Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Southern Russian City of Volgograd Hit By Multiple Suicide Bombings

At least 30 people were killed in back to back bombings on Sunday and Monday that targeted public transportation in the southern Russian city of Volgograd. Russian officials believe the bomb blasts were carried out by suicide bombers in the city's railway station on Sunday and a municipal trolleybus on Monday.
The explosion ripped away much of the bus's exterior and broke windows in nearby buildings. The BBC reported that the explosion took place near a market in the city's Dzerzhinsky district. It virtually paralyzed public transport in the city, forcing many residents to walk long distances to get to work.

Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for Russia's main investigative agency, said Monday's explosion involved a bomb similar to the one used in Sunday's attack.

"That confirms the investigators' version that the two terror attacks were linked," Markin said in a statement. "They could have been prepared in one place."

The Interior Ministry ordered police to beef up patrols at railway stations and other transport facilities across Russia. Putin on Monday summoned the chief of the main KGB successor agency and the interior minister to discuss the situation, and sent the former to Volgograd to oversee the probe.
CCTV cameras outside the building recorded images of the train station bombing that is said to have killed 18 and injured another 44 people. Russian security officials are reportedly attempting to piece together images from cameras inside the station.

Volgograd- known as Stalingrad during Soviet times- is an industrial and transport hub some 900 miles south of Moscow and 1000 km northeast of Sochi, site of the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics next month. Some of the deadliest fighting in WWII took place in Stalingrad when the beleaguered Red Army halted the advance of Nazi Germany's Wehrmacht in early 1943. Volgograd is also one of the closer metropolitan areas to strife-torn regions such as Dagestan and Chechnya where Islamist fighters have been conducting attacks against Russian troops and civilians since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992.

Dagestan and Chechnya are both considered fertile recruiting grounds for battle-hardened Islamic terrorists to fight in Afghanistan or Syria. The two brothers responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing and deadly ambush of an MIT Campus police officer were originally from Chechnya. Besides ongoing fighting over Islamists and pro-Kremlin forces in the Transcaucus region, Russia has earned the ire of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states for Moscow's direct military aid and support of Syrian president Bashr Al-Assad in the midst of a prolonged civil war.

In August 2013, the UK's Telegraph reported that the Saudis had secretly offered Russia a deal in which the Saudis proposed to cede most of the global oil and gas market to the Russians if they agreed to abandon the Assad regime in Syria. According to the article and reports in the Russian and Lebanese media, the Saudis also promised the Kremlin a tacit deal with Chechen fighters where they wouldn't attack the Sochi Winter Olympics should Russia abandon Assad.
The details of the talks were first leaked to the Russian press. A more detailed version has since appeared in the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, which has Hezbollah links and is hostile to the Saudis.

As-Safir said Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord. “I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,” he allegedly said.

Prince Bandar went on to say that Chechens operating in Syria were a pressure tool that could be switched on an off. “These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role in Syria’s political future.”

Some observers believe the Volgograd attacks on Sunday and Monday- as well as an October 21st suicide bombing carried out by a Chechen 'black widow' in the same oblast- could be considered a 'dry run' for even deadlier attacks against athletes, officials and attendees at the Sochi Winter Olympics next month. The attacks also come roughly a week before the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Twas the Night Before Christmas, December 24th, 2013

Actually, that's a little misleading.

Today's Train of Thought takes us to the Silver State and an operating railroad museum that's not only open for some of the wintertime, but prides itself on their cold weather operations. The huge museum and railroad based in East Ely, NV has previously pointed out that the colder weather in the high desert make the vapor, steam and smoke from their vintage steam locomotives stand out even more dramatically for photographers.

However, this Christmas Card scene was actually snapped in February 2013- closer to Valentine's Day- as Kevin Madore caught Nevada Northern 4-6-0 #40 leads the Steptoe Valley Flyer excursion past the snow and sagebrush into the yard at East Ely. White Pine County hasn't seen regularly scheduled passenger train service since 1941 and the line between Ely and the former Southern Pacific mainline at Cobre hasn't seen a regularly scheduled freight train since the late 1990s.

#40 was built by Baldwin locomotive works in 1910 and has spent much of it's life working for the Nevada Northern before it became an open-air rail museum.

Merry Christmas From Not Another New England Sports Blog!

The stockings have been hung by the chimney with care and right now I'm admiring this Christmas tree with gifts stacked under. Like so many others, I'm gonna be busy over the the next few days, but I just a quick wanted to write a quick note wishing readers a Merry Christmas and a happy New Years.

In case you're wondering, the partially bundled up beauty above is courtesy of none other than the late Gil Elvgren. This particular image is called Out in the Cold and dates back to 1954.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

South Beach Sports Chowdah Update- AFC East Tightens Up as 'Fins Thwart Patriots Late Rally; Sabres Metrics- Bruins Split Home & Away Series With Buffalo

J Pat Carter- AP
NFL- Well....the late drive giveth, the late drive taketh away.

After a fairly low-scoring first half in which the Patriots headed to the locker room with a 10-7 lead over the Dolphins, the second half of Sunday's contest opened up in the 4th quarter. After a Caleb Sturgis FG in the 3rd to tie the contest up at 10-10, Miami took the lead to open up the 4th quarter thanks to a quick 2 yard TD pass from Ryan Tannehill to RB Danny Thomas to make it a 17-10 game. New England would then take the lead thanks to a short Gostkowski FG and a 24 yard TD pass and run from Brady to Julian Edelman to give New England a 20-17 lead with just over 4 minutes to go in regulation.

