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March 31, 2009
Posted: 1957 GMT

CNN Correspondent Atia Abawi

AfghanistanNearly eight years in and the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating drastically.  And it seems that President Barack Obama agrees, laying out a new strategy and focus on the war and the region.  But to the Afghan people these are just more promises after seven years of broken promises.   
 
Afghans have lived through three decades of war, for many that is all they know.  It is about survival in a land of destruction.  Many joining the ranks of insurgent groups just so they can put food on the table.  And these are some of the people that Obama would like to reach out to.
 
"There is an uncompromising core of the Taliban. They must be met with force, and they must be defeated," Obama said, "But there are also those who have taken up arms because of coercion, or simply for a price. These Afghans must have the option to choose a different course."
 
President Obama is also calling for a larger civilian force to help rebuild the country.  This is a necessity in a nation where time seems to have stopped in 1979 during the starts of the Soviet invasion.  The country is currently rife with corruption that seems to stem from the highest levels of their government.  
 
"We need agricultural specialists and educators; engineers and lawyers. That is how we can help the Afghan government serve its people, and develop an economy that isn't dominated by illicit drugs," Obama outlined.
 
And a key factor will be to train the Afghan Forces, Obama promising 4,000 military trainees on top of the 17,000 combat troops he had already approved earlier in the year.
 
The Afghan National Army (ANA) has been a seeming success story in Afghanistan, slowly gaining support from the Afghan people. But the Afghan National Police (ANP) a failure in the eyes of the people.  Some Afghans are forced to turn to the Taliban for protection because threats they receive from the police and corrupt government officials.  
 
But the seeming success story of the ANA hitting a sour point just hours before President Obama's televised address.  A soldier from the Afghan National Army shot at four coalition service members in Northern Afghanistan, killing two.  
 
If this is considered one of the successes, today's incident proves there is a long way to go to stabilize Afghanistan.

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Posted: 1457 GMT

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Posted: 1451 GMT

Hello everyone,

Just as I settled in to write this, our international desk put London-based correspondent Paula Newton on the air: breaking news – the Bank of England has just been evacuated after a bomb threat.

The city is on edge as the G20 meeting starts getting under way. Bankers are the bad guys, these days. Central bankers are also responsible for this mess, say the critics, so any package left unattended in the financial district is assumed to be a bomb.

Anti-globalization and other groups have promised protests. Bankers are told not to wear suits Wednesday so as not to attract attention. Bankers are the new villains. When times are tough, people need someone to blame. The heroes of the market boom say they are now victims of with hunts and global mass hysteria. Ditch the pinstripes and Thomas Pink shirts – it's for your own protection.

We'll be covering the security and the political angles of the G20 meeting. Financier George Soros says the G20 is a "make or break" event for markets. French President Nicolas Sarkozy says he will get up and leave if no concrete measures come out of the meeting. We'll take you live to Paris for more on that.

Also on tap: the Afghanistan conference in the Hague. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is there with a high level Iranian presence. We'll look at what was discussed a few days after President Obama announced an increase in troop levels and money to the Afghan war.

We will be running my interview with European Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana. He tells me the E.U will do more to help solve teh Afghanistan crisis. Tune in to find out how.

All that and the day's markets in just over an hour.

See you on TV,

Hala

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March 30, 2009
Posted: 1804 GMT

U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement that 4,000 more troops would be sent to Afghanistan (on top of 17,000 he's already promised to send) wasn't a small affair what with a highly public press conference held to announce it.  

And it also drew a strong response from all of you who come here to share your thoughts and participate in our poll. Below we wanted to highlight some of your thoughts on this subject from the past week. Some comments have been edited for length:

The situation over in the Middle East will never change. So do something else with the money that is being spent on that situation over there. Give it to the American people! (Yeah, right!)
Like I stated in another article, give money to senior citizens that are working, so they can retire. They can pay of their mortgages, buy American made car, put the rest in savings, stop giving them social security. That would then help the economy, create more jobs and help or even stop giving social security.

-Debbie

 

I'm living in Iran,I'm suffering from the same ideology of my compatriots but the main thing is that this ideology is not gonna be defeated by war,bombs,troops,the people are step by step getting away form the ideology because the new generation understands that this islamic beliefs are not gonna work in the modern society,the only thing the western countries should do is to guide the people into new things,correct ones. Because most people when they get new ideas,they dont get correct ones.

-Armin

 

I understand people desperation because of the economical crisis, but we can't forget that are people in the world that are in worst living situations then ours...Social help is need for countries like Afghanistan. It will probably help more to battle Al Qaeda then by simply reinforcing the numbers of military there.
People who are hungry, who have lost everything, and in addition, who live with daily violence and war, are easier to be recruited by any terrorist movement. Al Qaeda probably promises those people the social, economical and even spiritual help that others refuse to give them...
It's great you have a job, you can pay your house rent, by a car... but at the end... will the misery of others make you feel safer and better despite all you have?
When the world will understand that it's not enough that we have a great life between the boards of our country, when there are others struggling to survive, fighting for human rights, fighting for land, religion, or justice... fighting simply to be alive?

-Thot

 

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Posted: 1525 GMT

Hello everyone,

We'll be covering the disgraced CEO du jour today at the I-Desk.

General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner was politely asked to leave by the Obama administration Friday and he did. At the company's helm since 2000, GM not only lost its place as largest car manufacturer in the world to Toyota but hemorrhaged $82 billion in the last four years alone.

