Wednesday, November 30, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 30th

Guests: Mark Mazzetti, Michael Musto, Howard Fineman

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

First, it was a speech. Then, it was an operation. Then, a war. Now, it's Iraq, the book. The president's big speech, and the 35-page user's manual, "The National Strategy for Victory in Iraq."

Mr. Bush praises the growing independence of Iraqi forces. Do the realities on the ground match the encouraging words?

And we are encouraging encouraging words. The U.S. military secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish "news" stories, "news" stories actually written by the U.S. military.

Is this sports journalism? Is it satire? Is it sexism?

And the fattening of America. Research now that doctors are having trouble giving people injections in the old gluteus maximus, because the average gluteus is too maximus, and the average needle is too short.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

After 987 days and more than 2,100 American lives lost, we are left with 35 pages, a document released by the Bush White House titled "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq."

Our fifth story on the Countdown, excuse the snark, but is the implication here that we didn't have one of those already? The mission not quite accomplished, President Bush today repackaging the strategy that wasn't, skipping the flight suit but not the fanfare at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, his speech breaking no new ground in terms of detail, presenting very little in the way of actual strategy.

But for that, we have those 35 pages. What they say about how to win the war in Iraq may be entirely debatable. But what they teach us about how to write in an outline format, getting a clear A-plus.

The president with something of the carrot and the stick today. He says there will be withdrawals, there will not be a timeline.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As the Iraqi forces gain experience, and the political process advances, we will be able to decrease our troop levels in Iraq without losing our capability to defeat the terrorists. These decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground in Iraq and the good judgment of our commanders, not by artificial timetables set by politicians in Washington.

Some critics continue to assert that we have no plan in Iraq except to, quote, "stay the course." If by stay the course they mean we will not allow the terrorists to break our will, they're right. If by stay the course, they mean we will not permit al Qaeda to turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban, a safe haven for terrorism and a launching pad for attacks on America, they're right as well.

If by stay the course they mean that we're not learning from our experiences or adjusting our tactics to meet the challenges on the ground, then they're flat wrong.

To all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge. America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your commander-in-chief.


OLBERMANN: The opposition party the first to cry out that the emperor is again not wearing any clothes, Democrats in Washington, for the most part, calling for specifics and substance in a Bush plan, claiming that speechifying will not be and has not been enough, Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, West Point graduate and former paratroop commander in the 82nd Airborne, leading the charge.


SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: It's going to take more than one speech to restore the credibility gap that the president is suffering over Iraq.

The president relied too much upon rhetoric, upon a laundry list of tasks accomplished, but not a coherent view of where we are realistically and where we must go to succeed. It was more generalities than specifics.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The truth is that the president draws a false line in trying to make his case to America. The troops don't belong to his point of view. They belong to America and to Americans. They are Americans. And the best way to protect the troops, the best way to stand up for the troops, is to provide the best policy for success in Iraq.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The "Plan for Victory" backdrop which - against which the president appeared at the Naval Academy today, was no more accurate than the "Mission Accomplished" backdrop that he used over two and a half years ago on the U.S.S. "Abraham Lincoln." The president did not have a plan for victory when he went into his war of choice in Iraq, and that he did not have a plan for victory today.


OLBERMANN: At least one Democrat gave the president a tip of the cap, but not much more than that. Calling it a positive step, Senator Joseph Biden added that he hopes the speech will signify, quote, "new candor" by the president on Iraq, adding, "The president did a better job laying out where we are and where we're trying to go in Iraq but failed to tell us how or when we're going to get there."

The secretary of defense has a suggestion, one as simple as it would be seemingly effective, Donald Rumsfeld doing away with the insurgents by declaring he would no longer be calling them insurgents, taking "enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government" out for a test drive verbally, a change that Mr. Rumsfeld describes as no less than an epiphany.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Over the weekend, I thought to

myself, You know, that gives them a greater legitimacy than they seem to

merit. Why do you, why would you call Zarqawi and his people insurgents

against a legitimate Iraqi government with their own constitution? It just

do they have broad popular support in that country? No.

It was an epiphany.

GEN. PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I have to use the word "insurgent" because I can't think of a better word right now. Take it...

RUMSFELD: The enemies of the Iraqi, legitimate Iraqi government.

How's that?

PACE: Well, it's...


OLBERMANN: There have, of course, had been no saving GSAVE, the global struggle against violent extremism, once Rummy's boss, the president, continued to call the war on terror. And while the national strategy document refers to insurgents or insurgency 14 times, in the speech today, mentions of the enemy outnumbered the I-word 28 to one.


BUSH:... taken from the enemy...

... share a common enemy...

... hunting for enemy fighters...

... victory against a brutal enemy...

The insurgents would like nothing better than to kill them and their families.


OLBERMANN: You thought we'd have time for all 28? No, no, better to spend those minutes with "Newsweek"'s chief political correspondent, Howard Fineman, who will never be called an enemy of Countdown.

Good evening, Howard.


OLBERMANN: Going back months, the president has gotten nowhere with these speeches. Did this one differ in substance? Is it likely to differ in impact?

FINEMAN: I think it differed a little bit in theatrics and substance. I think the president, who seemed a little lost and off his game during the months of Katrina and bad news out of Iraq, summoned all of the theatrics of the White House to look good and sound good and be confident on the air, which matters politically. You shouldn't dismiss that. It was great theater, talking to the military culture of this country, which is unknown by all too many Americans, but very important. So that was good.

I think in terms of specifics, he attempted to give some. More important, he said he had a plan. And you were right to ask, Doesn't that beg the question about whether he ever had one? But if he didn't, it's better to claim that he's got one now than never.

And rather than give a specific timetable, I thought he was rather shrewd in using not dates and months or days, but milestones, when a certain number of battalions are trained, when the Iraqis can see the elections of December 15 work well. Because that gives them a lot of leeway.

What I really think is going on here, Keith, is, George Bush is buying time till he begins a real and relatively dramatic draw-down of American troops. But his real audience now are insurgents, terrorists, call them what you will, who are trying to disrupt the elections that are going to take place on December 15.

He wants to stay the course and be strong, at least until those elections happen.

OLBERMANN: To that question of timetable, none for withdrawal. But does the president, do you think, have a personal timetable that goes something like this, Make these speeches about the need for Iraqi self-reliance, then declare that there is increasing amounts of self-reliance, withdraw troops, repeat a few times, and then define victory and get out?

FINEMAN: Well, that's what I think is going on. Now, there's a big debate raging here in Washington about what's going on in George Bush's head. Is he really saying, We're there forever, and don't you cross me, and victory mean a peaceful Iraq, a democratic Iraq, a fully trained, 150 battalions of Iraqi troops?

I don't buy it. I think actually there's a kind of subtle tug-of-war going on between Dick Cheney, who is the ultimate stay-the-course guy, and Karl Rove, who's still in there, still under investigation, but still influential, and he's saying, Look, Mr. President, if we don't begin this draw-down, and it's going to take place regardless, if we don't begin this draw-down, then you're going to lose at least one chamber of the Congress in '06 to the Democrats, and you're going to spend the last two years of your administration responding to subpoenas for explanations of how we got into the war to begin with.

OLBERMANN: The perpetual investigation...

FINEMAN: Exactly.

OLBERMANN:... or government by investigation.

FINEMAN: Exactly.

OLBERMANN: Back to this today. This is the rare presidential speech in which we can give a grade both in term of oral presentation and also a written submission. What's with the strategy booklet?

FINEMAN: Well, I think it's PowerPoint run riot, Keith. I mean, it's got a lot of points and subpoints. And it's good to try to be specific. And I think Joe Biden was right to praise them for that. But he's also drawing him into the briar patch by doing so, because the moment that the administration gets specific about the number of battalions that are trained, about the numbers that can be independent, everybody in the rest of the world is going to pounce on them and examine them, as NBC News did tonight.

The fact is, and I've talked to some generals about this, and other experts, there are only two or three, at best, Iraqi battalions that are fully capable of operating truly independently of American help. All the rest require varying degrees of American assistance, if not being led around by the hand by the Americans.

So when the president makes these specific assertions, he buys himself some time, but at the expense of having more questions to answer later, which is exactly what his critics want him to do.

OLBERMANN: The report of which you spoke was by Jim Miklaszewski, and we will be playing that in just a moment.

There's going to be a series of these speeches in these two weeks before the elections on the 15th. Are the speeches going to be repetitions of what we saw today, or will it be a variation of this speech, but with trading cards instead of a booklet? Then the speech that comes with stickers, and the speech with a goody bag, like at the Oscars? What are we going to see in the next two weeks?

FINEMAN: Well, I think they're going to divide it up. I think this one was about American resolve. This was about presidential leadership and American resolve. You know, we're not going to cut and run. I think they're getting ready to trim and tiptoe, but, you know, we're not going to cut and run.

The next speech will probably be about more specifics of the Iraqi political situation, because they have an election coming up. And again, I repeat, that since there are three or four speeches in the next two or three weeks, you know what the audience is here. The audience is as much Iraq, and the insurgents, call them what you will, as it is the American people.

George Bush's numbers are terrible with the American people right now. Two-thirds of the American people think the policy in Iraq is wrong. Only one-third approve of George Bush's handling of the war and his presidency in general.

What George Bush is trying to do, I think, is be tough and be strong, to do what he can to support the legitimacy and success of the elections on December 15 in Iraq, because everything else flows from that. The reasoning behind beginning to withdraw troops depends on a successful election in Iraq on December 15.

OLBERMANN: And we'll see what the response is by the ETLIGs, the enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government.

Howard Fineman, chief political correspondent of "Newsweek," as always, sir, great thanks.

FINEMAN: You're welcome, Keith.

OLBERMANN: President says there are at least 40 battalions of Iraqi troops taking the lead on the battlefield. But in reality, how ready is that fledgling army to take on the ETLIGs?

And a disturbing allegation of subterfuge and propaganda, an "L.A. Times" investigation revealing the Pentagon paid Iraqi newspapers to print pro-American stories written by U.S. military personnel. We'll have one of the authors of that report.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: If the president's threshold for leaving Iraq depends on Iraqi forces being able to go it alone, the question becomes, how ready are they now to fend for themselves? Figuring that out, about as difficult and arbitrary a task as they come.

Luckily, in our fourth story on the Countdown, Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski does the math for us.


JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, MSNBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a ceremony today on the Syrian border, the U.S. military handed over some of its combat operations to the Iraqi army, timed perfectly to President Bush's speech on Iraqi security.

And the president said today there are more than 120 Iraqi army and police battalions in the fight.

But in reality, how capable are they?

U.S. military officials say only one Iraqi army battalion is combat-ready enough to conduct operations on its own without American help.

President Bush admits that's true, but...

BUSH: Not every Iraqi unit has to meet this level of capability in order for the Iraqi security forces to take the lead in the fight against the enemy.

MIKLASZEWSKI: True. But out of 100 army battalions, only 33 can actually take the lead in combat operations, and that's with U.S. help. The rest can only provide backup for the Americans.

But Pentagon officials say the biggest gap in Iraqi security is not the army, but the Iraqi police. The officials say the central government has no control over many police units, which have been infiltrated or taken over by Shi'ite militias. Those militias are suspected of using their authority to kill or torture Sunnis.

In some areas, police corruption is reportedly random.

JEFFREY WHITE, MILITARY EXPERT: The police have been a disaster from the beginning. And we're trying to bring them out of that now.

MIKLASZEWSKI: In fact, it is now a top priority for Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey, who's in charge of training Iraqi security forces.

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: The hardest part's going to be to create a ministry of the interior that isn't widely received as being incompetent, corrupt, and, indeed, a Shi'a militia thinly disguised as a federal police force.

MIKLASZEWSKI: The capabilities of Iraqi forces are critical for the withdrawal of American troops. And one senior Pentagon official says it's time for the Iraqis to stand up and deliver.

Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon.


OLBERMANN: Also tonight, they used to call it drive-time radio show in Los Angeles, the Freeway Club. The car chase of the day is back.

And remember when Colin Powell said there were mobile biological weapons labs in Iraq? Well;, maybe what we were seeing were actually this, mobile strip clubs, weapons of mass silicone.

Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: We are back, and we pause our Countdown of the day's real news for a segment of dumb criminals and gratuitous video, voted worst segment on the worst show on TV by some guy who e-mails us every night.

Let's play Oddball.

Oh, it's back, the Countdown Car Chase of the Week. We're in Los Angeles, no duh. Three individuals wanted for armed robbery have added another act to their repertoire, felony evasion. We haven't had one of these in a while. But checking the ODDBALL scoreboard for the year, we can see it's cops 47, guys who try to escape the cops, nada.

You'd think the chances would not be great for these dopes, given their poor choice of vehicle for the competition, but today we found out just how tough a Toyota Corolla can be when it's driven by a guy with two strikes on him already, certainly outlasted one passenger, who decided right there to say, Check, please, at the first sign of spike strips.

Shortly after, the chase looked to be over, when the driver decided to ditch the overheating Toyota and jack another vehicle at an intersection. Whoops, that really didn't go quite as well as he would have hoped. There he is, attempting the jack. No, no, (INAUDIBLE), pardon me, excuse me, pardon me, pardon me.

But back to plan B, the little Corolla that wouldn't quit. After a few minutes, this delinquent desperado got the car started and was back on the road, high-speed evading, until it stalled again, overheating. Got around the car, got around the other cop car, and then the thing overheats again.

