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March 31, 2010
Posted: 1936 GMT

Check out my interview with probable future Prime Minister of Iraq Ayad Allawi. He said he's ready to be Prime Minister, that U.S. troops should leave as planned under the Status of Forces Agreement and that accusations he won with ex-Baathist political allies are a "joke."

Listen to the full interview here:

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Filed under: Ayad Allawi •CNN Exclusive •Iraq


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Posted: 1634 GMT

Hello from the newsroom,

A quick note to tell you what is coming up at the IDesk today.

We will kick things off with the latest on calls for billions of dollars in donation top help rebuild Haiti, still in ruins after last January's earthquake.

There is a conference at the United Nations and world leaders are discussing just how much money will be needed to help Haiti get back on its feet. The problem isn't only financial, of course. The logistics of getting the aid where it is needed is one of the biggest challenges. Also, with a weak and corrupt central government, who will manage the billions of dollars in aid and make sure it helps the people who so desperately need it?

Also today, we are live in Russia and Afghanistan. Both countries have suffered from suicide bombing attacks. Matthew Chance has the latest on the investigation into a Moscow subway attack that killed 39 people Monday and Atia Abawi will tell us about a deadly bombing in Helmand province.

In U.S. news, President Barack Obama is relaxing oil drilling restrictions and opening vast portions of America's coastline to oil exploration. The U.S. President called the decision painful but necessary. Environmental groups are unhappy. We'll have the latest on the story.

Plus all the rest of the day's top headlines, including a possible live interview with one of Iraq's top politicians, technology permitting.

See you at the IDesk!

Hala

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


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March 29, 2010
Posted: 1631 GMT

Hello from the newsroom,

We are looking at today's Moscow subway attack from all angles today. We will be live in the Russian capital where authorities say two suicide bombings have killed at least 38 people in Moscow's metro. They say they believe two women blew themselves up at the height of rush hour.

The pictures coming to us from the scene are horrific: two bodies lying lifeless on a train platform, the surrounding area dotted in blood. Outside, injured survivors, dazed and in shock, sat on sidewalks waiting for medical help.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombings but suspicion immediately fell on Chechen separatists, who've carried out similar attacks in the past.

We will talk to an expert on mass transit attacks and on the use of so-called "Black Widows," women suicide bombers who fight alongside Chechen Islamist militants.

Also today, as we prepare to air our 930pm CET special on the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, we will go live to Rome where our Diana Magnay will talk amore about Vatican reaction to accusations the Pope (long before he became pontiff) protected high-level clerics suspected of abusing children.

Plus we will have the latest numbers from Wall Street and all your weather and sports headlines, as always.

See you at the IDesk!

Hala

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Filed under: Today At The I-Desk


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March 25, 2010
Posted: 1718 GMT

Hello from the newsroom,

Today, we will start the show with the question of gays in the military. The Pentagon announced a few hours ago that it was relaxing the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, a rule that prevents gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military.

President Barack Obama had called for the rule to be repealed entirely. This is seen as a step in that direction: it will now be harder to "out" homosexuals in the military and only high-ranking officers will be able to asses if someone has broken the rules.

We will go live to the Pentagon with Barbara Starr and we will take you live to Afghanistan, where Chris Lawrence is on assignment for more reaction to the Pentagon announcement from ordinary soldiers on the ground.

We will also talk to Alex Nicholson, head of Servicemembers United, the largest organization of gay and lesbian troops in America. What does he think of the Pentagon announcement?

Plus, we have a report on the latest purported Osama Bin Laden tape in which a voice threatens America with retaliation if accused 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheikh Mohammed is put to death. Is it him? Are these messages even relevant anymore?

And big news out of Brussels, France and Germany have struck a deal to bail out Greece. the package is reportedly worth $23 billion. We are waiting for details on what the plan will require Greece to do and who will pay for the rescue package. Jim Boulden will bring us up to date.

Hope you can join us!

