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California Inc.: A look at L.A.'s tech scene -- and the week ahead

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.

Looking Ahead

Investor anxiety: Wall Street will be tossing a coin Monday, trying to decide whether to feel good about Friday's report that an unexpectedly high 280,000 jobs were created in May or to keep fretting about uncertainty in Europe, where a big question still remains about whether Greece will make good on debt payments. If it fails to do so, the country may end up turning in its euros and pulling the drachma out of mothballs.

Take a bite: Apple opens the doors Monday to its Worldwide Developers Conference. Expectations are running high that the company will announce a music-streaming service to challenge the likes of Spotify and Pandora.

Tesla time: Electric car maker Tesla Motor holds its annual shareholders meeting Tuesday. The company's stock has been on the rise for the last three months, even though it lost $45 million in the first quarter.

Big day at LAX: Delta Air Lines will unveil its $229-million upgrade at Terminal 5 on Wednesday, including a doubling in size for its ticketing lobby and security screening areas, installation of new baggage carousels and a renovated Sky Club for well-heeled travelers.

To shop or not: The Commerce Department will release its latest numbers on retail sales on Thursday. The closely watched report is considered a bellwether of consumer spending, which makes up about two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.

Net neutrality: New Internet rules go into effect Friday. They forbid broadband providers from giving preferential treatment to, or discriminating against, any content flowing through their networks. Telecom companies are challenging the rules in court.

The Agenda

This week, Monday’s Business section explores the challenge of measuring the impact of the booming tech industry on the local economy. Among the issues: Just how big is the tech business in Southern California? And what is Los Angeles doing to bolster the rising tech economy? Simply defining what a tech company is and what workers should be included is difficult.

Story Lines

Here are some other stories that ran in The Times' Business section in recent days that we're continuing to follow:

Dodgers return: Charter Communications will begin carrying the Dodgers-owned cable channel, SportsNet LA, on Tuesday. The move comes about two weeks after Charter agreed to pay nearly $57 billion to acquire Time Warner Cable, which has exclusive rights to carry the Dodgers channel in Southern California but hadn't been able to work out deals with other pay-TV operators.

Healthcare bills: State lawmakers are looking to end the practice of using the estates and heirs of deceased Californians to recoup public money spent on healthcare in the last years of life. The state Senate approved a bill to order major changes in the Medi-Cal recovery program. It now goes to the Assembly. If signed into law, Senate Bill 33 would limit the state's ability to go after homes "of modest value."

Blue Shield: Health insurance giant Blue Shield of California is facing more questions about its tax-exempt status as it tries to win state approval of a $1.2-billion acquisition. The issue is likely to dominate a hearing to be held Monday in Sacramento by the California Department of Managed Health Care.

Musk responds: Elon Musk says his companies don't need the estimated $4.9 billion they enjoy in government support, but the money will help them move faster to transform the dirty business of energy. His comments followed a Times story detailing how his companies incubate high-risk, high-tech companies with the help of government subsidies.

Alibaba offering: Alibaba Pictures Group, the film subsidiary of Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, said it would issue new shares to raise $1.6 billion to fund acquisitions and investments. The company saw its stock price surge more than 100% this spring on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange amid a general rally in Chinese markets and a particular interest in media shares.

What We Are Reading

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

Silicon Valley discrimination: TechCrunch looks at the fallout from Ellen Pao’s gender discrimination suit against venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins. "The reality," it says, "is that women make up as little as 4% of deal-making venture capitalists in the Valley. … This number is not improving, and we suspect that Ellen Pao's case alone is not going to move the needle."

Herbalife: The New York Times cast its eye on the Herbalife saga, providing a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes lobbying by the company’s lawyers to counter claims by investor William A. Ackman that its operation was essentially a pyramid scheme. Each side has spent tens of millions of dollars shaping the public narrative — and related federal investigations.

Back to India: An eye-opening piece from Bloomberg on how thousands of Indian-born engineers and entrepreneurs are departing America and moving home to embrace the country's tech opportunities. It's also a reaction to the increasing challenges of U.S. visa requirements. "The super-growth potential these days is east, not west," Bloomberg says.

Fuld speaks: Vanity Fair comes out swinging with a story about former Lehman Bros. chief Dick Fuld, who's back in the public eye nearly seven years after leading his once-great brokerage into bankruptcy. He blamed everyone else for his company's demise, particularly the government. "Time to move on," Fuld said. "God, there’s so much I’d love to say." But he didn’t.

Fixing Twitter: A suitably snarky piece from VentureBeat about Twitter investor Chris Sacca’s super-long blog post on how to fix "the world’s favorite short messaging-blogging-sharing-whatever service." Sacca has lots to say. But VentureBeat summarizes his thoughts thusly: "Twitter is still too damn complicated."

Today's Cool Consumer Tip

Keep tabs on your credit files — for free. AAA offices in various regions, including Southern California, offer members free monitoring of their Experian credit file. This won't completely protect you from ID theft. You'd need to also monitor your Equifax and TransUnion files for that. But this is a great first step. And the price is right.

For the latest money news, go to www.latimes.com/business.

Until next time, I'll see you in the Business section.

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