Wednesday, April 21, 2004

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for April 21

Guests: General Montgomery Meigs, Richard Ned Lebow, Malcolm Stogo, Brian Pietrodangelo


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

The draft: A prominent moderate Republican Senator says it's time to consider bringing it back to populate armies that he believes could be fighting the war on terror for 20 to 25 years.

Today's setbacks: Carnage in Basra, the truce evidently over in Fallujah, another terrorist attack in Riyadh.

A good time to get thin: The price of beef up 25 percent in a year, milk 40 percent, chicken breasts 50 percent, and ice cream - we are in the midst of runaway ice cream stagflation.

But science has brought you the Koolio. A robot/ice box that brings the beer to you. Mmmm walking refrigerators.

And if you stare at this calf long enough you will swear it has three eyes, two mouths. Oh, it does have three eyes and two mouths.

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN: Good evening. If you want to erase the entire political blackboard of this country with one sweep, reintroduce the military draft to an America not used it to or not certain about the war for which it is being deemed necessary. Ask Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and the New York City draft riots. Ask Lyndon Johnson in 1967 and the anti-war movement.

Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN: All this is being invoked tonight, because this morning for the second consecutive day, one leading moderate republican senator suggested that it is time to think about whether or not we need to bring back selective service, the draft. Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, first made the comments at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he then repeated them this morning on the "Today" show. He couched his remarks in the context of Secretary Rumsfeld's announcement that another 20,000 troops in Iraq, due to come home in June, will be kept in the theater of operations for up to seven months. Hagel did not say it was time to activate selective service, just time to think about it.



because of the society we have, it is a very wise course of action to take

· to burden the middle class with the fighting and the dying and allow the sons and daughters of the rich and privileged to escape. But, I think some kind of mandatory service for all our citizens for privileged - the rich, all those who have a lot, should be something we take seriously here.


OLBERMANN: Hagel said the war on terror could last 20 or 25 years or more. He told the Foreign Relations Committee that it was unfair that those who are serving today, and dying today, are the middle class and lower middle class and that a draft would equalize that imbalance. President Ford discontinued the draft by executive order in 1974, but the structure, registration by males turning age 18, was reinstated by President Carter in 1981. As the Vietnam anti-war movement and the New York City draft riots from 1863 both suggest, the ramifications of such a decision would be enormous. The political ones we'll consider in a moment, first the military ones.

I'm joined now by retired U.S. Army General Montgomery Meigs. General Meigs, was responsible for all U.S. Army forces in Europe and then directed the Peacekeeping Force in Bosnia.

General, thanks again for your time. Good to talk to you.

GEN. MONTGOMERY MEIGS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Hi Keith, good to be with you tonight.

OLBERMANN: Very bluntly sir, having spent three decades converting the U.S. military from draftees to a all-volunteer, would the nation's military leaders even want the resumption of a draft?

MEIGS: Well, I can't speak for all the military leaders, but I would think not. Look, there are some really serious issues you have to think about, here, when you contemplate this. Granted Socrates was a heavy infantryman, so was Senator Hagel, the idea of everyone serving is great, but who's going to pay for universal service? What size bureaucracy do you have to add to get all those citizens in an annual cohort into the government agencies? Secondly, in the professional Army today, you need a soldier for three years. You've got to put them through basic training, only at the end of their first year are they really burned in and ready to go. And under a draft situation is there going to be a political will to give us a soldier for three years? Korea has universal service. Their political will is only for 14 months, their soldiers aren't capable of doing what ours are in terms of collective tasks.

And really, maybe the best way to keep - to allow the Army and Marine Corps to expand is, one: To get the administration to agree that that's necessary, not a temporary measure and to improve the services we have for soldiers. Why should field officers at Leavenworth, for instance, be embarrassed to invite their parents come visit their quarters because the quarters they're so lousy? Why is the maintenance for facilities money always taken away from U.S. Army Europe every year in the budget bill? I mean, there's some other things to look at here, before we tackle universal service.

OLBERMANN: If the 115, 000 or 135,000 troops are insufficient in Iraq and anybody and everybody from Chuck Hagel to Joe Biden say we need a bigger standing Army, are the prospects of doing that in some way, other than a draft, reasonable? Can you go out and recruit 400,000 troops, or however many would you need? How quickly could you size up the Army if it's not by the means of a draft?

MEIGS: Well, taking the Army as an example - the Marine Corps is going to have to expand as well - there's been a provision from the secretary of defense for about a 20 to 30,000 temporary expansion. That's a crazy idea. If you're going to recruit someone to be a sergeant or an officer in civil affairs, you don't give them a four-year career horizon. Yes, you can expand the Army and the Marine Corps to some extent, but you've got to create some incentive, you've got to make sure that they're getting satisfaction out of what they're doing. You'd need an even better G.I. bill. If you do those kinds of things and there's pride in the institutions, people will sign up.

