Friday, February 3, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for February 3

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

The CIA leak investigation. The trial date set for Scooter Libby, January 8, 2007, a scant 338 days from now, only one set of midterm elections from now, just one Super Bowl and one full football season from now, just one winter, one spring, one summer, one fall, and part of another winter from now. Ooh, it'll be here in the blink of an eye.

Unimaginable disaster on the Red Sea. An Egyptian ferry sinks, the death toll well over 1,000.

The toll in Alabama, five churches burned to the ground overnight.

Some had black congregations, some had white congregations.

Hey, they're playing some sort of football game this weekend. Why Super Bowl Sunday is the new Thanksgiving, food-wise, and why you should not bet on the outcome of this game.

Bet on this. Super Bowl, super Oddball. All the best pictures, all the best angles from another month of dumb news.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

Imagine a trial at which the defendant and many of the witnesses worked at the highest levels inside the Bush White House, a trial that would prompt a national discussion about the administration's justification for war in Iraq, and what it really knew about those nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, a trial that would consistently draw focus away from the president's second-term agenda.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, well, you can just keep on imagining it, because the perjury and obstruction of justice trial of one Lewis Scooter Libby will not begin until 27 days before next year's Super Bowl, the federal judge assigned to the CIA leak case today setting a trial date of January 8, 2007.

It could get postponed even further than that, U.S. District Judge

Reggie B. Walton saying that he wanted to begin in September of this year -

· you know, before the midterm elections - but one of Mr. Libby's lawyers already had another trial booked for that month.

Uh-huh. Judge Walton expressing reluctance for having, quote, "a case linger so long," but saying he had no choice, the extra four months giving Mr. Libby's defense team that much more time to complain about the information it claims it is not getting from the special prosecutor's office.

That may be a two-way street. Close inspection of a letter from special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to Mr. Libby's counsel revealing that some of the records being sought in the case may be missing, because of an e-mail archiving problem at the White House.

Quoting, "We advise you that we have learned that not all e-mail of the office of vice president and the executive office of the president for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system."


As for the allegations that kicked off the CIA leak scandal to begin with, "The NATIONAL Journal" reporting that Mr. Libby and his former boss, Vice President Cheney, were personally informed in June 2003 that the CIA NO longer considered credible the claims that Saddam Hussein had tried to procure uranium from Niger.

If that's true, that did not stop the campaign to discredit former ambassador Joe Wilson and his wife after he went public with his misgivings on the same subject a month later, Ambassador Wilson having been sent to Niger by the CIA to investigate those claims the year before.

Finally on the topic, supporters of Mr. Libby chipping in by doing what Republicans seemingly do best, fund-raising, the Libby Legal Defense Trust already at more than $2 million and counting, the steering committee of that trust a who's who of heavy Republican hitters, including former senators Alan Simpson of Wyoming and Fred Thompson, the senator from "Law and Order," also two former presidential candidates, Jack Kemp and Steve Forbes.

Time now to call in our chief Washington correspondent, Norah O'Donnell, for more on all these developments.

Good evening, Norah.


OLBERMANN: Let's begin with the trial date, recognizing that cases as complicated as this one often have to move slowly. Was there surprise today, though, at just how long the wait will be until this thing is going to start? I mean, even the judge seemed frustrated by it.

O'DONNELL: Well, it seems like a lifetime away, doesn't it, January 2007? So it's several months later than many had expected. But there was a conflict, as you noted, with one of the attorneys. Libby's attorneys said they were very happy with the trial date. One Democratic strategist said today that the Republican Party has dodged the bullet, because this trial would not take place during the midterm elections.

But still, this is going to be a lengthy discovery process that goes on all this year, and it means that this trial still will largely hang over, to some degree, the president's second term.

It also means that this back-and-forth between Libby's attorneys and journalists, finding journalists to testify, will also take place all this year. The judge today also said he wants to learn from the lawyers by this spring what reporters they want to subpoena to have come and testify.

OLBERMANN: So relative to the campaign and the midterms, the implication of what you just said there is that while it might seem on the surface to be something extraordinarily beneficial to the Republicans to have this, the trial itself, delayed until January, that the foreplay, if you will, about the trial will be just as relevant to the midterm elections?

O'DONNELL: I think that may be true. I mean, there's still a great deal, a lot back-and-forth in these court filings that we've learned about. I mean, I missed a lot of what was in the Tuesday court filings because I was doing the State of the Union. But I read through them all yesterday, and I must tell you, there were tons of tidbits in there about just what Libby's lawyers are - want from Patrick Fitzgerald, and, of course, that intriguing detail that there are some missing e-mails from the White House.

