Filed under: Culture
In a lush field somewhere deep in the heart of Homestead, a gorgeous brunet in a brown bikini lies atop a camouflage tarp, cradling a .50-caliber sniper rifle. The firearm's muzzle is as long as her deliciously toned, boot-strapped legs. Despite the brutal heat and swarms of gnats and mosquitoes, 25-year-old Giselle coolly grips the trigger. In her native Colombia, her Lebanese-born father taught her how to handle shotguns, but they were nothing compared to the AR-50. "These guns are really powerful," she says, taking position 75 yards from her target: a male mannequin holding a baby mannequin hostage. Giselle is proven right when she fires the first bullet. BA-DOOM! The ground around her rumbles. A dirt cloud rises. She reloads and squeezes the trigger. Again the rifle roars and the earth trembles. A close inspection of her target shows two kill shots: one under the mannequin's cheekbone, the other to the lower jaw. But Giselle is disappointed the target's head is still intact. "How come it didn't blow up?" she asks, half-pouting.
Welcome to the set of Girls and Guns, a Web-based reality show featuring beautiful young ladies handling heavy firearms. Giselle is among four contestants taping the third episode. "I've always liked guns, so this is like a dream come true," she says.
Metro-Miami Action Plan Trust
The show is one of several featured on www.toughsportslive.com, a membership-based site that launched this past week and will Web-cast cock fights from Puerto Rico, no-holds-barred mixed martial arts matches from Brazil, and bull-fighting from Colombia. "Not everyone is into football and baseball," says creator Jason Atkins, an ex-Marine who trains the female shooters. He says the ladies, who are competing for a $5000 prize, undergo three weeks of firearms training; they get to play with M-16s, twelve-gauge shotguns, SIG 552 automatic rifles, MP5s with silencers, and M-60 machine guns. "The girls are judged on accuracy, sex appeal, form, and how they talk on camera," Atkins explains. "We spend a lot of time on the details. We make sure the girls are handling these weapons properly."
One of the young women competing against Giselle is Jennifer, a curvy, tight-bodied blond with captivating blue eyes. Jennifer scores extremely well on accuracy and sex appeal. But the leggy contestant needs to work a little more on her target acquisition. When she fires the AR-50, she takes out the baby hostage with a shot between the eyes and a bullet to the chin. "I thought that was the target," Jennifer admits later. "Jason told me to shoot at the face inside the scope, and that's what I did." -- Francisco Alvarado
Tag! You're It, Miami
Filed under: Flotsam
Two weeks ago, twelve men (well, eleven, plus one girl) armed with thousand-dollar laser submachine guns entered the desolate Opa-locka/Hialeah Flea Market around 10:00 p.m. Rain spattered off the sagging tarps and tin roofs that covered portions of the elaborate maze, which stretched out from the market's crumbling yellow tower. As they skulked through the seemingly endless corridors, the half-dozen pubescent members of South Florida Laser Tag delighted in the range and accuracy of their military simulation firearms. Fevered digital gun battles unfolded well toward midnight, flea market employee against flea market employee, yielding a fiercely successful trial run.
"It's just a matter of working out a few insurance issues," said Adam Mayle, one of two founding members of Battlefield Live. "We should be good to go any day now." Adam and a co-worker at Mount Sinai Medical Center spotted the guns online and purchased a dozen without ever having fired one. "We rolled the dice," he said.
The pair has been staging small laser tag courses for businesses and camps, erecting inflatable obstacles and refereeing from the sidelines. But doing after-hours business in the flea market would be their magnum opus. Adam is confident the deal will work out, as is the flea market's owner, Scott Miller.
The hospital-engineer-by-day has printed up T-shirts and plans to order two-way radios to cut down on friendly fire. An evening of shooting should cost around $50.
As midnight rolled around and the sweat-drenched pioneers shuffled back to their cars after the trial contest, a few of the members of the local laser squadron broke out their own weapons (which, by comparison, resembled Technicolor vacuum cleaners) and began scampering around the parking lot, blasting away. -- Calvin Godfrey
Filed under: News
Following the Miami riots of 1980 and 1982, county leaders decided they needed to address poverty, anger, and disaffection in the black community. So they created the Metro-Miami Action Plan Trust to do nothing less than eliminate the disparities between blacks and the rest of Dade County. Among MMAP's duties is to provide financial assistance to low-income first-time property buyers.
