Tuesday, November 30, 2004

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 30

Guest: Jesse Jackson, Jim Vandehei, Arianna Huffington

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Homeland security director goes home. Is his successor to be New York city former top cop or the man who ran the 2002 Olympics?

The Arnold amendment. Why the push to let the foreign born be president if Mrs. governator now says forget about it, it's in the going to happen.

U.S. Citizens have as much reason as those in Kiev to be concerned that the fix was in, so writes Jesse Jackson today. He will join us. We will have the latest from Ukraine.

And the departures along with the one succession horse race as television's big three, all about to leave the air at about the same time. Brokaw, Rather, and Jennings. Ken Jennings, looser.

All that an more now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good evening. Who is there, orange, orange who? Orange you glad you aren't secretary of homeland security any more and you don't have to issue any orange alerts.

Our Fifth story on the Countdown, yet another second term change in the Bush administration, as the country's first and thus far only counter terrorism czar becomes the seventh cabinet level official to exit.

Tom Ridge, appointed to the original job of Homeland Security director the month after the 9/11 attacks, informed his boss this morning, his 180,000 employees by e-mail shortly thereafter and the media this afternoon that he will resign. The former governor of Pennsylvania still speaking the parlance of his agency. He said that in the immediate future he intends to, quote, raise some family and personnel matters to a higher priority. Among them, going to his son's rugby games.


TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Well, everybody knows I love public service, did I it there 22 years. But I just want to step back and pay a little more attention to some other personal matters. I haven't been disappointed a single day I have been secretary. However, there have been days - I like going to work every day, there were certainly days I have enjoyed it more.


OLBERMANN: Ridge's resignation has been anticipated for weeks and it will not happen until February 1. Two components that have enabled a crowd of potential successors to build up. Ranging from speculative musings like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, to more practical predictions like Giuliani's former police commissioner Bernard Kerik. To try to figure out Ridge's exit and whoever will be entering, I'm joined by Jim Vandehei, national political reporter of "Washington Post."

Thanks for your time this evening, sir.

JIM VANDEHEI, "WASHINGTON POST": Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Before we talk about the future, let's talk about what has just become the past, along with the assumptions that Tom Ridges was going, was assumption that he was going more for personal reasons than political ones.

Is that a solid conclusion?

VANDEHEI: I think we have to take him at his word. I mean, listen, I think this is the second most stressful job in America today next to president. To take 22 agencies, 180,000 people and roll them into one big terror fighting machine. On top of that, you have to think of 1,000 ways that terrorists could hit America, 1,000 ways to stop it. And then sit back and worry each and everyday that people are going to die under your watch and that's how you are going to be remembered. I think, that's gives him plenty of reason to want to stepped aside and go spend some time with his family.

OLBERMANN: As successors, I mentioned Bernie Kerik, there's also Asa Hutchinson, who is Ridges deputy. There is Tommy Thompson from HHS. Mike Leavitt from EPA. Joe Allbaugh from EMA. Fran Townsend who is the White House security advisor. And in your newspaper today, two more governors are mentioned, the ex-governor of Virginia, James Gilmore and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts who was, himself, formerly the head of the Salt Lake City community.

Is there a favorite among these?

VANDEHEI: President Bush is masterful at keeping his card close to his vest. I think what you have to look for is probably going towards a seasoned bureaucrat. You're taking a huge agency and you need some one with experience in trying to bring all these different people together, all these different factions together. And then get this agency to function and do it's job, which is one of the most important jobs in government today. If you look at someone like governor - former Governor Gilmore of Virginia or you look at someone who is inside the agency right now, like Asa Hutchinson, former Congressman who's now running and heading up sort of transportation and borders inside the department or his number two, Fran Townsend.

I think you are going to see a seasoned bureaucrat, because I think that's what it will take.

OLBERMANN: When Ridge's position was originally created, but before he was appointed, there was a lot of talk in that time of crisis about how surprise a choice it would be, how out of the box. It was not. It was a standard issue politician and not bureaucrat, I don't mean that in the negative sense, but someone who could run an agency. It was long then that the charges began that homeland security was often tweaked for political purpose.

Is there any evidence of any thought of putting someone unexpected in there now, a Democratic, somebody from not mainstream politics, somebody to make the fight against terrorism seem more bipartisan?

VANDEHEI: I think the big shocker would be if the president reached across party aisle and grabbed a Democrat, someone like Lee Hamilton, who is co-chair of the 9/11 Commission. Someone who is clearly an expert in this area. I don't think that will happen. I mean, this president has shown a proclivity towards picking loyalist when it comes to positions of security, be it on the foreign policy side or domestic security that we're talking about here today. So, I think you're going to find someone he's really comfortable with. Someone he feels is a loyalist. Maybe someone like Joe Allbaugh. He used to be part of the Texas triangle, along with Karen Hughes and Karl Rove. People that are real close with the president or maybe even someone like Tommy Franks who can bring in that discipline from the military into this unit that has to fight terror.

OLBERMANN: Jim Vandehei, at the "Washington Post," great thanks for your insights today.

VANDEHEI: Take care, Keith.

OLBERMANN: To formalize his resignation, Secretary Ridge had to go international. The president was in Canada, a trip intended to thaw out the chilly relationship between the two countries, which stems from disagreements on everything, from the U.S. decision to ban Canadian beef after a mad cow was discovered in Canada in 2003, to the Canadian refusal to send troops to Iraq. Disagreements which the president brought into the open during a joint news conference with Canada's prime minister.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I frankly felt like the reception we received on the way in from the airport was very warm and hospitable. And I want to thank Canadian people who came out to wave, with all five fingers, for...


OLBERMANN: The ones using less than five fingers, about 5,000 strong according to police estimates gathered outside the parliament, in protest to the president's visit. There were some arrests, one policeman injured. But for the most part, other then pushing and shoving, protesters marched peacefully chanting anti-Bush slogans. Some were even still holding Kerry/Edwards, tag team that will probably not be stepping into a new steel cage ring in 2008 . John Edwards dropping hints about a new bid for the top job in four years time. And hints also of a less than happy post election assessment of his running mate this time.

The senator currently making his farewell tour of North Carolina on his first trip back home. And while not overtly critical of his former running mate, some of his comments seemed somewhat pointed, especially considering John Kerry's campaign was often criticized for having lacked focus or something. As his Senate terms expires on the first day of his goodbye exclusion, Edwards told reporters, "The most important thing we need in a future presidential campaign is a message that is clear and strong. And a candidate who believes it to his or her's soul. It's the core of a successful run for the presidency. Otherwise it sounds like todays message or yesterday's poll numbers."

You wanted to try to locate where a Republican candidate might be stealth campaigning for the 2008 nomination tonight, you couldn't find a better place to start than College Station, Texas. There is one hitch, the candidate in college station is constitutionally barred from becoming president. More importantly, today he may have been barred by his own wife. As California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger headed to Texas A&M University, to accept the 2004 George Bush award for excellence in public service. A profile of Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver appeared in "Vanity Fair" magazine in which she said she supported the bid to amend the constitution to permit the foreign born to become chief executive. But she did not think her husband would live to see it affect him. Should there be an amendment, absolutely. America is a nation of immigrants, but practically, forget about it, it's not going to happen. The process takes years and this is as far as it goes. Schwarzenegger himself has asked, rhetorically, why not? And a group called, Amend for Arnold and Jen has been pushing, even advertising for the let anybody be president amendment that would benefit not just Schwarzenegger but also the Canadian born governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Help us amend for Arnold and 12 million other Americans. Join us at amendforarnold.com. Paid for by amendus.org.


OLBERMANN: And for all we know it could benefit our next guest, a former California gubernatorial candidate herself, political columnist and author, Arianna Huffington.

Arianna, good evening. Thanks for your time.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Is Maria Shriver's word, the final word on this. Or on the flight to Texas, was Arnold telling her, I'll be back.

HUFFINGTON: Well, you know, what Maria said is really that she doesn't think it would happen because of how long the process takes. She didn't say she was against it. And on the contrary, she said it's a good idea. And actually, I completely agree with her. I think it's a great idea. I just don't see any urgency behind it. As she said it takes a tremendous amount of time, it takes two-thirds of the House, two-thirds of the Senate, two-thirds of the states to ratify an amendment or a constitution. And although a good idea, it's not exactly a front burner idea when you consider how many urgent issues we're facing in this country.

OLBERMANN: Is it apparent and is it essential for Arnold Schwarzenegger's presidential hopes, whether they're in 2008, 2012, 2016, whenever it may be, is it essentially that he not be really seen promoting a constitutional amendment that would apply so personally to him?

HUFFINGTON: You know, I don't really think that's the issue, Keith, because for a constitutional amendment to go through, you need a huge constituency behind it that really wants it to go through. All you need in this instance somebody like, say, like Gandhi, or Nelson Mandela, or Vaclav Havel, some major figure that was sort of waiting in the wings, ready to run for president of the United States and was barred because of this constitutional quirk, which is really a quirk, given what we are now and given the status and the work of immigrants in this country.

But it's not really something that Arnold can impact very much one way or another. It's something which is beyond him, and it's probably something that will happen, but it will not happen, I think, within a timeline that will benefit him.

OLBERMANN: As a rhetorical question, could you look into whether or not Vaclav Havel is interested? We might be able to use him still.

It's been a long time since I studied the constitutional convention, but my recollection was that the foreign-born ban was placed there to preclude the prospect of a president who would suddenly hand this country over to - the country of his birth, like England. That doesn't seem to be a realistic prospect anymore. What is the rationale, do you suppose, for keeping the restriction in place?

HUFFINGTON: I think there is no rationale, beyond the fact that it is there and there is no real constituency powerful enough, energized enough to get through what it's going to take, to really change something like that. Otherwise, there is absolutely no reason for it.

OLBERMANN: Arianna Huffington, political columnist and author. Most recently of the book, "Fanatics and Fools: The Game Plan for Winning Back America." Arianna, it's always great. Thanks for joining us.

HUFFINGTON: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Voting irregularities. From Kiev to Cleveland. Reverend Jesse Jackson wants to know, where is all the outrage here? He will join us on Countdown. And the investigation into the plane crash that involved NBC Sports executive Dick Ebersol. The coroner with one small piece of consolation for the family and for the families of the flight crew members killed. You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: There is one small platform of peace on which the family of NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol and his surviving family members can stand tonight. The coroner in Montrose County, Colorado confirming late this afternoon that 14-year-old Teddy Ebersol was, quote, "killed instantly" when he was thrown clear of the family's crashing chartered plane and then its wreckage fell on top of him.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, a day of continuing investigation, starting about 130 miles southwest of Aspen. Coroner Edward Yang (ph) said that the captain and flight attendant who also perished in Sunday's crash were also killed instantly. Of them and the youngest member of the Ebersol family, Yang (ph) said, "there was nothing that could have been done to save their lives." Dick Ebersol suffered broken ribs, a fractured sternum and has fluid in his lungs. His oldest son, Charlie, incurred a broken hand and has some back pain.

Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board investigation has already concluded that if the plane ever actually became airborne, it was not that way for very long. Lead investigator Arnold Scott describes skid marks on the runway. He also said the families of the flight crew had been escorted to the accident site and permitted to stay there for about 10 minutes today. Scott says his crew has not ruled out any possible cause, nor ruled anyone in. He does say the visibility was so poor at the time of the accident that snowplow drivers working either side of the runway from which the plane departed not only lost sight of the plane, but did not initially know there had even been an accident. Scott is hopeful that the flight data and voice recorder will help the NTSB establish the cause.


ARNOLD SCOTT, NTSB: The CDR recording captures the entire accident sequence, including the takeoff and subsequent action that occurs during the final minutes of the recording.


OLBERMANN: As we wish for a moment for that time two weeks ago when a fan player brawl was the top story in sports television and not the Ebersol crash, police in Auburn Hills, Michigan have two significant developments in their investigation of the Indiana Pacers group fight, now 11 days back. They say the have finally identified the chair-throwing guy. The as yet unnamed suspect is a 35-year-old resident of a Flint, Michigan suburb, a Pistons season ticket holder. Lieutenant James Manning said the suspect's attorney confirmed his client threw the chair. Smart admission, it would seem, given that the chair thrower had been fingered following repeated broadcasts of the tape by Detroit television stations. CSI: NBA.

The chair thrower has not yet been interviewed, is not in custody, but he could be charged with felony assault, according to Oakland County prosecutor David Gorcyca. Four Indiana Pacers players will also be charged, probably with misdemeanor assault and battery. Gorcyca telling "The Detroit News" that whoever was involved in fistercuffs will be charged, regardless if they were wearing a jersey. Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O'Neil wore those jerseys in the well publicized parts of the fight. Police now say a fourth Pacer, reserve center David Harrison, was also involved and is subject to prosecution, even though the basketball commissioner did not suspend him.

The investigation into the death of Mrs. Laci Peterson has now boiled down to whether her husband will go to prison for life, or die by lethal injection. The penalty phase under way today after a bizarre three-hour delay. Judge Alfred Delucchi considered a bartender's claim that he overheard a juror discussing the case, according to a defense source. But the judge did not excuse any members of the jury and did not explain anything.

