'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for May 27
Guest: Raghida Dergham, Martin Fletcher, Jennifer Berman
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Can't blame this on "Newsweek." Muslims protest in at least five countries after U.S. military admits to mishandling the Qu'ran at Guantanamo Bay.
On the other hand, this sign at a North Carolina church has come down.
Fifty would-be suicide bombers headed for Israel under the age of 18, half a dozen under the age of 16. Tonight, news that some families in the West Bank are fighting back against terrorist recruiters.
Yes, yes. You've already heard the "Stop it or..." jokes. Thirty-eight reports of Viagra users going blind, four of Cialis users going blind. But were those men's odds of going blind just as good, whether or not they used the drugs?
And I do my little turn on the catwalk. Yes, on the catwalk. The horse who apparently has had enough of the dog-eat-dog world of modeling.
All that and more, now on Countdown.
We can't say we didn't warn us. Within 24 hours of the Pentagon's admission that there were probably three intentional mishandlings of copies of the Qu'ran at Guantanamo Bay, and probably two more accidental ones, anti-American protests, including flag and effigy burning, broke out in at least six Muslim nations today.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, plenty of words, plenty of smoke, plenty of chanting. No deaths reported. And the largest individual rally appears to have been in Alexandria, Egypt, with about 12,000 on hand.
These protests, just like the ones after the "Newsweek" story, had actually been previously planned, in this case, planned a week ago. But with the Pentagon's admission, the timing now auspicious. Effigies of President Bush both burned and beaten, other protesters holding anti-American signs aloft to voice their anger over the acknowledged mishandling of the Qu'ran.
Meanwhile, protests of another sort here in the U.S. The secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, interrupted during a speech in San Francisco this afternoon by hecklers wearing black hoods just like the ones worn by at least one Abu Ghraib inmate. The crowd applauding as they were escorted from the hall. Madame Secretary seemingly undisturbed by the interruption, telling the audience that freedom of speech is a good thing.
If by this point you're confused about what has been done to the Qu'ran, by whom, when it was done, and which reports of alleged abuse are actually accurate, that may, in fact, be the intended goal of the entire exercise. Our goal tonight, to clear up any confusion as best we can.
In a moment, the guidance regarding that from Raghida Dergham.
First, a quick recap. The Pentagon confirming that it has identified five incidents of Qu'ran mishandling at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
Out of 13 allegations it has investigated, of those, officials characterizing two as likely to have been accidents, downplaying all as infrequent relics of the detention center's first days - that would be in early 2002 - and taking pains to stress that Islam's holy book was never flushed down a toilet. That claim made by "Newsweek" in its now-retracted report.
Of note, it appears that neither the retraction nor the apology that preceded it ever made it into the magazine's Arabic edition.
As mentioned, we're joined now by Raghida Dergham, the senior diplomatic correspondent for the newspaper "Al Hayat" and an MSNBC analyst.
Raghida, good evening.
RAGHIDA DERGHAM, SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, "AL HAYAT": Good evening to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: These protesters look at the Pentagon statement and presumably say, The U.S. is disrespectful and dishonest. And many in this country would probably look at the protesters and say, The U.S. is forthright and trying to correct a problem.
Why can't we please anybody? Is either version of reality correct here?
DERGHAM: Well, what's clear is that there was a mishandling by the Pentagon of the whole story to begin with. From the very beginning, I think, they should have simply said, We are outraged if any such thing has happened, and we will investigate it fully, and we'll put the investigation up front.
Instead, they were outraged by "Newsweek" and its report, and they turned this whole episode to attack the media and to have more control of the media and to spin. That is one of the problems. The effect is that there was a disbelief that "Newsweek" acted on its own when it apologized or retracted its story, and then now we hear of mishandling.
And the word "mishandling" of the Qu'ran by itself leaves a terrible impact on those people who already have recalled the visions of what happened in the prison of Abu Ghraib and in Guantanamo Bay, the Guantanamo prison, which really a lot of people are saying, Shut it down. And I think it should be. By now, it's become a stigma for the United States.
OLBERMANN: Another measure of the cultural gap here, are there considered to be degrees of desecration regarding the Qu'ran? Would the protests today have been the same if the allegation were thrown in a toilet or thrown on the floor, or anything else?
DERGHAM: Well, Keith, of course, you know anything, when you take a holy book and you bring - (INAUDIBLE) show of throwing a holy book in the toilet, that, of course, is more instant outrage than, say, the holy book on the floor.
