Ahead of the curve: The next 7 days
February 19th, 2012
07:25 PM ET

Ahead of the curve: The next 7 days

Here is a look at some of the stories that CNN plans to follow this week:

Key nuclear meeting in Iran

Officials with the International Atomic Energy Agency begin a second round of meetings Monday with Iranian officials about the country's nuclear program, which has prompted the West to impose new sanctions on the regime and Tehran to retaliate by cutting off crude exports to British and French companies.

Meanwhile, Israel has made clear that it is pondering an attack on Tehran's nuclear infrastructure, with the United States saying such an action would be "premature."

The United States and its allies claim Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, and their claims were bolstered in November by a scathing IAEA report that said Iran could be developing such weapons. Iran has insisted that its nuclear program is solely intended for civilian energy purposes.

Iran has insisted that its nuclear program is solely intended for civilian energy purposes. Last week, Iran offered a resumption of stalled nuclear talks, though Western nations said they still were determining the Islamic republic's sincerity.

Ahead of this week's IAEA visit to Iran, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last week that the onus was on Iran to disprove military dimensions of its nuclear program.

Weekend preparations for the IAEA visit come as two Iranian warships passed through Egypt's Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea, possibly bound for Syria, amid heightened tensions in the region. The passage marks only the second time such ships have crossed the Suez Canal since the Islamic Republic's 1979 revolution.

Santorum pressuring Romney ahead of Arizona debate

With polls showing overall front-runner Mitt Romney and upstart Rick Santorum battling for the lead in the next two GOP presidential primary contests, the four leading Republican candidates are preparing to clash in a debate in Arizona on Wednesday.

Romney, Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul will debate in Mesa, Arizona, on Wednesday, which CNN will air.

The debate comes six days before the February 28 primaries in Arizona and Michigan. A poll last week showed Romney (38%) and Santorum (31%) running first and second among likely GOP voters in Arizona a significant shift since January, when a similar poll indicated Romney and Gingrich tied at 32%, Paul with 12% and Santorum with 10%.

In Michigan, the state where Romney was born and his father was governor, a poll of likely GOP voters shows Santorum (34%) on top, with Romney running second (30%). Santorum is enjoying a boost in support following his wins earlier this month in Colorado and Minnesota and in a nonbinding contest in Missouri, but Romney has a the lead in the overall delegate count.

Gingrich, whose fortunes have bounced up and down throughout the young primary and caucus season, is banking on a strong performance in the Super Tuesday contests - including a primary in his home state of Georgia - in early March.

Pro-Romney super PAC drops millions more on ads

Deliberations expected to begin in case of lacrosse player's death

A jury in the trial of a man accused of fatally beating a University of Virginia women's lacrosse team player, who was his ex-girlfriend, is expected to begin deliberations on Wednesday.

George Huguely, who was a member of the UVA men's lacrosse team, faces charges including first-degree murder in the May 2010 death of Yeardley Love, 22. A medical examiner ruled that blunt force trauma killed Love, and authorities allege Huguely caused it during an altercation at Love's off-campus apartment, where a roommate found her dead days before graduation.

The defense and the prosecution have rested their cases. The defense has argued that Huguely contributed to her death but did not kill her and had no intent to do so.

At besieged stronghold of Syrian revolt, residents getting desperate

Syrian forces show no signs of letting up a siege of  a neighborhood in Homs, Syria, which is a stronghold of a revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The shelling in the city entered its 16th day Sunday. Residents say food, medicine, water and electricity are dwindling. In many places, doctors have been overwhelmed trying to treat the wounded and save lives without proper medicine or equipment, opposition activists say.

The Syrian regime has denied reports that al-Assad's forces are targeting civilians, saying they are fighting armed gangs and foreign fighters bent on destabilizing the government. But the vast majority of accounts from within the country indicate Syrian forces are slaughtering civilians in an offensive on protesters calling for al-Assad's ouster and scoffing at the government's attempt at reforms.

The United Nations has said more than 5,000 people have died, though it does not have a recent death count because of the conditions in the country.

Earlier this month, China and Russia vetoed a draft U.N. Security Council resolution urging Assad to end the crackdown and give up power. On Sunday, Beijing  said that a peaceful resolution still was possible. After meetings between al-Assad and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun, the state-run news agency Xinhua said that Western nations were mistaken in their conclusion that time was running out for talks.

The Chinese news agency said "calls for peaceful inter-Syrian dialogue have been largely ignored, intentionally or unintentionally, in Western media reports, which convey the wrong impression that there is an overwhelming consensus among different factions of the opposition forces that they want foreign intervention in their country."

McCain to speak with Egyptian military leaders

U.S. Sen. John McCain will be in Egypt on Monday where he will meet with Egyptian military leaders to discuss the case of Americans workers who face charges as part of a crackdown on nongovernmental organizations.

The Americans are among 43 people - including Westerners and other Egyptians -  who work for civil society groups and face prosecution on charges of illegal foreign funding as part of the NGO crackdown. They face a trial that is expected to begin on February 26. Egyptian authorities said the suspects have not been detained, but a travel ban has been imposed on at least some of them.

McCain said that although he will address the situation, he will not attempt to negotiate the Americans' release.

"That is the job of the administration [of U.S. President Barack Obama], but we will have conversations with military leaders and others who I have known for many, many years on a personal basis," he said last week.

Among the Americans is Sam LaHood, the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, according to the State Department. Sam LaHood is the director of Egypt operations for the International Republican Institute; McCain serves as IRI board chairman.

Hollywood gets ready for Oscars

Hollywood's Kodak Theatre is preparing to roll out the red carpet for the annual Academy Awards. The glitz fest will be hosted by traditional standby Billy Crystal.

Presenters are slated to include Tina Fey, Halle Berry, Rose Byrne, Bradley Cooper, Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie, Milla Jovovich, Ellie Kemper, Jennifer Lopez, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph, Ben Stiller, Emma Stone and Kristen Wiig.

The nominees for leading actress are Glenn Close ("Albert Nobbs"), Viola Davis ("The Help"), Rooney Mara ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"), Meryl Streep ("The Iron Lady") and Michelle Williams ("My Week with Marilyn").

Lead actor nominees are Demián Bichir ("A Better Life"), George Clooney ("The Descendants"), Jean Dujardin ("The Artist"), Gary Oldman ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"), and Brad Pitt ("Moneyball").

The expanded roster of films nominated for best picture consists of "The Artist," "The Descendants," "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," "The Help," "Hugo," "Midnight in Paris," "Moneyball," "The Tree of Life" and "War Horse."

The show will air live on ABC starting at 7 p.m. ET.

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soundoff (94 Responses)
  1. chrissy

    lol @ roadsniper. cute!

    February 20, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
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