Unhappy Christmas couples shop divorce vouchers

All I want for Christmas… is a divorce > A British law firm is offering an unusual present for unhappily married couples this Christmas, divorce gift vouchers.

British law firm Lloyd Platt and Company in London said it has received hundreds of enquiries since putting the vouchers on sale last month.

Offering couples half-hour or hour-long advice session with a lawyer, the firm has sold 54 vouchers in three weeks, according to the Daily Telegraph. The firm is calling the vouchers this year’s “must have” present, and cost 140 euros.

“Christmas can be a very stressful time for families as we have always seen by the huge increase of people seeking advice in January” senior partner Vanessa Lloyd Platt told the newspaper. “The vouchers seem to appeal to an enormously wide spread spectrum of people looking for that ‘must have’ gift for Christmas” she said. She added that buyers include husbands, wives, mistresses and people using them as a suggestion to their friends and family members.

However the vouchers have been criticised for encouraging people to seek a divorce rather than resolve their problems through counselling or other means.

“It’s typical ambulance chasing by lawyers who are doing this for business reasons” said Dave Percival, who organises an annual National Marriage Week, which celebrates the institution of marriage.

Lloyd Platt and Company said the vouchers offer people “all the practical options available to them, divorce being only one of the options”.

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Counting on Christmas Statistics > the holidays by the numbers

So you have read our post Counting on Christmas Statistics which goes back to December 19, 2006. We have been asked to provide any latest statisctics, if these were available, so here we are with the latest [if additional details are released, we will update this post].

It’s in the Mail > 19 billion > Number of cards, letters and packages the U.S. Postal Service expected to deliver between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2008. The busiest delivery day was expected to be December 17, with more than twice as many cards and letters being processed as the average on any given day.

Rush to the Stores > $28.2 billion > Retail sales by the nation’s department stores (including leased departments) in December 2008. This represented a 40 percent jump from the previous month (when retail sales, many holiday-related, registered $20.2 billion). No other month-to-month increase in department store sales last year was as large.

Other U.S. retailers with sizable jumps in sales between November and December 2008 were book stores (95 percent); clothing stores (32 percent); jewelry stores (125 percent); radio, TV and other electronics stores (38 percent); and sporting goods stores (62 percent).

14% > The proportion of total 2008 sales for department stores (including leased departments) in December. For jewelry stores, the percentage was 18%.

23% > The proportion of growth in inventories by our nation’s department stores (excluding leased departments) through August 31 to November 30, 2008. Thanks to the holiday crowds, inventories plummeted by 25% in December.

Note: Leased departments are separately owned businesses operated as departments or concessions of other service establishments or of retail businesses, such as a separately owned shoe-shine parlor in a barber shop, or a beauty shop in a department store. Also, retail sales estimates have not been adjusted to account for seasonal or pricing variations.

$24 billion > Value of retail sales by electronic shopping and mail-order houses in December 2008–the highest total for any month last year.

16,670 > The number of electronic shopping and mail-order houses in business in 2007. These businesses, which employed 268,328 workers, are a popular source of holiday gifts. Their sales: $199 billion, of which 44.6% were attributable to e-commerce. California led the nation in the number of these establishments and their employees, with 2,493 and 32,971, respectively.

If you’re not sure where to do your shopping, choices of retail establishments abound: In 2007, there were 155,371 clothing and clothing accessories stores; 10,116 department stores; 9,515 hobby, toy and game shops; 30,920 gift, novelty and souvenir shops; 23,756 sporting goods stores; 27,484 jewelry stores; and 10,635 book stores across the nation. The figures shown are for locations with paid employees.

Christmas Trees and Decorations > $410 million > The gross earnings of Christmas tree farmers in 2007.

$109.3 million > Sales by Christmas tree farmers in Oregon in 2007, which led the nation.

$470.3 million > The value of U.S. imports of Christmas tree ornaments from China between January and August 2009. China was the leading country of origin for such items. Similarly, China was the leading foreign source of artificial Christmas trees shipped to the United States ($28.6 million worth) during the same period.