That paved the way for this afternoon's emotional testimony. Taking the stand, Laci Peterson's mother, who rose from her seat and shouted in her son-in-law's direction, "she wanted to be a mother," Sharon Rocha yelled. "That right was taken away from her."

Also testifying, Mrs. Peterson's stepfather, brother and her sister Amy, who broke down several times in tears. Peterson's attorney Mark Geragos asked no questions of the witnesses. He was presumably aware of the four jurors who were seen quietly crying.

And in the case of six Wisconsin hunters shot to death, at a brief hearing today the lawyer for the man accused of the crime says his client was mentally competent to stand trial. Chai Vang is charged with six counts of murder. Preliminary hearing set for December 29th.

Completely unsettled is what happened on November 21st. Vang claims the hunters shot first and shouted racial slurs at him, but the criminal complaint and the two survivors say it was Vang who opened fire, and that four of his victims were shot in the back.

From the serious business of investigation to its more comical cousin, the car chase. A new twist courtesy of the curators of the "Oddball" department. And the end of another run. We'll bring you the question that brought the champ of champs on "Jeopardy" down.


OLBERMANN: We're back and we pause the Countdown for our nightly trip into the absurd news and cool video that just doesn't quite fit anywhere else in the show. Let's play "Oddball."

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost turning in the alarm. Ho, ho, ho, everybody! 'Tis the season for dramatic demonstrations of holiday fire safety tips, like this one from the Anaheim, California Fire Department. Never leave a burning asceteline touch next to a dried out Christmas tree. Especially not in Anaheim.

As you can see, it takes only seconds for flames to fully engulf the tree, the presents, the chestnuts, and the entire house, which is why it's also a good idea to put your tree in a room which only has three walls, as shown here, leaving an easy escape route out into the junkyard.

To Oklahoma City, for the Countdown "Car Chase of the Week." It was an undercover drug bust gone bad. The suspect is on the run, but it has been a bad year for the suspect. As we check the "Oddball" scoreboard for '04, we can see it's cops 56, and the guys who try to escape the cops, zippity-do-da.

And it will be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for this rural route renegade, because

a Lincoln towncar does not qualify as an offroad vehicle. So we're going

to have a foot chase. Watch out, buddy. There is a car - there is a car

· there is a car there. Oh, that had to hurt.

He is uninjured and we can prove it. Look at him run! Even though he has thrown a shoe, the suspect turns on his feet, and they're not going to get him! He's over the river, he's through the woods, he's almost to grandma's house. And then comes - there is barbed wire here, pal, barbed wire coming - oh. Barbed wire.

Police quickly follow in to take this man into custody. Ouch, there it is. He's down. Right there. Just like that, this free-range fugitive is on his way back to the high density feed lot known as the big house.

Finally tonight, new advances in the world of science. Researchers in Great Britain have developed the technology to recycle the mobile phone - well, the cover anyway - manufacturing them from biodegradable material. One hundred million phones are thrown away each year, but these are made of a new (UNINTELLIGIBLE) material, which contains small seeds and can be composted after use, as demonstrated here. The user simply buries the phone in an ordinary household flower pot, and within weeks it begins to disintegrate. Leftover seeds mixed with the compost, and the whole mess keeps ringing for up to a decade.

The electoral crisis in the Ukraine threatening to escalate out of control. Negotiations break off. Legislators try to backtrack. Protesters try to storm the Parliament building.

And the recount here. Last night, Ohio's secretary of state criticized Jesse Jackson for entering the fray. Tonight the reverend joins us to respond and to assess events in Ohio. Those stories ahead.

Now, here are Countdown's "Top 3 Newsmakers" of this day.

No. 3, Stelian Ogica of Bucharest, who spent two years in prison for having falsely claimed he won the Rumanian lottery and someone had stolen his ticket. Like Alicia Battle. This week, he won the Rumanian lottery, the biggest payout ever, nearly $43,000 - or in his country, a billion layees.

No. 2, Susan Sewell of Provo, Utah, who was rejected when she wanted to adopt a kitten at the local animal shelter, because she already owns a dog. Turns out Provo law says you can own up to two cats or up to two dogs, but you cannot have dogs and cats living together. Then it'd be mass hysteria, or another Bill Murray movie.

And No. 1, Virgin Mobile, a cell phone company in Canberra, Australia. That company has found what Aussie mobile customers apparently need most, someone to stop them from making embarrassing drunken phone calls in the middle of the night. They are offering a service to their customers to block themselves from drunk dialing, their exes, their bosses or their ex-bosses, while out for a night of boozing. Just one more technological advance to keep Australians from ever addressing their nation's collective drinking problem. Thank you.


OLBERMANN: The analogy was so obvious and in some senses so loaded that it had not been used publicly even by any of the 20 percent of this country which still questions whether or not this month's elections were legitimate.

Our third story on the Countdown, Jesse Jackson changed that in a hurry today. He entitled his op-ed piece for "The Chicago Sun-Times" "Kiev? What about Cleveland?" The reverend joins us in a moment.

First, the latest from the contested Ukrainian presidential election. The week-long peaceful protests in Kiev are morphing into something else altogether, an attempt today to storm the parliament building after talks aimed at resolving the political crisis broke down.

Supporters of the opposition leader, Viktor Yushchenko, walked out of negotiations after pro-government lawmakers tentatively approved a measure that would have nullified parliament's earlier decision to declare the election invalid. The man still listed as having won the election, the other Viktor, Yanukovych, offering an olive branch of sorts, saying that, if he really does become president, he will offer Yushchenko his old job as prime minister.

Yushchenko already spurned that offer, saying the focus should be on election fraud. And there is also compelling new evidence that appears to back up those charges, amateur video shot on Election Day showing some voters being beaten, the footage broadcast on Ukrainian television. Other video purports to show election officials looking at partially destroyed and burned ballots. Investigators in yellow suits seen pouring a substance on the ballots. No word on what it is or why they are pouring it.

It is four weeks to the day since the general election here turned George W. Bush to the White House for a second term. Tomorrow will be four weeks since John Kerry conceded. Tomorrow could also be, although the odds might be approximated at a billion to one, the day an Ohio Supreme Court justice could change all that.

As he concluded his trip through Ohio, Jesse Jackson said its Supreme Court should consider setting aside the electoral outcome there. Tomorrow, a political advocacy group plans to make a similar request directly to that Supreme Court, the Boston-based Alliance for Democracy planning to file a contest of election tomorrow. The request requires a single Ohio Supreme Court justice to either let the election stand, declare another winner or throw the whole thing out. The loser of any such decision can appeal to the full court, which in Ohio consists of five Republicans and two Democrats.

The appeal and recount process in Ohio was going along without to many people noticing it until Reverend Jackson arrived in Columbus on Sunday. He called for a federal investigation into the vote count. He used the word fraud. Today, he wrote that the election was - quote - "marred by intolerable and often partisan irregularities and discrepancies." And last night, he was blasted on this program by Ohio's secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell, who insulted him on eight separate occasions, even though I only asked Secretary Blackwell about Reverend Jackson once.

Reverend Jesse Jackson joins us now from Philadelphia.

Good evening, sir. Thank you for your time.


OLBERMANN: Well, I'm interested in your answers to a series of questions on this subject.

There had literally been no official response to the possibility of a recount from any major Republican organization until you went to Ohio. And then yesterday, there was a press release calling you a professional publicity hound, and Secretary Blackwell on this show calling you a provocateur for hire and you ran around the block and tried to get in front of a parade that was already on the march.

What exactly did you do in Ohio that stirred all this up?

JACKSON: Well, this is November the 30th and the election in Ohio has not been certified yet.

Why has it not been certified? We know that even before the election started, Mr. Blackwell sought to nullify 30,000 votes, saying that they were on the wrong weight of paper. We know that last spring, people could vote in the state, provisional vote, in their county. He changed that process to voting by precinct.

Many of the balloting places changed in the time and it led to much confusion. So you have 155,000 provisional ballots now and confusion. You have 92,000 votes that are yet to be counted. You have an interesting case in Warren, Ohio, where they actually used Homeland Security to lock the press out and to lock independent observers out.

Another thing also I found striking was that Ellen Connally, an African American running for Supreme Court in Cuyahoga County, where is Cleveland, Kerry had 120,000 more votes than she had. But down around Hamilton County and Clermont County and the other part of Ohio, she had 190,000 more votes than Kerry in 15 counties.

You have electronic machines where there are questions about their authenticity. We need a thorough, further investigation. And if the information warrants it, we should then have a recount. And those that ran this election should be recused from managing their own investigation.

OLBERMANN: The Republicans did make one seemingly unanswerable point on this. And you and others may be critical of the Ohio count. But as "The Baltimore Sun" quoted John Kerry's chief election lawyer in Ohio as saying, "Our eyes have been wide open. And to this date, we've found no evidence of confirmed fraud."

If there has been fraud, where are the Democrats in response to it?

JACKSON: Well, I'm amazed, frankly, at the silence, Friday, of Senator Kerry and the Democratic Party. They promised that we would stay in this fight until every vote was counted.

They appear not to have been acting aggressively, demanding the real questions be answered. For example, the electronic machines, in the case where you have private machines where there is no audit trail, we deserve an open, fair process. Why would we allow them to shift the rules in provisional balloting from county to precinct?

The reality is that, in Cuyahoga County, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, they have eliminated almost a third of the voters on technicalities, like 50,000 voters. The 150,000 vote margin of Mr. Bush over Mr. Kerry, we need to know through forensic, computer analysts, in fact, was that tampering? We deserve to know. And right now we do not know.

OLBERMANN: You said that last Friday night, you spoke to John Kerry and you quoted him as telling you that he was in favor of the investigations of the Ohio vote. Where is he? Why did he concede when he did and why does the Democratic Party appear to be trying to fly under the radar in terms of Ohio?

JACKSON: He conceded, in my judgment, much too quickly, because he conceded before the full count was in.

And now he says he has some lawyers on the ground, but his lawyers ought to be visible. They ought to be challenging. Were it not for the Green Party and Libertarians, we would not even have standing in the court on finding what happened. You look at 155,000 provisional ballots uncounted. You look at 92,000 ballots unprocessed.

You look at what happened in Warren, Ohio. You look at the electronic voting process, where there may have been tampering and we do not know. These numbers are beginning to move real fast. Again, I repeat, when I think about Ellen Warren - Ellen Connally, rather, and the gap where Kerry got 120,000 votes more than she got in Cuyahoga County. Yet, in 15 other counties, he got 190,000 votes less. To me, that's very suggestive. It deserves a thorough investigation.

OLBERMANN: There are degrees of what could have caused that and the other irregularities you refer to.

On one end of the spectrum, as Secretary Blackwell put it last night, it's a free and fair election without significant problems, in the middle, a lot of human and technical mistakes, but they are mostly errors of omission, not errors of commission. And at the other end would be out-and-out electoral fraud. Where do you stand on that spectrum? What of those things do you think happened?

JACKSON: It's interesting that Mr. Blackwell is the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign, yet he is the chief person in charge of the process.

Now, if - it seems to me to be unfair for the man who owns the team to also be the chief umpire at game seven of the World Series, that, somehow, that taints the process. But this man has not been a - this Mr. Blackwell in Ohio, Katherine Harris in Florida, those who run the process should not in fact be an advocate for one party or the other, which raises another question.

We really do need the constitutional, federally protected right to vote. We should in fact have federal supervision over federal elections. We do not have, which people think we have, the constitutional, federally protected right to vote. We deserve to move beyond just states' rights on national elections.

OLBERMANN: Well, let me see if I can pin you down, though, on that one part of question. Do you think there was fraud in Ohio?

JACKSON: Well, I think so. But we will only know if there is a thorough investigation.

There are some huge number gaps here. Why is it that, 28 days after the election, it has not yet been certified? That's a long time to wait.

OLBERMANN: Reverend Jesse Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, twice candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, thanks for your time tonight, sir. We appreciate it.

JACKSON: Thank you, sir.

OLBERMANN: Should there be an Ohio recount, as Secretary of State Blackwell said there would on this program last night, the burden of paying for that effort would fall almost entirely to Buckeye taxpayers at the rate of about 24 cents a piece.

But, in Washington state, should Democratic Christine Gregoire request a recount for governor, she would have to pay for it all by herself. A statewide hand recount would cost an estimated $700,000, 25 cents a vote there. And it must be deposited in full when the full recount is requested. The clock is already ticking now that Republican Dino Rossi has been certified as governor-elect today, after the tabulators decided he had a 42-vote victory. The Gregoire campaign has until Friday at 5:00 p.m. Pacific to file and to raise its money.

Her campaign says it is trying to come up with that money. Rossi called a news conference this afternoon asking Gregoire to succeed. He also plans a victory celebration tonight.

In North Carolina, it appears voters will be heading back to the polls in the race for state agricultural commissioner. The state board of elections has agreed to allow any voter whose ballot was lost in Carteret County to vote again. Anyone who did not vote at all gets a second chance to vote. More than 4,400 votes were lost in Carteret when some of the voting machines failed to record any votes.

The Republican in the race leads by only 2,300 votes. This is not trivial. More than three million were cast statewide, no date yet set for the special election.

And, in New Hampshire tonight, the Ralph Nader requested recount is officially over. Ballot counters finished work in the 11th and final precinct today, the numbers showing few changes from original results, those discrepancies attributed largely to typical counting machine errors and voters who circled ovals instead of filling them in, things like that.

