'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for August 5
Guest: Stacy Brown, Jim Moret, Billy Goldberg, Mark Leyner
ALISON STEWART, HOST: Hijinks in the Jackson jury, supposedly smuggled tapes and medical textbooks, alleged communications with the family. Is this justice served, celebrity style? And will tell-all books by former jurors tell us more than we want to know?
Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Quote, "Oh, no, not my Michael." That sentiment from three of Michael Jackson's jurors, who pledged to stay impartial. Can justice ever be blind when it comes to celebrities on trial?
Deep trouble. A rescue mission to the bottom of the sea as a Russian sub is stranded. It is a race to save the trapped crew before the O2 runs out.
Connecting the dots and the fingerprints. Joseph Duncan was first charged with kidnapping, molestation, and murder in Idaho. Now his fingerprint shows up connected to a California murder, and there are questions in three other states.
And every question you ever wanted to ask your doctor but were afraid to. Nothing's off limits to the authors of "Why Do Men Have Nipples?"
All that and more, now on Countdown.
And good evening to you. I'm Alison Stewart, rounding out the week for the vacationing Keith Olbermann. We counted the days here, all of them, Keith.
From the moment the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department stormed the gates of Neverland, to the final day that saw Michael Jackson exit the Santa Maria courtroom, 574 days, and the whole time, conventional wisdom suggested he was the wacky one.
Our number five story on the Countdown, someone should have told us about the other 12.
More bizarre revelations tonight about what went on during jury deliberations at the Jackson trial, one juror allegedly smuggling in a video of Court TV broadcasts, another supposedly bringing in a medical textbook to illustrate how Jackson fit the profile of a pedophile. Both acts forbidden by the court, by the way.
Three of the jurors, according to some accounts, were such huge fans of the pop star that they would chime in unison, quote, "Not my Michael," whenever the molestation charges were discussed.
All this being claimed in the forthcoming tell-all books of two of the jurors, 79-year-old Eleanor Cook, and 62-year-old Ray Hultman. Both now say they believe Jackson was guilty, but were ultimately pressured into changing their votes.
One of the people approached to co-author these books is former Jackson family friend and MSNBC analyst Stacy Brown. He is also the author of "Michael Jackson, the Man Behind the Mask."
Stacy, thanks for helping us out this evening.
STACY BROWN, FORMER JACKSON FAMILY FRIEND: Sure, Alison.
STEWART: When you were contacted about these books, who did the contacting?
BROWN: A guy by the name of Larry Garrison at Silver Creek Entertainment contacted me. He had already made contact with both Ellie and Ray.
STEWART: And what did he say to you?
BROWN: Well, he asked me, would I be interested in helping him do some books with these two jurors, who felt that Michael was guilty? And my initial reaction was, Whoa, why?
STEWART: Well, what kind of stories did they tell you about went on inside the jury room that would make you want to be part of this book?
BROWN: Well, let me just say, Alison, I'm not a part of this book.
STEWART: I, we understand that, yes.
BROWN: I'm not agreeing to do that. But, you know, they apparently have some very interesting stories that they want to get out about how they really felt. And I think that they will be talking about that very soon.
STEWART: But did you buy any of this at all? Or do you think this is all about selling books?
BROWN: Well, Alison, I think that they probably looked in retrospect and said to themselves that, Maybe we made a mistake in letting Michael go. Perhaps we should have, you know, done something differently.
STEWART: Did you get a sense from talking to these folks that they really believe Michael is guilty?
BROWN: Oh, yes. Now, I certainly do get a sense from talking to them that they believe that Michael is guilty, especially hearing the stuff that was submitted from Ray Hultman. I think that he felt - and he said it after the verdict in the press conference, he did say that he thought Michael was probably a child molester, but they just didn't prove this particular case.
STEWART: And let me get your take on this, because you obviously have inside knowledge of how the family feels about this, and you watched the trial from the beginning. Do you think this feeds into the idea that celebrities get different kind of trials, the fact that these two people say there are people on the jury who were such big fans that they just didn't want to see him be found guilty?
BROWN: Oh, absolutely, Alison. We know that celebrity get a different shake than what you or I would get. In this case, yes, you had some fans on the jury. And, you know, they even attribute some of that to meeting these jurors, attributed some of that to Judge Melville's rushing to put together a jury. I know that he's been blamed for that.
And they didn't get a chance, the - neither side, really, in fairness, got a chance to really do the voir dire, the process that normally goes for it. You know, they usually take more time than that. And the jury consultants are usually given more information than what I think these consultants got.
STEWART: And finally, do you know if the Jackson family is aware of these tell-all books, and what they think about them?
BROWN: Well, I'm not sure if they're aware of them yet. I know that someone close to them spoke to me last night and said that, you know, it's probably just someone who's looking to make a buck. But, you know, they don't know the motive behind it and, you know, would only say that the Jacksons will probably pay no attention to it.