After getting the ball back on their own 40, Miami seemed to sputter when DT Sealver Silliga sacked Tannehill for a 6 yard loss on 2nd and 10, bringing up 3rd and 16. While it was definitely 4 down territory for Miami, it was made a little easier by an 11 yard completion to WR Brian Hartline to bring up 4th and 5. On 4th down, Tannehill found TE Charles Clay for a 6 yard pickup to keep the drive going [and Clay's only reception of the day, no less- NANESB!] and with 1:15 to go, the Dolphins hit paydirt on a 14 yard TD reception from Tannehill to RB Marcus Thigpen, putting New England behind 24-20.

After starting out on their own 20, the Patriots were able to move the ball as far as the Dolphins 14, setting up a 4th and 5 with 0:07 seconds remaining, Brady's pass was intercepted by Miami safety Michael Thomas in the end zone to salt the game for Miami.

The win adds new life to Miami's once-fading playoff hopes and throws the outcome of the AFC East playoff picture into doubt and makes the come from behind wins against Denver, Houston and Cleveland all the more significant....but it was only a matter of time before the last-second heroics would come up short. The last minute rally make one wonder what might've been if only the Patriots still had Gronkowski at TE or Gronkowski's 48 yard FG attempt in the 3rd quarter had been good.

For the second straight week, the Patriots will face a team struggling to make the postseason- the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in a rematch of last year's AFC title game. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:25 ET from M&T Bank Stadium and the game will be televised on CBS.

Winslow Towson- AP
NHL- The Boston Bruins are back from their western road trip and came into Saturday night's game having dropped two out of their last three games, including a 6-2 blowout in Vancouver and 4-2 loss against the Sabres.

Reilly Smith put the B's on the board thanks to a 1st period power play goal before Buffalo's Zemgus Girgensons got the Sabres on the board with just over a minute to go in the first. This would end up being the only goal that Rask would allow on the night [although Buffalo had a few 5 on 3 power play opportunities- NANESB!]. David Krejci would get what would be the game winner less than two minutes into the second period before Milan Lucic would make it a 3-1 game in the 3rd before Smith would get his second tally on the night, an empty-netter with 22 seconds left in regulation.

Interestingly, there was no Ryan Miller in net for Buffalo although it was most likely a night off as opposed to preparations for a blockbuster trade. Instead, it was Jhonas Enroth who turned aside 25 of 28 shots faces while Rask stopped 33 of 34 shots faced.

The Bruins have one more game before Christmas- they travel to the Music City to take on the Nashville Predators on Monday night. Puck is scheduled to drop at 8:00 ET and the game will be televised on NESN.

NCAA VOLLEYBALL- It was an all Big 10 matchup for the NCAA Volleyball finals as Penn State took on Wisconsin for the 2013 NCAA Women's Volleyball championship. Penn State would go on to defeat the Badgers 3 sets to one

Today'sTrain of Thought- Joyeux Noël, December 21st, 2013

Today's Train of Thought takes us north of the border to one of the Genesee & Wyoming's first Canadian ventures- more than 280 miles of disconnected former Canadian Pacific trackage through Central Quebec. By 1997, the Canadian Pacific had moved its headquarters from Montreal to Calgary and began divesting themselves of most of their trackage east of Montreal. The majority of the former CP lines between Montreal and Nova Scotia went to shortlines and regionals such as the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic, Quebec Central, Windsor and Hantsport or New Brunswick Southern.

North of the St Lawrence River, the former CP line between Laval and Quebec City (via Trois-Rivières) was purchased by the Genesee and Wyoming along with another disconnected stretch former CP lines between the Ottawa area and the northern Montreal suburb of Saint Jerome. Traffic on the QGRY includes lumber and forestry products, auto parts, propane and chemicals and power is typically painted in the orange and black colors of the GWR family. Initially power for the line was a motley assortment of hand-me-down MLW C424s from Canadian Pacific, former CN wide-cab GP40-2LWs, burly orange and black SD45s from other Genesee & Wyoming lines and SW1500 switchers.

Here, railpictures.net contributor Ken Goslett caught rebuilt QGRY GP39-2 #2302 charging westbound with a local frieght through a snowy Lachute, Quebec around sunset in January 2013. The freight is destined for a suburb of Ottawa on the Quebec side of the river. Interestingly, the #2302 is a fairly new arrival to the QGRY- it started out life as a GP40 for the Chesapeake & Ohio before being rebuilt in 1992 after it was sold the new Virginia Rail Express commuter agency based out of Washington DC and northern Virginia. By late 2012, it had rejoined a couple of other VRE GP39-2us and was sold to the QGRY.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Big Heaping Bowls of Sports Chowdah Update- Quickie Rundown on This Season's Bowl Games

There's some other big news concerning NCAA Football that I haven't gotten around to yet, but I figured I might as well go ahead and post the complete schedule for the upcoming Bowl games on the eve of the first batch of games:


Gildan New Mexico Bowl-
Washington State vs Colorado State 2:00 ET [ESPN]

Las Vegas Bowl-
(20) Fresno State vs (25) USC 3:30 ET [ABC]

Idaho Potato Bowl-
San Diego State vs Buffalo 5:30 ET [ESPN]

