Friday, August 26, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for August 26

Guest: Justin Maynard

CHRIS JANSING, GUEST HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The gathering storm. Hurricane Katrina graduates from category one to category two. As southern Florida picks up the pieces, the panhandle braces for impact.

And one family caught at sea tonight is lucky to be alive.

Another amazing story of survival. Wind sheer sends a 747 crashing into the jungles of Peru. An American newlywed describes the chaos to make it out of the flaming wreckage alive.

The search for Natalee. New facts and circumstances land Aruba's most infamous brothers, Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, back in jail.

And this guy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) the concert. Do they have a smoke machine?


JANSING: It's Inconsiderate Cell Phone Man. He's the guy who reminds to you shut off your cell phone before a movie. Tonight, we'll show you the softer side of actor Rob Huebel.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's, like, (INAUDIBLE), you know, it doesn't...


JANSING: All that and more, now on Countdown.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Karate explosion.


JANSING: Good evening. I'm Chris Jansing, in for Keith Olbermann.

A family of five lost in the hurricane while sailing up the coast of Florida miraculously found alive and well this afternoon on a mangrove island. Six other people on the Florida mainland weren't so lucky.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, Hurricane Katrina, currently regaining strength off the coast of Florida, the category two storm getting ready to circle back up toward the United States.

In a moment, the latest on the forecast and that amazing rescue.

First, the latest on the damage from correspondent Mark Potter.


MARK POTTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): South of Miami, a normally busy street, now a (INAUDIBLE) waterway. Along with hurricane-force winds, Katrina brought torrential rains and widespread flooding. Entire neighborhoods and streets are inundated. Residents take home groceries by canoe. Homeowners slosh through their houses and try to sweep out at least some of the water.

JERRY RYAN, HOMEOWNER: I mean, I came here to get some tools out of my garage. My garage is two feet underwater. Inside my house is flooded. All, every room in the house is flooded.

POTTER: Much of the flooding occurred near Homestead, Florida, which was demolished 13 years ago by Hurricane Andrew. That storm brought catastrophic wind damage. This time, it was the unforgiving rain.

(on camera): Many Miami-area residents feel they were sucker-punched by Katrina. They expected the storm to be much weaker and to hit farther north.

(voice-over)" When the heart of Katrina hooked south, they were unprepared.

KAI MARTIN, MIAMI AREA RESIDENT: We thought it was supposed to go in Fort Lauderdale. But at that point, when it changed, all of a sudden, it was coming straight down the channel towards my boat.

POTTER: Among the seven people killed by the storm, one died riding out the hurricane on a boat at this marina. Juan Ramone Figueres (ph) also spent the storm aboard his boat. It was a terrifying experience.


POTTER: Plenty of danger remains after the storm. With that, my colleague Michael Williams of our Miami station WTVJ.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS, REPORTER, WTVJ: South Floridians need to be long on patience tonight after Katrina short-circuits much of the power grid. More than 1 million customers have been without electricity after wind, water, and downed trees mangled power line far and wide. The big worry tonight, complacency, reminders that a wrong step onto a submerged line can prove deadly, Mark.

POTTER: Late this afternoon, some welcome news. A family of five reported missing at sea this morning was rescued by the Coast Guard near Florida's southwest coast.

Mark Potter, NBC News, Miami.


JANSING: Well, the U.S. Coast Guard just got an opportunity to speak with that family. And Petty Officer Justin Maynard, who is actually still on duty right now, joins us by phone from his base.

Thanks so much for your time. I appreciate your being with us.

PETTY OFFICER JUSTIN MAYNARD, U.S. COAST GUARD (on phone): It is good to be here.

JANSING: What are you hearing? How are the Larsens doing?

MAYNARD: They're doing great. We just had a debrief with them. And just spoke basically about the events that they went through.

JANSING: Let me ask you the most basic question that I think everybody wants to know. You know a hurricane's coming. What are you doing out there?

MAYNARD: Well, basically, what they had was an interpretation of the track line, which was actually projected to be further up north. They had projected the hurricane to be actually not intending to be near Cape Coral, which is where they were headed to. And also, they thought that they'd be in in the afternoon yesterday, which turned out to be not true, once it started turning south and causing the seas to cause them to use more of their gas, and which caused them to run out of gas.

JANSING: Yes, not true, to say the least. So how soon after leaving Marathon did they realize they were in trouble?

MAYNARD: They, around 7:00 p.m., realized that they were going to be running out of gas. They started heading towards Everglade City. At that time, they did run out of gas, and proceed to anchor their vessel. They rode out the storm and also were taken by the storm and beached their vessel on a mangrove down in 10,000 Islands.