Mr. Nader had the option to expand the recount to other precincts if enough errors had been revealed, but the independent candidate had ruled out continuing. Nader spokesman Amy Belanger calls the result - quote -

"a good statistical representation of the state."

From counting votes to counting cash, Ken Jennings' days on "Jeopardy" over. We'll show you how his historic era came to an end.

And speaking of endings, broadcast news taking a big hit in a short span of time. Goodbye to Brokaw. And who is next after Rather? The good evening derby ahead here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Goodbye, Brokaw. Goodbye, Rather. Goodbye, Jennings - no, that one, the "Jeopardy" guy. Some big exits on TV to tell you about.

Stand by.


OLBERMANN: We had all known this day was coming. I'm not being figurative here. I mean, we've known this day was coming because the game show "Jeopardy" tapes weeks in advance. Plus, it was on September 8 on this program that we told you that Ken Jennings would lose after a record 74 consecutive game victories.

Our No. 2 story on the Countdown, in a final irony, it turns out that Jennings, whose tax bracket changed just a little bit after $2.5 million in winnings, is finally stopped because he didn't know about H&R Block. The streak dated to last June 2. It owed in part to the fact that "Jeopardy" used to throw all winners out after one week. It owed in part to the fact that Jennings won the last show recorded before the program summer hiatus.

And it owed in part to the fact that Jennings' opposable thumb was a little more opposable than that of his 148 rivals. Thus, he mastered the vital buzzer control. Ahead for the entirety of his 75th game, the 31-year-old computer program gave it back in "Final Jeopardy." The category was business and industry.

Not only did challenger Nancy Zerg know the answer. Even I knew the answer.


ALEX TREBEK, HOST: The category is business and industry. And here is the clue, ladies and gentlemen. Most of this firm's 70,000 seasonal white-color employees work only four months a year.

Nancy, you wrote down your response rather quickly, I thought. I hope it's correct. Let's take a look.


TREBEK: What is H&R Block? You are right. Your wager, 4,401, taking you up to $14,401. You have a $1 lead over Ken Jennings right now.

And his final response was? FedEx. His wager was 5601. He winds up in second place with $8,799.


TREBEK: And Nancy Zerg, congratulations. You are indeed a giant killer, our new "Jeopardy" champion.


OLBERMANN: Lost on "Jeopardy," huh? Welcome to the club.

Not a tough transition to our nightly roundup of celebrity and gossip news.

And we start with an old college classmate of mine in trouble over a girl. Don't all of you raise your hands at once. This is about Bill Maher. Already being sued for palimony for $9 million by ex-girlfriend Nancy "Coco" Johnsen, the Web site TheSmokingGun.com says Maher has sued back. She accused him of assaulting her, of using racial slurs, of failing to fulfill a promise to marry her.

He has now filed a suit in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming he was a - quote - "confirmed bachelor" and a very public one, at that, who was simply Ms. Johnsen's latest shakedown victim. He describes her as a would-be extortionist. A would-be contortionist? Sorry.

Meanwhile, it's not very often that a well-publicized Academy Award winner goes on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and the only thing you recognized is his voice. But that was the case last night when this gentleman appeared with Jay. The shape seems familiar. So do the glasses, but not the absence of a baseball cap, nor the good shave.

It's Michael Moore. He told Leno he had shaved because, "I thought I

should look a little sharper for my IRS audit" and added, "If you can't

beat them, you might as well look like them." He also explained how

President Bush defeated Senator Kerry in the election four weeks ago today

· quote - "He got more votes."

And, finally, one of the great actors of the 20th century has taken his place of honor on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, Godzilla, giant lizard, monster, radiation thing, star of over 28 films, given his own star outside Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, marking respect that Godzilla himself was on hand for the event and the - you know, I hate to say this, but I thought he was taller. The big green thing was short on words, but he did deny rumors that he has been dating Courtney Love.

Actually, on hand for the ceremony, in the suit, the 5' 4" Japanese actor Tsutomu Kitagawa. He has played Godzilla for 50 years, including his new 28th Godzilla movie "The Passion of the Godzilla." No, it's called "Godzilla: Final Wars."

From the Godzillas of the silver screen to the mandarins of network news. NBC had had its post-Tom plans in place for years, CBS, not so clear. But Countdown has got some helpful suggestions.



DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: Top 10 signs Tom Brokaw doesn't give a damn anymore.

No. 7, refers to all countries as Belgium. No. 5, reads news with a mouth full of Cool Ranch Doritos. No. 4, already sold his anchor desk on eBay. No. 2, begins telecasts by setting the mood with Luther Vandross. And the No. 1 sign Tom Brokaw doesn't give a damn anymore, during exclusive interview, he sucker-punched Ron Artest.


OLBERMANN: No. 9 was, new sign-off, that's all I got, losers. I think that was originally John Cameron Swayze's.

It is a unique time in TV history. Great rivalries often see one participant step out of the competition, but rarely do two of them leave within four months of one another.

Our No. 1 story on the Countdown tonight, the eve of the first shoe dropping. Make that the first anchor dropping. Tom Brokaw set to host his last edition of "NBC Nightly News" tomorrow, and reminding "The Seattle Times," when Huntley and Brinkley broke up, they thought network news was over. When Walter Cronkite retired, they thought it was over.

Brian Williams takes up the scepter and orb on Thursday. And amid all the goodbyes, he has all the best wishes of his many friends in this building.

There is no such orderly transition planned for when the second shoe drops on March 9. That's when Dan Rather steps down from "The CBS Evening News" and is replaced by, no man can say. Part of the problem underscored by the same "Seattle Times" piece that quoted Brokaw today. It identified one of the front-runners for Rather's job as White House correspondent Brian Roberts, it's John Roberts. Brian Roberts is a second baseman with Baltimore Orioles.

As the Rather replacement race gains steam and media coverage, this thought. I was told that the key to being a network anchorman was the ability to say good evening two nights in a row, one of them in New York and the next one in Uzbekistan.


ANNOUNCER: This is "The CBS Evening News."

OLBERMANN (voice-over): Without:

ANNOUNCER: Dan Rather reporting from CBS News headquarters.

OLBERMANN: Get used to this.

The president of CBS News says an announcement is at least a month away, and this really is the first time a network has not had a successor in place since ABC got rid of Harry Reasoner in 1978. So, as D an Rather himself would say, this race is as tight as the rusted lug nuts on a '57 Chevy.

And the leading candidate, John Roberts.


OLBERMANN: Roberts is the straight-from-central-casting anchor type, former CBS weekend news anchor, now White House correspondent. Those are three of the most frequent things to appear on a network anchor's resume. Ask the only man in American broadcasting who is not rumored for the job.


OLBERMANN: But John Roberts is merely the in-house favorite.

News analyst Andrew Kendall (ph) says no line of succession, no need to name a new anchor yet. CBS could go for a while with venerable, folksy Bob Schieffer of "Face the Nation."

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: And good morning.

OLBERMANN: CBS says it will look within and without.

"Newsweek" says CBS looked at Matt Lauer.


OLBERMANN: And Tim Russert.


OLBERMANN: Big Russ, they are not going to get him.

So, "The Los Angeles Times" reported CBS would look at its own Russ, its Saturday morning co-host Russ Mitchell.


OLBERMANN: "The L.A. Times" also said our own Lester Holt.

LESTER HOLT, NBC ANCHOR: Good afternoon.

OLBERMANN: Either Russ or Lester would become the first African-American to regularly host network weeknight news since the days of Max Robinson on "World News Tonight."

But, wait, there's more. How about Chris Matthews?


OLBERMANN: He is a candidate, says Paul Levinson, the chairman of the communications department at Fordham University. He has another candidate.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN: Good evening.

OLBERMANN: Paula Zahn.

To fill Rather's shoes, unidentified posters to the TVNewser Web site have suggested Julie Chen of CBS, Anderson Cooper - Anderson Cooper? - and our own Martin Savidge and John Seigenthaler.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And good evening.


OLBERMANN: Well, if we can list nominees of anonymous bloggers, why not mention two names on "The Dan Patrick Show" on ESPN Radio?


BOB LEY, ESPN: Good evening.


(on camera): Good - line?



(voice-over): Lastly, some dark horses, like Martha Stewart, folks we think could do the job and maybe folks who need the job. Walter Cronkite.


OLBERMANN: Hell, they never should have made him retire in the first place. Raj from "The Apprentice," ex-New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, Kent Brockman, Colin Powell, Andrea Mackris, Craig Kilborn, Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy from the movie "Anchorman," and a man fully qualified for this job, since he can say the magic words, William Hung.



OLBERMANN: So, they could hire a new newscaster or maybe they could just take the show off the air and replace it with a blog.

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

Good night and good luck.


Monday, November 29, 2004

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 29

Guest: Kenneth Blackwell, Jim Hall


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Our nightmare, Dick Ebersol, head of NBC Sports and Olympics, survived a chartered plane crash in Colorado, as does one of his sons. The other son is now presumed dead.

Another al Qaeda tape, not bin laden, but al-Zawahiri. Experts believe it was recorded in the same place as the one he released a month ago today.

The F-word. Jesse Jackson uses it in Ohio. The new f-word, fraud.

Republicans strike back at what they call an unnecessary recount there. Ohio's top election official, secretary of state Kenneth Blackwell joins us tonight.

And an eerie look into a love and a life lost. The videotapes are 12-years-old, but they are being seen and heard for the first time.

PRINCESS DIANA: There's just nobody to physically scream at. Or someone to put their arms around me and just listens.

All that and more now on Countdown.


Good evening. It was damned cold in Cleveland seven years ago last month, 22 degrees with the wind chill and snow falling during the third game of the baseball world series.

None of the NBC sports staff televising that series were prepared for that much cold from the sportscasters, to the guys who plugged the wires into the camera's, to the boss. But The next morning we were directed to a large dumpster that as had arrived if by magic over night from New York. In it, hundreds of pounds of every winter-wear garment imaginable. Report to the dumpster, state your size, here are your shoes, your socks, your thermals, your parkas, no charge. The boss had noticed we were cold. The boss was named Dick Ebersol.

Our fifth story on the Countdown tonight, as the National Transportation Safety Board begins its customary news conference at the start of the investigation of an airplane crash. This is a story that has resonated unexpectedly outside these offices because it invokes the question of the safety of the small chartered jets that dart across our skies. It resonates within these offices because its victims included Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports and Olympics, perhaps the ideal television executive, but a much better man. He is in a Colorado hospital tonight along with his oldest son.

But as our correspondent George Lewis reports tonight from the accident scene, his younger son is now presumed killed in that plane crash.


GEORGE LEWIS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Late this afternoon, federal investigators began to probe the wreckage, looking for the cause of the crash. Sources tell NBC news they located the plane's cockpit voice recorder. Eyewitness Chuck Distal (ph) saw the plane slide off the end of the runway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it was sliding there was a lot of smoke and flames boiling into the air. The plane turned sideways, then a huge flash of flames come out of the airplane, then it was just smoking.

LEWIS: The pilot and another crew member were killed by the impact but three people survived, including Dick Ebersol, chairman, NBC Universal Sports and Olympics. He was pulled from the wreckage by his son, Charles, a senior at the University of Notre Dame.

DOUGLAS PERCIVAL, EYEWITNESS: He grabbed him by the shoulder and shaking and crying and saying my brother, only 14-years-old, he's in the plane, he's in the fourth row.

LEWIS: Fourteen year old, Teddy Ebersol is still missing. Today, authorities said they don't think he's alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have been unsuccessful in finding anybody. We believe at this time that the boy probably has perished within the crash.

LEWIS: Ebersol's wife, actress Susan St. James was not on the plane. She had gotten off in Montrose prior to the crash. The weather at the time was snowy and cold. Airport officials told NBC News the pilot did not have his wings de-iced.

(on camera): Federal rules say that's up to the pilot. But it raises a question for investigators, did ice on the wings, something that can interfere with a plane's ability to climb, cause the charter jet to go down?

This is an enormous tragedy for Dick Ebersol, a man who as head of NBC Sports, built a multi-billion-dollar Olympic television franchise. Investigators want to talk to Ebersol and his son as soon as possible, because they are the closest witnesses who can help the government sort out the details of what caused this crash.

George Lewis , NBC News, Montrose, Colorado.


OLBERMANN: At that news conference that began on the hour of the National Transportation Safety Board in Colorado, sad news, a body has been recovered now in this plane crash. It is believed to be that of Dick Ebersol's youngest son, Teddy. They will now be going through dental records to confirm that match, but to repeat the breaking news from Colorado, a body has been recovered of a young man believed to be the 14-year-old son of NBC Sports executive Dick Ebersol. More on Dick Ebersol in a moment.

First more on these planes and these airports. There was slush reported on that runway, the pilot as George Lewis reported, opted not to have the craft de-iced before trying to take off in the aftermath of an snow storm.

To try assess this from a an air safety point of view, I'm joined now by Jim Hall, former chairman of the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board.

Mr. Hall, good evening. Thanks for your time.


OLBERMANN: You've heard the outlines of this accident, of the decision not to de-ice under those conditions.

Do you have a best guess as to what probably happened?

