Child Arrested Because Adults Are Stupid

A Texas 9th-grader makes an electronic clock and brings it to school. Teachers immediately become stupid and call the police:

The bell rang at least twice, he said, while the officers searched his belongings and questioned his intentions. The principal threatened to expel him if he didn’t make a written statement, he said.

“They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?'” Ahmed said.

“I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”

“He said, It looks like a movie bomb to me.'”

The student’s name is Ahmed Mohamed, which certainly didn’t help.

I am reminded of the 2007 story of an MIT student getting arrested for bringing a piece of wearable electronic art to the airport. And I wrote about the “war on the unexpected” back in 2007, too.

We simply have to stop terrorizing ourselves. We just look stupid when we do it.

EDITED TO ADD: New York Times article. Glenn Greenwald commentary.

EDITED TO ADD (9/21): There’s more to the story. He’s been invited to the White House, Google, MIT, and Facebook, and offered internships by Reddit and Twitter. On the other hand, Sarah Palin doesn’t believe it was just a clock. And he’s changing schools.

EDITED TO ADD (10/13): Two more essays.

Posted on September 16, 2015 at 10:09 AM111 Comments


Alan September 16, 2015 10:18 AM

He was probably building the infamous air bomb — one that doesn’t require any explosive material — just a bunch of wires and electronics that are able to spontaneously cause the air to explode.

Dave X September 16, 2015 10:26 AM

Good thing Heathkit went out of business. Our country would grind to a halt with all the air-bomb kits they were supplying to our impressionable youth.

Clouzeau September 16, 2015 10:36 AM

Reminds me of a monstrously devious plot foiled by French police a few years ago.

The news bulletin on the radio mentioned repeated for several hours that a bottle of ferric chloride had been found at the domicile of some suspects, which of course had Arab-sounding names.

Later in the day the reference to the chemical were silently dropped, and nothing came out of the “investigation”. I did try to look it up.

Maybe the poor boy had a bottle of this chemical to make printed circuit boards?

Archon September 16, 2015 10:46 AM

“She was like, it looks like a bomb,” he said.

“I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.’”

The teacher kept the clock.

It looked like a bomb, so she kept it. Either it didn’t really look like a bomb and she’s being dishonest, or she is the dumbest human being on the face of the earth.

“It looks like a movie bomb to me.”

And the student looks like a movie bomb maker, huh? Yet something tells me you don’t look like Bruce Willis.

“It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car.”

Except it wasn’t. If I walked into a gun store and arrested everyone there because their inventory could reasonably be mistaken as part of an assassination attempt if left on the White House lawn, people would think I’m nuts. But no: If you have a decent amount of cash you’re automatically a drug dealer, if you have a decent amount of bare electronics you’re automatically a terrorist.

The police sent him out of the juvenile detention center to meet his parents shortly after taking his fingerprints.

Which will be kept on file forever even if he never so much as gets a parking ticket for the rest of his life. Gods, it’s like they WANT to make establishment-hating extremists. If anyone from that county whines about not having enough STEM students I will punch them right through the Internet.

(Sigh.) Remember when the Mooninites terrorized us with their fiendish Lite-Brite technology? We’re no better.

Chris September 16, 2015 10:47 AM

I think terrorists are quite on track to bring down western society and taking away our freedom. Not by their own actions, though, but by making us install a police state, factually ending free society. This terrorism business seems more like an autoimmune disease than an actual outside threat.

jayson September 16, 2015 10:48 AM

Ahmed felt suddenly conscious of his brown skin and his name — one of the most common in the Muslim religion. But the police kept him busy with questions.

The bell rang at least twice, he said, while the officers searched his belongings and questioned his intentions. The principal threatened to expel him if he didn’t make a written statement, he said.

At what is it proper to teach your children to never talk to the police?

B.G. Helou September 16, 2015 10:53 AM

One of things I dread is that there will, in time, be enough of these incidents to fill a future book titled Schneier on Stupidity.

Alan September 16, 2015 11:07 AM

Someone needs to create a Wall of Shame, on which the names of all the idiotic adults and their idiotic actions are recorded as permanent warning of the potential for idiocracy.

Will Conrad September 16, 2015 11:20 AM

This in a world where I can go to Amazon right now and buy reprints of US Army manuals detailing how to make explosives and purchase all the precursor chemicals in the same order all for less than about $30.

There is a huge disconnect between what people are getting exciting about and where the actual risks are.

Litron September 16, 2015 11:30 AM

On a certain air trip in the pre 9/11 era, I was called over the PA system about my checked luggage at the originating airport in Germany.

The people in uniform were worried about the inert rat’s nest of computer cables I had dumped in a plastic bag, and which showed up on the X-ray picture of my suitcase.

Upon Arrival, I discovered that the suitcase had also been opened in my absence at the Frankfurt airport, where I had changed planes.

If I had rolled up the cables neatly like a good German would do, I probably would have been left alone. So the moral to this story is: if you have to build infernal devices, please be tidy in your wiring.

I wonder what the penalty would be to spell out your opinion of uniforms using concealed objects in your bad…

A fellow passenger was also summoned to security, and I was still there when his bag was opened. To my horror, this bozo had loaded dozens of firecrackers for the traditional German pyrotechnic orgy on December 31. That idiot happened to be seated next to me on the plane. After take-off, I delicately asked him how the inspection went. To my horror, he claimed he was simply let through with his toys. His name most certainly wasn’t Ahmed.

I wasn’t sure I heard correctly, and dared not ask him to confirm what he told me; it was one hell of a LOOONG one-hour flight.

Tmont September 16, 2015 11:32 AM

“Teachers immediately become stupid” Amen Bruce.

Should say: Teachers except the engineering teacher who said. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”

Principals and police need to exercise common sense.

ianf September 16, 2015 11:38 AM

@ Chris … This terrorism business seems more like an autoimmune disease than an actual outside threat.

Pretty clever & VERY cost-efficient, too! There must be some contests/ prizes for such intended for the MBA crowd, but, surely, when he grows up, that Ahmed could at least receive a Honorary Mention in the Most School Havoc Wrought With The Lowest Cost To High Effect Ratio (non-gun) class?

jayson September 16, 2015 11:39 AM


Should say: Teachers except the engineering teacher who said. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”

I would wager that if anyone gets fired out of this (hah!) it will be the engineering teacher for being an accessory.

