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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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March 11, 2010
Posted: 1732 GMT

Hello everyone,

The cameras shooting the Chilean presidential transition of power shook and rattled today as Chile was once again rocked by a strong tremor. It was probably the strongest aftershock to hit Chile since the 8.8 magnitude earthquake destroyed entire coastal villages there almost two weeks ago.

We will be live in Santiago where the head of CNN Chile Rolando Santos will tell us what the aftershock felt like and whether it is impacting presidential inauguration ceremonies in the country.

We will then take you live to Baghdad where preliminary election results in Iraq are starting to come in. It looks as though current Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's coalition has a slight edge. But the party will have to form alliances and that could take weeks, even months. How will political wrangling impact the country?

Also, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is headed for Jordan today after a tumultuous visit to Israel and the West Bank. The Israeli government announced new housing plans in East Jerusalem just as Biden was sitting down to dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The American Vice President condemned the move and Palestinians have now pulled out of indirect talks with the Israelis. We interviewed government spokesperson Mark Regev at the IDesk yesterday, and many of you had strong reactions following our energetic discussion. Keep posting your thoughts, I always appreciate open discussion!

We are also live in New York with a look at numbers on Wall Street. It may not feel like it if you are one of the millions of newly unemployed people in the U.S. and Europe, but jobless claims figures are beating expectations on a pretty regular basis. There is no more hemorrhaging of jobs in the way we saw a little more than a year ago. The only problem is that we are not adding jobs at the level the world economy needs to truly bounce back from the tyranny of slow to no growth.

That and the latest developments from Greece and Britain and your weather and sports headlines.

See you at the IDesk!

Hala

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


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March 10, 2010
Posted: 1720 GMT

A quick note today as we prepare a very full show.

We are live in Washington off the top with a live report on President Barack Obama's meeting with Haitian President Rene Preval.

We will then take you live to Jerusalem for the latest on what some have called an "embarrassment" for U.S Vice President Joe Biden, currently on an official visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories: the announcement by Israel that it is building 1,600 more homes for Jewish Israelis in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem.

We will be talking to Israeli Government spokesperson Mark Regev at the half hour and asking him why the Israeli Interior Ministry made the announcement during Mister Biden's visit.

Jeane Meserve will bring us new developments in the case of the so-called "Jihad Jane" – a female American convert to Islam accused of trying to recruit fighter to wage "holy war."

We are also live in Kabul with more on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to Kabul.

That and the rest of the day's top stories, as always!

See you at the IDesk,

Hala

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


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March 9, 2010
Posted: 1746 GMT

Hello from the newsroom everyone,

The Greek Prime Minister is in Washington, D.C., the latest stop on the George Papandreou 2010 World Tour, designed to ask for a few favors to help his country out of crushing debt.

There is a very interesting piece in the Washington Post today that puts Greece's – and America's – debt problems in perspective. Dana Milbank writes that the U.S. could be in aa tight a spot as Greece in about a decade.

Greek national debt is about 113% of GDP, way more than is healthy and certainly much higher than what Eurozone rules allow for.

In his piece, Milbank notes: "If current trends persist, an American president will be doing the same thing in about 10 years. He or she will probably be in Beijing, asking for more favorable interest rates or pleading with the Chinese government to keep speculators from betting on an American default."

We will be going live to the White House to ask whether Greece will get what it wants from America, but also, why it would be in the U.S.'s best interest to give Athens a hand on this one.

Speaking of high-level meetings, the U.S. Vice President is in the Middle East this week for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Joe Biden is the most senior member of the Obama administration to visit the region since the U.S. President took office.

Earlier in the day, Joe Biden was expressing satisfaction that Israelis and Palestinians had agreed to indirect peace talks. But then, right before dinner, Israel said it would authorize the building of 1,600 homes for Jews in Arab East Jerusalem. Now Palestinians are saying this mean no talks are possible.

Expectations regarding peace talks for Biden's trip were extremely low to begin with. We will have the latest from Jerusalem.

Also today, we will have the latest on election result delays in Iraq, the Robert Gates tour of Afghanistan and religious and sectarian violence in Nigeria.

Plus, as always, your complete sports and weather updates.

See you at the IDesk!

Hala

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Filed under: Greece •Israel-West Bank •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 5, 2010
Posted: 1738 GMT

Hello everyone,

First of all, I'm wondering if I should be worried that I reacted with slight panic at the realization my desktop television wasn't working this morning.

My TV is my lifeline to broadcast news all over the world. It's the first thing I switch on when I come in every day.

Of course I immediately called "maintenance" or "facilities" – I'm not exactly sure what they're called at the CNN Center. I was told there was a "TV person" who deals only in television issues. After calling for help, I should have been reassured. Still, I kept staring longingly at a flat screen with the words "NO SIGNAL" blinking at me defiantly.

Meantime, I peeked at Executive Producer Ryan Cooper's screen here and there to get a sense of what was on our air.

I suppose if anyone should be addicted to TV, it's a television news anchor. Still, I'm not sure it's the healthiest of dependencies.

Anyway, back to the show. We have a packed rundown, as usual. We'll kick things off in Chile where our Sara Sidner will bring us the latest on the desperation of residents of several coastal cities in the earthquake zone.

We are also live in Iraq, for more on the last day of campaigning ahead of Sunday's crucial parliamentary vote.

