Monday, February 28, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 28

Guest: Harvey Levin, Michael Musto


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

The Jackson trial opens with allegations shocking, even for this case. Accused of showing his victim pornography when the boy was 10 years old. A claim that a Jackson employee told the boy that his mother could be killed.

Finding the BTK Killer, as president of the congregation of the local Christ Lutheran Church. How could anyone compartmentalize that much?

Disaster in Iraq. The worst attack of the insurgency, more than 10 police and national guard recruits dead more injured. Did the post-election momentum just evaporate?

The first World Trade Center bombing. Why did prison authorities let the bombers write letters to Arabic newspapers praising terrorists?

And the new streamlined, faster Academy Awards. Will the winners soon find their Oscars taped to the bottom of their seats?

All that and more now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good evening.

It was already disgusting any way you cut it. Either the world's most recognizable entertainer was being railroaded towards prison by an obsessed district attorney, or that entertainer was a demented fiend who preyed sexually on little boys.

Now our No. 5 story on the Countdown: as the trial finally began today, it all actually got worse. The D.A. portrayed specifics that were nauseating, the defense alleged history that was at best mercenary. It's your entertainment and tax dollars in action, day 469 of the Michael Jackson investigation.

The opening statements. Jackson's nemesis, Santa Barbara District Attorney Thomas Sneddon telling jurors that Jackson showed, quote, "adult material" on the Internet to the alleged victim the first time the boy went to Jackson's Neverland Ranch in 2000 when he was just 10 years old.

Sneddon also claimed that this time two years ago, Jackson employee Frank Tyson told the boy, quote, "I could have your mother killed."

He also told the jury that the child, whom he named, will testify in open court.

Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau, meanwhile, depicted the boy and his family as virtual panhandlers to the stars, claiming that when the boy was diagnosed with cancer, they contacted the likes of Jay Leno, Jim Carrey, Mike Tyson, George Lopez to get money for medical bills. That one actress gave $20,000 for expenses and the renovation of a room in the family house, only to later discover that the family had not paid the builder and had instead spent the money on a big screen TV.

Joining me now for analysis is the executive producer and creator of the TV series "Celebrity Justice," Harvey Levin.

Good evening, old friend.


OLBERMANN: The headline here is what, that accusation that the sexual exposure began actually four years ago with Jackson's own son in the same room, surfing Internet porn with the boys looking?

LEVIN: Yes and no, Keith. Yes, I mean, it certainly is salacious. But then you have to wonder, if all of this started four years ago, why is it that the D.A. is charging Michael Jackson with molestation that occurred after February 20, 2003? What happened during those three years? Were they looking at porn and looking at porn and looking at porn and nothing?

So this is a very difficult story for prosecutors to tell. It will be interesting how compelling it is.

OLBERMANN: Was the specificity of that death threat a surprise, that Frank Tyson allegedly said, "I could have your mother killed"? I mean, you've cited before, here, how important this man, Tyson, is to the entire case.

LEVIN: Yes. I mean, I've talked to Frank Tyson. And I mean, I've known for awhile now how important he is and that the prosecutors believe he was Michael Jackson's henchman in this case.

But, you know, Tyson, Keith is really an interesting guy. Because when I talked to him once on the phone, and he just really wanted to talk. And that's him when we shot him about a year ago.

I've got to tell you, he went on and on, telling me that he's known Michael Jackson since he was 13. He slept in the same bed with him. They would talk graphically about sexual involvement with women while they laid in bed together. But he said nothing happened. So I couldn't tell in the end whether he was helping Michael Jackson or hurting him.

OLBERMANN: We all kind of laughed, Harvey, when the Jackson defense "Night of 1,000 Stars" witness list was released a few weeks back. After Mr. Mesereau's statement, do we understand its meaning now? Is he going to accuse this boy and that family of trying to get money out of all of those people?

LEVIN: Yes, I can be specific. Not all of them, but many of them, Jay Leno, for example, Kobe Bryant of all people, George Lopez and others.

What the defense believes is, that this woman used this boy's cancer, essentially, and went to these stars and said, "I desperately need money for medical bills." In fact, this boy's medical bills were covered 100 percent by the father's insurance.

So the defense is saying it's all a scam. This woman is looking for a get-rich-quick scheme. And Michael Jackson is the target.

OLBERMANN: Quickly, Harvey, if they find him guilty long-term on the alcohol charges, serving the alcohol to minors, what's the - what's the threat to Michael Jackson's freedom then?

LEVIN: Huge threat, Keith. Six years in prison. And I'm doubting that a lot of the guys in the state pen are going to say, "You're just in for alcohol not molestation." So the stakes are really high. And frankly, I think it would be easier for the prosecutors to prove the alcohol charge than the molestation.

OLBERMANN: Harvey Levin, executive producer of TV's "Celebrity Justice," as always my friend, great thanks for your time.

LEVIN: See you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: If it seems the Jackson case has gone on forever, consider instead the BTK serial killer of Wichita, Kansas.

Investigators spent much of Saturday congratulating themselves in public for having caught Dennis Rader, a mere 31 years after his first crime and nearly as long since he started sending clues of his identity to local newspaper men and television reporters.

Rader is 59 years old now, a married father of two, Boy Scout leader, the local dogcatcher, a church leader. The BTK name for bind, torture, kill was self-created.

Sources close to the investigation telling NBC News that he immediately confessed to several of the killings. Rader still awaiting formal charges but has been accused of 10 murders in the Wichita area between 1974 and 1991. A search of his home has already led to further clues police believe can be linked to the killings.

In the center of all this, Wichita's Christ Lutheran Church. The suspect remains president of its 400-member congregation. The church's pastor says police and FBI investigators obtained DNA samples from Rader's daughter and that facilitated his capture.

The degree to which people can keep parts of their lives separate never ceases to astound. But to the layman, this one might take the cake. What about to the professional?

I'm joined by MSNBC analyst, former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt.

Clint, good evening.

CLINT VAN ZANDT, MSNBC ANALYST: Keith, good evening.

OLBERMANN: To your experience where does this rank on that scale of outlandish compartmentalization?

VAN ZANDT: Well, you know, there are serial killers we never find, we never catch at all. But this guy, you know, he started his homicides, as far as we know, in his late 20's and he carried it on for 20, 30 years.

And you know, the question is, would law enforcement have ever found him? You know, this guy, you know, Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, the way we caught him, of course, was that his brother looked at his writings.

Well, in this case, too, BTK could not just rest on his laurels. He had to - he had to taunt. He had to challenge law enforcement. He needed that stimulation and probably the attention. If he wouldn't have, Keith, he wouldn't have started writing 11 months ago, I don't know that we ever would have caught this guy.

OLBERMANN: Are we to assume that the sending of those clues, those letters and the leading of the two lives, those elements were as much a part of whatever perverse pleasure he got as the killings were, that the point of the letters to the reporters was not that he wanted to be caught but that he wanted to validate the fact that he was this upstanding figure in the community and, at the same time, he was literally getting away with murder?

VAN ZANDT: I think he wanted everyone to realize eventually, "Look at what I'm really capable of, you know? I'm not just a dogcatcher. I don't just walk around and cite you because you've got a junk car in your front yard. I am capable of evading law enforcement for 31 years. I'm capable of doing these horrific crimes that BTK is accused of. You know what, community? I fooled you for 31 years. I had this secret, and no one in this town was smart enough to figure out who I was."

And you know, notwithstanding the victims we have, Keith, we've got three others. His wife and two children, who apparently had no idea who he was until they realized the monster in the room next door, the monster in the bed, was BTK.

OLBERMANN: As if there were not enough mysteries in this, there was also this two-decades silence between the previous communications and these most recent ones that only restarted about a year ago, as you mentioned.

I'm gathering, obviously, they're finding there was not necessarily that long a gap in terms of crime. But why would there have been a gap in terms of the letters to the media? What sense do you make of that?

VAN ZANDT: Well, you know, one of the things that a sociopath, psychopath, an antisocial personality is they need to be stimulated. They need to have, many times, a position of authority where they're in charge. They can tell people, they can make people do their bidding.

Well, it's interesting, should Dennis Rader be BTK, of course he got his job in the early '90s as this compliance officer. And he was able to go out and taunt, almost terrorize people.

You know, we have psychological tests to keep police officers, to keep police from joining the police force who - who are power hungry. I'm not sure that this guy ever took such tests. And if he did, he's either - he either beat them or somehow got around them.

OLBERMANN: Goodness. Client Zandt, former FBI profiler, especially tonight, sir, great thanks for your insight.

VAN ZANDT: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Lastly among the tawdry and the tabloids, still no breaks tonight, sadly, in the case of Jessica Lunsford, and the expectations that there may be any are declining rapidly.

After concluding the fifth day of searching for the missing 9-year-old Florida girl, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office announced this would be the last day. The full-scale effort being scaled back after investigators and hundreds of volunteer searchers, hampered by bad weather over the weekend, resumed their efforts today with the same negative results. No clues, no leads, nothing to point authorities in the right direction.

Both officials and Jessica's family, Jessica Lunsford's family, believe she was abducted but have uncovered no evidence to support their suspicions. They haven't even found footprints. A sheriff's department spokeswoman saying, quote, "We still have very, very little to go on."

A reward of $25,000 has been offered for any information that would help investigators find that little girl.

Also tonight, Hillary Clinton in '08? One of her potential primary rivals pegs her as the Democrat to beat. Is it a little early?

And first disaster in Iraq, one car bomb, hundreds dead, hundreds more wounded. Then hours later, sudden and contradictory leaks from the U.S. government about intercepted contact between bin Laden and al-Zarqawi. Coincidence? Or have we just seen terror politicized?

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Social Security and national security. New poll numbers on the president's Social Security overhaul plan.

And are bin Laden and Zarqawi communicating? Why did an old story, maybe weeks old, leak out today? Stand by.


OLBERMANN: As strategies go, it is a simple one: President Bush bypassing Congress, and the fourth estate as much as possible, making his pitch on Social Security directly to the American people. The same strategy went a long way towards getting him reelected. But as a strategy this time it may not be enough.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, the presidential end-run losing yardage.

First of all, the people have spoken, as they always do. More than half of those Americans surveyed by IPSOS for the Associated Press, 55 percent saying they still oppose the president's plan for personal retirement savings accounts; 39 percent in support.

So the Bush White House looking to gain support by targeting African-American voters. The main selling point of the pitch goes something like this. Since African-Americans do not live as long as white Americans do on average, they have less to gain from Social Security as we know it. White House and GOP officials now planning a series of events for African-American audiences.

The only problem, the numbers on life expectancy may not be applicable. According to an analysis in "The Los Angeles Times," the Bush administering is building its argument on the average life span of newborn males. There's a six-year gap, 69 for the average African-American newborn male, as opposed to 75 for whites.

But take away factors like infant mortality and violent crime among young adults, and life expectancy at retirement age has narrowed to just two years, 79 as opposed to 81.

That's something to make note of, politically. February 27, 2005 the first day a possible candidate gave his read on the 2008 presidential horse race.

Senator Joe Biden of Delaware telling Tim Russert that he might take a stab at the nomination. But first, he'll take at least the next year to think about it. But he can identify the competition a lot faster than that. It's another senator, one named Hillary Clinton.


SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I think she is the most difficult obstacle for anyone being the nominee. And by the way, I am one, I shouldn't be saying this - in mission against interest. I am one who doesn't believe that she is incapable of being elected. I think she is likely to be the nominee. She'd be the toughest person.


OLBERMANN: And from the world of political media complex, propagandist Ann Coulter may have actually been restrained by one of her employers, or she may have restrained herself.

The Coulter web site column called reporter Helen Thompson a, quote, "sold Arab." The version syndicated to newspapers removed the reference, though the syndicater is not sure whether it changed it or Coulter stopped it herself.

No comment from Ms. Thomas, who is still writing for Hearst News and in her 60th year as a journalist. She is of Lebanese descent.

Coulter's original February 23 column is still posted on her personal web site, referencing the Jeff Gannon controversy, it opines, "Press passes can't be that hard to come by if the White House allows that old Arab Helen Thomas to sit within yards of the president."

The Universal Press syndicate version of the February column, however, sent to newspapers is considerably less offensive. It reads, "Press passes can't be that hard to come by if the White House allows that dyspeptic, old Helen Thomas to sit within yards of the president."

Ann Coulter leaving a bad taste in your mouth, too? Apparently, you are not alone. Actually, this is from a highlight upcoming from the "Oddball" segment. Guess what they're drinking?

And the stars' big night out. The host joked, this will be the last Oscars. But could there be a kernel of truth in that punch line? Is America award showed out?

ANNOUNCER: You're getting your news Olbermann style. Countdown WITH KEITH OLBERMANN, past of the best primetime in cable news, MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: We're back and we've reached that point in the show where we step away from the so-called hard news, not necessarily for the soft news. That will be later. This stuff isn't really even news. It's just visually stimulating.

Let's play "Oddball."

This is London. When last we left the fathers for justice they scaled the walls of Buckingham Palace dressed as Batman and Robin. It was a bid to draw attention in their crusade for the rights of deadbeat dads, we think.

No, it's not Charles and Camilla pleading for a place to get hitched, it's Fathers for Justice again, our boys in stretch pants. Fifty feet up the side of the British foreign office and desperately trying to unfold a medium-sized sign.

Can Batman, Robin and Captain America get that sign unraveled before it gets dark? Will these fathers ever be granted visitation with their kids when they keep getting arrested while wearing colored underwear? And is anyone on the street even remotely interested?

