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drug war

4/30/13 5:19pm

Mexico to Reshape US Involvement in Its Drug War

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Will Barack back off?

The involvement of the US in Mexico's drug war is facing a dramatic shift, according to the Mexican government. Mexico will no longer provide US agencies, like the FBI, CIA, DEA, and Border Patrol, with widespread, direct access to its own law enforcement and military. Instead, to simplify a relationship that has been "lacking proper coordination," according to deputy foreign secretary for North American affairs Sergio Alcocer, all contact for US law enforcement will now go through "a single door"—the Federal Interior Ministry, which runs Mexico's security and domestic policy. "Before, you had Agency A from the US government that would deal with agency X, Y and Z from Mexico and then Agency B from the US that would also deal with agency X, Y and Z from Mexico. Nobody knew what was going on," says Alcocer. The statement, delivered in anticipation of President Barack Obama's visit to Mexico City on Thursday, reflects President Enrique Pena Nieto's desire to shift focus from drug-war violence to Mexico's economy, which is expected to surpass Brazil as the strongest in Latin America. Obama says he will wait to comment on the statement until he has "heard directly from them what exactly they are trying to accomplish."

The Pena Nieto administration's new approach is to concentrate on increasing economic cooperation with the US, and on providing jobs and social programs for those who might otherwise see opportunities in the lucrative drug trade. Pena Nieto emphasizes that this has potential benefits for the US economy and public safety. The new policy differs dramatically from previous president Felipe Calderon's aggressive offensive against the drug cartels, which involved intensive cooperation with the US. 

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By Victoria Kim

gaming addiction

4/30/13 4:03pm

Man Loses Life Savings in Carnival Toss Game

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At least he has this banana. Photo via

An innocent carnival arcade game turned into a vicious cycle for Henry Gribbohm of Epsom, New Hampshire, who spent his entire life savings, only to walk away with a giant banana. The 30-year-old father reportedly got "caught up" playing "Tubs of Fun" at a local carnival, which involves attempting to lob a ball into a plastic tub without it bouncing out. The prize was a motion-sensing video game controller, the XBox Kinect, which goes for about $96 online. After dropping $300 in just a few minutes, Gribbohm upped the ante, returning home to grab $2,300 more—all the money he had to his name. “You just get caught up in that whole 'I've got to win my money back,” said Gribbohm, who ultimately lost the game. However, he did return the the next day to plead his case, and the vendor agreed to give him back $600, along with a giant banana clad in a Rasta wig. John Flynn, Vice President of Fiesta, the company that manages the carnival, says it's “pretty next to impossible” to have lost that much money to a single game, but acknowledges that Tubs of Fun is hard to win. At Gribbolhm's request, the Manchester Police Department is investigating if any fraud was involved, and he's also considering a lawsuit. “For once in my life I happened to become that sucker,” says Gribbohm. “It was foolish for putting up my life savings.”

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By Bryan Le

drunk history

4/30/13 3:31pm

Binge Drinking, Elizabethan-Style

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Your typical Tudor tavern Photo via

Getting so wasted that the government has to do something about it is nothing new. Back in Tudor England, Elizabeth I had to step in to slap a ban on a potent and Shakespearean-sounding concoction called “double double beer.” According to the recently published Ye Olde Good Inn Guidewhich boasts of containing "all the information a Tudor traveller would need to negotiate a 16th-century pub crawl"—England's soused citizens would drink 17 pints of ale a week on average, reasoning that it was safer than the suspect water supplies of the time. At least, that was their excuse. The Queen's courtiers were no exception: The royal household chugged 600,000 gallons of beer in 1593. But that doesn't mean intoxication was taken lightly. Drunks were "treated" by being forced to sit in stocks or to wear a beer barrel. But so entrenched was English binge-drinking culture back then (not that things are entirely different these days) that con men with loaded dice made a good living by preying on the legions of drunks in pubs. Quality control, on the other hand, was the responsibility of the "ale-conner," whose job was to sit on beer poured onto a bench—if it made him stick to the bench, it was deemed no good. One army commander of the age was mighty impressed that his troops managed to march through France with “no beer these last 10 days” because it was “strange for English men to do, with so little grudging.”

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By Bryan Le

drug war

4/30/13 2:22pm

Cocaine Cowboys Hitman Wants Out of Jail

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Does Jorge Ayala deserve to go free?
Photo via

"Cocaine Cowboys" hitman Jorge Ayala, currently in prison for 3 murders, believes his "substantial" cooperation with law enforcement officials in the '80s is justification for his sentence to be reduced. Ayala, 48, was convicted of three drug slayings and suspected of 35 murders in total, and has been serving a life sentence since 1993. He was denied the opportunity for parole last year, with his next hearing set for 2019. "He feels after all these years, he deserves a chance at redemption,” said his attorney Jim Lewis. “I think he’s done a lot of good. He put a lot of people in jail, one of the few people who stood up to the Colombian Cartel.” Ayala is perhaps best known for assisting Griselda Blanco, the infamous Miami drug kingpin of the '70s and '80s known as "The Godmother," who was killed last year in Colombia. Ayala was the star witness in Blanco's trial, but the case was weakened when reports surfaced that he had offered bribes of money and phone sex to secretaries from the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. This dealt a crushing blow to the prosecution, and Blanco was ultimately convicted of three murders in 1998, despite being accused of 40, and served just seven years of a 20-year prison sentence. Ayala will now be moved from a Pensacola jail to one in Miami-Dade, with an “evidentiary” hearing likely to be scheduled in the next several months. If released, he would be deported to Colombia. “Hopefully, the State Attorney will forget about the foolishness with the phone calls and the secretaries and do the right thing and give him credit for what he’s done," said his attorney.

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By McCarton Ackerman

social drinking

4/30/13 1:13pm

"Buddy Cup" Links Drinkers on Facebook

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Drink your way to popularity.

"Social drinking" has received an upgrade. For those who can't bother with the hassle of manually adding their newest drinking buddies as Facebook "friends," a new digital beer glass can connect new friends automatically when they simply clink their drinks together. The "Buddy Cup," launched by Budweiser Brazil, contains a built-in chip integrated with Facebook, so when the cups knock together, their owners instantly become virtual friends and a public message is posted on the "walls" of both users. The company's commercial for the new product features drinkers delightedly tapping cups together, with the dubious tagline: “The more Buds, the more friends.” According to a spokesman at Agencia Africa, the company that invented the glass, "the 'Buddy Cup' is another idea bringing the brand even closer to its consumers and opening new levels of interaction for them.” The company knows its market: Heavy alcohol use has been linked to heavy Facebook use. No word yet on the invention of a hangover remedy that instantly de-friends people you don't remember meeting.

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By Bryan Le

sober stars

4/30/13 12:10pm

Jamie Lee Curtis' Sobriety Is Her #1 Accomplishment

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Sobriety is no minor feat. Photo via

Jamie Lee Curtis has won a BAFTA and a Golden Globe during her prolific acting career, but she says her recovery from addiction has been her greatest achievement. This past weekend, the 54-year-old actress served as the headline speaker at the annual spring luncheon of The Council On Alcohol And Drugs Houston, which raised $700,000 for their programs. "My recovery from drug addiction is the single greatest accomplishment of my life because it broke the cycle of addiction in my family," she said in her speech. In recent months, Curtis has become increasingly candid about her battle with alcoholism. "For a long time I felt like I was failing. I feel like a failure as a mother a lot, because despite my best efforts, I have replicated parts of how I was parented [that I didn't want to],” she said in the October 2012 issue of Good Housekeeping. “Even though I vowed not to and felt like I was doing it so differently, in many ways I repeated some of the same problems.” She has now been sober for over 13 years, and she acknowledges that it has been no small feat. “Getting sober was the single bravest thing I’ve ever done and will ever do in my life," she said, "Not [running] a 5K—facing an addiction. Being courageous enough to acknowledge it privately with my family and friends. Working really hard at solidifying it, getting support around it and being healthy. And then talking about it publicly.”

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By McCarton Ackerman

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