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February 3, 2012
Posted: 1920 GMT

Good luck cutting through this melee... Our Baghdad producer Mohammed Tawfeeq snapped this picture at a recent conference of Syrian Kurds in Irbil. The camera crews were all trying to get to the President of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barazani.

Filed under: Iraq •Kurdistan


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February 1, 2012
Posted: 1345 GMT

–By CNN's Frederik Pleitgen in Baghdad

A flight from Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, to Baghdad takes about 35 minutes. So we didn't think there would be any problems this morning when we got up to go to the airport. We called Iraqi Airways to make sure the flight was actually leaving at 2pm like it was supposed to. The lady at Iraqi Airways said they had decided to move the flight to 7am, so it was long gone. Someone should have called us, but nobody did.

So we asked to be put on the next flight they said was scheduled to leave at 5pm. A few calls later and we are told the flight had moved to 7pm, and it was not clear we would be on it. With the next phone call they told us we were confirmed on the flight!

We then made our way to the airport at 4:30, and when we got there the nice lady at the counter told us WE WERE NOT ON THE FLIGHT and would have to be waitlisted. She told us to move our eight cases of TV gear out of the way and wait for everyone else to check in.

So we waited, and waited until 150 people checked in. Finally the lady called us forward and scolded us for checking in so late. She demanded we pay 25 dollars to the guys who would now have to hand carry our stuff to the plane because it was so late and the plane was about to leave.

We finally made it to the gate. And of course the plane had not even arrived. In fact they had cancelled a Dubai flight earlier and merged the two flights, so that the plane would go Erbil-Baghdad-Dubai.

Hours passed. The crowd at the gate swelled. Finally, at 8:20pm (1:20h after we were supposed to take off), a plane arrived at the gate.

It was 9pm before we were able to board. When we got on the plane, the temperature was about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. I would say the plane was about 25 years old and the seat I got could not be put in the upright position.

The crew asked the passengers to turn off their cell phones and minutes later we took off to the sound of loud ringtones and blaring Arabic music.

The flight was bumpy, but we finally made it though the airline managed to lose one of our crew members' bags.

Two years ago I did a report about Iraqi Airways and spoke to the spokesman of the Iraqi government, Ali Dabagh. He said Iraqis deserve a better airline. From what we saw today, they still have a long way to go.

Filed under: Iraq


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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 8, 2010
Posted: 1744 GMT

It seems every other week brings news of another major earthquake.

Today's 6.0 magnitude earthquake in Eastern Turkey comes on the heels of highly destructive quakes in Taiwan, Chile and, of course, Haiti.

Is there a rise in the number of powerful tremors? If it feels like we've been experiencing a spike in that type of natural disaster, it isn't supported by the data: the U.S Geological Survey says that the frequency of earthquakes isn't rising.

But what about how close the quakes have been to each other? If there are 12 to 13 major quakes a year around the world, how do we explain that so may of them have taken place in the first few moths of 2010?

We will try to answer that question and bring you the latest from Turkey.

Plus, we will talk about the bloody and deadly sectarian violence in Nigeria. Our Christian Purefoy is in the area where Muslims and Christians have been attacking each other. This latest round of fighting has been particularly – even shockingly – deadly. We'll break down the reasons behind the ethnic and economic strife.

We are also live in Iraq with the mood a day after crucial parliamentary elections.

On a lighter note, we'll talk about the big winner at yesterday's Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles. The Hurt Locker won for best director and best picture.

I can't say I'm a huge fan of the movie. Some of the inconsistencies, but mainly a lead character that never moved me, kept me from being as enthusiastic about the film as others have been. But the truth is that it touched a nerve in America, a country still heavily ensconced in Afghanistan and with almost 250,000 troops deployed in two warzones.

We'll also look back at an awkward "Kanye moment" involving the best documentary short winner.

And, don't forget we're debuting new music and jazzier IDesk graphics today!

See you at the IDesk,

Hala

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Filed under: Iraq •Nigeria •Oscars •Today At The I-Desk


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March 4, 2010
Posted: 1733 GMT

Hi everyone,

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for me: first a short trip to Abu Dhabi, then on assignment covering the quake aftermath in Haiti, followed by a week anchoring our special iList France series and then ending with a vacation in Peru.