Oh, look, a double-decker bus just went by.

Speaking of cartoon characters come to life, it's Bambi. Aw! Look at the poor gal go. Just like in the movie this fawn in western Norway wandered out onto the frozen lake and just could not get its footing.

But unlike the film version, man was there this time. Not to brutally shoot down Bambi's mother and set fire to the forest. But to save poor Bambi from further embarrassment on the lake and set him or her free on solid ground.

Hunting ground? Uh-oh.

Berkeley Springs, West Virginia for the world's water tasting competition. The best and worst municipal water from around the world, brought in for the event. And the winner for best city water in the United States is? Daytona, Florida.

Mm, Daytona water! And you can drink it right out of the racetrack hose when you go down there to watch the NASCAR. Our reporter from station WHAG witnessed the judging.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They try and see if there's any kind of aroma in the water, and then some taste. And if they can perceive any kind of taste at all. What does that taste like to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That has sort of, almost like a metal or a chemical flavor to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then the one on your left, well that one looks a little different, doesn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That one is a little milky looking or something.

It's not quite clear. So let's try this.


OLBERMANN: That gentleman is resting comfortably in the hospital after sulfur poisoning. Actually, I made the last part up. Sorry.

Turning to the serious news of this day, a blow for the fledgling democracy in Iraq, the single deadliest insurgent attack of the war striking south of Baghdad.

And a claim that Osama bin Laden is talking with the man responsible for the insurgency and urging him to attack outside that country. The story was leaking like a sieve today. But why today? The story is a week or two old.

These stories ahead. Now, though, here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

No. 3, Myron Kandel. My old friend is retiring from CNN in two weeks after 25 years as a leader of its business news coverage, on air and off. Mike was the network's first hire in its New York bureau in 1980. He is 75. His ceiling-high pile of books, papers and what not in his office is 56.

All the best, Mike.

No. 2, Dan Infalt, of Oconumowoc, Wisconsin. His pet bit him in a sensitive spot. His pet is a skunk. And it bit him in the privates. That stinks.

No. 1, Carlos Cardenas of Bakersfield, California. Mr. Cardenas is not a viewer of this program, or he would have known not to do this. It's happened before. We've counseled him against it.

He went into a cell phone store there last Tuesday, applied for a job, let them copy his driver's license, even got his photo taken for his application. That's the photo you're seeing there.

Two hours later he walked back in and stuck up the cell phone store with a pocketknife. The suspect is 25 years old, 5'6" tall, and he's a few minutes short of a friend's and family plan, if you know what I mean.

(MUSIC: "I've Got a Cell Phone")



OLBERMANN: Two very strange things happened today, one after the other in Hillah. South of Baghdad at least 115 Iraqis were killed and 132 more wounded by one suicide bomber. The worst single attack ever by the insurgency, a personal and political cataclysm. And then this after a series of self-contradicting leaks from U.S. counter terrorism experts about intercepted communications supposedly between Osama bin Laden and his supposed lieutenant in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Communications intercepted even though this country has no idea we're either man is.

Our third story on the Countdown, timing is everything. We will explore the purported contact between bin Laden and Zarqawi in a moment, with counter-terrorism analyst, Roger Cressey.

First, the nightmare seen in Iraq. Our correspondent is Peter Alexander.


PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The explosion was so deadly, because it was so precise. Just before 9:00 this morning, roughly 400 Iraqi National Guard and police recruits were lined up waiting for physicals outside a medical center. Nearby, shoppers jammed the stalls at a bustling market, in this predominantly Shiite town. Suddenly, a suicide bomber rammed his car into the crowd. Hot shrapnel sliced through the air, littering the streets with body parts. At least 115 were killed, more than 130 wounded. The attacker's car was vaporized leaving only the smoldering engine.

It is a criminal act which neither Allah nor the people can accept, the officer say. Mangled bodies were piled into flat-trucks. And as survivors picked up the personal remains of the dead in Hillah, in Baghdad indictments were handed down against five men for crimes against humanity. The star of today's lineup, one of Saddam's half brothers, Barzan Ibrahim al-Hassan. His trial is not expected to begin before mid April. Another of Saddam's half-brother, Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, the former head of Iraqi intelligence, and the 6 of diamonds in the most wanted deck cards, was captured in Beirut on Saturday. He's suspected of giving financial help to the insurgency.

SIMON HENDERSON, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: He was a close advisor of Saddam. So, he knew all the important people, either left in Iraq or in Syria. And therefore he would have been a good coordinator.

ALEXANDER (on camera): If the arrest of Saddam's half-brother was a blow to the insurgency, it's hard to tell by the death toll in Hillah. Even though police say, they have arrested several people linked to the Hillah bombing, tonight it remains the single deadliest attack since President Bush declared mission accomplished in Iraq.

Peter Alexander, NBC News, Baghdad.


OLBERMANN: Now, the bin Laden/Zarqawi story. An unnamed American counter terrorism official has told the Reuters News Agency, that bin Laden has fairly recently asked Zarqawi to consider attacks inside the United States. But at the Pentagon, U.S. officials were telling NBC News that within the last week, a message believed to be from bin Laden to Zarqawi was intercepted. And that it advised Zarqawi to start attacking American targets outside Iraq, Not necessarily in the U.S. And a third version in the loop over at justice, another U.S. official telling NBC News the intel is from a few weeks ago, quite vague and never mentions the United States, referring only to "outside Iraq."

None of the stories explain how the message from bin Laden to Zarqawi would have been obtained or verified, especially given the fact that the U.S. admits it has no idea of either mans hiding place.

I'm joined now by, Roger Cressey, now a MSNBC analyst, formerly counter terrorism coordinator on the national security council staff.

Good evening, Roger.


OLBERMANN: That first question, that nobody's source is answering on this, if we don't have a clue where bin Laden is, we only have a vague idea where Zarqawi is, how can we be sure this communication is legit? Were they using pay phone?

CRESSEY: Or AOL Instant Messaging. Three possibilities, it's a courier letter that they intercepted. Second, it's an electronic intercept of a cell phone conversation. Third is an Internet message. In each of those case, you can you get the information, get the message, but not know where either bin Laden or Zarqawi is. So, I think you have to take a look at it, see if it is legitimate. See if it is originating from a source that's credible, and then you can pass judgment on it.

OLBERMANN: Assuming that one of three versions of what's in the message is correct, bin Laden actually contacted Zarqawi, and we wound up listening in to the call, capturing a courier, whatever. Bin Laden told Zarqawi to, A, think about attacking the U.S. or, B, think about attacking U.S. interests outside Iraq or, C, think about staging attacks against anybody outside Iraq. How could the message get garbled into three different translations. And if any one of them is true, is any one of them news?

CRESSEY: Well, it's not news that al Qaeda wants to attack. I mean, that's the one theme through all three scenarios here. What is interesting, if it's true, is al Qaeda is asking Zarqawi to see can he hire any of his goons to go - to some how get into the United States. If that's true, that means the core al Qaeda is having really difficulty putting together cells to conduct operations. If that's the case, that is significant. But the fact that Zarqawi himself is doing very well in Iraq, bin Laden recognizes that and wants to tap into him, that's nothing new.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, something else that we've discussed previously, and I think is nothing new as well, the story leaks out in at least three vitally different ways, various sources, all there are vague, it's a week or two weeks or in some cases it has been dated as being more than two weeks. And it just happens to be released to reporters hours after the most horrific single suicide bombing in Iraq since we ran Saddam Hussein out of town. I hate to be an utter cynic about this, but we know that sometimes the issue of terrorism has been politicized, even if only faintly. But - and this sounds to somebody like me, that somebody rushed this story out, perhaps to distract attention from this disaster in Hillah today.

CRESSEY: Well, I hope that's not the case, I tend not to think not. And the fact that you're raising the possibility is based on the administration having done stupid things in the past, which calls into question their credibility, sometimes, and the timing of things, not a coincidence. So, you raise the question, but I think, no, I don't think this time.

OLBERMANN: Fair enough. Counter-terrorism expert, Roger Cresses. As always, Roger, great thanks for your time tonight.

CRESSEY: All right Keith.

OLBERMANN: On the subject of Iraq, some criticism from the man assigned two and half years ago to sell the war to the United Nations. In his first full interview since stepping down as secretary of state, Colin Powell, telling the London newspaper, "The Telegraph," the he was dismayed by the tension between the U.S. and Europe before the war in Iraq began. But he revealed he personally warned the president about the dangers of a unilateral attack on Iraq dating to August, 2002.

Quoting, "My caution was that you need to understand that the difficult bit will come afterwards. The military piece will be easy. This place will crack like a crystal goblet," he says. "And it'll be a problem to pick up the bits. It was on this basis that he decided to let me see if we can find a U.N. solution to this."

And although did not mention Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld By name, he did criticize his handling of the war, saying he believed that the U.S. had, quote, "Enough troops for war but not for peace, for establishing order. My own preference," say former secretary of state, "would have been for more forces after the conflict."

The conflict between the federal courts and the administration strategy on domestic terrorism escalated this afternoon. Jose Padilla accused of plotting to set off a radioactive dirty bomb could be a free man shortly. A federal judge in South Carolina has ruled that the government has no right to hold an American citizen as an enemy combatant if he is arrested in this country. He ordered Padilla's release within 45 days. Padilla has been held in a navy brig since his arrest in Chicago in May, 2002.

Better success for the bush Administration policy of, quote, "freedom on the march." The Pro-Syrian government in Lebanon stepped down today, following weeks of popular protest there. Prime Minister Omar Karami (ph) made the surprise announcement during a special parliamentary session, which had ostensibly been called to discuss the murder of his predecessor.

The anti-Syrian, former leader, Rafik Hariri and 16 others were killed by a car bomb on Valentine's Day. Many in Lebanon blame the assassination on Syrian and Lebanese officials. Both governments deny the charge. The killings sparked a series of a protest across the country, with demonstrators calling for the government to step down. And for Syria to pull 15,000 troops out of Lebanon. One such protest was under way outside the parliamentary building today. The crowd of 25,000 breaking into spontaneous applause when the government suddenly announced its resignation.

A world away, philosophically, if not geographicly, the Vatican insisting it has more good news for the pope. After last Thursday's tracheotomy, he has begun speech and respiratory therapy, and therapist insist, he'll be able to talk again normally, though not as loudly as before. John Paul, surprised the crowd waiting outside Gemelli Hospital in Rome yesterday, by coming to the window of his room. Even making the hand to the throat gesture, interpreted by a Vatican spokesman as, quote, "I can't speak," as opposed to some kind of reference of last year's New York Yankees.

Amid the apparent good medical news, neither the Vatican nor the hospital has said whether or not the pope's breathing tube has been removed, when it might be, when he might be released. The spokesman did say, there would be no need for regular health bulletins. And the next one will not be issued until Thursday.

Also tonight, an incredible lapse of judgment of security perhaps uncovered by NBC News. The terrorists responsible for the first attack on the World Trade Center have been praising Osama bin Laden in newspaper articles and letters written inside American prisons.

And this puzzler for you, the movie headline the day after the Oscars is about John Ashcroft? The movies? Those stories ahead, now are Countdown's top 3 soundbites of the day.


AL ROKER, NBC NEWS: I know you guys are - the stunt people - are very upset about the fact that there's no Oscar for stunt people. So are you upset about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. And they absolutely should be. Would you...

ROKER: Whoa!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't you mind your own business?

ROKER: What do you mean? I got a little business for you, pal.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I appreciate the members of my cabinet who are here.

Your name is?

OFF CAMERA: Johanns.

BUSH: It takes a while to get to know every member of the cabinet.

GARY COLEMAN: The only opinion I can really share as an objective media personnel now is that I think there's just a lot of losers on the defense side and on the - what's the side that...


COLEMAN: Yes, the offensive side. No, no...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The prosecution?

COLEMAN: Yes, the prosecution.



OLBERMANN: Historically, the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center will go into history as the kind of ignored preamble, perhaps like the first 1917 revolution in Russia, in which the czar abdicated and parliament took over, months before the second revolution, in which totalitarian communists in turn overthrew the parliament.

But in tonight's No. 2 story, an exclusive report on just how much we ignored the car bombing in the parking garage at the Trade Center 12 years ago last Saturday. Our senior investigative correspondent, Lisa Myers, now with an appalling story of how the men convicted in that first attack were somehow permitted to keep writing from jail to Arabic newspapers, to other would-be terrorists, all because somebody in our Bureau of Prisons didn't think these guys were threats anymore.


LISA MYERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was 12:18, lunch time, when the van exploded. The massive bomb rattled the World Trade Center, leaving a giant crater in the underground garage. Six were killed, more than 1,000 wounded. At that time, it was the worst act of terrorism ever committed on American soil.

These three Islamic extremists were among those convicted. Each sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.

Former prosecutor Andy McCarthy convicted others involved in this attack.

ANDY MCCARTHY, PROSECUTOR: It's difficult to imagine people who were more evil or inclined to do more mass homicide.

MYERS: So the men were sent to America's most secure federal prison, eventually to super-max in Colorado. Supposedly unable to do further harm.

(on camera): Or so we thought. Letters and articles obtained by NBC News showed that while behind bars, the bombers continued their terrorist activities, writing letters to other suspected terrorists, and brazenly praising Osama bin Laden in Arabic newspapers.

(voice-over): According to confidential Spanish court documents obtained by NBC, at least 14 letters went back and forth between the World Trade Center bombers and a Spanish terror cell.