JANSING: Did you have a good sense, was their survival good sailing by Mr. Larsen, or maybe just sheer good luck?

MAYNARD: Well, there's a couple things they did great. They filed a float plan, which means that they told somebody where they were headed and what, how many people on board and basically what they had on board. So that was great, that gives us a lot of information. Next, they had proper safety equipment on board. They had their lifejackets, they had their visual distress signals, their flares, and other gear. They also used that signal flare to contact the rescue helicopter when they were stranded on that island.

And then last but not least, they also stayed together and stayed positive. They did not attempt to walk over to Everglade City, which is several miles inland from where the mangroves that they were at.

JANSING: I know that this is what you all do, the Coast Guard rescues people. How often, though, in the case of a hurricane, do you have to go out?

MAYNARD: It happens quite often. Basically, the Coast Guard public should be strongly encouraged to monitor the weather conditions before and during boating, and to always Eric Robert Rudolph on the side of safety.

JANSING: Well, we want to know, want to let you know that we appreciate all the work the Coast Guard does. Petty Officer Justin Maynard with the U.S. Coast Guard, thanks very much for your time tonight.

MAYNARD: Thank you very much.

JANSING: Well, right now, Katrina is churning in the Gulf, building u strength as it prepares to once again hit Florida again.

Bill Karins of NBC Weather Plus has been tracking the hurricane all day, joins us now with the latest on its projected path. Bill?

BILL KARINS, NBC WEATHER PLUS: Well, good evening, Chris.

A very anxious weekend for forecasters and for residents all along the Gulf coast. Finally it looks like Katrina is leaving south Florida alone.

Let's go show the latest imagery. Key West still reporting winds up to about 60 miles per hour. And the Key West has gotten about a foot of rain during the day today. So this is a strong category two storm right now, on the verge of becoming a major hurricane.

I can show you the latest radar there from Key West. They still could get up to about maybe two to four more inches before things taper off.

Then we go into our little bit of a lull. We're going to have about 48 hours here, just about two complete days where the storm is going to be out over the Gulf, and everyone is anxiously going to be watching the storm.

Now, that center line, it's just kind of the middle line on that graphic, if that did come true, and that's the National Hurricane Center's forecast, the storm would head directly for the Alabama-Mississippi line. But as you know, this shifts left, it shifts right. So anywhere in that yellow cone, including central section of Louisiana all the way over to about the panhandle of Florida, Apalachicola, you could expect possibly a category four hurricane, 130-mile-per-hour winds-plus, to make landfall Monday afternoon.

After that, the storm will weaken and accelerate up towards the northeast. As I mentioned, Chris, it's - the hard part about all this is the anxiousness for everyone, wondering exactly who's going to get hit, because when they do, it's going to be hard.

JANSING: Yes, you got to make those preps. How positive are we at this point the hurricane may turn north and head close to New Orleans?

KARINS: That's the toughest part of all. I want to show you this map, kind of the insight to how we make these forecasts, how the National Hurricane Center makes these forecasts.

Each of the lines on this map represent a powerful computer model that shows us the potential path of the storm. You can tell that four out of five of these all take the storm close to New Orleans, or about just over Mississippi-Alabama border. Notice that one red line to the south there. It does take the storm and stalls it out over the Gulf. This is not an exact science. And that's why we have to watch this system closely over the weekend.

All indications are, it should head north. But that's not 100 percent.

JANSING: Bill Karins of NBC Weather Plus, thank you.

So Hurricane Katrina, having already passed through Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, now slated to cross back up through the Gulf into the very heart of "SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY." No passport required. Good luck, Joe.

Fierce weather brought down a passenger jet in Peru. Hear firsthand what happened as the plane broke apart, from American newlyweds whose honeymoon quickly turned into horror.

And the pizza bomber mystery, almost two years later. New theories from the FBI about the bizarre crime that seemed like it could only come from Hollywood instead of real life.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


JANSING: One look at the fiery wreckage of a plane crash in the Peruvian jungle, and it can be called nothing less than a miracle that more than half the passengers on board survived.

Our fourth story on the Countdown tonight, firsthand accounts of escape and stories of incredible bravery are starting to surface, one of those from an American teacher on her honeymoon, who got out of the plane with the help of her husband just before it exploded.

Our correspondent, Dawn Fratangelo, has her story as told from her hospital bed in Lima.


MONICA GLENN, PLANE CRASH SURVIVOR: I remember just kind of thinking, This isn't real. But then, Yes, this is real. I need to get out of the plane.

DAWN FRATANGELO, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From a hospital bed in Peru, Monica Glenn relives every moment.

