Note to union: Be careful what you promise. Thursday's LAX-area demonstration to protest the treatment of immigrant workers employed at airport-area hotels drew fewer people than had been predicted by union officials. LAT put the crowd estimate at 2,000; the Daily News had 1,500 and the Breeze 3,000. As part of the protest, about 300 people were arrested, which is technically more arrests than any labor action in 60 years. But the event had been staged well in advance. The Daily News called it a "publicity stunt." And, of course, traffic in the area was a nightmare.
More battery trouble: This time, it's Toshiba that's recalling 830,000 batteries for its laptop computers. Along with Dell expanding its recall to 100,000, there are now about 7 million Sony batteries being recalled.
What would Popeye think?: Arugula is subbing these days as an alternative to spinach, still out of commission because of the E. coli outbreak. Whole Foods reports that sales are up more than 20 percent, and acccording to the WSJ, supplies are getting tight.
Arugula isn't inherently more resistant to E. coli contamination, but it wasn't implicated in the outbreak. For some growers, its rising fortunes are helping to ease the burden of the spinach problem. Arugula normally makes up 5% of the business of grower Misionero Vegetables Inc., Salinas, Calif., while spinach accounts for 20%. "We cannot produce enough" arugula to meet demand, says Greg Gattis, the company's vice president. He says he is selling 25% more arugula than he did before the scare. Misionero charges about 15% more for arugula than for spinach but says the new demand hasn't had an appreciable effect on the price.
Mortgage fraud: You mean to say that borrowers have overstated their incomes, exaggerated their assets or tried to hide their debts - all in order to get a mortgage approved? What a surprise! Reports of suspicious activity in 2006 are likely to nearly double last year's total, according to the LAT, which is often what happens in the tail end of a housing boom. When the market was hot, homeowners not able to meet payments could always sell the house (usually at a profit). Not anymore.
Selling Arnold's house: The couple that bought the Schwarzenegger's Pacific Palisades home two years ago for $7.95 million have put it on the market for $26.9 million, according to the WSJ. It's not as outrageous as it sounds - the owners, attorney Susan Loggans and pro golfer Denis Watson, added eight rooms and 3,000 square feet of outdoor marble terraces. Six months after buying the house, Logans and Watson sued the Schwarzeneggers, claiming they failed to disclose flaws in the home. Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver still have their place in Brentwood.
The H-P Way: Lots of coverage, of course, but one of the better moments in Thursday's congressional hearing was Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., noting that the snoop-ridden computer company had won an award as "The Most Trusted Company in America for Privacy." Last July, the House subcommittee on consumer protection invited the company to testify on its efforts to improve consumer privacy. "Little did we know that when we were trying to learn about its 'best practices,' HP had just been engaging in the worst practices out there," Schakowsky said.
Broken record: Gas prices keep falling. The Auto Club's latest survey has the average price of self-serve regular in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area at $2.754, which is 10.7 cents lower than last week, 40 cents lower than last month and 17 cents lower than last year. With oil prices stabilizing at around $60, wholesale gas prices are no longer plummeting, which means we might be reaching the floor.
War on piracy: Warner Bros.'s home video unit has come up with a new strategy for selling DVDs in China: put them out earlier, at lower prices and in more stores. That takes away all the benefits of buying pirated versions. The first test case is "Superman Returns," which is being sold well below the prices previously charged for Warner titles. Hollywood studios have lost hundreds of millions of dollars due to piracy in China alone.
Daily News mystery: I'm still not sure why the DN Web site continues to have an outdated link to last week's AP story about Tribune Co.'s board meeting. A deliberate poke at the competition? By the way, still not a peep from the Business Journal about any aspect of the Times/Tribune story - pretty strange considering that every other publication under the sun has reported about the goings on. Also strange given that publisher Matt Toledo (my old boss) was quoted in Thursday's NYT piece about LAT Publisher Jeff Johnson. Toledo was one of the Gang of 20 signatories calling on Tribune to devote more resources to the Times, which supposedly is a BJ competitor.
Ford loses dealership: It's the Ojai Valley's only new-car dealer. Owner Mark Johnston said he didn't have a choice. "You're going to see a lot of Ford dealers going out of business in my opinion," he told the Ventura County Star. Actually, Ford itself has announced plans to reduce the number of its Socal dealerships - there are just too many dealers and not enough cars sold. Johnston said he hopes to have a replacement in about 90 days, possibly an import.
Tower update: There will be 16 bidders participating in next week's auction for the music retailer, but only a few have expressed an interest in keeping the chain open. Many of the others apparently only want parts of the company (inventory, store leases and the Web site have been mentioned). The one prime piece of real estate is the famous Sunset Bouelvard store, which alone is worth quite a few dollars. The house money would still seem to favor mega-retail chain Trans World Entertainment Corp.