Thursday, February 28, 2013

Robbers Pull Off Brazen $50 Million Diamond Heist At Brussels Airport

Heavily armed robbers disguised as police officers breached the perimiter fence at Brussels International Airport this month and stole an estimated $50 million worth of diamonds as it was being transferred from an armored truck to the cargo hold of an airliner bound for Switzerland earlier this month.

The raid at Zaventem international airport is one of the biggest diamond robberies in history. It took a highly-trained professional gang just three minutes to hold up a Swiss passenger jet before escaping into the night.

Belgian police were baffled by a robbery that took place with precision, military timing and apparent insider knowledge, allowing the gang to aim for the delivery of a diamond consignment within a 15-minute time window.

Wearing masks, hooded police anoraks and armed with machine guns equipped with laser sights, the robbers struck at 7.47pm local time on Monday night, just before the aircraft they sought was cleared for take-off.

The gang’s target was a Brink’s diamond and jewellery services truck that had just finished loading the 8.05pm Helvetic Airways flight 2L789 bound for Zurich.

For security reasons, the valuable cargo is loaded on the runway just minutes before the plane takes off.

After cutting through a security perimeter fence near the Swiss Fokker 100 airliner, the robbers used two black vehicles, a Mercedes van and an Audi car both equipped with blue flashing police lights, to race across the airport tarmac.

Coming to a halt alongside the Brink’s van and the passenger jet, four armed men left each vehicle and held up the aircraft’s pilot, co-pilot and security guards.

The robbers then forced open its cargo bay doors and took out about 120 packages containing mostly diamonds, which only represented a portion of the cargo, thought to be worth more than £60 million.

After loading the valuables, the eight men fled as security and police alarms were triggered.

The robbers drove at high speed through the same gap in the security cordon that they had opened in front of the aircraft on the runway. The raid took place without a shot being fired. The robbery was so fast that the passengers on board the plane “saw nothing”.

One vehicle, the Mercedes van, was later recovered burnt out nearby. The Audi and the eight men have vanished, triggering a manhunt in Belgium and the Netherlands.
The final destination for the diamonds was Surat, India for cutting and processing by way of Zurich. The phony cops reportedly spoke French and the heist took place so quckily that the passengers on board the flight that was robbed were unaware of what had happened until the flight was cancelled a few minutes later. Despite the fact that the heist was caught by security cameras, investigators say that the footage yielded no substantial clues.

Belgian investigators say that the heist was "so perfect" that it would've been impossible to pull off without inside help.

The robbery comes almost 10 years to the day after a massive and complex diamond heist in Antwerp, where an estimated $100 Million in loose jewelry and diamonds were stolen from a secure vault in the city's diamond district. An Italian safecracker named Leonardo Notarbartolo was the only person in custody for the Feb 16, 2003 heist. Notarbartolo claims he acted with inside information but the heist's take was considerably less than advertised and some of his sources moved valuables out of the vault ahead of the heist but filed insurance claims on them anyway.

Brinks, which is responsible for the handling the diamonds at the Zaventem airport, announced that the robbery would affect their first quarter results. While the diamond district in Antwerp in one of the most secure locales in Europe, the heist at the airport comes as an embarassment to Brinks [NYSE- BCO].

Today's Train of Thought- Stockholm Syndrome, February 28, 2013

According to Yahoo Weather, the temperature in Stockholm, SD at the time of this writing is 7 degrees- not including windchill- so chances are unless you're in Alaska or Siberia, wherever you are is pretty much warmer than Grant County, South Dakota. Or at feels warmer.

So with that in ming, Today's Train of Thought takes us to the northern plains in the dead of winter- namely Stockholm. Here, contributor Mike Vandenberg caught a trio of BNSF Geeps making their way west over the former Great Northern line through the rolling hills of northeastern South Dakota. GP38-2 #2264 is seen leading local freight L-TWI6711 towards Watertown, SD over the rollercoaster terrain in Stockholm, SD on the last day of 2012.

White House Staff Clashes With Veteran Washington Post Reporter Bob Woodward

Interesting how liberals claim to be all about "speaking truth to power" right up until the liberals are the ones in power.

Bob Woodward, the Washington Post investigative journalist who (along with colleague Carl Bernstein) was credited with bringing down the Nixon Administration over the Watergate break-in and cover-up, claims that he's been harassed by senior White House officials over the upcoming sequester deadline. Mr. Woodward, a Washington Post editor who detailed the 2011 deal that led to the imminent spending cuts in his book "The Price of Politics," has said the Obama administration shifted its position by insisting that new tax revenue be part of any agreement to replace the cuts.
President Barack Obama's demand for new revenue is a central reason the two political parties haven't come to agreement on a strategy for replacing the cuts.

The dispute has drawn media attention in large part due to Mr. Woodward's status as one of the nation's best-known journalists, and because he said the White House pushed back aggressively when he questioned the administration's statement about the cuts.

Mr. Woodward has said Gene Sperling, the president's National Economic Council director, went too far by suggesting the journalist would "regret" reporting that the president had changed his position. "It makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters you're going to 'regret' doing something that you believe in," Mr. Woodward said on CNN. "It's Mickey Mouse."
Hardly anybody's idea of a right-wing firebrand and bomb-thrower, Woodward has been a vocal critic of Obama's lack of leadership during the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations with the Republican-held House of Representatives, accusing the Administration of "moving the goalposts" on the terms of any budget or continuing resolution deal.

Woodward said he spoke out because he felt certain that this conduct from was limited to him and was likely used to control the conduct and writing of much younger and inexperienced journalists

Woodward is not alone- on Thursday, former Clinton aide and Washington Times columnist Lanny Davis said in a radio interview on WMAL that a senior White House official called his editor at the Times and threatened to revoke the White House press credentials of reporters from the newspaper if Davis continued writing columns critical of the President [pretty interesting considering that Davis' criticisms of this Administration has been much more mild and subdued compared to Woodward's- NANESB!].

To hardly anybody's surprise, Barack Obama's media cheerleaders have decided that despite his distinguished career, Woodward clearly didn't know what he was talking about and was in the wrong.

This would not be the first time the Obama Administration has attempted to deny access to reporters or media outlets that they deem hostile. In May 2011, the White House Press Office denied the Boston Herald access to a Massachusetts fundraiser after the newspaper published an op-ed on the economy and misery index authored by eventual Republican challenger Mitt Romney. A month prior, the White House had allegedly threatened to exclude the San Francisco Chronicle from covering any presidential events in the newspaper's coverage area after a Chronicle reporter videotaped a group of women who demanded the release of Wikileaks suspect Bradley Manning interrupting one of the President's speeches at a Bay Area fundraiser. During the 2008 campaign, Obama also had reporters from three newspapers that endorsed Sen John McCain kicked out of his campaign's press pool, claiming there was no longer any room for them on the campaign's aircraft. Yet shortly after the reporters from the Washington Post, Dallas Morning News and New York Post were kicked off, the campaign reportedly made room for reporters from Ebony and Essence magazines.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Quickie Sports Chowdah Update- Bruins Make History on Long Island; Patriots Agree to Extension With Brady; Spring has Sprung In Fort Meyers

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
NHL- The Bruins wrapped up their road trip at Uniondale, NY and made some history in the process against the Islanders on Tuesday night. Adam McQuaid put the B's on the board in the first before Casey Cizikas tied the contest up at 1-1 later on in the period.

The Bruins took the lead for good with tallies from Brad Marchand and David Krejci less than 5 minutes apart in the second period, although the Islanders mounted a spirited counterattack in the 3rd period. However, Tukka Rask was up to the challenge and Gregory Campbell had an empty-net goal with 1:05 remaining for to the 4-1 win. Rask allowed one goal on 36 shots faced

The win on Tuesday night was the Bruins best 10-game road start since the 1929-30 team had a 9-1 road start to the season. This comes despite the fact that Boston has played the fewest games in the NHL. So far for the month of February, Boston have gone 7-1-1 and will return to the Garden for Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators. The Senators and Bruins each have 26 points although the Bruins have played only 16 games so far compared to the Sens 20 [currently, the Canadiens lead the Northeast Division with 29 points- NANESB!]

