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In Search of Recovery; Girls and STEM Studies; Lifting up the Titanic

Aired August 30, 2010 - 14:02   ET


ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: A new hour, a new "Rundown."

Hurricane Earl is getting stronger and getting closer to the East Coast just in time for Labor Day weekend. We're tracking the storm.

Plus, ramping down the Iraq War and ramping up the economy. President Obama is making some big pushes this week. We'll examine what he said and what he's going to say.

And "Fix Our Schools." CNN is dedicated to solving the education crisis in America. We're reaching out to some nontraditional sources for help, sources like Mary J. Blige, who joins me live this hour.

But the big story right now is the economy.

President Obama, in an unexpected move, announced this morning that he is going to come out and speak on the economy, and he did. He stepped out after his weekly economic briefing with his economic advisers to talk about the economy.

Listen to what he said.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As Congress prepares to return to session, my economic team is hard at work in identifying additional measures that could make a difference in both promoting growth and hiring in the short term and increasing our economy's competitiveness in the long term, steps like extending the tax cuts for the middle class that are set to expire this year, redoubling our investment in clean energy and R&D, rebuilding more of our infrastructure for the future, further tax cuts to encourage businesses to put their capital to work creating jobs here in the United States.


VELSHI: I want to talk to Chrystia Freeland. She's the global editor-at-large at Reuters.

Chrystia, there's been a great deal of anxiety developing in this country in the last couple of weeks. A lot of people talking about a double-dip recession and whether or not that's justified. The president -- this was not on his schedule. I think there was a little bit of anticipation that he might make some news or at least get visceral about the whole thing.

Neither really happened.

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, GLOBAL EDITOR-AT-LARGE, REUTERS: Yes, I think that's right, Ali. I mean, you and I listened to the speech together, and I think both of us felt really disappointed, and I think probably a lot of the American people did, too.

I think that people have -- I think there is a daunting realization that there is not going to be a quick fix for the economy, that the combination of the stimulus and the bailout for the banks maybe prevented a total Great Depression-style collapse of the financial system, but it hasn't been enough to bring a strong recovery. And people are feeling that, particularly in terms of jobs. You know, unemployment close to 10 percent.

I think what people are looking for from the president is three things. They want an acknowledgment that things are tough, that sort of emotional connection, "I feel your pain." It sounds very Bill Clinton, but maybe this is a moment.

I think they want a clear plan, and it has to be about more than just extending middle class tax cuts. And I think they want a sense that the president has the real energy to act on that plan. And I don't think that there was really any of that today.

VELSHI: Part of it is that the thing that the president may need the energy to do is to come out and say that if consumers and businesses are not stepping up to the plate and spending money, money is the lifeblood of this economy, it has to come from somewhere, and that may mean another stimulus. And I don't know that they've got the political stomach for that right now.

FREELAND: Well, I think you're absolutely right. I mean, look, he is a Democrat. If you talk to Democratic economists -- one of them, for example, Laura Tyson, who was a senior economist in the Clinton White House, came out with a very strong op-ed piece over the weekend saying we need a second stimulus. I think that is the consensus among Democratic thinkers right now.

And, yes, I think the president should probably have the balls to say this is what I believe in and push it. It's true, that would be publicly difficult, but this is not a moment for milquetoast measures. Things are really rough.

VELSHI: And so anybody expecting something stronger didn't get it today.

Chrystia Freeland is the global editor-at-large at Reuters.

Thanks for joining me, Chrystia. We'll be talking about this a lot over the next few days.

All right. Straight ahead, Mary J. Blige joins me for an exclusive chat live. But we're not talking R&B. We're talking about STEM. That's science, technology, engineering, math, and how you get girls interested in studying those things.


VELSHI: Fix our schools. Those three words will drive much of what you see on CNN this week, because as America's children return to school, CNN has a mission.

We have sent reporting teams across the country to document the education crisis in America. Most importantly, we will shine a light on success stories that can empower us to offer our children so much more than they're getting now because they can see other things that are working.

