The list of New York City’s tourist destinations is long and familiar. Traditionalists can visit the Empire State Building. Theater lovers can go to a Broadway show. And this time of year, who can resist the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center?
But a new and unusual event has recently become a must-see attraction: the drug conspiracy trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican crime lord known as El Chapo.
For the last several weeks, the epic legal drama has been drawing crowds of curious narco-tourists who show up, often before dawn, hoping for a glimpse of the world’s most famous drug dealer.
Among the visitors so far: a French scholar of organized crime, an off-duty group of Guatemalan diplomats, a couple from Lithuania, a retired Connecticut banker and a mysterious man carrying a Bible whom court security officers took to calling “The Reverend.”
“Everyone back home is jealous — they can’t believe I’m at the El Chapo trial,” said Greg Gold, a lawyer from Denver, who turned up for the spectacle last week. “It’s better entertainment than ‘Les Mis.’”
Court buffs are, of course, a common sight at prominent proceedings. But even though Federal District Court in Brooklyn, where Mr. Guzman’s case is being heard, has had its share of blockbuster trials over the years, with boldface defendants like John Gotti, rarely, if ever, have so many ordinary people dropped in for a peek.
Getting a spot isn’t easy. There are only about 50 seats in the courtroom, 17 of which are reserved for the media, government officials and Mr. Guzman’s wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro. To secure a place, visitors — including journalists — tend to queue up before 7 a.m. for a trial day that begins at 9:30 and runs, with breaks, until 4:30 p.m.
Mr. Gold’s experience was typical. Two weekends ago, he and his girlfriend, who owns an art gallery, flew to Miami for Art Basel, the annual art fair.
Then — for him — they flew to New York and made it to the courthouse in time to hear the testimony of one of Mr. Guzmán’s Colombian cocaine suppliers. They stayed a few days, gripped by stories of ton-sized drug deals and cartel bigwigs knocking back mezcal in a remote mountain hideaway. After court let out on Thursday, they flew home to Denver.
Gary Merkling, who works in a paper mill near Green Bay, Wis., flew to New York for only one day — last Tuesday — and early that morning stood in line among the throngs of reporters. Mr. Merkling appears to have a fascination with the international cocaine trade. Last year, he said, he went to Colombia to visit the estate of Pablo Escobar, the drug lord who died in a shootout with Colombian authorities in 1993.
But Mr. Merkling believes El Chapo is on another level: “I’ve been fascinated with him with for years,” he said. (People have been fascinated with El Chapo from the moment he became a well-known kingpin.)
There was another reason for the trip: He had just turned 35.
“It’s kind of like a birthday present to myself,” Mr. Merkling said.
A cartel connoisseur could not have asked for a better gift.
From the moment it began in November, the trial has offered up a cornucopia of drug-world lore — with weird, wild and seemingly unimaginable details. On a single day last week, the jurors heard about a catering company that sneaked cocaine onto airplanes, fraud involving the indigenous people of the Amazonian jungle and a jailhouse murder plot that revolved around a cyanide-laced arepa.
There has, at times, been news: On Wednesday, a witness testified that executives from Pemex, Mexico’s national oil company, once discussed a deal with Mr. Guzmán to ship cocaine in the firm’s tanker vessels.
There has also been gore: On Thursday, jurors heard the tale of a trafficker who was shot in the heart while parked at a gas station. He died with his daughter sitting beside him.
That sort of thing apparently appealed to Max Acker, a former Marine enrolled in the sports management master’s program at Columbia University. Several years ago, he said, he wrote a letter to Richard Ramírez, the serial killer known as the Night Stalker. On Wednesday, he showed up to see El Chapo with a friend who makes movies.
“You see him on TV and he’s like a larger-than-life figure,” Mr. Acker said of the kingpin. “But you rarely get to come in contact with guys like this face to face.”
Twelve years ago, Agustin Juarez did come face to face with Mr. Guzmán. A TV cameraman who often covers boxing, Mr. Juarez said he was working at a fight in Culiacán, Mexico, and went to a party afterward.
When he arrived, he recalled, “My reporter grabbed me and said, ‘Oh my God, look who’s here.’”
Mr. Juarez, who lives in Los Angeles, was in New York last week to cover the Canelo Álvarez-Rocky Fielding fight at Madison Square Garden. With a little time to kill, he showed up at the courthouse on Wednesday. “I want to see El Chapo,” he said.
