Saturday, July 31, 2010

Democrat Maxine Waters (CA-35) May Face Ethics Panel's always the quiet ones, isn't it?
House ethics investigators are looking into whether Ms. Waters violated House rules by using her senior position on the House Financial Services Committee to help a Boston-based bank, in which Ms. Waters and her husband had a financial interest.

Ms. Waters and lawyers for the ethics panel had been in negotiations for several days in order to reach a plea agreement. But those talks failed by the time Congress adjourned Friday for a six-week summer break, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The ethics panel could announce formal charges against Ms. Waters as soon as next week.

It is still possible that Ms. Waters could reach an agreement with the ethics committee
As the Wall Street Journal helpfully points out, Waters will be the second Congressional Democrat who could find themselves under investigation for using their position to leverage inappropriate deals or favors.

And as the Los Angeles Times helpfully points out, both Waters and Rangel are black [Just putting that out there, since you're not likely going to hear it too often- especially if there's any sort of trial- NANESB!].

Feds: Computer Evidence Ties Jailed Anylist to Wikieaks

The Army Private thought to have provided more than 70,000 classified documents to left a series of angry, brooding messages on his Facebook page earlier this year, lashing out at the Army, his ex-boyfriend and 'society at large'. [Yes....the article reads 'ex-boyfriend'. How long before 'Dont Ask Don't Tell' is to blame for the Wikileaks fiasco?- NANESB!]
Manning, who is half British and went to school in Wales, appeared to sink into depression after a relationship breakup, the Daily Telegraph said. It quoted Manning as posting he didn't "have anything left" and was "beyond frustrated."
In an apparent swipe at the Army, Manning also wrote: "Bradley Manning is not a piece of equipment," and quoted a joke about "military intelligence" being an oxymoron, the Telegraph said.
Manning began his gloomy postings on Jan. 12, saying: "Bradley Manning didn't want this fight. Too much to lose, too fast," the Telegraph said.
At the beginning of May, when he was serving at a military base near Baghdad, the Telegraph said, he changed his status to: "Bradley Manning is now left with the sinking feeling that he doesn't have anything left."
Five days later he said he was "livid" after being "lectured by ex-boyfriend", then later the same day said he was "not a piece of equipment" and was "beyond frustrated with people and society at large," the paper said.
The Telegraph said Manning's personal page tagline reads: "Take me for who I am, or face the consequences!"
And despite assurances from sanctimonious anti-war radical leftist and WikiLeaks founder Julius Assange that all sensitive information was redacted prior to the document dump, leaked information in the documents includes the names and addresses of Afghans who had been cooperating with US and NATO forces and intelligence-gathering methods.
A somber-faced Julian Assange, editor of WikiLeaks, said he was "disappointed in what was left out" of Defense Secretary Robert Gates' comment. Gates "spoke about hypothetical blood," Assange said, reading from a statement, "but the grounds of Iraq and Afghanistan are covered with real blood."
Assange went on to accuse the Pentagon chief of overseeing "the killing of thousands of children and adults" in Iraq and Afghanistan, and criticized him personally for not announcing a criminal investigation based on the the leaked document.
[Which would be like Assange bitching about the RAF not investigating the firebombing of Dresden after he just leaked detailed plans that include the names of Allied spies in Germany or how the Allies plan on crossing the Rhine- NANESB]
Assange changed his story at least once to say that he tried contacting the White House to get their input on any information they'd want withheld, but went ahead with the document dump when he never heard back from them.
And as for 'Hypothetical blood', I highly doubt it will be 'hypothetical' that much longer given the overall history of that part of the world.....that's if the leaked information hasn't already been acted upon by the Taliban.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Grim Milestone Watch: The 'Teachable Moment' and Beer Summit One Year Later

Today marks the one year anniversary of the highly contrived White House Beer Summit, a meeting where Harvard Professor Skip Gates, Cambridge MA Sgt. James Crowley and President Obama all got together at the White House for a beer to resolve whatever lingering animosity following Professor Gates' July 16, 2009 arrest for disorderly conduct at his Cambridge, MA residence and the President's ignorant and ill-advised comments basically calling the Cambridge Police officer a stupid racist.
Theoretically that argument would've flown if it was some hotheaded rookie who simply felt like throwing his weight around and being a dick, but Sgt. James Crowley's credentials were very impressive- so much so that he was selected by a black police commissioner as an instructor on avoiding racial profiling at the Lowell, MA police academy and as a campus police officer had tried unsuccessfully reviving the Celtics' Reggie Lewis after suffering a fatal heart attack on the campus of Brandeis University in 1993.

When it became clear that President Obama stepped in a big steaming cowpie by speaking up in defence of one of his Ivy-league friends before -by his own admission- he had all the facts, Obama's supporters in the media tried establishing the narrative that whoever called 911 was in fact the true racist.

As it turns out, the 911 call was placed by Lucia Whalen, who saw two men forcing their way into Gates' residence from a distance and- when prompted by the dispatcher- couldn't describe them by ethnicity or skin color, and in fact said that it could be nothing more than the homeowners having a difficult time with the keys.

According to the arrest report, when Sgt. Crowey and another officer arrived at the house told Gates that he was responding to a reported break-in Gates simply yelled back "Why? Because I'm a black man in America?" before eventually producing a Harvard ID. Despite claiming in a July 21, 2009 interview in The Root that he was incapable of yelling due to a bronchial infection. Gates is heard yelling in the background numerous times in Sgt Crowley's radio transmissions with the dispatcher. Gates the reportedly followed Crowley outside, still yelling and apparently pulling some race-baiting diva 'Do you know who I am?' crap at which point he was arrested for disorderly conduct before being released later that night.

