It's Black Friday, The Sequel. Stores are rolling out deals and expect to be swimming in shoppers on Christmas Eve as stragglers take advantage of a day off work. For retailers, the last-minute rush caps the best year since 2007, and possibly ever. With Christmas falling on a Saturday this year, Friday is a holiday for most U.S. workers. That lets shoppers hit the stores first thing in the morning.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — 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.
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) — Rahm Emanuel forged ahead with his campaign for Chicago mayor Thursday after an elections panel ruled his name can appear on the Feb. 22 ballot, rejecting arguments the former White House chief of staff forfeited his city residency when he went to work for President Barack Obama in Washington. The decision of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners removed a major obstacle to Emanuel's ambitions to replace retiring Mayor Richard M. Daley, and Emanuel said it allowed him to "turn the page" and focus on issues more important to voters.
OSLO, Norway (AP) — A Norwegian newspaper says it has obtained the entire trove of 250,000 uncensored U.S. diplomatic documents that WikiLeaks has been distributing. The announcement Thursday appears to make Aftenposten the first media organization outside WikiLeaks' five partners to obtain the material — a development sure to heighten U.S. government fears that the public release of some uncensored diplomatic cables could endanger informants' lives. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has not been charged in connection with leaked documents but was jailed in England this month after two women in Sweden accused him of sex crimes, including rape. He was freed on bail last week and is confined to a supporter's country estate in Britain while he fights extradition to Sweden, where authorities want to question him in the sex crimes inquiry.
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.
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 Thursday 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.
NEW YORK (AP) — Curtain up! Light the lights! Hopeful ticket-holders awaited the return of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" Thursday after two performances were canceled due to a scary fall that left a stuntman seriously injured. And the $65 million question remained: Will new safety precautions allow the cast of Broadway's costliest show to "hit the heights" in close to 40 aerial maneuvers safely, avoiding another dangerous accident that could permanently shutter the show?
WASHINGTON (AP) — Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox expressed "extreme interest" in a 1970s criminal investigation of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner for illegal campaign contributions, according to documents released Thursday. Then-FBI Director Clarence M. Kelley relayed Cox's concern in a memo on Aug. 16, 1973, 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.