Friday, May 30, 2014

Home Cookin' Sports Chowdah Update- Home of the Braves, No Hospitality as Atlanta's NL Club Gets Back to Its Beantown Roots; Beckett Notches First Career No-No, Shuts out Phils

RED SOX- Somebody break up the Red Sox! Of course, if I said that a week ago it would've sounded like some sort of plea to invoke the mercy rule when they looked to be matching or beating the record for consecutive regular season games lost by a defending World Series champion with that disastrous series against Tampa Bay [Not to mention the homestand against Toronto and Detroit- NANESB!].

Although it didn't look that way at first, things started to turn around with Monday afternoon's game at Turner Field when the Red Sox rallied from a 6-1 deficit to tie the game at 6-6 before a rainstorm moved in and caused an hour-long delay. After the delay, the Red Sox got two more runs and the bullpen persevered to make it an 8-6 final- their first win since May 14th.

The following night in Atlanta, Boston made it two in a row after scoring four unanswered runs in the top of the 7th, rallying from a 3-2 hole to go on and win by a 6-3 final.

Wednesday night saw the series shift to Boston- the original home of the Braves until 1953- and the games opened up with a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the 2004 World Series team with alumni on field [with the notable exception of Big Papi- the only member of the 2004 'idiots' still on the Red Sox roster- NANESB!]. This included a ceremonial first pitch from Manny Ramirez that was cut off by fellow outfielder Johnny Damon in an impromptu recreation of one of the more infamous "Manny being Manny" moments during his time with the Red Sox

It gets better for Red Sox nation, though. After the ceremonial first pitch, Lackey and the Red Sox bullpen hurled a gem with Lackey, Tazawa, Capuano and Breslow shutting out the Braves by a 4-0 final and capping their 3rd straight win.

On Thursday night at Fenway, the Braves jumped out to an early lead with a Jason Heyward solo homer in the 3rd and an RBI single from Evan Gattis to make it 2-0. In the bottom of the 5th the Red Sox got on the board with an RBI double to make it 2-1, but Atlanta added to their lead with a booming Freddie Freeman RBI double that barely stayed in the park to put Atlanta up 3-1.

In the bottom of the 8th, Brock Holt led off the inning with a single to shallow left off of David Carpenter and advanced to second on a fielding error by Justin Upton. This was followed by a Xander Bogaerts single that plated Holt to make it a 1-run game. Dustin Pedroia would then single to put Bogaerts in scoring position with nobody out. Bogaerts then came home on a Pierzynski single to tie the game up at 3-3.

Carpenter got Gomes to strike out for the first out of the bottom of the 8th before Luis Avilan came out of the Braves pen to strike out Grady Sizemore and intentionally walk Big Papi. Craig Kimbrel then came out of the Atlanta pen to get David Ross to strike out and end the threat, but the damage had been done.

After Uehara came on in relief of starter Jake Peavy, Ryan Doumit led off the inning with a single followed by a Tommy LaStella sac bunt to move pinch-runner Jordan Schafer over to second. With Schafer in scoring position, Uehara got Andrelton Simmons to ground out and Jason Heyward to strike out and end the Braves threat in the top of the 9th.

In the bottom of the 9th, Jackie Bradley Jr and Brock Holt led off with walks, putting runners in scoring position right away and with nobody out. On Kimbrel's 15th pitch of the inning, Xander Bogarts hit into what initially looked like a double play- or at least a routine groundout- to 3rd, but Braves 3B Chris Johnson's throw to second was low and dribbled past Tommy LaStella.

An alert Jackie Bradley Jr bolted for home and Lastella's throw was wide of the plate, giving the Red Sox a walkoff 4-3 win in the bottom of the 9th to complete the home-and-away series sweep against Atlanta.

While winning four straight against a club like the Atlanta Braves is always good, the Red Sox need to improve their record within the AL East and they'll have a chance to do exactly that when they host the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night. David Price [4-4; 4.42 ERA] is scheduled to get the start against Brandon Workman, who was recently called up from Triple-A Pawtucket. In seven starts against the International League this season, Workman has a 3-1 record with a 5.12 ERA.

The game will be televised on NESN with first pitch scheduled for 7:10 ET.

ELSEWHERE IN MLB- Former Red Sox starter Josh Beckett has pitched the first no-hitter of the 2014 season last weekend as the Dodgers blanked the Phillies 6-0 on Sunday. This also marks the first no-hitter in Beckett's distinguished career and the first no-hitter for the Dodgers since 1996. Although Beckett's no-no was the first of 2014, the last MLB no-hitter actually took place on the final day of the 2013 regular season when Marlins [another one of Beckett's former clubs- NANESB] starter Henderson Alvarez threw a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers.

Beckett, a 1999 1st round draft pick by the Marlins, made his MLB debut for Florida in 2001 and won his first World Series in 2003, besting the Yankees in six games. In 2006, Beckett and then-teammate Mike Lowell were traded to Boston and Beckett won a World Series title with the Red Sox in 2007 after Boston swept the Colorado Rockies in four games.

During the colossal trainwreck that was the 2012 season, an underperforming Beckett was traded to Los Angeles along with outfielder Carl Crawford and 1B Adrian Gonzalez for infielder James Loney in the biggest post-deadline transaction in MLB history. Although the Red Sox had to pay the salaries of the traded players for the remainder of the 2012 season, the move freed up nearly $250 million in salary for the Red Sox.

Beckett's pitch total

Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki Steps Down Over Ongoing VA Scandal

A day after an internal nationwide audit of Veteran's Affairs facilities presented to President Obama showed widespread dysfunction and putting injured veterans on clandestine waiting lists to mask length wait times, VA secretary Eric Shinseki announced his resignation on Friday.

The president announced that Shinseki would resign after they met at the White House and he received an update on an internal review of the problems at the VA. The review showed the problems were not limited to just a few facilities, Obama said, adding: "It's totally unacceptable. Our veterans deserve the best."

On the heels of those and other findings, Obama said, "Secretary Shinseki offered me his own resignation -- with considerable regret, I accepted."

He said Shinseki told him he did not want to be a distraction. "I agree," Obama said. "We don't have time for distractions. We need to fix the problem."

The president had faced mounting calls from members of both parties to remove Shinseki; those calls accelerated after a damning inspector general report on Wednesday. Shinseki suffered another blow on Friday when Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a former top VA official, called for her former boss' resignation.

Shinseki's departure is likely to calm the political storm, but only briefly. Congressional critics of VA leadership voiced support for the decision on Friday, but urged the administration to quickly get to the root of the problems with VA workers lying about patient wait times.

As recently as a month ago, press reports of systematic problems at the Phoenix, AZ VA center began circulating and it seemed as though the Obama administration wouldn't part ways Shinseki, who was appointed in January 2009. Despite calls from the American Legion and both Democrat and Republican members of Congress, Senate Veteran's Affairs secretary Bernie Sanders [Socialist- Vermont] blamed the mounting pressure for Shinseki to step down on industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch and said in an interview that he hoped Shinseki would remain as the VA secretary.

The findings of the VA's internal audit indicated that employees had been instructed to intentionally misrepresent wait periods for veterans and that the desired 14-day maximum waiting time for appointments was untenable.

In late April, CNN aired an interview with a whistleblower from the Phoenix, AZ VA Medical Center who claimed that some patients were put on waiting lists for appointments with the intent of delaying any substantive medical care until those patients had died- some waiting more then 20 months for care. The whistleblower said that at least 40 had died as the staff manipulated reports on waiting times to make them look more efficient.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Six Murdered in Santa Barbara, CA Killing Spree

At least six people were killed after the 22 year old son of a Hollywood assistant director fatally stabbed his roommates before getting in his BMW and shooting at pedestrians and into storefronts in the early morning hours on Saturday. Santa Barbra Police responded and exchanged gunfire- during the pursuit, the gunman's Beemer reportedly hit a bicyclist before crashing into a parked car. The killer- who was identified later that day as Elliot Rodgers- then turned the gun on himself shortly after crashing the car.

Officials in Santa Barbara say that the death toll on Friday was six- three stabbed by Rodgers and three shot during his rampage- with 13 injured by gunfire or getting mowed down by Rodger's speeding car.

