Friday, August 12, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Aug. 12

Guest: Pepper Schwartz, Ron Allen, Mike Wise

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Jennifer Hyatte has already been to prison as a nurse. She's probably now going to wind up going again as an inmate. Pamela Rogers had been homecoming queen, then a high school teacher. When they caught her with a 13-year-old boy, she didn't even try to defend herself. She's already pleaded no contest.

And Jennifer Wilbanks is - well, you already know who she is. She had been a medical assistant. She return to the news.

These are all eye-opening experiences, if you will. But do they mean anything? Are more smart women really doing more dumb things?

Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?Hyatte's husband agrees to extradition. She doesn't, so he changes his mind.Rogers, the teacher, sentenced.Wilbanks to be married today?The sounds of 9/11 released and relived today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like the plane was aiming towards the building...


OLBERMANN: And our latest I quit tip. How much healthier you can be 20 minutes from now.

And is it just me? Why can't I concentrate on what this guest is saying? I keep thinking, bungee jumping and Windex and check your oil, mister?

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

They seemed to be three ordinary women, nurse, teacher, medical assistant. Before you knew it, maybe before they knew it, they had become accused murderer, child molester, and runaway bride - maybe double runaway bride.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, before we find out if they actually constitute some sort of societal shift or trend, let's begin in Columbus, Ohio. There, Jennifer Hyatte and the felon husband she allegedly helped bust out of jail have today both refused extradition back to the scene of the crime, Tennessee.

Our correspondent, Ron Blome, joins us from outside the Franklin County Courthouse in Columbus with details. Good evening, Ron.


Tennessee will have to wait. And it was a civics lesson on how to obstruct an extradition proceeding. Even the judge thought it was going to go quickly, and they would be exported back to Tennessee, as they say. But that didn't happen. Jennifer Hyatte came into court. She looked a bit dazed, but nevertheless, she objected. Her lawyer objected on a whole host of procedural paperwork grounds. The judge had no choice but to set another hearing for September 8.

Then her husband, who was going to waive extradition, go back to Tennessee, the judge ordered him into the courtroom. He came in cursing. And let me translate it down a little bit. He said, The heck with it, I'll sign it, I'll sign the papers. The judge said, Hold on. She explained what the wife had done. And then George changed his mind. Here's what he said.


GEORGE HYATTE: I don't want to. I don't want to. My wife didn't, right? And (INAUDIBLE), whatever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He does not want to.



BLOME: The judge gave the prosecutors four weeks to get the paperwork sorted out so they could proceed with extradition.

But maybe Tennessee wasn't ready for them today. They had other business in Wayne Morgan's home town, the prison guard who was slain on Tuesday. They had a funeral. A thousand people turned out, 200 of them in uniform. The governor of Tennessee gave the medal of valor to the family. And his son Dennis said his father's time on earth served as well as he could have wanted it.

Meanwhile, back in Columbus, the sheriff's jailer here says that the Hyattes will be held under the most maximum of security, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Ron Blome in Columbus, Ohio, for us tonight. Great thanks, Ron.

She had three young children. She had a good job working as a nurse. She had never been in trouble with the law. Yet within months of meeting George Hyatte, prisoner, Jennifer Gourdon had married him and had risked everything, including her own life, to be with him.

Ron Mott now tracing her path of self-destruction.


RON MOTT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jennifer Hyatte's alleged brazen and lethal attack to spring her husband, George, from jail, ending with their capture after an intense manhunt, has people wondering what would lead her to do it.

ELI GOURDON, EX-HUSBAND OF JENNIFER HYATTE: I think it is his influence, you know. I - obviously something has happened to where she's changed.

MOTT: The 31-year-old nurse and mother of three, with no prior criminal record, now stands accused of committing the ultimate crime.

LISA AKERS, FRIEND OF JENNIFER HYATTE: I can't imagine her ever being in that state of mind.

MOTT: Family members say a troubling phone call between the couple, married just three months ago, triggered a self-destructive scare.

REGINA HYATTE, SISTER-IN-LAW OF JENNIFER HYATTE: They had got into it over the phone about something, I don't know what. And she was - he said something about a divorce. Then she tried to kill herself.

MOTT: They met behind bars, he serving 35 years for a career of violent crime, she hired to care for inmates' health, eventually fired for sneaking George Hyatte food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jennifer Hyatte, before the...

MOTT: George Hyatte never lacked attention from women and always seemed to have one, says his sister. But his apparent prowess to charm, says a noted therapist, might simply have overpowered a vulnerable Jennifer Hyatte.

PATRICIA FARRELL, PH.D., PSYCHIATRIST: He was able to read her quickly and to figure out what he had to do in order to get her to forget her kids, forget her profession, forget everything, and go into this incredible Bonnie and Clyde-like scenario.

