'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for June 24
Guest: KATHERINE BIRNDORF, LORIE VAN AUKEN, SPENCER ETH
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Never mind Martians. Tom Cruise says the thing we really have to fear is psychiatry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TODAY")
TOM CRUISE: Psychiatry is - it's a pseudoscience. There's no such thing as a chemical imbalance. You don't know the history of psychiatry. I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Not just another movie hype interview.
Karl Rove on liberals on 9/11, day three, the latest claim. He only meant MoveOn.org. The latest defense may not have done him much good.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: Karl Rove said, and I quote, "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the effects - and the (INAUDIBLE) attacks and..."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: What would affect detainees at Gitmo? Former interrogators say military doctors would examine the prisoners, learn if they were, say, afraid of the dark, then tell the interrogators, so they could put the detainees in the dark.
And who is Raoul? And why is this tennis superstar shouting at him?
All that and more, now on Countdown.
Tom Cruise, starring in War of the Psychiatry Worlds.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, for the second time in four days, psychology and psychiatry attacked in public by a celebrity layman. It was Cruise this time on this morning's edition of the "TODAY" show, explaining that there is no such thing as a chemical imbalance, that exercise and vitamins are better for the afflicted than are antidepressant drugs.
The interview was so extraordinary, we're going to show it to you again in a moment.
It was only Wednesday that presidential adviser Karl Rove had dragged psychiatry and psychology into the retroactive political name-calling about 9/11, when he said that after the attacks, liberals wanted to, quote, "offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."
But that was just a passing swipe. Tom Cruise went off on Matt Lauer this morning.
In a moment, we'll be joined by a psychiatrist who thinks this was more than just that rarest of thing, a celebrity turned contentious, but could in fact do great damage to those considering seeking help for emotional problems.
That would be most of us. If you or somebody you are related to have not been to see a psychiatrist or psychologist in the last two years, you're either part of a small minority, or possibly you're nuts and you don't know it.
An estimated 33 million American have hit the couch or sought another form of care in the last year. In one other survey, over a two-year span, 59 million, one out of four of us, have done so.
Mr. Cruise told Mr. Lauer that most of them, particularly those who are prescribed drugs, are the victims of things that they and maybe even their doctors don't really understand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TODAY")
CRUISE: I've never agreed with psychiatry, ever. Before I was a Scientologist, I never agreed with psychiatry. And then when I started studying the history of psychiatry, I started realizing more and more why I didn't agree with psychiatry.
And as far as the Brooke Shields thing, is, look, you got to understand, I really care about Brooke Shields. I think here is a wonderful and talented woman, and I want to see her do well. And I know that psychiatry is a pseudoscience.
MATT LAUER, HOST: But Tom, that she said that this particular thing helped her feel better, whether it was the antidepressant or going to a counselor or a psychiatrist. Isn't that enough?
CRUISE: Matt, you have to understand this. Here we are today, where I talk out against drugs and psychiatric abuses of electric shocking people, OK, against their will, of drugging children, with them not knowing the effects of these drugs. Do you know what Alderol is? Do you know Ritalin? Do you know now that Ritalin is a street drug? Do you understand that?
LAUER: The difference is this was not against...
CRUISE: No, no, Matt, Matt, I'm ask...
LAUER:... her will, though.
CRUISE:... Matt, I'm ask, Matt, I'm asking...
LAUER: But this wasn't against Brooke's will.
CRUISE:... you a question. Matt, I'm asking you a question. Do you know...
LAUER: I understand there's abuse of all of these things.
CRUISE: No, you see, here's the problem. You don't know the history of psychiatry. I do.
LAUER: Aren't there examples, and might not Brooke Shields be an example of someone who benefited from one of those drugs?
CRUISE: All it does is mask the problem, Matt. And if you understand the history of it, it masks the problem. That's what it does. That's all it does. You're not getting to the reason why. There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance (INAUDIBLE).
LAUER: So postpartum depression, to you, is...
LAUER:... kind of a little...
LAUER:... psychological goo, gobbledy gook?
CRUISE: No. No, I did not say that.
LAUER: I'm just asking, what you...
CRUISE: No, no...
LAUER:... what would you call it?
CRUISE:... (INAUDIBLE) - Matt, that is - that - post - now, now you're talking about two different things.
LAUER: But that's what she...
LAUER:... went on the antidepressant for.
CRUISE: But what happens, the antidepressant, all it does is mask the problem. There's ways of vitamins and through exercise and various things. I'm not saying that that isn't real. That's not what I'm saying. That's an alteration of what I'm saying.
