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January 29, 2010


contesttoon3.gifYes, Lowe-Downers--I am pleased to announce that after three grueling weeks of entering, choosing and voting, we have a Grand Prize Winner.

We had over 500 entries, and as many votes for the three finalists. It was neck-and-neck right up to the midnight deadline, when the winner finally emerged, bloodied but victorious. And he is...

John Mason, of Hollywood, FL, who pulled away with ten votes at the very end (nice job rounding up all your friends and family at the last minute there, John).

The contest cartoon, in case you haven't seen enough of it by now, is shown at right with John's winning caption. When I asked him what inspired his winning entry, he told me that, like so many of us, he'd had a rough 2009 and felt a lot like Father Time shuffling off to the right of the picture. He's hoping to make a fresh start this year.

Congratulations also to the other two finalists, Sandra Thompson ("Don't tell me that you need to be bailed out already.") and Jay Kullmann of Lighthouse Point, FL ("You must have just come through security at the airport!").

Mr. Mason's winning entry will be featured at a date yet to be determined on the Sun Sentinel's op-ed page, and all three finalists will receive official Lowe-Down t-shirts.

Congratulations to all who participated: the entrants, the finalists, the winner, and even the malcontents who groused endlessly about the final three choices.

Keep an eye out for the next contest, coming in a few months!


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John Edwards' cheatin' heart

rielle.gifIf commenting on dry-as-dust topics like jobs policy or health care reform is the journalistic equivalent of eating your vegetables, then for me this stuff is like the rich dessert your mom gave you as a reward for having choked down all those lima beans.

John was just a little too slick. He had a little too much of the cornpone, Brylcreemed, small-town life-insurance salesman about him.

We vaguely felt it, and it hovered there in the back of our minds, but we couldn't quite get a fix on it--the rags to riches story, the perfect family, the way he switched on that youthful, exuberant glow when the klieg lights came on.

There might be something to be said for letting the whole process begin in Iowa. Evidently those hard-bitten farmers remained unmoved, notwithstanding all the months Edwards spent in their state courting them. When you have to wake up before dawn every day to sling slop to hogs, there ain't much time for romance. Instead, you develop a keen, clear-eyed ability to cut right through the shellac.


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January 28, 2010

Chan Lowe: State of the Union

trust.gifEven if you are repulsed by Barack Obama and everything he stands for, you have to agree with one thing he said in his speech last night.

"Not every day is election day." By that, he meant that members of each party are so preoccupied with scoring points at the expense of the other that the welfare of the nation is forgotten in the melee of ego-stoking.

Early on in the health care reform process, for example, the Republicans realized there were short-term political gains to be made by not engaging in the give-and-take. If the whole ugly piece of legislation--warts and all--fails to pass, they will crow with jubilation that Obama's presidency has been mortally wounded. Meanwhile, where does this leave the poor and those with preexisting conditions? Worse off, even, than before.

This hostility hasn't developed overnight. It has taken several decades to fester into what it is today. It has been the norm for so long that there remain very few old-timers who remember the good old days, when parties compromised on legislation just to get it passed, knowing everyone would benefit if there were something in the bill each pol could bring home and point to with pride.

And when the old-timers finally shuffle off, they will take the faded memories of those days with them.

POSTED IN: Barack Obama (172)

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January 27, 2010

Crist, Rubio, Florida, senate, election

poll.gifIf Marco Rubio is riding the wave of voter resentment, then Charlie Crist is caught in the undertow.

Poor old Charlie. Never one to light fires of passion in the electorate, he chooses to run as the incumbent heir apparent in a year when "throw the bums out" is rapidly becoming the full-throated cry of the land.

Florida has always been a place where merely having more name recognition than one's opponent has usually been enough to guarantee a victory in any statewide race. This year, Charlie's name recognition is working against him. He is the governor of a state hit harder by the recession than most, and that Obama hug certainly didn't help.

Meanwhile, Marco Rubio has been spouting the kind of populist, iconoclastic rhetoric that has enabled a hitherto unknown to become a serious contender. Even God-fearing folks up in North Florida--who, until now, thought Marco Rubio was a game kids play in the pool--have managed to overcome their considerable suspicion of anybody who hails from south of Orlando to push him ahead in the primary polls.

When you're red-hot mad, you vote for a chili pepper, not a marshmallow.

POSTED IN: Florida Issues (258)

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contesttoon2d.gifToday is the final day of voting for the Grand Prize Winner of the first 2010 Lowe-Down Cartoon Caption Contest.

Polls close at midnight tonight. We've already had an overwhelming response, and the top two contenders are running neck and neck.