February, 2003, Trade Center bomber Mohammed Salameh writes, "Oh, God, make us live with happiness, make us die as martyrs. May we be united on the day of judgment." The recipient, Mohammed Achraf, later allegedly led a plot to blow up the National Justice Building in Madrid and is awaiting trial.

July 2002, a letter Salameh sent from prison is published in the "Al Quds" newspaper, proclaiming "Osama bin Laden is my hero of this generation."

MCCARTHY: He was exhorting acts of terrorism and helping recruit would-be terrorists for the jihad.

MYERS (on camera): From inside an American prison?

MCCARTHY: From inside an American prison.

MYERS (voice-over): The letters to the bombers spoke of the need to "terminate the infidels." And said "the Muslims don't have any option other than jihad."

Among those corresponding, this man, charged with recruiting suicide operatives in Spain. Spanish officials accuse him of using letters to and from the U.S. bombers as a recruiting tool. All this while the Bureau of Prisons reassured the public terrorists were under control.

HARLEY LAPPIN, DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS: We have been managing inmates with ties to terrorism for over a decade by confining them in secure conditions and monitoring their communications closely.

MYERS: Today, federal prison officials refused to comment directly on what other law enforcement officials call "a horrible lapse," saying only that inmates' letters are monitored and inspected.

So how did this happen? Federal officials tell NBC that the Justice Department failed to restrict communications to and from the three bombers, because key officials didn't consider them "all that dangerous."

Michael Maco (ph) lost his father, Bill, in the Trade Center bombing, and attended the 12th anniversary memorial this weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they're encouraging other acts of terrorism internationally, how do we know they're not encouraging other acts of terrorism right here on U.S. soil?

MYERS: Among the many questions now being scrutinized by the Justice Department.

Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN: The invisible thread between the serious news and the absurdity that is "Keeping Tabs" is not as invisible as it might first seem tonight. The justice system failing there, but its former chief making it into the movies. Most unexpectedly, and certainly without his permission.

This is about the movie "Sideways," and how it has been redubbed to cover profanity. You know, whenever Mr. Dictionary fails the screenwriter and he resorts to a seven-letter epithet describing both an orifice and a kind of personality.

"The Washington Post" reporting that on the dubbed version of the film being shown on Aerolineas Argentinas flights to Lima, the seven-letter word is replaced by the name "Ashcroft." Yes, as in former Attorney General John Ashcroft. The dubbings, "The Post" reports, are in the voices of the original actors, so co-star Thomas Haden Church at one point refers to somebody as an "Ashcroft." The movie "Sideways" is produced by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

And rumors tonight of a settlement in the Kobe Bryant civil case. All because of what as Sherlock Holmes might characterize it, what the dog didn't do in the night. Bryant was supposed to report to Newport Beach, California for a deposition in the suit, filed against him by the Colorado hotel employee he allegedly assaulted in 2003. But our friends at "Celebrity Justice" report he never showed up, and the deposition was postponed indefinitely. Moreover, that the accuser's attorney, Lin Wood, had checked out of the hotel in Newport Beach on Friday.

The television show reports Bryant's accuser was seeking a settlement deal of at least $1 million.

The Oscars are but a fading memory. How fading? Can you remember anything the host said last night? Is that a bad thing? Or in these homogenized times, is it a good thing? Stand by.


OLBERMANN: Luke, I am your father. Nobody flashed, nobody swore, the thing didn't run late, the host didn't set off the fire alarm, and nothing that happened could be morphed into another phony entertainment-as-politics controversy.

Our No. 1 story in the Countdown, the Oscars, hell no! I'm talking about the Razzy Awards, the anti-Oscars. We'll get to the Academy and its new curb-side Oscar delivery service in a moment with Michael Musto. First, the legitimacy of the 25-year-old spoof of the Oscars, awards for worst actress, least supporting actor et cetera, went through the roof when the recipient of its worst actress award not only showed up to the ceremonies, but played along.


HALLE BERRY, ACTRESS: No, I don't have to give this back. It's got my name on it!

I've got so many people to thank, because you don't win a Razzy without a lot of help from a lot of people.


Halle Berry's performance in "Catwoman" not only earned her the dishonor, but it was also voted the worst film of 2004. Worst actor went to the president for his role in "Fahrenheit 9/11." I don't think that's the president. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Susan Lucci of the Razzies, lost again, this time for his worst supporting actor nomination, to Donald Rumsfeld.

Back to Halle Berry. She has at least four films coming out this year, including the remake of "Foxy Brown," so at least statistically, there's the chance that this time next year, she could become the first person ever to accept the Oscar in the parking lot across the street from the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. That joke, Oscar host Chris Rock's response to this year's practice of having some winners accept their statues in the aisles, to say nothing of having them then give their speeches with their backs to the audience, to save time and boredom among the 99.9 percent of the audience not related to the winner for best animated supporting actor grip.

Besides the parking lot reference, Rock predicted the Academy merger with the fast-food drive-through window - "get your Oscar and a McFlurry and keep it moving."

Did Rock have a good night or a bad night? Did the Oscars themselves?

The Associated Press reviewer Frasier Moore said "Rock scored big." "Washington Post" critic Tom Shales called him "strangely lame and mean-spirited."

I'm joined now by the never lame nor mean, although not betting against strange nor spirited nor well-dressed, Michael Musto of "The Village Voice." Good evening, Michael.


OLBERMANN: Rock welcomed everybody to the 77th and last Academy Awards, and Tom Shales wrote it will be his last. Is Shales right? How did Chris Rock do?

MUSTO: I think he'll be back because he actually got good ratings, but my feeling was, David Letterman come back, all is forgiven. The Uma-Oprah thing was hilarious in retrospect.

Something about Chris Rock's performance - I don't know, he was serving up a lot of very generic stand-up stuff, and picking on Jude Law and Tobey Maguire, that's like something I would do. That's unforgivable. That's like stepping on a gnat or two gnats.

OLBERMANN: What about this concept of the drive-through awards? That certainly was the surprise of the year. Should they be dispensed with altogether, these particular awards? You know, just hand them out inside the attendees' goody bags and you know, just put them up on your mantle and that's enough?

MUSTO: Ideally, yes, get rid of the category, because nobody even sees those movies, except people voting on them. They open for a week for consideration. That's the only reason they make these short movies.

But if you're going to have them on the show, give these people the dignity of walking to the stage. They live in L.A. It's the only exercise they'll ever get. I really thought the presenter in the aisle was going to go, "here's your Oscar, want to super size that?" And when they huddled a bunch of nominees on stage, I thought it would turn into "Fear Factor," and four of them would fall through trap doors. It was humiliating.

OLBERMANN: It reminded me of when Ed Sullivan used to stand there and say, we have these celebrities in the audience, just stand up please, and then sit the hell down.

What was your version or your vision of the moment of the night? Mine was Hilary Swank just keeping talking and not letting the band drown her out.

MUSTO: That was sweet. Julia Roberts had already done that, so it's been done, but Hilary did that mainly to thank her publicist. And she also called him her best friend. Hilary, I guess you didn't get the memo, publicists are paid to be your best friend.

My personal favorite was Morgan Freeman, being spotted in the audience an hour after he won still clutching onto the trophy as if he thought Clive Owen was going to grab it away or something. And my favorite pre-show thing was Joan Rivers asking Imelda Staunton what it was like to meet the amazing Vera Drake. Joan didn't get the memo that that was a fictional character.

OLBERMANN: Oh, dear. Lastly, back to Mr. Rock's statement, 77th and last Academy Awards. Not to say that it's going to be the last one in the world, but in a time where you can no longer automatically tell the difference between the People's Choice Awards and the Oscars, have the Oscars in terms of a television show jumped the shark?

MUSTO: Yeah, I think - well, actually I do think the Oscars are distinguishable by its boredom. I think the Golden Globes, however, have taken priority, because there's no host, the audience is drunk, they dive right headlong into the festivities, and they are festivities. There is none of those horrible, you know, foreign language songs you've never heard before and you will never hear again. It's just a big old party. And next time, I say make it like the Golden Globes and get Jude Law to host, so he can have one more credit.

OLBERMANN: Michael Musto. The column is "La Dolce Musto" in "The Village Voice." And the tux looks very sharp, sir.

MUSTO: Jamie Foxx, this is what class really looks like. Take a good look.

OLBERMANN: As always, Michael, great thanks.

MUSTO: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: And that was Countdown. Thank you for being part of it. Keith Olbermann reporting. Good night - and the suit looks pretty bad in comparison there. Good night and good luck.


Friday, February 25, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 25

Guest: Wendy Murphy, Thomas Reese


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

A dying California grandmother moved out of a hospital's primary trauma facility to make room for Michael Jackson's flu case. That's the charge by one family. They are suing Jackson and the hospital.

He had a latte and biscuits. The pope, hours after the tracheotomy, said to be well, and hungry. But what does the church do if he gets sick and loses consciousness for a long time?

Vox populi. The polls showing Americans with increased hope for Iraqi democracy, decreased belief that going to Iraq was a good idea, and even less support than before for the president. Well, at least his European tour went well.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's late - it's late - it's late in the trip, so...

OLBERMANN: We will review it.

And those car chases you so enjoy, what happens at the end? Well, after the end, really. Why are some prosecuted and others allowed to drive away?

All that and more now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good evening.

This is not a newscast during which you will hear nightly the words "Michael" and "Jackson" in the opening 20 minutes. Not as long as I can help it.

But in our fifth story on the Countdown, a California family says it will sue both Jackson and the Marion Medical Center in Santa Maria. It claims that the hospital big footed 74-year-old Manuela Gomez Ruiz, pushing her out of its primary trauma room, even though she had just suffered what would prove to be the first in a series of fatal heart attacks.

The hospital moved her out of the facility, the family says, so that Michael Jackson and his flu could be treated there.

"Celebrity Justice," "Entertainment Tonight," NBC News, all reporting a Manuela Ruiz, mother of eight, grandmother of 24, great-grandmother of 26.

Her family claims that when Jackson walked into the hospital on February 15, having vomited with a temperature of 96.9 degrees, Ms. Ruiz was disconnected from the machine ventilator in a trauma room, moved to a smaller room nearby, her breathing aided in the interim by only a hand pump.

Her daughter, Maria Elena Ortiz, told ABC she was in the main room when Jackson walked in, and she objected as hospital staff tried to move her mother out.

The family says that the second trauma room was so small equipment had to be squeezed in and they were limited to two visitors at a time.

Manuela Gomez Ruiz had two subsequent heart attacks and died later that day.

Marion Medical Center's statement "expressed our deepest sympathy to the family" but claims "patient privacy laws and strict hospital policy protecting the privacy of our patients preclude further comment."

Jackson's spokesman, Raymone Bain, accused ABC of being absurd in its reporting, sending his condolences to the family and adding, "It is outrageous that Michael Jackson's name would be invoked into a situation of which he had no authority or control. It appears that ABC is deliberate in its attempt to circumvent Michael Jackson from receiving a fair trial."

That's not really what circumvent means, but certainly the story does not reflect well on Jackson. Is that unfair? Was the hospital unfair? Did he really have anything to do with any of this?

To help sort out those questions, I'm joined now by Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor, now law school professor and victims rights advocate.

Wendy, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Is there blame here?

MURPHY: You know, it's hard to know. We're hearing one side of the story, but I'll tell you this much. I'm only a jurist doctor and even I know that you don't unplug a dying patient so you can service a famous one. And if that's the only truth to this story, that's pretty outrageous behavior on the part of the hospital.

I just don't know you can lay blame at Michael Jackson's feet. You know, the fact that the hospital personnel were a bunch of sycophants isn't necessarily Michael Jackson's doing, and it's not his fault, necessarily.

OLBERMANN: And again, we have to remember where we are when we're talking about this. I was thinking about this this afternoon.

Once in Los Angeles when I lived there I needed an eye exam, an ordinary check of my glasses. And I asked the doctor, who is based at UCLA, to recommend somebody. He said, "Come in to the medical center. I know just the guy. He's here."

I go to the desk. The receptionist escorts me, not to some place in the patients' waiting room but through a private door into a private waiting room, and the eye doctor who comes to see me is the chairman of the department.

And I was impressed and embarrassed simultaneously. They did this solely because I was on television. Is it...

MURPHY: You're a powerful guy, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Yes, but I'm not. But the point is, is this a situation that we're talking about here with Michael Jackson?

MURPHY: Yes. Of course.

OLBERMANN: We're expecting a world famous person, with all the good and bad that that implies to say, "Hey, don't move that other patient attached to those machines just because I'm here." And is that expectation unrealistic?

MURPHY: Well, you know, a reasonable human being certainly should have and would have said that, especially when you have the fake flu. I mean, he had a 96.9 temperature. That's lower than average. Not your typical flu-like symptom, which is 103. And he had tears in his eyes.

You know, my definition of the diagnosis, and again, I'm not a doctor, but I describe him as having cold feet. He was supposed to be on his way to the courthouse. He banged a left and went to the hospital. He wasn't even sick enough to merit a real doctor, and he got that level of care.

You know, it's one thing for a celebrity to get an extra pickle on their hamburger or, you know, a private booth at a restaurant, but health care is supposed to be the thing we're all entitled to on equal footing.

And, you know, hospitals give special care to people with certain amount of power and influence. And usually you don't hear about it because it's a mother giving birth in a special wing of the hospital. This is a life or death case. She was about to die, and they unplugged her. That's not acceptable on any level. And I don't care if it was Michael Jackson or some old, rotting movie star who showed up. That's bad behavior.

OLBERMANN: So speaking legally, does that family of the dead woman have a case against the hospital or against Michael Jackson or against anybody?

