Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Today's Train of Thought- Pumpkin Patchwork, October 31, 2012

Today's train of thought takes us to New Jersey in far better times in the not-too-distant past. While one might associate the northeastern corner of the Garden State with a seemingly unending string of refineries, chemical plants and marshland there apparently are still some open spaces ideal for agriculture.

Take seasonal crops like squash and pumpkins, for instance. Despite the recent disaster that has affected the region, this was a pretty good year for the pumpkin harvest in New Jersey. Growing conditions are usually favorable enough that pumpkins can be grown in every county in New Jersey, from Montague to Cape May. Some of these are grown on family operated farms that offer hayrides or for a fee let you venture out into the field to pick your own pumpkins.

Here, Conrail Shared Assets train WPSA-31 is seen trundling past a pumpkin patch in the bourough of Freehold, NJ. Still in Conrail blue, Norfolk Southern GP38-2 #5286 heads past the field towing some mixed freight the day prior to Haloween in 2008. According to photographer and contributor Andrew Blaszczyk, all the good pumpkins in the field in the foreground had already been picked, leaving just misshapen ones and 'runts'.

Happy Halloween From Not Another New England Sports Blog

Well, for the second year in a row it looks as though much of the Northeast is going to have a Halloween with widespread power outages in the wake of a major storm moving through the area.

In fact, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has ordered that halloween celebrations postponed until Monday due to unsafe conditions throughout the state after the Garden State was particularly hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.

For those of you wondering, the enchanting little bruja [and voyeuristic pumpkin- NANESB!] above comes to us courtesey of pin-up artist Freeman Elliot. According to the Pin Up Files, this work from Elliot dates back to 1950 and is titled This Trick's a Treat.

Whatever your Halloween plans are, stay safe tonight- particularly if you have no electricity right now.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Report: CIA Operatives Denied Help During Attack on US Consulate in Benghazi

In the latest development regarding the September 11, 2012 attacks on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, reports are circulating that multiple requests for military aid during the consulate attack were rejected by the chain of command.
Former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods was part of a small team who was at the CIA annex about a mile from the U.S. consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team came under attack. When he and others heard the shots fired, they informed their higher-ups at the annex to tell them what they were hearing and requested permission to go to the consulate and help out. They were told to "stand down," according to sources familiar with the exchange. Soon after, they were again told to "stand down."

Woods and at least two others ignored those orders and made their way to the consulate which at that point was on fire. Shots were exchanged. The rescue team from the CIA annex evacuated those who remained at the consulate and Sean Smith, who had been killed in the initial attack. They could not find the ambassador and returned to the CIA annex at about midnight.

At that point, they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied. There were no communications problems at the annex, according those present at the compound. The team was in constant radio contact with their headquarters. In fact, at least one member of the team was on the roof of the annex manning a heavy machine gun when mortars were fired at the CIA compound. The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up support from a Spectre gunship, which is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights.
Particularly damning is a report that appeared on milblogger Blackfive's page indicating that CIA and Special Operations forces had a GLD (Ground Laser Designator) on site in Benghazi during the attack, a device used to 'paint' targets on the ground for air support. Only during the Benghazi attack, both the CIA and Special Operations operatives were given orders to stand down.

An unarmed surveillance drone over Benghazi had reportedly relayed real-time footage of the attack to the chain of command. The attack went on for hours, meaning there was more than enough time for commanders to dispatch AC130U Spectre gunships from Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily- some 480 miles away from Benghazi. The AC130U was designed for ground support and is capable of saturating a fairly compact are with precision fire from a 25mm gatling gun as well as precision 40mm and 105mm cannons. Such weapons systems also can operate with even greater precision with a GLD like what was reportedly on site at the CIA annex in Benghazi.

If true, this basically means that the chain of command in the CIA, State Department and White House left Ambassador Stevens, Information Management Officer Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods to die while the US Consulate was under a well planned and coordinated attack with heavy weaponry from Islamist militants- reportedly including Ansar al Sharia.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has denied that any of the C-130s had even left Sigonella during the attack while a CIA spokeswoman denies that requests for military aid from Benghazi during the attack were turned down. However, since both the State Department and White House continued blaming a short anti-Islamic YouTube video for weeks after the September 11th attacks, the denials are significantly lacking in credibility.

Meanwhile, Turkish authorities detained a Tunisian man identified on surveillance video of the attack but so far, US interrogators have been denied the opportunity to interview him.

UPDATE 11/1- Foreign Policy magazine and Dubai's Al Aan television reported the discovery of more sensetive documents in the wreckage of the Benghazi consulate after the September 11th attacks, including a travel itinterary for Information Officer Sean Smith and e-mails from Ambassador Stevens to Libya's foreign minstry requesting additional security and reporting 'troubling surveillance' from a local police officer who was reportedly taking pictures inside the compound. Stevens even identified the car number the Libyan policeman arrived and departed in.

The Ambassador's report of the policeman taking pictures is consistent with Information Officer Smith's online message just hours before the attack that read "Assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures".

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sports Chowdah Update- One Giant Sweep; London Calling- Patriots Thrash Rams at Wembley; Eagles Snatch Elusive ACC Win From Terps

WORLD SERIES- Faced with a must-win scenario at Game 3 in Comerica Park on Sunday night, the Detroit Tigers took their first lead of the 2012 World Series and showed signs of life.

After the Giants got out to an early 1-0 lead, the Tigers took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 3rd thanks to a 2 run homer from Miguel Cabrera. After San Francisco jumped out to the early lead in Game 1 thanks in large part to Pablo Sandoval's 3 homers and shutting out the Tigers in Game 2 and Game 3, this was noteworthy as being the first lead Detroit had in the World Series.

However, it wouldn't last very long as Giants catcher Buster Posey belted a 2 run homer off of Tigers starter Max Scherzer with one away in the top of the 6th to give the Giants a 3-2 lead.

The Tigers would get an equalizer in the bottom of the 6th inning thanks to a solo homer by Delmon Young to make it a 3-3 game. The deadlock would continue into extra innings until the bottom of the 10th inning when former Red Sox and Blue Jays infielder Marco Scuatro drove home Ryan Theriot with a 2-out RBI single off of reliever Phil Coke to give San Francisco a 4-3 lead.

Sergio Romo came on in the bottom of the 10th to close out the game- and the series- for the Giants and after getting the first two batters, struck out Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera to end the series.

As you probably gathered from the picture above, the San Francisco Giants go on to win their second World Series title in two seasons, becoming the fist National League team since the Cincinnati Reds Bid Red Machine of 1975 and 1976. After his standout performance in Game 1, Pablo Sandoval went 4-12 for the remainder of the series and was named World Series MVP.

The World Series title is only the Giant's second since moving out to the Bay area in 1958- the other coming in 2010 after beating the Texas Rangers 4 games to 1.

AP Photo/Alastair Grant
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS- As it turns out, the New England Patriots are just as at home in ye olde England as they were in New England.

It wasn't quite the Patriots/Silly Nannies match that some have predicted, but apparently the end results weren't that different from a hypothetical matchup against the fictitious team comprised of British dandies.

After a three year hiatus, the Patriots returned to London's Wembley Stadium for the NFL's annual regular season game in the UK. This one actually counted as a 'home' game for the St Louis Rams and after the Rams got on the board with their opening possession thanks to a 50 yard TD pass from QB Sam Bradford to WR Chris Givens to give St Louis the early 7-0 lead, the Patriots would go on to score 45 unanswered points, including Brady connecting with TE Rob Gronkowski twice as well as a TD pass to WR Brandon Lloyd and rushing TDs from RBs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.

