Monday, March 29, 2004

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 29


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Richard Clarke's testimony may be made public. Condoleezza Rice's testimony will not be made public. The 9/11 Commission controversy lives into a new week as a republican commissioner calls Rice not testifying, quote: "a political blunder of the first order."

The Tyco trial: Thumb up does not mean thumbs down. Though one of the jurors gives the high sign to the defense, the judge does not tell them to Tyco hike.

Treasure or pleasure? Money or honey? Checks or sex? A new public opinion survey answers the burning question, which would the average American rather have, more sex or more money?

Well into overtime in his 15 minutes of fame, the William Hung phenomenon continues. It is not just a William Hung music video, it's a William Hung music video directed by the guy who directs Nine Inch Nails and Missy Elliott for a lot more money. Why are we still hung up on William?

And it escaped race horse, escaped race horse, escaped race horse, but here comes pickup truck on the outside. And now surging it's gray k-car (ph), gray k-car. Look at the power in those thighs. But now, it's escaped race horse, passing park police pickup truck and down the stretch they come. Escaped race horse, escaped race horse, escaped race horse by they lengths!

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN: Good evening. Like his "American Bandstand" name sake, it sure looks like this Dick Clarke isn't getting old and isn't going to be anywhere soon any time. Either.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The former national counterterrorism czar versus the current national security adviser, week two. The 9/11 controversy's boiling down to one question. Why the White House thinks one presidential adviser should not testify in public, but the classified testimony of another presidential adviser should be made public. Our correspondent is Andrea Mitchell.


ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice today, still resisting pressure to testify in public and under oath about what the White House did before 9/11. But, even the republicans on the commission say unanimously that the president should wave executive privilege and let her appear.

JOHN LEHMAN, REPUBLICAN COMMISSION MEMBER: I'm saying it's a blunder, because they've got nothing to hide.

MITCHELL: But, last flight on "60 minutes," Rice said she wants to testify, but can't.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We have yet to find an example of a national security adviser - sitting national security adviser who has been willing to testify on matters of policy.

MITCHELL: There are precedents on both sides. President Gerald Ford testified about his pardon of Richard Nixon. Congressional studies have found 20 cases where White House advisers testified and five where they refused. Some republicans are pressing Rice to at least release a transcript of her private testimony to the commission.

On "Meet the Press," Richard Clarke told Tim Russert, his own e-mails and memos should also be declassified to prove the Bush White House did not focus on Osama bin Laden enough before 9/11.


MITCHELL: Officials say that won't happen. But, NBC News has learned at the request of the White House, the CIA Is already going through Clarke's testimony to congress two years ago to see what could be declassified, supposedly to show contributions. All part of an unrelenting White House counteroffensive.

CLARKE: The word is out in the White House to destroy me professionally. One line that somebody overheard was, "he's not going to make another dime again in Washington, in his life."

MITCHELL: Today, even Laura Bush, joined in.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: And if the implication was that my husband, in some way, does not take his role seriously, it's just absolutely wrong.

MITCHELL: A far cry from this personal note from the president thanking Clarke for his service last year.

(on camera): Will all of this have an impact on the president's re-election? So far, not. In a new Q Poll, released tonight, the president has gained ground over the past week and has now pulled even with John Kerry.

Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN: Boy, oh, boy is this not going away. How on earth did the White House make, as the republican 9/11 commission John Lehman put it, "a political blunder of the first order?"

I'm joined now by Margaret Carlson, senior writing for "Time" magazine.

Margaret, good evening.


OLBERMANN: It's not only not going away, it seems like there's no obvious way out for the White House. The president is reported to be adamant about Dr. Rice. Are they going to hold their position here, or is Condoleezza Rice going to wind up, at some point, testifying on the record for the 9/11 Commission.

CARLSON: Well, they're working on a compromise, but it's not a compromise which puts her in the commission under oath, and so the drama continues.

The White House made a 9-day story out what of - what could have been a two-day story by not doing it, because - you know, the public - you know, criminals have a right to take the fifth and not testify, and administration officials have the right to exert executive privilege. But, the public has the right to hold it against them, even though - you know, you're not supposed to. And so, the fact that Dr. Rice is not testifying, in the public's mind, is not necessarily understood, and here's hardly a republican on the Hill that doesn't want her to testify.

OLBERMANN: The other problem part about this, the guys in the White House are supposed to be so slick, politically. How did they manage to turn a debate over what, in essence, would be pretty ho-hum testimony that a commission, in essence, already has into what looks, certainly at first blush to a lot of people who don't spend a lot to time thinking about this, like a possible cover-up.