Despite criticism from the Mayor of Cambridge, Gov. Patrick and President Obama, Crowley refused to apologize. Sgt. Leon Lashley, a black Cambridge police officer who was on the scene, said he supported Crowley's actions '100%' and felt the encounter would've gone differently if he was the one to show up first and ask Gates for his ID. Many of Cambridge's officers publicly came out in support of Crowley immediately after Obama's 'acted stupidly' comment, including several black patrolmen and detectives on the force.

In an attempt to spin his gaffe as a 'teachable moment', Obama offered to 'mediate' the dispute by inviting both Gates and Sgt. Crowley to the White House for some beers. The meeting- known as the 'Beer Summit' took place on July 30th 2009.

And from that day forward, there was no more racial division in America. That one moment healed centuries of tensions and ill-will in this land of ours, and 'Civil Rights' groups and liberal journalists no longer used racism as a club with which they would beat over the heads of political foes. Nosiree....the days of baseless accusations of racism being hurled about by various groups had long since passed. And we all have the beer summit to thank for that, courtesy of our first-EVAH 'post-racial' president.

Or at least that's how the hacks at the MSM and Journo-list were spinning this dog and pony show one year ago. At the time, I remember thinking 'If the president got it wrong on a matter that would hardly make the police blotter of a small-town newspaper, why should I believe he'll get it right on more critical issues on national significance?'. His response to the Deepwater Horizon spill, Fort Hood shootings, attempted Christmas day bombing of the Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit, the attempted Times Square bombing and the deteriorating situation along the US/Mexican border seems to reinforce this.

To Henry Gates' credit, he penned an op-ed piece earlier this year explaining why reparations for slavery would be untenable given the considerable participation of African tribes in the slave trade.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Georgian Economy Minister Rips Russian Media, Canadian Newspaper Over Racy Photo and Doctored Resume Accusations

(Photo- Georgia Ministry of Economic and Sustainable Development)
The former Soviet Republic of Georgia's newly appointed Economic minister has found herself in the spotlight after a racy picture of her surfaced on Facebook and Canada's Vancouver Sun discovered what they said were discrepancies in her resume.

Georgia-born and Canadian raised Vera Kobalia was appointed to the Economic Ministry earlier this month by Georgian President Saakashvili. Her official bio lists her as being a producer for Global TV between 2004 and 2006, but The Vancouver Sun reports that Global TV's Human Resources department can't find any record of her being on the payroll.

The above photo with Vera Kobalia in the middle was reportedly taken on Spring Break in Florida nearly 10 years ago, while others are claiming it was taken more recently in a Canadian strip club. Vera's sister Nina also reportedly appears in the photo and The Russian media apparently has been having a field day with this, accusing Georgian president and Kremlin nemesis Mikheil Saakashvili of appointing 'strippers' to his cabinet.

Kobilia's father, who currently runs a bakery in Vancouver BC, saw nothing wrong with the photos. According to Vera Kobalia's spokesperson "She said she could only be happy that this is the only 'compromising material' against her that could be found. She continues working without paying attention to such garbage.". Kobalia herself went as far as calling the Vancouver Sun a propaganda outlet of the Kremlin and denies doctoring her resume.

NY Congressman- My Opponent is Accepting 'Jewish Money'

A Democrat Congressman representing Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn has recently compiled a list of his Republican opponent's Jewish donors.

While providing a list of donors to the campaign of Mike Grimm to the New York Observer's Politicker blog to try and bolster claims that most of Grimm's support came from outside the district, McMahon's campaign included a file named "Grimm Jewish Money Q2".
The file, labeled "Grimm Jewish Money Q2," for the second quarter fundraising period, shows a list of over 80 names, a half-dozen of which in fact do hail from Staten Island, and a handful of others that list Brooklyn as home.

"Where is Grimm's money coming from," said Jennifer Nelson, McMahon's campaign spokesman. "There is a lot of Jewish money, a lot of money from people in Florida and Manhattan, retirees."

As a point of comparison, the campaign also provided in-district and out-of-district fundraising totals from McMahon and Grimm's G.O.P primary opponent, Michael Allegretti. However, they did not provide an out-of-district campaign filing from Grimm, but only a file of Jewish donors to him.
In a quote dripping in unintended irony, Jennifer Nelson- a McMahon campaign spokeswoman- had this to say.

"I don't think ethnicity matters. When people look at who is funding his campaign it's not people who have a direct vested interest [in the district.]"
Grimm- who is part Italian and part German- was critical of the separate list of Jewish donors compiled by the McMahon campaign, saying the he was proud of his support from the Jewish community.

No word at this time on whether or not Grimm's campaign was accepting Jew gold as well:

Sports Chowdah Update for July 27-29- Scutaro Slam Sees Sox Seal SoCal Sweep; Tick Tock- Trade Deadline Looms

John Lackey got the win against his former team to put him at 10-5 with a 4.26 ERA on the season. The Red Sox were trailing the Angels 1-o for 6 and 2/3rds innings thanks to Angels starter Jared Weaver, but with two outs in the top of the 7th, he walked Darnell McDonald and gave up a single to Marco Scutaro to bring up Jed Lowrie. Lowrie drove home McDonald and Scutaro with a double to put Boston up 2-1.

Boston would get some insurance off of Kevin Jepsen in the top of the 8th when Big Papi was walked, then scored all the way from first base on an Adrian Beltre double.

Anaheim, or the Los Angeles of Anaheim, would get a run back in the bottom of the 8th when Bobby Abreu belted a 1-out solo shot off of Lackey. Daniel Bard would come in the relieve Lackey, and he would get Torii Hunter to strike out, walk Hideki Matsui and get Mike Napoli to end the inning on a flyball to deep center.

The Red Sox would get another insurance run in the top of the 9th when Big Papi hit into the overshift, but Howie Kendrick air-mailed the ball past first base with Scutaro scoring all the way from 2nd.

Papelbon would come on for a 1-2-3 bottom of the 9th for his for his 24th save of the season.

