official

Photo Credit: Lex Rojas | Daily Texan Staff

Offstage, the man’s name is Brady Faucett. Onstage, it’s CupCake – winner of Austin’s Next Drag Superstar season one and Miss Austin Pride 2013 and the poster girl for the fLAWLESS Surrealist Ball.

This is CupCake’s second year performing in the fLAWLESS Surrealist Ball, in which drag queens pair up with local Austin designers to create custom gowns and perform. The event is an official showcase for Austin Fashion Week and will be held in the Scottish Rite Theater at 9 p.m. Thursday.

“I am beyond excited for the fLAWLESS fashion show,” CupCake said. “Last year’s club-kid-themed show was a huge success and the opportunity to work with professional designers is always exciting.”

The fLAWLESS Ball will feature drag performances, classical piano music played by Russell Reed, and aerial dancers from Sky Candy. Sym Coronado-Prole of the Austin drag-collective Poo Poo Platter and Valeri “Jinxy” Abrego, founder of Jinxedaposed Clothing, created the event to push the boundaries of runway by combining drag performances with fashion and art.

“Even working with the drag queens as performers to have something that’s more conceptualized gets things out of the box by letting creativity take precedence over the process,” Coronado-Prole said.

Coronado-Prole said the show celebrates fashion and expression without restraint. They stylized the name fLAWLESS to accentuate that idea of freedom.

“We’re going with fLAWLESS because it’s the term of being flawless but we emphasize being lawless,” Cornado-Prole said. “It’s thwe concept of focusing on the queer community and how it correlates with fashion and art and expression.”

Last year’s event celebrated the history of the club kids, a glam-punk movement in 1980s and 1990s New York City.

“We wanted to have a drag show that focused more on art as fashion and focus on people who didn’t really play by the rules and took fashion to new levels by doing so,” Coronado-Prole said.

Abrego said this year’s event aims to recreate the Rothschild Surrealist Ball, a famous party thrown by an elite Parisian family in 1972 where attendees wore long dresses with animal-head masks. The creators encourage guests to channel the ball’s bizarre attire.

Coronado-Prole said the creators wanted to use their position as an official Austin Fashion Week showcase to bring something different to the fashion week’s scheduled events. The queens are going to perform in their outfits, meaning they will lip sync and dance to songs of their choice.

The show is the Austin drag community’s chance to represent itself during fashion week. CupCake, who has been performing in drag in Austin for four years, said the drag scene in Austin is “incredible.”

“When I started four years ago, there was such a stagnation in the drag scene,” CupCake said. “It was very ‘out of the coffin and onto the stage.’ Now it is a beautiful, open scene that provides access and opportunities to anyone who expresses interest.”

Abrego said the show is more than a fun event — a chance to represent the often-overlooked queer community.

“Some veer away because it is too controversial, or they’re worried that they will be categorized in a negative way,” Abrego said. “But this is not the day or age that such ignorance should exist. I prefer to be on the right side of history.”

What: fLAWLESS Surrealist Ball

When: 9 p.m. Thursday

Where: Scottish Rite Theater

Admission: Free

Business Management senior Courtney Catalani registers to vote in the West Mall Monday afternoon.  With the new Texas voter ID laws, Hook the Vote tables were set up at five locations around campus to help students on the last day of registration.

Photo Credit: Jarrid Denman | Daily Texan Staff

Despite changes to Texas Voter ID Law, UT students are not having many issues with voter registration, according to a Hook the Vote official.

Beginning with the 2013 fall elections, voters in the state of Texas are now required to present an approved form of photo identification to vote in all Texas elections, according to the Office of the Texas Secretary of State. Acceptable forms of photo identification include a Texas driver’s license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety, also known as DPS, a U.S. passport or a U.S. citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph.

At a Hook the Vote sponsored event Monday in Gregory Plaza, Arjun Mocherla, Hook the Vote director and Plan II and pre-med senior said he initially thought out-of-state students without applicable Texas photo identification would be affected the most by the law. Hook the Vote is a bipartisan student organization that promotes voter registration and awareness.

“So far we haven’t had that issue,” Mocherla said. “[The Texas Department of Public Safety] was really great about setting up one of the camera stations the week before the election last fall to help make IDs for anyone who didn’t have an ID. It may impact people, but, as far as students are concerned, I haven’t heard of any issues.”