Its share of the American market has also plummeted. It lost ground to foreign competitors in its own backyard. Harsh words from President Obama, who said there's been "a lot of mismanagement" in Detroit over the last few years.

But wait a minute. I'm confused. The person succeeding Wagoner is his heir apparent, Fritz Henderson. How is this a big change? Also, he may have moved too slowly, but Wagoner managed to slash GM's workforce and create  overseas production facilities. Is this just "political theatre" as some analysts are calling it, to appease the public, sick of taxpayer bailouts?

Either way, GM – and other American car makers – have failed to adapt their fleet of giant gas-guzzlers to today's market and are paying the price.

The possibility that a mammoth like GM could still face bankruptcy is scaring markets. Car shares are dragging indexes lower today. We'll be live in Detroit and on Wall Street.

Also today at the I-Desk, a shocking case of incest, reminiscent of Austria's Josef Fritzl. This time, it allegedly took place in Colombia, where a 59-year old father is accused of raping his daughter and fathering seven children with her over several decades. We'll be live in Colombia with the public outrage.

And the G20 meeting is about to kick off in the UK. We'll take you live to London for a preview of the crucial financial summit.

Plus a look at the latest Madonna adoption controversy with a live report from Africa. She's in Malawi applying to adopt a daughter. She's faced criticism that she is getting preferential treatment. With all the problems in the world today, Madonna  possibly getting an adoption shortcut in Malawi certainly doesn't make my shortlist of concerns.

See you on TV,

Hala

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Posted: 1509 GMT

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March 27, 2009
Posted: 1452 GMT

Hello everyone,

President Obama is staying true to a key campaign promise: shifting more American troops to Afghanistan and setting goals for the country. Barack Obama is also asking Congress to approve triple the amount of economic and social aid to Pakistan, a country where Al Qaeda extremists have been gathering strength.

The wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan are against an ideology that is far from being defeated since 9/11. The question is: how do you win it?

Military might? Social aid? Direct investment? Building schools and roads and bridges? A combination of the above? Take part in today's I-Desk poll and give us your view.

We'll also be going live to Baghdad to chat with Nic Robertson about Obama's Afghanistan plan, as well as Bill Schneider, who will tell us what ordinary Americans think about the planned troop surge in the region.

Also on tap: the latest from the flood zone in North Dakota and a fascinating study on women aged 18 to 34 (a group I'm sadly not part of anymore.) Turns out 25% say they would rather win a modelling competition than the Nobel Peace Prize.

No comment.

See you on TV,

Hala

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Posted: 1412 GMT

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March 26, 2009
Posted: 1857 GMT

It seems Twitter's the new thing now. Everybody's doing it– or at least every body who's anybody ( I mean come on Hala has a new account-which I'll comment on...just wait). Or perhaps it's just anybody who is paying attention to what everybody seems to be doing when in all actuality it's really a small minority who are actually doing it. Whatever. In the news world anything techy that can help reach viewers is latched onto with a revelatory glee thus becoming transformative, interactive and ultimately bilateral. Whatever.

 I got into an argument the other night with a few people who work at CNN.Com. They were promoting the idea that Twitter is self-reflective. In other words it allows us to be more cognizant of what we're doing and of the world around us. I don't know if I buy that. In fact, I really don't buy that. And even if it were true why must we compress our observations into a 140-character, language-deforming entry. I don't eat my food and then go and cook that same food for everybody so they can have a taste too. What happened to privacy and personal experience?

 But being the upbeat and cheerful person that I am (injecting the clichés here) always looking at 'the glass half-full' or the 'money well spent' I've chosen to embrace the concept for reasons I will summarily list:

 First of all, it blurs the societal walls of celebrity that have become our own class-system. Anyone can sign on and 'follow' anybody else. This means you, normal person, can interact with Mr. A-list celebrity on an equal footing. On Twitter we're all equal, we are all reduced to a scant word max. Yes, we can now all communicate without fear or embarrassment of our level of education, fame, bank account size or of getting a restraining order.

 Secondly, and more importantly here, as a news platform it's unequivocally priceless. The real-time response it allows is essential to breaking down the fourth wall of TV. Unlike Facebook or Myspace, it reduces social-networking to verbal (or really written) interaction at it's most simple levels.  I write something, you write back. We correspond. No photos or quizzes or walls. It cuts out the convoluted interface. Instead of the site being the star the user is.

 So now, Hala, as I said earlier, has become a Twitterer (yes it's a noun that I imagine will be in Webster's Dictionary soon enough with its own special category, right there with Googler.) She denies her addiction but it's very real. And it will only get worse. So in order to satiate her burgeoning lust (and in order to chat with her) you can find her-if you too are a twitterer-under her name. Yes easy enough, we all know it.

And maybe I too will get on twitter. But I doubt it. I don't really pay attention to much.

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Posted: 1830 GMT
We will intermittently post trivia on this here blog. Quotables and notables and other things of fancy. There will be a prize...of some sort. Leave your guess in the comment section!
 
Which correspondent wrote the  following note today to Hala via email:
Hala: "Where are you?"
Answer: "Rotting in the bloody bureau."  

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International Desk brings viewers into the heart of the largest news gathering operation in the world. Viewers don't come here to watch the news; they come here to be immersed in it. To feel the rush of being the first to know what's happening as stories break, and to leave knowing they've gotten the best and latest information available. The show airs Mon-Fri at 1900 CET.

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