Saturday, January 31, 2015

Quickie Super Bowl Weekend Sports Chowdah Update- Seahawks, Patriots set to Square off in Super Bowl; King-Sized- Bruins take on Defending Stanley Cup Champions at the Garden

NFL- least one of the Championship games was an instant classic.

Surprisingly the NFC title game on the West Coast got underway first, with the Green Bay Packers jumping out to an early 16-0 lead over the Seahawks up in Seattle in the first half thanks to three first half interceptions. However, Seattle's defense stiffened after those turnovers and more than once the Packers had to settle for a FG instead of getting 7 points.

In the seconds half, the Seahawks came roaring back and with just 1:25 to go in regulation they managed to take their first lead of the day on a 24 yard Marshawn Lynch TD run to put Seattle up 22-19 before the Packers managed to tie the contest up with 14 seconds to go on a 48 yard Mason Crosby field goal, forcing overtime.

After winning the coin toss, the Seahawks took the ball and won the game on a 35 yard TD pass from Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse, sending the Seahawks to their second consecutive Superbowl.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS- The late game on Championship Sunday wasn't quite as close.

For the first time since 2006 and the first time since Manning departed for Denver, the Patriots and the Colts faced off in the postseason. In what would be the start of a trend, LeGarette Blount put New England on the board early after Josh Cribbs fumbled a punt that was recovered by New England inside the Colts 30 yard line.

The Patriots would get out to a quick 14-0 lead before the Colts got on the board with about five minutes to go in the first half from a short TD run from Zurlon Tipton to make it 14-7. However, the Patriots would add to their lead thanks to a Gostkowski FG with 9 seconds left in the half.

The second half was all New England as they would go on to score 28 unanswered points in the second half, including two more TD runs from Legarette Blount. The Patriots go on to win by a 45-7 final and advance to face the Seahawks in the Superbowl.

However, in the weeks leading up to Superbowl 49, the talk amongst the media has been about how the footballs used in the AFC title game were examined by the NFL and found to be underinflated. This created a unusually protracted media firestorm dubbing the scandal 'deflate-gate'- as though slightly underinflated balls were somehow responsible for the Colts defense collapsing like a house of cards whenever LeGarette Blount was carrying the ball.

Anywhoo, I've pretty much been embargoing the media and their vapid fixation on deflated balls in the runup to Superbowl 49. What I do know is that the big game kicks off Sunday night at 6:30 and will be televised on NBC

NHL- From one defending national champion going up against a New England team to another. After stumbling out of the gate, the Boston Bruins are having a pretty good 2015 so far.

Coming off a 5-2 win on the road against the Islanders on Thursday, Saturday night saw the Bruins hosting the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. It looked as though the Bruins got on the board early in the closing seconds of the first period, but that goal was waved off when officials determined the clock was at 00:00 before the puck was in the net.

Even with the goal waved off, the Bruins managed to get on the board thanks to a Brad Marchand goal in the closing minutes of the second period to give Boston the 1-0 lead. Seven minutes into the third, Jordan Nolan got Los Angeles on the board and tied the game with a goal. However, 90 seconds later Chris Kelly put the Bruins back on top with a goal to make it 2-1 Boston and as the Kings pulled goalie Jonathan Quick late in the 3rd for an extra attacker, Marchand would get an empty-netter, his second of the night to make it 3-1 in favor of Boston.

The Bruins go on to win by the final of 3-1 with Rask stopping 30 of the 31 shots he faced on Saturday night while Quick ended up turning aside 30 of 32.

Boston will get the next couple of days off, with play resuming on Thursday night when they take on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Puck drops at 8:00 ET and the game will be televised on NBC Sports Network.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

New York's Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Arrested on Corruption Charges

The powerful and long-serving speaker of New York's state assembly was arrested by the FBI after turning himself in to authorities last week. Silver, who had been in the state Assembly representing Manhatta in 65th Assembly district since 1976, is also a practicing attorney and close political ally of New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio. Siver's income from the law firm of Weitz & Luxenberg had long been the subject of criticism. US Attorney Preet Bharara accused Silver of collecting more than $3 million in bribes and kickbacks that were disguised as referral fees.

