Monday, September 30, 2013

Kenyan Forces Re-Take Nairobi Mall Attacked By Al Shabaab Terrorists, At Least 39 Still Missing

The death toll in last week's terrorist attack at an upscale shopping mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi has reached 67 with aid agencies saying that at least 39 people were still unaccounted for after a withering firefight and series of bomb blasts as Kenyan security forces re-took the building floor by floor.

A twitter account purportedly belonging to the Somali-based Al Shabaab islamist group claimed responsibility for the massacre and threatened further attacks in Kenya, although the ownership of a second, English language account couldn't be independently verified. Twitter reportedly suspended the first Al Shabaab account within hours of the mall attack.

Kenyan soldiers and medical officials said that some of the victim's bodies they found had shown signs of torture and mutilation in addition to those who were shot while trying to flee.

Investigators believe that the assailants or their associates rented a shop in the Westgate mall in the months leading up to the terrorist attack, smuggling in weapons and explosives unnoticed. Kenya's intelligence service reportedly warned lawmakers that Al Shabaab was casing a number of potential targets within the country- including the mall- about a year or so before the attack as part of a routine situational report to that government's legislators.

Reports of some of the terrorists being identified as Americans or at least from the Somali community in and around Minneapolis and St Paul, MN have also reportedly caught the attention of the Minneapolis branch of the FBI, although that has yet to be confirmed. A Somali activist in Minnesota said that his warnings about the Abubakar as-Siddique mosque in the Twin Cities being used as a recruiting center for Al Shabaab or other islamist groups in recent years were either ignored or downplayed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Investigators from both the FBI and Scotland Yard are reportedly on scene in Nairobi to comb through forensic evidence left behind at the Westgate mall.

Meanwhile, Interpol has released a 'Red Notice' arrest bulletin for a British convert to Islam named Samantha Lewthwaite, who was a widow of one of the 7/7 London bombers and was thought to have participated in the attacks- eyewitnesses describe a pale-skinned woman taking part in the attacks early on.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Under the Dome Sports Chowdah Update- Falcons Rally Late, But Get Their Wings Clipped; Because 162 Isn't Enough- Rangers and Rays Head Into One Game Playoff;

Have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE this time of year?

Kevin Cox- Getty Images
PATRIOTS- In their second prime-time matchup since week two, New England found themselves facing off against an NFC South opponent for the second straight week.

If last week's game against the Buccaneers was any indicator, Brady seemed to be settling into a groove with his corps of new receivers and vice-versa. However, they would have their work cut out for them in Week 4 on the road in the Georgia Dome against Boston College alum Matt Ryan and two of the NFL's best receivers.

The Falcons got on the board first with a Matt Bryant FG in the first before New England capped a 75 yard drive with a Brady to Matt Mulligan completion to put New England up 7-3. A 48 yard FG from Gostkowski made it 10-3 New England before Atlanta tied the contest up at 10-10 thanks to a 21 yard reception from Matt Ryan to TE Tony Gonzalez with just 38 seconds to go in the first half.

After another FG from Gostkowski in the 3rd quarter put the Patriots back on top, New England looked as though they were going to blow this one wide open at the start of the 4th quarter thanks to a 47 yard TD run from LaGarrette Blount to make it 20-10. Although the Falcons managed to drive down into New England's red zone, Michael Buchanan sacked Matt Ryan on 3rd and 5 from the New England 18 yard line, forcing Atlanta to settle for three points but still making it a 1-score game at 20-13.

The Patriots struck back quickly, thanks to two long completions from Brady to Edelman before Brady connected with WR Kenbrell Thompkins for an 18 yard TD pass. On the very first play of Atlanta's next possession, CB Aquib Talib managed to pick off a Matt Ryan pass and got as far as the Falcons 31 yard line before settling for a field goal, making it a 30-13 game with just over 6 minutes remaining in the 4th.

However, Atlanta would not go quietly and closed the gap thanks to an 11 yard TD pass from Ryan to Gonzalez before recovering the onside kick at mid field. Ryan got the Falcons as far as the Patriots 7 yard line, but Atlanta would have to settle for a field goal. New England successfully recovered the ball on Atlanta's next onside kick attempt and was simply looking to wind the clock down and get a first down on 4th and 1 at the Falcons' 37, but Brady fumbled the snap and although he recovered it, the Patriots turned it over on downs. Ryan looked as though he would make the Patriots pay when he found Julio ones for a nearly flawless 49 yard completion. However, with 36 seconds left and on 4th and 7 from the Patriot's 10, Aquib Talib broke up a Matt Ryan pass attempt to Roddy White in the end zone. New England got the ball back and Brady took a knee to run out the final seconds of the game.

New England moves to 4-0 for the first time since their 2007 dalliance with perfection. Next week, the Patriots will travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. The game is scheduled for a 1:00 PM kickoff on Sunday and will be televised on CBS Sports.

MLB- WILD CARD- It looks as though 162 games wasn't enough for the Texas Rangers or Tampa Bay Rays.

On the final day of the regular season, the Indians managed to leapfrog both Texas and Tampa Bay after winning 10 straight games to conclude the 2013 regular season to take the first Wild Card berth. This is Indians manager Terry Francona's first trip to the postseason since 2009 when he was still with the Red Sox. This is also Francona's first season as the Indians manager. The Tribe will await the winner of Monday's Rangers/Rays game.

First pitch for the Rays and Rangers Wild Card game is scheduled for 8:07 PM ET and will be televised on TBS.

Alan Diaz- AP

MIAMI MARLINS- And just like that the regular season is in the books, and it wasn't exactly uneventful.

While the Miami Marlins won't be going to the postseason, the end of their regular season was pretty noteworthy as starter Henderson Alvarez threw a no-hitter. Not only did the 23 year old Venezuelan starter get his no-hitter against the defending AL Champion Detroit Tigers, but he got it in an unorthodox manner and saw the game clinched when he was in the on deck, not the mound.

It was still a scoreless tie in the bottom of the 9th when Giancarlo Stanton came home on a wild pitch with the bases loaded for Miami's 1-0 win. The no-hitter was the Marlin's first since September 2006 when Anibal Sanchez no-hit the Arizona Diamondbacks.

RED SOX- The regular season for Boston ended on a less-than-glorious note after dropping two out of three to the Orioles over the weekend. Despite the losses, the Red Sox finish the season tied with St Louis for the best record in MLB with 97 wins and 65 losses.

This means that not only will Boston wait until Friday for their next game, they won't know who their opponent is until after two separate play-in games starting on Monday night. The Oakland A's finished one game behind Boston and will host the AL Central champion Detroit Tigers for the ALDS.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Muslim Terrorists Kill At Least 159 in Northeastern Nigerian Attacks

Terrorists reportedly belonging to the Islamist group Boko Haram murdered scores of motorists and truckers in a pair of roadside attacks on highways running through Borno State in the northeastern part of Nigeria. The attacks were carried out by assailants wearing Nigerian military uniforms and set up roadblocks.
In the first attack, on Tuesday, Boko Haram guerrillas wearing army uniforms stopped traffic on a highway between the cities of Maiduguri and Damaturu, dragging people out of their vehicles and killing them, with 143 bodies recovered so far.

Tuesday's toll was initially given as "more than 20", but information often takes days to trickle out of the remote and sparsely populated region, where roads are bad, curfews are in force and the military has cut the phone network since May.

"We have been picking corpses off the roadsides all day, there are more in the bush," said Abdulazeez Kolomi, an Environmental Protection Agency official in Benisheik village.

"They are all travelers slaughtered by Boko Haram gunmen. We have so far picked up 143 corpses."

On Thursday, following a similar pattern, Boko Haram insurgents killed at least 16 people in an attack on travelers plying a highway from Maiduguri to Bamboa, a police source collecting bodies on the scene told Reuters.
Eyewitnesses said that uniformed gunmen stopped vehicles on the highway, ordered the passengers out and separated the women from the men before opening fire or attacking them with knives, bayonets or even power tools. Some of the dead were travelling to the neighboring state capital of Yobe to make telephone calls, since phone lines in Borno had been shut down by security forces as a precaution.

A commercial cab driver, Sani Babayo, said it was another day of horror along the Kano-Maiduguri Highway.

