Friday, January 31, 2014
Today's train of thought takes us all the way to Inner Mongolia in the twilight of mainline steam in China. What is sometimes referred to as the iron horse in North America sometimes goes by the moniker Iron Rooster in China- at least according to the 1988 Paul Theroux travelogue Riding the Iron Rooster.
The 587 mile Jitong Railway line- an amalgamation of Jinling and Tongliao, the two cities at each endpoint- is fairly new. Construction began in the 1990s by China's state-run railways to serve the interior of rural inner Mongolia, but despite being one of the newest lines on the people's republic of China the line featured several otherwise-obsolete technologies such as semaphore signals and manned crossing gates that would be gradually be eliminated as the right-of-way was incrementally upgraded [interestingly, this rationale was not applied to the line to Lhasa, Tibet that was completed in 2006- NANESB!].
Part of this backdated technology included the 'QJ' class steam locomotives, and the sight of the massive 2-10-2's steaming across viaducts, through tunnels and up mountain grades in the dead of winter was a big selling point for a number of USA and UK-based travel agencies specializing in rail travel. But like the crossings and signals, the technology was eventually updated by the Chinese state railways and by 2005 the Jitong line was fully dieselized.
Here, railpictures.net contributor Steve Armitage caught QJs #6851 and #6639 storming up Shangdian Summit in Inner Mongolia after a recently-passed storm dumped some white stuff on the western side of the summit on February 24, 2004. While the two pictured QJ are out of service, three of their brethren have been shipped to the USA and periodically see service on the Iowa Interstate and the late RJ Corman's Kentucky Lines.
In what could be a promising sign for the Denver Broncos, January 31st marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year- with this weekend kicking off the year of the horse. According to the Chinese Zodiac, people born in the year of the Horse are characterized as outgoing, energetic and thrive when they're the center of attention.
These traits were probably what disgraced former Communist party official Bo Xilai was looking for in policewomen in the tourist hub of Dailan when he announced the formation of an all-female mounted patrol. During Xilai's meteoric rise to Chinese Communist Party Central Committee heir apparent, the all female horseback patrols were started with retired racehorses donated from Hong Kong in the early 2000s. The idea was to have the patrols become a source of civic pride and tourist attractions in their own right [apparently they even have their own reviews (in Mandarin) on Tripadvisor- NANESB!] but have come under scrutiny lately. The policewomen also give tours of the training grounds and equestrian performances during the warmer months, charging tourists ¥50 (or around US$ 8) for admission. However, under Chinese law, police officers aren't allowed to engage in business activities putting the policewomen at odds with some of the law's they're tasked with enforcing.
Then again, attractive women riding horseback on public dime was the least of Xilai's problems. The former mayor and governor was accused of keeping fellow officials under electronic surveillance, his own chief of police accused him of corruption and Bo's wife was implicated in the 2011 murder of a British businessman. In September 2013, Bo was sentenced to life in prison and stripped of all his assets.
As for the women on horseback, a retired traffic policeman in Dailan filed a request regarding the cost of maintaining the horses and the overall effectiveness of the unit. According to the released report, the monthly cost of feed and supplies is about ¥2500 (around $405) while the monthly salary of the policewoman ranges from ¥1800 to ¥3800.
According to Dailan's current mayor, there's been public criticism of the policewomen on horseback but said it's 'too soon to talk about cancelling it' and while admitting some of the criticism is valid, the program shouldn't be cancelled on a whim. Over the last decade, a number of other cities in China- such as Shenzhen or Baotou- have also followed Dailan's lead.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Federal prosecutors on Thursday announced they will seek the death penalty against 20-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the Boston Marathon bombing, instantly raising the stakes in what could be one of the most wrenching trials the city has ever seen.
Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to press for Tsarnaev's execution was widely expected. The twin blasts killed three people and wounded more than 260 others, and 17 of the 30 federal charges against him — including using a weapon of mass destruction to kill — carry the possibility of the death penalty.
"The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision," Holder said in a statement.
Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty. A trial date has not been set.
According to local, state and federal investigators, 19 year old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his 26 year old brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev planted two bombs fashioned from pressure cookers and loaded with ball bearings and set them a few hundred feet apart at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Patriots Day last year- April 15th. Three people were killed in the blasts and more than 200 were injured by flying shrapnel and the two brothers were seen on surveillance cameras from nearby businesses arriving at the finish line with backpacks and leaving without them shortly before the blasts. During the manhunt after the bombings, the two brothers shot and killed an MIT Campus police officer in an ambush, carjacked a motorist and led police on a wild chase that culminated in a firefight in Watertown, MA. During the shootout, an MBTA Transit police officer was wounded and Tamerlan was run over by his own brother in a bid to escape. The younger Tsarnaev brother initially appeared to have evaded the dragnet, but a Watertown homeowner spotted blood on a tarp covering a boat in his backyard and immediately called police. After a shootout and tense standoff, officers from the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team and Massachusetts State Police Special Tactical Operations (STOP) surrounded the boat and took a wounded Dzhokhar Tsarnaev into custody.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was also thought to be a suspect in a triple homicide in Waltham, MA in September 2011. A friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev- Ibragim Todashev- implicated himself and the older Tsarnaev brother in a statement to the FBI and Massachusetts State Police at his Florida condo. Law enforcement sources then claimed that a previously cooperative Tosahev eventually became belligerent and attempted to stab one of the agents before being fatally shot.The two brothers originally hailed from Chechnya- a volatile, Islamic majority region in the south of Russia that has been fighting against Russian troops in a bid to break away from the Kremlin. Islamic Chechen fighters have been fighting in Afghanistan as well as the recent conflicts in Libya and Syria while Chechen terrorists are said to be behind a series of suicide attacks on buses and train stations in the Russian city of Volgograd last month that killed more than 30 people.
State of the Sports Chowdah Update- Mile High Clubbed, Broncos Stifle Pats in AFC Title Game; Take it Outside, NHL Kicks Off Stadium Series; Vonn-ed Farewell, Downhill Skiier Lindsey Vonn to Miss Sochi Games
Doug Pensinger- Getty Images
NFL- After trailing 24-0 at the half of their first meeting, trailing by 10 points against Denver at Mile high during halftime if the AFC Championship game might not have seemed so daunting at the half for New England- at least on paper.
However, outside of a 47 yard Gostkowski FG with just under 3 minutes to go in the half the Broncos managed to shut out New England. Even more worrying for the Patriots was the loss of CB Aqib Talib early in the game, which seemed to open up Peyton Manning's air attack even more.
Denver started the scoring late in the first quarter with a 27 yard Prater FG to make it 3-0. The Broncos then capped a 7-minute, 93 yard drive in the 2nd quarter with a rushing TD from TE Jacob Tamme to take a 10-0 lead with just under 8 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter. Inside of the two minute warning, the Patriots defense managed to keep to Broncos out of the end zone, but Denver got another 3 points thanks to a 35 yard Prater FG to make it 13-3 at the half.
After halftime, Denver added to their lead with another time-consuming drive that shaved more than 7 minutes off the clock and took the Broncos 80 yards. The drive was capped with a 3 yard completion from Manning to Demaryius Thomas for another Broncos TD to make it a 20-3 lead.
In fact, New England wouldn't manage to find the end zone until the 4th quarter and only after the Broncos had managed to tack another 3 points on to make it a 23-3 game. With just under 9 and a half minutes to go in regulation, Brady found Julian Edelman for a 7 yard TD reception and make it a 23-10 game.
On their next drive, the Broncos would get as far as the New England 36 and seemingly put the game out of reach thanks to a 54 yard Prater FG, giving Denver a 26-10 lead with 7 minutes to go.
The Patriots would get the ball back on their own 20 and Brady would cap the drive by making a 5 yard TD run himself but the subsequent two point conversion attempt failed, leaving it a 10 point game with just over 3 minutes left. All Denver really needed to do is get a few first downs and run out the clock- and that's exactly what happened as the Patriots burned their remaining timeouts to try and preserve the clock.
The win propels the Broncos to their first Super Bowl since the 1998 season (and Peyton Manning's first since 2006). Manning went 32-43 and threw for 400 yards on the day while Brady went 24-38 with 277 yards and one passing and one rushing TD. Although the Pats mostly kept Knowshown Moreno in check, but that made little difference as Manning's air attack seemed to open up even more after Talib's early departure.
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP- The Broncos would have to wait a little while to find out who they'd be playing at the Meadowlands in Super Bowl XLVIII. As it turned out, the NFC title game between Western division rivals Seattle and San Francisco would be much more competitive than the earlier AFC Championship game.
With Seattle taking a 20-17 lead on a TD pass from Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse earlt in the 4th, there was still plenty of time for the 49ers to come back- even when the Seahawks added to their lead with a 47 yard FG to make it a 23-17 game with just under four minutes to go.