Where the toys are… made > 94 > Number of establishments around the country that primarily manufactured dolls and stuffed toys in 2008; they employed 1,641 people. California led the nation with 17 locations.

683 > The number of locations that primarily produced games, toys, and children’s vehicles in 2007; they employed 10,708 workers. California led the nation with 112 establishments.

$3.2 billion > Total value of shipments for dolls, toys and games by manufacturers in 2007.

$4.3 billion > The value of U.S. toy imports including stuffed toys (excluding dolls), puzzles and electric trains from China between January and August 2009. China was the leading country of origin for stuffed toys coming into this country, as well as for a number of other popular holiday gifts. These include roller skates ($30 million), sports footwear ($120 million), golf balls ($31 million) and basketballs ($29 million). China leads Canada as the leading supplier of ice skates ($12 million versus $5 million), with Thailand ranking third ($4 million).

Holiday names > Place names associated with the holiday season include North Pole, Alaska (population 2,212 in 2008); Santa Claus, Ind. (2,314); Santa Claus, Ga. (250); Noel, Mo. (1,608); and, if you know about reindeer, the village of Rudolph, Wis. (412) and Dasher, Ga. (849). There is Snowflake, Ariz. (5,673) and a dozen places named Holly, including Holly Springs, Miss., and Mount Holly, N.C.

Hanukkah and Kwanzaa > 50.4% > Proportion of the nation’s spuds produced in Idaho and Washington in 2008. Potato latkes are always a crowd pleaser during Hanukkah.

$1.3 billion > The value of product shipments of candles in 2002 by the nation’s manufacturers. Many of these candles are lit during Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations.

New Year’s Eve and Day > 79,389 > The estimated July 1, 2008, population of Champaign, Ill., a place whose name alone may get you into a celebratory mood.

$475 million > U.S. manufacturers shipments of effervescent wines (including sparkling wines, such as champagne) in 2002.

More than 308 million > The nation’s projected population as we ring in the New Year.

Source > U.S. Census Bureau.

Police’s version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”

Posted On December 17, 2009

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The Christmas Spirit seems to be in full swing at a Police Department in Wisconsin, USA.

Kenosha Police Department’s officers have made a Christmas video that features their version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.

The cops sing about gifts from their chief that include bullets, guns, jelly doughnuts, night shifts and coffee breaks. One officer is shown with his feet up on a desk sipping coffee. Another is sitting in front of a box of doughnuts, his nose and cheek smeared with jelly.

A blurb on the Police Department’s web site invites people who need a laugh “during this hectic time of year” to click on the video.

After “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, traditional versions of two more carols play as pictures, which include some officers, float across the screen.

However, if you try to browse the Police Department’s web site [http://kenoshapolice.com] today, the message you will receive is the following “The site you are trying to reach does not exist or has been disabled”.  Must have been a top hit!

Santa lost his reindeer

Posted On December 17, 2009

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Santa Claus is in trouble with the law in one western Wisconsin city, US.

Police in Sparta city, Wisconsin, said they cited a man dressed as Santa after witnesses told officers he stumbled out of a vehicle, approached several children playing in a yard, hugged them and demanded to know the whereabouts of his reindeer.

The man was cited for open intoxicants. The driver of the car in which he was riding was arrested for drunken driving.

Santa not delivering gifts

Police were called in to prevent a clergyman dressed as Father Christmas from delivering presents to children at an asylum centre.

The Rev Canon James Rosenthal, dressed in a red robe with a long white beard, was refused entry by guards at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre in Bedfordshire, UK.

After a stand-off, security guards called the police to remove Mr Rosenthal who is the Anglican Church’s leading expert on Saint Nicholas, reports the British newspaper Daily Telegraph.

Mr Rosental said he was “extremely disappointed” that 35 boys and girls at the centre were denied a pre-arranged visit by the patron Saint of children and the imprisoned.

