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The $11 billion merger of American Airlines and US Airways wins bankruptcy court approval, clearing the way for the two carriers to form the world's biggest airline, with 6,700 daily flights and annual revenue of roughly $40 billion. The judge didn't approve a $20 million severance package for outgoing American CEO Tom Horton. By Scott Mayerowitz.

AP photo.


NEW YORK â¿¿ Two months after a severe flu season forced millions of workers to stay home, paid sick time is becoming an issue for small business owners. In March, the Portland and Philadelphia city councils approved sick leave laws, and two Democratic lawmakers reintroduced a bill in Congress that would make paid sick leave a federal requirement. There's a great divide over the issue â¿¿ on one side are owners who oppose it because of the financial and administrative burdens of having to pay workers when they stay home. But others believe it's a morale booster and it encourages workers to stay home instead of coming to work and infecting everyone around them. By Joyce M. Rosenberg.


â¿¿ SMALLBIZ-SICK LEAVE LAWS â¿¿ A look at paid sick leave laws across the country.


NICOSIA, Cyprus â¿¿ Cypriot authorities are preparing limits on how much money depositors can take out of their accounts a day before banks are set to reopen. A banking official said Wednesday â¿¿ on condition of anonymity because the measures have yet to be officially announced â¿¿ that they include restrictions on large-scale money transfers from the country's two largest lenders to avoid a run. By Menelaos Hadjicostis.

AP photos


SAN FRANCISCO â¿¿ Nolan Bushnell never appeared in Apple's "think different" ads, even though the company was riffing on an iconoclastic philosophy that he embraced while running video game pioneer Atari in the early 1970s. Atari's refusal to be corralled by the status quo was one reason Jobs started working for Bushnell in 1974 as an unkempt, contemptuous 19-year-old. In a new book, Bushnell writes about the unorthodox thinking that fosters the breakthroughs that became Jobs' hallmark as the co-founder and CEO of Apple. By Technology Writer Michael Liedtke.

AP photos.


ST. LOUIS â¿¿ Order a bowl of turkey chili at a St. Louis-area Panera Bread and it'll cost you a penny. Or $5. Or $100. In other words, whatever you decide. Three years after launching the first of five pay-what-you-want cafes, the suburban St. Louis-based chain brings the concept to its latest charitable venture starting Wednesday. By Jim Salter.

AP photos.


â¿¿ AUTO SHOW-FOUR QUESTIONS-VOLKSWAGEN â¿¿ Volkswagen's U.S. chief discusses sales goals, the growth in diesel-powered cars and changing the Golf compact more to the liking of U.S. drivers.

â¿¿ AUTO SHOW-THREE QUESTIONS-TOYOTA â¿¿ Jim Lentz, soon to be the head of Toyota's North American operations, discusses the company's U.S. performance.

â¿¿ AUTO SHOW-HOT WHEELS-Z/28 CAMARO â¿¿ Chevrolet is bringing back the Z/28 Camaro, the car that every high school boy wanted in the 1970s.

â¿¿ AUTO SHOW-HOT WHEELS-TOYOTA HIGHLANDER â¿¿ Toyota gives its Highlander family hauler a more athletic look, which should allow the SUV to better compete with the Ford Explorer and the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

â¿¿ AUTO SHOW-HOT WHEELS-KIA SOUL â¿¿ The latest version of Kia's funky urban SUV has more room inside for its dancing rodent mascots.

â¿¿ AUTO SHOW-HOT WHEELS-BMW DIESEL 3-SERIES â¿¿ BMW is giving fans of its 3-Series more room and better gas mileage in two important variations of the small luxury sports sedan.



WASHINGTON â¿¿ A measure of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes fell only slightly in February to the second-highest level in nearly three years. The report suggests sales of previously occupied homes will keep rising in the coming months. The National Association of Realtors says that its seasonally adjusted index for pending home sales dipped to 104.8 in February. That's down from January's reading of 105.2 â¿¿ the highest since April 2010, when a homebuyer's tax credit was boosting sales. By Martin Crutsinger.


DURBAN, South Africa â¿¿ Leaders of the five BRICS nations fueling global economic growth agree to create a development bank to help fund their $4.5 trillion infrastructure programs â¿¿ a direct challenge to the World Bank that they accuse of Western bias. By Michelle Faul.

