The Breakdown | Explaining Southern California's economy

Congestion and delays continue at ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach

Cargo containers stacked at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex
Photo by Izabela Reimers via Flickr Creative Commons

The congestion that has plagued the country's busiest port complex for the last few months as the docks grapple with bigger cargo ships, equipment shortages and labor problems is making it tough for the harbors' traffic cops.

On Wednesday morning, 11 cargo ships were waiting "at anchor" for their turn to dock at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, which monitors ship traffic at the two ports.  When port operations are running normally, no more than one container vessel must wait to dock.  (But in recent weeks, 11 has become a more "normal" number. )

"You're talking about anchoring ships that are between 500 and 1200 feet long, massive ships that weigh hundreds of thousands of tons," says Captain Kip Louttit, the Executive Director of the Marine Exchange. "It's not just like moving checkers around on a board," 


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Beutner says LA Times needs to ‘move fast’ to survive the digital age

“The Times is an organization that’s had a rough decade or two,” Los Angeles Times publisher Austin Beutner said Wednesday.
Ben Bergman/KPCC

Austin Beutner, who was named the 14th publisher of the Los Angeles Times in August, told a lunchtime gathering of business and civic leaders at Town Hall Los Angeles on Wednesday he's determined to rapidly transform the paper for the digital age and increase the newspaper's role in the city's civic life.

“We have to be very different in digital than we were in print,” Beutner said. "We will work through every section we have.” 

Beutner was a unique choice to lead the Times, because he was seen as someone more likely to own the paper than to manage it. He's never worked in the newspaper industry, going back and forth between jobs in government and business and even briefly running for mayor in the last election.

Last year, Beutner tried buy the Times, as part of a group that included the billionaire Eli Broad, and Wednesday Beutner said that failed bid led to his appointment as publisher.


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Sony hack: FBI issues new warning about data-destroying malware

The seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is seen at the J. Edgar Hoover building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013.
Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

One week after a computer attack crippled and embarrassed Culver City-based Sony Pictures Entertainment, the FBI on Tuesday issued an alert to businesses warning them to be prepared for an attack of a new kind of malware, or malicious software, that could destroy their data.

"This malware has the capability to overwrite a victim host’s master boot record (MBR) and all data files," says the FBI alert, which was obtained by KPCC. "The overwriting of the data files will make it extremely difficult and costly, if not impossible, to recover the data using standard forensic methods."

The five-page alert never mentions Sony specifically, but comes in the wake of the hack on the movie studio that was followed by the leak of five films to file-sharing websites.

Most of the FBI document lists lines of malicious code for which IT specialists should be on the lookout.


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Why do shoppers camp out for Black Friday?

Kelly Williams will be camped out in front of Best Buy in West L.A. until the store opens on Thanksgiving night. "I’m a very frugal shopper, and I love knowing I got the absolute best price,” she said.
Ben Bergman/KPCC

Kelly Williams doesn't want to miss an unbelievable bargain: $199 for a 50-inch television on sale at Best Buy starting Thanksgiving.

So she started camping out in front of Best Buy in West Los Angeles on Tuesday. There were already four people ahead of her.

"We did this last year, too," Williams said. She nabbing a great deal for a TV late year, too. That one went into her son's room. This year's big screen is going into her bedroom.

"I’m a very frugal shopper," she said, "and I love knowing I got the absolute best price."

Like shoppers who walk by her on their way into the store, Williams' husband is skeptical of why she should spend three days camped out for a television.

"It's not quite as insane as it looks," said Kit Yarrow, who's studied consumer psychology for two decades and is author of the new book "Decoding the New Consumer Mind."


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Short-haul truckers end strike at ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach

Truck drivers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have called off a strike against two remaining drayage companies.
Photo by Lance Cunningham via Flickr Creative Commons

Organizers of a strike by truckers against companies that haul cargo at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach say the strike is over. 

On Friday, Pacer Cartage and Harbor Rail Transport, the last two companies targeted in the strike, agreed to continued discussions with the Teamsters Union, which wants to represent the truck drivers. Both companies, owned by XPO Logistics, issued statements that they won't retaliate against drivers who went on strike. 

The truck drivers have long complained that drayage companies misclassify them as independent contractors, rather than actual employees, and that misclassification causes them to lose wages and certain workplace protections and benefits. Their campaign, organized and supported by the Teamsters, has gathered momentum this year. They've seen favorable rulings in federal court, and from the California Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement.  


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