Now, why does that matter? Well, it's interesting that there are missing e-mails anyway. It could just be a problem with the White House e-mail. But those missing e-mails are from the president's office and the vice president's executive office in 2003.

Two thousand three is the key time we're talking about when it is alleged Scooter Libby leaked the name of Valerie Plame to reporters in order to discredit her husband, who had made these claims against the president. So that's significant.

Now, I've spoken with Rove's attorney, who says - Now, Karl Rove is interesting in this, because remember that Karl Rove - now, this is a whole 'nother subject to some degree - but remember Karl Rove, just a couple months ago, found this missing e-mail, where, in fact, he all of a sudden remembered that, in fact, he had spoken with Matt Cooper of "TIME" magazine about Valerie Plame.

And he found it because Rove's attorney went through all of Rove's e-mails, and, lo and behold, found an e-mail that Rove had written to Hadley that said, Hey, by the way, I just talked to Matt Cooper today about the whole Niger thing, and I way tried to wave him off it.

That, in turn, provoked Rove's memory that caused Rove to then correct his record, because first Rove had told FBI investigators and the grand jury, No, I didn't talk to reporters about Valerie Plame. Then when they found this e-mail, Rove was forced to correct the record.

So that's why these missing e-mails from 2003 are intriguing.

OLBERMANN: The other element, of course, is, are they, are they intriguing because they're not there from some sort of technical glitch, or are they not there because somebody made them disappear? The Fitzgerald letter, in keeping with his style, is absolutely impenetrable in its language. There's nothing, there's nothing in that, that thing that I read that suggests that he's even accusing anybody of making it disappear.

Is there any guidance on what happened to those e-mails?

O'DONNELL: No, and I have spoken with Patrick Fitzgerald's office. They are offering no comment. I've spoken with the White House. And they say, Listen, we're cooperating with Patrick Fitzgerald, but have not offered thus far an explanation about how these e-mails went missing, or whether there's an investigation to find these missing e-mails. So they've not said anything.

What Rove's attorney has told me is, there's nothing to suggest that there's any bad faith in terms of Rove's very late handing over that one e-mail that suggested and confirmed that, in fact, he had spoken with Matt Cooper of "TIME" magazine.

But, again, it's all very intriguing. And if, in fact, Fitzgerald was not able to get all the information he wanted from the White House from 2003, which is that very critical time period, what is he doing to find those e-mails? And is there something in those e-mails that could shed further light on this entire investigation?

OLBERMANN: Well, if he takes the weekend off to watch the football game and starts Monday, he only has 336 more days to find it.

O'DONNELL: Everything we know, though, about Patrick Fitzgerald is, he doesn't seem to be a guy who sits back and relax. He's apparently quite a workaholic.

OLBERMANN: Yes. Well, maybe, maybe he can work on it during halftime.

MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell, great thanks for spending part of your Friday with us.

O'DONNELL: My pleasure.

OLBERMANN: As we mentioned, at the heart of the CIA leak investigation, the what-did-they-know-and-when-did-they-know-it nature of the Bush administration's justification for going to war in Iraq.

On a parallel track, last night's report in the British media revealing new details about a prewar conversation between President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, in effect, that Mr. Bush said to Mr. Blair that he planned to attack no matter what the outcome of diplomatic efforts to find Saddam Hussein's purported WMD.

That report prompting today almost no reaction, barely a blip in the day two outrage-o-meter. In response to a question at today's State Department news briefing, that department's spokesman saying, Haven't we been down this road before?


SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: This is ground that has been plowed over and over and over again. The president and others couldn't have been more clear where we stood at that point in time with respect to seeking a diplomatic solution versus a military alternative.

And, you know, again, I don't have anything to add to the voluminous public record that is already out there on the situation.


OLBERMANN: A classic nonanswer answer.

For more on the reaction or lack thereof, let's turn to MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, himself twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, and now the author of the book, "Where the Right Went Wrong."

Good evening, Pat.


OLBERMANN: Not bad, yourself?

BUCHANAN: Doing fine.

OLBERMANN: Good. What do - (INAUDIBLE)...

BUCHANAN: Doing better than Tony Blair.

OLBERMANN: Yes, evidently. (INAUDIBLE) but what would - give me your take on the - on the - the lack of any real movement today on that British, British media report. Either it's but one side or the other, there should be outrage, should there not? I mean, no media outlet in this country has independently confirmed it yet. Is it that? Or could it be that the smoking gun or no smoking gun, everybody's simply moved on on this subject?

