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  • The BBC and HBO teamed up to create "Dirty War", a 90 minute TV movie about a terrorist "dirty bomb" attack in London. The film gets down to business quickly as it packs both the terrorist and the government anti-terrorist efforts into the film leaving little room for human interest subplots. On the terrorist side we follow the bomb from the smuggling of radioactive materials to assembly to deployment to detonation. On the government side we see PR and training exercises, intelligence gathering and analysis, interdiction, post-detonation response, and follow up. The film also imparts a sense of how Al-Qa'ida type terrorist cells are organized, the radical Islamic terrorist mentality, and terrorist strategies. A sort of anatomy of a "dirty bomb" incident, "Dirty War" will answer many questions lurking in the minds of a public becoming ever more aware of this insidious threat. (B)
  • Well this movie certainly was in keeping with the current times. No happy endings, super-heroes, or miracles here. Just down-to-earth fiction to stimulate our minds along the lines of terrorism, and what-ifs. Kudos to Percival and Mickery for an excellent screenplay and superb direction by Percival. Films like this are needed to keep us aware of what is out there. If every peace-loving man and woman on earth reported obviously suspicious activities I believe terrorism could not thrive. This movie showed just how hard it really is to subvert these terrorists, even with good intelligence. Even though the film is a bit propagandist against Islam (the use of a Muslim police officer as a main character) I believe it was entirely realistic. There was meant to be shock-value in the bombing incident. As a very clever tool to relay the humility and indignity of people caught up in an attack such as this, they showed full nudity of women being decontaminated post-attack. It didn't take me long to realize that this was meant to even further instill into the viewer that thought, i.e., we are not in control of everything in a situation like this. Although this took place in London, with the usual high-level British acting, it makes a statement for any part of the world. Great movies don't have to be blockbuster epic productions, and this movie is very very worthy of viewing.
  • It's hard to imagine an American movie like this. The dirty bomb is not seen to explode. We only know it's gone off because London trembles. Even if we had seen it detonate, a dirty bomb is not a patch on a thermonuclear device. Only a few shots are fired and nobody's head disintegrates. There are no sneering greaseball villains, only devout men and women and their children. There is full frontal nudity during decontamination but it is handled so matter of factly, and the bodies themselves are so ordinary, that one feels only embarrassment for the characters.

    I won't go into the plot in any detail. Basically its about a group of radical Muslims who detonate a dirty bomb in London, and the attempt of British control agents to prevent it and then to contain it. That's about it.

    The movie is not sensationalistic in any way and is sometimes a bit hard to follow. One of the principals is an attractive Muslim police officer who has to explain to her colleagues (and to us groundlings) that only a tiny fraction of Muslims are fanatics and so forth, as if we needed it. (We didn't need the speech because the film illustrates the point.) It makes a few cogent points. One police officer observes that they know 90 percent of what the IRA are up to, and yet a few attacks still get through. How can they effectively prevent attacks by radical Muslims about whom they know practically nothing? Well -- they can't, of course, and neither can anyone else. All it takes to pull off such an event is a little organization, a knowledge of chemistry, and a willingness to die. It's like murdering a President or a monarch. If you want to do it badly enough, it can be done.

    The British police are seen playing roughhouse with the captured organizer of the plot -- dunking his head in a bath tub to make him talk about the next target, and so forth. During his interrogation the organizer mentions atrocity against Muslims in Kabul and Bagdhad as an explanation for the attack. The police remind him that he has a wife and child and that they are now in custody, but the organizer isn't perturbed. "What will this accomplish?" they ask him. "You know there will be retaliation." And he says placidly, comfortable in his skin, "We expect your retaliation. It is what unites us and divides you." Once social organizations get into these kinds of conflicts, they seem to turn into schoolyard fist fights. Push-Pull machines. One side says we're doing this because you hit us first. The other side says, maybe, but I was just hitting you because you hit me yesterday. Oh, yeah? What about last week when you knocked the books out of my hand? Well I only did that because your father insulted my grandfather one thousand years ago.

    I realize the movie deals with a real subject and that the subject is serious, and I realize my example is silly. Yet there does seem to be something in human nature that drives us into conflict with one another, and of course it's always the other party's fault, not ours. I wonder if some day, given the survival of our species, we may find that the same primitive subcortical structures are involved in a schoolyard fight and a global war.

