Sunday, March 31, 2013

Iron Horse Update for March 2013

In a scene that won't be repeated anytime soon, Delaware & Hudson painted GP38-2 #7304 is seen rolling along the former Pennsy RR High Line through Philadelphia, PA with a mixed bag of CP and leased SD40s in charge of Train 158-04 in August 2011. Lee King photo

CANADIAN PACIFIC/DELAWARE & HUDSON- The Canadian Pacific railroad announced their pullout from the Philadelphia area effective March 4th. The move comes as something of a surprise as the CP Rail [NYSE- CP] had been seeing increased traffic in the form of dedicated unit crude oil trains between the Bakken formation in North Dakota and refineries in the Northeast- including in the Philadelphia area. In fact, the Carlyle group plans on investing more than $200 Million in a Sunoco [NYSE- SXL] refinery along the Schuykill River.

The Canadian Pacific actually owns no right-of-way around Philadelphia. Instead, the CPR reached the city of Brotherly Love thanks to trackage rights date back to the 1976 formation of Conrail after the bankruptcies of the Penn Central, Lehigh Valley, Reading, Central New Jersey and Erie Lackawana. The Delaware & Hudson was allowed trackage rights into Philadelphia (as well as Newark, NJ Buffalo, NY and Chessie System/CSX's Potomac Yard in Alexandria, VA) to prevent Conrail from monopolizing freight rail service. The trackage rights were included in CP Rail's 1991 purchase of the Delaware & Hudson, but since Conrail's 1996 sale of the former Lehigh Valley mainline between Scranton and Packerton, PA and the 1999 breakup of Conrail itself, the Canadian Pacific has had to negotiate trackage rights over multiple railroads just to reach Philadelphia proper. While CPR still utilizes trackage rights over Norfolk Southern's Southern Tier line to reach Buffalo, the D&H's Potomac Yard service was cut back to Harrisburg, PA in 1989 [while the New York, Susquehanna & Western was the designated operator- NANESB] and the Newark service was cut back to Allentown, PA in 2012.

Canadian Pacific's ceding Philadelphia to CSX and Norfolk Southern reflects a broader trend of cutting back on trackage deemed unprofitable or redundant since the 2011 takeover of the Calgary-based Class 1 carrier by private equity firm Pershing Square Capital. In December 2012, the CPR announced they were seeking buyers for more than 600 miles of former Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern trackage in South Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota and Nebraska.

CANADIAN PACIFIC/SOO LINE- Fourteen cars of a 94-car southbound Canadian Pacific freight train derailed in Western Minnesota on March 28th. The derailment took place near Parkers Prairie, MN and three of the cars had spilled oil onto the ground. Initial estimates claimed that as much as 30,000 gallons had leaked from one of the ruptured cars, but that figure was later revised downward to less than 15,000 gallons.

No injuries were reported in the derailment, although the cold weather hampered cleanup by giving the oil a thicker, tar-like consistency. The line was reopened within a matter of hours.

SWEDEN- A woman in the Swedish capital was hospitalized and is facing charges of suspicion of reckless endangerment after allegedly stealing an empty commuter train from a depot in Stockholm and crashing it into a house back in January.
Tomas Hedenius, a spokesman for train operator Arriva, said the woman, born in 1990, stole the four-car train at a depot outside Stockholm.

She then drove it about 1.6 kilometres to the end station on the railway line, where it jumped off the tracks, careered for about 25 metres and crashed into a three-story building.

“There were three families inside the apartment building, but no one was injured. At least not physically,” Hedenius said.

The motives of the woman, who worked for a company contracted to carry out cleaning for the train operator, were not immediately clear.

“We have only heard good things about her. We’re investigating how this could happen, and why she did what she did,” Hedenius said.
It is unclear how the woman got the keys to the train, but the Arriva spokesman said that operating the commuter trainsets is pretty straightforward once in the cab.

HOUSATONIC RAILROAD- The Housatonic Railroad suffered its second derailment since November earlier this month. Shortly after midnight on March 15 four cars jumped the rails and tipped over near the entrance of a paper mill in Lee, MA with two high-sided gondola cars spilling construction debris along the banks of the Housatonic River.

Crews spent the weekend cleaning up the derailment and re-opening the line, although a Housatonic spokesman said that the two gondola cars would likely be scrapped on site.

Texas-New Mexico SD9043MAC #113 seen leading a short mixed freight at Hobbs, NM. The 104-mile Iowa Pacific subsidiary is enjoying a revival of oil drilling in the Permian Basin, which straddles the Texas and New Mexico border. JR Leal photo

TEXAS-NEW MEXICO- After spending approximately $25 million dollars on improvements to the right-of-way, Iowa Pacific's Texas-New Mexico Railroad began handling their first unit train of crude oil at the end of January. Ultimately bound for refineries along the Texas Gulf coast, the crude is loaded along the TNMR in Winkler County, TX. Some of the improvements also include a joint Union Pacific/Texas-New Mexico unloading facility for frac sand at the interchange in Monohans, TX that Iowa Pacific chipped in more than $1.5 million towards.

When Iowa Pacific Holdings first acquired the Texas-New Mexico and disconnected sister line West Texas & Lubbock in 2002, there were reportedly only 12 oil rigs operating throughout the Permian Basin. More recent estimates now put the number at 450.

The Texas-New Mexico operates with a motley hodgepodge of motive power, including new SD9043MACs as well as B39-8s from sister railroad San Luis & Rio Grande as well as former Arizona & Eastern GP20s and GP35s.

Before the reinvigoration of drilling the Permian Basin, the TNMR was pretty busy handling fertilizers, LNG, clay, chemicals, aggregates, scrap metal and unit trains loaded with contaminated silt dredged up from the Hudson River in upstate New York and destined for Waste Control Specialists in Andrews County, TX. In addition to those commodities and the new unit oil trains, the TNMR also recieves trainloads of fracking sand and proppants from the upper Midwest at the UP interchange in Monohans.

[Hat tip to Ruckus Rails for the background information on the TNMR- NANESB!]

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Natural Gas Begins Flowing To Israel From Offshore Tamar Gas Field

Natural gas from a drilling platform some 90km off the coast of Haifa has started flowing to a processing facility along the Israeli coastal town of Ashdod this weekend.
Israel's Energy Ministry says gas from the offshore Tamar field began flowing for the first time Saturday and would reach a processing facility on Israel's coast by Sunday afternoon.
Long considered empty of natural resources in an otherwise oil-rich part of the world, two massive offshore natural gas fields were discovered off of the Mediterranean coast starting in 2009. The Tamar field, which is being developed by Houston-based Nobel Energy [NYSE- NBL] along with a number of Israeli-based companies, holds an estimated 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Discovered in 2010, the much larger Leviathan Field is said to contain nearly 18 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. In addition to Nobel energy, Australia's Woodside Petroleum [ASX- WPL] is reportedly in negotiations for a 30% stake in developing the Leviathan Field.

The finds could not only help Israel become energy independent over the next several decades, but could make Israel a net exporter of energy once full scale production begins.

The Leviathan field is adjacent to another gas field called the Aphrodite gas field that's been claimed by Cyprus and is also being developed by Nobel energy. During the recent banking crisis, there was talk of the Cypriots approaching the Russians and securing a bailout by collateralizing a percentage of the offshore natural gas deposits. There has also been talk of Israel and Cyprus jointly marketing natural gas to European markets.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bait And Switch Sports Chowdah Update- B's Blow Late Lead Against Habs, Lose Out On Iginla Sweepstakes; Wes Welker Heads to Mile High

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
NHL- After a road win against Ottawa and a split of a home and away seried against the Maple Leafs, the Bruins were in a poisition to help themselves with a head to head matchup against the Canadiens at the Garden on Wednesday.

Things got off to a less than stellar start when Boston fell into a 2-0 hole thanks to ex-Bruin Michael Ryder and PK Subban. But in the 2nd period, Boston strung together four goals from Dougie Hamilton, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Nathan Horton to go on top 4-2. In the third period, the Bruins maintained a two goal lead after the Habs and B's swapped goals, but could not hold onto a 5-3 lead. Brendan Gallagher made it a 1-goal game with 7:42 remaining and the Canadiens went on the power play with 1:33 in regulation after Aaron Johnson was called for delay of game. This would be pivotal as the Canadiens pulled Peter Budaj for the extra attacker and Andrei Markov scored the game-tying goal with 9 seconds left in regulation.

