#1149 - Michael Scott Moore

The Joe Rogan Experience #1149 - Michael Scott Moore

July 30, 2018

Michael Scott Moore is a novelist and journalist, who was kidnapped by Somali pirates and spent two and half years in captivity. His book "The Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast" is available on Amazon now: https://www.amazon.com/Desert-Sea-Captive-Somali-Pirate/dp/0062449176

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thoughtful interesting and intelligent person who was stuck in a terrible terrible situation and it was a fascinating conversation with him and I hope you enjoy it so please welcome Michael Scott Moore

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The Joe Rogan Experience

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fruit and we live so just to give everybody a good way to start this you have a book the book is called the desert in the sea and you have one of the most disturbing and craziest stories I think I ever met you were kidnapped by Somali pirates and you were held hostage for more than 2 years what the fuck was that like and what does it feel like to be a free man now after all that the valley where I was born and raised by the way what happened and how how did it happen

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long story so I went to Somalia the first place to write a book a very different book about Somali pirates and I so I'm a journalist I was working in Berlin at the time and I had followed the very long trial of 10 Somali pirates in Germany in Hamburg for about a year all of 2011 and before that I had already thought about going to Somalia because the pirate story was interesting and all sorts of ways that I took thought of the writers weren't getting too and I met another journalist of a documentary maker named Josh Woodrum

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you also wanted to go to some money for his own project and so we talked about going for a long time and by the end of 2011 in the middle of the trial we all our plans came together in and we wound up going in January 2012

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we had about 10 days of good research we both got pretty good material and we were in a part of some light where other journalists is gone so we weren't doing something that was totally off the map you know on the 10th date Ashlynn so off to the Mogadishu and I went with them to the airport we saw him off and it was on the way back from the airport that my truck was waiting for my car and the truck which is actually a technical to a battle wagon with a can in the back

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stopped us into the windshield overpowered my guard and 12 guys with Clash of cops pulled me out of the car so I was put me in another car and we drove off so from that moment on it was captive Jesus Christ and so they were obviously trying to get some pasta too much about money and I think they were hoping for both of us by the way it feels very lucky that he didn't get captured so they had planned this earlier in the morning I was just finish with good luck that we took a different route to the airport how much money were they asking for the farewell so the first thing I asked for me was $29 but that was after the first week so that I went for a week without having a phone call home

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and in that. Seals rescued two other hostages from another part of central Somalia

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including Jessica Buchanan the in American and I think 9 Somali guards died in that read and they had some client relationship to some of the guys holding me and so the guy told me you were very upset and I think that's why they ask for 20 million and more importantly held onto that demand for so long what the hell on to it for almost a year. Specific number they wouldn't budge so they were in negotiations negotiations but they were you know phone in negotiations and some sense because the somalis weren't weren't really negotiating so for some background for people that are unfamiliar with the situation in Somalia Somalia if I'm wrong that area was traditionally fisherman and it's wrong it's raining so that's actually the point of the book that's actually one level of the title the desert in the sea so that's how you get the idea from

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Somali pirates like to say they're just frustrated Fishman that's only part of the story and so that's a that's a very important promise in the book the day they there are fishing communities on the coast and they're being a hard hit definitely buy a legal ships that come in just to just steal the fish you know but that's a problem up and down Africa and because of that problem once Somalia had no government there was no Navy Navy to defend the coastline local sort of Clan leaders would send out Mulisha boots with militiamen and hold fishing boats for $50,000 ransoms over 24 hour. See no really nothing very much and they called her license fee and that's how you did business in Somalian the 90s we didn't hear about that it was too small time we start to hear about it when they graduated to capturing cargo ships

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illegal dumping it wasn't just finished so and that initially called themselves The People's Coast Guard of Somalia or the voluntary Coast Guard gangs tried to call themselves that and they had two points there was no no one else patrolling the coast but that wasn't really what was going on now and every other cat hostage I met was a fisherman of poor fishermen captured hundreds of miles from the coast so that's not protecting the coast so what role does this stuff called cat k h a t this is it it's a plant they chew and it has like a stimulant affect its a little bit like actually it's a narcotic it's you high at first and then you crash and you wake up depressed and you need more but these guys every single pirate I'm at was addicted and they wound up having to have City

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which one of these piles of cut every afternoon just to get high enough for their addiction and then like I said they would they would crash at night and then do it again and my case there were there were guards 24 hours a day which meant there was also a shift that slept during the day to cut it and then and then crashed in the morning

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did you try it out so they kept offering to me loser line they take like two or three stems with three or four so much but you know you could be depressed and you feel better or you could be a little bit sick and you just wouldn't feel it anymore but I did want to get addicted to it so I didn't I didn't keep pushing a detective well I saw it I saw how addictive it could be with the guards you know who little bit on an afternoon to make me want to keep doing it necessarily but every every now and then I did it just for the sake of my mood that's always in the narrative this cat stuff somehow or another unhinged because they're on the stuff all the time and you can get really unhinged in the sense that once your why you're easily sort of upset and and these guys would have it sometimes have fist fights in front of me and I kind of think that all the time

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dangerous with classic online around so their culture somehow or another as evolved to this point where it's insanely common to kidnap people to the point where if you if you talk about Somali pirates there The Village Vintner very few countries where Pirates go after their name so easily yeah kidnapping became part of the culture that's true but pirate bosses which are not so active now off the coast also have other businesses that they get involved in and so I've written about this in the meantime to get involved in gun smuggling and also even people smuggling on the Horn of Africa so whatever takes that kind of equipment do you know SUVs kalashnikov's cheap food when you say people-smuggling what do you mean

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it's Troy I found out if I'm I'm the person that proved it on the route between Somalia to Libya some former pirate bosses were active and moving people