CARLSON: Well, the public is prepared to believe that nothing could have been done prior to 9/11 to stop 9/11, and the White House could have gone on that track, and at the same time, said we're going to waive executive privilege so that Dr. Rice can testify. They - you know, the White House is stubborn, look at the energy task force, the information on that hasn't been revealed, they preferred to go to court. I think eventually those names will be revealed, but it looks like the White House has something to hide.

OLBERMANN: Is the adamants of the White House about Dr. Rice perhaps about containment, I mean there's - the "Newsweek" survey is out, reacting to all this, which we'll get into detail in about five minutes or so. It says that 44 percent of people believe that the 9/11 Commission should get public testimony from President Bush. Is the White House at all worried that Rice testifying might set up at least the environment in which the next controversy would be about the president testifying?

CARLSON: Well, it is a slippery slope probably, but the poll gives the White House some sustenance in that the president hasn't dropped over the last week in the public's mind on his handling of terrorism, so maybe the White House feels that this is not been a total - you know, that they're holding steady, if not winning this war with Richard Clarke.

OLBERMANN: Although, it does look like they've lost some in the swing voters, that this might a component in that very small, very narrow field of guys who are still up for grabs out there in the voting populace.

CARLSON: Right. The truly red and truly blue people just believe more of what they've already believed. But yes, they area up for grabs. And in that extent - to that extent, Keith, the longer it goes on, I think the more those swing voters swing towards, "well, what do they have to hide?"

OLBERMANN: Margaret Carlson of "Time" magazine, as always Margaret, and many thanks for your insight. Good night.

CARLSON: Thanks, Keith. Good night.

OLBERMANN: Ultimately, tonight's fifth story, like any political saga, is not a question of who's wrong and who's right. To quote Mae West, "Goodness has nothing to do with it." Nonetheless, at least part of the outcome will come down to the facts, and to check those facts, here's senior investigative correspondent, Lisa Myers.


LISA MYERS, NBC SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: In the days before 9/11, is it true that President Bush had no sense of urgency about dealing with al-Qaeda?

CLARKE: Although I continued to say it was an urgent problem, I don't think it was ever treated that way.

MYERS: Here, Clarke is supported by three other former White House insiders. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, the NSC's Flint Leverett, and Clarke's deputy, Roger Cressey, now an NBC News analyst.

What's more, the "Washington Post's" Bob Woodward quotes the president himself on Osama bin Laden prior to 9/11. Quote: "I knew he was a menace, but I didn't feel that sense of urgency."

However, the White House insists, before 9/11, it was working hard on a new tougher policy to eliminate al-Qaeda. And the CIA director says he briefed the president on the threats daily. Still, the 9/11 Commission concludes it took nine months just for the White House to hatch out a policy.

PHILIP ZELIKOW, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR 9/11 COMMISSION: There's no evidence of new work on military capabilities or plans against this enemy before September 11.

MYERS: What did Condoleezza Rice know about al-Qaeda? Clarke claims when he briefed Rice on al-Qaeda in January 2001, "she gave me the impression she had never heard the term before." Rice calls that "arrogant and insulting." In fact, Rice spoke at length about al-Qaeda in a radio interview in 2000.

RICE: We don't want to wake up one day and find out that Osama bin Laden has been successful on our own territory.

MYERS: Finally, are there inconsistencies in Clarke's statement?

Clarke now says:

CLARKE: President Bush did nothing prior to September 11.

MYERS: But, he boasted to reporters in 2002 that the White House had increased funding five fold, and "changed the strategy from one of a rollback with al-Qaeda to rapid elimination of al-Qaeda."

Clark's explanation now:

CLARKE: When you're in the White House, you spin.

MYERS (on camera): Clarke's supporters claim the differences between now and then are largely a matter of tone. But, others claim in ratcheting up his rhetoric, Clarke has become a combatant in an already heated election.

Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN: And, if the fact that his book is now in a fifth printing was not indication enough, there is nothing like a poll to also prove his political staying power. Along with the approval ratings of the president "Newsweek" providing us with a character rating of Richard Clarke. Of those who said they had been following the story, one in four said they saw Clarke as a self-less public servant. Half see darker motives, suspecting that the former counterterrorism chief has a personal or perhaps a political agenda.

Clarke note's he'll be giving his profits to the 9/11 families and keeping the rest since, as he said his government career is obviously over. And obviously impacted the president's approval rating on terrorism and homeland security, down to 57 percent from the high at 70 percent two months ago.

But slide or no, the controversy over the 9/11 testimony seems to have had very little effects on the race for the White House. "Newsweek's" poll finding Bush with a two point edge over Kerry; Nader coming in at five percent. If the numbers look familiar, it is because they are exactly the same as they were last week. There's also been little change in the two-way race version of this question. Kerry and Bush still locked in a statistical dead heat with the senator at 48 and the president at 47.

