Sunday, 28 December 2008

When life and love turn strange

Up, Down.

Atong ArjokIt's hard to make that change,
When life and love turn strange
And cold.

     Neil Young, A Man Needs A Maid, Harvest, 1972.

(Wikipedia: Atong Arjok, born October 5th, 1985, is a American-Sudanese model. She was discovered in Los Angeles by L.A. Models. Five foot nine Sudanese model Atong Arjok is one of the top Nubian models to have hit the runway since Alek Wek.)

Who cares? Who knows? Who wants to know? The Good Samaritan? Keep in mind, the Good Samaritan is (just?) a story. As well, once turned, mere communication (mere?) is more-and-more problematic.

Oluchi OnweagbaBut you will wind up
Peeking through her keyhole
Down upon your knees.

     Bob Dylan, She Belongs To Me, Bringing It All Back Home, 1965.

(Wikipedia: Oluchi Onweagba, born August 1, 1980, is a Nigerian model. Reportedly she was discovered selling bread on the streets of Lagos in order to make ends meet.)

Alek WekJoy to the world, the Lord is come,
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing.

     Isaac Watts, The Psalms of Da­vid, 1719.

(Wikipedia: Alek Wek, born 16 April 1977, is a Sudanese Supermodel who appeared on the catwalks at the age of 18 in 1995. She is from the Dinka ethnic group in the Sudan, but in 1991 she and some family members fled to Britain to escape the civil war between the Muslim north and the Christian south of the Sudan. She later moved to the United States.)


Sunday, 21 December 2008

Self Portrait - no sound of water.

Up, Down.

(Course not, Fool! sez Mr. T, too cold out there for water! QED, sez I.)

Moradores ilhados em pleno asfalto
"Moradores ilhados em pleno asfalto," a headline lifted from Jornal do Brasil. Literally, 'Residents are stranded in full asphalt' - 'full asphalt' or 'right in the middle of the asphalt' needs a bit of explanation maybe, 'asfalto' is a quality of civilized parts of the city, as distinguished from the 'morros' / hills, which are favelas / slums, and consequently uncivilized. An interesting corollary of this land-use pattern is that only the poor, living in the favelas, get a view.

Lençóis, Maranhão, DunasLençóis, Maranhão, Dunas

Well, I wish I was
On some Australian mountain range.
Oh, I wish I was
On some Australian mountain range.
I got no reason to be there, but I
Imagine it would be some kind of change.

Bob Dylan, Outlaw Blues, 1965.

Lençóis, Maranhão, DunasLençóis, Maranhão, Dunas

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water.

T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land, 1922.

Lençóis, Maranhão, DunasLençóis, Maranhão, Dunas
(Fotos de dunas em Lençóis, Maranhão, Brasil.)

ARIEL canta:

Teu pai está a cinco braças.
Dos ossos nasceu coral,
dos olhos, pérolas baças.
Tudo nele é perenal;
mas em algo peregrino
transforma-o o mar de contínuo
O sino das ninfas soa:
Dim, dim, dão!
Escutai como reboa:
Dim, dim, dão!

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them: Ding-dong, bell.

Proverbs 15:13 A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
Proverbios 15:13 O coração alegre aformoseia o rosto; mas pela dor do coração o espírito se abate.

Lone Pilgrim

I came to the place where the lone pilgrim lay,
And pensively stood by his tomb,
When in a low whisper I heard something say:
How sweetly I sleep here below.

The tempest may howl and the loud thunder roar
And gathering storms may arise,
But calm is my feeling, at rest is my soul,
The tears are all wiped from my eyes.

The call of my Master compelled me from home,
No kindred or relative nigh.
I met the contagion and sank to the tomb,
My soul flew to mansions on high.

Go tell my companion and children most dear
To weep not for me now I'm gone.
The same hand that led me through seas most severe
Has kindly assisted me home.

Written at Johnsonburg, N. J., 1836 by John Ellis about Joseph Thomas.

I came to the spot where White Pilgrim lay
And pensively stood by his tomb
When, in a low whisper, I heard something say:
"How sweetly I sleep here alone.

"The tempest may howl and the loud thunders roll
And gathering storms may arise;
Yet calm are my feelings, at rest is my soul,
The tears are all wiped from my eyes.

"The cause of my Master impelled me from home,
I bade my companion farewell:
I left my sweet children who for me now mourn,
In far distant regions to dwell.

I wandered an exile and stranger below,
To publish salvation abroad;
The trump of the gospel endeavor to blow,
Inviting poor sinners to God.

"But when among strangers, and far from my home,
No kindred or relative nigh,
I met the contagion and sank in the tomb,
My spirit to mansions on high.

"Go tell my companion and children most dear,
To weep not for Joseph, though gone;
The same hand that led me through scenes dark and drear,
Has kindly conducted me home."


