Tuesday, February 21, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 21

Guests: Jim VandeHei, Craig Crawford, Evan Kohlmann, Beatrice Lydecker, Nancy Gindl-Perry

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

Every port in a storm. The president threatens his own party's leaders. Legislate against the Dubai Ports World deal, and he will veto it.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, I can understand why some in Congress have raised questions about whether or not our country will be less secure as a result of this transaction. But they need to know that our government has looked at this issue, and looked at it carefully.


OLBERMANN: Republicans from Bill Frist to Susan Collins, from George Pataki to Robert Ehrlich, disagree. They say no to turning security at six key ports over to the United Arab Emirates. Is this the political crisis of the Bush administration?

Day one of the era of Justice Alito, and the Supreme Court takes up late-term abortions.

The missing show dog. You have asked, we will answer. The search for Vivi and the dozen psychics hired to find her.

Did you ever cut gym? Ever faked a note from your mother? Florida Kids cut out the middleman. They bribe the middle-school PE teacher.

Speaking of cutting gym, is that an actual cat, or something they inflate for the Thanksgiving Day parade?

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

It is hard to believe that one could say this in the middle of perhaps the most politically controversial presidency since Abraham Lincoln, but it appears George W. Bush appears to be walking face-first into a bipartisan buzzsaw, and it's a buzzsaw that will at least seem, to most Americans, to put him virtually alone in favor of turning over the management of six key American ports to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates, while everybody else, including his own party's majority leader in the Senate, is opposed.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, the president wants the ports of New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Miami controlled by the Dubai Ports World company, and if the Congress, Republicans included, tries to stop him, he will veto any legislation it passes.

Bush made the threat in a highly unusual chat with the media on his way back from Colorado this afternoon aboard Air Force One, coming back to their compartment to tell the six pool reporters on board that the deal should go forward, and saying about dissenters in Congress, quote, "If they pass a law, I'll deal with it with a veto."

Once on the ground, he reiterated his point for the TV cameras, minus the V-word.


BUSH: The transaction should go forward, in my judgment. If there was any chance that this transaction would jeopardize the security of the United States, it would not go forward.

The company has been cooperative with the United States government. The company will not manage port security. The security of our ports will be continue to be managed by the Coast Guard and the Customs.

The company is from a country that has been cooperative on the war on terror, been an ally on the war on terror.

I think it sends a terrible signal to friends around the world that it's OK for a company from one country to manage the port, but not a country that has plays by the rules and has a good track record from another part of the world can't, can't manage the port.

And so, look, I can understand why some in Congress have raised questions about whether or not our country will be less secure as a result of this transaction, but they need to know our government has looked at this issue, and looked at it carefully.


OLBERMANN: In a moment, I'll be joined by one of the recipients of the president's rare midair visit, Jim Vandehei of "The Washington Post."

First, those in Congress that the president was referring to. It was the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, who proposed possible legislation today, echoing similar calls by two New York politicos, Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Peter King.

Said Frist, quote, "The decision to finalize this deal should be on hold until the administration conducts a more extensive review of this matter. If the administration cannot delay the process, I plan on introducing legislation to ensure that the deal is placed on hold until this decision gets a more thorough review."

Senator Frist is not the only major Republican concerned. The new House majority leader, John Boehner, endorsed the idea of holding congressional hearings on the deal. House speaker Dennis Hastert wrote a letter to the president asking him to put the $6.8 billion deal on hold.

The sale has already been reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment, which decided it did not threaten national security. That committee, headed up by the Treasury Department, whose secretary, according to "The New York Daily News," had business ties with the Dubai Port World company.

Before he joined the president's cabinet, Secretary John Snow was chairman of the CSX rail firm. That firm sold its own international port operations to Dubai Port World in a $1.15 billion the year after Snow left the company.

He is not the only government official connected to the UAE firm. David Sanborn, who was appointed by the president last month to run the U.S. Martine Administration, runs Dubai Port World's European and Latin American operations.

As mentioned, Jim Vandehei, White House correspondent of "The Washington Post," is one of the eyewitnesses to that bit of presidential ad hoc news conference history aboard Air Force One today.

Thanks for your time, Jim.


OLBERMANN: In front of TV cameras, (INAUDIBLE) demeanor was pretty calm, he seemed pleasant enough about this, even though it represented a backlash in his own part. What was he like on the plane?

VANDEHEI: I thought he was a lot more animated on the plane. He really seemed fired up and sort of ready and willing to have this fight. You know, he's let it go on for the last couple of days, and he's gotten a lot of pressure from Republicans and Democrats to come out and to defend why he's doing this deal.

I mean, on the face of it, it's very easy to politicize it and say, What are we doing giving this country that had ties to the 9/1 hijackers control over ports? which so many different reports and experts have said are the most porous entry point in the United States.

OLBERMANN: The president has never vetoed a single bill in his entire

term and a half, or near as such. Is he, in your opinion, your assessment,

seriously considering vetoing anything that would even as much as delay the

this Dubai deal?

VANDEHEI: I think we have to take him at his word. He was adamant twice in the interview that we had with him that he was willing to veto. Anything that came across his desk, he said, that would prohibit this sale, he'll veto it. So now he's on the record saying it. It'd be very hard for him to back down.

I think he really takes this as a personal affront, you know, having Republicans challenges his commitment to terrorism. Love him or hate him, this guy has been very passionate about fighting terrorism, and I think he's very surprised that Republicans are now questioning whether he would allow a deal to go through that could actually jeopardize national security.

OLBERMANN: Is that, do you suppose, where the stridency is coming from, where the, what was the reason for the unexpected visit back to your segment on the plane here today? What was the reason for his statement as soon as he landed?

VANDEHEI: I think the reason for that was this backlash. I don't think they ever anticipated that conservatives both in Congress and at the grassroots would be this fired up about an issue and be challenging the president.

I mean, if you watched Fox News or if you listened to conservative talk radio or call-in shows on C-Span, I've never seen conservatives this fired up, at least since the Harriet Miers controversy, where he had to withdrawn her nomination, in questioning the president. So they knew he had to start defining before he's defined.

OLBERMANN: Both Representative King and Senator Schumer in New York today said they believe that the president had not heard anything about this until recently. Is that plausible to you?

VANDEHEI: I think it's very plausible. The way these things are traditionally handled is, any business transaction that has national security implications is reviewed by this fairly secretive committee that's made up of different White House officials.

So it's entirely plausible that this review process went forth just like many do every year, and that the president didn't know anything about it until it became a big issue, until it was brought to his attention.

Then I think - my understanding is, he went and he talked to these officials, he was reassured that this thing was scrutinized thoroughly, that there aren't any national security implications, and he decided to get out there today and fight it out.

OLBERMANN: The president this afternoon said essentially that it's not OK to discriminate against a company from one part of the world, the mixed message comment that he made. Can you tell, is that how he perceives that part of this, or is that just a good talking point?

Because otherwise, the perception seems to be, not it's Arabs here, we can't deal with them, but that it's a company actually run by a government in an Arabic country with international drug trade links and connections to two of the 9/11 hijackers and all that. Does he see the simpler version of that?

VANDEHEI: I think he's really worried about the perception globally. And also, with the United Arab Emirates. Remember, this is an ally on the war on terror. And that just isn't just a slogan, that means that they allow us docking rights on the Persian Gulf coast in that country, and they provide other support.

So the president doesn't want to alienate that country, but also doesn't want to send this message that we were fine as a country when a British company owned and controlled the ports, but we're not fine when an Arab company does. And I think they feel like that is just bad perception. And he was very pointed, he said, Listen, you guys have a problem with this, I want you to get out and explain what the difference is.

OLBERMANN: Jim Vandehei of "The Washington Post." As always, sir, great thanks for your insight and your time tonight.

VANDEHEI: Have a good evening.

OLBERMANN: So far, the president's position has been backed up, on the record, anyway, by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Secretary of Homeland Security Chertoff, Attorney General Gonzalez, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Pace, former president Carter, and - and did I mention Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld?

Seldom has a president seemingly gone it so much alone. This looks like one of these events that ends with somebody, or maybe lots of somebodies, with skinned knees, or worse.

Joining me to try to forecast the path of this hurricane, Craig Crawford of MSNBC and "Congressional Quarterly," and, of course, author of "Attack the Messenger."

Good evening, Craig.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": Hi. They wanted us to talk about something other than quail hunting. They got it.

OLBERMANN: They got it. They may (INAUDIBLE) back at that nostalgically.

CRAWFORD: I think so.

OLBERMANN: Secretaries and Joint Chiefs and past presidents aside, is this right now a political shutout? Is the president losing this one about 535 to nothing right now?

CRAWFORD: He's as isolated as I've ever seen him. And Jim made the comparison to Harriet Miers. This, I would this another Miers moment, where conservatives, of all things, dare to publicly to challenge the president. And that seems to have surprised them.

They are not getting (INAUDIBLE) - they just cannot get used to the fact, Keith, that they've got a lot of Republicans back here on Capitol Hill that are facing reelection, not that long away, and they're a little more interested in their own futures than the president's agenda.

And this is where they keep running into problems with Republicans coming forward and surprising them.

OLBERMANN: So what is the disconnect here with the president? Why does he - does he - does he not want to see, or can he not see, that the thing is being received like Harriet Miers, only it's more serious because you've got the John Snow connection, even if that's innocent, it looks terrible to the company. Plus, you are indeed giving the Democrats the chance, for the first time, perhaps, since 9/11, to come out looking like they are tougher on terrorism than George Bush is.

CRAWFORD: It is a second-term disease. And you see this so often with presidents. When they get into the second term, they get to thinking they're invincible. Maybe another word is arrogant. And they don't listen and just keep doing what they think they should do.

And I do think this president really gets his back up when anyone questions his commitment to national security, that he would allow these ports to become insecure.

And also, it's a lot like - you know, and I heard a good comparison today on my blog, one of my bloggers, Julia, she made the comparison to Britney Spears, all her fans trying to tell her not to marry that loser, and she did it anyway. I don't think Bush is listening to his fans any better than Britney Spears did.

OLBERMANN: Next time we have a Britney Spears story, we're bringing you back for that. You just suckered yourself into...

CRAWFORD: I just knew you wanted to talk about Britney Spears.

OLBERMANN: You suckered yourself into that.

Now, back to this thing. Literally, looking all day for active politicians to say, No, Mr. Bush is right on this, and he is standing up for our allies in the war on terror, and there's no (INAUDIBLE) - we got nothing. When Bill Bennett is saying, This is a mistake, and your leading support outside your own administration, outside your own employees, is from Jimmy Carter, is there nobody to say to the president, You are going to get your head handed to you on this?

CRAWFORD: Jimmy Carter, the one conservatives still rail against for giving away the Panama Canal.


CRAWFORD: And so I think what we've got here is a president who's just (INAUDIBLE) - he's duct-taped his hands to the wheel, and pedal to the metal, and it's going to take somebody to talk him out of it.

And I personally think that if this president cannot find some sort of consensus and get this off the table, Republicans could well lose control of at least the House in Congress, because the conservative voters, who are already mad at him over immigration and what they see as his liberal policies on guest workers, this fits into that. And the immigration bills are coming up again next month.

This is a voting bloc that is very dangerous to ignite against you, or to depress their turnout, which would be the real danger, if they didn't turn out and vote in some of these elections, tight races like Rick Santorum's Senate race in Pennsylvania, for example.

OLBERMANN: All right, let's close this out. Forecast this one for me. Game-play it for me. Does it go down the route where Congress passes legislation, voiding the port contracts, the president vetoes it, and then he has his veto overridden by Republicans? Or is there some compromise possible?

CRAWFORD: I think the Republicans will want to avoid an up-or-down vote where they have to go on the record. If they can get this president to trigger what the law allows, is a long period, another 45-day period, to review it, and then see if we all forget about it, that would be the first thing they would try.

Secondarily, I take it they have to go to a vote, then they go down the road to overriding a veto, and they're not going to be willing, I think, to vote for something that allows these ports to be taken over by an Arab company when they are facing reelection, the Republicans aren't.

OLBERMANN: Forty-five days, you say. That's seven more this month, 31 in March. OK, so that's April 7 or so we have to revisit it. I'm just making (INAUDIBLE) here.

CRAWFORD: Yes, that's it, that's the trouble with putting it off. It just moves it closer to election day in November.

OLBERMANN: Craig Crawford of "Congressional Quarterly" and MSNBC. As always, sir, great thanks.

CRAWFORD: You bet.

OLBERMANN: At the center of this political storm, the United Arab Emirates. What exactly are the terror concerns related to that country? What could happen by putting our port security possibly into the hands of the Arab world? You say Dubai, and I say hello.

And the new Supreme Court will tackle the abortion issue. head-on. Sandra Day O'Connor is gone as the swing vote. The high court will now consider banning some late-term abortions.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: In perhaps the oddest coupling of his presidency, Mr. Bush finds himself on the same side of a political imbroglio as former president Jimmy Carter.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, what exactly is going on inside the United Arab Emirates, inside the company it owns, Dubai Ports World, that could be so rearranging the political landscape back here? Is this a controversy about a country? Is it about a company? Is it about a better image for the U.S. on the proverbial Arab street? Is it about safety and security at U.S. ports?

For the latter point, joining me now, Evan Kohlmann, MSNBC counterterrorism analyst and founder of the Web site GlobalTerrorAlert.com.

Good evening, Evan.


OLBERMANN: Financial people look at this company, say it's got a good track record. President looks at this (INAUDIBLE) company, says, We're discriminating against its people, sending a mixed message. So what precisely is the issue with Dubai Ports World?

KOHLMANN: Well, I think it's really an issue of appearance of impropriety, not anything that's actually been done that's wrong.

Certainly the United Arab Emirates has long been a center for terrorist financing and terrorist conspiracies involving al Qaeda . I mean, I personally have seen money transfer orders from senior al Qaeda members in the United Arab Emirates to 9/11 hijackers. 9/11 hijackers, there were meetings that took place in the United Arab Emirates.

And indeed, even after 9/11, up to two years after 9/11, one of the senior members of al Qaeda was captured in the United Arab Emirates, planning attacks on ports and Western shipping interests.

What does that have to do with the sale of this company to a Dubai-based corporation, or a state-owned corporation in Dubai? Absolutely nothing.

If a terrorist wants to infiltrate a maritime shipping company, if it wants to infiltrate the company that runs ports in this country, it will infiltrate whatever company is there, whether it's a Dubai company, a British company, or otherwise.

If we're concerned that this company comes from a country where several of the 9/11 hijackers came through, well, look, I mean, you know, Britain, all four of the 7/7 bombers, the British 7/7 bombers, were British, were born and bred in Britain. Does that mean we're afraid to let a British company control this now?

It just doesn't make sense. And if the issue is port security, then I'm full well with them, because there is, there are immense lapses in port security. We're not scanning everything that's coming through American ports. We're not scanning nearly everything that's going on cargo aircraft.

These are real issues that have to do with port security, that are not being addressed by the Bush administration, by Congress, by anyone else. And it's amazing that in this time, that instead we're all following this canard, this red herring, which is the Dubai Ports company.

OLBERMANN: The president specifically says security at U.S. ports, to whatever degree it was done, was done by agents of our government, it will be done by agents of this government. But if that's true, what does a company like Dubai Ports World actually do at, say, the Port of Newark? Does it decide what cargo does and does not get inspected, who does and does not get access to the port?

KOHLMANN: These are all issues for government regulation. These are not issues that are up to the judgment of the port operators. Security is in the hands of the Department of Homeland Security. Lapses that occur are because of lapses in our own government regulation and our own government agencies.

Frankly speaking, this is the first time in months, if not years, that there's been any serious look back from Congress, or from the White House, of port security. The only good thing about this issue is that people are starting to finally, you know, perk up and take notice of what really is a serious, serious lapse in homeland security.

But this is a canard. It really - it has no relevance to real security. I think, if anything, if we know from al Qaeda is, is, they're looking for people that don't fit the profile. If they're going to recruit people or try to infiltrate a company, it's going to be a U.S. company with a really American-sounding name, because that will people - that will put people beyond suspicion, that will put operatives beyond suspicion.

This is really the product of an overactive imagination.

OLBERMANN: So turn it on its head for me. You're the number 16 guy in al Qaeda, and Dubai Ports World gets a foot in at these six U.S. facilities, and you're thinking, A, That's going to make my plans more difficult, because it tightens the relationships between the United Arab Emirates and the U.S.?

KOHLMANN: If anything, I think it would put homeland security even more at guard. It would put DHS agents even more at guard, even more suspicious of what they see coming in and out. I really don't see this aiding terrorists in any way. I think it's purely a canard.

OLBERMANN: And an emotional response, obviously.

KOHLMANN: Yes, and I understand the sentiment. If the sentiment is the Bush administration has not been doing enough for port security, again, I'm with that. But this one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. And I really think it does set a bad precedent to say that a British company, a foreign company, can control this, but an Arab company can't. If we're really that worried about it, then we should nationalize the ports and put all port management under U.S. government control.

I don't think that's an economically viable alternative. I don't think that's some - that's a really serious alternative. Again, I think this is really emotions overtaking logic.

OLBERMANN: Terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann. As always, sir, thank you for your time.

KOHLMANN: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: What was your first day on your first job like? For Joseph Alito, the controversy showed up - forgive me. For Samuel Alito, the controversy showed up at the start. Abortion and the Supreme Court.

And is that a cat in your hands, or has your pillow sprung to life like Pinocchio?

(singing): Meow, meow, meow, meow. Meow, meow, meow, meow. Meow, meow, meow, meow. Feed me.

Ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: It's 25 years to the day since the late Charles Rocket made unwanted television history, uttering a popular Anglo-Saxon expletive in the middle of a "Saturday Night Live" spoof of the "Who Shot J.R.?" episode from "Dallas." He was fired, the producer was fired, pretty much everybody was fired.

On that note, what the - let's play Oddball.

I said fluff.

We begin in the rural village of Ludyana (ph), India, for the thrill, the color, the pageantry that is the Oddball Winter Games. No, there are no silly sports, you know, like double luge, just the traditional events, like riding a bike with a flaming tire around your neck, and how many bikes can your cow jump over? Wheee.

It's a wide world of weird sports, many involving flames and feats of strength and tractors and stuff. But the highlight is the bullock cart race, named, of course, for the two animals pulling the wagons, Jim J. and Sandra Bullock.

There are no medals to be awarded here, but the winner is said to earn the respect of his countrymen for an entire year, and that and a rupee will buy you a nice chicken curry.

To Masakoda (ph) in Japan, where hundreds of abominable snowmen -

apparently that's as opposed to abdominal showmen - appear ready to invade

this mountainside community, enslaving the population, eating the pets, and

I'm sorry, it's just a bunch of trees covered in snow and ice.

Days of severe winter weather created the army of ice monsters, which have attracted tourists and shutterbugs from all over the area, but unfortunately, confused villagers had already blown the giant horn that summons Godzilla. And he hates getting out of bed for nothing, so, death to the abdominal snowmen.

And there he is. Please don't kill us. Actually, that's just a really fat housecat in King Dao, King Dao, China. Good, good kitty. Nice, nice kitty. Please don't eat us.

Ah, but Mr. Zu Zirong's (ph) 33-pound tabby does not appear to pose a threat to much of anybody. In fact, the tub of goo with the 31-inch waist can barely move around without help. Still, Zu says the cat is in great health and chows down on six pounds of pork each day, and then takes his nap for upwards of 46 hours at a stretch.

From scale-busting cats to a missing champion dog. New details on the search for "Vivi." Real-life clues and the psychic search by what are called "animal communicators."

Remember grumbling to get out of gym class as a kid? This is the 21st century now kids, money talks, everybody else walks the balance beam. Details ahead, but first here are Countdown's "Top Three Newsmakers" of this day:

No. 3, they're saving the embarrassment of identifying him publicly, but at this point, what's the difference? Police in Poughkeepsie, New York say a 35-year-old man was shot Saturday during a dispute at his apartment complex. He had been previously shot in the same building in November, 2002. And August, 2002, and in May, 2000. Can we suggest Apartment Finders, sir?

Patricia Jennings, a nurse at a hospital in London, now banned from public service after she went up to a colleague and slapped her in the face with a frozen trout. Obviously the British Nursing Council had never seen the fish slapping dance from "Monty Python's Flying Circus."

And No. 1, the fake Michael Jackson who was admitted to a black tie charity gala starring Gladys Knight, honoring the Mayor Thomas Menino in Boston, even though he was well over six feet tall described as well built and his Michael costume consisted of two golf gloves, a worn leather jacket, a Boston accent, a hardware store-style dust mask and black straw hat.

So, before you condemn him, whoever he was consider this, he actually wanted to pretend to be Michael Jackson? Eeeeww!


OLBERMANN: The good news, they think they may have found Vivi's droppings. The bad news they still can't find Vivi herself. Our third story on the Countdown tonight, the search for one of the stars of last week's Westminster's Kennel Club Dog Show has now taken an extraordinary and an extrasensory turn. One of the animal communicators called in to try to find the prized pooch telepathically joins us in a moment. First Countdown's Monica Novotny with the latest scoop.


MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From canines to clairvoyants, everyone's looking for Vivi.

LAURA TOTIE, DOG TRAINER: We are all sad and we're committed to find this dog. I mean, everybody wants to be the one that finds her.

NOVOTNY: Especially her owners.

JIL WALTON, VIVI'S CO-OWNER: She sleeps in my bed, you know, she's my dog, so she's priceless.

NOVOTNY: And hopefully she has ESP because after six days, two trained search dogs, a $5,000 reward and more than 100 man hours, now pet psychics are on the case. At least four animal communicators say they're talking telepathically to the missing 30 pound whippet with her.

PAUL LEPIANE, VIVI'S CO-OWNER: What the psychic is seeing is what the dog's seen and she was describing the building.

NOVOTNY: The psychics say she Vivi is warm, hiding under folded boxes near lots of yellow equipment. And they could be right. Dog droppings like Vivi's have been found behind a cargo building near Kennedy Airport where she was last seen almost a week ago.

The three-year-old show dog who won an award of merit at the Westminster Dog Show in New York, hightailed it out of her cage at Kennedy Airport last week, slipping through the fencing to the surrounding marshland and setting off an airport-wide search.

WALTON: Really, everything has been done in this area. I mean, they had helicopters up looking for a dog.

NOVOTNY: Everyone with vision ons of Vivi.

WALTON: When I do see her, it will be fantastic. So, we just have to hope that that happens.

NOVOTNY: For Countdown, Monica Novotny.


OLBERMANN: Joining me now one of the animal communicators searching for Vivi, Beatrice Lydecker.

Ms. Lydecker, thanks for your time. Good evening.


OLBERMANN: Vivi's owners contacted you for help. You first started getting a sense of her whereabouts last Friday. What did you see, what did you feel at that point?

LYDECKER: Well, the first I saw her passing was a huge yellow - some type of equipment, might be like a snowplow or something, in an open area and I felt her get warm and I asked her where she was and I said I'm inside this building and it's heated in here and I gave a description of it, and she was hiding between two black barrels. And then she was inside over the weekend and then she said, "They opened the doors and I bolted out." So, now she's running around in a big open field and I'm flying in there tonight to see if I can track her.

OLBERMANN: And that's the last it, the big open field, and that's the last sensation you've had?

LYDECKER: Yeah, she's not doing very well today. She's very, very cold. I know they got a sweater on her, but her feet are awfully cold and her legs are cold. Those dogs don't have much, you know, heat - padding there.

OLBERMANN: For people who don't share your sensitivities, how does this process work? Do you need to work off a photograph? Does it just happen randomly? Can you summon it?

LYDECKER: No, I don't want photographs because what I pick up from the photograph is what the animal felt at the time the picture was taken, so it throws me off. I just need to know the animal's name and where it was last seen. And then I see it from their point - now, like the barrels, the black barrels, I saw, looked huge. But you know, remember, I'm looking from one foot of the ground up at the barrels, so they would look a lot bigger to a whippet than they would to a samoa or a horse or a person.

OLBERMANN: And you have no way of sending the message back to direct her towards people or to encourage her to respond to anybody who might be in the area, do you?

LYDECKER: When I asked her why she was, you know, not going to anybody, she said "I'm so scared, I don't know anybody. I'm cold and confused." She's very confused at this point.

OLBERMANN: So, where does it go from here? You said you're going in to try to deal with this on the ground?

LYDECKER: Yeah, I'm flying in tonight and lot of times I can feel where the animal - I've track some people, too. And I can feel where the animal or the person is. It's easier sometimes to find people, because at least the people can show me signs and I can read numbers and things and license plates and stuff off of the people's eyes, but I can't do that with the dog, all I can describe is what I see. So, I can often go to an area and I can feel the direction and I will just keep moving in that direction until I find them. I've had quite a bit of success with it and I'm just hoping that tomorrow's going to be another one of those.

OLBERMANN: Any sense from Vivi about how long she can hold out if she's outdoors, in - although it's warmer than it was over the weekend, it's still pretty cold in metropolitan New York area right now.

LYDECKER: Yeah, I'm just hoping that she will find some kind of shelter, because she said she couldn't find any shelter. There was nothing to hide under to get out from under the element, and she felt kind of wet tonight for some reason. She's feeling really wet.

OLBERMANN: Animal communicator Beatrice Lydecker, assisting in the search for Vivi, and now going in person to try to help out outside of JFK Airport. Good luck with that and thanks for your time tonight.

LYDECKER: Thank you. Pleasure to be here.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the Supreme Court, under the new chief justice, wasting no time in tackling the hot button issue that had been forecast to be on its plate for decades perhaps, abortion.

And a battle royal of less import, obviously, Donald Trump and Martha Stewart facing off. We're going to call this competition "Who's the biggest loser?"

Those stories ahead, but first here are Countdown's "Top Three Sound Bites."


ANNOUNCER: And Amadou Ba, a Michigan player, is seated on the bench and you see the fan going over to Amadou Ba and talking with him. Ba sticks his right leg out, the fan comes back. Now, watch what Amadou Ba does when he stands up. Shoves the fan to the floor, you see the fan escorted out. They gave him a breathalyzer test, he did test positive for alcohol.

DWIGHT WALTON, WON POWERBALL: We came over to Richmond and it was the 12th anniversary and came over to eat at the Red Lobster and we're coming back down the road and she reminded me I'd better stop and get a ticket, so I and came up here and got them and, surprise, surprise, we...

CHASE BECKHAM, FUTURE PRESIDENT: Let me look for the first president.

Here it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep your political eyes for three and a half-year-old Chase Beckham who already enjoys learning all he can about past presidents and could take steps to become our president.

BECKHAM: I see a change (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He knows about Richard Nixon.

BECKHAM: I'm not a crook.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His favorite is our eight presidents that led the country 169 years ago.

BECKHAM: I like Martin van Buren because he looks like a rooster.

And I love roosters, too.



OLBERMANN: Dispute ahead here on Countdown from the late term abortion battle that will now go before the Supreme Court to a face-off between Donald Trump and Martha Stewart, to the police versus the gym teacher who liked to profit from kids who wanted to skip gym class. Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: Since well before the 2000 election, the scenario had been playing out in the minds of every political group, every rights organization, everyone pro and con. One maybe two seats would be opening on the Supreme Court, a new court, whether more conservative or more liberal would have to revisit abortion, maybe even Roe v. Wade. Our No. 2 story on the Countdown tonight, and here we are. The first term for Chief Justice John Roberts, the first official day on the bench for Justice Sam Alito, and as our correspondent, Pete Williams reports, they and their colleagues will revisit abortion, specifically the late term procedure whose opponents call it "partial birth."


PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The court today agreed to hear a challenge to the first law ever passed by Congress to limit how abortions are performed. After years of impassioned debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This procedure is so grotesque.

WILLIAMS: And two vetoes by President Clinton, President Bush and the republican Congress succeeded two years ago in passing a law to ban what opponents call "partial birth abortion."

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our nation owes its children a different and better welcome.

WILLIAMS: Its opponents emphasize that a fetus is partially delivered, its skull then collapsed. But Congress made no exception to allow it when a woman's health was at stake. Three federal appeals court have struck the law down noting that the Supreme Court ruled just five years ago that abortion restrictions must contain a health exception if quote "substantial medical authority supports its medical necessity." Women's groups say the procedure is essential in two kinds of cases.

PRISCILLA SMITH, CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: Both for women who have particular medical conditions and for every woman who comes forward and needs an abortion procedure, starting early in the second trimester.

WILLIAMS: The Supreme Court's decision in 2000 came on a 5-4 vote in favor of a Nebraska doctor, Leroy Carhart, who challenged a state limit on the procedure. But the court has changed in a big way since then. Sandra Day O'Connor who cast the fifth and deciding vote is gone replaced by Samuel Alito. Supporters of the federal ban say that's good news for them.

JAY SEKULOW, FEDERAL BAN SUPPORTER: It is a new day for those of us who have a pro-conviction. This is a big day.

WILLIAMS (on camera): The justices will hear the case this fall, until then, the ban remains blocked in legal limbo. Pete Williams, NBC News at the Supreme Court.


OLBERMANN: There are still subjects on which the court maintains inanimate, thought they may be few, today its stand on religious freedom soundly trumping the government's right to intervene even when the federal agents are trying to halt the use of hallucinogens. The court today ruling unanimously that federal drug agents should have been barred from confiscating 30 gallons hoasca tea in Santa Fe, New Mexico, May, 1999.

That tea, which contains an illegal drug called DMT, is used twice a month by a Brazilian-based church in four-hour long religious ceremonies. The court sent the case back to a federal appeals court to consider further evidence, but its position was clear when it comes to religious freedom, the burden of any interference rests with the government. Justice Alito did not participate in that decision.

Martha Stewart has never brewed up any hallucinogenic tea, not intentionally, we think, although if I were Donald Trump, I'd make sure I stick to the Earl Gray for a while. These two provide the segue into our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertain news "Keeping Tabs."

The high doyen of household hints attributing the demise of her

version of NBC's ""Apprentice" to overexposure of the show. Steward

telling "Newsweek" magazine that airing two versions of the same reality

series in one season was quote, "unfair" and going on to claim that hers

was supposed to be the only one. Donald Trump, she said, was supposed to

get the "you're fired" message in the first episode. Trump, for his part,

says that is nonsense. He cited his co-ownership of the original version -

of the series as proof. He told the "Associated Press," quote, "I wish she would be able to take responsibility for her failure." He had no comment on reports that his hair is actually a series of DVD diskses arranged in attractive jukebox-style display.

It wasn't "you're fired," but "I quit" on the campus of Harvard University today. Lawrence Summers, the school's controversial president has now resigned. Summers sparked outrage last year after offering up for debate a controversial postulation, that innate differences between men and women might explain why so few women reached top scientific positions. The start of his tenor as president had seen the exodus of several prominent black studies professors after a falling out with Summers. The resignation preempts the second "no confidence vote" that was supposed to be held by the school's faculty. In fact, a statement posted on the university Web site attributes Summer's decisions to quote, "Rifts between me and segments of the arts and sciences faculty." After a year's sabbatical, he plans to return to the university as a professor, although oddly his classes apparently will be meeting in the "T" Subway Station in Harvard Square.

From problems in college to problems in middle school. How to pass gym class without really trying. That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's list of today's three nominees for "Worst Person in the World."

The bronze, an unnamed mother in League City, Texas. She dropped 6-year-old daughter off at elementary school the other morning, the girl was improperly dressed, considering it was chilly and drizzling, and Saturday, and mom didn't notice that there was no school, even though there were no cars in the parking lot or any kids in the area. She's been arrested.

The runner-up, lecturers Edwina Luck (ph) and Dr. Eunice Ali (ph) of the Queensland University of Technology Business School in Australia. Student Rowen Duggen submitted a paper to Ms. Luck's class, she didn't like his grammar. She marked up the paper and added a note suggesting Duggen needed to do quote, "More smarter writing" unquote. After that, he asked to have another teacher look at the paper. That was when Dr. Ali saw it and gave him a lower grade still, complaining that he referred to two guys whom he did not mention as references in the bibliography. Two guys named "ying and yang." Seriously.

But the winner, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, in his speech defending the war on free (ph) domestic spying he pointed out, that things are going well in Iraq because quote, "We've stopped a mass murderer in Saddam Hussein. Nobody denies that he was supporting Al Qaeda. Well, I shouldn't say nobody, nobody with brains." Gee, who are the guys who denied it? Some kind of 9/11 Commission, something like that? It's always important to remember, Senator, that just because somebody might have brains, that doesn't mean they aren't in your backside. Senator Orrin Hatch, today's "Worst Person in the World!"


OLBERMANN: In the dark distant past, circa A.D. 1970, the popular punishment for goofing off in middle school phys ed classes was to make us kids run laps. Think about that for a moment. We were supposed to be getting not just exercise, but also an appreciation for the value of exercise. Instead, it became the punishment. Our top story on the Countdown, tonight.

The decades have passed, the attitudes toward exercise in school have changed, now when middle school kids view it as exercise they can simply bribe the teacher. Coach Terrance Braxton taught P.E. to 250 students grades six through eight at Ernest Ward Middle School in Walnut Hill, Florida. When they didn't want the going rate, say authorities, a buck a day and he marked you as present whether or not you were. If it sounds penny ante to you, sheriff's office investigators there believe Mr. Braxton may have made more than 1,000 dollars in just three months. The boy's basketball coach had already quit the school. He turned himself into the police, now faces six counts of felony bribery plus loss of his license and on it goes. An official report has now been filed against a former female gym teacher, at the same school. Investigation underway there to see if that's another case of this. The school's principal, Nancy Gindl-Perry, was kind enough to go to nearby Pensacola and join us from there tonight.

Thanks for your time this evening.


OLBERMANN: How did you find out about this? What was the first hint?

GINDL-PERRY: A student brought an allegation to me and said that, you know, this was happening, that they were giving coach Braxton a dollar not to participate in P.E. and at that point I immediately, of course, turned it over to the district.

OLBERMANN: If the sheriff's estimate is right about this and he made 1,000 bucks off it in three months it's more than a couple kids. Do you have any idea how many kids might have been doing this?

GINDL-PERRY: No, sir. We are not given the direct numbers. Of course, this comes from the district, once I made the - once I understood the allegation, immediately I turned it over.

OLBERMANN: And nothing - I presume, nothing happens to the kids or do you keep that private or what?

GINDL-PERRY: Yes, sir. Nothing happens to the kids. That is a private matter that would be under, of course, the Escambia Sheriff's Department would be the only person to be - have those names.

OLBERMANN: Tell me about coach Braxton. What kind of teacher was he?

What kind of a coach was he? Did you like his work until this point?

GINDL-PERRY: He was a very good phys ed teacher. He did a very good job, he brought our basketball team, which had won very few games, if any, in the past five years and in two years he brought us where we only lost two games this year. So, he did an excellent job and the kids loved him.

OLBERMANN: Do you know anything more about this story about this second teacher, this female phys ed teacher. Is there reason to believe this was going on there, too?

GINDL-PERRY: Yes, sir. Whenever we found out - whenever - during the investigation, allegations were also made against her, and at that point, you know, I also turned it over to the Escambia County School District and the sheriff's department; however, she is no longer with the school district as she was cut in reduction of force.

OLBERMANN: And now, I know there are a lot of people nationally who are making fun over this and probably making you and the folks there feel uncomfortable about it, but on a serious level, I hated gym class when I was a kid and everything about it seemed to be punishment and they would add this actual punishment to us by making us run laps and can I still remember the name of the teacher who did that and he was a soccer coach. The country is getting out of shape, more out of shape every day. Do we have to rethink phys ed in school so kids buy into it? Can you make it more like recess or something? Is there something we're not doing here?

GINDL-PERRY: Well, that's a very good question and I think it's something that we, as a whole society, need to relook at P.E. at phys ed; however, it is required in high school, it is required in middle school and, you know, something that - most kids love it. You know, most kids, when you go to fifth grade classes and say, you know, if you don't make good grades you may not be taking recess or phys ed and they're like oh, I can't take P.E.? You know, so there are some kids that don't like it, but for the most part I think the kids do.

OLBERMANN: I can imagine after all of this has gone down that those kids who didn't like it are better behaved now than they were before. Nancy Gindl-Perry, the principal at Ernest Ward Middle School in Walnut Hill, Florida. Great thanks for joining us and for taking the trouble to come out and be on the show tonight.

GINDL-PERRY: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown, for this the 1,027th day since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Goodnight and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with "Rita Cosby, Live and Direct."

Good evening Rita.