    Homo "sapiens", my foot.
  • London is no different from any other major Western city – it is a target for terrorism. As such the Government makes noise about the risk and being alert, sending out booklets for the public to feel secure but also on edge, while the security forces within the UK prepare the best they can. A biological attack response drill highlights the weaknesses of the possible response. While the anti-terrorism unit of Scotland Yard continue to try and get inside-information, politicians debate the risks in stuffy boardrooms, while also keeping the realities of the situation from the public. While the security forces follow a lead from a notebook found on a raid, a small group of Islamic fundamentalists smuggle radioactive material into the UK and begin planning for a major terrorist strike using low-grade nuclear material in a primitive 'dirty' bomb.

    You can argue about whether this film is a jump to seize on fears over terrorism to get ratings; or that it is only going to worry people; or that it helps the terrorists by giving them insider information on possible responses but what this film should do is inform about the realities of the possible situation. Percival previously made Smallpox 2002; another timely film about the outcome of a biological attack. It was an effective film whose only real weakness is that the 'video diary' approach made it feel a little bit like amateur hour with the cast not really being as convincing as they should have been. Here the film takes the style of more of a drama than anything else so we start with the bomb attack being set up and we go from there. Although the film is written to make a point, it is also a good drama and at times it felt I was watching series 2 of 24 at some points. The film doesn't seem to contain anything that would tell terrorists a great deal about what is going on – or at least no more than any Hollywood film would; the makers may have had advice from the Government on the film but I thought it was public knowledge about listening to chatter, raids, links with other bodies etc?

    The film is useful in a way because it made me think about the risks and what would actually happen if the worst did happen. Like one of the characters said 'we knew what the IRA was doing 90% of the time but they still got through – with these guys we know very little', so the risk is there even if some would have you believe it is spin. However the film is not blind to the problems of planning and there are many scenes near the start that present this. Police say not enough is done but politicians point out that giving everyone a gasmask on the tube would cause panic; politicians talk up the training of the emergency services, but the actual officers try to work out what a drill with 60 'casualties' has to do with the real situation of a city of millions in turmoil. There are no easy answers but the film provided me a lot more information and food for thought than the Government's recent booklet. In case you haven't seen it, the booklet lists what the populace should do in the event of an emergency; in most cases the idea is to stock up on tinned, processed foods and stay indoors watching TV for announcements – watching TV and eating junk food? The Government does not need to tell the majority of us to do that, we're already there!

    The cast are much better than the Smallpox film and the decision to play it as a drama means that it has a better impact as a drama and not just as an issue film of its time. The fact that it 'could' happen obviously makes it pretty exciting but the drama is good enough on its own to be exciting and rather unnerving. Whether or not it helped me I can't say but I did enjoy the film (if enjoy is the right word) and felt it was very professionally made. It came across as a balanced presentation of reality and was aware of the good work done/being done but also the limitations of any planning or possible response actions. However this it is not so balanced as to not pour out criticism where it is deserved and a scene where a politician condemns the terrorists and praises the resilience of Londoners while the world falls to pieces behind her is particularly effective. One thing it didn't do as well as I would have liked was to actually resolve the situation – it ends suddenly and doesn't link to the scenes of chaos that had gone just minutes before it – but this is a minor complaint and I suppose it couldn't keep upping the ante without drawing it to a close at some point.

    A wider downside to the film is that, because it's topical, the BBC had to follow it with a live studio debate featuring 'experts' and an audience who have just seen the film and are still knee-jerking over it. Angry Muslims raged about how they were all painted as terrorists (even though the film had gone to silly lengths to do just the opposite); mothers wept about how they would get their kids from school (even though the film made it clear you stay where you are); angry right-wingers (not Giggs) confirmed that it is all happening because too many of 'them' are getting in. Meanwhile any voice of balance or reason from the panel was lost as they all tried to push their own agenda – the guy from the Muslim Council of Britain being the worst, just pushing his own line no matter what he was asked.

