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Talking Points: Gas prices, holiday shopping, Andean bears

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Local,Talking Points

How low are gas prices?

Gasoline prices are expected to drop to their lowest level of the year as early as Monday -- just in time for Christmas travel. The national average should fall below $3.28 a gallon, which is what drivers were paying on Jan. 1, according to energy analysts. The year's high was $3.94 in early April and was still hovering around $3.87 in September.

Still, pump prices averaged $3.63 a gallon this year, 10 cents higher than last year's record.

Is holiday shopping strong this year?

This year's holiday shopping season started off strong over Thanksgiving but has slowed down since then.

Sales are up 2.2 percent to $659 billion from Nov. 1 through Dec. 8, according to ShopperTrak, a Chicago tracking firm. Over Thanksgiving, spending rose 2.7 percent, and retail analysts had expected a 3.3 percent increase this year.

The numbers mean good news for procrastinating shoppers: Stores may have to offer big discounts at the end of the season to get consumers to buy their wares, since up to 40 percent of annual revenue comes at the end of the year.

Who are the National Zoo's newest residents?

They are twin Andean bears, from the zoo's 6-year-old Andean bear Billie Jean.

Mom will stay inside with her cubs for the next several months, and if they are healthy, they will all go out into their yard in the spring, the zoo said.

Andean bears are one of the world's most endangered bear species. They have a high mortality rate for newborn cubs.

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By the staff of
The Washington Examiner