The game-deciding drive got underway when the 49ers started out from their own 22 with just over 3 and a half minutes remaining. After moving the ball downfield and getting inside the Seattle Red Zone, Seahawks All Pro cornerback Richard Sherman tipped Colin Kaepernick's pass attempt to teammate Malcom Smith to clinch the game with 22 seconds left.
Of course, the actual game seemed to pale in comparison to Sherman's postgame interview with FOX Sports' Erin Andrews where he ripped Michael Crabtree as a 'sorry' receiver [it apparently was one of the few times Kaepernick attempted to throw to a receiver covered by Crabtree that day- NANESB!].
The win sets up a Big Game matchup between teams from two cities that- as others have pointed out- have recently legalized marijuana, lending new significance to the phrase Super Bowl.
Kickoff for Superbowl XLVIII is scheduled for Sunday, Feb 2nd at 6:30 PM ET from the Meadowlands in E. Rutherford, NJ and the game will be televised on FOX.
NHL- It's been a busy week for the Boston Bruins- a week in which good things come in sixes, apparently.
Over the weekend, they travelled to Philly where they beat the Flyers by a 6-1 final before heading to Uniondale, NY on Monday night and beat the Islanders by a 6-3 final. Tuesday night marked the Bruins return to the Garden as well as a homecoming of sorts for former Bruin and Catamount and 2011 Vezina and Conn Smythe trophy winner Tim Thomas, who resumed his NHL career earlier this year with the Florida Panthers.
The Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first thanks for goals by Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara before doubling their lead in the second with another Lucic tally and a power play goal by Reilly Smith to make it 4-0. The Panthers were able to get on the board in the closing seconds of the 2nd period thanks to a Bard Boyes tally. Four minutes into the 3rd period, the Panthers were able to cut the Boston lead in half thanks to a Dmitri Kulikov goal, making it a 4-2 game. However, that would be as close as the Panthers would get as Shawn Thornton and David Krejci would score for Boston to put the B's up 6-2.
Things got kind of testy towards the end of the game when Tim Thomas delivered a stick to defenseman Carl Soderberg's head in the closing seconds of the game. Thomas was given a high-sticking minor with only a few seconds to go when the game was already decided and Boston goes on the cruise to a 6-2 win over Florida.
This sets up an Original 6 matchup for Thursday night with the Bruins hosting the Montreal Canadiens at the Garden. Puck is scheduled to drop at 7:00 PM ET and the game will be televised on NESN and the NHL Network.
ELSEWHERE IN THE NHL- For the 2013-2014 season, the New Year's Day Winter Classic didn't end with the Red Wings vs Maple Leafs game from the Big House in Michigan.
On Saturday night, the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings faced off in Dodgers Stadium for the first-ever warm weather outdoor regular season NHL game. The host LA Kings ultimately fell to their Orange County rivals by a 3-0 final.
But the outdoor games didn't end in the city of Angels. The very next day on the other side of the country, the New York Rangers began what would be the first of two games [interestingly one 'home' and one 'away'- NANESB!] at Yankee stadium. On Sunday afternoon, the Blueshirts were trailing the Devils 3-1 in the first period when they managed to score six unanswered goals on Martin Brodeur. On Wednesday night, the Rangers took on the Islanders as the 'away' team and broke a 1-1 deadlock in the 3rd with a go-ahead goal from Dan Carcillo in the 3rd to help the Rangers win and sweep the series at Yankee stadium.
There remains two more outdoor for the NHL this season- a Feb 1st matchup at Chicago's Soldier Field that pits the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks against the Pittsburgh Penguins and a March 2nd all-Canada contest between the Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators at the BC Palace Stadium in Vancouver, BC.
WINTER OLYMPICS- Downhill Skier Lindsey Vonn announced that she will not be competing in the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, saying that an earlier right knee injury she suffered is taking longer than she anticipated to heal. Instead, the 2010 Gold Medalist will travel to Sochi as a correspondent for NBC and a spokesman said earlier this month that she is expected to undergo surgery.
Vonn took gold Gold in the downhill event at the 2010 Winter games in Vancouver as well as a Bronze in the Super G event. Lindsey also has gold medals in Super G and downhill from the 2009 Alpine World Skiing Championships in Val d'Isère, France.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Greece in the Carribean- Puerto Rico Moves Closer to Defaulting on $70 Billion in Public Sector Debt
Remember that whole 'Cyprus' or 'Greece' thing? Years of unsustainable public-sector spending coupled with lower than expected economic growth plunged both Mediterranean countries into economic chaos that threatened to trigger a domino effect throughout the Eurozone beginning in 2010.
The same factors that led up to the Greek and Cypriot economic crises have been at work in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and analysts say that the Caribbean island and US territory is moving towards a near certain default on more than $100 billion is public sector debt and unfunded pension liabilities.
A possible suspension on payment of the debt comes despite the progress Puerto Rico's Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla has made in raising taxes and reducing the territory's deficit.
Any such decision partly reflects legal complications arising under Puerto Rico's ambivalent status, which today makes a Chapter 9 filing for bankruptcy protection for local governments, such as the Detroit municipal filing last July, impossible. It also reflects the maths of a debt service burden that requires paying between $3.4 billion and $3.8 billion each year for the next four years. As doubts grow about the ability of the commonwealth to service that debt, the cost of doing so will inevitably rise.
"The numbers are untenable," said one restructuring adviser. "To issue new debt the yield would have to rise and where they can't raise new money they will have to stop paying."
If Puerto Rico is forced to take that step, the effects will ripple through the entire $4tn municipal bond market. Because the debt is generally triple tax free, in a world of zero interest rates demand is high and it is distributed widely, including in funds that imply they have no exposure to Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico cannot really raise taxes much more, since the debt per capita is more than $14,000, while income per capita is almost $17,000, a ratio at 83 percent—that makes California, Illinois or New York—each at 6 percent—models of prudence. Meanwhile, at 14 percent, the unemployment rate is twice the national average.
While Congress could theoretically intervene and create an insolvency regime for the island [similar, in theory, to Detroit's city emergency manager- NANESB!] the current partisan divide in Congress would lead to considerable wrangling with the GOP likely prioritizing the island needing to uphold their financial obligations to creditors versus the Democrats giving priority to the pensions of unionized public sector employees on the island.
Municipal and general obligation bonds from Puerto Rico have enjoyed what's called 'triple tax free' status [i.e. they're exempt from federal, state and local taxes- NANESB!] and have proven attractive to investors, but starting last year ratings agencies have cut much of the bonds' credit ratings to one notch above junk in light of recent developments.
Adding to the island's troubles is the considerable outmigration that began back in 2000- well before the 2008 global economic crisis. Some estimates say the net population loss since 2000 is in the neighborhood of 144,000- many of them younger people going to school or looking for work in the United States.
In what is perhaps the surest sign that US taxpayers will be on the hook for the ongoing situation on Puerto Rico, the White house stated that they were not considering a bailout of Puerto Rico on Wednesday.
Public opinion in Puerto Rico in recent decades has swung from full independence from the USA to status quo to support for becoming the 51st state.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
In an interview with Syracuse PBS affiliate on Friday, Cuomo stated that conservatives have "no place in the state of New York, because that's not who New Yorkers are".
The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act — it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.
If they’re moderate Republicans like in the Senate right now, who control the Senate — moderate Republicans have a place in their state.
Shortly after the remarks were made public, Cuomo backtracked and his supporters claimed that his remarks were merely 'taken out of context', instead. Some supporters highlighted Cuomo's qualifier of 'extreme' and pointed out the Governor's praise of 'Moderate' Republicans who have more or less rubber-stamped some or all of Cuomo's agenda. Cuomo attempted to walk back his statements by saying that New Yorkers prefer moderate politicians of either party running for office only a few weeks after avowed socialist and Sandinista supporter Bill DeBlasio was sworn in as mayor of New York City.
By 'anti-gay', Cuomo is apparently referring to anybody who held similar views on same-sex marriage as Pope Francis or President Obama prior to his 2012 re-election campaign. Meanwhile, the NY SAFE Act, a hastily written and almost confiscatory gun law rushed through a closed-door session of the New York state assembly in the immediate aftermath of the December 2012 Newtown, CT school shootings has proven extremely unpopular upstate. Opponents point out the law does nothing to deter crime and makes criminals out of law-abiding citizens who own previously legal firearms while prompting manufacturers and businesses to move out of state because of the increased restrictions.