Saturday, 20 December 2008

Perfect Metaphor indeed

Up, Down.

as we get towards the roots of language, begin to talk in terms (however besmirched by the deconstructivists) of 'master narrative' ... all good ... unfortunately for me it mostly fuels my frustration & anger (turned carefully inward y'unnerstan), but it reminded me of Social Imaginary this morning, leaving me briefly hopeful

Ronald McDonald, GluttonyGeorge Bush, Sapatrix, Matrix, Asterix, SapatãoThere is much pain in the United States today, but not much humility. Nor is there prudence.

Sapatão / big shoe, Brasilian slang for 'lesbian'.

Greed grab and Bush's triumphalist national narrative, Jeffrey Simpson, December 19, 2008.

The economic tsunami now battering the world began in the United States, where it has supplied a perfect metaphor for the Bush administration.

Maçã do AmorAmericans have overwhelmingly passed judgment on George Bush, consigning him to the dust heap of awful presidents. But have they passed sufficient judgment on themselves? Americans elected Mr. Bush twice and, even today, amidst the economic ruin of his policies, still seem wedded to the triumphalist national narrative he evoked.

There is much pain in the United States today, but not much humility. Nor is there prudence.

Had prudence been America's guide, the credit-card splurges, the bingo capitalism, the Wall Street greed, the executives' grotesquely inflated payments, the personal and national indebtedness, the fiscal deficits and all the other symptoms of a society living beyond its means that marked the Bush years would never have occurred.

There was a time, back in the 1950s and early 1960s, when Republicans believed in prudence, or at least thought they did. In those years, they stood for a strong defence, anti-communism, small government, low taxes and a balanced budget. Spend what you have, and no more, was a bedrock Republican idea.

Then came the intellectual revolution of Barry Goldwater's rage against the state, social conservatism, Arthur Laffer's curve, and the idea that ever-lower taxes would bring ever-higher revenues, so that budgets could and would be balanced by some miracle that had previously escaped economists and, indeed, previous generations of sound-money, balanced-budget Republicans.

Mr. Bush epitomized and practised all these ideas, with the result that he presided over tax cuts that disproportionately favoured the already wealthy, deficits in every fiscal year, more national debt, and wars abroad without revenue at home to pay for them. His answer, after 9/11, included the advice to Americans that they could fight terrorism by going shopping.

As the rich got richer, some got more venal, or at least practised venality on a vast scale. On Wall Street, and beyond, the prevailing attitude was to get rich as quickly as possible, since everybody else was doing it, and tax rates were so low on the wealthy that you really could - and should - keep almost all of what you earned.

The greed grab led to hedge funds, demand for instant returns, cutthroat attitudes and executive compensation of breathtaking size - while the wages of ordinary Americans stagnated. The resulting inequalities were staggering, and the debt loads immense, but entirely in keeping with a trickle-down theory of economics that had implanted itself in Republican theology once prudence and balance were abandoned.

In the Bush narrative, everyone would get ahead in the transcendentally powerful United States, the envy of the world, whose economy could not fail and whose houses and stocks and investments of all kinds would just keep rising. The country could fight two wars without taxing itself to pay for them, and spend at home far more than it earned, and borrow from the Chinese, who depended on the U.S. consumer to buy China's products.

As the debts grew, rather than whistles being blown at the White House and the Federal Reserve, new and increasingly incomprehensible financial devices were invented to bundle debt and sell it to someone else who might, in turn, repackage and sell it, so that the financial services industry increasingly defied transparency and took on the shape of a vast pyramid scheme. But the United States, Mr. Bush kept saying, was the land of freedom and free markets, a light unto the world, even though in most corners of the planet, the country's reputation had darkened under the Bush presidency.

Seldom, if ever, has one president so damaged his country's international profile; and seldom, with the possible exception of Herbert Hoover, has one president's economic policies so damaged his country's domestic capacities. But remember that George Bush merely practised a certain set of policies, and pursued a certain set of approaches, that reflected the intellectual revolutions that had transformed the Republican Party and, because it was the dominant party, transformed the United States into a debtor nation at home and a disliked one abroad.

Having bequeathed such a disaster to the country, the unsuspecting might assume that Republicans would embark on a wholesale self-examination.

Instead, the last election so shrank the party that its core of the elderly and the angry and the devoutly religious now control the intellectual and political leadership. The heirs of Mr. Bush, and of the thinking he practised, are in charge, having learned and forgotten nothing.

The opponents of Mr. Bush, soon to be in charge, must add trillions to the country's existing debts, hoping to begin what must at some point, necessarily, be a return to some semblance of prudence and moderation and limits, or what we might call good old-fashioned, although recently out of fashion, pragmatism.


Friday, 19 December 2008

Quem canta seus males espanta

Up, Down.

