Business: MERCHANTS OF DEBT

The world glitters these days with opportunities to forget the rigors of the winter in a bout of self-indulgence. The theater, opera and ballet seasons are in full swing. Stores are about to burst forth with displays of brightly colored dresses and lightweight suits foretelling the not-quite-imminent spring. Airlines and travel agencies sing siren songs of palm trees bending in soft Caribbean breezes. And all these delights can be savored without dipping into the cash that must be hoarded to pay those monstrous winter fuel bills. Just flash a few rectangles of hard...

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