    Overall this is a very good drama special that manages to come across as very realistic. As a piece of fiction or as non-fiction, it is engaging and very interesting – painting a balanced view of the planning limitations prior to an attack in an entertaining but interesting fashion. However, as a view of a possible response, it is chilling at times and does well to show London covered in a nuclear cloud – with the British love of orderly queuing very quick to vanish in the face of a crisis. A timely, entertaining, chilling and worthwhile drama – at some points it is a documentary while at others it comes across as 24; in both ways it works, producing a film well worth seeking out.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Daniel Percival's "Dirty War", a BBC production made for television was shown recently on cable. The film has a documentary style in the way it goes after the people that caused the near holocaust in one of the big metropolis of the world, London. In fact, this film, produced in 2004 is almost a cautionary tale of the events of the following year, in which terrorists set explosive devices in the public transport that killed innocent people that were in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

    The film impresses for the pace the director and the production team gave to the project. There are no dull moments in the movie as we watch the preparation by the terrorists and the people that are following their dirty work. Although the inevitable happens, it's amazing just to think what would be the consequences if a real 'dirty bomb' was planted in such a densely populated area.

    The last images of the film have a chilling effect. The mob scenes and the way the whole area is contaminated send shivers of fear, thinking how it could possible happen anywhere.
  • Dirty Bomb does an excellent job of illustrating how the public would panic if a Dirty Bomb was detonated, but does a poor job on the technical side by overstating the dangers of the radioactive substances released by such a device. The writer has a poor handle on the measurement of radioactivity, and adds to the scare by being non descript as to the substances used. I was disappointed with the portrayal of emergency services and how the leaders where willing to pull back crews so quickly after the event, I feel they would actually be much more heroic as a whole, and not as scared as they where portrayed. Relistically speaking, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were subject to the release of a lot more radioactive substances and radiation than any dirty bomb would ever release, and they where rebuilt within a few years, and people live there today. Despite the technical inaccuracy, The movie does illustrate terrorists greatest tool, the ability to instill a sense of panic in the public.
  • pepekwa31 July 2007
    I lived in London most of my adult life before I moved stateside so missed this film when it came out and only saw this now on HBO. I disagree with anyone who thinks this should have been a Hollywood production, the UK team gave it a chilling and foreboding atmosphere from day one and I was on the edge of my seat for the last 30 minutes wondering what was going to happen to my home city. And of course,nine months after the film comes out 7/7 happens. Yes, the truth is stranger than fiction. Having lived in both countries, it is also clear the likelihood of this happening in the UK is much greater than in the US, muslims live in ghettos and isolate themselves in the UK, in the US they assimilate much more readily.
  • szymke24 January 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    I have just watched "Dirty War," and I want to recommend for various reasons. Some of these reasons are out of the skill and talent that were brought together to make an amazing and frightfully realistic piece of film-making. Other reasons are personal, political, and perhaps even philosophical. This is not one for the squeamish.

    How do I begin? I can only compare my viewing of "Dirty War" to the absolute horror that I experienced the first time I saw "The Day After". Say what you will about Jason Robards, but it was Steve Guttenburg's best performance since "Diner".

    In "Dirty War" director Daniel Percival has taken material that could have been a simple little B-Movie of the week on nuclear terrorism and turned it into a masterful work. In form, the documentary hand-held camera style, with the well-rounded cast of characters who represent the various levels of the government response are ripped out of the disaster film genre formula handbook. However, once this one gets going, you hardly notice.

    The play book demands are met as we are introduced to our heroes and villains, which mimic an episode of "Spooks" (MI-5 to American audiences), until you begin to realize that as the show progresses, there is a countdown of days. I began having an emotional response to the tension. Suddenly, the stereotypical nature of the play book began to deviate closer to the 9-11 Commission Report. The similarities were striking, and getting more realistic.

    As a whole, my response to the visuals created by "Dirty War" were dredging up emotions that I have not felt since those days in late 2001. Like so many others, I followed those day's events on television, and witnessed the fires of the WTC in person shortly thereafter. Needless to say, those memories were brought forward while witnessing the staged images of the film. The BBC studio elements cleverly hidden in the background television monitors were absolutely brilliant.

    Although I work in film and I know the tricks, the effects, and how the heart strings are plucked, it was getting harder and harder for me to disassociate that knowledge from the bubbling anger that was swelling under my breath. "I wonder if he digitally 'grew' the crowd, to make it look like he had more people than he actually hired," I wondered.

