One month after a deadly exchange of artillery fire, the two Koreas ramped up their rhetoric Thursday, with South Korea's president pledging unsparing retaliation if attacked again and a top North Korean official threatening a "sacred" nuclear war if provoked. South Korean troops, tanks and fighter jets put on a thundering display of force as President Lee Myung-bak visited with soldiers at a base near the border, while North Korea's elite marked a key military anniversary by lashing out at the South for encouraging war.
NEW YORK (AP) — Fair weather helped make the holiday sojourn a not-so-painful experience in much of the country Thursday, even with more people hitting the roads and skies than last year, but travelers' good luck might be running out. A storm was expected to bring a snow and ice to parts of the heartland Friday, a rare white Christmas to Nashville on Saturday, and perhaps sock swaths of the Northeast on Sunday.
ROME (AP) — Mail bombs exploded in the hands of employees at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome on Thursday, seriously wounding two people and triggering heightened security checks at diplomatic missions just as holiday deliveries deluge their mailrooms. Italian investigators suspected the attacks were the work of anarchists, similar to the two-day wave of mail bombs that targeted several embassies in Athens last month — including those of Chile and Switzerland. One of last month's booby-trapped packages, addressed to Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, was intercepted in Italy.
CHICAGO (AP) — Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel can run for Chicago mayor although he spent much of the last two years living in Washington while working for President Barack Obama, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners ruled Thursday. The board's unanimous decision to put Emanuel's name on the Feb. 22 ballot allowed the former White House chief of staff to clear a major hurdle to his ambitions to replace retiring Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. But the commission ruling the Emanuel met the residency requirement didn't resolve the matter completely, with one of the objectors' lawyers saying he would immediately appeal the ruling and fight Emanuel's candidacy all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court, if necessary.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson told his "700 Club" audience that harsh penalties for marijuana possession are costly for the nation and damaging to young people, but a spokesman said Thursday he was not calling for decriminalizing pot. Robertson, 80, made the comments on the Christian Broadcasting Network in the context of faith-based approaches to treating offenders, the spokesman said.
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A Romanian television engineer apparently distraught that budget cuts had reduced benefits for his autistic teenage son dived more than 20 feet (about seven meters) from a balcony onto the floor of Romania's parliament Thursday, then shouted "Freedom!" as emergency workers took him out on a stretcher. The man's cry echoed those heard during the 1989 revolution that toppled communism — a revolt in which 1,300 people died. Romanians are commemorating the 21st anniversary of an uprising in which authorities shot unarmed protesters.
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Police and soldiers fired water cannons and plastic bullets Thursday as thousands of students protested against a law passed by Venezuela's congress that increases government powers over the country's universities. At least four people were injured, including a news photographer who was treated for a cut to the head after being hit with an object.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Many California residents who endured flooding, mudslides and evacuations during a weeklong onslaught of rain must now clean up or even rebuild — and could face the prospect of not being able to spend Christmas at home. The storm's push across the West left a muddy mess across Southern California and the threat of avalanches in Nevada, where Clark County officials urged residents of Mount Charleston, near Las Vegas, to leave after snow slides near two mountain hamlets.
LINCOLN, Nebraska (AP) — Fred Hargesheimer, a World War II Army pilot whose rescue by Pacific islanders led to a life of giving back as a builder of schools and teacher of children, died Thursday morning. He was 94. Richard Hargesheimer said his father had been suffering from poor health and passed away in Lincoln. On June 5, 1943, Hargesheimer, a P-38 pilot with the 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, was shot down by a Japanese fighter while on a mission over the Japanese-held island of New Britain in the southwest Pacific. He parachuted into the trackless jungle, where he barely survived for 31 days until found by local hunters.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Newly released documents show Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox expressed "extreme interest" in a 1970s criminal investigation of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner for illegal campaign contributions. Then-FBI Director Clarence M. Kelley echoed Cox's concern in an Aug. 16, 1973 memo to the bureau's Cleveland office, saying agents needed to make sure the probe received "the same, immediate and preferred handling" as other criminal cases then growing from the Watergate scandal.