After a scoreless OT, Gallagher would get what would prove to be the game winner in the shootout to wrap up Montreal's late rally, giving the the 6-5 OT win. Tukka Rask turned aside 23 of 28 shots faced in regulation and OT while Montreal pulled Carey Price late in the second after allowing 4 goals on 26 shots faced. Budaj would only allow one goal on 15 shots faced for the remainder of regulation and OT.

The Bruins got an extra day to lick their wounds, but will have a busy weekend ahead of them with a road trip to Philadelphia on Saturday before continuing on to Buffalo for a Sunday night tilt against the Sabres. Saturday's game gets underway at 1:00 ET and will be televised on the NHL Network while Sunday's matchup takes place at 7:30 PM ET and will be televised on the NBC Sports Network.

OTHER BRUINS NEWS-Before the game was even over, the media was paying attention to Jarome Iginla and the fact that he was a healthy scratch for the Calgary Flames, fuelling speculation that Iginla was going to be traded to Boston as defenseman Matt Bartkowski and forward Alexander Khokhlachev were scratched from the Providence Bruins lineup on Wednesday night.

However, the pundits were wrong and by 1:30 AM on Thursday the Flames had announced that Iginla had been traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. By Thursday, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli called a press conference to that the two teams had reached an agreement by noon Wednesday before it went off the rails when Iginla would only waive his no-trade clause for the Penguins. The short list of teams Iginla was reportedly headed for included Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago or Los Angeles. Prior to the trade, Iginla had been with the Flames since 1996 and had been captian since the 2003-04 season. Iginla reached the 900 career points milestone in 2010 and scored his 500th career goal last season against Nashville last season.

In other Bruins news, the B's acquired LW Kaspars Daugavins after the Ottawa Senators placed him on waivers. Daugavins is perhaps best known for his unorthodox shooting method in the shootout where he secures the puck by using the toe of his stick before making his shot.

NFL- WR Wes Welker agreed to a two year $12 million contract with the Denver Broncos. The deal includes up to $150,000 in incentives should Welker catch more than 90 passes in a season. The former Patriots wide reciever was reportedly sought after the Tennessee Titans in addition to New England hoping to retain his services. Welker has had 38 touchdowns and 8,580 yards in 140 career games since his NFL debut in the 2004-2005 season. Besides a single game with the San Diego Chargers, Welker played in 14 games for the Miami Dolphins during the 2004-05 season and has been a Patriot until signing the contract with Denver.

MLB- The season hasn't even started and the New York Mets have been dealt a serious blow to their starting rotation this week when Johan Santana has likely re-torn the anterior capsule in his left shoulder and his missing the entire 2013 season is almost a foregone conclusion. The Mets reportedly owe as much as $31 million this season as part of a $137.5 contract he signed with New York in 2008.

RED SOX- The Red Sox are getting ready to wrap up Spring Training with a Saturday game against the Minnesota Twins at Ft Myers on Saturday afternoon. On Thursday, Clay Buchholz pitched four innings of one-hit ball in Boston's 6-1 win over the Twins, but the Twins bounced back on Friday and defeated Boston by an 8-5 final.

After Saturday, the Red Sox will start off the regular season in the Bronx with an April 1st daytime matchup against the NY Yankees. The regular season debut will be televised on ESPN and has Jon Lester going up against CC Sabathia with a scheduled first pitch at 1:05 ET.

Banks in Cyprus Re-Open For the First Time in Two Weeks

After a shutdown of nearly two weeks, banks on the Mediterranian island of Cyprus re-opened on Thursday after the Cypriot parliament agreed to terms of a bailout from thr European Central Bank.
Branches were replenished with cash overnight and police were deployed amid fears of a run on the banks.

Some queues did form but the mood was calm, and the country's president thanked Cypriots for their "maturity".

The restrictions on the free movement of capital represent a profound breach of an EU principle, correspondents say.

However, the European Commission on Thursday justified the move, saying the "stability of financial markets and the banking system in Cyprus constitutes a matter of overriding public interest".

Information from the Central Bank of Cyprus released on Thursday showed that foreign depositors had already withdrawn 18% of their cash from the nation's banks during February, before the current crisis hit home.

The deal effectively wipes out Cyprus’s appeal as an international banking haven but saves Europe from cutting off support to one of the 17 nations that use the euro currency.
The deal reached with creditors makes Cyprus the first Eurozone nation to have capital controls imposed on depositors. The restrictions include prohibiting Cypriot nationals from travelling abroad with more than €1000, limits of €300 on daily withdrawls and a €5000 per-day limit on transactions by businesses. Experts say these capital controls could be in place for several months before being phased out.

Cyprus Popular Bank, which is also known as Laiki, will be shut down and assets transferred to the Bank of Cyprus. Losses on accounts with a balance €100,000 or more will reportedly be converted into shares of the Bank of Cyprus. Larger depositors have found ways around the nearly 2-week long bank closure by withdrawing funds from foreign branches of Laiki and Bank of Cyprus. Financial experts believe that most of the Russian funds in Cypriot banks when banks were closed across the island have since been repatriated.

One unusual outcome of the Cypriot financial crisis is the increased interest in bitcoin by depositors with money in Cypriot banks. The three year old virtual pseudo-currency was created by hackers three years ago and has increased in value some 87% since the EU and Cyprus began negotiating over the terms of the latest bailout.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Met His Waterloo, March 27, 2013

I gotta say, since the calendar flipped over to springtime last week, I was thinking about shifting to a more 'seasonal' train of Thought. However, even tho the calendar might say its springtime, Mother Nature had other designs for the Great Plains and midwest last week.

Today's Train of thought takes us to a fallen flag that officially ceased to exist earlier this year. Ever since the Canadian National acquired the Wisconsin Central in 2001, the Canadian National had been looking for a way to circumvent the congestion in and around Chicago. That opportunity came in 2009 when after years of speculation, the Canadian National acquired the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern which looped around Chicago instead of heading into the Windy City.

At the time, the EJ&E was one of three railways that looped around Chicago- including the Indiana Harbor Belt and Belt Railway of Chicago- and was the only US Steel Railroad that hadn't been acquired by Canadian National during their 2004 acquisition of Great Lakes Transportation's Bessemer & Lake Erie and Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range.

Like the B&LE and DM&IR- as well as the Illinois Central, British Columbia Railway and Wisconsin Central- the motive power from the EJ&E showed up throughout the Canadian National system, with some units being repainted into CN colors and others getting sold off for scrap or shortline railroads.

Here, contributor R. Scott Marsh caught EJ&E SD38-2 #673 pulling yard duty at the former Illinois Central yard in Waterloo, IA in the middle of a late snowstorm on April. The #673 started out life on the Bessemer & Lake Erie as #890 and saw briefly saw service on the Union Railroad before being moved between US Steel Railroads. As of 2012, the EJ&E #673 was still in "flying J" colors and has occasionally appeared on 'home rails' even though the Joliet ceased to be on January 1st, 2013.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Increased Demand for Guns and Ammunition Spark Jobs Bonanza in Firearms Industry

Looks like I was wrong- President Obama and the Democrats actually CAN take credit for creating some private sector jobs.

With the White House and Democrat-controlled Senate promising to take action on gun control- including a proposed "assault weapons" ban- civilians have been stocking up on guns, ammunition and parts for the last several months. Coupled with the recent Department of Homeland Security purchase of 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition, the increased demand has created a shortages and backlogs. In fact, the massive bulk purchase by the DHS has left local police departments across the country scrambling to find ammunition and paying more and waiting longer for the ones that do manage to find any.

The brisk sales has also had the unintended consequence of creating a significant jobs boom for gun manufacturers throughout the USA.
Mike Weddle, head of maintenance at Dynamic Research Technologies, an ammunition manufacturer in Albany, Mo., says he is adding 10 new hires to his staff of 35. DRT's machine operators make between $10 and $17 an hour -- a healthy paycheck in a region where it's tough to find a job and the cost of living is relatively low.

DRT currently cranks out 80,000 bullets per shift and operates two shifts per day. But that's not enough to meet demand. So Weddle is adding a third manufacturing shift and building an additional facility.