Wasn't Me September 16, 2015 11:42 AM

My grandfather gave me a copy (not sure of edition) of this when I was a kid. All sorts of neato-keen recipes. Paint, varnish, explosives….

I took it to high school chem class to show my lab partner. The teacher came over to see what we had and shared his experience with making fulminates…

Cool! Full version online at;view=1up;seq=9


ron brown September 16, 2015 11:51 AM

The city of Irving and the school are getting their proverbial arses handed to them. Latest report indicates no charges will be filed.

Bob S. September 16, 2015 11:52 AM

I think honchos @ NASA HQ should invite the kid over for a tour and free lunch to make up for the dullard freak out by the school.

These days Edison and Einstein would be arrested for suspicious behaviors.

rgaff September 16, 2015 11:55 AM


“I would wager that if anyone gets fired out of this (hah!) it will be the engineering teacher for being an accessory.”

Accessory to what? the great crime of “building a clock”? Or maybe it’s the crime of “having a brain”?

albert September 16, 2015 11:57 AM

Obviously, Mohamed is a smart, if not brilliant, kid. Like most 14-year-olds, a little naive.

His science teacher hit the nail: “…“He was like, ‘That’s really nice,’” Ahmed said. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”…”

Unfortunately, the lessons he learned were not technical; they were political, social….. and disappointing, to say the least.
Welcome to Amerika, Mo!

Here’s my takeaway:

  1. There is a huge knowledge gap between regular folks (including police and teachers) and technology. Hollywood isn’t helping in any way. Take away CGI*, and about 90% of the ‘tech’ you see in movies and TV is Bullshit.
  2. The State Propaganda Ministry is doing irreparable harm by demonizing Muslims and promoting terrorism FUD. Imagine if we had 14% Muslim population instead of 0.1%. (Comments please)
  3. Incidents like this are far more effective in recruiting terrorists than anything the Quran has to say.
  4. Kudos to Hil’ry; she’s got the Muslim vote for sure, and why am I so cynical?
    @Dave X,
    I miss Heathkit 🙁

Surely they would have found it when executing the search warrant on his home?

Right on, brother(or sister)!

Like I said before, Bin Laden may have succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

No one should talk to the police. Lawyer up! “…The principal threatened to expel him if he didn’t make a written statement, he said….” This is harassment of a child, something up with which I will not put.

Even the inimitable Brucester hasn’t enough time to finish that book.
If I were Mos father, I’d get a really good lawyer and sue the hell out of everyone…but that’s me…

*BS content closer to 100%.
. .. . .. oh

jayson September 16, 2015 12:08 PM


I suspect we are on the same page, but I do think tomorrow’s news may inform us that it is school policy (if not law) for all teacher’s to report any threat to children. Remember, it’s for the safety of the children. /sarc


Agreed, however, the last few times I’ve seen articles like this, the kids go and tell everything to the police…the interpretation of which is then official record. Having a 14 year old push back on the principal and a crowd of police is a bit of a stretch. Apparently, he wasn’t even allowed to call his parents.

sideshowbob September 16, 2015 12:08 PM

Good lord. Tesla and Edison would have been arrested today indeed. In my youth we built several devices that today would be considered bombs. I can imagine that today we would be arrested as a terrorist cell.

rgaff September 16, 2015 12:13 PM

Just to be clear, Hillary is very anti-Snowden, anti-whistleblower, pro-spying… which makes her anti-constitution and anti-rule-of-law and pro-totalitarian… If you don’t believe me, by all means, vote her in and see for yourself!

The problem is, all presidential candidates are.. it’s a prerequisite.

Tony September 16, 2015 12:29 PM

“We just look stupid when we do it.”

Emphasis on the “just” … nothing seems to ever happen to stupid people in authority that go off the deep end. They are just being “overly cautious”. You can’t be too careful – because terrorists.

We really need to drop “home of the brave” from the national anthem.

ianf September 16, 2015 1:09 PM

This is in response to Bruce’s prescient 2007 article on “war on the unexpected,” which he mentions above.

It seems beyond doubt, that, as false, stupid & hysterical alarms of suspected “terrorism” become more common, both the first-responder police & the public at large become tired of them, saturated, and in the end turn insensitive to further potential instances of such (this will make it easier for real terror plots to advance undetected).

It happens because not even policemen can play the better-escalate-than-be-a-scapegoat game unlimited number of times… nobody wants to be known as a Shitting-Pants Nellie. And that subsequent unwillingness to stick the neck out (which in day-to-day life translates to potential overtime for the troops, and other budgetary issues) rises with the ranks.

Hence several occasions when local FBI agents failed to act on direct accusations of Daood Gilani’s participation in terrorist training in Pakistan, which went discounted (seemingly mainly) because the accusers were by the culprit wronged women, his wives and mother. THEY HAD A FEMME AXE TO GRIND!.

Also he was on the record as having been a DEA infiltration agent (while simultaneously, and unbeknownst to DEA, attending the terrorist “summer camp” in Pakistan), which spoke to his advantage (I wrote about his case earlier today in another thread; I heartily recommend the 83m Frontline movie there… hear NSA honchos tell lies on camera of how Gilani was the dividend of their wholesale spying, while the line FBI arresting agent outright denies that they came onto him by any other means than traditional gumshoe surveillance methods). I presume those NSA guys got raises & pats on the backs from their bosses.

Emma Bull September 16, 2015 1:29 PM

“Yet something tells me you don’t look like Bruce Willis.”

And the winner of today’s Internets is Archon!

boog September 16, 2015 1:38 PM

“For your homework assignment, class, you are each to construct a clock using the parts listed on the worksheet. And be ready to present them to the class on Monday! Oh, uh… except… except you Ahmed, your project will be to carve a sundial out of this bar of soap.”

Jack Boothe September 16, 2015 1:57 PM

He better start peddling his bicycle now to get there. Does anyone really think the dedicated agents of TSA will allow this device on plane, despite its presence being requested by the President of the United States of America at the White House? Even if it gets to DC, does anyone believe the overzealous USSS will allow it on White House grounds?

