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Mine Explosion in Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania; U.S. Troops Dealing With Growing Sectarian Strife in Iraq; Major Issues at U.N.

Aired October 23, 2006 - 14:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And we begin this hour with breaking news happening from Pennsylvania.
Let's go to Betty Nguyen.

Betty, when you get word of an explosion inside of a mine, not good news.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: No, it never seems to be. And of course that is what we are learning today. In fact, we've been following this.

This is in Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania. And what we know so far is still pretty preliminary, but a coal mine explosion occurred earlier today, trapping and injuring at least one worker.

According to The Associated Press, one worker is already dead from this explosion. Again, we are checking on that. But here's what we know.

Rescue efforts at the Buck Mountain Anthracite Mine have been ongoing. And that's been taken over by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. They are there operating this investigation.

The mine, though, is owned by R&D Coal Company. And to give you a little bit of history about this company, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has that information on its Web site, stating that an explosion occurred at this same mine back in 2004, injuring four workers.

Well, an explosion again today. And here's what we know about it.

It occurred this morning at the Buck Mountain Anthracite Mine. At least one person is trapped and injured, according to CNN. But according to The Associated Press, one person is already dead due to this explosion. So we are checking on that.

And any more information we get on this, Don, we're going to bring it straight to you.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Bombs, bullets and bitterness -- U.S. forces are dealing with all of it as they reach a grim milestone in Iraq. At least 86 troops killed in October, making it the deadliest month this year for U.S. military.

Our John Roberts is embedded with U.S. troops in Taji just north of Baghdad. He just filed this report.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We spent some time over the weekend with the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division. It's been a particularly tough month for them. They've lost at least 15 men, most of those to those improvised explosive devices, the roadside bombs which continue to be a major threat to U.S. forces here.

But the U.S. forces are also facing a growing problem with the sectarian violence that threatens to envelop the entire country. It started in Baghdad, but now it's spreading.

The area of operations that we're in, the Camp Taji Services, is about a 500-square-mile area north of Baghdad. There are towns that are predominantly Sunni, towns that are predominantly Shiite, towns that are mixed. Those towns now can't really say that they're at war with each other, but certainly the tensions are much greater than they were before. But there are some mixed villages now that are either emptied because the militias have decided to make that their battleground, or Shiites are pushing Sunnis out, Sunnis are pushing Shiites out.

It's a particularly difficult challenge for the U.S. military to engage and to solve as well, because this is not something that they were trained for. They were trained for frontal assaults, to deal with an enemy, not to get in the middle of this sectarian violence.

So what they do is they try to spend a lot of time in these towns and these villages talking to the elders, talking to other people there, saying, what do you need? And what we keep hearing from all of these people, the ones at least who are not trying to foment the violence, not the radical elements, but the normal townspeople, they need more security.

And the problem is that in the Sunni towns, they don't trust the Iraqi police. They don't trust the Ministry of the Interior, and the Shiites, on the other hand, think that the Sunnis are always trying to attack them. So this is a particularly difficult challenge for the U.S. military, one that it appears the current plan may not be able to solve.

Major General William Caldwell, the chief spokesman for the multinational forces here, said last week that they are disappointed, dismayed with the amount of violence that continues in Baghdad, despite this clear hold-and-build strategy they've been engaging in for the last couple of months, that the strategy needs reviewing, perhaps it needs changing altogether.

That big meeting at the White House over the weekend failed to come up with any definitive plan, but people on the ground here, Iraqis, are desperate for some sort of change. And that's something that the U.S. military will urgently need to address in the weeks to come.

John Roberts, CNN, at Camp Taji, with the U.S. forces.


LEMON: All right, John.

Goals set, benchmarks and milestones reached. The Bush administration says that's what it wants from Iraq, not timetables, nor deadlines.

Our Kathleen Koch is at the White House with more on this -- Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, what were -- what has been the subject of discussion here at the White House really all morning is this "New York Times" report that was on the front page of the paper Sunday morning that basically said the U.S. was setting a timetable by which the Iraqi government had to assume a larger role in securing the country and stopping the sectarian violence or the U.S. would consider changes in military strategy. The White House has been very busy throwing cold water on that report all day.

Press Secretary Tony Snow saying it's inaccurate, that it's overwritten, and saying that this is not a process where the U.S. says to Iraq, basically, take it or leave it. Things are much more collaborative than that, Tony, saying -- or Snow saying, "We've never said, 'You don't do this, we're going to walk out on you.'"


