The ESV (among others) still uses "rumors":
Matthew 24:6 (ESV)
6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.
As you probably know, texts such as this are very controversial among Bible scholars. In relation to this passage, there are four main views:
- Preterist—Essentially all of Jesus' prophecy has already been accomplished (usually in the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD).
- Historicist—Events described in prophecy are linked to specific historical events
- Futurist—Prophecy will be fulfilled in the future and we are still waiting expectantly for those events to happen.
- Idealist—Apocalyptic language in the Bible ought be primary seen as symbolic and representative of a larger, spiritual conflict.
These are gross caricatures of serious positions, however, since almost all scholars hold more nuanced opinions. For instance, I lean toward a Partial Preterist position that links quite a bit of Matthew 24 to the great Roman siege and destruction of Jerusalem. The Roman campaign started far to the north, in Galilee, during the spring of 67 AD and ended with the siege of Masada seven years later. To answer your first question, rumors of war meant hearing about war in some distant place that might be headed your way. (The Greek word translated rumor is akoe <189>. It's primary definition is "the sense of hearing".)
If I may take this space to make a plug, your first question seems ideal for Biblical Hermeneutics. If my answer so far whets your appetite for more, that's where I would look.
For interpretation #1, the Cold War wouldn't qualify as "rumors of war". Since the text is clear that this part of the prophecy is before the end, under #3 the Cold War might be a sign. And of course for #2, it almost certainly is. Under #4, the Cold War was a sign of ongoing conflict in the spiritual realm, but so was the Crimean War and the Hundred-Year War.
As Christians, I think it's probably a mistake to spend too much time thinking about whether this event or that event is a sign of the end. For one thing:
Matthew 24:36 (ESV)
36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.
But I think we really are missing the point of apocalyptic language in the Bible. The word in Greek, ἀποκάλυψις, means "lifting of the veil". God's purpose in speaking to prophets is to show us what's behind the curtain. Our tendency in Western culture is to hear the Great and Powerful Oz, pull back the curtain, and expect a man speaking into a microphone. We have an insatiable desire to deconstruct and find out how things work on a mechanical level. If we say that Vietnam and the Cold War are "wars and rumors of wars", begin to loose track of what God is trying to say to us.
If I had to boil all of prophecy down to one message, it would be God saying, "I got this. All of human history fits in my design for the world. Here's a glimpse of what I'm planning, but you'll see that everything is for my Glory in the end." If thinking about the Cold War as a fulfillment of prophecy helps you think that way, go for it.