back to article MIT student walks into airport wearing circuit board and wires

An MIT student was arrested at gunpoint today at Boston's Logan International Airport after she entered the building wearing a black hoodie with a computer circuit board and wiring attached. Star Simpson, 19, claimed she was just at the airport to pick up her boyfriend, and was charged with possessing a hoax bomb device. "She …

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Dumb and dumbest

How dunb can americans be? Well they just dont stop to suprising me.... Now who was dumbest in this nice story? that's the real question.

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re: Dumb and dumbest

Dumb: walking to the airport (not into a secured area, but still) with a circuit board with blinking lights.

Not dumb: Arresting someone with said circuit board (and play-dough)

Dumbest: not releasing her with a stern admonishment to not pull stunts like that as soon as they realised she was harmless.

Honestly, is it really my fault if the bar of soap I am carrying looks like a bomb to them? Do I have to label all my positions "not a bomb" just in case? (actually, that would be a really bad idea, but my point stands)

What annoyed me the most about this story is that the cops hailed this as a reminder that terrorism is a real threat. As opposed to being a reminder that most supposed terrorist threats are false alarms.

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Lowest denominator

Given the relative intelligence of your average American airport worker, I'm definitely not going to be going there with any hardware anywhere on my person. Given their utter stupidity and ignorance, I wonder how soon it will be for them to arrest someone with LEDs in their shoes or something?

Basically, they're out of control, and nobody over there seems to think this is a bad thing. Damn good thing I've got no reason to go back there for the foreseeable future.

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Anonymous Coward

re: Lowest denominator

Generally the same people who say what you're saying are also the first ones to point the finger at airport staff if a real amateur bomber came into an airport and detonated something: "How did they not spot him, he was *holding* the plastic explosive, they should never have gambled on the fact that it might not be a bomb, they're all incompetant"...etc. Bleh.

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Praise the lord...

...pass the ammunition!

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Anonymous Coward

Its Hollywood's Fault

In the movies the bomb always consists of a readily identifiable circuit board complete with wires and either flashing LEDs or a countdown display so its not unreasonable for an airport worker to assume that anything that's got electronics in it is a bomb component. Its the same with plastic explosive, it always looks like Play-Doh (Plasticine) because in the movies the prop is just that.

As someone who has to carry prototype equipment through airports from time to time I can say I'm getting pretty tired of this. As for this over reaction -- I'm also getting sick and tired of my government being more of a threat to my well being than a terrorist.

Its a good thing I don't fly that often -- actually I fly as little as possible now. I hate ignorant, small people, especially when they're armed to the teeth.

Incidentally, I recently had to go through Vancouver airport in Canada. The contrast between that and LAX was like night and day -- LAX was this tawdry ultra-max full of shouting, threatening people, the place looking awful, crowds, an embarassment. YVR seemed to take some trouble to keep things low key and non threatening, really nice (although I daresay that if there was a problem some heavily armed thugs would appear through an inconspicuous door at a moment's notice to take care of things).

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Anonymous Coward

Land of the free

If they ain't tazing people, they're arresting the best of the next generation. What a great place to live.

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I'm SO ashamed (yeah, right)

I'm surprised that they didn't tack on a morals charge, too.

After all, she was, erm, a flasher!

Martin

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Anonymous Coward

title

Oh come on, as if that looks like a bomb, anyway if you where going to bomb an airport would you walk in with flashing LED's and circuit boards on show, no you would, have bag or suitcase so you could get near loads of people, not have it all on show so you dont even get though the front door

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Anonymous Coward

MIT

Hang on. She was a student. She was at where? MIT. Nuff said.

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re: Dumb and dumbest

Bombs don't look like circuit boards with blinking lights. So what exactly wrong with it? If walking to the airport with something that doesn't look like a bomb is a dumb idea, then what we should do? Walk there with something that does look like a bomb?

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What's the problem?

Look, we live in interesting times... I know that western countries do seem a little over the top, running around with the "we're under attack" mentality, and generally using the terrorist threat to trample all over our civil liberties - but guess what? 9/11 happened. So did the bombings in London and Madrid...

We *are* under attack, and the best way to meet that threat is to remain mindful for it, but basically just get on with our lives... So, mindful of said threat, when some idiot walks into the airport dressed like a borg outcast, if the airport staff have the slightest doubt, arrest her! No problem! This "art installation" could have caused a huge panic - especially in an American setting...