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're not in the business of issuing ultimatums, and that part of it is inaccurate. Now, there are a series -- look, at the end of the year, the Maliki government is going to be saying, OK, here's where we are, and these are some things we need to do. So there will be consultations at the end of the year, much as there are consultations on a regular basis.

But is there sort of an end-of-the-year United States comes to Iraq and says this is what you must do? No.


KOCH: The White House, very interestingly this morning, is backing away from the off-cue statement by President Bush in referring to Iraq that the U.S. must "stay the course." Counselor to the president, Dan Bartlett, this morning saying on CBS News, "It's never been a stay-the-course strategy."

And Snow this afternoon explained, saying that that statement gives the impression of a policy of kick back and wait. And Snow insists instead that the Bush plan in Iraq has always been "a dynamic policy aimed at moving forward" -- Don.

LEMON: Yes. Not a question for you, but when I heard the words "overwritten," I was, like, what exactly does that mean? But you know, I want to ask you, the Democrats are probably weighing in on this. What do they have to say about it? KOCH: One Democrat in particular, Senator Joe Biden, had a conference call with reporters this morning and reiterated what has often said about the Bush administration, that it has no plan in Iraq. And he -- he stated that he is finding much more support for a new plan coming from Republicans.

He said that he has had direct conversations with two senior Republicans who have told him that they are prepared to enter into a bipartisan effort to force "a substantial change in the way the U.S. is moving in Iraq." And Don, that comes after this weekend when another Republican senator, Arlen Specter, came out and put pressure on the president to change tactics in Iraq, saying, "If we have a better course, we ought to adopt it sooner than later."

So some pressure coming from unusual corners on the administration right now.

LEMON: There is some -- some movement on all of this, at least.

Thank you very much, Kathleen Koch.

PHILLIPS: Well, Sudan boots out a U.N. envoy, Iran flexes its nuclear muscle, and don't forget what's going on in North Korea. For United Nations diplomats these are clearly interesting times, to say the least.

CNN's Richard Roth keeping track of some potentially defining moments in diplomacy -- Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jan Pronk, the United Nations special representative for Sudan, the African country where the Bush administration has said a genocide has occurred, has been recalled by the U.N. back to New York for consultations with Secretary-General Kofi Annan. This after Sudan said that Pronk should leave the country after he wrote on his personal blog what Sudan says was psychological warfare against the army, the government.

Pronk wrote that the government had suffered defeats, its military had suffered two defeats, that generals had been fired. The U.N. has said these were his own views. The United Nations spokesman in New York today said that Pronk will have a meeting on Wednesday with Secretary-General Kofi Annan.


STEPHANE DUJARRIC, U.N. SPOKESMAN: Mr. Pronk remains our special representative. He will -- he is on his way to New York. He will have discussions. The secretary-general is keen to hear from him. And we will take it from there.

But until further notice, he remains the representative of the secretary-general.


ROTH: The spokesman went on to say that Annan has full confidence in Pronk. The United Nations Security Council has been calling for a U.N. peacekeeping force to go into Darfur. Sudan has not given permission for that.

The notice about Pronk being returned to New York and Sudan not wanting him has not escaped the notice of Secretary of State Rice.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm going to try to talk to Kofi Annan about it a little bit later today. But obviously the situation in Darfur and in Sudan is deteriorating, and the international community needs very much to be able to act there. So I'll try to call Secretary-General Annan a little bit later today.


ROTH: We haven't received notification that that call took place. Rice sitting next to Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, if he looked familiar to some viewers.

So, once again, on Sudan, Kyra, it's a big story, and the U.N., the member nations, are not able to impose their will on Sudan because they say they need the official cooperation of the government to allow peacekeepers in. The U.N. peacekeeping department going to talk to the Sudanese ambassador here in New York allegedly today.

Back to you.

PHILLIPS: Well, we're going to talk more about Sudan in the 3:00 hour, and also about U.S. relations with Sudan and its president. But let me ask you a question about Iran, still on the front burner at the U.N.

What kind of sanctions are being considered by the Security Council, and is there a thought that -- I mean, we're talking about sanctions that -- that have been imposed or talked about with Iran since 1979. How does anyone think that this is still the way and that they will somehow work?

ROTH: Well, we don't know, and those were U.S. sanctions. These would be international sanctions. And that sanctions train has not exactly left the station yet. It's in the hands of the United States, Britain, France, Germany.