That's what we do on this show all the time with "Chalk Talk." Take a look at this.

Where we once excelled in education, we are now struggling to keep pace with the international community. On the latest global standardized tests, American teens placed 17th out of 30 in science, 24th out of 30 in math.

And making matters worse, girls seem to have less interest than boys do in math and science. Or maybe it's girls, teachers do. I don't know what the issue is. Only a few of them seek careers in those fields.

In 2008, women made up only 22 percent of computer programmers in this country, 13 percent of chemical engineers, and only six percent of mechanical engineers. And we've had that discussion many times on this show.

Our next guest is working to change that, working to bring those numbers for girls involved in science, technology, engineering and math up.

Listen to this.


MARY J. BLIGE, SINGER (singing): You know I love music, and every time I hear something hot, it makes me want to move. It makes me want to have fun. But it's something about this joint right here, this joint right here --


VELSHI: All right. Joining us now from New York, Grammy-winning singer Mary J. Blige -- multiple Grammy-winning singer, nine-time Grammy Award winner, Mary J. Blige. She's teamed up with NASA, no less, to get more girls interested in studying science, technology, engineering and math.

Can't believe it, Mary J. Blige on my show.

Welcome to the show. Thank you for being with us.

BLIGE: Thank you for having me.

VELSHI: Listen, I suppose you get bored of just winning awards and being a great performer, so you went into this adventure called FFAWN, sort of a nonprofit that you run, a foundation, really, that you run, that's around women and empowering them.

Tell me a little bit about FFAWN first.

BLIGE: Well, FFAWN is the Foundation of the Advancement of Women Now, and the reason for me putting this organization together was to give women a second chance to educate, empower and encourage themselves. And like I said, the second chance is to give you the confidence that we need to go out and do whatever it is we want to do in life.

And this has probably been one of the best things I could have done in my career, and in my life, period, because I've seen women go through so much and young girls go through so much. And I think education is key due to the fact that I wasn't educated properly, and I suffer today because of that.

You know, I just want these women, these young girls to get a well-rounded education, something that I wasn't able to do. And like I was saying about the second chance is why 'm doing it, to give women a second chance.

VELSHI: And I guess you're a famous name and NASA is famous, but NASA feels that you have access to an audience that they don't have. You have access to young girls who are ready to be influenced about getting a broader education.

Is that why you teamed up with them?

BLIGE: Yes, exactly. I have access to a bunch of young women that we've actually sent to college, and this week they're going -- you know, they start their classes. And these women want to be educated. They want a full, full chance and a full, full shot in life.

They want to be a part of science and technology because there's such a shortage, you know, like you were saying earlier. So, I mean, yes, that's -- my girls really want it, and I want it for them because I didn't have it.

VELSHI: All right. We're going to talk about that. Obviously, you made a great, successful life out of not having it, but you need a better foundation for these girls.

We're going to talk about it on the other side. Hang right there. We're going to come back.

More with Mary J. Blige right after this break. Stay with me.


(MUSIC) VELSHI: Some of the words from "Just Fine," "I like what I see when I walk past the mirror," about confidence. This is what Mary J. Blige is about.

I mean, to hear you telling me that you want girls to have a certain type of education that you didn't have despite the success you've achieved, why is it important for girls who -- why is it important for them to study science and technology and engineering and mathematics?

BLIGE: It is important because it's a well-rounded education. Like I was saying earlier, a lot of us don't get a chance and a lot of us are not even offered the chance.

And I just think that it's important for us to know it all and have access to it all. And science and math is -- like I was saying earlier, there's been a shortage. There's a shortage of women -- and you were saying it earlier.

I just think these -- I think every woman deserves a chance at things that they've never gotten a shot at. And that's why I believe it's important.

VELSHI: By the way, I'm going to get in trouble. My bureau chief over there just e-mailed me and said, "Why didn't you tell me Mary J. was in the house?" So could you just drop by and say hello to my friend Darius (ph) before you leave the place?


