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. ___ CLIMATE TALKS-SOLAR DREAMS 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. ___ US unemployment aid applications drop to 370K The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid fell sharply last week as a temporary spike caused by Superstorm Sandy faded. Weekly applications have fallen back to a level consistent with modest hiring. The Labor Department said Thursday that applications dropped 25,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 370,000. Unemployment aid applications spiked a month ago after Sandy shuttered businesses in the Northeast. Applications jumped to 451,000 in the week ended Nov. 10. People can claim unemployment benefits if their workplaces are forced to close and they aren't paid. ___ Starbucks promises to pay more UK tax Starbucks has bowed to mounting pressure over its tax affairs in Britain, with plans to pay about $16 million in each of the next two years. Having been slammed by the country's lawmakers for "immorally" avoiding tax, Starbucks' U.K. managing director Kris Engskov said the firm had agreed to pay more than required by law. The Seattle-based coffee company has 700 British outlets, but has paid just $13.8 million in corporation tax in 14 years. Starbucks Corp. says this is due to a process involving paying royalties to its European headquarters in the Netherlands.