It hasn't gone to the full council. It's supposed to be targeted at anybody connected with the nuclear enrichment program, financial assets, travel bans, these types of things. But many sanctions experts don't believe that this type of thing immediately works.

The idea is try to change their behavior. They say these countries not punish them, and certainly the North Korean sanctions issue plays into this.

But so far the U.N. doesn't have many tools in their diplomatic box except maybe sanctions at the moment. And we are a long way away from any type of military debate here.

PHILLIPS: Richard Roth, thanks.

LEMON: Let's get back to our developing story in Pennsylvania.

Betty Nguyen, when last we heard, one person was trapped, another we heard had died?

NGUYEN: Well, what we heard, that at least one person was trapped and injured. What we do know now is that CNN has confirmed that one person, that one person, has died in this coal mine explosion in Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania.

As we know of now, no one else is trapped inside that mine after the explosion occurred this morning. Investigators, in fact, are in the mine right now. The Mine Safety and Health Administration has taken over this investigation.

Let me tell you a little about the mine in question here in Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania.

It's the Buck Mountain Anthracite Mine, which is about 70 miles northwest of Philadelphia. And it's operated by R&D Coal Company.

According to the history of this mine, an explosion occurred there at the same exact mine back in 2004. This is, again, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. That injured four people. Well, today's explosion this morning has killed one person.

Now, the good news is that no one else is trapped inside that mine. The bad news is one person obviously died in this coal explosion. But an investigation is under way to determine exactly what happened there -- Don.

LEMON: All right, Betty. Thank you so much for that.

Fighting over words in Washington. Fighting for life in Iraq.

PHILLIPS: The Muslim holy month turns into a deadly one for Americans and Iraqis. What does the U.S. have to do to win the fight for Iraq? We're going to get some answers from retired Brigadier General David Grange next.


LEMON: Digging at Ground Zero. More than five years after terrorists brought down the World Trade Center, more than four years after the official cleanup ended, special forensic teams are back at the site.

Just last week, utility crews stumbled upon bone fragments in abandoned manholes there, remains believed to be from victims. Relatives are outraged, demanding to know why every inch of the area hasn't been searched before and calling for the city to stop building there.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK: We're not going to shut down any construction. Where construction is taking place are on sites that have been thoroughly gone through and excavated, and we have to build for the future.


LEMON: And the folks who are overseeing the recovery effort at Ground Zero are reviewing past searches and aren't ruling out even more.

PHILLIPS: Iraqis under the gun, U.S. forces overextended, insurgents more dangerous than ever. The fight for Iraq seems to have gone from bad to worse just this month alone. How did the war get to this point and what can be done to turn it around?

Let's bring in our military analyst, retired Brigadier General David Grange.

I have to tell you, General, on Friday, when all the chaos hit the city of Amara, I don't think I've ever seen you that animated in a really long time. So I pulled a clip from that breaking news coverage. I just want to take a listen to what you had to say when that happened real quickly.


BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: What it takes right now is a dual strategy of George Marshall and Ulysses S. Grant. You have to continue with the compassion of trying to build some type of prosperity and way of life for the Iraqi people like Marshall would do after World War II, and you have to be ruthless like Grant during the Civil War. And right now they cannot let the militia get away with taking over a city.


PHILLIPS: You didn't beat around the bush.

Why this city? Why that day? Why did that -- why did it hit you like that at that moment?

GRANGE: Well, I just -- it's just a dual track that you have to take, I believe, to win in this type of a conflict. I mean, nation- building is tough. It's much tougher than, you know, a straight-out war of a conventional enemy.

We're fighting an irregular warfare. You still have to engage with the people. I think a lot of the engagement is lost in certain areas because of some mistakes that were made years ago at the beginning of the campaign. But you also have to be ruthless with those that don't want the Iraqi -- elected Iraqi government to succeed or who are influenced by outside sources like Iran and Syria.

And the only way -- the only thing that these people understand in this regard is toughness. You can't -- you can't pitty-pat around with these people that want to negate the efforts that have been taking place so far.

PHILLIPS: Now, the city of Amara, this was run by or protected by Iraqi police. So you're saying you have to be ruthless. You have to take charge.

What does this say about the Iraqi police and if, indeed, they are even capable enough to take control of their city?

GRANGE: Well, they're not in most cases. Most of the Iraqi police are influenced. They are infiltrated. And that is an issue.

And it's who is loyal to the government of Iraq? Who is loyal? And that's a tough question. And actually, only some of the people on the ground really have the answer that work with these different military police organizations, some American and British units.

