Handcuffed for Making Clock, Ahmed Mohamed, 14, Wins Time With Obama

Sep 17, 2015

Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News, via Associated Press

By Manny Fernandez and Christine Hauser

Ahmed Mohamed’s homemade alarm clock got him suspended from his suburban Dallas high school and detained and handcuffed by police officers on Monday after school officials accused him of making a fake bomb. By Wednesday, it had brought him an invitation to the White House, support from Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg, and a moment of head-spinning attention as questions arose whether he had been targeted because of his name and his religion.

As a result, a 14-year-old freshman at MacArthur High School in Irving, Tex., who is partial to tinkering, technology and NASA T-shirts and wants to go to M.I.T., found himself in a social media whirlwind that reflected the nation’s charged debates on Islam, immigration and ethnicity.

“Cool clock, Ahmed,” President Obama said on Twitter. “Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.” Mr. Obama’s staff invited Ahmed to the White House for Astronomy Night on Oct. 19, an event bringing together scientists, engineers, astronauts, teachers and students to spend a night stargazing from the South Lawn.


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90 comments on “Handcuffed for Making Clock, Ahmed Mohamed, 14, Wins Time With Obama

  • A fake bomb needs some sort of explosive. Presumably his clock had no fake dynamite. This sounds like a overly cautious underly trained official leaping to conclusions, on the grounds “better safe than sorry” or perhaps “here is a way to screw that smartass little xxx”.



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  • @OP link – He said he took it to school on Monday to show an engineering teacher, who said it was nice but then told him he should not show the invention to other teachers. Later, Ahmed’s clock beeped during an English class, and after he revealed the device to the teacher, school officials notified the police, and Ahmed was interrogated by officers.

    “She thought it was a threat to her,” Ahmed told reporters Wednesday. “So it was really sad that she took a wrong impression of it.”

    When I first saw this story, my first thought was; “Why dis they not contact the engineering teacher to clarify the details before going into ridiculous knee-jerk responses?”

    Fingerprints and a mug shot were taken at a juvenile detention center. The clock was confiscated, and Ahmed was suspended from school for three days, until Thursday.

    Three days to examine a home-made clock in a school with an engineering department??? No wonder some surveys claim large numbers of Americans are science duffers!
    Perhaps the engineering teacher knew something about the school staff the 14 year old didn’t!



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  • This happened at a suburban Dallas school. Few months ago, another Dallas suburb (Garland) made headlines when an incident took place at a ‘draw Muhammad day’ event.

    One idea I read > this is why folks in Metro Dallas are on pins and needles. Couple it with u.s. military exercises paranoia in Texas, also recently, and I get the feeling cowboys are circling the wagons.



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  • I saw this on the BBC on Tuesday. It brought home to me a number of things about life in America these days.

    1) How fucking paranoid and stupid so many of the people there are. From the teacher whose first reaction was to call the police instead of just asking the science teacher what it was to the police who react to a science project like it’s a terrorist threat.

    2) How the police there handcuff everyone with arms behind their backs and humiliate them in front of everyone watching. That doesn’t happen in the UK and why the hell is it necessary for a 14 year old kid? I hope his arrest record is deleted so it won’t come back to haunt him in later life. “Well we shot him dead first and asked questions later because he had a record of an arrest for suspected terrorism when he younger.”

    I hope he has a great day at the White House anyway.



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  • I hope no kids at that school decide to make a baking soda and vinegar volcano for their science project. Those things really do explode you know. Just like bombs – you can tell from the word “explode”. And they can cause tidal waves if they’re near the sea. Grounds for arrest on both terrorism charges and reckless endangerment. If you’re brown or black of course.



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  • Arkrid Sandwich
    Sep 17, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    “Well we shot him dead first and asked questions later because he had a record of an arrest for suspected terrorism when he younger.”

    I shudder to think what the reaction would have been, had such people encountered myself and a pal as teens – innocently testing home-made fireworks with chemical time fuses, in a quiet countryside area away from people!



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  • Yet another injustice brought about by the asymmetrical holy war that’s being waged against progress, the perpetrators of which are all too ready to employ the fruits of those advancements to wreak havoc, death and destruction, even within their own communities.

    It’s not the boy’s fault of course, but he fits the profile of those the security forces are obliged to scrutinize; they would be wasting their time arresting an elderly Caucasian woman carrying a clock as a birthday present.

    Now wait for political capital to be made out of this incident; once again it’s being said that the security measures are alienating Muslim communities, but were I a member of the security forces I’d be vigilant too.

    Here in the UK there have been six foiled terrorist plots this year alone, security is at its highest level since the London bombings in 2007, and the debate has been rekindled about the balance between privacy and freedom of speech, and whether or not information about planned atrocities held by the social media companies should be released to the security people.

    Isn’t it strange how people can be made to turn against their own families, and the country in which they were born and brought up; brain washing takes many forms, but seemingly none is more effective than the inculcation of blind faith at mother’s knee.



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  • 10
    Miserablegit says:

    Why is this story so predictable? Simply because you have a kid with an ethnicity which makes him stand out in Texas and the teachers panic and he gets arrested and they ask questions later. I suppose he might be grateful that his arrest was on done by someone with an itchy trigger finger.



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  • It still apparently took five cops to bring one 14 year old boy down though. Try getting five cops to attend anything in the UK. When my neighbour from hell was busy digging up my hedge and threatening me with a gang of his employees 15 years ago I phoned 999 twice, the local police station twice, still had to wait 4 hours and when two of them did finally turn up they went to the wrong house, his house, got a pack of lies that it was his hedge and arrested me! I would no longer trust plod as far as I could spit a rat. Fortunately even our useless police are a damn sight less dangerous than American ones. At least we have a fairly minimal chance of being shot.

    I remember the OJ Simpson news videos. There must have been a dozen police cars following his Bronco at just above walking pace. There were effing spectators running alongside FFS. There were so many police cars that most of them couldn’t even have got close to him because of all the other police cars in the way. What exactly were the last ten of them going to do that the first two couldn’t? If Putin invaded the UK I doubt if we could muster a dozen police cars in one place at the same time never mind just for one bloke in a car.

    America might lack a decent education system, a decent health care system, even the vague pretence of a decent political system but it sure as hell has a lot of spare police. Armed to the teeth as well with automatic weapons, armoured personnel carriers, water cannons, tasers, bullet proof clothing and prepared to deploy en masse to defend the liberty of ummm well the police at a moment’s notice. If more police = more civilian safety then you guys over there sure as hell must feel safe at night in your beds. Unless of course you is black.



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  • Here in Canada, we have bill C-51. If we don’t get rid of it, (which is as nauseatingly unlikely as it is imperative given our pertinacious parliamentary rules), this kind of bigoted, paranoid stupidity will soon become the rule rather than the exception.
    Our current PM likely would have had this lad fitted with an ankle monitor.



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  • The things I fear are white Christians and the police. My fear from Muslims or Islamic people is non existent.
    We are a country gripped with fear and anger. That makes for fertile ground for the next civil war.



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  • It’s not the boy’s fault of course, but he fits the profile of those the security forces are obliged to scrutinize; they would be wasting their time arresting an elderly Caucasian woman carrying a clock as a birthday present.
    Now wait for political capital to be made out of this incident; once again it’s being said that the security measures are alienating Muslim communities, but were I a member of the security forces I’d be vigilant too.

