The State Department confirmed Wednesday that the U.S. badminton team won’t be going to Iran as planned this week for a tournament.
“This is a very unfortunate situation,” State Department Spokesman Robert Wood said at his morning briefing. “Apparently the Iranian consulate in Dubai did not issue visas to the American team in time to participate in the tournament I believe scheduled February 5 through 8. The team is returning tonight.” Wood said.
Twelve Americans had planned on traveling to Tehran, including eight players, a coach, a manager and representatives of the American Badminton Federation.
The visit was seen as a low-level but important gesture to improve contacts between the United States and Iranian people at a time when there are no official relations between the two countries.
In recent years American wrestlers have competed in Iran and Iranians artists have come to Washington and toured the U.S. Wood said there had been no formal communication from the Iranians, through the Swiss government which acts as a diplomatic go-between in the absence of official U.S. representation in Iran. He said he believed the Iranian Badminton Federation had expressed “disappointment” that the visas were not granted. And Wood said he believed all the Americans’ paperwork was in order and on time.
AC360° Senior Producer
Anderson is back from DC following his sit-down interview with President Obama at the White House yesterday.
President Obama addressed Tom Daschle’s failed appointment as Health & Human Services Secretary due to tax issues, saying he ‘screwed up’ and takes responsibility for it. He said he didn’t want to send a message to the American people that there are 2 sets of standards, one for powerful people and the other for ordinary folks working and paying taxes.
The vetting process for cabinet appointees was reported to be quite extensive, we may look deeper today into how snags like these didn’t come to light sooner in the process.
CNN Financial News Producer
For American workers rocked by layoffs and cutbacks, January really was as bad as it felt, according to a pair of troubling reports released this morning.
The number of planned layoffs announced last month increased by 45% to the highest level in seven years, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. And ADP's National Employment Report found that private-sector employers cut 522,000 positions.
We’ll get the government’s official reading on January’s job losses on Friday. The latest estimate from Briefing.com is that the economy shed another 525,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate is expected to jump to 7.5% — the highest level since the early 1990s.
CNN Asia Correspondent
In diplomacy, you never really know what might come back to haunt you. Last month, after U.S. President George Bush ducked a flying shoe during a surprise visit to Baghdad, there was this exchange at the regular Foreign Ministry briefing in Beijing with spokesman Liu Jianchao:
MOFA briefing Dec 16th 2008, Spokesman Liu Jianchao
Q: U.S. President George Bush's visit to Iraq has been overshadowed by an incident in which a pair of shoes was thrown at him by an Iraqi reporter during a news conference. How do you comment? Also, many of our interviewees in Beijing said they were not surprised, that the incident happened because the U.S. has been too aggressive. How do you feel about this?
CNN Arab Affairs Editor
Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number 2 man of al Qaeda, allegedly released an audio message today titled, “Gaza Sacrifices and The Conspiracies.” The voice on the audio sounds very much like Zawahiri; the intonation and accent are consistent with earlier messages by the Egyptian doctor. Two references indicate that the message was recorded on or after January 20th. This is significant as it gives an idea of how quickly these messages are turned around and released online. Zawahiri references Israeli forces pulling out of Gaza and he indicates his knowledge that President Obama didn't mention Gaza in his inauguration speech.
Reporter's Note: President Obama has asked Americans for ideas to help the country. So far, all I’ve come up with is Grilled Cheese Fridays. Still, I’m writing a letter a day to the White House.
Tom Foreman | Bio
Dear Mr. President,
Once as a kid, I was playing basketball at the town gym, where I lived in the flat part of Illinois. Yes, Illinois is pretty much all flat, but I lived in the middle, where even the earth doesn’t curve. Anyway, a friend named Tim scrambled after a ball going out of bounds, tripped, and t-boned the brick wall with his head. He hopped up, and through watery eyes insisted he was just fine. Then he staggered down the court like Amy Winehouse on a bender, shouted that he had to get home, and went reeling out the door. We heard the next day that Tim had a concussion, and only the vaguest idea of what had happened.
Washington can have the same effect. My guess is that you’re feeling it about now. You’ve taken a couple of whacks over your Cabinet picks. You’ve been hip-checked on the economic stimulus package. And your approval rating, which was stratospheric a month ago, is down to a more human level of about 64 percent. Not a bad time to pop a couple of aspirin, and splash your face with cold water.
CNN White House Correspondent
Here are the new restrictions on executive compensation:
"Under the new rules, companies that have already received Treasury investments will have to demonstrate to the American people that they have complied with the current set of restrictions and reforms on executive pay and lending requirements, and agree to strict monitoring and oversight going forward.
Going forward, companies receiving exceptional assistance from the Treasury will face even stricter rules—including no top executives will be paid more than $500,000 a year - any additional compensation will be in restricted stock that will not vest until taxpayers have been paid back.
AC360° Associate Producer
Well, the party is over. President Obama wants a $500,000 annual salary cap for Wall Street executives who have been bailed out by taxpayers. Is he serious? I mean, what the heck is someone supposed to do with a measly $500,000? I spend more than that on temporary tattoos.
I assume you saw Anderson’s interview with President Obama yesterday. I had to stay here in New York. Apparently, despite the new administration, my ban from The White House is still in effect. It’s a long story but take my advice: If Rosalynn Carter ever challenges you to a beer pong tournament in the East Room, just keep on walking.
Anyway, I watched Anderson’s interview, as well as those conducted by Charlie Gibson, Brian Williams, Katie Couric and Chris Wallace, on a closed circuit feed as it happened. And while the others were strong, I must say that Anderson’s was the best. And I’m not just saying that in the hopes that he’ll give me back my Planet Hollywood jacket. He was tough, fair and, to his credit, he rejected my suggestion of taunting the president with a lit Marlboro and an innocent “this doesn’t bother you, does it?” when asking if he had quit smoking.
The president continues to dominate the headlines today but he’d better watch out because – it was only a matter of time – the woman who had those octuplets (a term so out of place in society that even Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize it) in California has retained herself a publicist. Of course. It’s right there in all the parenting books. Blankets, diapers, publicist. Don’t forget the bassinet and personal trainer.