Cornered Mike Baldwin RansomCarla Bruni Michel ComteQuem Canta Seus Males Espanta
Zélia Duncan / Itamar Assumpção

Entro em transe se canto, desgraça vira encanto
Meu coração bate tanto, sinto tremores no corpo
Direto e reto, suando, gemendo, resfolegando
Eu me transformo em outras, determinados momentos
Cubro com as mãos meu rosto, sozinha no apartamento
`as vezes eu choro tanto, já logo quando levanto
Tem dias fico com medo, invoco tudo que é santo
E clamo em italiano ó dio come ti amo
Eu me transmuto em outras, determinados momentos
Cubro com as mão meu rosto, sozinha no apartamento
Vivo voando, voando, não passo de louca mansa
Cheia de tesão por dentro, se rola na face o pranto
Deixo que role e pronto, meus males eu mesma espanto
Eu me transbordo em outras, determinados momentos
Cubro com as mãos meu rosto, sozinha no apartamento
É pelos palcos que vivo, seguindo o meu destino
É tudo desde menina, é muito mais do que isso
É bem maior que aquilo , sereia eis minha sina
Eu me descubro em outras, determinados momentos
Cubro com as mãos meu rosto, sozinha no apartamento



Saturday, 13 December 2008

Justice? Shame on the RCMP. Shame on Canada.

Up, Down, In This Thread.

'Form 3996'

Latest activity at the Braidwood Inquiry, complete transcripts available there - the Mountie goons will testify beginning Monday February 23.

Paul Pritchard's Video, YouTube have made this video hard to reach, probably at the behest of the RCMP, but if you bear with it and create an account you can see it.

B.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General spokesman Stan LoweB.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General spokesman Stan LoweB.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General spokesman Stan LoweB.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General spokesman Stan LoweB.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General spokesman Stan LoweB.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General spokesman Stan Lowe

The pictures are of Stan Lowe, mouthpiece for "The Crown." I would rather have had pictures of the four mountie goons but they are being "protected." This Stan Lowe fellow does not look too happy in the last one - knows he is dealing down and dirty maybe, not lying exactly ... dealing in provisional truths. In the first picture you can see his wedding ring, and in the second he looks a bit like a dancer - maybe they have a good life.

Third picture reminds me of Psalm 12: "They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak."

In announcing that no charges will be laid against the RCMP, Crown concludes officers were 'lawfully engaged in their duties.'

          Constable Kwesi Millington (with Taser),
          Constable Bill Bentley,
          Constable Gerry Rundel, and
          Corporal Benjamin Monty Robinson.

B.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General.
Wally Oppal, Attorney-General of BC.
Crown spokesman Stan Lowe
Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.

Polish Embassy.

Mounties will not be charged in B.C. taser death (text below).
Airport death not caused by tasers, B.C. says (text below).
Letters to the Editor of the Globe:
          David Forbes,
          Christopher Barry,
          Tai Lee,
          Douglas Taylor,
          Dan Fraser, and
          Mynalee Johnstone.

Mountie involved in Taser incident reassigned to Toronto (text below).

Mounties will not be charged in B.C. taser death, Ian Bailey & Caroline Alphonso, December 11, 2008.

VANCOUVER/TORONTO - Four Mounties who used a taser to subdue Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski moments before he died of undisclosed injuries at Vancouver International Airport last year will not face criminal charges for their conduct, B.C.'s criminal justice branch will announce Friday.

CTV News is reporting that the Crown concluded there is insufficient evidence to warrant a prosecution in the case, which raised a furious debate over the police use of tasers that still continues.

The Crown's decision caps a far-flung investigation by members of B.C.'s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team that took officers as far away as Poland.

Zofia Cisowski, Mr. Dziekanski's mother, said from her home in Kamloops Thursday night that she had been informed of the Crown's decision by her lawyer, but that she could not comment on the matter before a news conference Friday.

The criminal justice branch of the B.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General has convened a media briefing Friday.

Premier Gordon Campbell said Thursday he was not aware of any decision on the matter, but that the whole affair had clearly been gruelling for all parties.

"It's obviously a very serious matter. There are four RCMP officers that I am sure have been wondering about what they did and what the consequences are."

Mr. Campbell, who last year phoned Ms. Cisowski to apologize for what happened to her son, also acknowledged her suffering.

"Unfortunately, the mother never gets to retrieve her son and those are very, very tough things for all of us to think about. What's important is we thoroughly review those and fairly review them to see what exactly the circumstances are."

Four Mounties were summoned to the international arrivals section of the airport after Mr. Dziekanski, 40, who did not speak English, began acting in an erratic manner after wandering for hours in the customs area of the complex. He was supposed to meet his mother, who was sponsoring his move to Canada, but he became confused after a 14-hour flight and 10-hour wait to find her.

Now that charges are not being laid, the officers can testify at an inquiry headed by commissioner Thomas Braidwood into police use of tasers. The RCMP said it wouldn't participate or provide the commission with access to its files until a decision had been made on charges.

The four officers have been under a great deal of pressure awaiting the outcome of the investigation and "are looking forward to getting it behind them," said RCMP Sergeant Mike Ingles, who covers officers in the South Fraser area.

Airport death not caused by tasers, B.C. says, Ian Bailey & Caroline Alphonso, December 13, 2008.

In announcing that no charges will be laid against the RCMP, Crown concludes officers were 'lawfully engaged in their duties.'

VANCOUVER, TORONTO -- The use of a taser did not cause the cardiac arrest that killed Robert Dziekanski during a confrontation with four Mounties at Vancouver International Airport last year, B.C.'s Crown office said yesterday as it ruled out charges against the officers.