HALL: Well, Keith, first, my condolences to the NBC family and of course my prayers are with the Ebersol's. That's got to be very difficult to have some family members live, survive the accident, and others killed in the accident. Obviously, everyone's first guess here would be to look at icing or some type of contamination that might have affected the lift of the aircraft. Of course that contamination could have come either on the aircraft's surface or it could have come off of the runway.

OLBERMANN: About this jet, the challenger CL-600, there was a test flight in October, 2000, they had a crash on takeoff, a huge fire, three crew members were killed. December of that year, they had another flight, captain trying to take off, but literally could not get the plane off the ground. No one was seriously injured but they had to abort. And now you have a flight that lasts less than 300 yards.

Is conceivably something wrong with this plane's capacity to take off?

HALL: Well, I know that the NTSB investigators working out of the Rocky Mountain office there will look very closely at the accident history of this aircraft in trying to determine what happened in this instance and to make safety recommendations in the future.

OLBERMANN: Do you think there could be something intrinsically unsafe or unsound about flying this kind of plane under these kind of weather conditions?

HALL: Well, let me say that this aircraft is part of a series of aircraft that was first manufactured in 1980, so it has a long history. However, the wing on this aircraft does have a hard leading edge, there are no slats. And a wing like this is very susceptible to any type of contamination. Now, I assume this was operating under the federal regulation called part 135, and it would have been the pilot's responsibility to insure that there was no contamination on the aircraft before he took off. But hopefully, the first officer or co-pilot, who survived, will recover and will be able to provide some additional information in addition, of course, to the cockpit and flight recorders.

OLBERMANN: Jim Hall, former head of the National Transportation Safety Board, many thanks for your time tonight, sir.

HALL: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And thanks for the kind words for the family. We appreciate it.

Repeating the late news from the NTSB in Colorado, a body has been recovered tonight from the crash site. It is believed to be that of Dick Ebersol's 14-year-old son, Teddy.

I mentioned earlier Mr. Ebersol's public persona as the president, latter chairman of NBC Sports and Olympics, it is that of the ultimate deal maker, the man who locked up the Olympics for NBC for 16 years. The man who walked away from the NFL and baseball and basketball when the money no longer made sense. The man who decided what time the World Series games would start.

But I wanted to give you some idea of who this man actually is, why the coverage of this tragedy has been as voluminous as it has been. Why those bring it to you have been as distraught as they have been. It's because the importance of Dick Ebersol is far greater than all the deals he ever put together and all the influence he ever wielded. Of all the individuals I've ever met in 25 years of broadcasting, he is the one who put people ahead of business. I know. I was one of them, three times.

In 1998, as my first show on MSNBC came to its messy end, the situation seemed irredeemable, possibly cataclysmic, there were lawyers. But Dick called one day and said I think I know a way out of this, you're too good a person, your bosses are too good people that this should end badly. Just stay calm, let me work on it. Two months later, he had convinced everybody at MSNBC to simply sell my contract to Fox, saved my career, saved NBC's public face.

Four years later, he did it again. He called into his office and casually mentioned that he wanted me to host the Olympics for him on cable. I pointed out to him that I had not left NBC under the best of circumstances, that there were still clearly hard feelings. Not from here, he said, matter of factly. With that I was back at NBC, simply because Dick Ebersol values people as much as he values the willing and the dealing.

The third time came just last summer. It was evident I was going to have to be in two places at once, in Athens to broadcast the Olympics for him and here to continue this program as the presidential campaign heated up. With the greatest possible reluctance, I was voting for here. He wasn't. He wanted me in Greece. One day he called up and said, I understand, we'll get through it.

That's why all of us who have or who have had the privilege of working for and with him are in such shock and grief now. I have often joked I'd like to be Dick Ebersol when I grew up. I still do. Not the executive. The man.

More tonight. Osama bin Laden's number-two says al Qaeda is patient and willing to face a long, drawn-out fight with the United States.

And speaking of drawn out, Jesse Jackson enters the recount fray in Ohio. That state's secretary of state will join us here tonight. Your watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Straight ahead here, al Qaeda's latest message to the U.S.

And why more troops, more than expected, could be soon headed to Iraq.



OLBERMANN: Eight times in six years before today a statement from Ayman al-Zawahiri has been released and eight times proved a harbinger to an al Qaeda attack or assassination attempt.

Our fourth story on the Countdown tonight is a 9th statement from Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant. It is released a month to the day that bin Laden's was.

And as our chief foreign affairs Andrea Mitchell reports, it seems to be considerably out of date.


ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The newly released videotape from Ayman al-Zawahiri appears to have been taped before the November presidential election. In it al-Zawahiri warns that al Qaeda will continue to target the United States until America changes its policies toward the Muslim world, no matter who the U.S. elected. In the tape, al-Zawahiri says the two candidates are competing to win the satisfaction of Israel and, he warns, we are a nation of patience, we will continue fighting you until the last hour. Past messages from the Egyptian-born pediatrician have been followed by terrorist attacks, most recently this September 9 video, one month later, al Qaeda bombed three Egyptian hotels, killing 34.

BRUCE HOFFMAN, TERRORISM ANALYST: With al-Zawahiri's appearance, al Qaeda almost seeks to lay down a marker, to presage or to almost to really set the stage for a terrorist incident.

MITCHELL: Intelligence analysts say the latest tape may have been recorded at the same time as the September 9 video. Same backdrop, same weapon. A neutral backdrop to prevent identifying the location. The words al-Zawahiri used are also important. His warning is similar to Osama bin Laden's message last month. Both men addressed the American people but are also reassuring supporters.

EVAN KOHLMAN, NBC NEWS ANALYST: While some of these threats may be serious and should be taken seriously, we have to also realize this is a propaganda tape.

MITCHELL: Last week Pakistan, under tremendous local pressure, suspended its search for bin Laden and al-Zawahiri in some tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. U.S. officials say the two men have not traveled together for a year and a half.

(on camera): Pakistan's President Musharraf, surviving two al Qaeda assassination attempts, will meet with the president Friday to discuss how to improve the hunt for the terror leaders.

Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN: To the other front of the administration's war on terror, Iraq, a new division splitting that country's religious and ethnic fractions over when to begin the first towards democracy. This weekend, the two main Kurdish parties switched positions, joining with their political enemy, the Sunni Arabs and now calling for a six-month delay in those elections. That announcement prompting 42 Shiite parties to sign a joint statement of their own, declaring support for the January 30 scheduled vote and warning postponing elections will send the wrong message to terrorists. The Shiites groups also argue that any delay would be illegal. Legal and illegal are relative terms in Iraq, just now ones often determined by how much firepower and how many men each side has at a given moment at a giving place.

From the Pentagon, our correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski reports tonight that this country's efforts to make sure it has the most men on its side come those Iraqi elections has now required a doubling of the planned increase in American personnel on the ground there.


JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT, (voice-over): Faced with the real threat of terrorist attacks during the Iraqi elections next January, U.S. military officials tell NBC News the Pentagon is planning to raise the number of American troops in Iraq by 10,000 to 11,000 to provide additional security. That's twice the number of needed reinforcements first anticipated. And will temporarily raise the number of U.s. Troops in Iraq to about 150,000. That means soldiers from the Army's 1st Infantry and 1st Cavalry and some who U.S. Marines, who were scheduled to leave Iraq this month may now be ordered to stay longer, while soldiers from the 3rd Infantry and 82nd Airborne could be ordered into Iraq earlier than scheduled. Even then, it would seem impossible to protect all 9,000 polling places in Iraq from terrorist attacks.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, MILITARY ANALYST: We could see 10, 20, 30, 50 people killed on election day in Iraq, including some American forces, some Iraqi security forces and some innocent voters.

MIKLASZEWSKI: Fifteen Iraqi political parties, mostly minority Sunnis, are demanding the elections be postponed for six months.

SHIBLEY TELHAMI, IRAQ EXPERT: If the Sunnis do not participate in the elections, it will raise questions about the legitimacy of the Iraqi government not only within Iraq, but especially in other Arab and Muslim countries.

MIKLASZEWSKI: But Secretary of State Colin Powell said today elections would be the most potent weapon against insurgents and terrorists.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: They must not be allowed to succeed. And the way to show the light to their efforts is to have a successful election on the 30th of January. And that's what we are all committed to.

MIKLASZEWSKI (on camera): Pentagon officials worry, however, that the terrorist bombings and assassinations are a powerfully effective form of intimidation.

(voice-over): The bodies of 70 Iraqis, most of them Iraqi security forces, were found executed last week in Mosul alone. Military officials do report since the U.S. invasion of Fallujah attacks across all of Iraq have dropped from 130 to 50 per day. But the fear is the insurgents are only regrouping for an all-out offensive in time for the elections.

Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon.


OLBERMANN: One of those 10,000 to 11,000 new slots in Iraq could be filled by a command sergeant major in the signal brigade who was asked to delay his mandatory retirement by a year, so that he can go with his troops to the warzone. It might be an exception story even if you didn't know the man's name. It certainly is when you meet Sergeant Major James Jordan, the senior enlisted man in the 33rd Signal Brigade at Fayetteville, North Carolina, and he and that state look and sound as familiar as they do. That is because at 47 years of age, he is the eldest brother of the basketball great Michael Jordan.


SGT. MAJ. JAMES JORDAN, U.S. ARMY: It happens. It depends on what you think was legally right or what's the right thing to do. The right thing to do if you're a leader, you lead from the front. I'm going to do what I have got to do. Just my time is not out. Thirty years is not 30 years; 30 years could be 31. So whatever it is, you've got to fall in line and make it happen. That's what I'm doing. What anybody would do. If you put yourself in the same situation, I think you'd do the same thing.


OLBERMANN: Another sports story, kind of. It's Ivy League football, and as usual it's more interesting to watch the fans than the players. "Oddball" will give you that opportunity. And it is the seemingly endless story - the Marilyn Monroe of royalty. New tapes, new sadnesses, 12 years after they were recorded, seven years after her death. Princess Diana tonight again in her own words.


OLBERMANN: We are back, and as we all slogged back to work today, there was strange consolation that the people who do all the dumb stuff that makes it into our strange news segment were already here waiting for us again.

Let's play "Oddball."

We begin in Mozambique, where a Belgian group has a new high-tech method of finding and destroying old land mines - giant Gambian rats. Giant Gambian rats, hello! The mines are left over from Mozambique's civil war, which ended over 10 years ago, and so far the huge rodents are showing some success. The trainers say the rats are better equipped for the job than metal detectors or bomb-sniffing dogs.

But how do you know when one of the giant Gambian rats has found an old land mine? Oh. Oh, dear.

To Glenwood Springs, Colorado. When they post those falling rocks ahead signs, they really mean it. Sure enough, just in time for the holiday travel rush, this rock slide closing down I-70, the main highway through the Rockies. No word what caused this one. No one injured, but a 24-mile stretch of the road was closed down for more than 30 hours as crews worked to clear and repair the road and turn big rocks into little rocks.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire in the hole!


OLBERMANN: A lot of stuff blowing up.

That's the traffic. Now the sports news, kind of. It's actually Ivy League football, which explains why it took nine days for anybody to notice. November 20, 2004, the 121st meeting of Yale and Harvard in football. And a group of Yale students made this video of themselves plotting and carrying out one of the great sophomoric pranks of all time. They now have posted this on the many Internets.

Dressed in Harvard colors, with shirts reading "pep squad," they Yalies raced through the Harvard fans, handing out red and white placards that were to held up at a certain moment in the game and would spell out in giant letters, "go Harvard." The crimson fans all obliged and held up their placards at the designated time.

Guess what? The card array did not spell "go Harvard." It spelled something else. Yes, it did, didn't it? That went by too fast for you? There it is again. The students are now selling commemorative posters of the event on their Web site. You can probably guess the address. All of it proving once again, as George Bush proved to Al Gore, that a Yalie can always run rings around them Harvards.

After days of protests, the Ukraine government gets to crack, or starts to crack. Calling for a new election there growing amid new evidence of voter fraud, and new calls here, Greens and Libertarians filing for more recounts, besides Ohio. Jesse Jackson joining the battle in that state. And that state's secretary of state joining us here.

These stories ahead, but first, here are Countdown's "Top 3 Newsmakers" or this day.

No. 3, Bernard Kensky, president of the Optimists Club of Quakertown, Pennsylvania. The group is disbanding after 24 years of community service and optimism in general, which in this case proved to be entirely unfounded.

No. 2, an unnamed archer in Sweden who was arrested for planning to aid a jailbreak. Officials say the man parked in the woods near the outer wall of the Marathraid (ph) prison in Stockholm and fired three cell phones over the wall using a bow and arrow. No one escaped, possibly because officials were on to the plan, most likely because it would take years, years to dig a tunnel under a wall with a cell phone.

And No. 1, Chrissy Hoover, owner of the Krispy Kream ice cream stand in Belsano, Pennsylvania. That's Kream. She is being sued by, you guessed it, Krispy Kreme. Hers is an ice cream place. The doughnut people wanted to change it now to something less confusing, you know, like Baskin' Ribbons, or Ben and Kerry's.


OLBERMANN: It could end up with a new vote or a new country or anything good or bad or in between.

