Business:
California Inc.: Apple reality show features coding for dollars

Welcome to California Inc., the weekly newsletter of the L.A. Times Business Section.

I’m Business columnist David Lazarus, and here’s a rundown of upcoming stories this week and the highlights of last week.

Some good news Friday on the home front: California again put up solid employment numbers in July, adding 36,400 new positions. In fact, payrolls in the state are expanding faster than in the U.S. overall. California has added 374,600 jobs in the past 12 months, posting a growth rate of 2.3%. Payrolls nationwide grew just 1.7% since July 2015. However, the state’s unemployment rate went up for the second month in a row, rising a tenth of a point to 5.5% in July.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Brexit: Leaders of three of Europe’s largest nations will meet Monday to discuss easing Britain out of the European Union without shaking up the continent’s economy. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Ventotene Island off Italy’s west coast. Britain voted in June to leave the EU, but the exact timetable for doing so has remained cloudy. Some have suggested that Britain might not leave the EU until well into next year, but other leaders have pressed for more immediate action.

Weekend Roundup: 7 stories you can't miss Caption Weekend Roundup: 7 stories you can't miss

Read more about Louisiana flooding, the Clayton fire, the Blue Cut fire, kindergarten boot camp, the Share and Care program, Ryan Lochte and Donald Trump.

Read more about Louisiana flooding, the Clayton fire, the Blue Cut fire, kindergarten boot camp, the Share and Care program, Ryan Lochte and Donald Trump.

90 seconds: 4 stories you can't miss Caption 90 seconds: 4 stories you can't miss

A new star at Rams practice, L.A.'s Share and Care program, the latest on Ryan Lochte and Donald Trump shows a softer side.

A new star at Rams practice, L.A.'s Share and Care program, the latest on Ryan Lochte and Donald Trump shows a softer side.

VW hearing: Attorneys for Volkswagen return to court Thursday in San Francisco to report to U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer on plans to fix roughly 90,000 3-liter-engine diesel cars, which had software that allowed the vehicles to cheat on air-pollution tests. The 3-liter vehicles are not included in a $14.7-billion settlement, announced previously, to repair or buy back roughly 475,000 polluting Volkswagen vehicles with 2-liter diesel engines. VW in April took an $18.2-billion charge to cover the cost of the global scandal, which includes a total of 11 million vehicles worldwide.

Economy watch: Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen will speak Friday at a central bank conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Her first public comments in two months will be followed closely by analysts and investors for hints about whether the Fed will raise a key interest rate in September. Minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s meeting in July showed members were divided on whether an increase was needed soon. A key barometer, being released Friday, will be the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ release of the estimated second-quarter gross domestic product.

Winter heat: The California Energy Commission will hold a workshop in Diamond Bar on Friday to discuss possible winter power and natural gas shortages because of the temporary shutdown of the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility. Aliso Canyon’s 114 wells are going through a series of tests following a massive leak that forced the evacuation of some 8,000 households from the nearby Porter Ranch neighborhood. The workshop begins at 10 a.m. at the South Coast Air Quality Management District offices and is open to the public.

Be a star: Friday is the deadline to apply if you want to be part of Apple’s first crack at original programming — a reality series called "Planet of the Apps.” The unscripted show, co-produced by Propagate, is to be filmed in Los Angeles later this year. It will feature developers competing for more than $10 million in venture capital funding, guidance from experts in the tech community and a place for their app in the featured section of Apple’s App Store. The show will be available on Apple’s own platforms, including iTunes and Apple TV.

 

THE AGENDA

Monday’s Business section buckles up and checks out the looming revolution in personal transportation. It’s visible in everything from ride-hailing services to cars that steer themselves and change lanes automatically with a flick of the turn signal. “The world is changing,” one expert says. “In the next few years, there will be a significant injection of technology” in new cars. Newcomers like Google, Apple and Uber want into the game, and “the incumbents of the past are trying to change as much as they can.”

 

STORY LINES

Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:

Viacom control: Media mogul Sumner Redstone’s boardroom war for control of Viacom has ended in victory with the resignation of Chief Executive Philippe Dauman and the installation of new members to the company’s board. Viacom’s board elected Thomas Dooley as CEO. Dooley, 59, is expected to serve at least through the end of September and could stay on longer. Dauman exits with a $72-million severance package.

New stock exchange: At mutual fund giant Capital Group, investment managers buy stocks when they’re underpriced and sell when they’re overpriced. But over the past few years, the L.A. firm has been looking toward something else to help boost returns: a new stock exchange that disrupts the advantages of high-speed traders. Founder Brad Katsuyama and his IEX exchange were lauded in the 2014 best-seller “Flash Boys” by author Michael Lewis.

Driverless cars: Uber says it will deploy a fleet of driverless Fords and Volvos on the streets of Pittsburgh within weeks. Meanwhile, the two car companies separately announced they will manufacture completely autonomous cars by 2021. In Uber’s case, an employee will be at the wheel in case things go wrong. But, eventually, Uber intends to render human drivers unnecessary.

Gawker purchase: Univision Holdings is buying Gawker Media, the online media and blog network in bankruptcy for $135 million. The leading Spanish-language TV broadcaster is assembling a portfolio of online properties and apparently has eyes for several of Gawker’s separately branded sites, including the tech-oriented Gizmodo. It plans to shut down the main Gawker.com site, which has been damaged by the Hulk Hogan sex-tape lawsuit and judgment that drove it into bankruptcy.

Olympic payday: Now that the Summer Olympics is over, the clock starts ticking for medal winners hoping to cash in on their glory. Other than established multimillionaire stars such as U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, the Olympians have a brief window of opportunity — most likely a few weeks — to sign potentially lucrative endorsement deals once the Games end. Most medalists won’t get rich from their efforts. 

 

WHAT WE’RE READING

And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:

Rough retail: Bloomberg looks at the dark side of Wal-Mart. “More than 200 violent crimes, including attempted kidnappings and multiple stabbings, shootings and murders, have occurred at the nation’s 4,500 Walmarts this year, or about one a day.”

Haters be hatin’: Twitter, says BuzzFeed, “has not just tolerated abuse and hate speech, it’s virtually been optimized to accommodate it” (Warning: The site uses explicit language). So what is Twitter doing to change that perception? As one former employee says, “What was once lauded as a virtue has now become the company’s Achilles’ heel.”

Future food: Fast Company explores ways that so-called machine learning will change what we eat. “Still, some environmental advocates are skeptical, warning that tools primarily designed to boost crop yields and farm profits won’t automatically undo all the environmental harm wrought by large-scale, industrial farming.”

Camper Mode: OK, this is just plain weird: Tesla “Camper Mode.” As Bloomberg tells it, “A community of drivers is devoted to the practice. There are forums and YouTube videos that praise the virtues of Tesla camping and explore the hacks you’ll need to make it work.”

Cheaper chicken? A burning question from Priceonomics: After a hard day’s work, rotisserie chickens look so cheap and easy, but are they really a bargain? “In most stores, the cooked chickens aren’t any cheaper. They just look cheaper. The per-chicken price favors the deli counter, but the per-pound price favors the refrigerator case.”

 

SPARE CHANGE

For a good time, do a YouTube search for “chicken dance.” Beyonce does it (sort of). So does Zooey Deschanel. But this offering from the Lawrence Welk Show sets a high-water mark for poultry-related terpsichorean fun.

For the latest money news, go to www.latimes.com/business. Until next time, I'll see you in the Business section.

David Lazarus' column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. He also can be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel 5 and followed on Twitter @Davidlaz. Send your tips or feedback to david.lazarus@latimes.com.

Source:   latimes
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