OLBERMANN: If you draft, how long - what's the drag time? If they announced tomorrow that we're going to have a draft in a year's time, how long before somebody drafted would be in the field?

MEIGS: Well, I suspect they could set that up fairly quickly, maybe a year, I'm not sure. But it's all the second and third-order consequences that the military's going to have to absorb that make that so undesirable.

OLBERMANN: Retired General Montgomery Meigs. As always sir, many thanks for your time.

MEIGS: You bet.

OLBERMANN: There, then, a look at the military aspect of a possible reintroduction to the draft, now for the political angle. I'm joined by Richard Ned Lebow, a professor of political science, expert on presidential politics from Dartmouth College.

Professor Lebow, thank you for your time. Good evening.


OLBERMANN: Let's start with the big picture political. Senator Hagel's ruminations catch fire, six months from now we're reactivating selective service, first draft numbers are June 1, 2005. What happens to the political landscape of this country?

LEBOW: I think it's an unrealistic prediction. It seems to me very unlikely that a president in an election year would ask congress to reconstitute the draft. The only feasible scenario would be to do so in the aftermath of an election. So again, that would bring, as you say, to 2005. I would think that people would react on the basis of how the war was going, how long they had to serve, whether only men were being drafted or women as well, and these are conditions that are very hard to fathom in advance.

OLBERMANN: Then let's take it back to where we are right now. Senator Hagel made his remarks in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, he repeated them this morning on national television. Clearly that was not an off the hand - or off the cuff idea. Why would he go public with it? What are the short-term political impacts likely to be in advance of an election in November?

LEBOW: There are two possible explanations. One is that it's a trial balloon to see how people and other congress respond to the possibilities of a draft, so the administration can get feedback and decide whether or not it wants to go down that road at some point. The other more nefarious explanation is that the administration doesn't want to draft but does want increased funding and other ways of looking for manpower and hopes that its programs would be supported because congress will breathe a sigh of relief and give the money rather than instituting a draft.

OLBERMANN: You made a reference to it in your first answer, and you just used the term "manpower," it has been so long since we've had a draft in this country, an actual draft, that the issue of whether or not 18-year-old women would be drafted has never even been addressed before. How does this play into the political ramifications of even the discussion of this, right now?

LEBOW: In a very interesting way. You can imagine that women's organizations themselves will be divided, that left-leaning feminists will be in favor of the draft, and opposed to the war, and right-wing, more religious conservative women's organizations will oppose the draft, but in favor of the war.

OLBERMANN: Just something to amplify and declarify our political situation, yet again.

Professor Richard Ned Lebow of Dartmouth, many thanks for your time, sir.

LEBOW: My pleasure.

OLBERMANN: Whoever winds up going to Iraq and why, there will be 302 more positions open there within the next few weeks, and perhaps another 451 more after them. The 302-man contingent is from the Dominican Republic is headed back to Santa Domingo. Just two days ago, President Hip¢lito Mej¡a announced that those troops would stay in Iraq for the full year that was agreed to last August. But then, nearby Honduras announced it was pulling out of Iraq and that, apparently, made the Dominicans reconsider. They say their people will be heading home now, in the next couple of weeks.

Meantime, Thailand says it will pull out of more than 450 medical and engineering troops it has in Iraq, if any of them are attacked. "If we get hurt or killed, I will not keep then there," says Prime Minister Shinawatra. The Thai embassy in Sweden got a letter earlier this month threatening that nation with attacks similar to the Madrid massacres.

And fewer foreign troops in Iraq plus more Americans there, plus longer stays, add up to one other thing: More money. The chairman of the joint chiefs has just asked for another $700 million. The vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, a republican, has accused the president of playing political games by postponing even larger supplemental requests until after the election.

Vice Chairman Kurt Weldon of Pennsylvania says the current Defense Department budget request is "outrageous and immoral," he says the government will need at least $10 billion to fund Iraqi operations just for the next five months.

General Richard Myers, meanwhile, testified before Weldon's committee today, he said the $700 million is what it will cost to extend the tours of those 20,000 troops in Iraq for 90 days a piece.

COUNTDOWN, opening tonight with the draft: Could it be a reality again here, and if not what then? And coming up, tonight's No. 4 story:

The so-called perfect storm shaping up to hit you hard in the pocketbook the summer: Gas prices, beef prices, ice cream prices? Nothing escapes sticker shock.

