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Holidays high alert

| Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2003

Just as the Christmas rush reached its crescendo, and just as many were packing for their holiday trips, the Department of Homeland Security elevated the potential risk of a terrorist attack from "elevated" to "high."

It is a sobering reminder of the times in which we live.

The threat level was raised Sunday from yellow to orange based on intelligence reports of a "near-term" attack that once again could involve airplanes as weapons, a la 9/11. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge says the "strategic indicators ... are perhaps greater now than at any point since Sept. 11" for an "unspecified" but "spectacular" attack.

So, should Americans scuttle that "one last trip" to the mall for that "perfect gift" still unbought• And should travel, reserved long ago and eagerly anticipated, be put on hold• Of course not. Thanks to the orange alert, security just about everywhere has been beefed up.

That said, everyone should be more cognizant of suspicious activity. Alert security to unattended packages or luggage. Given that would-be terrorists are exploiters by nature, should you see something that just doesn't look "right," report it. It might be nothing. Then again, it might be something quite significant.

The worst thing Americans can do in times like these is mock such warnings and dismiss their import. For that's exactly what those who seek to do us harm are wishing this Christmas and New Year's. Enjoy the holidays, but stay alert and be prepared.

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