Thursday, March 31, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 31

Guest: Harry Fisch, Thomas Williams, Jay Wolfson, Kendall Coffey, Harry Fisch, Thomas D. Williams


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

The most famous man in the world is sick again. The most suddenly

famous woman in this country is finally at rest. Terri Schiavo, dead at

the age of 41. Pope John Paul II stricken by a urinary tract infection and

a high fever at the age of 84. The pope's sudden illness treated with

respect and quiet prayer around the world. Mrs. Schiavo's death, swirling

controversy, protest, and even what sound like a let threat against juniors

by the majority leader of the United States Congress.

Tonight, live from Vatican City, live from Florida, live from MSNBC headquarters, full coverage of the continuing illness of a pope and the death of a symbol. Now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good evening, they are intertwined by more than just a coincidence of timing. The death of an ordinary and until recently, an almost anonymous woman in an obscure place called Pinellas Park, Florida, and the endangered life of a most extraordinary and almost universally identifiable man in the hallowed and legendary place called the Vatican.

Tonight, the controversy may continue, but if nothing else, at least Terri Schiavo's suffering is at an end. We will cover the events of her final day at length, shortly.

We start our fifth story. Pope John Paul II, whose condition changed sharply in the early hours of the Italian morning. By 11:00 p.m. there, 4:00 p.m. on this countries East Coast, the Vatican was confirming that he had, "a high fever." By 2:00 a.m., though, Italian news agencies were reporting a first positive reaction to antibiotics. And a pope whose condition was "stable." The cause of that fever given officially by the Vatican as a urinary tract infection.

Earlier one Italian news agency reported that John Paul's blood pressure had also fallen. Other news agencies there and here reporting with scare headlines that he had been given the last rites, not explaining that they are know called the sacrament for the sick. And in of themselves no longer carry the implication that they used to have of imminent death. This turn for the worse in his condition, and possible turn back, coming just a day after he had begun receiving nutrition via a feeding tube through his nose.

Our correspondent Chris Jansing is in Rome on this extraordinary night.

Chris, good even. Good morning.

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening. Good morning to you, Keith.

This clearly is a very disturbing progression for the pope who has been hospitalized twice in the last two months for a total of 28 days. Who has had two fairly serious procedures. The tracheotomy of course to put in the breathing tube, and just a couple of days ago, the feeding tube. So you have someone who is 84-years-old with Parkinson's. He is very frail. The last two time we saw him on Wednesday, and before that on Sunday, he tried to speak and then could not.

SO, he is someone who is in a precarious position. Since I've been here 10 or 11 days, all the Vatican officials have told me their most serious concern was that in this weakened state, he might face some kind of infection. That is exactly what is happening tonight. So, cause for real concern here at the Vatican.

OLBERMANN: MSNBC's Chris Jansing in Rome. Great thanks, we'll be checking back with you at about the bottom of the hour.

As we mentioned, the health of the pope converging in a remarkable way for a second straight day, with the health of a Florida women some 5,200 miles. After exactly 15 years, one - one month and six days of hospitalization, just shy of two weeks since her feeding tube had been removed, Theresa Marie Schindler-Schiavo died at about 9:00 Eastern time this morning in her hospice bed with her husband, but none of her blood relatives at her side.

That dispute making it clear, the controversy over Mrs. Schiavo will not end with her death. Advisers for her parents complaining that her brother and sister were not there at the moment of her passing, because Michael Schiavo would not let them in the room. Mr. Schiavo lawyer disputing that account totally. Saying that after Terri's brother began arguing with a law enforcement official, his client became concerned, a potentially explosive situation would not allow his wife to die in peace.


GEORGE FELOS, MICHAEL SCHIAVO'S LAWYER: Mr. Schiavo's overriding concern was, Mrs. Schiavo has a right and had a right to die with dignity, and die in peace. She had a right to have her last and final moments on this earth be experienced a spirit of love and not of acrimony.


OLBERMANN: Hours later, her blood relatives addressed the media, making no mention of the dispute and coming instead to terms with Terri's death.


BOBBY SCHINDLER, TERRI SCHIAVO'S BROTHER: A member of family, unable to stand under your own power, you stood with a grace and dignity - a dignity that made your family proud. Terri, we love you dearly, but we know that God loves you more than we do. We must accept your untimely death as God's will.


OLBERMANN: At this hour in Pinellas Park, many of the protesters who have turned the area outside Mrs. Schiavo's hospice into a staging area, have decamped, at least for the time being, to a nearby church for a memorial service organized by the Schindler's advisers. What they plan to do next, one of many questions left unanswered, as of yet, in the wake of Mrs. Schiavo's death.

Mark Potter has been our own continual presence outside that hospice and he joins us now.

Mark, good evening.

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

OLBERMANN: First, is it clear yet what actually happened at Mrs.

Schiavo's death bed at the time of her passing this morning?

POTTER: Well, as you - as you said, there are a couple of versions of that. George Felos said that, Michael Schiavo did not want to have any sort of acrimony in the room. That Bobby Schindler had a dispute with the police officer right before Terri Schiavo died. He escorted him out of the room. I mean, nobody here believes that the two were going to be in the room at the same time anyway. They hadn't been all along. And it seemed highly unlikely to us observers out here, that they would be there at the moment of death. Is that an excuse or not, we don't know.

One thing that's interesting, George Felos seemed to blame some of this on Father Frank Pavone who had made some rough statements about Michael Schiavo the day before. He was also with Bobby Schindler and Suzanne Vitadamo, the sister when they were in the room. And George Felos says, maybe if it weren't for him, Michael Schiavo would have allowed the brother and sister to stay.

Is that a convenient scapegoat? We don't know. We'll never know. But what we do know for sure is that the acrimony that they were preventing in the room certainly happened in the hall way, and is likely to continue.

OLBERMANN: But the absence of the parents, Mr. and Mrs. Schindler, that was purely logistics? That has been established?

POTTER: That's what we understand. They were not in this area and they - they were, we want to be clear, allowed to go in shortly afterward. After Michael Schiavo had been there. We saw a very stricken Mary Schindler being escort over, Bob Schindler, and the brother and sister. They were allow to spend some time to embrace Terri Schiavo after her death. And then they left shortly their afterward and then the medical examiner came afterwards.

OLBERMANN: Mark, to the scene behind you there, where does that energy, even the anger, of the protesters go now?

POTTER: The anger, by the way, has dissipated, Keith. I'll go ahead and addressed that first. Everybody here is pretty somber. There were some angry statement that were made this afternoon. But there was an interesting juxtaposition at the same time the memorial service. Service were beginning. The gentility was returning. And that's pretty much the scene we have now.

There are a few people left here. We don't know where they're going to go. Many will return to their home states. They traveled from far and wide to come here. Many are going to the memorial services. The rougher elements will probably try to find the next camera position to stand in front of. The truly faithful will be here through the weekend and probably will attend the service with the family. That's expected next week, a Catholic service. But it is hard to know where the rest will go.

OLBERMANN: It is, at least, nice to hear you say, that it seems like some of that anger is gone. Mark Potter, who's been covering this throughout in Pinellas Park, as always sir, great thanks.

POTTER: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: The politicians who have involved themselves in this family saga, are also unlikely to step immediately aside with the passing of Terri Schiavo. President Bush and his brother Governor Jeb Bush of Florida making it clear today, they would like the end of Mrs. Schiavo's life to mark the beginning of a new agenda.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I urge all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life. Where all American are welcomed and valued and protected, especially those who live at the mercy of others.

GOV. JEB BUSH, FLORIDA: This issue transcends politics, to be honest. I think she will be - her experience will heighten awareness of the importance of families dealing with end of life issues. And that is an incredible legacy.


OLBERMANN: The president and the governor earning bipartisan praise for their tone of restraint, not so Tom DeLay. Issuing a statement shortly after Mrs. Schiavo's death, the House majority leader said quote, "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today."

And well before today's announcement of the deterioration of the pope's health, a Vatican cardinal denouncing the removal of her feeding tube.

Portuguese cardinal, Jose Saraiva Martins, saying "An attack against life is an attack against God who is the author of life."


OLBERMANN: Much more on the politics of Terri Schiavo with Howard Fineman about half an hour hence. The rhetoric, of course, was not limited to one side of the schism over Mrs. Schiavo, but the neutrality was extremely limited. However, about an hour ago, I got to speak with, for the second time in a week, the man appointed by a Florida court to be its eyes and ears, and the eyes of ears of Florida Governor Bush in the Schiavo case two years ago. For 30 days, Jay Wolfson, a man with both medical and legal degrees, investigated the case and the patient, spending parts of 20 days at her bedside.


OLBERMANN: Professor Wolfson, thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: First of all, obviously, your reaction to Mrs. Schiavo's death this morning.

WOLFSON: Oh, it was heart-breaking, absolutely heart-wrenching, I've got to tell you. Despite what we all expected, having spent some time with her and trying to get to know her and her family, I can only imagine the pain that the Schindlers, particularly Mary and Michael, who I believe loved her, went through these past 15 years, and the additional heart break of having her die.

OLBERMANN: You are one of the few people qualified, I think, to speak about all parties in this case with anything approaching authority, and you just linked two people who are generally seen as permanent and hostile enemies. Is reconciliation among the Schiavos and Schindlers possible at this point, in your opinion?

WOLFSON: You know, Keith, the hope that both of those parties brought these last 15 years to Terri and the love that they shared with her and for her and about her, it was all based on something positive. If there is no hope, then what do we have left? I don't know that they can reconcile. But to say - to rule it out entirely, you know, this is their lives. They have to move forward with their live, and we hopefully have learned some things through Terri, and about Terri, about ourselves.

OLBERMANN: When we spoke earlier, you talk about the assessment that, if people did not want to believe the medical data, that they wouldn't. And all the medical data in the world wouldn't make a difference. We're now facing, although we won't have the results immediately, we're now facing an autopsy. Will it be conclusive or helpful or ignored?

WOLFSON: I think people are going to think and believe what they wish to believe. That's human nature. I have tremendous faith and confidence in the medical examiner of Pinellas County. I know him. I think that he is an exceptionally qualified pathologist. He is very focused, he's incredibly well-qualified, and I think an expert job in doing an autopsy.

I think it's probably a helpful thing for medicine and science that it be done, but whatever the results are, one way or the other, people are going - likely to continue to believe what they wish. And again, we have to get back to this having been about Terri. And not about these other parties.

OLBERMANN: Do you know - is there anything that you can say, authoritative from your research, obviously, it would not have been the case from your visitations for 20 days to her bed two years ago - but, do you have an idea, from what you knew of who this woman was, what her impression would have been of this political controversy that has mushroomed and exploded and enveloped and grown and grown and grown with unbelievable force, and continues to even in these hours after her death? Do you have any idea?

WOLFSON: I did learn about Terri from all the people who cared about her, from the pictures she drew, from the people who spent time with her, was that she was a quiet, shy, but fun-loving girl. She, I think, would have been appalled at the rift that occurred between her parents and her husband. She loved them both very much. And, I think she would have been astonished to have her partially clad body displayed all over television and the newspapers. She was a shy girl, basically, and I don't think she would have been very happy about that.

OLBERMANN: And, yet, somewhere in the middle of this, as you said, people have forgotten that it really is about the death of a young woman who has been in a hospital and a hospice for 15 years.

Professor Jay Wolfson, of the University of South Florida, formerly the court-appointed guardian-at-law for the late Terri Schiavo. Great - thanks for your time, sir.

WOLFSON: My pleasure.

OLBERMANN: The bitter dispute between Terri Schiavo's blood relatives and her husband, now inspiring hatred, death threats against members of Michael Schiavo's family, including one on tape.

And, one of the arguments still being made by politicians, hours after the passing of Terri Schiavo, is that she was somehow cheated of her due process rights. We will examine exactly what kind of legal representation and due process she had over the past 12 years. You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: The legal battle between the Schindlers and the Schiavos did not end at the hospice in Florida early this morning. It could play out in civil court, perhaps for years. That, and the latest on the pope, live from Rome, next.


OLBERMANN: Continuing to track the troubled health of Pope John Paul II and the impact of this death this morning of Terri Schiavo. That impact might be most easily measured by years in court: 12 of them now.

Our number four story in the Countdown tonight: is there any reason the believe that Terri Schiavo's death will bring those legal battles to an end? Some may be moot; others may be just beginning. Meanwhile, the animosity and invective this long private and public engendered, continuing to cross all bounds of decency. Today, Scott Schiavo, Michael Schiavo's brother, played for reporters what, to some, would sound like a death threat, the caller even identifying himself by name, and Mr. Schiavo has provided that information to authorities. Here's part of the tape.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone of you (EXPLETIVE) Schiavos are no tra - are dead trash. And, you know, time will come. Time will come for all of us, for all of us, time will come. And I wonder which way you'll get to go when time does come?


OLBERMANN: The message included a string of profanities, specifically designed - directed at Michael Schiavo and his girlfriend and his children, but the caller also said, "you'll have to live with it for the rest of your life." Whether or not police classify message as a an actual death threat, Scott Schiavo seemed hardened to it..


