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Furloughs are at a 17-year high; <em>The New York Times </em>breaks a century-old taboo; Consumer lending rates remain high; Computer-animated movies are among top-earners; Venezuela's Citgo halts assistance for low-income Americans&l

The number of workers forced by their employers to take unpaid vacations, or “furloughs,” is at a 17-year high. Of the 10.3 million people unemployed in November, about 12 percent, or 1.2 million, are on temporary layoff.MSNBC.com

The New York Times this week broke a century-old taboo, running a display ad, for CBS, on its front page. The newspaper’s parent company has recently taken several radical steps to raise cash and cut costs, including borrowing against its headquarters building and cutting its dividend 74 percent. Marketwatch.com

Although inter-bank lending rates have fallen to near zero and the U.S. government has poured $172.5 billion into the banking system, consumer lending rates remain stubbornly high. The average consumer credit card interest rate in December was 14.43 percent, according to IndexCreditCards.com. Bloomberg.com

Four of the 10 highest-grossing movies of 2008 are computer-animated—Wall-E, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, and Horton Hears a Who. Two others, Iron Man and The Dark Knight, feature comic-book heroes.The New York Times

Citgo, the Venezuela-owned oil company, has halted its heating-fuel assistance program for low-income Americans. The program, started in 2005, supplied 100 gallons of free heating oil to 400,000 households in 16 states.The Boston Globe

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