Our third story on the Countdown tonight, the post-election chaos in the Ukraine, in which the nation's 21 Supreme Court justices began televised hearings into the presidential vote, and post-election strong words in Ohio, where the term fraud was openly used for the first time today and from which place Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell will join us in a few minutes.

First to Kiev. Ukraine's current president, Leonid Kuchma, now admitting under fire that a new election might be the only way to resolve the crisis, one that now threatens to break the former Soviet republic into two different states. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell among those to phone Kuchma today urging him to do all he can to keep the country intact.

More bad news for Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, the man originally designated president-elect. His campaign chief has resigned. Also stepping down is chairman of Ukraine's Central Bank. Yanukovych now saying that he, too, would support another vote if allegations of fraud are proven. His caveat, he says he has not seen any proof yet.

It appears the relentless protest on the streets of Kiev is having an impact. The opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, urging supporters today to keep going despite the freezing cold saying - quote - "The next couple of days will bring a solution."

Some of the most remarkable signals of protest in the former Soviet state are coming from the most unlikely source, state-run television. The first act of rebellion, an entirely silent one. It came last Thursday when a sign language interpreter named Natalya Dmitruk ignored the report about the prime minister's victory that she was supposed to be translating, signing instead - quote - "The results announced by the Central Electoral Commission are rigged. Do not believe them."

Ms. Dmitruk then declared that opposition candidate Yushchenko was the true winner, adding - quote - "I am very disappointed by the fact that I have to interpret lies. I will not do it anymore. I do not know if you will see me again." Since then, hundreds of journalists have been inspired to join Ms. Dmitruk in her act of defiance, choosing to walk off their jobs rather than report what they see as government propaganda.

Here, the prospective recount in Ohio now has cousins out west. The Green and Libertarian parties have today filed for recounts in Nevada and New Mexico. The complaints are based largely on the absence of paper trails for electronic voting in each state.

Back at the ranch, the word fraud has been used on the record by a former presidential candidate about the voting four weeks ago tomorrow in Ohio. In turn, the man who used the word was described by local Republican leaders as a - quote - "professional publicity hound." The Reverend Jesse Jackson spoke this morning in Cincinnati. He had addressed a rally in Columbus yesterday saying voting irregularities disenfranchised many of Ohio's citizens.

He also told reporters - quote - "The playing field is uneven. The rules are not public. The goals are not clear."


REV. JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: We want everybody to vote and their vote to count. We can we can live with winning and losing. We cannot live with fraud and stealing. Most Americans must know the election in Ohio has not been certified. This is the 28th of November; 26 days, that election has not been certified because there are patterns of irregularities that are impeding the process.


OLBERMANN: While Jackson reiterated the Democratic Party line that a different outcome is at best an unlikely result of a recount, Jackson had earlier told reporters that he spoke with Senator Kerry on Friday and that Kerry - quote - "supports the investigation. His lawyers are observing it closely."

But "The Baltimore Sun" quoted Kerry's chief Ohio attorney, Daniel Hoffheimer, as saying: "Our eyes are wide open. And to this date, we've found no evidence of confirmed fraud." Asked why, if Ohio had problems meriting the recount, Senator Kerry had conceded the election on November 3, Jackson was quoted by "The Cincinnati Enquirer" as saying: "Kerry was inclined to believe what he was told, and he was told the election was over. But now we're unearthing information that did not surface at first. I suppose the more information Kerry gets, the more you will hear from him."

Republicans today responded with a news release headlined "Democrats Struggle to Justify Unnecessary Recount," noting it will cost Ohio taxpayers $1.5 million and quoting the state GOP Chairman Bob Bennett as saying, "Jackson has a stellar reputation for ignoring the facts and distorting the truth."

The focus of criticism of the Ohio count and legal actions about it and a recount is the state's top election official, its secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell, who joins us now from Cincinnati.

Secretary Blackwell, thank you for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: When the Green and Libertarian parties filed for the recount, I didn't hear anybody in Ohio's government jumping up and down and applauding, but I also didn't hear anybody accusing them of being professional publicity hounds or of ignoring facts. Why the harsh reaction towards the Reverend Jackson?

BLACKWELL: Well, Keith, I think what happened is that Jesse Jackson ran around the block and tried to get out in front of a parade that was already on the march.

We had indicated that Ohio law allows for a recount once the vote has been certified. So, the recount is already a determination. You know, so for him to run around the block, get out in front of the parade, probably gives credibility to the charge that, you know, he is a provocateur for hire.

OLBERMANN: One of his suggestions and that of some of your critics has been that there is an attempt to make the window for a recount in Ohio so narrow as to make a recount meaningless. How would you respond to that criticism, sir?

BLACKWELL: We are, in fact, abiding by the law, which basically that, once there is a certification, you have five days to ask for a recount. I would anticipate that they will ask for a recount, the two minor-party candidates, and they will get it.

The fact of the matter is, is that they are entitled to request a recount. We are entitled to give them a recount, even though the cost to the taxpayers far exceeds the $120,000 that it will cost the two candidates to ask for this count. These are two gentlemen that, between them, got less than - got just a tad bit more than a quarter of 1 percent of the vote. They know, the courts know, the people know that they have no way of changing the results as it affects them. They have the standing, not Jesse Jackson.

And because Senator Kerry has conceded and has not asked for a recount, he has no standing. And so, I would anticipate that the Electoral College will be held on the 13th of December and our 20 votes will go to the certified winner.

OLBERMANN: Then again, as your law gives you the right to certify under the conditions that you mentioned, your laws also say how much a candidate is charged per precinct. It's not like these are the prices...


BLACKWELL: Oh, absolutely. And that's what I said. They are entitled to it under the law.

I think the legislature will probably have some work to do. This was a rule that was established in 1956. And the price of $10 per precinct was established, you know, back then. They're going to have to make a determination as to whether or not they want to keep at 1956 dollars or if they want to really have the recount charge reflect the real cost of doing business in the 21st century.

Hey, look, Keith, here's the deal. I just heard Jesse Jackson complaining about the unfairness and the unevenness of the field. Ohio has a delicately balanced bipartisan system that counts votes at the local level. I have nothing to do with counting the votes. They're done by the 88 county boards of elections. And let me give you a point here to show you the duplicity in Jesse Jackson's criticism.

In Franklin County, where Columbus, Ohio, is located, the head of the Board of Elections is an African-American Democrat, not just any Democrat, the head of the Franklin County Democrat Party. He is overseeing. You know what he said last week? He told Jesse Jackson to stop it. He says, what makes Jesse Jackson think that he would sit quietly and watch the African-American vote be suppressed or watch Democrat votes be suppressed?

You know, Jesse Jackson is just trying to stir up a hornets' nest. And what I've told people today is that Elvis is dead and I'm not going to fret over Jesse Jackson's misinformation and confusion.

OLBERMANN: As it plays into the recount, though, sir, are you saying that your office does not anticipate taking any steps to try to prevent a recount in Ohio?

BLACKWELL: No, we haven't. We've told the two officials candidates that have - the candidates that have asked for a recount that, once we certify on December 6, they have five days to certify, I mean, to ask for a recount.

Once they ask for a recount, we will provide them with a recount. And that's what I've said from the very first indication that they were interested in a recount. Once it was established that they were statewide candidates withstanding, our law says that they can ask for a recount. We will regard this as yet another audit of the voting process.

The reason it takes us from November 2 to December 6 to certify is because we have a very tedious, very comprehensive process where we audit five precincts across the state, every vote that was cast, to make sure that every vote that was legally cast is counted.

Look, Keith, we have 45,000 square miles of geography in Ohio, 88 counties. And, on Election Day, I was dealing and leading 50,000 poll workers and election officials. They did a great job. And what we are planning to do in February, in March, is to take a look at how we can improve our system.

The reality is, is that we have - 70 percent of our voters use a punch-card system that I tried to change and that bipartisan resistance in the legislature stopped. And so, we had the punch-card system. We have a system that allows us to manage a free and fair election, free of fraud, free of intimidation, and that's what we delivered on Election Day.

And we're very, very proud of it and we have the most scrutinized election system in the United States. And we are we have met every test. Every test, we have made. And I'm very proud of the 50,000 co-workers and election officials who delivered a free and fair election.

OLBERMANN: As part of that scrutiny, one of the criticisms regarding the campaign and the election in Ohio that was directed at you personally that, as the state's top election official, it is a conflict of interest, or, minimally, it is the appearance of a conflict of interest for you to have also been the honorary co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign.

As Reverend Jackson put it - and you may or may not agree with his presence there, but the phrase is certainly interesting - Mr. Blackwell cannot be the owner of the team and the umpire. Should those two jobs not be mixed?

BLACKWELL: Well, let me tell you, I just told you, Keith, we have a bipartisan system in Ohio, where the Hamilton County chairman of the Board of Elections, Tim Burke, is also the Democrat chairman of the Democrat Party in that county. The same for Dayton.

The Democrat chairman is the - is the chairman of the Board of Elections in Montgomery County. So, I've just given you three counties where Democrat chairmen who were pushing for John Kerry are the chairpersons of the boards of elections over our 88 counties. We have a checks-and-balance system that allows for a bipartisan review, a very transparent system.

And Jesse Jackson, let me just tell you, he would like to be the co-secretary of state of the state of Ohio, but Jesse Jackson has not had the courage or the credibility to run and get elected to dog catcher.

OLBERMANN: Last question, sir. Can you refute or confirm one of the Internet's favorite stories that no one seems to have gotten an answer, that you had a meeting with President Bush on the day of the election in Ohio?

BLACKWELL: That's just hogwash, absolutely zero, not true. And it's the sort of mythology that grows out of, you know, a lot of people with a lot of time on their hands and the imaginations of Jonathan Swift.

But it goes with the territory. Like I said, we had 45,000 square miles of geography, 88 counties' board of elections, 50,000 folks that ran a great election on Election Day. We had a record turnout of voters in Ohio. We had record registration. And I think the facts speak for themselves.

Thank you for having me and giving me an opportunity to speak to the truth of the matter.

OLBERMANN: Kenneth Blackwell, secretary of state in Ohio, our thanks for your time tonight, sir.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, sir.

OLBERMANN: Coming up, the future Supreme Court, Americans weighing in on whether justices forced to retire. A couple of those moral values issues came before the high court today. And later, an NBC News exclusive. They are 12 years old, yet brand-new within the canon, more tapes of the late Princess Diana.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Gay marriage and medical marijuana, both issues that came before the Supreme Court today. On one, the justices passed. And there are more newly discovered tapes of Princess Diana. A life has ended. Its sad echoes apparently never will.

Stand by.


OLBERMANN: Immediate multiple choice exit polling suggested the foremost issue deciding votes for president this year was moral values. Later, free-form polling suggested that ranked a distant third, behind other and Iraq.

In either case, the Supreme Court apparently did not get the moral values memo. Our No. 2 story on the Countdown, given the opportunity to knockdown the Massachusetts decision to legalize same-sex marriage there, it passed, the court effectively rejecting a conservative group's challenge to the legality of gay marriage in Massachusetts. By declining the case without comment, the justices let stand the 4-3 decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

That decision granted gay couples the right to marry under its own state Constitution, ordered the state legislature to make it so. In the past year, 3,000 gay couples have married in Massachusetts. And early attempts by the state legislators to enact a state constitutional ban on such marriages failed.

Today's failed challenge follows two lower-court decisions against Liberty Council, a conservative group which claimed the Bay State court has usurped its constitutional powers. By declining to hear the case, the Supreme Court effectively kept the hotly contested issue at a state level. Voters in 11 different states approving constitutional amendments banning gay marriage in the November election. And Massachusetts state lawmakers are considering a similar ballot measure for 2006.

But the court did hear arguments today on controversial medical treatments. And medical marijuana appeared to take a hit. Two seriously ill California women, one whose home was raided by federal agents, are plaintiffs in this case, which pits 11 state laws allowing the use of medical marijuana against a federal ban.

The high court has already dealt a blow to the 10 states that have active programs, declaring three years ago that the government could prosecute distributors. Today's plaintiffs, including one who grew her own cannabis, argued that the federal ban is unconstitutional if the drug does not cross state lines.

But Justice Stephen Breyer may have signaled the court's intention when he suggested that the issue should go to a federal judge regulator before it went to the court. All of today's Supreme Court activity went forward despite the continuing absence of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who has missed court sessions since he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in October.

Today, news of continuing radiation and chemotherapy and continuing absences for the chief justice through December. A court spokesperson says Rehnquist, who is 80, meets with law clerks and court officials at home and reads the legal briefs and transcripts from each case. But his illness created widespread speculation about his possible retirement and casts a sharp on the ages of all the justices, only one of whom, Clarence Thomas, is under 65.

According to an Associated Press poll released today, six out of 10 Americans favor mandatory retirement for Supreme Court justices, though the poll did not ask what that retirement age should or could be.

With that, we make the transition to the entertainment stories of "Keeping Tabs," starting tonight, where else, but in court. To the lyric, we don't need no compensation, education, those the words of the 1979 hit "The Wall" by Pink Floyd, the chorus of which was sung by a group of London schoolkids; 25 years later, royalties attorneys suing on behalf of the now adults who were never paid anything at the time.