"There is a substantial body of independent evidence which supports that the officers in question were lawfully engaged in their duties when they encountered Mr. Dziekanski," Crown spokesman Stan Lowe told a news conference that offered new details about the case.

"The force they used to subdue and restrain him was reasonable and necessary in the circumstances," said Mr. Lowe, noting there was no "substantial likelihood of conviction" for assault, assault with a weapon or manslaughter. "In fact, the available evidence falls markedly short of this standard."

Autopsy results outlined for the first time yesterday suggest various factors could have led to the heart attack that killed the 40-year-old Polish immigrant, including heart disease associated with chronic alcohol abuse, an agitated state of delirium and an inability to breathe while being restrained.

One forensic pathologist on the case noted that what happened to Mr. Dziekanski was "sudden death following restraint," a syndrome that predates the use of tasers. It took officers 30 seconds to restrain and subdue Mr. Dziekanski after he was tasered, and one officer pushed his knee into Mr. Dziekanski's shoulder and neck area during the effort.

The Crown, relying on an investigation by the regional Integrated Homicide Investigation Team that took officers to Poland for four days, noted that Mr. Dziekanski was "in a highly fearful and panicked state, bordering on hysterical" on the morning of Oct. 13, 2007, about his first-ever flight to Canada to join his mother in Kamloops, suggesting that may have contributed to anxiety that prompted the fatal confrontation with officers early on Oct. 14.

The Polish embassy in Ottawa expressed disappointment that no one was held accountable for Mr. Dziekanski's death.

"Reading the [Crown's] statement, it appears that the main reason for Mr. Dziekanski's death was his fear of flying, tiredness and lack of ability to communicate in English. Particularly disconcerting, though factually baseless, are repeated insinuations of alcohol abuse," a statement said.

"Because of the great interest ... in the case we believe that a public inquiry led by an independent court would have been even more transparent and convincing."

The Crown also disclosed yesterday that Mr. Dziekanski was jolted three times in a so-called "probe mode" where wires projected from the weapon apply electrical current, and twice in a "push stun mode" where the device causes localized pain. At one point, the device was not properly operating. The stun gun was used for a total of 31 seconds.

The embassy questioned why the stun gun was used five times, "including twice towards a person who is already lying on the ground convulsing."

For the first time yesterday, the officers were identified by surname as Constables Millington, Bentley, Rundel and Robinson. The Crown office did not respond to requests for their first names. Two of the officers have been reassigned to Eastern Canada. One has other duties. None now use tasers.

One officer has been suspended with pay. Constable Benjamin Robinson has been accused of impaired driving in connection with a traffic accident, while off duty, that killed a 21-year-old man in October. He has not been charged.

Choking back tears, Mr. Dziekanski's mother said yesterday that the Crown was blaming her son. Zofia Cisowski said she is considering civil action.

"It sounds to me like they are looking for any excuses to find a good reason to blame Robert and justify their action," she said.

She said that her son had a drinking problem 20 years ago. "It has nothing to do with what they did [at Vancouver International airport]. ... He wasn't an alcoholic," she said.

Her lawyer, Walter Kosteckyj, said the Crown failed to reveal yesterday that Mr. Dziekanski had an unopened bottle of vodka in his carry-on luggage that he was bringing for his mother's friend.

The Crown said that a contributing factors to Mr. Dziekanski's death was alcohol withdrawal. "Had he wanted to have a drink, he had that on his person for the entire time in his carry-on bag. And no one seems to mention that," Mr. Kosteckyj said.

Taser International welcomed news that its device did not directly cause the cardiac arrest that led to Mr. Dziekanski's death.

"The Crown has overturned the Canadian court of public opinion which for over a year has laid blame on the RCMP officers and the use of a taser device for the unfortunate death of Mr. Dziekanski," said Peter Holran, spokesman for the Arizona-based company.

The case is subject to an investigation by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, a commission of inquiry on police taser use and a planned B.C. Coroner's Inquest.

David Forbes

Medicine Hat, Alta. -- It has been obvious from the start there was no criminal intent in the unfortunate death of Robert Dziekanski. The issue is the use of tasers.

Over and over, these devices are part of an equation that makes people die. Jolt someone with a blast of power to immobilize their muscles, and the heart seems to stop working, especially if the person is in an agitated state. Why can't all law enforcement agencies suspend the use of tasers until someone figures out what is really happening? Too many people have died where there was never a reason for them to die. Robert Dziekanski was just one of them.

Christopher Barry

Toronto -- I have not decided which is more appalling: that an unarmed, unilingual Polish visitor to Canada, lost in a secured area of Vancouver International Airport for hours, is tasered and dies in an encounter with four RCMP officers or, that after months of investigation, the criminal justice branch of the B.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General has decided not to press charges against the officers who killed the man, an act that was captured on video for the world to see (Mounties Will Not Be Charged in B.C. Taser Death - Dec. 12).

Tai Lee

Woodbridge, Ont. -- Robert Dziekanski didn't speak English. The Mounties were told this. It appears the officers wanted to get the situation with him under their control as soon as possible, rather than to understand the situation.

