Thursday, January 27, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Jan. 27

Guest: Richard Boucher, Donald Claxton, Tom Lorenz, Dennis Adamo


ALISON STEWART, GUEST HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The insurgents assault won't let up. A day of bombings aimed at sites where Iraqis were supposed to vote. We'll get latest on the ground in Baghdad. And talk to State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher.

The L.A. train tragedy. The death toll rises as survivors recount the horrifying crash. Rescue workers getting praise for their flawless response.

Kids find money, kids keep money, even share with a classmate. The drug dealer who stashed the hundred grand had a problem with that, and he's not shy about wanting it back. An entire community is on edge.

Putting the science in CSI. Crime scene shows are all the rage on the tube, now they're all the rage in the classroom. And some teachers couldn't be any happier.

And is that your cell phone in your pocket or are you just really happy to see me? Jenna Jameson makes a big splash with the way cell phone users reach out and touch someone. All that and more now on Countdown.


STEWART: And good evening to you, I'm Alison Stewart here, while Keith Olbermann is enjoying a well deserved vacation.

Many Americans won't venture out to vote when it is even raining outside, raising the question how can Iraqis be expected to vote if they could lose their life attempting to do so?

Our fifth story on the Countdown, violence before the vote with only two days to go until the polls open in Iraq. A bloody campaign bent on intimidation is surging forward. There are concerns that large numbers of Iraqis believe it is simply safer to just stay home.

Richard Engel has our report from Baghdad.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Car bombs, mortars and machine gun attacks, at least 19 Iraqis and one U.S. Marine dead. The Marine was killed in Iskandariyah in mortar attack, five others were wounded. In Baqubah, a suicide car bomb killed an Iraqi policeman and injured six bystanders. Two roadside bombs in Tarmiyah killed two Iraqi civilians. In Ramadi, four Iraqi national guards were found executed. In Baghdad, three schools designated as polling centers were attacked. No injuries but that's at least 16 schools hit in three days. Just a few of the attacks scattered across the country today. But there's a pattern. Suspected Sunni insurgents carrying out attacks in Sunni Muslim areas.


SIMON HENDERSON, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: They have to make sure that any Sunni who was thinking about going to vote is too scared to go out and vote.

ENGEL: The goal - to make the elections illegitimate, unbalanced without Sunni participation. And as this footage obtained by NBC News shows, insurgents are taking their threats directly to the people. In Haditha, west of Baghdad, they're plastering fliers outside mosques, warning people not to vote. And at night, spray painting more threats. And militants are using the media, posting this video on the Internet that shows insurgents carrying a bomb into a voting center in Mosul, setting the fuse, and then detonating it.

Along with this roadside bombing two weeks ago in Mosul of a U.S. striker fighting vehicle. The U.S. military said, one soldier was killed and three others injured in a bombing in the same area on the same day.

(on camera): The threats and attacks are intimidating people. Baghdad is bunkering down. More people are staying home. Shops are closing early. Some not opening at all.

Richard Engel, NBC News, Baghdad.


STEWART: And as Richard just reported, at least 16 different schools designated as polling centers have been attacked in the last three days. MSNBC's David Shuster join us live in Baghdad. He's there to cover the election.

David, with all the violence and the vote just days away, what is the word in the Iraqi capital tonight?

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Alison, it is very tense. With all the bombings and you can actually just sense that the thing - things here have ratcheted up. Not only are we starting to hear now gun fire at night, as we did a few moments ago, which is usually something you hear during the day. You can hear the explosions. You can hear the intensity really picking up. But the great fear that Iraqis seem to have, and the great question that hangs in the air, both for the Iraqis and for U.S. Forces, is when they finally announces where the polling places are going to be, and they clamp down curfews and close the road, will that be enough to ensure security?

And furthermore, when Iraqis go to the polls, will they go there with the confidence that the election worker have the nerve to show up. Because if the election worker don't go, there are problems at the polls, and then the insurgents are able to attack some of these polling stations. That, of course, could be a huge problem.

STEWART: Question for you. We heard about the lockdown in Baghdad. How is that affecting your ability as a journalist to do your job? Are you just confined to the green zone?

