Thursday, July 31, 2014

Trade Deadline Sports Chowdah Update- So Long Jon, Lester, Lackey Dealt at Trade Deadline; The Price is Right

RED SOX- Never mind remaining members of the 2004 or 2007 World Series team on the Boston Roster- after the July 31st trade deadline, the 2014 iteration of the Boston Red Sox is now quite unrecognizable from last season's World Series champions.

After getting out to a 4-0 start immediately after the All Star break- including a sweep of the resurgent Kansas City Royals- the Red Sox fleetingly looked like contenders in the AL East. However, after a convincing 14-1 win against the Toronto Blue Jays last week, the Red Sox lost eight of their last nine games- all of them within the AL East. On Saturday, the Red Sox traded starter Jon Lester to San Francisco for minor league pitchers Heath Hembree and Edwin Escobar. Following that, Boston sent Felix Doubront to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later.

But the Peavy and Doubront transactions were mere appetizers to the main course for Thursday. The first big deal of the MLB non-waiver trade deadline had the Red Sox dealing ace pitcher Jon Lester and OF Jonny Gomes to the Oakland A's for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes [.256, 17 HR and 67 RBI] and Oakland's competitive balance pick in the 2015 MLB draft. The trade sends Boston's homegrown ace to Oakland as what is essentially a rental for the AL West leader's pennant run and raises questions to where Lester will end up at the end of the season when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Currently, the A's [who have a number of former Red Sox players and prospects on their roster before this transaction even took place- NANESB!] lead the AL West over the Angels by two games and have the best record in the big leagues at 66-41. Earlier in the week, there were reports that the Mariners, Pirates, Orioles and Cardinals were in talks with Boston to acquire Lester, all of them given even more credence when Lester was scratched from Wednesday night's game against the Blue Jays and Brandon Workman made the start in his place.

However, the wheeling and dealing by Cherrington wasn't done yet. After the Lester deal was announced, starter John Lackey and minor league pitcher Corey Littrell were sent to the St Louis Cardinals- their opponent in the 2004 and 2013 World Series- for right-handed starter Joe Kelly [2-2; 4.37 ERA] and outfielder Allen Craig [.237, 7 HR and 44 RBI].

Following that up, the Red Sox sent relief pitcher Andrew Miller to Baltimore in return for minor league pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez and SS Stephen Drew was sent to the Yankees in return for infielder Kelly Johnson, who is currently on the DL but is expected to play at 3rd while Bogaerts may end up moving back to shortstop.

The Miller and Drew transactions surprised me not so much that they departed, but that Cherrington was willing to trade within the division- although Johnson represents a slight upgrade offensively from Drew. With Jeter playing the rest of the season (his final season, no less) at shortstop for the Yankees, Drew is expected to play second after the Yankees after the Bronx Bombers designated 2B Brian Roberts for assignment.

Interestingly, Drew won't even have to leave Boston right away- just use the visitor's clubhouse at Fenway for this weekend's upcoming series between the Yankees and Red Sox. Game 1 gets underway on Friday night and will have former Red Sox reliever Chris Capuano [1-1; 4.30 ERA] going up against PawSox callup Anthony Ranaudo, who is making his MLB debut for Boston. Ranaudo has spent the entire 2014 season in Pawtucket and has a 12-4 record and 2.41 ERA with the PawSox. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 ET and the game will be televised on NESN as well as the MLB network in some markets.

ELSEWHERE IN MLB- Not to be outdone by the A's acquisition of Jon Lester, the Detroit Tigers acquired Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price in a 3-way deal that was announced with less than 40 minutes to go before the trade deadline.

In return for getting David Price, the Tigers sent OF Austin Jackson to Seattle and left handed pitcher Drew Smyly and minor league infielder Willy Adames to Tampa Bay. Seattle sends 2B Nick Franklin to Tampa to complete the deal.

The acquisition of Price gives Detroit no fewer than three Cy Young winners in their starting rotation with Price, Verlander and Max Scherzer. Since Price isn't a free agent until after the 2015 season, this also gives Detroit some flexibility with Scherzer, who becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Air Algerie Flight Crashes in Mali, All 118 Aboard Killed.

An Algerian airliner flying between Burkina Faso and Algeria crashed over a remote stretch of the Sahara desert on Thursday, killing all 118 on board.

At least 54 of those passengers were from France. French President Francois Hollande declared three days of mourning as soldiers from Mali and the UN have been combing the wreckage for human remains. However, conditions on the ground- even under the best of circumstance- are pretty grim. The nearest town from the crash site is Gao, which has been fought over by the Malian government, Tuareg rebels, Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists and the French Foreign Legion over the last 24 months. Both the remote location of the crash site and the fact that the nearest population center is in an unstable war zone have slowed down transportation and communications considerably.

Two flight data recorders have been recovered from the crash site and flown back to France for further examination by that country's Bureau of Investigations and Analysis- the agency responsible for investigating major air accidents.

With Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 being shot down by a surface to air missile the week before, the downing of Air Algerie Flight 5017 led to concerns that terrorism could've played a role in the downing of the aircraft. However, Algeria has ruled out terrorism in the crash and AFP has reported that the pilots had asked to turn back shortly before the crash.

The Aircraft- a McDonnel-Douglas MD80- actually belonged to Spain's Swiftair and was leased to Air Algiere earlier this year.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

DOJ to Investigate Nebraska 4th of July Parade Float Mocking President Obama

Glad to see all the other pressing issues addressing the United States have been sufficiently resolved by the Department of Justice.

A 4th of July parade float featuring a dummy and an outhouse marked Obama Presidential Library in the town of Norfolk, NE was enough to involve the DOJ's Community Service Relations team after some residents and Cornhusker state political operatives complained that the display was racist.

The department sent a member of its Community Relations Service team, which gets involved in discrimination disputes, to a Thursday meeting about the issue. Also at the meeting were the NAACP, the Norfolk mayor and The Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

The Odd Fellows organized the parade. One of the floats included a zombie-like mannequin standing near an outhouse labeled “Obama Presidential Library.”

The float’s creator, Dale Remmich, has said the mannequin depicted himself, not President Barack Obama. He said he is upset with the president’s handling of the Veterans Affairs Department.

The man behind the float is rural Madison county, NE resident Dale Remmich, said that the zombie-like mannequin on the float is actually supposed to represent himself. Remmich used his own bib overalls and a walker and the mannequin is posed in a manner similar to Edvard Munch's The Scream. As a veteran, Remmich said he's been frustrated by the VA scandal and the lack of response from the White House since the story seemed to fall off of the headlines. The float has been described by the local chapter of the Oddfellows as a 'political cartoon on wheels' in the parade entry form.

