February 2nd, 2012
02:25 PM ET

Obama reflects on faith in prayer breakfast speech

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) -
President Barack Obama spoke of his personal faith Thursday as he delivered remarks for the third year in a row at the National Prayer Breakfast.

In addition, Obama used the platform in front of religious dignitaries and politicians to express his vision of how faith and government intersect and can work together.

After his remarks, the president received a standing ovation from the crowd at the Washington Hilton, the White House pool reporter said. Journalists are barred from attending the breakfast with the exception of the White House pool, which follows the president. CNN requested and was denied access to the event.

The breakfast has hosted every president since Eisenhower.

Obama, who, as one administration official said, identifies as a "committed Christian who spends a lot of time working on his Christian walk," noted in the speech that he prays daily.

"I wake up each morning and I say a brief prayer, and I spend a little time in scripture and devotion," he said.

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

Since he has been in Washington, Obama has not formally joined a church. For nearly 20 years he was a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. The president and his staff have noted the logistical difficulties of a sitting president attending services, but he has visited several churches in Washington and worshiped privately with his family at Camp David.

The president also spoke of praying with Billy Graham, and said, "I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment."

In his speech Obama made specific mention of his calls, visits and prayers with Joel Hunter, a megachurch pastor from Florida, and with Bishop T.D. Jakes, a megachurch pastor from Texas.

"From time to time, friends of mine, some of who are here today, friends like Joel Hunter or T.D. Jakes, will come by the Oval Office or they'll call on the phone or they'll send me an e-mail, and we'll pray together, and they'll pray for me and my family, and for our country," he said.

Hunter, who was at the breakfast, said Obama hit the right notes with the crowd.

"The president made a positive and practical application of Jesus' command to love our neighbors," Hunter said. "He connected that moral mandate to the economic and political issues we face, and he let us know that, for him, that common good compassion is an extension of his personal Christian faith."

Jakes was not at the breakfast but, when reached by phone, said he had read a transcript of the speech.

"Anytime we can have an open dialogue about faith on the highest level it is a very good thing," he said.

Jakes said he had "the privilege to pray" with the past three U.S. presidents, and noted of his time praying with Obama, "It's no different from any other president. My plan was to provide prayerful support regardless of his policies, some of which I agree with and some of which I don't."

An administration official speaking on background said Obama viewed the speech as chance to explain his personal faith practices and to show "his desire to step in the gap for those who are vulnerable."

The president also highlighted faith efforts that are particularly of importance to young evangelicals, a voting block he courted heavily in 2008. The Passion Conference, a massive gathering of young Christians that this year took aim at human trafficking, got a nod from the podium, as did other groups with targeted antipoverty efforts.

CNN Money – Obama: Jesus would back my tax-the-rich policy

Others in the room recounted the ease with which the president presented his case for the integration of his faith and policy.

"Each time that I have listened to the president reflect on his Christian faith, I'm struck by the quiet poignancy of his words as he speaks from the heart," said Stephen Schneck, a professor from Catholic University who has advised the administration in the past.

"This morning we all felt this. Most moving for me was the way he spoke of his concern for the poor and marginalized and the personal responsibility he felt to serve these 'least among us,' a responsibility that the president grounded in his daily prayer life," Schneck told CNN. But he added, "Of course, that doesn't change that he made a serious mistake with the HHS mandate."

Is Obama losing the Catholic vote?

The administration was still doing damage control over a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services policy that forces religious schools and institutions that offer employee health insurance to cover FDA-approved contraceptives. The move has angered many Catholics in particular, who oppose the use of contraceptives on religious grounds, and view the policy as an intrusion on their religious liberty.

Hunter, who has been a strong vocal supporter of the president, noted that while there was no rancor in the room about the HHS decision, "there is real disappointment with that decision."

Obama did not directly address the issue in his speech but did allude to it when describing his guiding principles on coming to tough policy decisions.

"We know that part of living in a pluralistic society means that our personal religious beliefs alone can't dictate our response to every challenge we face," he said. He added later, "Our goal should not be to declare our policies as biblical. It is God who is infallible, not us. Michelle reminds me of this often."

White House stands firm on contraception policy

Not long after the president's speech, the White House sent a fact sheet to reporters from Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. It laid out a point-by-point articulation of the HHS policy, making specific mention that churches will be exempt from the policy and noting Catholic opposition by highlighting the work they have done together.

"The administration has provided substantial resources to Catholic organizations over the past three years, in addition to numerous non-financial partnerships to promote healthy communities and serve the common good," the statement from Munoz reads. "This work includes partnerships with Catholic social service agencies on local responsible fatherhood programs and international anti-hunger/food assistance programs. We look forward to continuing this important work."