GLENN: It was kind of a nightmare.

FRATANGELO: Just Saturday, she was living a dream, when the California native married her sweetheart, William Zea Palacios in Peru. They met when Monica moved there to teach English. Tuesday, they were bound for an Amazon honeymoon when TANS flight 204 hit turbulence.

GLENN: The next thing I knew, we were hitting the trees, and there were flames coming from the cockpit. It was just awful. People were shouting and screaming, and everybody, of course, wanted to get out of the plane.

FRATANGELO: The plane's side exit was just two rows away. But William, a firefighter, knew it wasn't safe.

GLENN: The one in the back was much better, because we were further from the flames and further away from danger. We walked away from the plane, trudging through the mud. We were probably about 50 yards from the plane by the time the second explosion occurred.

FRATANGELO: Injured, they were flown to a hospital in Lima, William with severe burns to his face and hands. The local headline reads, "My Firefighter Saved Me."

GLENN: He protected my face. He pushed me out of the way from danger.

FRATANGELO: Investigators suspect wind shear caused the crash. Today, the pilot and co-pilot were buried in Peru, as Monica praised them for keeping the plane level.

GLENN: If that had happened, I don't think I - we would be here to tell the story.

FRATANGELO: An incredible story of survival and love, as these honeymooners now share the same hospital room.

GLENN: It's not where you go for your honeymoon, it's who you're with. I'm with my husband. That's the most important thing.

FRATANGELO: Dawn Fratangelo, NBC News, New York.


JANSING: There were survivors in a Paris apartment fire that broke out overnight, but there were also fatalities. Seventeen people were killed, 14 of them children. The blaze broke out in the stairwell of a seven-story building just after midnight. It took 200 firefighters two hours to bring the flames under control.

If this sounds familiar, it is. Just five months ago, the city suffered one of its deadliest fires in years at a budget Paris hotel that, like this building, housed mostly African immigrants. France is now vowing to improve housing conditions.

Another day of bizarre developments in the search for Natalee Holloway. Two brothers, under some sort an umbrella of suspicion, find themselves back behind bars. We'll go live to Aruba.

And speaking of bizarre, everybody's got to have a hobby. But come on. Air guitar faceoff ahead in Oddball.


JANSING: I'm Chris Jansing, anchor in charge while Keith Olbermann is away.

We pause our Countdown of the day's real news to bring you our brief nightly segment of the day's really stupid news. And it is really stupid tonight.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin in Oulu, Finland, for the qualifying round of our favorite annual dorkathon, the world championships of air guitar. Dozens of competitors from around the world jamming away on invisible axes for their shot at the world title. Now, the rules are simple. Show up, and be prepared to rock.

As we give you a sample of the fierce competition, we are reminded that the only people lamer than the guy playing pretend guitars have to be the people screaming and cheering for them.

And ladies, he's available - to the London zoo, where the new sign outside Bear Mountain reads, "Don't Feed the Half-Naked Weirdos." Four men and four women, partially clothed and on display for all to see. Now, not against their will, mind you, they actually had to audition for this honor. Visitors will be able to observe the people in their habitat as they eat, sleep, frolic about, and, I guess, pick bugs off one another for the rest of the weekend.

To a real zoo, where the monkeys act like people instead of the other way around. This is Ey-Ey (ph), a female chimpanzee at the Quin Ling (ph) Zoo in China. Ey-Ey, as you can see, she is a smoker. Now, she's not proud of it. But it's been 23 years in that cage. And she lost her mate. And I guess, after a while, you just kind of fall into patterns of self-destructive behavior.

You should have seen Ey-Ey during her closet eating phase.

Ey-Ey's handlers now realize she's smoking too much, and they're trying to get her to quit by giving her milk instead of cigarettes. Will that really work? Find out on our Web site with I Quit with Keith Olbermann. If you or your monkey are looking to kick the habit, you can get tips. Share your story and commiserate with other ex-smokers at

Two brothers who were with Natalee Holloway the night she disappeared are in police custody again, and the number of allegations against the young men could be growing.

Another unsolved mystery two years in the making, the pizza delivery guy killed by a collar bomb. Authorities call it murder, but still have big questions.

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, the Human Rights Commission of the state of Maine. It has just ruled in favor of a Portland man who claimed he was sexually harassed by the clerk behind the counter at a bookstore he frequented. He says the clerk made unwelcome comments and advances every time he visited the First Amendment Bookstore, over and over and over again. Why did he keep coming back? Maybe because it was Augusta's only pornographic book store.