Monday was the last day to register to vote in the March primaries. Tanner Long, a government junior and council member of Hook the Vote, said he believes the upcoming Texas gubernatorial election has increased student engagement.

“A lot of people don’t necessarily care about the primaries,” Long said. “But I’ve definitely seen a lot of students interested in the governor race coming up because it is crucial for the Democrats here on campus supporting Wendy Davis and the Republicans here supporting several candidates. You hear more conversation going on about the governor’s race, just walking around campus.”

Biology freshman Tristan Emborgo said he became a U.S. citizen in August of last year and believes every decision a government official makes affects him.

“It is my responsibility as a citizen to vote,” Emborgo said. “So it is important that the person I believe in goes to office.”

Hook the Vote registered 15,000 people in 2008, though the number of new registrants in this cycle will not be available until Tuesday.

Mocherla said the organization will continue to push registration, but plans to start providing candidate, party and platform information for students on its website.

“I think a lot of students either don’t know an election is going or maybe don’t know what’s on the ballot,” Mocherla said. “This attempt is to change that. We still think, for students, it might be a little easier for them to access one central access point for information.”

Sources say head coach Mack Brown may step down at the end of this season.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

A high-ranking University of Texas official expects this to be head coach Mack Browns final season with the Longhorns, according to a report by Sports Illustrated.
 
The official said Brown’s prospects as head coach figures to take a hit if the Longhorns drop their fourth consecutive game against Oklahoma on Saturday. He also speculated that Brown, who remains under contract through 2020, could resign at the end of the season due to athletic director Deloss Dodd’s decision to step down Aug. 31, 2014.
 
“I'm not sure he wants to work for another athletic director,” the official said in the report. “My guess is this is his last season."
 
Brown has said in the past that he plans to remain head coach through the end of his contract.

Highlights to be shown at Big 12 games to help declining attendance

DALLAS In-game highlights will be played during TV timeouts during Big 12 games beginning this season in an effort to curb dwindling attendance numbers.

Conference ommissioner Bob Bowlsby acknowledged how easy it can be for fans to enjoy the games from the comfort of their own homes rather than buy an expensive ticket, wait in lines to use the bathroom and at concession stands and pay for parking going to the game.

“College football has experienced declines in overall attendance the last four or five years, and I think bringing highlights in will take into account and help one of the things that really is getting to be a challenge for us,” Bowlsby said. “People have a 60-inch television and they can have their mobile device with full Wi-fi in their lpa, no lines at the restroom, no charge for concessions, they can have a cold beer when they want to… We think it will greatly enhance the in-stadium environment.”

Big 12 to use chips in shoulder pads 

Big 12 players, along with players from the SEC and the Pac-12, will have RF chips planted in their shoulder pads starting this season. This will allow their movements to be tracked and the velocity of their collisions to be measured.

“We’re not sure what we will do with the technology,” Bowlsby said. “But we think it’s a very interesting innovation that developments in other areas outside of sports have accommodated. It ought to be interesting to see how it evolves.”

This comes on the heels of the implementation of a rule in college football that mandates the ejection of any player targeting another player’s helmet, which also begins this year, and the launch of a concussion research and prevention program by the Big 12 as part of a partnership with USA Football.

“Player safety is a very important element of what we’re doing,” Bowlsby said. “The commissioners collectively took the initiative and sent directive to the rules committee that we wanted progress made on both concussive head injuries and the cumulative effect of repetitive blows to the head.”

Big 12 to experiment with eighth official

Also among the changes this upcoming season is the use of an eighth official during Big 12 games, a move meant to better manage the faster up-tempo offenses being utilized more and more by the teams in the pass-happy conference.

This official will stand on the same side of the ball as the offense and be responsible for spotting the ball, which was previously something the umpire did. The Big 12 will be the only conference with officials this season.

“This is really in response to pace of play as much as anything,” Bowlsby said. “We have experimented with it in the spring. We’ve even experimented using an eighth official with a helmet cam to see what the vantage point is and how it might be helpful.”

There have been critics, most notably Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema and Alabama head coach Nick Saban, of up-tempo offenses because of the perceived increase of defensive players being injured. But the Big 12 won’t slow down any time soon.