Elliot Rodgers, the son of The Hunger Games assistant director Peter Rodgers, left behind an online video and lengthy manifesto in which he railed against women- particularly blondes which he claimed he was entitled to date. Two of the victims were identified as women who attended University of California Santa Barbara- 22 year old Katherine Cooper and 19 year old Veronika Weiss. Even before the online videos and manifestos were known, angry loner Rodgers engaged in belligerent and erratic behavior at off-campus parties, including trying to shove partygoers off a ledge and throwing a cup of coffee on a couple outside a coffee shop. The spoiled, misogynist loner was reportedly rewarded with a broken ankle for his trouble and lost his Gucci sunglasses after one altercation at an off-campus party. According to his own writings, spoiled misogynist loner then stumbled around banging on the door of another house demanding they give him back his sunglasses- only to start a fight with the occupants of that house.

Despite California having some of the strictest gun laws in the USA, Rodgers legally obtained his firearms after passing a background check. At the urging of some of his relatives, police in Santa Barbara conducted a welfare check on Rodgers at the end of April but found nothing out of the ordinary. In one of his videos, the killer claimed he nearly panicked that authorities would discover his planned rampage and convinced the deputies on his doorstep that it was all a misunderstanding. Elliot then reportedly mailed his manifesto to his family and therapists just hours before he started his rampage.

Other victims from Saturday's killing spree include Weihan Wang, Chen Yuang Hong, George Chen and Chris Michael Martinez.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Quickie Sports Chowdah Update- Southern Comfort, Red Sox Snap 10-game Losing Streak; Drew Calling- Red Sox and SS Steven Drew Agree to 1-Year Deal

RED SOX- To say it's been an inauspicious month of May for the defending World Series champions would be understating things considerably.

The Red Sox came into Monday afternoon's game poised to match a dubious record among defending World Series champions. Having not won a game since the May 14th game at Target Field against the Twins, Boston came into this week's interleague series against their (former) cross-town rival Braves after being swept by the Tigers and Blue Jays at home last week and the Rays down in Tropicana Field over the weekend.

The losing streak was the longest since an 11-game losing streak in 1994 and threatened to match a record for longest losing streak by a defending World Series champion since the 1998 Florida Marlins, who had two separate 11-game losing streaks.

Early in Monday's game at Atlanta's Turner Field, it looked as though that record would be tied. Despite Boston jumping out to an early 1-0 lead thanks to a Jackie Bradley Jr sac fly in the top of the 3rd, Atlanta would get their first lead of the day by way of a Justin Upton 2-RBI single after Boston starter walked Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. With two gone in the bottom of the 3rd Gerald Laird hit a ground ball that hit Buchholz in the feet and changed direction, with Justin Upton coming home to score and make it a 3-1 game.

In the bottom of the 4th, Jason Heyward led off with a walk and went from first to third on a BJ Upton double to deep left. Buchholz would then walk Freeman and get yanked by Farrell with Burke Badenhop coming out of the pen. Two of the runners Badenhop inherited from Buchholz came home on base hits by Andrelton Simmons and Justin Upton, giving Atlanta a 6-1 lead an putting Boston well on its way to a record-tying 11th straight loss- or so it seemed.

In the top of the 5th, starter Ervin Santana led off the inning by getting Grady Sizemore to ground out and JBJ to strike out. With two away, Daniel Nava came on to pinch hit for Badenhop. Nava then moved to 3rd on a Brock Holt double before Santana walked Bogaerts to load up the bases. Santana then got ahead of Pedroia with two strikes and no balls. Just one strike or groundout away from ending the Red Sox rally, Pedroia got under Santana's 0-2 offering and rifled it into center field where bounced before Upton, bringing Nava and Holt home to cut the Braves lead in half.

Even worse for Santana was the fact that he had to face Big Papi with runners on base. With storm clouds moving in, Big Papi made Santana pay by taking his 91st pitch of the game and depositing it in the seats in center left field.

The crowd erupted as Big Papi's blast tied the game [Honestly, I'm not surprised that Red Sox Nation was at Turner Field- I'm just a little shocked at the numbers- NANESB!] and none too soon. With the game tied at 6-6, the game entered a rain delay of more than an hour in the bottom of the 6th.

After the delay, Mujica came out of the bullpen in relief of Capuano and led off by walking Justin Upton- however, that threat was ended when Chris Johnson hit into a double play and Andrelton Simmons grounded out to first to end the Atlanta half of the frame.

In the top of the 7th, Ian Thomas came out of the Braves pen and got Ryan Lavarnway to ground out, but Brock Holt singled, followed by walks to Bogaerts and Pedroia...once again bringing Big Papi to the plate with runners in scoring position. Ortiz got a hold of one, but not enough for it to leave the park. Instead, the Red Sox re-took the lead as Holt came home on the Big Papi sac fly to make it 7-6 Boston. AJ Pierzynski's bat didn't die in vain as he hit a broken-bat RBI single to bring home Bogaerts.

Tazawa, Miller and Uehara would come out of the bullpen and successfully kept the Braves off the board. Despite Buchholz giving up a career worst 8 walks and getting pulled early, the Red Sox go on to win by an 8-6 final and avoid the dubious distinction of being the third-ever defending World Series champions to lose 11 straight games. Mujica was credited with the win while Ian Thomas was hung with the loss.

Game two of the Atlanta portion of the series gets underway at 7:05 ET tonight and will be televised on ESPN. Jon Lester [4-6; 3.36 ERA] will go up against Atlanta's Aaron Harang [4-4; 3.32 ERA] as the Red Sox look to build their win streak to two.

OTHER RED SOX NEWS- The Red Sox and free agent shortstop Steven Drew agreed to a 1-year $10 million contract last week. Drew- the younger brother of former Dodgers, Cardinals and Red Sox outfielder JD Drew- hasn't seen any MLB playing time since the 2013 World Series. In the offseason, the Red Sox offered Drew $14 million, but the shortstop declined and put himself on the market as a free agent. However, through Spring Training and beyond, there were no takers.

The agreement comes as Drew's teammates from the defending World Series champion Red Sox have been going on the DL on after another. Shortly before the signing, 3B Will Middlebrooks went on the 15 day DL with a fractured right finger. Barely two days after the Drew signing was announced, Victorino went on the DL with a strained hamstring while 1B Mike Napoli had issues with his left ring finger.

Shortly after signing the abridged deal with the Red Sox, Drew was sent down to Boston's single-A South Atlantic League affiliate, the Greenville Drive. In his two game stint with Greenville, Drew went 2 for 5 with a run scored and no RBIs. Drew is expected to play for Pawtucket next and the earliest possible return for Drew to the majors is June 2nd.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Field of Flags- Massachusetts Volunteers Mark Memorial Day By Planting 37,000 Flags on Boston Common

For the 5th straight year, the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund honored Bay State veterans by planting nearly 37,000 flags on a gentle slope adjacent to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Boston Common. The number represents every service member from the Commonwealth who was killed in action- ranging from Lexington to today's War on Terrorism.

Volunteers are scheduled to tend to the field throughout the weekend and answer any questions visitors may have. According to the MMHF, the slots for volunteers tending to the Boston Common flag garden filled quickly. The thousands of flags served as a backdrop for a weekend ceremony honoring the 205 individuals from Massachusetts that were killed in the line of duty since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund was established in 2009 as a means to support family members of post 9/11 servicemen and women with ties to Massachusetts who died in combat. According to the Boston Globe the rippling sea of red, white and blue in the shadow of the Soldiers and Sailor's Monument has drawn visitors from Gold Star families throughout New England.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Death Toll Rises From Terrorist Attack on Market in Western China

China's state-run Xinhua news agency reports that at least 31 people were killed after attackers in SUV's plowed through a crowded marketplace and threw home-made explosives at pedestrians in the western city of Urumqi this week. At least one of the vehicles crashed and exploded, according to witnesses.

Early reports put the death toll at 31, but that number may have risen to 43. The attack took place around 8 AM local time on Thursday, shortly after senior citizens were finishing their morning exercises and shopping or having breakfast near the marketplace.

"We were about to pay for vegetables, when all of a sudden this car came from behind and knocked us over and then it exploded," said 50-year-old Zhou Ping, interviewed at an Urumqi hospital Thursday night. "When I got up, I was covered in vegetables and dirt and blood."

"Two minutes later, another car came that went farther down the road and exploded too, like they wanted to commit suicide. I was in complete shock," said Zhou. She escaped serious injury but her sister was badly wounded with gashes to the eyes, legs and back.

Wu Gang, 54, an ambulance driver who lives in the neighborhood and was off-duty on Thursday, said there were multiple explosions.

