BC-US--Business Features Digest, US

The business news enterprise package planned through April 16. 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 AIRPORT VIPs; HACKERS IN TRAINING; DIGITAL LIFE-TECH TEST-FACEBOOK HOME; SMART SPENDING-THINKING INSIDE THE BOX.

AIRPORT VIPs

NEW YORK â¿¿ Just as they've made first class more enjoyable with new seats, tastier meals and bigger TVs, airlines are focusing on easing the misery of airports for their highest-paying customers and giving them a truly elite experience. At a growing number of airports, special agents will meet these celebrities, high-powered executives and wealthy vacationers at the curb and will privately escort them from check-in to security to boarding. There is a lot of money on the line. At big airlines like American, 70 percent of the revenue comes from 20 percent of its customers. By Airlines Writer Scott Mayerowitz.

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AP photos.

BRANCH OF THE FUTURE

NEW YORK â¿¿ In an age when checks can be deposited by smartphone and almost everyone retrieves cash from ATMs, the corner bank can seem a relic. But some banking executives say the brick-and-mortar branch is still the best way to serve existing customers and snag new ones. New branches will be hip, airy spaces where customers sign in to ATMs with a tap of their smartphones and talk to off-site tellers by video. They will also help banks replace expensive workers with cheaper machines. By Business Writer Christina Rexrode.

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â¿¿ BRANCH OF THE FUTURE-GLANCE

JC PENNEY-WHAT'S NEXT

NEW YORK â¿¿ There won't be an easy fix for J.C. Penney. Less than two years after turning the reins over to Ron Johnson, Mike Ullman is back to try to undo the damage of a disastrous overhaul that has driven away shoppers. The 66-year-old Ullman has to quickly figure out what parts of Johnson's legacy to keep and what to trash. The overarching question is whether the century-old retailer can be saved at all. By Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio.

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â¿¿ CEO FLAMEOUTS â¿¿ Ron Johnson's 17-month tenure as J.C. Penney's CEO will go down as one of the biggest flameouts in corporate America. But Johnson isn't the only executive to be pushed out after failing to live up to big expectations. A look at some major ousters in recent times. AP photos.

ZERO TV

LOS ANGELES â¿¿A growing number of people have had it with TV. They've had enough of the 100-plus channel universe. They don't like timing their lives around network show schedules. They're tired of paying $100 or more a month. Many of them have stopped paying for cable and satellite TV. These "cord-cutters" are watching shows and movies on the Internet. Last month, the Nielsen Co. started labeling people in this group "Zero TV" households, because they fall outside the traditional definition of a TV home. There are 5 million of these residences in the U.S., up from 2 million in 2007. Winning back the Zero TV crowd will be one of the many issues broadcasters discuss at their national meeting, taking place this week in Las Vegas. By Ryan Nakashima.

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HACKERS IN TRAINING

NEW YORK â¿¿ Every week, a group of teenagers and 20-somethings dressed in hoodies gets together in a tiny room on a college campus and plug in their laptops. They turn up pulsing electronic funk music, order pizza and begin furiously hacking into computer networks. But they're not shadowy criminals: They're students training to become "white-hat" hackers, experts to help business and government agencies protect their data from cyberattacks that have become an almost daily occurrence. By Jake Pearson.

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AP Photos.

OBAMA'S IOUS-ENERGY INDEPENDENCE

Every president since Richard Nixon has pushed to cut U.S. dependence on imported oil, and President Barack Obama is no exception. Now, though, for the first time in 30 years, oil imports are falling in a significant way. By Energy Writer Jonathan Fahey. Eds: Part of a series examining Obama's campaign promises.

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AP photos.

ONLINE PRIVACY AS ART

NEW YORK â¿¿ One art piece consists of photos taken from people's computers without their knowledge. Another involves sifting through Facebook photos from unwitting users, with tags such as "sly" or "smug" added. Another shows recordings made by a camera surgically implanted in an artist's head. The works are part of "The Public Private," an art exhibit that pushes the boundaries of online privacy. It runs until April 17. By Technology Writer Barbara Ortutay.

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AP photos.