And later, terror on the ground, from Iraq to Saudi Arabia: A day of deadly car bomb attacks. The president of Egypt says the U.S. is hated as it has never been before. All this you're seeing, our responsibility - stand by.


OLBERMANN: Tonight's No. 4 story in the COUNTDOWN up next. Madagascar, Mad Cow, mad consumers - a very unusual combination, and it could ruin everybody's summer vacation. We will explain.


OLBERMANN: The price of gas is enough of a topic in this country to merit, if Bob Woodward's account is to be believed, a nefarious deal between the White House and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to fix prices at the pump until the fall and then cause them to drop just in time to influence the presidential election. But in our fourth story tonight, how much have you heard about the price of food going up? Staples have almost of any diet, now costing 25 percent to 100 percent more than they did just a year ago. Already, meat producer, Hormel has announced price hikes, and analysts expect other leading food companies, like Kellogg and Kraft, to follow suit. With farmers dealing with higher and energy, as well as, labor and healthcare costs, it's not your Hormel chilly that'll feel the heat, it's more than that. Across the board: Beef up 25 percent; Milk 40 percent; chicken breast 50 percent; edible oils, we're talking canola here, up 100 percent.

Well, thank goodness one can count on the simple, untainted pleasure of ice cream to soften the economy - no, wait, if milk is up 40 percent...

The executive director of the National Ice Cream Retailers Association calls it "the perfect storm." Linda Utterback says the price of ice cream could go up 20 to 30 percent this summer. Nevermind how the executive director of the Retailers Association of a dairy product is named Utterback, we don't have time to explain that coincidence.

Because of a confluence of course events ranging from bad weather in Madagascar to milkflation, you're going to have to explain to junior why his cone will cost an extra quarter this summer.

I'm joined now by Malcolm stogo, the founder of Ice Cream University, author of several books on the frozen confection, president of an international ice cream consulting firm.

Mr. Stogo, good evening.

MALCOLM STOGO, FOUNDER, ICE CREAM UNIVERSITY: Good evening, How are you doing, Keith?

OLBERMANN: Not bad except for the news about the ice cream. Explain this to me "perfect storm," my "Fudgy" the whale cake is going to be more expensive because of Madagascar? I've never even been to Madagascar.

STOGO: Well, give me a break - you know, it's really - you know, it's all about ice cream - you know, the best, pleasurable dessert in the world and frankly, it's pretty cheap, and what's going on right now is really - what happens is every February in Seattle, Washington, it's raining, it ain't going to stop, but what's the big deal?

OLBERMANN: Well, is there an ice cream tipping point? I mean, as you suggest, here, if you walk in to get a pint of Hagen Daz and it's $3.50 instead of $2.69, is anybody going to really to say "No, I'll have just sherbet or maybe just suck on an ice cube or something?"

STOGO: Well, do you ever go into a restaurant and you have a meal and in the end you have dessert and worry about what it costs? It's just like going into an ice cream shop - you know, it's going to cost you maybe it'll cost you an extra quarter this year, I mean this summer, or if you go into a supermarket and buy a half gallon of ice cream, what's that going to cost to the - for the kid, five cents? I don't think it's a really a big deal to the consumer. To the producer it's a big deal, but not the consumer.

OLBERMANN: Explain the Madagascar analogy, Just saying Madagascar on television is a lot of fun. What do they have to do with this?

STOGO: Well, Madagascar had a typhoon about two years ago - three years ago and price the vanilla - of pure vanilla extract in the commercial ice cream market was about 45, $50 a gallon and now it's four - four to hundred - $450 a gallon. I mean, it's a huge - huge increase to the producer, but to the consumer it's about a penny.

OLBERMANN: I notice that, as we have been pointed out here, gas prices go up, gas prices go down, this seems to be an annual or at least a biannual thing, but how often do we have dramatic shift at 30 percent, in the price of ice cream? I mean, do they - as they go up, will they eventually come back down again?

STOGO: Well, I think it'll come down, I mean, we've had problems in the - five years ago with milk and butter five years ago, they went way up and everyone got scared, and then it came down. But, what's happening right now, is that we're happening a number of events taking place that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) one on top of the another. You know, it started with, believe it or not, ice cream cones about five years ago, becoming scarce because the largest manufacturer in the United States went broke. You know, then we had this vanilla situation in Madagascar which we though was over about a year ago, but then we had another typhoon about a month ago, so we're not really sure what's going to happen there.

