SpaceX cargo mission blasts off to ISS at last, defying latest hurdle

SpaceX cargo mission blasts off to ISS at last, defying latest hurdle

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Friday and sped through a cloud-covered sky on its way to deliver supplies to the International Space Station for NASA.

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California adds 11,800 jobs, unemployment rate holds at 8.1%

California adds 11,800 jobs, unemployment rate holds at 8.1%

This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.

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Herbalife gets more bad news: Illinois AG investigation

Herbalife gets more bad news: Illinois AG investigation

The bad news is piling up for Herbalife Ltd.

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Obamacare enrollment nears 1.4 million in California exchange

Obamacare enrollment nears 1.4 million in California exchange

Covered California signed up more than 200,000 consumers for Obamacare coverage after extending its enrollment deadline by two weeks, bringing the statewide total to nearly 1.4 million people.

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Report: Mathematicians have the best jobs, lumberjacks have the worst

Report: Mathematicians have the best jobs, lumberjacks have the worst

Job hunters on the prowl for a career change might want to brush up on their math skills: Mathematicians have the best jobs in 2014, one report said.

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Jobless claims edge up, but 4-week average falls to prerecession level

Jobless claims edge up, but 4-week average falls to prerecession level

Initial jobless claims over the previous month hit their lowest level since the start of the Great Recession, indicating the labor market might be nearing a return to normal.

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Freddie Mac: Mortgage rates near low for year; 30-year at 4.27%

Freddie Mac: Mortgage rates near low for year; 30-year at 4.27%

Mortgage rates have fallen as the spring home-buying season begins, with Freddie Mac pegging the average 30-year fixed loan at 4.27% this week, the lowest it has been since early February.

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East West and Cathay banks report higher first-quarter earnings

East West and Cathay banks report higher first-quarter earnings

The two largest Chinese-American banks reported higher first-quarter earnings on solid loan growth, with profit up 6% at Pasadena's East West Bancorp and 9% at Los Angeles' Cathay General Bancorp.

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Healthcare costs in U.S. far exceed costs in other countries, report says

Healthcare costs in U.S. far exceed costs in other countries, report says

An average one-day hospital stay in the United States cost $4,293 last year, six times more than it did in Argentina and nearly 10 times the cost in Spain, an industry group reported Thursday.

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Bay Area home prices still surging, up 23% in March

Bay Area home prices still surging, up 23% in March

Home prices in the Bay Area continued their brisk pace upward in March, according to new figures out Wednesday.

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Deaf college student: Is there an app to follow lectures?

Deaf college student: Is there an app to follow lectures?

Marc's daughter is attending college in Michigan. She's also deaf.

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Workers adjust piping during a short pause in water pumping during a natural gas hydraulic fracturing operation outside Rifle, Colo.

Petroleum group says fracking helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The American Petroleum Institute said hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is sometimes called, contributed to a 3.4% drop in greenhouse gas emissions in 2012, the trade group said in a statement.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday issued a report that found that greenhouse gas emissions dropped 3.4% in 2012 compared with the year before. The nation released the equivalent of 6,526 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, the lowest level since 1994. About 82% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 were carbon dioxide, the main pollutant causing climate change.

The decline, environmental regulators said, was driven mostly by a switch to natural gas from coal by power plant operators. It also credited improvements in fuel efficiency for transportation and a warmer winter, which reduced demand for heating.

Photos: Top 10 Southern California companies

"America is leading the world in reducing greenhouse gases thanks, in part, to the revolution in natural gas...

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Health watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest accused Joe's Crab Shack of using trans fats despite its pledge not to.

Joe's Crab Shack loads up on trans fat despite pledge, watchdog says

Artificial trans fat still lurks in our food, at least at the Joe’s Crab Shack chain, according to a health watchdog group.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said Wednesday that the Houston-based seafood restaurant company uses a blend of partially hydrogenated margarine-butter blend containing dangerous levels of trans fat.

Joe’s Crab Shack, which was established in 1994, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

[Updated, April 16, 3:15 p.m.: Jim Mazany, president of Joe's Crab Shack, said in a statement that the company had made "consistent progress" toward its goal of removing all trans fats from its menu prior to the CSPI's report.

"This means that, to date, there are zero trans fats in our frying oil system-wide; some of our restaurants are already fully trans fat-free; and within 90 days, we intend to be completely trans fat-free in all restaurants,” Mazany said.]