BLIGE: Sure.

VELSHI: Let me show you women working in STEM jobs. We talked about computer programmers and chemical engineers and mechanical engineers. Let's give you a few others.

Twenty-nine percent of environmental scientists are women; 20 percent of computer software engineers are women; 10 percent of aerospace engineers are women. Here's the interesting thing -- these are the types of jobs that we're depending on for this economic recovery.

How does that message work? You've teamed up with NASA. How does it work coming from you, somebody who doesn't work in science and technology and engineering and mathematics, and somebody who didn't have that education? How do you manage to convince girls and young women of this?

BLIGE: Well, it works coming from me because I've been nothing but an inspiration to so many people for so many things. And I only want to be an inspiration and inspire people to want more for themselves, especially women, not excluding men.


BLIGE: But I've been the cheerleader and spokesperson for women doing better and getting a second chance, or getting their full shot at their education. And it's really only because I suffered so much and I didn't have the shot and opportunity to get everything that so many women are getting. I pushed for it because I love myself, so I love women. And that's basically it.

VELSHI: And with NASA, I mean, they've really been overt about the fact that NASA's cool in its own way, there's no question. There's nothing like rocket scientists and astronauts.

BLIGE: Right.

VELSHI: But they want to access a larger group of people, and you being -- with your fame and what you've achieved, you get to them.

Who makes the connection between the two? In other words, what is it that gets NASA's message to your audience? What is it that gets your audience involved with the programs that NASA is offering and ultimately leads women into a broader education?

BLIGE: Well, I mean, the fact that when women see me, it automatically -- they're connecting with it because they're curious. And they want to know, OK, what is Mary J. Blige doing here? OK, this must be something that she's interested in.

And a lot of my fans and even their children are interested in the things that I'm interested in. So I bridge the gap and I open the door to say, wow to the regular, normal fan at home, and make her say, "Wow. Really, Mary? OK, let me see what's going on with this."

And that's what I've been. I've just been almost, like, my entire life and career just like a vessel and kind of like the sacrificial lamb that says yes, I'm here. You know?


Did you have a particular interest in science and technology and math? I know you didn't study it. Maybe you didn't have as much access to it. But were you excited by that or did that become later on in life?

BLIGE: I loved science when I was in school. I really did. It was a class -- it was one of my subjects that I loved going to.

Math I had problems with when I got into high school. It was always a problem area for me. But science I always loved.

VELSHI: You're not having any problems with the math of counting up how many Grammys you've won.

BLIGE: I mean, right now, math is not a problem because math is basically life. You just break down people. It's who we are. It's how we were built. It's our makeup.


BLIGE: And that's just the science of the whole thing. VELSHI: What's the next project for you?

BLIGE: My next project -- right now, I'm working on my new album. I'm in the studio working on a project.

The Nina Simone biopic has been pushed back to January, around in that time. So that's not going to happen right this second. But I'm just doing big things. I have my Melodies eyeglass wear launch coming in November (ph).

VELSHI: Yes. And your perfume launch was -- is financing this project for FFAWN. And that's done very well. I heard that that blew out all these other celebrity product launches. I mean, 60,000 units within six hours or something the first day it came out.

So you're doing very well.


VELSHI: We are very, very pleased to have you here. And thanks very much --

BLIGE: Thank you.

VELSHI: -- not just for the work that you do, but for doing this to encourage education amongst young girls. We appreciate it.

BLIGE: You're very welcome. Thanks for having me.

VELSHI: My pleasure.

Mary J. Blige.

Again, you're going to be hearing about "Fix Our Schools" over and over this week on CNN. We've put more than 20 news teams on a mission at the start of this new school year, a mission to witness the best education in action, solutions for a public school systems that is in crisis. Our hope is what we've encountered (ph) helps empower our nation to fix our schools.

Continuing tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. on CNN's NEWSROOM.

All right. More than 12,000 feet beneath the sea lies the wreckage of the Titanic. Now scientists are gearing to lift the ship up -- sort of. You'll see on the other side.



