How much is "Brzezinski" on a triple-word score?

Huge news for foreign policy and international affairs junkies: a new version of Scrabble to be released in the U.K. this July allows the playing of proper nouns (among other rule changes).

Many are outraged, but I couldn't be more excited. Finally my dream of using "Reykjavik" (30 base points), "Kyrgyzstan" (30 base points), and countless others (readers, feel free to chime in your favorites) has finally been realized. (Anticipate long arguments over the spelling of "Qaddafi.")

Purists take heart, the classic version will still be available -- but I won't be playing with you.

(Note: there is only one "Z" available for play, but using a blank tile would still give a base score of 24 points for former-President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor.)

**Update: It appears the new version will not be sold in North America, where Hasbro owns the rights to the game (Mattel owns the rights to Scrabble elsewhere in the world.) Perhaps someone should just make my dream come true, and create a (solely) international relations Scrabble edition?

Oli Scarff/Getty Images


Iran's speedboat of doom

We're a little late to this story, but this is one hell of a lede graf from the Financial Times:

Has a record-breaking British powerboat become the “ultimate toy” for an Iranian playboy or – as US investigators fear – is it now equipped with the world’s fastest torpedoes aimed at sinking an aircraft carrier in the Gulf?

The boat in question, the Bladerunner 51, was used in 2005 to break the world record for the circumnavigation of Britain, and passed through at least two owners before it was picked up by the Iranians in Durban, South Africa. Advertised as “the ultimate toy for someone looking for something a little bit special,” U.S. authorities fear it could be equipped with torpedos and tried unsuccessfully to block the sale. 

Iran has flirted with speedboat attacks before, but some experts don't think the Bladerunner will significantly incrase their capabilities: 

“Though the US Navy is very concerned a swarm of small boats can overwhelm and sink a large warship, the hypothesis is untested. It has never been done,” Mr Hooper told the FT. “A small, fast boat navy is nothing more than a surprise strike and harassment force. Every time small, fast boats run into helicopters, the helicopters win.”

So while it would definitely make a good plot device for a James Bond move, Iran's fleet of super-speedboats is probably not much of a threat for the time being.