    Stafford Gordon exemplifies critical thinking unsullied by politically correct hypocrisy. Because no one knows what elements of circumstance, personality, and ethnic identity jell to bring off a terrorist attack we are trapped between the ambiguity of “red flags and profiling” on the one hand and the “civil liberties of perfectly innocent people” on the other. Because security personnel must make the call when to step in, the “cops,” become the reflexively demonized scapegoat.

    Consider public reaction from a modified scenario: A bomb explodes in a classroom. A high-achieving young Muslim boy with a reputation for friendliness and fun has killed 8 of his classmates along with himself. An engineering teacher testifies that the boy had shown him an alarm clock invention earlier in the day but the device was perfectly harmless, in his view, a product of curious extra-curricular tinkering, and therefore raised no suspicion. The student apparently modified the device by inserting a detonation mechanism connected to an explosive vest he put on under his baggy shirt between classes.

    Headline: Parents Sue School District for Failing to Report Suicide Bomber Clock



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  • Arkrid Sandwich

    I got to see this from the other side too. We lived in Brussels for a few years for business. My mid twenties hothead son got in a bar fight late one night over the theft of his cell phone. The bar management told them to take the fight outside to the street and they did. When he came back to the apartment he told me he needed to go to the hospital emergency room for stitches on his jawline. This was certainly true and caused me to flip out because I now had a figure of a couple thousand dollars to pay for that. He said they asked for fifty euros for the stitches. HUH? We can’t walk through the door of the hospital for fifty euros/dollars here. Then I assumed that he’d been arrested for assault and battery which is what would’ve happened here for the same fiasco. He said he wasn’t. I said he was lucky no one called the cops on him then. They were probably busy across town or something. He said, “No. The cops were there and just watched the fight and after a while they said to break it up because it had gone on long enough.” This scenario would never happen here in the States.



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  • One of the staff of our school wrote a school musical which was a James Bond spoof. I and a couple of students scavenged some circuit boards and plasticine and made a fake bomb for the musical. Glad I didn’t do this in Texas.

    You can detonate some explosive with a lit fuse, perhaps children should be arrested for carrying string. Or a mobile phone or a mechanical clock. I know some terrorists must be dim, I don’t think any terrorist smart enough to design and make their own digital clock would be stupid enough to take it to their school to show it off, plenty of stupid all around I think. Notice too that the law is written in such a way as to define a bomb as anything the police might think is a bomb?



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  • Laurie.

    If you’d been in the UK the hospital treatment would have been free and if you pleaded poverty they’d have given you money for the fare to get to the hospital. Most European countries are pretty good on healthcare though. Holland leads the table on healthcare scores. America is an anachronism. It’s one of the reasons why despite my abiding passion for Americana I wouldn’t ever live there. If I had to leave the UK I’d live happily anywhere in Europe, Scandinavia, Iceland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand but I wouldn’t live in America if they paid me.

    The police there are basically a para-military organisation now. The healthcare system is so bizarre by our standards and criminally expensive. The education system sucks. There are so many religious nutters which we just don’t have over here. Politics is all about money rather than policies. The Republicans are so far off scale to the right it’s hard to even think of them as human beings by our standards.



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  • Parents Sue…

    …or boy’s parents sue, which is least expensive (in school district’s mind).

    Most, if not all, schools have what is called a Zero Tolerance Policy. I’ve read of (alleged) situations where children as young as Kindergarten get in trouble for drawing a gun on a piece of paper, and a kiddie bubble maker “gun” being confiscated.

    Add to the mix a Texas high school cheerleading squad doing a (controversial) ‘9/11 – God Bless the USA’ musical routine recently and…

    the poor kid is caught in the middle of all this. If his family moves, he won’t join NASA? Our loss.



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  • Alan4discussion
    Sep 19, 2015 at 5:08 am

    http://thesocietypages.org/graphicsociology/2011/04/26/cost-of-health-care-by-country-national-geographic/

    I have a very old slow computer and a little antique 15″ monitor and it took me ages to work that chart out. I had to scroll down to get the bulk of it on screen and then spent ages trying to find out where the hell the USA was. Eventually I spotted the line going up off screen and scrolled back up. But that just about makes the point. America is so far off scale with healthcare compared to every other country on the planet but they won’t do a damn thing about it. They spend 18% of GDP on it. The average in Europe is half that. It’s even worse than that though because for all that money so many people aren’t even covered. Before Obamacare 1/6th of the population, 50 million people, had no cover at all. That has come down a bit now but it’s still appalling.

    However to Republicans universal healthcare is near as dammit communism. 18% of GDP is 3 trillion dollars a year. They could save half of that, cover everyone in the country and get increased life expectancy. Think of it this way you grumpy old white men. With that spare 1.5 trillion a year you could invade middle east countries to your heart’s content. Hell, save up for a couple of years and you could invade China and Russia. You could bomb the shit out of places that none of your schoolkids have ever heard of and couldn’t begin to point to on a map. Actually you could also fix the education system with the spare cash so they would have heard of the places you could bomb, not to mention mending all the crumbling roads and bridges.

    Think how many armoured personnel carriers you could buy for the police. Hell you could buy every cop his own one and just get rid of the squad cars. How cool would that be for them? Patrolling the streets in your own APC, wearing your state of the art body armour and shooting black people in almost perfect safety with your chassis mounted 50 cal machine gun. Hell you could afford to strap a couple of ground to ground missiles to each APC for those really uppity niggers.

    Ah but sadly no, because healthcare like that is communism and we don’t do that shit in the US of A.



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  • I participated in my employer based preventative care incentive by having an annual physical. My mammogram showed suspicious areas. I figured it was my dense fibrocystic breasts – like usual. The technician wouldn’t tell me anything. I went through a month of Hell waiting, had repeat tests ultrasounds. with my high deductible insurance plan, I owed $2,000 for nothing.



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  • The “I hate Texas” and the “I hate America” outbursts are somehow intended to carry all the persuasiveness of a “I-Want-You” ISIS recruitment poster on a site devoted to critical discerning thinking. I don’t get it.

    Ahmed Mohamed is a Muslim boy who brought a homemade alarm clock to school. The probability that this fine young man posed a terrorist threat with this device was extremely small and in hindsight vanishes to near zero. Two disturbing features of his profile and sectarian-ethnic background remain: He is Muslim and he is a young male in the age range most susceptible for Jihadist recruitment. The English teacher, faculty, classmates even his own parents could not have known everything that was going on in his life, especially inside his head. The security measures taken, though regrettable in stigmatizing a perfectly innocent kid and model citizen-student, were reasonable.



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  • Many of us older than 40 or 50 have been lamenting for two or three decades that our childhood has been criminalized to allay the exaggerated fears of the helicopter parent and ‘perfect safety’ crowd, with the result being in the minds of some as placing a chill on or curtailing interest in practical science experimentation and young curiosities that has helped create many an engineer or chemist. See: Oliver Sacks’ “Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood” and the website “Stinks, Bangs, and Booms: The Rise and Fall of the American Chemistry Set“. Hundreds if not thousands of white American children have been subjected to mindless ‘zero tolerance’ policies for bringing to school a smallish folding pocket knife, a wooden toy gun, or some other forbidden object that in prior generations would have been treated as an infraction of rules that did not warrant the involvement of law enforcement or placing into the juvenile system. Or the reclassing of some offenses as serious felonies that once were only lesser misdemeanors. e.g. try ordering some chemicals to make your own fireworks, or expressing an interest in making your own rocket engines these days. I don’t see this particular incident as being really outside of this trend, or any more deserving of condemnation, just because he’s a Muslim kid.