I think maybe the only loyal institution -- and it's not totally loyal -- may be the Iraqi military right now, at least some of the better units. But if need be, coalition forces need to -- need to back them up and make sure that the strategy of Iran, the strategy of these militia groups, does not take hold, and that's what they're doing.

PHILLIPS: But the U.S. -- but the U.S. doesn't even have diplomatic relations with Iran. You see what's going on with regard to that and this talk about sanctions and the talk about nuclear facilities. And to think that the U.S. can even deal with Iran and try to deal with Iraq at the same time, don't you think that's pretty much impossible right now?

GRANGE: Well, I don't think anything's impossible. I think, one, you can -- you can take down some people that are in Iraq right now that are Iranian. Advisers, those that are -- that are intelligence service people, those that are stirring up the trouble.

You can also -- you have to take on these militia. Once they got a foothold -- it's very similar -- the strategy is very similar to Lebanon with the Hezbollah. It's no different in Iraq with the strategy of Iran influencing Iraq. No difference at all. And if it gets a foothold, it's going to get harder to deal with later.

PHILLIPS: The president met with Abizaid and Casey. They were called in, talking about new strategy, new plans. This happened Friday, into the weekend.

What does that tell you?

GRANGE: Well, these meetings happen all the time. You know, for the military, as you know, Saturdays and Sundays are irrelevant. I mean, it doesn't matter when they meet. They meet all the time and readjust, and they have to because the situation is constantly changing.

But -- and, of course, we hype that up a bit that, in fact, they had this meeting. But they know that the ground has changed. The plan has changed from what they went in originally, and so they have to adjust the plan. Otherwise if it's status quo, if it's attrition warfare that continues, we're not going to win. So they have to do that.

PHILLIPS: Three and a half years into this war, almost 3,000 -- you can't even really put an exact number on how many U.S. troops have been killed because it happens on a daily basis. It's hard to keep up with the number.

At this point, how realistic is it that this war can be won?

GRANGE: I think that the conflict can always be won. Again, I mean, you hear this all the time, but really, it depends on how you define winning.

I mean, you have to have some kind of a survivable Iraqi elected -- elected Iraqi government. You have to have some type of rule of law, some level where people have freedom from fear, that they can have some type of prosperity in their life at some level.

You have to curtail any influence or takeover from countries like Iran. These things -- and you have to have regional influence, which we do have by being there in this region, because this region is going to be hot for some time. Those things have to be established to define, I think, as a minimum, winning.

PHILLIPS: All right. Let me ask you that. You say this is going to be a region that is going to be hot for some time. That's an interesting point.

So, how long do U.S. troops stay in that region as long as it remains hot?

GRANGE: I think that deploying to the Middle East and southwest Asia is sort of like when we went into Korea. This is -- we -- this is the key area for the United States' future, both economically and for security. And we're going to be in that area in some country or another.

You can't look at Iraq by itself. You can't look at Iran by itself. Actions you take in Iraq against Iranian influence affects what you're going to do with Iran later.

Iran is not just a nuclear issue, it's a terrorist support, it's a support of Iraqi militia issue as well. And that's right in our face. Because of that, American GIs are dying. So you have to take that on right now, regardless of what happens on the nuclear issue. You have to take that on right now with Iran.

PHILLIPS: So when are you meeting with the president?

GRANGE: Well, we just finished actually with, I think, a very robust study group of paper on how to deal with Iran in the future. But that's also tied to Syria. It's also tied to Lebanon and Iraq. You can't look at -- you have to look at the region, not just each country.

PHILLIPS: General David Grange, always a pleasure.

GRANGE: Thank you.

LEMON: All right.

Let's get back to our developing story, tense times in an eastern Pennsylvania town where families are waiting to hear from at least one loved one. And we have some new pictures coming out of there.

Is that right, Betty?

NGUYEN: Yes, we do. New pictures just in to CNN from Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania. These are coming to us from affiliate WPVI. Here is a picture of the accident site, of an ambulance there on site, people waiting around.

What we know so far, Don, is this: One person died in this coal mine accident. It is now being called an accident, not an explosion.

Either way, one person is dead this afternoon. The good news is we understand no one else is trapped inside that mine.

Investigators are on the scene. In fact, the Mine Safety and Health Administration is there looking into exactly what happened.

This occurred at the Buck Mountain Anthracite Mine. This is where you're seeing pictures of. Here's a bigger map so you can see where it's in location to, about 70 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

And the mine is operated by R&D Coal Company. And according to that Mine Safety and Health Administration, it has put some information on its Web site about the history of this company.