"We heard these bangs, one after another. It sounded like fireworks or maybe construction, but then we heard the sirens and knew it was an attack," said Wu.

Witnesses said the attackers had to have known the city fairly well to strike when the area around the market was as crowded as it was and that one of the vehicles was reportedly flying a flag bearing Uighur script.

The attacks come about a month after the Urumqi train station was attacked by bomb and knife-wielding assailants, killing three in an attack that coincided with a visit to the region by Chinese president Xi Jinpeng.

Authorities are blaming the uptick in violence on Islamic separatist groups that want to weaken Beijing's grip on the traditionally Turkic region of Xinjiang. Shortly after the attack, the Turkestan Islamic Party reportedly sent out an unverified claim of responsibility.

In March, 33 people were killed when machete-wielding assailants hacked passengers and vendors in the south-western Chinese city of Kunming. China's state-run media has tight control over the details of sensitive information such as the terror attacks in both Kunming and Urumqi. However, outside observers believe the Uighurs and separatist Turkestan Islamic Party have shifted tactics from hit and run attacks on Chinese authorities to targeting civilians in both Xinjiang and further afield.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Another VA Whistleblower Comes Forward- This Time in Florida

As more and more VA Centers throughout the country find themselves coming under scrutiny for mismanagement and intentionally delaying and withholding treatment from veterans, another whistleblower has come forward.

A detective in the VA's police department [yes- the VA has its own police department- NANESB!] has come forward with allegations of abuse and drug dealing on the grounds of the Miami Veterans Affairs center.

Fiore, a criminal investigator for the VA police department in South Florida, contacted CBS4 News hoping to shed light on what he considers a culture of cover-ups and bureaucratic neglect. Among his charges: Drug dealing on the hospital grounds is a daily occurrence.

“Anything from your standard prescription drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, and of course marijuana, cocaine, heroin, I’ve come across them all,” he explained.

Even inside the hospital, he says he was stopped from doing his job – investigating reports of missing drugs from the VA pharmacy. When the amount of a particular drug inside the pharmacy doesn’t match the amount that the pharmacy is supposed to have, a report, known as a “discrepancy report” is generated. Normally it was his job to investigate the reports to determine if they were the result of harmless mistakes or criminal activity. But all that changed, he said, about two years ago.

“I was instructed that I was to stop conducting investigations pertaining to controlled substance discrepancies,” he recalled.

He said he was personally told to stop investigating them by the hospital’s chief of staff, Dr. Vincent DeGennaro.

“I have no idea why,” he said. “He’s the chief of staff he doesn’t have to tell me why.”

Referring to drug dealing on the hospital grounds, Fiore said, “It’s been a problem for a while, for a very long while.” But administrators refuse to address it.

Fiore said the dealing usually takes place near the front entrance to the hospital, where patients and other gather to smoke. Patients will sometimes sell portions of the prescriptions they just filled. Other individuals will bring illegal drugs onto the grounds to sell. He said he has seen individuals in the drug treatment program time their smoke breaks so they can do downstairs and meet their dealers.

The VA police, who are all sworn federal law enforcement officers, can do little to stop it. The handful of VA police officers who patrol the hospital grounds are easy to spot since they are always in uniform and are well-known to patients.

“The patients know us, they see us every day,” Fiore said. “So I had brought up a plan to bring in somebody from a different facility where these patients don’t know them and basically go undercover into this [drug rehab] program or into this area at least and try to give us some good leads, so we can try to eliminate or reduce the amount of drugs that are coming in there.”

He said it wasn’t simply a matter of trying to make arrests. He said his goal was “to protect the patients.”

Fiore said he even found someone with undercover experience who was ready to do it. He said he presented his plans to his superiors, but never heard back from them.

“I’m still waiting,” he said. “And it’s been a couple of years now.”

Fiore said another reason drug dealing became a problem was the lack of working surveillance cameras inside and around the hospital. The lack of security cameras was an issue the Inspector General raised in its report earlier this year into Cutter’s death. They said the cameras had not been working for at least six months prior to Cutter’s overdose.

In fact, Fiore said, the cameras have not worked for at least four years. In 2010 he was assigned the responsibility of conducting a “vulnerability assessment” of the VA facilities in South Florida. He noted the problem with the cameras back then. As a result of his report, he said the Miami VA was allocated money to improve security. He said he believes the amount was somewhere between $2.5 million and $3.5 million.

But he doesn’t know what happened to the money.

“I can tell you it wasn’t spent on cameras or any of the other recommendations that were made in that assessment,” he said, “because they still have yet to be corrected.”

Fiore said that he's also seen marks and bruises on elderly patients in the VA Center that are consistent with abuse- something he claims the hospital prefers to deal with administratively rather than as a criminal matter. There is also the matter of theft of items ranging from computers to medical equipment inside the facility.

A four year veteran of the Marine Corps, Fiore reportedly came forward after the recent death of one of the VA Center's patients- a 27 year old Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran named Nicholas Cutter who was being treated at the VA drug rehab center. Cutter died from a cocaine overdose inside the center, but Fiore wasn't told about the circumstances behind Cutter's death until two days after the fact. Fiore said that although drug overdoses are to be investigated as a criminal matter, materiel from Cutter's room had already been cleaned out despite the fact that it was supposed to be treated as a crime scene.

Meanwhile, President Obama gave a terse press conference from the White House this week in which he claimed he didn't know about the myriad VA Scandals until reading media reports about it this month. Obama then expressed outrage before defending VA Secretary Shinseki's tenure and flying off to a $35,000 per plate fundraiser for Senator Dick Durbin on Friday.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Thai Army Seizes Power in Coup, Arrests Former Prime Minister

The commander of Thailand's military has ousted Thailand's civilian government in Bangkok in the midst or months-long demonstrations between 'redshirt' supporters of the caretaker government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and antigovernment factions. In a televised statement, Thai Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said he had taken power because of a months-long impasse between the government and opposition demonstrators and also due to "the violence in Bangkok and many parts of the country that resulted in loss of innocent lives and property, [which] was likely to escalate""

The military also announced that the 2007 Constitution would be suspended, except for the chapter pertaining to the Thai monarchy. General Chan-ocha is described as pro-monarchy and served in the Queen's Guards Regiment and was involved in a 2006 coup that toppled the government of then PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who is the brother of the Yingluck Shinawatra.

With the coup announcement, the Thai Army also announced that they are imposing martial law and a nationwide 10 PM to 5 AM Curfew. In Bangkok, the Army took PM Shinawatra and her cabinet into custody and moved to disperse pro-government 'redshirt' encampments as well as antigovernment demonstrations.

In late 2013, PM Shinawatra dissolved the House of Representatives and called for general elections on Feb 2nd. However, the elections could not take place that day due to widespread protests. Thailand's Constitutional Court then revoked the elections in March and earlier this month had unanimously voted to remove Yingluck and some of her ministers from office.

Yingluck Shinawatra's Pheu Thai party won more than half the seats for the House of Representatives of Thailand in 2011, making her Thailand's first female prime minister and also its youngest at age 43. Both Yingluck and Thaksin enjoyed heavy support from the predominantly rural north, although wealthy and middle class Thais from around the capital often dismiss them and their Pheu Thai colleagues as backwards and corrupt.

The Thai Army has staged at least a dozen coups since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Navajo Code Talker Tom Jones Jr Passes Away at Age 89

World War II veteran and member of the famed Navajo Code Talkers Tom Jones passed away at age 89 at a medical center in northwestern New Mexico last week. Jones, who worked in the Navajo Mines after his military service, was suffering from pneumonia and admitted to the San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, NM.

Jones enlisted in November 1943 and was honorably discharged in December 1945 after training in California with other members of the Navajo tribe and serving in the Pacific theater. Throughout World War II, the Code Talkers confounded Japanese code-breakers primarily by sending out military communications in their native tongue. The Navajo language was spoken and understood by very few in the United States outside of the Four Corners region of Arizona and New Mexico, let alone anyone working on behalf of the Axis powers.

The Navajo Code Talker program was credited with maintaining secure lines of communication during the most pivotal battles of the Pacific theater. After the war, an estimated 200 Navajo Marines were sworn to secrecy over the Code Talker program to maintain secrecy- likely because the military thought such a program could see continued use during the Cold War with the Soviets. However, in the early 1970s the Code Talker program was eventually declassified and many of the Navajo veterans belatedly received recognition in the 1990s and 2000s for their efforts and unique contribution to the war effort.

The Navajo nation ordered flags flown at half mast in honor of Jones and his family released the following statement.