Moreover, simple math says that when four Mounties deal with one man, using a taser more than once is obviously unacceptable. My heart goes out to the Dziekanski family.

Douglas Taylor

Edmonton -- I suppose it's only practical the Mounties won't face criminal charges for being such bumbling fools they inadvertently killed someone. But they sure as heck should face some kind of discipline and censure for clearly being incompetent.

Dan Fraser

Toronto -- A valuable lesson has been taught with the death of Robert Dziekanski. Never ever become confused, angry, frustrated or unable to effectively communicate with authorities at the Vancouver International Airport.

Mynalee Johnstone

Saltspring Island, B.C. -- This is absurd. We all saw the video.

Mountie involved in Taser incident reassigned to Toronto, Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun, Friday, December 12, 2008.

The Richmond Mountie who Tasered Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski five times in an altercation at Vancouver International Airport last year has been reassigned to the Toronto West detachment.

Const. Kwesi Millington deployed his Taser five times - the last two in "push stun mode" during the incident on Oct. 14, 2007, according to the Attorney-General's Ministry's Criminal Justice Branch. Dziekanski died shortly after.

Millington had worked at the Richmond RCMP detachment for less than five years before the incident. He did not return The Vancouver Sun's phone calls Friday.

The three other Mounties involved in the Tasering were identified Friday by Crown counsel as Cpl. Benjamin Monty Robinson, who had worked in Richmond for about 10 years, and constables Bentley and Rundel.

Police refused to release the first names of the two constables, who had also worked out of the Richmond detachment for less than five years. Both have been reassigned. Rundel is believed to be in Nanaimo now, and it was not know where Bentley has been transferred.

A message left for Rundel at the Nanaimo detachment was not returned.

Sgt. Tim Shields said the officers' names shouldn't be released because no charges were laid against them.

Meanwhile, Robinson was reassigned to the 2010 Integrated Security Unit, but was suspended with pay after motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson, 21, was fatally struck by a Jeep in Delta.

Delta police said Hutchinson was thrown from his motorcycle after it collided with the Jeep. Robinson faces charges of impaired driving causing death and exceeding .08 blood-alcohol content.

Before moving to Metro Vancouver, Robinson worked for several years in Merritt and Chase. In 2002, he won a provincial bravery award along with two other officers after confronting and arresting a man armed with an axe and a bat at the Adams Lake Indian band office.


Sunday, 7 December 2008

Piracy (?)

Up, Down.

What goes around, comes around ...

A larger narrative emerges from these stories - but you will have to read it all, slowly, to get the savour. A refresher on the tsunami of December 2004 would be helpful, and maybe a Google on Shidane Arone and 'Blackhawk Down' and the first battle of Mogadishu - both events in 1993.

'We consider ourselves heroes' - a Somali pirate speaks, Xan Rice & Abdiqani Hassan, Saturday November 22 2008.

Asad 'Booyah' Abdulahi, 42, describes himself as a pirate boss, capturing ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. Here he tells his story.

I am 42 years old and have nine children. I am a boss with boats operating in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

I finished high school and wanted to go to university but there was no money. So I became a fisherman in Eyl in Puntland like my father, even though I still dreamed of working for a company. That never happened as the Somali government was destroyed [in 1991] and the country became unstable.

At sea foreign fishing vessels often confronted us. Some had no licence, others had permission from the Puntland authorities but did not want us there to compete. They would destroy our boats and force us to flee for our lives.

I started to hijack these fishing boats in 1998. I did not have any special training but was not afraid. For our first captured ship we got $300,000. With the money we bought AK-47s and small speedboats. I don't know exactly how many ships I have captured since then but I think it is about 60. Sometimes when we are going to hijack a ship we face rough winds, and some of us get sick and some die.

We give priority to ships from Europe because we get bigger ransoms. To get their attention we shoot near the ship. If it does not stop we use a rope ladder to get on board. We count the crew and find out their nationalities. After checking the cargo we ask the captain to phone the owner and say that have seized the ship and will keep it until the ransom is paid.

We make friends with the hostages, telling them that we only want money, not to kill them. Sometimes we even eat rice, fish, pasta with them. When the money is delivered to our ship we count the dollars and let the hostages go.

Then our friends come to welcome us back in Eyl and we go to Garowe in Land Cruisers. We split the money. For example, if we get $1.8m, we would send $380,000 to the investment man who gives us cash to fund the missions, and then divide the rest between us.

Our community thinks we are pirates getting illegal money. But we consider ourselves heroes running away from poverty. We don't see the hijacking as a criminal act but as a road tax because we have no central government to control our sea. With foreign warships now on patrol we have difficulties.

But we are getting new boats and weapons. We will not stop until we have a central government that can control our sea.

Photo of Master Corporal Clayton Matchee & Shidane Arone, by Private Kyle Brown.

Photo of Abdul Hassan, "the one who never sleeps," by Veronique de Viguerie.

Prelude to Piracy - The Poor Fishermen of Somalia, 12/04/2008, Horand Knaup.