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  • QuestioningKat
    Sep 19, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    The technician wouldn’t tell me anything. I went through a month of Hell waiting, had repeat tests ultrasounds. with my high deductible insurance plan, I owed $2,000 for nothing.

    I recently had an injured wrist after doing some heavy hammering.

    I had two X-rays, (4 images each from different angles each time), a temporary plaster cast for suspected broken bone, a more long term resin cast after the second X-ray, and later a Magnetic resonance Scan which confirmed the bone was impacted but not broken but showed other damage – all on the UK National Health Service.

    (If my typing is more rubbish than usual, this is why!)

    It cost me nothing! – but I did have to wait for the results of the scan.



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  • QKat,

    So sorry to hear about this disgusting torment. I’m remembering another story of inhuman torment of a friend of ours due to pathological cruelty of the American health insurance industry. He is a Professor at a top University here in Boston but that didn’t help him when his son was diagnosed with liver cancer some years back. In those days, when a young person hit 19 years of age and was not in college they aged off their parent’s insurance plan. Remember that? My son was in the same situation. Still, these kids couldn’t get their own insurance plan unless they worked for a substantial company that would provide one. So we had all these 19 and up people with absolutely no insurance then. This was before Obamacare came along. So our friend’s son has liver cancer and no insurance. No insurance company would take him on at that point even though the Dad promises to pay anything just to get him on a policy. No way. By the time his liver was failing the Dad takes him to India and bought him a new liver to the tune of 80 thousand bucks and when they got back here no one would take him on for follow up care of course. The kid is dead now thanks to this disgusting system we have. Profit is king and if you can’t afford it then go die already.

    It’s stories like these that I think of when I hear these Fox News selfish pigs saying, “Why should I pay for those losers to get medical care? They need to get a job and pay for their own like I do” This said with a defensive, poor me, whining tone that makes me want to punch them in the gut but I don’t want to be arrested so I walk away.



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  • Brewster

    Or the reclassing of some offenses as serious felonies that once were only lesser misdemeanors.

    That’s bad enough, but all of my 20 something kids and nieces and nephews have been totally background checked, credit checked, drug tested and fingerprinted for job applications and when applying to rent apartments they have been background checked, credit checked and employment verified. Some of this is warranted but much is completely invasive. The thing is that I feel sorry for that generation because if someone had a run in with the law that was what I think of as just teenage bad judgement or common mischief or got in over their head with some credit card debt then there is no way to clean the slate. This will follow them for the rest of their lives and they will not qualify for bank loans or other credit and their first interview for most jobs will be their last. We are dividing those young people into an elite class and a poverty class.



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  • Brewster
    Sep 19, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Hundreds if not thousands of white American children have been subjected to mindless ‘zero tolerance’ policies for bringing to school a smallish folding pocket knife, a wooden toy gun, or some other forbidden object that in prior generations would have been treated as an infraction of rules that did not warrant the involvement of law enforcement or placing into the juvenile system.

    In England in the 1950s, I (and classmates) carried a folding pocket knife to school for years. We used them for sharpening pencils over the waste bins, and never considered using them a weapons.
    Then those “new-fangled” pencil sharpeners and ball-point-pens, came into fashion, with cross-nibbed pens, blotting paper, ink-wells and ink-pellets, becoming things of the past!



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  • We all love to reminisce about the good old days. As a child in the fifties I remember when folks donned formal attire to take an airline flight. We just walked out of the terminal across a stretch of tarmac, climbed the steps of the fancy wheeled ramp and boarded the aircraft with nothing checked except our tickets and baggage. By contrast a few years ago I showed some agitation while asking an airport officer where I needed to check in. When I arrived at my destination, I found a note in my suitcase which informed me that my suitcase had been “selected at random” to be opened and searched with apologies for the inconvenience. I believe the frustration (not rudeness) that I exhibited in front of the airport officer triggered that search.

    But let’s face it . The good old days were not so good: (From Wikipedia) The 1918 flu pandemic (January 1918 – December 1920) was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic, the first of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus.[1] It infected 500 million[2] people across the world, including remote Pacific islands and the Arctic, and killed 50 to 100 million of them—three to five percent of the world’s population[3]—making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history. Meanwhile WWI was killing 10 million Europeans the majority drafted from idyllic country towns of the late 19th century. Human history has been incredibly violent and deadly whether the body count comes from famine, disease, natural disaster, crime , war or tyranny.

    The “zero tolerance” policies taking the form of social imperatives derives from rising expectations of security, standards of living, medical health, long life expectancy and so on. The shift in social consciousness reflects the accelerating progress of science and technology. We know how to make stuff safer and safer and reflexively we do so. The Muslim boy in the article is identified with a current risk to the safety of society, a risk no matter how small that anyone is willing to assume when information technology available to security (police) forces can preempt it. Everyone is watched; everyone is searched; and, occasionally, everyone is asked to step out of the line for interrogation. We are all complicit in the system because we are the system.



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  • Teacher: Help!!! AHHHHHHHHHH
    Cop1: What is the problem?
    Teacher: Look at it! There’s wires, circuits, and a counter! AND A WHITE KID DID NOT MAKE IT!!
    Cop1: OH MY GOD, it’s a bomb and it’s counting up.
    Cop2: Where is the explosive?
    Cop1: Who has time for the little details? It’s a fucking bomb!
    Cop2: Sorry sir you’re right, but what does it mean for us?
    Cop1: I don’t know, but it’s going to be bad.
    Cop2: How bad?
    Cop1: Rip in the space-time continuum.
    Cop2: My god! How much time do we have?
    Cop1: Somewhere between never and 42 minutes ago.
    Cop2: Nooooooooooo!
    Cop2: Are we dead yet?
    Cop1: Maybe! I’m scared, hold me.
    Cop2: Mmmmm, bromance.
    Cop1: You smell like OBSESSION for Men.
    Cop2: Thank you.
    Cop1: Is that your gun?
    Cop2: No

    Hazmat team: Heller, how you durrin? AHEM, OFFICERS “SNAP”
    Hazmat team: We’re here with the 7th dimension storage unit.
    Hazmat team: Please guide us to the upward counting bomb.
    Hazmat team: Have a nice day, and thanks for using Carl’s Jr.

    Cops: Phew, we almost died.
    Cops: Do you know what that means?
    Cops: We saved Murica from a terrorist and now we’re heroes!!
    Cop2: Jinx bitch!
    Cop1: Fine, your call.
    Cop2: Lets club some children for the children!
    Cop1: You complete me, but first lets hear one question disguised as an order.
    Cop2: Sir, I’m going to look in your car now, okay!?!
    Cop1: It’s clubbing time.

    Joking aside, this is sad to see happening in our schools. First it was increased police presence around schools, then metal detectors, and now thugs in riot gear with guns in our schools.

    Terrorist Win :'(



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  • I am
    On IPhone and it is pointless posting the YouTube video because it works on another format and won’t play on computers. Have a look at the Mehdi Hassan video and you will see that this KID uses the word invent on ‘the first thing he ever invented’. To call him a liar and ask ‘what else he lied about’, is just unbelievable. It is obvious this KID believes putttting together something is an invention and I would guess that, to encourage, his parents might not have corrected him, as Mehdi chose not to. It’s an adult thing to do.

