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Consumers splurge on Barack Obama merchandise; Dollar's rise spurs Mexican immigration; Smithsonian finds sketch of $100 gold coin; U.S. culture popular overseas; Personal savings rate rises

Consumers have already spent an estimated $200 million on Barack Obama merchandise, with another splurge expected around the Inauguration. The items being marketed with Obama’s likeness include mugs, T-shirts, station­ery, posters, aprons, coasters, dog jerseys, and mouse pads.The International Herald Tribune

The dollar in recent weeks has risen 34 percent against the Mexican peso, spurring a new flood of Mexican immigration. The favorable exchange rate enables Mexicans in the U.S. to send more money home. A year ago, $1,000 bought about 10,000 pesos. Today the same sum buys 13,400 pesos.BusinessWeek

A 100-year-old sketch discovered recently at the Smithsonian Institution is the first evidence that the U.S. once considered minting a $100 gold coin. The piece likely would have weighed almost one-third of a pound.The Wall Street Journal

Although the U.S. may be politically unpopular in many countries, U.S. culture has never been in more demand. Overseas sales of U.S. movies hit $17 billion last year, up from $10 billion in 2003, while the number of hours of American programming on European television networks is at an all-time high. The New York Times

Hard times really are sparking a return to thrift. The U.S. personal savings rate rose 1.3 percent in the third quarter this year, double the rate of the previous quarter. USA Today 

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