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Corporate tsunami aid

Business | Within a week of the tsunami disaster more than $2 billion in relief aid had been accumulated worldwide with millions of it coming from contributions by individual U.S. corporations

Issue: "Tsunami," Jan. 15, 2005

Large corporations are pitching in to help tsunami victims. Within a week of the disaster more than $2 billion in relief aid had been accumulated worldwide with millions of it coming from contributions by individual U.S. corporations capitalizing on the opportunity to donate their products-or some of their profits-to the disaster-stricken region.

Among the biggest corporate givers was Pfizer Inc., which pledged $10 million in cash and $25 million worth of drugs; Coca-Cola Co. will donate $10 million; Exxon Mobil Corp. is giving $5 million; and Citigroup Inc. will contribute $3 million.

For some corporations with operations in India, Indonesia, and Thailand, their far-flung enterprises have been serving as quick supply routes for aid. And online companies such as Google, Amazon.com, AOL, and Yahoo have encouraged donations from the general public with links to relief groups like the American Red Cross and others.

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Amazon.com collected more than $5.4 million for the Red Cross in the first five days. And AOL members donated more than $1 million to an online charity, Network for Good, in less than 48 hours.

Happy meal?

Renowned for their heart-disease care, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic are trying to boot some fast-food franchises out of their food court. Pizza Hut has left and the clinic is in negotiations with McDonald's, which has 10 years left on its lease. "We are hoping we are setting some kind of a trend . . . about wellness," said the Cleveland Clinic's Angela Calman.

Meanwhile, researchers at Children's Hospital Boston say they can prove the dire effects of eating fast food on a regular basis. After 15 years of study, the group reported that youth who frequently ate fast food gained 10 pounds more than those who didn't and were twice as likely to develop an insulin disorder linked to diabetes.

But the McDonald's director of nutrition counters that it's not where people eat, but what they eat and the size of the portions that matters.

Exercise also matters. Yum Brands, the nation's largest fast-food chain behind McDonald's, is making this offer: Customers who eat at any of five Yum chains-Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Long John Silver's, or A&W Restaurants-during January can obtain a membership to Bally Total Fitness by presenting a proof-of-purchase receipt for any amount.

Balance Sheet

· From the entrepreneur who brought the Yugo to America comes a low-cost Chinese-made vehicle, to be rolled out in 2007. Malcolm Bricklin has signed a $200 million deal to become the first mass importer of Chinese cars in the United States. Visionary Vehicles LLC hopes in 2007 to sell 250,000 vehicles that match Japanese quality with sticker prices as much as 30 percent lower.

· Every U.S. state except Massachusetts experienced population growth last year, the Census Bureau says. Overall, U.S. population grew by almost 3 million in 2004. For the 18th consecutive year, Nevada attracted the highest population growth with a rise of 4.3 percent, followed by Arizona, Florida, and Idaho.

· Here's the catch on Blockbuster's blockbuster announcement that it no longer will charge late fees for movie or game rentals returned within seven days of the due date: Any overdue rental not returned within seven days will be charged to your credit card or Blockbuster account as a purchased item unless it is returned within 30 days.

· Since Jan. 1, U.S. retailers fell under a new government requirement to have scanners capable of reading the 12-digit UPC code used in the United States and Canada, as well as the 13-digit symbols used throughout the rest of the world. The rule is expected to ease global commerce, especially for U.S. companies that sell imported products.

· Former HealthSouth Corp. CEO Richard Scrushy will go to trial later this month on charges that he participated in a scheme to inflate earnings to meet Wall Street forecasts and keep stock prices high. In addition to paying back $267 million, Mr. Scrushy faces 450 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

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