Syria conflict — Syria said Monday it is prepared to hold talks with armed rebels bent on overthrowing President Bashar Assad, the clearest signal yet that the regime is growing increasingly nervous about its long-term prospects to hold onto power as opposition fighters make slow but persistent headway in the civil war. Meanwhile, the umbrella group for Syrian opposition parties said it had reversed a decision to boycott a conference in Rome being held to help drum up financial and political support for the opposition.
Pistorius trial — Oscar Pistorius on Monday informed South African authorities that he wants to resume athletic training while on bail for the murder case against him, a government official said. A spokeswoman for the Olympic runner, however, denied that he was making immediate plans to return to the track while awaiting trial for the Feb. 14 shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
Plains blizzard — The nation’s midsection again dealt with blizzard conditions Monday, closing highways, knocking out power to thousands in Texas and Oklahoma and even bringing hurricane-force winds to the Texas Panhandle. Two people have died. Already under a deep snowpack from last week’s storm, Kansas was preparing for another round of heavy snow Monday evening and overnight, prompting some to wonder what it could do for the drought.
Vegas shooting — Police said Monday they have a warrant for a 26-year-old ex-convict identified as the prime suspect in a shooting and fiery crash that killed three people last week on the Las Vegas Strip. “We can say with certainty that Ammar Harris is the suspect who fired the fatal shots," Las Vegas police Capt. Chris Jones told reporters at an afternoon update about a manhunt that he said would be advertised on southern Nevada billboards.
Horse meat — Burger King, Nestle, Tesco and now Ikea — the European horse meat scandal that has heightened food supply concerns for the past month has now reached the furniture giant’s famed Swedish meatballs. Inspectors in the Czech Republic said Monday that they found evidence of equine meat in the chain’s frozen meatballs. The affected product was sold as a packaged beef and pork item in more than a dozen European countries but not in the U.S.
Italy elections — Italy faced political paralysis Monday as near-complete results in crucial national elections showed no clear winner and raised the possibility of a hung parliament. The uncertainty bodes ill for the nation’s efforts to pass the tough reforms it needs to snuff out its economic crisis and prevent a new round of global financial turmoil.
Census language — After more than a century, the Census Bureau is dropping its use of the word “Negro" to describe black Americans in surveys. Instead of the term that came into use during the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, census forms will use the more modern labels “black" or “African-American." The change will take effect next year when the Census Bureau distributes its annual American Community Survey to more than 3.5 million U.S. households.
Jackson replacement — Candidates for Jesse Jackson Jr.’s former congressional seat made a final push for votes Monday ahead of a high-stakes primary, but turnout was expected to be paltry despite the lurid headlines surrounding the disgraced Chicago Democrat and millions in outside super PAC money driven largely by the guns debate. The front-runners — former state Rep. Robin Kelly, former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson and Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale — made a flurry of stops at train stations, strip malls and diners all over the district that spans Chicago’s South Side, south suburbs and some rural areas.
Ring returned — A homeless Kansas City, Mo., man will soon have well over $100,000 after returning an engagement ring to a woman who accidentally dropped it in his cup earlier this month. “I think in our world we often jump to like the worst conclusion, and it just makes you realize that there are good people out there," said Sarah Darling, whose fiancÚ set up a website seeking donations for Billy Ray Harris, the man who found the ring. By Monday, more than 6,000 people had donated more than $145,000 to the fund.
Pluto moons — “Star Trek" fans, rejoice. An online vote to name Pluto’s two newest, itty-bitty moons is over. And No. 1 is Vulcan, a name suggested by actor William Shatner, who played Capt. Kirk in the original “Star Trek" TV series. Vulcan snared nearly 200,000 votes among the more than 450,000 cast during the two-week contest, which ended Monday. In second place with nearly 100,000 votes was Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of the underworld.
— From wire reports