April 21, 2009
Posted: 1406 GMT

Filed under: CNN •I •I-Desk Poll

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Posted: 1204 GMT

He didn’t run in literary circles and chances are you’ve probably never heard of him, but the world of writing lost one of its preeminent voices on Sunday in JG Ballard.

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.

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Posted: 216 GMT


We received an overwhelming response to our poll question yesterday and wanted to highlight a few of the more concise and thoughtful comments below to keep the conversation going. We had to leave many quotes off this list because we lacked space or because we had already read them on air. But keep those comments coming and we'll surely post yours soon enough (if we already haven't). And for future reference–put down your location when leaving a comment. We want to know where you're located!! Thanks! –The I-Desk Team.

The UN conference on racism – couldn’t they have found another speaker? The UN knew it was inviting controversy by having Iran’s leader speak, and they knew what he was going to say and do. Maybe this was intentional by UN staffers? Racism is awful and should be dealt with, but why politicize it so much? It is counter-productive to do so
-James W. Hawkins

I don’t think it was the right move, to give Pres. Ahmadinejad the stage and opportunity to speak at a conference that treads a social problem as important as racism, after all we’ve heard in the past. It was too obvious that he would continue to rage against Israel.
-Adrian Vocke

Hello, as a British Citizen of African origin, I have fought against racism in Britain. I have also observed through various media outlet including CNN, that racism is very much alive within the state of Israel. Racism against Arab Israelis, against Palestinians, you cannot deny that white or light-skinned Israelis of European origin are the privilege ones in Israeli society. Equally, there is clearly racial division USA, and that racism is worldwide, so although I absolutely disagree with the Iranian President on his dangerous views on the holocaust, I feel that the move to boycott or walk out of the conference on racism is childish, because all the delegates from the those countries should put their own house in order. Racism can only be eradicated by talking not by boycott or walking out.

I do believe that he should have the opportunity to speak. It’s just a pity that he didn’t use this platform to make a great speech, present new views or suggest ways to move forward with the international community. Everyone already knows his point of view, so why sound like a broken down record and keep repeating it. In my mind this just shows how much of a poor *leader* he actually is.

I think he should be allowed to speak, that one does not agree with what he has to say does not give anyone the right to stop him from saying what he feels. What is the essence of a free society if someone is not allowed to speak because his opinion is contrary to yours.

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April 20, 2009
Posted: 1555 GMT

Hello everyone,

First of all, welcome to the International Desk's new slot.

Same show, same great team, but on air at 9pm cet, 10pm and 11pm in the Middle East.

Today, we're still playing aroung with our lead story, but we know for sure that the UN anti-racism conference will feature at the top of our rundown.

As it did in South Africa 8 years ago, this UN gathering in Switzerland is proving to be just as controversial. It's meant to be a forum to discuss racism and oppression. Yet again, it's become a platform for airing grievances, for fiery walk-outs, boycotts and sideline insults.

The Iranian president lashed out at Israel. Israel, the United States and other countries boycotted the meeting. There was even a bottleneck of E.U. delegates at the doors of the assembly room after they walked out in protest at Mahmoud Ahmadenijad's speech.

As Juliette de Rivero of Human Rights Watch said, the boycotters are "ceding the floor to more radical voices."

What do you think? Vote in today's Idesk poll and I'll read some of the results out on the air during our new prime hour.

Speaking of Iran, we will be covering American-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi's case in Tehran. She was sentenced to 8 years in prison for "spying" after a one day, closed trial. Few people are hopeful that the appeals process will produce a different result.

Also on tap today, the economy.. The Dow is tanking, despite some hopeful numbers from Bank of America. We'll ask why and discuss what sectors are hardest hit.

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

See you on TV at 9pm CET!


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Posted: 1356 GMT

Filed under: CNN •I-Desk Poll

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April 17, 2009
Posted: 1509 GMT

The drug underworld does have a certain dangerous charm.

I’ve lived in Mexico then Colombia for more than 14 years and have drunk beer with cocaine traffickers and hung out in the slums with their hitmen.

I’ve met narcos’ wives, girlfriends and widows – surgically-inflated, divinely dressed shopaholics – and know accountants and businessmen who launder their ill-gotten gains.

Like most people, I have many professional, working friends who are self-described recreational drug users who enjoy cocaine, marijuana and an assortment of pills.

None of these characters likes to talk much about it in public. It’s an industry and a habit that thrives best in the shadows.