    Besides all if that, if we are to take it that it was the right thing to do to call the police, then what happened to the bomb squad? They surely would have recognised this for what it is and all the red, arrest, detain and interrogate would have been avoided. If the police took it away then what were they doing handling a possible explosive? At best this is a series of farcical mistakes which does not excuse the police. The teacher should have been praised for being vigilant and they should have all gone home. This article has been written by an engineer but not a detective. Biased? I should say so.



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  • Joking aside, this is sad to see happening in our schools. First it was increased police presence around schools, then metal detectors, and now thugs in riot gear with guns in our schools.
    In the aftermath of a tragic incident where a lone wolf psychopath shot and killed several children on the playground of a Northern California elementary school, targeting Vietnamese kids out of some sick racist grievance, my friend who held a high ranking position in administration told me of a woman who phoned and asked him what steps the schools in his district were taking to prevent attacks like this from happening in the future. He told her nothing could be done to stop a determined killer who plans and executes a senseless crime of this kind without warning at a time and place of his own choosing.
    Several years ago, reports that 8 children had been strangled in freak accidents occurring over an extended period of time when closing automatic car windows pinned their necks. Car manufacturers quickly responded with sensors that stopped or reversed windows when an object broke the path of motion.
    Understandably mothers and fathers demand that more and more, procedures, rules; and technological and electronic devices be put in place to assure “zero tolerance” for risks to child (and adult safety). We are preoccupied with eliminating anything that threatens our safety, security and health and especially that of our children. No one is forcing this stuff on nostalgia geezers. We are demanding it. NOW.



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  • Standard Operating Procedures for law enforcement in most civilized places (Does that include America??) is to isolate the device. Evacuate the area. Cordon and contain. Call the bomb squad who have the right equipment, training and experience to make an assessment. Under no circumstances, do you EVER touch a suspect package. Bomb handing 101.

    If it’s not a bomb, resume normal stations. If it is, a robot will remove the device to the nearest safe location, where it will covered with very heavy shrapnel proof blankets and shot with a 12 gauge shot gun to detonate the device.

    If someone moved it, sack them.

    As to whether to make the call that the package is suspect, you always err on the side of caution and call it a bomb, until an expert says it’s not. I haven’t read the fine detail and I don’t intend to. Only in America, and it just makes me sigh a lot. So if this procedure wasn’t followed, then some re-education camp time is due to those who failed.



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  • As a teacher I am constantly asked to write risk assessments. My view on them is they are pointless, what is needed is good training and people being prepared to take some personally responsibility.

    I am by trade originally a commercial artist, then a teacher, my school short on science teachers (and knowing my passion for science) asked me to teach a year 8 science class. Technically at University (I was trained as a primary school teacher – but ended up as a high school art teacher) I was qualified to teach up to year 10 science – that after only doing two subjects in science. I told them I was interested but didn’t feel sufficiently qualified. The promised to train me up and they did. Gradually over the years I built up my skills and knowledge did extra training and every prac I perform with my class I had experienced science teachers and an excellent labbie walk me through the processes, I also did risk assessments, I can tell you writing a risk assessment means nothing, actually doing the experiment with a qualified professional is everything.

    Once took some kids out for soccer, had to write a risk assessment for that too. They have a risk statement risk level and reward line you cross the lines over and calculate the risk vs reward and decide if the activity is work doing. So I did it honestly, potential harms, bus could crash – decapitation, burning to death, multiple fractures, etc. fight on the field, potential harm one punch can kill, student not looking runs into goal post at full pelt -crushed skull death. I submitted the risk assessment to see if anyone was looking, surprise – surprise no-one did. Silly policies are just that, silly, we do need to understand risks and how to avoid them.

    Learning to fly taught me that in spades, what works is good training and being assessed by someone competent silly policies and procedures are simply arse covering which are the exact opposite of safety, they cover arses not protect against risk. I passed my flying exam, but frankly I could have passed that before I had learned because obsessive as I am I spent a lot of time studying. Passing the exam did nothing to prove I could fly, my instructor constantly attempting to induce panic in me every time I began to master a skill had much more to do with it. Just as I’d get comfortable the throttle would shut off and I’d have him yelling in my ear “where are you going to land! Get the nose down! Airspeed NOW!!! Pay attention to you attitude! Where are the power poles!”. He’d constantly cover up the airspeed indicator, “you don’t need it, feel the damn stick – loose or firm?!”. The man prepared me fully because he knew one day he would get out of the other seat and send me off on my own and he knew at that point he was responsible for my life.

    How much police time was wasted on this red herring (and how many crimes were not dealt with while this circus was going on?) when had that teacher had a decent look and think about the thing she was shown – had anyone, for that matter if she had even the slightest knowledge of electronics and or science this would have judged that there was zero risk, I wonder if a white or Christian student if there would have been any attention.

    It strikes me this clock falls under the same category, If some student opened a box with some circuitry I would fail to be concerned unless I saw something that looked like explosives, liquids, containers, some covered section etc. An experienced teacher likewise does get to know kids pretty well and gets to know who is likely to be a genuine threat. If teachers are going to be spooked every time they see circuitry then I’d better chuck out all the Raspberry Pi’s I’ve been teaching with for the past few years (yes they too could easily be used to make a clock, alarm, trigger for a bomb…), while I’m at it I’d better throw out all the robots, physical computing components, all the electronics, breadboards, jumper wires, I’d better chuck out the 3D printer my students use (they could print a gun or a knife), and let’s stop using the 3D modelling software while I’m at it, it too could be used to design guns, knives etc.

    In short what was needed here was sensible precautions, and sensible proceedures, that this kid was taken away in handcuffs was ridiculous. What we need is common sense – sadly lacking here I’m afraid.



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  • I see the police in America have just shot a driver dead from a helicopter for failing to stop and driving the wrong way down a freeway. I had no idea that was actually a capital offense now. It certainly saves all that tedious mucking around in courts trying to prove guilt after the event though. Also much safer than sending police in cars after him. One of them could get a boo boo. Soon it’ll be unmanned police drones doing the shooting while the actual police direct things from the safety of a computer room.

    “CITIZEN!!! You are in breach of police state law 32189 section 4. Walking slightly too fast in a public place. You will be utterly compliant to the demands of this unmanned unit or be shot until you cease to resist.”



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  • I’ve just had one of my bizarre random thoughts. I wonder if John Boehner realises just what a risk he’s taking with his health as he tries gradually to turn into a person of colour. No, not skin cancer. Getting shot by the police for not being a white man.



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  • just about perfect, especially the upward counting bomb.

    Next thing is pouncing on students for carrying bottles of liquid- could be cunningly disguised Molotov cocktails, with food colouring, how could you tell the difference between that and fanta. Good God he’s going for his handkerchief! He’s about the light it up quick someone shoot him!



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  • Reckless Monkey
    Sep 20, 2015 at 7:22 am

    Next thing is pouncing on students for carrying bottles of liquid– could be cunningly disguised Molotov cocktails, with food colouring, how could you tell the difference between that and fanta.

    Airport security is already on to that one!

    I’m not sure that collecting water bottles in a bin where everyone files past, gives a significant improvement in protection, although an explosion at an airport may be marginally less catastrophic than in an aircraft!



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  • Yes, just came back from a flight to Sydney, we couldn’t carry more that 100ml of liquid so had to use small bottles for our shampoo and conditioner. Not a particular hassle though on an international or domestic flight going through airport security, going to be a bit hard to teach if we treat every water bottle at school as a potential explosive device.