The puck drops at 7:00 ET for Tursday's Bruins home game and the contest will be televised on NESN.

NFL- The New England Patriots and QB Tom Brady have agreed to a three year contract extension this week. The 2-time Super Bowl MVP will receive $27 million, although with bonuses and incentives the deal reportedly could be worth as much as $33 million. The deal is also said to give the Patriots organization an additional $8 million in salary cap space.

Surprisingly [or perhaps unsurprisingly given how the most mundane things involving Tom Brady tend to draw out the spittle-flecked haters from all quarters- NANESB!] the relative bargain at which New England retained Brady's services has come under criticism from some quarters, claiming that this will be leveraged against other NFL QBs such as Joe Flacco or Aaron Rogers who are also seeking extensions.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL- Former 49ers QB Alex Smith has reportedly been traded from San Francisco to Kansas City. The former 49ers starting QB missed time last season due to injury and was then benched in favor of rookie sensation Colin Kaepernick.

The move would have Smith as the latest San Francisco QB to go from the city by the bay to Kansas City, following in the footsteps of Joe Montana and Elvis Grbac. The Chiefs would reportedly relinquish a 2nd round pick in this year's NFL draft as part of the trade. Smith's arrival would displace former Patriots backup QB Matt Cassel as Kansas City's starting.

NASCAR- After a week-long buildup at Daytona that saw Danica Patrick make history and a Nationwide Series race ending in a massive wreck that injured dozens of spectators, it was Jimmie Johnson won the 2013 Daytona 500 on Sunday. The win came as no big shock to those who follow NASCAR while Danica Patrick finished a fairly respectable 8th after making history the week before by taking the pole for the Daytona 500- the first woman to do so for any NASCAR race.

RED SOX- For some reson, Spring Training kinda snuck up on me this year. Truck Day has long since come and gone and the Sox are already in Ft Meyers, FL with a 2-3 record so far.

On Thursday and Friday, the Red Sox will take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in "home and away" games at Bradenton, FL and the Red Sox facility in Ft Meyers.

WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC- As it turns out, the WBC is almost upon us as well. For those who may have forgotten, the WBC is a little like the Baseball equivalent to the World Cup, with teams divided up by nationality playing in four pools comprised of four teams before advancing to elimination rounds.

Team USA will be playing in pool D in the Phoenix, AZ area along with Canada, Mexico and Italy beginning March 7th. Pool A gets started nearly a week earlier with Japan, PRC China, Cuba and Brazil getting started on March 2nd in Fukoka, Japan.

At least two Red Sox are scheduled to appear in the 2013 WBC- both in Pool D. Shane Victorino will be playing for Team USA while Alfredo Aceves will pitch for Mexico. The two teams will go head to head on March 8th at Chase Field in Phoenix.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Clearing the Maine Line, February 26th, 2013

Today's train of thought revisits the New Brunswick Southern railway in somewhat leaner times, before the JD Irving owned railroad found itself shuttling unit trains of crude oil.

The 200km line began service in 1995, shortly after Canadian Pacific abandoned their lines east of Montreal due to decades of declining traffic in the Maritime Provinces [CP Rail had been operating those lines under the name Canadian Atlantic since the late 1980s- NANESB!]. Instead of using an all-Canadian route like rival transcon Canadian National, the CP chose a more direct path, cutting through the woods of Northern Maine between south central Quebec and southern New Brunswick. In addition to providing the shorter route, this allowed CP to interchange directly with US railroads like the Maine Central and Bangor & Aroostook. However, by the mid-1980s those lines were suffering from declining traffic levels, ineffecient operating practices, deferred maintainence and an indifferent ownership. Along with the Boston & Maine and Delaware and Hudson, the Maine Central found itself under the Guilford umbrella while the Bangor & Aroostook would find itself a subsidiary of Iron Road Railway Holdings within weeks of CP's abandonment of their lines east of Montreal.

Between Montreal and Brownville Jct, ME the former CP Rail line became part of Iron Road's Canadian-American Railroad while from Brownville Jct to Saint John, NB, Irving operated the newly-formed New Brunswick Southern. The Iron Road presence in Maine lasted until 2003 when the parent company of the BAR and CDAC filed for bankruptcy and the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic began operations, assuming control over both railroad's trackage.

For several years, the New Brunswick Southern was pretty much dependent on the whims of the forestry industry and hauled wood chips, paper products, lumber and chemicals used for paper-making. Until 2006, the New Brunswick Southern and Montreal, Maine & Atlantic provided dedicated intermodal trains to and from Montreal. More recently, the New Brunswick Southern's parent company was awarded a contract by the state of Maine in 2011 to operate more than 230 miles of former MM&A (nee- Bangor & Arostook) trackage between Madawaska and Millinocket, ME and began operations as the Maine Northern.

While the contract more than doubled the mileage of the Irving-owned railroads, the fact remained that all the lines, as well as interchange partners MM&A and Pan Am (formerly Guilford, nee Maine Central) were still dependent on the volatile fortunes of the lumber and paper industry.

However. that would change with the advent of hydrofracking and increased oil drilling on the northern great plains. With no east-west pipelines to transport the oil from North Dakota's Bakken shale, transporting the crude to east coast refineries in dedicated unit trains was the next best solution.

And this is where the New Brunswick Southern's parent company- JD Irving- comes in. The privately held Maritimes-based conglomerate involved in everything from shipbuilding to forestry- but also owns Canada's largest oil refinery. With US-based refineries at or near capacity, the JD Irving facility in Saint John, NB was receiving an estimated 90,000 barrels of oil a day by rail from North Dakota and Alberta.

The Bakken oil has been taking a somewhat circuitous route in the 2500 miles between the Dakotas and Saint John- starting off on the BNSF before heading east to Chicago where it's handed off to either the Canadian Pacific or CSX. If it goes via CSX, it travels all the way east to the Pan Am interchange at Rotterdam Jct, NY before travelling the entire length of the Pan Am system to Mattawamkeag, ME. If it travels via Canadian Pacific, it utilizes trackage rights over Norfolk Southern between Chicago and Michigan before entering Canada and heading east to Montreal where its handed over to the MM&A. Whether it takes the CP/MM&A or CSX/Pan Am route, the New Brunswick Southern handles that crude for the final 120+ miles.

Here, contributor Issac "Skippy" Greenlaw caught NBSR GP38-3  #2318 leading eastbound Train 908 through Chester, ME in much simpler times. It's apparent from the accumulation of snow on the hood and pilot steps of the lead unit that it's been busting snowbanks ever since its departure from Brownville Jct. The train is getting ready to slow down to pick up some interchange cars from Pan Am at Mattawamkeag before continuing east into Canada on Fenruary 26th, 2011.

According to the photographer, this train ran only three times a week at the time of the photo, but two years later the New Brunswick Southern is leasing at least a dozen additional locomotives from Helm and Pan Am Railways to not only keep up with the oil traffic, but a modest rebound in forestry and paper carloadings on the 220+ mile Maine Northern.

Monday, February 25, 2013

AEP to Stop Burning Coal At Three Power Plants In President Obama's Latest Victoy in the War on Coal

As part of an settlement reached with the EPA and environmental groups, America's largest user of coal has annouced that agreed to stop burning coal at three of their power plants. American Electric Power [NYSE- AEP] also announced as part of the settlement that it would be developing more wind and solar projects in Indiana and Michigan.
While the Columbus, Ohio-based company had previously announced aspects of the deal, the full scope of the control measures and closings is a sign of the pressure on power producers to cut or clean up coal use for electricity generation, environmental advocates said.