And back in 2004, this very mine right outside where you're seeing this picture right now, there was an explosion that occurred in this mine. Although today was an accident, but in 2004 an explosion occurred here, injuring four workers. Well, today it was a little more than just an injury. One person has been killed in this mine accident today.

We don't know exactly what happened there. Here's a little bit more of a picture of the site. But we do know that no one else is trapped.

This video coming in from affiliate WPVI. And investigators are on the scene to determine exactly what happened, what led to that death. And obviously a family is in despair, hurting extremely bad this afternoon in light of the fact that their loved one was killed in that mine accident -- Don.

LEMON: Betty, not just -- not just the family, these are close- knit communities usually when this happens.

NGUYEN: Oh, yes. LEMON: And I saw some of the video that was coming in as you were speaking. I don't know if we have it yet, but some of the families huddling around each other and then walking into what looks like an office building there.

So it's not just that one family. Like I said, this is a close, close-knit community. Usually these mining towns are. And when they hear word of anything like this happening, of course they all come rushing to the scene.

NGUYEN: Well, and unfortunately, because it being a coal mine, many times when you hear about an accident you often hear of many other people being injured because of it. So I guess if you're trying to look at a light at the end of this tunnel, the good news is it only involved one person. But the extreme sadness here is over the fact that that one person wasn't just injured, but that person was killed.

LEMON: Yes, Betty. And if you look down there, you see what we're talking about with the families.

NGUYEN: Right.

LEMON: You know. It's just really sad. We hope at least that they find the other person. And they're still searching, right?

NGUYEN: No. As far as I know, Don, according to CNN information, there is only one person killed in that accident, and no one else was trapped inside.

LEMON: No one else. OK.

NGUYEN: No one else injured. Unless that changes, that's the information that we have as of now.

LEMON: OK. Well, we certainly wish the family well.

Betty in the NEWSROOM.

Thank you very much for that.


PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, voters in a Texas district face a peculiar challenge on Election Day.

LEMON: There's not one, but two elections for former House majority leader Tom DeLay's old seat in Congress. We'll explain ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: Plus, just what Mexico's Pacific resorts don't need, a hurricane named Paul. Here in the CNN NEWSROOM we're keeping an eye on where it's headed and where it could hit.


HARRIS: Well, let's talk about American charities. They have enjoyed a major windfall recently, and a surging stock market is just one reason why. And here to tell us all about that, our very own Susan Lisovicz. She's an expert on all things stock, charities, money, everything.


PHILLIPS: Well, he's one of the hottest names in Democratic politics right now, and everyone is asking him, what about '08? Illinois Senator Barack Obama says he's been giving their questions some thought. His answer ahead from the NEWSROOM.


LEMON: Midterm elections are two weeks from tomorrow, and turmoil inside the beltway is being felt in congressional districts all over the country. That includes the Texas 22nd, home to the once powerful Tom DeLay. The former House majority leader is out of office, but is still on the ballot. But filling the seat isn't as simple as casting a single vote.

The person who can tell us all about that is our very own Bob Franken. He is in Sugarland, Texas. That's right near Houston. Hey, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Don. And as you can see, the CNN campaign express is here. And well, it should be, because we have an election where the Republican who wants to replace DeLay is not on the ballot. DeLay is on the ballot, but people can't vote for him. There is a Democrat on the ballot, and there are two elections.


SHELLEY SEKULA GIBBS, TEXAS CONGRESS CANDIDATE: I'm Shelley Sekula Gibbs and I'm running for Congress.

FRANKEN (voice-over): Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula Gibbs was recruited to replace Tom DeLay with little delay, but too late for her name to get on the ballot, not the one for the next two years in Congress.

NICK LAMPSON, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CANDIDATE: I'm Nick Lampson. I'm running for the U.S. House of Representatives.

FRANKEN: Democrat Nick Lampson won his spot on the ballot the old-fashioned way in the primary.

SEKULA GIBBS: It is not hard.

FRANKEN: Sekula Gibbs is listed in a special election called to finish out the weeks left in DeLay's unfinished term. The problem, the special election is the same day as the general election.

Her paid TV message, vote twice.

SEKULA GIBBS: First vote for me in the special election where my name will appear on the ballot. Then, in the general election, on the same ballot, write me in.

FRANKEN (on camera): Make any sense to you at all?



FRANKEN: Do you understand this at all?





