BC-US--Business Features Digest, US

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News,Science and Technology

The business news enterprise package planned through Dec. 11. For comments or questions, call Joseph Pisani at 212-621-1975. For questions about photos, call ext. 1900. For questions about graphics, call ext. 7636. Repeats of stories are available from http://apexchange.com or the Service Desk, 1-800-838-4616.

Eds: Adds WALL STREET WEEK AHEAD, sent Friday for use anytime; adds ALCOHOL COPS, being sent Saturday for use Sunday; BANGLADESH-FACTORY FIRE, sent Friday; adds APPLE-COOK'S FIRST YEAR, sent Friday; adds APPLE-LOST LUSTER, sent Friday; adds FISCAL CLIFF-TAX RUCKUS, sent Friday; adds SUPERSTORM-WORKERS' PAY, sent Friday; FISCAL CLIFF-NO DEAL IMPACT, sent Thursday; adds FISCAL CLIFF-MEDICARE AGE, sent Thursday; adds CLIMATE TALKS-SOLAR DREAMS, sent Thursday; adds SUPERSTORM-BOOM AND BUST, sent Thursday; adds WELLS FARGO CEO-Q&A, sent Thursday; adds DROUGHT-WATER WARS, sent Thursday; adds AP EXCLUSIVE: JAPAN-RADIATION, sent Thursday.

FISCAL CLIFF:

FISCAL CLIFF-NO DEAL IMPACT

WASHINGTON — The dealmakers who warn that a year-end plunge off the "fiscal cliff" would be disastrous don't seem to be rushing to stop it. Why aren't they panicking? For one thing, the Dec. 31 deadline is more flexible than it sounds. Like all skilled procrastinators, Washington negotiators know they can finagle more time if they need it. By Connie Cass.

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AP photos

FISCAL CLIFF-TAX RUCKUS

WASHINGTON — In the fiscal cliff wars, a pivotal battle is raging between Democrats demanding to raise revenue by boosting tax rates on the nation's highest earners and Republicans insisting on eliminating deductions and other tax breaks instead. Which is better for the economy? Analysts say it depends. By Alan Fram.

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AP photos, audio, video

FISCAL CLIFF-MEDICARE AGE

WASHINGTON — Americans are living longer, and Republicans want to raise the Medicare eligibility age as part of a deal to reduce the government's huge deficits. But what sounds like a prudent sacrifice to address tight budgets could have some surprising consequences, including higher premiums for people on Medicare. By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar.

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WALL STREET WEEK AHEAD

NEW YORK — With higher tax rates for stock dividends expected to kick in Jan. 1, some companies are declaring special payments to shareholders before the end of the year. It sounds great for investors, but beware: Some companies are borrowing a lot of money to do it, resulting in at least one credit downgrade, and others are doing it primarily to reward large shareholders, including their own directors. By Daniel Wagner.

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FISCAL CLIFF-A BILLION HERE AND THERE

WASHINGTON — Sure, the rich may have to pay more in taxes. But a "fiscal cliff" budget deal could mean pain for nearly everyone else, too: Higher airline ticket prices, for example, an end to Saturday mail delivery, fewer food stamps and lower farm subsidies. Each of those changes would make some powerful constituency angry. But even together, they are only a drop in the bucket toward reducing future deficits by trillions of dollars. By Andrew Taylor.

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AP photos

SUPERSTORM SANDY:

SUPERSTORM-BOOM AND BUST

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Landscaping crews use heavy equipment to repair damage from Superstorm Sandy, racking up overtime pay at a time of year when many are typically looking for part-time jobs to carry them through the winter. Just down the road, business is more subdued at a restaurant where the word "OPEN" in black spray paint greets the few customers. The national economy is expected to absorb the blow from Sandy with little long-term damage, but in the short term, at least, Sandy is introducing dramatic booms and busts across the Northeast. The effects vary widely across industries, bringing banner years for some while pushing others toward economic ruin. By Michael Melia.

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AP photos

SUPERSTORM-WORKERS' PAY

MINEOLA, N.Y. — Mike Valaskatgis slept in his utility truck for two nights, and then on a cot two more nights before getting a bed in a hotel room during a 10-day visit to New York last month to help after Superstorm Sandy. He opened his latest paycheck this week and was disgusted to see that an estimated $7,000 in overtime has yet to be paid. Thousands of National Grid utility workers like Valaskatgis complain they have yet to be fully compensated, problems the utility says stem from a conversion to a new payroll software system in the weeks preceding the Oct. 29 storm that knocked out power to millions in the Northeast. By Frank Eltman.

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AP photos

SUPERSTORM-HOUSING

NEW YORK — Facing Superstorm Sandy's daunting toll of wreckage and displacement in the nation's largest city, officials have put much of their hopes and hundreds of millions of dollars into jump-starting repairs to make homes livable. Federal and city officials see the strategy — focusing on getting people back into their own homes, not temporary housing — as an innovative and nimble answer to the challenge of housing thousands of storm victims in a notoriously expensive and crowded area. By Jennifer Peltz.