MOTT (on camera): George Hyatte's family says they welcomed Jennifer with open arms and will support both of them in their upcoming legal battles, even while not understanding what possibly could have driven them to take part in such a violent tragedy.

That's the latest here from Kingston, Tennessee. Now back to you.


OLBERMANN: Ron Mott, great thanks.

Barely 100 mile to the west in another Tennessee town called McMinville, another seemingly inexplicable story. Another schoolteacher, another woman schoolteacher, involved with a boy barely in his teens.

As Carl Quintanilla reports, she is now going to spend nine months in prison.


CARL QUINTANILLA, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Raising her right hand after raising a firestorm, 28-year-old Pamela Rogers could barely respond as she entered her courtroom plea.

PAMELA ROGERS: I can't even talk.


ROGERS: No contest, sorry.

QUINTANILLA: Sentenced on multiple counts of sexual battery against an unidentified teenage boy, the encounters took place over the course of three months last year, one of them reportedly in the school gym.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are your pleas of guilty freely and voluntarily made?

ROGERS: Yes, they are.

QUINTANILLA: Rogers, a former homecoming queen who taught PE at the school for two years, lived at the boy's house for a brief period. His mother once called her a family friend. But after investigators discovered the relationship, they arrested her in February, a month after her husband had filed for divorce.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On all these occasions that happened at the victim's residence, the parents were asleep downstairs, or in a position where they would not have been able to know what was going on.

QUINTANILLA: Residents of this small town, population 12,000, were also glad to see the case resolved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's traumatized the community, because this is Warren County. This is Centertown. I mean, stuff like that's not supposed to happen here. But, you know, just a rude awakening that things like that happen everywhere.

QUINTANILLA: Under the terms of her sentence, Rogers must surrender her teaching certificate, be registered as a sex offender, and cannot profit from the case or give interviews. She'll be under probation for eight years once she's released from prison.

PETER STRIANSE, ATTORNEY FOR PAMELA ROGERS: She is a bright, energetic, talented young woman. She's going to rebound from this. She's very strong mentally, spiritually.

QUINTANILLA: The boy, who has not been identified, is still a student in the school system, where classes started this week, the victim of a PE teacher whose physical education went too far.

Carl Quintanilla, NBC News, Chicago.


OLBERMANN: And then there's the woman who seemed shockingly normal. In this grouping, it's the spring bride with the spring in her step, the fiance financing her getaway, the betrothed who be splitting, Jennifer Wilbanks. Today, August 12, was the day that an online registry at the Pottery Barn indicated was take two for the wide-eyed wanderer's wedding to John Mason.

Ms. Wilbanks had insisted this was the store's mistake. There was no wedding scheduled, not a less-public replay of her previously canceled wedding.

Then again, community service or not, her word has not exactly been the coin of the realm lately. Thus did our affiliate station in Atlanta, WXIA, call around to track her down. This was earlier in the week when she was doing some of that community service work. But neither bride nor church nor bridal shop is sharing anything.

We can tell you that she and her fiance, John Mason, are no longer registered for gifts at the Pottery Barn.

So if these three stories and a hatfull of other strange actions by women over this year actually mean anything, maybe it's just that they indicate there could be more pressures on women these days.

I would like to call on Professor Pepper Schwartz, sex and relationship columnist, author of 13 books, including "Everything You Know About Love and Sex Is Wrong."

Thanks for joining us tonight.


IS WRONG": My pleasure.

OLBERMANN: Big picture, are these just unconnected stories, unconnected aberrations, and is the attempt to lump them together just typical cable news hyperbole, or could they mean anything collectively?

SCHWARTZ: Well, I think they have some similarities and some differences. I do think there are some things to think about in terms of, what makes women give themselves so over to men, or to sexuality, or the romance and drama of love, that they put their entire lives in jeopardy, literally, and also their reputations?

And I think what it is, is, we live in a love culture. And it's affected these women greatly. It's kind of a romantic idea that you could do anything for the one you love. You could, you know, you could shoot him out of a jail. You could make up your mind to run away from love if it wasn't perfect. You could have a 13-year-old boy and imagine that you two were something special together.

We say that love gives status in this society. And I think what happens with women is, sometimes it's the only way they feel special, sometimes it's the only way they feel heroic. And they do these nutty things.

OLBERMANN: The specific cases, some specific questions. Jennifer Hyatte, did she really go from law-abiding mother to a gun moll in a question - a period of three months, or was there more to a backstory there that we don't know?

