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Professor suspected of being a terrorist because of a math equationand ignorant blonde liberal woman
A math equation landed an Ivy League professor on an American
Airlines flight in questioning Thursday under suspicion of being
Guido Menzio, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania,
was working on a differential equation while waiting for the
Syracuse-bound plane to take off from Philadelphia, the
Washington Post reported. He had to present the findings of a
working paper at Queen's University. But a passenger somehow
mistook the equation for Arabic or some sort of Islamic code for
a terrorist attack.
That's how the 41-minute flight ended up delayed by two hours—a
false alarm the olive-skinned, curly, dark-haired native Italian
chalked up to racial profiling.
Per the Post:
And then the big reveal: The woman wasn’t really sick at all!
Instead this quick-thinking traveler had Seen Something, and so
she had Said Something.
That Something she’d seen had been her seatmate’s cryptic notes,
scrawled in a script she didn’t recognize. Maybe it was code, or
some foreign lettering, possibly the details of a plot to
destroy the dozens of innocent lives aboard American Airlines
Flight 3950. She may have felt it her duty to alert the
authorities just to be safe.
The curly-haired man was, the agent informed him politely,
suspected of terrorism.
The curly-haired man laughed.
He laughed because those scribbles weren’t Arabic, or another
foreign language, or even some special secret terrorist code.
They were math.
Menzio said there were other factors that may have led to a
misunderstanding. The blond-haired 30-something woman asked if
Syracuse was home for him, and he answered curtly. He avoided
other questions. He seemed, according to the Post, "perhaps too
laser-focused" on his notepad.
That's when she slipped a note to the flight attendant and the
plane returned to the gate.
American Airlines confirmed that the woman expressed suspicions
about University of Pennsylvania economics professor. She said
she was too ill to take the Air Wisconsin-operated flight.
"I thought they were trying to get clues about her illness," he
said in an email. "Instead, they tell me that the woman was
concerned that I was a terrorist because I was writing strange
things on a pad of paper."
Menzio said was treated respectfully, but he expressed concerns
about the lack of communication: "Not seeking additional
information after reports of 'suspicious activity' ... is going
to create a lot of problems, especially as xenophobic attitudes
may be emerging," he said.
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