Monday, March 31, 2014

Happy National Cleavage Day!


Not this crappy blog again!

Oh great....another one of these made-up corporate holidays. Oh, wait a sec...this one centers around cleavage. In this case, the corporation is Hanes [NYSE- HBI] subsidiary Wonderbra and this particular holiday is designed to sell their line of underwire brassieres.



Believe it or not, the Wonderbra is actually a Canadian invention. In 1939, the Canadian Lady Corset company of Montreal began marketing specialty apparel and undergarments under the WonderBra label.



However, the idea of marketing bras with a day dedicated to the celebration of cleavage started in 2002 thanks to WonderBra's South Africa division. Samantha Patterson- then South Africa's brand manager for WonderBra- said that the whole thing was designed to be tongue in cheek and lighthearted. However, with the rise of social networking and millions of exhibitionists willing to take part via twitter, Pinterst, Tumblr or Instagram, the holiday has begun to take off elsewhere in recent years.



Curiously, as National Cleavage Day begins spreading further afield from South Aftica, there apparently is no conclusive data released that indicates the Wonder-Bra designed holiday leads to a spike in the sales of any particular type of women's undergarments, let alone bras from the Wonderbra brand.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Today's Train Of Thought- Hitting Below the Railbelt, March 30, 2014


Aside from the colloquialism "the wrong side of the tracks", railroads usually don't quite factor into geographic descriptions of a certain area despite many examples of railroads conquering towering mountains, raging rivers and remote wilderness. The Alaska Railroad, which has had to deal with all three plus notoriously brutal winters in it's 100 year history, is proving to be the exception.

While entire European countries can fit into the vast and uninhabited tracts of Alaskan wilderness, the two larger cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks- along with the communities in between are referred to as part of Alaska's Railbelt. The moniker 'railbelt' basically means that the community is accessible by the Alaska Railroad and two of the state's main highways, although even in the more densely populated part of Alaska, this doesn't mean there's a lot of people nearby. Case in point, around Denali National Park, there's nearly 60 miles of track through wilderness that is inaccessible by highway, making the Alaska Railroad one of the last rail lines in North America to operate 'flag stop' passenger service where passengers can flag down a passing train to get on board.

Here, railpictures.net contributor Chad Paulhamus caught Alaska Railroad GP40-2 #3004 heading southbound through Chugiak, AK with a combined work train and mixed freight on March 10, 2012. The 1975-built GP40-2 was purchased new by the Alaska Railroad in the mid-1970s and sent to Illinois in 2008 to be overhauled by National Railway Equipment and given a new paint job. The #3004 is one of fifteen GP40-2s bought new by Alaska and can be seen assigned to anything from yard switcher to the ARR's top of the line Denali Star summertime passenger train.

Opening Day Is Here!

Nobody could sum up my love of baseball better than the late Ernie Hariwell and the final portion of his 1981 Hall of Fame Induction speech.



The 2014 MLB Baseball season technically got underway last weekend in Sydney, Australia when the Los Angeles Dodgers took on the Arizona Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket Ground, sweeping the two-game series Down Under.

However, Sunday night marks the beginning of the 2014 season in the USA- the LA Dodgers will take on the San Diego Padres at PetCo park at 8:05 ET and the game will be televised on ESPN. The Dodgers come into Sunday's game already two games up on the Padres by virtue of the fact that the two games they played in Australia counted as regular season wins. LA's Hyun Jin-Ryu will get the start against San Diego's Andrew Cashner.

Closer to the Hub, the Boston Red Sox will embark on their defense of their 2013 World Series title at Baltimore's Camden Yards. Jon Lester will get the start against Chris Tillman in Baltimore's home opener, and the game will be televised on ESPN2 with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 ET. Once a perennial doormat in the AL East, Baltimore was the only opponent in the division to have a winning record against Boston in 2013 with an 11-8 record versus the BoSox.

The Red Sox home opener is set for Friday, April 4th and it will be interleague play right out of the gate when they host the Milwaukee Brewers. First pitch for the Fenway Park home opener is scheduled for 2:05 and the game will be televised on NESN.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Blue State Graft Watch- California State Senator Who Authored Gun Control Laws Arrested on Charges of Weapons Trafficking, Ties to Organized Crime

Leland Yee- a California state Senator who had ambitions to run for Secretary of State, was arrested as part of a multi-year FBI sting operation on Thursday in San Francisco. The San Francisco Democrat, who authored legislation that would've effectively outlawed ownership of semiautomatic firearms in California, is accused of taking bribes and conspiring to traffic arms with Islamist rebels in the Philippines. According to the federal complaint, the FBI sought to infiltrate a Chinatown triad run by Raymond 'Shrimp Boy' Chow by setting up an elaborate sting and using informants and undercover agents from Hawaii, San Francisco and Atlanta. The list of charges against Yee, Chow and Jackson reads like a pulp novel.

By 2011, undercover agents were in regular contact with not only Chow but State Senator Leland Yee's then-chief of staff Keith Jackson, who served as the president of San Francisco's Board of Education in the 1990s and was also arrested on charges of drug trafficking and murder for hire.

In September 2011, Jackson, Chow and Yee were approached by an undercover agent posing as an Atlanta-based real estate developer who donated $500 to Yee's mayoral campaign. Within days, Yee was calling the developer asking for more money and in October 2011 the developer handed Jackson a $5,000 check made out to his consulting firm but with clear instructions that the cash was meant for Yee's mayoral campaign. However, Yee lost the November 2011 San Francisco mayor's race and was anxious to retire some $70,000 in campaign debt before gearing up for a run at California's Secretary of State.

The developer then introduced Yee and Jackson to a Silicone Valley tech executive- also an undercover FBI agent- who Yee agreed to steer state contracts towards in exchange for campaign donations of $10,000 or more funneled through Jackson's consulting firm.

However, the most explosive and damning charges against Yee stemmed from a meeting with an agent posing as an east coast mobster in San Francisco where Yee offered to facilitate a meeting with an arms dealer who could clandestinely smuggle a number of weapons from Asia in exchange for more campaign donations. Yee asked the mobster to furnish a list of desired weapons and boasted of contacts in the Philippines and Russia who furnished arms for fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines. The organization, which operates under the EXTREMELY misleading acronym of MILF, is responsible for a decades-long series of massacres, kidnappings and beheadings in Mindanao during their insurgency against the Philippine military.

According to the Federal affidavit, Yee knew exactly who he was dealing with. After nickel and diming the undercover agent for his fee to arrange a meeting with the arms dealer, Yee was also furnished a list of arms that included M-16 automatic rifles and shoulder-fired missile launchers.

Yee reportedly enlisted the aid of a Daly City, CA dentist who had contacts within the Philippines to hammer out the details of the $2 million arms deal.

On Wednesday, Yee and 26 others were arrested by federal agents while FBI and officers from the California Highway Patrol in Sacramento were seen carrying boxes of documents from Yee's State Senate office.

In addition to the arms trafficking and quid-pro-quo, Yee also reportedly arranged for introducing an FBI agent posing as a marijuana grower to a number of as-of-yet-unnamed state lawmakers to discuss California's medical marijuana policy in exchange for $20,000 cash.

Yee was one of three Democrats the state Senate voted to suspend this week. Democrat Ron Calderon [D- Montebello] is accused of taking $100,000 in bribes to support tax credits for movie studios to film in-state and preserve a legislative loophole for a hospital that was bilking taxpayer dollars from the state.

State Senator Rod Wright [D- Inglewood] had also been found guilty of voter fraud and perjury after lying about living outside of the district. The senate voted 28-1 to suspend all three lawmakers (with pay)- the lone dissenting vote was State Senator Joel Anderson [R- El Cajon] who thought Yee, Wright and Calderon should be expelled without pay.

As for Yee's gun control law, SB 249 breezed through the Democrat controlled Senate and Assembly but was ultimately vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown in late 2013.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Quickie Sports Chowdah Update- Bruins Shut Out Hawks After Win Streak Snapped; Bills Owner Ralph Wilson Passes Away; NLRB Rules Northwestern Football Players Can Unionize

NHL- Well, the impressive win streak came to an end on Monday night when the Montreal Canadiens won by a 2-1 final in a shootout at the TD Garden- altho' the Bruins point streak remained intact for the time being. Monday night's loss marks the first loss for the Bruins since March 1st when the Capitals doubled them up by a 4-2 final at DC's Verizon Center.