Another issue that has residents upstate irate at the son of Democratic former governor Mario Cuomo is fracking. New York's Southern Tier sits atop the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation- in fact, the formation is named after the village of Marcellus outside of Syracuse. However, while there has been drilling activity in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, Cuomo has dragged his feet on the issue since his 2010 election. Although drilling for natural gas could give the Empire State's economy a shot in the arm- particularly the economically hard-hit Southern Tier- hardline environmentalists and celebrity activists such as Yoko Ono or actor Mark Ruffalo seem to have the ear of Gov Cuomo's office, regaling his staff with liberally embellished horror stories of artificial earthquakes and tap water bursting into flames due to fracking. As the celebrities, environmentalists and wealthy Manhattan progressives do there utmost to ensure that no drilling takes place in New York, upstate counties atop the Marcellus Shale have unemployment rates of around 8%. To his credit, Cuomo floated a compromise where drilling would be confined mostly to the Southern Tier counties of Broome, Chemung, Tioga, Steuben and Chenango but that was quickly overruled by environmentalists. While the Governor and state officials have made no official decision on fracking, observers believe Cuomo and other Democrats are waiting for a more politically opportune time after the 2014 election to make an unpopular decision.
Meanwhile, as landowners in the Southern Tier have been hit with a double whammy of an economy that's been in decline since the 1970s and some of the highest property taxes in the USA, Governor Cuomo has been fundraising in Hollywood- for his re-election bid as governor of New York.
Between the push for same-sex marriage, gun control and abortion while obstructing a surefire means of reviving the Southern Tier's long suffering economy for political expediency, Cuomo's actions as governor have made it abundantly clear that he believes conservatives (or even moderates who disagree with him) have no place in New York. his statements in Friday's PBS interview simply made it official.
[Hat tip- Lonely Conservative; The Mental Recession
Today's wintry Train of Thought takes us Down East to what was home to a bunch of Maine-iacs.
While Maine isn't home to any big-league sports teams, the Pine Tree State's largest city has been home to a number of minor-league affiliates such as the Portland Pirates (AHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes) and Portland Sea Dogs (Eastern League Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox)- to say nothing of Maine Black Bears hockey and football. During the 1990s, when AHL franchises in Canada's Maritime provinces were leaving to go further west, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League stepped in to fill the void in cities like Moncton, Halifax, Prince Edward Island and St John's.
By the early 2000s, the QMJHL had designs on expansion south of the border and in 2003 the Sherbrooke Castors moved to Lewiston, ME- Maine's second largest city- to become the Lewiston Maineiacs. The team did fairly well during its time in Lewiston, including winning the QMJHL title in 2007 and advancing to the Memorial Cup- a three way final between the Ontario Hockey League, the Western Hockey League and QMJHL- that year. However, the Maineiacs were consistently ranked in the bottom for attendance in the QMJHL and by 2009 the team was openly discussing moving to suburban Montreal. By 2010, the team had changed ownership, although attendance continued to suffer due to persistent relocation rumors. The team disbanded by the end of May 2011- although was by no means the end of hockey in Lewiston. The Androscoggin Bank Colisée is now the home of the Portland Pirates of the AHL as the ownership of the AHL and the Cumberland County, Maine are currently in a contract dispute.
Back in the halcyon days of a QMJHL presence in Lewiston, railpictures.net contributor caught Pan Am GP40 #381 leasing southbound freight RUPO [RUmford, ME to Rigby yard in POrtlnd, ME] over the Androscroggin River between Lewiston and Auburn, ME on a chilly December 28, 2010 afternoon. Trailing the lead unit are a pair of Guilford-painted former CN GP40-2LWs hauling finished paper products from the mills up by Rumford. The train is about ⅔rds of the way to the former Maine Central yard in Portland.
Monday, January 20, 2014
However, nowadays it seems as though some of the adherents to the cult of global warming are confident enough to be more straightforward on their endgame.
Enter UN Climate Chief Christina Figueres, who openly declared earlier this week that Communist governments were the best means to combat global warming. In her prepared statements, she favorably cited Beijing for making improvements in China's environmental policy, whereas 'climate change' legislation has mostly died in the United States Congress [although the White House has been using regulatory fiat through the EPA to circumvent lawmakers- NANESB!].
China may be the world’s top emitter of carbon dioxide and struggling with major pollution problems of their own, but the country is “doing it right” when it comes to fighting global warming says Figueres.
“They actually want to breathe air that they don’t have to look at,” she said. “They’re not doing this because they want to save the planet. They’re doing it because it’s in their national interest.”
Figueres added that the deep partisan divide in the U.S. Congress is “very detrimental” to passing any sort of legislation to fight global warming. The Chinese Communist Party, on the other hand, can push key policies and reforms all on its own. The country’s national legislature largely enforces the decisions made by the party’s Central Committee and other executive offices.
Environmentalists often hail China as a model for fighting global warming, since they are a “leader” in renewable energy. The country set a goal of getting 15 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020. In 2012, China got 9 percent of its power from renewables — the U.S. by contrast got 11 percent in 2012.
However, the country still gets 90 percent of its power from fossil fuels, mostly from coal. In fact, Chinese coal demand is expected to explode as the country continues to develop. China has approved 100 million metric tons of new coal production capacity in 2013 as part of the government’s plan to bring 860 million metric tons of coal production online by 2015.
China has publicly made big efforts to clean up its environment. The country’s booming industrial apparatus has caused so much pollution that the skies have been darkened over major cities and the air quality has heavily deteriorated.
The Wall Street Journal notes that China’s air quality was so bad that about “1.2 million people died prematurely in China in 2010 as a result of air pollution” and Chinese government figures show that “lung cancer is now the leading cause of death from malignant tumors. Many of those dying are nonsmokers.”
The Soviet bloc’s environmental track record was similarly dismal.
The Communist Party’s National Action Plan spent $275 billion to combat rampant pollution through 2017, including reducing particulate matter 2.5 levels in the Beijing region by 25 percent.
Beijing's long-standing air pollution problems became an international issue when the city hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, leaving athletes to wonder if they'd be competing for medals amid a thick blanket of smog. China's Communist government was able to partially alleviate that problem in the weeks and months leading up to the Olympiad by severely restricting vehicle traffic in Beijing and relocating factories and power plants to provinces outside the capital- however, after the closing ceremonies in August 2008 the pollution returned and has only worsened since then.
The problems aren't limited to Beijing, however. Pollution in major waterways like the Yangtze River are killing off fish and making the water unfit for human consumption. China has also suffered widespread deforestation over the past few decades with dozens of square kilometers being clear-cut simultaneously. To the east and across the Yalu River in North Korea, deforestation is thought to have contributed to the massive drought and famine in the 1990s.
Figueres' claim that communism is somehow better for the environment than a free market and democratic system is also laid to waste by just a cursory look at the former Soviet Union. Perhaps the most stark example of communist stewardship of the environment would be the irradiated and uninhabitable territory around the former nuclear power plant in Chernobyl. An April 1986 meltdown and explosion at the facility just outside the city of Pripyat sent plumes of highly radioactive materiel into the skies over the western USSR as well as Scandinavia and western Europe. Unlike the devastation wrought at Japan's Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant in the immediate aftermath of the catastrophic 2011 Sendai quake and tsunami, Chernobyl happened due to a simple test. To this day, an 'exclusion zone' of nearly 2600 km stretches through what is now the Ukraine and Belarus with Chernobyl and the ghost city of Pripyat at the epicenter.
But ecological catastrophe in the former communist Eastern bloc isn't just limited to Chernobyl. Factories in Russia and the former Soviet satellite states are still home to factories that spew pollutants into the air and water unchecked- with some cities competing for the dubious 'honor' of being the most polluted spot on earth.
The Aral Sea- at one time one of the largest lakes in the world- has been shrinking at an exponential rate since a massive Soviet public works project in the 1960s diverted water from two of the rivers that fed the Aral sea to irrigate cotton fields. By the 1991 breakup of the USSR, the central Asian former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan inherited two polluted, shrunken and depleted lakes where there used to be one Aral Sea. Considered one of the biggest environmental catastrophes on the planet, between 1960 and 1998 the total area of the Aral Sea shrunk by more than 60%. Although Kazakhstan has been able to partially restore the northern portion of the Aral Sea in recent years, the southern half continues to recede leading to sights such as a pier stretching out over nothing but grey desert or camels standing near the hulks of abandoned ships, miles away from the nearest navigable body of water.
Even more problematic is a former Soviet bioweapons facility that was once housed on Vozrozhdeniya Island in the Aral Sea- the facility was once on an island and Red Army scientists experimented with weaponized strains of botulism, smallpox and anthrax. In 1971 a weaponized strain of smallpox was released and infected a passing research vessel. An infected crewmember disembarked at the port of Aralsk and infected their family. The disease spread and Soviet officials quarantined the city and vaccinating some 50,000 residents- although this incident wasn't generally known to the public until 2002. Since the outbreak, Vozrozhdeniya became a peninsula and then part of the mainland as the Aral Sea shrunk. The facility itself was hastily abandoned in 1992 shortly after the collapse of the USSR and weaponized strains of anthrax and bubonic plague were improperly stored in containers that continue to deteriorate over time.