MURPHY: I'm not so sure there's a case against Michael Jackson. There may well be a case against the hospital. The problem is proving causation. It looks like she was pretty ill, and if they can't show that the unplugging literally caused her to die, then they're not going to win much money, but they'll probably get something for the emotional distress, which they deserve.

OLBERMANN: Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor, now a professor at the New England School of Law. As always, Wendy, great thanks for your perspective.

MURPHY: You bet.

OLBERMANN: A different kind of family tragedy playing out tonight in Florida.

Mark Lunsford returned home yesterday to find his 9-year-old daughter, Jessica, gone. Her school clothes still neatly laid out from the evening before, no sign of forced entry into the home, nothing apparently out of place.

Authorities issued a national missing child alert for her, exonerated the father and the estranged mother and continued to search the home in Homosassa, Florida.

In that town, our correspondent is Stephen Stock from the NBC station in Orlando, WESH.

Stephen, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Give us the latest on this situation. I understand we had a false alarm, essentially, today that was in good news for the family.

STOCK: That's right. It was really an emotional hour and a half right before sunset as they were starting to wind down the all-day search that had been going on since daybreak.

Essentially, they found the body of a young lady, a young girl in a lake about 60 miles from here in North Hillsboro County. That's where Tampa is just to our south, but it turned out it was not Jessica. And of course, there was a very emotional time.

In fact, Sheriff Jeff Dawsy here in Citrus County had actually approached Mark Lunsford to tell him to be prepared for the worst. They did not want to tell little Jessica's grandmother, who was the last one to see Jessica alive on Wednesday night when she went to bed, because they were afraid the grandmother would literally fall to pieces.

For the family, the Lunsford family, it was good news. For some other little girl's family, of course, it's very tragic news. But the search for little 9-year-old Jessica goes on.

Now, earlier today the biological mother of Jessica was located by the FBI at her home outside Cincinnati. And she poured her heart out, worried about her daughter's safety.


ANGELA BRYANT, MISSING GIRL'S MOTHER: I hope that she's not dead and that somebody hasn't taken her and done things they wanted to her.

I know me and her dad love her and everybody around her, you know. I just - I just want them to find her.


STOCK: And you know, it's, as you mentioned, Keith, been a long search, a very frustrating search.

Sheriff Dawsy told me late this afternoon this has been the most frustrated he's been in about 30 years of law enforcement, because there literally are no signs of Jessica anywhere. It's almost as if she vanished from her home, which, by the way, is back out there in the trees in the dark. You can't see it. It was lit up until about 15 minutes ago, the family wanting to go to bed and try to get some rest.

Essentially there are no tire tracks out in the front, no footprints. As you mentioned, her clothes were set out on her bed. They weren't even touched.

There was, however, one doll that was missing from her bedroom, and the officials are hoping that that doll might be a clue to finding where this 9-year-old little girl is.

But right now they're saying she may have just walked away or she may have been abducted. They just don't know.

That's the latest from Homosassa. I'm Stephen Stock. Keith, back to you.

OLBERMANN: Stephen, thanks very much.

STOCK: You've got it.

OLBERMANN: One more story of little permanent consequence but which serves as another reminder of how violence can enter our lives at almost any moment at any time, anywhere.

A warning that some of the next video is graphic and potentially disturbing.

Members of a camera crew from a station in Tyler, Texas, KLTV, were inside the city's courthouse covering a story when it and others in the courtroom heard an unfamiliar sound.




OLBERMANN: Not until two women came in running yelling did everyone realize something was going on. Court officials hustling everybody behind furniture and the witness stand, pulling out their weapons, trying to figure out what it was that was going on in the corridor. Others crouched in doorways listening to a barrage of shots coming from outside the building before they finally ran for safety.

The shooter was David Hernandez Arroyo Sr. He showed up outside the courthouse wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying an assault rifle.

His ex-wife had taken him to court, seeking child support for their three children. Instead, he showed up and shot and killed her in the courtyard. He also killed a bystander who had returned fire.

Then Arroyo wounded four others, including his own 21-year-old son. Finally, he took off with police in pursuit. And as one patrol car pulled up behind him, firing shots, he stepped out of the car, raised his rifle. And that is when police took their shot and fatally wounded him.

The attorney for his ex-wife said she probably didn't know any of this was coming. She was too busy trying to support herself and kids to have thought about it.

Also tonight, the Bush whirlwind tour of Europe is over but not forgotten. A lasting impact.

And when was the last time you saw a secretary of state in an outfit and heels like these?

Also the latest on the pope's condition. The Vatican says John Paul is progressing well. But is the church prepared, were he were to suddenly become incapacitated?

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: A suicide bomber striking tonight in Tel Aviv. Will it dash renewed hopes for the Mideast peace process?

And a president back from Europe and greeted with some not so welcoming poll numbers. Stand by.


OLBERMANN: It's been 17 days since the informal cease-fire was declared between the Israelis and the Palestinians, weeks longer since a suicide bombing in Israel.

Our fourth story on the Countdown tonight, the international picture beginning with the end of that in Tel Aviv tonight.

Along the beachfront promenade just past 11 p.m. local time, as the clubs were opening, a suicide bomber, now reported to have been carrying 20 pounds of explosives, blew himself up as he stood alongside at least 20 young people in line to get inside The Stage nightclub.

Reports of 30 to 50 casualties, at least four confirmed deaths.

The chief Palestinian peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has tonight condemned the attack, quote, "in the strongest possible terms." New Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas convened an emergency hearing of his security chiefs. And the Palestinian Authority says it will pursue whoever was responsible.

Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and all the usual suspects have all issued denials that it was them. Sources telling the Associated Press, though, that Hezbollah had hired a Palestinian from the West Bank to carry out the attack. Hezbollah denying that.

Also on the international front, President Bush is back from his European charm offensive. If it's true that a president's journey abroad can boost his approval at home, Mr. Bush must be hoping to see better poll numbers next week.

A Pew Research Survey completed largely before the president's trip showing a drop in his approval rating to 46 percent, down from 50 percent in early January. And if that fall seems counterintuitive so soon after the president's second inaugural, the explanation might be found in part in the mixed message the public is delivering about Iraq.

A healthy plurality now believing the elections there will make Iraq more stable: 47 percent, up from 29 percent who believed that before the elections on January 30.

Still, the public's overall view of the war continues to decline: 47 percent saying military action there was the right decision, down from 51 percent in January.

There's even polling data about the trip itself, sort of. Yesterday in Bratislava, thousands of Slovaks stood for hours in the cold to hear the president speak briefly.

One of them, a 25-year-old artist named Thomas Polander (ph), told the Reuters news agency that he was delighted by Mr. Bush's presence, mostly. Quote, "Ninety percent of me is in favor of him, only 10 percent is against."

No reaction from the president himself. But then again, this was a long week for him, and it was hardly a European vacation.


OLBERMANN (voice-over): Belgium, Germany, Slovakia, each destination more important than the last.

After the rift about Iraq, repairing relations with France came first, the president changing shock and awe into something closer to Chirac and awe. He even invited "Monsieur le president" back to the ranch in Crawford.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm looking for a good cowboy.

OLBERMANN: If that wasn't awe enough, there was also the meal they shared: a plate of French fries, not freedom fries, French fries, and not the last munchies on this trip.

BUSH: Laura and I are looking forward to eating lunch with you and Doris.

We just had a good breakfast.

Some of you Iron Soldiers might have seen me before. I was the guy serving turkey.

OLBERMANN: On to Germany. The last time Mr. Bush looked to that country, he could not find an ally. This time he could not find stemware.

BUSH: Gerhard, before I raise my imaginary glass...

OLBERMANN: The president also popped in on these troops in Viesvaden (ph) Army Airfield Base. And don't look now, but here comes the secretary of stilettos.


OLBERMANN: Well, there had to be some reason the president was in a hurry to get out of there.

BUSH: I look forward to continue to articulate how we can work forward to keep freedom on the march. Thank you all very much. Appreciate it.


BUSH: Oh, I'm sorry.

He gave me a handshake when he said he didn't want a handshake. I don't know what this means.

OLBERMANN: It was at another news conference with the leaders at the European Union that the biggest news was made. And we were all reminded to wait for the full statement.

BUSH: This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous.

OLBERMANN: Two, three, four...

BUSH: Having said that, all options are on the table.


OLBERMANN: Bob was no doubt exhausted by all the traveling.

Ultimately, in Slovakia the president would admit to that.

BUSH: It's late - it's late - it's late in the trip.

OLBERMANN: So the president turned to his old Russian friend.


OLBERMANN: Not Pootie Tang. Nobody was that tired. Pootie Poot.

And their meeting produced an agreement on agreement.

BUSH: And yes means yes, and no means no. And this is the fellow who when he says yes, he means yes. And when he says no he means now. All I can tell you is he said yes meant yes.


OLBERMANN: Also tonight, a trip in time. The Stone Age meeting the computer age. Rare dinosaur fossils up for grabs on eBay?

The Countdown regulars know our affinity for the car chase. We always see the bad guys going to the big house. But tonight, we'll look at how many actually end up there.

ANNOUNCER: You're getting your news Olbermann style. Countdown WITH KEITH OLBERMANN is part of the best primetime in cable news, MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: We're back, and we pause the Countdown of the day's important news and current affairs, for a brief segment of weird stories, dumb criminals and beer, beer, beer. Let's play "Oddball."

We begin in Thailand, where if you were hoping to pick up some dinosaur bones on eBay, you missed your chance, pal. Thai police have arrested a man who had stolen thousands of priceless fossils and had been selling them on the Net at bargain prices, some as low as $1,000 each.

No word on how many of them bones were eBayed, though we understand the suspect's line of defense would be, he stole nothing. He is actually four million years old and is the original owner.

Traveling east to Japan, where real estate has become so scarce in the land of the rising sun, they have begun farming in the basement. The prime minister, Koizumi - no, Koizumi in Japanese made a visit to this underground farm, a converted bank vault in Tokyo, growing rice and vegetables under hot grow lights.

You know, Mr. Prime Minister, you stole the idea from Cheech and Chong.

To Halifax, where students at the Nova Scotia Community College were using grow lights in their dorm room but booze is part of the curriculum.

A new course on beer will be offered this semester through the Labatt Institute, teaching students everything from the history of suds to the proper way to pour it. The course has been wildly popular so far, though officials say most are surprised at just how difficult it is, especially after a few beers.

Also the final exam is a problem. In that one, students must chug 10 beers and then pick a fight with a Canadian moose.

Also tonight, the pope is said to be joking with church officials, but for now his only means of communicating those humorous reposts is by writing. What happens if he's permanently disabled or incapacitated?

The same issue facing courts in Florida and Texas tonight. The case of Terri Schiavo, you know about. That of this six-month-old boy, you probably do not.

These stories ahead. Now here is Countdown'S top three newsmakers of the day.

No. 3, the geniuses at the European Union. A new law may have to be changed. It sounded like a great idea. Airlines have to compensate passengers for any delays. So when one of the engines on a British Airplanes flight from London - when one of them conked out right after takeoff, the pilot just kept on flying. It was that or compensation fines of nearly $200,000. One engine short, the plane just barely made it across the Atlantic.

No. 2, Raymond Rashawne Carter, our unintentionally dumb criminal of the week. He robbed a jewelry store in Charlottesville, Virginia, took an engagement ring and his and hers wedding bands so he could propose to his girlfriend, who promptly said yes, and then promptly took her new rings to be resized at the same jewelry store.

Thanks, hon. Thanks a lot. Write to me in jail.

And No. 1, the geniuses at Sony. They have now installed a new button in an online multiplayer game, which allows you to order a real pizza to be delivered so you don't have to stop playing.

Experts say this could expedite your heart attack by three to five years.


OLBERMANN: Inside one of the largest cathedrals in Rome stands a monument to Sylvester II who was pope from the year 999 through the year 1003. Legend has it that whenever one of his successors is about to die, the carving in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran will start to sweat or cry.

Today, with Pope John Paul II still hospitalized after his tracheotomy last night, a priest, identified by the Reuters News service only as Father Eduardo, pressed his palm to the carving and declared, "The stone feels cold but dry, so the pope will live."

Now our third story in the Countdown, would that it were that simple? On the other hand, the Vatican says this morning the pontiff had a latte, some yogurt and some biscuits.

A spokesman insists that John Paul did not undergo an emergency procedure, is breathing on his own without a respirator, does not have pneumonia, that he was writing jokes longhand within moments of coming out of anesthesia last night, and they said nothing to support the analysis of outside medical experts, those physicians predicting the tracheotomy tube could be in place for several weeks.

Some suggested that the two breathing crises in a span of 24 hours means John Paul is now not getting enough air into this lungs and now is at risk for heart attack or suffocation.

Alone among grim language, that word found its way into statements of Vatican officials today. The highest-ranking American there, James Cardinal Stafford, told an Italian newspaper, "To die of suffocation or even to experience the sensation of suffocating is something we can all identify with. That's why a deep empathy with is suffering is spreading among us." The cardinal added they all hope John Paul "won't suffer."

Officially, the Vatican insists the surgery yesterday was elective, that its principal sequelae has been that he's been ordered not to talk for several days and adds there will not be another briefing on his health until Monday.

No pope has resigned since 1415. Pope Paul VI was once asked about that and insisted it would be a bad precedent because it could lead to factions to pressure future pontiffs to abdicate for reasons other than health.

Yet the subject has been raised repeatedly of late, in no small measure because of the advances in life-extending science. What would happen if a pope were to be on life support or otherwise be incapacitated?