This one was all New England in Olde England, and the Patriots head into their bye week in sole possession of first place in the AFC East after the Jets were thumped by the Dolphins by a 30-9 final in Miami on Sunday.

Earlier this month, the NFL announced that there would be two separate games played over in London for the 2013 season. The Minnesota Vikings would 'host' the Pittsburgh Steelers in a late September contest while the Jacksonville Jaguars would take on the San Francisco 49ers in a Wembley Stadium game at the end of October.

The Patriots' next opponent will be the Buffalo Bills at home on Veteran's Day.

Michael Dwyer/AP Photo
NCAA FOOTBALL- The Boston College Eagles looked to snap a 5-game losing streak and get their first in-conference win of the season on Chestnut Hill Saturday when they hosted Maryland.

They opened up a 10-0 lead on the Terrapins in the first half thanks to a 20 yard pass from Chase Rettig to RB David Dudeck on the Eagle's opening possession followed by a 36 yard Nate Freese FG in the 2nd quarter. For the second half, Freese would open up the scoring with a 28 yard FG to make it a 13-0 before Maryland answered with a FG and TD late in the third to make it a 13-10 game.

Early in the 4th, Terps QB Caleb Rowe connected with Stefon Diggs to put Maryland ahead 17-13. Given the woeful performance of the Eagles in some contests earlier, the crowd at Chestnut Hill could feel the game start to slip away when on their next possession, Chese Rettig was sacked and fumbled the ball near mid-field. However, the Terps went 3 and out and had to punt- successfully pinning Boston College at their own 15 with just over 5 minutes remaining in regulation.

But Rettig wasn't done on the day, and kept a sustained drive going with a number of 12 yard passes to TE Chris Pantale and WR Alex Amidon, moving into the Maryland red zone and eating up precious time in the process. The drive was capped by a 14 yard TD pass from Rettig to WR Jonathan Coleman to give Boston College the 20-17 lead with 1:32 to go in regulation.

Although Maryland got the ball back with good field position at their own 31 and 52 seconds on the clock, DB Spencer Rositano picked off Caleb Rowe at mid-field, sealing Boston College's second win of the 2012 season and their first aginst an FBS opponent.

It's also worth nothing that Saturday was Military appreciation day and the BC Eagles donned special uniforms for the occasion. The uniforms are being auctioned off online by BC Athletics this week to benefit the Wounded Warrior project.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

East Coast Battening The Hatches for 'FrankenStorm'

Flooding in downtown Norfolk, VA ahead of Hurricane Sandy's arrival on Sunday night. Martin Cornick photo via twitter.
A 'perfect' storm which weather forecasters say is actually a Categroy 1 Hurricane colliding with two smaller storms is set to hit the East Coast beginning late Sunday. While Hurricane Sandy has weakened somewhat after earlier sideswiping Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Cuba last week,

Hurrican Sandy reportedly had winds in excess of 110 MPH and a well-defined eyewall more than 20 miles in diameter by the time it had made landfall on the eastern end of Cuba on October 25th. Although it weakened from a Category 2 to a category 1 Hurricane

Projected path of Hurricane Sandy, dubbed 'FrankenStorm' after it was forecast that it would merge with two other storm systems

Governors from the Carolinas to Maine have declared a state of emergency in their respective states in anticipation of Sandy/FrankenStorm's arrival. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey cautioned Garden State residents to take the forecaster's warnings seriously and that their state will likely take the brunt of Sandy while Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is asking schools and universities throughout the Bay state to shut down in anticipation of the storm's arrival. In Rhode Island, Gov Chaffee and local officials have ordered mandatory evacuations for some of the low-lying coastal towns while in Virginia, Gov McDonnell activated 400 National Guardsmen over the weekend. In New York, Gov Cuomo ordered a shutdown of the New York City subway system as well as the MTA commuter rail and bus services effective Sunday night.

Announcement warning of service shutdown at the Long Island RR station in Hicksville, NY. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Public safety employees and utility workers have been warned that they should expect to be working extra shifts over the next several days and in the Big Apple, both the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ will be closed on Monday. The Statue of Liberty was slated to re-open to the public this weekend after undergoing a series of renovations, but the official re-open date has been pushed back in anticipation of Sandy's impact in the mid-Atlantic region. Not surprisingly, in addition to commuter rail, Sandy/Frankenstorm has already snarled air service throughout the Mid Atlantic region as thousands of flights have been cancelled. On Sunday, Amtrak announced cancellation of passenger service on the northeast corridor north of New York City while service on the Northeast Corridor between new York and Washignton DC is expected to grind to a halt effective Monday.

Sandy is also affecting the upcoming presidential election with both camps cancelling or postponing campaign stops in Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

Forecasters anticipate that Sandy/Frankenstorm will move inland in a similar trajectory to Hurrican/Tropical Storm Irene in late August 2011. Vermont and portions of upstate New York were particularly hard-hit, with heavily damaged roads, rail lines and bridges leaving villages in the Green Mountain state isolated from the rest of new England for as long as two weeks.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Today's Train of Thought- Marquette Down on the Calendar, October 27, 2012

It doesn't seem that long ago that New England was the place to be for fall- especially if you were a sports fan. The days get shorter, the hills start to explode with reds, oranges and yellows and you could hardly turn on the radio or TV without listening to a Boston team winning.

It wasn't that long ago one could expect to tune in to the Red Sox vie for another American League pennant, the Patriots embark on their quest for another title, Boston College raise hell in the ACC with Matt Ryan at QB and the Bruins and Celtics season get underway- all in one weekend. But the only constant is change, and like the leaves lazily drifting to the ground an increasing number of these teams have made themselves in non-factors in the month of October.

Now, that mojo seems to have made it's way west to the Wolverine State. Granted they haven't gotten off to the best of starts in the World Series, but not only have the Detroit Tigers won the American League pennant, they also can lay claim to the first triple crown winner in baseball in more than 45 years as well as the defending AL MVP and Cy Young winner- starting pitcher Justin Verlander. Be it the Wolverines or Spartans, either one of Michigan's Big 12 college football teams have more wins than all three FBS schools in New England combined (the MAC teams are another story, tho').

Sometimes the icing on the cake is the bucolic scenery in the fall- whether in the Midwest of northeastern corner of the country. And if some active rail lines happen to cut their way through that bucolic landscape, then all the better.

And this is exactly the case with western Michigan's Marquette Rail. Here, contributor familymansystem caught Marquette Rail SD40-2 #3001 leading a pair of Union Pacific-painted leasers up the hill and under a wooden bridge at Newyago, MI with Grand Rapids-bound symbol freight Z-151. The wet weather and fallen leaves on the tracks made the rails especially slick on October 11, 2012 and the crew has decided to double up the hill- a process where the crew splits the train into two portions before heading up the hill with one half, placing it in a siding before retrieving the second half and continuing after reattaching the two portions.

Not surprisingly given the composition and bright colors [no easy feat on an overcast day- NANESB!], familmansystem's image has been selected for a People's Choice award by users.

Interestingly, the #3001 is the only such unit to wear such bright livery for the Marquette- the other units are primarily leasers, some of which had the Marquette Rail logo hastily applied. This will also likely be the only unit to wear this distinct scheme. Marquette Rail has the distincion of going from becoming an independent shortline to a Rail America subsidiary to a part of the Genessee and Wyoming system in a few months time. The GWI acquisition of Rail America systems means that there will be plenty more orange along the Marquette Rail in the future.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fall Classic Sports Chowdah Update- Jets Grounded by Pats in OT; Kung Fu Panda Flying High in Game 1 of World Series;

AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS- Between snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, there was a whole lot of snatching going on late in Sunday's game at Foxbourough.

