Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Borderline Psychosis Update- Life Imitates Breaking Bad in NM; Key El Chapo Aide Killed in Durango Raid; Arrest Made in Tamaulipas Bus Slayings

Breaking Bad- Not just for Albuquerque high school chemistry teachers anymore!

NEW MEXICO: In a development that seemed like all it was missing was Agent Hank Schrader, the Albuquerque, NM office of the DEA announced a series of arrests in New Mexico stemming from an alleged marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine distribution network that included an Albuquerque fireman and two pecan farmers in Southern New Mexico.
[A]uthorities arrested nine people, including the owners of a southern New Mexico pecan farm, in connection with a trafficking and money laundering ring that involved cocaine and heroin.

Prosecutors said the owners and operators of Pettit Farms and Nursery in Anthony, N.M., and their two sons were among those arrested Thursday. They were identified as Oscar Portillo Sr., his wife Sandra Portillo and sons Matthew Portillo and Oscar Portillo Jr.

According to a 24-count indictment, the farm was used as a place to store and sell drugs.

A team of federal, state and local law enforcement officers arrested the defendants Thursday and executed four search warrants, including one at the farm and three others at residences in El Paso, Texas.

Federal prosecutors said the Portillos allegedly sold drugs to an undercover agent on five separate occasions.

The indictment claims the couple asked the undercover agent to pay for the drugs with money orders which they subsequently cashed and deposited into bank accounts in the name of the farm. The agent was provided with invoices asserting that the agent had purchased pecan trees.

Officials with the Drug Enforcement Administration said the investigation targeted a ring that agents believed was responsible for the transportation of cocaine and marijuana shipments from Chihuahua, Mexico, to the U.S.
Meanwhile, a 7 year veteran of the Albuquerque Fire Department was ordered to remain jailed until trial after being arrested by Federal Agents.
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - An Albuquerque firefighter charged as part of a ring dealing drugs and laundering money with connections to a Mexican drug cartel will stay behind bars until he goes to trial

Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrested Steve Chavez last week along with 10 others in a major drug trafficking and money laundering operation.

The indictment alleges Chavez's role included shuffling nearly $350,000 in drug money in and out of bank accounts over several weeks last summer.

The feds searched his home where they said they found several loaded guns in the attic. They also reported finding an Uzi-style gun in Chavez's car along with an ounce of cocaine.

The feds added Chavez was dealing because he tested negative for drugs.

The judge said he was concerned about the drugs and types of guns found.

He was also worried that Chavez and other defendants had been spying on DEA at their offices.

A DEA agent testified Tuesday that Chavez talked about that after he was taken in for questioning
Chavez's alleged double-life brings to mind the fictitious Walter White from the AMC TV show Breaking Bad. In that series, Bryan Cranston portrays a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque who begins cooking methamphetamine with one of his former students as a quick means of leaving money behind for his family after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

DURANGO: A top aide to fugitive Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman was shot and killed when a Special Operations unit of the Mexican Army raided a ranch in the state of Durango last week.
Mexican officials say members of an army special forces unit fatally shot a high-ranking aide to the country's most-wanted drug dealer in a gunfight in the northern state of Durango.

Army spokesman Gen. Ricardo Trevilla said Monday Luis Alberto Cabrera Sarabia was responsible for the operations of Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel in Durango and part of the neighboring state of Chihuahua.

The army says Sarabia is know as "The Architect," and was named to the role after the December arrest of his brother Felipe Cabrera Sarabia, or "The Engineer."

Sinaloa gunmen traded fire with troops during the operation to arrest Luis Cabrera Sarabia on Friday. One of the gunmen was slain and 11 others were captured. Four soldiers were hurt in the gunfight.
Guzman, who remains at large, also landed near the top the Forbes magazine 'Wealthiest People in the World' list.

Mass grave in Tamaulipas being unearthed last year.
TAMAULIPAS: Police in northern Mexico have arrested a member of Los Zetas who had reportedly confessed to murdering nearly 75 people in the northeastern state. Officials said the arrest was made on January 20, but authorities waited more than a week to make the announcement while details of Enrique Elizondo Flores' confession were being corroborated.

Nuevo Leon state security spokesman Jorge Domene said that Elizondo also admitted to killing at least 36 passengers who were pulled off of buses at gunpoint by masked gunmen last year.
Domene said the 35-year-old suspect told investigators he had been working in the area at least three years and that he was in charge of killing members of the rival Gulf drug cartel heading to the towns of Cerralvo and General Trevino. He and other gunmen last January began pulling passengers off of buses as they arrived at Cerralvo's bus station, Domene said.

They are among at least 92 bus passengers that the Zetas are accused of killing in three attacks in January and March 2011. Many the victims were originally from the central state of Guanajuato and had arrived in Cerralvo from the border city of Reynosa, Domene said.

Elizondo distinguished himself ``for torturing, maiming and then killing his victims,'' Domene said.
Last year, Mexican investigators unearthed mass graves near the town of San Fernando, Tamaulipas containing more than 190 bodies- many of them identified as passengers pulled off of buses travelling through Tamaulipas between January and April 2011. Prosecutors say a motive for the mass abductions and killings remains unclear, although they believe that some of the abductions were an attempt to forcibly recruit new members by the Zetas.

A number of police officers from the town of San Fernando were also arrested on suspicion that they were working for the Zetas and complicit in the mass abductions and killings.

ELSEWHERE IN TAMAULIPAS: Federal prosecutors in Mexico said they have launched an investigation of high-ranking officials in the volatile border state.

The probe came to light after it was learned prosecutors asked transportation officials to keep track of when the officials entered or left the country and advise the Federal prosecutors office of their activities. One airport official in Tamaulipas reportedly overstepped his authority and drafted a memo instructing that the targets of the investigation not be allowed to leave the country.

Although the Attorney General's office declined to name the specific individuals under investigation, three former governors of the state of Tamaulipas came forward and told the media they believed they were the ones under scrutiny.
Eugenio Hernandez, who left office in 2010, told local media he did not know why he was under investigation, and denied any links to organized crime.

Tomas Yarrington, whose term ended in 2004, wrote in a Twitter account linked to his website that he had learned he had been named in the case, and said he hoped authorities would explain why.

Manuel Cavazos, who left office in 1999, called the investigation "suspicious ... coming in an election campaign," and suggested it might have political overtones. He denied any wrongdoing.

All the former governors are members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which held Mexico's presidency for 71 years until President Felipe Calderon's National Action Party won the 2000 presidential elections.

The PRI's de-facto presidential candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto, currently leads in polls ahead of the July 1 elections.

Cavazos said "it would not be the first time that law enforcement has been used for political purposes, that has been done since 2000."

Cavazos is running for a seat in the Senate, and Pena Nieto was scheduled to visit Tamaulipas on Feb. 2, according to the PRI
In 2009, Federal officials arrested 12 mayors and 23 other public officials in the western state of Michoacan and charged them with protecting the La Familia cartel. All 35 were later acquited and released.

TEXAS: A Baytown, TX man received an 8-year Federal Prison sentence after being found guilty of selling weapons to the Zetas cartel, including an AK-47 variant that was recovered from the scene of the Feb 15th 2011 killing of US Customs and Immigration Enforcement Officer Jaime Zapata in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
Manuel Gomez Barba, a 30-year-old U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty. Barba admitting that he had an intermediary buy the gun from a Beaumont pawn shop, and he had the serial number obliterated before it was sneaked south of the border.