Wednesday's affair was a day game with the Red Sox travelling back to Fenway to play host to the Detroit Tigers this weekend. Things didn't start out too well for the Angels when scheduled starter Joel Piñeiro was scratched with a left oblique strain and could miss 6-8 weeks.

Unlike the earlier games in the series, the Red Sox took the lead first with solo homers from Adrain Beltre and Bill Hall in the top of the 2nd, knocking Halos pinch-starter Scot Shields out of the game. However, the Angels would come right back with two RBI singles in the bottom of the 2nd off of Josh Beckett before taking a 3-2 lead in the 5th inning off of a Maicer Izturis sac-fly.

In the top of the 7th, Kevin Youkilis tied the game with a solo homer into the bullpens. In the next inning, Angels reliever Fernando Rodney walked the first two batters he faced before Eric Patterson reached on a bunt single.

That set up this at-bat by Marco Suctaro:

Pretty awesome, huh? Yeah...I thought so.

Anywhoo, the slam was enough to give the Sox the 7-3 win and Beckett the W (making him 2-1 with a 6.33 ERA on the season). Manny DelCarmen and Ramon Ramirez closed out the game on the mound for Boston.

Friday night's game at Fenway will feature Detroit's Armando Gallaraga (3-3; 4.43 ERA) against Jon Lester (11-5; 2.92 ERA).

OTHER SOX NEWS: OF Jacoby Ellsbury saw some limited playing time in the Gulf Coast League and is expected to make an apprerence at AAA Pawtucket for this weekend's series against the Durham Bulls. 3B Mike Lowell had just finished up a stint with the PawSox where he went 3 for 4 with a homer on Wednesday night and three homers and five RBIs against the Toledo Mudhens. Lowell could re-join the Red Sox as early as this weekend in the series against Toledo's parent club, the Detroit Tigers.

ELSEWHERE: Houston Astros starter Roy Oswalt has reportedly agreed to a deal that will send him to Philadelphia in exchange for JA Happ and two prospects. Oswalt is 6-12 on the season while sporting a 3.24 ERA for the next-to-last-place team in the NL Central.

The LA Dodgers acquired outfielder Scott Podsednik from the Kansas City Royals for two minor-leaguers yesterday. Podsednik has been batting .310 with 5 homeruns and 44 RBIs for Kansas City this season.

UPDATE 7/29: The San Diego Padres have reportedly acquired SS Miguel Tejada from the Baltimore Orioles for minor-league pitcher Wynn Pelzer on Thursday afternoon. Tejada was batting .269 with 7 HRs for the O's this season and is expected to fill in for Padres infielder David Eckstein who went on the 15-day DL with a strained right calf on July 21st.

The Minnesota Twins have made a move to shore up their bullpen by acquiring Washington Nationals closer Matt Capps for two minor-leaguers on Thursday. The twins will send C Wilson Ramos and relief pitcher Joe Testa to DC in exchange for Capps. Minnesota's closer Joe Nathan will miss the entire 2010 season after undergoing surgery on his right elbow.

Capps is 3-3 with a 2.80 ERA for the Nats this season.

The Washington Nationals put rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg on the 15-day DL with inflammation in his right shoulder. Strasburg was scratched from his scheduled Tuesday night start against the Atlanta Braves, although pinch-starter Miguel Batista gave DC a 3-0 win over Atlanta that night. Strasburg is 5-2 with a 2.32 ERA in nine starts this season.

Blue State Graft Watch Update- House Ethics Panel Outlines 13 Charges Against Rangel

An Ethics panel has detailed 13 charges against New York Democrat Congressman Charlie Rengel (NY-15)- including failure to disclose income from a vacation rental property in the Dominican Republic, as well as another $600,000 in assets on his Congressional financial disclosure statements as well as his four rent-controlled apartments.

Republican Congressman Michael McCaul (TX-10), ranking member of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct said that Rangel was given ample opportunity to settle charges during the investigative process, and that there would be no plea deal.

The failure to reach any sort of plea deal on Rangel or the panel's part would mean that televised hearings against the New York Congressman right before the November mid-term elections would be a certainty.

Rangel is reportedly paying for his legal defense with campaign funds as well as donations from K street lobbyists and unions.

Federal Judge De-Fangs Arizona Immigration Law One Day Before It's Set to Take Effect

A Federal Judge issued an injunction against much of Arizona's SB1070 law targeting illegal immigrants on Wednesday- a day before the law was scheduled to take effect.

According to the Arizona Republic, US District Judge Susan Bolton's last-minute injunction blocks the following portions of SB1070 from taking effect
• The portion of the law that requires an officer make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested if there's reasonable suspicion they're in the country illegally.

• The portion that creates a crime of failure to apply for or carry "alien-registration papers."

• The portion that allows for a warrantless arrest of a person where there is probable cause to believe they have committed a public offense that makes them removable from the United States.

• The portion that makes it a crime for illegal immigrants to solicit, apply for or perform work. There are three parts to that part of the law. Two of them will go into effect, one of them will not.
The ruling also says that law enforcement still must enforce federal immigration laws to the fullest extent of the law when SB 1070 goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. Individuals will still be able to sue an agency if they adopt a policy that restricts such enforcement.

Bolton did not halt the part of the law that creates misdemeanors crimes for harboring and transporting illegal immigrants
The Arizona Governor's office had already filed an expedited appeal with the US 9th Circuit court, saying that yesterday's ruling wasn't completely unexpected. Arizona is currently facing lawsuits from the Justice Department, the ACLU and the Mexican government over SB1070.

Justice Department spokeswoman Hannah August applauded the ruling.
"While we understand the frustration of Arizonans with the broken immigration system, a patchwork of state and local policies would seriously disrupt federal immigration enforcement and would ultimately be counterproductive," August said.
[Note: 'Broken immigration system' is a phrase that's usually a preamble to 'Comprehensive immigration reform', which is in and of itself a euphemism of 'blanket amnesty' -NANESB!].