An unexpected twist in the fifth story, akin to something similar to the Vietnam War era protests. In what they should already be calling the "Rove Rave." The president's chief political adviser Karl Rove discovered to his shock, yesterday afternoon, that his Washington home was surrounded by hundreds of people demanding educational opportunities for the children of immigrants. Waving signs and chanting, "Karl, Karl, come on out." The group even resorted to pounding on the window of the house. Rove finally acquiesced meeting with two protesters on the condition that everybody else leave. Everybody else did. Rove then admitted two delegates into his garage for two minutes, and according to one of them, he yelled at them and told them, don't ever dare to come back.

Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN: Politics, specifically the increasing pressure for Condoleezza Rice to testify before the 9/11 Commission.

Coming up, the No. 4: Juror No. 4, that's the polite name. She's also been called the "batty blue blood," the "paranoid socialite" and "Misses Trial." The juror that put the six month Tyco trial in jeopardy.

And later, a dark page from Wichita's criminal past: The string of unsolved serial slayings, more than two decades ago, now new evidence, another murder tied to the crime spree. New evidence supposedly sent in by the killer.

Those stories ahead, but first, here are COUNTDOWN's opening number, the five figures that shaped this day. And tonight's theme is America is Divide.

Yes, more poll numbers from polls released today.

Eighty-one percent, that's the share of people planning to vote for George Bush who say they are more likely to believe the Bush administration instead of Richard Clarke.

Twelve percent of Bush voters say they believe Clarke.

Ten percent of John Kerry's voters say they believe Bush.

Eighty percent of them say they believe Clarke.

And, eleven percent of people who are certain that they're going to vote for Kerry say they believe that the man they think can best defend the U.S. from terrorism is George Bush.


OLBERMANN: Up next, tonight's No. 4 story. The runaway juror in the Tyco trial. Hand signals to the defense, an alleged problem in the jury room, is it perhaps a Grisham novel, come to life?


OLBERMANN: Unless you're a lawyer, you're probably thinking the same way I am. If a juror, to quote the comedian and philosopher, Rodney Dangerfield, gives "one of these" to the defense during a high-profile corporate corruption trial, we laymen might tend to assume this could mean something's gone wrong with the jury. Something very, very, very, very, very, very wrong.

Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN tonight: They, the juries. And we begin in New York at the trial of two former executives of the infamous Tyco investigation whose attorneys got "one of these" from juror No. 4, on Friday. Our correspondent, Anne Thompson, now on why the judge did not declare a mistrial by saying "one of these?"


ANNE THOMPSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski is in a real-life legal thriller. The jury in his corporate corruption case began the day on the brink of collapse. Torn apart by infighting, but ended the day back on track. Working to decide if Kozlowski and his chief financial officer, Mark Swartz, looted the conglomerate of $600 million.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you going to have a good day, sir?

THOMPSON: The latest plot twist involves jury No. 4. seen Friday making an OK sign to the defense. A signal that was front page news in New York with some news organizations reporting her name.

The coverage led the Kozlowski attorney, Stephen Kaufman, to move for a mistrial today, arguing the added pressure on this juror would be enormous. But after speaking to the juror privately, Judge Michael Obus dismissed the mistrial motion. He described the juror as a very independent woman. And said she told him, "nothing that has happened will," from her point of view, "prevent her from deliberating in good conscience with the other jurors."

THOMPSON (on camera): But, in trying to get the jury to reach a verdict, some legal experts say the judge may have created grounds for appeal, especially on the issue of coercing the jury in question.

HOWARD MEYERS, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: At the end of the day, if Mr. Kozlowski and Mr. Schwarz are convicted on some of the charges, but not others, there may be a specter raised that, well, maybe she just went along with everyone else just to save face.

THOMPSON (voice-over): And there's the issue of the judge's actions.

ROBERT MINTZ, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: He's really gotten to the end of his rope, if he pushes them too far, that in and of itself, is going to be an issue on appeal.

THOMPSON: The so-called "runaway juror" now corralled. Trying to reach a conclusion in what's become a gripping legal drama.

Anne Thompson, NBC News, New York.


OLBERMANN: Judging by the juror's gesture, life in a high-profile jury room is not as straightforward as we would have assumed. Dick Corcoran has been there. He was on the case of a prominent case in Texas. The Celeste Beard murder trial.

Mr. Corcoran, good evening.


OLBERMANN: So, having been in those kinds of seats, what did you think of the story of this juror and the OK sign?