On Thursday night, Boston would host the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks- the first time the Hawks had visited the Garden since their Series-clinching Game 6 at the end of the 2013 season.



Patrice Bergeron got the Bruins on the board with 8:10 to go to open up the scoring on a very crisp and free-flowing game. After a scoreless second period, the Bruins managed to score two goals less at 13 seconds apart from Carl Soderberg and Patrice Bergeron to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead early in the 3rd. That seemed to change the tempo of the game and the Bruins would go on to win by a 3-0 final. Tukka Rask turned aside all 28 shots he faced while Cory Crawford stopped 20 of 23 shots.

Part of the reason the game seemed so brisk and open was that there were only three penalties throughout Thursday night's game- the Blackhhawks went 0 for 2 while the Bruins went 0 for 1.

The Bruins hit the road once again this weekend for back to back games. On Saturday afternoon, they'll return to Washington DC's Verizon Center to take on the Capitals. Puck is scheduled to drop at 12:30 PM and the game will be televised on NESN. On Sunday, the Bruins will travel up to Philadelphia for a 12:30 game that will be nationally televised on NBC.


NFL- Ralph Wilson, the sole owner of the Buffalo Bills, has passed away at age 95 in his Grosse Pointe Shores, MI home. Wilson, who grew up in Detroit and attended the University of Michigan law school before enlisting in the US Navy in WWII. After the end of the war, Wilson took over his family's successful insurance and invested in manufacturing and mining throughout Michigan and was a minority stakeholder in the Detroit Lions.

In 1959, Wilson reportedly got wind of the oilman Lamar Hunt's plans to establish the American Football League to compete with the NFL and wanted in. The Buffalo Bills officially became an AFL team in October 1959 and have remained in Buffalo ever since. Wilson reportedly even lent money to the Patriots and Raiders in the early years of the AFL, ensuring that the none of the organizations in the AFL folded between its 1959 inception and the 1969 merger with the NFL.

Wilson was also something of a pioneer- as early as 1972, he begrudgingly allowed the naming rights to the Orchard Park, NY stadium the Bills called home to be leased to Buffalo-based Rich Foods. When the agreement lapsed in 1998, the stadium was simply referred to as Ralph Wilson Stadium

Although considered a 'small market' team, the Bills had their heyday in the 1990s when they won four straight AFC titles- only to lose four straight Super Bowls. The team's poor performance in recent years coupled with Wilson's ailing health and playing one 'home' game a season in Toronto's Rogers Centre starting in 2008 led to speculation that the team was preparing to move north of the border and become Canada's first NFL franchise. In 2009, Wilson was elected to the pro-football Hall of Fame as one of the founding members of the AFL, although he was notably absent from an October 2009 ceremony during halftime between the Bills and Browns where he was to receive his Hall of Fame ring.

However, even though Wilson left no clear heir apparent, Wilson made arrangements to extend the team's lease on Ralph Wilson stadium through at least 2019.


ELSEWHERE IN THE AFC EAST- The New York Jets and free-agent QB Michael Vick have agreed to a 1-year $5 million contract. Vick and last season's starter Geno Smith are expected to compete for the starting spot after the Jets cut former 1st round draft pick Mark Sanchez. Vick had finished the 2013 campaign for Philly on the bench with 7 TDs, 3 INTS and 1,215 yards in 7 games. Interestingly, shortly after the Jets announced the signing of Michael Vick, the Eagles announced that they had signed Mark Sanchez to a 1-year, $4 million contract.

One of the top draft picks of the NFL's 2001 draft, Vick spent the first five years of his NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons until his name came up in a narcotics and dogfighting investigation in Virginia. In 2007, Vick pleaded guilty to charges of operating an illegal dogfighting operation on his property and spent 23 months in a federal penitentiary. In 2009, the Philadelphia Eagles gambled and signed a recently-released Vick who would go on to lead the Eagles to the playoffs as well as leading the NFC in a number of offensive categories.


NCAA FOOTBALL- In a decision that will likely send shockwaves throughout NCAA Football, the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that football players for Northwestern University can unionize. District director Pete Sung Ohr ruled that because of the time commitment required and on-field performance being tied to some of the scholarships the university awarded.

The ruling contradicts a number of case laws in which courts have established that student-athletes are not considered employees in the eyes of the law. However, the scope of the NLRB's ruling is somewhat limited, applying to only 17 of the more than 100 universities they compete against. Not only does this week's NLRB ruling seem to establish a different set of rules for private colleges with a football program than public ones, many of the arguments made in favor of unionization directly contradict the rationale behind why scholarships aren't taxed, ESPN's Darren Rovell points out. Assuming the NLRB's decision does in fact survive an appeal, this means that the tax implications alone could make unionization unfeasible.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Today's Train of Thought- When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like A Big Fish Fry, March 27th, 2014



Once upon a time, when travel by rail was still prevalent, the thousands of railway stations along various lines throughout the USA had actually served their intended purpose. But as the number of intercity passenger trains declined due to the advent of jet travel and the interstate highway system, railroads began to tear them down, sell them off or at least use the structures for other purposes like storage or maintenance-of-way. Some big city passenger stations- such as Los Angeles Union Station or Washington DC's Union Station still serve their intended purpose while the passenger stations in Buffalo or Detroit are oversized decaying relics neglected for decades.

For some of the small towns along the rails, the fate of their depots are actually far more varied. Some towns depots still serve as active passenger stations for Amtrak or other passenger rail lines to this day, while others are still standing as derelict hulks, businesses, private homes or municipal offices- even if the rails that once served it have been ripped out years ago. For instance, along some of the former Boston & Maine, Central Vermont or Boston & Albany rail lines in western New England are former depots that serve as restaurants, beauty salons, breweries, bank branches or even a workshop that makes components for AR-15 rifles.

It's no different in the upper Midwest, either. Today's train of thought takes us to the former Milwaukee Road line through North Prairie, WI. Here, railpictures.net contributor Eric Shicotte caught Wisconsin Southern SD40-2 #4011 trundling past the former Milwaukee Road depot off of Main Street with Horicon, WI to Janesville, WI symbol freight T-004 in March 2013. As you can tell from the signage in the foreground, this old Milwaukee Road structure is now home to Tenerelli's Italian Restaurant [no reviews on Yelp, but on Google+ it rates 4.5 stars- NANESB!]. And as that other bit of signage indicates, not only does Tenerelli's offer Italian fare, but it also takes part in that time-honored Midwestern tradition of the Friday night fish fry.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

At Least Two Boston Firefighters Killed Battling 9-Alarm Back Bay Blaze


Two Boston firefighters were killed in the line of duty and at least 13 more were injured on Wednesday while fighting a 9-alarm fire in a Beacon Street brownstone. The fire started in the basement of the building but quickly burned all the way up through the roof, although the building's residents were able to evacuate in time using the fire escape. Officials with the Boston Fire Department believe the blaze spread as quickly as it did due to abnormally strong winds coming off the Charles River on Wednesday afternoon.

One woman who lived in the building and was home when the fire started said, "I was in the apartment and I heard shouting and yelling and the people that were in the building next door were going down the fire escape and two seconds later, the firemen were there. So I looked out the window and I saw the smoke and I was like I gotta get out of here so I grabbed my laptops and this box and I left. And then, as I was leaving the smoke was coming into the building, into the apartment and the firemen were there yelling, 'Everybody get out.'"

She was on the second floor of the building when the fire started. Once out of the building, she saw smoke and people throwing suitcases out of the windows.

Another man, who was on the first floor of the building when the fire started, said, "I saw the smoke start coming up, I saw people climbing down from the top floor. The fire and police were there almost right away. There was a lot of smoke, there was a small explosion at the beginning of the fire, and it just got worse and worse."