Yes- the Justice Department understands the frustration of Arizonans so well that they've decided to combat the rampant human smuggling and drug trafficking through the deserts of the border states with signs, lawsuits and calls for stricter gun control laws here in the USA.

No word on whether or not the Justice Department will go after Rhode Island next.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Today's Train of Thought: Small Wonder- July 28, 2010

Today's train of Thought features another line that's gone through a number of owners over the last few decades. The former Reading line between Wilmington, DE and Reading, PA was not included in the 1976 formation of Conrail, nor was the branch that extended southeast from Chadds Ford, PA to the Maryland state line at East Nottingham Township, PA.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania immediately claimed the lines in the hopes of eventually expanding the SEPTA Network south and west to Chester county, PA.

Even with the line cut back to Coatsville, PA as its northern terminus, there was still frieght to be hauled on the line, including Herr Foods in Nottingham. The first such operator was the Octoraro Railroad, which started up in 1977 but filed for bankruptcy in July 1994. One of Rail America's earlier properties- the Delaware Valley Railroad was designated by the Pennsylvania DOT to take over operations of the line until 1998 when the Bethlehem Steel-owned Brandywine Valley Railroad got permission from PA DOT to operate the length of the line from Coatsville to Wilmington. However, Bethlehem Steel would go bankrupt in 2001 and its assets sold off to International Steel Group (later Arcelor-Mittal) two years later, with the Brandywine Valley reduced to the steel mill trackage around Coatesville.

This left the PA DOT scrambing to find another operator- this time New Jersey Based Morristown & Erie in 2003 was given the reigns until arrangements were made in late 2004 with the East Penn Railroad- a shortline operator with extensive background in operating several disconnected branchlines in the reigon. The former Octoraro/Delaware Valley line became the East Penn's Wilmington & Northern branch and to this day sees some failry robust carloadings in the form of scrap, steel, paper, grain, cotton seed oil and foodstuffs for Herr's. And even back in the Octoraro days, the need for bigger power was understood. The East Penn went with GE Dash 7s purchased secondhand from Conrail and Union Pacific.

, contributor Steven Jansen caught two of the ex Espee GE's rounding a tight curve at Granouge, DE heading south to the CSX interchange at Elsmere, DE on the next-to-last day of 2009 after starting it's trek ion Kennet Square, PA. B30-7 #7874 is in charge of this southbound with what looks like a cut of finished product from the Arcelor-Mital plant in Coatesville.

What Media Bias? Reporters, Academics Coordinated Favorable Coverage of Candidate Obama on Online Bulletin Board

How many times have you heard this: "Oh, you silly paranoid right-wing stooge. There's no such thing as media bias. If there is any, it would be to the right since the networks are owned by corporations....!"

Yet despite the reassurances of the most condescending and disingenuous partisan hacks, it almost seemed like reporters from numerous media outlets were getting together to coordinate their coverage in a manner that would put liberal politicians or policies in the best possible light.

This month, The Daily Caller has been releasing the archives of an online bulletin board frequented by reporters, columnists and academics called Journo List.

I had first heard of Journo List fairly recently and wasn't too surprised to learn that former Washington Post columnist Dan Wiegel was a member after his lame defense of belligerent and grabby North Carolina Democrat Bob Etheridge (NC-2). Wiegel was hired by the WaPo to cover conservative media and the Tea Party in April, but according to many, Weigel's coverage betrayed a personal animosity towards the right in general from the onset.

Turned out that was just the beginning. Shortly after Weigel's departure from the WaPo, more information about Journo-List, it's members and their contents came to light such as this gem from Spencer Ackerman, then of the Washington Independent when the Jeremiah Wright story broke during the 2008 campaign:
I do not endorse a Popular Front, nor do I think you need to. It’s not necessary to jump to Wright-qua-Wright’s defense. What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.

And I think this threads the needle. If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.
First of all, I highly doubt Spencer Ackerman could smash anything through a dollhouse window rhetorically, let alone a plate glass window.

With that said.....casually slinging around accusations of racism for short-term political gain.....gosh golly gee- why does that sound so familiar?

The Journo-List gang also coordinated their best line of attack against Sarah Palin once she was nominated to be John McCain's running mate at the GOP convention and celebrated like their team had won the Superbowl on election night.
LAURA ROZEN: People we no longer have to listen to: would it be unwise to start a thread of people we are grateful we no longer have to listen to? If not, I’ll start off: Michael Rubin.

MICHAEL COHEN, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Mark Penn and Bob Shrum. Anyone who uses the expression “Real America.” We should send there ass to Gitmo!

JESSE TAYLOR, PANDAGON.NET: Michael Barone? Please?

LAURA ROZEN: Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich (afraid it’s not true), Drill Here Drill Now, And David Addington, John Yoo, we’ll see you in court?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, THE NEW YORKER: As a side note, does anyone know what prompted Michael Barone to go insane?


SPENCER ACKERMAN: Let’s just throw Ledeen against a wall. Or, pace Dr. Alterman, throw him through a plate glass window. I’ll bet a little spot of violence would shut him right the fuck up, as with most bullies.

JOE KLEIN, TIME: Pete Wehner…these sort of things always end badly.

For alot of us, the only new and novel aspect of this is that the participating 'journalists' left an electronic record with their names attached to it instead of maintaining a veneer of objectivity or plausible deniability. The snide, condescending, venomous contempt for anybody to their right (which would basically be no less than half the country) on the journo-listers part is nothing new, however.

152 Killed in Pakistani Airliner Crash

A Pakistani passenger jet crashed into the mountains just outside of that country's capital city of Islamabad, killing all 152 people on board. Authorities say the domestic Airblue flight took off from Karachi and lost contact with the control tower on approach.

