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Business and Technology News





 



California passes nation’s toughest methane emission regulations

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 04:36:18 UT

California air quality officials have approved what are widely considered to be the most rigorous and comprehensive regulations in the country for controlling methane emissions, a move that helps cement the state’s status as a standard-bearer for environmental protection. The new rules, green-lighted Thursday by the state’s Air Resources Board, seek to curb methane emissions at oil and gas production plants by up to 45 percent over the next nine years. The standards, which experts said mark the first major piece of environmental regulation passed by any state since the turnover of power in Washington, were hailed as a triumph by environmental activists, but criticized as cumbersome, costly and ultimately unnecessary by oil and gas producers. “Our industry is not the top emitter of methane in the state, yet this rule will add to the nation’s toughest regulations that our operators must follow, such as cap and trade,” Rock Zierman, the chief executive officer of industry trade group the California Independent Petroleum Association, said in a statement. The move by the state board coincided with efforts by members of Congress to undo federal rules finalized in the waning days of the Obama administration that seek to curtail methane emissions on federal and tribal lands. Timothy O’Connor, who directs the Environmental Defense Fund’s oil and gas program in California, said he expects more states to follow California’s lead when it comes to air quality regulation in anticipation of a lack of support from the federal government. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is the second-most-abundant greenhouse gas emitted in the atmosphere, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. [...] as the EPA reports, methane is substantially more efficient at trapping radiation compared with carbon dioxide, the most abundant greenhouse gas emitted. The gas can sputter out from transmission equipment and storage tanks throughout the production supply chain, in addition to controlled ventilation procedures that emit methane and other gases intentionally. The regulations approved Thursday require that oil and gas operators above a certain size implement vapor recovery systems that will allow for methane that would otherwise be lost to the atmosphere to be captured and reused. Michael Mills, an attorney at the law firm Stoel Rives in Sacramento who represents the oil and gas industry, said the costs associated with complying with the new regulations will be particularly painful for smaller petroleum companies.



Eatsa sued for not easing blind customers’ orders from kiosks

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 23:52:32 UT

A federal lawsuit seeking class-action status has been filed against San Francisco fast-food chain Eatsa. The complaint says “Eatsa has ignored the needs of thousands of potential blind customers.” Because the ordering systems “rely on exclusively visual displays and do not provide any form of audio output or tactile input, Eatsa’s design is entirely inaccessible to blind customers.” Though blind customers may request assistance from an attendant, the complaint says “this denies blind customers the ability to independently access Eatsa restaurants.”



AT&T workers end strike

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 23:51:19 UT

An estimated 17,000 employees had moved to strike early Wednesday to protest the way in which AT&T was assigning jobs to technical workers. The workers asserted that AT&T was directing lower-salaried employees to perform duties that are contractually reserved for their more experienced, higher-paid colleagues. The workers said that the work assignments threatened the job security of senior-level employees and forced lower-salaried workers to perform duties above their pay grade without compensation. An agreement hashed out late Wednesday between AT&T leadership and Communication Workers of America District 9 will end that practice, with the company agreeing to “no longer require technicians to perform work assignments outside their expertise and classification,” according to a statement sent by Denise Luu, a spokeswoman from the union.



ABC’s Twitter hacked; being creative for an internship

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 23:50:26 UT

People magazine reported that Washington State University student Jake Sirianni did just that, submitting a video of his own, personalized version of “Alphabet Aerobics” — the Blackalicious song that Daniel Radcliffe rapped for Fallon a couple of years ago. ABC News said three of its Twitter accounts were hacked Thursday morning and sent out profanity-filled tweets to millions of followers. Besides the company’s main account, two belonging to “Good Morning America” were also hit. Children who grow up in poverty are twice as likely as their peers to struggle financially later in life, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen said Thursday, pointing to early results of a Fed study that will be released this spring. Yellen said a growing body of research showed that greater success was being achieved by addressing workforce development in early childhood education, compared with spending on job training later in life.



Airbnb adopts new name, doubles investment in China

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 23:46:49 UT

The San Francisco vacation-rental giant is adopting the name Aibiying in China, one that translates as “welcome each other with love,” as it doubles investment in the country and triples its workforce to serve the world’s largest population of travelers. The startup intends to expand its Chinese business after more than doubling the listings in the country to about 80,000 in 2016, CEO Brian Chesky said. Airbnb, last valued at more than $30 billion, is accelerating its drive into Asia after recently turning profitable for the first time, according to people close to the company. Since its start in 2008, the company has raised more than $3 billion to pursue its goal of becoming a full-service travel company and expand its business around the world. A 2014 partnership with Alibaba Group made it easy for Chinese users to pay for Airbnb rentals with Alipay, the local equivalent of PayPal. Airbnb however has the advantage of being able to offer more extensive global accommodation to a growing wave of international vacationers. China remains crucial to fulfilling Airbnb’s goal of connecting people around the world, Chesky added.



