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Drug War

5/16/13 4:44pm

Mexico's Narco Blogger Flees the Country

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Blog del Narco covered the truth Photo via

The secret author of Blog Del Narco has fled Mexico, she tells The Guardian. Blog Del Narco has continued to cover Mexico's violent drug war even when many other journalists and news sources have been silenced out of fear. Blogging under the pseudonym "Lucy," the young journalist reports that her blog partner called her on May 5 and uttered a single word: "run." "Run was our code work for when something was very wrong," Lucy explains. "We had never used it before." Now, her colleague has disappeared, and Lucy has left Mexico first for the US, then Spain, because it is "further away. It feels safer." Lucy remained anonymous until last month, when she revealed to The Guardian: "I'm in my mid-20s, I live in northern Mexico, I'm a journalist. I'm a woman, I'm single, I have no children. And I love Mexico.” This time, Lucy spoke to the newspaper via Skype, from an undisclosed location in Spain. She said she was alone and frightened, and reportedly cried several times. Her biggest fear, she says, is that she will see her colleague tied up, scared, preparing to be killed, just like in the kinds of video that she frequently would post her blog. Some victims have been tortured and beheaded on camera. "I don't want to think the worst but I can't help it," she says. "I called him back but there was no answer. I emailed him, tried Skype and WhatsApp, but nothing. Nothing."

More than 70,000 people have died in the past six years in Mexico, including dozens of journalists, as drug cartels battle each other and state forces. Blog Del Narco has come under repeated cyber-attack, especially by the government, according to Lucy. In 2011, a young couple who contributed to the blog was abducted, tortured and disemboweled, and a sign next to their bodies said the bloggers were next. A few days later, another contributor was killed, and a keyboard, mouse and sign mentioning the blog were strewn over the corpse. Currently Lucy is in a boarding house and has enough money to last a few months, she says, but has no friends or contacts in Spain. She has no immediate plans to resume blogging.

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By Sarah Beller

rocky driving

5/16/13 3:33pm

Lawmaker Busted for DUI "Had a Rock in His Shoe"

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One politician on the rocks. Photo via

South Carolina state Rep. Ted Vick has been charged with his second DUI this year, but he claims the incident was a misunderstanding—he simply had “a rock in his shoe.” Early Wednesday morning, a Bureau of Protective Services officer spotted Vick “staggering side to side” and “struggling to maintain his balance” around the House of Representatives parking garage before hopping in his car and trying to drive away. After witnessing the lawmaker “having trouble driving a straight line” and running over a flex cone, the officer arrested him for suspected DUI. His defense attorney, fellow state Rep. Todd Rutherford, insists that Vick was sober. “The way he walks does not dictate the way you drive. And he only saw him driving 20 feet,” says Rutherford. “Ted was not intoxicated. He was not drunk. He was not impaired. I have never in all my years seen anybody stopped by an officer on foot in a parking garage.” Rutherford insists that "he had a rock in his shoe" and claims that Vick ran over the cone because his truck was too large. The officer also reported "a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting" from Vick, who maintains he only had two glasses of wine and refused breath tests. Vick was released Wednesday on bond; his previous DUI charge, earlier this year, was dropped.

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By Bryan Le

greek tragedy

5/16/13 2:35pm

"Cocaine of the Poor" Plagues Greece

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"Sisa" is Greece's drug of choice in hard
times. Photo via

A new documentary from Vice investigates "sisa," a cheap synthetic drug that is "destroying the lives of Athens' homeless people." Although little is known about the drug, it is rumored to be a cheap derivative of crystal meth cut with anything from shampoo or cooking salt to battery acid and engine oil. Charalampos Poulopoulos, director of KETHEA, a government-funded anti drug and rehabilitation organization, says Greece's economic crisis has exacerbated general drug use in the country, and led to sisa's emergence on the market. The nation currently has a 27% unemployment rate—58% for youth under 25. In a "perfect storm," the economic crisis has also led to a collapse of the health care system, leading to a deficit of treatment centers, methadone clinics and healthcare workers. Addicts who’ve been priced out of using heroin, crack, and crystal meth have increasingly turned to sisa, which costs as little as two euros a hit. The epidemic is only the latest example in a global trend toward synthetic street drugs, from the skin-eating krokodil in Siberia, to souped-up anti-AIDS meds in South Africa, and to the synthetic craze in North America and the UK.As with most drugs available to the poor, sisa comes with some nasty side effects, including “insomnia, delusions, heart attacks and aggressiveness,” says Poulopoulos. In the video, sisa users describe the drug's damaging effects. "I think it's the worst drug ever" says a man in the video, "You can kill someone and not even realize."