AP photos

â¿¿ WORLD DISASTERS-INSURED LOSSES â¿¿ Insurance claims paid out because of natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2012 totaled $77 billion globally, making it the third costliest year on record, Swiss Re says.


NEW YORK â¿¿ Investors just can't get past Europe. Renewed worries about the region's long-running debt crisis weighed on the Dow Jones industrial average on Wednesday, and held the Standard & Poor's 500 index back from reaching an all-time high. By Matthew Craft.

AP photo.

â¿¿ OIL PRICES â¿¿ The price of oil rose near the end of trading to close at $96.68 a barrel, and has now gone up more than $4 in less than a week.



NEW YORK â¿¿ No "downward-dog" required. Lululemon says no demonstrations of yoga or any other positions are needed to return the pricey black pants that the company pulled from shelves last week after finding that they were too sheer. The Vancouver-based yoga gear maker's statement comes a day after a New York Post report recounted one woman's tale of being asked by sales staff to bend over to prove that the yoga pants she was trying to return were sheer. By Retail Writer Mae Anderson.

AP photos.


NEW YORK â¿¿ The world's biggest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., says it is likely that it will incur a loss from bribery probes into its operations in Mexico and other countries.


GENEVA â¿¿ Credit Suisse Group will buy Morgan Stanley's wealth management businesses in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, but not in Switzerland.

â¿¿ TRAIN CARS DERAIL â¿¿ Authorities say at least three cars of a Canadian Pacific train have spilled or leaked crude oil after a derailment in western Minnesota.

â¿¿ HEINZ-BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY â¿¿ Shareholders of H.J. Heinz Co. will vote on April 30 whether to sell the ketchup maker to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital for $23.3 billion. Heinz also says that antitrust regulators approved the deal early, clearing one of the conditions to completing the transaction.

â¿¿ MERCK-ALLERGY PILL â¿¿ Merck & Co. has applied to sell a new type of treatment for grass pollen allergy that gradually reduces symptoms over time, rather than just temporarily relieving the sneezing and itching.

â¿¿CHINA-EARNS-AIRLINES â¿¿ China's three major state-owned airlines posted sharp drops in annual profit because of the weak global economy, higher jet fuel prices and smaller foreign currency gains.

â¿¿ JAPAN-MITSUBISHI MOTORS â¿¿ Mitsubishi Motors says a battery in a plug-in hybrid Outlander vehicle heated up and melted and that a battery for i-MiEV electric cars caught fire at an auto-assembly plant.

â¿¿ KINGS SALEâ¿¿ With the clock clicking down, Sacramento city officials took their last shot at keeping the NBA Kings in California's capital by approving a public-private deal to build a new 18,500-seat arena and retail center downtown. AP photos

â¿¿ SUPERSTORM-AQUARIUM â¿¿ The New York Aquarium has cherished its big-city setting by the sea for half a century. But the ocean that is the aquarium's lifeblood dealt it a shattering blow last fall. AP photos.



LOS ANGELES â¿¿ Since Windows 8's debut in October, there have been a range of hot-looking devices that try to combine elements of tablets and traditional PCs. These hybrids seem as if they would be great both for relaxing with an e-book and for writing stories when I occasionally need to snap back into work mode. But trying out three tablet-PC hybrids running Windows 8 has convinced me that the good old laptop still reigns for creating documents quickly and accurately. By Ryan Nakashima.

AP photos.


WASHINGTON â¿¿ The U.S. takes its first real swipe against China following accusations that Beijing is behind a widespread and systemic hacking campaign targeting U.S. businesses. Buried in the spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday is a provision that effectively bars much of the federal government from buying information technology made by companies linked to the Chinese government. By Anne Flaherty.

â¿¿ SPAMHAUS-CYBERATTACK â¿¿ A record-breaking cyberattack targeting anti-spam watchdog group Spamhaus has sent ripples of disruption coursing across the Web.

â¿¿ SUPREME COURT-COMCAST â¿¿ The Supreme Court rejects a class action lawsuit against cable provider Comcast Corp., in a decision that could make it harder to file those types of lawsuits in federal court.