The reaction of the Nebraska Democrat Party and an increasingly politicized DOJ serve to reinforce that Dale Remmich may very well be this year's edition of Tuffy Gessling, a clown at the Missouri State Fair rodeo who donned an Obama mask while performing his antics last year. Moreover, it presents an opportunity for north-eastern elitist an opportunity to wag their fingers and lament the backwards souls residing in America's heartland who just don't appreciate the genius and superior intellect of their 'betters' on the coasts.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Quickie Sports Chowdah Update- Sox Sweep Into Second Half With Strong Homestand Against Kansas City; C-See-Ya Sabathia, Yankees Starter to Have Season Ending Surgery

RED SOX- I'm not going to come right out and say that AJ Pierzynski was part of the problem, but Boston's record since cutting the veteran catcher should speak for itself [although with the All-Star Break, it's a relatively small sample size- NANESB!].

The series against Kansas City got off to a promising start with a come-from-behind 5-4 win against the Royals at Fenway Park on Friday night. On Saturday, the Red Sox once again trailed early but were able to tie the game at 1-1 before Mike Napoli's solo homer in the bottom of the 6th put the Red Sox up for good, as it turned out.

Heading into Sunday's game against the Royals, the Red Sox had managed to go 6-1 with a team .292 batting average (.290 with runners in scoring position) and a combined ERA of 2.57 in their last 7 games [granted some of this was padded by the 11-0 romp in Houston immediately before the All Star break- NANESB!]. In just four games with the Red Sox, C Christian Vasquez- who is splitting time at backstop with David Ross- has a .385 batting average with 5 RBI.

On Sunday, the Red Sox got out to an early lead after back to back singles by Brock Holt and Daniel Nava off Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura opened up the bottom of the first. Holt, who moved to 3rd on Nava's single, came home after Pedroia grounded into a fielder's choice to give Boston a quick 1-0 lead.

Jon Lester, who had struggled a little bit in the first after hitting Eric Hosmer with a pitch in the top of the first, had settled down and was cruising along nicely through the Royals lineup.

In the bottom of the 3rd, David Ross led off the inning with a walk and Jackie Bradley Jr followed that up with a single. JBJ and Ross advanced to 2nd and 3rd respectively on Borck Holt's groundout, and with two runners in scoring position, Daniel Nava belted a ground-rule double to right field to make it a 3-0 Red Sox lead. Ventura then walked Pedroia, but got David Ortiz to ground out and Mike Carp to fly out to shallow center to get out of the inning.

Shane Victorino, who returned to the Red Sox lineup on Saturday, led off the bottom of the 4th with a double to left field. Although Ventura got Stephen Drew on a fly ball to center field for the first out of the inning, David Ross took a 1-1 offering from Ventura and put it into the Monster seats for a 2-run homer, making it a 5-0 game. This was followed up by back to back singles from JBJ and Brock Holt, with Bradley moving to 3rd on Holt's hit and then coming home on Daniel Nava's sac fly to deep center, making it a 6-0 game.

Meanwhile, Lester would throw 8 complete innings of shutout baseball giving up just four hits and two walks while striking out eight batters. Tazawa and Mujica would come out of the pen to close out the game. The Red Sox win by a 6-0 final and compete a sweep of the Kansas City Royals to start off the second half of the season.

Up next is a big 4-game series against the Blue Jays north of the border at the Rogers Centre. John Lackey [10-6; 3.79 ERA] is scheduled to start on Monday night against the Jays' Drew Hutchinson [6-8; 4.16 ERA]. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 ET and the game will be televised on NESN. Toronto just wrapped up a homestand where they took two out of three from the struggling Texas Rangers to start off their second half of the season.

ELSEWHERE IN THE AL EAST- New York Yankees starter CC Sabathia is expected to undergo season-ending surgery on his right knee this week. So far this season, Sabathia has gone 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA for New York. Earlier this month, Sabathia had a setback while in the minors on a rehab assignement after going on the Yankee's DL.

Yankee's general manager Brian Cashman seemed optimistic that Sabathia could be back with the Yankees by Spring Training in 2015.

ELSEWHERE IN MLB- The Angels have acquired closer Houston Street from the San Diego Padres for a number of prospects on Friday. Street saved 24 games in 33 appearances for the 3rd place Padres this season with a 1.09 ERA. In exchange for Street, San Diego gets prospects in the form of 2B Taylor Lindsey, pitchers Elliot Morris and Roy Alvarez and SS Jose Rondon.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Today's Train of Thought- MRS Dash, July 20, 2014

Today's Train of Thought takes us to Brazil one more time [at least until the 2016 Summer Olympics- NANESB!] and features a scene that's reminiscent of a gritty, larger-than-life Lionel trainset- only instead of running under a Christmas tree, this scene takes place in one of Brazil's highest cities.

One of the other major private companies to form after Brazil privatized their rail network is the 1000 mile MRS Logistica [in which VALE mining owns 40%- NANESB!]. While not as big as the other privatized systems in Brazil, MRS links the key population centers, ports and transportations hubs such as Rio de Janerio, Belo Horizonte and Sao Paulo.

Shortly after its 1997 formation, MRS inherited a number of diesels from the state run RFFSA including SD18s and SD38Ms, some of which were built under license by Spain's MACOSA in the late 1960s. A number of these units still soldier on in yard or Maintenance of way service for MRS.

Here, contributor Michael R Silva caught the engineer for light power led by MRS Logistica C36-7M #3860-4 leaning over the talk with a crew member on board SD38M #5111-2 on the point of a passing freight train through Barbacena, Minas Gerias.

Besides being situated on the Rio to Brasilia BR-040 highway, Barbacena was once the junction of the narrow gauge Estrada de Ferro Oeste de Minas line and standard gauge lines. The burly six-axle GE began life in 1979 as Santa Fe #8078 while the 5111 was constructed in 1967.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Malaysian Airliner Shot Down Over Eastern Ukraine

At least 298 people are dead after a surface to air missile brought down a Kuala Lumpur-bound Malaysian Airlines flight over Eastern Ukraine on Thursday. The flight- Malaysia Airlines Flight 17- had originated in Amsterdam and was flying more than 32,000 feet over the strife-torn Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

In recent weeks, that part of the Ukraine has seen fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatist militias that are essentially Kremlin proxies along Ukraine's border with Russia. Earlier in the week, separatists boasted that they had shot down a Ukrainian military An-26 transport plane over the eastern city of Lugansk.