SCOTT SCHIAVO, MICHAEL SCHIAVO'S BROTHER: These idiots don't scare me, they don't scare me one bit. They're knocking on the wrong door, because it's not going to - you know, somebody shows up to my door, they're in for a long day. They better bring a lunch with them, because it's, you know - I'm not going to deal with it.


OLBERMANN: Mr. Schiavo also expressed compassion for the Schindlers as a family, and said that his sister-in-law was finally at peace.

But peace seems to be the last thing being granted to these families right now, and whether the Schiavos and the Schindlers will now stop fighting each other in court is at best a guess.

Joining me now, Kendall Coffey, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Mr. Coffey, good evening. Thanks for your time.


OLBERMANN: If the Schindlers wanted to continue a legal battle, do they have options to do so at this point?

COFFEY: There are some limited options. Even they can't know at this

point. I'm sure they're so overwhelmed with grief, and the last thing

anyone wants to be talking about is still more lawsuits. But there are

several different alternative vehicles if what they want to do is test and

get a vindication for their beliefs in Terri's death that they were not

able to secure in her life.rMDNM_

OLBERMANN: In some way, has Mrs. Schiavo's death actually expanded the kinds of claims that they could make in court without perhaps increasing their chances of winning in court?

COFFEY: Well, ironically, this now has passed to a different stage legally. That is, there will now be a probate estate. And strange as it may seem, one of the options that someone at some point will tell them to consider, right or wrong, is whether or not they want to invoke a particular provision of Florida law called a slayer statute.

It's in many states' laws, Keith, and what it means basically, if someone could show that Michael Schiavo intentionally and unlawfully caused the killing of Terri Schiavo, then he would basically forfeit any possible interest in her estate and obviously lose an ability to be the executor of the estate, personal representative. That may sound extreme, but there are assuredly people out there who have been making that very allegation with respect to Michael Schiavo.

OLBERMANN: And relative to Mr. Schiavo's potential legal rights, he has been accused of abusing his wife. You just mentioned the slayer statute. He's been called an out-and-out killer. Given that he has 12 years of court findings that go against that, or in some cases refute that, to say nothing of what might come out of the upcoming government autopsy, does he ever any legal recourse against those who say he has done those things?

COFFEY: Well, certainly he's won so many rulings that that is creating an awful lot of insulation for him with respect to any future legal issues. In terms of I'm sure what he considers to be the way he's been attacked and criticized, and he would even say defamed and slandered, I have got to tell you, it would be very tough for him to succeed in those kind of cases, because in large part, he's probably become what the law would call "limited public figure," exposing himself to a lot of different allegations unless someone can show actual malice.

Now, that doesn't mean anyone has got any business threatening him, either physically or through the mails or voicemail. That's a totally different matter. But whether Michael Schiavo is going to be able to successfully bring some kind of slander or defamation case, very, very difficult in all likelihood.

OLBERMANN: Finally, and briefly, are all of the non-civil cases moot? Are they gone now? Or is there some prosecutor somewhere who might say, there might be something we can do here?

COFFEY: Well, I think the non-civil cases are largely resolved. They're not moot in the technical sense. If a prosecutor thought abuse had occurred, or anything else, that hasn't been extinguished. But I think for all intents and purpose, everything that we've seen up to now in the litigation is basically mooted.

OLBERMANN: Kendall Coffey, former U.S. attorney with the Southern District of Florida. Once again, thanks for joining us and for your insight tonight.

COFFEY: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: For two weeks now, the Schindler family has been surrounded by a phalanx of signs and political messages. Are both families now just pawns in a bigger political game? And will Terri Schiavo herself in death become the rallying point for new right-to-life legislation throughout the country? Stand by.


OLBERMANN: Pope John Paul II's health takes a certain turn for the worse, and then a possible turn for the better. He has a high fever, is being treated for a urinary infection with antibiotics. One Italian news agency saying, the antibiotics are already showing signs of working.

We'll go live to the Vatican for the very latest.

In Florida, Terri Schiavo dies in the early morning of her 13th day without food or water. Now, attention turning to Congress, which has taken the unusual step of having passed a law in her name nearly two weeks ago.

Now that she has passed away, can we expect the political storm to also go? You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: One of our caveman ancestors probably figured this out first, existence boiling down to life and death. Today, a remarkable convergence of news events: the death of Terri Schiavo, which we will resume examination - examining, rather, in the next half-hour. And, of course, again, our third story on the Countdown, the sudden worsening of the health of Pope John Paul II.

For the latest, we go again, in the middle of the Italian night, to our correspondent Chris Jansing in Rome.

Chris, hello again.

JANSING: Hello, Keith.

It is 3:30 in the morning and we are hearing indeed that the antibiotics seem to be working on Pope John Paul II and his urinary tract infection. In fact, the description given to an Italian news agency is that he is stable. Even all that said, if it working, if he is getting better, at least from this high fever that was the result of the infection, there's no one inside the Vatican who is close to the pope who will not acknowledge that we are now dealing with a very different situation than we've seen with Pope John Paul II previously.

He is, what many are people are describing as, in a persistent state, or a permanent state of precarious health. It is not going to change that he is an 84-year-old man who is stricken by a fairly advanced case of Parkinson's disease. He still does have a breathing tube and a feeding tube. Having said that, they have gone through great pains, even as recently as this afternoon, to say the pope is still very lucid. He is in charge. He did accept the resignation of a United States bishop from Providence today. Accepting a resignation or appointing a bishop is one of those things that only a pope can do.

Now, let me point out, behind me, I'm sure you see the flashing blue lights. Many of the cars have moved away, but this is something that is typically seen at this time of night. St. Peter's Square does close down at 10:00 for security reasons and opens up again at dawn. But, they are expecting a fairly large crowd. This still spring break time, it's a very busy time for tourists here. The last few time we saw the pope, there are 110,000, and 40,000 people. Maybe not that many tomorrow, but surely there will be people in the Square, praying and hoping that, if the pope can't see them, he at least is told of their presence. Keith?

OLBERMANN: MSNBC's Chris Jansing at the Vatican. Again, great, thanks.

One other breaking development, not as hugely substantial but perhaps relevant and informative for you, coming from an Austrian news agency, A.P.A. quoting one of the potential, subsequent popes, the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Kristof Schaumburg, as telling that news agency that this pope was, quote, "approaching, as far as a person can tell, the end of his life." Cardinal Kristof Schaumburg, but that was before this report that the antibiotics had already had some positive impact.

Sunrise, obviously, in the Vatican, a few hours away. The start of the business day would be about 2:00 a.m. eastern. Until then, we may not know anything more. But, we have what the Vatican said before, the lights literally went off in the papal apartments around 5:00 p.m. eastern. That the pope has an infection of the urinary tract, that he has a high fever - one report had it at 104 - that they are treating it there - there are no plans to hospitalize him again - that antibiotics are being prescribed and, unofficially, he may already have shown some improvement, because of it - that he has also reportedly received the sacrament of the sick, the modernized version of last rites but without the implication of imminent mortality.

With that, we try to diagnose the man's health. Joining us now, Dr. Harry Fisch, professor of urology at Columbia University Medical Center at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Fisch, thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: Put those components together with what we all know about the pope's general health and his recent health problems, and tell me how sick you think this patient is.

FISCH: Well, you know, a urinary tract infection, such as what the pope has, can be serious. He has a temperature of 104, as you said. But he is receiving antibiotics and it is one of those disorders that can be easily treatable. It is not something that necessarily he will succumb to.

OLBERMANN: So, obviously, if the reports about the antibiotics having an immediate effect are valid, this is clearly the right treatment. But how exactly would we know? Is the temperature the key thing to watch? And what next step do you take if you find out that you need a next step?

FISCH: Well, actually, a temperature in medicine in general is very, very important, and specifically with an infection of the urinary system, the prostate is probably what's the source of the infection, although it's hard to say. It could easily be the kidneys as well, but it's most likely to be the prostate. With that, the antibiotic therapy, if you see a decrease in the temperature is very, very important. As well, he is probably talking to his colleagues there, and everybody, and that's a good sign.

If it takes a turn for the worse, which I doubt, because, once the temperature does go down, that's a great sign. But if it takes the turn for the worse, you have to be worried about some sort of an abscess formation and some sort of a collection developing. But as I say, I'm not sure that that is what's happening.

OLBERMANN: The suddenness of the illness, 8:00 p.m. or so, local time. There's a Vatican source saying, yes, he's doing well, and 10:00, the news agencies are saying he's worsening. 11:00, they say, yes, formally, he's on antibiotics, high fever. Does the rapidity worry you, or is that - it sounds like that's pretty much this process for this kind of infection in this kind of aged patient.

FISCH: Well, it's hard to get information about a specific individual, especially the pope. The media coverage is sparse. It's not necessarily the best information.

OLBERMANN: It's black and white: you either get - he's either perfect or on death's door. There's nothing in between.

FISCH: That's right. And in this particular case, a prostate infection or a urinary tract infection is easily treatable. It's the sort of thing that happens a lot in the hospitals, and particularly in elderly men who are more susceptible to this. The treatment for it is pretty straightforward. So now, the thing is he does have other illnesses, and when you have other illness, you could succumb to any infection, even if it's a minor infection. But again, with the temperature going down, it appears to be something that is very treatable.

OLBERMANN: Last question: we had the co-developer of the feeding tube on this news hour last night. He talked about one risk with the nasal kind, the kind the pope received yesterday, was infection. Is there potentially a link between tube and the infection?

FISCH: Any time there's a tube in the body, there's a potential for infection. An infection in the nose, an infection in the trachea, however, there is absolutely no connection between the insertion of that feeding tube and a urinary tract infection.

OLBERMANN: Excellent information. Dr. Harry Fisch, clinical urologist at Columbia New York Presbyterian. Great - thanks for your time tonight.

FISCH: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: For the faithful, the pope's health has been a concern, if not a crisis, ever since the day in 1981 when he was shot by a would-be assassin. But these last few weeks have obviously taken a more extraordinary toll still, on father and flock alike. We go back to Rome now, where I am joined by Reverend Thomas D. Williams, dean of theology at the Pontifical University there, and also an MSNBC analyst. Reverend Williams, great thanks for your time this morning.


OLBERMANN: I find myself wondering, tonight, how many Catholics there are today, who have no recollection of 1978 when Pope Paul was sick for so long and Pope John Paul I lived for just over a month in that position. How do you think the members of the religion have been affect by this series of health crises?

WILLIAMS: Well, as you say, for many Catholics, Keith, Pope John Paul II is the only pontiff they've known in their entire lives, at least in their adult lives. I think, for many, this is very tough. Many people have come to associate the Catholic faith with Pope John Paul II, his strong leadership, his presence throughout the world. This is no doubt a tough moment for many, many Catholics.

OLBERMANN: Has the administration and leadership of the church been affected? If these last two months are precursors of months and even years ahead, is that manageable? Does it change the Vatican into a one-track, even a morbid place?

WILLIAMS: Well, it's definitely a sadder place. It is almost like, in the summers, when the pope goes off Castelgandolfo for his summer retreat for a month or so, everything quiets down. You get sense that the place is a little bit vacant; the pope isn't here. And you're getting that now, too, although the Holy See has taken great pains to assure us that the Holy Father is still able to oversee those particular decisions that only he can make, that he is still on a daily basis spending several hours going through those papers and decisions that he has to make.

So, I think for the moment, we have the assurance that he is still at the helm, and still able to make those decision.

OLBERMANN: A procedural question for you: widely reported now that the pope was given the last rites. If anything in the Catholic Church is bigger than the Catholic Church, it is that phrase, "last rites." The headlines have been in news organizations, have really been dramatic in that sense. Explain for us, the sacrament of the sick and how it differs in tone, at least, from what was commonly known as the "last rites."

WILLIAMS: Well, it's the same sacrament, but the name was changed for the Second Vatican Council. And the second was opened up to anyone who is sick in a serious way. In other words, it doesn't have to be given right before a person dies. It can be given any time during a major sickness, when a person is bedridden, and the idea is to prepare that person for facing that sickness, to give that person strength and give that person courage. And I think that we shouldn't associate it necessarily with a death bed sacrament the way it was in the past, but really a sacrament given for those who are in serious sickness, that they will have that strength.

OLBERMANN: After all, the last time he was in fact administered those rites, 1981, 24 years ago. Reverend Thomas D. Williams of the Pontifical University in Rome, our great thanks for joining us live tonight from the Vatican.

WILLIAMS: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Back to the other major story of the night, the death of Terri Schiavo and the politics involved. The House majority leader today observing that, quote, "the men responsible will have to answer for their behavior."

Plus how it all actually got to this stage. The dozens of court cases and desperate appeals and now the accusations that Terri Schiavo's legal rights were violated. Stand by.


OLBERMANN: The polls were all overwhelming against the involvement of Congress in the Terri Schiavo case. But will the politicians still use her death to further or fight a broader right-to-life agenda? Stand by.


OLBERMANN: As we continue to watch the health of Pope John Paul II and update you in the event of the slightest change, we pause now for our No. 2 story on the Countdown and the political change contained within the human story of the death of Mrs. Terri Schiavo.

First and last on this was House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. It was at his urging that Congress convened an emergency session earlier in the month to produce a bill designed to allow a federal court to immediately review Florida Judge George Greer's order to remove her feeding tube. Today came the remark that will no doubt haunt him. "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."

