As the lifeboat in which Somali pirates are holding American captain Richard Phillips hostage inches toward the Somali coast, the stakes are getting higher in the battle of wills between the captors and Navy officials. The Somalis say they have no intention of harming Phillips, but will do so if they are attacked. In the meantime, they're just trying to get back to land, from where they say they will demand a $2 million ransom for his release. Sadly for them, they are now negotiating with the American government, and not with the shipping company who owned the Maersk Alabama. The shipping company may have paid a ransom for its crew member, but America will not.
This story has, over the course of a few days, changed from being a compelling diversion from the usual, repetitive bad-economic-news cycle into something that is equally exhausting and worrisome. Pirates are only fun in stories, after all.