FRANKEN: What are you going to do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. It is a quandary. It really is. What do you suggest?

FRANKEN (voice-over): Someone suggested to Sekula Gibbs she should have a jingle.

SEKULA GIBBS: Vote twice for Shelley, special and then write her in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well that's good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you again.


FRANKEN: Lampson, the Democrat, he's staying off the ballot where Sekula Gibbs does appear.

LAMPSON: Special election is something that was going to -- that turned out to be very confusing and I chose not to be a part of that.

FRANKEN: Although it's considered to be leaning Democratic this time, the indications are that's because of the ballot confusion, not all the problems weighing down Republicans nationally. In fact, the party heavyweights have been campaigning in the area, even DeLay. But Sekula Gibbs feels she needs to sing for her support.

SEKULA GIBBS (singing): Can do it and then we'll win.



FRANKEN: Only in Texas would you hear yodeling on the campaign trail -- Don.

LEMON: You going to do a little yodel for us? FRANKEN: I don't yodel, at least intentionally.

LEMON: OK. I'll take that one. Hey, Listen, does Sekula Gibbs really have a shot? What are the polls showing in all this, Bob?

FRANKEN: Well, the polls are kind of confusing because of this confused situation. The experts list this as leaning Democratic, which is remarkable. It should possibly be overwhelmingly Democratic because of all this confusion, because of the write-in situation. But the fact is is that the Republicans have a chance. This has been a very Republican district, which is why Tom DeLay was elected so many times.

LEMON: You don't know that I'm going to ask you this, but I have to. You'll know about this. Barack Obama has been -- everybody is talking about him. Does he come up where you are?

FRANKEN: It has not where we are, but certainly this has been an interesting thing to watch. Quite frankly, I'm not surprised by all of this. It seems almost to be following a script now. The Obama people would say that's not the case, but it is an amazing coincidence that he's taking the path that he's taking.

LEMON: All right, Bob Franken, thank you very much. And we're going to stay on that topic, talking about Barack Obama, one of the Democrats' rising stars. May have his eyes on another prize. Illinois Senator Barack Obama now says he may consider a White House run in 2008. Obama won his Senate seat back in 2004. In the past, he's ruled out a presidential bid this soon, but on "Meet the Press" yesterday, he admitted that since people keep bringing it up, he is thinking about it now.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Given the responses that I've been getting over the last several months, I have thought about the possibility. But I have not thought about it with the seriousness and depth that I think is required. My main focus right now is in '06 and making sure that we retake this Congress. After November 7th, I'll sit down and consider it. And if, at some point, I change my mind, I will make a public announcement, and everybody will be able to go at me.


LEMON: So he was only elected back in 2004, it's only been two years, so he's not currently up for re-election. Senator Obama has been traveling the country, campaigning for other Democrats and promoting his new book.

And to his numerous supporters, Barack Obama can do no wrong. His critics say once he arrived on Capitol Hill, it didn't take long for him to fall prey to the evils of Beltway politics. Here's a CNN "Fact Check."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Before 2004, Barack Obama was a virtual unknown outside his home state of Illinois. Then came the speech at the Democratic Convention in Boston. Obama revealed to the nation his charisma and oratorical gifts. Almost instantly, the then 24-year-old senator became the shooting star of the Democratic Party.

Adding to his rock-star image was his recent trip to Africa, a journey that took him to Kenya, the homeland of his late father. To his supporters and their legions, Obama is Mr. Perfect.

Consider his resume, the only African-American in the U.S. Senate, award-winning author, a graduate of Columbia University, the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. Since taking up shop on Capitol Hill, Obama has been lauded for advocating for the poor and speaking out against the Iraq war before the invasion.

But he's not without critics. Some argue he's too close and dependent on big-time lobbyists. According to "Harper's" magazine, Obama's major contributors are corporate law and lobbying firms, Wall Street financial houses and big Chicago investment firms.

Obama counters that for him to survive in a Republican-controlled Washington, he must be willing to compromise. And that support from lobbyists is a necessary evil up to a point. In his words, he says that for a political leader to get things done, he or she ideally should be ahead of the curve, but not too far ahead.


PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, the Madonna adoption drama gets deeper and deeper. Little David's father now says he never wanted this to be for keeps. The latest from the NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: Well nevermind papa don't preach. How about papa don't sue? The father of the Malawian boy Madonna's trying to adopt now says that he was misled about the whole thing. The government officials are denying his latest version of the events.

Our Jeff Koinange tries to sort it all out.


