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Selling America to the world

April 18th, 2014
03:32 PM ET

From Kiev to Damascus, Moscow to Caracas, there are very few international conflicts and debates where the actions and position of the United States is not influential.

In Ukraine, the United States stands solidly behind the interim government, and slapped some sanctions on Russian officials after Moscow annexed Crimea.

But as Moscow continues to play out a similar drama in eastern Ukraine now, the nation and its neighbors want to know what the U.S. is going to do, if anything, to prevent any further land grabs.

The people of Syria of course have been asking that sad question for three years now; despite laying out a red line over chemical weapons, the White House has kept a hands off policy there.

And then there's the tricky question of how the United States stretches over the head of governments to reach the people in countries such as Iran and Cuba.

In a world increasingly consumed by a war of words and polarizing propaganda, the art of public diplomacy is paramount, and the new U.S. Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs has his work cut out for him today.

Rick Stengel, who was sworn in by Secretary of State John Kerry this week, is actually a former journalist and managing editor of Time Magazine. He now steps into the powerful role of telling America’s story and laying out its foreign policy goals for the world.

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour spoke with Stengel on Friday – his first TV interview.

Click above to watch.

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • U.S. Politics

Former CIA agent shines a light on a dark chapter

April 10th, 2014
03:28 PM ET

By Fred Pleitgen and Ken Olshansky, CNN

The great Roman philosopher and politician Cicero once said, "Laws become silent in times of war."

Many say the United States broke its own norms against prisoner abuse in its war on terror – undermining the U.S.'s role as a champion of human rights and the rule of law.

CIA operatives called things like waterboarding "enhanced interrogation methods." But the only adequate word to describe them is "torture."

A pending report on a senate investigation into the brutal interrogations has become a political football, with critics calling it "a partisan sham."

But Dianne Feinstein, the head of the senate intelligence committee, says it's vital to show that the U.S. is a country that makes mistakes, but also one that has the courage to deal with them openly.

In an interview with CNN’s Fred Pleitgen on Thursday, former CIA agent Glenn Carle – who worked at so-called ‘black sites’ – describes the moment the Agency became “caught-up in enhanced interrogation.”

Click above to see why he says there is “no debate” over whether the method works – it doesn’t.

Filed under:  Latest Episode • Torture • U.S. Politics

Why is Donald Rumsfeld so ‘extraordinarily pleased with himself’?

April 4th, 2014
02:20 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

As the Bush Administration was drumming up momentum for its war with Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld went before a Pentagon press conference and uttered some now-notorious words.

“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns – there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns – that is to say, there are some things we know we do not know.”

“But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

A bit of impromptu philosophy? It is the context, says filmmaker Errol Morris, that reveals the slippery nature of the character involved.

“That reply in a Pentagon press conference came in response to a very specific question from Jim Miklaszewski, the NBC News Pentagon correspondent,” Morris told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired Friday.

“He asked Donald Rumsfeld, ‘What evidence’ – he used the E word – ‘what evidence do you have for the presence of WMD in Iraq?’”

His “gobbledygook non-answer” to a “direct and very important question” says much of what you need to know about Rumsfeld, according to Morris.

So much so that he has named his new film about the former Secretary of Defense after yet another version of that very phrase – “The Unknown known.”

Morris interviewed Rumsfeld for 33 hours in an attempt to reveal a depth, a peek behind the curtain, into the highly controversial figure.


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • U.S. Politics

Two years after Trayvon Martin killing, human rights lawyer says America ‘burdened with a legacy of slavery’

February 26th, 2014
04:33 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Two years ago Wednesday, a black teenager named Trayvon Martin became the latest face of what many called racial injustice in America.

Martin was unarmed, except with a hoodie, when he was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida.

The assailant, George Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, claimed self-defense. A jury agreed, pronouncing him not guilty.

Of course Trayvon's case was hardly the first or the last such tragedy.

Just two weeks ago, again in Florida, a similar situation: a white man escaped the most serious charge of first degree murder after he shot and killed a black teenager in a dispute over loud music, of all things. Michael Dunn was convicted on three charges of attempted second-degree murder for shooting into the SUV holding the victim and other black teenagers.

The cases “reflect a continuing disregard for valuing people of color in the way that we have to if we’re going to recover from our history inequality and racial injustice,” Bryan Stevenson, a human rights lawyer and founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.

“This country is burdened with a legacy of slavery. We enslaved Africans for over two centuries. From the end of reconstruction until World War II we terrorized and traumatized black people in America with lynchings and violence and racial hatred.”

“And because we never told the truth about all of those problems and all the difficulties that created, we never had the moment of truth and reconciliation that every country requires if it’s going to deal with decades of human rights abuse. We didn’t have what South Africa went through.”


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • U.S. Politics

Has America lost its ability to dream big?

February 11th, 2014
10:20 AM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Peter Thiel has made more than a billion dollars investing in Silicon Valley’s innovations, but now he says American society has become “somehow very hostile to big ideas.”

“If Einstein wrote a letter to the White House, it would get lost in the mail room,” Thiel told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday, referring to the letter Einstein wrote to U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the promise and danger of nuclear technology.

“Something like the Manhattan project or the Apollo program are quite unthinkable today,” he said.