The fact of the matter is, this is the Word of God for the Muslims. And it is offensive to use it for interrogation or for - in a way that it's desecrating the Holy Qu'ran.
I noticed the women, I think they were in India, the Muslim women, when they were demonstrating, I saw that they were burning the Constitution of the United States. In effect, this is their saying, Well, this is our revenge. But we will not go as far as burning the Book of God, the Holy Bible.
So I - you know, I think - of course there was total outrage at the reports of the toilet, but I think any mishandling of the Qu'ran is offensive to Muslims.
OLBERMANN: This news tonight about the "Newsweek" retraction and the apology not getting printed in the Arabic edition of the magazine, nor posted on the Arabic Web site of the magazine, is that as important as it would seem at first blush, or with the Internet now and translations in and out of English as readily as it happens, does that not really make a difference?
DERGHAM: Well, you said it. It actually has been covered throughout the Arab media in reports about what "Newsweek" did first in apologizing and secondly in retracting the story. I don't understand why the Arab "Newsweek" did not publish fully its apology or its retraction. I think they should have, if they didn't. But I think it was well covered throughout the Arab media in as far as the "Newsweek" angle of it.
The Arab media was, of course, trying to also focus on what happened to the responsibility of the media altogether, American media, and that it was questioning what - how come there was no accountability and transparency when the American media really got it totally wrong on the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as a justification for going to war? And a war later in the Arab - (INAUDIBLE) the American media really did not apologize or did not really take itself, you know, to task seriously.
So "Newsweek" should be, of course, if they had been wrong, and they said they were wrong, they apologized as they should have. But I think we should take a deeper look at what the responsibility of the media here altogether.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, big picture. There's so much conflict and so much in conflict between these two cultures. Does it surprise you that what seem like the easier things aren't being handled smoothly by the U.S. military? Or, in at least one case, the U.S. media?
DERGHAM: But isn't this where it matters, Keith? Normally it's what we think is the easier thing, and the fact of the matter, it is the culture of secrecy, the culture of everything is justifiable in the name of the war on terror. And that is wrong.
I think the bottom line is that we are doing something totally wrong in not letting the International Red Cross, the humanitarian - you know, that we need to be more (INAUDIBLE). Guantanamo must be put under international jurisdiction. Otherwise, just shut it down. It's become harmful to the United States.
OLBERMANN: Raghida Dergham of "Al Hayat" and MSNBC. As always, great thanks.
DERGHAM: I thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: There is tonight one small step forwards towards understanding on this front. The Reverend Creighton Lovelace has gone from defending the sign in front of his church 60 miles west of Charlotte, North Carolina, to apologizing for it. Lovelace has removed the message that read, "The Qu'ran Needs to Be Flushed!" exclamation point.
Four officials of the Southern Baptist Convention contacted him and suggested that the sign by itself might be putting missionaries overseas in danger. The Reverend Lovelace, who appeared as a guest on this program Tuesday night, adding in a statement, quote, "I apologize for posting that message and deeply regret that it has offended so many in the Muslim community."
Further turmoil in the Middle East tonight because of reports concerning the deteriorating health of a Saudi monarch. King Fahd taken to a Riyadh hospital today, apparently because he's suffering from pneumonia, the official news release saying only that the 82-year-old Fahd had been admitted for unspecified medical tests and was doing well.
But Saudi princes have reportedly begun arriving in Riyadh, raising alarm bells, and an Arab official telling the Associated Press that the government has put the kingdom on a state of alert, canceling all military leaves as a precaution, that report being denied by the Saudi government.
As analogies go, putting the nomination of John Bolton as U.N. ambassador on a state of alert would be an obvious exaggeration. Nevertheless, it's back in limbo tonight, banished there at this time last night by Senate Democrats staging a procedural attack as successful as it was surprising. The no-cloture vote, better known as a filibuster, catching everyone, nearly, off-guard, no one more so than the Republican majority.
In name, the move against Bolton in no way linked to Monday's deal, the one that sidestepped a showdown over the right to filibuster judicial candidates. Bolton is an executive branch nominee, not a judicial one, and the Democrats claiming they are not trying to block the vote, merely to force the administration to cough up information about Bolton.
Nevertheless, Republicans are trying to wrap it all up into one donkey-embossed image, the White House press secretary saying today, "Just 72 hours after all the goodwill and bipartisanship, it is a shame to see the Democratic Senate leadership resort back to such a partisan approach. This is a nominee that enjoys majority support."
I'm joined now by Chuck Todd, editor of "The Hotline," the "National Journal"'s daily political briefing.
Chuck, thanks for your time tonight.