The cause of the blaze hasn't been determined yet, but a Boston Fire Department spokesman identified the two firefighters who were killed as Lt Ed Walsh and fireman Michael Kennedy. Walsh, 43, had been with the department for nearly a decade and was married with three children. Kennedy was a 33 year old combat veteran in the Marine Corps and resided in Hyde Park. Both firemen were with Engine 33- Kennedy was pulled alive from the building but later died at Massachusetts General Hospital while Walsh was found in the basement of the building.

Wednesday's fire is the deadliest fire in Boston since the 1972 Vendome Hotel Fire along Commonwealth Ave killed nine firemen when a portion of the hotel collapsed on the men and their truck.

Blue State Graft Watch- Rhode Island Speaker of the House Resigns After Feds Raid Offices

Gordon Fox, a Rhode Island democrat who held the distinction of being the first openly gay speaker of the state house in the USA, abruptly announced that he was resigning from his role as speaker shortly after the FBI, IRS and Rhode Island State Police raided his home and office this week.

The joint effort by Rhode Island state troopers, and investigators from the FBI, the IRS and the U.S. Attorney’s office, began in mid-morning, when troopers took up positions outside Fox’s office.

The troopers would not answer questions about why they had closed off access to the speaker’s State House office. They referred questions to the U.S. Attorney’s office, which provided no further details. Soon after, FBI and IRS agents arrived.


As to the nature of the documents the investigators took, Berman said: “Business-related. They looked like files, but I am not sure.” When asked if that included legal files, Berman noted that Fox has “a separate law office on Dorrance Street where he practices his law.”

“They weren’t asking, from what I understand, for legislative documents, which are all on line and available anyway,” Berman said.

While investigators searched Fox’s State House office, more than a dozen FBI and IRS investigators were searching his East Side home. (A Fox confidante said the investigators asked Fox to leave, but allowed his spouse, Marcus LaFond, to remain behind to look after Fox’s 91-year-old mother.)

The investigators emerged from the house shortly before 2 p.m. in single file, carrying boxes and navigating a gauntlet of media. As a few of the investigators in dark suits watched, others wearing windbreakers emblazoned with “Evidence Response Team” quickly loaded the boxes into a white unmarked truck parked across the street and drove off.

Although the US Attorney declined to specify the charges against Fox, the Providence Democrat has had prior legal and ethics violations. Earlier this year, Fox agreed to pay a $1500 fine after he failed to disclose $43,000 he made preparing loan documents for a local economic development agency. A decade prior, Fox was fined $10,000 for voting on a $770 million lottery deal that assured work would be steered towards his law firm at the time, according to the Providence Journal.

Fox's resignation abruptly triggered an internal struggle among Democrats in the Ocean State after then-house majority leader Nicholas Mattiello [D- Cranston] called for a closed-door caucus at the Providence Marriott as soon as Fox stepped down as speaker. However, a number of members of the House weren't even informed of the caucus until well after the fact. By Tuesday, Mattiello was voted in by colleagues as Rhode Island's latest Speaker of the House.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

At Least 16 Killed, 176 Unaccounted For in Washington State Landslide


Volunteers and first responders using everything from power equipment to their bare hands are frantically searching through mud and wrecked homes in the northwestern corner of Washington state after a deadly landslide flattened dozens of home and blocked a state highway as well as the nearby Stillagumish River.

Searchers in the Snohomish County community of Oso found two more bodies in the mud and debris on Tuesday and authorities feared that the death toll could climb.

Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington has confirmed two more bodies have been recovered and eight more bodies located in Saturday's landslide.

The announcement put the official death toll at 16, with the possibility of 24 dead once the other bodies are confirmed. Searchers found no living survivors Tuesday buried in the tons of mud and crumpled homes in Oso, about 55 miles northeast of Seattle.

The grim discoveries further demoralized the four-day search, as the threat of flash floods or another landslide loomed over the rescuers. With scores still missing, authorities are working off a list of 176 people unaccounted for, though some names were believed to be duplicates. Pennington said an updated number would be available Wednesday.

Both Pennington and Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots acknowledged the chances of finding survivors was small, but said the effort remained a rescue and recovery operation.

"We haven't lost hope there's a possibility that we could find somebody alive in some pocket area as the days go on," said Hots. "We are coming to the realization that may not be a possibility, but we are going full steam ahead. Even if we said it was a recovery operation, we are still going at this like I indicated earlier on all eight cylinders. We are going at this hard."

Hots said about 200 responders using everything from heavy equipment and search dogs to their bare hands were working through the debris field Tuesday in rainy, wet conditions.

There were also concerns that communities further upstream from the massive landslide could be flooded from the blocked Stillagumish river as well as accumulated rainfall that is forecast. However, a spokesperson for the Snohomish County Sheriff's department says that the river is starting to trickle through and around the blockage caused by the massive landslide. The slide was also big enough to be detected by the University of Washington's seismic listening devices at the school's Pacific Northwest Seismic Network- although scientists were quick to point out that the landslide wasn't necessarily triggered by an earthquake. As recently as 2006 there had been significant landslides in that part of Snohomish county, only not as destructive as Sunday's landslide.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

In the 'Zona Sports Chowdah Update- Arizona Iced B's, Bruins Rally Late for 12th Straight Win; Thunder Down Under, Dodgers and Diamondbacks Open Up 2014 MLB Season at Sydney Cricket Grounds

Ross D Franklin- AP

NHL- Less than 24 hours after getting their 11th straight win in Colorado [a 2-0 shutout with their backup goalie, no less- NANESB!] the Boston Bruins made their way to Arizona to take on the Phoenix Coyotes for the second time in 8 days.

Although the Coyotes started out aggressively, Patrice Bergeron drew first blood with a goal just 3:25 into the first period. However, with less than four minutes to go, Coyotes Captain Shane Doan got the equalizer to tie the game up at 1-1. Also in the final 30 seconds of the first, Boston's Matt Bartkowski was sent to the sin bin for tripping. Although the Coyotes weren't able to do anything in the dying seconds of the first, most of that penalty would carry over to the second period where Phoenix's Oliver Ekman-Larsson would put the Coyotes on top 2-1.



This was actually the first time in seven games that the Bruins had trailed, but just 3:48 into the 3rd period, Jarome Iginla would get the equalizer to make it a 2-2 game. After twelve minutes of quick, intense and at times chippy play where it looked as though the contest would be heading for overtime, Shawn Thornton put Boston back on top with 3:18 left in regulation. Shortly after the go-ahead goal, the Coyotes pulled netminder Mike Smith for an extra attacker- however, Iginla was able to corral the puck out by the blue line and shot it for a back-breaking empty net goal with 30 seconds to go in regulation.

Boston goes on to win its 12th straight in game- this time before a standing-room only crowd of nearly 17,500 at Glendale's Jobing.com arena. Iginla has now scored 10 goals in the Bruin's last nine games while Tukka Rask stopped 31 of 33 shots faced in Glendale. By way of comparison, Mike Smith had faced 27 shots on goal and turned aside 24. The win gives Boston sole possession of the Eastern Conference lead [the 103 points is currently tied with St Louis for the best in the NHL- NANESB!]. The Bruins are now two wind shy of tying a franchise record of 14 straight wins that was set during the 1929-1930 season.

After Saturday's contest in the Grand Canyon state, the Bruins will travel back to Boston for a Monday night prime time matchup against the Montreal Canadiens. Puck is scheduled to drop and the game will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network.


Mark Kolbe- Getty

MLB- As the Bruins and Coyotes were going head-to-head, some 7800 miles away the MLB season was getting underway Down Under. As in previous seasons, MLB had decided to start the regular season overseas while most teams were still winding down Spring Training. This time around, the season got underway as the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks went head-to-head in Australia at the Sydney Cricket ground over the weekend. The 48,000 seat cricket venue was painstakingly converted to a ballpark for the MLB's downunder opener.

The Dodgers took Friday's Game 1 by a final of 3-1. It looked as though they were on their way to an easy sweep of the two game series after getting out to a 7-0 lead against Arizona, but the Diamondbacks got on the board in the bottom of the 8th with an RBI single from offseason pickup Mark Trumbo to make it 7-1. With one out in the bottom of the 9th and runners on second and third, Martin Prado cut the lead to make it 7-3 Dodgers. Not wanting to take any more chances, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly brought start Paul Maholm into the game to get the final two outs and kill the Arizona rally. However, after striking out Miguel Montero, Mattingly brought in reliever Kenley Jansen, who immediately offered up a booming homer to Trumbo to pull the Diamondbacks to within two runs. However, Jansen would then strike out Martin Prado to end the ballgame, giving the Dodgers a sweep of the Sydney series.