After the Jets got a TD on their opening posession, New England's Devin McCourty took the ball back 104 yards to tie the game at 7-7 on a kickoff return for a TD.

For the second straight week, it was looking as though the Patriots were going to pull away thanks to a 17 yard TD reception from Brady to Gronkowski late in the 1st and then got two more after Jets QB kicked the ball out of the back of the end zone after fumbling the handoff to RB Shonn Greene on the Jets own 12 yard line. The safety made it a 16-7 game, but the Jets were able to cut the Patriots lead to 7 thanks to a late 54-yard Nick Folk FG. The teams headed into the locker room for halftime with the Patriots up 16-10.

For their first possession of the 3rd quarter, the Jets were able to march the ball down into the new England Red Zone, but were unable to punch it in on 3rd and 2 from the Patriots 3 yard line, settling for a 21 yard FG to make it 13-16.

But on the next posession, the Patriots marched to ball 78 yards down the field to give them a 23-16 lead. The drive took 6:43 and was capped by a short TD pass from Brady to Gronkowski.

However, momentum began swinging the Jets' way when the 4th quarter got underway. With just under 6 minutes to go, New York closed the gap to 23-20 on a 7 yard TD pass from Sanchez to TE Dustin Keller. The Jets defense then held New England to a 3-and-out before getting the ball back and moving as close as the Patriots' 25 yard line. After being stopped on 3rd and 4, Nick Folk made a 43 yard FG to tie the contest up at 23-23.

Near-disaster struck on the following posession when Devin McCourty fumbled the kickoff return inside the Patriots' own red zone and the Jets covered on the New England 18. However, on 3rd and 7, Pats LB Dont'a Hightower came up with the second most important sack of the game [the most important? That was yet to come- NANESB!] dragging down Sanchez for a 10 yard loss and forcing the Jets to attempt a FG instead of going for it on 4th and 17. Still, Folk's 43 yard FG was good and the Jets took the lead for the first time since the 1st quarter, going agead by a 26-23 margin with 1:37 to go in regulation.

On the following kickoff, McCourty managed to hang on to the ball and got it as far out as the New England 21. This gave Brady and the Pats offense a little over 90 seconds to drive the ball down into FG range [or try and get the kill shot with a TD- NANESB!]. And that's exactly what happened as the Patriots marched down the field, getting as far as the Jets 25 with 16 seconds remaining. As time expires, Gostkowski kicked a 43 yard FG to tie the contest up at 26-26 and force overtime.

This was the first time the Patriots had to play under the NFL's revised OT rules and New England won the coin toss and got the ball to start off with. Starting from their own 16, the Patriots moved the ball thanks to a series of short passes to Welker, Woodhead, Hernandez and Deion Branch, advancing as far as the Jets 30 before bringing in Gostkowski for a 48 yard FG attempt which was good.

Under the old rules, that would've ended the ballgame right there, but the new format allowed the Jets a posession with which the could tie the game or go ahead with a TD for the win. However, after a couple of quick gains that brought New York from their own 15 to near mid field, Mark Sanchez was sacked by DE Rod Ninkovitch and then fumbled the ball. New England recovered the football, thus ending the game right there. After dropping the late lead, Patriots come from behind to force OT and shut the Jets out in OT, winning by a final of 29-26.

Brady went 26-42 with 2 TDs and 259 yards while Rob Gronkowski had 6 receptions on the day, two of them for TDs.

This weekend, the Patriots will travel to jolly old England for a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI against the St Louis Rams. This is actually considered a home game for the Rams and will kick off at 1PM Eastern time.

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

WORLD SERIES- Perhaps the best baseball news as far as I was concerned came last Tuesday when the Detroit Tigers competed a sweep of the New York Yankees thanks to an 8-1 shellacking in Game 4 at Comerica Park in which Yankees starter CC Sabathia gave up 6 earned runs before getting pulled in the top of the 4th. Matt Scherzer pitched a gem through 5⅔ and the Tigers advanced to their first World Series berth since 2006.

And for awhile, it was looking as though it would be a rematch of the '06 World Series with the Cardinals taking a commanding 3-1 lead over the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS. However, the Giants would come roaring back and win the next three games by a combined total of 20-1, including shutouts thrown by Barry Zito in Game 5 and Matt Cain in Game 7.

For Game 1 of the World Series, the Giants appeared to have picked up right where they left off, taking an early 1-0 lead thanks to a Pablo Sandoval homer off of Tigers ace Justin Verlander in the bottom of the first. In the bottom of the 3rd, Giants Outfielder Angel Pagan reached when what looked like a routine ground ball took an odd bounce off of 3rd base and squirted into shallow left field with two away. Pagan then came home on an RBI double from former Red Sox infielder Marco Scutaro, who the Giants picked up from Colorado in an unheralded midseason transaction. Scutaro's base hit gave the Giants another run and brough up Pablo Sandoval to the plate where he once more went yard on Justin Verlander to give San Francisco a 4-0 lead.

As it turns out, that would be all they would need for Game 1, but starter Barry Zito helped his own cause by adding to the lead with an RBI single in the bottom of the 4th and Sandoval would get his 3rd homer of the night- another solo shot in the bottom of the 5th to make it 6-0 Giants. The Tigers would get a run on a Miguel Cabrera RBI in the top of the 6th, but Detroit would answer with RBI base hits from Buster Posey and Marco Scutaro.

San Francisco would cruise to the easy 8-3 win in Game one with Barry Zito getting his first-ever win in the World Series and Pablo Sandoval becoming the 4th big leaguer to hit 3 home runs in a single World Series game, joining Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols.

On Thursday night, Game 2 of the 2012 World Series turned out to be more of a pitcher's duel with Giants starter Madison Bumgarner outlasting Detroit's Doug Fister- who took a line drive off of his noggin in the 2nd inning- in a 2-0 Tigers loss. Thursday night's win gives Detroit a 2-0 series lead. Fister was examined by doctors postgame and showed no additional symptoms of a concussion.

The series heads back to Detroit on Saturday, with Friday being a travel day for both teams and the media. Ryan Vogelsong [14-9; 3.37 ERA] gets the start for San Francisco against Detroit's Anibal Sanchez [9-13; 3.86 ERA] at Comerica Park. San Francisco backup catcher Hector Sanchez will reportedly be the NL Champion's designated hitter while playing in the American League ballpark. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 PM ET and the game will be nationally televised on FOX.

I think the image is pretty self-explanatory. AP Photo/Charles Krupa
BOSTON RED SOX- So barely a year after Terry Francona's departure from Boston, the Red Sox have decided to revisit the Francona epoch with the signing of Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell. Farrell was the Red Sox pitching coach between 2007 and 2010 before being hired on north of the border and was announced as the 46th manager in the club's history.

The Red Sox had also interviewed Brad Ausmus, DeMarlo Hale and Tim Wallach for the managerial spot. While this is sometimes done for show and the eventual favorite eventually gets hired anyway, there were some doubts as to whether or not Toronto would release Farrell from his contract. In his first season as the Blue Jays manager, the team had improved to 81-81, but in 2012 Toronto finished just a game ahead of the last place Red Sox and the Jays were more willing to part with him.

From the perspective of owner John Henry and GM Ben Cherrington, Farrell has the advantage of being familiar with some of the players and front office staff. The Red Sox had to part with infielder Mike Aviles in order to coax Toronto into releasing Farrell. The 50 year old former pitching coach still had a year remaining on his contract with the Blue Jays.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS- Former San Diego closer Heath Bell has made his way back to the NL West in a surprise move announced over the weekend.

Just one year into his 3 year, $27 million contract with the Florida Miami Marlins, Bell was traded to Arizona in exchange for infielder prospect Yordy Cabrera who came to Arizona in a deal with Oakland that sent outfielder Chris Young to that AL Team by the Bay.