Business News Roundup, March 24

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 23:44:55 UT

Republican lawmakers moved to dismantle landmark Internet privacy protections for individuals Thursday, the first decisive strike against telecommunications and technology regulations created during the Obama administration and a harbinger for more deregulation to come. In a 50-48 vote largely along party lines, the Senate Republican majority voted Thursday to overturn the privacy rules, which had been created in October by the Federal Communications Commission. The move means a company like Verizon or Comcast can continue tracking and sharing people’s browsing and app activity without asking their permission. Next week, the House is expected to mirror the Senate’s action through the same Congressional Review Act procedure that allows Congress to overturn new agency rules. The Senate’s action alarmed consumer advocates and Democratic lawmakers, who warned that broadband providers have the widest view into the online habits of Americans. “These were the strongest online privacy rules to date, and this vote is a huge step backwards in consumer protection writ large,” said Dallas Harris, a policy fellow for the consumer group Public Knowledge. The brisk and determined action of Congressional Republicans, just two months into Trump’s administration, foreshadowed a broader rollback of tech and telecom policies that have drawn the ire of conservative lawmakers and companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Charter. Republican lawmakers and the new chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, have said the privacy rules were onerous and unfairly strapped regulations on telecom carriers, but not on Web companies such as Facebook and Google that also provide access to online content. The FCC chairman under the Obama administration, Tom Wheeler, had declared that broadband would be regulated more heavily, by categorizing the service in the same regulatory bucket as telephone services, which are viewed as utilities. Healthy job growth and a recovering economy have pushed up interest in new homes, while the prospect of rising mortgage rates since the November presidential election may have pulled some sales forward. Investors bid rates up because they expect President Trump’s plans to cut taxes and increase spending on defense and infrastructure to push economic growth and inflation higher.



Alaska Airlines to drop Virgin America name in 2019

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 02:01:30 UT

Since the merger, Alaska has toyed with the idea of keeping the Virgin America brand, which has crafted a quirky, tech-friendly image that focuses on its in-air experience. [...] the company will incorporate some of the notable characteristics of Virgin America, which include enhanced in-flight entertainment, mood lighting and music. Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Atmosphere Research Group, said that while Virgin America has created a strong brand in San Francisco, Alaska Airlines has better name recognition around the country.



Business News Roundup, March 23

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 00:13:22 UT

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz presided over his last annual shareholder meeting as head of the company Wednesday by standing by its pledge to hire refugees and expanding on previously announced goals to hire veterans and at-risk youth. Schultz, who will remain executive chairman, defended the promise on refugees to a shareholder who criticized his willingness to have the company’s reputation “take a beating” over it. The pledge came after President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees from seven Muslim majority nations, and had prompted some calls for a boycott of Starbucks. Since he returned as chief executive in 2008, the company has expanded its footprint globally and seen sales growth at home. Over the past year, purchases have risen 5.4 percent, but sales growth has been restricted by a shortage of homes on the market. Jennifer Lee, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said the February drop “is just a blip in the overall trend.” With inventories squeezed, home values have been rising at levels that are putting greater financial pressure on would-be buyers. An Australian couple with roots in Alaska has bought radio stations in three states, marking the first time federal regulators have allowed full foreign ownership of U.S. radio stations. The Federal Communications Commission approved Richard and Sharon Burns’ request through their company Frontier Media to increase their interest in 29 radio stations in Alaska, Texas and Arkansas to 100 percent. The agency long took what some viewed as a hard line in limiting foreign ownership under a 1930s law linked to wartime propaganda fears. Turkish courts, police or government agencies made 3,076 such requests from July through December, up by around a quarter from the previous six-month period, according to the latest Twitter transparency report. Removal requests are typically made by governments over content considered illegal in their jurisdiction, by antidiscrimination organizations, or lawyers representing individuals, Twitter said. “Given the concerning global trend of various governments cracking down on press freedom, we want to shine a brighter light on these requests,” Twitter said. Turkish authorities have tightened their oversight of Twitter, as well as Facebook and YouTube, since antigovernment protesters in 2013 used social media to organize.