“They can’t play any faster,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “I was one of the guys that voted for having the eighth official because that guy’s going to be the spot that allows your umpire and referee not to worry about that… if anything, I think it gets back to helping the defense a little bit more because now you have a little  you have one more set of eyes that are watching everything.”

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government has been secretly collecting the telephonerecords of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon under a top secret court order, according to the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Obama administration defended the National Security Agency's need to collect telephonerecords of U.S. citizens, but critics said it was a huge over-reach.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Thursday that the top secret court order for telephone records is a three-month renewal of an ongoing practice. She spoke to reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference.

The sweeping roundup of U.S. phone records has been going on for years and was a key part of the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program, a U.S. official said Thursday.

The White House offered no immediate on-the-record comment. A senior administration official did not confirm the Guardian newspaper report that the NSA has been collecting the records, but the authenticity of the document was not disputed by the White House. The administration official insisted on anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly by name.

The order was granted by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on April 25 and is good until July 19, the Guardian reported. The order requires Verizon, one of the nation's largest telecommunications companies, on an "ongoing, daily basis," to give the NSA information on all landline and mobile telephone calls of Verizon Business in its systems, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries.

The newspaper said the document, a copy of which it had obtained, shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of U.S. citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk, regardless of whether the people are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The disclosure raised a number of questions: What was the government looking for? Were other big telephone companies under similar orders to turn over information? How was the information used?

Former Vice President Al Gore tweeted that privacy was essential in the digital era.

"Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?" wrote Gore, the Democrat who lost the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said the Obama administration should disclose the facts.

"I think that they have an obligation to respond immediately," said Wyden, a frequent critic of government actions dealing with Americans' privacy.

Under Bush, the National Security Agency built a highly classified wiretapping program to monitor emails and phone calls worldwide. The full details of that program remain unknown, but one aspect was to monitor massive numbers of incoming and outgoing U.S. calls to look for suspicious patterns, said an official familiar with the program. That official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it publicly.

After The New York Times revealed the existence of that wiretapping program, the roundup continued under authority granted in the USA Patriot Act, the official said.

The official did not know if the program was continuous or whether it stopped and restarted at times.

The official had not seen the court order released by the Guardian newspaper but said it was consistent with similar authorizations the Justice Department has received.

Verizon spokesman Ed McFadden said Wednesday the company had no comment.

The NSA had no immediate comment. The agency is sensitive to perceptions that it might be spying on Americans. In a brochure it distributes, which includes a DVD for reporters to view video that it provides for public relations purposes, it pledges that the agency "is unwavering in its respect for U.S. laws and Americans' civil liberties — and its commitment to accountability," and says, "Earning the American public's trust is paramount."

Verizon Communications Inc. listed 121 million customers in its first-quarter earnings report this April — 98.9 million wireless customers, 11.7 million residential phonelines and about 10 million commercial lines. The court order didn't specify which customers' records were being tracked.

Under the terms of the order, the phone numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as are location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered, The Guardian said.

The administration official said, "On its face, the order reprinted in the article does not allow the government to listen in on anyone's telephone calls."

The broad, unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is unusual. FISA court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets. NSA warrantless wiretapping during the George W. Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks was very controversial.

The FISA court order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compelled Verizon to provide the NSA with electronic copies of "all call detail records or telephony metadata created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad" or "wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls," The Guardian said.

The law on which the order explicitly relies is the "business records" provision of the USA Patriot Act.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

UPDATE 5:21 p.m. BOSTON (AP) — Two bombs exploded in the packed streets near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing two people and injuring more than 80 in a terrifying scene of shattered glass, billowing smoke, bloodstained pavement and severed limbs, authorities said.

A senior U.S. intelligence official said two other explosive devices were found near the end of the 26.2-mile course.

At the White House, President Barack Obama vowed that those responsible will "feel the full weight of justice."

There was no word on the motive or who may have launched the attack, and police said no suspect was in custody. Authorities in Washington said there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

"They just started bringing people in with no limbs," said runner Tim Davey, of Richmond, Va. He said he and his wife, Lisa, tried to keep their children's eyes shielded from the gruesome scene inside a medical tent that had been set up to care for fatigued runners, but "they saw a lot."

"They just kept filling up with more and more casualties," Lisa Davey said. "Most everybody was conscious. They were very dazed."

