On a recent Monday evening, a computer literacy class at the Benjamin Franklin branch of the Los Angeles public library was packed with a dozen adults, some of whom were getting online for the first time in their lives.
"In [this] community, there usually isn't computer access or internet access at home," said librarian Mari Jack. She, along with computer aide Martha Flores, who translates the lesson into Spanish, are focusing today on how to download free music and movies using library resources.
At times, the students struggle. Alfonso Rodriguez, 62, can't remember the last four digits of his old phone number. They serve as the PIN to his library account and without them, he can't log in. Flores advises him to check at the main desk and he darts out to avoid missing too much of the lesson.
Rodriguez, who works for the Los Angeles Unified School District, says he has recently begun using a computer in his workplace for the first time in his life. He's a food service worker and he has to keep records of the number of children who buy lunch at school. He discovered the internet a few years ago. He says he's enthralled by the way it allows him to research any topic that catches his interest.
"I just go to Google, and pick a topic and put it in, and I'm off," Rodriguez said. He has his own laptop, but can't afford to pay for internet access at home, so he comes to the library or goes to McDonald's to use the wifi.
Many in the class recognize that computer literacy is necessary for anyone hoping to get -- or keep -- a job.
Joanne Mestaz, who has been unemployed for several years and cannot afford to buy a home computer, started coming to the library so her son could do his homework. She quickly realized that free computer classes could benefit her. Mestaz graduated from college in 1993, when knowing how to use a word processor was enough and computer literacy was considered extra.
"I do wish I would have tried to learn," Mestaz said. "I do feel behind. I know that [computer literacy] is a factor in the job market."
Data from the Pew Research Center's report, Home Broadband 2013, would suggest that low-income, predominantly-Hispanic Boyle Heights, is exactly the kind of neighborhood where computer illiteracy might be prevalent.
"Adults that don't have broadband at home tend to be older or have lower levels of education," said Pew researcher Kathryn Zickuhr. "[They have] lower levels of household income."
The librarians at Benjamin Franklin say that on an average day, the library is packed with people using the computers to look for work -- or learning to use the computers for the same purpose.
"Knowing how to type on a keyboard and use a mouse is now becoming a survival skill," said Senior Librarian Alicia Moguel. She remembers one man who was trying to find a job as a cook. He learned, in a computer class, how to write a resume, but then forgot how to open the file.
"I was able to open his resume and he's like 'Oh, thank God. I have to go to an interview,'" Moguel said. "And sure enough, he found a job in Long Beach and we rarely see him anymore. But that's a good thing because he needed to work. He needed to get a job."
A recent report out on student loans says that we owe more money than ever before. Five years ago, 47 percent of students received federal financial aid -- now that number is up to 57 percent. If you include private loans and grants, that number jumps to 71 percent.
We owe Uncle Sam $1.2 trillion right now. But $214 billion of that is in deferment or forbearance and $89 billion is in full-on default, which means that about one-third of loans out there right now are not being paid.
Will all that cash involved, many might think that the feds are earning money. That's hard to figure out. In 2013, the U.S. government is probably spending about $7 billion more on student loans than it is taking in.
But since the loans can sometimes take 30 years to pay off, it isn't that helpful to just look at one year when trying to determine how much money the government actually makes. Another issue with figuring out the exact figure? People estimate revenue in different ways. Read more here.
If you live in Colorado and flip on your TV next month, you may catch an ad from R.J. Reynolds. That's where the tobacco company of Camel fame plans to air its first commercial since 1971.
That was the year the Nasdaq debuted, Nixon installed a secret taping system in the White House and the U.S. government banned cigarette ads.
Now, they’re back, but not for tobacco products. R.J. Reynolds is returning to the broadcast market to promote its electronic cigarette Vuse.
A number of smaller e-cig players have already been airing ads. Blu eCigs features Jenny McCarthy in its commercials.