The Dodgers will resume regular season play next weekend- this time on the same continent- as they face the San Diego Padres at PETCo Park in San Diego on Sunday, March 30th. First pitch is scheduled for 8:05 ET and the game will be televised on ESPN.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Japanese Budget Airline Under Fire From Critics For Retro-Style Stewardess Uniforms



And now for some aviation news out of the Pacific Rim that doesn't involve a Malaysian Boeing 777-200 that's gone walkabout.

A Japanese labor union has lashed out at budget carrier Skymark for introducing a retro-style flight attendant's uniform that prominently features miniskirts.

The new uniform consists of a short, fitted Sixties’ style minidress in royal blue, accessorised with large yellow neck bows, small hats, sheer tights and heels.

Criticisms were led by the Japan Federation of Cabin Attendants, which issued a statement opposing the length of the new dresses and questioning the budget airline’s motivation behind such a move.

Highlighting its concern that the uniform could invite sexual harassment, it read: “We’re concerned that the design of this uniform may cause problems.

“The airline is saying the uniform is meant to attract more customers, but this shows the company is treating women like a commodity.”

Fears of passengers leering at cabin attendant’s legs or even taking pictures up their skirts with a mobile phone were among a string of concerns posted in comments onto the union’s website.

On a practical level, there were queries as to how the staff would be able to fulfill their duties, such as bending over, serving food and reaching above their heads while wearing such short skirts.

However, the airline countered that the uniforms were meant to promote the arrival of new Airbus 330s to the company's fleet and were primarily intended for promotional appearances more than in-flight service. A spokesman for Skymark said that the uniform would be voluntary [Having actually flown on an Asian flag carrier, I can tell you that the hiring preferences for stewardesses tends toward attractive, unmarried women under the age of 30].

While the uniforms are reminiscent of the golden age of jet travel, Skymark Airlines is pretty new itself. Founded in late 1996 after Japan de-regulated their domestic airline industry, Skymark began regular service in 1998 with a fleet of Boeing 767s and 737s. The larger, widebody 767s were retired by 2009 and initiated leases on seven Airbus A330s- the first of which arrived in January of this year. Currently Skymark competes with the domestic arms of JAL and All Nippon Airways as well as a number of commuter and regional airlines.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Today's Train of Thought- Springtime Is Near-Lee Here, March 20th 2014



Today's train of thought takes us to the hills of western Massachusetts and the busy-yet-picturesque Housatonic Railroad.


The hills of Berkshire County generally get more snow accumulation than the valleys, forests and open terrain further east- although this winter, much of New England got shellacked by old man winter regardless of elevation. Still, while places in the New York or Boston metropolitan area may only get a light dusting, this translates into more snow for ski resorts and bucolic state parks in the far west corner of Massachusetts [even if Mother Nature or old man winter can't provide the white stuff in a timely manner, the resorts are often equipped with snowmaking equipment for the slopes- NANESB!].


Neglected and split in two by indifferent class one railroads, the former New York, New Haven & Hartford's Canaan running track between Danbury, CT and Pittsfield, MA runs through the heart of this territory sought out by skiers and snow-shoers in the wintertime. Since dieselization, the New Haven provided both freight and passenger service on the line with Alco RS3s and self-propelled Budd RDCs. However, by 1969 the bankrupt New Haven's assets were purchased by the Penn Central- the ill-fated merger between the New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroad that would give way to Conrail in early 1976. The Canaan running track was one of many branchlines Conrail wasn't interested in, since two years prior the middle section between Boardman Bridge and New Milford, CT was abandoned and not included in the formation of Conrail. By 1982, the stretch just south of the Connecticut state line in Canaan and the Conrail interchange at Pittsfield, MA was purchased by the Boston & Maine. However, within two years the B&M would become part of Guilford and the line was still considered a fairly insignificant backwater and prime candidate for abandonment.


But in 1983, a company revived the name of New Haven predecessor Housatonic Railway and began operating nearly 30 miles of the abandoned ex-New Haven track that wasn't included in Conrail. By 1992, the Housatonic had purchased the Canaan running track from Guilford and was able to interchange with Conrail's former Boston & Albany mainline in Pittsfield, MA.


Both carloadings and speed limits were low in the early years as the Housatonic operated with a hand-me-down SW switcher, a GP9 and a rebuilt RS3. Traffic north of Canaan usually consisted of plastic products from Beckton Dickinson in Canaan and paper products from the Mead-Westvaco paper plant in Lee, MA. Throughout the 1990s, improvements were made to the tracks that allowed the Housatonic to operate longer trains with bigger power in the form of five rebuilt former Pennsy GP35s between Danbury and Pittsfield.


Here- railpictures.net contributor Ryan Parent catches Housatonic GP35M #3604 busting through a snowbank behind the old Hurlbut paper mill in Lee, MA in March 2008 with symbol freight NX-13x [a revival of New Haven-era train symbols- NANESB!]. Besides the plastic pellets, and paper traffic, the Housatonic has also been kept busy hauling lumber, propane, trash, limestone, construction debris and even the occasional carnival train.


The Housatonic is also fairly unique in that it is one of the few revenue freight carriers in the USA that is seriously looking into reviving passenger service- the only way into and out of some of these ski areas in the Berkshires from Connecticut and New York's suburbs is usually a narrow and winding US Route 7. Passenger service along the Canaan running track would save a lot of hassle and treacherous wintertime driving for a number of visitors.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ten Days Later, Still No Answers on Whereabouts of Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370


More than ten days after a Malaysian Airlines 777-200 vanished from radar, investigators are no closer to finding the missing airliner than they were the weekend Kuala Lumpur to Beijing Flight MH370 disappeared. Apparently the first three days were spent looking for signs of the downed airliner in the wrong ocean, as both the Malaysian and Thai military radar tracked an unidentified aircraft on a westward trajectory across the Malay peninsula shortly after air traffic controllers in Malaysia and Vietnam had lost track of MH370.

Since the March 8th disappearance, every new development has seemingly been a false lead or raised more questions than answers. Theoretically the aircraft could be on the bottom of the Indian Ocean or at a remote landing strip anywhere between Kazakhstan and the Australian Outback, but there have been no signs of the missing flight since March 8th. My pet theory about the plane being hijacked or intentionally crashed by Islamists working on behalf of Uighurs in western China seems to be not farfetched enough.


However, searchers were erroneously directed to a debris field in the South China Sea after media reports began circulating that a Chinese satellite had snapped images of what appeared to be wreckage and debris on the water- presumably from MH370. Investigators are now convinced that the missing flight banked left and continued westward in an erratic pattern long after the transponder was disabled, heading in the direction of India's remote Nicobar Islands when it was last tracked by radar. According to avionics data that was sent to the engine's manufacturer via satellite, the missing airliner was aloft for at least another four hours. However, the signals sent via satellite could not be used to pinpoint the aircraft's exact location.

Over the weekend, Malaysian officials ruled that Flight MH370's disappearance was due to a deliberate act and was treating the disappearance as a hijacking. Aviation officials believe that the aircraft flew as high as 45,000 feet- beyond the manufacturer's recommended cruising altitude- and at times as low as 4900 feet once it pivoted west.

Villagers along Malaysia's eastern coast reported to local police that they had heard what sounded like a low-flying jet the same night MH370 went missing. Authorities in the Maldives are also investigating a report that fishermen on the southern island of Kuda Huvadhoo saw a white 'jumbo jet' with red stripes flying overhead at a low altitude shortly after dawn- colors consistent with the Malaysia Airlines paint scheme.

Currently, 26 nations- including the USA- are involved in the search for the missing airliner. More than 150 of the 239 passengers and crew on board the vanished airliner were from China and that country has undertaken a search of their western territories in the event that MH370 resumed a northbound trajectory after vanishing.