"Our father was a private, humble, simple, caring and giving father, grandfather, brother, friend and comrade. His heart was caring, his mind was strict, his life was blessed and his soul was graceful"

Although the Navajo tribe donated a house to Jones and other Code Talkers some 40 years ago, the home fell into disrepair and parts of it became nearly inaccessible when Jones was confined to a wheelchair.

More recently, Jones and other Code Talkers were featured in a March 2014 Los Angeles Times article that highlighted the difficult living conditions for some Navajo veterans who still live on the reservation.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Today's Train of Thought- A Tangled Webb, May 20, 2014

Today's Train of thought takes us to the Sooner State and one of WATCO's earlier ventures in the shortline business- the 275-mile Stillwater Central.

As a state, Oklahoma is cris-crossed with the rails of numerous fallen flags such as Missouri Pacific, Katy, Santa Fe, Rock Island and the Frisco. With each line's bankruptcy or absorption into a larger railway much of the trackage either abandoned outright or spun off to smaller regional or shortline railroads such as Farm Rail, Cimarron Valley, Kiamichi Railroad, Wichita, Tillman & Jackson or the Arkansas-Oklahoma railroad.

The Stillwater Central is fairly new- although it's fairly short distance from one of WATCO's earliest shortline rail ventures, the South Kansas & Oklahoma railroad. In 1998, the state of Oklahoma owned the ex-Frisco line between Sapulpa and Midwest City, OK to Kansas-based WATCO, who formed the Stillwater Central. A few years later, the WATCO outfit entered into a lease agreement with BNSF over 120 miles of track between Wheatland and Long, OK, with trackage rights into Oklahoma City proper.

Besides agricultural products, the Stillwater Central has also been kept busy with hauling oil from the Anadarko Basin and Bakken Shale handed off by the BNSF to Oklahoma terminals and refineries in recent years, pooling BNSF power in most instances. The Stillwater Central also garnered 2010 Shortline of the Year honors from BNSF.

Here, contributor SP Grabman caught Webb Asset Management (WAMX) SD50 #5112 leading a mixed bag of Helm Leasing and GATX SD40s as it heads eastbound with the Eagle turn at Lawton, OK in September 2008. By 2013, the #5112 left the property and was shipped to Larry's Truck and Electric in Ohio where it was stripped of usable parts. Currently the line is using mostly former Burlington Northern SD40-2s marked for Webb Asset management and some locomotives from other WATCO properties.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Happy Armed Forces Day From Not Another New England Sports Blog

Sgt. Javier Amador/ US Army Photo

May 17th marks Armed Forces Day, which was created 65 years ago under the Truman administration Prior to 1949, the Army, Navy and Air Force had their own seperate days honoring each branch.

While not as widely observed as Veteran's Day or Memorial Day, some municipalities do mark the occasion with parades- one of the longest running in the USA in in the western Washington Navy town of Bremerton. According to the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce, 2014 is the 65th year the the town has had an Armed Forces day parade

Friday, May 16, 2014

Multiple Wildfires Force Thousands to Evacuate in San Diego County

At least nine separate wildfires throughout northern San Diego county have forced thousands of residents in the cities of Carlsbad, Escondido, San Marcos and Fallbrook, CA as well as the 4S Ranch section of San Diego and the nearby Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base to flee their homes as firefighters battled the approaching blaze.

Most of the fires were sparked on Thursday and spread quickly due to dry vegetation, unseasonably warm weather and 50 MPH Santa Ana winds blowing in from the desert. Although firefighters have been going after the wildfires with a sustained air and ground attack, the Poinsettia fire in Carlsbad has destroyed at least 30 homes while the San Marcos fire was large enough to spawn its own weather system as it moved southeast to the neighboring city of Escondido.

Authorities have not ruled out arson and arrests have been made in Escondido and Oceanside, CA of individuals who were seen staring small brushfires in a dry riverbed and city parks. A 57 year old man in Oceanside was arrested after witnesses saw him fanning flames of a fire in the San Luis Rey riverbed while two teenagers were arrested in Escondido on Thursday after multiple witnesses saw them trying to start brush fires in a city park and by a street adjacent to a shopping mall. In Escondido, the fires were quickly doused by nearby homeowners and investigators believe the two teenagers- identified as 19 year old Isiah Silva and a 17 year old accomplice- were copycats who played no role in the larger fires in San Marcos, Carlsbad and Camp Pendleton.

The Poinsettia fire in Carlsbad has already caused one fatality- on Thursday night, firefighters checking an already-burned area for hot spots discovered the charred remains of a man in what was believed to be a transient camp in Carlsbad. A local TV station also broadcast amateur video of what they believe to be the ignition point for the Carlsbad blaze- a golf course along Poinsettia Lane.

Authorities were able to get the San Marcos fire 10% contained on Thursday night and evacuation orders were lifted for parts of San Marcos and Fallbrook overnight- although police set up a checkpoint and would only allow local residents with ID into some of the affected areas.

Meanwhile, military and civilian crews were battling to contain a 14,500 acre wildfire on USMC Camp Pendleton on Friday- although the Marine Corps base is generally wide open, evacuation orders were given to for some housing areas and the town of Fallbrook at the eastern end of Camp Pendleton.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Officials in Turkey Confirm Hundreds of Miners Killed in Coal Mine Explosion

At least 245 miners in western Turkey were killed when a transformer in a mine shaft exploded during a shift change. The death toll is expected to rise after rescuers have been continually hindered by smoke and fallen debris. It was believed that there were as many as 787 workers underground at the Soma Kömür İşletmeleri A.Ş. mine during the blast.

First responders were able to rescue some 88 workers in the minutes immediately after the blast. However, while some rescuers believe that a number of the estimated 120 miners trapped below the surface could have made it to underground 'safety chambers' carved into the mine shaft and equipped with oxygen masks, hopes for their rescue grow dimmer by the hour. Family members of some of the missing and dead were waiting outside the mine or local hospitals in Soma. Autopsies performed on two of the miners pulled from the Soma mine show that they were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning.

The mine, which was once state-owned, had been recently privatized and the CEO boasted of bringing down costs from $140 to $24 per ton since the facility was run by the state-controlled TKI Coal Mining in a 2012 interview with Turkish newspaper Hürriyet.

However, the repercussions from this disaster could be felt well beyond the western coal-producing city of Soma. As recently as the end of April, opposition members of the Turkish parliament wanted the government to look into working conditions at the mine as the facility was racked by intermittent strikes and labor stoppages during the last two years with workers claiming unsafe working conditions. The motion was blocked by members of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party.

Erdogan himself visited Soma on Wednesday and was greeted by jeers and heckling from residents of the mining town. While addressing some of the families of the miners, Erdogan stated that these types of accidents were fairly common- citing a number of 19th century mining disasters in Great Britain in his speech.

Public anger at the Prime Minister only grew further after an image of one of Erdogan's aides kicking a protestor being restrained by Turkish military police in Soma.

After his remarks, relatives of some of the dead and missing miners and angry residents of Soma reportedly forced the Prime Minister and his entourage to seek refuge in a local supermarket. Others reportedly ransacked the local headquarters of Erdogan's Justice and Development party.

Demonstrators also hung banners that read 'MURDERERS' and staged demonstrations in front of government offices in Ankara and Istanbul as police moved in with tear gas and water cannons to break up those protests.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Today's Train of Thought- Glengarry Glencoe, May 13, 2014

Today's Train of Thought takes us to the land of 10,000 Lakes (give or take) and features one of the Midwest's few remaining independent shortlines.

Originally built by the Hastings and Dakota Railway in the 1870s, the former Milwaukee Road line west of Minneapolis- also dubbed the Ortonville line. Prior to the 1977 abandonment of all Milwaukee Road lines west of Miles City, MY, the Ortonville line was a key line for the Milwaukee Road, linking the Midwest with the Pacific Northwest. However, the Ortonville line became redundant a few short years after Soo Line's 1985 takeover of the remnants of the Milwaukee Road when the Soo had a number of parallel lines.

