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As Mideast roils, Al Jazeera finds its 'CNN moment'

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Al Jazeera English newsroomWhat a difference the chain of Middle East uprisings — and a change of presidents in the White House — has made for Al Jazeera.

The Qatar-based pan-Arab television network was pilloried not long ago by many in Washington as the official house organ for Osama bin Laden and other terrorists because it aired their anti-American statements. Lately, however, it's become the go-to network for the White House, Congress, Embassy Row, and Washington intelligentsia seeking reliable coverage of what's happening in Middle East hot spots.

Al Jazeera's constant, compelling, and often raw as-it-happens coverage of the uprisings earned it the scorn of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other besieged rulers in the region who've felt the network's hot lights, but it's rapidly earning high praise in the U.S.

"Viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it's real news," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month. "You may not agree with it, but you feel like you're getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news, which . . . is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners."

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