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Sept. 26, 2011 at 6:30 AM   |   Comments

No jail for man who faked Winfrey robbery

CHICAGO, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- A Canadian man has been spared a prison term for falsely reporting he had been beaten by thieves who stole his tickets to Oprah Winfrey's farewell gala.

Robert Spearing, 44, an Ontario resident, was given a conditional discharge Friday after he entered a guilty plea in Chicago to felony disorderly conduct, the Chicago Tribune reported. Judge Kenneth Wadas said Spearing can live in Ontario during his 12 months of supervised release.

Spearing reported the bogus attack and theft to police in May. Under questioning, he later admitted he had told his wife they had tickets to Winfrey's "Farewell Spectacular" at the United Center when he had been unable to get them, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

"He didn't want his wife to be mad at him, so he said he got robbed,'' Police Lt. Kenneth Stoppa said at the time.

Spearing damaged himself, using a rock and the sidewalk to get a cut on his forehead and scrapes on his hands, police said.


Florida hiker saved by sixth-graders

TEMPLE TERRACE, Fla., Sept. 24 (UPI) -- A group of sixth-graders canoeing on Florida's Hillsborough River found a Tampa hiker who had been missing for two days.

Francis Netto of Temple Terrace set out on a 15-mile hike in Wilderness Park Wednesday, an activity he does several times a month. However this time he accidentally fell asleep, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

When he woke up, it was dark and his cellphone was dead.

Thursday morning, he tried to find his car but wound up deeper in the forest, a sheriff's deputy said.

On Friday, Netto, 56, reached the Hillsborough River. He attempted to float down it, but saw an alligator and had to get out.

He was still in the water when the children found him.

"The first thing he did was smile," said 12-year-old Maykro Perez.

The group took him to a nature classroom where emergency responders took over.

Netto is expected to make a full recovery.

"Next time he goes hiking," said Kadisha Avillah, 12, "he shouldn't go alone."


Playful pigs elude animal officers

ANNE ARUNDEL, Md., Sept. 24 (UPI) -- An administrator at Anne Arundel, Md., Animal Control said the agency was up against mission impossible: capturing two small potbelly pigs in an office park.

"Chasing down a pig can be impossible," said administrator Robin Small, The Baltimore Sun reported Saturday.

Be that as it may, animal control officers were able to use a net to capture one of two pigs that have taken up residence in the office park, but eluded captivity for nearly a month.

Officials said several people in the park have taken to aiding and abetting the fugitives.

"They're as cute as can be," said Karen Gower, a Red Wing Shoes store employee.

"They don't bother anyone," she said, adding that someone has been leaving food for the pigs in a shady spot scented with pine needles.

She did not name names, but smiled knowingly, the Sun said.

Susan Magidson, with 20 years experience rescuing potbelly pigs, is president of the Pig Placement Network. She said the best course of action was to capture the remaining pig, especially given its proximity to busy road.

Kimberly Silvestro a worker at Valley Lighting had another suggestion.

"We should put a fence up and keep them in," she said.

"They mostly play," she said.


Giant panda found to be male after 4 years

CHENGDU, China, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Mei Lan, a giant panda incorrectly identified as female by staff at Zoo Atlanta, was determined to be male at the Chengdu Research Base in China.

Staff members at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding noticed the appearance of testes on the panda born in 2006 sometime after his arrival in China in February 2010, Zoo Atlanta said in a release Friday.

Giant panda cubs are sexed as infants, however, it is sometimes difficult to determine sex, especially if a cub is more than a few days old. Male testes do not descend for more than three years.

Mei Lan was not examined by Zoo Atlanta staff until he was 19 days old and was incorrectly sexed.


Matchmaker makes guinea pig matches

HADLIKON, Switzerland, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- A woman in Hadlikon, Switzerland, says she rents guinea pigs to help pet owners comply with a Swiss law barring them from having just one guinea pig.

Priska Kung offers a matchmaking service by renting guinea pigs to suddenly single pets to provide companionship, Der Spiegel reported Saturday.

Switzerland's animal welfare law forbids people from keeping single guinea pigs because the animals are sociable and need each other's company.

"Because they hardly ever die at the same time, even if they are exactly the same age, people who don't want a new guinea pig and lose one of their two animals need an interim solution," Kung said.

Kung, who has 80 guinea pigs, charges about $55 for a castrated male and $66 for a female and refunds half of the money when they're returned, Der Spiegel said. Some are returned after a few weeks, others after months, but some are leased for years.

"Sometimes people realize that they still get so much enjoyment from the guinea pigs that they want to go on keeping them and come back for another one once their supposed last pet has died," Kung said.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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