“Across the country, the coal industry faces unprecedented setbacks as its share of electricity generation plummets, and the cost of coal continues to skyrocket,” Jodi Perras, Indiana representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, said in a statement. “This agreement is only the latest sign of progress.”

AEP said earlier this month that it expects to spend $4 billion to $5 billion on pollution controls at its coal-fueled plants through 2020, less than the $6 billion to $8 billion it had estimated in 2011. It also said its coal plants should generate about half of its power by decade’s end, down from 65 percent.

In return for that change, AEP will develop more wind and solar power in Indiana and Michigan. And it will close or shift to natural-gas three units at existing coal plants: Tanners Creek Generating Station unit four in Indiana, the Muskingum River Power Plant unit five in Ohio and the Big Sandy Power Plant unit two in Kentucky.

The company had previously planned to retrofit the Tanners Creek plant and continue burning coal there, Melissa McHenry, a company spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. It had already announced that it planned to shutter or remodel into natural-gas units the other two, she said.
Far from being an independent, grassroots campaign, the Sierra Club's 'Beyond Coal' campaign has enjoyed an infusion of donations- including a $50 million donation from New York City mayor and noted busybody Mike Bloomberg in 2011- since its 2001 inception.

The coal industry has been reeling from a one-two punch of increased competition from natural gas and an increased regulatory burden from the EPA under the Obama administration. Since Obama's re-election in November, coal mines from Pennsylvania to Virginia to Utah have announced closures and layoffs involving hundreds of employees.

Borderline Psychosis Update- Vigilante Groups Challenge Cartels, Government; Coast Guardsman Killed by Drug Smugglers; Nuevo Laredo Police Chief Missing As Brothers Found Murdered

I don't think I've done one of these since Enrique Nieto was sworn in as President of Mexico back in December, so it looks like I have some catching up to do.

Mexican vigilantes thumb through the newspaper- possibly in search of articles about themselves. Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills
GUERRERO- Gunmen toting rifles and wearing masks have set up roadblocks at dozens of rural villages throughout the southern Mexican state of Guerrero in recent weeks. But these men, usually armed with antique revolvers or single-shot hunting rifles, are not affiliated with any cartel or military unit.

Instead, these men are local ranchers and farmers who have decided to take up arms against robbers and drug traffickers that have been plaguing their villages in Mexico's ongoing narcoinsurgency.
A dozen villages in the area have risen up in armed revolt against local drug traffickers that have terrorized the region and a government that residents say is incapable of protecting them from organized crime.

The villages in the hilly southern Mexican state of Guerrero now forbid the Mexican army and state and federal police from entering. Ragtag militias carrying a motley arsenal of machetes, old hunting rifles and the occasional AR-15 semiautomatic rifle control the towns. Strangers aren't allowed entry. There is a 10 p.m. curfew. More than 50 prisoners, accused of being in drug gangs, sit in makeshift jails. Their fates hinge on public trials that began Thursday when the accused were arraigned before villagers, who will act as judge and jury.

Crime is way down—for the moment, at least. Residents say kidnapping ceased when the militias took charge, as did the extortions that had become the scourge of businessmen and farmers alike. The leader of one militia group, who uses the code name G-1 but was identified by his compatriots as Gonzalo Torres, puts it this way: "We brought order back to a place where there had been chaos. We were able to do in 15 days what the government was not able to do in years."

The uprising around Ayutla, a two-hour drive from the resort city of Acapulco, differs from the others because it has started to spread locally. In the two weeks, bands in six other towns in Guerrero state have declared vigilante rule, including in Iguala, a city of 140,000. In the nearby Jalisco state, groups say they are considering similar action.

Ayutla's mayor, Severo Castro, says he welcomes the new groups. On a recent evening, he pointed toward a checkpoint blocks away and said the town is nearly crime-free for the first time in years.

"There are two police departments now," he said. "The ones in uniform and another masked one, which is much more brave."

That sentiment seems to be shared even among local police, who are still technically on duty but who now seem limited to the role of directing traffic around the central square, leaving the rest of the patrolling and police work to the militias.

Police Commander Juan Venancio, a broad-faced middle-aged man with a mustache, said local police are too afraid of organized crime to make arrests.

"We could arrest a gangster for extortion, but if we couldn't prove it, we'd have to let him go," he said. "But then what about our families? Do you think we're not scared they will take revenge on us if they are out? Of course we are scared."

In some ways, life is getting back to normal here after years of insecurity. Village rodeos attract young cowboys and girls in traditional dresses, and weddings stretch late into the evening. The same townspeople who were once extorted by drug gangs now bring melons and tamales to the militiamen standing guard at checkpoints.

By 2006, Mexico's drug war had begun to weaken its already-troubled institutions. Areas like Mexico City remained under tight control, but the power of the state in rural areas diminished. Some 65,000 Mexicans have been killed since 2006, but only a fraction of the killings have been solved—or even investigated, according to the government and legal experts.

"Mexico has a 2% conviction rate, and Mexicans have taken note of that," says Sergio Pastrana, a sociology professor at the College of Guerrero who has studied rural regions. "It's caused unrest and a determination among some to take the reins themselves."

Villagers in Ayutla say the town was never crime-free—bandits sometimes robbed horsemen riding the road, for example—but the specter of organized crime was something new.

Several years ago, a group known by villagers as Los Pelones—literally, the Bald Ones—entered Ayutla and began a racket which included both drugs and other crime, people here say.

Mr. Castro, the mayor, says his 19-year-old daughter was kidnapped two years ago and he paid a "large sum" for her release. Last July, the body of the town's police chief Óscar Suástegui was found in a garbage dump outside town. He had been shot 13 times. Authorities said it looked like the work of a criminal group. No arrests were made in either case.

Townspeople say Los Pelones moved into extortions last year, demanding protection money from those who ran stalls in the market adjoining Ayutla's central plaza. The payments were usually 500 pesos, or $40, a month per stall, according to several vendors, a large sum in the impoverished town.

As harvest season approached last fall, the group fanned out into the countryside, demanding monthly payments of 200 pesos, about $16, for each animal that farmers owned. Several farmers say the gang made a list of those who had agreed to pay and those who had not.

In November, a spate of kidnappings began. Gunmen in the village of Plan de Gatica captured the village commissioner, a kind of locally elected mayor, along with a priest in a nearby village who had refused to pay extortion fees for his church. A second commissioner was kidnapped in the village of Ahuacachahue in December. The three men eventually were released after ransoms were paid, villagers say.

When a village commissioner named Eusebio García was captured on Jan. 5, several dozen villagers from Rancho Nuevo grabbed weapons and formed a search party. The next morning, they found Mr. García in a nearby house with his kidnappers, who were arrested and jailed, say the militiamen.

"This was the turning point, the moment everything exploded here," says Bruno Placido, one of the leaders of the armed groups. "We had shown the power armed people have over organized-crime groups."

As word spread of Mr. García's release, farmers in villages around Ayutla also took up arms. Their plan: to descend into Ayutla, where they believed the rest of the Los Pelones gang was based. That night they raided numerous homes throughout Ayutla, arresting people they believed to be lookouts, drug dealers, kidnappers and hit men, and brought them to makeshift jails. Other villagers set up checkpoints across the town.

The vigilantes were now in charge. They instituted the curfew and declared that state and federal authorities would be turned away at checkpoints. Villagers were allowed to make accusations against others, anonymously, at the homes of militiamen.

The group ordered most schools shut down, saying Los Pelones might try to take children hostage in exchange for prisoners detained by the vigilantes.

