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.
A fascinating take on Big Brother watching: Chinese casinos are using artificial intelligence to spot the biggest bettors — and potential losers — so they can be more effectively targeted with perks to keep them wagering.
Vehicle sales: Motor vehicle sales take the spotlight Tuesday. Automakers reported better-than-expected new vehicle sales in May, posting the first monthly increase for 2019.
Factory orders: Factory orders will be released Wednesday, highlighting the vitality of the economy. New orders for goods fell in April and shipments dropped by the most in two years.
Fourth of July: Markets will be closed Thursday for the Independence Day holiday. Have a safe and sane day with friends and family.
New movies: A nuanced pastiche of teen angst arrives in theaters Tuesday with “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” Slightly more grown-up fare can be found Friday in the form of “Phil,” starring the always reliable Greg Kinnear (who also directs). He plays a depressed dentist who seeks to find out why a patient committed suicide. The trailer has a decidedly comedic tone.
Monday’s Business section delves into China’s system of rating people’s public behavior. Not surprisingly, it’s a bureaucratic mess. “China has an interest in overstating its capacity to collect and analyze data, like they overstate their capacity to monitor with surveillance cameras and facial recognition,” said a senior fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School. “They want people to believe that misconduct will get caught.”
Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:
Grocery strike vote: After months of stalled contract negotiations, grocery workers at Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions and Ralphs stores voted to give union leaders the authority to call a strike. The vote itself does not trigger a strike, but it gives union leaders the ability to call a walkout whenever they want. That can provide additional leverage during contract negotiations even if they never choose to strike.
A nutty dispute: California supplies 82% of the world’s almonds and has almost 7,000 growers. This month, India imposed tariffs on almonds and 27 other U.S. products, including apples and walnuts, in retaliation for the United States ending India’s preferential trade status. Those tariffs, which took effect June 16, come on top of significant tariffs China placed on almonds last year.
Artisanal cinema: Movie theaters can’t survive on superhero blockbusters alone, and that’s a problem for a cinema industry in which big-budget Hollywood franchises are increasingly squeezing out smaller movies. AMC Theatres, the world’s largest exhibitor, is trying to do something about that with a program dubbed AMC Artisan Films.
Broadband in space: Elon Musk and SpaceX have staked their legacy on a spaceship capable of carrying 100 passengers to Mars. But to pay for that dream, the Hawthorne company is banking on a project that is ambitious in its own way: selling broadband internet service delivered by more than 1,000 small satellites.
Office move: NBCUniversal has made good on its promise to pull its popular sitcom “The Office” from Netflix and offer it on its own streaming service in 2021. The company announced it has reached a five-year deal to put the series on the new service, which is expected to launch in 2020. Netflix has the rights to “The Office” through next year.
WHAT WE’RE READING
And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:
Buddy, can you spare a kidney: In a Letter from California, the New Yorker casts its eye on GoFundMe healthcare. “A third of the money raised on GoFundMe in 2017 was for medical expenses. This isn’t surprising, given that the United States has the highest over-all health-care costs in the developed world.”
Lasting impact: The New York Times examines the long-term effect of the trade war with China on the chip industry. Executives say Chinese officials and companies may step up efforts to design and make more chips domestically. “And Chinese customers seem likely to turn to vendors from countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan if no homegrown chips are available.”
Condo glut: From the Wall Street Journal, a look at how Miami has too many condos and not enough foreign buyers. “An exodus of Latin Americans is exacerbating oversupply at the high end, but local real estate players are banking on U.S. buyers fleeing high-tax states to give the market a much needed boost.”
It’s good to be rich: Because the rich can never be too rich, the White House is considering another tax cut for the benefit of the wealthy, according to Bloomberg. The Trump administration “is developing a plan to cut taxes by indexing capital gains to inflation.” This would “slash tax bills for investors when selling assets such as stock or real estate by adjusting the original purchase price so no tax is paid on appreciation tied to inflation.”
The bad old days: The Atlantic says your professional demise may be sooner than you think. “Success and productivity increase for the first 20 years after the inception of a career, on average. So if you start a career in earnest at 30, expect to do your best work around 50 and go into decline soon after that.”
There is a musical genre about decline, and it’s a gloomy place to visit. Take Bruce Springsteen’s “My Hometown.” Great song. Depressing imagery. Ditto with Joni Mitchell’s observation about paving paradise and putting up a parking lot. And while it lacks in subtlety, Billy Joel’s “Allentown” couldn’t be a more striking illustration of "there goes the neighborhood.”