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, also spoke at the prayer breakfast about the complexity of the balance between religion and governing.

"I think we all had two different experiences of what can happen when we bring faith into the world of government and business," he said. "Sometimes it creates conflict, and when we look at our planet's history, even wars. But in other times - more often, really - true faith can be a reconciling force of amazing power, a power that can make an entire society better."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Belief • Bible • Billy Graham • Christianity • Church and state • DC • Politics • United States

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soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. Vatican Observer

    Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things which are God's. God did preach on this subject near the shores of the Sea Of Galiliee. While preaching to a large crowd, he proclaimed: " Thou shalt not tax and spend thy brothers or ye shall suffer the pains of eternal hell .... right after you leave office after your first term"

    February 2, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • The Phist

      god preached? LOL!! Thanks for the laugh!!

      February 2, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  2. Muneef

    For easy reference

    Quran & Logic_Part I – The Source of Quran


     The Second Video:
    The Quran & Logic _Part II – The challenge

    The Third Video:
    The Quran & Logic _Part III: The renewable Miracle


    February 2, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • Reality

      And from the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi)

      The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:
      ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

      Are you ready?

      Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

      The First Five of the 77 Branches:

      "1. Belief in Allah"

      aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

      "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

      Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

      "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

      A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

      "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

      Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

      Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

      Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

      "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)
      Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

      Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

      Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

      Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

      February 2, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  3. Muneef

    I think Jews think that they are the supreme race among the human race....(GOD Chosen People)...!
    Although personally think that all human race are equal and no race better than the other...but the only thing is that the faithful believers ( GOD fearing people) are the best of the whole human race to GOD only...
    Love to your brother man what you would love for your self (Sharing&Caring)... In the end my love to you all.. Good night to all.

    February 2, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Muneef Let's talk about God's Brother in a little bit. OK?

      February 2, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  4. gratular

    Anyone that "believes" in "God" and talks to it is crazy, and should be nowhere near public office. I'm hoping Obama is just saying this crap to play to that part of his base... But seriously, if people are using their religion to make decisions in politics that is scary, and as far as i understand its illegal...

    February 2, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Pinewalker

      Since 91% of Americans believe in God (it raises to 96% for a higher power or being) and 78% of Americans pray at least once a week, I'm thinking your likely in the minority. It seems highly unlikely that many people are "crazy" as you suggested.

      February 2, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • John

      Illegal eh? I don't think you quite understand what the separation of church and state means. It doesn't have anything to do with using your religious values to help guide your stance on policy.

      February 3, 2012 at 1:10 am |
  5. ohsnap86

    What ever happened to separation of church and state? What would jesus deduct? How about no offense to the Christians but screw what jesus would deduct. Whether you believe in jesus or not to make comments like that is bull crap. That is like saying well if I knew the housing market would collapse I wouldn't have invested in real estate. How about this instead of saying I am a good christian and I believe he would deduct this and that do whats right by the American people. Your religious beliefs should play no part in your decision. No I don't believe religion instills morality because if thats the case take a long hard look at christianity and tell me its always right? Same with all other religions. I am so sick and tiered of this stuff from BOTH SIDES. What the country needs is a governmental reform where we don't allow lobbyist to buy off our politicians to push their agendas into OUR lives. IF you want a religious view treat others as you would want to be treated and its clear NO ONE in government follows that.

    February 2, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Pinewalker

      so maybe it starts with him

      February 2, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  6. blake

    The only faith that Obama has is the faith of Jeremiah Wright. It is a faith built around class warfare and big government. It bares no resemblance to anything found in the Bible. It is Christian in name only.

    February 2, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Nell

      Actually, he's probably not as enough of a socialist for Christ, who believed in sharing welalth. Christ apparently did not approve of the rich (hence his analogy of the camel and the needle's eye) nor did he believe in owning property. Christ was all about class warfare! The meek shall inherit the earth!

      February 2, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  7. rationalfew

    Christians (not Catholics) believe that god rewards you with great riches. With respect to the poor, crippled and sick. god made them that way therefore we shouldn't help them.

    February 2, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Pinewalker

      Mother Teresa was Catholic and I think she'd beg to differ with you

      February 2, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
  8. peacemaker

    Jesus would send the rich who ignore the poor straight to hell; check out Luke 16.

    February 2, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  9. Donald in CA

    I always wondered about these bible thumpers who hate the poor. If they get into heaven, so should charles manson.

    February 2, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      The Yankee's beat the A's 2 – 1 the same day of Manson's Tate murders (Auguest 9, 1969). I wonder if he saw the game?

