May 12, 2009
Posted: 1812 GMT
Demjanjuk has been in this position, when, being accused of having been Ivan the Terrible, a notoriously brutal guard at the Treblinka concentration camp, he was found guilty in an Israeli court in the late 1980s and sentenced to death for his crimes. Subsequent refutations of the facts led to him being exonerated and he returned to his life in the United States.
This recent saga got me thinking about the culpability we still assign– 64 years after the end of the war– to these diminutive holdovers of evil.
I recently read a novel titled ‘The Kindly Ones’ by Jonathan Littell. Told from the viewpoint of a Nazi bureaucrat, it makes the case (among many cases) that men like Demjanjuk were merely tools of a twisted regime, doing what they were told was their duty. It's not necessarily an idea I believe, it's much more complicated–almost unapproachable in its philosophy. The notorious Nazi Adolf Eichmann used this argument in his trial in Israel, stating he was merely a puppet, carrying out orders. He was convicted and executed.
The argument continues that the real men of evil—the ones we should hold accountable– were the architects, the brutal designers, the puppet masters of the committed atrocities. Who those people are is vague in and of it self for where does the authoritative voice become the subservient one? Who is the voice of "reason" and who complacently follows "reason" to its inexorable end?
No doubt if Demjanjuk is guilty of what he is accused of he did monstrous things. But after living a full life, what is the value of this delayed justice? What do all those who suffered from his acts or from acts similar to his feel about this man who represents so many things to so many people?
May 8, 2009
Posted: 2019 GMT
The past few weeks at the International Desk, we've brought you several stories involving women in the Middle East. But I would like to introduce you to a story of a young woman that seems to be flying under the radar. Her name is Esha Momeni. She is a 28-year-old graduate student at California State University, Northridge. Like most graduate students, she’s motivated, hard-working, and determined to complete an in-depth and complex Masters thesis. One problem. Momeni is trapped in Iran.
Late last summer, the U.S. born Iranian-American went to Iran to visit her family and work on her Masters thesis. Her topic? "Change for Equality." That’s the name of an Iranian women's rights movement of which she is a member. In October, Momeni was pulled over for an alleged traffic violation. But instead of giving her a ticket and sending her on her way, officers escorted her to her family's home, confiscated her computer and research and interview materials, and jailed her in the infamous Evin Prison, according to a report from the human rights group Amnesty International. After she had spent nearly a month behind bars with some of Iran's most dangerous criminals, Momeni's family put up the deed to their apartment to meet the $200,000 bail, clearing the way for her release. Six months later, she is still unable to return to Los Angeles because Iranian authorities will not return her passport, family and friends say. They say she was detained due to the sensitive nature of her thesis topic and her involvement in Iranian women's rights groups. Her friends say she followed Iranian laws regarding filming and interviews and was not attempting to make any kind of a political statement. In a letter to Iran last month, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged that Momeni be allowed to travel.
Her fiancé, Hassan Hussain, along with the entire university community, hope that Momeni will be able to return to the United States and complete her degree. Her blog, , which was created by her family and friends, tracks the progress being made to get Momeni out of Iran and back home.
Whatever happens, it seems doubtful that Momeni, after years of research and time spent on her thesis, will be able to walk across the stage with her classmates and receive her diploma in June. Her graduate adviser, Dr. Melissa Wall, fears it will be too late for Momeni to meet the requirements to graduate, even if she is allowed to return home now.
April 30, 2009
Posted: 2054 GMT
Time Magazine, which is owned by CNN's parent company, Time Warner, recently released their annual poll results for 'Most Influential Person' in the world. Could it be the person pictured above? Some other world leader? A religious figure? Maybe even an artist or an athlete? This is less than scientific, of course, and the results will both affirm that...and surprise you. The article can be found here:
This prompted us to wonder...who is the most influential person in your life? Or if you prefer to make a broader response: Who do you think is the most influential person in the world? Let us know!
Posted: 1708 GMT
Today is going to be a different day at I-Desk. We'll be devoting the whole hour to picking apart the H1N1 Flu (aka Swine Flu). We'll have a panel of experts live in the studio answering questions and we'll go live to our correspondents who are, as usual, right where the action is. Leave your comments below and we'll be sure to try to ask as many of them as we can live on air.
April 21, 2009
Posted: 1204 GMT
His novel Empire of the Sun, written about his experiences in an internment camp during the Second World War, is his most popular accomplishment, shot on film by Steven Spielberg in the 80s. But he also wrote seminal works such as 1973’s ‘Crash’–novels that strove to describe a society increasingly reliant on its mechanizing environment.
Perhaps it’s best to sum Ballard up in this fact: The Collins English Dictionary included the adjective ‘Ballardian” in its volumes as "resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard's novels & stories, esp. dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes & the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments."
I can’t claim to have ever finished a Ballard novel (which isn't so rare, many a recent commemoration noted the turgid nature of even his slimmest novels). I always picked them up at the wrong time, when I was looking for a quick and easy read, as opposed to his dense and layered novels. But I have devoured the books of writers who have cited him as an influence—authors such as Martin Amis and Will Self. And if their perniciously erudite works owe an ounce to Ballard then, for me, that’s reason enough to canonize him.
April 14, 2009
Posted: 1347 GMT
We missed you yesterday, so today we’ll have to make our entry twice as fun.
First off, the lovely Isha Sesay is hosting again, while Hala gets another day of R & R.
Now to the good stuff: U.S. President Barack Obama is addressing the economy, in a speech today at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. How will his words affect today’s markets? Will he increase confidence in a not-too-far-off recovery?
We’ll bring you that speech; and, we’ll be talking with our man Richard Quest about this and more.
Also, our Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider has some interesting new numbers just released, about whether people think President Obama has a plan to save the economy.
Morgan Neill will be live from Cuba to discuss recent comments made by Fidel Castro on President Obama’s easing of travel restrictions to the communist country. Castro says he doesn’t want “charity”, so then what does he want?
Pirates, pirates and more pirates– ships keep getting hijacked off the Horn of Africa. This time it’s a Greek cargo ship. Can these Somali pirates be stopped and if so, how? When will these ships start trying to combat the terror?
And an interesting new study will be published next week by a group of University of Southern California scientists about the effects of Twitter on the development of morality. It says that the streams of information are too fast for the brain’s “moral compass.” What does this mean and is it something to be worried about for yourself or your kids?
We here at I-Desk certainly don’t suffer from any moral deficiencies… but, then again, we missed the online social network-age by a few years.
We’ll have all this and more so tune in. Till airtime!!
April 12, 2009
Posted: 2042 GMT
I have had the good fortune of living in Rome, Italy in my past lives. For a semester as a college junior in 2006, and then last year immediately following my graduation from college. And now that the week has passed, and the temporal vapors have settled and lifted, and the dead have begun to be mourned, I can finally report back what I have heard and seen.
First, it’s important to note a few things: L’Aquila is the center of the region of Abruzzo with a population of more than 70,000, so will naturally attract most of the media’s interest. As well it should. Its infrastructure has been devastated, its people frightened, killed and ruined. As one friend I spoke to, who lives in the region said, “it simply doesn't exist anymore.”
But the whole of Abruzzo, with its population of more than a million, has suffered too, with many towns being leveled. My friend, whose brother by the way lost a home in L’Aquila, put it bluntly: “We're scared, we don't know if our houses are safe or not and we don't feel comfortable. There have been many earthquakes after the big one and they brought more troubles.” She told me this as she prepared for a night of sleep under her house beams. This to provide what protection she could get in case her house came tumbling down.
And amongst those towns that still remain standing—albeit somewhat reluctantly and uncertainly– are families, some of which have roots in the area stretching back centuries. They’re unwilling to vacate the tenuously erect infrastructure that surrounds them. They remain clinging to the only lives they know. Lives that are on the verge of collapsing, literally. “Thousands of people are still living there,” my friend said. “They don't want to move, since they still want to stay in their town, close to their community.”
Italy is not accustomed to such national crises or disasters, but the country has rallied. A friend in Rome told me that there has been an overwhelming outpouring of aid. People, even in these tough economic times, are donating money in hopes of helping out. Another friend in Rome, a journalist, told me he had heard over 170 hotels in Abruzzo alone were offering free accommodation to those affected by the earthquake. It’s been proposed politicians give their April wages away and that the superenalotto, the countries biggest lottery drawing, be given to recovery efforts.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and President Giorgio Napolitano by all acounts have been copascetic in their leadership. Regardless, some journalists in Italy say Italians don’t often look to their politicians for strength. Berlusconi especially, a media mogul and a businessman, with a knack for incendiary speech who has held his current post three different times in the last 15 years, has been criticized for getting by more on his familiarity than anything else.
So it is the communal bonds that will most likely save these leveled towns now, as Italians look to each other to recover. And they will. This is an ancient culture that has withstood plenty. And maybe fewer churches will stand, and fewer ancient buildings too, and they will be replaced by uglier, surely less beautiful buildings, but they will be rebuilt, slowly and through time.
April 2, 2009
Posted: 2124 GMT
The Obama's received a private audience with Her Majesty when they met Wednesday–the only Head of State in town for the G-20 Summit to be accorded this honor. The rendezvous included tea and the exchange of gifts.
The Royals gave the Obamas a signed picture of themselves, which will surely go on a prominent wall in their White House residence , perhaps right above the bust of George Washington. And what did the Obamas bring? A rare coffee table book of songs by composers Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart and an iPod.
