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Rove Resigning; Missouri Church Shooting; Utah Mine Rescue Effort; Gerri's Top Tips; Pampered Pooch

Aired August 13, 2007 - 10:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Unfolding this hour, political shocker. Karl Rove resigning. The trusted advisor to President Bush is leaving at the end of the month. To the White House now and CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.
Suzanne, good morning to you.


COLLINS: So what prompted Rove to do this? And is it really a political shocker?

MALVEAUX: Well, I've had a chance to actually catch up with Karl Rove. We've been exchanging e-mails this morning. His last day is August 31st. He turned in his letter of resignation to the president on Friday.

And I asked him point blank, what does he say to those who are running him out of town? Karl Rove responded this way saying, "that sounds like the rooster claiming to have called up the sun." Clearly, Heidi, keeping a sense of humor about all of this.

He decided to do this, we are told, Chief of Staff Josh Bolten said, look, if you're going to stay after Labor Day, then plan on sticking around for the rest of the term, the rest of the administration. Otherwise, make alternative plans. And now was seen as a good time to do so, the right time to do so.

This is something that had been floated at least a year ago to the president as various times whether or not he should step down. Senior administration officials saying it's something that he and his family struggled with for some time.

We heard from White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino responding to this this morning, saying that "obviously it's a big loss to us. He is a great colleague, good friend and a brilliant mind. He will be greatly missed, but we know he wouldn't be going if he wasn't sure this is the right time to be giving more time to his family, his wife Darby and their son. He will continue to be one of the president's greatest friends."

As you know, you just can't overstate the role that Karl Rove played in this administration, when it comes to bringing him from governor of Texas, here to the White House, two terms, two campaigns, the strategist of all of this, the architect, if you will. But there were also some serious downfalls, if you will, some failures. He was in charge of key policy, domestic policy, social security reform, as well as immigration reform. Both of those that died. More recently he was found to be one of those who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame-Wilson. He was called before a grand jury five times to testify, but he was found to not be guilty of any kind of legal wrongdoing. He was never charged with any crime.

But there were times, particularly when you talk about that year- ago phase when that was a consideration, some White House officials wondering if he had become too much of a distraction. But, clearly, a very, very powerful political figure here in this administration. Even Chief of Staff Josh Bolten considering whether or not he's even going to be replaced at this point. They might just partition his job up, give it to many different people.

And, Heidi, I should let you know that we are going to see Karl Rove, as well as the president, very shortly here at the White House before they take off for Crawford, Texas. They'll both address the cameras, have some words to say. Rove's family, as well, is going to be traveling aboard Air Force One with the president and with Rove. They'll be taking a few days to vacation there, Rove with the president in Crawford, before he returns to Washington over the weekend.


COLLINS: Suzanne, I'm so curious to know, and we probably don't have an answer on this yet, but we've been saying, of course, he's going to spend some time with his family. So curious to know what else he may do. I can't see this man, you know, getting his fingers completely out of the politics.

MALVEAUX: Oh, I don't think so. You're not going to see him out of politics. I think he'll probably have his hands in a lot of -- everything. We might even be able to see his print on them, but they might not be so big.

I did ask that question to Karl Rove this morning, what is the first thing that he is going to do once he leaves. And I'll tell you what he said to me. This is a quote. He is going to go dove hunting in west Texas with family and friends, then drive my wife and the dogs to the beach. So there you have it. That's at least the first thing he's going to do.

COLLINS: OK. I knew you would ask and I'm glad you had the answer. All right. Very good. Suzanne Malveaux, thanks so much for that update on the Karl Rove situation from the White House this morning.

And just as a reminder, President Bush and Karl Rove go back a very long way. They first met in 1973 when both men were in their 20s. They've worked together as a politically team since Mr. Bush first ran for governor of Texas in 1994. Rove was born in 1950 in Denver, Colorado. He attended several colleges, but never graduated. A suspected shooter expected in court today. Police say he stormed a church and killed three people. CNN's Sean Callebs is in Neosho, Missouri, now.


We can tell you that the suspect, said to be in his 40s, is being held in the Newton County Jail. We had a chance to speak with law enforcement officials earlier and they said basically the suspect is providing virtually no information.