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AP photo

OTHER FEATURES:

BANGLADESH-FACTORY FIRE

DHAKA, Bangladesh — The factory where 112 garment workers died in a fire should have been shut down months ago. The fire department refused to renew the certification it needed to operate, a top fire official told The Associated Press. And its owner told AP that just three of the factory's eight floors were legal. Government officials knew of the problems, but the factory, which makes clothes for Wal-Mart, Disney and other Western brands, just kept running. Bangladesh's $20 billion-a-year garment industry, which accounts for 80 percent of Bangladesh's total export earnings, goes virtually unchallenged by the government, says a labor rights group. By Julhas Alam.

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AP photos

APPLE-COOK'S FIRST YEAR

The metal edges of its products are as sharp and severe as ever, but Apple itself is emerging as a gentler, cuddlier corporate citizen in the year after the death of CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs. New CEO Tim Cook's announcement that the company is moving a Mac production line to the U.S. is just the latest step in a charm offensive designed to soften Apple's image. By Peter Svensson.

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AP photo

APPLE-LOST LUSTER

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple is entering the home stretch of what will likely be its best holiday season yet as shoppers snap up iPhones and iPads in record numbers. Yet the world's most valuable company has lost its luster among investors, causing Apple's stock price to plunge by more than 20 percent from a peak reached less than three months ago when the latest iPhone went on sale. The theories that seek to explain Apple's downfall range from competitive and tax concerns to the fickle nature of Wall Street. By Michael Liedtke.

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AP photo

ALZHEIMER'S RESEARCH

TRENTON, N.J. — For Alzheimer's patients and their families, desperate for an effective treatment for the epidemic disease, there's hope from new studies. After decades of stumbles and dozens of promising experimental drugs failing, scientists think they're now on the right track. If they succeed, a medicine that slows or even stops progression of the brain-destroying disease might be ready in three to five years. By Business Writer Linda A. Johnson.

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With:

— ALZHEIMER'S RESEARCH-BY THE NUMBERS

ALCOHOL COPS

BELTSVILLE, Md. — Deep in a secure laboratory just outside Washington sits a machine can that can smoke 20 cigarettes at once. Down the hall, a chemist tests shiny flecks from a bottle of Goldschlager to make sure they're real gold. Back at headquarters in downtown Washington, a staffer prepares for a meeting of the Tequila Working Group. These are the proud scientists, rule-makers and trade ambassadors of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, one of the federal government's least-known and most peculiar corners. The bureau, which collects taxes on booze and smokes and tells the companies that produce them how to do business, is one example of the specialized government offices threatened by Washington's current zeal for cost-cutting. If they look closely, the belt-tighteners will discover an agency whose responsibilities often appear to conflict — a regulator that protects its industry from rules it deems unfair, a tax collector that sometimes cuts its companies a break. By AP Business Writer Daniel Wagner.

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AP photos

WELLS FARGO CEO-Q&A

NEW YORK — John Stumpf is a survivor. The Wells Fargo CEO kept his job as peers fell after the 2008 financial crisis, expanded his company while others shrank theirs and is a personable banker at a time of great anger toward his industry. In a wide-ranging Q&A with The Associated Press, Stumpf sounds off about the economy, bank fees and tax policy. He says the economy needs "more planning and more leadership." By Business Writer Christina Rexrode.

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AP photos

SKOREA-PSY-GANGNAM STYLE-BUSINESS

SEOUL, South Korea — As "Gangnam Style" gallops toward 1 billion views on YouTube, PSY, the first Asian pop artist to capture a massive global audience, has gotten richer click by click. But the money from music sales isn't flowing in from the rapper's homeland, South Korea, or elsewhere in Asia. By Youkyung Lee and Ryan Nakashima.

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AP photos

CLIMATE TALKS-SOLAR DREAMS

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — With its vast deserts and long stretches of sunny days, the Middle East would seem to be an ideal place to harness solar energy. Until now, the region has largely shunned solar because it has cost about three times more than heavily-subsidized fossil fuels. But technological advances have pushed costs down dramatically, and many countries rich in oil and gas are reconsidering renewables amid growing demands for power to fuel their booming economies and rapidly increasing populations. By Environment Writer Michael Casey.

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AP photos

DROUGHT-WATER WARS

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The water wars are raging again in America's heartland, where drought-stricken states are pleading for the increasingly scarce water of the Missouri River — to drink from their faucets, irrigate their crops and float the barges that carry billions of dollars of agricultural products to market. The long-running quarrel pits boaters, fishermen and tourism interests against thirsty communities downstream and companies that rely on the Mississippi River to do business. By David A. Lieb.