In 1991, the Twin Cities & Western began operation on the Ortonville line with an assortment of former Santa Fe CF7s and ex Illinois Central GP10s [products of those railroads Cleburne, TX and Paducah, KY shops respectively- NANESB!]. By the mid 1990s, they began operating rebuilt Caterpillar Generation II locomotives that were operating the EMD locomotive's original chassis. With the expansion of Minnesota route 55 along the TC&W right of way and the Hiawatha light rail line, getting into the Twin Cities from the west was less than straightforward for the TC&W. Since the late 1990s, the TC&W has used a temporary connection along a bicycle trail in Hennepin County before operating over BNSF's Wayzata subdivision. While this was supposed to be a temporary arrangement, it remains in use as the TC&W and local transportation officials are at an impasse over how best to re-route TC&W trains out of the Minneapolis area.

Further west along the former Ortonville line, the logistics are far less complicated. Like many other towns throughout the upper Midwest, Glencoe, MN features a grain elevator adjacent to the railroad tracks that run through town.

Here, contributor Todd Reineccius caught TC&W GP20CAT #2004 leading another GP20CAT, a GP15CAT and a GP10 from affiliated railroad Red River Valley & Western through Glencoe, MN with a short train in July 2011.

The Ortonville line also frequently plays host to Milwaukee Road #261, who can sometimes be seen returning to 'home' rails during shakedown runs or hauling excursions with original varnish from the Milwaukee's Hiawatha- but this is first and foremost a freight railroad.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Quickie Sports Chowdah Update- Bruins Power Play Comes Out Of Hibernation, B's Take Series Lead Against Montreal; Red Sox Back to .500 After Texas Series

All in all, not a bad weekend despite the Red Sox nearly getting no-hit on Friday night.

BOSTON BRUINS- With Thursday night's game-winning goal, Matt Frasier made a little bit of history by becoming the first player to score OT goals in both the AHL's Calder Cup playoffs and the Stanley Cup playoffs in the same postseason. On April 25th, Frasier tallied the OT goal in Game 2 of the series against the Springfield Falcons [the Columbus Blue Jackets' AHL affiliate- NANESB!] and Providence would go on to win that series 3 games to two. The Providence Bruins are now knotted at 1-1 in their series against the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins ['SWB Pens or 'Baby Pens' as they're sometimes referred to- NANESB!], Pittsburgh's AHL affiliate.

Meanwhile, just up the I-95 at the Garden, Saturday's contest at the TD Garden got underway with the series knotted at 2-2. The Bruins got on the board first thanks to a goal from Carl Soderberg [who was fed by a brilliant pass from Bartkowski to Loui Eriksson behind the net- NANESB!] giving Boston the early 1-0 lead. Interestingly, despite the strong showing by the Habs power play throughout the series, Montreal was shut out in the first half, despite three opportunities that seemed poised to kill whatever momentum the Bruins had gained.

However, Montreal's Tomas Plekanec would get sent to the sin bin for goaltender interference with less than 20 seconds to go in the first. Although the Bruins had some power play opportunities of their own in the first, they went 0-3 prior to the interference call against Plekanec, which carried over into the second period. With 40 seconds to go on the power play and just 1:04 into the second, Reilly Smith put the Bruins up 2-0 with a power play goal.

Less than 30 seconds later, Plekanec would head back to the sin bin on a high-sticking penalty and Montreal would pay as Torey Krug passed to Iginla who was in front of the Montreal net all by himself and buried the puck past price to give Boston a 3-0 lead.

However, with 5:20 remaining in the second, the Habs would get on the board thanks to a Brendan Gallagher power play goal to make it a 3-1 Boston lead heading into the 2nd intermission [it easily could've been a 1-goal game if Tukka Rask didn't block a David Desharnais breakaway shot on goal with 2:40 to go in the period- NANESB!].

With the proverbial 'dreaded' two goal lead, the Bruins were able to get some insurance thanks to Loui Eriksson shooting the puck past a sprawling Carey Price with just over 5 minutes remaining in regulation to make it a 4-1 Boston lead. The Habs would get a goal back on a PK Subban power play tally with 2:30 left in regulation, but Boston goes on to win Game 5 by a 4-2 final and takes a 3-2 series lead- their first lead in this best of seven series against Montreal.

Tukka Rask stopped 29 of 31 shots faced while Montreal's Price allowed 4 goals on 30 shots faced. Montreal's two goals came on the power play where they went 2 for 5 with the mad advantage while the Bruins were no longer shutout against the Habs on the power play- they went two for 4 with both goals coming in the second.

The Bruins can close the series out tonight in Montreal. Game 6 is scheduled for 7:30 ET from the Bell Centre and the game will be televised on NBC Sports Network and the CBC.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NHL- In the other Eastern Conference semifinal matchup, the New York Rangers have managed to stave off elimination after Pittsburgh won three straight games. On Friday, New York beat Pittsburgh by a 5-1 final and on Sunday night, they managed to tie the series up at 3-3 after the Blueshirts 3-1 win over the Pens.

Out in California, the Ducks and Kings have managed to even up their I-5 series with at 2-2 with each team winning on the road. Game 5 is set for Monday night from Anaheim and will be shown on NBC sports after the conclusion of the Bruins/Habs contest. Also out west, the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks have taken a 3-2 series lead over the Minnesota Wild.

BOSTON RED SOX- After narrowly avoiding being no-hit by Texas' Yu Darvish, the Red Sox bounced back behind Lester and Lackey on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, Lester got some early run support as the Red Sox jumped out to a 6-0 lead through the first 4 innings, although the Rangers got two runs back in the bottom of the 4th thanks to a Prince Fielder sac Fly and an Alex Rios RBI triple to make it 6-2. In the bottom of the 5th, Elvas Andrus belted an RBI double off of Lester to cut the Red Sox lead in half, but in the 8th the Red Sox would get two more runs thanks to a Pedroia RBI single and a Victorino sac fly that plated Jackie Bradley Jr to make it 8-3.

In the bottom of the 8th, Tazawa came on in relief of Lester and immediately gave up a leadoff single to Andrus, but it quickly became two out and nobody on when Adrian Beltre grounded into a double play. Tazawa then got Prince Fielder to strike out looking. Burke Badenhop then came out of the Boston bullpen in the bottom of the 9th and got the first two batters he faced out before giving up a single to Leonys Martin and Rougned Odor before Andrew Miller came out of the pen to strike out Sardiñas for the final out of Saturday's game.

On Sunday, the Red Sox bats once again got their starter some early run support thanks to a Mike Napoli RBI double and a 2-RBI AJ Pierzynski single to give Boston an early 3-0 lead in Arlington on Sunday. In the 2nd inning, JBJ would come home after Shane Victorino grounded into a fielder's choice to give Boston a 4-0 edge.

Meanwhile, Lackey was cruising through the first three innings before giving up a solo homer to Shin Soo-Choo to lead off the 4th. Although Lackey got Beltre and Andrus out with no problem, Fielder and Rios would then single [Fielder reaching 3rd on Rios's single- NANESB!] but with a run 90 feet away, Lackey got Mitch Moreland to strike out and end the Rangers threat.

In the top of the 7th, the Red Sox would add to their lead with a 2-out Dustin Pedroia solo homer to make it a 5-1 Boston lead. In the bottom half of the 7th frame, Mitch Moreland hit a 1-out RBI double to make it a 5-2 game.

Miller would come on in relief of Lackey in the bottom of the 8th and start off by striking Shin Soo-Choo out before hitting Andrus with a pitch. However, Miller would get around that by striking out Beltre and getting Fielder to fly out to deep center. Koji would come on in the bottom of the 9th and get Alex Rios to ground out before striking out Mitch Moreland and Michael Choice to preserve Boston's 5-2 win.

So Boston goes into Arlington and takes two out of three from the Rangers a little over a month after hosing the Rangers at Fenway with the same outcome. This not only wraps up the season series with Texas, but brings the Red Sox over the .500 mark for the first time since the season opening series at Baltimore. Despite what some see as a lackluster start, the Red Sox are only two games behind the Orioles for the AL East lead.

The Red Sox will travel to Minnesota next to take on the Twins on Tuesday night. Felix Doubront [1-3; 5.09 ERA] is scheduled to get the start against Minnesota's Ricky Nolaso [2-3; 5.64 ERA]. First pitch is scheduled for 8:10 ET and the game will be televised on NESN.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Nigerian Islamist Group Boko Haram Abducts Hundreds of Schoolgirls, Continues Attacks On Northern Villages

At least 200 Nigerian schoolgirls in the northeastern state of Borno were abducted last month by the islamic terrorist group Boko Haram- which literally translates to 'Western Education is Sinful'. Both the mass abduction and a subsequent video in which Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau promised to sell the captive girls off into slavery released earlier this month prompted international outrage, but Nigerian officials are no closer to finding the missing girls than they were several weeks ago.