But this guy must have been on the phone with Click and Clack, because the "Car Talk" guys were able, or somebody was able to talk him back into it after it stalled one more time, and he was back on the road again. Only for a while, because it stalled again. And this time, this time they figured, we're going to need the pepper spray. So it's handcuffs for Mr. Never-Give-Up and a female accomplice down there. He is headed off to a place where the only stalls he'll have to worry about are in the community shower. That would be the Big House.

El Salvador. You think we've got dumb criminals? These two masterminds were caught trying to rob a bank by tunneling in from a nearby abandoned house. Part of the tunnel collapsed on them. The two criminals popped up through a hole in the busy city street in front of the bank, where two police officers happened to be standing. And, oh, by the way, they were buck naked. They said it was hot in the tunnel, so they took their clothes off.

Uh-huh, whatever you guys say.

To Japan, the worldwide leader in wicked cool robots, where, once again, boys, you have outdone yourselves. This robot expo specialize in machines designed for the service sector. I know what you're thinking, and you're a bad, bad person for thinking that. She's an Animatronic guide robot. She gives directions and stuff.

I'll take three to go, please. No need to wrap them.

Other 'bots included little fellows you can control with a cell phone. And that bionic suit guy, and - well, no, he appears to be a human. Well, that's about it.

Finally, to Denver for a reminder that the people who wash the windows on the skyscrapers are drastically underpaid. This is video taken just after two workers were rescued from their scaffold, which had broken loose in the high winds. The rig repeatedly smashed the side of the building. It rained glass hundreds of feet to the streets below.

Firefighters were able to rescue the workers by dragging them into the building through one of the window holes that that thing itself broke. They were not seriously injured, which, of course, is great, because now somebody's got to go out and fix those windows.

Also tonight, back to Baghdad, and a disturbing new report about the so-called free press in that country, that the Pentagon paid newspapers there to publish American written propaganda.

And breaking big-bottom news. Looks like the human race is getting too big for the traditional medical injections the old gluteus maximus.

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, researchers at the University of Pavia in Italy. They say romantic love actually releases a hormone into our bloodstreams, nerve growth factor. Fifty-eight percent of their research subjects who are just fallen head over heels showed high nerve growth factor levels. The problem, after a year, all of the nerve growth factor levels, all of them, were back down to normal. Well, that explains the world.

Number two, Scott Nelson of Helena, Montana, distraught that a 573-foot, one-lane bridge over the Missouri River, built in 1904, was to be destroyed. He contacted the department of transportation there, and he tentatively asked if he could have it. And they said, This is amazing. We've been hoping somebody would call and ask to take it, so we didn't to have to destroy it. He'll put it up somewhere on his property. Where? Well, he'll just cross that bridge when he comes to it. Ha, ha, ha, ha.

Number one, Jerry Garcia. Yes, he's not just Grateful Dead, he's dead-dead. But his toilets live on after him. Garcia's three commodes and other parts of his old house are being auctioned off for charity. Starting bid, $500 for porcelain. Hey, man, that'd make a great bong, man.


OLBERMANN: Winston Churchill said it, history is written by the victors or perhaps those wanting to be the victors. In out number three story on the Countdown, our government once again accused of using our tax dollars to create fake journalism in this case, planning its own stories in Iraqi newspapers. Not as slick as the video news releases or the Armstrong Williams case here. But according to a report in today's "Los Angeles Times," widespread and well organized, nonetheless.

There are dozens of the articles, according to the report, written by American military personnel and often appearing in Iraqi publication as straight news, paid for by the U.S. military in an operation that was, until now, secret. The article have headlines like "Iraqis Insist On Living Despite Terrorism" and "More Money Goes To Iraq's Developments." The pieces originated with so called information operations troops who write story boards that often include anonymous quotes from U.S. military officials, quotes that are of dubious authenticity.

Many pieces, though superficially factual, omit information damaging to the U.S. or Iraqi governments. They are then translated into Arabic. The placement and payment facilitated by a defense contractor, the Lincoln Group, with all ties to the U.S. military carefully concealed.

The timing of this not good. Just yesterday Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stressed the importance of Iraq's free press.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The country is - has a free media. And they can - it is a relief valve. There are 100 plus papers. There are 72 radio stations. There's 44 television stations. And they're debating things and talking and arguing and discussing.


OLBERMANN: Evidently, they all have what they call in the profession, rate cards. In some cases, the Information Operations Task Force as it is call, has simply bought the news organization itself, like an Iraqi newspaper. Or taken complete controls with a radio station, neither outlet identified to the public as a military unit, all part of a psychological operations campaign that echoes one planned by the Pentagon back in 2002 that would have disseminated truth and none truth. That came under heavy criticism and was shut down.

Neither the U.S. military, nor the Pentagon itself would confirm to NBC new, that the U.S. paid Iraqi news outlets. But the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John Warner told MSNBC's Chris Matthews on "Hardball" that his committee will investigate today's report.

I'm joined now by the co-author of the "L.A. Times" piece, Mark Mazzetti. Mr. Mazzetti, good evening. Thanks for your time.

MARK MAZZETTI, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Good evening. Glad to be here.

OLBERMANN: So this works how? I gather it is not somebody in uniform walking up to a newspaper office and saying run story X and we'll pay you money Z, right?

MAZZETTI: That's right. The average U.S. soldier couldn't walk into an Iraqi newspaper and pose as a journalist and say please run my story. So, what these information operations troops are doing is writing up, as you said, story boards, which are basically depictions of events, whether it's a U.S. raid in Anbar Province Iraq, or it's a thwarted suicide attempt. They then turn these story boards into news stories through the help of Iraqi staff of a group called the Lincoln Group, which is a defense contractor. And they translate them into Arabic. And they then get them placed in newspapers around Iraq.

OLBERMANN: With a little greasing of the palms somewhere. How does that part of it work? Do we know?

MAZZETTI: Well, we talked actually to several newspapers in Iraq. And it works in different ways. Sometimes, someone posing as a journalist comes in and says, we want to you place this story. Here's X amount of money. It's anywhere between $50 and $1,500, depending on the newspaper and depending on how much convincing the editors need.

OLBERMANN: In response to your story today, the military official in Iraq would not address money but he did admit that they are running something there to, in his term, help get factual helpful information about ongoing operations into the Iraqi news, but insisted that every one of the details is factual. Are we running two information services there, one with straight news for free and one with propaganda for pay-offs? Or is this two different views of the same program?

MAZZETTI: Well, we think that there's one. And in our story today, we didn't characterize the stories as misinformation or untruthful or false. We said these things are grounded in the truth. And so we think that the information operation's troops are writing up events that did in fact happen. Now, this is sort of one side of events that certainly put a very pro U.S. spin on it. But at the same time, you know, this is not deliberate military deaccepting.

OLBERMANN: Judging the ethics of this, here those video news releases were formally investigated and formally called improper - improper propaganda, but Iraq is a different place. Corruption is endemic. Rumors and even folk beliefs seem to be built into the way Iraqis communicate with each now and even under Saddam Hussein. Are Iraqis outraged by this? What is their reaction? Have you been able to tell?

MAZZETTI: Well, we haven't actually been able to see today - the story came out today. It is hard to tell the man on the street opinion. But certainly there was a certain degree of outrage among the press, people we spoke to in Iraq. And we'll see how this trickles down.

There is an interesting sort of, I guess, some could call it hypocrisy here. Where the State Department on the one hand is training Iraqi journalists in the basic tenets of Western media ethic and free press. And then, on the other hadn't, you have the Pentagon running this kind of operation. It strikes many as very interesting, to say the least.

OLBERMANN: Tell if you can, quickly, the more cynical response from one of the editors that you cited who just found out about this and didn't realize that - well, tell the rest of that.

MAZZETTI: Well, actually one person we talk to said he proved - professed no knowledge of this. But he said if we had known the Americans were behind this, we would have charged a lot more.

OLBERMANN: Mark Mazzetti, defense correspondent for "The Los Angeles Time," it's an important and a good story. Thank you for joining us tonight, sir.

MAZZETTI: Thanks a lot.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, sports. You bet. That was no ordinary tour bus waiting outside the Tampa Bay Bucs game the other day. Strippers to go.

And an outrageous allegation against Michael Jackson from a British tabloid. To wit, is that cocaine in your pants or are you just happy to see me me? That's next. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Strippers as tailgate entertainment at a Sunday football game. Female players breasts as a reason to support your local college soccer team. And big bottoms as a medical hazard for your hypodermic needle. Yep, I won two Edward R. Murrow Awards. Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: The connection between sports and strippers goes back to the beginning of sports. We've had athletes get in trouble at strip clubs and strippers running on to the field to kiss athletes and strippers marrying baseball umpires and at least in a movie, an ex-stripper winding up owning a team. But in our number two on the Countdown, just when thought there couldn't be something new in this area, it is strippers in the parking lot of the stadium.

Our segment, the "World of Wide Sports," begins with Jeff Patterson of our NBC station in Tampa, WTVJ (sic) on the day that the situation outside the Tampa Bay Buccaneers changed from tailgating to just tail.


JEFF PATTERSON, WFLA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the Bucs were getting to play the Bears at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, undercover Tampa police officers walked through a parking lot outside the stadium. They found a big black bus that wasn't there for transportation.

BILL TODD, TAMPA POLICE: They were supplied alcoholic beverages and then given the opportunity to purchase lap dances.

PATTERSON: $20 for a topless woman, $40 if she were totally nude. The bus is plain, painted black and dark inside. A banner on a van parked nearby advertises the bus is from the Deja Vu Strip Club on State Road 60.

(on camera): Tampa police say there are often families and children that used this parking lot before Bucs' games. But they say the activities going on inside the bus were anything but family friendly.

TODD: I don't understand what justification they thought they could come on to someone else's property and perform this, being in that type of business and bringing it to a family environment.

PATTERSON (voice-over): Tampa police arrested 11 people. The manager of the bus, several men acting as bouncers and the dancers. Christina Ostroff, Katrina Suing (ph) Wolf, Nohelia Terrell and two other women.

Police seized the converted bus, inside a disco ball and a dancer's pole. Police also charged two of the women with performing an unnatural and lascivious act.

TODD: The undercover officers observed at least two of the young ladies, while engaged in lap dancing, began performing oral sex for the patrons on each other.

PATTERSON: The bus is from Deja Vu. Police say their investigation reveals, they've performed this act before at four other Bucs home games this season.

Jeff Patterson, News Channel 8.


OLBERMANN: And our apologies to Jeff for getting the call letters wrong, WFLA is our Tampa affiliate.

From the not so frozen tundra of the Tampa pro football franchise, not anymore anyway, to the obscure environment of the Johnson County Communicate College women's soccer team. At the school outside Kansas City, the woman's squad got some unusual publicity in the form of a photo of two of its player on the front page of the college newspaper, "Goals Gone Wild," reads the headline, which you have to admit is pretty solid satire. It is the caption beneath that causes the controversy, quote, "Four reasons to support," unquote, the team.

The school's athletic director said he was shocked. The paper's editor says the players saw the picture before it ran, had no complaint. He did not say whether or not they also saw the sophomoric joke about support.

And lastly in sports, there are the role models from the pro games. There's more Barry Bonds news tonight. The baseball slugger whose knees and reputation were severely injured this past season says he is going to reshape his physique next season. Listed officially at 6'2, 230 pound, but previously in the 240 neighborhood, Bonds says that come spring training of next year, he'll weigh 200. Take the stress off the knees, don't you know, lose 30, 40 pounds. That athletes who stop taking, oh, anabolic steroids often experience immediate and spectacular weight loss is just a coincidence.

Thank goodness for illicit drugs. They again provide an easy segue into our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news "Keeping Tabs." And despite a British report, there is no good reason to believe the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office is again investigating Michael Jackson for a, quote, 40-pill a day habit. Former county sheriff Jim Thomas tells NBC News that two good sources tell him, there is no such investigation by the current D.A. Tom Sneddon, such was reported by the British tabloid "The Sun," which says Jackson is hooked on anti-depressants and pain killer and also quoting, "was seen falling flat on his face after injecting himself with a mystery drug," unquote.

The paper also claims that during a raid two years ago, traces of cocaine were found in Jackson's underwear. Wow! Given the underwear options, it could have been a hell of a lot worse. He could have been accused, for instance, of being glib.

Tom Cruise still seemingly intent on moving into "Whacko Jacko" territory has now been officially ripped by the American College of Radiology for having bought that sonogram machine to take pictures at home of his unborn child. A patient safety issue, it says, and maybe a legal one, too. At the same time, Cruise is on a worldwide tour promoting his latest mission impossible movie. And in Shanghai, he was apparently so troubled by jet lag or the international time zone or something that the mission impossible was getting the date right. He was wrong by like a month.


TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: When are we going to get married. When? You want the exact date and the exact place? The color dress? The designer?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's focus on the film itself.

CRUISE: We haven't set a date yet. But it will happen this year.


CRUISE: No, no. Next year. Next year. That's right. November, December. Yes. Next year. Thank you.


