Sunday, October 21, 2007

1+1= a nuclear bomb!

With all the news about the alleged Nuclear facility in Syria, one, customs agent specially, needs to be extra careful not to let any "related" materials slip into Syria. That would most likely be the way many Americans think, and few, act based on.

My younger brother has just become a CMA and started his path towards becoming a CFA. In order to make his life easier, he needed a specific financial calculator that he couldn't find anywhere in Damascus. He called and asked for my help. Five minutes later I was checking and 4 days later the FedEx guy knocked on my door and handed it to me. It looks very primitive, probably like the calculators that were used to do the calculations needed to build the pyramids few billions of years ago! Anyway, I contacted DHL and their guy come and picked it up after I filled the form with my family's home address in Damascus. "To this destination, it'll takes five business days" he said.

Five days passed and nothing happened. I didn't bother to track it online...I was just expecting a call from my brother to thank me. 8 days
and that ungrateful nerd hasn't called yet! I decided to see the DHL tracker before I call and teach him some manners, of which he has much more than I do in fact. Apparently, the calculator never left the USA! I was told that it was deemed as an unacceptable commodity to be sent to Syria by the US customs!

I'm not an expert in making nuclear bombs but my common sense tells me that this type of calculators, or any other type for that matter, is not essential to the process! Unless it's needed to calculate the depletion rate of the uranium or maybe the amortization expenses of the trucks that will be used to carry the bomb! This was the most ridiculous thing I have heard since an American border control officer in JFK airport in New York asked me upon my arrival from Damascus, after looking at my SYRIAN passport, why I had been to Syria!

Probably that customs officer who made the decision of holding that "unacceptable commodity" is the blood brother of the border
control officer, I wouldn't be surprised! At the end of a long business day at the US customs, he goes home to his wife and kids
and tells them how he has prevented the bad people from acquiring "tools" that would have been used in evil matters! He will be
a hero....but no one will stop for a second and think...ummm...a calculator!

Come on Americans! Think before you say things of act on things!

On a different perspective.... Why did we have to go through the US customs in the first place? Oh yeah, because we couldn't get that stupid calculator in Syria!

Here is the "unacceptable commodity"


Omar said...

this is ridiculous!
There's no justification for this other than maybe trying to halt an Syrian from learning anything beyond addition and subtracting. Having a dumb population is easier to control, or so they think?

Melinda Marie Harkema said...

And that's even an outdated calculator... HP hasn't made calculators since they've made computers! But anything my government (the US) does is asinine. I guess that's what we get for having an inbred, cocaine addicted, alcoholic in the White House.... I just discovered your blog recently, with an old, old post, the "How to Drive a Syrian Man Crazy in 10 Days".... you're very talented. Keep it up!

Melinda Marie Harkema said...

I'm assuming it's partly the AGE of the calculator that's getting through. I have some dear friends in Libya-- another country on the United States' "naughty list"-- that I regularly mail things to, and yes, I've sent a calculator or two. There HAS TO BE an equivalent "modern calculator" with the same features that your brother needs to complete his studies that'll make it past US customs. The USPS' website is presently "down", so I've been unable as of late to check specific restrictions on shipping to Syria, but I'VE always been able to send anything and everything to anyone, anywhere. Don't know if it's because I'm an American citizen or because I have security clearances through the nose (I was briefly in the military and had to receive a plethora of different clearances due to my MOS). Tell your brother to take a look at Texas Instruments' website, at -- see if there's an equivalent calculator that THEY make (they make the really cool graphing ones that make "cheating", uh, I mean, graphing, in Algebra EASY), and after the first of the year (I won't have much money until the start of the next semester!), I'll make every effort under the sun to get it to him, regardless of cost. Basic scientific calculators like the one you have shown, start around $15, more advanced graphing ones that have more algebraic ability in one section of microchip than I have in my entire cerebrum, are $85+. And just to prove a point-- that not all Americans are boneheaded morons. And that most of us want to see others around the world SUCCEED in their lives...

Ihsan said...

Oh Melinda, thank you so much for your sincere offer of help.

There are no "official restrictions" known by any of the couriers. When I spoke to DHL people they were as surprised as I was by what the US customs did.

My brother has managed to get the calculator he needs. He asked one of his friends to get it from Dubai. People can live without the blessing of the US government after all.
This calculator is a pretty classic model; it was first made 25 years ago. But it’s still one of the best financial calculators in the market. It’s worth $70 by the way.
You don't need to prove any points, Melinda. I know for a fact that not all Americans are boneheaded! I never stereotype. I was referring to whoever was involved in what happens in that case in particular. After all I pretty much doubt that the US customs have a list of items not to be sent by individuals to Syrian individuals, or even if there might be, calculators are not one of the restricted items. I highly suspect that a decision as stupid as that was made based on a personal discretion of some Syrian/Arabs/Middle Eastern-phobic employee at the US customs.

Thanks again for your sincerity, I truly appreciate it.

Yazan said...


The problem as I understand is that more than 10% of the parts of that calc are originating from the US, thus it is under the "no export" sanctions.

You want to hear something really ridiculous? When my friend here in Japan sent my ID [Syrian OLD ID] by DHL, it was stopped in Dubai, until he filled out the paperwork that verified that it wasn't made in the US and didnt have more than 10% US ingredients.

And that was FedEx.

Go figure!