The Marlins will also reportedly pay $8 million of the $21 million still owed on Bell's contract. JJ Putz would remain the D-Backs closer while Bell would move into a setup role.

Earlier in the month, there had been widespread speculation that the New York Yankees were looking to deal Alex Rodriguez after a disappointing performance in the postseason. The Marlins were considered a likely candidate since Rodriguez was from the area and the Yankees were willing to eat a large portion of his contract in order to deal the high-salaried infielder. Dealing Bell could fuel speculation that the Marlins are getting ready to clear salary cap space for a possible A-Rod deal, although the fact that Bell went 4-5 with a 5.09 ERA for the Marlins could mean that Miami was just willing to get rid of a relief pitcher who wasn't working out for them.

NCAA FOOTBALL- Four former Louisiana State University football players, including 2011 Heisman candidate Tyrann 'Honey Badger' Mathieu were arrested by police in Baton Rouge, LA on drug charges.

Mathieu was dismissed from LSU's football in August after violating the University's substance abuse policy. Mathieu was arrested along with former starting QB Jordan Jefferson and former DB's Karnell Hatcher and Derrick Bryant on multiple counts of drug pesession as well as posession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Police were responding to a call about an individual- later identified as Jefferson- forcing his way through a gate at an apartment complex in Baton Rouge. After exchanging words with a maintainence man, the police were called and knocked on the door of an apartment where Mathieu answered the door. Officers noticed the strong smell of marijuana. A search of the apartment yielded 10 bags of high-grade marijuana and a digital scale.

BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES- Georgia Tech picked up their 3rd win of the season after a 37-13 thumping of Boston College in Atlanta last weekend. This was the first contest since the Yellowjackets fired defensive coordinator Al Groh.

The Yellowjackets had built up a 31-3 lead on Boston College before QB Chase Rettig connected on two TD passes, one to Alex Amidon late in the 3rd and another to TE Chris Pantale, to make it 31-17, but Georgia Tech got the last word in with a late rushing TD from RB David Sims with just over 5 minutes to go in the 4th.

This upcoming weekend, BC will host Maryland at Chestnut Hill and try and snap its ACC losing streak, this time against the 4-3 Maryland Terrapins.

UMASS- With the exception of one close game at Foxborough, the UMASS Minutemen haven't had much more luck with the Mid-America conference than they've had with the other FBS programs they've faced in their first season as a FBS program.

The futility continued last Saturday when they committed 4 turnovers against the Bowling Green Falcons, including a pick and 48 yard return from Bowling Green LB Dwayne Woods. Bowling Green shuts out the Minutemen by a 24-0 final.

UMASS will travel to Music City for their final non-conference game of the 2012 season on Saturday- taking on Vanderbilt in Prime Time. The 0-7 Minutemen come in to Saturday night's contest as 32 point uderdogs. Kickoff is at 7:00 ET and will be streaming on ESPN3.

BIG EAST- After last Friday's 40-10 loss to Syracuse at the Carrier dome, the Huskies are in their bye week. The Huskies are 3-5 overall and 0-3 against Big East teams heading into their off week and will face the South Florida Bulls. Presently USF is the only Big East football team with a worse record than UConn- also sporting an 0-3 record in conference. USF will play the Pitt Panthers this weekend before their home game against the Huskies.

ELSEWHERE IN THE BIG EAST The Cincinnati Bearcats have been knocked from the ranks of the undefeated. Coming into last weekend's game, Cincinnati was ranked #21 in the nation.

And it was a MAC team that spoiled the party for Cincinnati, with the Toledo Zips getting out to an early lead against the Bearcats. The Bearcats briefly took a 19-20 lead before Toledo's Bernard Reedy retuned a kickoff 91 yards for a Rockets TD to put Toledo on top for good as they went on to win by a final of 29-23

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Happy World Pasta Day!

I seem to be a touch late in learning about this one, let alone verifying it for myself, but as it turns out October 25th is World Pasta Day. I know- right?  Up until this week, I hadn't even heard of such a day.

Naturally, different restaurants will have different ways of marking the occasion [or forget about it altogether- NANESB!] but I thought Buca di Beppo's promotion was worthy of some attention.

For today, Buca Di Beppo is not only giving away an order of spaghetti whenever somebody orders an entree, but they also send you out the door with a 1 lb package of Rummo pasta- along with whatever you couldn't finish.

Buca has roughly 85 locations in 25 states, the UK and Mexico. The restaurant was started in 1993 and the name loosely translantes to 'Joe's Basement', specializing in dishes from Southern Italy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

More Taxpayer Funded 'Green Energy' Firms File For Bankruptcy

Say what you will about the Obama Administration, at least they're the model of consistency when they try and pick renewable energy winners while playing venture capitalist with other people's money.

No less than two Massachusetts-based 'green energy' companies- one of them touted by President Obama as a Stimulus success story- have filed for bankruptcy last week.

Waltham, MA-based battery manufacturer A123 Systems [NASDAQ- AONE] had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on October 16.

The company had gone through nearly $260 million in Federal grants and loans since 2010 as well as another $5 million from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The struggling battery manufacturer was supposedly close to a deal worth more than $400 million with China's Wanxian Group [SSE- 600371] but that deal fell through.

Instead, Wisconsin-based Johnson Controls [NYSE- JCI] is bidding to purchase A123's assets including two battery plants in Michigan.

The following day, Boston-based solar inverter company SatCon had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. SatCon [NASDAQ- SATC], which primarily markets towards industrial and utility grade photvalic markets, had been awarded two seperate stimulus grants of $3 million each- far less than A123 or Solyndra- but has reportedly used an estimated total of $228,000 from those contracts.

On the other end of the country, officials in the Treasury Department are investigating the financial practices of a solar company run by a bundler for Obama's Presidential campaign.

Elon Musk was hoping to put his San Mateo, CA-based Solar City up for an initial public offering (IPO),but some of the disclosures required by the SEC has garnered the attention of the IRS and Treasury in two seperate probes.
The Internal Revenue Service is auditing SolarCity, the SEC filings reveal, and at the same time the Treasury Department's inspector general is investigating the company. The question at hand: Did President Obama's Treasury Department inappropriately give stimulus money to Musk's company.

Obama's stimulus transformed a long-standing tax credit for renewable energy investment into a direct grant from Treasury, worth 30 percent of a company's investment in a renewable project. Musk's company has applied for approximately $325 million in these stimulus grants, according to the SEC filing.

Treasury found that SolarCity repeatedly overstated the value of its investments, the SEC filings indicate. In those cases, Treasury awarded smaller grants than SolarCity had tried to claim. Now the department's IG and the IRS are doing a broader audit of the projects for which SolarCity and other large solar companies got stimulus cash. Investigators want to know if the companies regularly overstated the value of their investments and thus got overly generous taxpayer grants.
Musk is also the CEO of electric car manufacturer Tesla motors, which recieved grants and low-interest loans from the US government to the tune of $465 million in 2009. Musk has reportedly donated more than $100,000 to President Obama's campaign and alligned PACs as well.

Meanwhile, workers in a Holland, MI plant that made batteries for the Chevy Volt are now saying that there is literally nothing to do but tidy up around the place or play cards as there are no orders for them to work on. The facility, run by South Korea-based LG Chem, has had very little in the way of work since General Motors scaled back production of the hybrid Chevy volt. The new facility, which broke ground in 2010, recieved $151 million in stiumulus funds and reportedly has yet to make a single battery.