OLBERMANN: Speaking of being so last year, there's George Michael, the singer so infamously arrested in the men's room of Will Roger's Park in Beverly Hills, you know, Will Rogers, I never met a man I didn't like. He's getting married. Britain's civil partnership act goes into affect three weeks from today. Michaels said, he and his long-time partner Kenny Goss will be, quote, "doing the old legal thing." It will be relatively soon after it comes in, probably early next year. He said he will not be doing, though, the whole veil and gown thing. A veiled reference to Sir Elton John who announced his intention to marry his long-time partner David Furnish (ph), the very day the law comes into force, the 21st, giving the world an excuse to run this video again of Elton's visit to good, old Taiwan.


ELTON JOHN, SINGER: Rude, vile pig.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my country.

JOHN: Rude, vile pig. We would love to get out of Taiwan. It is full of people like you.


OLBERMANN: Certainly, whoever would steal a famous actor's star on the Hollywood walk of fame would have to be a rude, vile pig. Custodians of the walk today unveiled a replacement for the star honoring the great Gregory Peck. The original was literally cut out of the sidewalk near the intersection of Hollywood and Gower (ph). The vandalism required - somebody had a cement saw. It is only the fourth star stolen since the stars began to be embedded in the sidewalks in 1958. The others, Jean Autry, Jimmy Star and Kirk Douglas.

Also tonight, Queen may have insist that "Fat Bottomed Girls" make the rocking world go around. But it appears the medical world is not quite ready for them. That's ahead.

But first, time for Countdown's list of today's three nominees for the coveted title of "Worst Person in the World."

The bronze goes to Bill O'Reilly. He has solidified in his status as this generation Joe McCarthy. Just like the "Red Baiter," he now has his own list. His Web site reads the following media operations have regularly helped distribute defamation and false information supplied by far left Web sites. The list, "The New York Daily News, "The St. Petersburg Times," and MSNBC! You call it defamation, Bill. We call it precise quotes from your show.

The runner up. Bill O'Reilly. On "The Today Show," no less. Now how did that happen? Says, quote, "these pinheads running around going, get out of Iraq now, don't know what they're talking about. These are the same people before Hitler invaded in World War II that were saying, he's not such a bad guy." Watch. That will turn up tomorrow on his list of defamations.

But tonight's winner, Bill O'Reilly! You know this whole attack on Christmas nonsense that he made up? Some sort of fantasy in which the liberals are coming to your town to force you and your family to not call it Christmas anymore? The fantasy that we can't say Merry Christmas, but you can only say Happy Holidays? The thing designed to stir up religious hatred and paranoia in this country? Guess what they're selling over at the FOX News online store? The FOX News holidays ornament? And the O'Reilly Factor Holiday ornament. Who is trying to change Merry Christmas into Happy Holidays? Bill O'Reilly, that's who. Today's worst person in the world!


OLBERMANN: Here it is in doctor ease. The amount of fat tissue overlying the muscles exceeds the lengths of the needles commonly used for these injections. But here is out number one story on the Countdown, in the parlance of the street, your butt is so big that the shot isn't getting through to you anymore. You heard me, research on this and a celebrity angle no less with the caveat that I don't really have much credibility throwing stones on this particular subject. I leave you instead in the capable and svelte hands of our senior international tuchus correspondent Monica Novotny. Good evening, Monica.

MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: That's lovely. Good evening, Keith.

According to a study done by Irish researchers, women may be missing out on medication due to the size of our backsides. So, ladies, if your derriere is more J-Lo than Gisele, this news will definitely bum you out.


NOVOTNY (voice-over): Getting to the bottom of a bad situation, when your glutious is too maximus for the medicine. Researchers says women with rounder rumps aren't getting the medication they need because standard sized needles are no longer long enough to cut through the cushion.

Painful but true. In order to be most effective, drugs like pain killers and vaccines must be injected into muscle where far more blood vessels are found. But when doctors in Ireland administered shots which each included an air bubble into 25 women, a C.T. Scan revealed the bubble and thus the meds only reached the buttock muscle in two of them. The other 23 faced the potential of infection and irritation. Bummer.

The larger problem behind all this: obesity. Sadly, the only solution for the well endowed back side, a longer needle. So, when it's time to eat, it may be time to turn the other cheek, otherwise...

JAY LENO, TONIGHT SHOW: The medication just stays in your butt. So you may die, but apparently your fat ass will live forever.


NOVOTNY: Now, the problem is not limited entirely to women. Men were also part of the study. They did better, but still not great with just over half of the men receiving the medicine with a standard sized needle. I'm done. Please don't ask me any questions.


NOVOTNY: Yes, yes.

OLBERMANN: Countdown's Monica Novotny doing the goofy work on one of our stories. You can go home now.

NOVOTNY: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Well, we can all guess the future relative to this, the company you want to invest in is the business of enlarging seats on public transportation and widening doorways in buildings. What about right now? What about our greatest natural thing? Our Celebrities? Time it was the avoir depoit (ph) of say Jackie Gleason was a rarity, are we heading to new dimensions as it were?

Let's call in Dr. Michael Musto, columnist of the "Village Voice" and of course, when I say doctor, I mean Michael is not a doctor, but he is, as of right now, playing one on TV. What's up, doc?

MICHAEL MUSTO, VILLAGE VOICE: Hi, Keith. Please keep the camera from here on up. Because my butt is just horrendous tonight.

OLBERMANN: And you me both, fella.

MUSTO: There's a big needle in it.

OLBERMANN: We'll get to the celebrities in a moment. First the big psychological issue. This was a study based out of Ireland. And I gather you would agree from personal observation that the malady junk is in the trunkus is relevant here too?

MUSTO: It's totally relevant here. In fact, this study was probably based on American tourists in Ireland pigging out on stew. Let's face it, Keith, except for the cast of the O.C., Americans are grotesquely, vulgarly large. Vulgarly is not even a word. But frankly, you know, we need stealth bombers to even get medicine anywhere muscles in most of Americans outside of New York and L.A. And we need them for Iraq. That's a much more important issue.

OLBERMANN: What's particularly delightful of course is the research's suggested solution here, longer needles, like you know, a city block longer. Nobody is saying eat a salad. Wouldn't that be more the way to go?

MUSTO: You're right. You're right on the head with the absurdity of this whole situation. It's like saying don't lose weight, we'll just get longer needles. It's ridiculous. It's like telling students, don't study harder. We'll just make the books shorter.

However, there is some kind of sanity to this approach, because one look at a big needle coming towards my butt and I am willing, totally willing to lose weight and whittle away my butt, whatever it takes to get that needle away from me.

OLBERMANN: You may start running. So, there you go.

Let's play a celebrity lightning round addition of big needle/little needle. And we've already invoked her name a couple of times, at least in the acronym. Let's start with Jennifer Lopez.

MUSTO: That's an amazing coolo (ph). I think she would need Cleopatra's, needle which is the 3,000 foot ancient Egyptian obelisk in Central Park, or maybe fill the Chrysler Building with antibiotics and just start ramming away.

OLBERMANN: Mary Kate Olson.

MUSTO: I would say a toothpick with a Swedish meatball. Tiny little thing. And double task. You inject her with the toothpick and make her eat the Swedish meatball.

OLBERMANN: Good. We get to kill two birds with one stone.

And speaking of two birds, Ashley Olson.

MUSTO: She needs something very small and thin. How about Mary Kate?

OLBERMANN: Finally making good use of her.

Lest we forget that men have back sides as well. All right, Brad Pitt.

MUSTO: Oh, a gigantic devilish syringe wielded by Dr. Jennifer Aniston.

OLBERMANN: Oh, yea. Very nice. And Jack Black. I don't know that

he's really our foremost celebrity, but he counts here

MUSTO: Maybe one of Belushi's old needles as a reminder. I don't know. Or, in fact Cleopatra's needle thing again. But disinfect it.

OLBERMANN: Courtney Love. .

MUSTO: Well, the needle is already in there. So just refill it with something legal.

OLBERMANN: And the other end of the stick as it were, Calista Flockhart?

MUSTO: Oh, for her, it's such a tiny little buttock that you just rub something, antibiotic on your hand slap her. That's what Harrison Ford does, it goes right in.

OLBERMANN: Where the veins, when they see you in the neighborhood, the veins call out to you and say, yo hoo, I'm over here.

While we have you, and while we have this topic here, a couple of back-ups on this list.

Michael Jackson?

MUSTO: Oh, I would get a big syringe labeled sanity. We need to inject some sanity into that situation. Maybe some pigment, too.

OLBERMANN: Tom Cruise?

MUSTO: That big needle with Brooke Shields' old postpartum depression medicine. He's having a baby. He's going to be depressed.

OLBERMANN: Yeah. And he can take pictures of himself too, now with the sonogram that they don't want him to have anymore.

Michael Musto of the "Village Voice" who has now officially been thrown out by the American Medical Association. And we got through this without actually making any pain in the butt jokes. So I think we both deserve credit of some sort.

MUSTO: And without lowering the camera angle to my gigantic buttock with the big needle. Thank you for that.

OLBERMANN: Well, thank you for that, Michael. Good night.

MUSTO: Bye-bye.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Read (INAUDIBLE). Good night and good luck.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 29

Guest: Richard Wolffe, Wayne Slater, Dana Milbank

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

Back to the stump. The president to speechify again about Iraq, this time, with strategy details.

Details on the other Novak. Why a second "TIME" reporter's testimony may help Karl Rove, while his former personal assistant and a set of phone logs may do anything but.

He may be an ex-Congressman...


REP. RANDY "DUKE" CUNNINGHAM (R), CALIFORNIA: Today is the culmination of that process...


OLBERMANN:... but California's Duke Cunningham can soothe himself with this. He is the newest member of the Countdown Apology Hall of Fame.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have sinned against you, my Lord.


OLBERMANN: The magic wide receiver theory. Why Senator Arlen Specter has come to the defense of football's Terrell Owens.

And another day, another panda. First a fake one, and now this one, 4 months old and already auditioning for a commercial of some kind.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

His hand was tipped before Thanksgiving. The president wants to be able to announce American troop withdrawals, but only after first getting to announce Iraqi troop improvements.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, the start of the colloquy, or maybe it's actually a monologue, is scheduled for 9:50 Eastern time tomorrow morning at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. And ironically, its content may have been summarized today by a Democratic senator, Joe Lieberman, himself just back from Iraq, and saying, quote, "We do have a strategy. We do have a plan."

No indication that the president's self-titled major speech will include any plans to start getting U.S. troops out, but we do know he will highlight how well Iraqi troops are being trained, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld offering a little preview of that today, noting that U.S. forces have turned over control of 29 military bases there to Iraqis.

But it fell to the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, to

actually sell this speech as something new, noting that administration will

release a declassified version of a document called "The National Strategy

for Victory in Iraq" first thing in the morning, and the president will

reference it. And despite his desire to talk today about immigration

policy rather than Iraq, the president did respond to media questions about his plans, on paper and in principle.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I'm giving a speech tomorrow that outlines the training program, and the progress we're making in training Iraqis to provide security for their country. And we will make decisions about troop levels based upon the capacity of the Iraqis to take the fight to the enemy.

I'm interested in winning. I want to defeat the terrorists. I want our troops to come home. But I don't want them to come home without having achieved victory. And we've got a strategy for victory. The - and the commanders will make the decisions.

See, that's, that's - that's what the people want. People don't want me making decisions based upon politics. They want me to make decisions based on the recommendation from our generals on the ground. And that's exactly who I'll be listening to.


OLBERMANN: The reporter Seymour Hersh of the magazine "The New Yorker" identifies different people to whom Mr. Bush may actually be listening. What his sources say presently.

First, let's bring in "Newsweek"'s senior White House correspondent, Richard Wolffe, to preview what we will hear from the president tomorrow.

Richard, good evening.


Keith, good evening.

OLBERMANN: Obviously the stay-the-course note that the president has sounded repeatedly has not resonated with most of the country, if the polls are to be believed. Do he and his advisers think they need to package it differently, or detail it differently, or do it differently, or some combination?

WOLFFE: Some combination. They are obviously deeply troubled by the slide in the polls, both for the support for the war and the president's credibility. So they think they need to get out there and show something real this time.

You're right to be skeptical about another major address on Iraq. This time, there's going to be some details about those Iraqi security forces, and this time, they say, the numbers are real. You know, you may have heard thousands of Iraqis here and there on security operations. This time, they say, they're combat-ready.

So there are supposed to be differences this time around.

OLBERMANN: This document, the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," one would guess that it describes withdrawals but not timelines. Have any of its other contents leaked out? Do we know what it might be, what role it might play in the president's speech tomorrow?

WOLFFE: Well, it's nice of Scott to sprinkle some hocus-pocus about declassified documents around. But this is not secret stuff. For a start, this isn't a hostile government where you have intelligence operations on the ground, and you don't want to compromise sources and methods, and they're not going to publish the military options, i.e., you know, if we reach this point we can see this many troops come home.

And those military plans are under draft. They are being drawn up inside the Pentagon. And there are lots of different ones. We're not going to see that. We're going to see basically what you and I would call propaganda, and what the administration calls public diplomacy.

OLBERMANN: You mentioned Mr. McClellan. He told the media today that tomorrow's speech will be the first of many slated for the next two, three weeks, December 15, the target date regarding the speeches, anyway, because that's the date of the elections in Iraq.

Is there anything that's going to separate these in final analysis, these speeches from the previous ones, or are we going to get this repeated drumbeat, or are they going to try a series of different drumbeats and see if there's one that really works?