So, should she be tried for the offence? Yes. Is 5 years a bit steep? Certainly...

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Anonymous Coward

Clueless Register Hack

See kids, this happens if you become a journalist but you have no clue about the subject you are writing about.

A "computer circuit board"? Get a clue. What should that be? As the ABC news picture clearly shows, this was a breadboard <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breadboard>. Works without computers, no less. May the BOFH chasten you with a CAT 5.

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Anonymous Coward

Fear and paranoia are bad things

You can come to the airport dressed as a hare krisha, but not as an uber-geek? John Gilmore forced the issue with his "suspected terrorist" button, but nobody pointed a gun at him.

Sounds like geek "profiling" to me. What would they say to Gordon Bell and his always-carried "sensecam" (portable camera).

I regularly carry amateur radio equipment with batteries inside.

It also has sharp pointy metal antennae (encased in rubber), but I find I no longer have to explain it to security folks, they must see a lot of radios.

If the DA insist on charges, I suggest some sort of civil disobedience. Perhaps "wear your wires to work day". Or, everyone should go to the airport with a few extra wires and hooded sweatshirts. (Be ready to disperse when the airport police come out)

And any cop stupid enough to shoot an unarmed college student deserves to be sent to Cincinnati, where apparently that kind of thing was legal in the 90s.

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Joe

Bah

Sounds like they all need a good sound spanking to me!

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Boston - home of the shoot on reasonable suspicion policy?

I find the police comments most troubling.

Perhaps the Police department PR dept needs to get involved, so the policeman isn't making inappropriate comments on CNN.

"lucky she wasn't shot", indeed

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3x2

Title

"best of the next generation" - give me a fookin break.

Very bright lets see....

Hmm given the paranoia of the entire western world when it comes to terrorist activity I think I'll go to my local airport today dressed in electronics.

Had she done this in London this morning she would have been shot dead on the subway steps.

Either dumb as a post or suicidal - take your pick.

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Anonymous Coward

Where the hell do these people come from ???

I was all ready to read the story and say how stupid the airport was,but then I saw the circuit board and the play dough in hand and I just thought "what on earth do these people think they are doing ?" . Stupid is all that comes to mind. 19 years of age and still playing with play dough, where I had been working for 3 sensible years at that age. I tell you what whilst I am on the subject. The kids of today have been badly let down by society/adults as the ones I see are no where near as mature as they should be at 15 or 16. Back in the 60/70/80's kids were much more mature attitude wise, perhaps because they had to grow up quickly to start apprentiships etc which dont exist anymore !.

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deadly deviation

"Thankfully, because she followed instructions as required, she ended up in a cell as opposed to the morgue," Pare said. "Had she not followed the instructions, deadly force may have been used."

Now even a stop at a toilet can get you killed in the US!

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understandable but not good judgement

6.111 will get under your skin and haunt you every minute until your final project is signed off. Every significant object in your life has a proto board stuck to it. You sniff frantically for burning plastic every time you turn on a power switch. But when in Rome, you must do as the Romans do.

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Airport security...

I remember once passing through an airport in the States with a large box full of Printed Circuit Boards...

When asked what was in the box, I said that it was full of PCBs.

Oh dear - their reaction becomes clear if you read the following:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polychlorinated_biphenyl

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I'd have been really unimpressed ...

... if my travel arrangements had been disrupted by this. I was flying back to the UK through Logan (fortunately terminal B).

Having lived in London through the bombings in the '70s I can understand the reaction of both the authorities and the public at the total idiocy and lack of thought of this kid. Anyone walking through an airport at the present time with a bunch of electronics and a handful of Play-doh has obviously not thought through the consequences of their actions and should be left in no doubts as to the magnitude of their stupidity. "She's kind of counter culture. She's prone to do whimsical things" the news article puts it. No, not whimsical. Just stupid, thoughtless, ill-judged and offensive.

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AJH

Fake bomb?

It looks nothing like a bomb. Its a breadboard, some LEDs and a battery. I'm amazed that someone from the police didn't realise what it was.

Still, it's not a bright thing to be wearing around... if only because it makes you look like a total geek.

I've actually seen several novelty jackets that have LEDs built-in (but not on breadboards, of course). Would you be arrested for wearing them too?

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Anonymous Coward

You are so smart...