STEWART: Stacy Brown, MSNBC analyst and author, thank you so much for sticking around and helping us out tonight.
BROWN: Sure, Alison.
STEWART: Starstruck jurors with contraband. Are we talking about a do-over? For some reason, the legal perspective, we turn to "Inside Edition"'s chief correspondent and legal analyst, Jim Moret.
Jim, nice to speak to you again.
JIM MORET, LEGAL ANALYST, "INSIDE EDITION": Hi, Alison. Good to be back.
STEWART: There was no response from District Attorney Sneddon's office when we called this afternoon. Is there anything he can do about this new information?
MORET: No. I mean, there was a verdict by a jury of Michael Jackson's peers. That verdict was entered. It was not guilty. Michael Jackson cannot be tried again for this crime. He was found not guilty.
And that's fine. And if these jurors felt otherwise at the time, Stacy's right, they could have done something then. And frankly, I really respect Stacy coming on the air saying he's not part of this book. I read Stacy's book that he wrote, and he got some heat for writing it and releasing it during the trial. And Stacy stands by what he wrote, and I respect the fact that he's not going forward with this book.
You know, I trust Stacy's opinion, and I think his opinion is right on this one. These people may be out just to make a buck.
STEWART: Let's talk a little bit about the judge in this case. These two jurors allege the judge knew that these Court TV tapes were smuggled into the jury room. Why wouldn't he have done something about that? We should say that the tapes were never viewed.
MORET: Well, and that's very important. The fact is, the judge may have done something about it. The judge was very close with this jury, and he did not want a mistrial. And there's no reason to believe that if the judge was made aware of these tapes, that he wouldn't have called in the jurors as a group or one at a time saying, one, Was a tape brought in? Two, who did so? And three, was it viewed?
And it may be that nobody saw this tape, if, in fact, the tape was brought in. This is simply an allegation, not necessarily a revelation. And I think that the judge would simply admonish the jurors again, Look, this is a high-profile case. You're not sequestered. Don't watch the news. Don't talk to your friends. Don't talk to your relatives. Just go by the evidence of this case.
And you have to remember that even after the verdict came out, and we did hear from at least one of the jurors who said, in his heart, he believes that Michael Jackson may have touched inappropriately some kids, but there wasn't enough evidence in this case. Well, that's what the burden of proof is. Was there enough evidence in this case?
And it really angers me to think that these jurors could now be saying a different tune just to make money. It really gets me frustrated.
STEWART: Well, let get back to those jurors. If these allegations are proven to be true, are any of these jurors who participated in some of this alleged misconduct, could they face any kind of charges or reprimand?
MORET: Well, if I were in the district attorney's office, that's what I'd be looking for, because, frankly, there's no allegation here that Michael Jackson or his defense team did anything untoward or inappropriate. But these allegations do amount to what could be juror misconduct. And if these people are now trying to profit on that misconduct, as the district attorney, I would sure want to look at them and see if there's any charges that I could bring against them.
If, in fact, one of these jurors, as is being alleged, brought in some material, some research material, and said, basically, Michael Jackson fits the definition of a pedophile to a T, you know what? That's inappropriate. That doesn't belong. And if there was any pressure on any of these jurors to vote a certain way, that's wrong, too.
But have we heard that from the other jurors? No. Who are we hearing it from? We're hearing it from, allegedly, the two people who are going to come out and make money on a book.
STEWART: Can this information be useful in any way to the accuser or his family in any pending civil litigation?
MORET: I don't think so. I think that what we basically have for the civil trial, you have a different standard, a different burden of proof. It's not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, it's a preponderance of the evidence, much lower threshold. So there's an advantage for the civil trial anyway.
And there's no reason to think that if they don't want to bring this case, that they couldn't go forward. They could still bring the civil case. I don't think there's anything with respect to what these jurors may or may not have done that's going to be helpful to them in any way.
STEWART: And this is a purely an opinion question on a Friday night. I asked Stacy the same question. Does this further the argument that celebrities get a different brand of justice than the rest of us?
MORET: Well, look, let's look at the defense team. This was a great defense lawyer in Tom Mesereau. He is as good as it gets, the real deal. I sat in there every single day, and many times, I was simply amazed at his abilities. You or I might not be able to afford him.
But let's look at this on the other side. Would these two jurors be able to write a book if Michael Jackson wasn't a huge celebrity? No. So are celebrities treated differently? Yes. Can it hurt them? Sure it can. Can it help them? Sure. But it's also apparently now helping these jurors.
STEWART: It's all about the balance of things, it sounds like.
Jim Moret of TV's "Inside Edition," thanks so much.
MORET: Thanks, Alison.