To ponder these issues with us, I'm joined by Father Thomas J. Reese, editor in chief of the national Catholic weekly in this country, America magazine.

Father Reese, thank you for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN: At the outset, I assume we have to view this topic, at least for now, as an entirely academic issue. People know of his illnesses, of the assassination attempt, but what they may not know is that this man survived the Nazis, the Communists and getting hit by a truck in 1994. This is some durable individual.

REESE: Absolutely. Yes, he's very tough. I mean, he - he survived all of these incidents and he's outlived some of his biographers.

OLBERMANN: Scholars and those who know him and some of those biographers you refer to say it's pretty obvious that he would not retire.

But, with the nature of his illnesses now, the breathing problems that owe to or are made worse by Parkinson's, there is sadly an array of outcomes that could leave him - maybe we're talking 10 years from now, maybe 20 years from now, but could leave him eventually in that kind of life-support situation that I was referring to earlier.

Are there provisions made for what to do in that event either about his life or his continuance as pope?

REESE: Well, there really - if the pope is still able to communicate, the pope, of course, could resign. The real problem comes in if the pope is so disabled and cannot function and cannot even communicate. Then the church doesn't have a procedure for dealing with this.

We don't have anything like the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which provides for dealing with a disabled president. We don't have that in the Catholic Church.

OLBERMANN: Probably the best known of your many books on the church is entitled "Inside the Vatican." So I assume this thought has crossed your mind, even if it has not been officially considered or structured within church councils.

What about the scenario that is next on the nightmare list, beyond the one we're just talking about, that science's efforts can unfortunately contribute to this, similar to what we're seeing in Florida to the case of Terri Schiavo, not merely a life-support situation, but one in which there has been no provision made for resignation, there is no consciousness, and it goes on for months or for years.

What does the church do then?

REESE: Good question. And, frankly, we don't know.

The 1983 Code of Canon law asks that there be special legislation that would deal with this kind of problem. That legislation has never been written, sadly to say. We need it.

The modern medicine is going to make it inevitable that some time in this century we probably will have a crisis where we have a pope who continues to live, but is incapable of governing or communicating.

OLBERMANN: And on the subject finally of communication, how important is it that speaking still be a part of the pope's means of communications because, obviously, in the short term, that's not going to be a realistic thing, and, obviously, in the last few weeks, that has been increasingly a difficult thing.

REESE: Well, the - you know, it is extremely important that he be able to communicate at least some way, even if he can just nod yes or no. I mean, if it got so bad that they could - they had to come in and say, Your Holiness, do you want to resign, if he nodded yes, then he has resigned, and the College of Cardinals could elect a new pope.

But, you know, you couldn't govern the church that way, of just having a pope nod yes and no periodically. I think that this pope has seized this job as a mission, a vocation from God.

But he also is very committed to the good of the church. This is a man who served the church all his life, and, if he comes to the conclusion that, for the good of the church, he needs to step aside, I'm quite sure that he will.

OLBERMANN: Father Thomas Reese, editor and chief of American magazine. Great. Thanks for your time and your insight tonight, sir.

REESE: You're welcome.

OLBERMANN: And that case of Terri Schiavo I must mentioned continues and will continue for three weeks more at least.

Our correspondent, Mark Potter, has been following the latest round of legal machinations and joins us now from Pinellas Park, Florida.

Good evening, Mark.

MARK POTTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Keith.

For Terri Schiavo's parents, who received the news while visiting their daughter in the hospice facility behind me, it was a bittersweet day. A Florida circuit judge ruled that their daughter's feeding tube could be removed in three weeks on March 18 at 1:00 p.m. leading to her death.

The parents, while disappointed, said they were at least glad that the tube was not removed immediately, and they and their lawyers vow to appeal this ruling all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.


DAVID GIBBS III, SCHINDLER ATTORNEY: We are 110 percent committed and absolutely resolved to saving the life of Terri. We are feeling good about the order today in one respect in that it has given us 21 days where Terri's life is protected and nothing can be done to end her life in that time period.


POTTER: Now, today, ironically, is the 15th anniversary to the day of when Terri Schiavo collapsed and suffered massive brain damage. That's how long this case has been going on.

Terri's husband and legal guardian Michael Schiavo has fought for years to remove the tube, claiming that his wife would not want to live on life support. He today issued a written statement praising the judge's decision.

The judge himself, George Greer, said that he was no longer comfortable issuing delays in this case which has been argued for so long and so bitterly.

But the attorney for the parents says he still has many legal options which he will pursue vigorously and now very quickly trying to keep Terri alive.

Keith, back to you.

OLBERMANN: Mark Potter in Pinellas Park, Florida.

Thanks very much. At first blush, a story in Houston sounds extraordinarily similar to the Schiavo case, a mother asking the judge to not let a hospital disconnect her son from a ventilator, except her son is 6 months old. Our correspondent in Houston is Janet Shamlian.


JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sun Hudson was born six months ago today with the odds stacked against him. With a rare form of dwarfism, his lungs are too small to support his body, a usually fatal genetic deformity.

Since September, Hudson has been here at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston tethered to a ventilator and feeding tubes. He is sedated and unconscious. Doctors say there is no hope and want to remove him from life support.

His mother believes otherwise and wants to force the hospital to keep her son alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love my son and I've been speaking about this for a long time. I want my son to live because there is a bond there between me and my son that no one knew about.

SHAMLIAN: Texas Children's Hospital says it would be unethical to continue with care that is futile and prolong Sun's suffering.

Last week, a judge ruled the hospital could determine the infant's fate, but an appeals court quickly issued a stay, and now both sides await a ruling.

(on camera): It is a potentially history making case. If the appeals court agrees with the lower court, it will be the first time in the nation's history that a judge has allowed life support to be removed while a baby is still alive.

(voice-over): At the core of the case, who makes the decision on withholding or withdrawing treatment of a child when the parents and doctors disagree?

Dr. William Winslade is a medical ethicist.

DR. WILLIAM WINSLADE, MEDICAL ETHICIST: There is a value conflict between the mother's right under Texas law to request life support, even though her son is dying, and the right of the physicians to refuse to perform procedures which they think are medically and professionally inappropriate.

SHAMLIAN: Texas Children's Hospital has offered Hudson the opportunity to transfer Sun to another facility, but none will accept him. The court is still deliberating with no indication when an opinion will be issued.

Janet Shamlian, NBC News, Houston.


OLBERMANN: Also tonight, you've seen them here time and time again.

What kind of time will they see when a judge looks at the videotape?

And another entertainer has been hacked. This time, it's the computer of the leader of the band, Limp Bizkit, and they've stolen his X-rated films of himself. I don't even have to say the joke. You can just imagine the punch line, right?

Those stories ahead.

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


SHIRLEY SCHICHTEL, BUFFALO LOVE: I love him because, I mean, he is a prehistoric beast, but we have a connection with him, and I know he's to be respected and to be feared because he can be - he can hurt you, but we love him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can see the sun was shining, but still having problems with mudslides. We may see the odd shower run through the area today as we are looking at some light shower activity into Southern California.

OMAROSA, FORMER COMPETITOR, "THE APPRENTICE": And that's what I'm talking about, taking a realistic look at this.

LINDA VESTER, FOX CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, I am taking a realistic look at this, and I've been in TV longer than you have, dearie, and, if you look at...

OMAROSA: Are you sure? Do you know my credentials? Let's go toe to toe on credentials, honey. I guarantee you'd lose.

VESTER: Prepare to lose and then you'll be buying me dinner.

OMAROSA: I'm sure I get paid more than you do.

VESTER: First of all, you're not my friend. Second of all, please don't interrupt.


OMAROSA: Thanks so much for having me on your show.

VESTER: It's been a treat.

OMAROSA: What an idiotic person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why can't we be friends / Why can't we be friends / Why can't we be friends...



OLBERMANN: It seems as if every other week at least we fill part of this news hour with the inexplicable, but inevitable decisions by criminals and sometimes people with neither records nor good sense to try to outrace the police. Often this ends in tragedy, but the cops have now gotten this down to such a science that usually it's just low comedy.

But, in our number two story on the Countdown, what happens, as the old-time song asks, after the ball is over. When the copters leave and the cameras are turned off, what do the courts do about these madmen with licenses?

Answers tonight from our correspondent, George Lewis, in the birthplace of the high-speed chase, Los Angeles.


GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the old game of cops and robbers played out on television.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the cops have him. He's down.

LEWIS: After the chase is over and after the police arrest those they're pursuing...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down! Get down now! Get down on the ground!LEWIS:... what happens then?

JOHN SPILLANE, ASSISTANT LOS ANGELES DISTRICT ATTORNEY: For the past five years, we've been prosecuting approximately 1,000 felony evading cases within Los Angeles County in our office.

LEWIS: And 95 percent of those prosecutions usually end up with a suspect being convicted.

One of the most notorious pursuits was this one where a man hijacked a bus and rammed it into other vehicles, killing a woman.

SPILLANE: That particular individual is now facing life without possibility of parole. He was charged with felony murder and convicted by a jury.

LEWIS: Throughout the country, there are tens of thousands of police pursuits each year with no exact count. California keeps tabs, and, in the most recent statistics for the year 2003, the state had 7,203 car chases.

(on camera): And Los Angeles, with 533 miles of freeway, has been dubbed the car chase capital of the country. Half of California's felony pursuit cases are in L.A. County.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you guys watching this?

LEWIS (voice-over): But, surprisingly, the vast majority of people the cops chase are not charged with serious crimes.

GEOFFREY ALPERT, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA: Less than 10 percent of the pursuits are for violent felonies.

Professor Geoffrey Alpert of the University of South Carolina who has trained thousands of police officers favors restricting police pursuits because of the dangers.

ALPERT: Our research has shown that approximately 40 percent of all chases result in some sort of a crash, at least one person a day is going to die.

LEWIS: And critics like Professor Albert say if 90 percent of chases are for misdemeanors, it isn't really cops and robbers, but rather a very dangerous game of trivial pursuit.

George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles.


OLBERMANN: So we careen at high speed into the world of celebrity and gossip news, and "Keeping Tabs" tonight begins with grim, but entirely consistent news about the suicide of the writer Hunter S. Thompson.

His wife saying now she was on the phone with him when he shot himself. He set the receiver down, and he did it, she said. I heard the clicking of the gun.

She said her husband had spent recent months talking of suicide and that since his death she had come to accept it as a triumph of his, not a desperate, tragic failure.

At Thompson's suggestion, a small group of friends gathered around him in the kitchen after he died and drank scotch, all of which will make the second development seem almost mundane.

The family says it is still working on fulfilling his other last request, that he be cremated and his remains shot off like fireworks out of a cannon.

And the hacker who stole hundreds of phone numbers from Paris Hilton's cell phone and pager device has now one-upped himself in terms of content. Tech news sites reporting the so-called T-Mobile terrorist has now hacked into the personal computer of Fred Durst, lead singer of the band Limp Bizkit, and he has snagged the rocker's amateur porn video of himself with an unknown woman. Limp Bizkit indeed.

A Phoenix, Arizona, publicist says the thief tried to sell him the B-grade XXX flick claiming to be the same culprit who raided Paris Hilton's A, B and C lists. The porn video was instead released to the welcoming arms of the Internet, but it may leave a trail helpful to investigators.

And, lastly, Sunday night will be the occasion of the 77th Academy Awards, the Oscars. Nothing I hate more than previews about the Oscars. So we'll move on.

It's that time again. The envelope, please. Not an award, but more like a smack across the forehead from an old used shower curtain dressed up as art. Will this videotape have anything to do with our weekly news quiz? How many will I get wrong this time? Stand by for the quiz.


OLBERMANN: Usually, I use these few brief moments here before the week comes to a close to complain about the traditional Friday "Countdown" news quiz. Truth be told, it was my idea to begin with so most of my sour words are a put-on. Most of them.

Though I'm on a winning streak, there is always that tantalizing prospect of making a huge jackass out of myself in front of hundreds of thousands of people instead of one at a time. So it is always with some trepidation that I say it's time to play "What Have We Learned?"

Then here now, who else but the genial and lately not-heavily-armed-with-tough-questions emcee of "What Have We Learned?" "Countdown"'s Senior Correspondent Monica Novotny.

MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Do we have a junior correspondent?

OLBERMANN: You're also that.

NOVOTNY: OK. I simply ask what our viewers ask me to ask. Those are the rules, and I'm sticking to them.

But, before we get to that, if you would like to play along, you can find the news quiz on our Web site, that's

As always, we'll begin with two minutes on the clock. I will ask as many of your viewer questions as time allows. For every question answered incorrectly, the anchorman will shell out $50 for charity, and he will whine about it. If he answers at least half correctly, he wins a prize. So far, you, the viewer, have helped raise $800 for the "Countdown" news quiz charity fund.

Sir, are you ready?

OLBERMANN: How many in a row have I won?

NOVOTNY: I don't - I don't keep track of that.

OLBERMANN: Twenty? Twenty-five? Something like that?

NOVOTNY: You do the gloating.

OLBERMANN: This is where - this is, by the way, where it comes to an end. I have nothing to my name. Nothing! We're going for - Monica's going to pitch a shutout. OK.

NOVOTNY: Are you ready?

OLBERMANN: All right.

NOVOTNY: Two minutes on the clock, please.

And number one, from Cheryl in Rhode Island, in homage to Christo's "The Gates," how many peanut-butter-and-cheddar-flavored crackers were used in "The Crackers?"

OLBERMANN: Wow. How many? I don't remember ever seeing how many of them. Just take a wild guess of 26.

NOVOTNY: There are three dozen, 36. Sorry.

OLBERMANN: Yes. There's - you see? Half right.

NOVOTNY: From a different Cheryl, what is Christo calling his next planned artistic outing?

OLBERMANN: More crap. No, it's called - it's called - no, it's - he's got to cover part of that river - the Arkansas River in Colorado called the roofing - river roof?

NOVOTNY: It's actually called Over the River.

OLBERMANN: Over the river, through the woods to grandmother's house we go.

NOVOTNY: Number three from Michelle, why was President Kennedy reluctant about having his golf game being filmed?

OLBERMANN: Because he thought Christo was going to turn him into some sort of art. No, as a - he had criticized Eisenhower during Eisenhower's presidency for playing golf.

NOVOTNY: Oh, we have one. Excellent.

From - number four, from Caroline as edited by one of our senior producers, what did Jack Hannah suggest to his wife when one of his chimpanzees wasn't eating back in 1971?

OLBERMANN: They had a daughter, see, and she was breastfeeding the daughter. Perhaps they could show this to the chimpanzee who didn't know how.

NOVOTNY: Indeed.

OLBERMANN: And she smacked him a good one for that.

NOVOTNY: Yes. You paid attention to that one.

From Maggie in New Jersey, what are the four steps to a good handshake?

OLBERMANN: I always listen to my guests.

NOVOTNY: What are...

OLBERMANN: The four steps to a good handshake?

NOVOTNY: But do you listen to your correspondents?

OLBERMANN: Yes. Four steps to a good handshake are taken to the left or westerly direction.

NOVOTNY: Engage, pause, observe and remember.

From Deborah in New Jersey, who is Rita Duffy?

OLBERMANN: I do know Rita Duffy's name. She's the daughter...

NOVOTNY: A lovely woman.

OLBERMANN: Daughter of Frank Duffy, the former infielder of the Cleveland Indians.

NOVOTNY: You're just going nowhere.

OLBERMANN: I told you shutout.

NOVOTNY: He's an Irish artist who wants to move an iceberg to Belfast.

OLBERMANN: Oh, yes. He wants to take the iceberg to Belfast?

NOVOTNY: From Jill in Ontario, Canada, how many...

OLBERMANN: Well, to hell with her.

NOVOTNY: How many years would it take two unneutered cats to produce more than 80 million offspring.



OLBERMANN: I got something out of this.

NOVOTNY: And also, from JoAnne in Brussels, what did President Bush say he was looking for?

OLBERMANN: Looking for? When? Where? In Brussels?

NOVOTNY: That was the question.

OLBERMANN: But I get to answer the last one...

NOVOTNY: Time is up.

OLBERMANN: Wait. I get the answer to the last one on the clock. In Brussels?

NOVOTNY: When in Brussels what did President Bush say he was looking for?

OLBERMANN: Brussel sprouts.

NOVOTNY: A new you cowboy.

OLBERMANN: That's right.

NOVOTNY: And so I believe you got them all wrong or something...

OLBERMANN: There was an earlier - no, I got - I got three right out of nine, I think. Is that right?

NOVOTNY: Yes. Out of eight.

OLBERMANN: Three out of eight? It seemed like nine.

NOVOTNY: Five? Five for charity.

OLBERMANN: Yes, OK. So it was $800. Now it's $1,050 in the charity kitty.

NOVOTNY: That's right. $250...

OLBERMANN: You know, that bit about the cowboy? That was in the show earlier today. I read it aloud, and I forgot about it between now and then.

NOVOTNY: You're exhausted.

OLBERMANN: So do - what do I get now? Do I get something?

NOVOTNY: This is your punishment.

OLBERMANN: It's not my punishment. Who is that supposed to be?

NOVOTNY: This is the new Condoleezza Rice doll, I believe, and actually sporting the boots.

OLBERMANN: Well, no, it's sporting Frankenstein's boots. Look at this. Look at this. These are bigger than the head. If I'm Condoleezza Rice, I sue, right? Because that doesn't look anything like her. That looks like James Brown more than Condoleezza Rice.

NOVOTNY: I agree.

OLBERMANN: It's also got - remember the Howard Dean action figure from last year?


OLBERMANN: It's the same - the same body.

NOVOTNY: OK. Well, there you go. Don't do any damage to her, please.

OLBERMANN: I - please. I don't need the State Department on top of everything else.

Thank you, Monica.

Thank you, questioners. I told you I was going to tank.

Thank you for indulging this stuff again until once more we play "What Have We Learned?"

And not a moment too soon, that's Countdown. Thank you for being part of it. Keith Olbermann reporting. Good night and good luck.


Thursday, February 24, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 24

Guest: Richard Smith, George Weigel, Jose Canseco


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

The pope is hospitalized. Again. He undergoes a tracheotomy requiring general anesthesia. What is next for his health? His papacy? His church?

Secular matters. Very secular. Jeff Gannon speaks.

CAMPBELL BROWN, HOST, "WEEKEND TODAY": Did you advertise yourself as a gay male escort for hire on a web site?

JEFF GANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I cannot go into those specifics. I can tell that you there is a lot of misinformation out there.

OLBERMANN: He speaks. His news agency speaks no more. The web site, taken down pending a, quote, "top to bottom review."

Jose Canseco live. Tonight. That's the plan, anyway.

And Wild Thing, the trooper terrorizing turkey, is dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The reason it was Wild Thing, we used to sing and it would strut. He would sit on our lap.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he likes you.


OLBERMANN: All that and more now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good evening.

For the second time in 24 days, Pope John Paul II has been hospitalized, and this breathing crisis has required a tracheotomy, the cutting of a hole in the pontiff's throat and windpipe to insert a breathing tube.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, the latest from Rome. After the 30-minute surgery tonight, the pope raised his hand and tried to speak to the doctor but was told not to try. He was described by a spokesman as serene.

It was an epic day, as what the Vatican first distributed as a precautionary measure, turned into an operation requiring general anesthesia. The recurrence of the pope's flu-like symptoms, fever and larynx spasms first caused him to cancel his attendance at a consistory, a meeting on new candidates for sainthood. He sent a note and was to watch the proceedings on the Vatican in-house cable system.

Then at 10:45 this morning, prevailing local time, another sudden decision was made to take the pontiff to Gemelli Hospital. The eighth time since his election that has happened.

A security guard at the hospital said John Paul was both conscious and sitting partially upright as he was admitted. And a witness told an Italian television network that the pope waved to onlookers.

At that point, the Vatican insisted there would be no further medical bulletins until tomorrow. But the Italian news agency, Onsa (ph), reported in early evening that a tracheotomy was being contemplated. And then just before 10 p.m. Rome time, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls confirmed the operation and deemed it a success.

The pope had been released from his first hospital stay of the month two weeks ago today. He remains at Gemelli at least overnight in a regular hospital room, not ICU.

I'm joined now by Dr. Richard Smith, head and neck surgeon, vice chairman of the otolaryngology department at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

Dr. Smith, thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: Put all these pieces together. Eighty-four-year-old man, Parkinson's Disease, two apparent incidents of laryngeal tracheitis (ph) in 24 days, and now a tracheotomy. Medically, what's happening to him?

SMITH: I certainly think they're seeing a deterioration in his status both related to his lungs and probably the voice box, too.

OLBERMANN: If he's your patient, what are you telling his family and friends right now?

SMITH: Well, I think that the tracheotomy was performed really to ease his comfort and take care of his pulmonary symptoms and his lung condition.

OLBERMANN: And his long-term prospects are what? Is there a way to assess that from this distance?

SMITH: Well, the tracheotomy itself really doesn't have a long-term problem with it. It's meant to really make him more comfortable and safely care for his lung disease. So really, the issue is what caused the tracheotomy and how bad is his lung disease?

OLBERMANN: Is there any way of measuring at this point how long that tracheotomy tube is likely to remain in there?

SMITH: Well, if indeed, as we think, it's related to the lung disease, it may be several weeks. I think it's probably not related to voice box problems, which we were thinking about, perhaps, initially.

OLBERMANN: So a matter of weeks in the best set of circumstances?

Could it be faster? Could it be out faster than that?

SMITH: Certainly possible if he has a very quick recovery. It could be out faster. You know, an 84-year-old who's otherwise compromised, it may take quite some time, however.

OLBERMANN: The deterioration of the power of his voice. We talked about his voice box, both recently and in the last few years. Does that fact by itself give you any additional insight as to his illness?

SMITH: Well, I think that's probably related to his Parkinson's Disease in general weak status right now. And that could certainly mean that they will leave it in for a longer period.

OLBERMANN: Dr. Richard Smith, vice chairman of otolaryngology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Great thanks for your insight and your time tonight, sir.

SMITH: Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: When the pope was first hospitalized at the beginning of this month, we were fortunate enough to be joined by one of his biographers and confidantes, the author of "Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II," George Weigel. He joins us again tonight from Washington.

Mr. Weigel, good evening. Thanks again for your time.

GEORGE WEIGEL, AUTHOR, "WITNESS TO HOPE": Thank you. It's nice to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Do you know? Can you interpret from what the Vatican is and is not saying just how sick the pope is this time?

WEIGEL: This is obviously a very difficult day. The pope has lived a very dramatic life for a better part of eight decades. And it seems that he's going to live a dramatic life till the end.

This is not good news, obviously, what we heard today. But I think we have to hope that this tracheotomy will ease his breathing, will allow him to get over this flu, which seems to have come back.

But it looks like it's going to take a bit longer this time to get back into - into something resembling his normal condition, which he was in Monday and Tuesday. He had a very strong day Monday and Tuesday, meeting the Spanish bishops, meeting with the prime minister of Croatia. So this is something of a surprise.

OLBERMANN: But as you say, the drama here. We just heard Dr. Smith talk about the possibility that that tracheotomy tube could be in there for weeks. Does this make more realistic this subject of retirement or, in technical terms, abdication?

Cardinal Sardano (ph), who would be listed second on the death chart at the Vatican, if such a thing existed, was asked about this when John Paul was first hospitalized. Ordinarily he dismisses retirement stories or questions out of hand. No chance.

But at that time, the cardinal said it was a matter for the pope's conscience. Do you think he could be considering resignation? Or do you think that there might be those around him in the Vatican who are suggesting that?

WEIGEL: I certainly don't think anyone is pressing the pope to abdicate. I think the pope himself has said on numerous occasions, over the past, what, four or five or six years, that he believes it to be his responsibility, his duty, to see this mission, this ministry of his through to the end. And I believe that's still his intention.

OLBERMANN: What happens logistically in these health crises? Something like this, which might be a short stay in the hospital that clearly resulted in him being conscious at the end of the surgery? But who is running the Vatican? What autonomy do they have? What do they defer until and unless he regains full health?

And what happens if you have one of those middle situations, where he can't speak for the next three weeks? He's incapacitated? He's in and out of consciousness? What happens to the entire running of the Vatican? And of the church?

WEIGEL: Well, let's - let's start with the least draconian scenario. The holy city is probably running today and tomorrow and the next day pretty much as it always runs.

John Paul II has not been a micro-manager for the past 26 years. He has people in place in whom he reposes confidence. And the ordinary business of the church goes on.

There are certain things that only popes can do. You mentioned at the beginning of this segment, this consistory today for the - to consider the canonization of new saints. He participated in that by mail, so to speak, sending his consent to these canonizations in the form of a letter. That may be the way that he communicates in other circumstances for the next little while.

Another thing that only popes can do is appoint bishops throughout the Latin rite Catholic Church. So that will be on hold temporarily until he recovers the capacity to manifest his will in these matters.

OLBERMANN: George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, author of "Witness to Hope: The Biography of John Paul II." Great thanks again for joining us tonight.

WEIGEL: Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN: John Paul, of course, rightly claimed large credit for knocking over the dominoes in Poland that eventually knocked down the Berlin Wall and, ultimately, the Soviet Union.

But Russia's transition from communism to democracy has not been a smooth one. Many now concerned that Russia may actually be backsliding on that path. Democratic reform on the agenda at today's summit in Slovakia between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Bush.

Day five of the Bush continental charm offensive. Touching down in Eastern Europe with Mr. Bush saying he raised his concerns with the Russian president in a, quote, constructive and friendly way. Mr. Putin reassured his American counterpart that Russia has made its choice for democracy and there is no turning back.

The two finding some common ground on the spread of nuclear weapons, agreeing on steps to keep nuclear arms away from terrorists and that Iran and North Korea should not have nuclear arms.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We agreed that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon. And I appreciate Vladimir's understanding on that issue. We had a very constructive dialogue about how to achieve that common goal. We agreed that North Korea should not have a nuclear weapon.


OLBERMANN: The effort to build democracy in Iraq confronted with more resistance and more violence today. A series of deadly attacks across that country, killing as much as 30, including two American soldiers. The largest and deadliest of those incidents taking place in Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein.

A man wearing a police uniform driving a car loaded with explosives into a police station parking lot this morning. The explosion, powerful enough to set 20 cars afire. Witnesses say the attack came during a shift change when dozens of policemen were arriving to relieve colleagues who had been working all night.

Elsewhere in the world tonight, first Jeff Gannon threw in the towel. Now Talon News is no more. But Mr. Gannon will be here for an interview, as will Jose Canseco on the day a California Democrat suggests there should be congressional hearings into his accusations and he and Mark McGwire should testify under oath.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Another great resource of American journalism has gone dark. Talon News is no more. It now belongs to the ages.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, Jeff Gannon and James Guckert and maybe both of them speak here in a moment.