Having worked with DHS for a number of years now, I will tell what will happen. Any person allowing the kid to bring this on a plane or into the White House will be fired for not following the rules and regulations and allowing a prohibited item to get past them. The person who stops the kid for having this device from boarding the plane or getting into the White House will be fired for embarrassing TSA or USSS for following the rules, then, after two or three years of appeals, will get their job back with back pay. The person, who cuffs and arrests the kid as a terrorist and destroys the device with another explosive device will be promoted to an SES position and eventually end up running TSA or the USSS.

d33t September 16, 2015 1:58 PM

Quote: “It made me feel like a criminal,” he said. He was suspended for three days.

Early alienation of our youth. Cops are getting people ready for the other shoe to drop and complete totalitarian party time. Both US political parties want it so bad they can smell it. I actually bought the stupidity theory of cops and other authority figures doing things like this because of ignorance and poor training, but I don’t believe that any more and those kind of excuses imply that they are innocent as well. Too many civil rights violations (as well as murders) happen too often for it to be that simple. We perpetrate these kinds of crimes against innocents globally. Militarized domestic police often not only feel justified, but righteous and entitled to their destructive behavior. This story is a much lighter version of how the US “accidentally” creates terrorists out of thin air. Sometimes even building brand new terrorists out of the left over parts of old friends (families).

I was also reading this earlier: Burning Man Postal Harassment

So, a stressed out dog decides your fate, and if you don’t comply with the coerced, illegal search (of your mail!!) they come back with a warrant, rifle through everybody’s belongings, may arrest you as well as others (maybe plant some evidence too). Not a new type of situation, but a consistent feature of the War On Drugs, now enhanced and fueled on into oblivion by the War On Terror.

It probably starts really early, and at home for many LEOs. The Cycle of Abuse just fits better when you get paid to continue to be in your comfort zone. A lot like other leaders, those who are least qualified for the job apply first. Sometimes I think there should just be a draft for government offices. As a citizen, you do your duty in some government job you are mentally and physically qualified for, a cop, a congressional member, a president and then return home when your tour is up. That way we have reluctant leaders holding positions of power rather than people who are possibly deeply flawed sociopaths armed and immunized from justice roaming the streets (and capitol buildings / pentagon). It’s not a complete idea, but at least it’s a different idea. Also, not a new idea.

Anyhow, until further notice, there’s no fun allowed. Make sure and stay scared of everyone and everything around you, drink a lot booze, burn a lot of gas and smoke as many cigarettes as you can (in designated areas). Uncle Sam is your old creepy uncle and he’s got expensive habits too.

ianf September 16, 2015 2:11 PM

… be ready to present them to the class on Monday! Oh, uh… except… except you Ahmed, your project will be to carve a sundial out of this bar of soap.

That bar of soap is superfluous, all Ahmed needs to do is to type CECI N’EST PAS UN BAR OF SOAP above a drawing of a bar of soap, and wait for the SWAT team & the prosecutor asking him where he acquired his French (the language of the cheese-eating surrender monkeys).

BTW. post 2001, I read of an American WASP thirtysomething type (a visiting advertising executive?) who grabbed his house keys out of his pocket, and looking an airport gate guard in the eye announced “I am putting this bomb in here” (the plastic basket for passage through the X-ray scanner).

The outcome? 3 days in the slammer over the weekend + a hefty fine BECAUSE THEY TAKE SECURITY SERIOUSLY OVER THERE (there = Kastrup/Copenhagen or perhaps the Arlanda Airport in Stockholm). Besides, we all know that the deadliest weapons are sarcasm and irony, and that that adman ought to have known that no TSA/equiv. guards anywhere can be required to attend humor-appreciation classes. So there!

Gerard van Vooren September 16, 2015 2:28 PM

@ d33t,

Remember the song “The hurricane” from Bob Dylan? It’s from 1975, exactly 40 years ago.

ianf September 16, 2015 3:21 PM

You, d33t, said it best, sis/bro, CYCLE OF ABUSE. One of the reasons the USA territory is my voluntary terra prohibita since 2001, even though the worst that conceivably could happen to me would be having my privates groped by some TSA asshole in the name of Homeland Security. But mere thought is revolting enough.

OFFICIAL NOTE TO U.S. AGENTS READING THIS: hereafter, any time I want my privates fondled, I will hire someone to my liking for that purpose, and pay her a living wage plus VAT, even though I could have gotten that from you for free. Only I prefer being handled by professionals—GETIT?

tyco bas September 16, 2015 3:47 PM

In junior high one of my favorite browsing/fantasy books was Rocket Manual for Amateurs, a serious text by army captain Bertrand Brinley, who supervised amateur rocketry programs after Sputnik. I still have my 50 cent paperback copy, which could clearly get me arrested, as it details high-performance fuels and rocket designs.

d33t September 16, 2015 4:41 PM

@Gerard van Vooren

I definitely remember that song … still very current today. 43 years, is a long time to sit in solitary for nothing. Massive reparations are due these men or their living family members. The same treatment will and has been used against whistle blowers too.

I feel for Binney and his treatment by the FBI. It must have been deeply confusing to wake one day and suddenly realize that you are your own worst enemy and then be forced by conscience to break from you are proud creating as well as what puts food on the table for your family. These are the times we live in now sadly.


I’m with you there.

I average an extra 8 thousand miles a year driving in a car (and write it off) to avoid harassment by TSA. It’s a lot more dangerous than flying. I worked in a sec position in 2001 and due to some circumstances at the time where I may have known a little extra something, I was issued boarding passes with “SSSS” for years. I will never forgive them for this treatment. It was my first of a long series of life lessons that taught me beyond a reasonable doubt that “they” have no interest in safety or security and “they” will lie, incarcerate, torture and or kill you to protect their fortunes and their positions of power. It is all about power and $$$$ … nothing else. The multitude of human rights violations generated by the War On Drugs / Terror are repulsive. All of the people who have supported these wars directly over the last several decades are the only truly terrifying threat in the world today. The cops (no matter what flavor or agency) are just the business end of a very long whip.

tyr September 16, 2015 4:53 PM

I think the message is clear. Under no circumstances allow
yourself to be tagged as intelligent. That will bring the
hounds onto you faster than any other possible offense.

The regulars around here compound the offense by mixing it
with a sense of humour. If this is allowed to continue it
will be the end of society as we know it.

My favourite characterization of an ethnic group was when
the stalwarts around Bush called the Germans cowards. It
was a nice change from the usual version of monsters.