SHUSTER: Yes. For westerners, Alison, it's very, very difficult, impart because of security concern. You can't go anywhere now, for example, in the green zone without having a military escort to take you there. Outside the green zone, you can still travel around for a little while, but then you risk - you stick out as a sore thumb, so to speak, if you're a westerner and you're travelling around the city of Baghdad and that's very dangerous. So fair or not, there is some legitimate criticism that the western press, especially, isn't being allowed to tell some of the stories other than the one that you see with the plume of smoke or the gun fire in the air or the explosion.

There are a lot of good stories, of course, that are going on as far as the water and the sewage and the sort of the day by day civil affairs. But the problem is those stories can't be told, because journalists are afraid to go out. But also right now, you really can't travel much anywhere over the next couple days, simply because of the curfews and the roads being clamped down. So, there not going be much of a story that's told out of Baghdad for the next couple days, except at those polling sights where, again, the military is going to be escorting members of the press to those particular sites to get pictures, and to get the results of whether or not the Iraqis are actually showing up at the polls.

STEWART: Before I let you go, you mentioned something that was really quite interesting. Tell us a little bit about the infrastructure in Baghdad? We've all been concentrating on the vote and the election so much, how is daily life for Iraqis now?

SHUSTER: Alison, when you drive around, you see people waiting at bus stops. You see people carrying groceries. There are some kids that are kicking around soccer balls. So in a weird sort of way, it looks like your typical big city. Of course, you also then get glares when people notice that you are a westerner. And you do get expense that there's still some electric problems. People, though, do have power several hours a day. There is running water now in most of Baghdad. And life to a certain extent looks like it's returning to normal. But then you hear the explosions. You see that there are 16 polling places attacked. There are the notes that are left on the polling stations saying that you'll be killed if you vote. So, that makes it a very, very abnormal situation.

STEWART: David Shuster live from Baghdad, please take care and thanks for the report.

SHUSTER: Thanks, Alison.

STEWART: Iraq is just one of the challenges facing America's new top diplomat tonight. Newly installed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was welcomed to her new office this morning by State Department employees. But word is she won't be hanging around the water cooler all that often. Not wasting any time, Secretary Rice announced she'll travel to the Middle East and Europe beginning next week. She'll probably have to mend some fences with America's closest ally while she's overseas. British Prime Minister Tony Blair facing a tough re-election fight, directing some rare criticism at the United States yesterday, by claiming that the Bush administration expects far more from its allies than it is willing to give in return.


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: If America wants the rest of the world to be part of the agenda it has set, it must be part of their agenda, too.


STEWART: Blair's comments, one of the many topics I discussed with Secretary Rice's chief spokesman, Richard Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for public affair. I also asked him about the violence in Iraq and the bloody campaign to keep voter from the polls, beginning with the administration's confidence about security in Iraq on Sunday.


RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We know there going to be attacks. We know there are people who violently opposed to an election, that are violently trying to hold Iraq back. They don't want to concede power. They had power, they had privilege and they don't want to give it up. And they're going to try to cling to it. We also know that the vast majorities of Iraqis want to move forward. They want a chance to decide their future and decide their own government. And all the indications are that there are a lot of Iraqi that's really do want to turn out. That really want to have this election. The government was determined to have it on time, and we've helped them do it. So, I think just the fact of having the election really moves them forward towards a well founded representative government that's based on the legitimacy of an election. And that in itself is an achievement.

STEWART: The president does continue to encourage Iraqis to vote, but how can we here in the comfortable United States of America expect a population to get out there and vote when they could be kill or harassed down the road?

BOUCHER: There are very large parts of the country where it is safe to vote. As safe as it is in the United States, or almost as safe as it is anywhere. But there are places where it is dangerous and where there are problems. There these violent groups, but what they've done in Iraq is not only try to do a better job both between coalition and the Iraqi that's provide security in those areas, so people can go with some (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of safety, but also to give them alternatives.

So, folks who can't vote in their home providence might be able to vote in alternate voting centers in Baghdad. Or you can go in and register and vote at the same time in a few provinces, just to make it easier for them. But it will be interesting to see. We've seen it all over the world and other places. That people have gone to vote despite the violence. They did it in Afghanistan, they did it years ago in El Salvador and elsewhere. The fact is people around the world want to control their own lives, want to decide their own futures. It will be interesting to see the Iraqis turn out despite the threats and despite the violence.