But this is some information we have been able to gauge after everything that has played out here. We know that the suspect apparently burst into the church yesterday afternoon saying liar, lying, you're all liars, and then opened fire, killing three people, injuring five. At another point had a gun -- he was holding one hostage at gunpoint and said, is anybody here willing to give up his or her life in exchange for his life? When nobody came forward, authorities tell us then the gunmen pulled the trigger.

We also know that the crime scene is supposed to be wrapped up this morning. And within the last few minutes, Heidi, we saw the authorities come through, take off the crime scene tape that has surrounded this church. There have been law enforcement officers out here for some time throughout the evening.

The injured people, at least two of them had to undergo surgery, but the information we're getting is, they are all expected to live. Now the police chief of Neosho is going to hold a news conference in about an hour and a half or so, Heidi, and we're going to be making our way over there shortly and bring you, of course, the latest information once that happens.

COLLINS: OK. Very good, Sean. I know that we're going to be waiting for that and try and take that news conference live as well.

Sean Callebs for us this morning in Missouri.

Thanks so much, Sean.

Also new this morning, hostages freed in Afghanistan. Taliban militants have freed two female South Korean hostages. The governor of Ghazni Province tells CNN they've been handed over to the province's political offices. The two were among 23 volunteer South Korean workers kidnapped in my-July. The militants have since killed two male hostages. Nineteen other hostages still being held now. The Taliban have demanded nearly two dozen militant prisoners released in exchange for the South Koreans' lives.

A toy recall in the U.S. is being tied to the death of a businessman in China. The head of the company that painted those led- painted toys apparently has committed suicide. That's according to a state run newspaper. Last month, China executed the former chief of its food and drug administration. That action was in response to a worldwide scandal involving tainted drugs and food exports. NASA facing a critical decision today. Engineers deciding whether to repair gouges on shuttle Endeavour's belly. A live shot there for you now. The heat protection tiles, damaged during liftoff last week. Engineers will test tiles with similar damage. They want to see what might happen when they are exposed to 2300 degree heat. Important to know. A repair job would require another space walk, though. So coming up live at 100:00 Eastern, insight from CNN's space correspondent Miles O'Brien.

Airport backlog ends. Today plenty of questions about a computer crash. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants an investigation. More than 20,000 travelers stranded at Los Angeles International Airport this weekend. The trouble started when customs computers crashed. Many passengers were stuck on runways, others went into the airport but not the country.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We sat for three hours on a plane. And then we sat for two more hours in an aisle. And then we sat for another hour in another room. And then we stood in line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over the microphone and they said that there would be a little bit of a delay. That little bit of a delay turned into four hours. They had two laptops that were running, So everybody had to go -- I think it was about 400 people that had to go through two laptops.


COLLINS: Oh, that sounds painful. L.A.'s mayor wants Homeland Security changes that would speed passenger processing.

A ninth body recovered from the Mississippi River 11 days after that bridge collapse in Minnesota. The medical examiner has identified the remains of 20-year-old Richard Chit. His mother is still missing, along with three other victims. Forty-four vehicles have been removed from the wreckage. Transportation officials say about 100 vehicles were on the bridge when it fell.

More than just a number. An inspiration. The legacy of a Minnesota bridge victim, ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And Karl Rove's resignation. What does it mean for President Bush? We talk with a man who knows the ins and outs of Washington, Bill Bennett, coming up live.

And the crowded presidential field thinning just a bit this morning. A GOPer bows out.

I'm at the entrance of the Crandall Canyon Mine, where the desperate efforts continue. The latest coming up in the "newsroom."

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm John Zarrella at the entrance of the Crandall Canyon Mine where the desperate efforts continue to free six trapped coal miners. The latest coming up in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: You are in the NEWSROOM with CNN's - that would be me, Heidi Collins. We wanted to show you this really quick. And every time we look at it, it makes me a little nervous because certainly from last week, boy oh boy, it was a little bit disastrous for some people, wasn't it? Right now, though, the Dow Jones Industrial average is up about 57 points, resting at 13,297. Some analysts calling it the calm after the storm. They expect it to open a little bit higher today. So, so far so good. We are in the positive numbers. We're going to continue to watch that for you and bring you more of our business stories coming up in just a few minutes.

And now searching for a way out of poverty.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Many say this diamond-rich soil is what funded Sierra Leone's civil war. But today, efforts are being made to take the blood out of the diamonds found here so that they're never used to fund future conflict.


COLLINS: Diamond obsession in Africa's Sierra Leone.