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  • Melvin
    Sep 20, 2015 at 3:40 am

    We are preoccupied with eliminating anything that threatens our safety, security and health and especially that of our children.

    There are those who delude themselves that it is possible to live a risk-averse life in a risk free environment, where everything is someone else’s responsibility!
    (I call this, “the padded cell mentality”) – and even fools and the insane, cannot harm themselves or anyone else.



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  • He was arrested for suspicion of a bomb HOAX. The teachers and police were confident early on that this was no bomb, but then had to consider the question whether or not it was intended to be construed as a bomb. There have been cases where someone has created a device or left objects in public places that were intended to be construed as suspicious or possible threat, but were in fact harmless. This can be a crime, if there is intent. Certainly, even where it is not a criminal offense, it is well within the right of a school to determine an appropriate response or punishment. Merely denying there was intent does not resolve the issue. Those facing potential sanction or consequences often deny intent and plead ignorance or naivety.

    Having now considered the evidence that Ahmed simply took the electronics from a commercially manufactured alarm clock and placed them into a pencil case, has persuaded me to believe something sordid or underhanded is behind this. I don’t attribute it to Ahmed since he’s 14 but rather someone else in his life who has influence over him to have concocted this scheme and put him up to it. I don’t believe we’ve heard the whole truth.



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  • Alan, I live in a area where it is common for coyotes, bears and cougars to walk down the street. Three years ago I encountered a bear face to face within fifteen feet. I scared the hell out of him/her.
    I am also in the “ring of fire”. I live on the Washington State coastline. We could be gone within fifteen minutes.
    Trying to live a “risk free” environment is a little like keeping your pet mouse in a bottle.
    There is no such thing as ‘risk free”.

    Don’t save your life, spend it wisely.



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  • alf1200
    Sep 20, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Next plumbing will be suspect………

    Yeah! That suspicious silver-plated toilet and taps!!!

    Don’t trust your sink or toilet! It may contain water………

    Or that clear 98% Hydrogen peroxide disguised as water!!!

    http://www.spaceuk.org/htp/htp.htm
    One of the lesser known rocket fuels is hydrogen peroxide. Only the British have used it to any extent, developing increasingly sophisticated motors in the period from the late 1940s to the early 1970s.

    Hydrogen peroxide has the chemical formula H2O2. It is easily decomposed, and breaks down into water and oxygen:

    2 H2O2 = 2 H2O + O2

    (Or more accurately:- into STEAM and oxygen)

    The British discovered that a silver plated nickel gauze could be used as a catalyst – the HTP was pumped through the gauze and decomposed.

    It can be used as a monopropellant – that is, by itself



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  • The boy was stripped of his dignity and put at risk of stigma — a massive issue under the constitution that protects all free persons against illegal imposition by the government and quasi govt like school.s This issue should be taken to the court and not to the white house. The white house has failed to promote science door to door. This light illuminated in a tiny corner could not belong to the departing president and so he cannot take the light away from the kid when President wasnt the one who advocated to bring light to his home but only handcuffs. This event marked what is to come in the next few years. This should enrage all the so called mothers and women who are bemoaning their reproductive freedoms



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  • P.S. I think it’s horrible what they did. My friend sent me that article, I skimmed through it, and impulsively decided to post the link – for kicks. However, there are a few questions that do need to be addressed.
    (Richard Dawkins himself, by the way, thinks he should not have been arrested – and he’s right – but he objected to all the adulation the young man has received.)



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  • Alan, I live in a area where it is common for coyotes, bears and cougars to walk down the street.

    Lions, and tigers, and bears. Oh My!

    People confuse probability -call it chances of winning or losing- with actual outcome. Because of his gender, age, religious-ethnic background, Mohamed carried a probability, however low or high, of being radicalized to commit a jihadist terrorist act. It was not unreasonable for school officials to raise the probable threat level embodied in his profile to a red flag security response when he showed up at school with this homemade electronic device. Arguing after the OUTCOME that the response was inappropriate because the boy was in fact innocent dismisses any action taken on the logical inferences of PROBABILITY.



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  • “Homemade electronic device”.
    The problem is not the device. The problem is the response and the three day jail time and the interrogation without lawyer or parent.
    Is any electronic device now illegal to construct in school?
    People are now afraid of electronics like it is always used to kill.
    Another “I’m afraid because I don’t know” response.

    And using my statement like that is pure arrogance and insulting.
    Try debating without being sarcastic.



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  • Wow. Already convicted him. If you know anything about electronics, you might know there are common clock Integrated chips that he salvaged off another board.
    There is no reason to suspect him. Unless you have another agenda.



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  • So the young man was “in the age range”?
    So were his classmates. Otherwise they wouldn’t be his classmates.
    He was a “young male”. So were fifty percent of his school.
    He was a muslim……………There we go………..THAT’S the problem.



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  • I have just returned from Barcelona. I feel the same way as when I returned from Paris years ago. London is being stifled by the nanny state. Melvins nanny state. Melvins fear based over reactive nanny state which leaves London looking like a ghost town with nowhere to park or safe. Barcelona has people using the pavements. People on bikes, skateboards segways etc, alongside pedestrians. The whole thing works. PEOPLE can park their cars and motor bikes and get close to where they are going. There are lights and pedestrian crossings at every corner to make things safer. There are families everywhere unafraid to use the city. No overreaction to PROBABILITIES. NO APARTHEID.



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  • Because of his gender, age, religious-ethnic background, Mohamed carried a probability, however low or high, of being radicalized to commit a jihadist terrorist act.

    there are young white men from christian upbringing in my country that have traveled to Syria to join ISIS, the high or low probability is significant, it tells how much effort is worth being taken towards an issue. Locking a kid up for making a clock – and they knew it was not a bomb before they arrested him or the clock would not have survived the encounter with the bomb squad (how as far as I can tell were never called – why not?). They endeavored to charge him not with making a bomb but with making a hoax bomb. If this case was a matter of a genuine threat ie. the thing really looked like a bomb the school would have been evacuated and the bomb squad called. Why did this not happen? Because clearly no-one took the idea that it was a bomb seriously. If they did and did not evacuate the school and call the bomb squad then this speaks of a level of incompetence that should see all involved lose their jobs. So what is the probability that at the time anyone (other than the English teacher) considered it a genuine bomb? Zero I would think considering the no-one evacuated the school or called the bomb squad. So while they were dealing with this innocent student how much tax money was wasted, how much opportunity cost was lost to this farce.

    The evidence presented, suggests this boy was punished by the police and then by the school for bringing a science/engineering project to school that presented no threat whatsoever and when one teacher got spooked the school responded in a manner devised to cover their arses in an environment where the real fear is one of Muslims in general rather than any real threat they might actually present. This is clearly an overreaction at best and an example of bigotry at worst. No good can come out of restricting any Muslim students from participating in higher education, I would have thought our goals would be better met by increasing the amount of education Muslim kids receive, not punishing them for it.

    Let’s spell this out it is not that these things can not be brought to school, the fact is you can not bring these things to school if you have dark skin or are Muslim. That I think is really what is at play here.