"We thought they were soldiers because their uniforms, vehicles and guns suggested so," recalled Mr. Babayo. "But when they ordered us to come down from the vehicle and began to ask if we are residents of Maiduguri, it immediately dawned on us that we had fallen into the hands of Boko Haram.

"After separating the women and girls from the group, they ordered the men to run into the bush for our lives. No sooner had we started running than they opened fire on us. I saw many of my passengers fall after being hit by flying bullets. I kept running for my dear life until I was out of their range of fire."

Mr. Babayo, who looked dishevelled with tell-tale bruises on his skin and blistered feet, was among few of the very lucky travellers who escaped the Tuesday carnage. Many did not.

Most of the victims were those who had gone to make phone calls in the neighbouring Yobe State capital, Damaturu, 136 km from Maiduguri.

For four months now, telecom lines have been grounded as a security strategy to combat Boko Haram. Residents of Borno State, since the restoration of phones lines in Yobe State, had had to travel over there to make calls.

A young woman, Sarah Hyeladi, was returning to Maiduguri from Damaturu, where she and her elder brother, Markus, had gone to make phones calls when they encountered gunmen. Ms. Hyeladi was lucky but her elder brother was not.

"When our vehicle was stopped at about 6 p.m., and we saw how those ahead were being shot at, Markus and I had to run into the bush, but suddenly some uniformed gunmen appeared from the bush and ordered us to go back," Ms. Hyeladi recalled.

"We had to comply because one man was pointing a big gun at us. As we were going towards where people were being killed, one of the gunmen dragged Markus and put a knife on his neck. Before I could beg them to spare him, my brother was writhing on the floor in a pool of his own blood."

"Many people died from bullet wounds but a lot were killed by something that looked like an electric saw; the moment they put it on a person's neck, the head will go off," said a middle aged woman who was spared.
Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency for northern Nigeria back in May after Boko Haram staged a series of attacks against schools and churches. The group is also believed to have carried out a number of bombings and jailbreaks closer to the Nigerian capital city of Abuja earlier this year.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Breaking Bad, Gangham Pyongyang Style- North Korea Reportedly Manufacturing Crystal Meth for Export

Thai Prime minister displaying seized methamphetamine in June 2012
With the series finale of Breaking Bad - AMC's popular drama about a New Mexico high school chemistry teacher who receives a terminal cancer diagnosis and decides cooks meth with a former student- coming up this weekend, it seems as though North Korea wants to get in on the act. But can it really be considered Breaking Bad if you're already in the most despotic nation on the face of the earth to begin with?

A report from South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper from earlier this year alleges that North Korean diplomats have been ordered to sell drugs to give Kim Jong Un's government foreign currency reserves with which the regime uses to reward loyal officials and further their nuclear weapons program.

The drugs in question are said to be locally manufactured crystal methamphetamine produced in state-run facilities, which is then reportedly smuggled across the border and sold in China.

However, some of that meth has made its way back into North Korea or never even left, creating an epidemic of drug users on the most totalitarian state in the world. With a scarcity of medicine, North Koreans have reportedly taken to using meth to alleviate ailments and some defectors claim parents encourage their children to take the drug to help them stay alert for their studies.

Despite official denials from Pyongyang, North Korea has been allegedly raising funds to shore up their foreign currency reserves for years through illicit means- including drug trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering, arms trafficking and insurance fraud. Many of these activities are said to be overseen from a mysterious agency known as Bureau 39 headquartered inside the ruling Worker's Party headquarters in Pyongyang.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Beasts of the East Sports Chowdah Update- Hold Your Horses, Red Sox Clinch AL East Before Heading to Coors Field; Youth is Served in Foxboro

Brad Penner/ USA Today
PATRIOTS- After a lackluster week two in which the Patriots and Jets seemingly duked it out to see who wanted it the least, Tom Brady and New England's young receiver corps seemed to gel in week three when the Patriots hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The visitors got out the early 3-0 lead late in the first, but the Patriots would come back to score 23 unanswered points, including two TD passes from Brady to WR Kenbrell Thompkins in the second to give New England a 14-3 lead. The rest of New England's points came off of the foot of Stephen Gostkowski.

New England goes on to win by a 23-3 final, giving them a 3-0 record [including 2-0 against the AFC East- NANESB!]. The Patriots will continue their tilt against the NFC South with a prime time matchup against the Boston College alum Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 ET and the game will be televised on NBC's Sunday night football.

RED SOX- After a productive weekend at Fenway where the Red Sox clinched the AL East pennant and took two out of three against the Blue Jays, the Red Sox hit the road for their final road trip of the regular season starting with a two game series in Colorado. With Boston clinching the AL East over the weekend, the only real suspense would be if Boston could stay ahead of Oakland or Detroit for the best record in the American League and home field advantage for the playoffs.

The trip to Coors Field was Boston's first since 2010 and the second since completing a sweep of the Rockies in the 2007 World Series. Wednesday night's game was also noteworthy in the Mile High city as the final home game of Rockies first baseman Todd Helton. Todd Helton's two daughters and former Tennessee Volunteers teammate Peyton Manning were on hand for Helton's sendoff and he was also given a horse as a retirement gift from the Rockies.

Helton, who was the subject to trade rumors that had him landing in Boston in 2007, is currently sporting a career .317 batting average with 369 homers and 1,406 RBI's [pending the final few games of the season from Dodger Stadium for Colorado- NANESB!].

On Wednesday night, the Red Sox jumped out to an early 3-0 lead off of Rockies pitcher Jhoulis Chacin in the very first inning, with a 2-RBI double from Big Papi and an RBI single from Saltalamacchia. None other than the man of the hour, Todd Helton, got the Rockies on the board in the bottom of the second with a 1-out solo homer. Yorvit Torreabla followed that up with a 2-out RBI single to make it a 3-2 game.

The contest was knotted up at 4-4 in the bottom of the 3rd thanks to Colorado pulling even with a Helton sac-fly and a Nolan Arenado ground-rule double. However, the Red Sox would break the game open with three run homers from Victornio and Middlebrooks in the 4th and 5th innings giving Boston a 10-4 lead.

The Red Sox go on to win by a 15-5 final in their final out-of-division and interleague game of the season, splitting the brief two game series at Coors Field. From Denver, the Red Sox will travel to Baltimore- site of the infamous 2011 collapse on the final day of that season that cost then-manager Terry Francona his job- to close out the regular season with a three game series against the O's starting Friday.

Coming off his first loss of the season, Clay Buchholz [11-1; 1.60 ERA] will get the start against Baltimore's Scott Feldman [12-11; 3.51 ERA] on Friday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 ET and the game will be televised on NESN.

ELSEWHERE IN THE AL EAST- The New York Yankees have been eliminated from postseason contention with their 8-3 loss to Tampa Bay at Yankee stadium on Wednesday night. While the Red Sox clinched the AL East title against the Blue Jays last weekend, there was still two wild card berths sought after by the Rays, Orioles and Yankees as well as Cleveland, Texas and Kansas City.

Baltimore's postseason hopes were dashed last weekend when they Rays swept Baltimore at Tropicana Field, including an 18 inning loss in the Friday Night/Saturday morning to open up the four game series.

Tampa Bay currently leads the AL Wild Card chase and closes out the season with a three game series against Toronto at the Rogers Centre this weekend. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians are a game ahead of the Texas Rangers for the second and final AL Wild Card berth.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

At Least 80 Killed After Muslim Terrorists Attack Christian Church in Peshawar

At least 80 worshippers at an Anglican church in Peshawar, Pakistan were killed when a pair of suicide bombers detonated outside of the church as services finished over the weekend.

The attack on the All Saints Church in the city of Peshawar, which also wounded over 140 people, occurred as worshippers were leaving after service to get a free meal of rice offered on the front lawn.

A wing of the Pakistani Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the bombings, saying they would continue to target non-Muslims until the U.S. stops drone attacks in the remote tribal region of Pakistan.

The bombings raised new questions about the Pakistani government's push to strike a peace deal with the militants to end a decade-long insurgency that has killed thousands of people.

The death toll is expected to climb due to the severity of some of the injuries, making it one of the deadliest attacks against the nation's Christian community.