The twin blasts at the race took place almost simultaneously and about 100 yards apart, tearing limbs off numerous people, knocking spectators and at least one runner off their feet, shattering windows and sending smoke rising over the street.

Some 23,000 runners took part in the race, one of the world's oldest and most prestigious marathons. One of Boston's biggest annual events, the race winds up near Copley Square, not far from the landmark Prudential Center and the Boston Public Library. It is held on Patriots Day, which commemorates the first battles of the American Revolution, at Concord and Lexington in 1775.

Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis asked people to stay indoors or go back to their hotel rooms and avoid crowds as bomb squads methodically checked parcels and bags left along the race route. He said investigators didn't know whether the bombs were planted in mailboxes or trash cans.

He said authorities had received "no specific intelligence that anything was going to happen" at the race.

The Federal Aviation Administration barred low-flying aircraft from within 3.5 miles of the site.

Obama was briefed on the explosions by Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco. Obama also told Mayor Tom Menino and Gov. Deval Patrick that his administration would provide whatever support was needed, the White House said.

"We still don't know who did this or why," Obama said, adding, "Make no mistake: We will get to the bottom of this."

A few miles away from the finish line and around the same time, a fire broke out at the John F. Kennedy Library. The police commissioner said it may have been caused by an incendiary device but didn't appear to be related to the bombings.

"There are people who are really, really bloody," said Laura McLean, a runner from Toronto, who was in the medical tent being treated for dehydration when she was pulled out to make room for victims.

About four hours into the race and two hours after the men's winner crossed the line, there was a loud explosion on the north side of Boylston Street, just before the photo bridge that marks the finish line. Another explosion could be heard a few seconds later.

By that point, more than 17,000 of the runners had finished the race, but thousands of others were farther back along the course.

The Boston Police Department said two people were killed. Hospitals reported at least 82 injured, at least eight of them critically.

A senior U.S. intelligence official said the two other explosive devices found nearby were being dismantled. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the findings publicly.

A woman who was a few feet from the second bomb, Brighid Wall, 35, of Duxbury, said that when it exploded, runners and spectators froze, unsure of what to do. Her husband threw their children to the ground, lay on top of them and another man lay on top of them and said, "Don't get up, don't get up."

After a minute or so without another explosion, Wall said, she and her family headed to a Starbucks and out the back door through an alley. Around them, the windows off the bars and restaurants were blown out.

She said she saw six to eight people bleeding profusely, including one man who was kneeling, dazed, with blood coming down his head. Another person was on the ground covered in blood and not moving.

"My ears are zinging. Their ears are zinging. It was so forceful. It knocked us to the ground."

Competitors and race volunteers were crying as they fled the chaos. Authorities went onto the course to carry away the injured while race stragglers were rerouted away from the smoking site.

Roupen Bastajian, a 35-year-old state trooper from Smithfield, R.I., had just finished the race when they put the heat blanket wrap on him and he heard the blasts.

"I started running toward the blast. And there were people all over the floor," he said. "We started grabbing tourniquets and started tying legs. A lot of people amputated. ... At least 25 to 30 people have at least one leg missing, or an ankle missing, or two legs missing."

Smoke rose from the blasts, fluttering through the national flags lining the route. Blood stained the pavement in the popular shopping and tourist area known as the Back Bay.

Cherie Falgoust was waiting for her husband, who was running the race.

"I was expecting my husband any minute," she said. "I don't know what this building is ... it just blew. Just a big bomb, a loud boom, and then glass everywhere. Something hit my head. I don't know what it was. I just ducked."

Runners who had not finished the race were diverted straight down Commonwealth Avenue and into a family meeting area, according to an emergency plan that had been in place.

The Boston Marathon honored the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting with a special mile marker in Monday's race.

Boston Athletic Association president Joanne Flaminio previously said there was "special significance" to the fact that the race is 26.2 miles long and 26 people died at Sandy Hook Elementary school.

___

[Updated at 3:30 p.m. CST: 187 registered runners listed Austin, Texas, as their city of residence.]

In this June 29, 2012 file photo, Gen. David Petraeus testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress said Sunday they want to know more details about the FBI investigation that revealed an extramarital affair between ex-CIA director David Petraeus and his biographer, questioning when the retired general popped up in the FBI inquiry, whether national security was compromised and why they weren’t told sooner.