Despite the president cutting short a trip to Crawford to sign the legislation, the federal court in question did not quite see things Congress' way. A move that today DeLay and congressional leaders said they would work to rectify.


REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: The legal system failed Terri Schiavo. We all failed Terri Schiavo. The one major responsibility of a government is to protect innocent, vulnerable people from being preyed upon, or in this case, their life taken from them.

REP. PATRICK MCHENRY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: We have judges that are stepping forward and legislating from the bench, and going beyond their constitutional role and their proper duty, that is given to them by the U.S. Congress and by the U.S. Constitution. And so we have an obligation to step in and say that these men are not acting appropriately, take them to task, and perhaps, take some of them and haul them before the U.S. Congress and impeach them.


OLBERMANN: This against the backdrop of a majority of Americans being opposed to government intervention in the case. And yet as we have seen, it's not over.

What's happening now? Again, let's turn to "Newsweek" magazine's chief political correspondent, NBC News analyst Howard Fineman. Good evening, Howard.


OLBERMANN: I guess we'd have to start with Tom DeLay. He got the Congress involved. He got the bill passed and he made this remarkable statement about the judges today.

But politically, he said he failed her. He failed to get it done.

What is the lasting impact on him and what he tried to represent here?

FINEMAN: Well, I think he is going to be one of the people leading the crusade by conservatives, Republicans, to change the courts, to push for the conservative judges that President Bush has nominated and renominated, to fight in the Supreme Court for right to life and limited government judges, to change the jurisdiction of the federal courts, perhaps, to institute terms for judges and not lifetime seats for judges. Wholesale attack by the congressional branch on the judicial branch, and Tom DeLay sees his future, and perhaps even his political survival in being one of the leaders of that crusade.

OLBERMANN: Did - conversely on this - did the Democrats weasel out by giving this bill just enough support, and did they try to finesse the whole thing like in the months before the Iraq war?

FINEMAN: I think to some extent, yes. I think they can take some comfort from the fact that the polls do show that most Americans thought it was wrong for Congress to try to intervene in this situation. But they shouldn't be too self-satisfied, because I think a lot of Americans also weren't pleased with the spectacle that went on down there. And if they don't blame the courts, they certainly think that more attention needs to be paid to the whole question of the right to life and the right to die. And that means there's going to be a push for federal legislation. And the Democrats may not be on the side of that that they want to be on.

OLBERMANN: On that, in terms of policy, is the legislation idea really going to carry, or could we take a hint from President Bush, who essentially appeared to sign that legislation out of nowhere in the middle of his vacation, then disappeared until today. There was just no word - there were no sightings of him in the interim. It was as if he wanted to stay as far away from this story as possible. Are people on both sides of the political aisle thinking to some degree they got burned by even getting near this?

FINEMAN: To some extent, yes. But the Republicans and conservatives are going to put all their energy into the judicial crusade that I was discussing before.

It's not quite clear where the Democrats are going to go with this. They're going to fight against the judicial proposals and the nominations of the Republicans, but it's not clear what proposal they're willing to put forth about rules on right to live and right to die, which right now are the province of the states. Are the Democrats going to want to push that? I'm not sure. I don't think the Republicans are initially. I think all the Republican energy is going to be channeled from the Schiavo drama, into this crusade on the judges, which is about to begin in the Senate within the next week.

OLBERMANN: As close to a yes or no answer as possible on this. Can you think of any time in the last 100 years, when legislative or executive has taken on judicial and not gotten its butt kicked?

FINEMAN: The answer is no. They usually do, but this may an different situation. Because in the intervening decades, the judiciary has taken on such a larger role, almost a legislative role in our lives. And that's what sort of invited this contest that's about to take place.

OLBERMANN: We'll see if they do better than FDR did.

Howard Fineman chief political correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine, as always, sir, thanks for your time.

FINEMAN: Sure, Keith.

OLBERMANN: From the legislative to the judicial. The accusation that Terri Schiavo whose case went before more than 20 different judges never received due process. Standby.


OLBERMANN: As word of Terri Schiavo's death spread this morning, a flurry of statements were released by politicians who have largely succeeded in transforming her from an ordinary woman into an issue martyr.

Our number one story on the Countdown tonight, one statement in particular caught our attention, that by Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum who was in Pinellas Park earlier this week thanking protesters there. Here an excerpt.

"In California, Scott Peterson a convicted murder was sentenced to death, yet his constitutional rights were upheld to ensure that he received due process and fair consideration in court. Terri Schiavo was given a death sentence and passed away without the right to due process."

It is a dramatic and compelling charge, but factually, it doesn't seem to hold any water.

Countdown's Monica Novotny joins me now with what seems an almost endless process of due process.

Monica, good evening.


The family's bitter disagreement over Terri Schiavo's fate sent them to the courts, where in 1993, the Schindler's attempted to have Michael Schiavo removed as their daughter's guardian. That case was dismissed, but was only the beginning of their lengthy legal battle. Was justice served, well that depends on who you ask.


GEORGE FELOS, MICHAEL SCHIAVO'S ATTORNEY: Not only the courts of Florida, but the courts of the United States of America have given tremendous deference and respect for the right of life.

NOVOTNY (voice-over): Michael Schiavo's attorney today confident Terri Schiavo was treated fairly by the courts, but protesters disagree, as does Senator Santorum.

SANTORUM: There is no federal review for a sentence by a trial court which is tantamount to a death sentence where there's a dispute as to whether her due process rights were protected.

NOVOTNY: Was there due process for Terri Schiavo? You decide.

In February of 2000, a Florida state court approved Michael Schiavo's request to have his wife's feeding tube removed, the Schindlers appealed.

In April of 2001, the Florida state and U.S. Supreme Courts refused to intervene. Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was removed. Two days later, a different judge ordered it reinserted.

The next year, Michael Schiavo again sought permission to remove the feeding tube. In October 2003, it was removed for the second time. Then Florida Governor Jeb Bush stepped in to override the court order passing Terri's law.

Terri's law declared unconstitutional in September 2004.

This February, Judge Greer granted permission for the feeding tube to be withdrawn again.

Congress in a bid to prolong her life, subpoenas Terri Schiavo to appear at hearing. Florida courts ignored that, and her feeding tube was removed for a third time on March 18.

FELOS: It was an emotional occasion, prayers were said at the time and the feeding tube was removed without - without incident.

NOVOTNY: Then Congress stepped in, passing a law in the early morning hours of March 21, allowing Terri Schiavo's parents to seek a federal court review.

REP. TOM DELAY (R), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: If we do not act, she will die of thirst. However helpless, Mr. Speaker, she is alive.

NOVOTNY: President Bush signed the measure. But a day later, a federal judge declined to order a reinsertion of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. Lawyers for her parents appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. They were denied.

MARY SCHINDLER: Please, someone out there stop this cruelty. Stop the insanity! Please let my daughter live.

NOVOTNY: The Schindlers continued to fight, turning twice more to the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected their final emergency request to reinsert her feeding tube the night before Terri Schiavo's death.


NOVOTNY: Terri Schiavo's case passed before more than 20 judges, and at different times three court appointed guardians served as advocates on her behalf, including Jay Wolfson who appeared on this program earlier this evening.

Mr. Wolfson said on this topic, "Honest people are going to differ about their opinions. You're either going to believe the facts that's been accepted by the courts or you're not" - Keith.

OLBERMANN: Countdown's Monica Novotny, many thanks.

One more thing tonight about words. The early reporting about the early death of Terri Schiavo said that she expired at 9:05 Eastern time this morning. Later, other news organizations reported it was 9:02 Eastern. Finally, Michael Schiavo's attorney announced it was around 9:00 Eastern.

It seems trivial, beyond having any meaning - that is it's meaning. The time someone died by routine and tradition that can barely be explained, the centerpiece of any news story, the thing the reporter tries to include first and that the reader or viewer assumes they will get to the second, meant nothing to Terri Schiavo or Michael Schiavo or the Schindlers or to anybody else who called this woman "wife" "daughter" "sister" "friend."

The time of death say detail of a story. To the Schiavos and the Schindlers, it's extraneous just like all the other parts of the story you and I tell and hear. To them, the story is very simple, today, sometime this morning, Terri Schiavo died. That's Countdown.

MSNBC's coverage of the death of Terri Schiavo and the illness of Pope John Paul II continues throughout the evening. Next up, a special edition of "THE ABRAMS REPORT" with Dan Abrams, of course. I'm Keith Olbermann, thanks for joining us. From us, good night and good luck.


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 30

Guest: Harry Peachey, Jeffrey Ponsky, Ben Johnson, Mike Wise


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

They said they would no longer go back to court. Today, Terri Schiavo's parents went back to court. Their latest appeal quickly rejected.

While a feeding tube is central to that story, suddenly it's also key for the pope. Why the nature of his tube may be good news and whether inserting a feeding tube is or is not a true medical procedure. We will talk to one of the doctor whose developed it.

A nightmare from Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's blood coming out of my dad's mouth and he fell off the bed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He did? Where's mommy at?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. I think they're dead.

OLBERMANN: The 5-year-old girl who discovered the scene of horror and the 911 operator who talked her through it.

Baseball scandal again, now it's medical advisor on steroids is reported to have a degree not from a school in New York state, but one from Guadalajara, Mexico - oops.

And speaking of pretending you are something you are not. That's an elephant in Kenya doing an impression of trucks driving by. Next thing you know she'll be doing an impersonation of a news caster and it would sound something like this.

All that and more now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good evening. It is said that immediately after Judge John J.K. Ralston slammed his gavel to end the famous Scopes monkey child, in which the right to teach evolution in public schools was debated in a Tennessee court, an ice cream vender marched into the courtroom and started barking out get your Eskimo Pies, get your Eskimo Pies.

Our fifth story on the Countdown. Long before today, the Terri Schiavo case had taken on the same inappropriate circus like components that surrounded the Scopes trial. But now five days after the legal battle had supposedly ended it, it resumed. And it's now headed again to the Supreme Court.

And today, Jesse Jackson conferred with the brother of the man who's presidential victory last fall, Jackson called, invalid. The calliope (ph) music just got a little louder and the big tent a little bigger. Reverend Jackson meeting with Governor Jeb Bush as part of his effort to get Florida lawmakers to intervene. It does not seem to have had any impact. The state Senate in session today, without any discussion of reviving a bill that would have ordered Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube be put back in. That bill had been defeated by three votes last week.

The legal events of this day no easier to understand, a federal court in Atlanta all but inviting Terri Schiavo's parents to file another appeal after the parents had said there'd be no more appeals. They have filed the appeal and then the court turned them away again for a fourth time. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling it would not step into the Schiavo case, saying that Congress and the president should not have stepped in either, especially since they like to complain about activist judges. "

Quoting Judge Stanley F. Birch, "Generally, the definition of an a activist judge is one who decides the outcome of a controversy before him according to personal conviction, even one sincerely held, as opposed to the dictates of the law as constrained by legal precedent and, ultimately, our Constitution. In resolving the Schiavo controversy it is my judgment," he continues" that despite the sincere and altruistic motivation, the legislative and executive branches of government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Father's blueprint for governance of a fee people - our Constitution."

Early this evening, the Schiavo family said it would again go to the Supreme Court asking for an emergency order to get the feeding tube reinserted. The court took just 12 hours to refuse a similar request last week.

To try to fathom the latest legality, I'm joined again by NBC justice correspondent, Pete Williams, who is at the Supreme Court. Good evening, Pete.


OLBERMANN: As we both predicted back at the doorstep of the Supreme Court. Do you see anything that differentiates this appeal from the one the Schiavo family filed last week?

WILLIAMS: Well, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta certainly didn't. There are new claims, no mistake about it. Lawyers for the Schiavo parents have come up with a new legal theory on why they think this should be granted this time. In brief what they say is, it's clear from case law, not just what Congress passed, that the trial court in Florida, the judges now in the federal courts have to take a new look at the evidence that the state court judge in Florida used to say there was clear and convincing evidence that Terri Schiavo would have wanted to die.

That didn't buy - that didn't get past the 11th Circuit Today. They said no, that's not what the law says. And based on that, I don't think there's any reason to think the Supreme Court will respond differently this time then it did a week ago. But you have to give credit. There was very clear indication in the filings, I thought the lawyers for the Schindlers, the Schiavo parents, were quite candid, Keith, in saying that the parents are leaning on them to do everything possible legally. And you have to give credit, the lawyers are trying everything they can think of.

OLBERMANN: And to that point, it was a surprise to a lot of people that this wound up back in court, in the 11th Court of Appeals in Atlanta. The analogy was used in the newsroom here today that what the court did, to some degree, was reminiscent of Charlie Brown, and Lucy and the football. And she holds it for him to kick, and then she pulls it away and he falls. And then he stands up again, she stands up again. She holds the football for him again, pulls it away again. Why did it go back to the 11th Appeals Court?

WILLIAMS: I would change your analogy a little bit. I don't think that here the football has ever been held out for them to kick. You know, the appeals courts have never given them any indication. The first time a 2-1 ruling against them. And then only two votes in the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the whole 12 judges. Then last Friday, 3-0 against them. And now the same two judges again.

