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.