In a criminal complaint, authorities said Silver abused his power and “obtained about $4 million in payments characterized as attorney referral fees solely through the corrupt use of his official position.”

The arrest sent shock waves through New York’s Capitol as a new legislative session began, and it came just a day after Silver shared the stage with Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his State of the State address.

As speaker of the Democrat-controlled Assembly, Silver is one of the most influential people in New York state government. Along with the Senate majority leader and the governor, he plays a major role in creating state budgets, laws and policies in a system long-criticized in Albany as “three men in a room.”

During a press conference, Bharara also hinted that more charges could be waiting in the wings against state officials.

In July 2013, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced the formation of the Moreland Commission to examine New York's weak campaign finance laws and investigate any wrongdoing or suspicious activities among state lawmakers. A few short months after the Commission released their preliminary findings, Cuomo abruptly announced that he was shutting down the Moreland Commission. Some observers believe that any further investigating by the Moreland Commission would've brought to light incriminating information against Cuomo's donors or political allies.

In July 2014, the New York Times published an article further alleging that Gov Cuomo was hindering the Moreland Commission's investigations. Assembly speaker Silver was among those who were subpoenaed by the investigative committee, but accused the Moreland Commission of being nothing more than a 'fishing expedition' and attempting to intimidate state lawmakers.

Although Cuomo shut down the Moreland Commission less than halfway into its stated 18-month lifespan, the US Attorney's office was requesting documents from them back in May 2014.

It wasn't until last month that Silver disclosed that he was earning money from a second law firm- something he withheld from the Moreland Commission.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Boko Haram Terror Group Seizes Northern Nigerian Towns

Two weeks after the northeastern Nigerian town of Baga was attacked and torched by the Islamist terror group Boko Haram, the group launched simultaneous attacks on two municipalities near the border with Chad and Cameroon.

Monguno, a town of about 100,000 people in northeast Nigeria, is about a 135-kilometer (85-mile) drive from Maiduguri, a city of more than 600,000. Both cities are tucked into the corner of the country, near the borders with Chad and Cameroon.

Babagana Musa, a Monguno resident who fled to Maiduguri, said, "Several trucks carrying soldiers drove into Maiduguri. We learned the town (Monguno) has been taken over by Boko Haram."

Monguno, with its huge military barracks, has a strategic importance ‎in that it acts as a buffer to keep Boko Haram from advancing towards Maiduguri. Its fall means Boko Haram is in good position to advance on Maiduguri, which has been its goal for months.

Boko Haram had been confined to the fishing town of Baga since its fighters seized it January 3, hesitant to move south towards Maiduguri because of the military presence in Monguno.

The Islamists attacked the nearby village of Jintilo around 5 a.m. and were engaged in a gunbattle with troops stationed there. The village is about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the center of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.

The fighting in Jintilo forced residents to evacuate their homes and flee into the city, while military authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew to prevent infiltration by the militants.

"All the residents of neighborhoods near Jintilo have fled into the city due to the ongoing battle between troops and Boko Haram gunmen who want to enter the city," said Modu Zannari, who lives nearby.

"Boko Haram gunmen in their hundreds attacked Jintilo around 5 a.m., just before the morning prayers, but soldiers stationed there fought back," Zannari said

"Since 5 a.m. all we hear are cracking of guns and booming explosions coming from the direction of Jintilo," said Babakaka Said, a resident of another neighborhood near the scene of the fighting.

"There have been radio announcements of indefinite curfew in the city and we have all been asked to remain indoors," said Adam Kolo‎, who lives in the heart of the city.

Hundreds of troop reinforcements deployed in Jintilo and military jets carried out aerial bombardment of Boko Haram positions, said a member of a civilian vigilante group fighting Boko Haram alongside troops.

The attack came a day after President Goodluck Jonathan made a campaign stop in Maiduguri ahead of the February 14 presidential election. He has promised to end the Boko Haram insurgency if re-elected.

Boko Haram is also believed to be responsible for a cross-border raid into neighboring Cameroon where three were killed and as many as 80 people were abducted- many of them children.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Northeastern States Brace for First Major Blizzard of 2015

Winter storm warnings and travel advisories are in effect for much of the Northeast from West Virginia to Maine and Canadian Maritime Provinces as a massive winter storm [named Juno- how long have they been naming winter storms? Seems like a recent phenomenon- NANESB!] bears down on the region.