JEFF KOINANGE, CNN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An ugly twist to an already messy adoption. Yohane Banda, the illiterate biological father of a tiny toddler Madonna wants to adopt, says he didn't realize when he signed the adoption papers his son would, in his words, be going away forever.

YOHANE BANDA, DAVID'S FATHER (through translator): When we agreed with Madonna that she wants to take care of the child, there wasn't any arrangement that she was going to have him, David, as her own and forever. No. It was supposed to be just like when he was at the orphanage, that he will be raised and educated, and thereafter he will come back to our family. KOINANGE: This marks a 180 degree turn to what he said barely a week ago, when he declared himself only too happy for his 1-year-old son to be taken from a local orphanage to be raised by one of the world's most famous celebrities. Madonna had insisted little Baby David would be able to travel to Malawi and visit his family as often as possible, and that way, maintain his roots.

But this latest outburst by the child's only parent throws it a spatter in the works of what was already a controversial adoption to begin with, adding to the arguments against international adoptions, especially those by celebrities.

MAZWELL MATWERE, EXEC. DIRECTOR, EYE OF CHILD: (INAUDIBLE) was guarantee. We have a law, which is very prohibiting in terms of international adoption.

KOINANGE: It's also sure to discourage parents seeking adoptions in Africa. Here, at the Mbuyomuno Orphanage in Malawi, however, Madonna still has a few followers, and not just fans.

NDASOWA MAINJA, MBUYOMUNO ORPHANAGE: We support her, to come again, and we support her. She could get the child, educate him. That child would be our ambassador one day.

KOINANGE: Until that day, and for the foreseeable feature, little Baby Banda will unknowingly continue to generate global headlines, even before he's able to take his first steps.

(on camera): The high court in Malawi's capital, Lilongwe, will begin hearing arguments Friday by a group of 67 human rights groups which are arguing Malawi's laws forbidding international adoptions, even those by celebrities.

Jeff Koinange, CNN, Johannesburg.


PHILLIPS: Well besides an e-mail statement, Madonna hasn't spoken publicly about all the controversy, but she's supposed to later this week, to who else but to Oprah?

LEMON: Straight ahead in entertainment news. I just like saying her name, Sibila Vargas of "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT." Sibila, what's up?


LEMON: What's up?

VARGAS: Sex, drugs and country music. That's what's on tap. The latest shocking news from Nashville and dating Janet Jackson, why it could be hazardous to your job. We'll have those stories and more straight ahead from the NEWSROOM.



LEMON: He's -- "I'm just too white and nerdy?" I've never heard that. "That's like talking dirty?" Wow! We know him, we love him, we can't live without the professional smart aleck known as "Weird Al" Yankovic. From Michael Jackson to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, nobody's immune. He lets the air out of pop musicians on a regular basis. Today, 47 candles on Weird Al's cake.

As long as we're talking numbers, hats off. His latest album, "Straight Outta Lynwood," debuts at number 10 on the Billboard charts, his first top-10 album ever. That's quite a feat. He mimics everybody else and makes tons of money and he's number 10 on the Billboards.

Well, well, well. The honeymoon, and apparently the sobriety are over. Nicole Kidman's new husband says he's fallen -- they're laughing in the control room. It's not funny. The guy has issues. He's fallen off the wagon, Sibila. What do we do with all that? That's sad Hollywood news.

VARGAS: I thought my first year of marriage was an adjustment. Four months later, after his marriage, to actress Nicole Kidman, country music superstar Keith Urban is back in rehab. The Grammy winner who previously had undergone treatment for cocaine addiction checked himself into a rehabilitation center for alcohol abuse last week.

The treatment has since forced Urban to cancel all upcoming appearances including a planned performance on next month's Country Music Association awards in Nashville. Urban's nominated for four awards at that show, including entertainer of the year, an honor which he won last year.

Despite the change in his promotional schedule, the singer's publicist tells us Urban's latest CD, "Love, Pain and the Whole Crazy Thing" will hit record stores as planned on November 2nd. Interesting title, though, "Love, Pain and the Whole Crazy Thing." It's like life imitating art.

LEMON: So what do you mean, your first year of marriage? It wasn't that rocky? You didn't have to deal with all those issues?

VARGAS: No, I did, but, I mean, not rehab, thank god.

LEMON: Well, it's not the only -- we're talking about Keith Urban who is from Nashville, a country singer, but it's not the only shocking news we here coming out of Nashville these days?