VELSHI: All right. Let's go "Off the Radar" for a minute.


VELSHI: I said something which you're going to tell us about, about lifting the Titanic? MYERS: Well, kind of. Did you ever read the book, the Clive Cussler book, "Raise the Titanic"?


MYERS: I love it. It was my first Dirk Pitt novel, the NUMA adventures.

They went down there. They thought there was a bunch of stuff, important iron, or whatever it was -- or some kind of metal, whatever it was. Obviously it was fiction.

This is not fiction. With 3-D imaging now, the guys who are out there, they were on the ship the other day. They got chased off because of Danielle.

VELSHI: Right.

MYERS: They were on the ship. They were doing the 3-D imaging, they were doing all this sounding. They were doing all of these new techniques to literally get it out of the dirt, get it out of the mud.

There's so much -- when it sank, it lost a lot of it. You can't see it. You haven't been able to see 30 percent or 40 percent of it. But now, with these images, kind of like --


VELSHI: Because they're not actually lifting. There's no physical lifting.

MYERS: No, of course not.

VELSHI: But they can see right through it and see what's in there.

MYERS: You know, I know in the book they were going to try to lift it. They never really were going to.

This is a gravesite, literally. There's a little bit more regalness to this than to actually pick it up.

But they were able to look through the dirt, look through the ocean floor, and get to the bottom of this, and maybe to the bottom of how much is still there, how much is gone. And really, why did it break up like it did? There could -- we really don't know. It's way down there.

VELSHI: Yes. It's a big unsolved mystery. Fortunately, we haven't had other ships do that.

MYERS: We'll figure it out.

VELSHI: But it will be useful to know.

OK. Thanks very much, Chad. MYERS: I know you have news. Go ahead.

VELSHI: I've got some news that I want to bring you right now. And I just want to confirm with my producer, Kelly (ph), Roger Clemens has entered pleas of not guilty on three charges -- or three different types of charges, I believe: uttering a false statement, perjury.

And the third one, Kelly (ph), that we're talking about is having to do with the statements he made to Congress?

Yes. So these are the three charges he has pleaded not guilty. He's entered a plea of not guilty.

We knew he would have to -- I'm sorry, Kelly (ph), say that again to me.

Obstructing Congress. I'm sorry. That's the last one, obstructing Congress.

We knew that he was going to enter pleas. He has now done so.

We'll of course continue to cover that very closely for you.

All right. Parents are grieving the loss of their young children, victims of what was Pakistan's lifeline, the Indus River. With water levels finally starting to recede, they face months and possibly years of recovery.

We're going "Globe Trekking" to the flood zone when we come back.


VELSHI: OK. It's time now for "Globe Trekking." A lot going on right now.

Let's go to Chile first, where it is a day of hope for the 33 Chilean miners trapped 2,300 feet underground. For the first time since they were trapped by that cave-in on August 5th, they spoke to family members. A phone line was threaded through a lifeline tube to the miners. One person per family given 20 seconds to talk to their loved ones.

Today, crews plan to start drilling a rescue shaft. It's an operation expected to take three to four months. Let me show you what it looks like. This is the animation of the situation right now. What you're looking at is that room in -- the shelter in which those 33 miners are trapped about 2,300 feet underground. They've got a four-inch-wide hole. They're in a place about the size of a living room.

Three separate tubes are being used for communication, for supplies and ventilation. You can see them there. There's the supply tube, a communication tube and then finally a ventilation tube. The air quality is not bad down there, actually. It's a little hot.

CNN's Karl Penhaul is at the site. He joins us now. Karl, you spoke to -- was it the minister earlier today of mining?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the mining minister. He says yes, there has been a delay in the start of that drilling operation to dig that rescue hole. It was expected to start in the wee small hours today. But a power unit hasn't yet arrived on a flight from Germany. But he's still hopeful that drilling could begin today sometime.

