Somali pirates, Italian mafia, and radioactive waste

Looks like the story about Somali pirates has some twists and turns. Johann Hari:
As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply.
In other news, the Italian mafia is reported to have sunk as many as 30 ships of toxic waste off the coast of Italy.

Johann Hari makes perverse conclusions - his perspective is classically ridden with misplaced Western guilt. But this makes for an interesting twist in the story. It's not just that a failed state breeds criminality; it breeds a muddled state of affairs where criminality is intertwined with vigilantism. A failed state is not one where well-minded people are absent; it is a state where well-minded people are disorganized, unable to enforce laws and counter criminals. It is a state where it is hard to maintain your principles because, in the absence of law, there are no clear guidelines on what's acceptable. One day, you use violence to chase off waste-dumping mobsters and invading fishermen. Not that long thereafter, your friends are engaging in outright piracy.

Obviously, toxic waste requires better controls. You can't just outsource its disposal to any mob-run company. They're gonna dump it either in your backyard, or someone else's backyard, or in the middle of the Atlantic. It's not that hard to manufacture papers which "prove" that the ship and its cargo were "sold" to someone in Nigeria...


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