    (Possible spoiler alert from this point further in this review…) This line of thinking was immediately halted once the decontamination centers were set up, and the women were stripped down and hosed off… which inevitably brought up the metaphors of Auschwitz and the concentration camps. My heart-strings were in full harmony at this point, and the full effect of the fact-or-fiction aspects of the film were swimming in my head. Is this film merely propaganda? Would it be just like this, or even worse? Would Londoner's really get on like that? Inevitably, I decided the best outcome of my viewing would be to spread the word of the effect this film had on my nervous system, and that it should be shared. This film is currently on HBO, and it will also be shown, in an edited fashion on PBS. It is worth seeking out in either form.
  • Uriah4311 January 2013
    Filmed in London, this is a story about the possibilities of a terrorist group detonating a "dirty bomb" in a major city. As the film goes on to show, the politicians responsible for showing leadership when it comes to planning for such a disaster have other concerns which seem more immediate and important to them. As a result, quite often funding for disaster preparedness takes a backseat to more pressing issues of the day. The acting was pretty good all around but I especially liked Koel Purie who played a detective named "Sameena Habibullah" who seemed to give the movie more depth as the Arabic interpreter. Even so, while the movie definitely had its share of suspense, I thought it released the tension too soon and as a result it was a bit unsatisfying in that regard. Still, it's a decent movie all the same and I think most people will enjoy it. Accordingly, I rate it as slightly above average.
  • The film is partly a thriller and partly a public-service announcement when seeing the events through the perspectives of politicians, terrorists and of course victims. In this smart drama lessons are given about contamination and surviving chaos while meantime the backstage look at the way crisis is managed prompts viewers to distrust guardians and to be scared by assailants. The film, originally aired on BBC, gets to arouse effectively doubts on official prepareparedness. Performances are proper, understated though never terrific. The flick is just a beginning, a provocative start leading to a larger discussion but it gets to work in my opinion, giving the right thrills and causing the audience to reason and to ask itself questions.
  • This movie was really interesting... it also is quite shocking as the similar events of the movie occurred only 10 months after the movie premiered.

    it was interesting seeing the problems that could be encountered and realistic enough to show that no matter how prepared you think you are - you aren't. if this was made for an American audience - it would be different because they would have used this as a full propaganda film and not as a wake call which the BBC did! it still is propaganda, in some extend - no film today with these themes can not be - but it dealt with the issue successfully.

    a film that should be shown in all terrorism/counter-terrorism courses but will not because it shows faults which is not allowed to be acknowledged! A great film in which the BBC took a few risks and unfortunately, London does not need a fictional tale any more, due to the reality of July 7 2005.
  • Before seeing this picture I was quite skeptic, I don't like movies with an agenda nor do I appreciate being scared into thinking like the writer. I was also afraid this would be like the 2-part mini-series "10.4" which had a far-fetched concept, little relation to the real world and very poor execution. At the beginning is says: "This film is fiction, but the events portrayed and the information about UK emergency planning are based on extensive research"; and the general feeling is that you're not being sold on an idea, but that you're being taught a lesson in civil awareness. The message that is being conveyed is obvious from the start: It is coming and we're not prepared. The use of real places and a scenario which not only could happen - There are plans for when it does - all add to the disturbing effect the movie will have, on even the most cynical of viewers. The movie's perspective is that of the society and it stays away from heart-breaking personal moments, which won't convey the message, so none of the Romeo-Juliet drama we're used to.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Seeing this film brought back to me memories of 9/11. The first thing I remember of that morning was seeing TV pictures of an airplane flying into a large building, and my immediate thoughts "Must be a preview for a new Tom Clancy film".

    This was not a Tom Clancy film. This was certainly not a British version of "The Sum Of All Fears". The typical Tom Clancy film or novel has a relatively small cast, a linear plot, and usually some sort of resolution. This film had neither. Sure, what I saw directly on screen was a small cast, a plot, and a vague resolution, but, like 9/11, the point was that reality was so much larger and more complex.

    I work in systems planning, and the reality of the disaster preparation exercise, and the disaster itself, is painfully obvious. It's impossible to prepare for a disaster like this, nor will it be any more possible to deal with this when it happens.

    From the argument between the police (Not enough is being done to prepare) and the politicians (Giving everybody on the tube a gasmask would cause panic), to the constant loudspeaker announcements (You are in no danger to your health, but don't go home before we decontaminate you), and (Don't eat, drink, or smoke before we decontaminate you), I was on edge during the entire film. Not the slightest urge to channel surf.

    This film was 90 minutes in length. It could have been twice that, and still not shown all the possible details. Instead, it left enough unsaid to allow each of us to imagine the details, each of us in our own way. That made it so much more real to me, than any Tom Clancy film.

    I lived in London once, and just off the Edgeware Road. And I took the train from Waterloo station many times. As I watched Dirty War, I kept telling myself that this is only fiction. Right now.

    Allah and Jehovah willing, this film will remain fiction, and sometime in 20 or 30 years, my nephews may watch this film and remember the early 21st Century, and the panic we felt too much. Hopefully to the same degree as I feel currently, when viewing memorabilia of the Cold War with the Evil Communist Regime of the mid-20th Century, and remember "Drop and cover" exercises in school.
  • Dirty War is absolutely one of the best political, government, and well written T.V. Drama's in the 25 years.

    The acting is superb, the writing is spectacular.

    Diry War reveals the true side of why we are not ready to respond to a Nuclear, Biological, and Radiological Terrorist Attack here on American soil.

    Dirty War should be made into a major motion picture - It's that good! I highly recommend this great drama to everyone who desire to know the truth.

    This T.V. drama reveals how British Intelligence (MI5 & MI6) attempt to expose a terrorist plot and conspiracy to destroy innocent victims -because of England's involvement in the Iraq War.

    The scenes of different parts of London, England are also spectacular.

    Dirty War is a must see!!!
  • Go_Skins24 February 2005
    I really liked this movie. I watched it last night on the Public Broadcasting System. The part I liked about it was the fact that they dealt with issues of today not in the future or the past. They basically had some terrorists take a van or two and rent them out to be car bombs. I think what the movie could have showed was people in different countries at the same time. It did show the fact that England, or any other country, isn't prepared for an attack on the magnitude that they showed. I have never heard of any of the actors or actresses in the movie so I can't really say if they are normally their parts. After the movie, they had this panel of experts talking about if something like that could happen here in the U.S. It was a thought-provoking discussion!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I thought that "Dirty War" was an extremely scary, very well-made thriller about a scenario that I pray to God doesn't happen in London, Washington DC, or anywhere else. Unlike another reviewer here, I didn't have any problem with the cinematography and high production values.

    I do find myself wondering if any expert on radiation and "dirty bombs" has weighed in about the science of "Dirty War" (i.e. how plausible the scenario was). For myself, I found myself wondering if one thing that was not shown was people simply vomiting by the truckload from radiation sickness.

    I also enjoyed the police hunt for the terrorists. I found the scene where the police discovered the second van and its dirty bomb to be unbearably tense (it reminded me of a similar scene in a similar American movie called "Special Bulletin" about nuclear terrorism).

    I also appreciated the scene that showed the Scotland Yard officer in essence torturing one of the terrorists in a desperate attempt to get information about follow-up attacks. I know that purists in the National Council for Civil Liberties, Amnesty International, the Amnerican Civil Liberties Union would condemn such acts, but if something like this happened in real life in the USA, I would form a legal defense committee for the police officer and petition Congress to give him a medal.

    The bottom line is that when the stakes are as high as shown in "Dirty War," the ends DO justify the means. I'm not happy about saying that, but if forcing a terrorist to talk would avert something so terrible, I'd enthusiastically support it. As someone once said, "The innocent have more rights than the guilty." On a final note, I did not have a problem with the "message" that there are "good Muslims" who despise al-Qaeda and everything Osama Bin Laden stands for (I just wish they'd be more outspoken). At least BBC and HBO had the guts to make a movie where the terrorists were actually cast out of reality as opposed to the fantasy neo-Nazis that Hollywood substituted for Islamic terrorists in "the Sum of All Fears." Anyway, I thought it was a great movie

    Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

    Sound format: Stereo

    Emergency services struggle to cope when Islamic terrorists detonate a so-called 'dirty bomb' in the middle of London.