CORCORAN: Well, it's quite unbelievable. I can't comprehend someone, who has particularly passed the bar, doing something like that, frankly.

OLBERMANN: Does it mean anything to you in terms of, is it a signal that juries use? What possibly could it have meant?

CORCORAN: I don't know. I think that was something very personal on her part. I doubt it very much that it gave any signal as to which way the jury was leading - leaning.

OLBERMANN: Although the indications seems to be that she is the proverbial holdout, and I - everybody - well I hope everybody, has seen the movie "Twelve Angry Men" and has appreciation for the idea of the sole holdout juror and how he or she might just be right. In your case, did you have anybody like that, holdouts and near holdouts and how did the majority handle the people seem to be not on the fence, but not even close to being on the fence.

CORCORAN: Well, as a matter of fact we did have a very near holdout, but it never got the point where I would have to classify it as a holdout. We had a juror who had some very troubling issues on his mind and had some problems with the issue of a reasonable doubt. But, I think it was handled very well because we simply addressed the issues that concerned him and we did it very quietly as a group. We did not put any pressure on him, and eventually, he came to his own decision, and it went quite smoothly, quite frankly.

OLBERMANN: And that leads to that observation that there has been this series of notes from, apparently eleven-twelfths of the jury to the judge that essentially translate to "we are all being held hostage by this crazy woman in here." When it gets to that stage, knowing the dynamics of a jury, do you think there's any chance that a jury could reach a settlement or should they pack this in right now?

CORCORAN: Well, I think the judge has an obligation to do everything they can, particularly in a long trial, and one that has the impact, such as this has, to do everything they can to allow the jurors to work this through. Eventually, of course, it may come to exactly that, a holdout is going to holdout.

OLBERMANN: Or they'll come one their own hand signals and settle it that way. Dick Corcoran, former juror in the Celeste Beard case. Many thanks for your insight inside the courtrooms.

CORCORAN: You're welcome, sir.

OLBERMANN: The fourth story continues in Santa Barbara, California, where your entertainment dollars went back into action on day 133 of the Michael Jackson investigations. And the operative word was "secret."

A grand jury heard secret testimony from unidentified witnesses in an undisclosed location. Nobody knows if Jackson's alleged victim, the now 14-year-old boy, has testified. But nobody thinks it unlikely. NBC analyst Diane Dimond, of "Court TV" quotes sources who tell her that also on the witness list, the accuser's mother, his attorney, and the psychologist who first had conclude that had the child was molested.

Four more things you need to know about tonight's No. 4 story. The four juries you would not have wanted to be on.

No. 4: The nanny case jury. They found Louise Woodward guilty murdering the 8-month-old child. The judge promptly nullified their decision and said she was guilty of only involuntary manslaughter. Thanks for stopping by, jurors.

No. 3: In 1935 the Lindberg baby kidnapping trial, billed as the trial of the century. Forty-two days, 162 witnesses, 381 exhibits.

No. 2: The O.J. Simpson case. Nine months, $20 million. Several of the jurors were goof balls.

And No. 1: The Charles Manson trial which went on for about nine and one-half months. And during all of it, the jurors had to spend most of their time looking at Charles Manson.

No. 4 in the book, straight ahead on COUNTDOWN, those stories that are the empty carbs of our news diet. "Oddball," just around the corner. That's right, the mutts and their mocha.

And later, William Hung, the man, the myth, the legend, it's not going away. Behind the scene of his new video. That's right, his new big video. The music world is now taking him seriously - sort of.


OLBERMANN: On the racetrack of news, COUNTDOWN's nightly "Oddball" segment is the riderless horse running the wrong way, impressive but ultimately not that important. Nonetheless, let's play "Oddball."

Well, what a shock, horses running the wrong way. In this case, the barn door that was left unlocked was at the Golden Gate Fields Racetrack in Albany, California, just north of Oakland. Fortunately, the racehorse is running with traffic along the access road for Interstate 80. Imagine his confusion as he was passed by a pickup and a gray k-car. At this point he's thinking "Shouldn't we have all made left turns by now?" Ultimately, the horse would fall to the pavement and get some minor scratches on his hind legs, otherwise he was fine. The nag was unidentified but the odds are 6-5 that I had a bet on him.

So, if there is a horse trying to commute down an interstate in northern California, thus it must follow as night to day that in southern California, there's a dog, a shepherd named Allie, who just can't get started without a vente mocha from Starbuck's. We're in Toluca Lake where this is almost, but not quite enough to stop passersby. If this is you, only without the woof, woof, you'll be strangely comforted to know that there are other dogs in the neighborhood who just hang around taking up the chairs, and there's one that's been in there with his laptop since late 1997.

