News of the weird

Tree hug: When New York delicatessen owner Daniele Malpeli was given a $1,000 summons for chaining his bicycle to a tree in front of his store, parks commissioner Henry Stern offered him an amnesty if he would apologise to the tree and give it a hug. "I hugged the tree 20 times and I kissed it too," Malpeli said. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, however, has indicated his disapproval of resolving fines by hugging trees, so Malpeli may have to pay the fine after all.

Gnomelessness: Police in the Dutch city of Utrecht are hunting a gang who have stolen about 100 gnomes from a private garden. The gnomes are made of concrete and weigh up to 50kg each. There was no sign of any getaway vehicle.

Rodent health risk: Vietnam's campaign against a plague of rats claimed two more victims when two women working in a rice paddy received fatal shocks from an electric rat trap. Seven other people have been reported killed in the same way, and three children have died from ingesting rat poison.

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