COLLINS: Crews drilling a third hole in a Utah mountain. Still trying to reach six men trapped in a mine for one week now. John Zarrella is covering the rescue efforts in Huntington, Utah.

John, good morning to you.

Let's talk a little bit about some of these delays now at the mine.

ZARRELLA: Yes, Heidi, certainly there have been delays. Delays getting to the miners from the main entrance. The work has been terribly slow-going. They thought they'd be able to move a little more quickly, but every few feet they've got to shore that tunnel up. So initial thought that it may be four or five days to reach the miners with rescue crews through that tunnel. No new estimates. In fact, they've backed off the four to five-day estimate.

At the same time, if all is going on schedule, then they should have begun early this morning drilling that third hole. We have no new information that they have or have not. They've got to drill down 1,400 feet, 8 5/8 drill. And then one they get that opened up, they're going to put a camera down there and look around in this side of the cavity where they believe the miners are.

Now the reason that they have gone to drill this third hole is because there are pockets and there are escape areas with this giant cavity where the miners might be holed up, trying to protect themselves. And really the reason they're doing this is because this is all federal officials and the mine workers and the mine owner have to go on is hope.


RICHARD STICKLER, MINE SAFETY & HEALTH ADMIN.: But our attitude is that we always have to have hope. And that's the position we're taking, is that we're hoping and we're praying. And it would be a terrible mistake to ever give up hope until you know for sure. So that's the only choice we have, is to press ahead with hope and, you know, in time we will know the answer.


ZARRELLA: Now over the weekend they dropped a camera into the other 8 5/8-inch hole that they drilled into. Problem was that the camera could only see about 15 feet. There wasn't enough light down there. And so what they're trying to do now is, they brought the camera back up and they'll going to try and figure out a way to get more light down inside of that cavity so that they can see in a farther area, in hopes of seeing some signs that the miners are down there in that cavity.


COLLINS: Boy, we sure hope so.

Hey, John, have you had an opportunity to speak with any of the family members? I know that they've really wanted some of their time to themselves, which is completely understandable. But I just can't imagine how rough it's got to be one week in.

ZARRELLA: Yes, every once in a while members of the family will come out and they'll saying, look, we're doing the best we can. And, in fact, all over this area, the people are showing an outpouring of support. Of course, tight-knit communities here. Everywhere you go, signs "we're praying for the miners." In fact yesterday a prayer vigil held at the catholic church in Huntington, which is literally just down the mountain from us. And there are these kinds of things, outpourings of support and prayers for the families and for the miners all over this mining country here.


COLLINS: All right. It's tough going, I'm sure. CNN's John Zarrella. John, thank you.

Republican presidential hopeful Tommy Thompson throws in the towel, apparently done in by this weekend's Iowa straw poll. He finished sixth in the GOP trial.


TOMMY THOMPSON, (R) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had my chance and it didn't come out the way I thought it was going to. But that's life. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me make sure I'm hearing you correctly. You're out of the race?

THOMPSON: I'm out of the race.


COLLINS: Mitt Romney easily won the Iowa straw poll. And former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee finished a surprising second. Rudy Giuliani and John McCain did not actively participate. We'll keep our eye on that one for you.

And still ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM, keeping his cool. Wait until you see how this pampered pooch beats the heat wave sweeping across the southeast. I'd like to know his secret.

Also, girl on a shopping spree. Is this s a


It's never too late to hit the books. We'll tell you how to save money if you want to go back to college. That's next on "Top Tips" in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: Let's go ahead and take a look at the big board once again. It looks good so far, 72 points to the positive, resting at 13,313 or so. Nasdaq also up about 18 points. Boy, it's nice to see the positive numbers. Keeping in mind, though, that we are well above 13,000 right now, though. So this whole roller coaster and the storm and the turbulence and volatility and all of those words that we've learned over the past week or so, got to keep in mind where we are. We're going to bring in Susan Lisovicz a little bit later to talk more about this.

Well, kids aren't the only ones heading back to the classroom. Thirty-somethings are hitting the books too. Our Gerri Wills has some tips for them.

Good morning to you, Gerri.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Heidi. Good to see you.

You know, the first thing you want to think about, if you're one of these 30s or 40-something thinking about school again, focus on the goal. Get information on what careers are hot and what kind of training it takes. Go to to get insight on industries in demand. You'll also get a breakdown, I love this, of hourly wages by state, by career. Plus, you'll be able to see charts that tract projected growth of a specific career. So lots of detailed info there.

