NEWSQUIRKS 405

WHAT'S UP DOWN UNDERIn Brisbane, Australia, Nektario Zafiratos, 24, was sentenced to five years in jail after admitting he paid for his lavish wedding reception with a check stolen from one of the guests. The next day Zafiratos stole the guest's car, which was later found abandoned and extensively damaged. Zafiratos's marriage ended two months later when he was taken into custody after a crime spree, during which he used bogus checks amounting to US$115,500 to pay for a sports car, jewelry, clothing and the services of a prostitute. "You have added new meaning to the word contemptible," District Court Judge Patrick Shanahan said.In the Northwest Territory Supreme Court in Darwin, Aboriginal activist John Kelly, 50, was charged with attempting to extort US$7,600 by threatening to "point the bone," or place a death curse, on comedian Kevin Wilson and his family after he heard Wilson perform a song that contained the words "boong" and "coon." Both words are derogatory terms for Aborigines. Kelly initially lodged a complaint with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, then threatened on Darwin radio to "paint up and put a curse on" Wilson. Kelly's manager Bryan Clark later telephoned Wilson's manager demanding a new four-wheel drive vehicle not to "point the bone," then lowered the demand to money.OUT OF A JAMA seven-year-old British boy who ate nothing but jam sandwiches for three years has finally been cured of his addiction, according to his relieved mother. Almira Flatman said her son Craig's habit of eating strawberry or raspberry jam on white bread had been a "nightmare" and that she couldn't make him eat other things "because of the way he used to make himself sick and shake and sweat." Craig was treated at London's Great Ormond Street children's hospital, where he overcame his fear of other foods over a six-month period by playing with them and eventually taking tiny bites.IT HAPPENSAfter two months aboard the Russian space station Mir last fall, two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut found their toilet tanks overflowing because four unmanned space flights that were supposed to bring fresh tanks to the station had to be postponed when Moscow ran out of money to pay for the missions' booster rockets. What's more, a secondary disposal system designed to recycle human waste into the cooling mechanism malfunctioned. Then the crew couldn't find a pump that was supposed to be on board to eject excess waste into space in just such an emergency. On top of everything else, Tass reported in November that the arrival of a relief crew, two Russians and a German, had to be postponed from Dec. 15 to mid-February.INTRUDER ALERTPolice in Toledo, Ohio, reported they were investigating at least five break-ins they believe to be related because of the intruder's bizarre behavior. In one incident, he smoked a cigarette after defecating in a cat litter box and urinating near the kitchen stove while the homeowner slept on a nearby couch. Another time, a 30-year-old woman who found her dresser drawers in disarray said one of her undergarments had been dropped in the middle of the kitchen floor. She added someone apparently slept in her bed after placing plastic bowls from the kitchen at the end of the bed. Police Sgt. Robert Baumgartner said that although small amounts of cash were taken in some of the incidents, apparently money wasn't what the intruder was looking for, noting, "He's excited by this, but why? I guess we'll have to ask him that when he's arrested."FROM BAD LUCK TO WORSEAn Amtrak train taking holiday travelers from Chicago to Seattle the day after Thanksgiving was delayed by a drug bust in Wisconsin. In Minnesota, it struck an abandoned car on the tracks. Later, false indicator lights caused another delay. A blizzard hit and fuel ran low. Then a drunken passenger and his son got into a fight. In Idaho, a freight train derailed, blocking the Amtrak train's tracks. Finally, the train ran out of food and had to stop in Spokane, Wash., to wait for a delivery from Kentucky Fried Chicken to feed its 109 passengers. It arrived in downtown Seattle Sunday night nearly 12 hours late. "I was wondering if the stagecoach would be faster," said passenger Tim O'Donoghue, 41.After Gary and Lisa Boulay were burned out of their Baltimore home, they moved into a Holiday Inn in nearby Glen Burnie, Md. Six weeks later, their 4-year-old son, William, had 20 percent of his large intestine and all of his small intestine sucked out by a damaged drain at the motel's wading pool.OU SONT LES GANGSTERS D'ANTAN?The Boston Mafia has gone from a disciplined and profitable organization to a shoddy collection of junkies and petty extortionists, according to the Boston Globe, citing a rash of shootings by inept hit squads. "We're dealing with what appears to be a gang that not only can't shoot straight, but they shoot at the slightest provocation," Essex District Attorney Kevin M. Burke said. "It used to be mobsters did not want to bring attention to themselves. This crowd shoots at the drop of a hat."The paper blamed part of the problem on the success of authorities. As they put many of the Mafia's top leaders in prison, lower-level mobsters with less polish and discipline are left trying to make a living with less. For instance, the take from the numbers racket, once the mob's bread and butter, has dwindled as the Massachusetts Lottery now gets most of the money.ROLE MODELShortly after football coach Andy Ward, 32, of Lord Botetourt High School in Fincastle, Va., was chosen as Coach of the Year in the Blue Ridge District, he was caught driving 90 mph in a car belonging to his star running back.FIRST THINGS FIRSTA bus driver in northern Colombia swerved to avoid hitting a pig, sparing the pig but causing an accident that cost the lives of 16 people.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.