CHUCK TODD, EDITOR, "THE HOTLINE": You got it.
OLBERMANN: Senator DeWine of Ohio, "It is unfortunate, it is too bad, but the deal was on judges, not on anything else." Who are the Senate Republicans madder at, themselves or the Democrats?
TODD: Oh, I think they're angry at the Democrats. I do think they thought they would get goodwill when it comes to the John Bolton nomination. But at the same time, you know, this shouldn't come as a surprise. Harry Reid first threatened a filibuster on John Bolton six weeks ago. So the fact they were caught off-guard here shows an inept leadership more than anything else.
And I think that that - this is where this story sort of is interesting to people that are watching Congress. It's the fact that it seems that if the Senate Republican leadership was somehow caught off-guard, that's not a very good defense, considering they didn't have a good week as it is, when it comes to whether - how much they really knew about the judges' deal and all this stuff.
OLBERMANN: There are a couple of ways of projecting what's going to happen now, one of them being that in a perverse way, this could all help guarantee Bolton's approval, in the sense that unless the documents on him that the Democrats want to see get released, and they show him to have caused, you know, flu epidemics or something, that there's no way now that a Republican other than George Voinovich could vote against him. Is that the line of thinking, or is it the other way?
TODD: I'm - look, I think it's the other way. This feels like, the longer this drags out, the more likely his nomination is in trouble. You know, through the grapevine this week, you know, a source tells a source tells a source of (INAUDIBLE), you know, supposedly when John Bolton found out that Voinovich wasn't just going to just make a speech coming out against his appointment to the United Nations, but he was actually going to start lobbying other senators, that that's when Bolton started wondering, Jeez, I think my nomination's in trouble.
You know, I think the - Voinovich seems like he's pretty passionate about this. Look, there were plenty of Republicans who seem uncomfortable about having to toe the line on Bolton. They were getting a lot of pressure from the base. Some of these interest groups bought radio ads, did phone calls, did a lot of phone banking.
Now, though, that the longer you drag it out, the less intensity there is, and the less intensity, the easier it may be for some of these Republicans to say, You know what? I just don't like this guy. I'm not voting for him.
OLBERMANN: Now the other question is, is the there going to be a long-term impact on that judicial filibuster compromise? Could the Republicans now be so ticked off at what happened regarding Bolton that they now back out of that deal at some point?
TODD: Well, I'll tell you, I think secretly Bill Frist would love nothing more than to trigger this nuclear option. He needs to desperately prove to the Republican base that he has the guts to do this, and he's going to stand up to the - stand up for conservatives. I think his presidential hopes took a big hit this week, because the base is very unhappy that he cut any deal.
That said, I think these guys are exhausted, number one, in the Senate. You know, this is hard work when they have to work every day of a five-day week, really tough for them.
But number two, I think they all realize, Let's see what happens. The Supreme Court is going - we're going to get some announcements from members of the Supreme Court, probably in the next three or four weeks. And I think everybody's realizing, let's keep the powder dry till the Fourth of July, and then see what happens.
OLBERMANN: Yes, those cots that they brought in for the supposed filibuster, those are there every day. People don't realize that.
TODD: Yes, well, that's because, as Fritz Hollings said, it's the best nursing home in America.
OLBERMANN: Chuck Todd, editor of "The Hotline," thanks for starting your holiday weekend with us.
TODD: You got it, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the battle to keep teenage boys from becoming Palestinian suicide bombers. One family there fighting back.
And big concerns tonight over impotency drugs. Did Viagra cause 38 out of its 23 million users to go blind? Or is that just the number that you would expect would go blind out of any group of 23 million people?
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Whether it would significantly impact the insurgency in Iraq seems to be as debated as whether or not Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is actually dead, or actually seriously wounded, or neither.
Our fourth story in the Countdown tonight, those who traffic in suicide bombs, from the self-described masterminds to the manipulators of teenage boys to whom the devices are strapped.
Zarqawi first. The new Internet statement, reportedly from Zarqawi's chief spokesman, says the terrorist leader is in, quote, "good health" and still in charge of his group, Al Qaeda in Iraq. The last such statement attributed to the same spokesman said he was badly wounded, an assessment that has been endorsed by the Iraqi minister of the interior, although that official would not say how he is supposed to have known that.
The insurgency in Iraq uncharacteristically quiet today, but not so in Islamabad in Pakistan. A suicide bomber there blew himself up in the middle of a group of Shi'ite worshipers, at least 20 killed, 150 wounded. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but sectarian violence between the Sunnis and the Shi'ites flares up periodically in that country as well as in Iraq.