    Daniel Percival's frightening movie uses all available evidence to dramatize the possible effects of a radioactive explosion in the heart of the UK capital, using the kind of documentary-style realism which has distinguished this particular subgenre since the 1960's. In essence, the film reveals a catalogue of flaws in the British government's current strategy for dealing with such terrorist outrages, and Percival's carefully-honed script (co-written by Lizzie Mickery) vents its spleen against mealy-mouthed politicians who would rather maintain the economic status quo than tackle this issue head-on. The film covers all necessary bases, and makes the salient point that this kind of terrorism is practised by a tiny handful of fanatics who have tarnished the Islamic faith with their reckless disregard for human life, though viewers won't be reassured by the subsequent scenes of devastation and horror. Not merely a drama, the film acts as a warning against complacency. Either that, or its just another post-9/11 scaremongering tactic. YOU be the judge...
  • Anyone remember the docudrama THREADS ? It's a drama documentary which shocked Britain in September 1984 . Whilst not exactly wholly entertained by Mick Jackson's nuclear holocaust horror film I could respect it . Unfortunately I can't respect this docudrama broadcast 20 years later which deals with terrorists letting off a radioactive dirty bomb in the centre of London

    The problem I have with it is that director Daniel Percival production values are far too good when in fact this would have benefited from rather cheap production values . The cinematography is superb but in this type of speculative drama do we need superb and well lit Oscar standard cinematography ? What we certainly don't need is a musical score as the survivors of the blast slowly stagger out of the smoke . Neither do we need vaguely well known cast members . Did anyone else sit there asking themselves " Hey what was he in ? I know that face " several times ? I know I did and it's very distracting .

    Perhaps the biggest production flaw with DIRTY WAR is that someone decided to make it a docudrama with too much stylistic emphasis on the drama . In THREADS the action cuts away from the action in Sheffield umpteen times and becomes an edition of HORIZON on the effects of nuclear war before cutting back to the fictional protagonists again and THREADS is very effective because of this . Here the information presented suffocates the drama which drowns in expositional and totally unconvincing dialogue . The characters in the teleplay aren't really characters they're just cyphers there to inform the audience what happens when radioactive material is exploded . It would have been better for the action to cut to captions to convey this type of information ala THREADS . The worse thing is that director Daniel Percival used the same technique as seen in THREADS a couple of years ago with his docudrama about smallpox . He should have used the same style with DIRTY WAR

    I should also lay my cards on the table and state that while I don't consider most Muslims are terrorists I am getting slightly fed up of TV productions like THE HAMBURG CELL , THE GRID and DIRTY WAR having to point out this fact to me by whalloping me over the head with it which is somewhat typical of patronising PC attitudes in TV companies nowadays

    I managed to miss the studio debate that Bob mentions here but I have also heard it discussed elsewhere and I can't help thinking it makes better viewing than DIRTY WAR itself with its heated arguments between differing factions of the political spectrum . If DIRTY WAR is remembered twenty years from now ( Highly unlikely I know ) it may well be remembered for the discussion it caused more than anything
  • This is one of those movies that could have (and should have) been picked up by a movie studio and done up to be an educational blockbuster, but for their own reasons (my guess is another attack) Hollywood never did. Which is a shame because it really is a story that does need to be told. Even more than "Finding Neverland" if you could believe it. Anyway, beside the premise for this movie which is a great one, this movie could have been a whole lot better - even for a made for TV movie. The cast is weak and the emotions they try and show look very overacted and fake. Probably the two best features of this film is seeing how the London police adapt all the technology that they used to use in tracking the IRA and apply it as best they can to the Muslim terrorists of today with mixed success. That and they teach how a terrorist cell is constructed and how it works. I realize that these plots are somewhat taboo in today's environment and a huge risk for a movie studio to risk a whole lot of money on, but this is a story that needs to be told and even though they tried as best they could, in the end they failed in this movie.
  • djsloves6 October 2006
    Highly suggest not to watch this film 'TV' if not mentally mature enough , the film create quite realistic simulation with the steps how they prevent from terrorism if such touch wood incident happened , London suppose a Lovely and chill ful City , while these kind of wars still going on , just wasting the time and money for study and Living, every time passing around P Square, the feeling really obvious, uncomfortable actually , I don't want to vote , the scored means nothing , just 4 'fill in the blank'

    Only Safty and Positive thinking cities encourage better Economy and investors to keep investing Time,Energies and Money