All the court has done is let them try. But you know, we were all a little surprised because last Friday night the three-judge panel said, you lose again and if you want to keep going you have to file by Saturday morning. But technically, Keith, in the federal courts there's a 10 days. You really have 10 days. It would have been extraordinary if the court had said no, I'm sorry. You didn't meet the Saturday morning deadline - and especially in this case. So I'm not surprised by that. I think they had to entertain this again.

Just as I said, the lawyers have gone the extra mile, I think the courts have been very patient. And I was a little bit surprised, frankly, to see what you said from the judge today about the constitutionality. I'm sure that's been bubbling below the surface. The courts have been very patient with this, and now that's starting to come out a little more.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of surprises, I was surprised to hear reported on another news network this afternoon, and repeatedly, that the entire process in the 11th today was simply the judges of that court responding to public and political pressure. To your experience is that plausible?

WILLIAMS: Well, if by that the commentator meant that the court agreed to take this up again. But all they did is agree to let the parents ask again and they said no again. That's what they did last week. So I don't know how that's responding to public pressure. If they mean public pressure by not giving the Schindlers what they want, the courts have said from the very beginning that there was no legal entitlement to that. And that's been a consistent theme throughout this. So, I'm not sure what they mean by responding to pressure. It's been pretty much the same theme here all along.

OLBERMANN: Pete Williams, staying late with us, outside the Supreme Court once again. And we may see you again there next week, next month, who knows?

WILLIAMS: Could be.

OLBERMANN: Great thanks, sir.

WILLIAMS: Yes, sir.

OLBERMANN: And once again a subject that you have never heard of before it leaps halfway around the world. As it does so, totally, coincidentally the same subject becomes a headline in a totally different context. The pope has gotten a feeding tube. The Vatican confirming this morning that to improve caloric intake - John Paul is been fed by a straw through his nose, plastic straw. It is a fairly common procedure for elderly patients, especially those who have had recent throat surgery or recurring throat problems, the pope has both. The decision to go with the nasal procedure, not the kind of the stomach tube, that her parents want Terri Schiavo reattached to. This is being interpreted as a good sign. The nose tubes are said to be usually used for temporary problems and the stomach ones for long-term problems.

The Pontiff appeared at his window for four minutes this morning - as greetings to the faithful in his name were read in many languages, he tried to speak but witnesses described only a growling croak.

This underscores confusion about feeding tubes. In Florida, Terri Schiavo's family that a feeding tube wasn't really a medical procedure. In Rome, the heads of the Catholic Church referred to it today as "medical care," being supervised by the John Paul's personal physician.

If anyone can answer questions on this topic, it's Dr. Jeffrey Ponsky, one of the doctors who developed the feeding tube technique in 1979. He's the chief of surgery at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Dr. Ponsky, Great time - great thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: Frist feeding tubes in general. These are conveniences like meals that astronauts drink through straws or these are medical procedures like breathing tubes?

PONSKY: Well, the liquid we administer is very much like what astronauts drink. It's like what people take to increase their weight. These high caloric, high fat and high carbohydrate diets are liquefied. And you can even take regular food and blenderize it, and create a feeding out of it that will go through one of these tubes.

OLBERMANN: But would you describe it as a medical procedure as opposed to something other than that?

PONSKY: Well, the feeding itself is not a medical procedure, it's part of eating. The insertion of the tube, be it through the nose or through the abdomen is indeed a medical procedure, absolutely.

OLBERMANN: Now, obviously, you can't diagnose the pope nor Terri Schiavo and we're not asking you too, although everybody else on television seems to be doing both. But let ask you about the use of tubes in individual cases like these, Mrs. Schiavo first.

As you develop the tube 25 and more years ago, did you think about the possible impacts, not of attaching people to them, but of detaching people from them who were not say ready to go home from the hospital?

PONSKY: Almost not at all. In fact, we had very specific hopes that this would assist in the care people, and particularly at that time children, who would need long-term care and had a great potential for recovery over a period of time. So we didn't look into the issues of end of life care and those of - actually, have not been a major focus of the tubes all these years. The focus has always been on who we should select to put them into, and probably still should be the focus.

OLBERMANN: Also regarding Mrs. Schiavo's case, is there a reason that you can asses from distance as to why she was put on a stomach feeding tube as opposed to either not being put on any tube or being put on one of those nasal tube?

PONSKY: The nasal tube is only a precursor to the stomach tube that you referred to. The nasal tube is great for a short-term feeding situation, and if the patient needs it for a week or even a month, it's a great opportunity to do this instead of doing the abdominal procedure. But after a period of time, the nasal tube begins to irritate the nose and throat and the esophagus, and it has other consequences associated with it, likes aspiration and pneumonia. And in those cases, particularly when the patient is going to a nursing home, a trans-gastric tube, such as we developed, is much more appropriate.

OLBERMANN: And thus in the case of the pope, the suggestion that the use of the nasal tube as opposed to the stomach tube is comparatively good news regarding his overall health. Is that fair assumption?

PONSKY: It's interesting that these two cases appear side by side.


PONSKY: The pope is totally cognizant, a wonderful gentleman with everything to give to the world. And the mere fact that he needs supplemental feedings is very clear indication for a feeding tube. And the one they've started with is perfectly appropriate. It's probably unlikely that he'll go on to need the long-term abdominal tube. But even if he did, he's a functional member of society with so much to offer. It would be inconsequential that he couldn't swallow and had to have a feeding tube. It would even allow him to talk and do other things more easily. So when a patient is functional and able to contribute to society, these are of great benefit.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, sir, as I said, here's a subject that a lot of people probably knew nothing about - two weeks ago. And now it comes into these two stories in such prominence and such short period of time, here you were, one of the co-developers of the process. Personally, how do you feel seeing this subject on the news and in the newspapers literally every day?

PONSKY: Well, there's no question we've been bombarded and inundated with too much information. But I told one reporter today that this is - one good thing about the United States that we can have this dialogue. That we become educated, that we inform each other about these things. And if families speak to each other and air their differences and that we learn from each other, this couldn't happen except in America.

OLBERMANN: Doctor Jeffrey Ponsky, co-developer of the modern feeding tube, great thanks for sharing your expertise.

PONSKY: Thank you for allowing me. Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Good night.

PONSKY: Also tonight, more medicine you need to learn in a hurry. The FDA could regulate tattoos, but usually does not. So the tattoo artists can basically inject anything he likes into your body, for example, lead.

And it's the kind of call 911 operators hope never to have to answer, a 5-year-old child asking for help after finding both of her parents bleeding, shot.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: 911 operators have been the focus of justified criticism lately. Next, one will be the focus of justified praise and thanks for how she handled a call that no 5-year-old should ever have to make. Standby.


OLBERMANN: Aeneas and Julie Hernlen were shot and killed early Monday morning in the bedroom of their home in Volusia County, Florida. The suspect was a man who thought Mr. and Mrs. Hernlen had fingered him for drug activity. It is a nightmare. A moment when the most fundamental component of society vanishes, but actually it was worse than that.

Our Fourth story on the Countdown, Police learned about the shootings because the person who discovered the bodies called 911. She knew to call 911, even though she was just 5-years-old. That's because Aeneas and Julie Hernlen were her parenting. Listening to the tape of that call is hard. Hard because of the tragedy, hard because of the intrusion. But because of Tia Hernlen's bravery and the compassion of one of the 911 operators, people so often criticize in the media, listening to the tapes of that call may be essential.


OPERATOR: 911, what's your emergency?


OPERATOR: Hello. Is everything OK?

HERNLEN: My mommy and daddy...


HERNLEN: I think there is a bullet on the floor.

OPERATOR: There's a what?

HERNLEN: And there is blood coming out of my dad's mouth and he fell off the bed.

OPERATOR: He did? Where's mommy at?

HERNLEN: She is, I don't know. I think they're dead.

OPERATOR: OK, your daddy's on the floor. How old are you?

HERNLEN: I'm 5-years-old and I have a dog in a house.

OPERATOR: Are you the only one there besides mommy and daddy?

HERNLEN: And I said "Mommy" and "Daddy" and they didn't even answer.

OPERATOR: What made you wake up tonight?

HERNLEN: There was - I think I heard a gunshot. I don't see a gun, but I'm scared.

OPERATOR: Oh, sweetheart, I will not let anything happen to you.

HERNLEN: Can you send a deputy down here?

OPERATOR: I promise I will. And you're only 5-years-old?

HERNLEN: Mmm-hmm.

OPERATOR: Was there anybody else in the house besides you and mommy and daddy tonight, like an uncle or anything?

HERNLEN: No, there's no robber in the house.

OPERATOR: OK, well, I didn't think there'd be a robber, sweetheart.

Did you have anybody staying over the night with you guys tonight?

HERNLEN: Nnn-nnn.

OPERATOR: OK. And the doors are all locked? And everything like that. Where are you in the house?

HERNLEN: Well, I was in my room sleeping until I heard a noise shot and it woke me up.

OPERATOR: Listen to me. Is your phone the kind of phone you can take with you and walk around?

HERNLEN: Um, this...

OPERATOR: There should be an officer at your front door. I need for you to take your phone with you and walk over to the door and open it for me, OK? And I will stay on the phone with you, OK?

HERNLEN: I'm to the door. I'm unlocking it.

OPERATOR: OK. You let me know when the officer talks to you. OK, you go ahead. You talk to the officer.

OFFICER: You're talking to the dispatcher? OK, tell her I'm here now saying you can hang up.

DISPATCHER: Bye, sweetheart.

CHILD: Um, he's here.

DISPATCHER: OK, sweetheart. You be good, OK? Bye.


OLBERMANN: Police say the Hernlin's had not given investigators any information on their apparent killer, a man named David Edward Johnson. They found Johnson at his home hours later, dead, an apparent suicide.

Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson filled out some of the details earlier today and he was in awe of the 5-year-old girl at the center of the story.


SHERIFF BEN JOHNSON, VOLUSIA COUNTY: She's doing all right. She's with family. A 5-year-old at this time, they don't really understand death, I don't believe. The fact that she's never going to see her family again. We're worried about long-term effects on the little girl. She's a very smart little girl, and her parents, they taught her well, and she did a great job. It's just a masterful job, especially for a 5-year-old. She gave us information that, a lot of times, we have problems getting out of adults, and she just did a super job.

Well, there was a - the family asked for a restraining order and they were given the paperwork and they did go to the courts, trying to get a restraining order, and the restraining order was rejected at this time. But the problem with a restraining order, even in a case like this, had we gotten it, had the family gotten it, I don't know that it would have stopped this. Now, you have a little girl who is parentless, you have a mother and father who are dead, you have families who are devastated and it's really a sad situation. She has plenty of family and she'll be taken care of by family.


OLBERMANN: Also, tonight, much less tragic, much more stupid. The baseball-steroids scandal, the doctor advising the sport reportedly padded his own resume.

And, from Russia with love. Two do's in the Duma. They're not your tax dollars in action, but they are somebody's. Stand by.

ANNOUNCER: You're getting the news Olbermann-style. It's Countdown, with Keith Olbermann, part of the best prime time in cable news. MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: We're back and once again we pause our Countdown for a segment of weird news, international news, and, best of all, international weird news.

Let's play "Odd Ball."

And we, tonight, continue our "Odd Ball" educational series, inside the governments of the former Soviet republics. Last night, we brought you this guy, who was once candidate of president of Lithuania and is now an internet viral video star.

Tonight, a special look inside Russia's lower house of parliament, throughout history, known as the Duma, where today's debate is over the disputed results of recently held democratic elections. Oops. It seems party leaders Vladimir Zhirinovskiy has just spit on Duma deputy Andrei Savelyev. And - let's get ready to rumble. Zhirinovskiy is the Democratic leader. He's upset his party was excluded from the election process and that, my friends, is grounds for a thrashing. Will the gentleman yield? No, but I bet you'll yield to this.

To India, where the residents of the tiny northern village of Mucrai (ph) are celebrating birth of Rada with the traditional dance of fire. Then again, you'd dance, too, if someone stuck a 120-pound flaming pyramid on your head. Legend has it that Rada was a consort of Krishna and was born in the village; actually, she was born on the West Side, but she had a little place in the Village. The women train from childhood for this moment, and say they are granted divine ability to hold the tremendous weight, which explains how the actress Radha Mitchell managed to carry that new Woody Allen film pretty much all by herself.

This was the scene later at the Rada birthday party, when that woman got too close for the curtains. No, no, no, we're kidding. This is Mount Colima in Mexico, so-called "volcano of fire," or, world's biggest lava lamp. The mountain began spewing the incandescent green molten rock over the weekend in what scientists say could be a precursor to a major eruption. Though no one is allowed to get within four miles of the volcano of fire, local residents have found that the glowing green light show matches up perfectly with side one of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon."

More trouble erupting in baseball: its chief medical advisor, this guy, the doctor who testified about steroids, turns out we may need to call him, not doctor, but "el medico."

And everyone knows they never forget, but can elephants also learn new things, like how to communicate with big trucks? Seriously, these stories ahead.

Now, here are Countdown's "Top Three Newsmakers."

Number three, conservative columnist William Kristol, speaking at a Earlham College in Indiana, hit in the face with a pie by a student. But you can't stop Bill Kristol, you can only hope to contain him, to borrow a phrase. "The Palladium-Item" newspaper reports that Mr. Kristol wiped the goo from his face and then said, quote, "just let me finish my point."