Number two, Molly Rice of (INAUDIBLE), Massachusetts. Somebody stole her dog, Maisie. After days of searching, a tip was called in. The dog had been spotted 76 miles away in Westford. Mrs. Rice drove to Westford and spread some of her old clothing around the town, hoping the dog would pick up the scent. The next morning, she found Maisie huddled up next to a pile of her old clothes under a tree. See? It's just that easy.

And number one, Michael Adams of Manchester, England, who goes by the nickname Mr. Stupid. Adams has been fined and sentenced to 12 months community service after he was caught stealing a laptop from a shop CCTV last week - CCTV as in, closed circuit television. He was caught on eight different security cameras as he walked in and stole the computer. That nickname, Mr. Stupid, has never fit better.


JANSING: Welcome back to the Countdown. I'm Chris Jansing, filling in for Keith Olbermann.

And we're up to our third story, for which we dive into the murky depths of our most prurient interests and come back with crime.

We begin in the island nation of Aruba. More arrests there today in connection with the disappearance of 18-year-old Natalee Holloway. Two of the names will be familiar to you, brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe. Released early last month after a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to hold them, tonight they sit in an Aruban jail, prosecutors citing, quote, "new facts and circumstances."

Our correspondent in Aruba is Michelle Kosinski. Michelle, good evening.


Well, we can't say that there haven't been rumors that this would happen over the past week. But when we would ask the legal experts and people connected with this case, in the past weeks if they thought the rearrest of the Kalpoe brothers would happen, because, you know, that's what police have been looking to do, they would always say, No, we really don't think so, because it just hasn't seemed like prosecutors have much evidence at all to go on.

Well, now, obviously, they have come up with something important. Today, police went to the Kalpoe brothers' home, arrested them, along with another young man, a friend and neighbor of Joran Van Der Sloot. Now, prosecutors made it very, very clear, the arrest of the Kalpoe brothers is connected to the Natalee Holloway disappearance, but the arrest of that friend is not.

So that's what's been interesting. They were all taken in at the same time, so how they may be connected, and then not connected, prosecutors just aren't saying.

Well, here's what prosecutors are saying in a release they put out today. "They," the Kalpoe brothers, "are suspected of the primary criminal act of, together with other people, committing premeditated murder, alternately, together with other people, murdering somebody, more alternately, rob a person of her liberty with fatal consequences, and even more alternately, raping somebody. Aside from these suspicions against the two brothers, there are new suspicions," which, at this time, the prosecutor's not commenting on.

And they went on to say that to arrest these brothers again, there had to be new facts and circumstances, and that that is the case.

And Natalee's family has been at home in Birmingham. They had a big fundraiser last night. They raised $110,000 to support their cause of pushing this case further and staying on this island. But the friends of the family told us today that this headline was really the big news for them, very important to Natalee's mother. And she's been pushing for the rearrest of the Kalpoe brothers back since July 4, when they were released.


BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, MOTHER OF NATALEE HOLLOWAY: Jug and I and several other family members, we felt early on, as early as May 31, that these boys should have been arrested then on that day. And, like Jug said, we spoke with our attorney and FBI this morning, and just really encouraged by this news and the - we just want to wait, though, until we get some further updates from them before we come forward with any more information on it.


KOSINSKI: So far, nobody seems to know - at least prosecutors know, and they're not saying - what the details of this are based on. Are there new allegations? Did new information come forward from some other witness? We just don't know about that.

But we do know the Kalpoe brothers and this other boy, the friend, will be held for at least four days. And then we're told a hearing will be health after that to see if they can hold these suspects for even longer -


JANSING: Michelle Kosinski in Palm Beach, Aruba, tonight, many thanks.

Another case once seemingly stalled with new information tonight, the investigation into the murder of Brian Wells, his name, perhaps, not as memorable as his occupation. Mr. Wells delivered pizzas. On Sunday, his family will mark the second anniversary of his death and hope for some resolution to the bizarre circumstances that led to it, cryptic instructions, a bank robbery, and a bomb strapped to the pizza deliveryman's neck.

Countdown's Monica Novotny has the latest for us.

Monica, good evening.


Well, after all this time, there have been no arrests and investigators say there really are no new leads. But the question of whether or not this was a random crime, well, that is a question the FBI is now ready to answer.


BOB RUDGE, FBI: Brian Wells was identified as the person to be

targeted in this case. We don't believe that it was a random attack on a -

· just an unknown pizza delivery person.

NOVOTNY: Still no murderer, but finally a motive. Two years, four full-time investigators, and more than 600 interviews after this bizarre bank robbery unfolded, the FBI says this crime was not about money, but murder, a plot to kill Wells and officers coming to his aid.

But John Wells, who has been following the search for his brother's killer, disagrees.