BUCHANAN: I think for the British, I think there's a real question of Tony Blair dissembling, clearly, about where he stood as of this particular January meeting.

With regard to the president, I think the situation is this. All of us pretty much knew the president of the United States was going to take us to war. He had gotten the approval of the Democratic Senate in October of 2000 - I guess 2002. And went to war in 2003. But he - they argued that he had not made the final decision, go decision.

I think that's their defense. But, I mean, for my money, Keith, I think the United States, in the form of the president of the United States, intended to go to war.

OLBERMANN: If you were a Democrat or advising them - and humor me on this, because it's been a long week up here - would you, would you tell them to start jumping on stuff like this? Or is the party wise to leave it alone at this point?

BUCHANAN: The Democratic Party's got a real problem. They gave the president of the United States a blank check to go to war in October. Biden did, Hillary Rodham Clinton did, Tom Daschle did. Many of the others, Kennedy, did not. And they made a horrible mistake. And they said, in effect, Mr. President, go to war when you want.

And so now, if they bring it up, it brings up their issue, why did they give him this blank check? They're now admitting they made a mistake.

So I think that's the real problem for them.

But let me tell you about all these wars, Keith. If they turn out well, nobody really cares how and why you got into it. If they turn out badly, these things really matter. And that's why Tony Blair's got a serious problem right now. And it's why the president's got a problem.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of problems and presidents, the State of the Union Tuesday night, how would you grade Mr. Bush for that speech?

BUCHANAN: I think in terms of - I mean, he's not a great speaker. But I thought he was very forceful and very capable in his speech. And obviously, he believes deeply what he says. So I gave him an A, pretty much, in terms of performance and style.

But I give him a C on content. He - four times he's attacked isolationists, which is a term his father used to use on me. And to be candid, we had no influence over this decision to go to war. Iraq is George Bush's war. And if it's not going well, it is his problem. So I give him on content, I don't think it was that impressive on content.

But I think he did a standup job in terms of how he delivered it.

OLBERMANN: One key theme in that speech, that the spread of democracy abroad is the best means of fighting terrorism. Is there anything, in your estimation, flawed in that thesis?

BUCHANAN: I think it is Wilsonian nonsense. I think the idea that democracy is the cure for terror is mistaken. I think the idea that we can create true democracies, constitutional republics, by going to war and imposing them is mistaken. I also don't think it - we are in any real danger if there are tyrannies around the world, in Cuba, Sudan, Syria, China, wherever.

What makes the United States safe and secure is our power, our courage, and our will. As long as we retain that, and stay out of wars that are none of our business, we'll be far better off than running around the world trying to impose democracy when people whose idea of it is far different from our own.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, Pat, the president has long said he did not care about current public opinion, at least as it's represented by polls, that he's aiming really for the long view and thus the history books will be the judge on that.

Is there any sense now that he might be - at least a conclusion has -

· or a possibility has rung in his head that the history books might not look back fondly on this presidency?

BUCHANAN: I think that's exactly right. The president - I mean, look, I think all of us hope we get out of Iraq, bring our troops home as early as possible, and it doesn't collapse in chaos and civil war. But we all know that's a very real possibility.

We all know that the democracy project in the Middle East is bringing to power Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Muslim brotherhood. There's a real possibility that the Bush foreign policy could collapse in failure. And unless he's obtuse, he knows that.

OLBERMANN: MSNBC political analyst, former presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan. As always, sir, great thanks. Have a good weekend.

BUCHANAN: Thank you. Have a good weekend, Keith, Chris. I mean, excuse me, Keith.

OLBERMANN: We'll all have a good weekend. And need it, too.

Especially after a story like this. Tonight, tragedy in the Red Sea. A ferry sinks in the dark of night, more than 1,000 dead. An investigation underway to determine what brought that ship down.

And the police shooting in Southern California. The victim's family demanding the police officer be arrested, and the officer's identity and past problems become public.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Perhaps all you really need to know about our fourth story on the Countdown is that on June 15, 2004, the city of New York conducted a solemn remembrance of a maritime disaster, a disaster so far in the distant past that no one attending the remembrance could have had a clear memory of it actually happening.

It was the sinking of an excursion boat, the "General Slocum," 1,021 killed, 100 years earlier, and still being mourned.

At least that many people have been believed killed last night when a ferry capsized on the Red Sea.

Tom Aspell reports from Cairo.