While cities like New York and Boston could get as much as 2 feet from winter storm Juno, outlying and mountainous areas could be getting as much as three feet overnight. Airlines and commuter agencies are suspending service ahead of Juno's arrival while state, municipal and county officials are prepping sand and salt trucks to deal with the snowfall.

The governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut have issued travel bans for their respective highways that will go into effect on Monday night. In Boston, Logan airport, the MBTA and state offices will be closed on Tuesday. Newly sworn-in governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts also cautioned that some areas could expect power outages because of the wet heavy snow.

Airports from New England to Washington DC cancelled more than 5000 flights on Monday, with most of the cancellations around the New York-area airports like Newark-Liberty, La Guardia and JFK. Amtrak announced there were no cancellations as of Monday, but would be re-evaluating throughout the day and running a modified schedule starting Tuesday.

Monday night is a pretty light sports schedule with no games scheduled in the NHL the night after the All-Star game in Columbus, OH on Sunday. There are 7 games scheduled in the NBA tonight, but two of them in New York- Portland vs Brooklyn and Sacramento vs the Knicks- have been postponed.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Today's Train of Thought- Happy Australia Day! Jan 25th, 2015

Today's Train of Thought takes us (where else?) Down Under to Australia.

While railways elsewhere in Australia were something of an amalgamation of different gauges and engineering techniques [that apparently weren't brought to a single national standard until the 1980s- NANESB!] the iron-ore railroads of Western Australia's Pilbarra region operate some of the biggest trains in the world in some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth.

One of the first iron-ore lines in northwestern Australia was the Hammersley Iron line between the port of Dampier and the then newly-opened Tom Price mine more than 300km inland back in 1966. Japanese manufacturers sought massive quantities of iron-ore from the Pilbarra region and in no time, 230+ car trains of iron ore began winding their way from mines in the unforgiving interior to waiting vessels in Dampier. To the east, a competing iron-ore railway called the Mount Newman Railway was under construction and by August 1969 saw the first iron-ore trains on its rails.

Much more recently, Fortescue Metals Group sought rail service their Cloud Break mine and Port Hedland some 250 miles away. Before spending more than A$2 billion on a mew line, Fortescue sought access to Cloud Break by way of obtaining trackage rights on BHP Billiton's Mt Newman line. However, that faced legal challenges and Fortescue ended up building their own iron-ore line to Port Hedland, with work completed by 2008.

Meanwhile, like railroads in the US, the other western Australia iron-ore rail lines were subject to mergers and consolidations [although unlike the boom and bust cycles in the USA, the Aussie lines have seen steady growth since opening up- NANESB!] and the original Hammersely iron line came under the control of multinational Rio Tino.

Here, contributor Sean McGarraghy caught Rio Tinto ES44AC #8185 on the point of a northbound ore train as it makes its way through Millstream-Chichester National Park on its way to Dampier on May 14th, 2014. These massive trains routinely exceed 230 cars and often require additional power in the middle of the train.

While on the subject of Australia, the Miss Universe pageant was on Sunday. While Miss Australia, Tegan Martin, made the final cut of 10, the grand prize was awarded to Miss Colombia.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Long Overdue Championship Weekend Sports Chowdah Update- Nevermore! Patriots Rally Past Ravens, Advance to AFC Title Games; Kung Fu Gripping, Red Sox Sign Pablo Sandoval; Pedro, Big Unit Biggio and Smoltz Heading to Cooperstown; B's Blank Blueshirts; Rondo Heads to Dallas

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS- Heading into the playoffs, the Patriots weren't looking particularly sharp. After thrashing the Miami Dolphins in weeks 15- avenging their season-opening loss and New England won the division in convincing fashion. However, the Patriots barely bested the Jets in the Meadowlands in Week 16 thanks to a 17-16 win over New York and fell to Buffalo by a 17-6 final after starting most of their second-stringers.

After a first round bye, the Patriots were set to host Baltimore after the Ravens upended the AFC North champion Steelers in the first round. This would be the fourth time since the 2009 season that the Ravens and Patriots met in the playoffs, with Baltimore winning two out of the first three matchups.

