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The usual bustle of after-Christmas crowds did not appear Wednesday at stores across the nation. With the “fiscal cliff” on the horizon, this holiday season is shaping up to be the weakest since the economic uncertainty of 2008. (Associated Press)

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The usual bustle of after-Christmas crowds did not appear Wednesday at stores across the nation. With the “fiscal cliff” on the horizon, this holiday season is shaping up to be the weakest since the economic uncertainty of 2008. (Associated Press)

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Holiday ornaments, but not last-minute shoppers, filled malls as Christmas approached. Consumer sentiment plunged this month after hitting four-year highs in November, dampening sales for retailers despite deep discounts and other incentives. (Associated Press)

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Kiki Infante checks out the merchandise for her Christmas presents in Miami, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

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This Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 photo shows a damaged hall at Trinity Episcopal Church as residents clean up and assess the damage from a Christmas Day tornado in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/G.M. Andrews)

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Murphy High School teacher Leland Howard tries to salvage items where his algebra classroom once stood in a temporary building at Murphy High School as residents clean up and assess the damage from a Christmas Day tornado Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/G.M. Andrews)

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Tim Clarke, in black jacket, carries antiques from the the damaged home of family friend Anne Zieman (not pictured) as residents clean up and assess the damage from a Christmas Day tornado Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/G.M. Andrews)

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Murphy High School athletic custodian Mike Gill, left, and maintenance man Stewart Lynch, right, asses the damage caused to the school by a Christmas Day tornado as residents clean up at first light Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/G.M. Andrews)

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In this Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 file photo, Christmas stockings with the names of shooting victims hang from railing near a makeshift memorial near the town Christmas tree in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

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A church attendant closes her eyes during a prayer as the Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl leads the Solemn Mass of Christmas Day at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C., Tuesday, December 25, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)

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Lucas Martinez and his dad, Nick Martinez hit the hill at Trinity Park in Fort Worth, Texas for Christmas Day fun in the snow Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Ben Noey Jr.)

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PHotographs by andrew harnik/the washington times A processional makes its way to the altar as Catholic Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl (below) celebrates Mass for more than 3,500 — including Chidubem Nwabineli (right), 6, and his sister, Chinemelum, 8, of Bowie — on Christmas Day at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

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Associated Press A LOT OF TREES: Choosing the right Christmas tree is a favorite tradition for families, but the needle-shedding evergreens become only memories after the holidays. That’s when governments and businesses take over and use the castoffs for a variety of purposes.

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The Catholic archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, greets the choir as meals are provided to church attendees after Mass on Christmas Day at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)

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A processional makes its way to the altar as Catholic Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl (below) celebrates Mass for more than 3,500 — including Chidubem Nwabineli (right), 6, and his sister, Chinemelum, 8, of Bowie — on Christmas Day at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)

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Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl departs after leading a congregation of 4,000 in Solemn Mass of Christmas Day at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C., Tuesday, December 25, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)

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Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl sings along with a choir as meals are given out to church attendees following Solemn Mass of Christmas Day at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C., Tuesday, December 25, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)

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Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl departs after leading a congregation of 4,000 in Solemn Mass of Christmas Day at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C., Tuesday, December 25, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)

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Pat Beronio of Martinsville, NJ. looks up at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception after Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl leads a congregation of 4,000 in Solemn Mass of Christmas Day, Washington, D.C., Tuesday, December 25, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)

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Church attendees get a look at a Christmas manger scene before Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl leads a congregation of 4,000 in Solemn Mass of Christmas Day at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C., Tuesday, December 25, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)