SCHWARTZ: Well, there may a backstory, but yes, she really could. First of all, these guys really can be slick. I mean, just because a guy isn't educated and he's in prison doesn't mean he isn't a psychologist. And they can, in fact, Hey, you love me, I love you, I build you up, you're everything to me, and now you're letting me down. Now you're not taking care of me. What are you going to do? I'm going to be stuck here for 35 years.

And she goes, like, I'm a woman. I've got to take care of my man. And she gets this sense of, I'm not going to be worthy unless I do something.

So yes, you can get into somebody who has your feet on the ground to somebody who is drenched in your own hormones, and in this the situation say, I've got to do something, and forget every good piece of sense you ever owned.

OLBERMANN: Could that kind of thing happen to anybody, any woman, or even conceivably any man, and if so, are there warning signs for the families of those people to look out for?

SCHWARTZ: I'll tell what you the bottom line here is for all these people, and that's a sense of self-esteem, a good, solid core self. I don't want to sound too California, but, you know, if you really know who you are and what you stand for, no, you're not going to get seduced into this.

But if you see somebody who's becoming compulsive, who says everything according to this other person, they quote them, they're true, and everything you would say against them, they get angry, almost atticlike (ph), angry that you would say anything bad, then you got a problem.

But I'll tell you, by that time, it's almost too late. What you have to do is not get involved with one of these guys. And prisons are full of them. If you had a really good friend, you'd say, Stay out of there. Don't be a good Samaritan with some of these really desperate guys, because they're slick, and you'll get in trouble.

OLBERMANN: To Pamela Rogers, the teacher, is there any suggestion in here, now that we've gotten, you know, three or four high-profile cases in the last few years, LeTourneau, LeFavre (ph), that there's any suggestion this is on the rise?

SCHWARTZ: Well, you know, I think women are more sexual these days. You know, they were more repressed before. So now their sexuality is something they're experimenting with. And, you know, like men, it gets them in trouble.

I think what happens with women, though, is different from what happens with men who are stalkers or sex offenders. And that is, they get in this love thing. They get this fantasy that there's something special with them and this child. And he's really a young man, and they're star-crossed lovers. Or they're full of themselves with the ability to be so naughty, so brave, so taboo, and it's so exciting.

So I think you have to be more sexual, and the society has to be more full of sexual imagery to get this much more of it. And, of course, before, we covered it up. We thought 13-year-old guy, lucky kid. That's the way we used to fix it before. Now we're saying, No, these are children, and we're going to protect them.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, the Wilbanks online marriage registration. I know in asking this, I'm asking to you expand your duties to that of psychic to some degree. But is this really a mistake by the Pottery Barn? Or could she have backed out again?

SCHWARTZ: Well, you know, I'm not going to go into the Pottery Barn business. You know, who knows? But, you know, this woman obviously bolts when she doesn't know what she wants. She's very undecided. And she probably feels pulled in this direction, and pulled in that direction. And when you don't know which way to move, and you aren't sure of yourself and what you stand for, you bolt, you do things that are sudden and hysterical.

Now, if I were the Pottery Barn, I think maybe I wouldn't want this person as my best client. But, you know, it's their business.

OLBERMANN: She didn't look too gifted with the lawnmower either in that public service tape.

In any event, sociologist Pepper Schwartz from the University of Washington, great thanks for helping us sort this out tonight.

SCHWARTZ: My pleasure.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, very serious, 9/11, the very sound of that date creates chills. Always has, always will. Now, newly heard sounds that are more chilling even than any before.

And Rafael Palmeiro, Mr. Steroid, back with the Baltimore Orioles. But why is he still not playing? Is there something more to that steroid scandal than any of us know right now?

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: The images of 9/11, on that day and on all the days since, contain a kind of analgesic for the soul, a sedative. They are still impossible to believe. But as so often the case with our senses, the unreality of the videotape is balanced by the too-believable reality of the audiotape.

Our fourth story on the Countdown tonight, I reported from the World Trade Center for 40 days on radio. It was six months before I could listen to any of those taped reports. In the three and a half years since, I've only been able to listen to them once more, and they are just news reports.

There is something about the recordings of emergency radio dispatches released today that stimulates the imaginations in ways that create both a revulsion and a compulsion to listen.

We wanted to warn you about that before we play this next report on the newly released tapes from our correspondent Ron Allen.


RON ALLEN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Each day, they still come by the thousands to reflect and to remember that awful day at ground zero.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The World Trade Center tower number one is on fire. The whole outside of the building. There was just a huge explosion.


ALLEN: Today, the horror and heroism of September 11 was revived in vivid detail.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Second airplane, second airplane went in on the other side of the World Trade Center, plane number two.


