Vodka companies have many times used sex to sell the stuff at varying degrees of tastelessness, but a new brand's sales are apparently being boosted by gang violence. Southeast Red Vodka, distilled and bottled by Colorado-based Neradi3 LLC, comes in a frosted glass bottle that maps San Diego's notorious gangs on its label—all in red, a color associated with an infamous gang in the region. Locals are calling the liquor an attempt to cash in on the area's gang violence tasteless at best—and a “disaster waiting to happen” at worst. Mario Lewis, a leader of the community group 100 Strong, calls it “disgraceful” to “portray a community in gang-banging terms.” And at $20 for the 80-proof liquor, it's been flying off the shelves. San Diego accounted for the most gang-related killings in the US in the last year, and branding like this is unlikely to help alleviate the city's gang problem. Matthew T. Hall, a San Diego-based journalist, called the company hoping to get some answers for locals angry about an outsider profiteering from their region's violence problem. “If you are from southeastern San Diego, that's one thing,” he says. “If you grew up here and have pride in your neighborhood, maybe that's what this is about.” But he met with resistance from Southeast Red Vodka's spokesman: “You ain't getting no information... and I'd hate to have to sue you too. Because I really don't want to be in your article.”
Competing with the primarily Corona- and Tecate-fueled Cinco de Mayo festivities in New York this Saturday was the Big Apple edition of the annual Global Cannabis March, which shambled its way from Washington Square Park, NYC’s ancestral and spiritual home of pot-smoking, to Union Square, fast becoming an Occupy Wall Street hotspot. Legalize-it luminaries in attendance included rappers Immortal Technique and King David, Yippie “Pie Man” Aron King, John Lennon musician pal David Peel (of David Peel & The Lower East Side band fame, whose 1968 debut album was the classic—and obviously pro-pot—Have a Marijuana) and Joanne Naughton, who spoke on behalf of the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). Naughton spend 20 years in the NYPD, working undercover in narcotics and retiring as a lieutenant before becoming a Legal Aid Society lawyer. For much of her career, according to her LEAP bio, Naughton believed that the drug war was the right way to combat US drug problems. But, she said, “It slowly dawned on me that if the drug laws were working, we wouldn’t be continually hearing about these big drug busts." More pictures from the march can be seen here.
The creators of the Flabongo seem to have felt the world needed a way to make binge drinking more attractive, easy and fun. The solution? A device resembling an average pink garden flamingo—with the beak sawn off and a hole cut in the bottom of its belly—that makes getting uncontrollably wasted very quickly more garish than ever, and can now be bought online. Binge drinking enthusiasts say that the Flabongo has a couple of distinct advantages over the traditional beer bong: you don't have to rummage for a hose and funnel to make one, and its hard, plastic design makes it easy to chug alone—although of course that would mean no one to hold your hair in the bathroom later. The Flabongo's makers didn't respond when asked to comment, but their product can carry up to three beers; the foolhardy reveler then holds it up high, tips it over and drinks from its beak-less mouth.
It's (naturally) proving popular with college students, who find it a novel way to bong beer. "It's just one of those things that are so... stupid or impractical that college kids need to have one," Tommy, a freshman, tells The Fix. From what he's seen, the whole drinking-from-a-flamingo thing definitely drives partiers to drink more. "It's one of those 'You have got to try this!' things," he admits, "and you can't really say no... especially when you already have a few drinks inside of you." This novelty factor is even attracting a post-college crowd: Sarah, a professional New Yorker in her 20s, tells The Fix that her blue chip company once provided Flabongos at a casual client meeting. “They got everyone really drunk really fast since everyone was chugging it in a contest fashion,” she recalls. “The danger is you get drunk really quickly, get light-headed, and don't realize you're drunk right away.” This dangerous effect is sure to be amplified for underage drinkers—and with 30% of girls between 13 and 15 reporting that they binge drink, providing a funner, pinker way to do it is unlikely to bring good news. But that's unlikely to stop those who say nothing fits the bill like chugging beer passed backwards through the digestive system of a plastic pink bird.
After a decade of controversy and bad press in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US military is utilizing a very different strategy to combat drug smuggling in Honduras: small-footprint missions with limited troop numbers, partnerships with foreign military and police forces, and narrowly-defined goals. Around 90% of Colombian and Venezuelan cocaine passes through Central America to the US each year—and with a third of that (250-300 tons) coming via Honduras, the country has become the new focus in America's drug war. But this mission adheres to strict rules: US troops are not allowed to fire unless in self-defense and are barred from responding with force—even if Honduran or Drug Enforcement Administration agents are in danger. And instead of deploying millions of troops like in Iraq and Afghanistan, just 600 are responsible for all US military efforts across Central America. “The drug demand in the United States certainly exacerbates challenges placed upon our neighboring countries fighting against these organizations—and why it is so important that we partner with them in their countering efforts,” says Vice Admiral Joseph D. Kernan, the No. 2 officer at Southern Command, which is responsible for military activities in Central and South America. The sharp decrease in permanent American deployments overseas also reflects a much smaller Pentagon budget for such purposes.
Nearly three years after Michael Jackson's death, the King of Pop still can't seem to escape sordid headlines. His former bodyguard, Matt Fiddes, gave an exclusive interview to The Sun over the weekend in which he claimed that in a drug-fueled rage, Jackson ordered his brother Randy to be killed by the Nation of Islam bodyguards that were protecting him. Jackson had been in a battle with his famous brothers for years as they tried to get him to sign a $500 million deal for a Jackson Five reunion tour. Fiddes told the British tabloid that the already-reclusive singer had become paranoid to the point that he would bar family members from entering his home. “Things reached a head when Randy was trying to force his way past the bodyguards to speak to him in one of his rented homes," said Fiddes. "Michael ordered him to be shot dead. He was out of his mind on drugs and luckily Randy was okay." Fiddes also revealed several other juicy details, including Jackson's alleged brief romance with Whitney Houston and an obsession with Pamela Anderson that apparently led to an attempt to bed her in the months before his death.
At least 14 people locked in a drug and alcohol rehab center in Lima, Peru were killed when the building caught fire early Saturday morning. Officials have not yet determined the cause, but some suspect that the blaze at the Sacred Heart of Jesus clinic started when a patient set fire to his mattress. While the only known survivor jumped from the second floor, the other patients could not escape because the doors were locked and the windows were barred. This is the second such tragedy to occur in Peru this year: another rehab center, Christ is Love, was razed by fire back in January, killing 29 people who were also locked inside, motivating Peru's Health Ministry to begin work on new regulations for rehab clinics. The aunt of an 18-year-old who died in Saturday's Sacred Heart of Jesus fire, Jennifer Rugel, says that drug rehabilitation centers in Peru, as a rule, "seal their doors with locks because those interned want to escape and are there against their will." The large majority of Peru's rehab centers are unlicensed and lacking doctors. These unlicensed clinics, often run by church groups, have sprung up to answer to the approximately 100,000 addicts in need of treatment all over the country. The Sacred Heart clinic was licensed, but that an inspection last year recommended professional health care workers and improvements to prevent overcrowding.