"Demand picked up a year ago -- it quadrupled," he said. "It just went crazy." He says .223 caliber ammo, which is for semiautomatic rifles, is particularly difficult to keep in stock.

DRT is a tiny part of an industry that employs about 240,000 nationwide, according to an estimate from Brian Rafn, who follows the gun industry for Morgan Dempsey Capital Management. And like DRT, many of the giants in the business of making guns and ammo are also expanding.

"Sturm, Ruger and Smith & Wesson have both added manufacturing capacity, which includes labor and shifts, in the past year," said Wedbush Securities analyst Rommel Dionisio.

Caleb Ogilvie, a concealed-carry instructor who works at Cabot Gun & Ammo in Cabot, Ark., said that employees at a nearby Remington plant in Lonoke are telling him that "they're running full swing up there, running 24-7."
Ironically, companies like Smith & Wesson, Colt, Mossberg and Ruger are headquartered in New England states where residents can't legally own some of the firearms those companies make. This has not gone unnoticed by officials in Mississipi and Texas who say they would gladly welcome the northern-based companies should they decide to move south. Colorado-based ammunition manufacturer Magpul has said their move out of Colorado is underway after Gov Hickenlooper signed a raft of gun control bills into law earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the northern Idaho town of Potlatch is attempting to do follow suit with some help from the Idaho department of commerce, Potlatch corp [NYSE- PCH] which owns property that housed one of their paper mills until 1981 and regional utility Avista [NYSE- AVA].

The move by PNW Arms was like a signal flare to business and political leaders in the town of 800 people, who were in the process of trying to determine what industry would be best to pursue.

"We were in the middle of doing our marketing plan at the time and decided that firearms is the niche we would recommend," said Gary White of Kennewick, Wash., a business marketing consultant who is helping develop the town's pitch to gun makers.

Potlatch, they decided, would go from timber town to gun town. It would try to lure firearms and ammunition makers, and plans also called for hunting-themed housing and retail development.

"It will help draw some out-of-towners and out-of-staters," Mayor David Brown said.

Potlatch went public in April with its come-hither pitch to gun makers.

"We've had two nibbles already and we haven't even tried," Swanson said.

Swanson acknowledged that gun manufacturers would not be welcomed everywhere. Even in Latah County, they might face opposition 15 miles away in liberal Moscow, where the University of Idaho is based.

"In Potlatch, they would be welcomed with open arms," Swanson said. "I have not heard a single person in Potlatch saying, 'We don't want them here.'"

White agreed: "If we proposed this in Seattle or Portland, I'm sure it would be entirely different. For Potlatch, Idaho, this makes absolute sense."

Busy State Highway 6 serves as the main street through the town, and the small business community actually has trouble finding workers, said Dale Spring, owner of Dale's Wagon Wheel Bar & Grill.

Spring wonders where the workers would come from for any new firearms factory. "There's no labor force," he said.

Many Potlatch residents work at the universities, or at one of the thriving private sector employers in the Moscow-Pullman area, he said.

Local economic development leaders believe good-paying jobs will draw workers.

The lure for manufacturers is the former lumber mill site, of which 26 acres is set aside for firearms and related companies, White said. The mill site is currently without buildings, but has nearby utilities, is flat and the town has plenty of water and sewer capacity, Swanson said.

Nationally, there has been a big jump in the popularity of target shooting, largely the result of a slew of television programs on that subject, White said. They expect Potlatch's plan to appeal to some of those people, he said.

The marketing effort is funded by Potlatch Corp, which still owns the mill site, by local utility Avista, and by local city and county governments.
There are relatively few publicly traded gun companies, but shares of Smith & Wesson [NASDAQ- SWHC] have gone up 7.85% since the beginning of 2013 and shares of Ruger [NYSE- RGR] are up more than 13% in the same timeframe.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

FBI Says They Have Identified Theives From 1990 Gardner Art Muesum Heist

In recent years, Hollywood seems to have spawned a sub-genre of New England crime dramas with films like The Departed, Mystic River or The Town. But between the Whitey Bulger saga, the Bonded Vault heist and the Gardner Art Museum robbery, truth is stranger than fiction.

For those of you who didn't know, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Art Museum heist was the biggest art theft in modern history. On St Patrick's Day in 1990, two men dressed as Boston police officers overpowered security guards working the graveyard shift at the museum and after 81 minutes, made off with an estimated $500 million in artwork from Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet and Degas among others. According to investigators and art experts, while the theives expertly circumvented the museum's alarm system they did considerable damage to some of the paintings when they were removed from their frames. The stolen paintings included Rembrandt's Storm on the Sea of Gallillee, the artists only nautically themed work.

The museum offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the stolen artwork, but the trail quickly went cold despite all signs pointing to the heist being planned and carried out by locals. Carmello Merlino and Robert Guarente- two Quincy, MA-based mobsters- were considered suspects early on and were reportedly recorded on wiretaps discussing returning the stolen artwork to the museum to collect the reward- if they could only find it first. Interestingly, when the Feds had arrested Merlino on unrelated drug trafficking charges, the mobster offered to recover a $5000 painting stolen from the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Museum in Cambridge, MA in exchange for leniency. Guarente passed away in 2004 and Merlino is also deceased.

However, there was never enough evidence to charge either Merlino or Guarente with the heist. Some journalists and investigators belive that the two were not intially involved, but were going to steal the paintings from the robbers and return it to the musuem.

But last weekend, the FBI had announced they had identified the theives from the 1990 heist and say that the stolen artwork had changed hands a number of times between east coast organized crime groups in the last decade.
In a stunning twist in a case that had frustrated investigators for decades, federal law enforcement officials said today that they had identified the people who stole $500 million worth of masterworks in a daring heist from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.

The officials also said they had determined where the artworks had traveled in the years after the robbery, which is considered the greatest art theft in history. But the officials said they did not know where they were now and were appealing to the public for their help in finding them.

“The FBI believes with a high degree of confidence in the years after the theft the art was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region and some of the art was taken to Philadelphia where it was offered for sale by those responsible for the theft. With that confidence, we have identified the thieves, who are members of a criminal organization with a base in the mid-Atlantic states and New England,” Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge of the Boston office of the FBI, said.

DesLauriers said that after the attempted sale of the paintings about a decade ago, the FBI did not know where the artworks — which included three Rembrandts, a Vermeer, a portrait by Edouard Manet, and sketches by Renoir — had been taken.

Officials said at a Boston news conference they would not release the names of the individuals who masqueraded as police officers to gain entry in the early-morning robbery at the Gardner exactly 23 years ago.
Although the statute of limitations has run out on the original theft, the art theives or parties who purchased the stolen artwork could face federal charges of transporting stolen property across state lines.

My first thought is that a little like the Whitey Bulger manhunt- the Winter Hill Gang leader had eluded the FBI for decades, but the fugitive mobster and his girlfriend were arrested in Santa Monica, CA within days of an FBI Public Service ad airing on daytime talk shows showing girlfriend Catherine Greig. Like the Bulger PSA, there wasn't really any significant new information or developments in the Garder Museum heist announced at the press conference, but the FBI was using the internet and social networking in an attempt to steer the investigation towards something that might've been overlooked earlier that could ultimately break the case open.

The FBI also seems to be placing an emphasis on recovering the artwork- to that end, they've set up a dedicated website with more information on the heist, the investigation and the missing paintings.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

China-Based Solar Giant Suntech Files For Bankruptcy

Once the largest manufacturer of solar panels, China's Sun Tech Holdings filed for bankruptcy last week after defaulting on a $541 Million bond payment this month.
Suntech said in a news release that a group of eight Chinese banks filed a petition for insolvency and restructuring of its main operating subsidiary in China in the Wuxi Municipal Intermediate People's Court in Jiangsu province.

Wuxi Suntech told the court it woudln't file an objection to the petition, Suntech said, adding that the court will decide whether to accept the petition in the next few days. If the petition is approved, Suntech will continue to produce solar products to meet customer orders, Suntech added.

