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August 21, 2009
Posted: 1836 GMT

Today, we heard Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke tell a banking conference in the U.S. state of Wyoming that chances the economy would return to growth in "the near term" were "good."

Add to that figures out today indicating existing home sales for July jumped to their highest level in two years.

Sprinkle a few good corporate earnings reports and you have a triple digit rise on Wall Street for the Dow Jones.

We are flirting with a close over
9,500 and, despite weaknesses in some sectors and the near certainty that disappointing economic reports will spoil today's bull party, the hope among many top economists is that the worst is now behind us.

We'll take you live to Wall Street for the latest market action.

Also today, we're live in Kabul. A day after presidential elections in Afghanistan, there are allegations of fraud and the two main candidates are already claiming victory, days before official results are due to be announced.

Atia Abawi joins us from the Afghan capital.

And we will also take you to Iraq, where officials are scrambling to put security barriers up in key areas around Baghdad after insurgent attacks killed more than 100 people Wednesday. Will it be enough to prevent deadly attacks like the string of bombings that killed so many just a couple of days ago?

Plus, the fall-out from the return to Libya of convicted Locerbie bomber Abdel Baset Al Megrahi. The U.K. and U.S. have both reacted angrily to his homecoming. We'll tell you why.

Off to prepare for that and the rest of the show.

See you on TV,

Hala

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August 20, 2009
Posted: 1809 GMT

LOCKerbie

Our poll today has generated a lot of interest and hundreds of you have voted already. On the day Scottish authorities freed the only man convicted in connection with the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland, we've been asking if you agree with the decision.

Scottish justice officials have allowed Abdelbaset Ali Al Megrahi to return home to Lybia on "compassionate grounds," because he is in the final stages of terminal cancer.

We'll read out results from our poll, and take you live to Scotland and the Middle East for reaction to Megrahi's release.

In the first edition of Idesk, we spoke to the brother of one of the victims of Pan Am 103 who vehemently disagreed with the decision to free Al Megrahi. In the next edition, we'll speak with Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the bombing, who argues that the man convicted of the bombing is a scapegoat and who agrees with the decision to allow him to return to Libya.

Also today, we'll go live to Afghanistan for the latest on presidential elections in the volatile country. It's only the second time ever Afghans have been able to elect their own president. Violence levels were lower, but there are reports of low voter turnout and instances of apparent fraud.

Plus, we'll take you live to Baghdad, where authorities have had to backtrack on moves to "normalize" the Iraqi capital by removing blastwalls and some checkpoints. Yesterday's coordinated bombings in Iraq that killed at least 100 people have forced security officials to reconsider extreme measures to protect civilians from bomb attacks. Arwa Damon is live to Baghdad.

And did you know someone has actually taken the trouble to categorize "annoying Facebook" personalities? There are the compulsive updaters, the friend hoarders, the hysterical inviters.. Join us at the International Desk to find out if you qualify for one or several of the categories!

Oh and Marc McKay and I will chat about the latest Usain Bolt/Tyson Gay face-off.

That, and the rest of the day's top weather and business stories, of course.

See you on TV,

Hala

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Posted: 1434 GMT
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August 19, 2009
Posted: 1843 GMT

It is the kind of violence everyone hoped Iraq had overcome, the bloodbath at the height of sectarian and insurgent violence.

Today, in Baghdad, there was a reminder that almost after two months after U.S. troops withdrew into their bases, insurgent attacks can still create bloody chaos in war-torn Iraq.

We'll go live to Baghdad for the latest on a series of coordinated explosions that have claimed almost 100 lives in the Iraqi capital.

Also today, violence in Afghanistan on the eve of important presidential elections. Atia Abawi is in Kabul. We'll go to Pakistan, as well, where the country's foreign minister is talking to CNN about Afghanistan and the Taliban.

An interesting story today about New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who is meeting with North Korean diplomats at the governor's mansion in Santa Fe. The North Koreans are the ones who reportedly asked for these meetings. We'll go live to New Mexico for a report on what is coming out of the meetings.

Plus, I'll talk to a cyber law specialist on a fascinating ruling that could impact how ordinary people blog. A former model has won the right to force google to divulge the identity of a blogger who insulted her online.

This means the former model, Liskula Cohen, can sue the cyber heckler. Is this a good thing? Or is this a dangerous precedent that threatens everyone's online privacy?

We'll have all those stories and the day's top business and weather headlines.

See you on TV,

Hala

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Posted: 1433 GMT

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August 18, 2009
Posted: 1837 GMT

mub

For anyone wondering if Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was planning on staying in power for as long as humanly possible, a statement made today during an official visit to Washginton, D.C. provided a clear answer: the 81 year-old said he plans to seek another term in office in two years.

Mister Mubarak met with U.S. President barack Obama at the White House to talk about a new peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians. In their post-meeting remarks, neither leader brought up democracy or human rights issues in Egypt. Both discussed peace plans and hope for a better future in the region. Barack Obama said he was "encouraged" that Israel had stopped granting construction permits for new settlements in the West Bank.

We'll go live to Cairo where Ben Wedeman for reaction to Mister Mubarak's Washington visit.

Also today, we'll take you to Afghanistan for the latest on a day of violence, only two days before presidential elections scheduled for Thursday. We'll also discuss U.S. and NATO plans to try to secure polling stations on the day. Will the elections go smoothly? Will expected electoral fraud discredit the results for ordinary Afghans?

Plus, we will bring you the latest on the Russian-crew that disappeared for several weeks aboard the "Arctic Sea" cargo ship. Turns out the crew lived through weeks of uetter terror at the hands of hijackers who demanded ransom money. Matthew Chance will bring us details from Moscow.

And there's a fascinating story Jim Clancy will tell us about at the International Desk. Israeli scientists can prove that DNA can be "manufactured." In other words, scientists were able to fabricate blood and saliva containing DNA samples from a person other than the donor. If this is indeed possible, then it could cause chaos in the criminal justice system, where so many convictions hinge on DNA evidence.

We'll aslo have the rest of the day's business and weather stories, as always.

See you on TV,

Hala

EDIT: The Egyptian embassy in the United States said shortly after Hosni Mubarak's comments at the White House that the Egyptian president's words had been mistranslated. they say he did not announce that he would run again in 2011 and that Mister Mubarak had not made his mind up.

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August 17, 2009
Posted: 1833 GMT

For those of you who thought that finding the cargo ship that disappeared three weeks ago, along with its Russian crew, would give us answers to the questions surrounding the maritime mystery, think again.

Russian authorities have confirmed that the "Artic Sea" was located off the West African coast, but have given no details on why the ship vanished for so long without communicating its location or asking for help.

Did pirates attack the crew? Did the ship intentionally cut itself off from the world? Was it transporting secret and expensive cargo? We'll go live to Moscow for more on this story with Matthew Chance.

Also today, we'll look at a disturbing Human Rights Watch report on a spate of killings of gay men in Iraq. The contents of the report didn't come as a surprise to me, having reported on homosexuality in the Middle East before, though reading descriptions of torture and execution of the most savage kind still shocked me.

The irony is that being gay in Iraq was safer under Saddam Hussein than it is now. HRW quotes witnesses as saying that security forces have targetted gay men and that some men have been killed by their own families, in what is the Middle East's most perverted justification for murder, so called "honor killings."

We're live in Baghdad for that.

Plus, we'll take you live to Wall Street for the reason behind an ugly stock sell off. Investors are once again worried that they may have been overly enthusiastic in the last few weeks. But here's something to cheer about: in the midst of all the gloom, Japan is now officially out of recession. Its economy rose in the second quarter of 2009, a few days after France and Germany announced that they snapped out of their own recessions.

And, as always, the rest of the day's top news, sports and weather stories.

See you on TV,

Hala

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Posted: 1543 GMT

There are several theories about what happened to the "Arctic Sea", after it left Russia. We wanted to know your thoughts:

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Posted: 1459 GMT

bolt

I'll be anchoring both Idesk shows today. Stay tuned for today's note. In the meantime, here's a picture of Superman, I mean Usain Bolt, who smashed the 100 meter world record in Berlin yesterday and who did it all without breaking a sweat.

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August 13, 2009
Posted: 1752 GMT

The debate over whether a public swimming pool in France was right to ban a woman wearing a full-body swimsuit from entering the water has reignited the question of whether secular democratic societies should regulate what people wear in public.

In the "French Republican Ideal," religion and state must be strictly distinct. But when the debate focuses on whether Islamic dress should or should not be banned from public gathering places or state-funded institutions, it inflames passions on both sides of the issue.

After first banning "conspicuous religious symbols" from publicly funded schools in 2004, France has announced that a parliamentary group will investigate whether to ban burqas – the Afghan-style full face and body cover – in all public places.

Now this: a 35-year old French convert to Islam – known only by the first name Carole – says she was kept from swimming in her "burqini" because the pool's management is racist. The swimming pool says religion has nothing to do with it, but that it is forbidden to swim clothed, Muslim or not.

We will look into this issue with the latest from France and with a senior analyst from the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, Magali Rheault. She will argue that free societies should not interfere with what people choose to wear in public. Also, we'd like to know what you think on the topic, so don't forget to vote on the issue in the poll below.

Also today, we will cover reaction to the possible release of the only person ever convicted in connection with the bombin of Pan Am 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, Scotland.

And : some shockingly good numbers coming out of the Eurozone today. Unexpectedly, economic growth actually rose in the second quarter of this year. Does this mean an end of the recession? is this a real light at the end of the tunnel or just an accidental upward hiccup? Richard Quest will drop in at the Idesk for that.

Plus, we will look into the possible re-inclusion of golf and rugby in the 2016 Olympics. We know that women's boxing is making its debut in the 2012 games. I'll ask Marc McKay how the International Olympic Committee decides what sport to eliminate or add to the calendar of events. I'll ask be reading some of your tweets on the subject (@halagorani).

And, as always, all the latest market and weather news, including the latest on rescue efforts in the aftermath of typhoon Morakot in Taiwan.

See you on TV,

Hala

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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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