WESTMINSTER, Colo.

Boy, 16, sets himself on fire at school, is critically injured

A 16-year-old boy set himself on fire at a suburban Denver high school on Monday in an apparent suicide attempt that left him critically injured, authorities said.

The boy didn’t make any threats before starting the fire in the cafeteria at Standley Lake High School at about 7:15 a.m., Westminster Police Department spokeswoman Cheri Spottke said.

A custodian was able to use a fire extinguisher to put out the blaze before it could spread, Spottke said. Several other students were in the cafeteria at the time, but none was injured.

Investigators are talking to relatives, students and faculty members to find out what happened, she said.

“We don’t have any indication that there’s any threat against the high school. We do believe that this is a suicide attempt,” she said.

The school was closed for the day and students were sent home, Jefferson County Public Schools spokeswoman Lynn Setzer said. Students without cars were taken by buses to a local middle school, where they were picked up by their parents.

No classes will be held at the school on Tuesday either but the district will provide counseling to students there in the morning.

Monday’s incident was the latest to affect a Denver-area school in recent weeks.

On Thursday, Columbine High School, where two gunmen killed 13 people in 1999, went on high security alert after receiving a series of threatening phone calls. The alert applied to a half-dozen other schools in the area, in the same school district as Standley Lake, but was lifted the same day..

GENEVA

Progress in Syrian talks eludes veteran mediator

The key issue of a transitional government to replace President Bashar Assad blocked any progress Monday in Syrian peace talks, described by one delegate as “a dialogue of the deaf.”

The chief U.N. mediator expressed frustration over inflammatory public remarks by the two sides as he sought to identify some less-contentious issues in hopes of achieving any progress at all at the bargaining table.

But even the most modest attempts at confidence-building measures faltered – including humanitarian aid convoys to besieged parts of the central city of Homs and the release of detainees. Veteran mediator Lakhdar Brahimi somberly declared at the end of the day that he had little to report.

“There are no miracles here,” Brahimi said, adding that both sides nevertheless appeared to have the will to continue the discussions. Asked how he planned to bridge the enormous gap between the two sides, the veteran diplomat quipped: “Ideas, I’ll take them with great pleasure.”

PHOENIX

Cost to defend Arias tops $2 million for taxpayers

Jodi Arias’ legal bills have topped $2 million, a tab being footed by Arizona taxpayers that will only continue to climb with a new penalty phase set for March, officials said Monday.

Arias, 33, was convicted of murder in May, but the jury couldn’t reach a verdict on her sentence. Prosecutors are now pursuing a second penalty phase with a new jury in an effort to get the death penalty. Trial is set for March 17.

The former waitress and aspiring photographer has been held in jail in Maricopa County awaiting her fate while her legal bills continue to mount.

As of Monday, the county had paid $2,150,536.42 for her court-appointed attorneys, expert witnesses and other costs associated with her case, Maricopa County spokeswoman Cari Gerchick told The Associated Press.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has refused to provide a tally of how much it has cost to prosecute the case, citing a court order that attorneys not discuss Arias-related matters.

Arias admitted she killed her boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in 2008 at his suburban Phoenix home but claimed it was self-defense. He suffered nearly 30 knife wounds, had his throat slit and was shot in the forehead in what prosecutors argued was premeditated murder carried out in a jealous rage when Alexander wanted to end their affair.

The case captured headlines worldwide and became a cable television staple with its tales of sex, lies and a brutal killing while every minute of the trial was broadcast live.

COLUMBIA, Md.

Shootings at mall shocked safe community, official says

A Maryland county executive says there will be a period of adjustment before life returns to normal in the community surrounding the mall where a teen gunned down two people and killed himself over the weekend.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said Monday morning that there will be grieving because the tragedy touched everyone.

But Ulman said it’s important to get back to business. He planned to be at the mall Monday afternoon with his wife for lunch and shopping and he asked others to come out and send a message with their presence.

Ulman said the shooting was shocking because the community is generally a safe place. But he called it a lesson that the county is not immune to gun violence.

—From news service reports