Then there was Jeanie Carlson, who flew in from Chicago to catch Monday’s action.
Ms. Carlson, who came with her son, said she had worked for decades in Mexico for General Mills and had been at the Guadalajara airport when one of the most infamous murders connected to Mr. Guzmán took place in 1993: the assassination of Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo, a Mexican bishop.
“It brings back a lot of memories,” Ms. Carlson said.
9-year-old genius to graduate university
(CNN) – A child prodigy from Belgium is on course to gain a bachelor’s degree at the tender age of 9.
Laurent Simons is studying electrical engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) — a tough course even for students of an average graduate age.
Described by staff as “simply extraordinary,” Laurent is on course to finish his degree in December.
He then plans to embark on a PhD program in electrical engineering while also studying for a medicine degree, his father told CNN.
His parents, Lydia and Alexander Simons, said they thought Laurent’s grandparents were exaggerating when they said he had a gift, but his teachers soon concurred.
“They noticed something very special about Laurent,” said Lydia.
Laurent was given test after test as teachers tried to work out the extent of his talents. “They told us he is like a sponge,” said Alexander.
While Laurent comes from a family of doctors, his parents have so far not received any explanation as to why their child prodigy is capable of learning so quickly.
But Lydia has her own theory.
“I ate a lot of fish during the pregnancy,” she joked.
The TUE has allowed Laurent to complete his course faster than other students.
“That is not unusual,” said Sjoerd Hulshof, education director of the TUE bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, in a statement.
“Special students that have good reasons for doing so can arrange an adjusted schedule. In much the same way we help students who participate in top sport.”
Hulshof said Laurent is “simply extraordinary” and praised the youngster.
“Laurent is the fastest student we have ever had here,” he said. “Not only is he hyper intelligent but also a very sympathetic boy.”
Laurent told CNN his favorite subject is electrical engineering and he’s also “going to study a bit of medicine.”
His progress has not gone unnoticed and he is already being sought out by prestigious universities around the world, although Laurent’s family wouldn’t be drawn on naming which of them he is considering for his PhD.
“The absorption of information is no problem for Laurent,” said his father.
“I think the focus will be on research and applying the knowledge to discover new things.”
While Laurent is evidently able to learn faster than most, his parents are being careful to let him enjoy himself too.
“We don’t want him to get too serious. He does whatever he likes,” said Alexander. “We need to find a balance between being a child and his talents.”
Laurent said he enjoys playing with his dog Sammy and playing on his phone, like many young people.
However, unlike most 9-year-olds, he has already worked out what he wants to do with his life: develop artificial organs.
In the meantime, Laurent has to finish his bachelor’s degree and choose which academic institution will play host to the next stage in his remarkable journey.
Before that, he plans on taking a vacation to Japan for an undoubtedly well-deserved break.
New award to honor arts and activism named after Lena Horne
Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem
Two gangbangers aimed their BMW like a missile at a father and his 8-year-old son on a Harlem sidewalk in a horrifying incident captured by video distributed by police Thursday.
The BMW — driven by a man police believe is a member of the Gorilla Stone Bloods Gang — was zeroed in on the father, a rival gang member, said cops.
Around 3:45 p.m. Nov. 6, the boy and his father were walking on W. 112th St. by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. when the BMW jumped the sidewalk and slammed into them both, said cops.
🚨WANTED for ASSAULT: on 11/6 at approx 3:43 PM in front of 128 West 112th St in Manhattan, a 32 yr old male was walking with his 8 yr old son when a white BMW jumped the curb & hit the father & son. The driver then got out and slashed the father. Call @NYPDTips with any info. pic.twitter.com/cwd79rcM4c
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) November 15, 2019
Father and son were both knocked through a gate.
The BMW driver then backed up — and its driver and passenger, also believed to be a gang member, jumped out of the car and ran toward the father and the son.
One of the attackers slashed the father, identified by sources as 32-year-old Brian McIntosh, who’s served prison time for robbery and bail jumping.
McIntosh and his son went to Harlem Hospital. Miraculously, the boy escaped serious harm.
McIntosh was so adamant about refusing to help police catch his attackers that the young boy’s mother had to file a police report alleging he was the victim of a crime, police sources said.
Cops released video of the attack, and ask anyone with information about the suspects to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.
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