Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuesday Trek

After a refreshing day away from the computer, we take a brief hike through the headlines in search of interesting news stories lurking in the margins of history on a cold Tuesday morning.

Hood(lum): A Somali pirate being prosecuted in the Netherlands is compared to "Robin Hood" by his lawyer:
At a pretrial hearing in a heavily guarded court in Rotterdam, lawyer Willem Jan Ausma called his client, Ahmed Yusuf, a "Robin Hood." Speaking to reporters outside court, he said pirates "attack ships of rich countries to give the ransom to poor families."
He later told judges there were different types of pirates operating off Somalia's coast – those who gave ransom money to organised crime gangs and others "who just go to sea in the hope of getting something more than the fish that are no longer there."

The lawyer did not explain how the seven turks and one Azeri aboard the freighter his client tried to hijack may fit into his "Robin Hood" analogy; maybe they were the Merry Men..?

And speaking of merry, it seems that the Somali pirate may disagree with the tact his defense lawyer is taking, because he clearly hopes to be found guilty:
"For the first time in his life he has access to a real toilet. For the first time in his life he is in a safe environment," Ausma says about his Somali 'pirate' client.
Sure, 24-year-old Yusuf hasn't seen his family in more than four months. "But he intends to send for his wife and children as soon as he is released from prison. He knows he cannot easily be sent back to Somalia. He loves it here in the Netherlands."

The five Somali pirates are being tried in the Netherlands because of a technicality: the ship they attacked may have been sailing in international waters, but it was registered in the Dutch Antilles. A legal technicality of another sort may make such vessels targets of opportunity for these pirates in the future:
Dutch foreign minister Verhagen wants Somali pirates to be tried by a regional UN tribunal to keep them from applying for asylum in Europe.
Verhagen said prosecution should deter pirates, not encourage them with the prospect of starting a new life in the country that prosecutes them.

Maybe this explains the mysterious actions of the Dutch navy captain last April. After having his marines board a vessel that had been hijacked by nine Somali pirates, he freed the captured Yemeni sailors and then promply freed the pirates, as well. Rather than being "idiotic", maybe he merely considered his decision to be the lesser of evils.

Heroism: A 12-year old didn't set out to be hero when his class took a field trip to the Congaree River in South Carolina, but his quick-thinking initiative made him one, as he risked his own life to save a classmate from drowning:
"I was trying to hold her above water so she's shorter than me," says Taylor. "I have to save her, so that's all I was thinking through anything, I have to save her.
With unknown dangers ahead and his body numbing up in the cold water, Anthony stretched out his 5'7" frame and wedged his foot in the river's rocky bottom. It worked.
"Somehow I got a foothold somewhere and I grabbed her up," he says.
"If he didn't save me I probably would have died," Taylor says.
They were friends before, but they're even better friends now "because he saved my life," says Taylor. "I feel so awesome, I love him."

Holes: Thomas Sowell points out some of the pitfalls involved in increasing the television coverage of government proceedings in his latest article, "Photographic Fraud":
Some might argue that, in the absence of the cameras, many people might not know what is going on in Congress or in the courts. But being uninformed is not nearly as bad as being misled.
For one thing, it is much easier to know that you are uninformed than to know that you are being misled.
The more complex the issue, the more likely that understanding the context is vastly more important than seeing a picture and hearing sound bites.
Wars are especially susceptible to being distorted on camera. A dramatic event with emotional impact need not tell you what its military significance is. The viewer is able only to react emotionally, in circumstances where rationality can be the difference between life and death, not only for the combatants, but also for the societies from which they come.

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