To Orlando, Florida, where - well, no, that hole is not supposed to be there. Somebody crashed the family van into the side of this house, the somebody was a 9-year-old boy. His father had asked him to move the van out of the way so could move - mow the yard. The kid got the van up to 30 miles per hour, that would be 20 miles an hour on the driveway, but 30 in the living room. He escaped unharmed, but perhaps you're asking yourself, "what kind of father would ask his 9-year-old son to drive the family van?" Cue the guy with the mullet.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He'd moved my van before, but when he crunk it up, the choke was closed and it idles real high. He didn't even think about it, he just threw it into gear, pushed us through the house, there, you can see what happened.


OLBERMANN: And, to balance out that guy, we now bring you rocket science. Good news for those of you who had dreams of flying from Chicago to Istanbul in little over an hour. NASA's experimental Hypersonic Jet soared at seven times the speed of sound, over the weekend. Released from a B-52 bomber, the jet flew over the Pacific at about seven times the speed of sound, nearly 5,000 miles an hour, that's the good news. The bad news is, after 10 seconds, the plane crashed into the Pacific, and to begin with, the thing was exactly 12 feet long.

Back to the COUNTDOWN and our No. 3 three story in a moment. A murder mystery looms anew over a Midwestern city years after residents had begun to breathe easy. A serial killer sending an alarming message to law enforcement.

And first, there was the happy reunion for a little Delimar Aaliyah Vera and her real mother. Now comes the dollar signs for the rights their ordeal.

Those stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN's "Top 3 Newsmakers" of this day:

No. 3: The prime minister of Canada, Paul Martin. The P.M. may or may not have seen it, but according to a Canadian air traffic control a week ago, the pilot of Mr. Martin's plane saw a UFO, a very bright light falling through the air above Alberta, smoke trailing. Pilots of three other plains also saw it, possibly a comet, possibly the career of Martin Short.

No. 2: The mermaid of Utka, the symbol and logo of the Polish coastal town may be getting a makeover. She may be redesigned after a city councilwoman said the mermaid's hips were too big and her breasts were too small.

And, No. 1, Roxanne Perez of San Antonio, she never saw the edition of COUNTDOWN where we warned about this. And she never knew that her acquaintance had hidden a .357 in the bottom of her stove. While Ms. Perez was cooking on said stove, the intense heat caused the weapon to discharge. She is OK after a hip injury, yet another victim of a gun in the oven.


OLBERMANN: Back now at the intersection of crime and celebrity, where criminals, alleged and otherwise, draw sustenance and inspiration from the big screen, the small screen, and the corner newsstand.

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the media made me do it. Our correspondent Don Teague is in Wichita, Kansas. More than 20 years ago, that community was terrorized by a serial killer. Now it is terrorized again because that killer has apparently been brought to the surface by an anniversary story in a local newspaper.


DON TEAGUE, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For more than 30 years, Bernie Drowatsky, has been haunted by a man he has never met, a man who brought fear to the heart of Wichita, Kansas, killing at will and publicly thumbing his nose at those who tried to stop him, including then lead investigator Bernie Drowatsky, who, to this day, can't shake the memory of eight brutal murders.

BERNIE DROWATSKY, FORMER SERIAL KILLER INVESTIGATOR: Those scenes were something that you'll never get out of your mind once you see them.

TEAGUE: It began in 1974 when four member of the same family were bound, gagged, and strangled. In following years, four more murders, each victim bound and tortured, earning their killer an infamous title, the BTK strangler.

DROWATSKY: BTK are the initials for bind, torture and kill.

TEAGUE: The killer also bragged about his crimes, taunting police and the community in a series of letters to the local newspaper, "The Wichita Eagle."

JAMES FOX, PROFESSOR, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: He feels superior to the cop. That's part of the thrill for the serial killer, feeling important, special, brilliant.

TEAGUE (on camera): It continued off and on until what is thought to be BTK's final murder in 1986. Authorities have heard nothing from the killer for 18 years, nothing, that is, until 10 days ago.

(voice-over): When a letter and pictures of a 1986 crime scene were sent to "The Wichita Eagle," which had recently published a series on the 30th anniversary of the first murder.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His way of saying, I'm still here.

TEAGUE: Police are certain the BTK strangler is the author, taunting them once again, bringing fear back to Wichita, but giving Bernie Drowatsky hope that the killer will slip up and finally be caught, bringing justice for the victims and end to the case that won't let him go.

DROWATSKY: I wanted so badly to solve and bring closure for all these families. I wasn't able to do it.

TEAGUE: Don Teague, Wichita, Kansas.