But my point is that millions of ordinary and not so ordinary people are connected in some way to the drug trade. Putting thousands of soldiers and police on Mexican streets, in the Colombian jungles or along the U.S. border is not going to solve that.

My month-long trip through Mexico took me first to Juarez – scene of a bloody turf war between the Juarez and Sinaloa Cartels, through Reynosa, stronghold of “los Zetas” cartel hit squad and to Sinaloa state, cradle of Mexico’s marijuana and heroin plantations and birthplace of its most notorious capos.

When cartel hitmen chase you out of Mexican border towns at gunpoint and you see bodies dumped on a main street in broad daylight with their brains blown out, you’re under no illusions that the drug trade is an ugly, brutal business.

When you see a prominent lawyer lying slumped dead over the wheel of his Mercedes Benz at a busy intersection in downtown Juarez, you can begin to imagine the scale of human suffering the drug war is bringing.

But when you see a sparkling Hummer truck glide by, or glimpse the ornate and spacious homes (and equally extravagant tombs) and hear cowboy musicians singing the praises of drug kingpins and the heroics of their latest shootouts – you can see what I mean about the dangerous charm.

Now if you’re down on your luck – a teen tearaway living on a dead-end street, or a peasant farmer getting a pittance for beans and corn –you can maybe understand the lure of easy money.

That said, as I hung out on a dimly-lit street corner with young gang members in Juarez or chatted with a gravedigger in a Culiacan cemetery, it became apparent the money was not so easy.
“It’s easy money…until you die,” a gang member called “El Bolis” told me. Graveyards were full of the tombs of young men who met untimely deaths.

“It’s all about time. If you kill somebody, somebody will kill you. Somewhere, somehow, they will catch you,” said gravedigger Jesus Gaston.

But just as some of Latin America’s poor are hooked on the prospect of easy money, politicians seem hooked on cheap talk and easy targets.

The prime targets in Washington and Mexico’s much vaunted drug war are the young hitmen and their drug smuggling paymasters.

But I hear little talk in Mexico or from the Obama administration about taking the war to the doorsteps of the people who are putting the bullets in the barrels of the cartels’ guns.

That’s the industrialists who launder dirty money, the politicians who protect the capos, the bankers who transfer their cash from Europe and the U.S. back to Latin America and, of course, the drug users.

A bag of “blood cocaine” or “blood heroin” in Europe or the U.S. costs several dollars; bullets in Latin America cost just a few cents.
Africa gave the world blood diamonds. Latin America is giving the world blood cocaine, blood heroin and even blood marijuana.

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Posted: 1452 GMT

Hello everyone,

There is a lot of developing news out there today so I will make this brief.

We are closely monitoring the release by the U.S. Justice Department of memos detailing harsh interrogation methods of terrorism suspects during the Bush administration.

These are suspects questionned between 2002 and as late as 2005 in overseas prison facilities. The Obama team is asking Americans and the world to move on, issuing promises no CIA operatives will be prosecuted.

But the question for most of the world is hardly a legal one, but a question of what moral standards American intelligence sets for itself. We'll explore all the angles.

We'll also take you live to Spain where prosecutors asked a judge to drop a case against former Bush Administration officials for alleged torture at Guantanamo Bay. But a judge moved minutes ago to keep the case alive. We're live with the latest.

That and the rest of the day's important news and an announcement about I-Desk at the end of the program. Our show has been so successful, we're planning great new things for it, so tune in for details!

See you on TV,


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Posted: 1404 GMT

Filed under: CNN •I-Desk Poll

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April 16, 2009
Posted: 1841 GMT

Filed under: CNN •Mexico

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Posted: 1453 GMT


Hello readers and viewers,

Today, we're heading south to Mexico, where President Barack Obama will soon land on his first official visit to Latin America as commander-in-chief.

I'll be speaking to CNN en Espanol's Juan Carlos Lopez, who conducted a one-on-one with Mister Obama in Washington. The president spoke a few words in Spanish.

This is an important trip for Barack Obama: there is the drug war violence on the border and some frayed relations with Latin America. Will this charm mission work as well as his European tour a few weeks ago? We're live in Mexico for the latest.

We'll also be running Karl Penhaul's second exclusive story from the dangerous Juarez drug war front lines. This piece airs first at the I-desk so make sure to tune in.

Also today, we'll be covering the homecoming of the Maersk Alabama crew whose cargo ship was attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

And we'll be going live to Jerusalem for analysis on American special envoy George Mitchell's trip to the region.

Plus what country considers economic growth of more than 6% a bad thing? Tune in to the International Desk for the answer!

See you on TV,


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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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