Lake Baikal- the world's largest freshwater lake and dubbed 'The Pearl of Siberia'- also suffered considerably in Soviet times. The 25 million year old lake is home to several species not found elsewhere such as the Baikal seal or golomyanka fish. In the 1960s, the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill was constructed along the lake's southern shore and discharged waste directly into the lake. Ironically, even though the plant continued operation well into post Soviet times, it was ultimately killed by capitalism when it was shut down in 2009 due to unprofitability.
Perhaps the most galling thing about Figueres' statement is that she likely knows EXACTLY how poor a steward of the environment communism has been but has decided to praise the same system that drained the Aral Sea and gave us Chernobyl and countless polluted rivers and lakes throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia. More likely, the people pushing for unilateral government action on 'global warming' are doing so under the premise that they'll be exempt or they can purchase some sort of exemption through carbon offsets or a cap and trade system. I suspect even if they get their way, the carbon footprint of aircraft, ships, trains and automobiles won't bother them so long as those methods of transportation are providing them with conveyance or goods and services.
Saturday, January 18, 2014
Divisional Weekend Sports Chowdah Update- No Such Luck, Colts Fall to Pats; Star-Crossed, Bruins Travel to Big D for First Time Since Seguin Trade
Matt Slocum/AP PhotoNFL- The New England Patriots are going to the AFC championship game, and oddly enough it was done without any TD passes from Tom Brady.
The Patriots came off of their bye week hosting the Indianapolis Colts and QB Andrew Luck who were coming off a seemingly impossible comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs who led 38-10 to open up the second half.
Saturday's game was a different story, however. On the third play from scrimmage, Patriots CB Alfonzo Dennard picked off Andrew Luck on the Colts own 28 yard line and brought it all the way to the Colt's 2 yard line. Barely two minutes into the game, RB LeGarrette Blount punched it in on first and goal from the 2 yard line to put New England up on top 7-0.
The Patriots would add to their lead thanks to a five minute drive that started out on New England's own 26 and was capped by another short Blount to run to put New England up 14-0.
However, a quick strike by Andrew Luck to LaVon Brazil for a 28 yard TD pass on the Colt's next possession to cut the New England lead in half. New England and Indianapolis would trade three and outs towards the end of the first before the Patriots held on to the ball for nearly 7 minutes before Blount was once again able to punch it in and give New England a 21-7 lead.
Midway through the 2nd quarter, the Colts would get inside the New England red zone, but have to settle for a FG from the foot of former Patriot Adam Vinatieri to make it a 21-10 game. The Colts would get two more points on a bizarre play with just over two minutes left in the first half in which Indianapolis got a safety. On Indianapolis' next possession, they were able to move the ball inside the Patriots 40 before Luck was picked off by LB Dont'a Hightower, neutralizing the Colts threat and sending the teams into the locker room with the score 21-12 in favor of New England.
The second half got off to a better start for Indy as the Colts defense held the Pats to a 3 and out on their first possession, then Luck and the Colts offense got as far as the Pats 3 yard line before deciding to settle for a Vinatieri chip shot FG after being unable to punch it in on 3rd and goal from the New England 3. That put Indy within a touchdown, despite the inauspicious start.
The Patriots would start off their next drive pinned back on their own 12 yard line, but Brady connected with Danny Amendola for 53 yards, moving New England our from the shadow of their own goalposts. The Pats offense would get as far as the Colts 22 before a Colts penalty on 3rd and 8 moved the ball to the Indy 5 yard line. To change things up a little, it was Stevan Ridley who would hit paydirt for New England as they went for and got the 2 point conversion- thanks again to Ridley as New England extended their lead to 29-15.
But within the blink of an eye, the Colts made it a one-score game again. Indy started out on their own 20, but quickly moved the ball to New England territory on 2nd and 11 from their won 19 with a 46 yard completion from Luck to WR T.Y. Hilton. On the Very next play, Luck found Brazil again for a 35 yard TD reception to once again pull the Colts to within a TD as it was now a 22-29 game with five minutes to go in the third quarter.
However, whatever momentum the Colts had gained late in the 3rd seemingly evaporated when the Patriots started out with the ball on their own 27 for their first possession in the 4th quarter. On the very first play, it was none other than LaGarrette Blount who ran 73 yards for a TD to make it a 36-22 New England lead. To add to Indy's woes, Luck once again threw an INT deep in the Colts' own territory. After getting the ball back on the Colt's 18, Brady completed to WR Austin Collie for a 15 yard pickup on 3rd and 10, and it would Stevan Ridley to bring it home on 2nd and goal, giving New England the 43-22 lead with more than 11 minutes to go.
The Patriots would go on to win by the final of 43-22 on Saturday and await the winner of the Chargers vs Broncos game to see whether or not they'd host San Diego or travel to Denver for the AFC title game this weekend. New England opened up their ground game and had six rushing TDs- four from Blount and two from Ridley. Blount had 166 yards on 24 carries while Ridley had 52 yards on 14 carries. For the QBs, Brady went 13 for 25 with 198 yards and was sacked twice with no picks or TDs while Luck was 20 for 41 with 331 yards, 2 TDs, 4 interceptions and was sacked three times.
ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL- On Sunday, AFC West foes San Diego and Denver went head-to-head for the third time this season. The last time the Chargers were at Mile High, they stunned the Broncos by beating them 27-20 on Thursday night in Week 15- what would be the first of many 'must win' games for the Bolts if they were to make it to the playoffs.
Sunday's game didn't have quite the same feel as the Broncos shut San Diego out in the first half 14-0. However, after the Broncos added to their lead with a long Prater FG to make it 17-0 in the 3rd, the Chargers showed signs of life- getting on the board thanks to a 16 yard TD pass from QB Phillip Rivers to WR Keenan Allen to make it a 10 point game with 13 minutes to go in regulation.
However, the Broncos came right back and marched the ball down the field from their own 19 thanks to Peyton Manning, former Patriot Wes Welker and pretty big penalty against San Diego. Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno took care of the rest on the drive, getting three straight carries from the Bolts' 24 yard line, including his 3 yard TD run to make it a 24-7 ballgame.
That seemingly put the game out of reach for the Chargers, but with just over 8 minutes to go and starting off on their own 20 Rivers was able to keep the San Diego drive going after connecting with Allen for 49 yards on 4th and 5 from their own 25. Inside the Broncos' red zone, Rivers once again found Allen for a 16 yard TD pass to make it 24-14 with just under 6 minutes to go. To make things even more interesting, San Diego successfully recovered an onside kick at their own 40. Rivers was able to get as close as the Broncos 12 yard line, but on 4th and 5 the Chargers opted to settle for a Nick Novak FG, now making it a one-TD game with 3:53 to go.
In Lieu of another onside kick, the Chargers kicked the ball off and were hoping to corral the Broncos offense before too much time bled off the clock. However, the Broncos were able to successfully convert on 3rd and 17 inside their own 20 and keep the clock moving while forcing San Diego to burn their remaining timeouts. The game was essentially clinched when Moreno picked up a first down on 3rd and 1 on the Chargers 37 with 1:12 remaining and the Broncos would go on to win by a 24-17 final. The win sets up a Brady-Manning rematch for the AFC title game in Denver this weekend. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:00 PM ET and the game will be televised on CBS.
MEANWHILE, IN THE NFC....- This weekend's NFC title game will be an all NFC West affair as the 49ers bested the Carolina Panthers by a final of 23-10 while the Seattle Seahawks came out of their bye week and beat the New Orleans Saints by a 23-15 final.
This has set up a situation where the Seahawks have blocked ticket sales to credit cards with billing addresses from California in a bid to make the NFL's loudest stadium even more partisan. According to the organization, only buyers from Washington state, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta will be authorized to purchase tickets from the team's website and ticket exchange [The Broncos organization has reportedly taken similar measures to block ticket sales to addresses out side of the Rocky Mountain states- NANESB!]
Kickoff for the NFC title game is scheduled for 6:30 PM ET and the game will be televised on FOX.
But the Bruins didn't have to wait long for the tiebreaker as Brad Marchand got the go ahead goal exactly two minutes later. After that, Milan Lucic broke a ten game streak without a goal with a power play tally 15:46 into the 3rd. However, Jamie Benn made it once again a 1-goal game with less than 90 seconds to go (ex-Bruin Tyler Seguin was credited with an assist) making it 3-2. However, the Stars would pull Keri Letonen for the extra attacker, but Patrice Bergeron would seal the game for Boston by a final of 4-2 thanks to an empty-netter with sixteen seconds remaining.
Chad Johnson got the start between the pipes for Boston and turned aside 32 of 34 shots faced while Kari Lehtonen stopped 37 of 40 that he faced. Boston was 1 for 4 on the power play while Dallas went 1 for 6 with the man advantage.
The season series between Dallas and Boston is evened up at 1 game apiece, with the Stars winning in OT back in November. From the Lone Star State, the Bruins will travel to the Windy City for a rematch of last season's Stanley Cup finals. Puck drops at 12:30 ET on Sunday afternoon and the game will be televised on NBC and the NHL Network for Canadian viewers.
