Chatter: 'These tragedies must end,' Obama tells Newtown




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Need to know:
"We can't tolerate this anymore." So President Barack Obama told the grieving residents of Newtown, Connecticut, who have already tolerated more than anyone should ever have to.

What to say to a community that has lost 20 of its children and six of the people who looked after them, at the hands of a severely disturbed young man who was able to arm himself with a semi-automatic rifle, two handguns, a shotgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition?

Obama told them their country must do better. In his speech to a memorial service last night, the president said the US wasn't doing enough to protect its children, and promised to "use whatever power this office holds" to try and do more.

Let's not forget that this is the fourth time Obama has had to address a town devastated by a mass shooting. Let's not forget that plans to improve background checks on gun buyers were shelved during election year. Let's not forget that Americans are buying record numbers of guns. And let's not forget that a six-year-old boy will be buried today, and soon after, so will 19 of his classmates.

"These tragedies must end," Obama said, "and to end them we must change." Something has to.

Want to know:
Details are emerging this morning about a suspected plot to bomb South Africa's ruling party convention.

Police say only that they have arrested four men, and plan to arrest more, over "suspected acts of terrorism." Yet the African National Congress, which is meeting this week in Bloemfontein, says that the suspects are white extremists who planned to blow up President Jacob Zuma and other senior party members.

The plot, if confirmed, is just one reason why this conference is crazy. Zuma is facing an unprecedented challenge to his leadership from his own deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe. (Just imagine Joe Biden facing off against Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention.) Voting on the new top brass, security permitting, starts later today.

Dull but important:
Japan is due to announce its final election results today, but early counts suggest that the conservative Liberal Democrats have won by a landslide.

Current prime minister Yoshihiko Noda has already stepped down as head of the governing Democratic Party, which looks to have lost more than 170 of its 230 seats in the lower house. The Liberal Democrats, with the backing of their junior coalition partner, are expected to secure a potent two-thirds majority.

Their leader, Shinzo Abe, will now become prime minister for a second time. He's known to be an outspoken nationalist, and his re-election, at a time when territorial tensions are already running high, could be a sign that the region's relations are about to get even more fraught.

Just because:
Congratulations, or something, to Silvio Berlusconi, who has just announced that he's getting hitched. Again.

If we were very cynical, we might suggest that the timing of the engagement (his third) has something to do with his newly announced election bid (his fourth). Italy's ex-prime minister is, after all, facing charges of hiring an underage prostitute at one or more of his infamous "bunga bunga" parties (need we say, he denies it).

So how does Berlusconi opt to help Italian voters forget the unsavory mental image of his 76-year-old self getting fruity with a much younger woman? By becoming engaged to girlfriend Francesca Pascale, a founding member of his fan club – and, at 27, almost 50 years his junior.

Strange but true:
Sometimes – and now is one of those times – it's nice to know that there are people out there doing random things to make others smile.

One such charming oddball has procured themselves an exact replica of a journal from the 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' movie and mailed it to the University of Chicago.

Unable to trace the intended recipient, one Henry Walton ("Indiana") Jones Jr., university staff have asked the internet for help finding the mystery package's sender. Or just any sort of explanation. Whoever it is and whyever they did it: thanks.