“We received no advanced notice. It was like a lightning bolt,” said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The FBI was investigating harassing emails sent by Petraeus biographer and girlfriend Paula Broadwell to a second woman. That probe of Broadwell’s emails revealed the affair between Broadwell and Petraeus. The FBI contacted Petraeus and other intelligence officials, and director of National Intelligence James Clapper asked Petraeus to resign.

A senior U.S. military official identified the second woman as Jill Kelley, 37, who lives in Tampa, Fla., and serves as a social liaison to the military’s Joint Special Operations Command. A U.S. official said the coalition countries represented at the military’s Central Command in Tampa gave Kelley an appreciation certificate on which she was referred to as an “honorary ambassador” to the coalition, but she has no official status.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Kelley is known to drop the “honorary” part and refer to herself as an ambassador.

The military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation, said Kelley had received harassing emails from Broadwell, which led the FBI to examine her email account and eventually discover her relationship with Petraeus.

A former associate of Petraeus confirmed the target of the emails was Kelley, but said there was no affair between the two, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the retired general’s private life. The associate, who has been in touch with Petraeus since his resignation, says Kelley and her husband were longtime friends of Petraeus and wife, Holly.

Petraeus resigned while lawmakers still had questions about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate and CIA base in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Lawmakers said it’s possible that Petraeus will still be asked to appear on Capitol Hill to testify about what he knew about the U.S. response to that incident.

Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the circumstances of the FBI probe smacked of a cover-up by the White House.

“It seems this (the investigation) has been going on for several months and, yet, now it appears that they’re saying that the FBI didn’t realize until Election Day that General Petraeus was involved. It just doesn’t add up,” said King, R-N.Y.

Petraeus, 60, quit Friday after acknowledging an extramarital relationship. He has been married 38 years to Holly Petraeus, with whom he has two adult children, including a son who led an infantry platoon in Afghanistan as an Army lieutenant.

Broadwell, a 40-year-old graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and an Army Reserve officer, is married with two young sons.

Attempts to reach Kelleyand Broadwell were not immediately successful.

Petraeus’ affair with Broadwell will be the subject of meetings Wednesday involving congressional intelligence committee leaders, FBI deputy director Sean Joyce and CIA deputy director Michael Morell.

Petraeus had been scheduled to appear before the committees on Thursday to testify on what the CIA knew and what the agency told the White House before, during and after the attack in Benghazi. Republicans and some Democrats have questioned the U.S. response and protection of diplomats stationed overseas.

Morell was expected to testify in place of Petraeus, and lawmakers said he should have the answers to their questions. But Feinstein and others didn’t rule out the possibility that Congress will compel Petraeus to testify about Benghazi at a later date, even though he’s relinquished his job.“I don’t see how in the world you can find out what happened in Benghazi before, during and after the attack if General Petraeus doesn’t testify,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wants to create a joint congressional committee to investigate the U.S. response to that attack.

Feinstein said she first learned of Petraeus’ affair from the media late last week, and confirmed it in a phone call Friday with Petraeus. She eventually was briefed by the FBI and said so far there was no indication that national security was breached.

Still, Feinstein called the news “a heartbreak” for her personally and U.S. intelligence operations, and said she didn’t understand why the FBI didn’t give her a heads up as soon as Petraeus’ name emerged in the investigation.

“We are very much able to keep things in a classified setting,” she said. “At least if you know, you can begin to think and then to plan. And, of course, we have not had that opportunity.”

Clapper was told by the Justice Department of the Petraeus investigation at about 5 p.m. on Election Day, and then called Petraeus and urged him to resign, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

FBI officials say the committees weren’t informed until Friday, one official said, because the matter started as a criminal investigation into harassing emails sent by Broadwell to another woman.

Concerned that the emails he exchanged with Broadwell raised the possibility of a security breach, the FBI brought the matter up with Petraeus directly, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation.

Petraeus decided to quit, though he was breaking no laws by having an affair, officials said.

Feinstein said she has not been told the precise relationship between Petraeus and the woman who reported the harassing emails to the FBI.

Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, called Petraeus “a great leader” who did right by stepping down and still deserves the nation’s gratitude. He also didn’t rule out calling Petraeus to testify on Benghazi at some point.

“He’s trying to put his life back together right now and that’s what he needs to focus on,” Chambliss said.

King appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Feinstein was on “Fox News Sunday,” Graham spoke on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” and Chambliss was interviewed on ABC’s “This Week.”

