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January 29, 2010
Posted: 1728 GMT

Only a few hours after arriving in Haiti last week, we were sent to the scene of a reported survivor.

There was no time to think, or take stock, only the urgency of getting to where the story was unfolding.

There, in an obliterated section of Port-au-Prince, a man was extracted alive from the rubble after almost twelve days. Like hope rekindled, Wismond Jean-Pierre, presumed dead, was pulled out from the rubble and into daylight.

Still the smell of death was everywhere. Close to where Jean-Pierre reconnected with life, there was a corpse baking in the sun.

Being in Haiti and reporting on the Haitian people's reaction to tragedy of unimaginable proportions has touched me in ways I didn't expect.

I have seen wars, tragedy, grief and loss but never on this scale. And what has struck me most is the spirit of the Haitian people.

It's always difficult to think of things to say after talking to someone whose entire life has been ruined by tragedy. Instinctively, I often say: "bonne chance" – "good luck" – before leaving.

More often than not, they would answer: "good luck to you."

There have been instances of violence and a few scuffles here and there. But overall, considering the desperation of the people here, things have so far remained calm.

Little tent villages in closed off enclaves have sprung up. Residents have numbered tents and encourage each other to keep the grounds clean of rubbish.

Living one day at a time, trying to soldier on with as much dignity as possible.

It isn't a long term solution, but it will have to do for now.

But for Haiti, the biggest challenge is what comes next, when the news crews have left and when there are no more star-studded fundraisers for the earthquake victims.

The country needs shelter and food, but it needs to be rebuilt politically, as well.

There is good will and billions of dollars pledged to help this ravaged nation, but without a fundemental change in the way things are managed – or mismanaged – here, it could all be for nothing.

And just as I've witnessed in countries on the other side of the world in the Middle East, what the people here need are jobs.

I'm going back home tomorrow, wanting to spend more time in this devastated country. But I will be back.

As I prepare to head out, activity is slowly coming back to the streets of Port-au-Prince, with food stalls and traffic in busy intersections.

Even in Haiti, and against the odds, life must go on.

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January 28, 2010
Posted: 1705 GMT

For very different reasons, and under very different circumstances, both Afghanistan and Haiti's long-term issues continue to dominate headlines at the IDesk today.

At a conference in London today, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that his country's security forces would need at least a decade of training and financial support. Western powers and international partners are frustrated that all the money and resources that have been spent over the last eight years on Afghanistan are not producing the results they want.

Karzai may be talking a decade, but the U.K Prime Minister gordon Brown isn't: he said the moment for Afghanistan is "decisive" and that a a significant turning point needs to occur by the middle of next year.

Here in Haiti, too, the longer term needs could well be what determines whether this country will get back on its feet, and whether it can overcome the chronic issues that have weighed it down for so long: political mismanagement, corruption, joblessness.

The "decade" timeline is also something we hear a lot in relation to reconstruction in Haiti. But when you see the scale of the destruction and the state of this country's infrastruction – not to mention the central government's own shortcomings – it is hard to imagine that even that time frame is realistic.

We spent the afternoon in a neighborhood flattened by the earthquake, where homeless residents have set up a microcosm of village life in what was once a football pitch.

The place is orderly, organized, kept as clean as possible. There is a medical station and a tiny food stall. People there are trying to live as normal and digified life as possible amid the agony.

A short term solution, at best.

We will be featuring this story at the International Desk today.

Also, today, we will look into Toyota's massive recall. We will ask if the Japanese carmaker is paying for its stellar growth.

And we will tell you all you need to know about Apple's iPad. Is it worth the money? Does it really have a market? And a little something on how the gadget's name is making some people giggle.

See you at the IDesk,

Hala

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Filed under: Afghanistan •Haiti •Today At The I-Desk


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January 27, 2010
Posted: 1729 GMT

Hello again from Port-au-Prince,

Today we'll bring you a story on how the Haitian capital's roughest neighborhoods are surviving in the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated large swaths of the city.

We traveled to the ironically named "Bel Air" section of town. This is rough gangland, where life was hard even before the earthquake with guns, drugs and prostitution.

After the disaster, people tell me they have not received aid here yet. They say they have no running water, no tents, and no access to relief shipments. We spoke to former Bel Air resident Stevenson Merisier, who works for us as a translator here, and who guided us through the unforgiving streets of his childhood neighorhood.

Also today on the show, we will go live to Davos, where French president Nicolas Sarkozy is opening the World Economic Forum. He's expected to talk about the economic crisis and what the international community's response to the disaster in Haiti should be. This is an important political stage for the French President. We'll break it down for you.

In other news, we're monitoring the results of Sri Lanka's election. Incumbent president Mahinda Rajapaksa was declared the winner in yesterday's poll but his challenger, the country's former army chief, is challenging the results.