See you at the IDesk,

Hala

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Filed under: "Don't Ask Don't Tell" •Osama Bin Laden •Today At The I-Desk


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March 24, 2010
Posted: 1720 GMT

I just turned my desktop TV to the router where the White House Press Secretary will be holding a news conference in a few minutes. We are expecting reaction to the Israeli announcement that it is building more homes in East Jerusalem, this time in an Arab neighborhood.

The announcement came as a surprise since the decision to expand another East Jerusalem settlement a few weeks ago, during a high-level visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, caused such diplomatic tension between American and Israel. Today's news raised even more eyebrows because it came during a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington.

From the White House so far, Assistant Press Secretary Tommy Vietor said: "We've made our position on Jerusalem clear on many occasions. We believe this is a final-status issue, and that both sides should refrain from acts that could undermine trust or prejudge the outcome of negotiations. We are seeking clarification on this and other issues from the Israelis."

Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, remained relatively tight-lipped as well, saying only that Mister Obama asked the Israeli PM to "take steps to build confidence" to achieve Middle East peace.

That's all we'll hear from the U.S. at this point, it seems.

We will be going live to Jerusalem for more on the issue. Jill Dougherty will join us for analysis from the White House. And Richard Roth from the United Nations with more on the move the Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called "provocative."

Also today, we will bring you the latest on arrest of suspected Al Qaeda terrorists in Saudi Arabia. Authorities are detaining dozens of men they say were operatives planning attacks on Saudi oil facilities, the beating heart of the Kingdom.

Frederick Pleitgen will join us to talk about Daimler's settlement with the U.S Justice Department over accusations the carmaker paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to foreign officials in order to win contracts.

And guess who the world's richest football player is this year? it's not David Beckham anymore. We'll tell you in our World Sport segment.

All that and the rest of the day's top stories!

See you at the IDesk,

Hala

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Filed under: Israel-West Bank •Saudi Arabia •Today At The I-Desk


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March 23, 2010
Posted: 1722 GMT

We are kicking things off with Nic Robertson in London and the UK's decision to boot an Israeli diplomat out of the country. London is accusing Israel of forging British passports for operatives invovled in the assassination of a Hamas official in Dubai last January.

This is all happening while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with American President Barack Obama in Washington to try to heal the diplomatic rift over the construction of Jewish housing in historically Arab East Jerusalem.

The U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday reaffirmed that the Israeli-U.S. bond remains strong but that building housing on land (disputed or occupied depending on what side you're on) is not legitimate.

What will Mr. Obama tell the Israeli leader? The meeting is a closed door affair so no cameras will be allowed. Jill Dougherty will report on that story for us.

Speaking of President Obama, today is a day he signed the healthcare reform bill into law. But despite the political victory, Republicans are promising to continue the fight against a law they say is bad for America. We'll bring you that and why what happens next in the Senate is important.

Plus, for anyone who thinks the U.S. housing market will bounce back soon, they should think again: existing home sales in the United States have fallen for a third month in a row. The number may not be as bad as expected but it is an indicator of how little household wealth (perceived or real) has recovered since the start of the recession. If Americans don't feel like they have money, they won't spend money and the economy won't fully recover. We are live on Wall Street.

We will also take you live to Afghanistan. Our Phil Black traveled to Kandahar, widely regarded as the next chapter in the international focres' effort to secure and hold territory in the volatile South. After Marjah a few weeks ago, coalition commanders want to move in and quickly hand over authority of the Kandahar region to the local government.

Will it work? What do locals think of it all?

We'll have those stories and the rest of the day's top headlines, as always!

See you at the IDesk,

Hala

(Photo – Obama today signing healthcare reform bill into law at the White House – Getty Images)

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Filed under: Today At The I-Desk


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March 22, 2010
Posted: 1733 GMT

Hello from the newsroom,

When Hillary Clinton appeared for a speech today at the powerful pro-Israel lobby group, AIPAC, there were fears she might get booed.

