World/Nation Briefs

Florida college student plotted attack, police say

ORLANDO, Fla. – A college student with two guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a backpack filled with explosives pulled a dorm fire alarm Monday in an apparent attempt to force other students out into the open so that he could slaughter them, authorities said. But he instead put a bullet in his head as police closed in.

James Oliver Seevakumaran, 30, was found dead in his dorm room at the 51,000-student Orlando campus of the University of Central Florida. No one else was hurt.

“His timeline got off,” university Police Chief Richard Beary said. “We think the rapid response of law enforcement may have changed his ability to think quickly on his feet.”

About 500 students were evacuated from the building in the middle of the night, unaware how narrowly they had escaped what could have been another Virginia Tech-style bloodbath.

NYC plan would keep tobacco products hidden

NEW YORK – Cigarettes would have to be kept out of sight in New York City stores under a first-in-the-nation plan unveiled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday, igniting complaints from retailers and smokers who said they’ve had enough with the city’s crackdowns.

Shops from corner stores to supermarkets would have to keep tobacco products in cabinets, drawers, under the counter, behind a curtain or in other concealed spots. Officials also want to stop shops from taking cigarette coupons and honoring discounts, and are proposing a minimum price for cigarettes, below what the going rate is in much of the city now, to discourage black market sales.

Anti-smoking advocates and health experts hailed the proposals as a bold effort to take on a habit that remains the leading preventable cause of death in a city that already has helped impose the highest cigarette taxes in the country, barred smoking in restaurants, bars, parks and beaches and launched sometimes graphic ad campaigns about the effects of smoking.

Obama nominates Justice official to top Labor slot

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama gave a glowing rollout Monday to Thomas Perez, his choice to lead the Labor Department after an aggressive stint as the nation’s chief civil-rights enforcer. But the nomination quickly ran into trouble as a Republican senator declared he would block the nomination until GOP concerns about Perez’s Justice Department tenure are addressed.

Sen. David Vitter said he objects because Perez enforced Louisiana’s voting-rights laws in a way “that specifically benefits the politics of the president and his administration at the expense of identity security” of registered voters in the state. The Justice Department, he said, has not responded to Vitter’s 2011 letter on the subject.

Israel sends mixed signals ahead of Obama’s visit

JERUSALEM – Ahead of the arrival of President Barack Obama on a high-profile Mideast mission, Israel’s new government Monday sent mixed messages about pursuing peace with the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech to parliament that his hand is outstretched in peace and that he is ready for a “historic compromise,” but one of his closest allies called hopes for peace “delusional.”

Well aware of the large gaps between the sides, Obama has been careful to lower expectations for the 48-hour visit, which begins Wednesday.

Associated Press