      February 2, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • Howard

      Obama acts liike he's the pro-Hispanic candidate, while he and Holder kill over 200 innocent Mexicans with their stupid, careless Fast and Furious policy.

      February 2, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      That reminds, the Indy 500 is coming up on 5/27! Can't wait. Wonder who will get the pole?

      February 2, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  10. Reality

    Romney believes that the horn-blowing angel Moroni appeared to the con artist Joseph Smith. Not good for someone who wants to be president of any group !!! Obama "mouths" that he is Christian i.e. believes in gay Gabriel and war-mongering Michael the Archangel and Satan. BO's support of abortion however vitiates has Christianity as he is the leader of the Immoral Majority who are now the largest voting block in the country. Immoral Majority you ask??

    The 78 million voting "mothers and fathers" of aborted womb babies !!! (2012 -1973 Rowe vs. Wade = 39. 39 x 2 million = 78 million. Abortion rate in the USA as per the CDC is one million/yr.

    And the presidential popular vote in 2008? 69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM. The population of the Immoral Majority in 2008? ~ 70 million !!!!!!

    February 2, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      I know, like when they aborted the 1994 World Series on September 14 of that year due to an ongoing strike by the Major League Baseball Players Association, which had begun on August 12. It was only the second time in the event's history (the first was 1904) that the Fall Classic was not played. I didn't watch a game for five years after that I was so disgusted. Still am!

      February 2, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Reality Let's talk about God's Brother. You should know. Not now, but later OK? I know you're not here anyway.

      February 2, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • rationalfew

      Joseph Smith is just not a very good name for a prophet. When you say it, it just sounds silly...

      February 2, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    There is constancy in prayer
    There is comfort in prayer
    There is conviction in prayer
    Prayer changes things

    February 2, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Nope

      ~~The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.~~

      February 2, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      Well, I don't know about that. Prayer didn't help Billy Cundiff's 32-yard field-goal attempt when it sailed wide left, taking the Ravens' Super Bowl hopes with it this year.

      February 2, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • just sayin

      sports fan there is a difference between a wish list and a prayer

      February 2, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      Well I don't know about all of that but I am praying that the Lakers pick up their play in the second half of the season.

      February 2, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Vatican Observer

      And there is great sarcasm when people like Obama tell pinnochio stories about praying - what a crock

      February 2, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  12. Esther


    February 2, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • PeterVN

      Disgusting. Bad enough to drive a deaf man from church.

      February 2, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Craig

      Peter in any case do not attempt to sing that song, you will break the ear drums of people and turn them deaf.
      Atleast listening to Bocelli, a few deaf people might begin to hear...

      February 2, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      Esther, thank you so much from reminding us of the awful "Star-Bangled Banner" renditions from likes of Steven Tyler, Rosanne Barr and Carl Lewis!

      February 2, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • The only proper response to a Celine Dion religious video


      I wonder why the atheists have more talent?

      February 2, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Craig

      Is Carlin as melodious as Celinei? He sounds like a squeaky mouse.

      February 2, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      George Carlin on Baseball and Football:


      February 2, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  13. ANGY

    President Obama is a christian. why are people so scared to believe it? wilard is a romon, are you going to question him like you did President Obama? Let God be the judge not you.

    February 2, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      Yes let the back judge make the call when it is close. That so called "tuck" rule when the Pats played the Raiders and would up winning the super bowl was riduculous. Wrong referee, wrong call!

      February 2, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • sam

      Sports Fan, I thought that was Seattle that got screwed, not the Raaiders...?

      February 2, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • sam

      Sports Fan, I thought that was Seattle that got screwed, not the Raiders...?

      February 2, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      The 2002 AFC divisional playoff game, known to some as the "Tuck Rule Game" Patriots vs. Raiders.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Sports Fan


      February 2, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • Vatican Observer

      Obama is no more a Chritsian and Reverend Moon. Since taking office Obama has attended some 550+ fund raising events, while attending church 5 times in three years - he is a hypocrit.

      February 2, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  14. stephen neptune

    thank you MR President and may almighty God richly and unhesitatingly bless you and your family......
    your message is so true AM reminded about a story in rhe bible where this rich man can to Jesus say master what must i do to have eternal life i have keep the commandment.. jesus asnwered him an say take what you have sell it and give the money to the poor that man went away bitter.

    February 2, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      Exactly, Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant, perfect examples. Play behind the wife's back, start writing those checks!!