After the Ukrainian 'Maidan' uprising ousted Kremlin allied president Viktor Yanukovych earlier this year, Russia responded by annexing the strategically important Crimea peninsula- part of the Ukraine, but home to a number of strategic Russian naval facilities. After a hastily put together 'referendum' in which Moscow claimed the populace of the Crimea wanted to become part of Russia, masked fighters claiming to be pro-Russian separatists began seizing public buildings in key cities in the eastern Ukraine. However, it's widely believed these 'separatists' are acting on direct orders from the Kremlin. In May, shortly after candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko won a special election called after Yanukovych fled the country, the Ukrainian military launched a series of counterattacks culminating in a raid on Donetsk's international airport in late May that killed dozens of pro-Russian separatists who were using the buildings as headquarters.

The 'rebels' retaliated by shooting down Ukrainian military aircraft over eastern Ukraine- the deadliest of which was when a Ukrainian Defense Ministry Il-76 transport was shot down while on approach over the eastern city of Lugansk on June 14th, killing all 49 on board. Just days prior to the downing of Flight MH17, two Ukrainian military aircraft were shot down over the restive eastern part of the country.

An hour before news broke of Flight MH17 going down, pro Russian separatist leader Igor Strelkov boasted of shooting down an aircraft on Russian social media site Vkontakte [similar to Facebook- NANESB!] complete with the ominous line 'We warned them not to fly in our skies'. Although it was quickly deleted after news of MH17 being shot down broke internationally, several online observers were able to obtain screencaps of the damning message. In addition to the Russian government caught editing the Wikipedia entry on Flight MH17 on Friday, Ukraine's SBU intelligence agency released what they claim is a telephone conversation between separatist commanders and Russian officers, with the separatists notifying them they had just shot down a civilian airliner.
It appears to capture the chaotic moments after the plane was shot down — and the realization that it was a passenger plane rather than a Ukrainian transport plane, which had been targeted in recent days by the Russia-backed separatists.

"We have just shot down a plane," says a man the SBU identified as Igor Bezler, a Russian military intelligence officer and leading commander of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

That call came just 20 minutes after the crash and was placed to a person identified by Ukraine’s SBU as a colonel in the main intelligence department of the general headquarters of the armed forces of the Russian Federation Vasili Geranin, according to Ukraine security officials.

But in a second tape released by the agency, two men identified as "The Greek" and "Major" discuss the debris field and the fact the the plane was a civilian aircraft.

“It’s 100 percent a passenger [civilian] aircraft,” Major is recorded as saying, as he admitted to seeing no weapons on site. “Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.”

The Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down by what U.S. intelligence sources confirm was a surface-to-air missile near the village of Chornukhine, Luhansk Oblast, some 30 miles inside the the border with Russia.

The second conversation, if verified as authentic, could dispel Russian separatist claims that it was the Ukrainian military that shot the plane down. According to the transpcript:

Major: "These are Chernukhin folks who shot down the plane. From the Chernukhin check point. Those cossacks who are based in Chernukhino."

Grek: "Yes, Major."

Major: "The plane fell apart in the air. In the area of Petropavlovskaya mine. The first '200' [code word for dead person]. We have found the first '200.' A Civilian."

Greek: "Well, what do you have there?"

Major: "In short, it was 100 percent a passenger [civilian] aircraft."

Greek: "Are many people there?"

Major: "Holy [expletive]! The debris fell right into the yards [of homes]."

In a third intercepted conversation released by the SBU — which the agency says took place about 40 minutes after insurgents seemed to realize they had shot down a civilian plane — Cossack commander Nikolay Kozitsin tells an unidentified separatist that the fact the Malaysia Airlines plane was flying over the combat zone likely meant it was carrying spies.

"That means they were carrying spies," Kozitsin allegedly says. "They shouldn’t be [expletive] flying. There is a war going on."

At this point, the most likely scenario is that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by pro-Russian separatists who misidentified the aircraft as a Ukrainian ministry of Defense transport plane and opened fire with a surface to air missile system known as the 'Buk' SA-11 or an updated variant. The 'Buk' is a complex, crew serviced weapons platform that is mounted on a tracked or wheeled vehicle. Both Russia and the Ukraine militaries have the SA-11 Buk in their inventory, but pro-Russian separatists from the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic boasted of seizing heavy weapons- including an SA-11 launcher- from a Ukrainian air defense facility in late June. On Friday, the Ukrainian government released a brief video of a Buk missile system with at least one missile missing on a flatbed trailer purportedly heading towards Russian territory. For its part, Russia has lobbed accusations that Kiev downed the airliner [a civilian aircraft that was within moments of leaving it's airspace at an altitude of 32,000 feet, no less- NANESB], prompting one English-language RT correspondent to abruptly resign.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the flight data recorder for MH17 is almost certainly in territory controlled by the pro-Russian Donetsk militia. Should it be recovered and sent to Moscow, international aviation experts claim it will most likely be doctored and anything that incriminates Russia or their proxies in Donetsk will be removed. There is also the likelihood that MH17's descent was so abrupt and catastrophic that they black box flight recorders may yield little in the way of data. Even so, heavily armed militiamen had prevented international observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe from examining the crash scene on Friday. 193 of Flight MH17's passengers were Dutch- including an American who held dual citizenship with Holland and 22 schoolchildren from the town of Roosendaal, and amid reports of militiamen compromising the crash site, pickpocketing the scattered bodies and dumping dozens of bodies from the crash site by the side of a road, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said Putin has one 'last chance' to show he's serious about helping recover the bodies and personal effects

Despite the ongoing conflict on the ground, the skies above the eastern Ukraine weren't off-limits to commercial airliners. According to online aviation tracking website, other commercial carriers such as Lufthansa and Air India were routinely flying through eastern Ukraine airspace prior to the downing of Flight MH17.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Don't Cry For Me Argentina Sports Chowdah Update- Germany Bests Gauchos For 4th World Cup Title; Jeter Take A Bow, Yankees Shortstop Goes 2-2 In Final All-Star Appearence.

WORLD CUP- Seems as though this year's FIFA tournament flew right by....not that I'm a huge fan of 'the beautiful game', but that's not to say attractive, scantily clad women with little more than paint representing the colors on the flag of their homeland on their bodies are without merit.

After humiliating host nation Brazil in the semifinals, Germany advanced to face Argentina in the final game of the 2014 World Cup final. Unlike the contest against Brazil, this was a low-scoring affair that went to a scoreless tie after 90 minutes and sending the game into extra time.

However, the only goal of the game would come in the 113th minute as Mario Goetze got one past Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero to give Germany a 1-0 lead- a lead Germany wouldn't relinquish in the remaining time.

The win gives the Germans their first World Cup title in nearly 24 years and their fourth since 1954. To put it in some historic perspective, the last time Germany won the FIFA World Cup, they were listed as 'West Germany'. This is also the 3rd straight World Cup title for a European team with Spain winning it in 2010 and Italy winning the 2006 World Cup.