Police officers walk next to the building in Toulouse, France, Wednesday March 21, 2012 where a suspect in the shooting at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school had been spotted.

TOULOUSE, France — Riot police set off explosions outside an apartment building early Thursday in an effort to force the surrender of a gunman who boasted of bringing France “to its knees” with an al-Qaida-linked terror spree that killed seven people.

As the standoff dragged into a second day, hundreds of heavily armed police cordoned off the five-story building in Toulouse where the 24-year-old suspect, Mohamed Merah, had been holed up.

An Interior Ministry official said the suspect had gone back on a previous decision to turn himself in — and that police blew up the shutters outside the apartment window to pressure him to surrender.

The Toulouse prosecutor, Michel Valet, told The Associated Press: “I cannot confirm that the assault has started. It’s not as simple as that. We are waiting.”

Authorities said the shooter, a French citizen of Algerian descent, had been to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he claimed to have received training from al-Qaida.

They said he told negotiators he killed a rabbi and three young children at a Jewish school on Monday and three French paratroopers last week to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children and to protest the French army’s involvement in Afghanistan, as well as a government ban last year on face-covering Islamic veils.

“He has no regrets, except not having more time to kill more people and he boasts that he has brought France to its knees,” Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference.

The standoff began when a police attempt at around 3 a.m. to detain Merah erupted into a firefight. Two police were wounded, triggering on-and-off negotiations with the suspect that lasted into the night.

Police cut electricity and gas to the building, then quietly closed in to wait out the suspect.

Authorities were “counting on his great fatigue and weakening,” said Didier Martinez of the SGP police union, adding the siege could go on for hours. Street lights were also cut, making Merah more visible to officers with night vision goggles in case of an assault.

French authorities — like others in Europe — have long been concerned about “lone-wolf” attacks by young, Internet-savvy militants who self-radicalize online since they are harder to find and track. Still, it was the first time a radical Islamic motive has been ascribed to killings in France in years.

Merah espoused a radical brand of Islam and had been to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region twice and to the Pakistani militant stronghold of Waziristan for training, Molins said.

He said the suspect had plans to kill another soldier, prompting the police raid.

The gunman’s brother and mother were detained early in the day. Molins said the 29-year-old brother, Abdelkader, had been implicated in a 2007 network that sent militant fighters to Iraq, but was never charged.

Wednesday’s siege was part of France’s biggest manhunt since a wave of terrorist attacks in the 1990s by Algerian extremists. The chase began after France’s worst-ever school shooting Monday and two previous attacks on paratroopers beginning March 11, killings that have horrified the country and frozen campaigning for the French presidential election next month.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has played up nationalist themes in his bid for a second term, vowed to defend France.

“Terrorism will not be able to fracture our national community,” Sarkozy declared Wednesday on national television before heading to funeral services for the two paratroopers killed and another injured Thursday in Montauban, near Toulouse.

The suspect repeatedly promised to turn himself in, then halted negotiations. Cedric Delage, regional secretary for a police union, said police were prepared to storm the building if he did not surrender. After bouts of deadly terrorist attacks in France in the 1980s and 1990s, France beefed up its legal arsenal — now seen as one of the most effective in Western Europe and a reference for countries including the U.S. after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Sarkozy’s office said President Barack Obama called him Wednesday to express condolences to the families of the victims and praise French police for tracking down the suspect. The statement said France and the United States are “more determined than ever to fight terrorist barbarity together.”

In recent years, French counterterrorism officials have focused mainly on al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African affiliate of Osama bin Laden’s network that has its roots in an insurgent group in Algeria, a former French colony.

Molins said Merah’s first trip to Afghanistan ended with him being picked up by Afghan police “who turned him over to the American army who put him on the first plane to France.”

“He had foreseen other killings, notably he foresaw another attack this morning, targeting a soldier,” Molins said, adding also planned to attack two police officers. “He claims to have always acted alone.”

Merah has a long record as a juvenile delinquent with 15 convictions, Molins added.

An Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Merah had been under surveillance for years for having “fundamentalist” Islamic views.

During the standoff, police evacuated the five-story building, escorting residents out using the roof and fire truck ladders. The suspect’s apartment was on the ground floor of the postwar building, locals said.

