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.
Traffic, a subject near and dear to all our hearts, took center stage at AutoMobility LA, a warm-up act for the LA Auto Show (see below). A group of Irvine software developers took first place after a 24-hour hackathon by devising an app that shortens the time it takes for first responders to reach people after an automotive emergency. The TribalScale team beat out 16 others in offering solutions to Los Angeles’ urban mobility issues.
Gambling lawsuit: The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday in a case that could expand sports gambling nationwide. The lawsuit stems from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s attempt to open sports books in Atlantic City similar to the ones now operating in Las Vegas casinos. Christi was stymied by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992 law that confines sports betting to Nevada and three other states.
Travel ban: President Trump’s ban on travelers from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Somalia and Chad will be tested this week in courtrooms on opposite sides of the country. Arguments are scheduled for Wednesday before a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle. On Friday, another case challenging the ban will be argued before the full U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
Internet rules: Advocates of net neutrality are planning protests Thursday at Verizon stores across the country in advance of a key Federal Communications Commission vote next week. FCC Chair Ajit Pai has proposed repealing rules that prohibit telecommunications providers from blocking websites, slowing connection speeds and charging extra for faster delivery of certain content. Verizon is being targeted for the protest because it has backed the repeal and Pai used to work for the company.
Spending bill: The federal government is headed — again — toward a possible shutdown if Congress can’t agree on a funding plan before the end of the day Friday. Though Republicans control both chambers of Congress, they will have to win some Democrats' votes to pass a bill to keep the government funded and operating beyond Friday, because a significant number of Republicans refuse to support any spending measure.
High fliers: SpaceX is scheduled to launch supplies for NASA to the International Space Station on Friday. The launch window opens at 10:20 a.m. Pacific Time. NASA has agreed to allow the Hawthorne company to use a first-stage rocket booster that was previously used on another mission, a first for the agency. On Thursday, Huntington Beach-based Rocket Lab will open a 10-day launch window for a second test flight of its Electron rocket, which will lift off from New Zealand.
Monday’s Business Section hits the gas pedal and goes vrooming to the LA Auto Show. Check out our nominations for the most beautiful, most significant and most interesting wheels available or around the corner. Among some of the more notable cars on public display for the first time: Porsche’s 911 Carrera T, Tesla’s Model 3, Volkswagen’s ID Buzz van, BMW’s i8 electric roadster, Toyota’s FT-AC rock rover, Corvette’s ZR1 convertible sports car and Mazda’s delicious Vision Coupe.
Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:
Tax reform: Republicans narrowly got their tax plan though the Senate in the wee hours of Saturday morning, but now must reconcile their package with the House version. The Senate plan, unanimously opposed by Democrats, restores a partial deduction for local and state taxes in the form of a property-tax allowance capped at $10,000. But there are estimates it could raise the number of uninsured by 13 million by lifting the mandate that Americans buy health insurance.
Who’s in charge?: The first round in the battle over interim leadership of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau went to President Trump after a federal judge denied a request for a temporary restraining order, allowing his choice for the job, Mick Mulvaney, to serve as acting director. But the attorney for the agency’s deputy director, Leandra English, supported by consumer advocates, said she does not plan to end her battle to take back the job.
Payday loans: A bipartisan group of House lawmakers introduced legislation to repeal the first broad nationwide regulations on payday and other short-term loans, arguing the rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would effectively deny millions of Americans from access to credit. The move came just days after the fight between Mulvaney and English over the agency’s leadership created a Capitol Hill spectacle.
Lauer out: Fired “Today” co-anchor Matt Lauer issued an apology in response to allegations of sexual misbehavior that cost him his position at NBC News. Lauer, 59, lost his job after NBC executives heard a formal complaint from a female employee who said Lauer engaged in inappropriate behavior throughout 2014. Lauer’s departure could have far-reaching reverberations — not just for NBC and “Today” but for morning television.
Venture capitalist accused: Shervin Pishevar became the latest Silicon Valley figure to be accused of inappropriate behavior when he allegedly forcibly kissed and sexually harassed multiple women. The early backer of Uber and co-founder of L.A.’s Virgin Hyperloop One is facing accusations from five women who spoke to Bloomberg on the condition of anonymity. The women all charged that Pishevar exploited his position as a major venture capitalist to lure them into meetings before making unwanted sexual advances.
WHAT WE’RE READING
And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:
Soft robotics: Scientists are combining soft materials with rigid origami skeletons to create robots that are both strong and adept at handling delicate objects, reports the Verge. By inflating and deflating bags with air or liquids, researchers have created “muscles” that can flex, grasp and lift. “It may not sound like a recipe for strength, but these artificial muscles are much stronger than their human counterparts, capable of lifting 1,000 times their own weight.”
Lunch break: The business of making packaged sandwiches has grown over the last four decades to dominate lunch in the United Kingdom, reports the Guardian. By satisfying the demands of time-pressed consumers for a quick and convenient meal, sandwiches have become a $10-billion industry. “The rise of the British chilled sandwich over the last 40 years has been a deliberate, astonishing and almost insanely labor-intensive achievement.”
Digital money: An internet video-streaming start-up called YouNow is trying differentiate itself from YouTube by offering a new digital currency, reports Bloomberg. The currency, called Props, would be used to reward people who post their videos, and can be converted into cash. “It’s a hopelessly audacious idea by any standard — except perhaps by the standards of those who trade in digital currencies, where YouNow’s long-shot makes perfect sense.”
Piece by piece: How do you build a soccer stadium out of shipping containers? A video on Mashable shows you. The Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, to be built for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, will use shipping containers in Lego-style construction. Builders plan to use the same shipping containers that will carry materials for the stadium to serve as the structure’s modular building blocks. Its architects say the design will make it easy to disassemble the stadium after the event.
That video on the Lego-style stadium made me wonder if there’s any consensus on the greatest Lego construction ever. This video pulls together some contenders, including a working car (seriously, all Legos, except the tires), a life-size house and a 23-foot scale model of an aircraft carrier.
For the latest money news, go to www.latimes.com/business. Mad props to Scott J. Wilson for helping put this thing together.
Until next time, I'll see you in the Business section.