"I hadn't seen anything quite like this before," says state Education Secretary Silvia Romero, who traveled to Ayutla after the initial uprising to negotiate for classes to resume. Some teachers agreed that suspending school was necessary until all top gang leaders were under lock and key. "The students were an easy target for the criminals," says teacher Ignacio Vargas.

Many schools have since reopened. The army, after negotiations, set up a checkpoint at the entrance to the region. Beyond that, the militiamen remain in control and no state or federal officials are permitted to enter the villages around Ayutla.

Townspeople interviewed recently said the masked men are ordinary farmers and businessmen, not rival criminals looking to oust Los Pelones. The mayor agrees. Still, Mr. Torres, the lead militiaman in Ayutla, acknowledged the risk of "spies from organized crime coming into our ranks." He said he encourages his men to turn in anyone seeking to join the vigilantes who might be linked to crime groups.

A makeshift detention center run by villagers in El Mezón is home to two dozen men and women accused of being with Los Pelones. There is no budget to run the prison, villagers say. The prisoners eat donated tortillas and rice and sleep on cardboard on the floor. On a recent afternoon, seven men were clustered behind bars in a tiny, dark room that smelled of urine. It was hot and dirty. There were no visible signs of physical abuse.

The masked commander of the facility, who wouldn't give his name and declined to allow interviews with the prisoners, said the men are being treated well and will be given a chance to defend themselves in a public trial in the village. They won't be allowed lawyers, he said, and villagers will decide their sentences by a consensus vote.

Possible punishments include hard labor constructing roads and bridges in chain gangs, he said, although it will be up to the villagers, not the militia, to decide. He added that executions, which are not permitted under Mexican law even in murder cases, were not on the table.

"The village will be their judge," he said. "If the village saves you, you will be free. If not, then you are condemned."

Nightly raids of suspected drug traffickers have provided the militiamen with a clutch of high-powered weapons, including AR-15 rifles. It isn't clear how the men will be trained to use the weapons.
While the federal government has expressed alarm at the spread of vigilante groups in the rural villages, state officials in Guerrero seem more sympathetic to the situation faced by villages like Ayutla. In fact, a 1996 state law allows towns to form their own "community police" organizations. One state official has even proposed buying the armed ranchers and farmers uniforms so they won't be mistaken for highway robbers or cartel enforcers.

In 2011, the Michoacan village of Cheran ran out local police and seized the armory after accusing the police department of acting in collusion with illegal loggers and cartel sicarios acting as their protection and brokers before the natives blockaded the rural village from the rest of Mexico.

ELSEWHERE IN GUERRERO- Six men have been arrested in connection with the brutal rape and robbery of a group of tourists in the resort town of Acapulco earlier this month.
The gunmen burst into a rented beach house on Monday, tied up and held at gunpoint six Spanish men as they attacked the women for several hours.

A seventh woman escaped after telling the attackers she was a Mexican.

Most of the Spanish women are reported to be residents of Mexico who had travelled to Acapulco, on the Pacific coast, for a weekend break.

Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said the suspects had confessed.

The police said they were looking for one more suspect. Acapulco is one of Mexico's most famous beach resorts, but it has recently suffered from drug-related violence.
News of the gang-rape came as Mexico is trying to once again marketing itself as a safe destination for tourists under the new administration of President Enrique Nieto.

TAMAULIPAS- The police chief for the border city of Nuevo Laredo has reportedly been missing for nearly a week. Local officials and media has remained curiously silent on chief Roberto Balmori Garza's disappearance even after two of his brothers were found murdered in a parked car in neighboring Nuevo Leon state- one of his brothers was an agent for the federal prosecutor's office.

Interestingly, Garza had no officers at his command for nearly two years. Patrol cars sat idle behind a locked gate at the police department's motor pool and bicycles once ridden by the city's Tourist Police remain in a cage locked inside City Hall. The municipal police force in Nuevo Laredo was disbanded after allegations of corruption in 2011. Since then, the streets have been patrolled by soldiers and state police officers typically travelling in three vehicle convoys.

Manuel Farfan, a 55 year old retired brigadier general in the Mexican Army, was Garza's predecessor and shot dead along with two of his bodyguards in February 2011- after barely a month as police chief in Neuvo Laredo.

After a lengthy and protracted battle with their former benefactors in the Gulf Cartel, the Los Zetas managed to secure territory throughout the state of Tamaulipas- including Nuevo Laredo- to expand their lucrative drug smuggling operations. Reportedly, the Zetas are being challenged by the Sinaloa cartel as well as elements of the Gulf Cartel and Caballeros Templar for control of Nuevo Laredo.

US Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III- killed by drug traffickers in November

CALIFORNIA- A US Coast Guardsman was killed in December after the landing craft he was aboard was rammed by drug smugglers in a panga boat near the Channel Islands, off the coast from Santa Barbara, CA.
Officials say a Coast Guard maritime patrol aircraft detected the panga boat, and sent the Coast Guard Cutter Halibut out to investigate.

They say the cutter then sent its small boat out, which was operating without any type of running lights.

They say when it approached the panga boat, it turned on its blue law enforcement light and the suspects' vessel sped toward the Coast Guard's smaller boat, hitting it before taking off.

Officials say the two Coast Guard members were thrown into the water after the crash, and were immediately picked up by the Coast Guard's boat.

Officials with the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office tell KSBY 34-year-old Terrell Horne III, 34 from Redondo Beach, was killed.
Santa Cruz Island is uninhabited and part of the Channel Islands National Park. The remote nature of the island has made it fairly popular with smugglers since the days of Spanish colonization.

The two Mexican nationals, Jose Meija-Leyva and Manuel Beltran-Higuera, were charged in the killing and were arraigned in federal court in Los Angeles on Dec 21st.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Quickie Sports Chowdah Update for February 23rd, 2013

AP Photo/Mike Carlson
NHL- Something rather curious happened during the Bruins fairly lengthy hiatus this week. While they've played exactly one game since Sunday, Montreal has won three out of their last four contests and the Ottawa Sentaors have won four straight during the same timeframe. The lengthy interval between games for Boston combined with the good week that both Ottawa and Montreal have had mean that the Bruins have slipped into 3rd place in the Northeast Division - despite winning two consecutive contests.

The most recent win for the Bruins came on Thursday night against a team they were supposed to face off against during winter storm Nemo earlier this month- the Tampa Bay Lightning. That contest was supposed to take place on April 25th, but because of the blizzard-related state of emergency in Boston, it was postponed until April 25th, 2012.

However, the first Bruins-Lightning game of the 2013 season took place in Tampa, FL instead. Boston jumped out to a 2-0 lead vs Tampa Bay thanks to goals from Nathan Horton and Patrice Bergeron before the Lightning's Steven Stamkos put Tampa Bay on the board. The Lightning would tie the contest up at 2-2 on a Cory Conacher goal in the second. However a few minutes later, the Bruins would take the lead for good on a Brad Marchand goal. Nathan Horton would give Boston some additional insurance with a goal in the 3rd to give Boston the 4-2 win.

Tukka Rask stopped 24 of 26 shots faced on Thursday night while Anders Lindback stopped 22 shots on a similar number faced by by Rask.

The Bruins swing through the Sunshine State continues on Sunday afternoon at 3:00 ET with a matchup against the Flordida Panthers. This game will be televised on both NESN and the NHL network in select markets.

NASCAR- At least 28 people were injured at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday during a massive collision on the final lap of NASCAR's junior cirucit Nationwide Series.

Saturday's wreck happened after driver Regan Smith, who was leading the race, attempted to block another driver as they were nearing the checkered flag and hit the other car, a report on said.

The crash sent driver Kyle Larson's car airborne and ripped out its engine, although he climbed out of the wreckage afterward unhurt.

"I was getting pushed from behind, it felt like," Larson told ESPN after the crash.

