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April 19, 2010
Posted: 1637 GMT

Once again, we will be looking at all angles of the volcanic ash story and the travel chaos that has paralyzed Europe for five days now.

This isn't just as European story: it is affecting travelers around the world. Some are trying to make their way home, young couples are missing their wedding reception, politicans are missing state funerals and even organ transplant recipients are having to wait longer for a life-saving operations.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however. We will be speaking with Fred Pleitgen on a decision to allow Lufthansa to fly 15,000 passengers back to Germany. Also, British Airways says it will resume some flights out of London at 7pm local Tuesday.

We will also go live to France for more on several airports in southern France now able to operate. Italy, among other countries, has now completely opened its airspace.

We will also look at the economic impact of grounding tens of thousands of planes every day: the costs is now running into the billions and some companies that rely on tourism revenue are starting to feel the pain. Now airlines are complaining that the airspace closures were badly handled by European authorities.

Also today, we will take you live to Baghdad for the latest on the reported death of the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Authorities there say they killed Abu Ayyub al-Masri in a joint Iraqi-US operation. How will this affect insurgent activity in the country? We'll go to Mohammed Jamjoom in the Iraqi capital.

See you at the IDesk!

Hala

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Filed under: Airspace closures •Ash cloud •Iceland Volcano •Today At The I-Desk


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April 16, 2010
Posted: 1635 GMT

Hello Ideskers!

I'm back after a few days away on another assignment.

We will be spending a lot of time discussing the volcano ash cloud hanging over Europe, which is still causing travel chaos across the continent.

As of this writing, airspace is not available for travel in the UK (excluding Scotland), Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia, the north of France including all Paris airports, northern parts of Germany, parts of Poland including Warsaw airport and the Czech Republic, and Switzerland.

The airline industry association said today that airlines alone are losing an estimated $200 million a day in revenue. Of course, the total cost of this unprecedented event could run into the billions with millions of passengers affected, trying desperately find a way to their destination.

One of those passengers is the Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, who's decided to drive his way through Europe because he can't fly back to Oslo. We are hoping to connect with him on his roadtrip across the continent.

Guillermo will join us with an aerial view of the ash cloud. The amazing pictures show the scope of the affected area. We will also talk about how long it will take for all of this to clear up.

Polish official say the funeral of their fallen President is going ahead as planned, but what if world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama can't fly in this week-end? We'll look at that angle as well.

Hope you can join us for the Idesk at the top of the hour for this and all the rest of our top stories.

See you then!

Hala

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Filed under: Iceland Volcano •Today At The I-Desk


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April 12, 2010
Posted: 1646 GMT

It is an unprecedented summit in scope and one that will deal with trying to prevent would be catastrophic – and unprecedented – attack. U.S. President Barack Obama's nuclear summit in Washington will bring almost 50 heads of state together to discuss ways of making sure terrorists don't get their hands on nuclear weapons.

There are an estimated 1,600 tons of highly enriched uranium worldwide, and the vast majority of it is accounted for in admitted nuclear countries. And then there are other materials that are used in nuclear weaponry.

But the fear is that Pakistan, a nuclear power, will become so unstable that militants will somehow get their hands on nuclear weapons. Or even that North Korea will sell technology to terrorists. Or that a group like Al Qaeda will find a way to acquire enough material to build a so-called "dirty bomb" that will cause widespread damage and many deaths.

And American President Barack Obama is leading this effort with nuclear "street cred" : he has just signed a new START treaty with Russia, pledging a reduction of the U.S.'s nuclear warheads and has announced a revamped American nuclear military strategy.
This is the largest gathering of world leaders called by a U.S. President since the end of World War II.

Importantly, Barack Obama and Western leaders like French President Nicolas Sarkozy are hoping this summit, which takes place a month before a U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference, will help push through tougher sanctions against Iran, if it refuses to give up developing nuclear technology.

We are live in Washington with Jill Dougherty on that story.

Join us for that and the rest of the day's top stories.

See you at the IDesk!

Hala

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Filed under: Nuclear Summit •Today At The I-Desk


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April 2, 2010
Posted: 1636 GMT

Happy Good Friday to all who celebrate/observe! We are live in Rome today for the Pope's service and the continuing controversy surrounding the Vatican's response to the ongoing Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal.

Also, Russian officials have identified one of the two suicide bombers they attacked the Moscow metro last Monday.

They say she is a teenager born in 1992. Matthew Chance will bring us the latest from Moscow.

And, Mohammed Jamjoom joins us from Baghdad with the newest developments on the case of a Lebanese TV host sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for "sorcery." It is extremely difficult (in some cases impossible) to get any information from Saudi officials. It is unclear if authorities have commuted his sentence or how Ali Sibat is doing.

Yesterday, a Lebanese official told Sibat's lawyer that he would not be executed today as planned. What now? We will look into this disturbing story.

Also, crucial March unemployment numbers are out today. The U.S. economy added more than 160,000 jobs but the unemployment rate for the country is steady at 9.7%. President Barack Obama is already seizing on the figures, suggesting that the economy is finally turning around. Is it? We will analyze the figures.

That and all the rest of the day's top news, weather and sports stories.

See you at the IDesk!

Hala

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Filed under: Today At The I-Desk


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April 1, 2010
Posted: 1639 GMT

Sometimes, it's hard to imagine there can be two sides to a story. In Saudi Arabia soon, unless that country's King commutes his sentence, a Lebanese TV host will be beheaded for the crime of "sorcery." Ali Sibat's lawyer says she has learned from a judicial source that the execution is scheduled on Friday.

It's 2010. This isn't 17th Century Salem, Massachusetts, where witches were sentenced to death based on "visions" and flimsy testimony. This isn't the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century. Those dark periods of religious zealotry during which leaders imposed a certain vision of compliant orthodoxy should be far behind us. Today, Saudis (including the clerics and leaders who issue death sentences for medieval sounding "crimes") have access to satellite television, the Internet and planes that fly them to the four corners of the earth.

Yet there is no sign that officials in Saudi Arabia will suspend the decapitation execution of Ali Sibat. The Lebanese TV host was sentenced to death last year for making predictions on a TV show from his home in Beirut and was arrested in Saudi Arabia while on pilgrimmage in Mecca.

One of America's top allies in the Middle East, whose oil is supplied to so many Western countries, is by all accounts going ahead with one of the most outrageous punishments against a man who isn't even a citizen of that country. Ali Sibat's lawyer says she has not been given access to him. The Lebanese Justice Minister called today on Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of the father of five, calling the sentence "disproportionate."

Human Rights groups, including Amnesty International, which will appear at the International Desk today, say they have tried to raise the profile of this particular case because bad publicity seems to be the only thing that gets the attention of authorities.

We will continue to watch this story, despite the fact that authorities in Saudi Arabia make it almost impossible to gather information on this or any other criminal case.

If this beheading goes ahead, the crime that will truly be committed in Saudi has nothing to do with witchcraft.

Perhaps there are two sides to this story: right and wrong.

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Filed under: Ali Sibat •Saudi Arabia •Today At The I-Desk


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March 31, 2010
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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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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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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