Many are cutting back on unnecessary holiday spending this year, but one item they’re not willing to do without is the perfect Christmas tree. When it comes to wreaths they try to save some green by going green.

Americans don’t appear to be ready to give up their Christmas trees amid a slumping economy, but they are downsizing to save money. There may be fewer presents under that Christmas tree this year, but it seems few families are giving up the tradition of having a tree.

Retail sales dip to the lowest in 35 years and unemployment hit a 14-year high, Christmas tree sales however holding steady in the gloom, according to growers, sellers and industry analysts.

Sales will stay in line with last year, based on reports from growers. I think people just like to have a Christmas tree; it’s not the most expensive part of Christmas, really.

Last year, Americans bought 31 million natural trees, “The year may end up the same or even a little better than last year, consumers want to keep the tradition, even if other things go by the wayside,” says Linda Gragg, executive director of the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association.

Linda Holt bought a tree this year even though she lost her job last year repairing speech devices for the hearing-impaired. Her unemployment checks ran out in March. “I can’t imagine Christmas without a tree,” says Holt, 52, who lives with her daughter’s family in San Jose. “It’s too depressing.”
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It was $1,900 here and $10,000 there.

On Friday, it all added up to a sentence of 55 years in state prison for 42-year-old Johnnie Miles, whose criminal record — of bad checks and financial fraud — dates to when she was 14 years old, according to court officials.

A month ago, a six-member Indian River County jury found the 29th Avenue resident innocent of the latest charges against her: defrauding a store out of $7,500 during a three-month period in 2007.

But under state rules, Circuit Court Judge Dan Vaughn was allowed to take another look at the facts in the latest case. That’s because she was on probation for a 2003 conviction for grand theft and fraud in Indian River County.

Because of her record, Vaughn gave her the maximum for probation violation: 11 five-year state jail terms, all to be servedconsecutively, adding up to 55 years. Each five-year term is for the 11 offenses for which she served four years in state prison.

Her record goes back even further, including an additional 20 felony fraud and theft convictions, nine petty theft convictions and seven misdemeanor cases, according to county court records.

“She is one of the most notorious thieves” in the county, said Assistant State Attorney Adam Chrzan, who handled her latest case.
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Have ever been a fan of the wonderful Asterix comics, you know that the ancient Gauls were a very brave people who didn’t know the meaning of fear. However, there was one thing that they were afraid of, and that was the sky falling on their heads. Of course, the sky actually never fell. But that didn’t stop the Gauls from thinking that it might fall.

I think the world’s financial markets have reached a stage when a lot of people are convinced that the sky is actually falling. The kind of fear and panic one sees around nowadays is unprecedented. Unlike earlier, the fear and panic is coming from some unusual directions.

In a report assessing economic prospects, the World Bank has predicted that the world’s annual economic growth will slow to 0.9%, from 2.5% in the year 2009.

The politicians and bureaucrats of the world are the people who seemed to be genetically engineered to be cheerful about economic prospects. No matter what happens, the official word in most countries is always that things are fine and getting finer. But for the first time in living memory, over the last few months, these professional optimists have changed their tune. And that’s a scary prospect.

In the United States, where the crisis first appeared, the pace and the intensity of the change of tune has been stunning. As recently as September 15th, the accepted wisdom was that erring financial firms should be left to fend for themselves and the crisis would basically work itself out with a little more pain.
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Credit cards are actually one of the best things to inspire people to spend unlimited money and get anything they want. These have empowered the credit card holders to waste money and the result is that people end up being burdened with excessive debts.

Not all, but in case of many credit card holders such incidents have happened. If you too are a sufferer like those then without any further delay you should get the credit card debt management programs.

This is a very important question for women who are struggling with personal debt and credit card debt. The reason that I ask this question is because the only way that we can solve a problem is to identify that we have a problem in the first place. Without an identification of a problem, there can be no solution to something we have not identified.

A leading credit ratings firm has warned those in love to be cautious when taking on debt for a partner. It says debts taken on for a partner, when things are rosy, can become a real hassle if the relationship breaks up.