Sunday's attacks led to protests by angry members of Pakistan's Christian minority in Karachi, who blocked traffic and burned tires to protest inadequate protection from the government. While police are often assigned to protect mosques and churches, the policeman assigned to the church in Peshawar was among those killed in this weekend's attack.

The predominantly Muslim nation's Christian minority is routinely discriminated against and targeted for violence by terrorist groups who view them as enemies of Islam.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Kudzu! September 23rd, 2013

Today's Train of Thought Takes us to Dixie [and SEC country- NANESB!] and features a notorious invasive species that's become almost iconic in the south.

Kudzu was introduced to the southeastern United States as an ornamental and shade plant during the 1883 New Orleans Exposition. At the time, the government was encouraging growth of kudzu for feed stock and erosion control and the Asian plant took to the south. However, when the boll weevil spread across the south and decimated the cotton crops through the 1920s, many farmers abandoned their properties which left the kudzu to spread unchecked throughout the region. The warm, humid climate turned out to be almost ideal for the Kudzu to not only thrive, but expand unimpeded throughout the southeast. By 1997, the federal government listed Kudzu as a Noxious weed and power companies can spend millions repairing damage and clearing lines from the prolific weed. It's also been a problem for the National Parks Service, who maintains historic Civil War battle sites such as Chickamauga and Chattanooga or Vicksburg Battle National Monuments.

And it's in Vicksburg, MS that contributor Paul Morgan caught eastbound Kansas City Southern manifest freight MXJA- MeXican border at Laredo, TX to JAckson, MI- as it charges out of a tunnel and uphill past a hillside covered in kudzu on September 7, 2006. Former Southern Pacific SD40T-2 # 6107 is in charge on this sunny day as the train has just crossed the mighty Mississippi.

In 1863, Union forces laid siege to the fortified city for 40 days before the Confederate defenders surrendered. Nowadays, Vicksburg is a key crossing of the Mississippi River on interstate 20 and the Kansas City Southern's Meridian Speedway.

Hugo Chavez's Successor Expropriates Venezuela Toilet Paper Factory

The logical end result of socialist economic policies:

A Venezuelan government agency has ordered the 'temporary' seizure of a paper mill that produces toilet paper in the state of Aragua in what it claims is an attempt to relieve ongoing shortages of consumer goods.
In a tweet on Thursday, Venezuela's Vice President, Jorge Arreaza, said authorities would 'not permit hoarding of essential commodities, or any faults in the production and distribution process'

'The action taken at the producer of toilet paper, sanitary napkins and disposable diapers corresponds to the obligation of the state to guarantee the normal supply of primary necessities,' price regulator Sundecop said in a statement.

President Maduro has cut dollar supplies for importers since winning election in April, creating shortages of goods including toilet paper and butter and stoking one of the world’s highest inflation rates.

Critics say the nagging shortages of products ranging from bathroom tissue to milk are a sign his socialist government's rigid price and currency controls are failing.

Annual inflation accelerated to 45.4 percent last month from 42.6 percent in July, while the scarcity index measuring the amount of goods out of stock on store shelves reached 20 percent, the central bank said.

The country devalued the official exchange rate to 6.3 bolivars per dollar from 4.3 bolivars in February.

President Nicolas Maduro and government agencies also reportedly ordered Venezuelan troops to 'safeguard' the factory during the 'temporary' takeover. Maduro was the hand-picked successor for socialist president Hugo Chavez, who passed away from cancer earlier this year.

In keeping with Chavez's 'Bolivar Revolution' theme, the government had to import more than 50 million rolls of toilet paper earlier this year to counter an ongoing shortage that was reportedly triggered by the socialist government's price controls. The controls have also led to similar shortages of basic consumer goods such as diapers, coffee, milk and butter.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Islamic Terrorists Murder At Least 39 In Attack on Shopping Mall in Kenya's Capital, Hostages Still Reportedly Trapped

Jonathan Kalan- AP Photo
Officials in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi are reporting that at least 39 people have been killed in a gun and grenade attack on an upscale shopping mall that was popular with expats, well-heeled Kenyans and diplomats.
At least 39 people have been killed and more than 150 injured in the attacks, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a televised address late Saturday. Wearing a casual plaid shirt, Mr. Kenyatta offered his condolences to those who lost loved ones—and included himself in that group.

"I know what you feel having also personally lost very close family members in this attack," Mr. Kenyatta said, without elaborating further. He called the strike a terrorist attack and urged Kenyans not to give in to fear.

The death toll is expected to rise as police make their way through the large complex, which has three main floors and a smaller fourth floor housing a movie theater, to confront the assailants, who they believe are holding hostages.

The Kenyan government's National Disaster Operation Center said that Kenyan military and special forces had taken control of the upper floors of the mall but that lower floors were still unsecured.

It wasn't clear how many people were still trapped inside.

Patrons of the mall were sitting down for lunch or strolling through the facility when cars packed with an unknown number of gunmen drove up to the main entrance of the mall around 12:30 p.m. and started shooting as they rushed through the open doors where guests usually wait in line to have their bags checked by security guards, witnesses said.

The attackers shot into the crowds of people at outdoor restaurants and pushed farther into the mall, firing their weapons and throwing grenades as they raced to the higher levels of the mall. Shoppers crawled into back storerooms and bathrooms, locking doors where they could. At least one bank was able to lock its customers in a safe room, witnesses said. Those near exits raced out of the mall, some taking refuge in nearby apartment buildings to catch their breath and call family members.

Police arrived and cordoned off the parking lot, at first believing they were dealing with a robbery attempt. But as wounded survivors started piling into ambulances it became clear that the attackers had opened fire, that they hadn't appeared to be after anything and that they seemed to be targeting non-Muslims.

Police and military forces slowly started the work of pushing into the mall and pulling out those hiding and the injured while trying to close in on the attackers without knowing exactly how many assailants there were or where they were shooting from.

As survivors emerged, some with their hands up to show they weren't carrying weapons, Red Cross workers escorted them to a nearby building and assured them they were safe.
Canada's Ministry of foreign affairs has confirmed that at least two citizens, including a diplomat from the embassy, were among those killed in Saturday's terrorist attack. Reports were also circulating that four American nationals were injured in Saturday's attack. The death toll is expected to increase amid reports that the attackers took a number of hostages as they moved through the mall.

Police had initially believed the gunfire was from armed robbers until survivors emerged from the mall and told police and reporters how the assailants were firing indiscriminately, lobbing grenades and singling out non-Muslims for execution. By early Sunday, there were conflicting reports that the police had one of the wounded attackers in custody and the rest were barricaded inside a Nakumatt supermarket within the mall.

The Somalia-based Al Qaeda affiliated terrorist group Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks and said that there would be no negotiations between the hostage takers and Kenyan security forces. In recent years, Al Shabaab has attacked Somalia's UN-backed interim government, engaged in piracy and kidnapped foreign nationals for ransom. The terrorist group has threatened both Kenya and Uganda for sending troops to Somalia in support of the interim government as part of an African Union peacekeeping force.

Sunday's shooting would be the deadliest terror attack in Kenya since the summer of 1998 when Al Qaeda launched simultaneous attacks targeting the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

In 2010, Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Kampala, Uganda that killed more than 70 people and coincided with the finale of the 2010 World Cup. In 2012, a combined Somali and Kenyan military force launched raids into Somali territory targeting Al Shabaab-held towns and encampments.

UPDATE- 9/22: Officials have revised the death toll to 59 while the total injured is said to be 175. Kenya's NTV reports that there are still anywhere from 10 to 15 attackers barricaded in the market.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Full Circle Sports Chowdah Update- Red Sox Clinch Postseason Berth With Complete Game Gem From Lackey; Yankee's Pettitte Announces Retirement; Top Ranked Football Teams Coming to New England This Weekend; BC Women's Volleyball Sweeps Columbia Tourney

Jim Rogash- Getty Images
RED SOX- What a difference a year makes.

On a night when the Red Sox win total for 2013 matched their loss total from the awful 2012 season, Boston clinched their first postseason berth since 2009 [almost to the day when I started up this crappy blog- NANESB!] thanks to an outstanding complete game thrown by starter John Lackey against the Baltimore Orioles.