STEWART: Now, if you need more juicy Jackson juror 411, and, really, who doesn't, tune in Monday night for the premier of "RITA COSBY LIVE AND DIRECT." She'll have an exclusive interview with Eleanor Cook and Ray Hultman. The return of Keith, followed by the premier of Rita. Sounds like appointment TV to me.
A Russian sub is trapped at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, and British and U.S. rescue vessels try to make an effort before it is too late.
And is your iPod making you deaf?
Oh, look at that.
And so much more. Common nagging health questions you may have wondered for years. We have some answers.
You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.
STEWART: If you are any of the following, claustrophobic, hydrophobic, bathophobic, or D, all of the above, what's happening to seven Russian sailors tonight is probably your worst nightmare.
They are trapped in a small submarine on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, with an air supply that is dwindling fast.
They are the fourth story on the Countdown tonight.
And as Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reports, it is a race against time.
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The seven Russian sailors are trapped in a minisub like this one, running out of air and time.
SHERRY SONTAG, SUBMARINE EXPERT: This is going to be a real cliffhanger, and the clock is ticking with every breath these men take.
MIKLASZEWSKI: The Russians say the minisub would submerge when it first got tangled in a fishing net yesterday. The situation grew worse when the sub's propeller then snagged a heavy cable, which anchored a communications antenna to the ocean floor. Without thrust from its propeller, the minisub sank to the bottom, 625 feet beneath the surface.
(on camera): And today, after several unsuccessful attempts to rescue the trapped sailors by themselves, the Russians asked the United States and others for help.
(voice-over): So the Navy is rushing three unmanned minisubs to the rescue. With robot cameras and remote control arms, they could cut through the heavy cable and free the Russian sub.
CMDR. KEVIN VAN HORN, U.S. NAVY: These are fellow submariners who are stuck on the bottom. And that's the approach that we all take.
MIKLASZEWSKI: But is there enough time? It could take more than 20 hours for the U.S. rescue teams to reach the stranded sub. The Russians say the trapped sailors may only have 24 hours of oxygen left. That's a cushion of only four hours.
SONTAG: But if somebody doesn't get something to happen very right within a perfect time frame, these men are going to be lost.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Five years ago, the Russian nuclear submarine "Kursk" sank in the Bering Sea, killing all 118 on board. But some sailors trapped in air pockets had survived for some time. By the time the Russians asked for outside help, however, it was too late.
IGOR DVGALO, RUSSIAN NAVY SPOKESMAN (through translator): The course was a tragic page in our history, no doubt. But now at this moment, we have to save these people.
MIKLASZEWSKI: But even with U.S. help, the rescue of these seven Russian sailors will still be an extremely close call.
Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon.
STEWART: From rescue at sea to town out of control. Sometimes age-old cowboy traditions best left in the history books. Yippee kayay, it's Oddball time.
And the annoyance of the ages. Why can't cell phones just ring? We'll introduce to you someone whose life work is to create the most annoying ringtone.
STEWART: Back now, and we pause the Countdown tonight for a field trip to the Countdown Zoo. And you needn't be Ron Burgundy or a smelly pirate hooker to realize this first story is the biggest news event of the summer.
Let's play Oddball.
There is a newborn panda at the San Diego Zoo. Bai Yun, the zoo's 13-year-old giant panda, gave birth this week to a bouncing baby panda. They don't know the sex of the baby, and they don't have a name yet either. The cub is just four ounces. It is the size of a stick of butter, or margarine, and you can barely see it, because it is nestled safely under Mama's chin.
The baby's father is the giant panda named Gao-Gao. And if you're wondering how they knew he's the father, it's because they spotted him handing out cigars over at the monkey cage.
You stay classy, baby panda.
To High Point State Park in New Jersey. We have secretly replaced this camp counselor's normal wakeup call with a deadly 150-pound black bear. Let's see if he notices.
Yes, I think he noticed it. This video, shot by a hiker passing by, shows an unnamed male camp counselor in the woods with a group from Pennsylvania getting a rude awakening from a female black bear looking for breakfast, maybe just a little bit of spooning.
The bear put a few holes in the camper's sleeping bag, gave him a few scratches, and then ran off when the camper's alert bunkmate blew on whistles designed to startle the bear. The kid was fine, the bear not so much.
In keeping with our nobody-gets-hurt policy in Oddball, let's just say the bear is now in deep hibernation.
And finally tonight, to the oldest professional rodeo in Idaho. They say only two things come out of Idaho, steers and bad idears. We're not sure that's true, but we are sure this story has both. This year, they decided the best way to get 100 head of cattle from the stockyard to the rodeo fairgrounds would be to take them through downtown Idaho Falls. Idaho Falls is a city, and some folks figured this would be a neat publicity stunt to drum up attention for the rodeo.
Locals? Not so optimistic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be pretty much havoc today, I'm sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are cattle, and they are wild, and they're not trained to do this.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
STEWART: The cattle were released, and it was a case of bovine wilding. Chaos erupted on the streets of Idaho Falls, and the cows jogged all over the place, through yards, gas stations, busy intersections. Minimal damage was reported, and eventually most of the cows were steered to the fairgrounds, although five cattle may be missing.
Rodeo planners said they intend to avoid the same cowflop next year by providing the cows printed directions from Google Maps before getting started.
And, oh, boy, you folks are lucky tonight. It's Friday Oddball bonus coverage. Leaving the zoo, let's head to Palm Beach County, Florida, where 92-year-old Lucille Borgen (ph) has just won the 85-and-up division of the Good Waterskiing Championships. Sure, she's the only one in the division, and they created it for her. But water skiing at 92, she deserves a prize. Heck, they should erect a statue to her.
Lucille is a cancer survivor who beat polio as a child. She is blind in one eye. She only took up water skiing in her 40s. But she can still ride those toasty waves. It's because of this we can say, Lucille Borgen is officially in a three-way tie for greatest grandparent ever with sky-diving granny, no teeth. You can look at her go. And with advance apologies to our colleague Preston Mendenhall, the sassy D-Day veteran...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Harry, can you tell us how old you are today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm 82 years old.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eighty-two years young might be a better way to put it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up your (expletive deleted).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: All righty, then.
Mystery in the Mediterranean. They left as newlyweds, but the bride came home by herself. George Smith, missing one month. The latest in the investigation.
And you might be heading out to a local watering hole at some point this weekend. We'll answer all those nagging myths and sayings about drinking with the men behind the new book, "Why Do Men Have Nipples?"
Those stories ahead.
But first, Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Jessica Lynne Durham. She got five years in jail for taking a picture of her 18-month-old daughter, a picture of her 18-month-old daughter with her mouth on a bong filled with marijuana. Note to Jessica, Bong does not equal Binky.
Number two, an unnamed man in New Hampshire. He got drunk, passed out, and his friend put a padlock on him on a sensitive area, the kind of groinage area. Anyway, two weeks later, he still couldn't get it off, and he went to the cops. They got a locksmith, and then he was free. But how did they remove the padlock, you ask? Very carefully.
And number one, Snoop Dog and Lee Iacocca have finally ended their feud. Well, OK, there was no feud, but they're still teaming up to do a round of commercials for General Motors. The former head of GM and the rapper from the LBC reportedly got along well during their shoots, although Iacocca admitted, quote, "I don't know what the hell Snoop is saying, but he called me nephew. So I guess that means I'm in."
Fo' shizzle, Mr. Iacocca, fo' shizzle.
STEWART: It is bad enough that he is accused of kidnapping two Idaho children, molesting both of them, killing one of them and murdering their brother, mother and her boyfriend. Bad enough that it wasn't the first time he'd abused children. Bad enough that he was only out of jail because a judge didn't know about that previous conviction.
In our third story on the Countdown: It now appears that Joseph Duncan is also a prime suspect in at least three other child molestations and murders.
Michael Okwu has our report.
MICHAEL OKWU, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After eight years and 15,000 empty leads, authorities now say accused murderer and convicted sex offender Joseph Duncan is the prime suspect in the abduction and murder of a 10-year-old boy.
BOY DOYLE, RIVERSIDE COUNTY SHERIFF: A fingerprint at the crime scene where the body of Anthony Martinez was found matched one of Joseph Duncan's fingers.
OKWU: The tragic mystery began in April 1997 in Beaumont, California, when Anthony Michael Martinez was snatched at knifepoint, his lifeless body found in the desert more than two weeks later.
(on camera): Joseph Duncan, whose rap sheet dates back to 1980, is fast becoming a name many in and out of law enforcement know.
(voice-over): Last month, Idaho authorities charged him with kidnapping and molesting 8-year-old Shasta Groene and her 9-year-old brother, Dylan, who prosecutors say he also killed days after bludgeoning the children's mother, brother and family friend. Family members outraged over the latest news.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe that he was actually let out after the first time he committed such a horrible crime.
OKWU: Now authorities in King County, Washington, also investigating any possible link between Duncan, 9-year-old Carmen Kubias (ph) and 11-year-old Sammy Joe White (ph). Both vanished from a Seattle motel in 1996 sometime during Duncan's residence in nearby Buckbell (ph), Washington.
SUE RAHR, KING COUNTY SHERIFF: King County is doing what most West Coast police agencies are doing.
OKWU: At least five states now investigating Duncan's possible connections to other crimes. Meantime, in a California desert community where the family of Anthony Martinez still mourns, residents asking the question, How could this happen? Michael Okwu, NBC News, Los Angeles.
STEWART: And we are joined now by Marc Klaas, founder of the KlaasKids Foundation, devoted to preventing crimes against children. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
MARC KLAAS, KLAASKIDS FOUNDATION: Sure thing, Alison.
STEWART: Marc, of course, most people know you from your hard work to protect children, and it's obviously quite personal to you because your daughter, Polly, was kidnapped and murdered by a repeat violent offender back in '93. Twelve years later, we are here discussing another serial molester who slipped through the cracks. How is it that serial molesters are falling through those cracks?
KLAAS: Well, we created Megan's law, or Megan's law was created about a decade ago to deal with guys like this. But they're clever individuals and they find loopholes in law. There's an attempt right now in Congress with some very powerful legislation to plug up some of the loopholes. But I think it's illustrative that there are states all over the West Coast that are looking at this guy, Duncan, for having committed crimes, for having murdered little children. And as long as these guys don't comply with the laws that are being set up, and as long as they're allowed to be on the street, these kinds of crimes will continue to happen.
STEWART: Let me read you something the Washington Board of Prison Terms and Paroles wrote about Duncan 23 years ago, that he is a, quote, "sexual psychopath not safe to be at large and not amenable to treatment."
Now, with a diagnosis like that, how would they ever let him out?
KLAAS: Well, you know, they had a diagnosis similar to that for Richard Allen Davis, who murdered my Polly. In 1978, he was diagnosed as a sexually sadistic psychopath. And quite frankly, Alison, it's beyond me how any of these individuals that have been diagnosed as pedophiles, as psychopaths or as sadists are ever allowed back onto the street because it's inevitable that what they will do is harm little children. There is no treatment that is effective for these individuals.
Alison, I think it's illustrative - the Catholic scandal is illustrative of what I'm talking about. For years, the bishops knew what these guys were doing, and they would send them to treatment facilities and then anonymously put them back into different parishes. And inevitably, they would revert to their criminal behavior. And quite frankly, now it's almost ruined the Catholic church in this country, and certainly, they've lost their moral authority.
But you just take that kind of a - you just take that kind of a situation and put it into the public at large, and that's what we're dealing with.
STEWART: So you don't believe in rehabilitation in any way for sexual offenders?
KLAAS: Never in the history of the world has a psychopath or a pedophile been cured. We put them back onto the streets, and they're going to revert to criminal behavior. It's inevitable.
STEWART: To your knowledge, has there ever been a legislative push for life imprisonment for serial molesters?
KLAAS: Well, actually, I was just talking to Mark Lunsford a few minutes ago because what they've done in Florida is they've created the Jessica Lunsford Act that mandates 25 years to life - it's an indeterminate sentence - for the first lewd and lasciviousness conviction against a sex offender in that state. Now there's a push in the federal government to follow suit, to increase penalties extremely for these kinds of crimes. And they have financial incentives in these laws to force the states to comply.
So hopefully, after long last - and these arguments go back decades and decades and decades, certainly into the middle of the last century - at last, we're finally putting our foot down and doing something that, hopefully, will be effective.
STEWART: Now, you've been talking about states and states and what Florida is doing. Do you think a national database of these serial molesters is an answer?
KLAAS: Well, it's an answer of sorts. I mean, the problem is, is that, you know, you have this national database, you even make it available to the public, but unless it's got an updated picture, it's not going to do you much good because that's basically how we're able to identify who these guys are. These guys are as anonymous as they can possibly be. They don't use their real names. They change their appearance frequently. They stay by themselves and they just go after the most vulnerable of citizens. We put them on the street, and this is what's going to happen. It's inevitable.
STEWART: You've given us quite a lot to think about tonight. Marc Klaas, founder of KlaasKids Foundation, thanks so much for joining us.
KLAAS: Thank you.
STEWART: From missing children to missing adults. It's been exactly one month since a honeymooner mysteriously disappeared on a Mediterranean cruise. Now, as Matt Lauer reports, there may finally be a break in this case.
MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, "TODAY" SHOW (voice-over): On July 4, newlyweds George Smith and Jennifer Hagel from Greenwich, Connecticut, were in the middle of a 12-day Mediterranean cruise about Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas. Reports are the honeymooners spent the evening in the ship's casino. Both had been drinking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were awakened about 4:00 in the morning by loud yelling coming from the cabin. It sounded like people cheering, like a drinking contest type thing.
LAUER: Cleve Hyman (ph) was in the room next door to the couple.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At times, it sounded like furniture was being actually picked up and dropped, and then that horrific thud.
LAUER: On July 5, blood was found on the side of the ship as it docked in Turkey, and George Smith was missing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have reason to believe that there could have been foul play here.
LAUER: In an interview last week, Connecticut's U.S. attorney, Kevin O'Connor, said the FBI has been working with the international authorities to see if a crime was committed.
KEVIN O'CONNOR, U.S. ATTORNEY: Obviously, there may be people who were on that ship, there may be others, who have evidence or knowledge of what happened that night.
LAUER: Smith's wife, Jennifer Hagel, was questioned by authorities. She told them that Smith was not in the room when she awoke the next morning.
STEWART: That was Matt Lauer reporting.
Also tonight: new technology, new health risks. Is the iPod nation in danger of going deaf? And old friends together again, a big day for fans of the original "Sportscenter." The return of Keith and Dan ahead on Countdown.
STEWART: OK, you know you've done it, cranked up the tunes on that MP3 player of yours to 11, all that to indulge the fantasy of being a rock star. Or maybe you just wanted to drown out the sounds of the world around you. Well, whatever the reason, we're here to tell you tonight you might want to turn it down.
Our second story on the Countdown: Can you hear me now? If you can't, you may be in the early stages of iPod-induced hearing loss. As Mike Taibbi discovers, if it's too loud, you may be more than just too old.
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Stacey Tillott (ph) of Sherman Oaks, California, picked out a new iPod today, not worried now that it may be damaging to her hearing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like to listen to music loud, especially - I work out with my iPod. I use it when I commute. I use it when I just don't want to be bothered by people on the street.
TAIBBI: But like all modern MP3 players, the device Tillott chose is an advance on the old technology that will allow her to listen longer and at higher volume than ever before without changing a tape or CD. Dr. Brian Fleiger (ph) of Boston's Children Hospital has been studying whether there's a connection between the new technology, including long-life batteries and earbuds instead of over-the-ear headphones, and hearing loss.
DR. BRIAN FLEIGER, BOSTON CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: It's a combination of how loud it is and for how long you listen. The two work together to determine your overall daily noise dose.
TAIBBI: Fleiger says it just takes common sense to see the problem in a nutshell or on a simple graph. Normal conversation registers about 60 decibels, a barking dog up to 70, the subway around 85, still in the safe zone. But the rock band at 120, and your personal stereo systems at up to 130 decibels could cause hearing loss if you listen too long.
(on camera): Like most music lovers, for me, there are some songs, like Stevie Wonder "Living for the City," that only sound right at top volume.
(voice-over): In your car, especially in your ear, Dr. Fleiger says, to be safe, you have to impose limits because the technology doesn't. If you imagine the volume scale of 1 to 10...
FLEIGER: Level six for one hour or less per day.
TAIBBI: Hard to do, say some users, like Stacey Tillott.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I turn up all the volume, it feels like it's kind of moving through your blood with you.
TAIBBI: Mike Taibbi, NBC News, New York.
STEWART: That's funkmaster Mike Taibbi to you.
Here's something a little quieter to add to your playlist. You can now podcast selected segments of Countdown by going to our Web site at countdown.msnbc.com. Then just click on the link at the bottom of the page to sign up.
Now, customized cell phone rings may not make you deaf, but they sure make some folks wish they were. Let's face it, there are two types of people in this world, those who embrace wacky ringtones as a sign of personal expression and those who do not. Count our friend, Brian Balthazar, as one of the former. Last we saw, he was hitting the streets of the big city, looking for a new way to express himself.
BRIAN BALTHAZAR, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Having a cell phone has become like having a theme song, whether you can sing your ring...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It rings so loud to me.
BALTHAZAR (on camera): What does it sound like?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like one tone like that.
BALTHAZAR (voice-over):... or not, your ringtone says something about you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It seems to me the most fun-loving and...
BALTHAZAR (on camera): And that's what you are.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that's what I am. I'm a fun-loving kind of person.
BALTHAZAR: More than 181 million Americans own cell phones. And even though all of them come with ringtones built right in to the phone, many people are more than willing to spend a few bucks to find the ringtone that's perfect for them.
(voice-over): Already, ringtones are a $600 million industry in the U.S. "Billboard" magazine even has a chart for the top 10 tones. The king of the industry? A little guy called Crazy Frog. What began as a popular and slightly annoying ringtone in the U.K. was combined with the "Beverly Hills Cop" theme. The song hit number one in 10 countries.
Country singer Gretchen Wilson is one of the many musical artists getting in the game. Her new single is available as a Cingular wireless ringtone before hitting the radio.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really annoying.
BALTHAZAR: Even out of this small room, Michael Aarons (ph) could be the next one to hit the jackpot. As a ringtone composer, his mission is to create the tune that takes off.
(on camera): Your goal will be to create a song that will infect my brain until it drives me crazy, essentially.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what I would like to do, yes.
BALTHAZAR (voice-over): Whether you like yours upbeat or old school, your cell phone is the hottest way to say something about yourself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ring, ring! See? It's not fun at all.
STEWART: The auditory stylings of our fearless leader here at Countdown making a natural segue into our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." Reunited and it feels so good. "Sportscenter" fans have been waiting years for this one. This afternoon, instead of writing "Keeping Tabs," our commander-in-chief was out there becoming one. Keith Olbermann joined "The Dan Patrick Show" on ESPN radio for the first in what will be a weekly weigh-in on all things sports.
The pair picked up right where they left off. You know that old saying, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN PATRICK, "THE DAN PATRICK SHOW": Keith Olbermann, who has rejoined us after, in his words, an eight-year vacation from the network, and I think both have recovered nicely from that. But great to have you with us every Friday 2:00 until 3:00, KO and his take on the world of sports.
KEITH OLBERMANN, Countdown HOST: I quit.
OLBERMANN: Thanks for having me. It's been nice, and I'm glad we were able to reach this peaceful accord, but I got a bus to catch.
It's like being thawed out after you've been cryogenically frozen for eight years. So I'm like Ted Williams's head right now, just coming - you know, it's where have I been for the last eight years? It's very strange and very familiar at the same time because the reason I'm doing this is, you know, it's just a pleasure to work with him, always was. And you know, it gives me something to do on those - on that one hour a week I have free where I don't have to be at MSNBC.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
STEWART: All may finally be right with the sports broadcasting universe.
But the sports mascoting universe has been thrown for a loop, and it's a confusing loop, too. The NCAA has banned the use of American Indian mascots during the post-season. But during the regular season, not so much. So if you want to keep rooting for the Merrimac College Warriors, it's a good news, bad news kind of situation tonight. Here's why. The governing body of college sports decided it did not have the authority to ban the mascots outright. So until the playoffs, you can keep getting down with your politically incorrect self. Some 30 teams have Indian nicknames for mascots.
No idea how someone might be offended by this Southeast Oklahoma State Savages or the Carthage College Redmen, how they possibly made that list.
Robert Novak finally explaining himself tonight. No, not for his role in the CIA leak investigation. He's mum on that. So we're just going to have to make do with this. What do you have to say for yourself from a potty-mouth pundit? The conservative columnist made an early exit yesterday from his second gig as a cable news commentator.
First the exit itself. He and James Carville, the ragin' Cajun who specializes in goat getting, were debating the Senate candidacy of Congresswoman Katherine Harris. Novak's a fan, but he was not a fan of Carville's response.
ROBERT NOVAK, CNN: She might get elected...
NOVAK: No, wait. Let me - let me...
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN: I'll tell you this, Bob...
NOVAK: Just let me finish what I was going to say, James, please. I know you hate to hear me, but you have to...
CARVILLE: He's got to show these right-wingers that he's got backbone.
CARVILLE: ..."Wall Street Journal" editorial page is watching you.
Show them you're tough.
NOVAK: Well, I think that's bull (DELETED). And I hate that. Just let it go.
ED HENRY, CNN: OK, James, what do you think, though, seriously, about this Senate race, James, that the - that, basically, the...
STEWART: He was so out of there. Today came the remorse, Mr. Novak telling "The New York Daily News" he overreacted. Quote, "I thought that was unacceptable questioning of my integrity. I overreacted. I've gotten into a lot of shouting matches with James when I'm unable to out-shout him. I just got a little frustrated." Novak won't have to worry about it happening again for a while. CNN has asked him to take an involuntary vacation, suspending him for language and behavior that the network calls, quote, "inexcusable and unacceptable."
It's been one of the most important questions in the history of mankind, right up there with, Why is Paris Hilton famous? Why do men have nipples? The answer to that and other great human mysteries next.
STEWART: OK, picture this. You're on a beach. The weather's fine. You're relaxed, not a care in the world. As you sip your margarita, all stress leaves your body. And then suddenly, questions enter your mind. You can't ignore them. Why? Why do fools fall in love? Where's Dick Cheney's undisclosed location? And why - why do men have - OK, guys, I'd rather say this with a little bit of help, if you don't mind. Graphic, please. Why do men have nipples?
Our number one story on the Countdown tonight: Well, why do they? We've got the answer from two men who found the time and the desire to answer such burning queries. Well, we might have them stumped on that Dick Cheney thing, but male nipples, no problems.
Joining me now, the authors of "Why Do Men Have Nipples?: Hundreds of Questions You Only Ask Your Doctor After Your Third Martini," Dr. Billy Goldberg and humorist Mark Leyner.
Thanks so much for being with us.
MARK LEYNER, CO-AUTHOR, "WHY DO MEN HAVE NIPPLES?": Oh, thanks for having us.
DR. BILLY GOLDBERG, CO-AUTHOR, "WHY DO MEN HAVE NIPPLES?": thanks for having us.
STEWART: All right, Dr. Goldberg, how'd you come up with this idea?
GOLDBERG: Well, I had the idea for a very long time. I work in the emergency room. I'm a doctor. That's why I guess I'm Dr. Billy Goldberg.
GOLDBERG: That was - that was a good one. We're off to a flying start. So I work in the emergency room, and people ask me these questions.
I get phone calls from family and friends, and especially at parties. Mark
and I have been known to go to an occasional party, and at parties, people
· that's when they get a little drunk and they get a little nuts and they ask the crazy questions.
STEWART: Once you throw cocktails into something, all bets are off.
GOLDBERG: Yes, I know.
STEWART: Mark, how'd you get dragged into of this?
LEYNER: Well, I sometimes go to these parties and get a little drunk and answer these questions as a doctor...
GOLDBERG: A little drunk.
LEYNER:... as a doctor, even though I'm not one. I've always been fascinated with anatomy and biology and medicine. And when - and Billy and I met working on a TV show, actually, and we just decided the time was right to do a book that would answer all the questions people were embarrassed to ask about their own bodies and...
STEWART: Well, let's get to it - our bodies, ourselves.
LEYNER: All right. Let's do it.
STEWART: This portion of the program. OK, Doctor, why do men have nipples?
GOLDBERG: Ah, nipples again. It's all nipples these day. Basically, in utero, we develop - both men and develop the same. And then at about six weeks, the men take the non-nipple route, and we're left behind with this, you know, vestige of our days as women, our nipples.
LEYNER: Right. I think - I've come up with a kind of sweet Hallmark card characterization of it: A man's nipples are his mammary memory.
GOLDBERG: Oh, that's so sweet. I'm touched.
STEWART: And it's alliteration, as well.
GOLDBERG: It is.
STEWART: All right, Mark, does the kind of underpants men wear affect their fertility?
LEYNER: Absolutely not.
STEWART: Tighty whities don't matter?
LEYNER: No. No. Actually - and Billy can explain this. The temperature is much more important than whether they're tightly bound, or whether you're tightly bound or sort of loose and free.
GOLDBERG: Yes, and...
GOLDBERG:... technically, tight underwear could make you a little warmer downstairs, but it doesn't have any effect. There was a great "Seinfeld" thing, where Kramer - he needed - liked his tighty whities, and they told him he couldn't. But that is not true.
LEYNER: Not true at all.
STEWART: All right, let's branch out so we can get the women in the audience involved in this, as well. We batched this as "Safety first," our theme. Is lip balm addictive, Doctor?
GOLDBERG: Although, a lot of people think that, lip balm is not addictive. People have attacked a lot of lip balm companies over the Internet. Everything - there's all these conspiracy theories. But there's no proof that it's addictive at all. I mean, my wife puts it on all the time. But it's habituating, but not addictive.
LEYNER: Right. Snorting it is possibly addictive.
STEWART: That's not a good thing.
STEWART: And messy, too. Mark, let me ask you about another. Had a lot of people decide that they need to crack their knuckles. Is it bad for me to do that?
LEYNER: No, it's absolutely not bad for to you crack your knuckles.
There are parts of the body that are dangerous to crack, but...
GOLDBERG: Crack is (INAUDIBLE)
LEYNER:... knuckles aren't. Billy can describe exactly how - what causes that sound, though, in a cracking...
GOLDBERG: Set me up to be the medical dork. Basically, there's just some air in the joint fluid, and that pops. And it doesn't cause arthritis. It can stretch the ligaments a little and decrease your grip strength, so if you need to grip something...
STEWART: Well, Dr. Goldberg, I'll let you not be a medical dork, and we'll move onto the extracurricular story that everybody wants to know the question. Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, never fear. It is a Friday night, after all.
GOLDBERG: Yes, it is a Friday night. Well, you know, the truth is, there's no truth to that. The truth is there's no truth.
LEYNER: That's well put!
GOLDBERG: Yes, I'm really working. You know, we're becoming professionals here.
STEWART: Mark, this is one I got to know about. You wake up in the morning, you see your loved one next to you. You want to go in for the morning smooch, but you're thinking, Oh my God, I have dragon breath.
LEYNER: Right, morning breath.
STEWART: What causes morning breath?
LEYNER: There are actually - I think it's - it has to do with your mouth. I think, typically, unless you're an actively sort of playful person the whole night long, your mouth is usually closed for most of the night, and that enables certain bacteria to just lay there without, right, being stirred up and mixed with the...
GOLDBERG: Yes, you get dry and...
GOLDBERG:... and alcohol and cigarettes don't help. And it all comes together. I like the dragon breath (INAUDIBLE) That's a good one.
GOLDBERG: We had one in the book from Australia, the Poo (ph) Fairy.
The Poo Fairy comes to your mouth.
STEWART: You know what? That's an excellent note to end this interview on!
STEWART: Humorist Mark Leyner and Dr. Billy Goldberg. "Why Do Men Have Nipples?" is the name of the book. Thanks so much for joining us.
GOLDBERG: Oh, thank you so much.
LEYNER: Thanks for having us.
STEWART: I'm Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann. He's back Monday. Time to summon the Jeannie power to bring on "THE SITUATION."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END