WOLFFE: Well, they are trying to gear things up for those December 15 elections. You know, those elections are an important date, because it's a full-term government. But, you know, White House officials tell me they really don't think they can hold the news cycle, hold people's attention all the way from now to then, even though it's just a few weeks away.

This is to try and move this debate on from the prewar intelligence, from the CIA leak, and to start talking about the improved security. And there are areas of Iraq where security has improved, and there really are Iraqi security forces who can fight rather than turning and running, which is what they used to do last year.

OLBERMANN: Last point, one of the most fascinating parts of the political dialogue of the last year, I guess, maybe more, is those murmurs that come out of the White House and the GOP with a kind of a gosh-darn attitude that they can't get their message out successfully. Is there anybody in power telling the president, You know what? We're in charge of the White House, the Senate, the House. If we can't get this message out now, either we're not very good at getting out messages, or the message isn't very good?

WOLFFE: Well, apart from the people who believe that you represent the liberal media conspiracy, oh, and me too, as well, there are plenty of Republicans in Congress who are saying, Yes, you need to do a better job. What they say in general terms is, Oh, we really like it when the president is more assertive, and we're so pleased that he's finding his voice now. But basically they're thinking - they think the White House needs to do a better job, and they're encouraged by what they see now.

OLBERMANN: If this is a conspiracy, by the way, I've seen better-run conspiracies on the playground in the fourth grade. But that's another subject for another time.

Richard Wolffe, chief White House correspondent from "Newsweek," as always, sir, great thanks for your time tonight.

WOLFFE: Any time.

OLBERMANN: Tomorrow's speech may not provide much new insight into why we are still in Iraq, but an article in this week's "New Yorker" magazine might, Seymour Hersh reporting that the president is convinced that bringing democracy to Iraq is his mission, "mission" used in the religious sense of the word.

Mr. Hersh cites one former senior administration official as saying that Mr. Bush's religious convictions started coming into play significantly after 9/11, when he supposedly felt that God had put him there to deal with the new war on terror. According to the unnamed senior official, that sense of almost divine purpose was reinforced by first the congressional electoral victories in 2002, then Mr. Bush's own reelection in 2004.

On the "TODAY" show this morning, Hersh suggested it is not just the president's belief in God that's influencing his policy.


SEYMOUR HERSH, "THE NEW YORKER": Nobody knows what drives him, whether - I think it's also a faith, a belief in democracy too. I think that's a very strong issue. For some of the people that I talk to, I've been talking to for years, they're beginning to talk more about, you know, his - their sense that he does sense - they do sense a divine mission there.

On the other hand, it's also for democracy. So it's - you know, I can't put myself in his head. All I can tell you is, this president is not going to back down on this war. And if more body bags come, and they're coming every day now, three, four a day, he's determined to stay the course.


OLBERMANN: Relative to the religion, anything to it? Anything wrong with it? For the components of the answers, I'm joined now by Wayne Slater, senior political writer for "The Dallas Morning News," co-author of the book "Bush's Brain."

Mr. Slater, thank you for your time again tonight, sir.


Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: In his article, Sy Hersh also quotes this unnamed former defense official as saying that the president, quote, "is more determined than ever to stay the course. He doesn't feel any pain. Bush is a believer in the adage, People may suffer and die, but the church advances."

In your opinion, based on your dealings with the man over many years, is that overblown, accurate, consistent, inconsistent with the pre-9/11 George W. Bush?

SLATER: It's pretty accurate. And it actually has been accurate about George Bush, not only as president, but as governor, although he wasn't as expressive about his religious faith. He is an evangelical. His religious faith has always guided his public policy. And he is a person who believes, at this moment, God doesn't sit on his shoulder and say, Go bomb this outfit, go to war there.

But he believes fundamentally that he's engaged in part of a divine drama, that God divine - determines what goes on in the universe, and that this is his moment, an important moment, and that he is God's man. I've talked to a number of people who've said he's said that inside the Oval Office, I am God's man at this time, fulfilling His purpose.

OLBERMANN: Certainly among some of his critics, at least, there has been a question regarding this topic of opportunism, that maybe he's not all that fervent in his beliefs, and they tend to come out when his support among the heavy-duty Christians begins to wane. Is that a valid question, or is that too, too cynical?

SLATER: I think it's very cynical. This president believes in - his religious faith is very important to him. He is an evangelical.

On the other hand, what you have to understand is, Bush, the president, understands, and his political guru, Karl Rove, understands, the political advantages of having Christian conservatives as an important part of the political base. Always has been, and presumably always was, through 2004.

So this expression, an authentic expression of religious faith and how religion should dictate or guide him in making public policy decisions, is real to Bush, but certainly it comes to become very advantageous when you try to rally the base, as Bush did in 2000, and more successfully in 2004.

OLBERMANN: In many respects, this is obviously a sensitive topic, but you can ask any group in this country, from the evangelicals to the atheists, to list the top five presidents of all time. And just to pick the one who's most likely to be (INAUDIBLE) at or near the top, Abraham Lincoln's name will be mentioned. And he was incessantly invoking God in terms of the Civil War, ending slavery, his own policy, his own place in the White House, his own place in history.

Not to make any undue comparisons between the presidents, but if we don't mock or question Lincoln retroactively, why is the faith of this president necessarily an issue?

SLATER: Great question. And Lincoln did talk that way. The vocabulary of Adams and Washington was replete with references to God. The difference now, I think, is the times that we live in. This is a more pluralistic country.

And when a president, like Ronald Reagan and now George Bush, our most religiously expressive president in memory, starts talking about religion, there is a concern among a sizable part of the population - didn't exist when Lincoln was president - who worries that, Is this president design - is his design to impose a narrow religious agenda on them, on a part of the constituency, whether a secular or more progressive?

And so where Lincoln had, I think, a population that was pretty supportive of this kind of expression, and comfortable with it, there is now a large group of Americans who fear that this kind of open, honest expression of conservative religious faith may mean, I want to impose my values on you.

OLBERMANN: So would he perceive, at this moment, the criticism that he has been subject to on the subject particularly of this war in Iraq for the last four, six, eight, 12 months, would he perceive it as bona fide, or as some sort of test of his faith?

SLATER: I think he would see it as a test of his faith. And I would also think, knowing George Bush, that he believes that his faith gives him a sense of certitude, and that the decisions that he makes, he hopes are made in compliance and in accord with what he thinks God would want him to do.

OLBERMANN: Wayne Slater, senior political writer for "The Dallas Morning News," co-author of "Bush's Brain," again, great thanks for your time, sir.

Religion is not just in the heart. It is so often in the eye of the beholder. Four Christian peace activists, two Canadians, a Briton, and an American have been kidnapped in Iraq. The American has been identified as 54-year-old Tom Foxx from Clear Brook, Virginia.

Those who kidnapped them call them spies, the Al-Jazeera network broadcasting this video today of the hostages, who are being held by a previously unknown group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigade., The organization that the hostages work for, the Christian Peacemaker Teams, says its mission is to document abuses in Iraq and connect victims with international human rights groups.

Also tonight, the CIA leak investigation. How Viveca Novak might allegedly help save Karl Rove from the prospect of indictment, and why Rove's secretary might have the opposite effect.

And one day after Representative Randy Cunningham resigned in a corruption scandal - a big corruption scandal - today, he has earned a spot in our hallowed Apology Hall of Fame.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: In chess, there is the Sicilian defense. In basketball, there are infinite permutations of the zone.

Well, in our fourth story on the Countdown, in the years to come, the strategy employed by Karl Rove's defense team may well become known as the Novak.

Jim VandeHei of "The Washington Post," frequent guest here, hinting last night here, before reporting in today's paper, that "TIME" magazine's Viveca Novak is at the center of Mr. Rove's legal effort to clear his name. While it is not clear why Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, believes her testimony could help the White House senior adviser, Mr. Luskin apparently used his conversation with Ms. Novak in persuading the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, to hold off on a Rove indictment, at least in the days before Fitzgerald indicted Scooter Libby.

Meanwhile, for Valerie Plame Wilson, the CIA operative whose leaked identity kicked off the scandal, there appears to be no defense for reversing that damage, "The New York Post" reporting that Mrs. Wilson is quitting the agency because the exposure effectively ended her spying career. "The Washington Post" quoted the same source, saying she was likely to retire to full-time motherhood in its editions exactly one month ago today.

Former ambassador Joe Wilson will neither confirm nor deny either report.

Time now to call on "Washington Post" national political correspondent Dana Milbank for some damage assessment on both of these fronts.

Good evening, Dana.


Evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: One source told our mutual friend Mr. VandeHei that the Luskin-Novak conversation is what caused Fitzgerald to hold off on charging Karl Rove. Another said it did not appear to significantly alter the case. Par for the course, obviously, for this story.

Does one of the statements seem to you more plausible than the other?

MILBANK: Well, first, it's very touching that Karl Rove is reaching out to reporters to help him. And I want to say that, you know, after all he's done for me over the past five years, I'd like to do anything I can as well.

But perhaps, in this case, this was enough, as Jim reported today, to cause Fitzgerald to postpone an indictment. It would appear to be removed enough, in that the conversation was with the lawyer, not with Rove himself, that it's possible that it was enough to postpone an indictment yet not completely forestall the entire investigation, the possibility of an ultimate indictment. So those two things are possible at the same time.

OLBERMANN: To that and also the political blog Raw Story, not a right-wing site, and off and on as a source, posted today that still working against Mr. Rove could be testimony from a former personal assistant, who says that she was instructed not to log the phone calls between her boss and the other reporter from "TIME" magazine in this case, Matthew Cooper. Does that story have any merit, to your knowledge?

MILBANK: Well, obviously, if it's true, it could be very damaging. You don't have to be a lawyer to figure that out. And it has tones of Martha Stewart to boot. But that is a big if.

Now, remember, this same blog was reporting that David Wurmser, John Hannah, in the vice president's office were part of some web of a deliberate conspiracy to out Valerie Plame. If that were true, it certainly is not what came out ultimately in the Fitzgerald indictment. So we definitely have to be careful with this particular thing.

OLBERMANN: Are there any other signs that Mr. Fitzgerald has kept his case file open here for reasons rather than just, you know, out of doggedness or stubbornness, anything on the fire that resulted from the Bob Woodward case, anything at all?

MILBANK: Well, we don't know, is the first answer. But Fitzgerald himself was cautioning us not to assume that it's over. A lot of people, a lot of talking heads leapt out there and said, Well, it must mean Rove is in the clear.

Certainly, the fact that there's another Woodward source out there, about which we have and can continue to speculate, certainly, that means the investigation has reason to keep going. So he has always been described as not necessarily dogged, but very cautious and thorough. So there's every to assume that he'll leave every stone turned over.

OLBERMANN: And it's ironic here that Valerie Plame would end up being a footnote to these conversations. But nonetheless, it's true. Do we know if she is indeed giving up that post-covert career at the CIA?

MILBANK: Well, yes, my colleague Al Kamen reported yesterday that it's happening December 9. She's served there for 20 years, so it would be a legitimate time to do that.

It is true that this whole thing ruined her career as an overseas kind of a spy. On the other hand, she's not been working in that field for some time, and she's had the equivalent of a desk job for some time. So she could have kept doing that. People at the agency had been a bit sore with her when she did that photo spread in "Vanity Fair." She may have decided it's time to move on.

OLBERMANN: It's always "Vanity Fair." "Vanity Fair" claims them from every kind of controversy in Washington.

"The Washington Post," Dana Milbank, I don't believe he's been in "Vanity Fair." You ever been in "Vanity Fair"?

MILBANK: I'm trying. I'm auditioning here on the show. How's the makeup?

OLBERMANN: Well, (INAUDIBLE) I don't know, maybe we can work something out with Karl Rove when you're there on both of those occasions.

As always, sir, a pleasure having you with us.

MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: After last night's What is it? animal story, another debate in the dark of night, but this time, if you answer incorrectly, you could wind up behind bars.

The age-old tabloid TV question, Who's your daddy? It hits way too home, close to home, in English, for the king of pop.

All that and more, ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: We're back, and we've reached that point in the show where we reveal our exit strategy from the day's real news. We withdraw into the relative comfort of goofy animal stories and gratuitous video.

Let's play Oddball.

And we begin where we left off last night, in the bear-eat-dog world of panda glamour and high society. This was Columbo, the Japanese dog painted up and blow-dried in shameless attempt to cash in on the panda-monium currently sweeping the animal world.

Today, apparently inspired by the poseurs, panda baby Tai Shan made an appearance for the paparazzi at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Five months old, the 21-pound child star teased the cameras for a short time today before going back into seclusion.

His official debut in public scheduled for the eighth of next month. More than 13,000 tickets have been reserved to see him in January, making him the most-famous-for-no-reason star this side of Paris Hilton. And Tai Shan could learn a thing or two from the empty-headed heiress. Party indoors, because, as you see here, the paparazzi is always watching, seeing if you're going to get caught smoking.

To Jacksonville, Florida, where, if you're a deer, you're going to want to keep a low profile at night if you do not want to get shot. Apparently this area of Florida has got a real problem with people just pulling up in their cars in the middle of the night and shooting the deer that hang around by the side of the road. That is illegal hunting. And that means it's a job for Robodeer. Yes, Robodeer, the world's first-ever robotic deer.

What did you think it was going to be?

Just remember, when hoping to draw fire with a robotic deer decoy, always keep away from the robotic deer decoy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE), he's headed north. Get on it. Get on it.


OLBERMANN: Somebody driving by with a Howitzer, I see. Robodeer took a slug in the shoulder. He'll live to get shot another day. As for our drive-by deer hunters, there will be plenty of time for late-night potshots where they're going, the Big House.

Where's football's Terrell Owens going? Why is Pennsylvania's senior senator getting involved? Why is he invoking the term "antitrust violation"?

And it'd be great to live free as an artist, right? Well, what would you do if you were an artist, what would you do for health care? An unlikely answer tonight.

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans. Much is still to be done there, but rest easy, Big Easy. The city has today established the first municipally owned free wireless Internet service in any big city in America. No power, lots of Internet. Thank goodness for that.

Number two, Jim Myles, commissioner of Randolph County, Missouri. The old jail in Huntsville has been antiquated, so Commissioner Myles has come up with a novel way of selling it. He's put it on eBay. The buyer can convert it into a home, or just lock himself away.

And number two, Ruth Barton of Boyce, Louisiana. The 80-year-old widow was on her way to a regular Sunday morning playing the organ at the First United Methodist Church, walking down her carport steps, when she was attacked by a goat. A goat. She eventually knocked the goat down the steps and escaped to her car. The devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape, or evidently, he can just dress up like a goat.


OLBERMANN: Arlen Specter has been at the center of public debate for more than 40 years. He's been involved in everything from the explanation of the bullet that struck both President Kennedy and Governor Connelly in Dallas, to the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Thomas too. In our third story in the Countdown, the Terrell Owens saga.

Tying the controversial football player to violations of federal antitrust statutes leading our nightly segment the world of wide sports.

The story so far, Owens, perhaps football's most gifted pass catcher, was suspended by the Philadelphia Eagles for having trashed teammates and his coach. Then they told him when his suspension was over, they would start paying him again, but not playing him again. An arbitrator ruled that's OK, both within the parameters of the players union contract with the owners, and the owns own contract which presumably has the standard pay or play clause, which allows employers in entertainment fields to use you or not use you just so long as they keep the checks coming - you know, the Aaron Brown clause.

Anyway, Senator Specter doesn't think so. He says that not letting Owens play for the Eagles or not letting him move to another team that will let him play, could be restraint of trade and a violation worthy of inquiry by the Senate antitrust subcommittee. He says this as a Philadelphia fan angry at Owens.


SEN. ARLEN SPECER (R) PENNSYLVANIA: I am madder than hell at f what he has done in ruining the Eagle's season or doing his utmost to ruin the season. The Eagles would be within their rights in not paying him another dime, or perhaps even suing him for damages for which they have stained, but I do not believe, personally that it is appropriate to punish him. He's not committed a crime. He's committed a breech of contract. And what they're doing against him is vindictive.


OLBERMANN: I don't know. Magic bullet, I believe. That, not so much.

It is also in Philadelphia that we met the fan who took his mother onto the Eagles' playing field without permission. Just to raise the stakes here, his mother happened to be dead at the time.

We told you about this yesterday. Now we can watch Christopher Noteboom during Sunday's game against the Packers spreading not joy but mom. She was a lifetime Eagles fan who died just before Philadelphia's appearance in last January's Super Bowl. At the end of his event, Noteboom offered no resistance as security personnel escorted him from the field.

"I know that the last hand full of ashes I had are laying on the field," he told reporters. "She'll always be part of Lincoln Financial Field and of the Eagles."

This eternal resting spot is sponsored by Lincoln Financial.

The Eagles say they have many requests to spread ashes on the field. They turn them all down. Noteboom was arrested and charged with defiant trespass. As a police inspector in Philly put it, hey have, quote, "zero tolerance for people who run onto the field and dump an unknown a substance in a stadium full of people."

But perspective may be everything on this. The "Los Angeles Times" says it has confirmed that shortly after the death of the legendary football coach John McKay at the University of Southern California in June 2001, his ashes were spread over U.S.C.'s homefield at the Los Angeles Coliseum. A note to the 5-6 Eagles about Mrs. Noteboom, since the McKay ceremony, USC has played 29 home games at that Coliseum and won 27 of them.

John McKay was born in 1923. Charlie Watts in 1941. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in 1943. The later three are mentioned, because the Rolling Stones were today picked to headline the halftime show at the Super Bowl in Detroit next February.

As the reverberations are still felt from the 2004 half-time, you remember the silly kids and their wardrobe, the trend has been toward the British-aged. It was Paul McCartney last year. The Stones this time. One look ahead to 2007, the appropriately named Jerry and the Pacemakers are still around.

Speaking of things that are getting old, there are now three versions of the explanation from former NFL star, now commentator and football Hall of Fame nominee Michael Irvin. Explanations for the drug paraphernalia police found in his car last week. On the radio yesterday, Irvin told Dan Patrick and me that he had confiscated the drug pipe in his own home from a friend whom Irvin is trying to help quit and that he, Irvin, put it in his car with intention of disposing it elsewhere.

Then the police report came out in which officers quoted Irvin as explaining the pipe's presence in his car by saying "it's my brother's. He left it in there."

Now Irvin says the police took him literally when he was speaking metaphorically. It is not his biological brother's. He meant the owner was as close to him as a brother.

And that's the textbook way to keep a story alive. Here's how to stop one in its tracks, no, the New York Yankees are not about to ask either American League most valuable player Alex Rodriguez or six-time all-star short stop Derek Jeter to move to center field. That was the impression left after a Reuters news service story quoting Joe Torre, the Yankees' manager about the possibility of having one of the teams superstars fill its vacancy in that key position.

"We thought about it. We just haven't made a commitment to it," the story read. But that's not how the story happened, Torre told me today. He said that a Reuters writer asked him if he had considered moving Jeter or Rodriguez to center. And he had replied no. The writer then asked if either player would do so if asked. And Torre said it was obvious they'd both do anything for the team.

Torre said his comments thereafter were humorous in nature. And he thought the writer would have gathered that. When Torre also told him that ace relief pitcher Mariano Rivera would probably be the team's be the team's best defensive center fielder.

Also tonight, you might assume that serious stress would increase your likelihood of cancer. There has been research on this. There is a surprising interim answer.

And a paternity thriller: blockbuster news concerning Michael Jackson and what are supposed to be his kids. Details on those stories ahead. But today the top three sound bites of this day.


RIC FLAIR, PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER: What the people here in Charlotte and that system right here treated me like a million bucks and treated me with the utmost respect. And it's not a bad deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there's no road rage.

FLAIR: No road rage. 95 percent of the time it's great being Rick Flair, 5 percent it's not.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We recently tested the effectiveness of these steps with Brazilian illegal immigrants caught along the Rio Grande Valley of the Texas border. The operation was called Operation Texas Hold 'Em. It delivered impressive results.

JAY LENO, TONIGHT SHOW: As I was saying in Florida, a man being arrested for indecent exposure was hit in the testicles by a police taser.


Ooh! It hurts.

LENO: Let's say he's convicted. How can you punish him? What's worse than that? All those 50,000 volts.



OLBERMANN: Health headlines. Does stress cause cancer? Also an unusual way for artists to pay for their health care. And is apologizing good for you? Well, science is not waiting on the last one. But it sure is fun to watch another induction into the Countdown apology hall of fame.


OLBERMANN: Instinct would tell you that a banker is more likely to develop cancer than a juggler. Intuition would suggest that an air traffic controller would be at greater risk than a singer. Explanation? More stress.

But in our number two story on the Countdown, the reverse may be true. In a moment, how artists are trying to overcome a hidden reality in their field, most of their jobs don't come with health insurance, so they're far less likely to get screened for cancer. And as to stress professional or personal? It may have no link at all to the disease.

The report in the weekly must read science section of "The New York Times" looking at a bevy of recent studies finding no scientific evidence linking stress to cancer. A study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, one of many asking cancer patients questions about possibly stressful events, had a family member died? Had they gotten married? Divorced? Lost a job? And so forth, the results were clear: people under stress were no more likely to develop cancer than anybody else.

And a series of Danish studies tracked categories of people under obvious stress to see if they developed cancer at a higher rate and they did not. That included parents who had lost a child and parents whose children had schizophrenia.

But researchers also say this is not necessarily the final word on the subject. Anecdotally, plenty of cancer patients believe that their own cancers were brought on by periods of unusual stress.

Which brings us to those artists, some who might be stressed because they have to pay all health care out of pocket. They've developed an extraordinary improvement on that old cliche about singing for your supper. Countdown'S Monica Novotny joins us now with the details. Good evening, Monica.


Last year the annual premium for an employer health plan for individual coverage averaged almost $4,000. Now many people who work on a freelance basis, like artists, don't even have that option. But a doctor at one hospital in New York has found a way to help.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's great to be valued for what you do and for what you spent your life learning how to do.

NOVOTNY (voice-over): Trading talent for medical treatment. Artists are now bartering for health care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some old fashion things aren't out of style.

NOVOTNY: Susan Tang (ph), an illustrator and muralist, one of 250 artists who make up Artist Access, a program at New York's Woodhall Hospital. Members spend time each week performing for patients or as in Susan's case, teaching them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you stay like that it can be beautiful.

NOVOTNY: All in exchange for x-rays, lab tests, even doctor's visits.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It allows you to pay for health care by applying your craft, by acting or singing or painting or whatever it is.

NOVOTNY: Susan, like countless freelance artists has no insurance.

Living from job to job with no benefits, no safety net.

(on camera): How many years had you gone for having a checkup?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About five years.

NOVOTNY (voice-over): Until now.

These days she earns medical care by spending a few hours each week painting with children in the hospital's pediatric ward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The artist community is notorious for having jobs that don't give health insurance.

NOVOTNY: Deborah Dewic (ph) interviews artists applying for the program, then works with many of them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So they're excited to have that load off their back.

NOVOTNY (on camera): Artists earn 40 credits for every hour they work. Each credit is worth a dollar. Most credits go to pay for their medical visits. And because the artists are also part of a subsidized health care program here, those credits go a long way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You guys want to paint today?

NOVOTNY (voice-over): Doctors call it a win for the artists and the patients.

DR. EDWARD FISKIN, WOODHALL MEDICAL CENTER DIRECTOR: It's difficult being a patient. It's scary even in the best of circumstances. So bringing art to the in-patient and out-patient environment is really soothing and therapeutic and helps our patients recover.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Turn it over this way.

NOVOTNY: An old-fashioned idea working for modern-day medicine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My kids are really relieved.

NOVOTNY: So they don't have to worry about mom as much?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I get hit by a bus...

NOVOTNY: Oh, don't say that.


NOVOTNY: The artists aren't just entertaining patients. They are also helping to train doctors as well. In one program, actors are given scripts and they portray sick patients. Now interns interact with these patients and diagnosis them. Then the young doctors are evaluated on their bedside manners.

OLBERMANN: I'm having a - just taking a guess here this won't spot up shortly at your local H.M.O. This is not the thing that they're going to go into. But are there prospects for expanding this? Because it sounds like it does, in fact, fill needs on both sides of the equation.

NOVOTNY: It really does. Right now they're definitely planning on expanding within New York to the city's other public hospitals. They're able to do that, because they also have this subsidized health care program. So, when we say 40 credits per hour that the artists earn that, it's only equivalent to $40. It doesn't sound like a lot, but on this subsidized health care plan, those dollars really do go a long way. One doctor's visit might only cost and artist $20 or $30. So, certainly the plans are to expand at this point within New York.

OLBERMANN: Ever been in one of those New York public hospitals?

NOVOTNY: I was in one there.

OLBERMANN: I mean, as a patient?


OLBERMANN: OK. I have been through that. And I could have used an artist, a painter, somebody to sing to me. Just during the period of time waiting at the emergency room, but that's another story for another time. Countdown's Monica Novotny, great thanks.

NOVOTNY: Thanks.

OLBERMANN: Now to health care of an entirely different kind and an artist of an entirely different kind, too. Our lead story in our roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, funny how old lyrics can come to haunt you like when in "Billy Jean" Michael Jackson saying the kid is not my son. Jackson's ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, reportedly agreeing with him. She is quoted as saying, the pop star is not the biological of their two children, neither their son, eight-year-old Prince Michael Junior, nor they're daughter, seven-year-old Paris. She's quoted in the Irish newspaper, "The Sunday World," "Michael knows the truth," she says, "that he is not the natural father of Prince Michael Jr. and Paris. He has to come clean." The truth, she says, dad or dads were anonymous doners to a fertility clinic.

And another performer may say, I'm not a married guy, I just play one on TV. Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson may be splitsville, but it looks like their union was the inspiration for a news sitcom with Lachey as its star.

From the WB network, a pilot about a famous baseball player in a new marriage starring Lachey, shooting to begin in April. A romantic comedy under a microscope, according to its writer, is coming to us days after Lachey and Simpson announced their separation. No idea who might be the cast to play the lackey to Lachey's star. But a network spokesman adding, Nick is a huge talent with a major following. Well, maybe for the WB.

Also tonight, a capital offense in a city used to offenses. A Rolls-Royce, a yacht, all in return for government contracts. It deserves a big apology. And Representative Randy Cunningham delivers a hall of fame performance. That's ahead.

