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Chan Lowe: Terror alerts on social media


While I was sitting around waiting for a federal government shutdown to happen or not happen, this little tidbit swam into my consciousness. It’s heartwarming to know that the Department of Homeland Security is being proactive about alerting the masses; it certainly beats the old color-coded system, which was vague and confusing, and whose only useful purpose was to be activated right before elections so we’d vote for Republicans.

It’s also a refreshing change from DHS’ shutting-the-barn-door prevention policy, which is to allow terrorists to come up with daring new ways to harm us, and follow after the fact with the safeguards (Ever since the Shoe Bomber and the Christmas Underwear Bomber, we all have to take off our shoes and have our skivvies electronically scanned before flying. Meanwhile, the bad guys have moved on to something more outlandish…the Belly Button Lint Bomber, for example).

The only shortcoming is that those of us (like me) who don’t have smart phones will have to hope they’re on their computers when the alert goes out, or they’ll miss out on the excitement. The technologically illiterate will have to wait for snail mail, which means an extra day of delay if the alarm is sounded right before a federal holiday weekend.

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It's a cinch the weather service won't be able to provide us their weather alerts in under 140 characters. They seem to delight in describing the geography of a weather alert region in minute detail using the most obscure possible landmarks which no one ever heard of so no one can tell where the heck the alert is valid. Then they revise it 10 minutes later and issue a new alert even more unintelligible than the first.

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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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