STEWART: I want to get your response as to some reports that have been out there, that U.S. forces are helping to promote election and that the U.N. has warned that this will make it difficult to convince the Iraqi public that the Iraqis are still directing these elections. What's your response?

BOUCHER: I think first of all, the U.N. explained itself, shall we say yesterday evening after they made that original statement. So I think they sort of toned down their comments. They realized that they were off base. Second of all, the Iraqis, what the Iraqis are seeing on their television, the Iraqi candidates, Iraqi ads, Iraqi parties, Iraqi coalitions, Iraqis running the election, the Iraqi Election Commission is running the election. As much as we all do support it, I think it really does look like what it is. Which is an Iraqi exercise of Iraqis choosing their own future. So there have been some U.S. military out there providing voter education materials. As far as I'm concerned, the more the better. The more people know about the election the better. It doesn't in any way detract from the legitimacy of the voters who are the Iraqis who actually go out and cast their votes and decide who gets elected.

STEWART: Let's talk bigger picture here. It was announced today that Condoleezza Rice expected to head to London in March. Just yesterday, Tony Blair said that if the U.S. wants the rest of the world to support its agenda, the U.S. needs to do a better job of working with other countries on their priorities. Is Prime Minister Blair correct?

BOUCHER: Well, I think what we have is a situation where we need to remind ourselves of our common priorities. We're all together fighting terrorism, we're fighting AIDS, we're trying to reduce poverty. We have the G-8, NATO, the EU, all these organizations reaching out to bring reform and modernization and democracy to the Arab world. We've got a common interest in Middle East peace. And what Dr. Rice will do first in the trip that starts next week, she'll go off. Secretary Rice will go from the third to the tenth to eight different stops in Europe and also to the Middle East to pursue that common agenda. To tell the Europeans, we want to work with you. We want to work with you on all these important things that we in fact share and want to do together.

Then the president will advance that agenda. And then she'll go back again after the president's trip, she'll go back to this Palestinian conference in London in March. We've got a lot on the plate with the Europeans, a lot of common issues that we have to work on. She's going to get down to work with them.

STEWART: How about you? Are you going to stick around and see it through?

BOUCHER: I think I'll probably move on to some other job. She'll bring in her own spokesman. I'm going to be around to ensure a smooth transition. After all, we're conducting it essentially the same foreign policy that President Bush has been conducting for the last four years.

STEWART: Is there a dream job out there for you?

BOUCHER: There are a lot of things I would like to do. I'm still young and there are a lot of things I would still like to do. We'll just see where I end up.

STEWART: We wish you the best of luck, wherever that is.

BOUCHER: Thank you very much. Good to talk to you.

STEWART: Mr. Boucher signalling his exit as Dr. Rice begins her tenure on the eve of the Iraqi election. And regarding that election, now, according to Mr. Boucher, it is apparently as safe to vote in some places in Iraq as it is to vote in the United States. Just one of the things we'll find out for sure this Sunday. MSNBC will have live coverage from Iraq throughout the day. And Keith Olbermann will be back a day early from vacation to anchor a special Countdown on the election in Iraq. That is this Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

Right now, a dangerous case of finders, keepers. Threats at school after some kids find and keep a drug dealer's cash stash.

And it is tragic irony that the suicidal man who killed 11 people by parking his car on the train tracks will now be eligible for the death penalty. You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


STEWART: Our next story sound like an afterschool special gone terribly wrong. A 12-year-old kid is home sick from school when two men suddenly barge in to the house. One of the thugs makes like he has a gun in his pocket and he says, I don't have any problem killing you. I want my money right now. Number four on the Countdown tonight in Dallas, a stash of cash. About $100,000 has some drug dealers targeting the kids who found the funds. Authorities fear the dealers are threatening at least several kids both at their homes and at school. An elementary school student found the money somewhere near J.J. Rhodes Learning Center (ph).

Apparently students started showing up at school with just fistfuls of cash as early as Monday. Now that elementary school has beefed up its security. What remains unknown or undisclosed, who found the cash and where exactly they found it. As for that 12-year-old we mentioned, his mom called 911 while intruders were still in her house. And after they fled, ran out and got the license plate number of the car. Dallas police have now issued a felony warrant for 23-year-old Sylvester Adams (ph) who a spokesman said is somehow tied to this case. Meanwhile, parents are still in fear for their kids' live. Today 200 out of the 600 students at J.J. Rhodes Elementary School didn't show up.

