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POSTED January 8, 2012 10:23 p.m.

• 3 car trends at Detroit auto show: DETROIT (AP) — Beyond the usual hype at the Detroit auto show, automakers have plenty to crow about this year: U.S. sales are the highest since 2008 and they’re expected to keep growing. Buyers are being lured by cheap loans and an improving economy.

The timing is perfect for automakers to unveil more than 40 new cars and trucks this month at the industry’s annual trade show in Detroit. While there will be a few wild concept cars, like a tiny pickup from Smart, there will also be many models that will go on sale this year.

Here are three trends to look for when the show opens to the public on Jan. 14:

– Smaller but stylish: Gas prices have dropped from their $4 peak last spring but remain high. People looking for a more efficient car will have plenty of choices among midsize sedans and compacts.

– Downsized Luxury: Luxury car sales grew just 2.8 percent compared with 10-percent growth for the industry as a whole, according to Autodata Corp. But an improving economy and a slew of new cars could turn that around, especially since many of those new models are less expensive, small sedans.

– Mad for Millennials: Millennials — the 70 million people born between 1981 and 2000 — are a growing force in the market. But they’d just as soon buy a smart phone and text their friends as purchase a car to go visit them. Like buyers from the past, Millennials will start out with small, more affordable cars. But unlike earlier generations, they expect luxury and connectivity, automakers say.

• IMAGINE THIS: ‘AMERICAN IDOL’ WITHOUT SEACREST?: PASADENA  (AP) — Both Fox and Ryan Seacrest say they want Seacrest to stay as host of “American Idol” after this year. Whether that will happen was unclear Sunday even as both sides promoted this month’s launch of the 11th season of the country’s most popular television show.

Seacrest is not signed beyond this season and is also involved in talks with corporate owners of NBC Universal, where he has a contract at E! Entertainment. There have been several reports that NBC is considering Seacrest as a potential replacement if Matt Lauer decides to leave the “Today” show.

Seacrest had little to say Sunday about the possibility of moving into a new morning job.

“American Idol” continues to be a TV steamroller. Yet network TV is in tough economic straits, and many millions of dollars are tied up in contracts with Seacrest and judges Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson.

: TEMECULA, Calif. (AP) — Actor Gary Sinise, known for playing a soldier who loses his legs in the film “Forrest Gump,” wants to stage a benefit concert to raise money to build a home in Temecula, Calif., for a Marine who lost his limbs in Afghanistan.

Sinise, now starring in TV’s “CSI New York,” is expected to ask the Temecula City Council on Tuesday if he can hold a concert tentatively on March 1.

Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band, named for his movie character, would perform and raise money for Marine Lance Cpl. Juan Dominguez, who lost his legs and right arm in 2010.

The Gary Sinise Foundation and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation have built several such homes for wounded veterans.

• TOM HANKS’ WEB SERIES TO STREAM ON YAHOO: NEW YORK (AP) — Tom Hanks’ long gestating Web series is coming to Yahoo.

“Electric City,” an animated futuristic series Hanks has been developing for years, will premiere on Yahoo this spring. The series includes 20 episodes, each three- or four-minutes long.

Yahoo, along with Hanks and production partners Playtone and Reliance Entertainment, are set to formally announce plans for the series Tuesday at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

For Hanks, the release of “Electric City” caps the actor’s efforts to find the right avenue for the project. He first tried to make the series using puppets. He earlier announced it would be released in early 2011.

The series is set in a seemingly peaceful city situated in a post-apocalyptic world. Many of its themes are socially conscious topics relevant to today, including energy consumption.

• POLICE MAY HAVE KILLED MAN CARRYING BB GUN: ANAHEIM  (AP) — Anaheim police say they may have shot and killed a man who was carrying a BB gun.

Police were dealing with several calls Saturday night including a report of a man with a shotgun. Police responded to the call and SWAT team members armed with assault rifles shot a man who was later identified by family members as Bernie “Chino” Villegas.

Dunn told the paper authorities recovered what appeared to be a rifle but was later determined to be a BB rifle.

His father, Miguel Villegas, says his son made a mistake.

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