Firing shots at a luxury cruise ship, taking a super tanker hostage: the papers are full of Somalia's audacious pirates. But the local fishermen grab fewer headlines -- and have a stricken existence.

The outcry, addressed to the United Nations and the international community, was loud and bitter. "Help us solve the problem," said professional fisherman Muhammed Hussein from the coastal city of Marka, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of the Somali capital Mogadishu. "What is happening here is economic terrorism."

Jeylani Shaykh Abdi, another Somali fisherman, added: "They are not just robbing us of our fish. They are ramming our boats and taking our nets -- including the catch."

It wasn't long ago that Somali fisherman were loudly complaining about the poor state of their lives and livelihoods. About 700 ships from other countries, they said, were casting their nets along Somalia's roughly 3,300 kilometers (2,050 miles) of coastline, using practices that showed little consideration for the fish stocks or local fishermen. None of the trawlers, the Somali fishermen claimed, had a license or an agreement with the government in Mogadishu. Of course, that government has wielded practically no influence over the past 15 years.

The intruders, Hussein and Shaykh Abdi complained, used nets with very small mesh sizes and fished with banned dragnets, and with dynamite in some cases. The foreign fishing boats would ram local fishing vessels, pour boiling water on them and, if they still refused to budge, shoot at them. It was not unusual for the intruders to hire Somali militias to drive away the local fishermen.

That was in 2006. The outcry was loud and clear -- but without any results.

Back then the Somali fishermen were doing badly. Today they are even worse off. Trawlers from faraway places continue to ply the waters off the long coastline, ships from Japan and India, as well as Italy and Spain. The Spanish fishing cutter that pirates hijacked in May and the Thai trawler an Indian warship inadvertently sank in early November provided evidence of just how attractive the Somali fishing grounds are worldwide.

Sardines To Sharks

And for good reason: The coast of Somalia has among the highest concentrations of fish in the world's oceans. Somali fishermen catch a wide variety of seafood -- from tuna to sardines, dorado to perch, shark to lobster -- in their nets. At the turn of the millennium, Somalia was home to about 30,000 professional fishermen, along with 60,000 occasional fishermen.

Fishing was never a thriving business in Somalia. Somalis are not enthusiastic fish eaters, and the bulk of their catch was traditionally exported. But today there is little left of what was already a relatively small and unprofitable industry. Fish processing, especially for export, has ceased to exist. There is no reliable transportation and there are no longer any functioning refrigeration facilities in the country, nor are there any ships left that could dock in Mogadishu.

Somali fishermen have another problem: toxic waste. Initially dumped on land, toxic waste was increasingly dumped at sea after the collapse of the regime of former President Siad Barre in 1991. Because the country has no coast guard, for the past 20 years the Somali coastline has had no protection against European ships dumping waste at sea. Although hard evidence was rare, there have been periodic and mysterious incidents. In early 2002, tens of thousands of dead fish washed ashore at Merca, south of Mogadishu. The causes remain unclear.

In the spring of 2004, fishermen spotted two large containers floating in the water near Bosaso. Whether they were deliberately tossed overboard or accidentally fell of a container ship in rough seas is unclear. The Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004, which also reached the African coast, unearthed dozens of containers of toxic waste and deposited the waste along the Somali coast. According to a United Nations report, many coastal residents suffered "acute respiratory infections, heavy coughing, bleeding gums and mouth, abdominal haemorrhages, unusual skin rashes, and even death."

Experts and environmentalists have long been aware of the problem. In 2006, a team of specialists sent to the region to investigate discovered nine toxic waste sites along 700 kilometers (435 miles) of coastline in southern Somalia.

The UN envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, said last October that the UN has "reliable information that European and Asian companies are dumping toxic waste, including nuclear waste, off the Somali coastline."

An Excuse for the Pirates

In Mombasa, Kenya, pirate expert Andrew Mwangura complains "that toxic waste has been dumped in Somalia for a long time," and that the international community is looking on and "doing nothing about it," thereby giving the pirates "a convenient excuse to legitimize their actions."

The words of UN Envoy Ould-Abdallah were confirmed only a few days later, when leaking containers of toxic waste were washed ashore in Harardhere, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Mogadishu. Animals in the area contracted unusual diseases, and coastal residents suffered coughing and vomiting attacks. The lack of scruples displayed by foreigners using Somali waters to dump their toxic waste is not all that surprising: proper waste disposal in Europe costs about 400 times as much as illegal dumping in Somalia.

The extent of ocean dumping of toxic waste is just as poorly documented as the claims of adverse effects on fish populations off the coast. Speculation abounds, and yet there are no reliable studies from the last 20 years. The fact is, however, that Somali fishermen, for various reasons, have been catching fewer and fewer fish in their nets for years.

While the fishermen complained quietly, the members of another profession -- the pirate trade -- have been quick to claim the plight of the fishermen as their own. The Somali pirates have repeatedly argued that they were forced into piracy by the demise of fishing and the practice of dumping toxic waste at sea. But the truth is that only a small fraction of traditional fishermen have switched to piracy. When the recently hijacked supertanker Sirius Star dropped anchor off Harardhere, former army General Mohamed Nureh Abdulle told the BBC that the hijackers were unknown, and that they had not attempted to establish contact with the coastal population. Elsewhere along the coast, it is often unknown men -- not former local fishermen -- who are guarding the ships and waiting for ransom money.