French authorities said Merah threw a Colt .45 handgun used in each of the three attacks out a window in exchange for a device to talk to authorities, but had more weapons like an AK-47 assault rifle. Gueant said other weapons had been found in his car.

“The main concern is to arrest him, and to arrest him in conditions by which we can present him to judicial officials,” Gueant added, explaining authorities want to “take him alive ... It is imperative for us.”

Delage said a key to tracking Merah was the powerful Yamaha motorcycle he reportedly used in all three attacks — a dark gray one that had been stolen March 6. The frame was painted white, the color witnesses saw in the school attack.

According to Delage, one of his brothers went to a motorcycle sales outfit to ask how to modify the GPS tracker, raising suspicions. The vendor then contacted police, Delage said.

The shooter has proved to be a meticulous operator. At the site of the second paratrooper killing, police found the clip for the gun used in all three attacks — but no fingerprints or DNA on it.

Those slain at the Jewish school, all of French-Israeli nationality, were buried in Israel on Wednesday as relatives sobbed inconsolably. The bodies of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his sons Arieh, 5, and Gabriel, 3, and 8-year-old Myriam Monsenego had been flown there earlier in the day.

At the funeral ceremony, Myriam’s eldest brother, Avishai, in his 20s, wailed and called to God to give his parents the strength “to endure the worst trial that can be endured.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, meanwhile, denounced the deadly shooting attack at the Jewish school and condemned the link to Palestinian children.

“It’s time for criminals to stop using the Palestinian cause to justify their terrorist actions,” Fayyad said in a statement. “The children of Palestine want nothing but dignified lives for themselves and for all the children.”

Before he was killed last year, bin Laden stressed the importance of focusing on the Palestinian cause. In what is believed to be a draft letter to al-Qaida’s top lieutenant, the al-Qaida leader wrote about the need for the terror group’s affiliates to tie their operations to broad concern for Palestine instead of local grievances, according to declassified documents obtained in last year’s bin Laden raid that were reviewed by the Washington Post.

Printed on Thursday, March 22, 2012 as: French riot police force gunman to surrender

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. — A Virginia Tech official defends the delay in alerting students to the shootings of two students to begin the unprecedented 2007 massacre, saying officials did the best they could.

Robert M. Byers is the executive director of government relations at Virginia Tech. He testified Wednesday at the civil trial brought by the parents of two students among the 32 left dead by the April 16, 2007, attack by a lone gunman.

Virginia Tech police thought the first two victims in a dorm died in a domestic violence incident and said they didn’t think the rest of the campus was at risk.

Byers said university leaders where heeding the advice of campus police in delaying an announcement, because they wanted to avoid panic and notify the two victims’ parents.

Printed on Thursday, March 8, 2012 as: Virginia Tech defends not alerting students after death

President William Powers Jr. fired a senior UT Department of Athletics official on the basis of a sexual harassment complaint, according University documents that surfaced last week.

Powers wrote a letter to Cleve Bryant, associate athletics director for football operations, informing him of his employment termination on March 23, 2011, according to an investigation summary released to the public under the Texas Public Information Act. The University did not previously release the official cause of Bryant’s termination, although it came in the aftermath of a sexual harrassment suit.

An employee complained to UT administrative personnel in August of 2010 that Bryant had sexually harassed her verbally and sent her inappropriate text messages. She also alleged that Bryant had sexually harassed her physically in July 2010. The employee filed a formal written complaint Oct. 5, 2011, and her allegations were investigated by University officials.

Bryant denied her allegations then and has maintained that he did not sexually harass any employee, said his attorney Thomas Nesbitt. According to the investigation summary, Bryant appealed his termination decision to Steven Leslie, executive vice president and provost. A full evidentiary hearing was conducted on Aug. 17-18, 2011 and Leslie upheld Bryant’s termination.

In January 2011, the University negotiated a $400,000 settlement with the employee who made the complaint. In return, she released the University and all UT officers and employees from all legal responsibility.

Patricia Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs, said she cannot comment on the specifics of the case because it is University policy to not publicly discuss sensitive personal matters.

“I can reiterate that the University does not tolerate sexual harassment in any form and we have a strong policy that prohibits it,” Ohlendorf said. “The University began investigating the allegations as soon as we learned about them and took appropriate action.”

Printed on Tuesday, February 28, 2012 as: Documents confirm cause of firing