ALLEN: Radio transmissions between New York firefighters, never before heard publicly. The city released hours of tapes and 12,000 pages of oral histories, firefighters' personal account of what happened. "They kept yelling Danny, Danny," Richard Eardley (ph) recalled, as a firefighter was raced from the scene dying. "We got to the hospital. A priest looked at me. I said, Give him last rites."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm trapped inside one of your fire trucks underneath the collapse that just happened.


ALLEN: That's a civilian on a radio inside a fire truck.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't breathe much longer. Save me. I'm in the cab of your truck.


ALLEN: His fate is unknown.

Sally Reganhardt (ph) lost her son Christian. She hopes the new information will explain how he died.

SALLY REGANHARDT, MOTHER OF VICTIM: I didn't know what building he was sent to, what time he was dispatched. This is all a mystery. And so that's why I sought desperately to find out any information about my son.

ALLEN (on camera): Several 9/11 families and "The New York Times" forced the city to release the material in court. City officials claimed the information was private. But the families insisted, everybody needs to face what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unless you're an officer at this time, you need to remain off the frequency.


ALLEN: Many families insist more firefighter would have lived if they had better two-way radios.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've just been advised, the north tower is leaning north. Jesus, it just collapsed. Building collapse, building collapse.


ALLEN: At least 120 firefighters died when the north tower fell.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any more idea where Fuentes is located?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says he's buried under ruble in the rear of World Trade Center Number One...



I never heard (INAUDIBLE).

ALLEN: Captain Al Fuentes was buried near where the tower collapsed.

He says the tapes are chilling.

FUENTES: I kept hearing them, and, whoo, it brought me right back to 9/11. I always say, that was our finest day, 9/11, in the FDNY.

ALLEN: A day now revealed firsthand on tape and by written words, when so many perished, and so many were saved.

Ron Allen, NBC News, New York.


OLBERMANN: More of the audiotapes released today can be heard on our Web page. Go to

A month from yesterday is the anniversary, of course. Among all that's changed since, perhaps the most unbelievable, from the perspective of September 10, 2001, would have been the idea of terror alerts.

Two pieces of good news on that front tonight. Homeland Security has lowered the national threat level for mass transit from high to elevated - that orange to yellow. It had been raised after the 7/7 bombings on the Tubes and a bus in London.

And the FBI has now abandoned an advisory suggesting somebody might try for a truck bombing on or about this September 11, the initial advisory based on a single source of unknown credibility. The source is now back pedaling. The warning was that attackers might steal tanker trucks and rig them with explosives in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. Again, the source has backed off, and the bureau has said, Never mind.

Homeland Security says this is nothing to be afraid of either. Yes, ask the mouse.

And the joys of live TV. Do you see something distracting in this somewhere? Putting the washing back in Washington.

Our favorite news bloopers, including today's new winner, ahead on



OLBERMANN: Back now, and we pause the Countdown. It's the summer. You're too hot, I'm too hot. So let's take a spin over to the Countdown water park, where buoyancy and bravery are a must, wearing your swimmies will get your tossed.

Let's play Oddball.

Oh, boy, we got a floater. This is S. Tejumi (ph) from Tenai, Indiana (ph). Like Dustin Hoffman's character in "The Graduate," she's just drifting. Only it's not because she doesn't know what to do with her life now that college is over. She's trying to break a record. Everybody knows, of course, the old Indian record for floating is only 24 hours. Tejumi shattered the mark with 30 hours in this horizontal position without any external support.

If you're wondering how she handled bathroom breaks, she was mum on that question. Let's just say, say I'd stay out of this pool for the next six months.

Next, she hopes to break the world floating record, which, as we know, is 117 days at O.J.'s house, held by Kato Kaelin.

Let's stay in the pool. You'll remember the broadcasting history we made when we first brought you Twiggy, the water-skating squirrel, last year, a story that captivated our nation, the first televised water-skiing squirrel since, like, 1999. We took home two Peabodies for our coverage, incidentally.

Nobody thought life could get any better than watching a trained squirrel water skiing, until now. Surfing mice. Alert your friends and loved ones. If your children are sleeping, wake them up. You'll never forgive yourself if you let them miss this.

Shane Wilman (ph), of Gold Coast, Australia, says he and his family had nothing to do growing up, so they taught their mice how to surf, first in the bathtub, then it was out to the shark-infested waters of Australia. The mice are actually pretty bad at this.

Shane slaps them on a board, gives them a shove, and after a few seconds, the rodents get the hell out of there and abandon ship. The mice then paddle back to the board and hope to catch the next wave.

Of course, while we here at Countdown celebrate Shane and his intrepid surfing mice, (INAUDIBLE) there are those in the media who disagree with this practice.


ROBERT NOVAK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that's bull (expletive deleted), and I hate, I hate that. Just let it go.