Early on, it looked as though it appeared the Ravens would add to their all-time playoff lead against the Patriots. Ravens QB Joe Flacco took their first two possessions and marched down the field for two quick TDs to take a 14-0 lead while the Ravens defense held New England to a couple of three-and-outs in the first quarter.

However, late in the first the Patriots put together a good-looking drive that included a 40 yard completion from Brady to Gronkowski and was capped by a 4 yard TD run by Brady on 3rd and goal. New England got on the board with 48 seconds left in the first and it was now a 14-7 game.

Despite increased pressure on the pocket from the Ravens defense, a fired-up Tom Brady managed to find the end zone late in the 2nd quarter on a 15 yard completion to Danny Amendola- with the WR fighting for key extra yardage to get into the end zone to tie the game at 14-14 after Stephen Gostkowski's point-after. However, almost as soon as the momentum was swinging the Patriots way, the Ravens came up with a key pick at mid-field with just over a minute to go in the half. Joe Flacco and company made the most of that thanks to a pass-interference call against Patriots CB Darelle Revis. With only 10 seconds to go, the Ravens quieted the crowd at Foxborough with an 11 yard TD pass from Flacco to TE Owen Daniels to put Baltimore back on top, 21-14.

In the second half, the Ravens managed to get a pass-interference call on 4th and 6 to set them up inside the New England red zone- altho they were pushed further back to the 16. However, Flacco connected with RB Justin Fosett for a 16 yard TD reception and give Baltimore a 28-14 lead and giving New England a bigger hole to climb out of. However, that's exactly what Brady and company did, with the Patriots QB connecting with Gronkowski on a five yard TD pass to make it a 21-28 game with 6:48 to go in the 3rd. After holding the Ravens to a 3 and out, Baltimore was forced to punt and the Patriots were able to start from their own 30.

What happened next could undoubtedly be considered the highlight of the game. After moving the ball to midfield on two quick plays, Brady quickly lateralled the ball to WR Julian Edelman. Edelman then threw the ball to a wide open follow WR Danny Amendola for a 51 yard TD pass to tie the game at 28-28.

On Baltimore's next possession, DB Devin McCourty picked off Flacco at the Ravens 37, giving New England a short field that they were unable to capitalize on. On the Ravens' next possession, they managed to march down the field pretty efficiently, including converting on a 4th and 1 along the way- but were shut out of the end zone, forced to settle for a FG with 10:17 left in the 4th quarter. With the Ravens back on top by a 31-28 score, New England couldn't afford any more three and outs.

Starting on their own 26 yard line with 10:10 remaining in regulation, the Patriots offense managed to get big chunks of yards while burning off some of the clock. With 5:13 left in the game, the Patriots took their first lead of the day on a perfectly thrown 23 yard TD pass from Brady to WR Brandon LaFell, putting the Patriots on top 35-31. Flacco once again put together a solid drive, getting to midfield in time for the 2 minute warning. However, with 1:38 left, Flacco went long from the Patriots 36 yard line only to be picked off in the end zone by Patriots SS Duron Harmon. The Ravens still had a timeout left, which prevented New England from simply kneeling down three times in the victory formation and running out the clock, so Ryan Allen had to punt. The Ravens got the ball back on midfield with just 4 seconds left, giving Baltimore just enough time for a hail-mary pass that the Patriots managed to bat out of the end zone.

The Patriots would only lead for just over five minutes, but it was all they'd need as they go on to win by a 35-31 final in what many are already calling an instant classic.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL PLAYOFFS- The New England Patriots will be facing the Indianapolis Colts and starting QB Andrew Luck in the AFC championship game this weekend at Foxborough. As rusty as the Patriots looked in the first quarter, the Broncos looked almost as bad for their entire game after their first round bye. Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos fell to his former team, losing by a 24-13 final at Denver. So demoralizing was the loss that the Broncos fired head coach John Fox within days and many are openly speculating that this may be the end of QB Peyton Manning's career, if not his tenure with the Broncos.