But it's not all bad news because the family members have had a chance to talk to their loved ones for the first time in three-and-a- half weeks. And that via that telephone line you were mentioning, I saw beaming faces of the family members after their talk. Might have only been a 20-second phone call, but that meant a lot to them. And I can tell you what, it meant much more to miners down half a mile underground. It's really lifted their spirits.

But for one lady, it was a very special proposal. Her man is Esteban Rojas. They've been together for 25 years, but they never had a church wedding. Well, both in a letter that Esteban Rojas sent to his girl, Jessica Yanyes (ph), and also in a phone conversation that they had yesterday, they're making marriage plans for a full Catholic wedding when he comes out of that hole. Let's listen to what he had to say, what they had to say to one another.


JESSICA YANYES (ph), BOYFRIEND IS TRAPPED IN CHILEAN MINE (via translator) : Please keep praying that we get out of this alive. And when I do get out, we will buy you a dress and get married. Good-bye, Esteban Rojas.

I read what he had to say and it made me shout with happiness. (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)


PENHAUL: You can bet she was jumping for joy at that, but of course, what we don't know is when they can set the date because of what the rescue experts are saying, that it could take anywhere from three to four months to get those men out of that hole, Ali.

Karl Penhaul at the site where he'll be for a little while. We'll keep checking in with you. Karl Penhaul in Chile.

All right. It's been a month since the monsoon rains triggered deadly and devastating floods on the Indus River. Let me show you this map. It tell just a part of this horrible story.

The flooding started in the northwest part of Pakistan. You can see Islamabad up there. That's the capital of Pakistan. But it continued flooding. It submerged further and further south on the Indus River, almost 3,000 miles, submerging towns, farmland, finally reaching the southern Sindh province.

These pictures show relatives praying and mourning for their drowned loved ones. A fisherman says his life involves now not catching fish but pulling bodies from the floodwaters. And yesterday, devastatingly, one of those bodies was the body of his son.

So far, more than 1,600 people have been killed. More than 17 million Pakistanis affected after weeks of staggering misery. Water levels in the south are beginning to recede. But officials warn it will take another ten to 12 days for rivers in Sindh to flow normally. The U.N. says tens of thousands of children are suffering severe malnutrition and face potentially deadly waterborne diseases like cholera, diarrhea, and typhoid.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in southern Sindh province. He's been touring flooding areas, talking with victims who are still in dire need of food, water and a roof over their heads.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Here's how it works. You see police vehicles like this actually coming through the streets telling people to leave. They say that this particular area, this town of Bela will be under water in the next several hours, certainly by tomorrow. People are listening. This town would normally bustling, thousands of people milling around, shops open. Now, that is happening now. But most people actually are leaving like this, by foot, in the hot sun, walking for kilometers with no real idea of where exactly they're going or what they'll going to find there. It is easy to see why they're leaving. We are literally surrounded by water and they're worry that that water is going to get higher and higher. So, they're fleeing the floods with the thing, the priority that they value the most, their livestock, and just starting to walk.

This is where so many of them ended up. They were just walking for kilometers and kilometers down that hot road, looking for high lands, anything that could protect them from the flood waters. And look at what their lives are like now. Thousands of people, literally, they have this little barrier here, it is so hot outside, anything to try to keep and themselves cool. But this is the new normal life for lots of folks over here. This family, for example, (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE), he says about 15 miles kilometers, they're saying. And look, small children. They walked here again in this very hot weather, very, very difficult.

He's telling me, they really haven't received any kind of help at all. (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE). They're saying, they really have no food at all. All they have is this bag of sugar here which they use to make tea. This is how it is. This is what's happening here in the middle of this evacuation. There's also been no water here, they tell me for three days. In fact, a woman died in this area from dehydration just last night. There's no question that relief is slow coming here but even as we're filming today at the camp, this army helicopter comes over and drops parcels of food. But this is just one camp. There are thousands of camps like this, there are more than 20 million people displaced. A fifth of this country is under water.


VELSHI: Well, her school -- by the way, that was Sanjay Gupta, you all know that.

