Syrian rebels — Rebels backed by captured tanks launched a fresh offensive on a government complex housing a police academy near the northern city of Aleppo on Sunday, while the government hit back with airstrikes to try to protect the strategic installation, activists said. If rebels capture the complex on the outskirts of Aleppo, it would mark another setback for President Bashar Assad. In recent weeks, his regime has lost control of key infrastructure in the northeast including a hydroelectric dam, a major oil field and two army bases along the road linking Aleppo with the airport to its east.
Palestinian death — The mysterious death of a 30-year-old Palestinian gas station attendant in Israeli custody stoked new West Bank clashes Sunday, along with Israeli fears of a third Palestinian uprising. A senior Palestinian official alleged that Arafat Jaradat was tortured by Israel’s Shin Bet security service, citing an autopsy he said revealed bruising and two broken ribs. Israel’s Health Ministry said the autopsy did not conclusively determine the cause of death, but that the bruising and broken ribs were likely the result of attempts to revive the detainee.
Romney is back — Almost four months after his presidential election defeat, Mitt Romney is planning a return to the national political stage. The 2012 Republican nominee is scheduled to appear, with his wife, Ann, on “Fox News Sunday" next weekend. It will be his first televised interview since the November election. Romney also plans to speak next month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a high-profile forum for conservative politicians.
Raul Castro term — Raul Castro announced Sunday that he will step down as Cuba’s president in 2018 following a final five-year term, for the first time putting a date on the end of the Castro era. He tapped rising star Miguel Diaz-Canel as his top lieutenant and first in the line of succession. The 81-year-old Castro also said he hopes to establish two-term limits and age caps for political offices including the presidency — an astonishing prospect for a nation led by Castro or his older brother Fidel since their 1959 revolution.
BP oil spill — With a major civil trial scheduled to start Monday in New Orleans against BP over the explosion of an offshore drilling rig in 2010, federal officials and those from the five affected Gulf Coast states are trying to strike an 11th-hour settlement to settle the case. A lawyer briefed on those talks said that the Justice Department and the five states have reportedly prepared an offer to resolve the two biggest issues central to a series of trials against BP.
North Korea threat — North Korea warned the top U.S. military commander in South Korea on Saturday that if the United States pressed ahead with joint military exercises with South Korea scheduled to begin next month, it could set off a war in which U.S. forces would “meet a miserable destruction." The warning came as the U.S. and South Korean militaries planned to start joint war games early next month. The allies regularly conduct such joint military drills, and whenever they happen, North Korea threatens to deliver a devastating blow to U.S. and South Korean troops.
Voting Rights Act — The Supreme Court will consider Wednesday whether the guarantee of equality in Alabama, and elsewhere in the South, is the same as in the rest of the nation. The court will review — for the sixth time since passage in 1965 — Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which mandates that federal authorities pre-approve any changes in voting laws here and in eight other states and numerous jurisdictions with a history of discrimination. It has survived each previous time.
NBC ratings — With every passing week, the sudden blossoming of prime-time success that NBC experienced last fall is looking more like a mirage. When the official numbers are completed Thursday, NBC will finish this sweep month not only far behind its regular network competitors, but also well behind the Spanish-language Univision. No broadcast network has ever before finished a television season sweep month in fifth place.
— From wire reports