I'm saying that drugs aren't the answer, that these drugs are very dangerous. They're mind-altering, antipsychotic drugs. And there are ways of doing it without that, so that we don't end up in a brave new world.
The thing that I'm saying about Brooke is that there's misinformation, OK, and she doesn't understand the history of psychiatry. She (INAUDIBLE), she doesn't understand, in the same way that you don't understand it, Matt.
LAUER: But a little bit what you're saying, Tom, is, you say you want people to do well, but you want them to do well by taking the road that you approve of, as opposed to a road that may work for them.
CRUISE: No. No, I'm not.
LAUER: Well, if antidepressants work for Brooke Shields, why isn't that OK?
CRUISE: I disagree with it. And I think that there's a higher and better quality of life. And I think that promoting, for me, personally - see, you're saying, what, I can't discuss what I want to discuss?
LAUER: No, you absolutely can.
CRUISE: I know, but, but Matt, you're going in and saying that I can't discuss that.
LAUER: I'm only asking, isn't there a possibility that - do you examine the possibility that these things do work for some people? That, yes, there are abuses, and, yes, maybe they've gone too far in certain areas. Maybe there are too many kids on Ritalin. Maybe electric shock is...
CRUISE: Too many kids on Ritalin? Matt...
LAUER: I'm just saying, but aren't there examples...
LAUER:... where it...
CRUISE:... Matt, Matt, you don't even - you're glib. You don't even know what Ritalin is. If you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt, OK? That's what I've done. And you go and you say, Where's the medical test? Where's the blood test that says how much Ritalin you're supposed to get?
LAUER: You're - it's very impressive to listen to you, because clearly, you've done the homework and you know the subject.
CRUISE: And you should.
CRUISE: And you should do that also, because just knowing people who are on Ritalin isn't enough. You should be a little more responsible in knowing, really...
LAUER: I'm not prescribing Ritalin, Tom, and I'm not asking anyone else to do it. I'm simply saying...
CRUISE: Well, you are, you're saying - No...
LAUER:... I know some people who seem to have been helped by it.
CRUISE: I - but you're saying - but it's, like, this a very important issue.
LAUER: I couldn't agree more.
CRUISE: This is a very important - and you know what? And you're here on the "TODAY" show.
CRUISE: And to talk about it in a way of saying, Well, isn't it OK, and being reasonable about it, when you don't know, and I do. I think that you should be a little more responsible in knowing what it is...
CRUISE:... because you communicate to people.
LAUER: But you're now telling me that your experiences with the people I know, which are zero, are more important than my experiences.
CRUISE: What do you mean by that?
LAUER: You're telling me what's worked for people I know, or hasn't worked for people that I know. And I'm telling you, I've lived with these people. And they're better.
CRUISE: So you're advocating it.
LAUER: I am not. I'm telling you, in their cases...
CRUISE: (INAUDIBLE), Matt...
LAUER:... in their individual case, it worked. I am not going to go out and say...
LAUER:... Get your kids on Ritalin, it is the cure-all...
CRUISE: Matt, Matt...
LAUER:... and the end-all.
CRUISE:... Matt, but here's the point. What is an ideal scene in life, OK? Ideal scene is someone not having to take antipsychotic drugs.
LAUER: I would agree.
CRUISE: OK. So, now you look at it and you go, OK, a departure from that ideal scene is someone taking drugs, OK? And then you go, OK, what is the theory and the science behind that, that justifies that?
LAUER: Let me take this more general, because I think you and I could go around in circles on this for a while. And I respect your opinion on it. Do you want more people to understand Scientology? Is that - would that be a goal of yours?
CRUISE: You know what? I - absolutely. Of course, you know, (INAUDIBLE)...
LAUER: How do you go about that?
CRUISE: You just communicate about it. And the important thing is, like, you and I talk about it, whether it's - look, if I want to know something, I go and find out, because I don't talk about things that I don't understand. I'll say, You know what? I'm not so sure about that. I'll go find more information about it, so I can come to an opinion based on the information that I have.
LAUER: You're so passionate about it.
CRUISE: I'm passionate about learning, I'm passionate about life, Matt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I'm joined now by Dr. Catherine Birndorf, a psychiatrist, the director of the Payne Whitney Women's Health Program and the department of psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Dr. Birndorf, good evening.
DR. CATHERINE BIRNDORF, PSYCHIATRIST: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Your overall reaction from what you just saw from Tom Cruise?
BIRNDORF: Well, it's impressive. I mean, I think what it really brings to my mind is just how powerful the culture of celebrity has become. I mean, someone like Tom Cruise and other celebrities are really thought to be leaders and shaping our thinking, the public at large. They're - they have tremendous impact.