Number two, Ann Coulter. No pie in the face but at her speech at the University of Kansas, retail price, $25,000. She was so flustered by hecklers that she had some fans and security guards threaten and expel them, and then she threatened to end her speech halfway through. Ladies and gentlemen, if you can't be quiet, Miss Coulter will be forced to stop her hatefulness.

And number one, to round out our disrupted stage performance theme, the Great Velcro, a British magician, the Great Velcro was half-way through his magic act in a London pub when a man suddenly ran on stage, snatched his magician's hat, and ran off. Inside the hat was Velcro's rabbit, Georgiana. The thief ran out the door and disappeared. It's an illusion.


OLBERMANN: On November 1, the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team hired a former player named Wally Backman as the manager of their team for this season. Three days later it turned out Backman had not only neglected to mention the fact he had been arrested for spousal abuse and drunk driving, but that he'd also padded his resume. On November 5, the Arizona Diamondbacks fired Wally Backman as the manager of their team for this season.

Our third story in Countdown, it has happened again, only this time it's not one of baseball's 30 team managers, it's the one and only medical advisor for the entire sport, the guy who testified to Congress on the whole steroid scandal.

Now Dr. Elliott Pellman is his own scandal, after it was revealed his degree is not from a med school in New York but rather from a med school in Mexico, the Universidad Autonomous de Guadalajara, in fact. But the "New York Times" reported today that Dr. Pellman has, quote, "repeatedly" claimed that he got his medical degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. In fact, he got the degree, officially, in Guadalajara. Pellman only spent one year as a resident at Stony Brook.

But wait, there's more. Dr. Pellman, who had great difficulty testifying correctly about the details of the new steroid policy in baseball also claimed to Congress that he's an Associate Clinical Professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Turns out, he's an assistant professor - doesn't sound like a big difference, but an associate teaches at the school, an assistant, well, that's just an honorary position that is held by thousands.

Baseball's authority on steroids isn't even an authority on his own career, reportedly. Reactions vary. "Those discrepancies are not important enough to be there and have all been fixed," Dr. Pellman told the "New York Times." "I don't see why it should impact his credibility, I really don't," the paper quotes Rob Manford, baseball's executive vice president. Not everyone agrees, including one of the Congressman who heard Dr. Pellman's testimony 11 days ago.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), GOV'T REFORM CMTE.: First of all, I do wonder whether he has the appropriate experience to be testifying before Congress on the subjects that he testified on. He's provided inaccurate information about his past experience and his past credentials.

I think when they put up somebody like Dr. Pellman, who provides sworn testimony and who is, according to his testimony, the number one medical advisor to Mr. Selig and to Major League Baseball, you have to wonder who's running the shop, how it's being run, and whether the people at the top know what's going on.


OLBERMANN: Welcome to baseball. So, in the middle of a disaster that may have knocked it's former homerun record holder Mark McGwire out of the Hall of Fame, baseball has a scandal within a scandal.

I'm joined now by report Mike Wise of the "Washington Post." Washington gets baseball back for the first time in 34 years, just in time for this.

Mike, good evening.

MIKE WISE, WASHINGTON POST: Good evening, Keith. How are you?

OLBERMANN: Well, confused, like everybody else on this. Dr. Pellman is all baseball needs at the moment, is he not?

WISE: Unbelievable. I mean, that and another Jose Canseco novel. The thing that bothers me about it is, not so much the resume, but the fact that he didn't know there was a loophole in the agreement when he testified before Congress that gave players an hour to leave the room during a drug test. That he didn't know that is just - it's unconscionable.

OLBERMANN: Now, it may be explicable because he didn't, apparently, know his own resume, so at least we have some consistency on his inconsistency. But, as of close of business today, as those comments from baseball's vice president Mr. Manfred suggested, baseball has not distanced itself from Dr. Pellman. Is that going to change, is it going to have to change?

WISE: I think so. At some point - there's part of me that wants to tell Dr. Pellman to distance himself from Major League baseball. This policy is a joke. If the Olympics had this policy, Ben Johnson would still be the fastest man in the world. You can leave the room for an hour? Bud Selig now has the discretion to suspend you, not suspend you, but give you a $10,000 fine instead of a 10-game suspension after a first offense? That's not anything to deter anybody from drug use.

OLBERMANN: Is it any wonder now, given what - the actual testimony by players was like, and given what Dr. Pellman did know and didn't know and didn't know about his own career, that baseball fought so hard not to have those hearings come off the way they did?

WISE: I think it's indicative of how scared they are to really peel back the layers of their testing policy, of what their game has become over the last 10 to 15 years. And, you know, I - the whole thing to me is a joke. I really think that Dr. Pellman - I don't know if Wally Backman is the standard because Jerry Colangelo (ph) made that decision - but in the case of Dr. Pellman, if you don't distance yourself from him a little bit, what credibility do you have as an organization at this point?

OLBERMANN: While I have you here, let me broaden this out, briefly for the latest on the once and future home-run king Barry Bonds. In our last episode, Bonds was claiming that we all wanted him to jump off some cliff somewhere, and he had jumped off, and he might retire, he might miss the whole season, and there was, in turn, the observation that, guess what? If you're out injured, as he now is, they don't test you for steroids. What's the latest on Bonds? Is he playing, is he not playing, is he on steroids, is he not on steroids, what?

WISE: My God, I would hate to - probably Dr. Pellman with his Guadalajara certificate could tell you that easier than I could. But I do think that Barry Bonds may play at some point - I don't think he'll play for a while. This is just personal, Keith, but I do think that he's more disturbed by the allegations by a former mistress, by the allegations in the "San Francisco Chronicle," that he testified in a grand jury that he may have used something that was a steroid. He's bothered more by that than his injury right now, and I think he just wants to take a mental break.

OLBERMANN: But the physical break would also be abuse, as we've observed, it doesn't have to apply necessarily to Bonds. But if you were a baseball player and you were on steroids last year or over the winter and you needed to get off steroids, the best place for you is on the injured list, on the disabled list.

WISE: Well, that's true. But if you got an hour to actually go out to GNC and get a masking agent and then come back and finish your drug test, I think, you know - if they did that at the "Washington Post," you know, there would probably be a lot of people gunning the G.N.C.

OLBERMANN: Or a lot of blank pages. Mike Wise of the "Washington Post," great, thanks for joining us.

WISE: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Moving from the injection of steroids to the injection of ink or chromium or nickel or lead. Just some of the so-called secret ingredients courtesy of your tattoo parlor.

And, if that information doesn't disturb you enough...

WISE: I'll talk to you later. Bye.

OLBERMANN:... Lisa-Marie Presley - Mike, you're still on the air here - shares details about her marriage to Michael Jackson. Ew.


OLBERMANN: Tattoos and heavy metal together again, but in a different context. Stand by for news.


OLBERMANN: Twenty years ago, a tattoo meant you were or were once in the Navy, you were or were once in a motorcycle gang or you were or were once very drunk in the vicinity of a tattoo parlor.

Our No. 2 story on the Countdown, mom used to warn us about getting tattoos. Two decades back, most of us stopped listening and tattoos got cool. Turned out mom may have known what she was talking about. They may turn out to be more than just an aesthetic risk. Countdown's Monica Novotny joins me now to report that they may be a serious health risk -

Monica, good evening.

MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening. For years there were concerns about tattoos being administered without needles being sanitized prompting fears of the spread of hepatitis C and other infectious diseases. Now, a new area of concern as college-age researchers sporting their own body art are looking deeper beneath the surface to find out exactly what got under their skin.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ultimately we found 14 metals: nickel, copper, chromium, lead, and several others.

NOVOTNY: It is the taboo of tattoos. The question no one asks, what is in the ink? College chemistry major Leslie Wagner decided to find out what was in her tattoo, pairing up with a classmate and her professor to analyze 17 tattoo inks from five different manufacturers. Their research now attracting national attention. The most disturbing finding...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lead, simply because it's been taken out of paint that they use for houses and everything else so long ago, I didn't expect to find it in something they're putting into the body.

NOVOTNY: Though the health effects of these metals in humans in the form of tattoos are not known, these researchers think it's time for more study and regulation.

JANI INGRAM, CHEMISTRY PROFESSOR: It is being injected into the skin, so it was surprising that, that you know, we really were sort of in the dark as to what they may be made of.

NOVOTNY: Manufacturers of tattoo ink don't print a list of ingredients on the bottles, calling it a trade secret. Though tattoo artists don't seem mind.

(on camera): You can smell them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Oh, definitely.

Though the inks used are subject to F.D.A. regulation, so far the agency has chosen not to do so, instead leaving it to be handled by local jurisdictions. But some experts say that may not be enough.

DR. LANCE BROWN, DERMATOLOGIST: There's a study that just was presented from Germany and they found that many of these tattooings, the breakdown products were toxins and some were even carcinogenic .

NOVOTNY (voice-over): Dr. Lance Brown, a dermatologist who performs laser tattoo removals, says the mystery surrounding the makeup of the inks makes it difficult for doctors. Certain compounds can cause allergic reaction once injected, others interfere with M.R.I.'s.

BROWN: Many tattoo inks are actually industrial colorings that are used in machinery, automobile parts, etc. And many of these are mixed into tattoo ink.

NOVOTNY: In fact, Brown believes some ink may be most dangerous if it's removed. Laser treatments don't always remove all pigment. Some particles may break up, seeming to disappear, but could remain within the body.

But tattoo artists say history proves there is no problem.

MATT MARCUS, TATTOO ARTIST: We've been working with tattoo ink long enough where if it was doing any real damage, you would see it. If there was a general flow of health conditions that are the results of bad inks.

NOVOTNY: Though for some, the questions leave an indelible impression.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to see more of an effort to find out what is in the inks and the reactions with the body.


NOVOTNY: We should point out that on occasion, the Food and Drug Administration has weighed in on this issue. Last summer, the agency issued a warning about a cosmetic ink used for permanent makeup that was causing health problems. And a spokesperson from the F.D.A. today tells me that if the science show there is a serious problem, the agency may step up its surveillance of the industry.

OLBERMANN: So roll reversal of when we do the news quiz. Is this a subject that hits close to home for you? Do you have any tattoos?

NOVOTNY: In fact, I do not. What about you, buddy?

OLBERMANN: The last two people in America who do not. But my grandfather, my maternal grandfather had one, a big heart, I think, somewhere around here.

NOVOTNY: Was he in the Navy?

OLBERMANN: No, he was in the army. But it was a heart that said Marie on it, which was useful because that was his wife's name and his daughter's name. So he was completely covered.

NOVOTNY: Multitasking.

OLBERMANN: We're very efficient.

Countdown'S Monica Novotny, great thanks.

NOVOTNY: Thanks.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of getting tattooed, another day, another boat load of bizarre news from the courthouse in Santa Maria, California. It's the perfect way to begin our entertainment news segment "Keeping Tabs," your tax and entertainment dollars in action: day 499, big milestone coming up of the Michael Jackson investigations.

With the wave to the crowd and a pat on the head for his aid, rubbing it for luck, a cheery Michael Jackson showed up at court today to hear more testimony from one of his former flight attendants.

Cynthia Bell, who already admitted to serving Jackson wine in Coke cans, was asked whether she ever saw him cuddling his accuser. She said she didn't think so. And when the prosecutor asked her to define cuddling, she smiled and said I'll have to show you. That comment illicited a gaffah from the courtroom. And then a quip from the lawyer who asked the job if he could approach the witness.

No such merriment from Michael Jackson's former wife Lisa Marie Presley. She told and interviewer that the marriage was indeed consummated. Thanks for that image. Even though she felt that Jackson was using her.

As for why she married him in the first place, she said she wanted to help him with his problems. Quote, "at that time, the way he did that looped me into, oh, my God, you poor misunderstood soul. I feel really bad for you."

And prison may toughen the celebrity, but apparently it didn't do much for Martha Stewart' skin. The electronic monitoring bracelet she has to wear on her ankle has apparently given her a rash. Just like you would get from a watch, or a bad tattoo. She required the assistance of a dermatologist.

This, according to's Janet Walls who not only reported this story, but her new book "The Glass Castle" has just debuted at number 12 on the New York Times best-seller list. Way to go, Walls.

Also tonight, an elephant that can make a sound like a tractor trailer truck and she apparently has a good reason for doing it. Stand by.


OLBERMANN: The great impersonators, the vocal impressionists who can virtually recreate somebody else's manner of speaking. There were David Frye and Rich Little, Harry Shearer and Brian Williams. Brian does an outstanding impression of the just retired NBC correspondent Robert Hager. And then, of course, there are Dumbo, Jumbo, and Babar, say nothing of Mlaika in Kenya and an unnamed impressionist from Switzerland.

Our No. 1 story on the Countdown, elephants do impressions.

That the tentative conclusion of researchers writing in the journal "Nature" as reported in the endlessly fascinating science section of the New York Times each week. An African elephant at a Swiss zoo has learned how to make a chirping sound usually made only by Asian elephants. And Mlaika at the Tsavo National Park in Kenya makes a noise unlike any made by other elephants.