According to the plea agreement in Houston, Barba recruited "straw purchasers" to buy Century Arms WASR-10 semi-automatic rifles.

Buyers would hand the guns to Barba, who told them they would not be traced back to them because serial numbers were being removed. Barba was not able to legally purchase the guns because he was under deferred adjudication for felony drug charges in Harris County.
It was not disclosed if the rifles that Barba illegally sent to Mexico were part of the BATF's ill-advised Operation Fast & Furious, which involved field-level agents being ordered to let the weapons 'walk' to Mexico while under surveillance.

NEW YORK: A Texas perfume retailer has been convicted of laundering drug money for the Sinaloa cartel in Manhattan Federal Court earlier this month.
Vikram Datta, 51, an immigrant from India who started his perfume business in Manhattan, showed no emotion as the sentence was meted out by Judge Lewis Kaplan.

“The defendant has shown little or no contrition,” said Kaplan, who also ordered Datta to forfeit property and $40 million.

A jury found Datta guilty of using his La Versailles Fragance company to launder narcotics proceeds for the Sinaola Cartel.

“This was a successful businessman taking in a ludicrous amount of cash, tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, a day,” said prosecutor Peter Skinner.
Datta laundered Sinaloa drug money through what is known as the Black Market Peso Exchange, which became a favorite of Colombian cartels and traffickers beginning in the 1980s.

Even before the ascendancy of Pablo Escobar and the Colombian cartels, the Black Market Peso Exchange had been around for decades as a way to circumvent Colombian taxes and controls on foreign currency. Buying and selling dollars at the state-run banks in Colombia meant inviting several unwelcome questions on how those dollars were obtained or how they would be spent. The majority of the Colombian cartels' drugs were purchased in dollars, while the higher-ranking members of the cartels preferred to remain in Colombia- thus needing to conduct most business with Colombian pesos- the cartels and drug traffickers needed to find a way around these controls.

The cartels would eventually start selling the US Dollar-denominated drug money to various black market peso brokers at a discount. The broker would then take the dollars to a wholesaler in the USA and purchase quantities of electronics, appliances, cigarettes, liquor or luxury goods and import them to Colombia for the cartels. After the peso broker gets a cut for arranging the purchase and shipment of goods, the cartels then sell off the items at a slight markup in pesos, effectively laundering their drug proceeds and giving them the pesos they need to continue doing business in Colombia.

While Mexico doesn't have the strict control on foreign currencies that Colombia does, the cartels have adapted the methods of the Black Market Peso Exchange to launder their drug money.

Besides locations in Arizona, California and New York City, Vikram Datta sold perfume in the Texas border town of Laredo beginning in 2000. By 2009, Federal prosecutors allege that he was an experienced money launderer for the Sinaloa cartel. In 2010, Datta was introduced to a man who was identified as a perfume retailer in Baja California Sur but was actually an undercover Federal Agent.
Datta’s illegal transactions started slowly but quickly increased, court documents indicate. Transcripts from wiretaps over the next six months, which were admitted at trial, indicate that Datta accepted a $40,000 infusion to one of his stores in California and later agreed to wire $100,000 to customers in New York. According to court documents, over the course of a two-year government sting, he and other co-conspirators deposited more than $25 million of American currency in dozens of bank accounts.

At one point, prosecutors said, Datta told an undercover agent, posing as a perfume vendor, that his business was “just washing the whole money.” In a conversation that he had with the agent in New York in December 2010, captured on wiretap, Datta said that “a lot of cash is coming to me” and that he was “90 percent sure” that it was “all Sinaloa money.”
Datta was arrested in New York City in January 2011 while on his way to meet with the undercover agent. So far, 29 people have been charged in the Black Market Peso Exchange investigation- 20 have been convicted.

Former Obama Campaign Operative Charged With Attempting To Steal Iowa Secretary of State's Identity

A 29 year old Des Moines, IA man was arrested on charges of identity theft after attempting to use the identity of Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz earlier this month.
Zachary Edwards was arrested Friday and charged with identity theft.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety issued a news release saying Schultz's office discovered the scheme on June 24, 2011 and notified authorities.

The criminal complaint says Edwards fraudulently used or attempted to use the identity of Schultz or Schultz's brother with the intent to obtain a benefit. No other details were given.
Edwards had reportedly worked for the Obama campaign in Nevada in 2007 before moving to Iowa to become the new media coordinator in the Hawkeye state in early 2008. After the campaign, Edwards joined the Des Moines-based consulting firm Link Strategies, who's clients include Democrat Senator Tom Harkin.

Edwards had reportedly stolen Schultz's identity in a scheme to falsely implicate the Secretary of State in engaging in unethical behavior. According to the Iowa Republican blog, Edward's alleged crime took place in June 2011, around the same time a Democrat-connected blog called Under the Golden Dome launched a 3-part article citing open-records requests from 'a tipster' that was highly critical of Schultz.

Earlier in the month, the Iowa Democrat Party had filed an ethics complaint, claiming Schultz used public resources [i.e. a Secretary of State Letterhead- NANESB!] to campaign against GOP Presidential Candidate Jon Huntsman. The complaint was dismissed by the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board a month later.

Iron Horse Roundup For December 2011/Jan 2012

Aftermath of 3-way CSX collision and derailment in Valparaiso, IN on Jan 6th Photo- Jimmy Herrick/Valparaiso Post-Tribune
Two CSX crewmen were treated for injuries and approximately 200 people were evacuated after a collision and derailment involving three trains in northwestern Indiana earlier this month.
The trains crashed about 11 miles northeast of Valparaiso, on the CSX line, according to David James, assistant highway supervisor with the Porter County Highway Department.

James said one train rear-ended another one, causing it to jack-knife, and a third passing train the "got caught in that jack-knife." All the trains derailed

James said there had been a fire concern since one of the trains was carrying ethanol, an alcohol, but the tanks turned out to be empty. Diesel fuel from the engine was burning, but as of 4:50 p.m. local time, "things are starting to quiet down somewhat," James said.

About 100 to 200 residents evacuated from the area north and east of the crash, James said.
The two hospitalized crewmen were released within days of the collision. Immediately after the wreck, the NTSB was conducting interviews, combing through the wreckage and checking the line's signalling- but the agency warned that it could take months before reaching a finding on the cause of the collision.

Workers seen installing a frame with grapefruit-sized concrete balls dangling from a chain in West Java, Indonesia. The balls are high enough for the train to pass through untouched but would knock down anybody riding on the rooftops. This is the latest measure to prevent 'train surfing' in Indonesia. Achmad Ibrahim / AP Photo
Authorities in Indonesia are cracking down on 'train surfers' and people riding the rooftops of trains by installing frames that hang over the tracks with weighted, grapefruit-sized concrete balls dangling down low enough to knock stowaways off the roofs of train cars.
Authorities hope the balls — which could deliver serious blows to the head — will be enough to deter defiant roof riders.

"We've tried just about everything, even putting rolls of barbed wire on the roof, but nothing seems to work," said Mateta Rizahulhaq, a spokesman for the state-owned railway company PT Kereta Api. "Maybe this will do it."

Trains that crisscross Indonesia on poorly maintained tracks left behind by Dutch colonizers six decades ago usually are packed with passengers, especially during the rush hour.

Hundreds seeking to escape the overcrowded carriages clamber to the top. Some ride high to avoid paying for a ticket. Others do so because — despite the dangers, with dozens killed or injured every year — "rail surfing" is fun.

