Chatter: Norway massacre trial begins




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Need to know:

Self-confessed mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik pleaded not guilty as his trial began today in Norway.

Breivik, who greeted the Oslo courtroom with a far-right salute, claimed he killed 77 people in a bomb and gun rampage last summer in "self-defense," and said he did not respect the court's authority. 

Breivik's trial is expected to continue for 10 weeks. The key issue will be his sanity: if the court decides he is criminally insane, Breivik will be committed to psychiatric care. If he is judged mentally stable, he will be sent to prison.

Want to know:

Afghan security forces have ended a nearly 18-hour assault by insurgents on Kabul. Explosions ripped through Afghanistan's capital over the weekend, with reports of gunfire and blasts in Kabul's main diplomatic area as well as near the parliament.

Officials said 36 insurgents and eight security force members died in the attacks. Four civilians were also killed.

There are reports that militants from the Haqqani network, which has ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, carried out the assault. 

Dull but important:

Six UN observers arrived in Syria overnight, and are getting to work as fighting continues.

They represent an advance team of observers tasked with monitoring a fragile cease-fire between the Syrian government and opposition forces. More UN observers are slated to arrive in Damascus later today.

But violence has continued despite the truce. Activists are reporting a resumption of shelling and mortar fire in the city of Homs. The opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights said at least 10 people have been killed across Syria today.

Just because:

When a president marries while in office, it's usually kind of a big deal: think Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni.

South African President Jacob Zuma is getting married next weekend — but the country is ho-hum about the news. As one headline rather unenthusiastically put it: "Zuma to Marry — Again."

Zuma, who has been married six times, is to wed Bongi Ngema, his "long-time fiancee" who has already accompanied the polygamous president on state trips when he wasn't taking one his three current wives (Ngema will be #4).

Expect wedding photos of Zuma, a Zulu traditionalist who turned 70 last week, shaking his belly in leopard skins at his Nkandla homestead.

Strange but true: 

Spain's King Juan Carlos feels the pain of his country's unemployed youth. 

At least, that's what he told them in a recent speech, saying there are times he could not sleep out of concern. He has even urged the country's leaders to set a good example.

But now Juan Carlos is under fire for taking an expensive elephant hunting trip to Botswana at a time when his country is facing renewed economic pressures and one in two young Spaniards is unemployed.

The 74-year-old king tried to keep his hunting safari a secret, until he tripped and fractured his hip, and had to be airlifted to Madrid for hip replacement surgery.

It could be worse: the king's grandson previously shot himself in the foot while hunting in Spain.