Every now and then, the headlines are so strange, so out of place and time, they seem too fantastic to be true.

080517-f-6414k-312.gifConsider this—the “Ukrainian” cargo ship Faina, carrying 33 Russian T-72 tanks, air-defense systems, ammunition and spare parts to Kenya, falls victim to piracy on the high seas. Wait a minute—piracy? Long John Silver singing “Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest. Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum?”

It’s true, at least in part. An American destroyer, USS Howard, corralled the Faina off the coast of Somalia, and as of this writing, the ships are in a tense standoff, waiting for the arrival of a Russian guided missile frigate (their interest being that there are Russian national crewmembers aboard) as the pirates demand a $20 million ransom to release the ship, its cargo and 21-man crew, one of whom already has died after an apparent heart attack. At least five nations have been cooperating to solve the crisis. Although the pirates have lowered their ransom demands to $5 million, the situation is undoubtedly serious. Pirate “spokesman” Sugule Ali, the modern counterpart of Captain Hook’s henchman Mr. Smee, spoke to reporters without a trace of irony, “We want ransom, nothing else. We need $20 million for the safe release of the ship and the crew,” and added “if we are attacked, we will defend ourselves until the last one of us dies.”

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