In November, the Food and Drug administration proposed new rules on trans...

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The remains of a dead Joshua tree stand in Joshua Tree National Park. The majority of Californians believe the state is facing a serious water shortage.

Water shortage divides Californians on solutions and blame

The vast majority of Californians believe, unsurprisingly, that the state is in the throes of a serious water crisis. But many disagree about what can be done about it.

About 54% of Golden State voters believe farmers could cut down on their water with no real hardship by changing crops and being more efficient, according to the latest Field Poll.

Separately, two-thirds said they support voluntary water rationing, while only 27% favored mandatory cuts in water use.

Opinions also were divided when people assigned blame for the drought.

PHOTOS: World's most expensive cities

About 37% say they believe the shortage was spurred by Californians who do not use existing water supplies wisely, and 27% point the finger at a lack of storage and supply facilities in the state. Nearly a quarter blamed both for the drought.

California suffered its driest year on record in 2013, prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a drought emergency in the state.

Recent storms, which brought the Los Angeles region...

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Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan had reason to grimace as his company announced a $276 million loss. Above, Moynihan during an interview in L.A. last year.

Mortgage-related legal costs sock BofA with $276-million loss

Socked by mortgage-related legal expenses, Bank of America Corp. lost $276 million during the first quarter, sending its stock down sharply.

The quarterly loss, its first in 2½ years, came despite lower loan losses and better than expected results in fixed-income trading, a slowing business that hurt rival JPMorgan Chase & Co. during the quarter.

The results included $6 billion in litigation expense, much of it related to toxic bonds backed by housing-boom mortgages from Countrywide Financial Corp., the aggressive Calabasas lender that nearly collapsed before being acquired by Bank of America in 2008.

"The cost of resolving more of our mortgage issues hurt our earnings this quarter,” Chief Executive Brian Moynihan said in announcing the results Wednesday morning.

QUIZ: How much do you know about mortgages?

The loss at the Charlotte, N.C., bank amounted to 5 cents a share, in contrast to a profit of $1.48 billion, 10 cents a share, in the first quarter of 2013. Revenue fell nearly...

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Mt. Gox, the online bitcoin exchange, said Wednesday that its request for a bankruptcy was dismissed and that it sees "no prospect" for the restart of the business. Above, a protestor outside Mt. Gox headquarters.

Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox says 'no prospects' for restart of business

Mt. Gox, the online bitcoin exchange that shuttered in February, said Wednesday that a Japanese court had dismissed its request for a civil rehabilitation proceeding, similar to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. 

As a result, the bitcoin exchange said it sees "no prospects for the restart of the business," Mt. Gox said in a statement. Instead, the company's assets have been placed under the control of a Japanese official until a bankruptcy trustee is named. 

"The dismissal of the application for commencement of a civil rehabilitation procedure will create great inconvenience and concerns to our creditors for which we apologize," the company said.

QUIZ: How much do you know about Bitcoin?

The bankruptcy was dismissed due to "the fact that the drafting of a rehabilitation plan and its adoption or approval appear difficult," Mt. Gox said.

Mt. Gox in late February had filed for bankruptcy protection after it said it lost 850,000 bitcoins because of a hacking of its computer system. It later...

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A new home for sale in Pepper Pike, Ohio.

Housing starts rise slightly in March

Builders broke ground on more new homes nationwide in March, although the increase missed expectations.

Housing starts climbed 2.8% from an upwardly revised February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 946,000, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Economists polled by Bloomberg News called for a rate of 970,000.

The missed expectations come as builder confidence wavers. More builders now see the market for new single family homes as poor rather than good, according to a survey from the National Assn. of Home Builders.

Despite a rapid housing recovery last year, builders have yet to ramp up construction to historically normal levels. Holding them back, they say, are a shortage of ready-to-built lots and skilled labor.

Traffic from prospective buyers has been particularly poor, however.

PHOTOS: World's most expensive cities

Part of that is an overhang from winter, and builders expect more robust traffic during the spring home buying season. Still, rapid price surges last year have...

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A home for sale in Garden Grove.

Southern California median home price jumped to $400,000 in March

Home prices in Southern California are at their highest level in six years, according to new data, though those gains may be taking a bite out of sales volume.

The median price of a house sold in Southern California rose from $383,000 in February to $400,000 in March, the market’s highest level since February 2008, according to San Diego-based DataQuick, which tracks real estate data.