First the Talon News, news. Its owner taking the web site down pending, in his own priceless words, quote, "a top to bottom review."

Talon was the offshoot of the pro-Republican but evidently not party affiliated web site GOPUSA. It consisted of Bobby Eberle, who owned both sites, a few unidentified volunteers and Washington bureau chief Jeff Gannon, since famously identified as a gentleman with a dubious past, none of which included the slightest bit of journalism before he suddenly and mysteriously showed up in the White House press briefing room, starting early in 2003.

Today, owner Eberle posted a message on the Talon News site, reading in part, "The recent public focus on Talon News, while much of it malicious, has indeed brought some constructive elements to the surface. We feel compelled to reevaluate operations in order to provide the highest quality, most professional product possible. Thus, Talon News will be offline while we redesign the web site, perform a top-to-bottom review of staff and volunteer contributors, and address future operational procedures."

Eberle gave no indication of if or when the site would again be up, but in any event, temporal predictions in this case have been meaningless so far.

Ten days ago, Jeff Gannon told "Editor & Publisher" magazine that he would not again speak to the media. Last Friday, he complained that - complained that the media was not trying to contact him for his side of the story.

Early yesterday, we received from him his fourth rejection of our invitation to him to tell his side of the story on Countdown.

"I left you a message while Monday's show aired," he e-mailed one of our staffers. "I don't know how Keith would think that I would ever come on his show considering how he has dealt with this story thus far. I did appreciate the replay of some of my questions, however. If there were any conservatives watching I'm sure they were cheered that someone would ask those kind of questions. Take a look at the red/blue county map from the 2004 election for a clue. Best to you, Jeff."

Guckert won't talk to us, but he might wind up talking to the special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame case. Two member of Congress asking that his office subpoena the diary that Guckert kept of his White House days.

And a senator writing President Bush to ask him to open an investigation into the potential security breech presented by Guckert's admission into the White House.

All of that may happen, but something else extraordinary already has. Guckert has spoken with the co-host of "WEEKEND TODAY" and former NBC News White House correspondent Campbell Brown.


BROWN: At White House briefings, Jeff Gannon was known for his friendly questions.

GANNON: I have so many questions about what the president was doing over 30 years. What is it that he did after his honorable discharge from the National Guard? Did he make speeches alongside Jane Fonda denouncing America's racist war in Vietnam?


GANNON: I would like to comment on the angry mob that surrounded Karl Rove's house on Sunday.

The president said Thursday in his press conference that he was reaching out to the press corps. Why - what did he mean by that and why would he feel the need to reach out to a group of supposedly nonpartisan people?

BROWN: But his trouble started when he was called on by the president at this news conference and took a swipe at Democrats.

GANNON:... reach out to these people. How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?

BROWN (on camera): Were you in that press conference as a plant by the White House?

GANNON: Absolutely not. I mean, look at it, Campbell. If the White House was going to use a plant, wouldn't they pick a better one than me?

BROWN (voice-over): Meaning someone without Gannon's past. Because when the liberal bloggers went digging to find out just who this guy was, they turned up some eyebrow raising material.

(on camera) You had said that you registered a number of pornographic web sites. Is that accurate?

GANNON: Well, I registered a number of domain names that some have suggested are...

BROWN: Pornographic web sites.

GANNON: Well, yes.

BROWN: Did you advertise yourself as a gay male escort for hire on a web site?

GANNON: I cannot go into those specifics. I can tell that you there is a lot of misinformation out there. There's a lot of fabrication out there and a lot of misinformation.

BROWN: Why can't you, then, clear it up right now? Cameras are rolling.

GANNON: And as I said, I've been advised not to get into the specifics out there. Is there some truth out there? Yes. Is there a lot of falsehood out there? Absolutely.

BROWN (voice-over): Aside from his private activities, Jeff Gannon isn't really Jeff Gannon. He uses the pseudonym, he says, because his real name is difficult to pronounce.

GANNON: My name is James Guckert.

BROWN (on camera): James Guckert?


BROWN: It's not so hard to pronounce.

GANNON: Well, when you read it, you always - it is always pronounced some other way.

BROWN: So who was the White House clearing in to those briefings every day? Was it James Guckert?


BROWN: Or was it Jeff Gannon?

GANNON: I go to the gate. I give - I show my driver's license, which I showed you. It has my given name. And that's how I gained entry.

BROWN: A quick check for a criminal record is all that's required. Gannon avoided the extensive FBI background check most reporters go through for permanent access.

The White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, has said he did know Gannon wasn't using his real name but that, quote, "He, like anyone else, showed he was representing a news organization that published regularly."

But was Gannon working for a real news organization? His employer? An Internet site called GOPUSA, funded and staffed by Republican activists to promote a Republican general. He then worked for an offshoot site of GOPUSA called Talon News.

The White House press secretary now says, quote, "In this day and age, when you have a changing media, it's not an easy issue to decide or pick and choose who is a journalist."

(on camera) You haven't denied you were writing news with a perspective, with a partisan perspective?

GANNON: Absolutely.

BROWN: Some might say, how does a guy who works for an obscure Internet publication with a background that is linked to Internet porn in some fashion, get into the daily briefings and get to ask the president a question at a news conference?

GANNON: Well, I - I asked to come. They allowed me to come. And apparently, there isn't a very high threshold as far as somebody's personal life to gain access.


OLBERMANN: You think? Campbell Brown reporting for us, if that is her real name.

From the stylings of Jeff Gannon to the underwater punch lines of Japanese comedians. Is it me or is this stage a little damp?

And we're about to have the opening gavel in the Michael Jackson trial. Already there are appeal rumors flying.

ANNOUNCER: You're getting your news Olbermann style. Countdown WITH KEITH OLBERMANN, part of the best prime time in cable news, MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: We're back and we pause our Countdown of the day's news for a brief trip around the world in 79 seconds. Let's play "Oddball."

We begin in Tokyo, where technology has advanced so far, they can now actually do comedy underwater. Yes, these two Japanese comedians have the blowfish in the aisles as they perform their unique brand of sea urchin related comedy twice daily at the Tokyo Hotel aquarium.

Thank you. We're here all week. Tip your servers. Don't forget to try the sushi.

To Oregon in the USA, where the University of Portland this week played host to its annual - the second annual rock paper scissors championship. More than 100 competitors came from as far away as the Haggerty (ph) Hall dorm building, clear on the other side of campus, for their chance at this most hallowed trophy in all of rock paper scissors.

Is there - Is it just me, or is there something obscene about that thing? Just keep that away from me, pal.

Finally to Blue Ash, Ohio, for the Countdown car chase of the week. It is our fifth of the year. Checking the "Oddball" scoreboard, we can see that so far the police are throwing a no-hitter: cops, 4; guys who think they can escape the cops, nada.

But keep your eyes on the white Dodge Neon, because this guy is swinging for the fences. Police stay the driver violated a restraining order, having approached his estranged wife. But when police approached him, he took off on a chase to rush hour traffic at speeds nearing 100 miles an hour. Now he's looking at felony evasion.

He hit a few other cars along the way, but no one was injured. It was a Neon, after all. And the whole thing ended on I-71, thanks to the good old spiked strips.

So this retreating violator is headed off for a long stay where he will be ordered and restrained. But hopefully, not violated. The big house!

It spawned skepticism, denials, now a death threat. And now it is also currently topping "The New York Times" nonfiction bestseller list. The author of "Juiced," Jose Canseco, joins us live in a moment.

Plus the turkey that took on not one but two Ohio troopers is with us no more. Now it turns out he might actually have been somebody's pet.

These stories ahead. Now here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

No. 3, Larry Lucchino, the president of the Boston Red Sox. He announced today that his team will give its players their world championship rings before their opening day game of April 11 against the New York Yankees, against whom they rallied from three games to - you know.

Angry Yankee fans should remember that the only other time the Red Sox beat the Yankees in such a head to head battle was in 1904, so they can endure this once a century.

No. 2, the Kraft Foods Company, manufacturers of gummy fish and gummy bears and gummy whatever. And also a new candy that has animal rights activists up in arms with some justification: gummy road kill. Good old candy animals with tire marks on them.

OK, that's marketing.

And No. 1, Jack Pacheco of Chowchilla, California, accused of methamphetamine possession. That charge he denies. He did what they always joke about doing in the movies and on TV.

He went out and bought every copy of the local newspaper that he could find: 500 to 600 copies of the "Chowchilla News" at 50 cent each. He was considered buying 500 more copies that went on sale this morning, but he couldn't get to them in time. He says he'll use the ones he bought to train his shih tzu puppy.

You big pup.

(MUSIC: "I Want My Own Headline")


OLBERMANN: Unless you are just returning to the planet after a couple of weeks studying the largest of the moons of Jupiter, you already know about the Jose Canseco book, "Juiced." Our third story on THE Countdown, the former Major League Baseball star joins us, gets a few questions he probably hasn't heard before, from somebody who largely thinks he wrote the truth. Me. And we'll see what happens.

There are some new developments today. Another player that Canseco fingered as a steroid user, his former Texas Rangers teammate, Rafael Palmeiro, has denied he used the performance enhancing drugs, and now he has left open the prospect of suing for libel.

"The one thing I can say is," he told reporters late this afternoon in spring training, "I have the best law firm and the best lawyers standing in the wings in Peter Angelos. I have options available for me. He stands behind me and he's ready. I will look at all my options and I will decide."

Meanwhile, Representative Henry Waxman of California has suggested to their chairman that their congressional committee on government reform conduct hearings on steroid use. Waxman said, calling Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire and others - he didn't mention Palmeiro by name - that having them all testify under oath would be a useful thing, considering baseball has said it would not investigate the charges in Canseco's book.

And the author's attorney told "The New York Daily News" that his client has received a death threat by e-mail to his Web site. Attorney Robert Saunooke says, we alerted the FBI, and they believe it was a credible threat.

On that grim note, we're joined from Tampa by Jose Canseco. Good evening, sir. Thanks for your time tonight.

JOSE CANSECO, FORMER MLB PLAYER: How are you doing, Keith?

OLBERMANN: Not bad. Let me start with that last story. Did you get a death threat? About what?

CANSECO: I think we received one on my Web site regarding something with a gun involved, and all you're going to hear are certain pops to your head and that's the last thing you'll see. But my attorney, Robert Saunooke, contacted the FBI, they investigated where the actual e-mail originated from. I think now local authorities are handling it.

OLBERMANN: OK. Well, it brings up the reaction to the book. I think it is safe to say there's been a lot of hostility. There's been name-calling. Have you been surprised that the reaction has been as strong as it's been from players and ex-teammates and ex-managers and even the media?

CANSECO: No. I have not been surprised. I knew a lot of people were going to deny this book. I knew the players that I had mentioned were all going to deny this book vehemently. I'm pretty much amazed that Rafael Palmeiro would even deny this or try to sue me, because he's going to open up a whole new can of worms.

OLBERMANN: But he said he was going to leave his options open. He didn't actually - he didn't actually sue you, which brings me to one of the things that I have from my own experience dealing with this topic. Years ago, there was an Olympic athlete - and I'll leave the name out just because it is irrelevant here - but I reported on TV in Los Angeles that a lot of this athlete's rivals believed this person was using steroids. And later on, Carl Lewis said exactly the same thing on tape. And then a guy went on "The Today Show" and said he had gotten human growth hormones for the athlete. And this athlete threatened to sue me, threatened to sue Carl Lewis, threatened to sue the guy on "The Today Show." Made a huge stink. And then the athlete came back from these Olympic Games, never sued me, never sued Carl Lewis, never sued the guy on "The Today Show," never sued anybody, and instead just retired at the age of 28.

And what I'm wondering is, if you've said this about Mark McGwire, and he denies it, and you said what you said about Bonds and Sosa and Palmeiro, and they denied it. It's very serious stuff. And Palmeiro says he is leaving the options open about suing. Why do you think nobody has sued you?

CANSECO: Well, it's the obvious. I mean, the public - just use some common sense, it's the obvious, because what I'm telling is the truth. And if you're going to sue me and lie, you can get yourself in a whole lot of trouble.

OLBERMANN: So you don't expect to be sued by Palmeiro or anybody else? Do you think they're just blowing smoke?

CANSECO: I would think it would be the biggest mistake they ever made.

OLBERMANN: All right, give me a reaction to a couple of the other specific reactions. Tony LaRussa was your manager in Oakland for the first eight years about of your career. And he seemed to be saying, look, it is absolutely impossible that Mark McGwire or anybody else on the A's at that time could have used steroids, that all the strength gains the A's players made were the result of hard work, careful supervision. Everybody knew no one on the A's was taking steroids.

But you were taking steroids. I see some contradiction in that statement. Even if he's right that it was just you, why didn't he blow the whistle on you in 1990 or 1991?

CANSECO: Again, common sense must come into play here. There's a huge contradiction from his first statement to his second statement. Obviously, in his first statement, he says, no, I believe no one on the Oakland A's was using steroids. Then his second statement was that, well, I do believe that Jose Canseco was using steroids, and I do believe he was the only one using steroids. Sandy Alderson then came out saying, well, I suspected that Jose was taking steroids.

Nonetheless, not one of them did anything about it. That just goes to show you, there was a huge cover-up.

OLBERMANN: What did you think of what Dave Stewart that, your former teammate, the great pitcher, the very determined guy with the A's who said he did not particularly care for you as a teammate, but he never thought you were a liar, and he figured that somebody who used steroids would know who the other users were.