COLLINS: This is the non-traditional student that we're talking about now. They are probably spending quite a bit of time going online and learning a little bit more, too, right?

WILLIS: Well, and that's great because if you're looking for flexibility, distance-learning may be something you want to explore. Look, there are hundreds of online degree programs out there. To get the best bang for your buck, look for public non-profit schools. Check out or go to for info.

COLLINS: But you want to be very careful of places that are just going to be handing out diplomas, not really being so concerned with the education that they're providing.

WILLIS: Hello. There are diploma mills out there. You want to avoid them. These are bogus online sites that will leave you holding a fake degree. Here are some red flags that you're dealing with a diploma mill. If all you have to do to be admitted is have a valid credit card, hey, that's not a good sign. And if you're promised a degree in exchange for a lump sum, be cautious. And you know it's a bogus operation if you have to pay a special price to graduate with honors. Make sure the school is accredited. Go to the Council on Higher Education Accreditation as to find out.

COLLINS: Boy, that sounds pretty scary, people getting . . .

WILLIS: Yes. Well, you know, it's kind of obvious that they're asking for money for grades. Probably not.

COLLINS: Hit the click on the exit button, obviously.

WILLIS: Right.

COLLINS: Financial aid, though. Even if you are a non- traditional student, not everybody can afford to be throwing money around for an education that they so badly desire.

WILLIS: Even if you're working, you're right. As a non- traditional student, though, you will have just as easy a time getting aid as somebody just out of high school, which is great news. And don't forget about scholarships. There are over 250 awards created especially for students who are over 25.

COLLINS: Really?

WILLIS: Yes, good news. So check out for more information.

And I just want to remind your viewers, Heidi, if you have a question, or even a money blooper you'd like to share that we can learn from, hey, we want to hear from you. Send us an e-mail to


COLLINS: Yes. You getting some good bloopers that we're going to share?

WILLIS: We're getting some good bloopers. And some I've actually committed myself.

COLLINS: Oh, really? OK. Good.

WILLIS: Yes. Yes.

COLLINS: All right. We'll be bringing those out in the open here pretty soon.

WILLIS: That's right. Out in the open. You bet.

COLLINS: All right, thanks so much, Gerri Willis.

WILLIS: Thank you.

COLLINS: In the doghouse. For one pooch, nothing could be finer in Carolina. Despite the sweltering summer heat, get a look at this. This story from reporter Justin Quisenberry who's with affiliate WFMY.


JUSTIN QUISENBERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): You can find just about anything in this building at Ira Godwin's house.

IRA GODWIN, DOG OWNER: And it was real pretty wallpaper when my daughter had it as a playhouse.

QUISENBERRY: The life-size dollhouse is now a larger than life doghouse.

I. GODWIN: Yes, his name's Mac-daddy, but we shortened his name to Mac.

QUISENBERRY: Mac's got a pretty cool pad.

KAREN GODWIN, DOG OWNER: He said, well, I'm going to put air condition out there. I said you're going to do what?

QUISENBERRY: Godwin took an old window unit taking up space in his house.

I. GODWIN: He wanting to get in there where it's cold.

QUISENBERRY: He put it in Mac's dog house.

I. GODWIN: Some of the people, you know, thought, was that was just hilarious. But, you know, I just feel like that if you have a pet, you need to take care of him.

QUISENBERRY: He also took out some of the carpet.

I. GODWIN: This carpet, what it does, is it draws heat. And so he's got this floor now that he can lay on, doesn't have to lay on the carpet.

QUISENBERRY: You can't spell Mac without a-c, but it's still hard for some people to believe. K. GODWIN: We didn't have air condition in our house when we was younger.

QUISENBERRY: But don't expect Karen Godwin to sent her husband to the doghouse over it anytime soon.

I. GODWIN: You get that.

K. GODWIN: He really loves the dog. I have to say that for him. And I do, too. We all do.

I. GODWIN: Cut your light off, so it won't get to hot. You'll have some cool air in there in a minute.


COLLINS: You can't blame him. One very lucky dog in Greensboro, North Carolina, the state among those suffering through a brutal heat wave recently.