“You know,” says, McCarthy, in a new ad bound for TV, but already available on YouTube, “I love being single. But here’s what I don’t love, a kiss that tastes like an ashtray -- blechhh. I’m Jenny McCarthy and I’ve finally found a smarter alternative to cigarettes.”
Sales of e-cigs in the U.S. have topped $1 billion this year. It’s only a fraction of the overall cigarette market, but sales are growing fast. So far e-cigs have been dominated by smaller companies.
“I think coast to coast you’ll probably see blu eCig commercials, maybe a little bit of Njoy,” says Tom Mullarkey, an equity analyst with Morningstar.
Meanwhile, big tobacco has been cautious. E-cig ads target smokers, and Mullarkey says companies don’t want to undercut traditional cigarettes, which are much more profitable. The caution extends even to the content of the ads.
R.J. Reynolds’s commercial for Vuse is “modest” and “vague,” says Shane MacGuill, a tobacco analyst with Euromonitor International.
“If you watch it, it takes you the majority of the ad itself to work out what the product is,” he says.
Unlike McCarthy’s spot for Blu, which shows her puffing away, the Vuse ads features shooting stars, sunsets and skyscrapers, but no actual smoke or smokers.
Some cigarette sellers, notes MacGuill, are being careful not to attract regulators’ attention.
It was 50 years ago this week that the Moscow-Washington Hotline, known popularly as the “red phone,” was established. The red phone never existed but the technology that allowed the Kremlin and Washington communicate directly did, and it’s advent signaled a thawing in the Cold War.
But let’s back up. The catalyst for the hotline was the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. For 13 days, the world teetered on the brink of a nuclear war. And as mind-boggling as this sounds, during the crisis, there was no way for President John F. Kennedy to communicate directly with the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, said James Hershberg, a history professor at George Washington University. “In order to send a message, they literally sent it by Western Union,” Hershberg said.
And that took hours. President Kennedy would send his note to the Soviet Union’s embassy in Washington, DC, where they’d transcribe it. Then, they’d dispatch a bicycle messenger to take the note to Western Union. Khrushchev went through a similar process on his side. But as tensions mounted, it became clear that this outdated way of communicating could have catastrophic consequences. So, at the brink of war, Khrushchev ditched Western Union and went on the radio. “The message resolving the crises in which Khrushchev agreed to withdraw the missiles was broadcast over Radio Moscow,” said Hershberg.
Khrushchev was afraid that -- if he took the Western Union route -- Kennedy might miss his message and dispatch ships to Cuba, which could have set-off a nuclear war. And so the hotline was born, said Steve Weber, a professor at UC Berekeley.
“There was never a red phone,” Weber said. The super powers stuck to the written word and used teletypes. The thinking was that on the phone tempers could flare and words might get lost in translation. Weber says the hotline was a signal that that relations between the two superpowers was thawing. And perhaps more importantly, it gave people hope. “I think it symbolized a shared belief that neither one of these countries wanted a nuclear war,” he said. And that they were taking concrete steps to prevent it.
Many obstetricians make more money for C-sections than for vaginal deliveries. In a recent study, these doctors were more likely to perform the costly procedure than doctors paid a flat salary. But when the pregnant women were also physicians, doctors seemed less swayed by financial incentives.
Just about every culture has dumplings. For the Polish, it's pierogi, and as Morning Edition editor Renita Jablonski writes, this little dumpling plays a big role for many Polish-Americans in preserving and celebrating their heritage.
A decade ago, cranes that had never before migrated followed the lead of an ultralight plane to learn the route south. Several generations later, old cranes are teaching young birds to navigate that same route. It's a clue that migration is a combination of nature and nurture, researchers say.
On Friday, embattled Mayor Bob Filner officially steps down. Allegations of sexual harassment against Filner have rocked the eighth-largest American city. Now, San Diegans face a potentially contentious special election in November.
A father prepares to hand over the family business — a funeral home — to his daughter. The business has been in the family for more than a century and she'll be the fourth generation to run it.