March 31, 2014 |
The owner of a natural gas facility downplayed the danger to residents after an explosion at the facility injured four people and forced the evacuation of a small town in southern Washington on Monday morning. The processing facility is owned by Northwest Pipeline, a subsidiary of Williams Partners, a Tulsa, Okla.-based energy company. The facility is located 2 1/2 miles west of Plymouth, whose 300 to 400 residents were ordered to evacuate after the 8:20 a.m. blast. The company was investigating the cause of the explosion.
March 31, 2014 |
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court sounded ready Monday to curtail the use of certain business patents in a case involving a patent for a computerized risk analysis of international financial transactions. Use of such business-method patents has soared in recent decades. Once granted, they can give a firm or a person a monopoly for up to 20 years to profit from the patented process. Critics say many of the recent computer-related patents are vague and stifle innovation by giving exclusive rights to commonly used methods or formulas.
March 29, 2014 |
This time last year, investment firms raced to buy dozens of single-family homes in neighborhoods from Fontana to South Los Angeles to lease them out, transforming the mom-and-pop rental business into a Wall Street juggernaut. The flood of cash helped spark a steep rise in prices, drawing criticism for pushing families out of the market. But now the firms themselves have all but stopped buying in Southern California, the latest evidence that home prices have hit a ceiling. The professional investors no longer see bargains here.
March 25, 2014 |
SAN FRANCISCO -- Facebook said it would buy virtual reality company Oculus VR for about $2 billion in cash and stock. Oculus is the Irvine, Calif., maker of the Rift headset. The company will continue to operate independently within Facebook, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post. With the purchase, the giant social network is focusing on “what platforms will come next to enable even more useful, entertaining and personal experiences,” Zuckerberg said. When you put on the Oculus headset, “you enter a completely immersive computer-generated environment, like a game or a movie scene or a place far away,” Zuckerberg said.
March 25, 2014 |
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will consider a proposition that will strike many Americans as bizarre: that large, for-profit businesses can refuse on religious grounds to comply with a federal mandate that they include contraception in their employee health plans. Three companies - Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft stores with 13,000 full-time employees; Mardel, a bookstore chain; and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a cabinet manufacturer - are challenging the mandate. The businesses say it would require them to cover forms of contraception that the owners regard as equivalent to abortion - and thus offensive to their religious faith.
March 25, 2014 |
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Calm seas returned Wednesday to aid the search for the missing Flight 370, but public protests and the first legal filing on behalf of a passenger hinted at a stormy forecast for Malaysia and its state-supported airline. Executives of Malaysia Airlines said Tuesday that they would pay at least $5,000 to each of the families of the 227 passengers aboard the Boeing 777 that disappeared March 8, but the gesture appeared to provide little comfort to distraught relatives, about 100 of whom marched to the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing, where some clashed with police.
March 24, 2014 |
Increasing activity by data hackers has produced millions of victims and one clear winner: the credit monitoring business. Services with names such as BillGuard and Identity Guard report a surge in sign-ups from people anxious to be protected. Nervous consumers worry that the parade of data breaches involving credit card, debit card and other personal information could leave them vulnerable to fraud and identity theft. The latest incident was revealed Saturday when the California Department of Motor Vehicles said it was "alerted by law enforcement authorities to a potential security issue within its credit card processing services.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
March 20, 2014 |
Tom Heaton was sitting in his kitchen in Pasadena on Monday morning when an alert went off on his laptop warning him that an earthquake had struck about 40 miles away in Encino. Seconds later, he felt the shaking. "It was fantastic," said Heaton, director of Caltech's Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory. "It was bam bam, then it shook. It was probably about three seconds" between the alert and the shaking. Within a few years, all Californians should have access to those kinds of warnings, a crucial few seconds that could give emergency officials and residents time to brace for a major temblor.
March 19, 2014 |
In 1958, Ed Michelson started a motion picture catering company - Michelson Food Services - and made food for the cast and crew on such classic films as "West Side Story" and "Some Like it Hot. " Michelson was one of the first to operate a food service truck on film sets, and for decades business boomed, back when virtually all the big studio movies were filmed in Los Angeles. Today, son Steve Michelson said that's no longer the case. When his father died, Michelson decided to start his own catering company, Sylmar-based Limelight Catering, which employs about 50 people and has been in business for 14 years.
March 18, 2014 |
Chinese automaker Build Your Dreams is close to losing a $12-million contract to deliver a fleet of electric buses to Long Beach Transit, a deal the company hoped would jump-start its U.S. operations. Federal transit officials said that BYD violated some regulations that made it ineligible to bid in the first place. Both sides are in talks to determine how to best exit the contract ahead of what is expected to be a new round of bidding. It would mark a big setback for the Chinese company, which outbid four rivals last spring to build 10 electrically powered buses for Long Beach.