The banks are owed as much as 7.1 billion yuan (US$1.14 billion) and include Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China and Bank of China, the official Xinhua news agency reported earlier.
The filing has triggered volatility that has rippled across China's renewable energy sector in the days following Sun Tech Holdings initiating bankruptcy protection. Shares of Sun Tech [NYSE- STP] closed down 28.81% since the March 20th filing while shares in Yingli Green Energy [NYSE- YGE] declined 13.89% since Wednseday and LDK Solar [NYSE- LDK] was down 6.87% since Tuesday.

According to industry observers, Sun Tech's path to bankruptcy in China was paved with numerous warnings and red flags. In June of last year, a representative at the Luxembourg-based, Sun Tech-controlled Global Solar Fund was accused of fradulently obtaining a guaranteed $680 million loan by pledging nonexistent German bonds as collateral. The following month, prosecutors in Italy filed criminal charges against  the Global Solar Fund for illegally building solar farms in Italy to milk that country's generous renewable energy subsidies.
A prosecutor in the southern Italian city of Brindisi has formally charged five of the fund's subsidiaries with illegal construction of solar power plants, accusing them of sidestepping the approval process in order to exploit Italy's generous renewable-energy subsidies.

The charges are that GSF subsidiaries failed to obtain the correct permit to build solar plants of more than 1 MW by splitting each park up into several smaller units that qualified for a less rigorous and faster permitting process.

In some cases, the GSF subsidiaries prematurely announced completion of construction on the plants in order to meet a deadline needed to qualify for incentives, court documents show.

The trial involving these five solar plants is set to begin on December 6.

Another 11 of the companies controlled by the fund are under investigation, and charges will be sought against them, said Nicolangelo Ghizzardi, the prosecutor handling the cases.
Sun Tech hastily reached a settlement with the Luxembourg-based GSF earlier this month in the hopes of raising enough cash for the $541 million bond payment they eventually defaulted on.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring Is In The Air Sports Chowdah Update- B's Snap Losing Streak; Sox Prospect Westmoreland Calls It a Career

Fred Chartrand- Canadian Press

BOSTON BRUINS- After a two game losing streak [which DOES add up in a shortened season- NANESB!] which included losses to Pittsburgh and Winnipeg, the Bruins continued their swing through Canada with another stopover in the Canadian capital for a tilt against the Ottawa Senators.

The last time the Bruins were in Ottawa, they fell into an early 2-0 hole. On Thursday, the Senators once again got on the board first when Kaspars Daugavins beat Anton Khudobin about five minutes into the second period (but not doing that wird toe-of-the-stick-thing he tends to do). Danny Paille got the Bruins on the board with less than two minutes to go in the second.

The game remained deadlocked into the third period when with Dennis Seidenberg got the go-ahead goal for Boston with 1:04 in regulation, deflating the crowd at the Scotiabank Center and snapping Boston's two game losing streak.

Anton Khudobin got the start in net and turned aside 27 of 28 shots on goal on Thursday night. The win keeps Boston within two points of the Canadiens in the Northeast Division. Boston's road trip continues on Saturday night in Toronto- the puck drops at 7:00 ET and the game will be televised on the NHL Network.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NHL- The NHL Board of Governors approved a realignment that will move the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets to the Eastern Conference and will send the Winnipeg Jets to the Western conference. The Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals will join the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins in one division while four of the Original 6 teams- including the Bruins- will be in a single division that will also include Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Florida and Ottawa.

The Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche will remain in the Western Conference but will end up playing in the same conference as St Louis, Nashville, Chicago and Winnipeg to accomodate primarily Central Time zone starts.

RED SOX- Red Sox outfield prospect Ryan Westmoreland has announced his retirement from Baseball earlier this month. The 22 year old Rhode Island native underwent brain surgery in 2010 to correct an abnormal growth of blood vessels near his brain stem, and had a similar surgery done last summer.

In 2009, Westmoreland had a .296 batting average and 7 home runs in 60 games with the Lowell Spinners- the Red Sox Single A affiliate in the New York Penn League. Westmoreland passed up a scholarship to Vanderbilt after bein selected by the Red Sox in the 5th round of the 2008 draft.

OTHER RED SOX NEWS- The Red Sox were shut out by the Blue Jays in Grapefruit League action on Friday in Dunedin, FL. Adam Loewen came home on a Drew Sutton fielding error and that would be all the Jays needed as Toronto won by a final of 1-0. Alfredo Aceves started for Boston and walked two batters and striking out five over five innings in the loss and the Jays Esmil Rogers came on in the 9th for a 1-2-3 save.

On Saturday, the Sox return to Fort Myers to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates at 1:35 PM ET. The game will be televised on NESN.

WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC- Alas, a final in the WBC was not in the cards for Team USA as they ran into the Dominican Republic buzzsaw in the second round. After a promising 7-1 win over Puerto Rico, the USA was nursing a 1-0 lead over the Dominicans thanks to a bases loaded walk in the 1st. In the 2nd inning, Hanley Ramirez tied the game up for the Dominicans with a solo homer off of R.A. Dickey. The game would remain deadlocked at 1-1 until the 9th when Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel came off the bench and was facing pinch hitter Erick Aybar with Nelson Cruz on 3rd base with one out when Aybar singled to break the tie and put the Dominicans on top. Jose Reyes then plated Aybar with an RBI single to give the Dominicans some insurance with a 3-1 lead and Fernando Rodney had a 1-2-3 bottom of the 9th to close out the win for the Dominican Republic.

The loss set the stage for a USA/Puerto Rico rematch in what would be an elimination game. Puerto Rico would jump out to and early 1-0 lead over the USA in the top of the first thanks to an RBI single from former Red Sox infielder Mike Aviles while Puerto Rico starter Nelson Figuero threw six shutout innings. Meanwhile, Andy Gonzalez appeared to blow the game open for Puerto Rico with 2-RBI double with two away in the 6th inning. However, by the bottom of the 8th it looked as though Puerto Rico was going to let the lead slip away with a 4-2 lead when Ben Zobrist drew a 2 out bases loaded walk to make it a 1-run game. However, JC Romero came on in relief for Puerto Rico and got the next batter to ground out to first to end the threat and then having a 1-2-3 bottom of the 9th inning to close out the win and send the USA packing from the tournament.

However, it would be the Dominican Republic who advanced to the finals defeated the Netherlands in the opening games of the semifinals at san Francisco's AT&T Park. The Dominicans beat the Dutch by a 4-1 final in the semifinals while the final game was a rematch against Puerto Rico- Dominican Starter Samuel Deduno pitched five shutout innings and would get some early run support thanks to a 2-RBI double from Edwin Encarnacion in the first inning. It would be all the Dominicans needed as the Dominican Republic goes undefeated throughout the tournament to win their first World Baseball Classic Championship. Interestingly, this is also the first-ever WBC final that didn't feature Japan- the Japanese team had won the first two WBC titles, besting Cuba in 2006 and South Korea in 2009.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Ten Is Enough, March 21st 2013

Today's Train of Though takes us to the eastern part of the Buckeye state and features a monster lashup on the Wheeling & Lake Erie making its way through the snowy countryside.

The latter-day version of the Wheeling & Lake Erie debuted in 1990- some 26 years after the original Wheeling & Lake Erie was brought into the Norfolk & Western fold with the 1964 merger between the Nickel Plate and N&W.

Getting its start with a motley assortment of secondhand high-hood SD45s and GP35s from the Norfolk Southern, the current W&LE stretches from Connelville, PA (southeast of Pittsburgh) to Bellvue, OH (south of Sandusky, OH) with trackage rights as far west as Toledo, OH and as far east as Hagerstown, MD. Since then, the line has done a fairly robust business hauling coal, grain, steel, limestone, fracking sand, coke, liquified natural gas, limestone, chemicals and aggregates. Since 2009, traffic on the W&LE has increased thanks to natural gas drilling along the Marcellus and Utica shales.

Also in recent years, the W&LE started painting their motive power in black and orange- colors reminiscent of the former Denver, Rio Grande & Western. This is not a coincidence- the current W&LE chairman, Larry Parsons, started out in railroading on the Rio Grande and opted to keep the Rio Grande's heritage alive with the current railroad. This includes purchasing GP40-2s and SD40T-2 Tunnel Motors still in Rio Grande paint from Union Pacific and running them in their original Rio Grande colors and numbers on the W&LE.

