Check back here for the latest oddball stories that just may give you a chuckle or leave you scratching your head.
Rescue: ‘Unicorn’ puppy doesn’t notice ‘tail’ growth on head
JACKSON, Mo. — A rescued puppy is attracting a lot of attention because of his resemblance to a unicorn.
The nearly 10-week-old puppy, named Narwhal, has a tail-like appendage growing from his forehead.
Narwhal was rescued over the weekend and sent to Mac’s Mission in Jackson, which specializes in fostering animals with special needs.
Mac’s Mission founder Rochelle Steffen says Narwhal doesn’t notice the extra tail and is otherwise a happy, healthy puppy. Although it looks like a tail, Narwhal cannot wag it.
Steffen says the rescue group has been flooded with requests from people wanting to adopt Narwhal since his picture hit social media. But he’ll remain at Mac’s Mission so his caretakers can be sure the tail doesn’t grow out of proportion to his face and cause him problems.
US court rules Kentucky man can get ‘IM GOD’ license plate
FRANKFORT, Ky. — A federal court is allowing a Kentucky man to personalize a license plate with the phrase "IM GOD” after a three-year legal battle over the custom engraving.
Court documents show Ben Hart, a self-identified atheist, set out to get the Kentucky plate in 2016. But Hart's request was denied by the state transportation department on the basis it violated antidiscrimination guidelines. News outlets report similar plates had been approved before, including "TRYGOD" and "NOGOD."
Kentucky’s American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation got involved to help Hart challenge the decision. In an opinion Wednesday by a U.S. District Court in Frankfort, the judge ruled “vanity plates” are private speech protected by the First Amendment and that the state had violated Hart’s rights by denying him the plate.
Santa Claus back at work in Germany answering Christmas mail
HIMMELPFORT, Germany — Santa Claus is at it again, answering thousands of Christmas letters from children around the world at a special post office in the northern German town of Himmelpfort.
As part of the annual event organized by Germany’s Deutsche Post, Santa and 20 helpers last year responded to 277,200 letters from 64 countries.
They answer in various languages and also in braille, and each letter has a special Santa postmark.
The tradition began when postal workers in 1984 received two letters addressed to Santa in Himmelpfort, which means “heaven’s gate.”
Not wanting to send them back “recipient unknown” they answered.
All letters received between Thursday and Dec. 15 will be personally answered and returned before Christmas.
Address letters to: An den Weihnachtsmann, Weihnachtspostfiliale, 16798, Himmelpfort, Germany. Remember a return address.
Hawaii man proposes to girlfriend while surfing
HONOLULU — A Hawaii man was surfing with his girlfriend when — instead of hanging 10 — he knelt down on one knee on his board and proposed.
Hawaii News Now reported that Lauren Oiye said yes just before Chris Garth dropped the ring in the ocean.
Multiple photographers nearby captured the Sunday moment.
Luckily, he had a spare.
Garth said he knew it could go wrong, so he used a stand-in while they were out in the water. The real ring was on shore at Queen’s Beach in Waikiki, where the two met years before.
Details about the rings were not released.
Information from: KHNL-TV, http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/
Beer insulting California utility PG&E brews backlash
SANTA ROSA, Calif. — Anger over devastating California wildfires sparked by Pacific Gas & Electric power lines is coming to a head — in a beer. And an outcry is brewing.
Steve Doty, owner of Shady Oak brewery in Santa Rosa, announced a new beer called “F--- PG&E,” describing it on Facebook last week as “a classic California pale ale, featuring Cashmere and Simcoe hops and a touch of malt sweetness.”
Doty told the Press Democrat that he meant to draw attention to the negligence of PG&E executives and was stunned by the onslaught of critical comments by people who said they are related to utility employees.
One person who said she was married to a PG&E gas serviceman commented on Facebook that she found the label insulting.
“My husband has been working 18-hour days and not seeing his little boys for the past two weeks to help our local community,” the comment said. “Your label is hurting the men and women that work day in and day out for their community.”
Other people attacked Shady Oak by giving it 1-star reviews on Yelp and Google or calling the taproom with violent threats, Doty said.
PG&E has been blamed for a series of destructive wildfires in Northern California in recent years that have killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of homes.
Its workers have been attacked amid sweeping blackouts last month meant to prevent its electrical equipment from toppling or coming into contact with branches and sparking fires. The state’s largest utility, PG&E faces a vote Wednesday by state regulators over whether to open an investigation into the outages.
Doty posted an apology to those upset by the beer name. As a conciliatory gesture, he offered $1 off a beer for those with an “honest review” on social media and $2 off a beer for PG&E employees.
But Doty said he is still standing by the name. While the brewery typically rotates its lineup of beers on tap, he said he’s considering making an exception because of the popularity of the PG&E beer.
“My general rule for the brewery is that I don’t want to brew the same beer twice,” Doty said. “We had a great weekend. The sales were crazy.”
Information from: The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, http://www.pressdemocrat.com
Special South African gin is infused with elephant dung
MOSSEL BAY, South Africa — The makers of a South African gin infused with elephant dung swear their use of the animal's excrement is no gimmick.
The creators of Indlovu Gin, Les and Paula Ansley, stumbled across the idea a year ago after learning that elephants eat a variety of fruits and flowers and yet digest less than a third of it.
"As a consequence, in the elephant dung, you get the most amazing variety of these botanicals," Les Ansley said during a recent visit to their operations. "Why don't we let the elephants do the hard work of collecting all these botanicals and we will make gin from it?" he recalled his wife suggesting.
Her idea came after a safari during which a wildlife ranger described an elephant's digestive process.
Weeks later, he said his wife woke him up in the middle of the night with the inspiration. "OK," I said sleepily. "Let's give this a bash. Let's see how it works out."
The first batch of elephant dung came by mail from the park where they had taken their safari. Then the couple, both scientists, puzzled for a while before working out the gin-making process.
Now they collect the dung themselves, using their bare hands.
They described the gin's flavor as "lovely, wooded, almost spicy, earthy" and one that changes subtly with the seasons and location.
The gin bottles are marked with the date and coordinates of where the elephant dung was collected. "So, you're able to compare almost different vintages of the gin," Ansley said.
After about five sizeable bags of dung are collected for a batch of 3,000 to 4,000 bottles of the gin, the droppings are dried and crumbled, then washed to remove dirt and sand. Eventually only the remains of the fruits, flowers, leaves and bark eaten by the elephants are left behind.
Those botanicals are then sterilized and dried again and placed in an airing cupboard. Think of it like a "spice cupboard," Ansley said. Eventually, the remains are infused in the gin.
The couple are not above testing the gin on friends before explaining its provenance. Even with an explanation in advance, they get raised eyebrows.
"The initial reaction of most people is, 'What? There's no way.' But most people are very keen to actually taste it," Ansley said. And once people hear about elephants' digestive process "it becomes a lot clearer to them, and they accept it very well."
They decided to name the gin Indlovu, which means elephant in the Zulu language. The couple did not say how much of the gin they have sold. A bottle sells for around 500 rand, or about $32.
The gin is often a hit with tourists seeking a unique souvenir and a story to tell when they return home, the couple said. With that in mind, the gin is sold in game lodges and duty-free shops in addition to regular online sales.
"I even touched the elephant dung, and being close to the animals are very majestic," said one South African visitor, Elsabe Hannekom. "So having a piece of them actually feels quite good. An export of the African experience, I would say."
After a sip, another guest, Jade Badenhorst, weighed in: "Interesting. Very tasty. Very nice. I didn't expect to be able to drink a gin smoothly."