But first, time for Countdown's list of today's three nominees for the coveted title of worst person in the world.

At the bronze level, the Xcel Energy Company in Minnesota, it's customer Daniel Morris had wondered for years why despite every effort he made to conserve energy, his bill was always so high, nearly $200 bucks a month. Then he happened to noticed the number on his electric meter. It was not the same number as the one on his bill. He's been paying someone else's bill for seven years. The company says it can only adjust Morris' bill for the last three years. So, he figures he's out as much as $2,000.

And then the runner-up tonight, Igor Smikov (ph), he is a Russian attorney whose suit has been thrown out in a city court in Moscow, so he's going to go to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg. Who is he suing? "The Simpsons." He claims the show has morally damaged his 9-year-old son. D'oh - svedania.

But the winner, Nancy O'Donnell of Moon, Pennsylvania. Police say the family came over for dinner Saturday night: her daughter, the kids, the whole group. So, she made them something special. Macaroni and cheese and bleach. Nobody was injured. Ms. O'Donnell faces charges and possibly a visit to a nice rubber-walled kitchen.

Nancy O'Donnell of Moon, P.A., today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: When former Congressman Dan Rostenkowski was indicted for corruption and convicted of mail fraud, it was for having converted $27,000 worth of postage stamps into cash at the congressional post office. Fellow Democrat James Traficant, he of the worst congressional hair-piece ever, demanded thousands from businesses in return for official favors. They were, it proves, pikers (ph).

Our number one story on the Countdown, dream big or go home. Just ask Randy "Duke" Cunningham in his first full day as a former U.S. Congressman. A California Republican resigning yesterday after confessing to evaded taxes and pocketing $2.4 million in bribes. You heard me, $2.4 million.

Among the boss tweed-like gifts, the congressman accepted a $7,200 antique Louis Philippe commode, nearly $18,000 in repairs to his Rolls-Royce, another $17,000 in repairs to his yacht.

Now, the big ticket items, $200,000 toward the purchase of a Washington, D.C. area condo. Selling his California home to a defense contractor for $700,000 above the asking price and underreporting his taxable income by more than $1 million.

Graft has never had it so good. Such Grade-A prime payola once uncovered requiring a spectacular apology, Congressman Cunningham doing his best to deliver. Cue the water works.


REP. RANDY CUNNINGHAM, (R) CALIFORNIA: I misled my family, friends, staff, colleagues, the public and even myself. For all of this, I am deeply sorry. The truth is I broke the law, concealed my conduct and disgraced my office. I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, most importantly the trust of my friends and family.


OLBERMANN: Not bad. While Jimmy Swaggart could have given him some guidance on the proper lip trembling to go with the crying and President Clinton a few pointers on gravitas, Congressman Cunningham's mea culpa already more than sufficient to get him inducted into the Countdown apology hall of fame. Roll it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's get crazy. Get some coke. Hire a hooker.

If you agree with this, just look at me and say, yes.

PAT O'BRIEN, TALK SHOW HOST: I'm sorry I did it. I'm sorry it offended people. I apologize to the people that this has offended.

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: It was a mistake. CBS News deeply regrets it. Also, I want to say personally and directly, I'm sorry.

TERRELL OWENS, NFL PLAYER: Personally, I didn't think it would have offended anyone.

Ah hell.

OWENS: You know, if it did, you know, we apologize.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am sorry. So, so sorry.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: To the Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U.S. armed forces, I offer my deepest apology.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I apologize to anyone that's been brought into this unnecessarily.

ASHLEY SIMPSON, SINGER: I feel so bad my band started playing the wrong song. And I know it's new, so I thought I'd do a hoe down.

JANET JACKSON, SINGER: And unfortunately, the whole thing went wrong in the end. I am really sorry.

BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people including even my wife.

KOBE BRYANT, NBA PLAYER: I'm so sorry. I love my wife so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In order to be a racist, you have to feel superior. I don't feel superior to you at all. I don't believe any man or any woman is superior to any other...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you always hold that view?


TONYA HARDING, ICE SKATER: I feel really bad for Nancy, and I feel really lucky that it wasn't me.

JAY LENO, TONIGHT SHOW: What the hell were you thinking?

HUGH GRANT, ACTOR: I think you know in life pretty much what the good thing to do is and what a bad thing. And I did a bad thing. And there you have it.

STEVE IRWIN, CROCODILE HUNTER: Sweetheart, who do you want to be when you grow up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just like my daddy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve, Steve, let me jump in here.

IRWIN: Poor little thing. And you know what, I am sorry, Matt.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, ACTOR: Yes, that I have behaved badly sometimes. And to those people that I have offended, I want to say to them that I'm deeply sorry about that and I apologize.

RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That some of my judgments were wrong and some were wrong. They were made in what I believed at the time to be in the best interest of the nation.

JIMMY SWAGGART, TELEVANGELIST: Please forgive me. I've sinned against you my Lord. And I would ask that your precious (INAUDIBLE).


OLBERMANN: That's Countdown. I'm Keith Olbermann. And keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck.


Monday, November 28, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 28

Guest: Jim VandeHei, David Gergen, Evan Kohlmann, Ken Bazinet

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

The CIA leak investigation. Novak cooperates. Wrong Novak. Or is it? Why is the special prosecutor quizzing a "TIME" reporter about her conversations with Karl Rove's lawyer?

The president runs for the border. He pitches immigration policy while White House insiders pitch a fit over a news report blaming everything on White House insights.

What does this tape really show, private security firms in Iraq randomly shooting at Iraqi civilians, or doing their job protecting their Western clients?

Who's protecting England now that 24-hour-a-day drinking is legal. A drunk's dream? A policeman's nightmare? Surprising early results.

And what the hell is that thing? What the hell is that thing? Oh, I know what that is. It's a - What the hell is that thing?

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

It is the breakthrough that all concerned with the CIA leak investigation have either been hoping for or fearing, word that Novak is cooperating with the investigation.

In our fifth story on the Countdown, we've got your Novak right here, official confirmation that Novak will be testifying. The only problem, it is not the columnist Robert Novak, he who originally published Valerie Plame's name.

Instead, it is "TIME" magazine reporter Viveca Novak, not Robert Novak, not even Viveca A. Fox from - (audio interrupt) ..."TIME" revealing that Ms. Novak, no relation to Robert, or Viveca A. Fox, will testify in the investigation at the request of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Ms. Novak becoming the second "TIME" reporter to cooperate in this case, following in the footsteps of Matt Cooper, although, in her case, after considerably less litigation, as in none, the prosecutor interested in learning more about Ms. Novak's conversations with Karl Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, starting in May of 2004, when she was covering the investigation.

This is being interpreted as the first clear sign that the prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, might still be considering charges against Mr. Rove.

Time now to call in "Washington Post" White House correspondent Jim VandeHei, who knows this story and knows his Novaks.

Good evening, Jim.


OLBERMANN: Well, we've got them all in there now except Kim Novak. "The New York Times" said this was the first tangible sign in weeks that Mr. Fitzgerald has not completed his inquiry into Mr. Rove's actions. Even Ms. Novak's employers at "TIME" said his questioning of their own reporter showed that he was not kidding.

Does it seem to you to really have that much significance?

VANDEHEI: It definitely shows that the investigation of Rove is ongoing. I think we've really got caught up in the idea of the trial, the impending trial of Scooter Libby, the vice president's former chief of staff, and the latest revelation from our reporter, Bob Woodward, that he had some role in learning about the Plame leak early on.

What it does show is that Rove remains a focus. And if he were to be indicted - and it remain a big if - that would be a much bigger blow to President Bush, both practically and politically, than the Libby indictment was.

OLBERMANN: Is there a way to ascertain if this is limited, in terms of its relationship to Karl Rove, to questions about what his attorney, Mr. Luskin, said? And - or - is there also some concern about, well, now we've gotten through the principals, and now we're talking to the attorneys of the principals?

VANDEHEI: Well, I can't tip my hand too much, because we do have a story on this tomorrow that gives much greater detail on what's going on here. But I do think that people close to Rove think that this testimony from a new Novak could help, not hurt, Karl Rove, and that that's why this has popped up at the last minute.

OLBERMANN: We will look forward to that. When he had his little flight-deck scuffle, as reported in your newspaper about a week ago, we asked here again, whatever happened to the other Novaks involved in all this? Do we know less than we should about Robert Novak? Or is there just nothing to know?

VANDEHEI: He really has remained very secretive throughout this entire process. We've heard nothing from him. The thing I'd like to know is, who was that second source? We know one of his sources was Karl Rove. And we know that Bob Novak's not talking now, because Karl Rove remains under investigation. So, you know, now we have these two secret sources out there whose identity are really crucial to solving this case, Bob Woodward's source and Bob Novak's source.

OLBERMANN: In interviewing a reporter who is not directly involved in the original case, one who's merely covering it, could that signify a whole new phase of the investigation from Mr. Fitzgerald's point of view? Presumably, he's plowed through all the primary reporters, the ones who dealt with Rove or Libby. Now we're onto sort of the secondary reporters.

VANDEHEI: Well, I sure hope not, otherwise I might have to start delivering pizzas at night to pay for a lawyer. I don't think that that's what's happening here. I don't think Fitzgerald wants to go after every single reporter who knows anything about this case. I think it's unique because it was a conversation between a "TIME" reporter and Rove's lawyer, and that he thinks there's something significant, either damaging to Rove or exculpatory for Rove.

So I don't see this as portending something that's going to happen down the road for other reporters.

OLBERMANN: So then presumably, we're also safe here. If they're going to avoid the secondary reporters such as yourself, then those of us who are tertiary reporters who have been talking to you guys, the secondary reporters, we're certainly in the clear? Or do I have to help you with pizza delivery?

VANDEHEI: Boy, I'd say we're all in trouble if they start talking to you about your conversations with me, who wrote about a "TIME" magazine reporter who talked to a lawyer who talked to Rove.

OLBERMANN: From the point of view of Mr. Rove's and Mr. Bush's defenders in this, though, does it not seem like it has already reached that kind of level of absurdity?

VANDEHEI: I mean, every single day, this case seems to get more bizarre and take all these strange twists and bring in all the different figures from Washington. And it's really hard to tell where this goes. I mean, you know, at this point, I don't think there's anything that would strike us as too absurd, especially with the involvement of reporters.

We've never had something like this in Washington, where you have reporters and political figures so intertwined in the case like this.

OLBERMANN: "Washington post" White House correspondent Jim VandeHei, with, as he mentioned more in tomorrow's editions of "The Post." We'll look for that in the late update tonight and in the paper tomorrow.

Thank you, sir.

VANDEHEI: Have a good night.

OLBERMANN: The entire "Post" newsroom, of course, still reverberating from the fallout of Bob Woodward's revelation that he too has testified in the CIA leak case, the timing of that revelation more than two years after the erstwhile Watergate sleuth was told about Valerie Plame by a Bush administration official, leaving a distinctly sour taste. Some might say that sour taste is sour grapes, the paper's veteran national political correspondent David Broder reflecting on the consternation in the newsroom on yesterday's edition of "MEET THE PRESS."


DAVID BRODER, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think none of us can really understand Bob's silence for two years about his own role in the case. He's explained it by saying he did not want to become involved and did not want to face a subpoena. But he let his editor, our editor, blindsided for two years, and he went out and talked disparagingly about the significance of the investigation without disclosing his role in it. Those are hard things to reconcile.


OLBERMANN: And it continues inside "The Post." Media reporter Howard Kurtz at the newspaper says he tried to get his own colleague, Woodward, to go on the record about Woodward, and was refused by Woodward.

Behind the investigation into the leak, a second investigation has seemingly begun into American journalism.

David Gergen has this issue triangulated. He's been an adviser to four American presidents. He's a professor at the JFK School of Government at Harvard. And he's an editor at large with "U.S. News and World Report."

Good evening, David.


OLBERMANN: Apart from the information that he did not volunteer in this, do you think Woodward's conduct is truly important here, and if so, why?

GERGEN: Well, I think it's important when someone this, of this stature, makes the kind of mistakes he made. And I think there were three. And (INAUDIBLE) one, he did not, as David Broder just said on your - you know, to Tim Russert yesterday, and you reported in tonight, he did not disclose to his had own editor that he had (INAUDIBLE) had known all these things two years ago, so he kept - let his editor be blindsided.

Secondly, to go on the air and disparage the special prosecutor, without disclosing to his audience that, you know, that he was sitting on this, I think was a mistake.

And it just seems to me that then to issue a statement and not talk to his own reporters at "The Washington Post" is a mistake.

Having said all that, I must tell you that I'm on the other side of this argument. I've known and watched Bob Woodward as someone in - from the governmental side. I was there in the Nixon White House when people were around me like Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman and others, were excoriating Bob Woodward as a - you know, that he was a (INAUDIBLE) - that his reporting with Carl Bernstein was complete lie, that it was all a vendetta to (INAUDIBLE) get Richard Nixon.

And it turned out Bob Woodward was the guy carrying the lantern seeking the truth. And ever since then, my attitude toward him has been one of, that he is a guy who keeps government clean, for the most part. I think he has made a major contribution to American journalism over these 30 years. He made some mistakes here. But we ought to judge him in the context of 30 years, not of three mistakes made over the last couple years.

(INAUDIBLE) we ought to see the complete man, not just this piece of his record.