Of all things, that leads us to the controversy over the opening of the Broadway musical "South Pacific" in the spring of 1949. At the last minute, the backers of that production tried to kill one of the songs, "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught," which argued, maybe for the first time in this country, that racial, ethnic, and religious prejudice was not natural, but had to be deliberately created in kids by adults.
Seemingly, it's a long way from that song echoing in the Majestic Theater in New York to this report from our correspondent Martin Fletcher among the would-be suicide bombers of the West Bank. But as you will discern presently, it is pretty much all the same place.
MARTIN FLETCHER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mohammed, a 15-year-old schoolboy with murder on his mind. "I came to kill the Jews," he says.
On Sunday, Israeli soldiers thought he looked suspicious at this West Bank roadblock. They found a bomb strapped to his chest, but detonated it safely.
Already this year, 50 Palestinian boys under the age of 18, five under 16, have been found trying to carry bombs into Israel.
At Mohammed's home in the Nablus refugee camp, his parents were devastated, and furious - surprisingly, not with Israel, but with the Palestinian militants who they say brainwashed their son.
Delal (ph), Mohammed's mother.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They are criminals, these people who send children. God will punish them.
FLETCHER: So who are they? She had no doubt. The Al Aqsa Brigade, the militia that's carried out dozens of suicide attacks against Israel that are financed by the Palestinian government.
(on camera): So now we're walking through the Nablus refugee camp looking for Al Aqsa leaders. (INAUDIBLE) they usually do.
(voice-over): Yesterday we found the Al Aqsa leader. Since the truce with Israel, Naser Ab-Waziz (ph) can walk more freely. He himself was jailed at the age of 13 for attacking Israeli soldiers, but he swore he would never send a child to his death, never.
(on camera): You're the head of Al Aqsa in Nablus. How is it possible that you don't know who did it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Maybe it was the Israelis. We told them (INAUDIBLE) Palestinian president we will investigate. But Al Aqsa would not do this.
FLETCHER (voice-over): And today, we found Mohammed. He's being interrogated by the Israeli secret services.
(on camera): This is a message to you from your mother. She asked me to tell you this, that you should depend on God and confess. Boy, please, tell the Israelis everything, tell them who sent you.
(voice-over): And we asked him...
(on camera): Who gave you the bombs?
(voice-over): At first he wouldn't say. Then...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Al Aqsa. They came to get me five times. In the beginning, I refused. Then they kept talking and talking to me, and in the end, I agreed.
FLETCHER: Delal took us to her son's school and found his classmates.
They too were angry at Al Aqsa.
"It's quiet now," Mustafa says. "It's safe. Why send Mohammed with a bomb to destroy everything?"
And the loud cry to the children, Don't let anyone brainwash you.
Your mothers need you, like I need my son.
Mohammed says Al Aqsa promised him he will be a martyr, and God would forgive him. Instead, tonight, he is lost and alone.
Martin Fletcher, NBC News, Nablus, on the West Bank.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, what happens when the worlds of beauty and beast collide?
I'm getting out of here, Wilbur. Nobody told me there'd be cameras.
And we're now past the 51-hour mark, the standoff with a murder suspect continues high above Atlanta. Is there anything for authorities to do besides keep waiting?
Stand by indeed.
OLBERMANN: As we resume Countdown, we swerve to a grinding halt to offer up our regular segment full of rampaging horses, rampaging elephants, and, of course, rampaging egos.
Let's play Oddball.
We begin in Lima, Peru, at a particularly ambitious fashion show. It was not enough to just showcase the former Miss Peru, Ms. Frida Jimena Joler (ph), wearing a wedding dress. No, no, no, no. She had to be on a white steed too.
Big horse, big dress, big crowd, itty-bitty little catwalk. When the unfortunate model tried to turn her ride around. Down goes Frida! Down goes Frida!
Notice how the fashion crowd rushed up to help the horse get back up.
But it's all in vain. The steed promptly follows the supermodel off the stage. Neither beast nor beauty was hurt in the making of this debacle, although there was copious weeping in the audience, in the vow that the designer made, that, That horse will never work in this town again.
From new runways - or new runaways on the runway to old runaways on the menu. Seoul, South Korea. You'll remember two months ago the three rogue elephants who decided they wanted takeout service at the local barbecue joint. They made a mess, but the owner has now made a profit.
