Good morning, and happy Wednesday. Here are six of the top stories we are following this morning at NBC News:
1. Peace talks begin seeking to end Syria’s civil war
A U.N.-sponsored peace conference kicked off Wednesday in Switzerland to find a political solution to ending the bloodshed in Syria. Included in the talks is U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who said Syrian President Bashar Assad can’t be part of a new government. Read more in NEWS.
2. Winter storm moves out, leaving cold snap in its wake
It’s a nightmare commute for millions along the East Coast after a major storm dumped about a foot of snow in some parts Tuesday. The winter misery canceled flights and closed schools for the day, as a brutal cold will stay parked through the Midwest and Northeast. Read more in NEWS.
3. Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and wife deny federal corruption charges
McDonnell, who left office this month, said he and wife Maureen have been “falsely and wrongfully accused” for allegedly accepting gifts meant to curry favor when he was in office. According to the indictment, the gifts include a New York City shopping spree, a loan and help paying for their daughter’s wedding. Read more in POLITICS.
4. Pentagon planning to relax rules for soldiers' religious wear
The Department of Defense will announce changes allowing soldiers to request the right to maintain certain religious garb and look, including turbans and beards, as long as it doesn't interfere with their duties. NBC News obtained an early draft of the rule changes. Read more in NEWS.
5. Another embarrassing video surfaces of scandal-scarred Toronto mayor
Mayor Rob Ford, who admitted last fall to smoking crack cocaine in a “drunken stupor,” is seen in a new video speaking in a Jamaican accent and rambling. He later told reporters he had been drinking “a little bit.” “What I do in my personal life with my personal friends, that’s up to me,” he said. Read more in POLITICS.
6. China’s latest export is a foul byproduct for the U.S.
Air pollution from Chinese factories is blowing over the Pacific Ocean and affecting the West Coast, according to researchers at the University of California, Irvine. And it’s all thanks to the consumer goods China produces that are bought in America. Read more in BUSINESS.
... What's trending today?
The Norwegian curling team that captured silver at the Vancouver Olympics is back, and so are their crazy pants.
The team took to New York on Tuesday to show off their snazzy suits for Sochi, and again, the Internet flat out loves it.