OLBERMANN: All right, that really made no sense, but I love the tape.

I'd like to see Novak fall off his surfboard.

Also tonight, it's baseball's star steroid user, Rafael Palmeiro. If he's back from his suspension, how come he isn't playing?

And later, more on our campaign to help you stop smoking. Tonight, the sales pitch, the list of immediate health benefits you can get by not lighting up. You start to get well in 20 minutes.

These stories ahead.

But now, here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Jason Matheny, doctoral student at the University of Maryland. Remember that line about how, if you like sausage, you should never watch it getting made? Matheny is one of the researchers there who are growing meat cells in a test tube. He thinks eventually they'll be able to produce chicken nuggets without any chicken.

I thought the current chicken nuggets didn't have any chicken in them.

Number two, two superdumb criminals from Brazil. Members of robbery gangs are always told, Don't buy anything ostentatious afterwards. Not these guys. Two of the men, who stole $68 million from a bank in Portalesa (ph), have now been arrested. They had bought cars, a lot of cars, so many cars that they were caught driving one of those double-decker car carriers.

And number one, Romeo and Juliet, the swans who have lived as a couple in the Public Garden of Boston these last few years. Turns out they're both females. Which may, authorities say, explain why, after one of them laid nine eggs last year, the swans were seen kicking the eggs into a nearby lagoon.


OLBERMANN: A funny thing happened to Rafael Palmeiro on his way back from baseball's first star steroid suspension. He has been eligible to play in two games now, but he has not been seen in the starting line-up in either one.

Our third story on the Countdown, how come? And how come, as the first big name fish caught in baseball's steroid net, how come he again drove reporters and fans crazy by instead of being frank and contrite, lawyering up?


RAFAEL PALMEIRO, PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYER: At this time, really, I've been instructed by my attorneys not to comment on the situation. The time will come and soon, hopefully, where I can explain my situation. Congress is going over all the stuff right now and I'm going to wait on that situation.


OLBERMANN: And for the second straight night, Palmeiro has been left out of the Baltimore Orioles starting lineup in the game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He still has not had as much as his name announced over the public address system at Baltimore's Camden Yards.

There's a reason, of course, the lawyers got involved, today, with his consent documents relating to his positive test for steroid use were turned over by major league baseball, to the Congressional Government Reform Committee, that's to whom Palmeiro testified on Saint Patrick's Day. Wagging his finger, telling them he had never ever used steroids.

The committee wants to investigate seriously a perjury charge against Palmeiro, even though his testimony was in March and the sample from the positive test was apparently in May. The lag time between Palmeiro's positive test and his suspension in August, the rumors, accurate if proved, of a name player having tested positive that came the day before Palmeiro's suspension was announcement, this strange decision not to play him, a congressional investigation into the timing of a positive test. Timing that doesn't seem to be in question otherwise.

It all has a weird feel to it. Even more we're than seeing a guy admonishing Congress that he's never used steroids and four and a half months later, be suspended for using steroids. To try to help us out of the deep woods, I would like to call on Mike Wise, the sports writer of "The Washington Post".

Good evening, Mike.


OLBERMANN: Firstly, not in the lineup again. Again, the argument that he's rusty after 10 days off. This is a guy who has been playing Major League baseball since September 9, 1986. He shouldn't be rusty. I don't buy that explanation. Do you?

WISE: No. I have to think that he's been in the batting cage and he knows what he's doing. My best guess is that this has to be about the media onslaught. The people at Camden Yards that have just shown up at the ballpark so they can either boo or cheer him. And I don't buy that. It smacks of the same reason that he said he didn't knowingly take steroids. The dog ate my homework a little bit.

OLBERMANN: On the whole, does it feel like there's more going on with this story than we or the public know yet?

WISE: I think there could be if in fact it's proven that he used steroids before his congressional testimony. But I don't believe that baseball is involved in some grand cover-up in which drug testing samples of stars or either switched or not released. I know how the NBA's drug testing policy works. It is very anonymous for the people who actually do the laboratory tests. I would be shocked if someone from baseball or the commissioner or anybody under him were involved in some kind of cover-up.

OLBERMANN: You mentioned the prospect that they kept him out of a lineup to try to keep the media attention down. On that very subject, is he getting good advice? I mean, he had been adamant to the point of being defiant in front of Congress. Then when he got he was weasely enough in his answers - "I've never knowingly taken steroids", that it prompted my colleague Dan Patrick to ask, "What? You accidentally fell on a syringe?" Now the lawyering up yesterday. Who is telling him to make himself look so bad?