The figure is up 15.8% from the same month last year and is the first noticeable increase since the torrid run-up in prices last spring and summer.

At the same time, the number of sales fell on an annual basis for the sixth straight month as investors and cash buyers pull out in the face of higher prices, and more traditional home buyers hesitate to jump in. There were 17,638 homes sold in DataQuick's six-county Southern California' region, down 14.3% from last March and the second-lowest total for the month -- the start of the key spring home-buying season -- in nearly two decades.

“Southland...

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Tax day deadline: Who gets penalized and how to get an extension

April 15 is tax day, which brings with it the annual scramble to file returns in time.

But unless you owe money to Uncle Sam, procrastinators can breathe a sigh of relief.

Only those who are due to pay the Internal Revenue Service are penalized for missing the deadline, while the approximately 75% of filers who get refunds can turn in their paperwork after Tuesday with no penalty.

PHOTOS: World's most expensive cities

The costs of dawdling for those who owe even a little money to the government can be steep.

For failing to file on time, a monthly penalty of 5% is levied on the unpaid balance. That is generally capped at 25% of the original tax payment. Then there is the interest charged against the tax bill, and an additional penalty for failing to pay that sum in a timely manner (which is separate from the filing penalty).

Taxpayers who need extra time to get their papers in order can get an extra six months by filling out IRS Form 4868 by April 15.

PHOTOS: Richest and poorest cities...

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The average American would have to pay $1,259 in state and federal income taxes this year to make up for the revenue lost because of offshore tax havens used by corporations and wealthy individuals, according to a new report.

Average American foots the bill when firms sidestep taxes, report says

The average American would have to fork over an extra $1,259 in state and federal income taxes this year to make up for the revenue lost because of offshore tax havens used by corporations and wealthy individuals, according to a new report.

U.S. companies will use offshore tax havens to avoid paying an estimated $110 billion in taxes this year, according to the analysis by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Wealthy people will circumvent about $74 billion in taxes.

The report underscores the controversial issue of major companies using elaborate maneuvers to sidestep taxes, often by stowing income in overseas subsidiaries set up primarily for tax purposes. In some cases, critics say, enormously profitable companies pay no income taxes.

“Average taxpayers and small-business owners foot the bill for offshore tax dodging,” said Dan Smith, PIRG tax and budget advocate. “Every dollar in taxes companies avoid by booking profits to shell companies in tax havens must be...

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A new home for sale in Pepper Pike, Ohio.

Home-builder confidence steady but weak in April

Home-builder confidence inched up this month, but remains shaky as the spring home-buying season gets underway.

The National Assn. of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, released Tuesday, remained essentially flat in April, at 47. A level below 50 means more builders see the market for new, single-family homes as poor rather than good.

March's level was revised down one point to 46.

The association’s chief economist, David Crowe, said builders are pessimistic for several reasons: tight credit for potential buyers and a short supply of skilled labor and ready-to-build lots. Still, he said, several factors point to “a gradual improvement in housing demand.”

"Job growth is proceeding at a solid pace, mortgage interest rates remain historically low and home prices are affordable," he said in a statement.

GRAPHIC: Southern California's housing recovery

Though prices in most markets remain far below those of the bubble days, housing has become increasingly...

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Food prices increased in March, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday. Above, Jerry Haines, general manager of R.C. Provision in Burbank, holds pastrami that's ready for shipping. The company, which supplies Pink's, Langer's Delicatessen and other eateries, is struggling as beef prices have hit a record high in the U.S.

Food, housing costs rise sharply in March; overall inflation low

Food and housing costs rose sharply in March, but overall inflation remained low, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday.

The federal government's consumer price index rose 0.2% in March, a measurement that shows average price changes in goods and services purchased by Americans. In the last 12 months, overall core inflation -- excluding the volatile food and energy indexes -- rose 1.7%.

Recent drought and other extreme weather patterns have driven up the price of beef to all-time highs and that was reflected in the government's food index, which rose 0.4% in March, following an identical increase the month before. 

PHOTOS: World's most expensive cities

It showed much steeper increases in certain food categories. The index for poultry, meats and eggs, for instance, showed a second consecutive increase of 1.2% last month.

The energy index, which includes gas prices, declined in March, falling 0.1%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

The rental index showed an uptick of...

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