Investigators are also looking at both the pilot and co-pilot. Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah had more than 30 years flight experience and had built a home-made flight simulator at his suburban Kuala Lumpur residence. On Monday, police raided Shah's residence and were combing through the flight simulator for any possible clues. Shortly after the plane's disappearance, an Australian TV report claimed that MH370's co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, had allowed an Australian woman and her friend into the cockpit during a December 2011 flight from Phuket, Thailand to Kuala Lumpur, representing a major security breach.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Erin Go Bragh-Less! Happy St Patrick's Day From Not Another New England Sports Blog!


'Tis the time of year when Americans celebrate Ireland's patron saint driving out all the snakes from the Emerald Isle by coloring everything from their beers to nearby rivers green. The holiday, which is recognized by the Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox Churches actually marks the arrival of Christianity in Ireland- although over time, the legend grew to Saint Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland (with 'snakes' most likely being an allegory for Pagan beliefs).

While celebrations in cities like New York, Dublin and Chicago being large and boisterous, in 1999 the tiny village of Dripsey in County Cork went to the other extreme to mark the arrival of the new millennium and began hosting the world's shortest St Patrick's Day parade- 26 yards between the village's two pubs; the Weigh Inn and the Lee Valley. The idea stuck, and while the parade has garnered more and more particpants over the last 15 years and includes antique autos and tractors, the distance remains the same.

Although I'm not sure if the scarlet-tressed beauty shown above is going to Dripsey's St Patrick's Day, she should probably get a move on and finish her sweater for whatever St Patrick's Day event she's going out to.

The image is actually from a 1952 piece by Gil Elvgren called 'A Spicy Yarn'. Both the red hair and the green yarn were part of the 60+ year old original and haven't been photoshopped or modified for the St Patrick's Day Holiday.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Quickie Sports Chowdah Update- Category 8, Bruins Top 'Canes For 8th Straight Win and Season Sweep;


BOSTON BRUINS- March is shaping up to be a terrific month for the Bruins. After their rout of Montreal on Wednesday night, the B's returned home to face the Phoenix Coyotes who were fighting to secure one of the final playoff berths out west. The Bruins did all of their scoring in the first, with Zdeno Chara and Jarome Iginla accounting for all the Boston goals before Phoenix's Lauri Korpikoski ended Tukka Rask's shutout bid about midway through the third and cut the Boston lead in half. However, the Bruins would hang on to win by a 2-1 final.

On Saturday afternoon, the Bruins would play host to the Carolina Hurricanes, who were a game over .500 and looking to get into the 8th and final playoff spot in the East with a few weeks to go in the regular season.



Milan Lucic opened up the scoring for Boston in the first with 4:32 to go after driving a Krejci rebound past 'Canes goalie Cam Ward. With just over 2 and a half minutes to go in the second, Iginla gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead. However, three minutes into the 3rd stanza, Alexander Semin made it a 1-goal game for the 'Canes when Chad Johnson couldn't corral a bouncing puck. However, the Bruins would pile on three unanswered goals later on in the 3rd (from Chris Kelly, Iginla and Torey Krug) to go on and win by a final of 5-1.

Chad Johnson stopped 29 of 30 shots faced while Iginla would have a two-goal game, scoring three goals since Thursday's contest against Phoenix. The Bruins will next host the Minnesota Wild on Monday night before embarking on a 3-game road trip that takes them to New Jersey, Colorado and Phoenix. Monday night's game will be nationally televised on NBC Sports with the puck scheduled to drop at 7:30 PM ET.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NHL- Even with the Bruins on a hot streak, it seemed like it still wasn't enough to vault past the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Eastern Conference lead as recently as Thursday's contest against the Coyotes. However, the Bruins got a lot of help this weekend from the Flyers when they swept a home-and-away series against the Penguins. After shutting out the Penguins at home by a 4-0 final on Saturday, Philly edged the Pens by a 4-3 final at Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center on Sunday afternoon.

The Bruins currently sit atop the Eastern Conference with 95 points, and Pittsburgh missed an opportunity to gain any ground on Sunday and now remain three points behind.

MLB- The team with baseball's biggest payroll- the LA Dodgers- have broken camp on their spring training facility at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, AZ and are currently enroute to Australia where they will take on the Arizona Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia's largest city as well as an exhibition game against Australia's national team.

The two games (which are scheduled for March 22nd at 4 AM and 10 PM ET, respectively) mark the start of the 2014 MLB regular season while the rest of the league gets started on March 31st.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Today's Train of Thought- Shuffle Off to Buffalo the Hoosier State; March 14 2014



Today's Train of Thought takes us to Indiana and an impressive engineering feat for a part of the country many people assume is as flat as a pancake.

Back in the 1980s, the Illinois Central Gulf embarked on a divestment spree, getting rid of hundreds of miles of track in the Midwest and deep south to focus on their key Chicago-New Orleans route. One of these railroads got its start in 1986 is the Indiana railroad, which recently celebrated its 27th year of operation. The INRD took over operations of the 155 mile former Illinois Central line between Newton, IL to Indianapolis in 1986- which includes a number of trestles and even a tunnel southwest of Indianapolis. While other IC spinoffs from that same timeframe have folded or been absorbed by other Class I carriers, the INRD has been steadily expanding in recent years- purchasing brand new EMD SD90MACs and expanding their reach to Chicago and Louisville, KY via acquisitions and trackage rights.

Here railpictures.net contributor Pat Lynch caught Indiana Railroad SD40-2 #4001 leading symbol freight SAHW [Senate Avenue in Indianapolis to HiaWatha Yard in Jasonville, IN- NANESB!] trundling across the 970 foot Shuffle Creek Trestle along Lake Lemon in Unionville, IN on January 25th, 2011. Trailing the #4001 is another INRD SD40-2 and a Helm Leasing SD60 while nearby is the only tunnel on the Indiana Railroad- the 500 foot Unionville Tunnel.

As impressive as the Shuffle Creek Trestle is, it's not even the longest trestle on the INRD- that honor is reserved for the 2300 ft Richland Creek Trestle- known to some as the Tulip Testle. Both structures were completed in 1906.

Look for the Union Label- NLRB Accuses Longshoreman's Union of Threatening to Rape Family Members of Grain Terminal Manager; Buffalo Area Union Boss Found Guilty of Racketeering

The National Labor Relations Board has accused striking dockworkers from the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union of assaulting security guards hired by United Grain at the port of Vancouver, WA and in at least one instance, locked out ILWU workers had threatened to sexually assault the daughter of a United Grain manger during a yearlong lockout.

The most shocking accusations are contained in Hooks’ case against International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 4 in Vancouver.

After investigating charges filed by the company, Hooks alleged longshore picketers shone spotlights into vehicles entering and exiting United Grain’s terminal, blocking drivers’ vision and causing permanent eye injury to a security officer. Hooks alleged locked-out workers recklessly pursued company vans, threatened to harm Columbia River pilots and pinned a security officer’s leg under a moving vehicle.

Hooks alleged that Local 4 members “threatened to rape the daughter of one of the employer’s managers,” and implied threats to harm a manager’s children by telling him they would “see his children at school” and asking, “are (his) children okay today?”

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this is not that members of the international Longshoreman and Warehouse union were capable of this, but the accusations come from a NLRB board perceived by critics as being packed with individuals far more sympathetic to labor bosses than business.

This would not be the first time in recent years an ILWU Local in Washington state resorted to threats, extortion and intimidation during a contract dispute. In 2011, members of the ILWU Local 21 in Columbia, WA blocked trains, cut air lines and dumped grain from rail cars, vandalized vehicles belonging to non-union employees at the port and threatened security guards with baseball bats and axe-handles during a dispute with EGT Grain in Longview. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against ILWU Local 21 and the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Department arrested more than 100 workers on various charges. The Longshoreman's Union then attempted to launch a recall campaign against Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson, which went absolutely nowhere.

Meanwhile, on the other side, the president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 17 in Buffalo, NY was found guilty in a federal court of running a criminal enterprise out of the IUOE Local.

Prosecutors claim the criminal conduct by Operating Engineers Local 17 touched many of the region’s biggest construction projects, including Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Ralph Wilson Stadium, and added millions of dollars to the cost of those projects.