The O's came into town on Tuesday night in dire need of wins to keep afloat in the very tight American League Wild Card race and helped their own cause considerably by taking the first two games- despite the Red Sox jumping out to an early 2-0 lead each time. Interestingly, this was the first time in nearly a month that Boston had been dealt back-to-back losses.

Like the first two games of the series, Boston got out to a quick 2-0 lead when SS Stephen Drew belted a 1-out two-run homer off of O's starter Chris Tillman. This was followed up by a double from Jackie Bradley Jr who them came home on a Dustin Pedroia single to make it 3-0 Boston. The early lead on Thursday night held up thanks to this:

Unlike other starts by Lackey earlier this season, the starter had some run support early on. Not only was Lackey cruising, he took a no-hitter into the 7th inning before Adam Jones broke up the no-no bid with a solo homer over the Monster seats.

That would be all Baltimore would get, however, as Boston clinches their first playoff berth since 2009 with a 3-1 win. Lackey would give up two hits, one earned run, two walks and strike out a total of eight batters on 113 pitches in Thursday night's complete game, giving the bullpen a much-needed night off after Wednesday night's 12 inning Orioles win. Despite the loss, Baltimore is still only two games out of the Wild Card chase and the Red Sox will see them at the end of the month to wrap up the regular season at Camden Yards- [even by then we may not have a clearer picture of who has a Wild Card berth in the American League- NANESB!].

For Friday night, the Red Sox will host the Blue Jays for the final series of the regular season at Fenway. Earlier this week, the Jays delivered a crippling blow to the Yankees already-dim playoff hopes by taking two out of three from the Bronx Bombers at the Rogers Centre. Esmil Rogers [5-7; 4.47 ERA] will get the go-ahead against Jon Lester [14-8; 3.75 ERA]. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 ET and will be televised on NESN [lately, we had been enjoying an embarrassment of riches as far as nationally televised games go- NANESB!].

NEW YORK YANKEES- Yankees starter Andy Pettitte announced on Friday afternoon that he would be retiring at the end of this season. The 41 year old was coaxed out of retirement by the Yankees after 2011 and his last start at Yankee stadium will likely be on Sunday against the San Francisco Giants.

This season, Pettitte is 10-10 with a 3.93 ERA while he has a career 3.86 ERA and 19-11 record in the postseason, making him the winningest pitcher in postseason history. Petite is also slated to make his final start of the 2013 season against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park, the only other team he played for besides New York.

NCAA FOOTBALL- Not a particularly good week for the FBS schools in New England, although this was somewhat expected with Boston College now coming into a particularly difficult stretch of their schedule. Last weekend, the Eagles were dealt a 35-7 loss in their west coast road trip to USC. They will have a full week to prepare themselves for their next contest, which the Eagles could probably use. Although they return home, the will face the #8-ranked FSU Seminoles at Chestnut Hill on Saturday, September 28th. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 PM ET.

The Eagles won't be the only New England FCS team facing a top ranked opponent. UConn was bested by Maryland by a 31-21 final last week and will be playing host to the #15 Michigan Wolverines at East Hartford this weekend. This one will actually be aired in prime time with an 8:00 PM ET kickoff while the game will be on ABC in many markets.

Like one time Yankee Conference archrival UConn, the UMass Minutemen are in search of their first win of the season after losing 37-7 to Kansas State last weekend. This weekend, the Minutemen will host the Vanderbilt Commodores at Gillette Stadium. That game kicks off at noon eastern time.

BC Eagles Photo

NCAA VOLLEYBALL- The Eagles volleyball season is off to a good start with the women sweeping last weekend's Columbia tournament- already the second time they've gone undefeated in a tournament this season. Senior Melissa McTighe led the eagles with 8 kills against the Binghamton Bearcats for the finale of last weekend's Columbia tournament. Boston College started out the New York tourney in promising fashion on Friday the 13th by taking down Fordham in three straight sets before besting host Columbia 3 sets to 2.

The strong showing at the Columbia tournament gives the Eagles volleyball team and 8-2 record, good for 5th place overall in the ACC as they head into this weekend's New England Challenge tournament against Northeastern and Harvard.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Death Toll From Colorado Flooding Revised As Waters Recede

Helen H. Richardson- Denver Post
At least 7 people are feared dead after floodwaters tore through parts of Colorado's Front Range north of Denver last week. The college town of Boulder was particularly hard hit and several outlying mountain towns were cut off from the rest of the state after rising floodwaters undercut state and local highways.

Transportation networks were also snarled by the flooding, as rising waters shut down portions of I-25 between Denver and Cheyenne, WY. Union Pacific was working to restore service over their Denver- Cheyenne mainline as well as portions of the former Rio Grande Denver to Salt Lake City mainline just west of Denver. The UP is also working to shore up their transcontinental mainline downstream in Nebraska from additional damage from the floodwaters.

Joseph K Vonnida- Getty photo
The Colorado National Guard had been activated and was using helicopters and high wheel vehicles in an attempt to get to some of the completely cut off homes and towns in the mountains. The National Guard has also made it a point to evacuate people with their pets if possible in what officials are calling "No pets left behind".

Early estimates put the total amount property damage in the $2 billion range. Rebuilding efforts will likely be complicated by the fact that most of the damaged structures and properties lack flood insurance.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mets Players Play With Adorable Puppies Before Game At Citi Field- Puppies Go On to Beat Stunned Mets By a 10-1 Final

An embarrassed New York Mets GM Sandy Alderson was left at a loss to explain to the sports media his struggling club's recent loss to a disorganized gaggle of puppies who were part of a pregame ceremony encouraging fans to adopt from the North Shore Animal League.

The pups were brought out onto the field in an enclosed pen where Mets relief pitchers Tom Byrdak and LaTroy Hawkins posed for pictures with the playful canines and volunteers from the animal shelter.

However, the playful little doggies were all business once it was time for the first pitch, scoring 10 unanswered runs off of the Mets bullpen in the top of the 7th inning. Previously, the Mets had been nursing a 1-0 lead on an Eric Young RBI double off the little border collie puppy that liked to roll around on the dirt in the pitcher's mound.

Met's starter Jonathon Niese was on track for the win until the 7th inning implosion and could only shake his head while watching the 3-week old puppies run roughshod over his team from the Mets dugout. His postgame comments were limited to a few terse words on how the puppies showed up to play and found a way to win.

Alderson had expressed hopes in comments to New York Post that his team would be better prepared for next week's home finale, which will be against the kittens from the Smithtown, NY-based Long Island Feline Adoption Center.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

At Least 12 Killed After Gunman Opens Fire in Washington DC Naval Facility

A former Naval reservist who was recently working as a defense contractor shot and killed 12 people after using his pass to gain entry to the Washington Naval yard on Monday.

The gunman was identified by authorities as 34 year old Aaron Alexis after numerous conflicting reports about the weapons used, number of shooters and identity of the shooters from the media, the Department of Defense and the Washington DC Metropolitan Police. Alexis reportedly had a history of misconduct and mental health problems, although neither apparently prevented him from legally purchasing a Remington 870 shotgun in Virginia or obtaining top secret clearance at a sensitive Naval facility. Originally from Brooklyn, Alexis served in the US Navy reserves from 2004 to 2011.

While in the Navy, Alexis had a number of incidents including unauthorized absences, insubordination and disorderly conduct on his record. After a 2008 incident in which he was thrown out of an Atlanta nightclub after damaging some of the furnishings, the Navy reportedly sought a general discharge against Alexis. While not carrying the same stigma as a dishonorable discharge, it still would've made it more difficult for Alexis to find work as a civilian. Instead, Alexis received an honorable discharge from the Navy and eventually found work as a civilian contractor.

Alexis was allegedly involved in two prior incidents involving guns- while living in Seattle, he allegedly shot out the tires of a construction worker's car in 2004. In 2010, he fired a shot into the apartment above his while living in Ft Worth, TX in what he claimed was an accident.

More disturbingly, Alexis told Newport, RI police six weeks prior to Monday's shooting that he was hearing voices while he had checked into a hotel in town and claimed that three people were following him and using some sort of microwave machine to keep him awake by sending vibrations into his body. The Newport police officer contacted Naval police who assured him that they would follow up on it.