MLB- The Los Angeles Dodgers and starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw have agreed to a 7 year deal worth more than $215 million, avoiding arbitration. The deal is said to be the most lucrative deal involving a single pitcher and the estimated $30 million annual salary for Kershaw will reportedly be the highest in the MLB.
Kershaw had a 16-9 record last season with a 1.83 ERA and won the NL Cy Young award in 2011 and 2013.
RED SOX- The Boston Red Sox and catcher AJ Pierzynski have agreed to terms on a 1 year, $8.25 million contract. After making his MLB debut with the Minnesota twins in 1998, Pierzynski played a single season for the San Francisco Giants before joining the Chicago White Sox from 2005 to 2012. Last season, Pierzynski and the Texas Rangers agreed to a 1 year contract and the veteran catcher hit .272 with 17 homers and 70 RBI in 134 games. The deal comes after Jarrod Saltalamacchia became a free agent and signed a 3-year, $21 million contract with the Miami Marlins.
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Westbound Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern freight between Huron and Rapid City, SD seen passing through Wall, SD with CP Rail and Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern SD40-2s in June 2007- a year before the CP Rail takeover. JJ Schrader photo
CANADIAN PACIFIC- CP Rail and shortline operator Genesee & Wyoming have reportedly reached a deal to purchase more than 600 miles of former Canadian Pacific (ex Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern, nee Chicago & Northwestern) trackage in South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wyoming.
The price tag for the deal was reportedly $210 million and is Genesee & Wyoming's first transaction since last year's takeover of Rail America. The new name for the line will be the Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern and will run from Tracy, MN west to Colony, WY by way of Rapid City and the South Dakota capitol of Pierre. According to a GWR press release, the transaction includes a branch from Rapid City to Dakota Jct, NE as well as trackage rights over CP from Tracy to Mankato, MN to interchange with the Union Pacific as well as trackage right over BNSF between Yale and Watertown, SD and a separate line between Wolsey and Aberdeen, SD where the Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern could also interchange with the independent regional Dakota, Missouri Valley and Western. This stretch of the line primarily hauls ethanol, wheat, bentonite clay and cement.Prior to 2008, the line was part of the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern system. The DM&E was reportedly interested in expansion by building a new line in Wyoming to access coal from the Powder River Basin and ship it to power plants throughout the Midwest. However, the line between Pierre and Rapid City featured unstable roadbed as well as aging track and bridges limiting speed limits to 10 MPH over that portion of the line and creating a significant bottleneck. With the 2008 CP Rail takeover, a number of proposed improvements were approved but quickly forgotten after competition from natural gas and regulatory burdens on coal drove prices down and the CP Rail installed Hunter Harrison as its new CEO after a 2012 hostile takeover by the Pershing Square Capital Management hedge fund. With the focus shifting to rising oil traffic from Alberta and North Dakota, the former DM&E lines became viewed as insignificant backwater and an increasing burden by CP Rail management.
The DM&E itself was started up after the Chicago & Northwestern announced their intent to abandon marginal and unprofitable lines through South Dakota and parts of Minnesota in the early 1980s. Responding to pressure from shippers and then-US Senator Larry Pressler, the C&NW spun off their lines between Winona, MN and Rapid City, SD to the newly formed Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern in 1986 and the railroad began operations with castoff equipment and facilities.
In addition to their Powder River ambitions, the DM&E purchased the 1700 mile I&M Rail Link in 2002. The I&M Rail Link ran between the Twin Cities and Kansas City via the former Milwaukee Road/Soo Line main and also ran to Chicago via Iowa. The newly-formed sister railway- called the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern- gave shippers in South Dakota access to the Twin Cities, Chicago, St Louis and the Great Lakes. Ironically, the Canadian Pacific reacquired most of the lines in 2008 with their acquisition of the DM&E and IC&E that their Soo Line subsidiary spun off in the late 1990s. To hardly anybody's surprise, the former IC&E trackage between the Twin Cities and Kansas City as well as the Sabula, IA to Chicago line weren't on the chopping block.
Pere Marquette Berkshire #1225 seen passing a grain elevator in the village of Carland, MI with an excursion on December 13, 2013. Brian Plant photo
MICHIGAN- After a hiatus of nearly four years, Pere Marquette 2-8-4 #1225 is back in service for the Owosso, MI based Steam Railroading Institute. The big Berkshire re-entered service at the end of November, in time for the SRI's Polar Express excursions over the Great Lakes Central Railroad between Owosso and Ashley, MI in December [although some of them were cancelled due to a state of emergency being declared in Shiawassee County, MI due to a snowstorm- NANESB].
The locomotive last ran at the end of 2009, when it was pulled from service for it's FRA-mandated 15 year boiler inspection. A few months prior, the #1225 was one of the marquee attractions at the 2009 Train Fest, which also included fellow Berkshire Nickel Plate #765 and Southern Pacific's colorful 1941-built Daylight #4449.
Appropriately enough, there is another gathering of vintage iron horses- as well as aircraft and autos- within a few months of the #1225's return to service. The gathering is dubbed Locomotives Wings and Wheels and in addition to the #1225, the gathering is scheduled for June 20-22 and will also feature restored WWII era P-51 Mustangs from the Commemorative Air Force as well as SRI's Flagg Coal Company 0-4-0 switcher and visiting steam locomotives from the Little River Railroad.
CANADIAN NATIONAL- Just days after a fiery train wreck and derailment in Casselton, ND, a Canadian National freight carrying crude oil and liquefied propane derailed in rural New Brunswick near the village of Plaster Rock. According to a CN spokesman, 19 cars and one locomotive derailed on the 122-car four locomotive train.
Unlike the Lac Megantic disaster last July of the BNSF oil train explosion in Casselton, ND earlier this month, the CN train involved in the derailment was a mixed freight, meaning it was carrying other commodities besides petroleum and liquefied natural gas. However, the wreck prompted the evacuation of nearby residents and some of the derailed cars burned for four days after the derailment.
Transportation officials believe that a mechanical failure prompted the train to apply the emergency brakes prior to the derailment. There were no reports of injuries to the crew.
Plaster Rock, NB is about 30 miles away from the Canada/US border in the northwestern corner of New Brunswick and has a population of roughly 1100 according to Canada's 2011 census.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Former Israeli Prime Minister and IDF commander Ariel Sharon passed away this weekend after being in a coma since January 2006. Sharon was instrumental in the formation of the Likud party and was Israel's 11th prime minister, serving between 2001 and 2006. After his distinguished career in the Israeli Defense Forces Sharon also served as Israel's Foreign Affairs Minister, Minister of Energy and Water Resources and Minister of Trade and Labour in late 1980s through the 1990s.
Born Ariel Scheinermann in 1928 on a farm in what was then British Mandate of Palestine, Sharon joined the Haganah- a predecessor of the IDF- as a teenager. During Israel's 1948 War for Independence, Sharon led a small unit in hit and run attacks against the advancing combined Arab armies and was quickly promoted through the ranks. Sharon was wounded multiple time by Jordanian forces and his battalion suffered numerous losses in the battle of Laturn, including survivors of the Holocaust recently arrived from Europe.
During the 1956 Suez Canal War, Sharon commanded a paratrooper brigade and an Armored Division during the 1967 Six Days War. Officially retiring at the rank of Major General in August 1973, Sharon returned to service less than two months later during the Yom Kippur War, leading a reserve armored division over the Suez canal and encircling the city of Suez, cutting off the Egyptian Thrid Army and effectively ending the war.
As Defense Minister, Sharon launched a 1982 offensive against entrenched Palestinian terrorists in Lebanon after repeated cross-border attacks from the north and the attempted assassination of Israel's ambassador to the UK in London. The PLO and other international terrorist groups had taken advantage of the relative lawlessness in Lebanon after a civil war broke out in 1975. Although PLO fighters and their Syrian allies were forced into a retreat, a Phalangist militia massacred hundreds of Palestinian civilians in a refugee camp in Israeli held territory- a war crime where Sharon and the IDF was accused of complicity.
After the 2001 collapse of Ehud Barak's government, Sharon was elected to the office of Prime Minister by a 44 point margin. In 2003, he became the first Israeli PM to visit the state of India. More significantly, Sharon oversaw Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza strip, which caused a significant schism within the Likud party. By late 2005, Sharon formally resigned as head of the Likud party to form a new, centrist party called Kadima before suffering his debilitating stroke.
Earlier this week, a state funeral was held for Sharon after laying in state in Israel's parliament.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
Borderline Psychosis Update- Dutch Cops Nab Top Sinaloa Enforcer; Cartels, Law Enforcement Take Wait and See Approach to Colorado's Legalized Pot Sales;
The suspect, Jose Rodrigo Arechiga Gamboa, was captured Monday in Amsterdam's Airport Schiphol. He is accused of trafficking methamphetamines, cocaine and marijuana.