The cause of the crash wasn't immediately known, but Civil avaition officials believe that the plane may have veered off course in the monsoon rains after losing contect with the Islamabad control tower. Terrorism wasn't immediately suspected, but officials still need to locate the black box for the Airbus A321. Emergency workers and volunteers were hindered by the rain, mud and rough terrain for most of the day.

The US State Department said that two US citicizens were on board, although they didn't immediately identify them

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

UK Equalities Minister: Christina Hendricks is "Role Model"

UK Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone apparently is a fan of Mad Men- specifically Christina Hendricks.
Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone has declared the curvaceous redhead, who plays Joan Holloway in the hit American drama, an "absolutely fabulous" role model for girls, the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper reports.

The Liberal Democrat minister criticised the overexposure of skinny models, which she said was causing a crisis in body confidence among the young.
She said women shouldn't be constantly comparing themselves with the "unattainable" figures of most celebrities and models.

"Christina Hendricks is absolutely fabulous," Mrs Featherstone said.

"We need more of these role models.

"There is such a sensation when there is a curvy role model. It shouldn't be so unusual."

Hendricks was voted the sexiest woman alive by Esquire magazine readers earlier this year...
As much as I'm in agreement with Featherstone regarding heroin chic and more curvy models or actresses being under-appreciated in the fashion and entrainment industry, it's one of those things that I don't think is the governments business.

This isn't the first plus-sized hullaballoo across the pond over the last few years. Amid criticism from some quarters, 17 year old Chloe Marshall of Surrey won runner-up in the 2008 Miss England pageant, with some tabloids calling the teenage Marshal a 'Poster Child for Ill Health'.

Pentagon Says Nothing New in Afghanistan Documents Leaked Online

Pentagon and Administration officials are downplaying the online leak of more than 90,000 documents regarding the military effort in Afghanistan. However, senior Pentagon officials say that they still need to sort through at least 75,000 of the documents.

Some of the revelations contained in the Wikileaks document dump were already widely known or suspected by those in military, diplomatic and intelligence community, such as Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence Directorate playing a double-game with the USA and the Afghan Taliban. Documents from Afghan officials included in the leaks also allege that Iran has been arming and financing Taliban commanders as far back as 2005.

Earlier this month, the US Army pressed charges against PFC Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst stationed in Iraq who leaked classified video of two Reuters journalists killed by a helicopter gunship along with Iraqi insurgents back in 2007. While Manning was stationed in Iraq and the Wikileaks document dump deals mostly with Afghanistan, Army officials have not ruled out the possibility that Manning could also be the source of the latest leaks and are attempting to backtrack what information he had access to.
"WikiLeaks does not have an opinion whether the war in Afghanistan should continue or not continue. ... It should continue in a just way if its to continue at all,"
Wikileaks creator Julia Assange claimed in a CNN interview. However, in an inteview with Germany's Der Spiegel the other day, Assange said:
"I enjoy crushing bastards. So it is enjoyable work."
Note that the Wikileaks benefits nobody but the Taliban in the short-term, so it's pretty clear who Assange thinks the 'bastards' are in this instance.
Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said the information should be put "in context" and that journalists should avoid publishing anything that could harm U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Assange, he said, "is an anti-war activist who has repeatedly cast a very unfair light on the American military and on the American population in general."

"There are American troops in harm's way getting shot and killed," Rieckhoff said. "If WikiLeaks is endangering them, we need to push back, and the American public needs to push back."
As others much more in the know than myself have described it, the leaks are more or less "old news that comes at a bad time".

Steve Schippert of goes into more detail about some of the familiar-sounding memes that seem to be a common theme of the latest offering from WikiLeaks.

Curious how Assange and the others haven't gone to such lengths to undermine the regimes of Hugo Chavez, Hu Jintao or Mahmoud Ahmedinejhad. I guess they're part of the 'vulnerable' that he seeks to protect.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sports Chowdah Update- Scarin' Haren; Miller Time at Cooperstown; Rays-ing The Prospect of Another No-No

RED SOX: Well, Jon Lester had a gem at SafeCo squandered Saturday and Okajima came in on Sunday and turned a 2-1 lead against the Mariners into a 4-2 deficit, meaning the best Boston could manage against a team that was 20 games out of first place was a split of a 4 game series.

From there, the Sox travelled to Southern California to take on the Angels. Monday night's starter for the Halos was scheduled to be Joel Piñeiro, but the big news from Sunday's trade had a direct impact on Monday's start. After acquiring starter Dan Haren from the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday, he was announced as the starter for Monday's game against the Red Sox going up against Clay Buchholz.

The Angels got on the board early with a solo homer off of Buccholz by Bobby Abreu in the bottom of the first. The Sox came right back in the top of the second with a leadoff triple by Adrian Beltre, who was immediately brough home by fresh-off-the-DL Victor Martinez on an RBI single. Haren would give up a double to SS Jed Lowrie, but Lowrie and Martinez would be stranded as he worked out of that jam to end the inning.

Not to be outdone, Buchholz worked out of a bases-loaded, nobody out jam in the bottom of the 2nd by getting the next two batters to pop out in the infield and a Erik Aybar flyball to left field.

Big Papi would belt a solo homer with two away in the top of the 3rd to put the Sox up 2-1, and that's the way the score would remain. However, in the top of the 5th, Dan Haren was struck by a Kevin Youkilis line-drive with two out and had to leave to the game. Haren was relieved by Francisco Rodriguez (not that one) and retired the next four batters he faced.

Buccholz would go 7 innings, throw 114 pitches and give up five hits, a walk, seven strikeouts and just the one run off of Abreu. In the top of the 8th, Kevin Youkilis would hit a 1-out single and successfully steal second before David Ortiz would get his 2nd home run ofthe evening to make it 4-1 Red Sox; some insurance that would turn out to be much needed.