Monday, October 22, 2012

This Day in Red Sox History- Oct 22nd, 1975; Fisk Waves it Fair

Before the 2004 and 2007 World Series and historic comeback in the 2004 ALCS, this was the closest the Red Sox came to World Series triumph since the roaring twenties: The iconic image of Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk using all the body english he could muster to wave fair a fly ball he hit off of Cincinnati reliver Pat Darcy in the bottom of the 12th inning of Game 6 in the 1975 World Series.

So engrained is the image in the psyche of Red Sox Nation [before they even started selling plastic cards- NANESB!] that the fact that the Cincinnati Reds would win the deciding Game 7 the following night was almost an afterthought. Fisk himself joked that he liked to tell people that the Red Sox won the World Series that year 3 games to 4.

It would be another 11 seasons before the Red Sox got anywhere near a deciding game in the World Series, and that too would evaporate with a ground ball rolling between the wickets of one Bill Buckner- at which point certain Boston sportswriters began what amounted to a cottage industry with talk of a curse.

Whether or not there was some otherworldy voodoo or hexes at work, all that came to an end 8 years ago with the Red Sox advancing to the World Series on an improbable comeback when they were three outs away from getting swept in the best-of-7 ALCS by their hated archrival, the New York Yankees. From there, Boston swept the St Louis Cardinals for their first World Series title in 86 years. The curse was gone- but one look at the animated Fisk makes one wonder if there ever was a curse to start off with.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quickie, Steamy Iron Horse Roundup for October 21, 2012

Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 #261 seen passing a farm in Plato, MN with an excursion in May 2008. Robert Butler photo

MINNESOTA- After a lengthy custody battle between preservation groups, a movie cameo with Johnny Depp and an FRA-mandated boiler inspection, Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 Northern #261 appears ready to go back into service for the Friends of the 261 non-profit.

The 1944-built ALCo was successfully test-fired at the end of September and a number of shakedown runs are scheduled for the next several weeks. The locomotive last ran on a BNSF employee special between the Twin Cities and Winona, MN in September 2008. Within a year, the Friends of the 261 and the 261's owner- the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, WI- were at odds with each other over the lease agreement. After advertising the locomotive for sale in the middle of it's 15-year FRA inspection, the Friends of the 261 and the National Railroad Museum eventually came to an agreement after a rumored sale to a 3rd party in California fell through. In May 2010, the National Railroad Museum announced that it had sold the 261 to the Twin Cities based non-profit for $225,000. While this gave Friends of the 261 sole ownership of the locomotive, funds allocated for the completion of her boiler inspection were used to complete the purchase.

The Friends of the 261 were able to raise funds by operating charter luxury railcar excursions using restored Milwaukee Road Hiawatha varnish behind Amtrak or Canadian Pacific. Prior to its 'final' run [before the FRA mandated boiler inspection, at least- NANESB!] the 261 made its way to Chicago for the filming of the Depression-era Dillinger biopic Public Enemies starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. Curiously, the 261 wasn't built until a decade after Dillinger was gunned down, although similar locomotives were used extensively at the time.

The 261 also holds the distinction of operating every year between 1993 and 2008. Besides holding down at least one excursion out of the Twin Cities every year up until 2008, the big Northern has even ventured as far afield as Scranton, PA and the New River in West Virginia in the 1990s.

Soo Line 1003 getting ready for a photo freight at Fairwater, WI in October 2008. Daniel Simon photo.

WISCONSIN- Speaking of steam locomotives in the upper Midwest, Soo Line 2-8-2 Mikado #1003 will reportedly be going back into service less than two years before she was withdrawn for her mandatory 15 year boiler inspection.

Stored at the Wisconsin Automotive Museum and successfully test-fired earlier this year, the Steam Locomotive Heritage Association announced that the #1003 was ready for service and would be hauling the 2012 Toys for Tots train over Wisconsin Southern rails between Milton and Middleton, WI on Saturday, November 3rd.

The 1913-built Mikado last ran on November 13, 2010 and some expressed doubts whether or not there would be enough funding to return the 1003 to steam.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

'Coal Mine' Classification of Rural Virginia Airport Expansion Halts County's Economic Development Plan

An airport expansion in the southwestern tip of Virginia is being held up due to regulatory red tape regarding the local airport authority's plans to partially finance it by unearthing and selling coal from a seam that runs underneath the project.

Although state regulators had signed off of the project a few years ago, the runway expansion was subject to review from Federal regulators from the Office of Surface Mining. The project reached an impasse when regulators in Washington D.C. determined that the Breaks Regional Airport Authority proposal was in fact a coal mine and would be subject to a much lengthier and costlier permitting process.
Local leaders say the three-year battle with the U.S. Office of Surface Mining over plans to extend the runway at Grundy Municipal Airport has cost taxpayers in this poverty-stricken corner of Appalachia millions of dollars in lost opportunities, and a list of regulatory hurdles remains before construction can even begin.

“We were attempting to permit this project as an airport project, not a coal-mining project,” said state Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, a Democrat from Lebanon who has been involved for three years with the effort to lengthen the runway from 2,200 feet to more than 5,000 feet — the length needed to comply with insurance standards for corporate jets. The holdup: Federal regulators have refused to allow the runway project to go forward without a mining permit because of the coal deposits below the land that will be dug up during construction.

“That’s where the permitting process got caught up — in determining whether it was an airport project or a mining project, by the Office of Surface Mining in Washington,” Mr. Puckett said. “We’ve tried to resolve that with them for the last couple of years. We’ve had very little success.”

Regulators contend that a mining permit is needed because local authorities plan to sell the coal dug up in extending the runway to help finance the overall project. The Office of Surface Mining said it “will continue to work with the state, as well as other affected local and federal officials, regarding the best way to proceed with the proposed airport expansion.”
While coal would be recovered from the site the lengthy permitting process is more reminiscent of a permanent mining facility, not one that would see some limited recovery of coal before being converted to another use in short order.

The airport is located in Grundy, VA- a mountainous town of about 1100 people thats also the county seat of Buchanan County in the southwestern tip of Virginia. The Grundy airport was completed in 1969 on land donated to the town by the United Coal Company. Since United Coal had already done surface mining on the land, it was flat enough to build a runway but the additional 2800 feet would require adjacent hills to be levelled. Those hills also contain a fairly rich seam of coal that the Breaks Regional Airport Authority would sell to help offset construction costs. However, since the project was proposed in 2004, the cost of coal has declined dramatically as the airport project has been hampered by delays.
Moreover, attorneys for the town advised that a municipality cannot obtain a mining permit, putting Grundy in a Catch-22 situation. Federal regulators had reportedly relented only after pressure on the US Ofice of Surface Mining from Senator Mark Warner (D- VA). Town officials are getting ready to attempt a 'Plan B' that would involve a permitting process that would involve the Federal Aviation Administration as the primary agency. However, even if it is reclassified as a construction project, the airport expansion requires approval from the Environmental Protection Agency and US Army Corps of Engineers- two agencies that have halted scores of projects in coal country in recent years.

Currently, Grundy and Buchanan county are accessable by US Route 460 and Virginia Route 83. The nearest airports that can accomodate private jets are in Abingdon, VA while the nearest commercial airports are in Beckley, WV or Johnson City, TN. Although there is a recently completed 1200-acre mixed use business park in Buchanan County, potential investors have to travel at least an hour and a half over narrow, mountainous roads from the nearest airport if they want to see the industrial park for themselves.
It’s important for jets to be able to land and take off from Grundy because, for economic-development prospects — businesses that might locate in the area — air travel is the only efficient way to get there. The 43-year-old facility is the only airport in Buchanan County.

“Most of the time, they fly into Abingdon, and you’re talking about [a drive of] an hour and a half, at least,” said Tim Potter, who heads the industrial development authority in Grundy, which is more than 50 miles on mountain roads from the nearest interstate highway. “It’s not convenient.”

