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(New York Times) — BLACK FRIDAY’S starting gun may have already sounded, but for thousands of immigrants in New York, this week is the final, breathless stretch of a holiday shopping season that began with August clearance sales and ends when freighters departing the Port of Miami for the Caribbean can no longer guarantee Christmas delivery. For local shipping companies that need to factor semitrailers and the I-95 corridor into the equation, that cutoff is fast approaching: The first week in December is their busiest of the year.  These immigrants fill the 70-gallon-plus fiber barrels not just with gifts for relatives and friends but with everyday items that are much less expensive to obtain in the United States. Some people also use smaller barrels, boxes or crates; others prefer longer-lasting blue plastic barrels that can be used for storage or, when cut in half, as watering troughs for livestock at the destination.

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