The suit was filed on behalf of just one of them. They happened to be studying at a school near the studios where Pink Floyd was recording. Pink Floyd's "The Wall" is the third most successful album of all time, over 29 million copies sold. When the song came out, the school head banned the 23 former music students from appearing on TV or in the video or getting any cash, to which one of them said, no doubt, please, sir, I want some more.

Two new little potential bricks in the wall for actress Julia Roberts and Danny Moder, the pretty woman giving birth to twins yesterday at a Southern California hospital about a month early, about a month after she had been confined to her bed after premature contractions. Mom is fine. So are the kids, one, though, more than the other. The girl has been named Hazel Patricia Moder, but they stuck the boy with Phinnaeus Walter Moder, presumably after the character from the cartoon "Tennessee Tuxedo."

Phineas J. Whoopie, you're the greatest.

From a Macedonian demigod to a British princess, a sad NBC News exclusive tonight, new words about old sadness from a timeless public figure.

Stand by.


OLBERMANN: Whether it would astound the late Princess Diana to know just how many people would yearn to listen to her and for how long after her death they would continue to yearn is, of course, conjecture.

But in our No. 1 story on the Countdown tonight, seven years and nearly three months after her passing, new recordings of her words and frustrations and suspicions are coming to light. And they will transfix a large percentage of the public, while another large percentage will continue to miss that fascination.

Tonight, recordings from the early '90s made by a former actor, Peter Settelen, who was giving Diana voice lessons. NBC News has obtained exclusive access to some of that video. In September 1992, as her divorce was coming through, she revealed her relationship with Prince Charles had never been particularly satisfying, not even the day they first met, shortly after his great-uncle's funeral.


PRINCESS DIANA: And I said, you must be so lonely. It's pathetic watching you walking up the aisle at St. Paul's with Lord Mountbatten's coffin in front. I said, you know, it's ghastly. You need someone beside you. Wrong word, whereupon he leapt upon me and started kissing me and everything. And I thought, Waaah, you know, this isn't what people do. And he was all over me for the rest of the evening, followed me around, everything. A puppy. And, yes, I was flattered, but I was very puzzled.

He wasn't consistent with his courting abilities. He would ring me up every day for a week and then he wouldn't speak to me for three weeks. very odd. And I accepted that. I thought fine. Well, he knows where I am if he wants me. And then the thrill when he used to ring up was so immense and intense. Drive the other three girls in my flat crazy. but, No, it was all - it was odd.

PETER SETTELEN, ACTOR: There's virtually no sexual relations between you and Charles?

PRINCESS DIANA: Well, there was. There was. There was. But it was odd, very odd. But there was. It was there. And then it fizzled out about seven years ago. Six years ago? Well, seven was Harry. It's eight.

SETTELEN: How do you know it was odd?

PRINCESS DIANA: Instinct told me. It was just so odd. I just - I don't know.

There was never a requirement for it from his case. Sort of once every three weeks look about it, and I kept thinking. And then I followed a pattern. He used to see his lady once every three weeks before we got married. I remember saying to my husband, you know, why, why is this lady around? And he said, well, I refuse to be only prince of Wales who never had a mistress.


OLBERMANN: More of the exclusive Princess Diana tapes from the NBC News special, "Diana Revealed," tonight at 10:00 Eastern and Pacific, 9:00 Central time, on your local NBC station.

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

Good night and good luck.


Friday, November 26, 2004

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 26

Guest: Amy Henry, Nick Warnock


ALISON STEWART, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Ukraine's electoral crisis, President Bush weighs in. The opposing candidates can't solve the face-off, and tensions in the streets grow.

Deck the floors with trampled shoppers. We'll recap all the Black Friday madness and show you why some retailers have reached the point of no return.

Not King Arthur, not Indiana Jones, but NBC's Dawna Friesen explores a new theory can lead archaeologists to the Holy Grail.

And Tom turkey not the only casualty on Thanksgiving Day.


STEWART: Andy's goose is cooked, and Nick and Amy help us pick through the leftovers.

All of that and more now on Countdown.


STEWART: I'm Alison Stewart in for Keith Olbermann.

President Bush waded into the election fraud crisis today. A diplomatic drama with shades of the Cold War, pitting East against West and neighbor against neighbor on the streets of Ukraine. Our fifth story on the Countdown, negotiations and international concern, and an emergency meeting in the Ukraine. The major players spent the day trying to hammer out some kind of deal.

The meeting ended with a claim that progress had been made, whatever that means. The end result, though, no solution. At the same time, protesters on both sides of the conflict squared off on the streets of Kiev. Six thousand miles away in Crawford, Texas, President Bush issued a warning that the whole world is watches.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now there's just a lot of allegation of fraud that placed their elections, the validity of their elections in doubt. The international community is watching very carefully. People are paying very close attention to this. And hopefully it will be revolved in a way that brings credit and confidence to the Ukrainian government.


STEWART: Still in the Ukraine, thousands of miners from the eastern part of the country invaded the streets of Kiev today. It was a show of support for the man who supposedly won the presidential election, Prime minister Viktor Yanukovych. It was the first time that protesters from both sides faced-off.

Correspondent Julian Manyon of Britain's ITV News has our report.


JULIAN MANYON, ITV NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Into the lion's den of central Kiev came the supporters of the prime minister. These people say their leader, Viktor Yanukovych, won the election fair and square. They are ethnic Russians from the east of Ukraine. And today they found themselves vastly outnumbered by the followers of opposition leader, Viktor Yushchenko. He gave them a raucous welcome and called on them to change sides.

(on camera): Here at the main railway station, it's the orange of the supporters, against the blue ribbons against of the Prime Minister Yanukovych. The two sides are taunting each other from just a few yards apart. So far it's all good humored, but there's a sense that trouble is not far from beneath surface.

(voice-over): Joining the prime minister's ranks, thousands of coal miners from the Donbass pits; they could play a key role if violence starts. These supporters of the prime minister told me that the trouble is all a Western plot and that what Ukraine needs is a return to the Soviet Union. For the strength of this state is starting to crumble. More policemen have joined the demonstrators in the central square.

And the opposition is keeping up the pressure. At the presidential headquarters, pro-Yushchenko demonstrators pushed their way through a police cordon, but stopped short of trying to occupy the building. Instead, they want to bring government to a halt by blockading key ministries. At the cabinet office, where the prime minister normally works, they parked vans nose-to-tail to seal off the entrance. As an endless procession of protesters passed outside, we squeezed through barricade to find nervous guards virtually surrounded by determined demonstrators.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, we'll stay here until Yushchenko could be president.

MANYON: But that could be quite a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it will be in a week. Or maybe it will cost months or two months that we will be here.

MANYON (voice-over): Much hope now rests on the efforts of mediators, like the European Union's Javier Solana. He's managed to arrange talks with the two warring contenders for the presidency. But the stakes are getting higher all the time. Russia now says ominously, that west is trying to redraw the map of Europe. Tonight what began as an obscure election rattle is now rapidly becoming an international crisis.

Julian Manyon, ITV News in Kiev.


STEWART: Well, we turn from an election in dispute to an Election Day in dispute. Technically, there are only 65 days to go until Iraq's first free election. The concern there tonight is whether ongoing violence could delay that election.

Today was an especially violent day. In Fallujah, U.S. troops were ambushed as they entered a home during door-to-door searches of the city. Two Marines were killed. Three more were wounded. A car bomb exploded in Baquba, as a U.S. military convoy was driving past. That's according to witnesses. Three Iraqis were taken to a local hospital for treatment. A damaged U.S. Humvee was taken away from the scene.

And insurgents have also managed to penetrate the heavily protected Green Zone in central Baghdad. Authorities confirming today that four employees of a British security firm were killed in yesterday's mortar attack inside of the Green Zone. And the violence has prompted 17 of Iraq's leading political parties to demand a delay in Iraq's national elections. That was the conclusion reached in Baghdad today at a meeting attended by Sunni Muslims, Kurds, Christians and at least three Iraqi cabinet ministers.

Now, if they have their way elections now scheduled for January 30 won't be held until June or maybe even July. The meeting was held at the home of Adnan Pachachi, a member foreign minister and a member of the Iraqi Governing Counsel. He is well liked and respected by U.S. officials in Iraq.

For more on whether the election in Iraq should be postponed, we are joined by retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, who was in the First Gulf War, he's now an MSNBC military analyst.

Colonel Francona, we heard the Sunni Muslim parties calling for a boycott of elections before. But today they call for this postponement and they were joined by a whole lot of different parties. The shift, significant?

COL. LT. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: There's a real divide inside the Sunni community. You know, the major Islamic cleric group has called for a boycott. In other words, they don't want the elections to happen at all. What we're seeing now is a more moderate element coming forward and saying we have to be part of this. You know, there's going to be an election sooner or later, and if we don't at least stake out our position, the Shia are going to dominate everything.

STEWART: And is that what's uniting the Sunnis, this power play?

FRANCONA: I think so. I don't know that there's that united. But today it looked like it was the first time that everybody that is in favor of the elections got together. And I think there's trying to postpone it so they can get a better security situation. Right now, the concern is if they hold the election in January, the people that want it boycotted won't go. And the security situation will not let other that is want to vote get to the polls.

STEWART: Well, let's talk about the president. He was in Crawford today. Said he wants the votes to go scheduled on January 30. First question. Is it realistic?

FRANCONA: Well, up until today I would have said it was realistic. But when you've got someone of the stature of Pachachi coming out in favor of the postponement. And more importantly, the two major Kurdish parties which represent 20 percent of the population, saying they want a postponement. We're going to have to give serious consideration to pushing this back another six months.

STEWART: When you say someone the stature of Adnan Pachachi, remind people who he is and so well thought of? And why does he have so much sway?

FRANCONA: Well, Pachachi was a foreign minister in the Iraqi government prior to 1970. He went into exile in 1971. When he returned, he has such credibility with the people; he was part of the coalition authority, the interim government. And he was in line to be president. But he turned that down. He was the favored U.S. candidate to be the president.

STEWART: Now, given what's happening in the Ukraine tonight, how can we ensure confidence in an Iraqi election, especially since so many factions there are sure to end up disappointed?

FRANCONA: You know, this is going to be a real problem. When After the election is done, of course, there are going to be winners, there are going to be losers. And all of the losers are going to complain that election was rigged, it right, there's no credibility. So this has to be conducted very, very, you know, well and transparently, so it looks like it's a credible election. Because when it's all over, it has to be perceived as legitimate. The new government has to be accepted by the people, not only in Iraq, but in the region as well.

STEWART: To be continued. Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, a Gulf War vet who also served at the American Embassy in Iraq. We thank you so much. Have a safe weekend.


STEWART: To the election, all but over here in the states, and the votes that may soon be recounted in Ohio. And an official explanation for why some Ohio votes were counted twice. Any observer of and Ohio recount, should there actually be one, would be wise to focus on one Warren County. That's where officials counted votes behind closed doors, locking reporters and everybody else out of the administrative building, in the name of an apparently nonexistent homeland security threat. Imagine that.

Various citizen action groups have told the "Columbus Dispatch" they are puzzled by some of the results. For example, three thousand votes were cast there in the race for president than all those cast in the race for Senate and the constitutional amendment about same-sex marriage. Hmm. George W. Bush who won the vote in Warren County, 72 percent to John Kerry's 27 percent.

And in Sandusky County, an explanation for why some votes were counted twice. Officials say election workers trying to back up all the vote totals on a computer storage disk managed to hit the save button on 2,600 of those votes. Well, let's just say it was more than once.

More top spies. The CIA packed up their desks. Is turnover at the spy agency hurting us in the war on terror?

And all hyped up on stuffing and yam, shoppers hit the stores. But behind the scenes, retailers fear empty aisles. So they resort to extreme advertising, dude, on Countdown.


STEWART: CIA boss Porter Goss's mission to overhaul the agency is causing major drama. More top spies quit and blamed it on abuse from the Goss team. Is the reshuffle putting our national security at risk?


STEWART: The best buy drama of the holiday season does not feature Jennifer Garner in a platinum wig. Instead, it may be the real live exodus from the CIA headquarters outside of Washington, D.C. Our fourth story in the Countdown, more blood letting in the intelligence community. Four more officers of the CIA saying, in effect, they'd rather quit than work for the new chief, Porter Goss.

Today we learned, the agency's chief financial officer and her deputy have told officials they've decided to leave. And "The New York Times" has reported that two more senior intelligence officials are resigning because they feel uncomfortable with the new management led by Goss, a former Republican congressman. The officials have not been named because they're working undercover in charge of recruiting foreign spies and conducting covert operations over seas.

On Monday, the president ordered the agency to increase its number of spies and analysts by 50 percent. Now, if you read the 9/11 Report, you know the CIA needs fixing. The question is this the best way to go about it.

Here to help us sort this out is MSNBC analyst Roger Cressey, a former National Security Council and White House counter terrorism official.

So, Roger, the question is this the best way about going about fixing the CIA?

ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC ANALYST: Oh, It could be done a lot better. I think every president has the right to put in a director, and that director can put in the management team they want. But when there's so much chaos and upheaval, as a result of the way Director Goss is doing this, it's going to affect performance. Because people are more concerned about the comings and goings inside the agency, than they are doing their job.

STEWART: Now, wasn't the big concern about Porter Goss that he would be partisan and would behave so? And what he's done so far, does this qualify as partisan behavior or just a certain management style?