JOHN WELLS, BROTHER OF BRIAN WELLS: They didn't know who they were going to get when they got - when they called that pizza shop. They didn't know Brian was going to come up and take that delivery.

NOVOTNY: While investigators do call Wells a murder victim, they will not exonerate him, saying the question remains. Was he somehow part of this elaborate plan, duped into thinking he would walk away alive?

WELLS: If, after two years into this investigation, they won't let the public know that an innocent man died, I think that shows a little bit about the quality of the investigators in this case. They know my brother was not involved.

NOVOTNY: The afternoon unfolded like a horrible episode of "The Twilight Zone"; 46-year-old Wells, a pizza deliveryman, called on the afternoon of August 28, 2003, to deliver pizza here, next seen strapped into a collar bomb, robbing a bank with a gun fashioned out of a cane and nine pages of instructions leading him on a deadly scavenger hunt.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You saw him with the bomb or whatever the was?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. He's got it strapped around his neck.


NOVOTNY: Police apprehended him after the robbery. Then, while local news cameras rolled, the bomb exploded, killing Wells.

DINA MCPHEE, EYEWITNESS: You heard the explosion. It sounded like a gunshot, basically, a shotgun going off. And you saw a cloud of white smoke.

NOVOTNY: Investigators will not comment on suspects, but there are reports that they are currently investigating Floyd Stockton Jr., a convicted rapist currently serving time in Washington state who once lived on the same road where Wells delivered the pizza.

(on camera): Another twist, shortly after Wells was killed, a body was found in the freezer of the home Stockton shared with roommate William Rothstein. The body belonged to the ex-boyfriend of Rothstein's friend, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. Armstrong pleaded guilty to that murder and is currently serving time. Rothstein died of cancer last year.

CLINT VAN ZANDT, MSNBC ANALYST: The area is not a huge area. Whoever that person or the individual were lived, worked, somehow had a connection with Erie, PA. There's enough linking physical evidence. If they find the right suspect, they ought to be able to link him to the case.

NOVOTNY: And so, two years later, no arrests in a crime that cannot be forgotten or solved yet.

WELLS: The family and the community need results. There's a group of killers out there. And people need to know that there's a group of killers out there.


NOVOTNY: The family of Brian Wells is calling for that nine-page letter to be published in a national forum. They believe that this case could be solved similar to the way that the Unabomber case was solved, by someone recognizing the writing style or even the handwriting of the mastermind behind this killing.

JANSING: This is such a bizarre story. What is next for investigators?

NOVOTNY: At this point, they're really looking to the public. They believe that they're just one tip away, essentially, from solving this. As you hear, they've conducted more than 600 interviews. They still have the $100,000 reward out there. But they really think it is going to be up to someone who is willing to come forward with that last bit of information that they say will be last piece of this puzzle.

JANSING: Monica Novotny, many thanks.

NOVOTNY: Thanks.

JANSING: There are presumably no loose ends in the case against former fugitives Jennifer and George Hyatte. That's what happens when a suspect details the crime in writing. Arrested in Columbus, Ohio, just 36 hours after helping her husband escape custody in Tennessee and killing a corrections officer in the process, Jennifer Hyatte left behind a little something in her jail cell there.

Prosecutors are as giddy as a 10-year-old at a slumber party, two words, dear diary.

Nancy Burton now from our station in Columbus.


NANCY BURTON, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Her diary is called a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. The woman who wrote it is Tennessee fugitive Jennifer Hyatte, who was found in a Columbus motel, along with her husband, two weeks ago.

RON O'BRIEN, PROSECUTOR: People who have time on their hands in a jail typically will write either diaries or letters to others.

BURTON: Hyatte's diary was turned over to prosecutor Ron O'Brien after a sheriff's deputy found the 34 pages of notes and letters in Hyatte's jail cell. Jennifer and her husband, George, left the jail on Monday for Tennessee, but the diary was left behind. Jennifer Hyatte and her husband are charged with killing a Tennessee corrections officer as George Hyatte was being escorted from the courthouse.

O'BRIEN: I did read it. Not only their escape, but the crime itself is discussed. It is the kind of thing, as a prosecutor, I realized was something they would want to have for purposes of the trial.

BURTON: In Hyatte's diary, she writes about George being the love of her life and that the couple's ultimate destination wasn't Ohio, but Pennsylvania. Hyatte also writes how she wishes she had never answered the telephone in the motel just moments before Columbus SWAT officers arrested the couple. The diary has now been turned over to the prosecutor in Tennessee.


JANSING: And completing the roundup of this day's crime stories, FOX News and the people who watch it.