TOM ASPELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Egyptian families at the Red Sea port of Safaga tonight, hoping for a miracle, that their relatives might be among the survivors of one of the worst maritime accidents in history.

A 35-year-old Egyptian ferry simply disappeared from radar screens during a nighttime crossing from Saudi Arabia to Egypt, a distance of 120 miles. The "Al-Salaam Boccaccio 98" was a 387-foot roll-on, roll-off ferry, with extra decks to carry passengers, mostly Egyptian workers and pilgrims returning home from a visit to the holy city of Mecca.

Authorities believe that the violent storm and high waves in the Red Sea could have led the vessel to take on water in the vulnerable rear of the ship, causing it to sink.

DAVID OSLER, "LLOYD'S LIST" SHIPPING PAPER: The water that gets on board the deck starts slopping from side to side. This sort of builds up a momentum, if you like, and eventually it gets higher and higher. And it can topple the ship extremely rapidly.

ASPELL: Egyptian rescue boats, helicopters, and even an American P3-Orion maritime aircraft spent all day hunting for survivors. They don't expect to find many more in the freezing seas.

Al Wilson of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy says the Red Sea can be treacherous.

AL WILSON, MASSACHUSETTS MARITIME ACADEMY: The winds coming off the desert, and some of those winds were high velocity. The sand was blinding. Very difficult to navigate.

ASPELL: The "Al-Salaam Boccaccio"'s Egyptian owners lost another ship in the same area last October, after colliding with a Cypriot freighter. Two people were killed.

(on camera): The "Titanic" went down with 1,500 souls on board. The "Al-Salaam Boccaccio" might have lost two thirds that number.

Tom Aspell, NBC News, Cairo.


OLBERMANN: Closer to home, a series of church burnings in Alabama, all in one county. Was each case arson? And if some of the churches had black congregations and some white, what could the motive have been?

And the Elio Carrion shooting. The officer is identified. The family is speaking on the record.

Details ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Coming up later in this news hour, our plays of the month, the best of Oddball for January 2006 and the start of February.

But first we have dumb criminals and goofy video that just might be a preview of the full February very best. Will these stories make the cut? Who knows? Who cares?

Let's play Oddball.

We begin at the Dunkin' Donuts in Akron, Ohio, where security cameras have caught a brazen criminal act by City Councilman Gary Bennett, who can clearly be seen entering the store, placing his order, and then, when the clerk's back is turned, snatching $2 from the tip cup.

I want my $2!

Bennett told police he thought he was reaching into the give-a-penny-take-a-penny dish. Well, yes, of course, that's always stuffed with bills. He's been charged with petty theft. And you'd think this might come up in the next campaign.

To Madrid, Spain. Three elephants there broke the world record for eating more than 1,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables. I believe the previous record holder was 90-pound Sonya Thomas, the so-called Black Widow of competitive eating.

The trio of circus elephants pigged out in the town square on a giant pile of lettuce, melons, and bananas, finishing it off in about 45 minutes. Sure, this stuff's mostly good for you, but as for the guy who has to follow them around with a shovel, he'll just have to keep muttering to himself, "Quit, and leave show business?"

And finally to the Hong Kong DisneyWorld, where the Chinese New Year is apparently the busy season. The park's been sold out for eight straight days. But that has not stopped an angry crowd of tourists from seeking alternative means of entrance. First, Wally World was closed, now this?

Many in the crowd attempting to climb over the wrought-iron gates themselves, while other parents literally hoisted their children over the gates. Go on without me, Skippy. Spend, spend, spend.

Disney is urging patience from the crowd, assuring them, You'll all get a chance to be gouged. In the meantime, please just consider throwing your money over the fence.

It is, as we said, bonus Oddball night. The highlights of the last month in the genre, when bulls attack, when cameras steal the presidential spotlight, and the most unlikely of friendships.

Speaking of unlikely and friendships, Heather Locklear announces she's getting a divorce. They ask the husband for a reaction, and he says it's the first he's heard of it. Oops.

Details on those stories ahead.

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

Number three, Dawn Higgins of Easton, Pennsylvania, fined $173 for littering. She had bought a salad at McDonald's and didn't want the lettuce, so she threw the six pieces of lettuce out her car window. She is appealing the fine, saying she was not littering, she was recycling biodegradable material.

Number two, Lonnie Shields, another dumb criminal from Orlando, tried to break into a convenience store through the oven vent in the roof. It was not as big as he thought. Police had no trouble finding him still stuck there six hours later.