If you are struggling to pay your monthly bills, and your credit card debt to income ratio is more than 10 percent (including car loans as well), you most likely have a problem with debt. It does not matter if you are a man or woman reading this article. What matters is that you have identified a problem that is creating stress, concern, lack of sleep, anxiety, and depression.
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Preparing Your Portfolio Is the Most Important Action You Can Take

When the stock market is running very hot or very cold, it is on everyone’s mind and few conversations last very long before turning to the latest numbers.

Whether it is the dot.com boom of the 1990s or the credit crisis of 2007, when the market is erratic and volatile, people are engaged.

The factors that lead to a boom-bust cycle in the market are important. Investment professionals and regulators spend a great deal of time trying to understand what happens in the market during these periods.

Individual investors have little influence on the market. While it is important to understand what happens and why, that is not the most important consideration for individual investors.

The most important influence on how your portfolio performs is how well you have prepared it. Preparation is the only factor you can influence.

Preparation means adopting a reasonable allocation between stocks, bonds and cash. It also means diversifying you holdings by industry sector, company size and growth and value stocks.

Most investors should consider a bond allocation equal to their age. For example, a 45 year-old investor should have 55 percent in stocks and 45 percent in bonds.

You can’t know with any assurance which turns the market will take – even industry professionals don’t know.
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The cost of air tickets are expected to start coming down soon because of the world financial crisis, experts are predicting.

Experts are ruling are ruling out a plunge that would endanger the health of airlines.

“If you keep prices too high you’re going to lose more passengers,”

A forecast of reduction in an average ticket of between 15 and 20 per cent by the end of March is predicted, to be attracting passengers from more conventional companies like British Airways.

Most airlines nowadays use the yield management system, whereby prices are adjusted by computer on an almost daily basis in line with demand, starting relatively low then rising if a particular flight fills up, or falling if it does not.

“However, company profit margins are narrow, and they cannot really engage in a price war.”

Few airlines have yet adopted an aggressive pricing strategy, as they try to recover from the massive cost of fuel which neared $150 a barrel in mid-July, forcing them to slap surcharges on tickets.

While oil has now fallen to a third of this level, companies have held back from price-cutting at the same rate, while announcing a reduction in the surcharges since September.

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But in the end, ketchup is just ketchup, isn’t it?

Not really. For Americans, ketchup always contains tomatoes and vinegar and some kind of sweetener, along with spices, and a brand named Heinz.

H.J. Heinz Co. (HNZ) reported a 22% rise in its fiscal second-quarter profit and indicated that it may take fewer price increases on its products amid weakening consumer spending and falling commodity prices.

The company is still going ahead with some selected price hikes, but indicated that price cuts were unlikely.

Food companies have raised prices steadily over the last year amid soaring commodity prices. Investors and analysts have been watching closely to see how these companies now will handle the subject of price increases as commodities have pulled back and global economies have weakened. Price increases play a big role in offsetting costs, but in a weak economy companies run the risk of pushing away penny-pinching consumers. There has been some speculation that retailers may also be resisting efforts by manufacturers to raise prices.

The company took a fair amount of price hikes in the second quarter and that discussions with retailers on pricing are a “little more difficult.”

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The billionaire Saudi prince, who invested in Citicorp in 1991 when it was in financial straits, said he would raise his stake from 4 per cent to 5 per cent. At Citi’s current market value of just over $25bn, the new investment would cost about $350m.

The 26.4 per cent fall in the shares, which closed at $4.71 in New York, prompted Citi’s directors and executives to look at strategic options, includes selling part or whole of the company.

A $350m vote of confidence from Saudi prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal could not halt the rapid decline in the fortunes of Citigroup yesterday, with fears mounting that what was once the world’s biggest bank will lack adequate capital to withstand the billions of dollars of losses expected in the months to come.

The £236m investment came before the market opened yesterday, and reversed the nose-dive in the ailing bank’s share price for only 20 minutes before the sellers returned. It had been hoped that the boost in sentiment from Al-Waleed’s vote of confidence would end a two-year selloff that has wiped more than $200bn from Citigroup’s market value.

But as quickly as the share price had improved, it declined again. At one point it plunged by more than 25% to less than $4, its lowest since 1994. By the close on Wall Street it was off by more than 26% at $4.71, giving the bank a puny market value of $25bn.

In January 2007, Citigroup shares were worth more than $54 each and the company was valued at more than $250bn.

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