“Saint Nicholas has never been turned away from anywhere before. So I was extremely disappointed not to be able to hand deliver the gifts to the children detained at Yarl’s Wood,” he said.

Serco, a private security company that operates Yarl’s Wood, referred questions to the Home Office. A spokesman said only people subject to stringent security checks can be allowed into the detention centre and there can be no exceptions.

Mr Rosental was accompanied on the trip earlier this month by the Rev Professor Nicholas Sagovsky, canon theologian at Westminster Abbey. He said: “This was about bringing a moment of joy to kids locked up in a deplorable situation. I can’t help but contrast the smiles and wonderment on the faces of the children Saint Nicholas visited at a local primary school with the sad fate of those kids who will be locked up in Yarl’s Wood over Christmas.”

The £300 worth of presents, donated by churchgoers, were eventually loaded into an unmarked van by security guards.

Baby Jesus doll stolen from Nativity scene

The doll symbolizing the Baby Jesus has been stolen by suspected anarchists from the manger in Thessaloniki’s main square, police said yesterday.

A previously unknown group calling itself “The Mothers of Aristotelous Square” claimed it was behind the stunt and demanded the release of two activists arrested earlier this year when the European Social Forum was held in Athens.

This is the third time since 1993 that the Baby Jesus has been stolen from the Nativity scene, which is set up next to the Christmas tree in Aristotelous Square.

“No matter how many times they take the doll… nothing can remove Christ and the Christmas spirit from our hearts,” said Thessaloniki’s Deputy Mayor Vassilis Gakis.

Police said that the doll was stolen while the security guard was on a break.

A world record > SMS messages to hit all-time highs

Posted On December 29, 2006

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Airwide Solutions announced expectations of an all-time peak in SMS volumes during the upcoming New Year’s celebrations.

Volumes typically increase each year, but this year Airwide predicts higher than average increases in SMS volumes, particularly in countries with developing mobile networks, such as Eastern Europe, North Africa and parts of Asia. In addition to this, a number of Airwide’s operator customers are making improvements in their messaging infrastructure specifically for the coming festive peaks.

This year, the race is on around the world to reach the 200 million SMS message milestone. The U.K. is the most likely contender, with Airwide anticipating New Year celebration SMS volumes to easily exceed 200 million, up from 165 million last year. However, Poland’s fast growing mobile penetration and high number of expatriates now living in Western Europe contribute to expectations of 200 million text messages, up from 147 million last year. Despite the main celebration in China being during Chinese New Year later in the year, Airwide expects SMS volumes for the 31st December to 1st January celebrations in Beijing and Shanghai to each reach the same figure of 200 million.

On a more modest level, but still topping previous growth, Australia could reach 30 million SMS messages as this year the country is poised to exceed the 100 percent mobile penetration mark. Similarly, Airwide is expecting a high of 50 million messages in Ireland and over 65 million in Switzerland. While text messaging has not historically been as popular as in other regions, the U.S. is now seeing dramatic growth, and the country could see a high of 125 million messages over the coming New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Dennis Magaya, Executive Head: Customer Services & Applications at South African operator Cell C, says: “We are expecting record high message peaks this year as increasing numbers of people send greetings by SMS when they are out celebrating. We have made the appropriate investments in our messaging infrastructure accordingly and are confident that we will be able to handle the anticipated peak in traffic and continue to deliver a reliable service to our subscribers during the festive season.”

“Dramatic peaks in messaging traffic are becoming more frequent and more pronounced, not only due to the continued increase in popularity of SMS and other messaging types, but also because of increases in A2P and P2A traffic.” says Jay Seaton, CMO of Airwide Solutions. “While increased traffic provides great revenue potential for operators, it also presents the challenges of ensuring that the underlying infrastructure does not become congested while subscribers send these time-sensitive messages, and that the operators’ networks and subscribers are protected from mobile fraud, spam and other security threats.”

Despite the impressive festive peaks in SMS volumes everywhere, the largest peak will no doubt be in the Philippines, where a typical day sees over 400 million messages sent.

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