Gun laws — Law enforcement leaders who met with President Barack Obama Monday urged him to focus on strengthening gun purchase background checks and mental health systems, but did not unify behind his more controversial gun control efforts. The message from sheriffs and police chiefs gathered at the White House reflected the political reality in Congress that the assault weapons ban in particular is likely to have a hard time winning broad support. The president appeared to recognize the challenge of getting everything he wants from Congress as well, participants in the meeting said.
Brazil fire — The first funerals began before dawn Monday for the more than 230 people killed after a fire ignited by a band’s pyrotechnics spectacle swept through a nightclub filled with hundreds of university students early Sunday in the city of Santa Maria in southern Brazil. One of the club’s owners and two band members were arrested for questioning, according to an investigator, Ranolfo Vieira Jr., saying that they could be held for several days.
Hurricane Sandy aid — Congress gave final approval on Monday to an emergency aid package of nearly $51 billion to help millions of victims of Hurricane Sandy, ending the legislation’s long and complicated odyssey. By a 62-36 vote, the Senate approved the measure, with nine Republicans joining 53 Democrats to support it. The House recently passed the bill, 241-180, after initially refusing to act on it amid objections from fiscal conservatives over its size and its impact on the federal deficit.
Queen stepping down — The Netherlands’ Queen Beatrix announced Monday that she is ending her reign after 33 years and passing the crown to her eldest son, who has long been groomed to be king but who will have to work hard to match his mother’s popularity.
Bodies in Mexico — Several bodies found in a well in northern Mexico appear to be members of a large, popular musical group and its crew who were reported abducted at gunpoint last week after a performance. The authorities on Monday identified four of the dead, all shot to death, as members of the group and said there were indications the other eight bodies were of the band. Officials in Nuevo Leon state said 12 bodies were found Sunday and Monday, a few days after 18 members of the band, Kombo Kolombia, and its crew were reported missing after a performance Thursday night.
Australia storms — At least four people have died and thousands more have been displaced across Australia’s east coast as punishing winds, torrential rains and powerful ocean swells inundated large swaths of the country’s two most populous states. The storm system, which has unleashed floods from north of Brisbane in Queensland state to Sydney more than 900 kilometers south in New South Wales and beyond, is the result of a slow but very wet swing down the coast by the remains of Tropical Cyclone Oswald that began last week.
Yemen weapon seizure — Authorities in Yemen have seized a boat in their territorial waters filled with a large quantity of explosives, weapons and money, according to U.S. officials briefed on the interdiction. The officials said there were indications that Iran was smuggling the military contraband to insurgents inside Yemen, although they declined to provide details.
Iran sends monkey to space — Iranian state television said Monday that the nation had put a monkey into space “as a prelude to sending humans." The successful flight involved a relatively small rocket that went straight up and down, according to the state-sponsored news report, and the monkey survived the flight. Western experts said the brief experiment appeared to have few if any immediate military implications.
Mississippi oil spill — Experts say the stretch of Mississippi River where vessel traffic was halted after a barge hit a railroad bridge on Sunday is one of the most dangerous along the 2,500-mile-long river. Late Monday, cleanup crews were skimming oily water near Vicksburg, a day after a barge struck a bridge, rupturing a compartment holding 80,000 gallons of oil.
Elephant deaths — Ten endangered Borneo pygmy elephants have been found dead in a Malaysian forest under mysterious circumstances, and wildlife officials said early today that they probably were poisoned. Carcasses of the baby-faced elephants were found near each other over the past three weeks at the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, said Laurentius Ambu, director of the wildlife department in Malaysia’s Sabah state on Borneo island.
Syria refugees — A wave of 21,000 Syrian refugees in the past week, moving into northern Jordan at about five times the usual daily rate, has overwhelmed this crowded camp that’s already struggling with flooding, short supplies and tent fires. In a sign of frustration, some refugees pelted a fire truck with stones, cracking its windshield, saying the firefighters were slow to respond.
— From wire reports