R+L Carrier New Orleans Bowl-
Tulane vs LA-Lafayette 9:00 ET [ESPN]


Beef O'Brady's Bowl-
Ohio vs East Carolina 2:00 ET [ESPN]


Sheraton Hawaii Bowl-
Boise St vs Oregon St 8:00 ET [ESPN]


Little Caesar's Bowl-
Pitt vs Bowling Green 6:00 ET [ESPN]

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl-
Utah State vs (23) Northern Illinois 9:30 ET [ESPN]


Military Bowl-
Marshall vs Maryland 2:30 ET [ESPN]

Texas Bowl-
Syracuse vs Minnesota 6:00 ET [ESPN]

Fight Hunger Bowl-
BYU vs Washington 9:30 ET [ESPN]


New Era Pinstripe Bowl-
Rutgers vs Notre Dame 12:00 ET [ESPN]

Belk Bowl-
Cincinnati vs North Carolina 3:20 ET [ESPN]

Russell Athletic Bowl-
Miami (FL) vs (18) Louisville 6:45 ET [ESPN]

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl-
Michigan vs Kansas State 10:15 ET [ESPN]


Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl-
Middle Tennessee vs Navy 11:45 AM ET [ESPN]

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl-
Mississippi vs Georgia Tech 3:15 ET [ESPN]

Valero Alamo Bowl-
(10) Oregon vs Texas 6:45 ET [ESPN]

National University Holiday Bowl-
(14) Arizona State vs Texas Tech 10:15 ET [ESPN]


AdvoCare V-100 Bowl-
Arizona vs Boston College 12:30 ET [ESPN]

Hyundai Sun Bowl-
Virginia Tech vs (17) UCLA 2:00 ET [CBS]

Auto Zone Liberty Bowl-
Rice vs Mississippi St 4:00 ET [ESPN]

Chick-Fil-A Bowl-
(24) Duke vs (21) Texas A&M 8:00 ET [ESPN]


Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl -
Nebraska vs (22) Georgia 12:00 ET [ESPN2]

Heart of Dallas Bowl-
UNLV vs North Texas 12:00 ET [ESPNU]

Capital One Bowl-
(19) Wisconsin vs (9) South Carolina 1:00 ET [ABC]

Outback Bowl-
Iowa vs (16) LSU 1:00 ET [ESPN]

Rose Bowl-
(5) Stanford vs (4) Michigan State 5:00 ET [ESPN]

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl-
(15) UCF vs (6) Baylor 8:30 ET [ESPN]


Allstate Sugar Bowl-
(11) Oklahoma vs (3) Alabama- 8:30 ET [ESPN]


AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic-
(13) Oklahoma State vs (8) Mizzou 7:30 ET [FOX]

Discover Orange Bowl-
(12) Clemson vs (7) Ohio St 8:00 ET [ESPN]


BBVA Compass Bowl-
Vanderbilt vs Houston 1:00 ET [ESPN]


GoDaddy.com Bowl-
Arkansas State vs Ball State 9:00 ET [ESPN]


BCS Championship Game-
(2) Auburn vs (1) Florida State 8:30 ET [ESPN]

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Today's Train of Thought- Winter Mix, December 17, 2013

Today's Train of Thought takes us to Michigan's Upper Peninsula for weather conditions best described as a 'winter mix' which is mostly snow, sleet and freezing rain all taking place at temperatures below freezing.

Here, railpicture.net contributor John Ryan caught Illinois Central GP40-2 #3110 leading a southbound Canadian National merchandise freight over the Cedar River at Powers, MI on December 28th, 2008. The white stuff is clinging not only to the tree branches, telephone poles and truss bridge, but also the nose of the #3110 and the broom kept on the front of the unit. In the process, the white stuff is also obscuring the 'death star' Illinois Central logo on the nose- a moniker applied to the logo that came with the IC's final paint scheme prior to the 1998 takeover of IC by Canadian National.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Alberta Bound Sports Chowdah Update- What Can Browns Do For You? Slick Bruins Get Past Oilers Thanks to Iginla

Elise Amendola- AP
NFL- It doesn't seem to matter who the opponent is- ever since that Monday night game against the Carolina Panthers, the Patriots have this habit of falling into a hole in the first half and then climbing out of it in the second half.

Sunday afternoon's game- which pitted Belichick against the team that gave him his first head coaching gig in the NFL- was no different. In fact, after the Cleveland Browns jumped out to a 6-0 in a sluggish first half and only added onto that lead in the 3rd quarter. With Cleveland leading 12-0, things only got worse for New England as Rob Gronkowski was knocked out of the game after a 21 yard completion.

The Patriots got on the board thanks to a short FG from Gostkowski to make it 12-3 but Cleveland would jump out to a 19-3 lead late in the 3rd thanks to an 80 yard TD reception from Jason Campbell to WR Josh Gordon. With less than 1:20 to go in the 3rd, New England got great field position thanks to a 28 yard return from Josh Boyce. Brady then connected with Shane Vereen twice for gains of 50 and 16 yards, respectively- giving New England the ball on the Browns 6. Vereen then punched it in for the TD and Brady successfully connected with Edelman for a 2 point conversion to make it 19-11 to close out the 3rd quarter.

After a drive that took nearly 6 minutes, the Patriots once again got on the board but had to settle for a Gostkowski FG from the 50 after Brady was flagged for intentional grounding and then sacked inside the Brown's 30 yard line.