CANSECO: Well, he's absolutely right. I think in general, in baseball, I mean, players may not have liked me in general. I had the highest respect for all players, though, whether we got along or not. I respected them as athletes.

But I don't think there's any one player out there that can come to the forefront and say, even someone in the media can say, Jose Canseco is a liar. I've always been very honest and very truthful, and a lot of times that has gotten me into trouble.

OLBERMANN: One thing about all these denials from people that you named, they all seem to be based on this idea - and this was true I think in LaRussa's particularly - it's an either or. Either somebody works out and builds muscles, or somebody takes steroids and they just get muscles like a Popeye cartoon. That if you have been working out, if people have seen you working out, that means you did not take steroids. That was essentially what LaRussa was saying about McGwire. And just explain this to people who aren't familiar with it. That's just wrong. Isn't it? I mean, steroids do not mean equal instant muscles. They mean that you can work out longer and more intensely and more frequently, right?

CANSECO: Keith, you're absolutely right. Athletes don't just take steroids and not work out. To get the maximum effect from steroids, you actually have to use the steroids, have a tremendous diet, you have to get the right amount of sleep, and you have to work out to maximize the steroid.

OLBERMANN: All right. Baseball on the field this year. They're going to test for steroids with suspensions if somebody tests positive for the first time. They aren't necessarily going to be long ones, but are we going to see a changed sport on the field this year? Is this the year that the guy who leads the American League in homers is going to hit 30 of them and Barry Bonds is going to dry up and blow away? What is going to happen this year?

CANSECO: Keith, there's a major problem with testing these athletes right now, because I'm a perfect example. I was on house arrest. I was tested for steroids. I was then incarcerated again, put in jail because they found a metabolite of a steroid in my system. I spent three months in jail before they figured the timeframe of it. Steroids can stay in your systems for a very long time. For example, if you test for steroid today, you may find a very powerful metabolite in their system. When this athlete actually used the steroid, sometimes are possible to tell. And they're going to have a large, large amount of trouble trying to figure out, you know, OK, we found this in the system. Did he take it before this actual steroid testing is taking place now? It's too difficult to tell. They're going to run into major, major problems.

OLBERMANN: But do you think players will be scared away and not use them at all?

CANSECO: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think with this book coming out now, if not 95 to 100 percent of these players are saying, wait a minute, this stuff has to stop. This stuff is going to stop. I'm not good to go get caught with this in my system. The only thing I'm worried about, is these players now who are clean or have been clean even for a year and a half, the testing may find a metabolite (ph) in their system and they're going to be found guilty.

OLBERMANN: You heard about this Congressional hearing possibility. I mean, testifying under oath in Congress. Would you do that? Would you welcome that?

CANSECO: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think this issue has to come to the forefront. I think people have to realize, who were involve in this and why? I mean, Major League Baseball and the Player Association were definitely involved in this. They allow it. They instigated it. They just turned their heads and said listen, we are making so much money. The players are making so much money. I mean, everyone is benefiting from this.

I remember when I spoke to Donald Fehr. I said Don, I'm being black balled from the game of baseball. I've been told by other players. I been have a been told by Alex Rodriguez, Alex Fernandez. Internally, we all knew as athletes what was going on. And Donald Fehr basicly said, let me look into it. He did nothing about it. Did he zero about it.

OLBERMANN: I believe the commercial used to go, chicks dig the long ball. One final thing, I can't not ask this. This lie detector story, that you'd go on TV and take a lie detector test on - maybe on pay-for-view. Now, I know the networks made offers. You don't to have talk about the business end of this. But going on TV wired up to a lie detector, do you worry about the dignity involved in that?

CANSECO: I mean, the networks, I mean, I've been approached by many, many networks. And you know, I think it is about time that I go out of my way and prove what this book says is 100 percent accurate. And something major is going to happen the next month.

OLBERMANN: Well, if you can't get money for it, you can always come here and do it for free, because We Work cheaply. Jose Canseco, the book is "Juiced." There's a long subtile. Bottom line the book is called is called "Juiced." Stay tuned for the movie and the pay-per-view special and for all we know the opera.

All right, Jose, thanks again.

CANSECO: Thank you, Keith.


Also tonight, nearly two months after the tsunami, new photos have been released. Photos from a couple who did not survive, but captured the moment. And the Jackson trial hasn't even started yet, and already, an idea for an appeal is being floated. Will this long national nightmare that hasn't even begun yet never end?

Those stories ahead, first here are Countdown's top three sound bites of this day.


CONAN O'BRIEN, LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN: A big story, the jury for the Michael Jackson trial was selected. And it's two third - two thirds of the jury are female. Yes, Michael is very pleased with jury, because he's also two-thirds female.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A cocker spaniel bladder stone. People are selling body parts. We've even had people selling ghosts and devils, and the cheese sandwich with Jesus on it. So, I said, you know, this would be something different. A nice conversation piece for somebody's mantle.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The summary statement that I think is important for people to hear in our country, precisely his opening statement to Ken's question, speaking about monarchies. Get it? It's was - it's late - it's late in the trip.



OLBERMANN: Ahead, it is beyond belief. A Canadian couple engulfed by December's tsunami. In their final moment, they photographed the wave. Their camera survived, they didn't. Their pictures next.


OLBERMANN: It is so counter-intuitive to as to invite skepticism. The last act of two Canadian victims of the Christmas time tsunami, was to photograph that which would kill them. Weeks later, their camera, found by a Baptist missionary. The pictures then forwarded to the victims family, then publicly released.

Our number two story on the Countdown. We have not ruled out with total certainty that this is like those heartless faked Photoshopped images of a man supposedly standing on the observation deck of the World Trade Center, just as the first plane approached. But all evidence suggest, these photos from Thailand are legitimate. And the that the story beggars description.

Our correspondent is Alan Waterman of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.


ALAN WATERMAN, CBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Patrick and Christian Knill pour over snap shots from Thailand. Pictures of the on coming tsunami. Taken by their parents, John and Jackie Knill, seconds before they were killed.

CHRISTIAN KNILL, SON OF VICTIMS: When I saw them, I couldn't believe it. You know, I was a shock.

WATERMAN: The bodies of the Knills were only identified last week. The pictures found their ways into their son's hands a day later. While the photos are amazing, so is the story of the good samaritan who found them.

CHRISTIAN PILET, FOUND THE PHOTOS: This is the last picture.

WATERMAN: Christian Pilay (ph) is the man who found them. He was working in Thailand as part of the relief effort, when he came upon the Knills digital camera on the beach. The camera was broken, but the memory card was not.

PILET: The amazing part of the story to me is that, I told my wife Nicole (ph), look, you've got see these pictures. And I showed her the pictures. So she didn't want to see more. She wanted to looked. And so she went to the Internet, and a few minutes later, she comes and she says, "Oh, wow! I think I found a guy that looks just like it. Like the guy in your pictures, just like him.

WATERMAN: Pilet tracked down the Knill's son and drove sell hours north to deliver the picture in person.

PATRICK KNILL, SON OF VICTIMS: It gives me a lot of closure, knowing that they were together. I know they were together looking at the wave, taking pictures. And probably just by the time they realized what was coming their way, it was too late. So, they just probably hugged each other and hoped that someone was going to get those pictures.

WATERMAN: Alan Waterman, CBC News, North Vancouver.


OLBERMANN: Making the abrupt turn tonight into the world of celebrity and gossip news, the one we like to call keeping tabs. And it's all over except for the actually trial and appeal. Your entertainment and tax dollars in action.

Day 465 of the Michael Jackson investigation. Eight alternate jurors picked today, opening statements slated for Monday. We're all ready to go.

But of course, this is the Jackson case, so there's still trouble brewing already. None of the jurors is African-American, a discrepancy that could, according to jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, give the defense grounds for appeal. Appeal already! The defense has already filed some kind of motion about race. Details are sealed.

We are getting more details about Martha Stewart's future. Two new TV shows and a bid to get her old job back. The bid in a moment. More immediately, the high doyen of household hints is trying to improve her impending house arrest, by hiring Pierre Shadlin (ph), the former chef at the famous restaurant Le Cirque, to be her personal cook there. And by being nicer to people, as a close friend who recently visited her in the big house today attested.


RICHARD FEIGEN, FRIEND OF MARTHA STEWART: I got the feeling down there that she's listening to people. And I think it is going to make a big difference.


OLBERMANN: Her lawyers are now hoping the Securities and Exchange Commission is listening, if it will settle her insider training case, she could regain her former position as head of Martha Stewart Omnimedia, and of course, the nation of Martha-Stewart-sylvania.

And never have the words "aye caramba" have had more meaning. The voices of "The Simpsons" are on strike. No, not our friends Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria and company. The voice actors who record the Spanish version, "Los Simpsons." The actors portraying the likes of Lisa and Homero say the studio at which they do their dubbing in Mexico City used non-union actors. So they're on strike. It's not about the money. They each get about $50 per episode and are satisfied with that. The only comment from the lone Mexican native on "The Simpsons," Bumblebee Man, told reporters, quote, "Yo-yo es grande," unquote.

Not bumblebees but turkeys. If you saw this one, you'll never forget him. But the story of when turkeys attack has a tragic although not a cranberry sauce conclusion. Next.


OLBERMANN: The British have a reminder about kids wanting pets. It's not just for Christmas, it's for life. Remember that the next time you try to domesticate a tiger or a turkey.

Our No. 1 story on the Countdown, two not-so-wild animal stories of different degrees of seriousness. The sadder one first.

Proving there was indeed a tiger loose in Southern California, and as our correspondent Mark Mullen reports, largely because of the insensitivity of its owner, the big cat is now dead.


MARK MULLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A nearly two-week hunt around the Reagan Presidential Library for a huge creature with six-inch paws, much bigger than those a mountain lion would leave. They discovered a male tiger, weighing as much as 600 pounds, roaming near a neighborhood of families.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It worked its way over to the house over there, where they have a couple of small dogs.

MULLEN: Wildlife agents were called, and fired four shots, killing the tiger.

TIPPI HEDREN, ANIMAL ACTIVIST: I'm angered by all of this.

MULLEN: Actress and animal activist Tippi Hedren runs a sanctuary for big cats.

HEDREN: They didn't try to tranquilize it. I think it's absolutely unconscionable.

MULLEN: But officers defended the kill, saying the cat was moving too close to people.

MARTIN WALL, CALIFORNIA FISH & GAME: We just couldn't take a chance of the cat running across the freeway.

MULLEN (on camera): But police now want to track down the owner who failed to alert the public and in turn sentenced this beautiful animal to death.

(voice-over): There's a nearby resident who owns other big cats. He says the tiger wasn't his.

LT. JORGE GROSS, CALIFORNIA FISH & GAME: But there's no other big cat permitee in the area.

MULLEN: It's not the first trouble with privately-owned big cats. Like the tiger found in an apartment in New York City. Ming was tranquilized and moved to a sanctuary in Ohio.

In Florida, a tiger owned by an actor who once played Tarzan was killed, after it lunged at officers.

Wildlife agents in California say whoever owned the 600-pound cat on the loose is the real bad guy. Now, the hunt is on for him.

Mark Mullen, NBC News, Los Angeles.


OLBERMANN: And then there's the death of a not-so-beautiful, not-so-exotic animal, who is nonetheless grieved tonight. A turkey from Ohio. Constant viewers will recognize this in an instant. Last Friday's video of a state trooper in Finley, Ohio, on the run. A wild beast at his heels and staring him down through the car window like a character from "Night of the Living Dead."

Two days later, one of his colleagues was similarly stalked. Our correspondent Marc Reinicke of NBC station in Lima, Ohio, WLIO, reports we now know this was not just any turkey.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, the reason it was (UNINTELLIGIBLE), we used to sing and it would strut. It would sit on our lap. But we raised them as babies.

MARC REINICKE, WLIO-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mary Shepherd (ph) has spent a lifetime raising ducks, chickens and turkeys. But in December, one of her turkeys, named Wild Thing, came up missing. And the Shepherds (ph) had been searching for the tom turkey ever since.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've looked up and down. We've walked the roads. We thought maybe he got hit or something. We never found him then.

REINICKE: When Mary (ph) had heard the story of the turkey terrorizing troopers in Hancock County near her home, and thought maybe they had found Wild Thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then seen on TV, then they got him. So we called over to Finley. Left a message. We would like to be able to see him so we can identify him from (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And we never got the opportunity. They never notified us. And when we called back, they said they euthanized him!

REINICKE (on camera): The euthanization of the turkey in question was according to wildlife life management an effort to preserve the wild turkey population.

JOHN DAUGHERTY, OHIO DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE: It's very important that pen-raised birds aren't introduced into the wild, because of disease and parasite problems which could damage the whole population.

REINICKE (voice-over): Even though Mary isn't sure that the turkey was hers, she wishes she had a chance just to see if the turkey was, in fact, Wild Thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just don't know why I still couldn't have saw the turkey to see it was mine or not. If they didn't want me to have it and they were going to put it away, they could have told me. But it would have put me to rest, knowing that if it was Wild Thing, or to keep looking. I think I had that right to check and see if it was my turkey.

REINICKE: Reporting from Hancock County, Marc Reinicke, for NBC Lima.


OLBERMANN: The Department of Wildlife spokesman added that Wild Thing was simply delicious. Pardon me, simply malicious. OK.

Stay with MSNBC for updates throughout the evening about the health of John Paul II, hospitalized tonight for the second time in 24 days, reported to be recovering successfully from a tracheotomy, the insertion of a breathing tube through his neck and into his windpipe.

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

Good night and good luck.