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so another words somalis who want to go to Olivia will put themselves in the hands of some traffickers and some of those transcripts my PX Pirates but go there as far as just being transported willingly willingly the first is always a place in Sudan with shifts from being willing to being unwilling this is an issue that's been going on in Libya recent I'm sure you saw the the most recent slave auctions that were videotaped and put on YouTube which was the stores are off live heard this first-hand you insanely disturbing that you're watching a video tape of slave auctions in 2018 of what was going on when slavery was legal so in other words okay where the where the somalis are involved up to the to the Libyan borders one story and that's the story of covered

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what happens in Libya is a different story the Clans and the roots that migrant stake through Lydia the clams they put themselves in the hands of are still the same as the clamps in the roots that we use during the slave trade so that there's a there's almost like a you know there's a there's a historical memory there of what what went on and it's the same thing happening so so I suspect a lot of my girls still quite know how bad it can get the route up until Lydia is probably easier than Libya itself Olivia itself sounds like a horror show for the migrants

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well it's particularly it it's one of those bizarre things we have a horrible dictator like momar Khadafi and you say well it's probably good thing to get rid of that guy right but know when you get rid of them then you have this power vacuum and apparently it's a failed State now it's gotten even worse yeah it's it's going in the direction of Somalia right now and they're couple of rival governments I think it's a little bit more stable than that smiley was after their dictator fell but it's there's similar does a similar thing going on it's true get off it was a bad guy and but he was also a bowler can he do that and he use that to his Advantage with your work of work against against migration paths does it mean a roadblock okay

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when you were there when you decided to take 10 days and you done all this research what what did you expect when you went there and what was different so we were careful about finding security we found a Somali Elder in Berlin who could offer the protection of his clan in Somalia and he had done it with another journalist a German journalist and he took us out from jail Kyle which is a town in central Somalian out to the coast to hold you which is a pirate time you might have heard of and pirate town so that's all Pirates it's in it's in the control of pirates so in other words the the government that sits in gal Kyle has no influence their the Pirates are the ones with who have the say-so so what is their business like I mean when you say it's like a pirate town to the Pirates are essentially in control but like what else is going on there if you've got

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Pirates and cultural normal Somali life is going on there but the police force and we didn't see much normal life and we had a very organized interview and lunch one afternoon with a with a guy who turned out to be a real pirate, wasn't a joke and then we we left around sundown in the and that was it we didn't spend a lot of time in Hillview

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when you were there and you eventually got captured and taken hostage what was the initial experience like so when that happened with the with the technical with the truck at first my mind actually required from I was going on I mean I actually was in denial for a couple of seconds I thought okay just a roadblock but once they captured me I thought this was going to be really hard on my family

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Jesus and me with the guns they broke my wrist my bloody my my Scout and they broke my glasses so that's the other thing I noticed right away it was shut up a mini blind how bad are your odds on nearsighted it's not not not good

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and this is like initial like right away so you're as broken right away gun barrels

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and is it hard to talk about this no because now I've written the book I would have been able to do this before writing the book but reading the book familiarize myself with my own memories you know what made me start with this material that your physical state seems to shift when you discuss it like you your shoulders have risen you're like yeah I mean it's a question you know this is not pleasant I couldn't imagine what it must have been just insane

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so you said it was a long period of time before you were your before they contacted anybody who do they contact okay so it was so I had a grant a reporting Grant from the flu to Center on crisis reporting I should have called them but I had all my note stolen which means all my phone numbers to and so when they finally brought me up to a bluff with a little cell phone and said call somebody I said will bring me my notes I need to put you don't find the right phone number I said no just call someone so call my mom. Cheese's and that's what happened by that by that time the FBI had informed her that actually come to our door and breathe a little one what to say on the phone so she was ready for the phone call you know she's been sitting around for days wondering when she was going to hear from me

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so but that was also true about the Pulitzer Center is also true about my colleagues at Spiegel online in Berlin I was also true about my family in Germany everyone had been briefed a little bit

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now with a waiting for a specific reason why they wait a whole week until I do that's a really good question I kept asking for a phone call I mean I know I was sitting there kind of in a panic to you know same to you during this week so you have a broken arm you're obviously you're in pain can't see anymore I was the first then they took me with a couple of other hostages to a prison house and yeah I might wrist in a sling and

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just was

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the painful and was it was confusing I really didn't know what was going on and then slowly they brought a doctor in to look at the wrist and then slowly they took us out in the bush and then finally they get put me on the phone so you you got medical treatment for your rest sort of the guy but he said your wrist is not broke any put a splint on it and that was it it was broke not broken cracked it's been rearranged it's been reshaped

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did you eventually get medical treatment when you get home for what I got home via surgery 2 years and 8 months later it was a functioning rest did you get an x-ray just so you could see how weird it looks didn't even bother tomorrow now when you're there once you get the initial phone call what is it what is the process after that there are they talking to you about what they want they said you have to demand $20 from your mother. I must have smoked or something this is not funny it's not a serious the man do you know but that was their opening Gambit 20 million what why specifically 20 million question

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they just the first two hostages I was held with two seychellois fisherman the ransom for them was also 20 million but that's 10 million each so maybe they were just Dublin City American there was a time where they told you that if people showed up for you that you were going to be killed osher they said that right away because by the time the phone call it happened the The Raid for Jessica Buchanan and participate had already happened to so they even mention that to mean of course I had no idea what they were talking about I had no news so I mentioned it to my mother on the phone I said they're talking about a raid and they're saying if somebody else comes from me I'm going to get shot dead but those are already the terms of a kidnapping not a big change in my situation and my mom could tell me very little on the phone about about the rescue but she had something positive in your voice that oh yeah the rescue

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and I thought that doesn't sound like the Pirates of course told me the answers that I'm having killed my cat doesn't sound like it went bad but it was still another month and a half or something before I found out the full story

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two and a half years I wouldn't have two months job

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no you ate with them you got used to them did you almost become friends with them sure I became friends with you don't have friends with with about half the pirate guard group that was with me at that point so I was helping number places they also placed me on tuna ship I was placed on a ship hijacked by Somali pirates for about 5 months and I think I'm the only Western writer to know life on a ship like that 5 months for the full spring and summer of them 2012

