FADING IDOLLOS ANGELES â¿¿ In the heyday of "American Idol," the notion that it could fall ratings victim to a zombie slugfest or standard crime drama would have been laughable. That was then. Fox's singing contest, now in its 12th season, has shed about 20 percent of its audience so far to hit new lows, and has been leapfrogged repeatedly in total viewers by procedurals such as "Person of Interest" and "NCIS." Nevertheless, "American Idol" has retained its status as TV's advertising leader among series and the loyalty of its biggest backers, including Ford and Coca-Cola. By Lynn Elber. Eds: Sent Tuesday for use anytime. AP photos. NOLAN BUSHNELL-FINDING THE NEXT STEVE JOBS SAN FRANCISCO â¿¿ Nolan Bushnell never appeared in Apple's "think different" ads, even though the company was riffing on an iconoclastic philosophy that he embraced while running video game pioneer Atari in the early 1970s. Atari's refusal to be corralled by the status quo was one reason Jobs started working for Bushnell in 1974 as an unkempt, contemptuous 19-year-old. In a new book, Bushnell writes about the unorthodox thinking that fosters the breakthroughs that became Jobs' hallmark as the co-founder and CEO of Apple. By Technology Writer Michael Liedtke. Eds: Sent Wednesday for use anytime. AP photos. LEGALIZING MARIJUANA-BARS TACOMA, Wash. â¿¿ John Connelly leans forward on his barstool, set his lips against a clear glass pipe and inhales a white cloud of marijuana vapor. A handful of people mill around him while three young women stand behind the bar, ready to assist with the preparation of the bongs, as the strains of a blues band playing downstairs sounded faintly off the exposed brick walls. Welcome to the Stonegate. It's one of a tiny number of bars, cafes and private clubs catering to the stoner class in Washington and Colorado since voters last fall made them the first states to legalize marijuana for adults over 21. By Gene Johnson.
Eds: Sent Tuesday for use anytime.AP photos. GAMES-GAME DEVELOPERS CONFERENCE LOS ANGELES â¿¿ It's a time of transition for the video game industry. With last year's launch of the Wii U, the impending arrival of the PlayStation 4 and the likelihood of a new Xbox on the horizon, the next generation of video game consoles is nearly here. However, more than half of the attendees at this week's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco identify themselves as indie developers and their next creations will be for smartphones and tablets. So when it comes to the next generation of consoles, the question on their minds doesn't seem to be "What's next?" but rather "Who cares?" By Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang. Eds: Sent Tuesday for use anytime. AP photos. OBAMA'S IOUs-CLIMATE CHANGE President Barack Obama showed in his first term that he doesn't need Congress to take action against climate change, but he could need Congress to take actions on the scale needed to have a significant effect curbing greenhouse gases. And that seems unlikely as Obama seeks to make good on one of his major campaign promises and biggest second term challenges. The effects of rising global temperatures are widespread and costly: more severe storms, rising seas, species extinctions, and changes in weather patterns that will alter food production and the spread of disease. By Dina Cappiello. Eds: Sent Monday for use anytime. BULGARIA-BRIDAL MARKET STARA ZAGORA, Bulgaria â¿¿ Donka Hristova lets her mother pull her skintight mini-dress a half-inch down her leg. Checking her makeup one last time, she joins her two younger sisters in a provocative dance atop a car trunk. The Gypsy girl knows she has to look her best. She is, after all, on an important life mission: catching the eye of one of the hundreds of young Gypsy guys prowling around what locals have dubbed the "bridal market" to initiate a complex ritual of haggling that could lead to marriage. By Gregory Katz.
Eds: Sent Tuesday for use anytime.AP photos. COLUMNS: SMALLBIZ-SMALL TALK NEW YORK â¿¿ Two months after a severe flu season forced millions of workers to stay home, paid sick time is becoming an issue for small business owners. In March, the Portland and Philadelphia city councils approved sick leave laws, and two Democratic lawmakers reintroduced a bill in Congress that would make paid sick leave a federal requirement. There's a great divide over the issue â¿¿ on one side are owners who oppose it because of the financial and administrative burdens of having to pay workers when they stay home. But others believe it's a morale booster and it encourages workers to stay home instead of coming to work and infecting everyone around them. By Joyce M. Rosenberg. Eds: Sent Wednesday for use anytime. OF MUTUAL INTEREST-HIDDEN GEMS BOSTON â¿¿ An annual scorecard of mutual fund performance is in, and it's generating more of the negative headlines that fund managers have become accustomed to in recent years. The key finding: Two-thirds of managed U.S. stock funds failed to beat the market in 2012, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. But there is a positive takeaway for investors: Funds specializing in stocks of small foreign companies have beaten their market benchmark year after year. By Personal Finance Writer Mark Jewell. Eds: Sent Thursday for use anytime. With: â¿¿ HIDDEN GEMS-GLANCE DIGITAL LIFE-TECH TEST-TABLET-PC HYBRIDS LOS ANGELES â¿¿ Since Windows 8's debut in October, there have been a range of hot-looking devices that try to combine elements of tablets and traditional PCs. These hybrids seem as if they would be great both for relaxing with an e-book and for writing stories when I occasionally need to snap back into work mode. But trying out three tablet-PC hybrids running Windows 8 has convinced me that the good old laptop still reigns for creating documents quickly and accurately. By Ryan Nakashima.
Eds: Sent Wednesday for use anytime.AP photos. ON THE MONEY-FREE TAX HELP Free tax help is available, and it's not just for those in financial need. AARP, the nonprofit organization that advocates for people over 50, has relaxed rules about who they offer free tax preparation for and the Internal Revenue Service offers free tax advice and basic online filing, regardless of income. That said, the free options are best for taxpayers with uncomplicated finances. If you're running a small business or own investment property, you will be better off hiring a professional. Here's a look at where taxpayers can find free assistance. By Business Writer Joseph Pisani. Eds: Sent Wednesday for use anytime.