The Browns responded with a drive of nearly 3 minutes that started out on their own 13 but ate up huge chunks of yardage before Campbell connected with TE Jordan Cameron from the New England 4 yard line for the TD. This put the Patriots in a 26-14 hole with a mere 2:39 to go in regulation.

At this point, most fans would've changed the channel of started walking out of the stadium. With just over two and a half minutes to go and the Patriots pinned back on their own 10 yard line, even if the Patriots could get another TD, they'd still be down 26-21 with (in all likelihood) less than a minute to go. And that was assuming the Patriots COULD get a quick score out of Brady and the offense.

Alternating between Vereen and Julian Edelman, Brady and each receiver was able to take advantage of the sideline while getting chunks of yardage against the Browns' defense, getting the ball as far as the Cleveland 2 before Brady connected with Edelman to hit paydirt on 3rd and goal and made it a 21-26 game. Moreover, a penalty was assessed against the Browns on the Edelman TD pass that would be enforced from the kickoff.

If you were still watching, you had to wonder if there was anything else New England could do to pull off the comeback. Of course, if the onside kick from the 50 wasn't recovered it would be a moot point as all Cleveland had to do was get a first down and bleed out the clock if they recovered it.

They didn't. Gostkowski's kick didn't go the necessary 10 yards, but a Browns player was the first to touch it and Kyle Arrington recovered for New England at the Browns 41.

After a 10 yard pickup from Brady to Amendola, Brady attempted to throw to Boyce in the end zone, but the pass attempt was incomplete. Officials called Browns CB Leon McFadden for pass interference and since the infraction took place in the end zone, the ball was automatically placed on the 1 yard line. With 31 seconds to go, Brady found Amendola in the end zone to give New England their first lead of the day. The two point attempt failed, but New England was nursing a 27-26 lead with 30 seconds to go.

However, the way Campbell had been playing for the Browns on Sunday afternoon, 30 seconds might've been too much time to give the Cleveland offense. After starting out on their own 20, Campbell got Cleveland as far as the Patriots 40. With a sense of deja-vu, kicker Billy Cundiff came out for a 58 yard FG attempt with 2 seconds left in the game. There was no 'Hand of Myra' this time around as Cundiff's kick fell short of the uprights- New England barely holds on for the 27-26 win.

Tom Brady went 32-52 with an interception, 418 yards and 2 TDs while Jason Campbell went 29-44 with 391 yards and 3 TDs, but the real story was and remains the loss of Gronkowski for the rest of the season. Further examination after the game showed Gronkowski suffered from a torn ACL after the 3rd quarter hit.

A depleted Patriots team will travel down to Miami on Sunday to take on the Dolphins, who are currently 2nd in the AFC East and sitting pretty in the wild card chase as well. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 ET on Sunday from Miami and the game will be televised on CBS.
Jason Franson- AP
NHL- After last week's loss to Montreal, the Boston Bruins are on a 4 game winning streak, three of those wins coming at the start of a lengthy road trip north of the border. This includes a sweep of the province of Alberta where the Bruins bested Jarome Iginla's former team, the Calgary Flames, in the Saddledome before Iginla scored two goals for Boston against the Oilers in Boston's 4-2 win over Edmonton at Rexall Palace.

The Bruins will next take on the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday night with a scheduled start time of 10:00 ET on Saturday night. The rematch of the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup Finals will be televised on NESN and the CBC.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Nova Scotia's Christmas Tree Arrives in Boston

For the 42nd consecutive year, a Christmas Tree gifted to the City of Boston by the province of Nova Scotia has made its way to Boston Common.

After being sent off in a ceremony at the property of Mary Lou Milligan of Mill Cove, NS last month the Tree for Boston was also featured in a parade in Halifax before departing for the Bay of Fundy ferry. The 47 foot white spruce is said to be more than 50 years old. Significantly, the tractor trailer carrying the tree was escorted out of Halifax this year by runners to commemorate the dead or wounded in the Patriot's Day Boston Marathon bombing.

The Christmas Tree for Boston tradition dates back to the horrific 1917 Halifax explosion. During WWI, the Mont Blanc- a French munitions ship- collided with another vessel and caught fire. The ensuing explosion killed some 2000 people and is widely believed to be the largest man-made blast prior to the advent of the nuclear bomb. Word of the blast reached the outside world thanks to a railway telegrapher named Vince Coleman who also perished in the explosion. The blast leveled buildings within a mile and a half of the harbor, leaving many trapped under the rubble. Making matters worse, a blizzard was closing in on Halifax that night

As the injured and homeless were being evacuated, the Massachusetts Red Cross was able to muster a trainload of doctors, nurses, medicine and tents to treat the wounded. Moving through Maine and the Maritime provinces in the middle of a blizzard, the train arrived in Halifax the following morning.

As a token of their appreciation, the city of Halifax sent Boston a Christmas tree the following year. The tradition was dormant until the early 1970s when it was revived by the Lunenburg County Christmas Tree Producers Association.

Christine Hayes- Boston Globe
Like last year, the tree's journey could be followed on Facebook or Twitter or Facebook and after its arrival in Boston. The tree was lit in a December 5th ceremony on Boston Common featuring fireworks, live music and figure skaters.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Truck Carrying Radioactive Waste Stolen in Mexico

The theft of a truck outside of Mexico City that was carrying radioactive waste triggered international alarms last weeks as authorities searched for both the pilfered vehicle and it's contents.