You are so smart...

And I suppose that you know what a real bomb looks like?

A “real” terrorist is going to use an industrial, easily identifiable bomb, preferably painted in camouflage colours, and with “C4 EXPLOSIVE” stencilled in large letters on the side?

All you need to detonate some plastic explosive is a small detonator, and 12v – the circuit she was carrying would have been more than adequate to built up a charge in a capacitor from the PP3 9v source to power a detonator, to explode the “play dough” like substance. WTF was she doing carrying it in the first place?

Let’s see now, I will show up at an airport with a toy plastic gun, point it at a cop, and then the media will scream that there was a senseless killing at the airport?

Do not get me wrong, I hate small people armed to the teeth as much as a next guy, in fact, this is the reason that I am not going to visit America any time soon – however, on this occasion, I agree with their actions 100%, and it would a good idea for that bitch to receive 5 years sentence so that other “smart” people will not get any stupid ideas. Airports globally (and especially in America) are on high alert, the American cops (and rent-a-cops) are not renowned for their high intelligence, especially when it comes to electrical engineering, to this end, one would have to be a complete idiot to show up A) in a hood (adds “mood”) B) with a circuit board strapped on and C) carrying what looks like plastic explosive. MIT = smart? Do not make me laugh. I went to university, and I have seen my share of complete idiots.

P.S. if, by some misfortune I were to serve as a rent-a-cop at an airport, I would have acted in exactly the same manner – and trust me, I know a thing or two about circuits.

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Anonymous Coward

The moral is...

... if you're going to make a bomb, make it aesthetically pleasing. No exposed wires, no breadboard, no flashy lights. Just a PCB and some nice moulded plastic.

Interestingly, Cyberdog have been making custom shirts like this for years. Flashing lights, exposed circuitry and actually nice to look at. http://www.cyberdog.net/. Never say that the brits are behind on fashionable technology.

-Gazimoff

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Tom

Hmm

I don't see what the problem is here... she wasn't carrying some piece of equipment, she was attempting a bomb threat? I could let off the circuit board but what's the excuse for the fake detonator?

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In America we are afraid and we lack judgement

The two items are related. Wearing circuit boards like that is a symbol of American Nerd culture.

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play doh!

She knew what she was doing, who TF carries playdoh.......

As to the board, well I use those everyday, but if I wanted to wear flashing LED art I would not use one, I'd etch a nice PCB for it.

She did it on purpose and deserves all she gets, as to the cops, well they did what they had to do and I applaud them.

Stupid stupid stupid.

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Anonymous Coward

America - Land of the Free

From the ABC link:

"She's kind of counter culture. She's prone to do whimsical things. Last year she shaved her head," Caine Jette, a fellow sophomore at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and member of the Hawaii Club, told ABCNEWS.com. "She's relatively impulsive. Sometimes she walks around without her shoes on."

I thought freedom is the absence of government coercion and the US government was created to protect the rights and liberties of the citizens. Maybe I missed something recently? ;-)

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Photo

The photo from the ABC news site gives a possible clue to the over-reaction - the MIT student isn't white....

In the way that Jean Charles de Menezes was shot to death by the MET in the London underground for, basically , being 'foreign'. Or that after 11th September `01, rednecks in the US were attacking Sikhs.

Given the permanent low-level fear and paranoia that people are being fed, it's maybe not _that_ suprising that minimum-wage airport workers and security guards over-reacted in this way. What is stupid is how the police are pressing charges, despite the facts.

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Anonymous Coward

For the record

That was a solderless breadboard in the picture (used to construct temporary circuits for testing), not a "computer circuit board", not that you'd expect a news crew to understand the difference.

Point:

--someone bright enough to be at MIT should have realized the impact of bringing something like this to an airport, although social ineptitude may be a factor here.

--why does it seem that mostly the lowest third of the bell curve end up in law enforcement? People that if they weren't in law enforcement (or minor public officials) would likely be in prison themselves? Probably because no one else would possibly want the job I guess... Mind you, not all cops are idiots... I feel for the ones that aren't and have to patiently work with the rest of them.

--(rhetorical question) Are we as a society so lacking in common sense (and so trained by unrealistic TV) that something that doesn't look completely 'normal' is enough to send us stampeding like a herd of cattle?

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Forget the terrorists...

