Money Matters - Simplified

California

'Lost' items prove popular at auction

Calabasas, Calif. -- The Dharma van Hurley drove on the supernatural TV series "Lost" sold for $47,500 at an auction in California, memorabilia dealer Profiles in History said.

The show wrapped up its sixth and final season this year. Profiles in History conducted the auction in Calabasas, Calif., Saturday and Sunday in partnership with ABC Studios, with bidders from more than 50 countries competing to purchase various pieces of the show.

Character Daniel's journal with extensive handwritten notes went for $20,000, while the Swan Station computer sold for $16,000 and a "Pilot" script signed by series creators J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof fetched $15,000.

California sues 'the Tax Lady'

Sacramento -- The state of California is suing a nationally known tax attorney, claiming her firm does little work and issues fraudulent bills, court papers say.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown filed papers that say television ads featuring attorney Roni Lynn Deutch, the self-proclaimed "Tax Lady," make false claims, The Sacramento Bee reported Tuesday.

One ad focuses on three clients who say they saved thousands of dollars by employing Deutch to help them with their taxes. Court paper say their tax bills were not reduced, but put on hold.

Deutch's firm "systematically cheat(s) their clients out of refunds by exaggerating the amount of time spent on their matters," court papers say.

Sea otter population declines in Calif.

San Francisco -- California sea otter populations are declining again after fighting back from near extinction as a result of almost a century of hunting, researchers say.

A U.S. Geological Survey study of the state's otter population has found a decline in the animals' number for the second year in a row, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday.

This year's figure of 2,711 otters along the California coast is a 3.6 percent decline from 2009, and even more disturbing is the 11 percent drop in the number of otter pups compared with last year, researchers said.

Otters worldwide once numbered close to a million, but they were hunted almost to extinction for their fur.

Study: San Andreas quake 'overdue'

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- California's San Andreas fault has produced more earthquakes than previously thought and is overdue for a major one, a study says.

Scientists spent years studying the geology of the Carrizo Plain area of the San Andreas about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles to produce the long-awaited report, the Los Angeles Times said Friday.

The last massive earthquake on that section of the fault was in 1857, but researchers from the University of California, Irvine and Arizona State University found that earthquakes have occurred as often as every 45 to 144 years, the newspaper said.

That would make the region overdue for a large catastrophic quake, the study suggests.

'Lie' still No. 1 on U.S. record chart

Los Angeles -- Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie" featuring Rihanna is No. 1 on the U.S. record chart for a fifth week, Billboard.com reported Thursday.

Coming in at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 is Taio Cruz's "Dynamite," followed by Katy Perry's "California Gurls" featuring Snoop Dogg at No. 3, Enrique Iglesias' "I Like It" featuring Pitbull at No. 4 and Perry's "Teenage Dream" at No. 5.

Rounding out the top tier are Mike Posner's "Cooler Than Me" at No. 6, Usher's "DJ Got Us Falling in Love" at No. 7, Taylor Swift's "Mine" at No. 8, B.o.B's "Airplanes" featuring Hayley Williams at No. 9 and Jason Derulo's "Ridin' Solo" at No. 10.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

$18M deal upheld in Internet Ponzi scam

Carson City, Nev. -- A federal appeals court in California has upheld an $18 million settlement for hundreds of consumers bilked in an Internet kiosk scam.

Network Services Deport, its owners Charles and Elizabeth Castro and company officer Gregory High, in early 2004 sold stand-alone Internet kiosks to more than 800 investors for between $4,400 and $7,000, promising revenue of a much as $1,000 daily, The Las Vegas Sun said.

The California-based business and its partner Ed Bevilacqua never installed any of the kiosks in public places such as airports or hotel lobbies, and agreed to an $18 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.

The appellate court upheld the summary judgment of Las Vegas Senior District Judge Lloyd George.

Suspicious package was an old record

Cypress, Calif. -- Police in California said a suspicious package delivered to the Cypress Police Department turned out to contain a record by 1970s band The Carpenters.

The police department said the Orange County Sheriff's Department bomb squad was called in to examine the package, which arrived at around noon Monday morning in unusual packaging with no return address and no postmark, The Orange County Register reported Tuesday.

Investigators said the package was taken to the police department parking lot for examination and was found to contain a 45 rpm single by The Carpenters with an attached note asking police to locate the record's original owner.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

Court strikes down mall talk rules

Roseville, Calif. -- A California appeals court struck down a mall's rules banning strangers from talking about subjects other than the mall while inside the facility.

A three-judge 3rd District Court of Appeal spanel issued a 43-page opinion Wednesday describing the rules, which ban the unacquainted for discussing anything other than Roseville's Westfield Galleria mall and its stores while in the mall, as "unconstitutional on their face" due to violations of free speech as outlined in the California Constitution, the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee reported Tuesday.

Sea otter population declines in Calif.

San Francisco -- California sea otter populations are declining again after fighting back from near extinction as a result of almost a century of hunting, researchers say.

A U.S. Geological Survey study of the state's otter population has found a decline in the animals' number for the second year in a row, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday.

This year's figure of 2,711 otters along the California coast is a 3.6 percent decline from 2009, and even more disturbing is the 11 percent drop in the number of otter pups compared with last year, researchers said.

Otters worldwide once numbered close to a million, but they were hunted almost to extinction for their fur.

$21 million for new AIDS/HIV study

La Jolla, Calif. -- The Salk Institute in California will lead a $21 million study on the human immune system's response to initial exposure to the AIDS virus, officials said.

The study is intended to provide clues to a process that is poorly understood despite the existence of drugs that have been found effective in fighting the disease in many people, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Monday.

Research groups from six institutions will join the Salk research into how proteins work at the cellular level to create a defense against the virus.

The National Institutes of Health is funding the project, to be led by Salk immunologist John Young, which is intended to yield new and better therapies.