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Not exactly useful alert, quite useful sevice

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Following the welcome news (today must be a great day to be in New York), the U.S. State Department has issued an alert for Americans traveling until August 1, 2011... all over the world. While I suppose it's always useful to reiterate common sense advice (avoid demonstrations, especially if you don't know what they're about; pay attention to local news), this kind of generalized worry doesn't seem particularly helpful.

That said, the alert does link to the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), one of those amazingly useful government services probably known to too few people. Not only does the system email you the latest news and alerts for the country you're in (we avoided some massive Bangkok demonstrations after the service alerted us), but if something does happen, the U.S. embassy knows you're around. If you're leaving the United States any time soon, it's worth registering.

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