Some of the songs programmed into said iPod included such Broadway showtune classics as "Oklohoma" and "Getting to Know You," from the "The King and I."
All this begs the question: If you had the opportunity to give the Queen an iPod, what songs would you put on it?
A few choices: "God Save The Queen" by the Sex Pistols, a song by the band Queen, or perhaps "Purple Rain" by Prince (you know, just to keep the burgeoning prospect of posterity at the forefront).
So leave your playlist and we'll post some of our favorites. And as the Queen surely said in parting the Obamas, "Cheers!"
March 26, 2009
Posted: 1857 GMT
It seems Twitter's the new thing now. Everybody's doing it– or at least every body who's anybody ( I mean come on Hala has a new account-which I'll comment on...just wait). Or perhaps it's just anybody who is paying attention to what everybody seems to be doing when in all actuality it's really a small minority who are actually doing it. Whatever. In the news world anything techy that can help reach viewers is latched onto with a revelatory glee thus becoming transformative, interactive and ultimately bilateral. Whatever.
I got into an argument the other night with a few people who work at CNN.Com. They were promoting the idea that Twitter is self-reflective. In other words it allows us to be more cognizant of what we're doing and of the world around us. I don't know if I buy that. In fact, I really don't buy that. And even if it were true why must we compress our observations into a 140-character, language-deforming entry. I don't eat my food and then go and cook that same food for everybody so they can have a taste too. What happened to privacy and personal experience?
But being the upbeat and cheerful person that I am (injecting the clichés here) always looking at 'the glass half-full' or the 'money well spent' I've chosen to embrace the concept for reasons I will summarily list:
First of all, it blurs the societal walls of celebrity that have become our own class-system. Anyone can sign on and 'follow' anybody else. This means you, normal person, can interact with Mr. A-list celebrity on an equal footing. On Twitter we're all equal, we are all reduced to a scant word max. Yes, we can now all communicate without fear or embarrassment of our level of education, fame, bank account size or of getting a restraining order.
Secondly, and more importantly here, as a news platform it's unequivocally priceless. The real-time response it allows is essential to breaking down the fourth wall of TV. Unlike Facebook or Myspace, it reduces social-networking to verbal (or really written) interaction at it's most simple levels. I write something, you write back. We correspond. No photos or quizzes or walls. It cuts out the convoluted interface. Instead of the site being the star the user is.
So now, Hala, as I said earlier, has become a Twitterer (yes it's a noun that I imagine will be in Webster's Dictionary soon enough with its own special category, right there with Googler.) She denies her addiction but it's very real. And it will only get worse. So in order to satiate her burgeoning lust (and in order to chat with her) you can find her-if you too are a twitterer-under her name. Yes easy enough, we all know it.
And maybe I too will get on twitter. But I doubt it. I don't really pay attention to much.
March 24, 2009
Posted: 1812 GMT
Here at I-desk, we staff are always working to bring you the latest and greatest–as well as the most significant and pertinent– news of the day.
The dry hum of nonstop activity tends to place each of us individually in our own cocoon of self containment-totally separated from anything non-news oriented.
To this extent we aren't always able to respond to or even acknowledge all of the comments left on our blog. But let it be said: we are not ignoring you. We read all of your comments. And sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry and sometimes we even need to get someone to translate.
Below we'd like to highlight some of our favorite viewer comments on the new show, to encourage you to continue giving us your feedback on the issues of the day (and on our coverage of it):
First of all I'd like to congratulate Hala for her beauty and grace....and say that here in Brazil we could have this format to present the news: agile, interesting and fast.
– Julio, Brazil
Hey Hala & iDesk viewers,
I've been watching this new show on CNN and have been more impressed with it's presentation than the milliard of other news shows on the channel.
It's got character and some degree of personality which is always nice – it makes one feel a sense of familiarity with the presenting team.
I hope you (Hala) and your team will use this airtime as a forum to highlight the plight of many opressed peoples the world over and stress the need for our shared humanity, desire for peace, patience and most importantly MERCY.
It would be nice if the news agenda was made to reflect REAL issues, not just sensationalism and what is being rolled off all the other 24 hour news channels.
whatever happening in the show i love the show and i enjoy.god bless you and keeping work.
Hi Hala, I love your new show, it's fast paced and gives us all the latest news from around the world. I love the sport segment with Mark, you two are always funny together.
IDesk music is awesome, I feel like dancing when I hear it and your new Atlanta set is fabulous.
But the best thing on IDesk is you Hala Gorani, a great anchor and journalist, always very objective and fair, you care about news from all around the world and make CNN really International.
Keep up the great work the whole IDesk team
We'll do our best to highlight issues and those comments we find most thoughtfully articulated each week here on the blog.
For now, keep on checking back in with us and we'll keep on checking back in with you.
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.