You May Not Use WhatsApp, But the Rest of the World Sure Does – BY ROBERT MCMILLAN 02.20.148:17 PM

Image: Lore SjöbergImage: Lore Sjöberg

If you did a double-take yesterday when Facebook announced that it was spending an astounding $19 billion to buy mobile messaging software company WhatsApp, you’re forgiven. After all, the software isn’t widely used in the United States, and WhatsApp is a 32-engineer company that’s kept a decidedly low profile.

In India, however, it’s the bomb. Mobile rewards company Jana says it’s the most popular mobile messaging App in India, and in Brazil and Mexico too — smartphone markets that are just coming online thanks to cheap Android phones. More than 1 billion smartphones shipped last year. In India, 26 million of them — 58 percent of the market — cost less than $150, according to research firm IDC.

For many folks in these emerging markets, these devices aren’t simply a first smartphone. They’re a first computer. And so when they pick WhatsApp, they’re starting from a clean slate. Here in the U.S., the age of the PC still colors our mobile messaging choices. We’ve already built our social networks on Facebook, Twitter, or Skype.

In India, there’s less legacy clutter, and people are picking the best software — the ad-free, easy to use, well-designed WhatsApp. It’s a no brainer really. Launch Facebook’s mobile app, and the first thing you’ll see will be a flurry of wall posts from people you barely know and a big juicy ad. It’s annoying, and it’s something you don’t find on WhatsApp.

That’s why WhatsApp is becoming a new kind of social network in these countries — one that connects people more immediately and intimately than Facebook; and that’s why it connects with young users too, who don’t suffer from this kind of PC hangover. That’s why Facebook needed to buy the company at such an astounding price.

Cheaper Than Texts — And No Ads

But there’s another big factor that has made WhatsApp popular not only in countries such as India, but in European markets, where people have already built up social networks on PCs. It’s a cheaper replacement for SMS. It looks and feels much like conventional text messages, but doesn’t come with the big fees.

In Spain, where WhatsApp had a commanding 96 percent marketshare last year, a text message costs €0.15. WhatsApp, in contrast, is free and has many features that SMS does not. It tells users when messages have been delivered and when they’ve been read. There’s an option where you can tell people when you last popped online. “It’s a great platform that works almost all the time,” says Eric Freeman, a marketing consultant based in Madrid who’s been using the software for the past two years.

“In markets like India and Spain, WhatsApp is a significant cost savings for users relative to SMS, which is a key driver for its growth,” says Rajeev Chand, head of research at Rutberg & Co., a technology investment bank. “It is the smartphone and messaging equivalent to Skype for international calls.”

That WhatsApp has been able to do this with a small staff, and virtually no marketing budget is a testament to how lightweight and fast-spreading new social networks can be on mobile phones. WhatsApp is free for the first year. After that, it costs $1 per year. Nine months ago, the company had 200 million users. Now it’s at 450 million users, and is adding another 1 million per day.

It’s doing this by putting users first instead of squeezing them to please advertisers. And that’s a good idea, no matter what country you live in.

OPINION: A bailout for jobless millennials? – by Michelle Chen January 27, 2014

For unemployed and depressed youths, job training programs and mental-health services are more important than ever.


A recent U.K. study of millennials suggests that the unemployment epidemic is driving a mental-health crisis.
Getty Images

In the shadow of the Great Recession lies a deep depression: Youths in their 20s and early 30s are hitting new lows. Compared with older workers who have lost their jobs, young people face more complex and layered hardships that could last most of their lives. They are experiencing disproportionately high unemployment, stretching indefinitely into the future, in an increasingly unequal and uncertain social landscape. And just when they are most in need of social support, the recession has led lawmakers to erode the welfare and employment programs that youths need to move themselves — and the economy they have inherited — toward recovery.

For young people in the United States and Europe, there is an emotional layer to this economic malaise. According to a recent U.K. survey of 2,161 people ages 16 to 25 by nonprofit advocacy group the Prince’s Trust, the unemployment epidemic is driving a mental-health crisis. While overall happiness levels for the surveyed youths stayed about level over the past year, reported emotional health fell significantly for the segment that is out of the workforce and not in school or job training. These young people experienced feelings of despondency and hopelessness at a higher rate than their peers. Chronically unemployed youths were more likely to have experienced panic attacks, engaged in self-harming behavior or felt suicidal. Mental-health problems struck 4 in 10 jobless young people “as a direct result of unemployment,” according to the Prince’s Trust.

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Sex and the Single Tween – By Abigail Jones / January 22, 2014 2:07 PM EST

You Go, Sexy Mama!” Today, 91 percent of 12- to 13-year-old girls have Internet access and 72 percent have mobile access. Photography by Elinor Carucci/Institute for Newsweek


Four best friends pile onto a couch in an attic playroom in a leafy suburb of Boston. It is the fall of 2009, just a few hours after school has let out for Thanksgiving break. The girls wear Uggs and Juicy Couture sweatshirts and are discussing boys, Lady Gaga and blow jobs. Every few minutes, someone screams, “Ewwwwww!”