OLBERMANN: That wasn't her doing the buzz, but the mmmmm, that was her. It sounded kind of like the low rumble of one of those heavy trucks you can hear on the street or the highway, even when it's a mile or two from your home. That's because, the theory goes, that's what Mlaika wants it to sound like, that she's recreating the sound the trucks make on the Nairobi/Mombasa Highway which runs just about two miles away from where Mlaika lives.

Harry Peachey is an elephant manager at the Columbus Zoo and has been good enough to join us tonight on Countdown along with a friend of his named Coco. Mr. Peachey, good evening. Thanks for your time.

HARRY PEACHEY, COLUMBUS ZOO: Oh, you're more than welcome, Keith.

How are you?

OLBERMANN: The theory here is that Mlaika learned to make the truck sound. And that the African elephant at the Swiss Zoo learned to make the chirping sound. Do we have an idea why? Are they trying to learn a second language?

PEACHEY: Well, you know, that's a good question. In the case of Mlaika in Kenya, I did not hear the recording that can you played, but they have a low rumble that is part of their normal vocabulary anyway. So the fact that she would be able make a sound like a lorry is not really that surprising.

In the instance of the animal in the Zoo in Basel, that sounds like she was attempting to communicate with her social peers. She was making the same sound that they made, trying to speak the language that they speak. It would be a little like moving to Paris and eventually you would learn to order a beer. You may not pick up the entire language, but...

OLBERMANN: There was a second conjecture in the article in "Nature" that elephants are known for their ability to recognize other elephants to which they are related, even if they haven't seen them for decades, a strong family sense. And the theory was maybe they learn how to imitate the exact voices of their relatives and that's how they recognize them so easily. Do you buy that?

PEACHEY: Well, part of that is obviously true. It's obvious that elephants have an incredible ability to recognize individuals that they're familiar with, particularly individuals that they're related to. They live in very complex matriarchal kinship-based groups. And they spend their entire life in the company of family members. And if they are separated for a period of time, when they come back together, they recognize each other instantly.

As part of their ability to communicate, they vocalize in subsonic frequencies, low frequency tones. And those tones, the advantage of those tones is that they will travel over long distances. So elephants that are separated by a mile or two can stay in touch, can communicate with one another for a long period of time over great distances. So when they come back together, it's not like they have been apart al that time.

In regards to mimicking one another's vocalizations in order to recognize that individual later on, you know, I don't know. We don't see things in our animals that suggest that that's the case. We see a lot of things that suggest they have an incredible ability to learn and this certainly would be within the realm of possibilities based on what we know and have seen. But we don't see anything that suggests that's the case.

They have an incredible large, incredibly large olfactory lobes, and incredible ability to smell. And it would seems more likely to me that they would recognize each other by individual smells.

OLBERMANN: But now to the point that you just raised, from your personal experience with your elephants in Columbus, learning by observation or perhaps nonvocal mimicry if you will, give me an example of that.

PEACHEY: Oh, absolutely. We have had a number of examples. We have a young calf here right now, Bodey, who is not quite a year old and Bodey spends a lot of time mimicking mom. He learns a lot from watching what mom does and doing exactly what she does.

And we'll take advantage of that to put some behaviors in place that we're going to need later on to provide proper husbandry for him.

We've got another great example. We have an overhead shower in here for the elephants. And we have a switch on there that they can use to turn that shower on. Oddly enough, it's a sonar based advice, but it's a proximity device, a security device. And at first when we put that up we painted a metal disk bright orange thinking that would attract their attention. It was up for a couple of days, they never touched it.

So we put a dab of peanut butter on it, we only did it once. And of course, somebody went up and touched it. Immediately the shower came on. And they made the connection right away. One trial learning, they knew right away that what they did caused that shower to come on.

Other elephants have learned to do it since then. We've had a total of seven elephants, including Bodey, the young calf who started to do this initially when he was only a couple months old. The only opportunity that they have had to learn is been by watching one another. So it's anecdotal, but it's clear that that's how they learn. They really had no other opportunity to learn how to work it.

OLBERMANN: There was one other theory regarding the elephant making the truck-like sounds which seemed to be such a surprise in Kenya, if not to you, that she might have been just bored, that she might have just been entertaining themselves. Do they try to entertain themselves?

PEACHEY: Well, they're actually pretty good at entertaining themselves. And one of the things that they will use to entertain themselves is one another.

Coko sometimes will make sounds in his environment, he'll clang on metal things that. And he does seem to get enjoyment out of it. Whether or not he would stand in the corner and make truck sounds, I don't know.

OLBERMANN: If he does, can you let us know? Because we would love to come back and check in on him?

PEACHEY: We'll give you a call. Believe if he does, we'll film it.

OLBERMANN: Columbus U elephant manager Harry Peachey and his pachyderm friend Coko. And we should explain why we're showing tight shots of Coko which Harry was talking, that was Harry talking. It was not Coko doing an impression of Harry.

OK, we got that all straight.

PEACHEY: He's mimicking that.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir.

That's Countdown. Thank you for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann. Trunks are packed. Good night and - sorry - good luck.


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' forMarch 29

Guest: Morton Getz, Cyril Wecht, Ira Reiner, Amy Forliti, Paul Mooney


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

The Schiavo case. Just when it couldn't get any more complex, Jesse Jackson shows up.


There's something about that that is profoundly immoral and unethical.

OLBERMANN: The political playing field just stood on its ear. But what about the treatment of Mrs. Schiavo, is it as Jackson contends, merciless? We'll ask the director of one of Florida's leading hospices.

The Red Lake school shooting, the unexpected arrest of a second student, the son of the tribal chairman.

Nightmare for the Boy Scouts of America. The national director of programs charged with having child pornography.

And call it "Mac Rap." The fast food chain offering to pay rap and hip hop artists to mention Big Macs in their lyrics. You want fries with fizzah? For shizzle.

All that and more now on Countdown


OLBERMANN: Good evening. The Terri Schiavo case has now met the immutable law of six degrees of separation. The Reverend Jesse Jackson today joined Mrs. Schiavo's parents in saying she is being "starved to death," thus allying the man, who was yesterday defending Michael Jackson against allegations of child molestation, to those insisting Mrs. Schiavo is being mistreated. Thus separating the man who most loudly claimed Republican voting fraud in Ohio last year from those now insisting that Congress overreached in legislating the Schiavo case in the federal court.

In short, for those who view this as an entirely political story, they don't know what the hell to think tonight. Reverend Jackson asked to visit the brain damaged woman, now in her 12th day without sustenance. That request was denied by Schiavo's husband, Michael. He did, however -

Jackson, pray with the parents. Mary Schindler saying she want him there "for moral support. I feel good with him here. Very strong. He gives me moral strength." More or less on what Michael Jackson said about Jessie Jackson yesterday. The reverend in turn said this was just waiting for her to die. There's something about that that's profoundly immoral and unethical.


J. JACKSON: She is not dying with dignity. She is being starved to death. She is being dehydrate to death. We are now on a massive death watch, looking at her without food and water when we have food and water. That's merciless.


OLBERMANN: Just before 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, the Schindlers called a news conference that turned out to be simply a direct statement to their son-in-law.


MARY SCHINDLER, MOTHER OF TERRI SCHIAVO: Michael, and Jodi, you have your own children. Please, please, give my child back to me.


OLBERMANN: To anyone accusing the media of manipulating the story, there is a long line on that list. No change reported in the legal or medical details of this case, but the facility at which the woman rests, Hospice House Woodside, remains the core of both aspects. No repeat today of what the "Miami Herald" newspaper reported was a plan made and abandoned last Thursday, to have Florida's State Department of Law Enforcement seize Mrs. Schiavo from that hospice, a plan abandoned when it was realized, local police would have to try to repel the state police.

But the Schiavo case and today' comments from Jesse Jackson intensifying the spotlight on the hospice system. It is not everyday that a prominent national clergyman comes out and accuse taking a palliative care center of taking a patient and starving them to death.

To help us understand what goes on in hospices and what's going on in the care of Terri Schiavo, is Dr. Morton Getz, medical director and executive director of the Douglas Gardens Hospice in Miami.

Dr. Getz, thank you for your time.

DR. MORTON GETZ, HOSPICE DIRECTOR: Thank you for having me here.

OLBERMANN: I'd like your reaction, first off, to the tone of Reverend Jackson's comments today, just three of them today. Being starved to death, not dying with dignity, profoundly immoral and unethical.

How do you feel hearing those things?

GETZ: It's very upsetting, particularly, since I would seriously question if he has the experience of seeing a patient who has not been fed by their own request, and watching them go very peacefully. He apparently has this image in his mind which is far from the truth.

OLBERMANN: Rightly or wrongly, that image has been created in a lot of people's mind that the woman is, to use that phrase, starving to death. That the way perhaps a victim in an Edgar Allan Poe story or another horror story would be starved to death. Reverend Jackson today emphasized that her parents weren't even allowed to give her ice cube for her parched lips. Can you defend the process? Can you explain the process that is being applied to Mrs. Schiavo's case?

GETZ: The process basically is if you pull the tube, the first step is the dehydration that gradually occurs. This would - the time frame would gradually depend on the state of hydration before the tube was pulled. In other words, it is conceivable that Schiavo could live two to three weeks - without too much difficulty. And gradually, the patient become sleepier. The products of the body are gradually retained, the output decreases, and the body gradually shuts down. The patient becomes very sleepy, and goes into a coma, and then eventually, goes very peacefully as a general rule.

OLBERMANN: I've been struck throughout the reporting of this case by the number of people who have made themselves prominent in it, who seem to have never heard about hospices before or about patients who consciously ask to no longer be fed or whose families make that decision to no long have them feed, as if this is the first time this has ever happened. Including the conscious and the unconscious, would - can you guess how many patients in hospices right now are not being fed, and what it is like for them and their families?

GETZ: This is very difficult. We have better than, I think there are over 3,300 hospices in this country. To tell you of the patients that we have, they're probably, I believe in 2003, there were 950,000 patients on hospice. So, to give you an idea, this could be a big number. It could be a small number. But in many instances, what happens is that the patient and family make a decision at some time and hopefully, they'll have advance directives.

With the advance directives, we can work appropriately. When the patient becomes very seriously ill and a feeding tube would be necessary because the - they're not able to swallow, then the question would go to the family. Do you want a feeding tube put in? And the hospice would take care of that. If they don't, then the patient would just be fed as much as possible and gradually go on their own, which is a natural way.

OLBERMANN: Dr. Morton Getz, medical director, executive director of the Douglas Garden Hospice in Miami, our great thanks for you time.

Firm answers, particularly about the swirling allegations that Terri Schiavo did not reach this place voluntarily nor accidentally, far unlikely to come until an autopsy is perform. As we told you yesterday, the attorney for Mrs. Schiavo's husband announcing that a medical examination has been requested, and the chief medical examiner of Pinellas County, Florida says he will conduct one after her death.

But could the results of that autopsy prove to be just as inconclusive and contentious as almost everything else in this case of competing and mutually exclusive realities. To help answer that and other questions, I'm joined now by Dr. Cyril Wecht, the nationally know forensic pathologist, coroner of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Wecht, thanks again very much for your time.


OLBERMANN: Firstly, how likely is that autopsy to conclusively tell us just how functional her brain has been these last 15 years?

WECHT: To that extent, I believe the autopsy will go a long way. The autopsy, upon proper fixation of the brain, which in my opinion, should take about two weeks after the autopsy for the brain to harden and to be dissected properly, and to be studied then microscopically. The forensic pathologist, and I would be willing to bet that he's going to have a forensic neuropathologist on board, too. They will be able to ascertain by taking representative sections of the brain from those parts which are delineated, the part that takes care of sensory perception, the part that takes care of cognitive function, the part that takes care of intellectual capability, et cetera.

And they will be able to determine in a definitive fashion what exactly was the extent of Mrs. Terri Schiavo's problems. They will not be able to determine what the exact cause was. And so you're still going to be left with that point of contention, and the people arguing that she was beaten, or that she was strangled and that that was really the cause, that is another issue.

But I believe, that is much more likely than not, that the pathologist will be able to say based upon the extent and the severity of the cerebral damage, the degree of necrosis, death of tissue, what exactly Terri Schiavo's clinical state was today and yesterday and last week and last month. Whether people will ever come to accept it, that is, of course, another matter.

OLBERMANN: But to that point, how likely is an autopsy going to conclusively tell us whether or not all the medical people who have said she could not have recovered from this point were right or wrong?

WECHT: I believe that that answer will be forthcoming. The degree of damage, the severity and extent in specific areas of the brain, which, in my opinion, based on what I've read, involves both cerebral hemispheres, and probably even a portion of the mid-brain, sparing only the vital centers locate here at the base of the brain and the back, where the respiratory and cardiac control centers are located, which is why Terri Schiavo continues to breathe and have a heartbeat. That's the only part of the brain I think that continues really to function.

So, I think that we will be able to say, in retrospective fashion, whether or not this diagnosis of persistent vegetative state is correct or not. I am certain that they really know this because I believe that this is a major reason why Mr. Schiavo, the husband, has decided to go ahead with the autopsy. You'll recall, several days ago, or a week or so ago, we were told that he wasn't going to do it. I think wisdom has prevailed and the autopsy is the right thing to do.