Of course, the black and orange has also been applied to a number of units that were not of Rio Grande heritage, including some of the high hood former Southern GP35s that this incarnation of the W&LE started out with as far back as 1990.

Here, GP35 #107 is seen kicking up some snow as its leading an impressive 10 unit lashup westbound at Bloomington, OH with train 213 (from Pittsburgh's Rook Yard to the W&LE headquarters at Brewster, OH) on Jan 3rd, 2012. The lead unit is actually lettered for the Akron, Canton & Youngstown- another Ohio-based railroad that was brought into the Norfolk & Western fold with their 1964 merger with Nickel Plate, but dissolved by the N&W in the 1980s. According to photographer Chris Lokey, train 213 left Rook Yard with just the three lead units that day but stopped to pick up seven additional locomotives in Mingo Jct, OH on its way west. By the time Lockey caught train 213 rounding this curve, it boasted 10 units and 88 cars.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cyprus Banks Remain Closed As Island's Economy Teeters on Brink of Collapse

Finance Ministers and Central Banks throughout Europe are keeping a close eye on developments in Cyprus this week as the Mediterranean Island nation's financial institutions have been closed down amidst a financial emergency and increasing protests from the public.
Cyprus’s central bank said lenders would remain closed until at least Tuesday amid growing speculation the Meditterranean island could become the eurozone member to exit the currency bloc.

Officials at the ECB were reported on Wednesday to be considering pulling the plug on Cypriot banks unless the country agreed to a new bailout package.

Jörge Asmussen, the ECB’s chief negotiator, warned that Cyprus’s decision to reject the terms of an €10bn (£8.6bn) bailout meant it could not guarantee support to domestic lenders for much longer.

“We can provide emergency liquidity only to solvent banks and... the solvency of Cypriot banks cannot be assumed if an aid programme is not agreed on soon, which would allow for a quick recapitalisation of the banking sector,” said Mr Asmussen in an interview with a German newspaper.
The European Central Bank's statement came after the Cypriot parliament unanimously rejected an European Union bailout that would have required a tax on depositor's savings accounts. Reportedly the initial terms of the bailout would've taxed accounts of €100,000 or less at around 5%, accounts between €100,000 and €500,000 in the neighborhood of 10% and accounts of €500,000 and more at 13%.

Cyprus has been a popular offshore venue for wealthy Russians to deposit their money in recent years, and the Cypriot finance minister is in Moscow negotiating with his Russian counterparts on a new deal that would see greater Russian involvement in the Cypriot banking and offshore energy sectors on Wednesday. Russia had earlier threatened to withhold any aid from Cyprus after being left out of the talks between the island nation and European Central Bank.

There are also an estimated 3500 British military personnel stationed in Cyprus- the UK dispatched a military transport loaded with €1 Million in cash in the event that cash ran out at the ATMs or debit cards stopped working on the island. The Ministry of Defense also stated that the personnel stationed in Cyprus will not have the option of their wages deposited in a British or Cypriot bank.

Cyprus- also a former British colony- is home to a number of retirees from the UK. The island nation also has historically close ties to Greece and the Cypriot economy took a massive hit when a significant portion of the Greek soverign debt held by Cyprus and others was written off last year

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Seven Marines Killed In Hawthorne Army Depot Explosion

The United States Marine Corps issued a blanket suspension on the use of all 60mm mortar shells on Monday night after a deadly explosion killed seven Marines during a training excercise at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada.
Seven U.S. Marines were killed and several others were wounded Monday when a mortar exploded prematurely inside is firing tube during mountain training exercises at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada. It's unclear what caused the malfunction.

The accident prompted the Marine Corps to immediately halt use of some mortar shells until an investigation can determine its safety.

The Corps on Tuesday announced a "blanket suspension of 60mm mortars and associated tubes" in effect until review of the incident at Hawthorne is complete.

The 60mm mortar is a weapon that traditionally requires three to four Marines to operate but it's common during training for others to observe nearby.

The cause of the incident remains under investigation. The investigation will focus on whether the Marines followed procedures to properly fire the weapon, whether there was a malfunction in the firing device or in the explosive mortar itself, the official said.

Earlier, Russ Collier, an official at the facility, told KRNV-TV that the explosion was an accident unrelated to the ammunition that is stored at the military facility near the small desert community of Hawthorne.
The Associated Press has tenatively identified the unit that was assigned to the Hawthorne Army Depot as the 2nd Marine Expiditionary Force based out of Camp Lejune, NC- although the names won't be released until after the families have been notified.

Hawthorne Army Depot is a 226 square mile facility that stores and disposes of ammunition for the United States military some 140 miles southeast of Reno, NV. In recent years, the facility has been used as a training ground because conditions in the high Nevada desert are similar to what soldiers and Marines could expect in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, an impromptu memorial was held in the nearby town of Hawthorne to honor the Marines killed in the explosion.
Less than a day after the Marines were killed by a mortar explosion during a training exercise in the western Nevada desert, Hume stood inside the Hawthorne Ordnance Museum surrounded by decommissioned ammunition on display. The military-centric town of 3,200 people relies on the Hawthorne Army Depot, a sprawling facility filled with military munitions.

“I’m always glad to see all these trainees come in here, and then to have something like this happen is really, really — it hurts,” Hume said, tearing up. “It hurts.”

First responders, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and hundreds of people from Hawthorne gathered at the Veterans Memorial Park to memorialize the victims of the blast. The Marines came from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

“This kind of stuff is very tragic and painful,” said Rosemary Redmon, who lives in Hawthorne. “It’s a very close community, and we are very proud that we are able to help the country to train our soldiers.”

Miles Wertz rode to the memorial with his fellow members of the Iron Nation motorcycle group to honor the Marines who died.

“It’s just terrible,” he said. “We’re down here to show support for the families and pay tribute to the fallen Marines.”

John Stroud, the junior vice commander in chief of the VFW who also lives in Hawthorne, led the vigil and placed a wreath in the Marines’ honor.

“We’ve got to cooperate with the officials as much as possible to get the investigations done thoroughly and accurately so that hopefully we can prevent these things from happening again,” he said after the ceremony.
The Hawthorne Army Depot was opened in 1930, a few years after a lightning-sparked explosion at New Jersey's Lake Denmark Nacal Ammunition Depot killed more than 20 people and heavily damaged the Picatinny Army Arsenal and surrounding communities as the fires burned for days afterwards.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Especially Steamy Iron Horse Roundup for March 2013

TVRM's Southern 2-8-0 Consolidation is seen chugging eastbound with a Norfolk Southern 21st Century Steam special at Chucky, TN on March 10, 2013.Ron Flanary

NORFOLK SOUTHERN- Thanks in no small part to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Musuem, the Norfolk Southern's 21st Century Steam program is off to a pretty early start this season, with a number of excursions having already run between Chattanooga, TN and Roanoake, VA earlier this month.

The TVRM has posted a schedule on their homepage for the remaining excursions over the Norfolk Southern this spring including trains to Norfolk, VA as well as Spencer and Asheville, NC with more excursions to be announced.

Meanwhile, the Ft Wayne Railroad Historical Society's Nickel Plate Berkshire #765 will once again be traversing Norfolk Southern's former Pennsy mainline through the Alleghenies at least as far east as Altoona, PA with excursions over Horsehoe Curve that are available to the public on Memorial Day weekend. The big Lima was the first steam locomotive to move through central Pennsylvania's Horseshoe Curve under its own power in more than 30 years when it made a ferry move from Pittsburgh to Harrisburgh, PA and return in August 2012 for a series of Employee Appreciation Specials to mark the 30th anniversary of the Norfolk Southern.

Norfolk & Western J Class steam locomotive #611 is seen is seen heading northbound over the Trace Fork Branch trestle with an excursion at Amonate, VA in June 1994. Made famous by the night photography of O Winston Link in the late 1950s, the 611 was built in the N&W's Roanoke Shops in 1950 and was retired in 1959 before becoming part of an earlier incarnation of the Norfolk Southern's steam program. The 611 was pulled from excursion service in 1994 and has been on display in the Virginia Musuem of Transportation in Roanoke ever since.Bob Lyndall
VIRGINIA- The Virginia Museum of Transportation has announced that they're undertaking a feasability study on restoring former Norfolk & Western J class 4-8-4 #611 to service, which has been on display at the Roanoke, VA museum since 1994- when the Norfolk Southern decided to cancel their first incarnation of their steam program.
Called "Fire Up 611!," the study isn’t a guarantee the engine will actually be fired up. The committee will look not just at what repairs and upgrades the 611 might need, but what sort of financial strain a restoration would put on the museum’s day-to-day operations.