      February 2, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  15. 1crusader

    I found the speech to be very moving.I also liked what the president said about Billy Graham.There was a time when this country seemed more at peace within.Billy Graham seemed to command respect from most quarters, and he had the role of a patriarchal leader, in his own way.I'm sure he has political views, but I have never heard him say things that are polarizing, unlike too many ministers today.This country needs another Billy Graham, who will stand for the gospel, and his convictions ; but who doesn't major in alienating others.

    February 2, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      Deion Sanders could fill that role for sure. Once his playing career was over, he saw some amazing sermons from him. Can't sing though.

      February 2, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Pinewalker


      February 2, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
  16. P


    February 2, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      Yes, he is a fine young man. I appreciate your enthusiasm.

      February 2, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  17. Dr. Martin Von Winklemeyer, certified PhD

    Do atheists beIieve in a supreme (evolved) race? If so, which race would it be?

    February 2, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Nonimus

      All extant species are equally 'evolved'.

      February 2, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Dr. Martin Von Winklemeyer, certified PhD

      @nonimus – No they're not......not according to biology and science atleast. You're either A) not an atheist, or B) don't follow science.......If option B then that's quite ironic lol.

      February 2, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      As a Doctor I am surprised, shocked even! There is no such thing as "Race, in ethnic terms" we are all of one "Race" (for you PHD's out there) we call it the Human Race. Anything other definition is a human construct designed to keep us separated.

      February 2, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Inconvenient George

      you need to define "supreme"

      February 2, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Wait just a minute here ..
      My puppy Lorenzo (de Medici), is THE supreme dog.

      February 2, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • sam

      Why the baiting question, fake egghead? Feeling pseudo-intellectual today?

      February 2, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • One one

      As an atheist, I would say either the 100 yard dash or the marathon.

      February 2, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • obj.innerHTML = Math.random() > .5 ? Oops : spoO

      Curious why?

      February 2, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • PeterVN

      Martin, race is not a scientifically justifiable term.

      February 2, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • PeterVN

      But One one's answer is the best, in my view.

      February 2, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      Well, not sure if you mean summer races or winter. For my money the 200 m dash is the best race. The athletes have to show both intelligence and tremendious speed. Swimming, freestyle 4 x, Sking the giant slolom, no doubt.

      February 2, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Dr. Martin Von Winklemeyer, certified PhD
      "No they're not......not according to biology and science atleast. You're either A) not an atheist, or B) don't follow science.......If option B then that's quite ironic lol."
      Doc, I'm not sure what science you are referring that says some species are *more evolved* than others, but based on the concept that every species that currently exists, including their ancestors, has undergone the same amount of natural selection and other pressures over the past 3+ billion years, they have all evolved to the same extent, i.e. their current form. Also, evolution is a process and in order to determine an 'amount of evolution' one would have to be able to measure some quanti.ty of evolvedness. Considering that mutations, to name one method of generating new DNA sequences, can be detrimental as well as beneficial and each to varying degrees of hurt or help, I seriously doubt that just the number of DNA changes would be such a measure, even if such a number could be known given possibility of overwrites and deletions. However, I'm willing to learn, so if you have some verifiable information, "according to biology and science", please present it.

      In addition, I'm not sure why you find "option B" ironic, unless you are under the incorrect impression that science is an Atheistic belief and/or tenet. Atheism has no beliefs; it is a position of lack of belief in god(s). Atheists can be just as ignorant of science as any believer and believers can be more scientifically knowledgeable than Atheists, e.g. Ken Miller and Francis Collins, to name but two.

      February 3, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  18. ruth


    February 2, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • sam

      I'm curious as to why your handle is all lower case, but then you got a wild hair and decided to hit that crazy old capslock for the message. Is it because your opinion is srs bsns?

      February 2, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      "Render unto ceaser, that which is ceasers."

      February 2, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Sports Fan


      February 2, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • sam


      February 2, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • just sayin

      Best laugh of the day Hawaii Guest the proper spelling is Caesar

      February 2, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @just sayin

      Oooooo my spelling was incorrect. That apparently makes my post invalid for some reason. Grow up you little tool. Is my post any less appropriate for the original post? If you want to talk about spelling errors then look to your own tag.

      February 2, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  19. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Never mind. You wouldn't know. Sorry.

    February 2, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Erin

      Is it about God?

      February 2, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      Is it about sports?

      February 2, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  20. Dr. Martin Von Winklemeyer, certified PhD

    Do atheists believe in a supreme (evolved) race? If so, which race would it be?

    February 2, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      Speed skating has evolved a great deal. I am still trying to get use to short track!

      February 2, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Certified..trolls I think...

      February 2, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.