You know, and then - in the Ivory Coast, cocoa, this is the biggest producer of cocoa in the in the world, in Africa. You know, they have - the rebels are fighting there, there's some problems there, so cocoa went through the roof, and now we have all this problem with cows and the - and Mad Cow disease and the farmers trying to pull out the cows and not to milk them. So, it's a lot of events going on, but to the consumer it's really a nickel or a quarter, and - but to the producer a big deal.

OLBERMANN: As described, the "perfect storm."

STOGO: Right.

OLBERMANN: Malcolm Stogo, the founder of Ice Cream University, good old ICU, at least the tuition prices are holding steady. Thanks for your time, sir.

STOGO: Thank you. Thank you, very much.

OLBERMANN: And, before we leave our No. 4 story, four more things you need to know about it - namely the top four selling favors of ice cream.

No.4 is Butter pecan, according to the latest figures, selling 23 million gallons a year. At least a million of that is in my personal stash.

No. 3: Neapolitan, that is the vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry combo for the indecisive among you - 39 million gallons a year.

No. 2: Chocolate, 42 million.

And No. 1: No surprise here, vanilla - 151 million gallons served.

Nearly four times more popular than anything else. Take that, chocolate!

With our No. 4 story on ice, time to look ahead and up the COUNTDOWN ladder. Coming up, the upside of Mad Cow disease: Think how much better a cow with two mouths can tell you when she's ready for milking. This can signal only one thing: "Oddball" is next.

And later, "The Apprentice" has been fired from the daily consciousness, but now a threat to boycott Omarosa. Oh, the hard news segments are coming up, I see.


We're back with the COUNTDOWN and immediately pause it to bring you the strange stories from the kingdoms of animals and man, the ones that always follow three little word: "Let's play Oddball."

It is one of the clich's of American life, the crazed, expectant father rushing his wife to the hospital. It is not supposed to end with dad getting arrested, yet that is exactly what the dashboard camera in the police car in Gaston County, North Carolina has recorded for you, the patron.

Jimmy Fisher saying he was pulled over for doing 45 in a 35 mile an hour zone because the missus' water had already broken, as you see there, he cursed at the cops for stopping him. They then followed him to the hospital and arrested him and charged him with endangering the officers.


JIMMY FISHER, MAN ARRESTED: Somebody in bedroom slippers like I have on, you just - I just can't conceive of them as being dangerous.


OLBERMANN: Jimmy, as you see, played by the actor Howard Morris.

We rarely issue video warnings for "Oddball, our philosophy, you're watching this newscast, you've already waived all liability. However, if you don't like the wonder of nature, more commonly known as circus freak show animals, you may want to turn away for a second. I'll give you the all clear.

The residents of Grand Saline, Texas call the newborn calf, "Unique," perhaps it's already apparent to you why. Unique is nine-days-old, already up to 57 pounds, it survived a first brush with infection. She's just another white-red calf unless you count her third eye and her extra mouth. Owner, Virginia Hale, says Unique is very friendly, and why not? She can moo out of both sides of her mouth at the same time.

And you'll notice I have not given you the all clear, because evidently it's farm report day, here on COUNTDOWN and the whole world is beginning to resemble "Blinky" the famous three-eyed fish from "The Simpson's."

Now you're in Yaravine (PH), Armenia and this would be another newborn calf with five legs. No name yet, although "Stability" might be a good guess. Now, if we could mate him with that other one from Texas with the extra mouth and the extra eye, we'd have - well, I don't know what we'd have, but it could catch me and stare me down.

Possibly we would get "Whipper," a New Zealand bird, a budgie with a perm. Officially - scientifically this budgie Whipper is a mutant. Those long, curly feathers, so atypical among budgies, Whipper's own mother kicked him out of the nest as soon as he hatched. His owner also says that Whipper's whistle is unlike any other bird call she has ever heard. Oddly enough, it sounds exactly like the old NBC chimes.

OK, there's your all clear. That concludes the barnyard humor and "Oddball."

Coming up later in COUNTDOWN the latest on the Michael Jackson legal saga: The grand jury watch on, that would be the grand jury watch.

But next, our No. 3 story of the night: A day of car bomb terror in the Middle East. Is the U.S. losing the war for hearts and minds in a big way?

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

No. 3: "Kaguya," the first living mouse ever created in the laboratory using the genes of two females. That is the right, another reason for women to not need us men anymore. Researchers will publish their results in a new book called: "My Mouse has Two Mommies."

No. 2: The Team Chevrolet dealership in Salisbury, North Carolina, its

rival, Cloninger Ford/Toyota had rented an advertising blimp and it had

tethered it above a field next to Team Chevrolet. On Saturday a guy in a

pickup truck drove by, got out of the car, pulled out a shotgun, and shot

the blimp. A passerby, who jotted down the license plate number of the car

· sure enough, belongs to Team Chevrolet. Oh, the humanity.