"By the time my spotter said, 'Lift,' or to go low, I believe, it was too late and I was in the wreck. Then I felt like it was slowing down, and it looked like I could see the ground, and had some flames in the cockpit. Luckily, I was all right and could get out of the car quick," he added.

The injured were carried away on stretchers from the chaotic scene in the stands. They were taken to Halifax Health Medical Center and Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center in Daytona Beach.
The crash involved 10 vehicles and some of the spectators undergoing medical tratment at Daytona include a 14 year old.

WINTER OLYMPICS- Less than a week after the US Luge team's practice sleds went missing from the back of a truck, a Pennsylvania man who discovered the sleds by the side of the road contacted State Police about his discovery.

A representative from the USA Luge team had reportedly lost the sleds after failing to secure them to the truck properly during a recruiting trip to eastern Pennsylvania. The man, identified as Mike Miller from Moore Township, PA, had heard about the missing sleds in media reports and turned them over to the Pennsylvania State Police on Friday.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ailing Hugo Chavez Reportedly Returns to Venezuela Under Cover of Darkness

After undergoing months of cancer treatment in Cuba, Venezuela's socialist president Hugo Chavez had returned to Caracas earlier this week. However, instead of the bombastic public displays or lengthy defiant speeches that have become a trademark of Chavez's cult of personality, the announcement was made via his official Twitter account, which had been silent since November.
Chavez's announced return to Caracas came less than three days after the government released the first photos of the president in more than two months, showing him looking bloated and smiling alongside his daughters. The government didn't release any additional images of Chavez upon his arrival in Caracas, and unanswered questions remain about where he stands in a difficult and prolonged struggle with an undisclosed type of pelvic cancer.

Chavez was re-elected to a new six-year term in October, and his inauguration, originally scheduled for Jan. 10, was indefinitely postponed by lawmakers in a decision that the Supreme Court upheld despite complaints by the opposition. Some speculated that with Chavez back, he could finally be sworn in.

Chavez also reportedly returned to Venezuela in the dead of night with no press present and was immediately whisked to a military hospital in Caracas which is contrary to the bombastic and media-savvy tendencies of Chavez. Nicholas Maduro, Chavez's hand-picked vice president, had been running the day-to-day affairs of the nation in his absence.

On Thursday, something took place that cast further doubt on the official announcements from the Chavez regime. One of Chavez's longtime allies, Bolivian president Evo Morales, showed up in Caracas to visit him. However, Chavez's doctors would not allow the Bolivian president to see him, claiming that Chavez was still undergoing treatment and 'resting'.

Rebuffing Morales is starting to make me wonder if there's some sort of Weekend at Bernie's scenario going on where the innter circle of an ailing Chavez passes along good news about the to the public in order to maintain calm and then once whatever succession issues are ironed out, it will be announced that his health has taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- The Snow Me State, February 20, 2013

Today's train of thought takes us to Louisiana, Missouri- which may sound like two states rolled into one, but is actually a town of about 3300 in northeastern Missouri on the western banks of the Mississippi River. While Louisiana, MO doesn't have much in the way of Mardi Gras parades or cajun cuisine, the town does feature both a road and rail crossing from Illinois to Missouri in addition to the Kansas City Southern's Springfield, IL to Kansas City mainline crossing BNSF's Hannibal Subdivision.

Here, contributor Mike Mautner caught leased NREX B39-8 #8599 getting ready to resume its journey east with intermodal freight IKCVN [Intermodal- Kansas City to VeNice, IL] after stopping to take care of some EOT problems after apparently crashing their way through a number of snowbanks on December 1st, 2006. Interestingly, like the Oakways mentioned in the previous Train of Thought, these grey white and red 3900 HP behemoths would've been right at home on the BNSF not too long ago.

Built in 1988 for Locomotive Management Services and immediately subleased to the Burlington Northern, these grey and white GE's- sometimes called 'sharks' roamed the Burlington Northern system primarily hauling intermodal freight. Arriving on the BN property at around the same time as the Oakway SD60s appeared, the 100-unit fleet was returned to lessor and the fleet was dispersed, with individual units ending up in far flung locales from Maine to British Columbia and even Peru.

In their post-BNSF careers, it seems as though a disproportionate number of ended up on New England shortlines and regionals such as the Providence & Worcester, the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic and Rail America's Connecticut Southern.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Spanish Moms: Mothers of Spanish Schoolchildren Attempt to Counter Austerity Measures with Sultry Calendars

Apologies to The Clash, of course.

I realize it's a touch late [or REALLY early- NANESB!] for another 'amateur women strip for calendar to raise funds' blog entry replete with some gratuitous eye candy, but I came across this story from December lurking in a sidebar during an unrelated search for an article about Russia's partially privatized GAZPROM of all things and since the fruits of these women's labor is apparently still available I figured it would be worth a mention.

With an unemployment rate topping 26% and austerity measures in place thanks in to the ongoing Eurozone crisis, some women in rural Spain are getting creative when it comes to ideas for raising funds to restore services that were cut.

In the eastern village of Montserrat, regional authorities decided to suspend school bus services to children that lived within 1.8 miles of the school. But due to the mountainous terrain and twisting roads in the area, some children end up having to walk more than twice that distance from school to home even if they only lived a mile and a half from the school as the crow flies.

After some brainstorming, Maria Gilabert and other local moms came up with the same idea that certain out-of-work stewardesses in Mexico came up with- take off their clothes for a sexy calendar.

The calendar, which shows the mothers in various states of undress posing along the bus route, has already sold thousands of copies and raised awareness of the cuts to the education system across Spain.

In September authorities cut public school bus services for students living within a 1.8 mile radius of the school but parents argue that has left many students having to walk almost four miles over unpaved roads to get to class.

The project aims to raise some of the 43,000 euros (£35,000) needed to restore the bus service and has already raised enough to pay for three months of daily buses.
This isn't strictly a Latina or Iberian phenomenon, as there are a number of fundraising calendars featuring amateur pinups in the UK designed to raise funds for everything from cancer research to the Royal Marines Charitable Trust.

The women decided to incorporate some of the terrain that their children had to negotiate on the walk to school with the bus services slashed. Included with some of the images of the saucy, lingerie clad Iberian cougars are spanish-language slogans such as "Scale the mountains of Montserrat to go to school".

The calendar emulates earlier fundraising calendars that feature amateur models posing nude or topless, such as the laid off stewardesses at Mexicana airlines or University Equestrian clubs in England. However, similar efforts have backfired- in 2008, a group of housewives in the rural Spanish village of Seradilla del Arroyo embarked on a similar effort as the moms of Montserrat. However, the women in the mountainous region along the border with Portugal quickly found themselves owing a printer roughly €10,000 and stuck with 5000 unsold copies after sales of the calendar quickly dried up.

Blue State Graft Watch Update- Feds Lay Out Case Against Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr

Federal prosecutors detailed their charges against former Illinois Democrat Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr late last week as he was charged with conspiracy to commit false statements, mail fraud and wire fraud as he allegedly misappropriated more than $750,000 in campaign funds. The money was reportedly used to buy high-end merchandise for himself and his wife and renovations on their Chicago home.
The court filing was a clear signal that Jackson, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in the mid-1990s, intended to plead guilty to the charge, which has a maximum penalty of five years in prison. No court date has been set.

Jackson’s expected plea would be another mile marker in his slow political and personal collapse, which began shortly after President Obama’s 2008 election. That had seemed to open up possibilities for Jackson, considered a likely successor to Obama in the Senate.

Instead, FBI agents arrested then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and charged him with trying to sell the interim appointment to the Senate seat from Illinois to the highest bidder, and Jackson was implicated in the scandal. Though not charged, he would never recover politically.

According to the documents released Friday, Jackson used campaign funds to buy a $43,350 gold Rolex watch along with almost $10,000 in children’s furniture that he had delivered to his home in the District.