Be a part of history! Vote today... just click on the link at the top of this blog.

POSTED IN: Cartoon caption contest (10)

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January 26, 2010

Obama the Populist

fight.gifIt’s sad that it took the loss in Massachusetts to get Barack Obama to put the people’s core concerns back on the front burner where they belong--at least, rhetorically.

He should have had them there all along. Instead, he was distracted by the sweep of grand policymaking—saving banks and corporations, getting health care reform passed. Now, the sudden talk about fighting for the common man has a whiff of reactive desperation about it.

Worse, the dewy-eyed idealists who plunged into the political system for the first time and pushed him over the top not only feel that he has favored centrist wishy-washiness over their progressive hopes, they are turned off by the Man of Change’s morph into Just Another Typical Pol. The process of the health care battle has been protracted and repellent, and Obama’s willingness to get his hands dirty and make whatever deal was necessary to get it passed deeply offends those who craved a “new kind of politics.” The high talk is beginning to ring hollow.

The new rhetoric out of the White House may gain back the soft support of some skeptical independents, but by compromising his political soul, Obama risks forever losing those who were prepared to forgive him just about any failing, as long as he stood for something.

POSTED IN: Barack Obama (172)

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January 25, 2010

The Ted Deutch juggernaut

tedx.gifNot that I'm trying to imply by this cartoon that Ted Deutch's candidacy is in trouble or anything, although it could be if Deutch were to allow hubris to get the better of him.

It's just that there's something unseemly in a democracy about assuming you have an election in the bag. It's so third-worldy.

Let's face it--District 19 isn't Massachusetts. The only way Deutch is going to lose is if an electromagnetic pulse arrives from outer space and disables all the voting machines in Century Village on election day. Or if he shows up at a campaign rally wearing a kaffiyeh.

Neither eventuality is likely.

POSTED IN: Local South Florida Issues (187)

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January 22, 2010

Supreme Court, First Amendment, Campaign funding, corporate, union

Yesterday's Supreme Court decision was a tough call for those who cherish free speech.

By ruling that corporations and unions can spend unlimited amounts of money on election advertising, there is no doubt that the dissemination of information about candidates will now rest in the hands of the mighty and the moneyed, and woe betide any pretender who might cross them.

The only good news is that free speech as a principle was protected, but the concept that a corporation or a union is like an individual with inalienable rights is a tough one to swallow. The indirect consequence of this finding, ironically, is that it will result in the voice of the common man being drowned out.

Right now, the American people are too worried about more pressing matters--like putting food on the table--to bother themselves with seemingly arcane court decisions. They would do well to start paying attention, because this decision will affect the way we govern ourselves more than any other in memory.

The most we can hope for is regulatory legislation requiring, for example, that a corporation clearly identify that it paid for an ad. Otherwise, we may find--after the fact--that some shell group like "Patriotic Americans United For A More Patriotic America" is really a multinational holding company based in Dubai.

And by then, they'd have their own pet U.S. Senator, purring in their laps.


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January 21, 2010

Pythons in the Everglades

pythons.gifToday's immigrants are the next generation's founding fathers, and the first thing the next generation wants is no more immigrants.

It's probably as true of reptiles as it is of people.


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January 20, 2010

Massachusetts meltdown

blame.gifIt was South Florida's own Debbie Wasserman Schultz who said it best during the election post-mortem last night: "Throughout my career in politics, I've learned that you can never, ever take a vote for granted."

Now, Debbie represents one of the safest Democratic congressional districts in Creation, so if she says it, it's probably true.

Martha Coakley might have eked out a win, even in this inhospitable anti-government environment--particularly in royal-blue Massachusetts--but she didn't follow Debbie's dictum.

As the Democratic National Committee and the White House will trip over themselves to tell you, she ran a historically inept general election campaign, beginning with the assumption that winning the Democratic primary was tantamount to a coronation.

It would be an error--and delusional--for the Democrats to place all the blame on the hapless Coakley for losing Ted Kennedy's seat. Now that the people have spoken so emphatically, the Dems would be wise to reexamine their agenda and priorities if they intend to hang onto Congress in November. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, "It's jobs, Stupid."

Let's not forget this is the same seat once occupied by the Henry Cabot Lodges, Senior and Junior. As the establishment learned the hard way yesterday, there's no law saying it's perpetual Democratic property.

POSTED IN: General Topics (188)

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January 19, 2010


Yes, breathless readers--we are now entering Phase II of our caption contest, the Vote of the People.

contesttoon2b.gifEntries kept pouring in until the last minute--over 500 of them. Our panel spent hours sifting through the diaper-related potty jokes, the endless variations on "change," and sundry submissions that made no sense whatsoever.