If bringing the beloved streamlined 611, which was built in the Norfolk and Western Railway’s Roanoke shops, back to life turns out to be feasible, the transportation museum will have to put out a call to the international rail community to raise the funds, Museum Executive Director Bev Fitzpatrick said. The engine is considered the most modern steam locomotive in existence.

A volunteer team of steam engine enthusiasts has stepped forward to conduct the study. They include Atlanta, Ga. software consultant Cheri George, Birmingham, Ala., historic rail equipment restorer Scott Lindsay and Roanoke rail safety consultant Preston Claytor all of whom volunteered on the 611’s crew during the interval when Norfolk Southern used it for passenger excursions, 1981 to 1994.

The museum is launching a fund raising campaign today to pay for the study’s expenses, said museum public relations director Peg McGuire. Should the task of getting the 611 operational prove to be out of the museum’s reach, the funds will go into an endowment to pay for the locomotive’s upkeep as an exhibit.
The Museum has set up a website called Fire Up 611! where visitors can find out more information about plans to reactivate the #611, donate or take a survey on which cities they'd like to see the #611 visit should it be restored to service.

Santa Fe 4-8-4 Northern #3751 seen scaling Cajon Pass with Amtrak diesels north of San Bernardino, CA en route to the Grand Canyon in May 2012

CALIFORNIA- While the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society plans for Sante Fe 4-8-4 #3751 aren't quite as ambitous as last year's trip to the Grand Canyon, the 1927-built Northern is scheduled to hit the high iron nonetheless.

The SBRHS announced that the #3751 will be running under her own power from Redondo Jct near LA's Union Station to San Bernardino for San Bernardino Railroad Days on April 27th and returning to Los Angeles on April 28th. The passenger cars will consist of meticulously restored vintage coaches and Amfleet passenger cars and tickets are available to the general public at the San Bernardino Railroad & History Museum website.

Milwaukee Road #261 is seen with a cut of gondola cars on the Twin Cities & Western's former Milwaukee line west of Minneapolis in May 2010. Mitch Goldman photo
MINNESOTA- For the first time since 2008, Milwaukee Road's 4-8-4 #261 will be hauling excursion trains. This will also mark the first time that the Friends of the 261 will operate the 1944-built ALCo as outright owners of the locomotive. When the #261 was taken out of service, the organization had the unexpected opportunity to buy the locomotive from the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, WI in 2010 [previously, they Friends had been leasing the #261 from the museum long-term- NANESB!].

The #261 was successfully test-fired late last year and will power a passenger train from the Twin Cities to Duluth, MN and return on the weekend of May 11th and 12th. The excursion is part of a larger celebration of National Train Day held by the Lake Superior Railroad Museum that will also feature the a dinner train over the North Shore Scenic Railroad with the LSRM's 1923-built 4-6-2 Pacific- Soo Line #2719.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Luck O'The Irish- Happy St Patrick's Day From Not Another New England Sports Blog!

Irish tricolor swimsuits being modeled in Newfoundland K. Bruce Lane photography
March 17th marks the day when Ireland celebrates their patron saint dealing with the Emerald Isle's invasive species problem. Although Saint Patrick is credited with driving all the snakes from Ireland, some buzzkills in the scientific community maintain that there never were any snakes in post-glacial Ireland to begin with.

Nonetheless, the day is observed with a good deal of fanfare- particulary abroad where St Patrick's Day observances include parades, beer, sporting green attire, beer, Irish stew cook-offs, more beer, bagpipes, wearing pins in a desperate ploy for any attention from the opposite sex.

And perhaps one of the most Irish places outside of the British Isles would be Eastern Massachusetts. Although emirgration from Ireland across the Atlantic had been ongoing since the mid 1600s [at times under duress from British occupiers- NANESB!], the potato famine of the 1840s hastened the Irish exodus to both the Americas and elsewhere in the British empire. Irishmen migrated to places as far afield as Boston, Sydney, Buenos Aires or Montreal- in fact, Bernardo O'Higgins was the name of a general who fought Spanish colonial rule in the early 19th century and became the first president of Chile. To this day, streets in many Chilean cities and towns bear his name.

However, cities like Boston and New York were considerably closer to the Emerald Isle and saw the greatest influx of Irish immigrants. While many of the Irish remained on the east coast, often living in squalid tenaments and working dangerous jobs in factories or mines, some Irish began expanding westward with other immigrants with the discovery of gold in California, the advent of the Civil War and the construction of the transcontinental railroad.

By the early 20th Century, those in the Irish communities on the east coast could often be found working as police officers, firefighters or clergy in the Roman Catholic church. Perhaps to nobody's suprise eastern Massachusetts remains the most 'Irish' part of the USA- in 1919, Irish statesman Eamon de Valera delivered a speech at Fenway Park urging support for Irish fighters who were waging a guerilla campaign against the British in Ireland's war for Independence. More recently, during 'The Troubles' Irish Republican murals were a common sight on buildings in the Dorchester section of Boston and the Irish mafia trafficked weapons to the IRA.

But that's not to say Boston has the monopoly on all things St Patrick's Day. New York's St Patrick's Day parade boasts an even bigger turnout and Chicago makes it a tradition to dye the Chicago River green each St Patrick's Day. While not as famously 'Irish' as Boston or New York, the St Patrick's Day festivities in Savannah, GA can always boast a high turnout thanks in part to the presence of nearby military bases and the celebrations overlapping with Spring Break at some universities.

Whether your actual St Patricks Day plans involve non-stop binging on Guiness or something a little more sedate, here's wishing you a relatively safe St Paddy's day and here's to not waking up in the drunk tank.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Syrian General Defects As Two Year Anniversary of Civil War Approaches

Anwar Amro/AFP
As Syria's civil conflict ground into its second year, one of president Bashr Al-Assad's top generals has reportedly defected to the rebels, claiming that morale among Syria's armed forces was plummetting.
Maj. Gen. Mohammed Ezz al-Din Khalouf told Al-Arabiya TV that many of those still with Assad's regime have lost faith in it.

"It not an issue of belief or practicing one's role," he said. "It's for appearance's sake, to present an image to the international community from the regime that it pulls together all parts of Syrian society under this regime."

Activist videos posted online Saturday showed Khalouf sitting with a rebel fighter after his defection and riding in a car to what the video said was the Jordanian border.

The video said he was Chief of Staff for the army branch that deals with supplies and fuel.
While there have been ongoing defections of enlisted personnel as the conflict in Syria, Khalouf's defection represents one of the highest ranked Syrian army officers that has either fled the country or switched alleigances.

Meanwhile, the Assad regime has recently activated an all-female militia called the 'Lionesses for National Defense'.
The women have already been deployed on the streets, and though their duties seem confined to checkpoint control, the frequency of rebel attacks against government checkpoints effectively puts them on the front line.

The trainer explains that the women are trained to use Kalashnikovs, heavy machine guns and grenades, and taught to storm and control checkpoints. “I’m an employee, but I think it’s good to learn how to carry weapons and protect my country,” one of the recruits tells the camera.

The formation of the force comes amid speculation that the regular Syrian army, depleted by defections, desertions and thousands of casualties, is becoming stretched by the effort to suppress Syria’s 22-month-old uprising.
The United Nations estimates that at least 70,000 Syrians have been killed since the Al Assad regime began cracking down on street protests in Damascus that began in March 2011.

Friday, March 15, 2013

California Sen. Diane Feinstein- No "Assault Weapons" For Veterans, Refers to PTSD as "New"

Congratulations, California- you continue to pick some real winners there.
Feinstein said she wants to make sure that veterans “who are incapacitated for one reason or another mentally don’t have access” to semi-automatic weapons.

