Published Sunday, March 02, 2008

The 'Pig Czar'

on the hunt

FORT BENNING, Ga. (AP) Maj. Bobby Toon is known as the Pig Czar at the huge army post on Georgia's western edge.

He has been assigned to help rid Fort Benning of its unwanted guests: an estimated 6,000 feral pigs that roam the 184,000-acre installation.

The animals, common throughout Georgia, are known for tearing up woodlands and farms. They are aggressive foragers, gobbling up native vegetation and endangered species.

"These pigs feed and breed," Toon said. "That's all they care about. I've been here off and on for 17 years, and I can never remember a pig population as big as it is now."

Since July, more than 900 pigs have been killed.

"These animals can smell a turkey egg three miles away," Toon said. "They're also a danger to tortoises and woodpeckers."

The former 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment company commander, who now instructs a course at the Maneuver Captains Career Course, has personally brought down 68 pigs in the past year.

He's not the only pig hunter at work.

About 2,000 people who are authorized to hunt on the post have been encouraged to go after the feral pigs. They must be active-duty, retired military or civilian workers at Benning and must have a license from the base.

The post is offering a $40 bounty for every pig tail that's brought in.

"We did a cost estimate with civilian contractors, but they wanted way too much money for the job," Toon said.

96 going on 24

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (AP) Tillie Iverson is observing her 24th birthday Friday at the age of 96.

Family members from as far away as Florida, Ohio, Nevada and North Carolina are helping her celebrate her Leap Year birthday.

Iverson was born in 1912 on Feb. 29, a date that only comes around every four years. Like others born on that date, she has sometimes marked her birthday on Feb. 28 and sometimes on March 1.

"It depended on what day of the week it was and what fit the best," Iverson said. "Someone might have been too busy one day, so we'd do it another day."

But she still feels a little cheated as a Leap Day baby.

"I didn't enjoy it at all," she said. "The day before, that's not my birthday. And the day after, that's not my birthday either. I've been shorted on birthdays."

Iverson, whose husband died in 1993, helped deliver 42 babies over the years as a midwife. She kept a scrapbook with information on the infants.

"We'd get up in the morning and she'd be boiling her instruments on the kitchen stove, and she'd tell us about the baby she had delivered," said Evelyn Maloney, one of four surviving siblings. Two others have died.

Iverson lives in an apartment in Chippewa Falls where she still handles many of the daily chores of life, with help from Maloney, who visits often.

Talk about

a sweet tooth

JERUSALEM (AP) Israeli police are on the lookout for a thief with a super-sized chocolate craving.

The robbers broke into a factory in the northern Israeli city of Haifa late Monday and walked away with nearly 100 tons of chocolate spread.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said such a large heist indicated it may have been an inside job and police were searching the area of any traces of the sweet stuff.

Moshe Veidberg, one of the company's owners, told the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot it would require five large trucks to transport the stolen chocolate, which he valued at roughly $415,000.

He said the company's alarm system was deactivated and its surveillance footage stolen as well, leaving the fate of the creamy chocolate a mystery.

A bad mayoral decision

ARLINGTON, Ore. (AP) The mayor of an Oregon town who once stripped to her underwear and posed on a fire truck has been stripped of her office.

Voters in this town of about 500 voted narrowly Monday to recall Carmen Kontur-Gronquist. The tally was 142-139. City officials said the recall is effective Tuesday.

Kontur-Gronquist said the pictures of her in black bra and panties were taken for use in a contest about fitness, but a relative posted them on MySpace in hopes it would improve the social life of the single mother.

They predated her election, but she said she saw no reason to take them off the popular Web site once elected three years ago. Later, she closed access to them.

Opponents said it wasn't fitting for the mayor to be so depicted. They said they also disagreed with her on issues about water and the local golf course.

Hair cut gets

child suspended

PARMA, Ohio (AP) A kindergarten student with a freshly spiked Mohawk has been suspended from school.

Michelle Barile, the mother of 6-year-old Bryan Ruda, said nothing in the Parma Community School handbook prohibits the haircut, characterized by closely shaved sides with a strip of prominent hair on top. The school said the hair was a distraction for other students.

"I understand they have a dress code. I understand he has a uniform. But this is total discrimination," she said. "They can't tell me how I can cut his hair."

An administrator at the suburban Cleveland charter school first warned Barile last fall that the haircut wasn't acceptable. The school later sent another warning to her reiterating the ban.

Mohawks violate the school's policy on being properly groomed, school Principal Linda Geyer said. Also, the school district's dress code allows school officials to forbid anything that interferes with the conduct of education.

Ruda's hair became a disruption last week when Ruda arrived freshly shorn, Geyer said. Administrators called Barile on Friday telling her to pick Ruda up from school.

"This was his third infraction," Geyer said Tuesday. "We felt that we were being extremely patient."

Rather than request a hearing to appeal the suspension, Barile said she'll enroll him at another school. Changing the hairstyle is not an option, she said.

"It's something that he really likes," Barile said. "When people hear Mohawk, they think it's long, it's spiked, it's crazy looking, and it's really not."

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