In Cleveland Monday, President Bush began a series of speeches aimed at sending a stay-the-course message on Iraq as public faith in the mission continues to wane. During Sunday's third anniversary of the US-led invasion, Bush avoided using the word "war" and stressed the day's significance in the "liberation of Iraq." According to results of an Associated Press-Ipsos poll taken earlier this month, more than 75 percent of Americans believe that Iraq is headed toward civil war.

The Supreme Court decided Monday to let stand a $50 million punitive damages award in the case of longtime smoker Richard Boeken, who died in 2002, despite appeals from the Philip Morris tobacco company. A California appeals court had reduced the award, which originally was set at $3 billion, but Philip Morris claimed that even $50 million was "excessive" for a single plaintiff. Boeken's widow also appealed, to try to reinstate the higher award.

The three college students arrested March 8 in connection with a series of church fires in Alabama declined to post bond and will remain in federal custody until a federal grand jury hears the conspiracy and arson charges against them later this month.

The FBI agent who arrested confessed Al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui took the stand Monday as Moussaoui's sentencing trial resumed in Alexandria, Va. Agent Harry Samit defended himself against assertions that he botched the opportunity to gain valuable intelligence in the days prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, said it will hire 150,000 Chinese over the next five years as it expands operations in their country, the BBC reported Monday.

The Conference Board said Monday that its index of leading economic indicators, which gauges future economic activity, declined by a modest 0.2 percent in February after a sharp 0.5 percent rise in January.

More than five inches of rain fell near Dallas and a foot of snow blanketed parts of South Dakota and Colorado as late-winter storms rolled through the nation's midsection before Monday's first day of spring.

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