OLBERMANN: Something else on this piece of his record, and then we'll move on to the larger issues here.


OLBERMANN: This is fascinating, and it might even be relevant in the way news is covered these days. One often goes without the other. But on the Arianna Huffington blog tonight, there's a posting from Norah Ephron, who is, among many other things, the ex-wife of Carl Bernstein, who, of course...

GERGEN: Absolutely.

OLBERMANN:... (INAUDIBLE) Mr. Woodward at "The Post."

GERGEN: These things are all very convoluted, aren't they?

OLBERMANN: Yes, but it's always important just to people who are just...


OLBERMANN:... joining the story now.


OLBERMANN: She thinks that Bob Woodward may have downplayed the importance of Fitzgerald's investigation not out of any sense of nefariousness or hidden motive, but because Fitzgerald had not confided in him. Let me just read you the exact quote. "If you don't talk to Woodward, you'll be sorry. I mention this not because it's precisely true - look at me," she says - "but because it's an operating truth in official Washington."

Is there any sort of sense that there might be a germ of truth in there, that this is about inclusion or exclusion?

GERGEN: As much as I admire Norah Ephron, and I have long, a long history here of well of admiring her, I just don't agree with that conclusion. I just don't see any evidence of it. And it just seems to me that, look, Woodward is taking some whacks here. Let's not hit him with things that are pretty farfetched.

OLBERMANN: All right. We'll move on to today's news. The idea that "TIME" had launched this extraordinary battle with Matthew Cooper to keep him from testifying, and then began to alter that only at the very last stage of it, but in the case of Viveca Novak, the magazine doesn't seem to have put up any kind of complaint, nor, apparently, has she.

Is the media collectively done fighting in this investigation, the, that perhaps in the post-Woodward feeling that perhaps fight implies that the reporter and the organization that she here, she works for might have something to hide?

GERGEN: Well, I have to say, Keith, the combination of the Judith Miller story and the Bob Woodward story have been damaging to the press. And I think it's, it's, it has left some scars, and in an environment where the trust of the press was already extremely low. So we are in that landscape. But I don't think we're really going to know the facts in the Novak case, really, this most recent one, if, you know, it's peculiar that she was, she's being called to testify about a conversation with a lawyer, and not with her, not with a, you know, White House person who's under investigation.

So that's, you know, and I'm looking forward to seeing Jim VandeHei's story tomorrow morning. But I don't think the press is throwing in the towel on protection of sources. After all, Bob Woodward, that was the heart of what he was arguing, as I, (INAUDIBLE) he was trying to protect a source, as well, he was obviously trying to stay out of the investigation himself.

So I don't think - I think it's, unfortunately, on the Judith Miller case, you know, it's, it often said in the law, bad cases make bad law. And in this case, you know, (INAUDIBLE), "The "New York Times" fell on its sword over a case now I think in retrospect, maybe they wish they'd handled differently. In fact, Bill Keller, the time, the "New York Times" editor, who says he wished they'd handled it differently about when they championed her cause and then discovered that they didn't know all the facts either when they did that.

So this is a rough patch for journalism, just as it is for political leaders. And I hope we can keep our heads about it. We've got some larger fish to fry here in this country than who's, you know, the (INAUDIBLE) the internecine little warfares that go on in Washington among the press people.

But as you say, they are, they're part of the passing scene. You have to deal with it. But I do think we've got some bigger fish to fry.

OLBERMANN: (INAUDIBLE), and perhaps even a bigger fish to fry inside this little fishbowl, this issue that you just raised about the conversation between Ms. Novak and Mr. Luskin. Does it worry you, from the experience of your four White Houses, that an investigation is now reaching out to the attorney for a potential defendant? Does that trouble you at all?

GERGEN: It's darn peculiar. And I, listen, I, again, you have to go back and judge people a little bit by their history. And Mr. Fitzgerald does have a history as a strong, good, positive prosecutor. And so to say that he's overreaching without knowing the facts, I think, is unfair to the person. It is peculiar. But until we need to know a few more facts, I think, before you start hanging a guy. You know, three weeks ago, people were singing his praises as being a, you know, very straight-up guy.

He clearly missed some things in his investigation. I think he's an angry prosecutor. I think he's angry that people didn't tell him the complete story, people didn't come forward. And now he's going to be tough on it.

OLBERMANN: You know the old joke about the universal solvent. It's wonderful at dissolving things, but you can't store it in anything. It eats right through it.

Former presidential adviser David Gergen, a pleasure to speak with you on a variety of subjects tonight, sir.

GERGEN: Thank you, sir. Good to see you.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, behind the scenes, reportedly, at the Bush White House. He is supposedly getting advice. He is supposedly ignoring advice.

A disturbing video from the streets and roads outside Baghdad. Somebody tapes themselves shooting at Iraqi drivers. Is it self-defense? Is it sport? One security contractor is investigating.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: If your closest advisers were described by one of the top-circulation newspapers in the country as being in denial and blaming everybody else, you might head for Mexico too.

Our fourth story on the Countdown tonight, the president tries to change the national conversation. Mr. Bush pitched his immigration proposals today, not in Mexico, but near it, Tuscon, Arizona. He's heading for El Paso tomorrow. Calls for tougher border security, along with a guest worker program, which he wants Congress to pull off the shelf.

Whether this would impact the broader political scenery is another matter, a report in "The New York Daily News" today saying the president is essentially digging in. "It is everybody else's fault," says one source, described as a Republican insider, "the press, the gutless Republicans on the Hill. They're still in denial."

"The staff," and other sources quoted, "basically still has an unyielding belief in the wisdom of what they're doing. They're talking to people who could help them, but they're not listening," meanwhile, the Democrats, depending on your viewpoint, making either a cynical political play or an act of generosity, or maybe both. They have picked New Orleans for their spring meeting come next April.

Back to "The New York Daily News" report, and its co-author, White House correspondent Ken Bazinet.

Mr. Bazinet, thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: This is not the first piece in your paper that describes, in very specific terms, with a lot of quotes, a White House that's seemingly refusing to admit reality into any of the various equations of life. Not questioning the sources or the story, so much as noting that there really has not been much else like this reported elsewhere.

At what distance are these sources? And if they're card-carrying members of the Washington GOP establishment, what do you think their motives are in speaking, and speaking so bluntly?

BAZINET: Well, I can tell you, my colleague and boss, Tom DeFrank, is probably the best-sourced reporter when it comes to this White House, simply because of the amount of time he's spent on the beat previously with "Newsweek." He's very close to an awful lot of folks who, I think it would be fair to say, are kitchen cabinet members of top staffers, as well as the president.

This story, I think, is very interesting, because it is sourced also inside the White House, which is very - it's very different for this White House, since they are notoriously quiet and march lockstep and very rarely speak out of school.

OLBERMANN: So this environment that we're seeing, and is described today, do these sources see that environment as influencing Mr. Bush? Or is Mr. Bush influencing the environment?

BAZINET: Well, Mr. Bush is doing what he always does. He is a man in charge, and there's no second-guessing or questioning that. What I will tell you is that the president is someone who, I think, is not necessarily listening to advice inside or outside of the White House, again, those kitchen cabinet advisers, when it comes to changing course.

So I think with our story today, what you're seeing is a technique that has been used certainly in previous administrations and is - and now, I think you might see more of it in this administration. And that is, Let's see if we can influence the president by maybe just speaking a little bit out of school, and letting folks know, letting the president know, specifically, that, you know, we think we have to change a step or two here, sir.

OLBERMANN: I'm sure that all those who are not contributing to these stories are just delighted to read them. Do you have an idea of the reaction, and whether or not those people who might be trying to send a message through your reports are getting response?

BAZINET: Well, I can't speak for our sources, because we're staying away from them, as you can imagine, out of respect for them. But I can tell you that my e-mail inbox today was a delightful wakeup call. And I did play a little bit of tag with one top White House official, whom I admire and respect quite a bit.

But at the end of the day, DeFrank and Bazinet are not exactly the kind of reporters who are going to divulge sources. And we certainly stand by that story.

Primarily, we - I think, you know, what gives that - what gives the story merit is the fact that you haven't seen a lot of change out of the president. He has been saying pretty much the same thing for an awful long time. And the game plan has been, Admit nothing, show no fear. And what you will have is, otherwise, you know, it'll look like we have done something wrong.

OLBERMANN: And that's the Benjamin Franklin for-want-of-a-nail kind of story, because if you're not going to listen to people outside, and you're not going to bring people inside, because that might look like an admission of failure or need, then you have this circle that does not allow anything to change, correct?

BAZINET: Absolutely, absolutely. And it's - you know, I have to admit, up until a point, it's worked, up until the CIA leak probe. And then, I think, the hinges came off a few doors.

But - and at this point now, the president's getting an awful lot of advice from, you know, many different quarters. But it's a lot - you know, I can only compare to it Don Mattingly suggesting that A-Rod suggests, you know, changes his grip. But, you know, A-Rod still has to hit the long ball.

OLBERMANN: I don't get those sports references.


OLBERMANN: Ken Bazinet, the White House reporter for "The New York Daily News," thanks for joining us, sir.

BAZINET: My pleasure.

OLBERMANN: Is this a sign of the apocalypse? A barking panda? Fun with paint. Of course, that's not necessarily the way he sees it, is it?

And is this a sign of the end times? Brits allowed to drink in pubs around the clock, 24 hours a day. Could there be a silver lining, or are they just all so drunk that we can see their auras?

Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: We're back, and as we do each evening at this time, we pause our Countdown of the day's real news for a brief segment full of strange animals outside the Beltway.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin in Japan, where pandas roam free in the streets. Actually, they seem to be shirking some sort of leash law here. That's Columbo, the panda puppy. Don't worry, Mr. Senator. There was not any bear-on-dog activity here. It's just a really good dye job.

Columbo is a poodle-Maltese cross whose owners said inking him up to make him look like a panda just made sense, because the dog always had stains around his eyes anyway. Yes, how many times have all of us have heard something like that? Now, anyway, he's just the cutest thing going, an international superstar, the only panda in the world who tries to mate with everything he sees.

But the dye only lasts about a month. So barring another paint job, Columbo will turn back into a pumpkin about the end of December. Then you'll find out who really loves you, Columbo, and it is not going to be pretty.

To Latvia for a real top dog, Anka, the world's number-one guard dog, number one guard dog. And that's his real hair color, thank you very much. The Belgian shepherd beat out dozens of dogs from NATO member countries to win the organization's top honors. Clearly, the most superior dog in the hurdle jumping, crawling through smoke-filled tunnel, fetching a stick, and give me your paw competitions. Come on, give me your paw. Good boy.

He's lost in the cabinetry.

Finally, to Chile, where the whole country is talking about the mysterious rooster that acts like a hen. How does it act like a hen? Well, it lays eggs. How's that for starters? That's the report, anyway. His owner, this guy, says he rooster has laid 10 eggs, each one filled with egg whites only, no yolks. How California cuisine. A Chilean veterinarian says a - there is a 95 percent chance this bird is a hermaphrodite, possessing both male and female sex organs. Of course, there's a 3 percent chance that the veterinarian is also a hermaphrodite.

Also tonight, former NFL star Michael Ervin (ph) in trouble with the law again, his explanation sounding a little bit like that dog owner's story about why he keeps painting his dog.

But up next, civilian drivers shot at in Iraq. Is somebody playing a deadly game? Or are security contractors protecting themselves?

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, the unnamed French fisherman lost at sea for 20 days, finally rescued 800 miles out in the Caribbean. The crew of the Dutch frigate that found him reported that he immediately asked - seriously - immediately asked if they could give him a croissant. Hello Mr. Cliche.

Number two, again, we do not have the name, and there are a lot of crazy memorabilia items out there. This some guy has a George Bechts (ph) jock strap bronzed on a plaque. But in an auction of every item imaginable left inside the now being destroyed Busch Stadium in St. Louis, somebody has paid $2,174 for the urinal from the bullpen.

And number one, that Amtrak train you might have seen blowing through - north through Fredericksburg, Virginia on Thanksgiving, that was an new Amtrak logo you saw on the front of the locomotive, it was a real bird - a bald eagle - a live bald eagle. It was hit by the train or the train hit it or something happened. And the bird got stuck. The alert crew contacted the local bald eagle expert. The bird was rescued and is in good health now. And will, of course, be charged $37 for the fare!

Thank you for riding Amtrak Northeast (INAUDIBLE).


OLBERMANN: It looks like private security guards shooting, seemingly at random, at passing vehicles on the road to the Baghdad Airport, all of it captured on video, video that reportedly first appeared on a Web site that is unofficially linked to a British contracting firm called Aegis Defense Services. And you and I are paying Aegis defense services $293 million as part of a contract awarded by the Pentagon last year. Our third story on the Countdown, to borrow the headline from the newspaper that reported all this first, "the Sunday Telegraph" in London: "Trophy Video Exposes Private Security Contractors Shooting up Iraqi Drivers."

But is the video what it seems to be? We know only this much, it is a montage of shootings with Elvis Presley's "Mystery Train" as a musical background. An expert will help us try to explain it.

First, we better show most of it to you.

The Web site that first posted that tape, according to "the Sunday Telegraph," was which states, this site does not belong to Aegis Defense Limited, it belongs to the men on the ground who are the heart and soul of the company. The company is now investigating the video. And has, quote, "established a formal board of inquiry in cooperation with the U.S. military authorities to investigate whether the footage has any connection with the company. And should this be the case, under what circumstances any incident took place."

We contacted the Pentagon. It said it is unaware of any investigation over here, but cannot speak for any possible investigation by the U.S. authorities in Baghdad.

Here to help put this video in to at least some kind of context is MSNBC terrorism analyst and the founder of, Evan Kohlmann. Good evening, Evan.


OLBERMANN: Your first impressions of this tape? What exactly are we seeing here? Those were shootings. Any way to tell what they were and whether they were justified?

KOHLMANN: I think there are two thing to be said about this video. Number one, I don't begrudge private contractors from the right to self-defense. Supposedly, these videos were taken on the road between Baghdad and Baghdad's Airport, which is probably one of the most dangerous roads on earth.

In one three or four-month period, there were 150 separate attacks on that road, Including Many suicide bombings perpetrated by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. These attacks target convoys of western vehicles. They look for when vehicles slow down at check points, at stoppage points and they try to attack them.

So look, if you're a contractor, and you have a vehicle headed towards you at 60 miles an hour, you only have a few seconds to make that decision. It is either your life or theirs. It could be a suicide bomber. It could be an Iraqi family rushing to the hospital.

And these incidents happen with the U.S. military as well. Just last week in Iraq, a U.S. military convoy fired on a civilian vehicle, killing four, including two kids north of Diala (ph) because it was a suspected suicide bomber.

That being said, I think that you draw a line when you compose a video, edit it and add music to it. If the people who filmed this video are the same individuals who added music to it, not only are they sick and twisted, but what is more, is that they are doing tremendous disservice to the United States and great Britain in Iraq.

Not just for private security contractors, but this video is going to be picked up by terrorist groups. It's going to be picked up by extremists, by the insurgents, and it's going to be used to kill more contractors, U.S. troops, it's going to be used to recruit people to do this. So, you know, the stupidity here is in and of itself apparent.

OLBERMANN: Are civilians, civilian contractors, beholden to the same criteria as the U.S. military and other forces there when it comes to making that judgment call about self-defensive shooting in a circumstance like this tape seems to suggest?

KOHLMANN: Well, supposedly, they operate under the same rules as the U.S. military. However, there really isn't anyone to check.

And what the Iraqi government says is that in a number of these cases, up to 60 different incidences of similar attacks going on. There's really no way for them to verify what happens on the ground.

Most of the time, the private contractors leave. They don't hang around waiting for somebody else to barge in on the situation. They deny a lot of times what happens.

So there's no compensation for the Iraqi families. And there's no answers to exactly what happens. We don't really know.

Again, I don't begrudge these private contractors the right to self-defense. If I knew that every vehicle approaching me was potentially a suicide car bomb loaded with hundreds of pounds of explosive, I would be a bit jumpy, too. But there's a big distinction between self-defense and then broadcasting something as a trophy video.

This is sick. It is twisted. And it's absolutely no different from what Abu Musab al-Zarqawi does. He broadcasts suicide bombings and glories the killings of civilians. We should not be a party to that same kind of propaganda.

OLBERMANN: We'll keep investigating this. The founder of, Evan Kohlmann, as always, great thanks for your time.

Elsewhere in Iraq, the return of that country's most popular televised event: the trial of Saddam Hussein. With the former butcher of Baghdad back to his usual belligerent self, showing up to court with a copy of the Koran and a slew of complaints, angrily telling the judge that he had to walk up four flights of stairs in chains while carrying the heavy holy book because the elevator wasn't working.

The judge calmly replied that he would ask the police to make sure that did not happen again. And Saddam Hussein shouted at him, you order them around, not ask them anything. He went on to complain that his guards were foreigners, that his papers and a pen had been taken from him.

Finally he settled down. The first witness took the stand posthumously. His testimony had to be delivered by a video message that was taped before his death. The trial has now been postponed a second time, to next week, to allow the defense team to replace two of its attorneys who were assassinated after the opening session of court in October.

Back here, Terrell Owens got into so much trouble at work that some of it has spilled over to the arbitrator who upheld his suspension by Owens' football employers.

Speaking of trouble, Madonna reaching a musical milestone, but does she have it in her to top Elvis? And if so, can she get it out or is it stuck there? That's next. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Michael Irvin's conflicting explanations for the discovery of a drug pipe in his car, a martial artist explanation for why he's towing his car, but not using his hands and England's explanation for permitting drinking 24 hours a day. Sports is next. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: It is the dog ate my homework of addiction. A drug pipe found in the car of the former NFL star and now TV analyst belonged to a friend of his who he is trying to help quit the habit. Or in another version, it belonged to his own brother. That he has a track record of drug abuse and other run-ins with the law even as a broadcaster is just an unfortunate coincidence here. Our number two story on the Countdown, Michael Irvin leads our nightly round-up of the world of wide sports.

Irvin who pleaded no contest to felony cocaine possession in 1996 and who was arrested for marijuana possession four years later, was pull over for speeding in Dallas Friday morning, his wife in his car with him. He was charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

He says he had put the pipe in the car - there were no drugs, just the pipe, after his unnamed troubled friend left it in Irvin's house on Thanksgiving. But the police report obtained by the Web site says that when asked by officers about the pipe, Irvin originally said, quote, "it is my brother's. He left it in here."

Officers also noted on the report, marijuana residue and plastic baggies. Whoever it belonged to, friend or brother, rather than just throw it out, Irvin said he had planned to drive to a public dumpster and dispose of it there because people go through the garbage at his house.

Michael Irvin now works as a football analyst for ESPN. Dan Patrick and I spoke to him on the radio this afternoon and pressed him about the obvious solution here, taking a voluntary drug test.



DAN PATRICK, ESPN RADIO: So, you would do that?

IRVIN: Well, if it is legally, it's not a problem, I don't have any problem doing that.

PATRICK: Legally, you don't...

IRVIN: I don't know the legalities of it.

PATRICK: You want to clean up...

IRVIN: Right. I do.

PATRICK:... your image.

I mean, the perception here is, right?

IRVIN: Yes, do I, Dan.

PATRICK: Isn't that the best way to go about it?

IRVIN: I think that's the best way to go about it. But still, I've been in some legal battles. And I know the twisting and the - the twisting all that stuff when it comes to the legalities of things. So certainly when I talk to my lawyer, we will address all of those ways to clear my name.


OLBERMANN: ESPN has not announced any disciplinary action against Michael Irvin. And he was still on the air this evening.

Not so for Terrell Owens, of course, and not so for the arbitrator now who ruled against him. Owens he is the receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was suspended for having slammed his teammates, ripped his coach, fighting with a former players. Richard Block was the arbitrator who upheld the suspension last week.

Now, the football player's union says it will exercise its right to fire Block from the list (AUDIO GAP)... seem to be disappearing. Theirs was once the marquee job in baseball. But they've already been turned down by prominent figures like Lou Panella. And now they're going to talk to Grady Little, fired by the Boston Red Sox as manager as he infamously left starting pitcher Pedro Martinez in too long during game seven of the 2003 American League playoffs against the New York Yankees.

The other Dodger candidates reportedly include former big league manager Jim Pergosi (ph), a long time coach named John McClarren (ph). Also, Nick Lachey, Aaron Brown, and Louis "Scooter" Libby.

And perhaps even this guy who we found on the Internet. Meet Mr. Tu Gin Chang (ph) who rounds our sports report by pulling a truck across a parking lot in Freemont, California with his penis.

According to one local account, quote, "he first tied a strip of blue fabric around his penis and testicles and tugged to make sure it was on tight." Editor's note, this was not part of the performance. Resuming the report, an assistant then kicked him hard between the legs before he latched himself to the vehicle. Editor's note, neither was that.

That will teach to you leave it in park.

Mr. Gin Shang (ph) who says he is 50-years-old, wound up moving the truck several yards with his, you know. He says if you pay him, he can teach you this and other parts of the martial art he calls iron crotch.

I'll pay him not to teach me. How is that?

It is this kind of range of sport stories that Dan Patrick and I bring you every day at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, 11:00 a.m. Pacific on ESPN Radio. From Michael Irvin and a possible drug test to a guy who has never heard of a toe line or a bungi chord. Be their there, aloha.

See, Dan had his lunch with him in that shot.

And now that part of the entertainment that often has its private parts out in public, but is rarely creative enough to pull anything with them. Our nightly round up of celebrity and showbiz, "Keeping Tabs."

Perfect example, Madonna. Can she pull a truck? I don't think so. But her new song "Hung Up," now up to seventh on the billboard hot 100 singles chart has allowed her to tie the record of 36 top 10 songs in a career set by Elvis Presley. Thank you very much. Who of course died with his private parts out in public in a manner of speaking.

Elvis had 36 top 10 hits from "Heart Break Hotel" in 1956, through "Burning Love" in 1972.

"Hung Up" is Madonna's 36th. Her first in nearly five years. 36th in a career spanning three centuries.

Another regular resident of "Keeping Tabs" is back tonight. Russell Crowe would probably agree that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. As late as last week, he was complaining that the media was making too much out his arrest in New York City last June for having thrown a telephone at a hotel concierge. Phone for you, buddy!

Crowe had just pleaded guilty to the charge earlier in this month. So asked to be a presenter at the Australian Oscars Saturday night, With What does Mr. Crowe walk out on to the stage? A big clunky looking phone.

If there are any problems, and you do get up here and go on too long, he warned the nominees for the Australian Film Industry Awards, then hello to my little friend.

Oh, I get it! We were making too much of it. You were not making too much of it! Oh!

(INAUDIBLE) Mr. Crowe, around-the-clock drinking is now in effect in England. Why lawmakers think it could stop binge boozing.

And the very unexpected early returns of their experiment. That's ahead.

But first, time for Countdown's list of today's three nominees for coveted title of worst person in the world. Not many at the bronze level.

The unnamed fan who ran out on the field yesterday during the Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles football game and dumped his mother there. Well, scattered her ashes. She was a lifelong Eagles fan. No complaint about that point. It's kind of bizarre, but it happens. But consider, this is not like getting your ashes scattered at Yankee Stadium, or the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Eagles only opened that ballpark two years ago.

The runner up, the four masked men who held up a struggling business that had just reopened in the Gaza Strip, its zoo. Carrying Kalashnikovs, they stole a lion cub and two parrots. We are told helpfully by Reuters that the two parrots speak Arabic.

But the winner, Ronald MacDonald of Manchester, New Hampshire. That's his name. Ronald MacDonald. M-A-C. He's 22-years-old. He, too, is accused of theft. In his case, robbery at his place of employment. Where did Ronald MacDonald work? Wendy's! Ronald MacDonald's, today's worst person in the world!


OLBERMANN: News came last week that of all the nations in Europe, the one with the biggest cocaine problem is Great Britain. So what a perfect time to extend that country's drinking laws to permit (AUDIO GAP)...

Our number one story on the Countdown, only the British could come up with this kind of tortured logic.

A, the traditional last call is 11:00 p.m. B, so the customers binge drink in the last 30 to 90 minutes. They then go out and destroy the peace and quiet or themselves or innocent bystanders, therefore D, they won't binge drink if you simply eliminate last call.

And no, legislators were all sober when they passed this legislation which went into effect over the weekend. Our correspondent in Bubbly London is Keith Miller.


KEITH MILLER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is certainly the season to be jolly. But in Britain, a dramatic increase in excessive drinking has called the government to rethink the law. The government want to end scenes like this when heavy drinkers pour into the streets at the traditional closing time of 11:00.

In the first major overhaul of alcohol serving laws in 80 years, pubs, restaurants and night clubs no longer have to close at 11:00 p.m.

(on camera): More than 70,000 drinking establishments have applied for the extended hours. And some have been granted licenses to stay open 24 hours a day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's nice to go out and get a beer when you want to.

MILLER: The argument is that later closing times will lead to more civilized drinking.

OISIN ROGERS, PUB MANAGER: I think it probably will, actually, because there won't be such a rush to get the drinks finished by 11:00.

MILLER: (AUDIO GAP) Alcohol abuse is costing Britain $3 billion a year. Binge drinking has become a national embarrassment with three in five men and one in five women consuming an unhealthy amount of alcohol.

Another problem, alcohol-fueled violence. After midnight, 70 percent of emergency room admissions are alcohol related. Police say last call in Britain is a problem no matter what the hour.

JEREMY PAINE, POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: People will be spending more money on alcohol and drinking more to excess, then there will be more violence. There's no doubt about that.

MILLER: The government is spending millions of dollars in an anti drinking campaign, but it's unlikely to influence how much people drink.

HELEN SYMONS, ALCOHOL CONCERN SPOKESWOMAN: We're going to see the same drinking patterns that we have now, but happening later into the night.

MILLER: The change in the drinking law may alter forever how the British socialize. The government is hoping its citizens will be sober enough to enjoy it.

Keith Miller, NBC News, London.


OLBERMANN: So the first weekend of this was an unmitigated disaster, right? They're still putting out the bodies of those Brits whose blood alcohol counts were so high they spontaneously combusted, right? Nope. In Bournemouth, in Dorset, where 51 different bars are licensed to serve round the clock, police said Friday night was quieter than usual. Same in London, in Newcastle and Nottingham and Liverpool. So maybe that's the solution, no last call. While we're at it, no minimum drinking age. As the commercial says, brilliant!

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