The first dozen or so balls were installed Tuesday hundreds of yards (meters) from the entrance of a train station just outside the capital, Jakarta. Painted silver, the balls hung by chains from what looked like the frame of a giant soccer goal.

But there was a glitch: the chains were too short, leaving a gap of about 16 inches (40 cm) between the balls and the roofs of the passing train carriages. Rizahulhaq said adjustments would be made.

If successful, the project will be expanded, with balls also set up near railway crossings.

Asked about worries that the balls could hurt or even kill those who defy the roof-riding ban, he insisted that wasn't really his problem.

"They don't have to sit on top," he said. "And we've already told them, if the train is full, go to the office. We will be happy to reimburse their tickets."

The commuters, known as "Atappers" or "Roofers," meanwhile are hardcore in their determination to stay on top.

"I was really scared when I first heard about these balls," said Mulyanto, a 27-year-old shopkeeper, who rides between his hometown of Bogor and Jakarta almost every day for work. "It sounds like it could be really dangerous."

"But I don't think it'll last long," he said. "They've tried everything to keep us from riding ... in the end we always win."

"We like it up there, it's windy, really nice."

Many of the roof riders — and regular passengers — say the main problem lies with Indonesia's dilapidated railway system. There are not enough trains to meet demand, they say. And there are constant delays in service.

"People have jobs! They can't be late," said Parto, a trader at the Jakarta stock exchange, who can usually be found sitting inside. "If the train is late, they'll do whatever they have to."

Several years ago, paint guns were set up to spray those riding on the top of carriages so authorities could identify and round up the guilty travelers. But roof riders destroyed the equipment soon after. The exhortations of clerics didn't work. Neither did the dogs.
Overcrowding has been an issue with commuter and passenger trains on Java- Indonesia's most populous island. In 2010, Indonesian passenger carrier PT Kereta Api introduced "Women's Only" train carriages in an effort to thwart other passengers who took advantage of the overcrowding to grope and fondle female commuters [similar trains operate in Mumbai and Tokyo- NANESB!].

Secured to a flatcar, Alaska Railroad 2-8-0 #557 passes by the Cook Inlet en route to Anchorage from the lower 48 in December. Photo- David Blazejewski/
Columbia Basin Herald
After a nearly 50 year absence, the Alaska Railroad's last steam engine has returned home to Anchorage, AK this month.

The Baldwin 2-8-0 was built for the US Army in 1944 and went into service for the Alaska Railroad after WWII. The locomotive was in regular service for the Alaska until 1957 and was sold for scrap to a dealer in Washington State in 1962. However, instead of getting cut up, a Moses Lake, WA scrap dealer named Monte Holm took a shine to the old steamer and put it on display and would occasionally operate it on a short stretch of track.

Holm passed away in 2006, and a personal friend purchased the #557 from his estate before donating it to the Alaska Railway. Interestingly, the tender for the #557 never left Alaska and served in Maintainence of Way service along with a former US Army Corps of Engineers steam crane until 1974, at which point the railroad donated the tender to the Alaska Museum of Transportation and Industry.

The AKRR plans to fully restore #557 to operating condition and use the steam locomotive for excursions out of Anchorage.
The railroad has eight years to put it in service but Aadnesen is aiming for as early as 2013.

“We have a business case to put it back in a restricted kind of passenger service as a tourist attraction during the summers,” he said.

The project will depend on volunteer and foundation donations — money from the railroad can’t pay for it. It will cost more than $500,000 to refurbish the locomotive and get it back into service, then it will need to pay for itself. All that remains is to finish the regulations of establishing a foundation to receive such funds.

“We have no doubt that it can be done,” Aadnesen said.

Engine No. 557’s needs concern cosmetic issues like cleaning and painting. It will be completely disassembled and put back together to satisfy survey and inspection requirements for federal agencies.

After that, 557 will require annual maintenance plus periodic Federal Railroad Administration recertification, which will also have to be covered in the business case.
Last month, the Alaska Museum of Transportation and Industry in Wasilla, AK donated the 1700 gallon tender for the oil burning #557 back to the Alaska Railroad.

Sister Baldwin 2-8-0 #556, also a former US Army unit, remains on static display at a public park in Anchorage.

A pair of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic B39-8s are seen hauling freight westbound between St Leonard, New Brunswick and Madawaska, ME near Keegan, ME in March 2009. Photo- Kevin Burkholder
The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic announced a tenative deal to sell off 25 miles of track between Madawaska, ME and St Leonard, NB. The northernmost portion of the MM&A was left isolated from the rest of the system after the railroad sold the 230 miles of track between Madawaska south to Millinocket, ME that were slated for abandonment to the State of Maine last year.
If the Federal Rail Administration and Maine Department of Transportation approve, J.D. Irving subsidiary Eastern Maine Railway will purchase the Madawaska-Van Buren-St. Leonard railroad line for an undisclosed amount. The governmental agencies have liens on the property. The sale could be completed next month, said Robert C. Grindrod, MM&A’s president and CEO.

“We have an isolated piece of railroad there that doesn’t seem to be generating a lot of traffic,” Grindrod said Tuesday of his reasons for the sale, “and there seemed to be little or no prospect of regaining traffic from Twin Rivers.”

Twin Rivers Paper Co. executives claimed a year ago that the Madawaska mill’s future was threatened by MM&A’s failure to maintain its railroad tracks and by its missed delivery and pickup deadlines — often forcing the coated and uncoated papermaker to hire trucks on the fly to make shipments — because of miscommunication or an insufficient number of railroad runs.

MM&A officials countered that they were trying to meet demand but that the use of trucks and declines in production by Twin Rivers and its predecessor, Fraser Paper, made running more trains uneconomical and helped create the conditions that led to the company’s loss of $4 million to $5 million annually.

Shortly after the sale, the state of Maine subcontracted operations of the line to New Brunswick Southern- a Canadian company owned by J.D. Irving. New Brunsiwck Southern's subsidiary, Eastern Maine Railway, operated the section of the former Canadian Pacific line between the US/Canadian border at Vanceboro, ME to the current MM&A interchange at Brownville Jct, ME. New Brunswick Southern/Eastern Maine also interchanges with Pan-Am Rail at Mattawamkeag, ME.

Birmingham Southern GP38-2 #704 leads a southbound taconite train at Ensley, AL on Dec 30th 2011- Just days before WATCO assumes operation of the Alabama steel hauler. Photo- David Stewart
Within a few weeks of its announcement that it would be a majority shareholder for the regional Wisconsin Southern, Pittsburgh, KS based WATCO announced they would be purchasing Transtar's Birmingham Southern Railroad in Alabama.
Birmingham Terminal Railway has reached a definitive agreement to acquire Birmingham Southern Railway, which operates more than 75 miles of track in the region.