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wow and then it was it was after that that was held on land alone with the guards and that's when I got to know the cards you must have had this feeling like you're never going to find me they're moving around putting me on a ship that was a problem once it especially when they put me on the ship I felt like any progress in finding my location would have been completely reset you know I was terribly depressed when they first put me on the ship we were there for 5 months yeah but once I was on the ship I felt better because there were 28 other hostages the crew of the ship and they were great who was it's always better to have company when your account the other people that were running the ship when they capture that they were there as well and that was a crew of 20 guys from East Asia and Southeast Asia do they speak English only five of them so five of them were from the Philippines

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we got along with them really good everyone else we had to get to know somehow I and the ship they couldn't speak to each other either cuz they had like a Tower of Babble on the ship and so they left about their own pigeon which is what Sailors have done for centuries you know it was a pigeon mixture of English and Chinese and a few other words wow that was fast writer you had to be sort of like halfway torn like that if I get out of here what a fucking story I knew I was living through interesting things and Gathering good material

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but after at least a year so in captivity I stopped hoping that I was going to get out of life I'm in things were going so badly as far as the negotiation was concerned that I thought this is really I'm really in deep shit now is that standard for them to hold people for that long yeah yes or no I think I was held longer than any Western but the men on that ship didn't get out for another for a total of 5 years just under 5 years they were held what they did get out of actually they did get out in 2016 wow and I was privileged enough to go to Nairobi and see them there I took him by surprise so you flew out to to meet them while I was still living in Berlin and I was following the briefcase very closely and the the help raise some money though the lawyers who were running it somebody down there that was really nice that it was nice for the guys to because they were obviously

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confused nothing but very well meaning but completely Anonymous people around them me know and then they were at that kind of came out of the terminal in Nairobi and they were still obviously still sort of little bit confused and I kept one of them on the shoulder and he recognized me and it was pandemonium wow I think it's available how did you eventually get freed so my mom raised a ransom she raised it with help from family and friends and also some magazines at work for

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and some institutions in the US and Germany and when she talked the Pirates down to 1.6 million and I for some reason at the very end the Pirates came down precipitously the very end after that at the very end that came down to what was on offer

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no explanation not really except that from my point of view there were labor there was a labor unrest stirring among the guards so in other words the guards were sick at home and so I went towards the very end but in a few weeks before I got out one of the guards actually said Michael we might go on strike might strike. Do you need some help with that I left you alone with a loaded rifle

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I have two more than once

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what is the what's the thought process there in your mind especially after the first year or so and I'm at until, guard you talking about 7 to 15 any given point in how many bullets are in the gun

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that's not enough it's not enough and there were there always a few guards who are asleep

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if you go to a wake and so you go through this thing in your head you think well I can grab the gun I can kill a few guys but it would be suicidal but I went through various scenarios in my head all the time you know that was a that was a very big Temptation fixed the guns just lay around like junk mail

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and that was that was a dark. Because the question was not just can I blast my way out and live but also should I just take care of it right and kill myself now because I knew that I was causing a lot of trouble for my family at home and I will probably military plans to come get me which would put you know seals at risk for special operators at risk so it's better to just check out and so that was on my mind often especially during the second year were they sympathetic characters in anyway I mean did you when you're around them for long periods of time and you're taking into consideration this life. It's been thrust upon them this is the environment they're grew up in this is there mean you are hot dogs at least in some way gotten to know them they're thinking well you know I'm going to tell their stories on how did you tell them that yeah but by the time I was

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yes of course they they were especially the ones who wanted to talk to me of course they were sympathetic there before people so even if it's not true that most pirates her frustrated fisherman probably only about 20% of them are all of her for all of them need jobs and that's why I became Pirates layer on top of that the fact that a cat have it is extremely rooms too expensive in Somalia where does Cop come from comes from Highlands so it has to be and flown in fresh can't be grown in his popular especially among Muslims who can't drink alcohol so it's visit this whole trade in that region of the world is legal

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2014 really hear about the trade it just flows like water in that in Somalia and the Arabian Peninsula so the voluntary Coast Guard of Somalia what we've been led to believe that this is how it all started out how did that narrative get established so once they start they fell back on that story which have been true up till then which was just defending a coastline from fishing show it started that way so did start but that's it it started because not just because people were fishing out there because they were dumping toxic waste also added the mafia yeah there was there were actual it's been uncovered by Italian journalist but the Italian mafia had found a way to bring waist

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you know certain amount of money down to someplace where they thought nobody would see it again and that some of it washed ashore in 2004 with the Indonesian tsunami that actually reached that part of East Africa

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so some of those big things that the the Italians dumped over the side of their boats wound up on the beach in Somalia and I saw one of them what was in it but it was a great big orange great big like weirdly shaped Cube how large so at least 8 feet square and it had been used to contain some sort of toxic waste told me so but I had seen pictures similar pictures documentary so I think it was probably true that's described in the book just briefly but that's the kind of thing that happened certainly the Italians were not the mafia was not Being Mary Jane criminals to sew

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I watched 45 minutes of the Tom Hanks movie in Somalia Somalia while your captive holy shit what is that like well I knew Captain Phillips was going to be a movie when I left it was already clear already knows because by the time this is towards the end of my captivity I had a shortwave radio so I was listening to the radio by the time it came out went to the Oscars it was all over the BBC so I know about it I know it was like okay so I missing Captain Phillips whatever I wonder what that's like and then when did all the guards got new smartphones

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pretty fancy smartphones no apparently loaded with a new collection of films music and whenever to keep them occupied afternoon I saw two guards just completely wrapped by some sort of film on the phone and I heard some American voices and I wonder what this film is and finally I said fuck me that's Tom Hanks and two weeks later one of the guards actually shit handed me the phone and said you know Michael look so I thought about 45 minutes of it wow the phone the first thing that went through my mind is going to come on turn down the volume and call California watching Captain Phillips you not get on the plane in Boston Logan or whatever