The verdict, which came after a six-week trial featuring 80 witnesses, ends a prosecution that began with the indictment of 12 union members in 2008.

Most of those defendants eventually pleaded guilty, but five elected to stand trial, and four of those five were found not guilty Friday.

At the heart of the case was the allegation that a “Local 17 Criminal Enterprise” operated from 1997 through 2007 with the intention of forcing construction companies into hiring its members and punishing those that refused.

The defendants were accused of vandalizing work sites by pouring a sandlike abrasive into the engines of heavy machinery and throwing sharp metal objects called “stars” under the tires of trucks.

In one instance, a Local 17 member, Michael J. Caggiano, was accused of stabbing the president of a local company in the neck with a knife.

The verdict followed a trial in which the prosecution painted Local 17 as a union knee-deep in corruption.

Dozens of contractors and former union members, many of them testifying as part of plea deals with the government, took the witness stand to tell stories of threats, fear and vandalism.

In the end, the jury found Kirsch, the union’s longtime president and business manager and a well-known figure in government and political circles, responsible for much of the wrongdoing.

They also found him to be part of a racketeering conspiracy that prosecutors claim existed at Local 17

The FBI, which also played a major role in the investigation, said the verdict is simply the last chapter in a story of how Local 17’s “pompous attitudes and violence-riddled acts had a tremendous impact on this city.”

“The union members who pleaded guilty and were found guilty in this case made honest working people go to work in fear of being stabbed or assaulted, even more so than I do as a law enforcement officer,” said Brian P. Boetig, special agent in charge of the FBI in Buffalo.

Kirsch will be sentenced at a later date- the charges carry a maximum of 20 yeears.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Quickie Sports Chowdah Update- Peverly Collapses on Stars Bench, Rushed to Hospital; Bruins Have Fruitful Road Trip In Florida; Buyer Be-Ware, NFL Free Agency Begins

DALLAS STARS- Former Boston Bruins forward Rich Peverley collapsed on the Dallas Stars bench in the first period of Monday night's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets before being rushed to a local hospital with what doctors are calling a 'cardiac event'.

Shortly after Columbus took a 1-0 lead thanks for former Bruin, there was a commotion by the Dallas bench as Stars head coach Lindy Ruff called for medics to tend to the fallen Peverley. There was several moments of confusion among the broadcasters and the crowd as they attempted to identify the downed player and the reason medics were tending to him [I heard the Stars play-by-play live on the radio; the arena was as quiet as a mausoleum after Peverley had collapsed- NANESB!].

After Peverley was rushed to UT Southwestern Hospitals, the officials conferred and it was announced that the game would be suspended with the makeup date to be announced later.

On Wednesday, after the forward briefly addressed the media, it was announced that Peverley would miss the remainder of the season after undergoing a heart procedure this upcoming weekend. When he first arrived in Dallas after the trade with Boston, team doctors were reportedly aware of Peverley's atrial fibrillation- a common heart condition- and gave him the option of a less invasive procedure or surgery that could cost him several months of playing time. After missing the first game of the regular season, Peverley opted for the less invasive procedure and played in 60 consecutive games before complaining of discomfort last week. After missing a game, Peverley played in two more games prior to his Monday night collapse.



OTHER STARS NEWS- Although Dallas is largely in control of their own destiny when it comes to securing one of the remaining Western Conference playoff berths, the Stars were having problems with injuries to their starting players even before Peverly's cardiac event on Monday night. After a pregame ceremony on Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild in which Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach were on hand, the Dallas Stars retired Mike Modano's #9 jersey.

With the game tied at 3-3 with just over six and a half minutes to go in regulation, goalie Kari Lehtonen was knocked out of the game after a collision with Minnesota's Erik Haula in which Lehtonen hit his head on the crossbar of the goal. Fresh off the trade from Florida, former Bruins netminder Tim Thomas came into the game- complete with pads still in Florida Panthers colors- and turned aside all six shots he faced as Erik Cole put Dallas up for good with a breakaway goal with just under 5 minutes to go in regulation, giving Dallas the 4-3 win.

On Monday, it was confirmed that Lehtonen suffered a concussion from the Haula hit, making Tim Thomas the Stars starting goalie within days of his arrival. Between coming in with 6 minutes to go in regulation and Monday night's postponed game after the Peverley scare, Tuesday night marked the first start (and complete game) for Tim Thomas when the Stars travelled to St Louis to take on the Blues. The goalie matchup seemed a little reminiscent of the Northeast Division anytime between 2006 and 2012, with ex-Sabre Ryan Miller getting the start for St Louis.

St Louis got out to a 1-0 lead in the first after Alex Pietrangelo beat Thomas with about 7 minutes to go in the first. With the game tied at 2-2, the contest headed to overtime and Jamie Benn broke the deadlock to give Dallas the OT win with 1:18 to go. Tuesday night's loss was also notable in that it was the Blue's first loss since acquiring Ryan Miller from Buffalo earlier this month.

BOSTON BRUINS- You know it's been a pretty crazy week if I'm giving the Bruins second billing to a team from the Lone Star state on a blog called Not Another New England Sports Blog!

And it's been an eventful week for the Boston Bruins- particularly their 2-0 road trip through Florida over the weekend. After coming from behind to force overtime, the Bruins eventually came out on top against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night after Reilly Smith got the only goal of a 7-round shootout.

On Sunday, the Bruins managed to down the Florida Panthers by a 5-2 final, setting up a key game in Montreal where the Bruins were hoping to get their first win against the Habs this season while continuing their win streak and pulling to within a point of the Penguins.



I'll be honest...Wednesday night's game wasn't everything I thought it would be. It was so much better!

After a scoreless first period, Carl Sodeberg put the Bruins on the board just 93 seconds into the second period. A Patrice Bergeron tally around the halfway point of the period would give Boston a 2-0 lead while Milan Lucic beat Peter Budaj with less than 90 seconds to go in the 2nd to give Boston a 3-0 lead.

There have been instances when such a seemingly commanding lead fosters a sense of complacency which in turn leads to sloppy play and squandering once-considerable leads. That wasn't happening on Wendesday. Just 23 seconds into the 3rd, the most hated man in Montreal- Zdeno Chara- gave Boston an insurmountable 4-0 lead. Although David Desharnais would get a tally for Montreal and ruin Tukka Rask's shutout bid, the Bruins would go on to win by a 4-1 final at the Bell Centre on Wednesday night.

The win is Boston's 6th in a row and puts the Bruins within one point of Pittsburgh for the top spot in the Eastern conference while Montreal goes on to lose their third straight game after coming off a west coast road trip where they went 1-4. Rask turned aside 35 of 36 shots faced while Budaj allowed 4 goals on 32 shots. Neither team scored on the power play tonight, with Boston having two opportunities and Montreal having three.

The Bruins head back to Boston for their first home game since March 6th when they will face off against the Phoenix Coyotes at TD Banknorth Garden. Puck is scheduled to drop at 7:00 PM ET and the game will be televised on NESN and the NHL Network.


NFL- The NFL Free Agency period has begun and already there have been a few significant moves.

Wide receiver Golden Tate has left the defending Superbowl Champion Seattle Seahawks after agreeing to a 5 year, $31 million contract with the Detroit Lions. The deal took place after media reports indicated that Tate would be open to a 'hometown discount' with the Seahawks.

Other departures include both former Cowboys DE DeMarcus Ware and former Patriots cornerback Aquib Talib were signed by the Denver Broncos, the team announced on Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

GOP Makes Gains in Florida, California Special Elections

In a race that was touted as the first electoral challenge to President Obama's signature healthcare law since it's been implemented, Democrat and former Florida gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink lost to Republican attorney David Jolly in a special election to fill the congressional seat in Florida's 13th Congressional district that was left vacant by the death of longtime GOP incumbent Bill Young.

Although 0bamacare wasn't the core issue in the Tampa, FL-area district, both Sink and Jolly made clear their respective stances on 0bamacare during their campaign. While acknowledging the flawed 0bamacare rollout and trouble-plagued healthcare.gov website, Sink stated that the Affordable Care Act was flawed and that she was favor of 'fixing' the law. Jolly, however, said he was in favor of a full repeal of the law if elected.