WISE: Well, in a public opinion poll, he's getting awful advice. We're all about second acts in America. Whether you're Paris Hilton or Bill Clinton, you can survive admitting what you've done. And I think if Rafael Palmeiro just came out and said, yes. I did get injected. I learned how to use steroids. This is what it did to me. I cheated. It would be fine.

But for some reason, he's been told not to do this. From a legal standpoint, Art Tellum (ph), his agent, one of the most brilliant guys in the business who does this, is probably giving him good advice. If you're Rafael Palmeiro, you're already publicly humiliated by this. Why, Keith, would you want to actually have a charge of perjury leveled against you to add insult to injury?

OLBERMANN: Is there anything clearer about his curb team's attitude toward him? Even just giving given these two batting orders over the last two days. The last reporting about the Orioles was that a lot of the team's management wanted Palmeiro cut adrift as soon as this test came through. But that the owner of the team, Peter Angelos, I read it somewhere, just did not have the heart. Does that jive with what you've heard?

WISE: It does jive with what I've heard. Rafael Palmeiro is not known as a clubhouse cancer guy you want out of there, an Albert Bell type guy. He's well liked by his teammates. I think there's some support going on. By the same token, if you are a Baltimore Oriole, if you're the manager, Sam Palazzo (ph), who has just taken over, you're out of the American League East race.

You're probably out of the playoff chase for good. Why do you want this way to your season to end? With media coming around asking but steroids and Rafael Palmeiro. I think they wanted it to go away and I think they'd prefer him to retire. I think Peter Angelos doesn't want to see him go out this way and likes him.

OLBERMANN: Clarify, lastly, here, the testing rules as we know them. Do we have any reason to assume that Palmeiro will be tested again this season? Or that he won't be tested again this season?

WISE: Keith, I think you went to the well one too many times. I really don't know that answer. No. From my gather - from what I gather, they actually do test afterwards. I don't think you get tested more so or randomly because you tested positive for steroids, but I believe he will be tested again. Personally, I would not put a Fred Flintstone vitamin in me if I were him, right now.

OLBERMANN: Nor any other player at this point. Mike Wise, of "The Washington Post", thank you for following the bouncing Palmeiro for us.

WISE: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: From baseball to basketball. Investigators now have some questions for Michael Jordan, of all people, regarding a possible arson fire in Southern California. This is a weird one. Also tonight, tobacco used to reign supreme in Kentucky, but today there's a business smoking ban in Louisville. That, and the latest in our eye-quick campaign. You're watching Countdown.


OLBERMANN: They argued over whether or not smoking should still be permitted in barber shops and beauty salon. They argued whether it should be permitted in work places like factories, but not in workplaces like office buildings. They argued over whether or not smoking should still be permitted at the horse race track, Churchill Downs.

But in our Number Two story, in THE Countdown, ultimately, the metro council of Louisville, went a lot further than most onlookers expected, becoming the latest municipality to essentially ban smoking in almost all work places. In a moment, our latest hints to help you quit. First, Rodger O'Neill from Louisville.


RODGER O'NEILL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They're cutting the burly in Kentucky. But what helped define this state for so long, the aroma of smoke, is blowing out of the state's biggest city Louisville, which once made one of every six cigarettes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty-one yes votes, five no votes.

O'NEILL: A two-year, often acrimonious debate finally ended with the city's first no smoking ban, a moderately tough curb in most work places and restaurants, but not bars. Councilman city historian Tom Owen thinks it is the latest sign of a significant culture shift.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tobacco which was once Kentucky's ace in the hole, is going.

O'NEILL (on camera): Putting the brakes on smoking in Louisville plays into a much bigger state campaign to change Kentucky's image. Changing the three B's, from bourbon, betting and tobacco, to building new cars, breeding horses and better healthcare.

(voice over): But a bigger challenge will be to change some grim statistics. Kentucky has the nation's highest rate of adult smokers, 28 percent. And while skewed by coal miner's black lung disease, Kentucky also leads the nation in lung cancer deaths. Governor Ernie Fletcher, who is also a physician, says with the decline of tobacco as an economic engine, new attitudes are emerging.

ERNIE FLETCHER, GOVENOR, KENTUCKY: People are a lot more accepting with the fact that we need to reduce smoking.

O'NEILL: Despite a 30 percent drop in burley production, a 50 percent drop in tobacco farmers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crop looks good.

O'NEILL: Paul Hornbeck (ph) says the worldwide market is strong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our prices are more competitive and demand for American-grown tobacco is up considerably.

O'NEILL: Some said it would never happen in Kentucky, one of smoking's last bastions. But smoke-free has gained a little momentum. Rodger O'Neill, NBC News, Louisville.


