Spain's unemployment rate is hovering at a staggering 23%, so the government is resorting to an old American stand-by to try and cure its economic woes: casinos. The envisioned “Eurovegas” would be in one of two locations in Madrid and consist of six casinos, 12 hotels with 36,000 rooms, a convention center, three golf courses, shopping centers, bars and restaurants. The driving force behind the project is American casino mogul (and Newt Gingrich megabacker) Sheldon Adelson, who is looking to invest $22 billion in the lofty endeavor. Of course, he's got a few conditions, including easing the nation's smoking ban to allow gamblers to smoke inside, and bending zoning restrictions in order to build skyscrapers. Adelson says the project would create 260,000 jobs, but the idea has evoked fierce opposition in Spain. Many Spaniards fear that the "European Sin City," which would cover an area equivalent to 1,000 futbol fields, could create a sprawling hotbed of alcohol, drugs, gang violence and prostitution. Others simple believe the plan would be fiscally irresponsible. "I think a casino would be a waste of brain power and labor,” says Juan Garcia, a spokesman for an anti-Eurovegas association, “and instead endorse an activity that has little do with research, innovation and development.” Despite opposition, the plan may prevail; the Spanish government recently changed hands from Socialist to center-right, pro-business Catalan nationalists who are more likely to support the idea of boosting Spain's economy with a skyward business endeavor, even if it is a gamble.
Two US Army servicemen attempting to get hired as contract killers for a Mexican drug cartel were arrested by undercover feds last weekend in Laredo, Texas, in the climax to a DEA sting launched in Jan. 2011. Sergeant Samuel Walker, 28, and former Lieutenant Kevin Corley, 29, believed they were meeting with members of the Los Zetas cartel to discuss murdering rival gang members and recovering stolen cocaine in exchange for $50,000 and drugs. Instead, the soldiers—one on active duty, the other recently discharged—along with a third suspect, Shavar Davis, 29, were arrested by federal agents posing as cartel members. A fourth suspect, Corley's cousin Jerome Corley, was shot to death during the arrests. The three surviving suspects are being held in federal custody and face charges for drugs, weapons and conspiracy. The Los Zetas cartel, considered to be one of Mexico's most technologically advanced, powerful and violent drug outfits, is based just across the border from Laredo. Cartel violence throughout Mexico is believed to be responsible for nearly 50,000 deaths since 2006.
It's a story as old as the hot guitar lick itself: Rock 'n' roller gets famous, gets messed up on drugs and booze, and gets sober—but after that, you never seem to hear much from him or her. Not so for several members of some of the biggest rock acts of the 1970s and 1980s, who are currently bringing the noise under the band name "Rockers in Recovery." Hailing from the Sunshine State rock mecca of Pompano Beach, the group includes guitarist Ricky Byrd, who played with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts; former Billy Joel drummer Liberty DeVitto; ex-Aerosmith guitarist and songwriter Richie Supa; and Todd Rundgren collaborator Kasim Sulton. The group, whose mission is to foster a sense of community among sober music-lovers, performs benefit concerts across South Florida. Last year, Rockers in Recovery put on three shows for more than 10,000 fans, including a set at the 12-Step Music Fest on Sugarloaf Key in November. This coming Memorial Day, the group will be performing at a picnic at Pompano Beach's own 1st Step Sober House. As Byrd sees it, the reason he's in the band "is to show people you can be sober and still have fun." Supa, sober since 1988, adds, "The whole lie about being a rock star and having to do drugs, we're dispelling some of the myths. I tell kids now, 'I used to be part of the problem, now I'm part of the solution.'"
If Sen. Rick Jones (R) had his way, Michigan would be a medical marijuana-free state. Most recently, Jones sponsored a bill to outlaw medical marijuana for glaucoma patients. “I have met with multiple medical professionals, and not one of them has been able to tell me a benefit of treating glaucoma with medical marijuana,” Jones says. “In fact, a large problem is that many patients forgo the use of approved treatments such as eye drops and exclusively use medical marijuana, which increases their risk for permanent visual loss and blindness." Unsurprisingly, medical marijuana advocates disagree. “Used in combination [with prescribed medicine] it's proven very, very effective,” argues Tim Beck, political director of the pro-medical marijuana Michigan Association of Compassion Centers. “Anyone silly enough not to use their eye drops, well, maybe there’s something else wrong with them besides glaucoma.”
The Michigan Society of Eye Physicians & Surgeons sides with Sen. Jones. In a press release supporting his bill, the group claims that while prescription pot can reduce pressure in the eyes caused by glaucoma, its effects are short-term and won't effectively contain the disease. Other critics suspect that Sen. Jones, a former sheriff, is just continuing his general campaign against medical marijuana in the state: He previously has sponsored bills to disallow felons from selling medical pot and to prevent dispensaries from operating within 1,000 feet of schools and places of worship. "I think Senator Jones is completely opposed to medical marijuana law and is attempting to chip away at it by any means necessary," speculates Matthew Abel, executive director of the Michigan chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "Nobody I've talked to in the legislature expects his bills to pass."
There's a new kid on the block in rural America: Opana, a prescription drug with nine overdoses under its belt in Indiana, is seizing the title of small town America's favorite drug from Oxycontin and meth. While methamphetamine has long been associated with rural areas, opioids like Opana have surpassed meth as the most abused drug, especially in places like southern Indiana. Prescription drugs are responsible more US deaths than cocaine and heroin combined, according to the CDC, and people living in rural areas are twice as likely to OD on pills than their urban counterparts. "This Opana pill has really kicked us in the rear," said Sergeant Jerry Goodin with the Indiana State Police. "We've never seen an addiction like this." Local authorities are alarmed by the rise of Opana abuse, which they say started in 2010 after Oxycontin became more difficult to snort and inject. Opana is more potent per milligram than Oxycontin, making this drug particularly dangerous for people unfamiliar with the effects of high grade opioids. Like Oxycontin, Opana is either snorted or injected and is known on the street as "stop signs," "the O bomb," and "new blues." Endo Pharmaceuticals, who manufactures the drug, announced in December that they will reformulate Opana to make it more difficult for an abuser to crush. The new pill is in production now, making addicts desperate to get their hands on the current version—Fort Wayne, Indiana reported 11 pharmacy robberies related to Opana since news of the drug reformulation hit.
Colombian cocaine kingpin Jaime Alberto Marin-Zamora will spend more than 16 years in federal prison for trafficking drugs in to the US, according to today's ruling in a Miami court. The 47-year-old former leader of Colombia's "Norte del Valle" drug cartel pleaded guilty to smuggling some 30 tons of cocaine into the US between 1999 and 2004. Arrested on an island off Venezuela in September 2010, Zamora originally faced life in prison, but his assistance in other cases got his sentence reduced to a relatively soft 16+ years. The US has arrested and convicted several top leaders of the "Norte del Valle" cartel–one of the most powerful organizations in the illegal drug trade.