The railroad has access to the area's steel-making and manufacturing operations and connects to several major railroads, including Norfolk Southern [NYSE- NSC], CSX [NYSE- CSX] and Berkshire-Hathaway's [NYSE: BRK-A] BNSF.
Transtar is a holding company for some of the former United States Steel railways such as Pittsburgh's Union Railroad or Detroit's Delray Connecting. Transtar will still handle in-plant switching at US Steel's [NYSE: X] Fairfield, AL works and retains ownership of the Warrior & Gulf Navigation company

A pair of Iowa Northern gensets bracket a GP38 while hauling the IANR's first train on the former Union Pacific Garner sub in Garner, IA in November 2011. Photo- Craig Williams
Beginning in November, the Iowa Northern has taken over operations of the former Union Pacific [NYSE: UNP] Garner subdivision between Forest City and Belmond, IA.
FOREST CITY — The 28 miles of former Union Pacific railroad track from Forest City to Belmond has seen more traffic in the last three weeks than in the past five years, according to new operator Iowa Northern Railway Co. President Dan Sabin.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Gov. Terry Branstad and other local and county officials was held Monday afternoon in Forest City.

Union Pacific intended to abandon the line because it was reluctant to operate trains with fewer than 100 cars, making access to businesses along the 28 miles of track difficult.

The North Central Iowa Rail Corridor LLC purchased the track for $1.5 million and signed a 10-year lease-to-own agreement with Iowa Northern Railway to operate the line.

“Most of us know in this day and age when you lose a railroad you never get it back,” said Dave Kingland, manager of the North Central Iowa Rail Corridor and president of Forest City Economic Development Group.
The 30-mile line is isolated from the rest of the IANR, but Canadian Pacific has granted the regional trackage rights between Nora Springs, west through Mason City and on into Garner.

The first IANR train on the line ran on November 4th with a pair of new gensets bracketing an Iowa Northern GP38-2, with 35 empty grain cars and a single auto-rack for the Winnebago [NYSE: WGO] plant in Forest City. Besides the grain elevators in the communities located along the ex UP line, Iowa Northern is hoping the RV manufacturer will be a regular shipper.

Monday, January 30, 2012

300 Arrested After Occupy Oakland Storms City Hall, Burns American Flag

But don't you DARE question their Patriotism!

Remember the early days of the burgeoning 'Occupy' movement, when former Marine Scott Olsen was injured in a skirmish between Occupy Oakland and the police? The whole occupy movement and their media enablers initially seemed eager to portray 'Occupy' as some sort of wholesome, spontaneous, series of protests as wholesome and American-as-apple-pie, complete with an injured veteran [even though the aforementioned vet founded a blog called "I Hate The Marine Corps"- NANESB!]

After garnering support from Democrat politicians such as Representatives Nancy Pelosi [D CA-5] or Jan Schakowski [D IL-9], 'Occupy' has since decided to drop the American-as-apple pie façade and determined that the only way to stay relevant is to escalate confrontations with authorities where "Occupy" encampments remain.

And of course, Oakland, CA is one such city. Earlier this month, Occupy Oakland marched on the Oakland PD headquarters in a rally given the quaint monicker of 'F*ck the Police'. Occupiers threw bottles, rocks and bricks at officers clad in riot gear while police responded by firing beanbag rounds and arresting six Occupiers.

Over the weekend, Occupy Oakland demonstrators broke into Oakland's City Hall and burned flags, destroyed an electrical box and damaged a children's art exhibit on display. Police used tear gas and smoke grenades to try and disperse the crowds and ended up arresting more than 400 Occupiers. Earlier in the weekend, marchers from Occupy Oakland tore down fencing around the dormant Henry J Kaiser convention center and attempted to force their way in.

Occupy Oakland was likely emboldened by a ruling against the Oakland PD in federal court last week in which U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson threatened to order a Federal takeover of the Department.
The judge appointed a monitor in 2003 to ensure the city complied with terms of a $10.5 million settlement of a lawsuit filed by victims of a notorious group of police officers known as "The Riders."

The group was accused of beating and framing suspects in the West Oakland area for years. One officer was acquitted at trial and criminal charges against two former officers were dismissed after two trials ended in hung juries. A fourth former officer remains a fugitive who disappeared after charged were filed in 2000.

The current monitor, Robert Warshaw, was appointed in 2010 and oversees the settlement with a staff of seven people.

The settlement included 51 specific reforms the department agreed to make within five years. Henderson noted Tuesday that he's extended the compliance deadline by years to little effect.
Perhaps unsurprisngly, the court-appointed monitor was also critical of how the Oakland PD had handled the initial confrontation with Occupy Oakland back in October, as well as individual officers blacking out their name tags or badge numbers while assaigned to babysit Occupiers.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan- apparently determined to show that she was still willing to handle the Occupy movement with kid gloves after what they put the city through- planned to contact the national leadership of the Occupy Wall Street movement to try and get them to persuade Occupy Oakland to shun violence.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hey Now! You're An All Star! Sports Chowdah Update for 1/29- Stars Are Out For NHL, NFL on Sunday; Cavs Halt C's Win Streak


NHL: The 2012 NHL All-Star Game from Place in Ottawa is in the books, and the winner is Team Chara.

For those of you unfamiliar with the format, for the past couple of years the NHL has shied away from the Eastern Conference vs Western Conference or North America vs the World Format and instead, named two captains ahead of the All Star Break and then had those Captains draft other players selected to the All Star game. This year, the two captains were hometown favorite Daniel Alfredsson of the Senators and defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.

So for both the skills competition and Sunday's All-Star game, Team Chara consisted of the following:

[Forwards] Joffrey Lupul, RW, Toronto; Pavel Datsyuk, C Detroit; Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh; Tyler Seguin, C, Boston; Marian Hossa, RW, Chicago; Corey Perry, RW, Anaheim; Phil Kessel, RW, Toronto; Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago; Jarome Iginla, RW, Calgary; Marian Gaborik, RW, NY Rangers; Jordan Eberle, RW, Edmonton

[Defense] Kimmo Timonen, D, Philadelphia; Ryan Suter, D, Nashville; Brian Campbell, D, Florida; Dion Phaneuf, D, Toronto; Dennis Wideman, D, Washington

[Goalies] Tim Thomas, G, Boston; Carey Price, G, Montreal; Jimmy Howard, G, Detroit

[Rookies] Luke Adam, C, Buffalo; Raphael Diaz, D, Montreal; Colin Greening, LW, Ottawa; Cody Hodgson, C, Vancouver; Ryan Johansen, C, Columbus; Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Colorado

The 'Hometown' [and Alfredsson did exhibit a bias in favor of the Senators when making his picks- NANESB!] Team Alfredsson consisted of:

[Forwards] Jason Spezza, C, Ottawa; Claude Giroux, C, Philadelhpia; Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay; Daniel Sedin, LW, Vancouver; Henrik Sedin, C, Vancouver; Milan Michalek, LW, Ottawa; James Neal, LW, Pittsburgh; John Tavares, C, NY Islanders; Scott Hartnell, LW, Philadelphia; Logan Coutre, C, San Jose; Jason Pominville, RW, Buffalo.

[Defense] Erik Karlson, D, Ottawa; Kris Letang, D, Pittsburgh; Shea Weber, D, Nashville; Dan Girardi, D, NY Rangers; Keith Yandle, D, Phoenix; Alexander Edler, D, Vancouver

[Goalies] Henrki Lundqvist, G, NY Rangers; Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles; Brian Elliot, G, St Louis.

[Rookies] Sean Couturier, C, Philadelphia; Justin Faulk, D, Carolina; Carl Hagelin, LW, NY Rangers; Nick Johnson, RW, Minnestoa; Matt Read, RW, Philadelhia; Craig Smith, C, Nashville.

Sunday's all-star game came one day after Zdeno Chara broke his own record in the skills competition for hardest slapshot, notching a scalding 108.8 MPH. This is the 5th consecutive All Star Skill Competition where Chara has won the hardest shot portion of the Skills competition.