Arechiga is presumably a top enforcer for Ismael Zambada, who co-heads the Sinaloa drug organization along with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.
Dutch police arrested the Mexican man at the request of U.S. authorities after he landed under a different name on a flight from Mexico City. The U.S. government had asked Interpol for help with his arrest.
The man is being held in a Dutch jail, while the U.S. Attorney is seeking his extradition to face charges in a federal court in San Diego.
The Mexican Embassy in the Netherlands said it was aware of the detention of a Mexican citizen and that it was willing to offer consular assistance if he requested help. It did not specifically say it was referring to Arechiga's arrest.
According to local media, Arechiga is also known as "El Chino Antrax," one of the two leaders of a group of hit men who call themselves the Anthrax, like the deadly disease.
Authorities have blamed the cell for a series of murders, including the killings of three men who were hung off a bridge in 2011, which were seen as revenge attacks after one of their leaders was murdered. The Anthrax helped the Sinaloa organization as it engaged in a bloody war with the Beltran Leyva cartel, when the latter decided to splinter in 2008.
El Chino Antrax has been reportedly celebrated and mentioned by name in narcocorridos- popular folk corrido ballads whose lyrics romanticize outlaws and drug traffickers.
CALIFORNIA- A Mexican national is in custody in central California's Madera County after allegedly shooting two men while posing as a police officer. The victims were reportedly carrying a sizable quantity of crystal meth.
The case is "highly unusual" for Madera County because of the amount of "crank" and police regalia found in connection with the crime, Madera County Sheriff John Anderson said Tuesday.
One suspect was arrested for attempted murder -- Elias Lopez-Martinez, 25, of Mexico. A second suspect has not yet been found.
During a news conference, Anderson summed up the Dec. 30 incident by pointing to two vehicles on display for reporters.
"Semi-bad guys," Anderson said, pointing to a car driven by alleged drug-runners. Then, pointing to the suspects' truck: "Really bad guys."
"These guys are dopers -- these guys are shooters," he said, continuing the comparison, "... coming out to the dope exchange, they didn't bring money, they brought guns. That simple."
Those allegedly transporting the meth initially told authorities they were on back roads near Chowchilla because they were going to "buy a horse," Anderson said, but later admitted "we were kind of out there to do a drug deal."
Anderson gave the following account :
The victims said they pulled over near Avenue 18 1/2 and Road 10 because they thought the truck behind them was police, seeing its blue lights. Once pulled over, two men reportedly ordered the three young men inside to lay on the ground, and then shots were fired.
A 17-year-old from Madera was shot in the liver and remained in critical condition at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno as of Tuesday. A 22-year-old from Chowchilla was shot in the face, breaking his jaw and most of his teeth. A third passenger, also 17 and from Madera, was unharmed. Names of the victims were not released.
The 22-year-old drove away from the scene and was found about eight miles away after he called 9-1-1.
Detectives followed a blood trail from the scene, to a bloodied dog food bag containing nine pounds of crystal meth worth $45,000. It was hidden beneath a bridge.
"The way this (meth) is wrapped we know it came from Mexico," Anderson said, "which involved Mexican drug cartels."
Anderson said the driver told detectives he picked up the illegal drug in Los Angeles and "my job was to get it up here and get it sold."
The day after the shooting, detectives found the suspects' truck at a gas station on Highway 145 and Avenue 13 in Madera and arrested Lopez-Martinez.
Based on evidence gathered by investigators, a multiagency SWAT team later searched an apartment near Madera South High School, believed to be used by the suspects as a storing place. One pound of crystal meth was found with weapons, ammunition, more than two pounds of marijuana, $2,500, and law enforcement equipment, including tactical gear and body armor, along with fake badges and clothing donning words like "police" and "U.S. Marshals."
Posing as police officers is a common tactic for 'rip crews'- armed robbers who actively seek out and rob drug couriers and storehouses- along the Mexican border in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, but as Sheriff Anderson stated, is quite unusual for California's Central Valley.
COLORADO- Although Mexican drug cartels had a presence in Colorado before this year's legalization of marijuana, officials believe it's only a matter of time before organized crime adapts and take advantage of the situation.
Taking over a trade once ruled by drug cartels and turning it into an all-cash business could make pot shops prime targets for extortion, black-market competition and robbery. One veteran border narcotics agent told FoxNews.com Colorado's legal pot industry will find it hard to keep the criminals from horning in on a lucrative business they once controlled.
"Mexico is already in Colorado without the risks," the agent, who requested anonymity, said of the state's heavy pre-existing cartel presence. "Legal businesses will likely see a rise in extortion attempts while law enforcement will see a lot of backdoor deals being made."
Violent cartels could force their way in as black market wholesalers or simply rob pot dispensaries, which take only cash and have not been able to establish accounts with banks because of lenders' fears of violating federal laws. But the general consensus is that the Mexican cartels will not quietly relinquish the Denver market.
A 2012 report from the Mexican Competitive Institute estimated that Mexican drug trafficking organizations could lose as much as $1.4 billion dollars with legalized pot in the Denver market. Law enforcement believes that the cartels could extort owners of the newly legal pot dispensaries or set up legal shops of their own using straw buyers with clean backgrounds.
TAMAULIPAS- A former governor for the border state of Tamaulipas has been indicted by the US on charges of corruption and drug trafficking. According to the unsealed indictment last month, Tomas Yarrington served as governor of the Mexican state across the Rio Grande from the southern tip of Texas between 1999 and 2004 and took bribes from the Gulf Cartel and laundered drug money into campaign coffers in exchange for turning a blind eye to cartel activity.
In the indictment unsealed Monday, Yarrington is portrayed as an old-style PRI politician, for whom being cozy with drug traffickers was the way to do business.
Starting in 1998, “Yarrington received large bribes from major drug traffickers” in Tamaulipas, including the then-dominant Gulf Cartel, the U.S. attorney’s office of southern Texas said in a statement. The bribes began as he campaigned for governor, continued through his six-year term and afterward, the statement says.
In return, prosecutors allege, Yarrington “allowed them to operate their large-scale, multi-ton enterprises freely, which included the smuggling of large quantities of drugs to the United States for distribution.”
The indictment also alleges that Yarrington, 56, took bribes from local businesses and skimmed public money as well to pad his private accounts.
With suspected accomplice Fernando Cano, a builder, Yarrington then acquired numerous “valuable assets,” mostly across Texas, including homes, airplanes, bank accounts, vehicles and other real estate, worth around $7 million, the indictment states.
The 11-count indictment was returned in May, but for reasons not explained, was not opened until this week. It says Yarrington eventually became involved in the smuggling of drugs.
Like many politicians in Tamaulipas, Yarrington “abetted, enabled and profited from a symbiotic relationship with the Gulf Cartel,” said George Grayson, a Mexico expert at Virginia’s College of William & Mary.
Yarrington’s whereabouts are unknown, although his attorneys insisted this week that he is not a fugitive. The U.S. government has not yet formally sought his extradition. Mexican Atty. Gen. Jesus Murillo Karam said: “Whoever they ask us to look for, we will. They have had and will continue to have our cooperation.”
Yarrington’s Houston-based attorney, Joel Androphy, said in a news conference this week in Mexico City that the allegations against Yarrington were bogus and based on “false witnesses and testimony” by people attempting to make deals with the prosecution.
He refused to disclose Yarrington’s current location, except to repeat that he was in the United States a year ago when asked to leave because his visa had expired.
Accusations that Yarrington was receiving drug money first surfaced early last year, in connection with a U.S. case involving an associate, and then in a Mexican investigation. The PRI, in the middle of an election campaign, suspended him. Then-Atty. Gen. Marisela Morales ordered him arrested. But he managed to secure an injunction that left him free, and he threatened to take on the attorney general.
Yarrington was elected as a member of the PRI- the same political party that recently elected Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto. During the 2012 election, the PRI party sought to distance itself from Yarrington and other corrupt politicians in Tamaulipas. Since 2006, the situation has become much more dire in Tamaulipas, with mass graves and the remnants of the Gulf Cartel fighting with their former allies, Los Zetas.
Friday, January 10, 2014
Wild Card Weekend (and then some) Sports Chowdah Update- 'Nole and Void, Late FSU Drive Caps BCS Title Game; Wild Wild NFL Wild Card Weekend Sets Up Some Familiar Opponents
Chris Carlson- AP PhotoNCAA FOOTBALL- This was supposed to be the final year of the BCS format, and if you're a fan of the game you couldn't have asked for a much better finish than the BCS Championship game from Pasadena's Rose Bowl on Monday night.