I don't know about anyone else, but I am ten times more worried about police stupidity and overreaction than I am about actual terrorists. All it takes is for a police officer or security guard to fail to understand a piece of modern technology and suddenly guns are involved.

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What's really sad

is that this student is a sophomore in electrical engineering at MIT and she shows her prowess (on career day no less) with a crappy project circuit board with blinking LEDs. I'm surprised NASA didn't bail her out and hire her on the spot.

Maybe she'll build a crystal radio set for graduation.

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Anonymous Coward

Dunb?

"How dunb can americans be? Well they just dont stop to suprising me."

This comment does not sound like someone who should be calling anybody else "dunb".

TSA: Low Pay + Dull Job = Lower Quality Workers + Stupid Results....actually consistent with most operations run from Washington.

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Anonymous Coward

Nice

THEN THEY CAME TO TAKE THE ENGINEERS...

Hat's off to the brave young lass, although she is clearly a wee bit suicidal.

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Anonymous Coward

Title I Love Star

Thank goodness this smart, pretty, wonderfully weird gal didn't get shot. I'd love to have her as a student in one of my classes at the university where I teach. Go Star!

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Silver badge

She's of Latin descent.

This explains everything.

In a US airport, being slightly dark-skinned is an extremely bad idea.

Being actually black or actually white is ok, but anything in between instantly arouses extreme suspision, overreactions and possible hatred.

As any non-US citizen who's ever flown into the 'Land of the Free' will know, a guaranteed way to spend hours in the immigration queue is to join the one full of people who look South American.

As someone who has to carry prototype electronics from time to time, I get really worried by this kind of idiocy.

- Was the student daft? Yes.

- Was the response correct? Definately not. The correct response is simple: Formal caution, don't be so bl**dy stupid again.

USA - land of the prejudiced and scared.

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Ash

Insanity

With the rules regarding liquids, i'm extremely surprised airport insecurity haven't "Jean Charles de Menezes" a 6 year old shaking a juice carton.

Saying that, though, my Transformers t-shirt has glowing lights on the front which are battery powered, and neither UK or Italian customs paid it a second glance. Possibly because it didn't look like something out of a Die Hard movie...

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I'm actually broadly in favour of this.

If it was just a few LEDs that'd be one thing but I find it really hard to justify a lump of play doh. C'mon EVERY techy has joked about making a fake bomb with lots of

*Curley Wires

*Flashing Lights

*Big Lump of Plasticene.

If it didn't cross her mind at least once that it looked like a fake bomb than I wonder what the hell does cross her mind.

She wasted their time with this stunt, and now, they're wasting hers.

We don't tollerate people openly carrying imitation firearms in this country, so why should America tollerate people openly carrying imitation bombs? Sure their airport security is notoriously paranoid, and that to my mind makes this stunt even more stupid.

WHat's she going to do next? Attach a dopler simulator to her car giving her an aparent speed of 200MPH and then complain when she gets a ticket.

Sorry, no sympathy, bring on the lions.

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Re: title - Oh come on,

I dunno... you have to admit it worked pretty well in The Matrix.

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Sequins will be next

Any bright shiny thing will grab a moron's attention. Just wait, someone will be wearing sequins in the airport, and the bright sun will, of course, cause them to flash. The bomb recognition algorithm will be triggered, and mayhem will ensue.

When this story first broke, I was amazed that the security people hadn't learned the concept of what is, and what isn't, a bomb. Come on! Blinky lights don't equal a bomb! The idiots over-reacted like this with the Cartoon Network advertising sign, too.

Major bombs in the United States: passenger jet aircraft, and moving vans.

Blinky lights are not on that list, and have never been on any bomb list. Not even suicide bombers wear blinky lights!

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Sam

"students" means the unlearned

Clearly so, in this case.

They should have shot the stroppy, posy, thick bitch dead so she couldn't breed, it would have done the world a big favour.

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Maybe if...

...her skin was a shade or two lighter the response might not have been so heavy.

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Anonymous Coward

god bless

god bless MIT students.

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Anonymous Coward

The most important thing to prove your non-terrorist status:

When carrying homemade electronics through airports, slap a "High Voltage" sign on it. Bombs never say that in movies.

Also: This girl was extremely attractive, IMO. Since when do pretty people blow stuff up?

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Maybe not so bright, but....

