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Posted by John Keller

We live in a dangerous world, and it's getting more dangerous all the time. Among the things we do in our national-threat-level-yellow world is try -- with diminishing success, sadly -- to protect our cultural institutions from harm.

We encourage our kids on Christmas Eve to sleep worry-free, and invite those visions of sugar plums to dance in their tiny heads without interruption from our global strife.

That is until now.

The rising tide of danger and dread has finally reached one of the defining icons of the holiday season -- Santa Claus, himself. You can giggle all you want, but evidently this isn't a laughing matter.

Just a few days ago, while on pre-Christmas training mission, Santa Claus came under fire over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. That's right, people starting shooting at the right jolly old elf as he hovered over the city in a Brazilian coast guard helicopter. The aircraft, as a result, had to return to base with two bullet holes in the fuselage.

Not to be deterred, Santa returned by car to distribute his gifts, but holy moley! It's come to this, and not even on Santa's primary workday. What's it going be like on Christmas Eve? Santa's got heavier neighborhoods to work that night than Rio.

Fortunately, it seems, the authorities are starting to take action. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in Colorado Springs, Colo., has sent out press announcements that its personnel will be tracking Santa and his sleigh on Christmas Eve. You can even track Santa along with NORAD on the Internet.

Those NORAD experts had better be on their toes. Think about it. Santa is coming down from the North Pole, which during the Cold War was considered to be the primary path of Soviet nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles in time of nuclear war.

That airspace over the pole is one of the most closely watch patches of sky on the planet. Think of the DEW line and the Pave Paws radar systems, and of the F-16 pilots on alert at Thule Air Base, Greenland, and at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.

I sincerely hope that Santa remembers to turn on his transponder when he makes his rounds. I wouldn't want to see an accident during a tense intercept on Christmas Eve. I'm sure there will be NOTAMs in effect during that time, but I'm not sure how well Rudolph would fare in an encounter with a Sidewinder missile.

None of this global tension, it seems, is lost on Santa Claus, either. Wired's Danger Room blog has an interesting depiction of what Santa's mood must be like these days.

It's such that Santa and his advisors evidently are designing a new kind of sleigh to cope with this modern world of ours.

I suppose these things were inevitable, given the circumstances. Everyone have a merry Christmas this year -- and let's be careful out there.

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Welcome to the lighter side of Military & Aerospace Electronics. This is where our staff recount tales of the strange, the weird, and the otherwise offbeat. We could put news here, but we have the rest of our Website for that. Enjoy our scribblings, and feel free to add your own opinions. You might also get to know us in the process. Proceed at your own risk.

John Keller for MAE
John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Courtney Howard for MAE Courtney E. Howard is senior editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine. She is responsible for writing news stories and feature articles for the print publication, as well as composing daily news for the magazine's Website and assembling the weekly electronic newsletter. Her features have appeared in such high-tech trade publications as Military & Aerospace Electronics, Computer Graphics World, Electronic Publishing, Small Times, and The Audio Amateur.

John McHale for MAE John McHale is executive editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, where he has been covering the defense Industry for more than dozen years. During that time he also led PennWell's launches of magazines and shows on homeland security and a defense publication and website in Europe. Mr. McHale has served as chairman of the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum and its Advisory Council since 2004. He lives in Boston with his golf clubs.