And I think it would be a tragedy if someone listening to what he has said wasn't able to seek established medical help because they were influenced by this.
In fact, someone with a postpartum depression, if they were feeling ill will towards their child, and didn't seek help because they thought they should take a vitamin, which is not proven to help in this case.
OLBERMANN: Let me do my disclaimer. I've never made a secret of this. I've gone to a therapist since 1998. It saved me. Never been prescribed a drug in my life, but I have family members who have been, who were borderline irrational and who were brought back, and Ritalin was used in one case, in fact.
But I was startled to see these statistics that are from a "Psychology Today" survey, 59 million Americans treated over two years, 80 percent of them said they were given prescription medications, 47 percent said they only got drugs, no therapy, 19 percent said they only got therapy and no drugs.
So here's my devil's advocate question. As off-the-wall as Tom Cruise might have sounded in that interview, that reuse of Matt's name 300 times, 80 percent of therapy patients getting drugs over two years? Doesn't that strike you just intuitively as way too high?
BIRNDORF: Look, there are lots of ways to treat people. If you don't need to use a medication, you don't use a medication. If you can do a talk therapy, whether it's individually, in a group, in a family setting, whatever you can do that's helpful is terrific.
Sometimes you need a medication. For more severe or serious illness, a medication can be very, very effective. We have research and data to support that.
So if you need a medication, then my guess is that the people in this survey needed a medication and were taking it.
I do think, when you're given a medication, more often than not, you should also be in a psychotherapy talking about it. I think the medication alone can only do so much. The combination of the two, we have much evidence to support the fact that the two together synergistically work the best in helping somebody.
OLBERMANN: Any studies on how often people who publicly would slime an entire group or a medical practice or whatever, are actually subconsciously screaming out, Hey, I'm part of this group? I mean, any idea if Tom Cruise or Karl Rove might be hoping that they say something so outrageous about therapy that somebody who cares about them might try an intervention to force them into therapy?
BIRNDORF: I, you know, I don't know. I don't know. I mean, I think it really - I think the passion with which, you know, I've heard Tom Cruise now speak about this, does make you wonder. It does make you wonder, what's so scary about this? Why is it, you know, the anti-Christ? Why is it so awful?
When, in fact, we have tremendous - we have decades, centuries of study and data, research, evidence-based medicine to support the idea that psychiatry is a medical, you know, a medical field, and that mental illness is, in the serious cases, is medical illness.
When somebody has diabetes, you don't say to them, Well, you know, we're not going to give you your insulin because, you know, we don't think it is a real thing. It's the same with depression. If somebody has depression, we don't withhold conventional, proven treatment because we think it is the wrong thing.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, could Mr. Rove's references have been more damaging even than the Cruise interview, because he essentially associated therapy with weakness?
BIRNDORF: Look, as I've said before, I think that it takes strength to get yourself help. When you're feeling down, when it's often hard to go and seek help, it takes strength to be able to go and ask for it. I don't see it as a weakness. But I do, just in - to comment on what you've said, celebrities have a responsibility. Just like I would never pretend to be the amazing actor that Tom Cruise is, it strikes me as very frightening and potentially damaging and distressing, and dangerous, for that matter, for him to be commenting on a medical field in which he is not an expert.
OLBERMANN: Dr. Catherine Birndorf, the director of the Payne Whitney Women's Health Program in the department of psychiatry at New York Presbyterian, great thanks for your time tonight.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, Mr. Rove did a lot more than just slam the idea of therapy. His comments on conservatives versus liberals, and 9/11, causing the White House to actually issue a clarification today.
And there are few things as dramatic or as dangerous as a fire in a plant containing hundreds of canisters of oxygen and other gases. Fortunately, it appears there was more drama than danger in St. Louis today.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Fabled among devotees of the old TV series "The Twilight Zone" is one 1960 episode called "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." In it, someone or something starts screwing around with the electricity on an ordinary suburban street. Within minutes, the residents there have concluded that aliens from outer space have invaded.
Soon the neighbors are accusing each other of collusion with the invaders. Eventually one of them starts shooting. The director pulls back to a nearby hill, where sit two real aliens, one of whom sagely reminds the other that there's no need to ever actually attack any of these stupid humans. You can just scare them a little bit, and then wait for them to tear themselves apart.
Our fourth story on the Countdown, Karl Rove on Maple Street, day three. The White House and the Republican Party continue to defend Rove's assertion that "conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and prepared for war, while liberals saw the savagery of 9/11 and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."
