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SURABAYA, Indonesia — If AirAsia bounces back from its first fatal disaster, much of the credit will go to its effusive founder Tony Fernandes and a well-oiled communications machine. From the highly visible compassion shown by Fernandes to details such as changing the airline's bright red logo to a somber grey online, experts say the Malaysia-based budget carrier's initial response to the tragedy is a textbook example of how to communicate in a crisis. By Stephen Wright and Eileen Ng. SENT: 850 words, photos.
FAST FOOD-REAL FOOD
NEW YORK — Fast-food chains have a New Year's resolution: Drop the junk. As people express distaste for food they think is overly processed, McDonald's, Taco Bell and other chains are trying to shed their reputation for serving reheated meals that are loaded with chemicals. That includes rethinking the use of artificial preservatives and other ingredients customers find objectionable. By Candice Choi. SENT: 900 words, photo.
RETHINKING POT-A YEAR LATER
SEATTLE — A year into the nation's experiment with legal, taxed marijuana sales, Washington and Colorado find themselves wrestling not with the federal interference many feared, but with competition from medical marijuana or even outright black market sales. Officials in both states say they must do more to drive customers into the recreational stores. They're looking at reining in their medical systems and fixing the big tax differential between medical and recreational weed without harming patients. By Gene Johnson. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.
— RETHINKING POT-THE TAX PICTURE — To see the tax implications of legalizing marijuana in Colorado, there's no better place to start than an empty plot of land on a busy thoroughfare near downtown Denver. SENT: 660 words, photos.
— RETHINKING POT-LESSONS LEARNED — Don't worry about a federal lawsuit. But do worry about tax rates. Those are among the many lessons Colorado and Washington have to share from the front lines of America's marijuana experiment. SENT: 560 words, photo.
OMAHA, Neb. — A collapse in oil prices won't derail the railroads' profit engine even if it does slow the tremendous growth in crude oil shipments seen in recent years. Railroads went from hauling 9,500 carloads of crude oil in 2008 to 435,560 last year as production boomed and oil routinely sold for $90 a barrel or more, but that still represents just 2 percent of all the carloads major U.S. railroads deliver. By Josh Funk. SENT: 770 words, photos.
SAN FRANCISCO — Federal agencies, organizations such as the National Football League and more than one-third of Fortune 500 companies are now trying to expand their vendor pools by explicitly encouraging bids from gay, lesbian and transgender contractors. By Lisa Leff. SENT: 970 words, photos.
MARKETS & ECONOMY:
WASHINGTON — U.S. factory activity grows at the slowest pace in six months in December, weakened by declines in orders and production. Yet growth remains healthy, a sign manufacturing may help drive the economy's expansion in 2015 as it did last year. By Christopher S. Rugaber. SENT: 560 words.
WASHINGTON — A sharp slowdown in government-built schools and infrastructure causes U.S. construction spending to fall slightly in November. By Josh Boak. SENT: 530 words.
NEW YORK — U.S. stocks edge lower as signs of a slowdown in manufacturing growth weighed on investor sentiment. Energy stocks move higher as the price of oil reverses early declines. By Steve Rothwell. SENT: 500 words, photos. UPCOMING: 600 words by 5 p.m.
— EURO-DRAGHI — The euro falls to a 4 ½-year low against the dollar after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi indicates the bank could soon back a government bond-buying program to deal with alarmingly low inflation across the 19-country eurozone. SENT: 610 words.
WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration approves 41 first-of-a-kind drugs in 2014, including a record number of medicines for rare diseases, pushing the agency's annual tally of drug approvals to its highest level in 18 years. By Matthew Perrone. SENT: 800 words.
BETTENDORF, Iowa — Stores dedicated to selling pianos are dwindling across the country as fewer people take up the instrument and those who do often opt for a less expensive electronic keyboard or a used piano. Some blame computers and others note the high cost of new pianos, but what's clear is that a long-term decline in sales has accelerated. By David Pitt. SENT: 720 words, photos.
— SKOREA-HYUNDAI MOTOR-SALES TARGET — Hyundai Motor Co. and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp. are forecasting their weakest growth in yearly car sales in more than a decade as competition intensifies and the global economy slows. By Youkyung Lee. SENT: 250 words, photos.
TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:
— SKOREA-SAMSUNG-SMART-TV — Samsung Electronics Co. says its Internet-connected televisions will this year use its internally developed operating system known as Tizen, in the company's latest attempt to boost its software power. By Youkyung Lee. SENT: 330 words.
MOSCOW — The Eurasian Economic Union, a trade bloc of former Soviet states, expands to four nations when Armenia formally joined, a day after the union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan began. A look at the bloc, its implications and its prospects. By Jim Heintz. SENT: 700 words, photos.
— LEBANON-DOMESTIC WORKERS — Migrant domestic workers in Lebanon are set to protect their rights under a trade union — the first such syndicate in the Arab world where more than 2.4 million foreign domestic workers labor under often harsh conditions. SENT: 360 words, photos.
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Mutual fund scorecard
Is it time to rebalance your portfolio? Many investors use the start of a new year as their annual reminder to review their target asset allocation. UPCOMING: Graphic expected by 6 p.m.
Rite Aid: strong sales
Shares of Rite Aid start the year on a positive note after the drugstore chain reports that December sales rose more than 5 percent. UPCOMING: Graphic expected by 6 p.m.