Number one, Lee Tamahori, director of the James Bond film "Die Another Day," also "Mulholland Falls" and other films, the Los Angeles city attorney revealing that Mr. Tamahori was arrested on a city street last month. They claim he was wearing a black wig and an off-the-shoulder dress, and that he offered to have sex with an undercover police officer for money.

Well, guess something like this is inevitable if you've spent 55 years on this planet answering to the name Tamahori.


OLBERMANN: Fires in Alabama, an unwelcome echo of a painful past, shots in California, continuing turbulence over excessive police force and predators in the virtual landscape of the Internet, an issue of taking advantage of a haven for children.

Our third story on the Countdown, danger in almost any venue. We start with a reminder of the past in the American South, churches burning. As Ron Mott reports, last night's outbreak of arson had an unlikely twist.

Some of the houses of worship had predominantly white congregations.


RON MOTT, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just like that, Ashby Baptist Church is gone after a fiery night of attacks that tested people's faith in central Alabama overnight. In all, five churches were set on fire, three of them destroyed.

EDWARD PAULK, ALABAMA FIRE MARSHALL: It's a far reach to believe that all of them would be accidental. I don't believe that, but I don't know which are or which aren't, if they are or if they're not at this point.

MOTT: But if it was arson, a motive isn't clear. All the churches, Baptists, in rural areas located close to one another and had mostly white congregations.


MOTT: The only black church, Pleasant Sabine, was smoldering in ruins. It was 125 years old.

BELL: The person who committed this crime, I, I pray that God have mercy upon him.

MOTT: Local authorities have pooled resources and offered a reward for information leading to any suspects.

MICHAEL JACKSON, BIBB COUNTY D.A.: Whenever the people are caught, they're going off to prison.

MOTT (on camera): The federal government response has been swift. More than three dozen agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are being dispatched here. It's a deployment the ATF describes as significant.

(voice-over): Ten years ago with nearly 300 church arsons nationwide annually, the ATF created a federal church arson task force. And though the number of church burnings has fallen steadily since, that's little comfort to those facing the fires today. Old Union Baptist was one of the lucky ones. A pair of potted plants set ablaze under an American flag were put out quickly before the damage spread.

REV. DAVID HAND, OLD UNION BAPTIST CHURCH: I believe they were trying to find something to make it burn quicker, really.

MOTT: But others weren't so fortunate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one big test.

MOTT: A test of faith, now a challenge for law enforcement. Ron Mott, NBC News, Bibb County, Alabama.


OLBERMANN: To Chino, California and the continuing aftermath of the police shooting of an unarmed American serviceman just back from Iraq. A San Bernardino sheriff's deputy placed on paid administrative leave which is considered routine procedure. But today at a news conference just outside of that sheriff's department, the wife and the attorney of victim Elio Carrion made it clear they see this case as anything but routine.


MARIELA CARRION, ELIO CARRION'S WIFE: He shouldn't be out in the streets with a badge. He doesn't deserve it. I just demand justice. I demand the community to get united and put this man in jail. This man does not need to be out in the streets. He doesn't deserve our respect.

LUIS CARRILLO, CARRION FAMILY'S ATTORNEY When a police officer uses deadly force on an unarmed person, that police officer has crossed the line into criminal conduct. The police officer broke all the rules of proper police procedure.


OLBERMANN: As for that police officer, he's now he's now been identified. As our correspondent Michael Okwu reports, he's not just a 10-year veteran whose professionalism has been questioned before, he's also the son of the former long time police chief of the Southern California City of Compton.


MICHAEL OKWU, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sources now confirm the name of the deputy in this amateur videotape is 45-year-old Ivory Webb IV seen in the tape opening fire on an Air Force police officer at point blank range, even as the airman appears to follow orders.

Webb is a 10-year veteran of the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department. He's currently been placed on administrative leave, but his conduct has been questioned before. In 2004, Webb was named with six other co-defendants in a federal civil lawsuit alleging excessive force by another deputy, but he was cleared of any wrongdoing. The airman in the shooting, Elio Carrion is suffering from leg and chest wounds but may soon be released from the hospital.

DR. DEV GNANADEV, ARROWHEAD REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: His condition is very stable and he's recovering well.

OKWU: Rodney King stopped by to offer his sympathy.

RODNEY KING, BEATING VICTIM: Once he stopped the car, he became a regular citizen. He obeyed.

OKWU: Carrion's family is still asking why? Michael Okwu, NBC News, Los Angeles.


OLBERMANNN: Why is a question that's also being asked about in cyberspace. Why have Web sites dedicated to teenage girls if the net is being surfed by predators looking for teenaged girls? Pete Williams now on the conundrum that's


PETE WILLIAMS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Several times a day, Olivia Walker, a California high school sophomore, logs onto a Web site called to keep up with friends.

OLIVIA WALKER, MYSPACE.COM USER: It's a way for them to be able to independent message or learn something more about someone that they didn't know previously.

WILLIAMS: She's among the more than 40 million users of my space. Their postings are part diary, part photo album with gossip, favorite music and pet peeves, sometimes even phone numbers and home addresses and occasionally, revealing pictures. It's a huge hit too at Newton North High School in Massachusetts.

ANDREW W. CREDE, HIGH SCHOOL JUNIOR: Pretty much most of the kids in my school use myspace. You put pictures up. You meet girls and guys.

WILLIAMS (on camera): But police nationwide warn that it's not just young people that are searching these immensely popular web sites. They say potential sexual predators are too. A month ago, police in Connecticut arrested this 21-year-old man accusing him of raping a 14-year-old girl he found on myspace. On long island, investigators say this man found the work address of a 16-year-old girl on one of the Web sites last fall, lured her to a parking lot and sexually assaulted her.

Myspace declined an on-camera interview but warns users never to post any personally identifiable information. The company says it's determined to provide a safe place for young people. Facebook, a similar Web site, one especially popular with college students says it blocks access to outside users not connected to a specific school.

CHRIS DALY, FACEBOOK.COM: We protect the viewing of the profile to only students or other people with valid email addresses from those universities.

WILLIAMS (voice-over): Even so, middle and high school principals around Boston are warning parents to monitor what their children put online.

JUDITH MALONE-NEVILLE, SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR: They would be presenting themselves as potential prey for people who don't have good intentions at heart.

WILLIAMS: Police and school officials nationwide urge parents to remind their children that when they post their private thoughts on line, strangers are definitely watching. Pete William, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN: The odds are pretty good you'll definitely be watching the Super Bowl, Super Bowl XL. From extra large pizzas to extra large TVs to extra, extra large price tags for commercials, there's also this weekend an extra large reason right now not to put down a bet on this game.

Dave Chappelle's first interview since walking away from his hit comedy show. Why'd he leave? Will he return? Will he get up on a couch and jump? Details on those stories ahead. But first here are Countdown's top three sound bites.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks, thanks for the warm welcome. Thanks for the Mexican food last night, Pete. I hope you picked up the tab.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We decided to devote two - sections in two cemeteries to become pet friendly where the owners of the pets and the pets themselves could be buried in the same grave.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jesse is a pooch already interred here. Some might say it's a bit unusual, but many consider their pets family.

JON STEWART, TALK SHOW HOST: Cindy Sheehan, the antiwar activist, who was invited to attend the Democratic congresswoman who was arrested just beforehand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us why you were arrested?.

CINDY SHEEHAN, ANTIWAR PROTESTOR: Because I was wearing a shirt.

STEWART: Arrested for wearing a shirt? My god, it's the opposite of



OLBERMANN: Before we get to tonight's number two story on THE Countdown, the one about how Super Bowl Sunday is on its way to replacing Thanksgiving as America's official eat yourself to the point of being reclassified as an explosive device day," this caution from your genial host. Do not wager on Sunday's game. Oddsmakers and nearly all of America think that Pittsburgh Steelers will defeat the Seattle Seahawks by at least four points.

In the last 48 hours, one of the five most important players in the game, Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu (ph), the guy with the hair, tweaked his ankle at practice yesterday and had to miss part of practice today again and has officially been listed as probable to play for Sunday in football lingo that means his chances of actually suiting up are 75 percent or better. Reading between the lines it also means there's a chance he could be playing at 75 percent of normal skill or less or 100 percent. We just don't know. Not something to put your money on either way.

Spend it on food for your Super Bowl party instead. Hell, as Michelle Kosinski reports, everybody else is.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even if you forget the football, the supersized media and munchies onslaught is enough to make the Super Bowl a national holiday unto itself.

DARCI BECKER, SEATTLE FAN: We should be going to the Super Bowl for what I'm spending at the different stores here.

KOSINKSI: In Seattle Seahawks country, kids gear up to wear pricey jerseys to school on Monday. And coast to coast, bars and restaurants are doubling their supplies for the crowds. Supermarkets are stocking up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kind of like two sports. There's football and then there's eating.

KOSINSKI: What are Americans chowing down on during the game? The National Restaurant Association says pizza wins hands down. For 60 percent of all takeout orders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you see here is half of what we normally prepare for for Super Bowl Sunday.

KOSINSKI: So, Dominos adds more staff. They say a close game means more pizza. But it's not all junk food. Market researchers say vegetables are on Super Bowl tables more than any other type of snack. Who knew carrots are 80 percent more likely to be eaten during the super bowl than any other Sunday or that Americans eat more avocados than on Cinco de Mayo, 43 million pounds worth. Holy guacamole.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Plenty of beer. Plenty of wine.

KOSINSKI: And once you have all the food, there is, oh yeah, there's the game. They're shopping for that too. One and a half million new TVs are bought in the week before.

ROB GILLARDI, RESIDENT: We'll get one any way. We said, OK, let's get one in time for the game.

KOSINKSI: Sales of big screens jumped fivefold according to Best Buy.

DANNY PORRAS, SALES MANAGER: They got to have it. They want to watch it in the new hi-def.

KOSINSKI: And if you've forgotten anything, you can count on the commercials. After all, advertisers are spending $5 million a minute to remind you.


OLBERMANN: It's a different sport providing our segue into the nightly roundup of entertainment and celebrity news, "Keeping Tabs." Legendary is the story of the baseball pitcher traded from the then moribund Cleveland Indians to the competitive Boston Red Sox. He goes home and says to his wife, "Great news, honey? We're going to Boston." "I'm not," she deadpans, "I'm staying here with your roommate, I want a divorce." Oops.

Rocker Richie Sambora, one of the founders of the band Bon Jovi apparently went through similar circumstances. He was collared by a reporter from ABC Radio and asked about the announcement by a publicist for his wife, actress Heather Locklear, that she had filed for divorce. It's completely untrue, he replied, we have plans for Valentine's Day.

Who's this we, kemosabe? An hour earlier the publicist issued a statement saying that Ms. Locklear had filed after 10 years of marriage, evidently hubby literally did not get the memo.

Dave Chappelle offered no memo, no memo, no nothing, he just booked from the taping of his third season of his comedy show on Comedy Central leading to all manner of speculation. Today, some answers as Chappelle reappeared not on his own program but rather on Oprah Winfrey's.

Asked if the sudden jump from middling success to acclaimed fame had played a role in his equally sudden departure. The man who had signed a $50 million contract said, quote, "absolutely." Largely he attributed his frustration to stress and to being overwhelmed by those around the show's production and the high grossing DVD sales. He claims they were exploiting his earnings power.

He denied he had gone crazy or had been treated at a psychiatric facility, saying he simply needed to get away and reflect. Chappelle saying he'd be willing to return if DVD revenue could be restructured so that half would be given to charities of his choosing. He told Winfrey, quote, "I just want to do my show. I just want to have fun again."

Good luck in this industry, pal.

Speaking of fun again, we will visit bee guy and underwater juggler man. Yes, the month that was in the world of bizarre news and video. That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's list of today's three nominees for "Worst Person in the World."

The bronze to another unnamed seller taking to the lack of supervision on eBay. Someone tried to sell the soul of the whale which died after mistakenly swimming up London's River Thames two weeks ago. "I was accompanying the whale in his last journey and he handed his soul to me, the seller wrote." It might be believable in some way except the whale was a female.

Tonight's runner up, an unnamed pedestrian in Wittenberg, Wisconsin arrested for twice charging moving cars, getting down in a football stance and running at the cars. Police had no trouble finding this guy. Police say he was naked.

But tonight's winner is another extra special dumb criminal, Michael Garabay (ph) under arrest in Orlando on charges of trying to sell cocaine. It's bad, but why is it worse? To a sheriff's deputy. Not an undercover sheriff's deputy, a guy in a uniform - a guy in a uniform in a squad car. Michael Garabay is today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: The word "Oddball" apparently only dates back to the American slang of the 1940's. Its two components are a lot older, odd is a 12th century Icelandic word meaning a non-even number. The sense of weirdness does not appear in the English language, anyway, until about 1588 and ball comes from Lucille Ball.

Our number one story on the Countdown, something we intend to do each month, bring you the best of the worst, the highlights of our counterjournalistic noneven numbered Lucy or if you'd prefer "Oddball."


OLBERMANN (voice-over): We begin on the Hinder Mountain (ph) in Germany for the annual festival of back injuries that is the Gesach Sleyreiss (ph).

We begin in Kobe, Japan for the big annual Nichenomea Shrine Run (ph).

Beginning in Burton, England for the second annual Whorecross Downhill (ph). How do you make a whore cross down hill? Never mined. Thousands show up to watch crazy brats in crazy soapbox Derby cars taking their lives in their hands down old Staffordshire Hill, but in the end it was the Yellow Submarine built for speed as opposed to stopping power that took the big race.

He'll be all right, folks. He only hit his head.

In flobdiv (ph) in Bulgaria, just throw your hands in the air and wave 'em like you just don't care. The second annual baby holiday show and you can feel the magic.

It's a monkey on ice skates. Do you believe in miracles? Yes, icys stair. What could possibly go wrong on icy stairs?

President of Ukraine, Victor Yushchenko and the other guy with him appears to be wearing the rhinestone Speedo.

And now because there's nothing sexier than a bunch of New Jersey strippers gathered around smoking cigarettes, we bring you the Great Trenton Smoke-in. Dozens of jersey's most exotic of the exotic dancers gathering outside the state house protest a new ban on smoking in restaurants and bars claiming the prohibition will hurt their earning power. Yes, the smoking ban is why you're not getting tips.

Now, pay close attention, let me know if you see anything that might lead to you believe the NSA spy program is getting a little sloppy.

BUSH: The thoughts about what I'm thinking about. First, I recognize we live in a momentous time - for those of you watching, we seem to have a mechanical flaw.

OLBERMANN: Or perhaps you said the magic word.

(on camera): I mean, I'm really psyched about this new car. It's a white 2006 Ford Taurus and they're delivering it to me right after the show tonight right out here. I'm pretty much mailing it in until I get my sweet new ride delivered to me here tonight.

(voice-over): Taking a look at "Oddball" traffic. Oh it looks like a major backup on the Countdown jam cam. Isn't that the New Jersey turnpike? Hey, it's Secaucus. That's outside the building here. Wonder what could be caught - my car!

We begin in India where this is either a doggy talent show or this guy's breath is a bit too strong. Get away from me get away from me. Get away from me.

So a guy walks into a doctor's office with 400,000 bees all over him.

The bees say, doc, get this guy off my ass.

Anchorage, Alaska. Sorry, folks. Parks closed. Moose out front.

Should have told you.

There's a chicken playing the xylophone. He accompanies himself.

Today's odd couple, deputy secretary of state Robert Zelick (ph) and a large Chinese panda bear.

In Hong Kong, they commemorate the Year of the Dog by forcing dogs to entertain humans, thanks. Wee. Wow, dogs on trapezes, only seen that about 1 million times. Let's see you do it blindfolded, hah? It's a trick they learned in the old country.

And in Kuala Lumpur. For the latest world record attempt by Ashrita Fuhrman (ph), the guy with the Guinness world record for most world records and the same last name as Detective Mark Fuhrman. Thing were going along swimmingly for half an hour or so before Fuhrman learned what makes underwater juggling so difficult, them man-eating sharks.

Mexico City, hola.

Local villager Roger Sataroju (ph) isn't just some guying ripping coconuts as part with his teeth and has a great name. He's the new Guinness world record holder for ripping coconuts apart with his teeth. He's got a fancy framed certificate to prove it if he hasn't eaten it.

Mr. Leonardo Vargas (ph) brought a notify a bat fight and the store clerk Kotiv Singh (ph) had clearly had enough of being stuck up so he grabbed a wooden Louisville Slugger and hit the thief real hard. Thank you, come again.

You can see the man in the hood is robbing the check-out girl. Not anymore he's not. Let me get a sixer of bud pack and easy riders and - you can't park that here, mister.

This guy had outstanding drug warrants and was pulled over for driving with a fake license plate when he decided to make a break for it. And I think he might just break the streak and put the dopes ahead one to - well, no, probably not now.

Tonight, "The Smoking Gun" brings us Miss Jennifer Brocket (ph), doing her best Stan Laurel impersonation after getting nicked on cocaine possession charges and more importantly Leonard Farrington (ph) of Broward County, Florida who if he beats the charges, he has a Crest White Strips commercial waiting for him when he gets home.

None of the babies fared too well of the derby. I don't know if they got the point of it. Everyone learned one valuable lesson though, this year's baby's holiday, always go for the gold. Ten bucks says she. Yeah, she did.

You will watch MSNBC. You will watch MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: That's Countdown. Keep your knees loose. A reminder to join us again at midnight Eastern, 11:00 p.m. Central, 9:00 Pacific for the late edition of Countdown. Until then, a special presentation of MSNBC INVESTIGATES, "Lockup Wabash" is next. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.