NEW YORK â¿¿ Tens of millions of people, including Beyonce, Fergie and Jason Mraz, have turned social media streams into a sea of red this week using a square equality logo in support of gay marriage. Some have made the red box with two pink rectangles their own â¿¿ Bud Light said it with beer cans and Martha Stewart used red velvet cake. The viral image was thought up by the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group that adapted its blue and yellow logo to red â¿¿ for love. By Leanne Italie.

AP photos.

â¿¿ TV MILENNIAL NETWORK â¿¿ Pivot is the name of a TV channel aimed at 15-to-34-year-olds who want to change the world. In the process, they could help Pivot change the television business.

â¿¿ FREE WIFI CITY â¿¿ The city of Santa Clara flipped on a big Internet switch this week, becoming what it says is the first in the country to use wireless, digital "smart meters" on homes as channels for free citywide outdoor Wi-Fi.



BRUSSELS â¿¿ The European Union's executive arm says it needs 11.2 billion euros ($14.4 billion) in additional funding, mainly to pay outstanding bills from last year. Britain, France, Italy and others will have to find more than a billion euros each at a time when they are trying to trim high deficits through spending cuts or tax raises and their economies are struggling. By Juergen Baetz.

AP photo.

â¿¿ BRITAIN-BANKS â¿¿ Britain's new banking regulator is recommending that the nation's lenders increase their capital buffers by 25 billion pounds ($37.9 billion) by the end of the year to ensure they can cover potential losses and keep lending in the event of future crises.

â¿¿ BRITAIN-PRUDENTIAL â¿¿ Britain's financial services regulator has fined insurer Prudential 30 million pounds (45.5 million) and censured its CEO over its handling of a failed bid to acquire rival AIA in 2010.

â¿¿ BRITAIN-FOOD STAMPS â¿¿ Local governments in Britain plan to scrap cash loans and instead issue vouchers for food and other essentials to the poor.

â¿¿ PHILIPPINES-CREDIT RATINGâ¿¿ Credit rating agency Fitch Ratings gives the Philippines its first-ever investment grade, allowing the Southeast Asian nation greater access to low-cost funds.

â¿¿ CHINA-EARNS-ICBCâ¿¿ ICBC, China's biggest state-owned commercial lender, posted slower profit growth last year as the economy slowed and the government reformed interest rates.


DRAPETSONA, Greece â¿¿ In rain and shrieking wind, the ferry strains at its ropes, drawbridge creaking and scraping against the pier. A sailor on night watch duty huddles over a portable heater at the entrance to the cavernous hull. For seven months, often under harsh winter conditions, Giorgos Polilogidis has waited for one thing: a paycheck. A seasoned veteran of the seas, Polilogidis is among hundreds of sailors, mechanics, stewards and others who work on Greek ferries and, according to seamen's unions, have been going unpaid for months at a time. By Elena Becatoros.

AP photos


ROME â¿¿ The decision by Italy's highest criminal appeals court to overturn the acquittals of American student Amanda Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, and order a new trial in the 2007 slaying of her British roommate, is once again raising concerns both at home and abroad about how justice works in Italy. By Victor L. Simpson.

AP photos.



Free tax help is available, and it's not just for those in financial need. AARP, the nonprofit organization that advocates for people over 50, has relaxed rules about who they offer free tax preparation for and the Internal Revenue Service offers free tax advice and basic online filing, regardless of income. That said, the free options are best for taxpayers with uncomplicated finances. If you're running a small business or own investment property, you will be better off hiring a professional. Here's a look at where taxpayers can find free assistance. By Business Writer Joseph Pisani.


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Travel perks up

Businesses and families that cut back on traveling during the recession are starting to buy tickets again. Demand for hotel rooms is on the rise, particularly those in Miami, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities that serve as gateways for international travelers. Cowen and Co. financial analyst James Sullivan says that real estate investment trusts that own hotels stand to benefit from above-average growth for the hotel sector as the economy continues to strengthen.


Netflix enters 'The Matrix'

Netflix is continuing to bolster its credentials as a source for original programming. The video subscription service announced Wednesday that its newest original series will be science fiction from the duo behind "The Matrix" trilogy. Netflix is the top performing stock in the Standard & Poor's 500 so far this year, up more than 100 percent.

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