Not all of the defenses came across as especially hearty. Tom DeLay at the College Republicans Convention today in Arlington, Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DELAY: Wednesday night, Karl Rove said, and I quote, "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11, in the effects - (INAUDIBLE) in the (INAUDIBLE) attacks and prepared for war, liberals saw the savagery of 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapeutic understanding for our attackers." That's not slander. That's the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Always helps to read those speeches over one time backstage.
The White House itself says Mr. Rove was referring only to one specific liberal group.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: It's somewhat puzzling why all these Democrats, Harry Reid, Senator Clinton, Chuck Schumer, other these Democrats who responded forcefully after 9/11, who voted to support President Bush's pursuit in the war on terror, are now rallying to the defense of MoveOn.org, this liberal organization who put out a petition the days after 9/11 and said that we ought not use military force in responding to 9/11.
That is who Karl Rove cited in that speech.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE), but let me go back to...
BARTLETT: That is who he was talking to. There's no reason to apologize...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But...
BARTLETT:... for a statement that was made.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In fact, there were two references to MoveOn.org in Mr.
Rove's speech. Both came after the "liberals saw the savagery" remark. And the second one coupled the organization with Michael Moore and Howard Dean, as if they were all one group.
So, to give Mr. Bartlett the benefit of the doubt, the troops seemed very plastic in his hands just there.
And the reaction among those who lost loved ones in the attacks. Let's ask one of the four widows, whose tireless efforts kick-started the 9/11 commission, Lorie Van Auken, whose husband, Kennett (ph), died in the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Ms. Van Auken, thank you for your time. Good evening to you.
LORIE VAN AUKEN, 9/11 WIDOW: Good evening to you. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: I was living in the United States of America on 9/11 and the months of bipartisanship that followed it. Where in the heck do you suppose Karl Rove was at that time?
VAN AUKEN: That's a really good question, because after 9/11 - first of all, on 9/11, people were killed that were Republicans, Democrats, liberal, conservative. Nobody picked or chose how that went.
And after 9/11, we supported going after the person who perpetrated the attacks, as we were told, Osama bin Laden. And we supported going after the terror training camps and stopping the drug trade which funded the terrorists.
So I don't know where Karl Rove was for that.
OLBERMANN: Somebody who did a lot of traveling immediately after the attacks said to me, about six weeks later, that if you didn't live in New York or you didn't work at the Pentagon or you didn't have people on the planes or in the buildings, that 9/11 was, for a lot of people, if not everybody else in the country, to say it cruelly, a photo-op, a chance to act as if you had been violated or lost something, when you hadn't been violated or lost anything at all.
And I have to say, I thought I sensed that in Mr. Rove's smugness, in that tone Wednesday night. What did you think of what you heard from him?
VAN AUKEN: I thought his comments were rather cold. You know, they're supposed to be compassionate conservatives. Those comments were not compassionate. And they were not true.
OLBERMANN: Big-picture question here. As my allusion to that old "Twilight Zone" episode at the start of the segment suggests, at some point, how and who starts this kind of talk doesn't matter any more. It devolves. I mean, it's devolved into our past into each side shooting, figuratively or literally. How do we steer out of this skid at a time like this in our history?
VAN AUKEN: Well, first of all, you know, understanding 9/11 means you go after the person who perpetrated it, Osama bin Laden, not Saddam Hussein. It means that we secure our ports. We secure our borders. It means that we show that we really did understand what happened.
And perhaps we stop doing business with nations that might export terrorism, which would lead me to say that it's time for to us really pursue alternative energy resources. I personally would love to see the World Trade Center site, at least part of it, turned into a memorial, and also turned into a research center for alternative energy resources, not nuclear energy, because that could be a target for terrorists to use against us.
But I think that we - actually, it's time for America to just, you know, get - to actually have somebody lead us into the future with, you know, ways of powering our country that are safe or better for the environment, and stop mudslinging at each other, and really do something that's going to take us into the future.
OLBERMANN: Lorie Van Auken, thank you for sharing your perspective on the remarks of Mr. Rove tonight.
VAN AUKEN: Thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, Iraq, the president standing shoulder to shoulder with its prime minister, and his plans to address the U.S. troops there and U.S. citizens here. He'll be here next week.
And what could be the coolest thing to hit the water, the bionic dolphin, coming to an Oddball report near you.
OLBERMANN: Every night at this time, we take a break from the serious news, such as Tom Cruise's opinion on stovetop versus potatoes, and enjoy a few moments of just really cool video. Why? Because it's my show, and I want to see the really cool video.
Let's play Oddball.