CYPRUS-DYING FATHER'S WISHES

NICOSIA, Cyprus â¿¿ When Costas Kalapodas was diagnosed with brain cancer two years ago and given months to live, he saw one sure place to put his money: Cyprus' biggest bank. The 43-year-old threw his entire savings into Bank of Cyprus stock, and even took out a big loan to pad his holdings. Today, a multi-billion bailout has rendered Bank of Cyprus shares effectively worthless, their value wiped out under the terms of a complicated recapitalization scheme. Like many ordinary Cypriots, Kalapodas' 35-year-old widow is wondering how she and her family will survive in the years to come. By Menelaos Hadjicostis.

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AP photos

CHINA-FOREIGN INVESTORS

BOAO, China â¿¿ Major multinational companies appeal gingerly to Chinese President Xi Jinping to reduce barriers to doing business in China's heavily government-directed economy, drawing a commitment to create a more level playing field. In a rare audience with the head of the Communist Party, executives from Pepsico, Samsung Group, Volvo Group and more than a dozen other companies â¿¿ from agri-businesses to finance â¿¿ trade handshakes with Xi while carefully broaching the problems that have bedeviled business success in the world's second-largest economy. By Charles Hutzler.

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VENEZUELA-FOREIGN FOOD PLATE

CARACAS, Venezuela â¿¿ Venezuelans complain that what goes into their Sunday dinner plate comes from abroad: Steak, from Brazil; plantains, the Dominican Republic; rice, South Africa; Parmesan cheese, Uruguay; oats, Chile. Even coffee, in a country famed for it, often is Colombian. By James Anderson.

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AP photo.

COLUMNS:

SMALLBIZ-SMALL TALK

NEW YORK â¿¿ When a witness at a Senate hearing on small business accused state and local governments of not doing enough to prepare for disasters, he got a sharp retort from the committee chair. Mary Landieu (D.-La.) has watched as businesses in her state were devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The state was hit again in 2010 by the Gulf oil spill, and last year, by Hurricane Isaac. She brings that perspective to her job, but she's also concerned about the broad spectrum of issues that small companies contend with. Her agenda includes helping companies continue their recovery from the recession, find skilled workers and have a voice in the debate in Congress over taxes. And she wants to make federal agencies reach the government's goal for giving contracts to small business. By Joyce M. Rosenberg.

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â¿¿ BIO BOX- LANDRIEU

DIGITAL LIFE-TECH TEST-FACEBOOK HOME

NEW YORK â¿¿When I got my first smartphone in 2010, I checked Facebook obsessively. Over time, opening Facebook's app to check photos, links and posts from friends turned into a chore and the novelty wore off. In a sense, I'm the ideal target for Facebook's new Home app. Photos, links and posts automatically come to the screen when I turn on the phone. It's as if Facebook has taken over the phone's prime real estate. Foursquare, email, weather, YouTube and my alarm clock get pushed over to the slums. Home is ideal for people whose lives are centered around Facebook. But, others might not feel at home. By Technology Writer Nick Jesdanun.

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AP photos.

ON THE MONEY-BUYING GLASSES ONLINE

The Internet is enticing a rapidly growing number of shoppers to make a very personal purchase â¿¿ prescription eyeglasses â¿¿ online. Technology, however, hasn't erased all the advantages of buying glasses in a store. Here are some factors to consider before clicking on a pair glasses and adding them to your virtual shopping cart.

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DIGITAL LIFE-TECH TEST-HTC ONE

NEW YORK â¿¿ The HTC One is this year's first top-notch super phone, and it's the first iPhone challenger that can measure up to Apple's standards of feel and finish. It marries a stupendous screen to true stereo speakers, making for a superb entertainment device. Unfortunately, the manufacturer keeps meddling with Google's Android software, making the phone unnecessarily confusing to use. By Technology Writer Peter Svensson.

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AP photos planned.

SMART SPENDING-THINKING INSIDE THE BOX

Once, free samples were handed out to passersby or included with other purchases. Now, businesses have sprouted up devoted to sending out a box of samples to customers once a month, and actually getting them to pay for it. Is it ever worth it? By Retail Writer Mae Anderson.

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Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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