OLBERMANN: Cyril Wecht, coroner to Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, veteran of 14,000 autopsies himself, recognized authority on forensic pathology. As always, Doctor, thanks for your insight.

WECHT: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Of course, this has even more layers unfolding before our eyes. If it has a Jesse Jackson now stepping to turn off the force of gravity from a political perspective. It must also necessarily have a potentially compromised journalist and exploited protesters. The journalist first: he is Mike Mesolinda (ph), founder of Capital News Service in Tallahassee. He has reported on the Schiavo case for CNN, twice in live reports for that network last Wednesday alone. Mesolinda (ph) also covered the story for several local NBC affiliates in Florida. He also has done work for the state of Florida. The Sarasota "Herald-Tribune" and "New York Times" both reporting that in the last four years, Mesolinda's (ph) production company earned more than $100,000 from contracts with the office of Florida governor Jeb Bush, who has maintained a high public profile, obviously, in the Schiavo case and from other state agencies. And nine years ago, the company had a $900,000 contract to film the weekly drawing of the Florida state lottery.

Mr. Mesolinda (ph) told the Florida paper that there were, quote, "two divisions of his company and they were kept separate," and today said that, in 30 years of reporting, quote, "we have never compromised our journalistic ethics or disregarded the public trust." However, his dual roles had not been disclosed to viewers or even to some executives at some of those Florida local stations.

And that other controversial business relationship exposed today, this one involving a direct marketing firm, Terri Schiavo's parents, and the thousands of strangers who were moved to help them. Bob and Mary Schindler reportedly thanking those supporters by authorizing a conservative direct marketing firm to sell information about them. The description of the list posted by the company, Response UnlimitedrMDNM_, on its web site. But subsequently pulled down, read, quote, "These compassionate pro-lifers donated toward Bob Schindler's legal battle to keep Terri's estranged husband from removing the feeding tube from Terri," unquote. The company is asking $500 a month for the list of the email addresses of the people who responded to an email plea from Mrs. Schiavo's father just last month.

Also for sale on this same site, the donor list of Randall Terry, the anti-abortion activist who has been serving as Schindler's spokesperson.

Also tonight, the man who famously defended O.J. Simpson and got him acquitted on murder charges, has died. The legacy of Johnnie Cochran, next.

Then, the full picture from Red Lake, Minnesota. After the school shooting there, police say the son of the tribal chairman was involved. They have arrested the boy. You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Famous for helping of victims of perceived or real police abuse, world-renowned for his role in the so-called "trial of the last century," Johnnie Cochran has died at the age of 67. We will review his life, next, with former Los Angeles district attorney Ira Reiner.


OLBERMANN: For nearly a year, he was, simply put, one of the most famous people in the world. A story as divisive as the Terri Schiavo case and even more unavoidable, he was to various viewers a hero or a villain of a real-life televised drama, the likes of which we had never seen before.

Our number four story on the Countdown tonight, Johnnie Cochran, O.J. Simpson's, attorney is dead. Most people did not even know he was sick nor hospitalized. Only last September did Cochran himself confirm to the media that he had been treated by a prominent neurosurgeon in Los Angeles. Today, at the age of 67, he died in his home of an inoperable brain tumor, thus ending the career and the life of the man who, in successfully defending Simpson against the criminal charges in the Simpson-Goldman murders, told the jury, "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit."

That was hardly the extend of Johnnie Cochran's legal career, but for better or worse, that is how he will be remembered. But, before that happens, a brief and a broader look at the life of Johnnie Cochran, courtesy of the man who with him in the 1990's and the 1960's, the former district attorney of Los Angeles, Ira Reiner.

Mr. Reiner, good evening. Our condolences on the loss of your friend.


Johnnie and I, our first jobs out of law school, through the city attorney's office, is deputy city attorney. Johnnie came in a couple years before I did; that was way back in 1964.

OLBERMANN: Over the 40 years that you knew him, who was he and did he change over that time?

REINER: Well, actually, Johnnie didn't change. People that didn't know him personally, that just knew his public persona, frankly, they knew the real Johnnie Cochran personality, because - he was really a natural. He was a natural in court, he was a natural on television, he was a natural in person, and that easy attitude that you saw in public was the same easy attitude that all of us saw when we were young lawyers just getting started, and over the years.

OLBERMANN: Regarding the Simpson case, it was such a signal moment in our recent collective history - people forget that when the Simpson case began, the analysts and commentators on it for NBC News were you and Johnnie Cochran. Did he have a perception of the importance of the case at that point? Of what it might take to get Simpson acquitted? Where did he stand on all that?

REINER: Look, when Johnnie was - Johnnie and I were paired together on NBC doing commentary, and this was at the time of the preliminary hearing and before the trial. And then Johnnie, of course, left and went to defend O.J. During that time, Johnnie was very analytical about the evidence and he very carefully avoided ever giving the slightest indication of opinion. I expect because Johnnie at that time as it turned out, there were discussions going on where he might be in the case, so he couldn't.

You know, everybody asked, not just of Johnnie Cochran with the Simpson case, but frankly of every criminal defense attorney in every criminal case, do you really think your client is innocent? And the answer is, overwhelmingly, the client is not innocent. I mean, you don't prosecute people criminally just randomly. There is a lot of investigation that goes into it.

But it doesn't make be a bit of difference to a criminal defense attorney whether the client is guilty or innocent. They are there to, in fact, challenge the sufficiency of the prosecution's evidence. And when a lawyer thinks, a criminal defense lawyer thinks during the trial, is not whether his client is guilty or innocent, or what the great overarching questions are, the focus is exclusively on the evidence, the witnesses, the judge, the jury, the law in the case, that's all that a criminal defense attorney thinks about during a trial.

OLBERMANN: Preserve the process for the innocent, even if your client doesn't have to be one of them.

But regarding the Simpson case, obviously, he will forever be associated with it. But there were so many other cases as prosecutor and as a defender, people don't recognize or remember that he was involved in the prosecution in the Lenny Bruce obscenity charges. And then later - but before Simpson, he represented Reginald Denny, the truck drive who was beaten during the L.A. riots in '92.

Is there a way to assess his overall impact legally? Did he serve the law well? Did he serve it poorly?

What's you're opinion?

REINER: Keith, he served it very well. He did what a criminal defense attorney is supposed to do, and that is, very thoroughly and very fairly challenge the legal sufficiency of the evidence. After all, a person is convicted only if there is sufficient evidence to persuade a jury or a judge in the case, maybe, beyond a reasonable doubt. Probably guilty is not enough. When a person is only probably guilty, they have to be acquitted.

OLBERMANN: Ira Reiner, the long time district attorney of Los Angeles, our great thanks for helping us acknowledge the passing today of Johnnie Cochran.

REINER: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Grim business obituaries, and rarely do they come solo. The three term Senator from Alabama, Howell Heflin has died of unannounced causes. As chairmen of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, he was at center of the investigation of the Iran/Contra scandal. And as a largely bipartisan Democrat, he was considered one of the swing votes on the Judiciary Committee that led to the defeat of President Reagan's Supreme Nominee, Justice Robert or Judge Robert Bork. Himself once the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Hal Heflin, U.S. senator from 1979 through 1997 was 83-years-old.

We'll move from the serious news of the day to the truly and seriously silly news of the day. Start your engines and bring your trailers.

And turning the Big Mac into big money. McDonald's is offering rap and hip hop artists cash if they mention the sandwich in their lyrics. No, I am not making this up.


We're back and just in time for another Countdown international block, we like to call it it's funny because they live in other countries. Lets play "Oddball."

In Maulbingden (ph), England, the annual motor sport event of the year, the British Caravan Grand Prix. The rules pretty straight forward, get yourself a caravan, that would be trailer in American. Smash out everything inside and then "Hooligans start your engines!" It is part Indy 500, part crash-up derby and part National Lampoon European Vacation. Just don't forget to let your family out before the race begins. There is a finish line, and the point is to simply survive long enough to reach it. Briton Julian Buck (ph) is this year's winner, if you're scoring at home, or even if you're alone.

And while our Supreme Court today tackles controversial subjects of freedom on the many Internets, this little gem showing up in the Countdown mailbox to demonstrate once again how the Worldwide Web benefits all mankind. Fifty-years-ago, we in America would never have had the opportunity to see a member of the Lithuanian Parliament in action. Aren't you glad the Soviet Union crumbled? Without that, we never would have had this endless loop for the kids to enjoy. This is the politician, Vytautas Sustauskas, boys and girls. And he actually once ran for president of Lithuania. I can't imagine why he didn't win.

In France, this is either some sort of educational effort or someone needs to take the fine folks of Gadelone (ph) to a Home Depot. Artisans there are building themselves a medieval castle using only the tools that would have been available to their ancestors at the time. This does not include surfs or other form of forced labor. The project began in 1997. It's supposed to be finished sometime later this year, just in time for the revolution. Spread the word! Meet me at the barricades!

Back to the serious news of the day, and a possible conspiracy as it proves in the Minnesota school shooting. Police investigating whether Jeff Weise had help from the leader's son.

And crisis in the Boy Scouts, a national program director, a 40 year employee arrested on child pornography charges.

Those stories ahead, but now here are Countdown's top three news makers of this day.

Number three, Christopher Dorm, male model. He and three other men posed for a photo shoot in 2002; it was part of a five-week campaign against domestic violence. They appeared in ads as, quote, "wife beaters." The problem is the posters stayed up in subways and buses for more than a year, causing many to believe the models themselves were actually wife beaters. They're suing for $1 million and they may want new agents.

Number two, Jose Canseco, former baseball player turned author, VH1 Network announcing Canseco would be part of fifth season of its reality show, "The Surreal Life." Good news, baseball fans. The producers still have a spot open for Jose's ex-teammate Mark McGwire.

And number one, Michael Lewis of Delfork (ph), Kansas. The 27-year-old in fair condition after an accidental shooting which left him with bullet fragments in his leg - accidental being a relative term. The incident occurred when Lewis set up a .22 caliber bullet on his picnic table behind his home, then shot at the bullet with a pellet gun. And then the bullet hit him in the leg. How dumb is that? If the bullet had hit him in the head, there couldn't have been anything in there to damage.


OLBERMANN: When, eight days ago, 16-year-old Jeff Weise killed 10 people in Red Lake, Minnesota, all but two of them at the high school, the Red Lake nation of Native-Americans seemed to close ranks around the tragedy. The tribal chairman even tried to stop relatives of one of the victim from talking to the media.

Our third story on the Countdown tonight, a new and extraordinary possible explanation. Police have arrested that tribal chairman's son and charged him with conspiracy in connection with the shootings. Louis Jourdain was taken into custody without incident on Sunday. The U.S. attorney's office will not explain why it postulates Jourdain might have been involved, noting that he is a minor. But, a week ago today, an FBI special agent in charge said Jeff Weise acted entirely on his own. Jourdain's father, tribal chairman Floyd Buck Jourdain, confirmed the arrest today and said in a statement, "My heart is heavy as a result of the tragic events that unfolded here at our nation, but it with optimism that I state my son Louis's innocence."

Red Lake Minnesota must have a surreal, unbelievable atmosphere tonight. Let's find out from Associated Press reporter Amy Forliti who has been covering the story from there.

Ms. Forliti, good evening.


OLBERMANN: I guess the only comparison in term of impact would be if this had happened in some other city where the mayor was also the town's leading minister, or something of that sort of dual importance, and they had arrested his son. How are people reacting in Red Lake?

FORLITI: I would say today, people are reacting pretty much in a sense of shock. I spoke to many people today. All of them said that they were shocked. That was the one word that kept coming up. This is a community that had the shootings eight days ago. They just went through a whole slew of funerals. They had four yesterday alone. And then they find out that their leader's son may also be involved, and they're just - it's just a lot to process.

OLBERMANN: As I mentioned at the beginning, the leader, the tribal chairman, Mr. Jourdain, had tried to keep relatives of one of the victims, the security guard Derrick Brun, from talking to the media. Is there now suspicion there? Wonder? A question that perhaps the Jourdain's intervention wasn't just about the independence of a Native-American community, but some attempt to protect his son?

FORLITI: That's not something that I've heard at this point. I would hesitate to talk about that. I haven't heard anything of that nature. At first, though, the media was quite restricted. We were basically allowed to travel on the highway behind me here, and we were corralled into one fenced-in area. And the family of the slain security guard, they did come to that area to speak, and they said they thought there should be more access. They just wanted to talk about their son and what a hero he was. I wouldn't say they were necessarily suppressed but they were, at one point, I think, discouraged from speaking to us.

OLBERMANN: And there were no hints there as to how the authorities think Louis Jourdain might have been involved or what caused them to switch from insisting that Weise did this alone, to having arrested a second suspect?

FORLITI: There's nothing that I know of. Louis Jourdain did appear in court today in Duluth, Minnesota. It was a juvenile hearing in federal court and it was closed, so we're not quite sure what he's been charged with, what the outcome of that hearing was. But, yes, they're not really saying a whole lot about how he was involved, just that he may have been connected to this incident.

OLBERMANN: I imagine we'll find more later. Amy Forliti of the Associated Press in Red Lake, Minnesota. Great - thanks for your time tonight.

