The Nation: The Not So Alert

For 37 minutes on Saturday morning, it might have seemed that General Jack D. Ripper, the manic guardian of "precious bodily fluids" from Dr. Strangelove, was at the controls. From the Army's civil defense warning center in Colorado's Cheyenne Mountain, a signal was flashed directly onto the wires of the Associated Press and United Press International. It was a notification that the nation was in a state of emergency, confirmed by an appropriately sinister code "authenticator"—HATEFULNESS, HATEFULNESS. Scores of radio and television stations across the nation broadcast the emergency.

It turned out that...

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