She has renamed the place, choosing the singularly creative title Restaurant Where Elephants Have Been. She's also changed the bill of fare. She is now offering elephant-themed meals, like the Elephant Set, consisting of seven vegetable dishes, because, she says, elephants like to eat vegetables.
Finally, the doors reopened, and presto, locals and tourists alike flocking in to chow down. You know, we never did find out what happened to those elephants who broke into the place. But, say, waiter, what's this particularly pungent flavor in the secret sauce, hmmm? Hmmm?
Fort Hood, Texas. (INAUDIBLE)! It's the newest edition to the Fourth Infantry Division Museum there, Saddam Hussein. You couldn't tell? This is a lifesized latex mannequin of the former Butcher of Baghdad, modeled on what he looked like when the Fourth ID pulled him out of his spider hole in December 2003.
It cost the taxpayers $7,500, and a rush order was made so they could get in it place by Memorial Day. Before you begin asking if it was worth it, just remember, it could have been worse. It could have been modeled after that photo of him last week in his underwear.
Luckily, that image did not blind us. But now there are concerns that Viagra might have the capacity to do that. The FDA launching an investigation. But could it be that the drugs did not have anything to do with the reports of blindness?
And more outrage for Australians in Indonesia. First it was a short sentence for a Muslim cleric convicted in the Bali bombing which killed so many Australians. Now it's an incredibly long sentence for an Australian woman convicted of marijuana possession.
These stories ahead.
But now, here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, an unnamed woodpecker in Sullivan, New York, near Syracuse. He's convinced that every other woodpecker he sees, especially the ones near automobiles, are his mortal enemies, so he tries to smash them head first, fly right into them. Of course, the other woodpeckers he's seeing are actually just his own reflections in car mirrors. He broke at least 30 car mirrors last year, just got his 17th and 18th of this year on the passenger's and driver's sides of the same Chevy Malibu.
Number two, the National Counter-Corruption Commission of Thailand. It's rooting out a very serious problem in that nation. It just caught nine government officials who had each padded their salaries by about 1,500 bucks a month. The nine officials were the members of the National Counter-Corruption Commission. Oops!
And number one, Northwest Airlines. In February, it eliminated free meals for passengers, substituting a free bag of pretzels. In April, they eliminated the free pillows. As of two weeks from now, the free pretzels will cost 3 bucks.
Next year? No wings!
OLBERMANN: George Carlin once asked how anybody could wonder why drugs were a problem in this country when in every city on every other street corner, there was a big neon sign reading, "Drugs." Our third story on the Countdown: Plenty of trouble with drugs tonight of all different kinds, starting with a surprise that leads the a very obvious, and in this case, very tasteless joke. Three of the - all three of the leading male impotence drugs have been - may have caused a few dozen cases of blindness in its users. The FDA is investigating 43 such reports now: 38 among users of Viagra, four among users of Cialis, 1 among users of the third drug, Levitra.
A spokesman for Pfizer, which makes Viagra, acknowledges that the company has discussed, in addition to the warning label, they would say that in rare cases, men taking Viagra had developed blindness. But he points out that the two things may not be linked. The vision loss is a specific kind called NAION, sudden vision loss when blood flow to the optic nerve is blocked. There are anywhere from 1,000 to 6,000 cases in this country per year, and the risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and high cholesterol.
I'm joined now by urologist and sexual dysfunction expert Dr. Jennifer Berman. Dr. Berman, thank you for your time tonight.
DR. JENNIFER BERMAN, SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION EXPERT: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: So Pfizer's argument is, if out of the 23 million men who have ever used Viagra, 38 of them really did go blind with NAION, the odds are those 38 guys would have gone blind from NAION, even if they'd never used Viagra. Is that the gist of it?
BERMAN: Well, clearly, a causal relationship cannot be established at this time based on the data that we have. Certainly, there may be an association, but as you mentioned, these were patients that were at risk for that happening anyway. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are all associated with that disease. So we don't have an animal model, and we don't have a pre-clinical explanation for why or how it's happening. And certainly, it's premature to say that Viagra or any of the other drugs is actually causing it.
OLBERMANN: There's also no information, I assume, on how many of those 38 guys shouldn't have been using the drug in the first place, right, I mean, whose doctors didn't know or didn't understand the risks, or people who took it without a prescription or who took it even if they were told not to.
BERMAN: Well, that's a good point. I think the message from all of this should be that patients that are at risk for that condition should be screened appropriately with an ophthalmological exam and should be informed about the potential risk. That's really as far as we can take this. Certainly, it's not - you know, all men taking Viagra are not at risk of becoming blind.