It being an All-Star game, keeping track of the scoring is a pretty tall order. Rangers RW Marion Gaborik had himself a hat trick thanks to an early goal in the second period to break a tie and put Team Chara up 4-3, ironically besting Rangers teammate Henrik Lunqvist to put Team Chara up on top.

In net, Tim Thomas stopped 18 of 21 shots faced- including denying hometown favorite and Team Alfredsson captain Daniel Alfredsson the hat trick late in the 2nd, with the game tied at 6-6.

After Claude Grioux would get a tally for Team Alfredsson to tie the game at 8-8, Team Chara would start to pull away thanks to goals by Marian Hossa, Corey Perrey and the captain himself, Zdeno Chara.

Team Chara goes on to win by a final of 12-9 with Chara's fellow Slovak Gaborik earning the MVP honors for his 3 goals and 1 assist for the afternoon.

The Bruins resume play on Tuesday night with a home game against All-Star host Ottawa. The puck drops at 7:00 ET and the game will be televised on NESN.

Columbus, OH has been announced as the host city for next year's NHL All-Star game.

NFL: Miami Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall accounted for 4 of the AFC's 8 TD's at the Pro Bowl in Honolulu's Aloha Stadium as the AFC trounced the NFC by a 59-41 final on Sunday evening.

Marshall had 6 catches for 176 yards and the 4 TDs on Sunday while Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald had 6 receptions for 111 yards and 3 TDs in the losing effort. Although eight Patriots were selected to the Pro-Bowl, none of them were in attendence in Honolulu on Sunday. For the Giants, QB Eli Manning and DE Jason Pierre-Paul were also named to the Pro Bowl, but not in attendence as both teams arrived in Indianpolis to prepare for Super Bowl XLVI

NBA: The Celtics let one get away from them late on Sunday night as they were edged by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavs scored 12 unanswered points to finish up the 4th and snap the C's 4-game win streak (including sweeping the Orlando Magic on home-and-away game). Cavs Point Guard Kyrie Irving made the go-ahead layup with all of 2.6 seconds ramaining in regulation to give Cleveland the win.

The 9-10 Celtics will get a chance for some retribution when they hit the road for a rematch of Sunday's game at Quicken Loans arena in Cleveland. That game gets underway at 7:00 ET and will be televised on CSNE Tuesday night.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

On This Day in 1945- US Army Lt. Audie Murphy Directs Artillery Fire, Singlehandedly Fends off German Counterattack

On this day 67 years ago today, newly-promoted Lt Audie Leon Murphy and members of his company came under fire from armour and infantry units of nazi Germany's Wermacht near the Franco-German border at Holtzwihr, France. Already awarded a purple heart for his service in Salerno and Anzio and two silver stars from earlier in the campaign in France, Murphy would be the one of the most decorated soldiers in WWII.

Murphy's Medal of Honor citation reads as follows:
2d Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by 6 tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to prepared positions in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, 1 of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machinegun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from 3 sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy's indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy's objective.
Keep in mind this happened just days after Murphy received his field promotion to 2nd. Lieutenant.

After the war, Murphy penned a biographical account of his wartime service in 1949 called 'To Hell And Back'. The Texas native also went on to have a fairly successful career as a Hollywood actor- portraying himself in the 1955 silver screen version of To Hell And Back- and country music composer before his 1971 death in a plane crash in Virgina.

KeystoneXL Kops Update- Buffet's BNSF Railroad Stands To Benefit From Keystone Veto; IL Congresswoman- 20,000 Jobs Projected "Not that Many"

BNSF freight train cresting the Cascade Range in Washington state. Photo- Mike Bjork
According to a recent report in Bloomberg, Warren Buffet's BNSF Railroad and parent company Berkshire Hathaway [NYSE: BRK-A] stand to gain more traffic and revenue after President Obama declined approval of the proposed KeystoneXL pipeline from Canadian firm TransCanada [NYSE: TRP/TSX: TRP] that would transport oil from Alberta' Abathasca Tar Sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

A BNSF spokeswoman stated that if the KeystoneXL Pipeline "doesn't happen, we're here to haul".
With modest expansion, railroads can handle all new oil produced in western Canada through 2030, according to an analysis of the Keystone proposal by the U.S. State Department.

The rail option, though costlier, would lessen the environmental impact, such as a loss of wetlands and agricultural productivity, compared to the pipeline, according to the State Department analysis. Greenhouse gas emissions, however, would be worse.

Investors such as John Stephenson, who helps manage $2.7 billion for First Asset Management Inc. in Toronto said he anticipated the project would move forward next year. Pipeline shipping costs remain lower than rail, and a lack of readily available tanker cars may create a bottleneck.

The availability of tank cars may create a temporary “hiccup” in transport capacity, according to Tony Hatch, an independent railroad analyst in New York. Rail cars are “a pretty hot commodity,” as a result of demand from oil producers in North Dakota, he said.

Rail car production is already at a three-year high as manufacturers such as Greenbrier Cos Inc. [NYSE: GBX] and American Railcar Industries Inc. [NASDAQ: ARII] expand to meet demand for sand used in oil and gas exploration, according to Steve Barger, an analyst at Keybanc Capital Markets Inc. in Cleveland, citing Railway Supply Institute statistics.
Oil and natural gas moving to refineries by train is hardly a novel concept. Between 1983 and 1997, the Southern Pacific Railroad ran a daily 70+ car train from the oil fields around Bakersfield, CA over the Tehachapi mountains to the refineries in Long Beach, CA. The train- sometimes known as the Oil Can- ceased its daily run after a pipeline over the mountains was completed in the late 1990s. Over in Big Sky Country, the Montana Rail Link runs a daily 126-mile gas train between Missoula and Thompson Falls, MT to bypass a section of Conoco-Phillips' [NYSE: COP] Yellowstone Pipeline after a section of the gasoline pipeline in the Flathead Indian Reservation was shut down following a 1993 spill.

However, both of the aforementioned measures described were primarily stopgaps and seemingly inadequate for the scale and distances involved with the Abathasca Oil Sands. With a dedicated pipeline, TransCanada wouldn't have to worry about the tank cars sitting idle in a rail yard somewhere, crew changes every 200 or so miles or moving empty tank cars back to the oil fields.

To the south of the Abathasca oil sands, both BNSF and Canadian Pacific have been working to improve capacity and track speed on some of their North Dakota lines in order to better serve the Bakken Oil Shale that straddles the US/Canada border. In addition to the traffic generated from the Bakken shale, it would also be worth pointing out that BNSF would've also benefited if the pipeline was approved, as it is virtually the only Class 1 carrier that runs through the projected KeystoneXL pipeline route and almost certainly would've been called upon to deliver much-needed equipment and supplies for the construction and maintenance of KeystoneXL.

In a rather curious development, the original story on Buffet and BNSF disappeared from Bloomberg's website on January 24th, the same day as President Obama's State of the Union Address. The San Francisco Chronicle website had a version of the Bloomberg article up on their page, but by Thursday morning the original article was back on the Bloomberg page.

Obama mentioned numerous times that Buffet's secretary pays a higher tax rate than her billionaire employer while in his repeated calls for higher taxes. Buffet's secretary was present for Tuesday night's State of the Union address, sitting with first lady Michelle Obama. However, that little bit of political theater could backfire now that it's been learned that Buffet's secrtary could make anywhere from $200,000 to $500,000 annually. It's entirely possible that a sympathetic Bloomberg could've temporarily spiked the article to avoid any bad publicity while one of Buffet's employees was going to be used as a class-warfare prop from the President during Tuesday's state of the Union.

