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    Re: Astra IIIB sextant importer vs. U.S. government
    From: Ken Gebhart
    Date: 2002 Oct 1, 20:22 -0500

    I don�t know how this thread got started, but in case some of you are
    interested, here�s the story.
    For as far back as anyone can research, prior to the middle 1990s
    sextants have been classified by the Customs Bureau as non- optical
    navigational instruments. Marine sextants were named specifically as
    such   Then the new harmonized classification system was created which
    did not have a specific classification for sextants, and so it was up to
    the individual customs offices to decide if they were optical or
    non-optical. As it turned out some did, and some didn�t.
    Normally this would not be a big deal because the duty for optical
    instruments was around 5%, and for non-optical it was 0% UNLESS they
    came from a communist country.  In that case the duty was 50% if they
    were considered optical, and 15% if not..  This is why you will find
    lots of old Freiberger sextants in Canada and Europe, and almost none in
    the U.S.  When Celestaire began importing from China, the high duty was
    forgiven by Most Favored Nation status, which had to be won on a year by
    year basis.  So, in 1990, not wanting to risk a 50% duty should MFN
    fail, we requested a final binding ruling as to whether they were
    optical or not.  The customs people, always wanting money, said they
    were optical.
    Celestaire�s argument was this: it is a given that adding an optical
    element to a non-optical instrument does not turn it into an optical
    one.  Thus, a magnifying lens on a slide rule does not make it an
    optical instrument.  Simple reflection (not magnified) is not usually an
    optical trait ie. a bathroom mirror would not be an optical instrument.
    Celestaire insisted that a sextant was a simple angle measuring tool,
    like a cross staff for instance.  Then putting mirrors on it so you
    could see both the star and the horizon at the same time, shouldn�t
    change its basic nature.  Customs came back and said that the telescope
    made it optical. Celestaire said all sextants don�t have telescopes.
    Then they said the shade glasses were of such high quality as to make
    them optical.  Celestaire said all sextants (ie. surveying sextants)
    don�t have shade glasses.
    So, the fight went all the way to the highest court.  Celestaire had the
    best lawyers in the land, and felt it was a slam dunk to win.  The way
    it got back to us was that after the arguments were made, one of the
    judges picked up an Astra IIIB and said � it sure looks optical to me�.
    Case closed.  So this is why a sextant is legally an optical instrument.
    Paul Hirose wrote:
    > U.S. Customs Service said Astra IIIB sextants were subject to duties
    > as "optical navigational instruments". The importer, Celestaire,
    > disagreed with that classification and took the fight to the U.S.
    > Court of Appeals. Here's the 1997 ruling:
    > http://www.law.emory.edu/fedcircuit/july97/97-1005.html
    > I saw this while searching the Web for something else.

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