Attractive Piracy

Nevertheless, toxic waste and illegal foreign fishing are convenient arguments for the pirates. "The Somali coastline has been destroyed, and we believe this money is nothing compared to the devastation that we have seen on the seas," said Januna Ali Jama, a spokesman for the pirate group that is still waiting for its ransom for the MV Faina, a Ukrainian vessel carrying tanks and military hardware.

Pirate life is attractive. The profits are immense, even though the men carrying out the hijackings keep only about 30 percent of the ransom money. Of the remainder, 20 percent goes to the bosses, 30 percent is paid in bribes to government officials and 20 percent is set aside for future actions.

The pirates are quick to accept losses. Even though a number of pirates are now in prison in Paris, in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa and in Bosaso, Somalia's main port, and although the international community has sent a small armada of warships to Somalia, the hijackers are getting more and more audacious, targeting supertankers and ships transporting weapons, luxury yachts and chemical tankers.

In what was apparently a coordinated effort, on Tuesday night they attempted to attack five ships simultaneously in waters east of Somalia. A short time earlier, they had attacked the luxury cruise ship MS Nautica, with more than 1,000 passengers on board.

None of the attacks succeeded -- but this will not deter the pirates. Bosaso, Eyl and Hobyo, which, until recently, were miserably poor fishing towns, are barely recognizable today. Small mansions are popping up by the dozen, new restaurants are opening their doors, giant weddings are all the rage and the imports of four-wheel-drive SUVs are booming. Clan affiliation, long one of the key impediments to development in Somalia, is suddenly irrelevant. With ransom money pouring into coastal towns, former differences are fading into the background.

Everyone profits from the sudden influx of cash: construction firms, gas stations, restaurants and outfits specializing in providing food for the hostages. Even the government of Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region appears to be in on the take. "Presumably, all key political figures in Somalia are profiting from piracy," says Roger Middleton, an analyst with the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.

Only one professional group is getting nothing from the boom along the coast: Somali fishermen.

Danish Navy Rescues Suspected Pirates, Alan Cowell, December 5, 2008.

LONDON -- A Danish warship on patrol to thwart piracy in the Gulf of Aden ended up rescuing seven of its presumed prey when its crew found suspected Somali pirates adrift this week with a broken motor on their speedboat, the Danish Navy said on Friday.

Danish sailors brought the hungry, thirsty Somalis on board their own ship, a naval official said. Then they sank the speedboat.

The incident highlighted the challenges facing a small international flotilla patrolling vast expanses of ocean where pirates have struck with increasing audacity, hijacking vessels including a Ukrainian freighter laden with armaments and a supertanker carrying an estimated $100 million of crude oil.

Earlier this week, pirates chased and shot at an American cruise ship with more than 1,000 people on board but failed to hijack the vessel as it sailed along a corridor patrolled by the international warships, officials told The Associated Press.

The Danish warship, a combat support vessel called the HDMS Absalon, picked up the seven men about 90 miles off the coast of Yemen on Wednesday after a maritime patrol aircraft spotted them signaling in distress, said Lt. Cmdr. Jesper Lynge, a Danish Navy spokesman, in a telephone interview from Copenhagen.

But when Danish special forces from the Absalon went alongside the stricken speed-boat, they found rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 assault rifles -- familiar pirate weapons -- which they confiscated.

“Their ship had been without propulsion for several days,” he said. “They were hungry and thirsty. We had them checked out by our doctor. We gave them blankets, food and water.”

But they did not arrest them.

“We had a situation where these guys were shipwrecked persons,” Lieutenant Commander Lynge said. “But we haven’t caught them in an act of piracy, and what their main purpose was -- your guess is as good as mine.”

The Danish crew handed them over early Friday to the Yemen coast guard, he said.

The Absalon, with a crew of 100, was deployed in the Gulf of Aden last September as part of an international effort to curb piracy.

The Danish actions followed another incident last month in which an Indian Navy warship sank what officials called a pirate “mother ship,” but later described by its owner as a hijacked Thai fishing trawler.

Negotiations are under way to free the Ukrainian freighter, the Faina, captured more than two months ago.

Last Sunday, Andrew Mwangura, who as head of a Kenyan maritime association has helped mediate the situation, said the Somali pirates who seized the Ukrainian vessel had agreed on a ransom with the ship’s owners. He would not reveal the figure, but he said that the only thing left was to figure out how to get the money to the pirates and hand over the ship.

The hijacked supertanker, the Sirius Star, is anchored a few miles off the coast of Somalia, near the town of Xarardheere. Its cargo of 2 million barrels of Saudi crude is worth about $100 million; the ship itself is worth more than $100 million. There are 25 crew members aboard. The pirates who seized it have been reported by news agencies to have demanded between $15 million and $25 million for its release.

Life is sweet in piracy capital of the world, Xan Rice & Abdiqani Hassan, Wednesday November 19 2008.