Joining me now the spokesman for the Dallas Independent School District, Donald Claxton. Mr. Claxton, thank you so much for your time tonight.


STEWART: A third of the students didn't make to it to school today.

Did you expect that large a number to stay away?

CLAXTON: Well, we had hoped the numbers wouldn't be that high. But actually, what we started doing this morning were 5:00 interviews with all the local television stations. And when children arrived at school with their parents about 8:00 this morning, some of the parents were actually telling the media they brought their kids because they saw that we had a very extensive presence of law enforcement at the schools.

STEWART: Sounds like you're being very proactive about this. How else have you ramped up security?

CLAXTON: Well, we've had Dallas police officers. We've had some of the our Dallas ISD police officers inside the building today. We've had them outside on patrol. We've also had help from the Dallas sheriff's office and the constables.

There were many, many patrol cars, sometimes as many as 3 or 4 at a time traveling around the neighborhoods while school was in session, and particularly at dismissal and arrival.

STEWART: Now, what has been the reaction of the students, the parents to having armed police officers on the school ground?

CLAXTON: Well, that's nothing unusual for our school district. We have a police force. We have long had a contract with the Dallas Police Department to have them in our schools and helping us patrol and keep order and making sure that our kids are constantly safe.

STEWART: Now there have been some reports in the "Dallas Morning News" that are pretty frightening about two men approaching a 17-year-old and getting pretty physical with him at his high school and demanding the money. Now what have you learned about your school safety situation from this experience?

CLAXTON: Well, we always try to strive to do better. We think we've done a pretty good job this week so far. Nobody, obviously, has gotten hurt that we're aware of, nobody has been taken off of our campuses or hurt while they were on our campuses. And even the incidents which you refer to, one of our coaches approached what we now believe is actually the suspect that you mentioned earlier and he fled.

STEWART: Now what guidance have you given your coaches and your teachers and your guidance counselors about talking to the kids about this and dealing with the situation? It is so unusual.

CLAXTON: Well, we've had our counselors on campus at J.J. Rhodes Learning Center this week. We've been actually consulting - counselling with some of our principals and our teachers as well, trying to one, to help them get the facts of the situation and then encourage them to do the right thing. If they've found some of this money, if they have some of it, the best thing we're encouraging them to do is turn it back into authorities so that they don't get caught having some of this dirty money in their hands.

STEWART: Well, Donald Claxton, spokesperson for the Dallas Independent School District, we thank you so much for joining us, tonight. And good luck with your situation.

CLAXTON: Thank you.

STEWART: Moving from the serious news to the seriously silly. It's fish with famous faces. That's next on "Oddball."

And then selling phone sex, literally. We'll neat man behind porn star moan tones for your cell phone. That rhymed.


STEWART: I'm Alison Stewart watering the plants and feeding the fish for Keith Olbermann this week. Although, he did lock the liquor cabinet.

It's time once again for us to pause the Countdown for a quick tour of the world's strangest people, bizarre animals and the things that happen when the two cross paths. Let's play "Oddball."

And let's get a look at those fish. New video coming to us from South Korea of the now famous Chun Jiu-Jao (ph) Carp. The 2 fish with the creepy human faces. The 20 and 30 inch long fish are hybrids, half carp, half leather carp which has produced an animal with the body of a fish and the mug of Christian Slater we think. Stop looking at me. Stop looking at me!

Those fish are creepy.

Speaking of faces in strange places, I don't care if it rains or freezes as long as I got my clipboard Jesus. Douglas Seed (ph) of Cleveland, Ohio says he's had his clipboard for many years, but only recently noticed the face of Jesus staring back at him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is mouth. This is his nose. And he has the two eyes, right there. Then this is like hair coming down off the side of his face. Now why do you have a half that's not here. I don't know.


STEWART: I don't know either, Doug. Maybe we should consider what would Jesus do.

In the meantime, could someone please help this poor deer get the trash can lid off his head? North Ridge, Ohio resident Paul Thomas first spotted the buck 3 weeks ago in his back yard. It was hanging around with a bunch of other deer, you know, engaging in some deer talk, but nobody brought up the lid around his neck. He's been back time and time again over the weeks and shows no signs of being able to get the thing off.