Well, her school was cutting its arts program for money. What did this 13-year-old do? She went out and got $32,000 to save her favorite class. She is our "Mission Possible," and you'll meet her next.


VELSHI: OK, so I've decided to get a little culture in me, and I've started paying attention to art. This is new for me. Today's "Mission Possible" is a young artist, particularly young. Her name is Tay Tay. This is her art.

And I must say, when I was looking at this -- I heard the story and I expected to see art that I thought I would associate more with a 13-year-old girl. This art has a certain sophistication to it that surprised me. But I want to talk about this -- let me talk right to her.

Tae Tae Davis is the founder of something called The Traveling Canvas. She's there. You can see her right there with her mother, Claudette Davis, who's title on my page says "Mother of Tae Tae."

Welcome to both of you. Thank you for being with us. Your art is fantastic. But there's more to it than this. You were studying art at a magnet school. And then you found out some bad news. Tell me what happened.

TAE TAE DAVIS, FOUNDER, THE TRAVELING CANVAS: Well, first, thank you so much for having me.

VELSHI: My pleasure.

It's such a pleasure.

DAVIS: And what happened was I was homeschooled up until fifth grade. I went in my first year of middle school, it was very scary. And they kept talking about budget cuts and how there was a rumor they might cut out my art magnet program. So, that upset me because my art magnet program was the favorite part of my day.

So I went home, I asked my mom and she explained it to me. And so I decided that there had to be something that I could do about that. So, I wrote letters to over 40 art supply companies. And it was great. I got a great response. And it's been amazing.

VELSHI: You raised about $32,000 for this.


VELSHI: Not only got to keep the program, but you expanded this over to people who otherwise weren't in your program. Tell me a little about that. That's sort of interesting. You went beyond just the school.

DAVIS: Yes. Well, now what I'm doing is every month at CPHI, it's a homeless shelter -- I go there and I'll have daily art classes with the kids. And the classes range from about the ages 8 to 12. And I have a great time with the kids. We'll come up with a nice, easy art project. And it's such a great time because we get to really bond with the kids and I'll have some of my friends come, too, and help me with that.

VELSHI: We've been showing some of your art and some of the pictures of this. I want to show this one piece of art, though, that you did with some of the kids there where you took their handprints -- they put handprints on, and you turned them into butterflies. This is incredible.

DAVIS: Thank you.

VELSHI: Let's see if we can show that, Sarah. Claudette, tell me about this. You told -- Tae Tae told you her class might be getting cut. You were explaining what? The concept of budget cuts and how not everybody can afford to have all these programs?

CLAUDETTE DAVIS, TAE TAE DAVIS' MOTHER: That's correct. She came home to me a little confused. She was like, mom, what do they mean budget cuts? I thought I came to this school to study art and now there's rumors in the halls that I might not be able to do what I love. I explained to her what budget cuts meant. And I told her that maybe she should entertain the idea of doing something about it.

So, over the summer, that's when she decided, "You know what, Mom? I thought that I'll start writing letters and reaching out to some of these art suppliers to see if they can help send something, anything. And help to make a difference." And so she spent many hours writing letters, sometimes up until midnight, 1:00, with every bit of belief that people were going to answer her. And we got a little nervous.

VELSHI: But that's the best part. Having the belief is great. I get it. Sometimes people do things, and you don't want to break to it your kids the world doesn't work that way. But sometimes it's nice that the world does work that way because it does do that.

Tae Tae, thanks very much. As I said, I'm the business guy here at CNN. I'm thinking maybe your art is going to be a good investment for me.


Tae Tae Davis is the founder of The Traveling Canvas. Claudette Davis, her mother. Thank you to both of you for being here.

T. DAVIS: Thank you very much.

C. DAVIS: Thank you for having us.

VELSHI: Our pleasure.

Listen, to find out more about Tae Tae Davis and her nonprofit, The Traveling Canvas, go to my blog at In just a moment, I'm going to speak to our friend Ed Henry to find out what talents he has and how he's applied those.