“Wait, you guys – what’s going on at school? Who’s dating who?” asks Madison, then 11, who had recently left the local middle school for a private school. She has long blond hair, arched eyebrows and a gigantic smile.

“I’m not dating anyone right now,” says Sarah, 11, who lives across the street and says she wants to be an interior designer. She has an innocent face and wears a pink fleece jacket and dangly star earrings.

“Me neither!” barks Brianna, 12, the athlete of the group.

The only girl who doesn’t answer is Cat, a bubbly, plump 11-year-old who has a boyfriend but won’t admit it, so Brianna shouts, “Cat dates Andy!”

“Ewwwwwww!” the girls squeal.

After practicing their supermodel walks and screeching comments like “Rearrrrr!” and “You go, sexy mama!” they discuss what sexy means.

“When you’re sexy, it means you show off your body,” says Madison, who wants to be either an archaeologist or a Victoria’s Secret model. “Boys look for boobs.”

“No they don’t,” Brianna says. “Boys look for hot.”

The girls don’t think any of this is good news, but they also accept it as fact.

“I think that, um, our generation of kids is more advanced than like, any other,” says Brianna.

“I think it’s influenced from the media,” says Cat.

“Did you hear what Adam Lambert did?” Brianna says, referring to the singer’s controversial performance at the recent American Music Awards. “He kissed a guy. He made out with a guy on national TV. He did a little” she pauses, lowering her voice “oral sex there.”

“Wait – what is oral?” asks Madison.

The girls erupt in laughter, then unanimously agree that Miley Cyrus is a bad influence (and this was years before her twerking episode). “In Party in the USA, she’s like, humping a pole,” Madison says.

“And she has a tank top on,” Brianna shouts. “And that’s it! And her black bra is showing. Her shorts are up to here,” pointing high up on her own thigh.

No matter what the topic, their conversation always seemed to come back to sex. And a lot of their questions were directed at me.

“Do men measure their penises?”

“Do the girls care how big they are?”

“Are you getting married?”

“Are you a virgin?”

“Do you want kids?”

“Of course you’re a virgin, right?” says Madison, looking at me. “We’re all virgins!”

“But you’re not,” Brianna says, to me, in a hushed voice.

Cat’s mom walks in with Madison’s younger sister, Emma.

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I Took The One ‘Hour Of Code’ Challenge – By Jane Frye December 2013

President Obama wants you to learn to code. Well, okay. How hard can that be? We take the ‘Hour of Code’ challenge to find out.

It only takes one hour.

Photo by Getty

Jane Frye

That’s the premise of “Hour of Code,” a weeklong campaign launched this weekwith the goal of getting kids across the country to try their hands at computer coding.

It’s a push that has been embraced by President Barack Obama. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have offered their advice. And companies including Apple and Microsoft are opening their doors to get more of us average joes dabbling in the language of the web.

“No one’s born a computer scientist,” President Obama says in one online video released with the campaign. “But with a little hard work — and some math and science — just about anyone can become one.”

But coding, a difficult process which involves learning a new language—one built for computers—ain’t easy. Can one hour of code really start someone who’s never written a line of HTML down the path towards creating the next Facebook?

To find out, we asked staffers at The Daily Beast who would like to volunteer and take the challenge. We were searching for someone who hasn’t tried to code before; someone who wasn’t a native of the tech scene, and who didn’t have a tech startup brewing on the side.

We found our volunteer in the very brave Jane Frye.

What follows is a diary of her hour of coding—and insight into whether this nationwide push might pay off for America’s ever-expanding technology industry in its hunt for more coders in talent pool. – Brian Ries

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These are the people who work for minimum wage. They’re not who you think.

These are the people who work for minimum wage. They’re not who you think.

Planet Money’s Quoctrong Bui has put together an excellent series of charts detailing who, exactly, gets paid minimum wage. The typical minimum-wage worker, he finds, is a woman works in leisure and hospitality and is in her late teens or early 20s.

The list of video games that Lanza liked to play reads like an orgy of snuff porn. Left for Dead. Dead Rising. Half Life. Battlefield. Call of Duty. Dynasty Warriors. Team Fortress. Most hair-raising: a computer game called “School Shooting,” in which “the player controls a character who enters a school and shoots at students,” according to the report. These games likely did not create Lanza’s taste for murder, but very possibly they abetted it. The games “are like porn to a rapist,” a law-enforcement officer told Mike Lupica of the Daily News in May. – By Lisa Miller

The Uncomfortable New Lessons of the Sandy Hook Elementary Massacre

Should his parents have seen a potential killer?