Local animal control officers say they can't help him, because any time they tranquilize a deer, they're forced to euthanize the animal, which is a whole separate issue, so they're leaving it to the deer to figure this out on his own. He got in it, they say, he'll get himself out of it.

Now, that's a plan. And I'd be on the look out for that karmic boomerang guys.

Back to the serious news of the day. In the fatal commuter train crash in L.A. the culprit now facing 11 possible murder charges. Where rescue workers get high praise for making sure the death toll wasn't even higher.

Then the fall-out from the fall-out. Now, even spoofing the Superbowl moment is apparently too hot for TV.

Those stories ahead.

Now here are Countdowns top 3 newsmakers of this day.

No. 3, Alan and Anne Leigh-Browne, the self described devout Baptist couple from Somerset, England say they bought a Doris Day DVD at a local supermarket, but were shocked to find an Italian porn movie come up on the screen when they played it at home. Mr. Leigh-Browne was quoted as saying quote, "my wife and I were very shocked, but we watched it until the end, because we couldn't believe what we were seeing." Sounds reasonable.

No. 2, New York State senator Kevin Parker who last week was arrested for punching a city traffic agent in the face for giving him a ticket. This week he introduced new legislation that would bar public access to some police records. He called it, quote, "the clear your good name act." And it's already working.

And at No. 1, Oklahoma State senator Frank Shurden. With all other problems in his state apparently solved, he has proposed a way to bring back cock fighting, which was banned in Oklahoma in 2002. His idea, boxing gloves for the roosters.

I wish I could tell you I was making this up. His quote, "who's going to object to chickens fighting like humans do. Everybody wins." end quote.

Yes, Frank, everybody wins. Now take (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


STEWART: It has been called the perfect storm of an accident. The man who caused it will be charged with murder, and a day later in the same state, someone else tried the same dangerous stunt. Our No. 3 story on the Countdown tonight, the California commuter crash caused yesterday morning when a man aborted suicide attempt but he left his Jeep on the tracks. That man, Juan Manuel Alvarez, now facing 11 charges of murder with special circumstances for all 11 victims of that crash. Alvarez could face the death penalty.

And less than 60 miles from this Griffith (ph) Park crash site, and only a day later, police say another man, identified as Tyrone Kashkarian (ph), stopped his SUV on the railroad tracks in Irvine, California. He drove away when he saw police. He was later apprehended after telling a dispatcher that he had planned on committing suicide.

A passenger car of that MetroLink train was the first to crash into the Jeep early yesterday morning. The train derailed, but that was only the beginning. The MetroLink then hit an idle freight train and jackknifed, causing it to hit another passenger train, moving in the opposite direction.

That disastrous chain reaction killed 11 people and injured nearly 200 more. One man, believing he might not survive, wrote a message to his family with his own blood.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love my kids and I love - I don't know if it was Leslie or Liz. Whatever his wife's name was. It's pretty moving. I've been a fireman for 27 years, and that was - it moved me.


STEWART: The man that wrote that message, he survived. Many survivors now having the chance to tell the story in their own words.


CLAUDIA TOUMA, SURVIVED CALIFORNIA TRAIN WRECK: The first thing, I was reading a book and I just saw the glass flew at my face, and I held on to my chair, and it was like bumping and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) each other, or screaming, shouting. And then after that, I tried so hard to hold on to the chair, but it seemed like it was not working. And I blacked out. After I blacked out, I opened my eyes, I saw dark all over. Broken glasses. Doors broke. I don't know. It was like a nightmare, as I have those movies running through my head, like a movie. And I felt wet on my face, and I started smelling smoke. And I closed my eyes, and I saw fire. I said I better move, and then I could not move because - I couldn't. I just could not. And then I forced myself to get up. Somebody helped me, and after that I see the fire department guys, they were helping me out to sit by the fire.

DAVID MORRISON, SURVIVED CALIFORNIA TRAIN WRECK: I was basically trying to get some sleep, because it is very early in the morning. But I remembered hearing a thud and then a sound that to my mind was like dragging, but obviously we were pushing a car, it turned out. And thinking, oh, boy. We probably hit somebody.

And it went on for quite a while, you know, 15 seconds. And then I felt a slight shudder, and we could hear the train tracks going - the wheels going on to the gravel. And within a second or two after that, there was a tremendous abrupt stopping. The lights dropped by about 50 percent. I slid forward and hit my chest on the table that I was sitting behind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the impact occurred, something just flew back and hit me on the side of the head. But when something like this happens, you realize how fragile you are, and I consider myself very lucky that I was able to get up, get all my stuff and just walk out of there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the train hit whatever it hit, everybody went flying in the upstairs compartment of the car I was in. And our car stayed on the tracks that we were in pretty good shape.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People were lying down in blood and we had to step over people. That was really unfair. I don't know. Just traumatic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came off the chair, and I was just tumbling basically in the aisle way. Lost my glasses, lost things that came out of my pocket. And then of course, you couldn't see anything once the train stopped, because it was dark.


STEWART: Today "The Los Angeles Times" praised the efforts of rescue workers. In an editorial, the paper gave serious props to the hundreds of firefighters, police officers and paramedics who responded fast and efficiently, or as the paper put it, with, quote, "grit and grace."

The success is being attributed at least in part to the city's rehearsals for a terrorist attack. And joining me now from Glendale, Sergeant Tom Lorenz, Glendale police department. Sergeant Lorenz, we would like to get an update right now from you on what's happening at the scene.

SGT. TOM LORENZ, GLENDALE P.D.: Yes. After two days of rescue operations and recovery operations, we're about ready to move into our final stage here. We've recently recovered some evidence, and mapped out the crime scene to support the criminal case against this individual. We will now, upon the completion of that, we're going to turn it back over to the NTSB, Union Pacific Railroad and the MetroLink authorities so they can start their clean-up process.

STEWART: All right, so let me take you back 24 hours plus. The response in those first crucial hours was tremendous. Much of it being attributed to the training for preparedness for a terror attack. Can you tell us some of the specific changes of procedures that really helped this effort go so well?

LORENZ: Well, unfortunately, it comes from lessons learned. And as a result, we learned greatly from what happened on the East Coast. And we decided that we would join forces and work as a single entity as first responders.

We developed protocols. We purchased the appropriate equipment, and most importantly, we trained our people accordingly. And made sure they had the right equipment during that training, and so that when something like this would occur, we can respond quickly. And I would have to say that the response was tremendous. And with the assistance of the public, too, because this is right next to Costco, employees, when they heard it, they too stepped up to the plate and also began their own little rescue operations until more emergency personnel arrived.

STEWART: If I'm hearing and you reading between lines a little bit, one of the biggest things the 9/11 reported, they cited was, the lack of communication between the various respondents. How have you improved your communication abilities?

LORENZ: Actually, we're very proud of the fact that we're trying to develop an interoperability program here known as Isis in the Los Angeles Area. We want to make sure that we are able to communicate among several agencies.

In Los Angeles County alone, there are over 45 law enforcement agencies. Local municipalities. Then we have our county and federal counterparts. We also have just, almost as many fire departments. And at one time, we were not able to communicate.

As time progresses, we are getting more people on board and we're able to communicate a lot better. With that ability and a strong working relationship, we're able to get it done.

STEWART: Well, sir, we'll let you go back to work. Sgt. Tom Lorenz of the Glendale Police Department, thank you so much.

LORENZ: Thank you.

STEWART: Another train story on the other coast has produced no praise for officials having anything to do with that system. Two New York City subway lines which carry over 580,000 passengers a week were hobbled early Sunday when a fire destroyed the subway's antiquated switching station. OK, that's the thing that keeps the trains from running into each other.

The New York subway station has dozens of these vital switching stations. But this one allegedly burned up after a homeless man started a fire to escape the bitter cold. The station will take 9 months to fix. Down from the original estimate of three to five years, which was floated by an official yesterday. The whole mess prompting critics to state the obvious quote, "the area should have been fire proofed and equipped with video cameras in order to keep something like this from happening."

And MTA representative said, "there should be an alarm system, or something that would indicate someone had trespassed onto the property. Even a terrorist can dress up like a homeless person."

Science class, not always so cool. Crime scene investigations? That's cool. See how some teachers are turning classrooms into crime labs all in the name of learning those kids a thing or two.

Now remember the good old days when cell phones used to just ring? Maybe a little vibration? A new move that could make you blush big time when you hear a cell phone go off.


STEWART: The scene, a blood spattered hallway, the clue is a bloody fishing knife, and that's only after first period.

Our No. 2 story this evening, murder mayhem in science class.

