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Go Texan Day is an annual Houston tradition celebrating the start of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. Houstonians are encouraged to don their cowboy hats, belt buckles and boots in a nod to Texan history. No, we don’t usually dress like this!

Inaugural Smartphone App Could Be Helping Mine Data For Democrats

The Presidential Inagural Comitee released an App that could be mining data for Democrats

The Presidential Inagural Comitee released an App that could be mining data for Democrats

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The Presidential Inaugural Committee recently released a smartphone app to help people follow the day’s events in real time. It has maps of the parade route, volunteer opportunities and real-time updates. As NPR’s Brenda Salinas reports, it also has an invisible feature that could help Democrats mine data from users.

It’s the first app you see when you open the iTunes store: Inauguration 2013. The welcome page asks for your phone number. Below that, a link to terms and services. You can skip both and go straight to the features.

And it’s pretty good, according to Jason Brookman. He’s the director of consumer privacy for the nonprofit Center of Democracy and Technology. He likes the app’s features but not its terms of service. That link – the one most users probably ignore – takes you to a document on the committee’s website, and it’s the website that opens up a loophole for Brookman.

“So it says, We may collect email addresses and cell phone data and, you know, your location information, and we reserve the right to sell that to or give it to other candidates and to use it in, you know, ways that you might not necessarily expect when you’re just trying to install an application to, you know, to figure out where to go on Inauguration Day.”

The Presidential Inaugural Committee would not comment publicly, but it did defend its app in a statement, saying it had no way to collect emails, names or other personal information. It also defended the terms of service on its website, saying it’s appropriate for a president’s inaugural committee to support and reflect their party’s ideals and causes. And that’s a problem, says Brookman. The app links to services like Facebook, Twitter and its own website where the rules aren’t so clear.

App data-mining iscatching the attention of both parties. Dan Morgan is a GOP fundraising consultant. While he doesn’t like the idea of data-mining apps, he says we’ll be seeing more of them, from Democrats and Republicans.

“We’re a pack of dogs in this business. Whatever one does, the other one wants to quickly follow. And I can guarantee Republicans are out there looking at what the Democrats are doing and saying: Hey, how do we do the same thing?”

Morgan predicts a future where political groups mine more data than Google. Campaigns will make special apps for town halls and public appearances, and then the data will be mined for fundraising. To him, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Atheists Join Religious Groups In Giving Sandy Hook Support

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The Sandy Hook Elementary School makeshift memorial on Berkshire Road in Newtown, CT.
Bbjeter/Wikimedia Commons

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In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, a number of religious charities offered their assistance. Now, a coalition called Atheists Giving Aid wants to raise $50,000 to help pay for funeral costs and counseling services for the victims.

Amanda Brown is an activist. She runs a campaign called We Are Atheism. She calls it an “it gets better” campaign for atheists. When she heard about the shooting on the news, she wanted to help in whatever way she could.

“I found out about what happened just like everyone else. I was out with my 4-year-old daughter, and I just looked down at her – and it would just be devastating and heartbreaking. And, you know, there’s Christmas presents under the tree for these children. The parents did not plan for such a young child’s funeral.”

Brown enlisted the help of her graphic-designer husband, and her friends in the atheist community. They made a fundraising website, and promoted it on Reddit. It’s called Atheists Giving Aid. So far, they have raised $18,000. Their goal is 50,000.

Changing Public Perception

One of their partners is American Atheists Inc. Amanda Knief is their managing director. She says this initiative fits right into their charitable mission. They have been raising money for people in need since Hurricane Katrina.

“We were often, as a community, accused of being uncharitable when really, there was just no way for us to show that we were already contributing. And so we started looking for a way to demonstrate that we did care, by doing it as a community. And as natural disasters or tragedies have occurred, we have pulled together as a community; to do things.”

Knief hopes that more public charitable giving will help change the perception of atheists. Ed Buckner isn’t so sure that will work. He’s a former president of American Atheists. He thinks the best way to affect public perception is through modeling good citizenship. He is all in favor of giving money to good causes, but he day-to-day interactions with Atheists will have more of an effect in changing public opinion. Regardless of perception, he hopes that community leaders will start to include the nonreligious in moments of tragedy.

For Vets That Lived WWII, Time Short To See Memorial

Yesterday was the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the attack that launched the United States into the Second World War. Of the original 16 million service members, only two million are still alive. And a group of them traveled from all over the country to visit the national memorial yesterday. Brenda Salinas has this report.
Jim Hardwick has traveled a long way to get to D.C. He’s come to all the way from Dallas, Texas for one purpose: to see the World War II memorial.

It’s a cloudy December day. It’s cold, but he doesn’t seem to mind. This memorial is a special place for him. He saw it for the first time two years ago and he’s happy to have a second visit.

“I think it’s beautiful. Inside there on the walls are some of the battles I was in.”

Jim has 17 grandchildren. They haven’t been to the memorial yet, but he knows that one day they’ll come here and remember him. “They’ll say, oh, my granddaddy was there. That’s what they’ll say.”

Jim hopes that they’ll remember his stories too. He was only 17 when he enlisted in the Navy. He says he was trying to escape the Great Depression, he wasn’t expecting the Great War.

At the time, war was raging in Europe, but the U.S. had only been in a few Marine skirmishes to protect merchants. “I got my orders to go aboard the USS Honolulu in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. And I said whoopee. I couldn’t get further away from the danger than Pearl Harbor.”

Seven months later, Jim went to a luau on a nearby beach to celebrate his 18th birthday. He woke up the next day to the sound of explosions, confusion, shouting. He was ordered to return to his ship. On the way, he saw the damage from the torpedo attack: four ships sinking, solid black clouds and flames, the smell of fuel oil burning. He made his way back to his damaged ship. The attack was over. But the war wouldn’t be over for another four years.

“Pearl Harbor was only the beginning of World War II for me. My ship participated in so many things in the Pacific that were greater in my mind than the attack on Pearl Harbor.”

As much as Jim appreciates the annual day of remembrance, he wants people to remember that Pearl Harbor was only one day in a very long war. He hopes to visit the memorial again someday. He is 89.