The title game pitted SEC's Auburn Tigers- no stranger to unlikely late-game heroics- against ACC Champion Florida State and Heisman winning freshman QB Jameis Winston. The Seminoles got on the board first with a 35 yard FG from Roberto Aguayo five minutes into the first quarter before Auburn responded with a drive that was capped by a 12 yard TD pass from QB Nick Marshall to RB Tre Mason with three and a half minutes to go in the first, making it 7-3.
The Tigers would score two more TDs in the second quarter to give Auburn a 21-3 lead before the Seminoles found the end zone for the first time thanks to a 3 yard rushing TD from 'Noles RB Devonta Freeman to make it 21-10 Auburn with less than two minutes in the half.
The 3rd quarter was pretty uneventful, with the 'Noles chipping away at the Auburn lead thanks to another Aguayo FG, making it 13-21 Auburn. This merely set the stage for a wild 4th quarter as Jameis Winston connected with Chad Abram on the 'Noles opening drive to put Florida State within one. Nursing a 21-20 lead and with the momentum starting to swing FSU's way, the Tigers had to settle for a chip shot FG from Cody Parkey after getting as far as the Seminoles 6 yard line with just over 5 minutes remaining, expanding the Auburn lead to 24-20.
That Auburn lead quickly went by the wayside on the ensuing kickoff when Levonte Whitfield went the distance- returning the kickoff 100 yards to give the Seminoles their first lead since the first quarter, 27-24.
Starting out on their own 25 with four and a half minutes to go, the Tigers were able to march down the field to FSU's 37 before Tre Mason was able to break free for a 37 yard TD run on 2nd and 15.
The good news for Auburn was that they were back out on top 31-27. The bad news was that there was still a minute and nineteen seconds to go for Winston and FSU to take the lead. After getting the ball back on their own 20, Jameis Winston connected with WR Rashad Greene for 49 yards, giving FSU the ball on the Tigers 23 with 1:05 left. A pass interference call on Auburn gave FSU the ball at the Tigers own 2 yard line. With 21 seconds to go, Winston connected to WR Kelvin Benjamin to put FSU back on top by 34-31.
There would be no last second heroics for Auburn as FSU's kickoff was returned to the Tigers 17 as Auburn lateraled the ball with before the game ended. Florida State breaks the SEC's winning streak in the FBS by going on to win by a 34-31 final. The last time a non-SEC team won the FBS title game was the Texas Longhorns in 2006.
This also marked the last game of the current BCS format before it goes to a playoff format in which the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl act as a semifinal in which the winners will advance to a BCS title game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX.
ELSEWHERE IN NCAA FOOTBALL- Here are the finals from the other bowl games:
Gildan New Mexico Bowl-
Washington State 45 Colorado State 48
Las Vegas Bowl-
Fresno State 20 USC 45
Idaho Potato Bowl-
San Diego State 49 Buffalo 24
R+L Carrier New Orleans Bowl-
Tulane 21 LA-Lafayette 24
Beef O'Brady's Bowl-
Ohio 20 East Carolina 37
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl-
Boise St 23 Oregon St 38
Little Caesar's Bowl-
Pitt 30 Bowling Green 27
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl-
Utah State 21 Northern Illinois 14
Marshall 31 Maryland 20
Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17
Fight Hunger Bowl-
BYU 16 Washington 31
New Era Pinstripe Bowl-
Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29
Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39
Russell Athletic Bowl-
Miami (FL) 9 Louisville 36
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl-
Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl-
Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl-
Mississippi 25 Georgia Tech 17
Valero Alamo Bowl-
Oregon 30 Texas 7
National University Holiday Bowl-
Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Advocare V-100 Bowl-
Arizona 42 Boston College 19
Hyundai Sun Bowl-
Virginia Tech 12 UCLA 42
Auto Zone Liberty Bowl
Rice 7 Mississippi State 44
Chick Fil A Bowl-
Duke 48 Texas A&M 52
Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl-
Nebraska 24 Georgia 19
Heart of Dallas Bowl-
UNLV 14 North Texas 36
Capital One Bowl-
Wisconsin 24 South Carolina 34
Iowa 14 LSU 21
Stanford 20 Michigan State 24
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl-
Central Florida 52 Baylor 42
Allstate Sugar Bowl-
Oklahoma 45 Alabama 31
AT&T Cotton Bowl-
Oklahoma State 31 Missouri 41
FedEx Orange Bowl-
Clemson 40 Ohio State 35
BBVA Compass Bowl-
Houston 24 Vanderbilt 41
Ball State 20 Arkansas State 23
PENN STATE- Former Nittany Lions head football coach Bill O'Brien announced that he would be leaving Penn State to fill the head coaching vacancy with the Houston Texans. O'Brien, Penn State's first new head coach since 1966, took over from the late Joe Paterno amid allegations his successor and Penn State officials attempted to cover up sexual abuse committed by former offensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky between the late 1990s and 2009.
Under O'Brien, the Nittany Lions went 14-10- including 8-8 against Big Ten opponents- over the last two seasons. O'Brien fills the head coaching vacancy left in Houston when the Texans fired Gary Kubiak in December. After winning their first two games of the 2013 season, the Texans would go on to lose 14 consecutive games.
Meanwhile, Penn State officials are reportedly set to announce Vanderbilt's James Franklin as their new football head coach over the weekend.
Elise Amendola- APNEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS- As far as both week 17 and the first round of the playoffs went, the NFL couldn't have asked for much more than what took place.
The Patriots came into week 17 after a satisfying 41-7 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, essentially knocking Baltimore from playoff contention before wrapping up the regular season with a home game against the Buffalo Bills. With New England clinching a playoff berth by winning the AFC East, all that was left to play for on Dec 29th was a first round bye.
New England would go on to beat Buffalo by a 34-20 final in a rainy Gillette Stadium to secure a first round bye (along with Denver) in the playoffs. They had to wait for the outcome of the games for the Wild Card weekend to see who their opponent would end up be- they get a somewhat familiar for in the Indianapolis Colts, but this is the first time the two teams have met in the postseason since Peyton Manning's departure from Indy.
ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL- I cannot stress how much week 17 in the NFL exceeded expectations. The day started with the Ravens, Steelers, Dolphins, Chargers, Bears, Cowboys, Packers, Eagles and Cardinals with an outside shot at making the playoffs. By the end of the first round of games the Ravens and Dolphins were eliminated while Pittsburgh took care of Cleveland but still needed things to break Kansas City's way in the afternoon game to punch their ticket into the postseason.
In the NFC, a couple of long-standing division rivalries essentially became de-facto conference championship games- Green Bay bested the Chicago Bears in a surprisingly high-scoring game at Soldier Field to clinch the NFC North title while Philly bested the Cowboys by a 24-22 final in Dallas to be the lone NFC East representative in the postseason in the last primetime game of the regular season on Sunday night.
Meanwhile, it was an all AFC West Week 17 out west as the Broncos ran roughshod over the hapless Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers dodged a bullet when the Chief's Ryan Succop missed a 41 yard FG attempt with the game tied at 24-24 with 8 seconds to go in regulation. The Chargers would end up punching their own ticket into the postseason and eliminating the Steelers when Nick Novak nailed a 36 yard FG with five and a half minutes remaining in overtime.
Wild Card weekend got underway with the Colts matched up against the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday. The Colts fell into a seemingly insurmountable 31-10 hole at halftime and an early turnover quickly made it 38-10 Chiefs in the early part of the second half. However, after giving KC the short field and capitalizing on the turnover with 13:39 to go in the 3rd, the Colts would keep the Chiefs out of the end zone and came roaring back to win by a 45-44 final.
Meanwhile, the Saints racked up a road win over the Phillies at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday night, going on to win by a final of 26-24.
Interestingly, the only contest of Wild Card weekend that wasn't close was the Bengals hosting the Chargers on Sunday afternoon. Cincinnati went into the locker rooms at halftime with a 10-7 lead but San Diego would go on to score twenty unanswered points to make it a 27-10 win and set up a rematch with division rival Denver on Sunday.
Wild Card weekend wrapped up with the 49ers travelling to Lambeau Field to face the Packers. San Francisco seemed undaunted by the cold temperatures and frozen tundra, going on to beat Green Bay by a 23-20 final.
This weekend's matchups are set- on Saturday, the Seahawks are coming off of their bye week to host the New Orleans Saints. That game kicks off at 4:35 PM ET, 1:35 PT and will be televised on FOX. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the Patriots will host the Colts after their first round bye. This prime time matchup is scheduled to kick off at 8:15 PM and will be televised on CBS.
On Sunday, the Panthers will host the 49ers at Bank of America stadium at 1:05 PM ET and can be seen on FOX while the Divisional weekend wraps up with the Broncos hosting the San Diego Chargers in the Mile High city with kickoff at 4:40 ET and can be viewed on CBS.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS- The Indianapolis Colts announced this week that they have signed former Patriots receiver Deion Branch. Branch, who was named MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX has also logged time with the Seattle Seahawks and had worked out with the Colts in the previous month.