Forensic courses are popping up in high schools across the country. Teachers turn to real live classroom labs into not so real crime labs all in the name of making science a little more palatable for today's teens.

Countdown's Monica Novotny joins me now with this story. And I was sharing with you, my two teenage nieces love Crossing Jordan and C.S.I.

MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're definitely not alone. It's this generation of high school students, they were only about 6 years old when O.J. rode the white Bronco and they have grown up watching trials of the century, hearing about D.N.A., fibers and fingerprints. Well, now those same topics seem to be the subject of just about every hour-long drama of primetime. So these students and their teachers are taking notes.


NOVOTNY (voice-over): It's a television trend that's to die for. The murder, the mystery and then the investigation. And now, turning D.N.A. into straight A's. High schools across the country are following suit. This time, someone has been killed at Connecticut's Norwalk High.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a homicide.

NOVOTNY: Sort of.

Biology teacher Caitlin Engle offering, for the first time ever, a forensics class, showing students that science can be cool.

CAITLIN ENGLE, NORWALK HIGH SCHOOL: It is so overdramatized on TV that I felt I had to bring some of that into the classroom.

NOVOTNY: The response to the crime scenes? Overwhelming. The course filled immediately and more than 100 students were turned away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a different approach to science.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I definitely enjoyed forensics way more than I enjoyed physics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Though they don't all watch the TV shows, these students do see the reality.

ENGLE: The fact that they can directly apply what they're learn in class to what they see on the news has a huge impact on their learning. As you can tell, the light is always on in their eyes. They're always paying attention.

NOVOTNY: So these young detectives solve simulated crimes through fingerprinting, fiber analysis, D.N.A. tests, and today's lesson, blood spatters.

ENGLE: So when you're looking at the marks of blood in the crime scene, what is it tell you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is pretty much tell me, first you have to find the measurements. You have to find the width and the length. And you can find the exact angle in which the blood splattered.

NOVOTNY (on camera): Does it make science more cool?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It definitely makes science more cool. It's a different approach. It's more out of the box. It's hands on. It's a lot of different things, more so than just the text book learning that we've done for the past 4 years.

NOVOTNY: And an informal survey taken last October, the National Science Teacher's Association found that more than 70 percent of high school teachers are now using forensics to teach science.

NOVOTNY: Are you teaching them how to commit the perfect crime?

ENGLE: I suppose I could. I hope not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we sort of laugh about it. Because we're like, we actually, could get away with this if we really planned it out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought about that, actually.

NOVOTNY (voice-over): But as always, the teacher is one step ahead.

Pulling off her own trick.

ENGLE: Some of them hate science. But when they see stuff like this actually applied, they want to learn more. And I just love it.


NOVOTNY: Now if you need further proof, in that survey we mentioned, taken by the National Science Teacher's Association, when asked if the popularity of forensic based television shows had ignited students' interest in science, the response was a resounding yes by 78 percent.

STEWART: Now Monica, you told me the greatest story about some kids wanting a little extra credit in this class.

NOVOTNY: That's right. When we were in the classroom we saw that there was a large, shattered wind-shield. And I asked if it was a project. She said no, the students saw it by the side of the road, there was an actual accident, they picked it up in pieces, brought it in for extra credit, pieced it together and were able to determine the point of impact for the car, how fast the person was going and all these different details just by piecing back together this windshield. And that was painstaking work. And so I think what they're really thrilled about it is the fact that even kids who don't love science have now found an entry point.

STEWART: It makes me almost want to go back to high school.

NOVOTNY: Almost.

STEWART: Thanks a lot. Yeah. We'll be appearing in Vegas next week.

Monica Novotny, thank you so much. It's a great report.

From high school CSI to crime probes in the semi-real world. We begin "Keeping Tabs" tonight with the investigation of Bill Cosby. Mr. Cosby reportedly spent about 90 minutes being interviewed by Philadelphia prosecutors investigating allegations that he drugged and groped a woman in his Pennsylvania residence last year. Cosby's lawyers have denied the accusation as utterly preposterous and false. The prosecutor, Bruce Caster, says the decision whether to file charges has not yet been made, but suggests the case against the Cos may not be very strong. Caster cited the former Temple University employee's year-long delay in reporting the alleged incident, and the fact that she continued to have contact with Cosby afterward as factors that quote, "weigh toward Mr. Cosby," end quote.

And finally, we're counting down to the Super Bowl. One year since the infamous wardrobe malfunction. The Anheuser-Busch Company has come up with a little home-brewed controversy already. The company produced a Budweiser ad which offered a humorous explanation for the Janet Jackson incident last year. With all those pesky yet enormous FCC fines being slapped on folks, the company pulled the Bud ad so as not to offend anyone. But that has not stopped them from playing the ad on their Web site, nor will it stop us from showing it to you right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that it is five minutes to the show.

Fine. I'm on my way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That ends the first half. Stay tuned for what is sure to be an unforgettable halftime show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fresh, smooth, real. Bud light.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa! That's something you don't see every day.



STEWART: Tonight's No. 1 story, from porn star to operator? Sort of.

Sort of. Jenna Jameson coming to a cell phone near you.


STEWART: We are back. And a brief warning, the following story does contain some adult content. I'll count to three to let you leave or to go get somebody and bring them back.

It's been nearly 10 years since the mobile cellular phone burst onto the scene, and in that time, it has risen from neat-o gadget to essential accessory. But until now, there has only been three basic ring styles - annoying, really annoying and the silent vibrator. But with every technological advance, there's one group always in the forefront, pioneering new delivery methods - that's the porn industry.

Our No. 1 story tonight, if you thought it was disturbing to hear your co-worker's phone playing "The Hokey Pokey" 10 times a day, picture for a moment sitting in a restaurant and hearing this from the next table over.


JENNA JAMESON, ADULT FILM ACTRESS: Is that your phone ringing?


STEWART: We're going to stop right there, because that hokey-pokey gets a lot more graphic.

For you non-porn consumers, that was the voice of porn superstar Jenna Jameson and her latest venture, moan tones. Prerecorded moans, groans, grunts and lurid sex talk available as ringers on mobile phones for the price of $2.50 a pop.

Joining me now is Dennis Adamo, CEO of Wicked Wireless, the company providing this service. Mr. Adamo, thanks for joining us, and I'm going to congratulate you on the kabillion dollars you're going to make on this. But tell me why this is a good thing, or why this is even necessary?

DENNIS ADAMO, MARKETING "MOAN TONES": Thank you. Well, as we all know, cell phones' popularity has just grown in leaps and bounds over the past few years. And fundamentally, this is an evolution of the medium. And we're able to actually leverage our technology in ways that we didn't anticipate, of course, and then to kind of partner up with the supercelebrity like Jenna Jameson is a great thing. It's just part of our branded mobile experience. And we think that's pretty unique in the marketplace today.

STEWART: So I'm wondering, though, from a marketing point of view, considering the uproars in the past year over Janet Jackson and Howard Stern getting these huge FCC fines, is this the best time business-wise to introduce some smutty sounds on your phone?

ADAMO: Well, at this point, you know, again, the market has evolved to the point where users are personal - using their cell phones to personalize their accessory. We're currently launching this product in Latin America. And we expect to offer these services on a limited basis in the U.S. sometime this year.

STEWART: Have you gotten any resistance getting it into the States?

ADAMO: Oh, absolutely. I mean, there's no telecom carrier that's outright acknowledged or accepted marketing these tones directly. Now, you know, that also represents or puts the onus on us as content and software providers to then implement all the rules around the adult nature of this particular content.

But then again, this is not definitely sexual content. What it is is novelty. And it's just a funny, kind of cool, whimsical experience that's created with these phones.

STEWART: Now, do you think these are obscene in any way? Would you want this thing to go off in a room sitting next to your best friend's mom?

ADAMO: Well, you know, obviously not. And I think it's up to people's discretion to use these tones in the appropriate settings. Of course, it's a great conversation piece. It's, again, funny. It definitely represents a bit of someone's personal character. But, again, in a workplace environment or in a social setting or public setting, I don't think it's appropriate, just as any other sort of personal sort of sexual product or service.

STEWART: Dennis, is it on your phone?

ADAMO: It is on my phone.

STEWART: I knew it. Dennis Adamo, CEO of Wicked Wireless, the birthplace of the Jenna Jameson moan tone. Thanks for sharing this product with us.

ADAMO: Oh, you're welcome, Alison. Thank you very much.

STEWART: That's Countdown. Thanks for being part of it. I'm Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann. I'll see you back tomorrow night.