Meanwhile, in what was dubbed 'Ice Bowl II', the Cowboys made their first postseason visit to Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI since the 1967 NFL Championship Game. While the temperatures were much more mild than in 1967, like the original title game the Packers ultimately prevailed- although what looked like a 32 yard completion from Cowboys QB Tony Romo to receiver Dez Bryant on 4th and 2 that would've put the ball on the Green Bay 1 yard line was overturned after challenged by Green Bay. The Packers would go on to win by a 26-21 final and will face the Seattle Seahawks in the Pacific Northwest for the NFC title next week. Seattle beat NFC South champions Carolina by a 35-17 final.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL- With the end of the regular season, a number of new coaching vacancies and hirings have been announced. On Friday, the Chicago Bears announced that recently-dismissed Denver head coach John Fox would be their new head coach. Meanwhile, former Jets head coach Rex Ryan will be staying within the AFC East as the Buffalo Bills named him their new head coach after Doug Marrone opted out of his contract.

The biggest news came earlier this month when- after weeks of speculation- San Francisco 49ers and head coach Jim Harbuagh parted ways at the end of the regular season. By December 30th, the University of Michigan announced Harbaugh as their head coach, replacing Brady Hoke after a disappointing 2014 campaign.

RED SOX- The Red Sox have been letting no grass grow under their feet in the offseason. After signing Koji Uehara to a two year contract extension, Boston signed free agent 3rd baseman Pablo Sandoval to a five year, $100 million contract. During his 2014 championship run with the San Francisco Giants, Sandoval batted .279 with 16 homers and 73 RBI. The same week as the massive Sandoval deal was announced, Boston announced that one-time prospect Hanley Ramirez was signed to a 4 year deal worth an estimated $80 million.

Another former Red Sox farmhand returning home is Justin Masterson, who Boston signed to a one year contract worth just over $9 million in December. The Red Sox also ended up trading OF Yoenis Cespedes, RHP Alex Wilson and a prospect to the Tigers for starting pitcher Rick Porcello who was 15-13 with a 3.43 ERA with Detroit last year. Within a day of the Porcello deal, the Red Sox also sent starters Rubby De LaRosa and Allen Webster to Arizona in exchange for pitcher Wade Miley.

De LaRosa and Webster weren't the only Red Sox to make their way to the NL West- shortly before Christmas, the Red Sox announced that they had sent 3B Will Middlebrooks to the San Diego Padres in exchange for C Ryan Hanigan.

BASEBALL HALL OF FAME- The 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees have been announced and Red Sox fans can expect a familiar face among the honorees.

Pitchers Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz were first-ballot hall of famers while former Houston Astros 2B Craig Biggio made it to Cooperstown after his 3rd year of eligibility. Martinez, who has an ERA of 2.93 over his 17 year MLB career, has played for the Dodgers, Expos, Red Sox, Mets and Phillies. However, Martinez's career highlights (and lowlights) were in Boston. During the 1999 ALDS, Martinez came into the game in the 4th inning against the Indians and threw five no-hit innings of relief. The 2004 World Series was one of only two World Series appearances for Pedro- he threw a shutout in Game 3 at Busch Stadium against the Cardinals and even drew a walk in one of his at-bats.

Martinez was an 8 time All Star and has three Cy Young trophies to his name and led the AL in strikeout in 1999, 2000 and 2002.

The lanky Randy Johnson- dubbed "Big Unit"- had a slightly longer career, breaking into the bigs with the Expos in 1988 before playing nearly a decade with the Seattle Mariners. After a single season with the Astros, Johnson then signed with the newly-formed Arizona Diamondbacks in their second season and is best known for his performance in the 2001 World Series where he was credited with three wins in the dramatic 7-game series against the Yankees. In the deciding game 7, then-manager Bob Brenly pulled Curt Schilling in the 8th with one away before bringing in Miguel Batista to get out one batter [who happened to be Derek Jeter- NANESB!] and having Johnson- who started Game 6- come in to pitch relief. Johnson got all four batters he faced out and was credited with the win after Mariano Rivera loaded the bases and Luis Gonzales hit a single past a drawn-in Derek Jeter in the bottom of the 9th.

BOSTON BRUINS- Let's face it- it's been a pretty rough couple of weeks for the Bruins, but not too long after the calendar flipped over to 2015, something seems to be clicking for the B's.