OLBERMANN: All that having been said, because the best known side effect of that drug is the famous blue tint to your vision, because this was the lead story on two of the three network news broadcasts tonight, isn't this still likely to cause a panic among Viagra users and the people who love them?
BERMAN: I mean, it's too early to panic. What we should gain from this is that patients at risk for this condition - high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease - should be aware that there is a potential risk to their eyes, and they should be screened appropriately. As a clinician, and for my patients, that's really what I would gain. But certainly, it is way premature to say that that's exactly what's causing it. Viagra actually increases blood flow, and what we're talking about is a condition of ischemia or decreased blood flow. So we certainly don't have an explanation for how or why it's even happening.
OLBERMANN: So sum this up for us medically and psychologically. What would you recommend a Viagra or Cialis or Levitra user to do? Do you throw the stuff out the window? Do you go and have your doctor doublecheck your risk factors, even if you don't have any risk factors? What would you do to reassure yourself that you're not leading to blindness in some way?
BERMAN: Be aware of the risk factors, speak to your doctor about it, undergo a full ophthalmological exam to determine if you do have the pre-determining risk factors for that condition, and don't take it if you do. Not all patients do. I mean, 38 out of 23 million is really not a significant number. But just be aware. The blue vision is a completely different mechanism. This is something new. It's something different. It's something that we need to be aware of. But I don't think that it's going to be a condition that affects all patients.
OLBERMANN: Yes, 38 cases out of 23 million would not sound like many, except if you were looking at the media coverage of this story today. Dr. Jennifer Berman, director of urology at the Rodeo Drive Women's Health Center in southern California, great. Thanks for your time tonight.
BERMAN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Then there's drug smuggling or having drugs planted on you in a foreign country. One of those two things has happened to an Australian woman on the Indonesian island of Bali. And this kind of Bali high is so charged with emotion that it's now threatening the diplomatic relations between those two countries. Our report is from correspondent Paul Davis of our affiliated British network, ITV.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL DAVIS, ITV (voice-over): The trial had attracted massive attention in Indonesia and in the native Australia, but now it was over and Schapelle Corby was ushered into the Bali courtroom to hear its verdict.
Schapelle, a 27-year-old beauty therapist, was arrested when nine pound of cannabis was found in her surfing bag when she arrived in Bali on holiday. Among those cramming into the court to hear her fate were her parents, who've consistently claimed the drugs were planted in her luggage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, she's innocent, so she will be coming home.
DAVIS: The judges had the power to impose a death sentence. But Schapelle's lawyers had told here they were confident they'd done enough to prove her innocence. They were wrong. The verdict was guilty as charged.
At first, Schapelle didn't realize she'd been sentenced to 20 years in prison. But when the judges' decision was translated for her, she broke down. Schapelle's family berated the judges, and for a few minutes, there was pandemonium in the courtroom, the young Australian woman pushing through, police and court officials to reach her family. The angry scenes and protests continued outside the court as Schappelle's family were forcibly removed from the building.
GLEN JEFFER, CORBY'S FRIEND: All Australia asks is that you give Schappelle back to us. Schappelle is innocent!
DAVIS: Flanked by police officers, Schapelle Corby was taken back to prison. Her lawyers say they'll appeal, and the Australian government has offered its own legal team to assist them. Paul Davis, ITV News.
OLBERMANN: For the record, in 2002, an al Qaeda attack in Bali killed 202 people, 88 of them Australian. It's a popular tourist location for Australians. That same court that gave Ms. Corby 20 years found a Muslim cleric guilty of involvement in the bombing - 30 months.
Meantime, not in any dispute, the ambitious smuggling plan by somebody in Ecuador, who managed to send 750 pounds of cocaine to Miami in fake plantains. A customs agent noticed some of the plantains seemed unusually stiff, so he cut a few open and found out they were not the green bananas, they were glass fiber vessels painted and filled with coke. But the phony fruit was mixed in among 1,080 boxes of real plantains, so DEA agents are still sifting the drugs from the fruit. They figure the smugglers had a simpler plan. They were just going to let the shipment rot, leave the real rotten ones and keep the fakes.
It feels like an entire crop could have rotted in the time this murder suspect has sat perched atop a crane in Atlanta. We enter the third night of the stand-off. He's still there. When will police patience wear thin, and what happens then?
If he was waiting for the testimony in the Jackson trial to end, you can come down, buddy! It's a wrap!
OLBERMANN: He is still up there, high above the city of Atlanta, atop a 25-story crane, clearly in no hurry to go anywhere. More than 50 hours have passed. He's been without food, without water, apparently without sleep for the duration, as authorities do their best to keep him comfortable, awake, and most importantly, aloft.