FORLITI: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: If children can be in danger in high school, why couldn't they be in danger in the Boy Scouts? Douglas Smith Jr. was national director for programs with the Scouts. Now, in a story broken by our correspondent Janet Shamlian, he is out of there and under arrest, accused of one of the worst crimes one could imagine under the circumstances, of possessing and distributing child pornography.


JANET SHAMLIAN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Douglas Sovereign Smith spent four decades as a Boy Scout executive. A national director, he worked at the headquarters near Dallas. But tonight, he is out. The Boy Scouts severed ties with Smith after pornographic photos of underage boys - none of them scouts - were found on his home computer.

U.S. attorney Richard Roper.

RICHARD ROPER, U.S. ATTORNEY: The allegation is that Mr. Smith received computer images of child pornography over the Internet, and he also distributed those images over the Internet.

SHAMLIAN: Smith, who was married with grown children, will face a federal judge in the morning, where he is expected to plead guilty and serve at least five years in prison. For its part, the Boy Scouts say the organization is "shocked and dismayed" by the news. It said Smith had an administrative role and did not work directly with youth.

Wayne Webber is the father of a 12-year-old Dallas Boy Scout. He's concerned for his son, Sergei, but not alarmed.

WAYNE WEBBER, BOY SCOUT FATHER: For me, the local scout leaders that my son interacts with every week, are the people that I really need to be on a first-name basis with and comfortable with, so my son is in the safe situation.

SHAMLIAN: Webber believes events like this crossing-over ceremony from Cub to Boy Scout are safe. He hopes the child pornography case against a Scout leader is an isolated one. For Countdown, this is Janet Shamlian in Dallas.


OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the full picture now coming in from Indonesia. Thousands more dead after the second massive earthquake.

And the Big Mac marketing blitz. Mickey D's paying out big bucks to get musicians to rap about the burger. For rizzle.


OLBERMANN: Our number two story in the Countdown tonight, international shock waves of all kinds, literal ones first.

More from Indonesia, now, and our correspondent Ned Colt on the devastation wrought by yesterday's earthquake in the Indian Ocean.


NED COLT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Today, Nias, the island surfers call a paradise, looks more like a battle zone. Buildings smoldered as the world got a first look from the air at the force of yesterday's 8.7 magnitude earthquake. In neighborhood after neighborhood, roads were collapsed and buildings damaged and destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So many people dead, and houses broken.

COLT: With the main hospital damaged, a soccer field was turned into a medical clinic.

JEREMIE CHELAGE, OXFAM: It is challenging here, at present. There is only one doctor who is obviously over-stretched.

COLT: Already medicine is in short supply. No one knows how many people have been injured. But today, more than 300 bodies were pulled from the rubble, and officials say the quake toll could go as high as 2,000.

SUSILO BAMBANG YUOHOYONO, PRESIDENT OF INDONESIA: On behalf of the government of Indonesia, I deliver my condolences to the families who lost their loved ones.

COLT: The Indonesian president plans to visit Nias tomorrow and has ordered his army and air force to organize a relief effort. He also said he welcomed help from other countries. Today, with the Nias airport runway damaged, and poor flying visibility, help did not make it in. Some aid agencies plan to take the eight-hour ferry ride tomorrow.

PAT JOHNS, CRS: We've chartered a boat that we're going to start loading first thing tomorrow. We're all geared up for the situation in Aceh, so, NGOs have significant stockpiles of relief and medical supplies.

COLT: Relief workers say a looming crisis now is getting water for people to drink.

CHELAGE: The city water supply has been totally destroyed. People now living on the open, they have no food. Everybody has fled the city.

COLT: Many of those who remain were too fearful to go back inside damaged homes. Huddling for shelter under the only protection they have - plastic sheeting.

Ned Colt, NBC News, Medan, Indonesia.


OLBERMANN: Chaos of an entirely different sort in the two-month old Iraqi parliament today. Prime minister Ayad Allawi walked out, but not before he cut the live TV feed of the parliamentary proceedings. The new legislative body cannot agree on a speaker. Apparently, democracy's time honored tools, shouting and finger pointing, have yet to settle the matter. The Shia-led Iraqi Alliance and the Kurdish Coalition want an Arab Sunni to get the job, a way of appeasing the Sunni minority. But the Sunnis have yet to name their own candidate, and the interim president, Ghazi al-Yawar, a Sunni Arab, has refused it. He is holding out to become one of the two vice presidents.

The parliament also needs to name a president and two deputies who will in turn nominate a prime minister. I can't imagine where the confusion might have come from.

Back in this country, yet another investigation into the pre-war insistence that Iraq still had weapons of mass destruction. And if it had not been true before, it is now. The administration is shocked, shocked to discover that gambling was going on here. The final presidential commission report on the nation's pre-war intelligence, taking sharp aim at the CIA and former director George Tenet for having failed to accurately assess Saddam Hussein's lack of W.M.D. in the critical months before the war. The report finds that Saddam fooled the intelligence community as well as some of his own commanders into believing he had reconstituted unconventional weapons after the inspectors left the country in 1998.

And another by-product of the conflict with Iraq: damage to the United Nations chief, in connection with the Oil-for-Food program. Investigators there have found no evidence that U.N. Secretary-general Kofi Annan knew of a contract bid by his son's employer, but the report criticized Annan for conducting only a one-day inquiry, after the company's ties to Kojo Annan, his son, were revealed. They also faulted the Secretary-General for his oversight of the Oil-for-Food program, and his overall management of the world body. Asked today if he was planning to step down as a result, Annan answered, quote, "hell no."

Alarming news about the health of the nation's most prominent Christian activist leading off tonight's segment of "Keeping Tabs." In Virginia, the Reverend Jerry Falwell in critical condition on a ventilator. Falwell, who is 71, was admitted to Lynchburg General Hospital late last night, having trouble breathing, what officials say is his second case of pneumonia in little more than a month. Reverend Falwell receiving an unlikely message of support from adult entertainment mogul Larry Flint.

Quote, "In all my years of publishing 'Hustler,' the Reverend Jerry Falwell has been my most ardent foe, yet I always admired him because I knew what he was selling, and he knew what I was selling. If I prayed, it would be for Jerry Falwell's complete recovery so he could continue to harass me for the rest of my life."

Back to the more entertaining of the entertainment story, Dan Rather, 20 days after his departure from the CBS Evening News, telling the "Philadelphia Inquirer" that his departure was easier than he expected, that he was told he'd feel terrible for two weeks to two years - that has not happened in any way, shape, or form. It is also provided him with the opportunity to fulfill the dream of a lifetime, to record a new voice mail which begins, howdy! this is Dan Rather. And ends, for now, adios! That's who I am and the way I grew up, he says. Now I'm able to let that side out a little more than before. Evidently, all these years, Dan thought he was not Texas enough.

Remember the two-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese song? If you can get it to fit inside the lyrics of rap music, the fast food chain is willing to slip you some cash. This too-strange-to-be-true story is true, and it's next.


OLBERMANN: You may believe rap is the most influential innovation in the history of music. You may consider it a blight on society. Regardless, you and that person who feels exactly opposite the way you do are likely to rise together as brothers in righteous indignation when you hear tonight's number one story on the Countdown. McDonald's, Mickey D's is offering to pay rap and hip hop artists to put references in their lyrics to big Macs. They will play between $1 and $5 every time such a song is played on radio. And yes, for purposes of this story, we will count how many times we reference the big Mac. That's two.

"Ad Age" reported the news of Mac payola, that's three, saying McDonald's went to entertainment marketing firm Maven Strategies to offer the deal to recording labels and artists with the proviso that McDonald's gets final approval of the big Mac-filled lyrics. That's four. It's not like they dreamt this nightmare up entirely on their own.

Run DMC recorded "My Adidas" in 1986 but didn't get a deal with the shoe company until after the record came out. Two years ago this week, Busta Rhymes featuring P. Diddy came out with "Pass the Courvasier." The artist insisted money didn't change hands for that. Then there was the song that placed second on the "Billboard" hip hop top 50 last year, "Freak-a-Leak" which includes the lyrics: now I got to give a shout out to Seagram's gin because I'm drinking it and they're paying me for it. But none of them mentioned a big Mac. That's five.

For some thoughts, a pleasure to be joined by a man who, if you do not know him for having created the honey the clown routine on "In Living Color," or from his own daily radio show in New York, you should know of his work on one of TV's absolute best programs, "Chappelle's Show," comedian and social commentator Paul Mooney. Welcome. Thank you for your time.


OLBERMANN: Am I overreacting to this or is this Big Mac thing - and that's six - is it demeaning to everybody up to and including the kid who is behind the McDonald's counter?

MOONEY: Well, first of all, the rappers, they're going to have to pay a lot more money than what a big Mac costs. If the rapper is famous, they're going to have to go dig deep, deep in their pockets. It's like almost like a joke. They're just trying to get in on something. I thought 1 trillion was already served. I mean, what do they need the rappers for? It doesn't make sense to me.

OLBERMANN: I don't know anything about the marketing company that they hired, Maven Industries, except that the CEO's named Tony Rome, but just backstop me on this. Do you think I'm right in guessing from the clumsiness of this idea relative to the world of rap and hip-hop, that some white guy thought this up.

I'm sure somebody white thought it up. It smells white to me not that it's a hamburger, but it is. It's like wild - I don't know. They're trying to get something for free. They can't do that. The world is not like that now. They had the African bees when they were talking about they were coming, they finally came. You know, the killer bees, the African bees. The real killer bees are the freebies and those are the ones that will really kill you. And no one's going to - it's not going to be free. They're going to have to pay and they're going to pay, I mean for real. They will have to pay some presidents. It's all over town about this big Mac thing. It's real funny. And the rappers, you know, a lot of them are gangsters. If they don't come up with that money, they may do a drive by on Ronald McDonald.

OLBERMANN: Drive by in the dry through.

MOONEY: In the drive through on Ronald McDonald's.

OLBERMANN: I listed a couple of the instances where there has been product placement in rap and hip hop, although the performers claim they were organic and not payola. Is that generally accepted by the audience or is there a huge risk of losing credibility on the street or street cred as the kids say, if you mention a product that is not cool like say a big Mac. That's nine.

MOONEY: I don't know about credibility. If you're getting paid, everybody likes that. Everybody is into that dollar. They chase that dollar. And if there's money involved, they all get excited about it. But it's like Hammer had a chicken thing out that was very funny. All this stuff can be comical, but if it can make some money, it can make some money. But they have to pay up.

A lot of times they get in because rapper rhyme, so they get into the song accidentally. You know? Rappers are a lot tougher because when they have their awards show, a lot of people get hurt. If I was McDonald's, I would go for the comedians, because comedians are like hookers. You can get them. You can buy them real easy. You know, they'll go for the joke and they'll go for the money. They don't care what it is. They'll do it just to get the exposure. Whoever that white guy is that thought it up, he should put the pipe down, because it's not going to work.

OLBERMANN: Tony Rome, if you need somebody to call, there's a whole mess of comedians available apparently.

MOONEY: There's a bunch of comedians. They're like a herd of wild elephants. You can find them all over the world.

OLBERMANN: But what's the end result of what we have on the table here? It's not just a question of you're suggesting that they are being underbid even though $5 a play might not be a small figure if you have a number one hit, but your point is well taken on this.

MOONEY: Yeah but if you have a number one hit and you're a big top like 50 cents or 25 cents or to the curb or my momma's house, whoever it is, they're going to ask for some money and it's going to be real money.

OLBERMANN: But there's also this additional level to it which is McDonald's has to have approval of the lyrics. What -

MOONEY: Rappers are not going to let you prove of nothing. They're the only people that are free in America. They're not going to be approving anything. They're going to rhyme and talk about what they want to talk about. If you get in their way, they're going to talk about you.

OLBERMANN: Could this be the comeback route for Vanilla Ice? Is this his - that just occurred to me. We might have relaunched his career with this.

MOONEY: Vanilla who?

OLBERMANN: Yeah, him, you remember him.

MOONEY: Yeah, but thank God ice melts.

OLBERMANN: Now apparently there was a big Mac reference - and that is 10 now - in lyrics by Good Charlotte and it reads: And did you know if you were caught and you were smoking crack, McDonald's wouldn't even take it back. Is that the kind of product placement you think the company wants?

MOONEY: Well, I doubt it. I doubt if McDonald's wants to be associated with a crack house. I doubt that real seriously.

OLBERMANN: Is that...

MOONEY: Look, McDonald's got his own problems. I mean people are suing them for - because they get people fat, these people who are the fattest are coming at them, you know, and saying that you get me fast because it's fast food. They had another problem with some cop that went into a McDonald's and the guy that worked there gave me a glass hamburger.

So they got their own problems. And they got to watch out, that it doesn't

happen to them, what happened to Jack in the Box. Like here in New York,

you don't see any Jack in the Box. The city ran them out of here, because -

· I mean they were cooking things other than hamburger.

OLBERMANN: Original meat recipes.

MOONEY: Right, right.

OLBERMANN: Got it exactly. Paul Mooney, comedian, social commentator, co-host of PM on the AM on WBLS radio.

MOONEY: Hey I'm glad - and you're a smart white man. Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: Thank you sir. Thank you for playing. That's Countdown. Thanks for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann. We believe McDonald's owes us $50. Good night and good luck.