Actually, he has lots of those and he applies them very regularly. He's standing by for us. "The Stakeout with Ed Henry" right after this.


VELSHI: Every weekday around this time, you get something here that you cannot get anywhere else. And that is "The Stakeout" with Ed Henry. Ed, did you just see that conversation I just had with Tae Tae Davis?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I thought it was great. I don't know why you had to turn it into a knock on me and not having any talent. I though the young girl had a lot of talent. It was an inspiration actually.

VELSHI: But there you go, I just hope budget cuts don't come our way because she dealt with it with some creativity. I thought that was nice.

One interesting thing that her mother said at the end was her mother was sort of fearful that she wasn't going to get that the world doesn't work this way, that you can't just send letters to people and they'll send money.

It's kind of a neat concept that I wonder whether we've lost a lot of that in this country with respect to the economy because everybody thinks it's going back into the tank and the president came out today and spoke for a couple of minutes.

I'm not sure it got him where he needed to be in terms of the mood of this country and this concern about another leg of a recession.

HENRY: You're right and sometimes what's fascinating are the unscripted moments. If you notice, at the beginning of those remarks, he twice had to stop because he wasn't sure the microphone was working.

He basically said, can you hear me now? And I think it's almost appropriate because this president has been struggling to break through. He's been on vacation. He's now got a big foreign policy week where he's going to be talking about Iraq and Mideast peace and all these big, big important subjects that any commander in chief has to tackle.

But ultimately, as you've been reporting since at the top of your show, it's about issue number one, that's the economy. When people hear some decent signs, but then see the Housing numbers so poor last week, they see the GDP growth on Friday you've been reporting on and how anemic that was.

They're wondering whether or not this president really is on top of the situation and that's clearly why he came out in the Rose Garden to push back on that notion.

VELSHI: What he'd like to be touting is what we're going to hear from him tomorrow night in an address to the nation about the end of combat operations in Iraq.

He'd love this week to be focused on that and a Mideast peace summit that's going on later this week. What is he going to be directing us toward tomorrow night? What are we going to hear from the president?

HENRY: Tuesday night, he wants to frame this, when you talk to his top aides, as essentially campaign promise kept. I mean, there's been a lot of time the first 19 months or so of people beating up on the president. Not just Republicans, but some in his own party saying he hasn't done enough whether on it's on "Don't Ask Don't Tell" or other issues.

This is a promise -- a central promise of his campaign to bring home combat troops within 18 months. He's getting that done basically and he clearly wants to get a little credit. You hear Republicans like John Boehner though, the House Minority Leader saying today is the president also going to give credit to the troops, give credit to former President George W. Bush who stuck it out with the surge in Iraq that then Senator Barack Obama opposed?

It will be interesting to see what he says about the surge, which he did oppose and also interesting to see what he says about Afghanistan because when you talk to his top aides, he doesn't want this speech to just be about Iraq.

He wants to push forward now because we've got about 100,000 U.S. troops on the ground because of a surge in Afghanistan. So even as he's sending a message of look, the boys are coming home, even more troops are going to Afghanistan. It's a tough balance.

VELSHI: And one of the issues that the president has with the economy is they tout this had recovery summer and they talked a year ago about how unemployment would be lower and none of that worked.

Is he going to transfer that learning over to a discussion about the Middle East some of that he's got in terms of managing expectations because most people are sitting here and saying, whoopee, another Mideast summit?

There might be an opportunity for a breakthrough here, but I don't know if we're going to hear the president touting that too much?

HENRY: You're absolutely right. What I'm hearing is he's going to be very cautious here. I talked to one of the central players in this whole drama. One of the diplomats involved who basically said, look, the best outcome from this Mideast summit this week would be another meeting down the road.

Essentially a meeting this week or meetings because there's one more than meeting to have a meeting down the road and what this official meant was that what these key players inside the White House and outside the White House were hoping is that both President Abbas on the Palestinian side and Prime Minister Netanyahu on the Israeli side will come out of this saying, look we're at least making a little progress.