Among other allegations, prosecutors say Jackson made direct expenditures of about $57,793 from the campaign’s accounts for personal expenses. The documents say he and a co-conspirator used a campaign credit card to make $582,773 worth of purchases for their own use.

Jackson’s wife, former Chicago alderman Sandra Stevens Jackson, was not named or charged in that case, but the description makes clear that she was the co-conspirator.

Jackson’s wife was charged with filing false income-tax returns from 2006 through 2011, according to a separate criminal information in her case. That charge has a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

The criminal documents outline a series of illegal expenditures from the former congressman’s campaign account, including more than a dozen purchases of pop-culture artifacts that firmly establish him as someone who came of age in the 1970s and ’80s:

●$10,105 worth of Bruce Lee memorabilia, including four separate purchases of items associated with the late martial-arts film hero.

●$14,200 in random Michael Jackson memorabilia.

●$4,000 for a “Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen” guitar.

●$4,600 for a Michael Jackson fedora.

In mid-November, when he announced his resignation from the House, Jackson signaled that he was in plea negotiations.

“I have made my share of mistakes. I am aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities and I am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with the investigators,” he wrote in his resignation letter.

In the Blagojevich case, Raghuveer Nayak, who worked as a fundraiser for [convicted former Illinois governor Rod] Blagojevich and Jackson, told investigators that Jackson instructed him to raise as much as $6 million for the governor’s campaign.

If found guilty, Jackson will also lose his federal pension. Observers also indicate that prison time would an increasingly likely outcome for the 10-term congressman [no word on whether or not it will be at that nearly vacant prison outside of Rock Island, IL that President Obama, Gov Quinn and Sen Durbin were so keen on using to house Al Qeada detainees- NANESB!]. Despite checking himself into the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota back in June, Jackson Jr won re-election by a 63% margin in November before announcing his resignation a few weeks later.

On Friday, Jackson Jr's wife- former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson- pleaded guilty to one count of tax fraud as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

Pole Dancing Sports Chowdah Update- South Africa's 'Blade Runner' Accused of Killing Girlfriend; Bruins Manitoba Up in Winnipeg; Boston College Wins Record 4th Straight Beanpot; Danica Patrick Sitting Pretty For Daytona 500

NASCAR- Danica Patrick made history over the weekend by becoming the first woman to win the Daytona 500 pole on Sunday with a 196.434 MPH lap [and thus provided me with a contrived opportunity to post some swimsuit pictures of Patrick- NANESB!]. The closest anyone came to knocking Patrick off the pole was 4 time Cup champion Jeff Gordon, who quipped that at least he was the fastest guy on the track that day.

Prior to her 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut, Patrick became the first woman to win a major IndyCar race after she won the Japan IndyCar 300 series in 2008.

The Daytona 500- the first race of the Sprint Cup ciruit- will get underway on Saturday afternoon at 1:30 PM ET.

TRACK AND FIELD- In all honesty I didn't pay much attention to the track and field events during the 2012 London Olympics due to a combination of being distracted by the volleyball event and my disappointment that neither bouncy Aussie hurdler Michelle Jenneke or smoldering Greek fascist fangirl Voula Papachristos.

But I did hear about South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius- dubbed the 'Blade Runner' due to his prosthetic legs. Pistorius, a double amputee, was the first amputee runner to compete in the Olympic games and was the flag bearer for the South African team during the closing ceremonies. His limbs during the competition were carbon fiber prosthetics, leaving some to claim he had an unfair advantage over able-bodied atheletes.

On Valentine's Day, Pistorius was arrested by police for the shooting death of his girlfriend in their suburban Pretoria home. The Olympian allegedly fired a handgun at his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through a closed bathroom door after a heated argument. Pistorius' lawyer insist that the shooting of Steemkamp was accidental.
The shooting death has shocked South Africans and many around the world who idolized Pistorius for overcoming adversity to become a sports champion, competing in the London Olympics last year in track besides being a Paralympian. Steenkamp, 29, was a model and law graduate who made her debut on a South African reality TV program that was broadcast on Saturday, two days after her death.

Nel said the couple had had a shouting match and Steenkamp fled to the bathroom, down a seven-yard passage from the bedroom, and locked herself in. He said the 26-year-old Pistorius got up from bed and had to put on his prosthetic legs to reach the toilet door.

Nel told the court the door was broken open after the shots were fired. Pistorius' lawyer insisted there was no evidence to substantiate a murder charge.
South African media also report that police found a bloodied cricket bat in Pistorius' home and were running tests to determine whose blood it might have been.


Canadian Press, Trevor Hagan

NHL- After a 2-game losing streak, including an overtime loss against the Rangers at home and their second regulation loss against Buffalo, the Boston Bruins travelled to Manitoba for the first time this season.

After the Jets got out to a 1-0 lead thanks to a Alex Burmistrov tally early in the second period, Tyler Seguin knotted things up at 1-1 midway through the second period. Winnipeg briefly took a 2-1 lead late in the 2nd on an even-strength Evander Kane goal, but with just 2 seconds remaining in the period, Danny Paille evened the score at 2-2.

The Bruins got off to a good start in the 3rd after Brad Marchand drew a tripping penalty on Ron Hainsley just 9 seconds in- after the game, Marchand said he thought he should've been awarded a penalty shot. With the man advantage, it was marchand himself who scored the go-ahead goal for the Bruins 25 seconds later. However, instead of pressing their advantage the Bruins ended up defending a late onslaught from the Jets with Tukka Rask turning aside 10 shots (out of a total of 24 that he faced) successfully to preserve the 3-2 win for Boston.

The Bruins will continue their 5-game road trip on Thursday at Tampa Bay, but on Monday the team made an intermediate stop in western Connecticut before continuing to Florida.
Monday, Presidents Day, was the Bruins’ day to do what they could to lift spirits in Newtown — bringing the Stanley Cup with them for an earlier session from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Head coach Claude Julien — fresh off a plane from Winnipeg that got the team in to Boston around 3:30 a.m. — came to town along with players Chris Bourque, Andrew Ference, Hamilton, Adam McQuaid, Daniel Paille, Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin.

All wore black Bruins jerseys made specially for the occasion, with green Sandy Hook School ribbons over the right breast. They were to be donated to Newtown after the event.

In addition to the appearance in Newtown, the Bruins will honor Sandy Hook Elementary School Vice Principal Natalie Green Hammond at their game against the Montreal Canadiens March 3 at the TD Garden. Green Hammond, a lifelong Bruins fan, will drop the ceremonial first puck.

The Bruins played floor hockey with dozens of kids, signed autographs, took photos with kids and their parents and even ended the day by donning blue and gold Newtown High School Nighthawks jerseys for more photos. All around the room, people smiled a lot.

“I know that when the tragedy hit — I’m not going to lie — I cried like everybody else,” Julien said. “When you look at the faith and the strength of this town and how they bonded and support each other, that’s amazing.”

Ference, a Bruins defenseman who is the father of a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old, said that “everything that happened here ... hits close to home. ... It’s not that hard to imagine it happening to you. ... So it’s an opportunity as a sports team in New England where we can come down and obviously make a lot of kids happy and a lot of parents happy.

“So how do you not come down?” he said.

Asked what he hoped kids might get out of the visit, Ference said, “Hopefully, they’re just having fun. ... I just want the kids to have a good day and smile and have fun and hopefully have some good memories of today.”
The appearence, which was closed to the general public, also featured Bruins alumni Bobby Sweeney and Tommy Songin conducting hockey clinics along with the Bruins Youth Hockey Development team.

NCAA HOCKEY- The Boston College Eagles won their 4th consecutive Beanpot title- a first in the 61 year history of the Boston area collegiate tournament.

