tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

U.S. court still 12 Pirates short of a jury

Would you steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family? Sure you would. But say your family didn't like bread; they liked boats. Would you steal a boat to feed your starving family?

A Somali mother pleads for her boy, Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, who was captured by U.S. navy SEALs in their life-imitating-Hollywood rescue of an American freighter captain off the Somali coast.

The boy (who may be as young as 15 or as old as 18; alas, his Pirate's License was lost at sea) will stand trial as an adult. And why not? If you're old enough to hop into a skiff with a crew of emaciated, shoeless desperados, you must be old enough to stand up to a jury of your peers.

Therein, quoth the Bard, lies the rub.

Not only do U.S. prosecutors need to dust off some very old laws pertaining to piracy (see Union Government v. Confederate Pirates, 1861), they need to find a dozen peers of Mr. Muse to render justice.

Apropos of which, the FBI has put out an All-Points-Bulletin for twelve pirates to serve on a jury for the accused.

According to a statement, the shortlist includes: Long John Silver, Captain Hook, Blackbeard, Redbeard, Bluebeard, Sir Francis Drake, Captain Jack Sparrow, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Grace O'Malley, Captain Morgan, and Mistress Ching.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Canadian newspapers continue to miss the boat on the pirate story, especially now that Canada's mission in the Gulf of Aden has been extended.

"Canada's Piracy Folly," whined a Winnipeg Free Press editorial, calling for Canada to get tougher on pirates like the Americans and French. "There is no one that the pirates would rather be caught by than Canadians," the article deadpanned.

"Canada's duty on piracy," said a Toronto Star editorial, is to curtail this pussyfooting "catch-and-release" policy and "buff up the handcuffs."

Is it a coincidence that the Star and the Free Press are landlocked papers? Because the one good (albeit brief) angle on the story lately has come from the Halifax Chronicle Herald:

"It needs to be said there is ample evidence of foreign fishing vessels, primarily from the European Union and Asia, having ravaged fish stocks – valuable tuna, in particular – for many years in Somalian waters."

That's a relatively muted version of the whole story: that decades of exploitation of Somali resources, coupled with ruinous attempts by the West (and Ethiopia) at nation-building, have left Somalis with little else to conclude but "a pirate's life for me"; that illegal foreign fishing in Somali waters--the 'other' piracy--has robbed Somalia of more than shoeless pirates like Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse could ever hope to recover.

NPR's recent angle on the story: That Somali pirates, hard-up for Swiss bank accounts, have taken to depositing collected ransoms on the sea floor, for later withdrawal.

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