Interestingly, there was an odd dynamic in play prior to the final where the Brazilian hosts were rooting for the Germans, despite the hugely lopsided 7-1 win over Brazil in the semifinals. While the Germans were most inhospitable on the pitch, the fans and players were reportedly courteous and gracious guests while in Brazil- German midfielder Mesut Ozil used his World Cup earnings to pay for 23 Brazilian children to undergo surgery. On the other hand, Argentina and Brazil are archrivals and Argentine fans reportedly did not miss an opportunity to taunt their Brazilian hosts with chants of "Brazil- how does it feel now that daddy's home?" and boasting that they would take the World Cup back home with them. That turned out not to be the case, although it ended up being a much closer game than the semifinals.

As for the host nation, they managed to get shut out by the Dutch by a 3-0 final during the consolation game. Over the final two games of the tournament, Brazil was outscored by a combined 10-1 and the loss against Germany in the semifinal was the worst since 1920 when they were shut out by Uruguay by a 6-0 final.

MLB ALL STAR GAME- In a mid-summer classic that was light on Red Sox, Derek Jeter and Mike Trout were the ones in the limelight in the Twin Cities as the American League managed to best the National League by a 5-3 final on Tuesday.

Adam Wainwright started out for the National League and promptly gave up a leadoff double to Derek Jeter before Mike Trout belted a triple to bring the Yankees SS home and put the AL up 1-0. After Wainwright got Cano to strike out, he surrendered a homer to Miguel Cabrera to put the AL up 3-0 before getting Nelson Cruz and Jose Bautista out.

However, Jon Lester would come on in the top of the 2nd and after getting Giancarlo Stanton to pop out, he allowed a single to Aramis Ramirez before Chase Utley and Jonathan Lucroy belted back-to-back RBI doubles to make it a 3-2 game. However, Lester was able to escape any further damage by getting Carlos Gomez to pop up in foul territory and getting Andrew McCutchen to fly out to center field.

In the top of the 4th, Chris Sale would come on in relief of Yu Darvish and after getting the first two outs would end up hitting Chase Utley with a pitch before giving up a deep RBI double to LuCroy to tie the contest up at 3-3.

The score remained that way until the 5th when Trout hit a 1-out RBI double with runners on first and second before Jose Altuve hit a sac fly to make it a 5-1 game.

The AL bullpen, which included Koji Uehara, made sure that lead held up as Twins closer Glen Perkins came in and got the last three batters he faced out in the 9th inning.

The American League goes on to win by a 5-3 final, ensuring that whoever wins the AL pennant later on this year will start out with home field advantage in the World Series. In his final All-Star appearance, Derek Jeter went 2-2 and scored a run while Mike Trout went 2-3 with 2 RBI and was named the All Star Game's MVP while Max Scherzer was named the winning pitcher. For the National League, Jonathan LuCroy went 2-2 with 2 RBI.

BOSTON RED SOX- After splitting a 4-game series with the White Sox at Fenway last week, the Red Sox travelled to Houston where they managed to take two out of three from the Astros- including an 11-0 shutout of Houston on the final game before the All Star Break.

Clay Buchholz [4-5; 4.52 ERA] got the start on Sunday's romp in Houston and boasted 12 Ks in a complete game effort that saw him allow only 3 hits. He will get the start again when the Red Sox return to Fenway on Friday night to take on the Kansas City Royals to kick off the second half of the season, who are currently sitting at second place in the AL Central. James Shields [9-5; 3.65 ERA] is expected to start for Kansas City and the game will be televised on NESN with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 ET.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg Insists Colorado's Second Largest City Doesn't Have Roads In Rolling Stone Interview

Gosh- where would anybody POSSIBLY get the farfetched idea that gun-control advocates are wealthy, out-of-touch, super-liberal busybody east coast elitists who hold vast swaths of the United States outside of Manhattan in utter contempt and disdain?

I mean, how could someone ever jump to such an absurd conclusion?

At least until somebody like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg opens his mouth in a Rolling Stone interview.

The former New York City mayor said he was “sorry” about the recalls of two Democratic state senators last year over the state legislature’s passage of gun control laws, but said the districts in the recall races were so “rural” that “I don’t think there’s roads.”

“In Colorado, we got a law passed. The NRA went after two or three state senators in a part of Colorado where I don’t think there’s roads,” said Mr. Bloomberg in the interview with Rolling Stone published online this week.

“It’s as far rural as you can get,” said Mr. Bloomberg. “And, yes, they lost recall elections. I’m sorry for that. We tried to help ‘em. But the bottom line is, the law is on the books, and being enforced. You can get depressed about the progress, but on the other hand, you’re saving a lot of lives.”

The districts in question for last year's recall campaigns were in Colorado Springs and Pueblo- Colorado's second and seventh largest cities, respectively. State Senate president John Morse of Colorado's 11th State Senate district in El Paso county and state senator Angela Giron of the 3rd state senate district in Pueblo county- both Democrats- were successfully recalled by voters in their district just months after passing stricter gun control laws that limited magazine size and required a background check for all transfers of firearms [even among neighbors and relatives- NANESB!].

While no Manhattan, Colorado Springs is Colorado's 2nd largest city and is located some 75 miles south of Denver on Interstate 25. The city of roughly 400,000 is home to the United States Air Force Academy, the US Army's Ft Carson, the US Olympic Training Center and the Colorado Springs Sky Soxx- the Rockies AAA affiliate.

A little further south on I-25, Pueblo was once a key steel producing town and to this day remains an important rail town- not only for the southern terminus of the Joint Line which was once shared by the Rio Grande and Santa Fe, but also the FRA's Transportation Technology Center in which track, ballast, carbodies, rail, freight cars and locomotives undergo testing before being put into service.

The September 2013 recall election was the first of its kind in the state of Colorado and the threat of a 3rd recall against democrat state senator Evie Hudak of suburban Denver forced her to resign in November 2013 so that the Democrats could appoint her replacement instead of the party risking its slim majority in the Colorado state senate on a recall election.

Hudak also gained the ire of gun owners and rape survivors when she told rape victim Amanda Collins, who was testifying before the Colorado state senate in support of concealed carry on campus, that a gun wouldn't have spared Collins from her ordeal and she most likely would've been disarmed and killed by her rapist.

Bloomberg's comments in the Rolling Stone article titled Michael Bloomberg Isn't Afraid of the NRA that briefly disappeared [Rolling Stone claimed the article wasn't due to be published until a few days later- NANESB!].

More damning is that the article comes a few days after Democrat governor John Hickenlooper- who signed the sweeping gun control bill into law last year- met with Colorado's sheriffs last month, claiming that his office was in no way influenced by Bloomberg's gun control campaign. Initially, 55 of Colorado's 64 county sheriffs sued the Hickenlooper administration on the grounds that the magazine limit was unconstitutional and other provisions in the state laws were unenforceable- however, that suit was thrown out in November 2013 after a judge ruled the sheriffs couldn't sue the state while in office. Still, the judge left an opening for the sheriffs who were term limited to file suit against the state individually upon entering their final term.

