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At the end of every year, U.S. meteorologists look back at what the nation's weather was like, and what they saw in 2015 was weird. The year was hot and beset with all manner of extreme weather events that did a lot of expensive damage.

December, in fact, was a fitting end.

Panic-driven stock selling. Financial turmoil. Commodity price crashes. Layoffs.

Sound familiar?

Those were among the troubles piling up as the economy was tanking in 2008.

And today, many of those same phrases are turning up in headlines: Stock prices are plunging; China is devaluing its currency; prices for oil and other commodities are tumbling; and miners and drillers are losing jobs all over the world.

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The car industry just had it's best year ever. Trucks were clearly the stars, and hybrids took a hit. That's not all bad news for hybrids. Even as the companies are making a boatload on trucks, they're investing tens of billions in new technology. NPR reports on how tomorrow's hybrid is brought to you by today's pickup truck.

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Netflix was also a big thing at the Consumer Electronics Show. Here is CEO Reed Hastings speaking at the show yesterday morning.

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On a weekday morning in January, business is steady at Northwest Armory, a gun store on an Oregon state highway just south of Portland.

Customers lean over glass cases to look at handguns or run their fingers along the polished wood of hunting rifles that line the aisles, aimed at the ceiling. AR-15s hang on hooks and ammunition boxes are stacked up behind a sales clerk, who leans over to talk to an older couple.

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Seventeen miners at a salt mine in western New York were freed early this morning after they were trapped hundreds of feet underground when the elevator they were in stopped working late Wednesday night.

Another sharp fall forced China's stock market to close less than 30 minutes after trading began Thursday, setting up another rough day for investors. In the first half-hour of U.S. trading, the Dow Jones index fell by more than 1.2 percent — and that was after clawing back 90 points of an initial drop.

After trading in China was halted automatically the second time this week, officials said Thursday that they're suspending the "circuit breaker" that shuts down the market if a key index falls by 7 percent.

What if your friend bragged that she'd just bought a brand of jeans because she'd checked out the company's practices and made sure they were ethical — no child labor, no polluting the environment by the manufacturer.

Maybe you'd thank her for the info, even be inspired to change your own buying habits.

But a study suggests a lot more of us would have an opposite reaction: "Boy," we'd think, "that friend is 'preachy' and 'less fashionable.' "

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OK, Renee, can I just hand you a picture here to take a look at? Tell me what you see.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Yeah, sure. OK. Two men kind of hidden behind some cars, one seeming to be handing an envelope to the other man.

Robots were popular on the big screen this holiday season. The newly released film Star Wars: The Force Awakens brought us more of C-3PO, R2-D2 — those sweet and capable robots that have enchanted us for decades — and the debut of BB-8.

At this year's big consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, known as CES, there were more robots on display than ever. Some even looked like the Star Wars characters.

The most promising by appearance was Pepper. It has humanoid features — eyes, arms, a mouth. Pepper can even be a little self-conscious.

Like cheap gasoline?

Then you're in luck. Experts say gas prices very likely will keep falling. That's because a report released Wednesday showed a sharp increase in gasoline inventories.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said that last week, companies added another 10.6 million barrels of gasoline, creating the biggest surge in supply since 1993. That added to fears that supplies will far outstrip demand for a long time.

Laid off steelworker Siegfried Powell hefts cardboard boxes from a food pantry set up by his local United Steelworkers Union in Birmingham, Ala.

"Come on, sweetheart. Grab you a bag of potatoes," Powell says as he takes a load of groceries to the car for a family trying to stretch unemployment benefits.

About 1,100 people lost their jobs when U.S. Steel decided to permanently close a blast furnace that had been the bedrock of Birmingham's steel industry for nearly a century.

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Prices for U.S. crude fell more than 5 percent today, to less than $34 a barrel. And if that sounds really low to you, you're right. Oil prices haven't been that low in years. NPR's John Ydstie has more.

Advocates for temporary workers are celebrating a decision by the National Labor Relations Board to broaden the definition of joint employers — a move that could bring many temp workers closer to collective bargaining.

One of the first to join a union following the new rule is a group of Guatemalans in New Bedford, Mass.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens revolves around the story of staff-wielding scavenger Rey.

(That's hardly a spoiler; she's front-and-center in the movie poster, after all.)

But in the world of Star Wars toys, Rey's been hard to find — and fans took to social media, under the hashtags #WheresRey and #WhereisRey, to complain about all the movie merchandise that left her out.

Already reeling from a series of food-borne-illness outbreaks, Chipotle Mexican Grill now faces a federal criminal investigation, as well.

The company says it has received a subpoena from a federal grand jury in connection with a norovirus outbreak last fall at one of its restaurants in Simi Valley, Calif.

In August, 189 customers were sickened after visiting the restaurant, as well as 18 Chipotle employees, according to Doug Beach, manager of the Community Services Program at the Ventura County Environmental Health Department, in an interview with NPR.

When I was a child growing up in India, once every year my father took my two siblings, my mother and me to the village where he grew up. He thought it was important for us kids to see rural living and to learn how basic life could be. He often said, "City folks are lucky to have cooking gas cylinders. You'll see how food is cooked in the village."

On any given day, there are tens of thousands of guns listed for sale on the Internet. President Obama announced this week that he is expanding criminal background checks into the vibrant online market.

The president's supporters say his executive action will help close a major loophole in existing gun laws. But gun rights advocates called Obama's move an overreach and questioned whether it would help prevent shootings.

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Well, the House of Representatives is now back to work. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has already decided on the first order of business, and it's a pretty big one.

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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders traveled to the heart of the nation's financial sector Tuesday to issue a scathing denunciation of Wall Street and repeat his call to break up the biggest banks.

Oh, the irony.

Historically, when political tensions increased in the Middle East, the price of oil rose too. Buyers of oil worried that conflicts could interrupt drilling or interfere with oil-tanker access to waterways. In theory, when risks rise, so do prices.

But in recent days, even as tensions have been growing between two key oil producing nations — Iran and Saudi Arabia — oil prices have been falling. They slipped below $36 a barrel on Tuesday.

Why?

On the first day of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it was the car companies that got the spotlight.

The convergence of the auto industry and tech world began decades ago. There are millions of lines of code in the average car on the road. A recent study shows that tech (Bluetooth, lane assistance, backup cameras) are the deciding factors in new car purchases.

The notion of a gun smart enough to tell who's holding it isn't new.

Since the 1990s, inventors have been developing firearms geared with technologies that can authenticate their users — for instance by recognizing the fingerprint, the grip or an RFID chip — and stop working if held by the wrong hands.

Chipotle Mexican Grill is struggling to convince its customers it's a safe place to eat, after several outbreaks of foodborne illnesses have sickened hundreds of its customers. But no one thinks the task is going to be easy.

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