Tech workers fear diversity efforts could be undermined

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 00:11:36 UT

Tech workers fear diversity efforts could be undermined Since the 2016 presidential election, tech companies and their workers have been on high alert, anxiously looking out for ways the Trump administration’s policies and preferences might affect them. A January survey of more than 1,400 tech workers and middle managers in the Bay Area and across the U.S. found that the election has heightened awareness and anxiety around the issue. Tech workers feel a sense of urgency and want to push for more diverse workplaces, but worry their efforts may be thwarted or undermined in the current political climate, according to the survey conducted by Atlassian, the Australian team-collaboration software maker with an office in San Francisco. The 2016 presidential election was fraught with controversy over how various minority groups were perceived, treated and spoken about. Muslims, Latinos and others felt they were a target of then-Republican candidate Donald Trump’s rhetoric, while others derided what they described as Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s identity politics and political correctness. Academics have found that increased diversity in the workplace and the awareness that the United States could become majority-minority by midcentury may have helped stoke xenophobic attitudes among voters. Beginning next month, immigrants eligible for H-1B visas, which are given to highly skilled workers like those at tech companies, will no longer have the option of a 15-day expedited processing service, which may impact tech companies’ ability to bring in employees from other countries.



Thousands of AT&T workers strike over work assignments

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 00:01:16 UT

An estimated 17,000 AT&T employees in California and Nevada went on strike Wednesday to protest what they claim is the illegal way in which the company is handling work assignments for technicians. Employees at the company’s retail stores are not covered by the contract and did not participate in the strike. The workers — 98 percent of whom are in California — moved to strike over what they claim is AT&T’s practice of directing lower-salaried workers to perform jobs that their contract reserves for their more experienced, higher-paid colleagues. The workers claim that allocating work in such a way threatens the positions of employees with more seniority, and fails to compensate less experienced technicians for working above their pay grade. The union said its workers will remain on strike until they reach an accord with AT&T. The work assignment dispute that prompted the strike Wednesday could be resolved before a full contract is agreed upon. The union has also repeatedly called on AT&T to end its practice of sending call center and customer support jobs overseas as the contract negotiations have dragged on. “We want the company to come back to the table, to bargain in good faith and give them the fair share for their job title,” said Jacque Coniglio, an AT&T call center worker and union steward who helped lead the San Francisco picket line.



Movie money, butterbeer ice cream, Instagram appointments

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 23:59:13 UT

Movie money, butterbeer ice cream, Instagram appointments Movie receipts in North America hit a record $11.4 billion, although the increase of $300 million was due largely to rising ticket prices. Civil War — all Disney releases. A Pennsylvania ice cream maker is courting Harry Potter fans with a new flavor based on Hogwarts’ favorite drink, butterbeer. Yuengling’s Ice Cream, noting that J.K. Rowling described butterbeer as tasting “a little bit like less sickly butterscotch,” says the variety combines buttercream and butterscotch ice cream.



Stitch Fix online styling service reportedly considers IPO

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 23:58:17 UT

Stitch Fix, the online personal-styling service backed by Benchmark, is reportedly considering an initial public offering. The San Francisco company, which also counts Lightspeed Venture Partners among its backers, also turned down late-stage money from several interested investors, one of the people said. Stitch Fix hasn’t turned down late-stage funding from interested investors, a spokeswoman for the company said in an email, adding that the board will not be meeting next month to decide on an IPO. Cloudera, MapR Technologies and ForeScout Technologies have hired underwriters, people familiar with those deals said, while Appian and Ancestry.com are considering listings.



Baidu’s AI expert, Andrew Ng, resigns from Chinese search giant

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 23:57:34 UT

Just under three years later, Ng said in a blog post this week that he is leaving the Chinese search engine company. Ng and Barra were viewed as part of a nascent trend of Silicon Valley executives jumping to Chinese Internet companies. Few American tech executives followed them, and China’s Internet behemoths remain mostly focused on their home markets. Yet as more consumers picked up smartphones, the company has struggled to keep its hold on ad spending.



Sears says there is ‘substantial doubt’ it can survive

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 20:50:26 UT

The corporate owner of Sears and Kmart says there is “substantial doubt” that it can continue operating, as brick-and-mortar stores continue to face challenges in an e-commerce world. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission this week, the corporate owner, Sears Holdings Corp., cited its efforts to cut costs, sell property, tap new funding sources and make other moves to stanch the flow of red ink. “Our historical operating results indicate substantial doubt exists related to the company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” it said in the filing, its annual report. Kmart, which has its own lengthy history beginning as a five-and-dime store in Detroit, became a major national presence in the 1960s as a big-box department store, with Blue Light Special discounts geared toward thrifty middle-class Americans. The program is focused on streamlining its back-office corporate and support functions, changing its product offerings and supply chain, and looking for ways to reshuffle its real estate portfolio.



Ship traffic, March 23

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 20:36:26 UT

Ship traffic Due to arrive today SHIP FROM PORT Aries Leader Vancouver, Wash. RCH Eco Spitfire Philippines CRM Emerald Ace San Diego RCH Ever Ethnic Los Angeles OAK MSC Antalya Long Beach OAK Sheila Ann Longview, Wash. SFO Due to depart today SHIP TO PORT Cap Jervis Long Beach OAK Continental Highway Toyohashi, Japan BNC Cosco Glory Xingang, China SFO Emerald Ace Portland[...]