Parcel Bombs Reported in Rome; Consumer Spending Up
News reports say a package has exploded at Chile’s embassy in Rome following a parcel bombing at Switzerland’s embassy earlier in the day.
Police and embassy officials say the blast at the Swiss Embassy seriously injured a diplomatic employee, the New York Times reports. The ANSA news agency says one person was believed to be injured in the blast at the Chilean Embassy.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Grattini called the bombings a “deplorable” act. Italian police also report that they are conducting checks in all embassies and consulates in Rome.
The bombings come amid heightened concern in Europe and elsewhere over possible holiday season terrorist attacks. Rome has also been the scene of recent violent student protests over education reforms.
Consumer Spending Up, Fewer People Apply for Unemployment Benefits
U.S. consumer spending rose for a fifth straight month in November and incomes rose slightly more than expected. In addition, slightly fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, the second drop in three weeks.
The Labor Department reported that 420,000 people applied for unemployment benefits, a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week.
The Commerce Department reported that consumers increased their spending 0.4 percent in November. The gain came after shoppers ratcheted up spending by 0.7 percent in October, the most since August 2009. It marked the fifth month in a row that spending rose, according to the Associated Press.
“The spending numbers are good for the economy, no question about it. Consumers are spending at a moderate pace. They are shopping until they are tired. They are not shopping until they drop. But that’s okay,” said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors.
U.N. Reports More Than 100 People Killed in Ivory Coast
The U.N. said Thursday that at least 173 people have been killed and dozens of others are missing after Ivory Coast’s disputed election. The resulting turmoil and violence has raised concern in the international community that the country could dissolve into a civil war.
The United Nations and other world leaders recognize Alassane Ouattara as the winner of the Nov. 28 runoff vote. But incumbent Laurent Gbagbo has raised questions about the vote and refuses to concede defeat.
According to the AP and other agencies, U.N. deputy human rights commissioner Kyung-wha Kang told diplomats in Geneva that at least 471 arrests and detentions were substantiated between Dec. 16 and 21. Kang said human rights officers “have substantiated allegations of 173 killings, 90 instances of torture and ill treatment, 471 arrests and detentions and 24 cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances.”
If a conflict erupts, it could draw in some 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers stationed in the country. The U.S. and others are looking at ways to strengthen the U.N. presence.
“We are in discussions with other regional countries to see if there are ways in which we can reinforce the U.N. peacekeeping force,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters. “It could be that that kind of reinforcement could be another way to send a clear message to President Gbagbo.”