OLBERMANN: Nice they still let you smoke in big bars, presumably on the theory that if you're going to hurt your health with alcohol, what difference would tobacco make? The sad part is if smoking is one of the worst things you can do to your body, quitting smoking is almost like that mysterious magic wand you dream of that enables you to lose weight in five minutes and or become an athlete in one month.

We're continuing our nightly set of hints on how to stop. Part of our series, "I Quit" stemming from my own false alarm after a benign tumor was removed from my mouth two weeks ago today. It was close last night. I really miss the pipe tobacco, fortunately it was about 85 degrees is the ozone was so thick you could strike a match on it. So I opened the window and remembered that sometimes it is tough enough to breathe air without having crippled my lungs again first.

Our hint this time, a sales pitch. About that idea that quitting is better for you faster than joining a gym or going on a diet. Ready? If you quit right now, your blood pressure will return to your normal level 20 minutes from now. If you quit right now, the levels of deadly carbon monoxide in your blood stream dropped to normal eight hours from now. If you quit right now, your chance of having a heart attack starts to decrease this time tomorrow.

If you quit right now, any shortness of breath you have or smoker's cough or smoker's sinuses will have pretty much gone away this time next month. If you quit right now, your lung function, your ability to breathe, and to absorb oxygen will improve by about a third no later than three months from now.

If you quit right now, the cilia in your lungs, the little tiny hairs that keep your lungs clean of that stuff that makes you cough, they will make a complete comeback no later than nine months from now. If you quit right now, your risk of heart disease will be half that of a smoker, one year from now.

If you quit right now, your chance of having a stroke is almost as low as a nonsmoker's five years from now. If you quit right now, your chance of death from lung cancer will drop to half that of a smoker's 10 years from now. You're looking for a magic bullet? There it is.

And we still want your stories of how you quit smoking. Your tips, your psychological tricks, your substitutes. You'll share them with the whole audience in the weeks ahead. Email us at And check out the full list of suggestions on the Web site.

Turning now to our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, keeping tabs, and when film and TV stars move to the suite there after, they never really fade away. The results are in, the most popular dead star is Lucille Ball.

The back bone of "I Love Lucy" is at the top of the heap of immortal beloveds. The scoring done by the same company that measures the Q rating to determine who plays well with audiences. The Q score is based on familiarity and likeability. This is not the first time Lucy has ruled the dead celebrity wing. Bob Hope, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Red Skelton -

Red Skelton? And now Johnnie Carson and John Ritter share the top 10.

Tom Hanks is the most popular living star, of the last few surveys, but as you might imagine, dead celebrities often score higher than the living. Which might be what retired basketball star Michael Jordan would prefer to be right now, rather than hearing his name dragged into an arson investigation. Well, 25 acres of Santa Barbara, California, went up in flame last Saturday and Jordon was there.

Investigators are quick to insist they do not suspect him of having started this fire or any other one, but they do want to talk to him. The fire erupted just on the Rancho San Marcos Golf Course, just as Jordon and about a dozen friends were playing. Our investigators have been told the members of his party could have started it, says the county's fire department spokesman. And we would like to speak to Mr. Jordon, or his managers, to learn more about their group.

The spokesman said Jordan was not at the hole where the fire began. Still, it sure does bring a new meaning to Dan Patrick's phrase, Michael is in Fuego.

Speaking of investigation, 600 hours, 43 witnesses, three and a half months later, our long national nightmare is over. Paula Abdul did not do anything wrong. FOX announcing tonight, she will not be booted from the "American Idol". I'm seeing Paula Abdul puppet theater. What about you?

Investigators found no evidence to prove that Abdul had had a sexual relationship with a informer contestant named Corey Clark. Nor did it show that she had given Clark special assistance, of any other kind. Though during the inquiry, headed up by a lawyer and federal prosecutor, Abdul did admit she had had telephone conversations with Mr. Clark while he was a contestant.

Speaking of admissions, here is the truth. We sometimes love bad TV even when it is at our expense. What is wrong with this picture? Great bad moments in live TV news, next.

But first it is time for CountdownS list of today's three nominees for the coming title of worst person in the world, the bronze level. We're not sure which side is guilty here. The employees or the company, but whichever, they get nominated. The other doesn't. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued Tyson Foods. Two employees say at the Tyson plant, in Ashland, Alabama, somebody put up a sign over a bathroom reading whites only.

Also, Charles Dryling, Jr. He had a pipe bomb in his bag as he tried to board a flight from Oklahoma City to Atlanta. His explanation to the authorities, he had built it for fun and forgotten he had left it in his bag.