CRESSEY: It's more of a certain management style. At least I hope that's the case. He clearly came in with a mandate to affect change. And frankly, change is not a bad thing here, if you believe the system is broken. But the way that he's done it has demonstrated a certain tone-deafness, if you will. And that will resonate with the career bureaucracy. And I think you see this wholesale regulation of the senior management inside the agency right now, that is not good for the long-term health of the agency. And that is something we really have to keep a close eye on.

STEWART: Now, you've worked in a lot of different cultures in Washington, at the White House, State Department, Pentagon. What is it about the CIA culture that makes it so different?

CRESSEY: Well, the CIA is one of the few agencies where the mid and senior management comes up through the ranks. You don't have political appointees parachuting in, as the deputy director for operations or the deputy director for intelligence. And frankly, the culture there is very clear, in that if you haven't worked there, if you haven't gone up through the system, it's difficult for you to know how things actually work. I think a lot of people feel that way inside the agency.

So when they see Goss and his team coming in, and really in a very fractious way trying to change things, there's going to be a backlash. And that backlash could be a real negative for how the agency doe its job.

STEWART: Let's talk about the president's involvement here. He's ordered an increase of hiring by, I believe it is, 50 percent. Is it realistic to think that there are that many qualified experts out there? And where do you think you need the most work in the CIA?

CRESSEY: Well, I think this is part of the strategic plan that Director Tenet set up in December of 2003. So implementation of that is the right thing to do. With that said, the type of people we need and the targets we want to penetrate is real tough. We're talking North Korea. We're talking Iran. We're talking transnational threats, such as al Qaeda and criminal cartels. It's not the type of people we can just pull out of the Ivy League and say hey, got to cocktail parties, collect intelligence and report back.

So the type of people you need to do these non-official covered jobs, they could be very talented and in very short supply. So it's safe to assume we want to train and recruit as much as we can. But we need to be realistic about how many of these people are actually out there.

STEWART: So many great points. Roger Cressey, terrorism analyst for NBC and MSNBC. Thank you for your time this holiday weekend. Be safe.

CRESSEY: It's good to see you, Alison.

STEWART: You know it's a sad time when a Santa can't jump out of a plane. Details on "Oddball."

And some breaking Martha Stewart holiday news. As well as the ladies of "The Apprentice 2." Hello, from boardroom to a photo and not too much is left to the imagination.


STEWART: Hi, I'm Alison Stewart, holding down the fort for Keith Olbermann.

And it's time for the nightly equivalent of a tryptophan, post-Thanksgiving turkey high. Let's play "Oddball."

We begin in Anaheim, California where this kind of thing used to be the norm after every Friday after thanksgiving. Santa with four of his favorite elves jumps from his reindeer-powered plane, opens his magic parachute, and lands in a local mall. That's the kinds of thing that used to happen back when I was a tyke.

Then the F.A. declared the three-mile area around Disneyland a No-Fly Zone. So this year, Santa has been grounded. Instead of a sky dive, he got a hot air balloon, which is firmly tethered to the ground the whole time. Don't jump, Kris Kringle. Don't do it.

To England, where the four-star Travel Lodge Hotel is offering certain couples a blessed break this Christmas, just so long as your names are Mary and Joseph. If you produce correct identification, you get a free room for one night at the inn, if there's room. No immaculate conception required. Donkey is optional.

Over to Germany, the self-proclaimed land of chocolate. The land of chocolate. At least the one room of chocolate. Just in time for the holidays, the nation's oldest chocolate factory finished its masterpiece; a perfectly proportioned dining room made with nothing but 500 pounds of marzipan and 2,00 pounds of sweet chocolaty goodness.

The stucco was lovingly painted with melted white chocolate. The wall panels are made entirely from sweet and bitter dark chocolate. And that's actually good for you, dark chocolate. There's even a rocking chocolate chair, offering a dual benefit of a comfy seat and a comfort suite. My definition of heaven.

As shoppers rushed the stores, some businesses have some new software tracking software tracking you, especially if you're one of those returnaholics.

And a legend of the Holy Grail; hello, Da Vinci Code. New news this week on efforts to solve the mystery. Those stories ahead.

But now, here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day, a special Thanksgiving tribute.

No. 3, Mr. Frank Palacias of Worcester, Massachusetts sitting down at Thanksgiving dinner with his family. Frank started picking at the turkey with his fingers. Two of his relatives took offense and told him to use a knife. To which he responded by picking up the knife and stabbing them. Neither was seriously hurt and Frank will be picking at his Christmas turkey behind bars.

No. 2, Martha Stewart already spending the holidays behind bars, but that has not stopped her from trying to make a gourmet Thanksgiving meal. "The New York Post" reports she was caught smuggling condiments and spare food, including Brown sugar, powdered sugar, cinnamon and butter out of the prison kitchen. Ooh, that could make something good.

Apparently she hid them in her bra and then stored the goods in her locker, prompting "The New York Post" headline, "Nice Spice Rack."

And No. 1, an unidentified female caller to the Butterball turkey hotline. She was prepping a Thanksgiving bird on the kitchen counter, when her pet Chihuahua crawled inside and got stuck. She tried to grab him, tried to shake him. And then, the lady finally called the turkey hotline. Their advice, a few precision snips around the cavities finally provided enough give and the little guy escaped unscathed. But the dog was heard to example claim "yo quero turkey."


STEWART: I'm Alison Stewart in for Keith Olbermann. Dawn broke across retail America today, and shopkeepers far and wide woke up with a gleam in their eye. Our No. 3 story on the Countdown tonight, 28 shopping days until Christmas. Or for those who are really sweating it, 675 hours. Now, if you're feeling Grinchy, quit it. And if there's a list in your pocket, whip it out.

As our correspondent Anne Thompson reports the red and green of the Christmas season makes for a really good Black Friday.


ANNE THOMPSON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's America's version of the running of the bulls. Shoppers in a Birmingham mall squeeze through the door and over each other at one in the morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was chaos. I mean total chaos.

THOMPSON: The crowd grew as the temperature fell at a Denver Best Buy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those people got here at three. We're late. We got here at five.

THOMPSON: Long lines formed from coast to coast, as the curtains rose on a season that's expected to be solid but not spectacular.

MARSHALL COHEN, RETAIL ANALYST: This is going to be very similar to last year. It's what I call the carbon copy Christmas.

THOMPSON: The projection, a 3 to 4 percent increase in sales. Consumers are expected to spend $220 billion, encouraged by what appears to be an improving economy, but held back by high energy prices.

Today, armed with a list, Rich and Ann Schultz (ph) went looking for bargains.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty percent off, Ann. This is what he likes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I got more coupons.

THOMPSON: With a second child, the Chicago couple plans to spend more this year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do look at the price, but if I really like something, I'm going to buy it.

THOMPSON: In fact, analysts think quality, not quantity, will be this year's hallmark.

(on camera): Yet, for all of today's initial insanity, so far, there appears to be no one must-have gift, no one must-have toy on consumers' radar. And for retailers, that's a concern.

(voice-over): Terry Lundgren is CEO of Federated Department Stores, overseeing Macy's, Bloomingdale's and five regional chains.

(on camera): So, Terry, when you walk through the store today, what are you looking for.

TERRY LUNDGREN, CEO, FEDERATED DEPARTMENT STORES: I'm looking for numbers of customers. I'm looking to make sure that the customers are being serviced properly by all of our associates. I'm looking for bags. The smaller, the better, by the way.

THOMPSON (voice-over): But consumers looking for deep discounts may be disappointed.

LUNDGREN: Last year, we marked down cashmere early, because it was a warmer holiday season. We sold out. We didn't have it for the prior two weeks before Christmas. So we have learned our lesson. We're going to have a little more courage this year.

THOMPSON: As retailers try to hold the line on cutting prices, hoping customers won't hold back.

Anne Thompson, NBC News, New York.


STEWART: Now, those shoppers weren't lucky enough to be awakened at the crack of dawn by the soft, sultry sounds of a celebrity voice. Target offered presidential wakeup calls to remind shoppers of its post-Thanksgiving Day sale using the recorded voices of Ice T, Cheech Marin sans Chong, and Heidi Klum, who, if you can't see her, I'm not really sure what the point is.

Anyway how, our own Monica Novotny reports, advertisers have a slew of tricks up their sleeves to get you to pay attention.



MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's not your mother's commercials. The hottest ads these days are accessorizing with cross-promotions, mini-movies, even ads that have air own ads. A credit card promotion airing earlier this month on the three major networks.


ANNOUNCER: Stay tuned to watch Ellen's rocking new rocking ad during an all new "Will & Grace."


NOVOTNY: This one featuring talk show host Ellen DeGeneres that also has its own Web site, featuring more Ellen.

ELLEN DEGENERES, TALK SHOW HOST: Behind you, your boss is coming up behind you. Your boss is coming up behind you.

JERRY DELLA FEMINA, ADVERTISING EXECUTIVE: A commercial has to work harder and do more.

NOVOTNY: Advertisers supersizing the 30-second spot, hoping to catch your attention by any means necessary. Advertising veteran Jerry Della Femina.

FEMINA: It all comes together as one, literally as one big package, and that's a package that advertisers never got before. There's reaching people in so many different ways.

NOVOTNY: And thinking bigger than ever, turning commercials into movies. Nicole Kidman's latest film is a two-minute perfume advertisement.

NICOLE KIDMAN, ACTRESS: I did that with my friend and director Baz Luhrmann. He directed "Moulin Rouge." And that was sort of the thing. We loved the idea and going and doing something with this particular brand, so he concocted this whole little mini-film, complete concept.

NOVOTNY: There's also making movies at Amazon.com, featuring celebrities, but not Amazon, no mention of the site, the books, the sales, just this CEO cameo.


NOVOTNY: Over at Wendy's, a new spot featuring their old favorite, hoping the sight of Dave Thomas, who passed away two years ago, might catch your attention.

One tactic that has not changed, controversy remains king.

NICOLETTE SHERIDAN, ACTRESS: I've got a game we could play.

NOVOTNY: That "Monday Night Football" featuring one of ABC's "Desperate Housewives." The towel dropped, then the jaws, cross-promotion at its most controversial. But is the effective?

FEMINA: That same scene on "Desperate Housewives,' no one would pay any attention to. But the fact is, they went in there. And it's not cross-promotion. It was an ambush. There are parents who say, I don't want my child to see that, and you took that choice away from them. And that's not fair.

NOVOTNY (on camera): Other than the occasional controversy, for a moment, it seemed as if viewers had more control than ever, paying for digital video recorders, avoiding commercials altogether. But rest assured, even those ads will be back.

(voice-over): You won't get to do this on TiVo much longer. In March, the service that let you skip commercials will feature pop-up billboards when you do. So is this the beginning of the end?

FEMINA: People love it. No one's going to hate it because they have to look at a billboard. They won't look at the billboard.

NOVOTNY: So you can run, but you can't hide. Advertising is coming outside of the box and the commercials keep coming.

FEMINA: There's a lot of things hitting the consumer at the same time. We're in a very competitive business. We're trying to reach these people. We're doing everything in our power to get to them. So it's sort of oneupmanship. Can you do this? I will do that.

NOVOTNY: For Countdown, Monica Novotny.


STEWART: And from the dawn of the shopping experience to its sunset, the moment when that cross-promoted, feverishly hyped consumer good turned out to be not so good. Returning a purchase is never a high point in the life of a consumer.

But as our correspondent Tom Costello reports from West Nyack, New York, there's a crackdown in stores for customers known as problem returners.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Peek inside 23-year-old Lauren Baumhauer's closet.

LAUREN BAUMHAUER, SHOPPER: These are from Express. These are from Express. These are from express.

COSTELLO: And you'll see a loyal Express customer. But Lauren says that loyalty was tested recently when she tried to return a newly-bought shirt for a different color.

BAUMHAUER: The shirt I had originally tried to return was this exact same shirt in just a darker pink.

COSTELLO: Express had turned her down, her fifth return in two months. A new computer program had identified her as a potential problem customer who could be taking advantage of a generous exchange policy.

BAUMHAUER: I'm indecisive, and to go into a store, if I want to return something, I think that should be OK.

COSTELLO (on camera): But what Lauren didn't realize is that Express, like all retailers, has the right to refuse a return. And many of them are now collecting driver's license information to build a database on what customers return and how often.

MARK HILINSKI, THE RETURN EXCHANGE: We're trying to combat fraudulent and abusive returns. Fraudulent and abusive returns in the retail industry are causing a $16 billion problem today.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Mark Hilinski's company, The Return Exchange, developed the software that tracks customers and their returns, software now used by Express, K.B. Toys, Sports Authority, and Staples, to name a few.

Express tells NBC News, "The only individuals possibly affected by our process would be those who exhibit extremely abnormal return patterns." But privacy advocate Jordana Beebe says customers get virtually no warning that their returns are past the point of no return.

JORDANA BEEBE, PRIVACY ADVOCATE: We just kind of feel it's a pretty big dragnet to be capturing innocent consumers in.

COSTELLO: Innocent or not, with shoplifters getting more sophisticated by the day, retailers say they have no choice but to fight back with technology.

Tom Costello, NBC News, West Nyack, New York.