The race to replace the late Rep. Bill Young was considered a tossup, and was cast as a political bellwether, and a testing ground for each party's messaging strategy -- which revolves in part around the Affordable Care Act.

Jolly's election night headquarters in Clearwater Beach erupted into loud cheers as it became clear he was the winner. In his victory speech, Jolly simultaneously struck a conciliatory tone and expressed gratitude for his mentor, Young, and Young's family. Jolly was introduced by former "Price is Right" game show host Bob Barker, via video. Young's two adult sons were also onstage with Jolly, and he embraced them at the end of his speech.

Meanwhile, national Republican groups swiftly got to work casting Jolly's victory as a blow to ObamaCare and those who support it.

“Tonight, one of Nancy Pelosi’s most prized candidates was ultimately brought down because of her unwavering support for ObamaCare, and that should be a loud warning for other Democrats running coast to coast," said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore. "Pinellas County voters have made the right choice; David will be a dedicated and thoughtful representative for them in Congress.”

The electoral victory comes despite Jolly trailing in early voting to Sink and Libertarian candidate Lucas Overbay getting nearly 5% of the vote. Although the Pinellas County congressional district was home to the longest-serving Republican in the House of Representatives, the district narrowly went to Obama in the 2012 Presidential election. With nearly 100% of the vote counted on Tuesday's special election, Jolly had 48.5% of the vote while Sink had 46.7%. Both parties had sent out

While pundits are cautioning against using the FL13 race as a bellweather for the 2014 midterms, this is the first chance either the Democrats or Republicans had to use Obamacare as an election issue in a competitive district since key provisions of the law went into effect.

Meanwhile in California, Republican Kevin Faulconer was sworn in as the mayor of San Diego. Faulconer, a former city councilman, garnered 43% of the vote in a special election in November 2013 to replace disgraced Democrat mayor Bob Filner. This set up a runoff between Faulconer and fellow city councilman, Democrat David Alvarez last month. Despite money coming in from big name donors, gains by Democrats in 2012 an endorsement from President Obama and campaigning across the border in Tijuana, Mexico by Alvarez, Alvarez lost to Faulconer by nearly 10 points in the runoff.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Utilities Once Again Eyeing Coal As Sustained Chill Prompts Spike in Natural Gas Prices

Buffalo & Pittsburgh SD40-3 #3604 is seen backing a cut of hopper cars under the Rosebud Mining Lady Jane coal tipple in Pennfield, PA in January 2012. Mark MacDougall photo
As the winter Polar Vortex and supply problems with natural gas drive prices to four year highs, some utilities are shifting back to coal as a power source to deal with the increased demand.

Coal's share of energy production in the U.S. might climb to 40.3 percent from 39 percent last year. And the U.S. is on track for its coldest winter in more than 30 years through January, giving rise to the less expensive energy source.

“The idea of coal disappearing is not an effective climate change policy,” said John Thompson, an analyst at the Boston-based Clean Air Task Force told Bloomberg News. “Coal use is growing.”

Although a number of utilities have switched from coal to natural gas in recent years thanks to drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shale, the Energy Information Administration reported that utilities pulled a record 287 billion cubic feet from storage in January. The low storage levels have put pressure on the utilities and energy companies to replenish the supply in storage. The Polar Vortex has also prompted some energy companies to lobby for extending the life of older coal-fired power plants to deal with further spikes in demand.

Despite a concerted campaign by environmentalists and public health experts to stanch its use, coal, the most plentiful and cheapest fuel in the world, is proving globally resilient. In the U.S., rising natural gas prices are prodding utilities to switch back to coal at levels not seen since 2011.

Now, Edison Electric Institute, the Washington-based trade group of U.S. investor-owned utilities, is turning to the latest series of cold snaps to bolster their lobbying of the Obama administration and state regulators to keep coal and nuclear generators alive.

“I’ve been advocating fuel diversity so you don’t get overly dependent on any one particular fuel source,” the group’s president, Thomas Kuhn, said during a Feb. 11 interview at Bloomberg News headquarters in New York. “On a regional basis we still want to keep that in mind.”

During the 2008 campaign, President Obama infamously declared in a videotaped interview that he would seek to impose regulations that would essentially bankrupt the coal industry. Cap and trade legislation that would've eventually driven the coal industry out of business cleared the Democrat-controlled house of representatives in 2009, but the legislation died in the senate. However, the Obama Administration has sought to implement much of Cap and Trade through piecemeal regulatory fiat using the EPA. In late 2013, the EPA announced a 'listening tour' on proposed new coal regulations that would skip most coal mining states.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Massachusetts Teacher's Aide Returns to Work After Racy Modelling Portfolio Comes to Light



A Fitchburg, MA teacher's aide is back on the job after being placed on administrative leave in January when school officials received an anonymous packet containing images of the teacher's aide wearing next to nothing.

23 year old Kaitlin Pearson, who has worked in the Fitchburg School District's special education program since November, has moonlighted as a model posing in bikinis, lingerie, workout gear and in the nude [although covered by part of a sheet or strategically placed hand- NANESB]. Pearson also appears with another nude female on the September 2013 cover of Models Mania magazine.


In addition to the modeling work, Pearson's social networking pages show pictures of her in a bikini in several candid pictures of her at the beach with her boyfriend and family. Interestingly, Pearson made no effort to conceal her moonlighting as a lingerie model from her employers at the Fitchburg School District- a simple Google search would've revealed Pearson's Instagram or Facebook accounts where much of her modeling work is on display. In an interview with MassLive, Pearson said that although she made no mention of her modeling work while applying for the teaching job, she knew it would be only a matter of time before it was brought up.

via kaity_967 on instagram
Unlike some other teachers who have posed for sultry and provocative photos [and outed by anonymous and jealous-sounding letters to their employer- NANESB!], Pearson returned to work after a few weeks of being placed on paid leave. Pearson said her colleagues at school and in Fitchburg were supportive- and while admitting her relationship with the school would've been much different if they decided to terminate her, she is glad to be back.

In 2013, Florida teacher Olivia Sprauer was forced to resign before the end of the school year when somebody anonymously sent pictures of the scantily clad Spanish teacher to school board officials in Martin County.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

China-Bound Malaysia Airlines Flight Goes Missing- All 239 On Board Feared Dead


Map locates planned flight path of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, which departed from Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing, and has been reported missing. MCT 2014


A Boeing 777 carrying passengers from Kuala Lumpur to Bejing vanished while flying off the southern tip of Vietnam and has triggered a frantic search effort in international waters to find any trace of the aircraft. Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was last detected by Vietnamese air traffic controllers some 125 nautical miles southwest off the coast of southernmost Ca Mau province.

The plane was a Boeing 777-200- the average age of such aircraft in Malaysia's fleet is just over 14 years. Both Malaysia Airlines and the Boeing have a pretty good safety record- the only fatal accident involving a 777 was in July 2013 at San Francisco International Airport when an Asiana flight crash-landed and three people were killed. Malaysia Airlines hasn't had a fatal accident since a 1995 plane crash in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah where 34 people were killed after a Fokker 50 crashed on approach.

More ominously, Malaysian officials have begun examining a potential terrorism angle in MH370's disappearance.

Malaysia’s director general of civil aviation told a news conference Saturday night that authorities had reviewed closed-circuit TV footage of passengers and their luggage and hadn’t seen anything of concern. But Prime Minister Najib Razak cautioned that it was "too early" to come to any conclusions, and other officials said nothing was being ruled out of consideration at this point.

At least two of the passengers listed on MH370's manifest boarded using stolen passports from Austria and Italy.

One passenger was traveling with a stolen Austrian passport, Austria's Foreign Ministry said Saturday. A 30-year-old Austrian whose name was on the passenger list for the flight wasn't on board. His passport was stolen in Thailand in 2012, a ministry spokesman said, confirming a report in German newspaper Die Welt.

Another passenger on the list, Italian Luigi Maraldi, was also not on the plane, Italy's Foreign Ministry said Saturday. Mr. Maraldi's passport was stolen in Thailand a year and a half ago, his father said.