The shipment originated from a hospital in Baja California and was destined for a waste storage facility in the state of Mexico. The materiel was identified as cobalt-60 and was used for radiation therapy at the hospital in the border city of Tijuana, across the US-Mexican border from San Diego, CA.

Of particular concern was the possibility that the stolen cobalt-60 could be used by terrorist groups to construct a 'dirty bomb'- a conventional explosive device that's capable of spreading radioactive materiel over a concentrated area.

According to local police, the 2.5 ton Volkswagen truck was stolen by armed men at a truck stop at Tepojaco on the outskirts of Mexico City last week.

Mexican Federal Police alerted the US Department of Homeland Security and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna while searching for the stolen radioactive materiel.

After a dragnet for the stolen truck and its cargo, a family discovered the stolen cobalt-60 and discarded medical equipment in a field near the rural village of Hueypoxtla north of Mexico City. The area was quickly cordoned off by Mexican troops as nuclear safety officials moved in to contain the radioactive materiel.

The material, which the International Atomic Energy Agency called "extremely dangerous," was found removed from its protective container. The pellets did not appear to have been damaged or broken up and there was no sign of contamination to the area, the agency said on Thursday, quoting Mexican nuclear safety officials.

Juan Eibenschutz, director general of the National Commission of Nuclear Safety and Safeguards, said it could take at least two days to safely get the material into a secure container and transport it to a waste site.

"It's a very delicate operation," Eibenschutz said. "What's important is that the material has been located and the place is being watched to guarantee no one gets close."

Eibenschutz said the pellets are inside an unbroken copper cylinder about 4-inches (10-centimers) long and 1.2-inches (3-centimeters) in diameter.

"What we are trying to do is put (the cobalt-60) in a receptacle that can contain its radioactivity and send it (to the nuclear waste site) to be confined," Eibenschutz said.

Alerts had been issued in six Mexican states and the capital when the cargo went missing, and also with customs officials to keep the truck from crossing the border, he said.
With police and military resources involved in combatting a bloody narco-insurgency between several Mexican-based drug cartels since 2006, some organized gangs have taken advantage of corrupt, inefficient or indifferent law enforcement by targeting trucks and freight trains and re-selling the stolen goods on a thriving black market. Between 2006 and 2010, trucking, logistics and insurance experts claim cargo thefts have increased as much as 40% annually south of the border- although more recent numbers indicate a slight decline.

Officials believe that the thieves were unaware of the radioactive cargo and were likely after the truck from a company identified as Transportes Ortiz, which had an attached crane to hoist and unload cargo. Experts from Mexico's nuclear regulatory body said that if the cargo had in fact been tampered with and the thieves exposed to the cobalt-60 without any protective gear, it was likely they could die in a matter of days [or possibly gain cool superhuman powers- NANESB!].

After the radioactive materiel was discovered, six men were taken into custody in the neighboring state of Hidalgo on suspicion of their involvement in the theft. The suspects- who range from 16 to 38 years of age- underwent tests at a hospital in Hidalgo but showed no signs of radiation poisoning.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nobel Prize Winner and Former South African President Nelson Mandela Passes Away At Age 95

Nelson Mandela, a former prisoner of South Africa's apartheid regime who would go on to become the nation's first black president passed away from a lung infection last week.

The 95 year old Mandela served as president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, campaigning as a candidate for the previously banned African National Congress party less than three years after his release from prison.

After a trial on charges of sabotage in 1963, Mandela and several other ANC accomplices were found guilty and sentenced to prison. Mandela ended up serving time at three prisons- the most infamous of which was located on Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town. By 1982, Mandela had been transferred to another prison where he was allowed to correspond with international activists. At the time, South Africa was engaged in the Border Wars or Bush Wars which pitted South Africa against communist guerillas and Cuban forces in the newly-independent former Portuguese colony of Angola. With communist insurgencies in Angola, a full fledged civil war in neighboring Mozambique and white-ruled Rhodesia falling into Robert Mugabe's iron grip and rechristened as Zimbabwe, Mandela was reportedly offered early release by the apartheid government of PW Botha if he would publicly and unconditionally renounce violence. However, Mandela refused.

By 1990, South Africa, Cuba and the Soviet Union agreed to a treaty where South West Africa would gain independence and South African troops would withdraw from what's now known as Namibia in return for Soviet and Cuban forces leaving Angola. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ANC's Soviet benefactors leaving Angola and Mozambique, ailing South African president PW Botha was replaced by FW DeKlerk. Feeling the apartheid system was unsustainable, DeKlerk ordered the release of Mandela and the legalization of all previously outlawed political parties in February 1990.

Mandela's most notable achievement as president of South Africa was overseeing the relatively peaceful transition from apartheid to a multi-party parliamentary system. In lieu of punishing officials from the previous regime, Mandela's government established what were called 'Truth & Reconciliation' committees where perpetrators of human rights violations would testify about their activities under apartheid in exchange for immunity from prosecution. This applied not only to white Afrikaners working for the apartheid government, but also senior members of Mandela's own ANC- including Mandela's ex-wife Winnie- for kidnapping and murdering blacks that they considered 'collaborators' with the Afrikaner apartheid regime [Winnie Mandela was on record for endorsing a particularly gruesome practice known as necklacing in which a tire filled with kerosene in placed around the victim and lit on fire- NANESB!].

In 1993, Mandela and his predecessor FW DeKlerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their respective roles in ending apartheid in South Africa. The peaceful transition of power in a historically violent continent such as Africa was a major accomplishment. However, many of South Africa's problems didn't simply vanish once Mandela was sworn into office.

While the institutionalized discrimination of apartheid ended with Mandela's election into the office of president, South Africa has been facing a sharp increase in violent crime, an AIDS epidemic and attacks against white farmers, immigrants and foreign workers. The situation is worsened by Mandella's ANC successors- President Thabo Mbeki has on occasion denied that AIDS or HIV is an issue in South Africa while current South African President Jacob Zuma sang a ballad called Shoot the Boer at an ANC Youth rally a few years ago, was accused of rape in 2005 and has openly praised Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe's expropriation of white farms in Zimbabwe as 'land reform'.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Today marks the 72nd anniversary of the Japanese bombing of the US Navy's Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Although the USA had been supplying England, the Soviet Union and Chang Kai-Shek's China with materiel since May of 1941 under FDR's Lend-Lease, the Japanese attack on December 7th triggered America's direct involvement in WWII.

The surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy was meant to completely knock out the Navy's Pacific fleet and although the battleships USS Arizona and USS Oklahoma were destroyed, three aircraft carriers were out at sea that fateful day- either delivering aircraft to US bases in the Pacific or out on maneuvers.

At the end of the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto- considered the architect of Japan's attack on Pearl harbor- is depicted telling his subordinates "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve" After receiving word of the successful attack on Pearl Harbor.

There is no record of Yamamoto giving this warning to colleagues or subordinates in any of Japan's official military archives, but the Admiral had openly expressed a reluctance to initiate a war with the United States. Yamamoto had spent two years studying at Harvard after the First World War and had two postings in the USA as a Naval attaché.

While his commanders believed an economically depressed USA with the horrors of the First World War still on the minds of many would mean an America reluctant to enter into armed conflict, Yamamoto knew better. A more accurate quote attributed to Yamamoto was made to a Japanese cabinet minister- In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success.

His words proved prophetic- almost seven months to the day after the Pearl Harbor attack, US forces dealt a crippling blow to Imperial Japan's naval fleet at the Battle of Midway in June 1942.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sports Chowdah Update- Rolled Tide, Auburn Stuns #1 Bama As Time Expires; Patriots Stage Texas-Sized Rally in 2nd half Against Struggling Houston;

Todd Van Emst Photo
NCAA FOOTBALL- War damn Eagle indeed.

Wow- I know I'm several days behind on this unless you've been hidden away in a Tibetan monastery for the last several weeks, but allow me to set the table anyway.

Coming into Saturday's game, the annual Auburn-Alabama Iron Bowl had implications beyond an in-house SEC rivalry. The undefeated Crimson Tide came in ranked #1 while a resurgent Auburn was ranked #4- which had all the ingredients of a compelling contest and lots of buzz about the BCS title game implications.

Fast forward to the 4th quarter- with just under a minute to go, the Auburn Tigers managed to tie the contest up at 28-28 thanks to a pass from QB Nick Marshall to receiver Sammie Coates. On their next possession, Alabama managed to get as far as the Tigers 38 yard line with just 1 second left on the clock. In an attempt to avoid OT [which they successfully managed, just not in the way the Tide envisioned- NANESB!, Alabama sent kicker Adam Griffith onto the field to try and boot a 57 yard FG. Realistically, the worst that could happen would be that Griffith would miss and the game would head to overtime.....or so Alabama head coach Nick Saban though.

Griffith's FG came up short, but Auburn CB Chris Davis was in the end zone and cleanly fielded the missed FG attempt. Words defy what happened next- so let's try some video:

It has to chafe Alabama fans knowing that if just one Tide player could've tackled Davis or nudged him out of bounds at any point during his 109-yard return, the outcome of Saturday's Iron Bowl- not to mention the SEC title game and most likely the FBS Chapmionship- could've been dramatically different.

While not exactly a stunning upset on the scale of Appalachian State-Michigan circa 2007, Auburn moves up to #3 in both the AP and USA Today rankings while Alabama slips down to #4. The Tigers win also sets up an SEC title game with......the Tigers. Auburn will take on the #5 ranked Missouri Tigers at the Georgia Dome for the 2013 SEC Championship. Missouri and Auburn both come in sporting identical 11-1 records- all the more impressive considering both teams had a lackluster 2012 season and that this is only Missouri's second season playing SEC football after jumping ship from the Big 12 after the 2011 season.

ACC FOOTBALL- A state attorney for Florida announced on Thursday that they will not be pressing charges against Florida State Seminoles QB and Heisman candidate Jameis Winston. A female FSU student accused Winston of sexually assaulting her in an off-campus apartment in Tallahassee, FL in December 2012. State prosecutors reportedly determined there was insufficient evidence against Winston to press charges.

The decision clears the way for Winston to travel with the team to Charlotte, NC to take on the #20-ranked Duke Blue Devils in the ACC title game on Saturday night. The last time the two teams played head to head was in Tallahassee during the 2012 season- the Seminoles thumped the Blue Devils by a 48-7 final. Should #1 Florida State beat Duke [and let me say how odd it is to be talking about Duke and title games outside the context of basketball- NANESB!], that pretty much punches FSU's ticket to the BCS Championship game. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 PM ET and the game will be televised on ABC.

ELSEWHERE IN THE ACC- Boston College wrapped up their regular season with a loss in the Carrier Dome to they Syracuse Orangemen- the first matchup between the former Big East rivals since Syracuse moved to that Atlantic Coast Conference. The Eagles had a 31-27 lead in the 4th quarter before Syracuse drove the ball 75 yards in just under 2 minutes for the go ahead TD to make it 34-31 Syracuse with 17 seconds left in the ballgame.

Syracuse would go on to win by a final of 34-31 and are now eligible for a bowl game in their first year of playing ACC football. As a matter of fact- in addition to Boston College, Florida State, Duke and Syracuse- seven other teams in the ACC are now bowl-eligible. It would actually be shorter to mention the list of teams NOT going to any kind of bowl [at least based on their record- NANESB!]: North Carolina State, Wake Forest and Virginia.

BIG TEN- Were it not for the wild finish in the Iron Bowl, perhaps The Game between Michigan and undefeated Ohio State would've been first and foremost in college football-centric headlines

With archrival Michigan sporting a lackluster 7-5 record, Saturday's game against undefeated Ohio State was pretty close. After Ohio State took a 42-35 lead with just over 3 minutes remaining in the Big House, the Wolverines capped a drive of just under 2 minutes with a short TD pass from QB Devin Gardner to TE Devin Funchess to make it a one point game. However, instead of opting for a game tying point after kick, the Wolverines opted to go for the potential go-ahead 2 point conversion. But the 2 point conversion failed and Ohio State managed to survive the late Michigan threat, escaping with a 42-41 win and briefly facing all sorts of questions about their worthiness as a BCS team before the Iron Bowl later that day.

ELSEWHERE IN NCAA FOOTBALL- Alabama wasn't the only undefeated team to fall over the Thanksgiving weekend. The last remaining obstacle for Fresno State out in the Mountain West and a possible BCS Bowl berth was the San Jose State Spartans on Black Friday. In a game that saw San Jose State score a late TD in the first half to cut the Bulldogs lead to 42-41....yes- you read that right. Both teams had combined for more than 80 points before the first half had concluded. However, in the second half San Jose State took the lead for good and would go on to win by the final of 62-52. So not only is Fresno State's perfect record now blemished [it should involve an asterisk, however, since their September 14th game against Colorado was cancelled due to flooding in the Boulder area- NANESB!] but so is any shot at going to a BCS Bowl game.

The Bulldogs will still face the Utah State Aggies on Saturday in the Mountain West championship game, which Fresno State will host. Kickoff is scheduled for 10:00 ET and the Aggies sport an 8-4 record heading into Saturday's contest.

Richard Wolowicz- Getty
NHL- Surprisingly, despite being two months into the season the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens had yet to meet this season heading into Thursday night's game at the Bell Centre.

Gregory Campbell got the B's on the board early to bring Boston out to an early 1-0 lead, but play was stopped after the Habs' Max Pacioretty checked Johnny Boychuk into the end boards and Boychuck was unable to get back onto his feet and had trouble breathing, prompting the medical staff to examine him before he was wheeled out of the arena.

The Habs would then score two unanswered goals in the second period, including one by Pacioretty to make it a 2-1 game- Montreal would go on to win by a 2-1 final after a scoreless 3rd period. Boychuk underwent examination at a Montreal hospital but was reportedly back with the team after the game and cleared to travel with the team back to Boston.

No word on whether or not Boychuk is cleared to play in Saturday night's home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

David J. Phillip- AP
NFL- Once again, the New England Patriots found themselves down at halftime by a significant margin and once again they were able to rally.

Granted many observers said they shouldn't have trailed the struggling Houston Texans by a 17-7 margin to begin with but in the 3rd quarter, New England scored back to back TDs to take a 21-17 lead before the Texans re-took the lead when QB Case Keenum scrambled for a 5 yard TD run to go up 24-21.

New England re-took the lead early in the 4th quarter thanks to a 7 yard TD run from LeGarrette Blount. On the next drive, Houston RB Ben Tate got his 3rd TD of the year to put the Texans back on top 31-28. However, the game would come down to not one, but two Gostkowski FG's from the 53 yard line- including what would turn out to be the game winner with 3:12 remaining.

The Patriots go on to win by a 34-31 final at Reliant stadium while the struggling Texans lose their 10th in a row. For this upcoming weekend, the Patriots will host the Cleveland Browns- the franchise that Bill Belichick got his start with in the NFL.

MLB- The Jacoby Ellsbury era in Boston has come to an end as the free-agent outfielder agreed to a 7 year, $153 million contract with the New York Yankees. The massive signing of the former Boston outfielder seemingly triggered a wave of departures of free agents from the Bronx- outfielder Curtis Granderson agreed to a 4 year, $60 million deal while free agent 2B Robinson Cano signed on to a $240 million 10 year contract with the Seattle Mariners.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Iron Horse Roundup for November/December 2013

Edwin Valero- AP

NEW YORK- At least four people were killed and 70 injured on Sunday morning when a Metro-North commuter train derailed just north of the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx.

Early reports indicate that the train was travelling at speeds in excess of 80 MPH as it headed into a curve along the Harlem river where the maximum speed limit is 30 MPH. The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation and has recovered two event recorders from the crash site. At the time, the train was operating in 'push-pull' mode where the train appears to be running backwards with the locomotive pushing from the rear and controlled by the engineer in a specially equipped enclosure in the 'trailing' car. This is fairly common practice among a number of commuter rail agencies as well as some Amtrak routes.

The NTSB was already investigating a derailment and collision between two Metro-North trains along the Northeast Corridor in Connecticut back in May as well as the crashworthiness of the Kawasaki-built passenger cars involved in the May accident. In July, a northbound CSX garbage train derailed by the Spuyten Duyvil station and snarled commuter traffic overnight. According to officials there were no problems with the condition of the tracks near the depot at the time of Sunday's derailment.

The cellphone records and blood samples of the engineer- who survived the wreck and was released from the hospital- have been taken, but no word on the results from the NTSB yet.

New Mexico State Police handout

NEW MEXICO- Three people were killed over the weekend when a freight train carrying ore derailed and the locomotive fell into a creek in southwestern New Mexico.

New Mexico State Police released the names of the three on board the Southwestern Railroad freight train which was operating between the massive Freeport McMoran open put copper mine in Santa Rita, NM and the Southwestern yards at Hurley, NM. The eight carloads of iron ore the train was hauling remained upright while the locomotive- a former Conrail GP40- landed on its side after falling roughly 50 feet into an arroyo.

Law enforcement previously reported that all three victims were men, however, one of the victims was a woman, Ann Thompson, 50, originally from Paulden, Ariz. The other two victims were Donald White, 38, of Silver City, and Steven Crose, 60, also of Paulden, Ariz.

Crose and White both worked for the railroad. Thompson was Crose's girlfriend, said Wanda Shepard, Crose's cousin. It is also unknown why Thompson was inside the locomotive at the time of the crash as she did not work for Southwestern Railroad, Shepard said. Both Thompson and Crose had recently moved to the Hurley area just three weeks ago for Crose's job.

"They loved being on the train," Shepard said of White and her cousin. "They loved it. It was their calling, and they were really proud of their jobs and what they did."

Although the train was carrying no hazardous materiel, the fire department from nearby Silver City, NM was called in to contain a diesel spill from the derailed locomotive.

A subsidiary of Western Railroad Builders, Inc, the Southwestern operates two disconnected lines in southern New Mexico. In 1990, the railroad purchased a cluster of former Santa Fe lines radiating out of Whitewater, NM to copper mines in Tyrone and Santa Rita in Grant County, NM. By 1994, the line from Whitewater to the then-Southern Pacific interchange in Demming, NM was purchased from the Santa Fe and by 2002, Western Railroad Builders agreed to a lease with BNSF for the line between Demming and Hatch, NM. To the east, the Southwest began operations on more than 200 miles of former BNSF trackage between Clovis and Carlsbad, NM when they entered into a lease agreement with the BNSF in 2004.

Western Railroad builders also operates the 250+ mile Cimarron Valley Railroad in Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado as well as the 40-mile Arizona Central out of Clarkdale, AZ.

ALBERTA- The Canadian National Railway suffered two derailments in the province of Alberta in the span of a few weeks, one of them prompting the evacuation of a nearby town.

On October 19th, a Canadian National train hauling oil and LPG derailed near the village of Gainsford, AB west of Edmonton at approximately 1 AM local time. Witnesses reported hearing a loud series of crashes before seeing a fireball shoot up into the sky. After evacuating nearby residents and shutting down the Yellowhead Highway which runs parallel to the CN line, emergency crews decided the safest option would be to allow the fire to burn itself out.

In the early morning hours of Nov 3rd, a second Canadian Nation freight train derailed outside the hamlet of Peers, AB- also west of Edmonton. That train was determined to be carrying lumber and sulphur Dioxide, a hazardous material but not as volatile as oil or LPG.

Geoff Hammill- Pocahontas Times
WEST VIRGINIA- At least one person was killed and 42 others were injured when a logging truck slammed into a Durbin and Greenbrier Valley excursion train at a grade crossing in the remote eastern part of the state.

According to the Randolph County Sheriff's Office, the driver of the log truck was the sole fatality of the collision and when they arrived on the scene, the gates and flashing lights on the crossing were functioning.
Randolph County Sheriff Mark Brady said two of the train’s passenger cars flipped on their sides after impact at a rail crossing with a mountain highway, the log truck was rendered a “total loss” and the truck driver was pronounced dead at the scene.

The truck driver was not immediately identified and news photographs from the scene at West Virginia’s Cheat Mountain showed large, heavy logs jumbled beside the two toppled train cars amid a chaotic scene of first responders aiding shaken passengers leaving the train.

Brady said the accident occurred at a train crossing on U.S. Route 250 at a bridge on the mountain. The overturned passenger cars lay beside the tracks, roped off with yellow crime scene tape as police, firefighters and others looked on.
Headquartered in Elkins, WV the West Virginia Central railroad operates more than 130 miles of former Western Maryland trackage in the eastern part of the state. Although it does intermittently haul freight, excursion trains such as the New Tygart Flyer, Durbin Rocket and Cheat Mountain Salamander have proven big draws for the line. Future plans for the line include re-opening a connection with the Cass Scenic Railway, a former logging railroad now a state park and tourist hauler as well as establishing a permanent home for the West Virginia Railroad Museum in Randolph County along the WVCR right-of-way.