Now, Buchanan County has something to show off to visitors: a glittering new 1,200-acre mixed-use business park built on a nearby mountaintop also flattened by mining.

The town, with creative financing and an infusion of federal flood-control dollars, has remade itself as a retail destination. Local economic development officials are hopeful that the business sites they offer will lure more companies to locate in Buchanan County — but first, investors and companies looking to relocate have to see the park.
As of 2009, Buchanan County was the poorest in the state of Virginia.

The region also recieved bad news last month with Bristol, VA-based Alpha Natural Resources announcing the closure of eight mines and layoffs of nearly 10% of the company's workforce. Although a mild winter and increased competition from natural gas have depressed coal prices in the last year or so, President Obama had promised to bankrupt the coal industry and shut down a number of coal-fired power plants.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Belated Post-Debate Musings

Well, here it is a few days after the second (and second to last) of the 2012 Presidential Debates and lord knows most of the other places on my blogroll have already commented, but I figured I should weigh in before the third and final debate on Monday night.

I missed the first debate at Denver University earlier this month- partly because I typically work evenings and partly because I was becoming burned out on politics altogether [not because I think Mitt Romney is such a shoddy candidate, but because I find it hard to believe there are people out there willing to defend President Obama's record over these last 3 years- NANESB!].

Apparently I missed a doozy, though. Romney repeatedly hammered President Obama over his economic record while Obama looked disinterested and even asked the moderator Jim Lehrer to change the subject at one point. Since then, Romney has been surging in the polls and gaining ground or pulling away in a number of battleground states while Obama's high-profile supporters have been blaming everything from the high altitude in Denver to the notion that Obama was being 'nice' and pulling his punches.

There was also a debate last week between VP Joe Biden and Romeny's VP nominee Paul Ryan that seemed to de derailed by the Vice President's facial tics and wierd grinning at the most inappropriate times.

The second Presidential debate took place on Tuesday night at Hofstra University in Long Island. The town hall format for this debate was different from the first, with Obama and Romney taking questions from an audience in a Q and A session that was moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley. I missed the first part of the debate- and I was told after the fact I didn't miss much at the time- but I caught most of the second half on radio.

I caught the moment everybody [who was paying attention- NANESB!] was talking about after the fact. Fielding a question about last month's terrorist attacks in Libya. Almost as soon Romney pointed out that it took nearly 2 weeks for the White House to acknowledge the attacks were the result of a planned terrorist action, not a spontaneous demonstration over a YouTube video, Crowley jumped in and said that Romney was wrong and at the Presiden't urging, produced a transcript of a September 12th statement to the press in the Rose Garden of the White House before flying off to a fundraiser in Las Vegas. After the debate, Crowley later walked back her words and said the Romney's statement was in fact correct.

Ignoring the fact that either the President and his proxies were lying to the press about the first terrorist attack to have killed an American diplomat in more than 30 years or he was callous enough to jet off to a high-end Sin City fundraiser while our diplomatic mission in Benghazi was still burning, there was something else I noticed that seemed to be overlooked by others in light of Crowley's blatant attempt to run interference for Obama.

Referencing the theater shooting in Aurora, CO, a member of the audience asked both candidates about revisiting the assault-weapons ban, which had lapsed under George W Bush. Gov Romney gave a fairly lengthy answer that mentioned enforcing laws already already on the books, before bringing up the Department of Justice's Operation Fast and Furious gunwalking program. Romney basically took a minute or so to explain what exactly was Fast and Furious to the audience of undecided voters, but as soon as he started mentioning the Obama Administrations' role in the ATF's gunwalking program, Crowley interrupted the governor in an attempt to steer the discussion back towards domestic gun control policy [most likely the original intent of Fast & Furious, according to some- NANESB!].

Apparently taking a cue from Joe Biden, President Obama apparently decided to start smiling at REALLY inappropriate times before Crowley allowed him to speak. Obama's long and rambling answer sidestepped Fast and Furious altogether and instead talk about the need for more teachers and funding for community colleges.

This likely won't be the last we hear from Fast and Furious at the debates- the third and final debate is scheduled for Monday, October 22nd and is slated to revolve around foreign policy. While some feel that this may be a strong suit for the President, there is not only the matter of Fast and Furious, the Libya terrorist attacks as well as the proposed KeystoneXL pipeline from Canada, there's also President Obama's persistent refusal to meet with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, the continuing threat from Iran's nuclear program, an increasingly aggressive Russia and China and deteriorating situations in Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and Turkey

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sports Chowdah Update- Tiger Trap in ALCS; Hawk Heaven- Seattle Rallies Late Against Pats; New England FBS Schools 0 for October; Navy Thinks Big (East);

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
NFL- This one you can't blame on the replacement officials.

Unlike last week's home game against Denver, the first half of the Patriots road game against the Seahawks was a back-and-forth affair with a couple of lead changes before the Patriots went in front by a 17-10 score late in the first half and had a chance to break the game wide open after Seahawks punter Jon Ryan mishandled a snap deep in Seattle territory on 4th and 4, giving the Patriots the ball back on the Seahawks own 24 yard line with 40 seconds to go. Brady got the Patriots down to the Seattle 3, but couldn't punch it it in. However, with two seconds to go and before New England could bring Gostkowski out for the FG attempt, the [full time] referees huddled and decided that Brady was guilty of an intentional grounding penalty with less than 6 seconds remaining. This included a 10 second runoff of the clock, meaning there would be no FG attempt and Seattle dodged a HUGE bullet.

At the time, any New England fan worth their salt was wondering exactly how the penalty at the end of the first half would come back to haunt them as the teams headed into the locker room with the Patriots up 17-10.

As it turns out, we wouldn't have to wait very long to find out. Seattle's defense would hold the Patriots to two Gostkowski FG's, giving the Pats the 23-10 lead.

With less than 10 minutes to go in the 4th, Seattle quickly got themselves back in the game thanks to WR Golden Tate's 51 yard run on the following posession plus a 15 yard penalty against New England tacked on to the end of the run, followed by converting 4th and 3 thanks to a 10 yard TD pass from QB Russel Wilson to WR Braylon Edwards to cut into New England's lead by a score of 23-17.

The Seahawks would get the ball back with 2:38 to go with a good field position thanks to a 25 yard Leon Washington punt return and on 1st and 10 from mid-field, Wilson connected with WR Sidney Rice for a 46 yard catch and run to give the Seahawks a 24-23 lead- and the dire warning from myself and others at the end of the first half loomed large as the Patriots got the ball back with 1:08 left, but weren't able to do anything with it, going 4 and out deep in their own territory and turning over the ball with rougly 50 seconds to got. From there, Seattle got the ball back and simply took a knee to run out the clock.

Former Patriots head coach Pete Carroll gets a measure of revenge against his former team as the Seahawks won on Sunday by a 24-23 final.

Brady went 36-58 and had 395 yards along with 2 TDs and 2 interceptions while Seattle's Russel Wilson went 16-27 with 293 yards and 3 TDs, so those of you who had Wilson on your fantasy team (and didn't bench him) were in for a pleasant surprise. This is New England's second loss to an NFC West team by less than two points in the closing minutes of a game- all three of New England's losse have been by a margin on one or two points so far.

Seattle goes on to play the San Francisco 49ers on the NFL Network's Thursday night game while New England hosts the Jets in Foxbourough on this Sunday. Kickoff is set for 4:25 PM ET and the game will be televised on CBS.

The loss puts the entire AFC East in the unusual position of having every team hold a 3-3 record. This actually puts the Patriots in 2nd place behind the Jets. Sunday's game is sure to break the deadlock one way or the other.