Our number two story in the Countdown tonight: The sky-high stand-off of the Florida murder suspect, Carl Edward Roland, continues. There are two kinds of observers here, the professional, police, negotiators, psychologists. Then of course, there are the casual observers, residents of and maybe even employees of businesses in the Buckhead area of Atlanta, some of whom are not subscribing to the police theory here, wait Roland out. They're the ones standing along Peachtree Street holding up signs encouraging him to jump.
It's not the most important case we've ever asked him about, but nonetheless, former FBI profiler and hostage negotiator Clint Van Zandt joins us. Thanks for your time, Clint.
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: Hi, Keith. How're you doing?
OLBERMANN: Well, what do you do about this guy?
VAN ZANDT: Well, you know, number one, you don't ask him to jump. Number two, if it was Keith and Clint in charge, at this point, we're 50 hours into it, I'd say, Hey, let's pull everybody back. Let's get the TV cameras out of here. Let's end the circus environment. Let's take away his platform. And tell the guy, You've got until Tuesday morning to come down, and here's the ladder, and otherwise, we're out of here.
I mean, you know, you can't run out and tackle him. There are people that are saying, why don't you shoot him with an animal dart and anesthetize him and take him down? Why don't you give him, you know, food that's been contaminated so he gets sick and he needs - it's like a diuretic. I mean, it's amazing, the responses you get to this. But the bottom line is, you've got to - at this point, you've got to wait him out. It's his choice. It's his call. He wants to be as big a victim as the woman he allegedly killed is. Well, let's just take away the platform.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Everybody who suggests one of those things needs to remember the second part of that, of their idea is, he could fall off then.
VAN ZANDT: Absolutely.
OLBERMANN: Can you assess, at this point, if there's any real suicidal intent here, or is he now just thinking if he inconveniences everybody long enough, they'll all go away and he can escape somehow?
VAN ZANDT: I - you know, he - could he jump at any second? Sure, he could. But if there was any real intent - I mean, this guy's had 50 hours to do a header and have people stand below, hold up signs that say 6.5, 8.3 as he came down. Now, that hasn't taken place so far. She he's worked through it. You know, he's already confessed to one worker that he did something terrible. We know he's alleged to have beaten this poor woman to death. So at this point, he just has to make a decision when is it time to come down, and the authorities are going to let him do that. They're going to let him make up his mind. They've carried him through Friday. There's no rush until Tuesday now.
OLBERMANN: This is not, by the way, for those who don't know the area, some out-of-the way construction site.
VAN ZANDT: No.
OLBERMANN: They had to close a couple of blocks of Peachtree Street, which is one of the main drags in Atlanta. The businesses are reported losing money. The town's nightmare traffic, at all times of the day and night, is now worse, if that's possible. Is the city going through this and the people who are handling this going through this right now, basically, to avoid him falling on somebody or keeping him from taking a would-be rescuer with him? Are those the motivations, at this point?
VAN ZANDT: Well, these are tough situations, Keith. Unfortunately, this guy's in control at this point. He's in control because law enforcement doesn't want to do anything that facilitate his death. I mean, here you have this potential brutal murderer, and we're doing - sociologically and law enforcement-wise - what we should do. We're trying to save the guy's life.
But again, you know, there's a lot of people being inconvenienced right now. You know, I'll take you back two years ago in Washington, D.C. A guy was threatening to jump off a bridge at rush hour time. Traffic was stopped up. The good citizens of Washington - right behind me, you can see it - were saying, Either jump or tell the cops to shoot him, one or the other, but we got to get home. It's rush hour time. We're a very empathetic people.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC analyst, former FBI profiler and negotiator Clint Van Zandt. We always learn something new from you, sir. Many thanks.
VAN ZANDT: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Well, over we go to the more traditional entertainment news. Leading our segment, "Keeping Tabs," tonight, Angelina Jolie has once again denied ever having had a romantic relationship with Brad Pitt. Of course, other not so famous guys? Sure. "We got on great," she has told the magazine "Marie Claire" about working with Pitt on "Mrs. and Mrs. Smith." But as to anything more than friendship, quote, "absolutely not." She continued, "To be intimate with a married man, when my own father cheated on my mother, is not something I could forgive. I could not look at myself in the morning if I did that." The father she's referring to, the actor John Voight. But Jolie did say she has had, quote, "intimate friendships," unquote, in the interim. She's calling them "maintenance men." Yes, I'm here about the plumbing?