Feinstein, at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee last Friday, was discussing an amendment to her gun control bill that would exempt retired military from the so-called “assault weapons” ban:

“The problem with expanding this (exemption) is that, you know, with the advent of PTSD, which I think is a new phenomenon as a product of the Iraq War, it’s not clear how the seller or transferrer of a firearm covered by this bill would verify that an individual was a member, or a veteran, and that there was no impairment of that individual with respect to having a weapon like this. So you know, I would be happy to sit down with you again and see if we could work something out but I think we have to — if you’re going to do this, find a way that veterans who are incapacitated for one reason or another mentally don’t have access to this kind of weapon.”
Perhaps even more alarming is Feinstein's claim that PTSD was a new phenomenon limited to the Iraq War [OMG! Bush's fault!- NANESB!]. However. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- which was known as Soldier's Heart after the Civil War or Shell Shock after the first World War- was formally recognized by the Committee of Reactive Disorders in 1980.

Also, if Sen Feinstein has such reservations about veterans of the US Military arming themselves, she should perhaps concern herself with veterans not only armed with firearms, but also the power of arrest- as thousands of returning veterans from the Iraq war have found work in local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies nationwide over the past decade [Hmmm....interesting how she apparently left out Afghanistan- NANESB!].

And while nobody is advocating giving away guns to clearly disturbed individuals like Adam Lanza or Jared Loughner, one should also be careful in allowing the progressives in this nation to monopolize the narrative in regards to mental health. There have been serious "academic" attempts to get conservative opinions and outlooks classified as a mental disorder in recent years. In the latter days of the Soviet Union, government psychiatrists would have dissidents involuntarily committed to mental hospitals with vague diagnoses like 'sluggish schizophrenia' or 'philisophical intoxication' on a regular basis. The state-ordered confinement saved Communist Party officials the trouble of putting dissidents through a show trial that could potentially backfire on them- a practice that is seeing an ominous resurgence in Vladmir Putin's Russia.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Snow Signals, March 14, 2013

Today's Tain of Thought takes us to Dayville, CT where one of the Providence & Worcester's remaining EMDs is embarked on a fairly mundane task surrounded by a winter wonderland.

Like many eastern railroads, the Providence & Worcester started out paralleling already extant canals- in this case, the Blackstone Canal- between Worcester and Rhode Island's capitol- and was completed in 1844. By the early 1890s the New York, New Haven & Hartford agreed to lease the P&W for 99 years. However, on January 1st, 1969 the NYNH&H merged into the Penn Central Railroad- but by April of 1970, the P&W announced their intention to separate themselves from the merger. The announcement led to a court battle in which the P&W was ultimately victorious and after an 80-year hiatus began operating as a separate entity once again beginning in 1973. In addition to the original line paralleling the Blackstone Canal, the P&W took over additional lines radiating out of Worcester, including the ex-New Haven line between Worcester and New London, CT and the former Boston & Maine line between Worcester and Gardner, MA. By the 1990s, the P&W had secured trackage rights over Amtrak's Northeast Corridor all the way into New York City and acquired the former Connecticut Central line between New Haven and Middletown, CT and the former Conrail line to Danbury, CT.

Here, P&W GP38-2 #2009 is seen bracketing a pair of snow-draped crossing signals in Dayville, CT as it stops to do some switching while in charge symbol freight NR-2. NERail Photos contributor Ray Blanchette caught the geep on a wintry January 14, 2008

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Holy Smoke! White Smoke Appears Over As the Vatican Chooses New Pope

Pope Francis adresses the faithful in St Peter's Square in the Vatican on Wednesday Night
After less than two days of deliberations, prayer and voting by the College of Cardinals in the Vatican's Papal Conclave, white smoke billowed from a chimney over the Sistine Chapel announcing to the world that a new Pope had been chosen after Pope Benedict XVI stepped down at the end of February.

Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina- reportedly the runner up when a conclave was convened in 2005 after Pope John Paul II's death- was announced as the new pope on Wednesday to a jubilant crowd gathered in St Peter's square.
The appearance of white smoke from the Sistine Chapel chimney had earlier electrified Rome.

Within seconds, people were running up the avenue that leads from the River Tiber to St Peter’s Square.

“They’ve chosen, they’ve chosen,” a woman told her daughter as they hurried across rain-soaked cobbles, two small figures in a river of hundreds hurrying to the seat of the Roman Catholic Church.

Groups of young people sang and danced in front of television cameras and mobile phone networks crashed as tens of thousands of people called friends and relations.

They waved flags and shouted “Viva Il Papa” — without yet knowing who Il Papa was — as more people crammed into the square

There was then an agonising wait of more than an hour in the drizzle, as the crowd fizzed with speculation as to who the new pope might be.

He was picked after the cardinals cast just five votes in the conclave, held in the frescoed splendour of the Sistine Chapel.
Born in Argentina to Italian immigrants, the 76 year old Bergoglio had previously served as archbishop of Buenos Aires, the nation's capital city. Bergoglio also represents a number of firsts for the Catholic Church- the first Jesuit to be named Pope, the first-ever pontiff from the Americas and the first Pope to take the name Francis. This has led to speculation whether Bergoglio selected the name in honor of St Francis Assisi or St Francis Xavier.

In Buenos Aires, Bergoglio also earned a reputation for eschewing his own personal driver and quarters, instead taking the bus, living in a modest apartment and cooking his own meals. In recent years, the archbishop has run afoul with Argentina's left-of-center husband and wife presidential team of Nestor and Christina Fernandez de Kirchner on issues such as same sex marriage and abortion while the De Kirchners accused Bergoglio of complicity during Argentina's 'Dirty War' [of which there is ZERO evidence- NANESB!] which saw dissidents and opponents of Argentina's ruling military junta 'disappear' by the thousands in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 2007, Bergoglio also discussed denying communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spring Forward Sports Chowdah Update- Bruins Veto Senators in Shootout; Hockey Game Breaks Out, USA Advances at WBC;

WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC- After a fairly unremarkable start, Pool D in the 2013 World Baseball Classic was the one everybody was talking about thanks to a game winning grand slam and an honest-to-goodness bench clearing brawl.

After having alrady lost their opening game to Mexico, team USA found themselves deadlocked 2-2 with a game Italy in the top of the second inning of game 2 in pool play in Phoenix on Saturday night. With the bases loaded, two out and David Wright in the batter's box with a 1-2 count, this happened-

Wright's grand slam would turn out to be the game-winner as Team USA got by Italy for a 6-2 final for their first win of the tournament.

But what had everybody talking was what happened between Team Canada and Mexico earlier on Saturday. With Canada already up 9-3, catcher Chris Robinson decided to bunt for a base hit in the 9th inning. Taking umbrage to the percieved breach of baseball ettiquite, infliedler Luis Cruz told pitcher Arnold Leon to hit the next batter.

After throwing two piches at Canada outfielder Rene Tosoni, Leon finally managed to hit him. Instead of taking his base, Tosoni charged the mound which led to this-

Yes- players from the country that apparently worships at the altar of soccer decided to pick a fight with players from a nation that has produced countless hockey players and- more recently- a good number of mixed martial arts fighters. Unlike most baseball brawls, there was actually some punching and tackling taking place. Red Sox reliver Alfredo Aceves was seen exchanging blows with Canada outfilder Tyson Gillies before being wrestled to the ground.

The fight spilled over into the stands as well, with Mexican fans throwing full water bottles at Team Canada's dugout- one of them hitting pitching coach Denis Boucher in the face before infielder Cale Iorg angrily threw the water bottle back into the crowd. A number of fights broke out in the highly partisan and pro-Mexico crowd of 19,581 and police came on to the field to restore order as announcements were made in English and Spanish that anybody caught throwing items on the field would be ejected.

A total of seven players- Mexico's Arnold Leon, Oliver Perez, Eduardo Arredondo, Andrew Albers and Alfredo Aceves and Canada's Pete Orr, Rene Tosoni and Jay Johnson- were ejected, although WBC officials said they were unlikely to face any additional discipline aside from the ejection. As for the percieved slight against Mexico that sparked the entire brawl, Canada wasn't simply trying to be sore winnera when they ran up the score. Since total points can factor in a a tiebreaker in the World Baseball classic and Canada had already given up 14 runs in their loss to Italy in the first game of the WBC. The win and the run differential were needed to give them a puncher's chance [no pun intended- NANESB!] of advancing out of the first round.