I deliberately left the drawing ambiguous, so that readers could decide for themselves whether they wanted the baby or President Obama to be the one doing the talking.

There was no small number that had to be deleted because they were unfit for public consumption; it seems that for some people, any image of Obama is like waving a red cape in front of a bull.

Anyway, here's what we came up with. I'd say vote early and often, but I think our software prevents you from voting more than once.

The poll will be up for one week, at which point we will announce the Grand Prize Winner. All three finalists receive an Official Lowe-Down T-shirt.

POSTED IN: Cartoon caption contest (10)

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FCAT cheating

FCAT2.gifYou know what they say about paving the road to Hell with good intentions.

The best way to kill a student's interest and initiative is to teach to a test, which the dependency on the FCAT has done nothing but encourage.

The teachers I talk to say that the reason they chose their profession was to prepare children for life by training them how to think.

They want to challenge them, and awaken an intellectual curiosity that will spur them to continue wanting to learn long after their formal education has ended. They did not choose to be teachers in order to cram facts into children's heads so that they could regurgitate them later onto a test paper. Nor do they want their professionalism judged by how well those students managed to regurgitate.

I had a European history teacher in junior high who told me that the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066. Big deal. Why should I care? Then he told me that we use the words "pork" and "beef" to this day to denote the meat of pigs and cattle because the invading William beat the locals in that battle over 900 years ago. Suddenly, it meant something to me, and I wanted to know more. I became a voracious student of European history.

To me, that's educating.


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January 18, 2010

Chan Lowe: Haitian relief's silver lining

It says a lot about mankind--and the way we have organized ourselves into self-interested nation-states--that it takes a cataclysm for the world to discover its better nature.

We had that opportunity at Kyoto and Copenhagen, too, but as I've said before, the peril of climate change is too slow-moving and there are too many skeptics for us to drop our tribal barriers and address it effectively.

It's impossible to deny that something horrific has happened in Haiti--it's all over our TVs and the Internet, nonstop. When we witness something that hits us this hard, most of us manage to take the blinders off and think of human welfare in general as something to be nurtured, regardless of ethnicity or culture.

For a brief time, those of us who are grateful that we were spared are able to grow from the tragedy and extend a hand to those who were not. For those who would turn their backs on human is a journey, and there is always hope.


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contesttoon2a.gifToday marks the end of the two-week caption submission period for The Lowe-Down's third blockbuster contest. Any entries submitted after this posting will not be accepted.

My thanks to all of you readers who stretched your imaginations to make the contest a success--we've received somewhere around 500 entries. I'll give you a more precise count later.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for the week-long VOTE OF THE PEOPLE, in the form of an online poll where readers can vote on their favorite of the three finalists yet to be chosen. We'll post a link within the next few days.

POSTED IN: Cartoon Rejects (15)

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January 15, 2010

Rothstein and the serpent

snake.gifWhenever I run into journalistic colleagues from other parts of the country, they tell me how lucky I am to work in South Florida.

It isn't the weather they're envious of; it's that so many juicy, off-the-wall stories come out of here, stories that practically write or comment on themselves. Even if a national story doesn't originate here, there's always a Florida connection (Madoff, for example), and the weirder the story, the stronger the connection.

What can anyone say to elaborate on a story about pet rock pythons from Burma and North Africa, released into the wild by fed-up owners, which are expected to mate into a breed of horrifying super-serpent with no known predators?

What can you say about Scott Rothstein that is more shocking, imaginative and bizarre than some of the ways he managed to spend other people's money?

All you can do as a journalist and commentator is celebrate their existence, and thank them for making South Florida a richer place to live.

POSTED IN: Local South Florida Issues (187)

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January 14, 2010

Pat Robertson, Haiti, and the Devil

robertson.gifIn case you didn't think the Haitians have suffered enough already, along comes God's self-appointed spokesman, Pat Robertson, to pile on to their miseries with some divine retribution.

This is not Robertson's first foray into rubbing it in, evangelical-style. Remember when he and Jerry Falwell--working as a tag-team--said New York City deserved 9/11 because of all the depravity committed within its borders?

The holy man's claim that the Haitians made a deal with the devil a couple of hundred years ago to rid themselves of the French would be comic relief if it weren't in such poor taste, especially at this time.

It would be easy to dismiss this charlatan, except that many people look to him for guidance on what to think, a lot like the way people look to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck for the same.