But the trust has struggled to meet expectations. In 1998 a county audit discovered MMAP had failed to track hundreds of thousands of dollars given to community-based organizations. Five years later federal prosecutors charged MMAP administrative officer Arthur Jones with accepting a $3000 kickback for recommending approval of a $25,000 commercial loan to an unnamed applicant.
Now the Miami-Dade Police public corruption unit is investigating a pair of trust employees for alleged misdeeds.
According to county documents released this past May 11, Joanne Hicks and Eric Johnson choose recipients of up to $5000 in interest-free, forgivable home loans, which can be used for down payments and closing costs. The borrower does not have to repay the loan if he or she lives in the home for at least ten years.
Johnson is a licensed mortgage broker and a close chum of Hicks's husband, who is also a mortgage broker and Realtor. On June 6, Johnson and Hicks allegedly steered ten loan recipients to Johnson's company for mortgages. During an inquiry conducted by Miami-Dade Employee Relations Director Don Allen, Johnson insisted he had not processed any mortgages since he was hired by MMAP last year. Hicks acknowledged her husband had performed closings for homebuyers who received MMAP funds prior to 2006, but said he has not conducted business with MMAP since. (Phone calls to MMAP, Hicks, and Johnson were unreturned.)
Investigator Allen was not convinced. He expressed his doubts in a memo to Assistant County Manager Cynthia Curry, who oversees MMAP. "Given the seriousness of the charges," Allen wrote, "it clearly warrants further investigation by other law enforcement or investigative agencies." -- Francisco Alvarado
Documentary Déjà Vu
Filed under: News
Last week Cuban-American militants Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat were given reduced prison sentences after "anonymous donors" turned over a massive arms cache, including some 30 guns, plastic explosives, and a grenade launcher. "I seriously doubt these were munitions in the hands of terrorists," lawyer Kendall Coffey told the Associated Press. "More than likely, they were in the hands of freedom fighters for a beautiful land 90 miles away."
Some might disagree with that characterization -- particularly the minions of Hugo Chávez, who criticized the U.S. government for last month releasing Luis Posada Carriles, a comrade-in-arms of Alvarez and Mitat's. A U.S. district court judge in El Paso, Texas, threw out an indictment of immigration fraud against the militant, who is most notoriously associated with the 1976 bombing that killed 75 passengers on a Cubana jet.
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Posada once told the New York Times about his involvement in another bombing -- the 1997 explosion that killed an Italian on vacation in Havana -- only to retract his statement later. He is the subject of a new Venezuelan documentary. Posada Carriles: Terrorism Made in the USA recounts the exploits of Miami's most infamous elderly freedom fighter, who as recently as 2000 was caught trying to off Fidel Castro in Panama. We haven't seen the movie yet. The Committee to Free the Cuban Five has organized showings, but none is scheduled for Miami.
The film is directed by a Venezuelan named Angel Palacios, and coproduced by Telesur, the South American news network initiated by Hugo Chávez and run by Andrés Izarra, his former minister of communication. It implicates Posada as a mere thread in a vast web of conspiracy to undermine Latin American autonomy. It's only one of 48 planned chapters in a Telesur-produced documentary series called InjerenCIA, which purports to tell "stories that expose the tentacles of a Silent Invasion" -- the "invastion" perpetuated by the U.S. government, of course.
Other chapters include "The CIA Against the Bolivarian Revolution" (which features on its cover an illustration of a cowboy-hat-clad Chávez embracing a peasant, juxtaposed with a dopey-looking George W. Bush); "Spy Satellites"; "Psychological Operations in Latin America"; "Operation Condor"; and "The Empire Against Human Rights."
Nobody could deny that the CIA's history in Latin America is a source of national shame, or that if we haven't nabbed Posada yet, we're probably not trying hard enough. But as Bush sputtered at last week's G8 Summit: "The Cold War is over. It ended." -- Emily Witt