If you thought fondue (anywhere outside Switzerland) was a 1970s dinner party relic, think again. For one group of Swiss expats living in London, regular cheese fondues offer the perfect opportunity to meet up and talk about home. UK correspondent Nina-Maria Potts filed the following report for World Radio Switzerland - listen here.
The theme of the memorial service at the University of Arizona is "Together we thrive: Tucson and America." The mourner-in-chief will be U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.
Despite the need to grieve and to take time to understand the unthinkable violence, politics remains center stage as Americans grapple with the shooting of six Americans, including a nine-year-old girl, outside the Safeway grocery in Tucson, Arizona.
Sarah Palin has been scrutinized for her posting of a graphic of the US congressional districts. Superimposed over about 20 of the districts were bullseye targets...which her spokesperson later described as surveyors' sights. With her openly saying, America don't retreat, reload, many are concluding that she is just one of many political figures contributing to the vitriolic political debate by using violent imagery.
But it's not just politics that is a problem. Jared Lee Loughner, the suspect, has shown classic signs of mental illness - possible paranoid schizophrenia. And, in the years following the assassination attempt on U.S. President Ronald Reagan, legal rulings have changed the use of the insanity defence in cases such as the Tuscon attack.
Other Americans are baffled as to why the Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas has travelled to Arizona. The church members are well-known for protesting outside military funerals to demonstrate against homosexuality and other issues they feel violate their evangelical Christian beliefs. According to one report, the pastor feels that Congresswoman Giffords is an arrogant pinhead while Jared Lee Loughner, the suspect, is a tool of god.
The people of Tucson are responding by planning wear white and surround the church members peacefully. Some of the counter-protestors plan to wear large wings, like angels, to block their signs.
While many questions remain about the suspect, American gun laws are unlikely to change. U.S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy - who lost her own husband to a mass shooting on the Long Island Railroad - intends to submit legislation to limit access to high-capacity ammunition magazines. But, the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, so further changes are almost impossible.
The 112th U.S. Congress is getting underway in Washington. The first female Speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, is stepping aside, now that the Republicans hold 242 out of 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. John Boehner will take up the gavel as the new Speaker.
And in a nod to the always online and social-networking world, Speaker Boehner intends to expand legislators interaction with the Internet, starting today.
From a press release from the Speaker's office:
On Facebook: Facebook.com/OfficeofSpeakerBoehner – This is a new addition to Boehner’s government office and will serve as a landing page for the Speaker and staff to connect with Facebook users. But while this page is new, Boehner’s use of Facebook is not. For example, tomorrow at 12:00 p.m. ET the opening session of Congress will be live streamed on the Pledge to America Facebook Page.
The Republican Speaker of the House also plans to tweet, with the Twitter handle: On Twitter: @SpeakerBoehner – Of course Boehner isn’t the only Republican in Congress to have a new Twitter handle. Majority Leader-elect Eric Cantor (R-VA) will take over the @GOPLeader account and his press team will Tweet from @CantorPress. Majority Whip-elect Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will use @GOPWhip. You can find and follow more Republicans on Twitter via TweetCongress.org.
It's important to remember, the U.S. Senate, an equally, if not more powerful, chamber is also starting its work today. On the Senate side, the Democrats remain in power - and the leadership remains unchanged, with Majority Leader Harry Reid at the head of 53 Democrats, while Minority Leader Mitch McConnell backed by 47 Republicans. Senator McConnell has already outlined his diagnosis of Washington's political paralysis in an opinion piece for the Washington Post.
The House Republicans have put forth an ambitious 20-day plan to tackle their legislative priorities ahead of the President's State of the Union Address, expected the week of January 24. But, it's all just a prelude to the slowly gathering avalanche that will the 2012 presidential race. The Republicans are already gearing up, with former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty doing a major speech and book signing at the National Press Club in Washington on January 13.
Investigators in the US state of Arkansas are looking into a mysterious beginning to 2011. Thousands of birds fell from the sky on New Year's Eve, in a one-mile area near the town Beebe. Some experts believe the birds were frightened by loud noises and celebratory fireworks, causing them to become confused, fly into buildings and other obstacles, and fall to their deaths. Other observers, prone to conspiracy theories, have suggested it could be the result of secret government testing.
Making the situation even more bizarre is the news that thousands of dead fish were found floating in the Arkansas River.