A cross-dresser, looking for that five-finger discount, behind bars now. Police say the blond here is Hansel Ortiz, a 28-year-old man. Police say this Orlando shop store, it shows Ortiz shoplifting on the video. I'm trying to watch and look at the script at the same time. So pardon me. When the store workers confronted him, he allegedly pulled a knife, then ran. That was last week. Between then and now, police say Ortiz was already jailed on prostitution charges. He's now also facing an armed robbery charge.

Karl Rove's resignation. What does it mean for President Bush? We're going to be talking with a man who knows the ins and outs of Washington. That's Bill Bennett. There he is, coming up live in the NEWSROOM.

Also, a gunman burst into a Missouri church, turning Sunday services into a bloodbath.

And searching for a way out of poverty.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Many say this diamond-rich soil is what funded Sierra Leone's civil war. But today, efforts are being made to take the blood out of the diamonds found here so that they're never used to fund future conflict.


COLLINS: Diamond obsession in Africa's Sierra Leone.


COLLINS: Good morning, everybody. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Heidi Collins. Tony Harris has the day off today.

A political shocker of sorts this morning. Karl Rove packing up and heading home to Texas. Rove is quitting as deputy White House chief of staff at the end of the month. He's a longtime friend of President Bush. Rove came up with the strategy that put President Bush in the Oval Office and got him reelected. That earned him the nickname "the architect." For months, a criminal investigation put Rove under the microscope. That probe into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame-Wilson's name. But Rove has not been charged with any crime. Rove tells the "Wall Street Journal," in fact, he plans to write a bock. The White House calls his decision to quit a very big loss.

We're expecting to hear from the president and Karl Rove about an hour from now before they leave Washington for Crawford, Texas. We'll bring that you live.

Karl Rove's resignation, though -- what will it mean for the Bush White House? With us now from Washington, CNN contributor Bill Bennett.

Good morning to you, Dr. Bennett. Were you surprised by this?

WILLIAM BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I'm sorry, Dr. Bennett without the coat and tie. I just came straight from radio.

COLLINS: That's all right.

BENNETT: I was a little surprised. I shouldn't have been, Heidi. I had lunch with Karl Rove at his house the wee before last with a couple other people. And all he could do is talk about Texas. He served Texas wild boar and cheese grits. We all should have known, you know, that he was on his way home.

COLLINS: Why now, though? I mean, do you think some people will say we were looking at some approval numbers for the president, and maybe, you know, this is just the end for Rove, because he doesn't think he can do any more?

BENNETT: No, It's possibly he doesn't think he could do much more, but that's an interesting point, because people tend to think of Karl Rove as the political strategist, and indeed he is a political strategist, and an excellent one, one of the best we've seen, but he was also a policy guy. He was in on meetings when I got to the White House probably three, four times, on major policy issues where they were seeking input from a lot of people. Karl Rove was always there. So he is a policy architect, as well as a political architect.

But you know, it is the seventh year. Things are winding down. I think the real precipitation reason was Josh Bolten, chief of staff, said if you stay past Labor Day, we want to stay through the end, and I think Karl felt that it was time to go. He's a lot in him. This is a bright guy. He's got a lot to say, a lot to write about. It'll be very interesting.

COLLINS: Yes, I think there will be quite a few people who would be lining up for that. Whether you like what you have seen him do or whether you don't, in fact, there's a commentary this morning, the editor of "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page calls Rove arguably the most influential White House aide of modern times.

Certainly some different tactics that he used, historical tactics. How big of a blow, though, now at this point in the president's term is this to the administration?

BENNETT: I don't think it's a big blow. The team that's there is talented. They have lost a couple talented people lately, Pete Waner (ph) and Karl Rove, and others, but I think they will continue. Again, there are limits to what the president can do now on the domestic front particularly. In his role as commander in chief there are other people that the president will rely on.

The amazing thing about Rove, again, whether you like him or not -- and I don't know what the Democrats are going to do. They have to find somebody else. They have to find another Moby Dick here, you know, to obsess about now that he's gone.

It is interesting, too, I'd say parenthetically, Karl Rove leaves the protection of the White House, you know, he leaves the protection of executive privilege.

COLLINS: That's right.

BENNETT: And, so, you know, it's interesting in that way.

But the most striking thing about Karl, I think, is his willingness and openness to engage ideas. He's all over the place. He goes to universities. He gives talks. He was just at the Aspen Institute. You all covered that, I think, giving a seminar. This is not a guy who hides in the White House, happy to defend his ideas.