The winner, the folks at the Florida aquarium in Tampa. This is like that scene out of Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life". The guy goes into the restaurant. There's a big fish tank and all the fish are talking about the fish who is on the plate. A food fundraiser tonight at the aquarium there. Seven chefs set up among the tanks and pools in a sushi showdown. They're serving sushi at the aquarium. Flipper! Charlie, when fishes don't behave, this is what fishes get!

The Florida Aquarium in Tampa. Today's worst persons in the world!



OLBERMANN: The eighth or ninth time I ever appeared live on national television, someone at CNN left a fader open on an audio board somewhere and suddenly I was giving the Lou Gehrig farewell speech. My own voice was feeding back as if I had been in a bottomless echo chamber, chamber, chamber, chamber.

Our Number One story in THE Countdown tonight, when bad things happen to good cable television people. We've had another, as the nuclear power engineers so quaintly call them "event" today, we'll show it to you in just a moment. First some other recent highs and low, like last night when our friend Tucker Carlson waited until after his guest had stuffed four bratwursts into her mouth before he started quizzing her.

TUCKER CARLSON, THE SITUATION: You're incredible, how do you feel?

Give me the after action report.


CARLSON: Is it really? You like the brats, for real?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's why I eat so many.

CARLSON: So, it really is an act of love. It's not just - you don't just do it for the competition?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is really delicious. And this is sweet, so that's why I eat so many sausages.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, really sweet.

CARLSON: Now, I know - ha-ha.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Didn't anyone ever teach to you not to ask a lady a question when her mouth is full. She had 18 sausages in her mouth then you asked her a follow-up question.


OLBERMANN: Then there's the planned TV moment that ends up being unintentionally hilarious. Case in point, our old friend Rick Sanchez, on CNN.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, when it comes to technology, many in law enforcement recommend stun guns over real weapons, to show you how to works, I'm about to receive 50,000 volts of electricity. Let's do it.

Oh, gosh. Gosh. Oh, oh. Ah! It hurts.


OLBERMANN: Yeah, he used to do that, like that, when he was here and no one was hitting him with anything. Then there's the part where the reporter is solemn and respectable but the guest that's the problem. Our colleague Preston Mendenhall (ph), on the D-Day Anniversary last year.


PRESTON MENDENHALL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Harry, can you tell us how old you are today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm 82 years old.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up your [beep].


OLBERMANN: We're not immune on this show. Nothing we've ever shown got more reaction than the live interview of the family in Wisconsin that was recovering from monkey pox.


OLBERMANN: We're glad it's worked out, Steve, Tammy and Cheyenne Kowtser (ph), along with the surviving prairie dog, Chuckles. You saw Cheyenne pulled up a chair and joined us in the middle of the interview outside their home in Wisconsin.

Oh, you better take care of her. [baby crying ] it never stops. Thank you for your time.


OLBERMANN: By the way, little Cheyenne there was just fine. Her mom called before the show was over and asked for a copy of the tape.

Then there are the blooper doubleheaders. One thing goes wrong like your producers talk you into interviewing Jackie Stallone and the psychic dogs. And soon the disaster has now spread to the hardware.


Jacqueline Stallone, of, along with Rachel and Hannah and Friday, who don't have their own web sites, many thanks for the forecast. We appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You'll be ok. Don't worry. And you can say, that's something for the public to know.

OLBERMANN: Yes, yes indeed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind of questions are you going to ask me?


OLBERMANN: All right, now time to fulfill our promise and introduce you to the candidate of the night turning as always to our trusting bingo drum. Forget it.


Let's pull a few more of these out. You know, what would you think about taking a commercial right now?


OLBERMANN: Always lock the door. Still, with all of those samples for simplicity, for ease of impact, for the downright triumph of every day real life over the pervasive falsehood that is television, the winner may have to be our friend Chris Jansing's (ph) interview at 10:50 Eastern time this morning of Mr. Mantel Williams of the AAA about rising gas prices.

Mr. Williams was in our NBC news channel studio in Washington, D.C., which is in a building whose managers pride themselves on keeping their windows spotless. It's also a building where the window cleaner identified by our crack staff as Mr. Sammet Wilfranco doesn't appear to have either the experience, or the equipment to operate without what those in the profession call drift or swing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Overall, on a daily basis in terms of going back-and-forth to work and doing errands, it's not really deterred people from traveling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there someone washing a window behind you? That's hilarious, seriously. Oh my - he's hanging from - I just had to point that out. I couldn't - I couldn't resist - can you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can see it now. I can see it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I can. That is amazing here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Back to gas prices. Is there a point at which Triple A - I mean, it's rockets here, the laughter. Is there at point at which AAA thinks people will - you know, really start making serious adjustments like if it's $3 nationwide?


OLBERMANN: Or maybe when gas stations restore their long lost policy of cleaning your windshield.

That's Countdown. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck.