Wide World of Weird

A weekly roundup of unusual news stories from around the globe:

Grand Theft Mud: How bad are things in Russia? Well, now criminals are even stealing the mud. Thieves used a tractor to make off with 8 tons of therapeutic lakeside mud from a health spa, authorities said.

Money Grows on Park Benches: When Norma Hayduk noticed an envelope marked "For You" sticking out of the slats of a New Mexico park bench, she couldn't resist opening it.

Inside was $100 and a note: "Hello. Yes, this is for you, and yes, this is for real. Money comes in my life and I am grateful for it. This is my way to express my gratitude. We live in a vast and infinitely abundant universe. There is more than enough for all of us. Enjoy."

The Iceman Punctureth: Tattoos found on a prehistoric Alpine mummy are evidence that Europeans practiced acupuncture some 2,000 years before the Chinese, scientists said in Vienna.

The tattoos on the Tyrolean Neolithic man were not intended as decorations but may have formed an ancient acupuncture chart used long before the therapy was developed in the Far East.

The 5,200-year-old corpse, which was discovered in a glacier between Austria and Italy in 1991, showed 15 groups of simple tattoos on the back and legs. "I was amazed; 80% of the points correspond to those used in acupuncture today," said Dr. Frank Bahr, president of the German Academy for Acupuncture.

Mayor Walks Naked in Street: He wasn't nude, but North Platte, Neb., Mayor Jim Whitaker did keep his promise to walk Naked down the street. Earlier this year, Whitaker said he would walk naked if the Paws-itive Partners Humane Society raised $5,000. When his scheme drew national attention--and angry calls to his office--Whitaker revealed that he actually planned to walk a dog named "Naked" instead of walking in the buff himself. "Everybody bought it," Whitaker said.

High-Speed Doughnut Chase: New Jersey police are relieved that their high-speed chase of a hijacked Dunkin' Donuts van happened in the middle of the night.

"Can you imagine us chasing that in broad daylight?" joked Lt. Daniel Cosgrove of the New Jersey State Police. "People would probably think, 'What, didn't they get enough cream?' "

The Great Pumpkin: Lincoln Mettler of Eatonville, Wash., said all it took was a small patch of earth, a little patience and a lot of fertilizer to turn one of his tiny pumpkin seeds into a 974-pound behemoth. Mettler's pumpkin took top honors in the 25th annual Half Moon Bay Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off near San Francisco.

The winning entry was 2 feet, 9 inches high and nearly 14 feet in circumference. It beat the old contest record by about 100 pounds.

News McNuggets:

* A soccer game to promote a "peace treaty" between two warring gangs in Jamaica ended in a gunfight, killing three.

* A mystery plunge in the value of French 10-year bond futures was triggered by a bank trader at Salomon Brothers in London who accidentally and repeatedly hit the "Instant Sell" button.

* A former UN employee was indicted for obtaining a large amount of animal anesthetic--used as a street drug to get high--by claiming he needed it for an African gorilla study.

* France's supreme court has ruled that women cannot commit the crime of rape because they can't sexually penetrate men.

* Surgeons who treated the late Brazilian politician Luis Eduardo Magalhaes kept his heart in a jar after he died to protect themselves from questions about the care they provided, Magalhaes' father said.

* Two people jumped to their deaths while fleeing a police raid on an illegal cricket fight in Shanghai.

* Wide World of Weird is published every Friday. Off-Kilter appears Monday through Thursday.

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