Malaysia Airlines had no confirmation from Malaysian authorities that stolen passports were used to board the flight, said Ignatius Ong, a member of the airline's crisis-management team. One European security official said it wasn't uncommon for passengers to board flights using stolen passports.

At least 153 passengers on Flight MH370 are Chinese nationals. The flight went missing less than a week after 29 people were killed in a mass stabbing by knife wielding assailants at a train station in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming. Local police shot dead five of the suspected assailants and Chinese officials called the attack a well-organized 'premeditated, violent terrorist attack'- although the state-run media didn't identify the assailants and some social-media accounts of the attack were censored.

On late Saturday afternoon, the Vietnamese Air Force reported that an oil slick between six and nine miles long had been spotted off the southern coast. While there was no independent confirmation that the slick was that of flight MH370, it is consistent with an airliner crashing at sea. Malaysian civil aviation officials said that there was no distress signal or other signs of trouble from the flight, leading them to believe that whatever had happened to flight MH370 was quick and catastrophic.

The USS Pinckney and a P3-C Orion aircraft have also been searching for signs of the aircraft and naval assets from Singapore, Philippines and China have also been deployed.

UPDATE 3/9- According to a Malaysia Airlines spokesperson, the tickets for the two unidentified people travelling on the stolen EU passports had consecutive numbers, indicating the tickets were booked together. The tickets were also paid for using Thai Baht and booked through the China Southern Airlines website. The Italian passport was reported stolen in the Thai city of Phuket last year. China Southern [NYSE: ZNH] is a code-share partner with Malaysia Airlines, among others.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ash Wednesday Sports Chowdah Update- Goalies From 2011 Stanley Cup Finals Highlight Netminder-Heavy NHL Trade Deadline




BOSTON BRUINS- Despite a lackluster start after the Olympic break, the Boston Bruins have been on a tear lately, winning three in a row after two consecutive losses coming out of the NHL's hiatus for the Sochi games.

After downing the New York Rangers by a 6-3 final at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night, the Bruins returned to the Garden on Tuesday where they faced off against former teammate Tim Thomas- possibly for the last time with the March 6th NHL trade deadline looming. Thanks to a hat trick from David Krejci, the Bruins would go on to win by a 4-1 final.

While there was some activity from the Bruins around the trade deadline, it paled in comparison to some of the other moves that day [more on that later- NANESB!]. Boston obtained young defenseman Andrej Meszaros from the Philadelphia Flyers for a third round pick on the 2014 draft that will automatically shifts to a second round pick should the Bruins advance to the Eastern Conference Finals this year. The Bruins also acquired former Oilers defenseman Corey Potter off of waivers. Potter had 3 goals and an assist in 33 games with Edmonton during the strike-shortened NHL season and hadn't played in the NHL since then.

On Thursday night, the Bruins got a degree of revenge on Washington when Tukka Rask turned aside all 16 shots he faced and the Bruins would go on to win 3-0 thanks to goals by Gregory Campbell and Loui Eriksson in the second and some insurance from Brad Marchand with about 90 seconds to go in the 3rd as he cored an empty-netter. After beating Boston by a 4-2 final on Saturday, the Bruins get some revenge and outshoot the Caps 42-16.

The Bruins will next head on down to the Sunshine State to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Puck is scheduled to drop at 7:00 PM and the game will be televised on NESN.





ELSEWHERE IN THE NHL- The outdoor games for the NHL- better known as the Stadium Series- have wrapped up for the season. The month of March kicked off with the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at a snow Soldier Field in Chicago for a nationally televised night game. Patrick Sharp broke the scoreless deadlock and put Chicago on the board first with a goal with 4:25 to go in the first while Jonathan Toews and Kris Versteeg added to the Hawks lead to make it 3-0 in the second. Pittburgh got on the board with a James Neal goal early in the 3rd, but Chicago would add two more- including another Toews goal to make it a 5-1 game.


Meanwhile, in Vancouver the following day, the Senators faced off against the Canucks [dressed as the pre-NHL Millionaires- NANESB!] for the outdoor Heritage Classic at the BC Palace. Although the host Canucks got out to a fairly quick 2-0 lead thanks to tallies by Jason Garrison and Zack Kassian, the Senators would go on to score four unanswered goals and best the struggling Canucks by a 4-2 final in what would turn out to be Roberto Luongo's final game in a Vancouver uniform.


FLORIDA PANTHERS- Which brought us to the tantalizing possibility that the two opposing goalies from the 2011 Stanley Cup Final would be teammates. On Wednesday, it was announced that the Florida Panthers had traded netminder prospect Jakob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthais to Vancouver for Roberto Luongo and forward Steven Anthony. Although Luongo made his NHL debut with the New York Islanders in 1999, the following season he was traded to the Florida Panthers after they drafted Rick DiPietro as their goalie of the future.

While in Florida, Luongo set a franchise record for save percentage and shutouts [.931 and 7, respectively- NANESB!] during the 2003-2004 season. Two years later, Luongo set a Panthers record for career and single-season wins before being traded to Vancouver in June 2006. Despite several Vezina trophy nominations, Luongo's tenure in Vancouver will most likely be remembered with his remarks about Bruins goalie Tim Thomas Tim Thomas and 'pumping his tires'. Boston would go on to win the Stanley Cup after beating Vancouver at home in a decisive Game 7 that season.

Alas- it apparently wasn't meant to be, for the irony would've been too much for the hockey gods. Instead, within hours of the Luongo deal, Thomas was traded to the Dallas Stars for their backup goaltender, Dan Ellis. Thomas reportedly waived his no-trade clause and is widely expected to back up starting Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen.


ST LOUIS BLUES- There was plenty of wheeling and dealing that didn't involve the starting goalies from the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, however. The slumping Buffalo Sabres were widely expected to unload starting goalie Ryan Miller as the season went on- a month ago it was a question of whether or not he'd be traded from Buffalo before or after the Olympic break.

As it turned out, it was after. On Saturday, the Buffalo Sabres announced that both Ryan Miller and center Steve Ott were traded to the St Louis Blues in exchange for goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a 2015 first round draft pick and a conditional 2016 3rd round draft pick. Miller and Ott make the dramatic transition from one of the worst teams in the NHL to a bona-fide Stanley Cup contender.

On Sunday night, Miller made his debut with the St Louis Blues in Glendale, AZ as the Blues took on the Phoenix Coyotes. Although the Coyotes jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, the Blue scored four unanswered goals in the 3rd period to come away with the 4-2 win. Since then, the Blues have won two more games- a 4-2 home win against the Tampa Bay Lightning and 2-1 road win over the Nashville Predators- to give them a 3-0 record with Miller between the pipes.

SPRING TRAINING- Big Papi finally got off the schnide and broke an 0-8 slump on Friday as the Red Sox hosted the Atlanta Braves at Boston's Spring Training facility in Fort Meyers.

David Ortiz had a 4th inning double and Felix Doubront threw four shutout innings, allowing two hits while striking out three. The Red Sox broke a 1-1 tie with a 3-run uprising against RHP Cody Martin in the bottom of the 7th was enough to give Boston the 4-1 win- only their second win since the start of Spring Training.

Saturday's schedule will lead to all sorts of confusion as they play the Orioles at home AND in Baltimore's Spring Training Facility in split-squad action. The game at the O's park in Sarasota, FL gets underway at 1:05 PM ET while the second split squad game between Baltimore and Boston gets underway at 7:05 PM ET from Fort Meyers.


SPORTS ILLUSTRATED- In the closest thing we have to pin-ups these days, Sports Illustrated is out on the newsstands. Last year, it featured a fur and bikini-clad Kate Upton on the cover in Antarctica, but a photo shoot from this year's SI features the model defying gravity seven miles above the earth on a 727-200F meant to simulate weightlessness that astronauts would have to deal with in space [even in normal gravity, Upton's rack seems to defy the laws of physics, so a bikini-clad Kate Upton in zero-G probably goes above and beyond 'poetry in motion'- NANESB!].

According to a behind-the-scenes article, the weightlessness only lasts 30 seconds, but the company flying the plane can repeat these half-minute weightless intervals 11 times over a 90 minute timeframe. The aircraft hosting the shoot uses dedicated airspace off of Florida's west coast between 24,000 and 35,000 feet.