VARGAS: Absolutely not. Of course, we all know about the Sara Evans "Dancing with the Stars" divorce shocker, Don.

Well, now, there's new details on who her husband says is responsible for the split. After allegations of adultery, pornography and verbal abuse, Evan's husband Craig Schelske is firing back, claiming it was Evans who was having an affair, not him. In court documents filed Friday, Schelske alleges Evans filed for divorce the day after he discovered that she was cheating on him.

As for the pornography claim, Schelske claims the couple was watching adult videos together when their 7-year-old daughter unexpectedly entered the room. Schelske also denies claims that he posed nude for photographs of himself, except for when there were a few taken by his wife on their 10th anniversary. And he also denies claims of sexual pictures of himself with other women and that he had an affair with a former nanny.

Now, in addition, Schelske claims Evans neglected their three children after she began appearing on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." Evans, of course, dropped out of the reality show after filing for divorce just two weeks ago. So it's getting nasty.

LEMON: Sibila, do we really have to know all this stuff about everybody? Come on. We don't want to know about naked pictures they took.

VARGAS: Absolutely. I mean, you know, we hear about all these marriages, like, going kaput, but it just keeps on getting worse and worse. And I just wouldn't have expected it from Sara Evans.

LEMON: Kaput -- how do you spell that? No, I'm kidding. There's definitely plenty of rumors floating around about their relationship, but what I want to ask you about another musical pair. What am I hearing about Janet Jackson, her boyfriend something ...

VARGAS: Jermaine Dupri.

LEMON: Did he get the boot or something from a record label?

VARGAS: Well, that's a rumor. Jackson's longtime boyfriend Jermaine Dupri has allegedly been kicked to the curb but not by Jackson. But maybe because of Jackson, the hip-hop producer and beau to Ms. Jackson has reportedly been let go as head of urban music at Jackson's current label, Virgin Records, in Los Angeles.

Now, according to a report, Jackson's main squeeze was let go following poor sales performances of Jackson's comeback album, "20 YO." Jackson is currently in Japan promoting the new disc, which failed to live up to sales expectations in the states. A spokesperson for Virgin Records and a rep for Dupri all told us today that they won't comment on the report, so we'll be keeping a close eye on that story.

Well, coming up tonight on "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT," more on Keith Urban. As another superstar enters rehab, his wife, Nicole Kidman, is at his side. He joins the long list of stars with substance abuse. So why do spouses of the stars stick with them? Can marriage survive addiction? Find out on TV's most provocative entertainment news show, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT," 11:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN Headline Prime. By the way, Don, thanks for pronouncing my name right.

LEMON: Sibila. Is that right?

VARGAS: That's it. LEMON: All right.

VARGAS: Sibila like tequila. You'll never forget it.

LEMON: You said it, I didn't. Thank you.

VARGAS: I did. I had to.

LEMON: All right, we'll be watching you tonight Sibila like tequila. Have a good one.

PHILLIPS: She just had a baby. She can't be drinking tequila. What's up with that, Sibila?

VARGAS: I don't drink tequila. Actually, you know, I'm not going to comment. No comment.

PHILLIPS: Nice to have you back, by the way. Nice to see you too. Congratulations.

VARGAS: Thank you. Thanks.

PHILLIPS: All right. I think Don's in love. I'm going to move on.

VARGAS: Don't start.


Well, Hollywood lost a legend. Jane Wyatt of "Father Knows Best" fame has died. Wyatt was a veteran of stage and screen but she's best remembered for her role as that prototypical housewife on a classic 1950s sitcom. Soledad O'Brien has more on her incredible life.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Robert Young, and Jane Wyatt.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): She was mom for a generation on the television series "Father Knows Best." For six seasons, Jane Wyatt played the wise and comforting Margaret Anderson sharing the screen with her TV husband, actor Robert Young.

JANE WYATT, ACTRESS: I actually need one for errands, marketing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I doubt if you could put one together, mom.

WYATT: I want one already put together. I know this is a poor time to talk about it, what with having the house painted and all. I was noticing how cheap some of these little cars are.

O'BRIEN: Jane Wyatt won three Emmys for her work on "Father Knows Best." And although the TV series made her famous, Wyatt was already an established movie star. In the 1930s and '40s, she appeared in "Great Expectations," "Lost Horizon" and "Gentleman's Agreement." Wyatt's film career suffered in the 1950s. She was among a group of Hollywood stars blacklisted by Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House on American Activities Committee.

Jane Wyatt died in her sleep on Friday at her home in California. She was 96 years old.