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When Pirates Ruled

Date: 10-15-11
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Adrian Tinniswood, Norm Stamper, Captain Kelly Sweeney

Historian Adrian Tinniswood spoke about a period in the 17th century when pirates ruled the Barbary Coast of Africa. Since that region was a hub of international commerce, pirates had the economies of the West by the throat, he said, suggesting that piracy ultimately led to toppling the enormously powerful Venetian republic. Pirates were better sailors, traveled in greater numbers, and could move faster than the crews of the larger merchant/sailing vessels, Tinniswood added. The most dreaded pirate in the Barbary Coast at that time was a man named John Ward, a Christian who had "turned Turk," he noted.

Some of the most prominent pirates were actually British sailors who converted to Islam, Tinniswood continued, pointing out that the region was a front line in a battle between Islam and Christendom. In fact, the rise of Barbary piracy can be traced back to when the Turkish Barbarossa brothers were captured by the (Christian) Knights of Saint John, he revealed. The renegade convert sailors taught pirates European navigational skills and how to sail large sailing ships, greatly increasing their range of attack, Tinniswood said. During the Barbary pirates' reign approximately one million Europeans were sold into slavery, he estimated.

Tinniswood also discussed the world's current piracy problem, noting that recent figures have Somali pirates holding approximately 19 vessels and 690 crew. "We're in the middle of the biggest anti-piracy operation that the world has ever seen," he said. Around 29 nations have a military presence near the horn of Africa, but it has not solved anything, Tinniswood reported. The problem of modern piracy has to do with Somalia being a failed state and it cannot be solved on the high seas; it must be solved on land, he offered. Capt. Kelly Sweeney briefly joined in the conversation in the latter part of the third hour.

NYPD Drug-Planting Update

First hour guest, former chief of the Seattle Police Department Norm Stamper, provided his reaction to the story of a NYC cop planting drugs. "Throughout the history of NYPD, and many other police departments across the country, we get virtually identical situations—police officers stealing drugs, selling drugs, engaged in all sorts of criminal behavior associated with their own, essentially, drug trafficking," he said. Stamper traced this incident to the prosecution of drug war, and suggested that such scandals may disappear entirely if it were ended. He also commented on the lawsuit against the municipality of Bluff City, Tennessee, over speed/traffic camera enforcement.

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