OLBERMANN: Media and mayhem meeting again, as the third story continue in Houston. Closure delayed in yet another killing.

As we reported Thursday, after seeing Mel Gibson's biblical epic "The Passion of the Christ," 21-year-old Daniel Leach was inspired to tell police he had killed his pregnant girlfriend, 19-year-old Ashley Wilson. Police had ruled it a suicide two months ago. As for why he confessed, Leach explained it this way to a local radio station.


DANIEL LEACH: I will plead guilty for the crime that I have committed. And being guilty, I knew that I couldn't repent to God for it and be forgiven spiritually without going to the law."


OLBERMANN: However, this morning on "The Today Show," Leach's attorney questioned whether his client's statements could really be held against him.


RALPH GONZALEZ, ATTORNEY FOR LEACH: I don't want to construe this as a confession at this point in time. He has made a statement. The admissibility of that statement will be probably looked by a court and maybe 12 people if this case goes to trial.


OLBERMANN: The victim's parents, however, had no doubt that the case would go to trial and that the Leach confession would stick.


RENE COULTER, VICTIM'S MOTHER: Dan Leach is an able person. And he could have walked away from all of this and not have - to have murdered her.


OLBERMANN: In Tyler, Texas, another mother with a broken heart thanks to twin murders inspired by her own delusions that God had told her to kill. Deanna Laney went uncontrollably at the start of her trial today on two counts of capital murder for the bludgeoning deaths of two of her three little boys, 8-year-old Joshua, 6-year-old Luke.

Police say Laney attacked the boys and their 14-month-old brother the day after Mother's Day last year, believing that God had told her to kill. The baby was brain damaged, but he survived. Psychiatrists for both the prosecution and the defense agree that Laney was legally insane the night of the murders, but Smith County's prosecutor says sanity is a legal issue to be - quote - "tried in the court, not in the hospital." The prosecution is not seeking the death penalty in the case.

And at least one interaction of events and the media that is not heartbreaking, although it might cause a little head shaking. You cannot have forgotten the story of Delimar "Aliyah" Vera. Her kidnapping as an infant was covered up with a fire. Six years later, her birth mother recognized her at a party. The little girl has been home for about a month. And today, her real parents have found something else, a book and movie deal.

Luzaida Cuevas, the mother, and the father, Pedro Vera, will reportedly be sharing a fee in excess of $150,000 for their stories and that of their daughter. The Larry Thompson Organization of Beverly Hills which brought the right to their stories has made also such fine TV fare as "The Sonny and Cher Movie" and one of my favorites, "Lucy and Desi: Before the Laughter."

No laughter here. Police in Madison, Wisconsin, now looking for 20-year-old Audrey Ruth Seiler, a University of Wisconsin student last seen leaving her apartment building early Saturday morning. But her roommate was out of town, not the first time Seiler has needed the assistance of the authorities. Police say somebody assaulted her last month, knocking her out and leaving her unconscious in a secluded area.

But because Seiler was attacked from behind and no witnesses were forthcoming, her assailant could not be identified. Police are calling her disappearance suspicious.

That wrapping up No. 3 tonight, crime, consequences, celebrity, in some cases. Our second story on the COUNTDOWN ahead, if this is the sexiest women in the world, would most American prefer her or money? You do think math. Then later, even budding rock stars have to listen to their mothers. Yes, William Hung and his mom.

First, here are COUNTDOWN's top three sound bites of this day.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They found Dick Cheney in an undisclosed location and brought him out to attack me. That seems to be his designated role.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we proudly welcome Estonia...


... Latvia...


... Lithuania...


... Romania...


... Slovakia...


... and Slovenia.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With a new world record of nine pounds of the crawfish jambalaya, world jambalaya eating champion Sonya Thomas!




OLBERMANN: Coming up here on COUNTDOWN, choosing between profit and passion. If you could have the one, but not the other, which would you select? And why the majority answer seems to have a dumb side to it.

Stand by.


OLBERMANN: It smacks a little of the storyline from the movie "Indecent Proposal." Which is more important to you, love or money? Let's take love out of the equation. Just leave it at sex.

The No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the answer is sex. Here you thought you knew all there was to know particularly after those super informative hygiene films from the eighth grade. But tonight, two studies that may surprise you, the first commissioned by a personal finance firm called the Rich Dad Company. Given the choice between more money or more sex, just about two-thirds of those surveyed of both genders would take money.

But the results get more interesting when you break down household incomes. In households earning less than $50,000 a year, more than three-quarters prefer the payout to the other kind of out. But in six-figure households, while those surveyed still like the idea of the more money, it was by only a little over half, meaning rich dads not necessarily happy dads or necessarily very bright ones.