The final game featured the 17-7-2 Boston College Eagles against the Northeastern Huskies, who are currently dwelling in the Hockey East basement. Eagles Sophmore Johnny Gaudreau led the scoring with two goals and an assist while Senior Steven Whitney notched the game winner in Boston College's 6-3 win over the Northeastern Huskies last week.

Meanwhile, Harvard topped Boston university by a 7-4 final in a high-scoring Beanpot consolation game. The win was the Harvard Crimson's first win in nearly a month

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Manhunt For Fugitive Ex-LAPD Officer Comes to Firey End in Southern California Mountain

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Will Lester

The week-long manhunt for former Los Angeles Police officer came to an end this week as the fugitive ex-cop, wanted for two murders in Orange county as well as the fatal shooting of a Riverside, CA police officer, was killed after a running gunbattle and standoff with pursuing officers up in the mountains around Big Bear, CA.

Former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner was the prime suspect in a double homicide in Irvine, CA earlier this month. The victims were found in a parking structure during the early morning hours of Feb 3rd and identified as Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence. Quan was the 28 year old daughter of a former LAPD officer named in Dorner's manifesto. In the screed, Dorner accused then-captian Randy Quan of failing to adequately represent him during disciplinary hearings in which he filed a false complaint against a fellow officer. Dorner was eventually fired from the LAPD.

In the early morning hours of Feb 7th, Dorner is believed to have exchanged fire with LAPD officers assigned to protect an individual named in the manifesto in Corona, CA. One officer was grazed by bullet fragments and Dorner then reportedly made his way to Riverside where he fatally shot a policeman in an ambush and wounded another.

By noon, the burned out remains of Dorner's pickup were discovered outside of Big Bear, CA- a mountainous area dotted with lakes and ski resorts about 110 miles east of Los Angeles. Authorities mounted a search of the area, but by Friday conceded that Dorner could be hundreds of miles away. Police in Nevada and Arizona were alerted and given Dorner's description. A SWAT team in Northridge searched a home-improvement store after recieveing a call saying that somebody matching the fugitive's description was spotted there over the weekend. Police in the Mexican border city of Tijuana also raided a hotel after responding to a tip that Dorner was staying there.

As it turned out, Dorner hadn't venured as far as anyone had anticpated, entering the unlocked door of a nearby condo and taking the owners' hostage when they returned home. After staying in the condo for the better part of 5 days under of staying almost literally under the nose of the police and media the fugitive tied up the couple and stole their Nissan SUV. However, the man was able to free himself and called the police who now had a description of the vehicle Dorner had commandeered.

Almost immediately, Dorner was spotted by California Fish and Game officers patrolling a stretch of California route 38 and a running gunfight ensued where the fugitive ex-cop comandeered another vehicle.
Details of the chase over icy rural roads emerged late Tuesday as authorities pieced together what appeared to be the fugitive's last, desperate movements.

The encounter began about 12:45 p.m. as Dorner was driving a purple Nissan on Highway 38 when he passed a Fish and Wildlife vehicle.

Dorner's car was tucked behind buses when officers saw him and swung their cars around in pursuit. The murder suspect, authorities said, attempted to evade them by turning off onto Glass Road. At some point, they said, Dorner crashed and abandoned the small car.

With officers still in pursuit, Dorner then stopped a truck driven by local resident Rick Heltebrake, ordering him out. Heltebrake, a ranger at a nearby Boy Scout camp, didn't want to leave his dog behind.

Dorner allowed Heltebrake and his Dalmatian, Suni, to get out and then took off, according to an account from a friend of Heltebrake.

Behind the wheel of the stolen truck, Dorner was once again careening down Glass Road and passed another Fish and Wildlife vehicle coming from the opposite direction, officials said. Again an officer recognized Dorner.

That officer radioed his colleagues traveling behind him that Dorner was heading their way in a silver pickup truck.

When Dorner saw a third Fish and Wildlife truck approaching, he rolled down his window and allegedly took aim. Dorner opened fire as the vehicle passed, strafing the truck with a handgun, officials said.

The badly damaged state truck skidded to a halt. A game warden exited the vehicle and fired a high-powered rifle several times as Dorner sped away, according to authorities.

Dorner subsequently crashed that truck, authorities said, and ran into the cabin.
After crashing the truck, Dorner exchanged gunfire with San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies in the woods, fatally wounding Deputy Jerimiah McKay, before barricading himself in a vacant cabin. Deputies fired tear gas into the cabin before the structure caught fire and burned down with him still inside.

According to the San Bernardino County Medical Examiner, Dorner died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, most likely as the cabin was burning around him. The remains found in the charred cabin were positively identified as Christopher Dorner on Friday.

Friday, February 15, 2013

More than 1100 Injured After Meteor Explodes Over Russian City of Chelyabinsk

If you're convinced the end times are upon us soon, what happened in Russia on Friday morning is unlikely to change your mind.

The Siberian industrial city of Chelyabinsk was rocked by the shockwave from a firey meteor that exploded more than 20 miles above the surface on Friday. The explosion was strong enough to shatter windows and set off car alarms throughout the Chelyabinsk, Tumen, Sverdlovsk and Kurgan regions of Russia.

Dashboard cameras are pretty big in Russia [the practice stems from Russian motorists wishing to protect themselves against insurance scams, road rage and corrput cops shaking them down- NANESB!] and a number of them caught dramatic footbage of the fiery meteor as it fell to earth. Amateur and CCTV video from throughout the Urals also recorded the loud explosion as glass shattered and car alarms were set off.

There were no reports of fatalities, but around 1100 people were treated for cuts from flying glass as many residents in and around Chelyabinsk went to their windows to get a closer look at the bright light streaking across the sky. Along with damage to windows throughout the region, a Zinc plant on the outskirts of Chelyabinsk sustained heavy damage, with the roof and one of the walls on their warehouses collapsing. Since the temperature in Siberia is still well below zero, residents are scrambling to find anything they can use to cover up the damaged windows.

The explosion came within hours of an asteroid known as 2012 DA14 having a record near-miss with earth- the 130 ton asteroid came closer to the earth's atmosphere than most geosynchronous sattelites, according to scientists. However, the Russian meteorite and 2012 DA14 are apparently unrelated- the exploding meteorite over Siberia reportedly caught astronomers off guard.

Siberia apparently has this tendency to get smacked around by meteorites and other space debris. This would be the third significant meteorite event in Siberia since 1908. In June of that year, a comet or meteorite exploded an estimated 3-6 miled above the remote Siberian wilderness, flattening trees in an 800 square mile area. In 1947, a meteorite weighing about 70 tons impacted in the Skihote-Alin mountain range west of the Russian pacific seaport of Vladivostok.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day Chinese New Year From Not Another New England Sports Blog!

Fair warning- the actual Valentine's Day is hardly even upon us and after spending the last couple of days helping out around the local florist, I'm already burned out over it. This isn't necessarily "Bah! Humbug!" because there's no Bar Rafaeli look-alike waiting for me with open arms at Casa De Fenway [I have 364 other days to complain about THAT- NANESB!], I just burned out on Valentine's Day quicker than many people because of my work as an 'insider' (so to speak) over the last couple of days.

To the best of my knowledge, the florist that's hired me on as a temp has done no business in regards to Chinese New Years, which actually started a couple of days ago on Feb 10th. Then again, the Lunar New Year apparently involves everything but flowers. There are feasts with friends and neighbors, family reunions, burning incense, prayers for a safe and prosperous New Year's. Gifts could also include flowers, but money in red envelopes is considered customary. Another custom is for a person to pay off their debts before the New Year so they can start the next year in the red.

In case you ere wondering, this year is the Year of the Snake on the lunar calendar, so if you were born in 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989 or 2001, you're pretty much a Snake.