OMG! ThEh st00pid! It burns! IT BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURNS!!!!!

OTHER KEYSTONE-XL NEWS: In an interview with Chicago's WLS radio, Congresswoman Jan Schakowski [D IL-9] told host Don Wade that the projected 20,000 jobs lost due to the KeystoneXL veto "..is really not that many jobs".

It was a brief snippet, to be sure, and I thought that perhaps with the benefit of some context, the Congresswoman was merely saying that she was skeptical that the project would create 20,000 jobs [I ardently support the project but even I find that number a little optimistic- NANESB!]. So I found a longer snippet, and not only does the suburban Chicago democrat say exactly I thought she said, she goes on to promote the Obama Administration's massively failed Green Jobs agenda and blames Republicans for Obama's veto, even though most Republican Congressmen, Senators and governors support the project.
"Twenty thousand jobs is really not that many jobs and investing in green technologies will produce that and more. But I'll tell you what, you know it seems to me that the Republicans would rather have an issue than a pipeline" [emphasis mine- NANESB!]
The Illinois Democrat, who was also marching with Occupy Chicago and the Communist Party USA in late 2011 was probably unaware of two more 'green energy' companies touted by President Obama and the recipient of stimulus funds have either filed for bankruptcy or begun massive layoffs this week [To be fair, it's not like Solyndra or Evergreen solar made much headlines or anything- NANESB!].

Lest anybody thinks I'm being harsh or cherry-picking quotes from Schakowski, you're more than welcome to listen to the archived interview here.

Happy Australia Day From Not Another New England Sports Blog!

Image: Sailing Anarchy
Good Lord, did I mention how much I happen to LOVE Australia?

Not quite an island, not quite a continent. Despite the distant location and exotic wildlife in Australia, there are some undeniable similarities between our founding and the birth of Australia as a nation. Both were considered somewhat cumbersome backwaters in which the British Crown could dump convicts, unwanted religious groups or other undesirables and both are rich in natural resources, which in turn sparked a westward migration of European immigrants from the already-established cities on the east coast.

It's also worth noting that Australia's Armed forces have fought alongside with their American counterparts in every major war since WWI- so as a veteran of the US Army, that's something that I truly appreciate.

These lovely young ladies from down under are thoughtfully modelling swimsuits and tops that show a variation of Australia's flag [hooray for swimwear or beach apparel serving as an indicator of nationality! -NANESB!]. Besides the Union Jack in the corner (essentially a miniature British flag), most prominently featured are the stars of the Southern Cross, a constellation visible throughout the Southern Hemisphere. This version of the Australian flag was chosen after a nationwide contest and first flown in Melbourne 110 years ago after being approved by King Edward VII.

Australia is not the only country to incorporate the Southern Cross into their national flag [New Zealand's is quite similar, only with smaller, red stars forming the Southern Cross. If you look very closely, the Southern Cross is also present in Brazil's flag as well- NANESB!] but it is the most well known and iconic. As recently as 2000, there was an effort to completely change the Australian flag altogether.

Of course, according to one recent university study Down Under, an Australian motorist that flies the Southern Cross flag on their car is more likely to be racist.
Drivers who fly Australian flags on their cars to celebrate Australia Day are "more racist" than people who do not, according to research from UWA.

University of Western Australia sociologist and anthropologist Professor Farida Fozdar and a team of assistants surveyed 513 people at the Australia Day fireworks on Perth's Swan River foreshore last year to find out whether there was a link between car flag flying and racist attitudes.

“What I found interesting is that many people didn't really have much to say about why they chose to fly car flags or not," Professor Fozdar said.

"Many felt strongly patriotic about it - and for some, this was quite a racist or exclusionary type of patriotism - but it wasn't a particularly conscious thing for many.”
*GASP!* Oh noes! So I guess by extension I'm fostering racism by having all these pictures of Aussie women displaying some version of the flag. I need to remedy that somehow!
OK- better? None of those offending Union Jacks or constellations on a blue background.

Anywhoo, the study came to this conclusion interviewing some 513 people at an Australia Day fireworks display in Perth and determined that 43% of the respondents were racist for speaking favorably of the 'White Australia' immigration policy that was abolished in 1970 and that new immigrants to the country should adopt Australian values.

However, the release of the study seems to serve no other purpose than to try and bolster op-ed pieces critical of Aussie flag-waving published earlier this month ahead of Australia Day.

In Adelaide, the head of the South Australia Taxi Council has given out 500 flags and encouraged cabbies- many of them immigrants from India or the Middle East- to fly them from their vehicles. This follows up a pilot program last year where 100 car flags were handed out to cabbies- the move has so far been positively recieved by the cabbies and tourists alike.

It's also worth mentioning that we're just a few short months removed from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Swimming is considered Australia's strongest event in the summer games for both men and women's teams [altho' they brought home the gold in other events like rowing and triathalon during the 2008 Beijing games- NANESB!].

Stephanie Rice (above) brought home three of Australia's 14 gold medals from the Beijing Olympics in 2008- winning both the 200m and 400m individual medley as well as the women's 4 X 200M freestyle relay. In fact, Rice broke the world record for the 400m individual medley during the 2008 Australian Olympic trials.

And if you're wondering- yes, she plans on being in London for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Navy Seals Kill 9 Pirates, Free American, Danish Hostages in Somali Raid

Commandos from the US Navy's SEAL Team 6 swooped into a central Somali town and raided a pirate camp where two aid workers were being held hostage in the early morning hours on Wednesday.
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA - The Navy SEALs parachuted into the darkness, landing more than 2 miles from their objective: a small bush camp in north-central Somalia where an American aid worker and a Danish colleague were being held captive.

The commandos, several dozen in all, shed their chutes and moved quietly through the brush. The compound had been under U.S. surveillance for weeks after an intelligence tip had signaled the whereabouts of the hostages, Ohio native Jessica Buchanan, 32, and Poul Thisted, 60. But investigators believed that Buchanan's health was failing and that she might suffer kidney failure. "We were told that she was not well and, left untreated, her condition could be life-threatening," said a senior U.S. official.

About 2 a.m. Wednesday, the SEALs stormed the kidnappers' compound, catching the guards as they were sleeping after having chewed the narcotic leaf khat for much of the evening, said a self-described pirate.

The aid workers and SEALs were picked up by helicopters, which flew to an airstrip at Galkayo, 60 miles north of the encampment. There the hostages were transferred to a U.S. military plane and flown to the neighboring nation of Djibouti, site of a U.S. base known as Camp Lemonnier. They would be leaving Djibouti "fairly soon," one U.S. official said.
Buchanan and Thisted were working with a Danish organization that was providing aid in clearing land mines from the area when they were abducted by a gang of kidnappers in October 2011. President Obama reportedly authorized the mission because there were concerns that Buchanan's health was deteriorating after months in captivity.

The kidnappers, who would frequently move the American and Danish hostages around to confound any rescue attempt, were not believed to be affiliated with the Islamic Al-Shabaab militia, but rather a local criminal gang with connections to pirates.

The SEALs had reportedly secured the cooperation of a local clan and the use of a local airstrip in the nearby city of Galkayo for both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.
Somali sources said that the hostages, who had been held for three months, had been moved around central Somalia on a daily basis in an attempt to frustrate rescue operations. Kidnappers had regularly complained that they could hear aircraft over head.

