Saturday, February 06, 2010

Politics – January 2010

Every once in a while, we are humbled in the face of nature, at awe reminded just how fragile we are.

Gilad is still in captivity. Veshavu banim legvulam.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

This has been a horrific month for Haiti. The scenes were/are heart breaking. The international mobilization to help this poor country that might not be able to return to the same life it had prior the earthquake is heart-warming. There are times when there is no need to say. Just do. And do it fast as every second may save human life.
As always, Israel was one of the first countries that immediately sent its well trained forces to help. On such horrific occasions words become small and actions significant.

This has been a white month in England. Snow covered everything, challenging our day-to-day activities. Against all “experts” expectations about a year of mild weather, due to global warming, this has been the coldest month I have ever experienced in Europe. We make our plans, and nature laughs at us. There is still so much to learn. We are all fallible, and with all our innovative might we are so powerless facing the forces of nature.

Leading British newspapers begin to summarize Gordon Brown’s term in office. Apparently, even his cabinet ministers do not believe in him. Moreover, they do not wish him to win. The closer you get to him, the more you know how unfit he is to serve as prime minister.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman instructed the Foreign Office to play it “tough” with honour, asserting Israeli pride. That means, in Israeli diplomacy, to summon the Turkish Ambassador to the Ministry, humiliate him and act like the neighbourhood brute. The ingenuity of politicians never ceases to break new records. As if Turkey needs Israel more than Israel needs Turkey. I presume Mr. Lieberman has pleasant memories from the Russian way of doing things that for awhile he forgot that he moved to another country.

One more month with no progress on the peace front. I suspect there will be many more, until the collapse of the Netanyahu government which, by the way, stands firm, thank you very much.

One more month without Gilad Shalit in our midst. It is hard to turn the wheel back. Israel released in the past far too many terrorists in exchange for its few soldiers. Now one kidnapped soldier is worth a thousand terrorists. It is a tough decision to make, but it should be made, within reason.

Mazal Tov Azi


Iran- Kazakhstan

Chinese Evade U.S. Sanctions on Iran

Third Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism

Enjoy Diversity

Israelis in Hull

Operation Cast Lead

Congress Passed Aid to Israel

Yizhar Be’er – Recipient of the 2009 Eliav-Sartawi Award

My New Article

New Publications

New Film

Films to Look For in 2010

Monthly Poem

Not Enough

Light Side

Free Gilad Shalit. The government should invest in his release. It should be one of its top priorities. Veshavu banim legvulam.


Mazal Tov Azi

The Shachar family is embracing its first child. May I wish them much nachat, good health, growth and tranquility.

I dedicate them Freddie Aguilar’s song Anak (Child) in its English version.

When you were born into this world

Your mom and dad saw a dream fulfilled

Dream come true, the answer to their prayers

You were to them a special child

Gave 'em joy every time you smiled

Each time you cried, they're at your side to care

Child, you don't know, you'll never know how far they'd go

To give you all their love can give

To see you through and God it's true

They'd die for you, if they must, to see you here

How many seasons came and went

So many years have now been spent

For time ran fast and now at last you're strong

Now what has gotten over you

You seem to hate your parents too

Do speak out your mind, why do you find them wrong

Child you don't know, you'll never know how far they'd go

To give you all their love can give

To see you through and God it's true

They'd die for you, if they must, to see you near

And now your path has gone astray

Child you ain't sure what to do or say

You're so alone, no friends are on your side

And child you now break down in tears

Let them drive away your fears

Where must you go, their arms stay open wide

Child you don't know, you'll never know how far they'd go

To give you all their love can give

To see you through and God it's true

They'd die for you, if they must, to see you here

Child you don't know, you'll never know how far they'd go

To give you all their love can give

To see you through and God it's true

They'd die for you, if they must, to see

You can enjoy it at


Here are some concluding thoughts about 2009.

Leader of the Year

President Barack Obama, for abiding by his word and bring Change, and new hopes, to the USA and the democratic world at large; for his welcome change in US diplomacy; for his clear voice on human rights issues; for the new health plan for Americans, millions of which are uninsured and many more do not have sufficient health coverage; for his caring attitude; for his wisdom and courage.

Human Tragedy

2009 was opened with the Hamas-Israel War. All wars are tragic, and this war provided its moments. We still live its aftermath.

Yes We Can, Yes We Care

The US spent some $2.2tn (£1.36tn) on healthcare in 2007. That amounts to 16.2% of GDP, nearly twice the average of other rich, industrialised countries. Yet millions of Americans are unable to afford health insurance and the cost to the government of providing care for the poor and elderly has risen hugely.

On Christmas Eve, December 24, 2009, the final Senate version of Barack Obama's historic healthcare reform bill was adopted by 60 votes to 39. The bill aims to cover 31m uninsured Americans and could lead to the biggest change in US healthcare in decades. Under the Senate bill, most Americans would have to have health insurance.

Private insurers would be banned from refusing to provide insurance because applicants had pre-existing medical conditions.

Shattered Hope

June 12, 2009 - Mir-Hossein Mousavi: so many people in Iran and around the world crossed fingers for him but he faced greater powers, unable to oust the present president of Iran, unable to bring a wind of change to his country and to the Middle East. He should take good care of his health.

Classical Concert

Anna Vinnitskaya playing Rachmaninov Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra with the Israel

Philharmonic Orchestra.

Theatre Production

Havdalah, by Shmuel Hasfari, for capturing intrinsic aspects and dilemmas of Israeli society with humour, sensitivity and compassion.

Book I enjoyed reading this year

David Grossman, Until the End of the Land (2008)

Grossman is a genius with words. Every book is a celebration.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Brad Pitt leads the cast of this fable taken from an F. Scott Fitzgerald story about a man who is born in his seventies and ages in reverse. Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton feature in this beautiful tale that spans a lifetime.

Singer of the Year

Susan Boyle, for her candid personality and crystal voice. The moment she opened her mouth to sing in Britain Got Talent, there was a sense of awe shared not only by the audience but by all who watched her. Late in her forties, she had a dream, and finally she is able to accomplish it. Boyle is a terrific singer. I just hope that she continues to enjoy her success without finding it too overwhelming.

Album of the Year

Susan Boyle - I Dreamed A Dream

Musical of the Year

Dreamboats and Petticoats - a light-hearted musical, beautiful score, nice dancing, good singers. If you like the songs of the sixties, this one is a must. Go and sing along.

Football Team of the Year

Barcelona, for winning all possible trophies in one year and giving us a sublime joy watching how this simple game could be played brilliantly.

Football Player of the Year

Lionel Andrés Messi, one of the best dribblers in the history of football. Expect the unexpected with him. With one move he can win games and he is never tired doing just that.

I hardly watch basketball nowadays. I’d be surprised if there is a man on the planet who plays better than LeBron James.

Iran- Kazakhstan

Iran is close to clinching a deal to clandestinely import 1,350 tons of purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan, according to an intelligence report obtained by the Associated Press. Diplomats said the assessment was heightening international concern about Tehran's nuclear activities. Such a deal would be significant because, according to an independent research group, Tehran appears to be running out of the material, which it needs to feed its uranium enrichment program.

The report was drawn up by a member nation of the International Atomic Energy Agency and provided to the AP on condition that the country not be identified because of the confidential nature of the information. In Washington, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said, "the transfer of any uranium yellowcake... to Iran would constitute a clear violation of UNSC sanctions."

Source: AIPAC Brief (January 6, 2010).

Chinese Evade U.S. Sanctions on Iran

Chinese companies banned from doing business in the U.S. for allegedly selling missile technology to Iran continue to do a brisk trade with American companies, according to an analysis of shipping records.

A unit of state-owned China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp. (CPMIEC), for example, has made nearly 300 illegal shipments to U.S. firms since a ban was imposed on CPMIEC and its affiliates in mid-2006, according to an analysis of shipping records by the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, a nonprofit proliferation watchdog.

A Wall Street Journal review of the records and interviews with officials at some of the American companies indicate that the U.S. firms likely were unaware they were doing business with banned entities, and in many cases were tripped up by altered company names.

The CPMIEC shipments, worth millions of dollars, include everything from anchors and drilling equipment to automobile parts and toys. In many cases, CPMIEC acted as a shipping intermediary -- activity also banned under a 2006 presidential order.

The ability of CPMIEC and other foreign companies to continue doing business in the U.S. despite the sanctions comes as the Obama administration considers fresh economic sanctions against Iran. The illegal shipments suggest that U.S. sanctions have become so numerous and complex that they have become difficult to enforce.

Responsibility for enforcing sanctions falls to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, an office with 69 investigators and a 2009 budget of $29 million. OFAC is responsible for enforcing more than 20 sanctions programs targeting everything from nuclear proliferators and terror financiers to illegal imports of Cuban cigars.

OFAC hasn't fined any U.S. companies for trading with CPMIEC or other Chinese companies banned in 2006.

Source: The Wall Street Journal (January 5, 2010),

Third Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism

Israel's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Avigdor Liberman, and Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, Yuli Edelstein, convened the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism, to which they invited world-renowned scholars and experts in the field, community activists as well as prominent politicians. Some 500 people from 50 states attended the conference. I met ambassadors from Israel and Georgia, politicians from the UK, USA, Israel, Canada, Uganda, Zambia, Germany, Italy and Venezuela, and academics and political activists from all over the world.

Among the speakers were distinguished Israeli historians Prof. Yehuda Bauer and Prof. Dina Porat; John Mann MP, England; Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Canada; Jonathan Faull, Director General, Justice, Freedom and Security Department, European Commission; Fiamma Nirenstein MP, Italy; Dr. Daniel Pipes, Director of the Middle East Forum; Haras Rafiq, Co-Founder, Sufi Muslim Council, United Kingdom; Minister Władysław Bartoszewski, Poland; Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League; Speaker of the Knesset Reuven Rivlin; Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, as well as Israeli ministers and MKs, MPs from England, Italy, Germany, Canada and France, and the Foreign Minister of Lithuania.

The conference combined panels and working groups and focused on developing effective means to combat the various forms of antisemitism through collaboration. I participated in the deliberations on Antisemitism Online: Cyberspace and the Media, contributed a paper, and made many suggestions that were incorporated into the working document that will be endorsed by the Forum to fight hate on the Internet.

Speakers spoke of old forms of anti-Semitism, new forms of radical racism that include neo-Nazis, Islamic movements that spout hatred to Jews, and anti-Israeli leftists who oppose first and foremost the occupation. One question that should be raised with regard to the latter group is: Would ending the occupation end also the hatred to Israel? I think the answer is positive for human rights activists who I encounter on a regular basis in Europe. But for many others Israel is the embodiment of the Jew, and for them there is a perpetual struggle against Jews wherever they are.

Indeed, nowadays it is politically correct to attack Israel. About Israel everyone feels s/he is an expert. Those same people would be hesitant to voice an opinion about Chechnya, or Kosovo, but Israel is a well-known subject of which all have an opinion, even strong opinion. The only qualification is subjective perception of a thoughtful being.

Enjoy Diversity

13-21 March 2010 European-wide Action Week Against Racism

The General assembly of the United Nations declared 21 March the International Day for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. This day was implemented as a reaction to the murder of 70 anti-apartheid demonstrators in Sharpeville, South Africa, in 1960. Apartheid was a legal system of racial segregation enforced by the government of South Africa between 1948 and 1990. Not even 20 years have passed since this hard-line institutional racism was abolished and yet segregating ideologies based on ‘race’ can still be recognised everyday. The winning thought is that there is only one race: the human race!

Each year around 21 March UNITED coordinates the European-wide Action Week Against Racism. Activists, NGO’s, universities, schools, municipalities and a wide variety of different organisations carry out hundreds of activities all around Europe in order to make a change. Through the actions implemented during the annual campaign thousands of people all over Europe actively engage themselves for tolerance, equal rights and celebrate the diversity of Europe. The activities taking place in the Action Week range from very basic poster actions in schools, public and working places, to intercultural youth festivals, street actions, lectures, living libraries, film screenings, conferences, multicultural football games or cleaning the walls of racist graffiti and many, many more.

Order free material

Do you believe in the active struggle against racism? Join the campaign and order more campaign material for free. Send, fax or e-mail information about your activities (title, date, theme, place) to UNITED and the name, address and contact person of your organisation. Have a look at our website to find out about the free available campaign material (posters, stickers, postcards, infoleaflets etc.) and to get to the online order-form.

· You can order campaign material, up to 100 posters (2kg material) for free. But if you need more for special purposes, don’t hesitate to contact UNITED.

· We will produce a special List of Activities, documenting all the different activities during the campaign and the strength of the anti-racist movement throughout Europe. The list can help you make contacts and exchange ideas with other groups. You could even link activities through the internet, or by sending messages of solidarity to other organisations active in the Action Week. The List of Activities will be updated regularly and will be published on our website.

· Call UNITED if you cannot find a partner for your activities. We might know of other NGOs in your country who are planning activities.

· A media release will be sent out to all the important European press agencies, newspapers, etc. If you feel that we should include a specific media contact from your country in our list, let us know. Journalists who want to know about specific activities will be informed about events in their country and are referred to the organisations involved.

· UNITED will produce a European report after the Action Week, including as many of the activities that took place as possible. The report is disseminated throughout Europe to support NGOs in reporting to their sponsors and to inspire action for next year. You can order copies of last year’s report for inspiration and motivation.

Do you need more information?

UNITED can provide you with useful information:

· You can order a copy of the European Address Book Against Racism to find like-minded organisations in other countries, or in your own country (also available online).

· You can phone or e-mail the UNITED secretariat to find out who else is organising something.

· You can order the campaign poster, or other campaign material to use in your own way.

· A full list of anti-racism magazines can also be found in the European Address Book Against Racism.

· If you need to find more anti-racism news, the Internet is a wonderful medium.

How You Can Help UNITED

Help us make the media release exciting! Announce your activities to us! Send us your ideas, invitations, leaflets and posters before the activities take place. Help us make the post-campaign report complete and effective. Make sure your activity is included! Send us reports, newspaper articles, photographs, etc. after the event for the European report. The material does not have to be in English. And last but not least: just let us know what you need.

UNITED for Intercultural Action

European network against nationalism, racism, fascism

and in support of migrants and refugees

Postbus 413, NL-1000 AK Amsterdam, Netherlands

phone +31-20-6834778, fax +31-20-6834582,

Israelis in Hull

A few weeks ago, the first Israeli guest arrived at Hull. Professor Asa Kasher, Israel Prize laureate, gave a well-argued and confident lecture on a problematic topic – Operation Cast Lead. The University Council Room was quite full with an interested audience that asked difficult questions. Asa did a brilliant work defending Israel’s war conduct. Later I said to my colleagues that the IDF is very fortunate to have Asa as a protagonist.

With this first “bird”, I hope for many more Israelis to fly by. Do let me know when you come my way.

Operation Cast Lead

In early November 2009, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs released data of the number of investigations being looked into. According to the Israeli MFA:

o 128 incidents have been/are being examined. These include incidents identified as being of concern by the IDF itself, or brought to its attention by individuals or by human rights reports.

o All the incidents cited in the Goldstone Report have been or are being examined. Of 36 incidents cited by Goldstone, Israeli investigations have led to five cases being dismissed, 10 criminal investigations being opened, and 21 still under investigation.

o In total, criminal investigations have been opened into 27 incidents, one of which has already led to prosecution and conviction. In addition to investigating the soldiers and officers involved, these criminal investigations include the taking of evidence from Palestinian complainants and witnesses. To date, 70 Palestinian witnesses and complainants have given evidence to the investigating authorities.

o 25 incidents were examined in the course of five General Staff command investigations, which were opened following the operation. The results of the examination of these incidents are currently being scuritinised by the Military Advocate General, who will decide whether additional examination or further proceedings, including military police investigations, are warranted.

o 28 other cases are also currently under process of examination.

o 48 cases were closed after it was found that there was no basis for suspecting any violation of the law.

Source: BICOM 22/12/2009

Congress Passed Aid to Israel

In December 2009, the Senate passed the annual foreign aid bill for fiscal year 2010, which includes $2.22 billion in security assistance to Israel. The aid was included in a larger spending bill funding major parts of the federal government. The aid, when combined with $555 million approved in an earlier bill, brings the total amount of aid to Israel in fiscal year 2010 to $2.775 billion - a $225 million increase from last year. Congress has now fully funded the second year of the 10-year U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding signed by the United States and Israel in 2007 to gradually increase U.S. security assistance to the Jewish state in order to meet increasing threats.

Implementation of a 2007 U.S.-Israeli security agreement, which pledges to provide Israel with $30 billion in military assistance during the next decade, is vital to ensuring that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge over those adversaries that threaten the Jewish state and actively work to undermine U.S. interests in the region.

Source: AIPAC, at

Yizhar Be’er – Recipient of the 2009 Eliav-Sartawi Award

The Executive Director of Keshev (, Yizhar Be’er, was honored as the Israeli recipient of Search for Common Ground’s 2009 Eliav-Sartawi Award for journalism. The award was bestowed for an article Yizhar published about television coverage of the tragedy experienced by Gazan doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish, whose three daughters were killed when an Israeli tank shell struck their home. The article discussed how live television coverage of the incident was able to personalize and humanize the suffering of others during times of conflict. The award was presented at a ceremony in Jerusalem on November 16, 2009.

Congratulations to Yizhar as well as to the other recipients of the award this year: Mona Eltahawy and Aziz Abu Sarah.

My New Article

“Holocaust Denial Is A Form of Hate Speech”, Amsterdam Law Forum, Vol. 2, No 1 (2009), pp. 33-42.

In this short piece I wish to take issue with the assertion that Holocaust denial is not hateful per se. My aim is to show that it is, and therefore that Facebook should reconsider its position. All Internet providers and web-hosting companies whose terms of service disallow hateful messages on their servers should not host or provide forums for such hate-mongering. This is of urgent need as Holocaust denial is prevalent in Europe, the United States (USA) and across the Arab and Muslim parts of the world.

The article is available at

New Publications

Stephen H. Norwood, The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower provides the first comprehensive examination of the response of major American universities to the ethical and professional challenges posed by the Nazi regime. Through a methodical marshaling of evidence, Professor Norwood demonstrates that university administrators reacted with both temerity, in maintaining ties to German institutions long after the Nazi influence was clear, and timidity, in refusing to protest Nazi outrages on either academic or moral grounds. In doing so, he exposes the prejudices and predilections that shaped the American academy in the twentieth century.

Patrick Clawson (ed.), Engaging Iran: Lessons from the Past (2009)

In the thirty years since Iran's Islamic Revolution, which resulted in the overthrow of the Iranian monarchy and the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Western governments have repeatedly tried to engage Tehran. This collection of essays, the product of a special colloquium hosted by The Washington Institute in March 2009, analyzes four such periods of diplomatic activity:

· The full diplomatic relations achieved between the United States and Iran's 1979 revolutionary government within the latter's first ten months of ascendancy

· The covert outreach to Iran in the mid-1980s by senior U.S. officials

· U.S. and European efforts to improve Western-Iranian relations after Muhammad Khatami was elected to the Iranian presidency in 1997

· Post-September 11 U.S. and European outreach to Iran in pursuit of common interests.

Despite the achievement of some limited results, each of these efforts ultimately failed -- some spectacularly so. What, then, are the lessons to be gleaned from the historical record of Western engagement with Iran's Islamic Republic? In Engaging Iran: Lessons from the Past, senior policy practitioners representing both Western and Iranian points of view join longtime observers of Iranian politics to offer timely advice to the Obama administration for shaping a proactive and effective U.S. Iran policy.


Riding the Tiger: The View from Tehran in 1979 / John Limbert

The Importance of Iran's Domestic Political Atmosphere / Mohsen Sazegara

Engage Iran in Secret and Use a High-Level Envoy / Paul Thompson

Know Your Adversary, but Be True to Yourself / Nicholas Rostow

Engaging Iran: Strategic Goal or Means to an End? / Ellen Laipson

Thirty Years of EU-Iran Relations: Business Trumps Politics / Ahmad Rafat

Changing Iranian Behavior: Lessons from the Bush Years / Michael Singh

Lessons from the EU-Iran Comprehensive Dialogue / Sir Richard Dalton

Talking to Tehran: Context and Process Matter Most / Geoffrey Kemp

Broad Lessons from Thirty Years of U.S.-Iranian Interaction / Karim Sadjadpour

Ripe with Possibilities? / Patrick Clawson

You can download this publication at

Amos N. Guiora, “Negotiating Implementation of a Peace Agreement: Lessons Learned from Five Years at the Negotiating Table”, Cardozo J. Conflict Resol., Vol. 11, 2010 .

For five years (1994-1999), Amos Guiora directly negotiated ‘on the ground’ implementation of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process in the Gaza Strip. In his capacity as the Israel Defense Forces Judge Advocate General’s Corps Legal Advisor to the IDF Commander, Gaza Strip (1994-1997) he had direct responsibility for both interpretation and negotiation, first for the Gaza-Jericho Agreement and subsequently for the Interim Agreement as it applied to the Gaza Strip. His new article addresses fundamental differences between agreement ‘architects’ and agreement ‘implementers’. It is intended to facilitate future negotiations and implementations alike. Based on a ‘bird’s eye’ view he suggests ten core ‘lessons learned’ relevant to negotiating including cultural, linguistic, tactical, strategic and operational considerations.

You can download the article at

New Film

The Stoning of Soraya M.

This true and disturbing drama tells the story of a young woman, mother of four, who refuses to divorce her husband. Her husband, Ali, wishes to marry a 14 year-old girl, take his two sons and leave Soraya with their two daughters. He is not prepared to pay for their subsistence and Soraya, who has never worked and does not have a profession, refuses. The husband can certainly go but she demands that he takes responsibility. Ali remains adamant in his refusal. He decides to send the village religious authority to convince her to grant the required divorce by proposing her that he, the religious “sage” who represents godly authority on earth, will take care of her and her daughters; in return, all he asks is that she will become his mistress. Soraya refuses the generous deal.

Soraya is then asked to do house work for a neighbor who recently had lost his wife. This will provide her with some income, and she agrees. Ali masterminds a plan to get rid of his wife once and for all. If he is able to prove that Soraya is unfaithful to him by bringing forward two witnesses, Islam dictates that her fate is death by stoning. Ali is able to provide two testimonies. The village “sages” convene to affirm the verdict. Soraya’s fate is now sealed.

The film director, Cyrus Nowrasteh, does not spare us any details. For long minutes that seem eternal we witness how stoning is conducted in today’s Iran. Soraya is half buried in sand. A line is drawn a few meters away from her. The village men stand behind the line. Soraya’s father receives the honour of throwing the first stone at her. Ali, the “betrayed” husband, is next. Soraya’s two sons are asked to take part as well. They do, with the encouragement of their father. And then all the rest. Soraya’s long, agonizing death, lingers on and on until her entire white dress is covered with her blood and you, the film audience, pray that this will end, soon. This shocking true story that portrays the utter lack of basic human rights for women in some parts of the Islamic world is certainly the strongest film I have seen this year, a film that will remain with me for many years to come.

Films to Look For in 2010

Date Night

Coming across as a mélange of The Honeymooners and underrated 1985 comedy After Hours, this sounds like an efficient mid-table comedy until you take a look at the cast, which combines tireless USOffice star Steve Carrell and Sarah Palin’s personal favourite, 30 Rock's Tina Fey. Ray Liotta and Mark Wahlberg are also along for what promises to be a hilarious, if sometimes downright uncomfortable, ride.

The Rum Diary

Johnny Depp’s star power should ensure that this adaptation of an early unsuccessful novel by his hero, Hunter S Thompson, gets plenty of attention. Adapted and directed by Bruce Robinson, who gave usWithnail and I, this take of unruly and perilously thirsty journalists will be near-unavoidable this spring, if only because we journalists love films about journalists.


The runaway train came down the track and she blew. Luckily, Denzel Washington was there to stop her, because this particular train was loaded with all manner of toxic nastiness and headed straight for a Pennysylvania town. Based on a real event that took place in 2001 near Columbus, Ohio, Unstoppable will be putting us all off rail travel in November 2010.

Wall Street 2

Michael Douglas’s unscrupulous stock market trader, jailed at the end of Wall Street, has served his 20 year sentence and is back on the street. It’s 2008 and he wants to prevent a global financial crash. We all know how that turns out. He’ll need an impressionable young trader to explain things to so that those of us who don’t know anything about big business (and that includes quite a few hedge fund managers) can understand the plot. Cue Shia LeBoef, who seems to specialise in these roles. It will be interesting to see whether the global financial hullabaloo will sharpen interest in this belated sequel, or whether the overdose of real financial news we’ve been exposed to of late will make Wall Street 2 an irrelevance.

When In Rome

Older readers, and I include myself in that cohort, may remember Three Coins In The Fountain, a 1950s romantic drama with a devilishly memorable theme song that seemed to be on TV every afternoon throughout the Sxities. When In Rome is the same story brought up to date and with a few extra chuckles added for good measure. Starring Kristen Bell and featuring Danny Devito and Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder, this sounds like an agreeable enough romcom but one which will struggle to compete with Sex And The City 2, which is released at around the same time. Official Site

Edge of Darkness

This Hollywood version of the 1985 conspiracy thriller made by the BBC stars Mel Gibson as Thomas Craven, a Boston cop who tried to solve his daughter’s murder only to have an enormous political conspiracy unravel in his hands. Ray Winstone turns up as a CIA operative and the original TV show’s director, Martin Campbell, is back in the big chair. Official Site Trailer

Green Zone

Bourne director Paul Greengrass reconnects with Matt Damon to make this searching drama about the war in Iraq. As he did with United 93, which depicted the events of September 11 2001, Greengrass shows no fear of touching on contemporary events to inform his work. Based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s 2006 book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, the movie is likely to express a somewhat jaundiced view of America’s involvement in Iraq. Trailer


Phillip Noyce, best known for his Jack Ryan movies, directs Angelina Jolie in an ‘agent on the run’ thriller that suggest echoes of the Bourne trilogy. A CIA operative (Angelina Jolie) is wrongly accused of being a double agent and is forced to go undercover to clear her name. Tom Cruise ceded the lead role to Jolie, giving the rather well-used plot a welcome gender twist. We know Noyce can do espionage (Clear And Present Danger) and thrills (Dead Calm) and we know Jolie can do action (Wanted). Salt(which alludes to the protagonist's name rather than any 1980s arms treaty) seems set to be an efficient if perhaps rather unoriginal thrill ride. Trailer

Shutter Island

Leonardo DiCaprio, the thinking woman’s Norman Lamont, finally sheds his teen idol image in this eerie psycho-chiller from Martin Scorsese. It’s a change of pace from Scorsese too, with nary a gangster (or theocratic boy-king or 19th-century social outcast) to be seen. Just what is the mysterious conspiracy that surrounds the missing patient at the mental hospital? Is Ben Kingsley as sinister as he acts? Or even more sinister than that? Official Site Trailer


Monthly Poem


When icicles hang by the wall

And Dick the shepherd blows his nail

And Tom bears logs into the hall,

And milk comes frozen home in pail,

When Blood is nipped and ways be foul,

Then nightly sings the staring owl,


Tu-whit, tu-who: a merry note,

While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all aloud the wind doth blow,

And coughing drowns the parson's saw,

And birds sit brooding in the snow,

And Marian's nose looks red and raw

When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,

Then nightly sings the staring owl,


Tu-whit, tu-who: a merry note,

While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

William Shakespeare

More poems from William Shakespeare

Not Enough

A couple is boarding a flight and about to take their seats. Both are in their sixties. A steward asks them: “How long have you been together?” “Not enough”, answers the lady with a little smile.

Light Side

Husband: Why are the meatballs in different sizes?

Wife: Well, you asked for some variety in the food I cook.

Peace and love.

Yours as ever,


My last communications are available on

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