According to at least one of the kidnapped girls who was able to escape, a nighttime attack on the nearby town of Chibok preceded the mass abduction. Boko Haram gunmen dressed in military fatigues then showed up at the girls dormitory and said they were part of a Nigerian Army detachment who had been sent to evacuate them. However, after herding the girls into waiting trucks, the convoy then started moving along back roads through dense forests instead of the main highway into town. Some of the girls sensed something was amiss and were able to escape the slow-moving convoy in the dead of night and make their way to nearby villages.

Days after Shekau's video was released, Boko Haram attacked another village along the border of Cameroon. Nigerian officials say that as many as 300 people could've been killed in the attack on the village of Gamboru Ngala, but the exact toll was difficult to confirm due to the remote location of the village and the fact that Boko Haram had torched a number of shops and building.

Despite the international outcry, the mass abduction of schoolgirls [reportedly ranging in age from 11-16- NANESB!] in Borno was not the first time Boko Haram targeted schools. In 2013, Boko Haram carried out multiple raids on boarding schools in the northern part of the country, stabbing, shooting and burning alive students in the dormitories. The islamist group has also bombed churches and government installations while carrying out brazen jailbreaks of captured members.

The group has been mostly active in the northeastern states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa and has also targeted Nigerian officials elsewhere. Officially the group is a little over a decade old, but until recently their attacks were limited to hit and run attacks on Nigerian policemen and troops. After the 2009 death of Shekau's predecessor- Mohammed Yusuf- in police custody, Boko Haram intensified their attacks against both civilian and government targets. The fall of Mummar Ghdaffi's regime in Libya after the 2011 civil wae also left open the possibility that the group was arming themselves with heavy weaponry taken from the regime's armories and spirited across several unsecure borders with the aid of allied groups such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Quickie WKRP Sports Chowdah Update- Red Sox Sweep Quick Series With Cincinnati; I Want Fraier! Providence Call-Up Comes Up Big in Playoff Debut; A-OK, Oklahoma City's Durant Named NBA's MVP

NHL- Bruins rookie Matt Frasier of Red Deer, Alberta is living the dream and more importantly, the Bruins are still in the thick of it after Thursday night's game in Montreal.

With Montreal leading the series between their Original Six rivals in Boston 2 game to 1, regulation went by without a single goal given up by either Rask or Price [Rask stopped 30 in regulation while Price stopped 28 shots faced- NANESB!]. This set up overtime and an opportunity for a very unlikely hero called up from Providence.

Fraser, who arrived courtesy of last offseason's trade that sent Seguin to Dallas, had appeared in 14 games for the Bruins this season and was on the shuttle between Boston and Providence. However, recalling him from the Pruins looked like a master stroke as he buried the puck in the net behind Price just 1:17 into OT.

Frasier's goal ties the series up at 2-2 and Game 5 is set to take place from the TD Garden on Saturday, with the puck scheduled to drop at 7:00 ET and the game televised on NBC Sports and the CBC.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NHL- The Los Angeles Kings became the 5th team in North American professional sport to rally from behind an 0-3 deficit to win a postseason series last week when they won four straight games against in-state rival San Jose. The comeback was made final when Los Angeles was trailing 1-0 in the second period of Game 7 of their first round series against the Sharks, only to score five unanswered goals and go on to win by a 5-1 final on April 30th.

The win set up a first-ever postseason matchup between the Kings and their cross-town rivals Anaheim after Anaheim knocked off Dallas during a furious rally in the 6th and deciding game. Although the Kings took the first two games at Anaheim's Honda Center, the Ducks beat Los Angeles 3-2 on Thursday night to make it a 2-1 series.

Curiously, teams from Boston have been on both sides of the 'rallying down from an 0-3 deficit' scenarios- during the 2009-2010 season, the Bruins gave up four straight games to Philadelphia. More famously, the Boston Red Sox were trailing the New York Yankees by a run in the bottom of the 9th in Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series- the Yankees were three outs away from advancing to the World Series when first baseman Kevin Millar drew a leadoff walk from New York closer Mariano Rivera before Red Sox manager Terry Francona lifted Millar for pinch-runner Dave Roberts. Roberts successfully stole second base, despite Rivera and catcher Jorge Posada knowing full well Roberts was going to run on them. With a base runner now in scoring position, the Red Sox third baseman Bill Mueller then hit a game-tying RBI single. Not only did the Red Sox go on to win that game in extra innings, they would win the next three games against the Yankees and sweep the St Louis Cardinals to win the 2004 World Series. It also stands as the only time a team has come back from an 0-3 defecit to win a series in Major League Baseball. Such a scenario has never happened in the NBA, but it has happened twice in the NHL prior to the Bruins 2010 postseason collapse- in just their 3rd year of existence, the New York Islanders came from behind to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1975 and in the Original Six era, the Toronto Maple Leafs staged a similar rally against the Detroit Red Wings in the 1942 Stanley Cup final.

RED SOX- The Boston Red Sox are now a .500 team, which I guess means we can start talking pennant once again.

Of course, despite the lackluster start and shoddy record against most AL East opponents, the Red Sox were never really more than two games out of first place in the AL East [although the NL East has been ridiculously close as well- NANESB!].

Thursday night's game wrapped up a quick two game series against the Reds [they'll play two more at Cincinnati in August- NANESB!] and Cincy got on the board early thanks to a 1-out Skip Schumaker homer to give the Reds a 1-0 lead. The Red Sox rallied in the bottom of the 6th when with one away and two on, Big Papi had an RBI single to right and Napoli followed that up with an RBI double to tie the game up at 2-2.

The Reds re-took the lead in the 7th when Todd Frazier led off with a booming double to left and Brayan Pena followed up with a single. Ryan Ludwick- acting as the DH for Cincinnati- then drew a walk to load the bases and Chris Capuano came out of the bullpen in relief of starter Jake Peavy. Reds outfielder Roger Bernardina would ground out to second, but it was enough to get the go-ahead run home and give the Reds a 4-3 lead. Burke Badenhop then came on the relieve Capuano and got Chris Heisey to hit into a fielder's choice- Pena was gunned down at home plate- and Zach Cosart grounded out to end the inning.

In the bottom of the 8th, Reds reliever Manny Parra got David Ortiz to strike out before walking Napoli and Gomes came into the game as a pinch hitter for Grady Sizemore as Parra was pulled for JJ Hoover. Gomes worked a walk from Hoover before AJ Pierzynski belted a ground-rule double to bring Napoli home for the tying run. Jackie Bradley Jr was then intentionally walked so Hoover could face Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks took a 3-2 pitch and put it up the middle to bring the go-ahead run home, making it a 3-4 game. Hoover would then get pinch-hitter Mike Carp and Dustin Pedroia to strike out.

It was up to Koji Uehara in the 9th inning to preserve the Boston lead, and he got Pena, Frazier and Ludwick to strike out in order, preserving Boston's 4-3 lead for the win and the sweep of the brief 2-game interleague series. The Red Sox wrap up the homestand by winning four out of their last five games.

Thursday was a travel day- Boston will now embark on a weeklong road trip where they'll face the Rangers in Arlington, TX before heading to the Twin Cities for a 3-game series against Minnesota. Friday night's scheduled starters Clay Buchholz [2-2; 5.63 ERA] against Yu Darvish [2-1; 2.87 ERA]. First pitch is scheduled for 8:05 PM ET and the game will be televised on NESN.

NBA- What a week it's been for Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant. Less than a week after The Oklahoman dubbed him Mr Unreliable after a poor showing in their first round series against the Memphis Grizzlies, Durant garnered the NBA's Most Valuable Player honors.

In an emotional speech, Durant thanked his mother for making sure that he and his siblings would have food on the table while she would often go to bed hungry when they were growing up in Washington DC.

This is the first MVP honor for the number two draft pick in the 2007 NBA draft [Durant was drafted by a team that technically doesn't exist anymore, the Seattle Supersonics- NANESB!] but he did garner Rookie of the Year honors in 2008 and has been a 5 time All Star. This season, Durant has averaged 32 points, five assists and 7 rebounds per game.

The Thunder did end up getting past the Memphis Grizzlies in 7 games in the first round of the NBA playoffs and are currently playing the Los Angeles Clippers- that series is tied at 1 game apiece with game 3 set to take place at Friday night in LA's Staples Center.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Today's Train of Thought- And They're Off! May 8th, 2014

Today's train of thought takes us to the Bluegrass State in the leadup to the Kentucky Derby- despite the very visible presence of a steam locomotive, this shot was taken in the not too distant past.