And No. 1: "Sophie," a dog from Houston who literally saved another dog, "Little Bean." Little Bean was in the jaws of an alligator that had snatched the Dachshund from the shores of Lake Houston's. Interviewed after words, the dog - the alligator said "Dog eat dog world, my ass."


OLBERMANN: Suicide car bombings have become the preferred tactic of Islamic extremists eager to win what they think will be a passport to heaven by creating hell on Earth.

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the latest nightmare tell of two cities, Basra, a mostly Shiite Muslim community in southern Iraq and Riyadh, the predominantly Sunni Muslim capital of Saudi Arabia. Suicide bombers hit both of them today. The targets in Basra and a nearby suburb, headquarters buildings and an academy for the U.S.-trained Iraqi police.

The weapons, men driving five cars loaded with rockets and TNT. The victims, mostly civilians, included 16 children incinerated in the buses that were bringing them to school. The toll so far, at least 68 killed, around 200 wounded, most of them critically. So far, no one has taken responsibility for the attacks. Iraqi officials are blaming al Qaeda. U.S. officials are looking to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian with close ties to the bin Laden network.

Before looking at the long foretold attack on Riyadh, more strife still in Iraq. The tenuous cease-fire in Fallujah has ceased. Insurgents in that city launched an assault on U.S. Marines that last four hours, ending only after the Marines called in air support, including Cobra gunships and fix-winged aircraft that dropped two 500-pound drops. At least 20 insurgents were killed. The return to full-scale combat also ended efforts to allow some Fallujah refugees to go home.

And it also scuttled a disarmament deal that had seen Iraqi fighters turn in a small number of heavy weapons, most of them so damaged that they were useless.

And now to the Saudi capital. In Riyadh, security provisions, while far from useless, had been shown to be inadequate at best. Over the past week, Saudi counterterrorist police stopped five explosive-laden cars from reaching their targets. They could not stop the sixth. At least four people were killed in a suicide there today, including an 11-year-old Syrian girl; 148 more were wounded.

From Washington, our chief diplomatic correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, has details and reactions.



The car bombers, believed to be from al Qaeda, struck 100 feet from the Saudi Department of Public Safety, a brazen display of power, despite weeks of intelligence warnings that even led to the partial evacuation of the U.S. Embassy last week.

Today's example only the latest example of how al Qaeda continues to frustrate the U.S. and its allies. In the past year, the Saudis have confiscated tons of explosives and arrested 600 al Qaeda suspects. But their local leader, Abdul Aziz al-Muqrin, has repeatedly escaped capture. And without stopping all traffic, car bombs are almost impossible to prevent.

ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: You can make them in somebody's backyard. You can make them in your basement. And then it's very simple to load them into a car and you're off to the races.

MITCHELL: Another alarming trend, officials say terror groups are experimenting with chemicals. In Manchester, England, today, police searched for chemicals after discovering last weekend in both London and Amman, Jordan, that suspected terrorists were either planning purchase chemicals or mixing them for an attack.

Again, today, the president pointed to progress against al Qaeda.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If al Qaeda were a board of directors, the chairman and vice chairman might still be out there, but the middle management is gone.

MITCHELL: But expert says, after losing their base camps in Afghanistan, al Qaeda has spread worldwide, joining local terror groups in the Philippines, Indonesia, East Africa and Europe, partly inspired by the war in Iraq. So who is winning the war on terror? A U.S. terror expert suggests that al Qaeda may be thinking...

BRIAN JENKINS, TERROR EXPERT: We continue to communicate. We continue to collect funds. We continue to recruit. We continue to plan, prepare and carry out operations.

MITCHELL (on camera): Intelligence officials say now they're being forced to shift from taking down a single group, al Qaeda, to combating a global movement.

Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, at the State Department.


OLBERMANN: And if you were al Qaeda, you would think we have managed to erase all sympathy for America here, from Jordan's King Abdullah snubbing President Bush, to Egypt President Mubarak's comments Tuesday that where America I concerned - quote - "There is an unprecedented hatred, and the Americans know it. There exists today a hatred never equaled in the region."

Raghida Dergham is a senior diplomatic correspondent for the newspaper "Al-Hayat" and also an MSNBC analyst.

Raghida, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Is President Mubarak right, unprecedented hatred?

DERGHAM: I fear that he's right. There is an amount of hatred against towards the policies of the United States. They don't hate us because of our freedom, because they hate our freedom that our president says. They hate our policies.