We will take you live to Rome for what could be an explosive sex scandal at the very heart of the Vatican. There are allegations that Vatican insiders have been involved in a gay prostitution ring. Italian newspapers published transcripts of alleged phone conversations detailing sex for hire requests.

Plus, we are live in Istanbul for the latest on the Turkey-US diplomat row after the American Congress recommended passing a resolution declaring that the mass killing of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 was an act of genocide. The U.S. needs Turkey in the region for many of its military operations. Will the White House try to patch things up with Ankara? Ivan Watson will bring us the newest developments.

We will also go over the Oscar nominees ahead of Sunday's Academy Awards in Hollywood. One of the top contenders – "The Hurt Locker" – was directed by a woman, Katheryn Bigelow. As much as we like to say we've made huge strides in terms of gender equality in Western countries, it hasn't applied to Hollywood: only four women directors have ever been nominated for an Oscar. No woman has ever been awarded the best director Academy award.

Oh, by the way, my TV magically started working again. On its own. Maybe it was testing my commitment. Either way, I think I'll just read a book this week-end.

See you at the IDesk!

Hala

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Filed under: 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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February 15, 2010
Posted: 1743 GMT

We will start the show with the deadly commuter train crash in Belgium. There are reports that one train may have run a red light, causing the collision southwest of Brussels. We will have a live report.

We then take you to Kabul and the Pentagon for the latest on the international offensive now under way in Helmand province. Commanders are saying that the operation is going well. The challenge now is to hold the areas that are now clear of Taliban fighters.

We are also live in Haiti with new developments in the ten American missionaries accused of trying to abduct Haitian children out of Haiti.

Also, Jim Clancy is in Rome and will join us live to talk about the Pope's meeting with Irish bishops about the sex scandals in the Catholic Church there. I'll ask him why this event is significant and what it says about the way the Church plans on dealing with similar issues in the future.

And Marc McKay is with us again from Vancouver with the latest on the Winter Olympics. It was a good first day for the French!

See you at the IDesk,

Hala

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Filed under: Today At The I-Desk


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February 11, 2010
Posted: 1607 GMT

On this 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution, Idesk in Paris will be focusing on what is happening on the streets of Tehran.

We will be talking to Amir Taheri, a journalist in Iran when the revolution happened, who fled the country with his French wife and two daughters and settled in Europe. We will be talking to him live in the French capital.

Taheri says that Iran has undergone a major social revolution in the last generation, but hasn't changed politically at the highest levels of government. He adds that the political structure "doesn't reflect the reality of Iran's social structure."

Can change happen gradually? What does the government's nuclear strategy and internal repression mean for the future?

We will be covering all angles of the Iran story.

Today, we are still live in France as part of our special iList coverage. I taped a half hour panel discussion this morning with some big French players: Air France-KLM CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, former astronaut Claudie Haignere, Axa Private Equity CEO Dominique Senequier and journalist Ahmed Al-Kheiy.

I wanted to focus the discussion as much as what France will become in the next generation as on what is happening now. Of course, we spoke of France's image abroad and how French business isn't always seen as efficient or flexible. We spoke of France's minorities and whether they are truly included in the national debate.

As France is debating what it means to be French in a series of commissions and public discussions, what is French culture today?

By the way, it's interesting that our i List week coincided with the hot topic issue of banning the burqa, the full face veil some Muslim women wear. We will be speaking with French politician Jean-Francois Cope, who is in favor of banning the burqa.

And in late breaking news: we will bring you the full story of the presumed suicide of British fashion designer Alexander McQueen. He was only forty years old and a precocious wild child of fashion.

See you at the IDesk,

Hala

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Filed under: Iran •Today At The I-Desk


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February 10, 2010
Posted: 1521 GMT

It was snowing very hard in Paris this morning. At least by Paris standards. The big, fat flakes came down in sheets and, in some places, stuck to the ground.

It didn't last long, and the snow quickly turned to slush. Compact, grey clouds hung over the city as I jumped from one cab to another on my way to radio and TV interviews with French journalists. I was invited to talk about CNN's iList coverage this week.

We chatted about France's image abroad and the stories we'd prepared for our special series. I was also asked about the time I recently spent in Haiti's earthquake zone. Every time I talked about Haiti, and despite the fact that I was in my favorite city anchoring a fascinating series of shows, a part of me wished I was back there.

There is something very odd – almost discombobulated – about being surrounded by standing homes, plentiful food and all around privileged people when the memory of the devastation in Port-au-Prince is still so fresh in my mind.

I left Haiti with a heavy heart, still filled with the desire to tell the story of what happened there. There is almost a measure of guilt associated with leaving – of being able to leave – when so many there are faced with unquantifiable pain. I now know I want to go back as soon as I'm able, to continue to report on the aftermath of the disaster.

This story will continue to unfold for months and years to come.

Before I left the hotel CNN used as a base of operations in Port-au-Prince, I said goodbye to all the employees on my way out, many of whom had lost homes and family members in the earthquake. Outside, I knew that on the way to the airport there would be mountains of rubble and debris and the souls of tens of thousands of missing victims sill buried under the ruins of the city.

A hotel employee at the door got up and shook my hand: "Thanks for coming," he said.

It was the least I could do. And it wasn't enough.

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Filed under: France •Haiti •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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