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wow it was so atmospheric we have it was a pretty good pretty well done movie but there are a couple of scenes where that would it just wouldn't happen in real life I didn't watch the movie so what was inaccurate about it was one scene selection of pirates on the beach so in public. They get that and then I thought about it and thought and realize well that yeah I actually wouldn't happen like that in public that was just for dramatic purposes you know I was I was envious of their material at first

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so things like that but the Pirates were fascinated to see people like that man in some cases their friends portrayed on screen even though we all know how it you know the movie ends very badly for Somali pirates so they knew about the story that was based on Clan affiliation for that so it spreads quite possible to see them watching their story being depicted on the other side of the planet that's what was weird is that they were so fascinated by it but we know otherwise they didn't necessarily like to talk about bad news for pirates or you know like I said when the hostages were released

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or rescued in the first few days my captivity I kept hearing that the hostages had been killed so they like to spin things in a good way for for pirates in general so I just would have assumed you would just ignore Captain Phillips cuz it didn't so badly they would just passed it they really were and what was daily life like for you to eat with them separately but sometimes in the same room they made very bad food

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beans flavorless boiled goat not coming

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but they would eat from a communal platter the surf elsewhere with Insight I didn't have to eat from the same platter and have a hand that's a very common that part of the world really is because utensils just aren't like that comment and they really like spaghetti with the somalis in 1/8 that way but as a as a hostage I was in no mood to be that on my own so how would what kind of physical state were you in after two and a half years of this and it was pretty bad I was my immune system is starting to fall apart so I don't go into detail too much about this in the book but I had a staph infection on my skin and some other kind of infection in my ear and I was just something in my lungs I was just not ready I was

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and I was sick constantly for several months before I got out so I knew something and really changed and I think the Pirates were aware of that to slowly losing that probably could possibly contributed to the Loring Ransom possibly sympathetic physical limit slowly slowly but it was you about that so

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that's not that long ago 2012 to 2014 was when you were released

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I mean four years ago that's nothing pushing for years now you know what what does it feel like now to be free do you do still have to have PTSD from a to get

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well now I can be happy about it I think the day I was released I was sort of I felt better in stages but I would it wasn't sudden you know you for it

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now I can really be happy about it I took me about a year to get back to full strength and the symptoms of PTSD that I showed when I first got out which included like hyper hyper-vigilance went away slowly as I got physically strong hyper-vigilance being like wake up in the middle of the night and Nightmares waking up in the middle of night that still happens I still don't sleep too well

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hyper-vigilance I mean out in public too many people around

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and I like your hair with vets and I was aware of that as a symptom and I felt it first when we are out in public in Nairobi and I turn to the FBI psychologist who was with me and I said that you know I am I hyper Vigilant I said because I might have PTSD he said we don't like to put a label on anything and that was his attitude towards me that was the time she took in my kiss at least it was right eventually he said that's it shouldn't I be treated for PTSD or should not be going to regular talk therapy or something like that and he said you know you don't want to put sausage I sent in other words you don't want to create mentally another condition for you for you to recover from now it's enough work for your mind and your body to recover quite naturally know how to do it from that all that drama that's very interesting cuz I've heard people talk about that with other things particularly with war that you're you're better off not deciding what you have

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not being told what you have in my case it's true you can be so complicated there another pharmaceutical Solutions the body of my know how to recover so have to eat but you have to let them do they give you techniques to recover is it and instead of explaining or discussing what the issue is do they give you techniques to feel better or to establish more normal existence the psychologist would say he's bothering you write it down but he knew I was right he they made sure they knew that I had a loving family around me when I got back and a great circle of friends in Berlin that's really important I think everybody finds their own way I mean I I knew I was weak and I was just physically like a race you know when I got out how much weight did you lose

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about 40 lb

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and when I when it first came out and walk around in Berlin Berlin to walking City so I tried to lead like a normal day my knee swelled up in my ankle swelled up and they were really painful so I was like I just play the game football or something you weren't moving while you were there but I didn't go for a jog around the room or something like that sometimes here. I think they would have been so they would have shot me but

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I was not in any kind of shape for for normal life when I got out and in fact one day when I got back from Berlin I tried to run for a streetcar I just didn't have the musculature for I simply didn't have a stride to run I could not run while I thought that was really weird but one of the doctors texted me said will you have a protein deficiency and once I start to take care of that and I went consciously to the gym and made sure I got stronger and also put on more muscle the mental thing Surgicare themselves too so there's that body-mind connection is really important

► 00:44:32

and when they're telling you this you have a protein deficiency that you need you know you should exercise and and take care of your body and this is it improving is are they giving you guidelines like this is this is probably good idea to try to do this I mean there any strategies that people have to deal with coming out of long-term incarceration not specific ones I think it was clear to everyone that I was easily overwhelmed so you know all the paperwork that had to be taken care of and that I could only deal with that for like an hour at a time so and the debriefing for work Bank things to sign in that sort of thing now so I'll just let all my Affairs were in somebody else's hands when I was in for the two and a half year two and a half years and so we had to sort of wrecked by a lot of that I couldn't file through it

► 00:45:32

an afternoon or in the week I had to do it in stages and it was the same thing with like a debriefing with the FBI which I did for three weeks I couldn't always do it for the entire day would happen if my brain would like to actually seized up I mean I actually would just

► 00:45:50

I got I mean you said earlier when I talk about it I got like this my whole body would like constrict and I went I would simply part of me would just shut down you've you've leveled off now physically like your shoulders up but I'm looking at you right now from our conversation yeah but I don't want when you started talking about it your shoulders it seems like started it until almost visibly rise up yeah but I'm saying when I first got out I would I would must have been with much more judge has paralytic I've just something inside me just shut down so you're it just wouldn't you just didn't have the capacity to sit down and concentrate on anything it wasn't concentration it was a sense of overwhelmed at once I think it was also I was also overwhelmed by too many friends you know too many people in the room because too many social cues to read I didn't have that with the Pirates was real clear I was the hostage they were the guards