Dhows rest on a white sand beach in front of a few dozen ramshackle homes. A creek cuts inland, traced by a dirt road that runs to a craggy fishing settlement two miles away. Until recently Eyl was a remote and rundown Somali fishing outpost of 7,000 people. Now, thanks to some spectacular ocean catches, it is a booming mini-town, awash with dollars and heavily armed young men, and boasting a new notoriety: piracy capital of the world.

At least 12 foreign ships are being held hostage in the waters off Eyl in the Nugal region, 300 miles south of Africa's Horn, including a Ukrainian vessel loaded with 33 tanks and ammunition that was hijacked last month.

They are being closely watched by hundreds of pirates aboard boats equipped with satellite phones and GPS devices. Hundreds more gunmen provide backup on shore, where they incessantly chew the narcotic leaf qat and dream of sharing in the huge ransoms that can run into millions of pounds.

In a war-ravaged country where life is cheap and hope is rare, each successful hijack brings more young men into the village to seek their fortune at sea.

"Even secondary school students are stopping their education to go to Eyl because they see how their friends have made a lot of money," Abdulqaadir Muuse Yusuf, deputy fisheries minister for the Puntland region, said yesterday.

The entire village now depends on the criminal economy. Hastily built hotels provide basic lodging for the pirates, new restaurants serve meals and send food to the ships, while traders provide fuel for the skiffs flitting between the captured vessels.

The pirate kingpins who commute from the regional capital, Garowe, 100 miles west, in new 4x4 vehicles splash their money around. When a ransom is received the gunmen involved in hijacking the particular ship join in the splurge, much to the pleasure of long-time residents. Jaama Salah, a trader, said that a bunch of qat can sell for $65 (£44), compared with $15 in other towns. Asli Faarah, a tea vendor, said: "When the pirates have money I can easily increase my price to $3 for a cup."

Somalis in the diaspora - especially in Kenya, the United Arab Emirates, Canada and the UK - finance the pirate gangs and keep a large chunk of the ransom money, estimated at more than £20m this year alone, far more than Puntland's annual budget. But the gangs of gunmen sometimes split hundreds of thousands of pounds between them.

In the region's bigger towns, such as Garowe and Bosasso on the Gulf of Aden coast, a successful hijack is often celebrated with a meal and qat-chewing session at an expensive hotel.

One successful pirate based in Garowe, Abshir Salad, said: "First we look to buy a nice house and car. Then we buy guns and other weapons. The rest of the money we use to relax."

The pirates appear to have little fear of arrest by the weak administration, who many suspect of involvement in the trade. By spreading the money to local officials, chiefs, relatives and friends, the pirates have created strong logistical and intelligence networks, and avoided the clan-based fighting that affects so much of the rest of the country.

And though few believe the pirates when they claim to be eco-warriors or marines defending Somali waters from foreign exploitation, their daring and wealth has earned them respect. It has become something of a tradition for successful pirates to take additional wives, marrying them in lavish ceremonies.

Naimo, 21, from Garowe, said she had attended a wedding last month of the sort "I had never seen before".

"It's true that girls are interested in marrying pirates because they have a lot of money. Ordinary men cannot afford weddings like this," she said.

Pirates seize vessel off Somalia, BBC, Sunday, 22 February 2009.

Pirates in the Gulf of Aden have seized a Greek-owned cargo ship. The BBC's Jonah Fisher, on board a UK warship 100km (60 miles) away, said the captain of the MV Saldanha radioed that pirates had boarded his ship. The Saldanha is now heading to Somalia under pirate command after the UK navy's HMS Northumberland judged it was beyond its remit to pursue the ship. The warship is part of an EU task force patrolling the waters off the unstable Horn of Africa to deter pirate attacks. But when the captain of the Saldanha made contact with HMS Northumberland, he told the ship that pirates had warned the British warship to stay away. Trying to retake captured ships is not what the EU's anti-piracy task force does, our correspondent reports from on board the UK vessel. After sending a helicopter up to take a closer look, the frustrated commander of HMS Northumberland had to accept there was nothing more his men could do.

Rising tide

The MV Saldanha was reportedly sailing under a Maltese flag when it was hijacked. The Greek merchant marine ministry confirmed the Saldanha was seized, adding that the ship was manned by a 22-strong crew, Reuters news agency reported. The ministry said the ship was loaded with coal and was heading to Slovenia, Reuters said. Pirates from Somalia target merchant ships sailing through the busy Gulf of Aden, which connects Europe and Asia. Greek ships have found themselves in the pirates' sights before, with a ship carrying salt to Kenya seized off Somali waters in September 2008. The MV Genius and all of its 19 crew were released in November.

The International Maritime Bureau has issued a warning to shipping recently, saying that the risk from piracy off the coast of Somalia was rising again, after the number of pirate seizures dropped off at the end of last year. The bureau's reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur says six ships were attacked last week, but all managed to escape. The bureau blamed the heightened risk on more favourable weather and the temptation for pirates to target more ships for ransom, after recently releasing a number of hijacked vessels.

What goes around, comes around ...