Like Facebook doesn't have enough bad PR right now. Child development experts and advocates are urging the social media giant to pull the plug on its new messaging app aimed at kids under 13 years old. A group letter sent Tuesday to CEO Mark Zuckerberg argues that younger children aren't ready to have social media accounts, navigate the complexities of online relationships, or protect their own privacy. Facebook launched the free Messenger Kids app in December, pitching it as a way for children to chat with family members and parent-approved friends. It doesn't give kids separate Facebook or Messenger accounts. Rather, the app works as an extension of a parent's account, and parents get controls such as the ability to decide who their kids can chat with. Facebook claims it fills "a need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want." But a group of 100 experts, advocates, and parenting organizations is contesting those claims. Led by the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the group includes psychiatrists, pediatricians, educators, and the children's music singer Raffi Cavoukian. The letter states: "Messenger Kids is not responding to a need - it is creating one. It appeals primarily to children who otherwise would not have their own social media accounts." Another passage criticized Facebook for "targeting younger children with a new product." (Newser)
Waterbeds! Bringing Sexy Back!
Waterbeds were all the rage back in the 1970s. But then the 80s came and they kind of dried up. Now the original inventor plans a big comeback in the new millennium, and sees millennials as the key to that revival. 71-year-old Charlie Hall says, "I don't think a millennial has ever seen one." He's betting that a slew of improvements - temperature control, calmer waves, etc. - will once again make the beds a must-have for the younger generation when they hit the market later this year, initially at the City Furniture chain in Florida. King- and queen-sized mattresses will be available, and those looking to indulge can expect to pay about $2,000. Hall does indeed own the patent for the waterbed, and he's had other successful inventions over the years, including a solar-heated shower for campers. (Seattle Times)
A Texas chicken has received an honor few, if any, other birds get - a formal obituary. A paid death notice for Big Mama, a 6-year-old Rhode Island Red, appeared on Tuesday in The Eagle newspaper, which is based in Bryan, Texas. Big Mama's human family said, "Not many chickens deserve an obituary, but she does." The obit said Big Mama initially had been raised in an apartment in Houston. Her previous owners took her to be euthanized in 2013, but a compassionate veterinarian instead had them relinquish their rights to the chicken so she could find a new home. She was adopted by Stephanie and Gregory Sword and their two sons, who live in College Station and were "hooked instantly" after seeing a photo of the bird. The obit reads: Big Mama soon "discovered how beautiful life could be walking in the grass, being a member of a flock, and having 24-7 love." The chicken died in her sleep Sunday, at her favorite spot in the chicken coop. Stephanie said, "We're just hoping that the story of Big Mama will remind others that every life, even that of a chicken, is valuable and worth saving." Though many people write off chickens as just food animals, the birds are more intelligent and emotionally complex than some people give them credit for. Research over the past few years suggests that chickens can experience empathy, plan for the short-term future, and even perform very basic arithmetic, the BBC reported in January. Plus, sometimes they even purr like cats. (The Eagle)
When Celebrities Buy Twitter Followers
Film critic Richard Roeper's Chicago Sun-Times columns have been put on hold - because of his Twitter account. Sun-Times editor-in-chief Chris Fusco says in a statement: "We became aware over the weekend of issues." While the investigation is pending, they will not publish any reviews or columns by Rich. The problems started with a New York Times story on social media's "black market" that named dozens of celebrities, athletes, politicians, and other personalities who apparently paid a firm called Devumi to pump up their Twitter following with fake followers. Actor John Leguizamo, model Kathy Ireland, and ex-American Idol singer Clay Aiken are also among those on the list in this "shadowy global marketplace for social media fraud." The fake accounts often hijack the real profile photos, names, and other details of actual Twitter users, and they're used as "counterfeit coins" of sorts to build up the mirage of a bigger audience than one actually has. This can prove lucrative in terms of nabbing gigs, endorsements, and social media influence. Twitter prohibits buying or selling followers or retweets, but it says it has a tough time going after abusers. (Washington Post)
Another Perfect Florida Vacation. Oh Wait...
A Texas man's Florida vacation turned to nightmare after a sand dune collapsed on top of him. Lee Goggin, 35, of the Dallas area, was inside a "sand tunnel" at Crescent Beach near St. Augustine after 1 p.m. when officials said the whole thing collapsed on him. His sister called it a "freak accident." Goggin was buried under 2 to 3 feet of sand before the country's fire rescue team freed him and rushed him to Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine in critical condition. He reportedly was unconscious and in cardiac arrest when authorities arrived, but a GoFundMe page for Goggin reports that he "has a heartbeat but he is not breathing on his own." Sadly, the family had just started their vacation and stopped at Crescent Beach "to let the kids burn some energy." (FOX News)
Anybody Know a Good Plumber?
Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. A recent Norwegian Airlines flight was forced to do a U-turn in mid-flight because of broken toilets. Ironically, the flight was filled with 85 plumbers on board - apparently all from the same company - Rorkjop. The company's CEO, Frank Olsen, said with all their expertise, his staff was unable to intervene and correct the mid-flight problem because it could only be fixed via the exterior of the plane. Thankfully, ground engineers managed to quickly resolve the issue and the plane successfully completed the trip to Munich a few hours later. (Daily Mail)
What the What?
Talk about miracles. In the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a sleepwalking man tumbled six stories out of an open apartment window - and survived! Police say 35-year-old Randy Phothisane even got up after his fall early Sunday morning to be helped to safety through a window by firefighters. A brother said Phothisane, who works the day shift at an industrial site, had a history of sleepwalking when he was younger. At around 5 a.m. Sunday, Phothisane, who lives in Rochester, climbed out of his girlfriend's eighth-floor window on South Street near Clinton Street and fell onto scaffolding six stories below wearing nothing but boxers. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital with a broken leg and rib and injuries to his back and torso, but he is alive. (New York Post)