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Let the Phone Be Your Political Adviser

Storyline:Science & Tech

LIKE it, loathe it or tolerate it with gritted teeth, politics influences our daily lives. One way to keep on top of the latest in political intrigue is on your smartphone.

In the United States, one of the best ways to stay informed on political affairs comes directly from the top: The White House, the official app, free on iOS and Android. It offers access to many news events, like news conferences in the briefing room.

You may have expected it to be an awkward designed-by-committee affair, but it is easy to navigate. Just keep in mind that the information provided comes from the White House’s perspective.

To get a different view, check out The Congressional Record. This app looks and feels much more old-fashioned than the White House offering, and it hasn’t been updated in quite a while. It still works, though, giving you access to official congressional publications, including a Daily Digest page, a summary of recent discussions. Don’t expect layman summaries or glibly worded commentaries, though. It’s free on iOS.

For a faster-paced summary of American politics, Politics Today, free on iOS, is a fabulous option. It gathers information from many Twitter feeds, giving a sense of the ever-evolving nature of information on social networks.

Summaries are split into broad categories like “news,” “liberal voices,” “conservative politicians” and so on. Tapping one of these categories takes you to a list of recent news articles and other online resources; tapping on a list item takes you to the source. It’s easy to find a political news item on a topic that interests you.

But all that information in such tiny type can be a little confusing to parse. And keep in mind that the app needs an Internet connection to get up-to-date info.

Countable also offers political news, with a few interactive extras. In addition to short summaries of recent bills in the House and Senate, it also lists some arguments for and against the measure. You can even directly contact your senator or representative to express your views on a pending bill. Countable is slick, easy to use and could definitely help inform your opinions. It’s free for iOS.

For a different viewpoint on global political issues, I also love The Economist. This works best on iPad, but it’s also available for Android. The app itself is free, but for full access to the content you need to buy a subscription, which costs upward of $7 depending on the option you choose.

Check the accuracy of a politician’s comments with PolitiFact Mobile, $2 on iOS and Android. Here you will find the Truth-O-Meter, a measure of the truthfulness of a politician’s recent statements.

The group running the app is a division of The Tampa Bay Times. The statements are fact-checked and then given a neat summary and some eye-pleasing graphics. You can see the most recent ratings, choose to see only truths or lies, or view ratings listed by person or subject.

PolitiFact is fun, fascinating and at times depressing. Most important, the app reminds listeners to think for themselves when hearing political arguments, and not to rely only on the word of a politician or other political commentator.

If you’re interested in thinking even more deeply about those statements, consider learning some of the ways politicians can shape their stories with Logical Fallacies, $1 on iOS. This app teaches you to recognize questionable arguments. Consider, for example, the statement “Milk is essential for healthy bones.” (It’s not. Calcium is good for bones, and milk contains calcium, but so do many other foods.)

On Android, the app Rhetological Fallacies is a bit simpler, but it does summarize all the ways logic can be twisted by clever words. It includes examples and is free.

Enjoy getting political with these apps, and remember that Charles de Gaulle once pointed out that “politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.”

Source: Newyork Times