"Depending on who you talk to, Michele Ballarin, a North Virginia businesswoman, is a ruthless mercenary, a covert operative, or a grandiose but well-intentioned humanitarian," writes Keith Kloor on his Discover magazine blog, Collide-a-scape. In his profile of Ballarin for last week's Washington Post Magazine, Kloor writes that he found evidence of all of these characters.
He never entirely untangles them, or the twisted plotlines that weave around and through Ballarin's life, but he provides us with a fascinating tale of what seems to be an underworld, freelance force using both humanitarian and mercenary tactics. Unless, that is, it's a delusional world created by a woman who would like to be those things.
If you'd like to know more about Ballarin, whom Somali pirates are said to call "Amira," (Arabic for princess, Kloor writes), you can find a string of follow-up posts at Kloor's blog. "You’ll certainly get a flavor of all this from my Washington Post magazine story. But there’s too much good stuff that didn’t make it in there that I can’t let fall by the wayside. The story has to be told in full. So for the next week, check back here twice a day (morning and evening)."
Kloor is more often found writing about climate and the environment than he is about pirates, but this is a nice example of what can happen when a curious and intelligent reporter follows his instincts.