During a broadcast on that cable network, a contributor gave out what he claimed was the home address of a terrorist. He was wrong. Lame apologies notwithstanding, the family of five actually living there continue to deal with the repercussions.

From our station in Los Angeles, here's Ross Becker.


RANDY VORICK, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: It just seems like a bad nightmare.

ROSS BECKER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Voricks came home from vacation to find this spray-painted next to their front door, put there while they were gone by a bad speller with bad information.

VORICK: A lot of obscenities.

BECKER: And that's not all.

VORICK: Sometimes, they'll drive by and they will yell terrorist and honk their horn and keep driving.

BECKER: All because of a FOX News Channel report on August 7 misidentifying Vorick's house as that of a known terrorist. Vorick says he called FOX in New York and he e-mailed FOX and has gotten nothing, except what he read in the newspaper.

VORICK: FOX issued a one-statement apology.

An irresponsible man said some things he shouldn't have said. And he said a terrorist lives at this house, which is absolutely not even close to anything resembling the truth. And all he has done is put an innocent family in danger.

BECKER: Vorick says not only their family, but the entire neighborhood. There are children playing everywhere.

(on camera): Ever since this happened, Randy and his neighbors have been trying everything they can to try to discourage people from driving by, terrorize them, if you will. One of them is right up here on top of the sign. Or, I should say, it used to be there. It's the street name that is missing. Randy says he took it down because it makes it harder for people to find his house.

(voice-over): The ugly pictures stay on his computer and right under the desk, there's a can of touch-up paint to hide any more graffiti.

(on camera): You're still afraid.

VORICK: To this day. To this day, I sleep an hour, I hear a noise.

I get up. I look out the window and I stare at every car that goes by. You know, I go in my kids' rooms and I check on them every minute just to make sure they're safe. And I shouldn't have to feel this way.


JANSING: Ross Becker reporting.

Well, Iraq may not have a constitution, but it has its own version of "American Idol." See, democracy really is on the march.

And if we could vote at the movies, we would love to all kick this guy out. But we will show you the softer side of Mr. Inconsiderate Cell Phone Man.

That's all ahead.

But, first, here are Countdown's top three sound bites of this day.



MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, "THE TODAY SHOW": Britney Spears out to here apparently had a baby shower recently. Had you been invited, which what would have been a long shot, what would you have brought as a gift?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'd be thirsty, too, if you just spent six weeks stuck at the bottom of a dry well. Barry McCrikard (ph) says fireworks spooked his dog Wizard and that's what made him run away on July 5. As tough as it must have been, through it all, Wizard hasn't lost his ability to smile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mystery has drawn crowds. How did the six-foot gator there? How will they ever get the dangerous reptile out?

TIM WILLIAMS, GATOR WRANGLER: The best way I have found is, just do a real good, sexy gator call. Just - and that's as sexy as it gets.



JANSING: Democracy in Iraq, no voting on the constitution just yet, but Iraqis are voting for their favorite Iraqi idol. Also, trouble at the home of Jennifer Aniston. And a famous Hollywood duo could be teaming up again.

Stand by.


JANSING: Nearly three weeks after a grieving mother set up camp in Crawford, Texas, sparking a national conversation about the merits of the war in Iraq, Americans are united in at least this much tonight. They agree on the right to disagree, according to the latest batch of poll numbers, if only the same could be said of Iraq itself.

Our second story on the Countdown, the partisan divide both here and there, one nation exercising its constitutional right to free speech, the other said to be hopelessly deadlocked in its pursuit of a constitution.

We begin in Iraq, more protests by Sunni Arabs, who feel they are being left out of the constitutional process, President Bush calling Iraqi lawmakers himself, prodding them to work out a compromise everyone can expect, but, by the end of the day, still no deal. They'll keep trying.

Some believe that a final draft will now bypass the parliament altogether and head straight for a national referendum. More Americans now critical of how the Bush administration is handling the war in Iraq than ever before; 58 percent of those surveyed by the Ipsos for the Associated Press disapproving of the administration's conduct, a majority also believing that the conflict was a mistake. But, since we are already there, most believe we are obligated to stick it out; 60 percent say the U.S. should stay in Iraq until the country is stable.

And, as we mentioned earlier, there is overwhelming agreement about disagreement itself, a whopping 87 percent saying it is OK for those who oppose the war to express those opinions publicly.

That's good news for Cindy Sheehan, now planning to make her protest portable. When the president leaves Crawford next week, Cindy Sheehan says she's leaving, too, embarking on a bus tour with the other Gold Star Moms for Peace that will end with a vigil in Washington, D.C. Until then, however, there are still five more days of Crawford-based protesting to attend to, Vieques protest veteran Al Sharpton dropping in for a visit on Sunday.