Besides the mint juleps and Southern belles in big hats, the Kentucky Derby also brings out special excursions for the railroads that serve Louisville. CSX, Norfolk Southern, Canadian Pacific, RJ Corman Lines and Amtrak have all operated special trains for the sole purpose of shuttling VIPS to Churchill Downs [CP sold their former Milwaukee Road line to Louisville, KY to the Indiana Railroad a few years ago, and Amtrak stopped service to Kentucky's largest city in 2003, but Amtrak power still hauls a charter train from Chicago to Louisville for the Derby- NANESB!].

Here, contributor Chase Gunnoe caught RJ Corman's 2010 Kentucky Derby special steaming through West Frankfort, KY under rainy skies with a rather distinct lashup on May 1, 2010. Leading the charge is Chinese-made QJ 2-10-2 steam locomotive #2008, followed by one of RJ Corman's Railpower GenSet demonstrators and a pair of F units from My Old Kentucky Dinner Train on Corman's Bardstown line. The big Chinese QJ, which the late RJ Corman had imported from China and fired up for service on the old Louisville & Nashville 'Old Road' Line in 2008 goes by the moniker "Big Smokey"- somewhat ironic considering that the QJ is actually newer than the F-units behind it.

Corman's QJ has another 15 or so miles to go before uncoupling from the rest of the train in a siding at Christiansburg, KY. Ever since the 1990s, CSX has prohibited the operation of steam locomotives on their rails, and RJ Corman's line in Kentucky exercises trackage rights on CSX around Louisville, meaning the F units will take the passenger consist the rest of the way.

Despite the rainy and overcast weather, the Kentucky Derby went off that day and Thoroughbred Super Saver was the Derby winner.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My Old Kentucky Sports Chowdah Update- Chrome Finish, Thoroughbred California Chrome Wins 2014 Kentucks Derby; Seeing Red At Fenway- Red Sox Beat Cincinnati in 12;

HORSE RACING- Mint juleps and gorgeous southern women with big.......hats. What's not to love?

Yep- it was Kentucky Derby time this past weekend and all the assorted owners, big hats, horses, jockeys, trainers and celebs descended on Louisville's Churchill Downs [NASDAQ- CHDN] for all manner of revelry that just happened to be bookended by a horse race.

Despite taking place halfway across the country, New Englanders had a rooting interest in the 2014 as 2 year old colt Wicked Strong was among the racehorses participating.

Owned by Boston-based Centennial farms, Wicked Strong was named in honor of the post-marathon bombings 'Boston Strong' rallying cry.

According to Centennial Farms, the name 'Boston Strong' was taken, so they decided on the "wicked" prefix, which is a new England colloquialism for 'Very' or 'Extremely'. Heading into Saturday's race, Wicked Strong was tied with Danza Closest at 8:1 odds for the colt, who had won New York's Wood Memorial Stakes at the Aqueduct in Queens a few weeks prior.

However, it would be California Chrome who would win the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby going away, finishing several lengths ahead of the pack. Wicked Strong ended up finishing fourth, 5¾ lengths behind California Chrome.

Wicked Strong will reportedly skip the Preakness to focus on training for the Belmont stakes. Meanwhile, California Chrome will run in the Preakness in an attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner in horse racing since Affirmed in 1978.

RED SOX- After dropping the final game of last weeken's 3-game series against Oakland, the Red Sox were set to host the Cincinnati Reds in a 1975 World Series rematch for a quick 2-game series before heading on the road.

With the game tied at 1-1, it looked as though the Red Sox were set to chase Reds starter Homer Bailey from the mound in the bottom of the 3rd when Mike Napoli drew a bases-loaded walk and Grady Sizemore hit an RBI single. However, Bailey was able to limit the damage done and get through without coughing up any more runs- despite the Red Sox getting baserunners with a 3-1 lead.

Boston starter Felix Doubront, however, was only able to get through the first 5⅓ innings before the Red Sox had to get to the bullpen. This would come back to haunt Boston as Tazawa would allow a pair of runs to come home in the top of the 8th- a Todd Frasier RBI single that plated Joey Votto and a Ryan Ludwick sac fly that brought Brandon Phillips home to tie the contest up at 3-3.

Uehara, Andrew Miller and Craig Breslow would come out of the bullpen, and while getting some of those outs looked like they might be an adventure, the game remained tied at 3-3 heading into extras. Meanwhile, the Cincinnati relievers seemed to be pretty efficient in getting Red Sox batters out- at least until the bottom of the 12th when Logan Ondrusek came out of the bullpen and promptly gave up a leadoff single to Big Papi followed by a Mike Napoli single. The game ended when Grady Sizemore hit a wall-ball to deep left center [that was scored a single for some reason- NANESB!] that brought Big Papi home and gave the Red Sox the 4-3 win. Sizemore had the most productive night out of all the Red Sox, going 3 for 6 with two RBI- including the game-winner

The quick two game series wraps up later on Wednesday night at Fenway when Jake Peavy [1-1; 2.87 ERA] takes on Mike Leake [2-3; 3.53 ERA]. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 ET and the game will be televised on NESN.

NHL- Turns out falling behind by two goals doesn't always guarantee a 3rd quarter come-from-behind win.

On Tuesday night's game 3 of the series between Montreal and Boston, the Habs jumped out to an early 2-0 lead midway through the first with goals by Tomas Plekanec and PK Subban. In the 3rd, Dale Weise make it a 3-0 Montreal lead before Patrice Bergeron got Boston on the board with just over two minutes to go in the 2nd.

It remained a 3-1 game until late in the 3rd when Jarome Iginla scored to make it 3-2 Montreal with just over 2 minutes to go in regulation. Tukka Rask was pulled for the extra attacker, but that only translated to an empty-net goal from Lars Eller with less than 10 seconds left in the game.

Montreal goes on to win by a 4-2 final and takes a 2-1 series lead over the Bruins.

Game 4 is scheduled for Thursday night from Montreal and will be televised on NBC sports and CBC, with the puck scheduled to drop at 7:30 ET.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Cathay Pacific Flight Attendant's Union Says Uniform 'Too Sexy'

Flight attendants for Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airlines are reportedly asking the airline to go back to the drawing board with uniforms that were introduced in 2011, claiming the blouses are too short and the skirts are too tight and attract unwanted attention. According to the flight attendants union representative, the shorter blouse exposes the attendants midriff to passengers whenever she reaches up- such as doing routine tasks like assisting passengers with putting luggage in the overhead compartment.

The Flight Attendants Union (FAU) also says the skirts of the uniforms, introduced in 2011, are too tight-fitting, but says management has so far rejected its pleas for a modesty makeover.

FAU honorary secretary Michelle Choi said: "The blouse is too short and does not cover enough. Whenever a flight attendant bends down, her waistline is exposed.

"We believe the company intentionally does this to make us look a bit sexier and to let the passenger see more."

Choi said she believed the too-revealing uniforms were contributing to an apparent rise in incidents of sexual harassment of cabin crew by passengers, which she now estimates to affect each cabin crew member on one in every 10 flights.

Asked why she thought cases of sexual harassment seemed so prevalent, she said: "I think part of the reason is that we treat our passengers so well. They are spoilt in some ways.

"Some of the Marco Polo Club [frequent flier] members think they can do things to us because they are privileged and we somehow allow it. That is very bad.

"They think it is part of their privilege … Afterwards, they believe they can apologise and everything is settled."

Choi added: "When you report it to the flight manager, they always say it is the crew member's decision whether or not to call the police. They tell you, 'It's your decision. Do you want to delay the flight by calling the police?'

"That puts stress on the flight attendant and it is sad the company is not actively supporting and protecting us in cases like this … [Inflight managers] should be trained to have a stronger mindset to protect the crew."

Choi called for the company to issue specific guidelines on how to deal with instances of harassment on flights.

The FAU had passed on complaints from its members, she said, but no action had been taken to adjust the uniforms. The matter is expected to be raised during a meeting with management on May 13.

In a written response to the South China Morning Post Cathay Pacific Airlines defended the uniforms and said the 2011 overhauls were the result of feedback from flight attendants and other employees. Throughout the Hong Kong-based airline's 67 year history, there have been a total of nine uniform changes- the most recent changes had also drawn comparisons to the 'redshirts' from the 1960s TV Series Star Trek.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Not Just Phoenix- Treatment Records at Colorado VA Clinic Falsified.