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By Sarah Beller

sober rockers

5/16/13 1:08pm

Foreigner Frontman Is Born Again Sober

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Lou Gramm saw the light. Photo via

Lou Gramm, the former frontman of British-American rock band Foreigner, says he developed a major drug problem during the height of the band's success. In a memoir released last month, Juke Box Hero, the 63-year-old rocker chronicles his drug addiction and the spiritual awakening that led him to get clean. Now a "devout born again Christian," Gramm has been sober since checking into Hazelden in 1992, the day after the band played a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden. "There was the record company party afterwards. Everybody was in that condition," he tells Fox News, "of course, I wasn't able to sleep. I just started doing a little self assessment and thinking about what I had become and was very upset about it and worried about my children seeing me like this. I finally fell to my knees and asked God to take this plague away from me." Gramm says a few hours later, his attorney helped book him into Halzeden, where he spent "the best thirty days of my life." At five years sober, he was diagnosed with a fatal and inoperable brain tumor, but ended up receiving successful laser surgery to remove it. Gramm released a Christian rock album in 2009 with his Lou Gramm Band and continues to tour around the country with them. Foreigner remains one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time with worldwide sales of nearly 80 million albums.

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By McCarton Ackerman

smoking

5/16/13 11:56am

Does Smoking Make You Dumber?

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Doh. Photo via

Would you quit smoking if you knew that it damaged not only your lungs, heart, throat and mouth, but also your brain? According to new research from the Department of Mental Health at the University of Aberdeen in England, smoking cigarettes can actually decrease intelligence over time. The study, published in New Scientist magazine, examined the cognitive abilities of 465 people—half of them smokers—over the course of 60 years. The participants were first tested in 1947 at 11 years of age, and again when they were 64-years-old. Compared to non-smokers, and those who had quit, the consistent smokers performed "significantly worse" in five different cognitive tests. Taking into account external factors such as occupation, alcohol consumption and education, cigarette smoking was still found to reduce cognitive function by a little under 1%. Researchers attribute this drop in cognitive abilities to the fact that smoking impairs the functions of vital organs—including the brain. They stress the importance of quitting the habit and increased anti-smoking efforts across the globe.

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By Valerie Tejeda

addiction in sports

5/16/13 11:11am

Jimmy Connors Beat Gambling Addiction

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Unbeatable, but not unbreakable Photo via

Former US tennis champ Jimmy Connors has come clean about the gambling addiction that nearly "broke" him during the height of his career. Connors, who won eight Grand Slam singles titles in his career and was once ranked No. 1 in the world for 160 consecutive weeks, reveals the details of his compulsive gambling in his new memoir The Outsider. “I had a problem,’’ said Connors during a recent interview on Today. “I didn't know when to quit. I either had to break the bank or break me, and, you know, there's only one winner there, and it's not me. If I won two games, I had three or four. If I won four, I had to win six. So I'd just keep until, you know, I'd explode.” Connors says he would even bet on his own performances, placing large bets on himself to win Wimbledon for several years in a row during the '70s and early '80s. However, his addiction spiraled after he retired from the pro tour in 1994. "I needed that rush and I thought I had that when I was playing. Once I got away from the tour and had so much time, it started to grab on to me and affected a lot of things that went on in my family," says Connors. He credits his wife, former Playmate of the Year Patti McGuire, with saving him from going broke: "Patti would not let me do that." Several others revelations in his memoir have generated media attention, including his admissions of infidelity, and an accusation that his former fiancee, tennis champion Chris Evert, aborted their unborn child 40 years ago.

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By McCarton Ackerman

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