Above all, they hate what think is an injustice done to the Palestinians due to American policies. They are worried and fearful that Iraq will disintegrate and will be divided, not only Iraq, but also Saudi Arabia. And they feel that, you know what? The United States made terrorism by making al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan some 20 years ago. And they fear that they are being scapegoated for terror.

OLBERMANN: Your answer indicates something that is almost never heard on American television, the integration of the ideas of Iraq and Israel and the Palestinian question. In this country, those are two, at least, at maximum, two separate issues. They are not all tied together. And yet in the Middle East I gather that these are entirely integrated issues.

DERGHAM: Absolutely, absolutely integrated. You cannot look at one without the other.

That is why, if we want to do Iraq right, we should do Palestine right. And we should really be sincere in as far as what we want for reform in the region. It is not enough to say we want reform, we want to do Iraq so that democracy will reign. I think it is important to tell Arabs and Muslims that we are really a fair country, that America dares to be fair and does the right thing when it comes to the Palestinians.

OLBERMANN: Is there a way back from the hatred that Mr. Mubarak describes? Or is the U.S. already in or nearing a position where we have to say, well, they all hate us, too bad, ultimately, we have more firepower than them, tough on them?

DERGHAM: Of course there is a way back. And the way back is, A, in correcting our policies. And, C, and, D - sorry, and, B, rather, because I have C and D - but B is really that we need to mobilize the public opinion in the Arab and Muslim and Islamic world to say that we will fight al Qaeda.

In that, they have to be empowered by correcting our policies. If there is mobilization against al Qaeda, they may stop confusing their anger with our policies with the sort of implicit support of al Qaeda's ways of rejection and rage and anger.

OLBERMANN: One last question. King Abdullah's decision to cancel his trip to see the president, translate this for somebody who is not fully up on the politics of the region and the importance of this. Is this as if Tony Blair canceled a trip here? What would a good analogy be?

DERGHAM: I think that the king of Jordan has really been very sincere with the administration. I don't think the administration is angry with him. They respect him for his decision, because it's about differing over policy.

He said to President Bush in his letter, he said, basically, you gave Mr. Sharon, the prime minister of Israel, all kinds of assurances that are not clear to me that you are on the right track with bringing the two-state solution, Palestine and Israel. Please, sir, give me the explanation and give me as much as you can of guarantees, if it's possible, that you are on the right track, because I want to be your friend. But in order to be your friend, you need to help me out.

OLBERMANN: Raghida Dergham of "Al-Hayat" and MSNBC, many thanks for your time tonight.

DERGHAM: Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: As depressing as this all may sound, there were some hopeful words today from President Bush on America and future relations with Iraq, anyway.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some day, an American president will be sitting down with a duly elected official from Iraq talking about how to secure the peace better in the Middle East. This is an historic moment.


OLBERMANN: Based on today's events, sadly, that moment may be a long way off.

That concludes the third story tonight, the waging and the winning of the war on terror. Up next, logically, No. 2 on the COUNTDOWN, people who do illogical things and the passing of the man who started recording all of it. Then, later, an invention that makes so much sense, we wonder why it took so long for a group of college students to dream this up.

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The winner is, America the Blue-Tiful! Let's hear it!


JAY LENO, HOST: Well, the latest thing in plastic surgery now is something called the voice lift. You have surgery on your vocal cords in order to sound younger. And for women, the operation is quite complicated. For men, it's pretty simple. Show how they do it. Show how they do it to men to raise their voice. Yes, he gets it right up there.

BUSH: I had the honor of sitting down to dinner with President Koizumi - or Prime Minister Koizumi. His favorite movie was Gary Cooper in "High Noon.' One time he walked up to me and said, you like Cooper.


BUSH: I said, I'm like Cooper? He said, yes.


BUSH: I finally figured out what he meant.




OLBERMANN: Celebrating 60 years of codifying the most body piercings, the quickest grape eater, the guy with the most bees in their beards, and saying goodbye to one of the men who started it all.

Our second story on the COUNTDOWN is next.


OLBERMANN: For better or for worse, in a sense he brought us reality television. Before Norris McWhirter and his twin brother, Ross, sat down half a century ago to compile, chronicle and authenticate stuff like this, we lived in a weird news vacuum. Just what was the world record for the most cigarettes stuffed into one mouth? Which of the many claimants for the world's fastest plate-spinners was the true king? The longest caviar sandwich, how long was it?

Our No. 2 two story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, Ross McWhirter died in 1975. Now, too, his brother Norris has gone to his great record-setting reward.