Scott Atchison would relieve Buccholz in the 8th, but give up a 2 run homer to Hideki Matsui to make it a one-run game. Not taking any chances, Francona made the decision to bring in Papelbon from the bullpen. Paps rewarded this decision by getting Alberto Callaspo to ground out to end the inning.

The Angels' Mike Kohn would come on in the top of the 9th and log just a single out, instead allowing a walk to Mike Cameron, getting Erc Patterson to pop out to first and giving up a single to Marco Scuatro after a particularly long and tenacious at-bat. This set up a booming 2-RBI double by JD Drew for even more insurance before Rich Thompson would come on and retire the next two batters for Anaheim.

Working with a 6-3 lead, Papelbon came on in the bottom of the 9th and gave up a leadoff single to C Mike Napoli, but would retire the next three batters for his 23rd save of the year.

Boston snaps their 2-game skid Monday night in Orange County by a final of 6-3 with Buccholz getting the win (11-5; 2.71 ERA) and Haren getting hung with the loss in his Angels debut.

Haren appeared to make some post-game comments by his new locker sporting a bandage and saying that his arm was sore, swollen and bruised but otherwise fine. Haren is expected to be re-examined on Tuesday.

Tomorrow night's game will have John Lackey (9-5; 4.36 ERA) facing his former team and batterymate Jared Weaver (9-6; 3.22 ERA)
ELSEWHERE: While the Angels-Red Sox game was getting underway, the fifth no-hitter of the season was wrapping up in St. Petersburg, FL. The Ray's Matt Garza went the distance against Detroit, striking out 6 and walking just one runner in 9 innings to give Tampa Bay it's first no-hitter in franchise history. The Rays had already been on the other end of some no-hitters this season, including Dallas Braden's perfect game on Mother's Day at Oakland. The Tiger's Max Scherzer had a no-hit bid going into the bottom ob the 6th as well, but loaded up the bases on two walks and Carl Crawford being awarded 1st on catcher's interference before giving up a grand-slam to DH Matt Joyce to put the Rays up 4-0.

Tampa Bay would win by the final of 5-0. Graza's successful no-hit bid means the only two teams remaining in MLB that have never thrown a no-hitter are the New York Mets and San Diego Padres.

HALL OF FAME : Former outfielder Andre Dawson, manager Whitey Herzog, Umpire Doug Harvey and current Giants broadcaster John Miller were enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on Sunday. Dawson, who was enshrined as a Montreal Expo (and likely the last player to achieve that) had career batting average of .279 and 438 home runs in his 21 year career. Dawson had this to say in his speech:

“I didn’t play this game with this in mind but I’m living proof that if you love this game, the game will love you back.
San Francisco Giants and ESPN Broadcaster John Miller was awarded the Hall of Fame's Ford C Frick Award at Cooperstown on Sunday as well.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Even More Borderline Psychosis- Another Mass Grave Uncovered; Work Release Killing Spree; Mexican Hezbollah Network Disrupted?

*Authorities in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon acting on an anonymous phone tip have discovered 51 bodies at a garbage dump outside the city. The attorney general for the northern state said that the bodies of 48 men and 3 women have been unearthed so far. While the remains haven't been identified, investigators believe that most of the deceased were involved in drug trafficking, saying that tattoos on some of the bodies would help identify which group they had been working for. Back in May, the Mexican police and military discovered an abandoned silver mine in the city of Taxco where the cartels had dumped at least 55 bodies.

*The warden and three other officials from a Durango prison are under house arrest after state prosecutors say the prison officials lent out weapons and vehicles to some of the inmates so they could carry out killings in Torreon, the capital of the neighboring state of Coahuila. This included a massacre of 18 party goers on July 18th as well as shootings dating back to February and May.
Police found more than 120 bullet casings at the scene, and [Attorney General's office spokesman Ricardo] Najera said tests matched those casings to four assault rifles assigned to guards at the prison
Similar ballistics tests linked the guns to earlier killings at two bars in Torreon, the capital of northern Coahuila state, he said. At least 16 people were killed in those attacks on Feb. 1 and May 15, local media reported.I think I posed the question even before Calderon's state visit, but it bears repeating- How would additional gun control laws on this side of the border prevent further violence in Mexico when you have elements of the police in military operating at the behest of the cartels? And for those of you who think the police or military issued murder weapons are limited to those four rifles issued to the prison guards in Durango, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you for a modest fee.

*Also last week, a car bomb detonated in Ciudad Juarez across the river from El Paso, TX, killing two policemen and a doctor. Investigators on both sides of the border say the bombing is the first of its kind in Mexico and represents an escalation in tactics and increased sophistication of attacks on the cartel's part. Local police and paramedics were lured to the scene by calling in a false report that a police officer had been shot and then detonated a 22 pound bomb in a nearby parked car by cell phone. Explosives experts with the ATF have been helping their Mexican counterparts reconstruct the bomb as best they can.

So far it's been determined that the device was made from Tovex, a water gel based explosive and it would likely have to have been triggered while within sight of the rigged vehicle.

Graffiti written on the wall of a nearby elementary school specifically warned DEA and FBI agents that more bombs would follow unless the US Agencies investigated alleged links between the Sinaloa cartel and Mexican authorities.

*A Kuwaiti newspaper reported earlier this month that Mexican authorities had thwarted an attempt by Hezbollah operatives to establish a network in the country using Mexican nationals with family ties to Lebanon or of Lebanese descent themselves. The leader was residing across the border from San Diego, CA in Tijuana, Baja California at the time of his arrest.
Now....I know some of you might be saying 'What? Mexicans of Lebanese descent? You're just making stuff up. I've never heard of something so silly and farfetched'. To which I would have to reply- yes there is such a thing, actress Salma Hayek and billionaire Carlos Slim being the more prominent examples.
[I would also have to add 'Thanks for the completely gratuitous opening to toss out some Selma Hayek-centric ocular sweetness!' Oh....and legal disclaimer; I'm in no way inferring that Mr. Slim or Salma Hayek are Hezbollah operatives. Please don't sue me - NANESB!]
According to the report, Mexican police mounted a surveillance operation on the group's leader, Jameel Nasr, who traveled frequently to Lebanon to receive information and instructions from Hezbollah commanders there.
Nasr was living in Tijuana, Mexico at the time of his arrest, the report said. The report follows warnings from the United States that Hezbollah and its backer Iran are stepping up operations in the region.
Nasr also travelled to other parts of Latin America, including Venezuela. I wouldn't be too shocked if he went to the tri-border region along the Argentina, Paraguay and Brazilian border if he's indeed a Hezbollah true-believer.

*With widespread corruption and resources focused on the bloody, ongoing narcoinsurgency, logistics experts are noticing a rise in thefts targeting Mexico's trucking and railroad industries. Gangs of thieves, sometimes posing as police and setting up bogus roadblocks, will hijack tractor trailers at gunpoint, offload cargo to another trailer, or hitch the trailers to their own cabs.

Railway robberies are a little more labor-intensive, however:
Criminal gangs deploy more gunmen when they're robbing trains. A senior director for Kroll Global Risk Assessment's Mexico City office, Francesco Pipitone said that raids with 10 to 15 rifle-toting gunmen weren't uncommon.

Acting to slow the rampant holdups of trains, Mexico's Congress categorized train robbery as a "serious crime" in late April and toughened sentences to 10 to 30 years in prison. Unlike in the past, train-robbing suspects won't be freed on bond before trial.

The president of the Mexico subsidiary of Kansas City Southern, Jose G. Zozaya, said his railway was "not immune to being hit by organized crime."

He said it had employed tactics such as moving trains faster, using "jump teams" of responders when situations developed and fostering good support from state and federal police to minimize robberies of cargoes that include fuel, steel, grains, petrochemicals, auto parts and new automobiles.

"Our competitors have had autos stolen off their platforms multiple times," Zozaya said, noting that Mexico is a major exporter of new cars.
It's thought that the cartels may have a hand in this, diversifying their operations beyond drug-smuggling and human smugging.

Criminals have also been siphoning fuel and oil off of pipelines owned by the state-run oil company PeMex. This weekend, Mexican soldiers on patrol in Tamaulipas have raided a cartel safehouse with a small arsenal of guns, ammunition and grenades as well as a lot that contained oil tanker-trailers filled with oil believed to have been siphoned off of a PeMex pipeline.

Also over the weekend, Mexico's Defense Ministry reported that soldiers seized 59 pounds of explosives (including Tovex, which is believed to have been used in the Juarez car bombing last week) and killed 9 gunmen after clashing with smugglers at the rural village of La Simona in northern Chihuahua. Besides the explosives, 40kg of marijuana, 15 rifles, 3 pistols, 3 bulletproof vests, a roll of detonator cord, 10 vehicles, three satellite phones and some night vision goggles were found.

Uganda Plays Host to African Union Summit 2 Weeks After Bombings

Uganda's president called for stepped up efforts by African Union forces against Somalia's al-Shabaab militia during the AU summit in Kampala. The summit takes place less than two weeks after twin suicide bombings targeting an Ethiopian restaurant and a rugby club in Uganda's capital killed 76 people, most of them gathered to watch the championship game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Investigators found an undetonated explosive vest in the trash outside a nightclub, indicating a there was an attempted attack on a third location in Kampala.

Somalia's so-backwards-it-would-be-comical-if-they-didn't-have-RPGs Al Shabaab militia claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they were in retaliation for Uganda's participation with the AU peacekeeping force stationed in Somalia.

The lone American fatality was identified by the State Department as 25 year old University of Delaware graduate Nate Henn, who was active in the Invisible Children project. The project documents the use of child soldiers forcibly conscripted by rebels in northern Uganda during the ongoing civil war there while raising money for schools and job-training programs.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Iron Horse Roundup for June-July 2010

SWITZERLAND: A Japanese tourist was killed and 40 others were injured when the last three cars of the 6-car Glacier Express derailed on July 23rd in Fiesch Switzerland. Sometimes known as 'The Slowest Express Train in the World', the Glacier express travels between Zermatt and St. Moritz, Switzerland at an average speed of 30km per hour with coaches featuring specially designed panoramic windows.

Authorities have yet to determine a cause of the derailment, although there is speculation that a heat kink (where a small portion of the track is warped by a dramatic change in temperature) could've played a role. The line remained shut down while authorities continue to investigate the scene. This is the most serious rail accident in Switzerland since 2006, when three people were killed in a collision with a runaway train.

Photo: Xinhua

CONGO: At least 76 people were killed and more than 700 injured when a passenger train travelling Pointe Noir and Brazzaville in Congo (the marginally more stable and less strife torn Congo as opposed to the much larger and more dysfunctional People's Democratic Republic of the Congo immediately to the South and formerly known as Zaire) derailed and four cars plunged down a ravine. According to a state radio broadcast, the cause of the derailment was excess speed while the train was entering a curve.

There are only a limited number of highways linking Congo's main port of Pointe Noire and the capital city of Brazzaville. The 502km Chemin de Fer Congo-Ocean (Congo-Ocean Railway) was completed in the 1920s using conscripted labor. To this day, the line sees significant freight and passenger traffic through the mountains and equatorial rainforest while a Chinese-backed $500 million highway project is in the planning stages. This is the African nation's worst rail accident since 1991 when a collision between a freight train and passenger train just east of Pointe Noire killed at least 100 people.