It all began in Thailand, when Bangkok's police chief decided his traffic cops were too avoirdupois, too fat, and ordered them to shape up or ship out. Eighty-five officers put on a strict diet and made to exercise, publicly.
And that is how the world was given this following wonderful image for all time.
Yowza, Cop Rock, Southeast Asia.
The goal is to slim down to a 40-inch waistline. And those officers who succeed will receive a new uniform. Those who fail, they'll get a new uniform too, along with a mop.
To the Chicago River, home of the world's first bionic dolphin.
(singing) Bionic dolphin, bionic dolphin, bionic dolphin number one...
Designed and built to give passengers a fish-eye view of the river, the craft is superior to a real dolphin in every way, and also a lot less slimy when you climb inside one. It can do about 35 miles an hour. It can jump out of the water at will. And its designers hope that it will be the future of personal watercraft. The bionic dolphin, better, stronger, Flipper-er.
To hear the vice president tell it, the detainees at Gitmo may be having fun just like that. They're in the tropics, they're fed well, their doctors are telling interrogators which ones are afraid of the dark or have arachnophobia.
And a phobia we all have, when the nearby bottled-gas plant suddenly starts throwing up flaming canisters like they were baseballs. It happens in St. Louis today. Incredibly, the news seems all good.
Those stories ahead.
But first, here now is our Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Ileana Valdez of Jamaica Plain in Boston, stopped by screeners at Logan Airport. She had $47,000 in cash hidden in her brassiere. She told authorities she was taking the money to Texas to pay for breast augmentation surgery. See, it probably works better if you give the $47,000 to the doctor, rather than simply trying to apply the cash directly.
Number two, Lucky Pierrot, (INAUDIBLE) - come on back. Not Hercule's brother, this is a fast-food chain in Japan. It has a new menu item, whaleburgers, only three and a half bucks. So you'll feel better about it, the company insists these whales were not killed for their meat. They were killed for medical experiments.
That, and for revenge, added company spokesman Watanabi Ahab.
And number one, the owners of the Mamak Restaurants in Malaysia, accused today of adding a special spice to their dishes, one that keeps their customers coming back for more - opium. Come for the chicken vindaloo, stay for the mind-altering hallucinatory experiences.
OLBERMANN: Four women American Marines are believed dead tonight in Iraq, victims of suicide bombers. There is a disturbing "New York Times" report about doctors at Gitmo helping interrogators look for and exploit physical and emotional weaknesses in detainees. And the most recent Gallup poll shows that 59 percent of Americans now oppose the war in Iraq.
Our third story on the Countdown: This, today, was the one-year anniversary of the handover of authority in Iraq from Americans to Iraqis. The president commemorated it by meeting the nation's prime minister for the very first time and by meeting the press to again try to sell a message of progress in Iraq, President Bush planning to make his case again in a primetime address to the nation Tuesday night from North Carolina's Fort Bragg, advisers saying that Mr. Bush will lay out a clear strategy for victory but no new change in policy.
What you probably will not hear on Tuesday, another use by the president of the following word: quagmire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Declining public support for the mission in Iraq and the lack of progress on some of your domestic priorities has prompted suggestions that you're in something of a second-term slump. Do you worry...
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A quagmire perhaps.
QUESTION: You can choose the word, sir. Do you worry at all about losing some of your ability to drive the agenda both internationally and domestically?
BUSH: Following polls is like a dog chasing its tail. I'm not sure how that translates. But my job is to set an agenda and to lead toward that agenda. And we're laying the foundation for peace around the world. And Iraq is a part of the agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That peace will come too late for as many as six more American service personnel, four of them women, a suicide car bomber striking in Fallujah. Two Marines confirmed dead at that point, but the number is now likely to climb much higher. Four more troops, three Marines, one sailor listed as missing, pending positive identification of the bodies found at the scene, 13 additional Marines wounded in the attack, 11 of those 13 female. The women were part of teams assigned to various checkpoints around Fallujah, female Marines used to search Muslim women in order to be respectful of Iraqi cultural sensitivities, according to a military statement.
More images of life inside the U.S. detainee center at Guantanamo Bay, whether disturbing or bucolic, could come this weekend, a camera crew expected to accompany a congressional delegation on a tour of that facility tomorrow, the visit coinciding with a new report detailing how military doctors at the facility assisted interrogators in making their interrogations more effective. The assignment? Helping to pinpoint the detainees' personal weaknesses, one former interrogator telling "The New York Times," quote, "Their purpose was to help us break them." A Pentagon spokesman responds that the psychiatrists did not breach any ethical codes because they were not acting as doctors, but instead as behavioral scientists.