On Thursday night, Tukka Rask turned aside all 30 shots he faced while Boston got goals from Bergeron in the first, Krejci in the second and Eriksson in the 3rd to get by the Rangers 3-0 in a nationally televised contest. The win puts the Bruins back in the playoff picture with about a week to go until the NHL's All Star break.

The win over the Rangers is the Bruin's 5th straight (this includes two shutouts) and Boston hopes to keep the momentum going on Saturday when they travel to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets. Puck is scheduled to drop at 7:00 ET and the game will be televised on NESN.

2014 NHL WINTER CLASSIC- The 2015 NHL Winter Classic has come and gone- taking place at Nationals Park in Washington DC on New Years day with the Capitals hosting the Blackhawks.

The Capitals got out to a pretty quick 2-0 lead with tallies by Eric Fehr and Alex Ovechkin, but thanks to goals by Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad, the Blackhawks were able to tie the contest up at 2-2 in the second. It looked as though the contest would be headed to overtime, but a late penalty on the Blackhawks led to a Caps power play and with 12 seconds left in regulation, Troy Brouwer was able to give Washington a 3-2 lead with a late goal on the man advantage. The Capitals would hang on to win in the remaining 11 seconds of regulation by a final of 3-2.

According to and TSN's Bob McKenzie, Boston is reportedly the front-runner to host the 2016 Winter Classic. Fenway Park was the host for the 2010 Winter Classic where the Bruins hosted the Flyers. However, there has been no official word from the NHL and other venues such as Denver or the Twin Cities are also reportedly under consideration. An announcement from the league is expected by February.

NCAA WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL- Regrettably, I missed most of the Volleyball season- although I was able to catch some of the finals back in December.

The Brigham Young Cougars women's volleyball team holds the distinction of becoming the first NCAA women's volleyball program to advance to the finals after upending #14 Nebraska and #2 Texas. However the Lady Cougars were swept by defending champions Penn State. This would be the Nittany Lions 2nd consecutive women's volleyball title, giving Penn State an NCAA record total of seven volleyball titles and their sixth in the last eight years.

BYU fell in three sets (21-25, 24-26 and 14-25) to the Nittany Lions at Oklahoma City's Chesapeake Center. Nittany Lion juniors Megan Courtney and Aiyana Whitney led the offense with 11 kills each while senior Nia Grant had nine kills to her credit.

NCAA FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP- With the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl serving as a playoff for the first ever NCAA FBS Championship playoff, the Oregon Ducks made quick work of the Florida State Seminoles on New Year's Day [with Ducks fans and players mocking QB Jameis Winston by chanting "Noooo means Noooo!" to the tune of the Seminoles fight song after the game- NANESB!] after beating FSU by a 59-20 final. The loss was Florida State's first in 29 games- including last year's NCAA Championship game, which was the last under the old system.

Later on that day, the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans would determine who the Ducks faced in the NCAA title game. This one turned out to be much closer, with the Ohio State Buckeyes prevailing over Alabama by a 42-35 final. This set up a Jan 12th meeting between the Ducks and Buckeyes at AT&T stadium in Arlington, TX for all the marbles [for the first time ever, no less- NANESB!]. Early in the matchup that featured Heisman-winning QB Marcus Mariotta against the Buckeye's 3rd string quarterback was going Oregon's way early on, with the Ducks getting out to an early 7-0 lead before Ohio State seemed to find their footing and go on to win by a 42-20 thanks in large part to Ezekiel Elliot's 4TD and 246 yard performance.

NCAA FCS CHAMPIONSHIP- After holding off a late rally by Illinois State, the North Dakota State Bison have won their fourth straight FCS title last weekend. The NDSU Bison were trailing the Redbirds 27-23 late before re-taking the lead on a 5 yard rushing TD from Carson Wentz to give North Dakota State a 29-27 lead. Just to make the final minute of regulation more interesting, the point after attempt was successfully blocked by the Redbirds.

With less than a minute to go, Illinois State was able to put together a drive that got them to midfield, but with just 8 seconds left, Redbirds QB Tre Robertson threw an interception to seal the win for the Bisons.