Maybe they're all the same people, so hopefully the harm Robertson does will be minimal.


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January 13, 2010

Haiti earthquake

haiti.gifYou have to wonder why the poor Haitian people have been singled out for so much tribulation over the centuries.

There's their history of slavery, the yoke of which they threw off in revolution. More recently they have been the victims of the brutal kleptocracy of the Docs--Papa and Baby--in which many thousands died at the hands of their own brothers.

Because there is not enough fuel, they denude their land of forests for charcoal, which opens the country up to the depredations of another, more capricious scourge--periodic hurricanes that result in fatal mudslides because there is no vegetation left to hold the soil in place.

Hunger, poverty, crime, lack of education--these are but some of the problems that the Haitians must live with on a daily basis. These alone would be more than any American would be willing to bear as an abiding reality of life, but then along comes an earthquake that would be devastating even for a place like California, with its strict building codes.

Haiti is the recipient of humanitarian aid, but it is never enough. The world community, in spite of its economic turmoil, can and must do more than corral and return Haitians who attempt to escape their blighted land in boats. Until we do enough to finally provide this star-crossed country with a solid foundation, Haitians will never have a chance to improve their own lot.

Maybe this earthquake will be the catalyst for such an effort.


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January 12, 2010

Harry Reid's gaffe

outrage.gifIf you want to know where Barack Obama has really failed us, it's in not changing politics as usual in Washington.

Here we have another case of one side taking a relatively small incident and manufacturing outrage in an attempt to win temporary points at the expense of the other, further fraying the nation's already threadbare fabric in the process.

The charitable thing to say about Harry Reid's comments of a couple of years ago is that--in his own maladroit way--he was attempting to pay then-Sen. Obama a compliment.

The fact that he is a dinosaur is not a reason for him to step down from the role of Senate Majority Leader. Okay, so he used the word "negro." It's outdated, but evidently some older African-Americans still describe themselves that way or they wouldn't have listed themselves thus in the last U.S. Census form.

There are those among Obama's detractors for whom using the word "negro" would actually represent an upgrade in the way they view our minority brethren.

Meanwhile, we are treated to the blatant hypocrisy of a party that has done all it can to enact laws which restrict minority access to the polls, screaming for the head of a man who has spent his career working for the betterment of minority conditions.

As I said, politics as usual.


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January 11, 2010

South Florida adapts to the cold

cold.gifMy biggest concern while drawing this cartoon was that the scam being depicted would actually be perpetrated before it could get into print.

As of this writing, I haven't heard any reports. Nevertheless, in the event would-be malefactors get any ideas from the cartoon, I will rest assured knowing that readers of the Sun Sentinel's editorial page and this blog have been forewarned.

"News you can use," as we like to say here at the paper.

POSTED IN: Local South Florida Issues (187)

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January 8, 2010

Chan Lowe: Blocking the sunshine

sunshine.gifKeeping a lid on our elected officials here in Florida is a little like the Global War On Terror: The bad guys are always coming up with clever new ways to get around the safeguards, and the forces of good are always playing catch-up.

The Florida Sunshine Law, which at the time it was enacted was considered one of the more progressive, good-government pieces of legislation in the country, is woefully out of step with new communications technology.

When the legislators wrote that law, they were thinking about preventing secret discussions over coffee down at the pancake house, or maybe in a back office, out of view. Nobody ever envisioned texting, or instant messaging, or whatever.

So if you're a public officeholder, and you want to check in with your lobbyist/handler but you'd prefer to keep it on the q.t., you text that person, because hey-- there's currently no law against it.

The "spirit of the law?" What is that, some kind of booze?


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January 7, 2010

Chan Lowe: The intelligence failure

dots1.gifYou're probably as tired of the shopworn "connect the dots" cliche as I am.

But that doesn't prevent me from shamelessly expoiting it, anyway.

The Christmas terrorism attempt failed only because of the incompetence of the perpetrator. It was a successful attack, in the classic way acts of terror are successful: It sowed uncertainty.

We learned that no matter how much money and effort we expend on our self-protection, it will never be enough. It isn't that the terrorists tried something new and imaginative that completely hoodwinked us. No, they used the classic 9/11 modus operandi to show us it could still be done with impunity. Hell, just to drive home how flawed our system still is, we were warned in advance.

People are tribal. That's just the way we are. When you have a lot of people working in different agencies with different cultures--ostensibly toward the same goal--they're going to possessively withhold information from one another. At the very least, you won't get the kind of brainstorming cooperation that can often turn out a product greater than the sum of its parts.