COLLINS: No, in fact he's worked with President Bush for 14 years. He's not going to go and sit by the lake. He's talking about doing some hunting. Our Suzanne Malveaux was reporting that a little bit earlier. We know he wants to spend some time with his family. Where is he going to show up? Is he going to get behind Mitt Romney? Is he going to get behind Rudy Giuliani? Is he going to get behind a presidential candidate.

BENNETT: That's a great question. And you know, wouldn't you love to track the phone lines this morning from the various campaigns. I wonder if any Democrats might call him? We'll see if he does that. My guess is he won't; he'll take a break, a hiatus, from that, but I could be wrong.

The most striking thing about Karl, and I think the thing that people don't understand -- I noticed this when I went to his house -- five different rooms Heidi, filled with books, wall to wall. This is a man of the book.

COLLINS: You wonder when he finds the time, but I had heard that about him, quite a reader.

BENNETT: He reads all the time. And this is the lesson I say to the kids, whether you like him or not -- what's the guy's secret? Why is he so brilliant? He reads books. He reads a lot of books. He reads a lot of history, and that's helped him a lot.

COLLINS: He also told "The Wall Street Journal" -- I want to show you this graphic here. I'm sure you've seen it, but it says, "I read about some of the things I'm supposed to have done, and I have to try not to laugh." Is this just modesty, do you think? You know him pretty well. how do you think history will actually see Karl Rove?

BENNETT: I think they'll see him in the way you said, Heidi. I think you're right. I think he's probably the most influential senior aide, certainly up there. John Sununu's influence with Bush I was pretty considerable, too.

But you know, the Washington media corps has an interest in inflating, you know, the influence of people. It makes them look more important when they write about them.

I just was reading, you know, Novak's book, and I found out all sorts of things about myself that I never did. This just happens in Washington, but it is fun to see how other people look at you.

But there's no question, this is a very powerful mind, this was an influential mind on George Bush. The 2004 election, the dating mining, the emphasis in Ohio. this was not the work of not just one brain, but Rove's brain mattered. It mattered when it counted.

COLLINS: Well, exactly one hour from now, Bill, we're going to be hearing from the president and Karl Rove. We're going to bring that to our viewers live.

Bill Bennett, thanks so much for your insights on that today. Appreciate it.

BENNETT: You're welcome, Heidi. Thank you.



COLLINS : Also we want to show you this, some video that we're getting in from our affiliate WSVN. Elliot Key, Florida, you see some people waving to the camera. It's a helicopter shot overhead of course. We are learning from the Coast Guard apparently 25 refugees landed, this Elliott Key area, around 9:00 or so this morning. That is pretty much all we know at this point. They are on the scene. They are trying to figure out if everybody's okay and where they need toe go next, I'm sure.

But once again, 25 refugees have come ashore in Elliott Key, Florida. Coast Guard, as you see there, on the scene trying to figure out exactly what is going on there.

Also want to take you to this. You see Karen Hughes there, kind of an interesting story. You may have heard this over the weekend. But secretary of state Condoleezza Rice announced -- pardon me -- we're going to get to the Cal Ripken part of this, but right now she's taking questions now about Karl Rove, who, as you know, has just announced he will resign at the end of the month. Let's listening for a moment.


KAREN HUGHES UNDER SECRETARY OF STATES: You know, I know that he for some time has been thinking of leaving, so I think probably out of his wanting not to reflect poorly on the president, he probably maybe ended up staying a little longer than he otherwise might have, because he was looking for an appropriate time, and I think he felt this was the time.

He said this morning, that this is the time. I know all of us who serve in public life, our families make great sacrifices, and I think he feels it's time to put his family first at this point after so many years of service.

Well, you know, I feel that -- let's put it this way, that the people that I know and the caricatures that sometimes are portrayed are two very different things. And I think that's the case with Karl, as a number of other people I know well, where the public caricature does not accurately reflect the true person.

COLLINS: All right, so there you saw Karen Hughes, Under Secretary of State for public diplomacy and public of affairs. That is the job she has now. What is the event she's at? What does Cal Ripken have to do with it? Well, it is interesting.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over the weekend did announce that Cal Ripken Jr. would be the new public -- let's see, he's going to be a special sports envoy to the Department of State. Kind of an interesting position for him. You see the pictures there a little bit earlier, just a few moments ago. But it's going to be fun to watch that.

