A Shield

By Christopher Zoukis Image courtesy commons.wikimedia.org Kali Sikaran is a martial arts system developed in Southeast Asia during the Majapahit Empire.  The Majapahit Empire, concentrated on the Island of Java in contemporary Indonesia, thrived because of its proximity to commercial trading routes on the Indian Ocean.  More specifically, the empire controlled the Straits of Malacca, […]

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Musical Chairs

By Christopher Zoukis

Most of the Sinaloa Cartel’s gangbangers were from MS-13, Mara Salvatrucha.  In other words, they were rough boys from El Salvador and the Honduras.  With a reputation for brutal violence, MS-13 gangs were the baddest of the bad asses.  Only it turned out the Zetas were badder, making the MS-13 gangbangers look like three-year olds at a church picnic.  Using heavy weapons and military tactics, the Zetas chopped MS-13 into bits and pieces. 

The leader of the Zetas was Heriberto Lazcano, a twenty-eight year old former GAFE officer whose nickname was “The Executioner.”  Lazcano intended to hang onto his territory. 

The war was on.

Lazcano, realizing he needed more men, initiated a new recruiting strategy.  He advertised.  Banners hung from overpasses and bridges got right to the point:  “We offer you a good salary, food, and attention for your family.”  One advertisement stated:  “Join the ranks of the Gulf Cartel.  We offer benefits, life insurance, a house for your family and children.  Stop living in the slums and riding the bus.”  Photo courtesy vkb.isvg.org

It worked.  Soldiers and ex-soldiers flocked in droves to join up.  Lazcano recruited heavily in Guatemala, home of the Kaibil commandos, who really were the baddest of the bad.  The motto of the Kaibiles was:  “If I retreat, kill me.”  Recruiting wasn’t Lazcano’s only talent; he also had a head for business.  Zetas troops earned money for the organization through extortion, shaking down anyone and everyone:  marijuana growers, dealers, local businesses, restaurants, even car dealerships.

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25 Best YA Sci-Fi Novels

By Christopher Zoukis / BlogCritics.org

Bored out of your mind with video games?  Got over 500 channels in hi-def and nothing’s on?  Here’s a novel idea:  read a novel!  You know the things with pages and printing and an enticing picture on the cover.

Sci-fi for Young Adults is mega-popular.  In fact, Young Adult fiction is all the rage even among adults.  And Hollywood has caught the virus big-time.  Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games and Ender’s Game have all hit the big screen and enjoyed massive popularity.  Image courtesy amazon.com

Some guy named Shakespeare said, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.”  Fortunately for you, the poison has been filtered out of this list.  This list is all meat.  So if you’re looking for a good sci-fi novel, here are twenty-five sure bets.

Instant disclaimer:  these are not – that’s a big negative – ranked in any type of order, i.e. good to bad.  They’re all good!

  1.  Harry Potter series.  This series has everything, except for explicit sex.  Magic, good wizards, bad wizards, and a chick named Hermoine.
  2. Twilight series.  Hunk-O-Rama vampires and werewolves, along with oodles of tear-jerking teen angst.  Great stuff!
  3. Feed, by M.T. Anderson.  This novel takes today’s obsession with mobile devices to a whole new level.  Instead of Girls Gone Wild, this is iPhones On Steroids Gone Wild.
  4. A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L’Engle.  Three geeks accompanied by incarnate stars battle Universe-devouring evil.  “Tesseract me up, Scottie.”

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Dark History: Mexico’s Drug Cartels, Part 1

Dark History: Mexico’s Drug Cartels, Part 1


By    |   Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Mexican government, appalled at the atrocities committed by the cartels during the late 1980s, began an investigation of the Mexican Cartels. The investigation revealed what was common knowledge: The police were corrupt. It was like cancer, spreading everywhere. Pressured by the DEA, the Mexican government decided to clean house. The Mexican army arrested Guadalajara Cartel drug lord Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo in 1989. Then they interrogated 300 members of the Culiacan police force. Seven officers were indicted for accepting bribes, while almost one-third of the rank and file police officers quit after being questioned.

Mexico would not extradite criminals to any nation where they could face the death penalty. Therefore, Gallardo was tried in a Mexican court. Sentenced to 40 years in prison, Gallardo continued to run his empire from behind bars, where he was allowed to use a cell phone. Still, because Gallardo was essentially out of the loop, his organization sank into the quicksand of rivalries and greed. Avaricious for money and territory, the Mexican Cartels eyed each other with suspicion and jealousy.

The Sinaloan Cartel didn’t like the hand they had been dealt. In effect, they had only two ways to move drugs into the U.S., through Tecate and Mexicali, neither of which led to lucrative markets, like southern California or Arizona. The Sinaloans took a look around and considered their options. To the east was Sonora, but the Sonoran Cartel had lots of men and lots of guns. The other option was Tijuana, controlled by the Arellano Felix brothers, whom the Sinaloans considered easier pickings. So they went to war with the Tijuana Cartel.


Benjamin Arellano Felix ran the Tijuana Cartel. His brother, Eduardo, ran the financial side of the business, taking care of the money laundering. Ramon, a younger brother, functioned as the Tijuana Cartel’s enforcer. The oldest brother, Francisco, paid off politicians and police officers. Francisco, who was an ostentatious cross-dresser, owned five houses and a discotheque called Frankie O’s. In his heyday, Francisco was greasing palms to the tune of six million dollars per month. The Tijuana Cartel was atypical in that many of their gang members were from affluent middle-class families. They dressed in expensive, stylish clothing, spoke English, and were educated. Most of them eschewed tattoos. They transported heavy weapons into Mexico and drugs into the U.S.

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Big Wheels

By Christopher Zoukis

So much cocaine was being moved by the Mexicans that they had difficulty storing the cash.  There were literally boxcars of money.  In other words, everything was just peachy.  But then Gallardo had an idea.  Rather than being paid in cash, he could demand payment in product, cocaine.  And that’s just what he did.  The Colombians didn’t balk.  They couldn’t.  They had no choice in the matter.  Florida was too risky.  The DEA was seizing shipments left and right. 

Overnight, Felix Gallardo and the Sinaloan gang became cocaine kings.  They weren’t just couriers anymore.  Now they were players, moving their own product as well as that of the Colombians.  The Sinaloans went from the minor leagues to the major leagues in a single leap.  In the drug trafficking world, Felix Gallardo transitioned from the role of supporting actor to movie star.  The DEA began keeping close tabs on Gallardo, elevating his position on their Christmas Wish List. 

Gallardo was a criminal, but no one had ever accused him of being stupid.  He knew the DEA lusted for him.  They wanted him dead or in prison.  Gallardo, attempting to lower his exposure, moved his family to Culiacan.  As soon as he arrived, he called for a high-level meeting.  All the Big Wheels of the various gangs in Guadalajara showed up.  Gallardo informed the gang leaders that he was stepping out of the limelight.  He was still the Boss of Bosses, and they still had to pay tithes.  Gallardo wasn’t giving up his rightfully due share of the profits.  Only now, instead of being both the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer, he would simply be the CEO.  Day-to-day operations would be handled by territorial leaders.  In other words, Gallardo was delegating authority.

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Problems, Problems, Problems

By Christopher Zoukis Gallardo smelled a rat.  Something was fishy in Denmark.  A meeting was called.  All the major players arrived and discussed the situation.  Later, another meeting was held.  All evidence pointed to Kike. Kike and his pilot, Alfredo Zavala Avelar, were leaving the American consulate building in Guadalajara, when five gangsters attacked them, […]

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Rancho Bufalo

By Christopher Zoukis In reality, the Colombian Cartels, while certainly potent entities, were simply federations of gangsters. During the early 1980s, the Medellin cartel ran the bulk of its cocaine into North America through Florida.  It was nine-hundred-miles from Colombia to Florida.  Planes would drop water-proof loads of coke into the ocean off Florida.  Forty […]

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A Brief History of the Drug Cartels

By Christopher Zoukis Generally, middle-class and upper-class whites in America perceived marijuana use as a trivial matter.  Most people didn’t use marijuana.  Their perception changed drastically in 1948.  Hollywood actors and actresses were habitual users of marijuana.  Mexican marijuana was prevalent in Hollywood and easily obtainable.  Movie star Robert Mitchum was arrested, along with his […]

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By Christopher Zoukis The southern states of Mexico include Chiapas, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Morelos, Tabasco, Guerrero, Michoacan, Veracruz and Oaxaca.  Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo profit from tourism, while the rest of the southern states, because of vast tracts of arable land, depend upon agriculture for their economic health.  For the most part, the […]

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