Unfortunately, single women in China in their late 20s or early 30s are often referred to unflatteringly as 'leftovers' and chastised by their family for not having a spouse yet. The overlap of Chinese New Year's and Valentine's Day on the western calendar has seemingly created an uptick of single women 'renting' boyfriends when they return home to visit family during Lunar New Years.
Rent-a-boyfriend is the latest must-have purchase for single Chinese women desperate to soothe relatives who are quick to judge their unmarried status. In China, single women in their late 20s are dubbed "leftovers" - even by state media - and reproached by parents.

Valentine's proximity this year to celebrations for the Lunar New Year - when the Chinese traditionally return home to their families - has made it particularly difficult for many of female singletons to avoid difficult questions and parental disappointment.

Online searches for "rental boyfriend" have gone up by 884 percent compared to last year, according to China's most popular shopping website, Taobao.

Entreprenuerial Chinese men have set about exploiting the embarrassing social pressure and offering their services as holiday companions - for a price.

Thousands of announcements featuring a range of services, with a basic package costing 400-800 yuan ($60-$120) per day, have been posted on Taobao - a popular Gumtree-style website in China.

Extras include kissing (50 yuan per kiss), watching a movie (10 yuan per hour) and shopping (15 yuan per hour).
[As I'm writing this, the temperature in Harbin, China is -11°. I suspect 'cuddling' could also be thrown in as for a few additional yuan- NANESB!]

"$130 a day to 'pretend' to be your boyfriend and fool around with you for a few days? You drive a hard bargain, but you have yourself a deal!"
And yes- I cannot let the mere mention of China or a major holiday in Asia pass without some completely gratuitous cheongsam imagery.

Of course, I seem to be inadvertently promoting this false notion that all women in China and elsewhere in Asia wear are- cheongsams all the time. That simply isn't the case. For the most part, they're usually reserved for more formal occasions and depending on the designer and fabric, many cheongsams are unaffordable to most Chinese. Of course, some places that cater to western visitors may have the staff wearing cheongsams instead of western garments because that's what the visitors are likely expecting- is sort of a chicken and egg kind of deal.

This isn't necessarily limited to China, either. A popular reality show in South Korea featured a number of contestants strutting their stuff in the silky garment that can be traced back to the Qing dynasty. Korea's Next Top Model contestant Hwang Mi Hee looks particularly stunning in the red cheongsam and gold trim she's sporting above.

China has a more traditional festival called Qixi that has been called the "Chinese Valentine's Day" since the 1990s- although that's somewhat misleading, since Qixi takes place in August. Instead of a boyfriend, fiancee or husband giving gifts, women in the same family will make offerings of flowers and tea to the spirits of two lovers named Niu Land and Zhinu while praying to find a good husband or to carry a child if already married.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Blue in the Face, February 12th 2013

Today's train of thought takes us to a frigid Rocky Mountain State at the height of wintertime. contributor Sal Crisanti caught Oakway SD60 #9076 leading a matched set of blue and white SD60's on BNSF local R-COL4211 at Long's Peak Colorado in December 2007. Once upon a time, this fleet of 100-strong EMD's painted in EMD Demonstrator colors could be found on a variety of high priority trains throughout the Burlington Northern system. As part of an industry first in 1986, the Burlington Northern entered into a unique arrangement with Cornnel Rice & Sugar subsidiary Oakway, Inc where the BN would pay Oakway based on the electrical energy exerted by the then-new SD60s, not by the mile or hour.

And for more than 20 years, the blue and white six-axle behemoths could be found systemwide handling everything from hotshot intermodal trains to long-distance coal drags from Wyoming's Powder River Basin. Even after the merger between Burlington Northern and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, as well as the advent of never locomotives, the prolific SD60s got around.

However, with the 2008 economic crisis looming and fewer freight trains running nationwide in the subsequent recession, most of the Oakways were put into storage along with many of BNSF's second generation units. With some traffic rebounding, many of them were pulled out of storage and put back into service on much lower priority freights or locals- or sublet to other railroads to repay horsepower hours owed.

While some Oakways- now owned by 3rd party leasing outfits like GATX- are still on BNSF property, much of the original fleet has been broken up. Two are in service on the Providence & Worcester as GATX Lease units while seven have made their way to the New York, Susquehanna & Western and are painted in that line's 'Yellowjacket' colors. However, Canadian National has snapped up the lion's share of the EMDs that started out in the Oakway fleet and is currently repainting and upgrading 42 of the ex-Oakway units.

As a matter of fact, SD60 #9076 currently lives on as Canadian National #5431. Given CN's reach, some of the former Oakways could be anywhere from Nova Scotia to New Orleans to the North West Territories. But in the scene captured above, Sal Cristanti caught the blue and white behemoth blending in almost seamlessly with the frigid, clear Colorado sky as she toiled away in suburban Boulder, CO.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict Announces His Resignation

Pope Benedict XVI seen wearing a sombrero given to him during last year's Papal visit to Mexico. AFP: Ronaldo Schemidt photo
In a surprise announcement from the Vatican on Monday, Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement effective the end of this month. Pope Benedict, who succeeded the late John Paul II in 2005. Born Josef Ratzinger in 1927, he was a former professor at the University of Bonn and served as Archbishop of Munich and Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Sacred Doctorine for the Congregation of the Faith for the Vatican. In April 2005, a Papal conclave elected Ratzinger as John Paul II's successor after two days of deliberations.
The 85-year old Pope was reportedly stepping down due to health reasons, according to the Vatican. The Pope's brother, George Ratzinger, told reporters that doctors had advised Benedict XVI from making any further trans-Atlantic journeys.

Benedict's statement reads in part:
After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
The conclave's 2005 decision to select Ratzinger was not without controversy. During WWII, Ratzinger was conscripted into the Hitler Youth and then the German Army in 1943. Towards the end of the war, he deserted his post [running the risk of getting shot by the SS as a deserter- NANESB!] to return to his family's home in Traunstein just as the US Army was turning it into a command post. After three months in an Allied POW camp, Ratzinger was released and hitched a ride home on a milk truck.

Within the last year, Benedict XVI has travelled to Mexico, Lebanon and Cuba.

Benedict XVI's resignation is a rare example of a Pope stepping down instead of remaining as pontiff until his death [as somebody on twitter put it "The last time a Pope resigned, a handful of Vikings were the only Europeans who knew about North America"- NANESB!]. The last pope to step down was Pope Gregory XII in 1415 during what Vatican scholars call the Great Western Schism when three different Papal candidates were selected by rival factions of the church. Gregory XII resigned a decade into his rule to allow a council to select a candidate that would be recognized by all factions.

Paul Harvey- "God Made A Farmer"

I know I'm about a week late with this, but this without a doubt had to be the highlight of the much ballyhooed Super Bowl Sunday TV advertisements. The two minute spot from Dodge featured a monologue from the late radio personality Paul Harvey called "God Made a Farmer". While the product did make an appearence, the emphasis was firmly placed on the individual likely to use the Dodge [or Ford or Chevy].

But now that some time has passed I figured it was worth revisiting- I did plan on waiting a few days after the Super Bowl to revisit this, but not an entire week.

Despite the expensive nature of advertising during the big game, Dodge's 2-minute ad is actually a slightly abbreviated version of a 1978 speech that Harvey gave to the Future Farmers of America. My first reaction upon seeing the ad in its entirety was "That was money well spent on Dodge's part".

The full text is below.

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker." So God made a farmer.

"God said, "I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board." So God made a farmer.

"I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife's done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon -- and mean it." So God made a farmer.

"God said, "I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, 'Maybe next year.' I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain'n from 'tractor back,' put in another seventy-two hours." So God made a farmer.

"God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor's place. So God made a farmer.

"God said, "I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who'd plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week's work with a five-mile drive to church.

"Somebody who'd bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life 'doing what dad does.'" So God made a farmer."