Not a treaty -- they're not expecting a treaty out of this, a peace deal, but they're expecting to come out and say, look, the Americans push this along, but now the Israelis and Palestinians a few weeks from now, a couple of months from now will meet in the region and try to hammer out the details themselves to show, look, we can do this, we can stand on our own two feet.

That's a tall order, but that shows you how expectations are pretty low. There's not going to be a treaty this week. It's going to be a meeting to have another meeting is what they'll hope.

VELSHI: Right, and if they can get through a meeting without somebody walking out, that might be an achievement. But I think this administration is going to be more concerned about managing expectations considering how they've been held to it.

Ed, I think my birthday's coming up in a couple of months, you might want to think about one of those Tae Tae Davis pieces for me.

HENRY: I would love to buy one -- is she making a lot of money off these things? I hope she's not, you know, lifting the price big time now that she's been on CNN?

VELSHI: I don't know. You might want to get it now before she updates the website. Good to see you, my friend as always. "The Stakeout" with Ed Henry.

HENRY: Good to see you.

VELSHI: All right, coming up next, "Wordplay" and this one is going to keep you on the edge of your seat.


VELSHI: It is time now for "Wordplay" and this one has got drama written all over it. The word is bore. We all know people or pastimes that fall into that category, my apologies to curling fans.

But that's not the bore that is making news. I refer you to the desperate plight of 33 Chilean miners trapped almost half a mile underground. For them, boreholes are lifeline providing food, water, clothing, even entertainment.

But each is just a few inches across, not nearly wide enough to try and lift a human being to the surface. So 25 days after the cave- in, specialized equipment is about to start boring a much bigger shaft, 28 inches.

It's a real sign of progress and hope it will not be fast. If rescuers choose to widen an existing hole, that could take two months. Double that if they bore a new hole from the scratch and they're looking into that now.

We're dedicating this week at CNN to fixing our schools. It's going to take all of us, you, me, our children to do it. I'll tell you more in my "XYZ."


VELSHI: Time now for the "XYZ" of it. It is the last week of summer vacation for most public school students. A week filled with dread, excitement, back-to-school shopping and last-minute vacations. It's a time of stress and anticipation for their families many of whom see school as the key to a bright future.

For 90 percent of American students, school means public schools. Some public schools are exemplary with teachers, and lessons, and buildings that will remain in student's consciousness forever. Others are marred by poverty, violence, poor equipment, frustrated teacher and bullies.

But public education in the United States remains the absolute best hope for the future. On this show, you've seen our "Chalk Talk" segment. But this week, CNN is dedicated to a week-long discussion called "Fix Our Schools."

Literacy is high in America, among the highest in the world. Despite that, America is not graduating the most competitive students. We're not giving them the number of instructional hours that some of the world's most competitive economies actually provide.

Now "Fix Our Schools" does presume that something is broken when in fact, much is right in U.S. public education. Education is compulsory in the U.S. and although schools are increasingly calling on families to provide supplies, public education is for the most part free.

What exactly is broken in public schools? Well, disputes center around cost, curriculum and control. What sort of facilities are best? Does the environment matter as much as what students learn, how they learn it and who teaches it to them? Is the role that teachers play more important than the role that parents play?

And are we adequately dealing with the fact that many students in America in 2010 still go to school hungry? Then there's standardized testing. Does it guarantee that students are uniformly compared with their peers here and around the world or does it encourage the memorization of facts rather than concepts and theories?

Should standards be set by the feds, by the states or by the locals? Another issue is whether parents should be allowed to choose their children's public school or should they just go to the nearest one? What about chartered schools, which allow public money to be used for selective admission?

While they do improve education in some cases, do they impoverish the overall system by creating a two-tier world? On this show, we feature solutions and we'd like to hear from you so tweet me with your education solutions at alivelshi or post your ideas on my Facebook page,

That's it for me. Time now for Rick and "RICK'S LIST."