Cheney and Rice join Bush at center’s groundbreaking

Former President George W. Bush, joined by former administration officials including a noticeably thinner former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, broke ground Tuesday on his presidential center.

More than 3,000 people, including friends, supporters and former administration officials, attended the event under a giant white tent at Dallas’ Southern Methodist University. Outside, there were around 100 protesters joined by a handful of counter-protesters.

“It is hard to believe there is this much excitement about shoveling dirt,” quipped Bush.

The George W. Bush Presidential Center, located on the campus of former first lady Laura Bush’s alma mater, will include a library and a policy institute and is expected to open in February 2013.

“Today’s groundbreaking marks the beginning of a journey,” Bush said. “We take the first step toward the construction of the presidential center, which will be a dynamic hub of ideas and actions, based upon timeless principles.”


Rare pink diamond breaks record, sells for $46 million

A rare pink diamond smashed the world record for a jewel at auction Tuesday, selling for more than $46 million to a well-known gem dealer.

London jeweler Laurence Graff paid $46,158,674, for the 24.78-carat “fancy intense pink” diamond, which he named “The Graff Pink.”

“It is the most fabulous diamond I’ve seen in the history of my career and I’m delighted to have bought it,” Graff said in a statement released by auction house Sotheby’s, which offered the stone at its Geneva sale.

The sale price was almost double the $24.3 million achieved by the blue 35.56-carat Wittelsbach-Graff diamond in 2008. That was also bought by Graff.

“This is the highest price ever bid for a jewel at auction,” said David Bennett, the head of Sotheby’s jewelry division.

JUNEAU, Alaska

Murkowski widens lead as write-ins are counted

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has widened her lead over GOP rival Joe Miller to 10,400 votes in Alaska’s Senate race and is returning to the state, where she could declare victory as early as today.

The vote tally includes write-in ballots challenged by Miller observers but credited to her total. She has more than 2,200 more undisputed votes than Miller.

Miller has said that if the math doesn’t work in his favor, he won’t fight. Murkowski’s campaign manager says that’s the point this has come to, and he hopes Miller keeps his word.

But Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto says the campaign is interested in a recount and maintaining its legal fight over election protocol if the vote is close.

Asked if 2,000 votes is close, he said he believed so.

State officials have said that minor misspellings are allowed as long as the voter’s intent is clear. But Miller has argued that the law requires Murkowski’s name to be spelled accurately.