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  • Both my sons have been stopped and searched on their way into America, one on business the other on holiday, because of their surname. I have less tolerance of ignorance than they so will stay well away for the foreseeable future. The decent people of America need to take their country back. When they do, I’ll buy them all a drink 🙂



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  • decent people of America – take their country back

    http://thefreethoughtproject.com/?s=mohawk – Kid looks awesome, and if memory serves, a NASA team member got lots o’ love for his blue Mohawk, go figure.

    Segue to Native Americans – land lost to France, Spain, and England. St. Augustine, Florida just celebrated its founding anniversary (considered the oldest town in the u.s.). The song ‘Seminole Wind’ poignantly rebuffs.

    Japanese internment camps after Pearl Harbour, are now correctly considered an atrocity to human rights.



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  • People are now afraid of electronics like it is always used to kill.
    Another “I’m afraid because I don’t know” response.

    I apologize for offense taken to my Wizard of Oz jokey reference. (I couldn’t resist). We’re trying to
    sterilize this incident of any threat with post-facto observations that appear more than persuasive to carry the day.

    Everyone who boards an airliner is searched no matter how low the probability that he or she is carrying a tool or device that might be used to destroy or hijack the aircraft. Standing in line, we’ve all resented the fact that they are searching me without cause. It feels like they are violating my human and civil rights.

    It’s sad that we are living in a world where literally millions of innocent people are searched every day, kept under surveillance and “investigated” to some degree by authorities. (By the way Google does effectively the same thing by collecting data to target people as “probable” customers for advertisers). Why, God do we have to live in such a fearful environment?

    Why? Hijackers we’re waved aboard the fateful aircraft on 9-11, carrying nothing more than box cutters an apparently harmless tool with a two inch blade. The last line of defense respected their rights because their papers were all in order. After the tragedy, self-styled savants and “heroes” came out of the woodwork with tons of red flags, background information, and claims that they tried to warn authorities that these guys were up to no good. The information, the anecdotes were true, of course, ever so true and obvious. But they all came after the outcome.

    On Christmas day, 2009 a 20-year old black Muslim Nigerian was waved aboard an airliner in Amsterdam. His rights were respected because after all he had passed security who could not have been expected to find a bomb in his underwear. Today, everyone who gets on an airplane has his or her underwear searched by x-ray or pat down . How intrusively absurd!

    Young Ahmed, to a greater extent than the rest of us, is the victim-in-hindsight of this sad often absurd vigilance syndrome of our times predicated on such vanishingly low probabilities. The comments explaining what officials could have done; what they should have done all seem obvious based on the overwhelming evidence of this fine young man’s innocence. “They should have gone to the engineering teacher for an explanation of the device; they should have used common sense to see that no explosives were embedded; they should have brought in the bomb squad…” No. Ahmed was taken out of the line and handcuffed because he brought a device he made at home into a classroom and displayed it to an English teacher who followed security procedures regardless of whether he had a real bomb or a harmless homemade alarm clock. Whether the authorities over-reacted, or acted out of ignorance or used unnecessary force is an entirely different argument. Ahmed’s actions triggered an appropriate response consistent with the rules and regulations of the consensus security regime of our “perilous” times.



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  • 67
    therealclimber says:

    I think I’d be more worried the school staff couldn’t find someone who could tell the difference between a bomb and a clock. That’s the age kids often start getting into robotics and other technically advanced hobbies. One would think such a school would have at least one person with the necessary skills to know if it was a clock or not.



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  • AFAIK, he took the innards from a commercially manufactured alarm clock, and put them into a pencil box; no modifications to or retasking of scavanged components whatsoever. No evidence of any care for detail, purpose, style or aesthetics, whatsoever. The button pad was not mounted for external access through holes carefully cut in the box. You have to OPEN the box to see the LED display. The PCB is not even fastened to anything. A transformer flopping around inside. Nothing is labeled. It’s a more inconvenient or difficult to use clock than the original. Completely nonsensical as a clock.



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  • Everyone who boards an airliner is searched no matter how low the
    probability

    Yes that is the norm but when you are then taken out because of your name, being one of thirteen young men in my youngest sons case, and further scrutinised and made to feel different and, later mocked by your friends it can make you resentful.

    Ahmed’s actions triggered an appropriate response consistent with the
    rules and regulations of the consensus security regime of our
    “perilous” times.

    No excuse! Get busy training and put together a system that is fair. If you can’t then move over and let someone who can handle the details. In Turkey we went through five different scanning processes. People started to moan but none was singled out so no fuel was added to the frustrating situation. I said to those around me, “Better they find it down here then up there”. They soon saw the sense in it. There are ways to make things safe and fair….simple as that.



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  • Well there was at least one – the engineering teacher who told him NOT to show it to other teachers. Why he wasn’t called in immediately to clear things up is one of the most obvious questions to be asked.

    However, to play devil’s advocate, the clock in it’s briefcase housing looks a lot like a typical “bomb” such as you might see in a film or TV show. I don’t know the details of construction but it is at least possible that it was deliberately designed to look like a bomb. This would also explain why the engineering teacher told him not to show it to other teachers – because he thought they might freak out on account of it looking like a bomb.

    None of this excuses the massive OTT reaction from school and police, but taking something that looks like a bomb to school (and he’s too smart not to have known that it did look like a bomb, even if more like something Wile E Coyote would use) is a bit silly and I’m not sure that White House invitations are quite in order.



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  • Olgun,

    Your sons shouldn’t take this personally. Every time I come back into the States (my own country) from Europe they tear my suitcase apart in customs. I’m as white as a sheet with blue eyes and a Mayflower descendant Bostonian. It has everything to do with the fact that I have entry and exit visas to Algeria and an Algerian resident visa stamped on my passport. I’m now used to this crappy situation. The questions they ask are completely ignorant and laughable. I’m pretty sure they can’t find Algeria on a map. They think I’m saying Nigeria every time.

    On the bright side, going through customs in Algeria is a hundred times worse. It could actually be dangerous. Bribery is expected and there is no rule of law.

    One place I’ve always wanted to go is Egypt since I was a child. I waited too long and now, as you see, it’s too late. I can make myself inconspicuous in that place to some degree but not enough to make it safe. I wonder if I’ll ever get there at all now.

    Please don’t wait for things to get better in the States if you want to visit. There’s no guarantee that anything will get better anywhere. Get on that plane, hold your head high, let the customs gorillas rip the suitcase apart and I promise you, you’ll have a weird, wild vacation (holiday) in the wild-wild-west.

    Watch that mini series with Stephen Fry where he drives around America in that London cab and actually interacts with actual Americans. It’s hilarious! -Whether it’s meant to be or not…the poor guy. How did he stand it o_O



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  • Olgun, his son and family deserve our sympathy for the indignity suffered by an innocent young boy because of security procedures.

    Nonetheless, I cannot thin slice arguments why “last names,” country of origin, skin color, physical features, dress, probable religious affiliation, travel history documented on passports, or other factors may or may not justify further scrutiny of a specific individual under specific circumstances. Bureaucratic systems which deal with millions assessing minuscule risk factors can never be made “simple and fair” because 99.999…% of anonymous people selected for further scrutiny will statistically prove harmless.

    paulmcuk, who need not apologize for playing devil’s advocate, presents a cogent narrative of how Ahmed could have taken reasonable steps to prevent the English teacher from pushing the security alarm button.
    Probably Ahmed, having been warned, “knew better” than to show her the device but succumbed to the faux pas impulse typical of immaturity. For her part, the English teacher also acted spontaneously in a way consistent with her training. No one deserves much blame in an episode where the march of events took on a life of their own reflecting the fears of our times.