The key is to convince these well-meaning, dedicated people that they have to buck their natural human tendencies, and that to succumb to them hurts the nation. Maybe this is a job for a hypnotist.

POSTED IN: War on Terror (50)

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January 6, 2010

Chan Lowe: The Florida Ice Age

frigid.gifI have Canadian family members. A few years ago, they came down to visit when we were having a cold snap similar to the current one.

Being Canadians, they rhapsodized about the balmy weather and immediately went off to spend the entire day at the beach, while the rest of us shivered and ran the A.C. backwards.

They returned that evening, their skin that iridescent hue of lobster red that only Canadians can develop in the Florida sun. They spent the rest of their trip inside, not because of the cold, but because they were recovering from their burns.

It's all relative.


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January 5, 2010

Cheney, Obama

traitor.gifFame, because of its addictive nature, has often been likened to a drug.

For someone who has enjoyed its heady embrace, the abiding fear is not death, but obscurity. Remember when Frank Sinatra kept touring long after his voice was shot?

Once you've been running the world for eight years, it's hard to go back to the trout stream in Wyoming, where nobody's listening to you but the flies. George Bush seems to have no problem with being out of the limelight; maybe his being born-again, besides delivering him from his alcohol dependency, cured him of all addictive behaviors.

We're not so lucky with Dick Cheney, who is so busy flinging his servile followers the red meat they crave that he forgets the same kind of talk about the president from somebody else a little over a year ago would have prompted him to turn loose the dogs.

It's sad to see an addict who is unaware he has a problem. It would be better for him and the country if his family did an intervention and led him away quietly. Knowing his family, that's unlikely.

Meanwhile, we in the media enable the poor man by trumpeting his every utterance because it makes for such good TV and written copy. Addicts can be very adept at manipulating their suppliers.


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January 4, 2010

Security vs. privacy

privacy.gifThis debate is going to catch fire soon enough...particularly since the latest foiled attack was attempted by a man who smuggled the explosives on board in his underpants.

We have the body-scan technology available now that would represent a new leap in security, but the machines can easily become a symbol in upcoming political discourse for all the ways average people feel government is encroaching on their privacy.

There's an understandable queasiness about having one's privates exposed to a stranger, which is what would be necessary for the scanners to be truly effective. If any areas have to be fuzzed out in a bow to modesty, you might as well junk the whole shebang.

Also, there'll be tabloid outlets waving big paydays in the faces of TSA employees bold enough to spirit the video recording of some celeb's body scan out of the airport, the way they stake out hospital employees now. There will have to be strong penalties in place to prevent that.

Personally, I view it like a visit to the doctor to get a prostate exam. To you, it's a mortifying ordeal. To him, it's like checking the oil, he's done so many of them.

Privacy vs. security is a debate we ought to have...but let's not forget that it's better to be embarrassed than dead.

And there's always the train.

POSTED IN: War on Terror (50)

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January 3, 2010


contesttoon2.gifThat's right, faithful readers...there's no better way to get things rolling in the new year than with a juicy cartoon caption contest. Forget Powerball--this is your opportunity to win official Lowe-Down t-shirts, fame, fortune, and--once again--the thanks of a grateful nation.

You veterans of these events know the drill: Come up with a caption (or captions) for the cartoon shown at right, and post your pearls of wisdom as comments to this blog entry, so that everybody can enjoy them. Enter as many times as you like, but make sure to use your real email address, or we won't be able to contact you in the event you're a winner.


We will keep the submission period for your captions open for two weeks, until Monday, January 18.

On that fateful day, the thousands of captions will be gathered and taken under consideration by a crack team of journalistic eminences grises, who will meet in conclave to choose the three most witty, captivating, and off-the-wall examples of the genre.

The three finalists will then be submitted to a Vote Of The People in the form of an online poll, which all will be allowed to enter. The Vote will take place over a one-week period.

At this point, a winner will be declared in The Lowe-Down and somewhere yet to be determined in the pages of the Sun Sentinel. IMG_0131.gifAll three finalists will receive an official Lowe-Down t-shirt, modeled here by one of my comely colleagues. The first-place winner will also snag a print of the cartoon with his or her caption attached, as well as a write-up in the op-ed page of the Sun Sentinel.

So, LET THE CONTEST BEGIN!!! And remember: please keep your entries clean.


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January 1, 2010

Chan Lowe "encore" cartoon V


While the Lowe-Down is using up the last of his vacation days for the year, here is a selection of cartoons from December 2004 to keep you busy.


More information to follow shortly.

POSTED IN: Cartoons from Five Years Ago (38)

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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