► 00:46:50

in some sense we were enemies was it and we had real simple things to say to each other and that was it and that was my life for a couple years after the after the ship it was not complex and so when I got out of the complexities of you know I'm more comfortable life but you know more elaborate life we're really difficult obviously you were where the time that you were struggling with this you were where the hell it was difficult real clear but what were you confused by that difficulty

► 00:47:22

no not confused I wasn't sure how I was going to recover but I knew to take it slow and taking it slow as important

► 00:47:29

now. How did you ultimately recover one day at a time like that I mean I consciously got better physically consciously didio going to want to run to the gym consciously ate well my my my doctor said don't follow a vegetarian diet but eat a full diet and make sure you get enough protein protein powder protein you need animal protein specifically

► 00:47:58

now what is your situation now is that you said you still you still have a hard time sleeping and what is it a nightmare issue or is it an anxiety issue. Nightmares but for some reason when it gets so when it came time to go to bed at least for a long. They would change at my feet and I would have to lie on a mattress under a mosquito net and that was it for 12 hours so now when it comes time to sleep instead of time tired I get anxious and then it's possible that I might wake up in a fully awake after only 4 hours so

► 00:48:39

I take melatonin it's nothing it's nothing that I don't take hard drugs to sleep but I take a little assistance yeah wow

► 00:48:49

now this book that you wrote of the desert in the see how how difficult was it to sit down in front of a computer and sort of recapture these thoughts and transcribe them blood and sweat the research has Blood Sweat and Tears and so is ready I did know at least

► 00:49:14

this the fax the story so I put those down first and then we went back and did how it felt so they're putting everything down which a writer likes to do you know all it wants someone serve great Act of Creation that would that would have been a little overwhelming so I did it in layers and that that was the way to go you like before this and what do you like now and what's different I think my basic self-esteem but I am more patient more great so just getting out alive made me certainly grateful to be around it's great to see my family and friends again

► 00:49:59

and if I ever start to feel ungrateful for something I have this well of memory that can go back to That's essential and I think in some oil so learn to forgive which was not an easy process and it's something but I think it's not something very essential how so how'd you learn to forgive so we talked about picking up a Kalashnikov I was going to do that I thought about doing that and it was internal debate for really long time until one point where I actually heard something on the radio from the Pope the new pope I've never even seen before

► 00:50:38

and he gave a very good homily about what forgiveness meant and that resonated and at some point I made a conscious decision to forgive the guards who are around me you know these are the lowest ranking guys but they were making my life miserable and I made a conscious decision to

► 00:50:55

forgive them and I had to do that over and over and that made my mind a whole lot more more stable and settled which means that unless I had done that I probably would have picked up a gun and kill myself if not them or both

► 00:51:12

that's fascinating. A speech by the pope could resonate so strongly with you while you're in captivity

► 00:51:20

just forgiveness forgiveness it would have had to be by the pope but he he was pretty good. That's something that people play pay lip-service to

► 00:51:28

and you know you hear people saying you should live a life of forgiveness and it's healthy for a bit no one can really understand that the way you have for me it was like that

► 00:51:40

wow and it said I mean I can't wait to read your profile but it is a crazy story if you're that mean it's just such an insane experience sound was that you or you're just you're well of experiences like what you can draw pain is so different from most people you interact with you meet my son must feel like you're going through life interacting with privilege children sometimes it but it's very happy to be back in the world so that that's the main thing but yeah that comes up sometimes when people complain about things for example we should try hot in Somalia prison where you Shackled to a bed right

► 00:52:40

run of the story she really she really took

► 00:52:47

you know any normous amounts was it like to see her after 2 years old is amount of somebody that I've been thinking about all this time it is sort of hypothetical way again in real life that I really thought I wouldn't is overwhelming now had you gone to dangerous places for journalism before Somalia where you gone so for my second book sweet and some blood I surfed in Gaza wow and I've been to Northern Iraq and some other places but this was easily the most dangerous are you doing Casa I went to see the Gaza Surf Club and I actually went surfing with them the Gaza surf this exists what is that so it's a group of Palestinians who like to Surf but who don't have enough surfboards and then

► 00:53:47

stay organized into a club first to share a couple of surfboards that they had found and managed to manage to buy and also to receive donations from a group of surface in Tel Aviv to thought these guys should have boards and so there a relationship between a group in Tel Aviv called a surfing for peace and the Gaza Surf Club so Jews in Tel Aviv are donating surfboards the Palestinians it's completely wonderful it's one of those things that the leader of the the surfing for peace group said was you know we're not getting anywhere on an official level so we better do something on server Grassroots level I think it's marvelous wow what do you do now seeking out danger was never the point where I try not to let you know I'm not a thrill-seeker and that's not

► 00:54:47

what I'm trying to fix my career on earth like that right now I'm writing a novel so that should be seated for a while

► 00:54:55

what's it about it's about drones drones

► 00:54:59

that doesn't sound peaceful it's not have any more about it do you ever anticipate yourself traveling for journalism beginner just nothing like this

► 00:55:21

yeah some people just want to jump right back into the fire but that was not the point in first place to get out of this one thing that I noticed while I was watching the trial in in Hamburg was this clash between a modern liberal state which is which I mean is I'm and so is America by the way and an archaic crime and Germany in fact in the United States Constitution was written in 1949 when nobody was thinking about piracy so the laws against piracy extreme lenient in Spanish we have laws that dates back to when it was a crime

► 00:56:11

and basically dermestid know how to deal with these guys and I thought it was fascinating in the first place that this crime had revived after a couple centuries of relative quiet

► 00:56:23

and I'm so that tension on its own was interesting and it was worth the book because nobody was quite approaching it that way you know so that tension is still interested in that tension is still alive so there is certainly threats to Modern liberal states going on around the world so what were the trials in Berlin there was a trial in Hamburg I was going back and forth from Berlin that it was 10 guys from Somalia who tried to hijack a cargo ship that belong to a a German ship ship something in that was based in Hamburg I think they were overpowered by the Dutch Navy but the Dutch handed him over to the Germans in fact the Dutch said okay will do this as long as we don't have to try them because everyone knew from the outset that there's going to be a problem trying somalis in what way in Europe in general but especially in Germany I think there's actually a

► 00:57:23

Allied against shipping them back to Somalia because it's considered not a safe place for them for them even for them and I think that's not too once they were convicted I think they should have been deported after they serve there that's so bizarre but but if they were shipped back to Somalia how would they be treated like what is the government like in Somalia man could I have some of my parents about that this crap it's a it's either corrupt or non-existent so the the government of Somalia is a focused around Mogadishu and it just doesn't have that much power in the provinces and I was in one of the one of the provinces and because the province's don't get a whole lot of money from Mogadishu so that they run their own businesses wins and some cases piracy what would happen if a pirate went and got thrown in jail and some of the country and then came back and try to set up friendships again with his old pirate buddies or whatever

► 00:58:21

and what have you killed what are you being endangered no problem is there any sort of punishment for them when they get back to Somalia is there any penal system or potentially there is yes oh yes it is on the books especially in the regions and even prisons for pirates the problem is that Clan Elation ship serve a lot more important than newly written laws until you and tired to go to jail this was true about 1 boss in my case might get out again so this guy this guy who was a pirate boss in my case wound up in jail while I was still captive for one month in Mogadishu and Wanda walking wow and he was captive for piracy I think for having weapons at the government didn't expect to see you in one of his houses

► 00:59:20

so something off to the side but it's a really sketchy system of bartering and payoffs and that's related to there are other presents for ranking pirates in how much time and what happened with the people in Germany they got a total of 7 years I think or an average in German in Germany and then what happened when they were released

► 00:59:57

wow yeah that's a whole separate story which I haven't even started it started to address but as it turned out a few of them went back to small anyway and probably went right back into the business well or something else or whatever and there's a wide variety of people that they target right they target people and individual crafts the target large boats commercial vessels are in 8 months a total of 30 so the the crew on the fishing ship the tuna vessel was 28 and then I meant to say Chihuahua why fisherman the two guys from the Seychelles were small time so they were just on a small craft what is Seychelles in the Seychelles is a chain of islands off Africa it's a country that belongs to Africa

► 01:00:54

but has a French name the guys on the tuna vessel

► 01:01:03

we're from a relatively big ship the guys from the Seychelles were from a small private craft and I was an example of someone captured on land and these people that were from the small private craft try to get money from just anyone who knows them is that how they they do this whoever anybody that can

► 01:01:28

another giving government yeah just it just the whole system seems so insane that they've got that mean is they keep people for years and years they have just a whole collection of them of the train extract money from people that know them the the bosses I think got used to demanding a lot of money from shipping companies and finding out that if you hold a ship stubbornly for a long time you got a lot of money from the insurance company or whatever that calculation doesn't work with human beings so in other words everyone else on Earth who who who negotiates for human being expects of the persons price to go down as the time you know where is on and it took a while for pirates understand that

► 01:02:26

wow what is it I mean when you're you're dealing with all this like what what is it like on your psyche when you're getting two years in

► 01:02:37

two and a half years in and you you have some sort of light at the end of the tunnel what what is it what does it feel like well I didn't know there was so that's where you know it was either forgive the guards or self-destruct it was also by then I had also

► 01:03:00

deliberately given

► 01:03:03

let go of having any kind of hope so that that was the second survival strategy is I had to I'm not hope that I was going to get out because hoping was had a downside is it. Cycle of Hope and despair it was extremely damaging to my mental well-being so the after going through that cycle a few times in my clothes have to find a different way

► 01:03:27

one of the things that I've gotten out of travel is I think it your view of the world changes when you see the way people are living in different places you you your spectrum expands you start recognizing that I might be used to Southern California but this is not how they do things in Ohio this is not how they do things and it'll kick the snot when you go as far

► 01:03:56

as being a captive in Somalia your your spectrum is massive I mean your view of the world being entrenched in that life and being with those people while they're chewing is narcotic and caring around kalashnikovs and yelling at each other in a foreign language and watching fist fights and realizing like they don't have anything either

► 01:04:22

how much is that changed you as a human being in you or your view of human life on Earth my my understanding of what other people think they obviously come from a completely different perspective and small and not only are they Muslim and African but they're also very isolated so Somalia as a as a rule has always been difficult to penetrate for Outsiders that was true when Richard Burton was there in the 19th century to it's it's a closed culture and they have their own way of thinking and also that also the language is not related to most other languages you've heard unless you you're familiar with languages in Ethiopia did you learn any of it a little bit

► 01:05:14

but I resisted learning it from the guards I said when I was there I thought about it like come in Berlin you realize that a lot of East Germans when during the Communist era were taught Russian in school and a lot of them hated it and I was not in a mood to learn Somali Somali once I was a captive

► 01:05:38

I'm it was similar to that I put in a few words but I never had a good teacher and when I was a journalist I was relying on translators I would imagine that as a writer that Spectrum the expansion of the spectrum although there's no way you would ever barter it off or bargain to have those experiences to broaden your spectrum hit it has to have change the way you put pen to paper and view the world in your your ability to describe things

► 01:06:13

yeah I think it's you you realize that each individual has a certain certain boundaries certain certain self definitions and no self-definition can be the distance between one individual in another can be enormous butt and sometimes also their superficial distinctions so give their inescapable reality is so alien in comparison to someone who lives in Bellaire oh absolutely this this is just that contrasts between this world that you are so deeply entrenched in for 2 and 2 years and 8 months like that has got to change the way you look at human life yeah because the golf and wealth is so enormous I mean they can't imagine that the amount of money it takes to live in Bellaire and the other way around I mean is I think it's very difficult for some

► 01:07:13

in California to imagine how little you can get by on and how close to the Earth's most people on the planet live there's a statistic that I read once that I repeat all the time cuz it still baffles me that if you make more than $34,000 a year you're in the 1% of the worlds of the world

► 01:07:34

and that is probably magnified many fold in Ethiopia it's very although

► 01:07:47

they want money all the time especially if they're criminals the money that were used to sort of grease in her path through life around here is just not available it's just not not part of the reality what do they do with money when they get it well it depends if if they're Pirates play Splash out on fancy car or fancy cars no I was placed in fancy cars I mean expensive SUVs weapons that they bought you know from abroad and maybe it what is bizarre Mogadishu or something like that but that's not cheap either they they bragged about how the bullets cost like a dollar each you know on that one of them might have been wearing a band of 500 bullets

► 01:08:38

and the cat is expensive so lots of things cost at a normal amount of money and Samaya but if your

► 01:08:46

you know if you're very ordinary Somali Somali you you getting by on less than a dollar a day so there's the ordinary somalis who are not criminals or not Pirates and then you have the majority the majority and then you have these pirates that are essentially

► 01:09:06

running through the streets in Mercedes Benz some connection to Germany describe them to me you know he he was wondering around and go Kyle because it was his home town until Myers incest ancestral town and he had met some this was before I got captured who is this that's actually good African rand yeah I can send you some Band-Aids please do when I write I like to listen to stick things I don't understand cuz I can still write and not think about their words right when you're around these gangsters and you do get the sense of like a god like they this is they need this money like this month do they want to keep this going

► 01:10:06

they're going to need more money from this just a never-ending cycle that's obviously that's true I think some of them and maybe some of the Gentry course the ones we got along with me did not necessarily want to be gangsters for the rest of their lives so I think for some people the plan was got a bunch of money in get out you know but as of as an operation yeah it just needed there was no limit to the money they needed or wanted and so that so in the end of the real motivation is not illegal fishing but greed

► 01:10:45

do they have any sort it but it really started with illegal fishing the right now absolutely do they have any sort of ultimate goal like one day I'm going to retire I'm going to be no I have a mansion in the Hills yes I think individually they do and some bosses got a mansion and and a big compound and live large in the Nae they try and hire younger younger Pirates and the thing about piracy and also terrorism so Al shabaab is the al-Qaeda of line group in Somalia al-shabaab and Pirates are the two main corporate structures in Somalia those are the places you join up with if you want to be upwardly mobile

► 01:11:30

if you want to impress somebody in and get promotions and make money in and Mary wife those were the most available options otherwise you know you had scares jobs maybe some frustrating sheepherding her or fishing more interesting jobs in the cities but not very many and then maybe a pretty well paid you and job you know if you're lucky so these things are very tempting for young young somalis and even if the pirate bosses are no longer capturing ships on the water it's falling off quite a bit in the last few years they still got other business is going on including like I said human smuggling and gun smuggling

► 01:12:13

does anybody have aspirations to get out did you any it did you wanted anybody that understands that the rest of the world like there are opportunities to live in a place where you don't have this kind of systemic violence and crime and yes definitely I mean I think they don't necessarily understand the rest of the world very well but they know that somebody is in trouble and so a lot of people wanted to get out and some of the guards to talk to me about wanting to go to Europe

► 01:12:38

but one of them who did and I describe him in the book he will end up getting married in Mogadishu so you know so he wind up not going to Smart touch with them on Facebook and Jesus Christ one of your captors one of the guards

► 01:13:05

did one of the gently guys when I guess you guys have like when you get a message on Facebook from someone have held a gun to you at first I didn't want to answer but slowly I realize that I could get good information from him Facebook. Friends don't let him into my Facebook but no we message each other it's okay you set limits so yeah still when you said that you had forgiveness that was very important. Did you express that to him yes at least of my tone I mean he's he was going to easiest people to forgive who he was he was never obnoxious or violent towards me I mean except for belonging to this violent violent gang I think he was personally never

► 01:14:04

you know it's obnoxious as some of the other guards could be did you try to communicate to him that the rest of the world is different

► 01:14:13

did you try to communicate to him what it's like where you were you grew up and then use your experience as a human being is so wildly different ways that wasn't our topic of conversation so I should you ever think of introducing at

► 01:14:33

I got some of the information from him and spread that way he told me a little bit about his background and it was military as matter fact which I think is typical so another words a lot of them are trained gunman

► 01:14:46

I wasn't anxious to share a lot of information with him but you know if he reads my book to learn as a lot of personal background in the book

► 01:14:55

wow it's it's so hard to even imagine in other some people to tell you things you like I can kind of imagine that but your story is so fucked up it's almost impossible to even imagine in so unique in that you grew up in this incredibly Western World this this you know first world you're in Germany and then you go to Somalia and get captured and stay there and Alters your reality it did it really did it's a lot more fucked up than I would have wished for this I would have wished for this on my family either I could imagine

► 01:15:39

do you think about Somalia do you think about what what it must be like to be a person that's stuck there that lives there it's that was obviously behind what what my guards were doing so that was on my mind quite a lot and that's what that's where you realize that actually most of the world lives quite poor somebody is one of the poorest countries so it's even under you know the average line for the for the rest of the world but I know it's clear that most of the world doesn't look like we do in the west what was the day like there like what did you typically do other than the Shackled to sleep and if I was on the ship then there was a

► 01:16:28

we slept I slept in a cabin along with 10 other hostages and then we came out to the deck in the morning and instant coffee and something for breakfast food was not bad because it was still an operating fishing vessel and we got piles of rice and basically Chinese food from the kitchen as long as supplies last it once I was on land and then I just woke up alone under a mosquito tent and wondered what to do that today I had to live in my head quite a bit if I didn't have paper and pen to write with which I didn't for at least a year and a half I had to sort of right in my head I mean I actually composed paragraphs of my head and went through them and memorize them in eventually I had a 2-hour routine in the morning where I just lay still and went through these words in my head that was one way to keep saying so you remembered the individual paragraphs and you put them in an order I was revising

► 01:17:28

my head so I would go through and say okay this needs work you know might as well get to it and then I would compose a paragraph refine it memorize it all of my friends that do comedy that way they don't really write the only right in their head and but they still call it writing and I found that interesting they said well this is the best way for me to constantly remember it well yeah I mean that's what I had to do committed to memory and so you sat down there and when you were going over the material this was a purposeful strategy in order to keep your sanity give yourself some some order and keep my mind occupied and I would memorize that and then I also had like a list of names from the shift to memorize so I have written all their names down with the proper spelling I'm still optimistic when I when I was on the ship and sorry I had an incredibly complex list of names from the crewmen

► 01:18:28

and so how you lost I lost the list between the shift in land so remembering their names became part of my morning routine to and this is obviously fanatic right because you dealing with Asian language when I got out I got a list of the crew men's names from the FBI

► 01:18:51


► 01:18:53

I'm when did this book come out it just came out last week and it's been a few years in the making is it difficult to do conversations like this no like I said it's it's easier now that I've written so I'm fluent with this material now but when I first got out I wouldn't have been able to talk about it like this I would have I would have just funked-up I wouldn't have

► 01:19:16

knowing where to start

► 01:19:19

what do you anticipate doing once this is once the dust has settled in this is you know firmly established when you're done with the Promos in the novel featured the Drone and I'm following the story a couple of stories in the meantime to some some journalism and I work for hostage us at the moment to which is a good non-profit that supports family some

► 01:19:47

that might have somebody in in captivity somewhere and US government as it turns out helps families and in really good ways but in the ways that they can't in terms of just letting the families know what you know what to expect and what might be going on with her their people hostage us can step in and help

► 01:20:11

I think your story is really important and I think it's not just important in terms of like you're that the fact that you've had an incredibly deep view of what it's like to live there but that you you got your life back now and in the in this experience of no hope and sorrow and captivity and the Vera struggles that you went through you've experienced something that just very very few human beings even in the 7 billion people on this planet and all their struggles and trials and tribulations there's what what small handful have been held captive by Somali pirates and then manage to live there's network of former captives and that's what house did US Isabel but you know how many people have been held captive several of us are still alive

► 01:21:11

and so it's good the best people for me to talk to you when I first got out was other people have been captive David Road who is held hostage by the Taliban when he was working for the New York Times was also on the board of the Pulitzer Center when I got captured so he followed my story talking to him after I got it was fantastic it was better than the psychologist and I was aware that he escaped you know so I was aware of his story when I was there so we were thinking about each other in a way you know and we're friends now it's great talking to someone who's been through it is psychologically the best thing what are the numbers in terms of how many people who been held captive by the somalis currently no fisherman that's it right now that's it and then a couple of hours in a couple of Kenyan so I think we're headed over to a pirate gang so it's much reduced you know when they got out was the last big crew that was being held

► 01:22:11

Pirates they got out in 2016 so the pirate era you might say is you're tapering off why is that because pirate stop being so active on the water and I slowly glean that from the from the BBC or whatever I was listening to the story about Pirates and I was not even a story how do you become the state became the story I was not good but it fell off in 2013 maybe even a little earlier late 2012 party because the boss is shifted their focus to other businesses and they found it less profitable to hold people probably also because of my case I'm in my my case was moving along and but mainly because I miss is the still has to be true to keep piracy down cargo ships sail now with with arm team

► 01:23:11

contractors and it turns out of spider of gunfire in the water can keep his gift from coming on that's enough and it should be enough in that that's really the main the main defense the naval teams that still Cruise off Somaya there this is very important formality but I don't think they practically stopped individual cases the way and aren't and there was a lot of fear about that beforehand a lot of fear about putting weapons on a civilian cargo ship you know or merchant ship somebody thought the few people thought they would be like an arms race in the water and then come on with have your weapon so whatever turns out not to be the case

► 01:23:55

what did the bosses ship their attentions to like I said probably some human smuggling drugs and weapons smuggling you know they have they have portfolios they have other business and they just roll it over into something else if piracy becomes too difficult and that's what the precautions that the shipping industry now takes have been enough to make it too difficult for the boss did you take any consideration or did you anticipate in any way a cure for what ails them I wanted to investigate the possibility of just chilling up the legitimate business in Somalia because America went to the same cycle 3 300 years ago you know we have Pirates when we are Colonials we had Pirates very Savage ones who sailed from the Eastern Seaboard out to have to actually out to the Horn of Africa and they were very brutal the Muslims so it was reversed and we

► 01:24:56

recovered from by becoming a country becoming responsible for our own economy you know what's going on this morning now it's a lot of elicit business activity and give people jobs and I could be Pirates anymore and then there are ways to do that and I think slowly people who have power to my or figuring that out but it's still a lot of criminals that have too much power in Somalia a list of Michael I didn't want to touch your book until I met you I wanted I wanted to somehow or another have a fresh conversation and get your perspective on this but I think your your view of the world is very valuable and it's just very very different and I'm so happy that you got out and I'm so happy I'm so happy you wrote this book and I can't wait to check it out it's available now the desert in the sea and thank you thank you for being here it really really appreciate it

► 01:25:56

alright thank everybody for tuna to the podcast and thank you to our sponsors thank you to the cash app download the cash app for free in the Google Play store or the App Store use the promo code Joe Rogan all one word you'll receive $5 in the cash Apple send $5 to a good friend Justin Brands fight for the Forgotten charity building Wells for the pygmies in the Congo thank you also to Squarespace the host of Joe Rogan. Com and a fantastic way for you to create your own website you can do it if you have any sort of hesitation they want to take that out of the picture so they're giving it to you to try for free go to squarespace.com Joe for a free trial and then when you're ready to launch use the offer code Jodeci 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain I can't say enough good things about Squarespace it's an excellent product and if you have any hesitations about your ability to make your own website

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hi folks tomorrow the Great and Powerful Felipe Esparza is here hilarious stand-up comedian very excited to hang out with him a long time coming for Felipe physicist Sean Carroll astrophysicist right it's more than that he's Super Properties a fucking genius I really enjoyed talking to him the first time sober you're going to do that again John Joseph lead singer of the cro-mags is going to be here on Thursday that should be a great time as well thanks you too and appreciate you folks and much love bye bye