Alexis reportedly had his security credentials renewed over the summer and is believed to have used them to gain access to the building on Monday where he shot and killed a security guard before taking the guard's sidearm and continuing his rampage, firing on a cafeteria area where some workers were having breakfast. Police and security took anywhere from five to seven minutes to respond, with some eyewitnesses reportedly directing them to a different building. Numerous media outlets erroneously reported that Alexis had used an AR-15 in his rampage, with the New York Daily News proclaiming 'Same Gun, Different Slay' on their front page. There were also reports from a police spokesman of additional gunmen which later turned out to be erroneous. Alexis was reportedly shot and killed by Washington DC police officers from the SWAT team.

Authorities are retracing Alexis' steps and searching for a motive. Alexis reportedly told some friends that he felt cheated out of some benefits he felt the Navy still owed him after his discharge.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Quickie Sports Chowdah Update- How Sweep it Is, Red Sox Put The Broom to Struggling Yankees After Presenting Rivera With Retirement Gifts; Bills Past Due, Surging Buffalo Bests Carolina in Final Seconds

Matt West- Boston Herald photo
RED SOX- The final homestand of the regular 2013 got off to a fantastic start for the Red Sox with Boston taking the first two of a three game set against the Yankees who were coming in to the series in dire need of a win to secure one of the Wild Card berths.

By the time Sunday night's nationally televised game rolled around, the only suspense was what form Boston's parting gift to perennial All-Star closer Mariano would take. This was something the New York and sports media kept a running tally of the gifts the closer received throughout the season- Texas presented him with a cowboy hat and a pair of custom cowboy boots with the Yankees logo and his name on it while the Padres a customized beach-cruiser bicycle and the Minnesota Twins presented Rivera with a rocking chair made out of broken bats.

In Sunday night's pregame ceremony, the Red Sox presented Rivera with a #42 placard from the manually operated scoreboard in the Green Monster, a 1930's era wooden seat from Fenway [also #42- NANESB!] and a painting depicting a smiling Rivera waving to the crowd on Opening Day in 2005 at Fenway- when the Red Sox were given rings for their first championship in 86 years. Rivera is the last player in major league baseball to wear the number 42, which was retired in the late 1990s to honor the late Jackie Robinson. At the time, Rivera and Boston's Mo Vaughan were the only players in MLB to wear the #42 and were grandfathered in. With Vaughan's retirement in 2003, Rivera became the last player in the bigs to wear the number 42- although in recent years, every player on the field will wear the number 42 to observe Jackie Robinson day.

Once the ceremonies wrapped up, Boston got down to business, erasing an early 1-0 deficit thanks to a David Ortiz RBI single and a 2-run Mike Napoli homer off of Yankee starter Ivan Nova in the bottom of the first. The Red Sox added to their lead in the bottom of the 4th thanks to an extremely rare 2-out double steal where Jarrod Saltalamacchia stole home and Xander Bogaerts went to second. Saltalamacchia becomes the first Red Sox catcher in more than 30 years to successfully steal home. Nova got the hook from Yankees manager Joe Girardi in the bottom of the fifth after loading the bases with an intentional walk to Ortiz and then hitting Mike Carp with a pitch to make it a 5-1 game. Daniel Nava and Big Papi added to the Boston lead with RBI singles in the bottom of the 6th and Dustin Pedroia would belt a 2-RBI double to make it a 9-1 game. The Yankees would get back a run on the top of the 9th but Boston would go on to win by a 9-2 final.

Clay Buchholz was erratic but effective in his second start since coming back from the DL, walking batters but then managing to help himself out by getting a double play ball. Buchholz went six innings, walking four and striking out three for his 11th win of the season. Daniel Nava went 4-5 while and an RBI while Mike Napoli went 1-3 with a homer and 2 RBI on the night.

The Yankees were no doubt hoping to avoid the sweep with as many as five teams ahead of them for the final two AL Wild Card berths. Meanwhile, the Red Sox continue their homestand against the AL East as they host Baltimore on Tuesday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 ET Scott Feldman [12-10; 3.54 ERA] going up against Ryan Dempster [8-9; 4.70 ERA]. The game will be carried on NESN as well as the MLB network in some markets.

NFL- Although the Patriots had Sunday off, there were a number of interesting games on Sunday afternoon, including some last second heroics in Orchard Park, NY. Trailing 23-17 against the Carolina Panthers and getting the ball back on their own 20 with only 1:38 to go in regulation, Bills QB EJ Manuel led a drive [that was aided in part by a 20 yard pass interference penalty on the Panthers that also negated an interception of Manuel that would've sealed the win for Carolina- NANESB!]. With 6 seconds on the clock, and the Bills on the Panthers 2 yard line, Manuel managed to find a wide open Stevie Johnson to tie the game at 23-23 with the Bills taking the first lead of the half on a Dan Carpenter PAT to make it 24-23 Buffalo, and that would be the final from Orchard Park.

The Bills win was one of a couple that were decided in the final seconds on Sunday. Nick Novak kicked the go-ahead FG for the Chargers with 7 seconds remaining in the 4th at Philadelphia in San Diego's 33-30 win over the Eagles. Chicago's Jay Cutler completed a 16 yard TD Pass to Martellus Bennett, putting the Bears up 31-30 over the Vikings with 10 seconds to go in the 4th. The Texans needed extra time to do it, but they beat the Tennessee Titans by a 30-24 final in their home opener at Reliant Stadium

Meanwhile, the Dolphins are sporting a similar 2-0 record to New England after besting the Indianapolis Colts by a 24-20 final on Sunday afternoon. The Patriots hold a slight edge over Miami since both of their wins were against division opponents.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Two Colorado State Senators Recalled Over Gun Control Support

Two Colorado state lawmakers, including the President of the state Senate, were recalled from office in a first-of-its kind special election last week.

State Senator Angela Giron of Pueblo and state senate president John Morse of Colorado Springs had supported Colorado's sweeping gun control laws which had passed in a legislative session earlier this year, angering many Coloradans and forcing some businesses to move out of state. By Morse's own admission, he ignored his own constituents opposed to the gun control laws claiming he was receiving hate mail and threatening correspondence from them. Vice President Joe Biden and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg also reportedly lobbied Colorado state lawmakers to pass a landmark bill in the wake of the 2012 Aurora movie theater killings.

The bill, which banned magazines with a capacity of 15 rounds or more and required a background check for any transfer of firearms between private parties, was heralded as a relatively rare triumph for gun control advocates outside the liberal bubbles of California or the northeast corridor. Critics said the bill would do nothing to reduce crime while most Colorado sheriffs said the law as it was written would be unenforceable.

While the results of the election do nothing to shift the balance of power in the Colorado state legislature, its worth pointing out that both Morse and Giron hailed from majority-Democrat districts that went for Obama during the 2012 campaign.

Gun control advocates have been downplaying the results of the Colorado recall since Morse and Giron conceded, claiming there was no backlash over their gun control votes or that there was widespread voter suppression dampening turnout. Despite Morse openly seeking help from Boston and San Francisco, gun control supporters complained of the National Rifle Association's involvement even though observers say outside groups like Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns or the DNC outspent the NRA by a nearly 5 to 1 margin.

Former Colorado Springs city councilman and defense contractor Bernie Herpin won the campaign for Morse's seat while former Pueblo, CO deputy police chief George Rivera won Giron's district in the September 10th balloting.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Having a Ballast, September 15th, 2013

Today's Train of Thought takes us to the Final Frontier where the days are longer and the conditions are much harsher than the rest of the country.

Summer doesn't last very long up in Alaska, and the state's largest railroad needs to make the most of the warm weather to get things done. It's during this time of year that the railroad often hires seasonal workers such as ticket clerks, conductors, mechanics, on-board guides, engineers, carmen and track workers. Not surprisingly, this is also the busiest time of year on the ARR. In addition to freight to and from the Lower 48, the ARR also hauls a number of passenger trains carrying cruise ship passengers disembarking in Anchorage to Seward, Denali National Park or Fairbanks.

