Chatter: Obama cuts short holiday for fiscal cliff talks




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Need to know:

Barack Obama's holiday is over: the US president has cut short a family trip to Hawaii and is flying back to Washington to resume negotiations on the "fiscal cliff."

Democrats and Republicans are still at loggerheads over the impending fiscal disaster, which could see the United States slip back into recession unless a compromise on sharp tax increases and deep spending cuts is found by January 1.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the US government is poised to hit the $16.4 trillion debt limit on December 31, and that his team put in place a plan two months ago to avoid a crisis.

Want to know:

A young Indian woman who was violently gang raped aboard a Delhi bus has been flown by air ambulance to Singapore for medical treatment.

The 23-year-old's condition is "extremely critical," according to doctors. Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital is specialized in organ transplants, suggesting that the victim may require more surgery in addition to the three operations she has already undergone to repair severe damage to her intestines.

The woman was brutally attacked earlier this month as she and a friend took a bus home from a movie theater.

The incident provoked public outrage and mass street protests, at which one policeman died.

Dull but important:

Syrian officials are in Moscow for talks with the Russian government on a possible political settlement to the Middle East country's continuing crisis.

Syria's deputy foreign minister today attended a meeting at Russia's Foreign Ministry, just two days before the UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is due to arrive in Moscow for discussions on a peace plan.

Brahimi has spent the past five days in Syria, where he called for "genuine change" to satisfy the demands of Syrian protesters.

Just because:

Ever wondered what Mount Everest looks like close up?

Climber-filmmaker David Breashears has given armchair adventurers front-row seats with a 3.8 billion-pixel image taken from above Base Camp.

The interactive image is a compilation of megapixel photographs, allowing internet users to zoom in and view the mountain in jaw-dropping detail.

Breashears, an American, wanted to document the changes that have occurred on Mount Everest over 60 years. In the process he created an image that, according to the website of the team that helped develop it, is generating "extraordinary traffic."

Strange but true:

Shark attack at a mall? Only in China.

Sixteen people were injured when an aquarium burst last week at a Shanghai shopping mall.

The 33-ton tank shattered without warning, flooding the mall with sharks, turtles, fish and plenty of water, in an incident caught on video by CCTV cameras.

Sadly, the sharks were among the victims: three lemon sharks and dozens of turtles and small fish were killed in the incident. Most of the people injured suffered "deep cuts and bruises" because of flying glass, a police official said.

A spokesman for the mall said "they are not going to build an aquarium again in the future." Probably for the best.