I was on a beach in Peru when the earthquake struck Chile. The assignment desk in Atlanta asked me to travel to the quake zone. My vacation was over anyway so I agreed. What I didn't count on was how nearly impossible it would be to find a way into Chile.

Santiago airport was closed and there were no direct flights from Lima to smaller regional Chilean airports. We flew to Bolivia in the hope of catching a flight to Santiago the next morning but that flight was canceled as well.

Three days after the quake struck and with three teams already on the ground, we all decided it would make more sense for me to fly back to Atlanta to anchor my show. So here I am!

We are kicking things off with the latest out of Iraq today. The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki told CNN he would consider asking American forces to stay longer if the security situation demanded it. We will cross over live to Baghdad where Arwa Damon will tell us why this is significant, just as the country prepares to go to the polls for national parliamentary elections on Sunday.

We are also live in Concepcion, Chile. Sara Sidner will report on a coastal town decimated by the tremor and the tsunami wave that wreaked havoc on a small community in the quake zone.

We will also go live to Spain, Wall Street and Turkey..

See you at the IDesk!

Hala

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Filed under: Chile Earthquake •Iraq •Today At The I-Desk


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October 27, 2009
Posted: 1328 GMT

Filed under: I-Desk Poll •Iraq


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October 26, 2009
Posted: 1110 GMT

Hey there, everyone...

First of all, Hala continues to be off for most of the week. She'll be back, before you head back to your weekend. Isha is manning the later edition of I-Desk, while Hala is on holiday this week.

Now, for the news - It was a busy and deadly weekend in Iraq and Afghanistan. Starting in Iraq, where the country is mourning the deadliest attacks in two years. Well over 100 people were killed in Baghdad, hundreds more wounded. In Afghanistan, helicopter-related deaths ruled the weekend, as more than a dozen NATO servicemembers, most of them American, were killed. So, what's the solution in either country? For Iraq, the U.S. still plans on pulling out, despite the surge in violence after their forces left small towns in June. In Afghanistan, the opposite plan appears to be in play, with U.S. Pres. Barack Obama considering an increase in boots on the ground. Are these the right courses of action?

Now, for the accused war criminal. Radovan Karadzic refused to appear in court Monday - essentially, boycotting his own war crimes trial at the Hague. Karadzic claims he hasn't had enough time to prepare for his trial. Should the judge force him into court? Or, should he grant more time?

Those are the biggest stories we're following right now at the I-Desk... Of course, if that changes, we'll have the latest for you.

See you then!
J the P

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Filed under: Afghanistan •Barack Obama •Iraq •NATO •Today At The I-Desk


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August 10, 2009
Posted: 1558 GMT

Filed under: 17330011 •I-Desk Poll •Iraq


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August 7, 2009
Posted: 1648 GMT

Hello again, everyone...

First and foremost, we have an encore appearance by BackStory's Michael Holmes today, as he fills in for Hala. And, for those of you wondering, the very-well-rested Ms. Gorani returns on Monday.

Now, down to business:

Today, we're following Typhoon Morakot, which is slamming into Taiwan, as I'm writing this update. We have a journalist on the island, who is monitoring the situation. And, he'll join us live at the I-Desk. Of course, we'll also have the latest forecast, and a look at what's next for the strengthening storm.

Also, we're taking you Pakistan, where there are reports that Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, is dead. Pakistani officials say he was killed by a U.S. drone attack; while, the United States military has not confirmed the death. We're getting the latest from Islamabad, as well as The Pentagon.

Over in Iran, just 2 days into Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's second term, a scathing report is released by Amnesty International. The human rights group claims that Iran has executed 115 people, just between the June 12th election and Wednesday's inauguration... compare that to 196 people executed between January 1st of this year and the election. An unbelievable jump! But, how does Amnesty know for sure? We're asking an official from the group, who is joining us live at the I-Desk.

Next door in Iraq, our Arwa Damon is tracking two stories. Both extremely sad. One of them is sure to make you cringe. It's a report, you just can't miss.

And, finally, a light-hearted end to the show... What do Pope Benedict and famous rapper, Snoop Doggy Dogg, have in common? We'll show you.

See you tonight... at the I-Desk.
J the P

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


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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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