In a major departure from previous policy, the United States will join direct talks between U.N. and European powers and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program, the State Department announced Wednesday.
The Obama administration has asked the European Union's international policy chief, Javier Solana, to invite Iran to new talks with the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.
Washington, which does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, has stayed out of those talks to date.
"If Iran accepts, we hope this will be an occasion to seriously engage Iran of how to break the logjam of recent years and work in a cooperative manner to resolve the outstanding international concerns about its nuclear program," Wood said.
CNN Financial News Producer
A big merger in the home-building sector is giving Wall Street a lift today, overshadowing dismal numbers from aluminum maker Alcoa as earnings season gets underway.
Pulte Homes is acquiring Centex Corp. in a stock transaction worth $3.1 billion. And that’s ignited a rally across the entire building sector. Executives say the deal will put the combined company in a better position to navigate the weak housing environment.
New home sales sank to the lowest level on record in January, but rebounded slightly in February.
Insurance stocks are also making gains today, following reports that the Treasury Department is poised to open its $700 billion bailout program to life-insurance companies, helping an industry that is considered a lynchpin of America’s financial system.
Investors have been increasingly worried about the health of life insurers, which have been hit hard by worries about capital requirements and mounting losses.
CNN Senior National Editor
Sometimes I wish I’d finished the economics half of that double major.
Then again, I’m not sure what good it would be doing me now. I mean, these “masters of the universe” have so loused up the economy that even Greenspan and Buffett are left scratching their heads. And if they are befuddled, what chance do the rest of us have to figure out what’s going on?
I remember the guys in the health club locker room 15 years ago, sitting around watching the cable TV business channels. Occasionally you heard someone cheer, as if he were watching a game. Those were better days, with more arrows pointing up than down. Now people with 401K’s hesitate to open the envelopes with the monthly statements. The bar charts look stairways to the basement.
Retirement is fast-becoming a foreign word, something chuckled about with friends. “I think I’ll be working forever,” a veteran nurse sighed the other night, as we watched our sons’ high school soccer game.
Program Note: Tune in to hear more on Dr. Sanjay Gupta's report Thursday on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/08/art.sanjay.ish.skiing1.jpg caption="A view from the base of the Mont Tremblant ski resort in Canada."]
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent
I just returned from Mont Tremblant, Canada. It is one of the more beautiful ski resorts in eastern, Canada, and it is also the place where actress Natasha Richardson fell and suffered a fatal brain injury. What caused her death is now well known, but there were some other details that struck me while I was there. Let me try and work through this with you.
What no one knew at the time was that she had hit her head hard enough to cause a fracture in her skull. Just underneath that fracture is a small blood vessel that runs just on top of the brain, and it was that blood vessel that started to bleed. By many reports, Richardson got up after her fall and felt well enough to go back to her room and wave off paramedics who had been called. In neurosurgery, we refer to this as a lucid interval. She may have lost consciousness briefly, but now felt fine. The problem for Natasha or anyone with an epidural hematoma is that the pressure continues to build up in the brain.
A little while later, now in her room, Natasha started to feel sick. The most likely symptoms were headache, nausea, disorientation and lethargy. 911 was called again, and now the clock was definitely ticking. If you ask a dozen neurosurgeons, how much time someone has after starting to develop the symptoms Natasha had, you will get varied answers. Anywhere from a few minutes to 90 minutes, but the message is the same: Speed matters. The problem for Natasha was she was 2.5 hours away from a trauma hospital by ambulance, and there was no helicopter available to take her more quickly.
By the time she got to the hospital, too much pressure had built up on her brain and we know she died 24 hours later. The medical care in Canada is world class and the neurosurgeons there could have performed a lifesaving operation, if only she had arrived sooner.
There are doctors in Canada who have been calling for more air ambulances, long before we learned about Natasha Richardson. Others argue that the cost-benefit analysis comes down on the side of not having them.
Editor’s Note: In a federal courtroom yesterday, a furious judge dismissed the charges against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens and launched a criminal investigation of the prosecutors who bungled the case. That’s the headline; here are the details, as reported by CNN’s Terry Frieden
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/07/ted.stevens/art.ted.stevens.gi.jpg caption="Stevens and his wife, Catherine, arrive Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Washington."]
CNN Justice Producer
This was a truly extraordinary hearing, and very dark day for the entire Justice Department. Those in the courtroom were treated to high drama, yet tragically no cameras were allowed.
Judge Emmett Sullivan, and then defense attorney Brendan Sullivan, Stevens’s chief counsel and no relation to the judge, each gave a very lengthy, emotional, blistering, truly devastating summary of the government's very serious failures in the Stevens case. Paul O’Brien, leader of the new prosecution team that replaced the original members after problems in the case surfaced, stood briefly to apologize totally and did not disagree with any of the criticism.
Stevens then gave a fairly straight forward, not particularly emotional statement:
For the Los Angeles Times
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton let slip last week that the Obama administration has finally abandoned the phrase "war on terror." Its absence had been noted by commentators. There was no directive, Clinton said, "it's just not being used."
It may seem a trivial thing, but the change in rhetoric marks a significant turning point in the ideological contest with radical Islam. That is because the war on terror has always been a conflict more rhetorical than real. There is, of course, a very real, very bloody military component in the struggle against extremist forces in the Muslim world, though one can argue whether the U.S. and allied engagements in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond are an integral part of that struggle, a distraction from it or, worse, evidence of its subversion and failure. But to the extent that the war on terror has been posited, from the start, as a war of ideology - a clash of civilizations - it is a rhetorical war, one fought more constructively with words and ideas than with guns and bombs.
Reporter's Note: President Obama has asked the country for advice. In my continuing series of letters to the White House I am currently laying out Ten Things You Ought to Know About America, But You Might Not Know From Watching the News.
This is Part Two.
Tom Foreman | Bio
Dear Mr. President,
As I have traveled the country over thirty years, I have become convinced that Americans are much more afraid than they used to be of getting old. Not grandma and grandpa old. I suppose plenty of people have long feared that, what with teeth problems, the urge to collect cats, the debilitating gravity of reclining chairs, and the recurrent afternoon nightmare of the Tyra Banks Show.
No, we are afraid of getting older than 40, of being marginalized, and reduced to second class players for the last decades of our careers. American culture, the workplace, cities, the economy; everything has been re-engineered to cash in on the youth market. And that movement, while it thrills young people and provides some pretty entertaining late night commercials (if you know what I mean,) I suspect could prove disastrous for everyone in the long run.
When I was in my twenties I had no such worries. Like pretty much everyone at that age, I thought talent, ambition, and a willingness to work should be trump cards. I didn’t put much stock into experience because I didn’t have any, and beyond that I felt like the older workers were too uninspired, too willing to rest on their laurels, and too smug in their positions of power. I still think I was right about some of that. Seniority alone, absent desire to do a good job or grow with a profession, is a poor reason for anyone to hold an influential slot.