World digest || Blasts at embassies in Rome wound two

Christmas Eve sales may lead to record


It’s Black Friday, The Sequel. Stores are rolling out deals and expect to be swimming in shoppers today, 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, today is a holiday for most U.S. workers. That lets shoppers hit the stores first thing in the morning.

“I’m calling it ‘Fantastic Friday,’ because I really do think it’s going to be one of the busiest days of the year,” said Marshal Cohen, chief fashion-industry analyst with researcher NPD Group.

A strong Christmas Eve would round out a surprisingly successful holiday season for retailers. The National Retail Federation predicts that holiday spending will reach $451.5 billion this year, up 3.3 percent over last year. That would be the biggest year-over-year increase since 2006, and the largest total since spending hit a record $452.8 billion in 2007.

Blasts at embassies in Rome wound two


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.

Late Thursday, the Italian news agency ANSA reported that a claim by anarchists was found in a small box near one of the wounded employees, and was being examined by the anti-terrorism police squad.

Anti-terrorism police at Rome police headquarters refused to comment on the claim, which ANSA said was made by a group called the Informal Anarchist Federation, or FAI.

“Long live FAI, long live anarchy,” the claim reportedly said.

AIG to pay $146M to settle lawsuit


Pennsylvania’s chief insurance regulator says American Insurance Group Inc. and its insurance affiliates have agreed to pay more than $100 million in fines and other penalties to resolve claims the insurer violated workers’ compensation regulations.

Acting Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Robert Pratter said the settlement with eight states resolves a probe into allegations AIG under-reported some $2.12 billion of workers’ compensation premiums.

Insurance regulators in all 50 states and the District of Columbia will split the $100 million in fines.

New York-based AIG also agreed to pay about $46.5 million in additional taxes and assessments.

The deal must be adopted by at least 35 additional states by March 1.