As another study has triumphantly found, sex makes you smart. Verner Hebemel (ph), a researcher from the Hamburg Medical Research Institute - and who would doubt a German scientist named Verner Hebemel? - found that the act of physical congress stimulates not just the body, but also increased the production of adrenalin and cortisol, the hormones that get the old gray matter going. The study does not explain its results in light of the following, your high school chess club, the readership of "Harper"'s or people who study the time travel sequences in the movie "The Time Machine."

On that note, we leave the COUNTDOWN to visit the strange world of people who keep our supermarket checkout aisles full of juicy, unsubstantiated gossip, the segment we call "Keeping Tabs."

And if sex really does make you smarter, we would like to see Britney Spears with 30 seconds a Rubick's Cube, because research suggests she is a genius. The readers of "FHM" magazine have voted her the sexiest woman in the world, thus dethroning 2003 champ Halle Berry. This is the British survey, so Rachel Stevens is second on the list, then Beyonce Knowles and Carmen Electra.

Carmen Electra? Carmen Miranda, maybe.

If you own an outfit like the one Britney was just wearing, you may want to put it on and head down to the casting call for the new Johnny Depp flick. They are looking for extras, naked extras, 300 naked extras. The casting agency says it is looking for a wide range of people to play partially and totally nude roles. That R-O-L-E-S. The film is described as a period piece packed with sexual material. It is not called "Edward Busyhands" nor "What's Eating Edward Grope?"

John Malkovich and Samantha Morton are also to appear. Depp plays the

· quote - "debauched 17th century poet the Earl of Rochester.

And from Nero in "Quo Vadis" in 1951 to the old man in "Logan's Run" in 1976 to Friedrich in "Luther" in 2003, the acting career of Sir Peter Ustinov spans seven decades, 90 films and maybe twice as many accents. Ustinov died near his Swiss home Saturday night, heart failure. The role as Nero earned him a Golden Globe in 1951. Twice, he took home best supporting Oscars. He won three Emmys and a Grammy Award for his narration of Tchaikovsky's "Peter and the Wolf."

And he could master or fake or just about any dialogue or accent, including American. The great Peter Ustinov dead at 82.

Coming up, the No. 1 story tonight. Where there's a will, there remain a way, or at least a way to rival Ricky Martin. The new video from America's newest idol next.

But, first, here are COUNTDOWN's top two photos of this day.


OLBERMANN: We are nothing if not a fickle society. One moment, we are embracing trends and fads, sucking all the joy and fun we can from them, until, sooner or later, we're happy to see them go, tossed aside like so many used Koosh balls.

On rare occasions, however, something comes along that manages to escape both critical mass and the shortness of our collective attention span. Thus, one again, the No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, the exception to the rule. A week from tomorrow, his album, "Inspiration," debuts. The music video has already been shot.

And, as Matt Lauer reports, the only thing that might slow down the meteor that is William Hung is his mom.


MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, "THE TODAY SHOW": He walked away from "American Idol" and into American dreams. Simon may have sent him packing, but it seemed nation was hooked on Hung.

MARC JURIS, PRESIDENT, FUSE MUSIC NETWORK: When I saw him, I knew he had something very different and very special.

We saw William's performance on "American Idol" and we fell in love with him.

The next thing you know, I'm standing in a volleyball stadium in San Francisco offering him a record contract.

You are a star.

LAUER: With a $25,000 record deal and a music video scheduled to air next month on Fuse Music Network, Hung's dreams of becoming a recording star appears to be coming true.

WILLIAM HUNG, SINGER: I can't even believe that somebody would give me the opportunity to do what I love. I love singing. I love performing for the audience.

LAUER: His debut C.D. titled "Inspiration" goes on sale April 16. It's a collection of some of his favorite songs, including, "I Believe I Can Fly."

HUNG (singing): There's nothing to it. I believe I can fly.

LAUER: Bailamos.

HUNG (singing): Bailamos. Let the rhythm take you over, Bailamos.

LAUER: And, of course, his signature tune, "She Bangs."

HUNG (singing): She bangs, she bangs, oh, baby, when she moves, she moves.

"She Bangs" is definitely one of my favorites. It's a very fun number. And audiences are having fun and I'm having fun with it. Everybody is having fun with it.

LAUER: Including his mom, who coaches her son on his acting. And she keeps him grounded in reality.

HUNG (singing): My parents are especially - they really encourage me to finish school as well. And I totally agree with them, because the chance of succeeding in the music industry or entertainment industry is very small.

LAUER: But, for now, Hung is enjoying the ride to wherever the music takes him.

HUNG (singing): Nobody knows how long this fame will last. It's way beyond 15 minutes of fame right now.