The warm weather months are also ideal for carrying out heavy maintenance on the ARR right of way since the ballast, gravel and rip rap needed for such projects can be excavated fairly easily. Here, contributor Frank Keller caught Alaska Railroad GP40-2 #3102 snaking its way past Turnigan Arm between Fairbanks and Portage, AK with a ballast train in tow in June 2009. The ballast trains are reportedly one of the few trains on the ARR that still regularly draws a caboose. Riding a few cars ahead of the caboose [look for the little dots with safety vests on- NANESB!] are some crew members who will likely get off a few miles up the line when the train stops to dump some of the ballast.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Quickie Sports Chowdah Update- Jets Denied Clearence to Take Off As Pats Win Ugly in Home Opener; Red Sox Rub Salt in Yankee's Wounds;

Elise Amendola- AP

PATRIOTS- Wow....that was ugly, but a win is a win.

It was a pretty quick turnaround for week two in the NFL, which for the Patriots and Jets started on Thursday night at Foxbourough. Between the short rest and loss of WR Danny Amendola and RB Shane Vereen, things weren't looking so good for the Patriots.

Early on it looked as though the Pats would have little trouble scoring as Brady led a drive downfield on the first possession of the game, throwing to WR Aaron Dobson for his first NFL touchdown- a 39 yard reception from Brady- at exactly three minutes into the game to put New England on top 7-0.

New England looked as though they'd blow this one open when FS Devin McCourty recovered a Stephen Hill fumble at mid field and returned it all the way to the Jets 8. However, New York's offense came up with a big stop on 3rd and goal from their own three, forcing New England to settle for 3 points, making it 10-0 New England.

The Jets got on the board with their next possession, although they had to settle for a 37 yard Nick Folk FG after the drive sputtered deep in the Patriots red zone. With just over five minutes to go in the first half, Stephen Gostkowski made it a 10 point game thanks to a 30 yard FG, giving New England 13-3.

In the second half, both the weather and the play got sloppier. Jets starting QB Geno Smith led New York on a sustained drive down the field on their second possession of the 3rd quarter and hit paydirt when Bilial Powell punched in a 3 yard TD carry to pull the Jets within three.

Then- nothing happened. I don't mean literally nothing, but whenever the Patriots had the ball in the fourth quarter, New England would go 3 and out while it seemed as though whenever the Jets had the ball, QB Geno Smith would throw a pick [not a pick-6, unfortunately- NANESB!]. The game was sealed for New England when Pats CB Aqib Talib picked off a Smith pass on the Jets 43 with 38 seconds to go in the 4th quarter and went out of bounds. There was some extracurricular roughhousing that drew some penalties against the Jets, but when play resumed Brady was able to take a knee and mercifully run out the clock on this one.

As far as victories go, this one doesn't exactly inspire confidence. However, Thursday night's 13-10 win over the Jets gives New England a 2-0 record against divisional opponents. Brady would go 19 for 39 with 185 yards, a TD and a sack while rookie QB Geno Smith would go 15 for 35 with four sacks and three interceptions- all three picks coming in the 3rd quarter. Interestingly, all but six of Brady's completions would go to veteran WR Julian Edelman in Thursday night's contest.

After what feels kind of like a bye week, the Patriots will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 22nd. The Bucs lost their only game so far this season to the jets in the closing seconds on a 48 yard Folk FG as time expired in the 4th quarter.

Robert Sabo- NY Daily News
RED SOX- After taking two out of three from the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox returned home for the start of what is their final home stand of the regular season in 2013.

The Yankees would be in town over the weekend and while Boston jumped all over Hideki Kuroda in the bottom of the first for four runs, the Yankees starter settled down while the bats would chip away at the Boston lead. Light-hitting Yankees shortstop Brendan Ryan put the New York on the board with a solo homer in the top of the 3rd off of John Lackey followed by an RBI sac fly off the bat of Lyle Overbay in the top of the 6th. The Yankees made it a 4-4 game thanks to a 2-out, 2-RBI off the bat of 2B Robinson Cano before Brandon Workman came out of the bullpen to strike out Alfonso Soriano to end the Yankees threat.

Shane Victorino led off the bottom of the 9th with a single off of Kuroda before Yankees manager Joe Girardi went to the bullpen. Cesar Cabral ended up hitting David Ortiz with a pitch and walking Jonny Gomes. Girardi then pulled Cabral for Preston Claiborne who struck out Daniel Nava. With one out, Claiborne was a double-play ball away from ending the Red Sox threat, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia had other ideas.

Saltalamacchia belted a grand slam into the right-center seats to put the Red Sox up 8-4 and this time the four run lead would hold as Tazawa and Uehara would come out of the Red Sox bullpen and shut the Yankees down, preserving Boston's 8-4 lead. Brandon Workman gets credit for the win while Kuroda is hung with the loss. The Yankees really needed this one tonight since both the Rays and Indians won to vault ahead of the Bronx bombers and the Orioles and Royals are no more than a game and a half behind New York in the wild card standings.

Tomorrow's game is a daytime affair and will feature CC Sabathia [13-12; 4.82 ERA] going up against Jon Lester [13-8; 3.86 ERA]. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET and the game will be televised on FOX.

Conservative Opposition Surges to Landslide Victory in Australian Federal Elections

A coalition of right-of-center parties handed the Labour party their worst defeat since the 1930s in last week's Federal elections in Australia. The defeat came only a few weeks after former PM Kevin Rudd ousted Julia Gillard as head of the Labour party and replaced her as Prime Minister. Gillard had originally called for the elections to take place in mid-September, but the date was moved up by a few weeks once she was ousted.

Tony Abbott of Australian Liberal Party [which would be more along the lines of 'classic liberalism' by US standards- NANESB!] will be sworn in as Australia's newest Prime Minister this week after coalition of Australia's Liberal and National parties had formed a coalition. Abbott campaigned on a number of hot-button issues including repealing the unpopular carbon tax and turning back 'boat people'- asylum seekers and illegal immigrants reaching Australia by boat in the hopes of being granted asylum upon arrival in Australia- at sea and processing them offshore.

Abbott stated this week that his first order of business will be to scrap the carbon tax, although remaining members of Australia's Labour party in parliament have vowed to fight such a move by the new government. The carbon tax was implemented by then PM Julia Gillard last year and faced considerable opposition from Australian mining firms, steelmakers and airlines as well as the public.

A campaign proposal by Abbott to pay Indonesian nationals bounties for information leading to human traffickers was also sharply rebuked by Indonesia's foreign minister this week. The two governments are expected to discuss the boat people issue in-depth during a summit next month.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Junk Along the Trunk, Sept 12th 2013.

Today's train of thought takes us along the western end of the Vermont Railway system and the tiny burgh of Danby, VT.

There's that old saying 'One Man's Trash is Another Man's Treasure' which seemed to have gained new life after the 2010 debut of American Pickers on the History Channel [the premise, for those of you who have never seen it, is two guys from the Midwest in a van travel cross-country in search or rare an valuable antiques that they hope to sell at a profit at their own shop- NANESB!].

Of course, growing up in New England, I remember that in many cases the only thing that separated hoarders from antique 'dealers' was usually a sign that said "ANTIQUES" out front. The antiques shop shown above in western Vermont might've been one such instance- although the relatively new car out front seems to imply the antique shop was actually open for business and not just a motley collection of rusted junk with a sign in front of it.

The dealer has set up shop in the former Rutland Railroad Danby, VT depot located along what is now the Vermont Railway's B&R line (Bennington to Rutland). This stretch of the Rutland line used to go as far south as Chatham, NY until the 1960s when it was abandoned.

Here, NERail Photo Archives contributor John Bazan braved free range chickens and tall grass to catch Vermont Railway GP38-2 #201 heading south towards North Bennington and the Pan-Am interchange at Hoosack Falls, NY with a mix of grain and limestone slurry in May 2008.

While it seems as though the guys from American Pickers would've had a field day at the old Rutland depot turned antiques shop, the building is no longer standing. It was already in poor shape when Bazan snapped this photo, plus there apparently was drainage issues as well before the depot was finally torn down in 2011.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

88 Searchlights To Return to Lower Manhattan for 'Tribute in Light' To Mark 12th Anniversary of September 11th Terrorist Attacks

Mark Lennihan/AP

What began as a temporary visual arts program a few months after the deadly terrorist attacks in lower Manhattan has evolved into an annual tradition that makes its mark on the Gotham skyline each year in early September.