STEWART: The ages-old search for the Holy Grail. Some of the world's best code crackers think they're on the verge of a breakthrough. And the crackdown in the boardroom. Tempers flare and the Donald sends the debate boy packing, because he couldn't get ahead of the two women on his team. That's ahead.

Now here are Countdown's top three sound bites of this day.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The primary movers are Prime Minister Blair and Bertie Ahern of Ireland, who have been working very diligently on this. I appreciate their efforts. And anything I can do to help keep the process moving forward, I'm more than willing to do.

Listen, I've got to go eat a burger. Thank you all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): SpongeBob SquarePants, SpongeBob SquarePants, SpongeBob SquarePants.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He kind of looks like he's sleeping.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like he's sleeping. He does kind of look like he's sleeping. You're right. Maybe he ate too much turkey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he might have.


JAY LENO, HOST: There's no other country where you'll see their leader bowling with frozen turkeys. OK?





STEWART: A mystery from the ages and a great Monty Python movie.

Where's the Holy Grail? Experts think they may be a step closer.

And Countdown counts its blessings, our favorite stories for which we should all give thanks.


STEWART: It eluded King Arthur, entertained Monty Python, and immortalized Indiana Jones. Now its true location could soon be revealed, thanks to a cryptic message in the English countryside.

Our second story on the Countdown, the quest for the Holy Grail. Code-breakers from around the world are working to crack a set of clues etched on a 200-year-old stone monument to a British lord. If they succeed, it could put an end to centuries of searching for the true cup of Christ.

NBC's Dawna Friesen reports.


DAWNA FRIESEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For centuries, it's inspired writers and moviemakers, the legends of a Holy Grail.


ANNOUNCER: This certainly is the cup of the king of kings.

FRIESEN: And nestled in a glade of a stately British home, Shugborough Hall, sits a stone monument which may hold a new clue, on it, an enigmatic image of shepherds and a series of letters.

RICHARD KEMP, GENERAL MANAGER, SHUGBOROUGH ESTATE: Well, it was actually carved in 1748.

FRIESEN: Since then defying anyone to unlock its secrets.

KEMP: The juxtaposition of that combination of letters and the way they're arranged with the painting above, that has made us want to try and unravel whatever the messages are.

FRIESEN: Now World War II code-breakers who unraveled Hitler's U-boat Enigma code at Britain's Bletchley Park have been called in. After poring over the evidence and 100 theories sent in from people around the world, this week they unveiled one, the most convincing, that it's a riddle related to a secret society and possibly a clue to the location of the Holy Grail.

OLIVER LAWN, BLETCHLEY PARK CODE BREAKER: I would assume that these letters have something to do with the secrecies, the secrets, of those sorts of societies with which the Anson family had links.

FRIESEN: The Ansons owned Shugborough Hall and built the monument. George Anson, an admiral in the British Navy, was reputed to be a member of the Priory of Sion, spiritual successor to the Knights Templar.

Anson is said to have captured an ancient tablet from a French ship and buried it on an island off what is now Nova Scotia, Canada. It has entranced treasure hunters for over 200 years. The monument holds another clue. The shepherds are a mirror image of a painting by the artist Poussin, also said to be a member of the Priory of Sion.

KEMP: It does make a real connection between the Ansons' deliberate work and the Templars and through them the Holy Grail again.

FRIESEN: A connection, but not a solution to what remains one of the world's most tantalizing mysteries.

Dawna Friesen, Staffordshire, England.


STEWART: Moving from the stuff of legends to our nightly roundup of celebrity stories in a segment we like to call "Keeping Tabs."

And not at all cheery news from '80s sitcom star Shelley Long. She allegedly tried to commit suicide earlier this month. The 55-year-old actress, best known for her role as Diane in "Cheers" was rushed to the hospital November 16 after apparently taking an overdose of painkillers. Friends tell the British tabloid "The Sun" that Long is extremely depressed over the breakup of her marriage, barely eating and spending long periods of time in bed. She was released from the hospital this Tuesday.

Now, moving from real-life drama to reality drama on "The Apprentice," which is kind of like real life, but it's not. But, anyhow, in a moment, our regular Friday night quarterbacks, Nick and Amy, will give their insights on the show.

First, last night's fiery final boardroom. It erupted in a catfight that left the only man on the losing team at the end of the losing deal.


DONALD TRUMP, DEVELOPER/BUSINESSMAN: Why didn't you tell Sandy you made that decision?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. That's a little unfair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I didn't feel it was relevant.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you scared to come in here and stand on your own two feet?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said that you are stronger, OK? That's pretty sad.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She had all day to think about how she was going to defend you.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard it loud and clear, and I think that everybody here did, too.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:... pass that on to you, Sandy? It's irrelevant.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll tell you what I said. I'll stand by what I said.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You let Jen know before you walked in here that you were choosing her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct. Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So she had all day to back you up.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That makes a lot of sense. She has all day to ponder it and back you up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is forming an alliance and coming in here...


TRUMP: Andy. You're just being pounded on. You're being outdebated. I just don't want somebody running one of my companies that's going to get beaten up so badly.

You're fired.


STEWART: OK, my ears are bleeding. I don't know about you.

I'm joined once again by the veterans of the first season of "The Apprentice," Amy Henry and Nick Warnock.

You guys look worn out by that as well.


STEWART: Nick, was that the right go? Andy, did he deserved to be fired?

NICK WARNOCK, FORMER "APPRENTICE" CONTESTANT: Not one bit. Trump made a mistake. Sandy should have been gone.

However, for a debate champion, this guy didn't perform too hot. And I was a little disappointed. I'm a little depressed as well. He was my guy.

STEWART: All right, Amy, tell me what you think about that display we just saw.

HENRY: Well, Andy said it best last week. There's a time to speak up and a time to shut up and listen. And there was no reason for him to speak up in that catfight. It was totally unproductive. And I thought that one of the two women should have been out.

But I'm looking forward to next week to see them work together.

STEWART: That's my question for you. Do you think that one of them is going to implode or will they be able to work together?

HENRY: I think there's going to have to do some major apologizing, hugging, kissing, making up, because they really need a win to make sure that both of them make it to the final four next week. I don't see it happening, but I think it's going to be one of the best episodes ever next week.

STEWART: Nick, do you think those two women are going to be able to make it through, Jen and Sandy?

WARNOCK: They have to get some - I don't think so, no. I don't think any apologies can mend what happened in that boardroom.

And I'd like to defend women for a second. Now, Amy calls that cattiness or catfighting or whatever, bickering. But if that was men, they would be considered tough. So I'm going to stick up for them and say they were fighting for their lives in there.

STEWART: Look at you.

WARNOCK: And I am available to women.

STEWART: Nick turns out to be a feminist.

Does that work for you in the bars there, Nick? I hope so.

WARNOCK: Well, I'm hoping so.

STEWART: Let's talk a little bit. You guys have such great insight to what goes on behind the scenes. That boardroom clearly was a turning points for Andy. Does Mr. Trump, does he see the whole task or does it just come down to pieces and then the boardroom is really important?

Amy, fill us in.

HENRY: Well, the boardroom is clearly important, as Nick knows. He survived the boardroom more than anybody last season.

But that's why he's got his experts, George and Carolyn, who watch us throughout the entire tasks, and gives him basically the highs and lows and everybody's strongest performance and all of their weak spots as well, so that he has a pretty good I would say synopsis or Cliff Notes of the overall task.

STEWART: All right, Nick, give us your take on the boardroom.


WARNOCK: It doesn't come down to the boardroom in general.

But it's accumulated over the whole course of the show. It's not just one task. But the boardroom is the most important. That's where you build rapport. That's where you sell yourself to the decision-maker who's ultimately going to either send you home or hire you. So it's important. But he takes into consideration other things as well.

STEWART: Now, Amy, watching those two women go at each other, you folks are living together. You're all involved in each other's lives. How difficult was that?

HENRY: Well, it's extremely difficult. There's 18 this season, 16 last season. We shared one kitchen. We were responsible for cooking, cleaning. We had one bathroom for all 16 people.

And I don't know about you, but even trying to deal with eight other women on one side of the bathroom was a complete nightmare. But you know what? At the end of the day, it really promotes the confrontation and heat of the tasks, so that you've got good television, and that's what it's all about.

STEWART: And I've got to get this in. I'm sure you know there's a new maxim that is out there with five of the girls from this season. I believe it is a whole bunch of folks. I know you took part in one of - well, hello. Look at that picture. It's quite racy. You took part in one of those, Amy.


HENRY: I can't see it, and I'm probably glad.

STEWART: Why did you do that? Was that promotion? Was that something you wanted to do when you did that spread?

HENRY: You know what?

STEWART: There you are. Oh, you look great, by the way.

HENRY: Thank you.

It's one of those 15 minutes of fame, bad judgment calls. It was the first publicity stunt that we did. And, you know, it was before "The Apprentice" was successful, and I just thought it would be something nice to have in my scrapbook and never really thought that it would still be gracing the covers of national television and national magazines. But you know what? It's all in good fun.


WARNOCK: Well, Amy, I can assure you that it's made my scrapbook.


STEWART: Oh, you just lost all your feminist points there, Nick. You had it so close now.


STEWART: Nick Warnock and Amy Henry, thanks a lot.

HENRY: Thanks. Have a great weekend.

WARNOCK: Take care.


STEWART: Take care. You guys, be safe. And we will see you next week.

Finally, tonight, there's one person who heard the magic words you're fired this year. Donald Trump's fiance is the new supermodel for Levi's Jeans. She was not fired. The company hired Melania Knauss after she made a cameo appearance on last week's show wearing a tight-fitting pair of famous jeans. See, business really is all about the bottom line.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the crew here on Countdown is counting its blessings and thanking the news gods. You won't want to miss this.


STEWART: Thanksgiving is a memory, the turkey only history, that day, a day gone by. But we feel the need to give more thanks, and let us tell you why. We're grateful, yes, grateful are we, for the stories we once knew, the big ones, the odd ones, and the ones we've all lived through.

The Countdown staff gives thanks with a trip down memory lane, the days that brought joy, the days that seemed inane. Now, Keith may not be here, but from him, we take a cue. I slipped into rhyme, because, when in Rome, do as others do.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I don't know when the countdown started, but I've been watching.

TRUMP: Hurricane Ivan, you're fired.

Is that OK?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The death tax will eventually come back to life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perry (ph), can you tell us how old you are today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm 82 years old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eighty-two years young might be a better way to put it.


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Particularly were we blessed. In this election year, the well never ran dry as the big day grew near. On one side, the senator, flip-floppy, aloof, on the other, the president, the cowboy, maybe goof.


DR. PHIL, HOST: Were you all spankers. Did you spank them?

G. BUSH: Not really.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: Not very often.


OLBERMANN: Thank you, Mr. Kerry. You took dorkitude to new heights.

Thank you, Mr. President, for those first-rate sound bites.

BUSH: You need some wood?

OLBERMANN: And let us give thanks for the primary circus and the 10 little Democrats in each of their quirkus. Yes, I said quirkus. Thanks, John, John. Thanks, Dennis. Thanks, Joe, Bob and Carol, Mr. Gephardt, the good reverend and the Democrat general. You all gave so much to the political machine, but one man gave more still.

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All right. Which has more bacteria in it, dog pee or water from the river?

OLBERMANN: Ladies and gentlemen, Howard Dean!

We give thanks for our lifeblood, a steady diet of absurd, the strange news, celebrities, a Barbie leg on a bird, the oddballs, the goofballs, the weirdos, the strange, the guy with the stomach full up with loose change.



OLBERMANN: Break-dancing with the pope, a horse drinking beer, and oh, yes, Ralph Nader. Was he in it this year?

RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Neither George W. Bush, nor John Kerry have an exit strategy.

OLBERMANN: To the masters of science and brand-new technologies, strange animals of all kinds and freaks of biology, the toilet of the future.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The wash lid provides gentle aerated warm water cleansing.

OLBERMANN: A machine that kicks butts, monks and in the state Capitol kicking heaven knows what. Pinky (ph) the cat and the poor schmoe in flannel and the guy who sells swords on the Home Shopping Channel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the nice thing about these practice katanas -

Ow! Oh! That hurt.

OLBERMANN: Thanks, Michael and Courtney and Britney and Martha and all our dumb criminals, who just ain't that smart-ha.

DONNELL WINSTON, CHARGED IN BANK ROBBERY: I'm a drug dealer, not a bank robber. I'm the one with the drugs. I'm the mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) drug dealer.

OLBERMANN: Thanks for that wonderful song that Robert Blake sung and the man, the myth, the legend that is William Hung.


OLBERMANN: Thanks to our good friends at Fark and the folks SmokingGun.commed, without whom there would be no photos when Macaulay Culkin got bombed. Worse yet, we might have missed this year's creepiest story of that guy over on Fox in of all his glory.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: Obviously, they have major problems over there.

OLBERMANN: One day, we may lose that awful image and subsequent waffle of Bill O'Reilly in the shower holding his falafel.

And to my wonderful staff, who share in the successes and the blame.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just love him.

OLBERMANN: I would thank you each personally, if I could remember your names.

But on this Thanksgiving in this time of plenty, we're thankful most to you, our viewers, all 20.


STEWART: And one last thanks to you for keeping us in your sights.

I'm Alison Stewart, in for Keith. He'll be back Monday night.