Here's our correspondent Tom Costello in London.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the Indian worm eater to the world's most pierced woman, "The Guinness Book of Records" has captured it all, the wacky, wonderful, and the downright weird.

Last November, with 100 million books sold, "Guinness" threw a celebration. And Norris McWhirter, the man who started it all, was sharing the spotlight with a giant and the world's largest grape eater.

MAT HAND, WORLD RECORD HOLDER: I hold the world record for eating the most grapes with a plastic spoon.

COSTELLO: They were just the kind of people McWhirter had been celebrating for 50 years.

NORRIS MCWHIRTER, "GUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS": It began in a little office in Fleet Street. And we had 16 weeks. They were 90-hour weeks to put the first book together to producer the very first edition. And this is it, the very first edition.

COSTELLO: In 1954, the Guinness Brewery asked McWhirter and his twin brother, Ross, to write a book to settle pub arguments. Today, it is the final arbiter of achievement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is ugly right here.

COSTELLO: From packing a Volkswagen to the biggest caviar sandwich, 1,000 new records each year.

(on camera): By celebrating the mind-boggling and the downright bizarre, "Guinness" was in many ways the father of today's shock TV. The irony is, not every stunt makes it into the book.

COSTELLO: "Guinness" refused to consider David Blaine's starvation stunt last year out of concern it might encourage copycats to endanger their own health.

Norris McWhirter was 78 when he yesterday, the very day American Eric Scott rode a rocket 152 feet into the London sky, setting a new world record.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's neat to know that actually my name is going to be in that book and kind of think about it, because now I can show my kids and stuff. And it will be something that is in the books for - until it's broken, anyway.

COSTELLO: Norris McWhirter, the man who started it all, would have loved it.

Tom Costello, NBC News, London.


OLBERMANN: Incidentally, McWhirter's twin brother, Ross, was shot to death in 1975 not long after he had publicly offered an award of $50,000 pounds for information leading to the arrest of IRA bombers.

Making thus the typically clunky segue from that to our celebrity and gossip news, "Keeping Tabs."

It's your tax dollars in action, day 156 of the Michael Jackson investigations. This was believed to be D-Day, or more correctly, G.J day, the day a Santa Barbara grand jury would decide whether or not to indict the king of pop and if so for what; 19 grand jurors, they have been at it for nearly four weeks. Twelve of them must agree on any indictments.

Jackson has of course already been charged with seven counts of lewd or lascivious acts upon a child, two counts of administrating intoxicants to a child. This would validate the prosecutor's accusations against him.

More substance from the Kobe Bryant case. The defense bid to put on the record the alleged victim's medical records has been denied, Terry Ruckriegle saying no witness during three hearings had convinced him of the defense claim that the woman had waived the confidential of those rights by telling her friends and relatives about her medical records and treatment. Thus, those records and treatment will not be admissible if and when the basketball star goes to court. Her attorney says tonight, "We are very pleased with the judge's ruling."

Now to the traditional "Tab" stories, the bitchier, kvetchier ones.

And you only thought you disliked that Omarosa woman from "The Apprentice."'s Jeannette Walls reporting that upon word that Clairol was considering featuring her in commercials for its herbal essence hair-care products, the company was bombard with e-mails and calls, some threatening to never buy Clairol items again, some threatening a full-scale boycott.

A company spokeswoman says it is taking this seriously, but it has not yet turned to her and said, you're fired.

And if your suddenly inclined to feel sorry for Ms. Manigault-Stallworth, think again. ""The New York Post" reporting that on a U.S. flight from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, she demanded a free upgrade from coach to first class by screaming: "Don't you know who I am? I was on 'The Apprentice.'" A spokesperson says the lady was just joking and never got upset at the ticket agent in question.

Now, was a clever joke, wasn't it?

And now it belongs the ages. The original Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant has been razed. Yes, Peter Harman's Burger Shack in Salt Lake City, Utah, where his pal Harland Sanders stopped by in 1952 and cooked him up some chicken, has been knocked down. Wait, can we think about this first? The first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant was in Salt Lake City? So, really, it's Utah Fried Chicken, UFC. All right, I'm done.

It's just that they've now knocked down the place. They're going to build a company museum there with a new restaurant inside, a new Utah Fired Chicken.

Back with the COUNTDOWN for the grand finale. Our No. 1 story next.

Meet the perfect companion for college students and Homer Simpson alike.

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


OLBERMANN: Edison, Marconi, Ford, Bell, Koolio, the names of the great inventors and their great inventions. I'm just guessing here. Koolio is giving you a bit of a problem. You don't recognize his contributor and you're doubting that I'm referring to his rap hip "Gangsta's Paradise."