Beginning in March 2002, the New York Municipal Art Society uses a total of 88 powerful searchlights pointed skyward placed adjacent to the World Trade Center site- even in the bright lights of New York City, the Tribute in Light manages to stand out. The lights are visible from Staten Island and across the Hudson River in New Jersey.

Interestingly, the Tribute in Light was supposed to be a temporary project with each year supposedly being it's last. However, the Municipal Art Society has been invited back to erect the searchlights each year- although with work on the new World Trade Center buildings progressing, it's entirely likely that the Tribute in Light will be crowded out by the newer structures and September 11th Memorial over the next few years.

Other September 11th blog entries:
*Joseph Trombino- the Brink's Guard Who Crossed Paths With Terrorists Decades Before 9/11 Attacks

*Thunder on the Mountain- A Look At the Tiny Pennsylvania Town Thrust Into The World Stage on 9/11

*Ten Years Later

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Long Overdue Kickoff Sports Chowdah Update- Buffalo Nickeled and Dimed in Pats Season Opener; BC Wide A-Wake vs Deacons; Sox Offense Explodes in the Bronx; IOC Big in Japan

From Thursday night's Bronco's blowout of the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens to Monday night's [technically Tuesday morning's- NANESB!] stunner in San Diego where the Texas bested the Chargers 31-28 as time expired, it's good to see that football is back at long last.

Donald Huepel- Reuters
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS- New coach, new QB, new receivers- but pretty much the same results for Buffalo on kickoff Sunday.

Although New England had to punt on their first possession of the game, they'd get the ball back when DT Tommy Kelly recovered a CJ Spiller fumble at the Buffalo 11 yard line and Brady would connect on 3rd and goal to give the Patriots an early 7-0 lead.

On their next possession, the Patriots started out with great field position thanks to a 15 yard penalty on Buffalo's punt coverage tacked onto a 16 yard return by Edelman, giving New England the ball at mid-field to start off with. However, the Patriot's drive would sputter once inside the Bill's 30 yard line and New England would have to settle for a 48-yard Gostkowski FG to put them up 10-0.

Buffalo's defense would get the Bills back in the game in the 2nd quarter when safety D'Norris Searcy recovered a fumble from Stevan Ridley inside the Bills 30 and returned it 74 yards for paydirt, making it a 10-7 game.

With less than 4 minutes to go before halftime, Pats DE Rob Ninkovich recovered a Marquise Grissom fumble on the Bill's own 35 yard line, giving Brady a short field to work with. On the first play of the drive, RB Shane Vereen went 21 yards before Brady once again connected with Edelman to make it a 17-7 game.

However, with 1:03 remaining in the half and the Patriots getting the ball back on their own 25, Bills CB Justin Rogers picked off Brady at the Pats 37 yard line, giving EJ Manuel a short field to work with. It took all of two plays for the Bills to hit paydirt, with Manuel hooking up with WR Robert Woods to make it a 17-14 game.

Buffalo would then take the lead on their opening possession of the second half, with CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson getting most of the work done on the ground after the Bills started out on their own 20. The drive was capped with an 18 yard TD pass from Manuel to WR Stevie Johnson to put Buffalo up 21-17 for their first lead of the day.

Although the Buffalo was able to keep Brady out of the end zone on their first possession of the 4th quarter, a 33 yard Gostkowski FG made it a one point game with Buffalo still on top 21-20.

After Buffalo went three and out on an offensive series where they just needed a few first downs and keep the clock moving, New England would get the ball back with just over four and a half minutes remaining. Brady would move the Pats down the field thanks mostly to short passes to Vereen and Danny Amendola that would drive New England down inside Buffalo's red zone with less than a minute remaining. With less than a minute to go in regulation, New England was content to just run down the clock before Gostkowski kicked a 33 yard FG to put the Patriots up with 5 seconds remaining in the game.

Nothing would come of Buffalo's next possession after the kickoff and the Patriots would go on to win by the final of 23-21. Tom Brady would go 29 of 52 with 288 yards, 2 TDs and an interception while Buffalo's EJ Manuel went 18 of 27 with 150 yards and two TDs. Julian Edelman was the recipient of both of Brady's TD passes and had 79 yards on the day.

The Patriots have a pretty quick turnaround this week with their next game on Thursday night against the Jets, which will be the New England home opener. The Pats may have to do it without Vereen and Amendola, though.

The Jets themselves are coming off a win decided by a FG in the waning seconds of the game against Tampa Bay. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:25 ET and the game will be televised on the NFL network.

Bill Kostroun- AP

RED SOX- Since Wednesday night, the Red Sox have scored a grand total of 57 runs- with 37 of those runs being scored against the Yankees.

Throughout late last week and the weekend, the Red Sox bats feasted on Yankees pitching including an improbable 5-run rally in the top of the 7th after trailing 8-3, followed by a 4-run top of the 8th to put them up 12-8 on Friday night. Although the Red Sox would end up losing Sunday afternoon's contest by a 4-3 final, the Red Sox would take three out of four from the Yankees over this weekend's four game series. The skid puts the Yankees three games behind Tampa Bay the final Wild Card berth in the AL. Baltimore and Cleveland also leapfrogged past the Yankees with the Yankees loss to the Orioles on Monday night.

Interestingly, since all but two of Boston's remaining games will be against AL East opponents, this means that the Yankees, Orioles or Rays will need an assist from the Red Sox if they want to clinch one of the remaining Wild Card berths [It's a tight race between the Rangers and A's in the AL West, so it's likely that the runner-up in that division will get the other Wild Card berth- NANESB!]. In other words, Rays, O's and yes...even Yankees fans...will likely be rooting for the Red Sox at some point between now and the end of the regular season.

Subtle imagery courtesy of Getty Images
As much as I love the Red Sox taking three out of four from the Yankees when the Bronx Bombers are in dire need of W's, this weekend series in the Bronx was almost an afterthought.

The big news in Red Sox nation isn't the fireworks display from the Red Sox bats last wee, but the return of Clay Buchholz to the mount for the first time since June. In August, Buchholz appeared in rehab starts for both the Single-A Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn league and AAA Pawtucket Red Sox. In his most recent start, Buchholz was limited to around 75 pitches and gave up 4 hits and 2 earned runs while walking two and striking out five in 3⅔ innings against the Rochester Red Wings in the first round of the International League playoffs. The start with the Paw Sox was actually pushed back a day so that Buccholz could be with his wife when she gave birth to the couple's second daughter last week.

After his rehab start in Pawtucket, Buchholz travelled with the team to Yankee stadium and threw a bullpen session over the weekend- reportedly the final step prior to his returning to the lineup.

For Tuesday night, the Red Sox will travel to Tampa's Tropicana  Field to take on the Rays. Clay Buchholz [9-0; 1.71 ERA] will be tested against David Price [8-7; 3.51 ERA] on Tuesday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 ET and the game will be televised on NESN as well as the MLB network in some markets.

OTHER RED SOX NEWS- Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is sidelined with a compression fracture right foot after undergoing an MRI and returning to Boston over the weekend. Both his agent and Red Sox manager John Farrell said it was likely that he could return by the end of the regular season.

Ellsbury has been batting .299 with 8 homers and 52 RBI. He also leads the majors in stolen bases this season with 52, only getting thrown out four times. The All-Star center fielder becomes a free agent at the end of the season as well.

OTHER MLB NEWS- The Pittsburgh Pirates have clinched their first winning season in 21 years after coming out on top in a pitcher's duel in the Lone Star state. Gerrit Cole bested Rangers starter Yu Darvish and threw 7 shutout innings against Texas while Pedro Alvarez brought ex-Rangers outfielder Marlon Byrd home for the game's only RBI.

Currently the Pirates are one game behind the St Louis Cardinals in the NL Central pennant race and one game ahead of the Cincinnati Reds in the Wild Card chase- although it appears likely that the two NL Wild Card berths will come from the NL Central.

PAWTUCKET RED SOX- With a little help from none other than Clay Buchholz, the Paw Sox managed to best the Rochester Red Wings in the first round of the International League playoffs. The defending International League champions will next take on the Durham Bulls at the Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, NC at 7:05 ET.