OTHER NFL NEWS- Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Ray Lewis is expected to miss the remainder of the season with an injury to his triceps in his right arm. This is Lewis' third stint on the DL in ten seasons. Lewis turns 38 next spring, and the season-ending injury has cast some doubt on his future in Baltimore.

The Ravens will face the Houston Texans this Sunday- the Texans are coming off of their first loss of the season, leaving the Atlanta Falcons as the NFL's only undefeated team so far this season.

DENVER BRONCOS- Monday Night's game between the Broncos and San Diego Chargers gave Patriots fans reason to think that their team was fortunate to be 3-3 after fending off a 2nd half Denver rally in hindsight.

Despite an atrocious 1st half in which the Chargers jumped out to a 24-0 lead, the Broncos staged a remarkable comeback in the second half in which the defense not only kept the Chargers off the scoreboard, but ran up 35 unanswered points for the 35-24 win. Like New England, the win gives Denver a 3-3 record.

NCAA FOOTBALL- Well, not quite 2 weeks into October and I'm going to make the bold prediction that none of the BCS schools in New England will be appearing in any bowl games this season.

The only reason the UMASS Minutemen didn't lose this weekend was because it was their bye week. Despite playing the undefeated Bobcats well in a 37-34 loss at 'home' [i.e. Foxbourough- NANESB!] in Week 5, the following week was a dramatically different story as the Minutemen were on the losing end of a 52-14 thumping in Kalamazoo.

This weekend, the Minutemen will take on the 4-3 Bowling Green Falcons at Gillette Stadium.

BOSTON COLLEGE- UMASS isn't the only FBS school in Massachusetts to have allowed 50 or more points against their last opponent.

Boston College had a tough road game in Tallahassee against 12th ranked Florida State and looked as though they would make a game of it on their opening posession as they took the football and marched down the field to the Seminoles 1 yard line before getting shut out of the end zone on 4th and goal. From there on out, it was all Noles all the time as they cruised to a 51-7 over Boston College.

The Eagles travel to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech- who currently sport a woeful 2-4 record- on Saturday at 3 PM ET.

UCONN- The Huskies- who are the only New England FBS school to have been above .500 this season- are on a 2-game skid after losing a week 6 matchup to Big East for, #22 Rutgers, by a 19-3 final. Last weekend, the Huskies blew a late lead against Temple after giving up a late TD to the Owls with 42 seconds left to tie up the game 14-14.

Connecticut got the ball first in OT but missed a chip shot FG. Temple got the ball back and made their FG attempt from the 29 yard line, giving them the 17-14 OT win.

This week, 3-4 UCONN travels to the Carrier Dome to take on the Syracuse Orangemen. This will likely be the last time the Huskies face Syracuse as the Orange are set to jump to the ACC beginning in 2013. Currently Navy sports a 3-3 record and faces Army each December during the Army-Navy game. This will likely continue once Navy football is integrated into the Big East.

NAVY- The US Naval Academy Midshipmen football program has reportedly agreed to start playing in the Big East conference starting in 2015. Navy has been playing football as an independent since 1879.

The move would leave the Army Black Knights as the only service academy that plays FBS football as an independent- the Air Force Academy Falcons have been playing in the Mountain West conference since the late 1990s.

AP Photo/Paul Sancya
MLB- After nearly giving away Game 1 of the ALCS in the bottom of the 9th, the Detroit Tigers have taken a 3-0 series lead on the New York Yankees.

Tuesday night saw the series move to Detroit's Comerica Park and Tigers ace Justin Verlander on the mound. Verlander went through the first three innings without allowing a baserunner while he got some run support in the form of a line-drive solo homer from Delmon Young to make it 1-0. Detroit then added to their lead in the bottom of the 5th with an RBI double from Miguel Cabrera to make it 2-0.

Verlander would end up pitching 8⅓ innings before allowing a solo homer to Eduardo Nunez in the top of the 9th. Despite giving up 2-out back to back singles to Mark Teixera and Robinson Cano, reliever Phil Coke got ALDS hero Raul Ibanez to strike out to end the ballgame and give Detroit a commanding 3-0 lead in the ALCS.

The Yankees have been playing without team captain Derek Jeter since game 1 after he left Game 1 of the ALCS with a fractured ankle. The injury has left the Yankees without Jeter for the remainder of the season- this is the first time since the 1990s the Yankees have been in the postseason without Jeter, closer Mariano Rivera or catcher Jorge Posada.

Detroit took Game 1 of the ALCS in Yankee Stadium by a 6-4 final in 12 innings, despite blowing a save in the bottom of the 9th. On Sunday afternoon, Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez threw 7 shutout innings in Detroit's 3-0 win at Yankee Stadium.

Game 4 is set to take place on Wednesday night at Comerica Park, with CC Sabathia [15-6; 3.38 ERA] taking the mound for the Yanks while Max Scherzer [16-7; 3.74 ERA] will get the start for Detroit. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 ET and the game will be televised on TBS.

NATIONAL LEAGUE- The St Louis Cardinals have advanced to the ALCS in the most heart-ripping-out-iest manner possible after a deciding Game 5 in the nation's capital Saturday night.

After jumping out to an early 6-0 lead, the Nationals seemingly thwarted a Cardinals rally in the bottom of the 5th that cut the Nats lead in half. Even though a Daniel Descalso solo homer in the top of the 8th made it a 1-run game for the Cards, the Nats got a run back in the bottom of the 8th to make it a 7-5 Washington lead. However, the Washington bullpen imploded in the top of the 9th, allowing a leadoff double to Carlos Beltran before issuing two out walks to Yadier Molina and David Freese. Descalso then hit a 2-RBI single to tie the contest up at 7-7 and suck the air out of Nationals Ballpark before Pete Kozma singled and drove in two more runs, giving them a 9-7 lead.

The Nationals were unable to get any kind of offense going in the bottom of the 9th and the Cardinals rally punched their ticket to the NLCS where they faced off against San Francisco.

After splitting the first two games at San Francisco, the series moves to St Louis Wednesday afternoon. Game 3 gets underway at 1:07 ET Wednesday afternoon and will be televised on FOX.

BC's Katty Workman has garnered ACC Freshman of the Week honors no less than three times this season. John Quackenbos/ BC Athletics Photo

NCAA VOLLEYBALL- After a successful road trip to North Carolina earlier this month where Boston College beat Wake Forest and swept the Duke Blue Devils, the Lady Eagles had a brief flirtation with .500 before falling back to a game under .500 after getting swept in three sets by #12-ranked Florida State and a hard-fought loss against the Miami Hurricanes on Chestnut Hill this weekend. Courtney Castle and Katty Workman both had double-doubles in the 5 set loss to Miami and finished up the match with more kills, assists and digs than the Hurricanes. Currently, the Eagles sport a 10-11 record, going 4-5 against ACC opponents.

This upcoming weekend will see BC Volleyball return to the Tarheel state for matches against the North Carolina Tarheels and NC State Spartans.

On Monday, the ACC named outside hitter Katty Workman and NC State middle blocker Alesha Wilson ACC volleyball players of the week.

ELSEWHERE IN NCAA VOLLEYBALL- Across town and in the Colonial conference, the Northeastern Huskies women's volleyball team is on a tear having won nine in a row, including six against CAA opponents. This upcoming weekend, the Huskies will face Delaware and current CAA leader Towson- whose volleyball team has won 12 consecutive games, and also sports a 6-0 record in the Colonial conference.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Maine Earthquake Rattles Much of New England

Residents throughout New England felt some shaking in the evening hours on Tuesday when the region was rocked by a temblor that had a preliminary measurement of 4.0.
“I literally thought my furnace was exploding,” said Portland resident and Brewer native Holly Barber, a guidance counselor at Lake Region High School in Naples. “I live in Deering Center on Pleasant Avenue, and I was right here in my room.”