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  • We’re trying to
    sterilize this incident of any threat with post-facto observations that appear more than persuasive to carry the day.

    Melvin,
    If they had called the bomb squad I would be right there with you. But they didn’t that tells me that

    A) no-one thought it was a bomb.
    B)They are idiots.

    Given that they did not evacuate the classroom, evacuate the school, then call the bomb squad. This tells me they likely didn’t think it was actually a bomb. This is not therefore just some post facto analysis of of what turned out to be the case – all analysis of events by definition is after they have happened by the way, saying this is wrong headed in some way defeats the purpose of memory, writing and much else, you should look back on the facts and make judgements about them.

    What they actually did it would appear is bundle the kid and his clock off to the police station where he was interrogated – apparently unconvincingly according to the police statement because he just kept telling them it was a clock and not a bomb – BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT YOU WOULD TELL THE POLICE IF IT WAS AN ACTUAL CLOCK! I am making a judgment about the actions that were actually taken based on school procedures if there is a genuine threat. For example, because my school was made in the 1990’s there is a small possibility that building materials contain asbestos I am therefore required by law to evacuate the class and shut the door if a kid slams his chair into the plasterboard and makes a crack. If I thought their was a bomb in the class my first step would be to evacuate the class, raise the alarm then call 000 (911 in USA) and get the bomb squad in to check it out. Why did this not happen?

    If this was a bomb then based upon what they did you should be asking why the police didn’t think to call the bomb squad, why the English teacher didn’t have the school evacuated. If this was a real threat or they thought it really was, then their inaction put hundreds of lives at risk. Clearly they knew it wasn’t really a bomb, before the boy was cuffed and arrested.

    Meanwhile while they were wasting time dealing with false security threats, false threats to public safety what real threats were not being dealt with, how many kids were being raped by pedophiles, how many assaults, robberies, murders were actually taking place? What else could have these cops been doing? Who else could they have arrested and locked up? Opportunity cost.



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  • Melvin
    Sep 21, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    Probably Ahmed, having been warned, “knew better” than to show her the device but succumbed to the faux pas impulse typical of immaturity.

    As I recall in the account, he did not intentionally show it, but the alarm beeper went off and she asked to see what it was!

    @link – Later, Ahmed’s clock beeped during an English class, and after he revealed the device to the teacher, school officials notified the police, and Ahmed was interrogated by officers.

    “She thought it was a threat to her,” Ahmed told reporters Wednesday.



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  • However, to play devil’s advocate, the clock in it’s briefcase housing looks a lot like a typical “bomb” such as you might see in a film or TV show.

    yes, but so does a calculator if you pull the back off it to change a battery, a phone if you do the same, a tv remote control, any circuit board in fact, my kids work with bread boards, vero-boards and robotics motor boards all the time, I don’t expect them to have the bomb squad and a swat team arrive every time I do robotics with my students.

    I think the White House invitation is exactly in order, you couldn’t ask for a better way to repair the damage to a young Muslim boy who would now feel (legitimately) like he is being targeted for his ethinc and religious background. Now I am actually convinced that this boy is, due to his religious background more likely to be a target of fundamentalist Islam trying to recruit young teenagers. What better way to take a bright moderate boy showing initiative and promise and turn those gifts against the west than treating him like a terrorist for doing school work. It’s a massive own-goal if you want this boy to be moderate. No, having a chat with the president while they look at the stars and consider the cosmos would be far better use of presidential time than many a drone strike. I hope they cover the encounter on national news. That is the way to win hearts and minds.



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  • LaurieB,

    They didn’t take it personally, I did. There are many ways this sort of thing effects people and their mother being English puts the blame on me. It was not meant by my boys and they laughed it off but it gives them one more reason to reject my background culture, if it becomes too much of a burden, and make me feel like an outsider. I have raised them to be accepting of every race and sometimes feel they are embarrassed by half of their genes. I am not silly enough to not know that they will one day work it all out and become who they really are but I would prefer for them to do it without any regrets.

    Apart from my parents, who, from lack of education, gave me all kinds of weird reasons to behave responsibly, I can possibly say that morality was taught to me by American and English films. I was and am addicted to films (although my tastes have improved greatly). The usual suspects of Hollywood greats like John Wayne and, especially, James Stewart backed up with the British film stars way of “playing with a straight bat” with Kenneth More at the very top. What I am trying to say is that I expect the very best from these two countries and knowing the Algeria is infinitely worse is of no comfort. It may sound naive or childish even but refuse to give America the excuse to fool me. Like you, because of where we each live, I have to take some crap from the UK in order not to go mad but coming to America and having to face the reality of it is something I am not ready for, if I am ever. I feel the same about my vertigo (full on). Jump out of a plane, they say, it will get rid of your fear. If the time comes that I have no choice but to jump then I will face my fear or scream all the way down!! 😉



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  • For her part, the English teacher also acted spontaneously in a way consistent with her training. No one deserves much blame in an episode where the march of events took on a life of their own reflecting the fears of our times.

    No she did not! Her training if she genuinely believed it to be a threat was to evacuate the class, raise the alarm and have the whole school evacuated, contact the police and warn of a actual bomb. This did not happen, the boy and the device were taken by the police.

    If she believed it was a bomb and did not evacuate the class immediately she deserves to loose her job. How would you feel if you were the principal and a staff member brought a bomb into your office? This kids brought this thing in that looks like a bomb, can you deal with it?



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  • Olgun, his son and family deserve our sympathy for the indignity
    suffered by an innocent young boy because of security procedures.

    Inadequate security procedures …Fixed!

    No one deserves much blame in an episode where the march of events
    took on a life of their own reflecting the fears of our times.

    This is exactly why Islamaphobia is the correct description. There are supposed to be six types of snake in Cyprus with only one being dangerous to people. They are all killed by ignorance and a phobic reaction. I have now donned some white robes and am travelling the land bringing wisdom and tolerance to those I meet with. They still have fear in their eyes but leave the snakes alone.



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  • Olgun

    I am not silly enough to not know that they will one day work it all out and become who they really are but I would prefer for them to do it without any regrets.

    I am very sure they will work it out, especially with having a father who celebrates diversity. My kids and Algerian nephews here are in very good shape with all of this and seem to have taken the best from both sides. In their mid and late twenties they like to announce that they are a bunch of nuss-nusses. (nuss means “half” in arabic) They call themselves “half and half’s and they laugh at this. They also tell people that they are descendants of Puritans and Pirates both at the same time! (It’s a reference to the Barbary Coast of course.) It causes people to stop and think about it as it’s a somewhat curious combination.

    The worst day for this sort of thing was when those planes plowed into the Pentagon and World Trade Center that morning. My kids were in school at the time and I was so frightened that it would be discovered that the people behind the attack would be Algerians. I was prepared to rush to the school and take my kids home. I just didn’t know what would happen to them. These are the types of things that bicultural kids negotiate on a regular basis I guess.

    I expect the very best from these two countries and knowing the Algeria is infinitely worse is of no comfort.

    You’re right. That is no comfort at all. I do acknowledge that.

    Please do not jump out of a plane. Never do that.



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  • As I recall in the account, he did not intentionally show it, but the alarm beeper went off and she asked to see what it was!

    Alan: Many thanks for the correction in the narrative. I got the sequence of events wrong in how the device came to the attention of the teacher. Reckless Monkey is right to demand that the teacher should have called for immediate evacuation of the classroom (and building) if she believed the device posed a threat.

    I speculate that she was in fact alarmed but may have regarded the device as a bomb hoax and therefore functionally harmless. Alas, so many extraneous speculations are missing the core “ethic” of security.
    If Ahmed had pulled a rough wooden replica of a 9mm automatic pistol from his pocket, the same consequences would have obtained. We can argue about the handcuffs, the suspension, the charges but we can’t argue about the security implications of an incident involving something that looked like a bomb.

    We’ve reached a point where the argument begets speculations already hashed over that only go in circles. Reasonable people can disagree. That’s what’s great about the RD site.



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  • One of the fundamental differences between the UK and the US, is that News Media in the UK are expected to have standards of honesty and accuracy.

    Hence organisations like Faux News are taken to task in the UK, so citizens are less paranoid, and have a clearer view of what is happening!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-34317107

    Broadcasting regulator Ofcom has found Fox News in breach of the broadcasting code after one of its contributors called Birmingham a “no-go zone” for non-Muslims.

    The comment was made during an episode of Justice with Judge Jeanine by guest Steve Emerson in January.

    An Ofcom spokesperson said it was a “serious breach for a current affairs programme”.

    .Fox said it regretted the comments and apologised to the people of Birmingham.

    In an interview on 11 January, American terrorism commentator Mr Emerson said: “There are actually cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim, where non Muslims just simply don’t go in.”



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  • News Media in the UK are expected to have standards of honesty and accuracy.

    OH, REALLY??
    BBC, Guardian? “DON’T use the I- word or the M-word; these are SOUTH ASIANS”

    “South Asian” rape ganges in Rotherham, Oxford, etc, etc.
    “DON’T prosecute them- that would be ISLAMOPHOBIC!”



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  • JimJFox
    Sep 22, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    News Media in the UK are expected to have standards of honesty and accuracy.

    OH, REALLY??

    “South Asian” rape ganges in Rotherham, Oxford, etc, etc.

    What is inaccurate about describing this group as “Asians” or “South Asians”?

    BBC – .. the existence of sex-grooming gangs made up of Muslim men of South-Asian origin. .
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22522232
    The authorities were indeed “effective in readily identifying perpetrators and victims with similar individual characteristics”, the inquiry panel concluded. “Data is gathered more assiduously on perpetrators identified by professionals as Asian, Pakistani or Kurdish,” the report asserted.

    The activities are scandalous, but the reporting looks honest and accurate!

    “DON’T prosecute them- that would be ISLAMOPHOBIC!”

    The UK press was criticising the lack of prosecution!!!



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  • I think the family have identified where the problem lies, and are taking appropriate action to get a propoer education for the youngsters!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-34324917

    The family of a Muslim teenager arrested after a homemade clock he brought to his Texas school was mistaken for a bomb, has withdrawn him from the school.

    Ahmed Mohamed’s father, Mohamed El-Hassan Mohamed, said he had pulled all his children from schools in the area.

    According to Mr Mohamed the arrest of the 14-year-old had a harmful effect.

    Ahmed was arrested at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, after officials thought the device he brought to school was a “hoax bomb”.

    “Ahmed said: ‘I don’t want to go to MacArthur,'” Mr Mohamed told The Dallas Morning News on Tuesday. “These kids aren’t going to be happy there.”

    Ahmed has received numerous enrolment offers from schools, his father said, adding that he wanted to give him a break before making a decision.

    The politicians and media now seem to be going off the path of sanity in a different direction!

    The entire family is set to fly to New York on Wednesday where United Nations dignitaries want to meet Ahmed.

    After that, Mr Mohamed hopes to take his son on a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

    I hope that opens his eyes to that culture, but it could go either way!



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  • Well, I’d argue that the briefcase housing was what turns a circuit board into something that someone unschooled in either electronics or bombs might think looks like a bomb. What a bomb can actually look like is irrelevant. I for one would not dream of attempting to take something that looks like Ahmed build into an airport…and frankly if I did I would fully expect to be at least subjected to some fairly robust questioning (and if I had brown skin I’d expect to be arrested).

    Maybe the White House has more information than we do. Well, I should hope they do. But there are gaps in this story, notably what conversation took place between Ahmed and his English teacher. The cops say that when they questioned him he said it was a clock, but little else. What did he say before they were called? Did he tell the English teacher it was a clock and that his engineering teacher knew all about it? I don’t know. Suppose she asked and all he said was “What does it look like?”

    Based on the information I have, there is at least a possibility that he built it with the intention of it looking like a bomb and that he forewent chances to diffuse the situation in order to try and freak his teacher out and look big in front of his classmates (as 14 year old boys are wont to do). Hence my slight unease about the “rewards” and acclaim being heaped on him. If the story is as it seems at face value he deserves it all and more, but if not…

    You are undoubtedly correct that the White House invitation sends an excellent signal and might help repair some damage. However, in making this invitation, the White House has very publicly judged the school and police and condemned them without, as far as I know, any investigation. Ok, the latter were unquestionably heavy handed but the teacher might have had reason to believe that there was legitimate reason to call them. If the White House made the invitation based just on news reports then it was rash to do so and, frankly, seems to me to be rather cynically using the incident to make political capital.



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  • Hi paulmcuk,

    I’d agree with part of what you say here, and I’ve probably shot my mouth off too much on this thread (sorry Melvin), but as a teacher of ITC’s who uses constantly things that could just as easily look like bombs (by these standards) I can see some flaws in what we can see from what has been reported.

    So I’ll try to brief, in summary.

    If the teach thought there was a genuine threat she should have called 911 and gotten the bomb squad in after evacuating the school. As this did not happen as you suggest and I suspect you are correct the English teacher may have suspected instead it was a hoax. This being the case then getting the kid to office to clear up the mess you be step 2.

    Now the police indicated that when questioning him he refused to say anything other than it was a clock. What bothers me about this situation is what I think should be obvious. What answer would they expect from a kid who had in fact just made a clock?
    I also would like to know why his engineering teacher who could have confirmed that it was in fact a clock (along with the fact elsewhere pointed out that it counts up not down). It seems to me the only reason the police should have been called is if they had actual grounds to believe the student have in fact built a fake bomb. Now I would have thought if he had in fact been trying to do so then putting an alarm on it would be silly as would making the clock count forwards. Also putting in something that looked like explosives would be necessary. As for building it into a pencil case it is fairly normal procedure for protecting delicate circuits, normally you would buy a little plastic box but as the kid reported having to scavenge to get parts this is perfectly explicable too.

    It seems to me that if this is the standard of panic every time a kid brings in electronics into a US school I’m glad I teach where I do or I’d have the bomb squad in every day when I’m doing robotics, I use motor boards designed by my brother and electrical engineer and build by us to hack toy’s and turn them into robots using raspberry pi computers, both the raspberry pi’s and the motor boards especially when hooked up to the batteries looks very much like this kids device.

    I’m proud of what my kids have achieved and plan to do even more on this type of thing my kids design components for their robots in 3D software and print on the 3D printer, so the way we are going is resulting in kids taking electronics, 3D printed pieces to and from school, building and testing robotics, programming etc. The reaction that has come about as a result of this would scare of teachers like me from attempting to learn this stuff and engage with students. The paranoia has already made teaching science a misery for experienced science teachers having to do mountains of paper work to do even very safe experiments.



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