Whatever problems there may be getting democracy on the march in Iraq, the marching has already begun there for a cultural phenomenon, the war-torn country's version of "American Idol" and the British pop hit "Pop Idol" before it, now managing to unite the people of Iraq in a way that politicians can only dream about.

Correspondent Paul Davies of British network ITV has more on the warbling wanna-bes hoping to become the first Iraqi star.


PAUL DAVIES, ITV REPORTER (voice-over): The sound may be different, but the format, with a cast of young would-be stars and even a nasty judge, is very familiar.

It was only six weeks ago that Iraq's version of "Pop Idol" was first broadcast. Since then, the talent shows has attracted a massive following, usually more than half Iraq's television audience. It seems a country with bitter ethnic and religious divisions is able to unite to tune in to see wanna-be stars subjected to ridicule by the resident panel of judges.

Not all the contestants get the same savage treatment. Bilal (ph), a 12-year-old from Mosul, wrote and performed his own song about his homeland. When he repeatedly asked the question, "Who will heal Iraq?" he burst into tears. And so did the judges. Bilal is now tipped as a likely winner.

A judge on the original British "Pop Idol" says he is delighted by the success of the Iraqi version.

PETE WATERMAN, "POP IDOL" JUDGE: Here we are in a different part of the world with a completely different set of circumstances in a very difficult time, also with extreme views, yet, for this program, they all come together to vote. It's incredible. That's amazing, really, when you think about it.

DAVIES: While tearful Bilal has impressed the judges, it is the Iraqi viewers who will have the final say in a telephone vote.

Paul Davies, ITV News.


JANSING: The good news, so far, no word of an Iraqi counterpart to William Hung. The bad news, because of safety concerns, the Iraqi idol final will be held in Beirut.

Easy, if unusual, segue into our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs."

MTV hoping Katrina doesn't huff and puff and blow their house down, the MTV Video Music Awards, that is, to be hosted Sunday night by Diddy, formerly P. Diddy. The annual broadcast hails from Miami this year. And a spokesman said MTV was closely monitoring Katrina and there are plans to deal with rough weather.

But several pre-award parties scheduled for last night and tonight have already been canceled. Diddy had been planning to host those as well. The good news, Sean Combs, AKA Puff Daddy, AKA Diddy, AKA P. Diddy, has no plan for another pre-award name change that we have been informed of.

And now to a different kind of intruder on the other coast, this one an unwelcome guest in the home of Jennifer Aniston, "Access Hollywood" reporting that a middle-aged man was caught wandering through Aniston's luxury home, and it was not a remorseful Brad Pitt. The man was identified as David Hesterbey, who allegedly broke into her beachfront house in Malibu.

Aniston's staff was working in the home at the time and found him in the living room. Police arrested him for trespassing. Aniston was not at home herself. She was too busy breaking up. Oh, sorry. She was in Chicago filming "The Break-Up" with Vince Vaughn, which brings to us someone whose travels will be sharply curtailed, former All-Star pitcher Dwight Gooden.

Gooden was in Florida court today, ordered held without bail. He had fled from police on Monday after being twice asked to take a sobriety test. A warrant was issued for his arrest and he surrendered on Thursday. Now Gooden is charged with driving under the influence, fleeing from police and resisting arrest without violence. But there was a domestic violence charge from March. A court spokesman said that if Gooden is accepted into a substance abuse treatment program, he will be allowed to attend, as long as he is wearing an electronic monitor.

And fans who have been monitoring a Paul Newman-Robert Redford reunion may finally have something to look forward to. All these years went by and nobody came up with any ideas that were anything but corny and kind of low-grade, Redford said, during the recent film promotion. But now, he said, there's something rolling around that we're talking about.

One report said the two friends would star in "A Walk in the Woods," based on the book about a hike through the American wilderness. But Redford said he was superstitious about discussing any project before it was finalized.

He is the obnoxious man that teaches us all about how not to use our cell phones. But, tonight, we will show you the real-life story behind Mr. Inconsiderate Cell Phone Man.

Stand by.


JANSING: A star is born, and you may have seen him at your local multiplex. He's brash, but slightly comic. His toothy good looks go hand in hand with his irritating habits. He's helplessly caught up in his need to do whatever he wants whenever he wants. And he plays his lead role with such conviction, it's hard to separate the man from the actor.

Our number one story on the Countdown tonight, the Inconsiderate Cell Phone Man. Out of all those bothersome pre-feature commercials, he's become the easy favorite.