Plus, ancitipation is building about Apple's new tablet computing device. As always with Apple, there is great secrecy surrounndig the release of the company's latest product. Some details have been leaked but we will only know what the tablet looks like and whether it will be an industry game-changer in the 1pm Eastern hour, just as IDesk goes to air.

All that and the rest of the day's top stories, as always.

See you at the Idesk,

Hala

(Photo Steve Turnham/CNN)

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January 26, 2010
Posted: 1724 GMT

Today we'll show you how the promise of a bag of rice in Port-au-Prince is enough to get hundreds of people standing in line for hours.

I went to see for myself how the first aid distribution operation unfolded and spoke to desperate Haitians, homeless and jobless, many of whom ended up leaving without the promised hand-out.

We spoke to relief workers at the U.N. compound to try to figure out what happened. We were told four trucks with bags of rice and beans unloaded aid and left, creating a bit of a dust-up on the scene.

Overall, the composure and patience of Haitians already so badly affected by the earthquake is the thing that has struck me most about this country after the disaster.

Twenty-seven year old Civil told me: "Things take time. So I will wait."

Today, we will also bring you the story of Carmelie Narcisse, an 84 year-old woman who found herself alone after the quake. Her only lifeline: two sons in the United States. We were there when the family reunited in Haiti.

We'll speak to Karl Penhaul live – technology permitting – from today's aid distribution point in front of the presidential palace. We're hearing reports of some scuffles. Some people are frustrated that not everyone is receiving the aid that has been flown into Haiti.

Here in downtown Port-au-Prince, trucks have been spraying disinfectant and I've seen some earth moving equipment clean up the rubble of a collapsed building. A cleanup process that is only at its embryonic stage.

And the Haitian President Rene Preval today asked for 200,000 tents before the rainy and hurricane season. People are now sleeping under sheets and table cloths. The country needs sturdier shelter and more food in the long run.

We will cover all the angles on the story from Haiti and bring you all the latest news headlines from around the world.

See you at the IDesk.

Hala

(Photo Steve Turnham/CNN)

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January 25, 2010
Posted: 1610 GMT


Looking down from the live shot position an hour ago, I scanned the Champ de Mars park where thousands of Haitians are still sleeping outdoors, homeless and desperate, nearly two weeks after the earthquake hit.

They're waiting for aid, but they're also looking at an uncertain future. Thirteen days after the a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck, hundreds of thousands are homeless, jobless and in mourning for loved ones and the city the call home.

Then, I looked down: under the wreckage of an overturned car, a dog was gnawing at a dead body. Passers-by found the person yesterday when they cleared rubble over the vehicle. Just a short drive from the presidential palace, as rescue operations morph into recovery missions, this is still the reality of port-au-Prince today.

Everywhere there is death, immeasurable devastation and grief on a scale even the most hardened rescue workers have told me they haven't seen before.

When I first arrived in Haiti, I headed out onto the streets of the capital. I wanted to see the impact of the earthquake for myself. I wasn't prepared for what I saw: entire blocks flattened and mountains of concrete where neighborhoods once stood. It looked like buildings had been repeatedly hit with bunker busting bombs.

We filmed a few looters emptying a store and a shopkeeper a street away who had payed neighborhood residents with bags of food to help him haul away his most valuable stock. He'd rented a truck to transport his goods to the relative safety of a warehouse on the outskirts of the capital.

Nearby, we heard reports that a French and Greek rescue team had located a survivor under the rubble of a hotel. We headed to the scene.

There'd been many false reports of people surviving the quake, so we approached the story carefully. But it quickly became apparent that something significant was unfolding a the Hotel Napoli Inn in central Port-au-Prince.

"He spoke to us. He is seeing our light," one French rescuer told me.

As we prepared to broadcast live from the scene, CNN Senior Producer Alec Miran told me: "They're saying five minutes!"

We heard cries coming from under the tin roof that had collapsed on the pile of rubble that once was a four-story hotel. Then, the gathered news crews, rescue workers and bystanders converged: a man had been pulled out alive.

Spontaneous applause and cries of "Bravo!" erupted from the crowd.

Twenty-four year old Wismond Jean-Pierre was moving his hands and legs and even managed a smile as he was stretchered into an ambulance an onto a French field hospital.

I caught up with Wismond the next day. We spoke to his brother and saw the underground shack he will return to when he is discharged from hospital. When I ask his brother Ensu what his plans are for the future, he says: "I have no hope. I want to leave."

"Where to?" I ask.

"To anywhere but here," he answers.

As for the dead bodies found in an overturned car so close to our camera position, ordinary Haitians set them on fire. They had to take matters into their own hands. No government agency had come to pick them up. No international organizations had moved the corpses.

The nameless, faceless victims of this disaster burned in full view of adults and children alike. Two of Haiti's tens of thousands of victims. The smoke eventually cleared. A few feet away, survivors were quietly standing in line for free water from a nearby building.