I hear Buchenwald has been opened to refugees, hopefully
none of the new inmates have read the history of the new

Anura September 16, 2015 5:18 PM


Movie Plot: Kid makes clock, intentionally getting arrested knowing that it will be a nationwide controversy that will get him elected to the White House. However, it turns out he has an identical-looking device that is actually a bomb, and plans on using that to assassinate the President.

marty September 16, 2015 5:34 PM

You’re all wrong. I’m white and experienced something very similar to this growing up years ago. Watch October Sky. This has nothing to do with racism or terrorist fear-mongering or any or other point you’re trying to accomplish by skewing the facts. This is a colorful story and will echo on probably for weeks. But the institutional ignorance at work here will flourish no matter what you say.

Jacob September 16, 2015 5:50 PM

Greenwald summed it up nicely:

“The behavior here is nothing short of demented. And it’s easy to mock, which in turn has the effect of belittling it and casting it as some sort of bizarre aberration. But it’s not that. It’s the opposite of aberrational. It’s the natural, inevitable byproduct of the culture of fear and demonization that has festered and been continuously inflamed for many years. The circumstances that led to this are systemic and cultural, not aberrational.”

Wael September 16, 2015 6:01 PM


Movie Plot: Kid makes clock

Exactly my thoughts. Your evilness knows no bounds 😉 or


You’re all wrong […] This has nothing to do with racism or terrorist fear-mongering or any [or] other point

I think it has to do with three things:
1- Profiling
2- See something, say something
3- Violent events that are becoming more frequent at schools

Someone (thought they) saw something, said something (totally wrong), and authorities did something (equally stupid.)

outonbail September 16, 2015 6:08 PM

” Even though pages of history have forgotten about many watchmakers and innovators before him, modern scientific community has accepted that Peter Henlein, clockmaker from the Nuremberg, Germany, is the father of the modern clock and the originator of the entire clock making industry that we know today.

Peter Henlein was born in 1485, and very little is known about his early life. It is most probable that he became apprentice as a repair man and locksmith. His appearance in history books start on September 7, 1504 after he was involved in a brawl in which his friend and fellow locksmith George Glaser was killed. Peter immediately went to the local Franciscan monastery where he found safety.”

He’s following in a long tradition of outlaws.

Wael September 16, 2015 6:12 PM


The regulars around here compound the offense by mixing it with a sense of humour.

Maybe replacing the sense of humor with a religious tone would be a better strategy! Let me try 🙂

Wael September 16, 2015 6:15 PM

@Joe D, @tyr,

Obama has tweeted about it

That’s commendable! Look how one of the greatest rulers in the past handled unjust incidents… The story is narrated in Arabic poem form, with a remarkable accuracy (close to perfect with minor omissions) translated subtitles.

Or in written format…

A man from the Copts (the Christians living in Egypt) came to Omar Ibn al-Khattab in Al-Madinah, and said, “O Commander of the Faithful! I seek refuge in you from oppression.” Omar replied, “You have sought refuge where it is to be sought.” The Egyptian said, “I was racing the son of Amr ibn al-Aas (The Governor of Egypt and one of the Companions of the Prophet), and defeated him. Then he began to beat me with a whip saying: ‘I am the Son of Nobles!’” So, Omar wrote to Amr commanding him to appear before him with his son. So they appeared before him. Omar inquired, “Where is the Egyptian? He is to take the whip and beat him!” Then the Egyptian began to beat the son of Amr with the whip as Umar said to him, “Beat the Son of Nobles!”

Anas said, “So he beat him. I swear by Allah, as he was beating him we pitied his wailing. He did not desist until we stopped him.”

Then Omar said to the Egyptian, “Now beat the whip upon Amr’s bald head!” He replied, “O Commander of the Faithful! For it was his son who beat me, and I have evened the score with him.”

Upon this Omar said to Amr, “Since when do you enslave the people when their mothers bore them as free men?” He said, “O Commander of the Faithful! I was unaware of this, and he did not come to me (for justice).” — Courtesy of:

rgaff September 16, 2015 6:18 PM

@ boog

except he’d probably not be allowed any sharp tools either to carve that bar of soap with…

@ Jacob

I agree with Greenwald that it’s systemic and cultural… but not what he says about mocking… mocking the perpetrators of such nonsense is the only way to drill into people how stupid it is… after logic fails to produce any favorable results… i.e. it’s the only way left to change the system and culture.

fgaff September 16, 2015 7:00 PM


“That’s commendable!”

Just remember, no politician does anything because it’s the “right thing to do”… only because it’s the politically expedient thing to do… only by coincidence is something occasionally both…

Jonathan Wilson September 16, 2015 7:04 PM

Should the teacher have done what they did? Probably, I doubt the teacher was knowledgeable enough in either electronics or explosives to be sure it wasn’t dangerous. What should have happened next is that the higher-ups/cops/whatever should have come (like they did), identified it wasn’t dangerous and that it was exactly what the kid says it was (like they did) and then left without arresting him, without detaining him, without questioning him and without punishing him.

The mistake wasn’t that the teacher overreacted to a weird looking pile of circuits (that may or may not have been dangerous), it was that the authorities (cops and school higher-ups) who identified that it was harmless decided to continue forward and arrest/question/punish the kid.

Mike Rineer September 16, 2015 7:22 PM

Of course idiots are claiming this guy was persecuted since he is muslim, Arabic, or Pakistani; but I have known people who are white and not Muslim at all who brought clocks to a highschool or university and they were arrested and checked out by security. 0bama tweeted about it but he’s a fool.

Drew September 16, 2015 7:24 PM

STEM is practically useless since you have people who are OK (I said OK not excellent or very good) at science, technology, engineering, or math; but they can’t comprehend literature or write well or coherently at all.

Jake September 16, 2015 7:28 PM

I’m not surprised this happened in Texas. There have been other cases where people who are not Muslim, Arabic or Pakistani who were questioned for having alarm clocks and this was decades before 9-11. A history teacher I had in highschool told us about how this happened to him when he delivered a clock to his daughter at her university in the late 80s.

MarkH September 16, 2015 7:34 PM

Well, several hours have elapsed since I first read about this incident.

So far, I my anger is monotonically increasing. That this boy was taken away in handcuffs is so grotesque, that only the arrest of the adults responsible, with their televised perp walks in handcuffs could approach anything like justice.

I must be grateful that a respected security professional with as much credibility and name recognition as Bruce speaks out against this madness.

For the record, in my school days (more than 40 years ago), my mates and I got up to some things, sometimes in school buildings, that were harmless in both intention and effect …

… but if the rules of today’s United States of Absurdistan had then been in effect, I might still be locked up.

ianf September 16, 2015 8:04 PM

Glenn Greenwald: “[…] police spokesman James McLellan said that, throughout the interview, Ahmed had maintained that he built only a clock, but said the boy was unable to give a ‘broader explanation’ as to what it would be used for.

Clearly, we should be abetting the Texas police as much as we can by supplying edge case examples of what a clock can be used for—besides counting time.

Off the top of my head, here’s my contribution: acc to Captain Koons (the character in “Pulp Fiction” played by Christopher Walken), the father of character Butch Coolidge (played by Bruce Willis), a downed Vietnam POW, stored a heirloom steel watch, a refined form of a clock, in his anal cavity, colloquially as a buttplug. MORE EXAMPLES please.

Watcher4200 September 16, 2015 8:10 PM

Did you look at this “homemade clock”? Even from the police picture, it is clear that this is an alarm clock with the case removed (and then put into a pencil case) – I see nothing that looks like a “kit”, it is all prefabricated parts. It still has a 9v (backup power) battery connection and 120vac plug and transformer flopping loose (his Science teacher may have been unimpressed)… It was confiscated by his English teacher because the alarm “went off” during class (his Science teacher told him not to show it to anyone, but he left the battery attached and carried it around anyway)… I’ll bet he didn’t know which was the “snooze” button (because the labels would have been on the outside of the clock’s case, which he removed) to shut the alarm off. I’ll further bet that Ahmed couldn’t answer questions about how it worked (because he didn’t know the design of the IC) and could only say that it was a “clock”.

I can only imagine the Principal’s reaction, “What did you put on my desk?” Staff, “The English teacher sent it over, they said it looked something like a bomb and it went off during class.” Principal, “A bomb went off during class?, call the police.”

Dirk Praet September 16, 2015 8:31 PM

The entire event is so ridiculously absurd that even the script writers of Monty Python or Little Britain wouldn’t have been able to come up with this scenario after an entire weekend on acid. Fear and hysteria rule supreme indeed in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Benny September 16, 2015 8:39 PM

Alan–so apparently the people involved believed it reasonable to run a bomb off mains power.

jayson, re: “Having a 14 year old push back on the principal and a crowd of police is a bit of a stretch”–that’s a good reason to make statements by minors without lawyers present, or at least parents, inadmissable in court (with no possibility of waiving that right). I’d go further and say it should be a crime for any person to try to get such a statement or assist with it.

moo September 16, 2015 9:15 PM


Damn, that definitely deserves to win this year’s movie plot threat contest.

I only hope we have more of these incidents in the future–a lot more–so that people get enraged enough to finally do something. America was once a great nation, and maybe it can be again. But “zero tolerance” is an idea that has to die, and you need to reign in your media, politicians and law enforcement that have been on a 14-year terrorizing spree in your country. Terrorists could never do as much damage to America as it has been doing to itself ever since 2001, and its so agonizing to watch. Take back your nation and be free people again, and then you can start on rebuilding the world’s trust.

JP September 16, 2015 10:59 PM

“Winner of the movie plot threat”

Send him a signed book. He earned it, even if not a movie. If need be, I’ll pay for it

Larry September 16, 2015 11:48 PM

Wow, Glenn Greenwald’s article about the 14 year old’s arrest being a predictable byproduct of the US’s endless (none declared) war on terrorism hit the nail on the head.

tariqk September 17, 2015 12:38 AM

Here’s a question I want to ask: in all the narratives of what happened to Ahmed Mohamed, was the school evacuated at any point when they suspected that it was a bomb?

Because, if you aren’t sure, and you have CHILDREN in that facility, shouldn’t you evacuate? I mean, if you’re worried about it being an explosive, right? Until you can get members of the bomb squad over and determine that it wasn’t an explosive, or dangerous, or anything?

I mean, I would seriously question not only the fact that they panicked, but the way they panicked also is suspicious. Because if it was really a bomb, and it had detonated in your custody IN A BUILDING FULL OF CHILDREN…

This seriously makes me wonder if it was about the safety of the children under the care of the school, or the simple fact that they wanted to humiliate and alienate a child by publicly arresting him and parading him across the school in handcuffs.

Winter September 17, 2015 3:33 AM

“This seriously makes me wonder if it was about the safety of the children under the care of the school, or the simple fact that they wanted to humiliate and alienate a child by publicly arresting him and parading him across the school in handcuffs.”

My thoughts completely.

Especially when we consider the anti-Islamic hysteria that the city council of Irving was involved in earlier this year:

rgaff (or fgaff?) September 17, 2015 5:47 AM

Regarding all the typos in my name:

it’s a product of this blog always forgetting who I am after previewing anything… why do you think I try not to use HTML tags for quotes, emphasis, etc… 😛

thevoid September 17, 2015 7:11 AM


good points. obviously they musn’t have actually thought it was a bomb, or they were extrememly negligent.


the hysteria has obviously gotten worse, but is nothing new. i recall when i was in high school (in the 90’s) that we had a ‘bomb scare’ that was nothing more than someone’s casette player that, when it reached the end of the tape and still was playing, would make a clicking sound (rather then automatically stopping). it was in a locker, and someone heard it and thought BOMB! and we had to be evacuated. today that kid would have probably been arrested, because his cassette player was accidently left on play…

another time, someone phoned in a threat, and we were duly evacuated then as well.

but this case is insane (but not surprising, even more insane things have been happening in past years, like 6 year olds being handcuffed, etc).

the teacher kept this ‘bomb’, and he was arrested even though obviously nobody REALLY thought it was a bomb. does anybody at that school or in the police actually have a brain capable of logical reasoning? (rhetorical, few have such capabilities anymore).

Boyd said Ahmed was then handcuffed ?for his safety and for the safety of the officers?

Asked if the teen?s religious beliefs factored into his arrest, Boyd said the reaction ?would have been the same? under any circumstances.

i believe that is true to some degree. some people still think ‘columbine’, not just ‘911’.

i think maybe the muslim angle got people more paranoid, but the idea that this wouldn’t happen to a white anglo too is bull. maybe there is a lesser chance, but it would still happen. police brutalize innocent white people too for no good reason, maybe less than black folk, but it happens.

?We live in an age where you can?t take things like that to school,? he said. ?Of course we?ve seen across our country horrific things happen, so we have to err on the side of caution.?

things like what? are there rules about homemade clocks? are there definitions of ‘suspicious’ available so we know? or is this just more secret laws you are just supposed to know? something i understand well having Aspergers. you are expected to follow rules you don’t know, and noone will tell you what they are (sometimes because they don’t know themselves, consciously at least), so i am particularly sympathetic.

so we are supposed to know what is suspicious in other people’s minds, so that we can avoid it? shades of kafka.

i guess wires and circuit boards are suspicious. so as @Archon said:

If anyone from that county whines about not having enough STEM students I will punch them right through the Internet.

?That is not America,? Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed said of his son?s humiliation after being handcuffed in front of his classmates.

it is now, and has been for a while… i (and most here) can remember a time when it wasn’t, but there is a whole generation entering the ‘real world’ who have known nothing else.

The teen said he hasn?t spoken to anyone from MacArthur High, where he was suspended until Thursday.

and what, precisely, did he do? not use his crystal ball to know people would flip out over nothing? or i guess he scared people, intentional or not, so he must be punished.

i mean, WE (experienced, politically aware adults) ‘know better’, but he’s a fucking kid.

?We were doing everything with an abundance of caution to protect all of our students in Irving,? she said.

contradicted by the fact that they did not evacuate. my own pre-911 experience would lead me to believe this is standard.

Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne took to Facebook to defend the actions of the school district and police … ?I do not fault the school or the police for looking into what they saw as a potential threat,? Van Duyne wrote. ?We have all seen terrible and violent acts committed in schools. … Perhaps some of those could have been prevented and lives could have been spared if people were more vigilant.? The mayor later amended her post, acknowledging that she would be ?very upset? had the same thing happened to her own child.

Josh Earnest, Obama’s press secretary, said the case goes to show how stereotypes can cloud the judgment of even the most ?good-hearted people.?

i still maintain this wasn’t an exclusively muslim thing. being smart is more ‘suspicious’ to many people.

but people who are willing to persecute others based on hollywood stereotypes do not qualify as ‘good-hearted’ in my book.

there are many fair-weather ‘good-hearted people’. it’s in these cases you find out if a person REALLY has a good heart, because truly good-hearted people don’t do such things, because they know it’s not ok to treat people badly for no reason (and hollywood drivel is no reason).

So the 14-year-old missed the student council meeting and took a trip in handcuffs to juvenile detention. His clock now sits in an evidence room. Police say they may yet charge him with making a hoax bomb ? though they acknowledge he told everyone who would listen that it?s a clock.

?She was like, it looks like a bomb,? he said.

?I told her, ?It doesn?t look like a bomb to me.??

The teacher kept the clock. When the principal and a police officer pulled Ahmed out of sixth period, he suspected he wouldn?t get it back.

‘looks like a bomb’? these idiots watch too much TV.

so the crime is not knowing what his idiot teachers may think?

you can’t KNOW what other people are going to think about something. my mother thinks she’s ‘white’ (and being 96+% northern european would argue in her favor), but she looks American Indian (some think hispanic). i know cases where she was treated differently because of that, but it never dawned on her that other people don’t see her as white, because that’s how she sees herself– and rightfully so (despite skin color, etc she’s whiter than many white people).

this young’n built a clock, and saw it as a clock, because that’s what it was. but… he should have known what everybody else would think about it.

He loved robotics club in middle school and was searching for a similar niche in his first few weeks of high school.

this speaks to his real intent. what HE was thinking. but instead of just building things, he should have been spending his time (uselessly) thinking about what other people MAY think.

They led Ahmed into a room where four other police officers waited. He said an
officer he?d never seen before leaned back in his chair and remarked: ?Yup.
That?s who I thought it was.?

i don’t doubt racism had a part, but i can imagine the same thing being said to my celto-germanic self (because i tend not to conform). alot of seeming racism is probably more other-ism than anything (racism being a subset of other-ism). this may speak only to that particular officer’s racism, and not necessarily what prompted the situation.

?They were like, ?So you tried to make a bomb??? Ahmed said.

?I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.?

?He said, ?It looks like a movie bomb to me.??

i’m sure these idiots don’t realize how stupid they sound. ‘looks like a movie bomb to me’. seriously? (granted this is the kid’s account, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that is what they actually said. bush administration officials were using the show ’24’ as both inspiration and justification, so they themselves said.)

Ahmed never claimed his device was anything but a clock, said police spokesman James McLellan. And police have no reason to think it was dangerous. But officers still didn?t believe Ahmed was giving them the whole story.

?We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,? McLellan said. ?He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.?

Asked what broader explanation the boy could have given, the spokesman explained:

?It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car. The concern was, what was this thing built for? Do we take him into custody??

and the question of what broader explanation could have been given was ignored, and instead, this tripe: ‘it could be mistaken … if X’. except none of that relates to what ACTUALLY happened.

so what ‘broader explanation’ did they want? this kid just started high school a couple of weeks ago, you can imagine he is not that sophisticated, but maybe he is at fault again for not reading minds or having left his crystal ball at home. he wasn’t giving them the ‘right’ explanation, to their minds.

and yet, there is still no reference to the building being evacuated. so they didn’t REALLY think it was a threat. and if the only crime was a ‘hoax bomb’, what was the need for being led out in handcuffs with an officer on either side? if it was a hoax, was he really such a threat?

as an aside, i like Greenwald less every time i read him, he’s almost as
opinionated as Bill O’Reilly, just on the other end.

Laurie Mann September 17, 2015 8:30 AM

It’s amazing the same school that would declare a clock a terrorist weapon would let anyone in school with a cell phone. Cell phones have been used as explosive detonators for, what 20 years?

kiwano September 17, 2015 8:32 AM

“In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.” –Twain

Rusty September 17, 2015 2:36 PM

Gee, I hope no high school teachers ever see a Raspberry Pi! What with the bare circuit board, attached wires, I guess that could look like a bomb, too! LOL

Maybe someone could make up a fun poster for teachers so they can identify bombs from non-bombs? This also reminds me how so-called journalists always seem to call any pistol a “Glock” and any rifle an “AK-47”!

I am a trained electronics technician. Went to school for that many years ago. But, even before that I played around with Heathkits, etc. I even installed an electric-eye warning system for my upstairs bedroom so if anyone tried to sneak up the stairs it would alert me. Some of my friends used to play with electronics, too. I still play with electronics kits to help with model railroading and other hobbies.

It is certainly dismaying to see the level of ignorance amongst those who are supposed to “educated”–meaning the teachers!


PhilS September 17, 2015 3:37 PM

Reminiscent of the panic in Boston several years back when the Cartoon Network had a promo for a show (Aqua teen whatever — don’t remember the exact name). They put up several devices that looked like a “Lite Brite” flipping the bird. This was done in several cities but only in Boston was there a panic: “IT’S A BOMB!!!!” Like a real bomber is going to put big flashing lights on his bomb!

The Massachusetts Attorney General, Marcia Copley proclaimed: “It has wires and a battery, it must be a bomb”. I wonder what that technophobic dumbass would say if she ever looked inside her cell phone. BTW, she lost the last election for governor — good riddance.

ianf September 17, 2015 4:16 PM

@ Jack Boothe

The person who stops the kid for having this device from boarding the plane or getting into the White House will be fired for embarrassing TSA or USSS for following the rules, then, after two or three years of appeals, will get their job back with back pay. The person, who cuffs and arrests the kid as a terrorist and destroys the device with another explosive device will be promoted to an SES position and eventually end up running TSA or the USSS

Sounds plausible enough, but are you really telling us that your Commander in Chief has so little power, that he cannot have the kid seized, bundled up & delivered by SEALS, complete with his co-called clock in a separate U.S. Army Explosives Disposal Vehicle, to the perimeter of the White House? What about if he changed the venue to Gitmo, and classified it BlackOopsConfidential.

Jim September 18, 2015 12:53 AM

This is two folds at play. We have the clock, a device, and someone named Mohamed.

Two prejudice does not cancel one other. Thus two wrongs does not make one right.

AlainCo (@alain_co) September 18, 2015 3:06 AM

one strange thing is that no bomb squad was called, and no evacuation was done.
some observers say it is not hysteria, but pure racism…
maybe the professor was not so stupid. 8(

really this clock does not looks like a bomb, nor a clock but my first single boards computer.

really Beyond fear should be teached in school… at least in teachers courses.

Mike September 18, 2015 10:04 AM

It’s pretty obvious that this kid’s parents had him do this just for attention, or to get money from the school when they sued.

The kid and his family were remiss in not making sure his teacher and the principal were advised what he would be bringing to school. Surely the kid and his family knew the thing looked like a briefcase bomb and might scare people.

rgaff September 18, 2015 12:14 PM

@ all you claiming “just for the attention”:

Because it’s obvious that people trying to have a private conversation just do it for the attention, just like young black kids run out in front of police bullets just for the attention, right?

boog September 18, 2015 3:35 PM


The regulars around here compound the offense by mixing it with a sense of humour.

Because pointing fingers at each other is so helpful instead?

Personally I find humor to be a great way to cope with the tragic state of this world. Sure it may not change things, but it keeps me going so that maybe some day I’ll have a chance to. Don’t deny me my coping mechanisms.

Slime Mold with Mustard September 18, 2015 3:54 PM

I believe that you have all been had (fooled).

Please consider:
1. a. The first “engineering” instructor had advised the student not to show the “device” to any other teacher (my own high school did not have “engineering” classes).
b. The clock appears to be nothing more than a digital alarm clock removed from its original casing and remounted in a larger case. I cannot spot a single home made solder.
2. a. The media’s “boy wonder” then chose English class to plug it into a socket, and it beeped. It seems the young fellow cannot figure out how these things work. @ The Void: YES you do hook up bombs to the mains, sometimes (I was 12b – Combat Engineer).
b. Prejudice: My own English teachers where the least technically competent in the school.
c. The teacher said “it looks like a movie bomb!”(emphasis added). Even the English teacher thought it was a hoax. A hoax is not the same as a joke.

  1. The young lad’s father is an activist against “Islamophobia”. If anyone does not understand, I’ll explain upon request.

As to the rest of the comments regarding what used to be allowed in schools… I could top any of them. Their was a real intolerance of violence or violent intent. Nowadays we use “zero tolerance” as a substitute for judgement.

Wael September 18, 2015 5:06 PM

@Slime Mold with Mustard,

We’ve been had?

It’s a possibility, given the circumstances. Certainly wouldn’t be a precedent setting act. But this is just speculation based on “some” circumstantial “evidence”. However, even if that’s the case, I would say the teachers and the authorities were “fooled” before we were! Had they acted responsibly, they would have foiled the alleged plot, wouldn’t you agree? 😉

Either way, they screwed up (regardless of the intentions of the father and son)

xutheus September 18, 2015 5:48 PM

Yea, a clock with a keyboard? Wouldn’t put it pass ISIS to use the idea at another time since they have used women and children to blow themselves up in crowds. Yet, the political correct crwod comes to the rescue.

Michael A. September 18, 2015 6:26 PM


more for your wall! every scientist that would resort to legal means to censor dissent which would make us all insecure.

see the call for a new – – inquisition, much worse than what happened to the kid in the same week.

tldr; truth should legislate, not the other way round. treacherously stupid tenured phd’s advocating science censorship in the open:

CallMeLateForSupper September 19, 2015 9:52 AM

While reading The Intercept’s “Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock Was ‘Half a Bomb’, Says Anti-Muslim Group With Ties to Trump, Cruz” this morning, my eyes fell on the homebrew digital clock that has sat on my computer desk through the serial tenures at least seven computers… and on a nightstand for years before “computer desk” was a thing.

I’d built the clock in summer 1977 while a uni. student. Several LSI “clock chips” – complete function; just add power and a display – had come on the market and I wanted to try one. The one I chose – a Fairchild 20-pin DIP – was dead simple to implement and had some useful function options, among those, “snooze”.

It was the eye-roll-inducing “Half a Bomb” claim that caused me to gaze at my clock and reflect on the method I’d chosen to implement its snooze function. I used a mercury switch instead of a momentary push button switch, To activate snooze, just grab the clock and shake it once (or, if badly hung-over, simply knock it to the floor!). No fumbling for a &^%#! switch. (A happy consequence is that mounting the switch didn’t require drilling another hole in the case; just wire-tie the glass switch to another component.)

I’ve read that some bomb designs have included a mercury switch, as an anti-tamper measure: tilt the armed device and … things turn messy.

To the extent that Ahmed Mohamed’s device was “half a bomb”, mine must surely be more than that. Three-quarters of a bomb, perhaps?

Coyne Tibbets September 19, 2015 1:29 PM

“Child Arrested Because the Law is an Ass, and So are the People Who Create It”

Excerpt of the applicable law, from Techdirt:

Sec. 46.08. HOAX BOMBS.

(a) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly manufactures, sells, purchases, transports, or possesses a hoax bomb with intent to use the hoax bomb to:

(1) make another believe that the hoax bomb is an explosive or incendiary device; or

(2) cause alarm or reaction of any type by an official of a public safety agency or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies.

So let’s see whether a clown carrying a hand buzzer applies:

(a) The clown possesses it or transports it – check
(1) Makes any given idiot believe it might be an explosive/incendiary device – check
(2) Causes a reaction by an official – check

What about a useless box?

(a) The owner of the desk possesses it – check
(1) Any given idiot official could imagine it could be filled with explosive – check
(2) Causes a reaction (loud laughter) by an official – check

In fact, as written, it applies to any type of device you can think of. Let’s try it with a written terrorist plot device, in a novel:

(a) The author manufactured it – stretching a bit, but check
(1) Makes any given idiot believe the story device might be explosive/incendiary – check
(2) Causes a reaction by a censoring official – check

I am seriously tired of these laws that are being made that can apply to anything an official feels like applying them to.

Worse, they are textbook examples of racism in action, because you know they’ll only be applied against the “undesirable races”. Let’s have a show of hands: if this had been little, white, Bobby Lee: How many of you think he would have been arrested?”


Omri September 19, 2015 1:47 PM

“see the call for a new – – inquisition, much worse than what happened to the kid in the same week.”

The letter specifically calls for prosecutions against organizations that have published denialist material KNOWING that it is false. And we know these exist. Exxon’s own scientists warned the company about global warming as early as 1977, and in 1982 Exxon backed away from one oil field specifically because of fears of liability over global warming.

Nothing knew here. If your company knows something is false and publishes it anyway, you’re liable.

Daniel September 19, 2015 2:19 PM


except that this is not how science works. Would you prosecute Madam Curie too because at one time X-Rays were “false”?

In science there is no such thing as an established fact, just a continual process of investigation.

Omri September 20, 2015 2:27 PM

“except that this is not how science works.”

This is how it worked with the tobacco litigation. The tobacco companies knew it caused cancer, and lied about it, and suffered the consequences.

Same thing here. These companies knew about global warming decades ago. They knew full well they were lying. That puts them in RICO territory.

TR September 20, 2015 8:31 PM

“Teachers immediately become stupid” Amen Bruce.” Really? my question is can you read and write. You know who you can thank. If you got into a university you know who you can thank. The media sucked most if not all of you. The boy did not create or invent anything. He modded an old clock. Did he really expect his engineering teacher to be impressed? The teacher took one look and tried to be nice and send Ahmed without hurting his feelings. Also for those that do not know any student can be in engineering class. Special ed students, emotionally disturbed, low IQ it don’t matter. Why? funding. Schools get federal money for Career and Technology classes. Discriminate and loose your funding. Look at Perkins funding. Ahmed was in trouble because he modded and brought to school something that could have been the equivalent of yelling fire in a crowed movie theater. The English teach whom has one or two degrees plus a professional Licensure and 12 or more professional training hours a year knew this was not a bomb. What she did not know is if it could be a dangerous device. She reported it as required. Something the public apparently does not know is that teachers are not in control of anything. Look in up before you make a judgement. There is a massive bureaucracy and teachers are at the bottom. Lets look at Ahmed’s device, vintage radio alarm clock mount in a briefcase style Walmart pencil box. Detonation device maybe, danger quit possibly. What would happen if the device was plugged into an outlet and another student touched the exposed wire on the upside of a step transformer? What would a parent do if their child touched it. You might also want to look up
loco parentis. Why was Ahmed worried about his clock being suspicious? Was Ahmed
This was not about race or religion. Was This was about a dumb kid doing something stupid. The Muslin community however is using this incident to employee “Shaming tactics”. Shaming tactics” are emotional devices meant to play on Americans insecurities and shut down debate. They are meant to elicit sympathy for Muslims and to demonize America.
The media will not report the true story or all the facts. It’s not profitable.

windy September 21, 2015 8:47 AM

Are bombs always have complicated cables and ticking device?

@Laurie Mann, you nailed it. Mobile phone are more scary.

rgaff September 21, 2015 10:58 PM

We live in an age where the US Government encourages people to be terrified all the time, so that they can boost funding to various programs… then people are terrified of anything different or that they don’t fully understand, like… just a few wires… and YOUR CHILDREN GO TO JAIL FOR IT! …and THEN… to top it all off… tons of stupid people get up and defend such actions across the board!

Satanic Panic September 23, 2015 6:00 PM

I’m “SHOCKED” I tell you simply “SHOCKED” that I would read the words “…Because Adults Are Stupid” here at They (Adults) are NOT stupid, they are smart and know just about everything under the sun. They pay attention to Oprah and the like.

Adults are not Stupid, they are never wrong or have their hair out of place.

Believe me because I know and I’m on the internet 😉

JJ September 29, 2015 12:12 PM

Skimming through the comments it appears that only one person noticed that the boy did not build a clock, he simply took the guts out of a clock and put them in a case. Nothing intelligent about doing that. This is not to say that he was not intelligent or that his treatment was correct, just that many people are jumping to conclusions based on incomplete information. What was the point of putting clock guts in a different case?

Elnino savredal April 21, 2016 12:58 PM

This is crazy after 9/11 you cant build anything impressive then they change school year and wonder what happened to our great education. Smart kid to build an electric clock. They couldnt even teach me chemistry right. Imagine being middle eastern or of color and im born here. Someone should be called for ruining the kids life leading him to the wrong hands.

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