Our correspondent Jamie Gangel has the story behind the man.


JAMIE GANGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: If you hate cell phones, you got to love this guy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): It's Inconsiderate Cell Phone Man.

GANGEL: He's the symbol of all that is annoying.

HUEBEL: It's pronounced karate.

GANGEL: Obnoxious.

HUEBEL: Yes, there's a picture of it right here, unsavory.

GANGEL: And just plain rude.

HUEBEL: Marty, you're a joker.

GANGEL: But Inconsiderate Cell Phone Man has made Rob Huebel a rising star. And the 36-year-old comedian will spontaneously jump into character walking down the streets of New York.

HUEBEL: Uh-Oh. Oh. Hold on, Jamie. This is important. No, now's a perfect time. Yes. No. Oh, just doing some karate. Yes. Working it out. All right. Absolutely. Sure thing, bro. I have got a motorboat as well.

GANGEL (on camera): Hang up that phone.

(voice-over): Thankfully, in real life, Huebel is nothing like his character.

HUEBEL: But I hope I'm not like that. I mean now, I'm so self-conscious about even talking on my cell phone even. My phone never rings. It's always on vibrate, because, I mean, what? You know, it would be really stupid if I were like sitting somewhere and blah, blah, blah. Excuse me. You know? I can't do that.


GANGEL (on camera): Do you ever get caught?

HUEBEL: No, not since this commercial. Before that, yes, I was a normal civilian. But now that I'm like the face of the jerk on the cell phone, I cannot get caught.

GANGEL (voice-over): It's also made Huebel one of the most popular new faces on TV, in commercials.


HUEBEL: Are you guys typing everything I say? Karate explosion.


GANGEL: And cutting-edge comedy.


HUEBEL: You mean this isn't a real house?

JASON BATEMAN, ACTOR: It's a model house.

HUEBEL: Well, the drain pipes aren't hooked up, just empty under the house.


GANGEL: But Huebel's first love is improv comedy. And his New York show is getting rave reviews.

(on camera): Talk to me about performing live. You live and die for the laugh.

HUEBEL: Right. Well, I can tell that you it is the most addictive thing ever, because, if you're on stage and you say something that you thought of that and people laugh, you hear that, it's like, oh. Just, you will do anything to get that again.

GANGEL (voice-over): In reality, just give him a topic and Huebel takes off.

(on camera): There's a theme through all of your work, karate.

HUEBEL: Sometimes, I will reference karate, sure. I think that karate is pretty funny.

GANGEL: Do you do - have you ever done karate?

HUEBEL: No, I have no karate training whatsoever. But I'm not sure that you need training. I think that, in a pinch, you could probably pull it off. Karate to me is more just about like, you know, taking charge of a situation. Just like, come on. It doesn't matter how it looks. It's just like just - just flailing.

GANGEL: You're scaring him.


HUEBEL: Sorry, sir. But see, that worked. You see?

GANGEL: You scared him.

HUEBEL: Yes, we scared that guy away. We have no problem with any attackers.

GANGEL (voice-over): But Huebel admits he does have one little professional concern.

(on camera): Do you worry that they're going to say, oh, that's the guy in the commercials?

HUEBEL: I do. Well, yes, I do worry about that, so let's not say that, Jamie. Let's pixelate my face right now.

GANGEL: What's your dream?

HUEBEL: I just want to be the guy on the sidelines that has a funny line every now and then.

GANGEL: Wait. You don't want to be the big leading guy, romantic hero?

HUEBEL: I don't. I mean, in my dreams, yes, of course, sure. I want to be riding a horse naked across the beach, like, aha, let's take this island.


HUEBEL: You know, who doesn't? But that's probably not going to happen.

GANGEL (voice-over): Maybe not, but, in the meantime, Rob Huebel admits he's thrilled when people recognize his most infamous character.

HUEBEL: Well, I don't know, Roger. Put some ointment on it. You're at the concert? Do they have a smoke machine?

GANGEL (on camera): And they will yell out, oh, it's pronounced karate. So, they are sort of giving you...

HUEBEL: Everyone is very clever, but they mean...


HUEBEL: They mean well.

GANGEL: They mean well.

HUEBEL: They mean well. And I'm flattered by it. Anyone that says they don't like that is lying. You know, if people come up to you and say, I thought that was funny, you made me laugh, it's pretty nice.


JANSING: Jamie Gangel.

That's Countdown. I'm Chris Jansing, in for Keith Olbermann. Have a nice weekend.

Time to turn it over to "RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT."

Good evening, Rita.

RITA COSBY, HOST, "RITA COSBY: LIVE & DIRECT": Thanks so much, Chris.