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March 25, 2014 | By Jessica Guynn
SAN FRANCISCO - A tiny Irvine company founded by a 21-year-old Cal State Long Beach drop-out may play a leading role in Facebook's next major bet on the future of the Internet: that virtual reality will change the way people experience the Web. Facebook said Tuesday that it was buying Oculus VR, maker of virtual reality headsets for video game players, for $2 billion. The ultimate goal of the acquisition, the giant social network said, is to create an immersive 3-D experience in which users don't just chat online with friends but grab a cup of coffee with them in a virtual cafe or travel with them to distant places, just by putting on a pair of goggles with dark lenses.
March 22, 2014 | By Howard Blume
Erin Takeuchi's first-grade classroom at San Pascual Avenue Elementary is well outfitted. Every student work station has a box with glue, pencils, crayons and safety scissors. The walls are a riot of student work, academic content and inspirational messages. But one item is curiously absent - the iPads that Los Angeles school officials have wanted to distribute to every student. This made Takeuchi's activity on Friday especially noteworthy. She was teaching students how to use iPads safely.
March 20, 2014 | By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
From Harry Potter to Bella Swan to Katniss Everdeen, the hottest phenomenon in publishing these days is young adult fiction about risk takers who dare to go their own way. So it's more than a little ironic, if predictable, that films made from these books are completely risk aversive. Why rock the boat and jeopardize a potentially huge franchise if you don't really have to? "Divergent" is the latest, most snug-fitting version of that trend. As directed by Neil Burger ("The Illusionist," "Limitless")
March 16, 2014 | By Sergei L. Loiko
PEREVALNE, Ukraine - Crimean voters went to the polls Sunday to decide whether to end their decades-long ties to Ukraine in a referendum rejected as illegal by the nation's leaders in Kiev and most Western powers. Balloting was being carried out under the watchful eyes of Russian forces and pro-Russia militia who largely seized control of the peninsula late last month. “The referendum will pass the way the Crimean people choose and it will be inexorable and categorical,” Sergei Aksenov, the region's new pro-Russia premier, wrote Sunday in his Twitter account before the polls opened.
March 16, 2014 | By Neela Banerjee
DE KALB, Miss. - Looming like a spaceship over pine and sweet-gum forest, the high-tech power plant under construction in rural Kemper County is a $5-billion wager on an energy future that includes coal. The Kemper plant is scheduled to open this year as the first in the United States to ramp up technology to remove carbon dioxide emissions on a large scale. If it works as planned, up to 65% of the plant's potential carbon dioxide emissions would be removed. But if its progress is any indication, building a coal plant that can sharply reduce greenhouse gas pollution is a white-knuckle ride.
March 15, 2014 | By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
I fear for the future of James Franco's acting career. And when I say acting, I'm referring to Franco's portrayal of other characters, not the growing number of meta performances the actor is amassing. It's not that Franco is bad at playing Franco. If anything, the problem is how good his self-referential work has become in the years since his 2011 Oscar nomination for playing someone else in "127 Hours. " That performance as a stranded solo hiker, the fear rising, the bravado breaking down, put him on the hot list of the young and the talented.
March 14, 2014 | By August Brown
“If I forgot anybody, sorry, I just smoked before I came out here,” Lil Wayne said to guffaws from the overflowing room at the Austin Convention Center during the 2014 South by Southwest festival. “Shoutout to Willie Nelson.” Game recognizes game.  Wayne was tasked with rattling off all the artists currently on his label Young Money, and it sounded like he got them all. The list was an implicit torch-passing: Wayne has announced that his next album “Tha Carter 5” might be his last.
March 14, 2014 | By Martha Groves
Seventy feet below Wilshire Boulevard, cater-corner from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's street-lamp installation, fresh air roaring from giant ventilation pipes dulled the sickly sweet smell of petroleum. Amid the clatter of jackhammers and the whine of a mini-excavator, paleontologist Kim Scott scouted the tarry muck for relics from a long-buried beach. She had plenty of choices. Major construction on the highly anticipated Westside subway extension won't begin until next year, but an exploratory shaft dug at the corner of Ogden Drive to assess soil conditions for future stations and tunnels has burped up a bonanza of prehistoric swag.
March 13, 2014 | By Jack Shakely
You've probably never heard of donor-advised funds, but they are taking over the philanthropic world. It all started as a matter of economics. A million dollars to most of us is a lot of money. But as start-up cash for a philanthropic foundation it's chump change. A million-dollar foundation can easily cost more to run than it gives away. So an alternative was created by the IRS to give modest philanthropic efforts a cheaper, easier path to existence, bundling them together under an umbrella nonprofit for investment and management.
March 12, 2014 | By Henry Chu
KIEV, Ukraine - For all its moral outrage and vows never to be partitioned, this country has become almost a bystander to the struggle over its future. With Russian forces looming over a disputed vote on secession in Crimea, it's increasingly clear that what happens to Ukraine will be decided not here in its capital, Kiev, but in Moscow, Washington and Brussels, the real power brokers in Europe's worst geopolitical crisis this century. By itself, Ukraine lacks the political, economic and military clout to take on its giant neighbor to the east.
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