Following is a summary of current odd news briefs.
Humpback whale in New York Harbor ready for closeup at Statue of Liberty
A humpback whale ready for its close-up frolicked in front of the Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center and other iconic sights off New York Harbor on Tuesday. "The whale just blew about 1,000 feet off my bow!" Bjoern Kils, 41, gasped as he snapped photographs of the creature he estimated to be about 40 feet (12 meters) long.
Asteroid sample arrives in Japan after six-year space odyssey
Samples of an asteroid 300 million km from Earth arrived in Japan on Tuesday to applause and smiles, the climax of a six-year odyssey by a space probe pursuing the origins of life. Named for the peregrine falcon, the Hayabusa2 blasted off for the asteroid Ryugu in December 2014, overcoming an unexpectedly rough landing surface to collect samples of asteroid dust in a capsule.
Santa skips court to deliver gifts in his convertible
Santa is taking time off from his day job as a trial lawyer - for the 19th year - to bring Yuletide cheer in his turquoise convertible "sleigh." Dana Friedman, whose law office is a block from the World Trade Center in New York, started out by wanting to give thanks to first responders after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Yandex robots start to deliver restaurant meals in central Moscow
Driverless robot buggies started delivering hot restaurant meals to paying customers in one central Moscow district on Wednesday, their operator, Russian Internet giant Yandex, said. The Yandex.Eats app, one of several food and grocery delivery services in Moscow, is offering customers around the White Square business district the option to have meals delivered by a buggy-like delivery robot instead of a human.
COVID masks adorn healing trees in updated pagan rite
It is a ritual steeped in pagan mystery, updated for the coronavirus age. Sick people in northern France occasionally leave garments in healing trees or "arbres à loques" in the hope of a cure, following a tradition that persists since pre-Roman times.
In England, William Shakespeare receives a COVID-19 vaccine
William Shakespeare from Warwickshire in England was one of the first people to receive the newly approved COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial on Tuesday. The 81-year-old had the injection at University Hospital Coventry on Tuesday, 20 miles from Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of his namesake, England's greatest dramatist and poet.
Indian wedding takes on otherworldly feel after bride tests positive for COVID-19
Traditional Indian wedding finery gave way to hazmat suits and masks in a remote north Indian village, after the bride tested positive for the coronavirus just hours before her marriage, a local health official said. The couple, whose names were not made public, decided to go ahead with the ceremony on Sunday in the courtyard of the COVID quarantine centre in Baran in the western state of Rajasthan - their protective gear giving it an otherworldly feel.
Swiss villagers face 10-year evacuation in $1 billion bomb removal plan
A Swiss village where a World War Two-era munitions dump exploded 73 years ago will be evacuated for about a decade while the remaining bombs are carted off, part of a $1 billion plan approved by the government on Monday. A series of explosions near Mitholz, deep in the Swiss Alps south of Bern, began just before midnight on Dec. 19, 1947 at an adjacent Swiss military weapons dump.
Got to get you into my life: Argentine 'John Lennon' channels spirit of the Beatles
Argentine Javier Parisi has been a mega fan of the Beatles since the age of eight - forming a tribute band, playing at Liverpool's Cavern Club, and promoting a biography in Spanish. He is also the spitting image of John Lennon. Fans around the world have been remembering Lennon and his music this week, 40 years after he was shot dead in New York.
Young Egyptian finds fortune in scorpions
Several years ago, a young Egyptian man abandoned his degree in archaeology to hunt scorpions in the country's deserts and shores, extracting their venom for medicinal use. At just 25 years old, Mohamed Hamdy Boshta is now the owner of the Cairo Venom Company - a project housing 80,000 scorpions in various farms across Egypt as well as a range of snakes, also kept for their venom.