OLBERMANN: Oh, God, they've double-tracked him.

William has been on this show twice. We did not discover him here. We were early bandwagon. He broke, if you will, around January 17. And, as you see, he's still breaking. Well, how is that working?

Shirley Halperin joins us now. She's music editor for "Us Weekly" and a contributing writer for "Rolling Stone."

Ms. Halperin, good evening.

SHIRLEY HALPERIN, MUSIC EDITOR, "US WEEKLY": Good evening. Nice to see you.

OLBERMANN: Why has he survived his seeming pop culture expiration date?

HALPERIN: Well, William Hung really is like the ultimate underdog. He's the lovable loser. He's so genuine and so clueless at the same time that people just gravitate towards him.

There's something about the sincerity of William Hung that really attracts people and wants - and keeps people rooting for him. And, yes, the clock is still ticking. It's amazing.

OLBERMANN: Do you think there might be a message in there also to the music industry, to the entertainment industry, that the kind of overwrought, take themselves too seriously, even though nobody else takes them seriously, pop star, just to pull a name out of the hat, maybe Britney Spears, that these people are beginning to wear on people and we will take mediocre talent if it seems like it's coming from this sincere guy?

HALPERIN: Well, I don't know if the music industry has shifted its entire base towards accepting mediocre talent.

But what I think this - this doesn't really bode well for the music industry because there are a lot of super talented artists out there who can't get record deals, who really struggle to get their names out there. And here come this kid who can barely sing, who doesn't know how to dance, who basically just pops up out of nowhere, and he gets himself a record deal.

Granted, it's only $25,000. It's not like the multimillionaire-dollar deals that you hear about with the Britneys of the world. William Hung, he's just encapsulated sort of what like everyone sort of hopes and dreams for. It is what "American Idol," is like reaching for the stars and trying to get yourself out there.

OLBERMANN: Tell me about this phenomena of people wanting to work on that music video that we saw being record.ed. Who is Jeff Richter?

HALPERIN: Jeff Richter is a very well known music video director.

He's directed videos for Nine Inch Nails. He's worked with Missy Elliott. He has worked with Puff Daddy. This is a big-time guy. He also edited all of the Ricky Martin videos.

So it's funny that he should pair up with Will Hung and do the sort of spoof of three Ricky Martin videos, because he really knows the material. He put all that stuff together. But what's more interesting is that he worked for half of what he would normally charge and a lot of the people who showed up to work on the video either worked for free or for rock-bottom rates.


HALPERIN: And just because they love this guy and they wanted to be involved. And they had a crew of over 150 people on this video.

OLBERMANN: Last question in about 30 seconds. Could this record that he's putting out possibly be an actual hit? And I ask this while reminding you that Hootie and the Blowfish sold 11 million copies of "Cracked Rear View"?

HALPERIN: That's right. Well, Koch certainly hopes it does. And they banking on this record to go platinum, which means it would sell one million copies. But they're being very modest in their shipments. They're only shipping about 100,000 copies.

So it's not going to be everywhere. It's not going to be like this huge blitz. But, yes, there is a chance. If it sells 100,000 and they press more, this is going to be a gold record in a matter of months.

OLBERMANN: What will happen, we know without question, is it, will outsell the Jayson Blair book. So at least there's something right about American pop culture.

Shirley Halperin, music editor of "Us Weekly" and contributing writer to "Rolling Stone," thanks for joining us tonight.

HALPERIN: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Before we leave the No. 1 story, one more thing you need to know.

And that is the . Of the over 500,000 songs you can download on iTunes, William Hung's now legendary rendition of "She Bangs" is the sixth most downloaded of them all, right behind "Toxic" by Britney Spears. I'm not really sure what you can do with that information, but now it's yours to deal with. I'm done with it.

Let's recap the top five COUNTDOWN stories, the ones we think you'll be talking about tomorrow.

No. 5, Richard Clarke or Condoleezza Rice or both, his public testimony of the 9/11 Commission seen by half of those surveyed as politically or personally motivated, her public testimony still not forthcoming. Four, trying juries. The Tyco case comes close to a mistrial ostensibly because of a poisonous atmosphere in the jury room because one of the jurors flashes the - one of these OK sign to the defense.

Three, crime and consequence, a serial killer resurfacing after nearly 20 years of silence to claim responsibility for another chilling murder in Wichita Kansas. Story No. 2, Americans preferring money to sex, according to one study. And according to another, sex makes you more intelligent - rich and stupid. And, No. 1, the brand spanking new video from "She Bang" or the Sinatra "She Bang," Mr. William Hung.

That's COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann.

Good night and good luck.