Many say that those very big ideas are lacking in the area that may matter most in the coming century – climate change.

England has experienced its wettest January in 250 years, and much of the southern part of that country has been literally underwater, flooded, for weeks.

President Obama's administration, in an effort to act without a difficult Congress, last week announced the creation of so-called "climate hubs" to help farmers adapt to climate change – a humble step.

“The technology story in the last 20 or 30 years has been a story of tremendous innovation in the world of bits, and computers, but much less innovation in the world of atoms and stuff,” Thiel said. “And the energy problem is certainly a problem that’s more a problem involving atoms, and how we build new kinds of power sources.”

Thiel was a co-founder of PayPal and the first outside investor in Facebook.


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • U.S. Politics

Top chef Tom Colicchio sets out to end American hunger

February 6th, 2014
09:31 AM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Tom Colicchio – renowned chef, restaurateur, and head judge on TV reality series “Top Chef” – wants to “rebrand” hunger.

“You know, the idea that people are hungry because they're lazy and they don't want to work just is not true,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired Wednesday.

In the richest country in the world, 50 million people are hungry, and don’t know where their next meal will come from. Colicchio is setting out to change that.

“The average person is on food stamps for only nine months. The average person who is on food stamps was working the year before and the year after.”

“This is not a handout,” he said. “It's an investment in people. It's an investment in our country.”


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • U.S. Politics

Obama promises action on inequality, but proposals are ‘modest’ says John Cassidy

January 29th, 2014
03:00 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

In his most important scheduled speech of the year, U.S. President Barack Obama called for a “year of action” – with or without Congress.

At the center of his agenda was not the deficit, or the national debt, but inequality.

According to two UC Berkeley economists, 95% of income growth during the economic recovery went to the top 1% richest Americans.

But Obama’s actual proposals, said John Cassidy, economics writer for The New Yorker, were “very modest if you looked at it closely.”

Among those “modest” proposals – enacted without Congress – are raising the minimum wage for new federal contractors.

There appears to be popular support for taxing the super rich more heavily, he said, but that has not translated into government action.

Inequality “has produced some anger,” he told CNN’s Hala Gorani, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, “but for whatever reason the political system doesn’t seem to be able to respond to it.”

Click above to watch Gorani’s full conversation with Cassidy.

Filed under:  Latest Episode • U.S. Politics

Senator to Newtown families: ‘Don’t give up’

December 12th, 2013
03:22 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Nearly a year ago, 20 children and six teachers were massacred at an elementary school in the United States.

In the aftermath, Senate Democrat Chris Murphy, who represents the state, Connecticut, where the murders happened, said Congress needed to act to restrict access to guns.

“I do shudder to think what I’m going to tell some of these families if we can’t even get background checks passed in the United States Senate,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in March.

The Senate did fail to pass such a bill, despite 90% support from the American public.

Since the tragedy, the New York Times says at the state level there have been 39 new laws to restrict access to guns but a whopping 70 to make buying, owning, and carrying guns even easier.

“Something is fundamentally broken with the Senate and with democracy in general if, when 90 per cent of the American public thinks that you should just pass a basic criminal background check before buying a gun … the Senate can’t pass it,” he told CNN’s Hala Gorani, in for Christiane Amanpour, on Thursday.


Filed under:  Gun Control • Latest Episode • U.S. Politics

The man at the forefront of the Special Relationship

The man at the forefront of the Special Relationship
October 30th, 2013
04:13 PM ET

Part 1: The U.S. ambassador in London

Part 1 of CNN's Christiane Amanpour conversation with U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. Matthew Barzun.


Part 2: The U.S. ambassador in London

Part 2 of CNN's Christiane Amanpour conversation with U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. Matthew Barzun.

By Mick Krever, CNN

It’s quite a time to become an American ambassador in Europe.

When Matthew Barzun took up his post as the American Ambassador to the UK, he could hardly have known how quickly he would be thrown in the arena.

Six days into his job, as the British parliament rejected a military intervention in Syria, The Sun newspaper issued a front-page death notice for the so-called Special Relationship between the UK and U.S..

“I got some emails from friends back home, saying, ‘Well done! Six short days and it's over,’” Ambassador Barzun told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in a wide-ranging interview on Wednesday. “Of course, it's not over; it's as strong and healthy as ever.”


Gingrich, unlike Boehner, could ‘control his party,’ Tyson says

October 16th, 2013
03:43 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

A top economic aide to U.S. President Bill Clinton said that unlike the last government shutdown, in 1995, the Republican party of 2013 has no idea what it wants.

“We do not have anyone in charge,” Laura Tyson, former chair of the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday. “Speaker Boehner cannot control the Republican majority.”

By contrast, during the 1995-96 shutdown, she said, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was a “powerful” leader.

“He was able to control his party,” she said. “It was a failed tactic on their part – they ended up suffering in the polls and they ended up helping to re-elect President Clinton the next year – but he had control of the tactic and he had control of what they wanted to get.”

“Here we have a situation where the Republicans are not united,” Tyson told Amanpour. “Boehner cannot raise a deal, as we saw just yesterday. And there a number of people in his party who have different demands.”


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Economy • Latest Episode • U.S. Politics
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