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AP photos

NEWS CORP-DAILY

NEW YORK — The Daily was supposed to herald a transformation in digital journalism as one of the first for-pay news sites for tablet users. But the venture didn't work out as News Corp. planned and with losses mounting, the company announced it will cease publication of The Daily. The move raises some questions about the future of journalism online as a money-making business. By Business Writer Ryan Nakashima.

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CLASS OF 2012-TRAPPED BY LANGUAGE

MADRID — Maria Menendez, a 25-year-old caught in Spain's job-destroying economic crisis, would love to work in Germany as a veterinarian. Germany, facing an acute shortage of skilled workers, would love to have her. A perfect match, it seems, but something's holding her back: She doesn't speak German. The European Union was built on a grand vision of free labor markets in which talent could be matched with demand in a seamless and efficient manner. But today only 3 percent of working-age EU citizens live in a different EU country. As young people in crisis-hit southern Europe face unemployment rates hovering at 50 percent, many find themselves caught in a language trap, unable to communicate in the powerhouse economy that needs their skills the most. By Frank Jordans and Alan Clendenning.

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AP photos

AP EXCLUSIVE: JAPAN-RADIATION

TOKYO — Influential Japanese scientists who help set national radiation exposure limits have for years had trips paid for by the country's nuclear plant operators to attend overseas meetings of the world's top academic group on radiation safety. Some of these same scientists have consistently given optimistic assessments about the health risks of radiation, interviews with the scientists and government documents show. Their pivotal role in setting policy after the March 2011 tsunami and ensuing nuclear meltdowns meant the difference between schoolchildren playing outside or indoors and families staying or evacuating. By Yuri Kageyama.

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AP photos

FAST-GROWING SALMON

WASHINGTON — Salmon that's genetically modified to grow twice as fast as normal could soon show up on your dinner plate. That is, if the company that makes the fish can stay afloat. After weathering concerns about everything from the safety of the salmon to their impact on the environment, Aquabounty was poised to become the world's first company to sell fish whose DNA has been altered to speed up growth. But more than two years later the FDA has not approved the fish. Scientists worry that the company's experience with the FDA's lengthy review process could discourage other U.S. firms from investing in the potentially lucrative field that could help reduce food costs and improve food safety. By Health Writer Matthew Perrone.

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AP photos

SNOWPLOW SIMULATOR

DALLAS — In an area that gets a mere 3 inches of snow a year, Dallas snowplow drivers live in fear of major winter storms like the one that crippled their city almost two years ago, the week before the Super Bowl. They aren't the only worried ones. So highway officials in at least eight states are using a sophisticated simulator to give plow drivers a chance to practice in any weather. It works like a video game, recreating slick pavement, poor visibility and even children or animals bolting across the road. By Nomaan Merchant.

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AP photos

VENEZUELA-CHOCOLATE-ENTREPRENEURS

CANO RICO, Venezuela — Venezuela's Chocolates El Rey turns out some of the most celebrated sweets in the world. Owner Jorge Redmond says he's succeeded by learning how to navigate the political and economic landscape of one of the world's most business-unfriendly countries. Now, he must contend with another obstacle, a plan by President Hugo Chavez to give the government a bigger role in chocolate production. By Ian James.

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AP photos

COLUMNS:

SMALLBIZ-SMALL TALK-SUPERSTORM SANDY

NEW YORK — Many small business owners whose companies were devastated by Superstorm Sandy need money to rebuild, and if they don't get it soon, they could be faced with closing their doors forever. Low-interest loans are available to some owners, but taking on debt is one of the last things they want to do as they try to recover from the storm in an already challenging economy. For many, a grant that doesn't have to be repaid is a better option — and after the Sept. 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, many small business owners were saved by these kinds of funds. But so far, grant money for small businesses hurt by Sandy is relatively scarce. By Joyce M. Rosenberg.

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AP photos.

RETIREMENT TODAY-7 PLANNING MYTHS

No matter how many years you are from calling it quits, it's essential to have some kind of plan in mind for financing retirement. We're living increasingly in a "yoyo" economy — short for "you're on your own." But it's easy to get fooled by some of the many myths about retirement planning that exist on the Internet or in misguided advice passed along unwittingly by well-meaning family or friends. Heeding bad tips could cost you in the future when you can least afford it. Here are some of the most common myths about retirement planning, and the truth behind them. By Personal Finance Writer Dave Carpenter

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OF MUTUAL INTEREST-2013 OUTLOOK Q&A

An ongoing housing recovery and jobs growth will help boost stocks in 2013. Strength in these areas will outweigh any drag from a decline in government spending, says Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab. By Business Writer Steve Rothwell.

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DIGITAL LIFE-TECH TEST-WEATHER APPS

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When I'm traveling, I'm constantly checking the weather for the hours and days ahead because deciding to hike on a rainy day or neglecting to dress warmly can put a damper on a vacation. I tried several free weather apps for the iPhone and Android phones. By Anick Jesdanun.?

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