No word yet on what Congressman Duncan Hunter has to say about the report. Just last week, the California Republican could be seen tucking into an approximation of the lemon fish served to detainees at Gitmo. Tomorrow, he will be dining on the real deal, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee leading the delegation of 15 House members to Gitmo, one day down and back. You might call it a weekend getaway.
Just ask Dick Cheney. Last night, the vice president was making the detainee center sound less like a prison and more like the grand opening of a cut-rate Club Med.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They've got a brand-new facility down at Guantanamo. We spent a lot of money to build it. They're very well treated down there. They're living in the tropics. They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibly want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yet even in the tropics, even at the least reputable of Caribbean medical colleges, you do not need to be Hippocrates himself to think that there might be something unethical about doctors aiding in interrogations.
Dr. Spencer Eth is chairman of the ethics committee of the American Psychiatric Association, also a professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College. Dr. Eth, thank you for your time tonight.
DR. SPENCER ETH, AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Is acting as a doctor something that a military psychiatrist could turn on and off, upholding the Hippocratic oath of "First do no harm" one moment, and the next leaking to interrogators the best way to increase the distress of particular detainees?
ETH: Well, as your question suggests, if a military psychiatrist is acting as a physician, then he or she is bound by our principles of medical ethics, principles that have been in force for a very long time and are based on a tradition in medical ethics that hearkens back to the ancient Greeks and Hippocrates. And our civilization has been through many, many wars, and we know that medical ethics apply to physicians who are in the military, as well as to physicians in civilian life.
OLBERMANN: There is a second report on this. It's in "The New England Journal of Medicine." And the authors interviewed doctors who basically eliminated whatever gray area there might seem to be. They say that they actually help to devise and supervise the interrogation regimen at Gitmo. They had an explicit goal, which was to increase fear and distress among the detainees. What are the ethics there?
ETH: It would be very difficult to defend the physician who seeks to increase distress, to increase pain, to increase fear and anxiety in a person. That is outside of the role of being a physician. In the same way that physicians are bard from participating in lethal - in legal executions in a prison setting, even if that is a death-sentence prisoner, a physician can't participate in that. It is outside of the bounds of medical ethics.
OLBERMANN: These doctors, in particular, the ones in the military, the ones who are working in some way at or in connection to Gitmo, what are their professional risks, at this point? I mean, obviously, the military wouldn't - may not have - I won't say would, but may not have a problem with any of the things that they are reported to have been doing. But what happens if these doctors later go out and either resume or start civilian practice?
ETH: Well, if they are psychiatrists and members of the American
Psychiatric Association - and the majority of American psychiatrists are,
over 36,000 - then we have an enforcement mechanism to investigate and
adjudicate complaints of ethics. And military psychiatrists who would be -
· who might be accused of unethical behavior would then have to answer to those charges.
OLBERMANN: Dr. Spencer Eth, the chairman of the ethics committee of the American Psychiatric Association, great. Thanks for your time tonight, sir.
ETH: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: One more ominous note from the region we're talking about. Results out of Iran tonight have the ultra-conservative mayor of Teheran winning a landslide victory in the presidential run-off, the projections indicating that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could receive more than 60 percent of the vote over the country's former president, Hashimi Rafsanjani. The more moderate Rafsanjani promised to keep Iran on a path of reform, his opponent, the apparent winner, pledging to rebuild the nation's shattered economy.
Also tonight, a terrifying scene in St. Louis, a seemingly endless chain of explosions at a gas plant. Employees, nearby residents forced to evacuate. But so far, considering what we're seeing here, the news is amazingly good.
Not so in New Jersey, a sickening conclusion to the search for three missing boys in Camden. The latest live from the scene. That's next. This is Countdown.
OLBERMANN: For every chemical and gas plant in this country, there's been at least one running debate over the long-term subtle impacts of the chemicals or the gases on the surrounding community. And then, as we see in the first part of our number two story on the Countdown tonight, there are those almost indescribable days where there is nothing to debate, nothing subtle and nothing long-term about such places.
Shortly before 3:00 PM local time in South St. Louis, Missouri, bottles of gas, tanks of oxygen, canisters of propane began shooting out of the plant of the Praxair Distribution Company like Roman candles on the 4th of July. The company's self-description reading a little ironically tonight - quoting, "At Praxair, doing business is always a gas," unquote.
At the height of the inferno, the flames were shooting 150 feet into the Missouri sky. And even when things stopped blowing up, the pall of smoke could be seen for miles in every direction. Countless vehicles in the plant and some outside it were set ablaze, but initial reports show almost no damage outside the facility, and even more incredibly, no reports yet, anyway, of injuries.