However, on Sunday, Canada faced a Team USA with some momentum on their side. It was win or go home for both the USA and Canada and our neighbors to the north had an early 2-0 lead when Canada outfielder Michael Suanders belted a 2 run homer into the right field seats off of USA starter Derek Holland. Team USA pulled even thanks to some a leadoff walk and some small ball starting off with a bunt by outfielder ben Zobrist that led to a throwing error from Canada 3B Taylor Green with two on- a sac fly off the bat of outfielder Adam Jones tied the contest up at 2-2.

With runners on the corners and two out for Team Canada in the bottom of the 6th, outfilder Adam Loewen drove in a run giving Team Canada the lead back. But in the top of the 8th, Jones drove in a pair of runs to make it 4-3, giving the USA their first lead of the game. Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino would add to that total and make it a 5-3 lead after bringing Jones home with an RBI single. In the bottom of the 8th and with the bases loaded for Team Canada and only one out, Adam Loewen brought a runner home with his groundout to first to make it a 1-run game, but Tim Smith grounded out to Brandon Phillips to end the Canadian rally.

After a leadoff double from the USA's Brandon Philips and an RBI single Jonathan LuCroy, The Royals' Eric Hosmer put the game out of reach for Team USA with a 2 out bases clearing double with two away in the top of the 9th inning

Team USA goes on to win by a final of 9-4, eliminating Canada from the tournament and moving on to the second round of the tournament at Miami where they will take on Puerto Rico on Tuesday night. The first pitch is scheduled for 8:00 ET and the game will be televised on the MLB network.

GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE- Boston's Clay Buchholz looks like he can't wait for the regular season to begin as he's now 2-0 in Spring Training. Buchholz pitched four shutout innings allowing three hits and a strikeout while Mike Napoli went 2-3 with an RBI in Boston's 5-3 win over Toronto at Dunedin, FL on Tuesday. Currently the Red Sox have a 9-9 record in Spring training.

The Red Sox will have Wednesday off and return to Fort Myers (but not to Fenway South) to take on the Minnesota Twins on Thursday at 1:05 ET.

Canadian Press, Fred Chartrand
NHL- After an impressive 3-0 home win against the Philadelphia Flyers- the first meeting between the two teams this shortened season- the Bruins hit the road once again, starting off with a Monday night contest against Ottawa from Canada's capital- one of only two games in the NHL on Monday.

The Bruins fell into an early 2-0 hole after allowing goals from Guillaume Latendresse and Kyle Turris in the first, but managed to get on the board thanks to a Shawn Thornton tally in the closing minutes of the first. Boston then managed to tie the game at the 8:53 mark of the second perior thanks to a Danny Paille tally, but after a scoreless 3rd period, both teams garnered a point as they headed for OT. However, nothing was decided in the OT [Rask turned aside 12 shots in the 3rd and overtime- NANESB!] so the game went to a shootout. Even though it was unsuccessful, Kaspars Daugavins was likely the most memorable attempt from the shootout.

However, Dravid Krejci would score on his next attempt and the Bruins would go on to win by a 3-2 final in the shootout and get to within one point of Montreal.

However, there will be no rest for the black and gold as they travel from Ottawa to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins for the first time this season on Tuesday night. The game will be televised on the NBC Sports network (formerly Versus) and this clash of Eastern Conference titans will get underway at 7:30 ET/

Monday, March 11, 2013

Two Years Ago Today

Hell on earth came to the other side of the Pacific.

On March 11th 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck some 40 miles off the coast of Tohoku, triggering a deadly wave of massive tsunamis that wiped entire towns off of the map. Accoring to a 2012 Japan National Police Agency report, the number of deaths is an estimated 15,800 with another 2600 missing since the disaster.

Footage that could only be described as a sneak preview of the apocolypse was being filmed live from news helicopters and soon CCTV footage and amateur video filmed by survivors began circulating on the internet- each video demonstrating the ferocity of the massive, unrelenting waves as they swept away cars, warehouses, boats, cranes, tractor trailers, entire homes, shipping containers and even aircraft.

Even worse, the quake triggered a chain reaction that led to the meltdown of Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor, forcing authorities to establish a 20km exclusion zone around the power plant- the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in the USSR [now the Ukraine- NANESB!].

Debris from the tsunami was swept out to sea and began washing up on the west coast of the USA and Canada, including a high school student's volleyball that was signed by her classmates and a derelict fishing vessel that was sunk by the US Coast Guard off the coast of Alaska.

Debris is still showing up on the West coast and in Hawaii- although not in the massive quantites predicted yet. Some researchers say this may be due to the fact that the anticipated debris field wasn't as large as advertised while others maintain the expected debris hasn't travelled as fast as initially calculated.

Japan marked the second anniversary of the disaster with a series of solemn ceremonies offering prayers to the dead throughout the disaster zone. Twenty four months later, much work still needs to be done in the stricken areas.
Efforts to rebuild the disaster-hit region have been slow. Figures show 315,196 people are still without a permanent home, many in cramped temporary housing units.

Tsunami-hit communities are divided among those who want to rebuild on land that may have been in the family for generations and those who want to move their towns to higher, safer ground.

Police in Miyagi prefecture were Monday continuing their search for those still listed as missing, with a 50-strong team scouring the coastline.

"We haven't found any bodies for a year," police officer Toshiaki Okajima told AFP.

"But there are still 1,300 missing people in Miyagi alone and the feelings of families haven't changed. That's why the police need to keep looking for remains."
The meltdown at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi's nuclear plant also prompted officals to idle all fifty of Japan's commercial nuclear reacors. Since then, only two have been re-started.

Blue State Graft Watch Update- Kwame We Hardly Knew Ye; Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Convicted of Racketeering

Once dubbed America's First "Hip-Hop Mayor", former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was found guilty of racketeering at the federal courthouse in Detroit on Monday. Kwame, along with his father bernard Kilpatrick and contractor Bobby Ferguson were convicted of 24 out of 30 charges of racketeering, fraud, extortion, bribery and tax evasion after a months-long trail.

Although sentencing is still a few weeks off, US District Judge Nancy Edmonds deemed Kilpatrick a flight risk and ordered immediate incarceration of the ex-mayor while awaiting sentencing.
Attorneys for Kilpatrick and Ferguson argued they men should remain free on bond pending their sentencing and said they weren’t a flight.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta argued Kilpatrick should be detained because he has a history of disobeying court orders. He also said Kilpatrick has access to money, as does Ferguson. Bullotta said Kilpatrick lied after his convictions on obstruction of justice charges in the text message scandal that drove him out of office.

Kilpatrick had previously been incarcerated in 2010 after a Wayne County judge determined he was lying about hidden assets after a 2008 trial where he and former aide Christine Beatty faced charges of perjury, official misconduct and obstruction of justice from Wayne County prosecutors. As part of the 2008 plea deal, Kilpatrick resigned as mayor and was supposed to pay $1 million in restitution and serve 120 days in jail.

Kwame is the son of congresswoman Carolyn 'Cheeks' Kilpatrick, who represented Michigan's 13th congressional district from 1997 to 2011. Elected to the office in 2001, Kwame Kilpatrick became the Motor City's youngest mayor. Despite using his office to award lucrative contracts to friends and fire city officials investigating reports of misconduct from the mayor's office, Kilpatrick was re-elected in 2005.

Seemingly locked in a death spiral at the time of his first term as Mayor, Detroit's prospects have only gotten worse since his resignation. The city faces a budget defecit of $327 million and an estimated $14 billion in long-term debt thanks to unfunded pension and healtchcare obligations. Michigan governor Rick Snider initiated the process of bringing in an emergency manager to Detroit at the beginning of the month.
He told a crowd at the Maccabbees building in Midtown that views today as a sad but hopeful day.

“At one point, (Detroit) was recognized as the most prosperous city in the United States,” he said. “We went form the top to the bottom.”

He said the decision won’t eliminate the role of elected officials in the city, acknowledging steps the mayor and city council have taken toward restructuring Detroit’s troubled finances.

“They haven’t been enough to solve the problem,” he said. “So lets work together.”

He said he expects an emergency manager to remain in place for at least a year and a half.
There has been increasing opposition to the state's Emergency Manager option since it first came up last year, even though there are few other viable options for Detroit.