Opinion in the absence of information is a specialty of our times. So when Adam Lanza committed that most inexplicable of crimes, opening fire in Sandy Hook Elementary school last year murdering twenty children and six adults (and, ultimately, killing himself), the explainers instantly began to tell us why. The 20-year-old Lanza, who had easy access to an arsenal in his own house, was mentally ill, a loner, a video-game freak. He was, moreover, a child of divorce, traumatized by his parents’ split. He was homeschooled. His mother, a gun nut and survivalist, enabled his madness, promoting shooting as family fun. I read these theories and dismissed them out of hand: These were stock complaints from both sides of the culture war using this horrific event to bolster their side.

This urge to reason away, I have long believed, results from a human impulse to disassociate from evil, to make it “their” problem, not “ours,” and thus protect ourselves and our children from the knowledge that sudden, random harm can occur at any time.  We are the “good” parents, not the bad ones. We play “approved” video games, not unapproved ones. We would never.

But the terrible truth is that we don’t know why Lanza killed those kids. (Though the how is a different story: Lanza’s spree — he slaughtered 26 people in fewer than eleven minutes — would have been impossible had he not had a wide selection of semi-automatic weapons within his reach.) People do horrible things and they always will, and pointing fingers at the coarsening of culture and that poor, murdered mother — he shot her in her bed before he drove to the school — only deflects us from our grief and horror. Bad, deluded, or neglectful parents are a dime a dozen, but their kids rarely grow up with an ambition to shoot schoolchildren. Half of Americans are divorced, yet most of their offspring live healthy, productive lives.  Contrary to the LondonTelegraph’s reporting early on, autism (and its cousin, Asperger’s) is not a predictor for violence or criminal behavior, as the Columbia Journalism Review pointed out, and though violent video games may not be your thing, millions of young men play them – 80 percent of high-school boys, according to the New York Times — mostly without serious side effects. “It is not at all clear whether, over longer periods, such a habit increases the likelihood that a person will commit a violent crime, like murder, rape, or assault, much less a Newtown-like massacre,” the Times concluded.

And then I read the State’s Attorney’s report, released this week, and found myself at odds with myself. So many of the details therein point, if obscurely, to the causes the opinion-makers first proposed. Nancy Lanza may have been a doting mother, buying him a car and a new computer, and leaving him his favorite foods while she left town for several days; and she was attentive enough to tell friends that she was worried about her son. But somehow she did not see the extent to which her child was eluding her grasp, how the quirky boy became a dangerous young man who could not tolerate strangers in the house, who would communicate with his mother only by e-mail, who taped garbage bags to the windows of his bedroom, and would not allow her to enter. “She was not allowed in the shooter’s room, however, even to clean,” the report says. “No one was allowed in his room.” Nancy Lanza was so blind to her son’s violent yearnings that she wrote him a check — discovered when the police searched her house — to buy a new pistol for Christmas, a CZ 83. This raises the fear that lurks in the heart of so many parents: Is it possible to raise a monster and never have a clue? Or, having a clue, are the parents complicit in his sickness? Were Nancy Lanza and her ex-husband Peter, who lived less than 50 miles away, enablers?

The list of video games that Lanza liked to play reads like an orgy of snuff porn. Left for Dead. Dead Rising. Half Life. Battlefield. Call of Duty. Dynasty Warriors. Team Fortress. Most hair-raising: a computer game called “School Shooting,” in which “the player controls a character who enters a school and shoots at students,” according to the report. These games likely did not create Lanza’s taste for murder, but very possibly they abetted it. The games “are like porn to a rapist,” a law-enforcement officer told Mike Lupica of the Daily Newsin May. “They feed on it until they go out and say, enough of the video screen. Now I’m actually going to be a hunter.” As a journalist and a citizen I will defend most freedom of expression, even if that expression is violent. As a parent, the list gives me chills.

Get big or die trying Finding a better way to deliver pensions – The Economist Nov 23rd 2013 |From the print edition

PENSION funds have had a pretty good 2013: rising share prices and higher bond yields have reduced their funding deficits. Nevertheless, the combined strains of volatile markets and improved longevity are causing the industry to have a rethink, as a World Bank conference in Cape Town revealed this week.

Some funds in the Dutch system, long regarded as among the best in the world, have been forced to cut benefits to pensioners because of funding shortfalls. In Canada, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, often praised for its sophistication, has had to reduce inflation protection for workers who retired after 2009—a cut in pensioners’ real incomes.

These reductions reflect how seriously the Dutch and Canadian systems regard the issue of pension funding and the problem of inter-generational transfer. A pension scheme that is not fully funded implicitly depends on future workers and taxpayers to make up the shortfall.

Other systems have dealt with higher pension costs in different ways. Companies in America and Britain have shifted new employees away from defined-benefit schemes (in which retirement income is linked to final salaries) to defined-contribution ones (in which all the risk falls on the employee).

The American public sector has disguised the pension problem by optimistically assuming that nominal returns of 7.5-8% can be achieved in a world of low inflation and low interest rates. European public sectors have pay-as-you-go pension systems where the full costs are not made clear in the national accounts.

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