Elders of the Habre Gedir have been negotiating the release of the two aid workers along with journalist Michael Scott Moore, who was kidnapped last Saturday, and British hostage Judith Tebutt who was abducted from Kiwayu in Kenya last year.

"We are very happy about this incident because the pirates are the ones causing insecurity in this region," Mohammed Omar told the Somalia Report news agency.
The spate of kidnappings by armed Somali pirates last fall- including the abduction of British tourist Judith Tebutt from a resort in northern Kenya- led to incursions into lawless Somalia by the Kenyan military in the south and the Ethiopian military in the west.

In the capital city of Mogadishu, the fragile Transitional government backed by peacekeepers from the African Union has waged a campaign against the Islamic al-Shabaab militia in Mogadishu and beyond.

The SEAL operation is thought to be the first confirmed US Military land operation since the disastrous 1993 Blackhawk Down incident in which 18 American soldiers and roughly 150 Somali fighters were killed in an ambush and running battle in Mogadishu.

Blue State Graft Watch Update: Trial Underway In Troy, NY Absentee Ballot Fraud Case

New York State Troopers bringing former Troy, NY city councilman Michael LoPorto into Courtroom last year.
In an ongoing case that has received little attention outside the conservative blogosphere and upstate New York's Capital District, opening arguments got underway in the trial of a former Troy, NY City councilman and Renssalaer County Board of Elections Commissioner.

Michael LoPorto and Ed McDonough- both democrats- are accused of forging absentee ballots during the 2009 Working Families Party primary. McDonough faces 36 counts of possession of a forged instrument and 38 counts of second degree forgery.

The forgery charges were recently dropped against LoPorto, but he faces 26 counts of possession of a forged instrument.

Prsecutors allege that LoPorto, Mc Donough and six other Democrats forged signatures on absentee ballots during the 2009 primary elections, including writing in the excuses why the voters were unable to show up at the polling place on election day. This was all being done done without the consent or knowledge of the voter. LoPorto and others accused in the scheme defended their actions as 'normal political tactic' for the upstate New York city.
Numerous voters told Fox News that they were stunned that their signatures were faked on absentee ballot applications and ballots, which were cast as real votes in their names in the 2009 primary election.

Brian Suozzo's absentee ballot application claimed that he was "at home recovering from medical procedure," which he told us was not true.

"Someone took my signature and voted with it and I feel extremely violated," Suozzo said when Fox News first broke the story nationally in 2009. "The whole thing seems dirty to me."

Jessica Boomhower's absentee ballot application falsely claimed that she was in Boston.

"I can't believe they thought they would get away with this," she told Fox News. "I didn't get to cast my vote on my own. ... They're corrupt. I am sure this goes on a lot in politics, but it's very rare that they do get caught."

Two of the ballot applications claimed that the voters were unavailable, because they were supposedly on a "bus trip to casino."
Four of the six other Democrats accused in this case- including a former Troy City Councilman and a former Troy City Clerk- pleaded guilty to various counts of forgery, falsifying business records and possession of a forged instrument last month.

Two more accused participants- former City Council president Clem Campana and Former City Councilman Gary Glisuki- are will be tried together in a trial separate from McDounough and LoPorto's.

[Hat tip- Lonely Conservative; Albany Conservative]

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In Like Flint- A Tale of Two Millionaires From Flint, MI and The Latter Day War on Success

Boston Bruins goalie and Flint, MI native Tim Thomas made news this week with his decision to skip out a team visit to the White House where a luncheon was scheduled with President Obama to honor the defending Stanley Cup champions. On Monday, Thomas released a brief statement that read:
I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.

This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT
Not too surprisingly, the Conn Smythe and Vezina-winning goalie came under fire from both the liberal pundit class and various sportswriters for his decision.

Displeased Massachusetts Democrat party operatives proclaimed that Thomas should just 'stick to hockey' among other things upon hearing of the snub.
Massachusetts Democratic Party spokesman Kevin Franck told the Herald: “I think anyone who really cares about the lives, liberty and happiness of the American people wouldn’t miss an opportunity to shake the hand of the man who got bin Laden.”
[WOW! So not only were the Boston Bruins at the White House on Monday, but so was SEAL Team 6!? That is SO awesome!- NANESB!]

There is something to be said about respecting the Office, if not the man himself. However, this standard was noticeably absent during both terms of the Bush presidency when liberal actors and entertainers would frequently refer to both the president and vice president as fascists and war criminals with no rebuke from the very same party operatives who are critical of the Bruins goalie.

A 217th overall draft pick of the Quebec Nordiques in the 1994 Entry Draft, Thomas spent several years bouncing around the minors and Europe before ending up with the Bruins minor-league affiliate in Providence. He had a few starts for Boston before the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, where he returned to Europe and played for a season in Finalnd's SM Liiga.

With the lockout over, he returned to Boston and continued to primarily serve as a backup to Andrew Raycroft and Hannu Toivonen. Thomas saw more playing time as Raycroft was traded to the Maple Leafs [A trade Boston still reaps benefits from to this day- NANESB!] and Toivonen struggled.

Thomas eventually wound up as the Bruins starting goaltender, winning the Vezina Trophy (the NHL's award for best goaltender) in 2009 and 2011 and shut out the Vancouver Canucks on the road during the decisive Game 7 in last year's Stanley Cup finals, helping bring hockey's ultimate prize back to Boston.

I thought it was worth giving the rough outline of Thomas' career because unlike highly touted players such as Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin, Thomas' ascent was not the rapid, meteoric rise but rather years and years of paying his dues with lengthy bus rides in the ECHL or months away from his family while playing in Europe. And in due time, his hard work was rewarded when the Bruins took a chance on having him between the pipes on a regular basis.

In other words, because of his perseverance and hard work, Tim Thomas is a success.

However, 'success' has become something of a taboo phrase with the ascent of the 'Occupy' movement starting in late 2011. While Thomas made no secret of his political leanings, his brushing off an invitation to a luncheon with Obama earned him the ire of another Flint native- jowly schlockumentary filmmaker Michael Moore.

Moore, who's most recent film was the 2009 anti free-market paean 'Capitalism: A Love Story', had recently gained attention by appointing himself the bloated figurehead of the Occupy movement. While not in his multimillion dollar Michigan manor, Moore was speaking at various Occupy encampments throughout the country in the latter half of 2011 and trying to get in a plug for his most recent book.

In a message sent from Moore's twitter account on Tuesday, Moore stated:
Tim Thomas & I went to the same high school. I can tell u this: People in Flint LOVE Obama, desperately need Obama, & DETEST Thomas' actions

Like many a Moore 'documentary', this is a little deceiving in that it appears as though Moore is making it sound like he's contemporaries with Thomas when, as The Daily Caller points out, Thomas graduated from Davidson High School some 20 years after Moore.

Between promoting his numerous books and movies and speaking at the various Occupy Camps, Moore has gone on record as saying that those who are wealthy have not earned it [while inexplicably making an exemption for himself- NANESB!] and I would be very surprised if he didn't say the same was true of Thomas.

Of course, that seems to be reflective of the attitude of progressives, occupiers and liberals in general. Avarice seems to be the name of the game, and in Occupy's world wanting money entitles somebody to it, but actually earning it doesn't.