And you remember Cal Ripken Jr., of course, Hall of Famer, shortstop, third baseman, his father a long-time coach and baseball manager. Cal Ripken played for the Baltimore Orioles his entire life. Now special sports envoy to the State Department.

COLLINS: Meanwhile, NASA making a key decision today -- should gouges in the shuttle's belly be fixed before landing? We'll talk about that. And new corruption in the Crescent City -- an official whose fight for New Orleans recovery must fight to clear his name.



COLLINS: Still ahead this morning, more than just a number, an inspiration -- the legacy of a Minnesota bridge victim.

And searching for a way out of poverty.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Reporter: Many say this diamond-rich soil is what funded Sierra Leone's civil war, but today efforts are being made to take the blood out of the diamonds found here, so that they're never used to fund future conflict.


COLLINS: Diamond obsession, in Africa's Sierra Leone, the story ahead, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: Hostages freed in Afghanistan. Taliban militants have freed two female South Korean hostages. The governor of Ghazni province tells CNN they have been handed over to the province's political offices. The two were among 23 volunteer South Koran workers kidnapped in mid July. The militants have since killed two male hostages. Nineteen other hostages still being held. The Taliban has demanded nearly two dozen militant prisoners be released in exchange for the South Koreans' lives.

Those counting votes in Sierra Leone's national elections could be finished today. But for the people there, counting on diamond's to save their lives, the work is never done.

CNN's Betty Nguyen has that.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With every sift, a watchful eye searches for that dream come true, a shiny diamond emerging from the murky water, but finding that ticket out of poverty is hard to do. These miners work in and day out with no salary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No diamond, no pay. No help, only god.

NGUYEN: Twenty-eight-year-old Ya Ya Baa (ph) says he hasn't found a diamond in six months. Event today, he keeping digging. While much of the country has left work to rally for its recent elections.

Instead Ya Ya can only show his support by wearing celebratory glasses made out of the palm leaves. But his vision of a better future is out of focus. Whether it's the hot sun or the eternal hope, his dream of diamonds sounds almost delusional.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will get this. I will leave Africa.

NGUYEN (on camera): You get a diamond this big you can leave Africa?


NGUYEN: How much do you get for this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This, $1 million.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. NGUYEN (voice-over): Let's take another look at that stone. It's not large enough to earn that kind of money, yet thousands live the dream.

It was even depicted in the Oscar-nominated movie "Blood Diamond" where the pursuit of precious stones created so much death and destruction.

Now that the fighting has ended, the mining continues, literally transforming the landscape.

(on camera): Many say this diamond-rich soil is what funded Sierra Leone's civil war, but today efforts are being made to take the blood out of the diamonds found here, so that they're never used to fund future conflicts.

(voice-over): A monitoring system called the Kimberly Process is aimed at keeping conflict stones after the open market.

ADBUL LAMIN, ANALYST: When the diamonds are exported out to the international market, it can be verified that these diamonds do not come from a source that has been used to buy weapons and wage war.

NGUYEN: Diamonds are Sierra Leone's main export. Between 2000 and 2004, the government's income soared from $10 million to $160 million, according to the United Nations. Still the country remains mired in poverty. Drive through the diamond heartland of Ghono (ph) and you'll find the face of despair. Yet the streets are filled with diamond shops.

(on camera): So this is an 'H'?

LAMIN: That is an H-colored diamond.

NGUYEN (voice-over): But even dealers admit diamond mining is becoming increasingly difficult.

LAMIN: Not easy to get diamond now is the problem, because most of the area that we used to go, spend a few hours, get diamonds, it has exhausted not. It's easy for you to get diamonds.

NGUYEN: Still thousands continue searching, convinced their dreams are hidden just below the surface, and the only way to find them is to keep digging.

In Ghono, Sierra Leone, Betty Nguyen, CNN.


COLLINS: Political genius, Bush's brain, some of the labels put on Karl Rove, the White House strategist heading home to Texas. What does it mean for the president? We're going to be hearing from him, 1:30 Eastern, live right here in the NEWSROOM.

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And NASA making a key decision today. Should gouges in the shuttle's belly be fixed before landing, as you look at that live shot there.

Plus, stranded travelers on the move again, but no time to relax at LAX. What the city's mayor wants to do after weekend airport troubles.