Our correspondent, Michelle Hofland, is live at the scene with the latest. Michelle, good evening.
MICHELLE HOFLAND, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith. Well, right now, there is still a bit of smoke coming from the area, but it's basically out. The fire has put itself out because, you know, when you have chemicals like this, the firefighters just can't go in and shoot water on the chemicals. So they had to wait until the fire was able to burn itself out. They are shooting some fire, but that's basically - water into the area, but that's basically in the neighborhood around it, to put the fire out of the cars, trucks and a restaurant that caught fire in this.
The interstate 40 - 64 that ran right through St. Louis - that was closed for quite some time during rush hour today. That has just reopened. But the folks who live in the neighborhood around that chemical plant - they still cannot go home tonight. No word on how long they'll be out, but the Red Cross has just shown up. And so that means that they could be out of their neighborhood for a while.
Still a lot of questions to answer tonight. First of all, how did
this fire start? How did the 70 people who were inside that chemical plant
· how did they get out of the building safely with the - everything shooting and the flames and everything else? And then the other question is, is what kind of long-term impact is the loss of this company going to be on the St. Louis area? As you said, that they supply gases and things, but specifically, oxygen to hospitals. Hospitals we spoke with said, you know what? They're OK for now. But Keith, no idea how long it will be or how this is going to impact them in the long run.
One more thing. This fire also impacted baseball fans. You see, the St. Louis Cardinals/Pittsburgh Pirates game was supposed to start about a half hour ago. Well, it was delayed a half hour because the interstate to the stadium was closed, number one. And number two, this fire took place just two miles southeast of the stadium. Keith, back to you.
OLBERMANN: They're not worried necessarily here about these gases, are they? I mean, oxygen is obviously, not even an explosive form, a toxic substance. One of the other things they were carrying around a lot of in there, apparently, was argon, which is an inert gas, which is used because it doesn't cause (ph) compounds. So there seems not to be that much worry about toxicity. Is that correct?
HOFLAND: Well, there was a big concern about those things exploding early on. And they had monitors - the firefighters were setting up monitors all around the plant. They had people up in the air to watch, to see what was going on. But - and frankly, standing here with the wind blowing our way, we were worried about what we were breathing. But nothing that we're aware of detected anything about the toxicity in the air. And then they have to figure out what kind of impact this is going to have on the ground, with the chemicals into the ground and perhaps the groundwater. But that's just something they're going to have look into.
OLBERMANN: Michelle Hofland, reporting live from the scene of the extraordinary explosion, both in images and luckiness, in St. Louis. Great. Thanks.
A second breaking story unfolding in Camden, New Jersey, tonight, and not nearly as good an outcome. Three young boys missing since Wednesday have apparently been found dead in the trunk of a car in the neighborhood. Our correspondent Rehema Ellis joins us live, as the outline of these unfortunate and confusing elements begins to come together.
Good evening, Rehema.
REHEMA ELLIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith. You can see behind me a makeshift curtain in the yard in the home behind me. Back there is a car, and inside that car, Camden police and Camden - the prosecutor's office have confirmed for us that the bodies of these three young boys are inside that vehicle. This is a tragedy that has brought great sadness to this community. It was the father of 6-year-old Daniel Agosto who made the heart-breaking discovery this afternoon. And at that point, this entire community erupted in sadness.
They have been conducting a massive search everywhere in this community - by the railroad tracks, by the river, in abandoned houses, in the bushes, all for these boys. And what would they find is that the boys were only feet away from the home of which one of the boys lived in and in the very yard from which the parents had said the boys had disappeared. It's a tragedy for the family, the friends and the neighbors, everyone. They had all been hoping and praying, Keith, that these boys would be brought home alive. It just was not to be.
OLBERMANN: Rehema, we understand that members of the family left that area by bus not long ago. Is there any indication where they're going or why they left the area?
ELLIS: We understand that the family was taken from here to the prosecutor's - to the police department, the Camden, New Jersey, police department, where they were in conversations with authorities.
I must also tell that you there was a report that they were looking for a 20-year-old man earlier today. And then after the bodies of the boys had been discovered, we had reports that some - a man had been brought into the police station in handcuffs. We don't yet know yet what the link or the connection with this case, or if there's a connection. But as you reported earlier on saying of how this is unfolding, this is just another link of information that is unfolding in this case. And we hope to learn more about it as the hours pass.
OLBERMANN: Rehema Ellis at Camden, New Jersey. Great. Thanks for the report.
