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AMERICANS SHOULD FEEL SAFE WHEN RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR

Some people will be tempted to stay away from joyous New Year's Eve celebrations because of the fear of computer problems and terrorist attacks. But both these threats are minimal in the United States.

Y2K computer challenges have been almost entirely overcome in America . . . and law-enforcement officials at all levels, as well as Interpol and other foreign authorities, have sound intelligence about the sources of credible terrorist threats, and ways of blocking them.

The fact is that Americans should feel safe in celebrating the big night. This is a pretty well-protected country, and it would be sad if such a momentous event, so full of promise, were to be ruined by undue, irrational fears.

Yes, anything can happen at any time. But that has always been true. People have to accept uncertainties and go about their lives, knowing the chance of anything bad happening is minimal. . . .

Terrorists . . . want to disrupt life; governments should strive to block this disruption by cooling contagious concerns. Indeed, excessive warnings can encourage terrorists, because the warnings give the impression that U.S. officials . . . feel inadequate to counter any threats. . . .

In Europe and in Israel, places generally considered far more susceptible to terrorism than the United States, throngs will gather on New Year's Eve to welcome in the year. There is no reason why such throngs can't gather in America, too.

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