Editorials: 'Tis the season for (more) giving; smartphones need to be smarter

December 14, 2013 

1214_BRLO_Toys4Tots

Ryan Kennedy, assistant store manager of Publix Super Market in Palmetto, looks at some of the toys that have been donated for the Toys for Tots Christmas toy drive. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

GJEFFERIES@BRADENTON.COM Buy Photo

'Tis the season for giving -- and more people need to get into the spirit.

If you can afford to help others this Christmas season, please don your Santa's cap and find a way. Many of Manatee County's helping agencies are reporting slower than normal donations -- especially for needy children.

The Salvation Army serving Manatee County has at least 2,200 area children from 800 families signed up for gifts -- and that's just one local agency. Organizers told columnist Vin Mannix that they need help."This has been a rough year for so many of our neighbors," program director Julia Showers said. "With so many families struggling and the shorter Christmas season this year, we haven't been able to collect all the gifts needed to provide for all the children registered."

Since Vin's story ran this week, volunteers say donations have picked up a lot, but they still haven't reached their goal. Yet their glass is half-full -- "We'll take all the help we can get!" one cheerful volunteer told us as we dropped off some gifts Friday afternoon.

And the bell-ringers for Salvation Army's red kettles have been busy for days. These funds, according to the Christian-based organization, will help families in need -- because of health, unemployment or tragic circumstances -- in the next 12 months with everything from utility bills to food on the table.

The Marine Toys for Tots are also in a hectic push to get more toys for the tots in Manatee County, reporter Janey Tate writes in today's article.

Help these children and families keep their faith in the spirit of Santa. At the least, it may restore your faith in all things possible. At the best, it could help change their lives.

Smartphone safety is smart

From the Chicago Tribune

Every time you pull out your smartphone in public, you're making yourself a target.

The mobile gadgets are easy to spot, easy to steal and fetch hundreds of dollars quickly on the black market.

Protect Your Bubble, a company that sells insurance for personal electronics, says 113 smartphones are stolen every minute in the U.S. In New York, those thefts account for 14 percent of all crime.

Cops have a name for it -- Apple picking -- but the iPhone maker is actually out front in the effort to curb gadget snatching. An activation-lock feature on Apple's iOS 7 allows the owner to wipe data from a stolen phone, which can't be reactivated without the owner's password.

Other manufacturers have been slow to add antitheft features to their phones, though, despite urging from police. Now, a coalition of law enforcement officials, including Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, is pushing an initiative called Secure Our Smartphones.

The group has been pressuring cellphone makers to provide a remote antitheft feature called a "kill switch." If a phone is lost or stolen, the owner simply reports it to the carrier and the phone is rendered inoperable. If the phone doesn't work, there's not much reason to steal it.

So why hasn't the industry embraced the technology? The coalition has some troubling theories. Phonemakers have a disincentive: If your phone is stolen, you will probably buy another one, and fast. The carriers who service those phones have reason to resist, too. They make a lot of money selling insurance against loss or theft.

And while many phones are lifted from their owners' purses or snatched from their hands, many others are taken through force. The Federal Trade Commission says one out of three robberies nationwide involves the theft of a mobile phone.

The demand for stolen smartphones is a threat not just to your privacy and your pocketbook. It's a threat to your safety.

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