America and Israel, after all, have been having some public disagreements lately. Washington made no secret of the fact that it was insulted when Israel announced new settlements in East Jerusalem just as Vice-President Joe Biden was sitting down for dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

But there were cheers from the audience the U.S. Secretary of State reaffirmed that America's "commitment to Israel's security and Israel's future is rock solid."

That said, Mrs. Clinton laced her praise with a rebuke: the status quo in the Middle East is "unsustainable," she said. The U.S does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, she added.

The Israeli Prime Minister, who is in Washington, is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama Tuesday. All this is taking place against the backdrop of violence in the West Bank and the death of two Palestinian teen-agers, shot during demonstrations.
Will this special relationship get back on track? If so, will Israel take some of America's advice on the settlement building issue? It sure doesn't look like it, based on Mr. Netanyahu's recent remarks.

We are live in Washington with the latest on U.S.-Israeli relations. We will also go live to Jerusalem for more on the renewed violence.

Speaking of Washington, President Obama is no doubt celebrating a major political victory today: the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday passed a major healthcare reform bill. This was the centerpiece of Mister Obama's political agenda over the last year. What does its passage say about his political power just as his ratings are dipping among the general public?

Also today, we go live to Paris for analysis of this week-end's bruising political defeat for French president Nicolas Sarkozy. His party was thrashed in week-end regional elections. If this was a referendum on Mr. Sarkozy's popularity, the French leader might consider getting a bit worried. Presidential elections in 2012 aren't that far off.

Those stories and the rest of the day's top news, business and sports headlines, as always!

See you at the IDesk,

Hala

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Filed under: Israel-West Bank •Today At The I-Desk


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March 19, 2010
Posted: 228 GMT

Earlier today, Vanderbilt University psychiatry professor Paul Ragan spoke to Hala about a French documentary in which contestants in a fake game show believed they were shocking fellow players with near fatal jolts of electricity.

How far will people go if egged on by an encouraging audience? Why did most contestants follow orders and pull levers they believed were hurting perfect strangers? And why did some of the participants say no to hurting others when most went through with the experiment?

Take a look at the interview and leave your comments!

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March 12, 2010
Posted: 1735 GMT

Hello from the newsroom everyone,

Today we are live in Rome and in Berlin with the latest on sex abuse accusations against the Catholic Church in Germany. Today, the German Archbishop sat down with Pope Benedict the 16th for 45 minutes to discuss the latest in a string of allegations.

The sex abuse could that has hung over the Catholic Church in Europe – from Ireland to Austria – is this time hitting particularly close to home for Pope Benedict: the alleged abuses in Germany took place in a Cathedral where the Pontiff's brother was a Choir Master.

Don't forget to vote in today's poll on whether you think the Pope is doing enough to address allegations of sexual wrongdoing, Weigh in below.

Also today, we'll go live to London where the French President is making a splash. He is accusing the United States of setting a bad example when it comes to protectionism.

Sarkozy was referring to a military refueling contract awarded to U.S. plane maker Boeing and not to European rival EADS. His words clearly hit a nerve in America: Sarkozy was the main story on Conservative website The Drudge Report in the United States.

Speaking of military contracts, I'll be talking to former Clinton administration adviser Toby Gati on Russia's recent nuclear deal with India. Just a few weeks ago, the United States sold armaments to both India and Pakistan. What do recent developments mean for U.S.-Russia relations? How does it change the power balance in the region?

Staying in the AFPAK region, we will then take you live to Pakistan, where there's been another deadly bomb attack.

Later, we'll bring you the latest developments on a probable British Airways cabin crew strike. We'll tell you how it might impact your travel plans.

All that and the latest news, weather and sports updates as they come in.

See you at the IDesk!

Hala

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Filed under: Church Abuse Scandal •Today At The I-Desk


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Posted: 1349 GMT

Despite holding meetings with Irish and German church officials involved in recent sex abuse scandals, some feel Pope Benedict XVI is not doing enough. We wanted to know your thoughts:

Filed under: I-Desk Poll


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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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