As for Bloomberg's comments, both governor Hickenlooper and US Sen Mark Udall sought to distance themselves from the former mayor's comments while their Republican opponents jumped on Bloomberg's comments to portray the incumbents as more in touch with wealthy billionaire New York liberals than Coloradans.

In addition to gun control, Bloomberg also sought to limit the size sodas that are available in New York restaurants, citing health and obesity concerns. However, last year a 4-judge panel at the appeals court lever deemed the restrictions on soda sales was unconstitutional and struck it down last year.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Today's Train of Thought- ALL or Nothing, July 11th, 2014

Resuming our Brazil-centric Train of Thought after a hiatus to accommodate the 4th of July and Canada Day, Today's Train of Thought takes us to a vital economic hub in southeastern Brazil and features a familiar look to some out in the western USA.

Production for EMD's SD40T-2 began in 1974 and was similar in many respects to the best-selling SD40-2, but featured prominent radiator intakes designed to take in fresh, cool air while operating in tunnels and prevented other units from drawing in hot exhaust while in long tunnels or snowsheds. Not surprisingly, this locomotive was primarily marketed to railroads out in the Western USA [although the Clinchfield was reportedly interested in the 'Tunnel motors', the order was changed to regular SD40-2s at the time of it's merger with CSX predecessor Family Lines System- NANESB!].

EMD had takers for the distinctive variant of their popular SD40-2 in the Denver, Rio Grande & Western, Southern Pacific and its subsidiary Cotton Belt. And they would soldier on for those respective railroads for the next 20 years until the Union Pacific merger in 1996, when the UP merged with the Southern Pacific and apparently was (briefly) the owner of nearly all the SD40T-2s ever made. However, after the troubled takeover of the Espee, the Union Pacific began modernizing former SP lines and ordering new power from GE and EMD. Many of the SD40T-2s the UP inherited from the Espee takeover toiled away on yard jobs, local freights and MofW trains before they started to sell them off the shortlines, regionals and leasing companies.

Takers for the unique EMD variants included the Bessemer & Lake Erie, the Ohio Central, RJ Corman Inc, the New York, Susquehanna & Western, Terminal Railroad Association of St Louis, Progress Rail Leasing, the Ft Worth & Western, the Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range, Trona and Larry's Truck & Electric. Ironically, in the early 2000s the locomotives that were supposed to replace the recently sold SD40T-2s took longer than anticipated to deliver, meaning UP had to lease back the SD40T-2s from LT&E almost immediately after selling them off.

Around the same time the Union Pacific was having trouble fully absorbing the remnants of the Southern Pacific and Rio Grande lines throughout the west, Brazil's railways were considering privatization as well. In 1997, Ferrovia Sul Atlântico (South Atlantic Railways) began operating the formerly state run lines in the states of Parana, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande Del Sul. By 1999, the company changed it's name to America Latina Logistica or ALL and had won the concession to operate the southern portion of the formerly state-run railways in Sao Paulo state. By the time ALL acquired the trackage and assets of Ferronorte and Novoeste in 2006. To deal with the increase in traffic, ALL began looking beyond their own borders for additional power. New locomotives could not be built fast enough, so secondhand power was purchased from the USA, Canada and even Namibia and put into use on ALL's standard gauge lines- oddly enough, many of the imported locomotives required little to no adaptation to be pressed into service on Brazilian rails.

The SD40T-2 is one of the models that found itself on the ALL roster in Brazil- a long way from California's Donner Pass or Siskyou Line. The Brazilian line reportedly rosters nearly 50 of these former tunnel motors as well as 39 standard SD40-2s purchased secondhand from Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern.

Here, contributor Steen Larsen caught ALL SD40T-2 #9498 leading a pair of former CP Rail SD40-2s over the Ponte do Guaria in Araucária, Parana in June 2010 [wintertime in that part of the world- NANESB!]. Araucária is on the outskirts of the state capital of Curitiba, which is one of the 12 host cities for the World Cup this year.

As the embedded video shot by L Basetti shows, the viaduct just outside the ALL yard in Araucária soars over a rotary with state highway 423 running beneath it. Besides being a World Cup host venue, Parana is also a pivotal agricultural hub for southern Brazil, producing soybeans, corn, sugarcane, poultry and coffee.

World Cup-O-Plenty Sports Chowdah Update- Brazilian Whacks, Germany Steamrolls World Cup Host to Advance to Final; Magic Carp-et, Red Sox Earn Split of White Sox Series With Carp Walkoff; Hot in Cleveland, Lebron Announces Return

RED SOX- After taking two out of three from the Yankees in the Bronx to wrap up the month of June, the Red Sox managed to win exactly one game in Fenway last week, getting swept by the Cubs [and barely avoided being no-hit in the opening game of the series- NANESB] and dropped two out of three against Baltimore over the 4th of July weekend.

The opening game of this week's series against that other Chicago team [y'know, the one that had actually won a world series in the last 106 years- NANESB!] got off to a less-than-promising start when the ChiSox shut out Boston by a 4-0 final in Monday's opening game. On Tuesday, the Red Sox managed to get on the board, but Chicago erupted for a big 9th inning to put the game away and beat Boston by a 8-3 final.

On Wednesday, the White Sox once again jumped out to an early lead and were cruising along with a 4-0 advantage in the top of the seventh inning, but the Red Sox got on the board with an RBI single from Dustin Pedroia and RBI doubles from David Ortiz and Jonny Gomes to cut the Chicago lead to 4-3.

The bottom of the 9th started off with Jackie Bradley Jr being retired on a pop foul. With one away, Pawtucket callup Mookie Betts- who made his MLB debut in the June 29th game against the Yankees- was hit by a pitch and was on first when Daniel Nava stepped into the batter's box to pinch hit for Christian Vasquez. The decision to have Nava pinch-hit paid immediate dividends when he hit a game-tying RBI double to left center, bringing Betts home. With the winning run on second, Brock Holt would hit an RBI single to give Boston a walkoff 5-4 win in the bottom of the 9th.

For Thursday afternoon's game, White Sox starter Jose Quintana got some early run support when Jose Abreu hit an RBI double off of Jon Lester in the top of the first to give Chicago an early 1-0 lead. However, after Quintana cruised through the first five innings, the Red Sox bats got through in the bottom of the 6th starting with Stephen Drew and David Ross leading off the frame with walks before Jackie Bradley Jr got the Red Sox on the board with an RBI single that plated Drew to tie the contest up at 1-1. The runners advanced to 2nd and 3rd on Brock Holt's groundout before Pedroia grounded out to 3rd base. However, Big Papi was able to put the Red Sox on top with a 2-out 2 RBI double to give Boston a 3-1 lead.

However, that lead would not hold up in the top of the 9th when Koji Uehara uncharacteristically blew a save- allowing a leadoff single to Alexei Ramirez before surrendering a 2-run homer to pinch-hitter Connor Gillespie with one out. Koji retired Tyler Flowers and Leury Garcia to prevent any further damage, but the game was tied at 3-3.

After an uneventful 9th in which the Red Sox went in order, the game headed to extra innings. Andrew Miller came on in the top of the 10th to relieve Uehara and gave up a leadoff single to Adam Eaton. Gordon Beckham then sac bunted to move Eaton into scoring position but Miller got Dayan Viciedo and Ramirez to ground out and end the inning.

In the bottom of the 10th, Daniel Nava pinch hit for Jonny Gomes led off with a walk. Mookie Betts then laid down a sac bunt that got Nava to 2nd before Stephen Drew was intentionally walked. Mike Carp came on to pinch hit for David Ross and with the count at 2-2, this happened:

Carp- on only his 3rd at bat since going on the DL over Memorial Day weekend- wins the game in extras with an RBI single to left to give Boston it's second walkoff win in less than 24 hours and a split of the series against the White Sox.

The Red Sox have one more series to go before the All-Star break where they'll travel to the Lone Star state for a 3-game series against the Astros starting Friday evening. John Lackey [9-6; 3.84 ERA] is scheduled to get the start against Scott Feldman [4-5; 3.86 ERA]. First pitch from Minute Maid Park is scheduled for 8:10 ET and the game will be televised on NESN.

OTHER RED SOX NEWS- The Red Sox have designated catcher AJ Pierzynski for assignment. The veteran catcher was hitting just .254 with 4 HR and 31 RBI this season, but was struggling mightily in his last 18 games- going 11 for 62 and batting .177 since June 14th. In addition to David Ross, the Red Sox have called up catcher Christian Vazquez from AAA Pawtucket. In 66 games with the PawSox, Vazquez has been batting .279 with 3 HR and 20 RBI. Last season, Vazquez led the Eastern League with a 46.5% caught stealing rate.

In addition to designating Pierzynski for assignment, the Red Sox also sent pitcher Brandon Workman down to Pawtucket and recalled starter Rubby De LaRosa.

ELSEHWERE IN THE AL EAST- The New York Yankees have designated veteran outfielder Alfonso Soriano for assignment. Soriano originally came up through the Yankees system in 1999 and left as a free agent in 2004 for the Texas Rangers. He also played outfield for the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs before returning to the Yankees in 2013.

Meanwhile, Yankees rookie starter Masahiro Tanaka [12-4, 2.51 ERA] went on the 15 DL and is expected to undergo an MRI after he was reportedly diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. Tanaka had been the only bright spot in an otherwise shaky Yankee starting rotation and is in the first year of a 7-year $155 million contract.

The Yankees also traded starter Vidal Nuno [2-5; 5.42 ERA] to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitcher Brandon McCarthy [3-10; 5.01 ERA] in what many consider an attempt to stabilize the back end of their rotation.

ELSEWHERE IN MLB- The first 'big' trade of the 2014 season took place when sough-after Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija was traded to the Oakland A's last week. Despite a respectable 2.83 ERA, Samadzija had a 2-7 record with the Cubs in 2014.

Samardzija not only played for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish baseball team, the Valparaiso, IN native was also an All American Wide Receiver for the Fighting Irish football team and was drafted in the 5th round of the 2006 MLB draft by the Chicago Cubs. In exchange for Samardzija and starting pitcher Jason Hammel [8-5; 2.98 ERA], the Cubs receive top prospects including SS Addison Russell, P Dan Straily, OF Billy McKinney and a player to be named later.

Samardzija made his A's debut in Oakland against the Toronto Blue Jays, going 7 innings and allowing 4 hits and 1 earned run in the A's 4-2 win over Toronto.

FIFA WORLD CUP- Wow- and to think some people call soccer 'the beautiful game'. The Brazil/Germany was so ugly that I think this picture of an attractive yet dejected Brazil fan should sum it up quite nicely, rather than any stills from the game.

Brazil- the host nation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup- lost their semifinal game to Germany by a 7-1 final. And by all accounts the game wasn't even that close. Germany got on the board 11 minutes into the first half and added four more goals between the 23rd and 29th minutes to take a 5-0 lead. The Germans would go on to win by a 7-1 final- probably allowing that one goal because they felt bad for the host nation at one point.

I don't follow soccer regularly, but I know enough that allowing five goals in the span of six minutes tends to indicate that you're not that good of a team. Apparently the school of thought is that Brazil was automatically qualified for a Word Cup berth by being the host nation, which led to some complacency on their part. Yet even if that were the case, Brazil still breezed through pool play suffering nothing worse than a scoreless tie with Mexico. However, Brazil advanced past Chile in the Round of 16 with penalty kicks after regulation ended with a 1-1 tie and the host nation then bested Colombia by a 2-1 final.

Despite the humiliating loss that has led to all sorts of internet memes, the Brazilians do have one more game left- a consolation match against Holland on Saturday while Argentina will advance to face Germany in the Championship game.

ELSEWHERE IN THE FIFA WORLD CUP- Since it's this late in the tournament and we're talking about four teams that AREN'T Team USA, you can probably guess that the United States has been eliminated from the tournament.

Although the USA was eliminated by Belgium in the Round of 16, Tim Howard's historic performance against the Belgians was what had everyone talking. Despite a sustained attack throughout much of regulation, the Belgians weren't able to break through until extra time.

Despite an unprecedented 16 saves by Howard, the Belgians would go on to win by a 2-1 final. Julian Green would score the lone goal for the USA- which also came in extra time while Belgium would be eliminated by Argentina in a 1-0 shutout in the following match.

NBA- Nearly four years to the day after LeBron James announced his decision to leave Cleveland for Miami in a fit of overblown self-promotion, the NBA superstar has announced that he will return to Cleveland.

Instead of an overhyped half-hour ESPN special, the decision was announced with slightly less fanfare in a article.

When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn't had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what's most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio

The decision came as a surprise to many given the bellicose and acrimonious reaction from Cleveland fans [and some in the Cavs front office- NANESB!] a few short years ago over the media circus surrounding his free agency.

NHL- The Colorado Avalanche have signed free agent Jarome Iginla to a 3 year $16 million deal last week. During the 2013-14 season, the 37 year old RW had 30 goals and 31 assists in 78 games played.

Iginla's departure leaves the Bruins with about $5.6 million in salary cap space and may go towards signing restricted free agents Torey Krug and Rielly Smith.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Today's Train Of Thought- Faded Glory, July 4th, 2014

Today's Train of Thought takes us to South Dakota and features a one-of-a-kind throwback that has withstood more than two decades of service on the harsh conditions of the Great Plains.

Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern SD40-2 SD40-2 #6359 started out life in 1974 as Milwaukee Road #193 and served the troubled class 1 until the Soo Line took over a little more than a decade later. By the early 1990s, a small fleet of secondhand SD40-2s were sold to Cedar Holdings' fairly new startup, the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern. The line operated hundreds of miles of secondhand former Chicago & Northwestern trackage across the state of South Dakota as well as parts of Wyoming, Nebraska and southern Minnesota. Although generating traffic was seldom a problem- the western end of the line generated aggregates, wheat, cement, Bentonite Clay and more recently, ethanol- the condition of the track and bridges between Pierre and Rapid City, SD restricted the DM&E to 10 MPH running. Still, in 2002 Cedar Holdings was ambitious enough to purchase the Washington Group's I&M Rail Link [parent company of the Montana Rail Link- NANESB!- a cluster of former Soo Line- nee Milwaukee Road- mainlines through the Midwest that linked the Twin Cities with Kansas City, MO and Chicago via Sabula, IA. The new railway was a sister company called the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern

Meanwhile, the DM&E was working on a project that would give them access to Wyoming's Powder River Basin and open up that state's coal fields to competition from a third rail carrier- breaking Union Pacific and BNSF's duopoly on the region. However, a number of obstacles had to be overcome before that could become a reality- such as the extremely slow track between Rapid City and Pierre and noise mitigation near the renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

As estimates for work on a completed line between Wyoming's coal fields and the Mississippi River at Winona, MN continued to skyrocket Canadian Pacific decided they should be the ones to step in and undertake such an endeavor, and purchased Cedar Holding's rail properties outright in 2008. Besides the proposed Powder River expansion, CP Rail got their former Milwaukee Road lines to Chicago, the Twin Cities, Kansas City and branchlines to Mason City and Sheldon, IA.

However, with the hostile takeover of CP Rail by the Pershing Square hedge fund in 2011 and the slumping demand for coal thanks in part to the onerous regulatory burdens placed on them by an EPA determined to kill off the coal industry, CPR lost their appetite for the Powder River expansion and by extension, much of the original DM&E trackage. By late 2012, much of the 600+ miles of Marshall, MN was placed for sale. In early 2013, CPR announced they had reached a deal with the Genesee & Wyoming family of shortlines to sell off the trackage between Marshall, MN and Colony, WY via Pierre and Rapid City, SD to form a new railway called the Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern. Reportedly included in the transaction is a number of former DM&E SD40-2s to be used as power for the Genesee & Wyoming startup.

During CP's tenure at the helm of running the DM&E, it was often difficult to tell whether or not they had in fact taken over. Most of the trains still regularly sported former DM&E or ICE power and to makes things a little more confusing the Dakota, Minnesota & EAstern purchased a number of secondhand SD40-2s from Canadian Pacific- many of which were still painted CPR red but stenciled for the DM&E at the time of the Canadian Pacific takeover.

Moreover, the DM&E had a habit of naming some of their units after the towns the main line went through- SD40-2s were dubbed 'City of Wall' or 'City of New Ulm'. However, DM&E #6359 was a little different- in 1991, she was painted with a special mural of Mount Rushmore to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the national monument and dubbed the Mount Rushmore.

Despite the number of changes that have taken place over the DM&E in the last 20+ years, DM&E #6589 still sports the Mount Rushmore mural on her long hood. While it may not be included in the batch that CPR sent to the Genesee & Wyoming line, the #6359 still gets around plenty, making its way as far east as CSX's massive Selkirk yard outside of Albany, NY in the past few years as run-through power on unit ethanol trains.

Here, contributor Michael Polk caught the Mt Rushmore leading two other DM&E SD40-2s on an empty grain train on a branchline near Onida, SD on July 3rd, 2013. The final destination are the elevators just outside the town of Onida. This quintessential granger scene seems largely unchanged from the last 20 or so years, despite the presence of CPR red among the cornstalks.

Happy 4th of July From Not Another New England Sports Blog!

Swimsuit model Kate Upton declaring independence from most of her clothing in 2012 GQ Photo Shoot

Independence Day is that confluence of so many things I enjoy about summertime and living in the USA- women in bikinis, parades with patriotic themes and things that go boom- such as fireworks displays or exploding targets [although Hurricane/Tropical Storm Arthur has caused the cancellation or postponement of a number of fireworks shows up and down the east coast this weekend NANESB!].

4th of July Parade, Park City, UT.
Not that these things in and of themselves are what make America great...I mean, it certainly isn't our so-called 'leaders' or 'representatives' who make us great- at least not in this day and age. We more or less feed the world through our agriculture and the recent shale oil boom has sparked all kinds of innovation in energy exploration and a renaissance in a manufacturing sector that had once been left for dead. Hell- we somehow managed to be the greatest nation on earth even before certain perpetual victim groups felt as though Hobby Lobby or Georgetown University owed them gratis birth control.

LittleSlav via Instagram

Still, as Americans we like to have some fun when we're not doing stuff like growing crops, hauling goods to market, drilling for oil once deemed inaccessible, putting out fires, innovating, making money or just kicking ass in general. It's summertime, so in general it's hot and sticky- and if you live anywhere near water, that means a trip to the beach is in order....with some advance planning, you can pack a picnic lunch and also get a fireworks show in if you stick around until dusk.

Patriotic farm equipment, San Diego County, CA

So whatever your plans are for Independence Day and this long holiday weekend, I hope you have a good time and are safe.

Happy Birthday, America!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

EPA Reportedly Sets Sights on Fireworks Displays

Not content with killing off the coal industry, a new set of rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency could end up putting the kibosh on 4th of July fireworks throughout the USA. The changes reportedly ask for further clarification of which streams and wetlands would fall under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers.

However, in a letter to the EPA a number of GOP lawmakers have expressed concerns that these rules would leave small towns open to nuisance lawsuits from environmental groups seeking to shut down 4th of July fireworks displays.

"We are concerned, on the eve of the celebration of this great nation’s founding, that the EPA is set to foster expanded efforts to undermine this form of celebration," says a letter sent to EPA chief Gina McCarthy from 10 GOP senators.
"If finalized, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal to expand the Clean Water Act’s definition of the 'waters of the United States' may enable litigious environmental groups to jeopardize fireworks displays throughout the country," the letter, spearheaded by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), adds.

Republicans in Congress have called the rules a "power grab," but the EPA has stressed the proposal does not expand protections.

The rules require that the EPA and Army Corps approve any project that might pollute the protected waterways already under their jurisdiction, keeping in place exemptions for farming, ranching and forestry practices.

But the 10 signatories claim the proposal would encourage environmental groups to challenge firework displays at lakes and recreational water areas legally.

In California, the Lake Murray July 4 fireworks show has been canceled three consecutive years due to litigation uncertainty, the letter states.

A number of newspapers have run op-eds supporting bans 4th of July on fireworks displays, citing fire hazards and air quality concerns.

The rules wouldn't leave just small towns vulnerable to such nuisance litigation- large cities such as New York City, San Diego and New Orleans launch their fireworks from barges strategically placed along a river or in a harbor for the 4th of July- although they would be better equipped to handle nuisance lawsuits than smaller towns or counties that launch fireworks from an adjacent river or lake.

However, in addition to nuisance lawsuits, numerous firework displays have been cancelled out west due to increased danger of wildfire and a number of 4th of July fireworks displays are threatened up and down the east coast this year with the approach of Tropical Storm Arthur.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Today's Train of Thought- Canadian Club, July 2, 2014

In [slightly belated] honor of Canada Day today's Train of Thought takes us north of the border to Ontario for something of a throwback that is distinctly Canadian.

The GMD 1 was manufactured by Canada's GM subsidiary starting in the late 1950s and initially found only two buyers- the Canadian National and the Northern Alberta Railways [which was absorbed into the CN system in 1981- NANESB!]. Unlike the ALCo, MLW or EMD end-cab switchers of the time, the GMD1's slightly off-center cab and overall body style was more reminiscent of the ALCo RS1 than any EMD product. The uniquely Canadian units spent much of their service life toiling away on isolated prairie branchlines in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, hauling grain over rail too light for most other locomotive types on the CN roster at the time.

Beginning in the late 1990s, the Canadian National underwent privatization and began divesting themselves of some of the marginal prairie branchlines while acquiring American Class 1 or regional lines such as the Illinois Central or Wisconsin Central. While Canadian National began retiring and selling off a number of the 1200 HP GMD 1's as switchers for quarries, grain elevators and even Cuba's national railways.

Still, a number of the distinctive GMD roadswitchers not only remained on the CN roster, but were put into service systemwide as yard switchers or powering local freights after the prairie lines had been largely abandoned or sold off.

Here, contributor Ryan Gaynor- aka LocalRailfan- caught Canadian National GMD 1 #1444 out on the mainline in Dundas, Ontario on July 6th, 2012. Here, the #1444 and CN GP38-2W #4776 are seen pushing hard on the rear of Toledo, OH to Toronto mainifest freight, Train 385.

The head end power [a CN C44-9W, C40-8 and GP9R] was having a difficult time ascending the Niagara Escarpment on the line between Niagara Falls and Toronto and the #1444 and wide-cab GP38 were summoned from nearby Aldershot Yard to assist the heavy manifest freight up the grade. Fortunately, LocalRailfan has video evidence of this CN freight's epic struggle against gravity on his YouTube channel.

Not only is the power [both head-end and tail-end- NANESB!] increasingly rare and unique, so are manned helpers on Class 1 lines such as the CN. Lately, railroads prefer to tackle difficult terrain using strategically distributed power (DPUs) that can be controlled from the lead units

Quickie Borderline Psychosis Update- Mexican Army Helicopter Opens Fire on US Border Patrol Agents; Crisis in Rio Grande Valley Grows

ARIZONA- The FBI is investigating a June 27th incident in which a Mexican Army helicopter crossed the border and fired shots at uniformed US Border Patrol agents in southern Arizona. According to Tucson Border Patrol Sector union president Art del Cueto:
The incident occurred after midnight and before 6 a.m. Helicopter flew into the U.S. and fired on two U.S. Border Patrol agents. The incident occurred west of the San Miguel Gate on the Tohono O'odham Indian Nation. The agents were unharmed. The helicopter went back into Mexico. Mexico then contacted U.S. authorities and apologized for the incident.
Mexico claims that the helicopter was pursuing drug traffickers, but offered no explanation on why uniformed Border Patrol agents near a marked Border Patrol truck on the US side of the border came under fire from one of their military choppers. Although the Mexican government reportedly issued a brief apology for the armed incursion, the US Customs and Border Patrol and Department of Homeland Security have questioned Mexico's version of events.

This is not the first incursion by Mexican troops into southern Arizona this year. In January, uniformed Mexican soldiers armed with H&K G3 rifles pointed their weapons at a US Border Patrol agent while they were 50 yards across the US border near Sasabe, AZ. The soldiers reportedly told the lone agent they had gotten lost while pursuing a suspected drug smuggler.

While it is possible the helicopter could've veered off course in the dark, some have speculated they were providing cover for a drug shipment making its way across the border. In a 2006 incident, Sheriff's deputies in rural Hudspeth County, Texas chased a drug laden-SUV to the Rio Grande. The drivers attempted to cross back into Mexico but the vehicle got stuck on the opposite bank. As the drugs were offloaded into another vehicle, men in desert fatigues and driving Humvees fanned out and took up defensive positions on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, pointing automatic weapons at the Hudspeth county deputies as the smugglers continued offloading the stuck vehicle.

This isn't the first incursion into US airspace by a Mexican military helicopter in recent years. Throughout 2010 and 2011, Federal and state lawmen as well as homeowners, sportsmen and journalists reported seeing helicopters with the Mexican Navy insignia fly across the border unimpeded throughout the Rio Grande Valley in southeastern Texas. In March 2010, a Mexican Navy helicopter with the ramp down and armed men visible inside was photographed on the US side of the border in Falcon Heights, TX where the border is clearly marked by the Falcon Reservoir and dam.

TEXAS- In response to an unprecedented influx of unaccompanied minors illegally crossing into the Texas via northern Mexico, Lone Star State governor Rick Perry has ordered additional officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety- including the Texas Rangers, Texas Highway Patrol and game wardens from the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife- to patrol the border area in the Rio Grande Valley in what lawmakers are referring to as 'saturated patrols'. The influx of minors- primarily from Central America- is said to have been sparked by fliers distributed in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras that promised asylum in the United States to anyone who showed up. In addition to the flyers, the rumors were further bolstered by a White House executive order from late last year in which Barack Obama de-prioritized the deportation of children in the USA illegally.

According to Border Patrol officers, the illegal immigrants were apparently coached on questions they were likely to face once they turned themselves in. More disturbingly, a number of the minors who have turned themselves in are gang members. However, unless they have a criminal record in the USA, they will reportedly be processed by INS like any other unaccompanied minor.

Meanwhile, the smugglers are becoming bolder and more aggressive, either physically attacking officers or firing shots at them from the Mexican side of the border.