The No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, no, this is the other Koolio, the with a K. And he's not the inventor, but rather the invented. Meet Koolio with a k. If Homer Simpson were an inventor or, if, say, he was real, he definitely would have thought of this. Koolio is a robotic refrigerator. It travels the halls here at the University of Florida bringing tasty cold frosty milkshakes and other beverages directly to those who have ordered them from the inventor's Web site.

You never even have to leave your computer or, in more practical applications, you never even have to get your fat butt up off the couch.

Kevin Phillipson and Brian Pietrodangelo are the inventors. Brian is a senior at the University of Florida's School of Engineering. He joins us now.

Brian, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Right away, I need to know this. You thought of this because what, getting beer out of the fridge was not happening fast enough for you?

PIETRODANGELO: Well, not even that. But I'm sure you can appreciate

this, being a sports enthusiast. Sitting on the couch and watching a game

· the idea came from me when I was sitting there watching a Florida football game and it was my turn to get a beer for everyone from the fridge.

I go to the fridge and get it and then I hear all this screaming. I run back in and it was like a 75-yard touchdown pass from Rex Grossman to Ben Troupe. And he hurdles three people. And I was furious. Granted, I can see it on replay, but it's just not the same. And ever since then, I figured there is an easier way to get a drink from the refrigerator than having to leave the couch.

OLBERMANN: Out of such trauma does the invention inspiration come. Give us - without going into too much technical detail, how does this work?

PIETRODANGELO: The best description of Koolio is a cross between R2- D2 and a vending machine.


PIETRODANGELO: And what happens is, right now, it's set up where a professor is sitting at a desk working diligently in the engineering hall at the University of Florida. And he logs on to the Internet to Koolio and says, hey, Koolio, I want a drink.

Koolio receives its call, leaves its docking station, a station down the hall in a separate lab, and travels to the correct classroom until he gets to the professor's classroom. He goes in there, delivers the drink. The professor grabs it out. Koolio turns around and goes back to his docking station and waits for the next call.

OLBERMANN: Do you see this, Brian, as having some sort of practical use in the future? Can you sell these things to anybody other than the extraordinarily either let's say energized-challenged or the extraordinarily football-obsessed?

PIETRODANGELO: Well, there is a universal need to be lazy, you know.


PIETRODANGELO: If you don't have to get off the couch to get a drink, why would you? You know, granted, right now, the price of Koolio is probably more than people would like than to get off the couch. But, eventually, mass-produced, these things could easily be in every home, every office, every school around the world, even.

OLBERMANN: Well, how much use is it getting right now? How often do professors actually call on it and what kind of, as we used to refer to them, brownie points does this thing score for you?

PIETRODANGELO: Oh, it definitely helps out, of course. And right now, it doesn't run 24/7. We're still ironing a few kinks out of it just to make it perfect.

The about Koolio is, it's completely autonomous. So it has to make every decision for itself. Every single situation it has to be in, it has to make a decision. It's not like BattleBots. And everyone always asks me, oh, so you build things like BattleBots. No, those are remote controls. This thing has intelligence.

OLBERMANN: Wow. Terrific.

Brian Pietrodangelo from the University of Florida, thanks for your time. Congratulations on Koolio.

PIETRODANGELO: No problem. Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And before we leave the top story, one more thing you need to know. It is not planned as a companion to Koolio, but we've already brought you coverage of another innovation in home something or another, the Neorest toilet. It does everything for you. That's right, everything. Here comes Mr. Olbermann down the street, followed by his walking refrigerator and his state-of-the-art toilet.

Before we go, let's recap the five COUNTDOWN stories, the ones we think you'll be talking about tomorrow.

No. 5, selective service suggestions. The Republican Senator Chuck Hagel says it is time we think about reinstating the draft, but military and political authorities say an Army of draftees is not going to work in the field or in public opinion. Four, how a mad cow in Washington, a typhoon in Madagascar pushed up the price of milk and the price of vanilla, and, more importantly, what that means to the price of ice cream this summer. Look for it to go up 20 to 30 percent.

Three, between coordinating bombings in Basra and a suicide attack in Saudi Arabia, are we getting further away from actually winning the war on terror, in the Middle East, at least, to say nothing of the battle for hearts and minds in the Arab world? Two, a fond farewell to one of the men who started the trend of world records in things like most worms eaten in 30 seconds. Norris McWhirter of the "Book of World Records" is dead.

And, No. 1, Koolio, the robotic refrigerator, an invention in the true spirit of we Homer Simpsons everywhere. No need to get off the couch. It will bring your cold beer to you. Mmm, Koolio beer.

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

Good night and good luck.