(Photos on the scene of Saturday's rescue a the Napoli Inn. Gabe Ramirez/Steve Turnham/CNN)

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January 22, 2010
Posted: 1935 GMT

Hello I-Deskers:

We apologize for not posting any updates all week. As you might imagine, it's been quite busy with coverage of the situation in Haiti. And, Hala has also been off, on a company trip to the Middle East.

Starting Monday, Hala is going to get a first-hand look at the tragedy, as it continues to unfold in Haiti. She has arrived in the devastated country, and will start to report for CNN. Our hope is to have her anchor I-Desk from Port-au-Prince all of next week, if it's technically possible. As a result of her arrival, Jonathan Mann, who got to Haiti the day after the quake, is returning home. Jonathan and his team have done an amazing job of reporting the reality of the situation, to the rest of the world. Here, here!

Look for Hala's reports on the air, and we'll see if she can add her insights on our blog throughout next week. No doubt, she will bring us an incredible perspective of the story.

And, of course, keep the victims of Haiti in your thoughts. If there's anything you can do to help them, please do so.

See you next week, at the I-Desk!
J the P

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January 20, 2010
Posted: 1300 GMT

Filed under: Barack Obama •I-Desk Poll


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January 15, 2010
Posted: 1743 GMT

Hello everyone,

Today we will start with Jonath Mann in Port-au-Prince who is covering the tragedy in Haiti and the rescue teams still hopeful they will find survivors under the mountains of rubble.

Also in the 1pm Eastern hour, we are expecting President Obama to again speak live about the catastrophy in Haiti. American military personnel and aid supplies are strating to stream into Haiti. A US Navy ship with helicopter, hospital beds and the capacity to produce hundreds of thousands of gallons of clean water is off the coast of the island nation right now.

We will be join by Lieutenant General Russell Honore, the man who led the military response to the Katrina disaster. He's been somewhat critical of what he says was too slow an American response in the 24 hours after the earthquake struck.

We'll talk to him today for his take on American help as it starts to reach the desperate people of Haiti.

And, one of the organizations whose work make such a tremendous difference no matter where in the world there is a need, Doctors Without Border will talk to us live from the quake zone. We're hoping to connect with the head of the organization's Haiti mission.

We'll be going live to Haiti throughout the hour with reports from our team of correspondents and producers, so look for the latest information from them, as well.

See you at the IDesk,

Hala

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January 13, 2010
Posted: 1725 GMT

There is only one story domintaing the news today: the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti yesterday and the picture of the aftermath that is emerging as the day progresses.

The Haitian Prime Minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, told CNN that "well over 100,000" are feard dead in this disaster.

We will take you live to Port-au-Prince as your crews start reporting from the scene.

We will bring you the latest from the world of social media like Twitter and Facebook. This story gained worldwide attention mainly through these website as communications remain very unreliable in Haiti.

Most of the information coming to us in the early hours after the quake came to us from ordinary citizens in Haiti who were able to communicate online and through webcams.

We are hearing of stories of despair as many of the injured are unable to get medical help. Hospitals are crammed and roads are impassable.

Now aid groups and charity organizations are scrambling to help the people of Haiti. We will speak to the head of one group and tell you how you can help the victims of Haiti's earthquake.

See you at the IDesk,

Hala

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January 11, 2010
Posted: 1734 GMT

Hello everyone,

We will be going live to Yemen where our Paula Newton has scored an exclusive interview with the father of radical cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki (above). Authorities say Al Awlaki had contact with both the Fort Hood shooter and Umar Faruk AbdulMutallad, the man accused of trying to blow up an American airliner on Christmas day.

But his father, Dr. Nasser Al-Awlaki, says his son is not a member of Al Qaeda and that authorities are trying to "kill" him. Tune in for all the details of Paula's interview at the top of the hour at the IDesk. And check out Paula's report on cnn.com.

Also today, we will take you live to Northern Ireland, where the First Minister, Peter Robinson, has been forced to step aside for six weeks to deal with a sex scandal involving his wife's affair with a teenager. Allegations of financial wrongdoing in the case are putting pressure on the first couple. Mister Robinson's wife (ironically, Mrs. Robinson) has been forced to resign from her political party last week.

We are also live in Africa, where there are new developments in the deadly assault on Togo's national football team. There have been arrests in the case. We'll have the latest from the continent.

Plus, we have a report from Jerusalem on the Prime Minister's plans to build 250 kilometers of fencing between Israel and Egypt. The barriers would be designed to limit the flow of asylum seekers from Africa as well as militants whom Israel says can easily cross through the porous border.

This future fence would add to the underground barriers and walls and fences around the West Bank critics say routinely eat into Palestinian land, isolating Israel and choking Palestinian economies.

And are you still freezing out there my fellow Northern Hemisphere inhabitants? We will bring you the latest forecast and take you lto the U.S. state of Florida where temperatures have damaged citrus crops and the tourism industry.

Plus all your other top developing stories, as always.

See you at the IDesk!

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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