at a station south of Paris last month.

After leaving the tracks, the train crashed into the station at Bretigny-sur-Orge.

A passenger speaking on France's BFM television said the train was going at a normal speed and was not meant to stop at Bretigny-sur-Orge.

He described children unattended in the chaotic aftermath, and swarms of emergency workers at the scene.

Two train cars, numbers 3 and 4, initially derailed, then knocked the other cars off the track, SNCF chief Guillaume Pepy said.

"Some cars simply derailed, others are leaning, others fell over," he said

A spokesman for the French state-run railway- SNCF- said the train was carrying an estimated 350 passengers when it derailed at 5:15 PM local time at Gare Bretigny sur Orge. The official death toll from the accident was 7 with more than 20 injured.

CALIFORNIA- Governor Jerry Brown has ordered a 60-day 'cooling down' period between San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit and workers threatening to strike over an expired contract with the transit agency.

Last month, a 4-day strike had left Bay Area commuters scrambling for alternate transportation. It was the first strike for BART since 1997.

Prior to Brown's announcement, both the Service Employees International Union and Amalgamated Transit Union were hoping the looming deadline of Sunday, Aug 11th would be sufficient to pressure BART management to agree to a renewed contract on the union's terms. Prior to Brown's intervention, the unions had threatened to resume their strike after this weekend.

The two month delay would take away some leverage from unions representing BART employees as it would allow the agency time to recruit replacement workers from out of retirement. An odd clause in the contract originally signed in 1979 would have prevented BART from hiring replacement drivers until the workers actually went on strike, and even then the replacement workers would only after completing a 15 week training course.

Reuters/Denis Balibouse

SWITZERLAND- Transportation officials in Switzerland are investigating the cause of a head-on collision between two passenger trains in the western part of the country. The crash killed the driver of one of the trains and injured at least 35 passengers.

The two Swiss Federal Railways regional passenger trains collided with one another head-on at Granges-Marnand in the Vaud Canton outside of Lucerne on July 29th. Although some press outlets have speculated that one of the trains left the Granges-Marnand station too early and collided with an incoming train, officials have yet to determine the exact cause of the crash and are moving both wrecked train sets to another location to closer examine the wreckage.

SOO Line SD60 #6053 leads an SD60M over county highway G38 outside of Washington, IA with a northbound Kansas City-St Paul manifest freight train on June 2012. Eric Rasmussen photo.

CANADIAN PACIFIC- In a surprise move, the Canadian Pacific Railroad announced that they are seeking bids for more than 40 former Soo Line SD60s and SD60Ms. The solicitation comes as the CPR is more than halfway through an extensive rebuild of their SD60 fleet. Some of the units are being stored at CP's St Luc yard in Montreal. All of the overhauled units have been rebuilt to Tier 0+ EPA compliance and feature AESS Locomotive Automatic Engine Start/Stop and Positive Traction Control in compliance with an upcoming PTC mandate expected to take effect starting in 2015- several more are supposed to undergo rebuilding at Montreal's CADRAIL facility.

The Soo Line ordered the SD60s from EMD in 1987 and with CP Rail's takeover, the burly 3800 HP six axle EMDs could be found anywhere from the Canadian Rockies to upstate New York although they were (and still are) outnumbered by CP Rail's far more prolific fleet of SD40-2s.

Canadian Pacific has also started putting up their fleet of former Milwaukee Road GP40s for sale- Respondek Rail Corp and United States Sugar Corp have already purchased a pair.

With the arrival of rebuilt GP20C-ECO and SD32C-ECO from Caterpillar [NYSE- CAT] subsidiary Progress Rail, Canadian Pacific returned their only two Gensets to National Railway Equipment in Illinois in July. The two Gensets- #2100 and #2101- were largely paid for by a province of Ontario 'green energy' intiative.