I can understand the paranoia and fear running rampant through my country, especially in such a busy airport. I know Boston had the Cartoon Network "bomb threat" issue a few months back, and they are smarting that a couple of the terrorists from 9/11 either came through Logan, or were planning on hijacking a plan from there (can't quite remember.)

However, I detest the idea of living in fear, of jumping at your own shadow, and otherwise becoming a police state in the name of "security." I was pissed off when the Minneapolis bridge collapsed after the shock wore off (I was taking a final 5 blocks away, didn't know it happened at all until I walked out of the building). The reason was that every single news station, radio program, and talking head kept repeating the same line: "The FBI and Homeland Security do not believe that there was terrorism involved at this time." That statement does a couple things... it reminds people yet again that we are "under siege," which helps King George divert attention from the fact he doesn't have 2 brain cells to rub together and he's letting organized white-collar crime (they call it politics these days) run the roost. And since it didn't outright discount that theory, it let the more excitable and brainless of our society run around shouting "The end is nigh!"

Yes, someone who attends MIT should probably have been a little more apt to realize the consequences of her actions, and she should be fined, a decent slap on the wrist, and told to keep her nose clean for a couple years, but suspend any idea of prison, unless she makes a habit of this. However, this also exposes just how cracked the US has become.

When police officials are telling the media that they would have shot her dead and asked questions later if she hesitated or otherwise made a move they deemed threatening (and with police officers, that list grows longer everyday, because they are overworked and undermanned), you have to wonder why this boob was let in front of a TV camera. 10 years ago, that officer would have been reprimanded for such comments, as they do not fit the "peace officer" image that the police force is supposed to be. Now, they are being miltarized because they feel that they are under siege from the media, government, and public, not to mention that actual bad guys out there.

And the fact that there was no outcry over such comments here show just how inured to violence we have become. And the free pass is given in the name of the War on Terror... It sickens me, and it serves no purpose, no rhyme, no reason. We are losing, if only because we are changing our lives, letting our liberties be taken (Ms. MIT, that was not a liberty, though), and otherwise allowing our way of life be destroyed, all for the sake of a greater sense of safety. And it's just a sense, it doesn't actually improve anything.

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - attributed to Ben Franklin

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Suicide by Cop

My sympathy is with the Cops on this one. I don't expect a cop to be able to analyse a circuit (breadboard or otherwise) in a high pressure situation from 15 ft away. I do however expect a cop to kill a suspected suicide bomber before they take out innocent people. Airports are not the venue for counter culture whimsical behaviour. If the cop had shot her it would have been on their conscience for the rest of their life. Just because she wanted to be creative.

The following scenario happens all of the time:

<Security> "Sir do you mind telling me what is in your bag?"

<Whimsical Student> "A bomb" (laughter)

<Security> "Don't be silly I can clearly see that its just a breadboard with a few wires, a battery and a lump of playdoh! You crazy students really need to get some new jokes.. I will however need to confiscate your nail clippers".

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F**king Space Cadet

I hate small minded over reaction as much the next person, but come on, imagine the scene :

You are working at an airport information desk, you are constantly being reminded that you are operating under conditions of possible attack. Some glassy eyed fuckwit with half of radioshack hanging off her tits and some cryptic message daubed across her back in what rather disturbingly appears as if it could be shit, approaches you while fondling a lump of some kind of plasticised dough like material and asks you where the aeroplanes are at.

Do you :

a) send her on her way, the cheeky scamp.

b) call the cops and tell them that there is a fucking lunatic wandering around the airport unrestrained.

c) do both.

I hope she gets acquitted, but having the charges pressed and having to go through the process will be an apparently much needed reality check for yet another MIT space cadet.

I mean honestly, I'm starting to wonder if you don't so much qualify for MIT as get referred there by a psychiatrist.

In the current climate, with so many itchy trigger fingers, she genuinely IS lucky not have been gunned down on the spot. This really would have been a tragedy, but it's a tragedy that could easily be avoided by not acting like a complete fucking retard.

Not a particularly bright Star, it would appear.

On another note, I wonder if that dead badger she appears to be wearing on her head in the ABC pictures is running Linux ?

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Dan

Omitted:

Was this, in fact, a work of art which she had been wearing all day, and intended to wear for the rest of the day, or just one which she wore to the airport to cause trouble?

That should be the distiction that determines wether this is a case of tweaking the airport security, or the airport security being tweakers.

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