Monday, January 6, 2014
Today's multimodal Train of Thought takes us to the windswept plains of North Dakota and features an Army veteran's life in a small town after retirement.
Manufactured starting in the late 1960s, the Bell AH-1F 'Cobra' helicopter was adopted by the US Army as an attack and ground support helicopter that saw service in Vietnam, Grenada, Panama and Desert Storm before being replaced by the Boeing AH-64 Apache in the mid 1990s. A number the militaries of allied nations still use the 'Cobra' to this day including Israel, Japan and some NATO members. While some Cobras were passed along to other countries once they became surplus, the US Forest Service also began using a number of Cobras re-fitted with thermal imaging and firefighting gear to combat wildfires out west.
And while the 1967-built AH-1F is seen off to the left in a wintry repose at a park in Lidgerwood, ND, railpictures.net contributor Bryant Kaden snapped this Dakota, Missouri Valley & Western freight as it trundles past in the background powered by a pair of SD45s of a similar vintage. The train is headed eastbound towards the Canadian Pacific interchange in Hankinson, ND. Lidgerwood was the westernmost point of the line when Soo Line predecessor Minneapolis & Pacific constructed it in 1886- work resumed in 1891 when the Minneapolis & Pacific was merged into the Minneapolis, St Pail and Sault St Marie Railway. By the early 1990s- when the US Army was phasing out the Cobra attack helicopters- the Soo Line was divesting themselves of branchlines throughout the Dakotas and sold hundreds of miles off to the upstart Dakota, Missouri Valley & Western.
Sunday, January 5, 2014
Auld Ang Syne Sports Chowdah Update- Winter Classic Big Time Hit in Ann Arbor; Fenway Freezes Over for New Incarnation of 'Holy War'; A Star for the Ages, Marine Veteran and Padres Broadcaster Jerry Coleman Passes Away at 89
Brian Babineau- Getty ImagesNHL- As much as I'm not a fan of either team involved, I gotta say that the 2014 Winter Classic went off without a hitch.
Before a crowd of 105,491 at the University of Michigan's Big House in Ann Arbor, the 'home' Red Wings faced off against the Toronto Maple Leafs, kicking off 2014 with an Original 6 matchup.
After a scoreless first period, former Senator Daniel Alfredsson put Detroit on the board first with a goal about midway through the second period before Toronto's James van Reimsdyk got the equalizer for the Leafs in the dying seconds of the 2nd.
Less than 5 minutes into the 3rd, the Leafs took their first lead of the day on a Tyler Bozak goal to put Toronto up 2-1. With less than five minutes to go, the 'home' team got the equalizer in the form of a goal from Justin Abdelkader to knot things up at 2-2. With nothing resolved late in regulation or in OT, the Winter classic headed for a shootout for the second time in its history.
Pavel Datsuk got the first shootout goal of the game for Detroit, but Joffery Lupul and Tyler Bozak would get back to back goals for the Toronto shootout win. Toronto's Jonathan Bernier stopped 41 of 43 shots faced in regulation and OT while the Wing's Jimmy Howard faced 26 shots on goal and successfully turned aside 24 of them.
This game was actually slated to take place on New Year's Day 2013, but was cancelled due to the lockout and abbreviated season. Interestingly, this will be the first of many outdoor games scheduled for the 2013-2014 season.
In a move that was likely designed to offset the loss of the 2013 Winter Classic, there are at least five more games in four more venues scheduled this season in what's been dubbed the NHL Stadium Series. On January 25th, the LA Kings and Anaheim Ducks will face off in Dodger Stadium. The following day, on the other side of the country the New York Rangers will host the New Jersey Devils at Yankee Stadium. Three days later, hockey returns to Yankee Stadium when the Rangers and Islanders go head-to-head. On March 1st, the Stadium Series resumes at Chicago's Soldier Field when the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. The NHL's stadium series is slated to wrap up the following day north of the border in Vancouver when the Canucks will host the Ottawa Senators at the BC Palace in the 2014 Tim Horton's Heritage Classic.
As for the New Year's Day Winter Classic, the Washington Capitals are slated to host the game next year, although a venue or opponent haven't been formally announced. There has also been speculation since the inaugural 2008 Winter Classic that Beaver Stadium on the Penn State campus in State College, PA would host an outdoor matchup between Pennsylvania's two NHL franchises- the stadium boasts an even larger seating capacity than Michigan's Big House and is roughly halfway between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
ELSEWHERE IN THE NHL- Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins are getting off on the right foot for 2014. After a 3-2 win against Nashville at home the day after the Winter Classic, the Bruins hosted the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.
Although the Jets got on the board first thanks to a Dustin Byfuglien goal midway through the first, Danny Paille tied it up at 1-1 with a tally for the B's less than 3 minutes later.
The second period was all Torey Krug as he scored two goals a little over four minutes apart for what would turn out to be the game-winner, putting Boston up 3-1. In the 3rd, Reilly Smith would add to Boston's total midway through the period making it a 4-1 game....which would also be the final. Tukka Rask turned aside 35 of 36 shots faced and the Bruins are now in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic division.
The Bruins will hit the road and next play on the west coast on Tuesday night when they take on the Anaheim Ducks- a team that has yet to lose at home in regulation this season- from the Honda Center in Orange County, CA. This one is a pretty late start at 10:00 PM ET and it will be televised on NESN.
Frozen Fenway- the Holy War on Skates. Matthew J Lee photo via @BostonGlobe #NDvsBC #NotreDame #BostonCollege pic.twitter.com/JOvQg6yCxA
— Fenway Nation (@Fenway_Nation) January 6, 2014
NCAA HOCKEY- Ann Arbor's Big House wasn't the only outdoor hockey venue this week. With an outdoor rink set up at Fenway, America's Favorite Ballpark hosted an NCAA Hockey doubleheader over the weekend.
After a 1-1 tie between Providence College and Merrimack, #6 Boston College and #14 Notre Dame took to the ice for the Holy War (on skates!). The Eagles jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Brendan Silk and Johnny Guardeau before Mario Luca scored late for the Irish to cut the lead to 2-1.
The Irish tied it up early in the second with a power play goal from TJ Tynan- the only scoring that would take place in the second period. In the 3rd, the re-took the lead on a shorthanded goal from Bill Arnold, but less than 3 minutes later, the Irish's Bryan Rust tied it back up at 3-3.
Less than a minute later, Johnny Guardeau got his second goal of the night and Eagles netminder Brian Billett would hold off a furious late surge by the Irish for the 4-3 win.
Saturday's game is actually the first of two NCAA Doubleheaders at Fenway- UMass Lowell is slated to take on Northeastern on the afternoon of Jan 11th while Maine will take on the BU Terriers that evening.
Andy Hayt- Getty ImagesMLB- Former Yankees 2nd baseman, WWII Marine fighter pilot and Hall of Fame Broadcaster Jerry Coleman passed away at a California hospital on Sunday at the age of 89. A California native, Coleman reported to the Yankees minor league affiliate in Wellsville, NY after graduating high school at the age of 17. At age 18, he joined the Marine Corps and was flying Dauntless SBD dive bombers on missions in the pacific theater in WWII.
After World War II, Coleman made his major league debut with the Yankees in 1949 and was named the AP's Rookie of the Year that season. Starting in 1951, Coleman missed the bulk of two seasons serving in the Korean war where he served alongside Ted Williams. Coleman, the only big-leaguer to fly combat missions in WWII and Korea [Williams served as a flight instructor during WWII- NANESB!] recounted a harrowing close call Ted Williams had, crash landing after returning from a mission over North Korea.
After returning to the Yankees, Coleman was beset by vision problems and broke his collarbone in 1955. His last season with the Yankees was in 1957, when the Bronx Bombers lost to the Milwaukee Braves in seven games in the World Series. After retiring as a player, Coleman worked in the front office for awhile before making his way to the broadcast booth.
In 1970, Coleman returned to California and broadcast games for the then-California Angels for two seasons. By 1972, Jerry made his way down Interstate 5 to San Diego and would work in their broadcast booth for the San Diego Padres every year except for 1980- which marked an uneventful stint as the Padres manager. The following season, he returned to the broadcast booth and remained there through the 2013 season, earning the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C Frick award in 2005.
The veteran broadcaster was known for peppering his play by play with phrases such as "Oh doctor!" and "You can hang a star on that one!" after a particularly impressive play as well as frequent malapropisms. In recent years, Coleman was working a reduced schedule, covering select daytime home games and doing pregame interviews with Padres manager Bud Black.
Coleman was admitted to a San Diego-area hospital around Christmastime with cerebral hemorrhaging and his condition had worsened over the next several days.
Prior to his being hospitalized, Coleman appeared in a video message filmed in front of the USS Midway museum for Veteran's Day that was released by the San Diego Padres. Coleman is also one of only two people the Padres organization erected statues at PetCo Park to honor- the other being Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn.