Monday, December 31, 2012

New York Newspaper Publishes Home Addresses of Gun Permit Holders in Lower Hudson River Valley

Under the guise of public disclosure, a White Plains, NY-based newspaper has published the names and home addresses of handgun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties north of New York City, complete with an interactive map showing where they live.

The same publication- the White Plains Journal News- is also promising to publish additional addresses of permit holders in nearby Putnam county. The move has created a good deal of animosity among Empire State gun owners who say that the newspaper's publishing their names and home addresses online is a violation of their privacy. According to some of the comments left on the newspaper's website, many names that show up are out of date by at least a decade.

The editorial board of the Journal News defended the decision to run the article and post the accompanying map on the website, saying the information was made available to the public by state law and multiple Freedom of Information act requests. The Dec22nd piece ran shortly after the Sandy Hook schoolhouse massacre just across the state line in Newtown, CT [solidifying many predictions from gun owners on how the atrocity would be leveraged against law-abiding gun owners by pro-gun control politicians and media figures- NANESB!]. It's also worth pointing out that all the names on the list had purchased their respective firearms in full compliance with New York state law, yet by the author's own admission the entire premise of the article was to 'warn' people about the very same law-abiding gun owners- maybe these 'journalists' can 'warn' the public about which homes have large collections of jewelry or coins next.

A number of gun owners have suggested a boycott of not only the Journal News and their advertisers, but other publications owned by Journal News' parent company- Gannett Co, Inc [NYSE- GCI]. An estimated 44,000 people in the three counties are said to have their names published- although there is no data available for rifles or shotguns. Within hours, some had reportedly retaliated against the Journal News by posting the name and home addresses and phone numbers of the editor, Gannett CEO and reporter online. A New York state senator has also proposed making permit information throughout the state available only to law enforcement officers carrying out an active investigation.

In March 2007, a columnist for Virginia's Roanoke Times published a list of names and addresses for concealed handgun carry permits in the New River valley, comparing permit holders to sex offenders. The Roanoke Times website took down the list within a matter of hours after receiving complaints. In 2011, an Associated Press reporter sought to obtain names and hometowns of Firearm Owner's Identification Card (FOID) by filing suit against the Illinois State Police. The state police pointed out that they sometimes receive Freedom of Information Act requests from inmates about the FOID status of corrections officers, their victims or retired policemen. In December 2011, a Peoria County Circuit Court judge ruled that the FOID information would be exempt from any Freedom of Information Act requests.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Desert Storm Commanding General Norman Schwarzkopf Passes Away At Age 78

Retired General H. Norman Schwarzkopf passed away from complications from pneumonia in Tampa, FL on Thursday at the age of 78.

Nicknamed 'stormin Norman', Schwarzkopf was a 1956 graduate of West Point, served two tours in Vietnam and was named commander of the US Central Command facilities at McDill AFB in Tampa, FL.

In 1990, when Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait, Schwarzkopf convinced Saudi monarch King Fahd to allow the Arabian peninsula to be used as a staging area for American troops to counterattack and drive Iraqi forces from occupied Kuwait. In addition to US, French and British forces Schwarzkopf also commanded an array of Arab troops from Egypt, Qatar, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. After a months-long buildup, operation Desert Storm was launched in January 1991. As the arab armies thrust into Kuwait, British and French forces- along with the US 101st Airborne Division, the 24th Infantry Division, 1st Armored Division and 3rd Armored Cavalry regiment- swept across the Saudi-Iraq border west of Kuwait, flanking Saddam's forces and decimating Iraqi armor and infantry as airstrikes continually bombarded Baghdad.

The results were devestating for Iraq's military, with as many as 35,000 killed by coalition forces while allied losses were fewer than 500. However, with Saddam's forces in disarray and full retreat into Baghdad, there was finishing thrust into the Iraqi capital by US and coalition forces at the time because the objective had been to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait [I know for a fact there was a giant road sign in English and Arabic measuring the distance to Basra and Baghdad displayed in a motor pool in Ft Stewart, GA in the late 1990s- NANESB!].

Schwarzkopf retired from the Army the following year and wrote a biography called 'It Doesn't Take A Hero'. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth and recieved honors from France, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Qatar and Bahrain. Aside from a brief stint as an NBC military commentator, the retired general mostly avoided politics and the spotlight, occasionaly acting as a spokesman for National Prostate Cancer Awareness and serving on the Nature Conservancy board of governors.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Today's Train of Thought- The North Pole Express, Dec 25, 2012

Today's train of thought takes us closer to Santa's workshop than ever before as we visit what is currently the northern terminus of the Alaska Railroad in- appropriately enough- North Pole, AK.

The Christmas-themed town is situated outside of Fairbanks and is home to Eielson Air Force Base and Flint Hills Natural Resources' oil refinery, both of which generate traffic for the Alaska Railroad. However, with the ongoing Northern Rail extension the end of the line is going to be expanded some 80 miles to the east at Delta Jct, AK over the next few years,

Here, in January 2005, contributor Jeff Barry caught AKRR SD70MAC #4016 leading a cut of tankers for the Flint Hills refinery in the fading winter's daylight.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas From Not Another New England Sports Blog

Just a quick note to wish regulars and visitors a Merry Christmas. I'll be fairly busy with visiting relatives, watching football and experimenting with various nogs between now and New Year's, but I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a joyous holiday season.

This indeed a stressful time of year for so many Americans, but in the grand scheme of things we have it pretty good. While midnight mass may seem like an inconvenience for many of us, Christians in places like Nigeria, Pakistan or Egypt routinely have horiffic violence visited on them for simply practicing their faith. Some of my relatives have realized how fortunate they have it and instead of gifts, they're asking for donations to various non-profits in their name- including things like microfinance for people in developing nations or a rather unique opportunity to adopt specially trained rats used in detecting and clearing landmines in war-torn countries like Cambodia or Mozambique [don't worry- the rats are reportedly too small to actually set off the mines- NANESB!].

In case you're wondering, the decorating damsel above is from a 1955 Gil Elvgren piece called A Put Up Job. The Minneaplos-based promotional firm of Brown & Bigelow retains the rights to many of Elvgren's works, including a number of Christmas-themed pin ups from both Elvgren and other artists.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Taxpayers Take a Hit as Uncle Sam Prepares to Unload General Motors Shares.

Worth the paper it's printed on?
General Motors [NYSE: GM] announced earlier this week that it was purchasing back some 200 shares of their stock from the United States government. Although the deal is worth an estimated $5 billion, taxpayers are going to end up taking a loss on the auto bailout from nearly four yearsago that also saw Chrysler end up in an arranged marriage with Italian automaker Fiat.
The government got its shares as part of a $49.5 billion bailout of GM that began nearly four years ago. It saved GM from collapsing into financial ruin.

GM said it will pay $27.50 each for the 200 million shares, and it expects to close the deal by the end of the year. GM stock closed Tuesday at $25.49, and it shot up 7.1 percent in premarket trading Wednesday to $27.30.

However, the 'break even' price is said to be near $53 per share, meaning that the shares of General Motors would have to nearly double in order for the government to recoup their losses from General Motor's post-bailout IPO. As part of the initial terms of the bailout, Uncle Sam initially owned more than 60% of GM. General Motor officals said that part of the reason for the stock buyback from the Feds was to rid themselves of th 'Government Motors' stigma.

Canada and the province of Ontario also became stakeholders in GM during the 2009 bailout and officials announced they had no plans to divest their shares of GM in the short-term.

"We've always been clear about two things. One, that we will not have a fire sale - we will not sell the shares without getting the best value we can for Canadian taxpayers - and secondly, that we are a Conservative government. We are not interested in the long term in being shareholders in private corporations," [Finance Minister] Flaherty told reporters in Burlington, Ontario.

"Over time we do intend to divest. On the timing, I'll have to get back to
Canada's federal government and the province of Ontario became shareholders of GM in 2009, when they contributed a combined C$10.8 billion ($10.89 billion) to a bailout to keep GM afloat. The U.S. government provided about US$50 billion.
Canada and Ontario's combined stake in General Motors is about 9%.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye Passes Away At Age 88

US Senator and Medal of Honor recipient Daniel Inouye passed away from respiratory complications at George Washington University Hospital on Monday. The Hawaiian senator, who became the longest-serving US Senator after the 2010 death of West Virginia democrat Robert Byrd, had held the office since 1963 and has represented the Aloha State in the nation's capital for as long as Hawaii has been a state, having been elected to Hawaii's at-large Congressional district shortly after it was granted statehood in 1959.

Inouye was also a decorated US Army veteran  who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an Army unit made up of second generation Japanese immigrants from across the US mainland and Hawaii- many of whom had relatives in internment camps at the time.

In April of 1945, while fighting in German-occupied Italy, Inouye was shot multiple times and severely wounded while charging a trio of German machine-gun nests. Despite being shot in the stomach and leg as well as losing his right arm to a nazi rifle-grenade, a wounded Inouye was able to destroy the first two bunkers with grenades and clear out the third with a burst from his Thompson submachine gun. Inouye's actions would earn him the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Distinguished Cross. In 2000, President Clinton awarded Inouye and 19 other members of the 442nd Regimental Combat team the Medal of Honor. By 1947, Inouye was honorably discharged with the rank of captain and was said to have been convalescing at the same Michigan Army hospital as future Senator and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole.

On Thursday, Inouye lay in state at the Capitol building for his Senate and House colleagues before being moved to the National Cathedral for a memorial service on Friday. Inouye's body will then be flown to Hawaii for a memorial service in Honolulu before his burial at the Cemetery of the Pacific.

A letter from the Senator's office has reportedly requested that Hawaii governor Neil Abercrombie appoint Representative Colleen Hanabusa [D- HI 1] to the vacant senate seat once he passed away.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Doomsday Sports Chowdah Update- San Francisco Survives Late Scare from Patriots; Nevada Sent Wolfpacking After Improbable Arizona Comeback

Well, there are a number of people who think that the world is supposed to end within the next 24 hours- something about Maya Angelou stopping at Marie Callendars. If that's the case, then I'll just die doing what I love- weeping quietly while wondering where it all went wrong blogging about sports.

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
NFL- Holy crap- where to start with this one?

The NBC Sunday night game featured the AFC East Champion Patriots hosting the NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers and had all the appearences of a dud that did not live up to its billing.

That appeared to be the case on Sunday night when San Francisco got out to an early 7-0 lead and headed into the locker room at the half up 17-3 over New England. And in the second half, things started to go from bad to worse for the Patriots as 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick threw for 2 quick TD passes to give San Francisco a seemingly insurmountable 31-3 lead in the 3rd quarter.

Even after Danny Woodhead rushed for a TD with less than 6 minutes to go in the 3rd, it still wasn't looking like much of a game at 31-10. But with time winding down in the 3rd, the Patriots put together a nice looking drive that culminated with Tom Brady hitting paydirt on a quarterback sneak on 4th and 1 in the opening seconds of the 4th quarter to make it 31-17. As nice a drive as that was, it still had the appearence of 'too little, too late'.

But then the 49ers were held to a 3 and out on their opening posession of the 4th quarter and the Patriots got the ball back. The New England offense managed to move the ball into the San Francisco red zone again, thanks to a Brady to Welker pass on 4th and 2 and a 38 yard pass interference penalty on the 49ers. Brady capped the minute-long drive with a quick 5 yard pass to Aaron Hernandez to make it 31-24- a one-score game with just over 12 minutes to go in regulation.

On their following posession, San Francisco was once again held to a three and out thanks to penalties deep in their own end and a Rod Ninkovitch sack of Colin Kaepernick, forcing the 49ers to punt.

Although the Patriots started out on their own 8, Brady found Brandon Lloyd for two consecutive (and pivotal) receptions- a 10 yard pickup to give New England a 1st down outside the shadow of their own end zone and a 53 yard catch and run from Lloyd that saw him dodge tacklers and tightrope the sideline. This time, Danny Woodhead was able to punch it in for paydirt and do what seemed impossible in the 3rd quarter- erase a 31-3 defecit.

However, just as quickly as New England erased the 49ers lead, San Francisco found themselves ahead once again on the following posession. LaMicheal James returned Zoltan Mesko's punt 62 yards to give the 49ers excellent field position and on the 1st play, the Niners QB connected with WR Micheal Crabtree for a 38 yard catch and TD run to put San Francisco back on top once and for all. Taking a 38-31 lead with 6:25 to go in the regulation.

Although New England came back to erase a 4 touchdown defecit, the 4th quarter go-ahead TD for San Francisco would end up being the back-breaker as Akers and Gostkowski ended up trading FGs for a 41-34 win for the 49ers. This is the first loss for New England since October 14th, a 24-23 loss at Seattle against the Seahawks. Currently, the Patriots have a 10-4 record with three of those four losses coming from NFC West teams.

Brady went 36-65 on the night with 2 TDs and 2 INTs along with 443 yards while the 49ers Colin Kaepernick went 14-25 with 216 yards, 4 TDs and an interception. Apparently the NFL is in the 'flex-schedule' portion of the season and has rescheduled it so that the 49ers will be on for the 2nd consecutive Sunday night game- and intraconference matchup with the 9-5 Seattle Seahawks at Qwest field.

Meanwhile, New England will head down to the Sunshine state to take on the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars at 1:00 PM ET- the game will be televised on CBS.

NCAA FOOTBALL- According to some, we're in the 'who cares?' portion of the Bowl season, but if you really think that, you've missed some pretty good games so far. And by 'pretty good games', I mean Arizona's improbable comeback against the Nevada Wolfpack in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday. With the Wildcats trailing 28-31 at the half, the Wolfpack came out in the second half and added to their lead in the 3rd to make it 45-28. And while Arizona got a TD early in the 4th to make it a 10 point game, it looked as though the Wolfpack had some insurance when they booted a FG to make it 48-35 with less than 2 minutes to go in the 4th.

After getting the ball back on their own 25, the Wildcats were able to move the ball down the field thanks to short passes along the sideline and a couple of pass interference penalties to close the gap to 42-48 with 42 seconds to go in regulation.

Arizona then opted to go for the onside kick and successfully recovered it at mid-field with 40 seconds to go. Starting from midfield, Arizona advanced on two quick strikes before getting the go-ahead TD with 20 seconds left in the game and was able to hang on and win by a 49-48 final.

OTHER BOWL GAMES- The two other Bowl games haven't been quite as dramatic, with #22 Utah State besting Toledo by a 41-15 final in the Famous Idaho Potatoes Bowl on Saturday immediately after the New Mexico Bowl. On Thrusday, San Diego State hosted former Mountain West foe Brigham Young in the San Diego County Credit Union Poisnettia Bowl. After being held to just 3 points in the first half, the BYU Cougars exploded for 20 points in the 4th quarter and topped the Aztecs by a final of 23-6.

ELSEWHERE IN NCAA FOOTBALL- Hilltoppers, hide your volleyball players. Former Louisville and Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino was announced as Western Kentucky Univesity's new football coach in a press conference earlier this month.

Petrino was fired by the university of Arkansas earlier this year after filing a false police report in regards to a motorcycle accident he was in to cover up an extramaritial affair he was having with a Razorbacks staffer. Petrino also gained infamy for lying to his employers at Louisville and the Atlanta Falcons about his commitment to them before leaving for a better offer elsewhere.

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers have been only been in the FBS since the 2008 season- transitioning from the Gateway Football conference to the Sun Belt conference with a few seasons as an independent program in between. In 2002, the Hilltoppers beat McNeese state to become the NCAA Division 1-AA football champions.

Although they were bowl-eligible last season, they didn't recieve any invitations. This season, WKU finished 7-5 and will face the Central Michigan Chippewas in the Little Ceasar's Pizza Bowl in Detroit the day after Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Today's Train of Thought- Donner's Passing Grade, December 19, 2012

Donner Pass has become synonymous with California's rugged Sierra Nevada range, America's westward expansion and cannibalism. It was also one of the operational hurdles the Union Pacific ended up with after their 1996 acquisition of the Southern Pacific.

Some 30 years ago, Union Pacific's only gateway to California was the Los Angeles-Salt Lake City line through Cajon Pass and Las Vegas. That began to change with the 1983 acquisition of the Western Pacific, whose line from Sacramento and the Bay Area cut through the mountains along the turbulent and flood prone Feather River before reaching Nevada and continuing east to Salt Lake City.

By 1996, the Union Pacific had acquired the Missouri Pacific, Missouri-Kansas-Texas, Chicago & Northwestern and Southern Pacific lines. And with the Southern Pacific acquisition came one of the UP's biggest operational headaches west of the Pecos- the Donner Pass line.

That particular stretch of the Sierras was made infamous by the ill-fated Donner Party of 1846 who had to resort to cannibalism after becoming trapped when they were attempting to traverse the Sierras in the winter months. 106 years later, the outcome of the ill-fated Donner Expedition was likely on the minds of some 200 passengers and crew of Southern Pacific's City of San Francisco as it became trapped under some 12 feet of snow and buffeted by wind gusts of nearly 100 MPH- all 196 passengers and 20 crew members were eventually evacuated by highway [an interesting footnote was that an escaped German POW from WWII took part in the rescue despite being on the FBI's most wanted list at the time- NANESB!].

The frequent accumulation of snow along this stretch meant that the SP had to be vigilant about not only clearing the line with plows, but also specially made flanges used to break up snowbanks and snowdrifts before they can become big enough to bring an entire train to a halt- as was the case in 1952 with the City of San Francisco.

Here, contributor Mike Haire caught Union Pacific GP38-2 #572 through a telephoto as it leans into a curve in Cisco, CA on the day after Christmas 2009 with five more EMDs and a flanger in tow- all on their way to Truckee, CA. The units assigned to snow clearing in the Sierras are of Southern Pacific ancestry and some of them were still in scarlet and grey until about five years ago.

Sandy Hook Victims Laid to Rest This Week

Police and firefighter honor guards were present at funerals throughout the Connecticut town of Newtown as victims's from last week's horriffic Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre were laid to rest. Among some of the firefighters present were New York's Bravest for the funeral of 7 year old Daniel Barden. According to Daniel's parents, Barden idolized his father's cousins who were FDNY firefighters.
The first-grader, frozen in time with a gap-toothed smile in a photo distributed by his family, was to be remembered in a morning service at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown and then laid to rest. Firefighters gathered outside the red-brick church, standing silently alongside the black hearse as mourners filed in.

This is a part of our extended family,” said Lt. Eddie Boles, who works with Daniel's cousins as a firefighter in New York, about 65 miles south of Newtown. “After 9/11 the whole country extended its sympathy to New York so we're here to show our support for this community."

Daniel, who had a brother and sister, was described by loved ones as “the light of his family's life” and an active boy who played soccer and swam on the Newtown Torpedoes swim team.
Fringe hate group and professional picketers Westboro Baptist Church announced their plans to picket the funeral for the students and faculty of Sandy Hook with signs proclaiming Lanza's murder spree was God's retribution. Over the weekend, hackers from Anonymous had boasted they were able to release personal information from the Westboro church and post it online [Aaron Worthing explains why as big a bunch of assholes Westboro may be, we should still be concerned about erronious/outdated info being released- NANESB!]

Meanwhile, the media had incorrectly identified gunman Adam Lanza's mother and first shooting victim, Nancy, as a former teacher at Sandy Hook immediately after the attack [they also incorrectly identified the shooter as Lanza's older brother who was in New York City at the time- NANESB!]. Reports had been circulating that Nancy Lanza was getting ready to commit her youngest son to a psychiatric institution- although under Connecticut law those records are sealed- which may have triggered her son's killing spree.

The list of victims at the elementary school include the following

-Charlotte Beacon, Age 6

-Daniel Barden, Age 7

-Rachel Davino, Age 21

-Olivia Engel, Age 6

-Josephine Gay, Age 7 (her birthday was reportedly a few days prior to the shooting)

-Ana Marquez-Greene, Age 6

-Dylan Hockley, Age 6

-Dawn Hocksprung, Age 47

-Madaline Hsu, Age 6

-Catherine Hubbard, Age 6

-Chase Kowalski, Age 7

-Jesse Lewis, Age 6

-James Mattioli, Age 6

-Grace McDonnel, Age 7

-Anne Marie Murphy, Age 52

-Emilie Parker, Age 6

-Jack Pinto, Age 6

-Noah Pozner, Age 6

-Caroline Previdi, Age 6

-Jessica Rekos, Age 6

-Avielle Richman, Age 6

-Lauren Rousseau, Age 20

-Mary Sherlach, Age 56

-Victoria Soto, Age 27

-Benjamin Wheeler, Age 6

-Allison Wyatt, Age 6

New York's WABC also posted a brief bio of each of the victims.

After the winter break, the surviving students and faculty of Sandy Hook will be attending Chalk Hill elementary in neighboring Monroe, CT. The school had been shuttered in recent years, but officials with the education department are confident they can have the building re-opened by early January.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Italian Police Raid Yet Another Mafia Operated 'Green Energy' Shell Company

Police in Sicily have arrested six people with suspected ties to fugitive cosa nostra leader Matteo Messina Denaro and seized and estimated  €10 billion in assets last week as part of an ongoing investigation into the mafia's involvement with wind and solar energy companies.

Police said Mafia members got contracts for work on wind farms and solar-energy plants near Agrigento, Palermo and Trapani. A wave of arrests over recent years have closed the net around fugitive 50-year-old Agrigento-based boss Denaro, one of the world's 10 most-wanted men, who took control of Cosa Nostra after the 2006 arrest of Bernardo Provenzano.
A Sicilian judge has ordered that the funds of a Malta-based holding company be frozen after investigators learned that Valetta-based Eryngium, Inc was the recipient of a number of funds from the properties allegedly connected to Denaro and the costa nostra.

In recent years, green/renewable energy projects have proven attractive to Italian organized crime groups like the cost nostra in Sicily or the 'Ndragheta in Calabria. In addition to Italy buying the electricity from such projects at generous rates, there's also the opportunity to siphon off grants and subsidies from both Rome and the EU as well as using the wind and solar businesses to launder funds from other criminal activity such as drug trafficking and extortion.

Exit question- is the Italian mafia providing organized crime groups elsewhere with a blueprint for bilking public funds and laundering money through 'green energy' companies?

Monday, December 17, 2012

South Carolina Governor Appoints Congressman Tim Scott to US Senate

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley has announced the appointment of congressman Tim Scott to replace outgoing senator Jim DeMint. Earlier this month, Sen. DeMint announced his plans to leave office in January to become President of conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation.

Scott, a Republican who recently won a second term, represents the Palmetto State's 1st Congressional District- which stretches along the coast north of Charleston. During the 2010 primaries, Scott ran against the son of segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond and won, going on to win convincingly in the general election against his Democrat opponent.

Once elected to office, Scott declined to join the Congressional Black Caucus. Early on he was assigned to the House Transportation Committee and House Small Business Committee before being appointed to the House Rules Committee. Prior to that, Scott had served on the Charleston County Council and South Carolina General Assembly in addition to owning his own insurance agency.

Scott will become black senator from the state of South Carolina, the first black senator from the South since 1881 and the only black senator during the 113th Congress [Interestingly, many of the media types who normally savor the ethnic head-counts were remarkably quiet after Gov. Haley's announcement on Monday- NANESB!].

According to South Carolina state law, Gov. Haley is also required to set a date for a special election for Scott's vacant Congressional seat. It's also worth pointing out that the boundaries for South Carolina's first congressional district had shifted significantly after the 2010 Census. While the district still encompasses much of the coast, the First District will be mostly between Charleston and Hilton Head Island, SC and much of Scott's former district is now part of the newly-formed 7th Congressional district which will be represented by Horry County Republican Tom Rice.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Islamist Constitution Apprears Headed For Approval After First Round of Voting in Egyptian Referendum

"Why so serious?". Graffiti in Cairo depicting Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi as the queen of clubs on a card dealt by Batman villian the Joker. Photo via Ghazala Irshad
A draft of Egypt's constituion endorsed by the Muslim Brotherhood and President Morsi appears headed for a likely victory after the first round of voting over the weekend.
An official tweet by the Brotherhood, Egypt's most powerful political group, said its tallies showed nearly 57 per cent of voters said "yes" to the disputed charter, while about 43 per cent voted 'no.' The vote was held on Saturday in 10 of the country's 27 provinces, including Cairo and the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city.
A second round of voting is set to take place for Dec 22nd where the Muslim Brotherhood is expected to carry most of Egypt's rural areas.

However, a number of rights groups, observers and opposition leaders allege that this weekend's balloting was marred by women and Christians being barred from some polling stations as well as people falsely identifying themselves as judges showing up at the polls.

Mohamed ElBaradei, Egypt's best known reform leader, was as frustrated by how the referendum was run as the rights groups.

"Is a referendum held under insufficient judicial supervision, clearly tenuous security and the violence and violations we are witnessing the road to stability or playing with the country's destiny? the Nobel Peace Laureate and former U.N. nuclear agency chief wrote on his Twitter account.
Most of Egypt's judges has announced ahead of the weekend that they intended to boycott the referrendum on the Muslim Brotherhood backed draft of the new constitution. The move was repotedly never intended to halt the vote outright, but rather undermine its legitmacy should it have been approved.
Egypt's political crisis began on Nov. 22 when Morsi issued a decree granting himself — and the Islamist-dominated panel that drafted the constitution — immunity from judicial oversight or challenge, sparking mass demonstrations.

The constituent assembly then hurriedly approved the draft constitution in a marathon overnight session, prompting hundreds of thousands of the president's opponents to take to the streets in massive rallies — the largest since the uprising that toppled Mubarak in February 2011.

The vast majority of Egypt's judges, meanwhile, said Tuesday they would not oversee the referendum on the draft constitution. Ahmed el-Zind, chairman of the Judges' Club and a fierce Morsi critic, told a news conference that 90 percent of the nation's judges would join the boycott.
Observers have speculated that the unrest and chaos that resulted from Morsi's November 22 decreee was by design, pressuring voters to approve the Muslim Brotherhood-supported draft of the constitution without giving it any scrutiny.

Over the weekend, Morsi also authorized the Egyptian military [which is expected to recieve up to 20 new F-16 fighter jets courtesey of the Obama Adminstration- NANESB!] to assume joint responsibility with Egyptian police for public safety during the staggered balloting this weekend and next.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Quickie Sports Chowdah Update/Reminder- Bowl Season Kicks off This Weekend.

It's been nearly a week since the Bowl schedule was released, but I've fallen behind on that and couple of other things.

Even though I have no strong rooting interest in this year's slate of Bowl games, here is the complete game and TV schedule. Pretty much all games aside fromt he Cotton Bowl and Sun Bowl will be televised on the ESPN family of networks.

Gildan New Mexico - Nevada vs. Arizona

University Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Saturday, December 15, 1:00 p.m., ESPN

Famous Idaho Potato - Toledo vs. Utah State

Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho

Saturday, December 15, 4:30 p.m., ESPN

S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia - BYU vs. San Diego State

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California

Thursday, December 20, 8:00 p.m., ESPN

Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg - UCF vs. Ball State

Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida

Friday, December 21, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

R+L Carriers New Orleans - East Carolina vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana

Saturday, December 22, 12:00 p.m., ESPN

MAACO Las Vegas - Washington vs. Boise State

Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada

Saturday, December 22, 3:30 p.m., ESPN

Sheraton Hawaii - Fresno State vs. SMU

Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii

Monday, December 24, 8:00 p.m., ESPN

Little Caesars Pizza - Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan

Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan

Wednesday, December 26, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman - San Jose State vs. Bowling Green

RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, December 27, 3:00 p.m., ESPN

Belk - Cincinnati vs. Duke

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina

Thursday, December 27, 6:30 p.m., ESPN

Bridgepoint Education Holiday - Baylor vs. UCLA

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California

Thursday, December 27, 9:45 p.m., ESPN

AdvoCare V100 Independence - Ohio vs. Louisiana-Monroe

Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana

Friday, December 28, 2:00 p.m., ESPN

Russell Athletic - Rutgers vs. Virginia Tech

Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida

Friday, December 28, 5:30 p.m., ESPN

Meineke Car Care of Texas - Minnesota vs. Texas Tech

Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas

Friday, December 28, 9:00 p.m., ESPN

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces - Rice vs. Air Force

Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

Saturday, December 29, 11:45 a.m., ESPN

New Era Pinstripe - West Virginia vs. Syracuse

Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York

Saturday, December 29, 3:15 p.m., ESPN

Kraft Fight Hunger - Navy vs. Arizona State

AT&T Park, San Francisco, California

Saturday, December 29, 4:00 p.m., ESPN2

Valero Alamo - Texas vs. Oregon State

Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas

Saturday, December 29, 6:45 p.m., ESPN

Buffalo Wild Wings - TCU vs. Michigan State

Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona

Saturday, December 29, 10:15 p.m., ESPN

Franklin American Mortgage Music City - North Carolina State vs. Vanderbilt

LP Field, Nashville, Tennessee

Monday, December 31, 12:00 p.m., ESPN

Hyundai Sun - USC vs. Georgia Tech

Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas

Monday, December 31, 2:00 p.m., CBS

AutoZone Liberty - Iowa State vs. Tulsa

Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tennessee

Monday, December 31, 3:30 p.m., ESPN

Chick-fil-A - LSU vs. Clemson

Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia

Monday, December 31, 7:30 p.m., ESPN Gator - Mississippi State vs. Northwestern

Everbank Field, Jacksonville, Florida

Tuesday, January 1, 12:00 p.m., ESPN2

Heart of Dallas - Purdue vs. Oklahoma State

Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas

Tuesday, January 1, 12:00 p.m., ESPNU

Outback - South Carolina vs. Michigan

Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida

Tuesday, January 1, 1:00 p.m., ESPN

Capital One - Georgia vs. Nebraska

Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida

Tuesday, January 1, 1:00 p.m., ABC

Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio - Wisconsin vs. Stanford

Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

Tuesday, January 1, 5:00 p.m., ESPN

Discover Orange - Northern Illinois vs. Florida State

Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Florida

Tuesday, January 1, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Allstate Sugar - Louisville vs. Florida

Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana

Wednesday, January 2, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Tostitos Fiesta - Oregon vs. Kansas State

University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona

Thursday, January 3, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

AT&T Cotton - Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma

Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas

Friday, January 4, 8:00 p.m., FOX

BBVA Compass - Pittsburgh vs. Ole Miss

Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama

Saturday, January 5, 1:00 p.m., ESPN - Kent State vs. Arkansas State

Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama

Sunday, January 6, 9:00 p.m., ESPN

Discover BCS National Championship - Notre Dame vs. Alabama

Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Florida

Monday, January 7, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

[Hat tip- Austin Chang]

It's also worth noting that the NCAA Women's volleyball championship between Texas and Oregon will also take place on Saturday night at the Yum!/KFC Arena in Louisville, KY at 7:00 PM ET

Today's Train of Thought- Over the Hills We Go, December 15, 2012

Although in this case, the 'hills' in question are New Hampshire's rather formidable White Mountains.

It's that time of year again- where tourist railways, shortlines and even the occasional Class 1 begin operating seasonal Santa Trains for the public or their employees.

Originally built in 1872, the rail line into Conway, NH  carried seasonal visitors in the Boston area to the resorts in northern New Hampshire. The line continued to be in service for about 100 years until the last of the freight customers dried up for the Boston & Maine in 1972. Although much of the line south of Conway was torn up, the Conway Scenic Railroad began operations out of the ornate Victorian-style depot in North Conway a few years after the B&M left town. The excursions were fairly short, but featured a former Canadian National 0-6-0 Baldwin steam engine for power [which is still in operation today- NANESB!] as well as older diesels such as GE 44 tonners and ALCo S Series switchers.

By 1984, Guilford Transportation- the parent company of Maine Central, Delaware & Hudson and the Boston & Maine- had decided to abandon the MEC Mountain Division between Portland, ME and St Jonsbury, VT. This was the only other line through N. Conway and left the Conway Scenic isolated from the rest of the nation's rail network for a time. However, instead of being torn up, the line was instead transferred to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation where it was eventually reopened in the late 1990s as the Conway Scenic acquired a pair of former VIA Rail Canada F units to haul trains through the scenic Crawford Notch northwest of Conway. The F units were on the property as recently as 2010, when the Conway Scenic and Guilford successor Pan Am negotiated a trade. Pan Am would get the F units for office car specials and VIP trains while the Conway Scenic would get two newer GP units- a GP35 and a GP38- that were equipped with dynamic braking, something needed on what the Conway Scenic calls the Notch Trains.

Here, contributor Ian McMillan caught Conway Scenic GP7 #573 trundling across Boulder Creek on the Mountain division at Bartlett, NH on January 5th, 2007. The #573 has been on the property since 1996 and was reportedly the preferred locomotive for Maine Central's then-president, E. Spencer Miller, to handle office car specials and was said to have powered the last OCS over the Mountain Division in 1984. Here, she's seen with an excursion from the Massachusetts Bay Rail Road Enthusiasts 'Steam in the Snow' excursion, inferring that the coal-burning former CN 0-6-0 isn't too far away.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Horror in Connecticut as Gunman Murders 26, Including 20 Elementary School Students

Wow- "This is just awful" would be an understatement. Ordinarilly I scoff at such things, but after today I wonder if the Mayans had it right all along and everything is coming to an end shortly. I cannot fathom the mind of somebody twisted enough to even contemplate this, let alone actually carry it out. That said, I'm not giving the perpetrator a pass by claiming he was mentally derelict or anything along those lines.

Jessica Hill/AP Photo
A gunman identified as 20 year old Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother in their Newtown, CT home before driving to Sandy Hook Elementary school where she taught, murdering her entire class as well as members of the school staff.
The shooter, who sources identified as Adam Lanza, 20, shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, in the face at their home in Newtown, Conn., then went to nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School where she taught and gunned down her entire class, according to sources. Lanza was found dead inside the school, according to officials. Eighteen of the children and six more adults were dead at the school and two more children died later, according to Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance.

Vance would not confirm the shooter's name, and earlier in the day there were conflicting reports over the gunman's identity. Law enforcement sources told the shooter was Adam Lanza. His brother, Ryan Lanza, 24, who was widely and erroneously reported to be the suspect, was questioned in Hoboken, N.J., but authorities said he was not involved. An FBI source tells Fox News that Ryan Lanza and the father, Peter Lanza, have both been cleared and are not longer being questioned.

"It is not a simplistic scene," Vance told reporters.
The guns used in the are said to have belonged to Nancy Lanza and reportedly include an AR-15 type semiautomatic rifle as well as two 9mm handguns- a Glock and a SigSauer. Although the media has said the horror in Newtown is sure to re-ignite the gun control debate, gun control groups say that Connecticut has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation. The guns used in the massacre were said to have been legally obtained by Lanza's mother. Such laws did nothing to prevent an August 2010 mass killing when a recently fired worker at a Hartford beer distributor's warehouse returned and shot 8 of his former co-workers to death before shooting himself.

Early on, there were a number of conflicting reports regarding the shooting. Initially the shooter was identified as Ryan Lanza of Hoboken, NJ- Adam's older brother. Later, there were conflicing reports of possible accomplices and whether or not the AR-15 recovered at the scene had even been fired.

According to news reports, Lanza showed up at the main office wearing black garb and carrying three weapons and shot the principal with the entire school listening on in horror over the school intercom system. Some teachers attempted to shield their sudents from the homicidal gunman during his rampage. Telling her young pupils the gunshots they heard was hammering, one teacher ushered her students into the school's bathroom. Other teachers were able to lock the doors to their classrooms.

Authorities are witholding the names of the victims until all of the victim's families are notified.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sports Chowdah Update- Patriots Deal Texas-Sized Ass Whuppin' to Houston; Napoli, Flyin' Hawaiian Land In Beantown; Navy Survives Late Army Rally; Duck Duck, Longhorn!

Jerry Brown: 1987-2012. AP File photo
NFL- A week after the highly publicized murder-suicide involving Kansas City linebacker Jovan Belcher, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jerry Brown was killed in a single car accident in Arlington, TX. The car was being driven by nose tackle Josh Brent, who was a teammate of Brown's both in Dallas and at the University of Illinois.
According to police, Brent and Brown were speeding west in the 1400 block of the East State Highway 114 service road around 2:21 a.m. Brent’s car “hit the outside curb” and traveled about 900 feet before coming to rest upside down in the middle of the road.

“Our investigators are certain that they were traveling well above the posted speed limit, and they base that on the physical evidence that is out on the scene — gouge marks, skid marks, where the vehicle initially impacted the curb and where the vehicle came to rest,” said Irving police spokesman John Argumaniz. The posted speed limit was 45 mph, he said.

Arriving officers saw Brent trying to drag his teammate from the burning car. Brown, unresponsive, was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The small fire was quickly extinguished.

Brent had minor injuries, mostly scrapes, police said. He failed field sobriety tests and was taken to a hospital. He was later booked into the Irving jail on the second-degree felony charge, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine
The Dallas Morning News is also reporting that Brent had a DUI dating back to his college days in Illinois. Court records from Champaign county, IL show that in February 2009, Brent was arrested for DUI, driving without a valid liscence and speeding near the University of Illinois campus and was sentenced to 60 days in jail, 200 hours community service and two years probation.

Born and raised in St Louis, Brown was on the roster when Vashon High School won three Missouri district titles and had him ranked among the top 100 best defensive ends in the country before he accepted a scholarship to Illinois. During the Illini 2007 run to the Rose Bowl, Brown had 2 and a half sacks in 13 games.

Although he was initially undrafted by the NFL in 2011, he did play for the Jacksonville Sharks of the Arena Legue and was on the practice squad for the Hamilton Tigercats of the CFL. In 2012, Brown worked out for the Texans, Jets and Eagles before being signed to the Indianaplos Colts practice squad. After he appeared in one game- the Colts 35-9 loss to the Jets on Oct 14th- he was waived and then signed to the practice roster once again before being cut. Later that month, Dallas picked him up off of waivers and assigned him to the Cowboys practice squad where he reportedly was recieving consideration for a move to the active roster.

Brent is charged with DUI and intoxicated manslaughter.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS- Former NFL Comissioner Paul Tagliabue overturned current comissioner Roger Goddel's suspension of four New Orleans Saints defensive players who were accused of participating in the Bountygate scandal.
In a surprising rejection of his successor's overreaching punishments, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue threw out "all discipline" current Commissioner Roger Goodell had imposed on two current Saints, linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith, and two players no longer with the club, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove.

Tagliabue, appointed by Goodell to handle player appeals in the matter, essentially absolved Fujita, but agreed with Goodell's finding that the other three players "engaged in conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public confidence in, the game of professional football."

The 22-page ruling Tuesday allowed both sides to claim victory more than nine months after the league first revealed the Saints' bounty scandal to shocked fans, describing a performance pool operated by former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams that, among other things, rewarded hits that injured opponents.

The four players punished by Goodell have maintained they were innocent of taking part in bounty program from the beginning, saying they never intended to injure anyone on the field. Vilma even has filed a defamation lawsuit against Goodell in U.S. District Court in Louisiana, and his lawyers, Peter Ginsberg and Duke Williams, said they intend to continue to pursue those claims "vigorously."
The NFL alleges that defensive players from the 2009-2010 New Orleans Saints paid each other off-the-books bonuses for knocking out or injuring players from opposing teams throughout the season. During the 2009-2010 season, the Saints defensive players would've had the opportunity to tee off on quarterbacks such as Brett Favre, Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan.

However, while Tagliabue's ruling allows the players to get back on the field without further NFL sanction, he also made clear that he holds the Saints coaching staff culpable for allowing the bounty program to continue.

AP Photo/Elise Amendola

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS- In what was only their second prime-time game of the 2012 season, the Patriots delivered a Lone Star state-sized beatdown of the Houston Texans on Monday night football.

In all honesty, I expected the Patriots to win in a fairly close contest where they started to pull away in the 4th quarter. However, Monday night's game in Foxborough seemed to be decided by halftime with the Patriots jumping out to a 14-0 lead on their first two posessions.  Wes Welker's 31 yard punt return and 25 yard reception set the tone early, leading to a 7 yard TD pass from Brady to Aaron Hernandez to open up the scoring. The TD came despite Stevan Ridley being stripped of the ball while rushing for the end zone on 1st and goal.

Trailing 7-0, the Texans were looking to get on the board and put together a nice looking drive until QB Matt Schaub's pass into the end zone was picked off by CB Devin McCourty who ran it back to the New England 19. On the following posession, Brady connected with a wide open Brandon Lloyd for a 37 yard TD reception.

New England went into the locker room at the half up 21-0, but with the Texans inability to get anything going offensively [along with a couple of iffy calls that went New England's way and the fortuitous fumble recovery early on by Hernandez- NANESB!] it felt like much more than that. To emphasise this, the Patriots opened up the scoring in the second half with a 63 yard pass reception and TD run from Brady to WR Donte Stallworth to put New England up 28-0. The Texans finally got on the board late in the 3rd, but New England won this one going away by a 42-14 final.

Brady went 21-35 with 4 TDs and 296 yards on Monday night. This is his 18th career game with 4 or more TDs, moving him past Johnny Unitas to 4th all-time on the list. TE Aaron Hernandez had 8 receptions- two of them for TDs- and 58 yards while Donte Stallworth's 63 yard catch and TD run was his lone reception of the night.

Although Houston lost bad, they still maintain the best overall record in the AFC at 11-2. However, two out of Houston's three remaining games are against the 9-4 Indianapolis Colts- the next closest team in the AFC South, so even though the Texans may have clinched a playoff berth before heading into Foxborough on Monday, clinching the division still isn't a given this late in the season.

New England's next game will be its last scheduled prime-time matchup of the 2012 season- a Sunday Night matchup at Gillette Stadium against the NFC West leading San Francisco 49ers. The game kicks off on Sunday night at 8:20 ET, 5:20 Pacific [no word on whether or not Bob Costas will deliver another patronizing lecture during NBC's halftime show- NANESB!]. After that, the Patriots will take on two Florida teams-  the Jacksonville Jaguars and a home game against AFC East foe Miami to wrap up the regular season.

RED SOX- The Red Sox have been pretty busy during the winter offseason. So far this month, they've reportedly acquired C/1B Mike Napoli [although FOX Sports is reporting that the contract has yet to be finalized, implying that the deal has hit some sort of snag, most likely pending the physical- NANESB!]. The deal- if and when it is finalized- is for three years and will be worth $39M. In 100 games with the Texas Rangers last season, Napoli started as catcher in more than 70 of them, batting .227 with 24 HR and 56 RBI. During the 2010 season, the Red Sox attempted to claim Napoli when the Angels placed him on waivers- although there was speculaton that was a move by Boston to pre-empt the Yankees from picking up Napoli. The Angels then pulled back Napoli from waivers and he remained with the Halos for the remainder of the season before being traded to Texas.

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
This week, the Red Sox also held a press conference to announce the signing of former Phillies and Dodgers outfielder Shane Victorino to a contract of similar duration and monetary value as Napoli's contract. Victorino- a native of the Aloha State- recieved the monicker 'The Flyin' Hawaiian' from his Philadelphia days and was traded by the Phillies to the Dodgers at the trade deadline last season. In his 101 games with Philly last season, he hit .261 with 9 HR, 40 RBI and 24 stolen bases. After being traded to LA, Victorino had 15 stolen bases, 15 RBI and batted .245 with 2 HR.

On Thursday afternoon, the AP was reporting that the Red Sox and starting pitcher Ryan Dempster were close to reaching an agreement reportedly worth $26.5 million for two years. Dempster was also moved during the 2012 trade deadline, going from Chicago to the Texas Rangers. Between the North Side and the Lone Star state, Dempster was 12-8 with a 3.38 ERA last season- that was broken down to a 5-5 record with a 2.25 ERA with the Cubbies and a 7-3 record with Texas and a 5.03 ERA.

ELSEWHERE IN MLB- In a move that easily eclipsed all other rumored deals and transactions on Thursday was the Angels reported signing of free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton. The deal is reportedly worth $125 million and would have Hamilton playing his home games in Orange county through 2018.

Former Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, who left for Detroit as a free agent this offseason, tweeted mockingly that Angels owner Artie Moreno must've had found some money hidden under a mattress after the Halo's front office failed to come up with a qualifying minimum $13.3 million offter to retain Hunter.

Hamilton was batting .285 with 43 HR and 128 RBI for Texas last season.

Earlier this week, the New York Yankees and former Red Sox 3B Kevin Youkilis had reportedly agreed to a 1-year, $12 million deal. Youkilis was traded from the Red Sox to the White Sox in June immediately after an emotional win against the Atlanta Braves where the crowd at Fenway gave him a standing ovation upon leaving the game- before the trade was even announced.

Youkilis is expected to fill in for big money 3B Alex Rodriguez, who will be recovering from hip surgery and isn't expected to return to the Bronx Bomber's lineup until at least June 2013.

NCAA FOOTBALL- With a long overdue victory against Navy in sight, the Army Black Knights broke out the heavy artillery late in the 4th quarter and proceeded to immediately shoot themsleves in the foot with a fumbled handoff that was recovered by the Midshipmen.

Unlike recent Army-Navy games, this one was pretty close with the teams heading into the locer room at halftime tied 10-10. However, late in the 3rd, Navy was able to successfully keep the Black Knights out of the end zone and Army had to settle for a short FG. Although that gave them a 13-10 lead over Navy, it would prove to be short-lived as the Midshipmen took the lead once and for all with 5:17 to go in the 4th quarter. However, even though Army was able to put together a sustained drive deep into Navy territory after starting on their own 17, Army RB fumbled the handoff at the Navy 14 with 1:27 to go and the Midshipmen pounced on the ball and were simply able to run out the clock from there.

Navy hangs on to win by the final of 17-13 and wins the Commander in Chief trophy- Army hasn't won since 1996. That wraps up the season for 2-10 Army while 8-4 Navy will face off against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec 29th in San Francisco.

ELSEWHERE IN NCAA FOOTBALL- Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel- dubbed by Aggies faithful and some in the press as 'Johnny Football'- made history over the weekend by becoming the first ever freshman to win the Heisman trophy.

Manziel averaged for more than 284 yards per game in 2012 and had 24 TD's versus 8 interceptions. This was also A&M's first season in the SEC, garnering attention in November when they upset undefeated Alabama by a 29-24 final.

Manziel recieved a total of 474 first place votes in the Heisman balloting- Notre Dame's Manti Te'o came in a distant second with 321 first place votes.

Nathan Goldsmith- Daily Texan photo

NCAA VOLLEYBALL- The final two teams for this year's NCAA women's volleyball tournament are set and defending women's champions UCLA will not be participating after getting knocked out by Michigan State.

In fact, UCLA didn't even advance to the semifinals this week- instead, thie year's NCAA women's volleyball title game will be between a team that hasn't won since 1988 and another that is making their first-ever trip to the finals.

Oregon upended Penn State's bid to return to the title match by defeating them 3 sets to one to advance to their first ever women's volleyball championship berth. Meanwhile, the Texas Longhorns defeated the Michigan Wolverines 3 sets to 2 for their first finals appearence since 2009 when they lost to Penn State. The last time Texas women's volleyball won a national title was in 1988.

The game is set for Saturday, December 15th and will be televised on ESPN2 and streaming on ESPN3 beginning at 7:00 ET from the KFC/Yum! Center in Louisville, KY.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rare WWII Automatic Rifle Turned In At Connecticut Buyback

Think of it as Pawn Stars, only with guns and taking place in the decidedly less glamorous venue of Hartford, CT.

During a recent gun buyback, police in Hartford were surprised when a local woman turned in an extremely rare WWII Nazi-issued automatic rifle.

“It’s like finding the Babe Ruth of baseball cards. The rarity, it was made for such a very short period,” Officer John Cavanna, one of the two officers who discovered the gun, told ABC News.

Officer Lewis Crabtree added, “The chance to see a piece of history — this … is absolutely unbelievable.”

Cavanna and Crabtree are resident gun experts for the Hartford Police Department.

The woman found the weapon in a closet after her father, a World War II veteran, passed away. Her father had brought home the historic weapon, usually issued to SS troops, from Europe as a keepsake from the war.

She was unaware it is now valued between $20,000 to $25,000.

The Sturmgewehr 44, meaning “storm rifle,” dates back to 1944. Crabtree revealed it was the first “modern assault rifle ever made, eventually replaced by the AK 47 in 1947 by Russia, who copied the German design of the Sturmgewehr 44.”

And although every modern assault rifle is modeled after the Sturmgewehr 44, Crabtree understood how its significance could be overlooked.

“If you were to look at the gun and didn’t know anything about guns, you would think it was garbage,” Crabtree said.

In its current state, this Sturmgewehr 44 is inoperable. But in its prime, it would have held a 30-round magazine and shot 500 rounds per minute.
In case you were wondering how a rare WWII nazi rifle made its way to Colt's backyard, Officer Cavanna explained that during wartime, GIs were sometimes allowed to send trophies- such as samurai swords or Luger pistols captured from axis troops- to relatives back home. And apparently that is what the unidentified woman's father did with the Stg 44, where it spent decades in a Connecticut attic not doing much besides appreciating in value. The weapon currently sits in a police armory- had they accepted it as part of the buyback, Hartford police would have been obligated to destroy the rare weapon and the woman who turned it in would've only received a $100 WalMart gift card.

Although it offered a superior rate of fire to the bolt-action rifle issued to German troops at the time, manufacturing the Stg 44 proved to labor-intensive, something the reeling 3rd reich could ill afford so late in the conflict. Thus fewer than a half million Stg 44s were produced- compared to more than 6 million M1 carbines or some 14 million Mauser bolt-action 98K Karabiner- and the forerunner of the modern military assault rifle was only issued to a select few SS troops. After WWII, the Soviet Union incorporated many design features from the Stg 44 into what became the iconic AK-47. In fact, earlier this year rebel factions in Syria captured what they thought was a stockpile of 5000 AK-47s from the Syrian military- but the weapons turned out to be Stg 44s.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Amid Violent Protests, Michigan Becomes 24th Right to Work State

Michigan State Police in riot gear and LIUNA protesters in Lansing, MI. Mike Mulholland-
With the stroke of a pen, first-term Michigan governor accomplished what was once considered unthinkable in a state with strong ties to the nation's organized labor movement and signed into law legislation that made Michigan a right-to-work state.
At about 5:45 p.m., Snyder announced publicly that he signed the historic right-to-work legislation in private - hours after the bills won final approval in the House and five days after he joined with GOP legislative leaders to announce their plan to enact the controversial law.

"This is a major day in Michigan's history," he said during a news conference in the Romney building not long after signing the legislation. "Again, I don't view this as anti-union at all. I believe this is pro-worker."
The signings came as thousands of protesters and union members descended on Lansing, obstensibly to urge a veto of the legislation once it reached Gov. Snyder's desk. Union protestors also tore down a tent belonging to pro right-to-work group Americans for Prosperity- with people inside- and at least one protestor in an IBEW jacket was videotaped shoving and punching FOX News contributor Steven Crowder outside the collapsed tent. Apologists for the various union thugs laughably attempted to explain away both videotaped events as being 'provoked' by Americans for Prosperity or a 'false flag' where they sabotaged their own tent [shorter Union: "They totally deserved to have their tent wrecked, even though they did it to themselves!"- NANESB!].

[12/12 UPDATE- Not satisfied with simply tearing down a tent and assaulting Crowder, the braying mob apparently focused their energies on destroying a hot dog cart and hurling racial slurs at the cart's owner, Clint Tarver. Tarver was catering to the Americans for Prosperity tent that was ripped down to hoots and applause from the union crowd. The media also described the rampage protests as 'mostly peaceful'.]

Earlier in the day, state representative Doug Geiss [D- Taylor] promised on the floor of the State House that "there will be blood" if right-to-work was passed. The Michigan State House Democrats twitter account would later tweet Geiss' threat before deleting it. On Monday, President Obama slammed the state's right-to work legislation as he was speaking in Michigan to try and gain support for his proposed tax hikes, falsely claiming the two seperate bills making their way through the State House would eliminate collective bargaining altogether. Earlier this year, President Obama ripped right-to-work in a speech before big labor leaders like Trumka and Hoffa, but his supporters and economic team were all to willing to take credit for the jobs created in right-to-work states.

One commenter on succinctly charachterized Michigan's new right-to-work law as follows
Unions will now have to view their members as customers instead of just treating them as a revenue stream. That's about the only thing that changed today. Unions still exist. Employees can still organize. Employees can still engage in collective bargaining.
Gov Snyder's move came about 10 months after Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed right-to-work into law, making the Hoosier state the first 'rust belt' state to have right-to-work laws in more than 40 years. Snyder reportedly wanted to make Michigan as competitive as Indiana, which has added an estimated 43,000 jobs since the state passed right-to-work.

Growing up, we got a cursory introduction to the labor movement in the history books at school while unions like the Teamsters murdered 96 people at the DuPont Plaza hotel in Puerto Rico or various New England chapters of the Laborers International Union of North America maintained cozy relationship with the Patriarcha crime family out of Providence, allowing mobsters to engage in laor racketeering while raiding the union's pension fund.

Many of the unions protesting in Madison, WI last year lost much of their credibility when despite AWOL lawmakers and activist judges, laws limiting collective bargaining in Wisconsin were passed by Gov. Scott Walker despite massive, continuous protests on the grounds of the state capitol building. However, despite dire predictions of public employee unions like AFSCME or SEIU, the sky didn't fall and Wisconsin didn't turn into Mogadishu overnight.

Moreover, even without Tuesday's violent tantraum in mind, I have zero sympathy for unions that do things like help themselves to money from families of disabled people. I'm not certain it this is limited to Michigan, but hopefully this practise is dismantled ASAP.

The law will likely face a number of challenges and I would be very surprised if an activist judge somewhere along the way didn't attempt to overturn it by judicial fiat. Still, wouldn't it be ironic if after the rough years the auto industry has had lately, the new right-to-work law started bringing the auto industry back to its 'home' in Michigan?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Unique Gift Ideas for 2012- What Says "Merry Christmas" Better Than a Decomissioned Nuclear Missile Silo?

I'll be the first to admit, I tend to be a tad lazy when it comes to Christmas shopping, especially since the advent of all those retail gift cards you see in just about any given grocery store these days. This isn't because I don't care about the intended recipients of the aforementioned gift cards, but rather I trust them to be able to pick out something for themselves better than I could.

But for those of you who want a little something that's outside the card box, how does the gift of a decomissioned US Air Force anti-ballistic missile facility on the high plains with architechture straight out of Blade Runner strike you?

From here, the United States Air Force kept watch for Soviet missiles and runaway replicants- photo
The 400+ acre Stanley Mickelsen Safeguard Complex in Cavalier County North Dakota is listed at more than 400 acres and could be described as a Doomsday Prepper's dream come true.

According to the GSA auction site:
The Stanley Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (SRMSC) is an Anti-Ballistic Missile complex which was developed to preserve the United States’ second strike capability against Soviet nuclear missile attacks. The property is located in North Dakota and was the United States’ first Anti-Ballistic Nuclear Missile Defense System. The SRMSC became operational in 1975 and was deactivated in 1976.
An unofficial website dedicated to the history of the facility says that despite being fully operational for less than a year, the facilities Perimeter Acquisition Radar was still used as part of the Air Force's space tracking and early warning system while the rest of the compund fell into caretaker status and came under command of the US Army's Space & Missile Defence Command. Accoring to the GSA auction website, those properties are being auctioned off seperately.

Personally, I think I'm more of a derelict former Coast Guard signal station on a remote Maine island kind of guy. If you feel as though the 400+ acre site on the Dakota high plains might be a bit too much, then perhaps you could go back to my 2010 Christmas gift idea of getting that special someone their own ghost town. Apparently both Otira, New Zealand and Currie, Nevada are still available.

Nevada Northern Railway depot at Currie, NV- Now with 99.9% less rail traffic, although that could be changing soon. Landing a Day photo

Its also worth pointing out that the former Nevada Northern line through Currie has actually seen a train since the 1999 shutdown of BHP Nevada railway- the most recent freight operator of the line. In late 2009, the Nevada Northern Railway museum- which owns the 118-mile right of way- was approached by S&S Rail services about storing freight cars on the northern portion of the line. Although an estimated 400 cars were stored along the Nevada Northern line between Shafter and Currie [S&S brought in their own locomotive for that- NANESB!] there is still a 65-mile gap between Currie and the current northern end of the Nevada Northern operations out of East Ely, NV. The re-opening of the copper mines in Ely may also spur the eventual reopening of the entire Nevada Northern line, meaning that while Currie may still be a ghost town, the rails running through it would see trains on a regular basis.

Of course, a number of ghost towns have come on the open market since then- including a few just down the road (kinda) from Currie.

Along US rotue 6 and the former Rio Grande Denver to Salt Lake City mainline is the town of Woodside, UT that went on the market in August. The town features 'free range llamas', a cold-water geyser that was once a tourist attraction and was also used for filming a few scenes from the 1991 film Thelma & Louise.
Woodside got its start in 1881. It was called Lower Crossing then and was used by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad as a water stop.

The town grew to include several stores, a blacksmith shop and even a school. The population peaked around 1920, when about 300 people called Woodside home.

Then the railroad consolidated its operations, moving 45 miles northwest to Helper in Carbon County.

"When the railroad had no more use for (Woodside), it was just kind of doomed to a slow death," said Edward Geary, a retired BYU professor and the author of "A History of Emery County."

The town got a brief reprieve in the late 1930s when the highway was built and a cold water geyser — created decades earlier by railroad workers seeking fresh water for their steam engines — became a minor sensation with tourists.

"They had signs up and down the highway and they built up a board fence so you couldn't see it without paying admission and going inside," Geary said, noting that at one time the so-called "Roadside Geyser" was blasting a column of water about 75 feet in the air every 40 minutes.

"As I recall, it was just about the time they invested money in it, that it petered out," he said. "I think probably by 1970, there were no full time residents at all in Woodside."
The entire town is listed for sale through Bridge Realty in Price, UT and the current asking price is just under $4 million.

Author and ghost town historian Bruce A Raisch has pointed out that although a few ghost towns (or sparsely populated rural towns) have been sold to foreign nationals within the last year or so, there are still a number of ghost towns on the market including Rocky Bar, ID and Okaton, SD.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Kim Kardashian's Milkshake Brings All the Jihadis to the Yard

Not the least bit gratuitous picture of reality TV starlet Kim Kardashian dressed up as Princess Jamsine

Under most circumstances, I'm loathe to bring up anything relating to the whole Kardashian brood, but this actually ties fairly seamlessly into current events in the Middle East- and no matter what you think of her, you gotta admit Kim is quite easy on the eyes.

Socialite, reality TV star and model Kim Kardashian's very presence in the island kingdom of Bahrain apparently was enough to spark clashes with hardline islamists and riot police last weekend. Apparently milkshakes were to blame, and I'm not referring to the 32DD variety. Kardashian was in the country for the grand opening of the Bahrain branch of her Millions of Milkshakes shop.

Chanting 'Allahu Akhbar!' and holding placcards that read 'None of our customs and traditions allow us to receive stars of porn movies', dozens of islamist protestors converged outside the mall in Riffa before being dispersed by police who fired tear gas at them. The crowd was dispersed before the most famous of the Kardashian sisters arrived. Kim Kardashian also was on hand for the grand opening of a Millions of Milkshakes in Kuwait earlier in the week- that grand opening ceremony reportedly went off without a gaggle of irate Islamists marching on the mall.

The Persian Gulf island kingdom takes up less than 300 square miles and is situated off the coast of Saudi Arabia. Like many other economies in the middle east, Bahrain's economy revolves primarily around oil and oil refining. Aluminum smelting, offshore banking and ship repair also contribute to the tiny kingdom's economy. In fact, in 2011 conservative the Heritage Institute conservative think-tank lists Bahrain as having the freest economy in the Middle East and 10th in the world. But the island has also been wracked with violent confrontations between police and protesters calling for the country's monarchy to step down since the start of the 2011 'Arab Spring'.

This is probably the last time I'll be blogging about a Kardashian for awhile, so might as well milk it some more.

And while protesters in Bahrain were condemning the star of a number of reality shows and sex tapes for being a bad influence, Kim Kardashian drew criticism in the west for doing business in Bahrain so soon after the kingdom's heavy-handed crackdown of demonstrators.

Besides her forays into fashion, business and reality TV, Kardashian is famous- or infamous- for a sex tape with her then-boyfriend that was released in 2007 and her two month marriage to NBA player Chris Humphries in 2011 which led to speculation that the wedding was staged to boost the Kardashian brand name.