SPAIN: 13 partygoers were killed on June 23rd in Castelldefels, Catalona, Spain while en route to a St. John's Eve beachfront party. The deceased, identified as immigrants from different parts of South America, were struck by a high-speed train passing through the station when they tried crossing the tracks between platforms to avoid using a crowded pedestrian underpass. At the time of the collision the high-speed RENFE train was travelling at 85 MPH, which was actually below the speed limit.

Photo: The Hindu

INDIA: A collision between two passenger trains in West Bengal on July 19 left 66 dead and 165 injured. The Uttar Banga Express slammed into the rear of the slower moving Vanachal Express in Sainthia station. Eyewitnesses estimated the Uttar Benga express was travelling anywhere from 80-90 km per hour upon impact when the station's track speed was only 30 km per hour. The impact sent the three rear cars of the Vanachal express crashing into an adjacent pedestrian bridge over the tracks.

At this time, investigators are still attempting to determine a cause. One theory was that the crew in the locomotive was drugged or unconscious, although a post mortem didn't indicate any traces of drugs. Eyewitnesses at the Uttar Benga Express' previous stop- just 10km away- saw nothing out of the ordinary with the crew there. However, the head end crew did not apply the brakes or attempt to jump when a collision was imminent.

An India Railways investigation found that the brakes were in working order. Some media outlets have speculated that the Vanachal Express was running behind because the crew was offloading some off-the-books freight at Sainthia. However, this would not account for the Uttar Benga Express travelling nearly triple the speed limit and making no attempt to stop immediately before the collision. The Sainthia station master unsuccessfully attempted to contact the head end crew of the Uttar Benga Express via radio, but that was only 30 seconds prior to impact.

More recently, investigators are looking at whether or not the signals immediately before the Sainthia station were working properly.

Photo: Lucas MR

BRAZIL: ALL Logistica [BOVESPA: ALLL11] and Cosan ltd. [NYSE: CZZ] have announced a joint venture in Rumo Logistica, a multimodal logistic system for the storage and export of bulk quantities of sugar (and byproducts such as ethanol) produced by Cosan to export at the port of Santos in São Paulo state. To accommodate the anticipated increase in carloadings, Cosan and ALL have purchased some brand new GE C44-9Ws painted in this striking sliver and blue scheme.

The Brazilian government has also entered into talks with ALL Logistica, MRS Logistica and VALE S.A. [NYSE: VALE] over proposed rules designed to increase capacity and competition and cut freight costs. Transportation minister Paulo Passos says President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva plans on issuing a decree calling for an increase sharing of assets and put idle or abandoned right-of-ways back in operation in order to sharply reduce the price of hauling freight. Under this agreement, the Brazilian government would be responsible for building any new right of way. The transportation said that President Lula's plan would further reduce the nation's dependence on freight hauled by truck [No word on if any of VALE, ALL or MRS's representatives sent a Portuguese-language edition of Atlas Shrugged off to Lula's office in response- NANESB!]

SOUTH AFRICA: A Father's Day steam-powered excursion train derailed on a branch line between Pretoria and Cullinan, South Africa. None of the 627 passengers on board were seriously injured and were subsequently bussed to their destinations from the derailment site. Investigators and railway officials almost immediately noticed some 50 ties missing from the tracks near the Cullinan station and believe that to be the cause as the train was operating at low speeds on the branch.

South African Preservation Group Friends of The Rail is putting forward an appeal for funds towards repairing some of the coaches involved as well as 4-8-2 #3117, built in 1947 by the North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow, Scotland.

Unfortunately, this isn't the first accident of the year involving restored rolling stock and equipment in South Africa. Three workers were killed when coaches from the Rovos Rail luxury train rolled away from the locomotives that were being swapped at a station stop in Pretoria back in April.

More recently, an ore train on the Saldhana line in Western Cape province derailed on July 24, closing down the iron-ore hauling route until repairs could be made. There were no reports of injuries, although it was anticipated the mishap would affect iron ore output over the next several days.

Photo: Jim Spears

CANADA: In a surprise move, the Canadian National purchased 35 GE C40-8s secondhand from Union Pacific. Canadian Railway Observations reports that the CN paid near-scrap prices for the 20 year old six-axle 4000 HP units and they will be repainted and overhauled in the former Illinois Central shops in Homewood, IL and Centralia, IL for DPU service systemwide. This was followed up by the purchase of 30 former Santa Fe/BNSF C40-8Ws that had been idle for nearly a year with the downturn in traffic. The purchases of the secondhand GEs coincides with the retirement of most of the ex-IC SD40-2s that CN 'inherited' with their 1998 acquisition of the Illinois Central.

Photo: Kevin Madore

USA: 'Endless Mountain Rails', the 2010 NRHS convention in Scranton PA, has wrapped up [which doesn't make it so endless, I guess- NANESB!]. A series of excursions were run out of the Steamtown National Historic site in downtown Scranton, although complications arose on June 24th when a truck collided with the Delaware-Lackawana bridge south of Moscow, PA, bending the rails prior to a Delaware Water Gap excursion. The excursions were initially powered by former Canadian National 2-8-2 Mikado #3259- Steamtown's workhorse- but the decision was made to use diesels like the Delaware-Lackawana RS3s and a duo of restored former Reading Railroad FP7s (neither of which were too far removed from the steam era themselves) which would've made it easier to pass the affected trackage than with the #3259.

Here, Reading FP7 #902 is seen charging past the former Delaware, Lackawana & Western depot in Moscow, PA with one of the Delaware Water Gap excursions on June 26th.

Two Photos: Mitch Goldman

Not one to be outdone, the Reading and Northern also ran concurrent excursions out of their Jim Thorpe, PA depot to wrap up the end of the NRHS convention and in preparation for the busy 4th of July weekend. Here, the R&N's stunning #425 is getting ready to head out over the former CNJ line out of Jim Thorpe and through Lehigh Gorge State Park on the 4th of July.