Michael Dwyer- AP
NCAA FOOTBALL- Only the second week into the regular season and the Boston College Eagles have already matched their win total from 2012. Not only that, the Eagles managed to match their conference win total on Friday night when they played their first ACC match of the season against Wake Forest.

BC got out the the early lead after Eagles DB Spencer Rositano recovered a Deacons fumble at the Wake Forest 30 yard line on Wake's opening possession of the game. Eagles QB Rettig then made a quick strike to WR Alex Amidon on a 26 yard catch and carry to hit paydirt and go up 7-0 just 40 seconds into the game.

Trailing 17-7 late in the second, Wake had a golden opportunity to get back in the game when a Nate Freese punt was blocked at the Eagles 28 yard line and recovered by Wake at the Eagles 3 yard line. Wake would try and punch it in with 50 seconds remaining, but would be denied on 4th and goal with only 10 seconds to go in the half.

The Eagles would pad their lead in the second half thanks to a TD pass from Rettig to WR Spiffy Evans and an Andre Williams rushing TD and go on to win by a 24-10 final.

The next couple of weeks look somewhat difficult for Boston College as they travel to the west coast to take on the USC Trojans before hosting the #10 Florida State Seminoles on Chestnut Hill on September 28th.

UMASS MINUTEMEN- While the Eagles improved to 2-0 on the season, an FCS school and one-time Minuteman rival bested UMass in Gillette Stadium over the weekend.

The Maine Black Bears trailed early, but would score 21 points to surge past UMass and win by a final of 24-14, giving them a 2-0 record for a share of first place in the Colonial conference- the Minutemen's former conference before jumping up to the FBC and MAC.

The Minutemen will travel to Manhattan, KS next week to take on Kansas State [interesting side note- Kansas State has already lost to defending FCS champion North Dakota State in their season opener- NANESB!]. However, Kansas State won last weekend's contest against Louisiana-Lafayette by a 48-27 final.

AP- Shizuo Kambayashi
OLYMPICS- The International Olympic Committee named the host city for the 2020 summer Olympiad with Tokyo garnering more votes than Istanbul. This would be the fourth time that Tokyo has hosted the Olympics and the fourth time overall that Japan has hosted the Olympics. Tokyo hosted the 1964 Summer Games and the mountainous cities of Sapporo and Nagano played host to the winter games- in 1972 and 1998, respectively.

Despite choosing venues such as Sochi, Russia or Rio de Janerio, Brazil, considered potentially risky by some, observers say the IOC opted to play it 'safe' with the Tokyo selection and go with a city that has already hosted the games once and should have little problems accommodating another summer Olympiad.

In 2011, the IOC announced that the mountainous South Korean municipality of Pyongchang would be hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Today's Train of Though- Enter Sandman, September 9th, 2013

Today's Train of Thought takes us to the Bluegrass state and provides us a glimpse of the late RJ Corman's impeccably-run Central Kentucky Lines.

Sand vacuumed up from the bed of the Ohio River is loaded into a fleet of RJ Corman's impeccably maintained fleet of red gondola cars by Louisville, KY based Nugent sand for the relatively short 80 mile trip to Nugent Sand's Lexington, KY facility.

The short trip, which was profiled in a 2011 Lexington Herald-Leader article about RJ Corman's railroad enterprises, takes an estimated 17,400 trucks of the road between Louisville and Lexington each year. Since 2005- just two years after RJ Corman's Central Kentucky Lines took over operations of the former Louisville & Nashville line between Lexington and Louisville- anywhere from 400,000 to 600,000 tons of sand have been moved over the line with each car carrying roughly 125 tons.

Here, contributor JL Scott caught RJ Corman Lines SD40T-2 #5409 and SD40-2 #3944 roaring eastbound through Shelbyville, KY with a Lexington-bound sand train on May 22nd, 2011. The #5409 started out life as Denver, Rio Grande & Western #5409 while the #3944 began as a Missouri Pacific unit.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Two Years After Fall of Ghdaffi, Libya's Government Struggling With Militias, Lawlessness and Declining Oil Output

Ismail Zitouny- Reuters

Amid a wave of strikes, political assassinations and open insurrection from some of the Islamist groups that fought in Libya's 2011 Civil war Libya's nascent post-Ghdaffi government appears to be on the brink of losing any semblance of control on the country.

The murky security situation is threatening stability in a desert nation with North Africa’s largest oil reserves. And it is causing new jitters in a region already on edge over rising violence in neighboring Egypt and the looming prospect of U.S. military strikes in Syria.

As the postwar government struggles to rebuild after 42 years of dictatorship, it has left security primarily in the hands of hundreds of private militias, which are far larger and better armed than the country’s poorly trained and equipped police and army.

The militias, most of which were formed to oust Gaddafi in the 2011 revolution, range from ragtag outfits of a couple of dozen men to organized forces of thousands of fighters.

During the revolution, they sprang up in villages, towns and cities across this country of 6.4 million people. Mechanics, merchants and farmers formed militias based on family, tribal, neighborhood or religious ties. They took weapons from Gaddafi’s vast arsenals and became a wildly diverse network united only by the goal of removing Gaddafi.

After the dictator’s death in October 2011, many militia fighters — suddenly regarded as war heroes and liberators — never laid down their weapons.

Many still fight — with guns blazing — over long-standing rivalries. Some have morphed into criminal gangs, some are religious extremists. Many are a mix of everything — cops and robbers, patriots and jihadis — making it hard to identify which are helping Libya’s post-revolutionary transition and which are hindering it.

Human rights groups claim that more than 50 people- including judges and active members security forces- were killed in recent weeks and the new government's security forces are spread too thin and outgunned by most militia groups.

In many instances, including protecting the nation's oil facilities or policing the capital city of Tripoli, security duties are often contracted out to various militias by the central government. However, a number of these groups have been striking since July claiming that they're owed back pay by the central government.
In the latest disruption, security guards re-imposed a strike they called off over the weekend, forcing the closure of Libya’s two main crude oil export terminals. Operations had resumed on Sunday at the ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf after a two-week stoppage. The two ports have a combined export capacity of around 600,000 barrels per day.

The work stoppage came just hours after gunmen wounded a guard and ransacked an oil service center Sunday evening in the eastern oasis town of Awjila. Libyan officials said they believe the attack was linked to competition between militia groups over oilfield contracts and the placement of their members in the newly created national Petroleum Facilities Guard, a force under the direct authority of the Defense Ministry, but made up largely of former militia members who have often fought among themselves.

Last week, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan warned of the economic consequences of the off-and-on disruption to oilfield, production and export terminals. He said oil exports had plunged by 70 percent – a devastating financial setback for Libya, which relies on oil exports for nearly all of its foreign revenues.

Oil industry officials said the export terminals at the Es Sider, Amna and Sirtica oilfields had already filled up their storage tanks to capacity and had to shut down production.

Libya's oil minister said Monday the government was working to end the disruptions by meeting with the protesters and appointing a new head of the Petroleum Facilities Guard -- but that appointment also appears to have enraged some of the strikers.

The crisis has caused Libya's oil output to fall to just 160,000 barrels a day- a figure that industry observers say is less than 15% of the nation's output prior to the 2011 civil war. Some striking workers reportedly attempted to sell quantities of stockpiled oil on the black market, but Libyan forces opened fire on a Liberian-flagged tanker as it approached the export terminal of Es Sider that was held by striking workers at the end of August.

In June, rights groups claimed that at least 28 people were killed after militiamen from the Libyan Shield Brigade in the eastern city of Benghazi opened fire on a crowd of protestors. The eastern city of Benghazi is Libya's second largest city and is better known as the cradle of the 2011 uprising that ultimate overthrow and execution of Libyan dictator Mummar Ghdaffi thanks in part to NATO airstrikes targeting Ghdaffi's military assets. However, amid a deteriorating security situation US Ambassador Chris Stephens was murdered in a terrorist attack at the American consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 [despite the assailants using heavy weaponry and showing clear signs of prior coordination, the Obama Administration insisted for weeks that the Benghazi attack was a 'spontaneous demonstration' over an anti-Islamic You Tube video- NANESB!].