The quake was centered 3 miles west of Hollis Center and 13 miles northwest of Biddeford, according to the United States Geological Survey, and was just over 4 miles deep. The service notes the quake occurred at 7:12 p.m. Tuesday.

Reports of the quake spread like wildfire through social media. A Facebook group created shortly after it struck, called “I survived the 10/16/12 earthquake,” was liked by more than 38,000 people by approximately 8:20 p.m. On Twitter, users reported feeling the tremors from around the state.

While there were no immediate reports of physical damage, some users reported problems with cellphone providers AT&T and Verizon Wireless and phone provider Time Warner after the quake.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency had no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Spokespeople for AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless said their towers were not damaged.

Andrew Russell, manager of communications at Time Warner Cable, said “there were intermittent service outages after the quake” but service was back to normal late Tuesday night.

But high call volume may have caused problems with service, according to the AT&T spokeswoman
While not unheard of on the east coast, quakes that powerful are relatively rare for New England. In August of 2011, much of the Mid-Atlantic region including Washington DC was rocked by a magnitude 5.8 quake centered near the small town of Mineral, VA.

While I missed out on what was shaking today, I remember growing up as a lad in Western New England and being at a relative's house that was built in the 1770s. Local lore claimed that the residence was haunted and one night, a female relative not much older than me came flying down the stairs, panicked and swearing up and down that one of the rocking chairs in the hallway began rocking back and forth on its own. Not prone to flights of fancy and exaggeration, her claims were taken at face value, and the grown-ups were scratching their heads over some sort of a non-paranormal explanation.

It came on the front page of the next day's newspaper when the headlines announced a magnitude 6 earthquake up in Quebec. We figured that while we may not have actually have felt the quake, it was still strong enough to shake the floors of the old house and make the rocking chair look like it was rocking back and forth on its own.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Benghazi Update- Secretary of State Clinton Accepts Responsibility For Lack of Security; Congressional Panel Interviews Witnesses; FBI Spends Only 12 Hours in Benghazi; British Weapons Unaccounted For

During an official visit to Peru on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that she accepted responsibility for the security lapses leading up to the deadly terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans last month.
"I'm responsible for the State Department, for the more than 60,000 people around the world," she said. "The decisions about security are made by security professionals. But we're going to review everything to be sure we're doing what needs to be done in an increasingly risky environment."

She also addressed the question of a June explosion at the consulate in Benghazi that some have argued should have raised a red flag about security.

"I can't speak to who knew what," she said. "We knew there were security breaches and problems throughout Libya. That's something that came about as the aftermath of the revolution to topple Qaddafi, with so many militias formed, so many weapons loose. ... It was taken into account by security professionals as they made their assessments."
Clinton also seemed to dismiss accusations that the State Department and White House intentionally pushed a false narrative about a spontaneously-forming protest over a YouTube video serving as a catalyst for the deadly September 11, 2012 attacks for nearly two weeks- in spite of the fact there were no protests in Benghazi that night and the assailants used heavy weaponry such as mortars and RPGs.

While some have viewed this as President Obama 'throwing Hillary under the bus', Da Tech Guy makes the case that this was a shrewdly calculated move by Secretary of State Clinton that undermines Obama while heading off a number of stories about security breaches leading up to last month's attacks from a normally compliant media that was starting to get curious on the issue. The decision can also be viewed through the prism of a possible 2016 Presidential run by Clinton.

Meanwhile, US security and military officials testified before the House Oversight Committee last week, claiming that requests for additional security in Libya were rebuffed by higher-ups at the State Department. Lt Col Andrew Wood of the Utah National Guard commanded a 16-member Special Forces security detail responsible for protecting American officials in Libya after the collapse of the Ghdaffi regime- the team departed the country about a month before the attacks in Benghazi.
Wood told CBS News that he met daily with Stevens to discuss security.

"He was constantly concerned about the threats to not just himself but the entire staff there," Wood said.

Over the six months leading up to the attack on Stevens, Wood says the security situation in Libya deteriorated.

There were 13 threats or attacks in Tripoli and Benghazi, including two attempted assassinations of the British ambassador to Libya.

Wood said Stevens and his staff made the case for tightened security in emails and diplomatic cables. One by one, they lost three State Department security teams, their only airplane and, eventually, his squad too.

Wood said some of the security teams would have been in Benghazi on Sept. 11 to if they had been allowed to remain in Libya, and the four deaths might have been avoided.
Earlier this month, an FBI forensic team arrived at the site of the attacks in Benghazi- nearly three weeks after the attacks took place- and examined the area for a grand total of 12 hours. The site of the attacks had been left unsecured for nearly three weeks and the trek out to Benghazi was expected to yield little in the way of actionable information.

Britain's Foreign Office also reported that British weapons and vehicles left at the grounds of the US Consulate in Benghazi were unaccounted for after the September 11 attacks. The UK's envoy to Libya, Sir Dominic Dominic Asquith, survived an RPG attack that wounded two of his bodyguards in June and the Foreign Office decided to withdraw all British diplomats from the area shortly thereafter. According to testimony from Lt. Col Wood, the UK Foreign Office made arrangements with the US Consulate in Benghazi for safekeeping of the weapons and vehicles and retrieve them incrementally through multiple low-profile trips back to the area.

UPDATE- 10/15- AP is reporting that the White House is inexplicably announcing preperations to send a strike team into Libya.....yes- basically announcing a 'covert' mission to the public via mass media, apparently.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Today's Train of Thought- As the World Minturns, October 14

Today's train of thought takes us to the Rocky Mountains and the tiny burgh of Minturn, situated along the Rio Grande's Tennessee Pass line.

Constructed as a narrow gauge line to tap Colorado's mineral rich interior from Pueblo, the Tennessee pass line was jointly constructed by the Colorado Midland and Denver, Rio Granfe & Western in 1890 to replace a DRG&W narrow-gauge line that had been completed in 1881. Although once the opening of the Moffat tunnel and Dotsero cutoff in the late 1920s and early 1930s relegated the Tennessee Pass line to a secondary route, the line regained importance with the Rio Grande's 1988 merger with the Southern Pacific. The line was used to bypass the increasingly congested Denver & Salt Lake route as well as the Moffat tunnel bottleneck, giving freight trains a fairly straight shot over the former Missouri Pacific line between Kansas City and Pueblo, Co, over Tennessee Pass before rejoining with the Denver & Salt Lake route and then the Southern Pacific line between Salt Lake City and Sacramento via Donner Pass.

However, this revival lasted less than a decade. With Union Pacific's 1996 takeover of the Combined SP/DRG&W system, the UPRR decided that the Tennessee Pass line was redundant and embargoed it within a year. To this day, the line remains intact, but aside from the frequent ballast train or hi-rail inspection, the line hasn't seen a through train since 1997. Although re-opening the line would alleviate some of the congestion along the Moffat Tunnel and Denver & Salt Lake line to the north, part of the problem is that portions of the former Missouri Pacific line between Pueblo and Kansas City have been abandoned- any UPRR trains using the line would have to traverse the busy Joint Line between Denver and Pueblo.

Here, in happier times, contributor Mark Possin caught an Eastbound train powered by a quintet of SP/Rio Grande GP40-2s passing through Minturn with Rio Grande #3132 on the head end in September 1994. This stretch of the Tennessee Pass line is seen hugging the banks of the Arkansas River as the hard-working EMDs are lugging loads of steel coil behind them- most likely from the now defunct Geneva Steel Works near Provo, UT.

Within three years of this photo, the line would be embargoed by Union Pacific.