Authorities have arrested 25 members of The Texas Mexican Mafia—also known as "La eMe"—a powerful prison gang with ties to a Mexican drug cartel. With an estimated 6,000 members, they are considered one of the biggest gang threats to the state. After a four-year investigation, authorities arrested the 25 yesterday on charges of smuggling drugs across south Texas. Agents from the FBI and US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) say the Texas Mexican Mafia operates mainly in Laredo, Texas—the busiest land port along the border—and distributes drugs in San Antonio, Austin, and Corpus Christi. The cash is then sent to the gang’s associates in Mexico. The Laredo chapter of the gang is charged with money laundering, along with heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine trafficking. Armando Fernandez, special agent in charge of the FBI's San Antonio Division, hopes these arrests will serve as a warning to the Mexican cartels, who often infiltrate prisons and enlist gangs to help them traffic drugs in the US. Says Fernandez: "These arrests today should send a clear message to the Texas Mexican Mafia, and other suspected criminal organizations, that law enforcement will not tolerate their alleged violent acts and trafficking of dangerous drugs in our community."
Children exposed to cigarette smoke in the womb are more likely to suffer from hearing loss in their teen years, a new study finds. After examining data from 1,000 children—ages 12 to 15—from the 2005-2006 US National Health Examination Survey, researchers discovered that 16% of teens surveyed had been exposed to smoke while in the womb. These teens were three times more likely to have one-sided, low-frequency hearing loss compared to those who were not exposed to cigarette smoke. The level of hearing impairment associated with fetal exposure to tobacco smoke was "relatively modest" at less than three decibels, wrote a research team led by Dr. Michael Weitzman, of the NYU School of Medicine in New York City. "However, an almost three-fold increased odds of unilateral hearing loss in adolescents with prenatal smoke exposure is worrisome.” Though the study could not prove a direct causal link between smoking during pregnancy and offsprings' hearing loss, hearing experts agree that the findings are not surprising. "This is an effect which has been described previously for the adult population, so it is logical that it would also apply to children of smokers," says Dr. Ian Storper, director of otology at the Center for Hearing and Balance Disorders at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “The study provides more reason to eliminate tobacco usage across our population and to continue research in the area to understand the mechanism of damage to the auditory system."
Actor Michael Madsen, star of Kill Bill and Reservoir Dogs, was ordered by a judge to 30 days of inpatient rehab for failure to address his "severe alcohol problem" following his DUI arrest last year. Madsen's probation was revoked yesterday due to his failure to attend AA meetings after his September arrest, when he was pulled over by police for "erratically" driving a sports car along the California coast. The 55-year-old actor reportedly showed up in court yesterday with an unexplained black eye. According to his attorney, Perry Wander, he must be enrolled in a program within 72 hours and his wife Deanna is currently looking in to possible facilities. Madsen will not be allowed to leave the facility without permission from the court and could end up in treatment for a longer period of time if it's found by that sufficient progress has not been made. "I want something in writing from the program so I can assess this in a real way," said the judge. "I want to see how things are going and I hope for a good report from the program." Madsen, 55, has continued to maintain his innocence throughout, claiming through his attorney that he did not fail a field sobriety test and that the breathalyzer test was flawed.
- House Passes Amendment to Drug Test Recipients of Food Stamps [US News]
- The Case for a Cigarette Tax, in One Graphic [The Washington Post]
- Coburn Asks USDA to Explain Spending Thousands on Alcohol and Free Lunches [Fox]
- Must-Have Breathalyzer Watch Tells You When to Go Home, You’re Drunk [Geekosystem]
- Drunks Could be Fitted with 'Sobriety Bracelets' [Northampton Chronicle]
- Lindsay Lohan Plans to Transfer to Another Rehab Facility, Possibly to Long Island [NY Daily News]
- John McAfee Releases Bizarre Drug-Themed Video About Virus Software [CBS]
A woman from Massachusetts was so desperate to avoid being caught driving under the influence that she locked herself in the trunk of her own car and told cops she had been kidnapped. According to police reports, two men found Maria Brayfield, 24, trapped in a white Ford Focus on the side of a Massachusetts highway last weekend. Beverly Police Department spokesman Michael Boccuzzi says that the two men “heard screams from the back of the car, broke the rear window, and found the woman locked in the back of the hatchback.” Brayfield told the men she had been kidnapped, forced to drive her own car, and then locked in the back. However, further questioning by the police department’s criminal investigations unit revealed that she had faked the kidnapping. According to Boccuzzi, Brayfield later confessed that she was “intoxicated by fear”of being caught driving while under the influence. While police could not confirm that Brayfield was in fact driving while intoxicated—either by liquor or by fear—the department charged her with filing a false police report. She is due to appear in court at a later date.
Now that China has finally re-opened its doors to tequila, Mexican drink-makers are hoping to export lots—and lots, and lots—of tequila to the world's most populous country. This week, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a bilateral agreement allowing import of "pure agave" tequila into China for the first time since 2008. The country had limited import of the spirit due to legal and sanitary restrictions, allowing only lower quality "mixto" tequila containing 51% agave sugar. But Chinese health authorities changed their rules last week and determined that pure tequila has no detrimental health effects. Currently, margarita-loving Americans consume 80% of the world's tequila—even beating out Mexico. But China—with its 1.3 billion inhabitants—could present a promising new market for tequila producers, and many are hopeful that the spirit will take off. "It's a Mexican product that will conquer the preferences of Chinese consumers," says Ramon Gonzalez, director of Mexico's tequila promotion council. "The potential of this industry is that in five years, we can reach 10 million liters in exports."
Patrón—one of the world's biggest tequila makers—has already begun exploring how to cater to its new consumers by researching Chinese culture. "We hire people there to look at their customs, culture, gastronomy, to see how they pair their meals to bring out the best tasting experience," says David Rodriguez, Patrón production director based in Jalisco state. China's most popular alcoholic drinks are beer and a strong traditional Chinese spirit called baijiu, and 95% of the hard alcohol consumed in the country is produced there. Though tequila will have competition by Chinese drink-makers, Rodriguez believes the spirit has a strong chance of success because of its "western" appeal. "The Asian markets are seeking to westernize when it comes to prestigious brands, the brands consumers aspire to," he says. "I'm convinced that we're going to be very successful."