NBA- It's the end of the era for the Boston Celtics as the last of the Big Three from the 2008 Championship team was traded away to the Dallas Mavericks. In return for Rondo, Dallas will send Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder and Jameer Nelson to the C's and Boston will also receive a conditional first round pick in the 2015 draft and a second round pick in the 2016 draft.

Rondo, who had spent his entire NBA career in a Celtics uniform prior to the December 18th trade, returned to the Garden on January 2nd and had a season best 29 points as the Mavericks cruised to a 119-101 win over the Celtics.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

US Army Rejects Beretta Proposal for Updated Version of M9 Service Pistol

The US Army has announced that it will be seeking to replace their current M9 series sidearm, presenting a rare and lucrative opportunity for small arms manufacturers both here and overseas. However, the manufacturer of the current Army sidearm may be on the outside looking in.

The Pentagon has invited gunmakers to submit designs for a “modular handgun system.”

Beretta has produced 600,000 M9s for the Department of Defense and is still under contract to produce another 100,000. The M9s were initially made in Italy, but they have been manufactured in the U.S. since 1987.

The venerable Italian arms manufacturer has been in business since 1526 and their 92 series 9mm pistol was chosen to replace the Colt 1911A1 as the US military handgun in the late 1980s. The military version of the Model 92- known in all four branches as the M9- features a metal frame, slide-mounted safety and 15 round magazine. In December, Beretta introduced the M9A3 which featured improvements such as a removable, modular wrap-around grip, a threaded barrel, tritium sights, an under-barrel accessory rail and a 17-round magazine. The pistol itself is sand-colored, a change from the current gunmetal black. Another selling point Beretta highlighted is that the M9A3 would be interchangeable with components and accessories from the current batch of M9s.

However, the Army rejected Beretta's proposal this month and the new Modular Handgun System will most likely use an entirely different platform. Given the widespread use of Glock handguns by police agencies throughout the United States as well as some NATO allies, it would seem logical that some variation of the polymer-framed 9mm Glock 17 was evaluated at some point. Although relatively new, Smith and Wesson's Polymer-framed M&P series pistol is also being evaluated by the Army as a replacement for the M9. Despite being around for less than a decade, Smith & Wesson's M&P series has been adopted by a number of law enforcement agencies in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia- even replacing earlier versions of Glocks in some instances. Smith & Wesson's [NASDAQ: SWHC] bid for the lucrative Modular Handgun System contract will be assisted by General Dynamics [NYSE: GD] Ordnance and Tactical Systems.

Another possibility could be Modular Handgun System being awarded to SIG-Sauer. The US Army Criminal Investigative Division presently carries the SIG P228 [designated the M11- NANESB!] and the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command ordered 5000 polymer-framed SIG SP2022 9mm pistols. The SP2022 has a number of features similar to SIG-Sauer's full-size P226 series pistols, but is lighter thanks to the polymer frame.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

At Least 12 Killed After Islamist Gunmen Attack Office of French Magazine, Assailants Still At Large

Editors of a popular French magazine and three local police officers were killed when masked gunmen stormed the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Wednesday and opened fire. The magazine was firebombed a few years ago after they had published cartoon images of the Islamic prophet Mohammed and chief editor Stéphane Charbonnier was assigned a police bodyguard. Both Charbonnier and his police bodyguard were killed after shortly after the gunmen had forced their way into the building. Eyewitnesses and survivors said that the attack inside the Charlie Hebdo office lasted five minutes and that the three masked gunmen spoke French fluently but also called out "Allah Akhbar!". As local police responded to reports of gunfire in the area and the gunmen opened fire on two officers [both reportedly unarmed- NANESB!]- one of the attackers was videotaped walking up to a wounded policeman laying on the sidewalk and shooting him point blank before getting in a car and driving off with his accomplices. By Wednesday night, the youngest suspect in the attacks had turned himself in to authorities in suburban Paris.

The two suspects still at large have been identified as two brothers- Said Kourachi, 34, and his younger brother Cherif Kourachi, 32. Both suspects were known to both US and French officials- both of them were placed on Homeland Security's No-Fly list while Cherif was jailed for 18 months for attempting travel to Syria in order to aid Islamist fighters fighting US troops in Iraq. More recently, both brothers are said to have travelled to Yemen in 2011 and received training with Al Qaeda affiliates in the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula.