Afghanistan’s last Jew

January 30, 2012 § 1 Comment

Having lived through Communism, the mujaheddin and the Taliban, Zebolon Simontov is the last remaining Jew in Afghanistan.

Israel to become biggest jailer of refugees

January 28, 2012 § 5 Comments

Lia Tarachansky reports from Israel.

Knesset approves plan to jail asylum seekers for longest period of western world in biggest prison.

Hardtalk with Gore Vidal

January 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

This one is from 2008. Gore Vidal on the BBC’s Hardtalk.

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The Iron Lady

January 26, 2012 § 2 Comments

The Iron Lady is currently in showing in British cinemas. The trailer seems to suggest that Margaret Thatcher advanced the cause of women. In a recent interview Meryl Streep confessed how much more she had come to appreciate Thatcher’s contributions to feminism. It all reminded me of this clip from The Onion.

Torture in Libya

January 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

It is a shame that Libya’s new rulers have failed so miserably to distinguish themselves from their predecessor.

The UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay has raised concerns about Libya’s armed brigades and the treatment of more than 8,500 detainees, majority of whom are from sub-Saharan Africa.

Addressing the UN Security Council on the situation in Libya, Pillay warned that, “lack of oversight by the central authorities creates an environment conducive to torture and ill treatment.” She urged the Libyan ministry of justice and the prosecutor’s office to take over the detention centres.

Voices

January 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Coriolanus in the public forum from Ralph Fiennes’s excellent adaptation.

Here’s the full speech:

Most sweet voices!
Better it is to die, better to starve,
Than crave the hire which first we do deserve.
Why in this woolvish toge should I stand here,
To beg of Hob and Dick, that do appear,
Their needless vouches? Custom calls me to’t:
What custom wills, in all things should we do’t,
The dust on antique time would lie unswept,
And mountainous error be too highly heapt
For truth to o’er-peer. Rather than fool it so,
Let the high office and the honour go
To one that would do thus. I am half through;
The one part suffer’d, the other will I do.

Here come more voices.
Your voices: for your voices I have fought;
Watch’d for your voices; for Your voices bear
Of wounds two dozen odd; battles thrice six
I have seen and heard of; for your voices have
Done many things, some less, some more your voices:
Indeed I would be consul.

Indians Against Democracy

January 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

by Pankaj Mishra

Growing up in India in the 1970s and 80s, I often heard people in upper-caste middle class circles say that parliamentary democracy was ill-suited to the country. Recoiling from populist politicians who pandered to the poor, many Indians solemnly invoked the example of Singapore’s leader Lee Kuan Yew. Here was an Oxbridge-educated and suitably enlightened autocrat, who suffered no nonsense about democracy, and, furthermore, believed firmly in the efficacy of publicly caning even minor breakers of the law. Devising his wise policies with the help of experts and technocrats, he simply imposed them on the population. Lee Kuan Yew’s success in transforming a city-state into a major economic power was apparent to all: clean, shiny, efficient, and prosperous Singapore, the very antithesis of corrupt and squalor-prone India.

Such yearnings for technocratic utopia may seem to have little in common with the middle class protests against “corruption” that recently gained much attention before abruptly losing steam at the end of the year. Led by Anna Hazare—an army veteran described in the foreign press as a “simple man in a Gandhian cap” when he went on a hunger strike last summer— the movement was presented by sections of the media in both India and the West as a long overdue political awakening of the middle class, even as India’s “second freedom struggle.” With his unambiguous denunciations of venality in public life, Hazare seemed to have alerted tens of millions of otherwise apolitical Indians to the possibilities of civil society, mass mobilization, and grass-roots activism.

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Ralph Fiennes on Coriolanus

January 24, 2012 § 1 Comment

I watched Ralph Fiennes’s superb directorial debut Coriolanus last night. It is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays and Fiennes does it justice with a gritty adaptation, using a documentary camera technique. Like Orson Welles’s Julius Caesar, the play is transposed to modern times while retaining the Shakespearean language. The questions of power, representation, umbilical bonds, and the conflict between liberty and security are given a contemporary relevance. The adaptation is artistically bolder than Julie Taymor’s excellent Titus, even if Taymor’s adaptation was more creative and seamless in incorporating modern motifs into an ancient, rather more fantastic story. The performances, particularly Fiennes’s and Vanessa Redgrave’s, are outstanding. The only quibble I have is Coriolanus’s strutting. Shakespeare’s Coriolanus is confident of his own physical and moral superiority, he has nothing to prove. Whereas Fiennes’s Coriolanus is often stiff and affected, as if he feels the need to keep reminding others of his strength. The tattoo on the neck was just out of place. Gerard Butler is far more relaxed in his role, even if his performance is somewhat lacking in conviction. Lubna Azabal, last seen in the Canadian film Incendies, is convincing as the intense and rebellious Tamora.

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The Colossal Folly of War in Afghanistan

January 24, 2012 § 3 Comments

by Ralph Nader

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is testing so much futuristic detect and destroy weaponry that it can be called the most advanced all-seeing invasion in military history. From blanket satellite surveillance to soldiers’ infra-red vision to the remotely guided photographing, killer drones to the latest fused ground-based imagery and electronic signal intercepts, the age of robotic land, sea, and air weaponry is at hand.

U.S. and NATO soldiers and contractors greatly outnumber the Taliban, whose sandals and weapons are from the past century. Still, with the most sophisticated arsenals ever deployed, why are U.S. generals saying that less than 30,000 Taliban fighters, for almost a decade, have fought the U.S. led forces to a draw?

Perhaps one answer can be drawn from a ceremony that could be happening in various places in that tormented country. That is, a Jirga of elders awarding a young fighter the Jirga medal of honor for courage on the battlefield, which often happens to be their village or valley.

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Vangelis composes Arab Awakening score

January 21, 2012 § 1 Comment

Legendary musician Vangelis composes Arab Awakening music for Al Jazeera. The Oscar-winning composer of movie scores such as Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner has devised a tune for the Arab Awakening. The musical score will be aired on Saturday.

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