Also tonight: You don't like sports? You don't like tennis? You will still like how this star tennis player grunts at Wimbledon. Calling Raul.
OLBERMANN: Henri, she cried. Henri, she cried again. Henri, she cried all afternoon. She was tennis superstar Monica Seles. And the problem was, she admitted to the staid reporters covering Wimbledon she didn't know anybody named Henri, that was just what her grunt sounded like. Her grunt. You don't know what is a grunt? You're going to watch big-time tennis? A grunt is what makes big-time tennis interesting, even if you can't stand big-time tennis.
Our number one story on the Countdown: A foot injury two years ago knocked Seles from the ranks of big-time tennis, but the grunt lives on. As our correspondent, my old pal, Jimmy Roberts, reports, there is a new grunt echoing out at Wimbledon this year: Raul. Raul!
JIMMY ROBERTS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If the U.S. Open is tennis's playground, Wimbledon is its library. Compared to its more raucous Grand Slam siblings, the action at the All-England Club is mostly quiet. Until, that is, Maria Sharapova shows up. There certainly has been enough commotion about the way she looks, but perhaps not as much as about the way she sounds.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sharapova's grunting is appalling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She sounds inhuman.
ROBERTS: A generation ago, there was Jimmy Connors, and more recently, the game's Maria Callas of guttural noise herself, Monica Seles. But Sharapova's vocal stylings have taken the issue to a whole new level.
PAUL THOMPSON, "THE SUN": The first-round match is at 101.2, which is basically the sound of a police siren going off in your ear.
ROBERTS: The London tabloids are tracking the champ with what they call a "gruntometer." For her part, Sharapova has turned a deaf ear.
MARIA SHARAPOVA, TENNIS PRO: I don't pay attention to that. And I never have and probably never will.
ROBERTS (on camera): But at some point soon she might have to pay attention. In an extreme circumstance, the referee could choose to disqualify a player he feels is being noisy for the purpose of gamesmanship. Either way, it's clearly not the Wimbledon way, and Sharapova is not alone.
ALAN MILLS, WIMBLEDON REFEREE: I mean, I get so many letters now from the public, television viewers, complaining about the noise and the screaming. And the majority turn the volume down and just watch the tennis when they can't stand it any longer.
ROBERTS (voice-over): All this happens as Sharapova is making quite a racket off the court, too. She is the top-earning female athlete on the planet, making it clear, whatever she does, she has absolutely no plans of going quietly. This is Jimmy Roberts at Wimbledon.
OLBERMANN: Well, if they make the fans be quiet at these matches, they might as well make the players be quiet, too. Miss Sharapova and Raul, or whoever it is she's yelling at, are plenty interesting, but they didn't even make the cut this week. There was too much soap this week, too many hollerers, too many Tom Cruise stories and too many crazy deer. They had already occupied our week-ending feature, Countdown's top five.
(voice-over): Number five: Doe a deer, a fugitive deer, caught on tape. The American deer, brown furry menace to society. This one did a triple Lindy into a backyard pool in Michigan, swam a couple of laps, then scrammed when animal control showed up. No jail can hold me! We think he later surfaced at this Boston convenience store, running through the aisles screaming, $2.49 for beef jerky? That's outrageous! Thank you. Come again.
Number four: the collected works of a chimpanzee named Congo. They sold in London for more than 27 grand to a man actually named Kong (ph). No relation. They say they're abstract, but really, anytime you give a monkey a paintbrush, abstract is about the best you can hope for.
Number three: Two things you might want to avoid the next time you interview Tom Cruise. One, do not ask him about antidepressants. He'll go on forever.
TOM CRUISE, "WAR OF THE WORLDS": You're glib! You don't even know what Ritalin is!
OLBERMANN: Also, if you're going to squirt him with water from your joke microphone, prepare yourself for dressing down, pal.
CRUISE: You're a jerk! You're a jerk! You're a jerk!
OLBERMANN: Number two: It's the 37th annual national hollerin' contest in Spidey Corners (ph), North Carolina, dozens of competitors hollering their little brains out, but just a few spectators this year. Can't figure out why more folks don't want to sit there and listen to people screeching.
Oh, now I'm figuring it out.
And number one: The world's most expensive bar of soap, $18,000 at a Swiss art exhibition, not because it's good for washing all your 2,00 parts, but because it's supposedly made of the parts of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The artist says he made the soap with fat sucked out of the Italian prime minister during liposuction.
Can you excuse me a moment? Eew!
Ew! That's Countdown. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose.
Good night, and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END