An internal Veteran's Administration probe has found that workers at the Fort Collins, CO VA facility were falsifying patient treatment records to make it appear that the patients were being seen within the agency's 14-day deadline. The findings were compiled by the VA's Office of Medical Inspector and published in the Monday edition of USA Today.

Clerks at the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Fort Collins were instructed last year how to falsify appointment records so it appeared the small staff of doctors was seeing patients within the agency's goal of 14 days, according to the investigation.

Many of the 6,300 veterans treated at the outpatient clinic waited months to be seen. If the clerical staff allowed records to reflect that veterans waited longer than 14 days, they were punished by being placed on a "bad boy list," the report shows.

"Employees reported that scheduling was 'fixed,' " the findings say.

After enduring a year of criticism that the VA took too long to deliver earned compensation to disabled veterans, a new wave of attacks is building over slow medical care.

In late April, a former doctor alleged that the VA facility in Phoenix, AZ put patients on a secret list and had treatments or preventative screenings withheld to make it appear as though the staff was reducing the backlog. Although the VA denied any wrongdoing, the director of the Phoenix facility and two others were placed on leave.

Meanwhile, the head of the American Legion has called for the resignation of VA secretary Eric Shinseki in light of the recent allegations out of Arizona and Colorado. The American Legion is currently America's largest veteran's organization.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

House Speaker John Boehner Announces Select Committee on September 11, 2012 Benghazi Terrorist Attack

Speaker of the House John Boehner [R- OH 8] announced the formation of a special committee to probe the 2012 terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in eastern Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens as well as Ty Woods, Sean Smith and Glen Doherty.

Boehner said that he had held off on calling a special committee on Benghazi since he believed the House Oversight committee hearings were sufficient, even though many of the CIA and State Department documents they were given were heavily redacted. However, watchdog group Judicial Watch was able to obtain emails from White House and national security officials from the night of the attack that weren't redacted- emails that show a cabinet more concerned with protecting the President's image less than two months before the election than taking any action in response to the attack on the diplomatic compound on Benghazi.

Speaker Boehner said that in light of the emails released to Judicial Watch and the possibility of perjury by administration officials before previous hearings, he decided to form a select committee.

The Obama Administration wasn't helped any when former National Security Council aide Tommy Vietor appeared on FOX News' Special Report With Bret Baier on Thursday and flippantly dismissed questions about the attack and Obama Administration's response with a flippant "Dude, that was two years ago".

Besides coming off as a snide hipster douchebag, Vietor apparently let slip that President Obama never made it to the Situation Room that night- he left for a Las Vegas fundraiser the following day in Las Vegas.

The day before Vietor's less-than-inspiring Special Report appearance, White House press secretary Jay Carney was grilled by ABC News' Jon Karl after Carney alleged the White House emails that Judicial Watch had obtained weren't about Benghazi- Karl pointed out that they had 'Benghazi' in the subject line.

The attack came during the 2012 Presidential election, and for weeks President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blamed a spontaneous demonstration over an internet video even when it became apparent the attacks on the US Diplomatic compound in Benghazi were carried out by terrorists from Ansar-Al-Shari'a using mortars and heavy machine guns mounted on trucks while blocking off the roads around the compound nearly two hours before the attack. The date of the attacks also coincided with the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and United Flight 93 that killed nearly 3000 Americans.

While there were similar protests attributed to a YouTube video called The Innocence of Muslims elsewhere in the Middle East that night, there were no US fatalities as a result of those protests. After the attack photos began circulating of men, some of them presumably from Ansar-Al-Shari'a, dragging a dead or dying Ambassador Stevens through the street- some accounts said he was rushed to a hospital under Ansar-Al-Shari'a's control.

Officially Ambassador Stevens died of asphyxiation from smoke inhalation during the attack, however, the US State Department has not released any postmortem information detailing the nature of Ambassador Stevens' death.

Within hours of the attack, it was apparent that Ambassador Stevens and the others were killed in a well-planned assault on a US Diplomatic compound by a heavily armed Islamist group. However, then-ambassador to the UN Susan Rice made the Sunday morning talk show circuit and continued to blame the 'Innocence of Muslims' video while Hillary Clinton was standing next to the caskets of the four murdered Americans at a memorial service at Andrews AFB as she also blamed the video.

In fact, the only person who has been imprisoned over the Benghazi terrorist attacks to this date was Nakoula Basseley, an Egyptian-born Coptic Christian residing in California who made The Innocence of Muslims. Basseley had prior convictions for bank fraud and intent to manufacture methamphetamine, and was arrested less than two weeks after the Benghazi attacks by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputies since posting videos online was apparently in violation of his probation.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Quickie Sports Chowdah Update For May 3rd- Lester is More, Red Sox Starter Throws 1-Hit, 8-Inning Gem;

RED SOX- Saturday's matchup against the A's was looking good for the Red Sox early and Jon Lester was cruising through the second game of the three game series against Oakland.

In the bottom of the first, Dustin Pedroia led off with a walk followed by a Xander Bogaerts single and a walk to David Ortiz to load up the bases with nobody out. A's starter Tommy Milone then got Mike Napoli to strike out, bringing Johnny Gomes up with the bases loaded and one away. Gomes cranked the 21st pitch of the game into the monster seats for the Red Sox second grand slam in less than 24 hours and giving the Red Sox an early 4-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Lester would give up his only hit of the day- a leadoff single to outfielder Craig Gentry- to lead off the top of the 3rd, but got Josh Reddick, Nick Punto and Coco Crisp [all former Red Sox players- NANESB!] to strike out, stranding Gentry on base.

Big Papi would lead off the bottom of the 3rd with a solo homer to make it 5-0 and David Ross led off the bottom of the 4th with a homer to left field, giving the Red Sox a 6-0.

Jon Lester's day was done after throwing 8 complete innings of 1-hit baseball and striking out 15, but the top of the 9th inning was an adventure when Chris Capuano came on in relief of Lester and promptly gave up 2 runs without even recording an out to cut the A's deficit by a third. After a Jed Lowrie double and hitting Josh Donaldson with a pitch, Capuano had to be pulled for Koji Uehara. Koji then walked Yoenis Cespedes. Derek Norris hit into what looked like a sure double play with Lowrie getting thrown out at home, but David Ross threw high to Napoli and the ball went into shallow right field to bring Donaldson home and have the lead cut in half with only one away in the 9th. However, Uehara would get Alberto Callaspo to strike out for out number two and the game ended on a Brandon Moss fly ball to right field.

The Red Sox go on to win by a 6-3 final and after getting swept in a day-night doubleheader by the Rays, the Red Sox have already won this weekend's series against the team with the best record in the American league. The Red Sox look for the sweep on Sunday afternoon. Sonny Gray [4-1; 1.76 ERA] will get the start against John Lackey [4-2; 3.83 ERA]. First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 and the game will be televised on NESN.

BOSTON BRUINS- The Boston Bruins staged a late come-from-behind win against the Montreal Canadiens in the 3rd period of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Saturday afternoon.

Danny Paille put the Bruins on the board with just under 7 minutes to go in the first- the only scoring in the first. However, Montreal would tie the game up with a Mike Weaver tally just 1:10 into the second period. The Habs would then take the lead- seemingly for good thanks to back to back power play goals from Thomas Vanek- one with just two minutes to go in the second and one six and a half minutes into the third- to make it a 3-1 Montreal.

Then things got interesting.

Just after the midway mark of the third, Dougie Hamilton got the Bruins to within one. Just a little more than three minutes later Patrice Bergeron managed to tie the game up at 3-3. But the Bruins had something besides overtime on their minds as Reilly Smith put Boston back on top for the first time since the first period to give Boston a 4-3 lead with 3:30 to go in regulation. And just in case you thought a 1-goal lead wasn't safe enough for the Bruins in the final 3 minutes of regulation Milan Lucic tallied an empty netter after Carey Price was pulled with just over a minute to go, giving Boston a 5-3 lead.

Boston goes on to score four unanswered goals in just under 8 minutes to tie the series up at 1-1. Carey Price stopped 30 of 34 shots faced while Tukka Rask turned aside 25 of 28 shots faced. Despite the loss, the Habs still were more effective on the power play going 2 for 6 while the Bruins went 0 for 3.

The series will resume in Montreal on Tuesday night. Puck is scheduled to drop at 7:00 ET from Montreal and the game will be televised on the NBC Sports Network.