If Thomas was earnestly seeking approval from Moore, the Democrats and the Occupy Movement, perhaps he could abandon his job and his family for weeks at a time, squat in a public park, defecate on an NYPD cruiser, sexually assault some of his fellow squatters all while demanding free stuff from the government in the most shrill and incoherent manner possible.

Of course, given what is known already about Thomas' political leanings, I doubt he cares very much what his fellow Flint-onian has to say about him.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Today's Train of Though- Digging to China, Jan 23rd, 2012

While China's dalliance with High Speed Rail in recent years has caught the attention of both the industry and politicians alike, it remains a little known fact that China's national railways continued operating steam locomotives on certain main lines up until a few short years ago.

While some steel mills, quarries, mines and lumber companies still use both narrow and standard gauge steam engines to this day, the fires dropped on mainline steam in China for the final time in 2005.

The massive 2-10-2 QJ class steam locomotives [QJ being shorthand for 前进 or Qian Jin meaning 'advance'- thanks again for the assist, Wikipedia- NANESB!] that saw service on China Railways were manufactured by the Da Tong Locomotive works from 1956 on into the late 1980s, and spent their final days hustling fast freights over Jingpeng pass along the arid steppe of Inner Mongolia.

They would often work in tandem on the Jitong line and were popular among enthusiasts in the wintertime since the displays of steam and exhaust stood out that much more dramatically against the frozen air. Interestingly, despite being the last holdout for the centuries-old technology, the nearly 600-mile Jitong line actually opened as recently as 1995.

Since they were too big for the mills, mines and quarries that continued use steam locomotives to this day, the QJs appeared to have little future. A company called Multipower International has advertised both the QJs and smaller steam locomotives for sale online.

Like their American counterparts from a half century earlier, many QJs have wound up on static display in the cities and towns that they once chugged through on a daily basis as well as at least 1 QJ in the Chinese National Railway Museum just southeast of Beijing.

However, the QJ's tale does not end there. In 2006, a pair of QJ's (#6988 and #7081) were shipped to the USA to their new homes on the Iowa Interstate via the port of Houston. Two years later, another QJ made its way to Kentucky where it entered service as part of the RJ Corman network of short haul railroads. These locomotives are primarily used for excursions and publicity, although they also occasional work on revenue freights for both the Corman Lines and IAIS on an as-needed basis.

Here, with about a year to go until retirement, railpictures.net contributor John Day caught 2-10-2 QJ #6763 leading a doubleheader as the freight train begins its assault on Jingpeng pass on a frigid February 22, 2004 day.

Nigerian Authorities Discover Explosives-Laden Vehicles Just Days After Deadly Attacks in Kano Kill 178 People

A fresh series of attacks blamed on an Islamist group tore through Nigeria's second largest city of Kano, killing at least 185 people.
KANO, Nigeria – Police say 185 people were killed in an attack by a radical Islamist sect on the northern Nigeria city of Kano.

In a statement issued late Monday, the department said 150 of the dead were civilians, 29 were police officers, three were secret police officers, two were immigration officers and one was a customs officer.

The announcement comes as police say they have found 10 unexploded car bombs in the city.

Friday's attack in Kano saw Boko Haram members hit police stations, immigration offices and the local headquarters of Nigeria's secret police, leaving corpses in the streets across the city.
Initial reports suggest that the death toll was 7, but rose after more than 100 bodies were brought to the morgue in the city's center.

Earlier in the month, police had arrested the suspected mastermind of a deadly series of blasts targeting Christian churches outside the capital of Abuja, but he escaped when the police convoy transporting him came under fire less than a day later.

In Kano, local police discovered vehicles laden with explosives at checkpoints and during a search of the city on Monday.
Security in Nigeria's second largest city has been beefed up since Friday when bomb attacks and fierce gun battles between the sect and police killed at least 178 people.

"The police were on a stop-and-search today and in two of the checkpoints, the Boko Haram members on sighting the checkpoints abandoned their vehicles and ran," a high-level police officer told Reuters, asking not to be named.

"The vehicles were later checked and the cars were loaded with explosives. Two brand new Hilux open pick-up vans were also found packed with explosives in the Bompai area of Kano."
Police also claim that they killed four Boko Haram operatives in Maiduguri, which is the northern town where Boko Haram was founded in 2012.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Announces Retirement A Year After Surviving Near-Fatal Gunshot Wound To Head

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords [D: AZ-8] announced over the weekend that she would be stepping down to focus on her recovery a little over a year after she was shot in the head by a schizophrenic loner who opened fire at a 'Congress in Your Corner' event her office was hosting.

On January 8, 2011, 22 year old Jared Lee Lougner opened fire with a 9mm pistol on the Congresswoman and attendees as the meeting was being held outdoors in a Tucson, AZ shopping plaza. Besides the near-fatal injury to the Congresswoman, 6 people were killed- including a 9 year old girl, a federal judge and one of Gifford's staffers- before spectators wrestled Loughner to the ground and disarmed him.

Loughner remains in custody, although it appears a trial is increasingly unlikely for him anytime soon as he's being forcibly medicated in an attempt to make him psychologically fit to stand trial. In the hours immediately after the shootings, Loughner's rampage was blamed on public figures like Sarah Palin, the Tea Party and conservative talk radio hosts although it was determined that Loughner was a schizophrenic loner who had a disturbing fixation with the Congresswoman for years.

After being treated by a specialist in Houston and months of therapy, Congresswoman Giffords returned to Congress in late July in time to vote on the debt ceiling increase.

On Sunday, Giffords office released a video informing her constituents that she was going to resign effective this week [See above].

On Monday, Giffords' office hosted one final 'Congress in your corner' event before drafting a letter of resignation that she will turn in to Arizona governor Jan Brewer and Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boeher [R: OH-8].

Gov. Brewer has called for a special election to take place in April for a replacement for Giffords who will serve out the remainder of her term. Like many other states, Arizona is in the midst of redistricting and after the 2010 Census will add another Congressional district. During the 2010 midterms, Giffords narrowly held off Tea Party-backed GOP challenger Jesse Kelly.

Giffords herself reportedly has not ruled out running for office again at some point in the future, but she has determined her recovery is her main priority.

Personally, I'm amazed at the pace of Giffords' recovery so far as well as her determination to return after undergoing therapy. I wish Giffords and her husband the best of luck in their future endeavors up to and including another run for public office.

Happy Chinese New Years! Year of The Dragon Begins Today

Well now! SOMEBODY has been paying attention to what I like
Monday marks the beginning of the Chinese New Years, although there were many parades and festivals in Chinatowns throughout the West over the weekend to mark the unofficial start.

With the Year of the Rabbit passing by quicker than one can say 'I, for one, welcome our Chinese overlords' in Mandarin, January 23rd marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon on the lunar calendar. The mythical dragon is considered an auspicious symbol that represents power, wealth and success in Chinese culture.

Manufacturers of luxury goods are seeking to take advantage of the dragon symbol and the status it represents by selling watches, designer handbags and even $15,000 hand-engraved cellphones to well-heeled consumers in China.

Chinese Actress Gong Li (left) on the red carpet sporting a noticably different variant of the cheongsam with a plunging neckline and raised collar
And of course, what would Chinese New Years be without the Chinese gown known as the Cheongsam (or qi pao). As demonstrated above, they're available in a wide variety of colors and lengths....and wearers.

It's no Chinatown dragon parade, but I do hope you at least enjoy the scenery.