And it's all over but the closing arguments, your entertainment and tax dollars in action, day 557 of the Michael Jackson investigations. Today the prosecution wrapping up its rebuttal case by playing a tape of the accuser's original interview with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department. And in what is being described as a stunning turn of events in a case where the phasers have always been set for stun, the defense chose not to mount a rebuttal of its own. It rested. They originally planned on recalling the accuser, his mother, as well as two other witnesses to rebut the playing of that taped interview but chose not to. In it, the boy essentially telling a story similar to the one he gave on the witness stand. Michael Jackson allegedly grabbed him in his, quote, "private area," with as many as five incidents occurring before the family left Neverland ranch.
Closing arguments could now begin as early as Wednesday of next week, with the jury getting the case by Friday.
And one of the most enduring and versatile of American actors has died. He appeared in everything from a trapeze act to the very first private test broadcast of NBC television, yet he will doubtless be longest remembered for just one role, Oliver Douglas on "Green Acres." The series lasted just six years on CBS, and often all around him seemed hell-bent on looking as ridiculous as possible. But Eddie Albert always brought a kind of frustrated dignity to that program, as did he in movies like "Roman Holiday" and "The Heartbreak Kid," for each of which he received an Academy Award nomination.
His acting career began with that NBC test broadcast in 1936 and continued through 1995. A family friend says he stayed vital until the end, even playing basketball from his wheelchair with his granddaughter just three days ago. There is some dispute over his exact age, but Eddie Albert has died of pneumonia at either 97 or 99 years old.
Also tonight, a few friends crawling over for one of your fabled holiday picnics? Begin your holiday weekend with stories with which you can regale them, the Countdown favorite five of the week.
Hurray, I said it right. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: Well, we had some doozies in this 21st week of 2005, more examples what the late, great Jean Shepherd used to call "creeping meatballism." Our number one story on the Countdown: our top five stories of the week. And when we say "favorite," of course, we mean "dumbest."
We first need to acknowledge some of the honorable mentions here: the 24-hour suicide prevention hotline in the tiny Canadian providence of Prince Edward Island, which is cutting back its hours to 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM - 24 hours, yes, but not in a row. Then there's the guy in Arkansas so drunk that when his cigarette blew out through the open car window, he dived after it, forgetting for the moment that the car he was in was going 60 miles per hour at the time, the Tennessee bureaucrat who got stuck in an elevator for 13 hours overnight on a weekend because his own office forgot to pay the bill for the emergency phone in there.
Yes, it's been a rich and rewarding week. But only these are Countdown's five favorites.
(voice-over): Number five, this is Romeo. In case you can't tell, he's a cat, a 33-pounder. A loving and apparently rich Sacramento family just adopted him. They hope to diet him down to 20 pounds. How? Subway sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Number four, attention residents of Australia. Now would be the time to flee. The spider crabs are coming, more than 50,000 of them just off shore. There's no telling what they're planning, although Rupert Murdoch is said to be heading for higher ground.
Number three, meet Tim Pruitt of Alton, Illinois, and the 124-pound catfish he fetched on the Mississippi River. It's a world-record catch that fought him for half an hour before Pruitt got him in the boat. The fish eventually died, but as they say, you should see the other guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM PRUITT, CAUGHT 124-POUND CATFISH: About 10 minutes later, I got a little bite, and I thought, OK.
KATIE COURIC, CO-HOST, "TODAY" SHOW: Wow. Well, that's quite a fish story. And when you say, I caught one that big, you can actually mean it, right, Tim?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That's right, Katie. If I could only move my arm!
Number two: Hey, check out the cool prize in the Wal-Mart claw machine. Why it's 3-year-old James Manges of Elkhart, Indiana. Mom says he climbed up through the prize chute when the two were shopping just after 3:00 in the morning. Yes, you heard right, 3:00 in the morning. It took firefighters more than an hour and almost $11 in quarters to get little Jimmy out of there.
And number one, a notice to airmen who like to paint scary faces on the front of their planes. The planes may become aggressive and attempt to mount smaller aircraft. No one injured in this Louisiana crash. The yellow plane actually landed on the white one. It'll remain on the airfield like this until the FAA has completed its investigation - not into the crash, but rather into how airplanes get it on.
Meaning how airplanes get that paint on, how they get it on.
All right, let's take another shot of Atlanta, sunset at Buckhead. Carl "Sugarfoot" Roland is now standing up. Alert the media, break into programming. He's standing up.
I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night, happy holiday, and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END